Wednesday, 13 June 2018

part 13 : Pehchan


RECAP: Standing at the ledge of the doorway, she overheard Armaan and Aradhana's conversation about Abhimanyu's affair, Nikita and their trip to Germany. Her face could not lose any more color than it had in the last two days. Almost ghostlike, she stared blankly at the tulsi plant in the center, uttering to herself, "ab mujhey koi nahin bikher sakta Armaan aur didi…..bikhri tho main pehle thi…..ab tho sambhalne ka waqt aa gaya hai. Ab apni zindgai ke faisle main khud loongi…..koi aur nahin."






Her parent's untimely demise, her husband's insensitivity and the shocking news of Abhimanyu's infidelity had in a few moments matured her from a young innocent girl to a woman with her own identity and purpose. She refused to be a 'bechari'- a helpless woman. Exposing Abhimanyu and his faade would be her mission, not anyone else's. He had wronged her; she was going to make him face the music and pay for his deeds now.





"Riddhima?" Aradhana noticed her sister, ashen and pasty, staring at Armaan and her in the courtyard, "P-Abhimanyu se baat huyi?"



"Baat tho hamesha hoti rehti hai didi……ab tho jawab dene ka waqt aa gaya hai," an embittered Riddhima replied.



"Riddhima….tumhari tabiyat kuch theek nahin lag rahi….thoda aaraam kar lo," a worried Aradhana placed her arm around her little sister.



"I am fine didi…..abhi ghar mein bahut kaam hai…..main andar jaati hoon…..aur aap log meri chinta mat kariye," she glanced at Armaan, "I can take care of myself." Before he could answer, Riddhima had turned around and disappeared into the kitchen.



"Yeh….didi…Riddhima ko achanak kya hua?" a baffled Armaan asked.



"Lagta hai Abhimanyu wapas nahin aa raha hai….tabhi bechari maayoos ho gayi hai…..aur us aadmi se umeed bhi kya kar sakte hain?" a dejected Aradhana mumbled to herself.



"Didi! Looks like you know a lot more about the real Abhimanyu than even your sister? If that's the case, why has Riddhima been kept in the dark?" Armaan's firm voice startled Aradhana for a moment. Even though she had known him for less than 24 hours, she had found a confidant in him, a man who she could rely on and someone who was a true well wisher. Having been surrounded by politicians and politically motivated people since her marriage with Shailendra, the lines between genuine and pretentious emotions in her life had become blurred. Armaan had come as a breath of fresh air into their lives.





"I am sorry Armaan…..you are right….I've known about Abhimanyu's philandering ways since he last visited Dehradun a couple of years ago. He tried to hit on one of my students from college while she was helping me correct some exam papers. I tried to confront him, par…main darr gayi thi….apni behen ki shaadi shuda zindagi mein koi toofan nahin khada karna chaahti thi….wo meri bhool thi….mujhey tabhi kuch kehna chaahiye tha…….I should have known that some men never change!"



"You are right. Some people never change….but Riddhima cannot live with blindfolds on all her life…..she needs to know the truth." Armaan replied angrily.



"You are right Armaan…..jaanti hoon sach kadva hota hai….lekin agar Riddhima ko apni shaadi bachani hai, tho usey Abhimanyu se saaf saaf baat karni hogi."



"Shaadi bachani hogi? How can you say that didi? Why should she stay married to a man like him?" Armaan was taken aback by Aradhana's response.



"Marriage is a sacred bond Armaan…..it's not a toy. You can't just play and discard it…..Riddhima and Abhimanyu will have to work together to save their marriage and I want you to help them Armaan…..tum uske achche dost ho…..I know you are her well wisher and will want the best for her."



 Armaan gazed at Aradhana somberly, "yes you are right….I am her well wisher and will do what's best for her," he turned around and walked back into the house. A little disappointed by Aradhana's advice, he reasoned that even though he was an Indian at heart, culturally he was perhaps still an American in some ways. Walking away from an unfaithful partner was the most obvious choice for any woman, he thought. He couldn't fathom why one would want to 'save' such a marriage, but he was an outsider and had been brought up to respect other's values and traditions. He couldn't deny the sanctity of marriage; even his mother could not break his father's marriage to another woman. Whenever challenged, this sacred bond had always scored over love and lust.





Still baffled at Riddhima's out-of-character behavior, he decided to join her in the kitchen.



She was pouring tea into cups in the kitchen, her thoughts miles away from her task. A sense of hollowness had descended into her since she had overheard Armaan and Aradhana's conversation. She had never felt as lonely in life as she was now. Her parents gone, her husband not there for her emotionally or physically made her question the meaning of her life and existence.





 The hot tea overflowed from the brim of the cups, almost scalding her fingers resting on the handle of the cup. As always, Armaan walked in at the right moment.





"You Modis like to play with fire and love getting burnt, don't you?" Armaan rushed in and snatched the overflowing teapot from Riddhima, "RIDDHIMAAA!" He pulled her hand away, squeezing it in between his fingers.





"Ahh…O…I…I," visibly shaken by the near mishap, Riddhima clenched her fist and buried them in the hollow of his palm. For a few moments, they stood silently, hand in hand, staring at each other. Riddhima lowered her eyes from his angry and intense expression.



"I CAN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF….Yeah? Yahi kaha tha na tumne?" Armaan mocked, reprimanding her like a teacher "chup chap yahan baith jao aur doosron ki seva karne se pehle, tum khud chai pee lo." He forced her down on a stool in the kitchen and handed her a cup.





Dumbfounded by her own clumsiness and absent mindedness, Riddhima sat down obediently, withdrawing her hand from his palm. As she held the cup between her palms, tears rolled down her cheeks, joining the hot liquid in the cup.





"Riddhima…..you need some rest….you look worn out," he knelt beside her.



"I am fine Armaan…please leave me alone."



"No…..I am not going to leave you alone…..you are my responsibility right now."



"NO I AM NOT!"



"Riddhima…..what's the matter? A few moments ago you were pleading me to stay with you…..and now….what happened with Abhimanyu? Did he hurt you again?"





" Tum sab jaante ho na? You knew that he is in Germany with another woman…..and you never bothered to tell me? Kaisi dosti hai yeh? How long have you known that he is cheating on me?" She asked tearfully.





He hung his head, "I don't have any fool proof evidence…..it's just been a series of observations and maybe a hunch Riddhima….I'd hate to destroy your marriage based on a hunch."



"I want to know everything Armaan……this is a serious accusation on my husband…..but I know you would never lie…….please tell me what you saw," she persisted.





Armaan relented and told her everything he knew about Nikita and Abhimanyu- right from his visit to Nikita's apartment, her desperation to have him leave once Abhimanyu was on his way to her place, Abhimanyu's shirt in her bathroom, "and just before I came to Dehradun….I called Nikita to let her know that I'll be away…..her maid answered the call and told me that Nikita has gone out….she didn't know where but had left with two big suitcases…..and then I called Abhimanyu's office…..they told me he had left for Germany…..I am just guessing that they both left together on the same day….on the same flight…..to the same place." His shut his eyes and sighed.





"I think you are right Armaan…..when I was talking to him on the phone this morning, I thought I heard a woman's voice in the background." Tears escaped her eyelids despite her best efforts to conceal them.





"Riddhima….I think you should talk to Abhimanyu once he is back…….you will have to save your marriage."





"Even I don't want to destroy my marriage Armaan….but….but he has broken my trust….my faith…..I need to find the truth Armaan……I'll find out for myself if he is cheating on me or not."



"I'll help you Riddhima."



"No….this is my battle and I'll fight it myself." She kept the cup away and wiped her tears again.



"With a little help from a trusted friend?" A faint smile on his face asked an honest question.

She nodded gently, with a subdued smile stood up and walked away into the living room.



…………………………………………………………………….



The television blared in the living room as Armaan walked in with a tray of hot tea cups for everyone.



"Arre Riddhima….jaldi aao….dekho Abhimanyu ka interview aa raha hai," an excited Shailendra gestured a distraught Riddhima towards the screen.



"Interview?" Armaan, Aradhana, Shashank, Padma and Rahul all gathered around the TV. A surprised Riddhima with furrowed eyebrows asked, "kuch der pehle hi tho meri baat huyi thi…..mujhey tho unhone interview ke baare mein kuch nahin bataya."





"Arre Riddhima…bahut bholi ho tum," Shailendra chuckled, "apne pati ko theek se pehchana nahin hai tumne abhi."





An angry Riddhima stood still, silent at her brother-in-law's remarks. Inwardly she thought, "shayad aap theek kehte hain jijajee…..maine Abhimanyu ko theek se kabhie nahin pehchana hai…lekin ab pehchan ne lagi hoon."





"This is IBN news reporting from Berlin, Germany…..we have amongst us noted Industrialist, Mr. Abhimanyu Modi here….he is here to sign an important deal with the German telecom company, Saxon phones….hello Abhimanyu saheb…..I understand this is an important deal not only for your company but also for our country?" The reporter asked.



"You are absolutely right," Abhimanyu smiled into the microphone and then to everyone's surprise, wiped a tear from the corner of his eyes, "this deal is very important to our nation as this puts our country in the forefront of the telecom industry. I am very happy for my company and my nation…..but," he sighed, wiping another tear, "but it's a very sad day for me personally……I am sad that both my parent's in law died in an accident…..my heart goes out to them and to my wife, who I love dearly and miss sorely…..I wish I could be with her at this tragic time…..if it were not for the pride of my nation, I would be in Dehradun right now where my wife and family needs me. In my absence, I know my wife's brother in law, Mr. Shailendra Sareen will take care of everything. If there is one person in this world, I can trust- that's him."





A stunned audience in the living room stood silently in front of the TV screen. Tears welled up in Padma eyes. For the first time in a long time, she was proud of her son. Shashank was pleasantly surprised and placed his arm around Rahul, "apne bhaiyya se kuch seekho beta."



"Yes dad." Rahul replied.





Armaan, Riddhima and Aradhana exchanged glances, questioning the transparency of Abhimanyu's statement. As always, Riddhima would have fallen for Abhimanyu's charm and his lies, but she knew that those endearing statements were all a sham- just like her marriage and her relationship with Abhimanyu. Action and not words is what she expected from him, but as always he was trying to get away with blatant lies.





A beaming Shailendra picked a cup of tea and grinned victoriously, "dekha Riddhima….main kehta tha na ki Abhimanyu ko koi pehchanta nahin hai…..you are really lucky to have married him." Riddhima was in a daze; was it a coincidence that Abhimanyu's statement came minutes after she had found the truth about him?



Aradhana, familiar with her husband's antics, could not hold herself any longer, "Shailendra….kya aapne Abhimanyu ko yeh sab kehne ke liye kaha tha?"



Taken aback by Aradhana's question, Shailendra hesitated for a few moments, but like a true politician broke into a cheerful smile, "arre bhai Abhimanyu mere chote bhai jaisa hai…..usey samjhana mera kaam hai…kyun Padma bhabhiji? Ab dekhiye na is statement se Abhimanyu ne aap sab hi nahin, desh ke sab logon ke dil mein jagah banaa li."





"Aur aapke liye sympathy votes bhi…haina?" Aradhana confronted her husband.



"Aradhana……kaisi ghatiya soch hai tumhari?" Shailendra glared back.







The pride that she had just felt for her son vanished as soon as she realized that it was all Shailendra's plan, "Shailendra….kaash tum ek badhe bhai ki tarah mere bte ko sach bolna sikhaate….apni jaisi neta giri nahin." Disgusted at both Abhimanyu and Shailendra, Padma left the room.



"Beta Riddhima…..ho sake tho Abhimanyu ko maaf kar dena," His son had let him down in front of Riddhima and Aradhana; an embarrassed Shashank followed his wife after touching Riddhima's head affectionately.





Shailendra's plan had obviously fallen flat. Never before had Aradhana brazenly challenged his moves so openly. He shot a dirty look at Armaan and blamed him for his wife's outburst. Earlier, he had seen them conversing in the courtyard and after overhearing their conversation about Abhimanyu, had taken it upon himself to warn Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu's support was crucial for his political career and he would do anything to stay 'wedded' into the Modi family.



Even though, Armaan had given his word to Aradhana didi that he would help save her sister's marriage, after this incident, he was sure that Riddhima was better off without Abhimanyu in her life. He would do anything to free Riddhima from the devil Abhimanyu, even if it meant breaking his promise to Aradhana didi, or facing the wrath of the Modis or rest of the Indian society.



Riddhima's burning gaze was sufficient ammunition for Armaan. There was no turning back for him from this point onwards.



……………………………………………………………………………………………



BACK IN MUMBAI:



Having been fore warned, Abhimanyu came back from Germany, a changed man- at least on the outside. With his charm and sweet words, he managed to convince the family that his absence at his in-law's funeral was unavoidable and the only way to ensure that their family business could survive in this cut throat environment and global recession.





"Abhimanyu! I know that you have always given priority to our company and work over your other responsibilities," Shashank sat his son down in the study, "but remember son, your relationship with your near and dear ones especially your wife is the most important thing in your life. If you have her support, you have everything in life son. And remember one thing son- even though you are in charge of all the business, YOU DON'T OWN ANYTHING TILL I DIE."





"Dad….why are you saying these things? Of course, I know what my responsibilities are. Main Riddhima ko samjha doonga….wo samajh jaayegi." Abhimanyu replied irately.





"Jaanta hoon ki wo samajh jaayegi….wo bhali ladki hai…..magar yaad rakhna beta agar tumne kabhie uska dil thoda tho tumhein hamare business ka ek hissa bhi nahin milega….understand? If you ever break her heart, you will not inherit anything from our family business…..and our lawyer has already drafted my will…I hope you understand what I mean son."





Shocked by his father's stern reply and the contents of his will, Abhimanyu was struck by a bomb shell.



"Dad….w-why are you saying this to me?" He fumbled angrily.



"Because I don't want you to make the mistakes some men tend to make when they get power and money."





"I won't dad….I reassure you," an enraged Abhimanyu left the study for his room. "Why was dad trying to preach me like that today? He has never done that before. Does he know about my relationship with Nikita? Shailendra did warn me that Aradhana and Riddhima were upset with me, but do they all know about Nikita? I'll make sure no one ever finds out because I can't lose all my inheritance because of a woman like Nikita. I know Riddhima will never leave me. She is a sati savitri types….usey sab se zyaada apna mangal sutra pasand hai…..wo pagal mujhey choodne ka soch bhi nahin sakti. I'm sure I can pacify her and then get back to my life like before. I bet this man Armaan is behind all this. I need to find more about this man….why is he here? Who is he? Why is he meddling with my family?" A smug Abhimanyu walked into his bedroom to find Riddhima busy unpacking her suitcase from Dehradun.



Abhimanyu threw his bags on the bed and rushed to his wife.







"Riddhimaaaa! Meri jaan! Mujhey maaf kar do please. I am so sorry to hear about your parents." Forcibly, he embraced her and buried his face in her thick open hair. She struggled to free herself, "Abhimanyu…please….tumhare liye tho wo sirf mere parents the na……tumhare kuch nahin the…haina?"





"Oh sorry….I mean mummy and papa….I am sorry I couldn't be there for their cremation."





She ignored his insincere apology, "you've just got back from a long trip….please take a shower first."



"Kaisi baat karti ho Riddhima? Tumhara pati wapas aaya hai itne dino baad…..kya ek baar pyaar se gale bhi nahin lagogi?" Offended by her snub, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards him.



"I'm sorry Abhimanyu…..abhi mera mann nahin hai," she pulled away and threw a towel at him, "aapke kapde wahan rakhe hain…..naha kar aa jaaiye….main khaana laati hoon." Before he could respond, she had disappeared from the room.



"What attitude! Shailendra was right…she has changed even more…..she knows I was busy with work……does she not understand how important my work is? It's not that I could have revived her parents from death by leaving my work in Germany……she is a crazy woman! I wish I had never married her….na jaane kyun mom ki baaton mein aa gaya tha main. And now dad is threatening me with this will thing…..grhhhh……how I hate my family for trapping me with this woman!"



…………………………………………………………………………………



IN THE KITCHEN:



A tearful Riddhima washed her wrists and arms with soap and water vigorously. Any spots touched by her husband, stung like a scorpion. There was a time she craved his touch and affection but the last 15 days had changed everything. Even the thought of sharing her husband with another woman was repulsive. She had no desire to be with him, touch him or share a room with him.



She gathered herself and picked the phone.



"Armaan…."



"He's back, isn't he?"



"Yes….and I…I don't know what to do," she sobbed silently.



"Riddhima….remember you have to be brave….you can't break down right now."



"I know…..I don't want to be here…with him any longer."



"You have to….remember our plan?"



"But I can't stand being near him."



"You have to Riddhima…..you have to put up a show, just like he has all these years….you have to make him believe that you are still his dedicated and loving wife….we have to play this game his way."



"I will try my best Armaan."



"I know you can do it."



"But am I going to destroy everything? This family? Mummyji, daddyji? What about them?"





"What about you Riddhima? You can't destroy yourself for a man like him."



"Maybe that's what my fate is."



"No it isn't…..your fate is in your hands Riddhima….remember I am there with you."



"I know….aur jab tak tum mere saath ho, mujhey kisi baat ka darr nahin."



"OK Riddhima….you handle Abhimanyu and I'll handle Nikita."



Riddhima hung up and recalled their plan that they had chalked out in Dehradun.



………to be continued soon…..Armaan and Riddhima's plan to nail Abhimanyu and Nikita……will they succeed?



PRECAP:



PHONE CALL BETWEEN ABHIMANYU AND SHAILENDRA:



"So, did you find any information on Armaan's background?"



"I did. What do I get for this million dollar information?"



"Jo aap kahein Shailendra babu….you know my vault is always available for your services."



"Armaan is your father's illegitimate son…..he is your half brother buddy."



"Really?" A malicious smile on his face, Abhimanyu had both his dad and Armaan in seize.



………………………………………………………………..

Bheegi

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