Joined: 09 December 2008
INTEHAA PYAAR KI
Written by : sshirley
Joined: 09 December 2008
Here is chapter 11. Comments, likes, Reviews and Criticisms more than welcome.
Before the reception the next day, Ashutosh and Nidhi told both sets of family about their plan – that they would act as if they were already in love much before the conference. Of course, they did not tell about their divorce plans after a few months. Their full plan was known only to Anji and Armaan. Though both initially protested at the idea of divorce, they did not drag the topic much.
The reception was attended by almost everyone who even got the card. They were curious to see how the couple looked with each other, how they behaved, given the circumstances under which they had gotten married. Since most people had expected them to be distant, awkward and uncomfortable with each other, they were disappointed. Ashutosh was looking dashing in a white suit with a red tie and Nidhi was wearing a pink & green silk ghaaghra with silver work all over. She wore diamond jewelry set in white gold. Her hair was done up stylishly and she wore light make-up.
Ashutosh and Nidhi were constantly smiling, talking to each other, and looked happy, just like any normal couple. Yes, their age gap was apparent, but so was their sync with each other.
One judge comes over to the stage and says, "Wish you both a very happy married life."
"Thank you!", they both say in unison. He then whispers to Ashutosh, "so my boy, where are you going for honeymoon?"
Ashutosh does not know how to respond, but Nidhi says, "Sir aap toh jaante hain inki kitni busy practice hai. We will go when time and his schedule permits him. Tab tak ke liye, Lucknow me hi honeymoon"
As that judge stares at her dumbfounded, Ashutosh coughs to cover his embarrassment. My goodness, ye toh is naatak ko kuch zyaada hi seriously le rahi hai.
A friend of Nidhi's comes up on the stage and cordially wishes them both. Then, while Ashu listens to Armaan who is telling him something in his ears, that girl said to Nidhi, "achchha toh it's a case of office romance? (As Nidhi nods slightly, she continues) Lekin yaar, how do you adjust with each other. I mean, ye tujhse itne bade hain"
"Aise kuch nahi hai yaar. We are just like any other couple."
"Achchha toh ye bata, tere husband ka favourite color kya hai?"
Nidhi is stumped, but Ashu who overheard the question, looked significantly at Nidhi's dress and said, "Well, aaj se toh pink aur green hi mere favourites hain." Nidhi silently thanks him by blinking her eyes.
The girl gives them an awkward smile, says a hasty bye and gets off the stage.
"Hello guys, congrats to you both. May you celebrate your golden jubilee!" said one colleague who knew them well, in half-taunting way, getting on the stage.
Ashutosh wondered how to reply and simply glared at the man. But Nidhi joked, "Kya Mr. Sisodiya, only 50 years? Usme toh hum dono ek doosre ko theek se jaan bhi nahi payenge. (She looks at Ashutosh) Kyun ji? Aisa kijiye, make that 500 years!"
Mr. Sisodiya just stared at them, unable to utter another word, while Ashutosh had a hard time controlling his laughter. Armaan jumped onto the stage, "Arre Nidhi, ye ek jaman me toh mushkil hai lekin 7 janam me shayad ho sakta hai" Everyone around laughed, except Mr. Sisodiya. Armaan said to him, "aapne khaana khaya? Chaliye main aapko plate bharke deta hoon"
The words were spoken to mean 'you came here with two purposes, one to taunt and the other to eat. Since one is already finished, let me take care of the other'. But the words were spoken in such a sugery tone by Armaan, that the guy could neither say 'to hell with your food', nor wholeheartedly acquiesce. He said hesitantly, "ji aap kyon takleef karte hain. Aap ko aur bhi kaam honge na. Main khud le loonga khaana" and moved towards the food counters.
"Theek se khaiyega!" Armaan shouted after him, only to hear a sweet giggle behind him. He turned around and came face to face with with Anji, looking resplendent in a multicolored saree with motifs all over and an off shoulder blouse, with her hair open.
"Armaanji, wow! Uski shakl dekhne layak thi, kya handle kiya hai aapne usko."
"Ji Nahi, aap ki saheli hi kaafi hai achchhe achchhon ko handle karne ke liye."
"yes, ye toh hai, but that's Nidhi! She has a fighting spirit in her."
"I can see that. But, seriously, 500 years?" laughed Armaan.
Anji says pensively, "500 saal? Aur hum toh ye bhi nahi jaante ki ye dono 50 din bhi.." she stopped startled at what she had revealed or was about to reveal.
Armaan looked up sharply, "kya kaha aapne?"
Armaan looked around and beckoned her to a corner. "Ek minute zara mere saath chaliye." Anji nods and follows him.
"Anji, aapko sab maloom haina, what those two have planned for future?"
Anji looked apprehensively into his eyes and he blinked his reassaurance, "Ji. Nidhi ne sab bataya mujhe!"
He nodded, "Mujhe bhi Ashu ne bataya. (They both glance towards the stage and he continues,) kitne achchhe lag rahe hain dono aapas me!"
Anji nodded, "Nidhi is being so stubborn about it all. Kaash woh samajh paati! The thing she thinks has ruined her life is actually the best thing that has happened to her. Ek baat bolun Armaanji? (At his nod) Maine aapke dost ke saath zyaada interact toh nahi kiya hai, lekin unhe dekh ke lagta hai ke yehi hain jo meri pagli si friend ko sambhal sakte hain."
Armaan smiles at that, "Let's hope ke natak karte karte, they actually come close."
Anji nods, "Ek idea aaya. Let's make them dance on some romantic number!"
Armaan's face lights up. "Good idea. Main abhi announce karta hoon. (But then, his eyes dim). No.. actually, I think they are holding up pretty well, so I don't think we should put them in an awkward situation. What if our plan backfires.. no, it's not worth taking such a risk."
"yes, you are right, Armaanji"
"5-7 mulakaaton me aap Mr. Chaturvedi se Armaanji tak toh pahunch gayin. Ab ye ji nikalke sirf Armaan tak pahunchne ke liye kitni mulakaten lagengi?"
Anji is taken aback, and unknown to herself, a blush steels over her cheeks, "Ji? I'm so sorry, shaadi ki taiyaariyon me itni baar milna hua ke pata hi nahi chala. I am so sorry Mr. Chaturvedi."
Armaan slaps his forehead, "Dhat tere ki, I told you to progress ahead to Armaan, and you are going back to Mr. Chaturvedi?" I said that? Why? Ab pata nahi Anji kya sochengi mere baare me. Seriously, I need to control my tongue!
He coughs to hide his embarrassment. Anji asks blushing, "Ji?"
"Anji, you can call me whatever, but not Mr. Chaturvedi. Okay?"
"Okay Armaan..ji, theek hai?" she teases.
"Ji, Anji JI, aapke muh se ye bhi achchha lagta hai"
Just then, Shyama calls Anji and she excuses herself.
After the reception, when they had both changed into their PJs, both lay down in their respective beds. Both are lying on their sides, popping their heads on their palms with their arms bent at the elbow.
Nidhi says, "Reception achchha gaya na."
"Yeah, it went better than I expected. I think, it served our purpose quite well. Tum acting kaafi achchhi kar leti ho"
"Meri chhodiye, you were the star performer today. Pata hai aapki aankhon me dekhke toh main khud ek pal ke liye dokha kha gayi, ki sach much aapko mujh se pyaar toh nahi ho gaya?"
He sat up on the diwan, and got up, all the keeping his eyes on her face. He came and stood over her, locking his eyes with hers, he asks with a very serious expression, "ek pal ke liye maan lo Nidhi ke mujhe tumse pyaar hai. Toh what would be your reaction?"
She too sits up, thinks for a while, and then with mischief in her eyes starts singing, "Toh main aapse kahungi, is baat ko agar aap zaraa aur sajaa ke kehte, zaraa ghumaa-phiraa ke kehte, to achchhaa hotaa"
He looks intensely at her, trying to gauge her feelings. She suddenly throws a pillow at him which hits him on his shoulders, and starts laughing. "Kumpel, you know something, you have a good sense of humour!"
He forces a laugh, "Well, witty toh aap bhi kuch kam nahi hain"
"Thank you. Waise, kya baat hai, aaj aap ko neend aa rahi kya? (yawns and stretches her arms) Aaj toh pata nahi kyun main thak gayi hoon. Itni heavy jewelry aur kapde pahenne ki aadat nahi haina, maybe that's why"
"okay, chalo, tum so jao, main bhi sota hoon, light band kar doon?"
"Ji, good night", she lays back on the bed and snuggles into the duvet. He switches off the light, "good night"
The next morning Anji comes to help Nidhi to unpack her stuff after Ashutosh goes to office. When Nidhi mentions about CS coming there, Anji tries to drill sense into her and the matter is laid to rest at least temporary.
The next few weeks pass off on the same note for Ashutosh and Nidhi. They behaved like a couple in public and before their family. They get to know each other better, and gradually they become good friends. After dinner, they play chess, watch movies or simply chat. After Ashutosh goes to sleep, she surfs the net or reads novels, etc.
One day, after dinner, when everyone has gone to their rooms and HK is clearing the dishes, Ashu comes out of his room. HK asks, "Kuch chahiye beta?"
He nods, "Ji paani"
As soon as HK goes to the kitchen, Ashu notices a piece of potato that's lying on Nidhi's plate. Checking that no one is watching, he quickly picks it up and puts it in his mouth, savouring it leisurely, when he hears, "Kumpel, Kumpel, where are you". Nidhi is standing almost behind him. He hurriedly gulps down the piece and she asks, "kya kha rahe the"
A bit red-faced, he said, "kuch nahi, tum.. tumhe kuch kaam tha?"
"haan main toh ye poochhne aayi thi ke woh cd laaye kya aap?"
"Haan bed pe rakhi hai, tum movie shuru karo main aata hoon paani peeke."
She nods and bounces off to the room.
After that he eats or drinks her jhootha many times without anyone's knowledge. Once she left a coke can and when she returned she found it empty. She looked at him surprised and he says "Tumhi ne toh khatam ki thi. Bhool gayi?"
She says uncertainly, "lekin thodi baaki thi. But maybe. Main absent-minded kyun ho gayi hoon"
He chuckles to himself, but keeps a straight face and shrugs.
The show they put up for everyone's benefits gets increasingly difficult for Ashutosh. Nidhi can atleast be her true self when they are alone. For Ashutosh, it is as if he has to pretend all the time. Being so near to Nidhi and not being able to show his real feelings. Being so near and not being able to touch her, when his every fibre wants to hold her in his arms and never let go of her.
Ashutosh is still sometimes astonished at her childishness and her tantrums, but takes everything in his stride. He got an add-on credit card for her. Though hesitant to use it in the beginning, slowly Nidhi starts spending like she used to with her father's money. She gets back to her old routine – going out with her useless friends (excluding Anji, since she keeps busy with her course), eating out at expensive restaurants, and generally whiling her time away. She even orders an LCD for their room and he does not say anything to her. Some evenings, she goes partying wearing all kinds of revealing dresses and returns late. And the day before any party, she spends at spa's pampering herself. She calls the beautician home just to get her ready for the party. Though it miffs Ashutosh and his father no end, Ashutosh still does not tell her anything. He thinks, since they are not husband-wife in the true sense, he has no right to interfere.
One night she cribs about their room's airconditioner, "Kumpel, ye AC purana hua hai, kitni aawaaz karta hai? I think we should change it."
"Nidhi, I think, we don't need another, this is good enough. Tumhe garmi lagti hai kya?"
"Garmi toh nahi lagti, lekin kal maine mall me ek AC dekha tha. Uske feature toh suniye - Firstly it conserves electricity, toh bill itna nahi aayega. Secondly, it is silent. Thirdly, it has deoderiser. Fourthly, it has auto sensors for tempertature control…"
The enthusiasm with which she goes on and on makes him helpless, "Lagta hai, you have set your heart on buying that AC."
"Please Kumpel, believe me, it's really good."
"Okay, order kardo."
She jumps and hugs him, "You are so sweet Kumpel!"
He simply shakes his head indulgently, Bilkul bachchi hai.
But, by now, Nidhi has understood, that he would buy her anything she fancies. So, she manipulates him often, sometimes directly as in the case of AC and sometimes indirectly, as in the case of a diamond bracelet:
She had dragged him to a mall, and her eyes fell on a delicate diamond bracelet. It will be expensive, but I have to have it! Kumpel ko pataati hoon. She averted her eyes and said, "Kumpel, chaliye na, wahan chalte hain, imitation jewelry ke counter pe. Mujhe kal shaam ki party ke liye ek bracelet chahiye. Imitaton khareedenge toh 1000-2000 tak mil jaayega. Real toh.. (literally dragging him) chaliye bhi!"
She looks around for a while taking bracelets and keeping them back, "Ye achchha haina? (as he nods) Hai bhi sirf 1800 ka.. arre lekin ye toh nahi chalega meri dress ke saath. (keeping it back with a disappointed sigh, and taking another one), Kumpel, ye.. ye kaisa hai"
He is exasperated, "Nidhi, please! I don't know a thing about all this. If you need advice, you call Anji here"
"Nahi, no need, ye achchha hai. (Calling the staff) Excuse me, ye de dijiye. (She is about to give it to the sales girl to pack, when suddenly she exclaims) Arre ek minute! Ye toh clearly imitation dikhta hai, meri friends kya bolengi"
The sales girl comments, "Madam, ab imitation hai toh jinko asli naklli ke parakh hai, woh toh pehchaan hi lega na. Lekin, generally, jyaadaatar log nahi pehchaante. Aur phir mada, aap real lene jaaoge aisa, toh koi ded-do laakh ka milega. Ye toh sirf 2500 ka hai."
Nidhi makes a confused face and mumbles to herself, "kya karoon, loon ya nahi. Meri friends ko pata toh definitely chal hi jaayega."
Ashutosh says, "Nidhi, toh tum imitation lena hi kyun chahti ho? Why don't you go for real".
She came closer and whispered in his ears, "Kumpel, samajhiye, real bahut mahenga hoga"
"Tum mahenge saste ki chinta kyun karti ho, chalo, real me kuch dekhte hain."
And thus, she got the desired bracelet, which was priced at Rs. 2.25 lakhs.
Anji realized that she was misusing Ashutosh's generosity but her advice and pleas fell on deaf dears. Nidhi just said, "Jo sab chaahte the, maine wohi kiya – shaadi kar li. Ab ye sab hamare beech ki baaten hain tu beech me mat pad"
Anji got angry, "Nidhi, aaj tu materialistic cheezon ke chakkar me jis insaan ki kadr nahi kar rahi, ek din usi insaan ke liye tu khoon ke aansoon royegi. Mark my words!"
"Royegi meri jooti. Tu bhi na, kya faltu ki baaten.."
Anji had had enough now. She had borne Nidhi's insolence, selfishness and immaturity for years, "Aaj meri baaten bhi tujhe faaltu lagti hai, toh yehi achchha rahega, hum baat hi nahi Karen. I can't stand you any more!"
"Anji, tu itni serious kyun ho gayi yaar. Main toh sirf ye keh rahi hoon, ki meri life hai, mujhe jaise jeeni hai jeene de na. Isme itna bura maanne ki kya baat hai?"
"Theek haina. Tu jee le apni life, tujhe jaise jeeni hai. Aaj ke baad main bilkul interfere nahi karoongi. Bye" and she stomped off.
But Anji had already started her two-wheeler and zoomed off, without a backward glance. Nidhi tried calling her on phone, but she didn't pick up. When she went to the Solankis, they were barely civil to her and Anji just shut her bedroom door from inside.
She came home crying and finally mumbled to herself, "Thode din chhod deti hoon. Jyaada bhaav nahi doongi use."
Next day, when she went to Barista to pick up her favourite coffee, she saw Rohan there sitting alone at a table. She too joined him at the table and said with a huge smile, "hi Rohan."
Rohan looked up from his phone, Ye kahan se aa tapki! He said unenthusiastically, "Hi, akeli aayi ho? Where is your hubby? Waise main toh bas ye coffee peeke nikal hi raha hoon ek important kaam hai. So, apne hubby ko bulalo yahan."
"Unhe ghumne phirne me koi interest nahi hai, aur waise bhi woh office me hain abhi tak"
He sneered, "Nidhi, tum toh badi chupi rustum nikli yaar, office me boss ke saath romance! Not bad huh"
"Rohan aisa kuch nahi hai, hamare beech" she said ruefully.
"What are you trying to say?"
"Sach me! We are putting on an act." And then she reveals everything including their plans for divorce, hoping that she can still marry him after her divorce.
Rohan coughs, "Aur jaipur me tumhare beech.."
"Kuch nahi hua tha."
So, this means, she is still.. I can still have her! "I see. Chalo batao kya khaogi, main cake order karta hoon okay?"
"Lekin tum toh nikal rahe the na? koi kaam tha na tumhe?"
He smiles, "Arre baby, hum itne din baad mile hain. Thode gappe maarte hain. Kaam gaya bhaad me. Bolo kya order karna hai".
Two days later one night, the bell rang in Mathur Niwas at 9 pm. Nidhi opened the door, "Hi Kumpel."
He gave her a wary, tired smile and came inside, "Kya baat hai? Aaj tumne darwaza khola?"
"Ghar pe koi nahi hai. Aur baba keh rahe the ke aap der se aayenge. Isiliye Baba aur HK kisi jaagran pe chale gaye. (He nods tiredly) Lekin aap itni jaldi kaise aa gaye? Koi dinner tha na aap ka?"
"Nahi, I didn't go. Meri tabiyat theek nahi thi. Bahut headache ho raha hai. HK bhi nahi hain na ghar me?"
She shakes her head, "Nahi."
With a groan, he goes into the kitchen, and keeps the tea, "Tum piyogi Chai?"
Then she looks at his face and gets worried. She touches his forehead with the back of her palm, "Arre aapko toh bahut tez bukhaar hai! Chaliye aap aaram se letiye, main chai ko dekh leti hoon."
"Tumhe aata hai chai banana?"
"Ji, DB ne sikhaya tha. Chaliye aap jaake change kijiye. Main aati hoon chai leke."
He nods gratefully and goes off to the bedroom. She makes the tea and brings it to the bedroom. He is slumped on the chair in his night wear. She goes to him and gently shakes him and says softly, "Kumpel, chai"
He silently takes the tea.
While he is having tea, she asks, "theek haina chai"
He nods, "Achchhi hai!"
She feels relieved. Pahli baar banayi hai Kumpel!
She then asks, "Kuch khaya aapne?"
"Nahi, I don't feel like"
"Aise kaise, kuch toh kha lijiye"
He sighs, "Fridge me kuch bacha hua hai kya?"
"Main dekh ke aati hoon, till then you finish your tea."
When she returns, he is taking weary steps towards the diwan. She goes and holding his hands, guides him to the bed, "Aaj aap bed pe so jaaiye. I'll take the diwan."
"Don't worry, I will be fine on the diwan. Sirf thoda fever hi toh hai."
"Thoda fever? Aapka shareer tap raha hai. Chaliye bed pe please" and she takes him to the bed and makes him lie down. She covers him up with the duvet and asks, "fridge me toh kuch nahi hai, please bataiye na, aap ko kya khana hai? I'll try to cook it."
He speaks with his eyes closed. "Rehne do Nidhi, mujhse nahi khaya jaayeja.. I feel.. mujhe neend aa rahi hai" and he doses off.
She goes out and taking her phone, dials her father-in-law. Since he is in the temple where the keertan is in full swing with bhajans on the loud speaker, he does not hear the phone. Frustrated, she grabs the telephone diary and dials the family doctor.
The family doctor says he can't come now, but gives her some names of medicines. She writes them down.
"Aur haan ye dawaiyaan khaali pet mat dijiyega"
"Ji? Lekin woh toh kuch bhi khaane se mana kar rahe hain, main kya karoon?"
"Give him something light, khichdi ya aisa kuch"
"Ji theek hai, thank you very much."
She hangs up and dials Anji, but Anji does not pick up as she is avoiding Nidhi after their quarrel that day. Anji please pick phone damn it. I need you. I need your help badly please Anji.. Anji toh phone hi nahi utha rahi. Ab main kya karoon? Dadi bua se baat karoon? Nahi who toh hyper ho jaayengi. Haan Shyama aunty se baat karti hoon.
She dials Shyama, "haan Nidhi Kaisi ho"
"Aunty I need your help. Khichdi kaise banate hain?" she asks in a harried tone.
"Nidhi, khichdi toh main tujhe batati hoon, lekin hua kya? Tu tense kyun lag rahi hai?"
"Aunty, woh Kumpel.. I mean Ashutoshji ko high fever hai aur ghar me koi nahi. Doctor ne medicines likhwai hain, lekin khaali pet dene se manaa kiya hai. Abhi medical store bhi jaana padega."
"Nidhi main aa jaaoon? Main 15-20 minute me nikal sakti hoon"
"Nahi aunty, aapka ghar kaafi door hai. I think I'll manage. Aap sirf mujhe bataiye, khichdi kaise banate hain?"
"Theek hai tu kitchen me jaa, main jaise kehti hoon waise karti jaa."
Nidhi rushes into the kitchen, "Ji kahiye Aunty, I m in kitchen."
"Okay, take cup rice and cup moong dal"
"Ek minute Aunty"
She gets the hands free device for the phone and puts it on. "Ji Aunty, rice? Rice kahan honge.." And she rummages through all cupboards and shelves, "Aunty chaawal toh abhi tak nahi mile, lekin daal mil gayi. 4-5 tarah ki daalen hai."
"Haan, moong ki daal lele"
Nidhi looks at the daal containers confused, "Aunty, I can't differentiate. Moong daal kaisi hoti hai?"
Shyaama sighs, Oh God! Now, how do I explain? "Nidhi, jiske daane sabse chhote hain, wohi"
Nidhi looks closely at the transparent jars. "Aunty do me abhi bhi confusion ho rahi hai!"
"Nidhi tujhe moong beans ka shape pata hai? Tu boiled khaati hai na moong"
"Theek hai, toh moong daal has similar shape"
She opens the jars one by one and checks the shape, "Ji aunty mil gaya. Ab rice dhoondti hoon."
"Nidhi gas ke niche ke cupboards me dekha kya. Gas ke aas paas hi hone chahiye chaawal."
"Dekhti hoon, Aunty."
She opened the cupboards and finally found it. With Shyama's guidance she puts together the ingredients and finally lids the cooker.
Shyama says, "Ab 5-7 minutes me whistle bajeji, toh band kar dena aur phir 5 minute baad cooker khuljayega. Don't open it forcibly, okay?"
"Aur sun, bukhar bahut tez hai kya?"
"Ji Aunty. He is literally burning with fever."
"Toh fir you may need to give him cold compresses too"
"Aunty, mujhe DB bachpan me deti thin, lekin can you tell me how to go about it?"
Shyama told her and then added, "And listen Nidhi, since you are giving the cold compresses, make sure the temperature in the room is not too low. AC band rakhna ya phir max. pe rakhna."
In the meantime, the cooker whistles, and she asks, "Aunty whistle baj gaya. Shall I turn off the gas?"
"Haan (Nidhi does it) Aur sun, thoda time lagega khulne me. Just leave it for a while"
"Theek hai Aunty, main jaake medicines leke aati hoon"
Shyama's voice is fraught with concern, "Lekin itni raat der kahan jaayegi tu. Tu mujhe naam likhwa de, main dekhti hoon, tere uncle ko.."
"Arre nahi Aunty, there is a 24-hour chemist at just 5 minutes walk. If I take the car, won't take more than 2 minutes. Chaliye rakhti hoon. Thank you so much Aunty" and she takes the car keys.
"Nidhi ab tu mujhe thank you bolegi? Chal, koi bhi zaroorat pade toh mujhe phone karna, bolegi toh hum chale bhi aayenge.
"Ji Aunty." She is already at the door by now.
"Aur sun, khichdi khilaane se pahle ek baar taste kar lena."
She nods gratefully, "Ji aunty samajh gayi, pahli baar kuch banaya haina" and opens the car.
"Nidhi I m sure theek hi banegi. Tu koi bhi kaam mann laga ke kare aur woh bigde ye to impossible hai. Chal rakhti hoon, take care of him."
Shyama disconnects and goes to her husband in the study. He looks up from his papers. "yes Shyama, kuch kehna hai?"
She nods, "Guess kijiye."
"Kya hua Shyama? Jaldi batao" he says a bit impatiently, eager to get back to his work.
"Aaj maine pahli baar Nidhi ki aawaaz me kisi ke liye fikr suni"
He looks at her puzzled and she reveals everything. Kapil gets tense and gets up immediately, "Lekin Shyama, agar Ashutosh ko bukhar hai toh hume chalna chahiye aur main Armaan ko bhi phone lagaata hoon"
"Nahi Kapil, na hum jaayenge naa hi Mr. Armaan ko phone karenge."
"Nidhi ko handle karne dijiye"
"Isi baat ka toh mujhe darr hai Shyama. She is highly irresponsible. High fever hai, what if it gets serious? I don't trust her one bit!"
"But I do"
"Don't tell me! You trust Nidhi? With something as serious as this?"
She nods, "Kapil. I don't trust NIdhi Verma. Lekin jisse maine abhi baat ki, woh Mrs. Nidhi Ashutosh Mathur thi, aur I trust her. You know I could sense it in her voice that she cares a lot for Ashutosh. Aaj pahli baar mujhe Nidhi par aetbaar karne ka, bharosa karne ka mann kar raha hai. Aaj ki raat Nidhi ke imtihaan ki raat hai. (seeing that Kapil is about to protest) Aur aap chinta mat kijiye. Main thodi thodi der me phone karti rahoongi. If needed we will go there."
Kapil agrees reluctantly. Just then, Shyama remembers something and calls Nidhi, "Nidhi kahan hai tu?"
"Outside chemist shop, kyun Aunty?"
"Also buy a thermometer."
"Ji Aunty, thanks for reminding"
Nidhi enters the bedroom and sees Ashutosh sleeping but softly moaning. She keeps the tray on the bedside table and sits on the bed beside him. She gently moves her hand on his forehead, "Kumpel, uthiye please. Thoda kha lijiye aur medicines lijiye."
He simply moves a bit, and mumbles, "um.."
She pats his cheek gently, "Uthiya na"
"Hmm?" he is clearly not very conscious.
"Kumpel get up please. Khichdi aur dawa leke so jaaiye" she says a bit loudly.
He mumbles, "Nahi.. I do..nt ..want. mujhe neend.. sone do.."
She pulls down the duvet and grabs his shoulders to try to make him sit up. He relents and goes back a bit and rests his back on the headrest. He is feeling so weak that he can't even sit without back support.
She hands over the plate to him, but he refuses and pushes the plate aside, "Please Nidhi, mujhse nahi khaaya jaayega. Aur tum is waqt dawa kahan se laayi?" he asks in a low voice and puled the duvet over him, casting a furtive glance at the AC.
Nidhi immediately takes the remote and switches the AC off. Then, she fills up a spoonful of khichdi, and brings it to his lips. "Sawaal nahi, baat nahi. Muh kholiye."
He gently pushes her hand away, "Nidhi, I told you na.. mujhe nahi khaana, I just can't eat. Please"
"Kumpel, I'm not asking you to eat. Just taste kijiye aur bataiye theek haina? I cooked something for the first time. Aur aap taste bhi nahi karenge?" She again brings it to his lips. He takes it in his mouth, mubling, "tumne AC kyun band kiya? Tumhe garmi lagegi."
"I am fine. Kumpel, Khichdi theek haina?"
He is just not able to sit up anymore. He starts slumping slowly, trying to lie down. "Yeah, its good lekin, please main baad me khaaoonga. Please."
She feeds him another spoon, "please thoda aur." He can't say no to her and she feeds him the entire plateful. Then she gives him the medicines and he lies down and goes back to sleep. She brings ice water and some strips of cloth and starts doing cold compresses, inspite of his protests. Besides Ashutosh is too delirious to even protest much. She is totally drenched in sweet because neither the ac nor the fan is on, since Ashutosh is feeling cold. But for the first time in life, she doesn't even feel her own discomfort or rather does not care about it.
Shyama calls her a few times, tells her to measure the temperature and keeps check of it. Finally after 2 hours of cold compresses, Nidhi manages to bring down the temperature from 103 to 101 and then after an hour to 100. That's when shyama tells Nidhi to relax and let him sleep too.
Nidhi lies down on the diwan and goes to sleep, but it's a light sleep, and she gets up even 30-40 minutes to touch his forehead. But thankfully the fever stays down. She thinks, Mujhe hua kya hai? Why do I get so worried for Kumpel? Maamooli sa bukhaar hi tha. Lekin msin kyun itni bechain ho uthi hoon? He is my friend, lekin Anji toh meri bachpan ki friend hai, phir when she fell sick, I never felt like this.
When Ashutosh wakes up the next morning, he sees Nidhi lying on the diwan, but before he can even get up, she opens her eyes and gets up to come to him.
"Ab kaisi tabiyat hai Kumpel" She touches his forehead and is relieved.
He replies in a low but almost normal voice, "Theek hoon.." before he can utter another word, she put the thermometer in his mouth. He kept gazing at her intently, while she kept a check on the time. She does care for me. I never thought.. I never felt it. She may be childish, immatured, but..not.. Kal raat isne mujhe akele sambhala. Mere liye khichdi banayi, dawa leke aayi, itni raat der tak cold compresses deti rahi. Lekin, ye sab sirf ek dost ke liye tha ya? She has developed feelings for me? Oh God, please let my hopes come true! Please give me the one indication.. please. I need her, I want her permanently in my life, as a part of me, in my heart. But I don't want to force myself or my feelings on her.
Nidhi removes the thermometer from his mouth and checks it. It is almost normal, and she sighs in relief.
"Thank you so much Nidhi for everything you did last night"
She smiles, "Dosti me no thank you, no sorry. Right Kumpel?"
He nods with a smile, "Ab main bilkul theek hoon, toh tum so jaaoo aaraam se. Main uth jaata hoon. Tum AC chalake so jaao"
"As you say. Lekin aap mat uthiye. Abhi toh Baba bhi nahi aaye. Haan main bhi so jaati hoon. AC not needed." And she lay down on the diwan. She says "Kumpel, please take rest today, no office"
"Lekin mujhe jaana hai. Ek important case hai."
"Armaan Sir nahi handle kar sakte kya?"
"Nahi, use kuch nahi pata iske baare me. Mujhe hi jaana padega. Aur tumne mujhe bilkul theek toh kar diya hai. Phir?"
"Okay but don't stress too much. Haan?"
She nods and closes her eyes and is asleep in no time. He keeps gazing at her lovingly. And she dozes off to sleep.
That evening, Ashutosh hurriedly finishes all work and rushes home, picking up a single rose on the way. Nidhi aaj tumhari taraf apna pahla kadam bada raha hoon. Please mujhe koi ishaara de dena. Hamare rishte ko ek mauka dena!
He enters the house without ringing the bell, since it was open. Hiraman was in the kitchen. He rushed into the bedroom. Nidhi was dressed up and fully made up, complete with jewelry and footwear. "Hi Kumpel. I have to rush to a party. M already late."
"Nidhi zaroori hai kya? Can't you cancel your going?"
"No. Its an important party. My friends must be waiting. Besides, I got this evening gown and matching jewelry for this party." After all, Rohan ki party hai!
"Nidhi mujhe tumse kuch kehna tha, infact tumhe kuch dena tha" and he brought out the rose.
She grabs it, "Oh how sweet, Thank you!" She keeps it on the dressing table and rushes out shouting, "bye" leaving an astonished Ashutosh. Kal raat ko jo maine dekha woh koi sapna tha kya?
A few days later, one evening, Anji and Armaan were sitting in an open air restaurant, sipping coffee.
"Armaanji, maine aap se kitni baar kaha ke Ashutoshji ko samjhaiye ke Nidhi ko itna pamper nahi Karen. Who bilkul nikal chuki hai haath se"
Armaan says with a frustrated sigh, "I know, lekin main kya karoon Anji? Jab bhi main Ashu se kuch kehta hoon, woh mujhe ye kehke mujhe chup kara deta hai, thode time ki baat hai Armaan. Aur jab vo mujhe apna husband hi nahi maanti toh main kis haq se usse kuch kahoon?"
"Unse kahiye, ke Nidhi par apna haq jatayen. Jo bhi ho, unki shaadi toh hui haina Nidhi se."
"A man who would have loved her less, would have done that Anji!"
"Ji?" Anji almost choked on her coffee.
He nodded seriously, "Haan Anji, Ashu loves her."
Anji stared at him, astonished, then after a while shakes her head ruefully. "Nidhi, kaash vo jaan paati, samajh paati, how lucky she is! Meri toh kuch samajh hi nahi aa raha ke main kya karoon is situation me."
"Anji mere khayal se, hume kuch nahi karna chahiye. Kabhi kabhi, we need to let things be. If we interfere, baat bigad sakti hai. Un dono ko hume apne haal pe chhod dena chahiye."
Anji nods in understanding. After a while he asks her, "waise Anji, ek baat meri samajh me nahi aa rahi. Aap apne college se aksar is raaste se kyun ghar jaana pasand karti hain? I mean, ye raasta lamba hai."
As if you don't understand Armaanji! Aloud she says, "Ji yahan ki coffee mujhe achchhi lagti hai toh kabhi kabhi peene ka mann karta hai toh aa jaati hoon. Aur aap?"
"Aap is restaurant me kyun aate hain?"
Simply because I can't resist your company Anji. Mujhe is raaste pe nahi jaana dobara, but I can't seem to help myself. He says, "Mujhe bhi achchhi lagti hai.. uh.. yahan ki coffee."
"Armaan ji aap se ek personal question poochhun? If you don't mind?"
"Aap ki life me kabhi koi ladki nahi aayi?"
I am glad Anji, you asked this question "Ek aayi thi. Suman"
She is taken aback, "Toh phir? I mean, why didn't your marry her?"
He looks at her with pain and a far away look in his eyes, "Anji aapne woh gaana suna hai? Mera jeevan kora kaagaz kora hi reh gaya, Jo likha tha (stressing a bit) aansuon ke sang beh gaya. Meri life ki kahani hai ye."
She gulps and says, "I am sorry. Agar aap nahi batana chahte toh main nahi poochhungi aap ke past ke baare me. Lekin aapke present aur future ke baare me kuch pooch sakti hoon?"
She looks straight into his eyes, "Kya us kore kaagaz pe koi naya naam, koi nayi kahani nahi likhi jaa sakti?"
He looks at her intently, "Koi naya naam, nayee kahani naye kaagaz pe hi jyaada achchhi lagegi. Ye kaagaz ek baar bheeg chuka hai kisi aur kahani ke aansuon me! Ye nayee kahani ke layak nahi hai"
"Aur agar woh kahani isi kaagaz pe likhi jaana chahti ho toh?"
"Anji, please. You deserve better. Mujh se bhool ho gayi, jo I got carried away and took you along too. Hume itna frequently nahi milna chahiye tha, but I could not help it. I enjoyed your company too much."
"So, you no longer enjoy it?"
"You know that's not the case. What we are thinking of is insane. Not only I am 13 years elder to you, but also have a painful past which I haven't been able to let go of. Anji you deserve a better, more suited person than me."
"Armaanji. I don't deserve better. I deserve the best. And I found it. IN YOU"
Armaan looks at her stunned.
She continues, "Yes Armaanji. I love you (he continues to stare in disbelief). But more than that, I respect the person you are. But if you think I don't deserve you or you don't love me.."
He grabs her hands in both his hands, "Don't love you? Anji what are you talking? I fell for you the first time we met on the road, when my car collided with your vehicle."
She smiles a relieved happy smile, "Then what took you so long getting to the point?"
He just stared at her with a smile and shrugged. They both sip their coffee silently, as if afraid to break the silence and this dream.
A while later, he says, "Lekin tumhare parents? Unka kya.."
Anji suddenly shouts, "Ye Nidhi Rohan ke saath kya kar rahi hai?" She rushes towards the main gate of the restaurant, but by then, Nidhi has already gotten into the car with Rohan, and he has driven off.
By now, Armaan has also reached there. "Kya hua? Ye Rohan kaun hai? Kahin who billionaire Malhotra ka beta to nahi?"
"Haan wohi, ameer baap ki bigdi hui aulad. Nidhi hamesha uske peechhe padi rehti hai. She wanted to marry him. Isiliye woh aaj kal thodi zyaada hi khush rehti hai? Aur main samajh baithi ke.. Abhi bhi use lagta hai ke she can get married to him?"
Armaan is reeling. "Kya? Nahi! Nidhi doosri Suman nahi ban sakti. Hume kuch karna hoga. Ashu ko kuch karna hoga. Main abhi use phone lagata hoon. HE HAS TO SAVE NIDHI FROM THIS DOOM!"
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