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The Revenge Plot - Part 2
"JAGYA?" exclaimed Lal Singh, looking extremely shocked. "What are you doing here? And what happened to collector sahab!?!?"
"Lal Singh... I found him like this," Jagat said, putting on the best look of innocent shock he could muster. "His jeep had had an accident and he was unconscious... I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't found him and brought him here in time..."
Lal Singh quickly gestured to a staff member to take the collector inside and urgently examine him. He then turned back to Jagat. "And what are you doing here in Jaitsar?" he asked suspiciously. "I thought we were too GAWAAR a bunch for you?"
"Lal Singh, please. I'm ashamed of my behaviour," Jagat said, keeping his innocent facial expression. "I am totally repentant. In fact, I came here to apologise to the collector. We met in Jaipur a few months ago and I was drunk and behaving badly on the street, and we fought. At the time I was angry and hated him... but I have since realised that he was right in doing what he did. So I came to Jaitsar especially to apologise... and found him like this. I brought him to the hospital as quickly as I could..."
Lal Singh raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn't ever known Jagya to be so willing to acknowledge his mistakes. "Wait here," he said. "I need to go and examine the collector. He looked like he was in bad shape. I'll deal with you later."
"Please let me know if I can help," Jagat said. "I'm a doctor too, remember?"
"No need, Dr. Jagat. Hum gaon waale ko bhi daactari aati hai." Lal Singh snapped, already retreating towards the ward.
Jagat sat down to wait as Lal Singh disappeared inside. He hoped the nurses would take Shiv's blood sample - if not, well, his intoxication would certainly be evident upon his awakening! Knowing that doctors generally took blood from the left arm, he had administered his own injection through Shiv's right arm so that nobody would notice the pinprick while taking Shiv's blood sample or giving him any kind of curative injection; he doubted anyone would notice a tiny mark like that when Shiv had a massive head wound to worry about, but he was still proud of his foresight.
After some time, Lal Singh emerged from the ward.
"How is the collector?" Jagat asked, trying to mask his eagerness with concern.
"He only has a head wound, and thankfully there has been no internal bleeding as far as we can tell. But his heartbeat and breathing are erratic, so we are still running tests... it may be more serious than it appears. I had better phone the haveli and notify them of the incident... and the police too, since it's an accident case..."
"Police ko bulane ki kya zaroorat hai?" Jagat said a little too quickly, causing Lal Singh's eyes to narrow with suspicion again. "Mera matlab hai... accident case hai... magar woh akela tha gari me. Aise me woh police case nahin banta hai, na? Khamakham complications badh jaayenge."
Lal Singh frowned, but nodded in agreement. "Haan, tum thik keh rahe ho. Vaise main haveli-waalon ke pareshaaniyon ko aur badhaana nahin chahta is samay. They will be worried enough hearing about this as it is... par unko bataana to padega." He took out his phone and began to dial the haveli's landline number.
Jagat's inner sigh of relief at hearing that Lal Singh was not going to involve the police gave way to irritation and anger at the collector once more. Humph. Family meri hai, and yet they worry about some collector who has no connection to them instead of worrying about their own son and what that very collector did to him! he thought angrily. But wait... if they come here, then they will all see the bevda collector for themselves. Then they'll realise my value, and turn back to their real ladesar!
"And you," said a voice, jolting Jagat back to reality as he realised that Lal Singh was back from his office. "What are you REALLY doing in Jaitsar? Our collector suddenly has an accident just as you turn up... it's a bit suspicious, frankly."
"Lal Singh, yakin maano... I came here to apologise to the collector. I also wanted to apologise to my family... but then I saw that they were all busy with decorations... so I decided it would be better not to disturb them."
Lal Singh snorted. "I'm not sure whether to believe you or not, Dr. Jagat. I can't help but feel that you've just come here because you can't stand the idea of Anandi ji getting remarried. That would certainly explain collector sahab's halat..."
"Wait, what?" Jagat exclaimed, looking at Lal Singh with complete confusion. "Anandi's getting married!?"
"Yes, tomorrow. To the collector, as a matter of fact."
Jagat thought the ground was going to disappear from beneath his feet. Anandi had been 'his' in his mind for as long as he could remember. Yes, they were divorced... but that didn't mean that she could just marry someone else without so much as a thought for him! What had happened to all her professions that she would always love him even if he didn't love her back? How could she do this?
"I... I didn't know," he stammered. "Honestly, I'm telling the truth, that's not why I'm here... I didn't know they were getting married..."
Lal Singh had known Jagat for long enough to tell that his shock at finding out about the upcoming marriage was genuine. "Well, it does seem like you're telling the truth. But if I see anything suspicious... to chhodunga nahin. Tum yahin wait karo jab tak collector sahab ko hosh nahin aa jaata hai."
"Of course," said Jagat. "I've come to Jaitsar to see him, and I'm the one who found him in this state. Of course I'll wait." Wait for him to be exposed as a bedva, he added gleefully in his mind. In front of my entire family, and Anandi too! Let's see how she agrees to marry him after that. Bade aaye biwi churane waala!
"Siv? Siv? Ki ho gaya hai maare Siv ko?'
Dadisa was distraught. The other family members followed, looking equally worried. None of them noticed him sitting quietly in the corner. He caught sight of Anandi, her face pale and streaked with tears, and felt a surge of envy - he had always thought that she would always cry for him and him alone. And yet here she was, crying for another man. The foreign girl was also in tears, her arm around Anandi.
"Dadi ji, collector sahab abhi behosh hai, par aap log chaahe to isse mil sakte hai. But only two or three at a time."
Dadisa strode into the ward straight away, followed immediately by Anandi and the foreign girl. The others hung back, knowing that those three were the ones who needed most reassurance that Shiv was stable and going to be all right.
Bhairon turned his head to the side and suddenly caught sight of his son.
"Tum?" he said, causing Jagat to whip his head around. "Tum yahan kya kar rahe ho?"
The others turned around too at these words, looking equally shocked to see Jagat.
"Bapusa... I am repentant. I came to Jaitsar to apologise to the collector for what happened in Jaipur. I searched for him around the village and then came across him in this state. I immediately rushed him to the hospital. Luckily his jeep was still working despite the damage, so I was able to get him there in time..."
Bhairon looked decidedly suspicious, but then said, "Well, it's a good thing someone found him. Varna pata nahin kya hota. Yeh sab kuch shaadi ki ek din pehle hi hona tha..." He sighed heavily. "I really hope Shiv is all right..."
Dadisa was sitting and stroking Shiv's hair, tears rolling down her face to see him in such a condition. Anandi and Ashi were sitting some distance away, still pale and tearful. Anandi was quiet, lost in thought.
How did this happen? she wondered. She couldn't help but feel that it was something to do with her, that she had proven to be bad luck for Shiv... logically, she knew that that was nonsense, but she couldn't help but think it anyway. Perhaps this was destiny's way of rebuking her for daring to hope for a second chance at conjugal happiness...
She remembered how torn she had felt when her ailing mother had begged her to agree to marry Shiv. At the time, she had agreed simply to keep her mother happy. Shiv had known this, and while they had become formally engaged, he had made it clear that he was willing to give her the space and time she needed to heal before marriage, as he wanted her to marry him because she wanted to be with him in the same way that he wanted to be with her, not because of any kind of external pressure. She remembered how overwhelmed she had felt to hear that he WANTED to be with her... not out of any kind of social duty, but out of a genuine desire to spend the rest of his life specifically with her. She had responded that she didn't know if she could ever reciprocate that sort of affection... he had simply replied that he would accept her final decision regardless of what it was.
Their families' impatience had obliged them to set a wedding date for just a few months ahead. At first, her discomfort had grown with the knowledge that she had only a set amount of time to reconcile herself with the idea of Shiv being her husband. But then she had started having recurring dreams again... herself on the ground, a man arriving on a horse and offering his hand to her... herself seeing that it was Shiv... As the dreams progressed, he had begun to speak to her, saying lines she remembered him saying to her in reality... things like "Mere hote aapko koi pareshaani nahin hogi" and "Koi bhi khatam ho jaata, magar aap khatam nahin hui... and for that, I salute you". And her own reaction to the dreams had slowly changed from intense discomfort to a secret kind of enjoyment... and as this change occurred, Jagya had stopped appearing in the dreams altogether.
Until today, she still hadn't been sure what she felt for Shiv. But seeing him lying unconscious on a hospital bed had made her realise what it would mean to lose him. All her emotions had come rushing to the fore, and the realisation had suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks: she loved him. Love, which she had feared so much since Jagya's betrayal and had inwardly vowed to avoid at all costs, had somehow managed to creep up on her without her even noticing it... and now she was deeper in it than she had ever imagined being.
She watched as Dadisa stroked Shiv's hair, longing with all her heart to be close to him.
Yeh Lal Singh gawaar hi gawaar reh gaya, Jagat thought to himself impatiently. How long does it take to figure out why the man? Then an idea suddenly occurred to him. Why not take advantage of the wait? he thought. Trying not to betray his eagerness, he walked across the room to where his family were standing and cleared his throat.
"Haan, bol, kya baat hai?" Bhairon said dully in response, refusing to meet his son's eyes.
"Bapusa, woh... aapse kuch baat karni thi..."
"Out with it, then," Bhairon half-snapped. "We're all worried enough as it is."
Jagat was annoyed at being spoken to like that, but swallowed his annoyance and continued. "Woh, Bapusa... actually... the symptoms Lal Singh mentioned... are all symptoms of..." He trailed off.
"Symptoms of...?" Bhairon prompted.
"Woh, Bapusa... alcohol poisoning."
"Alcohol poisoning?" Basant spluttered. "Impossible. Our collector doesn't drink. And when he left home not too long ago, he was most definitely sober."
"Aap log to bura maan gaye," Jagat said indignantly. "I was only trying to help. Mere MBBS ke studies me hum ne yeh sab cover kiya... is liye socha ke aap logon ko bata doon."
"Look, Dr. Jagat," said Bhairon, struggling to keep his voice steady. "Thank you for your theory, but Shiv was most definitely not drunk when he left the haveli earlier."
"Wah, Bapusa," Jagat replied. "Bhalai ka zamana hi nahin raha. Main to sirf wahin bata raha hoon jo symptoms ko dekhke koi bhi doctor keh deta. Aap log khud hi dekhiye, Lal Singh bhi wahin kahega!" He mock-stormed back to the other side of the room.
"Alcohol poisoning," Basant snorted.
Haste raho, Tau sa, Jagat thought. Thode der me aap bhi is baat ko sach maanoge...
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