Friday, 11 October 2019

Chapter 37 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

 My Husband's Truth

Feeling the Sun's scorching rays kissing my eyes, I tried to turn to my side but couldn't. I felt something strong around my waist and frowned.  Confused, I opened my eyes and looked at my waist.  I was surprised seeing a hand on my waist, but as realization dawned upon me, I immediately looked at Armaan .  As always, he slept peacefully, looking like a baby with his lips pouting and his long hair kissing his broad forehead and eyes.  I felt his warm hand go inside my shirt and I shivered.

I always wondered why his touch affected me so much.  I mean, it's just a touch.  It shouldn't affect me in any way whatsoever.  But it did.  And for some reason, I enjoyed his touch and even though I always deny it, I treasure those moments when he touches my body.  Whether it's our first kiss, his caresses, or even the slightest brush.  For some reason, even our first night is cherished by me.  I told myself to hate him for forcing himself on me but my heart just refuses to oblige to my mind.  What has he done to me?  Whether it's when I open my eyes in the morning or when I close my eyes to sleep, I always wanna see him.  Why?  I have no idea.



I recalled the event from the previous night as I stared at his serene and beautiful face.  What happened to Armaan last night?  Usually, people get happy when Christmas time is near but I didn't see any kind of happiness or even an indifferent behavior from Armaan .  For the first time in my life, I saw pain in his eyes.  And it wasn't something tiny, it was big.  I saw oceans of pain and loneliness in his eyes which hurt me.  I couldn't bear seeing pain in eyes.  It tore me and my heart into pieces.  Why did he get so upset when I talked about Christmas?  What was he hiding from me?  What was it that everyone was aware of, except for me?  I wanted to know what was wrong and I will find out no matter what happens.
For I don't know how long, I kept gazing at him.  I didn't have the heart to tear my gaze away from him so I kept staring at him, etching his beautiful face in my memory.  I saw his eyes fluttering and I immediately closed my eyes, pretending to sleep.  For a while I felt no movement on the bed.  If there was anything I could hear then it was just mine and his breathing.  I thought he went back to sleep.  I knew it was around 5 so I thought to have a nice nap for an hour and fell asleep.

****

An hour later, I opened my eyes and sat up on the bed, stretching my body to shake off the sleepiness.  I turned my face to the side to see that side totally empty which made me frown.  Where did Armaan  go?  I looked at the time and saw it was 6:30.  How did he wake up so early?  From what I learned about him, I knew it was hard to wake him up.  Maybe he was downstairs.  Thinking about that, I quickly got up from the bed and walked to the bathroom to get ready for the day.
I came out in about 45 minutes, weaing a red shirt with a fashionable small black jacket over it and black skinny jeans.  Satisfied with my look, I walked down to see everyone at the table already, which surprised me.  What surprised me the most was that everyone was silent and Armaan  was nowhere to be seen.  What was wrong with everyone?  With several questions rising in my mind, I walked to the table and sat down hesitantly.  The silence was killing me.

"Good morning guys." I said, trying to lighten up the atmosphere and saw everyone's eyes flicker to me.  They gave me a small smile and went back to eating their food.  This was very awkward.  Why wasn't anyone saying anything?
"Umm... guys.  Armaan  kahaan hain?" I asked hesitantly.  They stopped eating and looked up at me.

"Woh, Bhai office mein hain." This really confused me.  Armaan 's in office?  Already?
"Lekin abhi toh sirf saath baje hain.  How can he leave so early?" They looked at me with suspicion in their eyes.

"Riddhima.  Tumhe nahin pata Bhai office kyun gaya hain?" This question confused me even more.

"Nahin.  Mujhe nahin pata." I carefully examined everyone's face.  "Guys.  Kuch hua hain kya?" I asked slowly.

"Nahin, kuch nahin." said Abhi.

"Chalo guys.  Ab office chalte hain.  Aaj bohat kaam hain." Atul said quickly and they all left before I could ask them anything else.

What was going on in this house?  Why was everyone behaving like this?  They were definitely hiding something from me.  But why?  Was this secret so important that they couldn't even tell me?  I felt like I was going to go mad thinking about this stuff.  Why was the Mallik family so weird and strange?  Shaking my head, I went to the kitchen to help Bi.

A few more days passed by like this.  Armaan  would wake up early in the morning, go to office, work till about 12 at night and come back home.  In short, I hadn't gotten a glimpse of Armaan after that morning.  I couldn't express in words how I felt when I didn't see him at all during the day.  It's like, Armaan  had gone into a thick shell which he simply refused to come out of.  I tried talking to my dear brother-in-laws but even they didn't tell me anything.  They would just think of an excuse and walk out.

Day by day this became frustrating for me.  I felt like my mind was going to blow up.  I thought about every single possibility for everyone's behavior but found none.  All the ideas I got were just stupid and had no relation to Armaan  or anyone in any way.  But what could it be then?  Who could I ask for answers?  Was there anyone in this big mansion that will give me the correct answer?  If yes, then who?  Just then a person came to my mind.  Bi!  Bi will tell me everything!  She won't hide anything from me.  She's too nice to keep secrets from me.  Hell, I'm like a daughter to her!  She won't hide anything from me.  I know it!
"Haan.  Agar iss ghar mein koi mujhe kuch bata sakta hain, toh sirf aur sirf Bi hain.  Unhi se jaake poochti hoon."

With this, I literally ran down the stairs to the kitchen in my super sonic mode and stopped at the entrance.  I saw Bi cutting the vegetables and took a deep breath.  Regaining my posture, I walked to her and looked at her with a big smile.

"Hey Bi." I greeted her cheerfully, hiding my anxiousness perfectly.  She looked at me and smiled widely.

"Arre Riddhima beta.  Aao." I walked up to her and stood beside her.  "Bolo.  K se kaise aana hua?"

"Bas aise hi Bi.  Room mein baethe baethe bore ho rahi thi, toh socha yahaan aakar aapse baat kar lun."

"Achha kiya.  Main bhi yahaan a se akeli pad gayi thi.  Tum aa gayi, toh ab c se company milegi." I chuckled along with her.  Bi was a sweetheart!

"Woh toh hain.  Iss ghar mein aapke, mere aur Ramu Kaka aur baaki sab  ke alaava koi nahin hain.  Aur waise.  Yeh achaanak mere pyaare devaron ko kya hua?  Ab toh mujhse baat bhi nahin karte.  Armaan  bhi pura din office mein rehta hain.  Kuch hua hain kya?" I asked slowly, not wanting to show my anxiousness.  Bi stopped working and I saw the smile on her face slowly fade away.  I saw her turn around and call Maria.

"Maria!  Zara yahaan aa ke sabzi kaat lena."

"Yes ma'am." Maria said and I saw Bi turn to me.

"Riddhima beta.  Zara mere saath upar chalo.  Mujhe tumse kuch baat karni hain." Umm... strange.  What did she want to tell me now?  Maybe she wanted to talk about Armaan  and everyone's behavior.  Yippa!  I nodded slowly, masking my excitement, and followed her to her room.

"Baetho.  Main abhi aayi." I smiled and nodded and sat down on the white, comfortable bed.  I looked around and saw a beautiful Radha-Krishna idol beside her bed and smiled.  Like a habit, I walked up to the idol and sat down on my knees with my eyes closed and hands folded.

Hey Krishna.  Aaj pata nahin kitne dinon ke baad aapke darshan hue hain.  I know, main bohate late hoon and isske liye I'm very sorry.  Lekin aapko toh pata hain na iss ghar mein kya kya ho raha hain?  Armaan  aur sab pata nahin aise kyun behave kar rahe hain.  Lekin main bhi Riddhima hoon.  Main pata laga kar rahungi ki sach kya hain.  Please meri madat karna.  Mujhe aapki madat ki zaroorat hain.  Please?  Thanks and Merry Christmas and a very happy new year! 

I prayed to my favorite God and smiled.  I opened my eyes and saw Bi looking at me with a big smile.

"Arre Bi.  Aap mujhe aise kyun dekh rahi ho?"

"Dekh rahi thi ki tumhe apne Krishna se kitna lagav hain." I smiled and chuckled a little.  I remembered she wanted to tell me something and looked at her.
"Bi.  Aap mujhe kuch bataana chahti thi na?"

"Oh haan."  I saw her set a small, but beautiful box on the floor and she opened it, taking out something wrapped inside a red cloth, which intrigued me.  She unfolded the cloth and I saw a gorgeous gold bangle with small diamonds studded on it.
"Bi... yeh kya-" I began asking her, but she answered my question even without me asking it.

"Yeh Mallik khaandan ka pushtaini kada hain Riddhima.  Armaan ki daadi ne unnki bahu, yaani Armaan ki maa, Ananya ko diya aur ab yeh kada tumhare paas hona chahiye Riddhima.  Tum Armaan  ki patni ho.  Iss liye iss kade par sirf tumhara haq hain." She explained to me with lots of care and I listened to her.  So this was their ancestral bangle?  Which means it belonged to Armaan 's mom.  This rang a bell in my head.

Armaan 's mom?  Where is his mom?  I just realized Armaan or anyone else in this entire house never talked about his mom or dad.  Where was his mom?  Where was his dad?  Why didn't they ever talk about their parents?  But the important thing was how didn't I ever notice this?  I mean, I've known the Mallik brothers for months and in this time, they never talked about their parents.  And, they don't even live here!  Shouldn't they live with their children?  Didn't they care about them at all?  Was this the reason for everyone's behavior?  I had to find out.

"A-Armaan ki... mom...  Bi.  Ar-Armaan ki mom kahaan hain?  Aur... his dad?  Where are they?  Iss ghar mein koi unnki baat kyun nahin karta?" I saw Bi's face become all sad which worried me.  "Bi boliye na.  Kya hua hain?"

"Riddhima... main tumhe iss waqt kuch nahin bata sakti." This confused me.
"Lekin kyun?"

"Riddhima yeh raaz mera nahin hain.  Agar mera bas chale toh main tumhe abhi bata doon.  Lekin iss ghar mein Armaan ke maa-baap ke baare mein koi baat nahin karta.  Agar tum chaho, toh tum khud hi unse poochh lena.  Lekin main tumhe kuch nahin bata sakti.  Yeh lo.  Ab iss kangan ko sambhaalo.  Yeh ab tumhaari amaanat hain." She handed me the bangle and then walked out, leaving me confused.  I had to find out what was wrong with everyone.  I needed to figure out this mystery.  And this time, no one was going to stop me or turn away from my questions.  They had to answer me.

****

I felt The rest of the day passed by very slowly.  Mostly because I checked the clock every 5 minutes.  I wanted it to be 9 as soon as possible because I wanted to know the truth.  As soon as I saw it was 9 in the clock, I ran down the stairs to see if they were back but to my disappointment, they weren't.  I heard the phone ring and I answered it.

"Hello?"

"Riddhima?  Haan.  Main Atul bol raha hoon.  Hum aaj dus baje aayenge.  Ek bohat important kaam aa gaya hain.  Please humara wait matt karna." I heard Atul say from the other side of the phone and hung up before I could say anything else.  I don't know why, but something about his tone told me he was lying.  I immediately called Anjali to see if he was saying the truth.

"Hey Anji.  Ek savaal puchhna tha yaar.  Atul keh raha tha office mein bohat kaam hain.  Kya kaam hain?" I asked politely.

"Office mein kaam?  Nahin yaar.  Office mein toh koi kaam nahin hain.  Aur sab vahaan se ek ghante pehle hi nikal gaye the." This really surprised me.  If they had left the office an hour back, why did Atul lie?  Angry at him for lying to me, I immediately picked up the phone and called him after saying bye to Anjali.
"Riddhima?" I heard Abhi answer the phone.

"Abhi.  Tum sab kahaan ho?"

"Atul Bhai ne bataaya na.  Hum office mein hain."

"Jhooth mat bolo Abhi!  Mujhe pata hain tum dono office mein nahin ho so don't you dare lie to me!  Tum sab abhi ghar aao.  Aur Armaan ko bhi lekar aao.  Now!" Saying this, I hung up the phone without hearing what he  said.  I was just too angry at them for lying to me and in anger I walked up to my room, knowing they won't be here any time soon.

In about an hour I heard footsteps coming from downstairs and I walked down to see them coming, looking very tired.  I walked down and stood in front of them.
"Tum sab fresh ho kar aao.  Main tum sab se baad mein baat karti hoon.  And no excuses ok?" They nodded with a small smile and saw them walking up to their rooms.  I looked at the door, searching for Armaan  but he was nowhere to be found.  This really frustrated me.  Where was he?  His absense was starting to anger me.  I wanted to see him.  I wanted to see if he was alright.  With these thoughts, I sat down on the couch, holding my head.  In a few minutes I saw them coming down and I stood up with my hands crossed.

"Ab bolo.  Mujhse jhooth kyun bola?" I asked directly without beating around the bush.  I wanted answers.

"Woh Riddhima..." Atul started, "we didn't want to hurt you and-" I interrupted him, even before he could finish.

"Hurt?  Guys tum logo ne mujhe bohat hurt kiya hain.  Meri shaadi huyi hain Armaan ke saath lekin usski life ke baare mein mujhe kuch bhi pata nahin hain.  Mom-dad kaun hain, kahaan hain... I don't know!  Kya main iss ghar ka hissa nahin hoon?  Kya mujhe itna bhi jaanne ke haq nahin hain?" I spoke, removing all my frustration and anger on them while they just stood there with their heads hanging low.  "Guys, please!  Aise chup mat raho!  Mujhe sach jaana hain guys!  Please batao mujhe!"

"Sach jaanna chahti ho na tum!" Abhi yelled at me and I was taken aback by his tone.  I probably had crossed my limits.  "Haan?  Sach jaanna chahti ho na?  Toh suno!"

"Abhi stop it!" Rahul yelled at him, trying to hold him back, he jerked away from him.
"No Rahul!  Ab bas!  Bohat ho gaya!  Ab main aur chup nahin reh sakta!  Bro ki zid aur usske ego ke liye main Riddhima se sach nahin chhupaaunga!  Riddhima sahi keh rahi hain!  Usse humaare baare mein jaanne ka haq hain!  Usse jaanne ka haq hain, that we are bloody orphans!" His last line snatched the Earth beneath my feet.  They were... orphans?

"Wha-what?" I whispered.

"Haan Riddhima.  Hum anaarth hain.  We are orphans!  Tumhe kya lagta hain Riddhima?  Humaari zindagi humesha aise khush-mizaar aur sukhi rahi hain?  No!  Humaari zindagi dukhon se bhari hui hain Riddhima!  Humaara bachpan humse chheen liya gaya tha Riddhima.  Hum bikhar jaate agar-agar Bro nahin hota toh." Abhi staggered back and fell on the couch while the other 2 moved towards him to help him.  I regained my posture and spoke again.

"M-matlab?" I knew this was going to be painful for everyone, but I needed to know this.  Next I heard Atul talk.

"Riddhima yeh sab humare bachpan ki baat hain.  Bhai sirf dus saal ka tha jab mom ki car accident mein death ho gayi thi.  Mom ki death ke baad Bhai toot gaya tha, lekin hum bohat chhote the.  Hum mein inn sab ki samajh nahin thi.  Dad toh bilkul hi toot gaye the.  Apne dard pe se dhyaan hataane ke liye woh poora din office mein rehte the.  Lekin inn sab mein woh hume bhool gaye.  Iss liye himmat karke Bhai aage badha aur woh hi humare liye humara dad ban gaya.  Woh khud bhi padta tha aur hume bhi padhaata tha.  Woh khud se pehle humaare baare mein sochta tha.

"Phir ek din dad ko finally realize hua ke woh hume neglect kar rahe the.  Unhone hume bulaaya aur humse bohat achhe se baat hain.  Kuch waqt tak woh humare saath bohat time spend karte the.  Hume baahaar ghumaane le jaate the, humaare saath games khelte the.  Hume laga hi nahin ke hum apni mom ko kho chuke the.  Lekin ek din woh Vasudhara ko ghar le kar aaye.  Unhone humse kaha ke woh phirse shaadi kar rahe hain.  Unhe Vasudhara se pyaar ho gaya tha.  Kuch din tak woh humaare saath bohat achhe se peshaati thi.  Hume laga ki ab hume humari mom ki kami mehsoos nahin hogi.  Humari nayi mom hume bohat pyaar karegi.  Lekin hum bohat galat the.

"Shaadi ke agle din hi ussne apne asli rang dikhaane shuru kar diye.  Main aur Abhi toh chhote the.  Hum mein itni samajh nahin thi.  Lekin Bhai tha.  Jab dad office jaate the toh Vasudhara, Bhai se ghar ka saara kaam karvaati thi.  Humme school humesha aanth baje jaane hota tha lekin woh Bhai ko chhe baje utha deti thi.  Woh Bhai se ghar ki safaayi karvaati thi.  Unse khana banvaati thi.  Aur agar unse koi galti ho jaaye, toh unhe belt se maarti thi.  Humaari aankhon ke saamne!  Hum rote the, lekin koi faayeda nahin.  School se aane ke baad woh Bhai se khaana banvaati thi.  Usse apne jootthe bartan saaf karvaati thi.  Aur jab dad ghar aaye, toh unse sab chhupaati thi.  Unnke saamne ek achhi maa banne ka dhong rachaati thi.  Ussne Bhai ki zindagi nark bana kar rakh di thi.  Roz usse maarti thi, usski insult karti thi.  Aur hum kuch nahin kar sakte the.

"Kuch waqt ke baad dad ka business loss mein jaane laga.  Unhone bohat saare loans le rakhe the aur unhe repay karne bohat mushkil ho gaya tha.  Saara business dheere dheere karz mein jaane laga.  It didn't take long for the entire business to shut down.  Aur jaise hi business band hua, Vasudhara ne dad chhod diya.  Ussne dad ko bataaya ki usse ek bohat hi rich aadmi mill gaya tha aur woh humme chhod kar chali jaayegi.  Dad toh sach mein Vasudhara's pyaar karne lage thi.  Jab unhe Vasudhara ke dhoke ke baare mein pata chala, toh woh puri tarah se toot gaye the.  Shock ki vajah unhe heart attack aaya aur unki death ho gayi.  Yeh dekh kar Bhai bohat darr gaya tha.  Ussne Vasudhara ko rokne ki bohat koshish ki, lekin woh toh pathar dill ki thi.  Dad ko marta hua chhod kar woh apne boyfriend ki car mein baeth kar chali gayi.

"Hum sab bohat rote the.  Lekin Bhai badal gaya tha.  Dad ka antim sanskaar bhi Bhai ne hi kiya.  Woh bhi bina aansoon bahaaye.  Unhone khud badal diya tha.  Jiss Armaan  ko hum jaante the, woh toh Dad ki maut ke saath hi kahin kho gaya tha.  Iss Armaan  ko toh hum jaante tak nahin the.  Unke dill mein sabke liye nafrat thi, sivaayi humaare.  Woh humse bohat pyaar karta tha.  Humaare liye kuch bhi kar sakta tha.  Hume laga tha ki ab sab theek ho jaayega, lekin hum phirse galat saabit hue.

"Bohat jald humse humaara sab kuch chhin gaya.  Hume ghar khaali karna pada tha.  Hum sadak par aa gaye the.  Humaare paas rehne ke liye ghar nahin tha.  Khaane ke liye paise nahin the.  Hume saari raat sadak par rehna pada tha.  Hume paison ki zaroorat thi.  Iss liye Bhai ne kaam karna shuru kar diya.  Din bhar pathar todna, khana banaana, gaadiyaan saaf karna, bas yeh hi sab karte the woh aur phir raat ko hume padhaate the aur khaana khilaate the.  Phir raat bhar jaag kar khud padte the aur school ke baad phirse kaam.  Unhe khud ki nahin, humaari parva thi.  Lekin unki laparvaahi unhe mehengi padne lagi.

"Ek din woh kaam karke phirse humaare paas aa rahe the, ke woh bimaar pad gaye.  Unhe chakar aaya aur woh gir gaye.  Vahin par unhe Bi milli.  Bhai ne unhe sab bataaya aur Bi ne hume sahaara diya.  Woh ek orphange ki owner thi.  Vahaan par unhone hum sab ka dhyaan rakha.  Hume rehne ko aasra diya, do time khaane ko khana diya.  Dheere dheere sab kuch theek hone laga.  Humaari padhaayi achhe se huyi, hume achhi maa jaisi Bi milli, sab kuch achha jaa raha tha.  Dekhte dekhte hum sab bade ho gaye.  Lekin saath hi mein Bhai ne yeh business shuru kar diya tha.  Jaise jaise time beetta gaya, yeh business bhi bada hota gaya.  School aur college ke saath saath Bhai business ko bhi bohat achhe se sambhaalta tha.  Bhai bhi dheere dheere pehle ki tarah hasne muskuraane laga tha.  Itne mein Rahul bhi humaare saath aa gaya.  Hum bohat khush the.  Sab kuch achha jaa raha tha lekin Bhai ki zindagi mein aur problems aana baaki the.

"College mein ek ladki thi.  Mallaika Sehgal.  Woh college ki sabse hot ladki thi.  Ladkon ko kapdon ki tarah badalti thi.  Sirf apne satisfaction ke liye.  Lekin Armaan  ko woh pasand aane lagi thi aur Mallaika yeh baat jaanti thi.  Ussne Bhai se pyaar ka naatak kiya.  She spent a night with him and when he talked about marriage, she insulted him in front of the entire college.  Usske baad woh Mumbai se bohat dur chali gayi.  Lekin saath mein woh mere Bhai ko tod kar chali gayi." Next I heard Rahul talk.

"Armaan puri tarah se toot gaya tha Riddhima.  Usse lagne laga tha ki duniya ki saari ladkiyaan ek jaisi hi hain.  Usse ladkiyon se nafrat hone lagi thi.  Gusse mein aakar woh ladkiyon ka isstimaal karne laga tha.  Har roz ek nayi ladki ke saath ghumta tha woh.  Kissi ki emotions ki kadar nahin thi usse.  Armaan Mallik ek aur baar kahin kho gaya tha."

"Bro bohat badal gaya tha Riddhima.  Usske andar ek-ek junoon sa baeth gaya tha.  Ek bohat bada aadmi banne ka.  India ka sabse paise vaala businessman banne ka.  Din-raat woh kaam karta tha.  Mehnat karta tha.  Itna bada aur aalishaan ghar khada kiya ussne.  Lekin inn sab mein woh hume bhool gaya.  Tumne ek baar mujhse poochha tha na, ki main Bro ke saath aise behave kyun karta hoon?  Woh iss liye, kyunki main humaare Armaan ko wapas laana chahta tha.  Woh Armaan , jo hume galti karne par daantta tha, hume sahi rah dikhaata tha.  Main chahta tha ki woh mujhe daante, mujhe maare, kaan pakad kar sahi rah par laaye.  Lekin aisa toh kuch hua hi nahin.  Usse apne dard ke alaava kabhi kuch aur dikhta hi nahin tha!  Ussne apna aas paas ek aisi devaar khadi kar li thi, jisse koi aur laang nahin sakta tha.  Hum usska dukh baantna chahte the.  Lekin woh hume apne kareeb aane hi nahin deta tha!  Din-raat office, office, office!

"Lekin tumne Bro ko badla hain Riddhima.  Bro pehle ki tarah hasne muskuraane laga hain.  Tumne hume humaara Armaan lautaaya hain Riddhima.  Aur tum soch bhi nahin sakti yeh baat humaare liye kitna maayine rakhti hain.  Bro tumse bohat pyaar karta hain Riddhima.  Unka pyaar unki aankhon mein saaf jhalakta hain.  Aur mujhe pura vishwaas hain Riddhima.  Agar tum unke saath hogi, toh Armaan bohat jald humaara Armaan  ban jaayega."

I heard Abhi say to me, but I didn't say anything.  I couldn't.  I had tears in my eyes by the time Abhi finished.  I couldn't believe all this happened to them.  Never in my worst nightmare had I thought Armaan had to go through all that.  But he did.  And it broke my heart into several pieces.  If the mere thought of living through this hell sent chills through my spine, what would've happened to Armaan ?  He had lived through this nightmare!  He had spent years living in darkness and what did I do?  I said so many things to him.  I told him things that probably hurt him so much.  I hated myself for saying all that to him!  How I wished I could back and change things.  I wanted to be with him right now, hug him and take all his pain away.  But... where was he?

"Guys.  Ar-Armaan kahaan hain?" I asked, trying to sound firm but I knew I was failing.  They didn't say anything but kept staring at the floor.  "Guys?" I said, trying to gain their attention but no avail.  They kept stealing glances which made me furious.  Where the hell was Armaan!

"Guys... tum log mujhse kya chhupa rahe ho?" I asked worriedly as my heart thudded against my chest.  They kept their heads low and didn't say a word.  Their silence was killing me!  Where was he!  "Guys kuch toh bolo!  Kahaan hain Armaan!" I yelled, not knowing what else to do as tears started rolling down my eyes.  Why weren't they telling me anything!

"Riddhima... Bhai..." Atul started and his voice trailed off, but then he came back firm and clear.  "Bhai ME ke paas jo chhota sa beach hain, vahaan par hain.  And if I'm not wrong, he's drunk right now.  He needs you Riddhima.  Jao." As soon as those words left his mouth, I ran out the door and got in one of the cars parked outside.  The car roared to life as I placed the key in the ignition and I literally raced through the lonely streets of Mumbai, not caring about the consequences.  I needed to see Armaan.  Now.

****

Like Atul told me, I stopped in front of the small beach located in front of ME and immediately got out of the car. I ran on the sand, trying to find Armaan.  I looked everywhere, not caring about the ferocious wind fighting against me.  For the first time in my life I wish I was like the Volturi from Twilight series.  If only I could track people!  No, I'm not a vampire, but still!  I wanted to find Armaan!  That moron!  I'm sure he's gonna be lost in his own drunk world!

"Kutta, kamina, idiot, stupid, bevakoof, gadha, moron, asshole, douchebag!  Humph!  Duniya ki saari gaaliyon ke laayak hain woh!  Yahaan meri jaan nikli jaa rahi hain aur Armaan pata nahin kahaan hain!" I said out loud with tears streaming down my face.  At this point, I didn't even care how horrible I looked wearing my PJ's and oversized shirt.  I wanted to see Armaan damn it!  "ARMAAN!" I screamed over the top of my lungs, trying to find Armaan, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Just then, my gaze focused on a figure sitting near the water.  I immediately recognized him from his body structure and his clothes and I ran to him.  I fell to the sand as I touched his shoulder and said his name aloud.  He opened his eyes and looked at me.  I felt something break inside as I took in his appearance.  His eyes were puffy and red, probably because of all the crying and his clothes were wrinkled.  I could see the dried tears on his cheeks which made fresh tears stream down my cheeks.

"Armaan?" I whispered, shocked and hurt at his appearance.  I could faintly smell the nauseating odor of alcohol coming from his body but I didn't care.  His lips curved into a big childish smile as he recognized me.

"Arre, Riddhima!  Tum yahaan kya kar rahi ho?"

"Armaan... tum... main... main tumhe lejaane aayi hoon."

"Achha?  Tum mujhe kahaan lekar jaogi?  Ghumne?" he asked me very cutely and I smiled through my tears.

"Nahin.  Hum ghumne nahin jaa rahe." I saw his smile disappear and a pout take its place.

"Kyun?" His question made me laugh and I sniffed.

"Itni raat ko kahaan jaana hain tumhe?  Hm?" I saw him ponder over this question and I swear I had never seen anyone so cuter than this man sitting in front of me before.

"Ummm... haan!  roller coaster ride!" His answer made me laugh so much while he looked at me confused.  "Itna has kyun rahi ho?"

"Armaan.  Raat ke gyaara baje koi park khulla nahin hoga." He pouted and thought again.

"Toh phir hum kya karein?"

"Ghar chalte hain." I saw him become all whiny and irritated like a little baby.

"Nahin.  Mujhe ghar nahin jaana."

"Kyun nahin jaana?"

"Kyunki..." He started and I heard his voice trail off as he looked down.  He turned his face away from me and stared at the calm sea in front of him and circled his arms around his knees. "Kyunki... uss ghar mein... sab mujhse naaraaz hain." His answer broke my heart once again.

"Nahin Armaan.  Koi bhi tumse naaraaz nahin hain."

"Nahin.  Mujhe pata hain.  Sab mujhse gussa hain.  Atul, Rahul, Abhi..." he stopped and looked at me, "... tum." I was stunned hearing this.  He thought I was angry at him?

"Armaan?" I whispered his name while he continued saying what he had in his heart as if he didn't hear me.

"Sach hi toh keh raha hoon.  Atul mujhse gussa hain kyunki main usse apne dill ki baat nahin kehta.  Rahul gussa hain kyunki main sab ke saath humesha sakti se peshaata hoon.  Abhi gussa hain kyunki main pehle ki tarah hasta, muskuraata nahin hoon, sab ke saath time spend nahin karta.  Lekin koi yeh kyun nahin samajhta ki mujhpar kya beethti hain?  Mujhe bhi apne bhaiyon ke saath pehle ki tarah rehna hain.  Main chahta hoon ki main unse saari baatein share karun, pehle ki tarah hasun, muskuraun.  Lekin mujhe darr lagta hain Riddhima.  Darr lagta hain ki-ki kahin phirse mujhse mera sab kuch na chhin jaaye.  Jab bhi main kissi ke paas jaata hoon na, toh sab khatam ho jaata hain.  Woh insaan humesha mujhse door ho jaata hain.  Mom se pyaar kiya, toh woh mujhe chhod kar chali gayi.  Dad ke paas gaya, toh woh bhi mujhse door ho gaye.  Malliaka se pyaar kiya... toh woh mera dill tod kar chali gayi.  Main nahin chahta ke mere bhai bhi mujhse door ho jaaye.  Riddhima, agar woh bhi mujhse door ho gaye toh?" I stared at him, not knowing what to say.  It hurt me seeing him like this.  It hurt me seeing him all vulnerable and hurt.  It pierced my heart seeing him like this.  I wanted to hug him, kiss him and comfort him and tell him everything will be alright, but I just couldn't.  I couldn't bring myself to say anything.  "Pata hain Riddhima?  Christmas ka time mera favorite tha.  Harr saal mujhe gifts milte the.  Mom aur dad mujhe humesha ghumaane le jaate the.  It was the best time of my life.  Lekin... phir mujhe Christmas se nafrat ho gayi.  Pata hain kyun?" He asked me with hurt visible in his voice though I didn't say anything.  "Kyunki... maine Christmas pe hi mom aur dad, dono ko kho diya tha." This came to me as a blow.  Now I understood why he hated Christmas.  On such a great occasion, he lost his parents.  This did nothing, but bring fresh tears to my eyes.

"Aur... tum bhi toh mujhse nafrat karti ho.  Haina?" He asked me and I shook my head immediately.

"Nahin Armaan.  Main tumse nafrat nahin karti." I said in a broken voice.  I don't know why, but I said this without any hesitation.  I meant what I said, from the bottom of my heart and I knew I wouldn't regret this later.  I saw his eyes turn to me and I saw a thin layer of water in his eyes.

"Really?  Tum mujhse nafrat nahin karti?" I shook my head slowly and sniffed several times. "Tum jhooth bol rahi ho.  I know you hate me.  And I deserve your hatred."

"Main jhooth nahin bol rahi Armaan.  Main tumse nafrat nahin karti.  In fact, koi bhi tumse nafrat nahin karta.  I..." I spoke while giving into my tears and looking down with my eyes closed.  I was breaking from the inside.  His honesty and sincerity made me feel like someone had wrenched my heart.  I felt his soft hand cup my face and wipe my tears with his thumb and I opened my eyes slowly.

"Tum-tum ro kyun rahi ho?" he asked me very innocently.

"Pata nahin."

"Please ro matt.  Pata hain?  Jab tum roti ho na, toh mujhe yahaan," he said pointing to his heart "yahaan bohat takleef hoti hain.  Please stop crying." I kept staring at him as I understood the meaning behind his words.  He cared, didn't he?  He cared about how I felt.  It hurt him if I cried.  It hurt him if I was hurt.  I felt something stir inside me as his words repeated itself in my head.  We didn't say anything as we both stared into each other's eyes, separating ourselves from the rest of the world when I saw him look down and more tears run down his cheeks, which worried me.

"Armaan?"

"Maine... bohat... galat kiya hain na... tumhare saath?  I know... tum soch rahi hogi ki... main ek bohat hi.. bura insaan hoon.  Lekin mera yakeen maano.  Main bura nahin hoon.  Main-" I stopped him by placing my palm over his lips and he looked at me.

"Shhh." We stared into each other's eyes as the wind slowly played its silent and soothing music in the background.  "Mujhe pata hain.  I know tum bure nahin ho.  In fact... tum bohat achhe ho.  Sabse achhe.  Aur ek baat dhyaan se suno.  Koi tumse nafrat nahin karta Armaan.  Sab tumse bohat pyaar karte hain.  Aur haan, sab gussa hain tumse.  Lekin sirf iss liye kyunki sab tumhara bhala chahte hain.  Aur rona band karo." I said wiping his tears slowly.  "Tum rote hue bilkul bhi achhe nahin lagte.  Hmm?"

"Toh... tum bhi mujhse pyaar karti ho?" His question took me by surprise.  What was I supposed to say?  How could I answer the question that even I didn't know the answer to?  I didn't know what to say.  Did I love him?  I didn't know.

"Armaan..." I tried to move my hand away from him but he pulled me closer.

"Bolo.  Pyaar karti ho na?" He asked me softly.  I could see the hope and millions of questions in his eyes.  I couldn't say I didn't love him because that would be a big lie.  I did feel something for him.  But, it couldn't be love right?  Or was it?

"Pata nahin." I said honestly, looking into his gorgeous eyes which captivated mine.  I saw his lips curve upwards into a dreamy smile.  We stared into each other's eyes for what seemed like eternity to me.  I could hear the soft waves of the water coming and crashing onto the shores.  The silence of the night spoke volumes as we drowned in each other's eyes.  I don't know what happened to me but I suddenly came back to reality and looked away from him.

"Armaan.  Chalo.  Bohat raat ho gayi hain.  Ab hume ghar jaana chahiye.  Atul, Rahul, Abhi, Bi, sab ghar par wait kar rahe honge.  Haina?" I saw him nod several times as he heard me and I smiled.

"Haan.  Woh sab mere liye bohat worried ho rahe honge na?  Chalo!" I saw him ask me with his big eyes and then smile widely.  He tried to get up at an instant but he fell and I held him immediately.

"Kya kar rahe ho?  Gir gaye na?"

"Hmm.." He said with a pout and lowered eyes.

"Chalo.  Main tumhe car tak le jaati hoon." He looked at me and I smiled and the next second I saw a big smile make its way through.  I stood up and made him stand too.  Very slowly and carefully, I took him to the car and made him sit inside.  As I got in the car and wore the seat belt, I heard Armaan ask me.

"Riddhima?" I turned and looked at him. "Main radio on karun?"

"Haan, karo." He smiled widely and turned on the radio and I was shocked hearing the song that was playing on the radio.  I looked at Armaan and he looked at me with wide eyes.  A wide smile came across our face as the lyrics played.

Apne deewaane ka
Apne deewaane ka
Karde bura haal re ki
Ankhiyon se goli maare

Ki ankhiyon se goli maari
Ladki kamaal re ki
Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladki kamaal re ki
Ankhiyon se goli maare

Armaan sang loudly as I turned the volume up and tapped along to the beats of the music.  This was one of my favorite songs!  I know, I have a pretty weird taste in music but hey!  That's me!  I love this song!  Plus it was a relief.  No more crying now!  As the guy's part finished, I started to sing.

Ho apni deewaani ka
Apni deewaani ka
Karde bura haal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare

Ki aankhiyon se goli maare
Ladka kamaal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladka kamaal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare

I sang while swaying to the music and then I heard him sing his part.

Kuch balkha ke kuch lehraake
Hirni jaisi chalti hain
Pal mein tola pal mein maasa
Kitne rang badalti hain

Haaye...
Kuch balkha ke kuch lehraake
Hirni jaisi chalti hain
Pal mein tola pal mein maasa
Kitne rang badalti hain

Jissko chaahe pagal karde
Apne husna ke jaadoo se

From the corner of my eyes, I saw him singing while looking at me intently.  I didn't know why, but there was something about those eyes which sent shivers down my spine.  I tried to concentrate on the road and on the song which was playing and swayed to its tunes.

Isske lambe lambe kaale kaale
Naagin se baal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladki kamaal re ki
Ankhiyon se goli maare

Ho apni deewaani ka
Apni deewaani ka
Karde bura haal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare

Ladka kamaal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladka kamaal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare

The next second, I saw him open the window of the car and stick his head out yelling and screaming like a lunatic.  I couldn't believe this was the same Armaan that always behaved like a douchebag towards me.  This Armaan was INSANE!  But I had to admit he was cute.  I swear, if I wasn't driving this car, I would've kissed him right here in the car and then- CONTROL RIDDHIMA ARMAAN MALLIK!  Focus on the song and car!  Not Armaan and his sexy hot body and lips and- AHHH!  SHUT THE HELL UP RIDDHIMA!  STOP ACTING LIKE A TEENAGER WITH RAGING HORMONES DAMN IT!

Chori chori chupke chupke
Main bhi tujhpe marti thi
Shaam savere dilbar jaane
Pyaar tujhi se karti thi

I slowly and carefully looked at Armaan while singing, but looked away before he could catch me ogling at him.

Haan...
Chori chori chupke chupke
Main bhi tujhpe marti thi
Shaam savere dilbar jaane
Pyaar tujhi se karti thi

Sach kehti hoon yeh mera dill aur kissi ko chaahe na
Dekho dekho phas gayi main toh bulbul
Phenkaalu jaal re
Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladka kamaal re ki
Ankhiyon se goli maare

Apne deewaane ka
Apne deewaane ka
Karde bura haal re ki
Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladki kamaal re ki

Ankhiyon se goli maare
Ladka kamaal re

Ankhiyon se goli maare
Singing and humming like that, we reached home in no time.  Getting out of the car, I walked with Armaan inside the house and saw everyone sitting there, along with the girls.  Maybe the boys told them.

"Guys dekho, Riddhima aa gayi!" I heard Nikki say happily and everyone looked at us.  They immediately stood up and walked to us.  They bombarded us with questions and I just stared at them in shock, while Armaan was enjoying this attention.

"Guys!" I yelled and they stopped talking at once. "Sab theek hain.  Aur Armaan ko aaraam ki zaroorat hain.  Main usse uppar kamre mein le kar jaati hoon." They nodded and I took Armaan upstairs to our room.

As we entered the room, I could feel Armaan shifting all his weight completely on me and I knew he was really tired and sleepy.  I slowly and carefully laid him down on the bed and relaxed for a moment.  Then, I took his shoes off and covered him with the blanket.  I sat beside him and stared at his calm and peaceful face, admiring his features.  I slowly saw him open his eyes and I immediately looked away.

"Armaan.  So jao.  Bohat raat ho gayi hain.  Tumhe aaraam ki zaroorat hain.  Ab main chalti hoon." I said softly to him and tried moving away but he caught my wrist and pulled me close, making me lose my balance and fall on top of him.

  "Armaan.  Chhodo mujhe." I said slowly but he just shook his head, surprising me.

"Nahin.  Main tumhe nahin jaane dunga."

"Kyun?"

"Kyunki... kyunki mujhe pata hain.  Main apni aankhein band karunga, aur tum bhi mujhe mom, dad aur Mallaika ki tarah chhod kar chali jaogi.  Haina?" I just stared at him with surprise.  I couldn't believe he was so insecure about his relationships.  But I couldn't blame him.  He had gone through so much in life.  If I was in his place, I would feel the same.

"Nahin Armaan.  Main kahin nahin jaane waali.  Main yahin rahungi, humesha tumhare saath." I said earnestly and I meant every word I spoke.

"Promise?"

"Promise." He smiled and closed his eyes and I could tell he fell asleep immediately.  I caressed his hair, adoring his cute dimpled smile.  I never knew when I fell asleep, dreaming solely of him.

****

Medha

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