Friday, 3 August 2018

part 5 : To Err is Human

"Armaan…..tune apne chicken ka keema banaa diya hai," Angad stared at the shreds on Armaan's plate. Instead of eating, Armaan's gaze was frozen on Riddhima and Rahul having a great time on a table across from them. With his fork and knife, he had battered the food on his plate into an unrecognizable mish-mash.

"Yeh soch le….main Raoool ke tukde tukde kar raha hoon!" Armaan clenched his jaws angrily.

"Mujhey bhookha rehnaa pasand nahin hai yaar….let's eat man," Angad elbowed Armaan. Unlike Armaan, Angad preferred to keep his gaze away from Kripa and Prithvi at the other table. For some reason, he was not jealous the way Armaan was. After his conversation with Dr Keerti, he felt a strange sense of 'ownership' over Kripa- as if she was destined to be with him rather than Prithvi. Even though, he hated her guts and ideology, he felt she 'belonged' to him, so it did not matter if Prithvi hung around with her 24/7- Prithvi could never become hers- Angad was convinced.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…AND NOW FOR OUR AWARDS FOR THE NIGHT…" Josh came back to the mike and announced.

As was expected, Riddhima-Rahul won the 'best western dance couple' and Kripa-Prithvi won the 'best Indian dance couple'

The whole room, except two men applauded for the wonderful pairs. Armaan had decimated the cake on his desert plate as Rahul and Riddhima were awarded their trophy. Angad just sat with a half-mocking smile staring at the ceiling when Kripa and Prithvi were bestowed with their trophy. Kripa's keen eye caught the expression on Angad's indifferent and smug expression. More than her trophy, her coup over Angad's self-important attitude gave her the satisfaction that evening.

Both Riddhima and Kripa were happy for each other. The pride on her dad's face was enough of a reward for Riddhima. Kripa saw her victory as an auspicious start to her career.

Both Rahul and Prithvi were in seventh heaven. Rahul, because he had achieved recognition at the SMI. That should definitely give him an edge over the other interns. The professors would give him more attention now he thought.

Prithvi was happy to please Kripa and the other interns of his batch. Now everyone would respect him instead of ridiculing him as was usually the case in his school and college days in Calcutta. He had always tried to please everyone in school and Medical College but most people ignored him for his shyness and ultra sensitive behavior. But tonight, as far as he could tell, everyone was clapping for him. His glance paused at Angad- why was he not clapping? Prithvi lowered his head in dejection. Angad was going to be his partner for the remaining year, so why was he not applauding? Was Angad going to be like the other boys in his school-the ones who always mocked at him and made fun of him? It was strange, how one person could take the joy away from Prithvi's glory in a second!

Ranbir Kapoor and the two Hyderabadi girls, Ouma and Hinna were awarded the best dressed interns for the evening.

The interns, doctors and staff finally dispersed for the evening. Everyone was anxious about the early morning start to their new life and hurried back to their hostels.

The hostels were in the same campus as the banquet hall, so most interns decided to walk back. Rahul and Prithvi offered to escort Riddhima and Kripa.

Armaan pulled out is jazzy red sports car from the parking lot as Angad hopped into the passenger seat.

"How can they do that Angad?" Armaan looked furious when he noticed the foursome walking ahead of them.

"Chal unhein lift dete hain…..teri car se impress ho jaayengi," Angad buckled himself and admired the rich interiors of the imported car. The thick fragrance of the new leather gave him a high as he imagined himself driving one of these when he was a rich doctor.

Armaan zoomed off and came to a screeching halt near the four pedestrians.

"Wanna ride?" Armaan flashed his most friendly smile at them, "aakhir aaj shaam ke superstars ko paidal chalte achcha nahin lag raha."

Riddhima glared at his flashy car, "no thanks…..we are fine…..we don't need any special privileges."

"Arre…arre Riddhimajee…..aap baat baat par naaraaz kyun ho jaati hain…..ab tho hum sab ko ek saath kaam karna hain… why not end all the bitterness and start out as friends… will just make it easy for all of us to work together….kyun Raoool?" Armaan smiled sardonically at his competitor. Kripa and Riddhima looked at each other, wondering what had prompted the overt gesture of friendship from the two obnoxious men?

"Uh…sure….why not?" Rahul liked the idea of getting a ride instead of walking 5 blocks with the women. As it is all the dancing had made him tired, and the women were not the fastest walkers in their high heels. Rahul wanted to go to bed early so he could be fresh the next day. He wanted to wake up early and do some reading before the day so he could impress the senior doctors. Prithvi nodded, "yes…we would love to be your friends." Silently, he was hoping Angad would become friends with him too.

Armaan got off with a friendly smile and opened the door politely, "ladies first."

Riddhima and Kripa were hesitant. They were in no mood to take any obligations from the two men, "NAHIN…HUM WALK KARENGE!" All four men were disappointed for various reasons and had no choice but to obey the women.

"Jaisi aapki marzi," a nonchalant Armaan shut the door and accelerated the car. He revved up the engine loudly and a blast of smoke from the exhaust choked Riddhima and Kripa behind his car.

"IDIOT!" Riddhima yelled. Armaan heard the remark and halted the car at a distance. He turned off the headlights so the car was not visible in the dark and dimly lit street of the SMI campus. He took out a tennis ball from a bag and opened the door. Gently he rolled the tennis ball on the road aiming for Riddhima's foot.

"Kya kar raha hai Armaan?" Angad was baffled.

"I am a bowling champion buddy…..ab dekh……mera nishaana theek jagah jaata hai ya nahin."

The men watched the women in their beautiful outfits getting closer as Rahul and Prithvi chatted with them.

"AHHH!!!!" as per Armaan's plan, Riddhima's foot stepped on the rolling tennis ball and she stumbled badly. If it were not for Kripa's quick reflexes, Riddhima would have landed on the road. Kripa caught hold of her friend but Riddhima had already twisted her foot on the ball.

As Riddhima limped back on the street, the red car appeared from nowhere.

"Kya hua Riddhima jee?" an innocent looking Armaan popped his head out of his car.

"She lost her balance…..someone had left a tennis ball on the street," Kripa replied.

"That is very sad….wo tho achcha hua Angad kuch bhool gaya tha….iss liye humein wapas aana padhaa," Armaan lied through his teeth, "waise….aapke dad ko campus ka dhyaan dena chaahiye….aise kaise tennis balls padhi rehti hain street par?" Armaan got off and tried to give Riddhima a hand.

"This is not my dad's responsibility!" Riddhima snapped, "this is the cleaning crew's job!"

"Par responsibility tho Chief ki hi hoti haina?" Armaan batted his eyelids sympathetically.

"Just keep my dad out of this Armaan!" Riddhima winced in pain and inadvertently placed her hand in Armaan's outstretched palm. The moment their palms touched, a shiver ran down Riddhima's spine. She felt as if a current had surged through her body at that instant. Quickly, she withdrew her hand and placed it on Kripa's shoulder.

Armaan smiled as the flush on Riddhima's face did not escape his gaze. He patted himself on the back for making her react to his touch. He thanked the tennis ball lying on the street curb- a small green ball had given him the happiest moment of the day.

The women had no choice but to take the offer. Angad stepped out and held the car door open for the women. Armaan insisted on helping a reluctant Riddhima settle down in the backseat. As soon as the women got in, Armaan shut the door. A startled Rahul and Prithvi stared at the door.

"Sorry….this car can hold 4 people only…..aap dono ke liye jagah nahin hai!" Armaan smirked and jumped back into the car, leaving a puff of exhaust on Rahul and Prithvi's faces as he zoomed off towards the girl's hostel.

"Rahul? Prithvi?" the girls exclaimed as they tried to hold onto their seats as Armaan drove like a maniac.

"They are adults….they can take care of themselves," Angad looked behind and grinned at the girls.

"Par…par….wo bhi tho aa sakte the hamare saath," Kripa protested and tried to look for Prithvi through the back window.

"We can go back if you want…lekin unhein aap logon ki godh mein baithna padhega," Armaan tried to suppress his laughter.

"NO WAY!" the women replied and looked around at their seat. Armaan was right- this car could not hold so many people.

"Koi baat nahin Kripa…..Rahul and Prithvi are gentlemen…..they will understand," Riddhima gave Armaan a dirty look in his rear view mirror. Armaan rolled his tongue and smiled at her in the rearview mirror, "gentlemen? Or leaches?"

"Mind your language Armaan!" Riddhima shot back, "Rahul and Prithvi are the sweetest men we have met."

Angad turned back at that comment and grinned, "aap log tho doctor hain……jaanti hongi ki zyaada sweetness health ke liye achchi nahin hai…..kadvi dawaa se hi ilaaj hota hai….. meethi cheezien sirf zubaan ko bhaati hain…..zehen ko nahin!"

….to be contd…


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