Sunday, 29 October 2017

PART 41:Ehsaas

The next morning, Riddhima felt unusually calm and peaceful, like one would after an almost spiritual experience. She touched her tummy and remembered that since her mamaji's demise, she had forgotten to take her birth control pills. At this point, she did not care if Armaan was ready to become a dad or not, she knew that becoming a mother was a gift of God, and she was ready to accept the gift with open arms. Perhaps a child would help Armaan realize that running after fame, glory and money was not the most important thing in life. A child would not only help them get
closer to each other, but may be shift Armaan's focus to the more precious things in life. For the first time since their move to the new house, Riddhima went out to the backyard, and enjoyed the early morning fresh air and picked some fresh flowers. She remembered her days in Ramgarh, where this was a part of her daily routine. Somehow, the fast paced life in Mumbai had buried those pleasant memories somewhere, but today she felt more connected to her past than she had in a long time.

Armaan was upstairs in the bathroom, applying shaving cream on his face; he peeked outside from the balcony and saw his wife in an unusually jubilant mood. He could not resist himself and ran downstairs in his boxers with the shaving cream still smeared on his face. He grabbed Riddhima from behind and rubbed the shaving cream all over her neck and face, "this is what you deserve this morning!" he nibbled at her ear.

"Ahh Armaan!" Riddhima screamed, "mere phool"

"Phool ke saath mere jaise kaante ko bhi gale lagaana hoga!" he kissed her cheek with his shaving cream laden lips.

"Armaan! Mujhe phir se nahaana hoga….sab jagah shaving cream lagaa di." She whined as she wiped her face.

"chalo…phir saath saath nahaa lete hain…is naye ghar ka shower ka bhi inauguration kar lete hain"

"Chhodo Armaan! Mujhey recording ke liye jaana hai." Riddhima freed herself and ran away, challenging him to follow her.

Armaan chased her down and finally caught hold of her. He carried his flailing wife to the shower stall with him.

After they had both showered and gotten ready, Riddhima looked at her watch, "Armaan….aaj saare musicians jaldi aane waale hain….mujhey der ho gayi!"

"Keh dena apne boss se ki emergency aa gayi thi!" Armaan laughed.

Riddhima shook her head and walked out, "jab tumhari marzi hoti hai, tho sab kuch emergency ho jaati hai!"

Armaan just smiled and admired his wife as he knotted his tie, "Riddhima….shayad ab tumhe thoda thoda samajhne lagaa hoon….tum choti choti cheezon se hi khush ho jaati ho….you are a very LOW MAINTAINENCE WIFE!" He remembered Anjali's comment (your wife is very high maintainence!)

He thought about Anjali, "Anjali ne meri bahut help ki hai ab tak, par aisa kyon lagta hai ki Riddhima aur Anjali ek doosre ko pasand nahin karte….well…women…you never know what ticks them off?"

Riddhima reached work in her typical chirpy mood. She wanted to thank Sid. She looked for him everywhere.

"Abhimanyu, Sid kahan hai? Kahin dikhai nahin de raha?"

Abhimanyu was working on a new composition; he looked up and said coldly, "Sid ab yahan kaam nahin karega!"

Riddhima was stunned, "lekin kyon?"

"Wo wapas London chalaa gaya hai….wo bahut paise maangne lagaa tha…..he was getting very greedy and cheated me in business, so we decided to split ways….he is gone now." Abhimanyu said sourly.

"Kya main us se baat kar sakti hoon? London ka phone # tho hoga?" she asked

"Nahin….i did not ask him…..waise bhi wo abhi flight mein hi hoga….chalo let's rehearse, we have to go for our first out of town concert in a few days." Abhimanyu ordered.

Riddhima could tell Abhimanyu was upset about something, "kya baat hai Abhimanyu…itne upset kyon ho?"

Abhimanyu just said, "Sid!"

Riddhima could not believe that Sid would have tried to cheat Abhimanyu; she was grateful to Sid for reuniting her with Armaan last night, "Abhimanyu tumhey koi galat fehmi huyi hai…Sid tho bahut achha insaan hai…wo nahin cheat kar sakta tumhey."

"Riddhima…tum bahut bholi ho…..logon ko nahin pehchaan thi….chalo let's not waste time on Sid….let's rehearse!" Abhimanyu commanded and ordered the other musicians to start playing.

Riddhima was worried about Sid all day; she tried to call Muskaan, but Muskaan and Rahul had just left for their 2 week-long honeymoon that morning.

In the evening, Riddhima informed Armaan about Sid's deception; even Armaan was surprised, "Sid?….He seems such a nice guy…wo aisa kaise kar sakta hai? Well, he was God sent for us last night," Armaan came close to Riddhima as she changed into her night clothes, "I missed you Riddhima….tum mujhse kabhie door mat hua karo….chaahe naraaz ho jao, par doori nahin seh paata main," he kissed her and mumbled into her ears.

"Armaan! Aurat aur aadmi mein yahi farak hai….hum jab pyaar karti hain tho poore tann aur mann se karti hain…..aur tum aadmi log ko tho bas….…," she just slapped his hand playfully.

"Jaanta hoon kya kehna chaahti ho….par kya karoon majboor hoon," he lifted her and carried her to the bed.

Later, as they talked to each other, Riddhima told him about the up coming concert, "Armaan main ek mahine ke liye national tour par jaa rahi hoon."

"Kya kaha? 1 month ? No way! Tum ab yeh Abhimanyu ke saath kaam chhod do…I am making enough money now….tum ab ghar baith kar aaraam kiya karo….is ghar ke kai kamrey tho tumney abhi dekhey bhi nahin hain."

"Armaan…..I have a one year contract with Abhimanyu…aise kaise chhod sakti hoon?"

"Theek hai….lekin no tour with him! Tum jaanti nahin Abhimanyu ko….main uska dost hoon…usey acchi tarah jaanta hoon!," Armaan said angrily

"Armaan….wo mere saath Ramgarh bhi gaya tha….he is just fine….and I know how to handle him well….stop being jealous OK?" Riddhima patted his cheek and dozed off on his chest.

Armaan stayed up late, staring at the ceiling fan for hours. He really did not want Riddhima to go with Abhimanyu. Yes, he was jealous! Yes, he was possessive about Riddhima! So what, if Abhimanyu was his friend; he knew Abhimanyu was a big flirt and would not hesitate seducing any woman, if given a chance, "shayad meri hi galti hai ki maine Riddhima ko Abhimanyu ke saath gaane ke liye push kiya….Oh God…main bhi kitna pagal hoon."

A few days later, Anjali was back in town and was informed of all the happenings of the past week by her spy, Abhimanyu.

"Abhimanyu! Ab hamara sab se badhaa vaar hoga…..kab nikal rahe ho tum apne national tour par?"

"Kal hi jaa rahe hain…pehla stop Delhi hai," Abhimanyu informed Anjali as he poured a drink for himself.

"Press coverage ki responsibility mujh par chhod do!" Anjali smiled slyly. She picked the phone and called her C-grade journalist friend, "Hello! Mumbai Reflections?"

Despite Armaan's protests, Riddhima being the professional that she was, left for her national tour. Armaan was not very happy, but could not say anything to Riddhima or Abhimanyu.

Anjali started frequenting Armaan's bungalow when Riddhima was away. She would drop by at odd hours and talk Armaan in having a drink or coffee with her. She told him that a lot of producers had started dropping her from their movies for much younger actresses. One day, she told him a sob story about how she might lose her house if she was not able to keep up with the payments. Armaan felt sorry for her and promised to help her monetarily, as she had always been a 'good' friend to him. If it were not for her, he would not have climbed the ranks so quickly at the surgical center.

Armaan talked to Riddhima everyday, but their conversations were always brief-either Armaan was in the OT, or Riddhima was at a rehearsal, a stage show or traveling. The "Sukoon" concerts were big hits in all the cities. Riddhima was fast emerging as a popular singer amongst the youth. They liked her stage presence, liveliness and versatility in performance. Their shows were getting a good deal of press and media coverage too.

Anjali took it upon herself, to keep Armaan informed about the media coverage on his wife's concerts. She made sure Armaan was presented with filtered information. There were articles, especially from the "Mumbai Reflections," which emphasized on the 'chemistry' between the lead singer and the composer/guitarist of "Sukoon." The articles talked about how the youth of the country were going crazy about Abhimanyu-Riddhima pair and how they were going to be the next hit 'jodi' in the world of music after the likes of Jagjit-Chitra singh, Bhupinder-Mitali etc.

Armaan initially ignored the implications of the words 'chemistry' and 'hit jodi' as part of media publicity, but one day, Anjali showed Armaan some pictures of Riddhima and Abhimanyu performing at one of the concerts. Armaan stared at the pictures intently and then saw some pictures with Abhimanyu standing too close to Riddhima; an arm around her; adjusting her necklace once; clipping the microphone to her blouse etc. Anjali of course caressed his doubts, "Armaan…waise dekho tho zara…yeh Abhimanyu tumhari wife ke kuch zyaada hi kareeb nahin khada hua hai….aur Riddhima bhi mind nahin kar rahi hai," Anjali was thanking her photographer for taking the most insinuating photographs.

One photograph was taken when Abhimanyu and Riddhima were drenched in rain. From the angle it was taken, it seemed that Abhimanyu was kissing Riddhima on the face. In reality, they did get drenched in the rain, but Abhimanyu was actually bending over something else, and trick photography made it look like a lip-to-lip kiss!

Armaan was furious; he called Riddhima to confirm that she had actually been caught in a rainstorm along with Abhimanyu. "Haan Armaan…bahut baarish huyi thi Chennai mein…hum dono ki taxi kharaab ho gayi thi, iss liye kayi miles paidal chalna padhaa…agar Abhimanyu nahin hota tho hum hotel na jaane kaise pahunch te."

"Dekho Armaan….tumhare jaise trusting husband maine aaj tak nahin dekha hai…..aur wo bhi Abhimanyu jaise insaan ke saath….Abhimanyu can use his charm with anyone….in fact he did not spare me either…..main kitni mushkil se uske jaal se nikali hoon…..I bet he will take this opportunity to get close to Riddhima…aur waise bhi show biz mein kaun kiska sagaa hota hai… know it is very easy to get close to other people on these outdoors," Anjali added fuel to the fire.

The more Armaan read and saw the articles and pictures about the shows, the more suspicious he got! His heart wanted to believe that Riddhima would never stoop so low, but being a scientist at core, he somehow believed his eyes and ears more than his heart.

Anjali did not leave Armaan alone in the evenings. Armaan usually found her waiting for him when he returned from work. She hovered around him like a helicopter and practically brain washed him in the month Riddhima was gone!

Towards the end of the tour, Riddhima had started feeling really exhausted. All the traveling and late nights were wearing her down. She could not wait to get back; she was missing Armaan terribly and longed to be held in his arms when she got back.

Riddhima and Abhimanyu arrived Mumbai on a week day afternoon, a day before their expected arrival date. Riddhima headed straight for home. She was disappointed not to see Armaan at home, but knew he was probably busy at work. After a shower and changing into comfortable clothes, she settled on the couch with a book waiting for Armaan. She did not know when she dozed off on the couch. When she woke up, it was dark. She got up and turned to lights on, "arre raat ke 9 baj gaye….Armaan abhi tak aaya nahin?"

Riddhima tried to call Armaan, but he was not available. He was not at work either. There was only one place he could be! Riddhima was a bit upset, "maine kal hi tho message chodaa tha ki main aaj aa rahi hoon….phir bhi aane mein der kar di?" Riddhima remembered leaving a message on the home answering machine, as Armaan's voice mail was full yesterday. She checked the message line on their home line, but just heard, "THERE ARE NO NEW MESSAGES!" Riddhima thought, "tho iska matlab Armaan ko message tho mil gaya hoga…phir bhi?"

Riddhima called for one of their maids, "Radha! Radha!"

"Jee memsab?" Radha came down

"Yahan kal doctor sahib se milne koi aaya tha kya?"

"Jee memsab…wo Anjali madam aayi thi….wo aksar shaam ko aati hain…par aaj hi nahin aayi," Radha answered innocently

"Accha jao….mere liye kuch khaana garam kar do…pata nahin doctor sahib kab aayenge," Riddhima sent the maid away as she did not want Radha to get too suspicious.

Riddhima felt a stinging pain in her heart, but decided to give Armaan the benefit of doubt once again. She went to bed after a light dinner.

Armaan had gone for a party with Anjali after work. He had no clue that Riddhima was back home a day early. Anjali had of course erased Riddhima's message the day before.

Armaan arrived home past midnight, a little tipsy after a few drinks. He did not notice Riddhima sleeping on the bed. He changed up and plunked on the bed. He was fast asleep within minutes. Riddhima felt his hand in the dark. She turned on her nightlight and saw Armaan in deep slumber. She smiled at him and bent down on his face to kiss him, but was repulsed by his alcoholic breath. She ran to the bathroom and started retching. She felt a little dizzy and came back to bed. She went off to sleep with her back to Armaan.

The next morning, Armaan woke up with a pounding headache. Riddhima was up and watering the plants outdoors. Armaan was late for work, and did not even notice that Riddhima's bag was still unpacked and sitting on the bedroom floor. He took some Aspirin, picked his bag and ran out the door. Riddhima was happy to find that Armaan was no longer sleeping in bed, but was a little hurt when she found out that he left without meeting her or even noticing that she was back!

Riddhima decided to go and meet Muskaan to cheer herself up. She would even talk to her about her recent fatigue and nausea she had been experiencing.

"Aao Riddhima! How was your trip? Tumhare concerts ki tho bahut tareef suni humney….Rahul tho tumhara fan ban gaya hai….we can't wait for your first album to release…kab aa rahi hai?" Muskaan was thrilled to see Riddhima.

"Bas…ab kuch hi dino mein release ho rahi hai…concerts ke baad kaafi acchhi publicity mil gayi hai…bhagwan ne chaha tho album theek thaak chal jaayegi," Riddhima said politely

"You are so modest Riddhima! It will be a big HIT and you will be a STAR!" Muskaan commended her, "acchaa batao aaj office mein kaise aayi?" Muskaan asked

Riddhima told Muskaan about her health issues and in a few minutes, Muskaan was back with a report in her hand, "mithai kab khila rahi ho?"

"mithai?" Riddhima asked

"Hmm…mithai….aakhir main bua jo ban ne waali hoon,"Muskaan exclaimed

Riddhima had tears in her eyes. She squeezed Muskaan's hands and gave her a big hug, "Muskaan….you don't know how happy I am? Meri pehli album ki success ab koi maayne nahin rakhti….this is the best gift you have given me!"

Muskaan corrected her, "*cough*cough* gift maine nahin Armaan ne diya hai….usee ko jaakar khush khabri do…,"Muskaan stroked Riddhima's hair.

Riddhima just blushed and nodded here head. She decided to surprise Armaan with the news and drove to his office.


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