Ashutosh caught up with her in the hall, that led to the front door. She had been about to reach for the lock, when he caught her hand and turned her around to face him.
--What's the matter with you Nidhi? Aisi kya baat boldi maine? All I said was that we needed to talk. Is that so wrong.
--Ashutosh, you are just amazing. How can you just stand there and say that? Maine aap se kitni baar yeh kaha hai, ke hamare beech mein baat karne layak koi baat nahin rahi. I don't want to talk you. I don't know how to make it any more clearer. We are FINISHED. In fact, we were finished 5 years ago. You are the one, remember, who came here and ended everything.
--Nidhi I have not forgotten anything, believe me. And, I know that I am the one who ended it. But, you cannot imagine what it cost me to do that. Every word that I uttered that day, still haunts my every living moment. But, Nidhi...
--No, ifs ands or buts! Please Ashutosh. Aap ko sirf apna dard yaad hai, mere dard ka koi ehsaas bhi hua kabhi appko? Aapko andaza bhi hai ke mere upar kya guzri? Of Course not. Aap ko mere dard se kya. Aap ko toh uss samay sirf apni dost dikh rahi thi bas. Mera wajood, meri feelings, mera dard, mera pyar, in sab cheezon ka koi maayna nahin tha aapki nazaron mein. Aapne hamesha dosti ko pyar se zyada maana, aur dost ka hi saath diya. Mera saath toh aapne chod diya. Aur chodne ke baad ek baar palat kar bhi nahin dekha ke main kaisi hoon, kya kar rahi hoon, zinda bhi hoon ya mar gayi. Kuch nahin. Aapne mere saath saare naate aise tod diye jaise ke main kuch thi hi nahin. Uss din main aapke samne gidgidati rahi, roti rahi. Aapse kehti rahi ke Mallika jhoot bolrahi hai. Aapne meri ek nahin suni. Aapne unki baaton par vishwaas karliya, ke aapne woh ashleel harkat ki thi. Maine nahin. Maine kabhi bhi yeh nahin maana. Aaj bhi mera yehi kehna hai, ke aap behoshi mein bhi aisa kuch nahin kar sakte hain. Aaj bhi mujhe aap par itna vishwaas hai. Lekin Aap. Aapko apne upar vishwaas nahin tha, woh toh samajh mein aa sakta hai, lekin aapne mere vishwaas par bhi vishwaas nahin kiya, yeh main kabhi nahin bhool sakti hoon.
(Nidhi gave a sarcastic, self deprecatory laugh)
You know how ironic that is? Have you ever thought about it? Mujhe toh ulta aapke character par, aisi baat sun kar shaq hona chahiye tha. Lekin maine aisa kahbi socha bhi nahin. Aur aapne mere uss vishwaas ko utha kar mere munh par phaink diya. Aapne uss din meri koi bhi baat suni thi? Toh phir kis haq se, ya kis hisaab se mere se aapki baat sunne ko keh sakte hain? Aur mere se kya baat poochna chahte hain aap? Aur yeh soch bhi kaise saktein hain, ki main aapki kisi bhi baat ka koi jawab doongi? Aap, mere kaun hain jinko main koi jawab doon? Aapka mere saath kya rishta hai?
Ashutosh was quiet for a few seconds, giving himself time to gather his thoughts, and to get a grip on his feelings. He felt really guilty for manipulating her like this. But what was he to do? He knew that as long as she was in control of her feelings, she would never talk to him. He had known that somehow he had to make her loose control, to make her angry enough that she would forget that she needed to freeze him out. He also knew that she was smart enough, and that she would figure it out, but for right now he needed to use her anger, and pain to his advantage, to get her to talk. Ashutosh felt like a heel, taking advantage of her like his but, he was desperate...
--Nidhi rishte kabhi khatm nahin hote. Specially jo hamara rishta hai. Nidhi yeh na toh tum bhula payi ho, aur na mai. Haan yeh baat tumhari sahi hai, ke galti saari meri hai. Meri wajah se hi aaj, hum aur tum aise do ajnabee ki tarha ek doosre se itni door hain. Nidhi...
--Please Ashutosh, please...Please mujh par rehem karo. Maine bahut mushkil se apne aapko, apni zindagi ko, apne parivaar ko sambhala hai. I cannot afford to listen to you. I cannot let you matter again. I cannot !
--But why Nidhi? Why can't you? Nidhi all this pretense,this facade
this acting like strangers with each other, I am getting tired of it. I was willing to along with it, until today. But I can't anymore. Not after what I have found out!
--Aise kya find out kiya hai aapne? The fact that I didn't give birth to Khushi? Is that it? Or is it the fact that I am not married, or that I don't have a man in my life? Yehi pataa chalaa hai na aapko? So What! I don't understand how any of these things that you have found out, would make the slightest difference, to anything!
--Of course, it makes a difference. If you had been married, or had had anyone in your life than I would never have said anything, or interfered in your life in any way. But now that I know there has been no one in your life, since we broke up...
--Broke up? How dare you say "we broke up"! WE did not BREAK UP, Ashutosh. You dumped me! You tossed me over like yesterdays newspaper. You showed me my true worth in your eyes, that day. Aapko pataa hai,...Jis din main aapki shaadi se wapas aayi thi, agar Dadi Bua mere saath nahin hoti, agar mujhe unka khayal nahin hota...toh shayad main uss din kuch kar leti. But nahin kar payi, kyon ke main unke saath aisa nahin kar sakti thi. Uss din Ashutosh, maine ek faisla kiya tha apne aap se. Maine tai kiya ke main aapko apne dil se apni zindagi se, uss hi tarha nikal doongi jaise aapne mujhe apni zindagi se nikaala tha. Uss din maine aapko alvida kaha aur hamari saari yaadon ko ek dabbe mein band kar ke usse ek kachre ke dabbe main phaink aayi. Aur uske baad maine aapka khayal bhi apne man mein nahin aane diya. Phir bhagwan ne Khushi ko meri zindagi mein bheja, aur usse paakar jo kuch bhi bacha kucha dard tha woh bhi chala gaya. Aur aaj, mein khush hoon. Mujhe kuch nahin chahiye, meri zindagi mein koi kami nahin hai. Mujhe kisi ki bhi zaroorat nahin hai, specially aapki. Aap please yahan se chale jayiye, aur mujhe chainse jeene dijiye. Aap Wapas London chale jayiye, wohi aapki sahi jagah hai.
--Nidhi, tumhe shayad meri zaroorat nahin hai. Lekin mujhe tumhari zaroorat hai, bahut zaroorat hai. Aur meri sahi jagah yahin hain tumhare paas.
With that Ashutosh suddenly grabbed her in his arms, and buried his face against her neck.
--Nidhi main tumhare liye pal pal marta raha hoon. Tumhe apni bahon mein ek baar lene ke liye, tumhari ek jhalak paane ke liye tadapta raha. Meri zindagi, main khud bhi, tumhare bina kuch bhi nahin hain Nidhi. Nidhi maine apni galti ki bahut badi sazaa payi hai Nidhi. 5 saal. Yeh 5 saal mere liye 5 yugon ki tarha beete hai. Aur har ek pal mein marta raha yeh soch soch kar ke maine tumhare saath kya kiya, aur ke kahin tum kisi aur ki toh nahin ho gayi. Nidhi jab pehli baar, maine Khushi ko tumhari godh mein dekha, aur usne tumhe Maa kaha, mein uss ek pal mein hazaaron mautein mara tha Nidhi.
He drew back a bit ant looked into her eyes
--Nidhi, I know that I deserve it, par please, mujhe apne se alag mat karo. Tumhare bina main kuch nahin hoon. Mujhe ek mauka aur dedo Nidhi. Please! Main tumhare bina nahin reh sakta. Tum jo bhi kahogi main karne ko tayyar hoon, kuch bhi. Nidhi, tumse hi mere saanse chalti hain, meri dil ki dhadkan bhi tumhi se hai, mera sab Tum hi toh ho. Mujhe maaf kar do Nidhi...
Nidhi was frozen in shock. to be held in his arms again after so long was heaven, and it was also hell in the purest sense. His words held such anguish...her heart almost broke from his pain. ALMOST, but not quite. How could she give in to him. It would be so easy to just close her eyes, and give him what he wanted, what she also wanted, but, she told herself, she could not afford to be so selfish. It was not just about her anymore. There was Khushi to consider. Her Baby. How could she trust Ashutosh again? How could she trust that he would not hurt her again. She had not been important in his eyes before, how could she believe that she was now. If she gave in to him, and gave him another chance, and he betrayed her again what would she do. Her daughter, who was already growing more attached to him by the minute, would be the most affected. She was so tiny, she would be scarred for life by this trauma. Did she, as a mother, have the right to subject her baby to this, just because she loved Ashutosh. No, Nidhi decided, she could not be selfish, never!
She gently but firmly, extricated herself from his embrace, and moved to stand several feet away.
--Maaf karke kya hoga Ashutosh? Kya aap mere woh 5 saal wapas la sakte hain. Aap aaj keh rahein hain, ke main aapki sab kuch hoon, par yeh sab toh aapne pehle bhi kaha tha. main kaise vishwaas kar loon ke aap mere saath phir waisa nahin karenge? Phir se agar koi baat hui, toh mujhe phir se utha kar apni zindagi se nahin phaink denge. Main kaise aap par bharosa karoon? aur ab sawal sirf mera nahin, meri beti ka bhi hai. Ab main akeli nahin hoon Ashutosh, mujhe apni bacchi ke baare mein bhi toh sochna hai. Uska kya? Aap jante hain, ke agar koi bhi aisi waisi baat hui toh uske upar kya asar padh sakta hai? I can't take that chance, I am sorry. Hamari zindagi alag alag hi better hain. Main aapko chah kar bhi maaf nahin kar paungi. Ab bhi jab main aapki taraf dekhti hoon, mujhe hamara pyar nahin, aapki shaadi, aapka Mallika ke maang mein sindoor bharna, uske galle mein mangalsutra pehenana, woh subha subha, aapka mere ghar par aakar meri zindagi tabha karna, woh sab yaad aata hai Ashutosh. Hum nahin, humara pyar, hume jo sapne dekhe the , woh sab kuch bhi nahin. Sirf Mallika, aur uski dosti ke khatir mere pyar ki quarbani, sirf woh dikhta hai mujhe. Main aapko nahin maaf kar sakti, aur na hi aapko apni ya apni beti ki zindagi mein aane ki ijazzat de sakti hoon. I am sorry, yeh mere bas ki baat nahin hain.
--Nidhi, I understand everything that you are saying. I know that I deserve all that and much much more for what I put you through. Par mera Yakeen karo, main aisa kabhi phir nahin hone dunga. Aur, jahan tak khushi ki baat rahi, toh Nidhi inn thodisi mulakaton mein hi woh tumhari tarha meri aatma ka hissa ban chuki hai. Main sapnon mein bhi kabhi usko chot nahin pahuncha sakta hoon. Jo tumhara hai, woh mera bi toh hai. Khushi meri bhi beti ban gayi hai Nidhi. Jab mujhe yeh baat nahin pataa thi ke tumne usse godh liya hai, tab bhi much iss baat se fark nahin pada ke woh kisi aur ki beti bhi hai, mere liye woh tumhari beti thi, itna hi kaafi tha. Ussko kharonch tak lage, yeh sochna bhi mujhe tolerate nahin ho...
--Ashutosh aap yeh sab toh keh rahein hain, par kal ke din jabe aapka khud ka baccha aapke samne aa jayega tab. Tab Khushi ki kya jagah hogi aapki zindagi mein. Uss masoom ke dil par kya beetegi, yeh soch appne?
--Kis bacche ki baat kar rahi ho tum Nidhi?
--Ashutosh aap 5 saal tak mallika ke pati reh chuke hain. Don't expect me to believe that you lived like a saint. She was your wife Dammit you expect me to believe that you never had any children with her? I know Mallika, there is no way she would have let all these years go by without having a child, your child. I am sure that she knew that a child was the only way that she could bind you to her forever.
--Nidhi you know Mallika , I will grant you that. But, you do not know me, it seems. Nidhi I never touched her, though it was not for her lack of trying I will grant you that. But, I couldn't even stand to look at her. I never had anything to do with her or our marriage. It was in name only. I never made her my wife any any real sense. Nidhi maine kabhi uski taraf aankh utha kar bhi nahin dekhi, haath laga toh bahut door ki baat thi.
She was Stunned. Nidhi sat down on the nearest chair, lest her knees gave out, on hearing this,
This was the opening he had been waiting for, and he swiftly walked to her side and knelt down in front of her
--I will tell you everything. But you have to be willing to listen to me first. Please...
Ashutosh pleaded with her
Nidhi sighed, he had her and he knew it.
--Theek hai, I will listen. Boliye.
Ashutosh sighed silently with relief, "thank you Lord" he prayed silently. Then he took her hand in his and bent to kiss her knuckles, but she snatched her hand away, and said sharply,
--I agreed to listen ONLY. I did not give you the license to take liberties Ashutosh. I told you once, and I will tell you again. Please do not touch me, I don't like it! If you are going to do that, then you might as well leave. I don't want to hear anything you have to say.
Ashutosh closed his eyes at the pain her words brought to him, but he could not let her see that, so he somehow managed to swallow his pain and opened his eyes and looked at her.
--I am sorry Nidhi. You are right. I shouldn't be touching you. I don't have that right. Its just that, when you put food in front of a starving man, how can you expect him to resist. But I promise, It will not happen again.
--Alright... Aap pehle theek se couch pe baithiye, and I will listen.
Ashutosh got up from the floor and went to sit on the chair, opposite hers,and started talking. Ashutosh started at the beginning, how Baba, had forced him to marry Mallika, and then how he had found about about what she had done, how she had tricked him into marriage. Ashutosh told her how disillusioned he had been, by Baba being totally unconcerned about Mallika's Betrayal, and emotionally blackmailing him into staying married to her. He also, told Nidhi about how Mallika had repeatedly tried to win him over and even tried seduction. Then in the end he explained that they had both filed for a mutual divorce as soon as his father had passed away, because Mallika had finally realized that he would never accept her, in any way. And that, not only had her tricking him not worked the way she had thought, but also that in the process, she had also destroyed her friendship with him. Then, he told her that he had called KGH, applied for a position, he had left Mallika in London, and moved back here.
Nidhi sat quietly, throughout his story. She had listened first with disbelief, and then with growing incredulity of how unfairly he had been treated, and how his own father had taken advantage of his loyalty, and sense of obligation. Inside she was silently crying for all that he had suffered, and that too at the hands of the people he had trusted and loved the most. Ashutosh had been betrayed by his own goodness and humanity, and sense of responsibility, by his strong convictions of right and wrong. He had not deserved that, she acknowledged silently. But, she could also not negate nor forget the fact that he had done the same thing to her.
The hurt and pain was still there, only she refused to let anyone know that she still carried it with her all the time, it was with her ever second of every day. In fact it was that pain, that had became her greatest strength. That pain was the reason that she could get up and face each day, and do what she needed too. So, in a way she had Ashutosh to thank for all that she was, and all that she had accomplished, and had, today. Today, that pain also gave her the strength to forgive him. And, the moment she did, it felt as if she had gained 10-15 years of life back. Her heart felt lighter than it had for a long time, and for the first time in 5 years she felt at peace.
Forgiveness, she gave, but she could not forget. She did not know how to do that. And, she was afraid that that would always be there between them. There was no way that she could let him back into her life. it would not be fair to either of them. She looked up, and for the first time in 5 years smiled, a him
--I am sorry Ashutosh. You did not deserve that. I am sorry for all that you had to go though. And I am very very glad that you are alright.
Ashutosh moved as if to come close to her, his heart beginning to fill with hope at her words, and also at the expression that he now saw on her face. He knew that she had forgiven him. So, when he saw her hand come up and stop him from coming near her, he was puzzled,
--Please hear me out. First. I want to thank you for telling me your story. Ashutosh I am very sorry for all the pain that you have had to go through. I understand everything now, and hold no grudges against you any more. I forgive you. And I have to thank you for giving me he strength to do that. My pain, now, seems very little in the face of yours. And also forgiving you had made me feel better than I have in years, and I have you to thank for that also. BUT, and please try and understand this. Although , I have forgiven you, I cannot forget what you did and what I had to go through, even if I wanted too, and I don't want to forget. It is because of what happened that I am what I am today. The past is what today is based on. And I am very happy in my present. Ashutosh I will not able to forget, and so I can not have you back in my life. Because if I do, both of us will be more miserable with each other, than without. And I can't do that, not to you or me, and specially not to Khushi. She deserves more than that. And because I have been able to forgive you today, for the first time in five years I feel that I can finally move on with my life. That I can maybe try and find happiness for myself and for Khushi, again. Ashutosh I don't want to hurt you but, I think that this is for the best. I don't think that it is possible for either of us to live with each other anymore. We have both changed, we are not the same people we were 5 years ago. And no matter how much we might too, there is no way that we can turn back the clock. All we can do is move forward from here. I think I can do that now, and I wish that you would also consider doing the same.
--Nidhi, yeh tum kisko dhokha dene ki koshish kar rahi ho apni in baton se, mujhe ya apne aapko? Nidhi yeh baat hum dono jaante hain, ke na tum aur na hi main, iss janam mein to kya , agle janam mein bhi, kisi aur ke nahin ho sakte. Nidhi jitna main tumse pyar karta hoon, uss se kahin zyada tum mujhse pyaar karti ho. Aisi baatein mat karo Nidhi, jinka na tumhe matlab pata hai, na jinki kaat ka tumhe andaza hai. Meri taraf dekho, aur phir kaho, se sab. Meri aankhon mein dekh kar bolo, ki kya tum ek baar phir se mujhe kisi aur ke saath dekh sakti ho, kya tum yeh bardasht kar sakti ho ke main phir se kisi aur ka kehlaun, ki jo haq tum mujhe par apna samajhti ho, woh kisi aur ka ho. Batao Nidhi? Batao mujhe, ke tumhe koi fark nahin padta yeh soch yeh , ki jin bacchon ke sapne humne milke dekhe the, woh sapne main kisi aur ke saath poora karun. Ke kisi aur ka meri raaton, meri bahon pe, mere tan man pe woh adhikaar ho, jo tumhe pataa hai ki kabhi tumhara tha. Bolo Nidhi. Kya tum ek baar phir mujhe kisi aur ki maang mein sindoor bharta dekh sakogi? Nidhi bolo na. Bolo mujhse kya tum...
Nidhi had had enough, she put her fingers on his mouth, to stop him.
And then she buried, her face in her hands, and started crying, all the five years worth of loneliness, pain, betrayal came pouring out in those tears. She was sobbing her heart out, and Ashutosh could not stand it anymore. He came forward and took her into his arms, and rained kisses on her hair, her eyes, her cheeks,
--Nidhi, this is where you belong, this is where I belong. We have been without each other for so long Nidhi. Please don't do this. Nidhi sweetheart, please stop crying like this, its breaking my heart. Please meri Jaan, aise mat ro. Please. Nidhi. Chup ho jao. Dekho mai tumhare paas hoon, mai tumhara hoon. Main vaada karta hoon ke ab main tumhe kahbi bhi nahin chod ke jaunga. Nidhi, my love, my heart. Please...
Ashutosh held her in his arms, and let her cry out all the pain, while he tried to sooth her, with his words, and murmurs of reassurance. Then, gradually, after a while her sobs subsided into quiet hiccups.
Ashutosh drew back, and looked at her beautiful face, and gently kissed both her eyelids,
--I love you, Nidhi. I love you very much. I never stopped loving you, not even for a second. I have been so lonely without you. Please forgive me, my love.
Then he bent his head and touched her lips with his, tentatively, and when Nidhi opened her mouth and put her arms around his neck, he lost control. He crushed her against his chest and kissed her as if his life depended on it. Like a man trying to quench an insatiable thirst, after being out in the dessert for a what seemed like a lifetime. He explored, and plundered her mouth, rediscovered her taste, and what it felt like to hold her in his arms. And found peace in the heaven of being held by her in return. Both of them withdrawing only to come together again and again, both desperate for each other, trying to reassure themselves and each other of their presence ,and of their the need, their love. Ashutosh devoured her mouth , and she his, both of them trying to get their fill yet not being able to fully quench their thirst or satisfy the hunger raging between them for each other. Ashutosh wanted her, badly. But he knew that it was not the right time. He probably could have her, and right now she would let him, but later, no he didn't think that she would thank him for that, later. He did not want to do anything right now that would make her distrust him even for a bit, so even though is was extremely painful, he banked the fires raging inside him, and helped her calm down also.
Once he was sure, they had cooled down and everything was under control, he tightened his arms around her again,
--Nidhi tumne mujhe maaf kar diya na?
Those words, brought her crashing back down to reality, and Nidhi opened her eyes, and looked around. And when she realized that she was still in his arms, and that all of it had been real and not a dream, the enormity of what had almost happened hit her. It also made her ashamed that it had been Ashutosh, and not her who had managed to bring the situation under control. If it would have been up to her, she would not have been able to stop. "What had she done" she cried silently to herself, " and what do I do now"?
She said hesitatingly as she drew back from his embrace, but did not completely separate herself from him.
Ashutosh knew that look and that tone. No please, he silently shouted. Why me? Why does this always happen to me? Oh God, haven't I already paid enough for my mistakes? And closed his eyes, against the pain.
Nidhi, saw this, saw the pain that he was trying to hide. And knew that she neither had the strength or the will to keep on hurting him like this. He had in a matter of hours managed to break all the walls, and get through all the defenses that she had built over the past 5 years. But she had to be fair to herself also. She also silently cursed life for making things so difficult. Although, she understood, there was no way that she could help him. All of us had to pay for our mistakes. It was just too late for them.
--Ashutosh, I can't...I am sorry...but I...I just can't take the chance!
--Nidhi, tum mujhe saari zindagi ke liye sazaa de rahi ho, you know that, right? Kya tum mere se itna nafrat karti ho?
--No, I don't hate you, I never did. I never could even on the day you got married. Aur Ashutosh, life goes on. You will too. Zindagi kabhi bhi kisi ke liye nahin theherti. You need to move on with your life and let me move on with mine. We just weren't meant to be. I don't know maybe I am a coward, but I just can't take any more chances. I don't think that I...I just can't.
Ashutosh sighed. Resigned that fate had destined him to live a life filled with loneliness and regrets. There was no way he would, or even could move on. For him there was only Nidhi. But, if she could not be happy with him than what was the use. More than his own peace, and happiness, he wanted hers, and if hers lay elsewhere, then so be it. He wished her all the happiness in the world.
--Fine Nidhi. If thats the way you want it, then main aur keh bhi kya sakta hoon. I could fight the world for you, but I can't fight you for you.
I wish that you find the happiness that you seek Nidhi, you deserve it.
Theek hai mai chalta hoon. Khushi ko meri taraf se pyar kar dena.
He turned to leave, but then he turned around again,
--Nidhi can I ask you for something?
--Agar, mere bas mein hoga toh. Kahiye.
--Nidhi...Khushi...Khushi sirf tumhari khushi nahin meri bhi khushi ban chuki hai. Please don't ask me to stay away from her, and please don't keep her from me. Please. She is the closest thing to my very own child that I will ever have, and I will be forever in your debt, if you would let me see her from time to time. I promise that I will not interfere in your life again, or impose myself on you in any way. Please?
Nidhi could not stand to see him like this, so broken, sad, and defeated
--I don't think that I could do that Ashutosh, even if I wanted too. Khushi will not stay away from you, nor will she let me keep her away. You see my daughter has a mind of her own, and she knows how to get what she wants. Aur ussne decide kar liya hai that she wants you. Jokes apart, Ashutosh I will not keep you both from each other. She loves you Ashutosh. And I can never deny her anything that she loves. Within reason, of course. Just...Its just that whatever else, just please don't encourage her fantasies.
--What do you mean?
--Woh...Woh aapko pata chal jayenge, but please try not to encourage her too much in those. Baaki sab theek hai.
--Thank you Nidhi. I really appreciate your generosity. Good night.
The next morning Khushi asked about Ashutosh and was told by Nidhi that he had been the one to put her too bed, and that had pleased her no end. Nidhi knew that her little girl was totally in love with him. During the whole of breakfast she drove her crazy with her talk of Ashutosh uncle this and Ashu Uncle that. Any way after breakfast Nidhi packed lunch for Khushi and hurried her out the door, to take her to school, and remembered that Khush's car seat was still in Ashutosh's car. She didn't know what to do. There was no way she could take her without it. Then Nidhi remembered that she had an extra one somewhere in the house. Of course by the time she brought it out and installed it, they would be very late. But, it couldn't be helped, she decided, and was just about to turn back into the house, when she saw Ashutosh's car drive up, and stop in her drive way. He got out and came towards them.
Seeing him walking towards her, Khushi pulled her hand out of Nidhi's and ran towards him, Ashutosh bent mid stride and caught her in his arms, and hugged her before coming to stand in front of Nidhi.
--I forgot about the Car seat. Sorry.
--That's Ok I forgot also.
--Umm, I knew that you would be needing it, so I came early to drop it off. Sorry I did not call before coming Nidhi.
--Koi baat nahin, you see I have another one in the house and I was just about to go in and get it. Agar call karte toh aapki life thodi simple ho jaati, , aur aapko ghar se itni jaldi nahin nikalna padta.
--Mama, tab toh bahut accha hua. Agar uncle aapko phone karte to aap unko aane se manaa kar deti, aur agar woh nahin aate, toh woh aaj mere school mein mere saath kaise jaate?
Nidhi looked at her daughter,
--Khushi, beta, you can't ask Dr. Ashutosh to come to school with us. He is very busy. Beta aapke Uncle bhi toh doctor hain na, aapki Mama ke jaise. Woh bhi to sick people ko theek karte hai. Iss liye jaise Mama ko hospital Jaana hota hai, aapke Uncle ko bhi Jaana hai. Aur agar yeh aapke saath school jayenge toh late ho jayenge, phir inke sick people inse gussa ho jayenge. Aur yeh toh theek nahin hoga na?
--Nahin Mama. Par aap bhi toh jaati hain roz roz mujhe school par drop karne, toh aapke sick people aapse naraz kyon nahin hote?
Nidhi reached out to tuck a stray stand of hair behind her ears,
--Woh iss liye, Monkey, kyon ke Mama ke sick people toh saare bacche hain, aap ki tarha. Aur bacchon ko toh Pataa hota hai, ke Mama Logon ko apne bacchon ko school chod kar aana hota hai, iss liye woh sab mujhse gussa nahin hote. Lekin aapke Uncle toh Big people koh theek karte hain, aur woh toh school nahin jaate na, issliye woh gussa ho jaate hain. Ab acche bacchon ki tarha Mama ke saath chalo, aur apne Uncle ko bye boldo.
Khushi did not say a word, but her eyes teared up instantly, and she had a couple of tears running down her cheeks, and her lips had started pouting into a sad face, when she turned to face Ashutosh, and buried her face against his neck. He looked at Nidhi helplessly. Nidhi knew that Khushi was playing them. She had figured it out last night. But apparently Ashutosh had not seen through this tiny manipulator, as of yet.
She shook her head as she sighed and gave in. Right now she didn't have choice other than to give in. There going to be late for her school if they did not start immediately. But at the same time she decided that She and her daughter were going to having a talk, a serious women to women talk, where she would learn that her mother was no pushover, and that her little act was up.
--Ashutosh aapke paas time hai, hamare saath school jaane ke liye. I would really appreciate it.
Ashutosh sighed in relief also. He had been afraid that she would not give in. He knew when he was being manipulated, but it seemed that this little female and her tears were something that he had no defense against.
All three of them got into his car, and Nidhi strapped Khushi in.
Ashutosh parked the car and the three of them got out. Khushi was literally jumping up and down with excitement at having her Ashutosh uncle with her. She could not wait to show him off to everyone, and tell them that he was going to be her Papa. Khushi looked up at him with pride. He was much better than some of the other Papas, some of them had no hair, and also had a big tummy. But, her Papa, would be the best out of them all.
At the entrance to the school, Nidhi remembered that she had an important matter to take care of, also, today.
--Khushi, sweety, which one of the girls is Nikki?
Khushi looked up at her Mother, and smiled. She knew that her Mama would take care of everything,
--Woh Mama, udhar, jo girl aa rahi hai na, jiske two ponytails hai. Woh hai Nikki. Aur woh dekho uski Mama bhi saath hai uske. Abi woh dono teacher se baat kar rahe hain. Aap nikki ki mama se baat karogi na, Mama.
Nidhi bent down and kissed her angel on her nose, and said
--Mama ne aapko promise Kiya tha na, ke mai baat karungi. Aur aapko pata hai ki aapki mama apna koi bhi promise nahin bhoolti.
I am going right now baby. I will make everything better hmm.
Khushi gave her a big hug,
--I love you Mama.
Nidhi smiled at her baby, love for this precious precious child filling her heart,
--I love you too sweetheart.
--Mama jab tak aap Nikki ki mama se baat kar rahe ho, can I show my class and my desk to Ashu Uncle? Please?
--Theek hai beta, I will be right back.
Then she turned to Ashutosh
--I am sorry, I know that you are probably getting late. But aap kushi ke saath uski class mein ja sakte hain? Uske baad aap hospital chale jayiyega, mujhe abhi yahan thoda time lagega.
--Nidhi, Of course, I will go with Khushi. Ismein toh tumhe poochne ki bhi koi zaroort nahin thi. And I will wait for you. I don't have anything scheduled till later this morning. Don't worry. Is it something important? You look a bit apprehensive about something.
--Ji. It is something that I need to deal with. I will explain later, but Abhi I need to catch the girl's mother before she leaves. Please excuse me.
And she turned and hurried out of the class. Ashutosh stared at her retreating back for a couple of minutes. Judging from her strides, she looked like she was a woman on a mission. God help whoever was on the receiving end. He knew Nidhi when she had a purpose in mind, she was relentless. He turned back, to Khushi who was tugging his hand, and smiled and let her lead him into her class.
Nidhi caught Up with Nikki's mother just as she was turning away,
--Mrs Khurana, please wait.
Mrs.Khurana who had seen Nidhi approaching, and was trying to escape, had no choice but to wait.
Khushi's School's head Mistress, Mrs. Mehta, who had been talking with Mrs. Khurana, also turned to look in Nidhi's direction,
--Thank you so much for waiting for me, Mrs. Khurana. Mrs. Mehta, if you wouldn't mind, I would appreciate few minutes of your time, please.
By this time Mrs. Khurana was looking decidedly uncomfortable. She knew that what was coming and really was not looking forward to it. She had known that Nidhi would be talking to her at some point, and had been prepared for it, but she had definitely not been expecting Nidhi to confront her like this, though, specially in front of the Principal.
--Mrs. Khurana(MK) I am glad that I caught you. Actually I was wanting to talk to you and Mrs Mehta, regarding an important matter concerning Khushi...and Nikki.
Mrs. Mehta(MM)---Dr. Nidhi. Khushi and Nikki? Whats the matter?
Mrs. K---Mrs. M, aisi koi baat nahin hai. Woh dono bacchiyon mein thodi si an ban ho gayi thi bas. Aapke concern hone ki koi baat nahin hai, Aap jayiye ji, yeh hum dono Maa aapas mein sulta lenge.
Mrs. M looked in Nidhi's direction for a conformation. Nidhi smiled wryly at her
--Actually MM, if you wouldn't mind, could you please stay. I need to talk to MK , and would like it if you were here, so that there were no misunderstandings later.
At, MM's nod of acquiescence Nidhi continued
--MM, it seems that Nikki has been telling Khushi that I am not her mother, and that she is not really my daughter, because, and I quote"she did not come from my tummy"! When Khushi protested that that was not the truth, Nikki insisted that it was the truth because HER MOTHER, had told her so. She also said that normal children, had two parents, a mother and a father. And because I am not really her mother, that is why she does not have a father. Also because I am not her real mother, I might at some point leave her, like her REAL mother did. Khushi has been very traumatized by this. She often has nightmares about my leaving her, and her finding herself all alone. It is getting so that she does not want to even come to school sometimes. MM, I am coming to you with this,because I expected more from this school and the parents of the children belonging to this school. I thought that I was sending my daughter to an institution that provided education, and imparted the children with knowledge. But if my daughter is going to be coming here and has to deal with such narrow minded views, and be traumatized then maybe it is better that I move her to another school where people will be more broad minded and my daughter will actually learn good and age appropriate things. Not this kind of rubbish. Tell me MK what kind of information are you giving your daughter. What are you teaching her. These little girls, are mere babies, too young to be knowing the facts of life, let alone know what they re talking about when you tell them that children come from Mothers tummies.
MK--Maine kya galat kaha hai Dr. Nidhi? Khushi aapki beti thodihi hai? Apne toh sirf usse godh liya hai?
--Toh kya MK? Godh lena kya paap hai. Just because you gave birth to your daughter, and I didn't, does that make me any less of a mother than you.
MK--How dare you say that to me Dr. Nidhi. How can you compare me to yourself. Of course, you are not really a mother. Jab tak bachche pet mein Nau Mahine nahin rakkhogi, aur paida karne ka dard nahin sahogi, tum maa kaise ban sakti ho. Tumhe kya pata ke maa kya hoti hai. Tumhari maa kabhi thi jo tumhe pata ho yeh baat.
MM--MK, Thats enough, aap yeh kaisi baatein kar rahi hain?
--That's OK MM. Please let me answer her. MK, I am not any less Khushi's mother than you are Nikki's. Haan maine Khushi ko paida nahin kiya. Par iss se mujhe koi fark nahin padta. Aap bataiye, Jis Maa ne Khushi ko paida karke Anaath Ashram ki seediyon pe chod diya tha, kya woh uski maa thi. Kaise? Aap bhi toh maa hain, aapne bhi toh apni bacchi koh paida kiya hai, aap bataiye, kya aap, apni bacchi ko aise chod sakti hain, nahin na. Maine toh Khushi, wahan nahin choda, maine to usko wahan par paya tha. Pehli nazar mein hi mujhe pataa chal gaya tha ke woh meri hai, mere liye hi kisi ne usse paida kiya tha. MK, mujhe uski har ek takleef pe takleeef hoti hai. Usse ek chote lagti hai, toh mere dil par us chot ke nishaan mere dil pe lagte hain, uska dard mere ko pehle hota hai, baad mein usko. Jab woh roti hai, toh aankhen uski hoti hain, lekin aansoon mere hote hain. Woh shayad ek mahine ki bhi nahin thi jab mujhe milli thi. Jis din se woh mere ghar aayi, uske saath raat raat jaagi hoon main. Uski har ek ek aahat mujhe sunayi deti thi, aur us har ek ahat par meri neend khul jaati thi. Kitni raatein maine sirf usse dekhte rehne mein hi guzaardi. Ab shayad aap kahengi, ki aapne apni bachchi ko apna doodh pilaya aur maine nahin. Toh isska bhi jawab hai mere paas. Its a fact of medical science that not every women is able to breast feed. Do you know that some women don't have enough milk and have to use formula supplements. That results in the milk supplies drying up faster than normal, so that only after a few months, there is no milk at all, and the child then has to be fed totally with formula milk. And there are also cases that some women never have any milk at all, and then their babies are totally bottle fed babies. Does that mean that those women are not really mothers. MK, you are an educated women living in a very advanced society, You should know better. Now I am not married, but I hope that I will be someday. And in all likelihood will give birth someday, too. But let me tell you that at that time the child I give birth to, will be my SECOND child. Khushi is and will always remain my First. She is the child of my heart, so in some ways she will probably always be more precious to me than even the child I might or might not give birth too. Ek aur baat, aap jo aisi baatein apni beti ko sikha rahin hai, kal ke din, bhagwan na kare, par agar woh maa na ban sake, toh aap kya karenge. Ya phir kal ke din agar aapke ghar bahu aaye aur woh maa na ban sake toh, tab bhi aap yeh hi kahengi kya? Kya uss samay aap godh lene ki baat nahin sochengi. Phir jo aap abhi apne bacchon ko sikha rahi ho, kal uss baat ko apne bacchon ke samne kaise justify karengi aap?
Dekhiye, yeh sab main aapse iss liye nahin keh rahi, ke main aapse koi jhagda karna chahti hoon ya, mujhe aapse ya aapki beti se koi problem hai. Main sirf aapke samne ek aur point of view rakkhna chahti thi.
Aaj kal ke times mein humein woh saari purani baatein bhool jaani chahiye. Duniya bahut aage badh chuki hai, aur humein bhi apne bachchon ko iss ke saath saath chalne ka sabak dena chahiye, naaki
aisi baatein sikhani chahiyen, jinse shayad aage jaake inka hi nuksaan ho. Aap please mujhe galat mat smajhiye ga. Main sirf aapse yeh kehna chah rahi thi, ke Nikki jitni aapki beti hai, Khushi bhi utni hi meri beti hai. Maa toh Maa hoti hai MK. Phir chahe usne bacche ko janam diya ho ya godh liya ho, kya fark padta hai, as long as aap apne bacche ko pyar karte hain, yehi toh sab se badi baat hai na. Hum sab Yashoda ko bhi to Krishna Bhagwan ki maa Mante hai na? Woh Yashoda nandan kehlate hai. Leki paida to devki ne hi kiya tha. Toh? Iska matalb kya hai? Bhagwan ne kaha hai, paida karne se palne waale ka zyada mehetv hota hai. Issliye please, bachchon ko bachcha hi rehne dijiye. Inko aisi baatien na sikhayiye, jiska inko matlab bhi nahin pataa hai. Bas main itna hi keha chahti thi. Par iske aage bhi agar aapko Khusi se ya mujhse problem hai, toh main Khushi ko kisi aur school mein Bhej sakti hoon. Mujhe koi problem nahin hai. Lekin main apni beti ko iss tarha se confused aur pareshaan nahin dekh sakti hoon.
I am sorry MM, but I needed you to be here for this. I did not want to cause any misunderstandings, or any issues.
MM--Very well said Dr. Nidhi. I agree with you totally. and there is no need for you to be taking Khushi away from this school.
And before, MM could anything further, MK spoke up
MK--I am very very sorry Dr. Nidhi. I never thought of things from that perspective. Aapne bilkul theek kaha. Mujhe bolne se pehle sochna chahie tha ke mere bolne se kya ho sakta hai, aur hamare bacchon pe iska kya asar pad sakta hai. I am really ashamed of myself and my behavior. Please forgive me. and I promise that from now on Nikki will not be teasing Khushi ever again, nor will she be doing or saying anything that will make her feel bad. Including the fact that she does not have a father.
Nidhi sighed her relief and smiled her thanks at both of the ladies standing with her. she felt so relieved that she had managed to settle all of this calmly. But, before she could say anything else, Khushi spoke from behind them,
--Par aunty, ab Nikki mujhe iss baat par toh kabhi ab chidha hi nahi sakti, you see Meri Mama ne mere liye Papa laane ka promise kiya, and yeh dekhiye. Yeh mere Naye Papa honge.
All four adults turned in and stared at Khushi, and then the two ladies and Ashutosh looked at Nidhi , who wished that the earth would open and swallow her up. She had never been so embarrassed i her life.
Nidhi had no Idea how Ashutosh managed to get them out of their, or what explanations he gave. Nidhi had no recollection of any of it. The only thing she remembered after that was Ashutosh handing her a bottle of some cold drink, right before they got to the hospital.
--Nidhi yeh saab kya hai? What is Khushi talking about? You promised to get her a father?
Nidhi blushed to the roots of her hair
--Aisa kuch nahin hai, Ashutosh. Its just that she has gotten it into her head that to be like the other kids she needs a father. Maine kuch bhi promise nahin kiya. I should have known that she would do something like this. This is what I was trying to warn you about last night. I knew that she was on the hunt, and that you were a contender in her eyes. But, what I had not counted on was that she had already made up her mind. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. Aur ab yeh baat saari jagah phail jayegi. I have no idea what I am going to do. Dadi Bua is going to Kill me.
--Kyon? I am that bad of a candidate or what?
He said on laugh.
--Stop it. This is not funny.
--Nidhi stop worrying about it so much. khushi is just a little girl no one will take what she said seriously. Kuch nahin hoga dekhna. Ab mood theek karo. Hospital mein patients kya kahenge?
--Yes, I guess you are right. I just hope ke jaisa aap keh rahein hain woh hi ho.
--Don't worry, bola na. Aisa hi hoga. Ab chalein?
That evening after his last surgery, Ashutosh tiredly lay down on the couch in his cabin, and thought back to the these last two days events.
The one thing that was clear in all of this was that he still loved Nidhi. And he had no doubt, whether she admitted it or not, that Nidhi loved him too. It was just that her hurt and sense of betrayal went too deep. Not that he blamed her in any way for that. Maybe he would have done the same also. But all that apart. Yesterday he had made a promise to her that he would keep out of her life, and that was one thing that she had asked of him in a long time. He would do his best to keep that promise. Nidhi had been right in what she had said yesterday, you could not turn back time. What had been done was in the past, but today's reality was based on that past. He hoped that she would find somebody that loved her, as he had not been able too. Although, she would not find anyone who loved her more than he did. As far as he was concerned, well he knew that his life would move on too. Not with someone else! No! He was not capable of moving on with anyone else, but in general. His work would have to be enough. And Khushi. Of course! Nidhi had promised that she would not stop him from having a relationship with her. That was more than enough for him. Khushi ko dekh dekh kar hi apni poori zindagi guzaar lunga, he thought. Nidhi had bee right about another thing this morning. Khushi was indeed not only the daughter of her heart, but also of his. Nidhi was very lucky that she had found her, and had taken her not only into her life but into her heart as well.
Unknown to Nidhi he ha heard everything she ha said this morning, to the principal and also to the mother of Khushi's classmate. Nidhi had been magnificent this morning, the way she defended her right to motherhood. No one listening would have been able to refute any of her arguments. He had been so proud of her, the way she had managed to bring the other woman around to see and acknowledge her point of view. But, then he had always known that when she was on a mission, she usually got what she wanted.
He could still see the horrified expression on her face when Khushi had announced in front of everybody that he was going to be her father. If only she could be right. But he knew that it was an impossibility. Nidhi had more than made it clear last night that he could never be a part of her life, ever again. And then again this morning, her careless remark when he had stopped the car, before they got to the hospital. When he had asked her if he was that bad a candidate to be Khushi's father, and she had laughed it off, and asked him not to joke about it. That one off hand statement of hers had chased away any remaining hope that he had had. He knew that he would never be Khushi's father, not would he ever be her love again. The pain from all these thoughts was almost physical, they were so intense. But, since there was nothing that he could do about it, (it was not in his hands anymore), he had to learn to live with it. Maybe God, and the fates would take pity on him, he thought...and, that was his last thought as he drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
Meanwhile, Nidhi had called and let Anji know that she would be picking up both the girls from school the next day. Anji told her to plan to spend the day at her house when she came. They could catch up and the girls could also play and have a nice time. Nidhi had agreed, so here she was on her way to Anji's house with both girls in the back of the car, chattering away, a mile a minute, without a care in the world. When she got to the house, Anji gave both the little girls a snack and the they went off to play. Leaving both Mothers sighing in relief at getting a break from the non stop chattering and questions, as they sank thankfully down on the sofa.
--Thank god yaar. Ab yeh dono thodi der toh busy rahenge. Pata nahin itni energy kahan se aajati hai inhe. Main toh abhi se thak gayi.
--Anji tu apna time bhool gayi. Yaad hai um bhi dono Dadi Bua aur teri Mom ko aise hi tang kiya karte the. Kitne time woh dono bhi hum se kitna pareshaan hote the na.
Then they two friends looked at each other and burst out laughing.
--Nidhi, yeh Nishi kya bata rahi thi humein kal? Tu ne Khushi ko uske Papa laane ka vaada kiya hai. Aur yeh bhi Ke Ashutosh uske naye Papa honge. Yeh sb Kya ho raha hai? Kal raat Ranga aur main kitna Pareshaan ho rahe the. Ab tu sahi sahi bataa ke yeh sab kaya hai?
Nidhi looked at her and shook her head, she knew It. She knew ke yeh baat phailegi. Usne kal Ashutosh ko bola bhi tha, but he had dismissed it. And she had been right. Abhi to Anji ke siva aur pataa nahin kahan kahan iss baat ka charcha ho raha hoga. Oh God. She Thought. But anyway she started telling Anji how Khushi had made her promise to get a father for her, and then she explained about the incident at the school...
While the two Mothers were talking, unknown to them, their two angels were also having a very serious conversation, regarding the same topic, with each other, while they were busy dressing up their dolls, to take the out to the park.
--Khushi, teri Mama ne tujhe promise kiya tha na, tujhe papa lake dene ke liye?
--Haa, yeh baat toh mai tujhe pehle hi bataa chuki hoon. Jaise tune kaha tha maine sab waise hi kiya, aur Mama maan bhi gayi.
--maine kaha tha na, tere se ke Ashu Uncle ek dum perffect Papa hai tere liye.
--Haan baba tune theek kaha tha. Woh sach mein bahut acche hain, aur mujhe pyar bhi bahut karte hain.
--Haan aur kitne handsome bhi hain na.
--Haan woh toh hain. Jab Mama unhe Ghar lekar aayegi, aur woh mere papa banenge, toh poore school mein sab se best mere Papa hi hone.
--I know. Agar mere Papa nahin hote na, toh main Ashutosh uncle ko apna Papa bana leti. Lekin mere toh Papa hain, issliye maine Ashu uncle to tere ko de diya.
--Haan woh bahut cool hain. Aaj class mein kaise sab unko ghoor ghoor kar dekh rahe the na?
and then they looked at each other and covered their mouths with their hands, and started giggling.
--Accha, toh Khushi Massi, unko tera papa kab banayegi.
--Pataa nahin. Par jaldi karegi. Mama ne mujhe promise jo kiya hai.
--Khushi, chal poochte hain. Jitni jaldi ho jaye, utni jaldi tere paas bhi papa ho jayenge, aur phir sab bacche tujhe chidhana bhi band kardenge.
--Haan, chal Mama se poochte hain.
Meanwhile, in the living room
--Nidhi, ismein galat kya hai? Khushi ne sahi toh kaha hai. Ashutosh se better Papa usse kahan milegenge. Aur tu apna toh soch itne saalon se tu unka intezaar karti aa rahi hai. Mujhe yeh samajh mein nahin aa raha, ke teri problem kya hai. Ab toh tujhe pataa bhi chal gaya hai saari sachai ka. Phir bhi tu aise kyon behave kar rahi hai? Nidhi ek chance to sab ko milna chahiye. Aur phir agar koi sacche dil se pachtava karta hai toh bhagwaan bhi unko maaf kar dete hain. Aur tu toh insaan hai, aur tu Ashutosh se pyar bhi karti hai. Aur tujhe yeh bhi dikh raha hai ke woh apni galati par kitna regret kar rahein hain. Why can't you give him another chance?
--Anji how can you ask me that? Tu toh mere saath thi. You know what I went through. How can you ask me to go through that again.
--Nidhi, zaroori nahin hai ke the past will repeat itself. And in your case it is highly unlikely, that it will . Ranga and I have both seen that he is really suffering. Nidhi tu bhi toh unke bina ek aadhi zindagi jee rahi hai. No matter what you say, we both know that there will never be anyone else for you. You both are two halves of a whole. when will you admit that again. Ashutosh he teri aatma hain Nidhi. Please give your love another chance Nidhi. Life is giving you an opportunity to get back everything you lost with a bonus. You have Khushi also.
Please Nidhi itni aasani se aayi hui khushi ko mat thukra. Aise kismet sab ki nahin hoti. Aur Phir yeh toh dekh ki teri beti unko kitna pyar karti hai. Maine kabhi bhi khushi ko kisi ke itne kareeb, inti jaldi, hote hue nahin dekha. Isn't that an indication, an omen if you will. Nidhi soch le acchi tarha se. Hum dono ko toh yeh hi Lagta hai, ke tumhare liye aur Khushi ke liye tumhe Ashutosh ko ek chance dena chahiye.
--Anji mujhe bahut dar lagta hai. Agar phir koi baat hui toh main kya karungi. Nahin Anji, main Ashutosh ko kabhi kbhi wapas apni zindagi mein, Khushi ki zindagi mein, nahin aane de sakti. Kabhi nahin!
--Mama Aap Jhoothi ho. Aap bahut gandi ho.
Nidhi whipped arounf and saw Khushi and Nishi standing behind them. Apparently the little girls had heard everything. and from the looks of Khushi's face, and in her eyes she was Devastated.
--Baby, meri baat toh suno. Please ek baar Mama ke paas aao.
--Nahin mujhe aapke paas nahin aana. Mujhe apne Papa ke paas jaana hai. Ashu Uncle hi mere Papa hain. Mujhe koi aur nahin chahiye.
Aap bhi nahin. Nikki theek keh rahi thi, aap meri mama nahin ho. Aap mujhse pyar nahin karti...
--Nahin main aapse koi baat nahin kaungi. Aap apna promise todti ho. Main jaa rahin hoon, Ashu Uncle ke paas. woh mujhse pyar karte hain, aap nahin.
And with that Khushi ran past Rangnath who was coming in through the front door, and out into the street. Nidhi , Anji and Rangnath also ran after her. Nidhi had almost reached her when she saw that khushi was in the direct path of the car coming straight at her. With her heart in her mouth she screamed at the top of her lungs