Sunday, 15 July 2018

part 42 : Pehchan


RECAP: Tears of joy rolled down her cheeks; her fingers brushed against his. For a moment, they sat still, their magnetic gazes locked into each other. Slowly, their fingers intertwined with each other till their hands were interlocked in an embrace of heavenly bliss, an almost surreal meeting of their souls and hearts that had defied the gravest of all adversities and misfortunes.



"Mrs. Malik!" Armaan's muffled voice was barely audible, "this is not fair. Tumne shaadi bhi kar li aur apne pati ko invitation bhi nahin bheja!"





Armaan's lighthearted comment was his perfect landing pad into the conscious world. As always, his jest set their emotions free; an outburst of tears and laughter from both expressed their worries, fears, relief and reprieve that both had experienced in a span of 48 hours.



She descended from her bed and sat on the floor beside his wheelchair. Burying her head in his lap, she wrapped her arms around his legs and complained, "shaadi ke invitations tho tum banane jaa rahe the na Mumbai? Mujhse kyun shikayat kar rahe ho phir?" Her tears through the thin hospital pajamas soaked his heart and soul.



He placed his trembling hand on her head and mumbled, "Plan tho yahi tha….just had to take a detour to another world for a bit."



"You can't go anywhere without me…..jaante nahin ho mera kya haal hua tha?" Her sobs shook his firm legs on the wheel chair.



"That's why I came back," he whispered.



She shook her head and looked up, her face smeared with her tears, "promise you will never do that to me again."



"Promise!" He touched his ears, "not till we have played with our great grandchildren."



Her face turned red at his comment, "we will be really old by then." She sniffed and chuckled at the same time.



"Talk about yourself," he chuckled back, "not me."



"You will still be as handsome," she leaned her head on his knees.



"And you will be even more beautiful," he brushed his fingers against her lips, "thanks Riddhima. Thanks for saving my life."



"Thanks for coming back," she clasped his hand in her palms, "bahut dard hua hoga na tumhein?"



"Jab tum pareshan hoti ho, tho dard tho hota hi hai," he ran his finger against her cheek.



"So you could sense my pain?"



"I could sense it, feel it and hear it....just not able to see or talk."



Riddhima gave him a quizzical look.



"He is right Mrs. Malik," the nurse walked in with a cart, "new research has shown that people in coma can hear and feel a lot more than we can imagine."



"So, you heard everything?" Riddhima was astounded.



"Pretty much," he blinked his eyes, "especially when you called me jaaan." He teased her, touching her nose. She blushed at his comment and hid her face in his palms, "jaan kaha tha tumhein, jaan lene ke liye nahin kaha tha."



"Phir se kaho na," he whispered. She just shook her head in his palms.



"Armaan sir…I need to take you to the bathroom." The nurse picked some towels and a bowl, "you need a sponge bath and try to use the restroom too."



"Can my wife help me with that?" He asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Riddhima's jaw fell at his request, "m-main?" She hesitated.



"Yes of course!" The nurse grinned, "why not?"




"I know my wife would love to fulfill all her wifely duties." He groaned, "just like she has been."



Riddhima glared at him and pouted, "meri majboori ka faayda utha rahe ho?"



"Nahin…apni wife ko uski duties poori karne ka mauka de raha hoon." He tried to grin, but winced as his head started hurting from exertion.



"Are you okay Armaan?" Riddhima got worried seeing his expression.



"Agar tum mujhey bathroom le jaaogi tho shayad theek ho jaaunga." He sulked. The nurse smiled at their banter; she had witnessed their love for each other since Armaan had been wheeled into the hospital and watching them in action was even more endearing, she thought.



The nurse disconnected Riddhima from her IV and handed her the towels and bowl, "here you go Mrs. Malik!"





"Armaan….aisi halat mein bhi tum apni badmaashi nahin chodoge," she pretended to be upset but inwardly was thrilled to help her man. She had almost lost him forever; taking care of his basic needs was the least she could for him.



"Pati ki seva karna bahut bhagya se milta hai," his face radiated with happiness as Riddhima wheeled him into the bathroom.



"I want a payback for this seva,"she laughed.



"That'd be my pleasure."



Once inside, she was his perfect caretaker. Diligently and tenderly, she helped give him a sponge bath, use the restroom and soothed his external and internal wounds.



"Shaadi ke baad bhi aise hi mera khayal rakhogi na?" He asked as she wheeled him back towards his bed.



"Sochungi," she teased him, "agar tum apni biwi ki jee jaan se seva karoge tho shayad main bhi thodi bahut kar loon."



"Achcha Mrs. Malik! Shaadi se pehle hi biwi jaise nakhre shuru?"



She cleared her throat and reminded him, "the wifely duties come with a baggage sir….shaadi karoge tho nakhre bhi sehne padhenge."



"Then let me enjoy these few days of bliss for now," he shut his eyes, his body more relaxed and fresh after the sponge bath. The nurse and Riddhima helped him back to the bed where he spent the next few hours in deep but restful sleep.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….



NEXT FEW DAYS:



The next few days were spent amidst a flurry of activity. Thanks to the good nursing care and Riddhima's constant presence, Armaan showed signs of a speedy recovery. With Abhimanyu acquitted, Mrs. Saxena and Shailendra in jail for charges of attempted murder, the whole Modi family gathered around Armaan at regular intervals. Rahul, Muskaan, Atul and Anjali had also made it to Nainital by now.



Riddhima had tried to contact Yuvraaj several times, but he had neither visited Armaan, nor returned her calls. She felt guilty about her outburst and falsely accusing him of a crime he had never committed. Yuvraaj, on the other hand, was too ashamed to show his face to both Armaan and Riddhima. He felt guilty about introducing Riddhima to his bua and also kicked himself for expressing his interest in Riddhima to his bua. His bua had always been very protective about him; in fact she had sensed that he had fallen for the damsel in distress at first sight. Little did he know, that his bua would stoop so low to fulfill his desire. He was disgusted to find that his bua, although a spinster, had been involved in so many illegitimate affairs- the old police chief and Shailendra- probably just two in a long list of her lovers.





Although his external wounds were healing well, the whole shooting incident had turned Armaan's world upside down. The incident was like a pair of new lenses through which Armaan could clearly see everyone in his life. Ironically, it was in his incoherent state, that he had finally identified what each person meant to him.



"Armaan, ab tum theek ho rahe ho tho chalo hum sab Mumbai wapas chalte hain," Shashank suggested one morning.



Riddhima was stunned by Shashank's suggestion. At this point in her life, she couldn't fathom even a day without Armaan. There was no way she could leave Nainital, especially after Mrs. Saxena's arrest. Ashirwaad was a big mess and as soon as Armaan was back on his feet, she wanted to get back to the orphanage.



"Sorry dad," Armaan replied curtly, "I am not going back to Mumbai."



"Wo tumhara ghar hai beta." Shashank replied.



"Dad….wo aapka ghar hai. Mera ghar tho yahin hai…jahan mere apne hain. Jaante hain dad, behoshi ki halat mein jitni mujhey sab se pehchan huyi hai, utni hosh mein rehte kabhie nahin huyi thi," he had a faint, sarcastic smile on his face



"Beta, yeh kya keh rahe ho?" Shashank was taken aback by his son's statement. Padma smiled inwardly as she understood what Armaan meant.



"Dad, I will always be your son. I can't change that fact, but that doesn't mean I have to worship you like God. Aapne jo Riddhima ke saath ek saal pehle kiya, uske liye main aapko kabhie maaf nahin kar sakta!"



Everyone in the room was stunned by Armaan's words. Riddhima and Padma exchanged glances, pleased to hear Armaan take a stance against Shashank, who had always managed to get away with the worst offences.



"A-Armaan?" Shashank turned pale, "y-yeh kya keh rahe ho beta? Mujhey kuch samajh nahin aa raha hai."



"Dad….zindagi shayad humein apne aap se aur doosron ki sahi pehchan karvaana sikhaati hai….thanks to my injury, I have achieved both….achcha hoga agar aap bhi apne andar jhaank kar dekhein…tho aapko sab sawaalon ke jawaab mil jaayenge."



Shashank hung his head and remained silent.



"Armaan….where will you stay then?" Atul asked.



"Shaadi se pehle Naina aunty ke yahan, and shaadi ke baad apni patni ke saath….uski seva karne," he rolled his tongue mischievously and gave Riddhima a wicked look. Riddhima turned red at his comment.



"That's a brilliant idea!" Padma interjected, "I know Riddhima can't leave Ashirwaad, and Armaan can't leave Riddhima, so it is logical that Armaan stay back in Nainital. I am sure Naina would love to help us all out in their wedding preparations."



"So, where will the wedding be?" Rahul asked.



"In my ancestral home," Armaan replied confidently, "that house has been cursed for over a generation….ab wahan shaadi bhi hogi…band bhi bajega…aur *cough*cough*," he paused and squeezed Riddhima's hand, "you know what I mean guys…sab kuch hoga." Riddhima blushed profusely; Armaan was leaving no stone unturned to embarrass her in front of his family.



"I think we understand Armaan!" Jiya and Muskaan came to Riddhima's rescue, "we will make sure the wedding and the 'sab kuch' is memorable for both of you."



"What about your music recordings?" Abhimanyu finally spoke up.



"I am going to build a studio right next to Ashirwaad. Recording should not be a problem. Anyways, I am going to sing more for myself and my satisfaction now….commercial success doesn't matter to me much anymore. All the royalties from my music will be used to develop Ashirwaad and my new music school in Ranikhet." Armaan surprised everyone, including Riddhima with his future plans. Riddhima was ecstatic to hear Armaan's plans for their future. Even though they had not had any concrete discussions about their life after marriage, she couldn't believe that he had understood her desires so well.



Even more surprising was Abhimanyu's response, "that's Ok Armaan….I will talk to all the music producers and convince them fly you into Mumbai whenever needed, or else they can fly to Ranikhet and use your music studio. I am sure they can make those accommodations for their star singer."



Armaan pursed his lips and nodded, "thanks for the offer Abhimanyu, but I don't want any of my earnings to be used for the telecom business."



"That should not be problem Armaan," Rahul beamed proudly, "I work for a venture capitalist in Bangalore. I have convinced them to invest in the Modi Telecom business."



Padma had tears in her eyes; her youngest son had finally grown up. He had stepped up to his responsibilities and saved their family business from collapsing.



"I am sorry beta," Shashank touched Armaan's hand, "but I promise you that from now onwards, I will be the best father to all of you. Jis cheez mein tum sab ki khushi ho, wo hi meri manzil hogi."



"Armaan, don't worry, I just want to help you out….I don't want anything in return," Abhimanyu smiled and then looked at Riddhima, "that's the least I can do for both of you. I have created a lot of problems for both of you in the past, but I hope you can trust me that from now on, I will always be there for both of you."



Riddhima lowered her eyes silently.



"Riddhima," Abhimanyu came forward, "thanks for believing me this time. Agar tumne mujhpar vishwas nahin kiya hota tho shayad aaj main jail mein hi rehta," he turned around at Aradhana, "thanks didi….I know I have given you enough grief in your life, par yeh aapka badappan hai jo aapne sach ka saath diya, warna aap chaahti tho mujhey jail mein hi sadhne de sakti thi. I was blind that I never appreciated how wonderful both you sisters are. I hope you will both forgive me for my past mistakes."



"Abhimanyu," Riddhima looked up at him and then held his hand along with Jiya's. She interlocked both their hands and smiled, "please take care of Jiya and her faith in you. That's all I ask from you." She let go of their hands and gave a hug to Jiya, "wish you a long and happy married life."



"Hello! Hello!" Muskaan cleared her throat, "aren't we all getting a little senti here? This looks like a scene from a K-serial now. We are all one big happy family, even if a bit dysfunctional," she winked at Rahul, "but as long as we are there for each other, that's what matters."



"Muskaan…tumne bilkul sahi kaha," Padma embraced her youngest daughter-in-law, "Armaan's injury has definitely tested our commitment and our unity as a family. Kya hua agar hum sab saath na rahein tho, dil tho hamesha saath rahenge."





"Chalo guys, let's start preparing for the big wedding…we don't have much time!" Anjali spoke up.



"Haan, mujhey Armaan chacha ke saath ghodi par baithna hai," little Kavya climbed on the bed and landed on his favorite chacha's lap, "aur meri favorite chachi ko wapas ghar laana hai," he gave a flying kiss to Riddhima. Riddhima bent down and kissed Kavya, "badmaash…ab tho teri teen teen chaachiyan hain."



"Lekin aap phir bhi sabse favorite rahogi," Kavya gave a hug to Riddhima.



Everyone let out a chuckle and was finally at ease as tensions between different family members were showing signs of fading in the aftermath of a near fatal incident. Even if it was not perfect harmony, it was perfect enough for all of them.



"Tho shaadi kab ki hai bhai?" Atul asked.



"Doctors have advised at least 4 weeks of rest," Armaan sulked, "so I guess Mrs. Malik will have to wait a month before she can be official." He grinned at her as she gave him a dirty look.



The family members, except Rahul and Muskaan bid them goodbye for the day and departed to their respective destinations.

"Four weeks?" Rahul finally asked after everyone left, "why so long? Shaadi par koi football thode hi khelna hai?"



"Stupid!" Muskaan elbowed her nave husband and winked at Armaan, "football nahin tho baaki 'sab kuch' tho khelna hoga Armaan ko."



Riddhima wanted to bury herself in some obscure corner as Muskaan joined Armaan in the who-can-embarrass-Riddhima-more-game.



"Absolutely!" Armaan laughed and pulled Riddhima into his lap, "after all Mrs. Malik deserves a befitting suhaag raat. That's the least her wounded husband can do for her."



Riddhima buried her face in Armaan's chest as Rahul and Muskaan left the two love birds to enjoy their few moments of bliss before everyone was back again the next morning.



"Badmaash! Sab ke saamne, kitna embarrass kar rahe the mujhey," she looked up with a cross expression, "aur yeh baar baar Mrs. Malik…Mrs. Malik kya laga rakhi hai?"



"Ek tho chori…aur uspar seena jori?" He crushed her in his arms, "Mrs. Malik ban ne ka shauk mujhey nahin hai madam…aapko hi hai…I am just trying to help here dear."



"Suhaag raat ki baat baar baar kyun kar rahe the?" She pounded his chest with her fists.



"Because suhaag raat is the only reason why two people endure that long and boring wedding ceremony….it's like the pot of honey at the end of a rainbow," he whispered into her ears, "and I will make sure that this is the sweetest pot of honey you have ever tasted."



"But I have already tasted that pot of honey," she whispered shyly.



"This will be sweeter than the sweetest…I promise," he bent down and kissed her lips gently, "mmm…I missed these honey laden petals."



"You were unconscious….how could you miss them?" She wiped her lips and gave him an incredulous look.



"Why do you think I was desperate to wake up?" He bent down again and this time savored an extended version of her intoxicating lips.



………………………………………………………………



THREE WEEKS LATER:



Armaan was fit and back in action before the D-day. Although, he stayed at Naina auntie's house, at one pretext or another, he would drop in at Ranikhet where Riddhima was buried in tons of work. Aradhana had stayed back to help her sister with some of the workload. She had no desire to go back to Dehradun where unpleasant memories of her husband would haunt her. Naina auntie, Padma and Muskaan  stayed back to make other arrangements for the wedding.



One day, Armaan walked into Ashirwaad along with a surprise guest.



"Knock! Knock! Look who is here?" Armaan announced his arrival.



"YUVRAAJ!" Riddhima got up from her desk, excited to see her estranged friend after a long time.



"Hi Riddhima," Yuvraaj came forward hesitantly, "h-how are you managing here?"



"I am fine Yuvraaj. I have a lot of help," she looked at Aradhana who was busy typing something on the computer. Aradhana paused and stood up to greet Yuvraaj.



"I am glad everything is fine here," he kept his gaze away from Riddhima.



"It's not, Yuvraaj," she touched his arm, "it can't be normal because you have not visited Ashirwaad in so long. The kids miss you."



"I miss them too," Yuvraaj replied softly, "Riddhima…I am sorry…I never intended to hurt you or Armaan."



"I know Yuvraaj. You have always been a true friend. Galti meri hai jo maine tum par shaq kiya. I betrayed our friendship- not you."



"No Riddhima…I had no idea buaji had planned all this….I wish I had known….tumhein aur Armaan ko kitna kasht sehna padha," Yuvraaj was apologetic, "I hope I can make up for my bua's evil deed."



"Yes you can buddy!" Armaan placed an arm around Yuvraaj.



"How?" Yuvraaj was puzzled.



"By being our best friend forever….and being there at our wedding to give away Riddhima….aakhir Riddhima ka tumhare aur Aradhana didi ke siva kaun hai duniya mein?" Armaan's eyes became moist as he said that.



"That would be my pleasure," Yuvraaj smiled tearfully, "that's the least I can do for Riddhima."



"Thanks Yuvraaj," Riddhima touched his arm again, "I have always been lucky with friends."



"Just family that's not been that lucky for us, Riddhima," Aradhana became a bit emotional.



"No didi," Riddhima reassured her sister, "we control our own destinies, not our families or friends."



Aradhana knew her sister was right- she had to take charge of her own destiny- a lesson she would have to learn from her younger sister.



"Aradhana jee…I am sorry about your husband," Yuvraaj apologized.



"Yuvraaj….as Riddhima said, we are all responsible for our own destinies…Shailendra will pay for his own deeds. Mera us aadmi se ab koi lena dena nahin hai…khair…meri train ka time ho raha hai…I need to go to Dehradun to pack my belongings. I have decided to move to Ranikhet and will work here at Ashirwaad with my sister from now on." Aradhana replied.



Riddhima gave Aradhana a big hug, "jaldi aana didi….I will wait for you."



"Of course…ab tho shaadi mein bhi 1 hafta reh gaye hain…I will be back before you blink."



"Aaiye Aradhana jee…I will drop you off at the station," Yuvraaj offered.



"Thanks Yuvraaj," Armaan shook hands with Yuvraaj and watched him leave with Aradhana, "what do you think about them?"



"Them?" Riddhima asked quizzically, "what about them?"



"Them as a couple…like you and I?"



"A couple? Lekin didi is older than Yuvraaj."



"So what? Jab dil mil jaayein tho age or conventions se kya lena dena?" Armaan folded his arms, "after all we broke all conventions too…didn't we?" he came closer and circled his arms around her waist, "imagine if we had stuck to traditions, rituals and conventions, we would not be here like this."



"I agree," she smiled and circled her arms around his neck, "lekin," she whispered, "tumhare bina ab dil nahin lagta….din raat sirf tumhare saath rehne ko dil karta hai….I can't wait for this week to be over."



"Me too," he smiled and kissed her forehead, "this has got to be the longest rainbow in history….the pot of honey is too far right now….why don't we get a preview of the pot at your place?"



"DHATT!" She pushed him away, "no way Armaan! You haven't even recovered completely. Go home and rest because I want a fit and raging bull next week. No hanky panky before marriage samjhe?""



"Hey….that's not fair…..sau choohe khaakar billi haj ko chali?" He chuckled.



"Yes, this billi needs to follow some rules now….go home and let me take care of my work. Muskaan will be here soon. We both have to go shopping then. Please go now!" She pulled away from him.



"Why? Is my presence that distracting to you?" He pinned her against the wall, "ab tho main bilkul nahin jaaunga! Yahin rahoonga….dekhta hoon kaam kaise karti ho?"



"ARMAAN!" She turned her face away from him; his piercing gaze and toxic warmth were weakening her resolve, "bilkul nahin hoga….tum mujhey bilkul naalayak bana do ge Armaan."



"Waise hi jaise tumne sabko pagal banaa rakha hai?" He grinned and removed the tendrils from her forehead, "it's not your fault. Any man would be crazy for you Riddhima. Ab dekho na…Abhimanyu aadha pagal ho chuka hai….Yuvraaj bhi deewana sa ho gaya hai…..why do you do this to all us men Riddhima?"



"Aur tum?" She gazed into his eyes, "tum kitne pagal ho?"



"Poora ka poora pagal hoon….brain surgery ke baad bhi akal nahin aayi hai mujhey," he came closer and kissed her neck, "in fact, the surgery has made me crazier….and the best part is I don't want to change that," he lifted his lips and bent down to kiss the hollow between her collar bones, sending her emotions in a frenzy, "I will always be crazy about you Riddhima…..even when you are a ninety year old toothless, wrinkled, gray haired old lady with cataracts in both eyes and hearing aids in both ears."



"ARMAAN!" She burst out laughing, "tum bhi na….sach much pagal ho gaye ho brain surgery ke baad….kahin tumhara brain transplant tho nahin kar diya Dr Pathak ne?" She pushed him away and ran out of her office into the sprawling back yard of the institution.



Armaan followed her and yelled, "dil transplant tho nahin kiya na?"



dil leke dard-e-dil de gaye hmm...

dil leke dard-e-dil de gaye,

tum jaan jaan kehake meri jaan le gaye

hey hey hamse hamaari pehchaan le gaye - (2)

tum jaan jaan kehake meri jaan le gaye



humne toh socha na tha, tum yuun kareeb aaoge

jaane yuun anjaane mein, tum mere ban jaaoge

tune chhede taar dil ke (aa chale hum saath milake -2) mere sanam

tum dil se khaabon ka jahaan le gaye ho o o o

hamse hamaari pehchan le gaye, tum jaan jaan kehake meri jaan le gaye



teri muhabbat mein hum, had se gujarane lage

khud ko toh roka bahot hmm par tujhape marane lage

aa tujhe main dil mein rakh loon

dhadkano mein kaid kar loon -2 mere sanam

tum dil se khaabon ka jahaan le gaye - (2)

tum jaan jaan kehake meri jaan le gaye

dil leke dard-e-dil de gaye, tum jaan jaan kehake meri jaan le gaye


…………to be contd……
wedding, suhaag raat, honeymoon and conclusion……………

Bheegi

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