Saturday, 19 September 2020

Part 4 : In My Heart

Armaan entered the arts room and saw the kids seated around a square table, so busy in
painting the large black mugs in their hands, that nobody noticed his presence. "Good Morning!" as soon as he greeted them from the door, kids turned their heads and saw him smiling. They left all their work and rushed towards him. Gappu's hand hit the paint bottles while running, and they dropped on the person sitting on the floor. The kids gasped seeing this. Armaan stood still at his place taking in the beauty in front of him. The paints had dropped on Riddhima, who was holding a black mug, having purple morning glory painted on it, in her hand. Her hair was tied in a loose pony tail with few flickers falling on her forehead and tip of paint brush in her mouth. As the paints fell on her, her mouth opened in an "O" and eyes narrowed, she lifted her gaze towards the kids glaring at them. Gappu mumbled a sorry with his head down. Armaan was amazed at how beautiful she looked in this messy state too, she looked so cute and innocent, just like a kid. Dadi and Maasi rushed in the room on hearing the sound of something break. They saw kids and Armaan at the entrance and Riddhima's dress covered in paints. "sorry Dadi mujhse galti se gir gaye paints." Riddhima said with a sorry face. "tu bhi na Riddhima, bachon se bari bachi hai, chal ja ke change kar, Ananya safai kar wa degi." Dadi said. Riddhima stood up carefully from the mess of paints and glass and moved towards the gate mumbling "relax" to kids and winking at them. She greeted Armaan with a smile saying"will be back", he nodded his head.

Anurag was working on an office file when the sound of heels made him look up. He left his
file seeing Pooja walk in the mansion. They settled down in the living room after the greetings. "itni khamoshi kyun hai, kahin gaye hain sab?" Pooja asked looking around. "Prerna and Muskaan have gone for shopping with a friend and Armaan is out to meet a friend. Tum sunao Naina kaisi hai?" Anurag replied. "Naina's fine. She misses you all a lot, she's coming back after her finals in a few days." Pooja replied smiling. "Anurag I wanted to speak about Naina with Prerna and you" she said hesitatingly. Anurag asked her to continue. "I was thinking that won't it be great if we get Armaan and Naina together." Anurag looked at her confused. "I mean they've been friends since childhood, they know and understand each other very well, so they won't have problems adjusting like some outsider will and now is the right time for them to wed. Armaan is settled and Naina will also join business in few months. I think these two will be perfect together. And then I'll also be relieved from the tension of Naina's well-being, because I know she'll always be happy with Armaan." Pooja said looking intently at Anurag. "I can't say anything now Pooja, all that you've said is true but I have to talk to Prerna first and then Armaan. His will be the last decision. I don't think he's ready for marriage now, but maybe a commitment would do no harm. Let me talk to them and then I'll tell you." Anurag said. Pooja left for her house after a cup of tea.

Armaan and kids were busy with PlayStation. Riddhima had come down after changing in a light
blue long frock and churidaar. She was baking marble cake and preparing spring rolls, patties, samosas and cutlets for tea time. After setting the table she called everyone to dining area. She served the snack. Everybody loved the cake a lot, so Armaan reluctantly took a small piece. Riddhima turned to bring coffee from kitchen but stopped on hearing Armaan "you call this cake good?" everyone nodded "but I think it's not good" Armaan said. Riddhima 's jaw
dropped down and she moved out of the room stomping her feet without listening further. "mmhmm" Armaan said with closed eyes, enjoying the cake's soft texture and sweet taste thoroughly. He finished the piece and quickly took another piece and that too a big one. Everyone at the table was surprised and looked at him with wide eyes. Armaan realized that everyone was staring at him so he questioned "what" by raising his eyebrow. "You didn't like the cake, rite, so how are you eating now?" Minnie questioned. "Who said I didn't." asked Armaan. "You did" Harsh said. "I said? No no, I was saying this cake is not only good but so so delicious and yummy that I can care less and have the whole of it alone. But be thankful to me, I'm leaving some for all of you." Armaan said still busy in relishing the cake. "From which bakery did you get this Maasi?" he asked continuously stuffing his mouth. "Ye meri Riddhu ne banaya hai" Dadi said lovingly. "Really!" Armaan said. They all enjoyed the snacks with their constant chatters but Riddhima only spoke in monosyllables and did not look at Armaan once. She was angry at him for not even appreciating her efforts with which she had made the cake.

Prerna and Muskaan had returned from shopping and were now waiting for Armaan to return to
go for family dinner. Anurag had been confused after his conversation with Pooja. "What happened Anu, what is disturbing you so much?" Prerna asked while sitting beside him on the bed. "Pooja had come to talk to us about Armaan and Naina." Anurag told her everything Pooja said. Prerna was tensed hearing all this. "It's ok Prerna, please tum tension mat lo, I've told her that the final decision would be Armaan's." Anurag tried to calm Prerna. They sat there
holding hands and thinking about their son's future.

Muskaan entered her parent's bedroom breaking the silence that prevailed and their chain of thoughts. "Araay, ye kya ap log yahan ho or main bahar dhoond rahi thi ap ko, kya hua kuch gadbad hai?" Muskaan asked feeling her parents tensed. "Ye kya tum ready kyun nahi hui, we r going for dinner, remember?" Anurag ignored her question and asked her to change while he calls Armaan and asks when he'll come. After Muskaan left, Anurag turned towards Prerna and assured her that everything will be fine,"dekho Prerna, don't worry, ok, we don't need to rush and make a hasty decision. So let's drop this subject for now. Hmm?" Prerna nodded and both moved to get dressed after agreeing on not mentioning this to Armaan.

As it was getting cold outside everybody at Shanti Nagar had gathered in kids' bedroom and were playing carom board. Armaan and Harsh had teamed against Riddhima and Minnie, the rest were cheering for them. Riddhima was very irritated because Armaan won the toss and pocketed one black carom at his first shot, while Armaan was grinning. The game continued and Ridz had got 8 white and Armaan 7 black caroms. Maasi came in to give gajar ka halwa and Armaan made the perfect use of this time. Minnie noticed that he was gesturing Harsh with his eyes, Minnie followed his gaze and saw the queen was now near their hole. She nudged Riddhi di and gestured her to see. "Cheater!" Riddhima shouted standing on her knees with a hand on her hip. "kya, kya bol rahi ho tum, kon cheater, haan?" Armaan asked innocently. "Tum, tumhe kya laga humein pata nahin chaley ga?" Riddhima shot back. "maine kab ki cheating" Armaan asked, "abhi, tum ne ye queen wahan move ki," "oh please don't blame me, I didn't do anything understand, or tumne mujhe dekha karte we,nahin na, bolo?" Armaan argued. Riddhima said that he cheated because they were losing. "oyyee! I didn't do any cheating." "Oh yes you did, warna queen ke pair(foot) hain jo wo chal ke tumhare saamne aa gayi?" "ab agar queen ko main pasand hoon tau I can't help much you see" Riddhima looked at him confused. She asked the kids to tell who was right and there began a battle, everyone shouting at the top of their voices. "You, you" Riddhima moved forward pointing a finger at him "main kya haan?" "Looser!" "I AM NOT A LOOSER, get that straight." Armaan said angrily and pulled her closer holding her finger. Both stared at each other forgetting the world around them. Dadi had to shout to stop the fight and this made Armaan Riddhima jump back to their positions. After listening to kids Dadi suggested to put the queen back in the center but Armaan & Harsh were not ready to move it, Riddhima stood up glaring angrily at the duo and went out of the room saying "go to hell", ignoring the calls from Dadi and kids.

Just then Armaan's cell buzzed indicating a message; it was Anurag reminding him about the dinner. Armaan looked at the time and mumbled shit under his breath, he had totally forgotten about the dinner. The kids pleaded him to stay back; he made them understand that he had promised his parents to have dinner with them. The kids agreed to him reluctantly. He was looking around while bidding bye, Dadi understood what he was searching for and indicated with her hand towards the door. He turned around and saw Riddhima in the garden. Armaan looked down embarrassed on being caught by Dadi. He told everyone to stay inside as it was cold outside. Riddhima sat on the swing wrapped in a royal blue shawl. The Moonlight enhanced her beauty even more. Armaan couldn't hold himself back from taking a picture of her on his cell. Riddhima twisted her nose on seeing him standing next to her. He was about to say something when his cell started ringing,"haan I'm coming, you guys get ready, I'm on my way. Bye" it was Muskaan asking him to return soon. "Bye Basket." She simply said bye. She was angry at him since morning and Armaan couldn't understand the reason, he had noticed she hardly spoke to him today. "Can I have your number Basket, if you have no objection?" Riddhima looked at him and seeing his pleading eyes nodded slightly. He saved her number and gave a call for her to save his as well. Armaan smiled at her while she simply stared at him, he sighed and made his way to the car.

After a conversation with Beeji, Prerna was much relaxed now. She thanked God for giving her a mother's love for the second time. After the demise of her mother, Beeji had been a strong support for her from then onwards. She took care of her and stood by her side during all the times when a girl needed her mother the most. This time also Beeji had helped Prerna to understand the situation and make a decision. Prerna had decided to meet Pooja at The Mallik Empire at 4 pm. She still had some time before heading out to the office; she leaned back on the sofa and remembered when she met Pooja for the first time and how they have been together through all thick and thin.

Anurag and Prerna had known each other since childhood as their fathers were best friends. But these two had been nothing more than acquaintances. Anurag was the reserved type and Prerna all bubbly, and so both didn't get along too well. But this changed as they entered the University; they were together due to the assignments and projects and it was during this period that they fell for each other. The two families were happy to get the kids married as this would strengthen their friendship more. It was decided that Anurag and Prerna would get married once Anurag settles but an engagement party was thrown to celebrate the happy occasion. It was in this party that Prerna met Gautam Mehra and his fianc Pooja. Gautam was Anurag's friend and a co-worker. Pooja and Prerna had become friends on the first meeting itself and so both the couples spent lots of time together. They got married the following year. With the birth of Armaan, Anurag's dad announced his retirement and handed over the business to Anurag, because now he wanted to spend time with his grandchild. Within a short span Anurag had been successful in expanding the Empire and becoming an influential businessman. Meanwhile Gautam had been promoted to HR Manager's position and they had a daughter, Naina. As the time passed by their friendship grew stronger and the kids also became good friends. It was a routine for them to be together at weekends and occasions. All was fine until one tragic evening, when Gautam met with a fatal accident. Mumbai was witnessing strong rains and he was returning home after purchasing medicines for Naina as she was ill. On the way he lost control over the car and hit a truck. He was rushed to the hospital but he did not survive the injuries. This came as a shock for all. Pooja and Naina were inconsolable; Anurag had taken up their responsibility. It has been 6 years to that sad incident, and in between these years Pooja had joined Anurag's office in Finance department and Naina went abroad for higher studies. Naina, Armaan and Muskaan were very good friends. Anurag and Prerna liked Naina a lot and hoped that she would be the right choice for their beloved son.

The loud noises from the dining hall brought Prerna out of her reverie. She understood that her son was back for lunch and as usual was bickering with his sister over a stupid thing. Prerna always scolded them for being childish but knew that these acts of theirs kept the huge Mansion alive. After the lunch when Armaan was returning for work Prerna stopped him saying she'll go with him. "Ap office aa rahi hain Maa?" Armaan asked confused, because Prerna visited the office during board meetings or project launches. "Haan, Anurag has called me" Prerna replied, "oh hoo, Maa going on a coffee date with Dad" Muskaan said hugging Prerna from behind, "wah wah" Armaan spoke smiling naughtily. Prerna hit Muskaan's hand on her waist and held Armaan's ear, "Behave! Both of you" she said faking anger. Both of them left for the office, while Muskaan went back to her room.
"Hey. How are you, Princess?" Rahul asked Riddhima on Skype. "I'm fine bhai, you tell me how are you all? I hope papa and you aren't working till late and leaving mama all alone." Riddhima asked him back. "Oh ho, so you are only worried about your mama now?" Sujal asked her taking a seat besides Rahul. "Papa, it's nothing like that, I'm missing you all." She said. "Then come back na, we are missing you too Princess." Sujal & Rahul said sulking. "Papa, bhai, you promised you will let me spend my vacations here, now if you keep asking me to return, how will I stay?" Riddhima replied. "Aray you don't worry about them beta, and enjoy your trip. You know na, they can't stay without you." Kashish told her. After a chit chat between the family, Rahul informed her about the project she intended to do after her masters. "Ri, I've spoken to the authorities of the hospital about your idea and they have shown interest in it. They said they'll schedule a meeting with you to know about it in depth. So be prepared with it," "That's great bhai! Thank you so much. I'll be ready with the final drafts and presentations within a week." Riddhima said enthusiastically.

Armaan escorted Prerna to Anurag's office and left for his meeting. Pooja entered the office and hugged Prerna. They settled at the black leather sofa in Anurag's office. "What have you thought Prerna?" Pooja asked. "Dekho Pooja, we like Naina a lot and would love her to be our daughter-in-law, but the question is not about our choice, it's about our children's choice and as much as I know Armaan and Naina, they take each other as friends only. So suddenly popping the idea of them getting married would be unfair with them." Prerna said looking at Pooja and then at Anurag, who nodded his head in agreement and continued "I think we should wait till Naina returns and then speak to them. In the meanwhile they'll get time to adjust with each other, as now they're meeting after a long gap. Aur kya pata they start liking each other, phir to hamara kaam asaan ho jaye ga." Pooja agreed with Prerna "per main aik baat bolna chahti hun ke agar Armaan ne mana kiya is rishtey keliye to main usey force nahin karungi, and I want the same for Naina. Pooja I feel we should give them the liberty to choose their life partner, after all they have to spend their entire lives together." Prerna said stirring the coffee in her hand. "I will make sure this wedding happens just the way I want it to be." Pooja thought to herself. They finished their coffee while discussing a few matters of business.

It had now been a few days since Armaan had taken Riddhima's number. After returning from the dinner with his family, Armaan had messaged good night to Riddhima. He had even said sorry for cheating to make Riddhima speak to him. What began with only morning and night greetings had now turned into hour long calls late night, where they filled each other with day's happenings. Armaan sighed shifting uncomfortably in his high office chair, tapping his fingers on the glass table, thinking about the weird feelings that were arousing in him. He remembered how he couldn't sleep properly yesterday night because he hadn't heard Basket's voice as she was busy in a call with her family. Armaan was now frustrated as he couldn't concentrate on his work, so he decided to call Basket once.


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