Friday, 2 October 2020

Part 17 : In My Heart

Anurag stood up seeing Sujal and Kashish enter Mallik mansion. They exchanged pleasantries and settled down.
"Sujal, I'm really sorry for Armaan's actions. Believe me, I never knew about it before. I feel so ashamed of.." Anurag said initiating a conversation after an awkward silence.

"You don't have to be sorry Anurag. We know you were as oblivious of all this as us. Our kids have managed to hide the truth very well for so long." Sujal replied cutting him in middle.

"Or maybe we have been unable to look at their pain and tears, which they hid only to save us from the hurt." Kashish added.

"I agree with her. We have to look beyond this truth, the reason they're giving is not real." Prerna said coming down the stairs.

"Exactly, they've done this to protect the other from pain. Riddhima never shared this with us because she didn't want anyone accusing or insulting Armaan. And Armaan he could have just asked for her hand but he told us the truth despite Riddhima's denial because he doesn't want her to be hurt in the long term what so ever." Kashish said looking in between Anurag and Sujal.

"They love each other immensely but were separated by circumstances. Sujal, I am not favoring Armaan in any way. What he did is absolutely wrong but what I'm saying is that now he wants to rectify his mistakes, so can you not give him a chance?" Prerna spoke to Sujal.

"Oh so this was your plan to get us sit and listen to all this. I've already told you Prerna, I'm not forgiving Armaan at any cost and you better not force Sujal into it too." Anurag said angrily.

"I thought both of you are mature enough to understand the situation but I guess I was wrong. Why don't you understand that two wrongs don't make a right? If kids did a mistake, is it necessary that you make one too? Both of you are their elders, so be one and forgive them. And please now don't say that both of you're not angry with Riddhima. She is involved as much as Armaan is, if she would have opened her mouth earlier all this wouldn't have happened." Kashish told the men, who looked at each other and then at the floor. Prerna smiled thankfully at Kashish, at least someone understood her point. Both the men retired to Anurag's study as the ladies got busy in the kitchen. They had decided to have dinner together after a long time.

"Anurag look at this." Sujal said in shock looking over something in his mobile. Anurag peeped in and was left shocked too.

"This is unbelievable. I can't believe Armaan is so stupid and irresponsible." Anurag said as he sat on the sofa.

"Anurag just a minute, do you know who had framed Armaan?" Sujal asked.

"No, I don't. He didn't tell me saying he would deal with it himself."

"He said the same thing to me but I know who this person is."

"Who is it?" Anurag leaned forward.

"Rakesh." Sujal informed Anurag about his encounter with Rakesh.

"Anurag, have you ever had a business rivalry with him or something?" Anurag just shook his head in a no, not being able to speak as his thoughts were clouded by suspicion and anger.

"Then we don't know the reason behind his actions. But Armaan's decision to face him alone is helping Rakesh a lot. He's using it against us as he knows that we're angry with Armaan. I think we should end this here it self so that there's no further involvement from Rakesh and this will only be done when we step in to the picture." Sujal said with determination.

Prerna and Kashish were not in favor of the decision the men took but couldn't help much when Muskaan made a dramatic entry.

"Whatever, they did a mistake and they will be punished." Muskaan said and both the men nodded.

"Common Maa, you can't side with Bhai on this. Look at him, he chose the girl, confessed and proposed even, all without letting us know a thing. And Rhea, she forgot her promise to me. She accepted Bhai's proposal without my consent. This is so unfair. I had dreamt so much of how and what all I'll do at my brother and bbf's engagement, but they both just broke my dreams. I don't care about any consequences; they will have to bear it all. Samajhte kya hain khud ko wo dono, main aisa maza chakhauon gi ke yaad rakhien ge hamesha." Muskaan said with a smirk.

"Beta, this is not right. I know they shouldn't have kept us in the dark for this long. But what you're trying to do is somewhat going over the board, don't you think so?" Prerna said worriedly.

"Maa please, ap itna sochna bund karo or please Bhai ki side mat lo. He deserves this." both the ladies shook their heads in defeat as they weren't able to convince Muskaan.

Arjun had informed Armaan about the latest developments regarding Rakesh's case as he was successful in tracking down a lot of history involving him.

Armaan sat with his head in his hands at the bed's edge. His forehead was creased with tension as he was reconsidering his decision. It had been 4 days to Riddhima's arrival in India. Since that day it was a ritual for Armaan to stay from morning till night and leave after putting Riddhima to sleep. Armaan broke from his trance as Riddhima's arm went around his waist and she leaned into his chest. He embraced her tightly pulling her closer.

"Kya hua? Tum aise gum sum kyun baithe ho?" she asked him.

"Riddhima, will you answer a few things honestly?" he asked back in a serious tone which alerted her. She nodded her head. At the end of their conversation, they took a hard step and made a life changing decision.

The next week went in a flash for Armaan as he was occupied by too many tasks. The new multinational project along with investigations regarding Rakesh and planning a strategy to stay safe kept him busy whole day. In all this he wasn't able to give Riddhima the due time and knew that she was upset with him.

The week was painfully long for Riddhima as she had to spend most of the time alone. Kids were at schools in the morning. Armaan would visit her daily while returning from work, have dinner with her and they would sit in the garden or terrace and talk for some time. He had arranged a car with driver that was present for her 24/7, so that she could move freely with convenience. Riddhima only went out twice; she didn't feel like doing anything or going anywhere due to Armaan's negligence. She had expected things to shape up more nicely between Armaan and her but felt Armaan's behavior change after that night. He had immersed himself in work, during his visits she felt him hold himself back from coming near her. He wouldn't stay till late and even left without putting her to bed. The last two days, he didn't come at all due to busy schedule which pissed her a lot.

"Aj dekhti hoon, how he stays away from me." Riddhima mumbled while checking herself in the mirror. She had decided to visit him at office and drag him along to the mall. She had put up a fawn color churidaar adorned with delicate maroon work. Riddhima had used her usual make up, put up maroon studs, bracelet and a crystal bindi complimenting her dress. She pulled her hair on the left shoulder leaving her bare back in view adjusting the duppatta on her neck. Riddhima picked her purse and left her room but froze on top of stairs as she saw her parents sitting in the lounge of Shanti Nagar.

"Mama, Papa." She mumbled and fisted the purse's strap tightly due to nervousness as Sujal looked at her in anger.

"Oh, good to know that you remember the relation we share; otherwise I thought I would have to introduce myself." Sujal said sarcastically.

"Why are you saying this Papa?" Riddhima asked softly coming near him.

"What else should I say when my daughter ran away from home without even informing her parents?"

"I'm sorry Papa, Mama. I didn't do this to hurt you." she spoke holding their hands.

"Don't we matter to you at all? Did you even think what we went through when you just escaped quietly?" Kashish asked.

"Of course we don't matter Kashish, otherwise why would she hide such a big truth from us for so long?" Sujal answered.

"Aisa nahin hai. I just didn't want to hurt you by sharing this Papa. I thought of putting it behind as my past but I didn't know that it will come back and affect my life again."

"Whatever is done is done, it can't be changed but if you really are sorry

then you have to do what we say." Sujal said looking at her intently.

"I will do anything you say Papa. " she replied instantly.

"Okay, firstly you have to move in with us. Then we'll tell what you have to do next." she nodded at him.

Riddhima kept wishing that Armaan visited her today but he didn't turn up today as well. A disheartened Riddhima left the orphanage with her parents.

Armaan rushed up the stairs of Mallik Mansion as the guard at the main door informed him of his parent's arrival. He pushed open the door of his parent's bedroom and his expressions changed from a small hopeful smile to confusion, concern and worry as he saw his sister cry. Muskaan had her face hidden in Prerna's lap as she cried but her head shot up hearing her brother's voice.

"What happened Muski? Why are you crying?"

"Bhai." she cried and rushed to hug him.

"Shh.. Calm down Muskaan and tell me what's wrong? Why are all of you here suddenly?" he asked worriedly.

"Jis baat ka darr tha wohi hua. Tumhari wajah se Muskaan ka ghar toot raha hai." Anurag said angrily.

"Kya matlab? Main samjha nahin." Armaan asked confusedly.

"Bhai, Rahul bohat gussa hai jab se ussey ap or Riddhima ka pata chala hai. Wo mujhse bohat gussa hai. Us ne kaha hai ke agar ap Riddhima se contact khatam kar lete ho tou theek hai warna acha nahin hoga." Muskaan cried.

"What non-sense. How could Rahul say this? You don't worry I will talk to him. Where is he now?"

"He's here only. They've come to take Riddhima back. They are angry with her as well. Bhai you'll break your relation with her na?"

"No ways. I can't do this." Armaan said pushing Muskaan away from him.

"I can't leave her again. I've promised to stay by her side always, I can't break my promise. But you don't worry, I will talk to them. Nothing will come between you and your happiness." he said cupping her face. Muski's eyes moistened on seeing her brother's concern and love for her.

The night passed in tension, worry and fear for both the lovers as they couldn't reach out to the other in time of need. The third day came to an end since they met last and it seemed as if the nature was conspiring against them as well as the mobile networks were hampered due to untimely storm. Armaan paced around his room the entire time in agitation thinking about Riddhima. A sudden fear of losing her had gripped his heart again. His intuitions were pointing towards some testing times again. Armaan closed his eyes and folded his hands in prayers to ask for his love's safety and well-being.

Riddhima was going through the same turmoil as Armaan. She sat on the window pane of her room in her ancestral bungalow looking at the giant trees swing from side to side due to the violent winds and rain hit the earth ferociously. Riddhima felt her heart sink as the thoughts of separation from Armaan made place in her mind and heart, making her restless and helpless. She too joined her hands in prayer at the same time as Armaan and asked for the same thing as him.

The next day was witness to a calm but dark cloudy weather, as if depicting the calm before the storm. Riddhima felt the loving caress of her mother's hands and placed her head on her lap. Kashish gazed at her daughter lovingly as her childhood flashed before her eyes. Her Rhea had grown into a beautiful woman and was now ready to take the next step of life. Kashish knew it was extremely hard as a parent to handover their heart to someone else for a lifetime, but it was time to bid her farewell. What calmed Kashish was the person they had chosen for their Rhea, they were sure he was undoubtedly the one who could and would take care of their daughter above his life.

"Today is the day you've been waiting for so long, my Princess." She softly murmured while running her hand on Riddhima's head. Sujal entered the room and joined them on bed. He kissed Rhea's forehead and looked on with moist eyes but as soon as she opened her eyes, he changed his expressions and spoke:

 "Good Morning Princess." Riddhima got up and inched closer to hug him which he responded. But the next words jolted her out of her dreamland.

"Wake up Rhea. I've chosen a guy for you and his family will be joining us for lunch. They're bringing the shagun and the wedding date will be finalized today."

"Papa, what are you saying? I can't do this. You already know I'm engaged to Armaan. How can you take this decision?" she asked disbelievingly.

"I'm in no mood for arguments Rhea. Today is a big day for all of us and I want it to be a happy one too. Regarding Armaan, I don't accept this so called engagement of yours. Now i don't want any more discussions. Kashish and Muskaan will help you get ready for the function at afternoon." he spoke nonchalantly.

"I'm sorry Papa, but I won't be able to fulfill this wish of yours. I love Armaan, Papa and I only belong to him. I'll call him to take me away." she spoke in a broken voice.

"Listen Rhea, you're just being emotional. Think with your head and you'll realize that your decision of being with him is wrong. You have time till lunch; I hope you'll be over this by then. Let's go Kashish." Riddhima fell on the ground and hugged her knees tightly as her body shook with sobs. She could see her world crashing in front of her eyes and couldn't do anything about it. The person who could save her was nowhere in sight. Riddhima stood on her knees and tried to reach her mobile. She dialed Armaan's number with trembling hands, only to be met with a voice recording. She flung her mobile on the wall in irritation, breaking it into pieces.

Armaan stirred uneasily, moving his head from one side to the other. Sweat beads and worry lines creased his forehead. He woke up with a jerk calling out Basket. Armaan clutched the chair's sides tightly as he tried to calm down and assure himself that it was a nightmare. He quickly fished out his mobile from his pant and dialed Riddhima's number as it was the only way to get rid of the sinking feeling but couldn't as her mobile was switched off. Armaan put his head in his hands and took deep breaths. He strode out of his room as he thought of something. He punched the table in frustration as Muskaan had left for Garewal house early in the morning. He went back to his room and tried repeatedly to reach Riddhima to no avail. Finally he called Muskaan and begged to let him speak to Riddhima once.

"Please Muski, mujhe sirf aik baar baat karni hai ussey. Us ka mobile switched off ja raha hai and there's no one who can help me now other than you."

"Bhai, you don't know it's not possible for me. Rahul is keeping an eye on her; if he gets suspicious then I'll be in trouble."

"It's okay. I understand. Can you just tell me if she's fine. Have you checked on her yet? Please itna tou bata sakti ho. I won't talk but you just let me know, please." he was on the verge of crying when a sudden gasp from Muskaan caught his attention.

"Rhea! Rhea, what happened? Get up. Rhea, open your eyes. Rahul, Papa, Mama, dekhien Rhea ko kya hua. She isn't opening her eyes." Muskaan cried patting and shaking a pale lifeless Riddhima on the floor.

"Muskaan, kya hua? Riddhima ko kya hua? Is she okay? Muskaan, answer me dammit!" Armaan shouted as he ran around the room picking up his keys and putting on his shoes.

"Bhai, Rhea. She isn't getting up. Bhai, why isn't she getting up? Rhea, aankhien kholo." Muskaan cried. The whole family gathered around an unconscious Riddhima, calling out to her but she responded to none. Armaan could hear the commotion as Muskaan hadn't cut the line. He rushed out of the Mansion and jumped in his seat igniting the car, but punched the steering wheel in frustration as he didn't know the location of Garewal house. He saw Anurag and Prerna running towards his car in the side mirror.

"Armaan, car nikalo. Main tumhien raasta batata hoon Garewal house ka." Anurag said hurriedly as they settled in.

The next forty minutes were a complete torture for Armaan. He was flying his car at the maximum he could but it looked like too slow now. He broke all the signals and traffic rules with a hand permanently on the horn. His hand was fisted in a death grip around the steering and jaws clenched in an attempt to control him from breaking down but he was losing. A sharp pain was cutting through his heart that was about to leap out of his chest and his head was getting heavy. His mind repeated his nightmare on a loop. He could only hear Anurag and Prerna say something to him but couldn't make out anything. A tear escaped his eye as Anurag gripped his shoulder tightly in support. Armaan jumped out of the car pulling the brakes of his car as they entered the premises of Garewal Mansion. He ran up the stairs asking for Riddhima from the servants. They entered the room to find Sujal and Rahul holding their crying wives and a lady doctor checking on Riddhima. Armaan stood with bated breath for the doctor to finish her checkup while Anurag and Prerna supported Riddhima's family. He had clenched his fists so tight that they had turned white. Rahul moved towards Armaan as he saw his body shake but before he could speak the doctor got off the bed. She told them that Riddhima's blood pressure had dropped drastically and her sugar level was also low, indicating malnutrition and extreme stress. The doctor had given her the medicines, put up a drip of essential vitals and requested to keep her away from tension.

Armaan closed his eyes as tears burned them, he kept cursing himself for her condition. Everyone settled around Riddhima and Armaan kept standing in the corner, watching over her. He knew one thing for sure and that was he wouldn't survive without her this time. Riddhima stirred a little about after an hour. She whispered something continuously moving her head over the pillow restlessly. They all tried to calm her down by rubbing her hands and saying soothing words but nothing worked. Sujal bent down to hear what she was asking for and choked back a sob as he heard her chant Armaan repeatedly. He motioned Armaan to come close to her to which he obliged gratefully.

 Armaan settled down on his knees beside her bed and took her hand in his. Riddhima gripped his hand tightly instantly recognizing his touch and mumbled in broken words: "Armaan, mere paas tum."

"Main yahin hoon, tumhare paas. Please aankhien kholo Meri Jaan." Armaan mumbled and kissed her hand. She dozed off again under the effect of medicines but her grip was still strong and she wasn't restless anymore. Everyone witnessed this interaction and got up to arrange things for the afternoon function as they now knew all was fine.


No comments:

Post a Comment