Joined: 12 February 2014
Dr Salunkhe residence, 8 PM
A car stopped at gate. Security guard came out, verified the guest and opened the gate after saluting. ACP sir got out of the car and rang bell. Once, Twice, thrice no response
ACP sir murmured while taking out his phone: " Muse khana pe bulaya aur ye kaha reh gaya"
Door opened just in time as if answering phone. ACP sir entered the house and looked around. He found bag of fresh vegetables on dining table and no signs of cooking. ACP sir raised his eyebrow with a smirk.
ACP sir: " Kya salunkhe khana tayaar hai, bari khushboo aarahi hai kitchen se. Kya bole the tum aaj subah, bhendi ki sabji nahi kuch kya thaa wo bahe?"
Salunkhe sir knew he was caught and in low tone: " paneer makhani "
ACP sir: " haan ready hai na "
Salunkhe sir: " wo wo kaam me busy thaa , socha baad me kar loon ga phir ..."
" bhool gaya, haina " ACP sir completed sentence while moving towards refrigerator to grab a bottle of water. Then ACP sir noticed that there are no other vegetables, left over curries etc in fridge and all he found was a bread packet and some fruits. It was obvious that Salunkhe sir was not cooking properly and always buried in work. A wave of pain passed through the rigid face of ACP sir, his smile turned to sad one as he looked back to the disappointed face of his friend.
ACP sir in anger: " Salunkhe, kya hai yeh? theek se khana nahi khayega toh tabiyat kharap hogi na, bacha thodi ho ki koi tuse yeh sub bataye?, khud doctor ho na"
Soon he changed his tone to naughty one,
ACP sir: " agar chutti leni hai toh pooch lete, chalo, ab aisa muhn latkakae kyon khade ho kisi restoraunt pe chalte hai, aur bill tu dega "
Salunkhe sir jaw dropped to floor as he knew bill will be very heavy, but he had no choice after all he was supposed to be the host. ACP sir arranged vegetables in refrigerator while Salunkhe sir changed his T shirt, closed room doors and ready to go.
ACP sir: " purse aur money mat bhoolna"
Salunkhe : " haan haan liya hoon aur bill mei doonga ab khush?"
and they moved to nearby eatery place. They had good dinner while chatting and came back home as ACP sir left his car at Salunkhe sir home. Salunkhe sir made a cup of green tea for both while, ACP sir made himself comfortable on deewan. While they were sipping tea, ACP sir kept looking at a room and asked
ACP sir: " Salunkhe, kuch progress hua?"
Salunkhe sir needed no explanation about what is in question. He sighed and said,
Salunkhe sir: " we are almost there Pradyuman. aur thoda sa mehnat karna hai aur poora hojayega. Maine ek recent research paper ko mangwaya hai, usme bahut kuch information mila jo kaam ka hai. darasal mei wahi paper padh raha tha"
ACP sir nodded in agreement and said" ab mei chalta hoon, apna khyal rakhna"
Salunkhe sir nodded and a tiny smile appered on his face on the concern that sounded in rigid voice of his friend while he said " khyal rakhna" . ACP sir left and Salunkhe sir closed door with murmur " yeh aadmi toh kata meetha hai" smiled and said " gudbud hai " and let the smile spread on his face.
After few months,
Salunkhe sir is working on his lab with a system board in front of him and taking some readings from machine adjacent to it, while adjusting some dials at various other machines. A wave of joy spread over his face gradually as his eyes went over the readings. Finally he got up with a big "eureka" escaping his mouth and started jumping with extreme joy. He dialed ACP sir number and barked into phone as soon as call was taken " Pradyuman, success, success, I did it ". On the other side, ACP sir face lit up on hearing such a celebration over phone, he said happily as " wah bhae congrats, mei abhi aaya" and headed towards Dr Salunhe house right away.
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Joined: 16 March 2006
OS is done. Take a look.
Daya's powerful frame vanished out of the door, shoulders slumped and gait careless. He couldn't bear to see it. He did not want to shout; the engagement function was still in progress and guests were applauding as Shreya and Siddharth posed for photos after exchanging rings. The din masked his voice; he turned back to see the rest of their teammates still focusing on the function. Quietly, he slipped out from midst of the crowd and tiptoed out of the hall, past the brazen statues and pillars adorned with candles and lights. The voices grew fainter as he exited the building out into the cool night, wind blowing softly through the rows of Ashoka trees lined along the pavement, their red blossoms glowing in the moonlight.
"Daya?" he called again, his voice now powerful and much clearer.
"Abhijeet?" came the reply at once. From the end of the path, Daya walked forward into the moonlight, his coat still limply slung over his shoulder. "Tum, yahan bahar kyun aaye? Andar function abhi chal raha hai na?"
"Ye baat toh mujhe tumse poochni chahiye", said Abhijeet quietly, walking forward. "Daya..." He paused. He knew exactly why Daya had walked out of the hall, crestfallen and broken. He didn't want to rub salt on wounds.
Daya seemed to have realized, though he unsuccessfully tried to cover up by looking extremely interested in a fragrant blossom that had just landed on his shoulder. "Woh... actually ek phone aaya tha. Wrong number. Socha thoda bahar tehel loon idhar... garden kaafi accha hai na", he said, not making eye contact.
Abhijeet remained silent for a while. "Baat sahi hai. Chalo, ab bahar aa hi gaye hain toh ek round maar aate hain garden ka."
"Haan theek, chalo", said Daya at once, looking only too eager to get as far away from the hall and its occupants as possible.
They walked through the pavement, striped with shadows of the trees, moonlight glinting off the smooth marble of the path. The noise from the within the hall grew fainter, as did the lights streaming out from its windows. The night felt deserted; in the middle of the garden, an ornate fountain was softly gushing water in the form of a small artificial stream flowing through crevices in the stone. The low drones of cicadas and high chirps of crickets mingled. The mournful hoot of an owl reverberated through the night air.
Daya followed the path up to the fountain, folded up his coat and slung it over the nearest bench before slumping down on it. Abhijeet sat down next to him, looking at his friend focusing intently on one of the lotuses in the fountain pond.
"Kya hua Daya?"
"Kuch nahi, boss", answered Daya, not taking his eyes off the flower. "Kaafi tagdi raat thi. Thak gaya... ab party varty karne ka mann nahi hai. Bas ghar jaake so jaaun, kaafi hai."
"Haan yaar, woh toh hai", nodded Abhijeet. He couldn't deny Daya had a point. The night had indeed been harsh; finding out about the murder in Siddharth's room, investigating quietly with a handful of teammates so as to keep the matter under wraps, explaining everything to Shreya, the mission to find and rescue Siddharth and finally apprehending his uncle and sister... it was hard. None of them had come expecting such a turn of events. More than the others, he knew how terrible an ordeal it had been for Daya. All of it.
"Yaar... tumne bahut accha kam kiya aaj. Duty aur personal life ke beech ka farq, sach mein ek example ki tarah rakh diya tumne, sab ke saamne."
Daya was silent for a few moments, slowly lowering his gaze from the pond at last. He didn't turn. "Ismein badi baat kya hai. ACP sir se, tumse, apne Freddy se, Salunkhe sahab se... sab se dekha ye maine, itne saalo se. Aur humein jab pata chala ki Siddharth begunah hai, usko main maut ke muh mein kaise chhod deta?"
"Haan Daya, par phir bhi..." said Abhijeet softly. He was not sure how to proceed with this discussion, ease the pain which he knew was stabbing like fiery daggers in the heart of his dearest, brotherly friend. "Tumhe nahi pata jo tumne kiya, woh kitni badi cheez hai. Tumhari jagah koi aur hota toh pata hai kya hota?"
A sad, wry smile lit up Daya's lips in the moonlight. "Shurkiya boss, par ab bas bhi karo. Ye jitni tareef kar rahe ho meri, main 0.1% bhi uske laayak nahi hoon. Mujhse kya kya ho gaya, tum jaante ho."
Abhijeet looked up sharply. "Daya, please..."
"Sach toh sach hai na Abhijeet", continued Daya, his tone heavy. "Ek ladki ke liye humari 17 saal ki dosti khatre main aa gayi. Sach mein meri jagah aur koi hota, toh pata nahi kya hota..."
"Yaar bas karo", said Abhijeet loudly; a few night birds in the nearby bushes tweeted in alarm. "Woh sab hum nipta chuke hain na. Waada kiya tha ki ab aisa humaare beech phir kabhi nahi hoga. Phir wohi baatein kyun dohra rahe ho?"
"Tumne toh mujhe maaf kar diya Abhijeet, par main khud ko kaise maaf karunga?" said Daya quietly. "Ek baar bhi nahi socha, aisi baaton se kitna bura lagega tumhe!"
"Maine kaha na mujhe tumhari kisi baat se bura nahi lagta!" said Abhijeet desperately.
Daya smiled again, now looking back up at the moonlit pond. "Abhi bhi tumne theek se jhooth bolna nahi seekha na."
Abhijeet felt a sudden chill shoot up his spine. He had last heard those words from Daya's lips in a terrible, terrible situation. Did he not understand? Did people think he was an emotional fool, deciding to opt for a transfer because of an argument? Had they not known what he had faced, endured and vanquished for the past seventeen years of service in the department? Those were not what hurt him. His body and heart were steeled against petty physical and emotional wounds. But when it came to someone he'd grown to love as his own brother, the only one to whom he had opened his inner vulnerable self to and who had filled his once dark and closed heart with the light of love and friendship... that hurt. A lot.
"Bas Daya", he said, a little more forcefully than he had intended. The sudden upsurge of those bitter memories seemed to have strengthened his resolve to settle the issue once and for all. "Tum jaante ho kaise kaise waqt mein humne ek doosre ka saath diya hai. Jab poori team mere khilaaf rahi, tab bhi tumne mujhpe bharosa kiya. Ye sab baatein chhodo na yaar."
For a long while, Daya remained silent and impassive. "Dil kuch zyada hi bada hai tumhara, boss. Pata nahi mujhe kya ho gaya... kya kar daala mere saath inn sab ne." He paused again, silently staring at the water cutting trenches into the silt by the grass. "Main jo sapne mein bhi karne ki soch nahi sakta tha, mujhse karwa daala inn jasbaton ne. Pehle Sonali, phir Poorvi aur ab ye... mujhe toh lagta hai kisi ko chahna hi gunah hai. Jab bhi maine kisi ko chaha, kuch na kuch zaroor hua. Aur iss baar, ek baar phir meri galtiyon ki saza tumhe mili."
At long last, he slowly turned to look at Abhijeet. "Tumse phir sorry bhi keh nahi paaunga, Abhi. Upar waale ne tum jaisa dost diya mujhe, aur maine..."
"Maine kaha na yaar, bas kar. Ab rulayega kya?" exclaimed Abhijeet, fighting back an impulse to spring to his feet. "Aisa kuch nahi hai! Dekho, galti meri bhi hai. Tumhari khushi ki chinta mein maine tumhe sach nahi bataya... nahi bataya ki Siddharth Shreya ka cousin nahi fiance hai. Pata tha tumhe kabhi na kabhi pata chal jaayega... par tumhara dukh dekhne ki taaqat mere paas nahi thi. Tumne bas mujhse ek sawaal poocha, jiska jawab main de na saka. Kisi ko bhi dukh hota na, agar bharosa karne ke baad aisa ho toh. Galti meri hai, Daya. I am sorr-"
"Ab tum kyun shuru ho gaye?" said Daya loudly, looking straight into his eyes. "Aisa kuch nahi hai yaar, tumne kuch galat nahi kiya. Mujhe... mujhe aisa kuch nahi laga."
"Tumne bhi theek se jhooth bolna kahan seekha hai", said Abhijeet quietly, with a hint of a smile.
Several seconds trickled by. The water gushed on, crickets chirped and the owl hooted again, more loudly this time. Daya's expression didn't betray what he was feeling within, and Abhijeet almost felt afraid he had crossed the line. And then, for the first time that night, he broke out into a wide smile and chuckled. Abhijeet laughed with him, feeling a heavy weight slowly ease off his heart. That had been his primary objective, his aim that night - to see his buddy happy and smiling.
"Nahi sudhrode tum, boss", said Daya, shaking his head.
"Aakhir boss kiska hoon?" winked Abhijeet, clapping him on the shoulder. "Kya yaar Daya... tum bhi na."
"Pata nahi kaise sochne laga tha Shreya ke baare mein aise", said Daya, idly prodding at a stone with his boot. "Karna tha duty pe dhyaan, aur kaise chakkar mein pad gaya."
"Ab chhodo bhi, yaar", said Abhijeet. He was glad to see his mood growing lighter by the minute, and felt it was finally safe to speak his mind. "Dekho... insaan hain hum sab. Feelings hoti hain humari. Ussi mein toh insaan hone ki khushi hai. Ek doosre ko chahna, ek doosre ki fikr karna... kyunki hum sab ek parivaar hain. Kismat ne humare apne humse door kar diye... par badle mein humein ye CID ka parivaar de diya. Par pyaar ka matlab sirf ishq waala love' hi nahi hota hai na."
Daya was still for a few seconds. And then, he nodded slowly. "Pehle aisa kabhi nahi socha maine Shreya ke baare mein. Phir pata nahi kya ho gaya... ab lagta hai sab meri bewakoofi thi."
"Nahi Daya", said Abhijeet. "Koi bewakoofi nahi. Tum Shreya ko chahte ho jaise tum team ke har member ko chahte ho, bas. Salunkhe sahab, Freddy, Purvi, Sachin... humare sab saathi. Kamse kam pichle saal se maine jo bhi dekha tumhaare andar, mujhe toh wohi laga. Ab apne aap se poocho, apne andar... kya mehsus karte ho tum."
Daya was silent longer than ever at his words. He began slowly pressing the stone deeper into the moist soil with his boot. He turned his attention towards another one, only to realize it was a well-camouflaged toad which croaked in alarm and hopped off towards the pond. Both of them shared a light laugh over this, and Abhijeet deftly observed Daya's expressions, seeking any hint of what he was actually feeling.
"Ek aur round ho jaaye, Abhi?" asked the latter. "Baithe baithe thak gaya."
"Haan haan, kyun nahi?"
They exited the fountain's area and moved farther onto the northern side, with its rows of rose bushes and fruit trees, creepers entwined around their dark trunks. Ivy spread over the boundary wall. Two night birds were flying together overhead, their mating cries soft and soothing. Daya looked up at their silhouettes against the moon as they walked, his countenance quite impassive.
"Agar woh sach mein mujhe chahti, toh natija kuch aur hi hota", he said quietly at last.
Abhijeet remained silent. Their walk had slowed down as they moved through the bushes beyond which a line of pansies reared prettily.
"Jab tumpe mujhe maarne ka ilzaam laga tha..." Daya continued, still looking up, "tab usne sab ke saamne tumhe -"
"Woh rehne do yaar", said Abhijeet quickly. "Usne apni galti maan li na. Ab purani baato ko kyun yaad karein?"
"Baat sirf utni nahi hai, Abhijeet", said Daya. "Baat ek mindset ki hai. Uske baad toh humne uske baare mein kuch nahi bola. Par ab phir..."
Abhijeet remained silent again as Daya observed the birds playfully tussling overhead, his eyes narrowing. He knew Daya was recollecting many things. The disastrous first meeting at Shreya's house, their unpleasant meeting by the lake, the fiasco at Tarika's birthday party, the news of her engagement in the bureau.
"Mujhe toh yehi lagta hai ab ki inn sab ke baad, agar humare beech pyaar jaisi koi cheez hoti toh sab kuch vaise ho jaata", said Daya finally, coming to a halt and idly plucking a flower from the jasmine hedge. "Na woh mujhse kuch bol paayi, na main. Siddharth ke saath ab kitni khush hai woh. Aur main..." he smiled wryly, plucking a couple of leaves off its stem, "Siddharth ko bachaate waqt hi faisla le liya tha maine. Ab doosron ki khushi mein hi apni khushi hai na."
Abhijeet nodded slowly. "Baat toh sahi hai."
"Woh sirf meri teammate hai, Abhijeet", said Daya calmly. For the first time, the subtle knot in his voice seemed to ease. "Hum dono galat fami mein thi. Humaare beech kuch hona nahi tha... hum ek team mein hain, co-workers hain aur ek doosre ko support karte hain, utna bahut hai. Uske aage kuch tha hi nahi, bas humari galat soch thi."
Abhijeet smiled, and put a soft hand on his shoulder. "Tumhare himmat ki daad deta hoon Daya... sach ko qubool karne ki himmat. Teammates hona bhi toh bahut badi baat hai. Hum sab ne khatarnaak se khatarnaak maukon pe ek doosre ka saath diya hai. Par agar team ke beech ishq hone laga, toh duty par bhi asar padega na."
"Bilkul padega", said Daya, absentmindedly plucking a few petals from the flower. "Aur ACP sir toh kabhi nahi chahenge ki officers ek doosre ke baare mein aisi feelings rakhein. Duniya mein kitne purush aur mahilayein ek doosre ke saath kaam karte hain, ek doosre ke kareeb bhi hote hain par bina ye ishq-visq ke chakkar mein pade huey. Humaari bhi bahut female colleagues thi. Asha ko hi dekho. Ab apni Purvi ko dekho. Mera sochna hai woh sahi raasta hai."
Abhijeet nodded and patted his shoulder. At long last, he felt relaxed. A weight had lifted off his mind and soul. Things seemed to be going right at last. But there was one thing still left... the root of the majority of their problems in that crisis.
"Tumne abhi bhi uss letter ki sacchayi mujhse poochi nahi, Daya", said Abhijeet.
Daya chuckled. "Ab farq kya padta hai, boss. Sab kuch toh khatam ho gaya. Mujhe pata hai tumhaari koi badi majboori hogi, aur tumne jo bhi kiya meri aur sabki bhalayi soch ke hi kiya hoga. Mujhe koi saboot nahi chahiye... tumpe humesha bharosa rahega mera."
Abhijeet smiled sadly. "Tumhe nahi chahiye, par mere dil pe jo bojh hai, uska kya? Mujhe bhi ab tumse sab sach bata dena chahiye. Jaise tumne kaha, ab sab khatm ho chuka hai... kamse kam tumhe toh ye jaanne ka poora haq hai."
He put his hand into his coat, and pulled out the still sealed letter. Daya eyed it with a little surprise.
"Tum isse apni jeb mein liye ghoom rahe the?"
Abhijeet smiled again. "Mann maanta hi nahi tha, tumse baat chhupana. Pata tha bataane ka waqt jaldi hi aayega. Ab ye lo... aur suno, main Shreya ko ye letter kyun nahi de saka. Meri taraf se, ek baar phir tumhe sorry."
Daya took the letter, and before a surprised Abhijeet calmly tore it in half, envelope and all. "Katha prarambh kijiye, Prabhu. Sun raha hoon."
"Accha..." said Abhijeet, looking slightly alarmed by his tone and actions. "Bataun?"
"Bola na", repeated Daya in a bored voice, tearing each half of the letter into quarters.
Abhijeet opened his mouth, then paused and pulled out his phone, and dialed a number. He talked briefly and handed over the phone to Daya, who heard Tarika's voice emanating from the phone. They talked. Daya's eyes grew wider and wider.
"Ye kya bol rahi ho??!!"
Purvi moved through the hall, looking far and wide. The buffet tables were growing emptier by the minute. The guests were getting back at their positions, chatting animatedly and finishing the last of their meals while the chamber orchestra was preparing itself for the next round of song and dance. She could see Kavin eyeing her with anticipation from the dance floor. Irritated, she moved through the crowd and saw Siddharth and his father talking to Shreya's parents in the far side. Shreya was nowhere to be seen.
"Shreya? Excuse me, aapne Shreya ko dekha?"
Nobody knew anything. Perhaps she had gone back to her room. Purvi walked up the marble staircase, past the rows of ornate vases and oil paintings lining the wall, and pushed open the teak door only to find the room vacant. There was nobody around to ask.
She could hear Siddharth's mausi calling from the hall again. She moved up another flight of stairs, wondering where Shreya had gone, when she suddenly spotted her from the window, standing on the balcony looking out at the city lights.
"Idhar ho yaar tum", called Purvi, moving out into the balcony. "Kab se dhoondh rahe the tumhe. Neeche log intzaar kar rahe hain. Chalo aao na."
"Haan aati hoon abhi", said Shreya, not looking at her. She continued to lean onto the balcony, hands folded.
Purvi looked at her, approaching a bit closer. "Kya hua, Shreya? Tum theek toh ho na?"
"Haan, bilkul", answered Shreya, a bit too quickly. However, she could not look away in time. Purvi saw that her eyes looked red and puffy. She had been crying again.
"Kya baat hai, Shreya?" asked Purvi. "Tum ro rahi thi na. Kya hua? Ab toh sab theek hai na."
"Kehne ko toh kabhi kuch kharab tha hi nahi", answered Shreya. "Sab kuch accha toh chal raha hai, sab ke liye. Toh phir main bhi kyun pareshaan hongi?"
Purvi paused a bit before walking up next to her. "Koi baat toh hai. Aur kya hai, woh bhi pata hai."
Shreya was silent, and simply continued to stare out into the night.
Purvi continued, "Dekho Shreya. Main samajh sakti hoon tum kya mehsoos kar rahi ho, par ab toh sab ho chuka hai na. Tumne khud faisla le liya na."
Shreya turned to her. "Maine faisla liya?"
"Bilkul", answered Purvi. "Dekho; jab tumhe laga park mein woh gift Siddharth ne diya hai, tumhe khushi hui na. Jab Siddharth party mein naraz ho gaya, tumhe bura laga na. Aaj jab Siddharth gayab ho gaya aur uspe khoon ka ilzaam laga, tumhe uski fikr hui na. Hai ki nahi, Shreya?"
Shreya said nothing, her silence indicating acceptance.
"Maine tumse pehle bhi kaha tha, Shreya - apne dil ki baat suno. Tumhara dil kya kehta hai, khud hi dekho", said Purvi. "Ussi mein tumhari aur hum sab ki khushi hai."
"Pata hai Purvi, Siddharth ko bahut chahti hoon main", said Shreya at last. "Par... Daya sir? Main aise kaise bhool jaaun unko?"
"Agar waqai aisa hai, toh tumhe pehle hi unse bolna chahiye tha na. Jab woh tumhare ghar aaye, tumse bureau mein bole..." said Purvi.
"Arre aise kaise bol deti? Humare senior hain woh!" interjected Shreya. "Meri wajah se unke aur Abhijeet sir ke beech daraar aayi. Tumne suni thi na unki baat. Toh jaake unse kyun nahi bola kuch? Tum bhi toh bol sakti thi?"
Purvi did not speak immediately. The memories of that evening still haunted her to the core. The fight may have been long over, but the effects on all of them would take a long, long time to vanish. She remembered that analogy of Kabir they had been taught in school; a broken string cannot ever be whole again, for the knot always remains. She had enough faith in the legendary friendship of Daya and Abhijeet to know theirs was an exception; it had faced even tempests and still endured. No force of nature could separate them or lessen their love and respect for each other. But still, the pain, the horror of witnessing that disaster!
Only earlier that day, Shreya had expressed to her that Daya had been enquiring about some love letter. Nobody knew what the matter was about. Later that evening as she went up to submit a pending file, raised voices were already emanating from the bureau into the corridor. She did not know where she was, what she was holding on to... for her nothing existed anymore except that vacuum of a bureau and those words hanging there like hellish smoke. "...bharosa kiya tha" ..."agar humari dosti itni sasti hai..." It terribly hurt. All of it. Soon Abhijeet came her way, and it was only then she realized where she was. She made no effort to hide herself. Abhijeet, however, showed no sign of disturbance at her presence, or looked any more hurt than he already was. He merely continued his phone call and turned away to pursue work. It was then that she remembered she still had legs. Slowly, she walked out of the bureau and broke into a run down on the street.
She did not know when she reached home, how she ended up on the bed, burying her face in the pillow and letting the tears stream out into the cloth, her chest heaving and mind clouded with echoes of what she had heard. She hated it, hated herself for witnessing that travesty, but how could she have broken herself away knowing two people she had always looked up to in life were treating each other thus? She knew they were the heart and soul of CID, and the department and the family was nothing without them. Something had to be done. But how? Abhijeet's singular look at her lingered in her mind. He had given her his trust; she knew this was not supposed to be known to anyone else. But Shreya? She had to know. At least the crux of the issue, if not all the details. And only the next afternoon, she again had the misfortune of witnessing Daya ignoring Abhijeet right in front of her. It was too much. She couldn't interfere in the matters of others, but Shreya needed to know. And she then did, being already aware of it.
"Hum doosron ke personal life mein dakhl nahi de sakte na. Woh bhi seniors se", answered Purvi at last. "Tumhe pata tha, aur tumne unse baat bhi ki. Sab theek bhi ho gaya. Par uske baad... Siddharth ke saath hi thi na tum."
Shreya said nothing for a long while.
"Daya sir aur Siddharth, dono ke saath toh tum nahi reh sakti na", continued Purvi firmly. "Tumne Siddharth ko ek wajah se pasand kiya, and you know it. Accept kar lo sacchayi ko, Shreya. Siddharth accha hai aur tumhe bahut pyaar karta hai na."
"Nahi samjhogi tum", answered Shreya quietly. "Koi nahi samajh sakta. Mujhe kya feel hota hai... koi nahi jaan sakta."
"Shreya", said Purvi calmly, "tum jaanti ho na, hum sab saath -"
"Nahi Purvi", interjected Shreya loudly, turning to face her. "Mujhe nahi lagta ye sab theek hai. Maine suna tha... papa ko suna tha mummy se baat karte hue, kuch paise ke baare mein. Phir kuch Siddharth ke baare mein bole, shaadi ke baare mein."
Purvi stared at her for a bit. "Ye baat tumne pehle kyun nahi batayi?"
"Mujhe kuch samajh nahi aaya", said Shreya miserably. "Par ab kuch waqt se lag raha hai... lag raha hai jaise woh meri Siddharth ke saath shaadi sirf paiso ke liye kara rahe hain!"
"Shreya, please", said Purvi. "Woh tumhare parents hain. Aise karne ki soch bhi kaise sakte hain tumhaare saath?! Ho sakta hai woh shaadi mein aane waale kharch ke baare mein bol rahe ho. Jab tak koi saboot na ho, unke baare mein aisa sochna sahi nahi hai."
"Par unhone zabardasti kaafi ki, Purvi", pressed Shreya. "Jab bhi maine mana karna chaha, papa mujhe daant kar raazi kar dete, mummy ki heart problem ke baare mein bolke. Pehle unhone mere saath kabhi aisa nahi kiya."
"Tumhari zindagi ka sawaal tha na. Tumhari fikr hai unko."
"Par unhone kaise soch liya, main itni aasani se Daya sir ko bhool jaaungi??" asked Shreya. "Mere saath kya kya hua... unhe kahan pata. Jahan bhi main dekhun, mujhe woh hi dikhte hain. Siddharth ki jagah mujhe woh suit mein nazar aaye. Card pe bhi unka naam... aur shop ke mirror mein bhi wohi nazar aaye!"
Purvi paused, now really concerned. "Dekho Shreya... ye baat sahi hai ki Sir bahut hi acche insaan hain, hum sab ke liye inspiration hain. Isliye toh kitne log unko chahte hain, unko apna idol maante hain. Par kisi ko chahna sirf romantic hi nahi hota hai na. Kabhi kabhi, khud apni feelings ko samajhne mein humse galti ho jaati hai. Agar..."
She paused again. She didn't wish to go into details about OCD and everything else.
"...agar sach mein tumhe romantic feelings hoti, toh uske signs alag hote. Tumhe pata hai Siddharth ke liye tumne kya feel kiya, warna tumhe uski utni fikr na hoti. Jo sacchayi hai, usko accept karna chahiye na Shreya."
Shreya simply stared down onto the flood of car-lights streaming on the road at the far side. Purvi knew there was a war raging within her. At last, she nodded.
"Wajah jo bhi ho shaadi ke liye, Siddharth accha toh laga mujhe."
"And that's what counts", said Purvi with a small smile.
Shreya nodded and, for the first time, looked slightly relaxed.
"Chalo ab, neeche log tumhara intzaar kar rahe hain", said Purvi, gesturing her to accompany her downstairs.
"Yehi sach hai, Daya", said Abhijeet heavily.
"Mujhe abhi bhi yaqeen nahi hota" exclaimed Daya, unaware that in his shock and anger, he was tearing the love letter into even smaller pieces. "Ek loan ke liye, unhone bech diya apni beti ko? Uski marzi ke khilaaf shaadi karne ko tayyar ho gaye?"
Abhijeet remained silent. All those emotions he had underwent at Shreya's house in front of her father, and experienced multiple times after that... it all seemed to be coming back, like a dj vu.
"Abhijeet, main tumhe blame nahi kar raha par itni badi baat tumhe mujhse nahi toh baaki sab se toh batani chahiye thi na", said Daya quietly.
"Tumhi se batana chahta tha Daya, tumhi se", said Abhijeet desperately. "Tum vishwaas nahi karoge, kaise ye baat meri zubaan par aate aate reh gayi. Shreya ke pitaji ne khaas kar mujhse kaha ki ye baat main tumse aur Shreya se na bataun. Kaise apna wada tod deta unse? Phir socha bhi ki exception maankar tumhe bata doon, par..."
He paused. They had once again steered dangerously close to the topic of their falling out. He had absolutely no intention of touching that raw wound at all. He diverted the topic at once.
"...par mauka hi nahi mila. Bahar cases mein personal baatein discuss nahi ho paati hain. Bureau mein humesha koi na koi rehta tha. Tumhe pata hai Purvi aur Freddy humari baatein sun rahe the. Unpe toh hum bharosa kar sakte hain, par agar baat galti se bureau ke bahar pahuch jaati toh? Bas ye baat Tarika ko bata paaya kyunki unhone usko specifically mention nahi kiya tha. Isliye ab bhi ussi se baat karwayi tumhari. Uske baad... Shreya bhi Siddharth ko chahne lagi, isliye baat uthi hi nahi."
Daya paused for a while to consider his words. "Tumhari baat bhi sahi hai, boss. Par ye toh sirf ittefaq hai ki Shreya Siddharth ko chahne lagi. Agar na chahti toh? Agar Siddharth accha na hota aur uski shaadi zabardasti Shreya ke saath kar di jaati? Main kehna toh nahi chahta, par aise hi ghatiya soch ki wajah se aaj humare desh mein ladkiyon ko itni musibatein jhelni pad rahi hain."
Abhijeet said nothing. He knew Daya was very right.
"Shreya aur Siddharth, dono ke parivar ne jo kiya, bilkul galat kiya", said Daya heatedly, crumpling the pieces of letter to microscopic dust now. "Jo hua woh sab theek hai, usse badalne ki koi zarurat nahi... par jo galat hai, woh galat hai aur unn sab ko unki galti ka andaaz karana bahut zaruri hai. Issi waqt."
"Issi waqt?" said Abhijeet, surprised. "Par kaise?"
He did not have long to wait to know the answer. There were footsteps, and Siddharth and Shreya's father came walking towards them, both of them grinning broadly.
"Arre Daya, Abhijeet... aap log yahan bahar kya kar rahe ho?" asked the latter. "Andar Freddy ji aur Salunkhe ji aapko pooch rahe the. Abhi toh dance shuru hone waala hai, aaiye na."
"Aate hain, sir", said Daya calmly, dropping the remains of the letter and methodically trampling them under his shoe. "Pehle aap sab se thodi baat karni thi. Private mein."
"Arre yaar Abhijeet, kahan the tum? Har jagah tumhe aur Daya dhoondh rahe the."
"Sorry Dr. Saab... ek bahur zaruri baat hai. Please, turant chaliye mere saath."
"Freddy sir! Sab theek toh hai na?"
"Ek bahut zaruri baat hai, Purvi. Daya sir ne hum sab ko bulaya hai. Shreya aur Tarika ko bhi bulana."
"Pankaj, Kavin, Dushyant... tum sab log bhi aao, jaldi."
The others barely had time to know what was happening. In a short while, they quietly made their way up the staircase, past the guests who were still enjoying themselves in the function, ignoring the song and dance as they moved up the rows of marble railing. They entered Siddharth's room where they saw Abhijeet and Daya standing silently with Siddharth, Shreya and their fathers. The former looked crestfallen and shocked whereas the latter looked down without meeting anyone's eyes.
"I'm sorry, aap sab ko yahan aise bulaane ke liye", said Daya once Pankaj had entered, and all of them were gathered in the room. "Par ek bahut zaruri baat hai, jo ek team aur ek parivaar hone ke naate aap sab ko janne ka haq hai."
"Kya baat hai, Daya? Abhijeet?" asked Dr. Salunkhe curiously. "Case toh solve ho gaya na. Ab kya hua?"
"Ek case bacha hai, Dr. Sahab", said Abhijeet sadly. "Sabse bada aur sabse important case. Aur jab tak ye close nahi ho jaata, kuch ho nahi sakta. Daya, if you please..."
It took about ten minutes, explaining the full story in its entirety. They left out no details. The father's faces grew more and more flushed as their secrets were unceremoniously spilled out in front of everybody. Once Abhijeet and Daya were finished, Shreya's father looked up angrily at the former.
"Ye tumne theek nahi kiya, Abhijeet. Waada kiya tha tumne mujhse ki Daya aur Shreya ko kuch nahi bataoge... par bata diya na? Tod diya apna waada tumne."
"Nahi toda maine, sir", answered Abhijeet calmly. "Maine baat sirf Dr. Tarika ko batayi thi. Aapne mujhse nahi bola tha usko na batane ko. Aur Tarika ne ye baat Daya ko pass ki."
"Ye kaam itna ghinauna tha, agar Abhijeet apna waada tod bhi deta toh kuch galat na hota", said Daya furiously. "Hum ye baat baaki sab guests ke saamne bhi bol sakte the, par aapki izzat rakhna chahte the kyunki ab Siddharth aur Shreya waqai ek doosre ko chahte hain. Par kya aapne jo kiya, woh sahi tha?"
He turned to Shreya's father. "Main aapki majburi samajh sakta hoon, par kya aap sach mein sochte hain, ek loan ke liye Shreya ko shaadi ke liye zabardasti karna theek tha?"
There was pin-drop silence. He now turned to Siddharth's father.
"Aur aap, sir? Aapne socha nahi ki Shreya ko uske marzi ke khilaaf majbur kiya jaa raha hai? Kya paise, loan vagera ek insaan ke free will se zyada zaruri hain?"
Neither of the two men spoke. Shreya gave Purvi a "I-told-you-so" look and approached her father. "I'm sorry, papa... par mujhe aapse ye umeed nahi thi."
"Mujhe bhi nahi, papa", said Siddharth heatedly, approaching his father. "Agar mujhe thoda bhi idea hota ki aise zabardasti ki jaa rahi hai, toh main iss baat ke liye kabhi taiyaar nahi hota."
"Mujhe maaf kar dijiye aap sab", burst out Siddharth's father. "Maanta hoon, paise ka hisaab rakhne mein maine inn sab cheezon ko andekha kar diya. Bahut badi galti ho gayi mujhse."
"Aur main bhi", said Shreya's father quietly. "Shreya...Siddharth... pata nahi maine kaise paison ko apni beti ki aazadi ke aage rakh diya. I'm sorry... ho sake toh mujhe maaf kar dijiye."
Their children forgave and hugged them.
"Ye clear karna bahut zaruri tha, kyunki kisi ke saath aisa kabhi nahi hona chahiye", said Abhijeet with a smile. "Ab sab theek hai, aur Shreya aur Siddharth bhi ek dusre ke saath khush hain. Best wishes to both of you."
All issues settled, they all proceeded to rejoin the guests downstairs. The party was back in full swing. The orchestra was playing out a romantic waltz and Siddharth immediately took Shreya's hand, who joined him happily as they went out onto the dance floor. Kavin and Dushyant were dancing with Divya and Ishita near them. Abhijeet visited the buffet to refill his plate, suddenly feeling truly hungry for the first time in months, and came across Purvi at the table.
"Ab Shreya theek toh hai na?" he asked her. "Kaafi dukh hua hoga usko sacchayi jaanke."
"Haan sir... woh toh kaafi disturbing baat thi. Par ab woh theek hai", said Purvi, looking over at the couple dancing in the distance.
Abhijeet nodded, glancing at them. "Accha hua sab waqt pe clear ho gaya."
"Aur sir... Daya sir? Woh theek hain na?" asked Purvi hesitantly.
Abhijeet couldn't help himself; he broke into a wide smile and both of them glanced to look at Daya, who was chatting animatedly with Freddy and Dr. Salunkhe, all of them laughing at his jokes. His bright eyes and million watt smile took him years back... several years back. The era of Asha and Sudhakar, the era of true bonding and friendship that was not diluted by the presence of a battalion, politics or unnecessary "romance". Although he would never openly express it, he knew what that boyish grin on the lips of his brother of a friend meant to him. It represented all the goodness in CID to him, the very reason he breathed and woke up every morning. And he prayed from the bottom of his heart, that the smile would never vanish again.
"Khud hi dekh sir lo", he smiled. "Pata nahi kitne dino... hafto... mahino baad inko itna khush dekha hai. Ab waqt hai... jo kuch hua, hum sab usko ek bura sapna samajh ke bhool jaayein. Aur aage badh jaayein."
"Haan sir", smiled Purvi. "Jaise aapne kaha, CID ek parivaar hai. Dua karti hoon hum sab ke beech kuch na aaye iske baad."
Abhijeet nodded, silently wishing for the same before joining Daya and clapping a joyful hand on his shoulder as he joined in on their jokes, laughing delightfully, his heart happy and light at long last. All was well.
The following 3 member(s) liked the above post:
Athene, Reshh16, bluetides,
Joined: 16 March 2006
Reshu - the poem is going well.
Shreya and BT - will read your material tonight.
The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:
Joined: 16 March 2006
Hum vegetarian crocodile hain, luckily.
Lijiye payment. Thoda kam hai, woh kal mil jaayega... supari li hai FW ki.
Joined: 30 November 2010
The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:
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Hum vegetarian crocodile hain, luckily.
Lijiye payment. Thoda kam hai, woh kal mil jaayega... supari li hai FW ki.
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