Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SR FF - Phir Bhi Saath Hai Hum - Epilogue

Epilogue

Sanjeevani had come a long way. Much had changed around. It had added two new wings and housed the latest equipments and technology. The country's best doctors considered themselves privileged if they were on Sanjeevani's panel of doctors. Sanjeevani was now counted as one of the best hospital and research center in India making its original mentor proud of it and of the person responsible for bringing glory to it.

The responsible person too come a long way. Years back she had set out on a quest. It was not easy one. It put her through many trying times but she never lost sight of her goals, did not waver on her decisions, stood strong on her beliefs or ethics to make it all happen.

She sincerely worked towards each of her goals which lead to re-discovering the person she really was, establishing her own identity.

Everyone was proud of her especially her father who always wished to see her carry on his legacy forward and she did and did well.  One of the happiest days in his life was when she stepped into his shoes as the COO of Sanjeevani. It was a huge responsibility but for her, it was just a way of life. She fulfilled her professional responsibilities to the T.

Though much had changed, some things remained just the same. One the philosophy with which they worked with and second the office of the now COO of Sanjeevani - Dr Riddhima Gupta.

Riddhima continued to have her chamber in the old wing despite many protests from all. She had her reasons. There were many memories attached to this place and her attachment did not waver an inch. Hence, it was maintained just as it was. For her, it was just perfect.

Work kept her extremely busy but she never let it come in way of her personal life and commitments. Back then she found herself guilty of having wronged each dear one. Over the years she worked steadily mending each relationship not out of guilt but out of the love and affection she felt for each of them.

She cared for her aging parents as a dutiful daughter would. Anjali found her loving sister Ridzy making way back into her life. She was a doting aunt not because she did not have children of her own and she always stood strong as a loyal and supportive friend to Juhi and Atul.

Just like her office her life too seemed just about perfect. Over the years she had worked out her routine which she executed consciously not only due to habit. Except one, which her subconscious mind, her heart propelled her to do. It was ritual for her.

'Ab chalo.' Chided Juhi irritated with Riddhima. She had seen Riddhima stand each day on the same spot that she stood on many years back, lovingly gaze into the mirror smiling the brightest smile before starting her day. She understood the sentiments behind it but could never understand what still stopped Riddhima. Often Juhi wondered how a single moment can have such an effect that it managed to bring up the brightest smile every day while at times this same smile bothered her cause the possessor never once enquired about the person who was the reason behind this smile. As years passed by Juhi stopped probing, pushing or even teasing Riddhima. She accepted it as fate which those two people had chosen for themselves.


'Haan haan bahoot achi lag rahi ho! Ab khud ko nihaarna chodo aur chalo.'

'Juhi tumhe do minute ki shanti nahi hai. Baat kya hai? Kahi jaana hai? Jay ko school se pick up karna hai kya?'

'Nahi woh Rahul ki duty hai aaj.'

'I hope tumne usse wapis yaad dila diya nahi toh last time ki tarah''

'Woh Priya ki duty hai.'

'Apne management skills ghar par ache use kar leti ho.'

After pursuing Juhi for a year Rahul proposed Juhi for marriage. This alliance was not easy. Initially Juhi was skeptical of doing justice to the alliance and somewhere both feared acceptance for it from all. Riddhima supported Juhi through it all. She stood strong with Juhi helping her at each stage convincing Juhi and all concerned that this was the best way ahead for the two.

Juhi married Rahul and was now the mother of two beautiful children - Priya and Jay. But she always said she was the mother of three.

'Karne padte hai nahi toh teen teen baccho ke kaise sambhaloongi.'

'Juhi you really discount Rahul way too much.'

'Tum please uski side lena band kar Riddhima '. You know poora weekend baap aur baache masti karte rehte hai aur main bore hoti rehti hoon. Anyways meri chodo tum batao Billy Uncle kaise hai?'


'He is much better now. The caretaker took a timely decision and shifted him to the hospital nahi toh pata nahi...' she trailed off.

'armaan aaya tha?'

'Hmmm'

Riddhima even worked on mending her relationship with her estranged husband - armaan. She did not let the traumatic divorce come in way of being there for him when he needed her support as a friend. Nor did she let it affect her relationship with armaan's father who seemed to have lost all hopes and had given up on life seeing his son head the same way as his. For her, he remained the jolly ever so friendly Billy Uncle even after he became her ex-father-in-law. She continued to shoulder all responsibilities towards him as she would have for her own parents. She paid regular visits to him in Panchgani to check on his well being and care for him during his sickness.

'How is he coping with all this?'

'Billy Uncle ki bimaari ka sunn ke bahoot tense ho gaya tha pehle but he also accepts it that iss age mein yeh sab toh hoga.'

'Billy Uncle ke baare mein kya soocha hai? Yaha lane wali ho?'

'Maine pehle wohi soocha tha. Par Christine ke zor dene par finally Billy Uncle bhi maan gaye UK shift hone ko.'

'That will be good. Kitne dino tak woh akele rahenge.'

'Hmm'

'Christine bhi aayi thi? Kaisi hai woh?'


'Achi hai. You know bahoot saalo ke baad todha thehrav dekha hai armaan mein thanks to Christine. The first time I saw her maine ek umeed dekhi thi armaan ke liye. She has been through a lot to get armaan to this stage. Aur Billy Uncle ka kitna khayaal rakhti hai. God bless her'


armaan had continued to be his wayward self. He relocated to India hoping to make a breakthrough but after all his attempts failed he headed back to UK and settled there. Christine was a fellow musician who developed feelings for this charming blue eyes man and since then tried to work on life which she hoped to have with whom she considered her soulmate despite all the history attached to armaan.


Riddhima was happy for Christine though she hoped that armaan would do more justice to her. But then what one cannot control and influence, should be left to work their way to the destiny.

'Acha hai sab settle ho raha hai.'

'Hmmm'.. Anyways kaam kaise chal raha hai? Saare naye interns ne join kiya kya?'

'Hmm. Main kab se tumhe pidd rahi hoon cause I want you to meet them especially one.'

'Mill longi unhe baba debriefing ke time pe. Ab toh ek meeting attend karni hai.'

'Meeting zaroori hai?'

'Bahoot ..'


'Theek hai. Baad mein milte hai phir.'


Juhi looked unusually desperate to pull Riddhima away from the meeting but it was important. Riddhima schedule was heavily packed as much catching up was required due to her absence.  She worked her way through them as quickly as possible not wanting to disappoint Juhi by missing the de-brief. She too was keen to meet the interns and address them. After all they were the future of Sanjeevani. Her day was hectic but she always managed to steal a couple of moments for herself.

Riddhima walked into the cafe to have her regular quick evening snack. She preferred to sit quietly at the corner table by the window enjoying some peaceful moments out of her busy schedule.


Grabbing the snack and coffee she settled at her regular table. The cafe was abuzz with the happy banter of the gang of new interns seated at nearby table.

She smiled watching them catch up with each other's day's events. They reminded her of the  carefree days as an intern.

This group seemed excited about something particular young intern was speaking. Riddhima looked on intently at the young lad who spoke with a heavy accent. 'Another returning to his roots.'


'And guess what he did?'


'Maine kaha tha woh chilayenge?'

'He is my best friend so please don't have such wrong notions' the young intern was quick to reprimand. Her heart seemed to warm up seeing him fiercely defending his friend. Her angel also was such a fierce friend. It brought back precious memories which she still held close to her heart.


She looked at her watch for a moment and got lost in her thoughts. Thoughts of her angels who lived far from her. She often sat visualizing how their life would be, what they must be doing at that moment. Juhi kept in touch with Sid after he returned to US. She would often talk about them something with the sole intension of pushing Riddhima to rethink on her decision.  Slowly the frequency of such conversations decreased to become just news flashes to inform Riddhima their well being and significant events in Sid and Rohan's  lives.

Last when they spoke was a few months back when Juhi told her of  Rohan graduating from the medical college. He always wanted to become a doctor like his parents and his best friend Sid.


Riddhima was happy for both of them and felt proud. She too longed to meet them, see them at least once but never gathered the courage to even view the photographs Sid would send Juhi. She feared not being able to hold back. She had many arguments with Juhi over her stubborn behavior. But she felt what Sid and she did was in everyone's best interests. Even later as things settled she felt like her initiation may just amount to barging into their well settled life and it probably was too late.


'He gave me a new car. Tadaa!' said the young boy twirling  his new car keys. 'Fully loaded Audi SUV.'


The boy's talks seemed to irritate some at a nearby table bringing a prompt comment 'Ek aur US return bigada hua baacha.' said a nurse from the group.

The comment infuriated Riddhima. People should not generalize, not all were such. She knew it for a fact as her angel wasn't one though pronounced by all as that. She had a good mind to get up and reprimand the nurse on  her belief but held back. It would be best that the boy proved that nurse's notions wrong through his work just like Sid had.


The gang of interns continued to chat away 'Your friend gave you a new car. Dude that's cool.'

'Such a big favor. He straight right and you?' a girl asked suspiciously.

'But of course we both are. I can gladly give a you a demo my lady' he asked cheekily naughtily advancing his fingers towards the girls hand which rested on the table.


'Shut up.' the girl almost shrieked wacking the boy's advancing hand away. 'I would prefer your friend. He seems rich too.' she mockingly snubbed the intern.


'Oh but he is already reserved for someone so tumhari dal nahi galne wali. In fact I am here to hitch him up with his lady love.'

Riddhima sat watching the gang who had been there for a long time now.

One from the gang noticed her looking their way and panic struck him. That intern looked at his watch as Riddhima too looked into hers again. He started nudging all to break fearing Riddhima's wrath as she now seemed to be checking if their break time was over.  'Panter log chalo nahin toh parade ho jayegi.'


The groups break time was indeed coming to an end. Her heart had warmed up for that young intern. She did not want him to give anyone a chance to prove pre-conceived notions right. So she got up to nudge the gang and the young intern to return to the duties herself.


As she walked towards the table the intern's friend again warned the group 'Chalo lagta hai woh yahi aa rahi hai.'


'Kaun?' asked another inquisitively.


'Super boss.' the first intern hissed annoyed.


Daylight seemed to have knocked out of all hearing the strict COO of Sanjeevani coming their way.


Riddhima was no more the ever so strict Riddhima she used to be but she still liked discipline and if that was not followed the culprit would face her original avatar. But the doctors always told of her strict nature to hold the interns in fear.


The whole gang started to gather their stuff hurriedly except that particular young intern. He just sat there as if waiting for Riddhima to approach. His heart thumped. He felt strange emotions welling up in him.
 
'Chalo nahi toh marega.' nudge his friend.


Before the gang could finish gathering their belongings and leave they had Riddhima standing in their face. 


'Your break time is almost up. One shouldn't be late for duty and not give reasons for disciplinary action.' Riddhima adviced plainly.


'Yes Maam we are just leaving.' agreed an intern. All quickly collected their belongings except one who just stood up to gaze intently in Riddhima's direction.

'Aap ko nahi jaana.' asked Riddhima noticing the young intern looking her way questioning her. On any other occasion her anger should have surged seeing anyone being so defiant  but strangely this boy only brought out her soft side. As a mother she found herself explaining the consequences ever so cooly and gently.

'Aap ko maloom hai na ki time is the essence in our profession.'


Her warm demour stirred his heart.'Yes I know Every second counts as a split second defines life and death for the patient.'

His friend scared of his non compliance evoking dire consequences whispered under his breath 'Chal ab.' but the intern did not budge.


'You don't seem to understand your responsiblity well despite knowing stark facts of life.'


'I know them very well too. A doctor's first responsiblity is towards his patients. I have been taught this from day one of my life.'


Riddhima raised an eyebrow questioningly.


'Well everyone in my family are doctors. My grand father my parents my uncles aunts, in fact even my best friend is one  yes even his ...'


'Good so you have done your home work well so now do your duty also.'


'Yes I shall do when I resume after my break.' Right now I have something even more important to do.' A naughty smirk flashed on face as he thought to himself.


Seeing him relenting to budge another friend again coaxed.


'Kahi aur time pass kar par yaha se chal.'


'She is right you should be on time. You all leave. I shall spend some more time here.'

By now even Riddhima was irritated at the young intern's high handed attitude. 'Break time is not a privilege which you enjoy as per your wish. But I guess you are hell bent on proving perceptions of being an 'US returned spoilt child' right.'

Dr Harsh who had walked in came to the intern's rescue.

'No no he is one of the promising intern.' Dr Harsh promptly chipped in to put facts straight. 'Its just that yesterday he had an accident hence he is given extra time off.'


'He should not be awarded time off for  something he was responsible for.' eyeing the intern's bandaged  hand and forehead condescendly.


'No he was not at fault Maam.'


'Was it not?'


'Not at all that is why the other person did not press charges against him. In fact it was his car that got damaged badly and he too could have been fatally injured. His seat belt was on so he escaped with minimal injuries. Though being injured without thinking about himself he did all that was required as a responsible citizen and a doctor. If not for his quick thinking we would not have been able to save the other person who caused the accident.'

'Oh ok...' Riddhima felt proud hearing the testimony. 'Well done my boy. But in that case you should not be working. Why don't you  break early and take rest. If you want you can take tomorrow's day off also.' adviced Riddhima.


'No I am good I like working plus it's no big deal.'


'Your wish but then go and finish your duty quickly so that you can go home early.'


Dismissing the gang Riddhima turned to Dr Harsh  'I think we should do something for him then. It will boost his and everyone else's morale and motivate them.'

'Yes of course we were waiting for you to come for that. In fact Dr Juhi wanted you to meet him before.'

'Hmm theek hai.'


'You don't need to do anything of the kind. I was just doing my duty.' the intern interjected


'You thoughts are very noble.' Riddhima appraised the intern's ethics.


'Oh my best friend taught me that before thinking of oneself one should think of others.'


Riddhima's eyes beamed with pride and joy. This boy indeed resembled his angel. For a moment, she felt was his mirror image or probably the person who could mirror his teaching. She felt connected to him as she would have to her other angel, her nephew, her Rohan. But obviously it could not be him as he was far away living his life with his Sid probably still oblivious of her existence. Dismissing her thoughts she thought of introducing herself   

'Proud to have you here. I am ...'


'Riddhima.. How can I ..one not know?


'Dr Riddhima ...' hissed one of his friend from behind who were still loitering around.


'Oh chill back in US we are on first name base with everyone.' dismissed the interns.


'But here it is not so. She is your senior and you address her as Dr Gupta or Dr Riddhima while on duty.' Dr Harsh warned.

'But I am not on duty so I can call her by her first name Right Riddhima.'


All the interns were already whispering amongst themselves cursing the dreadful moment when they met this intern and included in their gang, when Riddhima approached them and this wayward lad decided to challenge the unsaid set rules of this institution and profession.

But Riddhima was purely dazed with this young lad. All present could not understand what had her so dazed, his bold behavior or was she just absorbing status being challenged. Riddhima too could not understand what it was. Was it his casual approach or his resemblance to someone extremely dear. Whatever be the case she could not let anyone challenge the hierarchy and professional etiquettes.


'You would follow the professional etiquettes set and address all seniors as told by Dr Harsh and not the first name only.'


'Well then jo bhi sunna tha, sahi sunna tha. I mean aap bahoot ...'

'Strict hai Hitler ki tarah.'


'Nah... that you are so prim and proper and particular about everything and yes now that you say it yourself a Hitler too.' He smirked mocking Riddhima confession.


'Whatever but I believe discipline is important and I like discipline in this hospital even if that makes people think of me as Hitler.'


'You say that very fondly though. I am sure someone very special used to call you by that name.'


Yes indeed some special called her that Remembering those times had Riddhima smiling for a moment but the next moment she was back to her stern self wanting to tell this intern off.


'Don't bother refuting I know I am right.'


'And you are cheeky. Now scoot to your duties before you get extra duty assigned.' Said Riddhima warning the new intern. 

'Waise jisne mujhe yeh bataya unhone ek aur cheese boli thi And God he right ...'


Riddhima did not want to extent this wild conversation more turned to leave.


But the intern did not want to leave it unsaid 'Woh kehte hai ki aap smile karte huye bahoot achi lagti hai.'


Everyone breaths were caught in the throats hearing that. This boy had invited trouble.


That statement jolted Riddhima too. Her eyes widened with surprise. Halting in her tracks she slowly turned around to face the crowd. The shocked look on their seniors face told them that doom was impeding. Everyone present wanted to disappear from there. Half already promised themselves that they would maintain their distance from this problem kid going forward. 


Riddhima slowly approached the intern. None knew how to react. None could make sense of the expressions on these two individual's faces which changed rapidly with every passing second. 


Riddhima came and stood right in front of the intern bracing her thumping heart. The intern's heart raced as he was waited for her reaction 


For long moments, Riddhima eyed him  and then slowly lifted her hand bringing it close to the intern's face. Everyone found her lightly caressing his cheek. To all she seemed as she was teasing the prankster before delivering a thundering smack on the his face for his uncouth behavior. Juhi who had heard of these happening had just rushed in to the cafeteria. She wanted intervene before anything untoward happened.

But the sight in front of her had her rooted to the spot.


Riddhima caressed the intern's cheek ever so lightly, with utmost care. She really could understand how to react. Her heart welled up. She didn't understand whether she wanted to cry or laugh that she almost was doing both at the same time.Her smile grew wider even as tears flowed from her eyes.

The whole cafeteria were stunned and amused seeing this amazing sight. Can the young intern actually have their strict Hitler smitten they wondered.


Oblivious of everyone, these two stood in the middle absorbing their moment.

Riddhima could not believe her luck. She almost laughed triumphantly realising that the one never hoped to meet now stood there in front of her. He was actually there. Her ...'Rohan!?'

'That me.' He beamed.


Only three people knew what these two meant to each other.


Juhi being herself rushed forward to their aid. Giving Riddhima's shoulder a reassuring squeeze she affirmed Riddhima as Rohan announced himself 'Dr Rohan Malhotra Modi.'


'Dr Rohan Malhotra Modi.' She could feel the pride with which Rohan said it and her heart swelled in pride. 'Dr Rohan Malhotra Modi.'


Riddhima wanted to shower all her pent up love. She enveloped Rohan in the warmest tightest embrace as she continued to cry of joy.


They two needed time together. Juhi recognized that and dismissed the rest to attend their duties.


Eventually the two long estranged relatives settled down  Riddhima could not get over her good luck. Her happiness her excitement knew no bounds. She shot question after question. She wanted to know everything and Rohan understanding it patiently answered all her questions.


'Kitne lagi hai tumhe. Dawai le rahe ho theek tarah se na. Jyaada pain toh nahi ho raha hai? aur kuch khaya? You are looking so weak. Hai na Juhi? Ruko main tumhare liye kuch lati hoon.'


'Seriously I am fine'


'Nahi you don't look fine. Main order kar rahi hoon, tumhe khana hoga. Dekho kitni lagi hai. You need the strength.'


'Yeh mamoli sa charoch hai.'


'Kha le. You do need the strength. After your mending your mamoli sa charoch tumhari hind bhi mend karni hai' teased Juhi not being able to take more of accent laden hindi.

'Juhi aunty aap bhi mazak uda rahi hai sab logo ki tarah.' pouted Rohan.

'Juhi don't you dare tease Rohan.' warned Riddhima.


'Now you two are going to gang up on me. Theek hai I better leaving.'


'Aree nahi' they both said together holding Juhi down.


'Chill main sirf kuch khane ke liye order karne jaa rahi hoon.' assured Juhi and left.


Despite all objections Riddhima waited on Rohan till he had gobbled down an entire burger. 'He likes burgers just like Sid.'

She found herself drawing similarities watching Rohan eat. 'As messy as Sid.' She wanted to know about Sid but did not know what to ask how to ask.


'Happy now.' asked Rohan after finishing  the burger breaking Riddhima's trail of thoughts.

'Tum khate kum ho girate jyaada ho.' commented Riddhima pointing towards the innumerable crumbs on the table.


'Oh you should see Sid then he is worst than me.'


'I know ... how is he?' it almost slipped out not being able to contain her curiosity any more.

'He is super cool.'


'Kya woh bhi ...'

'Yup. I insisted that he has to come and stay till I settle myself in '


This meant that Sid's stay was temporary. But why? How would he manage without Rohan. He would get so lonely back there alone which forced her to question Rohan's decision.

'Rohan I genuinely think you should think on your decision of doing your internship here. Sid akela ...He will miss you.'

'Nah ...He will be fine soon.'

'He will get very lonely.'

'No Once Badi Maa comes he will not be. Ab toh sirf badi maa ka intezar hai. Once she comes meri duty khatam.'

'Badi Maa...' Juhi almost gasped throwing a menancing look Rohan's realising that Riddhima would go on her self sacrificing trip again.


Those words seemed to pinch Riddhima for a fleeting moment but she put a brave front. She would for Sid's sake.


'Oh that's nice Acha chalo mujhe chalna chahiye. Tum bhi duty khatam karke jaldi ghar chale jaana. Sid ko akelapan pasand nahi hai.'


'Oh no stress I am sure Badi Maa can't stay away from him any more and  come today so I might as well give them some privacy.' with a naughty glint in his eye. Juhi felt like wacking Rohan for fuelling Riddhima's agony.


'Hmmm' Riddhima nodded now almost on verge of tears.


'Aap milne nahi jaane wali.' asked Rohan ignoring Juhi's warning looks.


'Yes yes I will. Some day I will definitely come.'


'He will be pleased to meet you once.'


'Main zaroor aaongi. Par ab mujhe chalna chahiye.'



'Any message for him?' which got him a wack from Juhi this time.


'No just convey Sid my regards.' not registering Rohan rubbing his arm whilst giving Juhi the look 'Wait and watch the fun.'


'I will do that ...'  he smiled mischievously.


'Chalti hoon.' Not able to handle it further Riddhima swiftly turned to leave only to have Rohan once again calling her attention.


'Riddhima aur ek baat poochni thi.'

Riddhima turned back waiting for Rohan to ask another agonizing question.

'I was wondering...is  Riddhima by you or would you prefer being called Badi Maa instead? Of course off duty?'


He proved he was every bit Shilpa's son. Naughty to the core for having teased her so badly. A warm jubilant smile broke out as she understood his prank fully.


'Shaitaan.' she smiled.


'And you thought someone who is smitten with such a wonderful smile can ever ever be smitten by anyone else's. Stop underestimating yourself.'


'Bade Maa ko aise pareshan karta hai koi?'


'Phir aur kisse karo. Haq banta hai. Right?'


'Right.'


'Waise Sid abhi ghar pe hi hai aur meri duty kafi der tak chalegi.' he said suggesting the future course indirectly.


'Nahi chali toh main lagwa doongi.' mocked Juhi.

As a teen he wondered how Sid did not have anyone in his life like his other friends fathers. That's when Rohan came to know the truth behind person who said was also his friend. He hoped to have her by Sid's side knowing the longing Sid had for her. Juhi had told him about Riddhima and her status which gave him hope. Hence, when he finished his medical school, he decided to do his internship in India.

Life was smiling at her again. The drive though a short one seemed so long. Her heart and mind was both racing. There were so many questions which were making her even more nervous than what she already was. What she should say, what would she do? How would he feel? What he would say? She wondered how she would react when she saw him and how would he? Did Rohan tell him of her coming to meet him? The fact that she was going to meet him after so many years made her even more nervous yet so happy that a deep blush fit for a bride stained her cheeks.

As the car stopped at its destination, she checked on her appearance despite having checked it a million times over during the journey here. She almost felt like teenager going to meet her date. She chided herself on her thoughts and moved towards the penthouse apprehensively.

But as she approached the door to their penthouse all the nervousness and anxiety she experienced vanished into thin air as if it never existed.


She almost pinched herself hard to check if this was indeed for real. This dream like situation was it indeed real. She really could not believe her luck. Finally bracing herself she lifted her hand to feel the door to her dream house. It was open. 'Yeh bhi na abhi bhi laparwa hai. Darwaza khulla chod diya.' Pushing it ever so gently, she looked in. It seemed just the same and there stood Sid.


Sid had just walked in and was returning to shut the door. 'Agar aaj agar Riddhima hoti toh kya chilati. Itni laparwah kaise ho sakte ho Sid. Darwaza khulla chod diya. How stupid of me too to leave it open.' Before he could reach the door his eyes fell on the lady who stood on his doorstep and it felt like a dream. His favorite dream; of seeing Riddhima again at the threshold of his life, his home.

After he left Juhi always tried to coax him to take the initiative. For him it was always what Riddhima wanted. The sole purpose of his life was to follow her wish.

This was her Sid who would wait for her to take the step forward to make way into his life again.

Days turned into months and then years. But he waited. The wait only intensified the longing that it now turned into a deep desire which burned brightly in his eyes. Yet it was her decision.

He held her gaze without blinking once. Those eyes was reiterating what he had said many years back to him.

'aur jaha tum khadi ho woh hamare ghar ki entrance hai. Jahase jab bhi tum andhar aana chaho main hamesha tumhara intezar karoonga.'
And he had waited. She needed to take that step forward and she did. She crossed over the threshold of the house and his breath was caught in his throat. Without losing eye contact she closed the behind her bring a tearful smile on his face. It was not a dream, she was indeed back home. She could not hold herself back any longer and she rushed right into the awaiting arms of her soulmate, her Sid.

That moment was the most perfect moment of their lives as it brought them back together. This time never let go of each other.


 

SR FF - Phir bhi saath hai hum

Part 100


Sid spent a rather fulfilling weekend in Panchgani. Tickets were already booked and after the packing was done they would set to go. Sid seemed quite sure of the road ahead yet one question was still looming large on his mind.

He was packing Rohan's bag leaving when Maasi questioned.

'Packing ho gayi?'


'Sirf todhi aur bachi hai.' He wanted to finish maximum packing leaving very minimal packing which Maasi could easily handle. 'Aap ke liye sirf Rohan ke kuch kapde pack karne padenge jo woh hostel le gaya hai.'


'Aur yeh kapde?' pointing towards a pile

'Yeh Rohan ke kuch purane kapde nikale hai, aap yaha ke garib bacho mein baat dijiye.'


'Iss mein kuch garam kapde bhi hai phir Rohan ke liye?'


'Haan woh kuch shopping ki thi iss hafte woh bhi pack kar doonga.' pointing towards the pile of shopping bags.

'Kaafi achi shopping ki hai.' Commented Maasi browsing through the bags

'Riddhima ki choice hai.'

Riddhima's mention brought up the question in Maasi's mind.

'Kya tum samaj paye Riddhima kya chahati hai?'

'Nahi Maasi. Maine bahoot koshish ki, mauka bhi mila tha par nahi samaj paya ki kya karo. Batau ya nahi? Actually main Riddhima ko batana chahata tha Rohan ke baare mein Shilpa ke baare mein par himmat hi nahi hui. Woh shayaad nahi handle kar payegi.'


'Bhagwaan ki yahi marzi hai shayaad. Chod do sab uspe.'


'Shayaad..'


'Main Rohan ko le aati hoon. Tum yaha nipta lo.'


Sid welcomed the suggestion. He wanted some time alone to pack some of Shilpa's things. After Maasi left he immediately got down to that task. He knew it was not going to be an easy task. There were too many memories attached with each of them. Her diaries, her photographs, little nick-naks which they had shopped together. All were lovingly preserved by Shilpa. He could not let go of any. Nor could he let go of those memories. He was going to take them all along. They were the only link to his best friend if he was not able to take the last living link with him. He did not feel too bad nor regret it cause someone needed him more than him he felt. Somewhere deep down he also felt that Rohan would then have a mother's love and care.

When Rohan came in the evening he was super excited to see Sid. He ran into the room jumping into Sid's arms the minute he saw him. 'Sid!!!'


'Mera bacha.' he loving held Rohan to himself. That moment felt surreal. From the moment Sid first held Rohan, he had become the prime source of Sid's happiness. As he held Rohan for a brief moment he wondered how he would live without him if he was to leave him back with Riddhima. The thought of Rohan not being there made Sid hold Rohan still closer to absorb in the feeling of having him by his side.


Maasi understood how Sid's life revolved round Rohan ever since he was born. It seemed unfair to Sid if Riddhima was to accept Rohan's custody. But then it was their decision.


As tears of his pain spilled on Rohan, Rohan looked up questioningly 'Sid aap row kyu rahe ho?'


'Main kaha row raha hoon?' immediately beaming a wide smile to hide his tears 'Main kyu rowunga Tum jo aa gaye ho.'


'Par main yahi hoon toh aap sad kyu dikh rahe ho. Aur main hamesha aapke pass hi rahoonga.


Those innocent words seemed to a lifetime of joy. Rohan was the only one whom he could say was truly only his.


To divert Rohan's attention Sid started enthusiastically showing Rohan the new clothes that he had shopped for him.


'Pasand aaye?' he asked nervously wondering if Rohan would like the choice.

'Haan Sid bahoot ache hai. Bilkul jaisa Mumma hoti toh mere liye leti waise.'


That comment tugged at Sid's heart. Many were indeed Riddhima's choice. She was also just like a mother to Rohan. 'Maasi bhi toh Maa jaisi hi hoti hai.'


The fond look on Sid's face gave away his feelings making Maasi recollect Shilpa's words.


'Sid lakh bol le ki woh aage bhad chuka hai par aaj bhi woh Di ki kami kahi na kahi mehsoos karta hai. Aur yeh kami koi aur poori  nahi  kar payega. Woh kabhi bhi kisi aur ko apne zindagi mein uski jagah nahi de sakta.'

The question arose whether it longing or just fond memories which had gotten that soft look on Sid's face?

Juhi's keen eyes had captured similar change of emotions in Sid over the week also when he fondly spoke of his times with Riddhima to Juhi. She wondered about the same? She wanted to understand Riddhima state of mind so with this as an agenda went to Gupta House on Saturday morning. While waiting for an opportunity to speak to Riddhima Juhi checked on Shashank. She noticed a difference in Riddhima. She seemed extremely nervous around everyone. The previous evening's conversation was catching up. Riddhima felt her every action was watched and judged.


She missed the presence of the two angels who always stood by her giving their faith and love.


The moment she got a quiet moment alone with Juhi some of her anxiety settled. The sudden change in her demeanor had Juhi probing for the reason of anxiety around her family.


'Kya hua? Tum itni bechain kyu lag rahi thi?'


Riddhima did not know how to tell Juhi what played on her mind. She had still not told Juhi about Sid and her.


Silence was getting to Juhi. 'Tum kuch batayegi bhi ya nahi? Kuch hua hai kya?'


Before Riddhima could open up they had Atul knocking on the door.

'May I come in?'


'Haan Atul isme poochne ki kya baat hai. Andar aa javo.'

'I just wanted to discuss Papa's progress with Juhi.'


'Oh he is doing great just keep him away from any stress and he shall be fine. As for the mediation, same can be continued'


'Cool then I will leave the two friends to catch up now.'

As soon as Atul left Juhi again was back to Riddhima questioning her. 'Ab baata kya hua?

'Kuch nahi bas papa ko leke worried thi'


'Jhoot mat bol. Kisine kuch kaha kya?'

Riddhima again started contemplating how to talk about it.

Riddhima: Mere ..

Juhi: Tumhara kya?


Juhi understood that probably Sid's presence was being questioned. Riddhima had been spending time with Sid and probably the family must have drawn some conclusions. She could not shoot the question directly. Her pride was stopping her. Some where she hated the fact that Riddhima had not told her the truth about Siddhant being Sid. Yet she wanted to help  'Kya woh ..'


Riddhima wanting to avoid taking the topic towards Sid said 'Mumma mere faisle khus nahi hai. Woh chahati hai ki main aur ek mauka doo iss rishtey ko.'


Juhi irritated seeing Riddhima reasoning the appropriateness of her decision 'Aur tum kya karne ki sooch rahi ho?' asked rather scornfully.

Riddhima: Main ab iss rishtey ka bhoj nahi uthana chahati par

Those words came as a relief but what was the issue then 'Par kya?

'Mumma keh rahi thi ki iss ka bura asar padega ..'

Kispe?

'Sab pe. Aur tum bhi keh rahi ho ki Papa ne stress nahi lena chahiye.'

'Haan par Dr Shashank ka kya stand hai?'

'Woh toh mujhse koi baat nahi kar rahe hai.'

'Toh phir tumne kya socha hai? Waise armaan ke hone se kuch khaas asar toh nahi padega aur  jitna main samaj payi hoon aunty khud armaan ko khaas pasand nahi karti. Toh aisa kyu soch rahi hai.'


Riddhima again fell silent.


'Kya unhe yeh toh nahi lag raha hai ki tum .. I mean does she think that you took this decision because of ..'


Riddhima not realizing where Juhi was hinting towards replied 'Nahi woh uss baare mein nahi jaanti Atul ne na maine yeh baat unpe zahir nahi hone di.'


'Toh phir ..' understanding what Riddhima was referring to.


'Juhi Mumma aur complications nahi chahati. Shayaad mere zindagi mein armaan ka sirf naam ka hona hi kafi hai unke liye ab. At least aur badnami toh nahi hogi.'


'Par yeh problem ka solution hai?'


'Nahi lekin pehle bhi ..'


I know isiliye toh bol rahi thi don't stop looking forward towards living your life.'


'Haan par jo solution jo ho sakta hai uske liye sirf main kya soochti hoon woh sirf kaafi nahi hai ..'


So that was where the problem lay. Riddhima wanted affirmations from Sid. May be she should talk to Sid or shouldn't she and talk to Riddhima directly?


Riddhima's faraway look was troubling Juhi. May be as Sid said she needed to take the decision herself. Juhi did not want to lead Riddhima to the solution and so left her with one thought 'Riddhima main aaj bhi ek hi cheese bolungi apne feeling ko accept karo. Don't be ashamed of them. After all usme hi tumhari khushi hai aur tumhari khushi kaha hai woh toh sirf tum bata sakti ho..'


Riddhima looked up at Juhi in awe. She wondered if she understood her dilemma. She wondered if she knew and if she knew Riddhima felt ashamed of not disclosing facts to Juhi. She sat there with her head hung low propelling Juhi to ease her anxiety which Juhi gauged and she added  'sabko' And it was true  that Riddhima needed to not only accept the facts not only with Sid but with all concerned.


'Hmm'

Talking to Sid was another question altogether. But it was more important that Riddhima took a decision. Knowing Sid, Juhi understood that Sid would find his happiness in Riddhima's decision as always. So she left her with the golden advice to ponder on and come to a decision herself without any external interference.


Riddhima's problems were far over. The catalyst had did its bit and was now waiting for the results.

Seeing Riddhima's dilemma over the weekend Atul felt giving her some space was important hence had not touched up on the reason for her anxiety. He had been working on a solution but it seemed a temporary fix He felt if Shashank's responsibility was off Riddhima she could take a bolder decision. Also the parents could get a chance to test the adjustability if they shifted base to Delhi and when he overheard a part of Riddhima and Juhi's conversation the solution started looking more viable. He thought of bouncing the idea of Anjali before he spoke to the family.


Later that night the family sat watching the current affairs on television. Riddhima was edgy anticipating someone striking the topic of her absence in previous week to probe for the reason of her presence that evening. She did not want to discuss it nor reveal the truth that if given the opportunity she would have preferred to be elsewhere.


The agonized look on Riddhima's face forced Atul to talk it out with her. He could understand how torn she might be feeling between the two ends.  He lost his opportunity when Riddhima got up to move towards her room. 'Main sone jaa rahi hoon. Goodnight everybody.'


Padma just ignored Riddhima disinterest and returned her attention to the television. Anjali also wished to talk to Riddhima but did not to make it obvious that she had her ulterior motives behind mending the alliance.


Atul too felt like resigning from the efforts knowing that if he approached Riddhima in her room then Anjali may find it suspicious and follow his suite. She had been questioning his increased conversations with Riddhima.


Riddhima lay on her bed wondering what life wanted of her. She felt nothing wrong in what Juhi had said. If she had done that many years back then she would not be thinking of all this at this stage of life nor would she be here living an estranged life.

Her heart longed for someone's company but he was faraway. She picked up her phone wondering if she could call him. If not meet him, hearing his voice would bring some peace to her troubled mind. She searched his number and sat there contemplating if she should call him.


After much deliberation she dropped the idea. 'Kya sooche ga woh itni raat ko call kyu kar rahi hoon. Nahi karna chahiye usse disturb.' She put the phone aside and picked up a magazine to read but could not focus her mind on it.

Everything felt alien. She felt like an outsider in her own bedroom. She did not feel like she belonged there. All this was suffocating her and so she finally decided to catch some fresh air. After throwing a last look at her phone she moved out leaving it on the side table. Leaving it behind was better or else the temptation might get better of her if the phone was handy.


The minute she moved towards the terrace she caught Padma watchful eye. 'Tum sone gayi thi na?'


'Haan par soocha todha tehel loo. Andar ghutan si ho rahi thi.'


Padma understood what played on Riddhima's mind and returned to what she was doing not wanting to reason further. But Atul found his opportunity and excused himself. 'Main bhi todha tehel ke aata hoon.' Anjali who had been observing their strange behaviors also decided to leave. Not to retire for the day but to check on Atul who seemed to have suddenly lost interest in the show.


Riddhima was strolling on the terrace when she heard footsteps behind her.


'Itni kyu pareshan ho Riddhima?'


'Nahi kuch nahi aise hi.'

'Ek baat bolu.'


'Hmm'


'Juhi ne jo kaha woh galat nahi tha.'

Riddhima looked up shocked hearing Atul having heard Juhi and her conversation.

'Sorry I did mean to eavesdrop on your conversation but ..'

'Nahi its ok tum gyair thode ho.'

'Woh theek hai par apne ki har zyati mann lene mein kaunsi samajdari hai.'

'Par Mumma jo keh rahi hai woh bhi galat nahi hai. Apno ke baare mein bhi soochna zaroori hai. Mumma Di aapke family kya accept kar payenga.


'Unke baare mein tum ab mat soocho. Pehle khud Sid ke baare mein soocho. Kya tum jaan payi ho ki woh kya chahata hai.'


'Sid .. Pata nahi. Woh apni zindagi mein aage bhad chuka hai as in work wise. Woh kaise react karega kaisa asar padega uski zindagi par maloom nahi.'


'Par armaan pe zaroor asar padega.'

'Aur yeh Sid bilkul nahi chahega.. Yahi baat mujhe pareshan kar rahi hai. Ussi se toh seekha hai .. kuch bhi karne se pehle apno ke baare mein soochna chahiye aur main jaanti hoon ki woh kabhi nahi chahega ki mere faisle se kisi ko dukh pohoche armaan ko bhi nahi.'


'Par sab ko khush rakha nahi jaa sakta. Auro ki khushi ke liye apni khushi dav pe lagana akalmandi nahi hoti. Aur waise bhi auro ko khush rakhne ke liye pehle khud khushi mehsoos karni chahiye. Tumhari khushi kisme hai yeh pehle dhoondo.Uske liye pehle apne feelings ko accept karo jaise Juhi ne kaha.'

They both continued to discuss further on this topic that night unaware of someone who was witnessing it standing in the shadows.


That person was shaken hearing the conversation. She could not understand if this was the same person who hated Riddhima's guts all these years. She was pleasantly surprised yet worried. What her mother had said was true. What Atul was suggesting would not go down well with many especially her in laws. She always felt Riddhima was an indecisive person who only needed a nudge towards the right decision. And only one person could give it. She had spoken to him but it seemed now that the person was waiting for Riddhima's move. Since Riddhima always needed that additional push she thought she should help out like she had done in the past for bringing these two together. She swiftly moved down towards Riddhima's room to execute yet another modus operandi.



Part 101
The distressing weekend was over. The new week had arrived with another opportunity to spend some time with Sid. 'Sid!' that name evoked so many emotions. She was feeling anxious suddenly. For a moment she could not understand why she felt so was it the effect of what her mother had said or the desperation of meeting Sid again or was it something else. She could not place a finger on it. Something was nagging her. She thought she would be fine once she reached Sanjeevani. She always felt at peace the moment she stepped into Sanjeevani. All her stress, worry, confusions would wash away in a matter of a moment. Today as she stepped into her haven her mind remained restless. She tried bracing the sense of security that she always felt here but the eerie feeling refused to leave her. Its familiarity scared her even more. Her sixth sense never went wrong and her intuition was warning her that once again something or more appropriately put the advent of her nemesis was impending which would throw her life into troubled waters.

She settled herself into her office and instinctively her hand reached to the lowest drawer to pull out the source of her strength.


She absorbed that feeling and got down to her duties after returning the revered object back to its original place.


She went through her routine; assigning duties to the interns, taking rounds of the wards and completing other administrative duties. The day was dragging by. Time and again that eerie feeling kept coming back to her. But whenever it seemed to overwhelm her she would just try to engage herself in something that may need her attention. That too did not to last long.


All three sat in the cafeteria over their lunch talking about random topics under the sun. Juhi who was movie buff was enthusiastically talking of some upcoming movie while Sid patiently listened with attention not wanting to hurt Juhi though he could not resist and would intermittently make some weird funny comments throwing Juhi into a fit.

Through all this Riddhima seemed lost in her own world. She looked a little edgy as if she was anticipating something. She worriedly pushed the food in her plate paying least attention to the conversation but giving an affirming smile or nod once in a while to show that she followed the conversation.

Sid and Juhi recognized a sudden change in Riddhima. She was neither coaxing them nor serving them like the previous week. Both wanted to question as to what was bothering her but left it for later to probe on it in private. Riddhima was sensing her doom approaching and it did.


She wanted to cut herself off. Probably that may help give her a slight sense of security. Riddhima pulled out her cell phone toyed with it for a while and then placed it on the table after switching if off.

Sid and Juhi could not understand the reason for this restlessness exchanged perturbed glances questioning each other if the other knew what played on Riddhima's mind

Juhi's patience was running out. She was about to probe when Riddhima again started toying with her phone, this time accidentally switching it on. The moment it caught network, it vibrated startling Riddhima out of her wits that she almost dropped it.


'Riddhima tumhara phone' nudged Juhi


'Hah haan ..' Nimbly she picked up the phone and paled out the moment as her she saw the number that flashed on the screen. She shifted in her seat wondering why she was receiving a call from that person, what to expect now from this person. 

Seeing her nervous Juhi asked 'Kya hua Riddhima? Kaun hai?'


'Koi nahi .. pata nahi .. may be just some tele caller' she avoided the truth of knowing the identity of the caller who was none other than her nemesis. She let the call die out not wanting to talk to the caller.


Not taking the subtle message, the caller persisted in his efforts. A few moments of silence and Riddhima's phone was again vibrating. This time it was Sid who nudged her answer the call 'Lelo kuch important hoga issi liye wapis call kar raha hai'

'Hmm .. main aati hoon.' Riddhima picked up her belongings and rushed out answering the call. If she did not answer now it would definitely evoke more questions which she was not ready to answer.

Her feet picked up with the pace of her accelerated heart beats as she answered the call nervously 'Hello'

The voice on the other end had the same familiar tone; oozing with confidence in oneself and of complete knowledge of its importance in her life. The caller did not fail to proclaim his victory.

'Mujhe maloom tha. Maine kaha tha ki tum mere bina nahi reh paogi. Par tum hamesha ki tarah accept nahi karna chahati thi par tumhe yeh accept karna hi pada finally. Maine kaha thi ki tum mere pass wapis aaogi kyuki tum mujhse durr reh hi nahi sakti. Raat din sirf mera khayaal rehta hai toh chupati kyu ho. Keh kyu nahi deti ki tum aaj bhi sirf mujhe chahati ho. Mere bina rehna itna muskhil hai toh kyu khud hi yeh duriyaan banati rehti ho. Keh do basket!!!


She gasped half irritated half astonished at caller's over confidence and preceptions 'armaan!!!'

'Oh my my look at yourself. Itni bekarari hai ki you can't even catch your breath. Oye hoye aaj bhi itna asar hai toh batati kyu nahi ho ki aaj bhi tum mere begair reh nahi sakti. Aaj bhi tumhe meri zaroorat hai.  Mujhe andaaza tha tum tak chuki hogi. Yeh akela pan handle nahi kar paa rahi ho. Ek baar kehke dekho ussi waqt tum mujhe apne pass paogi.'


Riddhima felt suffocated with those words. They were pushing her limits. Previously also they tried her patience but then they spoke of a yearning they once shared for each other but now they just evoked a feeling of disgust.


Riddhima wondered what made him think so. Why was he saying all these things when she had not initiated anything from her end. She did not miss him. She was not yearnings for his presence.


'Tum chup kyu ho.  Waise tumhari khamoshi pad sakta hoon aur iss baar bhi pad li jab tumhara missed call dekha. Main jaan gaya ki tum darr rahi hogi ki main abhi bhi gussa hoon tumhare ghar chod ne ki baat se. Hai na? Par mujhse kaisa darr. Tumhari har ada sar aankhon par basket.'

'Missed call.'  She could not understand when that happened. She had not even thought of calling him then why was armaan talking of receiving a call from her. Had someone called him from her phone? Who could do that? She needed to find out. armaan's one sided conversation was not letting her think straight. She needed to put an end to it before her patience gave way. She could not afford to get him upset either. If he reacted weirdly he would add to everyone's grief and stress. 'armaan koi aaya hai main baad mein baat karti hoon.' she spoke as calmly as possible trying to reign in her emotions.


'No issues I will call you lat...' Before he could complete Riddhima had dropped the call and was searching through her call list.


Her outgoing call register did not have any calls made to armaan She never left her phone unattended except in the night when she was home. She stressed hard on her memory but could not recollect anything suspicious. She could not understand why armaan was talking about her missing him and calling him. She wondered if Padma had called him. But her mother had never interfered in her matters earlier.


Everyone at home wanted her to sort out matters with armaan. No one had taken her separation well. But she could not imagine herself with armaan. She felt pulled between the two sides. On one side were her family's wishes and on the other were her desires.


It was a suffocating situation. She felt as if everything around her was closing on her threatening to engulf her existence.


Hastily gathering her lab court she rushed up the stairs exiting the fire escape. She was too hassled that she felt like running away from there and lose herself into oblivion if that helped. Her pace picked up with every step cutting across the corridor as fast as she could without attracting undue attention. She felt like everyone was watching her closely, judging her every action; questioning her. She did not have any answers or may be she did not want to answer any of those questions. She was tired of living her life as per other's wishes. She had tried to live up to everyone's expectations but felt she had only brought disappointment to all.  Drained she decided to  ignore her surrounding  fixing her eyes on the floor. She was losing herself in to her dark thoughts that she did not even realise that she may just dash into someone in her mad rush until she almost actually did.

'Sorry' not wanting to even look up she tried to excuse herself and walk past.

'Riddhima'  that voice jerked her out of her mad rush  bringing her to a grinding halt.


She stood there shaken to the core trying to gain composure. The man looked at her with worried eyes. It agonized him to see her such. Her pain always brought him pain and all his concern came rushing to the fore in form of simple question. But that simple question laden with compassion had the strength to bring immense peace and joy

'Tum theek toh ho na?'


The concern stirred those unknown emotions in her heart. It pulled her in.  She slowly turned and lifted her eyes to gaze into those soft brown eyes which always seeked only one thing; her happiness. For a moment her soul to found the peace it was desperately searching. But just for a moment, as the memory of the horrid call returned shaking her back to reality of that day.


The question seemed to have gone unheard yet her momentary changed stance assured that things may just be fine. But what had happened that had gotten her disturbed to this extent. Should he ask? He contemplated. Maybe he should.

'Tum theek toh ho?'


'Huh  Haan.'


'Kuch hua hai? Tum aise chali aayi ..'Not wanting to directly ask he deviated 'I mean tumhe lag jati.'

She could not fathom how he could be so nice. All that he was concerned was her well being despite having given him so many never healing wounds. But this was her saviour who would always  stop her from faltering. 'Tum ho na toh  kaise kuch ho sakta hai.' Those secure feelings found words.

'Huh!'

'I meant tumhara dhyaan toh tha na toh kaisa kuch hota. Sorry kuch soch rahi thi iss liye dhyaan nahi gaya Sorry.'


'Its ok See you around.'


'Hmm'


Sid walked a few steps but felt those eyes still on him forcing him to look back. Her shy dreamy demeour confused him. She flustered seeing him look at her questioningly.

Was it because he had caught her staring at him or was he imaging things? Was his desirous mind was conspiring to imagine? Maybe she was just expecting another word of comfort. Probably he should 'Riddhima'

'Huh' she flustered again being caught


'Take care.'


'Damn he again caught me What would he think of me? I should leave .. Hmm'


He kept looking her way as she turned to leave wondering the reason behind her coy smile.

Sid too went his way dismissing his thoughts unaware of being watched again by the same eyes. She turned back after walking a little distance just to see him walk away. A strange fear tucked at her heart. She had enough of her fears. The biggest fear was the effects of accepting her feelings. Maybe it was time to just let go and accept them. Juhi's words came rushing back to her 'Be true to your feeling. Don't be ashamed of them.'


Unconsciously she was pulled his way while taking rounds. She did not even realise when she started altering her routine to remain in closer proximity to him. She would stand afar sometimes, stopping by the nurse station to observe the interns taking notes as Sid dictated the instructions or near the neurology department when checked on the patients. These moments did not go unnoticed.

Sid would steal glances Riddhima's way catching her gazing fondly at him. At times it threw Riddhima completely off balance. Typical of her she would then pretend browsing through a random file at hand and a knowing smile would flash across Sid's face.


The nervous yet fond look, the flustered stance, the blush on her face reminded Sid of days which he now cherished. Moments when he felt that all those feelings were because of him and there were really for him. Though destiny had been cruel but not so cruel also he had to accept. It had returned him the ownership of those feelings as his rightfully.


Those sweet looks always had the capacity to stir his entire being. Some desires, some hopes. Bringing peace whilst causing enormous anxiety at the same time.


Those fleeting moments told a story of years yearnings while creating fresh ones.


He felt desperate at times to understand what played on Riddhima's mind. Why was she playing naughty with him? Throwing those hopeful dreamy looks his way stirring those emotions which he had buried in the deep recesses of his heart. Did she still love him? Was there still hope that all could be fine? Or was it a mirage which she was creating to give him another ever lasting wound? Was she really playing coy with him like she always had wanting  to hear it from him?

All this was sweetly harassing him. So was it to Riddhima.


Those few moments felt so serene but the moment Sid was out sight the restlessness would return. She now wondered if the restlessness was due to having Sid out of sight or the fear of another impeading call.

Every brief encounter with Sid were churning strange desires in her. For a few fleeting moments she almost lost herself in them. Such was the effect that it had that when her nemesis called her attention was still held with the blissful thoughts of a happy future with the one and only in her life.


She stood at the reception waiting for Sid to arrive. She was so lost gazing at his serene face that when her phone rang and she absentmindly answered it not paying heed to the caller at the other end.


The effect of the trance was so strong that it felt as if the winds sang a happy song whilst her desirous mind started painting the picture of a happy life she had once dreamt of. She did not feel ashamed. Those feeling were indeed the same when she had decided to take the ahead in life with the man of her life. She wanted to lose herself whilst searching herself in his eyes.

She craved to hear those magical words which meant the world to her. But more she wanted to hear him assure her of his belief in her feeling than confess his own. She accepted she was desirous of many things but the biggest was being his desire. Just like he had said once 'Main jaanta hoon main bahoot kuch chahata hoon. Par sab se pehle aur sab se jyaada main tumhe chahata hoon Riddhima.'

'Riddhima..Riddhima!!!'

'Huh Haan ..'

'Kaha khoi hui ho?

'Huh'

'Tumhara phone.'

'Haan..' suddenly realising that she had received a call which was still on. She looked at the screen briefly to check who was disturbing her.

'armaan!!!' she paled out seeing his name. 'I hope maine kuch aisa waisa nahi keh diya. Kuch bhi ho ..main abhi uske saath baat nahi kar sakti'

'Basket ..Basket kya hua? Kaun disturb kar raha hai tumhe iss?'


Instinctively the answer popped in her mind 'Tum' But reigned in her flaring temper and calmly replied 'Koi nahi. Main baad mein baat karti hoon tumse.'

The disturbed look after on receiving a call was perturbing Sid. Who was Riddhima talking to and about what which was so distressing?

He wanted to ask whether it was someone who had been a cause of worry. Who overtook her mind and thoughts so strongly that none other mattered? Maybe he should ask. It would answer many questions that rose in his mind. But before he could a question he found Riddhima sweetly urging him to call it a day. 'Chale'
 
Dismissing his anxieties his heart urged him to revel in the feeling it felt seeing that sweet smile. 'Hmm chalo.'



Part 102


Sid drove quietly for some distance. He wanted to talk to Riddhima about what had been worrying her but now the dreamy look was perturbing him more. He kept trying various permutation combination of asking her out thus giving them more time to talk. The best place would be her house. He finally mustered the courage to ask her when he saw Riddhima phone's screen flashing on the dashboard.

Despite being irritated with the interruption he brought her attention to her phone. 'Riddhima tumhara phone.'


'Haan sorry'


Worriedly she checked on who was calling her whilst saying a small prayer for it not being one whom she was dreading talking to. Thankfully it was not. She quickly answered the call.

'Mumma kya hua?'


'Yeh poochne ke liye phone kiya tha ki tum ghar pe khana khaogi ya nahi.'


That question was laced with an underlying threat. She should not over step her limits. Unwillingly she answered 'Jee Mumma main ghar hi aa rahi hoon. Ghar pe khana khaoingi.'


Hating having his chances being crushed Sid unconsciously accelerated. Riddhima could sense the regret in Sid but she felt helpless. She too desired to spend time with Sid but would need to let go that night.


They drove quietly for the rest of the journey. Both cursed themselves. Riddhima for her bad  luck while Sid for expecting too much of his luck.


Somewhere he resounded what Massi had said. Leave it to destiny. Destiny today seemed to give him the indicating. Riddhima had a life of her own. There were others in her life who had some expectations from her. She was needed to fulfill them. He could not load her with his own. Somewhere now he became surer of not telling Riddhima about Rohan. It was not only Riddhima or for that matter even armaan but all others in her life whom she would need to think of before taking on Rohan's responsibility. Probably what happened was for the best. He quickly bid Riddhima a goodbye and drove off without a backward glance.


The anger on Sid's face kept bothering Riddhima. She had let him down yet again adding to his grief. She hated not being able to give him time. She could read it in his indifference. He had not said anything but his silence spoke of his anger. She mechanically went about with her tasks but her mind was stuck on what Sid might be doing. She knew he would punish himself in some way or the other. He always did that. She sat with the family as they relaxed after dinner. Toying with her phone again; wondering if she should call to check on Sid. Had he cooked for himself or gone hungry? What had must be doing? She kept toying with all those thoughts when Anjali stirred the conversation towards their departure.

'Hamare chutiyaan khatam ho rahi hai Mumma aur bache bhi akele hai waha pe iss liye hum sooch rahe the ki hum agle hafte wapis laut ne ka soch rahe the.'


'Par phir yaha Riddhima akeli pad jayegi' objected Atul as he had rejected the suggestion in the afternoon with Anjali over a heated discussion.


'But Atul your leaves were coming to an end. You cannot stay here forever.'


'But you can wait back is what I am saying. Riddhima itni saari responsibility kaise handle karegi.'


'Nahi Atul its ok' Riddhima snapped out her thoughts hearing the mention of her name and commented feeling guilty of keeping the kids away from their mother. 'Main manage kar loongi. Di sahi keh rahi hai. Bacho ko unki zaroorat hai jyaada aur main hoon na. Main manage kar loongi sab yaha pe.'


'See she also feels the same aur woh akeli kahan hai.' added Anjali purposefully.

'Toh kaun hai yaha pe Anjali?' lashed back Atul exasperated at Anjali's insensitivity.

Anjali got her chance 'armaan ..armaan waise bhi aayega ab.'


armaan name freshened Riddhima's doubts of someone playing a nasty game with her. 'Kya armaan ka call aaya tha?'


'Tumhe call nahi aaya kya?' questioned Anjali inquisitive to know if her trick had worked.

This seemed like a retorical question hence she purposely answered negatively 'Nahi. Kyu aap ko aaya tha?


Anjali fearing being caught immediately answered 'Nahi ..'


Her answer did not sound a bit convincing. All were looking suspiciously at Anjali. She knew she was caught in her lie forcing her to accept 'As in haan usne call kiya tha ..sab ke baare mein poochne ko.'


Riddhima's eyed Anjali suspiciously as doubts were getting confirmed and then in a flash everything fell in place.


'Di aap yaha?'


'Haan tum uneasy feel kar rahi thi iss liye tumhe dekhne aa gayi.'


'Par main toh terrace pe thi.'


'Laga ki tum wapis aa gayi hogi. Anyways tum aaram kar. Main bhi sone jaati hoon. Tumhare liye doodh rakha hai pee lena phir achi needh aayegi.'


'Actually armaan ka call aaya tha.'


'Yes!!!' Anjali rejoiced mentally. Her face lit up hearing Riddhima affirming that her trick had worked. She wanted to know what happened 'Kya kaha usne?'


'Keh raha tha ki mujhe usse batana karna chahiye tha.'


'Kya batana chahiye tha?'


'Papa ke baare mein.'


'Aur kuch nahi kaha usne?'


'Nahi .. Kyuki woh gussa tha ki maine usse call nahi kiya.'


'Aise kaise keh sakta hai? Usse toh ..'


'Aapne mere phone se missed call diya tha  na parso raat ko jab aap mere kamre mein doodh rakhne bahane aayi thi?

'Main aisa kyu karongi? Aur kiya bhi toh kya galat kiya.'


Atul irritated with Anjali's sly ways lashed out. 'Anjali tumhe yeh sab karne ki kya zaroorat thi.'


'Kyu na karo Atul? Maine jo bhi kiya Riddhima aur armaan ko pass laane ke liye kiya. Aap sab ko kya lagta hai ki aap log mujhe bataoge nahi toh mujhe bata nahi chalega ki Riddhima ne apna ghar chod diya. Kya zaroorat thi iss sab ki? abhi bhi sab kuch theek ho sakta hai. Par Riddhima hi nahi chahati..'

'Exactly Riddhima agar nahi chahati toh kyu tum interfere kar rahi ho?' argued Atul.


Anjali: Because I care for everyone. Mumma sahi keh rahi thi. Papa ki halat ka zimedaar Riddhima ka ghar chodne ka decision tha. Aur Papa par hi nahi sab pe iska bura asar padega. Mom Dad ko kya batayenge hum.'


'Maa baba kaha se aa gaye iss sab mein aur waise bhi unhe kya batana woh main dekh loonga. Uske ke liye Riddhima ko force karne ki koi zaroorat nahi hai.'


'Chalo theek hai par baki log kya sochenge.'


'Iske liye hum Riddhima pe zabardasti nahi kar sakte. Jisse jo sochna hai sochne do. Aur tum kab se logo ke baare mein soochne lagi ho. Tab kyu nahi soocha jab Riddhima Siddhant se alag hui.'

'Sid aur uska rishta samjhaute ka tha. Aur Sid ne divorce ka faisla liya tha kyuki woh jaan chuka tha ki Ridzy tab bhi armaan se pyaar karti thi. Aur sab se badi baat armaan se  shaadi ka decision Ridzy ka tha. Aur abhi bhi armaan bhi yeh rishta barkarar rakhna chahata hai toh phir kyu yeh sab kuch barbaad karne pe tuli hai'


'Woh aisa kyu chahata hai main jaanta hoon.'


'Kya jaante ho? Batao.'


'Anjali sab cheesey tumhe jaan ki zaroorat nahi hai. Tum sirf itna jaan lo ki tum isme interfere nahi karogi. Yeh Riddhima ka decision hai aur woh apne decision khud le sakti hai.'


'Tum kyu uski itni fikar kar rahe ho achanak. Aaj tak toh tum usse baat bhi karna nahi chahate the aur aaj tum uske liye mujhese zhagda kar rahe ho. Yeh sab tumhari wajay se ho raha hai Ridzy. Dekh liya na tumhare harkato ka kaise sab pe asar pad raha hai. Iss sab se kuch hasil nahi hoga. Mumma theek keh rahi hai. Problem aur create hoge. Behtar  yahi hoga ki tum armaan ke saath sab kuch sort out kar lo.' saying this Anjali walked away leaving Riddhima and Atul behind.


Atul tried to make Riddhima understand but Riddhima felt guilty of being the cause of a fight between a husband and wife.

'Please aap dono meri wajay se mat zhagda karo please. Main yeh sab meri wajay se hotey huye nahi dekh sakti.'


'But you are not the cause. Jo Anjali ne kiya woh galat tha.'


Padma who was observing this altercation decided to give her two cents on it 'Anjali ka tareeka galat tha par woh jo keh rahi hai woh galat nahi hai.'


'Par Mumma ..' Atul tried to defend but Padma stuck to her opinion. 'Maine jo kehna tha main Riddhima ko uss raat keh chuki hoon. Aur maine kuch galat nahi kaha. Riddhima ke bachkane decision ka asar sab ke samne hai.'


'Nahi Mumma ..' Atul again tried to defend but Padma walked away too.


'Rehne do Atul ..Tum please mere liye sab ki nazaro mein bura mat bano.'


'Riddhima yeh acha ya bura banne ki baat nahi hai. Tumhe haq hai apni zindagi jeene ka. Tum sab ke baare mein soochte soochte apni zindagi ki kwaishey kab tak nazarandaz karti rahogi.'


'Par Atul ..'


'Riddhima meri mano Sid se ek baar baat kar lo uske baad tumhe faisla lene main shayaad aasani ho.'


'Hmm' Was it necessary to have someone in her life so important to family that they were wanting her to live in an unwanted relationship. From the looks of what Atul said finally it seemed so. What was she supposed to? Probably talking to Sid would help sort the issues out. Distressed with all sides Riddhima retired for the night.



Part 103

The day was dragging by for both Riddhima and Sid.


Both were struggling with themselves. They did not know what they were supposed to do. Sid felt guilty of keeping Riddhima away from her family and responsibilities. Somewhere he felt she was just trying to make up to him just out of guilty now. The guilt of not being able to have given him his due back then. Riddhima's confession also seemed to have come due to this. He felt she had just tried to give him a feel good. He hated her and more so himself for having gotten Riddhima to believe and behave so. 


He found it unnecessary to bother Riddhima with his presence any longer. With these thoughts he approached Juhi with a request.


'I was wondering if we could start with the handover procedure if any is required.'


'Why ..why are you saying this?' asked a perturbed Juhi. 'Tumhare aur Riddhima ke beech kuch hua? Usne kuch kaha?' fearing Riddhima haven taken an adverse decision.

'Nahi .. Par uske liye aur problems nahi create karna chahata hoon. Woh kal se kafi tense lag rahi hai. Shayaad ghar ko waqt nahi de paa rahi hai meri wajah se aur shayaad iss wajah se usse ghar pe problems rahe hai.'


'Aisa kuch nahi hai. Maine usse baat ki thi. Everything is fine. Tum please yeh sab mat soocho.' said Juhi not wanting to add to Sid's guilt.


'Theek hai par hum bhi US laut ki sooch rahe hai. Iss saturday ki tickets bhi book ho chuki hai.'


'Siddhant yeh tum mujhe ab bata rahe ho.'


'Maine soocha tha ki yaha kuch cheesey settle ho sakti hai. Aur shayaad phir mera jaana ..' He drew in a deep breath to ease the pain of disappointment. 'todha delay ho jata. Par ab lagta hai ki yahi theek hai.'


'Tumne Riddhima ko bataya?'


'Kis baare mein?'


'Sab ke baare mein Siddhant! Rohan ke, tumhare jaane ke'


'Nahi ..ab tak nahi bataya. Batake kya hoga? Main Riddhima ko achi tarah jaanta hoon..'


'Mujhe nahi lagta ki tum usse jaan sake ho. Agar jaante toh yeh nahi kehte.'

'Actually iss Riddhima ko main nahi jaan paya hoon. Kyuki yeh woh Riddhima Gupta nahi hai jisse maine pyaar kiya tha jiski main sab se jyaada izzat karta tha. Agar hoti toh mujhe itna bura nahi lagta. Woh yeh sab guilt ke wajah se nahi karti.'


'Guilt kaisa guilt ..tumhe kyu lagta hai ki woh sab yeh guilt ke wajah se kar rahi hai. Tum samajhte nahi ho ya samajna nahi chahate. Kya woh sab baate jo maine tumhe batayi yeh sabit nahi karti ki aaj bhi tum uske liye mayane rakhte ho. Lagta hai ki tum Riddhima sach mein samaj nahi paye ho Sid.'

'Par ab iss sab se kuch hasil nahi hoga. Uski ek alag duniya hai. Kuch rishtey aur unse judi kuch responsibilities. Cheesey already bahoot ulajhi hui hai aur main uski uljan sab kuch bata ke badhana nahi chahata.'

'Agar tum nahi pata rahe ho toh main bata doongi.'


'Nahi Juhi tum usse kuch mat kehna. Woh nahi handle kar payegi. Toot jayegi poori tarah. Bardaast nahi hoga usse. Usne kafi saha hai aaj tak. Main nahi chahata ke woh aur dukh dekhe. Mera Rohan ko leke yaha se jaana hi theek hai. Tum handover ka procedure start karo.'


'Apne jaane ka toh usse bata sakte ho.'


'Main bhi mauka dekh ke baat karta hoon.'


'Theek hai.'


Juhi was not convinced yet decided to take things as it comes. She too agreed that Riddhima was torn between the choices. She needed to take some hard decisions but did she have the guts to face consequences of them?


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Part 104


Riddhima wanted to talk to Sid. Every time they crossed paths Sid would excuse himself on some or the other pretext or turn and walk the other way. He was not intentionally avoiding her. He was infact searching for an opportunity to break this news in private as he was scared of what effect the news of his leaving shortly would have on Riddhima.

But seeing Sid's aloofness was negatively impacted Riddhima. She found this behavior an indication of Sid's decision with what he wanted from his life. He probably had moved on. All his efforts and gestures now seemed out of plain compassion towards one whom once been a part of his life though her heart refused to affirm these thoughts. Her mind was wavering from what she had decided that morning after Atul once again nudged her to understand Sid's stand.


Time was running out of hand. Another thing that worried her was her family's visit to the hospital. Shashank was due for some tests that day. Padma and Anjali were to going to escort Shashank to Sanjeevani. To Riddhima's relief, Shashank and Padma walked in followed by Atul.


Seeing everyone in Juhi's office, Sid immediately he left on another round of the wards instead of returning to his office. He did not want to any awkward situation for the family if he bumped into anyone especially Shashank.


After a brief discussion, Atul escorted Shashank towards the labs for the tests leaving Riddhima and Padma in Juhi's office to wait on.


Padma noticed the name board next to Juhi's office. Though she held deep regards for all that Sid had done yet now Padma sat anxiously on the edge of the couch hoping Sid not being around when Shashank came back. She was scared how Shashank would react on seeing Sid.

Riddhima read the anxiety on Padma's face correctly. She felt it necessary to put her mother's anxiety at ease. Moreso she did not wish another altercation with Sid being the reason. She could possibly not tolerate anything against him.

'Sid rounds pe hai Mumma.' understanding everyone's presence in Sanjeevani to be only reason for his absence from his office at this time of the day.


The confidence in Riddhima's voice irritated Padma. Though she never appreciated armaan, she hated that her daughter was least aware of his whereabouts. Like Anjali had rightly pointed out, Riddhima had herself accepted the alliance with armaan yet she always remained indifferent to his existence.


'Tum bahoot jaanti ho Siddhant ke baare mein par agar armaan ke baare mein poocho toh kabhi kuch nahi maloom hota hai.'


'Kyu ki woh do juda insaan hai. Dono ko compare karna yane roshni aur andhakar ko compare karna hoga.'


'Toh armaan andhakar hai.'


'Shayaad aap bhi yahi maanti hai.'


'Jyaada roshni bhi achi nahi hoti. Aankhen chundla jaane ka darr hota hai.'


'Par andhakar mein jeena akalmandi nahi kehlati.'


'Akalmandi issi mein hai ki tum armaan ke saath apne differences pehle sort out kar lo. Woh Mumbai aane wala hai aaj sham ko.'


The news of armaan being back hit Riddhima. Her nemesis was coming to pull her back into darkness just when she was trying to move on in her life. She grabbed hold of the table to steady herself slumping into the chair.


Sid back from his rounds saw this and was worried to see the panic on Riddhima's face. Was something wrong with Shashank again. Panic gripped him. He wanted to rush in to assure Riddhima. But seeing Padma there stooped in his tracks. He needed to check what had happened. He rushed across towards the labs in search of Juhi instead met Dr Joshi who was  checking the reports. 'Hello Dr Modi Good to see you again.' greeted Dr Joshi.

'Hello Dr Joshi. Kya yeh Dr Shashank ke reports hai?'


'Haan.'


'Any major issue?'


'No not really .. Things are just about fine.'

'Oh ok can I take a look at them?'


'Yes sure .. Aap ke bhejne wale the hum' said Dr Joshi handing the reports to Sid.

Sid browsed through the reports to double check if all was indeed fine. One look at the reports brought out the reason for Dr Joshi's comment 'just about fine.' Shashank's progress could have been better. But overall by experience Sid felt that they were not bad either keeping other factors in mind. 'Reports toh theek hai phir Riddhima itni pareshan kyu lag rahi thi. Kya usse mere jaane ke baare mein bata chal gaya.' She was in Juhi's office when he had seen her upset. Did she see his handover documents. Probably. 'Mujhe usse baat karni chahiye.'


Seeing Sid worried Dr Joshi got worried if he had missed out anything. 'Is there anything wrong Dr?'


'Huh'


'The reports ..is there anything wrong in the reports?'

'No they seem just fine. Dr Shashank is making ok progress.'


'Phir aap itna tense kyu lag rahe hai?'


'Nahi kuch kuch nahi..Main kuch aur hi sooch raha tha. Anyways thanks for this.' Sid handed over the reports and bid Dr Joshi goodbye and left.


Juhi and Atul not wanting to alarm the seniors and Riddhima encouraged them to rejoice on the Shashank's mild reports 'So all is getting with fine with you Sir. Like I said yesterday he only needs to continue with his mediation and with regular check ups, light exercise and calm mind calm is all that is needed.'


Hearing that Shashank and Padma's expectant eyes turned towards Riddhima. Atul sensing the tense air gave Riddhima a reassuring nod and signalled her to leave and wait up for him.


Riddhima picked the cue worded the word 'office' silently and excused herself.


Atul too knew armaan was due to come. He wanted to talk to Riddhima. He escorted Shashank and Padma to the car and returned to speak to Riddhima in her office.


Sid scared of the news of his departure leaking was in Juhi's office at the first available moment.


'Kya Riddhima ko bata chal gaya ki main jaa raha hoon.'


'Aisa kyu pooch rahe ho? Maine toh nahi bataya. Kya tumne kisi aur se sikar kiya tha kya?'


'Nahi ..kya mere handover paper yaha the kya?'


'Nahi baba maine banana chalo bhi nahi kiye hai.'


'Toh phir Riddhima itni tense kyu lag rahi thi.'


'Sir ke tests chal rahe the na iss liye shayaad.'


'Oh ok ..'


'Tum usse kab baat kar lo.'


'Aaj nahi woh waise bhi tense hai.'


'Issi liye keh rahi hoon baat kar lo. Woh better feel karegi. It will help clear her mind with many things.'

'What things?


Atul had sounded Juhi of armaan's arrival. She wanted Riddhima and Sid to talk out matters before Riddhima met armaan. She felt a more sorted Riddhima would emerge if she had spoke out her heart to Sid.


'Dekho Siddhant woh ek doctor hai and she must have checked the reports ..she will be tensed '


'There are many factors involved which play a role in recovery. Biggest being age which is not on his side. Riddhima knows that well.'


'Main jaanti hoon par agar tum kahoge toh acha hoga. Woh tumhe bahoot maanti hai. Maybe tum usse assure karo that things are fine with Dr Shashank it will help clear her mind of much anxiety helping her.'


'Hmm ..'


Here Atul was back with Riddhima.


'Siddhant nazar nahi aaya' He too had noticed Sid's office next to Juhi's.


'Woh koi awkward situation create nahi karna chahata Mumma Papa ke liye iss liye rounds pe gaya hoga.'


'Hmm..tum usse baat ki?'


'Mauka nahi mila'


'Baat karlo Riddhima.'


'Kaise karo? Woh samne aata hai aur phir kisi bahane kuch kaam se nikal jaata hai. Ab toh aisa lag raha hai ki woh mujhe avoid kar raha hai.'


'Hmm..phir bhi mauka dekh ke baat karne ki koshish kar lo. Tumhe maloom hoga ki armaan aaj wapis aa raha hai.'


'Hmm Mumma ne bataya.'


'Tumhari baat nahi hui armaan se.'


'Nahi usne mujhe call nahi kiya.'


'Ohh ..ok.. Mujhe aaj uska bartav ajeeb laga. Bahoot sawal pooch raha tha tumhare baare mein. Jab uska call aaya tha tumne usse Siddhant ke baare mein kaha kya?


'Nahi ..Kya Di ko maloom hai Sid ke baare mein.'


'Hmm'


'I hope Di ne usse kuch kaha na ho.'

'Nahi usne kaha ki usne kuch nahi kaha hai aur maine usse warn kiya tha kuch na batane ke liye kal raat ki hamare  zhagde ke baad.'


'Atul tum please Di ke saath mere liye mat zhagdo. Tum apni relationship ko kyu jeopardize kar rahe ho.'


'Anjali ne jo kiya woh sahi nahi tha aur main sirf usse wohi samjhane ki koshish kar raha tha. Tum uss baare mein mat soocho.'

'Kaise na soocho.'

'Riddhima main wahi kahoonga jo maine subah kaha tha.. Sab ko khush rakne ke chakkar main apni zindagi ko neglect mat karo. Aur ab tum tumhare pass aur time nahi hai. You need to decide on something as soon as possible before armaan comes.'


Riddhima solemnly nodded understanding the urgency of the situation.

'Main chalta hoon.' Atul bid goodbye leaving Riddhima to ponder on her thoughts. She felt cornered all of a sudden. Anjali and Padma had explicitly expressed their opinion on her separation with armaan. Shashank through his silence had conveyed much the same message. Only Atul seemed to supportive. However, after the previous night argument his support also seemed conditional. Everything was happening too quickly. Amidst all this, armaan was due to be back leaving her with no time. The family would force her to shift out with armaan; one thing she could not handle. She wondered why it was so necessary to have a man in one's life. Was it so important? That they did not matter whether the person was actually there or was just a namesake. Maybe it seemed so. All in all this her family did not deserve any more stress because of her. She needed to take a decision and take it soon.


She seemed to know the answer to all her questions. Yet she wanted to hear the assurance of the correctness of her decisions once from her savior. She was desperate to meet him hear it from him. Her heart was seemed to be chanting only one prayer every moment. 'Sid please Aa jao .. Mujhe tumhari zaroorat hai. Humare risthey ko tumhari zaroorat hai.'


She sat lost in her thoughts when a sharp knock sounded on her door.


This part is dedicated to Nami who visualized this scene and had requested its inclusion provided it fitted in. Thank you Nami for such a wonderful idea. Hope you like it Nami. I have tried to stick to much of it and what I could not you know well why. Also a big thank you to my sweet sister Pragzie who checked the update for me. You are the sweetest Pragzie. Here it is for you and all


Part 105


Riddhima's attention was drawn towards the advent of a visitor at her door. Not trusting her luck she was irritated on being disturbed. She preferred being alone for some time but she needed to meet that person who was there to meet her. She had responsibilities which she could not ignore. 'Come in.' she plainly ordered not looking up from the file which she quickly pulled to show she was busy.


The man walked in quietly knowing the worry that would be playing on person's mind on the other side of the door. Unsure of what lay ahead he stood near the door trying to assess her and ways to comfort her. She looked way too disturbed. Pale with worry. It sent a pang of pain in his heart 'Riddhima!!!' His heart called out spreading a sense of tranquility in her. 'Sid!!!' she immediately stood up. The moment her eyes met his and all the worry seemed to fly out of the window. He was there once again just when she needed him the most. How could he not come? He always reached out to her, comforted her in her troubled times bringing the sense of security which she desperately sorted.

'Sid. Tum..' she asked almost amazed at her luck.


'Haan ..main .. Mujhe maloom tha ki tumhare dimaag mein bahoot saare sawal honge.'


He was indeed the only one who truly understood her. This fact brought a knowing smile on her face.


'Main tumhe hi yaad kar rahi thi.' She did not feel ashamed of accepting her feelings.


'Main jaanta hoon kyu?'


'Kyu?' she asked astonished at his comment wanting to hear it though. She lowered her gaze shyly anticipating to hear those magical words which would help anchor her life in troubled waters.

'Dr Shashank ko progress ko leke pareshan ho na?


Riddhima looked up disappointed. Was that the only reason she sought his presence? She turned and looked away in anger not wanting Sid to see it. She was angry with Sid and more on herself to lead him to think so.

'Main unke progress ke baare mein hi tumse baat karne aaya tha.'


It pained her to know what he felt this relation had  been reduced to. This was all due to her callous actions which brought fresh tears of remorse to her eyes.

But what she told him that night meant nothing? Did the time they spent together meant nothing? It agitated her even more.

Seeing her even more disturbed Sid tried to ease her worry.

'Tum itna stress mat lo. This is normal. Full recovery ko time lagega, yeh tum bhi jaanti ho. Dheere dheere sab kuch normal ho jayega.'

'Main samajti hoon Sid .. Par tum samajte kyu nahi Sid ya samajna nahi chahate .. Par kya ..drawing in a sharp breath 'itna hi ho sakta hai mere zehan pe. Kya tum itna bhi nahi jaan paye?' she spat out now being able to take it any longer.


'Riddhima!!!' He took her name ever so softly to ease her and started to assure her  'I can understand how you must be feeling. Main bhula nahi hoon. Tum hamesha se apno ke liye kitna fikar karti ho.'


It pained her more hearing that. These belief was laced with one of the most regretful deed of her life. 'Tum itni fikar kar rahi ho issi liye tum apne kaam ko aur mujhe bhi ignore kar rahi ho.' 


'Par tum akeli nahi ho. Sab hai yaha pe tumhe help karne ko, tumhara parivar hai, Juhi hai..'

Everyone's presence did not matter as much as his did. Was it not obvious to him ever? He was the only one who understood everything about her without even having to say a word then why did he not understand this. Probably he did yet it was true they stood far apart even today. Sid was always the reserved about his feelings and emotions and this fact maybe was not allowing him to express himself freely. Tears of remorse flowed freely wetting her cheeks as she stood there quietly.

'Riddhima' he called out softly


'Aur tum Sid?' time forced her to ask.

He could not be there this time but he could not muster the courage to tell her that he was leaving. Sid felt guilty of leaving her at this juncture. Her question was screaming to him that she was looking up to him for support. 'Woh tumhe bahoot maanti hai.' Those words seemed so true now. Sid had to assured her of his support. 'Aur main bhi toh hoon na.'


Those words brought a wave of hope. Her heart warmed up with the thought that he had indeed dropped his plans of leaving. 'Toh kya tum ..?' she asked expectantly.

'Main Juhi ko keh doong Dr Shashank ke report mujhe regularly mail karti rahe. Waise main bhi unka progress track kar sakoonga.' Though he was returning he could always monitor Shashank's health from US. That way he too could be there for her.

Riddhima found this extremely weird. 'Mail kyu karega .. kehna kya chahata hai Sid .. Kya woh saach mein jaa raha hai  ..'  Slowly her doubt got confirmed. Her high held hopes crashed replacing the sweet calm smile with a scorn. Anger took over. It was more than obvious that Sid had taken the decision the previous night itself to return back. That was the reason for avoiding her the whole day. His visit to her office was to inform her of his departure. If it was so, then she wanted to hear it from his mouth even if it pained her. 'Aur bhi kuch baat karni hai ya sirf Papa ke baare mein baat karne aaye the tum?' she asked quite harshly.

The changed tone put Sid on guard. He had another agenda. He wanted to tell Riddhima about his departure. But he thought he should leave it for later. 'Nahi' he negated as Riddhima drew in a sharp breath to brace herself to hear the inevitable.


Was she preparing herself for the news. She herself knew that he would have to return back to US some day then what was the point of hiding. He shifted on his feet contemplating again if he should tell her.

His lie and knowing him standing there reasoning irked Riddhima. Why was he being so evasive of the truth. He never did that so why tonight?

'At some point she would come to know. Its better I tell her of it instead of her knowing it from someone else. She had the right to know in all sense. Be it in personal or authoritative capacity.'


'Actually ..Haan' he accepted tentatively 'Main kuch aur bhi baat karne aaya tha. Actually woh main tumse ..'


'Bolo Sid .. Kisi aur ke baare mein baat karni hai ..kaam ke baare mein ya kisi patient ke ya phir Juhi ..'


'Riddhima!!!'


'Bolo Sid main sunn rahi hoon. Aur kiske baare mein baat karni hai?'


'Riddhima ..' He called out again to sush her flaring temper. He looked around wondering what to say beyond that. How to appease her when his eyes fell on her phone on the table. The phone screen was flashing announcing a call. It was not a call from just another person but the person who always stood between the two and even today his existence stood as a strong barrier. The screen displayed his name and the words escaped 'armaan'


Utterance of that dreaded name broke all the barriers. 'armaan ..tumhe armaan ke baare mein baat karni hai' Riddhima lashed out 'Kyu..kyu tum hamesha armaan ko hamare beech mein la khada kar dete ho?'


'Riddhima tumhe sirf yeh batana chahata hoon ki.'


'Wohi jo sab keh rahe hai '


'Nahi Riddhima..' understanding what was being sounded to Riddhima by all.


'Kyu jhoot bol rahe ho. Keh do Sid ki maine armaan..'

'Tumhe armaan call kar raha hai..' Sid blurted out slightly offended at Riddhima's outburst.


'Kya?


Tumhara phone pe armaan call kar raha hai Riddhima ..' sounded Sid looking away from her.

Seeing him nervously look away she took turned her attention away to ignore the bothersome sound of the phone vibrating on her table. It refused to die out. She gripped the window sill standing there quietly taking deep breaths to to reign in her temper. She hated her life at that moment so much that she wished death come to her. 


'Tumhara phone Riddhima' Sid nudged Riddhima half irritated half confused as to why she was ignoring the call.


She continued to stand there ignoring the call.


The phone fell silent after vibrating away and again started vibrating on Riddhima's desk.

The air was thick with tension. Sid stood there trying to understand Riddhima behavior.

'Woh shayaad tumse baat karna chahata hai Riddhima'


'Mujhe baat nahi karni.'


'Sunn toh lo woh kya kehna chahata hai. Usse bura lagega nahi toh'


'Aur tumhe ..tumhe bura nahi lagata?  Tumhare saath jo kuch bhi hota hai uska kya tumhe bura nahi lagta. Kal raat ko hum time spend nahi kar paye uska bhi bura nahi laga?'


'Nahi Riddhima ..I understand ..Tumhare liye ghar pe sab intezar kar rahe the aur tumhe jaana pada. I understand ..aur  apno ke liye agar tum kuch karo toh kyu bura lagega mujhe. Mujhe bilkul bura nahi laga.' he said earnestly


Riddhima could not come to terms with  his earnesty. Riddhima could turned around to look at the man who had taught her the meaning of life love and compassion. Was he for real? How could anyone be so nice and pure hearted 'Tum itne ache kyu ho Sid. Kyu ho tum itne ache?'


Riddhima ..tum phir se guilty feel kar rahi ho. I am fine. Mujhe saach mein bura nahi laga. Tum meri wajah se apne dil pe koi bhoj mat rakho.'


The phone again started vibrating. Sid and Riddhima looked at it but Riddhima did not move an inch to answer the call.  This time it was from home.


'Uthalo Riddhima. Shayaad kuch important ho.'

Seeing Sid urging her Riddhima moved forward to take the call and answered reluctantly. 'Hello'


'Riddhima kya hua tum armaan ka call kyu nahi utha rahi ho?'


'Main busy thi Mumma.'


'Theek hai. Par kaam jaldi khatam kar ke ghar aa jaana. armaan tumhare liye wait kar raha hai.'


'Mujhe bahoot kaam hai..'


Riddhima was avoiding going home. Sid felt guilty of holding her back. He signalled that he was leaving not wanting to burden Riddhima with his presence.


Seeing this Riddhima's anger flew. 'Tum kyu jaa rahe ho Sid Mujhe tumse baat karni hai.'

'Sid!!!' Padma did not like Riddhima's audacity of avoiding armaan even after sounding her about its repurcusions.


'Riddhima main kuch nahi sunna chahati. Tum abhi issi waqt ghar aa rahi ho.'

'Main nahi aane wali hoon Mumma aur khane pe aap mera intezar mat kijiye.'


'Riddhima tum galat kar rahi ho. Sab se jyaada Sid ke saath. Maine tumse pehle bhi kaha tha..'


'Mumma main aap se baad mein baat karti hoon. Bye.' and without waiting she disconnected the call.


Sid was a little stunned to see Riddhima such 'Riddhima'


'Kya?'


'Kuch nahi main chalta hoon.'


'Hamari baat khatam nahi hui hai.'


'Riddhima hum kal bhi baat kar sakte hai. Tum apna kaam khatam karke ghar jao.'


'Kyu Sid? Kyu jaau main ghar?'


'Mumma kya sochegi.'


'Jise jo sochna hai sochne do Sid. Hum hamesha doosre kya soochte hai uske hisab se apni zindagi kyu jiye. Kya unhone soocha hai hamare baare mein toh hum hi kyu?'

'Riddhima woh hamare bade hai. Woh hamesha hamari bhalalai ki baat kehenge.'


'Jo Mumma chahati hai main woh nahi kar sakti.'


'Par woh kuch jyaada bhi toh maang rahi hai tumse. Sirf yahi chahati hai ki tum ghar jaldi aao.'


'Nahi hoga mujhse Sid. Woh jo chahate hai main woh nahi karna chahati.' she broke down crying not being able to contain herself any longer.


Those pain ridden eyes jabbed another dagger in his already shattered heart. For the first time he understood in the true sense what her family was asking of her. Be it right or wrong it seemed to bring Riddhima grief which he could not handle. Instinctively his hand moved to console her 'Riddhima!!!' but he stopped midway. Sid could not understand why but he could not get himself to go across to her.

Sid's restrained compassion once again threw light on where both stood at this juncture of life. The remorse of her decisions years brought another wave of tears. She looked away to hide them knowing well they would only bring more pain to the person who never looked beyond her happiness.


'Toh kya karne ka sooch hai? Kya chahati ho tum?' asked Sid knowing there was no point avoiding this question.

Sid was again seeking her happiness. It irked her yet bring a wave of happiness from the realisation that had not changed a bit. But this time she wanted to do something which he desired. So she questioned him 'Hamesha doosro ke baare mein soocha hai? Kabhi socha hai tum kya chahate ho?'


'Sach bolu toh nahi soocha. Par main kya chahata hoon iska sawal nahi hai. Sawal yeh hai ki tum kya chahati ho zindagi se.'


'Toh kya karna chahiye mujhe? Tum kya karte?' She rephrased the question to know what he expected of her.


'Pata nahi ..' he answered genuinely as he too was clueless about the answer 'Par itna zaroor jaanta hoon ki kuch bhi karne ke pehle apno ke baare mein soocha chahiye.'


'Kuch bhi karne ke pehle apno ke baare mein soocha chahiye.' It was the golden commandment with which he had led his life. That night hearing him deliver it seemed to show the way ahead to Riddhima.


'Agar tum yahi chahate ho toh tumhari har baat sar aakhon par.' 


He waited silently for her when they heard a sharp knock on the door. 'Come in.' ordered Sid as Riddhima stood there staring into the darkness that lay ahead. Ironic that her life seemed as dark as the moonless night.


'Sir aapko yeh file bheji thi Dr Juhi ne.' a nurse said handing over the file to Sid.

'Thank you ..kya Dr Juhi ghar chali gayi.

'Haan' The nurse felt having walked into a tense moment between these two individuals. Feeling awkward she apologized. 'aur meri bhi duty khatam ho rahi hai isliye aap ko dene chali aayi. Sorry for disturbing you.'


'No issues ..Thank you once again.' Sid thanked and dismissed the nurse.


As he turned to find Riddhima still looking blankly out of the window. She needed time to herself but did not wish to leave here there alone either. He knew well Riddhima. If he left her there he would probably find her there next morning too. She needed to collect herself and face the problem at hand. She could only do that if she faced the questions her life and her dear ones had for her and for that she needed to go home.

'Tum apna kaam khatam kar lo main tumhe aadhe ghante mein lene aata hoon. Tumhe ghar chodte main nikal jaonga.'


She nodded to his command without turning back. This was her Sid's wish and she would adhere to it.


After half an hour Sid escorted Riddhima towards his car. She walked lifelessly behind Sid as a convict would walk to serve the final sentence.

Sid by now realised what her family was worried of. They had too much history and anything would only worsen the family image which was troubling them.

It was going to be a huge sacrifice but if was Riddhima's decision if she wanted to give that or not.

She stood there dazed by the car dreading having to face armaan. Walk into a house a life where her emotions never lay.


Sid seeing her non responsive Sid held the door open. She laughed a dead laugh at her fate and sat in. This man again was leading to her destiny. Again it was one without him. 'Tum theek ho? A hidden question to know if she indeed wanted to do it. She nodded unconsciously without actually giving a thought to why it was asked. Wanting to check if she was comfortable Sid bent down and noticed Riddhima's duppata which always remained secured around her neck displaced flowing loosely on the car bed. He bent down to pick it up. That swift movement jerked Riddhima out of her daze. Her eyes shone sensing another ray of hope into her life. Was Sid breaking away from his restrain to sheild her from her death sentence.

She looked on hopefully as Sid's hand picked up the duppata and placed it back on to cover her respectfully.


A warm knowing instantly played on her lips. This was her Sid. Only he could do that like he always did. Tonight again he was trying to guide her, protecting her family and her honor. As much as it warmed her heart the pain and remorse refused to leave her. Sid only had lost out on each of the happiness which was rightly only his in the bargain of saving her family and her honor, looking after everyone's happiness.


They drove quietly. Riddhima who wanted to avoid looking at Sid kept looking out the window. She knew it would take just one look and whatever little composure she had gained would crumble to pieces. Sid on the other hand was wondering whether it was the right decision to drop Riddhima to her house himself. armaan's call and then Padma insisting on Riddhima coming home had given Sid the hint that armaan was probably in town. Their relationship was already strained and seeing him with Riddhima might strain it further. As Gupta house started drawing closer Riddhima noticed he was driving unusually slowly. Knowing something was disturbing him Riddhima probed 'Kya sooch rahe ho?'

'Kuch nahi? Kyu?'


'Sid tum aaj bhi theek tarah se jhoot nahi bol pate toh koshish hi kyu karte ho?'



'Nahi actually ..'Sid hesitated to word what played on his mind.


'Ghar tak chodne aaye toh sab kya soochenge na. Koi problem  na ho yahi sooch rahe the na?'


'Actually ..'

'Mujhe aage wale mod pe drop kar do waise koi mujhe dekh nahi payega sivai ..' Said Riddhima knowing well that Sid may just drop her little away from her house but would not leave till he knew she had safely reached home.


He halted the car at the said point. Riddhima alighted from the car. She was about to walk away when she turned to look to look behind to find Sid waiting outside looking her way.

He had come to tell her something which she needed to assure she would take in her stride. She needed to put his mind to rest. 'Juhi se bol do papers ready karwane ko. Main baki ke formalities khatam kar doongi aur phir ..' she choked on her words not able to word the rest  and walked away towards what seemed her destiny. 



Part 106


armaan sat restlessly on the couch waiting for his lady love. His decision to come was solely motivated from the fact that he thought he had heard someone who once had given him stiff competition in his claims over Riddhima. He then had won the war claiming his basket but now the situation was different. Riddhima after many years had moved out of his house not wanting to continue with their relationship.


When he first received the missed call from Riddhima his happiness knew no bounds. It had yet again proved his perceptions right. But then after that Riddhima continued to avoid him. It perturbed him however he tried to find consolation that Riddhima had always expected him to take the first step. So he had by calling her instead of waiting for her call. When he thought that he had heard his biggest competitors voice all his insecurities set in sharply getting him to Mumbai by the next flight. He could not let anyone come in his path.


When Riddhima walked in his face gleamed with joy. Padma had informed him of Riddhima's late stay at Sanjeevani due to work. He had wanted to go across but was sternly told off by Padma against it. But seeing her home early felt like another battle won.


Seeing that cheeky triumphant smile Riddhima insides squirmed. Disgusted at the thought that played on his mind she moved quickly to her room completely ignoring his presence. 


Padma who had come out of the kitchen saw this and followed Riddhima to her bedroom. This stopped armaan in his tracks who wanted lone time with his basket.


'Riddhima acha hua tum aa gayi. Thank you.'

'Main yeh aap ke kehne pe nahi kiya hai toh aap ko mujhe thank karne ki koi zaroorat nahi hai.'


'Toh phir?'


'Sid ke ..woh hamesha kehte hai ki kuch bhi karne ke pehle apno ke baare mein soochna chahiye. Aur main sirf wohi kar rahi hoon.'

'Sid jo kehta hai woh galat nahi hai.'


'Woh kabhi kuch galat nahi kar, keh sakta.'


'Par tum abhi bhi galat kar rahi ho.'


'Mumma kaam bahoot tha aur main bahoot thak chuki hoon. Main fresh ho ke baad mein bahar aati hoon.' she dismissed the discussion not wanting to justify why she ignored armaan.


Padma too did not take it further. At that moment having Riddhima home was more than enough. She was once again thankful to Sid for having helped save the situation. She always would have preferred a Sid to an armaan as Riddhima's life partner as she had seen how grounded Riddhima had been during that short span when she was married to Sid. She liked the confidence with which Riddhima spoke about Sid. Such confidence never came without reason. Tonight hearing Riddhima speak of Sid her respect grew leaps and bounds. If she had the opportunity to turn time around she would have erased the day when Sid exited Riddhima's life. But alas even now she was the one forcing armaan back into Riddhima's life. But one had to take such decisions against one's will. She still was of the opinion that Riddhima did not have anything to offer Sid except pain and disharmony Sid did not deserve. Upset with what she was subjecting her dear ones to she moved to the kitchen silently herself avoiding armaan just like Riddhima had done.


Shortly dinner was served. Everyone sat there quietly listening to armaan's tales. None seemed interested except Anjali who carried on the conversation enthusiastically. Riddhima remained quiet eating her meal which seemed another task she needed to complete. She sat lost in her thoughts wondering what Sid might be doing. She briefly spoke only when addressed directly.


Right after dinner she got herself busy to tidy the table and put the leftovers away. Anjali kept pestering to move out and sit with armaan but Riddhima would not relent. 'Aap ne usse bulaya hai toh aap uske saath baitiye. Mujhe kaam hai.'

'Tumhe kuch kaam nahi hai.'


'Actually Di you are right mujhe interest nahi hai. Yahi sunna chahati thi na.'

'Tumhe andaza bhi hai ki Mumma Papa kitne awkward feel kar rahe hai tumhare iss behavior ke wajah se.'


The mention of her parents refreshed what Sid had said. Reluctantly she finally moved out but the minute she saw armaan her resolve melted and she moved to her bedroom.


Everyone was retiring for the day. armaan took this opportunity to corner Riddhima. He was dying to meet her to know more about the person whose voice he had heard.


'Bahoot miss kiya ..' asked armaan the moment he walked into Riddhima's bedroom.


She almost jumped hearing his voice behind her. 'Tum ..'


Seeing her nervous armaan smirked thinking how he still affected her. 'Toh tumne mujhe miss kiya Oye Hoye!' he said as he inched towards her wanting to sweep her in his arms feeling her love.

Riddhima quickly held up her hand 'armaan mujhe change karna hai.'

'Change kyu kar rahi ho. Tum aise bhi bahoot achi lag rahi ho. Chalo chalte hai.' he said grabbing her hand to pull her towards.


Fidgeting to release herself she commanded 'Main kahi jaa nahi rahi hoon.'

'Tum yaha kyu rahoongi Ghar chalo.'


'Bahoot se reasons hai. Tum samajhoge nahi. Tum ghar jao. Kal baat karte hai.'


To her luck before armaan could argue Atul came knocking on the door.


'Riddhima!'


'Andar aa javo Atul.'


armaan adamantly held on to Riddhima even as she squirmed in his embrace.


'Champ..Kya ..?'

'Atul ..kuch baat karni thi?' Riddhima finally managing to get out of armaan grip interrupted knowing on which track armaan was heading.


'Haan woh Papa ke reports ke baare mein baat karni thi.'


'Haan Si..seedha sada saaf reports hai.' said Riddhima correcting herself knowing the company they had.

'Good ..par..' 'Don't worry the situation is under control. Wait main tumhe reports dikhati hoon.' She quickly moved towards the cupboard to pull out the files she had gotten along. Armaan stood there nervous as to how he was going to break into this conversation which seemed to carry on for a long time. Seeing him thinking Riddhima grabbed the opportunity to dismiss him. 'armaan main kal tumse ghar pe milti hoon.' she lied knowing if she did not assure coming home armaan would persist to wait around. Happy hearing Riddhima coming home he left bidding the two doctors to discuss his father in laws case.


As soon as he was out of sight Riddhima heaved a sigh of relief.

'Acha yeh dekh lo Papa ke reports.'


'Main uske liye nahi aaya tha.' smirked Atul giving away the reason for his visit.


'Thank you Atul.'


'Anytime.'


'Waise ab jab main yaha hoon aur koi nahi hai toh kya hum important baat kar le.'


'Haan bolo Atul.' urged Riddhima.

'Kya tumhare baat hui?'


'Hmm' Riddhima face drooped  as she affirmed telling the possible outcome to Atul.


'Riddhima hum kal baat karte hai. Tum rest karo.'


Not wanting to relive that conversation she welcomed the offer and retired for the day. 


The next day Riddhima cleverly avoided going to armaan's house in the morning citing emergency which she needed to give her attention to while Atul held the fort in the evening when they had armaan visiting them again.

'Riddhima kuch kaam mein phasi hai iss liye late ayegi.'


'Aisa kya kaam hai Atul.'

'Administrator ko hazar kaam hotey hai. Upar se ek ke baar ek conference hui hai which just adds to the pressure of work. Do you even realize what all she single handedly handles out her in Mumbai.'

'But ..'

'Enough Anjali.. now please don't call her to bother her and waste her time. She might as well use to complete her work. That way she may be home sooner.'

Sid felt a little at ease now with the fact that Riddhima knew about his departure which was due in two days. Juhi had started the handover process whatever little it was. But to their surprise Sid had taken on a lot on him in this short while. Not having him there would definitely leave an void that no one could fill. Not only in the hospital but in their lives.


Riddhima was walking by the neurology ward when she saw Sid briefing the interns and doctors on all patients. Taking his time with each of the patents there regardless they were his or any other doctors. The care and diligence moved Riddhima. He indeed never thought about himself ever.


Padma's words started ringing in her mind. She looked at her watch to check the time. It was nearing dinner time. 'Sid ne aaj theek tarah se break bhi nahi liya.' The thought worried her even more. She had to  do something Maybe what she had thought earlier was for the best. She immediately moved out in search of the person who was her only hope for Sid. 'Juhi ...'

'Hi Riddhima tum yaha kya hua?'


'Kuch baat karni hai tumse. Mere saath chalo.' Riddhima grabbed hold of her hand and took her to the nearest empty room available.


'Kya hua kya baat karni hai. Any problem?' asked Juhi worried at the way she was ushered in by Riddhima.

'Main kuch kehna chahati thi tumse actually ..' she shifted nervously on her feet wondering how it may sound.


Juhi gauged about whom Riddhima wanted to talk about. 'Siddhant ke baare mein hai na?'


'Haan .. kya tum meri ek baat manogi?'


'Yeh bhi kuch poochne wali baat hai. Bolo.'


'Yaad hai .. tumne mujhse ek baar Siddhant ke baare mein meri rai poochi thi.'


'Haan ..'replied Juhi suspiciously.


'Juhi ' Siddhant ek acha insaan hai. Agar tum dono agar ek ..doosre ko pasand karte ho toh I think its a ..'


'Riddhima!!!'


'Dekho Juhi tumhi ek aisi ladki ho jo Siddhant ko samaj payi ho. Tum dono ki achi banti hai Toh kyu nahi? Uske past hai ' par tum jaanti ho ki woh kaisa hai. Usse bhi haq hai ki uski zindagi mein koi aisa ho jo uska khayal rakhe jo woh ladki nahi rakh paayi.'

'Toh kya chahati ho tum? Don't tell me you want me to?'


'Main sirf yeh poochna chahati hoon ki kya tum uska khayaal rakogi? Woh bahoot laparwah hai khud ki taraf. He needs you Juhi.'

'Stop it Riddhima. Tum aisa sooch bhi kaise sakti ho.' Juhi lashed out understanding what Riddhima was hinting towards.


'Kyu nahi Juhi? Tum ek doosre ke liye sahi ho. Aap dono ek nayi shurvat kar sakte hai. Aur tum bhi toh ..'

'Enough Riddhima.. Kya tum ne ek baar bhi soocha Siddhant kaisa feel karega jab usse yeh pata chalega ..Uski khushi ka kya? Kabhi soocha hai woh kya chahata hai?'

'Uski khushi ka hi sooch ke main tumhare pass aayi hoon. He needs someone whom he can share his life with. Jo usse woh har khushi de jispe uska haq hai. Aur mujhe maloom hai ki tum woh khushi usse de sakti ho. He needs you.'

'You very well know whom he needs, what he needs. Tumne mujhe bataya nahi iska yeh matlab nahi ki mujhe pata nahi chalega.'

'Juhi!!!' Riddhima looked up shocked. 'Kya jaanti ho tum?'

'Siddhant kaun hai yeh main achi tarah jaanti hoon Riddhima. Tumne lakh chipane ki koshish ki par yeh raaz main ussi raat jaan gayi jab hum pehli baar dinner ke liye gaye the.'

'Juhi!!!'

'Riddhima!!!' Juhi turned Riddhima to face her. 'Main abhi wohi bolungi. Accept karo apne feelinga ko aur usse. Tab hi tum usse saachi khushi de paogi. Aur shayaad woh bhi wohi chahata hai par keh nahi paa raha.'

'Jo woh expect karta hai woh usse kabhi nahi mil sakta aur woh bhi woh jaanta hai.'

'Enough Riddhima tum apne kamzori poori karne ke liye mujhe use mat karo.'

'Mere woh irada nahi tha. Mujhe laga ki tum bhi ..'

'Riddhima dosti aur pyaar mein farak kar seekho! Lashed out Juhi exasperated at Riddhima's perceptions about Sid and her. 'Sid kabhi kisi aur se pyaar nahi kar sakta. Uske zindagi mein tumhari jagah kisi ko nahi de sakta.'

'Par Juhi .. aur woh un logo mein se hai jo kabhi peeche mudh ke dekhta. Aur yahi sahi hai. He has moved on so why not think about ...'

'Bas Riddhima ..aur mat bhago sachai se..'


'Juhi'


'Riddhima if he had moved on then he would not have done what he did?'

'Sid Sid ne kya kiya?'

'Panchgani jane ke  pehle woh bhi aaya tha mere pass ' Tumhare liye' request karne ke liye ki main dekh bhal karo. Kyu? Kyuki woh nahi kar sakta? Woh yeh sab keh ke toh chala gaya par jab Dr Shashank ki bimari ki news pata chali usse toh bhaga bhaga chala aaya. Kyu? ..Kyu ki woh tumhe takleef mein nahi dekh sakta. Aur tum ' tum bhi chali aayi uski khushi dhoondte huye. Agar itni fikar hai ek doosre ki toh kyu nahi khud accept karte ki kyu hai itni fikar?' Kya hai yeh? Kaisa pyaar hai aap dono ka?

'Juhi' please meri baat sunno.'

'Nahi tum meri baat suno..'

'Juhi main nahi chahati ''

'Tum khud se Sid se kya chahati ho woh tum decide karo ' Par mujhse mat expect karo ki main usme iss tarah contribute karongi.'

'Juhi please ..'

'Nahi Riddhima ' aur nahi hoga mujhse .. uski handover formalities bhi ab tum sambhalo .. Files meri desk pe hai le lena. Waise tum jaanti hogi par phir bhi bata deti hoon Sid jaa raha hai Saturday early morning uski flight hai '' Saying this Juhi walked out leaving an helpless Riddhima behind. Juhi now clearly could understand why Maasi said what she had about Riddhima needing to take the first step. She turned to look at Riddhima 'Main bhi dekhna chahati hoon agar tum Sid jaane doogi.'



Juhi was too upset with what Riddhima had suggested. She felt bad to have led her to think of Sid and her remembering the time when to force Riddhima to open up she had fabricated many things.


She felt drained and did not want to meet anyone more especially Sid. Sid who had been searching for her for his handover formalities found it very weird when the nurse told him that Juhi had left for the day.


He too was almost done for the day and decided to check on Riddhima and call it a day. He collected his belonging and was exiting his office when he bumped into Riddhima.


'Hi ' Main tumhe hi milne aane wala tha''

'Kuch kaam tha Sid?'

'Nahi aise hi ' poore din mein theek tarah se baat bhi nahi hui isliye milne ki sooch raha tha.'

'Bahoot busy the tum aaj..'

'Hum .. almost wrapping up' Juhi todhi busy chal rahi thi isliye uske liye cover up bhi karna tha'

'Juhi is going to miss you a lot.'


'Haan maloom hai kitna miss karegi ' Aaj toh mile bina chali gayi ' Actually usse poochna tha ki papers bana diye ya nahi 'Par madam toh '.'

Riddhima smiled at how Sid was complaining about Juhi. She signaled at the file she was holding.

'Oh .. '

'Woh mujhe bata ke gayi thi .. isliye lene chali aayi.'

'hmm'

'So that's it ' tomorrow is your ''

'Hmm .. that's it '' Sid could feel the disappointment. To change the topic 'Riddhima actually tumhare liye kuch notes banaye hai.. Main pass on kar doonga ..'

'Kaise notes.'

'Nothing much just some process improvement suggestions and something that may help you with managing Sanjeevani. Waise tum abhi hi itna acha kaam kar rahi ho but just thought if I could be of any help so  ''

'I can never be as good as you would have managed.'

'Yeh bhi tumse hi seekha .. yaad hai .. jab pehli baar jab mein DO bana tha tab kya haal tha mera.'

'Par experience DO se behtar handle ki thi tumne woh responsibility. Papa kitne khush the.'

'Woh aaj bhi hoonge ..'

Riddhima nodded dismissing the comment knowing how disappointed her father always remained with her.

Seeing her getting upset again Sid again changed the topic to draw Riddhima away from those thoughts. 'Ek kaam karte hai ' agar tumhe der nahi ho rahi hai toh abhi discuss karle ''

Anytime spent with Sid was most precious for her. She whole heartedly accepted the offer. For the next hour they both discussed about Sanjeevani. Riddhima's mind would brief stir away from the conversation thinking about how Sid was not going to be there anymore. What life would be after that? How was she to survive these new developments? Would she ever survive this time?

Her lost look tucked at Sid's heart but his resolve stood strong. He could not display too much emotion. It would only make Riddhima feel guiltier pulling her back. At the end of the discussion Sid left Riddhima with another mission; trying her hand at surgery again. He had been urging her but that night he finally got Riddhima to promise him to seek the clearance which would allow performing surgeries again.

But out and out the belief which he had sounded Juhi about Riddhima was becoming stronger.

'Chalo main chalta hoon. Tumhe ghar drop kar do.'

'Nahi main chali jaoingi ' as in mujhe kaam hai ' kaafi time lagega ' tum jao ' tumhe parso ke liye tayari bhi toh karni hai.'

'Nahi kuch khaas nahi hai ' Actually tumhe bhi ghar jaana chahiye ..'

'Chali jaoingi ' kaam khatam karke ghar hi chali jaoingi.'

'Jyaada der tak mat baitna ..Main chalta hoon.'

'Bye'

'Bye'

The next day was dull. Riddhima mechanically went through her tasks. Juhi who was still upset with Riddhima landed up avoiding both Riddhima and Sid. Sid was perturbed by both their behaviors but decided to give them space. Probably both were just reacting in their own way to the news of his departure.

All the work was complete. Sid was just hanging around waiting to meet Juhi and Riddhima. Riddhima was busy with the paper work while Juhi worked her way through organizing a small farewell for Sid. The farewell was to happen the following day. She had purposefully arranged it on the last day of Sid stay hoping that Riddhima may just react and stop Sid.


Sid was waiting at the nurse station talking to some interns when someone screamed behind him. 'Sid'


Hearing the gleeful scream Sid immediately turned and his eyes widen with surprise. 'Rohan!!!'

The small child ran towards Sid right into his arms. Sid was so thrilled to see Rohan there that he scooped him up into his arms and laughed gleefully with him.

Rohan and Maasi were due to come to Mumbai later in the night. They happened to do an early start and reached Mumbai way before the decided time. Sid who had left a key to his house just in case he was late was used by Maasi to settle them in. But Rohan was so excited to meet Sid that he pestered Maasi till she agreed to bring him to Sanjeevani.

Seeing Rohan again in Sanjeevani many came forward to meet him. He looked a little at ease that evening. Sid proudly waited on Rohan as everyone said hi to Rohan.

There was happy banter as Sid and Rohan seemed in best spirits. So was the staff. It was change from the regular routine where a family member that too a child was visiting the hospital.

Riddhima was passing by heard the loud laughing sound of all the staff stopped to check where it as coming from.

Rohan sat comfortably on the nurse station counter with Sid next to him. Very lightly holding him to make sure he does not fall while he naughtily moved and inspected the surrounding. The staff was having a fun time asking him all sorts of questions laughing joking passing comments on Rohan's cuteness and naughtiness.

Riddhima curiously looked on and found Sid next to the child. The view was not clear as the staff stood surrounding them. She had a strange feeling. Dismissing the thought of it being a child of some staff member with whom Sid and others were playing she started to walk away. She threw a last glance the child's way. This time she got a clear view and her eyes widened in shock. 'Rohan.' She recognized him in a split second. Though it was many years back that she had met Rohan with Shilpa in the market of Panchagani.


Her eyes narrowed with suspicion seeing Sid with Rohan. What was Sid doing with Rohan? Why was Sid so protective of Rohan? If Rohan was here where was Shilpa? Was she here too? Was it a coincidence or something else? Why did Sid say he could not meet Shilpa when he could have met her all the times when he had been going to Panchgani? She looked around searching for Shilpa but the other lady whom Shilpa had introduced as Maasi to Riddhima when they met.


She looked on curiously seeing the happy banter when Dr Abhay came. 'Hello Ma'am'

'Hmmm' she acknowledged not really even looking to see who it was.

'Kya hua Dr Riddhima? Asked Dr Abhay.

Snapping out she answered 'Kuch nahi aise hi dekh rahi thi..'

'Cute hai na Dr Siddhant ka beta ..'

'Dr Siddhant ka beta ..!!! Rohan ...Sid ka beta.'


Part 107


She felt that Dr Abhay must have probably been misinformed so she questioned the source of information. 'Aap ko kisne bataya?'


'Dr Siddhant ne..' replied Abhay as a matter of fact.


The answer or more the matter of fact tone of in Abhay's voice threw Riddhima completely off balance. Her world her faith in Sid's honesty came crashing down as she absorbed the information.

Jumping to conclusions was second nature which did not fail her. She started making her own assumptions of what may have transpired which made her flare even more. To add fuel to fire Abhay added 'Woh kal apne bete ko leke US laut rahe hai.' Her eyes darkened with rage. She trembled like a leaf as the rage of anger flashed through her body. 'Itna bada jhoot Siddhant!!! Tumne mujhse itna bada jhoot bola. Tumse toh yeh expect nahi kiya tha.'


Sid who stood at the nurse station felt someone's burning gaze on him. 'Riddhima?'


He looked around to confirm only to find Riddhima standing next to Abhay looking at him viciously.


'Riddhima!!!'


As their eyes met her disapproving nod was informing him that she did not like any of what was happening. The spite on her face clearly told how betrayed she felt at his hands.


Sid's eyes were pleading for a chance to explain. She was not interested in listening to any of it. Abhay nagging tirade carried on as he continued torturing Riddhima with it. Exasperated with both she  finally tore her eyes away from the man who continued to plead to her and quickly walked away excusing herself leaving an hapless Sid and a confused Abhay behind.

Sid needed to talk to her. It had to done right then.

He wanted to call out to her but there were too many people standing there. It would attract unnecessary attention.

He turned to Maasi to tell her about him having to go talk to Riddhima but she understood immediately as her eyes had followed Sid's spotting Riddhima 'Main hoon yaha pe.' she assured him.


He turned to Rohan 'Sid ko todha kaam hai. Tum Maasi ke saath ghar chale jaana aur unhe tang mat karna.'

Anxiety surged thinking what might be playing on Riddhima's mind and his pace quickened.

Sid darted towards the direction Riddhima went. Not finding her round the corner, he frantically started searching for her.


'Kya aap ne Dr Riddhima ko kahi dekha?' he asked any staff member who passed his way till one answered 'Haan maine unhe upar jaate dekha.'


'Terrace.' He knew he would find her there. He dashed across to the next available elevator. Finding it taking too long to come he ran up the fire escape.

Riddhima stood on the terrace. She dug her nails on the parapet wall to bolt the anger that was rising in her body, to calm her racing heart. She never felt so angry in all these years. She could not digest that Sid ..her Sid would hide such an important fact of his life from her.


'Sid aur Shilpa! Aur Rohan unka beta hai! Toh Sid Panchgani inhe milne jaata raha aur kehta tha ki dost ko milne jaa raha hoon. Rohan uska dost hai! Itna bada jhoot. Kaise Sid? Kaise bol paye ki Rohan tumhara dost hai jab ki woh tumhara beta hai. Kyu chupayi yeh baat? Kyu nahi saach  bataya? Tum hamesha mujhe sab kuch batate the. Toh aisa kyu kiya?  Ek ke baad ek jhoot bolte gaye. Shilpa sirf ek meri dost hai, woh shopping karna apne US ke dost ke bete ke liye, woh adoption ki baat. Darasal tum yaha Rohan ki custody ke liye aaye aur samaj nahi aa raha tha ki tumhare zindagi mein jo ho sakti hai woh kaise react karegi. ..Rohan ko apne saath le jaane aaye ho aur Shilpa jaane de rahi hai. Kaise? Actually kyu nahi? Woh hamesha azad khayalo ki ladki rahi. Sense of responsibility kabhi thi hi nahi.  Kabhi doosro ke baare mein nahi soocha. Sid ke saath bhi usne wohi kiya jiske baare mein main hamesha Sid ko warn karti rahi. Aur Sid tumne kabhi meri baat nahi maani. Kyu Sid itna bhi bharosa nahi tha mujhe pe meri kahi baat pe. Tumhari baat main samaj sakti hoon Sid. Tumhare saath itna kuch hua tha. Uss waqt tumhe sahare ki zaroorat thi. Par Shilpa yeh sab jaante huye Sid ko sahara dene ke bajay usne Sid ke saath aisa kiya.'

Sid reached the terrace gasping for breath from having climbed four floors. He saw Riddhima standing near the ledge with her back turned to him. Despite that he could make out how angry Riddhima was. He waited for a moment to catch his breath contemplating how to begin. He nervously inched closer anticipating her outburst to come any moment.  Riddhima had sensed him the moment he stepped on the terrace. Now even his presence irked her. Why was he there? To justify his lies or tell another one or do what he loved doing ..defend Shilpa. 'Tumne hamesha uski side li chahe woh sahi ho ya galat. Tumhare ke liye hamesha Shilpa sahi thi aur main galat. Par mera uske baare mein opinion hamesha se sahi tha. Woh ladki kabhi serious nahi thi. ..'


'Riddhima!!!' not able to handle Riddhima's erie silence any longer.


'Dekh liya na natija meri baat na maan ne ka. Main hamesha se jaanti thi. Maine kaha tha tumse. Main kaha tha ki Shilpa theek ladki nahi hai. Uske liye sab kuch ek mazak hai. All fun and games phir bhi .. tumne uske saath shaadi kar li .. ya phir ..'


He was not going to tolerate any vicious words for neither Shilpa nor his relationship with Shilpa. How could Riddhima ever think so low of him? Those words of spite repulsed Sid making him lash out 'Enough Riddhima Enough main itna ghatiya nahi hoon ki tumhari hi behen ke saath main ..'

'Behen!!! Kaisi behen!!!' refuting the relationship.

'Shilpa tumhari behen thi!!!' He screamed back.'

'Kuch bhi bole jaa rahe ho tum. Mujhe hamesha laga tha ki hamare beech sirf sachai hai. Koi jhoot nahi toh ab kyu Sid Kyu jhoot bol rahe ho? Main nahi maanti.'


'Hume maloom tha tum usse kabhi accept nahi karogi. Par tum mano ya na mano yeh hi saach hai Riddhima Shilpa tumhari behen thi.'

'Yeh kaise ho sakta hai?' she was forced to question sensing the sureness in Sid's voice.


Realising what he had blurted out in fit of anger and the effect the information would have; he softened his stance and said solemnly 'She is your half sister.'


'Kya?' Riddhima worded nervously staggering behind reeling under the effect of the information thrown at her.


'She is the daughter of your biological father, Dr. Mahlotra.'

How could that be possible? Was it really true?

'Riddhimadi' She always called her that. Was it because she knew? Did she always know about this? 'Kya woh pehle se jaanti thi?'


'Hmm ..' Sid just nodded solemnly knowing that he needed to give Riddhima some time to absorb the information. He waited for her reaction. She stood there like a stone, her face expressionless. Had she accepted the truth or was she still analyzing the facts thrown at her. Whaever be the case, tt was time to tell the whole truth. He waited for a moment and continued 'In fact woh Sanjeevani tumhe dhoondte aayi thi. Apni behen ko. Uske family ke aakhri member ko. Apne Papa se judi aakri kadi ko.'


Mujhe aap ka introduction nahi chahiye?

Aap mujhe bataye aap aayi kyu hai? Kya karne aayi hai yaha par?


All those memories were coming sharply back. She had so rudely questioned her presence back then. But if she had come seeking her then why did she not tell her ever? She needed to know.

'Agar yehi saach hai toh mujhe bataya kyu nahi?' she questioned sharply out not able to handle being kept away from facts for so long.

'Woh batana chahati thi. Bahoot baar koshish ki tumhe batane ne ki, tumpar yeh jatane ki woh koi gyair nahi tumhari apni hai.'



'Aap akeli nahi hai 'Aap mere ghar chalein ''' apni choti behen ko hi samaj kar 'aap mere ghar jab tak chahe reh sakti hai Riddhima di'

'Jab mujhe anji di ki zaroorat hai toh tum mere saath ho '''. Main bhi toh aapki behen hoon '''I mean jab bhi aapko behen ki zaroorat pade aap mujhe apni dil ki baat share kar sakti hai' 

'Par har baar ..Kuch galat ho jaata ..'

'Riddhimadi '. Dr Riddhima '..Dekhiye na main aap ko jaanti hoon aur na mujhe koi naye rishtey banane hai'


'Jaha par bhi tum hoti ho koi na koi tamasha khada ho jata hai. Aur yeh bhi tumhari wajay se hua hai.'


'Aap ko kya lagta hai yeh sab kar ke aap armaan ke kareeb aa jayegi?'


'Woh sahi mauke ka intezar karti rahi par phir haalat kuch aise ho gaye ki woh Sanjeevani mein aur nahi ruk payi ..'


'armaan ko bhulapana itna asaan nahi hai. Maine tumhari aakhon mein armaan ke liye pyaar dekha hai.'


'Aisa kuch nahi hai.'


'Phir bhi Sid jaane se pehle ek baar toh mujhe bata sakti thi ..?


'Kafi kuch ho chuka tha. Uss waqt tum kafi disturbed thi'

'Riddhimadi par hua kya?

'Nahi pata sakti ki kya hua/

'Aap mere ghar jab tak chahe reh sakti hai .. Please riddhimadi aisi kya baat hai aap ghar nahi jaana chahati hua kya'

'armaan'


'Tumhari ulzan aur na badhe isliye..'


'Kuch kehna chahati ho tum?'

'Kuch baate kahi nahi jaa sakti'

'Woh bina bataye kaise chali gayi..

'Agar mujhe maloom hota ki tum jaa rahi ho toh main tumhare liye koi gift le aati.

'Aap ko maloom nahi hai ki aap ne mujhe kya diya hai. Waise mere pass aap ke liye ek gift hai. Mere ghar ki chabiya. Aap jab tak chahe waha aaram se reh sakti hai.'


'Shilpa jaate jaate mere liye itna kuch kar gayi. Apne ghar ki chabiya deke ek aur baar mujhe samjhane ki koshish kiyi ki woh kaun hai. Main kaun hoon. Kya pehchan hai meri. Woh ghar mujhe apni penchan batata raha par main hi samaj nahi payi.'

'Yeh ghar mujhe meri pehchan bata raha hai. Na Dr Shashank Gupta ki beti na armaan Malik ka pyaar Na Siddhant Modi ki patni Sirf Riddhima Gupta hoon main.'

'Nahi samaj payi. Kuch nahi kar payi. Kyu Shilpa? Kyu nahi bataya mujhe? Kya mein itni buri thi?'

'Nahi Riddhima .. Woh chahati thi ki sab kuch theek ho jaaye aur phir tumhe yeh bata chale. Isliye jaane se pehle usne mujhse yeh raaz share kiya yeh kehte huye ki jab sab kuch settle ho jaye tum todhi sambhal javo toh main tumhe yeh batau.'


'Tumhe maloom tha!!!  .. Siddhant itne saalo se tumhe yeh maloom tha aur tumne batana zaroori nahi samjha How could you? Andaza bhi hai tumhe na bata ke kya kiya? Tumhe bilkul bura nahi laga mujhe apni behen se dur rakhte huye'


'Main kya karta mere pass aur koi choice nahi thi'

'Choice nahi thi matlab kya .. Tum hamesha halat ko dosh kyu dete ho .. Tum aise kaise kar sakte the ..Tum bhi bataye chale gaye'

'Nahi Riddhima ..maine tumhe yeh baat batana chahi thi in fact..' he checked himself immediately. If he was to tell her that he had told armaan Riddhima would never forgive armaan for it. It seemed a better option to take the blame. There was nothing left to lose But if that could help save one relation of Riddhima's life then so be it.


Riddhima who could read Sid's silence heard the unsaid words 'Tum mujhse abhi kuch chupa rahe ho Sid ..'


'Nahi Riddhima main aaj kuch nahi chupa raha. Mujhe laga ki ..' Sid continued as Riddhima was lost trying to understand why Sid was lying to her now. 

'Kya armaan ne nahi bataya ...'

'armaan!' she gasped realising the meaning of Sid's question that evening.


Horror struck Sid. Before Riddhima could gauge the truth he had to refute it. 'Nahi Riddhima ..armaan nahi jaanta hai.'

Disregarding Sid's testimony 'Tumne armaan ko batayi thi yeh baat.' she hissed.

Riddhima's sharp intuition had assimilated what had happened back then. If he would to try to hide the truth it would irk Riddhima more. There was no point in hiding now.


'Mere aur yaha rukna possible nahi tha. Isliye jaane se pehle maine armaan ko sab bata diya. Soocha sahi mauka dekh ke armaan yeh baat tumhe bata sakta hai. Aur shayaad woh sahi insaan bhi hoga.' 

Sid's logic repelled Riddhima's understanding. She may have been wrong many times but never with armaan She knew him very well. For her Sid had just given evidence that he had no faith in her perspective. He could trust armaan but not her. How could he?

'Tum armaan ko kaise trust kar sakte the. Uss insaan ko har baat chupata tha. Aur har baar ki tarah usne iss baar bhi usne mujhe kuch nahi bataya.' Seeing Sid silent forced her to question 'Par kya aap dono nahi soocha ki aisa ho sakta hai? Nahi soocha mujhe ek baar poocho ki Riddhima kya tumhe armaan ne kuch bataya?'


'Kabhi kabhi hume bhi laga ki shayaad armaan tumhe yeh baat bata nahi paya.'


'Toh phir kyu nahi poocha mujhe?' she yelled back at Sid in sheer frustration. 


'Kyu ki kabhi kabhi hume lagta tha ki usne bataya hoga par shayaad tum Shilpa ko ..'

'Kaise nahi accept nahi kiya?' she questioned those unsaid thoughts.


'Dekho Riddhima hamare yeh soochna galat toh na hota. Tumhare rawaiya hamesha bahoot biased raha .. Shilpa ki taraf..Yeh koi choti baat nahi thi. Pehle hume laga ki waqt lagega tumhe yeh accept karne ko. Ek saal ruke rahe hum tumhare liye par tum nahi aayi. Phir laga ki shayaad tum usse accept nahi kar payi hogi ya karna nahi ..'


'Siddhant..' she broke down crying realising how her dear ones thought of her. But she could not blame Sid for thinking so. He had been witness to those henios crimes of disrespecting her dear one's love and concern at every stage of life.


Riddhima was upset at herself for making all think so low of her. Her self image was endangered. He needed to do damage control before it took a further beating so he added 'Shilpa ko tumhari bahoot fikar thi. Tum aage bhad chuki thi. Woh samaj gayi ki kahi na kahi yehi theek tha sab ke liye.  Woh bhi aage bhadna chahati thi. Isliye ek saal ke baad woh US chali aayi.

'Tumhare pass'

'Hmm.. aur phir uske zindagi ne ek naya maud liya. Vishal uske zindagi mein aaya  Shilpa ne ek nayi zindagi ki shurvat ki uske saath..


Vishal?


'Shilpa ka pati Rohan ka pita. Shilpa ne usse shaadi kar li. Bahoot khush thi who. Vishal bahoot acha ladka tha. Bahoot pyaar karta tha Shilpa se ..'


Riddhima could not understand whether she should be happy for Shilpa or sad that then too they never thought of her even then. Sid could read the various emotions Riddhima was feeling at that moment. He wanted to assure her of their intentions.

'In fact Shilpa ke shaadi ke waqt humne soocha yeh ek aur mauka tha tum dono ke milne ka.'


'Tab bhi woh gusse mein thi na?' understanding that Sid was only trying to make her feel good.

'Haan ..thoda gussa tha par woh tumhare wajay se nahi ..'


'Mera mann rakhne ke liye keh rahe ho Sid..' she dismissed.


'Nahi Riddhima woh actually meri wajay se gussa rehti thi ya phir apne aap pe ..'

He didn't need to say anything further. His silence said it all unleashing fresh wave of tears.

'Hum sab ne bahoot kaha Shilpa se ki woh tumhe bulale. Uska koi apna ho jo usse wida kar sake. Par uska bhi kehna galat nahi tha.  Tum apni life mein yaha settled thi khush thi phir kyu tumhe ateet main keeche wapis.'


'Shilpa ki shaadi..' she asked affectionately wondering how it must have been. Shilpa had done so much so lovingly during her marriage to make the wedding perfect. Did she also have one? 'Yaad hai hamari shaadi pe kitne chav se sab kuch kiya usne ..'


'Yaad hai .. hamesha kehti rahi 'Main dono ke side se hoon.. Pagal ..'


'Par uski baari aayi toh akele .. akela nahi thi woh' she corrected herself knowing Sid would not leave Shilpa alone at the most important stage of her life ..'Tum the na!'

'Hmm ..'

'Tumne usse koi kami nahi mehsoos hone di hogi'


'Sirf koshish ki ..Par tumhari kami toh hamesha lagi ..especially jab Shilpa ka kanyadaan kiya.'


'Uska kanyadaan tumne kiya na?'


'Hmm'


Haan..karni toh hai par actually mein chahati thi ki tum mera kanya dan karo...Agar Riddhimadi aur tum saath hote toh tum dono karte na... aur jaise tumne kaha Riddhimadi ke hone na hone se hamare riste mein farak nahi padega...toh phir '

'Bahoot special ladki hai Shilpa'


'Hmm bahoot special thi ..Bahoot special ..' affirmed Sid's remembering all those moments with Shilpa when she helped Sid anchor his life made him feel loved and wanted.


'Bahoot khubsoorat lag rahi hogi.'  trying to imagine that beautiful moment of her sisters life.


'Hmm Bahoot ..uss din bahoot miss kiya tumhe'


Riddhima sat there trying to see those beautiful moments in Sid's memories.


'Aur phir Rohan hamari zindagi mein aaya khushiyaan le kar. Shilpa ki tarah bahoot shaitaan hai. Agar bus chalta toh hum ek minute ke liye apne se dur nahi karte par ..'


'Kya hua?' She asked sensing the pain in Sid's voice


'Vishal ki death ke baad'


'Siddhant ..' Riddhima eyes widened in horror.

'Rohan kuch teen saal ka tha jab Vishal ki ek accident mein maut hui. Shilpa uss hadse se bilkul toot chuki thi. Bahoot akeli pad gayi. Rohan ki parvarish apna kaam ghar sab kuch akele handle karna asan nahi tha. Mom Dad uss waqt India mein settle hona chahate the. Mujhe  bhi uss waqt ek naya assignment mil raha tha. Everything was adding up. Shilpa ke mood swings bhadte jaa rahe the. Woh depression mein na jaye isliye finally Mom Dad ko wapis bula liya aur unn dono ko apne ghar le aaya. Mom Dad maine usse settle karni bahoot koshish ki. Par kismat ne kab saath diya hamara ..issues bhadte gaye. Log bate kar rahe the hamare baare mein. Mujhe kuch farak nahi pada par  Shilpa handle nahi kar payi. Hamare jhagde hona chalo ho gaye the. Aur phir usne faisla le liya India aane ka. Bahoot samjhaya humne usse par woh nahi mani. Hamare zhagde bhadte gaye Apne aap ko Rohan ko humpe bhoj samajne lagi thi. Woh India aane ka faisla pe kayam rahi aur maine apni zindagi ki sab se badi galati ki  .. Nahi roka usse. Nahi jaane dena chahiye tha ..phir bhi nahi roka ..chod diya usse akela zindagi ke saath ladne ke liye ..apni ..' Sid lowered pain ridden eyes guilt.


Through Sid she was seeing the story of Shilpa's pain her yearnings her joys her sorrows. Her sister's life was playing in front of her eyes.

She expected everything and nothing from it but the last thing she expected from was this as the realisation of the darkest reality hit Riddhima.

She gasped thinking whether it was really true. She choked on the lump that formed in her throat as she could not muster the courage to word that dreaded question fearing its answer. She looked at Sid grief stricken defeated figure desperately wanting him to deny it.


For a brief moment he lifted his eyes catching the plea in Riddhima's to deny the inevitable. He tried to tear his gaze from her but just couldn't..  He just stared at her.. without a single blink..he hated her eyes..he hated..cause each time he looked into them he felt all the more helpless.


However much ever he would have wished but Sid could not help her this time. He tore his eyes away from hers not wanting to see her tears that flooded her cheeks and turned away to hide his own tears of remorse.

The dismay and the pain confirmed destiny's cruelty.

Riddhima lost touch with herself. Her senses numbed out her body staggered behind. As her feet buckled she thumped down on the floor cold.

Sid hearing the thud sound turned swiftly to find Riddhima laying on the ground choking gasping of the excurating pain.


Sid's heart broke seeing Riddhima's tearful state. He could not offer her any solace. It was the inevitable which Riddhima had to accept. As he turned away Riddhima lost all her composure 'Shilpa!!!'

Sid's soul trembled hearing that scream of pain which seemed to rise not from her throat but from her heart ringing in the deep recesses of his soul. He stood there like a defeated.



She had been crying for a while. Her wails turned to stiffled sobs. Tears ran dry yet another fresh wave found its way to her eyes. It was not eyes but her heart which cried. At other times a single tear from her eyes propelled him into action yet today he stood there letting her cry her heart out. Her tears seemed to be the only medicine which probably could wash away some of her pain. He did not wish to stop them nor was he the one to wipe them. She was no more his to console. Slowly he settled in front of her defeated figure on the cold ground.


They sat there in silence for a long time. The sun was setting over the horizon like any other day. For Riddhima it seemed as if the sun was setting taking with it a relation a dear one.


She engulfed her knees and digging her head in them she broke in another sob realising it was the end.


But why such a painful end? What was Shilpa's fault?


She did not realise that she worded that question aloud till she heard Sid replying

'Uski kabhi koi galati nahi thi. Hamesha doosro ki galatiyon ki keemat Shilpa chukati rahi'



'Sab meri galati hai. Sab meri' accepted Riddhima knowing well that many of her deeds were responsible for the misery of her dear ones.


'Nahi Riddhima tum toh jaanti bhi nahi thi .. Said Sid trying to console her. He found the reason for excusing Riddhima but not him. 'Par main sab kuch jaante huye usse akela marne ke liye chod diya ..'



'Siddhant' she gasped


'Mujhe ek bar nahi bataya. Ek saal tak akele ladti rahi aur akele hi chali gayi said Sid breaking down the first time.


Riddhima lurched forward to console him but stopped. She found herself so unworthy and tainted that she was scared that she would malign his purity by her mere touch.


'She slumped back into her place 'Tumhari koi galati nahi hai Sid Agar tumhe maloom hota toh tum zameen asmaan ek kar dete Shilpa ke bachane. Sab se lad jaate tum par usse kuch nahi hone dete. Par shayaad woh jaan chuki thi ki uski maut kareeb hai.


'Usne Rohan ko hostel bhej diya aur apne ilaaz pe thode din concentrate kiya hoping kuch fayada ho. Par woh jaan chuki thi. Maasi ki umar ki wajay se woh Rohan ki zimedaari zyada din nahi utha pati isliye uske jaane baad mujhe bulane ke liye Maasi ko kaha. Tab bhi woh nahi chahati thi ki woh mujhe pe bhoj bane.'


'Nahi Siddhant woh jaanti thi ki tum khud ko responsible theraoge uski iss halat ka jo woh kabhi bardast nahi kar pati.'


'Par yeh sab meri wajay se hi hua. Na main akele usse India aane dete na yeh ..


'Nahi Sid tumhari koi galati nahi hai. Agar tumhe pata hota toh kya tum usse apne saath le jaane ki zidd nahi karte. Karte na?


'Hmm'


'Shilpa tumhe bahoot pyaar karti thi Bahoot fikar thi tumhari. Tumhe aur dukh na ho isiliye usne aise kiya.'


'Par kyu Riddhima kya itna bhi bharosa nahi tha apne liye na sahi Rohan ke liye ..woh chota sa baacha akele ..' Sid still could not forgive himself and Shilpa for having subjected Rohan to bear the responsibilities alone.'


'Sid tum galat samaj rahe ho Shilpa bahoot trust ki thi. Aaj Rohan tumhare saath hai woh isiliye na.'

Riddhima saw at him Sid running his hands across the final words of Shilpa to him.


Riddhima looked on inquisitively wondering if that piece of paper was Shilpa's letter. May be the only thing which could make her feel her sister's presence.


Sid handed over the letter to her.

She took the letter. Handling it with utmost care, trying to feel the warmth of the person whom she never could ever know now.

As she read that letter her heart ached yet swelled with pride. Her vision blurred as tears gushed forth. They were tears of joy and sorrow.

Shilpa was indeed a pious soul. She was proud how much she trusted Sid that she had entrusted him with Rohan's upbringing. The bond that these two shared gave her immense joy and contentment. She had seen Sid's affection and attachment to Rohan and knew well that only one person who deserved Rohan's responsibility was Sid.


They sat there resting against the boundary wall quietly for some time. Riddhima read the letter for the nth time trying to feel the pain and agony a mother must have went through knowing she would never be able to see her son grow up.


The pain the remorse was too much to handle. Yet it was nothing that Shilpa had gone through.


Sid continued to tell Riddhima about Shilpa's life knowing she wanted to hear it all and cause this was his last opportunity to share it with her.


Shilpa's life before she came to Sanjeevani broke Riddhima. She had always felt she was a pampered child. She had once admonished her wayward saying so. That evening when the truth about Shilpa's lonely childhood at the orphanage opened in front of Riddhima she felt most disgusted of her deeds. She too had been subjected to such a childhood if not for Dr Shashank. She felt indebted for life to him for gracing her life with such love and affection. She that evening realised how truly grateful she should be which she never was. She had always paid him so badly for his kindness. She always blamed him and life for all the miseries in her life when all were her doings. Shilpa on the other hand had no one. And she due to her judgmental nature snatched that last hope from Shilpa of having the joy and support of a family. She felt so agitated with herself recklessness. She did not even realise what she did in her agitation until she felt something soft behind her head.


Sid held his hand between her head and the wall shielding her from hurting it as she banged it into the wall of sheer anger and frustration.


'Sid ..' she gasped on Sid hurting his hand trying to protect her.


'Apne aap saza mat do ..'


She really could not pathom which good deed of hers for which being blessed with this angel in her life. Somewhere she found peace that Shilpa for brief moments had him too and so would Rohan. These were the blessed souls in her life and she had at every stage only been a cause of heartbreak and disappointment for them. She broke down yet again into sobs. Sid who wanted to probe about Rohan's responsibility waited till Riddhima gained some composure. Seeing her miserable state he felt it was indeed unjust on their part to leave it on armaan to tell her. If had they spoken to her themselves probably things would have been different. He continued to sit there with his head down on his knees. It was a tumultuous emotionally charged evening leaving both of them emotionally and mentally exhausted.

As her sobs died away, Sid finally decided to probe the topic. 'Riddhima .. actually uss raat jab main tumhe adoption ke baare mein poocha tab main actually yeh jaan ne ki koshish kar raha tha ki tum iss baare mein soochati ho. Halaki tum Rohan ki maasi ho par tumhari bhi ek zindagi hai. Tumhe Rohan ke baare mein batane se pehle main jaanane ki koshish kar raha tha ki kya tum apne zindagi mein ek baacha ki zimedaari lena chahogi. Main tumpe Rohan ki saachai ka bhoj nahi dalna chahata tha ..isliye yeh sab kiya. Par ab jab tum sab kuch jaanti ho toh kya tum Rohan ki zimedaari uthana chahogi?'


Dejected with the question not eliciting a response Sid looked up to find Riddhima was sitting there with her eyes closed. She looked deadly pale. Sid gently called out to her. Not getting a response still Sid gently tapped Riddhima shoulder and her body fell loosely on the side.



Part 108

Panic hit Sid as Riddhima's body slumped to the ground. He rushed to her side immediately. The emotional turbulence seemed to have gotten to her, causing her to faint. He ran his fingers through his hair nervously wondering what to do. 'Isse niche le jaau ...' He contemplated. 'Nahi sab ko pata chal jayega.' Dismissing his idea he thought for a moment and then pulled out his phone to dial Juhi and call her to the terrace.
'Kya hua?'
'Kuch nahi tum bas yaha aa jao jaldi ?'
'Ruko main atti hoon.'                         
Juhi was on the terrace within no time scared as Sid sounded very worried.
The sight in front of her was self explanatory of the reason behind Sid's panic.
'Kyu hua Riddhima ko? She asked covering the distance in quick steps.
'Faint ho gayi.'
'Kaise?'
'Main baad mein batata hoon.'
Details could be sort later. Juhi called the nurse station to keep the room ready. Sid who had noticed tap nearby brought some water and sprinkled on Riddhima's face.
'Riddhima aankhen kholo Riddhima' called out both hoping Riddhima would come around.
As Riddhima gained consciousness, Sid and Juhi heaved a sigh of relief. Riddhima still looked dazed 'Tum theek ho.' asked Juhi.
'Hmm' she nodded weakly. 'Kya hua? Seeing the worry etched faces in front of her.
'You must have fainted. ..Ruko' he immediately stopped her seeing her attempting to get up.
'Main theek hoon ab don't worry.'
'Kuch theek nahi ho chup chap wahi baiti raho.' Warned Sid.
'Tumne Juhi ko kyu bulaya? I am fine.'
'Tum chup baitne ka kya logi Riddhima.' sounded Juhi exasperated at Riddhima ever so stubbornness.
'Let's wait for a little while phir isse neech le chalte hai.'
After some time as Riddhima looked a little stable Juhi asked 'Kya tum chal paogi?'
Riddhima nodded weakly not wanting the whole hospital to know she had fainted on the terrace.
Sid and Juhi carefully helped Riddhima down the stairs and settled her in.
Despite Riddhima's protests, Juhi insisted on putting her through a check-up and gave her a dose of tranquilizers while Sid waited nervously outside the room.
The minute Juhi stepped out, she was bombarded with questions which had been worrying Sid's mind.
'Don't worry ..she's fine. Usse tranquiliser de diya, woh soweygi toh better hoga.' said Juhi guiding Sid to a nearby bench.
'Hmm'
'Ab batao kya hua? Woh faint kaise hui?'
Their life was an open book in front of Juhi. Amongst all Sid had found a true friend and well wisher from whom he saw no reason to keep facts. He narrated the whole incident as Juhi listened to it solemnly.
'Tumhari sooch theek thi Sid ..'
'Nahi batana chahiye tha.'
'Par jo hota hai ache ke liye hota hai. Agar aur der se usse yeh baat bata chalti toh aur bhi bura asar padta.'
'Hmm' understanding the implications well.
'Rohan ghar chala gaya aur meri mano toh tum bhi ghar chale jao.' Seeing Sid hesitant. 'Main Riddhima ke pass rukti hoon. Don't worry.'
'Ghar pe inform kar diya?'
'Nahi  unnecessary sawalo ko invite karenge. Raat ko main khud usse ghar chod doongi and if required will tell them.'
'Thank you Juhi.'
'Ohh yes I forgot hamara mutual thank you club. Tum bhi na Sid!' said Juhi making an face. 'Ab jao and don't worry.'
Sid left to go home while after assigning a nurse for Riddhima, Juhi continued with her work.
Juhi was concerned for Riddhima for not coming around well so finally she dismissed the nurse to wait on Riddhima herself.
The tranquilizers hardly had much effect on Riddhima. Images of the past continued to flash through her mind.
A couple of hours later when the effect started wearing off Riddhima got up screaming. 'Shilpa!!!'

'Riddhima Shsss!' Juhi tried to ease a petrified and inconsolable Riddhima. 'You need to strong. Tum aise toot javogi toh Sid ka kya? Woh iss guilt ko handle nahi kar payega. Apne liye na sahi Sid ke liye tumhe aapne aap ko sambhal na hoga.'
Thinking of Sid hurting made Riddhima even more miserable. But she too recognized that she needed to put up a brave front. She could not subject Sid to more agony. He had been through a lot all his life. If she could not help him, least she could do is not make things worse for him.
Riddhima did not feel quite well but her absence would get her family and Sid worried. Knowing her progress not going fine Sid would come rushing to her which she did not want. More than her Rohan needed him. To assure Sid, all was well she urged Juhi to discharge her.
Juhi too felt the same and soon they both were on their way towards Gupta house.
Juhi was wondering what to say to Riddhima's family. Riddhima on the other hand too was dreading the same. As soon as Juhi parked the car she turned to Riddhima 'Tum theek ho ab?'
'Hmm' said Riddhima straightening out her hair to get a little presentable and look less frayed 'Mujhe theek hona padega. Aur pareshani ki wajah nahi banna chahati main kisi ke liye.'
Juhi had one more issue playing on her mind. Knowing armaan is in town Juhi was scared they may encounter him at home. She was worried how Riddhima may react and also she herself would tolerate his sight. That man disgusted her. She wanted to leave from the doorstep but settling Riddhima in was more important to her. Riddhima needed her and she would never let her down.
As Atul opened the door, he was taken aback seeing Riddhima's worn out state. 'Kya hua?'
'Kuch nahi todha thak gayi hai.' Juhi said.
'Juhi kuch toh hua hai ..Riddhima Kya hua?'
Riddhima stared blankly ahead wondering how to answer. 'Zindagi ne haara diya maut ne haara diya.' She just blurted out the truth which she felt at that moment.
'Riddhima!' almost had started to console.
'Nahi Atul kuch mat kaho. Yeh sab meri galatiyon ki saza hai.'
Thinking that Riddhima's patient had suffered the eventuality Atul did not probe further. He could reason with her later and ushered her in. As they stepped into the living room, the presence of a certain person got everyone uneasy.
'Riddhima kya hua?' armaan rushed forward.
Atul knowing the feelings both shared quickly warded him off. 'Riddhima ko rest karne dete hai. Juhi tum usse kamre mein le jao.'


Taking his chance to impress upon Riddhima his support, armaan quickly moved forward towards Riddhima 'Juhi tum rehne do. Main le jaata hoon.'
'armaan!' warned Padma seeing Riddhima's state 'Juhi ko handle karne do.'
'Riddhima ko Juhi ki nahi meri zaroorat hai aur main ab tak Riddhima se theek tarah se mila bhi nahi hoon.'
'Iss waqt usse ek doctor ki zaroorat hai armaan. Tum ghar jao iss waqt. Riddhima se kal mill lena.' she admonished armaan's plea and without giving any room for further arguments she pronounced 'Riddhima ka khana main room mein bhijvati hoon. Juhi tum bhi khana kha ke jaana. Hum bhi khana kha lete hai.'
Riddhima who was quietly listening to all this fuss finally spoke up seeing armaan angrily moving to leave. 'armaan ruko. Mujhe baat tumse baat karni hai.'
Hearing that armaan's faced beamed with joy. 'See maine kaha tha she needs me.'
Exasperated and offended with Riddhima's reaction everyone moved to leave including Juhi.
'Juhi' pleaded Riddhima with her eyes for her to wait as she felt Juhi letting go of her arm. 'Mujhe tumhari zaroorat hai.' Juhi read the plea in Riddhima's eyes. As others started to move out Riddhima stopped them too. 'Aap bhi kahi mat jaye. Main sab ke samne armaan se baat karna chahati hoon.'
Sensing the agitation Atul moved closer towards Riddhima as if to assure her of his support.
'Sab ki kya zaroorat hai Riddhima.' objected armaan sensing that the same agitation.
'Zaroorat hai. Sab ka hona zaroori hai. Sab ko saachi bata chalni chahiye.'
'Kaunsi saachai Riddhima?'
'Jo tum dus saal se chupate aa rahe ho.'
'Riddhima tum yeh baat kal bhi kar sakti ho.' objected Juhi knowing where the conversation was leading.
'Ruko Juhi main jaanna chahati hoon. Bolo armaan.'
'Maine tumse koi jhoot nahi bola.
'Theek hai jhoot nahi bola par saach bhi nahi bataya.'
'Agar maine kuch chupaya bhi hai toh sirf tumhari bhalayi ke liye.' rebutted armaan in his defense.
'Kaunsi bhalayi dikhi tumhe Shilpa ka saach chupane mein?'
'Shilpa ..? Maine Shilpa ke baare mein kuch nahi chupaya. Sab kuch toh tum jaanti ho.

'Socho armaan. Kya tumne mujhe sab kuch bataya?'
A perturbed armaan seemed to reflect back. As the tension grew around the round armaan's face suddenly lit up 'Ohh toh yeh baat hai.' exclaimed armaan as if he had deciphered the whole issue. Common Riddhima I am always there only for you.'
'Kya?' questioned Riddhima half stunned at the joy on armaan face and half on the direction armaan was thinking which had gotten him so excited. Did he not remember or was he playing the fool to avoid disclosing his disgraceful deed? 'armaan tum baat ko ghooma rahe ho. Tum jaante ho main kis baare mein baat kar rahi hoon.' warned Riddhima.
'Seriously Riddhima you don't have to be insecure about Shilpa.
'Kis tarah ki sooch hai tumhari.' It disgusted Riddhima to the core.
'Aur mujhe samaj nahi aata tum kya soochti rehti ho. Tumhara dimaag mein kya kya baate chalti hai. Yeh tum bhi jaanti ho ki jo kuch tum mere baare mein sunti ho woh sab kuch ek taraf aur mere dil ki sachai ek taraf. Maine zindagi mein tumhare siva aur kisi ki ehmiyat na kabhi thi na hogi. Aur socho agar hoti toh kya main aaj yaha hota. Nahi na? Aur tum ho ki woh dus saal pehla kissa leke ke baiti ho.'
All kept staring at armaan as he blabbered away especially Riddhima who was taken aback by armaan's arrogance. Riddhima knew why armaan was there. It was evident the very first day when he came. Insecure as ever yet wanting to prove she was so. Of course he would because he did not want to tell the truth that he kept Shilpa's truth a secret.
'Main Shilpa ko leke kyu insecure hogi?'
'Riddhima tum insecure ho hamesha se thi.. Main jaanta hoon isiliye keh raha hoon. Par Shilpa aur mere beech mein kuch nahi tha. At least mere taraf se nahi. Maine Shilpa ko sirf ek achi dost samjha. Dekho Riddhima mujhe nahi maloom tumse kisne kya kaha. Kya masala laga ke kya bataya but it was nothing much. Nothing that would prove that my heart lay any where else. Haan kuch cheesey kiyi maine, jaise ki teej ke din S likhwana, yeh bolna ki mere pyaar ka naam S se shuru hota hai. Par that does not mean main usse pyaar karta tha. S se toh koi bhi ho sakta tha.' he laughed at his smartness.
'My motive was only one to get you to accept your feelings. Tum bhi jaanti ho ki uss waqt tumhari halat kya thi. Par tum accept toh nahi karogi toh mujhe woh sab karna pada and I did well. Remember woh basket ball court mein ladkiyaan dekhne ka program. It was the most brilliant idea Thanks Anjali.' He said winking at Anjali.
Everyone were visibly disgusted with armaan boastfulness. Atul threw a dismissal look Anjali's way as if to say 'I thought you could never get worse but unfortunately I was wrong.'


Anjali's insides squirmed. She looked at Atul pleadingly to give her a chance to explain but Atul looked away immediately.
'Waise hi tumhe jalane ke liye maine Shilpa ko todhi importance di bus. Par woh sab kuch jaanti thi. Sab kuch toh uske samne ek khuli kitaab ki tarah tha. Usne kaise maan liya ki main kisi aur se pyaar kar sakta hoon. So is it not her fault if she let herself get lead on?'
'armaan!' Riddhima gasped at armaan's audacity.
'Maine kabhi tumhare alava kisi aur ke baare mein soch bhi nahi sakta. Yeh tum bhi jaanti ho aur Shilpa ko bhi maloom tha.' armaan continued.
Patience was running out 'armaan apni bakwas band karo. Tum achi tarah jaante ho... ?'
'Main bakwas kar raha hoon? Questioned armaan as if Riddhima had accused him of a great misdeed.
'Riddhima tum kyu nahi accept karti ke tab bhi tum mujhe leke possessive or insecure thi aur aaj bhi ho isiliye toh Shilpa ki woh dus saal purani baat leke mujhse zhagad rahi ho aur mujhse assurance chahati ho. Baccho ki tarah mat behave karo. Seriously mere aur Shilpa ke beech kuch nahi tha na ho sakta hai. Usse toh tumhare honeymoon ki raat hamare beech jo hua woh bhi maloom hai.'
'armaan!' exclaimed a fabergasted Riddhima staggering behind under the weight of that shameful event.
Everyone was flabbergasted hearing this new piece of information. Juhi and Atul did not know how to react. Whether to console Riddhima that this truth was known to more then and now or rush towards Anjali and Padma who were reeling under the effects of the shameful information.
Riddhima stood there with her head hung in shame not being able to meet anyone's eyes.
armaan on the other hand continued unaffected. For him it was the biggest truth and triumph of his life.
'Tumhara dil jaanta hai ki hum dusre ke liye hi bane hai . Us raat jo bhi kuch humare beech mein Riddhima woh yeh prove karta hai .isliye shilpa bhi ne accept kar liye ki tum sirf meri ho aur mein..mein sirf tumhara .  I agree ki usse bahut bura laga hoga par mera aur Shilpa ke beech mein jo hua woh toh sirf ek kamzori thi . Mere dil mein kabhi koi feelings hi nahiin thi Shilpa ke liye.Mujhe  laga usse pata hai ki main sirf tumse pyaar karta hoon . Believe me Riddhima, jo mere aur Shilpa ke beech mein woh toh kuch nahi tha in comparison to what we felt and experienced that night'
'Kya hua armaan? Kya kiya tumne uske saath?' questioned a shocked Riddhima wondering what had transpired between the two. She waited with baited breath to armaan to elaborate 'main Shilpa ke kuch jyaada hi kareb chala gaya.' He said softly admitting his deed.
'How dare you?' Riddhima lunged at armaan completely losing control, eyes on fire. 'She was my sister!' she yelled out. Atul and Juhi reacted first holding Riddhima by her arms and pulling her back, while Riddhima struggled violently to get closer to armaan. Armaan recoiled in shock when he realized what Riddhima would have done if Juhi and Atul hadn't stopped her.
'It was nothing serious besides that I was drunk ..' armaan somehow added trying to make up to Riddhima.
Padma and Anjali looked at Riddhima with hung jaws.
Riddhima continued to struggle with all her might to get out of Atul and Juhi's grip. 'How could you do that armaan? How could you?'
'Nahi ...Riddhima tab bhi main usse tum samaj kar '
'Shut up armaan just shut up.' Atul ordered angrily.
Riddhima stopped struggling and turned her back against armaan not being to bear the sight of the man who had so brutally broken her sister's heart. Atul let go of her yet remained prepared in case of another attempted assault. Juhi stood by Riddhima with her arms still around her; holding her from lashing against armaan.
Padma noting the fact stood there dumbfounded while Anjali could not understand what hit her more; the violent steak in Riddhima or the fact that Shilpa was Riddhima's sister. 'Riddhima ki behen?'
"I never hated you as much as I do today." Riddhima hissed in a voice barely above whisper. armaan  still recovering from the shock looked up astonished in at confession. 'Hated', he noted. 'She hated him.'
"I never forgave you for how you played with our lives all for only satisfying your ego. I believed that we had hurt you the most by putting you in a position where you would have to face life wearily for the rest of your life. Hence just to make life bearable I did what I did. I made that kind man pay the price and he did and still does without a word of complaint. But now'" Riddhima trailed, sighing. She swallowed the sob that escaped as she felt Juhi tighten her arms around her. She laid her forehead on her shoulder and drew a long breath.
'Come on Riddhima ..'
'Enough armaan Enough! She lashed out turning to face armaan. 'You have surpassed all limits armaan. Tumne zara bhi bura nahi laga hum sab ki zindagi ke saath khelte huye. Aur Shilpa ..Shilpa ka kya kasoor tha? Tumne uske saath jo kiya so kiya par yeh saach chupane mein kya mila ki Shilpa meri behen hai?' Anger again was surging through Riddhima.
She knew that Shilpa had feelings for armaan at that time and had left due to the heart break.
Riddhima knew this all along hence when Shilpa had denied her feelings towards armaan she did not stress further. After all she was the reason for her agony but she always hated Shilpa for that matter any girl having to be a pawn in armaan love games.
She wanted to know if his escapades with Shilpa were the reason for hiding facts.  Wiping her tears away she firmly put forth the question 'Sid ne jaane se pehle tumne Shilpa ka saach bataya tha?'
Seeing the fire in her eyes scared armaan 'Haan' he nervously accepted. 'Toh kyu nahi bataya mujhe sirf issi liye ki tum darte the ki Shilpa agar meri zindagi mein aaye toh ..'
'Nahi Riddhima actually very honestly main bhul gaya. You see ..'
'Bhul gaye!!!' Riddhima screamed as she almost made a go at armaan. Atul quickly blocked her standing in between the two. That answer irritated everyone there.
'But its ok ab pata chal gaya hai na toh kya problem hai. Hum aaj hi usse Mumbai le aate hai. We all can stay together as a happy family. She can join ..'
'Woh mar chuki hai. Shilpa is dead. Finished.' she collapsed on the spot screaming sobbing.
The news hit everyone. armaan staggered realising what his folly had  cost him. Anjali who was still coming to terms with the previous news also started reeling under the newer information that was revealed.
Worse hit was Padma who crashed on the couch nearby. How much ever she hated the man, she could never hold anything against his child. She felt devastated as she read the agony Shilpa may have suffered in Riddhima's eyes. Atul who was trying to understand it all immediately dismissed his thoughts and rushed to Padma's side. Seeing Atul rush forth the rest collected by Padma's side.
Seeing their worry etched faces Padma composed herself declaring she was ok.
Riddhima stood up and faced armaan who still stood rooted on his spot. His emotions were alll over the place. Shilpa had been dear to him though as for a brief phase she had been a support. But he did not approve of her leaving him when he needed her the most. Though he felt bad for the fate she suffered he dreaded what implication it would have on his relationship with Riddhima. Knowing Riddhima she would never forgive him nor would Atul and Padma who never preferred him. He had to make amends fast. But how? He looked around for support. 'Anjali.' But before he could say anything they all had company. Shashank hearing the loud voices came out of his room. 'Kya hua? Riddhima tum itne gusse mein kyu ho?'
Riddhima struggled to find a reason when Juhi popped in to her aid. 'Hospital mein kisi ne issue kar diya. It got sorted. Sir aap rest kijiye.' Anjali seeing armaan looking in her direction hopeful, moved to settle Shashank in. 'Papa aap andar chale.'
'Riddhima ko keh do itna gussa theek nahi. Logo pyaar se handle kare.'
'Hum usse wohi samjha rahe the Papa aur woh samjhti hai. Chaliye aap rest kijiye.'
As soon as Shashank disappeared into his room and the door shut Atul without any delay again stood like a wall in between Riddhima and armaan facing armaan this time. 'armaan tum ghar jao.'
'Mujhe baat karni hai Riddhima se.'
'Bahoot keh liya tumne aur bahoot sunn liya maine. Ab aur nahi. Mujhe aur koi baat nahi karni. Tum jao yaha se iske pehle tum apne so called pyaar ka aur koi saboot dete meri nazaro mein aur gir jao.'
'Riddhima!'
'armaan Jao tum.' sounded Padma looking away disgusted.
As soon as armaan left, Juhi eased Riddhima on to the couch next to Padma. Padma caressed Riddhima back to ease Riddhima as she broke down crying once again.
Everyone solemnly looked on. After some time when Riddhima sobered down Atul asked Juhi to settle Riddhima in.
Later that night before leaving, Juhi disclosed the truth about Shilpa and Sid's visit in front of everyone.
Everyone was upset with what armaan had done. It was an unforgivable mistake for which Riddhima would never forgive him. The last hope of reconciliation was lost. All agreed that none would regret it as they too found it next to impossible to accept him but may be for Shashank's sake they may require to at least delay it.
armaan revelations had brought to light the reasons for Sid and Riddhima's failed marriage. Knowing that despite all Sid having come back for Shashank had them in awe with his goodness. But when they heard of the prime reason why Sid was back in India, their respect for that man went a notch higher. They all felt bad that they could never make up to him for all his goodness ever. 
Riddhima slept well partially from the fatigue and partially as Juhi administered another tranquiliser before leaving. But she was up early. Restlessness caught up as the memories of the previous evening came back to her.
She felt ashamed of herself. She had only brought disgrace and dismay to her family all her life. They had expected reconciliation between armaan and her prior to that evening but did they still want one only for Shashank's shake. Sid too had hinted on those lines. She suddenly felt suffocated there. She got up immediately wanting to breath free. Before anyone got up she sneaked out of the house. She did not feel like going to Sanjeevani knowing everyone will come searching for her there first. Nor did she want to go to her house.  Not finding her in the hospital, her family would check with Juhi and Juhi knew of it. She drove aimlessly for sometime not knowing where she was going until she brought her car came screeching halt in front of dainty bungalow. She had driven in such daze that she did not even realise where she was yet somehow it felt like she had reached her destination.
She rested on her head on the steering wheel exhausted. Her head throbbed while her heart ached.
'Riddhimadi!'
She immediately looked up to check. It felt so real. Tears gushed forth making her vision hazy. She looked in the direction from where she felt that voice came and that's when she realised where she was. Why she felt she was called out?
'Shilpa!'
It's strange how one's heart knows what it desires yet our mind clouds them and keeps searching for answers relentlessly instead of just following one's heart.
She never really understood the meaning of it until this morning.
She slowly got out of the car and walked up to the gate.
She was letting her heart guide her here. She slowly unbolted the gate to step in.
Walking down the pathway memories of she remembered first time she had come there.
She was a broken woman then. She was a broken woman now. Difference was she walked that path with the support of an angel who wanted to touch her life to make her feel loved and cared for, an angel who only knew how to care for others.
She looked around. She could not help but register the difference. The place lay wasted just like their lives. It had been run down by the passage of time. She nimbly walked towards the house absorbing the surroundings. The grass had grown and withered away. At many places wild plants and flowers had sprung up as per nature's will. The garden which once was immaculately maintained lay there wasted. The place seemed just as uncared as the life of her sister. Even though Sid had done more than his share he too could not do anything in the end. For that she again was the reason. Though Sid never said it but she knew she was the reason for Shilpa and Sid's becoming estranged. She was the reason for it all. A bitter reality.
She slowly made way through itreaching the front porch. Emotionally drained she sat there quietly.
She was trying to feel that angel's presence, her sister's presence. A sister whom she always demeaned. A sister whom she could never know of nor ever will be.
She closed her eyes in grief hoping to find some solace. She could never see her again but hoped to feel her in heart. Remorse was all that she could found. Tears streamed down staining her already tear stained checks.
How could she have been so callous? Why was she so? Agitated with herself she got up and started pacing the porch once again trying to imagine Shilpa. This was the house where she lived when she worked in Sanjeevani. How must have her life been back then? She tried to visualize her life when she lived here.
She raced her fingers along the railings wondering of the lazy times which Shilpa must have spent there watching the sunrise or drifted away in the land of fantasy under moonlit sky. She was sure it would have of happy times with her. She must have definitely spent some quiet lone moments here. But they were lone moments and yet she always came forth with a cheery smile.
As she closed her eyes, those bright eyes seem to peer into hers. They always had so much in them. She snapped out agitated at herself once again. Why could she not read that hope that plea in her sister's eyes. But of course how she? Hadn't she always disregarded everyone? Everyone but one.
Dismissing those tormenting thoughts she looked towards door - the door to Shilpa's house.
That night Shilpa had not only thrown open the doors to her house but her life and her heart.
Shilpa had gracefully forgotten all the spite thrown her way only to bring some solace to her life. Shilpa despite all stood strong in her dark times assuring her with her care and support and she had paid Shilpa so miserably.
Shilpa had attempted to make her realise her identity. The house too had tried to make her realise her true identity. 
'Aise lag raha hai ki yeh jagah mujhe apni pehchaan bata raha hai. Riddhima Gupta hoon. Na Shashank Gupta ki beti, na Anjali Gupta ki behen, na armaan Malik ka pyaar, na Siddhant Modi ki patni. Sirf Riddhima Gupta hoon main. Yahi hai meri pehchaan. Iss jagah iss waqt sukoon mehsoos kar rahi hoon. Aise lag raha hai ki jaise jaise apne ghar aa gayi hoon. Main akele rehna chahati hoon. Yahi meri kismet hai.'
But alas she never listened to any and had welcome armaan back into her life. She sat there resting her head on the door.
She felt guilty. The guilt lay too heavy on her. She was guilty of many things done towards not one but all her dear ones. Guilty of being an ungrateful daughter, an unfaithful wife and an uncaring sister. She could not consider herself a good human. She could now never make up to any who had bestowed her life only with love, care and affections. They all had supported her throughout their lives and she had paid them back so badly. If only had she followed her heart. She had always disregarded her heart's plea bringing hurt and pain to all. She had only brought misery to everyone's life only for safe guarding one who never saw beyond himself.
'armaan'
How she had so mercilessly shattered everyone's heart to safe guard armaan's. Towards whom she was guiltier? The kind man who was her father whom she accused of conspiring against her quest of happiness, or Shilpa who became a pawn in armaan's love game to win her or Sid whose life began and ended on her whose sole motive still remained her happiness?
'Sid'
This house was witness to their last meeting. He had come there to set her free, to tell her to follow her heart. It must have shattered him yet he did not ever utter a word of grudge.
He had loved and respected her for what she was, accepting her with her past and present, her positives her flaws. He never tried to change her but always guided her just like a true friend. If only, she had understood his importance back then and given him his due. But alas she had never listened to her heart.
That night he left her with a plea to listen to her heart. Again she went ahead to disregard it and welcomed the one whom her heart could never relate to back into her life.
For whatever reasons they were but she was wrong in doing it cause her heart never affirmed it. It was true that there were expectations from her. She could do all for it. But if she was not happy why did she do it? She should have given her consent only if she could find her happiness in it. Hadn't Sid always said that? He had. He could never go wrong because he always listened to his heart.
She leaned in closer to the door to feel those moments gone by. Trying to uncover the clues left for her which could lead her to her destiny. Everything, everyone was trying to tell something but above all she needed to listen to her heart.
Facts of her life were different back then and different today. She was a different person back than she was today. Yes the expectations would remain but what was it that she expected of herself. Who was she? What was her identity?
As she leaned in closer hoping that yet again that house may pronounce the clue.
She had been sitting there for a while now in hope. Her mind was struggling again but her heart seemed strangely calm.
Her heart knew the answer and was waiting for her to follow it. A knowing smile crept up on her face. She knew what she had to do and this time she would not let anything come in way of it.
She brushed away the tears and got up to do what her heart told her.
She was not going to run away this time. She needed to meet someone and she would.
Just as Riddhima had guessed, on not finding her at home or in Sanjeevani her family had contacted Juhi to check on Riddhima's whereabouts. Considering Riddhima's disturbed mental state it was imperitive to find Riddhima. Juhi rushed Riddhima's new house only to find the door locked. In hope of finding some information she checked with the neighbours and the security guard but they too had not seen her for weeks together now.
Frustrated Juhi was about to leave when she saw a ray of hope. 'Sid ..May be Sid jaanta hoga or may be ..'she hoped her intuition comes true.


She retrieved the phone from her and dialed Sid. Sid answered the call lazily. From his tone Juhi kind of understood that Riddhima might not be with him.
'Sid Kya tum jaante ho Riddhima kaha hai.'
'Iss woh ghar pe hogi  ..Kyu kya hua?'
'Riddhima ghar pe nahi hai. Sanjeevani bhi checked kar liya aur uske ghar pe bhi nahi hai.'
It felt as if someone had punched him in his guts. Riddhima was mentally disturbed but then if so she would have gone to Sanjeevani or probably her home. Had something happened after he left?
'Tumne usse ghar chod ne ke baad kuch hua kya?' he asked scared.
Sid was stunned hearing the happenings of the previous night. It just proved his beliefs right. Riddhima would never forgive armaan. She was already disturbed and the newer facts would have disturbed Riddhima even more. Sid started racking his brains as to where Riddhima could be.
'Sid' Juhi nudged Sid hearing no response. 'Are you there?'
'hmmm'
'We need to find Riddhima. Mujhe bahoot fikar ho rahi hai.'
Sid continued to rack his brains. 'Agar woh Sanjeevani mein bhi nahi hai toh ...I think I know where she might be.'
'Juhi tum Sanjeevani chali jao. Main Riddhima ko dhoond ne ki koshish karta hoon. Shayaad mujhe maloom hai woh kaha hogi.'
'Theek hai. Par Agar woh tumhe mile toh call karna.'
'Hmm'
Sid informed Maasi and left to find Riddhima.
Within no time he was at Shilpa's house. He frantically searched the place but did not find Riddhima. Exhausted he sat down on the porch. He was dead sure Riddhima would have come there. But not finding her his anxiety increased by leaps and bounds. 'Agar woh yaha nahi aayi toh kaha gayi.'  Agitated he got up and stared pacing on the porch. 'Woh armaan ke ghar ab kabhi nahi jayegi except for one reason.' Riddhima was angry and he knew what she could do. It scared him all the more. But then it was her decision. He would never stand in way of it. He continued to pace thinking hard on the other probabilities. 'Riddhima kaha ho tum?' when his eyes fell on the vague patterns created on porch railings as the dust accumulated over a decade was displaced. 'Riddhima!'
He fingers lightly moved over the thin lines drawn as Riddhima must have moved her delicate fingers over it trying to feel Shilpa's presence.
How could she not come here? She had to. He was right. He knew Riddhima well.
He pulled out the phone to inform Juhi about his findings and to check if Riddhima had reached Sanjeevani.
'Woh Shilpa ke Mumbai wale ghar aayi thi. Par jab main yaha pohucha tab taj woh yaha se jaa chuki thi. Kya woh Sanjeevani pohochi?'
'Abhi tak yaha nahi aayi.'
'Woh Sanjeevani zaroor aayegi. Jaise woh waha aaye toh mujhe call karna.'
'Hmm'
He turned towards the door. Ten years back he had come there searching for Riddhima. It was here where he had yet again confesses his love for that girl whom he had loved and respected the most.
'Jaanti ho mujhe bura kyu nahi lag raha. Kyuki tum Riddhima Gupta ho. Woh ladki jisse maine sab se jyaada pyaar kiya aur woh ladki jiski main sab se jyaada respect karta hoon.'
Facts of their lives had forced him walk away as the girl he was searching for never lived there. This morning too he was unable to find her.
Disappointed he moved to leave throwing a backward glance at that house for one last time and he knew what he needed to do.
A melancholic smile played on his lips as he walked away.
Unaware of this mayhem around Riddhima continued with what she had set out for. A few hours later she found herself at that place where her journey would begin from. She had chosen her future and this time she would not turn back. Bracing herself she drew in a sharp breath and rang the bell to announce her arrival.
The man's face beamed with joy and pride as he found Riddhima yet again on his doorstep.  Regardless how angry she was he knew in heart of hearts that she could never remain upset with him for long and she would come back rushing to him.
Elated he proclaimed his victory.
'Main jaanta tha iss muskil waqt mein tumhe meri zaroorat hogi aur tum zyaada der tak mujhse naraaz reh paogi. Par itni der kyu lagayi aane ke liye. Mere dil ka aur iss ghar ke darwaje hamesha tumhara liye khule hai.'
Riddhima was remained strangely calm. His words neither moved her nor bothered her. She stood silently listening till he finished.
'I so wanted to apologize and I really am sorry for what happened. Main kabhi sooch bhi nahi sakta tumhe hurt karne ka. I love you Riddhima.' He moved forward desperate to draw Riddhima into his arms.
'armaan' Riddhima warned holding up her hand.
armaan was not surprised at Riddhima's reaction.
'Theek hai Riddhima par pehle tum andar chalo. I will make it up to you. I will do anything you say.'
'Enough armaan.'
'Riddhima aise kyu behave kar rahi ho? Kyu duriyan banane pe tuli ho? Tumhe meri zaroorat hai aur main hoon na. Main ab kahi nahi jaonga. Sab pehle ki tarah normal ho jayege. Hum milke sab kuch sort out kar lenge.' said armaan trying to lead her in.
'Main bhi sab kuch sort out karne aayi hoon.' said Riddhima tired of armaan tirade. 'Tumhe kuch dene tha. Soocha khud hi aa kar de doo.'
She pulled out a large green envelope from her bag. armaan nervously looked from the envelope to Riddhima and back again at the envelope.
It was familier sight. Something which Riddhima received always. Only from him. The sight scared him. Riddhima looked at armaan holding his gaze she pulled  out the large green papers from the envelope. armaan's doubt was confirming. His knees started to wobble thinking whether she actually was there for that.
'Riddhima tumhe yeh..yeh kyu kar rahi ho? Tumhe yeh karne ki zaroorat nahi hai.'
'Actually nahi hai..' and a brief smile of relief flashed on armaan face which collapsed into a frown the very next moment. 'Par main yeh aur delay nahi karna chahati. Agar mera lawyer tumhe deliver karta toh yeh saachai tum kabhi accept nahi karte isiliye tumhe khud samjhane aayi hoon.'
'Tumhe mujhe kuch samjhane ki zaroorat nahi hai. Main achi tarah jaanta hoon tum yeh sab kyu kar rahi ho. Wapis guilty feel kar rahi ho. Hai na?'
'Guilty toh main hoon. Yeh sab meri Meri wajah se hua hai. Sirf  meri kamzoriyon aur galatiyon ki saaza aaj tak woh sab bhugat rahe hai. Par jo main aaj karne jaa rahi hoon usse iss sab ka koi naata nahi hai.'
'Naata kaise nahi hai? Jaise pehle kiya waise ab. Wapis Shilpa ki baat leke Sid tumhe guilty feel karwane ki koshish kar raha hai.'
'armaan Sid ko beech mein mat lao.' Riddhima hissed gritting her teeth.
'Kyu na laau?  Main jaanta hoon woh yahi hai. Maine uski awaaz suni thi phone pe. Sid ne tumhe Shilpa ke baare mein bataya hai na?
'Haan par Sid ne ..'
'Hamesha ki tarah tumhare guilt conscience ko acha manipulate kar raha hai woh. Pehle uss bemani rishtey ke naam pe karta raha aur ab Shilpa ke issue ko leke.'
'Enough armaan bahoot ho gaya main ab ek shabd nahi sunoongi Sid ke khilaaf.'
'Riddhima woh tumhe beheka raha hai. Hume alag karna chahata hai.'
'Woh aisa kuch nahi kar raha hai. In fact ..'
'Woh yahi kar raha hai Riddhima. Woh aaj tak accept nahi paya ki woh tumhe paa na saka.'

'armaan. Sid ko agar paana hota toh woh kab ka  paa chuka hota. Uske liye mujhpar haq jatane ki koi zaroorat nahi thi. Woh haq toh main kab ki usse de chuki thi.'
'Wow Riddhima whom are you trying to fool? Usse apne kamre pe haq nahi de payi par khud pe haq de diya'
'Haan .. Kamra share karne jaisi gair mamooli cheesey saboot nahi hota. Par tum yeh baat nahi samjhoge armaan. Tum har cheese ke liye saboot dhoondte ho. Par Sid nahi.'
'Riddhima please.' armaan mocked.
Unfrayed Riddhima continued 'Aur agar  saboot ki baat hai toh Sid ko woh tab hi mill gaya jab ...'
'Riddhima!!!'
'Chilloa mat armaan.' requested Riddhima calmly. 'Sid ko mujhe paane ke liye woh nahi karna padta jo tumhe karna pada. Aur mujhe usse koi saboot nahi dena padta. Phir bhi maine diya. Hamare  liye sirf ek ehsaas kafi hai aur jo hamare beech hai woh sirf hum mehsoos kar sakte hai. Jo humne uss ek pal main mehsoos kar liya woh hamare liye hamare poori zindagi bhar ke liye kafi hai.'
'Riddhima ..tum?'
'armaan ..Don't think on those lines. Sid ne mujhe kabhi chooa bhi nahi.'
armaan heaved a sigh of relief.
'Par bina chooye mujhe par apna aisa nisaan chod gaya ki main kabhi kisi aur ki ho nahi payi. Tumhari bhi nahi. I am sorry armaan par yahi saach hai.'
armaan could not digest this testimony. If that was true what had happened on the honeymoon night and all the others what was that?
'Toh phir honeymoon ki raat tum..'
'Woh sirf ek kamzor pal tha armaan. Uss raat main Sid ko milne aayi thi. Maine usse samaj kar tumse woh teen shabd kahe jo mere dil hamesha sirf ek insaan se sunna chahata hai.'
'And that's can only be me. Sid tumhe force kiya hoga.'
'Sid ko agar force karna hota toh bahoot pehle kar sakta tha. Par usne  apne aap ko mujhpar kabhi thopa nahi.'
'Toh hamara rishta? Woh kya hai?'
'Ek samjhauta.'
'What rubbish?'
'Tumhe manna hai toh maan lo.'
'Hamare rishta samjhauta nahi hai. Tumhara aur Sid ka tha. Tum sirf apna farz nibha rahi thi. Tum khud accept kar chuki ho.'
'Woh sirf tumhe apne zindagi mein aage bhadhane ke liye kaha.'
'Jhoot...itna bada jhoot Dr Riddhima Gupta ne bola. Main nahi maanta.'
'Maine koi jhoot nahi bola. Par yeh baat bhi tum kabhi samaj nahi paoge. Jisse samajna woh samaj gaya. Bina kuch bole bina kuch kahe. Bina shikayat kiye woh ek aur baar mera saath de gaya. Main apna farz nibhana chahati thi aur mere pyaar ne mera saath diya kyuki pyaar kabhi sharte nahi rakhta armaan. Pyaar ka matlab sirf paana nahi hota.'
'Par sirf main tumhe paa saka kyu ki tum sirf mujhse pyaar karti ho.'
'Ek waqt tha jab maine tumhe khud se bhi jyaada pyaar kiya armaan. Par woh Riddhima jo tumse pyaar karti thi woh ussi waqt marr gayi jis waqt tumne usse marne ke liye chod diya. Aur jab tum wapis aaye tab tak main kuch aur hi thi.
'Yes Sid ki so called naam ki patni.'
'Nahi armaan Main sirf Sid ki patni nahi thi. Main sirf Dr. Riddhima Gupta thi. Ek haari hui zindagi se thaki hui ladki. Poori tarah se toot chuki thi. Sid ne mujhe sahara diya. Hosla diya. Mujhe ek nayi zindagi di. Mujhe apni pehchan dhoondne ka banane ka mauka diya. Aur iske badle mein usne mujhse kabhi kuch expect nahi kiya. Bina kisi shart ke mera haath thamb kar mujhe zindagi ka sabse bada saach samjha gaya. Mujhe pyaar ka sahi matlab samjhaya. Aur tab se mere dil ne sirf ek insaan ko chaha ... actually nahi ... pooja hai. Tum sahi kehte ho..maine kabhi Sid se pyaar nahi kar payi. Uske liye jo mere dil mein hai uske liye pyaar bahoot chota ehsasa hai.'
'Nice ..phir mujhse shaadi kyu ki?'
'Main toh chale jaana chahati thi par tum .. ' Riddhima drew in a sharp breath to reign in her racing thought. She knew this argument would go on endlessly. One can show another the true picture but one can't force another to see it if one wants to turn a blind eye on it. 'jaane do armaan tum kabhi samaj hi nahi paoge. Agar samaj pate toh samaj jaante ki jisse tumne pyaar kiya jisse tum dhoond rahe ho woh main nahi hoon.'
'Tum sirf meri ho sirf meri !!!'
'armaan.' Riddhima tired of armaan's stubborn outlook tried to calm armaan.
'Tum meri basket ho.' he reinforced his rights grabbing hold of Riddhima by her arms.
'armaan tumhari basket kab ki marr chuki hai.' Riddhima rebutted plainly trying to free herself from armaan's tight grip.
'Toh tum kaun ho? Kya pehchan hai tumhari.' armaan shrugged her away
Riddhima stumbled a few steps behind. How was she to answer armaan when she too did not know. But now no more pretences hence she candidly replied 'Woh main bhi nahi jaanti. Sirf itna jaanti hoon ki uss ladki ko mujhe doondna hai jo barso pehle kahi kho gayi Uss Riddhima Gupta ko dhoondna hai jo kabhi hua karti thi.'
'Tum nahi dhoond sakogi kyu ki tum sirf meri basket ho sakti ho.'
'Mujhe maloom nahi ki main uss Riddhima Gupta ko dhoond payogi ya nahi par armaan ho sake toh tum khud ko dhoond lo apni zindagi ko apni khushi ko. Aage bhad jao armaan. Hamare raaste kabhi ek nahi ho sakte. Woh kabhi ek the hi nahi.'
Riddhima! Kyu sab muskil karna chahati ho?
'Main sab kuch theek karna chahati hoon. Tumhare yeh papers chode jaa rahi hoon. Maine sign kar diye. Please isse aur apni zindagi aur muskhil mat banao. Aage bhad jao.' Taking armaan hand she left the papers and walked away. There was nothing more she could do. armaan would need to find his way out himself now. She could not help him.  


Part 109


Sanjeevani was always her haven which soothed her frayed nerves, eased her tensions. Today the thought of Sanjeevani brought along many fears. She never felt this edgy. It was Sid's last day. After all that happened the previous evening, he would definitely come to meet her and would bring along a visitor. She could not assess whom she feared meeting more yet she knew she did not have the courage to face either. She was guilty of not being there for. As for meeting Sid she was scared of her resolve falling weak.


armaan was another she feared. She also knew armaan too well. He would do all to regain lost territory. Her belief was confirmed when she spoke to Atul. On her way towards Sanjeevani, Atul called questioning her about her decision. armaan had already started his work to grab attention  to this new development. Atul questioned not for the fear of non-reconciliation but the timing of the decision and consequences of it. He too did not want any untoward situation created while Sid was around. Sid had gone through much for no fault of his. If they could not make his life simpler they should at least avoid being the causing of any further agony.

He informed Riddhima that armaan had gone into a fit of anger and had proclaimed that he would do all to prevent anyone standing in way of his love and him.

Riddhima knew this was bound to happen and she informed Atul that despite that she did not want to delay conveying her decision, hence had giving armaan the divorce papers that morning. Atul was happy that despite all the adverse happenings of previous evening her voice shone of confidence. It propelled him to assure her of his support.

armaan was his best friend; more like his brother. He called him 'Bhai.' at one point in life yet they had grown apart. Now Atul found himself standing against armaan not cause of his personal prejudices which set in over the years but because he too felt this was much needed.  For the betterment of all. He had never seen a future to armaan and Riddhima's marriage and armaan's callous attitude had cost all much. He stood by his belief that it's better to severe a bad part to save the rest from danger. For him, armaan was that bad part. He was candid that he detested Riddhima's past decision and actions. But he was ready to overlook them as Riddhima genuinely repented them.  He assured that Padma would hold the front at home and he would at Sanjeevani if required.

Riddhima did not need Atul or for that matter anyone's testimony as to how great a human being Sid was. She had whole hearted accepted it a long time back. Way back when she begged him to marry her. This chance encounter with Sid only made her admiration grow by leaps and bounds so much that her faith in Sid grew to be same as she had in the Almighty. She could not meet her eyes as she thought of all the injustice Sid suffered at her hands, that loneliness Shilpa suffered, the pain that Rohan endure all alone at such a tender age.


In the huge mess created due to her uncertainties and callous actions Sid continued to pay the price. He did all in his capacity and more, not once thinking of himself and his life. Even now despite all he continued to seek everyone's happiness and well being. He was always there for everyone. But he never had anyone who was would solely think of him. She felt guilty that though she once had the chance but did not give Sid what he deserved; her undivided love and attention. Today the circumstances had changed; she still may not be able to do justice. But she would not let anything, anyone come in way of seeking Sid's happiness. Not even her.


Soon she was at Sanjeevani which now had become second stage in new journey. She stepped in and immediately felt so sure what she was doing was right.


Determined she walked straight into her office. She carelessly dumped her bag on the desk and switched on her computer.


The document lay right on her desktop. She had prepared it the very next morning after another pleasant and fulfilling evening spent with Sid.


She quickly checked if all was fine and took a print out. A little nervous tension would remain but she felt ready to face it. She braced herself and signed it after giving a final glance.


And then without waiting another moment she walked up to the admin department to meet the concerned authority.


'Hi Sandeep. How are you?'


'I am fine. How are you feeling now? I heard you were unwell yesterday.'

'Now ... I am going to be just fine. I wanted to submit something on an urgent basis.'


'Yes sure what is it?'


Riddhima handed over the piece of paper solemnly. 'I hope I could start on the needful immediately.'


Sandeep read the application carefully. His expression changed from curiosity to awe to concern in fraction of few seconds.

He looked up with many questions swimming in his eyes. After all these years at Sanjeevani, this was something he least expected. 'You sure you want to do this. I mean you are doing great otherwise then why this?' he questioned genuinely.


'Yes Sandeep. I am sure.' Riddhima answered resolutely. 'I owe this to myself and to someone...' she trailed off.


'I shall forward it to the concerned authority. Rest I am sure you will manage.'


'Hmm. Thank you Sandeep. You are great help.' Riddhima beamed.


She left to complete her other routine duties. She had come in late and Juhi had already briefed the interns and the senior doctors. She could never thank Juhi enough for all she always did for her.


During her rounds, she met up with the concerned in-charge to inform him on this new development.

'But Ma'am it may be difficult to ..'

Riddhima anxiously cut in 'Please Dr Harsh please manage something. This is really important to me. I really want to do this. Please.'


Dr Harsh too gave in to her pleading request. He had never seen Dr Riddhima suddenly so vulnerable. His heart went out for the lady who was probably taking her last chance at realizing her dreams. 'I will see what I can do.'


Riddhima thanked him and left for next task at hand. Each passerby noticed this new Riddhima. Her gait was full of confidence walking with her head held high, her eyes full of determination and her aura laced hopes of a bright future.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..

  
Juhi who was informed of Riddhima's arrival had rushed to check on her before heading for the scheduled surgery. When she missed meeting her she thought of informing Sid. Though Sid knew Riddhima was fine he would still remain concerned for her whereabouts. Knowing Riddhima has reached Sanjeevani would help ease his anxiety.


Sid during the conversation checked on Juhi's schedule with a reason, which surprised Juhi.


'Aise kyu pooch rahe ho?'


'Nahi main aane ki sooch raha tha isliye.'


'Oh ok ... Rohan ..'

'Usse bhi laane wala hoon Riddhima se milwane.'


'Hospital? Kya yeh theek jagah hogi?'


'Not exactly but in the current circumstances ..'


'I can understand.. Theek hai tum aa jao aur aane ke baad buzz karna mujhe.'


'Hmm ..acha sunno ..Tum Mumma ko I mean Riddhima ke Mumma ko inform kar diya?'


'Hmm maine Atul ko message drop kar diya.'


'Good woh bhi pareshan hogi.'


'Hmm'


'Acha tum jao. Tumhari surgery hai. Main milta hoon tumhe Sanjeevani mein.'


After Juhi finished her surgery, she  finally was able to  catct up with Riddhima. Riddhima looked contented having completed her rounds and much of her pending work. Juhi exasperated at Riddhima's callous absence and not meeting her the entire day blasted 'Tumhe andaza bhi hum sab kitne pareshan the?'


Riddhima was moved seeing Juhi agitated from concern for her health and safety. 'Sorry Juhi.' she apologized earnestly.


'Sorry bas sorry. Hum yaha pagalo ki tarah tumhe dhoond rahe the, tumhe phone kiye jaa rahe the. Tum bina bataye gayi toh gayi par phone kyu switch off kiya?'


'Arre battery charge karna bhool gayi baba.'


'Phone rakhti kyu ho agar charge karna nahi hai?'


'Nahi rakhu phir?' joked Riddhima.


'Shut up. Kya tumne ghar pe inform kiya ki tum theek ho?'

'Haan Sanjeevani aate waqt phone car mein charge pe dala tab hi Atul se meri baat hui. Unhe maloom hai.'

'Waise gayi kaha thi tum?' wanting to hear about her escapade after her visit to Shilpa's house.


'armaan se milne' Riddhima answered in a matter fact tone.


'Oh my God ..itna sab hone ke baad bhi tum uss insaan ko kaise tolerate kar sakti ho?'


'Juhi!'  Riddhima held Juhi by her arm and guided her to a near by couch. 'Main sirf ..'

'Please ab yeh mat kehna ki tum ..'

'Main armaan ko divorce papers dene ke liye gayi thi.' announced Riddhima without even a hint of regret in her voice.


'Kya?' exclaimed Juhi not expecting the decision to come so soon from Riddhima. 'Hope you have taken this decision in anger? Questioned Juhi settling down a little.


'Maine bahoot thande dimaag se yeh faisla liya hai. Actually main yeh bahoot pehle karna chahati thi. Par har baar Mumma  Papa ke baare mein sooch kar khud ko rok leti thi. Par ab aur nahi hoga mujhse. Uska ghar toh chod chuki hoon toh iss bemani rishtey mein rehne mein koi matlab nahi banta.'


'armaan how did take it?'


'Woh accept nahi karega.'


'As in he did not take the papers?'


'I gave him the papers.'


'As in?'

Riddhima stifled her laugh wanting to not show her nonchalance.


'Mujhe maloom hai this is not going to be easy. So as my lawyer suggested I gave him two versions, one of mutual consent and one otherwise. Let him decide which to execute.'

'Riddhima!!!' Juhi was shocked to see this aspect of Riddhima.


'Kya hua?'


'Nothing ..you do not fail to surprise me.'


Riddhima beamed at Juhi's statement. She took it as a compliment and so it was.


'Chalo ab aage kya?'

'Ek nayi shuruvat.'

'I am proud of you Riddhima.' Juhi ran and engulfed Riddhima in a warm hug.

Riddhima smiled at Juhi acknowledging her as Juhi pulled back.

As they talked Juhi had gotten the page of Sid waiting for her in her office. Juhi wanting to set up the meeting asked Riddhima of her schedule.

'Kuch khaas nahi. Rounds khatam kar liye toh ab office ki taraf jaa rahi hoon. Kuch pending files hai woh khatam kar loongi. But nothing pressing. Did you have anything you want me for?'

'Good phir main milti hoon tumhe todhi der mein.' Juhi's coy smile confused Riddhima. 'Juhi!' warned Riddhima narrowing her eyes.

'Main milti hoon na.' Juhi assured and left to meet Sid. She did not want to answer Riddhima's probing questions. Riddhima too moved towards her office having had finished her rounds.

The moment Juhi stepped into her office she was saw a worried looking Sid and an distracted Rohan who seemed to be wondering why they were sitting in any other office than Sid's.


Juhi wanting to ease the tension purposely squealed in joy. 'Rohan!'


'Juhi aunty' Rohan's face beamed with joy. Sid looked up to be greeted by Juhi's reassuring smile.


She bent down and affectionately ruffled Rohan's hair.  'Not my hair.' Rohan chided bringing smiles to Juhi and Sid's faces. Juhi noticed Sid's smile quickly fade away. Rohan meant the world to Sid and somewhere Sid saw himself in Rohan. That one moment was enough to tell Juhi that Rohan held the key to Sid's happiness more than Riddhima.


'Oh sorry ..acha batao aap ki exams kaisi thi?' Juhi distracting herself away from Sid


'Achi thi .. Juhi aunty.'


'Ab exams khatam toh masti time shuru?'


'Yes!!!' Rohan exclaimed happy at the thought.


'Bade Papa aap ke saath khelte hai na?'


'Haan kal humne mera naya PS3 khela aur maine unko haraya.'


'Thats like my boy. Yay!!!'


Sid looked at both happily enjoying their banter. He found some relief seeing Rohan smiling at least now. Sid was worried how Rohan would react on meeting Riddhima.

After a brief kiddie talk Juhi settled Rohan in with a milk shake which she had ordered for him on the way and went over to Sid to hand over his coffee.

Taking her cup she settled down next to Sid. Sid kept circling the rim of his cup. He was physically present but with his mind far away. There were too many questions hounding him.

Reading one of those Juhi answered.  'She seems fine.' giving reassuring smile 'They will be fine. Everything will be fine. Why are you so worried?'


'Aise hi'  Sid answered to dodge her question. 'Riddhima kaha hai?'


'In her office. Rohan ko uske pass le jaane ki sooch rahe ho?' she asked without probing further on his anxiety understanding well what may be playing on Sid's mind.


'Hmm...time aa gaya hai ki Rohan usse mile.'


'Wait Sid.' Juhi said immediately stoped Sid. 'Tum apne office mein ruko. Main Riddhima ko waha leke aati hoon.' suggested Juhi. Sid's ex office was not allotted to anyone else hence chances were lesser anyone would disturb them.  Sid agreed finding it a better idea.

Juhi left to get Riddhima while Sid shifted to his old office next door to settle Rohan in.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..


Juhi walked into Riddhima's office slightly nervous contemplating how Riddhima would react on hearing Sid having brought Rohan to meet her.

'Riddhima' she called out slightly tensed. Juhi's chanced demeanor did not go unnoticed.

'Juhi tum itni tense kyu lag rahi ho?'


Juhi quickly walked up to Riddhima's chair and bent on her knees down taking Riddhima's hand in hers.


'Kya hua Juhi?' questioned Riddhima even more worried now.


'Sid aaya hai.' Juhi announced softly.

She shrank in her chair. Somewhere she was hoping he would not come though her heart wanted to see him once more. Her fears of meeting him surfaced. It would be difficult. Extremely difficult to see him agree to it all which without doubt he would. After all he was Sid.

She looked scared. Her anxiety peaked when Juhi informed her of the second visitor waiting for her.

'Woh Rohan ko saath leke aaya hai.'


Riddhima broke down crying. She knew Sid would want them to meet. He would never let anything come in their way. She did not find herself worthy of such kindness.

Juhi caressed her back to ease her assuring her that her fears and conclusions were baseless.


'Nahi Juhi main usse nahi mill sakti.' she said earnestly through her sobs.


'Par kyu Riddhima?'


'I don't deserve this. Main jo kiya hai uske saath uske baad main kaise usse face karoongi.'


'Tumne kuch nahi kiya Riddhima.' consoled Juhi wiping her tears away.


'Wahi toh ..maine kuch nahi kiya jab ki mujhe uske liye woh sab karna chahiye tha. Kaise face karoongi usse. Kya kahoongi usse ki main uski Maasi hoon jisne uski Maa ko akela marne ke liye chod diya. Jisne usse yeh dard akela sehene ko majboor. Jiski wajah se uski Maa ka sab pyaara dost usse juda ho gaya.'

'Nahi Riddhima aisa mat soocho. Tumne aisa kuch nahi kiya.'

'Main nahi mill paoongi usse. Nahi hoga mujhse.'


'Riddhima tumhari koi galati nahi par tum agar aaj usse nahi mili toh tum galat karogi.'

Juhi tried to make Riddhima understand but Riddhima was completely inconsolable.

Losing her patience finally Juhi took Riddhima by her hand she yanked her off her chair 'Tumhe usse milna hi hoga. Apne liye nahi Rohan ke liye nahi toh Sid ke liye. Tumhe usse milna hi hoga. Chalo mere saath.'

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..

Rohan looked on curiously at Sid as Sid settled him in. He was not used to seeing Sid so edgy. He was that calm, strong person who always wore a smile for him whatever the situation is.


'Aap itne sad kyu ho?' he asked innocently.


'Nahi Rohan main sad nahi hoon.'


'Toh aap aise kyu ho?' asked Rohan pouting his lower lip out cutely.


'Tum nahi samjhoge. Tum abhi todhe chote ho.'


'Nahi main big boy hoon Sid.' refuted Rohan annoyed on termed small.


'Acha .. Toh phir aaj jab tum kisi se miloge tab big boy ki tarah acha acha behave karna.'


'Kisse milne wala hoon?'


Sid wanted Rohan to meet Riddhima. He wanted Riddhima to be the person disclosing the truth behind the relationship they shared. There was reason which was stopping him.


Rohan was getting confused seeing Sid lost in thought. This prompted Sid to explain. He contemplated how he would explain. Before he could begin to explain he saw Juhi leading Riddhima by her arm towards the office.  'Ek minute Rohan main abhi aata hoon.'

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..


Juhi had to drag a reluctant Riddhima all the way there.

Seeing Sid get up and walk out of the office they both stopped in their tracks.


Riddhima again began her pleads with Juhi 'Nahi Juhi please I can't do this.'


'Enough Riddhima mat bhago. Face it now or you will always regret it all your life.'


Sid understood the reluctance written all over Riddhima's face. But this was required. Required to answer some questions, probably heal some wounds and definitely give the grounding that was much needed to the lives and future of two most important people in his life.

It gave him peace yet brought much sorrow. But he could not let that come in his way. He needed to be strong. At least show that he was fine.

He flashed his trademark reassuring smile which seemed to calm Riddhima's racing heart and thoughts momentarily. He came and stood in front of them. In his ever so soft husky voice he said to Riddhima 'Rohan intezar kar raha hai.'


That was enough to bring all Riddhima's guilt and anxiety rushing forth. Her knees trembled, almost staggering behind she again pleaded 'Mujhse nahi hoga.'


'Riddhima...Kyu darr rahi ho? Woh tumhara apna hai. Apno se kaise darr.'

Juhi who stood there supporting Riddhima's weight nudged Riddhima forward towards the office as Sid stepped aside saying 'Jao mill lo.'

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..

Riddhima nervously entered. She stood there with her head hung low in front of Rohan. He was just a child who could do no harm yet she stood scared.  Scared as a convict while standing in front of her judge who was ready to pronounce the judgment.

Juhi turned around to let Sid step up but found him absent. She looked out of the office. He was still standing at the same place watching them from far.

She signaled him to come in and Sid signaled back that he was fine. She understood why Sid remained outside. She too was needed to let these two take it forward.

Rohan looked on confused in Sid's direction wondering why he was not coming in. His brow furrowed as panic had started hitting him finding Sid suddenly distanced.

Juhi caught that immediately as she returned her attention to the child. To ease Rohan she blurted out the first excuse that came to her 'Rohan Bade Papa aur mujhe todha kaam hai isliye aunty aap ke saath baitegi todhi der. Theek hai na?'

Saying that Juhi started withdrawing without waiting for an answer. Riddhima's eyes welled up as panic struck her too. She could not handle this herself. She grabbed hold of Juhi's hand pleading to her to wait. Juhi gave Riddhima's hand a reassuringly squeeze 'Mill lo.' and walked out releasing herself from Riddhima's grip.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..

Sid watched the three in the room intently, secretly hoping to Juhi would leave Riddhima to herself.

One part of him wished that Riddhima would do what he desired of her yet momentarily he hoped that she may not. He cursed himself to be hoping so. He was being selfish but should he not once think about himself? The person in room was his only hope to happiness, to fill the loneliness in his life with love. The fact remained that both were the most important people in his life who were going to decide their fate and his would get decided too in the bargain. This time round again he did not have a choice to choose from. He hated it yet had to made do for the happiness of those two. Afterall he loved them both and love is never selfish. It would crush his heart either ways the decision went but he would have to endure it with a smile. 

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..


Both stood there oblivious how to behave. Rohan kept looking at Riddhima curiously wondering why the aunty who was to sit him seemed so troubled? Was she scared of his mischief?


Riddhima was stealing some glances at the child caught his curious eyes scanning her and her heart welled up with with all sort of emotions. He was sister's last remembrance, Shilpa's son, her nephew, her own blood.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..


Juhi walked out leaving Rohan and Riddhima behind to work their way through it alone. She kept turning back to check on Riddhima who was standing there like a statue. Outside she found Sid with his eyes fixed on the two relatives who were meeting for the first time. The look in his eyes was familiar sight. Why did he look so? Was he scared or pained? Whatever it was yet she could not understand the reason behind this exercise. Why alone? that question kept bothering her. Sid gaze broke when Juhi came and stood right in his face. The question in her eyes hit him. He looked away not wanting to give away the reason for his endeavor.

But this was Juhi he was dealing with. Juhi called his attention. Her tone came slightly stern that it also surprised her.  'Kyu Sid, tum andar kyu nahi aaye?'

Knowing there was no escape he mumbled averting looking into her eyes. 'Unka akele milna hi theek hoga.'

'Kya Rohan jaanta hai Riddhima uski kyon lagti hai?' sensing some ulterior motive behind Sid's decision of letting them meet alone.

'Nahi' Sid answered. His voice was laced with guilt knowing he was caught in his sly act.

That was enough for Juhi. 'Oh .. I see. Tum imtihaan lena chahate ho Riddhima ka?'

Yes he was testing but not Riddhima. He was just his luck. He would never want to put Riddhima in a position where she would have to give a test to prove anything. But he wanted her to make her own decisions. 'Nahi Juhi. Main chahata hoon ki Riddhima khud decide kare.'

'Isme decide karne wali kya baat hai?'

'Ki woh kya chahati hai.'

'You mean..'

'Haan Juhi aur yahi sahi hai. Main hamesha chahata tha ki Riddhima apni dil sunne. Woh kya chahati hai kya soochti hai woh bahoot important hai. Iss baar bina kisi dabav kisi farz ko nibhate usse apni khushi dhoondte huye dekhna chahata hoon. Uski khushi mere liye bahoot important hai. Par yeh uska decision hai ki uski khushi kisme hai.'


'Sid!' Juhi was horrified on the way Sid's mind was working. How could he think that Riddhima would not accept Rohan.


'Juhi chalte hai yaha se.' worried that Juhi would act against discretion and tell Riddhima about it. 'Unke beech nahi aana chahata main.' Unknowingly giving away what was scaring him.
'Unhe ...'


'Tum unke beech aane se nahi darte. You are scared of walking away from the two most important people in your lives.'


...

Rohan kept shifting his gaze from the unknown lady in front of him to Sid who now stood far away alienating him from himself. Why?

Riddhima's heart went out for the child seeing many questions swimming in his eyes.

She felt like rushing to him, gathering him in her arms to assure him that he was not alone. He had her, his Maasi, another form of a mother. He was bringing all her motherly instincts to the fore. She wanted to shower all the affection she had in her on him.

But she could not do that. It might just scare him. She did not want to do that. But then why would it scare him away? He would know who she was? Sid would have told him. Sid never hide facts without a reason.


Rohan was thoroughly confused why all looked so affectionate towards him yet were so sad.

He was curious as to who this lady was who was looking at him so affectionately. Was she the same whom Sid wanted him to meet? If yes, then why wasn't Sid there to introduce him to her? Who was this lady?

He again looked in Sid's direction who also looked very sad. He knew his Sid well. But today he could not understand what made Sid so sad? Was it something to do with this lady who was there to meet him? Somehow it did not even matter who she was because the person who was most important seemed to be receding from his view.


''''''''''''''''''''''''
Sid started walking away hanging his head in shame acknowledging that he did feel shameful of finding it difficult to let go. He considered himself selfish.

'Sid kaha jaa rahe ho? Ruko!' called out Juhi pacing up quickly to catch up with Sid who now found it most important to move away before his heart betrayed him.

''''''''''''''''''''''''


'Sid' Rohan worded softly as Sid completely withdrew from his sight.

Riddhima looked on at Rohan and smiled affectionately. 'Sid'.  She was noting a change of emotion in Rohan. She followed his gaze to understand the reason for it.

The moment she looked out horror struck her. 'Sid'. He was not seen anywhere. Where was he? Why Sid was not there? She wanted to rush out to find him but she could not do that leaving Rohan alone.

She turned to Rohan who by now was panicking which triggered her anxiety further. She looked back where Sid had been standing and in a flash she understood why Sid had done this.

He wanted her to meet Rohan alone. He wanted to give them the space for them to accept this relationship. He did not want him to come in between the two, nor compel them with his presence.

Not avoid her panic to worsen Rohan's anxiety she needed to engage Rohan's attention. She needed to be quick before situation worsens. Sid was playing on both their minds and she threw the first thing that came to her mind at Rohan.

'Aap unko ko Sid bulate ho?'

It worked. Rohan immediately shifted his attention to her seeing her ask about his favorite person.


'Woh aapse bade hai aur bado ko naam se nahi bulate.' mildly correcting him.

'Ooops! Bade Papa Bade Papa kehta hoon.'


She almost burst out laughing at Rohan referring Sid as Bade Papa. 'Bade Papa'  'Woh itne bhi bade nahi hai. I mean bade papa toh dadaji nanaji ke umar ke logo ko bulata hai. Jaise Sid ke Papa unko agar aap Bade Papa bulate toh sahi hai.'


'Par woh toh mere Nanu hai aur Mumma ne hi kaha ki Sid ko Bade Papa bulane ka.'

'Mumma ne kaha?' she repeated half feeling the regard Shilpa held for Sid and half questioning. Her heart wanted to know a little more. Was it only cause of the regard that Shilpa had for Sid or was she also a reason?

'Aur woh mere bade maasa bhi hai.' Rohan added.


Her heart filled with gratitude for Shilpa. Despite all she acknowledged the lost relation. So did Rohan know about Sid being his maternal uncle then he would know about her too, his Maasi?

'Aur aapki Maasi?' She asked though feeling herself being tad bit selfish.

'Main unse kabhi mila nahi hoon. Woh hamare saath nahi rehti. '

He was aware of her existence but then why did he not show any signs of recognizing her?


'Kabhi dekha bhi nahi?'

'Unki photo hai Mumma ki album mein. Par mujhe yaad nahi.'

'Mumma yaad karti thi unhe?'

'Haan ..Mumma kabhi kabhi chup chup ke unki tasveer dekhti thi. Par Bade Papa unse zyaada yaad karte hai Maasi ko.'


'Mere dil ke ek hisse mein tumhara liye pyaar hamesha rahega.'  Tears welled in her eyes. She really did not deserve so much love.

Riddhima's questions had had gotten Rohan curious. She seemed to know his mother and Bade Papa. Who was she?

'Kya aap Mumma ki dost hai Sid oops Bade Papa ki tarah?'


Riddhima could help but smile at how Rohan corrected himself.

'Aap Bade Papa ko wapis naam se bula rahe the.' teased Riddhima.

'Sorry!' Rohan apologized.

'Mumma ne kaha tha na ki unko Bade Papa bulavo. Toh good boy ki tarah apne Mumma ka kehna manana chahiye nahi toh Mumma naraaz ho jayegi.'

'Hmmm ' Mumma bahoot gussa karti thi jab main Sid oops Bade Papa ko naam se bulata tha. Par Bade Papa kehte hai ki main unka dost hoon. Unka best friend. Isiliye unko main Sid bulavu. Par sirf akele mein waise Mumma bhi gussa nahi hogi. Par ab toh ...'


Riddhima ran forward and engulfed Rohan into a tight hug as tears started welling up in his eyes.


''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''


'Sid you don't have to feel guilty.'


'Guilty toh main hoon.

'Nahi Sid jo kuch hua ache ke liye hua? Bemani rishto ka bhoj dhoonne ka kya matlab  hai. Riddhima yeh bahoot pehle se yeh karna chahati thi. Riddhima may be just need a jolt to push her to take the final step of divorcing armaan.

'Janta hoon.

'Sid!!!'

Isiliye kehta hoon ki main guilty hoon. Kal agar maine khud ko roka hota toh jo bachi kuchi umeed thi Riddhima aur armaan ke rishtey ko theek hone ki woh toh khatam na hoti. Mujhe maloom tha woh armaan ko maaf nahi kar payegi par phir bhi bata diya usse.'

'Theek hai tumne bataya par tumne uspe decision thopa nahi hai nahi hi usse yeh decision lene ko push kiya. Par aaj jo tum kar rahe ho.'

'Aaj inn badale halato mein usse phir ek aur decision lene ka mauka dena chahata hoon. Jo usne kiya woh ..'

'I know armaan will not let go so easy. But Riddhima is not going to fall weak this time.'

'Isiliye main chahata hoon ki Riddhima ke pass koi apna ho. Koi aisa jo uske zindagi mein jeene ki wajah bane.'

'Tum sahi keh rahe ho. I am sure Riddhima will not let go of this opportunity. Woh  correct decision legi. Sirf apne liye nahi sab ke liye.'

Sid hoped what Juhi said would come true though in heart he knew that it was not a probable solution. Not after all that had happened.


Juhi wanted to talk further on it but got called by the post operative care team for the patient she had operated on in the morning.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''


She rocked Rohan, wiping away his tears, shushing his sobs, consoling him  till became calmer.

Rohan found the same affection and warmth that of a mother in this stranger. She was soothing away his pain just like his mother would when he got hurt while playing or when he was sad missing his father or Sid. The thought of losing that secure feeling  again Rohan huddled closer and Riddhima too reciprocated holding him closer to her bosom taking away his fears and replacing them with her protective care. The mother in her did not allow her to let go. For her, her child still needed her.


They both were trying to absorb all that they both missed in their lives.


Riddhima knew who he was but Rohan could not help but wonder how could this unknowing lady make him feel so the same as his mother. Pulling back, he gazed intently into her eyes which glistened with tears just like his mother knowing that he was in pain. He found the same affection which he always saw in his mother's eyes. She seemed just as special as his mother. Though a stranger, she seemed familiar. Was she someone his own or just another person whom Sid wanted him to meet?  Whoever she was, right now she seemed like the world to him just like Sid. His innocent heart longed to know who she was and why she reminded him so much of his mother. When he looked into her eyes he felt comforted . His naive heart had always ached for his mother and this woman's presence soothed him . He wanted to know who she was. Tentatively he asked  'Aap kaun hai?'
Main aapko kya kehke pukaro?'

Anxiety rose. She looked around apprehensively averting his eyes wondering how to answer. One stolen glance at him and Rohan had caught her with his questioning gaze. He was looking for his answers and he deserved to receive them. Her heart warmed up and she affectionately ruffled his hair. 'Not my hair.' he pouted annoyed. Riddhima smiled reminiscing. Sid too hated anyone doing that. Rohan surprisingly picked up many of Sid's traits. Though not his blood but she had to accept that Sid had left a lasting mark on Rohan. That moment was defined what really both meant to each other. Her decision was right. She held her ears apologizing 'Sorry ab nahi karoongi.'


'It's ok par aap itni sad kyu hai?'


''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''..


He sat on the couch lost in thought. His mind was visualizing all kinds of scenarios of the conversation that may be taking place.


He was so close to them yet felt like separated by the seven oceans. He felt lifeless all of a sudden. Slumping deeper into the couch he continued to ponder what life expected of him. Why were he always standing on such roads?

It would be a matter of time and his fate would be known. The thought made him wince in pain. He was agitated at the turn of his thoughts. He got up and started pacing the length of the room reprimanding himself for again thinking selfishly.


He was exhausted mentally and physically. The fatigue from all
Previous week caught up, draining him.


To steady himself he grabbed hold of Juhi's desk. Resting his hands on the desk he stood by the desk with his head hung low. Taking deep breaths he tried to steady his racing heart. Concentrating at a single point in the mind. He did that many times when he needed to collect himself, his thoughts.


That too did not seem to work now.


'Damn.' He flung his arm in frustration almost displacing the files neatly stacked on Juhi's desk.


'God main kya kar raha hoon.'


He arranged the files neatly and settled himself on the chair resting his head on his table ahead of him. Again doing the same exercise.


The peace which was eluding him suddenly flooded his being. Instinctively he looked behind and the reason stood there.


'Rohan'


Shocked to see him alone, Sid looked up to find Riddhima outside the room taking small faltering  steps away from them. Stealing few last glances of her angels yet studiously avoiding meeting Sid's eyes. She feared not being able hold back her tears which she so courageously had held back while dropping Rohan at Sid's office.


Her lowered eyes had gratitude not shame. They were thanking him. Thanking for all that he did for her all along and most importantly what he had done today.

He was moved by her gesture.

His eyes were boring into her soul commanding to look up at him once. In one fleeting moment their eyes met. The look in his eyes ripped her heart. He was still thinking of her happiness. But for her it was his that mattered most.

She courageously tried to flash a smile to reassure him that she was fine.  Waving a goodbye she again started withdrawing as if wanting to recede into oblivion.

With each step that she took her heart was betraying her. She needed to leave fast or else she may just give away the state of her heart. She turned around and almost dashed away hiding her tears cause they would not let him live in peace.

Sid could read those emotions which she had tried to camouflage with her smile. He almost moved towards her to stop her. But could not.


He looked down at his hand which Rohan latched on tightly in his little hands.


The pained look perturbed Sid even more.


He bent down on his knees curious to understand the reason.


Rohan ... Kya hua? Woh itni pareshan kyu lag rahi thi? Kya tumne kuch kaha?'


'Nahi ..'



'Phir woh itni sad kyu lag rahi thi.'


'Maine bhi poocha sab itne sad kyu lag rahe hai toh woh boli...'



'Aap aaj US jaa rahe ho.'

'Haan. Sid mujhe lene aaye hai. Ab main unke saath rahoonga.


'Woh aapse bahoot pyaar karte haina?

'Haan. Nanu aur Nani bhi bahoot pyaar karte hai mujhse.'

'Tumhe sab se jyaada kyon pasand hai?'

'Sab par Sid mere favorite hai.'



This was the proof for not coming in.  She had not accepted Rohan.  It seemed another self imposed penance. He hated her not thinking of herself again? He would not let that happen. She had full rights on Rohan.


'Sid sab itne sad kyu lag rahe hai?'

'Tum wapis jaa rahe ho na isliye. Acha mujhe ek cheese batao  tumhe aapki aunty kaisi lagi?

'Riddhima ...woh bahoot achi hai'


'Rohan' Sid warned him. 'Maasi ko naam se nahi bulane ka.'

'Woh Maasi todhi hai.'


Kya? Flabergasted hearing that. 'Kya kaha usne?'


'Mujhe ...  Acha mujhe yeh batao Sid ko Sid kyu bulate ho?'

'Kyuki woh mere dost hai.'


'Waise main bhi aapki dost ho sakti hoon hai na?'


'Haan ho sakti hai.' Rohan seemed all excited for a moment on having a new friend. 'Toh main aap ko bhi naam se pukaru?'



'Hmm '


'Aap ka naam kya hai.'


'Riddhima.'


'Riddhima?' he murmured pondering on it.

'Kya aap Badi ...'

'Nahi mera baach ..she stopped him immediately ...main woh nahi hoon. Main sirf tumhari dost Riddhima hoon.'


'Ohh!'


'So friends?'

'Yes...aunty.'

'Huh?'She furrowed her brows questioningly trying to make him understand his folly.

'Oops sorry Riddhima ... theek hai.'


'Thats better.' flashing a bright smile.


He needed no further explanations. He knew her intentions behind it all. His heart swelled with pride for the lady she was evolving into.


Their destiny was decided. Sid accepted her decision. But he needed to talk to her once. Assure himself that she was fine. He drew Rohan closer to him 'Sid ko tumhare ke naye dost se kuch baat karni hai. Tum yahi ruko main abhi aata hoon. Kahi mat jaana tum. Theek hai?


'Ok' Rohan agreed obediently


Having received Rohan's assurance, he dashed out in the direction Riddhima went. He had not gone far and his feet came to a grinding halt.

Riddhima's resolve dissolved as realization struck her. Her heart had betrayed her and she found herself hiding behind the same pillar.


Sid turned as he sensed her there. Holding her breath fearing that it may just give away of her presence there.


'RIDDHU!!!'


Part 110
Phir Bhi Saath Hai Hum

As soon as Juhi finished her work, she headed back towards her office. She was excited as well as anxious to know the outcome. She saw hope for these star crossed lovers in Rohan. Star crossed they were, fate brought them together in most unusual circumstances. When together all the forces worked against them. They fought destiny but finally destiny played it's cruel joke.


Today they had the opportunity to mend all that had gone wrong for themselves and for Rohan too. He finally could gain the love of a complete family. Not only this estranged couple but for Rohan too she was going to go with her hopes and not let any dark thoughts overshadow her mind.Making positive affirmations mentally she dialed Rahul. She was going to do all she could to aid this unison. 'Rahul woh Dr Siddhant ke papers woh abhi process mat karvaao.'


'Kyu?' he asked completely surprised and feeling slightly jealous.


'Aree tum sawal bahoot karte ho?' not registering anything being absorbed in her own thoughts.

'Par koi reason toh hoga na?'

'Hai par main baad mein batati hoon. Pehle unn do bhatakti atmayon se toh mill loo.'


'Huh!'

'Siddhant aur Riddhima re. Acha chalo main baad mein baat karti hoon. Bye Bye Bye.'

Quickly hanging up on him, she entered her office. First she was a little disappointed not finding the new family there but soon she chided herself 'Of course ab toh woh dono yaha kyu honge.' Her hopes mounted  Juhi moved towards Riddhima's office excited.


On the way when she ran into Abhay, she beaconked him. 'Dr Abhay woh kal ka roster mere kamre mein rak dijiye.'


'Kyu..koi changes hai?'


'Haan. Mera office main rakhwa do main kar loongi.' she said excitedly and moved on towards Riddhima's office leaving a perturbed Abhay behind to wonder what was playing on his senior's mind.


Riddhima never felt this good. Riddhima sat peacefully working through a file when Juhi knocked on the door. 'May I come in?' asked Juhi with her voice laced with fake formality.

'Come in!' called out an exasperated Riddhima knowing well Juhi was upto some mischief.


The moment Juhi walked in Riddhima laughed at Juhi's childish behavior and joined in to jokingly reprimand her. 'Tum sudhrogi nahi na? Tumhe kab se permission lene padi?'

'Aaj se' taunted Juhi jokingly. 'Ab toh tumhare kamre mein knock karke hi aana hoga. Bahoot khush ...' she trailed away scanning the room.


'Hmmm' Riddhima affirmed smiling a genuine smile. She returned her attention to the file to sign off on the file she was working on not noticing the confusion on Juhi's face which was turning into panic. 'Done' celebrated Riddhima completing the final file. 


Juhi dismissed it as a mere panic trigger. Riddhima seemed happy the way she longed to see her and there would'nt be another reason for it than what she assumed. For now she should just focus on it. 'Good I like this. Kitne dino ke baad tumhe itna khush dekha hai. I am so happy for you.'


'Aaj saach mein bahoot khush hoon. Sab kuch theek ho raha hai.'


'Baaki maine theek kar diya. Now thank me.' demanded Juhi.


'Thank you Juhi.' said Riddhima sincerely.

'You are welcome. Acha hua na ki maine Sid ke relieving papers rukwa diye aur kal ka roster bhi?'


Riddhima shifted uneasily in her chair. Misunderstanding Riddhima's discomfort Juhi continued 'I know what you are thinking but I won't mind it. I can sit put up my feet and sit back and Sid can takeover. I am sure he would be an amazing boss. He won't make me work as hard as you.' taunted Juhi.


Ignoring the statement Riddhima thought of making Juhi aware of some facts. 'Sid yaha kaam nahi karega.' she said in a matter of fact tone.

'Toh kya tum Sid ke saath US jaa rahi ho?' asked Juhi even more excited at the thought.


'Nahi woh akele jaa raha hai.'


'Oh yes ..So stupid of me.He will to wrap up there too. Chalo koi nai bas thode din ki baat hai aur woh wapis yaha hoga.'

'Nahi Juhi.' said Riddhima hoping Juhi to understand and she did.


Juhi went into a fit of rage. 'Tum kya bakwas kiye jaa rahi ho? Riddhima are you crazy? Tumhara dimaag toh theek hai? Tum Sid ko kaise jaane diya?'


'Yahi sahi hai.' feeling defeated and drained all of a sudden.


'Kuch sahi nahi hai. Bade raag alaap ti baiti ho ki Sid kabhi galat nahi hota woh kehta hai ki apno ke baare mein soochna chahiye. Kya woh sab sirf dikhava tha? Tum itni selfish kaise ho sakti ho. Chalo Sid ke baare mein bhi nahi soocha par Rohan ke baare mein toh soocha hota. Kya Rohan khush reh payega Sid ke bina?'

'Rohan bhi aaj raat US wapis laut raha hai.' Riddhima added tearfully.


'God damn it.' swore Juhi as she understood what Riddhima had done. 'Kyu Riddhima kyu apni khushiyon ko apne haaton se barbaad karne par tuli ho?' she thundered.

'Sid ke liye.' Riddhima collapsed back into her chair completely drained.


'Sid ke liye are you serious?' Juhi continued trying to drive the point home.


'Main sirf Sid ki khushi dhoondne ki koshish kar rahi hoon Juhi.'


'Uski khushi tumhare saath hai Riddhima. Tum kyu yeh baat nahi samajti? Aur Rohan uski khushi ka kya? Aaj agar tum unn dono ko rok leti toh Rohan ko ek parivar milta. Maa aur Pita dono ka pyaar mill sakta tha. Don't deny that you have not being dying to have a child to call of your own. Aur Sid ...itna pyaar karta hai tumse.'

Juhi's agitation was peaking. Riddhima would loved what Juhi was suggesting but there were reasons behind their decision. She owed an explanation to Juhi. But before that she needed to calm her down or else she would not be able to understand.

She drew a deep breath to ease her own tension. She walked up to Juhi  and pulled Juhi to settle her down on the chair. 'Juhi calm down ..'


'What calm down?' shrugging Riddhima's hand away.


Riddhima gently took back Juhi's hand in hers and softly nudged 'Pehle shant ho javo aur dhyaan se meri baat sunoh.'


Juhi was completely disinterested in Riddhima vain reasoning having heard many of them on various occasions. 'Yahi kahogi na ki jo kuch hua uske baad shayaad Sid tumhe apna nahi payega. But you are wrong. Woh sab kuch bhul ke aaj bhi tumhe apnayega.'


'Par kya woh sahi hoga?' questioned Riddhima calmly trying to drive the point home. 'Nahi Juhi. Main Sid ko woh khushi nahi de sakti jo usse milni chahiye.'

Juhi opened her mouth to refute the reasoning but Riddhima answer had Juhi biting her words back.

'Isliye nahi de sakti kyu ki jis Riddhima se Sid pyaar kiya woh main nahi hoon. Woh Riddhima bahoot saal pehle kahi kho gayi. Aaj Sid se milna kismat ka mujhe ek mauka hai mere liye uss Riddhima ko khojne ke liye jis Riddhima se Sid ne pyaar kiya.'

'Par Riddhima..' Juhi argued weakly.  Hearing Riddhima talk was like reliving that conversation with Sid that they had about Riddhima.

'Jis Riddhima se usne pyaar kiya tha woh kabhi sirf apne baare mein nahi soochti thi. Doosro ke baare mein soochte huye bhi kabhi apni zindagi ya doosro ki zindagi se nahi khelti thi. Jiski apni ek sooch thi, jo apni ek pehchan banana chahati thi. Kismat ne mujhe woh mauka diya hai. Sid ne mujhe woh mauka diya hai. Main iss mauke ko kaise gawa do. Agar aaj main Sid ko rokti ya phir main uske saath jaati toh bhi hamara ateet hamara peecha nahi chodega. Samajne ki koshish karo.Aur agar Rohan ke baare mein soochu toh yeh uske liye bhi sahi hai. Rohan ko family main poori nahi kar sakti. Uski family toh waha hai. Uske Sid ke saath uske Nana Nani ke saath. Jo kuch hua kya woh accept kar payenga mujhe. Aur phir iss sab mein Sid butt ke reh jaata. Usse wapis sab kuch adha adhora milta jaise usse hamesha mila. Aaj uski khushi mujhse zyaada Rohan mein dekhi hai. Agar main raho toh Rohan ke pyaar bhi butt jaata jispar sirf Sid ka haq hona chahiye. Main usme hisdaar nahi banna chahati. Woh sahi nahi hoga. Kisi ke liye bhi nahi.'

Riddhima was resounding the same thoughts as Sid had done. She was in much awe how well they understood each other. Her pride in their life story was increasing yet leaving a craving for a happy ending to it. It was forcing her to keep trying. She wanted to question Riddhima. Just as Juhi started there was sharp knock on Riddhima door and Juhi pulled the reins on her question. Riddhima straighten up and beaconked the visitor in.

'Yes Dr Harsh What can I do for you?' asked Riddhima flashing a wide smile.

'Maam we were wondering if you would be interested assisting in a surgery ..it's a very simple one .. But this is the only one right now ..sorry...'


Riddhima smiled at the nervousness of the doctor who seemed so hesitant thinking it would be condescending to offer such a simple procedure. 'Yes of course. It been a long time since I even observe leave alone assist in one. So I think you can start with me just observing and I am fine with that too.'


'No No we would be highly privileged to have you assisting today itself. Here are the case papers.' said the doctor placing the file on the table..

'Well then I am on. I will report there in 15 mins.' Riddhima said walking towards her desk. After placing her belongings in the drawer her hand automatically open the last drawer to pull the most precious object in her life out. She lovingly looked at it for a moment.

Juhi not wanting to leave it unfinished threw the question on Riddhima's face as soon as the doctor made an exit.

'Kya tum Sid se saach mein pyaar karti ho?'

Riddhima realised what Juhi was trying. She was least offended at Juhi's stubbornness. It was only out of Juhi love for her and also Sid.


Riddhima looked up finally pulling out that object from her drawer to lovingly place it on the table right next to her desktop.  She fondly ran her fingers delicately over it and a warm peaceful smile spread played on her lips. Juhi immediately recognized the frame. It was the same which always lay hidden away from the world. Riddhima had answered her question without even uttering a word. Actions always speak louder than words. Yes she did love him and was declaring it with her gesture. She was giving the ultimate proof of her love for Sid. But how could they could survive like this, manage what they were planning to do if they loved each other so much?

She had to know where they derived the strength from. She was secretly hoping that the realization of the consequences may just force Riddhima to reconsider. 'Tum Sid se itna pyaar karti ho toh kya tum usse miss nahi karoogi?'


Riddhima took the file and walked up to Juhi and smiled again at Juhi's confused look.

She needed to make Juhi understand to put Juhi's mind at rest. How was she going to make Juhi understand because their relation never could be put into words. But she owed her an answer. Drawing in sharp breath she asked 'Juhi kya tum Rishab ko miss karti ho?'


Juhi did not ever need to think twice on this. She immediately nodded negatively. Though he was no more in her life yet she could always feel his presence in her life. 'Woh hamesha mere saath hai Riddhima aur hamesha rahega.' He was that beautiful memory which would always hold a special place in her life. Riddhima simply smiled and lightly caressed Juhi's cheek affectionately seeing the love Juhi still had for her late husband.

That smile answered Juhi's question bringing tears to her eyes as she felt the love that these two star crossed lovers had for each other, the bond they shared which needed no physical presence cause it was felt by their hearts, breathed in their souls.


Riddhima gently wiped the tear which streamed down Juhi's cheek threatening to stain it. Flashing a warm reassuring smile she turned and left leaving mesmerized Juhi behind.


She already felt different. She walked with her head held up high. She felt proud. Proud of Sid, proud of herself, proud of their relationship. She felt contented. She felt at peace. Unknowingly her hand went into her lab coat pocket. Her fingers felt a cold metal which strangely emitted the warmth that her life missed. She drew it out to see and looked on fondly at it. A gift of someone special given by someone special.


'RIDDHU' his heart called as his eyes fell on Riddhima who staring at him. This had been what her heart had been wanting, what it had been begging to hear. It felt as if he blown life into lifeless body. Her erratic heartbeat steadied as her eyes caught his and locked into an inexplicable  gaze. She didn't blink, neither could he. They just coudn't tear away from it. They forgot where they stood, everything blurred out and it felt as if time had stopped. Everything was frozen.

Riddhima struggled with words trying hard not to cry when she already felt the lump on her throat blocking it. His reassuring blink was adequate. She gulped back her sob, stopped struggling with words and let heart take control as he had let his.

All they could hear were each other's heart beats. Not a word was exchanged yet much was said. Heart to heart, soul to soul.


Sid's knowing melancholic smile acknowledged the sacrifice that Riddhima had made for him.


He would feel guilty if she affirmed it. 'Rohan ke liye.' her heart tried to resound as earnestly as possible.


He smiled again. He knew why she had done that. He knew she did not want Rohan to share his love with anyone especially not her. 'Sirf mere liye na?'

She lowered her eyes acknowledging knowing he could read even her silence; read her like an open book.

He watched the big pearls stream down her already tear stained cheeks.  He couldn't take his eyes off her big wet eyelashes which refused to lift themselves.
He never knew tears were so beautiful. His eyes hovered on her face, beautiful and innocent face which had always loved to be beaming with joy but had pain of impeding separation. His felt his heart skip a beat as he saw her bite the lower lip to control the pain she must be feeling. He never knew tears are so breathtaking, tears meant for him, tears evoked by him, tears of the lady who cared for him, tears of the lady who loved him.
This feeling was of complete bliss and she made him aware of that. He never knew how the power of these drops of salty water had. It had the power to make him feel happy and regret at the same time. He watched her silent cry, her trembling lips, her lowered puffy eyes and her little red nose. Everything told him only one thing she belonged to him and only him.
He wanted to gather her in his arms, ease her pain and let her ease his. But he respected her way too much to disapprove of her decision, her mission. He would stand by all of it. Even if it meant standing away from her separated by seven oceans. He would do it and do it with a smile. He would be strong because she could not handle him falling weak.


He was required to walk away but how could he without seeing her at peace. Seeing her smile again.

The thought was dreadful. He felt himself falling weak. He could never see tears in her eyes. Even if they were for him.

Riddhima opened her eyes and saw him collect her tears in his handkerchief yet again. She looked up in awe. He withdrew his handkerchief, lovingly folding it to place it in his shirt pocket right next to his heart. A warm smile flashed lighting up face. Her eyes gleamed of joy.

He brought his hand up to his face and signaled a smiley as he flashed a huge grin making her break in a smile herself.  


He wanted her to keep smiling just like that. He never liked her sad face. 'Maine kaha tha na ... Kabhi udhas mat hona ... Suit nahi karta ... Hamesha smile karti rehna ...'

She nodded giving her affirmations to his command flashing her bright smile again.

The moment to leave was drawing close. He pulled out a gift which he had thought for her. He had been just safe keeper for it. It was now going to go to its true owner who needed it the most. It would remind her that she was loved and was never alone. It would give her the strength to carry on when hope would dwindle. It would remind her of her goal.


Unconsciously her hand came up to receive. His gift to her, gladly accepting it. It was not a token but a memory. Memory of her sister. He was giving her hope once again. Giving her a goal which she would accomplish. She wanted to make Him proud. Proud by rediscovering the girl he loved; Riddhima Gupta.


They acknowledged each other, sealing this memory in their heart to cherish forever.


She looked at keys to her Shilpa's house, to her house, a house where her roots were.


Her eyes welled up. She turned back to see Juhi watching her lovingly caress those keys to the doors of her future.


She smiled back at Juhi as her heart lovingly remembered Him and a tear escaped her eye.

'Sid.' her heart resounded. She looked at her reflection in the glass. Wiping away the tear she flashed a smile before walking away.


Destiny never let them stay together.  But her heart could testify to all who mocked them not being together.


She looked at the keys and caressed them to feel the warmth which only she could feel. 'Phir bhi saath hai hum!'


 



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