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Joined: 05 June 2012
Nidhi looked at Ashutosh. He seemed to be frozen on the spot, struggling with exactly what to say and how to say it. Was he as adrift as she was? In some ways this had to be even harder for him na. He had memories that she didn't. He could recall how it was between them and miss what they'd lost. He would want to let her set the pace. It made her all the more determined to reach out to him..somehow.
"Don't you want to eat with me?"
Ashutosh came out of his stupor at her question. He immediately drew her into his arms, and to her surprise, he trembled against her.
"I would love to have dinner with you." He pulled away and cupped his palm to her cheek. "But are you sure you are up for it? Why don't you relax and.."
Nidhi almost stomped her foot as her mouth took on a stubborn line. "No. I don't want to relax. I don't want soup and bread. I want proper dinner. With you!"
That brought a reluctant grin on his face. "Itna gussa! Meri Nidhi ko gussa bhi aata hain? Fine. Set the table and start serving. I will be down in two minutes. OK?" She nodded and he retreated from the kitchen. Sure enough he was down just as she finished lighting the candles.
Her soft voice floated across to him and he gave a lop-sided smile. "Superman is supposed to be fast my Lois!"
She smiled. That smile quickly turned into a laugh, and it chased away the shadows, brightening her eyes. "Superman hungry?"
HK hastily wiped his eyes to get a better look at these two kids of his. Because over the years, that was what they had become. His. He saw his Ashu pulling a chair for Nidhi and seating her comfortably before taking a seat himself. He saw his Nidhi's shy loving smile as she started to serve. That was how it had always been..was supposed to be. HK's eyes clouded. Until some dark shadow fell over this house..this couple and tore them apart. He had been torn into two. He couldn't support either and he couldn't leave either. Then fate intervened and he and Ashutosh were left only with memories to tide them through each day. Now, after all these weeks and months of anguish, fate intervened once again and smiled at them. HK's eyes turned heavenward.
"Bhagwaan, You brought them together again. Now it's Your responsibility to make sure they stay together. Mathur saab and Verma saab..whatever dreams they had dreamt about their kids..they should all come true."
With a sigh he picked up the roti basket and went to the dining area. "Ashu beta, I am feeling tired today. So going to bed early. Leave everything in the sink or on the counter once you are done. The maid will be here tomorrow."
Nidhi frowned. "Kaka, your dinner?"
"I fast every Thursday beti. So only fruits for dinner. I already had them."
HK smiled. "Ek mannat maangi thi Bhagwaan se..kuch maheene pehle. Woh poori hojaaye..both of you finish your dinner. I am off."
Ashutosh nodded. "Goodnight kaka."
"Goodnight beta." HK smiled and gave a subtle thumbs up sign to Nidhi before ambling off towards his room situated beside the kitchen.
"Want another roti?" Ashutosh stalls Nidhi's hand that's tearing the roti into bits without eating. "Nidhi?"
Nidhi swallowed repeatedly; suppressing the urge to puke. "No. I don't..I don't feel like eating."
Ashutosh got up and came to her seat to sit down on his hunches before her. "That's why I told you to take it easy. Want me to carry you upstairs?"
Tears filled and flowed from Nidhi's eyes. "No. I want to have dinner with you. I don't want to be like this..like a patient. I know I am not normal. I don't remember things..you probably think I am.."
Ashutosh closed her mouth with his palm. "Chup. Ek dum chup. First, you are normal. Second, you are not a patient. You are just weak and need time to build up your strength. You will remember. Just give it time. And I don't think you are anything. You are just my Nidhi..my Lois. Understood?"
Kaise mujhe tum mil gayi, kismat pe aaye naa yakeen
Utar aayi jheel mein, jaise chaand utarta hai
Kabhi haule haule dheere se
Gunguni dhoop ki tarah se tarannum mein tum
Chhooke mujhe Guzri ho yoon
Dekhoon tumhe, Ya main sunoon
Tum ho sukoon, Tum ho junoon
Kyun pehle na Aayi tum?
He wiped her eyes and kissed her forehead softly. "We will have dinner together. Right here. OK?" He gave a quick look around the table. "Wait a second."
He was back from the kitchen with a small bowl in his hand and put some dahi into it and mixed it with a spoon. Placing it on the table, he dipped a fresh piece of roti into it and extended it to her. Nidhi took a bite and her tears evaporated as if by magic. Her eyes once again lit up. "Dahi shakkar and roti! You still remember?"
Ashutosh rolled his eyes. "Remember? This is how you ate rotis until you were in grade 6!"
Nidhi growled. "Grade 5!"
"Six! I was in 8th. Finally I started growing tall and Nandini aunty threatened you that you were going to remain short if you don't start on veggies properly."
Nidhi poked her tongue out. "Fat good that it did. I still remained short while you turned into a lamp post."
Main to ye sochta tha ke aaj kal
Upar wale ko fursat nahi
Phir bhi tumhe banake woh
Meri nazar mein chadh gaya
Rutbe mein woh aur badh gaya
"I was a Complan boy and you were a Boost girl." Another piece of roti went into her mouth. He found it almost impossible to tear his eyes away from her face.
"Basketball. You played basketball and used to hang onto to those hoops."
Ashutosh laughed. "And you held on to those tree branches for all you were worth. But it still didn't help you, did it?"
Nidhi took a roti and dipped it in daal before extending it to him. "I am not that bad. Hey, you remember that vadapav stand near our school?"
Ashutosh slapped his forehead in pretended mortification as he started chewing. "How could I forget? More than half of my pocket money disappeared into your tummy in the name of that vadapav!"
Nidhi giggled and slurped her lips. "Don't give me that look. I compensated by making you tea during your Math tests na?"
Ashutosh kept her engaged as he continued hand feeding her. "Hey you remember that TV show..hmmm..Different Strokes!"
Nidhi stuffed a big piece into his mouth in her enthusiasm almost making him choke. "Arnold and Willis!" She nodded enthusiastically. "That was fun. But I think we enjoyed Star Trek better."
"That's because you had a crush over that Kirk."
Nidhi extended another piece to him; her eyes slightly drowsy. "Crush? Nah. I just kinda liked him. He came pretty close to my Superman." She winked.
"But remember that Hindi TV show similar to that Star Trek? Sigma, I think."
Nidhi made a face. "Yuck! Don't remind me!"
Both laughed. Ashutosh looked at the plate. "Want one more roti?"
"No. I feel full. But you eat. I will sit here and keep you company."
"Sure? May be you should.." She pushed him into his chair and served him more food. "Whoa, stop. I can't eat so much." Nevertheless, he started eating.
Nidhi bent her arm over the table and rested her head on it. "Ashutosh.."
"Did we watch anything recently? I mean..before my accident?"
Ashutosh stopped chewing and made an attempt to push the food down the throat with the help of water. No. They hadn't watched anything together in quite a while. First there had been that trip of his and then.."Not much. But whenever we got the time we watched Criminal Minds. It..it's a US based crime show. I recorded the episodes and we used to..see."
Ashutosh looked up to see Nidhi's eyes drooping. He quickly finished his dinner and after wiping his hands, quietly lifted her up in his arms. Nidhi woke up to the feeling of being cradled like a baby. She looked into his eyes and tightened her arms around his neck. "Finished dinner already?" She mumbled, snuggling until her head rested between his shoulder and neck.
"Yeah. Ab jaake change karlo and you can get some sleep." He turned as if to go.
"Where are you going?"
A slight pause. Nidhi was not sure if it had been there or she had imagined it. "I forgot my phone in the study. Be right back. You get changed."
Badle raaste jharne aur nadi,
Badle deep ki tim tim
Chhede zindagi dhun koi nayi,
Badle barkha ki rim jhim
Badlengi rituyen adaa
Par main rahoongi sada
Usi tarah teri bahon mein bahen daalke
Har lamha Har pal
By the time he returned, she was almost completely underneath the quilts. "Am I even going to be able to find you underneath all that?" Ashutosh teased as he sat beside her prone form.
Nidhi's eyes peeked out and laughed at him. "You are most welcome to lose yourself along with me." She opened the quilt in hesitant invitation.
sitar ho gayi,
Rimjhim malhaar ho gayi,
Mujhe aata nahi kismat pe apni yakeen, Kaise mujhko mili tum
Ashutosh locked his jaw but the smile he gave her was filled with tenderness, and even a hint of awe. "I could be persuaded."
He lay on his side and propped his head in his palm as he wedged his elbow between the pillows. She burrowed a little deeper into the covers and stifled a yawn as she stared up at him. She loved the contrast between the white sheets and his tanned skin. He was a beautiful thing to behold and she ate him up with her eyes. Why couldn't she remember what it had been like? A spark of memory. Something. Anything.
Her breath escaped in an unsteady breath and her brow crinkled as she looked at him. "Ashutosh?"
He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear in a loving gesture. "Hmmm?"
"How did you become so successful? The last thing I remembered..both of us were working part time and saving and you were still studying."
Ashutosh shrugged. "The company where I had been working, one of the partners passed away unexpectedly. I got promoted and barely had time to finish my finals before I was asked to join them full time. They gave me some options. I worked there for about a year and that company went public. I cashed the options and we started this business. I guess we were at the right time doing the right thing. About a year after we got married, I applied for loan, got approval and we expanded big time."
"The same one you thought about? Statistics based software?"
He nodded. "Yup. The same. We have about 800 employees now spread over two offices." Pride gave her an extra glow as she yelped, leaped and gave him an impulsive hug, drawing an unexpected laugh from him. "As feisty as ever!"
Nidhi drew her fingers over his beard roughened cheek. "I don't like you like this. Why won't you shave?" He gave an awkward shrug. She leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. "Ashutosh, please don't be like this. I am back now, right? I promise I will be with you always. Mein tumhe chodke kahi nahi jaane waali. It's not that easy to get rid of me anyway. I want my Ashutosh back. Aise bilkul bhi achche nahi dikhte."
He caught hold of her palm and kissed its centre. "I will shave. Tomorrow morning. Pakka wada. I will be whatever and however you want me to be Nidhi."
Nidhi grinned and then frowned again. "How come there are no photographs of us in this room? I saw the ones in the library and TV room." Her eyes held a slight disappointment.
He quickly averted his eyes. "I..took them off and hid them after..I will put them back again tomorrow morning. OK?"
Nidhi nodded. She ran her hand through his hair. "I was in a coma all these months. But you were in a worse hell, weren't you? I can't imagine what you went through. I would have given up and died.."
Ashutosh closed her mouth. "Please Nidhi. No more. No more talk of dying. Promise me."
His hand on her shoulder tightened until it was almost painful. "Promise me Nidhi."
"I promise. I will never do it again." He sighed and pulled her into his arms.
The rapid thudding of his heart told her how agitated his mind and thoughts still were. Mentally chastising herself, she quickly sought to divert him from his painful memories. "Achcha yeh batao..where did we go on our honeymoon?"
Sure enough he huffed out a small laugh. "Lonavala. It was a three day trip. Neither of us could take an off for longer than that."
"Where did we stay?"
He groaned. "Don't ask. Our budget didn't afford luxury." His soft voice wrapped around her. "I don't think either of us cared, though."
Nidhi smothered her giggle with her palm. "Did we go sightseeing at all?"
Ashutosh shrugged. "The view from the hotel room window was awesome."
Both of them burst out laughing. They laughed until their eyes filled up. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "It was a good thing kaka didn't ask us about the trip."
Nidhi poked her tongue out. "He must have been relieved. Chaperoning us would have driven him crazy."
They laughed again and just as quickly Nidhi frowned. "When did we get married? I mean, date."
"Oh." She pondered on that. "You came to the hospital on.."
He completed her sentence. "December 5 night." Silence filled the room.
Nidhi gave a thoughtful smile. "And we got together again on the same day. Wow! What a coincidence!"
Ashutosh ran his fingers through her hair. "I don't care what it was. I am just so damn glad it happened. Don't leave me again Nidhi. I won't survive."
"I won't. I promise."
She sighed and just as quickly, with her hand resting on his chest, slid into a deep sleep. He looked at her innocent trusting face with a hint of smile on her lips..so different from how she had looked that day almost 7 months back. Then her eyes held pain, confusion, anger..and..hopelessness. She tried to talk initially but he, in his blind fury, had gone deaf. And by the time his vision cleared, it had been too late. Or so he thought. Now..God! What he wouldn't do to turn the clock back! He ran his thumb softly over her lips and carefully pulled her into his arms until she was almost sleeping on top of him. With an almost contented sigh, he closed his eyes. Sleep was impossibility and he didn't want it either. He just wanted to savour and live in that moment. And make sure that it was not some abrasion that his crazy mind has conjured up.
Nidhi blinked and opened her eyes to the daylight. And the photograph on the side table was the first thing she saw. Sleep disappeared as if it had never been as she sat up and took the frame in her hands. She was wearing an olive green sari and had a smile mile wide while Ashutosh had his arms wrapped around her waist from behind. A look of blatant possession and satisfaction was clearly stamped across his face. She hugged it and kissed his image in the frame.
"Good morning hubby!"
She frowned and looked around but the room was empty. The clock beside the bed indicated 6.00 am. Where on earth did he go off so early in the morning? She got up and went in search of him. As she came to the landing of the first floor, Nidhi heard his voice coming from a room nearby. His study. Kaka had told her yesterday. Ashutosh had been on call and she never got to see that room. Curiosity made her open the door softly. She wouldn't disturb him. Just take a peek and back out. Ashutosh didn't notice her opening the door. He was busy typing away on the keyboard and talking over the phone at the same time. She grinned at his changed appearance. He had kept his promise and shaved. His brow was furrowed in concentration and his eyes behind the eyeglasses held an intensity that belied his seemingly relaxed posture.
With a look of delightful anticipation, she entered the room and stopped dead. Darkness crept up like an unexpected guest, uninvited and insidious. Fear took hold. Fear of the unknown, but there was also a fear of remembering. Why? What dark secrets did this seemingly perfect room hide? Nidhi shivered and stumbled in her haste to back out of the room.
My dearest readers...
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|Kaise Mujhe Tum Milgayi Th 5 Chap 4 Pg 25 Dec 22||Suvika.||1199||12374||31 December 2013 at 4:09am
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