Nidhi had had some time in between appointments so she had come to Khushi's room to take a peek at her daughter. Although she knew that Dadi Bhua was with her, but, being a mother she just could not resist. She just wanted to make sure everything was alright, and to see whether Khushi wanted anything. And, now she was really glad that she had come.
--Dadi Bhua, just what you both think you are doing?
Ashutosh and Dadi Bhua, both turned around and saw her standing in the doorway. Dadi Bhua looked at her with a calm but determined expression, while Ashutosh had a look of apprehension on his.
--Nidhi, tere naraaz hone se, ya naa chahne se, sachai se munh toh nahin moda ja sakta na.
--Dadi Bhua, main kissi bhi sachai se muhn nahin mod rahi hoon. Par main appko pehle hi keh chuki hoon ke mujhe shaadi nahin karni. Aap aur main iss vishay mein pehele bhi kaafi baar baatein kar chuke hain. I don't want to talk about this again, and thats final. Mere patients wait kar rahein honge, main chalti hoon. And I don't want any more discussions on this topic again!
After she left, Dadi Bhua, and Ashutosh looked at each other. Dadi Bhua looked at the lost expression on Ashutosh's face, and shook her head,
--Maine tumse bola tha na, Ashutosh, ussko manana aasaan nahin hoga. Par tum yeh baat mujh par chod do. Main usse se shyam ko baat karungi. Tumhe bhi to kaam hoga na, tum jao.
--Jee. Kaam par toh jaana hai, patients wait kar rahein honge. Theek hai Dadi Bhua, main chalta hoon. Khushi ko dekhne ke liye beech beech mein aata raunga. Agar aur kissi cheez ke liye meri zaroorat pade to call kar lijiyega.
He turned to leave, and had taken a few step, but then he stopped and turned back to her,
--Thank you Dadi Bhua. For helping me in this.
--Mujhe thank you karne ki koi zaroorat nahin hai doctor. Mai yeh sab tumhare liye nahin kar rahi hoon. Yeh main Nidhi aur Khushi ke liye kar rahi hoon. Mujhe pataa hai, ke iss mein hi un ki bhalai, aur khushi, dono hai.
--Aap jiske liye bhi kar rahi ho, lekin mere liye toh yehi kaafi hai, ke Nidhi meri zindagi mein wapas aa jayegi. Mere liye yeh hi kaafi hai.
--Theek hai. Baad mein baat karenge.
Dadi Bhua, ko samajh mein nahin aa raha tha ke woh Ashutosh ke baare mein kya soche. Ek taraf toh she could clearly see, that Ashutosh still loved Nidhi. And on the other hand she could not forget how much Nidhi had suffers because of him also. But, she also knew that I still Ashutosh, and there would never be anyone else for her, which was why not on,y had she agreed to this rishta one more time, but was also willing to anything to get Nidhi to agree to it. And as long as Ashutosh took care of both of her girls, she would be satisfied. She also admitted to herself that Ashutosh was probably the only one that could ever bring the happiness back into her child's life, and put a smile back on her face. And that was enough for her. Although she was still going to keep an eye on him, just in case. She was enough of a realist, and had also seen and experienced life to know that the past should remain in the past, and a person should look forward.
And that was what she was trying to do for Nidhi, to get her to move forward in her life. And there was no way that she would give up until she had succeeded.
Nidhi was fuming by the time she got to her cabin. The fact that the rest of the day was a light one, and there were no emergencies either, gave her plenty of time for her to brood, and sulk, about the conversation that she had heard between Dadi Bhua and Ashutosh. And that's how Rangnath found her, when he came by her cabin that evening. She was sitting at her desk, and looking out into space.
--Jeej, come in. Aap wahan kyon khadein hain? Please come in.
--Yahan, akele kiss soch mein baithi ho? You've finished for the day, haven't you?
--Kaam, toh khatm ho gaya tha, but, I just wanted to alone for a while. I have a lot on my mind, and I was trying to sort everything out.
--Khushi, was asking for you. Uske paas nahin jaana hai kya?
--Jeej, Dadi Bhua is with her, and I am sure that Ashutosh is too. So, she has plenty of company.
Abhi, I just need to be by myself.
--Nidhi...You know that I am here for you, and so is Anji. Is there anything we can help you with?
--Jeej, aapko toh sab pataa hai. Why are you asking me then? And you have also told Dadi Bhua.
--Dekho Nidhi, yeh sach hai ke humne Dadi Bhua ko call kiya tha, lekin Khushi ke accident ke baare mein bataane ke liye. She had a right to know, didn't she? And then agar accident ka pataa chalega toh yeh bhi toh pataa chalega na ke kyon hua? You have to look at it from a logical point. She was bound to find out. Was she giving you a hard time or something? Kya hua that has you so upset?
--She wants Ashutosh and I to get married. I over heard the both of the talking about it this afternoon.
--So...what's the problem?
--Jeej, how can you ask me that? You above all people should know all the reasons that I can't! Have you forgotten what he did, how he betrayed me. Have you forgotten everything that I went through, how much I have suffered? Jeej I don't think that I can go through that again.
--Nidhi I can understand your fears. And I know exactly what happened, and what you have been through. But, try and look at it from this point, the past is over with, and no matter how much we may want to, there is no way we can ever undo it. Now, you have your present, and also your future to think about. Nidhi, as your family we have all come to terms with the fact that you will never accept any body into your life other than Ashutosh. You know that too. You just will not accept it.
Why? Nidhi, sweetheart, you cannot live your life alone like this. Everyone needs someone in their life. And don't say that Khushi is enough. You very know that, even though children are important, you cannot just live for them. Eventually Khushi will grow up, and she will go away, then what will you do. Nidhi bahut mushkil hota hai zindagi ko is tarha jeena. And agar tum Khushi ke upar sab dalna chahti ho toh, phir uski nazar se dekhne ki koshish bhi karo. She is a little girl, who sees that all the other children around her have fathers, and she wants one too. So what is wrong with that. And she wants Ashutosh to be that father. Toh agar, tum apni zindagi khushi ke liye hi jee rahi ho, aur sab kuch ussi ke liye kar rahi ho, toh phir give her what she wants.
--Kya matlab, aapka. Main kuch samjhi nahin.
--Mera matlab yeh hai, ke go ahead and get married. Give Khushi what she wants. And in doing so Dadi Bhua will also get what she has been wanting, which is to see you married. If they are happy you will be too, isn't that right? Honey all Dadi Bhua wants is to make sure that you will have someone in your life who will care for you and be there for you, so you wont have to be alone in life. And who better than Ashutosh? Honey you are still living in the past, and the way I see it is that you cannot forget that he betrayed you, and married someone else. Isn't that it? Nidhi yeh sab sirf issi liye hai na?
--SIRF? How can you reduce everything I have gone through to a tiny little word like that! You have no idea, Of what I have been through. Jeej, do you have any idea how it feels to see the person you love, and whom you thought loved you, marry someone else? How it feels to even imagine him with someone else, building a life. The life that you had dreamed of, and made plans for. To have him to come to your house one morning, and callously inform you that he is calling of your wedding because he is marrying someone else. Imagine, what I must have gone through when I received the invitation to his wedding. And then think of how I felt when I saw him getting married to Mallika! Can you try and put yourself in my place even for a second, and see things from my perspective. He put his friendship above our love. Jeej, it has taken me so many years to try and come to terms with all of it, and I still haven't been able too. How can I put myself in that position again? How do I make a life long commitment with a man who has betrayed that commitment once before. How do I know he wont again? How do I know that if Mallika comes back again tomorrow, he wont throw me over for her again, or maybe even someone else. How do I trust him not to hurt me all over again?
Rangnath , saw the tears that fell from her eyes, and the misery and pain on her face. He sighed stood up and came over to her, and hugged her to himself.
--Nidhi, you know that I love you like a sister. You and I have a developed a relationship between us, apart from your relationship from Anji. So, it is with the love and concern of an older brother that, I am talking to you like this, and saying these things. Honey, we all just want what's best for you. And it hurts us too see, what you have become. We remember a Nidhi, who used to laugh and love life. Whose smile would light up the room, who used to laugh, and joke, and play pranks, and talk a mile a minute, and whose crazy ideas and stunts made us all role our eyes, and sometimes even quake with fear, at the consequences of those pranks. Now in her stead, we have a Nidhi, who is quiet, and seldom laughs. And her smile is missing its brightness. You are just living for the sake of living, but other than Khushi, you have no life. Honey we want our old Nidhi back. But, even leaving aside all of that, is the fact that you are a mom now also. Think about your daughter. Khushi loves Ashutosh, and her accident proves that this is not just something casual that you can just pass away as being the whim of a child. Nidhi, Ashutosh loves her too, that is plain for anyone to see. You have noticed that closeness between the two also, haven't you? So, ok you don't want to get married, but doesn't your daughter deserve a father?
--Jeej, aap sahi keh rahein hain, par main kya karun? How do I negate what I feel? Yes I do love him. I always have, and always will. But, I just can't forget what he did. And If I can't forget, how will I ever be able to forgive? Starting a relationship with all of these issues...well, iss se kya haasil hoga? Kissi ko bhi? Even Khushi?
Rangnath, sighed once again. Clearly this argument wasn't getting him anywhere, he thought. He had known that it would be hard to convince her to give Ashutosh and their relationship another chance. But, he also realized that forgiveness came from the heart, not by anyone trying to convince you of it. And, from the looks of things, she was not ready to do that just yet. He also guessed, that part of the problem was her ego. She wasn't ready to admit that she needed and wanted him back in her life, just yet. So, maybe he should try to present it to her from another angle, explain it in a way that would make it difficult for her to say no. He knew that it would not go well with Dadi Bhua, but, first things first. The most important thing was to get Nidhi to agree to the marriage, somehow. He would deal with that part later.
--Theek hai Nidhi. So, I have another idea, why don't you agree to the marriage. But at the same time, stipulate to Dr. Ashutosh that it will be a marriage in name only. Just for Khushi's sake. And, if he agrees, well then Khushi will have her father, and Dadi Bhua will also get her wish. And the only difference in your life style will be the fact that you both will be living in the same house. Other than that, life should pretty much go on usual. And you will not be committed in any way, other than in name only. This way, pretty much everyone comes out a winner.
Nidhi was quiet for several minutes, and Rangnath was relieved to see that this time, she did not have any arguments, and was actually thinking about it. He did not think that she would have agreed any other way. The past hurts, and her ego would never have allowed for it. That was something that Ashutosh himself would have to do. But, hopefully, in time everything would work out between these two.
Then after a few minutes, she looked at him, and said softly,
--But will Ashutosh also agree to that? I mean, Why would he agree?
--That is something you both would have to discuss, with each other.
--ME!!! But, how will I...I mean, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Also, I am still not sure, that all of this is even necessary. Khushi has not said anything since she has been in the hospital. Maybe she has given up on the idea, you never know. So, for right now, I think that we should just take one day at a time and see how it goes.
Rangnath, knew that it was time to back off. Nidhi was not a person who reacted too well to being pressured. And, he knew that he had given her enough to think about. There was no way that she would be able to resist. So with a smile, he stood up ,and said,
--Nidhi, it was just a suggestion. You need to do what you think is right, no body is forcing you into anything. Enough of these serious talks. Now that you have finished, why don't you get your things, and we can go up to Khushi's room together, I told her that I would bring you back with me.
When they entered Khushi's room, a little later, Nidhi saw that Ashutosh was already there. He was half lying on the bed with one arm around Khushi, who was snuggled up onto his chest. Her little face was looking up at him with an adoring expression, as he read her a story. Nidhi was once again amazed at the strong bond that had formed so quickly between these two. She hesitated, in the doorway as she looked on at the two of them.
Dadi Bhua who was sitting on the sofa noticed Nidhi standing and staring at Ashutosh and Khushi. She looked towards Rangnath, and raised her eyebrows in question, and nodded towards Nidhi. Rangnath smiled at Dadi Bhua and also gave a subtle nod. But also shook his head, which had Dadi Bhua frowning again.
--Tum dono aa gaye. Nidhi, beta itni der kaise lag gayi tujhe? Khushi kab se tujhe yaad kar rahi thi.
Khushi and Ashutosh both looked in her direction also. Then Khushi sat up and held out her arms,
--Mamma! Aap kahan the. Main kab se aapka wait kar rahi thi. Pataa hai, mujhe phir bahut pain ho rahaa tha, lekin Ashu Uncle ne mujhe aapki tarha Juice diya, aur mera dard gayab ho gaya. Mere Ashu Uncle kitne acche hain na? Aur ab yeh mujhe story suna rahe the. Par mujhe aapki bahut yaad aa rahi thi. Main aapko itna miss rahi thi Mamma. Aap itni der se kyon aayi?
Nidhi hurried over to her, and waited for Ashutosh to get off the bed before she took his place, and took Khushi into her arms and hugged her tight.
Dadi Bhua got up and silently gestured to Rangnath to come outside the room with her.
--Nidhi beta, main abhi aati hoon. Mujhe Delhi phone karna hai. Meri behen mere phone ka intezaar kar rahi hogi, aur yahan se network nahin mil raha hai.
--Nidhi, main bhi chalta hoon. I have to go home and get Anji and Nishi. They have dinner ready for everybody, and are waiting for me to pick them up and bring them here.
Nidhi looked at Rangnath, and smiled
--Theek hai. And Jeej can you ask Anji to get me another change of clothes for tomorrow, please?
Dadi Bhua led Rangnath to the lobby of the Hospital and sat down,
--Tune Nidhi se baat kari? Samjhane ki koshish kari usse?
--Ji Dadi Bhua maine usse se baat kari, aur samjhane ki koshish bhi ki. Lekin Dadi Bhua woh abi raazi nahin hai. Uska dard, bahut gehra hai. Phir uska ahem bhi beech mein aa raha hai, jo usse beeti baatein bhoolne nahin de raha hai. Haan, par meri baaton ne usse sochne par majboor toh zaroor kar diya hai. Mere khayal se humein usse thoda waqt dena chahiye. Shayad woh thode time ke baad maan jaye.
--Arre tu usse nahin jaanta. Jitna zyada waqt doge usse, utna hi uska faisla aur pakka ho jayega. Waqt toh bilkul nahin dena chahiye. Aur abhi Khushi ke hospital mein hone se, Nidhi halki si bokhlayi hui bhi hai. Yeh hi samay hai usko manane ka.
Dekho Jamai babu, itne saal ho gaye hain uss baat ko, woh aaj tak doctor ko nahin bhool payi. Aur waqt dene se kya haasil hoga? Woh kisi aur ke liye haan toh kabhi nahin karegi, yeh hum sab acchi tarha se jaante hain. Phir meri bhi umr ho chali hai, main isska ghar basaa hua dekhna chahti hoon. Mere khayal mein to humein jaise taise ussko bas raazi karna hoga.
--Dadi Bhua koshish toh kar rahein hain hum sab. Baaki toh Nidhi ke upar hai.
--Agar Nidhi ke upar choda toh kuch nahin hone wala hai. Theek hai ab mujhe hi kuch karna padega. Accha aap jaayiye, Anji intezaar karti hogi, main bhi Nidhi ke paas jaati hoon.
Dadi Bhua got back to the room to find Nidhi alone with Khushi. When she asked where Ashutosh was, Khushi told her that he had to go for some work, and that he had told her that he would be back soon. Both she and Nidhi played and talked to the litle girl for a while, and then slowly, Khushi's eyes started closing, and soon as was fast asleep. Apparently the accident, even though not very serious, had still taken its toll on the child. She still complained of headaches, and her arm and leg also bothered her. Nidhi looked at her baby, and felt so much love filling her heart, that sometimes she was overwhelmed by it. She passed her hand over the little head a couple of times, and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, before covering her up. As she turned to leave, Dadi Bhua took her by the hand and led her to the sofa,
--Dadi Bhua ,(Nidhi cut her off) I know what you are going to say, and I don't want to hear it. Mai thak gayi hoon ek hi baat sun sun kar aap teeno se. Chalo Anji, aur Jeeju ka toh main samajh sakti hoon, par aap!!Aap kaise iss baat ke liye raazi ho gayi?
--Nidhi, jis din mujhe pata chalaa tha ke Ashutosh wapas aa gaya hai, maine toh ussi din se apne aap ko iss baat ke liye tayyar kar liya tha.
Beta, thande dimag se mere baat sun. Dekh mere bacchi, main kitne din aur rahungi, yeh tu bhi jaanti hai ke meri umr ho chali hai. Main yeh nahin kehti ke main kal marne jaa rahi hoon, lekin beta, zindagi ki sacchai toh yehi hai na? Bacche, main tera ghar basaa hua dekhna chahti hoon. Teri chehre par phir se khushi aur hansi dekhna chahti hoon. Aur beta, main apne aapko iss duniya se jaane se pehle yeh itminan dilana chahti hoon ke mere baad bhi koi hoga jo teri dekh bhaal kar sake, tera saath de. Bacche main tujhe iss tarha akele nahin dekh sakti. Tu toh khud maa hai, tujhe toh andaaza hona chahiye ke ek maa ke dil par kya beethti hai apne bacche to dukhi dekh kar. Toh kyon tujhe mera dard nahin dikhta. Beta, mai teri maa na sahi, lekin maa ki tarha hi toh tujhe paala hai.
--Dadi Bhua, yeh aap kaisi baatein kar rahi ho. Aap mere liye maa se bhi badh ke hain. Shayad meri apni maa bhi mujhe utna pyarr nahin kar sakti thi, jitna aapne mujhe kiya hain. Mere liye aap aur Khushi hi toh sab kuch ho. Main aap dono ke liye hi toh jeeti hoon. Dadi Bhua aapki khushi ke liye toh main kuch bhi kar sakti hoon. Par please aap yeh marne varne ki baatein na kiya kijiye, nahin toh main aapse baatein karna band kardungi. Aapko pataa hai na mujhe yeh sochna bhi nahin acha lagta? Aur mere dil par kya hota hai, jab aap aise bolti ho...socha aapne?
--Theek hai, theek hai, nahin bolungi. Par beta, agar yeh sach hai ke tu mere liye kuch bhi kar sakti hai, toh meri baat maan le beta. Mere aur Khushi ki khatir...
--Dadi Bhua, yeh fair nahin hai. Aap jaanti hain ki jab aap iss tarha koi baat kehti hain, toh main taal nahin sakti. Yeh aap mere saath accha nahin kar rahi hain.
--Beta, main jaanti hoon, ke main tujhe apna ur Khushi ka vaasta dekar ek kisam se blackmail kar rahi hoon. Par meri bacchi, tu hamare liye, meri baat maan le aur haan kar de. Dekh Khushi bhi uss doctor ko apni zindagi mein accept kar chuki hai. Tera kuch farz banta hai, uss bacchi ki khushiyon ke prati, ya nahin. Aur, chahe jaisa bhi ho, woh doctor bhi tum dono ko pyaar karta hai. Bacche zindagi aaj, aur bhavishya ke liye jeene mein hi fayada hai, atheeth mein rehene se kuch nahin milege. Aage dekh Nidhi. Peeche dekhna chod de. Apni Dadi Bhua ki yeh baat maan le mere bacchi. Tere iss faisle se main phir se chain aur sukoon ki saans le sakungi.
--Dadi Bhua, aapne mujhe badi mushkil mein daal diya hai. Main aapko naa bhi nahin keh sakti, aur haan kehne se...
She could not complete her sentence, because at the instant, after a perfunctory knock Ashutosh came into the room, followed by the pediatric neurologist that had been monitoring Khushi's progress, for the past two days since the accident. They both went to Khushi's bed, where, Dr. Singh took the charts and looked them over, then went to Khushi, and checked on her head wound, and looked her over , which also woke her up. Nidhi noticed that as soon as Khushi's eyes fell on Ashutosh, her whole face lit up, and Ashutosh's face also reflected his love for the child. When Dr. Singh took off the bandages, to take a look at the wound on her head, Khushi clung to Ashutosh, not once did she ask for her mother. And, Everytime Khushi whimpered, Ashutosh also flinched. At one point he even asked Dr. Singh to be a bit more gentle, to which the doctor looked at him with amused indulgence. It was apparent that he was used to dealing with over protective parents, all the time, and tended to ignore them for the most part.
Anyway, after he had done a thorough exam, and Khushi's head had been rebandaged, he turned towards Nidhi,
--Dr. Nidhi, you have a very strong little girl. And you are very lucky also. In cases like these, it could have been very serious. But, I am happy to inform you that other than the fact that she will have some pain for a while, your daughter is absolutely fine, and you may take her home tomorrow. But, I would like for you to bring her in in a week for a check up, just so we can be sure that there are no after effects.
Nidhi let out a breath of relief, and smiled gratefully at he doctor,
--I can't thank you enough Dr. Singh, for taking such good care of my daughter. I really appreciate it.
--Dr. Nidhi, it's not me, its Dr. Ashutosh whom you should be really thanking. It was he who treated Khushi in the ER. I came later, after he had done all the work. Anyway, she is fine, and you can stop worrying now. So I will see you both in a week. Now, you take good care of your daughter, OK!
Almost as soon as he had left, Anji, Rangnath, and Nishi arrived.
All three of them went to Khushi first, and she loved all the attention she was getting, enjjoying herself thoroughly with all the attention she wass getting, and, totally hamming it up for Her Massa and Massi. After wards, Anji left Ranga inchacharge of the two girls, and came over to where Dadi Bhua and Nidhi stood, watching indulgently. Anji, started to take the food out of the containers, and lay it all out on the table. And, Ashutosh who had up until now been standing quietly near Khushi, turned around and started to leave. Nidhi saw this and stopped him,
--Ashutosh, aap kahan jaa rahein hain?
--I have some work that I need to take care of.
--Aap ne khaana khaaya hai, abhi tak ke nahin?
--I thought that I would finish my work first, and then I will go to the canteen and eat, don't worry.
--Aap kaam baad mein kar lena pehle khaana khaa lijiye.
--Nidhi, its ok. I will eat later.
--You know it is really silly to be arguing about something so small, please don't make a fuss. And you don't need to feel uncomfortable. Chaliye.
Dadi Bhua who had been observing this, smiled softly. Then she served dinner on a plate and handed it to him with a smile. Dinner was a nice pleasant affair, and all conversations were kept neutral. Afterwards, when everything had been cleared, up Rangnath and Anji got ready to leave, Nidhi asked them to take Dadi Bhua with them. She had been at the hospital all day, and Nidhi knew that she was tired and needed to get some rest. After a token protest, Dadi Bhua agreed to go, but promised that she would be back the next morning, with Rangnath, and that they would take Khushi home together. She pointedly looked at Ashutosh, who was sitting with Khushi, and nodded to Nidhi.
--Nidhi, dekh to zara, kaise acche lag rahein hain dono.
Nidhi sighed--Dadi Bhua you have already made your point. Ab zyada over do mat kijiye. I already know he loves Khushi. Aap ko mujhe bataa ne ki zaroorat nahin hai. Please.
--Lekin, Beta, hum apni baatein poori nahin kar paye...
--Dadi Bhua (Nidhi interrupted), baat poori ho gayi thi. Iss se zyada aur mujhe kuch bolne ki zaroorat nahin aapko.
--Toh phir, kya socha tune? Kya jawab hai tera?
--Dadi Bhua, mujhe thoda saans toh lene dijiye. I need time to think. Main aapse subha baat karungi. Abhi aap jayiye, Anji aur Jeeju aapki wait kar rahein hain.
--Toh tu mujhe subha apna faisla sunayegi? Pakka?
Nidhi laughed and shook her head. Then she hugged Dadi Bhua.
--Dadi Bhua, you are something aren't you, maine kab kaha ke mai faisla sunaungi? All I said was I would think about it tonight, and we would talk tomorrow morning.
Seeing the look on intense disappointment on her face, Nidhi relented, she knew that things had come to a head and that she would have to come to some sort of a decision. She was also afraid that she knew what that decision was going to have to be. Unfortunately it was a choice between what she wanted vs the rest of the family. And when came to the people she loved, well there was not that many things that she could deny them.
--Theek hai Dadi Bhua. You win. I promise I will give my answer tomorrow morning. AB toh aap khush hain na. Chaliye ab jayiye.
--Meri bacchi khush toh main tab houngi, jab tu haan kahegi. Par theek hai. Main subha tak tere jawab ke liye intezaar karungi.
After everybody had left, Ashutosh also excused himself, saying that he had a lot of work pending that he needed to finish, and that he would be by later to check on Khushi. Nidhi kept staring at the door for a long time after he had left. Ashutosh had barely said two words to her since last night, he had been avoiding her, and also avoiding being alone with her. And, while she could understand why he was doing that, it still bothered her. She knew that she still loved him, had even admitted it in front of Anji and Rangnath. They thought that she should try and forgive him, and while she knew that they were right, she still could not bring herself to do that. She had no idea why she was finding it so hard to let go of the past? She had no answers for that. All she knew was that whenever she tried, images of his wedding popped up in her head. Ashutosh ke phere, jab unhone Mallika ki maang mein sindoor bhara tha, jab uske gale mein mangalsutra pehenaya thaa, woh sab...She just could not get it out of her mind. Somehow all those images had superseded everything in her memories, even the memories of the two of them. Nidhi could barely remember the last time she had seen him before his marriage to Mallika, and the day he had come to break it off with her. After talking to Dadi Bhua earlier this evening, she knew it was inevitable that she would be saying yes. She also knew that there was no way that she would ever except any other man in her life. But, the biggest problem was, that could not she except Ashutosh back either. What a mess, she thought totally exasperated with herself. Every statement she made and every thing she felt were total contradictions to each other.
Anyway, she sighed, she was tired of thinking, and tired of trying to justify and reason everything out. Besides, it was a moot point now, she had already made her decision. In the morning she would give Dadi Bhua the answer she was waiting for. She would let Ashutosh back into her life for Dadi Bhua's and Khushi's sake, BUT, she would not and could not ever let him back into her heart. He would never get the chance to hurt her again, ever.
Once, the decision was made, Nidhi walked over to the bed where her tiny daughter was sleeping, and gently ruffled her hair. Such a tiny little person, and yet powerful enough to make her do the one thing that she had sworn never to do, Nidhi thought to herself and smiled ruefully. Well, that's what a mothers love was. Whereas, on one hand it could give you the strength to move mountains, on the other it made you powerless and weak, when it came to your child's happiness. But, in the end, it also made everything worth it. Just the smile on her baby's face, and the joy in her eyes when she looked at her, or her simple Mamma and running to hug her, made everything, every sacrifice she had had to make, seem worth it.
Nidhi, eased onto bed beside Khushi, and gently took her daughter into her arms. Even in her sleep, Khushi, sensing her mothers presence, snuggled closer into her warmth. With a smile on her face, and her child in her arms, Nidhi closed her eyes and went to sleep.
This was how Ashutosh found them, when he came in to check up on Khushi, a little while later. He looked at the two women he loved most in the world, and was overwhelmed with the intensity of his feelings. After he had fallen in love with Nidhi, he had thought that he would never be able to love anyone else as much.
But, then he had seen Khushi, and he had fallen head over heals again. And then when he had found out that she was Nidhis's daughter, that love had increased a thousand fold.
His talk with Dadi Bhua this morning, had given him hope. But, then when he had overheard Nidhi's conversation with Rangnath this evening, (the door to her cabin had been left ajar) all those hopes had flown out the window.
He knew that he had hurt her, and she had also told him the very same things the night that he had come to her house, for the first time after his return. But, hearing it all over again, didn't make it any easier. He just wished that somehow there was something that he could do, that would help wipe out the hurts that he had caused. To be so close to her, and yet still be so far, was becoming unbearable. That was why he had been avoiding being alone in the room with her all day. He did not want to cause her any more discomfort, and at the same time he also did not want her to see his pain either. He had already bared his heart and his feelings and his past in front of her, once before, and he could not do that again. What good would it do? She was not even willing to consider his side. And, besides her constant rejection, just hurt too much. Ashutosh sighed at the apparent hopelessness of his situation, and then bent down and placed a gentle kiss on both girl's foreheads, and went to lay down on the sofa. The Next, morning he was gone again before Nidhi woke up. And, though she would never admit it, she was disappointed.
The first thing Dadi Bhua did when she came the next morning was take her aside, and ask her if she had come to a decision.
--Dadi Bhua, aap abhi abhi toh aayi hain, pehle Khushi se toh mill lijiye.
Dadi Bhua shook her head,
--Khushi so rahi hai Nidhi. Mujhe tera jawab chahiye. Taalne ki koshish mat kar.
Nidhi sighed, she knew that she could not put this off any longer, although she had been hoping to try and delay it as long as she could,
--Theek hai Dadi Bhua, I will do as you say. Lekin, meri kuch shartein hain. Agar aap aur Ashutosh unke liye haan karenge tabhi yeh shaadi hogi.
--Kya shartein hai, main bhi toh sunoon. Waise Nidhi, rishte sharton par nahin banaye jaate.
--Dadi Bhua, what you are saying is right, but only under normal circumstances. Anyway, meri shart aapse yeh hai, ke mujhe bahut seedhi saadhi si shaadi chahiye. Woh saari rasmein, aur utsav kuch nahin. Agar mere se pooche toh sirf court marriage chalegi.
--Court mein shaadi! Nidhi, yeh kaise ho sakta hai. Woh koi shaadi hoti hai. Na phere, na sindoor, na mangalsutra ki rasam. Nahin yeh toh nahin hoga. Shaadi toh vidhi vidhan se hi hogi.
--Mujhe pataa tha aap yeh hi bolengi. Dadi bhua, agar aapka yeh hukum hai toh theek hai main maan lungi, par phir aapko bhi yeh baat manni hogi, ke shaadi simple hogi. Koi bheedh bhaadh nahin. Bas mandir mein sirf hum sab parivar ke log, aur koi nahin.
--Par Nidhi, agar shaadi mein dhoom dhaam na ho toh kya mazaa, beta...
Nidhi cut her off--Nahin Dadi Bhua! Aap chahti hain ke main shaadi karun, aur aapki baat maan ke maine haan kardi. Ab aap ko meri baat maane padegi. Nahin toh main manaa kar dungi.
--Tu bahut ziddi hai. Theek hai. Yeh hi sahi. Kam se kam tune haan to kari. Chal ab baaki ki shart bataa.
--Woh mere aur Ashutosh ke beech ki baatein hain. Main unko hi bataungi. Par, pehle aap unse baat toh kar lijiye, ke woh mujhe shaadi karna chahte hai ke bhi nahin.
--Beta, mujhe usse baat karne ki koi zaroorat hi nahin hai. Ussne khud hamari saari baatein sun li hain.
Nidhi turned around and saw that Ashutosh was standing behind them. She had not even heard him come in. But, Dadi Bhua had known the whole time that he was there, and she did not know whether to get angry with Dadi Bhua or feel relieved that Ashutosh had heard everything. He came forward and sat down on the sofa next to her, but looked at Dadi Bhua.
--Toh bolo Dr. Ashutosh, aap kya kehte ho. Aapko yeh rishta manzoor hai kya?
--Dadi Bhua, iss vishay mien toh hamari baat ho chuki hai. Mujhe manzoor hai.
--Par Ashutosh app haan karne se pehle meri shart toh sun lijiye. Shayad aapko woh manzoor na ho.
--Nidhi, tum jo bhi shart rakkho mujhe acceptable hai. It will not make any difference to my answer.
--Alright, if are absolutely sure about that, then we can talk later, and clarify everything. Baaki, you and Dadi Bhua can go ahead and fix all the details.
--Arre Nidhi, issmein doctor kya karega. Jo bhi karna hai, mujhe karna hai. Mere Khayal mein agar tujhe seedhi saadhi shaadi chahiye, toh phir deri karne ki koi zaroorat nahin hai.
Shaadi jald se jald ho jaye wohi accha rahega. Kya khayal hai tum dono ka?
Nidhi just sighed again and thought, that she might as well go with the flow. Dadi Bhua was going to get what she wanted anyway. Her asking for their opinion was only a part of the conversation.
--Dadi Bhua app jaisa chahein, jo bhi chahein, aur jis tarha se bhi chahein, is fine with me. You just just tell me when and where to show up and I will.
Nidhi saw Ashutosh's lip twitch at her answer, and she gave him a rueful look, in return, telling him that it was no use.
--Theek hai. Toh phir main ye bataa doon ke maine raat ko hi panditji se tum dono ke baare mein baat kar li thi. Woh keh rahe the ki parson hi ek bahut bada shubh muhurt hai. Toh main unhe phone kar ke keh deti hoon ki woh usse hi pakka kar dein.
--Dadi Bhua, aapne sab baatein pakki bhi kar li? Aapko kaise pataa tha ke main maan jaungi? Aur pason hi! Yeh kuch zyada jaldi nahin ho raha hai? That hardly gives any time.
--Tujhhe kiss baat ka time chahiye. Aur phir jab tujhe simple si hi shaadi chahiye, toh usmein der kyon. Rahi tayyari ki baat, toh hamare paas aaj aur kal, dono din hai. Sab ho jaye ga.
--Aur Khushi, usske baare mein bhool gayi aap? Ussko aaj ghar lekar jaana hai. Usska kaun khayal rakkhega agar hum dono tayyariyon mein bahar nikal jayenge toh? Usse akela toh nahin chod sakte na?
--Nidhi, mujhe pataa hai, Khushi ghar jaayegi aaj. Aur kaun keha raha hai ke hum usse akela chodenge? Yeh Ashutosh hai na, yeh khayal rakkhega uska. Aakhir ab Khushi uski bhi toh beti banne jaa rahi hai. Toh beti ka khayal agar uska pitah nahin rakkhega toh aur kaun rakkhega. Haan?
Kyon doctor, kuch galat bola maine?
--Nahin Dadi Bhua, aap bilkul sahi keh rahi hain. And Nidhi, I will gladly take care of Khushi, while you and Dadi Bhua take care of all the arrangements.
Nidhi looked at him exasperatedly. He was enjoying this. Her head was spinning at the speed with which everything was going, and he was enjoying seeing her loose control of the situation. Well two could play at that game,
--Dadi Bhua, why don't you and Ashutosh, go out and take care of everything, and let me stay at home with Khushi. After all he will not know how to do everything immediately, and he won't even know where all her stuff is. After all yeh sab toh dheere dheere aayega na?
Nidhi saw, with great satisfaction, the smile disappear from his face to be replaced by a look of horror at the prospect of going out with Dadi Bhua. And she gave him a wicked smile to show him that it now it was she, who was having the last laugh.
--Haan, tu yeh bhi sahi keh rahi hai. Toh theek hai! Doctor, Khushi aur Nidhi ko ghar par chodne ke baad tum aur main bahar nikal kar saare kaam karenge. Hum Anji ko bhi saath chalne ko kehdenge. Kaam aur bhi jaldi ho jayega.
All of a sudden, something occurred to him.
--Nidhi, hum yahan hospital mein kya bolenge? Humne invite kyon nahin kiya kissi ko, isska bhi toh jawab hona chahiye na?
Dadi Bhua answered him instead of Nidhi,
--Issmein pareshaan hone ki kya baat hai. Shaadi kar rahe ho, koi bhaag thodi hi rahe ho. Bol do ke shaadi sirf ghar walon ke liye thi. Aur baad mein choti si reception de denge sab ke liye. Kyon theek hai na?
--Haan, Dadi Bhua. I guess theek hai. Bas sab ki kyon ka jawab dena mushkil ho jayega.
--Dekho Dr. Ashutosh, iss tarha agar duniya ki parwah karne lagoge toh phir shaadi bhool jao. Tum dono ko koi zaroorat nahin hai kissi ko koi bhi kuch kehne ki. Jo bolta hai, usse bolne do. Thode dino mein sab apne aap chup ho jayenge. Theek hai.
Nidhi and Ashutosh both nodded, and Dadi Bhua heaved a sigh of relief.
Now she needed to call and inform Anji and her husband. They had very little time, and they had a whole lot of work to do before then. She did not want to give Nidhi any more time than was necessary to think.
The more time she got, the more chances there were of her changing her mind. So it was best to get this done with as quickly as possible.
As, expected, Anji and Rangnath were thrilled, and very very happy that Nidhi had chosen to say yes. They both assured Dadi Bhua that they would do anything they could to help, and at Dadi Bhua's request Anji promised to meet them at the house, when they brought Khushi home, so that she and Dadi Bhua would be able to leave immediately after getting her settled.
They had not yet informed Khushi of their decision. It was the general consensus that it would be better to wait until the night before. Dadi Bhua and Nidhi knew that she would drive them all crazy if she were to find out now. Then between her and the preparations, there would be total chaos for the next two days. So, it had been decided that it was better for everyone's peace of mind if they went ahead and got all the work done, and then the night before the wedding, Nidhi, Dadi Bhua, and Ashutosh, together would tell her the good news.
Once they got home from the hospital, Nidhi quickly got the little girl settled into her room. Nidhi knew by the look on Ashutosh's face that he was dreading the outing with Dadi Bhua and Anji, and decided to take pity on him. She told him that she would go, and that he could stay at home with Khushi instead. He gave her a big smile of gratitude and relief. So, after explaining to him where everything was, she Dadi Bhua and Anji left.
The next two days went by in the blink of an eye, and before anyone one could even breathe properly, it was already the evening before the wedding. Luckliy they had just barely managed to get all the arrangements finalized, and all the shopping done. When they got home, Dadi Bhua informed Nidhi that she had asked a lady to come to the house to do her mehendi, after dinner. Nidhi had started to protest that she did not think that the mehendi was necessary, but one look at Dadi Bhua's face had been enough to make her keep quiet, and she closed her mouth without uttering a word. Dadi Bhua could be down right scary when she wanted to be. And, Nidhi knew not to mess with her when she she gave one of her one of her looks.
Since Ashutosh could not move in till after the wedding,, tomorrow, it had been decided that he would be spending the night at Rangnath's house. And Anji and Nishi would be spending that night with Nidhi, and Khushi. It had also been decided that Ashutosh would be moving in with them, and not the other way around. When the subject of where they were going to live had come up, and he had seen how reluctant Nidhi was to move out of her house, he informed them that he would move in with them instead. Ashutosh knew that his house did not hold good memories for her, and to be truthful neither did the house have any sentimental value for him any more, either. He told them that he had intended to sell his house anyway, and had been looking for a new one. But, that was before their marriage had been finalized. Dadi Bhua also agreed that it was best for everyone this way, as their house was very large and had more than enough room to accommodate them all comfortably.
That evening before coming to Nidhi's house for dinner, Ashutosh packed up the last of his things, and put everything in the trunk of his car, not at all sorry to be moving out. But, before leaving, he had said also goodbye to HK, and thanked him for spending so many years of his life in the service of his father, and him. HK also thanked him for the generous retirement settlement that Ashutosh had given him. He had been getting on in years, and had accepted Ashutosh's decision quite readily. He was only too happy to be retiring, and finally getting to return to his village.
After dinner, right before Ashutosh was due to leave they broke the news to Khushi. Nidhi looked at her daughter's face, and the happiness shining from her eyes, and decided that it all more than worth it. Khushi walked over to Ashutosh as fast as she could, the wounds in her leg had still not healed all the way and it hurt her to run, Ashutosh met her half way, and picked her up in his arms. Khushi also threw her arms around him and buried her face against his shoulder. Then she drew back and gave him a big kiss
--Aap sachi mere Papa banenge?
--Haan Beta. Sach mein. Lekin Kal se, abhi nahin.
--Toh ab mai aapko papa bol sakti hoon.
Ashutosh had had tears in his eyes, as he hugged the tot close to his heart,
--Absolutely my Baby. I would love it if you would call me Papa.
Khushi put both her hands on either side of his face,
--Ab Mere paas world ke sab se acche Papa honge, aur sab se handsome bhi. Aapko pataa hai Papa, meine yeh hi promise manga tha Mamma se. Aur Mamma ne mere ko pakka promise kiya tha ke woh mujhe mere Papa laakar dengi. And meri Mamma hamesha apne promise poora karti hain. Maine Mamma se bola tha ke main apne Papa apne aap choose karungi, and maine aapko choose kiya, kyon ki aap mujhe sab se best lage. I Love you Papa.
Then with another hug for him, Khushi wiggled down from his arms and ran to Nidhi, and climbed up onto her lap and hugged her hard,
--Thank you Mama. Aapne mujhe mere papa ko laake diya. Aap sab se acchi Mamma ho. I love you Mamma. Ab main bhi school mein sab se kahungi, ke mere bhi papa hain, aur woh sab se acche hain. And ab koi bhi mujhe tung nahin karega. Mamma, ab Papa hamare saath hi rahenge na?
--Nahin beta, aaj nahin. Aap ke Papa, kal se aap ke paas rahenge. Abhi night mein yeh aapke Rangu Massa ke paas jayenge.
--Kyon ki kal aapki aur Papa ki shaadi hogi pehle, right? Kal aap dulhan banogi and phir Papa aapke hair mein woh red wala color daalenge,and aapko necklace bhi pehenayenge. Right?
Nidhi and Ashutosh just looked at each other, not knowing what to say, or how to react to that. Nidhi was so surprised that Khushi knew of these things,
--Aapko yeh sab kaise pataa chalaa beta.
--Nishi ne batayaa, usne movie mein dekha tha.
Dadi Bhua laughed out loud, and called Khushi to her and hugged her hard
--Haan mere bacche, tu bilkul sahi keh rahi hai. Kal teri Maa dulhan banegi. Accha ab apne Papa ko goodnight bol unhe ab jaana hai. Phir yeh kal ke baad hamesha ke liye tere hi saath rahenge.
Khushi once more hurried over to Ashutosh, and hugged him,
--Goodnight Papa. Kal aap hamesha hamesha ke liye mere Papa ho jayenge. I can't wait.
Ashutosh was so full of emotion, that he could barely say a word, as he said goodnight and hugged Khushi back. He then touched Dadi Bhua feet, and turned to leave. Nidhi, hurried after him,
--Ashutosh please wait, I will walk out with you.
She looked at Dadi Bhua, who nodded giving her permission.
When they got to his car, Ashutosh turned around to face her. He knew she had something on her mind that she wanted to talk to him about. That was the only reason that she would ever voluntarily walk him to his car, all alone like this.
--Whats on your mind Nidhi? You have something to say to me, yes?
--How...How did you know?
--Nidhi, why would you run after me, otherwise. We both know that, there is no way you would willingly come after me like this. So, tell me what's on your mind, Dadi Bhua will be waiting, and worrying about what you are saying to me, you know that.
--Yes. Actually we should have had this talk two days ago, but with one thing or the other, there was never enough time.
--Ahh, yes. It's about your condition. Let me see if I can guess.
Separate rooms. Marriage in name only, etc etc...Am I right?
--But how...How did you...
Ashutosh sighed wearily, and ran his hand through his hair, and looked at her. The expression in his eyes, making her heart wrench in pain.
--You forget that I know you, and you are very predictable. Nidhi, I would have to be really stupid to assume even for a second that you are marrying me for any other reason than Khushi and also the fact that you have been pressurized into it. I have no illusions about what the nature of our relationship will be, and I also know exactly why you are marrying me. Nidhi, I do not have any hopes were we are concerned. You have been more than clear on that point, so you can rest easy. I am getting a daughter out of this arrangement, and thats enough for me. Now, is there anything else, or was that it?
--No...that's it. I am glad we are on the same page in this, Ashutosh. Thank you. It makes my life a lot easier.
--I am glad you are getting what you want Nidhi. And I understand and accept your terms.
--Theek hai, then... I guess I will see you tomorrow.
--Yes! Good Night.
It was with a lot of mixed feelings that she saw him drive off. Nidhi knew that she should be feeling happy, and even a bit relieved, that is had all be so easy, but all she felt was a strange restlessness that she had no explanation for. This and other thoughts like it were crowding her mind, as she turned around and headed back into the house.
Meanwhile, in the car, while driving towards Rangnath's house, Ashutosh smiled, as he thought back to his conversation with Nidhi. He had purposely said all those things to her, because that was the only way that he could think of to ease her mind regarding him, and regarding their marriage. But he had no doubts or confusions in his mind that there was no way that he would let her stay apart from him for too long. He had made her fall in love with him before, and he would make sure that it happened again. Ashutosh knew that he was getting a second chance at life, and he was going to grab it with both hands. And while he was excited and happy about that, he was also scared. He did not want to make any more mistakes this time, he could not afford to. He knew that he had to take it one step at a time, and proceed very cautiously with Nidhi. And, this marriage was only the first step to his eventual goal. Even though, for now, it was in name only, tomorrow, in the eyes of the world at least, she would belong to him again.
Ashutosh loved her, and he had to make her believe in him and their love once again. And there was no way he would give up until she did, he promised himself. He was going to do everything in his power to win her back, he had too, it was as simple as that.
He had waited and dreamed about this day for five long years, and tomorrow, finally, he would be rewarded for his patience. Tomorrow, would be the start of their new life together, just the thought of that brought a smile to his face. Tomorrow's dawn would bring with it, the beginning of their FOREVER. Ashutosh could hardly wait!
Please use the Like button if you liked the chapter.
Edited by Libra - 14 March 2013 at 12:56pm