Saturday, 4 August 2018

part 6: To Err is Human

RECAP: 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!"


Kripa was aware that comment was obviously directed at her. She snapped back, "par meethi zubaan ka rishta seedha dil se hota hai Dr Angad Khanna…..aur jis insaan ke dil mein bhi kadvaahat chupi ho…..woh insaan kehlaane laayak nahin hai."



A red faced Angad was rendered word less by her retort. She had a way of irking the inner most and hidden corners of his heart; the doors to which had been shut to everyone a long time ago. As if 'gunda' was not enough of a superlative she had used to describe him, a 'heartless' and a 'non-human being' added salt to his wounds she had been inflicting all day. Why did it matter to him what she thought of him, he asked himself again and settled back into his seat.





Armaan's car roared along the quiet streets of the campus. Riddhima cringed each time he accelerated or braked ferociously, "ARMAAN….YEH KOI RACING ARENA NAHIN HAI! This is a hospital campus….there are sick people here…..thoda aaraam se car nahin chalaa sakte?"


"Riddhima jee….yeh tho aaraam se hi chalaa raha hoon main…..aap chaahein tho mere saath racing arena bhi chal sakti hain…..I have always wanted to be a race car driver…..chalengi?" Armaan quipped.



Riddhima's sprained ankle was throbbing now and she was in no mood to engage in an inane conversation with Armaan, "NO THANKS!" She removed her sandal and massaged her foot gently.



"Bahut dard ho raha hai?" Kripa asked. Riddhima nodded in pain. Armaan saw the grimace on Riddhima's face and for the first time since he had met her, felt sorry for her. He did not know why but he almost felt guilty about putting her through the pain. He gave her a tender look in his rear view mirror but remained quiet. Instead, he slowed down the speed of the car as an apologetic gesture. As Riddhima tried to get comfortable on her seat, her foot accidentally touched a bag on the floor of the car. She bent down to move the bag away but was shocked when she felt the contents of the bag- TENNIS BALLS!



"YOU RASCAL!" Riddhima yelled and threw a bunch of tennis balls towards the driver's seat, "Tho yeh sab tumhari chaal thi…..mere dad ko badnaam kar rahe the!"



'Arre….arre….yeh kya kar rahi ho Riddhima?" Angad swatted the balls away so his friend could keep driving. Kripa could not believe that these men could stoop so low just to attract attention.



"STOP THE CAR!" Kripa hollered, "I SAID STOP THE CAR!"



All their protests fell on deaf ears as Armaan kept driving patiently. He held onto the steering wheel with all his force, trying to avoid reacting to the women's wrath. He knew that Riddhima was in pain and stopping now meant she would have to walk a few blocks to get to the hostel.


The car came to a halt in front of the women's hostel.


Armaan got off silently and opened the door for Riddhima. Riddhima refused to take his outstretched hand in help; instead she supported herself against the car door and stepped out in fury.



A patient Armaan forced a smile and said, "Can I give you a hand to your room?"


"NO THANKS! TUM PEHLE HI BAHUT KUCH KAR CHUKE HO!"



"Waise car ride kaisi lagi aapko?" Armaan deflected her stinging remarks by engaging in polite talk.

"Aaj ke baad main kabhie tumhari car mein nahin jaaoongi! Main kya…meri jooti bhi nahin jaayegi!" Riddhima limped away towards the hostel gate with her hand on Kripa's shoulder.


The men exchanged glances and shrugged their shoulders, "neki ka zamaana nahin hai yaar….neki kar….kooyein mein daal!" Angad grinned and sat back in the car.


Armaan was about to shut the backdoor when he noticed something. He let out a wry grin and looked back at the women, "RIDDHIMA!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. An aghast Riddhima stopped and looked back, "ab kya chaahiye isey?'



Armaan held her sandals in the air dangling from his fingers, "shayad aapki jooti meri car mein hi rehna chaahti hai."



An embarrassed Riddhima could just fumble for words. Before the women could walk back to the car, Armaan ran with her sandals and handed them to Kripa, "apni saheli se kahiye ki jaldi mein koi decision na liyaa kare…..lagta hai Riddhima se zyaada inki sandals samajhdaar hain," he winked at Riddhima and ran back to the car. The women were exhausted, angry, humiliated and slighted. These two men were going to be like thorns in their lives. How were they expected to focus on their careers with them hovering around like irritating bugs around them? They walked into the hostel, mentally trying to come up with solutions to tackle them the next day.



Armaan and Angad laughed all the way back to their hostel.



"Yaar…ek baat tho hai….unka gussa jaayaz tha……aakhir wo tennis ball se bachari ke pair mein chhot aa gayi Armaan," Angad placed his arm around his friend as they walked back to their rooms.



"Everything is fair in love and war!" Armaan twirled his keys on his finger and laughed.


"So is this love or war?" Angad raised an eyebrow.

Armaan halted in his steps and scratched his forehead with his car keys, "boss…iska faisla tho waqt hi bataayega," and walked into his room, "Goodnight boss…as the girls would say….sweet dreams…."


Angad chuckled back and waved at his friend and thought, "waqt nahin….main hi bataa sakta hoon Armaan…..tu tho gaya kaam se…..this is just love….and the war to conquer love!"




Back in the women's hostel, Kripa gave Riddhima some pain pills and wrapped her foot in an ace wrap to reduce the swelling, "ab so jaao Riddhima…kal jaldi hospital jaana hai….morning mein main tumhare papa se keh kar tumhari car mangwaa loon?"



"Nahin Kripa….I will be fine….main papa ko choti choti baaton ke liyr pareshaan nahin karna chaahti…….worst case….we will take a scootie…Thanks a lot……and …..Goodnight…and sweet dreams," Riddhima smiled and waved at her friend. Kripa waved back and was about to leave when she saw her reflection in the mirror, "MERA JHUMKA?"


"Oh…you are right….tumhara ek jhumka missing hai….dekho yahin kahin hoga," Riddhima looked around.


The women searched everywhere but could not find her missing jhumka.



An almost tearful Kripa trembled at the thought of her mom's favorite jhumka, "yeh meri maa ka khaas jhumka hai…..main hi zidd karke le aayi thi…..ab maa bahut naaraaz hogi mujhsey."



"Don't worry Kripa…mil jaayega….kahin banquet hall mein tho nahin reh gaya?" Riddhima wondered.


"Hey bhagwan…ab itni raat wahan kaise jaayein?"



"Kal subah dhoond lenge," Riddhima reassured her.


Kripa gave a half hearted nod as she did not want to bother Riddhima anymore, "theek hai….goodnight." She shut her door gently and headed for the phone. She knew there was one person at the SMI who could help.


BACK AT THE MEN's HOSTEL…..



"PRITHVI BOSE…PHONE FOR YOU!" the warden knocked on Prithvi's door. A sleepy looking Prithvi stepped out into the hallway and headed for the phone in the common room of the hostel. Prithvi did not notice Angad flipping through a magazine on a sofa next to the phone. Angad was a night owl and after bidding good night to Armaan had decided to check his bearings in the hostel. He had just settled in the common room when Prithvi walked in to answer the late night call.




"Hello!" Prithvi rubbed his bleary eyes, "Kripa?" He was jolted out from his slumber when he heard her sweet voice on the other end. Angad flinched as soon as he heard the name on Prithvi's lips. So far, he had not seen Prithvi as a threat but a phone call from Kripa at this late hour had suddenly made him a little insecure about his nonchalance.




"Tumhara jhumka? Nahin mere kurte mein tho nahin hai…..nahin yaad nahin mujhey…..ho sakta hai dance karte waqt nikal gaya ho……main abhi jaata hoon….nahin nahin….don't worry….i will go back to the banquet hall…..kal safai waale aa jaayenge wahan….main abhi jaata hoon Kripa….abhi…bas abhi." Prithvi hung the phone and felt elated at being asked to help by none other than Kripa!




Angad felt his body tensing up now. He threw the magazine on the table and startled Prithvi with his towering presence.



'Angad tum? Oh God…darr gaya tha main," Prithvi heaved a sigh.



"Darpok ho kya?" Angad mocked at him



"Nahin ….nahin…aisi baat nahin hai….itni raat koi yahan hoga…..uski umeed nahin thi….I need to go somewhere," Prithvi excused himself.




"Raat ke baara baje ek ladki ka jhumka dhoondne jaa rahe ho?" Angad asked mockingly.



"Haan…haan…wo Kripa ka jhumka shayad dance karte time gir gaya tha….main abi jaata hoon."



"Chalo achcha hai….in ladkiyon ne aate hi apne chamche dhoond liye hain…..jo unke aage peeche kutte ki tarah dum hilaate huye ghoomte rahenge!" Angad sneered at Prithvi.




Prithvi turned red at Angad's taunt, "arre …aisi koi baat nahin Angad….after all we all are friends here…..tum bhi mere dost ho…..Kripa bhi….i am just helping a friend."



"Theek hai…..jao kooyein mein kood jao!" Angad folded his arms and blocked the doorway.



"Angad? Yeh…yeh kaisi baat kar rahe ho?" Prithvi shivered.



"Mein bhi tho dost hoon tumhara…..I want you to jump into a well….will you do that for me?" Angad stared at Prithvi's flushed face.


"If…if that is what will make you ha….happy….I..I….will do it," Prithvi looked away, unable to meet Angad's intense gaze.



Angad stepped away from the doorway in disbelief. With a broad grin on his face, he patted Prithvi's shoulder, "dost….aaj mood nahin hai…..waqt aane par tumsey yeh favor bhi maang loonga….GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR JHUMKA…AND YOUR JHUMKA WAALI!" He almost pushed Prithvi out of the common room and laughed. Prithvi looked behind at Angad's crooked smile and wondered whether Angad was being nice to him or teasing him. Was Angad going to ridicule him about the jhumka the rest of the Internship year?



"Angad…please don't tell anyone about this," Prithvi requested softly, "kahin sab meri mazaak na udhaayein…..ki ek jhumke ke liye…..main raat ko…"



A baffled Angad lifted his eyebrow and then understood what Prithvi meant. Prithvi was one of those men who wanted to be liked by everyone and even though he was a helpful and good soul, he did not want to be seen as someone who wagged his tail at another person's command.




"Don't worry man! Go impress your friend…..my lips are sealed!" Angad winked at him and walked away. Just as Angad unlatched his room door, the scene outside the banquet hall after the party flashed like a movie in front of his eyes……

…….the interns walking out in groups ……
…….most of them chose to walk towards their hostels…..
…….Armaan and Angad headed for the car……
…….Kripa and Riddhima accompanied Prithvi and Rahul…..
…….Kripa….of course she was wearing both her jhumkas at that moment!


It was interesting that Angad remembered each detail about Kripa vividly even though she had been far away from their car. When she had walked out hand in hand with Riddhima, she had tilted her head just slightly and laughed at some common joke the women were sharing at that moment….her jhumkas had dangled gently like a wind chime on her long and beautiful neck. Angad shook his head to clear his mind but could not get that sensuous sight out of his mind. He remembered how he had wished at that moment that he was the jhumka brushing against her neck. That meant that her jhumkas were not INSIDE but OUTSIDE the banquet hall--so Prithvi's trip to the banquet hall would be futile.


Angad was in two minds- should he stop Prithvi and tell him to look on the streets instead, or should he rescue the jhumka for Kripa?



Angad knew what he had to do. It was not a cold and calculated decision but an impulsive one- a decision made by his heart at that very instant. He ran to Armaan's room and banged at his door, "I need you car keys man!" He demanded.


"Itni raat ko?" Armaan was surprised but obliged without asking any questions. It had been only 24 hours since the two men had met, but the level of trust that they had developed in such a short time reflected the bond that they had formed.



"Yeh le…..meri car stick shift hai…..5 gears!" Armaan threw his keys at Angad and did not ask him any more questions.




"Thanks boss!" Angad ran towards Armaan's car and searched the backseats thoroughly. He recalled how Kripa had saved Riddhima from falling after the tennis ball accident, "Hmmm…I bet tabhie gira hoga jhumka." Angad backed the car and was on the streets in no time. He remembered the spot where the accident had taken place and halted the car.




"If my guess is right….…yahin kahin hona chaahiye," he stepped out and kneeled on the empty street; the headlights of the car worked in his favor. His hardships early in life had taught him how to pick a needle from a haystack, so a lost jhumka was a much easier proposition.


BINGO! There it was- lying in the grass beside the quiet street. Angad picked the dainty piece of jewelry carefully and admired the intricate designs of the jewelry, "waise mujhey lagta hai….yeh ladki bhi is jhumke ki tarah andar se bahut naazuk or komal hai….bas bahar se sakht lagti hai." He smiled triumphantly and glanced at the banquet hall at a distance. Should he go and rescue Prithvi from the hall? NAAA!! He thought and swiftly drove off with the jhumka in his shirt pocket.




NEXT DAY:



A red sports car waited outside the women's hostel early next morning. All the interns and other residents hurried out the gates of the hostel and were surprised to see the new handsome intern sitting on the hood of the car. His buddy had decided to leave early for some 'important work' at the hospital and did not accompany him that morning.



"Hi Armaan," Anjali waved, "waiting for someone?" Anjali remembered Armaan from the previous day. Despite his notoriety on the first day, Anjali had quiet liked this young blue eyed intern. How she wished to get a ride from him but she was quick to tell that Armaan's eyes were searching for someone else.



"Oh…wo….well….Riddhima sprained her foot last night…she asked me to pick her up," Armaan waved back and lied as usual.



"Oh..I see," a disappointed Anjali walked off and thought, "some girls have all the luck….daughter of the Chief…..the nicest intern as her best friend……first prize in the dance competition……and the most eligible bachelor waiting on her." She sighed and resigned to her fate as she looked forward to the new day.



Armaan spotted Riddhima and Kripa gradually treading towards the gate in their crisp salwaar suits and for a change -flat sandals.



"Good morning ladies!" Armaan slipped off the hood and brushed his hands.



Riddhima and Kripa froze at the sight of the car and it's owner. They took a deep breath and resumed walking towards the hospital. Riddhima rested her hand on Kripa's shoulder and limped as fast as she could.



"Riddhima jee….Riddhima jee," Armaan ran after them, "please….let me give you a ride…..I promise I will behave myself…..no more pangas…..aaj se hum sab dost hain…..promise….please….aap log mere saath chaliye….I am really sorry for what I did last night…..aaj ke baad kabhie nahin karoonga….promise!"




"SCOOTER!" Riddhima hollered at a three wheeler, "humein main hospital tak pahunchaa dee jiye," she ignored Armaan's pleads and pulled Kripa with her on the back seat of the auto rickshaw.



"RIDDHIMA! RIDDHIMA!" Armaan yelled behind them but had to satisfy himself with the black soot blowing from the exhaust of the auto rickshaw, "bahut ziddi hain yeh dono…..Armaan….bahut papad belne honge tujhey…..dad theek hi kehte the…..Internship at the SMI will really test your endurance and patience….dad you were right!" He slapped the back of his head and walked dejectedly to his car.



LOCKER ROOM AT THE HOSPITAL:


Angad had been working on the lock since early morning. "Lagta yeh swiss bank ka locker hai….itni problem tho aaj tak kisi lock ko kholne mein nahin huyi." He took out a bunch of old keys and his Swiss army knife to work on the lock. He heard some voices in the hallway approaching the locker room. Angad ran to his own locker and hid behind the door, pretending to be busy with his own belongings. A group of new interns walked in, chatted for a few minutes, exchanged pleasantries with him and nervously walked out in their new lab coats and stethoscopes around their necks.



Angad heaved a sigh of relief and resumed his work on the other locker.


"CHOR!" Angad had never been startled in his life before but was relieved to see it was only Armaan.



"Oh thank god tu hai."


"Tho yeh tha important work?" Armaan grinned, "kya chupa raha hai uske locker mein…..ya chura raha hai?"



"Shut up Armaan….kaam karne de mujhey….aur darwaaze par khada ho jaa…..koi aaye tho mujhey bataana…theek hai?" Angad pushed Armaan towards the door to the locker room.



"Lekin…lekin….kar kya raha hai tu?" Armaan was curious, "aur wo bhi Kripa ke locker mein."


"KHUL GAYA!" Angad exclaimed and quickly transferred her jhumka from his pocket into her locker.



"WAA-OON! WAA-OON! WAA-OON!" Armaan imitated an ambulance siren hinting at the emergencies about to walk in.



Angad smiled at the mission accomplished and gave Armaan a back slap, "kaam ho gaya…..ab emergency aaye ya jaaye….let's go man."



Armaan glanced at Angad, "you owe me one buddy!"



"Promise!" Angad punched his friend's chest playfully, "you scratch my back…..I scratch yours…bataa kya karna hai?"



"Riddhima ke liye hallway se wheel chair liya please……I think she needs it….bechari poora din kaise hospital mein kaam karegi? See how she is limping."



"Bechari?" Angad smiled and ran out to get the wheel chair. On his way, he bumped into Prithvi, Kripa and Riddhima.



"I am sorry Kripa…tumhara jhumka kahin nahin mila…..sab jagah dhoonda maine," an apologetic Prithvi hushed his voice when he saw Angad approaching. Kripa stiffened at his sight but was surprised to see Angad rush past them into the hallway. Kripa was half expecting him to stop and seek attention in his usual obnoxious manner. She walked into the locker room silently without paying attention to Prithvi's apologies. In her mind, she had already written off the jhumka and had decided to replace it with her first internship stipend.



Kripa walked towards her locker without noticing Armaan holding the door for them. Riddhima glared at Armaan but there was something so pitiful about his expression that she actually sensed a heartfelt regret in his eyes. Her gaze softened as she softly nodded, "thanks."



"It's my pleasure," Armaan held onto the door and grabbed the wheel chair Angad had just wheeled in.



"Riddhima jee," Armaan called her from behind as she unlocked her locker. Riddhima turned her head but remained silent.



"I hope you don't misunderstand me……but we have a long day ahead of us…..please feel free to use this wheel chair….aur main jaanta hoon aap mujhey push nahin karne dengi….Rahul is with us….he can help you go around the hospital."




Riddhima looked behind at Armaan's earnest expression with the wheel chair in his hands. She was touched by his gesture and felt Armaan really felt sorry for her accident, "Thanks Armaan…..I am OK….the sprain is not that bad……I will manage….i don't need the wheel chair."




"Theek hai….I will walk with the wheel chair……aap jab thak jaayein……just ask for it…..bandaa haazir ho jaayega," Armaan smiled. Riddhima smiled back and nodded, "thanks." She could not help noticing that Armaan had quite a charming smile, and if his display of regret and apology was indeed honest, it was rather endearing.



"MERA JHUMKA!" Everyone turned as Kripa exclaimed, "yeh yahan kaise aaya?"



Prithvi frowned and walked towards Kripa, "yeh…yeh kahan se aaya?"



Kripa hugged her lost jhumka and shuddered, "chor!….Yahan koi aisa chor bhi hai jisney mere locker mein yeh rakh diya?" Her ambivalent mind could not decide whether she should be happy about her jhumka or upset at someone breaching her privacy.



"CHOR?" Riddhima was stunned, "is hospital mein chor?"



After shooting a fleeting glance at Angad, Armaan smiled at both women, "ladies….yeh tho chori ki shuruat hai……kahin aisa na ho chor aap logon ki sabse keemti cheez hi chura le jaaye." Armaan placed an arm around a smiling Angad and walked out of the locker room.



"Keemti cheez?" Angad asked once they were outside.



"Uska dil," Armaan winked at his friend.
Angad turned red at that comment, "main samjhaa nahin boss."



"Samajh jaayega ek din……tuney tho uske locker ka taala thoda hai abhi……but she has already unlocked the door to your heart buddy!" Armaan slapped his friend's back and laughed as they walked towards the main hospital lobby. Angad just rolled his eyes but deep inside acknowledged that there was perhaps some truth to Armaan's statement.


"Kripa….what did he mean?" Back in the locker room, Riddhima asked as she pondered over Armaan's statement.



"Just their usual nonsense." Kripa placed her stethoscope around her neck and walked out with her book and white coat, "I know who did it!"




"Nahin maine nahin kiya Kripa!" Prithvi ran after her.



"Jaanti hoon Prithvi…..tum aisa kaam kabhie nahin kar sakte…..yeh kaam sirf ek chor hi kar sakta hai…..aur tum mere dost ho……chor tho koi aur hai," Kripa reassured him and held Riddhima's hand as they joined the rest of the gang to get their new assignments for their rotations.


…to be contd…

bheegi

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