Joined: 26 September 2011
Joined: 26 September 2011
Neha walked into the room only to find Aman packing. "Where are you going?"
"Bhopal" answered Aman, giving her a brief look.
"Again? You just got back a few weeks ago". Neha felt exasperated. They had been dating for two years and in the last one year, Aman had spent more time in India than in Denmark. "Why do you need to go again?"
Aman stopped packing for a moment. "Remember I told you Arti was pregnant? Well she just had the baby and is in coma. Once she is out of the coma, they will do the bone marrow transplant and I am the primary donor. I have to be there."
"For how long?"
"I don't know Neha – however long it takes" said Aman turning back to his packing.
Neha sat down on the sofa. "Did Arti haemorrhage – is that why she is in coma?" Aman nodded. "How is the baby?" she asked.
"She is ok I guess – Pooja. They named her Pooja".
Neha sat quietly while Aman continued packing. He had always claimed Arti as his closest friend, his childhood friend he had lost touch with for 10 years. But last year they met suddenly in Mumbai, then Bhopal and Aman's trips to India increased. In her bleaker moments when she missed him desperately, like right now, Neha suspected what Aman felt for Arti was more than friendship. She had many friends, really good ones too, but she hadn't seen any one leave everything behind at a moment's notice for their best friend. That sounded more like love.
When Aman was done, he came and sat next to Neha. Putting his hands around her shoulders, he leaned back. "I have to leave this evening – the flight's at 10pm."
Neha was quiet the rest of the evening, and Aman was lost in his own thoughts. As she drove him to the airport, she finally spoke to him about her doubts "Aman – I know this is a bad time, but we hardly get any time any more. I don't think I can play second fiddle to Arti. The person I spend my life with has to consider me as the most important person in his life. I am not that person in your life. Frankly, I don't know where I come in your priority list."
"So, what are you saying Neha? Are you breaking up with me? Is that what you are trying to tell me?"
"I don't know Aman. I need to think, re-evaluate our relationship and I am sure you need to, as well. So, please find the time to do that while you are in India. We can talk once you are back" Neha said sadly.
Aman reached out to touch her hands which were clenching the steering wheel as she drove through the dark. "Neha…" he sighed.
"No Aman, don't say anything now. Don't say anything you don't mean or may come to regret later. Time enough to talk once you are back" Neha stalled him. The rest of the drive passed in silence, just like their evening had, just like most of their time together these days. At the airport, they said their goodbye briefly, exchanging a tight hug.
As the flight took off, Aman thought back to when he first met Neha. He had come to Denmark nearly 12 years ago, working as a management consultant. Over the next 3 years, he had built enough of a network in Copenhagen and the diplomatic circles to start his own company. His firm now managed the public relations of a few key diplomats to the UN and offered consulting services to all major EU firms. Aman left most of the management to his carefully selected, well trained staff. He worked directly with their top clients only, enabling himself to set his own hours, and take the time off he had needed in the last one year. He had met Neha 5 years ago at a client party. Thinking back, Aman realized what had first drawn him to her – her utter enjoyment of the company of the few children who were present. He had found out that she was a pediatric nurse, which helped explain her comfort level with the young children at the party – and theirs with her. Over the next few years, they had encountered each other at other social gatherings and over time had become good friends. Two years ago, they had mutually decided to "go steady" as he used to say when in college.
Was Neha right? Did he always give more importance to Arti? God knows the reason of his initial interest in Neha lay with Arti and her childhood. Neha's delight in the children, their delight in getting her undivided attention – the happiness shone on their faces. He had never seen that look in the child Arti and he had always sought to bring a smile to her face….
Aman was 10 years old when his mother, Sneha, brought the 5 year old Arti home. He still remembered the argument his parents had had that night. Arti's parents and his father were business partners. The three of them had been in college together and had started the business soon after graduation. The two families were close, but Sneha always kept a distance – Aman still didn't know why. Arti's mother had been sick for over 6 months, and the day she passed away, Sneha brought Arti home. That night his father had raged at his mother, how could she just bring some one else's child, her father needed her, he could take legal action….his arguments went on but his mother had stood firm. Aman clearly remembered her saying "Ritu had asked me to take care of her. Shiv is in no state to look after himself, how can he look after this small girl. She is staying with us – at least until her father can get himself together." No matter what his father had said over the next few weeks, her mother didn't relent. And then a few months later, Arti's father had committed suicide – he never got over the death of his wife. And Arti had become a permanent resident of their house.
Aman had never understood his mother when it came to Arti. Sneha had brought Arti to their house, fought against her husband to keep her there, but she was never affectionate towards the child. She always treated Arti with kindness, she was gentle with her, but strict. His mother was strict with both him, and later his sister who was nearly 12 years younger than him. But with Arti somehow the strictness had a different flavor. His mother never physically punished Arti, but she was never affectionate with her either.
He still remembered one incident from way back. Arti must have been about 6-7 years old then – she had been with them for about a year. One day she lost her favourite toy – a rainbow colored ball. Arti used to take it everywhere with her. When she lost it, she was disconsolate. Aman remembered her crying her heart out, while Sneha sat next to her. She didn't leave till Arti stopped crying, but neither did she hold or comfort her. As the child Arti cried herself to sleep, Sneha carried her to her bed and tucked her in. The next morning, Arti awoke to find her favourite ball in its usual place and she was overjoyed. She ran around the house showing the ball to everyone. When she showed it to Sneha, she just smiled at the child. Arti thought she had got her ball back – Aman knew his mother had scoured the shops the previous evening searching for the exact toy. But she didn't give her the toy herself, she never hugged her, she never openly displayed any affection. Perhaps Arti sensed the underlying affection – after all, she had grown up to be a very loving and affectionate woman herself.
Over time, Aman's father had come to accept Arti as well. He started treating her as one of his children, but Sneha always kept a distance in her interactions with Arti. He had often seen the bewilderment and longing in Arti's eyes when she looked at his mother – for approval, for acceptance….frankly, for any sign. As Arti grew older, she had come to accept the distance Sneha maintained. Aman had taken it on himself to provide her the emotional support she craved. They had always been friends, and now they came even closer. Aman became her guardian angel – the one to cover for her, the one who took care she didn't get hurt, the one she eventually came to turn to for everything.
Yes, Arti was the most important person in Aman's life, at least till she got married. After all, she was the only one who was solely dependent on him. She was his responsibility. Once she got married he felt that his responsibility was over. But meeting her after 10 years he had realized that his responsibility wasn't over – she still wasn't happy, she still didn't have a family, she still didn't belong. After Yash had finally accepted Arti and owned up to his love for her, Aman had been relieved. He suspected his period of guardianship was nearing an end – and he had finally seen for himself how happy Arti was when he had gone back last time. But now… now she was fighting for her life and needed him. And he was going to do everything in his power to help her win that battle. Arti couldn't die – he would not let her.
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