Wednesday, 16 June 2021

part 5 : Forbidden Love

Two weeks later...

It has been two weeks since that fateful day. Riddhima still rememebered it like yesterday. The shock, the dread and the helplessness hasn't worn off yet. Tears still flowed from her eyes whenever she thought of the accident. She rememebered walking into the house with stalling feet only to be hugged by Sunny who had been so scared because he had no idea what is going on. And when her renewed tears had taken over, she had cried hugging him, terrifying him further. But finally, when she had realized the effect the tears had on Sunny, Riddhima had quieted down. The cook had only been able to contact Sunita who had promised to return home as soon as possible while Atul's phone had been busy. With Sunny's hand in hers, Riddhima had tried to call Atul again and she was finally successful. She had related what had occurred and a shocked Atul had promised to reach the hospital with Anjali in tow. When she had finished talking to Atul, Sunita had walked into the house. Looking at the traces of tears in Riddhima's face and the deathgrip that Sunny had on her hand, she had immediately known something was wrong. When the terrible news was broken to her, she had sat down on the couch with an empty-eyed stare. Riddhima had shaken her twice to get her back to normal. She told Sunita about Armaan's state and the urgency in reaching the hospital, which had prompted Sunita to action. She bade Riddhima to stay behind with Sunny while she reached the hospital. Riddhima,
though she had wanted to be by Armaan's side, had accepted since his mother and brother had a more right to be with him than her. Besides, Sunny needed her. Even though, he had heard the news about Nikita's death when Riddhima had relayed it to Sunita, he had no understanding of it. Death has had no part in his life and he has not realized the gravity of the situation. Riddhima had thought it best to wait till Armaan came and explained to Sunny about his mother not coming back home. While Sunita rushed to the hospital, she called her parents who had promised to come to mumbai in the next available fight. Sunny had not left her side ever since she came back. He had defintely felt something is wrong and held onto her tightly. And since she had nothing else to do, she made Sunny watch cartoons while she sat with him, staring into the TV screen with a faraway look. The image of what had occurred hours before kept playing in her head. The crowd, Armaan's unsuccessful attempts, his anger and frustration, his tears, the police and the ambulance. And even worse, the paramedics final words kept ringing in her head. She had shut her ears, but those words were engraved in her brain and refused to be silenced.

Atul had finally called from the hospital. Armaan had been given a tranquilizer to put him to sleep since he had refused to let go of Nikita. Maybe he had finally realized that she is no more and didn't want to part from her. He was still sleeping when Atul had called. He had sounded broken, just like how Riddhima felt. Anjali had taken the phone from him and thanked Riddhima was taking care of everything so far. She had told her to be strong and not break apart. Anjali knew that her sister was very sensitive. And being first on the scene of such an accident would leave irrepairable damage in her sister psyche. Riddhima had promised to be strong when she knew how fragile her state was. But she wanted to be strong for Armaan and Sunny. They had suffered an immense loss. There was no way she would add to that pain by breaking into pieces herself. Atul had said that they'd be back once Armaan had gained conciousness. Nikita's body would be brought home the next day.

When Armaan had finally come back home, he was a changed man. The man who lit up the room with his smile. Who brought a smile to everyone's faces with a turn of a phrase was gone forever. In his place was a broken man with a dead heart. His heart had stopped beating the moment he had realized that his beloved wife is no more. He had walked into the living room with feet loaded with lead followed by Sunita, Atul and Anjali. Sunny had run to him to find the security within his arms but he had just patted Sunny's head and walked into the room he had shared with Nikita, locking the door behind him. A shocked Sunny had found the solace in Riddhima's embrace.  Anjali tried her best to deal with Atul's and Sunita's grief while the care of Sunny had fallen automatically into Riddhima's hands. That night, after Armaan's retreat into his bedroom spurning Sunny, she had realized that no one was going to explain to him what had happened. Sunita and Atul had cried embracing each other almost forgetting Sunny in their grief. Riddhima had taken Sunny away to his room to tuck him into bed and told him that his mother is not coming back, carefully trying to hide the tears behind a smile.

"But why is she not coming back home? Does she not like me anymore?" Sunny had asked tearfully. He loved his mother a lot; so he could'nt believe that she will not tuck him into bed anymore, or read him a story again or embrace him with love when he had a nightmare.

"of course not darling..she loves you a lot. But you see, God always want good and kind people around him. And your mother was the kindest and the best person in the world, right?" Riddhima told him trying to find a way to ease the pain.

"yea..she's the best" Sunny replied.

"So he told her to come to him. But she couldn't leave you and papa alone right. So she told him, I would come to you only if you agree to one condition,"

"what's that?" he inquired.
"She told him the only way that she'd come to him was if he makes her an angel. That way she can be with God and you guys. Remember, angels are always around us. Guarding us and making sure we always do good things," Riddhima had added praying that he would get the twisted logic in her reply.

"So, even though I can't see momma, she's always with me coz she is an angel now, right?" Sunny asked with a face full of hope.

"yes baby," she said hugging him and hiding her tears from him, "Your momma is always with you. And if you want to talk to her, just close your eyes and think of her. She'll answer all your questions."

Sunny had nodded as if he had understood the complicated situation. Riddhima was glad to have told him the truth, well a twisted version of it. But nevertheless the truth. She slept next to him that night hugging him to her side.

Next day, her parents had arrived and prepared the house for Nikita's funeral. Sunita was in no state to handle such responsibility and Nikita's parents are deceased. The Guptas did everything they could to share in the grief of the Maliks. The truth was Nikita was loved by everybody. And her sudden death was a shock to everyone who had known her. The house had a regular stream of visitors who had come to give condolances to the family. Riddhima and her mother accepted them. Atul had gone with Shashank to get Nikita's body and Sunita was sitting in the living room floor where Nikita's picture and pooja items were closeby. Anjali sat with her and Riddhima had bade SUnny to sit next to his grandmother telling him to be a big boy and take care of Sunita. Armaan had refused to come out of his room, ignoring pleas of everyone and wallowing in his grief. He had not come out when Nikita's body was brought into the house. Not even when Sunny had gone up to the room telling him that those people are going to take his mother away, can papa please stop them? Finally, it had been the time to take her body to the cremation grounds. Shashank, Atul and two of nikita's surgeon friends had shouldered her corpse. But just before they stepped out the door, Armaan had come running and told them to stop.

"I brought her into this house with me by her side. She will go out of this house with me by her side!" he had yelled and pushed one of the surgeons out of the way to take his rightful place. He was still dressed in the previous day's clothes. His reddened eyes and unshaven face spoke of his grief. But he shed not one tear. Its almost as if the tears had dried up and there were no more to fall. He did not talk to anyone and everyone was afraid to upset him. Riddhima had followed everyone to the cremation grounds with Sunny holding her hand. Nikita's last rites were performed by both her husband and son. Everyone had been crying. Sunita, Atul, Anjali, Riddhima. Sunny too joined in with the crying holding his father's leg. Though it had seemed Armaan was oblivious to everything as he had stared into the burning flames.

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Nothing was the same in Malik Mansion since that day. No laughter was heard  since then. No one got together for dinner anymore. The devotion and love of the Maliks had seem to have gotten lost somewhere along the road to the hopital, home and the cremation grounds. Riddhima and Anjali had tried to bring back some normalcy to the house but even their best attempts were unsuccessful. Armaan had again closetted himself in his bedroom and only came out to get alcohol out of the home bar. He never talked to anyone and spurned anyone's attempt to get through to him. The food placed in his room by the servants came back untouched. It was almost as if he wanted to torture himself for losing his love. One could hear him yelling at the servant whenever one dared to say something to him. Atul had tried to talk to him. But Armaan had cruelly rebuffed his attempts. Sunita had tried too but he had told her to go away. Riddhima had tried to send Sunny but he never even got through the door. In all this, Riddhima felt the most sorry for Sunny. It had seemed he had lost not only his mother, but his father too. And there was no fault of his in this mess. And that little one did not understand why his loving father rejected him like this. Riddhima was very mad at Armaan for his behaviour. She understood his grief, but that did not mean he should've ignored Sunny like this. Therefore, she tried her best to not Sunny feel ignored and rejected. She had taken leave off work and stayed by Sunny's side all throughout this time. And Sunny, feeling the only one who loved him was his Riddhi, tried to find a surrogate mother in her. Riddhima's parents had returned after a week with the promise to keep visiting often. By now, even Sunita had returned to normal with the help of Riddhima. She was still sad and had the tendency to get lost in memories; but she tried her best to get back to as she was before. Atul and Anjali had an increased workload at their company. Armaan's absence from work doubled Atul's responsibility but being the good brother he is, he tried not to trouble Armaan about it. Anjali supported him throughout everything. Meanwhile, Riddhima took the responsibility of home and Sunny. She woke him up in the morning, fed him, got him ready for school,collected him from school and helped him with his homework. And spent every possible moment with him while she also took care of the daily chores of the house and servants. She was afraid how she was going to manage everything once she went back to work. But she would not have it any other way.

Riddhima had occasional dreams of Nikita who kept telling her to take care of Sunny and Armaan and the others. She always woke up from these dreams sweating and went back to sleep hugging Sunny even more tightly. She was taking care of Sunny and the others, but she had no idea what to do for Armaan.

Hiranya

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