Friday, 20 December 2019

Epilogue : Mr. & Mrs. Mallik

And many months later...

"ARMAAN?" Raji heard Riddhima shouting in their bedroom and chuckled. This was never going to change. That sleepy head would never wake up on time and his dear wife would take the entire house on her head to pull him out of bed. Nevertheless Raji was happy she was relieved from that duty two years back. She was the lone spectator of their blossoming love for the past two years. She had returned back to them from Delhi after three months when she thought it would be difficult for them to manage with their duties, being promoted as resident doctors at Sanjeevani.

Raji was pleased to find them more matured when she returned back; not that they were not before. But, she realized, there was a tinge of serious understanding between them now better than it was before and she was glad she went away for a little time giving them the pace to get everything settled between them. She had also noticed Riddhima being much more open with Armaan which he returned equally. They would still behave like her Tom and Jerry when Armaan would sometime blow off the fuse of Riddhima with his stupid antics but that was the essence of their love. Little fighting and little more reconciling with lots of love and concern in every move of theirs.



Shaking her head smiling, she made her way towards their bedroom when she heard one more scream of Riddhima. Surprised for a moment at the sight, she cleared her throat to catch their attention. She would have opted to just turn and go away normally but Muskaan had already called her three times pleading them to come to her wedding atleast in time. Finally Muskaan and Rahul are tying their knots.

Riddhima sighed in irritation coming out of the washroom finding him still buried deep in the bed sheets sleeping sound. Here she was completely ready in a rich purple saree and he was still sleeping!!

"Armaan, get up." She smacked his bare shoulder which was uncovered with the bed sheet. She was no way going to bear one more speech from Muskaan on getting late. They had already made fools of themselves when they went mere two hours late for Muskaan-Rahul's engagement for they were busy making out.

"Please Basket, let me sleep. I didn't have a peaceful sleep in the last two days." Armaan drawled sleepily. True they were busy helping their friends with shopping and the last minute arrangements for the past one week. With their hectic schedules at Sanjeevani, they barely had a wink of sleep.

"Armaan? Are you getting up or not?" Riddhima seethed; her face red with irritation, with a tone of finality. She was pretty worn out with the events of the past few days; shopping for Muskaan, bearing with her bridal woes, pacifying her when she broke down and many more. All she wanted to do was cuddle up next to him in their bed and sleep peacefully for a non-stop 24 hours. She wanted to get done with the wedding as soon as possible. With her head spinning every now and then with tiredness, she was struggling not to go insane. And here her stupid husband was irritating her all the more.

Armaan winced at her tone; he knew he had successfully got on to her nerves. And his mind immediately warned him for some damage control.

"Fine, I am getting up" he replied defeated and sat on the bed. "Who said we are independent when one can't even sleep peacefully!" He muttered rubbing his eyes.

Riddhima smiled at his words, her irritation vanishing instantly at the sight of him. Suddenly she had an urge to kiss him looking at his dishelved form - hair messed up, eyes puffy and a frown on his face. Giving in to her heart's desire, she moved to the bed and sat infront of him on the bed. When he raised his brow at her, she laughed softly before pressing her lips on his.

Though not quite surprised, it took his sleepy brain a moment to process what was happening and when it did, he kissed her lovingly, nibbling her lips gently. And she certainly lost her head once again at his tender love. As she leaned onto him wanting more, he reclined back on the bed with her on top of him. Feeling her fingers in his hair, caressing them sensually, he pulled her closer deepening the kiss.

A moment later, he pushed her back gently rubbing his chest. "Basket, I told you not wear sarees with this thing on them." He whined pointing his finger at the heavy embroidery on her saree, simultaneously rubbing his chest which was pricked by it.

Riddhima stared at him dazed for a moment. When his words made sense, she giggled at him. "Then put on a shirt while sleeping, mister." Came her retort, while whimpering to get free of his hold.

And that's when Raji came into their room. Listening to her clearing her throat, he released Riddhima abruptly almost making her fall off the bed.

"Muskaan's call again. She asked me to convey her message that you two would be dead if you don't reach the hall in 30 minutes." Raji said playing cool.

With the mere mention of Muskaan's name, Riddhima was back to her irritated mode. "Aunty, I am almost ready. We'll leave alone in 15 mins, if Armaan is not ready." She said glaring at him, warning him to get ready in 15 mins. With that he jumped off bed, not wanting to be at the receiving end of Muski's dagger looks.

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

Finally Mr. and Mrs. Mallik, along with Raji, arrived at the wedding hall just in time. Armaan sighed peacefully when he spotted Muskaan giving them a pleased look. When the rituals started, Raji and Riddhima sat with Muskaan's relatives by the Mandap where as Armaan went to the lawn to meet his colleagues after waving at Rahul.

It was a typical Punjabi wedding with lots of hungama and sound and Riddhima felt uncomfortable. It was a complete contrast of theirs, she realized. She always preferred quieter ceremonies with less crowd and this was totally opposite. Barely slept in the past few days, she was tired and dizzy. It was the last place she would want to stay at the moment - amidst the loud speakers. One look at Muskaan's glowing features and she couldn't think of backing out now. But she really wanted to stay  for Muskaan, for Rahul. She panicked when she felt a feeling of sickness arising from the pit of her stomach. And the next moment she started sweating and her throat went dry.

Raji noticed the change of expressions of her face and sweat beads on her face. "Are you fine Riddhima?" she asked worried.

Riddhima nodded at her and tried to smile. She needed some air to breathe and some water? When she turned around, Raji held out a glass of water for her. She gulped it down quickly. "Aunty, I'll just go to Armaan and come. I feel suffocated inside." She whispered to Raji and left.

Armaan, though struggling with slight head ache, was worried about Riddhima. He knew she couldn't handle such sound and crowd. He wanted to go and check on her once, if she was okay. But he pushed it aside as he realized Raji would be with Riddhima. He was surprised when he saw Riddhima coming towards the lawn. He was on a wary when she slumped herself beside him on the sofa, closing her eyes.

"Riddhima, are you fine?" he asked worried checking her cheek for temperature and unusually her skin was cold rather than warm. "I don't think you are."

"I am fine Armaan. Just feeling suffocated. Can you go and get me a Domstal?" she asked smiling weakly at him, wiping her forehead with a napkin.

"Domstal? Why? Did you throw up? We better go home. I'll tell Rahul and come." He got up to make a move but she pulled him back.

"Armaan, I just feel nauseated. Might be due to sound or crowd. Please get me a tablet. I'll be fine. Now don't create a scene and spoil their happiness." She replied placing her head on his shoulder glancing at Muskaan and Rahul who were dancing together. She did feel better coming out into the lawn. They then noticed Raji coming towards them.

"Raji, I'll just be back with a tablet. I found a medical store beside while coming. You stay with Riddhima. She is not feeling well." He quickly told Raji, brought a glass of water for her and ran towards the exit.

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

When Armaan returned back after half an hour, he didn't find Raji and Riddhima in the lawn. Infact it was empty. He went to the dining section thinking they went for lunch, but didn't find them. He tried calling her mobile but with the sound, he couldn't hear anything. Pressing his temples, he stood in the lawn looking around. Just then he received a message from Muskaan.

"Come to the rest room at the back side of the Mandap. Riddhima is not well."

"Shit!" he cursed under his breath and ran towards the room.

When he entered the room, he found Riddhima sitting on the chair with her head placed on Raji's lap and Muskaan standing by them with a worried face. As he moved forward sighing, he spotted Riddhima crying. Crying?

"Riddhima? Why are you crying?" he ran to her and kneeled infront of her.

"Did you get the tablet?" Raji asked immediately, slowly patting her hair.

"Yes. But what happened?" he asked giving the tablet to Riddhima while Muskaan brought water.

"She had been vomiting for the past 10 mins Armaan. I guess it's food poisoning." Rahul replied coming into the room with a first aid box.

"Food poisoning?" Armaan panicked at the word. Then looking at Riddhima's face, he thought it might be true. She looked pale and tired.

"She had lunch after you went out and since then she had been throwing up." Raji replied extremely worried.

"Come Riddhima, we'll go to Sanjeevani." He made her stand up and walked towards the door.

But before he could move, Muskaan stopped them. "Riddhima, when was your last menses?" she asked her frowning, yet smiling. If only her guess would be true!!

Riddhima, who was leaning onto Armaan completely for support, was taken aback at the question. She opened her mouth to say something but before she could utter a word, she closed her eyes shut and fell faint in Armaan's arms.

With that, not only did she loose her senses, but also took away Armaan's. He freaked out looking at her pale body in his arms. Picking her up in his arms, he swiftly moved towards his car, with Raji, Muskaan and Rahul running behind them.

"Sorry guys, you carry on." He turned to Rahul and Muskaan and bid them bye, before starting the engine.

And with that ended the perfect Punjabi wedding of Muskaan-Rahul with them spending rest of the noon in explaining to their highly worried relatives, about Riddhima, who were equally freaked out when they noticed Armaan running with his wife in his arms.

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

Armaan paced to and fro in the corridor outside Dr, Keerthi's consulting room. Raji was inside with Riddhima. He was tired with the turn of the events and his head ache which increased even more. He was worried for Riddhima, but deep down in his heart a small bubble of excitement made its entry. Muskaan's question about Riddhima's menses reverberated in his ears and he thought it might be time. They had decided it was time to have a baby a couple of months ago. And from then, they hadn't been using any protection. He didn't express his desire, but had been anticipating the news about Riddhima conceiving their baby for the past few weeks. But he shrugged off these thoughts aside when the thought of food poisoning entered his brain.

'What was the need to have lunch when she was feeling nauseated? Couldn't she wait for-' His thoughts were broken when he heard the sound of door click behind him. Turning around he found Raji.

"Raji, is Riddhima fine? Not food poisoning right?" he asked her and the next moment his heart stopped beating when he found Raji with a serious face. A small wave of shiver started its origin at the pit of his stomach. The next moment he felt knocked out of breath, engulfed in a tight hug of Raji.

"Congrats Armaan!!! Riddhima is expecting. Three weeks pregnant." He heard Raji's words and felt his head spinning, partly due to immense happiness and partly due to his head ache. He drew back to have a look at Raji to confirm he heard it right. Looking at Raji grinning widely, he hugged her back again, his heart somersaulting. "Go and meet her. She is still sleeping. She doesn't know yet." He heard her words and drew back.

As he made his way towards the room, his heart was about to burst with a new felling which he couldn't explain. It was anxiety, apprehensiveness, joy, happiness - everything at once. And the intensity was too high he felt he was going to go mad if he didn't share it with someone. And the only person who could understand what he felt was obviously was his dear wife, who was probably in her own dreamland.

When he opened the door, he found Dr. Keerthi coming out. She smiled at him warmly before congratulating him.

"I didn't tell Riddhima yet as your mother insisted." Keerthi told him before moving out of the room.

Mother? He wondered for a moment. Then it hit him. May be Dr. Keerthi had mistaken Raji as his mother. But ofcourse she was, he confirmed. She was the one who stood by him in his happiness and sorrow, success and failure. He couldn't thank her enough for doing that for him. Amidst his thoughts, he realized he had to inform his parents and her dad first. But that could wait for a moment.

Armaan looked at Riddhima sleeping peacefully on the hospital bed in Dr. Keerthi's room. Dressed in a beautiful saree, with a faint smile on her lips and her arm resting on her stomach, as if guarding their baby, she looked ethereal. He took her hand in his and caressed her fingers before kissing them. He pulled a stool near her bed and sat beside her, contemplating on whether to wake her up or not. It appeared as if she was dreaming about something, her lips curved slightly. What could it be, he wondered. Probably about him, he thought. Or could it be about their baby?

Smiling, he caressed her stomach gently as he thought about ways to reveal the news to her. He felt weirdly happy. Wasn't it supposed to be the other way around? Shouldn't it be the wife telling her husband that he she was bearing their baby? And here he was sitting, blushing to himself planning on how to tell her. Ofcourse what more could he expect from Mr. Fate, if there was one. Nothing ever happened in their relationship plain normal. Be it their marriage or their confession. It was always bizarre. They are one of their kind, he couldn't help sighing! As he felt her stir and open her eyes, he stared at her with his face mirroring the excitement in his heart.

Riddhima opened her eyes slowly as she adjusted her vision to the light green walls of the Sanjeevani. What was she doing at Sanjeevani when she should have been consoling Muskaan at her bidai, she wondered. Then her feeling nauseated and throwing up before fainting came up in her brain and she sighed. She turned her face sideways to find Armaan grinning at her, way too wide for her to stay calm. She knew he was up to something at the sight of his face.

"Armaan?" she called out to catch his attention when he didn't speak. She wondered if he was sleeping with his eyes wide open. "You want to say something?" she asked hesitantly, sitting up on the bed facing him.

"Riddhima, a new member is going to be added to our family soon." He said excitedly wrapping his arms around her waist, waiting for her reaction. He watched as she frowned and then her eyes grew wide and then her face was horror-stricken much to his astonishment.

"What? No way Armaan. I am not going to allow that." Riddhima almost screamed. The moment she heard his words, her brain tried to analyze it and the first thought that came to her mind was the hefty, hairy dog that Armaan wanted to bring home. They had fought over that issue few days back. The mere thought of that dog gave her goose bumps all over her body. No way was she going to let him bring it her home.

Armaan's heart stopped working all together. What the hell was she talking? His long forgotten head ache greeted him almost instantly and he lost his head.

"What the hell Riddhima? You told me you were excited to have one few months ago." He raised his tone to match hers.

Raji, who was waiting outside, sprang to her foot as she heard them shout or most likely fight. Sighing, he shook her head and moved in to shut them up before another doctor barges in. She found Armaan standing infront of her and Riddhima sitting on the bed, both of their faces red in rage and nostrils flaring; ofcourse for quite different reasons.

"Armaan, stop shouting at her." Raji reprimanded him, not too pleased with them. They were the doctors working at the same hospital and here they were arguing when they were supposed to be all over the moon, crying with happiness. She sat on the bed beside Riddhima, giving her a cold smile.

"Raji, she is the one shouting." He complained losing his cool. Here he was building his own dream world and she shatters them. He didn't understand whether to cry or be angry at her. And what did she mean when she said that she wouldn't allow it?

"I am not shouting." She defended herself glaring at him. "Anuty, I am not going to allow that dog enter the home. No matter what he does." She said facing Raji sounding firm.

"Dog?" It was Armaan.

"Dog?" Raji followed him, trying to connect the dots. Where did the dog come from?

"Yeah Dog." Riddhima said confused at their behavior. Why were they staring at her as if she had gone mad? It was Armaan who was talking about the dog.

"See Raji, I always tell you she is crazy. I am trying to tell her that she is expecting and she is thinking about some dog." He screamed. A wave of relief swept his heart a moment after he heard her. He was almost dead when he heard her previous words. He thought for a second that she doesn't want a baby soon and that mere thought knocked the air out of his lungs. She was probably talking about that dog that he wanted to keep. But where the hell did the dog come from into discussion? He wanted to pull his hair out or bang his head against some wall. Or better he bangs hers to knock some sense into her. He was at the verge of a cardiac arrest.

"Armaan?" Riddhima whispered, her voice choking, as she heard his words. The very next moment it hit her, what he had spoken earlier. He just told that there is going to be new addition to their family. She remembered the wide grin on his face. That means she is pregnant. With Armaan's baby. Her baby. Their baby. She felt Raji squeezing her hand slightly, smiling. How stupid of her to think about a dog when he was probably talking about the best gift they had for themselves.

"What? Don't Armaan me. I wanted to say that you were pregnant and you spoil the moment by yelling about that stupid dog. It was already weird that I had to reveal the news to you unlike those stupid romantic movies you make me watch and -" he sighed in frustration and sat back on the stool when he saw her eyes moist. This turned out to be a big mishap. They were supposed to be yapping in glory about their baby and here they were fighting over some dog.

Raji couldn't help but chuckle at them. She got up and moved out of the room after patting Riddhima's hair lovingly and whispering a "congrats" in her ear.

Riddhima smiled as she stood between his legs cupping his face in her palms. He smiled slightly looking up into her eyes, holding her through her waist. He made her sit on one of his legs and caressed her cheek before pressing their lips together.

"Thank you so much Armaan. I love you." She whispered, resting her head against his neck. She had been wondering for the past few days whether she had conceived when she was late on her period. But amidst Muskaan's wedding preparations and Sanjeevani's workload she had completely forgotten about it. Now that she came to know there was another life in her, she felt blissful, wrapped in his arms.

She closed her eyes when she felt his hand caressing her abdomen from under her saree. Though he didn't tell her, she knew Armaan had been waiting excitedly for this moment. And she was too. And remembering his incredulously excited face when she woke up, she laughed slightly. They had been discussing about their plans for a kid for the past few months. Though he didn't express it directly, she knew he wished that she would take a long leave from the hospital when she gave birth. And she was willing for that. She knew her first priority would always be her family. She infact talked to Dr. Keerthi about it a few days back. She advised her to opt to be a consulting gynecologist, handling only a couple of cases at a time.

She had been working in the field of gynics for the past 15 months and dealing with pregnancy of women. But when it came to her, she grew anxious and she hugged him tight, seeking comfort from his warm embrace. And he gladly obliged holding her close, planting a few kisses on her forehead. As she closed her eyes, he started talking about their baby, from how she or he would look like to the school he would put her/him in. He talked about everything and anything under the sun related to children. She was so overwhelmed that she didn't realize when tears had escaped from her eyes.

Armaan shut his mouth and drew back so he could have a look at her when he felt his shirt getting wet. He was worried when he found her crying silently, sniffing slightly. As he rubbed her arms to calm her down, she looked up at him.

"I am sorry. I am just too happy. Can I cry for a moment?" she asked it cutely, making it hard for him to resist. She smiled with tears and rested her head back on his shoulder letting the tears of joy slip out of her eyes. Her life is just as perfect as she had imagined it to be. What more could she ask for?

"Armaan?" Raji called him after a couple of minutes.

"Hmm?" He turned back and looked at Raji standing at the door. Riddhima got up from his lap and stood.

"Shall we go home?" she asked smiling at them. She knew they want to be alone, but they had to get to home first.

"Yeah Raji." He smiled at her. "Just a minute." He added, holding Riddhima when she started to walk. Raji grinned at him and left.

He pulled Riddhima close, between his legs and crossed them behind her. He moved her saree aside from her waist and kissed her lower abdomen lovingly lingering his lips for a couple of seconds. "I love you baby. Please come out fast. Daddy will be waiting for you eagerly." He whispered to her belly.

"Armaan, though you bribe the baby, it'll take atleast 8 months more." She smiled ruffling his hair.

"I know. But what's wrong in trying?" he replied grinning before planting one last kiss on her waist. He got to his feet and kissed her forehead. "I love you too." He said pecking her lips making her smile grow wide.

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

Armaan smiled as he caught the sight of Raji and Riddhima enjoying each other's company completely unaware of his presence. They had a quick dinner tonight and as Armaan moved to their room to study some case, Riddhima went to the living room with Raji. When he came out, he found Raji massaging Riddhima's scalp while she closed her eyes smiling beautifully. He stared at the two important ladies of his life for some time imprinting the sight forever in his heart, before moving to them.

He sat on the floor beside Riddhima and after a moment thinking otherwise placed his head in her lap. She smiled with her eyes still closed. She ran her fingers in his hair caressing them just as he liked it. He turned to his side, his face facing her waist. And then he started talking to their baby, like there is no tomorrow. He spoke about himself introducing himself officially, as he termed it, and then spoke about her, Raji, their family and all others.

Raji smiled listening to him. Riddhima had fallen asleep long back with her head resting against her knees, but she kept on massaging. She didn't want to stop him from speaking either as he introduced his family proudly to the new guest. She knew now, no matter what happenes to her, Armaan would be happy as he has Riddhima with him. Earlier she used to be frightened at the thought of what after her? But now she  is happy. Finally he got a person who loved him, probably more than she did, if that is possible. And when it was past 12, she told him to get up and put Riddhima in bed and insisted he should catch some sleep as he has an early shift the next day.

Armaan carefully picked her up from the floor in his arms. As he did that, Riddhima woke up with a startle.

"Ssh, Go to sleep. Sweet Dreams." He leaned down and kissed her softly putting her down on the bed. He slid in the blanket beside her and the next moment, felt her snuggling into him mumbling an 'I love you'. Smiling widely, he pulled her gently closer to him and turned to his side to face her. He stared at her without blinking for sometime before kissing her forehead. He placed his palm on her bare waist under her t-shirt and caressed it slightly as a lone tear escaped his eye and sank into the pillow.

"Thank you so much Riddhima." He whispered in her ear, before closing his eyes, awaiting another beautiful morning with her and now with their baby. His life is just as perfect as he had imagined it to be. What more could he ask for?

And the rest is their story, as you imagined it to be.

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

sushmita

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