Friday, 5 October 2018

part 47 : To Err is Human

hey all heard a familiar voice from the crowd.

"Yeh tho Armaan ki awaaz hai," Kripa's face lit up as she looked around.


And there they were- Armaan and Riddhima in front of them with their outstretched arms, big smiles and tears of joy in their eyes.


Kripa dropped her handbag and ran to hug her friends. With one arm around each of them, she clung to both Armaan and Riddhima like a vine around a tree. Without exchanging any words or tears, the three of them silently shared each other's warmth and pain, holding onto each other snugly. 


Gayatri and Suryabhan exchanged glances and smiled at each other; they knew Kripa and Angad had made the right decision by returning to Mumbai.




Angad turned around and was pleasantly surprised to see all his best friends in a tight huddle. He abandoned his search for a cabbie and joined the group. His long and strong arms circled around the three of them, sandwiching Kripa between him and the other two.


Onlookers gave curious looks to the huddle right in the middle of the platform.


"What a surprise," Angad finally spoke and loosened his grip as Kripa's slender frame was smothered between all the friends.



"Namaste aunty…namaste uncle," Armaan and Riddhima greeted Kripa's parents.


"Jeete raho beta!"



"Armaan….yeh taxiwallah kab se ban gaye tum?" Kripa chuckled.



"Arre behnaa….tumhein pataa nahin hai….Riddhima ke chakkar mein main kya kya nahin banaa hoon…chef…..tour guide……entertainer……devdas…..majnu…..Heer….Ranjha….tho apni behen ke liye taxi driver nahin ban sakta?" Armaan chided.


Kripa folded her arms and shook her head, "bilkul nahin badle Armaan….waise Heer ke roop mein achche lagoge tum."


Riddhima, Gayatri and Suryabhan burst out in laughter.



"Kyun mera dost Heer kyun nahin ban sakta…mera matlab ban sakti?" Angad placed his arm around Armaan and tried to suppress his smile.



A confused Armaan looked at everyone and then scratched his head sheepishly, "Was Heer a female character?"



"Yaar…fikar na kar…tu tho born actor hai….sab role nibhaa sakta hai…male…female…koi farak nahin painda!" Angad slapped Armaan's back and rolled with laughter.


With a subdued smile, Armaan picked some of the luggage and guided everyone to his car. Riddhima, Kripa and her parents squeezed into the back seat, while the men loaded   luggage into the trunk.



After he shut the trunk, Armaan smiled affectionately at Angad, "kaisa hai tu? Life has been unfair to you….hasn't it?"



"Yes it has," Angad smiled back, "it has given me a woman who loves me despite all my shortcomings, a family which has welcomed me into their lives with open arms, and friends who I can wake up at any odd hour of the night…..that's unfair….isn't it?" Angad hugged his friend as the two slapped each other's backs. They pulled apart and gave each other fist bumps and then clasped their fists together.




"You have changed man!" Armaan punched Angad's chest, "kuch zyaada hi sweet nahin ho gaya tu?"



"Really? I will make sure cheeni kuch kum kar doon…kahin tum sab ko diabetes na ho jaaye."



"Ya indigestion ho jaaye!" Armaan laughed and punched him again.


"Ok Dr Mallik…..main aaj hi apni kadvi dawai dispense karni shuru kar deta hoon."


"Make sure my sis doesn't get any…OK?" Armaan warned him.



"She needs it from time to time….warna life bahut boring ho jaati hai," Angad winked back.




Armaan became a bit serious; he placed his hand on Angad's shoulder as his eyes filled up, "Kripa ko kuch nahin hoga…..she will be fine…she is a strong woman……tere jaise insaan ko nibhaa rahi hai tho yeh kidney failure kya cheez hai?"



"She did not deserve it Armaan….life has been unfair to her," Angad's eyes welled up but he pursed his lips to hide his emotions.



Sensing his discomfort, Armaan changed the subject, "by the way….wo chaand ki mystery solve huyi?"



"Chaand?"


"Arre yaar…….remember waking a friend at an odd hour?"




"Oh I see," Angad chuckled and nodded his head, "I agree….chaand aasmaan mein hi theek lagta hai….. churaane se uski roshni kum na ho jaaye."



With a puzzled expression, Armaan headed to the driver's seat as Angad followed him to the passenger side. Through the rear view mirror, Kripa had noticed the poignant meeting between the two men. Even though, she could not hear them, their expressions reflected the grief they shared in those few moments. She resolved to not let her illness ruin their time together; she would do her best to keep things as normal as possible.



"Riddhima…..yeh kangan naye hain?" Kripa distracted herself from the men and admired the beautiful pair of gold kangans on Riddhima's wrist.


"See Armaan…I knew Kripa would notice them," Riddhima smiled as the car took off.



"Bhai Kripa knows how to spot the most valuable things…..tumhare liye mujhey bhi tho Kripa ne hi select kiya tha," Armaan boasted, "remember the bus ride to Sanjeevgarh?"




"Yeah right!" Riddhima chuckled, "she made sure you deserved me….not vice versa!"



"Oh really?" Armaan adjusted the rear view mirror to get a full view of Riddhima, "reality kuch aur hi hai….haina Kripa? You wanted to make sure that your friend was worthy of a handsome stud like me…haina?"



"Hey bhagwan! Shaadi se pehle yeh haal hai tho baad mein kitna ladhoge?" Kripa frowned, "aur yeh kangan kisne diye?"



"Riddhima ki hone waali sasumaa ne….aur wo bhi mere hone waale sasurjee ke ghar mein," Armaan grinned as he recollected the events from last night. He remembered how thrilled Gauri had been at the prospect of going over to the Gupta's with the shagun after her had told her all about his US trip, and how she had reassured Armaan- leave it to me beta….I know how to convince Shashank.


"Really? Iska matlab sir maan gaye?" an agape Kripa was pleasantly surprised.



"Maante kaise nahin? Mom ne jo sabse badha bombshell unpar daala tha….you should have seen his face man!" Armaan was in splits as he recalled Shashank's expression when Gauri spilled the beans on her son and Riddhima's relationship. Initially, Armaan was as shell shocked as everyone else in the room, but seeing Shashank's jaw drop and his drooping shoulders, gave him a kick of sorts. The fact that his daughter had taken such a major decision of her life without involving her father, must have bruised his ego.   Even though Riddhima had given him an ear full afterwards, Armaan was proud of his mom.




"Armaan!" A red faced Riddhima was embarrassed to the core, just like she was last night in front of her parents. Her parents had averted their gaze from her when Gauri had blurted out – hamare bachchon se sabr nahin hua. If it were not for Padma's presence of mind, instead of a shagun ceremony, she would have been hiding in her room all evening.



"Koi baat nahin….galtiyaan sabse hoti hain…..waise bhi aaj kal shaadi tho ek formality hi reh gayi hai…..aao bachchon tumhara teeka kar doon," Padma had smiled and dismissed the whole episode, but Riddhima was still upset at her mother-in-law-to-be for being so cavalier. Armaan had not helped either. He had said he was proud of his mom that she had expedited the matter by cutting to the chase. He was happy that his mom and him were on friendly terms and could talk about anything and everything now.



"Bomb shell?" Angad sat up, "that sounds so unlike Dr Gauri…..she is always so cautious and careful….in fact very diplomatic….aisa kya kaha unhone?" Angad, who had worked closely with Gauri for a long time, was genuinely surprised.




Riddhima's furious glare in the rearview mirror sent warning signals to Armaan about saying anything more on that topic.



Kripa was bemused to see the exchange of glances between her friends, "Angad….humein aam khaane se matlab hai ya pedh gin ne se….Gauri aunty ne jo bhi kaha ho….humein kya….ab tho bas shaadi ki tayyari karni chaahiye…..batao kya date fix huyi hai?"



"One week from today," Armaan beamed.


"One week?" Angad was mortified, "isn't that too soon?"



"Pagal hai! It's too late!" Armaan snapped back as everyone burst out in laughter.


……………………………………………………………….



ANGAD's APARTMENT:



"Wow Angad….you have really climbed the social ladder in these two years man," Armaan commented as they walked into his luxurious three bedroom apartment.



Angad remained silent and quietly walked in with the luggage. He had paid a high price for his success; his guilt still gnawed at him as he saw Kripa's smiling but exhausted face at the door next to Riddhima.



Suryabhan and Gayatri were awed by the plush dwelling in the heart of Mumbai, and knew in an instant why Kripa and Angad would have drifted apart.




Angad sensed their discomfort, "aaiye mama-papa…..aaj aap logon ke aane se mera yeh apartment ab ghar ban gaya hai….1 saal yahan sirf saans le raha tha….jaan tho aap sab ke aane se aayi hai…..main kitna khush naseeb hoon ki aaj is ghar mein mera poora parivaar aur mere sab se achche dost mere saath hain…..aaj sahi maayne mein is ghar ka grih pravesh hua hai."



After hearing Angad's words, Kripa could not hold back her tears and felt an instant connection with her new home. She could visualize Angad working like a maniac to buy a grand place like this, but never having the time or the desire to actually spend time or enjoy his success. Now that they were together again, she would make sure 'their home' would no longer be 'cold' and 'impersonal,' but rather a 'warm' and 'lived in place' with lots of pleasant memories and dreams  associated with it.



Angad gave a tour of his apartment to all his friends and Kripa's parents.


'Mama…papa…yeh aapka kamra hai," he placed their luggage in the master bedroom.


"Beta…yeh tho tumhara room hai…hum kaise?" Gayatri objected.



"Nahin mama….jab tak aap log yahan hai….yeh aapka hi hai….and I don't want a NO!" Angad said authoritatively and next placed Kripa's stuff in the guest room.



"Kripa….you get the guest room," Angad scrunched his nose and grinned, 'at least for now."



"Aur tu balcony mein rahega?" Armaan chided and then whispered, "ya abhi se guest room ka permanent guest ban na chaahta hai?"



Angad gave him a dirty look, signaling towards Kripa's parents who were standing right behind them.



"Balcony hi theek hai," Armaan said sheepishly.



"Agar Kripa ko pareshaan karega, tho wahin rehna padhega," Riddhima giggled.



"Nahin Angad…main mama papa ke saath reh loongi….tum yeh room le lo," Kripa felt a little awkward as they discussed the living arrangements.



"Mera music studio kab kaam aayega? Till now it's just been a show piece….ab kaam aa jaayega." Angad led them to his third room which he had converted to a studio with his guitar, keyboard, stereo system and high end speakers occupying most of the space.



The guitar Kripa had gifted him was nestled between all the other high end equipment.


"Ab jab tak hum yahan hain….roz hum sab ko ek gaana sunaana hoga beta," Gayatri admired the collection of CDs and music books he had.



"Aapko bhi music ka shauk hai aunty?" Riddhima asked.



"Mama pehle ek music teacher thi….lekin Maya ke jaane ke baad unhone gaana chhod diya," Kripa complained, "lekin ab koi bahana nahin chalega mama…. Angad ke saath saath aapko bhi gaana sunaana hoga."



"Haan bhai damaad aur sasumaa ki jugal bandi khoob jamegi," Surybhan laughed.


"Aur hum baap-beti aaraam se sunenge…haina papa?" Kripa chuckled and placed her arm around her father.



"Bahut badhiya plan hai beti," Suryabhan patted her.



……………………………………………………….


A LITTLE LATER:

The four freinds sat around the living room and exchanged stories from the past two years as Kripa's parents relaxed in their room.



"What? You trusted Prithvi with your health?' Armaan and Riddhima were shocked when they found out how Kripa had bumped into Prithvi in Jaipur.



"He has changed," Kripa fumbled and then exchanged glances with Angad, who maintained a cold silence at the mention of his name, "at least that's what I think…par Angad mujhse kuch chupa raha hai….jab se Delhi se wapas aaya hai….he has been mum about Prithvi. Aisa kya hua tha wahan? Aur meri Harshu ka bhi dil thod diya tumne…..ab tho bataa do kya hua tha?" Kripa insisted.



"Kripa…drop the topic….I would rather not talk about that man….he does not mean anything to us….and I have told him to stay out of our lives," Angad said angrily.



Kripa sighed, "Angad…..main jaanti hoon tumhein wo kabhie pasand nahin tha….mujhey bhi us se nafrat ho gayi thi….lekin ab wo badal gaya hai….kya usey maaf nahin kar sakte?"



"NEVER!" Angad sprang up and picked his phone, "let me order food for all of us…I am famished…I don't know about you guys."



"Angad…don't change the topic please," Kripa persisted, "saare raaste main tumse poonch ti rahi lekin tumne kuch nahin bataya…ab tho mama papa bhi so rahe hain….Armaan aur Riddhima ke saamne tho sab bataa sakte ho…kya hua tha Delhi mein?"




"Relax Kripa….Angad keh raha hai na Prithvi doesn't mean anything to us…oye Angad don't order food yaar….main tho apni behen ke haath ka khaana khaaoonga aaj….I am tired of eating out in America…waise bhi shaadi ke baad ghar ka khaana miley ya na miley," Armaan winked at Riddhima. Kripa's anger vanished in thin air at the prospect of cooking for all her friends. Lately, everyone had pampered her so much that she had been barred from doing any kind of household activity, "sure! I would love to!" She jumped at that idea and headed for the kitchen.




"You men are all alike!" Riddhima frowned, "basically you all want a wife who can cook…..you have been nagging me every day about the lack of my culinary skills….tang aa gayi hoon main sun sun ke!"



Armaan cleared his throat and walked towards Riddhima, "waise gusse mein aur bhi khubsoorat lagti ho jaan…..main tho bas mazaak kar raha tha jaaneman," he held her hands and kissed them tenderly, "waise bhi yeh haath oopar waale ne khaana banana ke liye nahin banaaye hain…….your chef du jour is always there madam. Aisa karo, tum aur Angad yahan baitho….main Kripa ki help karta hoon."





"Come on Riddhima…have a seat….let the brother and sister bond….tell me about your training at John's Hopkins," Angad settled down in front of the TV and picked the remote.



"Angad….how serious is Kripa's condition?"  Riddhima averted Angad's small talk and mustered the courage to finally get the facts on Kripa's illness. She did not want to probe when Kripa was around as she was aware how reluctant she was about any talk related to her illness, "usko dekh kar koi keh nahin sakta wo bimaar hai."




"Riddhima…..just remember she is as good an actress as your fiance….no wonder they are almost like real siblings."



"Tum theek kehte ho Angad…..hum sab ko dhokha dene mein maahir hai wo dono."


Angad sighed and narrated his story from the day Kripa left Mumbai to the day convinced her to come back.


"You guys have gone through a lot," Riddhima empathized, "bechari Kripa."



"Riddhima….please don't use that word for her again," Angad grimaced.



"Sorry Angad….you are right," Riddhima replied softly and blinked her eyes to hide her tears.


……………………………………………………………………


IN THE KITCHEN:


"Armaan…..yeh pyaaz itni moti moti kyun kaati hai?" Kripa slapped Armaan's hand, "and you call yourself chef du jour?" She grabbed the knife from him.



"Of course I am! Ab mere talent ki itni insult mat karo," Armaan grabbed the knife back, "Yes, I might not be as good as you…but I am pretty good….poonch lo apni saheli se beshaq….uske saath 3 din rehkar aaya hoon."



"Armaan," she smiled and touched his arm, "I am so glad you went to America….tumhare bina wo bilkul ek zinda laash ki tarah ho gayi thi."



He kept the knife down and looked at her, "main bhi tho kahan jee paya tha uske bina….I really missed her Kripa," his voice cracked a bit, "and missed all of you…..but I still don't regret these two years away from everyone….you know these two years might have been the most difficult in my life…..but they helped me find myself….and you know Kripa I have realized that knowing oneself is the most important thing in this world…..and once I realized that, I was at peace with myself and with this world…..ab mujhey kisi se koi shikwa nahin hai…..na mom se….na dad se….na Riddhima se….and I am happy for who I am now….something I could not achieve in the first 22-23 years of my life, these past two years helped me achieve."




"Riddhima has changed a lot too," Kripa smiled, "I have never seen her so sure about herself."



"Love does that to all of us….doesn't it?" he laughed and resumed the chopping.



'Yes it does," she blushed dreamily, "Angad bhi tho badal gaya hai."



"Lekin meri behnaa nahin badli!" He picked the chopping board and poured the onions in the pan for Kripa to take over.



"Wo kaise?" She was surprised.


"Abhi bhi mere dost ke saath ladhai jhagda karti rehti hai," he chuckled, "bechara Angad." He sighed.



"Yeah right!" She smacked him with the spatula, "bechari Riddhima!"



"Bechaaari Riddhima?" Armaan sniggered, "us junglee billi ko bechari mat kaho."



"Junglee billi?" Kripa probed and then raised an eyebrow, "is that the bombshell Gauri aunty threw on Gupta uncle?"




"You are on the right track behnaa!" Armaan winked.



"Ab pataa chala tum dono shaadi ke liye itne betaab kyun ho……and mind you," she snapped her fingers at him, "now if you ever leave my friend, I will never forgive you…samjhe?"



"Samajh gaya," Armaan laughed, "aisi galti ab dobaara kabhie nahin hogi….that's my promise."




By the end of their cooking session, they had teased, laughed, cried and shared their deepest emotions with each other, making the two years of separation fade away in the distant past.






………………………………………………………………..



BACK IN THE LIVING ROOM:



Angad, Riddhima and Suryabhan were engrossed with the latest episode of a reality show on TV, while Gayatri had joined Armaan and Kripa in the kitchen.



After a short while, they emerged from the kitchen with hot steaming rice pullao, matar-paneer, dal, raita and hot chappatis.



"Mmmm…..am I lucky or what? Ghar baithe baithe khaana mil raha hai," Angad sniffed his nose and dipped his finger into one of the bowls to taste the mouth-watering dish in Kripa's hand.



"ANGAD!" Kripa frowned, "khaane ko jhootha mat karo! Bilkul patience nahin hai!"



"Nahin hai," he whispered as he licked his finger hesitantly. He helped her carry the dishes to the table. More than the delectable food, he was savoring Kripa's vivaciousness and zest for life in this apartment. She was back to her feisty and spirited self with no traces of her usual exhaustion or fatigue on her face. He was glad that she had agreed to come with him, and thrilled that Armaan and Riddhima were there to help her overcome her malady.



As they all sat down for lunch, the new channel flashed the hottest story of the day.



 A stunned silence fell on the table as the headlines blared on the news channel.


……….to be contd………….

bheegi

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