Thursday, 17 September 2020

Part 2 : In My Heart

A guy wearing black shirt and jacket with dark blue denims entered "Shanti Nagar" with lots of bags in his hands. As he stepped in the garden, he yelled "hey, I'm home!"Gappu peeped through the curtains of art room and screamed "Armaan bhaiyya aa gaye." Everybody rushed towards the garden, where they were greeted by Armaan, who was on his knees with his arms wide open. The kids engulfed him in a group hug and said in chorus "Happy Birthday Armaan bhaiyya." As Armaan saw Dadi coming towards him, he parted from the kids and stood up. He greeted Dadi and touched her feet to take blessings. Dadi moved her hand on his head "jeetay raho, a very Happy birthday to you beta, hamesha khush raho" she said cupping his face in her palms and kissed his forehead.The others present there wished him too. He stood smiling listening to kids who were all speaking together trying to tell him everything that happened since they last met. Ananya maasi told the kids to help Armaan with the bags and move in as it was cold outside.

Armaan was sitting on the couch talking with kids when he heard somebody laugh. He turned towards the voice source and was stunned by the sight. When Armaan did not respond to Dadi, she followed his gaze and chuckled. Dadi called Riddhima breaking Armaan's trance and introduced them. "Armaan ye meri poti hai,Riddhima. Or Riddhima ye Armaan." "Hi. Happy Birthday Armaan." Riddhima smiled while holding out her hand. "Thank you Riddhima." Armaan said while shaking hands. The watchman brought the remaining packets from Armaan's car and placed on the coffee table besides the couch. Riddhima excused herself for arranging the table. After setting the platters of grilled cheese and chicken sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pan cakes with honey and crme, croissants, muffins and fresh fruits juices on the dining table, she called everyone for breakfast.Dadi brought out a white cake stand with a huge dark chocolate cake engraved with "Happy B'day Armaan." The kids quickly moved forward and helped Dadi in putting the candles on it. They all stood around Armaan, with Dadi n Ananya maasi at each side and Riddhima in front, waiting for him to cut the cake. He smiled at them and bent down but stopped and looked around in confusion." Riddhima!" he called out loudly with his raised eyebrow. She came running downstairs with her video and digital cameras in her hands, "wo I wanted to capture everything so I went to get this" she said with a sorry face. She gave the video cam to Maasi and readying herself for clicking pictures, motioned Armaan to blow the candles.The room was filled with the voices of everyone singing birthday song while heblew the candles. "Make a wish first" Riddhima said stopping Armaan from cutting the cake. He smiled and obliged to what she said by making a wish with closed eyes and then cut the cake while everyone clapped for him. He gave the first piece of cake to Dadi who fed him back. When everyone was done, Dadi took the camera from Riddhima. Riddhima had observed how tiny bites Armaan was taking of the cake and telling everyone he was health conscious. She cut a big piece of cake and moved it towards Armaan's mouth, who at once raised his eyebrows at this, "what? Eat na!" she replied with an innocent face. Armaan understood her intentions and opened his mouth a bit. She frowned seeing him do that and got that he had understood what she was up to, "hmm.. You won't eat it easily, rite" she thought. She stepped ahead but her ankle twisted and she yelped "ouch!" Armaan opened his mouth to say "what" that's when she stuffed the whole piece in his mouth. Armaan stood still watching her flash her victory smile saying"Happy b'day Armaan." When she noticed Armaan not responding and looking at her angrily, she gulped moving her hand away and said in a low tone" I'm sorry. I was just messing with you. I didn't mean to hurt you." He quickly grabbed her hand" and who told you I wasn't?" "Hun" was only what she managed to say. Seeing him smile deeply she understood he was faking anger and smiled back. Breakfast was done with lots of talking, laughing and teasing. Riddhima was giving the kids each a slice of cake, when Armaan said "not for me please, I've had enough for a day", "oh please, a piece of cake would do no harm" she said making a face. Armaan simply nodded.

Later they all sat in the lounge on couches and bean bags opening the gifts Armaan had got for them. He had brought play station, cartoon dvds, bedtime stories, paints, art and craft sets, basketball, badminton, soft toys for small kids and beautiful Kashmiri shawls for Dadi and Maasi. Then everyone brought presents for Armaan. "He's such a kid" Riddhima giggled watching him unwrap the gifts and greeting cards with such enthusiasm. He thanked all kids by hugging and cuddling them. Later kids dragged him to the garden to play football. After a good 2 hour play, kids retired to their rooms to freshen up. Riddhima brought a steaming cup of coffee for Armaan and settled beside him on the swing. They sat there in silence not knowing from where to begin the conversation. "I'm sorry Riddhima, I couldn't get anything for you." Armaan said looking at her. "aray y are you sorry, sorry to mujhe bolna chahye k I didn't give you any gift. I came here yesterday and got to know about your birthday today only, so I couldn't buy you anything" She replied honestly. "koi baat nahi, you can give me one now" Armaan said turning towards her and folding his one leg on the swing. "Abhi? But I don't have anything" Riddhima asked confused. "You do have. What about your friendship?" he said. She smiled hearing him say that and quickly brought out her hand saying "Friends." He replied by holding her hand tight and a dimpled smile. "So tell me something about yourself." He asked. "I stay with my parents and an elder brother. I'm studying in the 2nd year of MBA. I'm here to spend my winter break. Dadi had not visited us for the past 7 years and I missed her a lot so after lots of emotional blackmailing and persuading, my family allowed me to travel alone and so here I am. Now you tell." She replied back. "Well I stay here in Mumbai with my parents and a younger sister. I've also done MBA and currently am helping my dad in business. I love kids so I come here to spend time with them whenever I'm free." Armaan said. They sat there talking until Dadi returned from mandir. She distributed prasad to everyone. Armaan and the kids played on the play station while the ladies prepared lunch. After having a heavy course for lunch, they settled on the floor cushions in recreation room to watch a movie. Armaan left in evening after watching 2 movies when he received a call from his family, promising the kids to come more frequently during their holidays.

A big Birthday bash was given by Anurag and Prerna to their loving son at their new hotel, where all friends and business acquaintances were invited. Armaan entered the venue dressed in a black suit along with Muskaan clad in a shimmering black knee length evening dress. Everyone praised the duo. Armaan and his friends who had gathered at a corner table were rolling in laughter at Atul's jokes. He was Armaan's best friend but more like a brother. Armaan opened all the gifts he received. Muskaan asked for her return gift so He told her and others about her admission in Leeds University. She was so surprised, no shocked to hear this that she just stood there without blinking. She was brought out of her stance by Armaan's shaking. She smiled widely hugging him tight thanking him. Later they all hit the dance floor and danced till they could stand no longer. The party had come to an end and the Malliks returned to their mansion.

Armaan had been disturbed throughout the evening, so he made an excuse and retired to his room quickly. He threw his coat on the couch and moved to the window. He closed his eyes and sighed when he saw the same face again. Armaan could not understand what was happening, he could only see Riddhima smiling, laughing, talking, playing when he closed his eyes. He remembered the day spent with her. How beautiful she looked when he first saw her laughing while on a call that he couldn't blink his eyes, her ringing laughter was so melodious. He laughed shaking his head at how she had stuffed the whole piece of cake in his mouth and smiled like a child on her victory. He was amazed on his response to her, if it was somebody else he would have blasted on them but he didn't say anything to her, in fact he ate the other piece also on her insistence. There was definitely something about her that was attracting him so much. Armaan took a hot bath to clear his mind and for a peaceful sleep.

Next morning Armaan came down the stairs in hurry from his room and skidded through the corridor and saw his parents at the dining table, he stopped to greet them "Good morning maa, dad." Anurag spoke rubbing his eyes "Prerna kahin main sapna to nahin dekh raha na." Armaan rolled his eyes because he knew he was in for leg pulling, and why shouldn't they, it was a first time when THE ARMAAN MALLIK had woken up on his own and that too EARLY. It was a great achievement. "nahin sapna to nahin hai per koi jadu zaroor hua hai" Prerna laughed at Anurag's comment and continued "kya baat hai tu itni jaldi kaise uth gaya, aj to tera off bhi hai." "Soya hota to uthta na" Armaan thought. He had had a restless night, couldn't sleep a blink. All he wanted was to get rid of Her thoughts. "kuch nahi hua, I'm going for a jog and I had promised the kids that I would come today, bus wahin ja raha tha." Armaan told them standing up. "per nashta to kar k jao" Anurag said. "nahin dad main nashta karun ga to late ho jaye ga" Anurag choked on his coffee "late! Beta abhi 6am hain or tu keh raha hai late." Armaan knew it was early, in fact a bit too early but he was sure he would go crazy if he didn't get there soon. He went out babbling a bye. Anurag and Prerna were confused seeing his behavior and impatience.

Armaan drove through the silent streets of Mumbai and reached in 20 minutes. He kept on ringing the bell of "Shanti Nagar" impatiently. After 5 minutes Ananya Maasi opened the door "Armaan. Tum? Is waqt?" "haan wo maine bachon ko promise kia tha anay ka to.." He said. Maasi told him that all were sleeping. "ok then I'll go to the beach and then come." He replied with a fallen face. "ruk. Nashta to yahin karey ga na." he nodded and turned, "sun, Riddhima ko bhi jana tha beach
pe, tu le jaye ga usey?" he quickly turned and said "haan theek hai ap kehti ho to le jaon ga. Ap utha do usey, I'll wait for her" Maasi chuckled seeing Armaan's lit up face.

Riddhima was sleeping peacefully covered in her cozy comforter when Maasi entered her room and sat near her. She caressed her hair lovingly. Riddhima smiled in her sleep. Maasi told her that Armaan was waiting down to take her to the beach. Riddhima quickly opened her eyes and picked her mobile to see the time, she looked at maasi in confusion. "itni subah wo yahan kya kar raha hai?" she asked. Maasi shrugged her shoulders and told her how Armaan was behaving. She left the room telling Riddhima to get ready quickly. Riddhima dressed in a peach and crme churidaar with sequins work. She moved out looking at her image in the mirror after putting kohl in her eyes and a peach lip stain. As soon as she descended downstairs Armaan's gaze was fixed on her. "Good Morning Armaan!" She smiled warmly and greeted him. He smiled back replying "a very Good Morning to you too." They met Dadi and then left for the beach.

They decided to walk to the beach as it wasn't far and Riddhima wanted to look around the locality too. They arrived at the beach in 10 minutes. "This is beautiful" Riddhima sighed as she saw the breathtaking sight in front of her. The sun was shining from behind the white thick clouds, radiating its rays all throughout the bluish orange sky. The waves crashing on the shore created a beautiful sound. She loved the feel of sand in her toes. Riddhima stood there admiring the nature. Armaan was observing Riddhima from a little distance, who was lost in the view of nature, while Armaan was appreciating the beauty standing in front of him. "She is simply gorgeous" he thought. Armaan had many girlfriends during university times but he never had these feelings for them. They were just friends and used to roam about with their other group mates. But Riddhima was different. She was simple yet elegant, innocent yet intelligent and a charismatic and loving person. Armaan was surprised at how he was drawn towards Riddhima with just one meeting. He stood there staring at her beautiful face adorned with a content smile. After some time Riddhima realized that she had come with Armaan and he was missing, she quickly turned around looking for him. She found him standing a few feet away with his arms crossed on his chest. She relaxed and moved towards him. "Why are you standing here Armaan?" she asked. "I didn't want to disturb you" Armaan replied. "I'm sorry; I just forgot you were here too after seeing the sea shore." She said in a small voice. "It's ok Riddhima. Come let's sit on that rock and talk." Armaan said and gestured her to move ahead. The cold waves touched their feet as they sat on the huge rock. Riddhima closed her eyes in pleasure and said "You know I love water. The sound of water is so melodious, whether its rain, sea shore or water falls. I feel relaxed and disconnected from the world and daily hectic routine." Armaan smiled at her. They felt comfortable with each other and sat there chatting for 3 hours about life and nature. Armaan glanced at his watch and spoke "it's 9.30 am. I'm hungry, let's go now." "You feel hungry by looking at the time" Riddhima chuckled; he shook his head and helped her stand properly. They walked back home thinking how this trip to the beach had helped them to know each other better and reduce the formalities between them. They were going to remember this day.

Thanks a lot for reading.

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