Joined: 05 June 2012
Joined: 05 June 2012
Ashutosh has absolutely no knowledge of how he came down the stairs and barged into the kitchen. He only knew that he heard Nidhi scream and the next thing he realizes he is in the kitchen with both his arms wrapped tightly around Nidhi's shivering body: shshhh..kuch nahi hua. I am here Nidhi. I am right here with you.
Nidhi's terrified eyes continue to stare at the other kitchen door which lead to the utility as it continues to swing slightly: kkkoi tha..(her trembling finger points at the door)
Ashu gives a quick look around the kitchen and the windows before pulling her away a little to look at her face: tumne dekha usse?
Nidhi nods jerkily. Her forehead is beaded with sweat: haan. He was wearing a mask kind of a thing..
Ashu pulls her away from the kitchen, grabs the water bottle on the way and makes her sit in the sofa before going and closing and bolting the kitchen door. He gives a quick look around the rest of the doors and windows before running up the stairs to get his phone. His quick strides once again bring him downstairs: Rohan! You need to come. Someone broke into our house. no. Nidhi screamed and he ran off. Ok. (and cuts the call before sitting down in front of her on his hunches and taking her balled fists into his) I called Rohan. He is on his way. Lo yeh paani peelo (she gulps down almost half the bottle before taking a breather)Tum yahi baito mein baahar dekhke aata hoon.
Nidhi immediately grips his wrist: nahi. tum kahi nahi jaaoge. He..that guy had a knife. No.
Ashu grits his teeth. Who is this bas***d? Why is he after Nidhi? thank God she saw him first and surprised him by screaming. If he had seen her first!? (His whole body shudders at the thought and he gets up to start pacing) Nidhi ne kissi ka kya bigaada hain? and if Rohan is right and she is being targeted because of me then..try as I might, I can't ever think of anyone who was that obsessed with me. nahi. kuch toh gadbad hain..kuch aur baat hain. there is something that we are missing here.
The sound of sirens and the tyres screeching to a halt is heard a moment before his phone buzzes again. Rohan: Ashutoshji, open the door. Its me.
Ashu rushes and opens the door. Rohan and his team of cops enter. Rohan first looks for Nidhi and on spotting her, he goes to her and gets down on his hunches just like Ashu did a few minutes before: Nidhi..meri taraf dekho Nidhi.
Nidhi looks at Rohan and tries to smile: hi
Rohan smiles: hi. You ok? (she nods) meine suna HK nahi hain. toh dinner mein kya banaya?
Nidhi swallows: pasta
Rohan's smile turns into a small grin: wow..white one? (she nods and starts to visibly relax) kya yaar mujhe bhi bulaliya hota! So you guys had dinner and went up right?
Nidhi: yeah. later I was feeling thirsty so I came down.
Rohan: did you switch on the lights on the way?
Nidhi: no. I got used to the house now so I just came down.
Rohan: and you went straight into the kitchen?
Ashu can't help but appreciate the meticulous way of questioning and at the same time he observes Rohan's fisted palms and locked jaw..the way he is holding on to his anger by a thread but making sure it doesn't show on his face and scare Nidhi.
Nidhi: yes. I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
Rohan: you didn't switch on the kitchen light there either?
Nidhi shakes her head: no. but the small bed lamp kind of a thing is always on. Kaka has a Bappa idol in the kitchen toh humesha woh light on karke hi rakhte hain.
Rohan: ok. you opened the fridge and took the bottle out.
Nidhi: and I was about to close the door when I saw him. he had..had that long carving knife kind of a thing in his hand. That was the first thing I saw and I screamed. He turned and ran towards the other door.
Rohan gestures Sharma to go and look in the kitchen: did you see his face?
Nidhi: no. he was wearing a mask
Rohan: like a winter monkey cap kind of a thing?
Nidhi shakes her head: nahi..the one like..you remember that guy in school who tried to..(she quickly glances at Ashu and swallows before turning back to Rohan) remember he wore a mask?
Rohan's face reddens in remembered anger: yes. I remember. can you tell if it was a male or a female?
Nidhi: male. He was tall..not very tall but the built was that of a man. No mistaking it.
Rohan pats her hand: don't worry. I will look into it. (then deliberately tries to lighten the situation) kisi ki himmat hain jo policewale ki dost par humla kare? Hmmm? (one of the policemen comes down from the stairs and shakes his head subtley indicating that there was no one up in the terrace or any of the rooms) tum apne kamre mein jaao aur aaraam karo. Ok?
Nidhi looks at Ashu: nahi. mein teek hoon. I just panicked for a minute that's all. I will stay with Ashutosh. (Rohan nods and goes in the direction of the kitchen.)
Sharma gets up from his position: sir..this lock is broken in. I called in the team to check out for finger prints. Pehle woh chandelier ab yeh..kya horaha hain sir?
Rohan crouches in front of the door and checks out the lock: wahi toh pata karna hain Sharma. Koi foot prints hain kya near the door or outside? (Sharma shakes his head) its weird come to think of it. if he has indeed come to attack Nidhi then why didn't he? He had ample time before she turned saw and screamed. (he frowns some more) and even on the day of the party, initially, Anji pulled Nidhi down for the dance and Ashutosh was on the dias and then he got a call so he got down and she got on it because she didn't want to dance. (his mind starts running in another direction) aur woh bus wala case. Ashutosh was driving..
Sharma: so you are saying all these are aimed at Mr Mathur and not his wife?
Rohan: could be. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. But I spoke to Yog uncle and as far as he knows there is no business rivalry kind of a thing either. I checked that angle. So this one is personal Sharma. Yeh jo koi bhi hain he has some personal score to settle with Ashutosh. (he gets up just as Ashutosh walks into the kitchen)
Ashu: Rohan, i don't want to take any more chances where Nidhi's safety is concerned. So until all this is resolved, we will stay with Verma uncle in their house. that way she will always have someone with her.
Rohan nods: achcha idea hain Ashutoshji. Pack whatever is needed. We will leave right away. (he turns to Sharma) Sharma, go check out and see if both the cars are safe. (Sharma nods and leaves) Ashutoshji, you need to tell her at least briefly so that she will be more careful.
Ashutosh runs a distracted hand through his hair and nods before frowning and looking at Rohan: what was Nidhi talking about? What boy? What mask?
Rohan looks away: news paper mein woh sab aane ke baad guys had started misbehaving with her..rude crude comments and a few tried to touch her..(Ashu squeezes his eyes shut and smashes his fist on the kitchen counter) one of the guys had a mask and it scared her big time. I pulled the mask away, sent Nidhi home with Anji and..(he sighs) I guess it's a good thing that guy didn't report me. Beeti baaten hain Ashutoshji. Dohraake koi faayda nahi hain. lets take care of your packing first.
Ashu nods before giving Rohan an impulsive hug: thank you Rohan..thank you for being there for her when I was not..for being her true friend. (and leaves)
Things move at a fast pace after that. their luggage packed, both of them along with Sharma leave in Ashutosh's car while another cop drives Nidhi's car and follows them behind. Rohan stays back along with the rest of the team to see if the intruder had left any clues behind.
Verma Residence: Nidhi's bedroom:
Ashu looks around at the feminine room with a small smile: you changed it from the last time I saw.
Nidhi comes and hugs him from behind: considering the fact that I had spiderman wall posters the last time you saw it..
Ashu huffs out a small laugh and pulls her arms further around him making her completely stick to his back: yeah I know..girls usually want flowers or barbies and doras but not you! you had to have spiderman! (then he sighs and turns. He looks into her eyes silently for a few moments before hugging her tightly. Apne Tiger ko bachanekeliye bahut badi keemat chukaana pada tumko..hain na? I not only left you alone but when I returned, I became one of them..mujhe apni Chulbuli waapas chahiye Nidhi. he forcibly brings himself to the present matter at hand) I want to tell you something but I don't want you to worry about it. ok? (Nidhi nods) Rohan thinks all these attacks are deliberate. Someone is trying to harm you specifically. he and I are going to make sure that doesn't happen. But I want you to be very careful. Ok? that is another reason I brought you here..so that you will always have someone with you. no matter how urgent or important, don't go anywhere alone or go with someone you don't trust your life with. Promise me.
Nidhi: I promise. But why would..who would..
Ashu: we don't know anything yet. (seeing her biting her lip and at the fear clouding her eyes, he cups her cheek) you trust me, don't you? (she nods without hesitation) then don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you. I swear. I told you this just so that you will be extra careful. Ok? (he pats her cheek in a deliberate attempt to lighten the atmosphere) chalo. Lets get some sleep now. its almost 3.
Nidhi smiles: I guess it's a good thing I changed the bed too. the previous one was a single one. (she gives him a small wink)
Ashu gives an innocent look: why would that be a problem? we anyway sleep one on top of the other na..well..almost (he blocks her mock punch with a grin..his eyes fairly devouring the twinkle in her eyes)
The next day evening:
Ashu: aunty, ek cup chai milegi?
Nandini turns to look at her son in law with a smile: haan beta. abhi banaati hoon. kya hua Ashutosh bahut thake hue lagrahe ho?
Ashu walks into the kitchen: kuch nahi aunty. Aaj kuch zyaada hi kaam tha. I am fine.
Nandini: and now I think you all are going out na. Anji ka bday celebration pe?
Ashu rubs his forehead: oh yeah. I almost forgot about that.
Nidhi: tum aagaye?
Ashu turns at the sound of her voice: haan buss..(the rest of his sentence gets cut off as he stares at his wife who is looking stunning in a lavender and baby pink short sleeved top and a full length dark violet skirt with a shiny black belt to go with it and her hair in a long ponytail. He clears his throat before trying to speak) uh..where are we going?
Nidhi's excitement is too high to contain: pub.
Nandini's eyes take in her daughter's joy filled face while giving the tea cup to Ashutosh: bahut pyaari lagrahi ho Nidhi..hain na Ashutosh?
Ashutosh nods while his eyes take in the expectant look on Nidhi's face and he swallows down the painful groan at the mention of clubbing: give me 10 mins and I will get ready. ok?
soon after that Ranga, Anji and Rohan come in Rohan's scorpio and start honking from outside. with a wave at Yog and Nandini, they leave for the evening's celebration. The pub is full of typical loud and boisterous crowd amidst blaring music and lights. All 5 of them find a corner table and settle down. Rohan and Ashutosh go to get the drinks for everyone while Anji, Ranga and Nidhi catch up. Nidhi's eyes follow Ashutosh and continue to gaze at his back until Anji shakes her out of her reverie: O Madam..aur log bhi hain yahaa. And its been more than a month since you guys got married. Stop giving him those besotted looks.
Nidhi's smile includes both Anji and Ranga: its not that re. Its just..tu nahi samjhegi.
Ranga: aap ki khushi aap ka chehra hi bataraha hain Nidhiji. Kuch aur kehne ki zaroorat bhi nahi hain.
Nidhi: some times words seem inadequate na
Anji gives her a one armed hug: what you can't express in words, you can express it with music and dance. Ek baar try karke dekh Nidhi. just let yourself go and show him AND yourself what you feel..how you feel. (Nidhi looks at Ashu, who is conversing with Rohan as they wait for drinks and back at the dance floor)
Ashutosh: you think it's a good idea to get her here in this crowd? May be we should have gone somewhere else
Rohan gives a quick look around: don't worry Ashutoshji. My team is here with us. Then his gaze halts and with a smile, he taps Ashu's shoulder and gestures him towards the dance floor where Nidhi is at the centre twirling, clapping and dancing in beat to the music.
Mil Gayi Aaaj
Aagai Aaghe Mein Jahan Se
Yeh Kya Hua
Judi Raatein Khawaboon Se
Mudi Yeh Jane Mein Kahan Haaan
Paon Zameen Pe
Hai Ya Badal Pe
Pooche Sitare Aake Aachal Se
Jee Li Umar
Saari Is Pal Mein
Kuch Bhi Nahi Abb Mere Kal Mein
Judi Raatein Khawaboon Se
Mudi Yeh Jane Mein Kahan Haaan
With a loud whoop and a whistle, Rohan gestures to Anji and Ranga and they join Nidhi on the dance floor. Rohan and Ranga dance along with Anji and Nidhi twisting and turning them and passing them from one to another matching to the beat of the music while Ashu just stands and looks at his wife come alive on the dance floor. Her gaze meets his and her feet take wings in his direction as the rest of the world falls away. She catches his arm and pulls him on to the dance floor with her eyes locked on to his and he follows her as if mesmerized. The rest of the dancers move away to give her more space and she circles around him with arms held high until he suddenly turns catching her by the waist and pulling her plush against his body. Her smile turns brighter than before as she runs her palm from the back of his head to his neck to his shoulder before sliding it along his arm and joining her palm to his. They dance with each other, for each other..lost in each other. As the song draws to a close, she arches her back and he pulls her up before twirling her and lifting her up in his arms and turning once along with her. Anji's whistle this time beats that of Rohan's a few minutes back. it's a little after midnight by the time Rohan drops Ashu and Nidhi back at Verma residence: Ashutoshji, are you sure you don't want me to send a driver? trust me, I have handpicked that guy.
Nidhi looks at Ashu: may be we should..
Ashu shakes his head: nahi Rohan. I will take care of it. don't worry. (he gives a tired sigh) chalo goodnight. Am off to bed. I think you also should go and get some sleep.
Rohan smiles: abhi kahaa Ashutoshji..i still have some work to do. we caught one guy yesterday in another case. Abhi uska interrogation chalraha hain. I am headed out there now. goodnight.
Nidhi also waves him a goodnight. CS opens the door for them with sleep blurry eyes and both of them quietly make their way to their room where Ashu practicalls falls on the bed face down: I am done.
Nidhi crawls beside him and slides her hand inside his t shirt: abhi kahaa? Abhi mujhe aur kaam hain tum se. if you sleep I am going to be very disappointed.
Ashu doesn't move his head or open his eyes: you got to be kidding me. forget it.
She quickly masks her disappointment with a smile and kisses his lips softly but realizes he really is down for the night. Poor guy! he had looked so tired in the evening yet came to the party just to make her happy. She ruffles his hair, kisses him once again before getting up to change.
The next 4 days pass uneventfully for both of them. work pressure at VM increases for Ashu and Nidhi starts getting concerned as he continues to insist on dropping and picking her up irrespective of the hour and day. twice she and Rohan suggest getting a cop as a driver and twice he refuses. She puts down his irritability and snapping temper to the increased work load and the discomfort of staying at his in-laws place. She fails to notice the way his alert eyes follow her and Rohan whenever he came home to discuss the break in case and stayed on to chat some general mutually favourite topics with her. she fails to realize that try as he might, he is not able get the disappointed look she had that night on her face from his mind. His silent struggle with himself finds relief only in her arms turning the nights more aggressive. She meets his aggression with her own passion and tries to soothe him out of his restlessness with her lips and body. On the 5th consecutive day as she observes him once again getting ready early to drop her at KGH, she softly inserts: Ashutosh..i think we should take up on Rohan's offer of the driver. tum aise roz roz..
Her sentence gets cuts off as he throws the hair brush on the table and the car keys on the bed and snaps out: you know what? I think you are right. Your husband is 40 yrs old. Not strong enough to keep up. He does not have the energy of a 27 yr old strong young man. So please..go ahead and tell Rohan to send the driver. (he leaves the room but comes right back after a moment and snatches back the keys before looking at the stunned Nidhi) but for now, you have no choice. I won't allow you to go alone. so even if it is tiring out my old bones, I am going to drop you now. chale?
Nidhi finally finds her voice: par meine toh sirf..
Ashu: are you coming or not? Mujhe office bhi jaana hain. (without giving her further chance to respond, he leaves the room)
Is that what he thinks? Is that why he has been disturbed the last few days? Is the age factor playing so much in his mind? (Nidhi's mind goes back to all the events in the last one week and she starts looking at things in a new light) he thinks he is too old for me. 27 yr old strong young man? He is comparing himself to Rohan? Doesn't he know yet that for me, there is only him?how do I tell him? She quickly picks up her bag and goes out.
VM Industries: Ashu's cabin:
Ashu calls Rohan as soon as he reaches: Rohan? You have a minute?
Rohan: ji kahiye. Good morning
Ashu: good morning. That offer for the driver is still on?
Rohan smiles: of course. I will send him right away. Nidhi is at KGH?
Ashu: yes. I just dropped her.
Rohan: ok. I am going that way anyway. So I will take the guy and introduce him. that way..
Ashu nods: she will know that she can see who it is. thanks Rohan.
Rohan: not a problem. see you.
Ashu: bye (he cuts the call and sighs. The rest of the day passes without incident. Yog and Ashu share the car on their way back home that night with Ashu in the driver seat and Yog sitting beside him)
Ashu: uncle, ek baat poochu?
Yog: haan poocho.
Ashu: why didn't you get Nidhi married before? I mean I understand the talk was bad but surely it would have died down slowly and had you searched, you would have found someone, right? May be someone not from Lucknow, a good guy who is closer to her age..why?
Yog looks out of the window in silence for a few moments: woh maane tab na Ashutosh. kissi aur se shaadi karna toh door ki baat thi woh toh kissi aur ke baare mein sochti bhi nahi thi. Kasam diya tha usne hum dono ko ki uske shaadi ki baat kabhi nahi chedenge. I guess that was the day that I finally accepted that my daughter is the kind who can love only once and you were that one for her. (then he gives Ashu a slightly quizzical look) par yeh sab ab kyon poochrahe ho?
Ashu tries to swallow the lump in his throat and replies: nahi..kuch nahi..buss aise hi.
does the age gap really matter so much? let me be frank with myself here. I was jealous..more than jealous, I was insecure. Whenever I saw her with Rohan, all I could see was that he was there when I was not..he literally placed himself between her and harm.. he was probably better suited to her than he himself every would be..closer to her age, similar tastes and preferences, no past hang ups..and he never hurt her. (then he remembers something that she told him a few days back. "aur agar mein kabhi waapas nahi aata toh?" "toh mein zindagi bhar aap ka intezaar karti.")I guess there is a difference between knowing and completely believing. And if SHE thinks I am good enough for her..if her PARENTS think I am the one for her, why should I question it? (the car reaches home)
That night: Nidhi's bedroom:
She throws the bag on the table and plops down on the bed with a tired sigh. Ashu comes out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist: hi.
Nidhi: hi. Rohan said you called and asked for the driver.
Ashu nods: haan. (then frowns) He came to pick you up, right?
Nidhi: yeah. Rohan came and introduced me and all that.
Ashu starts rubbing his hair with another towel: I felt that was more practical. Kal se naya campaign shuru honewaala hain. I probably won't be able to adjust my timings with yours. (he sits beside her on the bed) tired?
Nidhi puts her head on his shoulder and cuddles closer to him: hmmm..poocho mat. Had to monitor 3 surgeries and a full OPD aur jab baahar niklne waali thi toh 2 accident cases.
Ashu starts rubbing her shoulders and neck: what do you normally do to relax then? when the days are hectic or bad..(he shrugs) go on a run..cycling..talking to friends kuch toh hota hoga na.
Nidhi nods: cycling aur uske baad music. (then she looks up at him. here is the opening that she has been waiting for since morning and she takes it up) but you know the best way that always worked for me? (he gives her a questioning look. She hesitates for a second before going to her wardrobe and pulling out his t shirt that she had always treasured with her. she rubs her cheek to it..an almost instinctive gesture before passing it on to him) yeh shirt tumhe yaad hain?
Ashu frowns and turns it this way and that before realization dawns on him: this is mine? This is mine! How did you..when did you..holi!
She nods and takes the shirt back from him: hmmm..whenever things got bad over the years, I used to put this on. It was almost like you were hugging me. I used to forget everything then (her eyes fill up and a lone tear rolls down her cheek) even when uncle and aunty passed away, I wanted to come to you but..(she gives an awkward shrug) so that whole night I hugged this t shirt..i know silly but..
Ashu pushes her back on the bed smothers her face and neck with kisses before locking his lips to hers. He drinks deeply from her mouth as his tears mingle with hers wetting both their faces. His breath shudders out of his chest: nahi..nahi Nidhi. it was not silly. a couple of my colleagues from Mumbai had come, uncle and aunty were there but..i felt so alone. uss din Tiger Chulbuli ke bina bahut akela padgaya tha re.
Nidhi cups his face with trembling hands. Her eyes hold both pain and joy: I missed you too Tiger. (both of them laugh and cry and hug and roll on the bed)
Ashu finally sits up and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand before laughing softly: lagta hain hum dono kuch zyada hi senti hogaye. (he pulls her up into a sitting position) go and freshen up. (seeing her fiddling with the t shirt) kya hua?
Nidhi: I have a photograph of yours and mine..(she inserts hastily) uss raat waale nahi..(seeing him patiently waiting for her to continue, she gets up and brings a book and extends to him) it was actually a group photograph but..(he sees the photograph of just the two of them with the rest of the group been cut off. His face splits into a grin as he sees her young chubby face with short bob hair making faces at the camera and leaning towards him. he gives it back to her) isse sambhalke rakhna. Or better yet, give it to me and I will make a soft copy of it. I will show it to our kids one day and tell them stories of how naughty their mom used to be.
Nidhi blinks before her entire face lights up and turns pink: kids?
Ashu: yeah..you don't want kids?
Goosebumps raise all over her at the mere thought: but..but..i thought..i mean..you use..
Ashu gets up and starts getting dressed in a t shirt and track pants: I didn't want to involve a kid with so many unresolved issues surrounding us..(he shrugs) so what do you say? You want kids? (she starts nodding repeatedly even before he could complete his sentence making him raise his eyebrow) now? (her smile turns a little shy as she looks away from him) ek kaam karte hain. lets get past all this and in a few months things will also pick up at VM and then we will talk about it. ok? (she nods happily and with a joyous screech pounces on him with arms wrapped tight around his neck and legs around his waist. The dinner that night got delayed but neither cared.)
Next day morning: KGH: Mallika's cabin:
Mallika's cell phone pings on an incoming sms: Reached Lucknow just now. On my way home. – Armaan.
She quickly types her reply: ok. I need to talk to you about something important. Will come by your house this evening..say 6?
Reply is almost immediate: sure. Will be waiting.
Mallika sighs and puts the phone away. after her talk with Abhi, she wanted to go straight to Armaan and ask him what all that was about but her work load didn't permit that day and the next day morning he had to attend a VIP surgery in Delhi and had left the next day. the child had developed some complications and his two day trip got extended to 5 days. Finally he is back and she is going to go and have that talk. There is a soft knock on the door and after her "come in", Rohan enters: hello Ma'am.
Mallika smiles: hello. Have a seat. You were asking me about some 10 yr old case, right?
Rohan extends a file: yes. I finally could get the case file from Metro Hospital. I just want you to look into it and see if you remember anything about her..anything significant.
Mallika reads the first page and looks up with a frown: Aditi Malhotra. This is the same girl who was murdered, right? (Rohan nods) I remember that because she had an appointment for an MTP..abortion and she didn't turn up. when the police questioned me, that's when I came to know that she was killed the previous night.
Rohan leans forward: yes, it was in the report that she was to have an abortion. Did you interact much with her? can you recall any of your conversations?
Mallika thinks back and shakes her head: no. she was unmarried and pregnant. I understood and didn't question her much although I did advice her that she needs to be careful. (she leans back in her chair and fiddles with her pen) but I did find one thing unusual. She was hell bent on getting the MTP but the baby's father wanted the child. He came with her and kept pleading and arguing with her to think one more time and all that. It stuck in my mind because its usually the other way around in these cases..you know..women want the child but men don't..
Rohan nods: so Dr Armaan was with Aditi when she came for the check up?
Mallika gets totally confused: Dr Armaan? why would Dr Armaan be with Aditi?
Rohan frowns: but you just said the baby's father was with her (she nods still confused) Dr Armaan was the baby's father. (it comes out like a part statement and part question)
Mallika's mouth drops open: what?
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