Saturday, 2 June 2018

part 2: Pehchan



RAHUL's GRADUATION PARTY AT MODI HOUSEHOLD

The Modi mansion was abuzz with activity that evening. Rahul, the youngest Modi had graduated with honors from St. Joseph's college with a B.Com degree and was ready to set step into the real world. It was Riddhima's idea to celebrate his graduation in a grandiose manner. Padma, who usually concurred with her favorite daughter-in-law's ideas, agreed readily. After all, since Abhimanyu's wedding, the Modi's had not celebrated anything big in the past few years.


Anjali, as always, had something to criticize.

"Aakhir Rahul pehla tho graduate hai nahin is ghar mein……itna badha afsaana banaane ki kya zaroorat hai?" She snarled at her husband, Atul as he put on his favorite suit for the evening.

Atul swallowed his annoyance at her usual negativity, "bahi hamare liye tho bahut badha afsaana hai…..aakhir Rahul ko maine bachpan se chote bhai nahin balki apne bte jaise hi paala hai……….jaanti ho Rahul ke baad ab hamara Kavya hi is ghar se graduate karega…..tho kyun na abhi se thodi practice kar li jaaye……apne Kavya ke liye is se bhi badhi party doonga main tho."

"Haan…haan…..zaroor…..party tho tab hi hogi na jab ladli Riddhima ka idea hoga…..hamari kaun sunega?" Anjali spurned his idea.


"Anjali! Har baat mein Riddhima ko kyun ghaseet laati ho? AAMhir us bechari ne tumhara kya bigaada hai?" Atul sighed and sat at her feet to fix her saree pleats.

"Dekhna jab tak kavya badha hoga…..Riddhima is ghar par raaz kar rahi hogi……humein servant quarter mein bhi jagah mil jaaye tho ganeemat hogi," Anjali fumed.

Atul shook his head and forced a smile, "bhai…..main tho abhi se servant quarter mein hi rehta hoon…..I'll not know the difference."

"Matlab?" Anjali pulled her pleats away from his fingers.

"Apni biwi ka sab se badha naukar hoon bhai," he teased her and folded his palms.

Anjali pulled her wheel chair away and wheeled towards the door, "tumhein tho har baat mazaak lagti hai."

"Kya karoon," he stood up and followed her promptly, "meri biwi jo itni entertaining hai."

…………………………………………….

"Padma…….aaj main bahut khush hoon," Shashank walked towards his wife as she placed her shawl on her shoulder before leaving their bedroom.

"Haan…..hona bhi chaahiye…..aakhir kisey umeed thi ki Rahul college se bhi graduate karega," Padma replied without meeting his gaze.

"Jaanta hoon," Shashank replied guiltily, "meri galti hai……main Rahul ko bachpan mein wo sab nahin de saka jo dena chaahiye tha." He recalled how Rahul's formative years had been scarred by their strained marital relations thanks to his infidelity. Rahul was very young when Padma found out about Damini. Since then their relationship had never been the same; Shashank had drowned himself into guilt and work and barely spent time with his sons, especially Rahul. Even though Padma had invested all her energy into raising her sons, if it were not for Atul, Rahul would never known what a father figure was.


"Padma," an emotional Shashank touched her shoulder slightly, but she backed off immediately. To this date, any physical contact with him felt repulsive to her.

"Hmm?" She turned around and asked, "kahiye."


"Thanks…..thanks for being such a wonderful mother……and…wife…..agar tum na hoti tho yeh ghar kabka bikhar gaya hota," a misty eyed Shashank swallowed painfully.


"Rishtey aur grahasti bikherna ya sametna har insaan ke haath mein hota hai Surya…..bas farAM yeh hai ki jise bikherne mein do pal nahin lagte, usey sametne mein sadiyaan beet jaati hain," with a cynical smile, she walked out of their room to join the celebrations in the main hall.


With a hung head, Shashank dragged out of the room and stood at the head of the magnificent stairway leading to the main hall downstairs. His family, except Abhimanyu, were all there, talking, laughing, teasing, mixing with the few guests who had started trickling in one by one.

He had everything……but why did he still feel so barren and empty on the inside?


……………………………………………….

"Thanks bhabhi!" Rahul whispered into Riddhima's ears from behind. Clad in a beautiful navy blue saree, thick long hair on her shoulders, pearls accentuating her delicate features and long neck, she could easily pass off as his younger sister rather than 'bhabhi.'

Smiling, she turned around and teased him, "thanks jab bolna jab main Muskaan ko pass kar doon."

"Pass kar doon? Matlab aap uska test lengi?" Rahul was stunned, "I..I thought you have already approved of her…..and you were going to convince mom and dad tonight."

"Wah wah majnu devar……you think I'm that nave? AAMhir wo meri hone waali devraani hai…..she needs to meet some standards…..how can I present her case without knowing she will mAMe a good devrani and a good bahu?"


"Come on Bhabhi! She is going to be my wife first…..not…not just your devrani or bahu!" Rahul replied vehemently.

"Wow! Muskaan is really lucky…shaadi se pehle hi uski itni tarafdaari ho rahi hai….tho baad mein kya hoga?" Riddhima chided.

Rahul blushed a little and then asked softly, "kya Anjali bhabhi ne bhi aapka test liya tha?"

"Woh tho roz test leti hai…..kyun Riddhima?" Atul interrupted and winked at Riddhima.

The three of them burst into laughter. Riddhima touched Atul's shoulder and shook her head, "bhaiyya…….wo unka haq hai….aakhir woh badhi jo hain."

"Badha tho wo hota hai jiski ghar mein sab se zyaada chalti hai…..aur jahan tak main jaanti hoon…..wo main nahin hoon," a growling Anjali joined the trio. Their smiles vanished as soon as she wheeled in. Atul shuffled his feet awkwardly, while Rahul excused himself to greet his college mates at the door.


"Bhabhi…..aaiye…..aapko mehmaano se milwaati hoon," Riddhima smiled and pushed Anjali's wheel chair towards the center of the hall, hoping to distract her from her usual negative banter.

"CHACHI! CHACHI!" Kavya ran in with a group of kids, panting, he pulled at Riddhima's pallu, "chachi….music band kab aayega?"

"OH Kavya?" Riddhima was taken by surprise; she smiled at her little nephew and cupped his chin, "aane waala hoga…..jao bahar jaakar dekho."


"OK chachi! You're the best!" He kissed her hands and bolted towards the front door. Anjali turned a crimson red, upset at how she was gradually losing her son to Riddhima's spell. Anjali loved to blame her physical handicap and inferior looks for her misery, but it was Riddhima's inner beauty and strength which captivated people. Her son being one of them too.

"KAVYA! KAVYA!" Anjali yelled from behind but Kavya had disappeared in the crowd, "yeh ladka bhi na……sab ki tarah tumhara chamcha banta jaa raha hai."

A little taken aback, Riddhima chose to ignore her caustic comments, "bhabhi….aap maa hain uski…..aapki jagah koi nahin le sakta uski zindagi mein."

Padma walked in and interjected before Anjali's rebuttal, "arre Riddhima…tum yahan ho beti…Abhimanyu kahan hai?"

"Oh mummyji….wo shayad office mein hi hain…..der se aayenge." Riddhima excused her husband's absence.

"Uffo….aaj ke din bhi is ladke ko kaam se fursat nahin hai?" Padma shook her head.

"Meeting khatam hote hi aajayenge," Riddhima lied to pacify her mother-in-law. Even though she had reminded Abhimanyu several times that morning, she knew he wouldn't show up on time. As he had walked out the door that morning, she had overheard him talking to someone about meeting at 7 pm that evening. She looked up at the wall clock- it was 8 pm, and she knew his meetings always ran late, especially the evening ones. She had never questioned him in the past, and as always, wouldn't dare disturb him, even if his presence would have meant a lot to his younger brother.


"Zara phone tho lagaa Riddhima," Padma ordered.

"Jee mummyji," Riddhima dialed her phone to be greeted by a voice message as always.

……………………………………………………….

"Oh darling……your phone……why does it always ring at the wrong time?" A slender, slinky young woman offered a shirtless Abhimanyu, nestled under the bed sheets, a drink and stared at his cell phone screen.

"I am an important man sweetheart," he took the scotch glass from her, set it aside and pulled her into his lap, "who was it?" He buried his lips into her neck and slipped his fingers under her silk shirt.

"Your wife," she chuckled and ran her fingers on his bare chest.

"Let's not waste time on her sweetheart," he turned the ringer off his phone and deftly unbuttoned her shirt.

After a quick and passionate love making session, Abhimanyu jumped out of bed and swiftly put on his clothes.

"Kahan jaa rahe ho darling?" The woman groaned and held her hand out at him.


"Sorry Nikita…..got to go…..aaj mere bhai ki graduation party hai…..you know they all expect a speech from the big brother," He checked his missed calls on his phone and smiled smugly, "isey kehte hain kismet…….a devoted wife who misses me a lot…..and a hot mistress who I miss a lot," he bent down, kissed Nikita's lips, "bye sweetheart…..see you tomorrow."


"No….not tomorrow," she moaned seductively, "tonight," licking her lips and settling into the comfort of her bed.

"Tonight?" He smiled quizzically, "you know I'm a family man."

"After the party……you might have an urgent call at the office," she winked and blew him a kiss.

"AH! I see!" He blew her a kiss as he walked out of her apartment. As he was about to lock the door, he turned around and said, "remember Nikita…..you don't tell me when to come……I'll come here as and when I desire…..no one orders me…..not even you!" He shut the door behind her and with a satisfied smile walked towards his car.

Nikita mumbled and growled at his arrogance, "I hate you Abhimanyu! But I love you too," and dozed off to sleep.


……………………………………………………………………………………


The Modi's living room swelled up with guests, relatives and well wishers. Shashank and Atul proudly displayed the youngest Modi to the world. Abhimanyu was conspicuous by his absence, but the guests couldn't help admire the camaraderie and harmony of the Modi household. While Rahul was the cynosure of all eyes in the room, his gaze was fixated at a very shy and demure Muskaan in the corner. She had been invited as one of his college mates, but everyone around him knew that she was more than just a college friend. Thankfully, Riddhima had rescued her from Rahul's piercing gawks, and engaged her in an animated discussion to make her comfortable in the lavish surroundings.

"Muskaan…..Rahul is very lucky indeed," Riddhima held Muskaan's hand and took her around the living room.

"Didi……can I call you didi?" Muskaan asked politely.

Riddhima smiled back teasingly, "nahin kabhie nahin!"

"Oh sorry," Muskaan's face fell.

"Didi nahin…..bhabhi," Riddhima whispered into Muskaan's ears, mAMing her blush from ear to ear.

"Wo…wo…..abhi…abhi," Muskaan was dumbfounded, "lekin aapke in laws….wo?"

"Don't worry…..I'll handle that," Riddhima squeezed her hands and reassured her.

"CHACHI! CHACHI!" Kavya ran in, excited and breathless, "band waala aagaya."


Riddhima looked down at Kavya, "band waala?"

"Haan chachi….wo bahar khada hai guitar aur bag ke saath."

"Band waala? Guitar ke saath?" Riddhima was baffled, "sirf ek aadmi hai? Poora group hona chaahiye tha…..chalo mere saath chalo," she held Kavya's hand, "sorry Muskaan….main abhi aayi…..need to take care of some things."

"Sure….please go ahead," Muskaan smiled.

……………………………………………………..


Riddhima walked out into the front lawn and saw the back of a well built man with a guitar case on his shoulder and a bag in his hand.

"Itni late kyun aaye ho? Aur wo bhi Akele?" She yelled at him.

A little stunned, the man turned around to face the loud but sweet voice, "excuse me?"


If her voice had stunned him, her persona took his breath away for a few seconds. Standing before him was the most beautiful woman he had ever set his eyes on. Very few things could render Armaan speechless in life; her eyes had that mesmerizing effect on him. He stood still, blown away by her beauty and expressive eyes.


Riddhima was taken aback by the stranger's reaction, "excuse ME? You were supposed to be here at 7……the party is in full swing…..what kind of a professional are you? I need to talk to your boss…..aur tumhare baaki group members kahan hain?" She yelled again.


"Sorry ma'am……I didn't realize you were waiting for me." His handsome, rugged looks melted into a little boy's expression who was being reprimanded by his teacher in school.


"Na jaane kahan kahan se chale aate hain yeh log?" She snickered, "just because you have a guitar on your shoulder, doesn't make you a good musician……..achcha…..ab jaldi andar chalo and start the performance…….something is better than nothing……" She held Kavya's hand and pulled him back into the house. With a puzzled look on his face, Armaan followed her obediently, avoiding curious gazes from the other guests.


He stepped into the magnificent mansion and was awestruck by the opulence and elegance of the house.

"India is beautiful," he exclaimed, his gaze following the slender woman dressed in blue, "and it's people are equally beautiful," he murmured to himself.


"Band waale…..idhar aao na," Kavya gestured and asked Armaan to join him in a corner of the room, "yeh aapki jagah hai."


"Aapka naam kya hai?" Armaan was amused at being addressed as the 'band waala.'

"Kavya!"

"Wow! That's a wonderful name……I am Armaan!" He extended his hand to the little boy.

"Armaan band waala?" Kavya shook his hand and asked innocently.


"Hmm," Armaan pondered, "how about Armaan Malik bandwaala?"


"OK…..that's good……main aapko AM bandwaala bolunga……aap chacha ke liye kaun sa gaana gaaoge?"


"Chacha?" Armaan was confused.

"Haan…wo Rahul chacha…..wahan…wo khade hain…..unki graduation party hai na," Kavya pointed to his uncle.

"OH…..I see…..so this is a graduation party…..can I ask you a question Kavya?" Armaan knelt down.

"Haan poocho."


"Mr Shashank Modi kahan hain?"


"Dadaji?" Kavya grinned, "wo Rahul chacha ke saath hain….dekho wahan," he pointed again.

"Good," Armaan smiled; reassured that he was at the right place. He knew he had been mistaken for someone else, perhaps a band they were expecting, but he didn't mind performing for the Modi's. Music was his passion and he could never refuse a request, or in this case an order, that too from a beautiful but authoritative woman. Whoever she was, she was in charge for sure, and could help introduce him to Mr Shashank Modi, his only hope of finding information about his father.


"GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!" Armaan's booming voice into the microphone forced silence and attention from all the guests.


Riddhima turned around, and saw him standing in front of the microphone, guitar in his arms, a melodious strum emanating from the strings.

"THANKS FOR GIVING ME CHANCE TO PERFORM IN FRONT OF THIS WONDERFUL CROWD……I'D LIKE TO DEDICATE THIS SONG TO THE NEW GRADUATE IN THIS ROOM…..MR RAHUL MODI!"


Riddhima bit her lower lip nervously, "so this man is not as unprofessional as I thought…..lekin AMela kyun aaya hai? I hope he performs well…..if he doesn't, Rahul and his friends would be disappointed…..aAMhir zimmeddari tho meri hi hai…..please don't let me down," she crossed her fingers and said a silent prayer for the solo guitarist.


Please enjoy this wonderful song…….





(Jaane kya dhoondta hai- Lucky Ali)

Jaane kya dhoondta hai, ae mera dil
Tujhko kya chaahiye zindagi
(Jaane kya dhoondta hai, ae mera dil
Tujhko kya chaahiye zindagi) - 2
Raaste hi raaste hain, kaisa hai yeh safar
Dhoondti hain jisko nazrein, jaane hai voh kidhar
(Jaane kya dhoondta hai, ae mera dil
Tujhko kya chaahiye zindagi) - 2
Bechehra sa koi sapna hai voh
Kahin nahin hai phir bhi apna hai voh
Aise mere andar shaamil hai voh
Main hoon behta dariya, saahil hai voh
Hai kahan voh, voh kidhar hai, raaste kuch to bata
Kaun sa uska nagar hai, rehguzar kuch to bata
Dhoondti hain jisko nazrein, jaane hai voh kidhar
(Jaane kya dhoondta hai, ae mera dil
Tujhko kya chaahiye zindagi) - 2
Soona sa hai mandir, moorat nahin
Khaali hai aaina, soorat nahin
Jeene ka jeevan mein kaaran to ho
Maheke kaise kaliyaan, gulshan to ho
Shamma hai jo mujh mein roshan, voh viraasat kisko doon
Door tAM koi nahin hai, apni chaahat kisko doon
Dhoondti hain jisko nazrein, jaane hai voh kidhar
(Jaane kya dhoondta hai, ae mera dil
Tujhko kya chaahiye zindagi) - 2

Armaan had the crowd mesmerized with his melodious voice and guitar. Applauses and cheers filled the room with requests for 'more! more!' from Rahul's friends and college mates. Rahul was thrilled with the performance and ran towards the stranger with the guitar. He gave him a big hug, "what a performance yaar! I loved it!"


Riddhima heaved a sigh and smiled at last. He had not let her down. Mentally, she cancelled her plans of lodging a complaint against him to the local music band she had contracted with for this evening's performance.

"Mom….mom…..mujhey bhi aisa guitar seekhna hai," Kavya ran to Anjali and pestered her.

"Zaroor beta," she smiled, "kyun na is aadmi se hi poonch lein," Anjali wheeled her chair towards Armaan who was surrounded by young college students.


"Thanks……that was great," Anjali was annoyed to see that a smiling Riddhima had already preceded her and was talking to the musician.

"I am glad you liked my performance," Armaan replied politely, relieved that he had lived up to Riddhima's expectation. He couldn't help noticing how enchanting her smile was. In a way he was glad that his music had changed the frown on her face to a smile. It was strange, but for some weird reason, her approval mattered to him.

"Kya naam hai aapka?" Anjali intercepted their conversation.

Armaan looked down and saw Kavya next to the woman on a wheel chair, "AM bandwaala!"

Anjali burst into laughter, "aap mazaakiya bhi hain."

Riddhima was pleasantly surprised to see a smile on Anjali's face. She looked up at Armaan's handsome face and wondered, "kaun hai yeh ajnabi? He sure knows how to make people smile."

"My name is Armaan Malik!" He shook Anjali's hand, "actually I'm here to meet someone."

"WHO?" Anjali's curiosity sparked.

"Mr. Shashank Modi!"

Shashank, who had been equally enamored by Armaan's performance, overheard his name and walked towards Armaan.

"Mujhse milne? Kaun ho tum beta?" Shashank smiled at the handsome young man. Something about him was very familiar. He stared into Armaan's eyes for some clues, but he could not place his finger on why he seemed familiar.


"Hello sir! I am Armaan Malik! Son of Damini Malik!"

Bheegi

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