Tuesday, 14 November 2017

PART 48:Ehsaas

After getting rid of Anjali, Armaan took a sigh of relief and thought, "kaash mainey pehle hi Riddhima ki baat maani hoti, tho aaj yeh sab nahin hota….Riddhima tum kitni theek thi….aur main kitna pagal hoon ki tumhi par shak kar baitha……ab mera zindagi mein ek hi maqsad hai, aur wo hai hamare pyaar ko wapas ek karna…..pataa nahin tum mujhey kabhie maaf kar paaogi ya nahin, par main issi umeed par apni zindagi kaat loonga, ki shayad tum phir se meri ho jao." He picked up their framed wedding photograph from the shelf and kissed her face, "I love you Riddhima….and always will," his eyes felt a little moist as he brushed his lips against the glass.

Armaan was too ashamed to call Riddhima directly and ask her for an apology. He knew that a little rose or begging on his knees would not help this time.

He called Muskaan's home, "Muskaan….I need to meet you…..please can I come now….thanks!" He picked his keys and left for Muskaan and Rahul's home.


Muskaan stood near a window and Rahul sat on the sofa across from Armaan. They both became very serious and sad after they heard about Abhimanyu and Anjali's evil games.

"Maanti hoon Anjali tho chaaloo aurat hai, par Abhimanyu aisa kar sakta hai? Kitne saal hum log sab saath saath padhe…..we did everything together, and he betrayed your friendship…..how disgusting!" Muskaan fumed with anger.

"I am worried about Sid….he is such a sweet guy….hamare wedding reception par kitni acchi performance di thi usney." Rahul added, "You know, my dad used to be in CBI. I will ask him to find out about Sid's whereabouts….tum chinta mat karo Armaan, we are here to help you!" Rahul patted Armaan's knee with his hand.

Armaan looked at Muskaan with rueful eyes, as if asking for forgiveness and begging at the same time.

Muskaan understood what Armaan was trying to say, "Armaan….I will try my best to talk to Riddhima…..but I don't want her to get too stressed about anything….thankfully she is now in the 4 th month, so her risk of miscarriage is a little low, but you never know…..behtar hoga ki tum abhi uske paas mat jao."

Armaan got up and walked towards the window. He asked, "main us se mil tho nahin sakta, par dekh tho sakta hoon? I just want to make sure she is fine, I promise I won't show her my face."

Muskaan felt bad for her friend, "theek hai….she comes to my clinic every Wednesday at 2 pm……if you can somehow be discreet, you can see her."

Armaan hugged Muskaan, "thanks Muskaan…..main kitna bura aadmi hoon….tum jaise doston ko chhod kar maine Anjali jaisi aurat par vishwaas kiya….I don't deserve forgiveness."

Muskaan hugged him back, "we all know you Armaan…..tum ek acche insaan ho, bas kabhie kabhie bhatak jaate ho….and you know, Riddhima still loves you a lot….wo tumhare baare mein kabhie baat nahin karti, par uski aankhon mein jo dard hai, wo sirf tumhare pyaar ki wajah se hai…she is an amazing woman…..you know she has started teaching at the school again?"

"I am happy, she is taking care of herself, and doing what she enjoys….I am responsible for her leaving her job and her identity behind; main hamesha apni marzi hi karta raha, kabhie usey kya chaahiye, socha hi nahin….I think I took her for granted…..I am such an idiot! Muskaan, main bahut sharminda hoon....please don't say anything to her, I don't want to be the cause of any more pain to her." Armaan belittled himself.

Armaan thanked Muskaan and Rahul, and left with a little hope inside him. As he was leaving, he saw Riddhima's new CD lying next to the stereo cabinet. He picked it up and gently caressed the cover- it had a picture of a smiling Riddhima, dressed in a red skirt and a black halter neck top, looking smashing. There was a smaller picture of the Sukoon band in the background. He looked up at Muskaan and Rahul. Rahul nodded his head, as if granting him the permission to take the CD,
 " you can take it Armaan….I have another copy….I am her biggest fan!"

Armaan's eyes welled up; he was very happy for Riddhima and again kicked himself for accusing Riddhima instead of congratulating her on her success as a singer.

Armaan listened to the CD day and night. That CD and Riddhima's voice became his constant companion now. As long as he heard her sing, he felt that she was near him. He remembered how Riddhima had been so hesitant about singing professionally, "shayad maine zindagi mein 2 hi ache kaam kiya hain….Riddhima se pyaar, aur Riddhima ko gaane ke liye encourage karna."

On Wednesday afternoon, Armaan parked his car near Muskaan's nursing home around 1.30. He wore his sunglasses and a cap, so he was not easily visible from outside. A few minutes before 2, he saw Dr Misra's old car from Ramgarh approaching the parking lot. Armaan ducked a little, so he would not be visible. Then he saw Riddhima and Atul alight from the car. He was seeing Riddhima after almost 2 months; she looked like she had gained a little weight. She was wearing a pink salwaar suit and her hair was tied in a ponytail. Her face had the radiant pregnancy glow, but her eyes did not have the usual brightness in them. Armaan felt sad, as he felt responsible for the pain in her eyes.

Riddhima and Atul entered the clinic. Armaan waited outside for almost an hour. Finally, he saw them come out of the clinic. Atul had one arm around her and was smiling. Riddhima just nodded her head and smiled back. Armaan was reassured, that everything must be fine. How he wished to be on her side; Riddhima's head should be leaning on his shoulder and not on her brother's. He slammed his hands on the steering wheel and cursed Anjali, Abhimanyu and above all, HIMSELF!

This became a routine every Wednesday. Armaan lived from week to week, just waiting for the clock to strike at 2 pm. A glimpse of his wife, looking more and more pregnant each week was chicken soup for his sinful soul. After Riddhima's visit, Armaan would get an update from Muskaan on her progress. "Armaan…..she is doing great…..looks like she will have a good sized baby!"

"Wo tho usey dekh kar hi lagta hai!" Armaan had started getting his sense of humor back again; knowing that Riddhima was healthy and well, gave him a lot of joy.

One Wednesday afternoon, Riddhima was running late and did not arrive at her usual appointment time. Armaan got worried, and came out of his car. He paced up and down, called Muskaan several times, went to check inside the clinic, but no one knew why she was not there yet! Armaan decided to drive towards Ramgarh himself. As he was leaving the building, he stopped at the steps. He saw Riddhima climbing the steps in front of him. Atul was right behind her.

Riddhima looked up and their eyes met. They both had a faint smile on their faces at their first eye contact, but Riddhima's face color fell; her smile died, the pain in her eyes returned as fast as it had disappeared for a flicker of a second. Armaan's heart ached to hold her, hug her and comfort her. They both swallowed a painful lump in their throats.

Atul's nostrils flared at seeing Armaan, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"

Armaan's eyes were moist; he just lowered his eyes and stood aside, giving them room to go inside.

Armaan overheard Atul, "Riddhima….is aadmi ki himmat tho dekho? Tumhey yahan bhi nahin chhoda! Main aaj hi police mein report karta hoon iski!"

Riddhima held Atul's hand and said in a husky, painful voice, "leave him alone bhaiyya…..he won't do anything!"

Armaan and Riddhima walked away from each other; she towards Muskaan's office and he, towards his car, with heavy hearts full of sorrow and yearning for each other.

Song in background: "tho phir aao" from "awaarapan". This is a beauuuuutiful song for this situation:

toh phir aao mujhko sataao
toh phir aao mujhko rulaao

dil badal bane aankhein behne lagi
aahein aise uthein jaise aandhi chalein
toh phir aao mujhko sataao
toh phir aao mujhko rulaao
aa bhi jaao - 6

ho ho ho........
gum le ja tere, jo bhi tune diye
ya phir mujhko bata, inko kaise sahein
toh phir aao mujhko sataao
toh phir aao mujhko rulaao
aa bhi jaao - 6

ho ho ho.......
abb to iss manjar se, mujhko chale jana hai
jin raahon pe mera yaar hai
unn raahon ko mujhse paana hai
toh phir aao mujhko sataao
toh phir aao mujhko rulaao
aa bhi jaao - 6

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