Monday, 3 December 2018

chapter 1 : SHALL WE DANCE?


INSIDE A HIGH RISE APARTMENT IN DELHI


Sprawled on his luxurious Swedish leather couch, in front of a large flat screen TV, Armaan Malik, 27 year old vice-captain of the Indian cricket team picked up a magazine from the coffee table.


"Hey baby, check this out."




"WOW! Front page of the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED INTERNATIONAL! You are the cricket personality of the year! "


"Yup!" Armaan Malik, leaned back on the couch and placed his arm around his new girl, "Rosie! Now no one can stop me from becoming captain. That Atul Gavarkar needs to retire or be sacked!"



"You are right darling…..Atul has been captain for five years now……and when was the last time he excelled on the field?" She asked.



"EXACTLY! His batting average was…what 26 for this series…..he is bl**dy there just because he sucks up to the board…..warna tho kab ka out ho jaana chaahiye tha." Armaan sneered.


Rosie moaned, "darling……defeating Australia on their turf in both test and one day series was all because of your stellar performance. What next baby?" Rosie was hoping the tall, handsome, successful and one of the most eligible bachelor celebrities in India would say something like- Will you marry me….or baby what I want is you….or make love to you… Instead, he smirked arrogantly and sipped his single malt, "CAPTAINCY! AND THEN WORLD CUP BABY! I want the Indian public to forget 1983….. and move over Kapil Dev….it's gonna be Armaan Malik now and forever! Bachche bachche ke zubaan par sirf Armaan Malik ka naam hoga!"


"Oh baby!" She forced a smile, "I can't wait for that day. I know you will do it!"

Haughtily, he smiled and kissed her neck, "You wanna watch the man-of-the-series video once again, while I place the dinner order?"

"I would love to! You looked so dashing that day. That Australian tan suits you baby." She soothed his ego and got up to insert the DVD for the umpteenth time.

Armaan got up to place a take-out order from his favorite Italian place. Before he could dial, the intercom buzzed: SIR…THERE IS SOMEONE DOWNSTAIRS TO MEET YOU.

"Who is it?" Armaan buzzed back.

"SHE'S A YOUNG LADY SIR!"


With a conceited smile, he replied, "darbaan….you know how girls are crazy about me….I am busy right now…send her away."



"BUT SHE REFUSES TO LEAVE!"


"OH GOD! These girls! What's her name?"

"It is…." The concierge paused, "uh…kya naam hai aapka madam?" He asked.

Afraid that Rosie might overhear their conversation just in case it was one of the other women he was dating; he cleared his throat, "darbaan….main neeche aata hoon."

"Baby…I will be right back."

"Who is it darling?" Rosie asked.

"Some fan….probably wants an autograph or something."

"Aww….poor thing….ghar par bhi aaraam se nahin baith ne dete yeh log," Rosie pouted sympathetically.

Armaan winked at her, "I am indebted to my fans sweetheart…he he," and walked out of the apartment.

As the elevator descended to the ground level, Armaan cursed Muskaan Misra, his agent. She had recently advised him to 'clean up his public image if he wanted to become captain.' Apparently, his stand-offish image amongst the public was the main barrier between him and the highest position in the team. He had a huge female fan following, and it was time he cashed on his image especially after his man-of-the-series performance in Australia.


Whistling to himself, ready with a cricket ball and pen, he walked towards the concierge desk, "kahan hai wo?"

"Sir….I asked her to wait in the office…..she has a little girl with her too…..I didn't want them to create a scene in the lobby."

"Scene? What do you mean?"


"Yes….that lady kept saying that the young girl is your daughter."

'What rubbish!" Armaan clenched his jaw, "now this is going too far…..keh do mujhey nahin milna."


"MILNA PADHEGA!" A woman stepped out of the office and raised her voice. A young 8 year old girl with pink cheeks, big dark eyes, thick black hair and a frightened expression hid behind the woman in front of her and clung to the bottom of the woman's kurti.



Armaan, expecting to see a young and gorgeous fan of his, was shocked to see a woman in faded jeans, a loose fitting long white kurti, slick black well-oiled hair in a tight pony tail, Kolhapuri chappals and thick rimmed glasses. She was probably in her early 20s, but stared at him with a stern expression reminiscent of his first grade teacher.



He glared at her from head to toe and scrunched his nose in disgust, "chandaa maangna hai tho office aa jaana….ya meri agent se baat kar lena."




The woman pulled the little girl from behind and walked up to Armaan defiantly, "main yahan chandaa maangne nahin…..tumhari sab se badhi poonji dene aayi hoon….this is Rhea…..your eight year old daughter." Rhea stretched her neck to get a glimpse of the blue-eyed handsome man in front of her and then clung to with woman's kurti once again, hiding her face in it.



"What crap! I am not even married yet…..and a daughter?" He smirked, "kitna paisa chaahiye?"



"Men like you don't have to marry to spread your seeds….do they? Nikita is sick and has gone to Mumbai for treatment…..high time you took responsibility for your daughter….Nikita has done it for 8 years…..Rhea needs to stay here till Nikita gets back." The woman's incinerating gaze was fixated on Armaan's face as she spoke firmly without blinking or hesitating.



"Nikita?" Armaan scratched his head, "I..I…don't know any Nikita…..you are mistaken Ms…Ms…whatever…..as if I care."


"RIDDHIMA GUPTA!" The woman replied, "and here…..look at these photos….Nikita and you…..and going by these photos it is hard for anyone to imagine that you don't know Nikita." She held a bunch of photographs in front of his face.




Armaan was stunned to see the photographs. He took the pictures and skimmed through them, "yeah….so? I have so many fans who kiss and hug me…..this does not mean anything…..now stop blackmailing me….and LEAVE!"




Riddhima took out some more photographs and postcards. The post cards were addressed to Nikita in Armaan's handwriting- from various places he had visited as a member of the junior cricket team 8-9 years ago.





"Uh..wh..what?" He was astonished, "yeh kahan se mile tumhein?"



"Nikita is my friend….she has told me everything about you….what a jerk you are…..and that she made the biggest mistake of her life by falling in love with you…..and how you left her when she was pregnant…..and how you never called her or looked back at her….Rhea is a living proof of your irresponsibility Mr!" Riddhima snapped her fingers and clenched her teeth.



"Tammeez se baat karo….whatever your name is…..don't you know who I am?"



"An arrogant jerk?" She folded her arms and raised her eyebrow.



"I AM THE VICE CAPTAIN OF THE INDIAN CRICKET TEAM!" He yelled as some curious onlookers in the lobby walked by.



"AND I AM THE CAPTAIN OF THE INDIAN GILLI-DANDA TEAM!" She yelled back.



Armaan stepped back and wondered, "what? Does India have a gilli danda team?"

Rhea, who had been quiet and frightened so far, burst out in laughter.

"DUMB AND ARROGANT!" Riddhima retorted.


Armaan was rendered wordless by the two ladies in front of him. One, the bespectacled one stared at him with a blazing expression; and the little girl smiled at him with a very familiar expression- yes she was Nikita's daughter for sure.

"What do you mean?" He asked angrily.


"Bad combination! You are not only arrogant fool but a dumb one too! Now take care of your daughter…I have things to take care of."

"Hey…hey….hey…..Ok I agree Nikita and I knew each other years ago, but that does not make Rhea my daughter…."

She pulled out a file from her cloth bag dangling from her shoulder, "I knew a man like you would need proof……because words like love and heart probably don't exist in your dictionary….here is a DNA report!" She held a lab report in front of his eyes.


"W…wh…what's this? How do I know this is my DNA report?" He scoffed.



"Aren't you the vice captain of some goddammit team? A famous person….or should I say a notorious personality like you shed your DNA at all kinds of public places….don't you?" She confronted him.


An enraged Armaan snatched the report from her, "dekh loonga tumhein you cotton-kurti! My agent will call you…..and I will sue you!"



"OK! Involve the law….and trust me you will be taking care of Rhea for the rest of her life…..because Nikita might not even qualify." Riddhima replied calmly.


Armaan swallowed hard and suppressed his anger, "OK…..how long will she be here?"


"May be 15-20 days…Nikita should be back by then."

"Does Nikita not have any relatives?" Armaan asked as he gave Rhea a dirty look. Rhea shied away and hid behind Riddhima.



"Yes she does….but they abandoned her 8 years ago when she became an unwed mother……and Rhea has a dad so why should she go anywhere else?"



"You are Nikita's friend…aren't you? I will give you whatever you want….take care of Rhea." He sighed and swallowed his anger.



"NO, I can't….if I could….I would have never brought her here to her good-for-nothing dad!"

Armaan's nostrils flared as this petite frumpy woman who hurled insult after insult at him. Even Brett Lee, the Australian pace bowler was gentler in comparison.



"KITNA PAISA CHAAHIYE?" He asked loudly as he was sure that this measly woman was probably trying to extract a huge sum of money from him.




"Just bring her to her dance practices regularly…..and take good care of her," she replied softly this time, "that's all I expect from you……and give that money to some poor people instead…..shayad kisi ka bhala ho jaaye."


"Dance practice?" He was baffled.



Rhea stepped forward with renewed courage and finally spoke up, "Yes papa…..I have a dance competition in 4 weeks…..I really want our team to win it this time…..please take me for my dance practices every day."



"PAPA?" Armaan almost jumped at being addressed that way.

"Haan papa!" She flashed a smile again.

Conscious of people around him, including a look of disbelief on the concierge's face, Armaan bent down and whispered, "Rhea….if you promise to call me uncle….I will take you wherever you want."



"Yes uncle," she smiled again, "Riddhima aunty ne pehle hi kaha tha ki waise bhi aap papa kehlaane ke laayak nahin ho."



Armaan was flustered and got up, shaking his crisp brand label trousers, "Ok…Ok…whatever….let's go now…..and Ms cotton kurti…..can I have your phone number?"



"My name is Riddhima Gupta….Mr Armaani trousers! Rhea knows how to get in touch with me…..I would rather not hear from you…..the address to the dance studio is in Rhea's diary…..and make sure she gets there at 3 every afternoon."



"Whatever!" He looked at her scornfully, "na jaane apne aap ko kya samajh ti hai?" He mumbled to himself.


"I will make sure she gets there with someone." He nodded.



"No….a parent has to accompany her for the first class…..you have to sign the release form….sorry studio policy."


Armaan rolled his eyes in frustration; he was ready to strangle the cotton-kurti in front of him.



Riddhima collected the photographs, postcards and DNA report, placed them in her bag and bent down to kiss Rhea. Rhea gave her a big hug, "auntie…..I will miss you…I am scared of this man."




"Don't worry Rhea…..call me if he troubles you….." She smiled at her and took her glasses, fogged with mist from her eyes, off and kissed her again. An infuriated Armaan was about to protest when he saw Riddhima's face as she got up after wishing Rhea. Without glasses and with a smile on her face instead of a frown, he was struck by her attractive features and a pair of captivating eyes he had never seen on anyone before.


"BYE RHEA!" Riddhima placed her glassed back as she caught Armaan staring at her. Her smile vanished and she turned around to leave.


"BYE AUNTIE!"


Armaan stood there frozen with a little girl's hand in his large hand, astounded at what had just happened to him and his life in the last 15 minutes. Was this really happening to him or was it a nightmare? Why did Nikita do that to him? He had broken up with her years ago then why was his past standing beside him to haunt him? And that woman- Riddhima Gupta- the most obnoxious woman in this world- he hated her! He hated Nikita….he hated Rhea…..he hated his past…..for a change he hated himself for being so callous about his affair with Nikita- he was trapped into taking care of this little scoundrel standing beside him.


They turned towards the elevator as Armaan took his phone out and dialed his agent, "MUSKAAN!"

………….to be contd……………

bheegi

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