Friday, 26 October 2018

Part 5 & 6: Chance Encounter

Part 5

Riddhima's heart did a back flip as thousands of butterflies fluttered in her stomach. Her smile faltered and she could feel herself blushing.



"Umm'yes'I mean no'. I mean'.. I was'. I was just," Riddhima fumbled while Armaan stared at her intently, clearly expecting an answer. Slowly his eyes softened and he let out a chuckle.



Riddhima heaved a sigh of relief, "You were joking?"





Armaan chuckled, "I could be serious if you want me to be."



"Oh, shut up Armaan!"



Armaan laughed and drove in through the gates of his house. "Okay, Dr. Riddhima. I'll shut up. Now let's go upstairs, Mr. Gappu awaits!"







   Riddhima and Armaan entered Gappu's room to find him sprawled on the floor playing with his Lego toys. He looked up and as soon as he saw Riddhima, his face lit up. He got up from the floor and ran towards her.



"Riddhima didi! Hi!"



Riddhima bent on one knee and said, "Hey Gappu! How are you?"



"I am fine."



"No stomach upset?"



"Nope."



"No fever?"



"Nuh..uh!"



"Open your mouth."



After checking Gappu's throat for any swollen glands and also his pulse, Riddhima seemed satisfied.



"Did you have your medicines?"



"Yes, Riddhima didi."



"Good boy," Riddhima said and then patting Gappu's head, fixed his hair.







Armaan who had been witnessing this exchange with a lopsided grin, now frowned.



"Gappu? Whenever I come anywhere near your hair you keep shouting, 'not the hair, not the hair' but you didn't tell Riddhima anything?"



"It's okay mama, I don't mind if Riddhima didi fixes my hair," Gappu said smiling sweetly.



Armaan looked at Gappu and then at Riddhima, with a bewildered expression and then made a face. He muttered something under his breath which sounded very much like 'what a suck up!' and went and sat on the bed.







Riddhima who had been struggling hard to keep a straight face, now felt Gappu tugging at her duppatta. She turned towards Gappu and found him looking at her expectantly.



"Riddhima didi, I had all the medicines and no body had to force me even."



Riddhima smiled, "Oh really? Then I must say you have been a very good boy!"



"Thank you. So where's my prize?"



Seeing Gappu's eager expression, Riddhima couldn't control the urge to tease him. She feigned surprise,



"What prize?"



Gappu looked heart broken, " But, Riddhima didi, you promised." He turned around dispiritedly to go back to his toys.



 Riddhima grinned and reached into her bag. She took out the casserole and called, "Gappu?"



Gappu turned and as soon as he saw the casserole, his face broke into a smile.



"You remembered?"



"Of course, I remembered! I promised, didn't I?"



Gappu quickly took the casserole and opened it. He whooped with joy and hurriedly dug into the bhelpuri.



"Yum, Riddhima didi, this is even better than the bhelpuri outside my school."







Armaan who was still sulking, sitting on the bed, couldn't control his curiosity any longer.



"Gappu, what's that? What are you having?"



"Bhelpuri," Gappu said, his mouth full of food.



"Bhelpuri?" Armaan asked. He got off from the bed and came towards where Gappu and Riddhima were sitting. He looked at Riddhima and inquired, "You brought Bhelpuri for him?"



Riddhima nodded, "Yep."



"Why?"



"Because, I promised."



Armaan for a moment watched Gappu gulping down the bhelpuri and then turned towards Riddhima. He extended his hand and asked sweetly, "Where's my Bhelpuri?"



Riddhima was put in a spot. She didn't know how to react.



"I don't have'I didn't bring 'I mean you never told me to get'. I am sorry'..I'll get some more next time..!"



   Riddhima's ramblings were interrupted with the shrill ringing of a telephone. Riddhima sighed in relief as Armaan turned around and went to pick up the cordless telephone lying on the bed.



"Hello? Oh hi Di! Gappu is fine. Yeah, Riddhima'.I mean Dr. Riddhima is here. Yeah, just a sec."



Armaan walked towards Riddhima and handed her the phone.



"Riddhima, it's my sister on the phone, she was very worried about Gappu and wants to talk to you."







Riddhima nodded and took the phone.



"Hello?"



"Hello, Hi, I am Anjali, Gappu's mom. Is Gappu alright. Armaan told me he had fever and a stomach infection. I mean, you don't think it is anything serious, do you? Not jaundice or chicken pox or typhoid or'."



"Gappu is perfectly alright," Riddhima interrupted. "He had slight fever owing to the stomach infection but now he is absolutely fine. No jaundice, no chicken pox'white eyes and spotless." Riddhima added with a smile.



Anjali finally seemed to relax. She even laughed a little. "Thank you, Doctor. Dr. Riddhima, right?"



"Yeah, but just Riddhima will be fine"



"Thank you so much Riddhima. I was really worried. You know, I am here, so far away, and when I heard Gappu was sick , I felt so helpless. I know, I was being silly and it's probably just a common cold or something but I so wished I could be with him."



"I understand'I guess any mother would feel that way. But, you don't have to worry, Gappu is okay. He is a wonderful boy. He has had all his medicines and is now watching a football match on tv, with Armaan."







There was a brief silence on the other end and then Anjali spoke in a serious voice,



"Riddhima? Can I ask you something?"



"Yeah, sure."



"What do you feel about Armaan?"







   Riddhima's breath stuck in her throat.



(Damn Riddhima! Are you being so obvious that a lady sitting thousands of miles away from you can guess over the phone that you could have any 'feelings' about Armaan? Hold on Girl. But how could she? You just mentioned Armaan once, and that also in passing. If Anjali guessed anything from that one sentence, then either she had to be the world's best mind reader or you are getting the situation all wrong!)

 "Excuse me?" Riddhima managed to ask.

 "I mean, do you think he is alright?"

  Riddhima chanced a glance at Armaan who was sitting with Gappu and cheering, as their favourite team scored a goal. Unsure of what exactly Anjali was asking about, she ventured cautiously,



 "Umm'I'. I don't know' he seems okay!"



"Is he behaving well with you, like, is he behaving normally?"



Riddhima gave up trying to analyze what Anjali was saying. Maybe talking in riddles ran in the family or maybe the whole lot of them were crazy. Riddhima waved aside all her confusion and said in a firm voice, "I think Armaan is fine and he has been behaving like a perfect gentleman with me!"



"Oh, Good!" Anjali sounded relieved. "I was sure Armaan was okay but then when Gappu told me'..I'I  got a little worried."



"What did Gappu tell you?" Riddhima asked, curious.



Anjali was silent for a second and then said off- handedly,



"Oh nothing. It's just'..Forget it. It was really nice talking to you Riddhima and thank you so much for taking care of Gappu. Maybe we could meet, when I come to India, I'd really like to know you."



"Sure," Riddhima said with a smile, "Just give me a call. I'd like to meet you too. And don't worry about Gappu. He is fine."



"Thank you. Say hello to Gappu from my side and tell him that I'll call later. Bye!"



"Bye!"







Riddhima disconnected the phone and shook her head, smiling. She looked at the bed where Armaan and Gappu were sitting and found Armaan missing. She was wondering where Armaan was, when a voice spoke up right behind her.



"Thinking about me?"



Riddhima was startled, "Armaan, you scared me!"



"Sorry Dr. Gupta, but I was curious about what Di and you were talking about for so long. Did Di ask a lot of questions about Gappu?"



 Riddhima crossed her arms and grinned at Armaan mischievously,



"Actually, no! You will be surprised Mr. Mallik, but she was asking a lot of questions about YOU!"
Saying this she turned around and walked towards Gappu leaving an extremely puzzled Armaan!
........................................................
part 6 

Riddhima walked up to Gappu and sitting down beside him, said,

"Mumma says hi! She'll call you back later."

 Armaan followed Riddhima with a puzzled look.

"Di was asking a lot of questions about me? What questions?"

Riddhima didn't seem to hear, she pulled a Archie comics and carelessly flipped through the pages.

"Riddhima? What was Di asking?"

Suddenly both Gappu and Riddhima started shouting together, "Foul, foul!! That's a foul and an offside!!"

Riddhima was still shouting and pointing at the tv screen, when suddenly her eyes fell on Gappu. Gappu was staring at her, mouth agape. She turned to look at Armaan and he had the exact same expression.

"What?" Riddhima shrugged, "It was a foul! Look, the referee showed a yellow card!"

 Gappu and Armaan still kept staring at her.

"What? Why are you guys staring at me like a couple of goldfishes?"

Gappu finally found his voice, "Riddhima didi, you know about football?"

"Yeah, so?"

"But, you are a girl?"

"Good observation Gappu," Riddhima grinned, "But, so what? Who says, girls can't be interested in football?"

"Armaan mama says!" Gappu said, pointing at Armaan, as if saying the name wasn't enough, "He says that girls liking football is like fishes liking cycling!"

Riddhima cocked an eyebrow at Armaan. "He says that now, does he?"

Armaan managed an awkward grin. "Now, now Gappu, when did I say all that?"

Seemingly unaware of Armaan's discomfort, Gappu droned on.

"Mama also says that we should never talk about football in front of a girl, they will never become your girlfriend, if you do. He says'"

Armaan decided that Gappu had spoken enough. He jumped over and clamped his hand over Gappu's mouth before he could spill anymore beans. His hand securely clamped over Gappu's mouth, Armaan gave a silly grin.

Riddhima fought the urge to laugh and said with a raised eyebrow,

"That was an interesting narration and a very thoughtful insight indeed. I hope'" She was interrupted as her cell phone rang. Armaan sighed in relief and silently admonished Gappu with his eyes as Riddhima picked up the call.

"Hello? Oh'.Okay? Hmm'I'll be there."

Riddhima disconnected the call and looked at Gappu and Armaan with a frown.

"There's an emergency at the hospital, I'll have to go."

"What? Now?"Armaan and Gappu both exclaimed in unison.

Riddhima smiled at both of them and nodded.

"But, you just came,"Gappu complained.

"I know," Armaan agreed, "Can't you go later? Whatever it is, can't it wait?"

"It's an 'emergency', Armaan, it can't wait! I have to go." Riddhima bent in front of Gappu and held him by the shoulders. "I am sorry, Gappu, I have to go."

Gappu nodded reluctantly. Riddhima smiled and hugged him. She looked up to see Armaan still sulking and was wondering if she had sit him down too and explain matters when he spoke up.

"If you have to go. you have to go. I understand. Let's go, I'll drop you off at the hospital."

Riddhima stood up and smiled, "Thanks Armaan."

Armaan just nodded and without even looking at Riddhima walked towards the door.

(Armaan, think of something, quick! She is going back to the hospital even before you could invite her for dinner. Think of something or you might not meet her again until someone falls sick. Come on dude, do something.)

"Riddhima didi'?"

Armaan and Riddhima stopped to look at Gappu.

"Yes, Gappu?"

"Umm'Riddhima didi, will you come to my birthday party, day after tomorrow?"

Armaan had never ever felt so very proud of Gappu. He made a mental note to buy the biggest bar of chocolate he could find for Gappu. After all the genius deserved it!

Riddhima again bent down in front of Gappu and smiled,

"It's your birthday, day after tomorrow?"

Gappu nodded.

"A very happy birthday in advance!"

"Thank You," Gappu said, "Will you come to the party, please?"

"But the party is for your friends, right? What will I do there?"

"But, you are my friend too!! The party will be lots of fun, there will be games and cake and food. Please come na Riddhima didi."

"But'"

"Come on Riddhima didi, you won't get bored. Even Armaan mama will be there. Please, please, please!!"

Seeing Gappu's earnest expression, Riddhima didn't have the heart to refuse. She smiled and nodded,

"Okay, Gappu, I'll try my best. If I don't have duty at the hospital, I'll surely come!"

Gappu grinned, and giving Riddhima a quick hug said, "Great! See you at the party then."

"See you! Bye!"

"Bye!"

                --------------------------------------------------------------------



The drive to the hospital was a quiet one, with both Armaan and Riddhima lost in their thoughts. Armaan parked the car in front of Sanjeevani and Riddhima got out.

"Thanks, Armaan, I had a good time!"

"Me too," Armaan smiled, "So see you at the party?"

"I'll try Armaan, but I might get duty, or there might be an emergency'.."

"Oh come on Riddhima, please? You can't leave me alone with two dozen ten year olds!! You have to help me out. Handling Gappu is bad enough, imagine handling two dozen Gappus," Armaan shuddered, "Please come Riddhima, I need you!"

Riddhima giggled, "Okay Armaan, I'll be there, now go back home, Gappu will be waiting for you."

Armaan smiled, "Good night, see you on Saturday!"

"See you Saturday, good night!"

Riddhima turned around to go into the hospital when Armaan called,

"Riddhima?"

Riddhima shook her head and laughed, "Now what, Armaan?"

"Nothing, its just, ummm, I'', you', er'., you make really good bhelpuri!"

Riddhima looked at him doubtfully, "But, you didn't have, I mean, I didn't get you any'"

Armaan grinned smugly, "I begged some off Gappu. He didn't want to give, but you'll find I can be very persuasive!"

"Really?"

"Really! Just that I had to barter my favourite copy of superman comics, but I consider it a fair deal. Anyways, gotta go, you go take care of your 'emergency'. Good night!"

And before Riddhima could say anything Armaan waved and drove off.


Mia

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