He had been observing the change in her for the past week now. She was quiet, too much so, and lost in her own thoughts almost all the time.
Whereas, before she had a smile and a kind word for everyone, now she just went about her duties quietly. Her work was still impeccable, and he could find no fault in that. Her eyes, that had always been full of life and laughter, were now dull and listless, and she had even begun to loose weight. Something was definitely very wrong with Nidhi.
Ashutosh remembered the first time he had seen her about six months ago, when, she had come into KGH, as a first year Pediatric resident.
He had just entered the conference room, where all the new residents had gathered, and the first person he had spotted had been her. She had been laughing at something, and it had seemed to him that she had lit up the room with her smile. And, after that, he could not explain why, but his eyes had been drawn to her again and again, throughout the meet and greet, for the new residents.
And ever since then, he had looked forward to her cheerful "Good morning, Sir", and smile first thing every morning. Her work ethics, and eye for detail, and concern and empathy for her patients, had been exemplary from day one. And all her patients, both in the OPD, and in house adored her. She was one of the youngest residents that KGH had ever hired, and Ashutosh had been skeptical when he had at first, been shown her resume. Apparently she was a genius, graduating from medical school and clearing her PG entrance exams at the top of her class. Although, her scores were excellent, and she had been given high recommendations by her professors and classmates, he had been hesitant about accepting her into their residency program, due to her age. She was only 23 years old. At that young of an age, he did not think that she would have the kind of maturity, sensibility, and responsibleness in her attitude that would was a requirement of her job. But, she had proven him wrong, with her hard work, and dedication in providing her young patients with the kind of quality care, that KGH was known for. And what had impressed him the most was that, no matter how long the hours were, or how busy she was, she never lost her patience with any of the children. In fact, ever since she had taken up her post the children were thriving, and happy.
He had called the residents into the conference room today for their monthly meeting to discuss their progress, and to take up any concerns that they might be having regarding their patients, or the line of treatments, being given to them. Normally Nidhi was an avid participator in these meetings, but today she sat at one corner of the table, so lost in her own thoughts that she had not even noticed that the meeting had ended, and that everybody other than her had left the room.
Ashutosh was really worried, and as One of the Directors of the Residency program, and also as the Dean of the Hospital, he felt that it was his duty to find out what was bothering her. and to see if he could help in any way.
--Dr Nidhi...DR. NIDHI...
Nidhi, startled out of her thoughts, looked up at him guiltily.
Then she looked around her and noticed the room was empty, except for the two of them, and embarrassed color suffused her face,
--I am sorry Sir. I was not paying attention. It will not happen again.
She got up to leave , but was stopped by him placing a gentle hand on her arm
--It's alright Dr. Nidhi. Please come to my cabin. I would like to talk to you.
--Whatever it is can wait doctor. Please follow me!
Once they were seated in his cabin, he came straight to the point,
--Dr. Nidhi, I have noticed that you have not been your self for the past week. It seems that there is something that's been bothering you. I felt that as your Dean, and also as someone older, its my duty to ask you what it is, and if there is anything that I or the hospital can do for you. For that matter, do your problems have anything to do with the hospital, or anyone here?
--No! Oh No, Sir! Its nothing to do with work. Sir, if I may...have I done anything wrong?
--No, Dr. Nidhi. If you had I would have let you know in no uncertain terms. Its just something I had noticed, and was concerned about, so, I thought that I would ask.
--Oh...Thank you for your concern, Dr. Ashutosh. But, its personal.
If you don't mind I would rather not talk about it.
--That's up to you Dr. Nidhi. But, if you change your mind, please don't hesitate.
--Thank you Sir. May I go now? I have a lot of work I need to see too.
--Yes, yes, go ahead.
After she had left, Ashutosh leaned forward, with his elbows resting on his desk, and rested his chin on his hands, and reflected on his conversation with Nidhi. She was an independent sort of person, and she also had a lot of self pride, he noted with admiration. It was plain that whatever was troubling her was big, but she had not let that affect her work. You had to admire a person like that. Anyway, whatever it was he hoped that she would be able to sort it out. The next minute, however, he got paged for an emergency, and forgot all about Nidhi, and her problems. The whole day passed in a blur, with one thing or the other, and it was not till he got home late that night, that his thoughts once again turned towards Nidhi. He wondered how she was doing.
Ashutosh was feeling really restless today, for some reason. The quiet, which usually calmed him and offered him solace, specially after the noise and hustle and bustle of the hospital, failed to give him any peace. He felt like some company, which surprised him even more, since Ashutosh had always been a loner. Ever since he had been little, he had preferred his own company over anyone else's. Normally, he would go to Baba's room, and chat with him for a bit, but, today even Baba was not home. Baba had gone for a week to an alumni meeting at AIIMS, in New Delhi, and Bhua had also gone with him to visit some relatives. They would not be returning till late, the day after tomorrow. Even HK had taken two days off, to visit his family at his village. So he was all alone tonight.
His Baba, Dr. Alok Nath Mathur, was a renowned heart transplant surgeon, and the Chief of Staff at KGH. And he was also, Ashutosh's adopted father. Dr. Mathur did not have any children of his own, in fact, he had never been married. He had found Ashutosh in a dumpster when he was about 5-6 months old, at a village he had been visiting during one of his medical camps, and had brought him home to his house, where he lived with his widowed sister, and had formally adopted him. Ashutosh had not known anything about his origins till he was about 10-11 years old, when had overheard a couple of parents talking to each other during his school's annual day function. He had questioned Baba and Bhua about it and they had told him everything. It had not seemed like a big deal to him at the time, and he had not even thought twice about it, he had taken the whole thing in a very matter of fact way. He knew that his Bhua and Baba loved him no less because of his birth.
In fact, he had not even ever thought about his birth till he was in college and the girl he had been in love with, and who had professed to love him, and stick by his side through thick and thin, no matter what, had dumped him. She had been shocked when he had told her about himself, and, after a couple of days of avoiding him, had sent him a letter stating that she could not spend her life with someone, who did not even know where he had come from, or who his parents were, or whether he was legitimate or illegitimate.
It had been a cold brief note, that had left him equally cold, and had taught him a harsh but very important lesson... That there was no such thing as love. And that the only place that love existed was in books. And, so, here he was today, Ashutosh thought as he stood at his bedroom window gazing out into the night. . It was due to that harsh lesson learnt at a young age that he had not married, nor had any intentions of doing so. He was 42 yeas old, and was very happy with his life. Of course things were not perfect, but they were as good as they were gonna get. That's was why , he could not understand why his thoughts kept on going back again and again, to his resident, and he was left wondering what it was that had taken that beautiful smile off of her face, and extinguished the light from her eyes.
The next morning, when he got to the hospital, he saw Nidhi getting out from an auto rickshaw, before heading in the direction of the hospital. Didn't she have a car? He could have sworn that he had seen her drive up in a red toyota camry numerous times. Maybe it had gone for repairs or something, and he dismissed the thought from his mind, as he hurried to catch up with her.
She must have heard him, because she stopped, but she did not turn around. She did not even look up at him, even when he came up next to her, she kept her head bowed, and eyes on the pavement underneath their feet.
--Dr. Nidhi, can you please look up at me. I like to see the face of the person that I am talking too, please.
Ashutosh noticed that she hesitated, before she complied with his request. Then he saw the reason for it. Apparently she had been crying! He did not know for how long, but judging from the state her eyes and face were in, it must have been for a while, because, her eyes were bloodshot and swollen, and her face and nose were also red, apparently from continuous wiping of the tears. She was also pale, and she looked miserable.
--Dr. Nidhi wha...
--Sir, I nee...
They both spoke up at the same time. Ashutosh gestured for her to go first.
--Sir, I was just coming up to your office. I need to talk to you if you could spare me a few minutes.
--Certainly Dr. How can I help you?
Nidhi looked around. They were still technically out side the hospital, but it was relatively private, so she took a deep breath, as if gathering courage, and said, in a rush...
--Sir, I would like to hand in my resignation, effective immediately.
Ashutosh could not have imagined that this was coming, he was very surprised
--Dr. Nidhi this is not the right place to talk about this, please come to my office, we can finish this discussion there, in private.
Nidhi looked at him crossly,
--That's what I was coming to do, but you are the one who asked me what I wanted to say out here in the middle of the street.
Ashutosh's lips twitched in amusement. So this little dove had claws, he thought, but he kept a straight face.
--I am sorry, Dr. Nidhi. But I had no idea, that you would be tendering your resignation. Anyway, lets go discuss this somewhere a bit more private.
Ashutosh noted that she walked with her head bowed, the whole way up to his cabin. Once there, he asked his peon to make sure that he was not disturbed, and to tell whoever came that he was in a conference, and he shut the door. Then, he gestured for her to sit on the sofa, and took the chair opposite her.
--So, tell me Dr. Nidhi why my most promising Resident Doctor, wants to resign from a position, at a hospital, that many other young doctors would give their eye teeth for.
--It is nothing for you to be concerned about Sir. Like I said yesterday, it's personal. This has nothing to do with the hospital.
--Thats a bunch of hogwash doctor, if you resign then the hospital is loosing a good doctor! And, I want to know why, the best Resident I have ever had, and a Doctor with immense potential, is all set to ruin her career before it even began. And don't tell me that it's personal. I don't give a damn what it is. You will not leave this room till I know the reason for your resignation.
Ashutosh, was surprised at himself. Why did he care if she quit? What did it have to do with him? he wondered. He had never interfered in anybody's life before, neither had he ever been interested enough to force someone to give him an answer to something that had nothing to do with him. Anyway...
He sat there and waited patiently for her to speak. And after several minutes, she looked up, and he saw that tears had started to roll down her face. Ashutosh wordlessly handed her his handkerchief, and waited for her to start talking...
--Sir, Baba, my father is terminal. We found out a month ago, that he had pancreatic cancer. And, I found out only last week that with our current finances there is no way that I can get him any treatment..The only way I can do that is if I get a job, and sell our house. We are Broke! You see Baba's business partner has been embezzling from Baba's company funds, for a number of years now without us finding out, and then when Baba's illness was diagnosed he fraudulently got Baba to sign over the whole company to his name. I have consulted with a lawyer. But there is nothing he can do. The signatures are Baba's, and we have no proof, that he tricked us. The only way, that I can do anything to save my Father, is if I quit. I have already put the house up for sale, and my broker has assured me that he will be able to find a decent buyer for it soon. But I cannot afford to work on a Residents pay. So, I have no choice. Maybe I can continue at some later time, but for right now, my father needs me Sir. He is all I have.
Ashutosh sat quietly till she had finished. He had to admire her courage. It took a lot of guts to do what she was doing, and without any hesitation. There was also not even a hint of regret in her voice.
--Dr. Nidhi. what stage cancer does your father have?
--Sir...its...its at the end stage. Baba had been in pain for a while, but had been hiding it from me. Then one day I discovered him bent over in pain and immediately took him to the hospital, where we found out.
--So, Dr, two questions, what hospital is he in, and why did you not bring him here?
--Sir he is at Aarogya Hospital. And I did not bring him here, because it was my personal business, and I didn't want anyone getting the wrong ideas, that I was looking out for any concessions, just because of my job here.
--Independent little thing aren't you?
Nidhi, didn't have a comeback to that, so she silently withdrew an envelop from her bag and extended it out to him.
--Sir, this is my resignation letter. If you would sign it, I will take it to the administration office, and complete the formalities.
Nidhi was surprised when Dr. Ashutosh took the letter and slid it into his drawer,
--Dr. Nidhi, I think that We can figure this out. Please give me a while to think and see what I can do to he...
--Sir, I not asking for any help! It's not your problem, it's mine. And I can handle it.
--I am sure that you can Dr. Nidhi. But, mujhe bahut bura lagega if I let one my doctors take such a drastic step without exploring all the options. Please let me think. I cannot in all good conscience let you resign until I see that that is the only option left to you.
--Dr. Nidhi, you argue too much. Don't you know how to listen to your
--Yes Sir, I do. But I will not take any handouts. I am perfectly capable of taking care of my father by myself.
--Yes I know that. No one is doubting your capability. I know that you are a very bright young lady. But ek insaan hi ek insaan ke kaam aata hai na. So, give me till this evening, and I will try and figure something out.
Nidhi was quiet for a couple of minutes, than she looked up at him and gave him a small but sad smile, and said
--Theek hai sir. And thank you.
--Abhi thank you mat boliye, maine abhi tak kuch nahin kiya hai. We can save that for later.
--Nahin Sir, aap nahin jaante aapne kya kiya hai. You r concern means a lot. And that is why I was thanking you. I was feeling all alone, and you have helped me feel a bit better.
--Alright Dr. Nidhi, I want you to go home now and get some some rest, and let me think. I will call you this evening.
--But Sir, I am on duty today! How can I go hme?
--Ek toh yeh aapka "But Sir" is very annoying. And please don't argue with me, and do as I say. I will arrange for someone to cover you. Now go home.
After Nidhi had left Ashutosh sat in deep thought, and then made a couple of phone calls, and told the hospital receptionist that he was leaving for the day, and went home.
Nidhi went to the hospital, instead of going home, so that she could spend sometime with her Baba. But first she tried to cover up the damages to her face from her bouts of crying, by applying ice and make up to her face. Then putting a big smile on her face, she opened the door to her father's room,
--Good morning Baba. How are you today.
--Her father who was sitting in a semi reclining position and reading the newspaper, turned to look up at her
--Good morning Beta. What are you doing here? I was not expecting you till after your shift at the hospital?
--Woh kya hai na Baba, one of the residents called this morning to exchange shifts with me She wanted to work today instead of tomorrow, kuch kaam hai usse kal ghar pe. So here I am, here to spend the day with my favrite guy.
Her father laughed, just as she had meant for him too. But as soon as she sat down next to him on the bed, he reached out to put a hand on her cheek, and ran a thumb over her eyes,
--Tu samajhti hai, ke yeh sab potaa potai karke tu mujhse apne aap ko chupa sakti hai. I am sorry beta. Teri yeh sab tension ka karan mai hi hoon. Ek toh meri bimari. Khair woh toh bhagwan ki den hai, par baaki sab? Yeh saare financial stress, yeh sab toh meri bewakoofi ki wajah se hai. If only I had not trusted that crook Mansukhani, then none of this would be happening. Beta, jo umr teri hansne ki hai, khaane khelne ki hai, usme tujhe iss tarha se pareshan dekh kar, main tujhe bataa nahin sakta mere dil par kya guzar rahi hai. I am supposed to be taking car of you, and here you are doing the opposite. I have placed such a huge burden on your shoulders...
Seeing the tears in her fathers eyes, Nidhi hugged him and laid her head on his shoulders,
--Baba, aap kaisi baatein kar rahein hain. You are not a burden! You are my father. Aapne mujhe itna badaa kara, zindagi bhar itna pyar diya, ke mujhe meri maa ki kami kabhi bhi nahin mehsoos hone di. I love you Baba, more than life. Aur Maa Baap bacchon par kabhi bhi bojh nahin hote. Aur aap dard mein hain, iss thought ke sivai, mujhe aur koi tension nahin hai. I cannot stand to see you in so much pain Baba.
--I know Beta, par thode hi dino ki baat hai. Phir sab dard door ho jayega. Bas ek cheez ka gham rahega, ki main tujhe akela chod kar ja raha hoon. Woh baat mujhe khaye jaa rahi hai, bas. Kaash main kuch kar sakta, meri bacchi. Kaash mein tera ghar basaa hua dekh sakta. Agar teri shaadi karva sakta, toh iss santosh ke saath iss duniya se jaa sakta, ke meri bachchi akeli nahin hain, uski dekh bhaal karne waala koi toh hai. Kaash...
--Baba, please aap pareshaan mat hoyiye, aur aisi ashubh baatein mat kariye. Aap ko kuch nahin hoga. Baba aap soch bhi kaise sakte hain mujhe akele chod ke jaane ki. Mai aapke bina bilkul akeli ho jaungi.
Nidhi's father did not say anything, after all, what could he say? He just held his child close to his heart, trying to offer her what comfort he could. The writing was plain on the walls for anyone to see. It was only a matter of time, and they both knew it, as a doctor she more than him. But he had had a very open and frank discussion with his doctor yesterday. And the doctor had told him that there was no hope, maybe if they had discovered his illness sooner...But as it stood, his days were numbered. Treatment would only prolong his life for a little bit, but with that also his suffering. and also the fact that it was very expensive. Col Verma, was not worried about his suffering or pain, but was worried about his daughter. She would be witnessing his death anyway, he did not want to have her bear the burden of his pain as well, not to mention the heavy toll the finances for such treatments would take on her health, and mental well being. He had already decided that he would go back home and spend whatever time he had with his child. The doctor had agreed that it was a good and sound decision on his part. He had also, already made arrangements for a nurse, and the doctor had also told him that he would make house calls everyday and keep an eye him also. He just needed to break this news and his decision to her, as well.
Meanwhile, back at Ashutosh's house, he was seated in the living room talking with his best and childhood friend, Arman. Arman was also his lawyer, and Ashutosh took all of his decisions with his friends help.
But right now his friend did not look too happy with him. In fact, he looked as if he was about to have Ashutosh committed, for even thinking something so ridiculous.
--Ashu tera dimaag kharab ho gaya hai. Tu aisa soch bhi kaise sakta hai. Aur kaunsi si aisi bewakoof ladki hai jo teri iss baat ko maan jayegi. What you are talking about is morally unacceptable.
--Arman, morals ki baat baad mein, first as my lawyer tell me is it legally acceptable or not. Can such a contract hold in a court of law?
--Legally yes! Surrogacy, is accepted, and the contracts are enforced. But what you are doing is not standard. Surrogacy, is for couples who cannot have children. And I am putting emphasis on the word COUPLES. Couples hire surrogate who are implanted with with the sperm, or an embryo. It is not done the way you are wanting. I dont know how much weight such a contract would hold in a court of law, if the girl were to contest it.
--Arman, you leave the girl to me. I can assure you that she will not contest it. She has too much self respect and pride to do that. And that is the only way I can think of to help her and myself. Her father is sick, terminal, and I have already given you the rest of the story. She needs the money. She will not take it any other way. Otherwise I would have offered it to her. Arman she is a brilliant doctor, and has an excellent future ahead of her, I can't just let her throw it all away. Plus its only for one year or two. I will be giving her what she needs, financial support for her fathers treatment, and I will be getting what I want, A child, My child.
--Yes Ashutosh, but at what cost. You are taking advantage of a young girls plight. Tu uski majboori ka fayada utha raha hai.
--Not really, this girl, is having to sell her house and give up her future.
I will be helping her out. And in the process giving us what we both want.
--No Ashutosh, you are buying your child by using someones problems for your own ends. But, mere dost, if all you want is a child there are other ways. You can adopt, or you can hire a surrogate.
--No Arman, I will not adopt. I want my own flesh and blood. And to hire a surrogate is not acceptable, plus there will always be a stigma attached with that, and i cannot willingly put any child through that kind of mental trauma. And, I refuse to have a woman who I have no knowledge of, be the mother for my child. This is the only way. You know that I don't believe in marriage or love. That was the reason I had give up all hope of ever having a child of my own, because I did not want to be tied dow to anybody. But, this way I don't have to be. She will get the support she needs and I will get what I have been wanting my whole life.
--Ashutosh have you thought of how young she is? How this will affect her? This will have an impact on her whole life!
--Arman, she is going to be 24 in a couple of weeks. and like you said she is very young. Have you forgotten how resilient young people are. That is why it is an ideal situation for the both of us. I am sure that she will forget about all of it in a few years, and once she has completed her training she will gave a brilliant future ahead of her. With my support I will make sure that she does not have to give up her dream, and her father's treatment. I fail to see what the problem is here?
Arman sighed in defeat
--I know you when you get like this Ashutosh. There is no reasoning with you. Alright if the girl is agreeable then I will get all the papers drawn up, and will set all the legal work in motion. But, let me warn you, that when you have to face the consequences of this madness, uss time mere paas mat aana for any sympathy. You will not get it. You are playing with an innocent girls life for your own selfish motives, Ashutosh. This will come and bite you on your backside at some point, I promise you. Iss se zyada mujhe tumse kuch nahin kehna.
On the way to his house that evening Nidhi reflected on their conversation of that morning. She was very thankful to him for his concern. He had said when he had called that he had an idea, and that he needed to talk to her in private, and discuss it with her. when she had started to thank him, he had stopped her and said that she did not need to thank him just yet, or maybe even not at all, and that if she was agreeable to his suggestion, than it would be beneficial to the both of them. That statement of his, and specially his words"mutually beneficial" had peeked her curiosity. What could she possibly do for someone like him. He had everything.
Well, she thought, she was on her way to his house, so she would be finding out about it soon enough, no sense dwelling about it and stressing herself out even more than she already was. Although to be honest, Nidhi had already made up her mind to accept what ever it was he was going to propose. She would do anything she could to try and save her father. And, because she was also honest, and realistic enough to know that no matter what she did she would not be able to earn the kind of money it took, for the kind of treatment her father would need. Of course, if her house sold then she would, but she had had a call from her broker again this morning, and he had told her that he had found buyers, but none were willing to come close to the market value of her house. Everyone was on the lookout to make a deal, and take advantage of her problems. This house had been her mother's dream. Her father had had built it for her her, but she had hardly gotten to enjoy living in it, as she had died soon after Nidhi had been born. Nidhi was not going to just sell it for a pittance, specially if the amount coming in would be less then she needed. What would be the use, but, she would if that was the last resort, and, if need be. But first she wanted to hear what Dr. Ashutosh had to say. She hoped that it would be better than the options that she had at the moment.
She got to his house and paid for the taxi, and turned around. Dr. Ashutosh was standing at the door. Apparently he had been waiting for her. When she came up the stairs, he gestured her in, and closed the door.
--Welcome to my house Dr. Nidhi.
--Thank you Dr Ashutosh.
Then both of them were quiet. Ashutosh had no idea how to start the conversation. This was all Arman's fault he thought irritably. He had put all these doubts in his mind, and now he was second guessing himself.
On the other side, Nidhi, was also unsure of what to say. She did not want to sound greedy or come off too strong, after all, she was the one needing help, and he was the one who had been kind enough to offer. So she too, kept quiet, with her head bent, waiting for him to start.
Ashutosh cleared his throat,
--Dr. Nidhi, may I get you something, tea, coffee, something cold?
Actually(he laughed, self consciously) I am sorry I forgot, HK is not home, so I can only offer you something cold. I have no idea how to make anything. I am embarrassed to say, that I am totally helpless in the kitchen and have had to make do with grabbing tea, coffee and food from outside for the past week. You see my father, and bhua, and HK who has been with me and my family for ever are not home at the moment. They are due back sometime late tomorrow night. So...
Ashutosh knew that he was babbling, but he was at a loss as what to say.
--Dr. Ashutosh, please don't bother Sir. Its not a problem at all. I really don't want anything.
--Dr. Nidhi, you are a guest, please its the least I can do. How about instant coffee? I am sure that I can manage that. After all you just need some hot water and a spoon of coffee, how hard could that be HUH? I think that I can also do with a cup also.
--Sir, if I may? How about I make us some tea? That is...if you don't mind? I mean I don't mean to overstep my bounds as your guest, but it seems to me that you really don't know how to...Oh, I am sorry that did not come out quite right. I meant to say that its clear that...
You know just forget about it, it seems that I am putting my foot in my mouth, so maybe I should just keep quiet.
Ashutosh let out a soft laugh
--Dr. Nidhi I really should not be letting you do this, since you are my guest, but I would be relieved if you would make us some tea of coffee, what ever you prefer. I really am hopeless in the kitchen, and would probably only succeed in poisoning us.
She smiled and followed him into the kitchen, and when he had shown her where everything was kept, she asked him to go back and sit down and that she would join him shorty with their tea.
True to her word, barely 10 minutes later, she joined him in the living room, with two cups of tea, one for the each of them.
Ashutosh took a sip, and raised his eyebrows in surprise, and delight,
--Dr. Nidhi I must say, this is the best tea I have ever had in my life.
What have you put in it?
--Thank you for that Dr. Ashutosh. But you don't have to flatter me Sir. Its just an ordinary cup of ginger tea, that's all. I make it for my father all the time. My mother used to make it for him, like this.
--I am not flattering you Nidhi. I mean it. This is the best tea I've ever tasted.
--Thank you sir. Sir...if I may, please...could you tell me please why you called me here. I don't mean to be disrespectful, or aggressive, but Sir, this is not a social call.
Ashutosh had to once again admire her courage. She had come straight to the point. Not very many young people of her age had the ability or guts to do that, specially in front of their superiors.
--I am glad you said that Dr. Nidhi...
--Sir, please call me Nidhi. I would like that.
--Ok Nidhi. Truth be told I was getting rather uncomfortable with calling you Dr. Nidhi all the time. It was getting to be quite a mouthful, and also considering the proposal I was about to put in front of you, rather redundant.
--Yes,Dr...I mean Nidhi. I have found a way for both of us to get what we want. That will lift any problems you have about accepting charity for lack of a better word, I am sorry. Anyway, what I am suggesting is that we get married.
Nidhi, shook her head, she not sure she had heard him correctly. Had he just said that he wanted to marry her?
--Yes, Nidhi. But please hear me out first. Then think about it and give me your decision. Please don't react out of haste.
She looked at him, still shell shocked, and reluctantly nodded
--I realize that at your age marriage is probably the last thing on your mind. And on mine also. But there is no other way to accomplish what I have in mind. So here goes, please bear with me, and you will hopefully understand the reasons behind my unusual proposal, when I finish. You see, Nidhi, I want a child, but I really do not believe in marriage or love. And until you came along, and I heard about the trouble you were having I had never even thought that I would ever have a child of my own. Because for certain personal reasons, that I do not want to get into just yet, I refuse to adopt, and I also have no wish to be tied down to anyone for a life time. So, what I am suggesting is that we get married, and that you give me a child, in return for which I will help you in any and every way I can. That will include, taking care of all your financial problems, and making sure that you can complete your specialization, and make sure that your father gets the best treatment there is, and also, if you want I can try and see what can be done against your father's partner . But I would require that our agreement be formalized by a contract, that in return for doing all of that, when you have our child, you will relinquish all your rights to it, and hand it over to me, and sign all the papers necessary, giving me sole custody. Also, at that time you will agree to dissolve our marriage there by severing all connections between us.
Ashutosh gave Nidhi some time to digest all this information. When several minutes had passed, and she still had not said anything he, nervously went on,
--I realize that this must sound very cold blooded to you Nidhi. But if you think about it, it is better for the both of us this way. We will go into this arrangement with our eyes open, and not have any false illusions about our relationship. And also will not expect from each other, anything, that the other person is not capable or unwilling to give. The marriage will also legitimize the child, and at the end no harm will come to you or your reputation. We can claim incompatibility, and with our age difference, that should not be a problem for anyone to believe. After that you will be free to lead your own life the way you want, with anyone you want. You are very young, Nidhi, with your whole life ahead of you. With my backing and support, you can pretty much follow any path you choose, the sky is the limit. So...
Nidhi slowly lifted up her face to look at him. But Ashutosh could not tell anything from her face, she had deliberately kept her face blank.
--Dr. Ashutosh...I don't know what to say...right now...
Please give me a little time and I will get back to you. But, for now, I will take your leave now.
Ashutosh also got up,
--Nidhi let me take to back to your house.
--No, Sir. I can manage.
--I know that you can. But It is late and I prefer to take you. I don't feel comfortable with your taking an Auto or a taxi by yourself at this time. By the way, I thought that you had a car? It is in for repairs or anything?
--No, Sir. I had to sell it.
He did not know how to react to that matter of fact statement, so he quietly went to get his keys, and settled her in his car. Nidhi was quiet all the way home, and other than giving him directions, did not say anything else, preferring to keep her thoughts to herself.
When Ashutosh saw her house, he was impressed. It was a grand structure. Huge. In fact, what Nidhi had failed to tell him was that it was a beautiful farm house. It looked like a place one built for a family, by someone who wanted lots of children. Apparently her parents had never gotten down to having a large family, because he knew that she was an only child. He could imagine how much it must be hurting her to even be thinking about having to sell this. Maybe he could do something about that, Ashutosh thought to himself.
After he had left, Nidhi secured the house, making sure all the doors and windows were locked, after Ashutosh had left. She was not scared or anything, she had been born and had grown up in this house. But, it was always better to be safe, she thought. It was definitely very lonely here all by herself, specially with out her Baba. She missed him a lot.
Her Life had turned inside out ever since that fateful day one month ago, when Baba's illness had been diagnosed. Being a doctor she knew that her father life now numbered in days. But being a daughter, she knew that she had to do everything she possibly could to try and make sure that her Baba got the treatment he needed. You never knew when you would be lucky enough to be granted a miracle. Those were known to happen from time to time. How could she give up hope. This was her father they were talking about. Which brought her back to the suject of Ashutosh and his proposal. She had certainly never expected anything like that. She did not even know what to do, or how to react.
Under normal circumstanced, she would have laughed and blown the whole thing off as being too ridiculous to even be considered. But, given her circumstances, she was going to have too. What choice did she have. She was not concerned about her career or even her future at the present time. All she was concerned about was her father. She knew that Dr. Ashutosh had considerable influence in the world of medicine. His reputation as one of the best neurosurgeons extended nationally. She knew that he was always being called in on surgeries, for major VIP's and influential people all over india. And this would be a big asset in terms of her father getting the best treatment possible. She also knew that he he well off enough to handle all of her financial burdens.
The only thing that she had hesitations about was the physical aspect of their arrangement, for lack of a better word. It would be a very awkward situation. They did not know each other at all. Of course she was attracted to him, that went without question. But then any female between the ages of 15 to 60 would be, unless she was blind or gay. Dr. Ashutosh was an incredibly handsome man, and in the prime of life, in fact, he could seriously give some 30 year olds a run for their money. He was also sexy as hell. Many an intern and resident, had their eyes on him. Then how was she any different, Nidhi thought. And, she had no idea, if he was even attracted to her, or liked her in that way, at all.
For her the whole problem was, that she had been raised on the belief that marriage was forever. No matter what once you got married you stayed married, and worked through everything that life sent your way together, and that children were the binding factors between two people. How could she possibly negate a whole life's worth of beliefs in a matter of minutes. Plus she adored children, and like any other girl had dreams of having her own someday, granted not this soon though. But if she did have a child how could she possibly cut her ties to it. How could she be heartless enough to abandon her own child, and condemn it to a motherless life. She herself had been a motherless child, and she above all knew how hard that was. So, how could she let her own child suffer that way, specially since she would be alive, hopefully!
Nidhi was brought out of her thoughts, by the ringing of her phone, it was her father. She picked it up and talked to him for a couple of minutes, and assured herself that he was alright, and assured him of the same. She also noticed that in that short amount of time he had been talking to her, he had gotten breathless, as if he had been running hard. So, she said goodnight, and told him to sleep and get rest, and hung up with him, promising to visit before she started on her shift in the morning.
The phone with her father had helped make up her mind. Her father had sacrificed his life for her. He had never married because he had been afraid of a stereotypical stepmother scenario, for his precious child. Col Verma had categorically refused all of his relatives pleas, to get married again, saying that there was no way that he would gamble with his daughters wellbeing and happiness, for the sake of his own. The way she saw it was this, her father had been very young when her mom had passed away, he could easily have gotten married, but he had not, and all just for her. He had spent his life taking care of her and her needs, to the exclusion of his own. Well, if he could sacrifice his whole life, then couldn't she sacrifice, a couple of years of her life for him. And as far as children were concerned she could always have more, and she knew that her child would be well looked after and loved. Like Dr. Ashutosh had said, she was very young, in all likelihood she would heal and she would forget.
Well, since the decision had been made, might as well go ahead and let him know, she decided. It was better this way. She did not want to give herself the chance to chicken out. So, she picked up her phone and dialed his number. And as expected he picked up on the first ring. Nidhi had known that like her, he would not be able to sleep till she had reached some sort of decision, and heard from her.
--Dr. Ashutosh. I hope that I am not calling at an inconvenient time, Sir?
--Not at all Dr. Nidhi. I was actually just standing around trying to catch up, on shooting the breeze. You see I haven't done that in a while?
His sarcasm was not lost on her, and she smiled, so he had a sense of humor too, huh? Well that was good to know,
--Well, I've been giving your proposal a lot of thought and I have come to a decision.
And she paused. Trying to give herself the courage to say what was needed, and at the same time trying to convince herself that everything would be alright, and that the future had a way of working itself out, and that there was nothing to be be scared about. While she had been trying to bolster her courage, At the other end, hearing silence from her end and expecting the worst, Ashutosh started to get worried. And then wondered why he was so upset. After all he had known that she might refuse, and he had prepared himself for that also, so now why was he getting so agitated, he asked himself. This was probably her way of trying to politely decline his offer, but still...he had to hear it from her mouth, so...
--Dr. Nidhi? You were saying...
Nidhi took an deep breath,
--I accept your proposal Dr.Ashtutosh!