Friday, 8 June 2018

part 8 : Pehchan


After their return from the academy, the estranged couple found themselves even more alienated from each other. Padma's frosty and distant monosyllables reminded Shashank of the day she had discovered Damini's letter. Had Armaan's question regarding his father spilled the beans he had so precariously been hiding the last few days? The fact that Damini was no more had also shaken him up. Not that he ever expected to meet her again, but the realization that someone who had once been so intimate with him was no longer alive, saddened him even more.



"Itni chup kyun ho?"

"Thak gayi hoon…..mujhey kuch kaam hai," she walked out of their bedroom leaving Shashank staggering with guilt and fear.

He decided to call Dilip Malik, his childhood friend. Fortunately, he was able to locate his phone number in his old diary.

"SHASHANK?" Dilip was pleasantly surprised.

"Haan Dilip! Bahut saal ho gaye," Shashank bemoaned.

"Yes…..many years."

"Kaisa hai tu?"

"Still single….the forever bachelor you know," Dilip chuckled.

"Ek ladki ko nahin phaans saka?" Shashank chided.

"Apni aisi kismat kahan? Some people have all the luck…don't they?" The satire in Dilip's voice hit Shashank's conscience.

"Dilip…..I heard about Damini…..what happened?"

"She died in an accident at her work place."

"Oh…I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry Shashank…..she lived a full life…..worked till the last day….and dedicated her life to her son…..I'm sure you've met him by now."

"Haan….haan….bahut pyaara bachcha hai."

"Jaanta hoon…..I am proud of my nephew….I'm sorry I didn't warn you about his trip…..but I wanted him to find you…..and you to tell him the truth….whenever you're ready."

"Thanks for sending him to India….he saved us all from a fire…..he is a hero for us…..thanks for doing a great job raising him Dilip….I couldn't have done better."

"That's my nephew!" Dilip replied proudly, "why am I not surprised?"

'Yes…he is a brave boy."

Dilip wanted to say-unlike his father- but resisted at inflicting any more jabs on Shashank after all these years. Bygones were bygones.

'Does he know the truth?" Dilip asked.

"No…not yet….lekin ek din zaroor bataaunga usey."

"Yaad rakhna….kahin der na ho jaaye…..kahin Damini ki tarah tum bhi usey sach bataane se pehle hi…." Dilip paused.

"No Dilip……I'll not wait that long."

Dilip sighed with relief. While alive, Damini had never wanted Armaan to meet his real father. Shashank was her past and her only mistake in life; she did not want to revive a relationship that had no future. Dilip would have never encouraged Armaan's meeting with Shashank, had the doctor's not told him that he himself had only six months to live. His brain tumor from years ago had recurred with a vengeance. Before Armaan found out about his uncle's illness, Dilip had packed him off to India. He wanted Armaan to have a semblance of a family and a home before he left, and knowing Armaan's friendly and affectionate temperament, he knew his nephew would find a way into his step family's heart.

"Good talking to you dost!"

"Thanks Dilip…I hope you've forgiven me by now," Shashank lowered his voice.

"Your mistake gave me my most precious gift….my nephew… can I not forgive you? Good bye….take care friend."

"Good bye dost," an emotional Shashank hung up. Shutting his eyes, he collapsed on the bed, "kya ek din Padma bhi mujhey aise hi maaf kar degi?"



After a nerve wrecking session with Dr. Mani, Armaan was relieved to check into his hostel room at the academy. The room was simple and had all the basics a young student would need. Although he had lived most of his life in the US, he was used to living under all types of circumstances. As far as he was concerned, luxuries were dispensable, but as he looked around the barren walls, he couldn't help comparing his room to the beautiful dcor of the Modi household. He brushed his fingers against the off colored walls and smiled inwardly, "it's not the bare walls here….but the absence of someone that makes me nostalgic for the Modi villa." Riddhima's luminous presence could make any place dazzle brilliantly, whether it was the dcor or his mood. The lingering taste of the rasgullas in his mouth made him pine for her presence even more.

"What is this craziness?" He scratched his head and sighed longingly, "Is this what people call love? Ishq? Aashiqui? Am I really in love with her or is it just a passing phase? Why has no woman ever affected me the way Riddhima has?" Growing up in the US had given him ample experience with women, but none had touched him the way Riddhima had. Her brief presence at the academy had resuscitated his dying spirits; even the news of his father's demise seemed less painful at that moment. She was like the soothing balm on his burnt hand, the remedy for his bruised soul.

Anjaana dil kya jaane, begaana dil kya jaane
darr jaata hai kyun paake khushiyaan
yeh jo main bekaraar hoon, har lamha ishq toh nahi
yeh jo mujhe bekhudi si hai, tu jaise mujhmein hai kahin - 2
kabhi baahon mein hai duniya
kabhi khaali khaali raahein
kabhi barta hai dil thandi thandi aahein
kabhi aankhon mein hai sapne
kabhi palko pe hai aansoo
yeh ishq dikhaaye kaise kaise jaadu
kabhi dhoop kabhi barsaatein
kabhi tanha tanah raatein
mausam hai kitne aate jaate in wafaaon ke
anjaana dil kya jaane, begaana dil kya jaane
darr jaata hai kyun paake khushiyaan
yeh jo main bekaraar hoon, har lamha ishq toh nahi
yeh jo mujhe bekhudi si hai, tu jaise mujhmein hai kahin
milna hai pal do pal ka, phir lambi hai tanhaaye
parchaaye se kat jaati hai parchaaye
kho jaata hai woh chehara, bas aati hai aawaazein
dil karata hai khud se hi aksar baatein
wahin phiki phiki subahein, wahi bojhal bojhal shaamein
mausam hai kitne aate jaate in wafaaon ke
anjaana dil kya jaane, begaana dil kya jaane
darr jaata hai kyun paake khushiyaan
yeh jo main bekaraar hoon, har lamha ishq toh nahi
yeh jo mujhe bekhudi si hai, tu jaise mujhmein hai kahin - 2

As he yearned and obsessed about the unattainable woman in his life, his trance was broken by a phone call.

"Dilip maama? What a surprise!" Armaan sat up with a smile.

"Hey son….what's up? I just spoke to Mr. Modi…..looks like you're quite a hero there."

"Aisa kuch nahin hai maama…..I was just present at the right place…at the right time."

"Good job son! How are you liking India?"

"I love India!"

"Itni jaldi pyaar bhi ho gaya?" Dilip chuckled.

"You're right maama…I'm in love," Armaan blushed, his ears turning red as he spoke.

"In love with India…or…er…with an Indian?" Dilip asked hesitantly.

"Both," Armaan squeezed his eyelids bashfully.

"Get out of here," Dilip was bemused, "abhi waqt hi kitna hua hai beta?"

"I can't help it maama…..I know it….I've never felt this way before…..mera dil jaanta hai."

"Who is this lucky Indian girl?"

"That's the problem maama."

"Problem? Kahin munda tho nahin hai?" Dilip teased him.

" maama…you know me….I love women…..but this one is special."

"Then what's the problem?"

'She is married."

"What?" Dilip's heart sank as flashbacks of yesteryears bombarded his thoughts. Damini's confession that she was in love with Shashank, her childhood crush, a married man when she met him again in her 20s haunted Dilip.  Memories of that eventful rainy night in Nainital when he left Damini and Shashank alone in his house while he was attending a meeting at his local club were still fresh in his mind. How he had discovered them in each other's arms; how Shashank had fallen at his feet to apologize, how he had vowed to never see Shashank again, and how Damini revealed to him that it was a mutually consensual relationship they had had that night. Nine months later when she gave birth to a son, Dilip had moved to the US out of shame and guilt for not being able to save his sister's honor. Little did he know that after his departure, society would be even harsher to his little sister. When Armaan was two years old, he arranged for Damini and Armaan's immigration to the US. Rest was history, but he had never forgotten how his beloved childhood friend had betrayed his trust.

"Yes maama…she is Mr. Modi's….er…uh…daughter-in-law."

"Tum pagal tho nahin ho gaye ho?" Dilip's head spun as he visualized history repeat itself in front of his eyes.

"Shayad ho gaya hoon….I can't help it maama….." Armaan replied somberly.

"And what about her?" Dilip tried to compose himself.

"No maama….aap kaisi baat kar rahe hain? She loves her family….is very dedicated to her husband."

"So it's a one way love story….with no future….with no hope….just disaster?"

"Yes maama," Armaan bowed his head, his uncle's words hitting him like bitter truth usually does.

"So, what are you going to do?"

"Stay within my boundaries…..never let her know how I feel," Armaan's throat dry, his eyes misty once again that day.

"Good! Beta…..don't let your mom and maama down….ever…..and respect the Modi family….stay away from their personal lives……meet some other girls…..after all in a country of a billion plus, there must be a few unmarried ones left," he chuckled, "I hope you understand beta."

"Yes maama…I do……Good night!"



"Muskaan…..I don't believe this!" Rahul's eyes popped with disbelief as he chatted with his lady love on the phone.

"Rahul! Your family is very different from mine! I know your parents have no objections….but mine do!" Muskaan argued in her husky voice.

"Just because I belong to a rich family?" Rahul asked.

"Yeah…..pretty much."

"But that's not my fault…..most parents would die to get their daughters married into our family…even Riddhima bhabhi and Anjali bhabhi belong to modest families…..tho tumhare parents itne ajeeb kyun hain?"

"Khabardaar mere parents ko ajeeb kaha tho!"

'Sorry….sorry," he ducked sheepishly, "I…I didn't mean it in that way……but what's their issue with getting their daughter married into a rich family?"

"They feel that I will always be under pressure….under scrutiny….would lose my identity in your household."

"Oh come on Muskaan!" Rahul was exasperated. He hated arguments and that too with the woman he loved, made him edgy.

"Yes of course….tell me what identity do Riddhima and Anjali bhabhi have besides being Modi bahuranis?"

"That's an honor…..for any woman to be a Modi bahu!" Rahul snapped back.

"I am sorry Rahul….I agree with my parents…..I don't want to be a Lady Di! I cherish my freedom and independence….I will marry you only if we have a life independent of your family."

"That's crazy! How can I leave my family?"

"No…I never said that….I just want us to have our own independent lives…..we will still be close to the family….but not follow them blindly."

"I don't get you Muskaan….kya matlab hai tumhara?"

"My parents and I would both like you to have your independent business….or a job….that's just yours and not your Abhimanyu bhaiyya's!"

"But I want to work with bhaiyya! He is like my mentor."

"But I can't stand him! I don't want you to work with him or become like him!"

"MUSKAAN! I am sorry but bhaiyya is next to God for me….I can't hear anyone criticizing him."

"Then sorry Rahul…..make your choice….Good night!" she hung up leaving a baffled and irate Rahul staring at his phone.

"HELP!" He sprang up and rushed out towards his savior, Riddhima bhabhi.


Fortunately, Riddhima was still awake and after listening to Rahul's predicament, promised to talk to Padma and Shashank in the morning. They would all plan on meeting Muskaan's family and convince them that Muskaan would be welcome with open arms in the family and no one would interfere in her's and Rahul's happiness.

"Thanks bhabhi….you're the best," Rahul gave her a brotherly hug, "I am afraid Muskaan might become another Anjali bhabhi….why can't she be more like you?"
"Nahin Rahul…..aisi baat nahin…..Muskaan has a point…..and I think that's what Anjali bhabhi's frustration stems from also…..aakhir kaun nahin chaahta ki unka pati apne pairon par khada ho."

"But bhabhi, we have a family business….how can I shun that and look for some menial job? Isn't that unreasonable of Muskaan?"

"Don't worry Rahul…..we will talk to her and her family…..they are just apprehensive…..ek baar mummyji aur daddyji se milenge tho unke sab shaq door ho jaayenge."

"I hope so," Rahul heaved a sigh.

As he was about to leave, Riddhima stopped him.

"Ek baat batao…..why did Muskaan feel that Anjali and I have no identity in this house?" Riddhima's fingers toyed with her mangalsutra like they always did when she was confused about something.

Rahul just shrugged his shoulders, "I think she is just immature," smiled and walked off with hope in his heart.

Muskaan's words had raised an important issue that Riddhima had never pondered upon before. Was Muskaan immature or more worldly wise?

"Is that true? Kya meri koi apni pehchan nahin hai?" She wondered. Gathering her senses, she decided to call her husband and talk to him. Perhaps he would have an answer.

"Hello….Abhimanyu? Main bol rahi hoon…Riddhima."

"Hmm….what's the matter?" He answered the phone groggily. Nikita turned over and moaned softly. He placed his palm on Nikita's mouth to muffle her groans.

"Can I ask you a question?" Riddhima, oblivious of any background sounds on the other line asked.

"Why do you select such inappropriate times to ask me questions? Can it wait till I get back into town?" His grumpy voice did not startle her, just disappointed her like always.

"Sorry…aapko jagaa diya…..baad mein baat karti hoon." She hung up, angry at herself for upsetting her husband again, "can I ever do anything right for Abhimanyu? Main kyun unhein itna pareshan karti hoon? Tabhi tho wo mujhse itne naaraaz rehte hain."

Staring at her phone, she yearned to talk to someone. Someone who could help her think straight, a friend, a true friend who would be honest with her. Her old school friends were no longer close to her; marriage into a well known family had created a wall between her and them. Her older sister, Aradhana didi was probably asleep by now, and moreover she was more like a mother rather than a friend. Her mother-in-law was an understanding woman, but she was hesitant to talk to her about this matter; she would consider that an odd question.

Was there one person she could talk to?

Her face lit up as Armaan's face popped into her mind. He seemed the most unbiased and honest person she knew; someone who would give her the right advice. Could she take the liberty of calling him that late at night?

She hesitated, shuffled back and forth, but then decided against calling him. It was late and he was probably asleep after his hectic day at the academy.

 "He will think I am weird."



While Riddhima mulled over whether to call Armaan or not, he picked up his phone and without hesitation dialed her number. Sleep was nowhere near his heavy eyelids; his heart yearned to talk to her one last time before he hit the pillow. She deserved to be thanked her for the rasgullas and inspiring him to perform in front of Dr. Mani.

"Hello! Hi….I hope I didn't wake you up?" His deep voice startled Riddhima as she stared at her head set, shocked by the coincidence.

"Armaan? What a pleasant surprise…..main tumhare baare mein hi soch rahi thi."

He sat up excitedly, "really?" Downplaying his excitement as Dilip's words rang in his ears, "Why?"

"Uh…" she hesitated, "how was your audition?"

"What a coincidence….that's why I was calling you."


"Looks like it….well the audition went very well…..thanks for encouraging me….and the rasgullas were like the cherry on top." He chuckled.

"Main bahut khush hoon," she smiled, "I'm sure you will outshine all the other students very soon."

"I can't wait for that day," he beamed.

"Bahut modest ho tum!" she teased him.

"I know who I am….I know what I am capable of."

"You're lucky," she replied softly.

"I know…..I am," he ran his fingers through his hair, thanking her silently for being his lucky charm, "especially when I have friends like you in this alien country."



"Can I ask you a question?"

"You know you don't need permission…..I love answering questions even if I don't know what I am talking about," he laughed.

"Ek insaan ki pehchan kaise banti hai? Uske apne wajood se ya uske aas paas ke logon se?" She asked frankly.

"My God! What a heavy duty question and that too at this time of the night? What prompted this question?"

"Aise hi soch rahi thi."

"Looks like you are a night owl like me….even my brain lights up at midnight," he looked at his watch and chuckled, "well….my two cents….it's not what other's think of you that defines you…..but what you think about yourself that defines you……and it's just not about believing in yourself….but about doing what you believe in….I hope I am making sense."

With a contorted expression on her face, she replied, "I…I…think so… are good at confusing people."

"As long as I am not confused myself," he chided, "I know what I want from myself and my life."

"What do you want?"

"TOP SECRET!" He laughed.

"That's not fair…..friends are supposed to share such things with each other."

"Ok….be a famous musician one day…."

"Like AR Rehman?" she teased him.

"yeah you can say that," he laughed back.


"…and… find the love of my life."

"Aww….that's sweet….I hope both your wishes come true one day… fact, not only do you find your love…..but your love becomes yours forever." She replied.

Armaan was silent. He knew Riddhima did not realize what she had just said. He dismissed her inadvertent comment as she had no idea what the truth was. Thankfully, she had not perceived any signs of undying attraction from his side. Hope he could continue to camouflage his feelings as well in future too.

"Ok…what do you want from your life?" He threw the same question at her.

"I have always wanted to manage a business of my own….and…"


'And be..a mother one day," she replied innocently. Armaan's silence on the other line made her realize what she had just said. Even Abhimanyu had no idea that she craved to be a mother; why did she reveal her desire to Armaan? She kicked herself for being so forthcoming. Armaan mere baare mein kya soch raha hoga? She bit her lower lip to hide her awkwardness.

Armaan sensed her discomfort. "I am sure you would make a great manager…..after all you're so good with people……..I can help you with that one but sorry the second one is beyond my expertise," he tried to cheer her up by sounding unperturbed by her 'mother' comment.

"I am sorry……I..I got carried away." She squeezed here eyes shut.

"Hota hai hota hai…..dosti mein sharam kaisi?"

"I am sorry Armaan…..forget whatever I said," she regretted, "I am happy the way I am…..mujhey aur kuch nahin chaahiye."

"College degree bhi nahin?" He tried to divert her attention.

"College degree? How did you know that I've not completed my studies?" She wondered if she had ever mentioned that fact to him.

"I overheard you say that to someone," he confessed.

"Oh…….Kam umar mein shaadi jo ho gayi thi na."

"Baalika badhu?" He teased her.

"No silly…I got married at 20!"

"Then what's the problem?"

"Aakhir badhe ghar ki bahu hoon na…..we don't attend colleges like ordinary people."

"I have a solution for you."


'Let's keep it a surprise… I think you should go to bed…..warna log sochenge ki paraye mard ke saath raat raat bhar baat karti hai."

"Dost kehte ho aur phir paraya bhi maante ho apne aap ko," She scolded him playfully.

"Ok then….I'm sleepy now," he lied. He could have chatted with her all night, but Dilip maama's warning was still fresh in his mind, and even though her family seemed very understanding, he wouldn't want to put Riddhima is a precarious situation.

"I will wait for my surprise then…"

"Me too…Good Night!"



Armaan walked into the Modi villa with his guitar and bag on his shoulder. He was greeted by the servant, Ramu kaka.

"Namaste saheb."

"Namaste Ramu kaka…..main Kavya ko guitar sikhaane aaya hoon," Armaan's eyes wandered all around for any member of the family.

"Aaiye saheb…..Kavya baba tho game room mein hain."

"Oh…achcha…..kahan hai game room?"

"Oopar hai saheb….aaiye main dikhaa deta hoon."

"Shukriya," Armaan followed the servant while his eyes scanned the vast living and family rooms for any signs of life.

"Namaste aunty!" He spotted Padma arranging flowers in a vase.

To his surprise, she looked up with half a smile and nodded, "Namaste." She was not the Padma aunty he knew; there were obvious creases of tension on her forehead and her half hearted welcome meant all was not well.

'Aunty…is everything OK?" Armaan asked hesitantly.

"Haan…sab theek hai," she replied frostily, "Kavya is upstairs." She turned around and disappeared into one of the many hallways leading to the living room.

Disheartened and disturbed, he followed the servant upstairs.

'Aunty upset hain kya?" Finally he asked Ramu kaka.

"Memsaheb ke mood ka kuch pata nahin saheb….pichle 3-4 dino se aise hi hain….apne aap theek ho jaayengi kuch din mein," the servant chuckled. A worried Armaan nodded his head and thought, "perhaps it's menopause….I remember even mom was quite moody in those days," he reasoned silently.

"Baaki sab kahan hain?"

"Atul saheb tho Anjali madam ko walk par le gaye hain…Rahul baba apne room mein hain….Abhimanyu saheb abhi abhi Bangalore se wapas aaye hain…" the servant explained.
"Oh…I see," he resisted any questions regarding Riddhima's whereabouts in front of the servant.

As they took the second flight of stairs to the game room, he heard some noises from one of the rooms at the end of the hallway. His ears perked up as he recognized Riddhima's voice. His foot stalled at the bottom of the stairway; even though he knew he wasn't supposed to eavesdrop, something in Riddhima's voice told him she was upset about something.

"Aap abhi tho aaye hain Bangalore se….phir kahan jaa rahe hain?" She asked.

"Riddhima, for heaven sakes….you are my wife…not my secretary! You don't need to know my schedule in detail….kaha na tumhein dinner ke liye wapas aa jaaunga….now I need to go….I have some urgent issues to deal with at the office."

"But…Abhimanyu…I ….I miss you," her tender voice tugged at Armaan's heart, while her heartless husband snubbed her again, "find something to do…..join a kitty party group….or..or go shopping….don't expect me to sit at home and coddle you like Atul bhaiyya….understand?"

Armaan hastened his steps on the staircase when he heard their bedroom door open. An infuriated Abhimanyu barged out and flew down the stairs in frenzy.

"GUITAR HERO!" Kavya's chirpy voice broke the tense air around Armaan.

"Hey Kavya! Ready for your lesson?"

"Yes…yes…yes," he jumped like a bunny rabbit and hopped all the way to the game room with Armaan's finger clutched to his hand.

Distracted by Riddhima and Abhimanyu's brief argument, he tried his best to stay focused on Kavya's lesson. Kavya was a handful too. He was more interested in posing with the guitar, a baseball cap and dark glasses in front of a mirror in the game room. Learning to play the strings was quite a cumbersome task for the five year old. Armaan let his young student play random tunes on the guitar for the first lesson as he brooded over Riddhima and Abhimanyu's argument.

"Arre Armaan?" Riddhima walked into the game room with what Armaan knew for sure, wearing a phony smile on her face. In a selfish way he was happy that Riddhima had decided to join them rather than sulk alone in her room after her insensitive husband's departure.

"Hi…I thought I would start teaching my young student before he found another teacher," Armaan chuckled.

"I am sure he will not find a teacher like you," she pulled a stool and sat beside them.

"How do you know I am a good teacher?" He asked.

"A teacher who doesn't need a reminder…and who takes the pain to take the one hour train journey to his student's house ought to be good….haina?" She leaned her chin on her folded fist.

"Kavya…tumhari chachi baatein banaane mein bahut hoshiyar hai," Armaan picked the guitar and started strumming something impromptu. Riddhima's proximity had started having that effect on him. Not only did she prove to be an inspiration the other day, he had noticed that each time he thought about her, his fingers would start fiddling with the guitar strings in a new melodious composition.

"Nice melody," she exclaimed, "kaun si hai?" He was pleased to see her sweet and genuine signature smile back on her face as she immersed herself in his music.

"I don't know," he shrugged his shoulders, "just made it up."

"It's wonderful," she shook her head from side to side in harmony with the music, eyes shut, her face as serene as an angel's, her smile lighting up the room. The more he gazed at her, the more he was drawn to the beautiful woman in front of him.

(instrumental version of kaho na kaho)

"Hey guys….a private concert going on here?" Rahul's voice interrupted the trance. Kavya was in a corner imitating Armaan's mannerisms with a toy guitar while Armaan and Riddhima were lost in their respective thoughts. Riddhima immersed in her dream world with an unknown face, just an obscure silhouette and Armaan's gaze fixated on Riddhima's angelic face.

"Hey Rahul!" Taken aback, Armaan stopped playing and stretched his partially bandaged hand. He kept his fingers crossed in hope that Rahul did not notice how mesmerized he was in his bhabhi's beauty. He would hate for Rahul to misconstrue his emotions and blame him for trying to seduce his bhabhi by his music.

"Wow…you can still play so well with that burnt hand?" Rahul remarked, oblivious of the invisible chemical ions in the air between the musician and his audience.

"Well….was just practicing really…..kya haal hai Mr. aashiq ka?" Armaan asked.

Rahul hung his head and plopped on the carpeted floor next to Armaan.

"Yaar…I need help….Riddhima bhabhi….did you ever talk to mom and dad?"

"I tried to…..but they have both been busy," Riddhima lied as she had sensed some tension between her in laws, and had stayed out of their way till things calmed down between them . Since her marriage into the Modi family, she had witnessed several ups and downs in between them but had never received any answers either from Abhimanyu, nor Anjali bhabhi. They had both blown it off to 'usual marital discord.'

"Ek kaam karte hain….why don't we go out for dinner somewhere….and you can tell me your love saga," Armaan got up, recalling his Dilip maama's words of caution. He knew if he stayed longer, his feelings for Riddhima might not remain a secret.

"Great idea!" Rahul exclaimed, "maybe I'll ask Muskaan to join us too….you can be the mediator."

"No way Jose!" Armaan laughed, "if your girlfriend joins us…I will be kabab mein haddi."

"nahin yaar…aaj kal kabab zara naaraaz hai mujhse," Rahul pouted.

"Don't worry man…..I know how to fix a woman's naaraazgi!"

"How come? Do you have any experience?"

'Of course man….what do you think I've been doing for the last 27 years of my life? This is the driest spell of my life….India aakar sookha padh gaya hai meri life mein…….I need to meet some desi chicks now," Armaan punched Rahul's arm playfully.

 Riddhima tried to join in the male banter, but restrained herself. Armaan was right; he had a right to meet other women. After all, he was handsome, single and above all a joy to be with. Any woman could fall for him easily. Her pensive mood that had been alleviated by his music seemed to return, but she was not selfish to ask him to stay over for dinner.

"Ok bhabhi…..we will leave then….tell mom I'll not have dinner at home," Rahul smiled.

"Koi achchi si ladki dhoondna Armaan ke liye…..phir tum dono ki ek saath shaadi kar denge," Riddhima teased them, "chalo Kavya…..Anjali bhabhi must be back…..she would be looking for you," she held Kavya's finger and walked out of the game room.

Armaan sighed inwardly and with a heavy heart followed Rahul to his car. He was relieved in a way that even Riddhima had not noticed how enamored he was with her. He was sad to leave her, especially after her argument with her ruthless husband, but he knew he had to stay away- that was in everyone's interest.

He picked his bag and remembered that he had carried the big surprise for her, but alas, that would have to wait too- till Kavya's next lesson.

…………to be contd……….


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