Ashutosh closed his eyes as their lips touched for the first time, and sighed in contentment, as Nidhi wound her arms around his neck, and stood close to him. He was tentative at first, not sure how she would react to this intimacy. He gently caressed her lips with his, and moaned in the pleasure, as her lips innocently, and sweetly responded, to his. And, when she innocently brought herself even closer to him, so that they were standing flush against one another, it took all his will power not to devour her right then. But, this was not enough! He needed more, and when he hesitantly and very very slightly brushed his tongue against her lower lip, she gave him the opening he had been craving, Ashutosh knew that he had to taste her. He crushed her against himself, his strong arms holding on tightly, not willing to let her escape just yet. The kiss seemed to go on and on, neither one tiring of the other, and neither willing to let go. Nidhi's moan of pleasure, brought him to his senses. And, in an effort to try and control his passion, he let go of her mouth and rained kisses along her jawline, down her neck, and, buried his face there.
Nidhi, herself was still trembling, with feelings that she had never experienced before, as she tried to sooth him buy running her hand over his back in soothing motions. She had almost protested when he had taken his mouth away from hers. But even then, at that point, she had known that what he was doing was for for the best. As she too came down off her high, she noticed that Ashutosh was till holding her tightly. But, she did not mind, she could have stayed like this with him for the rest of her life. She really really loved this man, and wished that she could tell him that. But, she thought sadly, as she ran her hands through his hair, he had told her that he was not ready to hear that from her just yet.
After a few minutes Ashutosh lifted his face to look at her,
--Nidhi, I am sorry. I didn't mean to do that, I only wanted to give you a light kiss, but then...
--But, I am not sorry. Its seems like I've been waiting for forever to be held by you like this. It was wonderful. My first kiss ! It was everything that I had dreamed it would be.
--So, you dream about things like that, too.
He said teasingly, and laughed softly as she blushed and lowered her eyes. He put his fingers under her chin and gently lifted her face, and looked into her eyes, he saw that they were shining brightly with her love. He really wished that he could give her what he knew that she wanted. But, he couldn't, not right now. He had set the rules, and he would never be able to forgive himself, if he himself was the one to break them. No, he vowed he, he would not do that, he had to give her the time he had promised. He wanted Nidhi to be absolutely sure that he was what she wanted from life. He did not think that he could bear it if she regretted it after wards. He could not take that, not again.
She was so much younger them him, she was half his age! He knew how huge that age gap was, and in the beginning had been extremely hesitant, not at all sure whether it was fair to her to be in a relationship with someone so much older. But, he had also quickly learned that he could not let her go, not because of that. That was why he wanted to give her the time to be sure. The only way that he would release her from their ties, was if she wanted something else from life, not because he thought he was too old for her. It had been barely a week since his return, and things between them were going so fast that his mind was literally spinning. Uh Uh, he thought in the next second, his mind was not spinning from confusion, it was spinning from their kiss. WOW!
He had been shaken to the core at the intensity of his feelings. And now that he had that little taste of heaven, he was wondering how he was going to be able to resist kissing her again. It was not the thought of the kisses that bothered him, rather the fact, of how long would he be able to control himself from doing something that they might both regret later. Nidhi was an innocent, but he knew better. And it was up to him to protect her, even from himself if need be. Maybe he should be careful, and just try to keep a bit of distance, he thought to himself. Or, maybe he could avoid being alone with her for long periods.
She packed a powerful punch this wife of his, he thought, as he smiled down at her and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
--Ok, Well I am not sorry either, but I wanted to be sure that you had no regrets.
--Ashutosh, aap mere saath yeh saari formalities or hesitations kab chodenge. Ek taraf aap kehte hain ki I am your wife, ek taraf aap kehte hain that we need to act like strangers, and try to get to know one another. Then you kiss me as if your life depends on it, and then, on the other hand you talk about regrets. You are confusing me. Its gotten so, that I have no idea in which direction I am headed anymore.
And, it hurts when you say things like that. Iss se better toh aapki jealousy thi. At least jealousy se yeh toh pataa chalta hai na, ki aap mujhe apna samajhte hain. Par yeh sab regrets ki baatein, mai...
Ashutosh could not bear the hurt in her voice, and so he stopped her talking, by once again placing his lips on hers, and taking her words into himself. She hesitated for a mere second before she once again responded, only this time he made sure that he did not let things get out of control, and a couple of minutes later, he drew back and kissed her closed eyelids, and once again held her to himself, but this time gently.
--Aap phir se regrets ki baatein karenge toh main chali jaungi.
Ashutosh laughed, and gave a quick tight hug,
--Sweetheart, if I was going to talk about regrets again, I would not have kissed you. Nidhi please bear with me...and try to understand. Out of the two of us I am the one who is confused, all of this is very new to me. You see Before I came back here and found you all grown up and waiting for me, I had not even thought of ever being married, or thought myself even capable of having the kinds of feelings that I am having for you. Are you sure you are ready to take on an old man like me, for the rest of your life.
--You are not old, you are just right for me. Mujhe toh aap kahin se bhi old nahin lagte. Ashutosh meri aankhon se apne aap ko dekhiye, aapke saare doubts khatm ho jayenge. And please can we stop this. Bahut ho gaya.
--Nidhi I don't know what to say. Once again you have rendered me speechless, with your directness, and simplicity. Theek hai. I will not talk like that. And, Bahut ho gaya all this emotional stuff. I am hungry, and I went to all the trouble to make us a wonderful dinner. Lets eat.
--You went to the trouble to make us noodles? Jo do minute mein ban jaate hain, and all you have to do is add them to boiling water, and put in the flavor packet. That's what you call trouble.
--Yes. Trouble toh hai hi na. For someone who doesn't even know how to boil an egg. What else do you call it?
--Aap mazak kar rahein hain na? Aap sach mein khuch bhi banana nahin jaante? Toh phir itne saal wahan akele kaise manage kiya aapne.
--Well...I had a housekeeper. Woh roz subha aati thi. Mere liye breakfast, and dinner banati, and ghar saaf karke chali jaati thi. And all I had to do was heat up my food at night. Aur lunch toh roz hospital mein hi tota tha.
Nidhi laughed, and gave him a kiss on his cheek,
--You really are spoilt you know that?
--No what I am is extremely lucky! I have always had somebody take care of me. And, I know that you will spoil me also.
she said teasingly, as she once again put her arms around his neck, and looked up at him, laughingly,
--Apse, yeh kisne kaha. Mere toh aise koi bhi iraade nahin hain. All this is just an act, that I am putting up for your benefit. Aapko baad me pataa chal...
She stopped talking as she noticed a sudden change come over him, and was surprised when he abruptly let her go and turned away from her. Gone was the laughing teasing man of a second ago, and in his place there was a stranger, who looked totally unapproachable, and even a bit scary. Nidhi hesitantly went up to him and put her hand gently on his shoulder,
--Kya Hua? Maine kuch galat bola ya kiya...
He turned around, and took her hands, a contrite look to his face.
--No. Nidhi. You haven't done anything. You are the sweetest most beautiful person, inside and out, that I have ever seen. Nahin, Jaan, tumne kuch nahin kiya. It's me. I told you that you might not like what you are getting, when you know who I really am. I have things that you need to know about before you decide anything about US. I have been putting it off, but I can't do that anymore. Before we go any further with our relationship, I have to tell you. And after that whatever decision you make, I will abide by it. I promise. And if you decide that you don't want to have anything to do with me... I promise you I will understand and I will not hold it against you... and will always try to be your friend.
When he saw her open her mouth to say something, he held up his hand,
--Please Nidhi, for my sake hear me out. Let me say what I need to, and then make up your mind. Don't say anything till you have heard me out. When you hear what I have to say, you might not want to even have anything to do with me, much less talk to me, so please...
But, to her, he had already said all that she had ever wanted to hear, in that one word, he had just uttered a few seconds ago.. Nidhi wondered if he had realized how he had addressed her. "Jaan" had he really called her that? Just that one word had filled her with so much happiness that she was not being able to contain it. He had all but told her, just by saying that one word of endearment, that he loved her. That was all she had ever wanted. Ashutosh's love was all that she needed to make her life complete. And nothing he had to say would or could make a difference to that. How could he even think that she would want to break it off with him. Nidhi thought all of this, but only to herself. She did not want to say anything to him just yet. Nidhi saw that whatever it was that he wanted to tell her was important to him, and was eating away at him, in fact, she had seen that look on his face a few times, and had wondered at the reason for it.
--Theek hai. Aap kahiye jo bhi aap ko kehna hai. I will listen. But ek shart par.
Ashutosh looked at her,
--Ji. Shart. You know 'condition'. I have one condition. And if you agree, then I will promise to listen quietly, and not say a word till you tell me too. So?
He sighed---Theek hai Nidhi. Tell me your condition.
--I want to be held in your arms, while I have to listen to whatever it is that you are wanting to tell me. Agar manzoor hai to boliye. Nahin toh main apne kamre mein ja rahi hoon.
Ashutosh looked at her, in wonder. Would there ever be a time that he would ever not be surprised at her intuitiveness, he thought to himself.
She knew. She saw and she knew. She was amazing!
Ashutosh held his arms open to her, and Nidhi, wordlessly came into them and laid her head on his chest, and put her hand on his heart.
He enfolded her not only into his arms, but in that very second, into his soul, and raised his eyes to the heavens, "Please, please god let her believe me. Please don't let me loose her. Please!"He prayed silently!
--Ashutosh, before you begin, ek baat meri sun lijiye. I just want you to know that, no matter what you tell me, it will not make a difference to how I feel. Agar aapne apne ateeth mein aisa kuch kiya bhi hai, jiski wajah se aapko koi bhi problem hai, then as far as I am concerned it is in your past, and has not bearing on today, or our tomorrows. Mujhe aap par poora bharosa hai. Ab aap kahiye, jo bhi aapke dil mein hai. Main yahin hoon aapke paas. I am not going anywhere.
Ashutosh arms tightened around her for a second, and then he led her to the near by swing, and sat down with her next to him,
--Nidhi, this was When I was in Med School. I had fallen in love with a girl, who was two years my junior. She was 19 to my 21. Anyway, for me it was love at first sight, and it seemed that she felt that way too. Main usse door se dekhta hi rehta tha, I used to be really shy then, and my friends were always continually teasing me about it. Well, one day I worked up enough courage to ask her out, and we started dating. You know how it is when you are young and in love, kuch bhi acche bure ki samajh nahin rehti. Well any way, to make a long story short, after a dinner date one evening she invited me back to her apartment, I was hesitant. You see for me that was a big step, almost like making a life time commitment. Anyway, she managed to convince me that I was being silly, and that it what she really wanted. And the love sick fool that I was, I was too blinded by my stupidity, to see her for what she really was. Any way, suffice it to say that I went up to her flat with her, and just as we had begun to...well she started to scream bloody murder, I was shocked. Everyone from the whole building became a witness to my "attempted "rape, of her. There was a whole big scene, the police came I was arrested, and taken to the local jail. Then Baba, and Bhua came, and hired a lawyer for me. But because I had been charged for rape, I could not get bail. We later learned that her father was some Politician with a lot of clout, and that was also one of the reasons for my bail being denied. I would have gone to jail, except that one of that girls own friend, came forward and testified in my defense. Actually, my friend Arman, found her and made her come. She came to court and testified that it had all been an act of revenge. Her brother had been our classmate in the first year. Anyway, I had caught him taking advantage of some young girl,and reported him, and due to my complaint, he had been expelled.
So, she was taking revenge, on her brothers behalf, by making me go through the same thing that I had supposedly put her brother through. Anyway, after the first witness another couple of students came forward and I was acquitted, and the charges were dismissed. The girl, due to her father's influence got off with a mere warning. And the case was closed. Only, for me it did not end there, you know how they say the past always catches up with you. Well, apparently mine had a particularly bad grudge against me or something... Several years later, after I had completed my specialization, I was working as a Junior Doc At the SafdarJung Hospital, in New Delhi. I met another girl. You see, apparently I had not learnt my lesson regarding love. Any way, I thought that it was the real thing, and even both our fathers had given us their blessings. Well, just the day before Our engagement, she had this best friend that she wanted me to meet, so she asked me to meet the both of them at a restaurant for dinner. As luck would have it, her best friend was that girl from college. As soon as she saw me she told my fianc about the whole incident at med school. She told her that I had only gotten off because my father had bribed the Judge and the public prosecutor. She also said that Baba, had managed to buy all the students that had testified in my defense, and that because her father was a politician, and was afraid of the scandal, there was nothing that they could do, and I was set free. And that to that day she was suffering for what I had done to her. Nidhi, I kept on protesting my innocence, but my fianc did not believe me. She believed her friend. She broke off our engagement, and told me that she never wanted to lay eyes on me again, and that she hated people like me, who used their money and influence to cheat and ruin decent people.
After he finished telling his story, he was quiet for several minutes. But, Nidhi knew that he was not finished talking yet, so she kept quiet, waiting for him to finish,
--I left Delhi, and came back with Baba, and Bhua to Lucknow, and started my life over again. Nidhi, until you came along the word love and marriage, and permanence never even entered my mind. After all I had been through, I had wiped them out of my life. But this past week, everything has been so strange. I don't even know what's happening. All I can say is that with you I want to dream of maybe having a future together, but I needed you to know all of this first. Nidhi, I have no way of proving that I was innocent. All I have is my word, and my parent's belief in me. I have learnt that one never knows when their past comes back to haunt them. All I know is, that it does. But I did not want you to be caught unawares. I wanted you to know everything and based on that, make up your own mind. Nidhi even though I was acquitted, and the case dismissed, I know that the stigma stays. I just want to be sure that you are sure. All I can say in my defense is that I did not do anything.
She knew that he had finished saying whatever he had needed to.
So, she lifted her face and drew back, his arms tightened around her as if afraid that she was going to leave him also. Nidhi drew back, and took his face in both of her hands, leaned forward, and kissed his forehead, both his eyes, and his cheeks, she then bent down and placed a kiss near his heart, and then deliberately, while looking directly in his eyes leaned forward and placed a gentle lingering kiss on his lips.
And with her lips still touching his, she said
--I love you Ashutosh, and I am not going anywhere. You are mine, and I am not going to let you go no matter what you have to say, about whatever is in your past. And I know that you did not want to hear that from me just yet, but I just could not hold back any longer. I love you very very much, and I have for a long time. Ashutosh, I can never believe that you could do anything like that. No one can ever convince me otherwise. No even you. And, you cannot use this as an excuse to push me away, nor as an excuse for you to try and run away. We are stuck together, for better or worse. But, I am glad that you told me. Not that it makes any difference to me, but because it was important to you that I know. Toh ab aapne mujhe sab kuch bataa diya. Ab iss baat ko yahin par khatm kijiye. IF it ever arises in our lives, WE will deal with it TOGETHER.
Ashutosh had no words, and for the first time ever in his life, he had tears in his eyes. For Nidhi that was enough. She had no need for words, he face and eyes said it all. She was Complete.
--Ashuji, noodles toh thande ho gaye honge. Ab kya?
Ashutosh laughed, and laid his forehead against hers.
--You are priceless, you know that!
--Umm Hmm. My Baba used to say that to me all the time. Thank you.
--Nidhi, you are sure...
--Dr. Ashtosh, aapko baar baar bataana padega kya? Kini baar sunna chahenge aap?
--Theek hai Dr Nidhi. You have made your point. I get it. You are sure.
Bas ek baat aur...please...
She laughed----bataiye, Dr. Sahab. What Can I do for you?
--Woh baat, jo aapne abhi thodi der pehle kahi thi...
--I know, and I am so sorry, I didn't mean too...I mean I know that you didn't want me to say...that is..
--Dr. Nidhi, sweetheart, could you please tell me that once again... ...please. And Nidhi... Thank you.
Nidhi drew back a bit, and looked into his eyes, smiling,
--I LOVE YOU!
Nidhi put a finger on his lips...
--Abhi nahin. Mujhe pata hai ke abhi aap ready nahin hain. Only when YOU ARE SURE, that you are ready, tabhi boliyega. Main uss din ka intezar karungi. Tab tak ke liye, its enough that I know.
--Nidhi, when did you get to be so smart?
--Main toh hamesha se hi smart thi, bas aapko pataa chalte chalte time lag gaya. Thode slow hain na, Kya kaein Budhaape mein insaan slow ho hi jata hai.
Ashutosh burst out laughing. Nidhi was so happy to hear only happiness in that laughter, and she sighed in relief. It was so good to see him smiling like that. And she decided then and there that she would do whatever it took to make sure that he stayed like this as much as possible
--You little minx, I will show you, kaun buddha hai.
And just as she was about to run for it, he snaked out his hand and caught her, and pulled her into a tight embrace.
--Ab zara bataiye, buddha kaun hai.
--Ab aapke samne hi aapki tareef kaise karun.
She said still full of mischief. So that's the way she wanted it huh? ok, he decided, abhi batata hoon. And he hugged her a bit tighter, and was happy to see that she finally got it,
--Toh aap kya keh rahin thi memsahab.
--I was saying ke ab aap buddhe hain toh main kya karoon?
he pulled her a bit more closer, and lowered his face close to hers, keeping his eyes on her lips,
--Can you please, repeat that...
-Woh main keh rahi thi ke...aap, mera matalb, ke aap budd...
And he tightened his arms, futher, bringing her even more closer..
--Ek bar phir se, please
and he brought his lips to a mere hairs breath away from hers,
Nidhi had forgotten what she was saying, and got totally tongue tied. And she casually darted her tongue to moisten her suddenly dry lips. The small gesture was not lost on Ashutosh, and he gave up trying to resist, and touched his lips to hers, giving them what they both wanted.
It was almost 2 am by the time they both had something to eat, and finally decided that they needed to sleep, as they both had to be at the hospital in the morning.
Ashutosh had told Nidhi that he would be taking her with him in the mornings, and that she would be coming home with him also. This made her really happy, to know that he wanted to be with her as much as she wanted to be with him. Ashutosh came to her bedroom to drop her off, but seemed reluctant to let her go. So finally she decided that it was up to her and, she gently removed the arm that was around her waist and went into her room, where she paused, turned around and said Good Night, before gently closing the door. How long were they going to go on like this, with him dropping her off at the door to her room, and going down to his own by himself, he thought wryly to himself, was anybodies guess.
The next morning Nidhi got up earlier than usual, it was barely light outside. When she found out that she could not go back to sleep, she climbed out of bed and went to take her shower. Then, she ran downstairs, to grab a cup of coffee before she finished getting ready. But before she did that, though, she had something that she needed to do. So, she told DB that she would be right back, and went to get another rose from out back, and, along with a note, Good Morning, went to put it in Ashutosh's room, for him. This reminded her that she needed to try and find out what happened to the other note and rose that she had left in this same place, the other day.
Other than Dadi Bua, and CS, she was the only other person awake, so grabbing her much needed coffee, she hurriedly went on up to her room, to finish getting ready.
Meanwhile, in his room, Ashutosh was in the process of waking up, when he heard the door to his room open, and then he heard someone walking up to his bed. He thought it was Nidhi, so he opened his eyes, and instead he saw that it was Chote Sarkar. He had come to bring Ashutosh his daily glass of warm water with lemon juice. Ashutosh noticed that he had something in his hand that he was carrying away from his room. Curios, as to what it was, he called out,
--Aap uth gaya bhayya? Chalo accha ho gaya. Hum aapke liye aapka nimbu pani laye the. Wahan par rakh diya, le lijiyega. Ab hum chalte hain, rasoi mein bahut kaam hai, bhuaji hamara intezar kar rahin hongi.
--Par, jaane se pehle yeh to bataa dijiye ke aap woh apne haath mein kya liye jaa rahein hain.
--Yeh? Yeh aap aapna phlawar phir se yahan rakkh ke bhool gaye. Hum isko aapki taraf se Nidhi bibiji ke kamre mein rakkhne ja rahein hain. Bhayya ji aap aaj kal kaafi bhulakkad ho gaye hain. Chalo koi baat nahin, hum hain na. Hum aapka yeh kaam aapke liye kar denge.
Ashutosh did not know whether to get annoyed, or to laugh
--Toh do din pehle, aapne woh phla...mere matlab woh phool aapne yahan se uthaya tha?
--Ji bhayya ji. Aap yahan rakkh ke so gaye. Toh woh Nidhi bibiji ke kamre mein humne aapki taraf se unki mez par rakkh diya tha.
--Par, aapko kaise pata chala ki woh Nidhi ke liya tha?
--Bhayyaji , aapne humko poora bewakoof samaj rakkha hai kya. Humein pataa hai ki ladke, ladki ko phool dete hain. Aur yahan toh ladki sirf Nidhi bibiji hain. Toh kya aap Dadi Bua ke liye thodehi laye honge.
Issliye humne ussko usski jagah par pahuncha diya. Ab hum isse bhi rakkh aate hain.
He was about to leave when, Ashutosh ran to stop him, and took the flower and the note from his hands,
--Chote Sarkar yeh aap mujhe de dijiye, main isse khud dekhlunga.
And with a knowing smile in his direction, Chote Sarkar closed the door and left.
Ashutosh laughed out loud. So, that was where his note and rose was. Back where it had started from. He wondered if Nidhi even knew, or had paid attention to it. Just where did Chote Sarkar put it, he wondered as he got ready, that Nidhi had not noticed it in her room.
He left his room, and went to Nidhi's, to tell her what had happened to the thing that had caused their misunderstanding the other day. He knocked on her door, and waited.
Thinking in was Dadi Bua, Nidhi said
And when she saw the it was Ashutosh, she turned away from the mirror to look at him, pausing in the act of what she had been doing.
--Aap? Aap itni subha subha. Kuch kaam tha?
Ashutosh forgot what he had been about to tell her, when he saw what she had been about to do, and stared at her.
--Aap mujhe aise kyon dekh rahein hai? Pehle kabhi nahin dekh nahin hai kya? Ashuji, kuch boliye. What's wrong?
He came slowly forward, and reached out and took her right hand into his, and looked at the sindoor on her fingers.
She looked at him. Puzzled.
--Ji. Yeh sindoor hai. Toh?
Then he looked up at her,
--Nidhi, mujhe pataa hai yeh Sindoor hai. Par mujhe nahin pataa tha ke tum sindoor lagati ho. I have noticed it before.
Nidhi, snatched her hand away, and turned back self consciously, to look into the mirror once again, and quickly applied the sindoor into the parting she had made in the middle. Then, she deftly changed the parting in her hair, sideways, thus effectively covering up the sindoor, and quickly braided her hair. And turned to face him again.
--That is why you have never seen it before. And you don't need to be so surprised. If I can were my mangalsutra, why would I not be using the sindoor also? Bataiye? Koi problem hai?
She asked crossly. Suddenly feeling very self conscious, by his intent stare.
Ashutosh laughed and drew her into his arms, and placed a kiss on the top of her head, where she had just put her sindoor.
--Sorry doctor Sahiba. Mujhe koi problem nahin hai. It's just that I was surprised, thats all. Actually I had really not paid much attention, or even placed too much value to these kinds of things...I mean rituals, until now. Nidhi, I had not known that it would mean so much to me. But when I saw the mangalsutra around your neck, and now with the sindoor, I am just feeling overwhelmed. Mujhe aaj pataa chala, kitna accha lagta hai, jab koi aapke naam ka sindoor apni mang mein bharta hai. It just brought home to me, the realization, that you are mine.
She was still feeling self conscious,
--Haan, toh? I know that I belong to you. I have been telling you this almost since you came home. Aapko aaj pata chal? Abhi tak main kisse baat kar rahi thi? Can you kindly tell me that?
And when he didn't respond to that, instead just smiled at her, Nidhi, buried her face against his shoulder, he was too tall for her to reach any higher than that, unless she stood on tiptoes.
--Ashuji, please stop looking at me like that, you are embarrassing me.
Ashutosh took pity on her, and laughed
--I am sorry sweetheart, its just that I feel like strutting around like a peacock. I am just so tickled.
She drew back,
--Accha, ab baad mein strut kiijiyega. Pehle yeh toh bataiye, ke aap yahan, mere kamre mein kiss liye aaye the?
At, her question, he suddenly remembered why he had come, and turned his face to look around her room, trying to spot the flower. Then he saw it. It was sitting at the far side of her room, on a table, near a lamp. No wonder she had not seen it. Ashutosh went and picked it up along with the note that had been placed under the vase, and brought it over to her.
She looked at him, then the things in his hands,
--Par yeh yahan kaise? I don't understand. Maine toh yeh aapke bedside table ke upar rakkhe the. Phir...
--I can answer that, honey. Chote Sarkar.
--Yep. You left these things in my room. And like every morning he came into my room to leave my glass of lemon juice and warm water, on the bedside table, and he saw your rose, and this note. Chote Sarkar thought that I was going to give them to you, but had fallen asleep before I could, so he decided to do it for me.
--But, why would he assume that? I mean why would he think that you were going to give the rose to me. It was on your table.
--Ji Dr. Nidhi. You see I think that hamare Chote Sarkar Hindi movies kuch zyada hi dekhne lag gaye hain. We seriously need to monitor his movies, and, instead of old movies we need to get him to see the new ones, where women actually give flowers to men too.
And she burst out laughing.
--Yep! He thought that, since according to him men are the ones who give flowers to women, I had intended this for you. So he brought it up here.
--No wonder you never found it. And mere kamre mein bhi he put it in a place that I would not notice it. Accha pehle yeh toh bataiye yeh sab aapko kaise pata chala?
--Well you know the rose and note you left this morning? If I had not gotten up in time, it would have ended up back here too.
--You are serious? This is no joke?
When he shook his head, she burst out laughing, again,
--This is just too funny, Dr. Ashutosh. It sounds like something out of the movies.
-- You called me Dr. Ashutosh, again! I am going down.
She grabbed his arm
--I am so sorry. Please. It just slipped out of my mouth. Maaf kar dijiye na.
--I don't know. I am hurt (He said, teasingly, in mock anger)
Nidhi smiled, at his teasing
--So, what can I do, that would make it all better?
--Dr. Nidhi , aap meri patni hain. Ab yeh bhi batana padega, ke ek patni apne pati ko kaise manati hai? He said naughtily.
--Aap bahut naughty hain. Waise bhi aap bhool rahe hain. We are still at the initial dating stage, of our relationship. Toh phir main aapki patni kaise hui? Abhi none of that stuff is allowed. Woh sab shaadi ke baad.
Ashutosh looked at her, he saw that she was smiling, but at the same time her eyes had a seriousness to them,
She turned her back to him,
--Agar aap bura na maanein toh main ek baat bolun?
--Nidhi, mujhe tumhari koi bhi baat buri nahin lag sakti. Aur main samajh gaya hoon tum kya kehna chahti ho. Par tum bolo.
She turned to face him again,
--I am your wife, and we both know that. You also know that I love you.
But, abhi tak aapne poori tarha se yeh baat accept nahin kari hai. Please, ek minute. Meri poori baat sun lijiye . I know that you have feelings for me. But you still have some hesitations about our relationship. That's why you have put certain conditions in place. And I am fine with that, believe me. Mujhe koi problem nahin hai. Those conditions, and our adhering to them and acting accordingly has its own charm. But, jab tak aapko mere liye apni feelings ka, and aapke liye meri feelings par poora bharosa nahin hota, I would like for us to keep a bit of distance. Please mujhe galat mat samajhiyega. I have no regrets about last night. And, I dream of the day that I will be your wife in every sense of the word...
Ashutosh noted that she had a blush on her face when she said that, but never once did her eyes falter from his face,
--I... It's just that last night, I know that we both found it a bit difficult to say good night. And I don't want you or myself to be in that kind of a position again. I... I don't know how to explain myself. I hope that...
Ashutosh wanting to put her at ease, spoke up
--Nidhi, you don't have to say any more. I understand. And I appreciate your stand. Aur, mujhe bilkul bhi bura nahin laga. In fact, if anything, what you have just said has increased your respect in my eyes, all that much more. And I agree with you. We should wait. Until we are both sure. So, ok Dr. Nidhi. No more naught business. I promise. No more kisses for the time being. But do not expect me to stay away totally. I will still be hugging you every chance I get. You won't be able to stop me in that way.
She laughed and moved to lay her head on his chest, very relieved,
--I wouldn't expect you too. In fact, I don't think that I could stay without being held by you either. So, no arguments from me, on that score.
Then she suddenly lifted her face,
--Oh! Main aapko ek cheez toh batana hi bhool gayi. I am sorry. I am starting my night shifts today. For the next two weeks. It had completely slipped my mind. Actually maine ek doosre resident ke saath apni duties exchange kari thi. Woh, Anji ki shaadi hai na 2-3 hafton mein, uske liye.
--So, you are trying to tell me that we won't be able to see to much of each other huh?
She looked sheepishly at him, and smiled ruefully,
--Ji. Since you will be coming when I leave, and will be going when I come back home, it will be rather difficult. Also, I will be busy even when I am at home. Woh kya hai, I still have to help her in all the wedding preparations, and her shopping etc.
--Par, tum dono abhi 1-2 din pehle hi toh shopping par gaye the na?
Nidhi started. Laughing at his statement
--You wouldn't say that if you knew Anji. She can out shop everyone. Uski shopping toh shayad last day par bhi khatm nahin hogi. Aur honeymoon par bhi, aap dekhiyega, I bet she will bankrupt poor Rangnath. That reminds me of another thing, aapse ek aur baat karni thi mujhe?
He looked at her, and sighed,
--Tum ladkiyon ki baatein kabhi khatm nahin hoti kya? Bolo. Main sun raha hoon.
Nidhi gave him a mock punch on his arm
--Woh...I needed some...actually mujhe aapki permission chaihiye thi.
See, aunty uncle waise toh sab kuch kar hi rahein hain Anji ke liye. There are very comfortably off, and Anji is their only daughter. But kya hain na, they have also always treated me like their daughter too. Aunty ne mujhe kabhi bhi meri maa ki kami nahin mehsoos hone di. And Anji is more my sister, then friend anyway...
Ashutosh sighed with exasperation
--Nidhi, why don't you get to the point instead of weaving a whole story. Just tell me whats on your mind.
She could see, that he was somewhat irritated. But she just had a tough time when it came to asking for money. She never knew why, but it always made her feel uncomfortable. She bit her bit, and looked at him
--Sorry, its just that, I always feel awkward and uncomfortable doing this. I wanted to ask you if you will sanction extra funds into my account. I want to pay for all of Anji's clothes shopping. I want that to be my wedding gift to her.
Ashutosh looked at her surprised. Her generosity staggered him. This girl hardly bought anything for herself, and wanted to spend god knows how many lakhs on clothes for her friend. It seemed that he was finding out new things about his wife everyday, and so far, had not been given any chance to be disappointed by whatever he had discovered.
--Nidhi, tumhare paise hain, aur tumhe apne paison ko mangte hue bhi sharm aati hai? Aur woh bhi mujhse? I have to tell you, that that makes me feel bad. Tumhe toh haq samajh kar mangna chahiye mujhse. Chahe jo bhi cheez ho. I am your husband, mere se sharm, ya hichkichana kaisa. Nidhi na sirf tumhare paise, par meri bhi har ek cheez par tumhara poora poora haq hai.
While he had been talking, Nidhi had gone to where her fathers photo lay, and picked it up. She had tears in her eyes that rolled down her cheeks when, without looking up, she said,
--Aap theek keh rahein hai, but, I have always been like this. Sirf mere Baba the jinse mere ko kabhi koi cheez mangne ke liye kuch sochna nahin padta tha. Unse toh main saare time har Choti se Choti cheez ke liye bhi zid karti thi. Aur mere Baba mujhe kabhi mana nahin karte the. Aapko pataa hai, Baba zameen aasmaan ek kar dete the, meri ziddein poori karne ke liye. Woh mujhe kissi bhi cheez ke liye mana kar hi nahin sakte the. Maine ek baar unse poocha bhi tha, ke woh kyon mujhe itna bigadte hain. Unhone jawab diya, ke woh meri Maa bhi hain, issliye kyon ki woh double role nibha rahe the, aur double role mein bigadna bhi double padta hai. Uss samay toh main hans di, par ab sochti hoon toh aisa lagta hai, ki somehow, shayad unhe yeh kahin na kahin andar hi andar,Ehsaas tha, ke woh zyada der mere saath nahin rahenge, issliye woh mujhe sab kuch dene ki koshish karte the. Bas unke jaane ke baad se, mera kabhi bhi kissi cheez ko lene ka man bhi nahin kara, na hi kisis cheez ke liye zid karne ka man kara. Aur phir thodi der ke bad aadat hi choot gayi. Paison ki kami na hi Baba ne kabhi chodi, aur na hi aapne. Jitna mere account mein aap dalte the woh mere liye kaafi tha, uss se zyada ki zaroorat hi nahin padi.
And with that she stopped talking. But, Ashutosh noted that the tears did not, and she continued to stare at her father's photo, as she tenderly, kept on tracing her her father's face with her fingers.
That she had adored her father, and still missed him very much, was quite evident. But, he could not stand to see her hurting like this.
He went to her and turned her around to face him and put his arms around her.
--Nidhi, mujhe pata hai, ke tum apne Baba se kitna pyar karti thi, aur abhi bhi karti ho. Aur woh bhi tumse bahut pyar karte the, I saw that when I met him that last time. But, ab tum kya mujhe woh jagah nahin de sakti. Not as your father obviously, but as your husband jo tumhare saare sapne, tumhari saari khwahishein poori karna chahta hai, tumhe har woh khushi dena chahta hai, jo tumhare man mein ho. Nidhi, main tumhari saari ziddein poori karunga. Bas, main tumhe iss tarha dukhi nahin dekh sakta. Kya tum mere saath apne aap ko utna free nahin kar sakti, jaise tum apne Baba ke saath feel karti thi. Main bhi toh tumhara apna hi hoon na?
--Ashutosh, aap mere apne hain. Main yeh baat janti hoon, bas apni aadatein aur mindset ko change karne mein thoda waqt lagega. Aapne hi toh kaha hai na, hum dono ko thoda waqt chahiye. I agreed to along with your plan because I knew that you were right. Just as you asked me to bear with you, I need you to bear with me also. And I promise, ek waqt aisa aayega that you will regret that you promised to give me everything I ask for.
Ashutosh smiled, and placed a kiss on her forehead in response, and to show that he understood, and was ok with everything.
--So, you are ok na? With my night shifts.
He laughed, and reluctanly let her go.
--Do I have a choice? Ab agar doctor se shaadi kari hai, toh in cheezon ko toh jhelna hi padega na?
Ashutosh was a bit disappointed, that they would not get to see each other that much, but, he acknowledged that maybe it was for the best also. Everything between them had happened so fast, that, this would give them both a break, and also a chance to slow down down a bit.
--And ab...neeche Chalein? Baba and Dadi Bhua dono hamara intezaar kar rahein honge.
And, as if on cue, they heard Dadi Bua calling them both in for breakfast.
On the way to the hospital, they both agreed to meet for lunch. And she promised that she would try to bring Anji and Rohan with her, so that they could meet him also. But, unfortunately, he got called for an emergency, and Nidhi had to eat with just both of her friends, who, were also disappointed that Ashutosh could not join them.
That set the trend for the next couple of weeks. Ashutosh and Nidhi both hardly saw each other. And due to some circumstance or the other their conversations had to be kept brief. Ashutosh had not known that it was going to be that bad. He missed her terribly. The only thing that kept him going were her little notes and the rose that she never forgot to leave for him, before she left each evening. And on arriving home, the first thing he did was go to his room to read what she had written for him each day.
On the other side, Nidhi was also feeling the separation from him. She was counting the days for the end of her night shifts. But she knew that that was not the end of their separation. It's not they had not seen each other at all during the past 2weeks. It's just that the timings of both thier shifts, made it impossible for them to get much time alone together.
The evening of her last night shift, she made it a point to come to the hospital a bit early, maybe 15-20 minutes before her shift started, and went up to his cabin, hoping that he would be there. She had not seen him for over 36hours and was missing him horribly, so she was hoping to surprise him with a short visit. If she was lucky she would get at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time time with her husband, she prayed and crossed her fingers hoping, and knocked on his door,
Ashutosh's " come in" put a big grin of relief on her face, as she opened the door, and went in.
--Good evening Dr. Mathur. Would you happen to have a few minutes free, to spend with your wife?"
Ashutosh looked up, surprised to see her,
--For my wife, I'd make time.
He grinned as he got up from his chair and took her in his arms
--How are you sweetheart? I have missed you so much!
he said, as he kissed her forehead, then drew back, took hold of her hand, led her to the sofa and sat down with her.
--How come you are here this early?
--Aapko dekhe hue do din ho gaye the, so I came a bit early, and took a chance that you would be free. And Ashuji, it is not that early. I think that you have lost track of time. My shift begins in 15 minutes.
Ashutosh looked at his watch, and made a face,
--You are right I did loose track of the time. Actually, I was waiting for you. I thought that I would catch you before your shift started, and would take advantage of my position as chief of staff, and demand to talk to my favorite Resident.
--Accha. Toh my Favorite Chief of staff is beginning to take advantage of his position already? But seriously, 'Ive really missed you a lot, also. Aapne dinner toh nahin kara hai na Abhi tak?
--Nahin. Kyon? Kya baat hai? Are you planning on us having dinner together?
she smiled ruefully,
--Nahin, main toh bas pooch rahi thi. Woh kya hai na Dadi Bua aur Baba ne kaha tha, that I tell you that they are both waiting for you at home, for dinner. It seems that someone has not been coming home for dinner regularly.
He looked sheepish
--It's just that I don't like having dinner without you. It's no fun, without all the funny stories that you tell, main bore ho gaya tha.
She looked at him tenderly, an laid her cheek against his for a couple of seconds, before she stood up,
--Mere ko ab Jaana padega. My shift starts in 5 minutes.
Ashutosh also stood up, and held out her arms. Nidhi came to him and they held each other briefly, before she said good night, and left.
When Ashutosh got home about half an hour later, he found out exactly why she had asked him about not having dinner. Nidhi, before leaving for the hospital, had cooked dinner for him.
That night, before going to bed, he texted her,
--Khaana bahut accha tha. Thankyou.
He got a reply within seconds. She must be having a light shift, he thought.
--Aapko, pasand aaya?
--Bahut. I think that aaj ke baad tumne jo kuch banaya tha, woh sab mera favorite hai.
--Toh kal Dadi Bua se poochke, jo bhi aapko nahin accha lagta hai, woh banaungi. Tab kya karenge?
--Tab woh bhi mera favorite hog jayega. Kal? No. I want you to rest. Aaj bhi you got up early to make my dinner. You need to get proper rest, nahin toh you will be too tired for your night shift.
--Actually, tonight is the last night shift. I don't have to be in for work till the next morning.
--Why didn't you tell me?
--Can't wait for tomorrow!
-I Love you.
--Good Night Sweetheart!
Ashutosh, knew that he loved her. So, why wasn't he able to tell her? What was holding him back?He wondered, and was still thinking about it as he drifted off to sleep.
When he came home the next evening, Ashutosh found her in the Kitchen. She was happily talking away, a mile a minute, to Chote Sarkar, and chopping something, stirring something, and adding spices to something else, all at the same time. She looked like she was in her element. Everyday he was learning that there were many facets to the woman he loved. Unknown to her, he had also observed her when she had been on duty, and according to what he had seen and observed she was an excellent doctor, also. She was a woman of many talents.
Later, that night, Ashutosh sat in the back yard with Nidhi in his arms, and her head resting on his shoulders, and was totally at peace with the world. Every moment that he spent with her was perfect, he thought. Then he remembered that there was something that he had wanted to ask her.
Nidhi also was thinking along the same lines, there was something that she needed to tell him. And she was afraid that when she did, he was not going to be very happy with her.
-- Ashuji, I have something that I need to tell you. I have been wanting to tell you for a while now but with one thing or the other, either I keep forgetting, or not finding the time. So,...
--Nidhi there's one small favor I need to ask of you, first, before I forget. I need to know if you can get off a bit early tomorrow?
--Kyon aapko koi kaam hai?
--Yes. I was wondering if you would go shopping with me tomorrow after work. I need to buy a wedding gift for Anji and Rangnath, and I needed your help with that. I have no idea what they would want, or what kinds of things they like.
--Uh...actually...Iski koi zaroorat nahin hai. Maine already hum dono ke taraf se present le liya hai. Actually, maine Anji se poocha tha, and she liked it. So I went ahead and got it for the both of them, and I also have arranged to have it delivered directly to their house.
Ashutosh put her away from him, and looked at her in anger.
--You did what?
--I...I got them a gift from the both of us. But, aap gussa kyon ho rahein hain.
--Nidhi, tum meri taraf se gift kaise de sakti ho? You did not ask me if that was Ok with me. How could you, and who gave you permission to do that. I don't need anyone to presume anything on my behalf. Tumne apne paise diye honge na?
--Ashutosh, mujhe samajh mein nahin aa raha hai ke maine aisa kya kiya hai. Ek baar meri poori baat toh suniye pl...
--Nidhi mujhe tumhari koi baat nahin sunni. I never gave you the right to do anything like that. Mai apni cheezein khud kharid sakta hoon, I don't need your money, I can afford to get my own gift. Please tell me how much you spent, and I will make sure that you are reimbursed.
So, that was what his problem was, Nidhi thought. That she used HER money! Of all the MCPig's, she thought furiously. She quietly and with dignity got off the swing she had been sitting on , and turned around to face him, her voice shaking with anger,
--Aap bol toh bade bade bolte ho, par unka matlab nahin jante aap. Kuch dino pehle aapne hi kaha tha na, ke aapki har cheez pe mera bhi haq hai. Well, shouldn't the reverse apply also. A marriage is a partnership DR. ASHUTOSH. An EQUAL Partnership. Tabhi it can be a successful, and happy one, otherwise not. Well let me tell you something, I took your words literally. Dadi Bua had approached me earlier this week, saying that I needed to get a gift on our behalf for Anji and Rangnath. I told her that I had already gotten Anji all her clothes. Dadi Bua said that it was OK, but that was separate as Anji and I had a separate relationship, as we were childhood friends. But that I still needed to get something from the both of us also. So, I went out shopping, and after I had made the selection, I found out that I did not have enough money in my account, since I had already spent the money for Anji's clothes. It was the middle of the day, and I knew that you would be busy at the hospital, so I did not feel right in bothering you. Then I remembered that you had given me one of your credit cards, to use in case of emergencies, and I, the fool that I am, used it. And I never even gave a thought as to whose money I was spending. I was under the impression that what was yours was mine, and what was mine was yours also. Apparently I was mistaken. I thought that you had meant all those things you said to me. What I didn't realize though that it was a one way street. Well, I don't like one way streets very much, I never have. So, I thank you for opening my eyes, I will be very careful in the future. And, tomorrow, I will call the electronics store, and make sure that they take my name off of the gift. As it was bought with YOUR money, it's not right that I take credit for it also. It should just have your name on it. I apologize sincerely, and regret misunderstanding what you said. Now, I am sleepy, and very tired, so I will take your leave. Good Night.
And with as much dignity and strength she could muster, she turned around and went up to her room. She locked her door, and threw herself on the bed and lost control. She could not believe that he could behave like that with her. She had been a fool to even think that he was falling in love with her. No wonder he had not been able to say it yet. As anticipated, she heard his knock, and him calling her name and asking her to open the door. But Nidhi ignored him. She did not want to see him or talk to him. And, after a few minutes she heard him leave. She fell asleep still crying.
Ashutosh could have kicked himself, in fact, he wished that she had. He did, however, wish himself to hell and back. How could he have talked to her like that. Of course she was right. A marriage was a partnership. Its just that he was old fashioned enough to still believe in the old beliefs, that as her husband he should be the one supporting her. And that her money was her own, and he had no rights on that. What he had forgotten though, was that although he might be old school, his wife was not. She was a product of today's thinking and values, where Both husband and wife were equals, and anything and everything they had belonged to both, equally. Ashutosh knew that he had really hurt Nidhi today. He had heard it in her voice when she had been telling him off, and by the sobs that he had heard coming from her room. He had gone after her, but apparently hadn't been quick enough as she had locked the door. And, inspite of his repeated requests, she had not opened it for him. Ab main kya karoon, he thought. He couldn't break the door down, that would make too much noise, he thought. And besides, all he would end up with was a sore shoulder, he was not some bollywood Hero, and these doors were strong. So, what to do now? He had to talk to her, somehow get her to forgive him. He could not put it off for tomorrow. He knew that neither of them would be happy till this thing got resolved. He did not care for his own misery, he deserved it. But Nidhi did not, she had nothing wrong, and he could not see her so unhappy. He had to do Something!