Saturday, 16 December 2017

PART 55:Ehsaas

This is my favorite part of this whole story. Hope you all like it too...

After the party, Armaan stayed behind to help clear up all the mess. They all sat down to open the presents. Riddhima avoided eye contact with Armaan; she purposely sat far away from him. Even though, she was sitting far, she knew Armaan's gaze was fixated on her. His piercing and soulful gaze was weakening her resolve; he had always been good at reading her body language, although he could never read what her heart really wanted. She could not deny the fact that there was still a mutual attraction for each other. She had sensed his heart beat and rapid breathing, whenever she was near him; and she was sure Armaan sensed the same about her.

Armaan had brought a train set for his son. He set up the train set for Arnav. Arnav was thrilled with the trains. That was his favorite present. He refused to budge and wanted Armaan to keep winding the trains again and again. Arnav clapped each time the trains whistled and went around the track. Armaan, of course, loved the fact that Arnav loved his present. He thought, "bachpan mein main bhi train set ke saath ghanton khelta rehta tha."

It was way past Arnav's bedtime. Riddhima was getting impatient; she wanted Armaan to leave. She was about to say something, when Padma called her to the kitchen, "beti'.jaanti hoon tu Arnav ko sulaana chaahti hai'par ek din thodi der se so jaayega, tho kya harz hai? Dekh tho sahi usey kitna mazaa aa raha hai Armaan ke saath? Ek bachche ke liye baap ka pyaar utna hi zaroori hota hai, jitna maa ka'jaa tu soja, tujhey kal kaam par jaana hai na, main Arnav ko baad mein sula doongi."

"Nahin maa! Main kuch der intezaar kar leti hoon'..aap so jaaiye'aap thak gayi hongi," Riddhima said reluctantly.

Riddhima did not want to leave Arnav alone with Armaan. He was not used to strangers; but was Armaan really a stranger? "Kahin mainey Armaan ko bula kar apne liye ek nayi museebat tho nahin khadi kar di? Pataa nahin mainey kyon usey invite kar liya? Ab Armaan Arnav ka saath nahin chhodna chaahega, aur us bahaane phir mere kareeb aane ki koshish karega."

Suddenly, she heard the wind blowing outside, "lagta hai toofan aane waala hai, mujhey saari khidkiyan bandh kar deni chaahiye." As, she went around the house to shut all the windows, the rain started pouring hard with hail crashing against the windows. "Ahhh," she screamed, as the piercing rain lashed her. Armaan jumped up at hearing her scream.

He saw her struggling with a window latch; he came behind her and tried to help her secure the window latch. Their hands brushed against each other as Armaan pulled the window shut with full force. Riddhima almost fell on him as the window slammed shut on them. Armaan supported Riddhima on his body and held her waist with one hand to prevent her from falling. The strands of her hair covered his face as he inhaled her familiar fragrance. Armaan was losing his self-control, when Riddhima pulled away and said, "Thanks Armaan!" Armaan noticed that her face had turned red; she was almost out of breath. She wiped the sweat beads from her brow and walked away from him. Armaan looked away, sensing her discomfort; he did not want to push her anymore, as he knew she would reject him once again! The storm reminded him of their passionate encounter in the Jungle. He smiled and asked, "yaad hai Riddhima'Ooty mein?"

Riddhima interrupted him, as she knew what he was going to say, "Armaan'mainey tumsey pehle hi kaha hai ki puraani baaton se koi faayda nahin hai!" She tried to deny her feelings, as at that moment she herself was thinking of the same incident.

"I am sorry, lagta hai kaafi bura toofan hai," Armaan looked outside and said, "mujhey chalna chaahiye."

Riddhima glanced outside at the blinding storm, "thodi der mein chale jaana'.toofan ko thum ne do"

"Kai toofan tho kabhie nahin thum te Riddhima'.chaahe kitna bhi intezaar kar lo ya koshish kar lo," Armaan replied sadly.

Riddhima understood the underlying meaning of his words; she changed the topic, "Chai peeoge kya?"

"No thanks."

Just as he was about to leave, Arnav walked in with one of the trains in his hand and pointed it to Armaan, as if asking him to come back and play with him. Armaan smiled and picked his son. He could not resist the offer and they both went back to the train set. Riddhima left them alone this time and went to her room. The stormy weather and Armaan's presence was making her uneasy. She would rather stay away from him, at least till the storm subsided.

She lay her head on her pillow and was fast asleep within minutes; her mind was restless in sleep- she dreamt about Armaan; how he was kissing her and making love to her ; she gave out a loud groan and woke up covered in perspiration, "yeh kya ho raha hai mujhey?"

She closed her eyes and reminded herself of the day when Armaan had questioned her, "What proof do you have that this is my child? What proof?" the familiar words echoed in her mind, just as they had over the last 1 year. But then why tonight, was she getting carried away by his presence in her house?

She woke up and drank some water. She checked the time, "arre raat ke 2 baj gaye? Arnav kahan hai?"

She went downstairs and saw Arnav lying with his belly down on Armaan's chest. The father and son were fast asleep on the living room floor. They looked so peaceful and comfortable with each other. She looked outside; the rain was still falling hard.

She knelt down and quietly tried to take Arnav in her arms; Armaan got up as Arnav whimpered a little. He rubbed his eyes and looked up at Riddhima holding Arnav, "Oh, I am sorry'.pataa nahin neend kab lag gayi," he got up and brushed his pants, "I should get going."

Riddhima did not know why, but she asked him to stay back, "bahut raat ho gayi hai'.kal subah chale jaana," she bit her lip after she said that; she knew she would regret it!

"Are you sure?" Armaan was surprised himself, "main guest room mein so jaata hoon, thanks!"

"Actually Armaan, Atul bhaiyya so rahe hain wahan."

"Oh! Tho main yahan sofa par so jaata hoon," he said

"Armaan, tum us sofa par fit nahin aaoge!" she said irritably, looking at him from top to toe, "main maa ke saath so jaati hoon, tum oopar mere room mein so jao!" she ordered.

"Kya kaha? Tumhare room mein?" Armaan thought he was dreaming.

"You don't have a choice Armaan! Just go!" Riddhima carried Arnav to Padma's room, which was on the same floor; Armaan followed his orders and went upstairs. Armaan saw that the bed had been used earlier, "shayad Riddhima so rahi thi yahan," he gladly plunked himself on her sheets and was fast asleep with her fragrance and softness right next to his skin and slept like a baby all night.

The next morning, Riddhima tiptoed into her room to get ready for school. Armaan was still fast asleep, a familiar scenario of their pre-separation days. She had prepared a cup of tea for him. She remembered how Armaan loved to be pampered by her every morning. She had to rub his back, whisper sweet nothings in his ear and then he would demand his good morning kiss before he had his bed tea! Riddhima just placed the cup beside the bed and went to shower.

She came out of the shower after a few minutes, drying her hair. She was surprised to see the untouched cup at the bedside and no sign of Armaan. She looked outside the window-his car was gone! "Lagta hai chalaa gaya, par chai kaise nahin pee?" She was about to pick the cup, when she saw a folded note under it.

She unfolded the note and read:

My Dearest Riddhima,

I will make this short. Since we have separated, I really haven't had a chance to express myself. I would really like to thank you for inviting me last evening for our son's birthday and then giving me shelter from the storm last night. This morning, when I saw the cup of tea at my bedside, I realized what I have lost in the last 1 year. I have realized that a marriage can be successful only if there is mutual love, faith and respect for each other. I always thought that if there was love, it was enough to sustain any relationship. But I was wrong again. I don't doubt that we still love each other a lot, and always will.

I have realized (ehsaas) that the day I doubted the faith in your love and disrespected your honor, I lost all the faith and respect you ever had for me. I am such a fool, that to this day, I have been hoping to get you back in my life as I know you still love me, but this morning when I see this cold cup of tea at my bedside, I know I will never regain that faith and respect from you.

Riddhima, Dr Misra was right when he said you have a very big heart; it is my misfortune that I never appreciated what I had, till I lost it forever. The fact that you are willing to let me be a part of Arnav's life is proof of how magnanimous you are.

I don't think God will ever forgive me for the pain I gave you. My loneliness is my penance. I plan to dedicate my life to the service of this town, which gave me the most precious gift of my life. Isn't it strange, that we never appreciate what we have till we lose it forever?

I would love to be a part of Arnav's life, but I have realized that my presence inflicts more pain to your already bruised heart. So, I have decided to stay away from both of you. Please remember, that I am always there for both of you. I may have committed a lot of sins, but I have loved only one woman in my life and I am willing to live the rest of my life with the memory of her love.

Your's forever,

(tumhara Veeru)

Riddhima's eyes were full of tears as she read the letter again and again. She covered her mouth with her hands and sobbed loudly, trying to stifle the bawls. She fell on the ground with the letter in her hands and buried her face in the bed, "aisa kyon hua hamare saath Armaan? Aakhir kyon? Kya do pyaar karne waalon ko aisi hi sazaa milti hai?"

'.to be continued'.

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