Sunday, 13 June 2021

part 2 : Forbidden Love

1 year later

Finally, she has graduated. After 4 years of much hard work and sleepless nights, she now possessed a degree in Business, specializing in Advertising and Marketing. But today,even after achieving all this, she knew it didn't give her the happiness that she always thought she would feel on this special occasion. And she knew just the reason. But decided not to linger on it today.

"Riddhima beta, Congratulations!" Shashank wished as she came outside from the backdoor of the auditorium. She had made him very proud today. She had graduated first in her class and was given special distinction for her academic excellence. Riddhima came forward and hugged her father. Seeing her parents' smiling faces, she knew all that suffering she had gone through in the last 4 years was totally worth it.


"Mom, are you still crying?" RIddhima joked as she hugged Padma. "What to do beta. You have made us very proud today," Padma answered while Shashank said at the same time, "Riddhima, you think THIS is crying. You should've seen her when you were actually up there on the stage. She was crying bucketfuls saying her little angel is growing up!"

"Shashank!!" Padma said in an annoyed tone while Riddhima and Shashank laughed.

"Riddhima beta, Anjali called to wish you Congratulations and said she would call later since she was still at work. She wants to wrap everythin up there so that She and Atul can come early for your graduation party. Armaan had said it's ok for them to take an extended vacation," Padma added, she was looking around for their rented car as they were walking towards the parking lot and missed seeing the look of apprehension that crossed Riddhima's face.

Yes. That's right. Atul and Anjali got married. On that fateful day, one love story was torn into pieces while another began. Atul and Anjali had taken first looks at each other and fallen in love. She wondered what it was in their genes in her family that made them fall in love at first sight. Even Padma and Shashank had fallen for each other the first time they saw each other, him a senior at college ragging the freshmen and she a freshman giving back as good as she got. Anyways, everyone had seen the stars in Atul and Anjali's eyes when they had looked at each other and knew that this marriage was meant to happen. In fact, when Riddhima brought Anjali downstairs, Atul had stood, his feet frozen to the floor looking at her sister. That action of his had made her smile. Even after the earth shattering heartbreak she had to bear only moments before, Atul looking at Anjali as if he couldn't believe that she was real had made her smile genuinely. Riddhima was very happy for her sister. Even though she had stopped believing in God, she still thanked him for bringing Atul into Anjali's life. They were truly made for each other.

As for the person who had made her stop believe in God, well she is still very much in love with him as she was in the moment when she first saw him. But had accepted the fact that he can never be hers. She had seen Nikita for the first time at Anjali's engagement. She is beautiful and the fact that she had everything in her life was very much evident from the smile that danced on her lips. And looking at the picture Armaan, Nikita and Sunny made, Riddhima had realized that they were a perfect family. She could see Armaan adored Nikita. She had observed every little smile he directed at her. Every subtle touch that had Nikita blushing red. Nikita was loved by everybody. Sunita had relied upon her for every little thing for the functions, which had kept her very busy. But Nikita always had time for Sunny, Armaan or Atul. Observing her during all the functions for the marriage, interacting with guests or Riddhima's family, Riddhima realized that if there was a perfect woman in the world, Nikita was she. And well, Armaan was perfect too. Maybe that's why God had given them to each other.

But she still couldn't forgive God for the heartache she had to endure. Sometimes, she has no idea how she kept her feelings hidden from everyone. As the sister of the bride, she was required to do this or do that. She was a main player during marriage functions, be it engagement, sangeet, mehendi, wedding  or the reception. Everyone wanted her to be on centre stage and the only way she had kept her tears hidden, she had dedicated to the strength of her love. Her love for her family, her sister and finally, her love for Armaan. Armaan had the perfect life, there was no way that she could put a blot on it by breaking down and confessing her love. Therefore, she had supressed her feelings and smiled. Smiled during the whole day and cried at night hugging her pillow.

Soon the wedding was over and her di had gone away with her new husband to Atul's house in Mumbai. Sunita and her sons all lived together in one colossal mansion. Armaan and Atul worked in their family business that their father had started, Malik & Sons, working in the fashion industry. And the fact that Anjali is a fashion designer had made it even more easier for her to gel into the family and their business. Riddhima had gone once to Mumbai to visit Anjali and Atul with her parents. Otherwise, its mostly Anjali coming to Pune to visit her parents and well Riddhima was away in school. She had been awed at the size and the beauty of the Malik Mansion. But the best part of that house was that, it was a HOME. Surrounded by the love and devotion of all the family members had for each other, the Malik Mansion thrived. Shashank and Padma were very happy for their daughter, so was Riddhima. But wandering around in the house with her tour guide, Sunny, she had woven dreams of her living in that house and later admonished herself for that stupidity and vowed never to do so again. And her tour guide, well, Sunny is absolutely adorable. He had charmed everyone around him and was the jaan of the house. Everyone doted on him. And Sunita had mentioned quite a few times again how he was very similar to his father at that age. Riddhima could just imagine Sunny all grown up, leaving a trail of brokenhearts behind him, just like his father.

And Armaan, well he is such a nice guy that she couldn't even be mad at him for making her fall in love with him. Every action of his had her falling in love over and over again. That's why she blamed God. God had created this perfect being only for someone else. But she had gotten over her heartbreak over time. The pain decreased as the  months passed. But the feelings. The mindblowing feelings she had got when she first looked into his face were still there, very much strong, very much linked to the beating of her heart. She remembered every moment with him. Every smile he had given her. Every accidental touch of his that had her gasping. She cherished the gifts the groom's side had brought for her and her family only because Nikita had slipped in that Armaan chose those as she was too busy with the hospital work. She had spent hours looking over the wedding albums and the videos before she went to sleep just so she could dream of him. She had dedicated songs to him when she and her friends called radio stations in their spare time albeit of course anonymously. But she never dreamt of a life with him. She knew that she didn't have that right. She had always believed that true love is selfless and its happiness lies in the happiness of that special person. That principle had given her a new lease on life. She will never love again. But that didn't mean that she needed to be heartbroken. She could be happy because her love was happy. She did sometimes feel that something was lacking in her life but shook her mind out of that whenever it went on that track.And eventhough she's not heartbroken anymore, everytime she heard his name, her heart started beating fast. She could feel blood rushing to her cheeks. She felt butterflies in her stomach and it was all she could do to stop people from saying his name.

"ahh, we've landed," Shashank said as he stretched his arms out. Riddhima shook herself from her reverie and looked around the plane. Ahh..Home! finally..But

she couldn't even rememeber her trip back here. The last thing she remembered was Padma was saying Armaan's name and now they are in Pune already..Wow..

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"Ridz!!! Ridz!!!! Where are you? Ridz!!!" Anjali called out excited as she came into the house, Atul behind her dragging their luggage.

"Di!!!!!!!!!!!" Ridhhima cried out as she came running down the stairs towards Anjali. They hugged with tears in their eyes. Riddhima and Anjali hadn't seen each other in months. For sisters who had been together all their lives, who did everythin together, went to school together and even college, these past months of separation had been difficult. Mostly for Riddhima, who had to bear it alone, whereas Anjali had Atul in her new life to share everything with.

"Di..im soo happy to see you. I missed you!" Riddhima said happily.

"Me too.. And congrats Ridz, I heard you did great!" Anjali wished her sister.

"Congratulations Riddhima!" Atul wished as well.

"Thank you jeej and soo good to see you" Riddhima greeted Atul and gave him a hug. By then, Padma and Shashank had come from the kitchen and greeted Anjali and Atul as well giving them blessings.

They all settled in the living room and chatted for a while. Anjali shared all the news about the Maliks. Sunny's newest mischief, Sunita Aunty's social work, Nikita's operations and Armaan's business affaires. Everyone was doing great and all sent their wishes and gifts for Riddhima's graduation. They had wanted to be there for the party as well except Armaan and Nikita were busy with work and Sunita had to look after Sunny as well as her work. Therefore they had to stay back. Riddhima was very glad to hear that. She did not want to face Armaan again. And if there is any way to avoid that, she was more than happy to do it.

Padma told Atul and Anjali to rest for a while after their chat while Riddhima, Padma and Shashank got busy with arranging the last minute details of the graduation party for Riddhima.
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It was the evening. The house was decorated with red and white flowers with lights everywhere. Shashank had invited everyone they knew for this special occasion. Riddhima was dressed in a pink halter dress that hugged her figure and reached her knees. She came down the stairs while everyone applauded looking up at her. She actually hated showing off like this, but if her parents wanted to showcase her achievements, she would not stand in the way of their happiness. She directly went to where Atul and Anjali were standing. Anjali looked gorgeous in a black ball gown and Atul in a tux.

"Riddhima you look wonderful," Anjali smiled as Riddhima came their way.

"You do too di. And jeej, you look very handsome as well. Anjali is a lucky gal," Riddhima teased.

"Oh finally Riddhima. At least you appreciate me. Your sister doesnt think I am handsome at all," Atul pouted, whereas Anjali kissed his cheek for his childish behaviour. Aww..they are soo cute. Riddhima thought to herself.

Just then, Padma came and took Riddhima to greet their guests. Everyone congratulated her, giving her good wishes. And of course asked the question that she dreaded the most. When will she get married. Geez..these people. But of course, she couldn't say anything back except that she's still young and want to establish a good career first. She smiled and hugged everyone. And now it was time for her to cut the big cake that Padma had baked for her. Just then,

"Riddhima, Armaan wants to talk to you," Atul said handing her his cellphone.

what NO..please NO. Riddhima prayed but didn't have any choice other than to accept the phone.

"Hello?" Riddhima greeted.

"Hello Riddhima. Well I just want to say congratulations on behalf of all the Maliks. Im sure Atul and Anjali had already given the gifts and all, but us being family, I wanted to wish personally," Armaan said at the other end.

Her breath got caught when she heard his voice. It was music to her ears. She can spend hours listening to him talk on the phone.

"umm..thank you. It means a lot.umm..do you want to talk to momma and papa?" Riddhima wispered hesitantly.

"Actually, I talked to them before you came on the phone. Anyways, theres another thing that I wanted to talk to you about. One of my friend's company has an opening for director of marketing position, here in  Mumbai. I told him about you and your qualifications. He is very interested in meeting with you. If you would like, I can give you his phone number and you can set up a meeting and stuff. It is a great company and will be a good opportunity for you. I can personally guarantee the company and the owner. So lemme know what you think. oh here, Nikita wants to talk to you." Armaan said giving the phone to Nikita.

"Hello Riddhima, congratulations hon. We are all very proud of you," Nikita wished and Riddhima could hear the smile in her voice.

"thanks Nikita. And thank you very much for the lovely gifts." Just then Padma called her to cut the cake. "umm..momma wants me. Nikita, I gotta go. Please give my love to everyone there. And thanks again. Bye," Riddhima hung up and took a deep breath. A job in Mumbai. Being in the same city as Armaan, working there with his friend. Being reminded of him all the time.No ways..Riddhima didn't think she could handle it. No no. Distance is the best cure for her malady. Making that decision, Riddhima went to her parents to enjoy the rest of the party.

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It's been five days since the party. Anjali and Atul's vacation is coming towards its end and they were returning the next day. They were all sitting down in the patio having snacks and tea in the evening.

"Mom, Armaan mentioned that there's a job for Riddhima at his friend's company. Rohan is a very good friend of Armaan and his business in jewellery and accessories is very successful. This is a great opportunity for Ridz. Armaan said that Rohan was very interested in meeting Ridz after hearing about her academic background and her accomplishments.." Anjali mentioned out of the blue.

OH no..Why didn't Riddhima think of that. Of course Armaan would tell Anjali di about it first. Since she hasn't said anything about it, Riddhima had thought  that Anjali didn't know. But apparently, she had been waiting till the right moment. SH*^!!!

"yes mom, Rohan is a great guy. We have done business with him and his company is fast becoming well-known in the market. And with RIddhima there to take care of the company's marketing part, im sure the company will go far" Atul added his two-cents winking at Riddhima. She smiled at him weakly.

"Oh and you know mom, Armaan was saying how proud he was telling Rohan about Riddhima and her background. Armaan is very impressed with Riddhima's achievements." Anjali said and Riddhima's heart skipped a beat. He was proud of her!!Wow, all this week, everyone had been saying how proud they are of her, but nothing felt as good as Armaan's pride in her. Her heart smiled.

"Aw..that's very sweet of Armaan. So Riddhima what do you think?" Padma directed at her.

"umm..momma, I was thinking. I mean, i've been away from home for soo long. So why don't I find a job here instead. Im sure there are companies here too that would hire me," Riddhima added, firm in her decision to not take the job.

"But Riddhima, this is a great opportunity. And just think about it, you'll be with Anjali again and I know how much you miss your sister," Shashank told her.

"Indeed Riddhima, and you are welcome to stay at the Malik Mansion when you are there. Think about how much fun it'll be. All of us together!!" Atul added happily.

Stay at that gorgeous home, so close to her love and HIS love. How will she bear it?? Riddhima asked herself.

"Riddhima, why don't you first meet with Rohan and talk about work. And if you don't like it, you can always come back to Pune right?" Anjali added an incentive.

Riddhima said "But di, don't you think..."

"No beta. Why don't you go to Mumbai with Anjali and Atul tomorrow. That way, meet this guy and see the company, etc. And as Anjali said, come back if you don't like it," Padma  urged her.

"yes Riddhima beta, This could be the beginning of the career of your dreams. And remember how you always wanted to live in Mumbai, though you haven't mentioned that in a while," Shashank added thoughtfully. Yes papa, I always wanted to live there. That was before Armaan came into my life. Riddhima thought sadly.

"Yea Ridz..common..please.." Anjali begged.

"Riddhima please come na. Give it a chance, Im sure you'll love it" Atul added his plea.

"yea, just go take a look beta" Padma and Shashank told her as well.

"ok ok..fine. I"ll just go meet with this guy and see how the place is. And if I don't like it, Im coming right back, ok momma!!" Riddhima sighed giving up.

She really really didn't want to go. But her family didn't leave her a choice. I will just go and come back saying I didn't like it, Riddhima told herself, as she reconciled herself to the fact that she's going to Mumbai tomorrow.

Hiranya

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