Sunday, 3 June 2018

part 3: Pehchan



RECAP: 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!"


A shadow of darkness fell between the two men as soon as Armaan uttered his mother's name.
 Damini- the very name took the wind out of Shashank's sails. A very stunned and discomfited Shashank stared blankly at Armaan's anxious expression.

Damini's son! Yes, he had the same eyes, the same smile like his mother.

In his heart, he knew that the boy was telling the truth. Shashank had never once tried to contact Damini after that fateful night in Nainital, but somewhere deep down, had always wondered how their son would be after all these years. If it were not for Damini's farewell letter, he would have never known that their mistake had borne a son to them, whom she was taking to the US, away from her family in Nainital, and from the shadows of Shashank's illegitimate relationship with her.

Twenty seven long years!

There he was- his flesh and blood-very much like his three sons whom he lived with. For a moment, Shashank had an intense desire to hug his long lost son, but restrained himself from displaying any emotions.

"Sir? Aap jaante the na meri mom ko? You knew both my mom and dad….didn't you?" An excited Armaan tried to gauge Shashank's thoughts.

"Oh….haan….yeah…..sure," Shashank composed himself; he was surrounded by an equally bewildered Rahul and Riddhima.

"Dad? You know this singer? Wow what a coincidence," Rahul smiled, forcing his father to soften his stance.

"Oh….so you are Dilip's nephew?" Shashank cleared his throat, "Dilip and I were good childhood friends," cleverly deflecting attention from the name Damini to her brother, Dilip's.

"Yes sir….Dilip uncle is my mamaji……in fact he is the one who told me about you….."

"Wo tho America mein hai na?" Shashank raised his eyebrow.

"Yes sir….we live in California…..but now I'm here…..to learn music…..and….and…." Armaan wanted to say- to find my dad- but decided to postpone that question for a more appropriate time.

"Oh….I see," forcing another smile, Shashank couldn't help admiring how handsome and well brought up this young lad was, "h-how's Dilip?"

"He is well…..thank you sir…..I've lived with him since I was a child…..he is like my father I've never known sir," Armaan looked down, a bit uncomfortable talking about his life in front of everyone. Riddhima sensed his awkwardness, and like she always did to diffuse a tense situation, placed her hand on Rahul's shoulder and gazed at Armaan, "that's such a wonderful coincidence…..ab tho main aapki bilkul complaint nahin kar sakti," she chuckled, "ab is puraane rishte ko ek naya roop dena hi padhega….kyun Rahul?

Shashank marveled at Riddhima's words-little did she realize there was a deeper meaning in that seemingly innocuous statement.

"Absolutely! Come on Armaan…..you're like family now…..after all our parents were family friends," Rahul placed his arm around Armaan, "come on…..let me introduce you to some of my buddies." Shashank felt a lump rise in his throat as he saw Rahul embrace his older half brother. Suddenly, a surge of warmth and affection for the stranger filled his heart. Shashank had not only wronged his legally wedded wife, Padma, but had also done injustice to the young man walking away with Rahul. Perhaps, he could find deliverance for his mistakes if his family could accept Armaan with open arms.

"Oh…thanks," Armaan was elated, as was Shashank, but hid his feelings promptly when he saw Padma walking towards them. He was dying to know more about Damini, but for now he would have to bury his curiosity for a later time. With the corner of his eyes, he kept his gaze on Armaan as he mingled around with Rahul and his friends.

"Hey guys…..this is Armaan Malik…..my dad's friend's son….err…or nephew?" Rahul was a bit confused.

"Both!" Armaan replied cheerfully, "Shashank sir knew both my uncle and my dad."

"Wonderful! Well guys…..he is visiting from the US and as we have all heard, he has a great voice," Rahul made introductions.

"Great singing man!"

"Ek aur ho jaaye!"

"How about something related to our college days?"

Rahul's friends urged Armaan to sing again. How could he deny such an earnest request, and that too after he had just met Mr Shashank Modi, the man who knew his father?

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Armaan's voice over the microphone caught their attention once again, "as we all know Rahul has recently graduated from college…..I'm sure like many of us, he will also carry wonderful memories from his college days…..here is a song dedicated to all who still cherish memories of those good old days!"

Riddhima turned around with a pang of sadness. Armaan's words reminded her of her own college days-cut short by her marriage at the tender age of 20 to Abhimanyu. She was in her final year of B.A. when her parents had made the decision for her- 'ab college wollege chhodo beti…..itne achche ghar ke rishte roz roz nahin aate'- rest was history. Somewhere deep inside she still had an urge to complete her degree. Perhaps, one day she would, she sighed and applauded along with the guests as Armaan strummed the guitar and flashed a smile at everyone.

Even Anjali smiled and settled in her wheelchair.

Please listen to this wonderful song by Ali Haider…..





Purani jeans aur guitar
Mohalle ki vo chhat
Aur mere yaar
Vo raaton ko jaagna
Subah ghar jaan
Kood ke deewar
Vo cigaretee peena
Gali mein jaake
Wo karna daanton ko
Ghadi ghadi saaf

Pahunchna college hamesha late
Vo kehna sir ka
"Get out from the class!"
Vo bahar jaake hamsha kehna
Yahan ka system
Hi hai kharaab
Vo jaake canteen mein
Table bajaake
Vo gaane gaana
Yaaron ke saath

Bas yaadein
Yaadein
Yaadein reh jaati hain
Kuchh chhoti
Chhoti
Baatein reh jaati hain
Bas yaadein..

Vo papa ka daantna
Vo kehna mummy ka
Chhodein ji aap
Tumhein to bas nazar aata hain
Jahan mein beta
Mera hi kharaab
Vo dil mein sochna
Kar ke kuchh dikha dein
Vo karna planning
Roz nayi yaar

Ladakpan ka vo pehla pyaar
Vo likhna haathon pe
A + R
Vo khidki se jhaankna
Vo likhna letter
Unhein baar baar
Vo dena tofe mein
Sone ki baaliyan
Vo lena doston se
Paise udhaar

Bas yaadein
Yaadein
Yaadein reh jaati hain
Kuchh chhoti
Chhoti
Baatein reh jaati hain
Bas yaadein..

Aisa yaadon ka mausam chala
Bhoolta hi nahin
Dil mera
Kahan meri jeans aur guitar
Mohalle ki vo chhat
Aur mere yaar
Vo raaton ko jaagna
Subah ghar jaan
Kood ke deewar

Purani jeans
Aur guitar..



Young and old, graduates and non graduates were all enthralled by Armaan's song, as the song took them all into the wonderful carefree world of their college days.

After many years, a relaxed Padma hummed and listened to the song intently. She recalled her college days with Shashank when they were both students. How Shashank had wooed and charmed her with his songs and ghazals. She had instantly fallen for his voice and it was only later she had realized that he was a good looking man too-kind of like the man with the guitar in their living room. Suddenly, Padma shook herself off her daydream, and was befuddled by train of thoughts. She reminded herself that Shashank USED to sing, just like she USED to love him- both were things of the past and were not true any longer. She was even more baffled by the comparison between her husband and the young singer.  There was no reason for her to compare them. Even then, why did this young man remind her of Shashank's youthful days?


Shashank was full of pride, and could not contain his happiness. At least one of his son's had inherited his gift of music. Secretly, he wished Armaan would succeed more than he ever did. Business and family responsibilities had kept Shashank away from harmony and melody, but seeing Armaan immerse himself in music was an uplifting sight. He recalled how Padma was his biggest fan, but since the day she found out about Damini, he had never sung for her or for that matter, himself.



"AWESOME!"

"GREAT JOB!"

Everyone applauded and cheered, as both Shashank and Padma, from opposite corners of the room stared at the singer in the center of the room.

Padma-nostalgic for her old and happy days with Shashank.

Shashank- silently thanked Damini for taking care of their son. He was desperate to know about Damini, but he would have to wait for an appropriate moment.


"Beta…bahut achcha gaate ho," Padma approached Armaan and praised his talent, "kahan se seekha?"

"Oh thanks aunty……bas shauk tha….seekh liya. Aap Rahul ki mom hain na?" Armaan folded his palms in respect.

"Haan beta…..kaun se music group se ho? Riddhima ki tareef karni padhegi jo usney tumhein hire kiya. Riddhima!" She turned around for her daughter-in-law.

"Haan mummyji….aapne bulaya?" Riddhima ran towards her mother-in-law.

"Bahut achcha singer dhoondha tumne bhai," Padma patted Riddhima's back.

Riddhima burst out in laughter, "nahin mummyji…..maine nahin dhoondha…..Armaanji ne humein khud dhoondh liya."

"Arre wah! Isey kehte hain kismat connection," she chuckled, "chalo khair…..bahut badhiya…..Armaan beta….mujhey aagyaa dena…..zara mehmaano ko dekh loon….aur haan khaana khaaye bina mat jaana." Padma excused herself.

"Mummyji?" Armaan asked Riddhima quizzically, "why do you call your mom by that name?"

Riddhima was amused, "that's a respectful way of addressing a mother-in-law in India……Mr. America!"

Armaan was taken aback- did she just say mother-in-law? Suddenly, his gaze rested on her mangal sutra on her delicate neck and sindoor in her maang. He kicked himself for being so blind and ignorant for not noticing before. Of course, most married Hindu women, especially the ones in India adorned themselves with mangal sutra and sindoor. From an early age, he had known that his mom had never married and therefore never displayed those symbols. His heart sank at the thought of Riddhima being the daughter in law and not the daughter of the house.

"Hello!" Riddhima snapped her fingers in front of a glassy eyed Armaan, "kahan kho gaye aap?"

"Uh…Oh….well….nothing…..so you are Rahul's sister-in-law?" Armaan clarified.

"Kaafi slow hain aap…..of course….well….it's not your fault…..I have heard Americans are generally slow to catch on," she teased him.

"Just like you Indians are too fast? A bit too presumptuous?" He chided back, reminding her of how she assumed Armaan was the musician she had hired.

"Hmm," she folded her arms with a smile, "slow but witty."

"Thank you Riddhima jee…..at least you see something good in me," he bowed playfully.


 "Ab aap sharminda kar rahe hain mujhey……excuse me Armaan ji…..I need to take care of some business…..please khaana zaroor khaaiyega," her charming smile was back again as she receded into the crowd.


"Sure….thanks," he smiled politely, picked his guitar and walked back towards the microphone. A little dejected, he strummed his guitar softly as the guests made a bee line for the buffet. Riddhima's statement that she was a daughter-in-law was akin to a hidden tag which flashed 'SOLD' only after one had picked a favorite toy or a piece of clothing at a store. As he played tune after tune, he observed the dynamics of the Modi household. He could tell that the Modi's were probably a very well known family in Mumbai. In fact, he thought, he even recognized some Bollywood stars in the crowd. Mrs Padma Modi and Riddhima Modi were the busiest women in the crowd. Rahul was busy flirting with a woman near a pillar-perhaps his girlfriend, while Anjali, the woman on the wheel chair was being pampered and taken care of by a man-most likely her husband. Mr Shashank played the perfect host to a stream of guests, still walking in to congratulate the Modis on their son's graduation.


So, where was Riddhima's husband? Armaan was curious to meet the lucky man.

Just as he was about to play another number, a roar and a loud welcome at the door caught his attention.

"HEY BROTHER!" A well built, bespectacled man of average height walked in with pomp and flair.

"BHAIYA!" Rahul ran towards the man and gave him a big hug.

"Chalo Abhimanyu bhi aa gaya," Padma took a sigh of relief as her much awaited middle son walked in.

 Armaan noticed Riddhima's face light up as Abhimanyu walked in. So, he was the lucky man. Armaan smiled inwardly and could not help admiring that the two did make a handsome couple. Somewhere deep down, he felt a pinch of envy, but quickly composed himself- she was someone else's wife and that was a sacred relationship he couldn't even think of intruding upon.

"Hey brother! Congratulations!" Abhimanyu slapped Rahul's back, "yaar tu bhi graduate ho gaya!"

"Thanks bhaiya…..it's all because of your encouragement," Rahul smiled, happy that his brother had acknowledged his accomplishment. Abhimanyu's approval meant a lot to Rahul; his brother was his role model and he worshipped the ground Abhimanyu treaded on.


Armaan could tell by their interactions, that Abhimanyu had a lot of clout in the family. Perhaps, he was the main bread winner- the son who had taken over the mantle from his father.

"Hey bhai!" Atul greeted his brother too, "we have all been waiting for you."

"Sorry guys…..had an important conference call….but now I'm here….all yours," Abhimanyu flashed a smile and picked a drink from the wet bar, "CHEERS EVERYONE!"

"CHEERS!"

 Riddhima walked towards her husband and handed him a paper, "Abhimanyu….everyone is waiting for you to say something…..aapko time nahin mila hoga…..maine kuch likha hai….dekhiye."

"Hmm," Abhimanyu glanced at the piece of paper and with a smug expression, returned it promptly to her, "what is this crap Riddhima? I don't need any paper…..no one needs to tell me what to say to my brother.

A visibly disappointed Riddhima took the paper back. She knew Abhimanyu's words meant a lot to Rahul. Knowing Abhimanyu's busy schedule, she had spent the whole night writing an emotional but inspiring piece from a brother's perspective. Armaan's perceptive eyes noticed the interaction between the couple. Even though he couldn't hear their conversation, seeing the color fade from Riddhima's face was a bit unsettling for him.

Abhimanyu handed his drink to her and strode towards Armaan. A bit curious and anxious to meet him, Armaan placed his guitar on the floor and extended his hand to introduce himself. Abhimanyu ignored both Armaan and his outstretched arm; instead grabbed the microphone. Slighted by Abhimanyu's brazen gesture, Armaan stepped away from the area and walked to a corner with his guitar. Armaan had been brought up with certain values-one of them being respect for all human beings whatever their status, ethnicity or background - Abhimanyu's body language and his gestures reflected his arrogance and his callousness towards others.


"GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!" Abhimanyu's voice caught everyone by surprise. People turned around from their huddles and dinner plates to pay attention to the most prominent Modi of this generation.

"THANKS FOR GRACING THIS OCCASION WITH ALL YOUR BEST WISHES FOR MY BROTHER, RAHUL. AS YOU ALL KNOW, WE MODIS PRIDE OURSELVES FOR WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED. I'M SURE NOW THAT HE IS STEPPING INTO THE REAL WORLD, MY BROTHER, RAHUL WOULD CARRY ON THIS TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE AND SUCCESS."

Rahul turned red with pride and lowered his eyes to the ground.

"WHEN I GRADUATED, DAD CONVINCED ME TO GO ABROAD FOR AN MBA. YOU KNOW WHAT DAD," Abhimanyu looked at a smiling Shashank, "I THINK YOU MADE A MISTAKE!"

A hushed murmur went through the audience, jaws dropped as Shashank looked a bit embarrassed at his son's words.

With a smug expression, Abhimanyu continued, "DON'T WORRY DAD….I WAS JUST KIDDING," The room took a sigh of relief, "WHAT I MEANT WAS THAT AN MBA DEGREE IS OVER RATED! BROTHER," Abhimanyu looked at Rahul, "DON'T GO FOR AN MBA……COME JOIN ME…..I CAN TEACH YOU MORE THAN ANY DEGREE WOULD TEACH YOU…..I'M SURE YOU ALL KNOW HOW WELL OUR COMPANY HAS DONE OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS SINCE I TOOK OVER…..I'VE TURNED AROUND THIS BUSINESS TO A MODERN, CUTTING EDGE COMPANY WHICH CAN COMPETE WITH THE BEST MULTINATIONALS IN THIS COUNTRY…….NOW WITH RAHUL BY MY SIDE…..WE PROMISE THAT WE WILL NOT ONLY BE THE MOST RECOGNIZED NAME IN MOBILE PHONES IN INDIA….BUT ALL OVER THE WORLD!"


The guests applauded and cheered for what seemed a rally about the Modi Enterprises rather than a graduation party. Abhimanyu raised Rahuls's arms victoriously, "THANKS EVERYONE….PLEASE ENJOY THE PARTY!"

Armaan was a bit surprised by Abhimanyu's speech. Abhimanyu was quite a narcissistic man- it was all about him and what he had achieved rather than what Rahul had achieved and his aspirations and dreams. Armaan decided to stay out of analyzing too much about the Modis-after all he was an outsider. Rahul seemed happy and that's what mattered.

After Abhimanyu shook hands with the who's who of Mumbai, he looked around for Riddhima, "Hey Riddhima…..are we going to have some entertainment here too?"


"Arre haan…..aap ko milwaana chaahti thi kisi se," she hurried towards her husband and scanned the room for Armaan. Armaan's eyes found her looking for him. Smiling, he walked over, "lagta hai aap mujhey dhoondh rahi hain."

"Aapko kaise pata?" She was pleasantly surprised.

He just shrugged his shoulders, "by that look on your face."

"So you are a mind reader too?" She teased him, "here…..meet my husband, Abhimanyu……Abhimanyu…this is Armaan…..daddyji's friend's son from the US."

"Hello Abhimanyu," Armaan stretched his hand out once again.

"HI! OH…..from the US? Where abouts?" Abhimanyu was curious now. He returned the handshake and stared at Armaan's guitar, "so were you the guy playing when I had walked in."

"From California…..and yes, it was me….hope you liked it," Armaan grinned.

"Yeah….it was great….but a bit slow…..so California huh? So, do you have a business in the US?" Abhimanyu's astute business mind was always looking for possible contacts and potential clients, especially from abroad.

"Not really…..I am a musician…..and have come to India to train further at the Indian Music Academy."

"Musician?" There was a ring of cynicism in Abhimanyu's expression.

"Yeah…..It's my profession."

"Wow! Good luck man," Abhimanyu patted Armaan's shoulder, "yahan tho gali gali mein musicians milte hain……hopefully you will find some space in these tight galis of Mumbai."

Riddhima turned red at her husband's condescending comments. Armaan was visibly perturbed, but forced half a smile, "I appreciate your good wishes….I am sure I'll need them."

"Abhimanyu….aapne inka gaana suna nahin hai….he is indeed very talented," she tried to salvage the situation.

"Sure….sure……well……keep entertaining the crowd here…..that's a start……after all how many musicians get to perform at the Modis……..it was nice to meet you man," Abhimanyu raised his glass and then walked away from Armaan.


An awkward silence fell between Armaan and Riddhima. Sensing her discomfort at her husband's belittling comments, he tried to cheer her up, "Looks like the best thing that could have happened to me in Mumbai was meeting the Modis."

"Please don't get offended by my husband's remarks…..you know how it is in the business world," she looked up apologetically.


"I am not offended Riddhima jee," he chuckled, "he is right……hum kis gali jaa rahe hain…..apna koi thikana nahin…." He hummed and then picked his guitar. She gave him a quizzical look and was then pleasantly surprised when he started singing.

Please watch and listen to this wonderful song by Atif Aslam as Armaan croons to this number……






(Hum kisi gali jaa rahe hain)

hum kis gali ja rahey hain ..
hum kis gali ja rahey hain ...
apna koi thikana nahi .....
apna koi thikana nahi .....

Armanoon ki anjuman mey ,
beysud hai apni lagan mey ...

apna koi fasana nahi ....
apna koi fasan nahi ....

ek ajnabi sa chehra , rehta hai meri nazar mey
ek dard aakey thera din raat dard-e-jiggar mey

jagi hai kaisi talab si ...
ye arzu hai ajab si....

lekin kisi ko batana nahi ....
lekin kisi ko batana nahi ....

hum kis gali ja rahey hain ..
hum kis gali ja rahey hain ...
apna koi thikana nahi .....
apna koi thikana nahi .....

beytabiyaan hain pal pal , chaya ye kaisa nasha hai ...
khamoshiyon mey sada , hosh bhi gumshada hai ...

dar dar kahan ghumta hai ,
masti mey kyun jhumta hai ...

dewanaey dil ney jana nahi ...
dewanaey dil ney jana nahi ...

hum kis gali ja rahey hain ..
hum kis gali ja rahey hain ...
apna koi thikana nahi .....
apna koi thikana nahi .....
apna koi thikana nahi .....
apna koi thikana nahi .....

……to be contd………..

Bheegi

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