Thursday, 24 September 2020

Part 9 : In My Heart

I had been walking aimlessly on the roads of Mumbai drenched in rains that poured down heavily. My mind was numb and i couldn't focus on where i was going. An elderly lady stopped her car and offered me a lift and i said beach. I just fell down on the wet sand drained emotionally as i felt that event from that awful day replay in my mind innumerable times.

Flashback:

A loud applause echoed in the board room of Sanjeevani as my presentation came to an end. I stood in front of the projector, white light shining on me and smiled with moist eyes on getting the approval from the trustees. I got down the stage and shook hands with everyone, as they congratulated me on getting the deal.

I quickly strode out of the room, looking for a place where I could talk in privacy. Fire escape was perfect, no commotion at all. I quickly dialed a number while settling down the stairs.                                           


"Armaaan." I said with enthusiasm.                                                       
"Congratulations Basket." Armaan said.
"Tumhe kaise pata chala maine to apni baat hi nahin ki." I asked with a pout.
 "Tumhari awaaz ne sab bata dia. I'm proud of you Basket." I smiled and asked about his project and he replied: "Still time to go for the results. I'm sure about it, after all somebody wished me luck so nicely, in morning." Blood rushed to my cheeks, coloring them pink, as I got what Armaan was hinting at. I closed my eyes and bit my lip feeling shy.
"Oyye hoyye. Do you know how beautiful you look when you blush?" He asked in his husky voice. I opened my eyes and quickly scanned the area to see if Armaan was there. "I'm not there Basket; I don't need to see you to know what you do because I know you pretty well." I smiled looking in my lap. "Do you know me that well?" He asked. "I guess so." I said thinking why he was asking this. "Then tell what do I want right now?" Armaan asked. "Obviously, the deal." I answered. "What? I'm disappointed Basket, I thought you knew me too well." He said sounding upset. "Armaan, how am I supposed to know that you are thinking of something else when you've already got such a big deal to think about? Ok tell me what do you want?" I asked hoping to cheer him up. "Will I get what I want?" he asked and I could feel the excitement in his voice. "What, you want something from me?" I asked him wondering. "Ahan." "Oh, okay, what is it?" "Kiss." He whispered and I gasped out loud and heard him chuckle on the other side. I could only manage to whisper his name after a minute of silence. "You're saved for now because I'm trapped here but stay assured; I'll catch you in the evening. Now go and grab something to eat."  Armaan said. "I'll wait for you." I said. "No you won't, go n eat right now, it's an order Riddhima." He spoke seriously. "I'm sorry but please Basket, try and understand, it'll get late till I reach."  "Koi baat nahin." I replied hoping he'll agree. "Why do you do this Basket? We'll have dinner together but for now please eat something. You haven't taken a bite since morning." He spoke helplessly. "So have you Armaan." He thinks I don't know him. Armaan sighed in frustration "Ok I'm going to have lunch, now you also go." "Hmm. Bye." I said. "Silly girl!" Armaan mumbled. "I heard that Armaan!" "It was for you to hear Basket."

I returned home late in the afternoon though my meeting was over in the morning. I had gone to Taj Oberoi Hotel to meet a client of Prem, who wanted to discuss something. I was over the moon seeing Prem waiting for me on the entrance of the hotel, i just ran into his open arms and he twirled me around. Prem had come from UK the previous night but didn't join me because he wanted me to face my responsibilities and let go of my apprehension. We settled down for coffee till the client arrived. I narrated to Prem everything that had happened since I came to India, minus the Armaan parts. I had only told him that I will introduce him to somebody very special and i could see that goofy smile beginning to form on his face already. Thanks to the apt timing of the client otherwise i was in for a full leg pulling session. I could not believe my eyes when Mr. Samuel Matthew put forward the contract of purchase of land. Prem held my hand beneath the table and blinked at me assuring. I smiled and signed the papers with moist eyes. As soon as Mr. Samuel left, i jumped into Prem's arms hugging him tightly. I had no words to thank him enough for what he had done and i knew he didn't need my verbal appreciation; all he ever did was to see me happy. I parted from the hug and kissed his cheeks saying I love you. He smiled and kissed my forehead and cheeks. We bid bye to each other promising to meet the next morning.
I had quickly run a shower and changed into a red and green churidaar with beautiful stone work on the neck line and border. I decided to wait for dinner till Armaan arrived, though i knew he would be mad at me for skipping meals till dinner time but i just couldn't come to eat a bite without him, so i busied myself in preparing dinner and laying the table for us.

I was getting anxious as the time passed, it was 7 pm already and there was no sign of Armaan. His cell was continuously switched off, which added to my worries, he never switched off his mobile. I just sat in the garden swing waiting for him when i received a message from him: "Come to the beach, NOW!"

I informed the watchman that i was going out to the beach and that he could go back to his quarters now. I knew i would return with Armaan so there was no need to make him stay.

"What happened Armaan? Did something happen? Why did you call me here?" i asked him but there was no response from him, so i continued: "You know I've been waiting for you since so long and now you are standing here like a statue. Come we'll go home and discuss the day but first we'll have dinner because right now the whole animal kingdom is running crazily in my stomach. I've made your favorite, aloo parantha and gajar halwa. Let's go." i said holding his arm but was taken aback when he suddenly jerked my hand away. That's when i noticed, his eyes were red and his clothes were crumpled. I panicked seeing him like that and moved forward to hold him but stopped when he raised his hand and shook his head. I frowned not understanding exactly what had happened that he was behaving weirdly.

"What happened Armaan is everything alright?"

"Yes now everything is alright." he said coldly looking into my eyes.

"Kia matlab, did something go wrong? Say something."

"I can't get the right words to praise your Oscar winning performance."

"What?" i asked with my brows knitted together in confusion.

"Please i have no time to waste, so just stop this ploy of yours. You thought i would never know your true colors, right? I had been such a fool and got trapped so easily by your innocence that i didn't doubt you for a moment. Like why would you want to come so close to me in such less time? Gosh, how stupid have i been? I thought of you as my best friend and you, what did you do in return? Stab me in my back! I trusted you with my confidential matters but you used it for your benefit. You thought I'll never know of it, but bad luck, i know the truth now." i was baffled hearing Armaan; i couldn't grasp the meaning behind all this. What have i done in the last 8 hours that Armaan is accusing me of, was the only thought running in my mind.

"Armaan I don't understand what you're saying?"

"Oh, but i understand everything too well. If you think I'll still fall for your lies then forget it. I could never in my wildest imagination think of you to be like this. I can't even believe it now that you are a... Let's close all this right here. Now listen to me carefully, ok?" Armaan said pulling me until i bumped into his chest and our noses touched.

"I have nothing to do with you from now. You do not exist for me anymore. We will never see each other again and God forbid if we ever run into each other, you are supposed to change your path. Never follow me, never try to talk to me, Never means Never! If you still persist then the consequences wouldn't be in your favor. I hope I've made myself clear Ms. Riddhima Garewal." he spoke looking in my eyes.

"What have I done?" i whispered.

"See i understand, you didn't think I'll catch you and that too this early, but it's ok. Now devote your time in thinking how to trap another guy by your charms. You'll find somebody more rich and handsome than me to satisfy your needs and wants, it's just so easy for you, isn't it?" his voice dripping of sarcasm.

"I d..idn't do an..ythin..g to hu..rt you. I can..'t th..innk of.." i tried to tell him that i was innocent but he just pushed me back with force, i stumbled but held myself from falling. He walked a few steps away from me and stopped: "Fear that day when you'll fall prey in your own plot, because playing with people's feelings will give you no good ever." with that he walked off leaving me alone.

I stood there seeing his retreating back. I was just too shocked rather numb to react to anything. I don't know for how long i stood there but when my knees could no longer hold my weight, i slumped in the sand, still staring in the direction Armaan went, hoping he would come back and say that it was a prank and that he'll not leave me, ever. But i was wrong because he never returned. He left me, left me forever. My body throbbed in pain, my heart was about to explode but i couldn't move, i just couldn't do anything. I wanted to cry, scream, tell him i never wronged him but nothing happened, not a tear flew out of my eyes. All my responses were frozen. I passed the entire night at the beach sitting in silence. Yes complete silence, outside and from within. There was nothing left in me, I felt so empty. The last thing i remember about that night is darkness engulfed me when i forced myself to stand.

I had thought of that day to be the best day of my life but it ended up being the worst. I wanted to stay back for Armaan but he threw me out of his life. His voice was laced with venomous hate and his demeanor was cold and distant.

I came out of my trance as a silver light stroked across the horizon followed by heavy rain. I glanced around and noticed that it was night now. My eyes fell on the envelope i received in the morning and i again went back to thinking.

I had thought of Armaan as somebody who knew me better than myself but i was so wrong. I thought we shared mutual feelings for each other but no, i was wrong. He only considered me as a friend or may be not that too. After seeing these pictures i realize what he was saying that day. He didn't have an ounce of trust in me, in our relationship. He accused me of doing something so low. He couldn't seem to even differentiate between right and wrong, truth and lies then and now as well. He didn't let me speak then and even now. He loathes me.

Jaane kyun..har ek raah mein yeh

Nazarein meri..dhoondti hai tujhe

Jaane kyun..har ek raah mein yeh

Nazarein meri..dhoondti hai tujhe



Jo kuch bhi tha kabhi woh..

Hai aaj bhi yahan

Hum bhi khade hai yahin par

Bus ek tu hi hai kahan



Soniya..dil todna hi tha

Toh bata dil kyun lagaya

Soniya ek vaari aa bhi jaa

Soniya..

I let go of the envelope in the waves that crashed on my feet. Despite all these things, i had craved for him, loved him all these years. I was broken beyond repair but yet couldn't throw him away as a trash. He was everywhere i went. His memories stung my heart to bleed whenever i thought of it and that was with every breath i took.

Ek kaanch ki haan gudiyaa thiPathhar ke dil se pyaar thaTuti woh iss tarah se keHaathon mein naa ikhtayar thaDil wahan..dhoondta haiJahan pe humne vaade liyeSajde jahan pe the kiyeMain tanha hoon aaj bhi wahanSoniya..dil todna hi thaToh bata dil kyun lagayaSoniya ek vaari aa bhi jaaSoniya..


Armaan's pov:

Maa & Dad had rushed to the hospital to meet Muskaan. She was injured but thankfully was out of danger now. She was still unconscious, due to the effect of the sedatives. I was extremely angry on her because despite my telling her to stay away from Riddhima, she had met her. There was a huge emotional drama as Muskaan regained conscious, Maa wouldn't stop crying. It was so hard for Dad and me to calm her. Muskaan told us that she had gone to the jeweler to get her necklace, but he said it would take few more days and while crossing a double road she was hit by a car. She said that she only remembers hitting something before she passed out. I asked her about Riddhima and she was shocked. I could see that she really didn't know about her arrival just like the rest of us. But the question remained how Riddhima came here when she didn't know about Muskaan. A nurse at the reception informed me that few people had brought Muskaan in. Later Riddhima had come and done all the formalities. The Garewals were on their way to India, Maa had told Rahul about Muskaan and that's when he informed her about Riddhima's arrival. Maa and dad were so worried for her, i couldn't tell them i dragged her out and even hit her. Dad would kill me for this, i was sure.

It was early morning and here i was sitting on the entrance of the hospital, cursing myself for being a jerk by not letting her speak a word and wishing for her to return safely. I was beyond worried as the time was slipping away and there was no news of Riddhima. The entire city was under the spell of heavy rains and how well acquainted she was with this city and its routes, only i knew. Why couldn't she just call once and say she was fine. It wasn't a biggy. I'm sure she would never see me but she should at least care about Dad, who loves her like Muskaan or maybe more.

The doctors and nurses started coming in as the shifts changed. A nurse came to me and handed me a cell and purse and told that Riddhima had left it when she went in for a blood test. I couldn't stop hitting the cell on my head. Restlessness was building up inside me; i didn't know where to search for her. Mom called me in as the doctor visited Muskaan. He said she could leave in a day or two but would require complete rest for the wound to heal quickly. While going out of the ward he handed me a prescription and said:

"Mr. Mallik, this is for your wife. She was weak and had a low blood count but still was adamant on giving blood to your sister. I couldn't do much other than agreeing with her, as because of the rains it would have taken longer to arrange blood and we needed it urgently. I just thought she should take these to avoid more weakness."

My heart skipped a beat hearing him refer to Riddhima as my wife, how i wish for this to be true but some things are impossible. I know i should have cleared the doc's misunderstanding but i couldn't and just nodded. I just punched the wall hard in anger and agitation after he left. This was just great; she has been out the whole night without anything and in bad health and the sole reason for this was me. Oh God, what will i tell her family when they inquire about her? Dad had called DSP, a close friend of his, and told about Riddhima. He had sent out a team in search of her which had been clueless till now. There was nothing much that i could do apart from cursing me and so i sat on the terrace, rewinding the time in my mind.

Flashback:

I had lost the Switzerland project that day. Everyone was shocked after the results were announced, because my company was the strongest contender and there was no chance of losing, unless someone else cheated. I was upset with the outcome but tried to keep myself happy thinking about Riddhima. She was the only one on my mind and i wanted her surprise to be as special as her, so i started planning for it in my office. I had a delivery made on my name in the office. It was strange because i wasn't expecting a parcel. Anyhow i opened it and felt the earth beneath me shift seeing its contents. The envelope slipped from my hands and all the snaps spread across the floor. I noticed something shining near the sofa and dragged myself to pick it. It was a cd, i didn't want any more shocks but i needed to know the truth so i dared myself to check it out. I fell on my knees on seeing the clip. Everything went blank; i couldn't understand what to do. My heart screamed to not believe on any of it but my brain said that weren't these proofs enough. I was perplexed.

I was lost in my thoughts when i received an anonymous call, the man said that he was a well-wisher and wanted to warn me to stay away from Riddhima because she was not what she portrayed to be. I switched my phone off after informing Maa that i was in the office. I kept sitting there for hours thinking why would Riddhima do this to me? She was my best friend and more than that, she belonged to a good family, there was no reason for her to do this. But the pictures and video said an entirely different story. After hours of confusion, i decided to finish this all. I wouldn't have minded her being with guys earlier, she was beautiful and guys would have surely asked her out, but she chose to keep it a secret. God knows what else was she hiding behind that innocent face? The main point was she helped my competitors against me, though she knew it was my dream. I messaged her to meet me at the beach and there i told her that we would never see each other again, we were strangers now onwards. She really is a brilliant actress, that moment also she kept up the mask of innocence.

Only i know how broken i was, when i had thought of proposing her tonight to marry me, her colorful past and true face had come in front of me. All my dreams of a life with her were shattered. It took severe efforts for me to at least be civil towards my family and friends, but the lively, loving guy in me was gone, all i did now was mechanical.

That day when i saw her after three years, all i wanted was to hug her tight but then i remembered her betrayal and pretended to be cold with her, because from inside my heart had warmed and was beating crazily just on the sight of her. I had been with Naina the entire day we went out for shopping, i wanted Riddhima to see i was happy without her. I could clearly see she was affected when i kept rejecting her choice of dresses though i loved them all and couldn't stop myself from smiling on seeing her mouth drop open and then pout. She really was a sight to see. Riddhima had gone out for food and i had followed her on a pretense call. She was sitting alone with her head bowed. I knew she was hurt and wanted to comfort her but she had brought this upon herself.

On the engagement day i couldn't stop my gaze from following her movement. I was amused seeing her nervous about her appearance, did she not look in the mirror? She looked ethereal in that sleeveless pink net gown. I could see most of the guys staring at her and somehow i didn't like this. I was furious at her when she had stopped the engagement but her childish demand and banter with Rahul made me laugh. She really was a kid. Rahul's confession had washed the fear in my heart regarding this relationship. I was confused as what had happened to Riddhima, did she have an accident or what was Rahul referring to? I knew i had to remain silent otherwise everyone will suspect me. The hug that all four of them shared clearly showed the love between them. I knew she was avoiding me and my gaze but when our eyes met that evening, i swear my heart swelled seeing the same appreciation for me in her eyes like always. But the moment didn't last long and i cursed myself for thinking about her again. I was extra cautious in maintaining the distance between us and avoided being in her company even when others were around. Maa told me that Riddhima will join us in India for wedding preps and stay with us. I had to warn her to stay in her limits and not to play with my family's feelings ever. Something inside me died the moment she said i had killed her three years back. My heart sank thinking that she wanted to finish her life because of me. She was pleading me to believe her, i could read her eyes but i had to stay firm and so left abruptly.

I saw her moan in pain softly at the airport and followed them when Prem dragged her behind the counter. I balled my fists tightly digging my nails in the skin seeing her bruised arms. I couldn't believe i had done that. All my feelings for her were resurfacing having her close to me and in order to keep them at bay, i had been harsh with her, but i never wanted to hurt her physically. That was never my intention but i guess my intention was to hurt her, right? So why does it hurt like hell on just seeing her wince? I saw how she calmed Prem and whispered: for me. I understood this guy knew everything about us, because i could see he was about to explode but kept mum just because of Riddhima. I knew she didn't want a scene in front of the family. I turned away from them when they hugged, i just couldn't seem to like this guy. He was always around Riddhima, hugging and kissing her.

It had been dark & cloudy since the morning and constant alerts were being transmitted by the radio & news channels that a storm was on its way, so I had given the entire staff an off till the storm subsided. I received a call from a private number informing that Muski had been hit by a car driven by Riddhima and some people were carrying Muski to the hospital. The roads were jammed with traffic as everyone was heading back to their destinations. The hospital wasn't far but it took me nearly an hour to reach there. The entire way I kept wondering why would somebody take Riddhima's name when she wasn't here but seeing her in the hospital, i couldn't stop from blasting. On returning back from Leeds I had decided to give Riddhima a chance and trust her again with Muskaan. I had seen the love in her eyes for Muski, but no, she had to prove me wrong again. I couldn't believe i had fallen for her trap again and so in that fit of rage i had slapped her. Now i was regretting it every moment. She hadn't done anything, she was innocent and i had behaved inhumanly with her. It was my fault that she was missing since last one day. I knew i had to face Prem's wrath, because he would hold me responsible for it and i had nothing to say in my defense. A thought stroke my brain concerning the anonymous caller and with this started a whirlpool of questions in my head, that was spinning now, which needed to be sorted out and for that i had to seek Arjun's help.

It was nearly afternoon and the dark clouds had given way to a clear sky. The trees swayed with the winds and the voice of waves crashing on the beach filled the atmosphere. The beach was almost empty, it being a workday today. I was strolling aimlessly, a bit relieved after meeting my friend Arjun, a special force officer who was home after a successful mission. I had discussed with him my suspicions and he had promised to look out for the missing loop holes secretly, as i didn't want any more problems for Muski or Riddhima. I had told Dad about the anonymous call and what i did with Riddhima at the hospital as i couldn't stand the guilt anymore. Dad was shocked and enraged on listening to me but all he said was: i am disappointed in you Armaan and motioned me to leave. I understood this was my punishment, silent treatment from him, and it was justified.

I was wandering around the beach thinking of the moments i shared with Riddhima at this place. My eyes darted towards our spot and that's when i noticed an orange green duppatta floating on water surface. It took me a microsecond to recognize it and I rushed towards it but the sight in front made me halt dead. Riddhima was sleeping with her head on the rock. Her clothes were all muddy and crumpled, indicating she had been here the entire time. I winced at the sight of her face, there was a cut on her forehead and fading imprints of my fingers on her cheek. I bent down towards her and shook her a little and called her name but she didn't move an inch. I held her hands and realized she was too cold. I quickly rubbed them to provide some warmth continuously asking her to get up but she wouldn't open her eyes. I quickly scooped her in my arms and rushed to the hospital.

The doctors had given her the required treatment and now she was sleeping under the effect of the medicines. I informed dad about Riddhima, as he had left for home with Maa. I wanted to see Riddhima first because i knew this was my last chance to see her so closely.

She looked pale and weak in the baby yellow hospital gown, sleeping with a frown. I felt nostalgic on seeing her like this. The first time when i had brought an injured Riddhima to the hospital, i had realized that i couldn't see in her pain and her tears were my weakness. The truth remains the same even after three bitter years. I can't see her in pain but unfortunately i am the only one responsible for her current state. I held her hand and kissed the palm softly. I knew the equation between us is unchangeable now but this fact is also undeniable that i still love her crazily. I couldn't stop myself from kissing every inch of her face repeatedly, as tears cascaded from my eyes. I was dying every second that i spent away from her and right now i couldn't seem to move away from her. I lifted her upper body slowly and cuddled her to myself, constantly apologizing for bringing her to this stage. The noise of foot steps outside the room broke my sweet dream and i realized that Maa and dad were here. I carefully laid her back and moved away planting a kiss on her forehead. As they came in, a sudden guilt hit me hard on seeing Naina. How could i forget Naina? I was committed to her. How could i go near Riddhima? What have i done? I stumbled towards the door but couldn't resist the urge of seeing Riddhima again, one last time I thought.

I felt alone and dejected. I had nobody to share my pain and guilt. The Garewals had arrived and as expected Prem had been livid. He punched and slapped me hard in front of everyone and warned me from coming to the hospital again. It had been two days now and my family had completely boycotted me. They wouldn't stay in the same room as me for a minute, let alone speaking. There was nothing i could do to rectify my mistake. I knew I had complicated three lives, Naina, Riddhima and mine and hurt our families too. I had to bring an end to all this confusion and my only hope now was Arjun.

 Nimra

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