Saturday, 10 November 2018

Part 21 : Chance Encounter

Riddhima was humming a little tune as she took the lift up to her apartment. She giggled remembering Armaan's expression when she had told him her initial impression of him as a married man with a child. She had purposely made her description sound like that of a middle aged man........Armaan's shocked expression was worth the lie.

"So I make a favourable FOURTH impression?" Armaan had sighed, looking exasperated, "Is that what you are telling me? Gosh, I am losing my touch."

Riddhima didn't correct him. She felt, expressing her true feelings would surely take his super sized ego to bursting limits. Better it got deflated a bit, before she cheered him up.

'Maybe at dinner tonight!' she thought laughing to herself while she fished in her bag for the apartment keys. Riddhima was just about to enter the key in the lock when the door creaked open, seemingly on its own and she was greeted with a most unexpected sight.


 At the doorway, oblivious to the world and lost in each other's eyes, stood her two best friends. Nikki, still in her pajamas, in  Abhi's arms giving him coy looks while Abhi looked dazed, apparently lost in a happy world. Riddhima was so used to them bickering all the time, this mushy version of them made her gag. As Abhi leaned in to kiss Nikki, Riddhima shut her eyes, tight! She didn't quite fancy watching them kiss..... a soppy one, by the sounds of it.....and a long one too.

"They are in love," Riddhima reminded herself, smiling at the irony. On a usual day she needed to remind herself of this fact whenever she witnessed the duo giving murderous looks at each other or getting at each other's throats. However, this time around, it was a whole new ball game, and she wasn't quite sure which scenario she preferred.

Riddhima opened her eyes cautiously when she heard Nikki giggle. Her logic being, 'they couldn't be kissing, if Nikki is giggling'....... right? Her logic proved flawless and as she opened her eyes, in front of her stood the couple, not kissing (thankfully) but still embracing and still blissfully unaware of having an audience.

"Last night was wonderful," Abhi said, finally taking a break from the eyelock and putting his vocal cords in action, "Thank Riddhima from my side, okay?"



"Or you can thank me yourself!"

Riddhima had to make a real effort not to laugh when she saw Abhi and Nikki's reactions. Abhi pushed Nikki away from him with abrupt force and grinned awkwardly while Nikki turned a never-been-seen- before shade of pink.

"Hi Riddhima," Abhi squirmed, "How long have you been here?"

"A while," Riddhima replied indifferently, "Long enough!"

Riddhima grinned inwardly as she noted the embarrassed reactions of her friends. Abhi suddenly found his regular running shoes very interesting while Nikki fidgeted with a splinter on the door.

 Riddhima now knew exactly what Anjali meant when she'd said that she couldn't help herself. It was just so much fun wrong footing someone. She, however, was mighty glad that this time around, she was the one doing the wrong footing and not at the receiving end. The ball was on her court, finally? and she was more than ready to take revenge. Everybody has had their laugh embarrassing Armaan and her for the past few days, now it was her turn. Bad luck.....Abhi-Nikki......caught at the wrong time, wrong place!

"So what is it that you are thanking me for?" Riddhima asked, breaking the silence, "You didn't mention."

"Err, nothing," Abhi spluttered, "We did nothing."

"Really?" Riddhima cocked an eyebrow, "This from the man who is shirtless."

"He is wearing a vest," Nikki jumped to Abhi's rescue, "That's fashion nowadays. Besides, you are the one who spent last night at Armaan's place," she said narrowing her eyes, "Shouldn't we be the ones asking you the questions?"

"Oh no, honey," Riddhima shook her head, "You can't weasel out of this one by pointing a finger at me. I have a totally valid reason for staying at Armaan's. I even called to inform you. Moreover, as you can see, I am not the one with missing pieces of clothing."

Riddhima had just finished her statement with a look of triumph when a familiar voice hollered across the hallway,

"Riddhima!"

Riddhima turned so fast toward the source of the sound, she got a crick in her neck. Armaan was squeezing himself out of the half opened lift, with a bright smile on his face and purpose in his stride,

"Doc, here you go," he said, handing Riddhima a packet, "You left your clothes in the car."



Abhi made a sound somewhere between a snort and a cough while Nikki gaped at Riddhima.

"Clothes?" Riddhima croaked, millimeters away from socking Armaan's face, "Clothes?"

"Yeah, clothes!" Armaan frowned, "From last night. Remember? Why are you staring at me like that? What's wrong?"

"Yeah, what's wrong?" Abhi quipped, smirking, "Doc?"

"Hey Abhi," Armaan smiled, "Hi Nikki. All right with you two?"

"We are okay," Nikki laughed, crossing her arms and leaning against a grinning Abhi, "But I think Riddhima has more interesting news. What say?"

A furious Riddhima opened her mouth to retort but Armaan got there faster.

"You told them?" Armaan asked incredulous, "I didn't think you'd tell them about us so soon."

It was hard to say who looked more shocked, Riddhima or Abhi and Nikki. With their mouths agape all three of them turned towards Armaan, who shrugged and mouthed 'What?'

Riddhima sighed and with the calmest voice she could muster under such circumstances, she whispered,

"Armaan? What have I ever done to you?"



Before Armaan could answer that accusation, Abhi and Nikki shrieked together,

"What?"

"Us?" Nikki squealed, looking from Armaan to Riddhima, "You guys are US? Like, as in not YOU and ME, but US? You guys are together?"

"When did that happen?" Abhi asked, his voice almost as high as Nikki's, "How did that happen?"

Riddhima scowled at Armaan who had the grace to look ashamed.

"So, I am guessing, you hadn't told them," Armaan grinned sheepishly, "Sorry."

Riddhima just got a glimpse of Armaan's apologetic smile before her vision was hampered by a curtain of hair.

"I am so happy for you," Nikki cried, hugging her, "Armaan is a great guy!"

"Thank You, Nikki" Riddhima heard Armaan say, "Armaan is flattered!"

"Oh, shut up!" Nikki exclaimed before giving him a hug too, "Let's go in. I want to know the whole story! With details! Anyone fancy a cup of coffee?"

"Or a bowl of popcorn?" Riddhima muttered under her breath following Nikki into the apartment.



                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

               



Armaan entered the house and shouted for Gappu.

"Gappu? Dude, see what I got for you. Gappu? Gappu where are you?"

"Gappu is not at home." Armaan turned around to see Anjali emerging from the kitchen. "He got this remote controlled car from Delhi and he just had to," Anjali rolled her eyes, "Show it to his best friend Varun. Atul just took him, a while ago."

Armaan watched Anjali move around the living room, straightening cushions, dead- centering showpieces on the shelves, cleaning clean table tops and a slow unbidden smile appeared on his face. Anjali had always been a 'mother hen' type, fiercely protective of her family and everything she held dear. She may scream and shout and nag people around her but those who knew her well enough knew that she was the one to run to in times of trouble. She had always wanted a 'perfect' family, a 'perfect' home and Armaan was really glad that she has been able to achieve that with Atul. Atul was an awesome father and a wonderful husband and together they had created a fairytale life, which Armaan was sure was going to have a 'happily-ever-after'.

"Amen!" Armaan thought to himself as he watched Anjali inspecting the curtains. Armaan knew how much effort she put in to her dream home and now, watching her in action, was a treat......like a masterpiece being painted.

"Now why are you standing there and grinning at me?" Anjali asked in an irritated tone, "Come here, and make yourself useful."

Armaan laughed and shook his head before covering the distance between them and pulling Anjali into a hug,

"Di, I missed you. I missed you a lot."



Anjali suddenly remembered a day, years ago, actually decades ago. A five year old Armaan, running towards her with a huge smile on his face and hugging her around her middle.

"Di, I missed you. I missed you a lot. Why did you have to go to that stupid summer camp?"



Anjali giggled at that memory. Her little brother was still the same, just a head and a shoulder taller than her, but still the same. He had the same dimpled smile, unruly jet black hair which her hands itched to fix, the same stubborn nature and the same warmth that endeared him to people at once. Oh yeah, and he was still cute.......or maybe, handsome would be a better word. Her brother was now quite the heart throb.

"But," Anjali thought with a grin, "That I had predicted a long time ago!"



"That's not fair, Di," Armaan pulled back from the hug and pouted, "I tell you that I missed you, and you laugh at me?"

"I am not laughing at you," Anjali grinned and tried explaining, "I just remembered something."

"Oh, that's good," Armaan sarcastically commented, "People keep remembering stuff when they are around me. Makes me feel like a remembrall."

"Armaan," Anjali laughed, "Do you remember my sixth grade summer camp? I was away for two weeks and you forbid me to go to any other summer camp after that.....ever again."

"Yeah," Armaan smiled, "I missed you like crazy in those two weeks. It was no fun throwing stones at neighbors' windows alone."

"Right," Anjali chuckled, "Miss those days."

"Me too."

"Good that Atul and Gappu are away for a while," Anjali smiled enthusiastically, "We get to spend some time alone."

"Spoken like a loving wife and a devoted mother," Armaan quipped with a grin."

"Armaan!" Anjali chided, "I meant, we could relive some old memories."

"I am game," Armaan rubbed his hands, "So, it's Sharma uncle's house like old times or that new building? I think we should target the new building, there are more windows. I'll go get some stones......"

"Armaan!" Anjali narrowed her eyes, "I was hinting at something a little more mature. Like say, along the lines of a chat?"

"How about a game of Scrabbles? Just like old times. Besides, we never finished the challenge game. As far as I remember, I was winning!"

"Triumph short lived, dear brother! Bring it on."





The board was set and the players made themselves comfortable on the cushions. Anjali picked a letter from the bag, a 'F'.

"Ha," Armaan ejaculated after he picked a letter, "A 'D', I win! I get the first chance."

"No problem, Nice guys finish last!"

"Okay, my first word," Armaan arranged the letters on the board, "D. O. C. T. O. R....doctor!"

Anjali started laughing while Armaan made a face.

"What, Di?"

"Nothing," Anjali giggled, "Just so thoroughly predictable!"

"Ha ha, very funny. Now stop laughing and start worrying. I have six letters on the board and that's a total of 20."

"DOCTOR is proving pretty lucky for you nowadays, what say?" Anjali teased.

"Di, it's not like that!"

"I know," Anjali smiled, "She is just a F.R.I.E.N.D.....friend....15 points......right?"



Riddhima's earnest face flashed through Armaan's mind.

"Armaan, we can't tell Anjali di and Atul bhaiyya about us, right now. They've only just met me. I think they should get to know me a little better, before we tell them. We need to give it a little more time."



"Time," Armaan sighed, "Some more time."

"What?" Anjali asked.

"Time," Armaan  grinned sheepishly, "T.I.M.E....time, my next word.....12 points. And quit bothering me M.O. M.....mom! 8 points...so a total of 20!"

"Puhleez, Armaan," Anjali made a face, "I have no intention of playing 'mom', I was just saying, you know.. ...generally. Riddhima seems a lot of F.U.N....fun...10 points. She's like a breath of fresh....W.I.N.D....wind...triple word....24 points! Ha....total  34!"

"It's 'a breath of fresh air'....not wind," Armaan corrected, "You can't fool me, Di. I know what you are doing. Just G.R.O.W......grow up! 8 points."

"I am not doing anything," Anjali looked affronted, "I was merely....M.E.R.E.....7points...merely saying that she is a nice girl....you are the one warping my comment. When did I say anything about love?"

"What?" Armaan gulped.

"L.O.V.E....love," Anjali said arranging the letters, "Another 7 points, total 14!"

"Oh!" Armaan scratched his head, "A word!"

"Yep," Anjali agreed, "Just a word?but with far reaching consequences." She ignored the puzzled look on Armaan's face and took a sip of tea, "Your turn!"

Armaan had attempted a half smile but it got broader when he remembered Riddhima hanging from the balcony, in a raging thunder storm, trying to get a window closed.

"You are right, Di. Far reaching consequences," Armaan laughed, "Which often P.O.S.E.....pose a serious threat to sanity.....7 points. As the B.A.R.D.....bard says.... "Love that is not madness is not love!" ......6 points. Total 13."

"Yet people S.L.I.P.....slip and fall in love, 6 points. N.U.T.S.......nuts, all of them! 4 points, total 10. I guess, that won't be a problem for you. Riddhima is just your....."

"Girlfriend......G.I.R.L,friend.......40 points! Yay! Di, I'm gonna beat you big time!"

"Ehem," Anjali cleared her throat, her eyes shining with mirth, "Girlfriend?"

"What?" Armaan frowned, "It's a word."

"I know that. What I didn't know is that, Riddhima is your girlfriend."

"Riddhima? Girlfriend?" Armaan stammered, "When did I say that?"

"Just now. You just said, Riddhima is your girlfriend. You deny that?"

"No.....I mean yes......I mean no. Di, I was just playing the game."

"And apparently also saying the truth!" Anjali giggled.

"Di," Armaan sighed, "Riddhima is.....Riddhima is not my girlfriend."

"She's not?" Anjali frowned, "But, I thought?"

"She's much more than that." Armaan finished with a shy smirk, "I love her!"

"Oooooh," Anjali squealed, "I knew it, I knew it! My little brother is in love! I've waited since ages for this day to come. Oh, I am so happy for you. Riddhima is such a sweet girl. You know, I had guessed about you two for a while now. Gappu's stories and even Mohan bhaiyya's to some extent were quite an indicator, and when I saw Riddhima in the house today, my hunch was confirmed. Yet I couldn't do anything 'cause you guys were acting like such idiots. Especially you! You should have told me in the morning itself. You were both here and I would have.."

"Kidnapped a priest and got us married in the living room, not giving us enough time to even brush our teeth," Armaan interrupted with a smirk, "Di, see why I didn't tell you?"

As Anjali fell silent, sulking, Armaan started on a more appeasing tone,

"Di, it's all very new to us. I mean, we've only just realized our feelings for each other. I think, we both need a little time to get used to all this. I know what you are going to say," Armaan interrupted as Anjali opened her mouth to protest, "But it was different for you and Atul bhaiyya. You guys knew each other for years, before getting involved. Riddhima and I met only a couple of weeks back. You've seen her, you know she's a bit shy and all and for God's sake, I don't want to scare her away! You know what I am saying?"

Anjali didn't say anything and kept frowning.

"Please Di?"

Anjali looked at Armaan's earnest face and finally smiled,

"Okay, Barmy Armi! I promise, I won't say anything. I won't tell anybody. You guys take your time. But remember, if you take too long, I might just happen to have a little slip of tongue!"

"Fine," Armaan grinned, "Thanks a lot. Love you Di."

"I love you too."

"Oh yeah, another little thing. You can't tell Riddhima I told you."

"What?" Anjali exclaimed, "I can't even tell her that I know? You know Armaan, you are making this secret keeping thing, very difficult. Almost impossible!"



                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Riddhima pinned a portion of her hair behind her head, leaving the rest open and gazed at herself in the mirror. She had on her favourite suit, with minimal makeup and pearl drop earrings. Her hair was done up in the so called 'formal' do and she had black low- heel shoes to go with the look.

"This is as good as it gets," Riddhima muttered to her reflection, "Unless there's some kind of a miracle."

"You don't need one," Nikki said grinning from the door, "You look perfect! Armaan's family is going to love you! Abhi and I might just cramp your style."

"Stop trying to be modest," Riddhima laughed, "It doesn't suit you."

"I know," Nikki said, pulling a smug expression, "I was just trying to give you an opening to praise me. Always works with Abhi."

"So when is Abhi coming to pick us up?" Riddhima asked when they had stopped laughing.

"Umm....he said he's on his way, should be here anytime now. That's probably him. Talk about the devil," Nikki said hurrying away to answer the door.             

 Riddhima took one last lingering look at herself in the mirror and turned away sighing. She picked up her clutch from the bed and headed outside.



Nikki was laughing while Abhi battled with his tie. He sighed in frustration when his eyes fell on Riddhima.

"Ridzie, do I really have to wear a tie? Like really really have to?"

"A tie?" Riddhima looked puzzled, "We are just going for dinner. Who said anything about a tie?"

"Nikki did," Abhi said pointing at Nikki who shrugged and shook her head, "She said that we had to look absolutely perfect. After all, it's your LIFE that we are talking about."

"And you believed her?" Riddhima said, narrowing her eyes at Nikki, "Seriously Abhi, use your brains!"

Abhi gave a furious look at a giggling Nikki before throwing the tie away, "Thanks Ridz, that's a relief!"

"Okay, enough!" Nikki said before Abhi could say anything, "Let's go. Armaan must be waiting."

"Yeah, let's go," Abhi agreed, closing the door behind them, "Wonder why Armaan invited us along with you? Wouldn't we be the proverbial 'Kabab mein hadis'?"



                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~





Armaan caught Riddhima's eye and winked, making her blush. She quickly turned towards Atul pretending to pay utmost attention to his story about Anjali and him stuck in a lift while Nikki and Abhi were holding their sides, laughing.

"And then Anjali said, 'Atul, I demand you to start this lift right now!'" Atul mimicked, "As if I had a remote control or something, and I was just waiting for her command!"

"Armaan!" Anjali's sharp voice cut through the story, "Maybe we should also tell the story of Friday the 13th! They day when?"

"You wouldn't!" Atul exclaimed, forgetting about his own story, "That is so below the belt!"

"We would," Anjali retorted while Armaan just grinned, "It is after all a very interesting story!"

"Erm....what story?" Nikki asked cautiously, "Friday the 13th?"

"Nothing," Atul shouted abruptly, "It's all a lie."

"Really?" Anjali cocked an eyebrow, "We have pictures!"

"No you don't!"

"Yes, I do. Armaan, why don't you go upstairs and get the album. It's in my room!"

Riddhima might have imagined it, but for a moment she thought Anjali had winked at Armaan. Armaan looked puzzled for a second and then to Riddhima's surprise, he frowned.

"What album, Di?" he said pointedly, "There's no album in your room."

"Yes there is," Anjali insisted, now frowning herself, "Just go Armaan!"

She didn't leave Armaan much of a choice, and he got up grudgingly and headed upstairs.

With Armaan's departure, Riddhima felt a bit unsettled. Atul had stopped recounting his story and was sulking while Nikki and Abhi fidgeted uncomfortably. Barely half a minute had passed when Anjali slapped her forehead and exclaimed,

"Oh, I am such an idiot!"

Atul looked inclined to agree, but the risk of later repercussions kept him quiet.

"Riddhima," Anjali continued, "I completely forgot. I shifted the album from the drawer before I left last time. Would you please do me a favour. Could you just go and tell Armaan that the album is in the Abutnoth shelf. He'll have to search the entire room otherwise.

"Sure," Riddhima smiled, getting up, "Err..Arbertnat shelf?"

"Abutnoth shelf," Anjali corrected, "Thanks Riddhima!"

Riddhima nodded and went upstairs. She crossed the guest room and a small giggle escaped her. She stifled the giggle but involuntarily remembered Armaan's shocked face peering at her from the window, in the pouring rain and  couldn't control the bubbling laughter.

"Do you always laugh when you are alone, or is this a special occasion?" Armaan  queried, popping his head out of Anjali's room, "There's still a lot of weird things that I don't know about you."

"Ha ha, very funny," Riddhima said sarcastically and followed Armaan into the room, "I was wondering when I'd get a dose of your unlaughable jokes."

"And I was wondering," Armaan replied, "What you are doing here. Missing me, darling?"

"As if," Riddhima stuck out her tongue, but also blushed, "I am just a messenger!"

"A messenger? Ahaan? So what's the message?"

"The album is in the Ar..Arbu....Arbut....something shelf."

"Abutnoth shelf?" Armaan helped.

"Bingo, Abutnoth shelf! What a weird name. Which one is it?"

Armaan however didn't bother to answer. He came forward and wrapped his arms around her from the back, resting his chin on her shoulder.

"Armaan," Riddhima squirmed, "Let me go. Everybody is waiting downstairs. Let's grab the album and go."

Armaan shook his head, signally a no.

"There's too many people downstairs, and I am sure nobody will miss us. Why do you think I invited Abhi and Nikki?"

Riddhima giggled remembering Abhi's comment.

"And poor Abhi thought he was being the Kabab mein haddi."

"He did?" Armaan asked laughing, "No, he is no haddi, not today atleast. Today he is the diversion."

"Armaan," Riddhima tried to jerk herself free, "Stop kidding around. I'll get the album and we will go. Which one is the Abutnoth shelf?"

Armaan shrugged.

"What?" Riddhima asked again, "Which shelf is it?"

"I don't know." Armaan stated blandly, now infinitely interested in a lock of her hair.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" Riddhima looked nonplussed, "Armaan?"

Armaan sighed and turned her around, giving her one of his dimpled smiles.

"Well, if you really want to know, there's no Abutnoth shelf. It doesn't exist!"

"It doesn't exist?" Riddhima iterated, her confusion apparent, "But Anjali Di said?"

"It's a joke," Armaan explained, playing with her fingers, "Or more like a code."

"A code?"

"Yup," Armaan said, still not looking at her and playing with her fingers, "We made it up when we were kids. Abutnoth is just a short version of 'about nothing'. We used it whenever we were lying or hiding something from Mum and Dad. Silly, I know, but somehow, it stuck!"

"But if it doesn't exist then why did??" Riddhima stopped abruptly as the whole situation dawned on her, "Oh my God, she knows!"

"Ahaan, I knew you were smart," Armaan said kissing her fingers, "One of the reasons why I love you so much!"

"Armaan!" Riddhima jerked her hand away, "You told her?"

"I had to," Armaan grinned sheepishly, "Riddhima let me explain."

"You had to?" Riddhima shrieked, "You had to? Was it like a tetanus shot or a polio vaccination that you HAD to do it?"

"Riddhima......erm...... you are getting all medical on me!"

"I better," Riddhima now paced the room, furious, "You need treatment. You are a raving lunatic! What could have been the dire necessity that you HAD to tell her about us?"

"Because I can't lie to her," Armaan stated simply bringing Riddhima to a halt in her pacing, "And besides, Di had something that I wanted. To get that, I had to tell her the truth!"

"What?" Riddhima barked, "What is it, that you wanted so much, that you HAD to say the truth?"

"That," Armaan indicated towards her with his chin.

"What?" Riddhima screamed, throwing up her hands in frustration, "What is it?"

"That," Armaan repeated himself, and then pointed at her, "I wanted that!"

"Armaan? Are you alright?" Riddhima asked, sarcasm dripping from every syllable, "What did you have for lunch?"

Armaan shook his head and laughed. He got up from the table that he was leaning on and walked towards Riddhima. He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and grinned.

"Armaan?"

Armaan didn't answer, instead he ran his hand over the length over left hand slowly, spreading goosebumps all over. He reached her fingers and entwined them with his and then bringing their joined hands upto her eye level he pointed,

"That! I wanted that!"

Riddhima, who was looking deep into his eyes, now shifted her gaze. She looked at her hand and did a double take. There, sitting on her ring finger, was a fat solitaire that she was pretty wasn't there a few moments ago. Before her dazed brain could form a sensible question, her heart fell in love with the ring. It was the most beautiful ring she had ever seen. A single solitaire set in a gold band, simple, yet elegant. She, not really being a jewellery person, had always stayed away from flashy ornaments and this ring seemed just ....

"Perfect!" Armaan voiced her thought, "And a perfect fit as well."

"What?.....Whose?......When?...How?.....Why?" Riddhima fumbled, unable to form a coherent sentence.

"Umm....that's a ring," Armaan grinned, "I hope that answers your 'What'. Whose? That will be my Mum. That was my Mum's wedding ring and now it's yours. Di got it out from the locker today morning and I slipped it on your finger when you were busy bellowing at me. I don't know how to answer the 'how', sorry. And 'why'?because, I am asking you to marry me, and can't do it without a ring. So, in a last word, will you marry me, Riddhima?

"Armaan," Riddhima gasped.

"Yes, me, Armaan," he still joked but his eyes betrayed the seriousness of the situation, "Will you please marry me Riddhima?

                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



They hadn't even entered the living room, when it erupted with shouts.

"What happened?"

"What did she say?"

"Anybody wants to play Delta Force?"

"I hope, Ridzie didn't cry....and I sure hope Armaan didn't crack a joke."

"Damn, if I knew this was an engagement, I would have stuck to the tie. I am more photogenic, with a tie!"

"Will you guys just shut up?" Armaan finally screamed at the top of his voice, silencing the others, "Phew, that's better! I guess you missed that lesson in pre-school when they taught about the virtues of listening!"

"And I guess your forgetting the basic principles of conversation," Anjali complained, "One can only listen when the other person speaks! So will you please speak up?"

"Exactly, tell us what happened."

"Bro, you owe us the truth!"

"Can I have some cake?"

"Ridzie, I told you every teeny-tiny detail."

"SILENCE!!" Armaan bellowed, "Finger on your lips, all of you! Good boy Gappu! Well, now that you are behaving  more like civilized people, I am happy to inform you, that," he looked at Riddhima, "That she said yes!"



In a flash, Armaan and Riddhima were captured in a hurdle of many arms! Everybody seemed to be saying a lot of things but nobody was listening. Riddhima noticed Gappu standing a bit away, his finger still on his gaping mouth, staring at the hurdle, apparently wondering if his entire family had gone mad. He made a decision in a split second and came charging towards them, diving into the hurdle himself and even in the hustle Riddhima couldn't help but laugh. Being a part of this crazy family was sure going to be fun!



"So when is the wedding," Abhi finally asked, "Take my advice; don't push it away too far. I tell you from personal experience, it's a hell of a wait."

Nikki blushed and elbowed him but suddenly her face cleared.

"Oh My God!" she shrieked, "I know! Why don't you guys get married along with us? You know, we could have a double wedding. It's gonna be a lot of fun!"

"Yeah," Abhi agreed, "That'll be great. What say Armaan? I am all for it."

"So when is your wedding planned?" Anjali asked.

"Yeah," Atul nodded, "Got to apply for leave an all. After all it's my.."



"Wait!" Riddhima finally found her voice, "Umm....my parents! My parents don't know about us! I .....we," she looked at Armaan, "Have to talk to them!"

There was a sudden lull in the conversation as everybody pondered over her statement. Nobody had really given it a thought earlier, which was stupid, because Riddhima's parents consent was really important. Riddhima looked from her two best friends to Atul and Anjali, all deep in thought and was surprised when her eyes fell on Armaan, and she found him smiling. She however was not the only one to notice the oddity; Atul noticed it too and asked,

"What are you smiling at? Excited about meeting your in-laws?"

"Actually I am," Armaan grinned, "Especially when I've already prepared ground work."

"Ground work?" Abhi asked puzzled, "How's that?"

"Erm.....I spoke to Rahul bhaiyya today. Riddhima's brother," he clarified for Atul and Anjali, "And he said, I have his blessings. He also instructed me to 'get my butt' to Kolkata and ask for his sisters hand, formally," he added with a wink at Riddhima, "And I am planning to do just that, as soon as possible!"

As the others errupted into loud plannings again, Riddhima turned towards Armaan.

"You spoke to Bhaiyya?"

"Ofcourse!" he smirked, "You are not the only Gupta that I charmed!"

 Mia

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