Dr. Rangnath was going to be getting an earful from her at the first opportunity, Nidhi vowed, for putting her in this position, and also for giving her baby into Ashutosh's care. But inspite of her annoyance at Anji's husband, Nidhi could not keep her heart from melting at seeing the two people she loved most in the world, together like that.
He was holding her baby so sweetly in his arms, and not to mention the fact that they were both sleeping so soundly, that Nidhi didn't have the heart to wake either of them up. She walked up quietly to stand near the sofa, where they were sleeping, and looked down at the two of them. The resemblance was uncanny! Anyone looking at the two of them right now would automatically assume that Khushi was Ashutosh's daughter. It was just her luck, she thought wryly, that she happened to be in love with the two people who, though not related in any way, looked like replicas of each other. Just seeing Ashutosh with Khushi sleeping on his chest brought back all the dreams she had once had about the two of them having their own babies someday..And seeing the both of them as they were right now, had been just one of those dreams. She still loved him with all her heart, but, there was no way that she could live him him anymore, or forgive him. She could not trust that he would not hurt her again.
She shook off the old daydreams and hurts, and went to sit on a chair at his desk. She might as well get some work done, Nidhi thought with a tired sigh, since by the looks of the two of them they were not going to be waking up anytime soon. She looked back again and noticed that Ashutosh really did look very tired, he had circles under his eyes. He needed the rest, and judging by the expression on his face he was having a peaceful and restful sleep. She knew that she could not give him much else, but maybe letting him sleep a bit, was the least she could do, after all even Dadi Bua was not home, so there was no one to worry about her going home late.
Ashutosh slowly came awake, to the feeling of something lying on top of him, and he opened his eyes. It took him a moment to focus, and get his bearings. Then whatever was lying down on him moved, and he looked down, and saw her. She was possibly the sweetest thing that he had ever seen, he thought. As Ashutosh continued to look at her, he felt a flood of love for this little child fill his being. He wished with all his heart that she could have been his, but in the short time he had known her, he had come to love her as much as he would have if she had been his own. He placed a kiss on the tiny little head that was lying near his heart, and brought up a hand and tenderly caressed a tiny cheek with his finger. He saw that she had been drooling on his shirt, and was about to use his finger to wipe Khushi's sweet little mouth, when he was handed a tissue. He looked up and saw Nidhi. She was siting at his desk, and it was apparent from the paperwork in front of her that she had been working. She smiled wryly, and waved the tissue at him, indicating that he use that.
--Sorry, she's a big drooler. Has been ever since she was tiny.
--She is still tiny. And don't worry about the drool. That's what babies do. I think it's sweet.
They were speaking in soft tones, so as not to disturb Khushi. Nidhi got up, and leaned forward to take her from him, when he placed a hand on khushi, and looked at her beseechingly,
--Nidhi can I hold her for a bit longer, Please? She feels so wonderful.
Nidhi gave a small laugh, and looked at her daughter tenderly,
--Yes she does doesn't she. I feel the same way, when she snuggles with me at night, sometimes. I miss her being a baby, she is growing up so fast. Theek hai, you can have her a bit longer while I go and put everything in the car, then I will come back and get her. I need to get home and make Khushi's dinner, aaj Dadi Bua bhi nahin hai, so I am all alone and will need to do everything by myself.
--Dadi Bua, kahan gayi Nidhi.
--She had a family emergency. Once of her cousins broke and ankle and she had to go there to help take care of her. Any way, now I will just make a quick trip to the car. I will be right back.
After Nidhi had left, something she had said clicked in his mind. Nidhi had said that she would be all alone at home today. But why would she have to be alone? He wondered. Where was her husband, why wasn't he going to be home with her? Ashutosh was still thinking about it when the little bundle lying on top of him, began to move. He tried patting her back in the efforts to put her back to sleep. He did not want to give her up just yet, it was too soon, he had barely gotten any time with her, he thought. But as luck would have it, Khushi had other ideas. After another minute of squirming on top of him, she rubbed her eyes with tiny little fists and sat up, yawning. Then she turned around and looked at him, and smiled. Ashutosh looked at her, and wondered just how many times a person could keep falling in love over and over again, with the same person, in one lifetime. This child, he admitted to himself, was fast becoming as necessary to his existence as her mother was.
Ashutosh put his arms on her to steady her, as he sat up. Khushi looked at him once again before sleepily putting her head on his chest, as she snuggled into his lap.
--Ashu Uncle, mama kahan hain?
--She will be here in a minute sweetheart. Are you done with your nap?
She nodded her head, and reached up to put her arms around him and give him a kiss on his cheek.
Ashu hugged her tightly to himself. He did not want to let her go. He wished that there was some way that she could be with him forever. But of course, that could never be. He had to keep reminding himself repeatedly that she did not belong to him. She was someone else's. But his heart refused to believe that, and that's where the whole problem lay. How does one dictate logic to one's heart?
Nidhi opened the door, and the sight of the two, once again stopped her in her tracks. Ashu and Khushi were hugging each other, and Ashutosh was resting his head on the tiny one resting on his chest, with his eyes closed and a look of such profound peace and happiness on his face, that she could not stop the tears that came to her eyes. She just had to capture this moment, she thought desperately, as she quickly whipped out her IPHONE. Nidhi had bought it specifically for this purpose, as she clicked on the camera mode, and focused in on the two.
Nidhi just hoped that they would remain like this for a few more seconds while she completed her task. She did not want Ashutosh to open his eyes and catch her doing this. She did not want him to attach a deeper meaning to this. Her luck held out, he opened his eyes, just as she was putting the phone back in her pocket.
Ashutosh opened his eyes to find Nidhi standing there, staring at the two of them. He could not tell anything by her expressions, as to what she felt at seeing him hugging her daughter to himself.
But, he did not want to give her any wrong ideas. And, he did not want to do anything that would create problems between her and her husband, regarding him. So, he quickly stood up, and started to hand Khushi to Nidhi, when he found that the child refused to let go of him. She was clinging tightly to his neck, not willing to relinquish her hold.
Nidhi was both surprised and not so surprised to see Khushi's reaction to Ashutosh. She had already suspected that her baby, much like her mother, was beginning to fall in love with him. And, who could blame her. Ashutosh was like that. And, she was also beginning to feel a bit jealous, and worried at the same time. Jealous because ever since she had been a baby Khushi had been close only to her, and she rarely wanted anybody else when Nidhi was around, and now here she was refusing to even come to her. She was also worried, because it seemed that her baby was getting way to close to Ashutosh, and that was a disaster waiting to happen. Nidhi also knew that there was no way that she could or would snatch Khushi out of Ashutosh's arms the way she had done before. That had been a very petty action on her part, and she was not a petty person at all. So, now the problem arose, as to how to pry Khushi away from Ashutosh? Nidhi, moved a bit closer and reached out and touched Khushi,
--Khushi, Baby. Chalo beta, mama ke paas aa jao. Phir ghar bhi toh chalna hai na.
When Khushi refused to budge, Nidhi gave Ashutosh an apologetic look, and said,
--I am sorry Ashutosh, I have no idea why she is doing this...
Come on Monkey, we have to leave now. Ok tell Mama what her baby wants for dinner. Then we can go home and you can help me make it. Aur ab to Dadi Bua bhi nahin hain, so there is no one to get angry at us making a mess. Hain na?
Finally, Khushi lifted her face and looked at her,
--Mama can we have Pizza, fries and noodles?
Nidhi laughed, and reached out to poke a finger at her belly
--And how are you going to get all that into this tiny little tummy, may I ask?
--I promise I will eat all of it. Please, please Mama.
Ashutosh laughed at the exchange between mother and daughter,
--She really is your daughter Nidhi. She has your constitution, and certainly your tastes in food. So, what else do you like munchkin?
Khushi scrunched up her face in concentration trying to think of all the yummy things she liked to eat. But, before she could say anything Nidhi spoke, up with a laugh in her voice
--Oh you really don't want to get her started on that, nahin toh iski list hi khatm nahin hogi. And your head will be reeling from all that she has on that list.
--Thats ok I love to hear her talk. Ashutosh said with a smile,
And that was when Nidhi realized that she and Khushi were in his office, and she was standing and having a perfectly normal, and perfectly pleasant conversation with him.
Ashutosh could tell the exact moment that she withdrew from him again, and he sighed to himself, with disappointment. He had known that the truce would not last for long, he had however wished that it could have gone on for a bit longer...He was brought out of his musing when Khushi spoke up..
--Mama, you didn't answer me.
--Sorry Baby, Of course I will make all those things for you, now...lets go home. OK?
--Ok. Ashu Uncle, aap bhi chaliye. My mama makes yummy noodles, and Pizza. But, I like Nani Bhua's Fries better than Mama's.
Both Ashutosh and Nidhi did not know how to react to Khushi's innocent invitation. Although Both had their different reasons for that.
--Khushi, baby I don't if he wants to come with us?
Oh my, did she really say that, Nidhi thought. That was not what she meant. She had meant to say that she didn't think he could come. That would have been hint enough for him. But,...
--But mama, Mujhe pataa hai Uncle aayenge. He said he was my friend, and that he loves me. So, he will come he has too.
And to Nidhi's horror, Khushi started crying. She never did that, Nidhi thought in surprise. Khushi almost never cried, unless something was really bothering her. She wondered exactly what happened to make her cry. But one thing was sure, Nidhi could not stand to see her baby cry, not if she could help it. That didn't mean that she gave in to her unreasonable demands. Something must be wrong, maybe she wasn't feeling well.
Anyway, whatever, Khushi's demand was not an unreasonable one, the child had no idea about the situation between the adults. So...
--Dr. Ashutosh for Khushi's sake will you please come have dinner with us at our house?
Ashutosh couldn't have been more stunned if he had been plowed down by a wild bull, as he was now. Nidhi was asking him to dinner. What could he say? How could he do that? How could he go to her house and pretend to be cordial with her husband? He was not that much of a saint. There was no way he would be able to tolerate that. So, he was about to refuse, when Khushi turned to look at him with a big beautiful smile on her face,
--Uncle, Mama is asking you a question. Its not polite to keep someone waiting for an answer...
--Khushi! Beta, you shouldn't talk like that to your elders. Thats not polite. Now I want you to say sorry to Dr. Ashutosh. Right Now!
Khushi knew when her mother used that tone she had no choice but to obey. But she could do that, after all hadn't she gotten her way? Ashu Uncle was coming with them. And when they got home she was going to tell her mama that she wanted Ashu Uncle to be her Papa. Mama had promised her!
--I am sorry Ashu uncle.
then she turned to look at her Mother.
--But mama aapne hi toh bataya tha ke jab koi aapse question pooche, toh answer karna chahiye.
Nidhi was about to answer, but Ashutosh jumped in before she could do that,
--Beta aapki mama ne theek bola tha. Par badon se aise nahin bolte, apne friends se bolte hai. Right Nidhi?
And he turned to smile at her. But the smile died as soon as he saw her face, and realized that he shouldn't have spoken. After all he was not the child's father, what right did he have to correct her, or for that matter have any say in anything regarding Khushi.
--I am sorry Nidhi. i guess I over shot my bounds.
--Thats Ok. No harm done, and you only said what was right. So don't worry about it.
Ashutosh was once again surprised. But in retrospect he shouldn't have been, he should have remembered her generous nature. Nidhi did not have a mean bone in her body. That fact had always humbled him, along with her forgiving nature. He must have imagined her disapproval earlier, he thought, and felt relieved.
--So, will you be joining us?
--If its not too much trouble, than yes I would love too.
He might as well take the bull by the horns he thought. Sooner or later he was going to be meeting her husband, might as well be today. Best to get it over with, he thought, with resignation.
This time when Nidhi held out her arms for Khushi, she went readily. And as soon as she did, Ashutosh felt as if something really really precious had been taken away from him.
Khushi once again made a fuss in the parking lot, about wanting Ashutosh to be in the car with her. Nidhi had no idea what was going on, but she was sure going to find out. Her not so innocent daughter was up to something, and she had a pretty good idea what that was. And at the same time she was also getting a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach, almost like curious sense of foreboding, almost like she was in a runaway train that she had no way of stopping.
Anyway, after another teary session, and the only other choice being that they went in the same car, Nidhi reluctantly agreed to let Khushi ride with Ashutosh, in his. So, she took the Car seat out of her car and installed it in Ashutosh's, while he watched in fascination at the way she handled all the paraphernalia, that came with it.
--I didn't realize that you had to be a rocket scientist now-a-days to raise a baby. Nidhi, that was the single most confusing thing I have seen in my life. I am still standing here amazed at how you managed that so quickly.
Nidhi flushed at the praise, and laughed
--Actually its not that hard once you get used to it. In the beginning it used to take me hours, and I had to read the instructions over and over again till I got it right. But One you get the hang of it, its all really easy. Anyway, let me strap her in for you. And Ashutosh, agar yeh aapko tang kare toh please stop the car on the side somewhere, and I will take her. Also, she is normally very good, but sometimes, when the mood strikes, she can be quite a handful, or earful, so I have somethings in her bag that will keep her occup...
--Nidhi, I am not totally incompetent you know. Don't worry. You have strapped her in properly, and made sure that the seat has been securely installed. Now I promise that I will take care and drive safely.
--I know, its just that I don't normally..
--Let anyone else have her?
She looked up at him with eyes wide, and nodded. In that instant, to Ashutosh, she looked as innocent as Khushi, and reminded him of the old Nidhi, his Nidhi. The one had had known all those years ago...
--Yea, I am sorry!
--Nidhi, you have nothing to be sorry about. She is your baby, of course you would worry. I know that you love her. But Nidhi, I love her too. I would never let anything happen to her.
--Yes, I know that you love her. I've seen it in your eyes.
Then realizing that she had said too much, Nidhi turned towards her car, and waved bye to Khushi.
One she had started driving, she placed a call to Anji.
--Anji, tu kya kar rahi hai? Khair maar goli, tu jo bhi kar rahi ho, I don't care. Just grab Nishi, and Jeej if he is there and come over to my house. Right Now? I don't even care if you guys are in your night suits. Just hustle your behinds, and get over here.
--Nidhi, calm down. You are not making any sense. Koi emergency hai kya. You and Khushi are OK, na? Kya baat hai kuch toh bataa.
Then Nidhi, told her everything that had happened today, how Dadi Bua had to leave, and then how Rangnath had left Khushi with Ashutosh, and then Khushi inviting him to dinner. And also about the tear fest Khushi had about inviting Ashutosh for dinner, and also wanting to ride with Ashutosh to their house.She also told Anji about her conversation with Khushi. How Khushi talked about choosing a father for herself.
Nidhi was going on and on...But Anji, tuned her tirade out, and was having a wonderful time just thinking about what was happening. First of all she silently cheered for her brilliant husband. Leaving Khushi with Ashutosh, had been a stroke of pure brilliance. Than she felt like giving her niece a huge hug, and welcoming her into the sisterhood. The way the child had manipulated the whole situation, was nothing short of genius. So she was just not a pretty face, Anji thought affectionately, and with amusement. "Nidhi better watch out, the child of hers was going to lead her, through quite a song and dance." But Anji knew Who the ultimate winner would be also. And she would bet anything that it would not be Nidhi. Anji had no doubts, at all about the fact, that IF everything that Nidhi had told her was true, then the little girl had indeed chosen her father. Anji also had to admit that this would be an ideal situation for all three of them. Because she knew that for Nidhi, there would be no one else but Ashutosh, at not in this lifetime.
According to what Rangu had told her, Ashutosh had also suffered a lot since they had separated. He was bearing the burden of three betrayals. First was his betrayal of Nidhi. Then Mallika's betrayal of their friendship , and lastly, Baba's inability to recognize his love for Nidhi, and forcing him to stay married to Mallika. Nidhi did not know everything, maybe she should tell her. Maybe this was needed. Nidhi needs to know the whole truth, Anji thought. She needed to know Ashutosh's truth as well. She needed to know how much he had suffered, and was still suffering. He had really paid a huge price for his mistake, and, was still paying. The fact that he thought that Khushi was someone else's child, and that Nidhi belonged to someone else must be eating him alive, was not fair to him. The man deserved a break, she acknowledged. Maybe this was what was needed to break the ice, between the two.
Anji knew that Nidhi was still in love with Ashutosh, and Rangu had told her that Ashutosh still loved Nidhi. But both of them were so stubborn, that a couple of times she felt like bashing their heads together, to knock some sense into their heads. But now that would not be necessary. She smiled devilishly. She had a better weapon. She had Khushi. And that was better than any forced meetings, or slyly contrived run ins, any day. This little angel was going to be helping her Massi, and Massa (it was plain that the little girl loved her Maasa more than her Massi( which was really not fair))of course, to get both her parents together.
Because ever since that first dinner at her house, with all of them together, when she had seen Ashutosh look down at Khushi asleep in his arms, Anji had known that he was the perfect father for Khushi. Anyway she would not miss being at Nidhi's house today even if her life depended on it. Anji told Nidhi that they were all awake and not doing anything in particular, and would get there as soon as they could. After reassuring Nidhi that she would not be ditching her, hung up the phone, told Nishi, who was watching TV, to change her clothes because they were going to Nidhi Massi's house for Pizza and fries, then ran to her room and shook her sleeping husband awake. Poor Guy had been sleeping really soundly. But, when she explained everything to him also, he got up at once and got ready. And also told him to he needed to be ready to eat Pizza, fries, and noodles. Poor guy looked really pained, at the thought that he would have to eat all that. They had had dinner early because he had been really tired, and he was quite full already. But, he was just as concerned about the two of them, and wanted to see them together, just as much as Anji did, so he graciously agreed to go along with this crazy idea. It just might work, he thought to himself, and smiled. What a novel approach, the child was choosing a father for herself, and a husband for her mother. He wondered if anything like this had been done, ever before, and chuckled softly to himself, as he hurriedly helped Nishi get ready.
Nidhi could hear her daughter talking a mile a minute to Ashutosh. Poor guy, she thought, he had been stuck with her since practically the whole day. He must be getting tired by now, she thought, may be I should give him a break. She went to the living room where Khushi was showing him her toys. Nidhi had to admit that he did not look like he needed rescuing, she was about to go in and interrupt, but stopped when she heard what Khushi was saying.
--Uncle, aapke koi mere jaisi beti nahin hai?
--Nahin beta, I am not lucky, like your Mama and Papa. God did not give me any babies.
--Lekin uncle, Mere toh Papa nahin hain? But , mai toh phir bhi bahut lucky hoon. Mere paas Mama hai, Nani Bhua hain, Rangu Maasa Anji massi, aur Nishi hai.
--Aapke Papa kyon nahin hai Beta?
--Pataa nahin. God ne mujhe kabhi diye hi nahin. Aur aapko pataa hai, mere school mein Nikki keh rahi thi ke Mama bhi meri Mama nahin hai. Kyon ki main unki tummy mein se nahin aayi hoon na, iss liye. Par woh jhoot bolti hai. Jhoot bolna acchi baat nahin hain na? Iss liye Nikki bahut gandi hai, mujhe woh zara bhi acchi nahin lagti, saare time mujhe bahut tang karti hai. Mama ne bataya, ke iss baat se koi fark nahin padta ke main unki tummy mein se nahin aayi hoon, woh kehti hain ke mein unke dil se nikli hoon, iss liye woh meri Mama hai. Kal Woh Nikki ki Mama se baat karengi taki woh mujhe tease karna band kare.
Mama kehti hain, ke mein bahut special hoon, aur jab woh sabko batyengi, toh woh sab mujhe phir nahin chedenge. Aur Uncle aaj Mama ne mujhe promise bhi kiya hai ki woh mere liye Papa layengi. Phir toh main sab bacchon ki tarha ho jaungi na?
Ashu sat there stunned, at what Khushi had told him. Khushi was not her biological child? Then whose was she, and what was her connection to Nidhi? And Nidhi was not married? Why hadn't Rangnath told him that? He just sat there trying to digest, and grasp all that he had just found out. But there were still a lot of question in his mind, that still demanded answers. And somehow, he did not think that he would get them from Nidhi.
Nidhi like Ashutosh, was also floored. Her daughter had just told Ashutosh everything that she had been trying not too. It had been pretty foolish of her to think that she could have kept it a secret for very long, she admitted to herself. He had to find out sooner or later, the only thing was that she had not banked on him finding out from Khushi. It was clear that her little girl was smitten, and it was also clear where this conversation was headed, so before she said what Nidhi was afraid she would, she needed to stop her.
--Khushi sweety, I thought that you were going to be helping me in the kitchen? We need to get everything ready quickly, Nishi and your Massa and Massi are coming over. Massi told me that they are all really really hungry, so we should hurry. Come on now.
--But Mama, if we go in the kitchen, then Ashu uncle with be lonely without us.
She turns to Ashu
--Aap bhi aayenge mere saath. Hum dono mama ki Help karenge.
Ashutosh, looked at Nidhi, she didn't look to happy with the suggestion. But, at this point he didn't care. He was like a man with a death sentence, who had just been a chance at survival. He needed to know exactly what had gone on during the last five years. He knew why Anji and Rangnath were coming, and when they had been invited, and he was glad. Now he would have a chance to talk to Rangnath, and have him explain everything to him.
He looked down at Khushi, who was tugging at his hand
--Uncle aap phir se kuch nahin bol rahein hain.
--Sorry, beta. Aap aur Mama jao, I will wait here for your Massa and Massi, nahin toh unke liye Door kaun kholega? Huh?
With a Disappointed look in his direction, Khushi let her mother lead her towards the kitchen. He hated to disappoint her, but right now he needed information, and that was the reason that he volunteered to stay.
After they had left, Ashutosh looked around, nothing here was as he had remembered. Everything right down to the color of the walls had been changed. It was as if someone had tried to get rid of something unpleasant. He wondered what happened to all the photos Nidhi had of the two of them. In fact,he wondered what had happened to all of their momentos, and all the gifts he had given her, specially the pendant he had given her for their first valentines day. He remembered that she had worn it all the time, refusing to take it off even for a second. Probably in the trash along with his other stuff, would be his guess, and who could blame her.
Ashutosh had not done right by her, and her bitterness, distrust and dislike for him were more than justified.
Ana, although he was ecstatic about the fact that there had been no one in her life other than him, it saddened him also, that he had hurt her so badly that she had preferred to stay alone rather than put her trust in anybody else. But, before he made any decisions on where to go from here, he needed the whole story.
When the door bell rang, he went to let Rangnath, Anji and Nishi in. After greeting him, Anji and Nishi went right to the kitchen, but he held Ranga back, when he would have followed.
--Sir, whats the matter?
--Rangnath, you can cut the act. You know exactly why I have held you back. What I want to know is, why didn't you tell me?
I thought that we were friends?
--Si, we are friends. But, Nidhi is my family. I am sorry. I could not tell you, it was not up to me. Its was Nidhi's choice to tell you or not. Although, if someone had asked me, I would have said that she wouldn't tell you this quickly. I am surprised!
--She didn't. Khushi did!
--Oh! Now it all makes sense. So, if you know, what do you need from me?
--Rangnath, please stop being so deliberately obtuse, and credit me with some intelligence. Khushi is a child. I need the full story.
And don't give me any more excuses. Please. I am asking this as a friend.
Rangnath was quiet for a moment, trying to figure out what to say, and what not. But, he thought, the cat was already out the bag. What could it hurt? He could give him all the facts, without any of the personal details. Well...maybe just a bit here and there, he could dress things up a bit, couldn't he, to make everything a bit more interesting...there were no rules against that. Were there? After all, all's fair in love and war...And, his wife would sure be proud of him, he thought, might even reward him, if he was lucky!
--What, would you like to know, Sir?
--Everything? Who is Khushi, if not Nidhi's daughter? Nidhi's life during the past 5 years, everything!
--First of all Sir, I'd like to correct you. Khushi is Nidhi's daughter! Maybe not in the biological sense, but in every other way, there is, including legally.
Then he went on to tell Ashutosh how Nidhi found Khushi and the fact that she had adopted her legally. He also told him how Nidhi had worked hard and how much she had sacrificed to get where she was, career wise.
--Sir, everything has been a struggle for Nidhi. She has worked very hard, and with single minded determnation to get where she is today, as well as being an excellent mom. And a far as Khushi is concerned, well as you can see, Nidhi lives for that child. Her everyday starts for the baby and also ends with her. She is her world.
--So, she...I mean there's been no one in her life since I...
I mean...No One?
--No Sir. No one? She insists that she does not need anyone.
She says the her daughter is enough for her.
--But...how will she live like this. She needs someone in her life besides the child. Khushi is going to grow up one day, she can't remain a baby forever. Then what? Has Nidhi thought about that? Why...
--I understand what you are trying to say, sir. And we all feel the same way. Believe me when I say that we have tried, all of us have, but she is really stubborn.
Rangnath,paused a bit for dramatic effect, then before Ashutosh could say anything else, he continued,
--Par, aap pareshan mat hoyiye. And please don't feel guilty. Un sab baaton ko bahut time ho gaya hai. You did what you had to do, and I am sure what you thought was right...At that time. After all, Sir, Dr Mallika had been your childhood friend, and you had no reason to doubt her words. I know that it must have been very difficult for you, to give up the woman you loved. But, aap please worry mat kariye, we have not given up. We are all trying to find the right person for Nidhi. Someone who will love her and accept Khushi into his life. Some one who will be able to take away all the pain and loneliness, and bring happiness and laughter into her life again.
Then for this next part he crossed his fingers, and prayed to god to forgive him, because he was about to tell a whopper of a lie, and had no wish to have lightening, strike him down,
--Actually Sir, Nidhi does not know but, the reason Dadi Bua left today was because her sister wanted her to see this boy that they have found for Nidhi. She thinks that he will be perfect for her. Dadi Bua did not want Nidhi to know so she told her that her cousin needed her.
According to what Dadi Bua told me, and what she knows of the boy and his family so far, he and Nidhi will make a perfect couple. (Dadi Bhua, please forgive me) Bas, Ek bar Dadi Bua kal usse dekh lein. And if she likes him then, once she comes back we will all be trying to convince Nidhi. If not of her own sake, then for Khushi's sake, I am sure that she will give in. After all, the child needs a father too.
Rangnath looked at Ashutosh, and noted that his little lie, seemed to be having the desired effect...Dr. Ashutosh was not a happy camper. Rangnath knew that Ashutosh loved Nidhi, and he bitterly regretted his mistake. But that didn't mean that they had to make it easy for him either. He needed to work, HARD, to try and win Nidhi back. And of course they would help him, Dr. Ashutosh was his friend and his senior, but he didn't have to know that they would, just yet, either. He had a lot of respect for Ashutosh, and liked him a lot, but,...He loved Nidhi! She might be Anji's friend, but to him she was the little sister he had never had, but always wanted. There was no way, he would let Ashutosh off the hook so easily. He had hurt Nidhi a lot.
--Accha...So, Dadi Bua is trying to find a match for Nidhi? But you said that Nidhi was not ready for that, thats he didn't want to get married at all. So...how will she, I mean how will you all get her to agree.
--We are family Dr. Ashutosh. Families have their ways. Sab ho jayega. I am just waiting on a confirmation form Dadi Bua, that's all.
Ashu had no response. He was lost in his thoughts, when Anji called them both to dinner. Ashutosh saw that dinner was quite an affair. It was also noisy. Both the little girls were having a ball, and Nidhi, who was sitting between the two little girls, was busy trying to have them both eat, while trying to eat herself. She was an amazing mother. If anyone had asked him his opinion in this regard 5 years ago, he would not have agreed with them. He would have said that, while Nidhi would make a good mother, she did not have the patience to deal with a child, and all the headaches that came from being a parent. Well, he had been way off the mark in his thinking. Its wan't the first time he had underestimated her, Ashutosh thought sadly to himself.
By the time dinner was done and he kitchen cleaned up, it was plain to see that the two tiny monkeys were tuckered out. So with a promise to talk tomorrow to set up a program for the weekend, Anji, and Rangnath, with their daughter on his shoulder fast asleep, said good night and left.
In the car, both he and Anji were taking about Nidhi and Ashutosh, and Anji asked him why Ashutosh had asked him to stay back. When he told her, Anji burst out laughing, and leaned over and kissed on on the cheek.
--That was amazing, brilliant. But sirf ek problem hai. Jab Dadi Bua aayengi tab unhe kya kahenge. She is going to be livid, that we are playing matcher between the two. She is going to blow her top. No way she is going to agree with us. You know how much she hates Ashutosh.
--Yes Anji. WHat you are saying is true, she does hate him with a passion. But what I also know is that as much as she might hate and resent Ashutosh, she loves Nidhi and Khushi a lot more. She wants whats best for Nidhi. Once we sit her down and explain things to her, she will agree,( and at Anji's doubtful expression)you'll see.
Anji was willing to concede to him on the point, for the moment. They would see what happens when Dadi Bua came back. Till then there was nothing they could do. The ball had already been set in motion. There was nothing stopping it now.
--But aapka plan bahut accha hai. I am very proud of you for thinking on your feet like that, specially as I know that you are so tired.
--Yes I am really really tired. But don't I get a reward for all my hard work, and clever thinking?
--Par I thought that You were really tired.
--I am, but itna bhi nahin. I can remain awake long enough to get my reward.
--In that case, deri kis baat ki. Jaldi jaldi ghar le jayiye!
Nidhi looked at Ashutosh, uncomfortably, and then glanced towards her daughter. She saw that Khushi was fast asleep also, on the sofa. She went to pick her up but was stopped by a pair of strong hands on her shoulders.
--I'll do that Nidhi. Why don't you go ahead and get her bed ready.
--That's OK. I will take her up. She is my baby, and for me this is routine. All part of being a parent , you know?
--I know that she is your baby Nidhi. And I know that you do this everyday. But, I don't. And I would appreciate it if you would let me carry her upstairs for you.
Nidhi was quiet for a second,
--Theek hai chaliye.
She led the way upstairs, and opened the door to Khushi's room. And without turning on the light she turned the covers and got the bed ready for the little girl, then held out her arms for her child.
--I can lay her down Nidhi.
Nidhi gave an exasperated sigh
--I know that you can, but I need to take her potty first, unless you think that you can do that too?
--Uh...No. Thats ok. You can do that. But won't she wake up?
--Nothing wakes this baby once she is asleep. You can play a 20 piece band at full volume, and she will not even stir.
She said on a laugh, as she took her daughter into her arms, and disappeared through a door located on one side of the room.
Ashutosh waited patiently for her to come back, and then watched in fascination as she deftly changed the little girl's clothes and tucked her into bed, placing a gentle tender kiss on her forehead and tiny nose, before she turned off the main lights, and turned on the night light, and quietly walked out of the room.
--Nidhi she sleeps alone? Won't she get scared at night all alone, by herself? She is so small! why...
Realizing that he had once again over stepped his limits, he stopped talking and looked at her, apprehension covering his face. But was surprised, when she smiled, a truly spontaneous and lovely smile, and said
--You don't have to worry. My room is on the other side of the bathroom. Khushi and I share that. There is a connecting door on my side. So she can come to me whenever she wants, and she often does.
--I am sorry I didn't mean to doubt you, or your parenting...
--Thats ok. I know that you were asking out of concern. Its not a problem.
Her mistake was in looking up at him, then. She saw that he was staring at her oddly. She recognized the look that she saw in his eyes, so she made an attempt to turn away, but he once again stopped her by catching hold of her arm.
--Dr Ashutosh, I will thank you not to keep touching me. I do not like it, and it makes me feel uncomfortable.
And she looked pointedly at him and then at his hand on her arm, and back up at him again.
--Please take your hand off of me!
Ashutosh looked at her face as he slowly let go of her arm. But he was still blocking her way.
--Nidhi, we need to talk?
--Nidhi, you can stop the play acting! You know perfectly well what!
Nidhi pulled herself upright, fury radiating from every fiber,
--No Dr. Ashutosh, I do not know what. Moreover, I do not act or lie. I have no idea what there is to talk about between the two of us. Like I said once before. We said everything we needed to 5 years ago. There is nothing left to say, or discuss. Moreover, I will thank you to remember that this is MY HOUSE, and you are nothing but a guest. My daughter's guest. And, as she is asleep now, there is no need for you to be here any longer. Kindly leave. Its very late. I need to get some sleep also, my days start very early, and I need my rest.
With that she swept past him and headed down the stairs...