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Everything happened in slow motion...as if time was halting to a stop.
Shilpa had ambled cautiously into the hall, aware of the fact that she was late, and that too by a good hour. The event had already commenced in full swing, she had heard the inaudible hubbub of surprisingly fervent chatter walking through the corridor, meaning she would have to try harder to join in the deep conversations. She had been scanning across from the left-side of the room, trying to figure out which group of individuals emanated a somewhat "friendly" vibe, as it would make her job easier to blend in unnoticed ...yet she'd been distracted mid way.
The conference had been designed to give the staff a chance to familiarise themselves with one another; a bonding exercise. Although not everyone could adhere to behaving so selflessly forthcoming, Shilpa knew that under the obligation of a "hospital policy" and with an incentive of free-food, not many would pass up the opportunity.
Ironically, she was contradicting her own theory at the minute, but with good reason. Although she was late, she knew she could redeem herself by discreetly engaging into one of the many ongoing discussions in the room, everyone was busy doing their own thing, completely unsuspicious, who had time to look at her anyway?
But that's what had disturbed her...a sudden instinct... a gut feeling or ..sixth sense of some sort. That feeling where you know someone's watching you.
Not everyone was busy doing their own thing and despite all the people engrossed in their own business in the room...she could feel someone's eyes on her, someone who wasn't late yet whose actions were deliberately aberrant in the circumstances ...making her feel uneasy. She inhaled sharply due to the unexpected revelation. She blinked, reassuring herself that she was being ridiculous, but the feeling didn't go away.
Frowning, she slowly turned; carefully following the random impulse that had caught her off guard whilst half-heartedly comforting herself that it was all in her mind...
Her eyes opened wide at the sight before her in genuine surprise, all the tension released from her face in the space of a split second.
Time was slowly halting to a stop...the buzz of conversations around her felt as if they were gradually quieting down, the weak lighting seemed to dim even more on her surroundings as if it were overpowered by the focus of her gaze on that one point infront of her, her vision on that one point becoming clearer the quicker she registered that ...it was definitely Sid standing there.
Only a few seconds must have passed as they stared at each other in silent contemplation, but it felt as if they had been stood there for so much longer. Slowly a new thought came to Shilpa's mind, if Sid was here...then surely Riddhima Di must be here too. Despite making a quick glance either side of Sid, Shilpa realised only too soon that she needn't have bothered. Sid's face had told her everything...he was here...all alone.
Shilpa was choked, a surge of heat formed behind her eyes, and she bit on her lip in frustration, to stop it from giving her away. She transformed her sorrow into a sympathetic smile which slowly developed to reach her glistening eyes; evidence that she was glad to see him.
She recalled his last words to her,
"Agar tumhe tumhara pyar nahi mila...iska yeh matlab nahi ki sab kuch chod ke jaane hi zaroori hai...mujhe dekho... main kahan apne pyar ko chod ke kahin jaa raha hoon".
As she remembered her response, Shilpa lowered her eyes, flushed and embarrassed...she felt like such a fool. At the time she had been naive and told Sid that the situation was different between them, Armaan had never loved her but Sid was married to Riddhima
"Riddhima ke liye tumhare dil mein jo pyar hai, us par yakeen karo..bas, tumne uska pyar ek bar phele bhi jeeta hai...and I know, tum phir se kar sakte ho"
She'd believed every word at the time, she'd said them to Sid because she believed in him too. She had witnessed Sid's affection without even the need for him to confess to it...she had seen it constantly in his eyes.
Despite her belief, despite her faith, why was it that they were stood before each other like this? Why was it that their situations had been so different yet they had both hit the same dead end, they had both had to leave, why was it that they both had loved sincerely yet it was they who stood alone now?
Composing herself, she looks over to Sid and is touched when he casually waves to her and not knowing what to do, she smiles back.
She sees him turn to place his empty glass back on the table, taking a little longer than necessary, he pauses and did she just witness his hand wiping a tear from his eye? When he turns back to her, there is a smile fixed to his face...but his eyes tell a different story.
As he begins to walk towards her, she automatically follows suit, with every step, deliberating a million different ways on how to approach him, what to say to him, what not to say to him...
"Tum mera peecha karte yahan bhi aagayi?" he asks her jokingly as he takes a last step, stopping just infront of her.
She smiles, "Good to see you too, Sid".
He beams back at her and opens his arms embracing her, holding her.
Shilpa knew that his gesture hadn't only been a form of greeting because he'd met a friend after a long time. Sid had hugged her for his own reassurance; he had needed to release himself of that emptiness, to rid himself of the solitude that was surrounding him. She had felt the same after leaving Sanjeevani, no one could make up for what they had left behind, who could understand what Sid was going through more than her?
Releasing her, he moves away, "So..... in all seriousness, tum actually yahan pe kar kya rahi ho?"
Rolling her eyes at him, "Well.... tumhe to already pata hai ke main Panchgani mein thi, wahan do hafte rehne ke baad main yahan aagayi... Actually yahaan ke Dean mere Dad ke dost hain, Panchgani mein meri itni zaroorat nahi thi, isiliye unho ne mujhe yahan bulaliya...aur tum?"
It had been a reflex and the words were out before Shilpa could stop herself. Asking Sid why he had come to Indraprastha meant he had to relive the turmoil of the past month...She braced herself waiting for his response.
A sad smile on his lips, Sid answered, "Well...tumhare jaane ke baad, Sanjeevani mein ..."he swallows, " kisi ko meri bhi itni zaroorat nahi thi" As if snapping out of his trance, he added, "aur waise bhi ab jo tum mujhe mil gayi ho, then I'm sure ke hum apni adhoori dosti ko pura kar sakenge...so no regrets!" That smile had fixed itself on his lips again...
Exhaling, Shilpa shook her head, she couldn't do that to him, "Nahi Sid...main aisa nahi kar sakti. Don't get me wrong, tumhe yahaan dekh kar, mujhe acha laga...bauhaut acha laga. Lekin jab main Sanjeevani chod ke aayi thi, uski ek wajah thi. Sanjeevani mein maine bauhaut kuch paaya,naaye rishte banaye," She places a hand on his arm, "Naye dost banaye". Slowly she moves her hand away, ".... lekin usse zyaada khoya tha, apni behen, apne pyar ko,...aur us khone ka dard mujhse saha nahi jaa raha tha. I couldn't handle it..." She looks at him, "Kissiko khona ka dard tumse behter aur kaun samaj sakta hai?"
Sid looked confused, "Lekin Shilpa, tumhe nahi lagta ke shayad hum isi wajah se phir se mile hain? Shayad, kyunki tum mera dard samaj sakti ho...aur main tumhara...humari dosti ne hume phir se milaya hai?"
At his attempt to comfort her, a glum smile appears on her face. There had been a time when she had requested him to come see her, "aaoge na?" she had asked hopefully. Back then she had presumed something else, that someone else would have visited her alongside Sid....how things had changed, it wasn't the same as before. They were not the same as before..
"Nahi Sid, humari dosti sirf humein yaad dilayegi ki humne kya khoya hai". She realises that her words are coming across as selfish but she doesn't want Sid to misunderstand her, "Dekho Sid, apni dosti ki khatir main tumhari madat karna chahti hoon..aur main nahi chahti ke jab bhi tum mujhe dekho, tumhe sab kuch phir se yaad aajaye...main nahi chahti, ki meri dosti ki wajah se tum khabhi apni zindagi doobara ek naya daur se na shuru kar sako..."
Realising that Sid is going to interrupt, she holds onto his arm, stopping him, she smiles "Tumse mili aur mujhe acha laga...lekin bas". Tears shine in her eyes as Shilpa takes a deep breath as she squeezes his arm, "Bas...."
She drops her hand and takes a step backwards...
"Shilpa.. please...mat jao na", Sid murmurs.
She smiles sheepishly at him, her eyesight getting blurred, she gulps back the tears, "Jaana to parega hi..."she stops momentarily, "Take care Sid..."
Without another word, she turns with her eyes lowered, facing the floor. She walks quickly yet, when that proves too slow, she breaks into a jog, not even looking back once to notice the lights slowly getting brighter, not even looking back to notice the conversations getting quieter as people begin to move towards the exit... not even looking back to notice the tear which falls onto Sid's cheek as she leaves him all alone.....
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