Sunday, 8 March 2020

Part 6 : A Burdened Love

Armaan entered his ostentatious suite and headed to sit on the windowsill.  After a solid six hour conference he needed to unwind, and the best way to do that was just to sit aimlessly and watch the world go by. 'The merits of being a representative of Sanjeevani' he said to himself and sighed as he looked at the panorama which exhibited wonders outside the framed arch window. It reflected the cerulean Singapore skyline at midday.  The glitz, glamour, materialistic pleasures and these awe inspiring views meant nothing to Armaan. 'What is the point of having such grandeur when you are not able to share it with the ones you love' he said followed by subsequent sigh. He was missing Riddhima and Aahana, and his mood evidenced this.  However Armaan was never a man to mix his personal life with his professional life. He delivered his presentation and ideas for Sanjeevani to utmost perfection and was appreciated by many.



A very tired Armaan leaned his head on the window panel and picked up his mobile to see whether there were any calls from his lady love. 'Still no call'. I'm sure Aahanas keeping her busy'. He was getting bored of gazing outside the window, so he picked up a book, but there was no point he was restless because his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of his Basket and his Angel. He opened the book and flicked through the first few pages. But it was all a meaningless blur. Just tiny black characters printed on sheets of fresh white paper. He dropped the book and picked up his digital camera and flicked through the media on it. It was the closest source of Riddhima and Aahana he had. He then stopped at his favourite video of Riddhima. She was in her basket ball attire and she had just scored and was all smiles, little did she know that Armaan had taken a video of her jumping up and down with glee. She was ethereally beautiful. 'Love You Beautiful' Armaan said as he dropped his phone and headed into the en-suite to have a quick shower.

              Armaan sat on his bed. He ran his fingers through his raven black hair as he had just finished drying it. His mobile rang. As soon as he heard the first bell he dropped the damp towel from his hand and raced to pick up his mobile which was vibrating on the edge of the windowsill. He retreated into the area he was sitting on, on the window sill and hit the accept button, without looking at the caller ID.  Thinking 'Aha about time Mrs Riddhima Armaan Basket Mallik (He loves saying that and she loves hearing it) . I was wondering when I would hear that beautiful voice of yours, I bet our little Angel has kept you on your feet all day'. I hope she has.

He answered the phone call with a cute dimpled smile, and spoke before he could let the lady on the other end  speak : ' Mrs Mallik, I was wondering...it has been a whole three hours and still no phone call from you. I am sure the reason behind this wait has Angel written all over it. He chuckled a little (his dimples deepened as he thought about his princess and his angel).

Lady on the other end: 'Sorry Buddy, Anjie here.'

Armaans face fell. However, he did not want to appear rude, and that too to his friend who also happened to be his sister-in-law. So he quickly and conveniently replied' Sorry sister-in-law, was expecting Riddhimas call, But I guess Aahana has kept her busy'. Anjie  could have pulled his leg about being a diehard romantic and not being able to stay away from his wife, but she felt it would just depress him even more, so she conveniently changed the topic and said 'So how is Singapore treating you Armaan?'. 'Singapore's fine.  Most of the work is finished, just need to discuss the new medical equipment that will be needed and then all is done.

Anjali: 'Hey that's great, you'll be back in no time'.

Armaan thinking: No time- Every minute seems as if it is extending, Like all the clocks in the world have frozen.

Anjali: 'Hey Armaan you still there'

Armaan:' Yes.. Yes I'm still here just got lost in my thoughts, but yes your right. I'll be back soon. So tell me the real reason you have phoned.'

Anjali (flabbergasted)- 'REASON.. Why would I have a reason... Hmm Mr Brother-in-law you have offended me. I was just on my coffee break thinking we could have a good old chit chat. Just like the before.'

Armaan: 'Miss Nautanki Sister-in-law of mine, I have known you for a good few years to know when you have something more to say then chit chat. So come on spill the beans'

Anjali (She knew there was no point, Armaan was right she did want to say something more than the general formal Hi, How are you? and Bye. ) . She hesitantly replied: 'It's Dad Armaan. He's neglecting everybody. Won't eat, won't talk. It all began last night whilst everybody was helping with the preparations for the veneration for Padma Mums death Anniversary. And well Armaan, I am a bit worried. I mean, he does this every year for the last three years since Mum died. And I know this state of his will continue for the next week or so. And Brother-in-law I can only talk to you, I mean you are the training for head psychiatrist in Sanjeevani.

Armaan: Armaan himself had noticed this every year, but this wasn't new to him. Dr Shashank had given him the cold shoulder since Armaans internship days. Nevertheless, he knew Anjali must be feeling low, so he said 'Anjali really and truly for a case like this, time is the best medicine. I know you must feel helpless, but unless Dr Shashank wants to get better no medicine will help.

A thought occurred to Armaan, Its strange Riddhima never talks about being worried with Dr Shashanks health. Maybe it's a good thing. Looking after Aahana and that too on her own must be pressurizing enough.

Armaan: Anjie

Anjali: Lost in her own thoughts  : Hmmm... Bolo Armaan

Armaan: 'I know Dr Shashanks health has been concerning you, but something tells me there is more to this than your telling me. Maybe concerning a friend of mine who goes by the name Atul'

Anjalis heart beat rose as soon as she heard Atul's name: 'Shut up Armaan. We are not together.'

Armaan; Fine then, if you say so sister-in-law, when did I say anything about you to being together'

Anjali- she knew talking to Armaan was so easy and she knew she could trust him. Hesitantly: 'You know Armaan, there's no point lying to you. I tell you he tells you it's going to be the same thing, but Armaan Atul has asked me to be his girlfriend'

Armaan: Big deal, he asks you that every day. Wake up sister-in-law.

Anjali:Armaaaaaannn....

Armaan: Yes Anjaliiiiiiii.

Anjali: Seriously Armaan, for the first time, I actually considered.

Armaan (excited): 'That's great. You're both happy, so what's the problem'

Anjali thinking- How great is Armaan. He understands everyone so well.; Well. To be honest Armaan. Whenever I pictured getting married I always imagined getting married to a man, who could set me straight when I was wrong. A guy who was confident. He was his own person. A guy who got along with everybody.  Didn't get intimidated by others.

Armaan thinking :Bechaara Atul toh gaya kaam se.'

Anjali: 'But you know whatArmaan, any of this matters anymore. And I am so confused. Why is this happening to me. Ever since I was a little girl, these were the traits I wanted in my 'Prince Charming', and well now I don't feel they hold any significance anymore.'

Armaan smiled and replied: 'Hmm... Anjali, I think his LOVE has finally bowled you over. When you fall in love nothing matters. Expectations mean nothing. It has no boundaries and it is greater than what words can probably ever express. Love is well just love and that is all there is to it. But my one piece of advice I will give you Anjali, is do not leave Atul hanging. If you really feel 'Yes I love him, then just tell him'. And if you feel you are not committing to him, because you are worried about Dr Shashank, then Anjali that is very wrong. Atul is understanding, and if you really want him to be a part of your life. Then you have to allow him to share your sorrow alongside you happiness. Don't leave your love because of a third person. Sometimes being selfish is okay. You do not want to lose him the way I nearly lost Riddhima'

They both fell silent on his last comment.

Anjali ' After the prolonged silence trying to direct the conversation into another route: 'Not bad Mr Brother-In-Law. Now I see why Riddhima fell into the trap of you love. I bet you hypnotised her with all your talks on love.'

They both chuckled at this comment

Anjali: 'Nevertheless, thank you so much Armaan. You really have lifted this burden of my chest.'

Armaan: 'No problem Anjie. Do tell me what you decide to do then' Just as he was about to ask about the morning veneration...

Anjali: 'Will do...will do...Listen I got to go. Duty calls, just been paged for in ICU. Bye'. And with that she dropped the call.

After his conversation with Anjali Armaan was left with his musings of Riddhima and how they both reached where they are today. Maybe it was a good thing Dr Shashank nearly broke us apart, otherwise we never really would have truly understood one another. The nostalgia that had filled him with his thoughts of his relationship, was abruptly brought to an end when his mobile rang once again.

Armaan: Thinking it was Atul this time- Hmm... Bolo (He was speaking like this to annoy Atul).

After a good ten seconds still no reply.

Armaan: This cannot be Atul, he quickly peeped at the caller ID where it depicted the name 'Riddhima'

Armaan: 'Ooops. Sorry Mrs Basket, I am getting everybody mixed up today'.

Normally Riddhima would respond quickly to him, but today she kept mum. Armaan knew she had been crying. Her silence spoke volumes. It was not easy for her. Today was Padma Mums death anniversary after all, and he was not there to support her.

He spoke in a consolidating tone: 'Hey baby. Don't worry, Remember what Padma Mom said before she left us. She said she wanted to be remembered with smiles on our faces. Not tears. Smile, please...'

Riddhima just sat at the other end of the phone and listened. Oh how she yearned  for one of his warm protective cuddles. That security that could fill the void within her. Armaan knew how much support means to a person. After having to watch his own mother fighting cancer and being compelled (via emotional blackmail of his abusive father) to sit through those horrendous minutes like years in the chemo therapy room watching his mother put up a brave face even though the horrific truth was that she was dying. He knew how important support was. He had no one then and he feared how Riddhima would react without him. However, the fact that they had Aahana now lessened his worry. Riddhima would be busy with their Angel, so it was likely she would be distracted from the thoughts of her mother's death.

He continued: He knew there was no point in trying to avoid the topic as she would bottle her emotions up further causing her more stress, so instead he asked her ' How was the veneration Sweetheart?'

Riddhima' 'Please come back' she said to avoid his question, She was in no mood to talk about the morning veneration, moreover, all she wanted was him.

Armaans heart went out to her, as she asked him, she needed him and there was nothing he could do. 'Riddhima' he replied. She spoke once more 'Armaan please, I thought I could cope without you, but I can't and on top of that Aahana has got a slight temperature'. Armaan felt the tension rising in the air. He replied with a calm composed tone (he knew if he stressed out, then this would stress Riddhima out even more) 'Firstly Baby please stop crying'. I don't hate anything or anyone in this world, but what pains me most is having to know that teardrops flowing from those angelic eyes of yours and to know that the smile is missing. Yes that smile of yours that can warm the coldest of hearts and the smile that can bring a sparkle of vigour to emptiest of eyes.

A small smile curved on Riddhimas lips as she heard Armaan talking. How lucky am I she thought to herself. To have a guy like Armaan who can change my mood instantly even on a day like this. She cleared her throat and spoke 'I'm sorry Armaan, I don't know what got over me for a while'. ' Hey Basket, it's understandable, just look after yourself, and what where you saying about Aahana having a slight fever?' Oh crap she said and cursed herself quietly under her breath, I can't believe I told him now he will just worry. 'It's nothing Armaan probably just a common cold. Weather change and all Baarish ka mausam shuru ho gaya hain' 'Are you sure?' he replied. She could sense the tension in his voice as he spoke each word. ' She replied calmly and confidently whilst stroking the photo frame in her hand 'Haan Armaan I am sure'. The photograph enclosed within the photo frame was of Armaan and Aahana. It was her favourite photograph. One of those indescribable Kodak moments with Armaan sleeping blissfully beside Aahana as Aahanas tiny fingers clutched the edge of his thumb. Oh how she wished he was here with them now.

Armaan (a little relaxed now): 'Par Riddhima, Tonight's function. What are you going to do about that?'

Note to readers: Before Padma died she told everybody that she wanted to be remembered with everybody smiling, not crying. She wanted her life to be celebrated with the same joy she was given while she lived. Hence, after the morning veneration on the day of her death anniversary a small party is held at night time which is an idea of all the interns (our DMG gang). However, it is inevitable that Dr Shashank would never attend parties as such as he disagreed with the whole concept.

Armaan: 'Baby you have to attend tonight's function as even I am not there so it will look bad if neither of us are able to go'

Riddhima: 'I can understand Armaan, but what about Aahana. I can't take her out. The weather is not doing any favours, and she will just get more ill.'

Armaan: 'I know, we have to take pre-caution. Par kya kare, I mean who can we leave her with? Hmm...'

Riddhima on the other end of the phone praying ' please don't say leave her with Papa, please don't say leave he with Papa' she muttered under her breath.  Her prayers were gracefully ignored as Armaan replied: 'Idea Basket... Why don't you leave her with Dr Shashank, I am sure he wouldn't mind, I mean she is his granddaughter after all, and spending time with Aahana might lighten his mood too.'

Riddhima (hesitantly)- Par Armaan she is so small, and you know..

Armaan: 'Know what sweetheart?, He is a Doctor after all and he will know how to take good care of her'

Armaan being Armaan was adamant on his final decision , there was no going back  once his mind was made, so Riddhima reluctantly agreed  'Okay as you wish, but I will not stay for there for long' She was not happy leaving her child with the man who hated the father of her child. But she did not want Armaan to know how she felt about this, hence her reluctant agreement to this situation. And there was no other option.

Armaan: 'As you wish madam. Just phone Dr Shashank and ask him first if it is okay.

Riddhima: 'I will'.

And their conversation continued as they spoke sweet nothings to one another...

An hour later Armaans phone starts ringing once AGAIN. He puts down the file he is reading and answers the call.

Armaan: 'Hey Basket'

He can hear Aahana wailing in the background.

Riddhima: 'Armaan, I have to keep the conversation short as I need to change Aahana's clothes and I need to feed her. I just phoned to say Papa has agreed to look after Aahana whilst I go. It's strange baby, because he sounded very happy when I asked him for the favour. A complete opposite mood to how he was this morning.

Armaan chuckled : 'That's good basket. At least we know Aahana is in safe hands. And wait before you go, on that purple saree you are wearing tonight wear the simple Swarovski set that Anjie bought you for your birthday, not the tiffany and co silver plated necklace.

A befuddled Riddhima thinking: How did he know I was wearing the purple saree but more importantly how did he know I was stuck contemplating between which set to wear... 'Armaan you are mine and just mine and I love you' she replied not knowing how on earth he knew everything about her, A deep smile plastered his face and his dimples deepened as he understood her response.

Riddhima: ' I have to go now before my ear drums split. I can hear decibels that I didn't even know existed. The wonders of Aahana.... And Armaan... All the best for tonight's presentation you will amaze them all.

They both said their goodbyes and I love yous and the call ended.


In the Gupta Residence

A vindictive Shashank talking to a portrait of his late wife in a dark room,: 'Finally Padma, Aahana will be here anytime soon to see us...

Hannah Sophia

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