Joined: 26 September 2011
As Aman walked out of the terminal at Mumbai he found Sneha waiting for him. "Ma?" he asked, surprised. He bent down to touch her feet and then gave her a hug. She caressed his face and then said, "Have you got everything? Let's go."
In the car as they drove home, Aman turned to Sneha. "Ma – how come you are at the airport? Its so late, did you skip your medicine?" For the last couple of years, his mother had been taking some heart medication at night which made her sleepy enough that she was generally in bed by 10pm. But here she was, close to midnight, picking him up.
She shook her head, "no, I have taken my medicines. But I couldn't sleep and I wanted to see you, so I came."
"Is something wrong Ma? Why couldn't you sleep?" Aman asked anxiously. He had lost his father four years ago and since then, he had become even more protective about his mother.
"Its just that hearing about Arti…." She petered off.
"Arti?" Aman was stunned. His mother was losing sleep over Arti? "Ma? What…."
"We can talk about this later Aman…..when do you leave for Bhopal?"
"Tomorrow evening," Aman replied. Sneha nodded.
The next morning Aman walked through their house, searching for his mother. She was an early riser and had breakfasted before him. Finally he unearthed her in the garden, pulling out weeds.
"Ma!" he exclaimed. "You know you should not be doing all this. Its not good for your heart."
"I don't garden everyday Aman, but now….now I needed to, I wanted to think" said Sneha getting up with his help.
Aman helped her inside and settled her down. He asked the servant to get some nimbupani for both of them. As they sipped the cool drink, Aman wondered how to broach the topic they had touched on briefly last night. Knowing his mother, he decided on a direct question.
"Ma, you said last night that you were not able to sleep since you heard about Arti. Why, Ma?"
Sneha sighed. She had known that sometime in his life, Aman would have to be told the entire truth. Now was as good a time as any.
"You know na beta that your Papa and Arti's parents were business partners?" As Aman nodded, Sneha continued her tale.
"They were best friends in college. And even started the business together. What Ritu didn't know however was that both men were in love with her. She loved Shiv and they got married. But you know beta, your father never got over her. Through our marriage, through his whole life Aakash Khanna loved only one woman – and that was Ritu Kumar. I don't know if Shiv knew, perhaps not, your father never made his feelings obvious. At the end of the day, it was immaterial to Shiv and Ritu wasn't it – but your father's overwhelming love for her defined our marriage, ruled my life, even after her death."
"When your father and I got married, he told me about Ritu and he promised to try and overcome his love. Perhaps he did – I don't know. What I do know is that I came a very distant second in his life. She was a lovely person Aman – if things had been different we would have become the best of friends. As it was, I couldn't overcome my reserve with her. I didn't resent her, not really – after all, she didn't even know. But I couldn't get too close either. When Ritu found out about her cancer, I was the first person she told. She knew Shiv wasn't a very strong person emotionally and she was worried for Arti. They both were only children and Arti had no other relatives, not even grandparents – they had passed away a few years before Arti was born. Ritu wanted to make sure her daughter would be cared for, and she wanted me to make sure she was."
"I had seen Arti being born. I loved the child. How could I say no? The day Ritu died, I was in the hospital with her. And I brought Arti home. I wanted to hold her, love her, comfort her…..but I never could do that. My god damned reserve would come in the way – no matter how hard I tired, I could not reach out to this small child, this lovely angel who was so lost and bewildered. I could never forget that she is the daughter of the woman my husband loved. No matter how hard I tired, I could not make myself reach out to her, comfort her, even hold her or touch her while she was awake" Sneha said, her voice breaking. "And its been my curse ever since. Do you know how much it hurt to see her cry? How my heart broke to see the pain and questions in her eyes when as a teenager she would look at me?"
Sneha's eyes filled with tears. "Arti is more like her mother than she knows. Ritu was a lovely warm person, affectionate, helping everyone, thinking more about others than about herself. And so very strong. Arti is really a replica in so many ways. I thank god every day that she is still who she is, her mother's daughter, despite her growing up in this house, with me – when she must have thought me to be stone-hearted."
Aman sat stunned. He didn't know how to react, what to say. He could see the pain seeping through his mother's eyes, lacing her voice as she spoke, sometimes in a hoarse whisper, and sometimes in a broken whimper.
"I had always wished for you and Arti to get married" – at that Aman looked up startled.
Sneha continued, looking deep into his eyes. "You love her, you have always loved her." As Aman shook his head in denial, Sneha said "Perhaps you don't love her romantically Aman, but she is the person you love the most in the world. You both would have been happy together. And that's all I wanted for both of you – to be happy."
Aman did not say anything for a long time. As Sneha sighed and started to get up, he reached out to her. Holding her by the arm, he guided her out of the room towards her room upstairs.
"Yes, we would have been happy together" he finally said. Was he really replying to his mother, or to Neha's unspoken question from last night? Or perhaps to himself?
"But you know Ma, what Arti has with Yash….we would not have had that. …..They are like soul-mates, made for each other. Even today, I know Arti better than Yash does. But he senses her better than me. He intuitively knows how she is feeling and what she needs. Her face lights up when she sees him. She senses when he enters the room, even if he doesn't make a sound. Sometimes when they look at each other, its like no one else exists in the world but them."
"Yes Ma, perhaps we would have been happy. But Arti and Yash belong together. They complete each other – they are two halves of one soul."
"Then I am glad you both did not get married", Sneha turned to her son, reaching out to comfort him.
Aman sighed. "Do I love her? Perhaps – but the thought of spending my life with her never entered my head. And…" turning to face his mother, "I never knew you had such ideas. You never said anything to me."
"No. It was just a wish I had - perhaps to make up for the lack of affection Arti faced from me" Sneha said.
As they entered her room, she turned to Aman. "Beta – I don't want history repeating itself. Marry the woman you love more than you have ever loved Arti. Don't make another woman go through what I did, don't go through the pain your father did. You deserve more, we all do. Make sure that when you marry, you marry someone you love with all your heart, some one who comes first in your life, some one you can't wait to spend the rest of your life with."
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What an update. Beautiful, overwhelming, wonderful I think those words were just an understatement for the update that you did. But I'm so sure with this --- I LOVED IT SO MUCH!
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