Monday, 8 July 2019

part 24 : The Green Blue Hues

The couple was madly in love with each other, that much was evident from the start of things. Their bond was beautiful, they shared something many couples envied and yet weren't able to achieve after years of companionship. But they were different, they were special. The girl was one of a kind; beautiful, smart and extremely intelligent, with a sharp sense of wit and demeaning confidence, her personality was what had attracted many to join the line of people who instantly fell in love with her. Despite the problems at home, she had exceeded everyone's expectations regarding herself and had made a stand for herself, which was a base reason of admirable respect gained from all those who knew her. The guy wasn't anything extra-ordinary; his looks were definitely appealing, and he had swooned many from the fairer sex with the undying charm he possessed, yet it was the certain aura to him that was the basis of attraction for many. His charm and wit could get him anywhere, and not to mention his brains which had helped him get into one of the best universities to pursue the career serving humanity, he was an extra-ordinarily normal person, who knew how to keep his emotions at bay. The amount of control he held over himself and his emotions was commendable, and perhaps the biggest asset to his personality was his ability to understand people and provide solace and comfort to them whenever required.



Intriguing was the fact that those two were inseparable, for since the time they had met in the backyard of one's house, they hadn't been able to spend a day without each other. It was a bond to be held and cherished forever that had formed between the two, no matter how many girls he would date in his life, the guy always held a special place in his heart for her. She was his best friend, his one getaway from all the other things in his life that often let him down. And he was her strongest pillar, who helped her through the marital problems and divorce, helped her make a new life for herself. Ironic was the fact that everyone around them, especially the people the two had dated, had always been blindly following the idea that they both were in love with each other. In fact, the sole reason for her divorce and his break up with the woman he had intended to marry was the doubt risen by both party's spouses about the nature of their relationship. All their lives they had been struggling and fighting with everyone to make them believe they were nothing more than best friends, until one night; almost forty years after the day they had met, forty years of unbreakable, strong friendship. Some random talk had ended into declaration of the love they held for each other, and till now had been suppressing and not believing themselves. An unexpected ending to the friendship and a new start of a relationship that soon ended into wedlock was initiated that night. Barney and Laura, the two kids from Brooklyn who had started off as mere neighbors, coursed through their lives and it took them good whole forty years to realize that the relationship they shared was not plain friendship, it was undying love.

Muskaan sighed heavily as she lay aside the book she had been stuck to since the past three hours, and even though she had ended the last chapter a few minutes ago, her mind was still reeling with thoughts. The uncanny and almost real similarity of the characters of the book and their story to the two of her closest friends was what left her thinking; Barney and Laura were exactly Armaan and Riddhima, in every sense of the word. Accepted, there were a few deviations here and there in the buildup of the characters and their perception of the world, but the way their story had unfolded was unbelievably similar to Armaan and Riddhima's. The strong, sturdy friendship, the dependency on each other for support and trust, the almost enviable friendship the two shared, and most importantly, their denial to accept the truth of their relationship; everything was so similar. Muskaan was an ardent reader, she had read volumes of books and yet never had she come across characters or a story that held so much similarity to the reality of what was actually happening in her friends' lives. She had sat down to read the book to deviate her attention from whatever Riddhima had told her, for she was alarmingly disturbed by the change in her best friend. So much so for platonic friendship; she had sensed much more than mere affection in Riddhima's tone in the way she had talked about Armaan. She had never been oblivious to the fact that the two could be in love, in fact she had fancied the idea in her head many a times in the beginning. But both Riddhima and Armaan had so strongly opposed the idea when mentioned in a random joke that she had begun to believe their stance on their relationship; that they were nothing more than 'just friends'. However, the recent talk with Riddhima and the way things were shaping up were definitely making her think otherwise.

She couldn't think of a couple that would be more compatible than these two; they fit in perfectly for each other. Being better acquainted with Riddhima than Armaan, she was sensible enough to realize that Armaan was the guy for Riddhima; and vice versa too. Though she had never interfered much in the way things worked out between the two, she was slightly worried by the way things were shaping up, for they were taking a turn for the worse. Realizing their love for each other would be fantastic, according to her, but it was not to be done by faking a wedding before their parents, and as much as she had been able to conclude with her talk with Riddhima, she was sure that Riddhima's approach was wrong. But before she had been able to give her opinion about it, Armaan had barged in and asked her to leave. Now, as Muskaan sat thinking about the whole situation, she couldn't understand how they both had landed up in to this mess and how would they get out of it. They could be accounted to be amongst her closest friends, and she was worried for their sake, for she knew that if this didn't work out well for them, it would also ruin the beautiful relationship they shared. It had taken the protagonists of Erich Segal's novel forty years to realize their true feelings. She hoped her friends were sensible enough to take not as long a time as that, and would accept what was evident to all as soon as possible. With that thought in mind, she finally got up to get ready.

******************************************************************

Armaan looked around helplessly and tried for the umpteenth time to talk to his mother, who was clearly more interested in getting the arrangements done in time and giving instructions to the servants. He had been standing in the hall since the past ten minutes, trying his level best to get his mother to realize the importance of what he wanted to talk about and get her to listen to him, but in vain. Padma was stressed out due to the wedding, and clearly she was not in a mood to listen to Armaan at all.

"Mom please meri baat....," he attempted again, but was replied with an angry look with a final outburst.

"What part of 'not right now' do you not understand, Armaan? Main busy hoon...kaam ker ree hun...aissi kia zaruri baat hai jo tumse wait nee ho raha!!"

"Baat important hai na Mom...warna main apko tang na kerta...you know it...!!" Armaan tried to signify the importance of his talk.

"Look beta...we will talk later...I promise...now, you go and get ready....mehmaan atey hi honge....," and with a hasty pat on his cheek, Padma practically ran inside the kitchen to where was beckoned by Bey-Jee.

Armaan let out a frustrated sigh and closed his eyes. This was turning out to be even more difficult than he had thought. Riddhima had been right, they were too much in a festive mood to take anything he was saying seriously, and his parents least of all, for they were kept so busy with one thing or the other that they couldn't even pay attention to what he was saying. He was stuck, and he didn't know what to do now. He had thought talking to Padma beforehand would be better, for he preferred disclosing the lie to her before everyone, as he knew she would cover up for him in front of his dad. Armaan had never been as close to his father as he was to his mother, and now that she had told him to wait, he didn't know what to do. Going straight to his father and telling him the truth would not be the best option, for not only would he be scolded badly, but the entire function would be ruined for everything. Suresh Mallik was known for his temper, and Armaan was in no mood of pulling off the heroic act of telling him himself, not to mention the reaction he would get from his to-be-livid grandparents. No, he couldn't do that right now. He would have to think of something, or more so, wait for tomorrow, so that he could tell Padma first thing in the morning.

As that decision was made, he sighed again and after a moment of his mind being cleared, it clouded again with thoughts of Riddhima. He cursed himself for making her cry so badly, he knew she was deeply offended with some of the things he had said to her. He had wanted to go and hug her, to soothe her and calm her down, to pacify her and then apologize, but he had also known at that moment that by doing that, he would kill his side of the argument, and no matter how much he tried to side with her, he knew she was wrong. Whatever her reasons were, he couldn't go along with whatever bizarre idea she was suggesting, for even though he loved her truly as his only and best friend, he still couldn't hurt his family so badly. He had to come clean in front of them.

Lost in his thoughts, he was walking up the stairs when something suddenly bolted into him, knocking all the air out of him. Looking down, he found Ryan clinging to his legs, screaming his name loudly and laughing. A second later, Aravh bumped into him and Armaan tried to handle the both of them at the same time as they started punching each other playfully. In the mid of this chaos, he saw Rhea come down the stairs, crying miserably and loudly, with a broken toy in her hand. Separating himself from the two uncontrollable boys, he went forward and picked her up in his arms and soothed her down, by hugging her and then asking her what was wrong. The boys followed Armaan wherever he went, and consequently, five minutes later, Armaan could be found sitting in the kid's room, with Rhea in his lap trying to fix her toy while giving out instructions to the boys who were now playing videogames.

The only one to witness this whole scene was Rahul, who was yet again surprised by how well Armaan handled the kids. Not being much of a kid-lover himself, he always reprimanded himself of not having the ability to not only play along with the kids but also to make them his ultimate fans, like Armaan. The guy had countless good things to his name, and Rahul was once again reminded of how much he himself lacked, how much more he had to learn from this truly amazing person, who never failed to captivate the hearts of anyone who would come across him. Armaan was truly one in a million.

With these thoughts clouding over his mind, he was reminded of his cousin Riddhima, who, though they weren't as close as they once used to be, still held a special place in his heart. Rahul was an only child, and having never been acquainted with the love and affections of a sibling, he rejoiced in the relationship he shared with Riddhima. True, they weren't the best of friends, but he knew she was there for him whenever he wanted, and the same went for her too. They were two people who were linked not by a weak blood relation but by a true sense of belonging, which is perhaps felt by only a few. Rahul was indeed lucky to have found friends like Riddhima, Armaan and of course, Muskaan. As her name registered in his mind, a faint smile adorned his face and as he walked into his room, he realized how immensely blessed was he to have loved and be loved back by the same person, and to have her in his life. He wished the same to happen for the two closest friends of his, for no matter how much they denied it, what they shared was not mere friendship. Anyone who had experienced love could tell that, with just a glance at the couple. They were truly meant to be.

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"When are we going back, Armaan?"

The suddenness of the question jostled the man in question out of his thoughts with a shake of his head, as he turned to look around at the young boy of ten sitting next to him. He had completely lost track of time since he had been with the kids, for there was a sense of peace and calm that accompanied him whenever he happened to be around the kids. True, it was weird and many had ridiculed Armaan for his 'softer' side, but kids were a stress buster to him, in the real sense. There was tranquility around them; there was a sense of belonging in their hugs and kisses, a level of affection in their company, an uncanny and unavoidable truth to all that they said. He had always been a kid-lover, as long as he could remember, and he was indeed a special favorite with the kids wherever he went. Tact of handling them in a way that was envied by many was what he himself considered a gift, for not many are blessed with it. Now, as he sat on the floor of the kid's playroom, with Rhea in his lap and Ryan sitting next to him, he smiled at both of them and cocked an eyebrow at Ryan to silently ask him to repeat his quetsion, for so lost had he been in his own thoughts that he had conveniently not heard him the first time.

"I asked, when are we going back?," Ryan repeated, with an expression of impatience on his face, so similar to Riddhima's that it was almost uncanny.

"Errmm....back where...?" Armaan questioned back, still trying to get back to his senses, which were unbelievably preoccupied with the issues at hand.

"Back. Home. London. What's wrong with you, man?," Ryan replied, with a dramatic eye roll. Armaan sighed comprehensively.

"Aaah. London. Why, why do wanna go back? It's nice here, isn't it?" Armaan asked, playing with Rhea's hair.

"Yes, it is nice here, Armaan, " Ryan replied, emphasizing on the 'yes', "But its not home."

The simplicity with which Ryan uttered the last four words struck Armaan speechless for the next few minutes. As he looked at the young boy who stared back at him expectantly, Armaan was once again bewildered with the reality of how well children were able to distinguish between issues that adults often tend to get confused about. As far as he could remember, never had the kids been pampered and spoilt more than they had been here, yet there was a need for them to get back to where they actually belonged. No matter how nice the place was, it could never be home for them. Before he could reply, Ryan questioned again, this time with a look of fear and horror in his eyes.

"We aren't staying here, forever, are we...?"

Without even thinking, Armaan shook his head vigorously at this question and that gave Ryan some peace of mind, for he smiled back at Armaan and settled back to his game. Clearly, Armaan's negation in response to his question had answered all his queries, they would be going back home soon.

As he felt a second presence in the room, he looked up to see Divya talking to Aravh and Ryan, and in between she looked up and passed him a smile. Giving a hesitant smile back, he put up an excuse for using the restroom and walked out of the room, his mind even more preoccupied than before.

How come he hadn't thought about that, he questioned himself. Of course, they would have to go away. They couldnt stay here forever, like Ryan said, and now that the issue became clear in his head, he was reminded of the realities related to that one truth. They would have to go back, and he couldn't go with them. His parents had made it crystal clear to him that he wasn't going back to London, that he would stay here and help in the family business. But, what about them? They would have to go away. SHE would go away.

His throat constricted at the thought, and even the breaths full of fresh air that he took in as he stood at the terrace wouldn't help clear his mind. How had he never thought of it, he cursed himself. He suddenly realized that if he told his parents the truth about the marriage facade and all, Riddhima would definitely have to go. No matter how liberal his family was, they would never let her be a part of it after the truth would be told. He would be forgiven, for he was family, but she wasn't. And just out of the blue, he was reminded of something she had said during their argument earlier on in the day''

"They get hurt, the wedding is ruined for them, and they will give us the worst beatings of our lives, not to mention that I will be thrown out of this house. Its gonna be a major disaster Armaan, I don't know why you aren't seeing that''."

"'.not to mention that I will be thrown out of this house'."

As her words echoed in his mind, Armaan was instantly made aware of what she had meant. Of course. Of course, she had put up the whole argument, because she knew she would have to go away if the truth was told. And she had emphasized the importance of his family to her; she had told him how close she held all of them to her heart. Suddenly all the pieces started fitting in. The reason why Riddhima didn't want to tell his parents the truth was because she was aware of the fact that the consequence would be their separation. She would have to go back to London, and he would have to stay here. On no accounts could he ask her to pick up her whole life and shift to India for his sake, and his family would never allow him to go back to London.

So what would happen? They wouldn't be together anymore. And the mere thought, as it registered in his mind, was so drastically painful that a lump formed in his throat. He couldn't let them go, on any accounts. They were too special. SHE was too special. On no grounds was he ready to give up everything they had, everything they shared. Perhaps even he wasn't aware of how much importance she held in his life, until that sudden moment of realization when he thought of what life would be with her going away.

As he stood on the terrace, he saw a whole commotion going on underneath, where the lighting was being set up and the drive way was being decorated. People had slowly started filling in the house, and as his eyes wandered from the lighting to the flowers to the happy faces of his parents at the door, who were welcoming the guests inside their house ceremoniously, he made a decision. He finally knew what to do, even if it wasn't the right decision, it was right for him. Right for them.

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Riddhima sat before the dressing table, staring back at herself. She was astounded by the outcome of the whole hour and a half that Aditi and Imaan had spent on her laboriously. She was wearing too much make-up, too much jewelry, too heavy a dress. And she looked beautiful, undoubtedly. Barring the one time she and Muskaan had gone ballistic after the release of the epic movie Devdas and had dressed up in Muskaan's mother's sarees and too much of makeup to match up to the lady stars of the movie, she had never worn so much makeup. And even though she looked spectacularly pretty, it wasn't her.

An hour and a half ago, she had been sitting quietly in her room, her ears alert for the sounds of Armaan coming back with his parents to the room. She had been preparing herself for a good scolding and had even packed up her own baggage, for she was assured of the fact that she would be thrown out of the house once the truth was told, when her two sisters-in-law had barged into the room, laughing loudly. They had protested and pleaded and then declared of being the honored ones to dress up Riddhima for the sangeet party that night. Too exhausted from all the crying and tired from her own emotional trauma, Riddhima had given in.

Now, as she sat before the mirror, she looked at herself and found someone else looking back at her. It wasn't her, for she wasn't this person. And that thought awakened new ideas in Riddhima's mind. What was she doing? What was she thinking? How had all this come to such a drastic end, and how had she let it happen?

Since as far back as she could remember, Riddhima had always stood up for the truth. She had refrained herself from lying as much as possible, and had condemned those who lied and hurt other people's feelings. And look, what was she doing now? She had lied to Armaan's family, she had cheated these truly amazing people who had welcomed her with open arms and made her feel a part of the family. She had been party and had played pivotal role in a lie that had the potential to hurt not one or two, but a whole bunch of people. And she had fought with her best friend when he had asked her to let him tell them the truth.

Riddhima's eyes looked into her own reflected in the mirror and as the reality of the situation hit her, a gasp escaped her. Putting up a hand to her mouth, she shushed herself lest she be heard by someone and looked back at herself again. This wasn't her, it was all fake and made up. As she picked up the make-up remover and a wad of cotton, she made a decision. She knew what she had to do now.

''''''''''''''''''''.

The sangeet party was an immediate success that much was evident from the number of people who turned up and were actually having a blast. Armaan was surprised to find out that his family actually knew all these hundreds of people, who found immense happiness in dancing themselves to exhaustion and having the time of their lives. Dressed in rust colored kurta pajama, Armaan was definitely at the receiving end of many stares and looks by girls who couldn't stop giggling and by aunties who would instantly do a 'sadqay jaun' act when he would look back at them. The groom was indeed not as flattered as him, for all the eyes were set on Armaan as they both descended the stairs.

Armaan had unfortunately not been able to talk to Riddhima all day long, for he had been boycotted from his own room, on the basis of the girls wanting to get dressed up together. He had cursed himself for having fought with Riddhima over something so meager, and yet he knew it would be a matter of few minutes and the issue would be solved between them. However, as he stood next to the groom's seat, he sorely missed the company of his best friend as a sense of loneliness engulfed him, even though he was amidst a whole crowd of girls and aunties who all wanted to talk to the groom at the same time.

After a few minutes, he excused himself from the mob-like situation around the groom and walked over to the entrance of the house, where Padma was standing, welcoming the guests. It was getting difficult to breath in the rush, and as he sighed loudly with an unknown tiredness that was overcoming him, his mother turned to look at him and smiled. Patting his cheek slightly, Padma looked at her son.

"Bohat achay lag rahay ho'kisi ki nazar na lagay mere bte ko'," she said, pulling his cheek affectionately.

"Yeahh'the amount I have been stared at today, definitely kisi ki nazar lagegi'," Armaan replied, dimpling back at his mother who laughed at his comment.

"Hmmmm'.oh by the way Armaan, beta tumhain koi baat kerni thi'?" Padma implored, suddenly reminded of their conversation in the morning.

"Oh'who'nahh, nothing Ma'nothing important'!!" Armaan ignored the topic and looked around, trying to find Riddhima in the crowd.

Padma looked at her son who was stealing eyes from her and knew something needed to be discussed, but he was hesitating at the moment. Deciding it wasn't the right moment to talk about it, she saw him looking around for someone and then her own eyes landed on the staircase. She nudged Armaan slightly, who looked back at her and she pointed towards the stairs.

Armaan was bowled out of his wits as his eyes landed on the figure descending the stairs. Dressed in an immaculately designed copper and golden lehnga, Riddhima looked heavenly and Armaan couldn't keep his eyes off her. She had discarded most of the jewelry and make-up, and was just adorned with a beautiful mang-teeka and earrings, and had minimum make-up on. Yet, she looked so breath-takingly beautiful that for a moment, Armaan felt the world shrinking up just for the two of them, as their eyes met. She looked at him and her smile faltered a little, but as his deep gaze penetrated through her eyes, she blushed a deep crimson and looked down. This sudden act of hers touched Armaan so much that he fully smiled, perhaps for the first time in the whole day. She came and stood before Armaan and Padma, and while he was lost in gazing at her, he was still aware of Padma praising Riddhima tremendously.

"'.haina, Armaan?"

As both of the ladies turned to look at him, Armaan jostled out of his thoughts and looked at his mother, confused.

"Huh'? Kia'?"

"Maine kaha, Riddhima aaj yahan sabse khubsurat lag ree hai, haina? Doesn't she look beautiful?" Padma asked, affectionately touching Riddhima head as she smiled back.

Riddhima looked over at Armaan for a mere flicker of a second, but looked away just the next for she wasn't able to withstand the intensity of his gaze. Yet, she waited for his answer for somewhere she had been waiting for his comment on how she looked, since she had started getting ready herself. For some odd reason, both of them were acting unlike themselves, unlike how they used to be. Armaan had always commented on her being beautiful, but the way he was looking at her was definitely new. There was something in his gaze she couldn't figure out.

"Yeah'.beautiful." Armaan whispered slightly and Riddhima could not help but blush at his comment. Regaining his wit and charm, Armaan put an arm around his mother and said cheekily, "You know Mom, I think Riddhima's gonna put the moon to shame today'.it can not come to par with her beauty today'.right?" he finished off, winking at his mother who laughed.

Riddhima was confused at how to react at this comment, for at one hand she wanted to laugh out at his comment, and on the other she was astounded at why he was acting so normally with her. And the way Padma had talked to her, hadn't made as aware of the truth right now. So hadn't Armaan told them yet? She gave a little smile to Armaan who winked at her affectionately and as Padma left them with an excuse of going to the groom, she looked at him sideways and was yet again surprised to find him hold her hand and tugging at it, pulling her with him as he walked towards the dance floor.

"Come on dumdum'lets show them how WE do it'," he winked again at her, and Riddhima was left dazed and surprised yet again.


...................................................
kiran

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