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The Prologue for this FF contains some very stark descriptions. I sincerely suggest the faint hearted and the under-aged to think wise before reading it. Thank you.
Lucknow, 35 years ago.
A small boy of about 7 huddled below a table in a dingily lit room, shaking with an unnamed fear. His face was a mixture of guilt, incredulousness, fear, terror and all other emotions that he would not identify with. Tears had streamed down his face and had formed rivulets in the grime layer around his cheeks; he had unsuccessfully tried to contain them by wiping with the back of his hands. Somehow he had managed to crawl below the table and silence the whimper that arose from his throat, maybe an animal instinct for survival still existed somewhere in his subconscious being.
Just a little ago he had watched his father bludgeon his mother in rage and now she lay, grotesque, motionless in front of him with wide open eyes. A trail of semi-clotted blood led from the back of her head to her saree palloo and beyond; the boy could see blood as far as he could see in the darkness. Blood had splattered all around the room, including the ceiling, indicating the arc that the cricket bat had traversed after the impact. His mother's outstretched hand pointed an accused finger at him, sightless eyes which were soon drying up of the natural warmth; flies were beginning to buzz and gather around her nose and mouth.
The sound of flies humming around roused the boy out of his stupor as he cautiously emerged out of his shelter. He felt wet, sometime during this event; his bladder had emptied It'self involuntarily as a result of pure unnamed fathomless fear. He crept warily to his mother, sincerely expecting her to open her eyes and smile his anxieties away...but she was not forthcoming anymore as he gingerly touched her hand. The coldness of her contorted hand snapped something in him; he suddenly realized the enormity of the situation. In the dead silence of the night, a few voices could be heard at a distance, accompanied by the siren of the police and a low frequency buzz of meaningless chatter. He tried to trace the source of the sounds and could barely comprehend that his father was being taken away somewhere in the police jeep. And then someone called out to him softly and tenderly, he looked in the direction of the voice, and saw the eyes of a kind hearted uncle who was quite familiar.
Dr Mathur was aghast; he just could not believe that his close friend, a friend who held no secrets from him, was an alcoholic and an abusive person on top of it. He clearly remembered this friend of his, who had just recently retired from the army and shifted to Lucknow with his wife and son in tow. Dr Mathur had welcomed him with open arms and offered all possible help for settling down, right from arranging for accommodation to finding a good school for the boy. As a result of which, they had grown further close; Dr Mathur, a confirmed bachelor, was a frequent visitor at their home, where he spent all his lonely evenings over endless cups of tea. His friend's wife, "Bhabhi", as Dr Mathur addressed her, was also glad to have him around as their family physician, and he, in the matter of time, had seen the boy through the common childhood maladies.
The thought of the boy brought Dr Mathur to present; they were travelling in the police jeep and the boy was fast asleep in his lap holding tightly to the rolled sleeve of his cotton kurta. What was the boy's fault to be subjected to this ordeal? Dr Mathur couldn't justify. All the boy had erred was in playing cricket in the alley, had swung the ball in the wrong direction; a glass window had shattered as an aftermath. The resultant sound was enough for his friends to scoot away and bring the boy to a shattering revelation of the outcome; he had bolted from the scene as his father had come looking out for him.
Dr Mathur had further discovered to his horror that this was a common occurrence in his friend's house, a secret that was kept well-wrapped up in the layers of family honour. His perceptions of his friend were shaken at the basic foundation; when he discovered that this friendof his was sacked from the army for beating up a subordinate officer over a minor issue. Frustrations had built up over many years, had found a new way of expressing themselves...and this had coincided with the arrival of the boy. His wife had kept quiet throughout all this, clutching to the solitary hope that her husband would change, at least with the arrival of their son. But this was not to be, as the violent outbursts of rage soon engulfed the little toddler as well. It was then that he was unceremoniously sacked from the army, and he conveniently attributed this professional failure to the little one. All hopes of a happy family environment soon drowned in alcohol, as the usual capers of the toddler also brought on uncontrolled rage from the father; rage which culminated in beatings to the mother more often than not.
The thought of Bhabhi sent tears tricking down Dr Mathur's cheeks. So deep was the culture of "family honour" that the helpless battered woman never thought of even breathing a word to him about the atrocities heaped on to her by her husband. Somehow Dr Mathur knew that he would never forget his last imprint of her; being picked up on a stretcher and taken for a post-mortem. It was clear that she had tried to shield the little boy from the murderous rage of the father, and had got hit in the process on the head on the fateful day. Then there was this police statement, the courtroom case, and his friend was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of manslaughter. And Dr Mathur had taken charge of the little boy, shielded him from the insecurities of the anonymous world, encouraging him to start a new chapter of life.
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Doctor Kotnis General Hospital (henceforth as KGH) was a 2000 bed hospital on the outskirts of Lucknow, catering to all strata of society. It had all the facilities needed to cater to any known exigency, a full fledged medical college, a well stocked library to cater to a substantial research wing and a hygienic canteen which served food round the clock. Its Management consisted of several well-known figures, which further directed the college through the Principal and the hospital through the office of the Dean, who was responsible for day to day administration of the hospital. The current Dean of the hospital happened to be Dr Ashutosh Mathur, a handsome, tall, gentleman in his early forties with noted skills in the field of Neurology in general and Neurosurgery in particular. He was a loner by nature and had carefully built up a reputation of being a strict, no-nonsense boss who could never stand mediocrity anywhere in the hospital. The sight of him smiling was an exception rather than the rule, and it happened only in the company of the children from the pediatric ward. His reputation, as a stickler for perfection, coupled with the emotional detachment, often preceded him, and he was often referred to as "Dr Heartstone" behind his back.
At the residence of Dr Ashutosh Mathur: On one weekday morning:
"Kaka, My socks! KAKA! Where are you? I can't find my socks kaka!"
"Aaya..aaya! Arre wahi par toh rakhe the Ashutosh Beta."
"Kahan? Yahan nahin hain kaka. Jaldi doondiye na. I am getting late."
"Lo. Yahi par toh the. Kya beta tum bhi.."
Dr Ashutosh, the No.1 Neurosurgeon in Lucknow, looks up from his place where he is picking up his shoes. "Thank you Hiraman Kaka! Aap nahin hote toh mera kya hota!"
HK: Haan haan subah subah mein hi mila tumhe makkhan marne keliye!
Ashu: Arre nahin kaka. I am telling the truth. I swear.
HK: Issiliye I keep saying. Get married. It's high time now. Get yourself a nice girl.
Ashu: Kaka please not again! Whatever the topic, ghuma phirakar aap shaadi par ladete hain. I have been listening to this for the past 10-15 years. I think you better forget about it. Who is going to marry me in this age now?
"Oye, iss umra? You are 42 not 72. Aur aaj kal toh mere umar mein bhi koi kam chances nahin hain."
Ashu turns to look the man who has just entered the hall..the man, whom he considered his father and saviour and whom he addressed as "Baba". At nearly 68, his baba is a little stout but a fit man with a shock of grey hair and a small equally greyed mushtache: Baba! Now you too?
BB: Hiraman is right beta. Iss ghar ko aur hum dono ko ek achchi si bahu chahiye. You and mallika studied together. I thought..
Ashu: Baba, buss. We already talked about this. She was only my friend. I never thought of her as anything else. And you know it.
BB: But she loved you na Ashu. You can't deny that.
Ashu: I never encouraged her in anyway Baba. And the moment she told about her feelings, I ended my friendship with her. You know it. I firmly believe that once love enters into the equation and when it's one sided, friendship is lost forever. I didn't want to continue that and give her some kind of false hope that I might change my mind.
BB: Haan par..
Ashu: And Baba, now she is married. And has a kid of her own and lives in US with her husband. We should not even be discussing this topic. I am getting late and I got to go. There is a new batch of interns coming to KGH today.
BB: You always do that. Whenever the topic of your marriage comes, you divert and escape.
Ashu now has become really serious: Baba, I don't want marriage. That's the bottom line. And you need to accept that. And there is no one who can change my opinion on this issue. Jannat se koi pari utarkar aaye na toh bhi nahin! Chalta hoon baba. (BB looks at his son's departing back. Aayegi Ashutosh. Some one is out there who will come and change your opinion. She will teach you to smile and laugh and love.)
At the residence of Col.Verma:
"Nidhi! Nidhi meri bachchi! Kahan hai tu? Yeh ladki bhi na! where did she go off so early in the morning?"
Col. Yograj Verma, a man of about 55 with a bald head and eye glasses looks up at the screaming lady of indeterminate age, who is a little on the rounder side. His aunt and his daughter's Dadi Bua: Bua, why do you panic about everything? Nidhi has already left and she told me before going.
DB: chali gayi? Where did she go so early in the morning? And why didn't she tell me?
CV: Bua, today is her first day as an intern in KGH and she got ready and left. Now she will be back only in the evening.
DB: Aur usne mujhe bataya bhi nahi?
CV: That's because you wouldn't have let her go. Bua, becoming a doctor is her aim and her mother's dream. Why are you so against it? Let her do it. And in these days, who gets married so early?"
DB: Arre Yog! Par abhi toh Nandini ke guzre ek maheena bhi nahin hua..
CV: That's why I told her to go Bua. These days all she does is sit at home and stare into space. She hasn't even cried once after her mother passed away. Says all her tears dried up during Nandini's cancer and her suffering. She says she doesn't have any more tears to cry. But aise kaise Bua. It's not good for her na. She will start working and her mind will also get diverted. I love my wife Bua. Every day without her is like living without an arm or leg. But I want my daughter back. I want her smiling and laughing like she used to.
DB: Baat toh sahi keharahe ho Yog. I don't recognize this Nidhi any more. She was always bouncing around and laughing. The whole house used to light up when she comes. Ab toh aisa lag raha hain ki Nandini apne saath Nidhi ki muskaan bhi lekar chali gayi.
"Aisa kuch nahin hoga DB."
DB turns to look at the short girl with curly hair and a sunny expression on her face and her own face splIt's into a delighted smile: arre Anji beta, tu kab aayi?
Anji: Buss abhi abhi. Uncle kaise hai aap? Had your breakfast?
CV: No beta. I am not hungry.
Anji: Aise kaise chalega uncle? Come, even I didn't have my breakfast. Sab saath saath khathe hain. And you don't worry about Nidhi. I told Ranga to keep an eye on her. He said he will make sure of that and if It's possible, he will also try and assign the childrens' ward for Nidhi on the first round.
CV: You did a great thing Anji. Nidhi is crazy about kids. She and her mom had already selected the names for her kids..(CV's voice closes up at the mention of his wife. Nandini suffered from ovarian cancer and after painful chemotherapy sessions, she had passed away 3 weeks back. Anji also looks very close to crying as she and Nidhi are childhood friends and neighbours and Nandini played an equal role in mothering Anji. It was like both Nidhi and Anji had 2 mothers. Nandini and Shyama, Anji's mom.)
Anji finally controls herself and wipes her tears and tries to cheer everyone up: Chaliye chaliye now let's eat something. I am very hungry. Where is Chote Sarkar? Chote Sarkar! Jaldi jaldi breakfast!
And right on cue, a thin short man gets poha as the breakfast and serves everyone but looks like he too is battling with his own pain and tears at losing the Malkin of the house. She was the anchor which held them all together and now everyone is adrift in a sea of pain. DB is about to eat but looks at poha: Poha was Nandini's favourite. She used to say Buaji, jaisa aap ke haath ka poha waise duniya mein kisi ki nahin.
There are tears rolling down her cheeks. CV is about to get up and go away from the table when Anji holds him back by catching his hand: Aap Nidhi ko phir se haste muskuraate dekhna nahin hain uncle?
That makes him sit back and he gets control of his emotions: I want that more than anything beta!
Anji: Toh phir come and have your breakfast or I will tell Nidhi that you skipped your bfast and your BP medication. (CV smiles a little and everyone starts eating. Anji gives a small relieved sigh.)
Ashu: Dr Ranganath, Good Morning! Are the interns here? You said 4 of them, right?
Ranganath, a doctor and administrator at KGH, swallows a couple of times before answering: Yes..yes sir. 3 are here. One more is yet to come.
Ashu continues to read the file on his desk: But there were here yesterday to fill out the formalities, right? And they already got their ID tags and stuff, right? You didn't give them the reporting time?
Ranga wipes the sweat on his forehead with his hanky: Yes sir. I told them. Dr Nidhi bhi aati hogi sir.
Ashu finally looks up: Dr Nidhi..the one who got 14th rank in her finals? Am I correct?
Ranga: Yes sir. And she is usually a very punctual person. So I am sure she will be here.
A significant pause and then, Ashu: You met her yesterday and you already know that she is "usually" punctual? And if she IS punctual, she should be here by now right? My briefing starts in 5 minutes. If she is not here by then..
Ranga: Sir, she will be here. I am sure. Nidhi is always..(He stammers and stops at the killing look from Ashu. Then he takes a bracing breath and continues) Sir, Dr Ashutosh, mein Dr Nidhi ko pehle se hi jaantha hoon..(And stops and swallows as Ashu raises his eyebrow in a typical way.) Ji sir..woh..I have a friend, Anji. And Dr Nidhi and Anji are childhood friends. So I know her from before. And sir, before you meet her, I want to say something about her.
Ashu: I am listening Dr Ranganath but you better make it quick. And DON'T tell me she is another of those hyper sensitive females who start crying at the drop of the hat. Honest to God, I can't deal with them.
Ranga shakes his head hastily: No sir. Absolutely not. She is not like that at all. In fact, in the 2 years since I have known her, I have never seen her cry. Not even once.
Before he could say more, Ashu looks at the watch and makes his way to the conference room where the 3 interns are waiting. Ashu looks at them, looks at his watch and looks back at Ranga as if to say "no 4th intern as yet."
Ranga nods and gestures that she would be coming soon before coming inside and introducing Ashu to everyone: Interns, this is Dr Ashutosh, Neurosurgeon and Dean of KGH and Dr Ashutosh, this is Dr Priyanka, this is Dr Jyoti and this is Dr Rihaan.
Ashu shakes hands with all 3 and gestures them to take their seats: Welcome to KGH. Dr Ranganath must have briefed you on the overall structure of KGH by now, so I would like to add a few more rules and regulations from my side. Firstly, you are not full fledged doctors yet. So you are never and I mean NEVER to be alone in surgery or treatment of a patient. There are all major departments here like casualty, OPD, OB Gyn, Paediatrics, Surgery and ICU. Your duty charts will be prepared and given by Dr Ranganath with my approval and each of you has to report to the HOD of that dept and provide assistance to the senior doctors. If a patient is brought into the emergency, your job is limited to providing the first aid and you are NOT to take any medical related decisions under ANY circumstances. Am I clear enough in that? And each of you will have about 7 to 8 night shifts in each dept per month. There are 3 shifts everyday. 8am to 3pm, 3pm to 10pm and finally 10pm to 8am. Please remember that this is not a school or college that you get to bunk as and when the mood strikes you. Unless there is some kind of emergency, I expect you all to report at 8am sharp and in case of an off, you need to get clearance from Dr Ranganath beforehand. Any questions? (All 3 look at each other and shake their heads.) Verbal answers please!
They chorus out as if in an army: No sir!
Ashu nods and gets up. As if on cue, all of them follow suit: Ok. Fine. And before I leave, I would like to see your hands please. All 3 of you. Palms down and nails up. (With confused look on their faces, they extend their palms. Ashu glances at all 3 pairs of hands and looks back at the 2 girls Priyanka and Jyoti) Both of you are here as interns, am I right?
Jyothika stammers out: Ye..Yes sir.
Ashu: Then please remove your nail polish and cut off your nails. And Dr Priyanka, do something with your hair please. Knot it, tie it, whatever. But I don't want any fancy hair styles and loose hair around here. This is a hospital not a fashion house. Dr Ranganath, please give them the duty charts AFTER Dr Priyanka and Dr Jyoti turn themselves into proper interns. And one more…"
Ashu's speech gets interrupted when the staff nurse Janki Bai enters the room after a cursory knock: Sir, I think you need to come to the emergency entrance. Some one just brought in a small child and…
The rest of her sentence is left unsaid as Ashu makes his way towards the emergency area. But as soon as the door closes behind him, the 3 interns breathe a collective sigh of relief and look at each other's faces. Dr Rihaan: I guess Dr Ranganath was not lying yesterday when he said Dr Ashutosh is strict, huh! Arre yaar itna strict toh mera school Principal bhi nahi tha.
Dr Jyoti: Tell me about it. My cousin told me the other day that he is called Dr Heartstone. But I thought she was just exaggerating.
Dr Priyanka: As soon as I saw him, I thought WOW! 6 ft tall, broad shoulders, ooper se that sexy beard! He could have given serious competition to my fiance. But now I guess I better stick with my Srikar. Now what do we do?
Dr Jyoti: What do you mean what do we do? Suna nahi kya? We won't be given our duty charts until we look like interns. So chalo cutting nails and knotting hairs shuru! Honestly yaar, he is worse than my dad!
Dr Rihaan: Thank God I cut my nails just yesterday. At least he won't say much to you girls. But if it were me, he would have given me a time out or something. (He deliberately makes his tone rough and serious) Dr Rihaan! Go and sit in that corner on your knees! (All 3 laugh and make their way out of the conference room.)
At KGH Emergency entrance:
"Why are you looking at me like that? Can't you see that the child is having convulsions? I said go and get a wet towel or a wet blanket. RIGHT NOW!"
"I am not a madam. I am Nidhi Verma. I am an intern in KGH. This is my tag in case you want a proof. Now get going. You guys don't know the meaning of right now or what?"
The ward boy beats a hasty retreat just as Ashu walks into the scene. He sees a girl dressed in dark green kurta, wearing a full sleeved white coat over it and hair tied back into a tight pony tail bending over a child of about 3-4 years old. She takes out her steth and examines the child's chest and quickly removes the boy's shirt and trousers all the while reassuring and talking softly to the weeping mother who is beside the boy. Just as he is about to go and take over the situation, the ward boy who ran inside comes back with a large wet towel and the girl almost snatches the towel, lays it down and wraps the little boy in it. Ashu goes near and sIt's on his hunches and touches the boy's forehead to find it burning up. The girl who is treating barely looks up while giving him the report: He was having fever since yesterday evening and didn't eat or sleep well last night. This morning it spiked up and the mother was carrying him to the hospital when he started having convulsions. I was on my way here when I saw them on the road and brought them here.
A stretcher is brought in and Ashu lifts the child in his arms and puts him on the stretcher and tells the nurse to call Dr Sanjay, Paediatrician at KGH, then turns back to the girl: Now what do you think should be done?
She is still busy trying to wrap the towel tightly around the child and replies without looking up: He needs to be sponged down with tepid water and start an IV of barbiturate as soon as possible.
By now both of them are on either side of the stretcher and moving along with it and all Ashu has seen so far is a glance at her profile. The child jumps a little and both of them bend to hold him down and in the process their id tags get entangled. Dr Sanjay comes and takes over and the stretcher moves towards the ward and since their tags are still tangled together, the girl loses her balance and falls on Ashutosh. He takes an instinctive step back to balance himself and one of his arms goes around her waist to keep her from falling and taking him down along with her. A pair of startled eyes meets his own. Eyes so black that he can't see the pupils. Eyes that are smouldering and melting at the same time. Dr Ashutosh finds himself looking into the eyes of an Angel!
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Both are too startled to move for a few seconds. Then as if suddenly coming to their senses break apart and try to move away from each other. But since the tags are still tangled, they are pulled close again and bump into each other. Both together say at the same time "I am sorry…" then stop and wait for the other to continue then again together start "Here, let me.." then again stop and wait for the other to continue. Seeing that the situation is getting hopelessly out of hand, Ashu gestures with his hand for the girl to wait and tries to remove the tangle of their id tags. She being so much shorter than him rises on her toes when he pulls the tag and realizing that Ashu finally gives up, bends a little and removes his tag from around his neck and hands it over to her and she separates both the tags with ease and returns his back, clears her throat: Hello sir. I am Dr Nidhi Verma. Today is my first day here as an intern.
Ashu nods his head at that: The 4th intern, huh! And I am..
Nidhi cuts in: Dr Ashutosh, no.1 Neurosurgeon and Dean of KGH. I know sir. (Ashu raises his eyebrow at that.) Sir, you had given a guest lecture in our college once on the topic "Sensory neuropathy in industrial solvent toxicity". I was there. So I could recognize you. Although the glasses seem to be a recent amazing addition. (Then seeing Ashu she literally closes her mouth with her palms in mortification.) Sir, I can't believe I said that to you. I am..I am sorry sir. Woh buss nikal gaya muh se..I mean..
Ashu gestures her to stop: Dr Nidhi Verma, welcome to KGH. Normally you would have been shown to the door for showing up late on your first day but since I saw the situation, I can understand and you are excused. You are good at thinking on your feet and didn't panic. That's indeed a good quality. Please don't lose it. And you need to meet Dr Ranganath and collect your duty chart and make note of other rules and regulations. Nidhi nods at that and is about to say something when both of them hear someone crying and screaming loudly and turn to see a small girl of about 5 running towards them crying and a harried nurse behind her trying to stop her and give her an injection. Before the little girl can run past, Nidhi bends a little and catches her around her waist and stops her: Arre arre arre..kahan bhaage jarahe hain aap?
The little girl who seems to be all of 3 years lisps: mue inlection nahin chahiye. Nahin chahiye nahin chahiye. Mue ghay yaana hain. Mulhe inlection nahin chahiye.
The nurse interrupts puffing with exhaustion: Sorry sir, Ma'am. This is the case every time I have to give her the medication. She makes me run around the whole hospital and..
Nidhi silently gestures her to stop and lifts the child in her arms: Aap ko injection pasand nahin? (Girl shakes her head vigorously) Eddie ko bhi injection pasand nahin.
The girl's eyes widen with curiosity: Eddie kaun hain?
Nidhi: Aap kaun ho? Pehle aap ka naam batao hume.
Nidhi: Achcha Anjali! Bahut hi sweet name hain. Toh yeh Eddie joh hain na woh ek bahut hi pyaara sa baby elephant hain. Anjali: Toh Eddie ko bhi inlection se dall tha?
Nidhi: Haan. Bahut darta tha woh..ek din pata hain kya hua? (Anjali is all ears to know what happened. Nidhi continues with the story of how a crab got stuck in Eddie's trunk and how painful it was and with one hand gestures the nurse to give the injection. In a matter of seconds, Anjali's medication is taken care of with a minimum of fuss and now all she wants to know is how Eddie got the crab out of his trunk. Nidhi continues with the story and carries the kid with the nurse showing the way to the ward. Just before turning the corner though, she turns back and looks towards Ashu to find him looking at her. She gives him a tiny tentative smile and goes away.)
"Dr Ashutosh? Dr Ashutosh?" Someone calls him and it's then that Ashu realizes that he is still clutching his id tag with one hand and staring into space like some idiot: yes?
"sir, OT is ready."
Ashu nods his head and makes his way towards the theatre. The rest of the day passes fast with Ashu catching up on the OT and his OPD and Nidhi getting acquainted with her duties and the rest of the staff and her colleagues and most importantly, her patients. Children are the greatest source of joy for her. She spent time getting to know each kid, their problem and their medication, their allergies and their favourite toys. Finally she comes to the last kid who occupied a corner bed in the ward. He is curled up into a foetal position and facing the wall.
She is about to approach the bed when the staff nurse Janki Bai says softly so that the boy doesn't hear any of it: This boy has such a sad story Dr Nidhi. He has blood cancer. His parents brought him for a check up and when they got to know the result, they admitted him here and left. It's been a week now. Koi ata pata nahin hain. I don't know how they can leave their own kid this way and that too in this condition. What kind of people lives in this world Dr Nidhi!
Nidhi takes an instinctive step back as soon as the word "cancer" comes out but by the end of the story, her feet carry her towards the boy: Whats his name?
Janki Bai: Aayush
Nidhi smiles sadly. Aayush..what a name to be given to a child whose life is going to cut off before it even began! She sIt's on the bed beside him and softly calls him: Aayush? Hi. I am Nidhi. I came to KGH today only you know?
Aayush doesn't turn or change his position but asks: Toh aap ke papa bhi aap ko yahan chodkar chalegaye?
Nidhi's eyes tear up at that question. What kind of hell is this kid going through! So much pain and so much emotional insecurity! No one to hug him and say, "Everything is going to be fine." She softly ruffles his hair: Noo…but I am a doctor here. Par pata hain, mujhe yahan aate hue na bahut dar laga tha. I heard that my boss here is very strict and very khadoos.
Aayush slowly peeks at Nidhi: Toh kya woh sachchi mein khadoos nikle? Aapko daant padi?"
Nidhi: Daant toh abhi tak nahin padi but I told him that if he scolds me I have someone here to protect me.
Aayush: Who will come to protect you?
Nidhi: Ek bahadur ladka hain jiska naam Aayush hain. Woh mujhe protect karega. Then even my boss got scared. He said baapre, Aayush is a very strong boy. I can't compete with him. Meri toh pitai hojaayegi. So Dr Nidhi, I won't scold you.
Aayush slowly sIt's up listening to this and smiles at Nidhi. She gives him a warm smile and opens her arms. His thin arms go around her and he hugs her with all his strength: Aap mujhe chodkar chali toh nahi jaaogi na?
Nidhi: No Aayush, I won't leave you. And as long as I am in the hospital, both of us will have lunch together and when I have to go home, I will give the staff my phone number. Aap ko jab bhi baat karne ka mann kare, phone karlena. Ok?
Aayush nods his head and as if that small talk has exhausted him, he lies down on the bed and drifts off to sleep with one hand holding Nidhi's. She stays in that position until he is fully asleep and slowly removes her hand and moves away. Nidhi goes to the HOD, Dr Sanjay's cabin and knocks on his door and once she hears his permission to enter, goes inside. He looks at her and smiles: Hello Dr Nidhi. So how is your first day so far?
Nidhi: It's good sir. Thank you. I went through the med charts in the paediatric ward and introduced myself to everyone.
Sanjay: Good good. So are you here for something in particular?
Nidhi: Sir, I wanted to ask you about the child Aayush. Janki Bai said he is a cancer patient. May I know the details sir?
Sanjay gets up from his chair and goes to stand behind it with his hands resting on that chair: It's a case of chronic myelogenous leukemia – CML. A very rare and uncommon thing seen in children and it's in an advanced stage in this kid. There is nothing that we can do except make him as comfortable as we can for as long as we can. When I see cases like these, I feel so helpless. Too much success in this field gives a kind of God complex to us Dr Nidhi. And cases such as Aayush's bring us back to earth with a resounding thud! He is already too anaemic and bruises very easily. The decline has begun. The longer we can keep the secondary infections away, the longer the chances of his being alive. Thank God cost is not a hindrance here.
Nidhi is silent for some time on hearing all this then frowns as everything he has said sinks in: But sir, I heard that his parents left him here and went off. So who is paying the bills?
Sanjay: There is a trust fund in KGH for such kids Dr Nidhi. It has been started and completely funded by Dr Ashutosh. The rest of the doctors add their contributions too but the main donor is him. It was started with the intention that no kid should go without treatment just because he is financially unable to do so.
Nidhi nods her head at that and thanks him and leaves. The rest of the day passes with Nidhi spending her every free minute with Aayush and because she promised to have lunch with him, she picks him up and carries him with her to the cafeteria after getting an OK from Dr Sanjay. Both of them settle down in one corner and Nidhi feeds a soft diet to Aayush and gets some roti sabzi for herself. Ashu walks into the cafeteria to get some lunch for himself and sees these two in the corner and approaches them. Nidhi gets up as soon as she sees Ashu: Good Afternoon sir.
Ashu nods: Patient and doctor having lunch together on the first day of the job?
Nidhi: Sir, woh...yes sir. I promised Aayush that I would have lunch with him and I..I took Dr Sanjay's permission sir.
Ashu: So..your name is Aayush?
Aayush: Haan. Aur aap kaun ho?
Before Ashu could reply, Nidhi says: Aayush, this is my boss, Dr Ashutosh. Iss hospital ke na..Principal ki tarah hain. Hello bolo.
Aayush looks at Ashu with a frown on his face: Aap Nidhi didi ke boss ho? Woh khadoos wala?
Nidhi groans and closes her eyes with her palm and peeks through the fingers at Ashu to find him looking at her with one eyebrow raised in that typical way of his. She slowly removes her hand and stumbles a little in answering: Sir..that is..I was just talking with him and wanted to see him smile and I…
Ashu concludes: And so you told him your boss is khadoos.
Aayush speaks up: Nidhi didi also said you are scared of me because I am so strong and will protect her. So I am right here. Don't scold her ok?
Nidhi's face by now is red with embarrassment and is looking at the floor. Ashu gets down on the hunches beside Aayush: achcha, toh aap Aayush ho! Your Nidhi didi told me how strong you were. And I promise I won't scold her. Ok? Now have your lunch and go and take some rest. I will also go and eat something. May be that way, I can also be as strong as you one day. What say?
Aayush's thin chest puffs up with pride and he nods his head happily. Ashu looks up at Nidhi from his crouching position and gives her a lopsided smile, nods his head and leaves. Rest of the day passes uneventfully and without any more mishaps between the boss and the intern. After wrapping up the OPD and looking in once again on the post operatives, Ashu makes his way home. It's late evening and he driving his car and stops at a signal and with nothing better to do switches on the radio:
ki chaal hai, makhmali haal hai
Neechi palkon se badle samaa
Naina sharamaye jo, ya anake bar aaye jo
Tham ke ruk jaaye dono jahaan
pe marham, tere naina
Dhool pe shabnam, tere naina
Jag bhoole bhoole, tere naina
Dil chu le chu le, tere naina
Tere nainon ke aagey jo taare bhi sharamaye ..
A pair of eyes dances before his mind's eye. First startled, then shy, then hesitant, then embarrassed and then a bit of mischief combined with a bit of fear. So many expressions! As if they were speaking a language of their own! Had he ever seen such expressive eyes before? Eyes that he could drown in. Eyes that could make him forget what he was saying. Eyes that held..The honking of cars behind him bring Ashu out of his reverie and he shakes himself and starts his car and makes his way home wondering what was wrong with him.
Nidhi reaches home around 4 and sees that Anji is already back from her college and is waiting for her. As soon as she sees her friend, it's as if she can't stop herself anymore: Anji, sunn sunn meri baat sunn..aaj pata hain kya hua? You won't believe this! Anji's smile widens at Nidhi's obvious excitement. Looks like the idea to let her do the internship has worked its magic already! Nidhi is on her way to her usual bubbly self: How will I know if you don't tell me? How was KGH? You met Ranganath? Did he help you?
Nidhi waves it all away: Yyeah yeah he helped me. He was the one who gave me my duty chart. Par maze ki baat sunna yaar. My boss hugged me!
Anji screams: WHAT?
Nidhi: Haan! (Then wriggles her eyebrows suggestively.)
Anji slaps her wrist: Teek teek bata hua kya?
Then Nidhi describes the morning incident and later the canteen incident all in great detail and both friends give high five and giggle. DB who is about to enter Nidhi's room with tea for them both hears the giggle and thanks Bajranbali. That night before going to sleep, Nidhi's thoughts go to Aayush and the pain he is going through and the pain that's still waiting for him. A part of her wants to run away from being a witness to another untimely death. She, as a daughter, was forced to watch her mother die slowly..her mother's life draining away and there wasn't a single thing she could do about it. Now fate has brought another similar situation in front of her, this time in the form of that small child. And she is going to have to face it as a doctor. But just before Nidhi succumbs to sleep, she sees the face of Dr Ashutosh, Dean of KGH, her boss, with a small lopsided smile on his face. A tiny frown mars her forehead. Now, why did HE come into my mind!
In the next couple of weeks, Nidhi along with the rest of the 3 interns settle into their duties and routines and meet and chat during their free time. Since Priyanka's wedding is less than a month away, usually conversations centred on that topic and general chedchaad of the bride to be. Anji once comes to KGH to meet Nidhi and Ranga gets all flustered on seeing her. Anji and Ranga's room mate Neelu, (who is a female) are classmates and that's how Anji had first met Ranga. She had gone to meet Neelu to her apt and the door was opened by this person. Anji's first impression of Ranga was that he and Neelu are in a live in relationship and even after that doubt was ruled out, she doesn't trust him. He, on the other hand, is trying his level best to convince her that he has fallen in love with her. Nidhi continues to have lunch with Aayush and it becomes almost a routine for Ashu to walk in during their lunch time, see Aayush and raise his hands in mock surrender. And that made Aayush giggle and after the first couple of times, Nidhi too overcame her embarrassment and started to smile back at that gesture. Both Nidhi and Ashu seem to look fwd to that moment every day. Her eyes would search for him all while she had her lunch and his eyes would first look for her from the moment he entered the cafeteria. No words were exchanged but both would get impatient and irritable when something hindered that schedule but neither stops to analyse as to why. Nidhi develops a good rapport with Dr Sanjay, who was generally a happy go lucky person of about 50. One day he had asked her to suture a child's injury and after seeing the end result, turned towards her and with a twinkle in his eye asked: Dr Nidhi, yeh aap ne suture kiya ya embroidery? Itna perfect achcha design toh meine pehle nahin dekha!
Nidhi had immediately retorted: kya Karen sir..we women are perfectionists. Never satisfied with just closing a wound. We have to make it memorable to both the patient and ourselves.
Dr Sanjay laughs out loud: I think my wife is going to love you Dr Nidhi. No matter what I say, she always comes up with the phrase that women are born multitaskers.
Then one day Ashu comes for lunch to the cafeteria and doesn't find Nidhi or Aayush. He goes to the ward in search and finds Aayush getting agitated and Nidhi hugging and consoling him.
Ashu: What happened Dr Nidhi?
Nidhi looks up with a resigned expression: High fever hain sir. His agitation levels have also increased and he is becoming delirious. He is having trouble breathing.
Both of them know the significance of that. Secondary infection is setting. Ashu hesitates a bit, then nods and goes away. The day after that Ashu gets a call at midnight regarding a brain haemorrhage emergency and he rushes to the hospital and the patient is shifted to the OT for immediate surgery. It's almost 4 am by the time he comes out and when he goes into his cabin he sees Dr Ranganath and Dr Sanjay already there waiting for him. Sanjay informs him that the child Aayush's condition has worsened and he has been shifted to the ICU and put on a ventilator. Ranganath says that Dr Nidhi has been informed and she is already here with the child. Then as if unable to stop himself, he adds: I think Dr Nidhi is going to take this very hard sir. I wish I hadn't put her in the paediatric ward so soon.
Ashu frowns at that: What are you saying Dr Ranganath? She is a doctor and being a doctor, she should be prepared to face all these situations. Show me one doctor who hasn't seen the death of even one patient. And even if you HAD put her in another ward, wahan pe koi aur case aajata. Then what would you do?
Ranga: Sir, It's not death that I am talking about. It's the way this child is dying. Cancer. Her mother passed away about a month ago with cancer. Anji said it was a very painful chemo followed by her passing away. (Both Ashu and Sanjay wince at that.) Ashu: Oh..I..I didn't know that. What happened? I mean, how.."
His normal medical language deserts him for a second. Thankfully Ranga understands what Ashu is asking: Ovarian cancer sir.
All 3 men remain silent. The night shift intern Dr Rihaan knocks on the door and enters. He stands there as if he doesn't know how to say it. No matter how much you study about it, seeing someone pass away for the first time does effect the person in a profound way. He finally swallows, looks at Dr Sanjay: Sir, Aayush has passed away. Time of death 4.22am. Dr Nidhi confirmed it. She was there the whole time..holding his hand.."
All 3 nod and Rihaan leaves the cabin. Ashu and Sanjay make their way to the ICU while Ranganath goes to take care of the other formalities. The staff in the ICU are busy unhooking and unplugging the machines and Ashu goes near the bed and softly smoothens the boy's hair and looks around for Nidhi. Ranganath gets the forms for him to sign. He scribbles his signature and asks without looking up: Nidhi has left?
Ranga quickly looks around for her and one of the staff nurse softly says: I saw her going towards the terrace steps sir.
Ashu frowns at that, hands over the papers back to Ranga before taking the steps that lead him to the terrace. He finds Nidhi standing in the middle, arms wrapped around herself.. staring at the sky. For a few seconds he doesn't know what to do. May be he should leave her alone to deal with this however she wants to. After all, he was never good at this offering comfort thing and did his level best to avoid BEING in such situations in the first place. He almost takes a step back but it's as if his feet are refusing to cooperate. They propel him fwd towards her.
Nidhi feels a kind of suffocation stifling her. The pain inside her is crushing her down and her throat has become tight with the force of holding everything inside her. Amidst the turmoil raging, she hears a soft call. "Nidhi?" Slowly she turns and finds herself face to face with Ashu. There is a distance of about one feet separating them. He is looking at her with soft gentle eyes but the fingers of both his hands are clenched into fists as if he is stopping himself from touching her and gathering her close. Neither speaks a word but the look in his eyes is enough for her dam to break completely. A tear roll down her cheeks, she lets out a cry of pain and collapses onto her knees and cries her heart out. Ashu doesn't say a word. Just lets her cry away her pain. The huge tempest subsides after a couple of minutes and Nidhi quietens down with only a few hiccups disturbing the silence. Just then an early morning cold breeze blows and Ashu sees her shivering involuntarily. He removes his coat and puts it around her shoulders, offering her warmth..and his silent support.
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His warmth reaches her through his coat and Nidhi automatically snuggles into it, swallows and looks up at Ashu. Her eyes are a bit puffy and red from crying and lips are still trembling. He extends his hand to her and after a second's hesitation; she accepts it and gets up. Nidhi licks her dry lips, passes a hand over her cheeks as if to wipe away any remaining moisture: Thank you sir.
Neither notice Ranga's presence behind Ashu until he asks softly: You ok Nidhi?
Nidhi blinks slowly and give him a small smile: Yes. I am fine.
Ranga stands there, undecided whether to leave or stay. Ashu observes that and takes a step back only to realize that he and Nidhi are still holding each other's hand. Their startled gazes meet and both make a move to loosen their grip, then as if unable to completely let go, tighten it once again and then slowly draw apart. He looks at Ranga, making sure none of his thoughts is reflecting on his face: I am going home now Ranganath. Call me if the post operative patient regains consciousness. (Ranga nods. Ashu takes a couple of steps towards the door before turning back to Nidhi) You ok now? (She nods) Go home Nidhi. Take some rest. You will feel better. (And leaves without another backward glance.)
Ranga remains quiet for a while and then gestures her towards the door: Neeche chale? (Nidhi nods and starts to walk beside him. He stuffs his hands in his trouser pockets) you really are ok, right?
Nidhi looks at him with a tiny smile playing on her lips: Yes. I am really fine. Don't worry. This has been pending for quite a long time actually.
Ranga nods: Anji told me. (They reach the ground floor)
Nidhi looks at the main entrance and then back at Ranga: Ab mein nikalti hoon. I have the 8 am shift again and It's almost 5.30 now.
Ranga frowns: You sure you can go by yourself? May be..
Nidhi shakes her head before he can complete the sentence: No. It's ok. Mein chali jaaongi. See you.
Ranga nods with a smile: See you. Take care.
Nidhi steps out and only then realizes that she is still wearing Ashu's coat. She halts and makes a move to go back and return it only to see him at the parking lot backing out his car. Her quick steps carry her there and she gestures him to stop.
Ashu stops the car and lowers the window: Yes?
Nidhi extends his coat to him: Aap ka coat sir. I forgot to return it. Thanks again.
Ashu nods and takes the coat through the window and throws it over onto the back seat before looking at her once again: How are you going to go home?"
Nidhi: I came driving sir. I'll go back the same way.
Ashu starts shaking his head before she completes her sentence: Ek kaam karo. You leave the car here. I don't think you should drive after..you know! I will drop you at your place.
Nidhi: No sir. That's ok. I am fine. I can drive."
Ashu gives her "the look": Don't argue. Now, come on, let's go. Your shift is at 8 or 3?
Nidhi: 8 am sir. (He gestures her to come to the other side and get in the car. She nods and the car starts once Ashu makes sure her seat belt is fastened.)
Ashu extends the water bottle that he always has in his car: Here, drink some water. You must be dehydrated by now.
Nidhi gives a soft laugh and takes the bottle: That's the most polite way any one has ever told me that I have just cried buckets sir. (Ashu gives one of his lopsided smiles in answer. She quickly gulps down almost half the bottle before taking a breather. She recaps the bottle and places it in the bottle holder beside her seat.) Thank you sir.
Ashu nods: So, where is your house? I think I need the address if I have to drop you.
Nidhi: Oh! Sorry sir. (And rattles off the address. Silence reigns in the car and Ashu observes Nidhi having a faraway look on her face.)
Ashu: Ranganath told me about your mother. I am really sorry. Want to talk about it or want me to leave it alone?"
Nidhi looks out of the window at the passing trees and still empty roads: It's something like I can talk about it for hours on end or everything can be summed up in one sentence. She had ovarian cancer. Aur aap toh jaante hain..it can't be diagnosed until It's too late. But she was so young so none of us suspected. She just used to complain of back ache and bloating. I took her to a Gyn and we even got a CT done. Reports were all normal and she finally ignored the pain. Then finally when everything came out, there was nothing anyone could do except the chemo. I was in the final year MBBS and all I can remember of that period is the helplessness. Yahan mein khud ek doctor banke logon ki jaan bachaana chahti thi aur yeh situation tha jahaan apni maa keliye bhi kuch nahin karsaki. Final exams kaise diye maine only I know! (She exhales and turns to look at him.) Buss itna hi hain.
Ashu nods in perfect understanding..after all, he lost his mother too, didn't he? His eyes when they glance at her though, hold a kind of admiration: And yet you still managed to get 14th rank huh!
Nidhi smiles and gives a small shrug: Haan. Stroke of luck I guess! But my DB says Bajranbali was with me all through.
Ashu's gaze falls on a 24hr coffee shop and on the spur of the moment turns his car into the driveway of the coffee shop and stops. Nidhi gives him a questioning look. He gestures towards the shop: Want to have some coffee? Is that ok or you want to go straight back home? (Nidhi's face slowly splits into a wide grin and her pure mischief enters her wide eyes making his breath hitch up in his throat. Aap ki aankhen hume maardaalegi Nidhi Verma!)
Nidhi: Agar aap bill pay kar rahe hain toh I am definitely on. Meri stipend abhi tak aayi nahin hain. sooo..I am basically penniless.
Ashu gives out one more of his lop sided smile: Kyon? Aap ka khadoos Dean kanjoos bhi hai kya?
Nidhi laughs out at that, then quickly stifles her laugh and puts on a serious face: dekhiye no calling names to my Dean ok? Woh toh sirf mein kar sakti hoon. Aur koi nahin.
Ashu gives out a small laugh: Ab andar chale? And yes, I will pay the bill. (The coffee shop is also almost empty at that hour and both of them settle down at a table near the full glass window.) Seeing that there is no waiter, Nidhi gets up and bows at her waist and asks: What would you like to have sir?
Ashu rolls his eyes at that and gets up too: Seeing that I am the one who has to pay, I think, I will go there and place the order and pay at the same time. What do you want? Coffee or tea?
Nidhi: Coffee, garma garam. Strong. (Ashu nods, goes to place the order and pay and comes back.) Aap ne kya order kiya? Ashu: Coffee, garma garam. Strong.
Nidhi folds her hands on the table in front of her: Wow aap bhi? Waise toh I drink tea the rest of the day. But subah ki shuruvad toh coffee se hi hoti hain. I can't open my eyes properly otherwise.
Ashu: Same here.
Nidhi: Aap ko kaun si chai pasand hain?
Ashu: Adrak wali.
Nidhi: Oh. Mujhe toh chai with elaichi bahut pasand hain. thhhoodaaa sa shakkar zyaada dalke strong chai with elaichi on a cold or rainy day…waah..mazaa hi alag hain. (She rubs her hands in delight and grins again.)
Ashu's eyes devour the changes expression on her face: Toh soon to be Dr Nidhi Verma..who IS Nidhi Verma?
Nidhi thinks a bit on this: Hhmm..I am an only daughter of Col Yograj Verma and Nandini Verma. My dad retired from the army and now along with a few of his army friends runs an orphanage kind of a thing. And my mom discontinued her MBBS course coz she fell in love with my dad and wanted to marry him. Uske baad she wanted to continue her MBBS but my dad had postings all over the country and I was just a baby. So she just kept putting off.
Ashu: So it's your mother's dream that you become a doctor? (Meanwhile coffee comes and both start sipping it.)
Nidhi: Nahin. My dad took me to a toy store when I was 3 and I selected a doctor set as my toy that day. Ever since childhood, that's all I wanted to become. A doctor. Of course, my mom was super happy and tried her best to encourage me in this direction. Aur aap? You wanted to become no.1 Neurosurgeon since your childhood?
That wipes off the smile completely from Ashu's face. He gets lost in his thoughts for some time and Nidhi realizes that whatever those thoughts are, they are NOT pleasant. So she leaves him alone to gather himself. Then he shakes himself as if dislodging something dirty: I don't know about childhood but Baba doctor hain toh somehow it seemed to be a natural decision for me.
Nidhi: Oh, aap ke Baba doctor hain? Kahan kaam karte hain?
Ashu: Jeevan Sandhya mein consultant physician hain. A kind of semi retired life I guess. And you said your Baba runs an orphanage?
Nidhi: Ji. Kids from the street come there. Unlogon ko wahan khaana, kapade, sab milthe hain. Initially they don't stay. They come, eat and run away again. But some kids, the lure of security makes them stay back and the institution funds their basic education along with a vocational training so that they can get some kind of a job after their 12th.
Ashu listens intently to all this: Interesting! May be I will go there one day. Pass me on the address later. Ok? (Nidhi nods her head.) You ok with just the coffee or want something to eat?
Nidhi: No sir. This is fine. Ghar jaate hi Chote Sarkar, he is our cook, poora breakfast mere saamne laga denge.
Ashu's eyes smile at her: Hamaare ghar mein bhi Hiraman Kaka hain. He is an amazing cook.
Nidhi leans forward in obvious enthusiasm as her eyes sparkle with joy: Mujhe na gobi ke parate bahut pasand hain. I just love them. Hot hot paratas with cold cold dahi. Wow!! Simply yummy I tell you. Sochte hi muh mein paani aajata hain.
Ashu: And whats your favourite subject in MBBS?
Nidhi: Paediatric medicine and ophthalmic. Aur aap ka? The subject chose you or you chose the subject?
Ashu: Both I guess. I wanted to do something in the department of Neurosciences and luck was with me. (Then they went into the topic of medical college and ragging and Nidhi starts describing some of the most horrendous and hilarious episodes of hers. And by the end of it Ashu is throwing back his head and laughing at the incidents and the way Nidhi narrates them) Kya hua? Why are you looking at me like that?
Nidhi blinks and tilts her head a little: Sir, pehli baar aap ko itna haste dekha hain..thoda spellbound hona toh laaz mein hain.
Ashu coughs a bit and clears his throat at that and decides to change the topic: During my college days, the ragging was even worse I tell you.
Nidhi gets a surprised look on her face: Matlab aap ke saath bhi yeh ragging hua?
Ashu frowns: Haan. Why wouldn't I have had?
Nidhi shakes her head innocently: Nahin..I was just thinking ki kisme itni himmat hain jo aap ko rag karen. All you had to do was give them your look and they would have run away.
Ashu: My look?
Nidhi: Woh aap aise dekhte hain na hum interns ko.. (Saying that she puts on a scowling face with a little frown and one eye brow raised.) Buss uske baad koi bhi aapke saamne aake toh dekhe!
Ashu sits back in his chair and gives her "the look": But you don't seem to be scared of my look.
Nidhi: Kya baat kar rahe hain sir. Of course I get scared. It's just that I hide better. (Then a waiter approaches and asks if they want anything else. Nidhi frowns and looks at the time.) Oh my God! Its 7 already! We were talking for more than an hour?
Ashu gets up and both of them make their way out at a faster pace: WE didn't talk. YOU talked for 2 hrs.
Nidhi: Yeah I know. Once I start talking, I can't seem to stop. Aap ko pehle bolna chahiye tha na. Bore kardi kya meine?
Ashu shakes his head and answers with a perfectly straight face: Nothing that a couple of aspirin can't cure. So don't worry. (Nidhi gives him a horrified look and he laughingly starts the car.) Just kidding. Relax.
Nidhi: Aap ko mazaak karna bhi aata hain?
Ashu shrugs and gives her a rueful smile: Ab kuch baaten apne interns se bhi seekhne padte hain na.
Nidhi then gives him directions to her house and soon the car stops in front of the gate.
Nidhi turns towards him..suddenly feeling a little shy and awkward: Thank you sir. For the lift and the coffee and..everything. Aap andar aana chahenge?
Ashu's face remains impassive but his intense eyes take in her pink cheeks and smiling lips: You are welcome Nidhi but not now. May be some other time. Waise bhi we are running late. Nidhi nods her head and gets down from the car, closes the door and leans over the window: Ek baat kahoon sir. Dr Sanjay told me about the foundation you started for the kids at KGH. Sunkar bahut achcha laga. I am proud to say that Dr Ashutosh is my Dean. See you later sir. (With a slight wave she turns and goes inside the house. And for a long time afterwards, her words keep reverberating in his mind. "I am proud to say that Dr Ashutosh is my Dean.")
It's almost 7.30 by the time Ashu reaches home and he rushes through and gets ready. BB asks him about his surgery and he tells him about that and also about the child while knotting his tie. He picks up his coat and is about to leave with HK shouts: Arre Ashu beta, naashta toh karthe jaona.
Ashu: No Kaka. No time. Am already late.
BB: Ashu, aisa nahin karthe. Chal aa bait. You should not skip the first meal of the day. And dekho aaj Hiraman ne Gobi ke parate banaya hain breakfast mein.
Ashu halts turns back: Gobi ka parata?
HK: Haan beta. Ek toh khaale.
Mujhe na gobi ke parate bahut pasand hain. I just love them. Hot hot paratas with cold cold dahi. Wow!! Simply yummy I tell you. Sochte hi muh mein paani aajata hain. A slight smile playing on his lips, he makes his way to the dining table and rolls his sleeves: Chaliye Kaka, breakfast deejiye. (HK happily gets a couple of hot paratas on the plate and puts some achaar and gets it for Ashu.) Kaka, ghar mein dahi hain kya? (BB and HK both look up in surprise. Ashu never asks for anything and is known to eat whatever is put before him.)
HK: Haan beta. Dahi toh hain. Laa doo?
Ashu: Ji. (HK serves dahi in a bowl and Ashu takes a piece of parata, dips it in dahi and puts it in his mouth and starts chewing, all the while, with that little smile still on his face. Both BB and HK keep looking at him strangely.)
HK: Chai peeyoge beta?
Ashu: Haan Kaka. Elaichi wala. (Now the looks become even weirder. But HK quickly makes the tea and gets it for Ashu and BB. Ashu takes a tentative sip and looks as if his thoughts are somewhere else..somewhere pleasant and..joyful.)
BB: Ashu, kya baat hain beta? Aaj bahut khus nazar aaraha hain?
Ashu: Nahin Baba, aisa kuch nahin hain. Why do you ask?
BB: Nahin, aaj tere chehre par ek nayi chamak hain.
Ashu for the first time in BB's memory stammers a little: Kuch nahin Baba. Woh buss..mein..woh..abhi abhi nahaake aaya hoon na. Issliye..(He literally gulps down the rest of the hot tea and hightails out of the house leaving behind a contemplating BB and HK.)
BB: Kuch toh zaroor hain Hiraman.
HK nods: Ji Mathur saab. Ashutosh wakai mein badla badla sa lagraha hain.
BB gives a kind of hopeful smile: There is a spring in his step as if he found something very interesting in life. His smile was not perfectionary today.
HK starts stacking the plates and tea cups: Aap ko kya lagta hain Mathur saab? You think he found someone?
BB smiles: I hope so Hiraman. I really hope so.
Col.Verma opens the door to Nidhi: Beta, badi der hogayi. Ab woh bachcha kaisa hain?
Nidhi sighs: He passed away Baba.
CV hugs his daughter in comfort: You ok beta?
Nidhi but tightens her arms around her father before pulling away: Ji Baba. Dr Ashutosh didn't want me to drive because I was a bit upset so I left the car at KGH and he dropped me home.
CV: That's really nice of him Nidhi. You should have invited him inside na beta.
Nidhi: Baba, I did. But both of us were getting late for work so he said some other time. Waise I told him about your Orphanage and he said he would visit it some time soon.
CV smiles: Any time. Any time. He is most welcome. Ab jaake thoda aaraam karle.
Nidhi: No Baba. Aaj 8 to 3 ka duty hain. Toh abhi niklna padega. But I promise I will be home by 3.30 and will sleep off. (CV gives a relieved sigh on seeing his daughter in her usual talkative self. He had been worried as to what this little boy's death would do to her. But his daughter is a strong girl!)
CS: Babyji, aap keliye coffee banau kya?
Nidhi: Nahin CS ab toh seedha nashta aur chai.
DB: Arre abhi abhi toh aayi hain aur abhi chal padi. Yeh ladki bhi na! Yog tumhi samjhao iss ladki ko!
CV grins: Arre Bua, woh ek doctor hain aur apni internship kar rahi hain. Ab mehnat nahin karegi toh kab karegi?
DB: Par Yog ab shaadi nahin karegi toh kab karegi?
CV: Bua, I already told you, I won't pressurise her for a marriage. I did that with my wife and later on she never got a chance to complete her medicine. Uska adhoora sapna adhoora hi rehgaya. Nidhi ke saath mein aisa nahin hone doonga. Aur uski umr hi kya hain? Karlegi shaadi. Aap tension mat leejiye.
(He walks away on that note and DB shakes her head at the situation. Nidhi does a super quick shower and spends an extra 2 mins cutting her nails and doing a top knot for her hair and wearing another of her kurta pyjama and comes out yelling to CS for breakfast. Anji also joins in and both smile and catch up on each other's day before. Anji, upon hearing the kid passing away, hugs Nidhi and comforts her and soon CS gets the breakfast on the table for everyone including Anji.)
CS: Babyji, aap nashta keejiye, hum aap ke liye chai lekar aate hain.
Aap ko kaun si chai pasand hain? Adrak wali. Nidhi's face lights up and she shouts after CS: Adrak ki chai CS!
CS gives her a confused look: Par aap toh hamesha..
Nidhi: Haan lekin aaj adrak chai peena ka mann hain buss.
DB: Arre manhoos ab dekh kya raha hain? jaake chai leke aa. (Then she looks at Nidhi and runs an affectionate hand over her head) Meri Bachchi, tujhse ek baat karni thi.
Nidhi continues to chew and doesn't look up: Haan haan boliye DB.
DB: Dekh beta, hamaare rishedaaron mein jaan pehchaan wala ek ladka hain. Woh kya kehte hain…MBA..haan..MBA kiya hain..achchi khaasi naukri bhi hain. Meine uske ma baap se na teri baat chedi hain..
Nidhi gets completely irritated: DB, aap meri shaadi ki baat kar rahe hain? I joined my internship last month and you want me get married NOW? Aur woh bhi kisi MBA ladke ke saath? No way DB! Forget it. Just forget it.
DB: Arre par beta tu pehle use mil toh le. Milne mein kya harzi hain? Hain na. Aur kya pata. Agar pasand aagaya toh?
Nidhi's temper spikes up even more: DB aap ko pata hain..
Anji intervenes: Yaar woh sab chod. Jab aayega ladka tab dekha jaayega. Tujhe toh der horahi hain na. Chal dono saath saath chalte hain. I will drop you at KGH and go to my college. (She forcefully pulls Nidhi away and Nidhi collects her coat and steth and book on her way out still in an angry mood.)
Nidhi: Kya Anji, tumne dekha na DB ko. How many times do I tell her that I don't want to get married now? Aur waise bhi I want to first fall in love and then get married.
Anji: Haan haan mujhe pata hain. Don't take her words too seriously. Waise ek baat bata..tujhe kaise pata chalega ki tujhe kissi se pyaar hogaya hain? (She wriggles her eyebrows suggestively.)
Nidhi gets a thoughtful look on her face: Hhmmm..jab mein apne aankhe band karke pyaar ka naam loon toh ussi ka chehra mere aankhon ke saamne aayega. Then I will know. (Saying that she closes her eyes in demonstration and sees Ashu's face and immediately blinks them open with a frown.)
Anji shakes her a little: Ab kya hua? Phir se kahan khogayi? Chal chal lets go. It's getting late. And once we get back, we will go shopping. Uncle ne permission dedi hain and we'll get you a new dress for Priyanka's wedding. Ok?
Anji drops Nidhi at KGH in her car and leaves for her college. The day rushes by till the lunch hour and Nidhi goes to the canteen to have her lunch. But as soon as she sits, her gaze automatically goes to the opposite chair where Aayush used to sit and share his lunch with her. Her eyes fill up and she pushes away her plate that's on the table and is about to get up when a voice behind her stops her: Aise khaane ki thaali ko chodkar utna nahin chahiye Nidhi.
She turns and finds herself face to face with Ashu, with a solemn look on his face and his own lunch plate in his hands. He then comes and sits at her table and when he sees her still standing and looking at him, gestures her to sit and shows her own lunch plate. Nidhi slowly takes her seat and both have their lunch. That evening Nidhi and Anji spend their time shopping and Nidhi ends up buying a beautiful dark blue and gold combination sari along with all the accessories. Then both of them go to Priyanka's house and attend the Mehendi. The function was done that morning but since Nidhi was on duty, she could not attend. Priyanka in a jubilant mode forces her and Anji to put mehendi on their palms. They have their dinner there and come back home exhausted and fall into bed. The next day, Nidhi is in the process of shifting to Orthopaedic dept, now that the one month shift at paediatrics is done. She gets introduced to the HOD and the assistants when Priyanka drops in.
Nidhi gives a big grin and playfully pushes her: Hi! Ab yeh Dulhan yahaan pe kya kar rahi hain? I thought you were on leave until after your wedding and of course, the honeymoon.
Priyanka: Haan yaar. But I just came to give the wedding cards and invite everyone formally to the wedding.
Nidhi: Oh ok. Toh mera invitation kahan hain?
Priyanka gives one playful slap on her shoulder: Tujhe meri shaadi attend karne keliye invitation chahiye? Achcha sunn Nidhi, sab ko invitations dedi meine. Dr Ashutosh ko dena baaki hain. Tu bhi chalna yaar mere saath. (Her tone turns pleading)
Nidhi frowns: Kyon? You invited everyone na. Waise hi Dr Ashutosh ko bhi invite karlo.
Priyanka rolls her eyes: Yaar..mujhe unko dekhte hi bolti band hojaati hain. Pata nahin what he will say. Aisa na ho ki I give him the invitation and he gives me a lecture on taking off for so many days. (she tries to make her voice base and a little masculine) Dr Priyanka, aap ki shaadi toh ek din ki hain na. Then why did you take an off for one whole week? Yeh school hain ya hospital? (Nidhi doubles over with laughter) Aisa boldenge toh? Please Nidhi, tu bhi chal na mere saath.
Nidhi giggles some more: Achcha teek hain chal. (Both of them make their way to Ashu's cabin and knock on the door to hear a rumble of "come in" from the inside. Priyanka tells a silent prayer and holds onto Nidhi's hand and both of them go inside.)
Priyanka: Sir, good morning sir!
Ashu looks up: Good Morning Dr Priyanka! Ranganath said you were on leave and that it's your wedding.
Priyanka nods repeatedly like a doll: Yes sir. I am..that is..yes sir. Woh mein..sir, I have come to invite you for my wedding. Please do come sir. (Saying that, she extends the wedding card.)
Ashu gets up, silently accepts it and nods his head: Congratulations and all the best!
Priyanka, not wanting to test her luck further: Thank you sir. Ab mein chalti hoon. Shaadi mein zaroor aayiyega sir. (She looks at Nidhi, who gestures her to go ahead and that she would follow. Priyanka leaves the cabin and closes the door behind her.)
Ashu looks up and then notices Nidhi's palms all filled up with mehendi design: Shaadi Priyanka ki hain ya aap ki?
Nidhi laughs: Woh buss, kal mehendi ka function tha na..toh sir, are you going to attend the wedding?
Ashu shrugs at that: I don't know. I don't think so. Mein shaadi mein aake kya karoonga?
Nidhi makes a face at that: So true sir. Aap shaadi mein aake kya karenge. And I told the same thing to Priyanka also. I told her why bother? Sir won't come. He would find it boring. Ek invitation card ki bachat toh hogi. (She too shrugs her shoulders) Lekin woh nahin maani. I even made a bet with her ki aap nahin aayenge. (Her eyes filled with equal parts of challenge and mischief lock with his impassive ones.) Dekte hain sir, ki mein yeh bet jeetungi ya nahin. (On that note, she leaves Ashu's cabin and closes the door softly behind her.)
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Nidhi is in the orthopaedic ward doing her morning rounds when a case is brought in and she runs to the emergency entrance of KGH. A construction site worker is being brought in and Nidhi is told that he fell down from the first floor of a building nearby that's under construction. As he tried to stop his fall by placing his weight on his right hand, the shoulder is dislocated and there is a fracture on the arm plus a head injury. Nidhi does a quick assessment and places an ice pack on his forehead and calls Dr Rao, the orthopaedic surgeon / HOD and tells the staff to get the patient to the radiology dept pronto. She gives her preliminary report to Dr Rao who tells her to bring in the x ray reports as soon as they are done. The morning shift passes swiftly for Nidhi as Dr Rao sets right the dislocated shoulder and arm is bandaged, surgery scheduled for the next day. The patient had also sustained a minor concussion so was put under observation. Since today is the day of Priyanka's wedding, she wanted to ask Dr Rao's permission and leave a bit early, get ready and go to the marriage. No chance of that now and it's almost 4 by the time she reaches home and 5 by the time she is finally ready to go to the wedding. The muhurat is at night 8 so there is still plenty of time but Priyanka had specifically asked her to come early. Anji helps Nidhi in getting ready and the result is fabulous. She has worn the dark blue and gold sari with a gold colour short sleeved blouse, left her hair loose, and matching bangles for both the hands and a sapphire, ruby gold necklace with matching hanging ear rings. DB is super happy to see Nidhi all decked up.
DB: Arre meri bachchi! Kitni sundar lagrahi hain tu! Kisi ki nazar na lage! Roz roz woh dactar wale kapdon mein dekhke mein toh thak gayi hoon. Haath mein choodiyan bhi nahi pehenti and baalon ki baat toh chodo. Hameesh wahi ponytail ya knot lagati ho. Pata hi nahin chalta tum 24 ki ho ya 54 ki.
Nidhi: DB, hospital ko aise jaaongi na, mujhe ussi din wapas ghar bheja jaayega. Waise har hospital ke yahi rules hote hain. Ab buss, mujhe der horahi hain, mein jaarahi hoon. Raat ko der se lautoongi. Apni phone leke jaarahi hoon. Aap chinta mat keejiye. Saari points cover hogayi?
CV laughs: Haan beta. Saari points cover hogayi. Go and enjoy yourself. And your DB is right. Meri beti vakai iss sari mein bahut achchi lagrahi hain.
Nidhi hugs Anji once again and leaves for Priyanka's wedding. The wedding hall is already decorated with all kinds of flowers and lights. Entrance has a red carpet with flowers strewn over and lanterns on either side and the color theme of the hall is maroon and gold giving the whole thing a very grand look. The mandap is situated at one end of the hall and chairs were placed strategically all over. Nidhi meets all her friends and the general prewedding masti starts and the girls start planning on how to steal the groom's shoes and where to hide them. Nidhi and Jyothika are assigned to that task and the rest all for stopping the groom at the entrance for their "toll tax". The baraat is yet to come and nach gaana by all these friends has started as a way of entertaining themselves and all the guests. Most of the HODs and assistants from KGH have started coming and the staff had decided to take turns. Some would attend the varmala, some the muhurat and some the dinner. That way, KGH wouldn't be left without any staff.
Banno ki mehndi kya kehna
Banno ka joda kya kehna
Banno lage hai phoolon ka gehna
Banno ki aankhen kajraari
Banno lage sab se pyaari
Banno pe jaaoon main waari waari
Ho ho, oh oh, ho oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh
(Banno ki saheli resham ki dori
Chhup chhupke sharmaaye dekhe chori chori) - 2
Yeh maane ya na maane main to ispe mar gaya
Yeh ladki haai allah, haai haai re allah - 2
(Babul ki galiyaan na chhadke jaana
Paagal deewana isko samjhaana) - 2
Dekho ji dekho yeh to mere peechhe pad gaya
Yeh ladka haai allah, haai haai re allah – 2
Rihaan, Ranganath and a few of Nidhi's other classmates from MBBS start dancing along with Jyothika and other girls and Jyothika pulls Nidhi also into the dance. Everyone is in full form and in the middle of the song when Dr Ashutosh, looking absolutely smashing in his black suit minus the tie, walks in. He glances around at everyone, clearly uncomfortable in the setting. God why did I even come! Silly and ridiculous and juvenile of me to let Nidhi provoke me with her challenge. And she knew what she was doing too. I should have just ignored the whole thing. But did I do that? No! Now here I am! And where is the person who issued that stupid challenge in the first place? He tries to look around the dancers and guests but doesn't find her. But he spots Dr Sanjay and some others from KGH and joins them. Everyone looks at him with varying degrees of surprise ranging from pleasant to outright shock.
Dr Sanjay raises his voice to be heard over the music and dance going on: Hello Dr Ashutosh, great to see that you have decided to grace this occasion. Good good. You were a recluse to begin with and each year it just gets worse.
He is elder to Ashu and also his senior and is known to speak him mind. Ashu gives an awkward smile and both settle down at the table and Ashu's gaze once again falls on the dancers and what meets his eye holds him spell bound. Is that really Nidhi? In that sari? With all that glorious hair left out? With expressions changing on her face and eyes to suit the song? Dancing like magic? A part of him realizes that he is staring. But he just can't seem to be helping himself. No wonder I couldn't find her the first time I looked. Just then in the middle of her step, Nidhi spots Ashu and comes to a sudden halt. She looks at him with raised eyebrows, gives him a broad smile and he responds with a lopsided smile of his own and a light shrug as if to say, "Here I am." The dance is coming towards an end and all the dancers start dragging the wedding guests also into dancing along with them. Dr Ranganath comes and pulls Dr Sanjay along, Jyothika takes the hand of Dr Kothari, the Gynac at KGH and Nidhi catches Ashu's hand and takes him along. He tries to protest but it's as if she has suddenly gone deaf. She leaves his hand and starts her dancing around him. He claps along with others but otherwise doesn't move from his place except his gaze follows Nidhi twirling around him to the beat of music until the song comes to an end.
A person comes running inside and announces that the baraat has arrived and everyone including Nidhi rush towards the entrance. Ashu and a few other guests and KGH staff stay back. Nidhi and the rest of the gang tease the groom mercilessly before collecting their toll tax and allowing him entry. Jai Mala happens with a lot of fun and frolick from both the bride's and the groom's friends and everyone make their way towards the mandap. Nidhi, with some of her mischief making friends steal the groom's shoes and gossip among themselves as to where to hide them. Nidhi gets a brilliant idea and hides the shoes in the folds of her sari and comes towards Ashu and sIt's beside him and makes a pretense of watching the proceedings of the wedding.
Nidhi: Sir, talk something to me.
Ashu gives her an incomprehending look: What? Why?
Nidhi: So that I can pretend to be listening to you and hide the shoes under your chair.
Ashu: Why would you want to hide your shoes under MY chair Nidhi?
Nidhi slaps her hand on her forehead: Arre sir, mere shoes nahin. Dulhe ke hain. Inhe waapas denepar nek milta hain hume. (And she looks around casually and nods her head as if he is saying something and she is listening.) And don't look at me like that sir. Shukr keejiye I am not asking you to wear these shoes. Just hiding them under your chair. Aap buss normally kuch baat keejiye. (She bends as little as possible and starts putting the shoes under his chair that's covered with some kind of decorative cloth on the four sides like all the rest of the chairs in the hall.)
Ashu: Normally kya baat karoo?
Nidhi straightens and grins: Ab hogaya! Kuch baat karneki zaroorat hi nahin padi. Chalti hoon sir. Thank you.
And she walks away fast towards the rest of the gang and they give secret high fives to each other. Wedding takes place without any hitch and later everyone makes their way towards the buffet. As it goes with all the buffet dinners, all the friends and collegues form various groups to eat and chat at the same time. Nidhi is circulating from group to group with her dinner plate but as soon as she gets near Ashu, someone behind him jolts him and his juice glass slips from his hand and spills on her sari.
Ashu: Oh no. I am so sorry Nidhi..I..someone..
Nidhi smiles: It's ok sir. Don't worry. I will just wipe it off with a wet tissue. Shopwala bolraha tha ki yeh stain guard fabric hain. I will see if It's true or not. (She puts her plate at a nearby table and goes towards the handwash section. Ashu puts his plate aside and follows her. Wordlessly, he extends a wet tissue to her. She takes it with a smile and about to say "Thank you si.." when she sees that her sari's pallu is tangled with Ashu's cufflink. Both of them look at each other.)
Nidhi bursts out laughing: Sir, this is the 2nd time this has happened. These incidents keep happening to you or am I am exception? (She holds his wrist with one hand and removes her tangled pallu from his cuff link.)
Ashu's soft voice reaches and surrounds her: You are an exception Nidhi. (Before she could comment further, Ashu's phone rings and he moves away to talk for a few seconds and comes back to her.) Nidhi, you remember the ortho case that was brought in today?
Nidhi looks up from her cleaning of sari: Woh construction site wala?
Ashu nods: Yes. There is a complication. We need to go. You are the one who knows the complete history. So..
Nidhi: Sure sir. Just give me a minute. Aap jaake apna car start keejiye, I'll be right with you. (Both leave. Ashu to the parking lot and Nidhi to inform Jyothika and let her know where she hid the shoes and then with a hurried apology to Priyanka, she collects her bag and meets Ashu as soon as he stops the car at the hall entrance. She quickly gets in and fastens her seat belt and the car moves and merges into the traffic.)
Ashu: What about your car?
Nidhi: I came in a taxi. So, whats the complication sir?
Ashu: That guy has now become paraplegic. That's why Dr Rao didn't come to the wedding. In the evening he said he could not feel his legs and now from neck down he can't feel anything.
Nidhi: Oh! Toh ab?
Ashu: Ab? Ab you tell me. What should be done?
Nidhi bites her lip in thought: CT scan?
Ashu: Correct. That's going on as we speak. My guess is he has a clot in the lumbar region of the spine. Dr Rao would be operating but he requested my presence. So..oh and you get to be the scrub since the rest are busy over there at the wedding.
Nidhi says thoughtfully..a pleased expression on her face: My first surgical assistance!
Ashu: Sorry that I dragged you out of your friend's wedding.
Nidhi: No sir. Don't worry about it. It's part of who we are, right? Aur aap ne toh mujhe bulaya hain. Priyanka ko nahin na. Priyanka phere lerahi hain and you go there and say, "Excuse me, Dr Priyanka, there is an emergency and we need to leave right away!" (Then giggles at the image she has just pictured. Ashu huffs out a laugh. A slight pause and then) Waise, bet mein mujhe haraane keliye thank you sir.
Ashu glances at her while driving: You are thanking me for making you lose the bet?
Nidhi turns towards him and says in her best SRK voice: Haarkar jeetne waale ko baazigar kehte hain..sir!
Ashu throws back his head and laughs out loud. His laughter fades into a lingering smile when he sees gazing at his face with fond rapt attention: So..what was the bet?
Nidhi stammers: J..Ji?
Ashu gives her a "caught you" look: You made a bet with Priyanka, right? What was the bet about?
Nidhi bites her lip at getting caught but recovers almost immediately: I told her if I lost the bet, I wouldn't drink elaichi tea for one week. (She puts on a mock sad face making him chuckle. Both reach KGH and rush inside. Nidhi removes her jewellery at a rapid speed and dumps them in her hand band and after a little fishing, finds a hair band in the same bag to tie up her hair. Since its Nidhi's first experience in OT, the staff nurse helps her in donning the scrubs and gloves. She enters the OT just in time and the surgery begins. It's a time taking surgery where the clot couldn't be spotted immediately and Ashu has had to lend his hand but finally everything goes well.)
Dr Rao looks at Nidhi: Dr Nidhi, I heard quite a bit about your suturing skills. Want to show us too?
Nidhi raises her smiling eyes at him and asks through her mask: Aap ko kaunsa design chahiye sir? I didn't faint during the surgery so I am kind of in a generous mood. (That breaks the tension in the OT and everyone relaxes and Nidhi sutures off the patient. Ashu comes to his cabin, has a couple of glasses of water and after sending sms to Ranga and updating him on the news, makes his way home. When he reaches the reception, he remembers that Nidhi has no way to get back home and he retraces his steps back towards the Interns resting room.)
After knocking a couple of times and not getting any response, he slowly opens the door and peeks inside: Nidhi? (Silence meets him but seeing that the light is on, he goes inside to find Nidhi fast asleep on the sofa. She is in the middle of sofa, with her feet still on the ground but her upper body curled up on one half it with her head resting on her folded arm. Her even breathing signals her deep sleep. He stands there..undecided. Should I wake her up and drop her home or let her sleep? She must be really exhausted to drop off like a light without even taking time to remove her shoes or getting comfortable. He slowly bends and lifts her feet onto the sofa, carefully removes her shoes and gets a blanket from the bed in the corner and puts it on her, backs off and switches off the main light and closes the door on his way out. Then he informs at the reception about Nidhi being in the hospital for a surgery and tells them to call her residence and give the information so that they don't get worried. Nidhi gets up in the morning feeling out of place and disoriented. She blinks a couple of times to clear her vision and looks around as if wondering where she is. Seeing that she is still in the interns' room, she looks at the watch and gives a small squeal. 6am?? The last thing she remembered was coming to this room to freshen up a bit and drink some water. Then she sat here on the sofa to put up her feet and that's it. God knows Baba and DB would be panicking by now. Oh God! She hunts for her phone in the bag and calls home. CV picks up.
Nidhi: Baba, mein Nidhi..
CV: Nidhi, beta, kya hua? Surgery kaisa raha? Sab teek?
Nidhi: Baba, aap ko kisne..?
CV: Arre Nidhi, kal raat ko KGH se phone aaya tha na. They told us that you had to come for an emergency surgery and later were too tired to make the trip home so were taking rest there.
Nidhi sighs in relief: Oh. Thank God! Pata nahi Baba kab aankh lag gayi. I just got up and I am on my way home. Ok?
CV: Ok beta. Be careful.
Nidhi: Ji Baba. (And she disconnects the call. She rubs her face and puts her feet down and sees that her shoes were removed and put to a side and there is a blanket covering her. Now, when did this happen? Was I so out of it that I don't remember removing my own shoes and getting a blanket or did someone come in here after I knocked off? She quickly makes a trip to the rest room, takes her bag, and makes her way out. She approaches the reception to thank the staff for calling her home, only to be told that it was Dr Ashutosh who gave them the orders. Oh! He knew I was asleep. So he was the one who put the blanket over me? She blinks slowly in surprise, smiles and makes her way home.
A couple of days later, Nidhi is doing her morning shift and it's almost 1.00 in the afternoon when Dr Ranganath comes to meet her: Hi Ranganath! Aap ko hamaari yaad kaise aagayi? Anji ko koi message dena hain kya? (She playfully wriggles her eyebrows)
Ranga gives a despairing sigh: Message dene se kya fayda Nidhiji. Aap ki dost sune tab na! Achcha woh chodiye. I am here for something else altogether. The patient Dr Rao and Dr Ashutosh operated on? His progress is good and he is ready to be shifted from the ICU. But I need to know the change of medication and some signatures from Dr Ashutosh. Since you already know the case history and were present during the surgery, could you get it done please?
Nidhi tilts her head and gives a confused look: Kyon? Woh apne cabin mein nahin hain kya?
Ranga: No Dr Nidhi. He is actually on leave today and tomorrow. His father has viral fever so..
Nidhi ignores the leap of her heart: Oh! Ok. I will go. Not a problem. Par..address?
Ranga: Here, I have written the address on this paper and there is Dr Ashutosh's cell number too in case you have difficulty finding his house. Today is your nightshift right? (Nidhi nods her head) Toh aap aisa keejiye..you get the signatures and take the file along with you and bring it back at 8 when you are coming. As for the medication, give me a call and I will note them down. Ok?
Nidhi: Ok. I will ask Dr Rao's permission and leave right away then.
Ranga: I already did that. He gave his ok. So go ahead. (He turns to go but stops) Achcha Nidhiji..you are aware that KGH is conducting a mega medical camp next week, right? (Nidhi nods) You are going to have to go to that. It's a 3 day trip. Be prepared. Ok?
Nidhi nods again with enthusiasm: Yeh mega medical camp hota kya hain Dr Ranganath?
Ranga: Normally, we conduct medical camps quite frequently in KGH. Jaise ki Optholmic camp ya OBG. But once in 6 months, we conduct these mega camps too. We select a base and set up a camp in an area that could cover 3 or 4 villages near by and PG and doctors from all major departments attend that along with the interns. Aap sab ko bhi seekhne ko bahut kuch milega. So try not to miss it.
Nidhi: You got to be kidding! Why would I miss it? Yeah..but Priyanka won't be there. (Ranga nods to say that he is aware of that. Nidhi bites her lower lip but finally loses the battle to keep her mouth shut) Humaare dean bhi aarahe hain kya?
Ranga nods: Regualar camps mein just the HOD of that particular department goes. But this one is a mega camp na. So Dr Ashutosh will be there to supervise and stuff. (Saying that he gets up) Chaliye mein chalta hoon. You please don't forget to call me after getting the information from him.
Nidhi takes the file and the address slip and leaves in her car. The address is clear enough but enroute Nidhi gets a sudden idea and makes a quick stop at a supermarket before reaching the residence of Dr Ashutosh. She gets down from the car and stands for a few moments to look at the house. So, this is where he lives! There is a lawn in front of the house and a few creepers and flowered plants which looked well cared for. Someone in the house does have a hobby of gardening. The house It'self has ground floor and a floor above that and the windows in the ground floor are all glass paned with curtains adorning them and extend from floor to ceiling. And in the middle is the main door. She walks up to it and rings the bell. HK opens the door and gives her a questioning look.
HK: Ji, kahiye?
Nidhi: Namaste, mera naam Nidhi hain. I am an intern at KGH and I have come to meet Dr Ashutosh.
HK steps back with a smile: Aao beti. Andar aao. Sit down and I will call Ashutosh.
Nidhi: Ji..aap Hiraman Kaka hain na. Dr Ashutosh ne bataya aap ke baare mein. He said your cooking skills are amazing. (HK looks speechless in surprise for a few moments. Ashu talked about HIM to this girl?)
Ashu: Kaka, who is it?
Nidhi: It's me sir. Nidhi.
Ashu's frown clears and his face visibly brightens, which doesn't escape HK: Oh hello Nidhi. How come you? Here? Everything ok?
Nidhi: Ji sir. Dr Ranganath said you were on leave and wanted these papers signed by you and wanted me discuss the shifting of the ICU patient and his medication too. So here I am. Oh..how is your Baba doing now sir?
Ashu: He is ok. Still has temperature and cold and cough. I have started the antibiotic. He will be fine once that starts kicking in. Come in..come in. Have a seat.
Nidhi: Weather change sir. Lots of cases in KGH with these virals.
HK: Beti, chai peeyogi?
Nidhi gives him a broad smile: No thank you Kakaji. Normally I don't say no to chai but abhi toh lunch ka time hain na. I will go home and have my lunch. Sir, aap ke Baba ne lunch karli?
Ashu seems a little taken aback by the question: No. not yet. He says nothing tastes good. But with the antibiotics, it's not good to be on an empty stomach, right?
HK: Haan beti. Meine kichdi bhi banaya. Par unhone toh haath tak nahi lagaaya.
Nidhi's eyes spark up with enthusiasm: Kakaji, mere paas ek idea hain. And I think it will work. If you don't mind, mein aap ke saath aap ke kitchen mein chaloo? (A sudden hesitation seizes her and her step falters. Jeez..may be this is a bad idea! Oh! Me and my impulsive behaviour! Just when she starts thinking about what to say further, HK recovers from his own shock and smiles.)
HK: Haan haan beti. Kyon nahi. Aajao mere saath. (Her confidence once again restored, she grins and follows HK. Ashu is left standing alone with a bemused look as both HK and Nidhi completely ignoring him, go into kitchen and soon he hears Nidhi's non stop chatter with HK.)
Nidhi: Aap ko pata hain Kakaji..
HK: Beti, ab toh tum khaana pakaane mein meri madad karrahi ho na. Sirf Kaka bulao mujhe. Achcha lagtha hain.
Nidhi nods happily: Ok. Toh Kaka, mere Baba jab army mein the na toh unki posting ek baar Chennai mein hua tha. Wahan meri maa ne jabardast south Indian Rasam banana seekh liya. Whenever any of us fell sick, that became our diet. And when my mom fell sick, I learnt how to do that. So we'll try it with Dr Mathur also. What do you say?
HK: Idea toh achcha hain. Par uske liye kuch masale ki zaroorat padti hain na?
Nidhi: Haan. I got it from the supermarket on my way here. (She brandishes it infront of HK like in an ad making him laugh) Ab aap mujhe buss kaun si cheez kahan par hain yeh bataiye. Baaki I will do it. (HK keeps handing over things that she needs and she starts her rasam preparation and in parallel cooks some plain rice to go with it. Ashu keeps watching all this from his place at the dining table. Nidhi..in his house..in the kitchen..her laughing voice echoing through the walls..he feels a strange kind of peace descending over him. He visibly shakes himself and starts looking over the papers Nidhi had brought along with her and does the signatures while whistling a tune.) Nidhi hears it and stops her work at the stove and looks at him: Arre Dactar Saheb, na toh yeh raat hain na nadi ka kinara hain..toh yeh gaana kyon gaarahe hain?
Ashu looks up in surprise and closes the file and gets up from the chair: Doctarni Sahiba, I am surprised! Aap toh Rockstar generation ke ho and you know what I was whistling?
Nidhi grins: Aap woh gaana toh gaayiye! Phir dekhiye mera kamaal!
(After giving her a thoughtful look and receiving a challenging one in return, he raises his eyebrow in acceptance of that challenge and starts sings. Nidhi's hands stop stirring and her eyes grow wide with wonder as his melodious voice reaches her. Her eyes once again locked with his now intense ones, she joins her sweet voice to his to take the song forward. The sliding away of his gaze from hers is the only indication of how her voice is affecting him. When Ashu is about to stop after the first couple of lines, Nidhi hops and gestures with her hands to continue and both end up singing the whole song in a typical duet fashion.)
Yeh raaten, yeh mausam, nadee ka kinara, yeh chanchal hawa
Kaha do dilon ne, ke milkar kabhi hum na honge judaa
Yeh raaten, yeh mausam, nadee ka kinara, yeh chanchal hawa
Yeh kya baat hai, aaj ki chandni mein
Ke hum kho gaye, pyaar ki raagani mein
Yeh bahon mein baahen, yeh behki nigahen
Lo aane laga zindagi ka maza
Yeh raaten, yeh mausam, nadee ka kinara, yeh chanchal hawa
Sitaron ki mehfil ne karke ishara
Kaha ab to sara jahaan hai tumhara
Mohabbat jawaan ho, khula aasman ho
Kare koi dil arzoo aur kya
Yeh raaten, yeh mausam, nadee ka kinara, yeh chanchal hawa
BB is lying down in his bed all wrapped up under a blanket but opens his eyes as soon as he hears Ashu singing. His son usually sang only when he was in a really really good mood and that too without any audience. BB's smile quickly turns into a frown when soon a female voice also follows. Now, whose voice is that? Some recorded song is being played out or has the age finally caught up with me and I am hallucinating? HK comes into the room at an almost run and BB gives him a questioning look to which HK gestures him to be quiet and to come out along with him. BB slowly gets up from the bed and makes it way out to the dining area and sees a scene that literally makes his jaw drop open. A girl is cooking in their kitchen and Ashu is leaning against the kitchen entrance wall and both of them are singing. Her cooking also draws to a close along with the song and she washes her hands at the sink and turns. Ashu silently hands over the napkin and she bows her head in silent thank you and laughs at the end of the song. The tenderness in his son's eyes as he looks at the girl makes BB all the more curious about her identity. The way Ashu's hand rises as if to touch her downbent head before fisting and getting stuffed into the pocket of his trousers doesn't escape BB's notice either. Ashu and Nidhi get startled at the sound of applause and look around to see BB and HK clapping with a big big smiles on their faces. Nidhi immediately feels shy and bows her head.
BB doesn't give a chance for Ashu to back off or leave the room: That was a great performance. Ashu, kaun hain yeh?
Nidhi: Namaste Dr Mathur. I am Nidhi. Mein KGH mein internship kar rahi hoon. I just..I..I came to get some papers signed by Dr Ashutosh and..
HK: And ended up cooking lunch and singing songs.
BB: Gaana toh meine suna par yeh khaana?? (And turns to HK with a frown on his face) Hiraman, tum ghar aaye mehmaan ko khaana pakaneko kehdiya?
Nidhi: No sir. I actually didn't give a choice to Kaka. I..kind of..took over his kitchen..temporarily of course. Aap ki tabiyat ab kaisi hain sir?
BB: Thoda better hain Beti. Par tand bahut lag rahi hain.
Nidhi: Toh aap baitjaayiye aur jo meine banaya hain woh taste keejiye. I think you will like it.
BB is totally confused at the way this day is turning out to be but nevertheless obediently takes a seat at the dining table. Nidhi serves rice in a bowl and mixes the rasam with a tiny bit of ghee in it and gets a spoon and puts the bowl infront of BB on the table. BB after giving an odd look to HK and Ashu before tentatively tasting a small spoonful. Tastes bud explode with a delightful mixture of sour and spice: Beti, yeh toh wakai kamaal hain. Iss bukhaar ki haalat mein toh aur bhi kamaal hain. (And those are the only words he says before applying himself to the bowl of rasam rice with obvious gusto. Ashu and HK are delighted that he is finally eating something. Nidhi and HK exchange a small thumbs up sign which doesn't escape Ashu's eyes. He bows his head slightly in a wordless "Thank you" which she responds by shaking her head with a grin.
Nidhi: Achcha sir. Toh mein chalti hoon. Aur kaka, meine raat ke liye bhi rasam banaake rakh diya hain. You can just heat it up before serving. Agar aap phir se banana chaahe toh instructions likhke meine aap ke fridge ke side pe chipka diya hain.
HK: Arre Nidhi beta, tum bhi khaana khaake jao na. Aise kaise?
BB finally looks up from the rasam rice bowl: Haan haan Nidhi, mujhe khilaake tum bina khaaye hi chali jaogi kya?
Nidhi: Sir, phir kabhi. I didn't tell at home and DB will be waiting for me. Next time pakka. I promise. Ab chalti hoon. (Then she turns to Ashu) Sir, can I take the file with me? Aur medicines ki list banadi aap ne?
Ashu hands over the file and the prescription: Thank you for doing all this for Baba Nidhi.
Nidhi: The pleasure is mine sir. See you later.
Ashu walks with her till her car and when they reach the gate, he holds it with one hand and looks at her with his usual lopsided smile: Toh Doctarni Sahiba ko purane gaanon ka shauk hain! I didn't think you would even know who the singer would be, much less the lyrics of the song. Who is your favourite singer?
Nidhi looks at him with a naughty smile: Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar. And as for me liking old songs, sir, woh kehte hain na..never judge a book by It's cover. (Ashu chuckles a bit at that and nods his head as if in agreement. Then with a tiny wave Nidhi leaves and makes her way home. She is again back at KGH by 8pm for her nightshift and she gives the file to Dr Ranganath and does her usual rounds. Once assuring that all the patients are taken care of for the night, she informs the nurse that she would be on the terrace if she is needed and goes there and stands leaning against the wall. She looks up at the moon but all she can see is Dr Ashutosh! Her Boss! The way he smiles, the sometimes intense and sometimes tender looks of his. She sees his eyes sparkling in anger and then she sees him covering her with his coat on this same terrace and giving his hand to help her get up. The slight tilt of his head as he leaned against the gate of his house while he waved bye at her..his typical expression of Dr Heartstone with one eyebrow raised..the way he threw his head back while laughing out loud..his voice when he sang the song with her..my God! What a voice! (Her arms hug herself.) Why do I keep thinking about him? Why do I keep reliving every small little moment that I spent with him? Why do I keep seeing his face whenever I close my eyes? What is happening to me? (Her face tilts up as she looks at the star studded sky and her lips form the most beautiful smile on her face.) Dr Ashutosh Mathur..what are you up to?!
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Nidhi is startled out of her sleep when Jyothika shakes her awake: Nidhi..utna yaar. Subah hogayi. (Nidhi blinks her eyes open and sits up in the interns' room) Jaldi uto. Dr Heartstone ne dekhliya toh buss hochuka!
Nidhi stretches and yawns: Good morning.
Jyothika: What time did you sleep?
Nidhi: I was awake till almost 3.30. Uska baad I informed Janki Bai to wake me if anything pops up. Chal..chalke coffee peete hain.
Jyothika picks up her bag: I am off home. Wahi jaake peeyungi.
Nidhi nods and quickly freshens up before deciding against going to the canteen. She never did like the taste of coffee in the canteen. Tea, yes. But not coffee. Collecting her wallet and stuffing her feet in her slippers, she walks out of KGH to the near by tapir, a tiny stall which specialises in strong coffee. After having a couple of cups, she comes awake fully and her glance falls on the near by florist. Inspiration strikes her and she pays the chai wala before going to the florist and selecting 6 different colours of roses. Her foot tap impatiently as she waits for him to cut the thorns and make them into a proper bunch. It's still early na. Sir won't be in the cabin. Chupke se wahaa rakhke aajaungi. She hides them as best as possible in her dupatta once she gets inside KGH and with a quick look around, she goes to Ashu's cabin. Just to be on the safe side, she opens it a tiny bit and peeks inside. Once assured that it's empty, she gives a relieved sigh and with a jaunty step goes inside. Scattered files and papers on his table greet her. A tidy person by nature, Nidhi sets about putting the table in order before taking out a glass from the shelf and filling it with fresh water. After placing the flowers in it and making sure it's at the right place on the table, she steps back to survey the effect. Satisfied with the final look, she grins and kisses her fingers as if appreciating her own handiwork and genious brain. She once again opens the door a peek, makes sure there is no one lurking in the corridor and quietly slithers off from his cabin closing the door softly behind her before tiptoeing along the corridor.
Ashu steps out of the lift and halts. His frown is quickly replaced but a smile as he sees the way Nidhi is making herself obvious by trying hard NOT to be obvious. His head tilts to one side. Now, she is coming out of my cabin..wonder what was she up to! She stops near the stairs, adjusts her coat and once again starts walking briskly down the steps, her professional demeanour once again in place. He huffs out a silent laugh at her antics before going to his cabin. A bunch of roses greet him as soon as he opens the door..like a wild splash of colour in an otherwise sterile room. His fingers touch the petals in a gentle almost caressing gesture. Iss cabin ka toh pata nahi but you have certainly made my day more colourful, Nidhi Verma. Thank you. That single gesture of flowers changes something in both of them and without their conscious effort or knowledge, their relationship encroaches into the personal domain from a professional one. After a couple of days of regularly replacing the dried flowers with another bunch of fresh ones, Nidhi enters his cabin on the third day with a bunch of daisies and she finds the glass replaced by a small beautiful flower vase. She jumps up in joy. Now, she knows that he knows and he knows that she knows that he knows. The flowers become a way of greeting from her and Ashu looked forward to that greeting every day. They usually ended up having lunch together unless Nidhi had a night or evening shift. Flowers used to get changed even on those days although at a different time. And that's how Ashu starts keeping track of her duties and adjusts his lunch timings. Sometimes he had one of his colleagues with him for lunch or she came with her friends and they couldn't share a table. But still for both of them, it felt like they were having lunch together. They seldom ever held a conversation during those times and were unaware of the looks of speculation directed towards them from the staff and doctors of KGH.
One day evening, just as Ashu is about to get into his car in the KGH parking lot, he hears her shout of "SIR! SIR EK MINUTE!" He closes the car door and leans against it as he waits for her to lock her own car and come to him at a brisk fast walk: Yes Nidhi?
Nidhi fumbles in her white coat and pulls out her notebook: You wanted the address of my father's orphanage, right? (Ashu nods and Nidhi tears the page from her book and hands it over to him with a smile) I had written it long back. Harr roz ghar se sochke nikalti hoon ki aap ko doongi aur harr roz bhool jaati hoon. Sorry sir. Here you go.
Ashu's eyes smile into hers: Shukr hain aap apne mareez aur unki dawaaon ko iss tarah nahi bhoolti.
Nidhi's come back is almost instant: Woh humaare khadoos dean hume kahaa kuch bhoolne dete hain sir. (Before the statement sinks in,) Chalti hoon sir. Night shift hain aaj. Bye. Goodnight. (And runs away leaving him with her note in his hand and a smile in his heart.)
Next day (Sunday):
Anji and Nidhi go out for some shopping and Sunday masti and CV leaves for the boys' shelter that he is running. "Nandini Home for Boys". Every Sunday, he and his friends take turns and make sure they come here and see to the kids and engage them in some sports and games. As soon as the children see him, they run and greet him. There are about 25 kids there aging between 8 and 15. CV gathers them all around and after giving them the fruit salad prepared by the cook over there, engages them in a game of football where in he takes up the role of the refree. The whole ground soon echoes with the sound of the shouts and laughs of the boys and CV looks on with a smile on his face. After about 30-45 minutes, he hears the sound of a car coming through the gates and looks around to see a man getting down from symphony silver Toyota Etios. Quickly CV calls an older kid and asks him to look after the other kids and walks fwd to meet the guest. All said and done, this centre runs mainly through donations and every little amount helps.
CV: Hello sir. May I help you?
Ashu: Ji. Mera naam Dr Ashutosh hain. And i..
CV's face lights up in recognition as the name clicks immediately: Oh Dr Ashutosh! Dean of KGH, right? (Ashu nods and both of them shake hands) Nidhi told me that you wanted to come here. I am Col. Verma, Nidhi's father. Welcome! Welcome! Please, come inside Dr Ashutosh.
Ashu: Ji. I wanted to come earlier but.. (He shrugs) Aaj Sunday bhi hain toh socha..
CV: That's very nice and kind of you Dr Ashutosh and of course, I understand. I have a doctor in my house too. A doctor in the making, of course.
Ashu stops walking and turns towards Yog: Ji. I think a very good doctor in the making. And Col. Verma, Nidhi told me about her mom. I am sorry for your loss sir.
CV: Thank you Dr Ashutosh. (Both reach the small one room office.) Now please have a seat. Would you like to have something to drink? Tea? Coffee?
Ashu: No. Nothing. Thanks. Since when have been running this centre?
CV: More than 5 years. The idea was given to me by my wife. Hence the name "Nandini". She saw so many kids at the railway stations and bus depots begging and cleaning cars etc. She felt they were that way because they had no choice. And wanted them to have a choice.
Ashu gives a sad laugh: Choice! You are right Col. Verma. Most of the times, kids have no choice. And as time passes by, they start feeling that this is the life they are destined for. The kind of life that they deserve. So they stop fighting for something better.
CV gives him a thoughtful look: You have a wonderful insight into their psych Dr Ashutosh. Come, I will show you around and you can see what it is we are doing or at least trying to do.
Both of them take a tour of the centre and Ashu makes some observations and suggests a more nutritious diet which is also cost effective. CV also shows him the small area where their first aid kit and other emergency medicines are stored and informs him that Nidhi is responsible for that. At the end of the tour, they come to the playground where the kids are still playing and Ashu looks at them. Everyone seems to be genuinely having lots of fun. No kid lurking in any corner fearing his security will be snatched away or afraid of what would happen the next moment. Both of them make their way back to the office talking.
CV: Buss yahi hain. I have few very good friends of mine from the army who are also retired. They help and pitch in anyway they can. Koi khelna sikhata hain toh koi infrastructure ki dekhbaal karta hain.
Ashu: Col. Verma, what you are doing or trying to do is not a small thing. I applaud your actions and the thoughts behind your actions. And I want to make a donation for the centre. Can I?
CV gives a very warm smile: Sure. Every penny that comes in helps us. And we would send you a summary of how the donation has been utilised and what its been used for. If you can just fill up your mail id in this form, I will take care of the rest of the formalities.
Ashu quickly writes his mail id in the form along with his phone number: Agar koi medical emergency ho toh don't hesitate to call. I will do whatever I can to help. And whose name should I address the check to?
CV gives the complete name of the centre and takes out the receipt book while Ashu fills out the check and signs it and passes it on to him. The amount written on it gives a pause to CV. He makes sure he has read it correctly and then looks at Ashu: Dr Ashutosh…yeh toh..I mean…such a huge amount and that too on your first visit…please don't get me wrong. I am really really grateful for it.
Ashu looks at him with a little smile: Col. Verma, jo aap kar rahe hain woh koi chota kaam nahi hain. And what I am giving you now is very little compared to that.
CV: Sir, one lakh is not a small amount.
Ashu: Aap mujhse bade hain. Please don't call me sir. Ashutosh is fine. And small or big, I have given and you are accepting it. Let's leave it at that.
CV: Ok whatever you say Dr..I mean Ashutosh. And once again, thank you very much.
Ashu gets up and shakes his hand: Ab mein chalta hoon.
CV: Ashutosh, we are organising a charity function next month for these kids. I will personally come and invite you. And this time kids are showing a lot of interest and they want to do a show of their own then. You are welcome to participate if you are interested. Or may be you could train the kids for some kind of skit or something. If you don't mind that is.
Ashu: Thank you for the offer Vermaji. Par iss profession ki bhaagdaud mein time nahi milega shaayad. But I will surely attend the function. Abhi chalta hoon. (CV comes till the car and thanks Ashu once again and with a final wave, Ashu drives off.)
At a Mall:
Nidhi and Anji settle down on a bench outside Mc Donald's outlet. Anji had realized as soon as she saw Nidhi's face that morning that she wanted to tell her something so both of them got ready rapidly, told Shyama that they were going for some shopping and came here. Anji puts her feet up and settles herself comfortably: Ab bol. Kya baat karni hain?
Nidhi hesitates: Kuch nahin yaar. Its been long since we sat and gossiped na toh..
Anji: Nidhi, you are a horrible liar. Now, come on, out with it.
Nidhi gives her a fond smile: Anji, you remember the other day you asked how will I know when I fall in love?
Anji grins: Oh yeah! Tumne kahaa..when you think of love and close your eyes, all you will see is that person.
Nidhi closes her eyes: Anji, I think I am in love.
Anji's posture becomes erect and her eyes become as wide as saucers: What? Kab? Kaise? Kaun hain woh? Do I know him?
Nidhi shakes her head: Kab aur kaise hua even I don't know. Buss hogaya.
Anji: Par kisse?
Nidhi: Dr Ashutosh. KGH ke dean.
Anji looks at Nidhi with a look of utter disbelief at first and then smiles and wriggles her eyebrows: Is he handsome to look at?
Nidhi blinks slowly and her eyes become soft as the image of Ashu dances before her: Mujhe toh bahut handsome dikhte hain.
Anji: Tall, dark and handsome?
Nidhi: Yes. With a beard and glasses and a few strands of grey at his temples.
Anji nods in perfect understanding: You know, mujhe bhi bilkul aisa hi laga tha mere Math teacher ko dekh ke….jab mein 8th standard mein thi. And my darling, it is called infatuation. It's pretty common with teachers and bosses. Don't worry. You will get over it.
Nidhi's temper sparks: Mein itni serious baat bolrahi hoon and you want to joke about it?
Anji: Mazaak kahan yaar? Mujhe toh kahi nazar nahi aarahi. You said you are infatuated with your boss and I said it happens. That's all.
Nidhi: Yeh infatuation nahi hain Anji.
Now Anji also gets serious: Then what are you saying yaar? That you have fallen in love with a man who is almost 20 years elder than you? Is that it?
Nidhi looks straight at Anji and answers: Yes Anji. That's what I am saying.
Anji remains speechless for a few moments then recovers: Nidhi, you have gone mad. Thoda akal laga. Soch! You yourself will realize that you are talking utter nonsense.
Nidhi gives Anji a kind of helpless look: I have thought about it. That's what I have been doing for the past couple of days and that's what I did the WHOLE of last night. Shaayad kisi ko samajh mein bhi nahin aayega. Kisi aur ki baat kyon? I don't understand it myself. I know my family probably won't accept it. Probably kya..they won't accept it for sure. But Anji, I didn't choose for any of this to happen. But now it has and I..don't know what to do!
Anji: Listen, first of all, calm down. I don't think its love. (Nidhi makes a move to get up but Anji holds her arm and pulls back) No. Wait. Don't get angry. Listen to what I have to say. Are you listening? Ok. Now, don't do anything now. Keep it aside. And if I am right and its just infatuation, it will go off by itself. And don't even THINK of mentioning this to Dr Ashutosh. He will laugh it off and you will end up looking like a fool or he will get furious and fire you. Neither of those options is good. Right?
Nidhi: So you think I should just shut up? For how long Anji?
Anji: Tell me one thing first. Is this guy married already?
Nidhi: No. I went to his house the other day to get some papers signed. I know he is not married. Ranganath also told me he is not married.
Anji looks heavenward: Thank God for small mercies! Ok. As for how long..I don't know. First you have to be really sure and then you have to know what HE thinks of you. Nidhi, what is this yaar? Yeh sab sunne mein bhi ajeeb lag raha hain.
Nidhi looks at Anji: You think I don't realize the situation is hopeless? Par Anji, mera yakeen maan..he DOES mean something to me. Everytime I meet with him, I have this sense of familiarity. Apnepan ka ehsaas hota hain. I know loving him is neither ideal nor easy. But I don't seem to have a choice here.
Anji gives her a one armed hug: Don't worry. Mein hoon na tere saath. (Nidhi nods her head and smiles a little. Although, Anji has assured her friend, the situation nevertheless starts worrying her. God yeh kya horaha hain mere Nidhi ke saath! You keep putting her through one test after the other. Pehle aunty ab yeh! I was so happy to see her smiling and laughing the last few weeks. The thought never even crossed my mind that the reason behind that would be something like this. She is not going to back off either. The Nidhi I know is not going to back off irrespective of what comes her way. Bhagwaan, aap ne yeh situation rakha hain na. Toh aap hi solve karo. But whatever You decide, I will stay with my friend and support her. And that's my promise to You. She quickly schools her face to normalcy before facing Nidhi again.) Achcha bata..shopping karni hain ya nahi. Tera medical camp toh kal subah hi hain na. Nidhi nods and bites her lower lip: Aur parson Dr Ashutosh ka birthday hain. I..I want to buy something for him with my stipend Anji.
Anji frowns: Tujhe kaise pata ki unka birthday hain?
Some of the spark enters Nidhi's eyes again: Kal Rihaan ka birthday tha. He gave us a treat in the canteen and all that. That actually had me thinking..and..(She slides her gaze away from Anji) Meine Ranganath ko thoda maska maarke sir ke personal file se yeh information nikaala hain. Please Anji. I want to buy something. Please? (Anji relents with a sigh and nod) But what do I buy? (She pulls Anji along with her and starts window shopping. Her gaze falls on one of displays. A grape coloured kurta. Her entire face lights up. She squeezes Anji's arm) Anji..Anji..mujhe woh khareedna hain.
Anji: Tu paagal hain kya? That's a personal gift. You can't give him something like that. He is your boss Nidhi.
Nidhi gives a tiny sad smile: May be I will never get a chance to give it to him. But I still want to buy it for him. Apni pehli kamai hain Anji and I want to..(The rest of her sentence goes unsaid. Anji rubs her forehead. God, when has life become so complicated?! Nidhi is hellbent on bringing pain on herself and all I can do is watch and be there for her. I know whats going to happen. I know Nidhi won't be able to hide her feeling for long. It's not in her nature. She doesn't love easily but when she does, it's like an avalanche. Noone can stop it. At this point I am not even sure if I want this Ashutosh person to accept Nidhi's feelings or reject them.)
Anji: Fine. Take it then. But think of something else as a birthday gift. (Nidhi ponders a bit before going inside the store. She returns after a few minutes carrying two bags. One holding the kurta and the other one holding a gift wrapped rectangular almost flat box.) What did you buy?
Nidhi grins: A tie. Ab chal. Mujhe tere liye bhi kuch khareedna hain..apni pehli kamai hain buddy..chal chal..phir lunch bhi karte hain. (Seeing Anji giving her worried looks, she slows down her walk) Darr toh mujhe bhi thoda lagraha hain Anji par tu itna mat soch. Jo hoga dekha jaayega. Ma kehti thi na..remember her favourite quote? "You've got to dance like there's nobody watching, sing like there's nobody is listening and.."
Anji completes the quote with a rueful smile: "Love like you'll never be hurt." Jaanti hoon. Achcha teek hain. Chal. Mujhe ek top chahiye woh black jeans ke saath pehnne ke liye. (Both friends hug and continue with their shopping.)
Next day morning (Monday): KGH compound: 4 vans are parked and ready to go to the medical camp with banner of KGH on all of them. Ranganath had already the previous day to oversee the set up of tents and other accommodations for the doctors and assistants and PGs and interns. Interns and PG have been divided into groups and assigned to the HODs of the departments OBG, Ophtholmology, General, Ortho, Paediatric, Neurology and Pathology. Ashu walks out of the hospital building with the charts in hand and he starts reading out the names. Nidhi's eyes drink in his sight but she quickly looks away as his gaze falls on her. She and the rest of the members pick up their bags and make way to the vans. Just before getting into the van she turns her head to search for him only to find him looking at her from his position near the first van. She gives a smile and a small wave and he acknowledges it with a subtle nod. Finally everyone is boarded and the vans one after one leave the compound.
Second day of the medical camp: Early morning:
Ashu, from his postion near one of the tents, stands and looks at Nidhi..who with her hair in a top knot and wearing a thigh length kurta over her faded blue jeans and her white coat over that, is following the list that Rihaan is reading out and arranging all the medicines that are required for the day into different piles that would later on go to the concerned doctors. She is a meticulous person that way and likes an order in everything..even his desk at KGH. No matter how haphazardly he left it at the end of the day, he found it in a neat order the next day. Considering the fact of how well she usually handles children, he had put her under Dr Sanjay yesterday and true to his belief, she not only connected with most of the kids brought in for check up but also spoke to some of the parents one on one regarding the immunization and its importance. He sees the way she throws back her head and laughs out loud. Rihaan probably cracked some joke. She never does anything by half measures. No soft giggle or soundless laughs from her. No sir! In the last few weeks how many facets of hers have I seen! Her gentle nature while handling the children, her fascination and dedication to her profession, her naughty and often ribald sense of humour, her anger at herself and others when something does not turn out the way she wants, her impatience when she has to wait, the way she seems to look forward to each day with joy on her face and anticipation in her eyes..as if she can't wait to face what life has in store for her..
Ranganath, who is standing a couple of feet away, sees the way his boss is looking at Nidhi and sighs. He instinctively knows that whatever it is that these two are feeling, it is limited to just that. "Feeling." But the speculations and gossip have already started at KGH. "Yeh aaj kal Dr Ashutosh kuch zyaada hi smile kar rahe hain..nahi?" "Aap ne notice kiya kya? Dr Ashutosh most of the time has lunch with the intern Nidhi Verma! Kuch chakkar hain kya?" "Come to think of it, I never saw him shouting at Nidhi." He sighs. Talk about getting stuck between a rock and a hard place. Na boss se kuch kehsakta hoon na Nidhi se. I neither want to be skinned alive by my boss nor by Anji. (He tilts his head up to the sky.) Bhagwaan! Ab meri madad toh buss aap hi karsakte ho! (He brings himself back to the matter at hand, checks the file that's with him and approaches Ashu): Sir?
Ashu blinks, his expression once again becoming neutral and his face a polite mask: Yes, Ranganath?
Ranga extends the file: Sir, you wanted this patient to be taken to KGH?
Ashu takes the file and looks through it before nodding: I think it's a case of severe cervical spondylosis. He had a spine injury a few years back and now complains of severe pain in neck, back and even arms and legs. I am suspecting some spurs which are compressing the nerve roots. Even a cough is causing him to wince. So take him to KGH. I want a neck x ray done along with the MRI. Dr Deshmukh is there and he will see the reports and decide on the EMG test and the course of treatment. (He scribbles a note and his observations to Dr Deshmukh, the attending Neurologist at KGH before handing over the file back to Ranganath. Ranganath ponders on whether to broach the topic or not when Ashu's phone rings and he moves away with a quick "Excuse me." Nidhi wraps up the medicines list and turns to see Ashu going towards the rocky and slightly elevated area a little away from the camp with his phone in his hand. After making sure no one is paying special attention to her, she rushes into the tent, picks up the cover holding the gift that she bought and follows him.)
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Ashu gives a rueful smile and continues to talk over the phone: Baba, I am 42. Aur waise bhi, yahaa iss medical camp mein kaisi party..Ji..Hum log kal dopahar ko yahaa se niklenge. Lucknow pahoonchte pahoonchte raat hojaayegi..Ji..Ji baba. Ok. Abhi rakhta hoon. Bye. (He cuts the call but continues to look at the spread of greenery in front of him until her voice reaches him from behind)
Nidhi: Good morning sir.
Ashu turns his head sideways to see her: Good morning.
Nidhi: Aap ke baba ka phone tha? (He raises his eyebrow and a slight flush stains her cheeks) I didn't mean to eavesdrop sir. Woh..buss..I couldn't help overhearing a little when I was walking up here. (His reply is a lopsided smile and a nod. She takes a deep breath as if gathering all her courage before pulling out the gift wrapped box from the cover and extending it to him) Happy birthday sir.
Ashu: Who told you? (Mischievous eyes and smiling lips are the only answer.) Toh aap florist ke saath saath detective bhi hain Nidhi Verma!
Nidhi grins: Ji. Aur kabhi kabhi waqt milne par apna medicine internship bhi karleti hoon. (He shakes his head and huffs out a small laugh. She extends the gift once again silently and this time he takes it)
Ashu: Thank you. But what is it?
Nidhi: Kholke dekhileejiye. (He tears open the wrapper and opens the box to find a dark grey, light grey and blue coloured cross striped tie. The soft cloth slides between his fingers like a gentle caress. A smile graces his face)
Ashu: A tie? Its lovely..par iski kya zaroorat? I mean..
Nidhi smiles: My mom always used to say "The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating. "
Ashu nods in acknowledgement: But I hardly ever get a chance to wear ties Nidhi. I am either in scrubs or this..(He gestures his formal shirt with rolled up sleeves and trousers. Her smile though still graces her lips, the light in her eyes dims making him cut his sentence off) But yeah..I guess I can wear for the meetings with the management though. (His heart leaps in his chest at the way her face lights up in delight once again. He carefully places the tie back in the box and puts it in the cover that she extends to him. A slight pause and then) you miss your mom very much, don't you?
Nidhi nods: Aap bura na maane toh ek baat poochu? (At his nod,) Aap ki maa..?
Ashu: She passed away when I was 7.
Nidhi fists her fingers to stop herself from reaching out and touching him: I am sorry sir.
Ashu looks away: It was a long time ago.
Nidhi: Time doesn't matter sir. Whether we are 2 or 20 or 40, we still miss our mom..we need her irrespective of our age. (A heartbeat of pause and then) Toh aap aur Dr Mathur hi..
He runs a distracted hand through his hair: Baba..baba adopted me after my mom passed away.
Nidhi blinks a little taken aback: Oh. Toh aap ke pitah?
Her tentative question locks his jaw and he replies in a voice completely devoid of emotion: Dead.
This time her fisted fingers grip her kurta as she battles her desperate need to go to him: I am sorry sir. (After receiving a jerky nod in response,) My mom was my best friend. It tears me up inside whenever I think of her. But I am teaching myself to remember all the good times I had with her..the way we played around and experimented while she taught me to cook, the way she used to join me and Anji, meri bachpan ki dost, in a game of shuttle..(She meets his eyes as if asking him if that's what he does too.)
Ashu leans against the rock: I try not to think.
Nidhi mimicks his position a little away from him and turns her head towards him: Koshish toh keejiye sir. Did your mom sing?
Ashu becomes quiet for a while as he tries to think back and search for some bank of good memory amidst the sea of pain and fear of those childhood days: Once..(He clears his throat) Once my..my father was out of town for 2 days. Ma took me on a picnic..to a nearby park. We spent the whole day there..laughing and playing. I taught her to kick football (A rueful smile) what little I knew anyway. (She smiles) Yes. She used to sing..had beautiful voice. She sang lullaby to me until I was almost 6.
Nidhi nods: So you take after your ma. Your voice when you sing is truly melodious sir.
Ashu straightens from his slouching position and checks his watch: Chale? Patients would be coming, right?
Nidhi: Happy birthday once again sir.
Ashu's eyes devour her before quickly looking away: Thank you. (For the first time today, I have found a memory of my mom with a happy smile on her face. Thank you, Nidhi. Thank you so much. Both of them make their way back to the tents. Their arrival at the medical camp coincides with a few villagers shouting and bringing in an attempted suicide victim. And that effectively diverts and prevents the rest of the staff in noticing the fact the dean and intern have probably gone for "a walk in the woods." With that walk and that conversation and once again without his conscious effort or knowledge, their relationship takes another step further in the personal arena..this time completely smashing the wall around his heart. Their conversations and lunches and dinners, even while done amidst the whole group of doctors and staff during the rest of the trip, just solidify that step.)
BB walks into the house: Hiraman! Hiraman..Ashu aagaya kya?
HK comes out of the kitchen wiping his hands: Abhi tak toh nahi. He called about an hour ago to say they have almost reached KGH. Aap abhi abhi Jeevan Sandhya se aarahe hain. Jaake thoda fresh hoke aaraam keejiye. Aajayega.
BB nods: Dinner mein kuch achcha banaya hain na? You know he comes back from these camps tired and irritable. (HK nods)
Ashu: Hi baba!
BB turns towards the door with a wide smile on his face: Arre Ashu..tu aagaya beta? How was the camp?
Ashu puts his bag in the hall and comes to the kitchen to get some water: Hi Kaka. Camp achcha tha baba. It went quite well actually. (His smiling face turns towards HK) Zor se bhook lagi hain kaka. Dinner ready hain kya?
HK exchanges a quick glance with BB: Haan haan beta. Dinner bilkul taiyyaar hain. Tum jaake nahaake aajao mein itne mein parosta hoon. (Ashu nods, gives them both another smile and goes up to his room with his bag in hand.) Mathur saab..yeh
BB nods: Haan Hiraman mein bhi wahi dekhraha hoon jo tum dekh rahe ho. He is back from a 3 day medical camp and he is in a good mood. No growling answers..no tired and irritable face..come to think of it, I rarely ever saw him this..this content and happy. Kuch toh hua hain. (BB's thoughts immediately go to that girl..Nidhi. Is she the reason?)
About the same time: Anji's room:
Nidhi comes running and hugs Anji before twirling around with her wildly: Arre..arre..arre..Nidhi..sambhalke. Slow down buddy. Mujhe chakkar aajayega. Chodna. (Nidhi leaves her and both collapse on the bed panting) Baat kya hain? Kya..hua kya?
Nidhi hugs the pillow: Pyaar! Mujhe pyaar hua hain Anji. Bahut saara..dhed saara pyaar! I feel..I feel like singing and dancing and shouting from roof tops. Listen everyone! I, Nidhi Verma, am in mmm..
Anji closes Nidhi's mouth with her hand: Shhh..ma sunlegi. Chillakyon rahi hain?
Nidhi hugs a pillow: It feels good Anji. It feels so..so..good. I love him..I love him..I love him..
Anji sighs and decides to divert the topic for her own peace of mind: Achcha..ok..FINE! How was the medical camp?
Nidhi: It was good. I gave him the gift yesterday and we talked. Uske baad we got busy with all the patients and today was all about doing a follow up reminder kind of a thing with the patients. (She hugs the pillow tighter.) Tum jaanti ho Anji..when we reached KGH and everyone were leaving for their houses, he didn't move from the entrance until my taxi arrived. Ranga was talking something to him but he went inside only when I sat in the taxi and gave a small wave. (She gestures the small movement of her 4 fingers before bringing herself back to the present) Achcha mein chalti hoon. Ghar bhi nahi gayi abhi tak. I came here straight after getting down from the taxi. Kal baat karte hain. Bye. (And leaves like a joyful whirlwind. I have probably gone completely crazy But I don't care. I love Dr Ashutosh! Her lips softly form his name..Ashutosh! She reaches home, which is right beside Anji's and practically does a jig on her way inside. DB opens the door and Nidhi takes her in her arms and twirls her around. DB gets startled and gives a small yelp yet can't help but smile. Nidhi's face is glowing, her eyes are bright and shining and her smile is full of delight. She sees her Baba and on an impulse gives him a hug, laughs out loud and runs inside her room with her bag, closes the door, throws the bag aside, falls on her bed and rolls over a couple of time. Suddenly she gets up again and opens her cupboard to take out the kurta that she bought for Ashu and opens it, goes in front of the mirror, puts in front of her, closes her eyes and imagines him wearing it and smiling at her. Startled, she opens her eyes, runs her hand over it softly and places it back in her wardrobe. She picks up the towel and heads towards her bathroom doing a waltz with her imaginary partner before stopping in front of the bathroom mirror. I will see you tomorrow, right? Oh yeh raat kab guzregi aur yeh subah kab aayegi?
Next day morning: Ashu's residence:
BB looks up from his newspaper: Good morning beta. Kya baat hain aaj der se ute aur taiyaar bhi nahi hue? KGH nahi jaana hain kya?
Ashu sits beside his baba: Nahi baba. Jaana hain. But I will go in the afternoon. Have to make a report about the camp and present it to the management. Will wrap that up, have lunch and leave around 1.30-2.00. (Just then his phone rings. He frowns at the unknown number and lifts it) Yes?
Nidhi: Good morning sir. Mein..Nidhi.
Both eyebrows touch his hairline: Good morning. Kahiye detective Nidhi Verma. (Nidhi responds with a hearty chuckle. Ashu gets up and with the phone in his hand, goes to the front lawn leaving baba behind with a contemplative look on his face) May I ask how you got my number?
Nidhi: Sir..woh..uss din jab mein aap ke ghar aarahi thi..Dr Ranganath gave me your address and phone number. Sir..aap KGH aaj aarahe hain?
Nidhi: Nahi..woh..buss..poochna tha. I am going to be under you from today na..(A dark flush steels over cheeks at that statement and as if realizing what she has just said, Nidhi starts stammering too) Oh..jeez..uh..I..I mean sir..my duties from now on will be in the department of Neurology. (He closes his eyes as an image of her dances before him..a slightly horrified embarrassed expression in eyes and her cheeks a delightful shade of pink.)
Ashu looks at his watch: Ok. Its 10 now. Do the rounds and update the case sheets for the post operative patients. I will be there in an hour or so. I have a management meeting at 4 so please make sure they don't give any appointments between 4 and 6.
Nidhi's voice raises up in excitement: You have a meeting today, sir? Oh. Ok. Will do. Uh..rakhti hoon sir.
Ashu: Ok..this is your number? Can I save it?
Nidhi: Sure sir. See you soon.
Ashu: Yeah. (He stuffs the phone back in his track pants and goes up to his room taking the steps 2 at a time. Since the presentation was half done the previous night, he quickly finishes the rest and gets ready in a suit. A dark grey one with a light blue shirt inside. His eyes are bright and shining as he stands in front of the mirror and knots the tie given by Nidhi. BB enters Ashu's room after a soft knock.) Ji baba?
BB: You are off to KGH now? (Ashu nods and starts unplugging his laptop and putting it in his bag) But you said you would go after lunch na?
Ashu's hands pause for moment in their task: Woh..baba..actually..
BB: Ashu, sach bata beta. Baat kya hain? Woh jo uss din aayi thi..Nidhiwho is she?
Ashu: She is an intern at KGH Baba. She told you that na.
BB looks deep into his son's eyes: That's it? An intern? She means nothing to you?
Ashu's gaze slides away from his baba: What could she mean to me Baba? I just met her last month for the first time.
BB shakes his head: Tum usse kab mile yeh important nahin hain Ashu. For someone to mean something to you, all you need is a chance to meet. That's all it takes sometimes.
Ashu huffs out a cynical laugh: Kya hua aaj aapko Baba? Woh ladki yahan aake ek din aapko rasam kya khiladiya, aap toh din mein hi sapne dekhne lage? Baba, Nidhi ek bachchi hain. Mujhse shaayad 18-20 saal choti hain. Uske baare mein mein aise kaise soch saktha hoon? Aur woh mere baare mein aisa kyon sochegi?
BB: Beta, pyaar umr ko nahin dekhta. Jisse jab hona hain hojaate hain. (And he hastens to assure his son) Aur issme koyi galati nahin hain Ashu. Agar tumhe Nidhi se..
Ashu cuts him off: Baba, buss..mujhe kissi se koi pyaar nahin karni hain. Aur pyaar karke mein kya karoonga Baba? Jiss tarah mere baap ne meri ma ki zindagi tabah kardi, mein bhi kissi aur ladki ki zindagi tabah kardoo? Kya yeh aap ko manzoor hoga Baba?
BB forcefully shakes his head as a no and catches hold of Ashu by his shoulders: Ashu, tum tumhaare pitah ki tarah nahin ho beta. You are different.
Ashu looks at BB with resigned eyes: Different? Different how Baba? You were his friend all those years ago na. You know that I look like him, I have his temper aur kya pata mauka aane par mein bhi closet alcoholic banjaau. Aap unke itne achche dost the and even you didn't know what kind of a person he actually was until everything came out in the court.
BB: Ashu, if you were like him, you wouldn't be talking like this in the first place. And I have brought you up since you were 7 years old. Janam dene wale se zyaada paalne wala zyaada influence karta hain beta. Krishna ko Devki ne janam diya. Par woh hain toh Yashoda Nandan hi na.
Ashu pulls away and turns to pick up his bag: Baba, yeh sab baaten sunne mein achche lagte hain. Bottom line is I have his genes. And there is no written guarantee that I won't become like my biological father. I studied this subject Baba. Abused kids have more chances of becoming abusive partners and parents. And I refuse to take that kind of chance on Nidon someone else.
BB smiles and folds his hands: Dekha Ashu. Dil ki baat hooton par aahi gayi na. Tu Nidhi se pyaar karne laga hain. Aur yeh baat mein tab hi jaan gaya tha jab meine tum ko uske saath gaana gaate dekha. You tell me Ashu, when have you ever sung in front of others? You never did that before. Par uss din teri aawaz mein koi hichkichahat nahin thi. Aur jiss tarah se tum uski taraf dekhrahe the, your eyes told me the truth then itself.
Ashu: Uss din ki baat alag thi Baba and it won't happen again. I WON'T let it happen again. Chalta hoon. (He picks up his bag and leaves the room. A few moments later, BB hears the sound of Ashu's car backing out of the garage. You can deny all you want Ashu. But the fact is if it's destined to happen, neither of you have a choice. Nidhi tumhaare dil mein suraag karchuki hain Ashutosh. And some day soon you will realize that its not a curse but a blessing.
KGH Parking lot:
Ashu's car comes to a screeching halt at his usual parking space. But the person inside it is still sitting in the car with absolutely no knowledge of how he got there. He keeps hearing his baba's words. "Dekha Ashu. Dil ki baat hooton par aahi gayi na. Tu Nidhi se pyaar karne laga hain." How did this happen? WHEN did this happen? Mujhe Nidhi se pyaar hogaya..kyon? I don't want this. I never wanted anyone in my life. I don't want. No! (His eyes look at his own refelection in the car mirror. Gritting his teeth, he removes the tie with a swift tug) Not now..not ever! I will make sure of it. (He locks his jaw) No matter what..I will make sure of it. Ek achchi ladki do baaten kya karli tumne apne hosh khodiye? Nahi Dr Ashutosh Mathur! most definitely NOT! (He makes a move to throw the tie in the empty seat beside but his fingers form a fist around it and refuse to cooperate. With a rough growl, he shoves it into his trouser pocket and gets down from the car.)
Department of Neurology:
"Dr Nidhi, do you know what Acoustic Neuroma is?
Nidhi, who is doing rounds with one of the PG, Dr Vedant, looks up from her note pad with a slight frown on her face: It arises from cells that form a protective sheath around the nerve fibers and typically grows around the 8th cranial nerve. But some times, it can be found in other cranial or spinal nerves too, right?
Vedant nods: (He gestures towards the patient on the bed) Dr Ashutosh had performed the surgery on this guy. The goal of the surgery is the complete removal of the tumour without harming the 7th cranial nerve, which controls the facial movement or causing hearing loss. I was there in the OT that day, you know..(He shakes his head in wonder, his admiration obvious.) I tell you Nidhi, sir has magical hands.
Ashu: How is the patient Vedant?
Both Vedant and Nidhi swirl around to face the person of their mutual admiration. Nidhi's entire face lights up before dimming a little as her eyes take in his suit minus the tie. He said he would wear the tie when there is a management meeting. Why didn't he? (She bites her lower lip) May be he didn't get a chance to unpack as yet. Kal hi laute na camp se. With that thought, she smiles at him: Good morning sir.
Ashu gives a vague nod without looking at her directly: Vedant, whats the progress? (And listens to the update before listing out further instructions and change of medications to some of the in-patients.) Who is going to be in the night shift tonight?
Nidhi: Me sir.
Ashu nods, his eyes still on the patient chart: Ok. I have a surgery posted tomorrow morning at 6. So please make sure you give all the necessary instructions to the patient and her attendant as soon as you sign in. Vedant, please give her the list. (With a nod, he returns the charts to Vedant and walks out of the ward.)
4 days later:
Nidhi signs off from her duty and starts walking through the corridor, lost in thought. What is wrong? Why is he not smiling at me any more? Forget smile, he has not even looked at me properly in the last few days. Lunch ke time pe bhi nahi aarahe hain. Either he is busy or he is already done with his lunch by the time I go to the canteen. Why? Did I do or say something to offend him? (Her steps falter) Have I in any way made my feeling obvious to him? Does he think of me odd and weird because of that? But he is not objecting to my flowers, is he? What do I do? Should I ask him? (A slight shake of her head) No. I can't do that. What will I ask?
Her thoughts get interrupted as she nears the casuality and the sounds of a weeping female reach her ears. Without further thought, she goes inside to find a boy of about 6 and a woman, his mother probably, crying and wringing her hands helplessly beside him. Nidhi crouches down before him and sees his dislocated shoulder before looking at the blank expression on his face. She talks softly to him and asks the staff to call Dr Rao and removes his shirt to check over the shoulder. What she sees makes her take a step back. His back is a series of crisscross marks. Some old and some as new as a day. Someone has beaten this little boy with a belt. She carefully turns the boy around and holds his hands: Beta, aap ko kisi ne maara? Kisne? (The boy doesn't reply. Same still face and stoic expression. Nidhi then looks at the mother.) Aap ke bete ko kisne maara? (The mother also doesn't reply. Nidhi looks at her closely and sees that the woman has a blackeye which is almost healed and one side of her face is swollen as if someone has hit her hard.) Aap ke pati kahan hain? (The woman's face turns pale at the mention of her husband and she jerks away.) He did this to you and your son? (After a few seconds the woman gives a small nod. Nidhi immediately backs off.) Aap yahan baitiye. Dr Rao aate hi honge. Wohi aapke bete ka ilaaj karenge. Yahi pe rahiye. Ok? kahi jaayiyega nahi. (Then she backs off quickly and backs out of the exam room. She meets Dr Rao outside and explains the situation to him in low tones and he directs her to inform Dr Ranganath and Dr Ashutosh. She goes to Ranga's cabin and tells the whole story, asks him to inform the police and make sure the injuries are photographed and documented. No matter what, I am going to convince the woman to file charges against her husband. God! What kind of people are there in this world! She asks Ranga where Dr Ashutosh is and is told that he would be near the ICU because one of his patients is out of the coma. She goes in search of Ashu and finds him outside ICU talking to someone, the patient's family probably. Nidhi stops a little away from him and waits for him to finish the conversation and within a few moments he wishes them all good luck and turns towards her with a completely neutral expression: Yes, Nidhi?
Nidhi: Sir, there is a case in casualty..
Ashu: Head injury?
Nidhi: No sir. Shoulder dislocation.
Ashu frowns: Then call Dr Rao.
Nidhi: Sir, that kid is about 6 years old and he has belt marks all over his back. His mother is not in any better sta..
Ashu doesn't listen to the rest of her sentence. His brisk walk takes him to the casualty and his look falls on the boy and the mother. The look on their faces is so familiar to him that he takes an instinctive step back and his back hits the door. The nurse is putting an ice pack on the woman's cheek and Dr Rao is examining the boy's shoulder. Ranganath is filling up some form and making a call on his cell phone. Before he can go and ask Dr Rao on the update, a man of about 40 enters the room. "Yeh aap log mere bete ke saath kya kar rahe hain?"
Ranganath walks towards him: Aap kaun?
"I am Rajender. She is my wife and that boy is my son."
Ranga: Can you tell me how your son got hurt?
Rajender gives a negligent shrug: Bachcha hain. Iss umr mein kuch na kuch toh lag hi jaata hain. Not to worry. Now I am here. I will take care from here. You just treat them and discharge them.
Ashu comes close: Suna nahi Dr Ranganath ne kya poocha? He asked how did your son get hurt. (His voice is calm and very very controlled.)
Rajender: And didn't you hear what I said? It's none of your damn business.
Ashu in the same calm voice: I am making it my business. Now answer the question. Uss bachche ko kisne maara? (That still soft voice is sending shivers down the spines of the staff of KGH because they know what would follow. It is the calm before the storm and the storm is about to hit the shore. Even Ranganath takes a step back. Nidhi is looking on and is biting her lip to stop herself from calling out to Ashu)
Rajender takes a step back as Ashu calmly advances one step towards him: Get away from me and send those two along with me.
Ashu: WHO. HIT. THE. CHILD?
Rajender: Tume isse kya matlab hain doctor? Tumhaare bachcha hain kya? Kahi meri biwi ne.. (Ashu holds Rajender's collar and literally lifts him off the ground. His toes are barely touching the ground and he starts struggling in Ashu's hold.) What do you think you are doing? Leave me. I SAID LEAVE ME!
Ashu: THEN ANSWER THE QUESTION. WHO HIT THE CHILD?
Nidhi by now is scared out of her wits. She is not worried about Ashu getting hurt physically. But if he hits this guy and the guy takes the issue to the police thenshe runs towards Ranganath: Ranganath, kuch keejiye. Dr Ashutosh is going to hit that guy now.
Ranganath gives her a "get real" look: You really think I am brave enough to get in between those 2 now? I have already called the police. They will be here at any moment. Don't worry. (Nidhi looks around the rest of the staff members but none seem inclined to intervene or diffuse the situation in any way.)
Rajender finally breaks off Ashu's hold on his collar and almost falls down: Abe poochne wala tu kaun hota hain? Mera beta hain. Meri marzi. Chahe maaroo ya zinda jala daaloo.. (Ashu raises his hand in a fist to deliver one solid punch to his face when Nidhi comes running and literally puts herself between the two men. Ashu's hand stops within an inch of Nidhi's face. She sees his face flushed with anger, teeth gritting, eyes gone red and breath rasping through his mouth. Ashu slowly registers her face tense with fear and a kind of desperate plea in her eyes. He lowers his raised hand, pushes Nidhi and Rajender out of the way almost shoving them away in his haste and leaves the room. Just then the police enter and start assessing the situation. Nidhi stumbles a little, quickly regains her balance and runs after him leaving a stunned audience behind her. He barges into his cabin and is about to bang the door shut when Nidhi stops it and comes in after him and softly closes the door. He goes and stands near the chair that's placed beside the sofa and grips the headrest.)
Ashu: Get out Nidhi!
Nidhi: Sir, please! Calm down. Aap baitiye aur yeh paani peejiye.
Ashu throws the glass down: Mujhe paani nahi peena hain. And I said GET OUT!
Nidhi: No! I have come to say something and I WILL say it no matter how much you shout at me.
Ashu: What do you want to say Nidhi? That I lost my temper? That I should have controlled myself? Is that it? My intern is going to give ME lessons now?
Nidhi: No sir. Your anger is justified. But you can't go around hitting people..
Ashu cuts off her sentence: And that monster? He can go around hitting and torturing his wife and son? Is that what you want to say?
Nidhi: No sir..
Ashu: Ya yeh kehna chaahiti ho ki mujhe unlogon ko apni haalat mein chod dena chahiye. Sab ka apna apna naseeb hain ka bhaashan sunana chahti ho?
Nidhi sighs: Nahi sir par..
Ashu: And whats it to you Nidhi? Mein kya karta hoon, kise kaise maarta hoon isse tumhe kya lena dena? Whats your problem? Saara hospital chup hain lekin yeh Jhansi ki rani khadi hogayi mere saamne. You didn't think once what would have happened if my fist had connected with your face?
Nidhi: That wouldn't have happened sir. And I didn't know any other way to stop you from hitting that guy.
Ashu bangs his fist on the table: Precisely my point Nidhi. Why SHOULD you stop me? Forget about hitting him, I wanted to kill him for what he is doing to his family.
Nidhi: Sir, think for a minute. Police were already on their way. They would have handled it. But if they had seen you hitting that guy, khamakha aap bhi fass jaate na..
Ashu whirls around to face her: Khamakha?? You think I should have folded my hands and waited for the police?
Nidhi shakes her head: Think about your profession for a minute Dr Ashutosh. If that guy launches a complaint against you, it would be a forever black mark on you..
Ashu: Arre bhad mein gaya mera profession aur bhad mein gayi meri career! And whats it to YOU anyway? Agar mein chala gaya toh your internship won't stop. Some other Dean will come and take over. Tumhe koi farak nahi padnewala hain Nidhi.
Nidhi locks her eyes with his: Farak padta hain sir. Bahut farak padta hain.
Nidhi: Because I have fallen in love with you! I love you.
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