Saturday, 15 December 2018

chapter 11 : SHALL WE DANCE?

RECAP: Panting, they locked themselves in his car and drove off towards the city, fingers still intertwined, hearts fluttering as they felt like young teenagers in love absconding from their afternoon dance class.

 They returned back after their romantic interlude, Riddhima ahead of him by a few minutes, to avoid any prying onlookers.

 "Rhea? Kya baat hai?" Riddhima was surprised to find a sobbing girl, instead of the happy one they had just left. She knelt beside her and looked at her worriedly. Rhea was not one to shed tears easily. In fact, Rhea's strength and stoic nature reminded Riddhima of her own childhood many times. Seeing her upset made Riddhima a bit apprehensive of what might have transpired while she and Armaan were away.

"Auntie!"Rhea hugged Riddhima and sat on her lap, "ma-ma….ma-ma….se baat huyi thi….I miss her auntie….unki tabiyat theek nahin hai….wo ab Singapore mein hain….main bhi jaaoongi Singapore."

"Hum chalenge Singapore," Armaan joined them and patted Rhea's back, "tum aur main mama ko milne jaayenge…theek hai?"

Rhea shook her head, "nahin uncle….maine poocha tha mama se….lekin wok eh rahi thi abhi wo mujh se nahin mil sakti."

"Kyun nahin mil sakti?" He asked.

"Armaan," Riddhima touched his hand softly, "I think she doesn't want Rhea to see her in that state…..I think this time they are really using some drastic treatments……koi bhi maa apne bachche ke saamne is roop mein nahin aana chaahegi."

"I understand," he nodded, "chalo Rhea….let's go and get some ice cream," he pulled her off  Riddhima's lap and held her in his arms, "kaun sa flavor pasand hai?"

Rhea shook her head while wiping her tears, "I don't want anything…..*sob*..*sob*"

" about toy store? Nahin toy store nahin…art store? Wahan chalogi?"

She shook her head once again, too distraught to distract herself with those attractions.

Armaan felt bad for Rhea. He could imagine if his mom had disappeared for so many days when he was only eight, he would have missed her too. In fact, he missed her even now, but had been too proud and haughty to call her back from Punjab after she left him to stay with her brother.

He knew there was one thing that would bring cheer to Rhea's life.

"Rhea beta…I have a surprise for you….come with me," Armaan walked with her to the changing room in the studio.

"Kya surprise hai uncle?" She wiped her eyes and gazed at him expectantly. Riddhima followed them and wondered what surprise Armaan was talking about.

"OK close your eyes," Armaan asked Rhea.

"OK," she grinned and placed her tiny hands on both her eyes.

"No peeping…and no cheating…OK?" He placed her down on the floor and spun her around.

A semi dizzy Rhea tried to catch her balance as he spun her around till she was face to face with the mirror, "Ok…now open your eyes."

She removed her hands and wiped her eyes. She stared into the mirror, wondering where her surprise was.

"SURPRISE! TUMHARE PAPA TUMSE MILNE AAYE HAIN!" Armaan sat next to her and pointed at the mirror.

"Kahan hain?" Her eyes lit up.

"WO," he pointed at his reflection, "wo rahe tumhare papa."

Rhea was rendered speechless. She looked back and forth between him, Riddhima and his reflection.

Riddhima smiled tearfully and knelt beside the girl. She thanked Armaan silently with her eyes and hugged Rhea, "dekho Rhea….tumhare papa ne tumhein apnaa liya hai…..tumhari mama kitni khush hogi."

"Aur main bhi," Rhea smiled from ear to ear and flung herself in Armaan's arms. He reciprocated her tight hug and kissed her head, "now no more crying….samjhi?" Rhea nodded her head and clung to him.



After dance practice, Armaan and Rhea insisted that Riddhima join them at his place to celebrate the 'big day.' Riddhima did not have the heart to decline although she felt a bit awkward going to Armaan's place. Somewhere in the back of her mind, his playboy image still had her vacillating between her heart and mind. Yes, he had changed and moreover with Rhea's presence, she ought to feel secure around him. What she didn't trust was her own heart. Just like the other evening in the studio, when she had confessed her inner most feelings to him, would he be able to sway her emotions again, especially on his turf?

The three of them spent a wonderful, almost family-like time at Armaan's place. Teddy was in great spirits all evening as 'Riddhima madam' was way different from all the bimbos who frequented their place. She was not only beautiful, but seemed well grounded and knew how to handle both Armaan and Rhea. He was even more pleased to see Rhea address Armaan as 'papa.' So, his hunch was right. After all, given Armaan's over active extra-curricular activities, a long lost child was bound to appear at some point. For the first time, he was proud of his master for having accepted his mistake and responsibility openly. Teddy was sure Riddhima was probably the reason for his transformation. He wouldn't mind serving under her if Armaan decided to get married to her one day. She was polite, not bossy and treated him like a human being rather than a slave.

After an exhausting day, Rhea retired early to bed. Both Armaan and Riddhima took turns reading with her and finally bade her goodnight once she fell asleep in Armaan's arms. Teddy had also wrapped up for the evening, and secretly wished that 'Riddhima madam' would spend some time alone with his master. He kept his fingers crossed in the hope that Armaan sir would not drag the only wife-worthy woman he had brought with him, to bed like he had always done with other women after his departure. Teddy had no business to interfere in their personal life, but he felt protective towards Riddhima as if she were his younger sister.


"Achcha Armaan…main chalti hoon," Riddhima hung her bag on her shoulder and glanced at him hesitantly.

"Yaad hai…aayi tum apni marzi se ho," he walked over to her and gently slipped the strap of her bag, off her shoulder, his fingers brushing against her collar bone ever so softly, but enough to send a flutter through her body, "aur jaaogi meri marzi se." His husky baritone and magnetic gaze rendered her limp as she stayed glued in place.

"A-Armaaan," she slurred, "I think I should go," she slipped back the strap of the bag on her shoulders, "bahut raat ho gayi hai."

"Lekin jee nahin bhara abhi," he came closer, the whiff of his cologne mixed with the spices from the dinner filling her nostrils.

She touched his face with her fingers, "jee kabhie nahin bharega Armaan…..lekin kabhie na kabhie tho jaana hoga."

"Ok….only after one dance….remember your promise?" He pulled her bag off in a flicker this time and threw it on the adjacent sofa. He stretched his hand and offered it to her, "I have known to break promises…..but I know you are not the kind to break promises……so can I have my dance?"

She hesitated and then took his hand with a smile, "Yes….you are right….I never break my promises……main apni baat ki pakki hoon…..yahan kasie dance karenge? Koi music hai?"

He scooped her into his arms swiftly and kissed her neck from behind, "ek baar haan ho jaaye…..tho music bhi khud ba khud bajne lagega." Strange sweet and delightful currents ran through her body as his lips and fingers scorched her neck. She tried to suppress her moans as his finger traced the lines on her neck, "tumhein yahan akela chhod ne ko jee nahin chaah raha."He lifted her from her waist and trapped her slender form against his tough and lean frame. Quietly, he carried her to the other end of the living room while keeping his gaze on her beautiful face looking down at him.

"Armaan! Kahan le jaa rahe ho?" Her heart sank as she saw them approaching his bedroom door.

"Tum hi tho keh rahi thi ki music ke bina dance nahin kar sakti," he held her snugly and grinned mischievously, "tho aaj ek aisa dance karenge jo pehle hum dono ne kabhie nahin kiya."

"ARMAAN! MAIN AISI LADKI NAHIN HOON!" She panicked and floundered in his arms, "PLEASE LEAVE ME!"

Armaan was too strong for her and kept his grip on her flailing body,"calm down Riddhima…..I am very gentle….promise I won't hurt you… me you will love this dance."

"I KNEW I SHOULDN'T HAVE DONE THIS! I SHOULD HAVE NEVER FALLEN FOR YOU! TUM BADLE NAHIN HO! YOU ARE STILL THE SAME!" She pounded his head and shoulders with her fists, "please chhodo mujhey!"

He paused near the stereo system and turned the power switch on.

"OK…ab chhod diya!" He placed her down and shook his head, "music tho ON kar diya…lekin lagta hai tumhara switch Off ho gaya hai."

"Music?" she was baffled.

He ran his fingers through his hair to fix them after her onslaught on his head, "bahut strong ho tum…..dekho meri kya halat banaa di? You are a lioness trapped in an ant's body."

She stood speechless with her jaw dropped.

The music started playing as he stretched his hand again, "Main tho sirf music on karne aaya tha yahan…..tumne na jaane kya samajh liya," he chuckled and then leaned his body close to hers, "don't worry Riddhima…I will never hurt you…..mujhey itna badal diya hai tumne lekin phir bhi itna nahin samajh paayi ki main tumhare saath kabhie koi zabardasti nahin kar sakta… are the first woman I just don't want to take to bed for my pleasure…….yes….I am very attracted to you……like I have never been before to any woman………lekin hamare beech jab bhi aur jo bhi kabhie hoga….sirf tumhari marzi se hoga……hum dono ki marzi se hoga. Can I please have a dance now? Kya itna bhi haq nahin hai mujhey?"

Kahin to.. kahin to.
Hogi woh
Duniya jahan tu mere saaath hain

Her heart sank as she kicked herself for being too presumptive about him. She shut her eyes and nodded, "haq hai Armaan…..I don't think I can ever dance with anyone like I have with you," she whispered softly, then opened her eyes and placed her hand in his and twirled into his arms again, "shall we dance?"

Enjoy this beautiful slow dance number from "Jaane tu" as the two lovers swayed silently in each other's arms, lost in paradise, unaware of their surroundings and conscious only of each other's heartbeats against their chests. Even if they ever parted ways, this dance and this evening would always be close to their hearts and would always be cherished by both of them as the finest and purest moments of their lives.....

Chaha mein chaha tu
Aur jaan bas tere mere zajbaat hain
Hogi jahan saba teri
Palkon ki kirano mein
Lori jahan chand ki
Sune teri bahon mein...

[Jane na kahan woh duniya hai
Jane na woh hai bhi ya nahi
Jahan meri zindagi mujhse
Inti kafa nahi ] - [2]

They swayed gently in each other's arms, cheek to cheek, he crooned soft nothings into her ear and then bent down in search of her lips.

Saasein kho gai hai kiski aahon mein
Mein kho gai hoon jane kiski baahon mein
Manzilon se rahe dhondte chali
Aur kho gai hai manzil kahin rahon mein
Kahin to kahin to hai nasha
Teri meri har mulakat mein

She gave in and pulled his face closer till their lips were locked in a tender but all consuming kiss.

Hoton se hoton ko
Chumti o rehete hai hum har baat pe
Kehti hain fiza jahan
Teri zaameen aasman

Jahan hai tu
Meri hasi meri khushi
Meri jaan....

[Jane na kahan woh duniya hai
Jane na woh hai bhi ya nahi
Jahan meri zindagi mujhse
Inti kafa nahi ]- [2]


The following weeks leading to the night of the dance competition went by in a flurry. The intense dance practices and preparation for the competition kept everyone busy in the studio.

Armaan had sent personal invitations to all his cricket buddies to attend the grand event. Thanks to all the sponsors, the event was being held at a banquet hall at the famous Taj Palace Hotel. Arrangements for a sit down dinner and gala while the dancers competed in the event on a center stage were being made. Armaan had appointed Muskaan to help Anjali with all the preparations. Anjali had earned his trust after she had 'rescued' them from the Naina photograph scandal, so he left it to her and Muskaan to figure out how they would prepare for the event.

The biggest surprise for him was not the competition but what he had planned for afterwards. He was going to propose to Riddhima in a grand way, right on the stage after the winners were announced. He didn't care whether they won or not, as he knew this would be Riddhima's last dance at Anjali's studio. Once they were married, he would open a studio for her where she would be the boss and perform for herself rather than dance on her employer's tunes. He wanted to keep this a secret and spring the surprise on the big night. He couldn't wait to see the smile on her face when he would propose.

His mother, Smita Malik had agreed to attend the competition too. She had heard through the grapevine that her son had changed a lot and once she heard about Riddhima from Armaan and Teddy, she was looking forward to meeting her future daughter in law.

Armaan even purchased a beautiful red sari and jewelry to present Riddhima with a 'shagun' that night. He was hoping that her family would be there too, and would be pleasantly surprised and happy for their daughter. Once they would get married, he was willing to take over all their financial responsibilities too.

Riddhima was too busy to think about what would happen after the big night. She was focused on the performances and making sure everyone did their part right. After all, this was one of the biggest challenges of her career with so much press coverage and public curiosity centered on this competition. Having a famous cricket star as one of the competitors made it even more demanding. She had no idea what was cooking in Armaan's mind about the proposal and was unaware that Armaan's mother was planning to be there that night.

Rhea was more excited about seeing her mother the night of the competition than the dance itself. Her mother was returning from Singapore and had promised to cheer for her that night. Rhea was also sad that her mother's arrival also meant she would have to leave Armaan's house, but she hoped she could convince her mom to let her visit with him every so often. In her dream world, she wanted to be a part of one very big family with everyone she was closed to under the same roof.



Armaan, dressed in a black suit and bow tie emerged from his car along with his mother, Mrs Smita Malik outside the banquet hall. They were surrounded by press photographers and news reporters but Armaan managed to wade them away, shielding his mom from the limelight. Mrs Smita Malik was an attractive middle aged lady with a broad forehead like her son's, light skinned and attractive even at this age, she could pass off his older sister any day.

Muskaan and Rahul followed them in their car, while the other cricketers and their families arrived shortly thereafter.

"Riddhima aur Rhea kahan hain?" Smita Malik asked.

"Mom….Rhea tho pehle hi aa gayi thi….I guess she had to get dressed….aur Riddhima se aapko baad mein milwaaoonga……she must be tense about the performance." Armaan whispered into her ear.

"Bahut dhyaan hai uski tension ka?" she teased him.

"Yes mom…..tum milogi tho samajh jaaogi ki main uska deewana kyun hoon…..she is the most beautiful woman in this world," he chuckled.

"Haan…haan…kai baar sun chuki hoon," Smita chuckled back.

They walked into the hall and were surprised to see a hall full of people, dressed in suits, tuxedos, women in their formal best with drinks and appetizers being served freely.

"Lagta hai abhi competition shuru hone mein time hai." Armaan's eyes wandered around in search of familiar faces.

He spotted Anjali dressed in a beautiful blue silk gown chatting away with another bespectacled man.

"Mom…aap yahan baitho….this is a good seat for you," Armaan helped her settle, "main abhi aaya."

As he walked towards Anjali and the unknown man, he was surprised to hear an announcement on the overhead.


A song started blaring on the speakers as Anjali spotted Armaan, "Hi Armaan jee! In se milo…yeh hain Mr Abhimanyu Modi!"

shaam hai jaam hai aur hai nasha
tan bhi hai mann bhi hai pighla huaan
chhayi hai ranginiya phir bhi hai betaabiyan
kyun dhadakta hai dil
kyun yeh kehta hai dil
deewanon ko ab tak nahi hai yeh pata
aaj ki raat khona hai kya paana hai kya
khona hai kya
aaj ki raat khona hai kya paana hai kya
khona hai kya

"HI!" Armaan shook the bespectacled man's hands.

"Hi….nice to meet you after all…bahut naam suna hai aapka," Abhimanyu grinned with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Well you've probably heard it in cricket circles……this stuff is new for me," Armaan swung his finger around the hall.

"Chaliye koi baat nahin…..aaj yeh jalwa bhi dekh lenge….I have heard all the dancers have done a great job…..I hope I can pick some talent here," Abhimanyu replied.

"Are you a judge?" Armaan asked.

"Oh…….I am just a producer…I produce movies….TV shows etc… am always snooping for new talent." Abhimanyu replied.

"Great!" Armaan exclaimed and then looked at Anjali, "Rhea aur Riddhima kahan hain?"

"Green room mein….kyun unke bina suna suna sa lag raha hai kya?" Anjali teased him.

"OH…NO…I am just curious," his eyes wandered again, "by the way Nikita was supposed to show up too…..I really want to meet her also," Armaan mustered some courage and thought it would be best to tell Nikita everything about him and Riddhima before the big announcement he was going to make after the show.

do ghadi mein yahaan jaane kya ho gaya
jo hamesha tha mera dil mera ho gaya
kaun kiske dil mein hai faisala hoga
faisala hai yahi jeet hogi meri
deewaanon ab tak nahi hai yeh pata
aaj ki raat khona hai kya paana hai kya
khona hai kya
aaj ki raat khona hai kya paana hai kya
khona hai kya

"Bahut betaab hain aap Nikita se milne ke liye?" Abhimanyu asked with a slanting smile, "aisi kya khaas baat hai Nikita mein?"

"OH…well she is an old friend…..I just wanted to say hello." Armaan cleared his throat.

"Nikita ko lene shayad koi airport gaya hai," Anjali replied.

"Oh..OK…excuse me….I will see you later…Anjali show kitne baje shuru hoga?" Armaan was about to walk away and then asked.

'We have time….don't worry," Anjali smiled.

"Hey Armaan Malik!" Rahul, Muskaan's husband stopped him next.

"Oh hi Rahul! Where is Muskaan?" Armaan asked hurriedly as he was trying to get a glimpse of Riddhima before they got on the stage to dance.

"Well you should know better….wo tho aapki ghulam hai….meri nahin," Rahul answered sarcastically.

Armaan tried to suppress his anger, "she is my employee Rahul….not a slave."

"Well…..for the amount she is paid… seems more like slavery to me," Rahul shrugged his shoulders and put his hands in his pocket.

"Sorry Rahul…..I have to go," Armaan excused himself from the resentful good-for-nothing hockey player husband of Muskaan. If it were not for her, he would have never stopped to greet that man.

His cricket buddies surrounded him and wished him luck for the big dance competition. They said they would reserve the loudest cheers for his dance number.

Armaan sneaked away from the crowd and made way into the back stage area. He knocked on all doors till he finally got to Riddhima's room. It was wonderful to see all the other dancers in makeup and flashy clothes. His heart did somersaults as he imagined how his beloved Riddhima would look. She had told him to wear a black suit for their dance, but had not revealed her outfit. He carried a package with the red sari and shagun in one hand as he knocked on her door.

"Come in!" Her husky voice welcomed him. He placed the package on the counter and admired her reflection in the mirror.

She stood in front of the mirror, finger close to her eyes as she maneuvered the green colored contact lenses into them.

"Tumhari aankhein waise hi khubsoorat hain…..inhein chupa kyun rahi ho?" He walked closer and kissed her neck from behind.

She froze and turned around, "tum? Yahan kab aaye?"

"Kisi aur ko expect kar rahi thi kya?" He pulled her into his arms and then scrutinized her from head to toe. She was definitely his mermaid tonight. Dressed in a shimmering off white gown with a slit at the bottom to reveal her shapely legs adorned in beautiful high heeled shoes, glitter and sparkles on her face- she was like a fairy angel tonight.
"Nahin…mujhey laga tum bahar logon ke saath ghul mil rahe hoge," she ran her fingers on his jacket.

"Jab jaan andar yahan changing room mein hai tho bahar jism akela kya karega?" his hands around her waist tightened their grip.

"Are you nervous?" she asked with a playful smile.

"Are you?" He gazed into her green eyes lovingly.

"Hmm…kuch kuch," she nodded her head and lowered her gaze.

"Kyun apne dance partner par aitbaar nahin hai kya?" He took her hand and kissed her fingers tenderly.

"Apne aap par nahin hai," her eyes glistened through the lenses.

"aaj raat jo bhi ho…..remember I will always love you…..I don't care about the outcome of the competition," he bent down to kiss her lips this time but she placed her fingers on them.

"Aisa mat kaho Armaan……the outcome of tonight's performance matters to me…….my career depends on it," her fingers trembled as they touched his lips.

"Theek hai tumhare liye main sab kuch daav par lagaane ko tayyar hoon," he nibbled at her fingers, "par meri ek shart maan ni padhegi."

"Kya?" she withdrew her hand and looked perplexed.

"Counter par ek packet hai……make sure you open it after the competition….theek hai?"

"Kya hai packet mein?" she looked behind and saw a gift wrapped box on the counter.

"Surprise hai…..lekin abhi nahin kholna…baad mein kholna please," he kissed her nose softly and then kissed her eyelids, "you look gorgeous tonight……kisi ki nazar na lag jaaye aaj."

"You look handsome too," she smiled and placed her arms around his neck.

"I know….I'm irresistible to most women……and you are not immune either."

"Achcha?" She tugged at his bow tie and then chuckled, "itna ghamand achcha nahin hai Armaan Malik."

"Kya karoon? Oopar waale ki meherbaani hai….what can I do if I am so dashing?"

She rolled her tongue playfully and then let go of him, "ab jao….I need to get ready."

"You look as ready as you can be…..chalo dance practice karte hain,"
He grabbed her again and clenched his teeth, "Can I have a dance before the show begins?"

"Abhi nahin Armaan….tumhein har waqt bas dance soojhta hai," she replied irately.

"Kya karoon? You said it the other night….I am addicted to it and to you," his voice dropped as his gaze held hers.

She averted her eyes and adjusted her contact lenses which had shifted due to the moisture in her eyes.

"RIDDHIMA! ARE YOU READY?" A voice echoed through the door.

"Haan! Main aayi," Riddhima answered back.

"OK…..let's get going then…..we don't have much time," The voice disappeared along with the footsteps.

A perplexed Armaan stood still, "that voice? Kaun thi wo? It sounded familiar."

"Armaan……..please go now…..I need to check on the other dancers too…..please leave!"

"Ok baba….jaata hoon," he scoffed and checked his reflection in the mirror, "steps bhool mat jaana…..and don't be nervous OK?"

She walked towards him and stepped on her tip toes. Gently, she planted a kiss on his cheek, "good luck Armaan."

"Good luck kiss cheek par nahin….yahan hota hai," he grinned and pointed to his lips.

"Abhi nahin Armaan….phir kabhie."

 Riddhima threw him out of the room despite his protests. He scratched his head on his way back, trying to recall the familiar voice outside the room…..

 aaon main tumse kahu baat chupke se
rang badlegi pal mein raat chupke se
tumko le jaaunga phir saath chhupke se
jaaoge tum kahaan dekho main yahaan
deewaanon ab tak nahi hai yeh pata
aaj ki raat khona hai kya paana hai kya
khona hai kya
aaj ki raat khona hai kya paana hai kya
khona hai kya

….to be contd….


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