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The strain of the moisture laden day started showing its signs on Manav as well, as he heaved restlessly while walking back home.
He had brought Archana to her home, where her parents had been dying of worry for her. Even though he knew she would be well taken care of now, yet he couldn't help feeling pensive. God knows what had happened suddenly to the poor girl to make her swoon like that- he thought. Earlier he had guessed that something bad had happened to Sulochana Aai, but she seemed absolutely hale and hearty to him when he brought Archana to her home. Would he ever come to know what had happened to Archana?
He was so lost in these thoughts that he didn't come to know when a car almost bumped into him.
"Watch out!" he yelled, frowning. He was astonished however, to see the car driver come out of the car and walk towards him. It was Ajit, who had a smug smile on his face. Manav looked around, there were few people on the road.
"Me?" Ajit questioned, pretending to be shocked. "Oh, how could I? Oops, so sorry Manav, it was my fault for not understanding that poor, dear Manav Deshmukh is in shock after his divorce. I must be careful around him. So what if he is walking around like a zombie amidst the cars on the roads of Dombivili, others must understand his condition and pay better attention. After all, its not everyday that such a disaster strikes in the form of DIVORCE!!! Tsk tsk!" he said, sniggering.
"Are you done?" said Manav, looking bored.
"Yup!" said Ajit. "Its so much fun watching out your expressions Manav. I know you want to hit me so bad, I love the effort you have to keep in controlling yourself, I love it!"
"Fine! Enjoy! I think you'll enjoy more if I smash your pretty face one day!" said Manav, wanting to give him a kick in the 'right place'. "Stop harassing me. For one, your taunts don't mean much to me."
"Aah.. you break my heart Manav," said Ajit, pretending to be sad. "Stop behaving like a psychotic now." said Manav, very irritated. "I'm leaving. I don't care about your nonsense."
"Oh sure! Well, I hope Archana took the divorce well."
Manav stopped in his tracks. "Don't utter her name!"
"Aahaaa!!" said Ajit. "Well, was Satish there with her too? I hope he was. I want him to be supportive to her as long as they are together.. thanks to me of course."
Manav walked back to him. "Listen," he said firmly. "I don't care about the mess you've made in my life, cos I earned it myself- I entered into this with open eyes. But you do anything with Archana, and I'm not going to spare you for that. Consider it a warning or whatever. Leave Archana and Satish alone now."
"Oh wow!" said Ajit. "I spoke about Satish to make you jealous. But here, you are protective about Archana and Satish, wow!"
"Cos I'm not a creep like you. I don't derive happiness by listening to your plans of making good people suffer. Ajit, back out! Else I'll not leave you this time."
"yeah yeah.." said Ajit. "I know what you can do Manav Deshmukh.
"Well frankly, you don't know what I can do." Said Manav with fiery eyes. "Till date I held myself back- there were many reasons- nobody trusted me, you had more power, I could not afford to malign myself more in Archana's eyes, and cos you are Archana's relative. But all this doesn't count any more now. Divorce jo ho raha hai mera!"
"What do you mean?"
Manav took a step forward. "Ajit, be careful of me now." he said. "Till date, I've reacted to your evil ideas in reasonably civil ways. But now there is nothing to hold me back- nothing to control the animal in me. No consideration of relations, no fear of Karanjkars, no responsibility of Archana or what she will think. If one day, I decide to take REVENGE, you will suffer very badly. Let me warn you of this. The worst enemy is always one who has no fear."
Ajit didn't know why he felt scared of this tone.
"So stop trying to provoke me Ajit." Said Manav. "You push me over the edge and it will be disasterous for you only. And let me not even start about Archana again, you do anything to her, you shall have to face me."
Ajit nervously laughed away. He put a hand on Manav's shoulder. "Dimag bahut garam hai tumhara." He said. "Go and relax your mind. The shock of losing Archana has affected you badly. I understand, it is not within all of us to accept defeat gratefully.
Saying this, Ajit walked back, laughing to himself, as Manav gritted his teeth.
***flashback- Deshmukh house***
"Um.. why are you looking at me.. in that way.. Manav?"
Archana felt awkward as she asked this question, while Manav simply smiled a shy smile.
They were in their bedroom together after dinner. Archana was sitting on her bed, her long hair parted to one side, running a comb through them, while Manav lay next to her, watching her do it and smiling at her wistfully.
Archana put the comb away. She still felt weird. Manav, meanwhile, propped his head against his hand.
"Nothing." He said finally, smiling at her. "Just like that."
Archana felt shy. She adjusted her silken tresses with one hand, her glass bangles tinkling. The moonlight filtering through the window made her face glow. Her nose pin made her look all the more coy and alluring
"Just like that?" she repeated.
He giggled softly. He looked at her for a moment longer. "Archana ji," he sighed, "You are so beautiful.."
Her ears went red. She couldn't bear to look at his smile any longer. She looked down, making folds of her pallu, ripples in her heart. A little while later, she realized he was still staring, and waiting for some sort of a reply.
"You always praise me too much.." she said, almost in a complaining tone. "You are too generous with your words.."
"I'm not!" said Manav. "I just say what everyone else thinks as well.."
"Everyone else?" repeated Archana.
Manav's tone changed. "Don't tell me that no guy ever told you this before?"
Archana shook her head.
Manav looked shocked. "Not even one?"
Archana tried hard to remember. "No," she said finally. "Everyone rejected me straightaway." She said innocently. "In fact, till date I haven't been able to understand what you liked in me.. when no one else found me special in anyway.."
Manav smiled to himself. "Even I haven't understood.." he said. ".. that what made those people reject you, cos I always felt you have everything to make a man feel the luckiest on earth.."
".. but all the same, I don't think I should complain, rather I should thank my stars that the previous suitors had bad taste... if anyone else had liked you, then I wouldn't have ever got a chance.. You would have got married to a rich guy long ago and never given a second look to this mechanic.."
He laughed again softly. Archana smiled too.
"That was mean, I know." He admitted, grinning.
"No it wasn't mean, it was CUTE!" laughed Archana, her eyes gleaming like marbles. "I wonder how you kept this side of yourself hidden all these years, when you kept refusing for marriage.."
He got up and slowly put an arm around Archana, as she looked back at him. "Maybe no one else could make me reveal this side of me.." he said under his breath, his soft eyes speaking more than his words. Archana looked down, a hint of a smile on her lips, fidgeting with her pallu. It was just the right moment, and the right mood had been created. It would be foolish to lose it, thought Manav, looking at his wife adoringly, as he bent his head a little to give her a soft peck on her fair cheek.
Her hands curled up lightly into a fist, she closed her eyes, lowering her head a little as she felt Manav's warm breath on her face and ears and the tip of his nose tracing her cheek, tickling her a little, and making goose bumps rise on her skin. She didn't know the next peck was just in line. As she lowered her head, Manav's lips landed on her earlobe instead of her cheek, and she shuddered in ecstasy, suddenly bending her head and bringing her ear closer to her shoulder.
That was sufficient to scare Manav away. He separated with a jerk, red in the face, wondering if he had annoyed her. For a few minutes, he sat quietly, twiddling his thumbs in the darkness. "Erm.."he said uncomfortably. "Um.. are you okay Archana Ji..?"
She didn't say anything. She simply nodded.
"Um.. good.." he said, feeling foolish. "Lets go to sleep then.." he said, and quickly lay down on bed, cursing himself as he thought of that beautiful face. Next to him, Archana lay down too, laughing mentally at her shy husband, wondering what to do with him, and thinking of when he would understand what was really in her heart.
Slowly, Archana opened her eyes. Impulsively, she jerked her head to look to her side.
The other side of bed was empty. She looked around herself. She was at her own home- in her bedroom, not in their bedroom.
She tried to recollect what had happened. But all she could remember was her head on Manav's shoulder, as they walked slowly out of court. All she remembered was the way he had caressed her hair when she had cried, tugging on to his shirt. All she could recollect was his soft, yet harried voice, questioning her what was wrong, and comforting her to stop crying.
"Don't worry Archana, tell me what is wrong, I'm there na, I'll make things right.."
Slowly the happenings of the day dawned back on her. How ironical! At the point when SHE should have been comforting HIM, HE had been comforting HER.
She didn't know what had happened after that. How had she come home?
"Aai.." she said, raising her voice a little. "Aaaiii'"
Sulochana came running into the room. "Are you okay now Archu?" she said in a worried tone. "You scared all of us."
Archana tried to compose herself. The rest of the family members too had come into the room. "How did I come here?"
"Manav Jeeju brought you here." Piped in Vaishali at once. Manju made a face, and Vinod grunted. It had certainly not been a pleasant sight to see that mongrel Manav at his door, holding his sister in his arms. Manjusha on the other hand, had been curiously excited, wondering if a typical TV soap scene would unfold, where the heroine would be announced pregnant.
Archana considered. "Where is he now?" she asked.
"Home, of course." Said Manju shortly. "Why would he stay here?"
Vaishali cut in again. "He sprinkled water on your face when you fainted, but apart from mumbling, you could barely do anything else. He brought you home. We were about to call the doctor."
Archana nodded. "I do feel weak." She said. Sulochana immediately put her hand to Archana's forehead. "You have a mild fever." She pronounced. "Vinod, call the doctor. Archana, I'll get you something light to eat."
"There's no need for a doctor Aai.." Archana protested.
"Oh yes there is!" said Sulochana. "Vinod why are you staring like that? Go call a doctor!" Vinod immediately rushed out of the room, as Manju threw up her hands. Aai ALWAYS had to over react- she thought. Archana stopped Vinod. "Dada, please stay, I need to talk to all of you about something very important!"
Silence reigned in the Karanjkar house that afternoon after Archana made a few startling revelations.
Sulochana wiped her forehead with her sari pallu. "What is all this.. I never.." she mumbled.
Manohar made her sit on the sofa. He didn't want any more ill/sick people in the frame.
Nobody said anything for a while. Finally Vaishali spoke, "Will he be okay?" she said, sniffing.
"He needs a major surgery." said Archana, in a voice devoid of emotions. "And he needs to get it done soon, before it harms his eyesight more."
Sulochana looked around pensively. "I wonder how he is handling all this alone, he should have told his family.."
Vinod looked very serious. "I cursed him a lot saying I wanted God to punish him in the worst possible way for ruining Archana's life, but.." he hesitated, "..but I never wanted something of this sort to really happen, ever, I swear I never meant it in that way.." he said.
"You don't need to feel guilty Vinod," said Manjusha, caressing his arm. "He has done some terrible things, Bappa is punishing him for it now. Karma is a bitch. Bcos of him Ajit landed in hospital, bcos of his mother, our Aai landed in hospital with a heart attack. What goes round comes round." She declared snootily.
Archana looked at Manjusha, her eyes spitting fire. She stared at her angrily for a few minutes, then looked at her family members.
"I know that the past has not been rosy." She said. "But I still feel that at this time, all of us need to get together and help Manav. He needs all of us right now."
Manjusha raised her eyebrow. "This is their personal matter." She said defiantly. "Why should we interfere? Manav is not our responsibility!"
"He is." Archana shot back. "He is the son in law of this house and my husband."
"Oh puhleese! 'He is my husband'- The whole world knows that both of you are getting divorced. You would have got divorced today if you had not come to know about all this. Just cos you refuse divorce two hours before it actually happens thanks to his illness story, it does not change the state of affairs! The divorce matter is still where it was, and the papers are still signed and preserved in court. He was wrong and he is still wrong!"
"Where am I denying that?" questioned Archana. "But we still have a responsibility towards him- an ethical responsibility. He also helped us in our bad times- he gave 50,000 rupees without batting an eyelid when Aai had a heart attack. At that time he never thought that it was not his responsibility since I had left his house.."
"What rubbish!" snorted Manjusha. "We never asked him to give money, he contributed on his own. This doesn't make it obligatory for us to contribute too. And anyway, who knows this illness is true or made up."
Archana couldn't believe her ears. "Stop looking for deceit everywhere Vahini!" she said angrily. "Manav didn't tell this to me. I stumbled upon this accidently. Tarun told me everything."
"Who knows Tarun is lying too?" suggested Manjusha. "After all, he has still stuck by Manav in all this.. who knows Tarun and Manav cooked up a story together, and.."
It was Vaishali's turn to get angry now. "Dada, see what Vahini is saying! Not a word against Tarun!"
"Don't forget I'm elder to you Vaishali!" said Manjusha angrily. "I don't appreciate that tone in your voice!"
"ENOUGH!" said Sulochana suddenly. "Stop fighting all of you! Not one more word now!"
Manjusha, Archana and Vaishali immediately became quiet. Vinod appeared exasperated. Manohar Baba adjusted his glasses, staring open mouthedly at the scene.
"Archana, Manjusha is right." Said Sulochana, much to Archana's horror. "Manav is really not our responsibility. I sympathise with whatever has happened, but that doesn't change equations. His sad story doesn't neutralize his grave sins and whatever has happened between both families in the past. It is difficult to let the animosity go completely. And it is best not to mix emotions with right or wrong. He is his family's responsibility. For us, he is your soon to be divorced husband."
Manjusha gave a victorious look to Archana. Archana opened her mouth to argue again.
"All the same," said Sulochana, turning to Manju, "It is neither appropriate, nor morally right for us to run away from this situation or feign lack of concern. He has an association with us, however unpleasant it might be. People know him as our son in law and Tarun's best friend. He has helped us willingly in the past. Most importantly, it is impotency to take out your spite and revenge on a suffering human being. However much we dislike him for his actions and character, but on humanitarian grounds, we must stand by him and offer him all support that we can."
The family listened to her with pin drop silence.
"Vinod, Archana had told us a few days back that we owe Manav some money. How much was it?
"Rs. 70,000" said Vinod promptly. "50,000 for your hospital expenses, and 20,000 for school fees that Manav paid for Archana. Surprisingly he never asked the money back."
"Fine." Said Sulochana. "Manav might need money any moment now- arrange for the money at the earliest and give it back to him."
"But we don't have money.. and Vaishali's wedding will be there soon!!!" protested Manjusha.
"Then break a few FD's and arrange for money." Said Sulochana flatly. "But arrange money at the earliest."
"Vinod, I will leave this house if you break Punni's FD's for that characterless man!" threatened Manjusha, grinding her teeth with rage. Archana looked at her, anger surging in her heart. "As it is, he is not giving any major alimony for divorce!"
"Can you please keep quiet, Manju!" said Vinod irritatedly. "Let me handle this matter."
"Fine, do what you want!" snapped Manjusha, and walked off to her room angrily.
Vaishali and Archana gave disgusted looks to Manjusha as Vinod sweated, apparently very embarrassed. "Aai, I'm sorry for her behavior, I guess Manjusha is not very sympathetic towards Manav cos of what he did with Ajit and Archana, she will come round when she realizes the graveness of the situation. Believe me, she's not so ruthless." He said.
"Leave all that aside." said Sulochana, least concerned about Manjusha's anger at that moment. "You concentrate on arranging for the money as soon as possible." Vinod nodded. She then looked at Manohar Baba. "Aho.. both of us should go and talk to Manav's Baba about him. He cannot hide things from his family in this way. Its not right."
"Aai.. I don't think Manav would like it.. and I even doubt if he will accept the money from us.." said Archana in a small voice.
"I am not concerned with what Manav will like or dislike." said Sulochana Aai flatly. "I am concerned with what needs to be done in this situation. Manav is not comfortable talking to his people about it, alright, I understand he is not in the right frame of mind as of now, but still his parents have a right to know what is going on. Manav needs help- both financially and emotionally- and his parents can help only if they know the truth. The desire to cut off from people in such a crisis is understandable, but it's not the solution."
Archana considered. Aai was right.
"Archana, where is Manav getting treated?"
"Tata Memorial hospital."
Manohar Baba pondered. "Is it a good hospital?"
Vaishali piped in. "It is a super speciality semi-govt. hospital, and offers the best services for cancer, second only to AIIMS in New Delhi. If Tarun's doctor has recommended, then they must be reputed doctors."
"Good." Said Manohar Baba. He put his hand on Archana's head. "The doctor did say he will be alright, hai na?"
Archana nodded. "The doctor said he has good.. erm.. what was it.. prognosis.. he has very good chances."
"Chalo at least there is a silver lining in the cloud." Said Baba. "He patted Vaishali on the cheek. "Don't worry beta, Manav will be okay. We will do as much for him as possible on humanitarian grounds. If he needs more money, then also we will contribute as much as we can and give him, okay?"
Archana nodded uncomfortably. The words rang in her head.
"We will do as much for him as possible on humanitarian grounds."
"Aai.. go to sleep now.."
Archana raised her head to look at her Aai. Aai smiled and caressed the mass of hair in her lap.
"I will go to sleep after your fever comes down." She said softly, looking at Archana's head snuggled in her lap. "Till then, I won't get sleep." Though she did not voice it, she knew well that Archana was still disturbed owing to the happenings of the day. Her daughter was sensitive to the pain of other people, and as it was, she had slowly developed a soft corner for Manav in the last few days.
Archana smiled weakly. "Aai.. do you remember.. when I was 5 years old, there was a death in the family, and you had to go to your maternal village.. you left me with Baba, Dada, and the rest of the family members.."
Aai nodded. "And then you had very bad fever and throat ache.."
"And I used to keep crying for you all day.." remembered Archana. "I wanted you to come back and be with me.. I didn't care about doctors and medicine, I wanted you.. and this lap that made me feel safe.."
"I remember.." said Sulochana. "And the fever broke the night I came back."
Archana looked again at Sulochana, who was beaming.
"Can any doctor explain such incidents?"
Sulochana laughed softly. "I'm sure they can prove it using their medical theories and research. But I prefer not to know it. I just think about it in this way- when you are with your loved ones, you recover faster. Their love and faith, coupled with the security and peace of mind, helps you heal."
Archana snuggled her head into her Aai's lap again. "I hope Manav also recovers quickly in the same way.. with his family and loved ones by his side- giving him strength and confidence at every step.."
Sulochana felt uncomfortable. She somehow managed a smile. "I hope so too." She said.
Archana's face turned serious. "Aai, do you know Manav hates hospitals?"
Sulochana didn't say anything.
Archana continued. "He hates the sight, smell and the whole grave and gloomy atmosphere there. He said it to me once.."
Sulochana was getting restless now.
"How will he live there so many days?" wondered Archana. "I hope Savita Aai and others are able to manage him well."
"Yes, good. Now go to sleep."
"Manav is a total workaholic. And this time, there are even financial burdens on his head, not to forget family problems." Said Archana, getting teary eyed. "How will the house run when the only earning member is hospitalized? Manav doesn't even have a lot of savings! He must be going through so much of stress, and feeling so helpless that he Is not able to do much about it owing to his health.."
Sulochana wished Archana would stop crying. "I understand."
"Aai.. do you know, Manav may have to undergo chemotherapy if it comes out to be a cancer." Said Archana. "It can be painful and very stressful.. how will Manav be able to take it.."
"I'm sure he will do well." Said Sulochana. "He's a strong person."
"That is what Fanny Ma'am told me once Aai." Said Archana, gazing into the distance. "Everyone always takes it for granted that Manav is strong, and capable, and superhuman, and their hero.. that they fail to realize that at the end of the day he is also human, with his own weaknesses, that he can be weak at times, and that we must be there to hold him at that time.. she was soo right!"
"Who is Fanny Ma'am?"
"Manav's teacher." Said Archana blankly. "We went to meet her on his b'day."
Sulochana was shocked. "Manav's b'day? When was it? How did you go with him?"
Archana bit her lip. Of course, she hadn't told her family that she had gone. "It was earlier Aai.. long ago.." she said vaguely, then tried to steer the conversation. "But the point remains that she was right. Even Manav said it to Tarun that he is tired of being strong and wishes he could be human for a change. Unfortunately he doesn't really have anyone to lean on. Even Tarun is going to New York.. I wish I could be with Manav at the moment, I so badly want to know what he is thinking, whether he is worried, nervous, angry or depressed.. "
Sulochana had had enough. "Archana, his family is there for him." She said firmly. "Stop exaggerating the situation. Manav is okay. In the future also, he will be okay."
"I am not exaggerating the situation," said Archana, getting up from Sulochana's lap. "Its just that, I KNOW him, so little things about him are making me feel worried for him, just like my slight fever is unable to make you sleep."
Sulochana looked stunned for a minute. Then she controlled herself. "Archana, I didn't want to say this earlier.. cos I know you are a very emotional person and always feel bad for those who are suffering.. but this time you are getting more involved in this than necessary."
Archana was zapped. "Aai, how can you expect me NOT to worry or stay absolutely neutal and not get involved more? This is not a regular case that has come up in the NGO- its my husband. MY HUSBAND!"
Sulochana tried to calm Archana down. "I understand. But Archana, this is the same man whom you were ready to divorce today morning. Remember? You were convinced that it is the right decision. In all these days, both of you had started getting used to leading separate lives. Both of you stopped acknowledging each other as husband and wife. Both of you stopped keeping expectations from each other. The separation was almost over. Only the legal formality was left! Two hours before the legal formality could be completed, you came to know of his illness and have gone back to considering him your husband. It doesn't work that way!"
"I don't know all that." Said Archana, not wanting to listen to logic or arguments. "I just know that, that I'm feeling terrible right now, and more so for the fact that I'm not with him in his difficult time. I really ought to go back to him.. he needs me.."
"Archana, stop worrying about Manav like a wife, and stop thinking you have responsibilities towards him. You don't! You claim that he is still your husband and so you are very much justified, going by this equation, how would you have reacted or felt if you came to know about his illness 2 hours after being declared divorced in the court of law? He wouldn't have been your husband then!"
Archana was stumped.
"You would have behaved just like I and the rest of the family members are behaving- sympathetic yet detached, right? 4 hour difference mein feelings badal gayi! So what does this speak about your feelings and worry for Manav and this great wifely devotion you have been parading? Nothing!"
Tears filled in Archana's eyes.
Sulochana made her sit down. "Archana, stop feeling obligated to think of yourself as Manav's wife, or that he is your responsibility. He is not! You filed for divorce days ago, at that time both of you didn't have any clue, you started planning and looking ahead in your new life without him, and so did he, now just cos you found out he is ill two hours before divorce, this doesn't mean that it is your duty to forget the cheating and the abuse, the dowry demands and the unhappy past, and run back to him just cos he is your legal husband, when in reality you wanted to be away from him since 4 months. Don't get back to a relationship for the wrong reasons- relations are based on love and understanding and not on charity!! Even Manav understands this thing, probably that is why he didn't tell you- even he wouldn't like it if you go back to him simply bcos he is sick!"
Archana started sobbing. "I want to be with him right now Aai.. he must be so stressed.."
Sulochana sighed. She didn't know what to with her daughter. "Archana I know you mean well.. but there is no way you can go to that house. His family members don't like you.. and you know how Manav's Aai is.. I don't want you to go there for someone else's betterment and end up getting hurt yourself- physically and emotionally. Look, even I feel sorry for Manav, but beyond that there is nothing we can do. Or rather, beyond this point, it is better not to be involved. Matters will get complicated again."
Archana didn't say anything. She wiped her tears quietly, and looked up to see Vaishali coming into the room. "Manav Jeeju called." She said. "He was enquiring about your health." Archana nodded.
"You know what happened today?" said Sulochana Aai, trying to change the topic. "We got a call from night school- you haven't gone since the last 3 days na, they called to say that they have got a new bus service started for those who have trouble in going back home at night since the area is a little deserted and people were complaining. They have also adjusted the timings a bit- your classes end at 9 now instead of 10, but you shall have classes on Sunday also now."
"Aai, I think I should sleep now." she said. She didn't know why she had the nagging feeling that Manav had talked to the school authorities.
The whole house was plunged into darkness. The light breathing of the inmates could be heard, along with their snores, twisting, turning, and grumbling in sleep.
A lone figure however sat alone in a corner of the kitchen, trying her level best to stifle her sobs so that the other members would not wake up.
Her eyes were red and her heart clouded with grief as she remembered the events of the day, and more so, about her husband. The conversation she had had with her mother was still fresh in her mind, and she went over those words again and again.
She wiped the tears from her cheek, thinking of what her mother had said about how Manav was not her responsibility, and that it was not right to try and keep up a relation simply cos of sympathy since he was ill.
She couldn't fathom why people kept saying Manav was not her responsibility. Of course he was! The way she looked at it- ethically, he had supported her all along, and it was time she ought to give him back too. Morally, he was a very good person who had loved her truly. Logically, she was the only person who could help him right now, his family was quite umm.. useless.. and Tarun would be soon gone. She had a job on the other hand, (which had been given to her by Manav). And emotionally.. well.. there was no way she could truly explain this part- most people simply kept assuming that she was over reacting and drawn to him cos of sympathy. But most importantly he was her husband!
Manav- thought Archana, as she closed her eyes, letting the silent tears fall out. How much he had suffered alone and never complained. Never demanded, never cribbed, never put any sort of obligations on her. Till the last moment, he had only given her, not demanded anything. She had demanded divorce and he had agreed to give her that too. All the time, he had thought only of her betterment, her growth, her happiness. All his decisions post marriage had been in the direction of empowering her, giving her a constructive happy life, the life she had dreamt of, but never thought she could attain. He had made mistakes, he was not flawless, but still, no one could refuse that he had fulfilled every responsibility of a good husband- in true sense he had fulfilled the vows and promises he had given to her at the time of marriage- to safeguard her, to respect her will, to not misuse his right or power on her, to give her every happiness in his ability- he had done it all for her.
And what had she done- she asked herself. Had she fulfilled ANY responsibility of a good wife? Had she fulfilled the vows at the time of marriage, when she had promised that she would be his shadow and always support him at every step in life? If that was so, why was he alone and helpless at this moment? What was she doing here, away from him, when he needed her most to hold his hand and comfort him? Why was she not with him at the most critical junctures of his life- whether they be the burning of his garage, financial breakdown, serious family problems or severe health issues.
She went over what her Aai had said about not going back to Manav just bcos she felt it was her duty to go back to an ailing husband, who had cheated her and tried to disgrace her, that a pure relationship of marriage should not be maintained for reasons like sympathy, that there was no point in going back to him just cos he was her husband and was sick. Was it really like that- she asked herself. Was she feeling sorry for Manav only cos she was softhearted by nature, and normally felt bad for the misfortunes of others, but in this case, felt obligated to go back cos she was his wife? Were her feelings for Manav really so shallow as her mother claimed them to be- she wondered. Would indeed there have been a change in the depth of her feelings and empathy for Manav if she had come to know about his state 2 hours after divorce, when she didn't have the tag of Manav's wife? Was this legal tag the only thing that bonded them? And was this feeling of being 'Manav's wife' the only reason why she felt for him so strongly? Was it her 'responsibility' to feel for him?
What did Manav mean to her, really? An ailing husband, to whom she must go back as it was her 'duty' being his wife? A cheat whom she must help on humanitarian grounds? A person who had helped her in the past and so she must go back in his lean moments to 'repay the debt'? Or a kind hearted man for whom she was feeling sorry cos he was sick?
What was Manav to her truly?
Memories raced through her mind as she remembered each past moment between her and him- sweet memories of how he had entered her life and slowly, unconsciously won her over with his genuine, caring persona and his soft, large heart, which, pellucid though it was, went usually unnoticed and unacknowledged by people. It wasn't just attraction, she couldn't remember if she had ever felt drawn to a person as much as towards him, if she'd admired and adored someone for his beautiful exterior AND interior as much as her husband, in whose hands she had placed her life in those initial days when they had slowly come to know and understand each other. It wasn't just about how much he had done for her, but rather the finer points in his character, his concern and selflessness for her, that had touched her. Their separation had been only physical, inwardly, their journey to know their better halves had continued as they had supported (or in her case- tried to support) each other in their turbulent married life- all the time trying to hold each other from being washed away by the strong waves. It was in those days that she had understood the depth of Manav's feelings for her- as he went against his own destiny, his loved ones, his future, to bring her back into his life, give her the happiness he felt he could give her. He had truly loved her like no one had and no one could, for him she was like glass through which he could see as well as understood every speckle, and she hadn't even realized when she had started loving this man in the same way he did, and surrendered all her dreams to him, giving him that special place in her heart, which was truly his now and could be claimed by no one else. It was their impending divorce which had made her realize what it meant to be away from him, how closely she was intertwined in his life now, and could never be detached from his sorrows or misfortunes, claiming it as 'not being her responsibility'. The truth was, no matter whatever happened, she could NEVER be detached from him, no divorce could separate her from him now, simply cos she was his by heart and soul. The legal and social certificate of marriage was not the ONLY thing binding them now. What bonded them was simply the selfless and intense pure love they had for each other- something which could not be controlled by an external court of law, practicalities of daily life or harsh realities. It was just the way it was, and this love made her feel responsible for Manav, made her yearn to be with him, made her want to set things right for him, made her want to put his head in her lap, just as she had done long back once, and tell him the words that he had first said to her when she had cried in the car after their marriage, and many more times later:
"Don't worry, I'm there, and everything will be all right."
She leaned back on the kitchen wall as she thought about the situation. She knew it was not Manav's ILLNESS which was making her react in this manner, rather it was MANAV'S illness, that is why she was reacting in this way. It was not just bcos of sympathy, or responsibility of a wife, but rather because she loved him that she was so strongly affected by everything in his life- the good, the bad and the ugly. She had always felt for him whenever bad times had fallen on him- she had been troubled when he had problems with Sachin, she had had sleepless nights when she came to know of his bank loans, she had fought against her Vahini when he had financial problems, she had yearned to be with him when she had learned about how lonely and sad he was without her.. and not just that- even in all the good times- his birthday, opening of garage, Vat Savitri Puja- she had always thought about him with fondness. Her feelings for him were not just affected by misfortunes.
The only difference was that, each time, though she had an intense desire to be with him, whom she loved dearly, she had never got the courage to break free of those shackles which had bound her. Her parents, Manjusha Vahini's hatred, society, her own apprehensions, the angst in his family members, her fear of his Aai's behavior- everything had clouded her vision each time she had desperately tried to look for a solution to be with him. And not standing up strongly for him or for her feelings, had in the long run, ruined her marriage. It had made Manav feel that he was a nobody for her.
But if THIS time, she did not go, Manav would suffer. And it would be no one else but SHE who would be responsible. Herself, and no one else.
Did she want that? ' she thought. Of course not, she would do anything to relieve him of even a little of his suffering. The only thing she wanted in the world right now was to be with him, and not just cos he was ill, but cos she had understood after the whole turmoil and introspection of the day that her place was with him, her husband, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad. Cos she had understood that she was too strongly bonded to him, and would always want to be with him whenever he went through a bad patch, now and forever. Cos she had understood what the divorce, their separation and her inability to stand up and voice her own wishes and feelings had done to their marriage and her life.
Cos she had understood via this whole misfortune what Manav truly meant to her, and where her fault had been in this whole mess. Her fault had been in not being assertive enough to DEMAND and FIGHT for what she wanted, unlike what Manav had done. Her fault had been in making Manav feel unwanted to the extent that he had felt uncomfortable in voicing even the most basic rights of a husband. Yes, in the end, she had talked to Pony over it and tried to make amends, but her efforts had come too late. By that time, Manav had started treating their marriage as a dream of the past.
But all was not ruined. She could still go back to her husband, who needed her more than ever right now, she thought. The wrong could be corrected now.
A shiver raced through her spine as she thought about going back to the Deshmukh house. There was nobody in that house who was likely to support her after all that Manav had gone through. Even the kids disliked her. Savita Aai had quite clearly told and threatened her to stay out, and Archana knew well that she could get very very nasty and dirty if her command was not followed. Beads of perspiration trickled down her forehead as she thought about what Savita Aai could do. She had heard a number of times about how evil MIL's burnt their DIL's in the kitchen on the pretext of making tea, when the DIL could not fulfill their dowry demands, or when they wanted another girl to take her place, someone who could bring more money into the house.
No, no- Aai is not that bad- she scolded herself. But she could not deny that she was scared. Such occurances were still a reality in some lower class households, and in Savita Aai's case, Archana had suffered enough at her hands even when she had lived separately. What would become of her if she entered the lion's den?
It was not just Savita's wrath, she knew very well that her parents did not like the Deshmukh family or Manav at all. Sulochana Aai had just recovered from a heart attack and often fell ill when she was tensed. Manjusha Vahini had openly showed her displeasure tonight, and in the past too had demanded separation if the Karanjkars dared to reconcile with Manav, who had caused enough harm to her brother.
Going back to Manav was not the end of the story at all. In fact, it was the beginning of another tornado, which could ruin every relationship.
But till when could she deny Manav the basic rights of a husband and care of a wife just so that everything could be hunky dory and peaceful in both the houses and her mother would be safe? Why did Manav had to compromise everytime just so that others could be happy? How long could this go on? Till date, she had kept favouring these other aspects and considerations. The result was in front of her- he had been alone when he had needed her- since she had kept quiet. Now if again today, she favoured the practical considerations of life and her desire to keep her family safe and satisfied and the situation at peace, then somewhere Manav would again be forced to compromise, and their relationship too would never be the same again. Things could never be reversed from here. It would be a blow to their relationship in every way.
Why did only she have to 'understand' and think about others? Why did only he have to suffer? Why couldn't others understand and make efforts for a change? Why couldn't it be Manav Archana voicing their decision and others swallowing it up quietly, just like Manav Archana had listened to others all these years?
She suddenly sat up with a jerk, looking into space, deep in thought.
It was quite clear. The time to think, to decide, to introspect- was over.
Now was the time to make decisions. Some tough decisions. Decisions that others might not like, agree or appreciate. But decisions that would be the right for him, for her, and in the long run, for everyone else too.
"This girl has gone mad!"
Sulochana Aai pranced about the house from room to room. "Aho, come and talk to her!" she cried to Manohar Baba. He simply shook his head hopelessly.
Vinod appeared thoroughly annoyed. "Aai, there is no point in explaining anything to her."
"She has gone mad, but have all of you also gone mad? Why aren't you stopping her!" cried out Aai. She rushed into the bedroom, where Archana was packing her saris in her suitcase. "You are not going anywhere!" she said sternly, closing the suitcase and pulling it. "Enough of your nonsense."
Archana pulled the suitcase back from Aai. "Aai please let me pack. I have already told you my decision."
"I DON'T AGREE TO YOUR STUPID DECISION!" shouted Sulochana Aai. Archana however, remained unaffected. Her face looked tired, yet there was a firmness in it. Silently, she turned towards the cupboard and looked at the bag kept on top of it. "I need that one too." She said thoughtfully.
"I'll help you get it Tai." Said Vaishali immediately, who had been standing in a corner all this while. She hobbled to fetch a stool. Archana meanwhile started packing her books.
"I told you yesterday that going back is foolishness!" said Aai bitterly. "Your saas is going to harass you to no end, and you have no one to take your side there. Even Manav!"
"I know." Said Archana quietly, continuing to pack. "Lets see how things work out."
"WHAT!" cried Aai. She pulled Archana by her arm. "You are willingly going back to that house to face abuse of that vile old woman?!?"
"I never said anything like that." Said Archana, freeing her hand. "I meant to say that until I don't go there, how will things get resolved between us? Situations will get better only if I work on them. Earlier I'd thought of asking Manav to separate from his family cos of his Aai, but I won't do that now. I understand that he would want to be with his family too at this time. Anyway, I can't wait now for him to arrange things or separate. Its upto me now to strike a balance."
"This is monstrous!" heaved Sulochana Aai, throwing up her hands. "You're being a fool if you expect to win your MIL's heart by your sugar sweet behavior! She has a stone in place of a heart!"
Archana paid no heed. She continued packing. "And what about your husband?" said Aai tauntingly. "Are you done with reforming him?"
Archana closed her suitcase. "I have already told you Aai what I feel for him. He is a changed man now, marriage to me has changed him. He loves me and I'm sure I shall be very happy with him.." Vaishali had by now brought the stool. Archana stood on top of it, took down her bag and started packing her books in it.
"What happiness?" said Sulochana Aai. "What can he give you? Nothing! He has no money, no class, no status, no values, and now he is not in a good state of health also! Characterless horrible man! Now even I feel he must have manipulated you in his sickness story to make you come back home. Archana.." she tugged at her arm. "Did he say something to you? What did he tell you?!?"
"Nothing." Said Archana firmly. "And now let me pack."
She started putting her jewellery sets in her bag. One of them was the necklace that had been given to her by Manav's Baba at the time of her marriage. It had belonged to Manav's late Aai. "Take care of my Manav.." he had said while handing it to her. Her eyes moistened as she remembered it. In the background she could hear her Aai weeping. She strengthened her heart, reminding herself not to succumb and stick to her resolution of last night. If she fell weak right now, all would be ruined. She needed to go back to Manav and save their relationship. Manav needed her, she reminded herself repeatedly.
She was lost in her thoughts when she heard a taunting voice. "So you are taking all this with you?"
She looked up. It was Manjusha Vahini.
She looked very pissed and angry. "Like fools, we tried to safeguard you from that guy. Invited you home, kept you here, paid for your expenses, clothes, schooling- everything. All these days, we spent a lot on you, not to forget the lawyer's fees for your divorce. And what now?- turns out you are going to spoil everything and no alimony is going to come back in this house! What a mess you've created for all of us!"
Archana looked at her with fire in her eyes. In all these months, she had had enough of Manjusha Vahini's taunts about what a burden she was to the house. Immediately she opened her bag and took out one gold necklace case. She kept it on the bed for Manjusha.
"Keep this." She said in a steely voice. "Thankyou very much for everything you did for me all these days."
Vinod muttered under his breath as Manjusha stared at her wide eyed. "See Vinod, see the way she is talking to me! I'm sure Manav has forced her to rebel. I'm sure he is the one who brainwashed her! Your sister has truly gone bonkers!"
Vinod groaned. He walked inside the bedroom. "Archu, we can talk over this.."
"Dada, I think there is nothing more to talk now." said Archana, closing the zip of her bag and looking for her purse. "You have made it very clear about what all of you want. All of you want to help Manav on humanitarian grounds, but don't want me to return to him. I cannot do that. He is my husband, not any normal person. He probably does not mean a lot to you, but he means a lot to me. So if your behavior is justified, mine is justified too."
"But Archana.." Vinod stammered. "For how long are you going back to that house?"
Archana gave him a quizzical look. "What sort of question is that?" she said. "I'm going back to him forever. That is my home."
"Archu, it is foolishness and meaningless to go back just cos he is ill. Let me tell you, in no way does it show you as a wife who loves her husband very much. It shows you as someone who is an emotional fool, nothing else."
Archana stayed silent for a moment, then said, "I knew you would not understand, that is why I don't want to explain to you now."
"Then help us understand na!" said Vinod. "Help us understand!"
"Fine!" said Archana. "I'm not going simply bcos he is ill. I'm going back bcos I LOVE HIM! I have always loved him! For everyone else's sake and due to my own confused and apprehensive state, I kept pushing my feelings under the cover each time. And it is this which has ruined my relationship- to the extent that he didn't feel it necessary to tell me such a big thing as a major brain surgery! No more now!" she said, and turned away to organize her handbag, wiping a few tears stealthily. Be strong Archu- she told herself. She blinked back her tears, turned again, and picked up her suitcase in one hand and her purse in the other. "I'll carry this one for you," said Vaishali, picking the handbag, only too pleased with the turn of events, and determined to support her sister. Archana nodded. She went to her mother to touch her feet, but she looked the other way.
Archana toughened up her heart and walked out of the room, bag in hand. Her father straightened up as he saw Archana come out, wrapping her pallu around her shoulders. She stopped near her Baba and touched his feet.
Manohar Baba mumbled uncomfortably. "Beta, what you are doing is not right, you are being emotional right now, but tomorrow you might repent and feel that you took a wrong decision in a weak moment, Manav is ill right now, I understand.. but.."
"I have given this decision a lot of thought Baba." Said Archana quietly. "Four months, to be exact. Trust me when I say I have thought things over and decided that going back is the best for me and for him, especially where the present scenario is concerned."
"But what about the future..?" protested Baba. "You might feel trapped in that house later.."
"It is the best decision for my future Baba.." said Archana, "I have to go there and sort things, sitting hand on hand will not resolve the situation."
Sulochana couldn't control herself any longer. "Yes, yes, go back to him!" she shrieked. "Go back to that horrible man and ruin your future! A good man like Satish wants to give you a new respectable life, but you want to go down that drain only! Go back to him!"
Archana stopped dead in her tracks. The suitcase dropped from her hands. She turned around slowly. "What?!?"
Sulochana came forward a little. "Yes Archana," she accepted. "Satish asked for your hand in marriage. He wants to erase the past and join the alliance which had broken cos of Manav. Archana, isn't this what we always wanted- a good, well educated, well mannered, cultured boy from a good family? Archu this was my dream! This was your destiny, before Manav came and ruined it all! God has given you a chance to resurrect your future and get back all that you lost out. Don't throw this chance! Satish is such a thoughtful and genuine person, he actually admitted his mistake of doubting you, apologized and wants to correct it. Tell me Archu, has Manav apologized till date for his sins? And yet you are so keen to forgive him. Satish convinced his parents to accept you wholeheartedly inspite of being a divorcee, something that Manav could never do. Satish's family will treat you like a queen, pamper you with love and affection, he will himself make sure that you have a very fulfilling life. Then why are you going back to Manav, despite of his 100 faults, why should that penniless characterless man be favoured over a gem like Satish? Just cos he is ill? This is not right Archu!" Sulochana Aai came forward and held her hands. "Archu, I know you are concerned about Manav, but this is not the way. I told you na, we will all together ensure that he will be alright. What he needs right now is money and a good doctor. Your presence is not going to make a difference."
She tugged at Archana's hands. And it was then that she got the shock of her life when Archana, the daughter whom she had taught to walk by leading her with her fingers, refused to budge.
"You know why I will not change my stand Aai." Said Archana quietly. "You know it pretty well." Sulochana Aai tried to say something, but Archana said- "Aai you didn't ask me or even inform me before fixing a married woman with Satish all this while."
"Archu.. I.. you were absolutely fine and detached after being separated from Manav in these past few months, so.." Archu cut Aai's speech in between. "Aai, since you confessed today, I would also like to tell you something. I was never 'fine' in these past months. You want examples? I lied to you last night. I was there with Manav on his b'day- we celebrated it together some days back. There we met Fanny Ma'am. All these months, I used to meet Manav- sometimes at the temple, sometimes at the garage, sometimes at my office. Even at Mahabaleshwar he was there with me the whole time. He used to accompany me from night school every night. And I hid all this from you. I felt uncomfortable at times, but if I wanted, I could have informed you all and asked to take action, but I never did it, cos it was not just a case of Manav wanting to be with me all this while, I wanted to be with him too. I guess I could never imagine someone else in his place, so I was always ready to give him a chance to clear his name. Manav has always been the only one for me."
Aai left her hands in shock. "You are not my daughter!" she said in disbelief. "You hid all this from me! My Archu could never have done that! What has Manav done to my daughter? He has influenced you behind my back with stupid ideas of romance! You've been lying to me all these days- making merry with that man!?!"
"I don't need anyone's permission to be with my husband."
"What would Satish think about all this? And what is this about not wanting to be with Satish? Archu I have promised Satish.."
"Aai you should have asked me before you made such a big decision about my life." Archana said firmly. "Or have you decided to lead me throughout life?"
Archana picked up her suitcase again. "I will apologize to Satish Ji myself. Anyways, after his parents come to know all this, I doubt they would like to 'wholeheartedly' accept me." She said. "Where Satishji is concerned, if he is such a good man as you claim, he will understand my decision."
"This girl has gone crazy in love." Muttered Manjusha. She spoke out loudly. "Yes yes go! Go back to your Manav. But let me warn you, six months later when he recovers and starts frequenting those brothels again, don't come running back to this house crying that you want to divorce him."
"Don't worry Manjusha Vahini." Said Archana. "I am not the same Archana who was tossed around from here to there 6 months back and was completely helpless and dependent on all of you. My Manav has made me strong and independent enough to support myself- financially and morally. If tomorrow I suffer, I will face the consequences myself. I won't trouble you."
Vaishali came and stood next to Archana. "I called a taxi Tai." She said in a small voice. "Its waiting outside."
Archana nodded. She turned to take one last look at the house. Her mother was weeping and had collapsed in a chair, her father by his side, trying to comfort her. Vinod was pacing restlessly, muttering curses, Manjusha was smirking. "Anything else is left to say or what?"
Archana sighed. "I just wanted to say sorry." She said in a small voice. "I always wanted a husband whom my family would like and respect and consider as their own son, who would be a part of this family as much as I would be a part of his. But destiny had other plans for me. I know, all of you don't like Manav," she almost choked. "He is not what all of you had wanted for me- forget the fact that he is not rich, well educated or status-rich, he doesn't even have a good background and a spotless character. His family too is not good. I know, you will be left to answer lots of questions by people and society. I know you will never accept him wholeheartedly, not even for my sake," (tears flowed down her eyes) "But I can't help it. I can't help it that I fell in love with the man who tried to cheat me. I admire his honest desire to be with me, as much as I see myself in him. I know I cannot be with anyone else. I'm sorry to disappoint you and leave the house in this manner, but I really have no choice, if you step into my shoes you would understand that you would have done the same had you been in my place. I never wanted it to happen this way. I'm just following your advice Aai- you told me one night before my marriage that a wife has to take on different roles- of a friend, a confidant, a mother, a lover, a teacher- all to her husband. He may not speak about his needs everytime, and I have to understand his unspoken words myself- isn't this what you had said? Well, I understood today. And that is why I know I MUST go back. Its time for me to go and play every role now."
With this, she finally turned and walked out of the house with her purse and suitcase. Vaishali was waiting for her near the taxi with her bag. Both the sisters together unloaded the luggage on top of the taxi. "I'll come with you," said Vaishali, opening the door. Archana shook her head.
"You stay at home Vaishu, and look after Aai." She said. "I'm sure she is very heartbroken and upset. You will have to look after her now that I and Varsha are not there. You'll do that na?"
"I will." Replied Vaishali. "But what about you? Have you thought of how to approach things? For sure Manav Jiju's Aai will be angry."
Archana took in a deep breath. "Let's just say I will try to be as tactical as possible and try not to fall into trouble." She looked up at Vaishali, who looked scared. "Don't worry, your Jiju is there, he will take care of me." She said warmly.
"I hope so." Said Vaishali. Archana hugged her sister. "All the best Tai, and if anything goes wrong, I and Tarun are only a phone call away." Archana nodded. She noticed that many of the neighbours who had come out to buy vegetables, talk to each other etc. in the morning market were now whispering about her. "I should go now." she said quietly, and sat in the taxi. With a grunt, the taxi roared to life.
As the taxi cleared the morning traffic, Archana looked out of the window, at the buildings rushing by. She remembered the day Manav had come to her house and promised her that he would get evidence to prove his innocence.
"Wah!Wah!" clapped Varsha. "Tell me one thing, if pictures of Tai had been presented to you with some other man, and Tai had nothing to prove herself innocent, or Tai was guilty, would you have given her a chance? Ha?"
"This is a different matter.." Manav said shortly.
"How is this a different matter?" Varsha shot back. "Bcos you are a man you have the right to protest or be forgiven and Tai being a woman does not have it, ha??? What chauvinism!!!"
Manav walked towards Varsha staring at her without blinking. "Yes, there is a difference- a BIG ONE!!! And it is not a man or woman difference- the difference here is that I LOVE YOUR SISTER BUT YOUR SISTER DOES NOT LOVE ME!!!"
The room was stunned into silence. Manav continued. "If what you are saying had happened then I would have accepted Archana anyways- guilty or not- bcos I know Archana since two years and have loved her in this period for the kind of person she is. Her past wouldn't have mattered to me- bcos when you are in love- you value the person more for his/her finer feelings rather than hate them for their faults- you learn to give more credence to the good points of the person rather than the mistakes they may have made in life. This gives you the courage to give them chances- to prove themselves right or simply to absolve the past. Unfortunately, I cannot expect the same thing from Archana out of a 15 day non- consummated arranged marriage, and hence I don't blame her for anything. I don't even expect you or her to understand all this right now for the same reason- neither Archana nor you are in love. The day you fall in love, you will understand this."
Yes, she understood it today, thought Archana. Today, when she had left her parents and family for a man with whom she had fallen in love, regardless of the mistakes he had made, she understood it. Today she realized what it actually meant to be in love. It was not so simple- it involved making crazy decisions sometimes, decisions that may not be practical or realistic, decisions that might not please everyone, decisions that would be risky, but somehow the scenario this time demanded it. She was very sure anyone else in her place would have done the same thing. 6 months ago, she would have been horrified to think of ever rebelling against her parents in this way (at the risk of giving her mother another anxiety attack) or giving such a sharp answer to Manjusha Vahini. Nor had she ever imagined that she would find the courage to try and sort things with Savita Aai- the person who was a living nightmare for any girl. It was MADNESS!- but sometimes love REQUIRED that streak of madness, the sort of madness which Manav had displayed when he had rejected Shravani, despite of tremendous pressure, just cos he could not forget Archana.
And when she thought of what this madness could help her accomplish, it all seemed justified. Manav, their relationship, his suffering- right now they were more important than anything else.
What Archana did not know, or rather did not realize that day in the larger scheme of things, was that she had poured cold water on Ajit's deceit by accepting Manav inspite of the false tales. That Manav's goodness and love, and her understanding, acceptance and affection for him, had blinded Ajit's evil plans, just like the sun blinds out a million stars.
That in true sense, Manav had won. They had won.
Ok guys, so this was part 70.
I think now you must have understood why I wanted to show it this way. I could have shown Manav and Archana having a talk and Manav separating from his parents and settling down with Archana, but then where does Archana's contribution remain in the FF? Manav would have again become the hero! Yes, it would be have been more real and mature, but then at the end of the day this is a romantic FF, and as I said, sometimes love REQUIRES that streak of madness which gives it that unique identity, so I wanted to show some madness too. . Plus, some character development on Archana's part was badly required, to make her stand for what she thinks is right, taking things in her own hand for a change, on the other hand, the need to show Manav more human and less superhero like for a change was also there (will be dealt in future parts). The illness track was brought in to show the 'realistic craziness' on Archana's part, cos though it was crazy walking out in such situations with a living nightmare called Savita in that house and no guarantee of the future, its also realistic cos maybe this is what most women (or mothers) would do when a loved one is suffering. (especially someone as family oriented and caring as Archana)
Anyhow, I've already cleared it that Archana isn't going back just cos of illness or cos he is her pati parmeshwar, but bcos of a deeper understanding of the situation and her genuine concern and feelings for Manav. So basically, interplay of a lot of factors.
That was my perspective. :-) Waiting for your comments and feedback. Sorry for being so late, actually I had made something like a VM, or maybe I should call it a movie rather a VM, on the song I used above (Dreams on Fire from Slumdog millionaire). It contained pics which went with the story summmarising it till now, to show as if it was Archana remembering Manav. Unfortunately I couldn't upload in on youtube despite my best efforts, (stupid net... aaargh!!!) so yeah, had to drop that plan finally.
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