Joined: 31 March 2012
Nidhi walked aimlessly on the streets of Lucknow...
She was feeling totally shattered from within...it was as if a vital part of her being had died that day. Just some time ago she had arrived at Kotnis, panting breathlessly, excited to tell Ashutosh the good news that he had been waiting eagerly for. It had been a week since she had missed something, and a small innocuous test in the morning had confirmed the inevitable. Ashutosh in his morning hurry missed her shining eyes and glowing face, so she had finished her morning chores and finally driven to Kotnis to share this news with him.
Knocking on his door, she got no reply, and then on pushing the door further she realized that he was not in the cabin. She had caught the first attendant to ask for his whereabouts; "Dr Ashutosh ward mein hain...kafi der se round par gaye hain" came the cheerful reply. She sprinted up the stairs to the wards, two at a time, to atleast catch his eye before he went elsewhere.
Peeping into his favourite, the children's ward, didn't yield the expected result, nor did the ICU. She was about to message him when suddenly she heard his deep sombre voice from one of the female wards. He was talking to one of the patients there, Nidhi reasoned, as she waited for him to come out. How would he react to her sudden presence in the hospital? She wondered. Would he raise that eyebrow of his and say, "Nidhi, tum yahan? Kya hua? Phone kar deti...And then she would blush and say, "Kuchh hua nahi, hone wala hai" ...with twinkling eyes and laugh at his ensuing confused look. "Chaliye, aapke cabin mein, aapse kuchh private mein kehna hai..."
Suddenly her reverie was jolted by the mention of her name. Dr Ashutosh was talking about her to someone in the ward? The nurse or the resident doctor? Curiosity got the better of her and she peeped in...and there was her husband, sitting on the side stool and talking about her to Dr Mallika!! Dr Mallika, his old friend of 12 years...the same Dr Mallika who had wronged her so much, that even Ashutosh had deleted her from his life...and assured her for that. The same Mallika was a patient in the hospital and the same Ashutosh was chatting & laughing with her like a family member!!! Listening further, she learnt that Mallika was pregnant for about 2 months now and was admitted for a minor complication. And further that Ashutosh was enquiring about her due date and whether she had the tell-tale pregnancy cravings and symptoms etc etc...
Nidhi could not take it anymore and thought that there had better be some other explanation to what she saw and overheard. She rushed to Dr Ashutosh's cabin and waited there for him to come, her feelings a judicious mix of anger and incredulousness.
Finally, Ashutosh had come in...and was surprised on seeing her in his cabin. Before he could begin the basic formalities of Hi..when did you come? Nidhi had blurted out "Ho gayi baatcheet aapki Mallika se? To yehi hai aapke pyaar... ya phir dosti ka rang? Mallika ke liye kal ghar se uski farmaish banake lane ko to nahin kahenge? Ashutosh was taken aback, "Nidhi, yeh kya keh rahi ho, hosh mein to ho? Tum mujh par bahut hi ghatiya ilzaam laga rahi ho..." Nidhi had also rapped back..."Aur nahi to kya? Jo kuchh maine dekha aur suna, uske baad to aisa hi lagta hai ki aapme aur Dr Mallika main dosti ke aage bhi kuchh..." at that point, Ashutosh had lost his control and his hand had flashed, "Kya bak rahi ho...agar itna hi bharosa hai tumhe apni aankhon aur kano par to dafa ho jao meri zindagi se...Get lost...and Good Bye!!!"
Nidhi had somehow managed to stagger to the road outside and leaned against a tree for support. She couldn't find her car keys and her mobile...then, in a flash she recollected, she had left them in Ashutosh's cabin!!! Her Ashutosh, her husband, her own love had let her down; she thought as she gingerly felt her tear-stained cheek where she could still feel the imprint of his fingers. His final words, the "good-bye" was something she couldn't explain, he had not used these words even when they had broken up in Kerala. Crying uncontrollably, she found her feet automatically taking her away from him, this hospital, these surroundings...
There was a clap of thunder, and it suddenly started raining...Nidhi always had fond memories of rains...and getting drenched in them...actually it was during one such drenching session that she had discovered the real "Ashutosh" that donned the "Hardstone" mask. At this recollection, she stumbled even more and without realization started walking in the middle of the road, the road that led to nowhere...blindly oblivious to the dangerous terrain surrounding her.
In his cabin, Ashutosh paced around, stunned beyond disbelief, on hearing Nidhi's accusations about himself and Dr Mallika. He could never ever, even in his wildest dreams imagine getting romantically involved with Mallika. And here, he was being accused of the same, by none other than the love of his life!! His Nidhi!! He had dedicated his entire life to her, his heart beats were all for her, then how could she stoop so low? How could she think that he was so morally compromised? Suddenly jolted to wakefulness by the ringing of her mobile, he realized that she had forgotten her mobile and car keys in his cabin, on the sofa where she had sat, just a small while ago.
It was Anji. She had called up to ask for a favourite recipe and shopping plans for the evening. Ashutosh answered her, saying that Nidhi had forgotten her mobile in his cabin, and he would see that Nidhi called her back. Following this Ashutosh ran out of his cabin, searching for Nidhi, hoping to find her somewhere, at least a glimpse of her...even the security was not forthcoming. Nobody had specifically seen her, but then there were scores of visitors to the hospital on that morning. And then suddenly it had started raining, and Ashutosh stood watching the rain droplets and automatically tried to gather a few in his hand...the same hand, which had slapped Nidhi...at this realization, he looked at his wet hand, and his eyes blurred with the image of a shocked Nidhi...a hand feeling the cheek...eyes full of tears and mortification. He looked at the car keys in his hand, which meant that her car was still parked in the parking lot, and further, Nidhi was still around, probably in the hospital somewhere, but where? Where would she go, leaving her favourite car? Col Verma's place? But that was not close enough to walk...Anji's place? Didn't seem likely, otherwise why would Anji call her? So, where was Nidhi?
Armaan was driving in the rain with full wipers and headlights on. He had gone to the neighbouring village to gather some inputs on a new style of embroidery, some 20 kms from Lucknow, along with his mom. His Mom had pointed out some new styles of designs to him, which he could use with the brocade background for a saree. Thinking of a saree, his thoughts flew to Nidhi, his role model for saree designs...this type of saree would certainly suit her. He planned to design one exclusively for her, in a bright red or pink colour, embroider with sequins and paisleys, and gift her for their wedding anniversary.
His thoughts were interrupted by a shout from his mom..."Armaan dekh to, wahan koi raste per pada hai..." The car came to a screeching halt, a couple of meters from a ragged bundle lying, in the pouring rain, unconscious on the road. Both mother and son ran in the rain to the heap lying on the road. "Looks like an accident case, thought Armaan as he tenderly turned the bundle over and gave a sharp exclamation...it was Nidhi!!!!
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