Monday, 11 June 2018

part 11 : Pehchan


 NIKITA'S APARTMENT:



"Hey baby! I have some good news for you," Abhimanyu kissed Nikita and dumped his briefcase on the sofa.



"Really?" Still frazzled from the near mishap with Armaan's visit, Nikita smiled and gathered her composure.





"Yeah! We leave for Germany tomorrow sweetheart. Remember that client I have been trying to get on board? They finally want to do business with us. We have our launch in three days. Here are two first class tickets babe," he pulled her into his arms and dangled the tickets in front of her eyes.



Nikita's eyes widened at the thought of flying first class and that too abroad.



"Does your wife know?" She asked hesitantly.



"I'll let her know tonight….waise bhi packing tho wo hi karegi na." With a smug look on his face, he walked to the bar to pour himself a drink.



"Who else is going with us?" She asked.



"It's just the two of us sweetheart." With a crooked smile, he poured himself some scotch but frowned when he saw the wine opener lying on the counter with a freshly unscrewed cork. "Wine? Have you been drinking wine. I don't see any glass anywhere. Was someone just here?" He inhaled the fresh wine fragrance from the cork, his eyes piercing her gaze for answers.



"Oh….come on darling…..it was just an old friend…..she had stopped by for a quick drink," she removed the cork from his fingers and gave him a seductive pout, "now tell me….it's just the two of us? Kisi ko shaq tho nahin hoga na?"



"No….as far as the office staff is concerned, they only know about my trip. You will call in sick tomorrow…..and be out for a week with the flu…samjhi?" He grabbed her by the waist and crushed her frame against his, almost to the point of smothering her.



"Ahhh!" She choked, "got it boss!"



"Kaun tha wo?" He asked suspiciously.



""Kaun?"



"This old friend of yours…..I am sure it was a man….not a woman."



"Uh….Abhimanyu…tum bhi na….why are you so suspicious? You know I belong to you." She tried to release herself from his grip.



"Yaad rakhna Nikita……no man except me can touch you…..I am very possessive about my women…..and if I ever find that you are two timing me…..I'll make sure you regret that day forever."



"Aye aye sir!" she saluted, gently planted a kiss on his chest, throwing him into frenzy, an art she had so skillfully mastered on him.



……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..



RIDDHIMA'S ROOM:



Since Armaan had left, her mind had been a see saw of emotions. The thrill of learning a new skill was exhilarating but another buzz that had pervaded her senses since the time Armaan had held her hand was inexplicable and frightening. Never before had she felt that zing, that current of pulsating emotions inside her like she had when Armaan had been close to her.



Song from 'Rock on' in background….

 [YOUTUBE]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL05Jizw45c&feature=related

[/YOUTUBE]





Yeh Tumhari Meri Baathein, Hamesha Yuhin... Chalti Rahe..Yeh Hamari Mulakate, Hamesha Yuhin... Chalti Rahe..Beete Yuhin Apne Saare Din RaaatBaaton Se Nikalti Rahe Nayi BaaatPhir Wahin Baathein Leke Geet Koi... Hum Likhe..Jo Dil Ko Haan Sab Ke Dil Ko.. Chu Le..Baathein Suron Mein Yuhin Pighalti Rahen..Baathein Geeton Mein Yuhin Dalti Rahen..




It was wrong….

It was probably just a random event…..

It was probably the excitement of getting closer to her cherished dream of graduation…..

It was nothing more….she reasoned.



In her effort to dismiss the strange feeling, she decided to work on the typing tutorial program Armaan had installed before leaving.





Buried in her laptop, Riddhima practiced typing on the keyboard and did not notice Abhimanyu walk into their room. In her eagerness to show off her typing skills to her teacher the next day, she had not only missed dinner herself, but had forgotten to save dinner for her husband.



"RIDDHIMA! I AM HUNGRY!" He growled as he loosened his tie, infuriated at the sight of his wife neglecting him for an inanimate gadget in her lap.



'Ek second," she raised her finger absent mindedly, too engrossed in the next sentence she had to type using all her fingers.



"What's this nonsense Riddhima?" He pulled the laptop away from her and shut it close.



"ABHIMANYU!" She was enraged at first, but realized what time it was, "Oh….I am sorry…..raat ke barah baj gaye? Aap kab aaye?"



"How does it matter to you? Tumhara pati bhookha pyaasa khada hai, par tumhein tho computer games ka chaskaa lag gaya hai!"



"I was not playing a game," she felt slighted, "I was just practicing typing, "main laati hoon aapka khaana," she stepped aside, avoiding any contact with him and silently walked off.



"Who gave you this toy?" He asked when she walked in with his warm plate of dinner.



"Armaan gifted this to me," she placed his dinner on the table and moved her laptop away from his reach.



"Armaan? That singer?" His name and invisible presence in the room agitated Abhimanyu further.



"Jee…..he gave me the idea of completing my graduation online."



"Why is this man so interested in my wife? Why does he care about your graduation? Kya lagta hai wo tumhara?" Abhimanyu pulled her closer and crushed her in his arms just like he had Nikita a few hours ago, forcing his dominance on the two women in his life.



"Abhimanyu! You are hurting me!" she released herself with her full force and stepped back, "because he is a good friend."



"Friend? Yeah right! Have you ever heard men and women being friends?" He mocked at her.



"Kyun? Don't you have women friends at work? I've seen several pictures of you and other women when you were in the US…..were they not your friends?" She asked.



"Meri baat alag hai…..I can handle myself….but you are very nave…..that man is taking advantage of your innocence…stay away from him…samjhi?" Abhimanyu growled and sat down to eat.



"Nahin Abhimanyu….aisi koi baat nahin hai," she knelt beside him, "Armaan is already in love with someone else." She pacified him.



"In love? How do you know?"



"He told me. In fact, she works in your office. Nikita naam hai uska." Riddhima replied.



Abhimanyu's world came to a freezing halt, the dinner suddenly tasted insipid and cold. Shoving the plate away from him, he strode away in anger and looked for his phone.



"Kya hua? Aap jaante hain Nikita ko?" She asked.



"Tell your friend that this woman….what's her name? Nikita….yeah Nikita is a slut! If you care about your friend's happiness, ask him to stay away from her," Abhimanyu picked his phone and was ready to dial Nikita's number but forced himself from blurting out anything inadvertently in front of his wife. 



"Really? Aapko kaise pata?" Riddhima asked.



"Uffo Riddhima! I know what happens in my office….that woman has slept with half the employees there," Abhimanyu lied.



"Chee chee! I need to warn Armaan then….poor guy is already lattoo over her."



"How does he know her?" Abhimanyu narrowed his eyes and asked.



"Rahul introduced them."



"Rahul ki tho aisi ki taisi," Abhimanyu mumbled and then walked out with the phone leaving a perplexed Riddhima in the room, "why is he so concerned about Armaan now? I thought he didn't care for him."



……………………………………………………………………



"NIKITA!" Abhimanyu called her from his study, "you b***h! You lied to me! &@@%%!"



"Calm down Abhimanyu….what's up?"



"You are seeing Armaan Malik? That musician from the US?"



"Oh God….kisne kaha tumhein?" Nikita sighed, "I have just met him twice…..he is going to help out at the annual company function…..bas itna contact hai mera us se….your brother introduced me to him…..don't get hyper Abhimanyu!"



"He claims that he is in love with you," Abhimanyu gnashed his jaws.



Nikita got a kick out of the statement, "really? He does?" She chuckled.



"What's so funny?"



"Nothing darling…..tum bhi na kabhie kabhie bachchon si baatein karte ho……you know most men lust after me……that doesn't mean I love them all……you would know darling. So many women are crazy about you, but you can't love all of them….can you?" She laughed.



"Why would he make such a statement?"



"How would I know? Well, why don't we take advantage of the situation? Let me pretend I am interested in Armaan too….this way, no one will suspect that anything is going on between you and me….samjhe?" Nikita drawled.



"Hmmm….clever….Ok…..that's not a bad plan as long as he doesn't touch you."



"He won't sweetheart……wo haq tho sirf tumhara hai…haina?" Nikita laughed seductively.



"OK….keep it that way," he sighed, "Goodnight….make sure you pack something really sexy for Germany."



"Goodnight….tum kaho tho kuch bhi pack nahin karti," she giggled and hung up, her sensuous tone sending Abhimanyu once again into a frenzy.



……………………………………………………………..





Back in her room, Riddhima tried to reach Armaan frantically. Armaan, still distraught from the events at Nikita's place, was confused on how to reveal the truth to Riddhima. He had no proof, just a gut feeling. What if Abhimanyu was just visiting Nikita on an official business? Then what about the shirts? Maybe, he had Nikita pick his dry cleaning- a not-so-uncommon task given to employees by their bosses. Then what about the contents of the bathroom drawer? Why was Nikita so adamant about him leaving when Abhimanyu was there? Flummoxed at what he should do next, he finally heard his phone ringing.





"Hello….Riddhima? Sorry I didn't hear the ring," he wiped the sweat off his neck and brow and sat down on his bed. Her soothing voice was the best thing that could have happened to him at that moment.



"Armaan…..Nikita se door rehna," she stated matter of factly.



Bemused, he broke out into a smile, "kyun?"



"She is not a good girl."



"Really? Kisne kaha tumhein?"



"Abhimanyu ne…..you know she works in his office."



Armaan was sure that his hunch had been right. Somehow, Abhimanyu had found out about his visit to Nikita's and this was a subtle warning to stay away from his mistress. What a low life this man was. If he could be this possessive about his mistress, how would he react when he found out that another man was crazy about his wife? He shuddered at the thought of Abhimanyu hurting Riddhima if he ever suspected her straying or showing interest in someone else. Armaan knew he would have to be careful. He had to play his cards wisely. Perhaps, use Nikita as a pawn, get closer to her and try to catch her and Abhimanyu red handed. He would have to make sure that Riddhima would be present to see the painful truth with her own eyes.



"Riddhima….Riddhima…Riddhima….tum kitni bholi ho," Armaan chuckled, "why are you so worried about me?"



"Because I don't want anyone to hurt you Armaan," softly, she lowered her voice into the phone, "main nahin chaahti koi tumhara dil thode."



Armaan was touched by her concern; that meant a world to him. She cared about his feelings just as much as he cared about her.



"Don't worry Riddhima…..I can take care of myself, and jahan tak dil ka sawaal hai…..uspar kisi ka zor nahin chalta…..dil tho pagal hai…….ek baar kisi ka ho jaata hai tho hamesha ke liye ho jaata hai……aur jaanti ho jo dil par zakhm deta hai, wo hi marham bhi lagaata hai." He replied back softly.





"Armaan," she sighed, almost tearful at his words, also a bit disappointed that Armaan was so crazy about Nikita, "please apna dhyaan rakhna…..aur agar usne tumhein thoda bhi dukh pahunchaaya na…..tho tho," she paused, sniffling in between, unable to complete her sentence.



"Tho tum ho na," he chided, hoping to raise her spirits from her overwhelming emotions.



"Matlab?" She wiped her tears.



"Meri dost…..my shoulder to cry on," he chuckled.



"My shoulders might be tiny for a man like you." She chuckled back.





"Tiny shoulders but big heart."



"Thanks…..tumse baat karke hamesha dil halka ho jaata hai."



"Mera bhi," he smiled; a little chat with her had certainly helped clarify things in his mind.



"Take care," she reluctantly hung up; so did he.



Armaan chalked out his modus operandi on how he could set Riddhima free from her unfaithful husband's clutches. Music had always helped him think better, especially in tough situations like this.



Strumming his guitar, he composed a song to inspire him….




'Your love is blind' by Ramzi




I see you all the time
Never see you smile
I try to picture what's going on in your mind
He leaves you every night by yourself
He took your love and put it on the shelf
He doesn't really care' how you feel...
You should be moving on girl what's the deal?
I wana see you out that door... cuz girl you know your worth much more

So baby tell me why'you stick around
Always lonely and you only wear a frown
He don't treat you good and you know
The only thing left is for you to go
You shouldn't live a lie with someone
When deep inside you know he ain't the one
I don't know what to say no more
I wana see you out that door

Yah azizi (yo precious) is mahiri
I really don't wanna see u cry
Mujko samjho dil peh mat lo (understand me don't take it to heart)
Don't wana see another tear in your eye
Baby break away
Let him go
I don't know he's done to you
But I know that it's time to move on
Girl your is love blind

Girl I understand
That you're scared
And you feel that you might never love again
But baby that ain't true
No no no
I know that there some there for you
Someone that will see
That you are worth
An undiscovered treasure on this earth
Girl you know your worth so much more
Wana see you out that door

Yah azizi (yo precious) is mahiri
I really don't wanna see u cry
Mujko samjho dil peh mat lo (understand me don't take it to heart)
Don't wana see another tear in your eye
Baby break away
Let him go
I don't know he's done to you
But I know it's time to move on
Girl your is love blind

Yah azizi (yo precious) is mahiri
I really don't wanna see u cry
Mujko samjho dil peh mat lo (understand me don't take it to heart)
Don't wana see another tear in your eye
Baby break away
Let him go
I don't know he's done to you
But I know its time to move on



By the end of the song, he had his plan etched out. He kept the guitar away and offered a silent prayer in the sky, "O God…..please give me the strength to do the right thing for Riddhima. I know the truth will hurt, but please give her the strength to endure it and help me help her get over this soon to befall calamity in her life. She trusts you more than anyone in life, please don't betray her God….please don't."



…………………………………………………………………………………………………



"Riddhima…please pack my bag…..I am leaving for Germany tomorrow," Abhimanyu walked in, reassured and recharged after his conversation with Nikita.



"Germany? Kitne din ke liye?" Riddhima asked curiously. A part of her albeit guilty, was excited about his trip.



"1 week….sorry I got upset with you….I know you are a faithful wife….tum kabhie koi galat kaam nahin karogi," he smiled at her and kissed her forehead to her surprise, "would you like anything from Germany?" She wondered who he had talked to and how in the world had his temper changed to such a benevolent mood.



"No…I am fine," she hesitantly smiled and moved away, "aap sahi salaamat wapas aa jaaiye….mere liye wo hi bahut hai."



"A new computer? A better and faster one than that one?" He grinned.



"No….I like the one I have….but thanks for the offer," baffled, she turned around to pack his suitcase as Abhimanyu slumped on the couch dreaming of a half clad Nikita snug in his arms lounging in a hotel room in Germany.





For some inexplicable reason, Riddhima was looking forward to Abhimanyu's departure too. It was very unlike her, but she wanted some time away from her moody and chauvinistic husband. Quickly, she packed his suitcase and after finding him asleep on the couch with a wide grin on his face, left him alone and retired to their king sized bed alone, but not lonely. Memories of the phone conversation and the computer lesson with Armaan acted like a soothing companion as she slipped into a sweet slumber till the crack of dawn.





……………………………………………………………………………….



THE NEXT DAY:



Excited and nervous, with his game plan in mind, Armaan walked into the Modi house for his daily guitar and computer lessons. As soon as he stepped in, he sensed a strange gloom in the air.



"Kahan hain sab? Itna shaant kyun hai yahan?" A curious Armaan strolled around in search for any signs of life. Anjali wheeled out of her room after a few minutes.



"Hi Anjali! Where is everyone? Kavya? Aunty? Uncle? Atul?.....Riddhima?" He asked.



"Mummyji, daddyji and Rahul have gone to Dehradun with Riddhima."



"Dehradun?"



"Riddhima's parents met with a fatal accident. They all left this afternoon. Atul has taken Kavya out because he was asking too many questions."



"Fatal accident?" Armaan was shocked; he felt his legs give away as the reality of the tragedy that had just hit Riddhima sank in. His hands cold, his color pale, he sat down next to Anjali, "Oh my God….kaise hua yeh? Kab hua?" He was too shaken up to think clearly.



"Aaj subah hi hua tha accident…sorry no classes for sometime….we will inform you when everyone is back," Anjali replied.



"I-I understand," he replied glumly, "can you give me the address in Dehradun?"



"Why do you need that?" She asked curiously.



"Uh…woh," he hesitated, "I'd like to send my condolences." He lied; in reality he was planning his leave from the music academy and fly to Dehradun as soon as possible.



She wrote it on a piece of paper, "thanks for coming….Kavya really enjoys his time with you," Anjali smiled and turned around for her room. Armaan, still taken aback by the news, stood up and asked, "I am sure Abhimanyu has gone too."



"No…he left for Germany this morning," she turned her head towards him and then wheeled off.



"Germany? Does he know what happened?" Armaan chased her.



"I don't think so…..but I heard it's an important meeting…..I doubt he would fly back that quickly."



Not surprising, thought Armaan. Riddhima needed him more than ever. At times like this, a friend is what one needed. He knew Abhimanyu could never give her the emotional support she deserved at a moment like this. Who would know better than him? Quickly, he retraced his steps from the Modi's and headed for the airport to purchase his ticket to Dehradun.





DEHRADUN:



Two new characters are introduced in this part:



Aradhana Sareen (Riddhima's older sister) and Shailendra Sareen (Aradhana's husband)









A long line of mourners greeted Armaan outside Riddhima's parent's house. It was an old brick house with tall trees shading the front yard. The front porch was packed with wailing and weepy locals. Riddhima's father was the principal of the local college in Dehradun and going by the number of people who had come to pay their respects, Armaan knew that her parents were well respected in the community. He couldn't wait to see Riddhima and the Modi's. He wondered if Riddhima had any siblings or other relatives to support her. Memories of his own mother's death were still vivid in his mind. He remembered how shattered he had been when he had seen Damini's body wrapped in a white shroud before the funeral. Riddhima had lost not one, but both parents at the same time. That was not fair, he thought. As if it were not enough that her husband was cheating on her, her God had conferred another tragedy on her. It was a strange way of testing his most ardent followers, thought Armaan.







Armaan managed to squeeze his way through the crowd. Slowly, he walked inside the foyer of the old house and saw the Modis sitting at the feet of the two deceased souls. He folded his palms and paid his respects to Riddhima's parents. Rahul spotted him and made room for Armaan on the crisp white 'dari.' Shashank nodded back and gestured him to sit with him. Padma placed her palm on Armaan's back to acknowledge his presence there. Armaan's eyes scanned the room for Riddhima. There she was- a pale, hunched up frail woman, eyes bone dry from her spent tears, dressed in white, her head resting on another woman's shoulder. The other woman, as beautiful as Riddhima, had her arm around her as she stared blankly at the bodies in the center. She was Riddhima's older sister, Aradhana, the stronger of the two sisters, the protective one, the only one who understood her sister like the back of her hand. Her husband, Shailendra Sareen sat with the other guests, his eyes fixated at the door to see who all were present at his in-law's funeral.  Shailendra Sareen was a local politician, awaiting reelection this year. He was an opportunist to the hilt. Every person he ever met was always gauged by their utility to his political career. For obvious reasons he was very fond of his association with the Modis, particularly Abhimanyu, the power and the face of the new Modi generation. Abhimanyu was also an admirer of his politician brother-in-law. In exchange for campaign donations, Shailendra had helped Abhimanyu on many occasions especially when higher political connections were necessary to run the business.



Curiosity got the better of Shailendra when he saw Armaan sit beside the Modis. He knew most of their acquaintances and extended family members.



"Yeh aadmi kaun hai?" Shailendra frowned, "aur jis tarah Abhimanyu ke ghar waale us se pesh aa rahe hain, lagta hai koi important aadmi hai……I need to find out."





Riddhima looked up briefly and was overwhelmed to see Armaan sitting across from her along with her in-laws. A stream of tears that had dried up after flowing all day since the tragic news about her parents came pouring down when she saw her friend there. Armaan could not hold his tears either; their silent exchange of tears expressed the depth of their sorrow. So far, only Aradhana didi had been the one who had managed to console Riddhima's grief, but after seeing Armaan there, she knew she had another shoulder to cry on. She sat up and lifted her head from her sister's shoulder. Aradhana was surprised to see the change in her sister's body language after the arrival of the handsome stranger. Even though, the sisters were very close, Riddhima had not mentioned anything about Armaan to her sister yet. Aradhana had been upset about Abhimanyu not being there for her sister at a time like this, but after seeing the exchange of emotions between Riddhima and Armaan, she had a sinking feeling that this man meant a lot more to her sister than just a family friend would.







Abhimanyu had been unreachable since his departure for Germany. Both Padma and Shashank had tried to contact their son, but he was perhaps in mid air between India and Germany. Finally, they had to leave an urgent message with his office manager to inform him of the tragedy.





Even Shailendra noticed that the stranger was staring at his sister in law, shedding tears like he was a long lost friend. He was at ease both with the Modis and their daughter in law. Shailendra's political radar was on high alert; he stood up and walked towards Armaan.





……………………..to be contd……………………

Bheegi

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