Monday, 18 December 2017

PART 56: Ehsaas

"Riddhima! Riddhima! Kahan hai tu beta? Tere school se kayi baar phone aa chuka hai '..tere students exam ka wait kar rahe hain, aur tu abhi yahin hai?" Padma's voice floated from downstairs.

Riddhima wiped her tears and got up. She staggered to her closet and removed her memory box. She folded the note neatly and carefully placed it in the box along side the precious foil ring and dried rose petals; her only gifts from Armaan, she had preserved.

Riddhima put on her dupatta and picked her bag.

"Kya hua Riddhima? Tu ro rahi thi?" Padma got worried as she saw Riddhima's red eyes.

"Kuch nahin maa'.kuch aankh mein chalaa gaya shayad'..main aapse baad mein milti hoon," Riddhima stepped aside and walked downstairs.

Padma stopped her, "beti, Armaan ke saath kuch hua kya? Wo bina bataaye chalaa bhi gaya'.kahin usney tere dil ko phir dukhaya tho nahin?"

Riddhima just shook her head and ran out to her car; she was too overwhelmed to explain anything.

Atul came out of the guest room, "kya hua maasi? Yeh subah subah kyon ro rahi hai Riddhima?"

"Pataa nahin beta'.na jaane Armaan ke saath phir kahin koi baat na huyi ho?" Padma conjectured

"Maasi'..yeh Armaan se ek baar divorce le le, tho yeh kissa hi khatam ho jaaye'..kal shaam ko mujhey laga tha ki sab theek ho gaya hai, par aaj phir' aadmi ne meri behen ka kya haal kar diya hai? Jaise uski hansi hi cheen li ho! Main usko ek baar aur warn karne jaa raha hoon! Hospital kya khol liya hai, apne aap ko yahan ka raja samajh ne laga hai! He needs to stay away from my sister!" Atul left in a fury. Padma tried to stop him, but he was too quick for her. Arnav started crying and Padma went to attend to him.

Riddhima was glad she did not have to teach, due to the end of year exams. Riddhima sat on her seat, as the students took their exam. She was lost in her own thoughts. Armaan's letter kept flashing in front of her. Her eyes welled up as she thought about Armaan's pain, "jitna dard mainey sahaa hai, us se kahin zyaada Armaan ne sahaa hai'..wo mujhse bahut pyaar karta hai'..Armaan you have not lost me forever, but won me forever."

In the meantime, Atul barged into Armaan's office at the hospital, "I need to talk to you Armaan!"

Armaan excused himself from the patient he was seeing and walked out of the office, "Haan Atul, kya baat hai?" Armaan looked worn out and tired, but was still calm.

Atul looked at Armaan angrily, "Dr Malik'.aap please meri behen ko akela chhod dee jiye''she has had enough of you! Yahan Ramgarh mein hospital chalaane aaye ho, bas wo hi karo!"

Armaan was stunned; last night he thought Atul had mellowed down, but looked like Riddhima had said something to him this morning, "kahin wo letter se aur pareshaan tho nahin ho gayi?" he thought.

"Atul'.yeh mera vaada raha tumsey ki aaj ke baad main na tho Riddhima ke kareeb jaaonga, aur na hi Arnav ke' fact I will not keep any contact with them, I am sorry if I hurt all of you by attending Arnav's birthday!" Armaan said sadly.

Atul gave Armaan a dirty look with nostrils flared, "Let this be your last warning Armaan!"

Armaan nodded and patted Atul's shoulder, "you have my word Atul."

After school, Riddhima was still restless and was dying to meet Armaan. She called his home and cell numbers, but could not reach him, "shayad kaam par hoga'..baad mein koshish karoongi."

Armaan saw several missed calls from Riddhima, but he refused to answer them as he had promised Atul. He felt a little light headed and decided to go home early that evening, "shayad kal raat der se soya tha'..let me get some rest."

That evening, Riddhima kept to herself and did not say anything to Padma about Armaan's letter. She spent her evening with Arnav but was lost in Armaan's thoughts. Her heart, body and soul ached for Armaan. She felt an uneasy sensation inside her. She put Arnav to bed and paced up and down in her room. She looked out the window and saw the night sky was again turning gray. Within minutes, the rains were back; it was going to be another stormy night.

Downstairs, Padma received a call from Lovely, who had also started working at the new hospital, "Hello! Jiji main Lovely bol rahi hoon hospital se'..kya aapko pataa hai Dr Malik kahan hai?"

"Nahin, wo ya tho hospital mein honge ya apne ghar par," Padma answered.

"Nahin jiji'sab jagah try kar liya, na wo phone uthaa rahe hain, aur mainey ghar par ward boy ko bhi bheja tha, par darwaaja hi nahin khol rahe'aapke paas unke ghar ki chaabhi hai na? Zara aap pataa lagaaiye'yahan ek emergency hai," Padma sensed the urgency in Lovely's voice.

A restless Riddhima came downstairs and overheard the conversation, 'kya hua maa?"

"Riddhima'pataa nahin Armaan ka pataa nahin chal raha'aaj Atul din mein us se kuch baat karne bhi gaya tha." Padma said

"Kya baat karne?" Riddhima asked worriedly.

"Yahi ki wo'wo tum se door rahe'.Atul ko teri bahut chinta ho rahi thi aaj subah," Padma explained.

Riddhima was worried, "Maa'..mamaji ke ghar ki duplicate chaabhi kahan hai?" her voice was trembling.

"Tu kya karegi Riddhima? Bahar mausam kitna kharaab ho raha hai!" Padma tried to stop her.

"Maa'.mujhey jaana hoga'..kahin bahut der na ho jaaye'aap yahin Arnav ke paas rahiye''aur agar bhaiyya ka phone aaye tho unhey keh dena ki mere Armaan ko kuch na kahein!" Riddhima said emotionally and fetched the duplicate keys.

Padma was pleasantly surprised, "Beti dhyaan se jaana'pahunchte hi khabar kar dena," Padma yelled from behind and smiled, "mera Armaan?"

"Theek hai maa!" Riddhima yelled back. She drove as fast as she could in the blinding rain. She was worried about Armaan, "kahin usney kuch ulta seeda tho nahin kar liya'..mujhsey door hone ke chakkar mein kahin apne aap ko kuch''," she tried to keep her sight on the road as her vision got blurry with tears.

She finally reached Dr Misra's old house and knocked at the door. There was no answer.

She let herself inside the familiar house and walked in, drenched by the heavy outpour.

"Armaan! Armaan!" she looked for him everywhere. She heard a familiar song playing inside the bedroom. She followed the voice and recognized her album playing on the CD player. She looked around the bedroom and was shocked to see Armaan limp on the bed.

She rushed to his bedside and shook him, "Armaan! Armaan!" There was no answer. She was horrified; she touched his skin with the back of her hand, "tumhey tho bahut tez bukhaar ho raha hai!"

Riddhima quickly went and fetched a bowl of water with some towels. She unbuttoned his shirt, and started sponging his body with the tepid water. She called the hospital while sponging him, "nurse'main Mrs Malik bol rahi hoon! Doctor sahib ko bahut zor ka bukhaar ho raha hai'wo behoshi ki haalat mein hain'Dr Rahul hain kya wahan?'Oh wo Mumbai mein hain? Theek hai main unhey phone karti hoon." She hung up and dialed Rahul's home number.

Riddhima: "Rahul'Armaan ki tabiyat bahut kharaab hai'please tell me what to do?"

Riddhima sounded really worried on the phone.

Rahul: "Calm down Riddhima'just tell me his symptoms'I will tell you what to do. I will be there as soon as I can'abhi toofan ki wajah se saari roads blocked hain."

Riddhima noted down all the instructions like a good nurse. She had not practiced nursing in years, but seeing Armaan in this critical condition brought old memories back. She did not even realize that she had addressed herself as Mrs Malik on the phone.

She ran down to Dr Misra's old clinic. She gathered needles, syringes and some medicines. Thankfully, they were still not expired- lagta hai Armaan abhi bhi is clinic mein kaam karta hai!

She gave him the injections and medications as Rahul had prescribed. His temperature was starting to come down, but he was still delirious and almost unconscious. Riddhima stayed at his bedside and nursed him all night. As she tried to get up, she felt Armaan's hand grip her hand tightly, "Riddhimaaa'mat jao," he muttered deliriously. Riddhima grabbed his hand and brought it to her cheek, "main yahin hoon tumhare paas Armaan'.kahin nahin jaa rahi."

Armaan went in and out of his delirious state all night. Riddhima looked around the room and saw her photographs and their wedding pictures displayed everywhere. The closet door was open, and she was pleasantly surprised to see all her clothes neatly arranged along with Armaan's clothes. She had tears in her eyes. It seemed that Armaan lived in the hope that one day she would return back; she felt that she had always been there along with Armaan and never left him. She held his hand in hers and kissed it with her wet lips, "Armaan'.please theek ho jao jaldi'..main hamesha tumhari thi aur rahoongi'.main ab kahin nahin jaaoongi'..please hosh mein aa jao."

Riddhima informed Padma about what was going on.

"Beti'tu Armaan ke saath hi reh'.main Arnav ko sambhaal loongi."

Riddhima fell asleep with her head resting on Armaan's bedside. The doorbell rang early in the morning. She got up and answered the door.

"Rahul! I am so glad to see you!" she exclaimed.

Rahul checked Armaan out and said, "let's move him to the hospital'..he is critically ill!"


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