My new chap. I hope you all will like it.
Nidhi had been so excited at seeing Ashutosh at the hospital during lunch, that her first instinct had been to rush over to him. She wanted to ask him what he was doing there and why hadn't he told her that he would be coming in today. But, she just barely managed to hold herself back, because she had noticed that he was sitting at the table with Dr. Bakshi, who was the current chief of staff, and appeared to be having a serious conversation with him, and she also, wasn't sure that he would be too pleased if she went up and interrupted him. The fact that he had briefly glanced in her direction and acknowledged her, had been enough, she could wait, but just barely, till she got home, to spend more time with him, she decided.
Nidhi was really excited at the thought that starting Monday she would be seeing him here at the hospital everyday, she still couldn't believe that he was finally back home, after so long. Then another thought came to her, would he even acknowledge the fact that he knew her, on a personal level, or would he treat her like a stranger, she wondered. This thought bothered her more than she cared to admit, she realized, but there was nothing that she could do about it. After all, just because he had been kind enough to spend so much time with her yesterday, didn't necessarily mean anything much. Actually it did mean a lot to her, she just didn't know what it meant to him. Did he feel sorry for her or was he just being polite because they both happened to run into each other like that, in the middle of the night, and he didn't want to appear rude? But the next instant she chided herself. Why had he eaten noodles with her in the middle of the night, and then spent away the whole night talking to her, wanting to know what she'd been up to during his absence, and asking her about trivial things such hospital gossip, if he was just being polite? No, Ashutosh had genuinely been enjoying himself, she was sure of that. At the same time, though, Nidhi advised herself, that she needed to be cautious and to try and not read too much into his actions of the night before. After all she had no idea, nor had he given any indication of it being any more than a friendly casual gesture on his part. She would just have to be patient and take one day at a time, and wait for a sign from him, that would indicate to her just where he intended for their relationship to go.
So, after getting their food, Nidhi sat down at a nearby table with Rohan, to have lunch. But, during that whole time during Lunch, she was so conscious of Ashutosh, that she hardly knew what was going on around her.
Nidhi always had fun whenever she and Rohan got together, and she felt really comfortable with him. Nidhi knew that Rohan had had feelings for her in the beginning, but as soon as she had made him realize that friendship was all she had to offer, he had become one of her closest friends. So, when Rohan noticed her preoccupation, he questioned her about it. Rohan was aware that Nidhi was in love with someone else. She herself had told him that much. But she had never told him who. They had been friends for almost two years now, and even though he knew most of her life story he did not know all of it. For the most part he had shrugged it off, figuring that she would tell him when she was ready, but for some reason today, her preoccupation bothered him. Today, she had a confused, lost, and maybe even a sad look in her eyes. He had never seen her like this, and was concerned, and wondered what had happened all of a sudden. She had been fine until they had entered the cafeteria, and then suddenly she had gone all quiet and serious. Rohan reached across the table and touched her hand to get her attention. And when she looked up at him, he asked her what the matter was.
Nidhi looked at him debating how much and exactly what she should tell him. After Anji, Rohan was the only one she could count on. She knew that he would always be there for her if and when she needed him. Nidhi trusted him, and other than Ashutosh and her relationship to him, had shared everything with Rohan. In fact, there were times when she went to him rather than Anji, if she ever needed advice or help. She had often felt guilty about not sharing that other part of her life with him. Apparently the time had come for her to do so. Now was as good a time as any she guessed, and besides with Ashutosh starting work on monday, it would difficult for to hide things from Rohan for too long. Rohan somehow always knew whenever she was sad or needed something. She had never been able to figure out how, and after a while had given up and accepted it. Anyway!
Nidhi looked up at him and gave him a hesitant smile,
-- Rohan, I have something to tell you, something about me that you need to know. I was just waiting for the right time, thats all.
--Nidhi, I always knew that there was something, but I also knew that you would tell me when the time was right. I guess certain things just take time, and trust is one of them.
--Rohan this has nothing to do with trust. I just cant explain it, but somehow, it never seemed to be the right time. But today, I need to tell you. Please bear with me and listen to what I have to say. I promise that you will understand everything by the time I am done.
--Nidhi, you don't have to hesitate with me. I am your friend, I will always be on your side, and you know that.
Nidhi smiled at him, telling him by her expression how much she valued his friendship, and appreciated it.
--Rohan, you see that Man over there, the one who is sitting with Dr. Bakshi.
--Yes. You mean Dr. Ashutosh Mathur, don't you?
--Yes, but how do you know his name?
Rohan gave her one of those "you have to be kidding me" looks.
--Nidhi only a fool would not recognize the world famous Dr. Ashutosh.
Anybody and everybody who is associated with the medical field has heard of him. I also know that he is going to be our new Chief of Staff, starting Monday. But, what des he have to do with you?
Nidhi took a deep breath,
--He is my Husband.
She could tell, by his expression, that she had totally stunned him. He was all bug eyed and open mouthed.
--He is your what?
He had been prepared for any answer , but that.
--He is my husband, Rohan.
Nidhi could tell that Rohan was still trying to get a grip on what she had just revealed to him. His look was so comical, and cute, and he looked so adorable, that she had to laugh.
--But Nidhi, kab...kaise...how...I mean ...so you are telling me that he and you...are.. thatyou are..
--Rohan, you are babbling. and the way your mouth is opening and closing, you look like a fish. So just close your mouth, and listen I will explain everything.
And then she reached over, and with a finger pushed his jaw up, and closed his mouth, for him. Then she started at the beginning, and told him the whole story. Rohan listened patiently, not interrupting her once, till she had finished. Then..
--So, you are Mrs Nidhi Ashutosh Mathur.
--And you have been married for six years, to your husband, and have been in love with him practically all your life. Only your husband has no idea that you love him, and you have no idea what he feels about you.
Not only that, he is also your legal guardian till you are 25, after which you will inherit an obscene amount of money. But you have no idea what will happen to your marriage. And the two of you have been apart for six years, during which time you have been living in his house, with his parents. And now the two of you will be living in that same house together, only in different rooms, because you still don't know exactly where you stand in his life?
--Rohan( Nidhi sighed in exasperation), you are only repeating everything that I have just told you. What is it that you are trying to say, or ask. I don't understand. By the way, you do know that you are just repeating my words, right? But, Yep! that about sums it up.
--Nidhi, I am not senile. I know that I was repeating your story, but that was me talking aloud to myself, trying to assimilate and process everything. I do that, sometimes. Talk aloud that is. Whenever I am very confused or whenever I am trying to convince myself of something that does not sound too convincing.
Nidhi as having so much fun, she had never seen this side of Rohan before. He was always so confident, and so sure of himself. To think that she had managed to shake him up, like this, absolutely made her day. She was Delighted.
--So I don't see what the problem is. Why don't you just ask him, and make life simple for yourself?
--Rohan, its not that easy. Until yesterday, I had barely even had a conversation with him. We hardly know each other. Basically, I can't do that.
--Because, I am scared. What if he says no? I don't think that I will be able to bare it. Rohan, I have loved him all of my life, for me it is impossible to even contemplate life without him. I would rather not know. You know what they say,"sometimes ignorance is bliss".
--Ok, Nidhi. Don't worry. I am with you no matter what, and besides, I have a strange feeling that everything will work out in the end.
--How can you say that with so much confidence Rohan?
--Simple, judging by the looks I keep getting from him, I can say that I am fairly confident that my prediction will come true. If looks could kill, I think you would be attending my funeral right about now.
--Rohan, you must be mistaken. He is too busy talking to Dr. Bakshi.
I don't think that he has even had the time to look in my direction.
--Nidhi, I don't know how busy he is, but I do know that he has looked and noticed. And he is not too happy with what he has noticed, while he was looking. I am afraid Nidhi, that your husband has put 2and 2 together and come up with 10. And being a man, I can tell when another man is jealous. And I can assure you that your Husband is very jealous. Based on that, I can safely guarantee that everything will be alright between the two of you. You just need to have patience that's all. And of course, making him jealous now and then, won't hurt either. A little jealousy is healthy for a relationship.
Nidhi laughed at that. No matter what, Rohan always managed to make her feel better. She was really glad that she had told him everything. She had hated keeping this from him. They talked some more, and then Nidhi noticed that their lunch hour was almost up, so they hurried out. Before leaving, she looked around for Ashutosh, and when she did not see him, she assumed that he had left. That again left her feeling a bit low. Rohan had most likely mistaken his look for jealousy, she thought. Ashutosh was probably just annoyed at something.
Anyway, her excitement at going home and being able to spend some time with him that evening, dimmed, after that. So when Anji and Shyama aunty asked her to stay for dinner, she accepted. And besides, Anji told her, they also had to make and finalize plans for her wedding, and all the events preceding it. So, Nidhi called up Dadi Bua and told her that she was going to be having dinner with Anji, and also had to stay and discuss some plans for the wedding. Soon both the friends were laughing and talking about the wedding and making plans, and teasing each other. During the whole time that they were talking about what all Anji wanted, and her wedding itself, Nidhi was remembering her own. What a difference, she thought, when two people in love got married, and also had parents who loved them . She had had no one. If only Baba were still here, If only Ashutosh loved her, if only he wanted her, if only...Nidhi deliberately turned her thoughts away, from her own self pity, and put all her energy into concentrating and participating in the discussions regarding Anji's upcoming wedding. After all, this was a big day in any girls life, and it only happened once. And Anji deserved it. Pretty soon Nidhi got so caught up in everything that she lost track of time, and forgot that she had promised Dadi Bua that she not be too late coming home. A while later when she glanced at the clock and saw how late it was, she said goodnight to Anji and her family and rushed out to her car.
After talking to Baba and Dadi Bua, and getting them to agree to his terms, Ashutosh went back to his room. He did not know what had come over him. One minute he had decided to keep his distance from Nidhi and be politely friendly with her, and the next second he was agreeing to give his marriage with her a chance. Ashutosh knew that his change of mind, had happened because of what he had seen at the hospital. He had been having lunch and talking to Dr. Bakshi, going over the finer details regarding his position, when Nidhi had walked in with a young man, apparently a doctor at KGH, laughing and talking with him. And then she had noticed him, and her face had lit up, quite literally. And that is when it happened to him. The ground had literally shifted underneath his feet, and he had realized that he wanted to give their marriage a try. He also realized that Nidhi felt the same way, although what her feeling for him were and how deep her feelings went, he had no idea. All he knew was that it was a start.
The real problem started when, almost immediately, even after acknowledging his presence, she had turned around and ignored him, and spent her whole lunch time with that, Hulk, smiling, laughing and talking to him and looking at him as if he was all that mattered. She had not even, come up to him once, not even to say hello! Ashutosh knew enough about himself to know that he had felt jealous. But even that had been nothing compared to what he had felt when, the young man had touched Nidhi's hand. He had done it several times throughout the course of their meal, and a couple of times even Nidhi had done the same. But it was when she had reached across and tapped her finger to his chin, her face full of affection and a smile lighting up her eyes, that he had totally lost it. Poor Dr. Bakshi had been so confused, when Ashutosh had stood up abruptly, and offered some lame excuse about suddenly remembering something important, and left. All he had known at that point was that if he had stayed, he probably would have ended up doing something that he would have regretted later on. Whatever happened, he did not want Nidhi to see him like that. He didn't want to scare her off, before anything even got started. Ashu imagined what it would do to her to see him so jealous. She would probably get so scared that she would run a mile in the opposite direction, to get away from him. Plus, it would give him away, and he could not let that happen just yet either. He did not want to put himself in a vulnerable position like that without knowing how she felt about him. So for the time being he would have to play it cool, and act as if nothing had happened. Ashutosh laughed at himself and at the way he was thinking. You'd think that he was a teenager on the brink of puberty, and not a 40+ year old man who had seen, and knew the ways of the world.
During the whole ride home, Ashutosh tried to come to terms with his feelings. He had surprised even himself. Ashutosh had not known that he could ever feel jealous. But to feel jealous to the extent that he had for a few minutes lost all sense of reasoning, was an absolute shock to his system. That had also made him realize that his feelings for Nidhi went deeper than even he had imagined. But, he was too much of a coward, to put a label on them just yet.
A little while later when he had calmed down, he realized that he was being unreasonable. Why wouldn't she have friends that were men, just because she had been friendly, didn't mean that there was anything between her and that guy. After all, he had several friends that were female, that didn't mean that there was anything between them. So, he would be fair and give Nidhi the benefit of doubt. And hadn't Dadi Bua and Baba, both assured him that she had never so much as looked at another man, in the past six years. All these thoughts and his reactions put together had resulted in him talking to Baba and Dadi Bua, and getting their promise. He also admitted that he had felt a lot better immediately, afterwards too.
Of course, now that he had made the decision, he had to act on it also. He just had to figure out how. Maybe he should have a talk to Baba about that also. After all, Baba knew Nidhi, and her likes and dislikes, and he would be able to advise him on how to proceed.
Ashutosh found Baba, exactly where he had left him, in the back yard, sitting and reading his paper. he looked up as he heard him approach, and lifted his eye brows in surprise.
--So, you're back. Koi kaam tha beta?
--Baba, aap se thodisi advice ki zarooraat hai.
--So tell me, how I can help you? Kis cheez mein advice ki zaroorat pad gayi tujhe?
--Baba, aap Nidhi ko jaante hai. Uski likes dislikes, usse kaisi cheezein pasand aati hain, usse kya karna achcha lagta hai... Bas yeh sab.
I don't know her at all. Agar app mujhe help karenge toh maybe it will make things a bit easier for me. I have no idea what to do.
Baba put down his paper, and looked at Ashu for several seconds
--Ashutosh, beta mujhe ek baat bataa. Tu wakai vilayat mein akele 6 saalon tak raha , ke bas yunhi bundle maar raha hai.
--Baba, what are you talking about. Mujhe kuch samajh mein nahin aa raha hai.
--Ashutosh beta, ab iss umr mein mujhe tereko yeh sab sikhana padega, ke ladki kaise patate hain. Tu itna bada ho gaya, abhi tak nahin seekha tune, yeh sab. Toh wahan 6 saal tak, sirf chidiya maari, aur kuch nahin kiya. Beta tere se toh kahin achcha main raha. Uss jamane mein bhi kam se kam, itna toh aata tha, ke apni biwi ko to pataa saka. Tere kya hoga, yeh samajh mein nahin aata.
Ashutosh didn't know whether to laugh or feel insulted. He was also amazed to hear his Baba talk like that.
--Baba, you're the limits. Maine London mein kya kara kya nahin. that you don't need to know. But I do need to know about Nidhi. Baba, she is so much younger than me, and she is also very different from the other girls of today. I don't know where to start. So, what if I do something that offends her, ya phir I do something that bores her out of her wits. Baba, koi toh direction dijiye.
--Chal, beta, mujhe iss baat ki bahut khushi hui ke tujhe uski pasand na pasand ki phikr hai. This is a good sign. Ashu beta Nidhi ek bahut seedhi daadhi ladki hai, she likes the simple things in life. Material things hold no importance in her eyes. Uss se tu agar do shabd pyar ke bhi boldega na toh woh bhi usske liye kaafi hai. But my suggestion is apne dil ki suno. And Ashutosh beta treat her gently. Just keep everything simple, and pay attention to her. thats all, and you should be fine.
This advice, although sensible and sound, left him even more confused. So, he decided to play it by ear. He would do whatever came to mind, and based on her reactions, would go on from there. He looked at the time and noticed that it was almost evening, Nidhi should be coming home soon, he thought, and then he smiled. And for the first time in years, the fact that he had something that he was actually looking forward too, put him in a really good mood. Ashutosh whistled all the way to his room, where he took a shower and got ready, then he went out to the living room to join Baba and Dadi Bua, and waited for Nidhi to come home.
Ashutosh was very disappointed when Dadi Bua came and informed them a few minutes later, that Nidhi had called, and told her that she would be having dinner with Anji and her family, and that she would also be late as she had to stay there to help make plans for her friend's upcoming wedding. It bothered him that she seemed to be indifferent to the fact that this was just his second night back. She was not only not coming home for dinner, but would also be late coming back home. maybe Dadi Bua and Baba had been wrong in their assumption that she cared. Of course that was something only time would tell. But for right now her lack of interest at his presence in the house, bothered him. Where as just several minutes ago he had been eagerly anticipating dinner and was hungry, he now ate because he knew that if he didn't it would disappoint Dadi Bua, as she had put in a lot of effort in making his favorite dishes. After dinner he excused himself, saying that he was going to go out for a walk, before going to bed.
Ashutosh spent the next 2 hours outside, alternating between sitting and pacing. When se saw that it was nearing 11:00, and she still had not arrived, he started to get worried, and went inside to ask Dadi Bua if she had heard anything. Ashutosh found both Baba and Dadi Bua in the living room with worried looks on their faces.
--Baba, kya baat hai? Aap log bahut pareshan lag rahein hain. Kya koi baat ho gayi hai?
--Ashu beta, we just called Anji and found out that Nidhi had left from their house almost an hour ago. We tried calling Nidhi, but her phone is not working. The message keeps on saying that the number is no longer in service. Beta we are very worried. She never stays out this late, and never without informing us, and making sure we know about her whereabouts at all times. Beta samajh mein nahin aa raha hai ke kya karein. I just hope that she is all right.
Then Dadi Bua also spoke up
--Hey bajrangbali, meri bachchi ki raksha karna. Ashu beta, tu zara ja, aur dekh shayad tu kuch pataa laga sake uska. Beta mujhe bahut phikr ho rahi hai.
--Haan dadi bhua, main abhi jaata hoon. Baba, aap mujhe Anji ke ghar ke directions dijiye. I will follow the same route, and see if I can maybe spot her. Agar aapko koi khabar mille toh mujhe immediately call kar dijiyega..
Then he grabbed the keys to his car and ran out. Ashutosh was really worried now. It was almost midnight, and she was alone out there somewhere. He just hoped that she was ok. She had better be, he thought, because if she wasn't he would kill her. He drove quickly but not too fast and tried to see if he could spot her. He had been driving for about five minutes when his phone rang. It was Baba. Ashutosh pulled over to the side, his heart literally jumping almost to his throat. The phone call could mean only one thing. Baba had some news about Nidhi. Ashutosh hoped that she was OK.
--Baba! Kuch pataa chala?
--Ashutosh beta, Nidhi is fine. She just called. Uske paas ek back up phone tha, which barely had enough batteries, to make one call. She is fine, beta her car broke down, and she is stranded. Tum abhi kahan ho?
When Ashutosh told them his location, Baba told him that Nidhi was about a 10-15 minute distance away. Baba gave him her exact location and asked him to call home as soon as he had Nidhi with him in his car.
After Ashutosh hung up with baba, he sent up a prayer of thanks, and closed his eyes in relief, for just a second, before he restarted his car, and drove to where Baba had told him she was stranded. When he saw her car, and also noticed exactly how isolated she was, he was furious.
Did she not have an iota of sense in that brain of hers. How could she drive on a deserted road like this in the middle of the night. Didn't she realize how dangerous it could be. Ashutosh pulled up behind her car, and got out and walked angrily to her car, and yanked open her door and pulled her out, fury radiating from and dictating all of his moves. He did not even notice Nidhi's scared face, as he shook her hard, and yelled
--What the hell is wrong with you? Have you no sense? What were you doing driving on a deserted road in the middle of the night, when there is another, perfectly safe route. Do you know what you have put me through? Have you any idea whats been going through my mind, all the thoughts about what could have happened to you. Do you even care, what you put Dadi Bua and Baba through? Did you give any thought to them and their age? Have you any idea what this amount of stress can do to them? And me did you once think, of what I would go through, if anything had happened.
And then with one final shake he pulled her into her arms, and buried his face in her neck.
Nidhi was stunned, as she stood there, with his arms wrapped tight around her. A smile broke out on her face, as she slowly lifted her arms to hug him back. Was she dreaming, or was this really happening, she thought dazedly. Nidhi could not believe that she was in Ashutosh's arms. And he was holding on to her as if he would never het her go.
When he came to his senses, he realized that as tightly as he was holding her, she must be having a difficult time breathing. He loosened his hold on her, and drew back a little and looked at her face. Nidhi was looking up at him shyly. Her eyes were shining and her lips were trembling. He knew that he had scared her with his temper. Heck, he had scared even himself. He had never known that he could ever feel emotions this intensely. When he looked at her again, Nidhi lowered her eyes. He was probably making her nervous, Ashutosh thought, and he should probably release her. But instead, he pulled her close once again, this time resting his head on top of hers.
--Do you have any idea what I've been through tonight? You have probably knocked 10 years off my life, with the scare you gave us. Nidhi why didn't you call home and let us know how late you were going to be? And why were you driving on this road, at this time of night, dont you know how deserted it is and how dangerous it could have been for you?
He rebuked her again, only this time his voice was very gentle.
Nidhi did not know if her heart could contain so much joy. And she reluctantly drew back a little to look at him. When he looked at her he saw, clearly, what she had been hiding, or trying to hide all along from him. Her eyes told him everything. She loved him. And for now that was enough.
--I am really sorry Dr. Ashutosh. I did not mean to worry anybody. You see it, there was an accident on the other route, and all the traffic was diverted via this road. I was just unlucky, and my car broke down. Then I found out that My phone was dead, and I had no way of contacting anybody. Luckily I had a back up phone that Baba always insists I carry. But I had forgotten to recharge that too. I was just waiting for the phone to catch a signal, and the moment it did, I called home. I am sorry that you had to go through all this trouble for my sake. I am absolutely fine, and Umm...you could let me go now...
Ashutosh smiled down at her gently, the intensity of his gaze had her blushing and lowering her eyes again. Seeing her reaction, he chuckled softly, and pulled her a little closer.
--Not just yet. I need to reassure my self a bit longer.
And grinned, when she snuggled into him and hid her face in his neck.
After a couple of minutes, he drew back again, and smiled at her ruefully.
--I guess we should head back now. Baba and Dadi Bua are waiting for you, they have been really worried. Chalein?
Nidhi, nodded shyly. then Ashutosh led her over to the passenger side, and helped her sit and shut the door. He then came around to the drivers side and started the car. But before he pulled out onto the road, he handed Nidhi his phone.
--Nidhi, yeh lo. Ghar pe phone kar lo. Baba aur Dadi Bua tumhare phone ka wait kar rahein honge.
Nidhi took the phone from him and placed the call. After assuring them multiple times that she was fine, she handed the phone to Ashutosh. He also talked to the both of them and reassured them as well, that she was fine, and that nothing had happened, other than her car breaking down. He told them that he was bringing Nidhi home and that he would send someone in the morning to come and pick up the car and repair it.
After he had hung up, he pulled onto the road, and started for home.
Nidhi sat quietly, thinking back to those precious moments by the roadside. She wanted to remember them and treasure them all her life.
She still couldn't quite wrap her mind around the fact that he had held her in his arms, and had been reluctant to let her go. Nidhi wanted to contain her joy and err on the side of caution. She did not want to get her hopes up. Maybe he had hugged her because he had been relieved to find out that she was not hurt. Maybe that was all it had been. She just closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat, reliving those moments over and over again.
When he noticed how quiet she was, Ashutosh glanced at her and saw that her eyes were closed and she had leaned her head back. the only way he knew that she was not sleeping,was because her hands were fidgeting constantly, with her dupatta.
--Nidhi(he spoke her name gently) are you awake?
Nidhi opened her eyes and glanced in his direction.
--Kuch bolna nahin hai? Poore raaste aise hi chup baithne ka irada hai kya?
--Woh actually, I was just resting my eyes. Its been a long day.
--Aur, kuch nahin?
--Well, I would like to say sorry to you again, for putting to all the trouble, of coming out so late and also for worrying you.
Her answer made him really angry. So. He pursed his lips and replied in a tight voice
--Thats Ok Dr. Nidhi. All in a days work. It was nothing.
Nidhi knew by his tone that she had made him angry. But she could not figure out what she had said, that would anger him. She had barely mustered the courage to ask him why he was angry at her, and what had she done, when they reached home. He did not say a single word, to her as he pulled the car to the front entrance and shut off the engine. Then he walked around and opened the door for her and waited while she gathered her things and climbed out.
She had barely gotten out of the car, when the front door opened and Dadi Bua came running out and enveloped her in a hug. Then Baba also put his arms around Nidhi and held her close for a few seconds. Then Both of them started talking and asking questions all at once. Ashutosh looked at the three of them and smiled and left them to their questions and explanations, and went straight to his room, where he went and took his favorite seat near the glass doors. He knew that he was being unreasonable, but he could not seem to help himself. This was somehow becoming a habit, he thought wryly, him not being able to control his emotions, in regards to Nidhi. She had been genuinely confused over the reason for his anger, and there was no way that he could explain it to her. He had been expecting more, and she had been unable or unwilling to give it to him. He could not figure out which.
Ashutosh sighed. He was tired and he felt defeated. Sometime during the time when he had been driving around looking for her, he had admitted to himself that he loved her. He had no choice but to admit it. He had had to give a name to his feelings in order to understand them. That was the way he worked. He needed to understand before he could accept, so he had defined and put a label to his feelings, something only this morning he had sworn not to do, Yet..
Ashutosh had been through an emotional wringer during the past couple of days. Feelings he had not known existed within him, had come to the fore with a vengeance. And it was all because of a scrap of a girl, who had managed to worm her way into his heart, without him even knowing it. If he was honest with himself, he would admit that he had fallen for her six years ago. It was a good thing though, for the both of them that he had not recognized that. Six years ago neither of them had been ready for any kind of a relationship. But it was different now, or was it?
He didn't think that Nidhi was ready for it even now. And If she wasn't what then? Then what would he do? Ashutosh asked himself.
Then he sighed and answered his own question. He would give her time, all the time she needed. He would wait as long as he had too, for her.
Hadn't she also waited for him? He knew that it would be hard, but for her, he would have to. Ashu loved her, and he wanted to hear that she loved him too, in return. Nothing else would be good enough. He already had seen the love in her eyes once tonight, so he knew that it was there. But, he needed to hear it from her lips. He would not be satisfied until then. Even after coming to all these conclusions and realizations he, still felt restless. So, he opened the doors and stepped out into the cooling soothing night.
Meanwhile Nidhi, after assuring both Baba and Dadi Bua that she was unharmed, sent them to their rooms so that they could finally get some rest, and slowly went to hers. After showering and changing, she went to stand near her windows, and looked out into the night. Ashutosh's anger was still bothering her. What had she done? She still hadn't been able to figure it out. She sighed, in defeat and was about to turn around and go to bed, when she spotted him. Ashutosh was once again sitting by himself outside. But today, unlike yesterday, he looked kind of sad and lost, and she could not bear it. She knew that she had to do something, and hoped that whatever it was that was bothering him, was not because of her. She hurried down from her room and stepped out, and walked over to him.
Ashutosh had been so lost in his thoughts, that he had not even noticed her approach, until she had come and stood in front of him. He lifted his face and looked up at her, and once again her simple beauty managed to stop his heart. He could not help staring at her, and only managed to come out of his daze when he heard her talk.
--Dr. Ashutosh. Aap yahan aise kyon baithe hain. Koi baat hai?
--Nidhi, its late and I think that you should go to bed right now. its been a long day for you, and you must be tired. Kal kaam par bhi toh jaana hai na.
--Nahin, actually I am off for the next 2 days. so, I don't have to get up early tomorrow. And I am not tired. But I would like to know what I did that made to angry.
--Nidhi , abhi in sab baaton ka waqt nahin hai. Jaao please. Jaake so jao.
--Nahin! Main kahin nahin jaaungi. Jab tak aap mujhe nahin bataate, ke meri galti kya thi?
Ashutosh sighed--Nidhi, tumhari koi galati nahin thi. Meri thi. Mai tumse shayad kuch aisa expect kar raha tha, jo tum nahin de sakti thi, thats al. Ab maine bataa diya, abhi tum jaake so jao, ab.
--Kya expect kar rahe the aap mujhse? Ke main aapse kahungi ke aapne mujhe gale se kyon lagaya, and that it was not appropriate, ya itni kya jaldi thi door karne ki. Agar aap mujhe choice denge in dono answers mein se, toh main second waale ko choose karungi.
Ashu looked at her incredulously.
--I am sorry main aapko samajh nahin paayi thi. I did not want to lie to you, and I didnt know whether you wanted to hear the truth.
--Main sach sunna chahta tha Nidhi. Tumhare munh se. Ab dogi mere sawal ka jawab. Lekin sirf tabhi agar sach ho toh.
Nidhi looked into his eyes, tyring to find answers to her own questions, before she gave him the answers to his. But when she did not see anything, she hung her head, in defeat. Then she raised her eyes back to his. It didn't matter that he could not give her what she wanted, Nidhi thought. But she had to. For the first time ever, Ashutosh needed something from her, and she could not find it in her self to deny him.
--Sach yeh hai, mera man bhi nahin bhar paya tha, ke aapne mujhe apne se door kar diya. For the first time in years I felt at peace, but it was too brief. Sach yeh hai, ke aapke baahon mein aake, mujhe aisa laga ke mujhe meri manzil mil gayi hai. Sach ye hai Dr. Ashutosh! Par ab aap mujhe bataiye, ke sach jaankar aapko kya fayda hua.
Ashu slowly put his hand on her shoulders and stood up, taking her along with him, never taking his eyes off her face.
--Fayda, yeh hua hai Nidhi, ke ab main bhi woh kar sakta hoon jo main tab karna chahta tha, but was afraid to.
And saying that he slowly closed the distance between them, and gently put his arms around her, and held her close.
--You see Nidhi, I did not want to let you go either.
Both of them stood like that, in each others arms, just savoring the moment. Then, Ashutosh started to draw back, but laughed gently and placed a kiss on the top of her head, when Nidhi still clung on tightly, refusing to let him go. And, Ashutosh once again, leaned his head on hers
--Whats the matter little one?
--Its just that I have dreamed of this moment for so long, I just wanted to savor it for a while longer.
--Nidhi, we will have many more moments like these, and even better. I promise. You have no need to be worried on that account.
--Mere ko abhi bhi yeh ek sapna lag raha hai. I am afraid that I will wake up and it'll all have been a dream.
--Kyon sapne kabhi sach nahin hote hain kya?
--Hote hain, par phir bhi mujhe dar lagta hai.
--Kis baat ka, Nidhi?
--Mujhe hamesha issi baat ka dar lagta tha ke aap mujhe pasand karengein ke nahin. For me you have always been a larger than life figure. You are famous, and have been everywhere and met so many people, done so many things. Whereas, all I have ever known is here. I am a simple girl, Dr. Ashutosh. I didn't know what you would think about me. And then there is such a big difference in our ages, I was afraid that you might think that I was too young for you, too immature.
Those words of hers, brought him back to reality, and he reluctantly withdrew from her. The he sat her down on one of the chairs and took the seat opposite hers.
--Nidhi we need to talk.
Hearing his tone, made her heart sink, and filled her with dread
--Kahin aap mujhse , hamare iss rishte se chutkare ki baat toh nahin kar rahein hai?
Ashutosh looked at the worry on her face and reached across and took one of her hands in his, and looked at her with tenderness.
--Nidhi, tum bilkul pagal ho. Agar main alag hone ki baat soch raha hota, toh main iss tarha tumhe apni bahon mein leta kya? You are being silly. Aisi koi baat nahin hai. But we do need to talk about our relationship, and where we stand with each other, and what we want out of the future. We also need to be clear on a few things.
--Jaise. Are you Ok with everything? Hamari umr ke fark se tumhe koi problem toh nahin hai, and how do you feel abut married to man so much older than yourself. Also, just for my curiosity's sake. Dont you wish that you were free like the other girls, to choose whom you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? After all, Nidhi, when we got married no one asked you what you wanted.
--I have honestly never even given our age difference a thought, other than maybe be jealous in case you preferred someone older. Other than that, maine kabhi socha bhi nahin. Jis din se mere Baba ne mera haath aapke haath mein diya tha, maine aapke siva kuch bhi nahin dekha. And younger men are over rated. Aur jahan tak meri marzi ki sawal hai. Toh meri marzi bhi aap hi hain.
Ashu smiled and brought her hand up and kissed it.
--Are you sure Nidhi? I need you to be very very sure before you commit you self. You need to know what you will be getting into if you decide that I am what you want out of life. And let me tell you I am not an easy person to live with. I am difficult, and moody, and very set in my ways. I am also bad tempered, and I tend to keep to myself when I am troubled or upset. Basically What I am trying to say Nidhi is that we both need to get to know each other first.
--Agar aap ko time chahiye to be sure, then its ok with me.
--You mean you don't?
--No. I am already sure.
--What are you sure about?
--I am sure about you. That I want you. That I want to be a part of your life and want you to be a part of mine.
--Aur agar baad mein pataa chala that I have quirks or habits that you dont like, then what? Kya guarantee hai Nidhi that you won't regret later, and then it might be too late. Have you thought, what would happen then?
--Dr.Ashutosh life does not come with guarantees. And just because you don't like a particular aspect of your life does not mean that it's the end of the world. Basically just as you accept the good and bad parts of life and go on. Well, you do the same with people and relationships. You accept the good with the bad. Iss liye mujhe aapko jaane ki koi zaroorat nahin. But agar aapko iss se Khushi milti hai, toh mujhe koi problem nahin. I don't need time to know my feelings. I already know that I...
Ashu covered her mouth with his hand, preventing her from completing her sentence.
--Nidhi, don't say anything else. Not yet. It's too soon. Once those words are said, you cant take them back, and life changes forever. Nidhi we both need some time together first. Like any other ordinary couple. I want us to spend time with each other and get to know one another first. Please. It's important to me, that you are very sure, before you commit to anything. Then the time for those words will come also. But not yet.
I cant give those words to you right now Nidhi.
He could see that his words had hurt her. But he had to give her time. She thought she loved him, but he wanted her to be sure. He wanted to give her a chance to see him as he truly was, faults and all, and then make up her mind. Earlier he had been desperate to hear those words from her, but just as he was about to get his wish, he had realized that he could not be selfish with her. He just hoped that he had done the right thing, and when the time came, she would still love him. Of course he had to tell her why he had been so adamant about giving her time, why he had needed her to be very very sure about her feelings. He had to explain why, even though it had nearly ripped up him inside, he had stopped her from saying those words to him, why he had not said those words to her. But all that was for later. He would tell her later, and then she would understand, and also forgive him for hurting her as he had just done.
Her heartbroke when he said that. He would never know how much it hurt her. But she swallowed her disappointment and pain, and said
--Toh aap kya chahte hain. Tell me please, what you want, and what you want me to do.
--You don't have to do anything Nidhi. Just don't be in too much of a hurry. I want us to enjoy our time together, learn to relax with each other, get to know what we both like and dislike, what our expectations and dreams are. Basically Nidhi i want a chance and the time to court you properly.
--Toh kya humein sab se hamara rishta abhi bhi chupana hoga.
--Nidhi tumhe kuch chupane ki zaroorat nahin hai. Hum koi paap thodihi kar rahein hain jo humein kuch bhi chori chupe karne ki zaroorat ho. You can shout it from the rooftops for all I care. You do what you want, what makes you happy. At the end of the day Nidhi that is all I want.
Nidhi looked at him and seeing the stubborn expression on his face, sighed. She knew that he wasn't going to budge on this 'getting to know each other thing', he had made up his mind on. So she gave in.
-- So, how long is this courting period supposed to last.
She asked him teasingly, as she got up from her chair and went over to sit next to him. And he laughed.
--No time limit. As long as we want.
--So during this so called courting, am I allowed to ask you if I want something.
--Of course you are. I am your husband.
--No, you 're not. Husbands don't court their wives. Iss liye jab tak we are dating, you are not my husband.
Ashutosh looked at her tenderly, and he put a hand on her shoulder and bent and placed a kiss on her forehead and pulled out her mangalsutra
--This says I am. Toh kya mangna chahti thi aap mujhse.
Nidhi looked at the mangalsutra, and then back at him, and smiled.
--I want you to hold me in your arms again.