Ashutosh hurried out of his room for breakfast the next morning, and looked around eagerly for Nidhi. But he could not spot her anywhere. "Ab, itni subha subha kahan gayi hogi", he thought to himself, as he went towards the kitchen. She was not there either, but Dadi Bua was...
--Dadi Bua Nidhi kahan hai, aapko pataa hai kya?
--Arre beta mujhe nahin pataa hoga, toh kisse hoga, hain? Par mujhe tu ek baat bataa, tu kyon pooch raha hai? Tere ko nahin pataa kya ke woh kahan hai? Tujhe nahin batayaa usne?
--Woh...Dadi Bua...Kya hai na, kal raat ko thodisi ladai ho gayi hamari. Aur woh gussa ho gayi thi mujhe se. I guess iss liye ussne mujhe nahin bataya hoga. Par app bataiye toh sahi, kahan hai woh?
--Ashutosh beta tune Nidhi se ladai kar li. Mujhe pataa hai, zaroor tune hi kuch kaha hoga, sab teri hi galti hogi. Tabhi main sochun ke bacchi itni subha subha kyon gayi. Nashte ke liye nahin theheri.
--Dadi Bua woh toh sab theek hai...Kya matlab aapka, ke zaroor meri hi galti hogi? Nidhi galti nahin kar sakti hai kya? Usse bhi toh ladai karni aati hai? Aap saara dosh mujhe kyon de rahin hain?
--Kyon ki main Nidhi ko acchi tarha se jaanti hoon. Pichle 6 saalon se dekh rahi hoon usse. Uss ladki ke munh mein zaban hi nahin hai, aur tu ladai ki baatein kar raha hai. Woh bacchi, kabhi kissi se bhi ladai nahin karti hai, woh toh jhagde ke naam se hi door bhagti hai. Aur main tujhe bhi jaanti hoon. Gussa toh jaise tere naak par baitha rehta hai. Bataa, kya kaha tune uss se?
--Woh Dadi Bua, kya hai na...Actually Dadi Bua yeh hum dono pati patni ke beech ki baat hai. Main usse manaa lunga. Par aap pehle yeh toh bataiye, ke woh hai kahan aur kab aayegi?
Ashutosh was surprised to see Dadi Bua laugh out loud at his words,
--Ab maine aisi kya baat keh di, jiss se aapko itni hansi aa rahi hai?
--Pehle toh yeh, ke mera shaq sahi tha, tune hi usse gussa kiya hai. Doosra, woh itni jaldi ghar nahin aayegi. Aaj se poore 8-9 dino tak ke liye woh apne mayke gayi hai, Anji ki shaadi ke liye. Ab to beta, woh shaadi ke ek do din ke baad hi ghar aayegi. Ab teesri, aur sabse zaroori baat, agar tu soch raha hai, ke Nidhi ko manana itna aasaan hoga, toh main bataa doon ke beta, tu apni kamar kas le.
Dadi Bua laughed again, as if she knew something he did not and found it really funny
--Ab, Beta sab kuch main hi bataa dungi toh tu khud kya seekhega.
Tumne abhi abhi kaha na, ke yeh tum dono pati patni ke beech ka mamla hai. Toh phir beta, Dadi Bua ko beech mein kyon la raha hai. Khud hi dekh lena. Baas itna jaroor kahungi, woh english mein kya kehte hai? Haan! GOOD LUCK! Tujhe iski bahut jaroorat padegi.
By now, Ashutosh, was getting really annoyed,
--Accha Dadi Bua, main khud dekh loonga. Toh Kya Nidhi ab itne dino tak ghar bilkul nahin aayegi?
--Jahan tak mera khayal hai, nahin. Par agar ghar par kuch bhool gayi toh aa bhi sakti hai.
--Dadi Bua aapko bada mazaa aa raha hai, lagta hai. Koi baat nahin hai. Hospital toh aayegi na, wahan mil loonga uss se.
Once again Dadi Bua smiled annoyingly. "Is she my Dadi Bua, or Nidhi's", he wondered. Getting really irritated by her attitude.
--Ashu Beta, lagta hai ke tu kisi baat par dhyan nahin deta. Kal raat ko khaane par yahi toh baat chal rahi thi, tune suna nahin? Nidhi ne 2 hafton ke liye chutti le rakkhi hai. Woh na toh ghar aayegi, aur na hi hospital jaayegi. Beta woh shaadi mein gayi hai. Aur woh bhi apni bacchpan ki dost ke ghar. Woh hi toh saara kaam karva rahi hai, Anji ki mummy ke saath. Par do din baad sangeet hai. Hum sab ko wahan jaana hai. Tab mil lena tu Nidhi se. Tab tak ke liye beta mujhe toh kuch pataa nahin, tu jaane tera kaam jaane. Accha, ab Jaa aur apne Baba ko andar bula laa, nashta tayyar ho gaya hai. Main isse table par lagati hoon.
Ashutosh turned and left the kitchen. On the way he told Chote Sarkar to let Baba know that breakfast was ready, and that he should come inside. He also told Chote Sarkar to let Baba and Dadi Bua know that he was not hungry, and that he was going to get ready and go to work.
In his room, Ashutosh paced back and forth, running his hands through his hair in confusion. He had no idea what to do? Would she pick up his phone if he called? After all she had been pretty upset with him last night. Then the next instant he thought, "Why wouldn't she? After she loved him, and all husbands and wives have fights all the time, didn't they? Just because she was angry didn't mean that she wouldn't answer his phone", he thought to himself. But, crossed his fingers for luck all the same.
--This is my phone, and this is my number, toh main hi toh answer karoongi na? You were expecting someone else or what?
--Nahin...its just that you sounded a bit different, and there is a lot of noise in the back. I can barely hear you. Thats all.
--Well, yeh shaadi ka ghar hai, toh shor to hoga hi, hai na? And I sound different because, I don't want to talk to you, but I have to since you called, and I have been taught better manners than to not pick up or talk to a person, just because I am angry.
Ashutosh winced at those words. But, he acknowledged wryly, he deserved it. It sounded as if she was really angry.
--Nidhi, is there some way we can meet. Just for a little while. I really need to talk to you.
--Nahin. Abhi main bahut busy hoon. I have a lot of work to do. Anji is getting married in a week, aur abhi koi kaam bhi nahin hua hai. I am sorry, there is no way that I will be able to get away from here.
He was about to say something, when she spoke again,
--Dr. Ashutosh, I have to hang up now, Aunty is calling me...Bye.
And she hung up. Ashutosh could not believe it. His Nidhi, it seems was a very stubborn lady. He understood now, what Dadi Bua was trying to tell him. He, apparently had his work cut out for him. Maybe he would talk to Rangnath at the hospital. Surely he would know a way! His fianc was best friends with Nidhi. And Rangnath was also one of her friends.
With that decided, Ashutosh went to finish getting ready for work.
Once he got to the hospital, he went up to his office, and buzzed the administration department, and asked them to send Dr. Rangnath up to his cabin when he came in, and or soon as he had time.
It was a really busy morning, and when Rangnath had called him, Ashutosh had been in a consultation with a patient, so he missed the call. Afterwards, he had left word asking him if he was free for lunch, and when Rangnath had confirmed that he was, Ashutosh sighed in relief. He really needed to sort this thing out with Nidhi. Ashutosh had not known that he would ever feel like this. He was so restless over this fight with her, that he had not been able to concentrate on his work, and this had never happened to him before. No matter what personal issues he was having, no matter how bad, he had never let anything come in the way of his duties. Apparently people knew what they were saying when they said that,'Love made fools of us all'. He now realized just how true that was. He also knew that no matter what she had said on the phone to him, Nidhi would also be feeling the same way, as he was. Which, he had to admit, made him feel a bit better.
When, he entered the lunch room, he noticed that Nidhi's friend Rohan was also sitting at the table with Rangnath. Ashutosh, let out a breath of frustration, and irritation. He had been looking forward to lunch, but with Rohan also there, there was no way he could discuss what he had been wanting too, he thought as he walked up to the table.
Both Rangnath and Rohan stood up when they saw him approaching,
--Please, you both don't have to stand, sit down. This is not a formal lunch.
They both waited for him to sit down before they both did. There was some small talk between the three, after Rangnath had introduced Rohan formally to Ashutosh. After the lunch orders had been placed, Rangnath turned to Ashutosh,
--SirAap mere se baat karna chah rahe the na?
--Yes..I was, but...actually don't worry about it, we can do that some other time, lets have lunch, now.
Rangnath was quiet for a few seconds, before he spoke
--Sir, is this about Nidhi being mad at you?
He said, coming straight to the point. Ashutosh was a bit startled, and then uncomfortably at Rohan.
--Sir, actually I suspected that to be the reason. That is why I asked Rohan to join us.
--So, you both know?
Ashutosh asked, feeling uncomfortable having to discuss his personal life like this in front of Rohan. In fact he felt uncomfortable, having to discuss his personal life at all, in front of anyone.
--Yes Sir. Actually Anji told me about it this morning. Apparently Nidhi is in quite, a bad mood also. Anji says she is irritable and snapping at everyone, which is quite unusual for her. Nidhi is one of the sweetest people I know, and I have never seen her be unreasonable towards anybody.
Rohan let out a loud guffaw, at Rangnath's statement, which caused both his seniors to look at him with surprise,
--Sorry Sir. Sorry Dr. Rangnath, its just that your statement was so off mark, that I could not control myself. You are talking about Nidhi here, Right? The same Nidhi that is a first year pediatric resident, and works here. Anji's friend Nidhi?
Now, Rangnath along with Ashutosh was also starting to get irritated,
--Yes Rohan. Nidhi. Dr. Ashutosh and I were talking about Nidhi. But why are you acting like a total fool. And that too in front of not only a senior doctor, but also The Chief of Staff of this hospital.
Rohan, looked sheepish, but unremorseful,
--Dr. Ashutosh, I am sorry sir. But since this meeting is an informal one, I mean ...Well you see Nidhi is one of my best friends, and I know that she is also your wife. Well Sir, she talks about you so much, in fact she talks about you all the time. So much so, that at times I get sick of hearing you name. Sorry sir. But you see, I have heard about you so much, that somehow, I cannot see you as...Well sir, I have kinda just come to see you as one of us. And although this is the first time we are meeting like this, I feel as though I know you. To me you are not a stranger. I don't know if I am explaining my self in the right way, but sir, and please forgive me if what I am about to say offends you in any way. But, because of Nidhi, and the way she has portrayed you to me, I feel as if you are just one of the guys, and not my boss, or senior. In fact, even without meeting you, I feel comfortable with you.
This time he looked a bit chagrined. And, Ashutosh noticing the beginnings of a worried look on Rohan's face, at his silent and angry glare, burst out laughing.
--Two, can play at that game Rohan.
Rohan grinned, and sighed in relief, and was reassured at the friendly and now seemingly comfortable look on Ashutosh's face, said
--You really scared me there for a moment Sir.
--I meant too. Nidhi told me that you are not so easily disconcerted. And, well I just could not resist seeing if I could be the one to put a damper on your sails. You see, she talks a lot about you, also.
Rangnath, was was surprised to see this side of a man he had long known as Dr. Heartstone. Apparently Love does crazy things to a person, even to the extent of changing them completely. Six years ago, the Dr. Ashutosh he knew would never have been seen laughing and talking to one of the young doctors at the hospital like this.
--So, you both know that Nidhi is angry with me, but, do you also know why?
--Nahin Sir. Anji said that Nidhi only told her she was angry, not why.
--Nahin Sir, That is not Nidhi's way. She would not do something like that.
This was yet another facet to his woman, discretion. Ashutosh fell just a little bit more in love. He should have known that she would never do that to him. She would never disclose or expose what had transpired the previous night.
--Theek hai, but since both of you apparently have the upper hand here, in that you both know her a bit better than me, could you guys help me out. I mean could both of you tell me, what I could do that would make her calm down, and maybe let me apologize and try and make it up to her.
--Sir, that would be Anji's department. I would not know how to do that. Mujhe aaj tak yeh hi nahin pataa chalaa, ke Anji ko kaise manaun, toh Nidhi toh bahut door ki baat hai.
Ashutosh and Rohan both laughed at that. Then Ashutosh turned towardsRohan, and raised one eyebrow in a questioning look,
--Sir, mere ko kyon dekh rahen hain. Mere toh koi girl friend bhi nahin hai. How would I know what do to. Haan, main yeh zaroor jaanta hoon ke, Nidhi ko manana aasaan nahin hai. She is very stubborn. Waise she does not get angry easily, but jab hoti hai, toh she is almost impossible.
Ashutosh sighed, resignedly
--Theek hai, phir I guess mujhe hi kuch sochna hoga.
After that the talk turned towards general things again, while the three of them finished lunch. At his inquiry, Ashutosh assured Rangnath that he would be attending all the wedding functions, and after saying bye to both men, he left.
Meanwhile, late that evening, back at Anji's house, Nidhi sat dejectedly on the floor with Anji and her family, helping to sort out the various items according to the ceremonies that were to take place. Anji's mom had given her the duty to keep aside and arrange everything for the wedding ceremony, along with a checklist to make sure that nothing got left out. That was what she was working on when Anji reached over and shook her out of her thoughts,
--Nidhi, tera dhyan kahan hai. Mai tujhe kab se bula rahin hoon, aur tu hai, ke tujhe koi khabar hi nahin hai. Yaar saare din se tu bahut bore kar rahi hai mujhe. Hafte bhar mein meri shaadi hai aur tu iss tarha se munh phulaye baithi rahegi to main bilkul nahin enjoy karungi. Listen I think that you need to talk to Jeejaji, and sort all of this out. Jab tak tu unse baat nahin karegi, tab tak tu mere upar bilkul bhi attention nahin degi.
--Sorry, Anji. I promise that I will not get distracted again. But I will not talk to him just yet. I am too hurt and angry.
--Nidhi yaar, you need to give him some space. He is trying. You said so yourself na. Cut him some slack. Whatever he did I am sure he did not mean too.
Just then her phone rang, It was Ashutosh.
--Dekha unka naam liya, aur phone bhi aa gaya. Jeejaji ko pataa hoga ke hum unke baare mein hi baat kar rahein honge. Woh bhi tujhe miss kar rahein hain. Ab, jaa, aur unse baat kar le. Dekh kitni baari tujhe call kar chuke hain, aur tu hai, ke jaan bujh ke saare din se phone ko mere kamre mein chod rakkha hai, taaki answer na karna pade. Ab uth, aur jaa kar baat kar le. Nahin toh main unhe call karke bataa dungi ke tera yahan unke bina kya haal ho raha hai.
--Anji tu meri dost hai, tu mere saath aisa nahin kar sakti. Thats not fair.
--Darling, everything is fair in love and war. Iss liye the emotional blackmail isn't going to work. Now go other wise I promise I will talk to him.
Nidhi gave Anji a nasty stare, and got up and went to answer her phone,
--Nidhi! Where have you been all day. Do you know how many times I have called?
--Woh, I had forgotten my phone in Anji's room, and I have been busy all day.
--Busy, ya purposely phone ko kamre mein rakkh choda tha?
When she remained quiet, he sighed,
--Nidhi, itni naraz ho, ke mere se baat tak nahin karogi? I have been missing you like crazy today, and I know that you must have been equally miserable without me also.
--Yeh aapse kisne kaha? I am fine, infact I have been so busy, that I did not even have the time to give you much thought let alone miss you.
--Yeh tumne jhoot kabse bolna seekha hai? Nidhi you cant lie to me. I know. Tumhare dil ne mujhe bataya ke tum mujhe miss kar rahi ho.
--I don't know aap kiss ke dil ki baat kar rahe hain. Par, It was not mine.
And for the last time, I am not missing you!
--Theek hai you are not missing me, but I am missing you terribly. I am sorry for hurting you last night.
At that point tears started to fall from her eyes and Nidhi angrily wiped them away, but Ashutosh heard her sniffing,
--Nidhi tum ro rahi ho?
--No! I am not.
--Yes you are, I can hear it in your voice. Main wahan aa raha hoon.
--Nahin aap nahin aa sakte. I don't want you here.
--It does not matter what you want. I am coming.
--Agar aap yahan aaye to I swear, I will go away. Mujhe aapse nahin milna, aur main aapki koi baat nahin sunna chahti. Just leave me alone!
--Agar tumne leave kar diya, toh main kahan jaunga? Nidhi please gussa thuk do. I am really sorry, very very sorry. Lo kaan bhi pakad liye. I promise that ab kabhi bhi aisi galti nahin karunga. Aur tum jo sazaa dogi mujhe manzoor hogi. But please don't be angry with me.
Nidhi thought for a while,
--Theek hai lekin ek shart hai.
--Bolo, kya. Anything. Jo bhi hai, I agree.
--Pehle promise kariye, ke main jo bhi sazaa dungi woh aap manenge.
--I have already said so, haven't I?
--OK. As you already know by now that do din baad Anji ka mehendi, aur sangeet ke functions hai. Toh aapki yeh sazaa hai, ke Jab tak Sangeet par aap Baba aur Dadi Bua ke saath yahan nahin aate, aap mere se baat karne ki bhi koshish nahin karenge, aur na hi milne ki. Ab hum sangeet par hi milenge. Tab hi main aapse milungi bhi, aur aap jo bhi kahenge, woh sungi, and manungi.
--Ouch, Dr Nidhi! You are a cruel woman. I did not know that. Tum mujhe itni badi sazaa kaise de sakti ho.
--That is my condition Dr. Ashutosh. Take it or leave it.
--Tumhe pataa hai na, I have already given my word. So I will abide by it. But all I can say is that it is not fair. Theek hai, I will not call or try to see you till the day after tomorrow. But I promise that I will get my revenge for this, with interest. Accha ab main phone rakkhta hoon, tum jaa kar ke kuch khaa lo ab.
--I told you na, tumhara dil mujhe tumhara haal batata hai. Now go eat something, maine bhi nahin khaaya hai, and I will too. Good Night Nidhi.
After she had hung up with him, Nidhi felt more miserable than ever. Anji seeing this asked her the reason. Nidhi didn't want to tell her, but when Anji persisted, she told her everything, including the condition she had laid in front of him, and also his response. Anji was livid,
--Nidhi you are just too much. Tujhe sharam nahin aayi? How could you do this? I am totally ashamed of you. Maine kabhi bhi nahin socha tha ke tu itni cruel ho sakti hai. You are basically acting out of pique. Jeejaji ne tujhe hurt kiya, iss liye tu unhe hurt kar rahi hai. You know something, I think that you have forgotten the last six years. When he came back, you did not even know whether you would have a marriage. Tune 6 saal unke liye wait kiya, and you prayed that he would love you.
I remember how much you missed him, and pined for him. Now that he is here, this is how you treat him. Nidhi the man loves you, and is trying to make this relationship work...I don't even know what to say to you. I have never seen you act like this before. I don't know what happened between the two of you, and right now, I do not want to know, nor do I care. All I know is that the Nidhi that I know, and who I have loved like a sister, actually more than a sister, is not like this. She would cut off her right arm before she deliberately hurt anybody, much less the man she loves. I don't want to say anything else, except this. If you are truly my Nidhi, you are going to make up with jeejaji, and apologize for hurting him. No matter what he did, this is not you. And you need to be the person you are.
And with that Anji turned away and left the room, leaving Nidhi all alone. Anji is right Nidhi thought to herself, I really should be ashamed of myself. Yes he did hurt me, but, he did not realize what he was doing. Whereas, I did it deliberately, knowing that I was hurting him, and yet I went ahead. No, she needed to fix this. There was no way she could live with herself, if she let things go like this. Theek hai, he had hurt her, but there were other better ways to show him that marriages did not work like that. She needed to have patience with him. Besides she loved him, and she knew he was hurting, and that she was the only one that could make him feel better, so she took her phone and dialed,
--I am sorry.
--Why are you saying sorry to me?
--Because I hurt you.
--But I deserved it. After all I hurt you pretty badly last night.
--Yes you did, par aapko pataa nahin tha. Aur maine toh jaante bujhte aapko hurt kiya. I am really really sorry. Mujhe maaf kar dijiye please.
--Sweetheart, there really is nothing to forgive. Really I am not angry. And you did not hurt me, not really. I am more hurt that I hurt you. Will you forgive me?
--Ek shart par...
--Phir se shart...Nidhi...accha theek hai, bolo kya shart?
--Aap yahan aayiye aur mujhe dinner ke liye bahar kahin le chaliye. Mujhe pataa hai, aapne abhi tak kuch nahin khaya hoga.
--Tumne bhi toh nahin khaaya hai na.
--Issi liye toh keh rahi hoon, mujhe aapke saath bahar dinner par jaana hai. Aap aa rahein hain na?
--Nidhi, aise ho sakta hai, ke main na aaun. Tum thehero, mai abhi 15-20 minutes mein aaya.
Nidhi hung up the phone and quickly got ready, and ran outside to tell Shyama Aunty and Anji that she would be back later and to not wait up for her. Anji looked at her, and gave her a thumbs up sign and a wink.
She was standing out side, waiting impatiently for him, when his car drew up, and Ashutosh leaned to open the door for her. Nidhi sat down and looked at him, and reached out to take his hand,
--I am sorry.
Ashutosh just looked at her and smiled and brought her hand up to his mouth, and he placed a searing kiss on her palm. Then keeping hold of her hand, he headed out. They had barely gone a couple of miles when he pulled out on to the side of the road and turned to her. Nidhi looked up at him in confusion,
--Kya hua? Aapne car kyon rok di hai?
Ashutosh held out his arms,
--Because I could not go another minute without holding you in my arms. I have missed you so much.
Nidhi looked at him with tears in her eyes, and leaned towards him, and was enfolded into his waiting arms. A minute later Ashutosh drew back and looked at her with smoldering eyes,
--Nidhi, I know I promised you but...
He did not have to say anymore, as Nidhi leaned towards him again, and touched her lips to his. That was all that he needed to let go of the restraint that she had put on him. Ashutosh crushed her to himself, and kissed her hard, almost painfully. But, Nidhi did not mind. She knew and understood, As she herself was feeling the same way. Although it had only been a day, but because of the way they had parted, it seemed like it had been forever since they had been together. They both could not seem to get enough of each other. Ashutosh was like a desperate man, as he let go of her mouth and rained kissed all over her face, before capturing her mouth all over again. Nidhi, too was lost in him and his kisses. Ashutosh , reached up and pushed her dupatta aside, and buried his face against her shoulder, and gave her tiny little bites and nips along her neck and shoulder, and when her fumbling hands found their way up inside his shirt, he almost lost control. The headlights of an oncoming car, brought them both down to earth, and reminded them of where they were.
Ashutosh held on to her tightly as he brought his and her ardor under control . Then he drew back, and kissed her lightly once again, before he let her go, and looked at her ruefully.
--I guess, it's safe to say the we have officially patched up after our very first fight. Huh?
Nidhi gave him a shy smile and leaned in to kiss his cheek.
--I love you.
--Nidhi, I am sorry. You had laid out some ground rules, and I did not follow them.
--It's not your fault. I wanted it too. I missed you so much.
--I missed you too. I am sorry for what I said last night. I really did not think before I spoke. Its just years of conditioning. Nidhi please bear with me, till I get a hang of this marriage thing. Its a very foreign concept for me. I had never thought that I would get married, and that too, to a girl half my age.
--It's OK. I guess I over reacted also. I didn't have to fly off the deep end like that. Its just that your words hurt...
--I know sweetheart, and I can't tell you how deeply I regret causing you pain. I promise I will try and never do that again, though. But, if I do, you have my permission, to hit me or scream , and throw a fit, to do anything, but please don't go away like that and stop talking to me. I would rather you do anything but that.
--Theek Hai. Nahin karungi. Ab, bataiye kya karna hai.
Ashutosh put his seatbelt on and started up the car again, and pulled out onto the road,
--Kya karna hai, kya matlab? Tumne dinner bahar karne ke liye bola tha na. Iss liye tumhe khaana khilane le kar jaa raha hoon.
--I don't know exactly, it's pretty late so I thought taht we could drive around. Koi na koi jagah to mil hi jayegi.
--I know of a place. The food is out of this world. If you are game.
Ashutosh threw a skeptical look her way,
--Theek hai. I'll take your word for it. Lead on!
15 minutes later they were parked outside a Dhabba, and Ashutosh was looking at her as if she had lost her mind.
--Nidhi you have got to be kidding me! Are you trying to get the both of us killed or something?
Nidhi laughed, and got out of the car, and went over to his side, and took his hands and pulled him out.
--Please Ashutosh, trust me. You will love it. And I promise that even though this is not a seven star restaurant, or anything, the food is excellent, and the place it clean. AAp ko kuch nahin hoga. Promise.
Reluctantly, he let her lead him over to a small rickety table with two chairs, that looked as if all they were good for was firewood, but, when he sat down, found them to be sturdy, and not all that uncomfortable.
He waited patiently, and looked at her tenderly as she ordered for the both of them. It was kind of romantic, he supposed. They even had a small lantern on their table...so, maybe not a candlelight dinner. The lantern's light made her look even more beautiful, and he could hardly take his eyes off of her.
--Aap aise mujhe kyon dekh rahein hain?
--Main soch raha tha, ke tumse sundar bhi koi hai duniya mein?
--Ashutosh, stop it. There are plenty of women and girls that are much much more beautiful. Accha ab meri taraf dekhna band kijiye, aur dekhiye, Khaana bhi aagaya.
It was a huge thaali that was set down in front of them. Ashutosh looked at her, when the server left,
--Itna saara ek person ke liye?
She laughed, and took hold of one of his hands,
--Nahin. I ordered one thaali for the both of us. I heard that ek hi thaali mein saath saath khaane se pyaar aur badta hai.
Ashutosh reached out and cupped her cheek with one hand, and slowly passed his thumb over her lips,
--I know something else jiss se pyar badhta hai.
Nidhi darted her eyes here and there, to make sure that no one had seen, and drew away
--yeh aap kya kar rahein hain. Koi dekh lega. Please khaana khaiyega, nahin toh thanda ho jayega.
--Maine suna hai, ke agar patni apne haathon se khilaye, toh bhi pyaar badta hai.
Nidhi looked at him shyly, and proceeded to break off a piece of the roti and feed it to him. The whole meal passed by in a daze, with both of them feeding each other alternately, their eyes speaking a language of their own. Ashutosh had no idea what he ate, all he knew was that what ever was was wonderful.
He held her hand all the way back to Anji's house. Once he had parked outside, he tuned to her,
--Are you sure I have to drop you off. Ghar nahin chalogi?
--Ashuji, aap jaante hain main aisa nahin kar sakti. I have to stay here. Besides, sirf ek hafte ki hi toh baat hai.
--You are heartless you know that. Main itne din tumhare bina ghar par kya karunga?
--Ashutosh, aapko time bhi nahin milega mujhe miss karne ke liye. Din mein aap hospital mein busy rahenge. Aur shyam ko toh aap yahan aayenge. Please. Try to understand. Anji is very very important to me. She and her parents are my family. Mera mayka hai yeh. And you know, she is the one who convinced me to make up with you tonight. Infact, she was absolutely furious when I told her, and she really yelled at me. She made me realize that I was being stupid.
--Really? Then I must thank her. And sweetheart, I do understand. I was joking. I know that its important to you, so it's ok. But I was not kidding about missing you. In the short time I have been back, you have become a bad habit, that I just can't seem to shake. You know withdrawal symptoms hone lagte hain tumhare bina.
Nidhi pulled out of his arms,
--Accha Toh I am a bad habit! Toh theek hai, bad habit ka toh chodna hi accha hota hai. Mai jaa rahi hoon.
Ashutosh pulled her into his arms again, and started laughing,
--It is so easy to tease you. I was joking. Nidhi I will miss you a lot. I know that we are not 'together' just yet. But, your being in the same house also means a lot. This week is really going to be a problem. But, kya karein, ab shaadi kari hai, toh nibhani bhi padegi. Yes? Accha dekho bahut der ho chuki hai, ab tum andar jao. I will talk to you tomorrow.
Ashutosh leaned in close and tenderly kissed her lips.
Nidhi kissed him back also, and then reluctantly got out of the car, and went inside. Nidhi went to her room to find Anji sitting there waiting for her,
--Toh Kya hua? Everything OK? Actually judging from you face it seems that everything is more than OK. Huh?
Nidhi plopped down on the bed next to Anji,
--Yes Mommy. Everything is fine. We patched up.
--Chal thats good. Main issi liye tera wait kar rahi thi. I am so happy. Thank God, ab finally teri attention mere aur meri shaadi par hogi.
Just before she opened the door to leave, Anji turned around, and looked at her friend
--Nidhi, I am happy that you are happy. Tujhe pataa hai naa?
Nidhi, came up to her and hugged her, tightly,
--Mujhe pataa hai. Agar tu mere liye khush nahin hogi toh aur kaun hoga. Chal ab jakar so ja. Kaal bahut saare kaam karne hai. Phir parson ke baad tera ghar se bahar nikalna bhi toh mushkil ho jaye ga na. Aur, abhi Dr. Rangnath ka bhi toh call aane wala hoga, tujhe goonight karne ke liye, hai na? Ja, apne kamre mein, ja. Good night!
The next day Nidhi woke up late, so she rushed to get ready, and texted a hurried Good Morning, and I love you, and also told him to not worry, or call her, and that she would talk to him when she got back that evening, to Ashutosh. And then ran to where Shyama Aunty and Anji were waiting for her, so that they could finish up the last of the shopping. It was a really hectic day. By the time they got home all three of them were so tired that they could barely move. Shyama Aunty sent the both of them to their rooms to freshen up and also had their dinner sent to them there, with a strict warning that they were to go directly to sleep, after they had finished eating. Nidhi was so tired that she could barely eat. She meant to call Ashutosh, but as soon as she lay down she fell asleep, and did not even hear her phone ring.
Ashutosh tried several times, but when she still did not answer he called Anji's house directly,
--Jee, hello? Is this Mrs Solanki?
--Yes May I know who this is?
--Actually...this is Ashutosh, Nidhi's husband. Mrs Solanki, I am sorry to be bothering you this late, but I have been trying to call Nidhi for the past hour. She is not answering. I was getting worried, so I thought I would call up and make sure everything was OK?
--Jamai Babu. Please don't be so formal, call me Aunty. And it is not bother at all. Aapka hi toh ghar hai, aap jab chahe call kar sakte hain. Ek minute hold kariye, main dekh kar aati hoon Nidhi kya kar rahi hai. Please hold on...
--Jee, thank you...Aunty...I will hold.
A minute later she came back on the line,
--Jamai Babu, are you there?
--Jee Aunty, Nidhi ...
--Beta woh toh phone haath mein lekar so rahi hai. I think ke bahut gehri neend mein hai. Woh kya hai na, hum aaj saare din se bahar the, aur Anji aur Nidhi bahut thak gaye the, toh maine un dono ko apne kamre mein bhej diya tha. Ussne toh khaana bhi thodasa hi khaya hai, I think that woh aapko phone karne waali thi, aur uski aankh lag gayi. Aap kahein toh main jagaa doon?
--Jee, nahin. Aisi koi khaas baat nahin hai. Woh kya hai na aaj subha se uss se baat nahin hui thi, iss liye. Bas. But, no problem. Aap usse disturb mat kijiye, waise bhi toh kal shyam ko toh hum sab wahan aa hi rahein hain, main uss se tab mill loonga. Thank you ...Aunty.
Shyama was enchanted at the way he hesitated everytime hesaid the word AUNTY. He sounded like such a dear. She could not wait to meet him tomorrow.
--Its Ok Jamai Babu, dheere dheere aadat pad jayegi. Theek hai beta, abhi mujhe bahut kaam hai, main phone rakkhti hoon. AAp se kal hi milna hoga. I am looking forward to it. Good Night.
Ashutosh was really disappointed that he had not been able to speak to Nidhi all day. Poor thing he thought tenderly, as he pictured her beautiful face, asleep with the phone in her hands. She must be really tired to have fallen asleep like that. The only thing was, that he was also worried. She had not eaten! If she went on like this, ignoring her self and her health, she might get sick. Well, he would have a talk with her tomorrow, about this. And if she did not listen, well then, he would just toss her on his shoulder and bring her back home, where he would make sure that she was taken care of.
The next day, was almost a repeat of the previous one, except that All the work was in house, and they did not have to go out.She almost missed having mehendi put on her hands as she had been busy running around seeing to one thing or the other. But, Shyama Aunty had insisted that she stop and get her mehendi applied and had someone else finish up for her. So along with her mehendi, Nidhi, also got to get some rest, that was why she was not feeling tired at all. After making sure that Anji was ready for the sangeet, Nidhi went to get ready herself. As she was doing her make up, she was thinking about Ashutosh, and looked at her hands, where she had had his name woven in amongst the design. She couldn't wait to see him, and wondered whether he would be able to find it, or not. She had really missed him the last couple of days, and hadn't even gotten the chance to text, much less talk to him. She was also, really excited about the dance number she was going to be preforming tonight. Nidhi had chosen a number keeping Ashutosh, solely in mind. She just hoped that he liked it, and crossed her fingers for luck. Then she glanced at the clock, and seeing the time, hurried up to finish her makeup, and put on her clothes.
When Ashutosh arrived with Baba and Dadi Bua he was greeted at the door by Mr and Mrs Solanki, themselves. Knowing how important they were to Nidhi, and also knowing that they were like surrogate parents to her, Ashutosh bent and touched their feet. Once inside Ashutosh eyes darted here and there trying to spot Nidhi. Shyama seeing this, came over to him,
--Jamai Babu, kisse dhoond rahein hain aap?
--Nahin Aunty, I wass just admiring the arrangements. Everything is looking very beautiful.
--Waise, aap jisse dhoond rahein hain, ussi ne ye saare arrangements karein hain.
--Jee. Par aapko thoda intezaar aur karna hoga, abhi. She is getting ready, and then she has to bring Anji out with her, also. We are all just waiting for Dr. Rangnath and his parents to arrive.
Seeing his disappointment, she smiled and touched his arm gently,
--Beta, I would send you up to her, but actually all the ladies are in that area too, so I am afraid I won't be able to do that.
Ashutosh nodded in acknowledgement, still unable to contain disappointment. Rangnath and his parents arrived about 15 minutes later. After greeting him in the traditional style, with flowers and doing his aarti, He was led inside and seated on pne of the chairs specially brought and decorated for the bride and groom to be.
Ashutosh was standing near Rangnath chatting, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Rohan. They shook hands and were still talking, when Ashutosh noticed something from the corner of his eyes and turned around. It was Nidhi. She was walking with Anji and a couple of other girls towards them. Ashutosh had no idea who the other girls were, nor did he care. He could not see anyone else other than his wife. She was gorgeous. He did not know how he had thought he beauty to be simple. The way she was dressed today...she was absolutely breathtaking, and Ashutosh could not take his eyes of her.
She was wearing a white lehenga, with light pink and silver beads and stones. and had on silver and pink bangles. And wore long white gold diamond earrings, and a matching necklace, along with her ever present mangalsutra. On her forehead she had a while diamond maang teeka, and a silvery pink bindi. Nidhi had put a minimum amount of makeup. Just enough to enhance but not totally overshadow her natural beauty. Ashutosh also noticed that she had a silvery chain around her incredibly sexy waist. He looked around and saw a couple of male eyes full of appreciation, glancing at his wife, and turned back to look at her and scowled. Why couldn't she had worn something simple, he thought. Something that would have covered her up from head to toe, something that wouldn't expose quite so much of her to the male population, who, to him, seemed to be ogling her. He going to have a talk to her later, about her wardrobe.
Then, he noticed the petite girl in a turquoise lehenga, who was walking in the middle, between Nidhi, and a couple other girls. She seemed to be looking at him with a knowing and mischievous smile. That must be Anji, he thought. She was cute too. But of course no one in the room could hold a candle he thought with pride, forgetting that just a minute ago, he had been wishing that she wasn't looking quite so pretty. Nidhi helped Anji sit on the chair next to Rangnath and took up a vigil next to her chair. Then she looked up at him and smiled. Ashutosh, who had been waiting for her to notice him, gestured for her to come to him, but she shook her head.
Of all the...he stopped his angry thoughts. Is she teasing me again? he wondered, as he moved away from the crowd, and went to stand outside, he needed to get away from the crowd, and be by himself, and also get some fresh air. He was standing outside leaning against the wall, when he felt a familiar hand snake up his arm, and turn him around,
--Toh tumko phursat mil gayi mere paas aane ki.
--Ashutosh, aise mat boliye. I could not leave like that. Anji needs me to be with her right now. Abhi bhi uss ne hi mujhe yahan bheja hai, aapke paas.
--Accha, toh Anji needs you, and what about me? And why does she need you to be with her the whole time. She has her fianc with her doesn't she?
--Jee. But yeh tradition sa hota hai, I don't know. All I know is that she needs me, and I have to be there with her. Please don't be angry.
Ashutosh put his hand on her bare waist and gently, caressingly, and very very deliberately slid it around her back and pulled her close. Nidhi glanced around, and said breathlessly,
--Yeh aap kya kar rahein hain. Koi Dekh lega toh? Ashuji please mujhe chodiye. Dekhiye ghar ke saare bade, ya koi bhi guest, koi bhi kabhi bhi yahan aa sakta hai. Please let me go.
--Theek hai, lekin before I let you go, I need something too.
He looked at her knowlingly. Nidhi blushed.
--Woh Baad mein, abhi nahin. Not like this out in the open. Ashutosh abhi I really have to go. The program will be starting soon, aur mera dance sab se pehle hai.
--Dance? You are dancing?
--Hello, yeh sangeet hai. Aur sangeet mein toh singing and dancing hota hai. And since I am the best friend of the bride, I am doing the first dance of the evening. Abhi andar chaliye na. Aap mera dance nahin dekhenge. Yeh maine specially aapke liye prepare kara hai.
She took his hand to pull him inside with her, but Ashutosh held her back.
--Ok I will come, but you remember your promise right?
--You are worse than a little kid. Yes Sir, I will remember my promise. Ab please chaliye, anhin toh They will be sending out a search party for me soon.
And this time when she pulled him inside the house, he did not resist, but went along willingly.
She was just in time. Shyama aunty rushed up to her and told her that everyone was looking for her, as they needed to start the dance program before dinner. A cousin of Anji's who was MC for the evening was just announcing her number as, Nidhi walked in. Nidhi hurried over to the stage. And started dancing when the music began.
Once again he could not take his eyes off of her. She was amazing, and her dance was so graceful, that to him she seemed to be floating on air. Throughout the dance, her eyes repeatedly sought him out, and let him know that she was dancing for him, and him alone. Ashutosh was totally mesmerized.
When she had finished, she turned around and looked at him, with her heart in her eyes, plain for everyone to see.
Nidhi got off the stage, and went over to hug Anji, and said something to which Anji nodded, and Nidhi moved away smiling. He thought that she was going to come to him, but was surprised, when she disappeared around the corner. Ashutosh followed, curious to see where she was headed. It took him a couple of minutes to locate her, and he was stunned to see what was happening. Nidhi was standing in a corner, looking very scared. In front of her stood a tall muscular man, who had had her trapped. So, when she saw him, she looked a bit relieved.
As Ashutosh neared, he heard the man say,
--I knew it. You are nothing but a tease, and an opportunist. Hospital mein toh you pretend to be so simple, innocent, and honest, and never even give me time of day, and yet here you are, making googly eyes at Dr. Ashutosh, a man twice your age. You have set your sights pretty high haven't you, little girl. Now what has he got that I haven't, other than being wealthy. Besides he's too old for you, and I have heard that he is married. You will be much better off with me. Now, I know how to show a girl a good time. And, I promise that I will make it worth your while.
Nidhi was desperately trying to hold him off as he leaned closer,
--Dr. Purab, please. Stop this nonsense. I think that you have had too much to drink. Please let me go. Everybody will be looking for me.
--I don't think so Dr. Nidhi. Your dance is finished. That is if you can call it that. I saw the way you were gyrating around the stage for him. It was a disgusting display. And besides, everyone is busy watching the program. Kaun dhoond raha hoga tumhe...I don't think koi bhi...
--Well for starters her husband is trying to find her. I imagine he will have something to say about the way you are treating his wife.
Ashutosh said in a dead calm voice. His voice and whole manner totally belying the fury in his eyes.
The minute he heard Ashutosh's voice, Purab turned around, giving Nidhi the space she needed to escape, as she ran into Ashutosh's waiting arms, and she buried her face against him, trembling uncontrollably with fright. Ashutosh hugged her to himself. Silently reassuring her that he was there and that he would not let anything happen to her.
--Her Hus...No, no, no. I think you have it wrong Doc. She is not married. No girls like her don't get married so young, they like to wait around for the highest bidder, or a sugar daddy like you for...
He did not get to say another word, as Ashutosh pushed Nidhi behind him, and fist snaked out and punched the other guy in the face. Dr. Purab, had no idea what hit him, as he went sprawling to the ground in a very undignified manner. He looked up from his position on the floor, and wiped the blood from his mouth,
--I don't know why you are getting so upset Dr. Ashutosh. This is not the hospital, and over here you are not my boss. And Nidhi is not married, I think that she is lying to you, she is just a girl who likes...
--Be very careful what you say about my wife Dr. Purab, or I will make sure you regret the day you were born.
This time the menace in his voice was so evident, that Purab's face paled,
--Your Wife?!!!! No, that can't be. She is your wife...
--Yes, Dr Purab she is his wife.
Rohan spoke up from behind them. He too was furious.
--Let me introduce you, Please meet Dr. Mrs. Nidhi Ashutosh Mathur. Nidhi is Dr. Ashutosh's wife.
Rohan turned around to face Ashutosh, who was once again holding a shaking Nidhi in his arms.
--Sir, Aap Nidhi ko lekar jayiye. I will handle this scum bag. Don't worry. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but he never gave me the chance. Today I finally have it. And I will tell Anji and the family what happened. It's ok.
Ashutosh looked at Rohan gratefully as he led Nidhi away.
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