"Sahil and you are getting engaged next month."
Riddhima thought she hadn't quite heard her dad when she heard this. But seeing the serious look on his face and an expression which screamed that he anticipated her to follow what he said, made Riddhima's life come tumbling down the hill of fantasies she had built it upon.
When she had received an unexpected call from her father calling her to lunch suddenly on a Wednesday, she should have guessed something was fishy. The only days she had lunch with her dad was on Saturdays and off-late even those had subsided with Riddhima joining Medical University.
Riddhima had tried her best to maintain the namesake relationship with her dad by applying for special permission to not take up the campus accommodation offered and instead stay at her own house but that didn't seem to have benefit her an ounce.
She had been elated to know that her father was having lunch with her, in fact had called her on his own and asked her to come home. But listening to her father's order, she could only stare into space and wonder what she had done to deserve this kind of reckless and distant relationship.
She just stared into the blue wall ahead and it suddenly dawned on her, that why she was feeling so hollow and unusually painful inside. She realized that it was less because of the indifference of her dad and more because of the person with deep blue eyes that she was in love with.
It took her a few minutes to register that Armaan was the reason that she had not yet replied her dad with an affirmation to his proposal. How could she even think about someone else when she knew that the only person she had loved and thought of was Armaan.
His eyes, his dimpled smile, his nonchalant acts in front of the seniors, his naughty smirk and sheepish grins before and after getting into trouble, how could she forget any of them. The way he held her hand when she was dying of nervousness before her practical exams, the manner in which he ate up her entire lunch and when she flared up at him and decided not to talk to him, he brought her an entire collection of Lindt chocolates, the way he bossed her around sometimes to do his quota of HW by bribing her with Enid blyton books which he knew she still loved.
Everything came crashing down on her and without even knowing, she unconsciously said, "No."
Shashank Gupta looked at her daughter with his eyebrows raised up as if asking "Really?" His eyes and expressions spelled nonchalance but only he knew the storm brewing in his brain.
Shashank Gupta was a powerful man. A rich cardiologist owning the biggest hospital in Mumbai and running it successfully. He took great pride in flaunting his power and dignity and was even more proud to have children who were following his footsteps. One of his daughters was finishing up with her college years in the States and would start her internship in India in a few days and the other one was also pursuing the same in Mumbai.
Having lost his wife at an early stage in life had made him a recklessly steel bound person but he had raised two daughters all alone. Not counting the governesses of course. He had already got his elder daughter married to a famous Plastic Surgeon's son and now Riddhima would get married to a politician's son too in a few days. This was he thought.
Till Riddhima had declined his proposal.
All these years Riddhima had never refused anything. From the clothes he seldom brought for her to the new governesses he appointed every few months so that she wouldn't get attached to one governess itself. She had been so loving and accepting that he had began to take her granted.
But her refusal came as a big blow on the arrogance of parenthood Shashank carried on his shoulders. Looking at her face, he noticed that her eyes held some expression he couldn't fathom and it didn't take Dr. Gupta's mind a mere seconds to figure out that the expression they carried were LOVE.
His steel grey eyes turned even colder if possible when his persona accepted the fact that was staring into his face: His daughter was in love with someone, someone who could possibly destroy all the reputation Shashank Gupta had made in the past years.
"Who is he?", his booming voice broke Riddhima's reverie and Riddhima looked towards him disoriented. It was then that she realized she had refused her dad. She had refused her dad. And he knew she was in love with someone. What would she say to him. She couldn't tell him about Armaan, not when even Armaan didn't know about her feelings.
Unable to take in and absorb all conflicting emotions, Riddhima felt her brain stop functioning for a small second, she felt as if her heart had stopped pumping blood, as if her pulse rate had gained an unexpected momentum and before she could comprehend much more, she felt her legs giving way and her eyes closing on her own accord.
As all of this was happening, all Riddhima could think of was Armaan. All their memories flashed in front of her eyes and before losing her consciousness all she could utter was "Armaan."
Armaan was uneasy today. Something about the way things were happening made him feel queasy. For some odd reason, he felt as if he was back in his childhood and going on a cruise when he felt seasick. He knew that whatever the reason was it was somehow related to Riddhima.
He laughed inwardly when he thought about it that way. It was funny about the way love could make Armaan feel and what was more paradoxical was that there was a time he had known love to be non-existent.
This thought also brought forward the face of Riddhima in front of his face. Her smile, her hazel eyes, her chiming laughter, her irrelevant talks and soon an involuntary smile made its way on his face.
Even the thought of Riddhima gave him such a fuzzy feeling in the pit of his stomach that he wondered what would happen when he would actually disclose his feelings to her. As he realized what he was thinking about, Armaan suddenly blushed slightly at his own thoughts, got off his bike and made his way towards the caf, knowing that his uneasiness could be gotten rid of only by seeing his lady love.
And as far as the confession was concerned, it would come when it had too. But it would have to wait for sure.
"Hello Riddhima. Where the hell are you? I've been looking all around for you! Are you there? Can you answer dammit!", a visibly scared Armaan screamed into the phone as soon as he heard his phone being picked up.
He had gone to the caf in the hope of seeing Riddhima but it turned out she hadn't come there for lunch today. What troubled him was that Riddhima never missed any lunches at the caf and not finding her anywhere near the campus had just added to his worries. And when she hadn't picked up her phone after his numerous calls, it had been the last straw.
Only God knew his stature at that moment. Even the thought of her being in some kind of trouble made him shiver. Now he understood what the discomfort in the morning had been all about. As soon as the phone had been picked up he had just blared into the mobile totally distraught and perturbed.
Just when he thought he was going to hear Riddhima's melodious voice, he encountered a deep hoarse voice on the other side, "Hello? Its Dr. Shashank Gupta, Riddhima's dad here. Is this Armaan I'm speaking to?"
Armaan almost fell as he heard this statement. He had known Dr.Gupta to be a ruthless and arrogant man, but even his voice could make him run a thousand miles in his sleep!, Armaan thought shaken and scared.
"Ye..Yes Sir! It's Armaan here", he shuttered into the phone and prepared himself to hear the scaring voice again.
"I would like to see you here young man. We have some issues to sort out."
Armaan looked confusedly at the phone, wondering what in the world could be the issues he had with a man he hadn't even seen in his lifetime and then understanding that the man in front was probably waiting for his reply, he replied, "Uhm sure Sir. I'll come in the evening if it may please you. Can I ask if Riddhima is fine?"
Everything else could go and rot in hell. The only thing he cared about was Riddhima's well-being. He waited impatiently for the man in front to answer his question.
Shashank looked at his daughter lying on the bed on front of him, in deep slumber. "Yes, Armaan. She is absolutely fine. I'll be waiting eagerly to see you in sometime. Good Bye." And saying so he kept the phone down.
He had a lot of things to take care of. And right now, the main problem was Armaan.
Armaan 's eardrums shook when Shashank kept the phone down abruptly. At least his Riddhima was fine and that relieved him to an extent. He unappreciatively looked at the phone and glared at it, wondering if Dr .Gupta could see him down there.
That dude sounded seriously pissed. When in the effing eternity had he offended him. He wondered how someone like Riddhima could be Shashank's offspring. But then, he knew all about parents letting their children down, he thought spitefully.
Thinking about the worst possible scenarios, he got back to his afternoon class. But he knew deep inside, something big was surely going to happen today.
"Good Evening Sir." Armaan greeted Dr.Shashank Gupta as he saw the middle-aged man sitting in his room.
Even the way he sat, portrayed such a strong sense of arrogance that Armaan nearly scoffed at the scent of it. No, he wasn't a dog! But sure, he understood people in one single glance sometimes and that was enough to make him keep his distance.
But this man in front couldn't be kept a distance from even if he wanted. After all he was one of the most influential people not only in the entire city but also in the life of the person, who at this point of time, and Armaan knew that, for his entire life, would hold the most special place.
Shashank looked up from the journal he was reading, to find a guy in his early-twenties standing at the doorstep of his study.
"Armaan Mallik", Armaan introduced himself to him and brought his hand forward. Shashank didn't bother to reciprocate. He was busy looking at the personality of the boy his daughter was supposedly in love with and judging him.
True a book couldn't be judged by its cover, but Shashank believed he could judge people easily by looking at them. The guy was wearing a blue worn out pair of jeans and a white shirt folded up to his elbows.
He looked just out of a club or pub, instead of out of some University. Shashank groaned inwardly when he saw him. This boy was not fit to become the Gupta household's son-in-law. He wasn't. According to Shashank Gupta.
Armaan looked confusedly at the person in front of him. What was wrong with him? He was looking at him as if he had stolen something which belonged to him.
Yeah, of course he had stolen the heart of his daughter bu- That's when it stuck him. Shit! Had he gotten to know about Riddhima and him?
Before he could come to a conclusion, he realized- Hell with Shashank Gupta knowing about them. Even they themselves didn't know about each other. What would he know if there wasn't anything to know?
He hadn't even greeted him back. Armaan was trying hard not to feel conscious the old man was looking at him. He wondered if he had also fallen in love with him like all the other people did, but then squirmed at that thought inside his brain. He was here to meet his love's father and wondering obnoxious things. How lame could he get!
Shuffling uneasily on his feet, he took back his hand and waited for the old man to respond, which he did, after a matter of few seconds.
"Good Evening young man. Glad to meet you."
"Sa..Same here Sir." Armaan was confused as to why he was shuttering. Probably Dr. Gupta's personality had such an effect on people. And Glad? Yeah, right! He was as glad as Harry would have been when he met Voldemort.
And Harry reminded him of someone. In fact everything in the world, now reminded him of the certain someone. He still remembered their first meeting where she had compared him to some prat of a doctor from the world of wizardry.
He was unknowingly smiling thinking of Riddhima and cursed the person who brought him back from his Riddhima-land. And then took back his curses when he realized that the person was her dad itself!
"So Armaan, what are doing nowadays? I mean on the career front?", Shashank asked, completely ignoring the smile that had appeared on his face because somehow he knew that something related to his daughter had brought that calm smile on Armaan's face.
"I am studying right now Sir, at the medical University with Riddhima."
So this guy was going to be a doctor, at least his profession was something to be proud of. But his attire, made Shashank think twice on whether he was speaking the truth or not!
"So mid-way through your third year. That's pretty nice."
"Uhm, no Sir. Actually I'm a senior to Riddhima. I am going to complete my medical University this year. In fact, I've already given my examinations, just waiting for my results and internship responses.", Armaan replied, this time confidently.
If there was anything that Armaan was not apprehensive about, it was his education. He was good at it, and knew that if not anything else, people would always respect him for that.
Shashank raised his brows at the sudden pride appearing on Armaan's face. This guy was somehow a threat to the way Shashank had expected his son-in-law to be.
His elder son-in-law didn't even answer him back without shuttering and Shashank liked that. It gave him a feel of superiority and satisfied the mountain of ego he carried.
"What do your parents do?", he asked suddenly, out of the blue.
Armaan looked up suddenly and almost choked on the water he had just been brought by a servant of the house. Where did this come up from?
"I would not like to talk about that Sir. Pardon me, but that's a bit too personal.", he replied, looking straight into Shashank's eyes.
Shashank controlled the anger surging up in his blood at his reply. The cheek of the boy to refuse answering him. Biting his tongue from replying him back with a snobby response, he just nodded his head.
"My apologies. So do you work along with studying?" Shashank asked, because if Armaan did not have parents, who paid his fee at the Medical University. It was one of the most expensive colleges in the whole of the country and this guy either had to be a millionaire or win a mega-lottery to be able to pay his fee.
"No Sir. Medical University is a tough job and working and studying together would not be possible. Especially when I have a scholarship to maintain."
Aha! So he was a scholarship kid.
"Oh! Well, Dr. Armaan, don't you feel humble that you are studying with the money of someone else's? I mean feeding on some thing which you cannot pay for?", he asked, knowing well that he had hit the right nerve. He had to test waters before deciding what to do with this boy.
rmaan's blue eyes turned unexpectedly dark when he heard him. Never in his life had he been subject to such degradation.
The only reason Shashank Gupta was still standing upright in front of him was that he was Riddhima's dad. And Riddhima came before everything. He knew that saying anything rude to him would affect Ridhdima indirectly. And Riddhima's happiness was more important, especially more than her father's bombastic ego.
Taking a huge breath Armaan said, "No Sir. I don't. In fact I'm proud to be studying on a scholarship. It means I'm better than most of the student population of the University. An entire scholarship is provided only to people who are exceptionally well in what they do, isn't it?"
Shashank narrowed his eyes at the response. This boy, he decided ultimately, was never going to be a part of his life, leave aside Riddhima's life-partner.
Without giving an answer, he said, "Well Armaan, You must be wondering why I called you here, right?"
Armaan simply nodded. He was now, not in a mood, to have any converstion with the rude person sitting in front of him.
"You would be happy to know that your friend, Riddhima is getting engaged next month. I thought you would want to share this happiness with her."
Armaan flinched at what he heard. Riddhima..engaged'next month'love'someone else'., everything began to circle in his mind and an unexpected ache hit his heart. He could feel his tear glands giving way and his eyes soaring red.
The water, sitting on the table made him want to go and drown in it. Was it just his feeling that Riddhima loved him? She was getting engaged, not to him, to someone else. So it was just a play of his heart that made him feel that she reciprocated his feelings.
Before he could reply or Shashank could say something further, he was interrupted by a voice.
"I think I said I DO NOT want to get married Dad." Riddhima said from behind the men. Shashank looked back to see his daughter standing with an expression which carried an odd fury on her face.
Armaan looked towards her, with a feeling of compassion in his heart. His Riddhima had refused for the marriage. That meant probably she did love him after all. And seeing her, fit and fine, in front of him after the events of the morning, Armaan's eyes twinkled with all the love in the world.
Riddhima stood there, looking straight in the eyes of her dad.
Unknown to him, she had heard the entire conversation which had occurred between them. Armaan's confident replies, his tensed muscles when asked about his family, his anger when made fun of his education.
She had never been as shameful of her dad's demeanor as she was today. True, he was always arrogant but going to the extent of embarrassing the person in front, especially when he had inkling to the fact that Armaan held a special place in her heart!
But finally when she had seen him talk about the proposal and seen Armaan's face which had turned pale and his eyes which had suddenly blurred due to tears, she couldn't stop herself.
Her dad had always been an active force in her life, but now it was time for her to take the reins of her life, in her own hand.
"What do you mean you won't marry? You have never disobeyed any of my wishes Riddhima.", Shashank asked incredulously at the sudden outburst from his daughter.
"I haven't Dad. Till now. Because till now, sorry to say, it was about what you felt was right for me. This time, I want to decide myself. I can't live with Sahil for my entire life Dad. I just can't.", Riddhima said, her voice breaking at the revelation.
She didn't want to go against her dad but with the condition he had kept in front of her to showcase her love, she couldn't take it anymore. She loved him alright, but did he love her back?
Shashank looked at Riddhima as if he had just been attacked with a spasm of shock. When had his daughter learnt to reply back to him? Yeah, since this unworthy guy came into the picture.
"You are going against me, for this guy?", he shouted, pointing towards Armaan and using a tone which screamed " undeserving" when he uttered "this".
"This guy, Dad, is my friend. In fact one the most special friends I've ever had. I would like it if you don't drag him into the middle of something that does not concern him.", Riddhima replied, thoroughly annoyed at her dad. He could do all he wanted in her life, but insulting Armaan was going overboard, especially insulting him in front of her.
Armaan looked at the duo standing in front of him. He had heard Shashank's rude remarks but he could care less. The love of his life was standing in front of him, talking his side, while he knew that Riddhima could never go against her dad on anything.
He was the writer of her destiny. The feeling of someone defending him and getting annoyed because of him being insulted was so overwhelming that Armaan could not understand what to do, except for staring at Riddhima with all the love in the world.
"Why? Why won't I bring him into the picture? He is the force behind corrupting your mind. He is the one who has changed you priorities. Instead of listening to your very own father, you are supporting this jerk?"
Riddhima just clasped her fists tightly to control the bout of anger in her mind. Gritting her teeth, she looked into her dad's eyes, "Do you really want me to tell you about the relation we share explicitly Dad? I'm sure it won't seem pleasing to your ever-immodest ears."
Shashank looked at her, bewildered at the sudden attacks made on him. Who was this girl standing in front of him? Where had his soft-spoken daughter gone?
"You don't have an answer to that, do you Dad? I don't need one either. It was rhetorical; I already know your answer. Why would Dr.Shashank Gupta, the always arrogant and correct person, want to know about his shortcomings as a father?", she said icily. Today, she was going to finish off this namesake relationship, once and for all.
"Mind your tongue Riddhima. It's your dad you're talking to. Don't give me this sentimental speech of my shortcomings. I've given you everything one can think of. From your schooling to your university, I've given you everything. I've made you what you are Riddhima. Keep that in mind."
Armaan looked towards Riddhima. Her face was pale, her eyes were overflowing with salty tears and her expression was filled with pain. He couldn't take that expression on her face.
The Riddhima he had come to know and love wasn't weak or sad. In fact she was the epitome of bubbliness and happiness. The person in front of him did not resemble her in any way. Before he could comprehend what to say or do, he heard Riddhima's dad's voice again.
Armaan realized that he was so lost in her that he had missed something she had said, because her father's reaction was most certainly not to something which didn't count.
"If this goddamn boy is so much more important to you and you think that the decision of getting you married to Sahil is such a huge wrong judgment, you are most welcome to leave this house. I don't want anyone who has so much of hatred for me and my rules living in my house.", Shashank said scornfully, knowing well that his daughter had nowhere else to go to.
Riddhima stood there, suddenly expressionless and lost. Suddenly the entire ache in her heart and body ceased to exist. Her eyes became empty and her body cold.
Withering in the thought that after all these years of her trying to maintain the relationship with her father, he had done what she had always feared he would do; he had announced that the relationship between them was over.
Deep down, in some hidden corner of her heart, she knew that such a relationship never existed, but she always overlooked the fact. It was utmost painful and agonizing to accept the fact.
She knew, after those words had left his mouth, she would not even be able to look into his eyes without feeling excruciatingly poignant. She wouldn't be able to stay under the roof he had just ordered her to get out of. She just wouldn't be able to take any more of this heart-wrenching torture of the make-believe fatherhood her father prided himself about.
She became aware of the fact that perhaps the only relation, even if pretentious, she ever had, had just faded away, with just the uttering of a few words from her father.
A lone tear trickled down her face and her eyelids became heavy all of a sudden. The entire day's weariness, her unconsciousness, her father's rejection, everything suddenly seemed too much to take.
Suddenly her senses became alert when she felt something touching her hand. Looking down, she saw a hand taking her hand into its possession and it didn't take more than a few nano seconds for her heart to know who it belonged to.
As she gazed at the owner of the hand, and her heart, she saw a pair of bewitching blue eyes, staring down at her eyes and he blinked.
The simple blink of his eyes, the simple assurance of him being there for her, of him supporting her, of him loving her was enough to bring a teary smile on Riddhima's face. And her smile indicated something her heart had just realized; whatever it may be- her father's rejection or a broken relation, she would never be alone from now on.
It may be too much too take for her, but if she fell, someone would hold her or at least wipe away the traces of hurt when she fell. And that realization, for Riddhima was the most precious moment of her life. It was as overwhelming as the feeling she had had when she had known that she loved Armaan.
Armaan had seen the crumpling of any remains of the love Riddhima had for her father in her eyes as soon as he had said those words. His feelings were so strong for her that he could even read her empty and hollow eyes. And he knew that he could do anything to bring back the warmth in them.
He also knew that Dr. Shashank Gupta knew how to play his cards well. Firstly he knew that her relationship with him was her weakest nerve and secondly, even if she decided to go against him, where would she go? He knew she had rejected the campus accommodations. Something he didn't know was that he was the reason she had taken this step.
And just as he had seen Riddhima heading towards an entire breakdown, he had taken a small step and held her hand. For someone like Dr. Gupta, it may not be a big deal, but for her, Armaan knew, that it was something she could spend her life with.
Knowing that she was not in a state to speak, Armaan looked towards Shashank and said, "I will take it from here Sir. As you have already strangled the left-overs of your sole relationship, I don't think Riddhima will need to stay under your roof. And now if you would excuse us." Armaan said these words without any hesitance and swiftly rode out of the house with Riddhima.
Shashank just stared at the couple moving out of the doors of the mansion. Now this wasn't something he had expected. And to think that this boy had the power of taking decisions for her daughter while he, her father was called an antagonist when he did the same!!
Taking a few steps towards the door, Armaan glanced sideways at Riddhima, who still had the same expression on her face, no expression at all. Co-incidentally, Riddhima looked at him at the same moment and their eyes locked into each other.
Armaan, scared whether he had taken a wrong step by telling her dad that she wasn't going to stay here, asked her through his eyes, whether she was alright with the decision, the talking of their eyes, an act they had mastered in the three years of their friendship.
Riddhima simply gave him a confident nod, her face gaining its color back and her eyes bouncing with something radiant other than the sadness which already occupied them.
Smiling they took their step out of the house together without even glancing back at the man standing behind them, horror-stricken and furious over the present events.
So there they were, two people walking down the road, shy and apprehensive. An hour ago, both of them hadn't even known something like this to happen but suddenly the world was more bright and jovial for them.
They hadn't even confessed their love, they hadn't expressed their hearts' feelings, but still they knew.
Everything was beautiful as they could be at that moment and they were just happy to be together. And of course, there was a lot nervousness, anxiety and excitement; after all it was their break away to a better life, their get away to their own world, it was their ESCAPE TO PARADISE.
Finally the chapter's done! As I said, this was one of the main chapters and well now I guess, the title "Escape To Paradise" makes more sense to everyone.
If the conversation seemed far-fetched, I am really sorry! But drama and I, we don't go together so well, I'm just sorry!!
Okay, that was it! ^^Does it make sense? I haven't even read it twice so if you find something out of place, tell me.