Saturday, 4 November 2017

PART 43: Ehsaas

The early rays of the sun filtered through the blinds in the hotel room. Riddhima was still lying with her face buried in her pillow; her eyes swollen and red, the pillow was soaking wet. She forced herself to get up. She walked to the window and looked outside. She thought, "sab kuch waisa hi hai jaise roz hota hai….wo hi suraj ki kiraney, wo hi sadakon par bheed, wo hi log idhar se udhar bhaagte
huye…..par meri duniya ab bilkul alag hai…..kaash kal raat maine sirf ek bhayanak sapna hi dekha hota," she looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings and she knew there was no point kidding with herself anymore. She had to move on with her life-for the sake of her child and for herself!

She had decided to go back to Ramgarh and leave Mumbai forever, "main yahan sirf Armaan ki wajah se aayi thi…..jab Armaan ka saath hi choot gaya, tho main yahan kya karoongi….ab Armaan ka meri zindagi se koi vaasta nahin….Armaan tumhare saath kuch sunhere pal jo maine bitaaye, unke liye bahut shukriya….is bacche ke liye tumhari hamesha abhaari rahoongi, par tumhari patni ab kabhie nahin ban paaoongi!" she caressed her tummy and swallowed a lump in her throat.

She took a deep breath, her breaths still interspersed with some heavy sobs. She took a quick shower and changed into a light blue churidaar suit. She made reservations for the train to leave the same evening and headed to the music studio.

"Arre Riddhima….are you alright?" Abhimanyu was worried when he saw Riddhima's red and puffy eyes.

"Abhimanyu….I want to make this brief, but I cannot work with you anymore," Riddhima said with a flat affect

"But why? Aisa kya ho gaya?"

"I have some personal reasons, but what will I have to do to get out of the contract?"

Abhimanyu was worried, "kahin Armaan isey kaam karne ke liye manaa tho nahin kar raha? Agar Riddhima ne kaam chhod diya tho hamara banaa banaaya kaam bigad jaayega?" he thought

"Riddhima! Aisi kya personal problem hai? Agar Armaan ke saath zyaada time bitaana chaahti ho, tho hum late night recordings bandh kar denge"

"Abhimanyu….main aur Armaan ab saath nahin hain…..main wapas Ramgarh jaa rahi hoon!" her voice cracked as she said that.

Abhimanyu was ecstatic when he heard that, but tried hard to pretend that he was concerned, "Really Riddhima? What happened? Tum dono tho ek doosre se pyaar karte ho….phir kya hua? Should I talk to Armaan? Main uska achha dost hoon….aur ab tho tumhara bhi dost hoon," he said slyly.

"Abhimanyu…this is my personal problem….please mujhey jaldi bataado ki contract ke kya terms hain?"

Abhimanyu thought for awhile, "Anjali ka kaam tho ho gaya ab….iska matlab Anjali ki movies ke contract tho ab mil hi jaayenge….tho agar Riddhima jaana chaahti hai tho jaa sakti hai," "Hmmm…Riddhima…aisa hai…I think you will owe us 75% of your earnings from the album proceeds instead of 50%, if you break the contract….I think that is what the contract says."

"Theek hai Abhimanyu….mujhey manzoor hai!" Riddhima had no choice but to surrender her fair share of the earnings.

"Are you sure Riddhima? Tum chaaho tho yahin Mumbai mein mere saath reh sakti ho…I am your friend…aur apna ek saal ka contract bhi khatam kar lena," Abhimanyu's mouth watered at the thought of Riddhima moving in with him.

"Nahin Abhimanyu! Tumhare mujhpar pehle hi bahut ehsaan hain," she said sarcastically, "aur waise bhi main Ramgarh wapas jaana chaahti hoon."

Since Sid's sudden disappearance, Riddhima had been a little wary of Abhimanyu. She had no proof, but she suspected some foul play behind Sid's disappearance. She remembered the night when Sid had played the music at Muskaan's party, Abhimanyu had gone up to the stage and seemed upset with Sid. Sid had said something to Abhimanyu and pointed his fingers towards Armaan and her. Abhimanyu had seemed unhappy when he saw Armaan and her lost in each other while dancing. She wanted to terminate her relationship with "Sukoon" on amicable terms, as she had sensed that Abhimanyu was capable of taking an about turn in any relationship, just as he had with Sid. Was she indirectly trying to protect Armaan again? Why did she still care for him? She thought.

"Theek hai Riddhima…jaisi tumhari marzi….main tumhey chhod aata hoon," Abhimanyu offered.

"Nahin Abhimanyu! Maine aaj raat ki reservation kar li hai….thanks..main chalti hoon." Riddhima got up to leave.

After she left, Abhimanyu gave the good news to Anjali. Anjali exclaimed, "good work Abhimanyu! Bas ab dekho agla kadam divorce aur phir mujhey Mrs Malik ban ne se koi nahin rok sakta!"

"Mrs Malik? Wow Anjali tum ne bahut badhaa haath maara hai! I thought you just wanted to have fun!" Abhimanyu said.

"Abhimanyu! Armaan ko paane ke liye maine jitni mehnat ki hai, aaj tak kisi aadmi ke liye nahin ki….aur waise bhi he is earning really well now, I have to settle down some time or the other…you know I am not getting younger…so why not him? He will probably keep working till he is 60 or 70, mere life style ke liye bahut hai!" Anjali blew rings of smoke as she spoke.

"Maan gaye Anjali! Accha ek baat bataana bhool gaya….kal kuch police waale aaye the, Sid ke baare mein poonch taach kar rahe the…apparently his sister in London has lodged a complain that Sid is missing!" Abhimanyu said softly

"Abhimanyu! Don't worry….Sid is safe in Dubai! Wo ab big boss ke saath hi rahega….he cannot go anywhere now….agar bhaaga tho uski jaan khatre mein hai….if tries to spill the beans to Armaan or Riddhima, his sister's life is in jeopardy….don't worry…the only problem is that big boss is asking for more money….can you send me some?" Anjali asked.

"Anjali…mere paas abhi paise nahin hain….abhi hamari nayi album release hone waali hai…," Abhimanyu was not keen on giving Anjali any more cash, "apne richie rich doctor se maang lo!"

"Well, I will work on that tonight….par 20 lakh tum bhi bhej do…OK? You are equally involved, understand?" Anjali said angrily and hung up.

Riddhima wanted to meet Muskaan before she left Mumbai.

"May I come in?" Riddhima knocked on Muskaan's door

"Arre Riddhima…aao…aao….sab theek hai na?" Muskaan got a little worried when she saw Riddhima's puffy eyes, "kya hua…kahin phir se?" she was afraid Riddhima might have miscarried again.

"Nahin Muskaan….bhagwan ka shukr hai….pregnancy is fine, but I…I…am," she could not control herself and hugged Muskaan. Riddhima thought that she would have no more tears to shed, but it seemed that her eyes had a never-ending supply of tears today.

Muskaan helped Riddhima sit down and gave her a cup of water, "kya hua Riddhima? Kya Armaan theek hai? Usey tho kuch nahin hua?"

Riddhima shook her head as she drank the water, "nahin Muskaan…main wapas Ramgarh jaa rahi hoon….hamesha ke liye, " she wiped her nose with a tissue.

Muskaan was shocked, "what? Armaan bhi jaa raha hai?"

"Nahin, maine Armaan ko hamesha ke liye diya hai, " she sobbed hysterically.

Muskaan was speechless. Riddhima finally mustered the strength and told her what had happened last night.

Muskaan was outraged, "Armaan ke bachhe! Tera dimaag tho kharaab nahin ho gaya hai, you bl**** chauvinistic p**!" she could not control herself, "Riddhima, main baat karti hoon us se….he does not realize what he has done….he loves you like crazy, aur phir aisi baat kehna….GOD…I will kill him!"

"Nahin Muskaan…..tum Armaan se kuch nahin kahogi….jo insaan apne pyaar ki awaaz nahin sun sakta, wo aur kisi ki kyon sunega….I don't want to go back to him!" Riddhima said firmly

"But Riddhima, you both love each other… can you live without each other?"

"Jaanti hoon Muskaan….Armaan sirf mujhse pyaar karta hai, main yeh bhi jaanti hoon ki mere bina wo bahut tadapega…..mera apmaan karke wo kabhie khush nahin rahega….par please tum usey kuch nahin bologi….mujhsey aur apne bachhe se door rehna hi uski sazaa hai! Tumhey meri kasam Muskaan…tum uske paas meri wajah se nahin jaaogi" Riddhima wiped her tears and got up to leave.

"Theek hai Riddhima….jaisi tumhari marzi…..lekin tum Ramgarh mat jao…yahin mere paas reh lo….after all I need to monitor your pregnancy closely this time," Muskaan stopped her.

"Nahin Muskaan….is bacche ko kuch nahin hoga….main promise karti hoon ki saare check ups ke liye tumhare paas hi aaoongi, aur delivery bhi tumhare haathon se hi hogi," Riddhima hugged Muskaan and left with a heavy heart.

Muskaan was shaken up and really upset with her best friend. She wanted to go and shake Armaan badly; may be even give him a slap or two, but Riddhima had tied her hands. She understood Riddhima's point of view too; after all he had insulted her womanhood in the worst possible way!


Armaan was in an exceptionally horrendous mood this morning. He came to work after a sleepless night, unshaven and unkempt! He was a terror for the nurses and staff at the office. He flung charts and pens everywhere; screamed for no rhyme or reason. The head nurse finally complained to Dr Modi.

"Armaan….what is the matter?" Dilip Modi entered Armaan's cabin. Armaan was furiously searching for a file everywhere.

"Yeh dhoond rahe ho?" Dilip asked

Armaan felt embarrassed, as the file was right under his nose. He had still not touched the pile of patient charts from last evening. As a result, Riddhima's note was still buried underneath them.

Dilip sat down across Armaan, "Is there something bothering you Armaan? Any personal problems?"

Armaan almost broke down, but composed himself, "Nahin sir! Just some marital problems. My wife left me for someone….I think so…I am not sure though"

Dilip had a faint smile on his face, "Armaan….tell me how many happily married successful surgeons do you know? You can count them on your fingers….surgery and particularly plastics is a very stressful job….I am not surprised that you are having problems….most wives give up after a while…kitne saal huye hain tumhari shaadi ko?"

"About 2 years," Armaan answered sadly

"That's it? Well, tumhari generation mein shayad itni patience na ho. My wife left me for another guy 15 years after marriage! Abhimanyu was only 12 at that time. I did not realize but her friendship with our neighbor soon turned into an affair. I divorced her later." Dilip reflected on his past.

Armaan swallowed hard at the mention of 'divorce'

"Armaan…waise ek baat boloon? Agar tumhey kisi par shak hai, tho wo shayad theek hi hoga…because there is never any smoke without fire! If you think she is having an affair, divorce her sooner than later…..maine 5 saal tak apni wife ka intezaar kiya ki shayad wo wapas aa jaaye, par nahin aayi wo….abhi settlement kar lo…later when you are more successful, they want a bigger chunk from your hard earned savings….that is what my wife did….I know some good lawyers if you need names….Ok I will go now…if you want to take a day or two off, you may….after all lawyers are busy too! Good luck son….enjoy your life, like I do now….I have no constraints on myself….I have never felt so free…Bye!" Dilip walked off.

Armaan buried his head in his hands, "divorce?" he stared sobbing silently at the thought, "divorce? No..No…" he wiped his tears and picked his bag to leave for the day.

As he entered his house, Anjali greeted him, "Hi Armaan! I am glad you are here. Maine suna ki Riddhima left you…how could she do that?"


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