Joined: 27 April 2014
Ishani returned late from the church. Kailash and Amba had already left, and now rather relieved with the positive consequences of their one week old ordeal and thankful to God that things had ultimately begun to fall in their right places. Ishani noticed her cousin, Sharman, and Puneet seated down on the couches and their eyes drooping low every now and then, as she entered the room. Taking her notice, Puneet got up, while Sharman too was brought out of his slumber.
"Ishani," Puneet said, rather sleepy. "Where had you been?"
"I just went off to the church," Ishani answered wearily. "It always feels better to be there. Has any other new development followed?"
Puneet shook his head, and gestured her to take a seat. "Don't you think, Ishani, you should atleast now break your endless fast and have something, or else we might have to get you admitted in the hospital itself?"
"I'm alright," Ishani repeated the hundredth time. Why was everyone after her like that? If she felt hungry, she would herself go and eat something. With everyone dancing on her head, she could very well shout her heart out to let them know she was not starving or dying.
"Ishani, are you alright?" Puneet's voice interrupted her string of thoughts and she smiled, rather sarcastically.
"Yes, and thank you, Puneet. But I'm perfectly fine."
"She must have been turned into a robot, too," Sharman called from behind and Ishani sighed, irritated.
"You people can't force things on me, can you?"
Puneet shook his head, amused, and sighed. "You two are a bunch of nuts impossible to crack. Made for each other perfectly in heaven," he laughed slowly, and Ishani frowned, but her cheeks reddened in a crimson blush.
The evening news had indeed changed the mood of everyone, and thus the atmosphere of their moments. The air was easy and less tense even as they said nothing and only pondered how future was to take them all from here.
Ishani's thoughts flew back to Ranveer as she snuggled herself closely on a sofa, and glanced around. Very few people tonight remained there and, to her, there was no sleep, only eyes filled with hope and anticipation for the future. Could everything really go right just like that? Was it one of her dreams?
No, it wasn't. This sting in her heart that made her chest swell with joy was an evidence that it was not. Sometimes reality was better than dreams and this was one such example.
Thoughts kept running in her mind, rolling over and over again, some vivid and some blurred due to the onslaught of the weariness of 3 days, and at last, after 2 days she fell asleep. Not the rough or irregular one, but peaceful and sublime with a hope for tomorrow, and a expectations for the two days to pass in jiffy.
Two days. The same anxiety. Same anticipations. Same hope and hopelessness and the same look of worry stuck on everyone's faces. The doctor said no further problems were detected and Ranveer would be alright; if so, why her heart did not truly believe it? There were these world class doctors adroitly doing their work skilled in their professions, knowing the musts of a patient and their needs. They knew what was to be done and how. She needed to keep her faith in that Higher Power strong when things were so close to resolve.
"I'm getting mad!" Ishani muttered to herself and slapped her head, her eyes now looking at Kailash and Amba who still somehow managed to keep themselves calm.
What could be wrong when all the reports were so positive? Still her heart lurched somehow as she waited for the final information that the doctor was to come up with.
Within nearly one hour, Mr. Gregson emerged from the ward, a quiet smile on his face and declared. "Mr. Ranveer is alright now, and awake too. You can meet him."
Amba and Kailash along with Ishani rushed to him swiftly. The words reached her ears as if coming from another dimension of the universe. He was awake! He was awake! Was he? She couldn't be dreaming. Tears of happiness filled her eyes as her own words escaped in disoriented form.
"C-Can we... m-meet him, doctor?" her voice stuttered thoroughly as her eager eyes struggled to keep tears away every passing moment.
"Sure," the doctor replied calmly. "But make sure he doesn't talk too much right now. He isn't fit to do that. And I will need you to complete few formalities, Mr. Vaghela. I hope to see you soon."
"Thank you," Ishani said, and turned to look Amba and Kailash, who looked back at her with a gleam of happiness, their eyes wet with tears. "Kaka, Kaki, I think it's time you both should see him."
"But, you--" Kailash began but was cut short by Ishani.
"No, I'll see him once you both return. Alright?" Ishani insisted. Her heart certainly felt lighter than before, but she couldn't face him. Making all the promises to him a day before was another thing and seeing him after making him face his death because of her was another. She needed to take hold of herself before she visited him today. What would she say once she met him? Lost amidst thoughts, she saw Kailash and Amba leave for the ward Ranveer was in, and she sighed. Turning back, she walked back to the waiting room and from there to the spot she always loved being. Nature had its own ways to heal hearts, and she wanted one for herself now.
What would Ranveer be thinking now, were her thoughts, as town before her stood defiantly, painting a picture of all that lay in future and to be conquered. All the odds towering upon them like those gigantic buildings, blocking their way to the sunrise, but their love rising high, like the gusts of the winds, swirling amidst them and, defying all the odds, reaching where they were meant to be. On the top, free, and happiest!
Ishani wiped her tears, as a small smile erupted on her lips, and she laughed. After many days. So much had happened in this one week. Now every event returned to her mind like those scythed strokes of recollection of the past memory and plated the holes of her heart with a gentility that only filled them with a wholeness and completeness she had never felt before. One week ago she was drowning in a hopeless darkness but now... was it even real? After all night had to end.
It wasn't a colossal thought to hope now. But what could you expect from someone who had always paid a colossal price for the littlest of the joys?
His heart had been broken long before he even knew the meaning of heartbreaks, and she had lost him long before she even had the chance to step out into the outside world. Life had played strangest and ugliest possible games, and all that had been lost was never coming back again. She couldn't get those years back at any cost now, but that didn't mean future couldn't be planned for the best.
She had lost her father that day, and now had no courage to lose her love. One loss was enough to crumble her down completely, and she couldn't dare think what another would do to her.
But above all, what thought was it that made her so nervous to go in front of him now? He would indeed be the happiest once he sees her, so what was it that wrenched her soul? Perhaps the taste of being the cause of somebody's happiness after always blessing them with tears of agony is always bitter. But it was not what he believed which was a comforting thought. And as soon as her Kaka and Kaki returned, she would be visiting him.
"Ishani!" Amba's voice brought her out of her reverie, and she turned back. "He's fine. He isn't speaking anything, though, but you can visit him in a while. There are few checkups being carried out."
Ishani nodded and Amba caressed her head.
"Kaki," she spoke after a while, and Amba looked at her curiously. "You forgave me so easily!" It was meant to be a question but rather became a broken statement, and colour of Amba's eyes changed that Ishani could see was neither of coldness nor of what she expected. She could not guess what it meant, but she hoped to find an answer.
"Sometimes things are not to be judged so simply, Ishani," Amba said, her voice kind. "I have seen a mother should never witness in her entire life. Seeing her child die every day, seeing him long for what he considers the most precious moon and never having it is the worst ordeal a mother can herself go through. And we had to undergo it everyday. It's still... unbelievable that you're here."
Ishani lowered her head, and tightly closed her eyes. But Amba continued.
"I'm not what you think I would be, Ishani. I'm not cruel. I find it hard to forgive anyone from your family, even your father, but I know you. You are different. You were an outsider there as well and unloved, and I realized this when I saw you here. Why would someone stay thousands of miles away from their home? Not unless that someone is Ishani Parekh. And as long as anything makes Ranveer happy, I'll always accept it without a single question. I know if today he's alive, it's because of you. Your two visits did that wonder which none of us could hope for until two days ago. Doctors had nearly given up after the second surgery but it was Puneet who insisted them to, and that's why it all happened," Amba said, her eyes wet and voice unsteady.
"I don't blame you, Kaki," Ishani said, raising her head up and looking into her eyes. "It was all my fault those days. All of it could have been avoided... all of it... but..."
Amba kept quiet to this but spoke in a while. "I might not care about your family or your cousins who have never known the taste of agony that a poor family has to go through everytime the question of their status arises, but out of all of them, I'd always trust you."
Ishani looked away, her eyes unable to meet the old woman who, after having gone through so much, had accepted her because she could see through the facade others didn't, and also because she was a mother. Neither of them spoke as an uncomfortable silence ensued between them, the murmurs of the visitors slowly gaining momentum.
"I appear so selfish, I know," Amba said at length, and looked at Ishani whose attention was brought back to reality as well; "but could you please make a promise to me?" Her hands folded up as she spoke.
Ishani took Amba's hand in hers and nodded her head. "Anything, Kaki. Anything," she whispered.
"Please never leave him again. Please!" Amba spoke slowly.
"Kaki, trust me," Ishani said urgently, tightening her grip on Amba's hand as if the sole sign of this assurance would be her touch. "I love him. Is that not enough? I have always loved him. Even when I thought I loved Chirag, I loved Ranveer... I just didn't know it until now."
Amba's eyes blinked, as though to keep tears away, and for a while she was speechless. "Thank you," she said after sometime, unable to say anything more.
"Kaki, you and Kaka should go home and return in the evening. Kaka told me you were having some troubles with your health. You better take rest," Ishani said, wiping her tears.
"I'm fine. It was just stress of the weeks. That's it," Amba assured but Ishani shook her head.
"But, Kaki, it's not good for you, right? Please try to understand. Puneet?" she called out, and he rushed to her. "Please ask the driver to drop Kaki and Kaki safely at home."
"Sure," he said and left.
Within next 10 minutes Amba and Kailash left for home.
The morning wore off and evening drew on. Ranveer was asleep and Sharman and Pratiek had been to visit him while Ishani waited eagerly for him to wake up, her thoughts rapidly playing all the past events one by one and leaving her forlorn all the while. She shook her head as if to smash all the thoughts away and sighed.
The time continued to pass and it was somewhere about the evening that Puneet turned up, and she, wiping her tears stood up.
"You can meet him now, Ishani," he said, rather awkwardly which did not go amiss from Ishani.
"Everything is alright?"
"Yeah, all's well. It's just I don't like something about him, and he doesn't know you're here either."
"Did he ask about me?"
"First question as soon as I turned up was this, but before I could answer, he was back to being unconscious again. But he's awake now, and it's better if you do meet him now."
Ishani sighed. "Thanks. I'll just..." The rest of the words melted in her thoughts and she headed to Ranveer's ward.
She entered the room, grey walls of the hospital, the smell of the medicines, and the sounds of the machines welcoming her. Her heart beat frantically as if threatening to jump out any moment, and her head spun with all the agitation that would have nothing better but to frighten her all the time. Her eyes fell upon Ranveer, and her chest clenched suddenly. Thinner, paler, and weaker than she remembered him ever seeing before. Machines still remained attached to him, just in less intensity now. Oxygen mask had been taken off while his forehead still remained covered with the bandages, and Ishani blinked.
All her fantasies and questions came to an end, and now there was no turning back. She gulped. He was awake, but his face wasn't turned to her side and it was somewhere a comfort in that suffocating hour. The air grew unbearably tense as her feet followed the marbled pavement leading to Ranveer's bed.
She quietly sat beside Ranveer, her eyes never leaving him as he remained oblivious to her presence, and his head turned to the other side still. She didn't know what to say. "Hi, Ranveer." came to her mind, but that was not what he wanted to hear. Should she rant on about how sorry she was? She couldn't remind him what miserable friend she had been to him, and more miserable lover. Words once again froze in her mouth and she remained there, quietly sitting, lost in her own reverie until the sound of the footsteps of a doctor passing by broke the silence.
She stirred. Unsure how to say and what, she slowly took his hand in hers, delicately, as if any harshness upon it will plunge the remaining life out of it. It worked. Ranveer stirred as well, and slowly turned his face to look at her. And for a moment, Ishani felt her entire world stop as she looked into his eyes. Hollow. Blank. Emotionless. Only one thought crossed her mind: Pain of which she was the cause. Or it was the effect of the medicines that had lingered upon him, and she was just over thinking the matter? She did not know, but she had no courage and strength left to become the cause of his sufferings anymore.
She couldn't speak anything as he stared at her vacantly. And after what felt like eternity, Ishani mustered a little courage to speak a word, hoping he would answer it, but looking at his impassive form, immediately fell silent. Why was she so afraid now? She needed to talk to him just like she had imagined all this while!
A drop of tear fell from her eyes, followed by various others, falling upon his hand and he gently retracted it from hers and raised to wipe her tears. Ishani closed her eyes as he smeared away the wet traces from her cheeks. She wanted to cry, holding him close to her heart and tell him how sorry she was but it wouldn't be enough. Not now when everything coming to her mind felt utterly useless. She felt like being a coward who had no courage to even apologize to him when she was the only cause of all his miseries.
"I didn't know you'll be here," his own weak voice broke her reverie. "I'm surprised."
Ishani looked up and sighed, tears still visible in her eyes. "Me neither," she tried to say sarcastically but failed. "You are so cruel, Ranveer. So cruel!" Bitterness in her voice startled Ranveer slightly and his curious eyes alarmingly bore into hers. Surely, he never expected this from her. He laughed. An emotionless laughter that made Ishani shiver lightly. But she was not sorry to say that. "You heard it right," she added calmly, concealing the agitation she was supposed to be overwhelmed with.
Ranveer, after examining her face for a while, turned his eyes away. "Perhaps you are right," he whispered. "Cruel! But I had no other option."
"And now you don't feel guilty over anything at all?" Her voice carried a weight that made him turn towards her again, and his eyes sparkled with tears. He was melting finally, she thought.
"What would you have done if you were at my place?" he asked, slightly amused.
"How could I let you go, knowing I can't live without you? How could you do that? You think of me selfish, so selfish I am!"
"And you think it was easy for me? To lie to you all those weeks and see you go away despite..." he suddenly fell silent, as though gasping for air. "I'm alright," he added as Ishani stood up, panicked.
At his assurances, she sat back, glaring at him and hoping he wasn't performing his crazy stupidities again, and he assured he wasn't. "But you couldn't once inform me, could you? Why do you do this all the time, Ranveer? You could have killed me had anything had happened to you!" she cried in hope to break this coldness about him. Why did he behave so strange now?
"It's not all easy, Ishani, and say what you know nothing about. I will never let anything happen to you as long as I breathe."
"And yet you were leaving and killing me. You didn't care at all!" she retorted, her calmness now wearing off. This conversation was not at all like she had expected. She was hoping for better, not this behavior from him.
"It's not so, Ishani. Trust me," he said softly, lightly groaning. "Before anything happened to you, I'll..." he said, but fell silent at her enraged expressions.
"This! This is what I all mean!" Ishani shrieked, infuriated. "Why was Chirag getting out of my life was so important to you? Couldn't you for once think of your own health? Kaka and Kaki either? Just... just all the time about in your silly fantasies that others will never even know of. You indeed are a piece worth keeping in a museum! Don't you ever feel suffocated claiming to be this silly sacrificial lamb all the time?"
Ranveer face suddenly turned expressionless, his eyes shallow. "And I thought that is who I am," he said calmly. "And will do anything for the people I love."
"Of course you are! But it's not good, you know that? You frighten me," she said, her voice lost.
His eyes did not change, and nor did their colour. "Frighten you?" he asked. "Indeed!"
Ishani gave a frustrated sigh. "Not funny!" she warned, and Ranveer smiled, the same smile she had seen the first time she saw him when they had met in the meeting in his office months ago: a ghost of the smile, more frightening than amusing. What was wrong with him?
"Sometimes life doesn't play kind games with us, and we're forced to do the things we never intend to, and it might not be our own fault, but time's that doesn't allow us to do anything, doesn't give us a chance. No one has gone beyond it, and no one can. You can't fight that thing ever," Ranveer explained silently.
"But in the time that is given us, we have to live our life and you didn't even let us do that!" Ishani accused, her voice quivering.
Ranveer kept quiet, and continued to look at her, while Ishani observed his face. Despite his calmness, she felt an agitation surging within her that would burn the whole world in the whit of a moment if not subsided. Why did his eyes showcase an aloofness that was not supposed exit anymore?
"Are you alright?" she asked, now calmly. "Is there anything I don't know?" There was no way he would ever answer the question if something was indeed wrong, but something... a hint that could follow it. But before anything else could happen, Ishani noticed slight change in Ranveer's eyes and he coughed lightly, hiccoughs increasing in numbers as the time passed; and in a frenzy of confusion, Ishani felt Ranveer slowly closing his eyes, her words going unaffected on his passive form.
"Ranveer? Ranveer? Doctor!" Ishani rushed past the passage right to the doctor's cabin who at her sudden appearance looked shocked.
"What's wrong?" he asked, worried.
"I... don't know," Ishani panted. "There's something wrong with him... Please come!"
"He had just needed some rest," the doctor said as he came out of the ward. "Nothing to worry about."
"Will he be alright?"
The doctor nodded and turned to leave when Ishani again called him out. "Doctor," she said, "I see something's wrong with him. Is he completely fine now?"
"Miss Parekh, he is fine. You don't have to worry about anything. You can see him in a while once he wakes up."
"God, what's wrong with everyone?" Ishani growled. "Why can't they tell me the truths? It's as if everyone's hiding something!"
She cursed herself. What was the need to go so crazy on him? Her head dropped low as the memories of a while back flashed in her mind again. She needed to keep herself calm for their sanity's sake, but instead had created the mess again. She caught her head in her hands, the awful weight of guilt again overpowering her senses, and this time it was not the strength that promised to return, but her head found crashing on the hard surface of the floor and her eyes automatically closed, but there was no pain. Weariness and weakness had finally accomplished their long overdue mission.
Oxygen mask rested on his mouth, covering a large part of his nose and whole of mouth, and pumping enough oxygen for him to breathe regularly and sufficiently to keep him alive. Alive. Death was so close to him a few days ago and he survived, but even that felt so distant of a thought when he lay here in this hospital room. Ishani had just visited him, and he had been unable to answer any of her questions satisfactorily.
What would she be thinking of him? He never intended to hurt her, but perhaps her happiness lay somewhere else, and not with him. Probably fate had just planned something else for them.
"You could not give up now, Ranveer!" a voice from within himself cried. "You've waited for her all your life. And now just because this little disease threatens your life, you are giving up on her? Don't you remember what she said? You let her go, and she will cease to exist!"
True, he waited for her all his life, but life was what wanted to run away from him. Or maybe not. She was his life.
"Don't think so much, you fool!" the voice again erupted. "It's not what you two were made for. No pain anymore. Didn't you always say, life is too short to avoid some things? Why avoid life when it's come to your doorstep?"
Something within him broke. Life truly had its own ugly games to play, and sometimes its victims were the most beautiful people like his Ishani. What was he supposed to say?
She had lost her father that day, and how could she lose him now? She loved him, yes! It was the worst irony of his life: Something couldn't let her stay with him, and he couldn't let her go either.
His eyes suddenly opened, her face lingering with in the memories that never left, echoing themselves scornfully again and again, but he couldn't help. Not anymore.
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