Wednesday, 20 June 2018

part 20 : Pehchan

After dinner, Armaan and Riddhima retired to their respective rooms.

"Good night Riddhima," Armaan sighed, "let me know if you need anything….I hope you can get some sleep."

"I will try my best," she smiled half heartedly, dreading the long and lonely night ahead of her. The few hours she had spent with Armaan had helped her forget her sorrows; his cheerful banter had dampened the nagging guilt inside her. Over dinner, they had talked about everything but nothing- there was no mention of the Modis, Abhimanyu, her running away from home, Suryabhan's refusal to acknowledge his son.

"I will try my best also," with a slanting smile he added, "to sleep."

"Do you suffer from insomnia too?" She asked naively.

"I don't call it insomnia……I call it dreaming with my eyes open," he grinned.

"Main samjhi nahin," she gave him a curious look.

"Mere saath kuch din aur rahogi tho wo bhi seekh jaaogi."

"Good night……na jaane mujhey kyun kagta hai ki tumhare saath reh reh kar main pagal hi ho jaaungi," chuckling, she shook her head and shut the door to her room.

With his eyes fixated on the closed door, he heaved a sigh and groaned, "us pagalpan ka mujhey intezaar rahega."


Missed calls galore greeted Riddhima as she picked her mobile from the bed.

"Mummyji…..uh…..didi…..uh….jijajee?….Rahul…..Kartik…..Muskaan," she rattled off their names and contemplated whether she should call them back or not. Although not surprised by Abhimanyu's lack of concern, a part of her still dangling to the strings of her dying marriage, snapped irrevocably. Perhaps if he had called, she would have doubted her decision to leave him, but his indifference had made it easier for her.

Love and hatred, two sides of the same coin, even through sour times, help bind relationships, but indifference just dissolves them.

"Hello…..Mummyji," she dialed Padma.

"Arre Riddhima….bhagwan ka lakh shukr hai….main tho darr gayi thi….kahan hai tu beta? Theek tho hai na tu?" A concerned Padma asked.

"Mummyji….main bilkul theek hoon…..aur jahan hun bahut surakshit hoon," she reassured her.

"Are you with Armaan?" Padma asked softly, almost whispering into the phone.

After a brief pause, Riddhima replied, "haan….main Armaan ke saath hoon."

"Bhagwan ka lakh shukr hai," Padma heaved a sigh, "main jaanti hoon Armaan tumhein kuch nahin hone dega…..beta lekin kisi se kehna nahin tum kahan ho….KISI SE NAHIN!"

"Jee mummyji…..lekin kyun?"

"Riddhima beta….you are still nave. If they find out where you are, they will make life miserable for both of you…..Abhimanyu is still raging mad since you left."

"That's why he has not even bothered to call or look for me," Riddhima almost choked, "I have no regrets about leaving home now."

"I know how you feel beta. You never deserved that son of mine," Padma lamented.

"Mummyji….aur sab kaise hain ghar par? Daddyji…Aradhana didi?" Riddhima asked.

"Beta…they are all worried about you…..par meri ek baat suno. I have told everyone, you are staying with an old friend of mine. I have also told them that Armaan has moved back to the US because I don't want Abhimanyu to hurt that poor boy."

"Why does he want to hurt Armaan? Bechare Armaan ka kya kasoor? Ghar tho maine choda hai," Riddhima was livid.

"Beta….Abhimanyu ko lagta hai yeh aag saari Armaan ne lagaayi hai…..bahut afsos ki baat hai, magar wo usey apna bhai nahin, sab se badha dushman maanta hai."

"Thanks for the warning mummyji….I will not let anyone know that Armaan is still here…in Mumbai," Riddhima sighed with a heavy heart.

"Beta….if you need anything, please don't hesitate to call me…you have never been out in this world all by yourself…..I have a separate bank account, I will give you access to it," Padma, hiding in a closet at home to avoid being overheard, whispered.

"Thanks mummyji…..but I will manage….achcha ab main rakhti hoon."

"Beta….next time when you call, just text me…you know what I mean?"

"Jee," Riddhima smiled at her cell phone savvy mother in law, "I will just SMS you, so no one can overhear our conversation."

"Take care beta."

"Thanks…I will." Riddhima hung up and called her sister next, the only other person in her family, she cared about.

"Didi…..I am fine….please don't worry about me."

"Riddhima….Riddhima…..please listen to me….just come to Dehradun with me….Shailendra bhi yahi keh rahe hain…..bahut mushkil se unhein roka hai maine…..warna he was in his way to Mumbai to search for you."

"NO PLEASE DIDI! Don't send jijajee here!"

"Jaanti hoon Riddhima….he is too tight with Abhimanyu…..khair…tu hai kahan?"

"Mummyji ki friend ke yahan," Riddhima lied; for some reason, she didn't want her sister to know the truth, probably because of Shailendra. Even though, her sister had her best intentions in mind, her husband was still an influential person in Aradhana's life, and at this point as Padma had mentioned, she could not trust anyone- not even her own sister!

After she hung up, her phone rang again. This time it was an overseas call.

"Hello! Riddhima? Main Dilip mama."

"Oh…hello uncle….how are you? How come you are not in India yet?" Riddhima asked.

"Beta…I am arriving tomorrow….I have decided to move to India for good. That's why it took almost 10 days to wrap up all affairs in the US."

"That's wonderful news uncle….Armaan will be ecstatic."

"I hope it's still a secret from him."

"Yes it is…main apni baat ki bahut pakki hoon," Riddhima chuckled, "Ok….please tell me your flight details uncle."

"Haan likho," Dilip rattled his flight number, "but how will you recognize me?"

"I will….don't worry," she smiled as she recalled Armaan's picture with his mom and Dilip mama on the mantle while she was on her cleaning spree.

"Ok beta….see you tomorrow."

"Bye uncle…looking forward to your visit."


It was 2 in the morning, dark and lonely; the solitude gnawed at her. As long as Armaan was with her, it was easy to put her sorrows in the back burner. He had a knack of distracting her from her forlorn state. Flashes of the recent run of events flooded her mind, depriving her eyes of much needed rest. Padma's warning had frightened her- more for Armaan than herself. Even though she had never really 'known' Abhimanyu well, she knew that he was capable of destroying anyone and anything that came in his way. Had she jeopardized Armaan's safety by moving in with him? Her heart raced worriedly as she prayed to God for Armaan's safety, "hey bhagwan, mere saath job hi ho, lekin Armaan ki raksha zaroor karna….chaahe mujhey apni jaan hi kyun na deni padhe."

Imploring her Gods, her hands still folded in prayer, she slipped into restless slumber. Her dreams were as frayed as her wake state of mind. Suddenly, she sat up with a cold sweat and a rapid heartbeat, "ARMAAN!" She screamed, "ARMAAN…WO TUMHEIN MAARNE AA RAHA HAI! HE IS GOING TO KILL YOU!"

"RIDDHIMA! CALM DOWN! RIDDHIMAAA!" Armaan ran to her room on hearing the panic from the guest room.  She was shivering like a leaf in a storm, her face and neck smeared with beads of sweat, eyes wide open, gleaming like two little light bulbs in the semi dark room. He sat next to her and covered her shoulders with a blanket, pulling her into his arms, "Riddhima….calm down…..calm down…..I am fine…..mujhey kuch nahin hua hai," he crooned softly into her ears. His soothing voice and strong arms around her relaxed her tense muscles. She collapsed on his broad chest, "he's going to kill you Armaan. Please yahan se chale jao…..go back to the US. "

"Who's going to kill me Riddhima?" A bemused Armaan caressed her gently, "I think you saw a bad dream."

"Nahin Armaan….I know Abhimanyu, he can do anything," she clutched his night shirt with her fingers, her nails digging into his exposed chest, "he was running after you with a gun." She squeezed her eyes shut and snuggled closer to him, almost smothering him.

"I don't know about Abhimanyu, but right now I think you are going to kill me with your nails and hugs," Armaan chortled.

An embarrassed Riddhima realized her blunder and pulled her hand away from his chest, "Oh..I am sorry….I didn't realize what I was doing……my mistake."

Before she could release herself from his arms, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer, "I love this mistake. It's little mistakes like these that make this colorless bed….I…I mean……life of mine more colorful," he grinned mischievously, purposely pretending to have a slip of the tongue.

"Armaan…..please," she turned red, turning her gaze away; his proximity had turned the tide of the night; from fear he had managed to excite a more soothing corner in her heart; her heart still racing, but this time from a sweet pleasure rather than terror.

"Kya mujhey itna kamzor samajh rakha hai ki darr ke main Mumbai chhod kar bhaag jaaunga?" He lifted her chin and stared into her eyes, "jab tak tum mere saath ho, mujhey kuch nahin hoga."

"Lekin Armaan," she lowered her eyes, "he can do anything."

"So can I," he stared at her parted lips, still quivering from shock. Blood surged into his lips as they craved to consume her petals. He had been waiting for this moment since the evening he had met her. There was something enigmatic about her lips that had drawn him even closer to her. The only thing separating them was a fine line that they he had drawn between them called 'friendship.' He knew the moment he crossed that line, it would be all over. Either she would slap him hard for taking advantage of her vulnerable state or she would welcome the breach of friendship and embrace the man who loved her more than any man in the world.

"A-Armaan," she hesitated, 'aise kya dekh rahe ho?"

Sighing, he shut his eyes and shook his head, "kuch nahin….ek naya gaana soch raha tha is situation par," He lied and licked his parched lips.

"Gaana?" She was amused, "tum sach much mujhey pagal kar doge."

"Yes, soniyo," he laughed, "aur tum mujhey," and extended his hand, "give me your hand."

"My hand?" She chuckled, "yeh lo….and what's this soniyo?"

"Let's dance soniyo…..Soniyo is the title of my new song," he winked at her and pulled her to the floor on her feet.

"Dance….itni raat ko?"

"Yes of course….gaane aur naachne ke liye waqt nahin, bas mood hona chaahiye……RULE # 7!" Soon they were both twirling and waltzing in the room, lit only by the tranquil rays of the moon.

Baby, come stand by my side
Come and be my guiding light
Oooo… I'll be what you want me to be
I'll give all my love in whole of my life

Soniyo, o soniyo
Tumhe dekhta hu to sochta hu bas yahi
Tum jo mera saath do, saare gham bhulake
Jee lu muskuraake zindagi
Tu dede mera saath thaam le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat, tu bas de de mera saath
Tu dede mera saath thaam le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat, tu bas de de mera saath

I get this feeling now, I cannot wait no longer
I know your love will keep me happy
Will keep me stronger
I get this feeling now, I cannot live without you
I know your love's the only one so true

Raho me, tanha hu saath le chal yu
Sang tere safar poora karu
Raho me, tanha hu saath le chal yu
Sang tere safar poora karu
Kya kahu ae zindagi
Tu hai meri saans, rehna tu paas har ghadi

Tu dede mera saath thaam le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat,
Tu bas de de mera saath,
Tu bas de de mera saath

Tujh ko jo, paaya toh hai yeh lagta kyu
Baho me bas teri mehfooz hoon
Tujkh ko jo, paaya to hai ye lagta kyu
Baho me bas teri mehfooz hoon

Tum bano, saaya mera, zindagi mein aao
Zindagi bitaao bas yahi
Tu dede mera saath thaam le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat
Tu bas de de mera saath
Tu bas de de mera saath

Baby, come stand by my side
Come and be my guiding light
Oooo… I'll be what you want me to be
I'll give all my love in whole of my life
Baby…. Come and be my guiding light



"Riddhima….I am leaving….I will see you in the evening," Armaan picked his guitar case and headed towards the door.

"Wait! Wait for me," she ran after him, "I need the car today. Can you walk to school?"

"What? With this heavy guitar? Sorry madam, but can I know why you need the car?" He asked inquisitively, "you had promised you will work on your online degree today, not worry about housework."

"I know, I know, but I need to go somewhere, please Armaan," she pleaded, "how about I drop you to school?"

"I like that idea," he replied with a slanting smile, "but can you drive?" He teased her, "you know women drivers….are not that trustworthy."

She smacked his shoulder with her purse, "you will have to pay for this chauvinistic statement Mr. Malik! Ab aaj se car main hi chalaungi…..see you," she picked the keys and trotted out of the apartment without him.

"Ok baba…sorry sorry….I will never say anything demeaning about women….please don't leave me here," he locked the apartment and ran after her.

"Apology accepted," she smiled mischievously; "after all it was your first mistake."

"Not as colorful as your mistake last night," he grimaced, holding his chest.

"ARMAAN! Don't embarrass me anymore," she turned red as she recalled his comment from last night.

"Ok….I will just use it to blackmail you one day," he teased her as they drove towards the music school.

"Don't forget to pick me up at 5!" He waved after getting off at the music school, "AND BY THE WAY, DESPITE BEING A WOMAN, YOU ARE AN EXCELLENT DRIVER!"

"YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THAT STATEMENT THIS TIME," she yelled back and sped off to the airport to pick Dilip mama.

…contd… part……..will Dilip mama bring them even closer or create problems?..................


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