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Hundreds of emotions raced through the minds of Archana and Manav, as they made their way to court on that Friday, which was the date set aside for their separation.
Archana, to say the least, was nervous. Questions and never ending fears gushed through her. As she sat in the taxi, accompanied by her Aai, waiting for the traffic to clear, she wondered all about what she wanted to say to Manav. Would she get a chance to say it? Would her Aai let her talk to Manav in peace? Would Manav agree to live separately? Oh, how she wished and prayed Manav would give a positive response- she didn't want to lose him, and there was no way she could be with him if he didn't agree to leave his family- Savita Aai would make life hell for her.
Manav, on the other hand, was quiet and peaceful. No doubt, he was upset and disappointed that his marriage was ending at last, but now that he had given up and quit thinking about it, he was more at ease. Sometimes, it was better to accept circumstances when there was no other route out. At least, it gave one the strength to focus on other things, which could no longer be ignored owing to this unending battle of marriage and love.
The air was stifling and seemed uncomfortable. The rains of the previous night had only increased the humidity more, he felt, as he fanned himself with his file, waiting for the local to stop at his station. At about 9 o clock, he got down at the family court in Bandra. He hesitated only for a while before he walked in, reassuring himself that it would all be over soon, and this would be probably the last time when he would have to face Archana and be reminded of the sad, untrue story of accusations. He walked inside court.
On a bench outside the court room, Archana was sitting, her head bent. Her Aai was with her.
She stood up as she saw him coming. She didn't know how she was supposed to react- smile, say hi, or directly start that she wanted to talk to him. She was fumbling over it, when Manav walked upto her, bobbed his head momentarily to give respect to her Aai, and then came straight to the point, evading her eyes- "Umm.. did you enquire inside?"
"Uh.. no." said Archana. "Siddhant has also not come till now.."
"Hmm.." said Manav, looking around. "I'll go and tell we are here."
"I'll come with you." She said immediately. But Manav stopped her. "There's really no need. Sit with your Aai, I'll enquire and come back."
He was gone the next moment, as Archana breathed deeply to calm herself again. Oh Bappa!
"Are you nervous?" asked Aai. Archana looked up. She indicated a no.
"Its okay, you can tell me." She said warmly. "Today is the last day, and it shall all get over soon. Don't worry."
Yes, maybe it would get over soon, thought Archana. Manav was appearing very cold and frigid to her, as if he had hardened his heart for the divorce and wanted it quickly, come what may. Knowing him, it was easy to assume he would not make any ego issues, but still.. who knew whether he secretly harboured feelings of resentment against her and her family for all the insult he had gone through, she thought.
Manav came back a little later. "Court proceedings will start in a few minutes. Everyone is waiting for the judge." The two women nodded. Siddhant too had come by then and overheard the conversation. "Ah good morning to all of you!" he said, looking smart as usual in his large black lawyer's robes which he wore over brown coloured trousers and a cream shirt. "I hope things are on track, anyways, Manav please come with me, I have to talk to you about alimony related matters."
He ushered Manav away, much to Archana's disappointment. Both men sat together and discussed the monthly sum that Manav would be giving for a few months after the divorce. Siddhant asked Manav to sign a few papers, and Manav signed where ever he was asked to, without reading the papers, just like last time. "Still not got your specs made?" teased Siddhant. Manav did not reply back and instead gave a small, uncomfortable smile. Siddharth continued to speak about the arrangements, terms and conditions of divorce, legal action that would be taken if Manav did not provide money every month and so on. Manav listened with rapt attention and jotted down necessary details in a little diary, screwing his eyes.
From the corner of her eyes, Archana watched the two men, hoping for Siddhant to leave Manav alone soon. She looked at her Aai, who was grumbling about how moist it was, and how it would be nice to have a better downpour than last night. "Last night was just a drizzle," she said, wiping her face with a handkerchief.
"Aai, you should go home." Said Archana. "It is clearly too uncomfortable for you. And honestly speaking, there is no need for you to stay here as well, considering Siddhant is here, and everything is going perfectly."
"Its okay." Said Sulochana. "Now there is no use in going away all alone. How long will it take- an hour? I can stay for that much time and then we will go home together. That will be more convenient."
Archana nodded, inwardly feeling more uncomfortable. She looked at Manav, who was still talking to the lawyer.
It was now or never, she thought. She got up and walked to him, but the two men got up and went away. She was left fuming.
Archana looked up. Siddhant was standing near her.
"The judge has got caught up in some unavoidable business. The case has been pushed back to 2 o clock." Said Siddhant.
Sulochana Aai grunted unhappily. "Almost 4 more hours? What shall we do here till then?"
"You can go home if you want Kaku, come here at 2 o clock."
"It would take too much time to travel back home again- almost an hour for going and one hour for coming back, then why go home for just an hour or so? Lets wait here only na Aai.." said Archana. She was sure Manav wouldn't be going and she thought this was a good opportunity to have a talk with him. Sulochana aai looked displeased. Archana tried again. "Aai, you go home, I will wait here only.. don't sit here to wait for so long.."
"Yeah Kaku.. go home.. even I will be leaving in a little while, will drop in at my office and come back.." said Siddhant.
Sulochana looked shocked. "I.. I can't leave Archu alone here.."
Manav who was standing in the distance, raised an eyebrow.
Archana tried to talk sense to her. "Aai, I'm not a kid.. you go home.. no need to wait unnecessarily for so long.."
"But then what will you do here all alone? You will get bored. No, I should stay here." Said Aai.
"Are you sure?" said Siddhant. Archana sighed. "Well," he continued. "I'll come back in a little while then, there's a small canteen nearby.. you can go and wait there if you want."
The canteen was a small, poorly ventilated large room in one corner of the huge courtroom building. Since it was morning, a number of people could be seen there, sipping tea or having breakfast. A buzz rankled about the ambience. Old movie songs played on the radio.
Archana and Sulochana Aai sat in one of the corner tables under a fan. While Sulochana asked for tea so that she could take her medicines, Archana looked here and there for Manav. He wasn't there.
"Archana, won't you eat something?" asked Sulochana. "You didn't even take your breakfast properly. Have a cold drink, or something like that at least.."
"No Aai," said Archana, trying to smile. "Aai, you sit here, I'll come in a while."
"Where are you going?"
She got up and went outside the canteen, her eyes scanning the courtyard to see whether she could see Manav anywhere. Finally she saw him sitting on the boundary wall of the corridor, noting down something in his diary, straining his eyes. She approached him quietly. But before she could reach him, a young boy in his 20's, whom she had never seen before, went and stood by Manav. "Hello!" he said, trying to smile.
Manav seemed taken aback. "Hello!" he replied back politely.
"Umm.. can I borrow your pen for a moment?"
Manav lent him his pen. The guy scribbled on a few papers. Archana went and stood near Manav, waiting for the guy to go away. Manav, meanwhile, couldn't help peering at the papers. 'Divorce' was written on the papers in big bold letters.
The young boy caught him. Manav turned his face away. "My divorce papers." He said, as if making things clear.
Manav nodded. "Don't be embarrassed, I'm in the same boat as you." He said, trying to smile.
"I know.." the boy said, a little hesitatingly. "In fact, I sat near you, because, I.."
"Go on.." Manav looked at Archana, asking her with his eyes why she was there. She in turn said she would wait. She sat down on the wall next to him, looking around.
"Umm.. actually, this is my first divorce hearing, and I came to know that this is your last divorce hearing, so can you please guide me as to what exactly is going to happen?"
Manav nodded. "What's your name?"
"Okay." Said Manav. "Since it is your first hearing, they will simply ask you the reasons for seeking divorce. If it is mutual consent, things will be easier. If not, then the court will decide whether the grounds for granting divorce are justified or not. If property dispute is there, again, coming to a decision becomes difficult. Is it a mutual consent divorce?"
Arvind shook his head. "My wife wants a divorce," he said, looking at his hands.
Manav felt bad. This was a case just like him. "I understand. The court will look into the reason for demanding divorce- if it severe and recognized by law, then court shall agree to it."
"I slapped my wife." Said Arvind, still looking down. "She left home cos of it, and hasn't returned since then. Will court grant her divorce?"
Manav pondered. "I don't know." He said. "My lawyer is not here, else he could have advised you on this.."
Arvind looked terribly downcast. "I don't know why it happened to me. One year ago, when we got married, I was very sure everything would be great. She's a nice girl, and we have been in a committed relationship for 6 years now. In spite of that, within 2 months of marriage, we started having problems. She couldn't adjust with my family. She didn't like the way we lived together. She felt my people were nosy and my relatives came too often. Every few days, she would go away to her parents house. Six months ago, she started demanding to live separately. I'm the only son of my parents, my sister will get married in a few years and then my Mother will be all alone. How can I leave my family in this manner?"
Manav was touched. "I understand."
"She didn't, apparently." He continued sadly. "She always kept asking me why I kept ignoring that my Mom nitpicked on her small mistakes, or that my sister borrowed things without asking. But I say, are these so severe grounds as to live separately? Don't we adjust this much even with our own family members? When I pointed it to her.. she said I was biased.. I didn't say anything back then, but one day she said something rude to my Mom, I couldn't bear it and .." he stopped. "She hasn't come back since that day."
Manav cleared his throat. "This is the story of every house today." He said. "Most young people do not want to adjust. Women are independent today in every aspect. They have their own way of life and they want to live according to it only. I have a few friends who too had to face the predicament of making a choice like this one- they too had to choose between family and wife. Ultimately all of them chose their wives, of course, but their decision to separate was not wholehearted."
Arvind nodded sadly.
"That is why when I got married, I clarified beforehand to my mother-in-law what place my family holds for me." Said Manav. "I hold the family together, my younger siblings look upto me and depend on me for the same reason. I told her quite clearly, that I do not wish for a wife who would try to break me from them. Rather I want a wife who would want to share these responsibilities with me. Yes, when birds grow up, they are supposed to leave their parents and settle in their own nests- but we are human beings, not birds or animals. Our ability to be fair and not just be guided by instincts is what separates us from them. I would never leave my family in the lurch."
"Most women nowadays don't agree to all this. They do not want their brothers to leave their parents, but they themselves do not want to adjust with their in-laws. Maybe some do, but most want a nuclear family. It makes things difficult for the men of the house. Didn't people adjust and live happily in the past? Why is it not possible now? And why do we guys have to take the difficult step each time? Now look at me, I have always been very close to my Mom and my sis. My Dad died when I was very small, and we have always been a closely knit family. Alright, my Mom nags her a little, but she is good and thoughtful and treats her well. Is it such a big crime that my wife comes and demands me to separate from them?" said Arvind, shaking his head.
"Finding solutions to these problems post marriage is always difficult." Said Manav. "That is why, it is better to clear things at the outset. I may be getting divorced from my wife, but for one thing I will give credit to my wife- she never asked me to chose. If she had asked me, maybe her image in my heart would have got a little tarnished. I have my priorities in place- I cannot leave my family. I was 15 when my twins siblings were born. I have literally brought them up like my children. I have seen my Aai surviving my Baba's alcoholism and the ugly turn it took at times. Knowing that Baba is still like that, I can't trust him to be the patriarch of the house any more. I don't trust him with such responsibilities, since he hasn't fulfilled any in the past. Being the eldest son, the duty to safeguard my family, look out for their happiness- financially, emotionally, mentally- it all falls on me. Anyways, I love my family. And in this aspect I have been terribly lucky- my wife understood my situation and never made demands like that, even though my family is not really perfect. She tried to adjust with them instead of looking the other way."
Arvind nodded. "I wish my wife was half as understanding as yours is." He said sadly.
Manav nodded. Both sat quietly for a while. Finally Manav turned to Archana, who was looking very thoughtful. "What happened?"
"Urm.. nothing." Said Archana, suddenly coming out of her thoughts. "I was just.. surprised.. thinking where you ran away.. so I.."
"I'm here only. Come Arvind, lets go to the canteen. You'll feel better."
Arvind nodded. All three made way to the canteen.
Archana was down in the dumps after hearing Manav's talks with Arvind. Somehow, the thought started arising in her heart again that Manav wouldn't agree to what she was going to put forward in front of him. He wouldn't separate, in fact, the little respect he had for her would also be ruined forever. She was in a turmoil as she wondered what to do- should she tell Manav that she wished to separate not cos she couldn't adjust with them, but bcos HIS family had made life hell for her? That she couldn't live with them anymore? Or would be say cold-bloodedly that she didn't know 'how to adjust' and refuse to acknowledge the faults of his own mother?
Would he realize it was not a question of adjustment, but a criminal activity of which he was completely unoblivious?
Would he understand and accept that the Aai whom he loved and worshipped was a monster from which Archana wanted to free herself?
Would he understand that by supporting them, he actually enabled their vices?
Would he go against them for her sake, that too when he loved his family so much that he ignored their little mistakes and never wanted to part with them?
Would he chose love over his responsibility?
Her mind was clouded with these thoughts when she came back to the canteen. Manav and Arvind went and sat on a separate table, while she returned to her Aai. Sulochana Aai looked at him.
"Did you go to talk to him?"
Archana fumbled. "No Aai, I.."
Aai was furious. "Archana, you have your divorce in a few hours! Why are you bent on ruining things for yourself at the last moment? What do you want now?" Archana looked down helplessly, and a tear rolled down her cheek. "I won't do anything now Aai."
This seemed to calm her Aai. Archana too sat silently. She observed Manav and Arvind- they were sitting and talking about something. Guys made friends so quickly- not like her, who had no one to help her, console her, understand her right now.
She looked glumly at the dirty table in front of her. The radio meanwhile, turned to its next song, a classic song from the movie Guide. It was the same song which Manav had sung for her when he and his family had come to see her formally, and Vaishali had asked him to sing a song so that they too could 'judge' the boy.
She looked at Manav. She could see he was very uncomfortable, he kept looking here and there and drinking water from the glass in front.
Finally, the dreaded lyrics, which Manav had sung for her, came up.
'Lakh manale duniya, saath nay eh chhootega
Aake tere haathon mein, haanth na ye chhootega
O mere jeevan sathi'
Tere.. mere .. sapne.. ab ek rang hain..
Ho oh.. jahan bhi le jayein rahein.. hum sang hain..
Ho on.. tere.. mere.. sapne.. ab ek.. rang hain!'
All of a sudden, she saw Manav getting up from the table and walking away. Arvind looked surprised and confused, wondering what had happened to make him upset so suddenly.
But Archana knew. And it was perhaps only she who knew.
It was almost 11 'o' clock. Still three hours.
They were sitting quietly in the canteen when Sulochana got a call on Vinod's phone.
"Hello.. yes.. what? Are.. but.. Arey I can't go.. I'm with Archu.. you go na.."
Archana looked at her Aai, confused. Finally Sulochana Aai ended the call, looking annoyed.
"Punni's school bus won't be coming today again." She said, in a huff. "The school authorities phoned Manjusha to come and pick her from school at 12.30, but Manjusha is saying she can't go."
"Then call Dada.."
"How? His phone is with me!"
Archana pondered about it. "Then you shall have to go Aai."
Sulochana looked disturbed. "I don't want to go leaving you here alone. I will call your Baba.. but even he has gone to the bank.. we should all have cell phones!" she grunted.
Archana smiled. "Aai, I'll be okay. Siddhant will anyway be coming in a few minutes. You please go and get Punni from school."
Sulochana looked displeased. "Why can't Manjusha take a half day leave and fetch her own child? Oh yes, she is saving leaves for a vacation!"
Archana ignored. "Aai, I think you should start for Punni's school now. It is quite far from here, you have to reach there by 12.30 or Punni will start feeling scared."
Sulochana looked uncomfortable. "Archana, promise me you will not do any foolishness." She said, looking at her in the eye. Archana nodded. "I'll come back as soon as I can after dropping Punni home. I will definitely come in time for your court case," said Sulochana.
After sulochana left, Archana had nothing to do. She sat and listened to the songs, looked here and there and ultimately got fed up. She wondered where Manav was, and whether she should still try and talk to him. It was better to talk, she decided. He could hate her later if he wanted to. At least her own mind would be clear.
She came out of the canteen and wandered about. Finally she saw Arvind again, but this time he was sitting alone. "Umm.. did you see my husband?" she asked him.
Arvind looked surprised. "Why yes! He went to the temple."
"There is a temple here?" Archana questioned. Arvind pointed at the outline of a temple on the other side of the road. Well, it was a good thing, thought Archana. She needed strength on the biggest day of her life. She made her way to the temple too.
She walked into the temple to see Manav, who was prostrating. There was no one else, no priest, no devotees, not even any beggar. Only the idol of Ganpati Bappa smiled at her welcomingly and encouragingly.
At that moment, Manav got up and turned. He was amazed to see her and wondered if she had followed him till there. Archana felt nervous. "Its Sankashti today." She clarified. He nodded.
She rang the bell and was about to pray, when Manav interrupted her.
"I wanted to give you something."
She turned to look at him. His eyes looked very sincere.
He put his hand into the pocket of his trousers and took out his wallet and kept it on the 'daan peti' in the temple, similarily he took out his cell and a no. of other things until he finally got what he wanted-something like a silver piece of mirror tied to a black string.
"What is this?"
"I don't know whether you remember or not.." he said slowly and thoughtfully. "You said once that you liked my locket, and I had promised you that I would get it for you from Haji Ali. This is the one which I brought for you.. I had been there on.."
"..the night before everything went wrong.." he wanted to say, but didn't say, thinking it would only lead her to believe that there was no power in his faith or the locket.
Archana looked uncomfortable.
"It helps one make the right decisions in life." He said. "Keep it."
He handed it to her, and she took it hesitatingly. He started putting the contents of his pocket back. "Umm.. Manav.." she said, gathering all her courage. "I need to talk to you."
"Is there anything left to talk?"
"Yes." She said. "Can you please meet me outside the temple?"
Manav nodded. He went outside and wore his slippers. Then he sat under a banyan tree.
Archana meanwhile prayed to Ganpati Bappa for strength and luck. "I am going to speak to him now God, please help me," she prayed fervently. This was probably her last chance.
She opened her eyes.
A cell phone kept on the 'daan peti' was ringing loudly.
Manav's cell phone! 'thought Archana. How could he just forget his cell phone anywhere, she thought slightly annoyed. That too, when he had already lost his phone once and this was his second one, she thought. She picked up the phone and looked for him, but couldn't find him. It was an unknown number. She picked up the call.
There was silence on the other end. "Umm.. Mr. Manav Deshmukh?"
A lady's voice.. thought Archana. "I am his WIFE speaking." She said, stressing on the 'wife' part.
The voice on the other end seemed relieved. "Oh okay! Manav..?"
"He's not here at the moment. Can I pass on a message?"
"Yes please! Tell him that Dr. Deshpande won't be able to come to Mumbai this week, so ask him not to come to hospital tomorrow. Dr. Ritika shall talk to Dr. Deshpande on phone and take another appointment."
Archana was zapped. What was all this?
"Umm.. hospital..?" she said, not knowing what to say.
The woman at the other end seemed surprised. "Why Tata Memorial of course.. ask him not to come to Tata Memorial hospital to meet Dr. Ritika and Dr. Deshpande tomorrow. Thanks."
The call ended on the other side. But nothing made sense to Archana.
The only thing that made sense was that Manav had to meet some doctors.
She didn't know. And she didn't want to think of the obvious.
Old friends, maybe, she said to herself.
Difficult, she thought. She knew almost the whole of Manav's friend circle, and there was certainly no doctor in it. Could it be someone known to Vedant.. since he was trying for medical college? Who knows?
The 'obvious' came up in the mind again. Was Manav ill, she thought, getting a little worried. Yes, maybe he was..
Rubbish!- she thought. She had stayed in that chawl for some days and knew that whenever anyone at home was ill, he/she was taken to the nearby neighbourhood general practioner, or if required, then to the nearby civil hospital.. unless..
She didn't want to think ahead.
Maybe he wanted to follow up the injury on his head, she reasoned. Yes, he had told her last time (when she had caught him in train with prescriptions) that he had been told to follow up, but he wouldn't have called for a specialist from outside Mumbai.. unless..
She could ignore it no longer.
Unless it was something the neighbourhood doctor couldn't treat, or the civil hospital didn't have facilities of!
Tension started rising in Archana's heart now. Tata Memorial was not a cheap hospital. In fact, it was one of the biggest super speciality hospitals of Mumbai.
Why was Manav going to such a big hospital?
What was the necessity? Was he SO ill?
But he didn't look ill to her! He looked just fine! Then why..?
But then she wasn't a doctor na! She couldn't tell whether he was fine or not just by his external appearance. Who knows maybe he was ill?
But Tata Memorial..??? Specialists?
She tried to dismiss her negative thoughts and think rationally, but she couldn't help panicking. She had started sweating badly now. She tried to comfort herself that she was thinking too much. Manav would have told her if there had been something serious- she was his wife after all. But then suddenly, her inner self gave her a rude shock.
Manav had NOT told her of his financial problems. She had come to know through the bank.
He had NOT told her of his family problems or that Sachin had left the house. She had come to know through Vaishali.
He had NOT told her he was being pressurized to marry Shravani. She had eavesdropped on that conversation.
Manav had indeed hidden many things from her ever since the divorce proceedings had started. Was there more to this list? Had Manav hidden more things from her?
Was he suffering from some serious medical condition of which she had no idea?
She didn't know. She looked at her watch. It was 11.30, and she had plenty of time to go and talk to Manav about everything. The curtains needed to rise from a lot of things now. She had a lot of questions and she wanted answers to all of them.
But maybe it was a woman's intuition which screamed at her and told her not to talk to Manav..
It told her he would be indifferent.
It told her he would hide again.
It told her to go find the truth for herself.
In a daze she walked out of the temple. Manav met her at the gate. "You wanted to say something..?" he said.
She looked at him for a moment, hoping to find out the answers to many questions her mind was searching. Instead she shook her head, leaving him more confused than ever. She walked to the other side of the road, stopped a taxi and got in.
"Tata Memorial Hospital."
More coming up soon.
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Part 69 (subpart 2)
Archana looked at Dr. Ritika brazenly as she stared back at her through her specs.
"It's a tumour of the meninges- the outer coverings of the brain. It occurs commonly in the 3rd decade of life." Explained Dr. Ritika. "I'll not get into too many details, but yes, there is a tumour growing inside Manav's skull, for which he has come here for treatment."
She flipped a few CT scans in front of her, and put up one to show Archana. "Here it is." She said, pointing at a weird mass behind what looked like Manav's orbit. "It lies behind his eye ball. And so, as it grows, it COMPRESSES the eye ball. You may have noticed Manav isn't able to read clearly or do intricate work at near distance these days. Its because of this only. Also, he has chronic headache since the last 4 months or so, which is because of an increase in the intra cranial pressure (due to the mass)."
She turned back to look at Archana. "Are you okay?" she asked cautiously.
Archana looked up. Of course she was not okay. The colour had totally gone from her face. She looked confused, scared, worried, angry, disappointed- her face was a mosaic of everything that was going on in her heart at the moment. Her nervousness was only too apparent as she sat making knots of her sari. She looked at the CT scans in front of her- as if expecting them to do some magic to cure Manav. Of course, nothing happened.
The doctor raised an eyebrow. "You okay?"
Archana gulped. "Since when.."
"No idea." Said Dr. Ritika. "Manav complained of headaches since the last 4 months or even before that, which didn't get cured inspite of any medication. He got an eye check up done, and was told he needed specs. Just two days back his tumour has been diagnosed." The doctor suddenly felt uncomfortable. "You said you are his wife, didn't Manav tell you all this?"
Tears welled up in Archana's eyes as she sat with her head low. She shook her head.
Dr. Ritika cleared her throat. "Anyways, that doesn't change the situation, does it?" she said, trying to ease the matter, putting the scan back in her file.
Archana looked at Dr. Ritika. "Dr., will he be alright?" she asked tearfully.
"If the surgery is successful, he will be alright."
Archana did not say anything for sometime. She fought hard to control her tears. "How can Bappa do this to a good guy like him?" she muttered angrily, unable to control herself.
The doctor was irked by this. "So you mean to say good people cannot fall ill? That they must have a healthy fulfilling life even if there are garbage dumps with mosquitoes around them? That their genes for any kind of disease must be miraculously suppressed cos they are 'good', against science? Is this what you expect?"
Archana looked scared. She didn't know what to say.
"Stop blaming god for everything." Said the doctor. "If you want to go into the karmic cycle of 'he's so good, how could he fall ill', then look into all the seven lives- maybe he wasn't so 'good' in all of them? Maybe it's the punishment now?"
Archana felt bad on being ridiculed by the doctor. She couldn't control herself from sobbing any more. Silently she sat and wept for Manav.
Dr. Ritika slapped her head. She shouldn't have been so harsh. The lady in front had just got a shock, and needed a little time to let it sink in. She got up from her seat and over to the other side of the table, where Archana was sitting. She slid in to the seat next to her and took her hand.
"Listen Archana, I'm sorry. I think I've been a little harsh to you. I just get a little irritated when people mix philanthropy and philosophy with science. I'm sorry."
Archana didn't say anything. "And Archana, you know what, Manav is not so unlucky, he has very good chances to get cured. Bappa has 'rewarded' for being a good guy, in your language."
Archana looked up. "What do you mean," she asked a little hopefully.
Dr. Ritika sat to explain. "Archana, when does a patient come to a doctor? When he/she has some complaints, some problems. In other words, a patient comes to a doctor when the disease starts showing its effects or symptoms. Manav had JUST two complaints- headache and diminished vision- and they are certainly NOT such which would make a person suspect a brain tumour and come running to an oncologist or a neurologist, who would then conduct tests to confirm the disease. A person who goes to a doctor with these complaints is given specs and told to go. That's it. In Manav's case, the tumour condition is not so severe as of now, it seems to have just started a few months back- hence the lack of more specific complaints like diplopia, vomiting, epileptic seizures and so on! I had a similar case like Manav last year- he came when his eye vision had deteriorated pretty badly, he had vomiting and epilepsy attacks too and his ophthalmologists could not figure out was wrong for some time. Early stage cases like Manav do not come in so soon, simply cos their condition is not so developed to indicate the more severe and specific signs of cancer or tumour, which make us prescribe tests for them and lead to identification of disease."
Archana was confused. "Then how did Manav get diagnosed?"
"Manav got hit on the head." Said Dr. Ritika. "Twice. Once when he was attacked by some goons, and once when he crashed his head on glass."
Archana remembered. Yes indeed!- Manav had had a fight with Ajit's friends, and he had crashed into a glass window once after their first hearing. It had happened in front of her. (Go back to the previous parts for this one)
"After he got hit, he came for bandage and dressing etc, and was told to get a CT scan done to rule out any internal injury. The tumour was seen both times. First time, the doctor dismissed it as some internal bleeding (both look quite similar on CT) and gave treatment for that, but when it was discovered in the second CT too- he panicked and asked Manav if he had had any neurological problems- after which Manav confirmed he had some problems from the last 4 months. It was after that the other tests were done and diagnosis confirmed. Manav himself came to know just two days back."
Archana stared at the doctor. She couldn't understand why the doctor seemed so excited.
"Manav is lucky in that aspect." Said Dr. Ritika. "He got hit and it gave him pain, yeah true, but if that hadn't happened, he would not have come to know about his tumour till a long time, and then who knows what would have happened. We used to read in medical school that meningiomas can be detected incidentally, but this is the first time I've actually seen such a case."
"That doesn't change things much, unfortunately," said Archana in a small voice. "He will still need to be operated, I guess."
"Yes, but the odds are good." Said Dr. Ritika. "It can be a plain benign tumour, or a cancer. The first one doesn't spread. The second one does, and is very dangerous. As of now, the clinical symptoms don't make me think that it is cancer, or even if it is, its in a prelimnary stage. We can overcome it through a surgery, and once it is taken out, the histology tests (examination under microscope) will confirm what it is. Again, meningiomas are rarely cancerous, but we cannot take a chance. If it's a cancer, Manav may need some radiotherapy, if not, then the treatment ends!"
The doctor looked at Archana. She hung her head.
"You might be thinking that I can't understand your feelings, right Archana." Said Dr. Ritika softly. "Trust me, its not like that. I can understand what you are going through right now. You know what, I have been an oncologist since 12 years now. Many people come to me in the late stages of cancer, and there are only few I am able to restore to normal living. As such, when I get a case like this, in which I find hope for the patient- I feel happy about it, rather than muttering and groaning about why God did this to him. Go look into the ward to see little children suffering from leukemia Archana, then you will thank God for being kind to Manav. We must look for the positives in life and derive strength from them."
Archana nodded. "It is difficult for me, however. Comparing our problems with others doesn't make ours any less. Manav is also suffering." The words pierced her heart. A tear flowed down one eye.
"I know. All I'm trying to say is that you need to be strong now. I know you are worried, but trust me, things WILL be fine. There is no point in sitting and crying. There is a struggle ahead for Manav and you need to support him in this, he needs strength from his loved ones right now. If you fall weak and cry, then how will he contain himself. No, stop crying now." she wiped away Archana's tears. "Stop crying. He will get better, just hope for the best, and get him operated soon. That is more important now. We have the biggest advantage in our hands- time- don't lose it. Later, all the money and the best medical facilities may not be able to give this advantage."
Archana nodded. She wiped her tears quietly. Dr. Ritika offered her a glass of water. She accepted it.
"I have explained things to Manav." Said Dr. Ritika. "He took it all very bravely. We have started with getting things organized."
Archana took in a deep breath. She felt a bit better now that the news had started sinking in.
"How did you get involved in this case?" Archana asked Dr. Ritika.
"Dr. Mansukhani is handling this case primarily. He is a neurosurgeon. You know Tarun Kapoor? His family doctor recommended me to Manav after the initial few reports."
Archana felt as if the sky had fallen on her. "Tarun knows about Manav?" she asked, horrified.
"Why, yes of course! In fact he was the one who came with Manav the first time.. why what happened?"
Archana shook her head. No point in discussing these things with the doctor, who was unaware of these personal equations.
Dr. Ritika looked at her watch. "Its 12.30 Archana, I have an appointment, so could you please..?"
Archana nodded. She wiped her tears and stood up. Dr. Ritika squeezed her hand.
"Your husband will depend on all of you to lead him now Archana." She said. "Treatment for cancer or tumour can be very strenuous mentally as well as physically. Every person needs some kind of support. And I guess your husband is scared of hospitals anyway- he said it to me last time he was here." (Manav also says it to Varsha in Part 51). "So be strong for him."
Archana gulped her tears. "Just one more question."
Dr. Ritika nodded.
"Is radiotherapy a painful process?"
Dr. Ritika looked at Archana for a minute, not knowing what to say. Or rather, how to say.
Archana felt gloomy. "Thankyou doctor," she said.
Slowly, she came out of the room. She walked slowly, directionless, without an eye or thought for anything around her, her mind only on what had passed, or rather what had been revealed to her in the last half an hour.
Why had this happened with Manav, she asked herself. Why had God done this with him? In spite of whatever the doctor had said and explained she couldn't help being angry with Ganpati Bappa. Wasn't he suffering enough? Now he had to go through an operation! Why was God making Manav suffer more, she thought, as angry tears flowed down her cheeks. She wanted to control herself- She had unleashed the pain inside her to some extent by crying, and that had made her feel more at ease. But now she couldn't stop crying at all. The moment she gathered courage and made herself quiet, a fresh volley of tears would come up as she remembered the doctor's words.
Then suddenly she stopped midway as she remembered something else. Tarun had known about all this. And had yet not told her. For the record even Manav had hidden this from her.
Why? Why had they acted in this manner? So what if they were living separately, wasn't she Manav's wife? Wasn't she a part of his life? Didn't she deserve to know this? How could Manav do this? Hadn't he thought even once of how bad and shocked she would feel if she came to know about all this from others, that too from complete strangers? Hadn't he thought how utterly depressing and humiliating it was to know that her own husband had hidden such a big news from her- cos a brain surgery was certainly not something that one went through every other day.
She thought for a moment, then wiped her tears firmly and made her way to Tarun's office.
"So you came to know."
Tarun, folded his arms as he looked at Archana, who was standing across his table.
"Yes." She said, her eyes breathing fire. "I came to know inspite of your and Manav's attempts to hide things from me. What did you think, I would never come to know?"
Tarun did not say anything. Archana continued.
"I am so disappointed by you Tarun." She said, looking at the ground. "I had not expected you to do this, considering you are part of my family now."
"I am Manav's friend and Vaishali's fianc." Tarun corrected her. " I have never felt like I was part of your.." he controlled himself from saying 'stupid'. "..of your family. My first loyalty is always with Manav. He wasn't comfortable in telling you, so I didn't tell."
"NOT COMFORTABLE!!??!!" repeated Archana, absolutely shocked. "Has Manav forgotten that I am his wife? I have a RIGHT to know what is happening in his life!"
Tarun raised an eyebrow. "And does Manav have a right to preserve his self-respect?"
Archana didn't understand. Tarun took in a deep breath.
Tarun's office, two days ago.
The office staff had gone home, but the lights in Tarun's cabin were still shining brightly. Tarun sat behind his big desk, thinking deeply. In front of him, Manav sat as if in a daze, looking very disturbed.
Tarun finally broke the silence. "When did you come to know?" he asked.
"A little while ago." Said Manav in a small voice.
Manav nodded. "But they will be able to say if it is a cancer or not with absolute certainity only after the surgery. They say that after they excise it, it will be observed in the lab. If it is found cancerous, then I may require radiotherapy."
Manav looked down again, and Tarun went back into his thoughts.
"Life is weird Manav." He said finally. "One curve ball after another."
Manav nodded. "I don't know what is happening." He said. "Its as if I have lost control over my own life. Everything goes wrong in everything I try to do, and now this."
He rested his head on his hand. Tarun got up and sat near him.
"Manav, we'll face this together, just as we have faced everything together. You're a strong guy, you'll face it this time too.."
"I'm tired of being strong Tarun!" said Manav with a sigh, closing his eyes. "My Aai always used to say that God tests his dearest ones more, but how much now? How much more will I be tested?"
Tarun patted his shoulder. "How did the family react?" he said, after a few minutes silence.
"I haven't told them now." said Manav. "There are still a few more tests to be done, which will decide the further course of action, date of surgery etc. Let things get a little more clearer and specific then I'll tell them. No use dropping the bomb early. In any case, the responsibility to handle it is going to fall on my shoulders, just like every other responsibility, and anyway I'm not in the mood for any more guilt trips right now."
The last line was said with a slight laugh, sarcasm almost. Tarun found it weird. "What do you mean Manav?"
Manav gave a sarcastic smile. "From the day my problems have started, Aai has been going on and on about how I have not been a good son, brother or provider- how I have made foolish decisions which cost the family a lot of money and brought them under debts, how I haven't provided adequately for the kids," he swallowed. "I wonder how she will react now when she comes to know I need more money for the surgery, and even worse, I won't be bringing any money in the house for at least two months when I am in the hospital. Obviously she will highlight all my previous actions again and go on and on about how wrong I was when I did this and that and used up all my savings on court case etc. I still shudder to think what she will do and say when she comes to know that I used up my Medical Insurance to arrange money for the divorce lawyer."
Tarun looked at Manav. There was not a tear in his eye, but his words reflected his loneliness.
"I really wonder how she will react." He continued. "Will she start cursing Archana again, or will she blame me for my lack of managing skills, or will she.."
"Manav why are you saying in this manner?" said Tarun, getting teary eyed. "I know Savita Aai has blamed you very unfairly on many occasions and gone too far in giving you guilt trips, but inspite of all this, she loves you- and you know that too. She is angry with you, but that doesn't mean she hates you."
"I know Tarun," said Manav softly. "But lately, the way she behaves with me makes me feel as if I'm a burden who could never provide her or her children with anything in life, inspite of the fact that she loved me equally as her other children. I could not do anything for my family despite being the eldest son. And that she thinks the same. She even said it to me one day." Said Manav, remembering the day he had refused Shravani for marriage. Savita Aai had lashed out calling him selfish and ungrateful.
Tarun could not say anything.
"I know when I tell her, she will take care of me and fend for me, look out for me like she has always done," Manav continued. "But somehow, this time I won't be myself at all- I'll be feeling very guilty, nothing else. I had never thought such a day would come. I don't know Tarun, I'm just not comfortable,I need a little time, maybe I should just let this sink in, let the reports etc come out, let me plan out things ahead, after that I'll tell them."
"Tell the rest of them at least?"
Manav smiled a little. "Whom to tell Tarun? Vedant Vandita? Tarun they are kids! Is it not enough that the poor ones are being dragged in the fights and struggles of the house? And anyway what will they do? What can they do? How are they going to control and handle a depressed me? Who else is left- Baba! Well, he needs to come out of his alcoholic state so that I can speak to him. I wonder if there is any use telling him anything at all- he fights every misery and every problem with alcohol- any unfortunate event in the family- he drowns himself in alcohol. It started with his unemployment, continued after my mother's death and has only worsened now. Just look at him right now- at the time when I am involved in financial problems, my divorce case, Sachin has left the house- what is he doing? NOTHING, except emptying bottles of alcohol down his throat and praying to Bappa to solve the problems of our house. The fact of my life is that I have no one right now. At the end of it, everything I have to manage on my own only, just like I have managed everything on my own for the last 15 years, ever since I took up responsibility of the house. And its not by choice, rather its cos I have no other way out."
Tarun felt sad to hear this.
"I wish Sachin was here." Said Manav longingly. "I would have told him. But then again, I don't know whether to keep any expectations from him now."
Tarun nodded. "All of it boils down to expectations."
"Exactly." Said Manav with a deep breath, gazing softly at the ground. "You know Tarun, I always followed a rule- don't keep high expectations from people, especially from those who have broken them once. But somehow, each and every one of them failed to stand true on even the smallest of expectations I ever made from them. That is why I have zero expectations from all of them now, inspite of knowing that they love me and care for me. You know me, I have always been like that."
"I know." Nodded Tarun. "I know it well. You have always been like that."
"That's why I don't feel like telling anyone at the moment. Knowing their behavior over the past week or so, I don't know what to expect from them, or whether there is anything good in trying to expect from them. Sorry to say, but my family is hopeless. At the moment, I doubt they can give me even proper emotional support."
He tried to laugh, but his laughter seemed hollow. It resounded of sadness.
"I'm a bad person to think like this of my family." Said Manav.
Tarun felt his eyes moistening. "No Manav, everyone has a tolerance limit. I understand. At one point everyone gets fed up of the nonsense they have to deal with and then at the time of struggle they choose to handle things in their own manner."
Manav leaned back against the chair. "I think I need some time to let it sink in. I will tell them,I have to, eventually, but not now. Let a few reports come out, let things get clearer, as of now my divorce mess too hasn't sorted out- let it end, then I'll jump to the next problem. Lets take things one at a time."
The word divorce reminded Tarun of Archana. "Manav, did you tell Archana?"
Manav looked at him. "About what?"
"About your condition stupid! What else!"
Manav shrugged. "Why to tell her?"
Tarun couldn't believe his ears. "What are you saying? Are you nuts?"
"What weird thing am I saying?" asked Manav, as if Tarun was the one who was out of mind. "Why does she need to know this?"
"Manav, she is your wife!"
"Only for two days." Said Manav flatly. "Wife of two days. That too only legal wife on paper. Nothing else. After two days, even that is going to end. When we are getting divorced anyway, then why bother telling her all this? She is not the one with whom I'm supposed to share my joys and sorrows now!"
Tarun was stumped. Yes, whatever Manav said was logically right. But still he felt uncomfortable. "Manav, but still, we have to tell her na.. she has a right to know.."
"Tarun, do you really think Archana has that much of concern for me?"
Tarun was shocked. Manav was staring at him coldly.
"I guess yes.." he tried to speak.
"Wrong." Said Manav. "She will be no more concerned for me than she is concerned for a sick beggar on the roadside. So many misfortunes have occurred, what difference has it made in her approach towards me, except a few words of sympathy everytime?"
"Manav.. listen to me.."
"No Tarun YOU listen to me." Said Manav firmly. "You were not there in my shoes the day she yelled at me in front of everyone saying she hated the sight of my face and that I was somehow involved in her life. You were not there in my shoes the day she told me to stop bugging her and get out of her life. You were not there the day she told me that I had ruined her life. You were not there when Sulochana Aai repeatedly cursed me and Vinod told me he would call the police if I went to the Karanjkar house again."
Tarun kept quiet.
"After all this embarrassment and being told repeatedly that I am unwanted, that I am a useless rock in their lives, a poison that they had to swallow and now regret- after all this Tarun with what face can I go to them and beg that -"Hey listen I'm ill, Archana please come back to take care of me!"- Do you have the slightest idea of how PATHETIC it sounds to go and beg in front of those same people who have told me in very clear words that they want nothing to do with me? How can I even expect anything from them?"
Tarun could not say anything after all this. He held Manav's hand which was shaking terribly.
"I know Archana is very soft hearted." Manav continued. "Despite all her hatred for me, if she comes to know I'm ill and lonely, she will sympathise with me and might even feel obligated to come back cos legally she is my wife. But I don't want my illness to force her to come back to me on humanitarian grounds, when actually she is wishing so badly for the marriage to get over. This is not true concern, this is charity. I don't want to emotionally influence her indirectly to come back. Plus I don't want charity."
"And the worst thing," said Manav grimly. "I even doubt if they will believe I'm saying the truth. Who knows Manjusha or Ajit will again say that this is my plan to emotionally manipulate Archana and get her back? Knowing their nature, it is perfectly possible for them to do so. And knowing Archana's nature, she will always listen to them only. Not to me."
Tarun didn't say anything.
"No, I don't want to say anything to her." Said Manav to himself. "She and her family don't care anyway, I don't want to go through all of it again now. The matter has settled down, let it stay that way. I'd rather face it all myself- financially, mentally and physically."
"I know that Manav." Said Tarun softly. "Actually, I just wanted.. just wanted someone to be by your side all this while..", he hesitated, "..cos I won't be there with you na.."
Manav suddenly looked up at Tarun. And remembered.
"Oh yes!" he murmured. "You have to go to New York." The last statement was made in a pang of severe disappointment.
"Yes," said Tarun. "I am supposed to leave by the end of this week to handle the trouble in the New York office. Usi ki wajah se to Vaishali se jaldi sagai karni hai. I had no idea something like this could crop up.. I will try to postpone my trip.."
"Don't do anything like that." Said Manav. "You know there is serious trouble in your New York branch. Your business has been badly hit by the market crash. You delay this matter more and you might have to deal with more problems later."
"I know.." said Tarun, racking his brains. "Catch 22 situation. On one hand, I feel I should be here with you, cos you are right now not comfortable in sharing things with the rest of the people. On the other hand, I'm also feeling that it would be better for me to go and handle matters- I am of more use to you if I am financially stable." He looked up at Manav. "Don't you dare refuse to take money now." he said sternly. "I know you have no savings."
Manav nodded. "I'm not a fool. Yes, of course I shall take money from you if I need to. You're closer to me than my family, and the only one I can truly count on as of now. But just like I'm trying to fight this situation thinking of my family and my position in their lives, you must also go to New York and handle the mess there for your family's sake. You are the only son of your house Tarun, and the sole heir. All these years you didn't work and your father managed everything for so long. Just recently you have started working and given him a chance to take rest from his office load. You must continue Tarun. I know you feel for me, but you have responsibilities towards your family also."
Tarun looked uncomfortable and displeased. "I think I should stay with you here. I will send someone else to New York in my place.." But Manav shook his head.
"You are trying to run from the situation Tarun." Said Manav. "Such difficult phases come up in everyone's life. But fighting against it, facing it is what makes us stronger. Am I not fighting? Have I given up? No na? Then you must also continue to fulfill your responsibility. The world doesn't revolve only around me. There are other factors also. If your office closes down, a lot of employees will lose their jobs- never forget that."
Tarun hung his head. "But Manav how will you manage everything alone?" he said, almost in a whisper. "Already you were having problems from all corners- financial problems, family problems, marital problems, emotional problems, and now physical health problems and mental stress have been added. You have no ally, you are getting divorced, and your relationship with your family is also not good.."
"Its not like that Tarun," said Manav softly. "Its just that I need some time to tell them- right now I'm just not feeling strong enough or sorted enough to tell them. But I know that when I do, they might shout at me, give me a guilt trip or too, but will all chip in and take care of me."
"But when are you going to tell?"
"Lets see. Just give me some time Tarun, I just came to know today." Begged Manav.
"Till then I'll handle it." He said, trying to smile. "Let me gain some stability first Tarun, right now I feel someone has sucked the strength out of me."
"Are you okay Manav?" asked Tarun with concern. Manav nodded his head slowly.
"I am." He said. "I'm just nervous. A little jittery as well. You know na Tarun- I'm the pillar of my family. Not just because I'm the earning member, but also because in any way- emotional, physical, psychological- I have been the shield for my family. I tried to safeguard them from all evils- poverty, villains, evils, taunts of people. Today also, I just don't bring money into the house, I protect Vandu against eve-teasers, handle the house with Aai, bring Baba home when he has fallen drunk in some lane, scold him, guide Sachin and Vedant, encourage vedant to pursue his dreams, ensure Sachin is not falling into bad company or taking disasterous decisions, prevent Aai from fighting with chawl people and so on. From changing a tube light in the drawing room and renewing the ration card to something as major as paying for school fees or taking care of Baba's health- everyone depends on me for everything. As such I feel nervous cos I know I can't afford to lose the battle, not even by a whisker."
"You won't Manav." Said Tarun, patting his shoulder. "The doctor said there are very good chances."
"I know." Said Manav. "Even if there were no chances, I would have fought and now also I will fight. Cos I know my family members sleep peacefully at night cos they know Manav is there to keep watch on them. Manav Deshmukh needs to fight and be strong for them. I keep reminding myself this in order to get back my strength. I keep reminding it to myself that my family loves me, no matter if they've been unpleasant or unfair at the moment. I hope it helps me tell them soon, cos I know I won't be able to survive alone till the end."
"That's the spirit Manav." Said Tarun. "Take your time, calm yourself a little. You've got a shock, take things easy and tell your people when you feel like. Let the divorce get done with- you're already in am emotional mess bcos of that. But remember Manav, no matter in which part of the world I am, I will still be there with you. You will never be alone."
Tarun was standing at his window, looking at the view from his 12th story office. In the reflection in the glass window, he could see Archana, who had collapsed into a chair.
He walked upto her. "Water?"
She shook her head. Her eyes were red.
"I didn't want to tell you all this at first. I know it would hurt. Truth always hurts. But the truth is that going by your past behavior, Manav felt it would be useless to tell you anything. Anyway he was not comfortable. Even though he is lonely, he won't come to you ever. And he was right, in less than two hours the divorce will be done, so it doesn't make much of a difference anyway. When you have already decided to get divorced, then Manav's illness shouldn't be a criteria for you to deviate now. It doesn't change anything- neither the reasons for your divorce, nor the misunderstandings between both of you."
Archana looked at Tarun, not knowing what to say. She sat still for some time. She didn't know what to do.
"It's getting late." He said finally. "Come I'll drop you to court."
"I don't want to go."
"Now don't you start your nonsense." Said Tarun sternly. "The divorce matter has reached till here bcos of you. It has hurt Manav a lot, and even though he might not speak about it to you, but the truth is that he has a mountain of problems on his head. Let the divorce case at least end peacefully now. Don't prolong the matter unnecessarily cos of your whims and fancies or cos you are moved by Manav's story."
"Shut up!" said Tarun angrily. "Come with me."
He picked up his car keys and his coat and stormed out of the room. Slowly, Archana wiped her tears and followed him. The office staff stared at them as they walked out. Archana felt terrible. She just wanted to go somewhere and die.
Yes yes yes, for the first time in PR reloaded, we have a 3 part update. Third one is coming up soon, so stay hooked, (i.e. if you haven't left the FF already after this latest twist in the story)
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Final Subpart 3
A few minutes later, Archana stood outside the same building where she had been standing a few hours ago.
'BANDRA FAMILY COURT'
And yet the building looked so different now. Now it seemed like a prison.
She walked slowly towards the 'prison'. On her way, she passed through the spot where exactly 13 days ago, Manav had pulled her by the arm and asked her to reconsider her decision, but she had coldheartedly told him to free him for this 'cursed' marriage. This was the same place where a heartbroken Manav had asked her if she had no ounce of feelings for him, and she had answered in the affirmative, saying that she couldn't care less for him or wait for her name to be separated from his- that he disgusted her. This was the same place where she had seen Manav crumbling and walking back, defeated.
And the next thing she had heard was that Manav had signed divorce papers.
She closed her ears with her hands and her eyes to stop the scene from being played in her mind's eye- but her brain insisted on showing the same picture again- Manav's disappointed face as he came face to face with her after signing the divorce papers at Siddhant's office. That face had given her many sleepless nights, but today for the first time, she understood the intensity behind the disappointment and how much she had hurt him by constantly avoiding him and not standing on his expectations for the last 4 months.
She walked to a corner of the court, tears streaming down her face. Somewhere, she was reminded of a line that Manav had said long back, when they lived together:
"Its an insult to the relationship when husband-wife start HIDING things from each other."
Today the biggest insult had been caused to this relationship. Something more insulting and devastating than the divorce trial even. A husband, in his weakest moment, at the moment he most needed his wife, had not bothered to tell his wife anything.
But was it really his fault? Could she blame him for wanting to detach himself so desperately from her? Could she blame him for thinking that she was indifferent to him and could give him nothing except sympathy? Hadn't she told him quite clearly not to expect anything from her? Hadn't she put him down repeatedly by not supporting him openly, not only in the last 13 days, but ever since their separation- by cautiously staying away, keeping distance from him for fear of family, diplomatically hiding her support and affection for him- and later claiming to him that she had never cared for him, that all her actions had been mere formality in a bid to stay safe? Hadn't her family treated him like sh** inspite of all the good things he had tried to do for them? Hadn't she herself insulted him in front of the whole neighbourhood- irrespective of the fact that he was her husband and elder to her? Inspite of all her introspection and his goodness- had she taken a firm stand for him, a resolution that now it was this way or that? Had his earlier misfortunes affected her enough to make her return to him?
Then why in the world would he keep expectations from her? Why would he think she was someone who thought fondly of him and was a true well wisher?
She sat down in a corner, drawing her knees close to her and cried her heart out. Today for the first time she understood how shallow their relationship had become. There was once a time when even their separation had not been able to prevent them from getting close to each other. And today, there was not even a figment of that communication left. There was a time, when even though they were separate, they had been there for each other in their difficult times. Even though there were misunderstandings between them and they maintained a distance, yet they shared their problems with each other. And today, she hadn't been with Manav at the time when he needed her. Nor had he shared such an important thing with her.
There were problems earlier also, and there was separation earlier too. Then what had changed?
The answer lay inside the room against whose wall she was resting.
She was reminded of Dr. Ritika's words. "A benign tumour is something, which doesn't spread and doesn't harm the body much. It can be excised out and usually the problem ends there. A cancer however, SPREADS. It makes its way slowly and eats up the whole body, from its surface to its foundation."
Problems had always been there, maybe just like they were in any marriage. Manav and she had tried to work out their problems, their misunderstandings, in their own manner. But the decision to divorce had been like a crack on glass. From there things had just gone downhill.
What was there in those signatures that had corroded their relationship- she wondered? But she got the answer herself- there was nothing in those signatures. Everything lay in the intent behind the signatures. The decision to divorce signified that the couple had no place for each other in their lives, that they simply didn't care. Unlike earlier, when they had stuck together in their relationship inspite of problems, thus showing that somewhere they both wanted things to get better, divorce signified that they wanted to throw each other out like someone throws out a rotten tooth. After this there was nothing to expect except detachment.
Just like a marriage was holy bcos of the intent to protect, nourish and love selflessly and not bcos of its rituals, a divorce was sanctified not bcos of signatures but bcos the signatures signified intent- an intent to get separated. Perhaps that is why Manav had not considered at all that she was still a wife of two days. For him, the relationship had broken the day she had said she had no place for him in her life and wanted him to get out of her life by divorcing her. For him the marriage had ended that day and he had started detaching himself slowly. He had completed the last formality by signing divorce papers. How long they took to get legalized no longer made any difference to him.
"I should have never signed those damned papers," wept Archana. "Oh Lord, what did I do!"
She wept by herself for sometime more, hoping that her tears would stop, but somehow they didn't. Eventually however she straightened up when she saw someone approaching in quick fast steps.
"Archana where were you?" asked Manav, breathless. He tried to relax himself and then spoke again- "I and Siddhant went crazy looking for you. You didn't even have a cell phone!"
"Uh.. I.. actually.." she tried to speak.
"Forget all this now, our case is due in ten minutes. Come!" he turned and started walking, only to realize that Archana was standing rooted to the same spot. "Come quickly!"
He took her hand in his and started walking, pulling her along with him. Like a lifeless doll, Archana followed him to the courtroom, feeling extremely and uncomfortable. She could not understand whether it was bcos of the weather, nervousness or the fact that she hadn't eaten properly since morning- but she realized that she was sweating profusely and felt weak. She looked at Manav, and didn't know why it reminded her of the Saptapadi ritual during their marriage, when they had walked seven steps hand in hand.
They entered the court room which was buzzing with noise. Siddhant seemed relieved to see them and instructed them to stand in the centre. Manav led Archana there. And then left her hand.
It was then that the monsters started coming back to her. She felt as if the walls of the court were laughing at her. She could hear sound of people calling them a divorced couple. She could hear people asking her to go along the divorce which she had wanted so badly, and jeering at her saying why she was hesitating at the last moment now. She closed her ears with her hands and shut her eyes again.
"Archana," someone shook her.
She opened her eyes. It was Manav.
"What happened?" he asked with concern.
She didn't know what had happened. She didn't know what was happening. All she saw at that moment was the man who had always loved her without demanding anything from her, who had given into what SHE wanted everytime, even divorce, cos he felt she had genuinely wanted it. He had ignored his own wishes or needs EVERY TIME for her, and was proceeding with the divorce at the time he most needed someone near him and was extremely lonely. She wished she could tell him that this was not what she had wanted, nor had she known at the time of signing divorce papers that their relationship would suffer so badly, or that she would never be able to detach from him- that the divorce papers had not signified her true intent, actually she had herself not been able to understand her feelings in those days.
But she couldn't say anything. The next moment, the judge was banging his gravel.
"Case no. 34- Archana Manav Deshmukh vs Manav Deshmukh"
The judge went through the papers that had been submitted beforehand. Siddhant got up from his seat and explained to the judge that both the parties had settled their differences and now wanted to get divorced by mutual consent, and that he was speaking on behalf of both of them.
Manav looked around court. His previous lawyer, the one whom he had fired and challenged that he would stop his divorce at any cost, was sitting smugly in his lawyer's robes, giggling. Manav felt slighted and turned again to look in the front. The judge started speaking.
"Mr. Manav Deshmukh, do you want to divorce your wife Mrs. Archana Deshmukh?"
Archana shuddered and looked at Manav with bated breath. Oh no, he couldn't say yes, she thought. In his heart, he knew he needed her, even if he didn't admit it. After all, he loved her, didn't he? She could see him hesitating for a minute, knowing that this was the final moment.
Silence in the court.
"Yes, your honour."
Archana couldn't believe her ears. She was shocked at Manav's impeccable control on his emotions and needs and his resolve to stay firm on his decision.
"And what about you Mrs. Archana Deshmukh? Are you in agreement with your husband?"
She couldn't speak at all. All of a sudden, it was as if she had lost the ability to decide or speak. She just looked about helplessly, the voices in her brain growing louder now.
Next to her, Manav whispered- "Speak!"
She couldn't. She just bowed her head low and stood still.
"MRS DESHMUKH, ARE YOU READY FOR THIS DIVORCE?"
Lawyer Siddhant was now getting frustrated. He signaled Manav asking what was wrong. Manav asked him to wait and turned towards Archana- shocked to see her standing numb.
"Archana, why aren't you saying anything?" he prodded her.
She looked at him slowly, and he was astonished to find little tears in her eyes.
"Archana, were you crying outside?" he said, horrified.
She didn't say anything. She bit her lip, looked at the judge in front, and said- "Manav please take me away from here?"
"Archana are you okay? Where is Aai?" he looked around court. Aai was nowhere to be seen. Manav started getting nervous. Bad thoughts started racing through his mind. Had Aai got an attack, or an accident or something of that sort, he wondered.
Tears were streaming down her face again. She looked very scared.
Manav was touched. "Come," he said. He took her hand and apologized to the judge and the court and started leading her out. "What the hell is going on?" said the judge.
Archana rested her head on Manav's shoulders as he led her out. Manav was astonished, but decided not to ask any questions until he led her out. He put his arm around her, as the courtroom buzzed behind them, and walked out.
"Now tell me what happened," he said, but Archana couldn't say anything and instead collapsed into his arms, crying her heart out to him.
He was shocked, not knowing what had happened suddenly to this girl. He was now sure something had happened to Aai, only that could explain her outburst. "Archana, listen to me," he said, trying to console her, caressing her head against his chest, as his shirt turned wet with her tears. He held her for a few minutes, until he slowly felt her weight sagging, and turned to find that she was unconscious in his arms. The day had evidently taken a toll on the poor girl.
"Oh my God, what happened to her!" he freaked out. "Water, water, someone get me water!"
There the lawyer Siddhant came out, bursting with rage. "What the hell was this nonsense inside?" he yelled. "Did you brainwash her or what?"
Manav was in no mood to answer. "Listen, Archana is not well, I'll talk later."
"Like the hell you will," he said, pulling Archana's arm roughly. "Vinod's told me what sort of guy you are, I'll take Archana home," he said.
"Let go of my wife's arm!" said Manav sternly, suddenly uncomfortable.
"Else what will you do?" said Siddhant meanly.
The next moment Siddhant was holding his handkerchief to his nose. "I'll sue you for this Manav Deshmukh!" he shouted, to which Manav, who had his wife in his arms, and was already stopping a taxi, carelessly said- "Yeah, sorry."
Okay so this was the third and final subpart of the D-day special update.
Some important points:
1.) All the medical details are accurate to the best of my knowledge. However in case of errors, please forgive me, main abhi doctor nahi bani hu. I tried my best.
2.) For all those who hated this twist and want to stop reading ahead, I'm sorry for disappointing you and thankyou for reading till here.
3.) For the rest of the readers, my reasons about why I chose this twist rather than uniting the love birds straightaway will come in the next part. As of now, there is one good thing that came out of this twist- Now Archana will SHUDDER at the thought of ever signing divorce papers again.
Enjoy your weekend!
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