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TU

HI TU
Suvika














To all my readers and critics from India Forums. Thank you. Each and every one of you!



Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are
fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely
coincidental.

Contents
Introduction
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17


Introduction



MVM Industries, Ahmedabad: A hugely successful company started by 3 friends, Alok Mathur, Yograj
Verma and Sanjeev Malhotra

Manav aka Tiger: Son of Alok Mathur
Nisha aka Chulbuli: Daughter of Yograj Verma
Aditi: Daughter of Sanjeev Malhotra
Armaan: Childhood friend of Manav
Anushka aka Anu: Childhood friend of Nisha
Rohan: Childhood friend of Nisha
Hiraman Kaka (HK): Cook / care taker at Nishas residence
Abhimanyu: Younger brother of Armaan
Dr Vishaal: Administrator at CGH / Anushkas love interest
Dr Sruti: OBG at CGH / Armaans love interest
Chote Sarkar (CS): Cook at Yograj Vermas residence

Chapter 1

Ahmedabad: Residence of Alok Mathur:

Papa, Armaan nahi aaya ab tak?
Aajayega Manav. tu fikr mat kar. Koi emergency aagayi hogi hospital mein..
A tall dark haired Manav raises his impatient eyes to his father: Papa, mere engagement ke din bhi
emergency? He knew this is the happiest day of my life and..
Alok: Beta, woh doctor hain. And he has a very bright future in front of him. You know it. He has just
become the Paediatric surgeon at CGH. You are not a doctor. You are a businessman..like me! So its
tough for us to understand the pressures of being in the medical profession beta. But I am sure he will
definitely be here by the time the function starts.
Manav: Armaan nahi toh Abhi ko toh aajana chahiye na ab tak? Woh bhi gaayab hain.
Alok: Arre woh gaayab nahi hain. He was here and I sent him to Aditis house ahead with all the
shagun ka saamaan.
Manav looks heavenward: Thank God for small mercies!
Alok: Waise ek taraf se toh yeh achcha hi hain. Armaan toh tera bachpan ka dost hain ab uske saath
saath Abhimanyu bhi tumhaara dost bangaya. Both of them lost their parents right one after the other
so recently. Its such a sad thing na Manav..first mother and then within a month father! Those two
now have stopped fighting with each other and have started really taking care of each other. (Manav
nods with a small sad smile.)
Arre tum dono baap bete abhi tak yahi ho? Chalo chalo. Der horahi hain. Bhai saab aur Aditi waha se
nikal chuke hain
Alok: Haan haan we are almost done. Manav ka suit achcha hain na.
Rukmini raises her smiling eyes to Manav: Meri bahu Aditi ka selection hain. Achcha toh hoga hi.
Hain na Manav? (Manav grins and gives a one armed hug to his mom.) I feel so good you know..21
saal pehle yeh 3 dost milke yeh company start kiya tha. You were 9 years old..Aditi was 4 aur Yog
Bhai saab ki shaadi bhi nahi hui thi. Mein toh shuru mein bahut darr gayi thi ki kahi iss business ke
chakkar mein inke saalon ki dosti bigad na jaay.
Alok laughs proudly: Haan ab dekho..dosti se partnership aur partnership se rishtedaari. (He turns to
Manav.) De taali! (Father Son share a high five.) Ab buss..Manav aur Aditi ki shaadi hojaaye!! I am
going to take a long break and go on a world tour with my wife.
Manav: uh huh!! AFTER my honeymoon.
Alok winks: Of course after your honeymoon!
Rukmini: Pehle engagement hojaay?

Alok: Haan haan chalo chalo.



Residence of Sanjeev Malhotra: At the engagement party:

Yaar its so boring! And you made me bunk my tennis class to attend THIS?
Rohan just shut up yaar! We are here to keep Nisha company and thats it!
Rohan: Anu, but why should Nisha even THINK of attending this? Its MANAVs engagement to
ADITI! Humaara yahaan kya kaam!
Anu: One hour. Ok? We will stay for one hour and then go play scrabble. Ok?
Rohan: Waise, Nisha hain kahan?
Anu: Aajayegi. Her dad called her just now. Tu bol. Have you decided which direction to go?
Rohan nods: IPS. Right now I have Maths in my 11th and 12th. Uske baad I will do a UG..(A small
typical awkward shrug of a 15 year old teenager.) And then apply for civils. Aur tum? Have you
decided?
Anu nods proudly with her head high in the air: MBA. I will do an MBA. Aur idhar udhar ke
universities se nahi. I will do something in IIM or XLRI! Dekhlena!
Rohan grins then his tone turns a little awkward, shy and curious: Aur Nisha? She still wants to
become a doctor?
Anu sighs: Yeah. uski toh buss..dil mein kuch baitgaya toh buss..baitgaya!
Rohan immediately springs to defence: Thats a great quality Anu.
Anu: Haan toh mein kahan usse kuch bol rahi hoon? Honestly Rohan..you are just sometimes..
Rohan interrupts: Odd..
Anu: What?
Rohan gestures towards the stage where Manav and Aditi are standing and the rings are about to be
exchanged: Aditi is looking tense.
Anu rolls her eyes: Its her engagement buddy. Girls tend to get tense during that time.
Rohan continues to frown: She is sweating.
Anu giggles: May be she is having cold feet. Chalo achcha hain..lets see if she runs away from the
mandap..hume thoda entertainment..OMG! OMG! (then realizing that she has screamed, she lowers
her voice to a whisper) She has fainted! Where the hell is this Nisha? Sahi time pe gaayab hojaati
hain!

About an hour later: In Aditis room:



Manavs face is pale: What? (Everyone in the room is silent as if no one knew what to say after what
they just heard.) You..you are pregnant?
Aditi swallows: Yes.
Manav shakes his head once as if in denial..his gaze still confused: But how? I mean..we never..i never..
(Comprehension dawns and he staggers back a step.) You..?
Aditi wets her lips and turns her pleading gaze towards him: Manav..please..just listen to me. i..it didnt
mean anything. It was just once. I didnt mean to..it just..it just happened.
Manav: it just happened? (Reaction sets in and his face turns red with anger and hurt.) Who is it?
(Silence) DAMN IT answer me Aditi! Who is the guy?
Alok: Manav..shaanth hojaao beta. Iss tarah chillane se kya hoga?
Manav locks his jaw and goes to stand near the window simmering in silence.
Sanjeev: Aditi..this is not some kind of forced arranged marriage scenario. Both of you had mutually
decided to get married. Beta..what is this? ANSWER ME ADITI!
Aditi: I cant say anything except that it just happened and I regret that it happened and I want to forget
that it happened.
Manav turns and strides towards her and shakes her: You regret? Well..I regret too! you want to
forget? Fine then forget. But what about me? You want me to forget too? You want me to forget that
you had..that you..(He pushes her away with a groan of disgust.) You want me to forget that you are
carrying someone elses child? I am sorry. I cant forget. And now YOU can forget about this whole
thing..this engagement..this marriage..this building of life and business together..everything.
mom..lets go.
Alok: Manav..
Manav: I SAID LETS GO! (He goes till the door and turns back..his eyes black with anger and
hatred.) I wont forget any of this Aditi and I wont let you forget it either. I will make you pay for
this. Mark my words Aditi..YOU WILL PAY!

2 days later: Nishas residence:

Anu shakes the blanket covered girl awake: NISHA!! UTO! NISHA!! Buddy..come on..get up!!
The blanket is forcefully pulled away by Anu and the face of a slightly chubby fair 15 year old girl
with pimpled face, rumpled bob cut black hair and impatient irritable look stares back: Kya hain
yaar..sone dena! I didnt sleep until almost 4 this morning. Jaa Anu..
Anu pulls Nisha into a sitting position: NISHA..Aditi is dead!

Shock courses through the young girls body and wide startled black eyes meet that of her friend:
Kya?
Anu sits on the bed and nods vigorously bouncing her curly hair every which way: haan. I just got up
and went down to drink some milk and Yog uncle was running to Sanjeev uncles house.
Nisha wets her lips: Lekin..kaise? Kal tak toh teek thi na..
Anu leans in: I heard uncle talking. She has been murdered.
Nisha:WHAT?
Anu catches hold of Nishas shoulders: Yes buddy. Aditi is murdered and Manav has been taken in for
questioning.
Nisha: Manav? Why Manav?
Anu: They were saying he is the prime suspect. That Sanjeev uncle told the police that Manav
threatened to make Aditi pay for something..meine teek se suna nahi.
Nisha interrupts: Kab..kab hua ye?
Anu bites her lower lip: Kal raat ko.
Nisha: Then how could Manav do it? You know he couldnt have done it right?
Anu looks about to cry: Mere papa ko pata chalgaya toh..(Nishas own face turns pale at the thought of
her own future but she quickly swallows and takes out her phone and gets up.) Nisha..kaha jaa rahi
hain..Nisha..ruk..zara soch
Nisha looks at her friend with pain filled eyes: Meine sochliya hain. Zidd meri thi na. toh
consequences bhi mujhe hi face karne padenge. Here. Hold this phone for me. And dont delete
anything in this. Please Anu. Promise me. I will just freshen up and change and will go and talk to dad
first. And I will get Manav back home before this day is out.
Anu pulls her back: Nisha..ek aur baar sochle. I mean if he didnt do it..
But Nisha just removes her hand and walks off towards the bathroom for a quick shower and change.

At the police station:

SP: Where were you last night?
Manav: I told you already. I dont remember.
SP: I am not talking about what happened when you were 5 years old Mr Manav. I am talking about
LAST NIGHT. How can you not remember what happened last night?
Manav: I dont know. I went out to have dinner with a business colleague of mine. I gave you his
number already. I had dinner with him. then the next thing I remember is waking up today morning in
the hotel room from where you picked me up.

SP: Did you drink during your dinner?


Manav: Not much. A glass of red wine and thats it.
SP: Did you have an argument with Aditi?
Manav: I was angry with her at the night of our engagement. But after that I did not meet her or talk to
her.
SP: Did she try to call you?
Manav gives a tired nod: 3 times yesterday. But I didnt take her call. I was too angry. I am being put
through this wringer for the last couple of hours and my head is buzzing with the shock of Aditis death
and the repeated questioning where they are hoping that I would slip up or change my answer. But I
honestly am at a loss of what is happening. Aditi is dead? She has been killed? How? When? Why?
And where was I last night? Why cant I remember? (He tiredly runs his hands through his already
dishevelled hair.)
SP: Why were you angry?
Manav: She said she was pregnant.
SP: Why would that make you angry? You were anyway about to get engaged na.
Manav closes his eyes in remembered pain and betrayal: Because I am not the father of the baby.
SP: So she cheated on you. (A nod with a down bent head is his only reply.) And you threatened to
make her pay for it.
Manav: Look..you need to believe me..yes, I did say that but I was angry and I lashed out. I didnt mean
it literally. Certainly not in this way. Why would I..I mean how could I..
SP: Fine. I will believe you. Just tell me where you were last night then and we will wrap this up.
Manav loses his patience and just snaps: Look sir..I dont know. I dont remember. And why am I the
only one being questioned? Why dont you think of someone else? May be the father of the
baby..whoever he is, did this?
SP leans forward with interest and folds his hands: Do you know who the father is?
Manav sighs and rubs his palms over the days growth of his stubble: No. I asked her. She refused to
tell me that day.
SP: And later? Did she talk to you later?
Manav: Sir, aap chaahe jitni baar mujhse pooche, you are going to get the same answer. I never spoke
to her in person or over the phone after that day. I never saw her or met her even accidentally after
that day.
Another officer walks into the questioning room and both the officials move a little further away to
confer something for a few minutes. Then SP walks back to Manav: Mr Manav, you are free to go.
Manav frowns: What?

SP: You are free to go. We dont know who the killer is but we have come to know that you didnt do
it. Apparently you have an air tight alibi for last night..all night.
Manav gets up but the frown on his face remains: I dont understand.
SP sighs. He is a man of 50, a little on the round side with wise sharp eyes and intelligent but kind
look and above all has a teenage daughter of his own! God! What is this world coming to! : Mr Manav,
everything will be explained. Filhaal aap apne statement par sign karke ghar jaasakte hain. (Then he
extends his hand for a handshake.) You are officially on the clear. You can leave.
Still confused yet relieved, Manav shakes the officer s hand and goes out of the room to meet Yograj
and Nisha.

About an hour later: Manavs residence:

Manav empties the juice glass in one gulp and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand: Uncle, ab
toh bataiye baat kya hain? Where was I last night and why dont I remember anything! (Then he looks
at the down bent head of the girl and with a small smile ruffles her hair.) Nisha..hey..Chulbuli..kya hua
re..aaj tu bhi chup hain? Apne Tiger se baat nahi karegi? Aur aaj toh Tiger ko Chulbuli ka hug bhi
nahi mila!
Yog opens his mouth to speak but Nisha holds his hand and stops him. She wets her lips and raises her
head to look at her Tiger: Tiger..I spiked your drink last night.
Manav (his face still has a smile and bit of confusion as if the statement has not completely
registered): What? Come again?
Nishas eyes blink rapidly in fear and she swallows. Beads of sweat form on the forehead. She grips
her skirt in her fists and starts talking: I wanted some pictures with you. Just..just you and me pictures.
I saw you having dinner with someone in the restaurant and bribed the waiter to spike your drink. A
kind of..of..drug. After your friend left, I took you to the room upstairs. (She pulls out her small
digicam from her skirt pocket and extends it to him.) And..and I took pictures of..of you and me.
Manav tilts his head to the side and takes the camera with the frown still on his face: Chulbuli..why
spike my drink to take my pic..(His sentence stops midway as his gaze locks on the images that pop up
on the screen. Nisha in his arms on the bed..Nisha with her head resting on his bare chest..Nisha
kissing his lips with eyes closed in obvious delight..Nisha holding his palm to her young breast!!) His
face registers first disbelief and then anger and then black fury. He smashes the phone against the
wall, turns and slaps Nisha hard across her cheek all in the same go. Alok holds his hand before he
can deliver another back handed blow: NO Manav. Ladki pe haath nahi utate!
Manav pulls his hand away with disgust: Get out Nisha. I did not kill Aditi. I dont know how she died.
But I swear to God if you dont leave now, I am going to kill YOU. OUT! (Nishas cheek has the
imprint of his palm and it has turned red. She looks at Manav with wide unblinking eyes and a stark
despairing expression before turning and walking towards the door.) WAIT! (She stops as if pulled by
a chain. He comes close and makes sure he is facing her.) Is it just the pictures or did you turn me into
some pervert too? (Silence and then a kind of fear enters his voice.) Did something happen Nisha?

Something other than what these snaps are suggesting? (A shake of head suggesting no.) You are
sure? (A nod suggesting yes.) You swear?
Nisha looks into his eyes as she replies: I swear on my mom and dad that it was just the snaps. We
didnt..I didnt..I just took the snaps and waited until you fell asleep and returned home. (He locks his
jaw at that and turns his face away from her. Nisha quietly leaves the room and closes the door softly
behind her. Rukmini turns her face away from Yog in anger and tears and walks out of the room as if
physically removing herself from his presence.)
Yog folds his hands to Alok: I know what my daughter did is not a small mistake. Your anger and pain
are completely justified and I have no defence against what she did. All I can do is apologize on her
behalf from the bottom of my heart and hope that one day you will be able to forgive her. (Before he
or anyone else could say anything more, the door bursts open and a wild looking guy of about
Manavs age rushes in and comes to a sudden stand still.)
Manavs eyes for the first time fill with tears: Armaan!
Armaan rushes forward and hugs Manav with tear filled eyes: I just got back from Delhi and Abhi
gave me the news at the airport. Seedha yahi chala aaya. Yeh sab kya hogaya Manav! (Alok and Yog
leave the room.)
Manav almost collapses on the sofa: I dont know yaar. I am in a kind of daze now. Kuch pata nahi
chal raha hain kya horaha hain. Just getting one shock after the other.
Armaan: Abhi was saying the police took you for questioning? What happened?
Manav shakes his head: Long story. But I am glad you are here with me Armaan.
Armaan swallows and looks away: Who..how..I mean..Aditi..
Manav: I dont know. The last I saw her was the day of our supposed engagement. I swear Armaan I
didnt meet her after that.
Armaan: I know that buddy.
Manav: God knows who would have done that! May be the father of the baby she is carrying..
Armaan gets up: Nahi. no..I mean..why would he do that?
Manav also gets up angrily: May be he didnt want the kid..maybe he got angry that what apparently
was a one night stand turned into..
Armaan: Manav..no. stop. It was not like that.
Manav starts pacing: Yes. I think thats it. We just need to find out who that person is. Armaan..tujhe
kuch pata hain ki woh kaun hain? Tu ne Aditi ko kisi ke saath dekha hain?
Armaan: Manav dont think about all this now. Take rest. We will talk later.
Manav looks at his friend in disbelief: Rest? Kaisa rest Armaan? Aditi got killed! I mean, yes, I was
angry at what she did..but come on yaar..I wanted to marry her..she is dead now. (He once again starts
to pace.) I really think if we come to know who got her pregnant, we will get the answers.
Armaan: You will not get any answers Manav. Just leave all that work to the police buddy.

Manav: Armaan! (He shakes his friend by the shoulders) You know something. Tera chehra bolraha
hain ki you know something. You know the guy, dont you? Who is it?
Armaans face starts turning pale: Manav..
Manav: Dekh yaar tujhe meri kasam bata. WHO IS IT?
Armaan: Manav..
Manav: Damn it Armaan! ANSWER ME!
Armaan: ME! I am.
Manav staggers back and leans against the side table as if his legs have finally given up on him:
Wh..what?
Armaan looks away and braces himself before meeting Manavs eyes: Aditi got pregnant because of
me. (Manavs face loses all the remaining colour and he just slides down onto the floor until he is
sitting with his back leaning against the side table, knees drawn up and his head on his knees..defeat in
every line of his body) Manav..let me tell you what actually happened..
Manavs voice is a mere whisper: I dont want to know. Please leave Armaan.
Armaan: Manav..
Manavs voice lowers further: Please..I cant take any more. Go Armaan.

3 days later:

Aditis body was cremated the previous day and although Manav had attended the funeral, he had
stayed away from the rest of the family and friends. He didnt talk to anyone and the expression on his
face was enough to stop anyone from approaching and talking to him. The SP had come and informed
him that the cause of death was repeated stabbing by a knife but the weapon was missing. Photographs
of Manav with Nisha from Nishas camera were printed along with the date and time in the corner. In
addition, the waiter who served the drink at the restaurant and the manager who booked the room in
the name of Manav that night also had given their statements, which officially cleared Manav of any
suspicion. Though the police had come to know that Armaan is the father of the child Aditi was
carrying, since he was in Delhi, attending an All India Med conference and presenting a paper during
that time, he was also removed from the suspect list. The SP never liked to let a criminal go free. But
with no evidence and no suspects, there wasnt anything he could do at this point of time and he knew
that the more the time lapses, the harder it would be find the evidence. He hated accepting defeat but
this, for him, was starting to look like another unsolved murder.
Manav did not know how he kept quiet for these 3 days. Aditi and Armaan betraying him has been like
a bleeding wound in the inside. But somehow, on a different level, Nishas betrayal seems bitterer. He
knew her since she was a baby..had grown accustomed to her open adoration ever since she knew how
to talk and walk. Her first word was iga when holding on to his finger with her chubby hand,
referring to him as Tiger. He got stuck with that name and had counted on the comfortable

companionship hed had with her. He was her friend, philosopher and guide. Whenever he was in the
vicinity, she became his shadow..always tagging along beside him, talking a mile a minute and
looking at him with her wide guileless but mischievous eyes. Her quirky personality and unruly
tongue combined with her limitless curiosity had often landed her in trouble both in and out of her
house and he ended up being her knight with shining armour. Her antics had amused him and made
him laugh out loud even when he was so dead tired he was about to fall on his face.
Nisha hadnt attempted to approach him or try to talk to him in anyway after the day he slapped her
and told her to get out. Why she did what she did, he didnt know and right now he just didnt care. A
week ago, all he had wanted was to be a crucial part of MVM and get married. But now? Now he was
just done! Done with lovers and friends and betrayals. Done with this place. Done with this city. To
hell with them all! His determined steps take him to his cabin at MVM, where he is currently holding
the position of VP technology and for the next 48 hours, he works tirelessly making sure all the
technology related aspects are handed over properly to the acting CTO. He finishes that, gets up and
walks out of MVM and out of Ahmedabad.

Chapter 2

10 years later: Mumbai: Andheri West: A two bedroom apartment:

A woman of about 33-34 is sitting in the 2 seat sofa and sipping tea with a thoughtful look on her face.
A sound makes her turn her head and Manav walks into the hall from the bedroom buttoning his shirt.
Age seems only to have added more spice to his already dashing features and the slight grey hair at
the temples has given him a distinguished look. All in all, he could walk into a room full of people
and yet manage to grab the eye of most the females in the room.
Mujhe tumse kuch kehna hain Manav
Manav gives a lopsided smile and adjusts his eye glasses: You know I never like conversations that
start with that particular sentence. (He sits in another chair in front of her and takes her hand in his.)
Bolo kya baat hain. You seem unusually distracted today.
The woman looks away for a couple of moments before turning back to him: My ex-husband
contacted me. He wants to give our marriage another try. (Manav continues to look at her in silence)
Say something Manav
Manav: I am waiting for you to complete your side of the conversation.
Thats it. he wants me back. What should I do Manav?
Manav: What do you WANT to do?
I dont know.
Manav: Do you still love him?
She shrugs: I guess so. But..
Manav: Long time back I realized that life is never black or white buddy. Its in different shades of
grey. There are no knights and demons. There are only humans. If you want to give it a try, if there is
still hope in there within you, give yourselves a chance. (She continues to stare at him with unblinking
eyes.) Kya? Aise kya dekhrahi ho? Zyaada philosophy hogaya kya?
She shakes her head: No. I always used to wonder, you know..I mean I know you told me at the
beginning itself that our relationship is just going to be..you know..(She gestures vaguely with a wave
of her hand.) That you are not interested in anything else but..
Manav grins and walks into the kitchen to get his own juice: And that has not changed. Yeh pyaar
shaadi mere buss ki baat nahi hain boss. I stay clear of that. But I like you and I am genuinely very
happy for you. He was an idiot to let you slip through his fingers the first time. (He comes out with
his juice glass, places it on the side table and pulls her up from the sofa and hugs her.) All the best and
take care.
I think I will miss you Manav!

Manav grins and chucks her chin playfully: No you wont. You will be too busy with that husband of
yours. So go and be happy. (Before she could add anything, his cell phone starts ringing and he
moves away to pick it up.) Hello? Yes? (Then silence as he listens to whatever is being said on the
other end but a frown mars his forehead.) But what do I have to do with it? (Again silence and finally
sighs irritably.) Ok. Fine. I will be there..Yes..Let me check my calendar and I will confirm the
dates..Ok. Right. Will do. Yup. (He disconnects the call and turns towards her still frowning.) Looks
like I have to go out of town for a few days.
Kahaa?
Manav locks his jaw and with a faraway look on his face replies: Ahmedabad.

A couple of days later: Ahmedabad: CGH:

A slim fair girl with thick rainfall straight hair reaching midway to her back, tied into a pony tail and
wearing a simple light blue with pink border sari and a white coat on it, knocks on the cabin door and
opens it on hearing the come in from inside. No one seeing her now would even guess her to be the
same girl who had chubby cheeks, a wide ever grinning mouth with wild but short bob cut hair: Good
Morning Sir!
Armaan looks up from the file in his hands with a scowl on his face. Except for the slightly greying
hair, he is still looked the same: Nisha..I am tired of telling you not to sir me. Just call me Armaan.
Nisha gives a small smile: You called?
Armaan nods and gestures a seat: Yeah. I wanted an update on that child with the 2nd degree burns.
How is he doing?
Nisha: He is fine sir. (Seeing that he is about to object once again.) I just joined here a few months
back after I cleared my PG in paediatrics. You are my senior and the paediatric surgeon of CGH..not
to mention one of the best in the field. Interns fear you and colleagues look up to you and respect
you..
Armaan continues to look at her: And you have known me as a person for how long?
That small smile also disappears from her face but before she could think of a reply, her phone rings.
With a quick look of apology, she takes the call: Yes Anu?
Anu: You are sitting or standing?
Nisha: Sitting
Anu: Brace yourself buddy. Manav is back! (Nishas still face remains devoid of all expression.) Oye,
tu sunn rahi hain mein kya bolrahi hoon?
Nisha: Yeah..Where..How do you know?
Anu: I am at the office now. Today is the BOD meeting na. He just walked into the building and I saw
him go to the conference room.

Nisha: Ok. I will talk to you later.


Anu: He will probably leave soon after the meeting. So dont worry. Ok? But I just thought you
should know..in case..take care ok?
Nisha: Yeah..Bye. (Armaan gives her a questioning look.) Manav is in Ahmedabad. He has come to
attend the BOD meeting at dads office.
Armaan sighs and runs a tired hand over his face: 10 years and I still miss him like hell. Dont you
miss him Nisha?
Nisha gets up: Chalti hoon sir. I still have a few patients in the OPD. (And leaves.)
Armaan picks up the phone and makes a call: Abhi?
Abhi: Yes Bhai?
Armaan: Busy?
Abhi: Nahi. I am just out of the court. When I was in the law college, I never realized that I would be
spending half my time getting bail petitions signed..I tell you!
Armaan gives a soft laugh: Achcha sunn..Manav..Manav Ahmedabad mein hain.
Abhi: What? Kab aaya?
Armaan: Aaj subah.
Abhi: Matlab? Hamesha keliye?
Armaan: Nahi. Verma uncle ke company ka kuch board meeting hain aaj
Abhi: Achcha..oh..you want to meet him?
Armaan: Tu bata..I of course want to meet him. What do you think I should do?
Abhi: Bhai..millo ek baar. You were not there 5 years back when his parents passed away and he came
back for their cremation. You were in London. I think you should meet him once and close the
chapter. You need to move on Bhai. Its high time. Waise how did you get the news?
Armaan: Woh..Anu called Nisha just now.
Abhi: Oh!
Armaan: Toh phir I will try to meet him once before he leaves.
Abhi: Mein bhi chalta hoon aapke saath. I was there when he came 5 years back and we spoke. Not
much but..
Armaan: Ok. I will call you once I am done here.
Abhi: Srutiji kaisi hain?
Armaan: Fine. She is fine. Baad mein baat karte hain.
Abhi: Take care bhai.

Armaan disconnects the call, leans back in his chair and sighs. So many years..so much water under
the bridge..but is it? Sometimes I feel as if the water is still. Has been still for the past decade. so
many what if scenarios..enough avoiding now! I am going to make him sit and listen to me and I am
going to talk! Come what may!

CGH: OPD:

Nisha tickles the toddler s neck making him gurgle and bounce in his moms lap: Ghabraane ki koi
baat nahi hain. Its just common cold caused probably due to the change in climate. You said you have
recently shifted to Ahmedabad, right? Dont worry. Just use these medicines and see for a couple of
days. If there is no improvement or if he starts having temperature, bring him back for another check
up.
The mother gives a tired smile: Thank you Dr Nisha. (She lifts up the kid into her arms and juggles
the baby bag, stuffs the prescription into it and adjusts the child properly in her arms) Beta..doctor ko
bye bye bolo. (The kid instead of waving gives another bounce, a happy chuckle and stuffs his fist
into his mouth drooling all over his shirt)
Nisha gives him a tender smile: He is teething too. Rub some teething gel over the gums. It will
reduce his discomfort. (The mother nods another thank you and leaves. Before the door gets closed,
there is a cursory knock and another doctor of about 28-29 years of age, a bit on the shorter side,
handsome attractive features and a cheerful expression walks in.)
Good Morning Dr Nisha!
Nisha: Good morning Dr Vishaal. What can I do for you?
Vishaal settles himself down in the opposite chair: I wanted to do some advance booking. (Nisha
looks at him as if waiting for him to continue. Realizing that getting this lady to be actually curious
and talkative about something is an impossible task, he exhales loudly and continues) Talk over CGH
is that you are going to be one of THE best paediatricians this hospital has ever seen. So I thought I
will do some advance booking for the time when Anu and I have kids of our own so that our kids get
the best doctor.
Nishas eyes smile slightly: Thank you for the compliment Dr Vishaal but irrespective of how good
or bad I am, I dont think Anu would take your kids to any other doctor. So you..or rather your kids
are stuck with me.
Vishaal acknowledges that fact with a slight bow of his head: Woh toh hain Dr Nisha. This friendship
that both of you share, is very rare. Both of you are very lucky, you know. Oh..by the way, we are
going to a movie tonight. Want to come along?
Nisha: No thank you. I have a full OPD tomorrow and have to assist Dr Armaan in a surgery which is
at 6 am. You guys go along and enjoy.
Vishaal gets up: one of these days, Dr Nisha..you are going to run out of excuses. We are not going to
give up. (And leaves Nishas cabin)


Once MVM Industries now VM Industries: Conference room:
Manav is pacing from one corner of the room to the other like a caged lion: Crazy! Everyone in here
has gone crazy. Certified lunatics!
Mr Mathur, please..listen to us. There is no other way..
Manav whirls around to face the speaker. A 60+ man who had been the head of the companys legal
team for the last 3 decades: Mr Khanna, let me make one thing very clear. I am NO LONGER a part of
this company. If it hadnt been my dads wish in his will, I would have sold all my shares and cut
myself off completely.
Khanna: I understand that Mr Mathur. (A slight pause and then his voice turns tentative and soft) Aditi
ke jaane ke baad Malhotra sahib ne apna partnership tod diya aur apne shares inn dono ko bechkar US
chalegaye. MVM Industries VM Industries bangaya. And your father and Vermaji ran it quite well.
After your parents passed away, handling such a huge company single handedly has become too much
for Vermaji too. And as you can see, VM Industries is in the verge of closing down now. Its been
operating in red for the last year and any longer..
Manav: So shut it down! (He looks at Yograj) Sorry uncle but isnt it a better option?
Sir..please. Its not just about the company. There are about 1000 families living under this company.
The workers here have been with VM for the last so many decades. Hum sab ke baare mein toh
sochiye sir. Aap company band kardenge toh hum sab ka kya hoga?
Manav looks at the Union leader and his obvious pain and anger. If it was just about the company, he
would have just said to hell with it and walked out. But 1000 families! Their livelihood! Is it fair to
jut brush off and walk away? All said and done it was his fathers company too. His father had been a
part of it until his dying day. Can he turn his back on all that? But this??!!
Khanna observes that Manavs pacing has stopped. He realizes that while none of their arguments
made any impact on him, the desperation of the union leader has got to him: Mr
Mathur..Manav..please..just listen to what I have to say. To bring this company out of red, we need
loan. A large amount. You and Mr Verma are the majority shareholders. Even if you do apply for a
loan jointly, the banks will not approve because you are a sleeping partner and as you yourself rightly
said, there is nothing holding you down here. You can walk out at any time. If we are to present a
united front for the loan sanction, both of you need to prove that you are one team. And the fastest and
the best way to prove that is..
Yograj continues: To marry my daughter.
Manavs face once again takes the look of utter disbelief: Marry NISHA? Uncle, she is just a kid!
Yograj for the first time smiles: She is almost 26 Manav. A paediatrician working in CGH. She has
grown up.
Manav digests that titbit for a few moments then: And she is younger to me by 15 years! Jeez! I
mean..NISHA?
Yograj: In the long run, I dont think your age difference will matter so much Manav. I will call her

here now. Meet her and talk to her. Give your final decision after that. Ok? (Then as if the matter has
already been decided, Yograj picks up the phone and calls Nisha.) Nisha? Are you back home from
CGH? Can you come to the office now?..yes..yes beta its important..ok. Come soon beta. We are
waiting. (He puts down the phone and looks at everyone in the room before landing on Manav.) She is
on her way. Suzan, bring us all some refreshments please? (Yogs secretary nods and leaves the
room.)
Manav frowns. Thats it? She is on her way? No questions asked? Since when did this girl become a
yes master? So the unruly teenager is now a doctor, huh! No doubt she would walk in here, listen to the
whole thing and tell everyone to fuck off. Nisha was a lot of things but tactful? Nah! Convincing him
was one thing. But convincing HER? Wonder how Khanna is going to manage that Hercules task!

About 30 minutes later: Outside the conference room:

Nisha walks into the office and heads towards the conference room only to get literally pulled back
into a cubicle by Anu. A girl who hasnt changed much in the last decade. Still short, still a head full
of curls. The only thing thats obviously changed is her style of dressing. As a teenager, she was a
perpetual tomboy..forever in jeans and shirts. Now that image has been replaced by a woman in style
with her formal skirt and top with her hair pinned into a top knot and minimal make up: Tu yahaan
kya kar rahi hain Nisha?
Nisha shrugs: I dont know. Papa wanted me to come.
Anu frowns: To the office? Why?
Nisha: I dont know. He said its urgent.
Anu lowers her voice: HE is still there in the conference room. You sure you want to go in there now?
Nisha blinks slowly: Yes.
Anu sighs in exasperation: Yaar!! Ok..go. But once you are out, I want word by word of what
happened in there. Ok? No monosyllable answers or statements. Got that?
Nisha: Ok. Ab mein jaau?
Anu gives her a tight hug: Ok. Go. Good luck. Take care. Ok? (Nisha nods and goes towards the
conference room at the end of the hallway.)

Manav looks up from the reports he has been studying at the sound of a soft knock and the door being
opened. Nisha walks in, still in the same sari that she wore to CGH minus the white coat. His cool
narrow eyes look at the classy classic woman walking up to him up and down with his eyebrow raised
in silent question cum appreciation of the feminine beauty walking into the room. Long black hair
reaching to her waist left loose, wide full mouth that looked sinfully soft and eyes so solemn that he
wonders if this woman ever smiled. There was a strange kind of stillness even in her movement. It
takes a moment for Yog to realise that Manav did not recognise her at all. A decade is indeed a long

time in which his daughter has turned from a teenager to a woman. He would probably have
recognised her if she had been here for his parents funeral. But she was in Kolkata then doing her
MBBS and rarely visited her home even during the vacations. The news of his parents death had hit
her hard but she didnt come as it would only feed the gossip and Manav didnt need any more
reminders of the past. Yog comes back to the present when his daughter gives him a small nod in
greeting along with her standard excuse of a smile before going around the table to stand right beside
Manav, who is still following her movements and looking at her with a small frown on his face as if
he is trying to place her.
Nisha looks at Manav, swallows and says: Hello Manav. How are you?
His eyes widen a little and he swivels his chair so that he is facing her before getting up to stand
before her, almost dwarfing her with his height. There is a brief flare of recognition followed by
incredulity in his expression. Then its gone and his gaze hardens as he looks over her again, this
time in slow deliberation: Well well well..whom do we have here! The kitten has finally grown up!
(Then he extends his hand although his eyes continue to mock her.) Hello Miss..sorry..Dr Nisha
Verma.
Nisha looks at his hand for a few moments in silence before joins hers in a formal handshake: Nice to
see you after a long time Manav.
Manav huffs out a small sarcastic laugh: Yeah. Its indeed a pleasure to meet my fiance.
Nishas hand jerks in his before she withdraws it completely. Her startled eyes meet his for a second
before turning to look at her father. Yograj sighs and runs his hand over his bald head: Sit down
Nisha. We have to tell you something. (She takes a seat and he and Khanna explain everything to Nisha
using a simple language as she never had any head for business since the beginning. She listens
without interrupting either of them and once they are done talking, she looks at Manav.)
Nisha: So we are to get married to save the company?
Manav shrugs: Apparently. And contrary to my own belief that I dont give a damn, I find that I DO
give a damn for the employees and the company.
Nisha: The loan will be approved without any problem if you are related to my father.
Manavs sharp eyes continue to stare back at her: Yes. The bankers will have more guarantee that I
wont quit and get out after getting the loan.
Nisha looks at everyone in the room before once again looking back at Manav: Ok.
The whole room erupts into a cacophony of loud excited voices. Khanna walks to Nisha and makes
her sit down: Nisha..koi jaldi nahi hain beta. If you want to think for a bit before..
Nishas calm voice echoes in the once again silent room: No uncle. I am fine.
Manav leans over the table bracing his palms on the top so that he can stare down at her. His voice
although controlled, is blatantly provoking: So you are ready to marry me? A man 15 years older
than you?
Nisha looks at him without backing down: Yes.

Manav: Why? You still not over your crush on me?


Yog interrupts: Manav..please..not here.
Manav raises his palm and stops Yog without taking his eyes away from Nisha: Why not uncle? After
all, its not a secret, is it? So little- Nisha-now-all grown up! Tell me..you still have a crush on me? Or
are you expecting me to just marry you and go off to Mumbai and leave you in peace? Is that it? Is
that what you are expecting? (Out of the corner of his eye, Manav observes Yog silently hustling
everyone out of the room and within seconds the conference room is empty save the two of them and
the door closes softly)
Nisha blinks slowly: I am not expecting anything Manav.
Manavs eyes make a leisurely journey all over her face and neck before once again locking his eyes
with hers: But just in case, let me make something very clear to you. If I marry you, I am not going to
leave you and go off. We will live together, eat together and..sleep together. I am going to be working
at VM again..am going to be your dads partner cum son in law. Damaad Nisha..ghar jamai nahi.
Nisha looks at him: I understand.
Manavs eyes glitter in apparent challenge: 10 years back in a span of one week, everyone I thought I
could count on, betrayed me. But you! (He points finger at her) Your betrayal was the last straw that
broke me and made me turn my back on this company, this city and my parents. If I come back now, I
am going to take back what should have been mine and in the process, I will be taking you too.
Nisha wets her lips and swallows. The betrayal had been like pulling the tiger s tail and now she and
the rest have to face his fangs and claws: I know.
Manav remains silent for a few moments and then: You seem to have turned into quite a good lapdog
in the last decade. So trot back out there and tell your darling daddy that VM will be saved. (Nisha gets
up to go.)
Manav also takes a step back and extends his hand: Good Luck Nisha Verma soon to be Nisha Mathur.
I think you are going to need it.
Nisha joins her palm to his and they exchange a formal handshake: Welcome back Manav!

Chapter 3

Marry! He is going to marry me! I am going to be Mrs Manav Mathur! He will be my husband! I get to
live with him forever! Until my last breath! I can see him..feel him..touch him..whenever I want!
Finally! And he said!! He said live together, eat together and and and sleep together. (Nisha, standing
in front of the mirror in her room and looking at her reflection covers her cheeks with her palms.
Her eyes for once, are not blank. The passion and love and excitement in them is literally brimming
to the point of overflowing) He will hug me..kiss me..and..(She closes her eyes and hugs herself as if
trying to imagine the feel of his arms around her and goosebumps raise all over her body and a
delightful blush stains her cheeks.) How would it be! I dont even know what to feel any more! My one
dream..the one I thought would never ever come true is standing right before me! (She once again
opens her eyes and starts critically examining her reflection.) Will he like me..the way I look now? I
am not as tall as SHE was. Would he find me too thin? When I saw him today in the conference
room..looking more handsome and dashing that I ever remembered him to be.. His tall frame now
looking more muscular giving him almost a rugged look and the eye glasses looked more like a sexy
prop than a sign of age. God! I dont know how I kept the unruffled faade in place when all I wanted
to do was throw my arms around him and brokenly cry out I missed you so much! Please dont leave
me again Tiger! Please! I am sorry for everything. Really really sorry. (Her lips tremble a little) I
know he is not going to forgive me so easily..that for him, this marriage is way of probably making me
pay for what I did all those years ago. He would come back to Ahmedabad and his old life for the sake
of the company and its employees. But he wants a personal payment from me and this is it. I was 15
and at that time, all I could think was the fact that he would never look at me the way I look at him..he
would never love me the way I love him..that for him, I am a kid / buddy rolled into one. But I so
wanted to be with him once..just once as a woman. As HIS woman. I wanted to click some pictures and
live on those pictures and those moments for the rest of my life and he need never know about any of it.
I never once thought of how he would feel if he comes to know about it. Of the way his eyes would burn
fury and hatred and disgust. The last straw that broke me Thats what he had said today. (She closes
her eyes in pain and obvious regret) I broke him and his trust with my one impulsive act. I was the
reason he left his legacy, his fathers legacy, his home and this city. If I hadnt done what I did, he
probably would still have been here all these years. He would have coped and would have counted on
my friendship to be there for him during the tough time. He would have continued to work at VM and
for sure, would have taken it to new levels. (She quietly opens her wardrobe and pulls out a soft worn
out and faded t shirt and hugs it to herself closing her eyes in a blissful sigh. The year she turned 15,
all of them had played Holi at Mathur uncles residence and her dress got wet and ruined beyond
repair. She had run into the shower and later on Manav had lent his t shirt for her to wear on top of
her jeans. He later forgot to ask for it and she didnt remind and return. She kept it with her all these
years. Whenever things became too much, she wore it and imagined his strong arms going around
her in comfort and love.) When uncle and aunty passed away in that accident, I wanted to go running
to him. I wanted to be there for him during that time and tell him, Its ok. i am here for you. I will
always be here for you. I had even bought the flight ticket but then dad said it might not be a good
idea to give more fodder to gossip..that Manav would not appreciate it or welcome it. I didnt care
about the gossip. I never did. But Manav! The thought that I would probably add more burden to him
stopped me in my tracks and I backed off. But now..now I need not back off any more. I can make him
lie down with his head resting in my lap and..(Her eyes open and the light in them dims before going
out until once again all her feelings are completely hidden behind the veil of indifference.) No. I cant

do that. If he realizes that I love him, he will not go ahead with this marriage. He will once again look
at me with disbelief and disgust. No. Let him think that I am marrying him only for the sake of VM.
Then may be after a few years down the line, when he lets go of his anger and pain..when he will look
at me and smile and forgive..then..may be..
Anu, standing at the door for the last 10 minutes, looks at her friend with pain filled eyes before
schooling her own expression and knocking softly at the door. She observes the hasty way in which
Nisha puts the t shirt back in her wardrobe: Hey Nisha..Yog uncle is calling you re.(Nisha nods and
runs a brush through her hair) Tujhe pata hain na ki Manav already left for Mumbai?
Nisha: Haan. I heard him preponing his flight when I was at VM
Anu pulls Nishas arm so that she is facing her and looking at her: What else did he talk to you today?
Other than..
Nisha shrugs: Kuch nahi. Khannaji said that he has to move here and start living and working here
before the bank approves the loan so he went back to Mumbai to work out his 4 week notice period in
the present company. He told papa that he would be back next month and will be moving into his
house. He wants it cleaned up and ready for occupation before that.
Anu sighs: Nisha..mein Khannaji aur uncle ki baat nahi kar rahi hoon. Mein TUMHAARI baat kar rahi
hoon. What did he talk to YOU?
Nisha: Kuch nahi. He wished me luck and said we will meet on the day of the wedding.
Anu hugs Nisha impulsively: Yaar..I dont even know if all this comes under good news or bad news.
Nisha smiles a little: Tere best friend ki shaadi tereliye bad news hain kya? Dont worry Anu. Achcha
chal..papa wait kar rahe hain na. (Anu nods) aur sunn..i want to renovate Manavs house and get it
ready in this period. Will you help me? We will hire some interior designers and Hiraman Kaka can
supervise when both of us are at work. Hmmm?
Anu grins a little and the excitement of the impending wedding of her best friend starts taking over
her: I will pull in Rangu also over the weekends. Hum dono ka bhi practice hojaayega for the time we
go for our own house hunting. You gave the news to Rohan?
Nisha: No. Not yet. I will tell him during our weekend call.
Anu hesitates a moment: Nahi. I will give a call and tell him later. (Hearing her father call out to her
again, both of them hastily leave the room.)

The next day: At CGH: Armaans cabin:

Nisha clears her throat: I..I need to tell you something else too. (Armaan stops scribbling the
prescription and looks up) I am going to get married..I mean..Manav and I are going to get
married..next month.
Under different circumstances, Nisha would have laughed out loud at the expression on Armaans
face. Shocked speechless is putting it mildly. His mouth opens and closes a couple of times like a fish

as if he is trying to say something but either his vocal chords have quit on him or his brain has quit on
him: Wh..how..I mean..what..(He shakes his head a little before continuing) I think you need to expand
that statement. He came to Ahmedabad yesterday, preponed his return trip and left by early evening.
Yes, I know because Abhi and I had planned to meet him but..when did all THIS happen? I mean..
(Nisha quietly and concisely narrates everything that happened in the last 24 hrs. Armaan listens to
everything without interrupting) Nisha..are you sure? (Nisha shrugs and nods) And he is absolutely ok
with this marriage?
Nisha thinks for a moment before replying: I think he has made his decision. He is not the kind of a
person who would be ok with hundreds of people losing their jobs and if there was a way for him to
save them, he will do it. He sees this marriage as a way and so he is doing it.
Armaans look turns probing: And..has he spoken to you? Has he forgiven you?
A few heartbeats of silence and then: If you can give me the prescription for the childs post-operative
meds, I will make a move sir. The parents are waiting in my cabin. (Armaan nods silently and hands
over the prescription. Just as Nisha turns to go, there is knock on the door. A lady of about 34-35,
slim with long black hair in a top knot, large wide eyes in a small oval face wearing a brick coloured
silk sari enters the cabin.)
Nisha nods: Good morning Dr Sruti
Sruti smiles warmly: Good morning Nisha. How are you?
Nisha: I am fine. Aap ka premature baby incubator se baaahar aagaya hain. You can tell the mother to
relax now. He is out of danger with a healthy pair of lungs.
Srutis smile turns into a grin: Oh wow! Great news. Thanks Nisha. Janki bai kehrahi thi ki parson
saari raat tum yahi thi uss baby ke saath. Great job.
Nisha: Thank you Dr Sruti. Chalti hoon.
Sruti nods and gives a small wave. Once the door closes softly behind Nisha, Sruti turns to look at
Armaan with a small pout: You were supposed to pick me up this morning Armaan.
Armaan runs a distracted hand through his hair and gives Sruti an apologetic look: I am really sorry
Sruti. It just..I dont know..dimaag se nikal gaya.
Sruti seats herself opposite to him: Thats ok. Par baat kya hain Armaan? Kal se dekh rahi hoon. You
are distracted. Aur kal toh saath mein lunch bhi nahi kiya. Is everything ok? Abhimanyu?
Armaan: Yeah yeah Abhi is fine. He is absolutely fine and I am fine too. Its just..I dont know..I am
feeling a little out of sorts. Thats all. I am fine now. Dont worry.
Sruti places her hand over his: Agar koi baat hain toh bataana. Ok? Share karnese problems ghat ti
hain. And you know I am always there for you, right? I have always been there for you.
Armaan nods: Yes. Yes I know. I probably dont deserve it but believe me, I am grateful.
Srutis grip tightens: Armaan, I know that there are things in your life that you have not shared with
me. And I will wait for the day when you can trust me enough to do that. No matter how long it takes, I
will wait. Abhi chalti hoon. Buss wohi poochne aayi thi. I have a surgery scheduled so you go ahead

and have your lunch. Ok? (Armaan gives her a small smile and nods.)

2 weeks later: Verma Residence:

Yog walks into the house: Nandini..Nandini..kahaan ho?
Ji aayi! (A fair woman of medium height and slightly rounded figure in a cotton sari walks into the
main hall) Ji..baat hogayi Manav se?
Yog nods: Mandir mein shaadi keliye usne haan boldiya hain. I went ahead and cancelled the wedding
hall that we had booked earlier.
Nandini sits down in the sofa with a disappointed sigh: Kya socha tha aur kya horaha hain ji? I thought
after everything that happened all those years ago, if we had a grand wedding and if we invite
everyone to it, it will negate the gossip to a large extent. Aur humaari toh ek lauti beti hain.
Yog pats her shoulder consolingly: I dont think we can do anything about it now. The moment I
started talking about wedding hall and grand wedding, Manav had put his foot down and said he is not
ready for that kind of a thing. Said he wants things to be as simple as possible..and if all we want is
Gods blessings, we can get them just as easily in some temple. Itna mat socho Nandini. Ek tarah se
dekhajaaye toh yeh jo kuch bhi horaha hain..achcha hi horaha hain. Its a way of righting a wrong. If
we think Aditi betrayed Manav, then Nisha also did the same thing.. Maybe worse considering her age.
(Then he gives a quick look around) Waise Nisha hain kahaan?
Nandini leans her head back on the sofa and closes her eyes: Woh aaj kal ghar mein rehti hi kab hain
Yog? Hospital ya toh Manav ke ghar renovation aur paintings check karne. She just comes home to
sleep thats it.
Yog: Lekin usse bhi toh apne shaadi ki shopping karni hain na.
Nandini: Usse toh koi interest hi nahi hain. Kehti hain kuch bhi chalega. Anu is taking care of the
whole shopping thing. And we are not inviting a lot of people right? Just the close circle of friends
and relatives.
Yog: I think we should invite Armaan and Abhi too. They were once close friends of Manav and
Nisha now works as Armaans junior. If Manav questions, we can say he came as Nishas senior.
Nandini: I dont know Yog..the way this guy is..pata nahi kab kissbaat par bhadak jaaye!
Yog: Dont worry so much. Sab kuch teek hojaayega. Ek baar yeh company phir se apne paao par
khada hojaay then slowly everything will fall into place. We just need to be patient until then.
Nandini gives him a resigned look: Do we have a choice Yog?

And before they realize, the next two weeks are also up and Manav sends a message to Yog that his
flight would be landing the evening before the wedding day. Anu and Vishaal volunteer to formally
receive the groom and help him out with the logistics. Yog gives them the go ahead and instructs them

to also invite Manav for dinner that night at the residence.


Nisha, who is sitting with mehendi filled hands and feet looks at them with her feelings completely
hidden behind her expressionless eyes: He wont come.
Nandini: He will. He will. It will give a chance for both of you also to spend some time before the
wedding na beta. Woh zaroor aayega.
Nisha doesnt reply but the way she looks at Anu conveys the message that she is not expecting him to
come. Anu and Vishaal exchange understanding looks and with a wave make their way out to go to the
airport.

Ahmedabad Airport:

Vishaal, who is leaning against the barricade looks at Anu: Anu, is Nisha really happy?
Anu: Why do you ask?
Vishaal shrugs: Its tough to say what she is thinking na. Nisha pehli aisi ladki hain jisse mein padnahi
pata. Warna toh usually girls are like open books. One can easily read if one is interested.
Anu slaps his back in mock anger: Girls are not open books. We are complex creatures and show
only what we want you all to read.
Vishaal: Really?
Anu nods: Haan. Agar tum vakai ladkiyon ko padne mein maahir ho toh batao ki iss waqt mein kya
sochrahi hoon.
Vishaal looks into her eyes for a few moments before answering: You are just relieved that the topic
has moved away from Nisha and her feelings. You dont want to discuss them with me and are trying
your level best to divert my attention.
Anu quickly looks away from him and loses her smile: Aisa kuch nahi hain Vishaal. Nisha..Nisha used
to be one of the most expressive people one could ever come across. Uske dil ki baat uske chehre par
saaf dikhta tha. But then she slowly realized that people take advantage of that and hit her where it
hurts the most. So she learnt to hide everything behind that wall of indifference. Its not that she doesnt
feel or that she is cold. Its just that she feels too much and doesnt want everyone to know that.
Vishaal pulls Anu into a one armed hug: Hey, I realized that quite some time back Anu. I didnt mean
to spoil your mood. I was just teasing.
Anu leans her head on Vishaals shoulder: I know. Par koi kuch bhi kahe..I am happy that she is getting
married to Manav. Warna woh zindagi bhar aise akele hi rehjaati. I just hope Manav also realizes this
soon. (Passengers start piling out of the arrival lounge and Anu rises on her toes to look around) woh
rahe! JEEJAJI! JEEJAJI YAHAA! (She waves frantically until Vishaal pulls her arm) I dont think he
knows you are his saali Anu. Better call him by name.
Anu sighs: MANAVJI! Mr MANAV MATHUR!! OVER HERE!

Manav pulls his luggage cart to a stop and looks around with a frown on his face. A short girl with
curly hair and a huge grin on her face comes bouncing towards him: Ji?
Anu shifts from one foot to another in obvious excitement: Hi! You didnt recognize me? I am Anu.
Aapke Nisha ki best friend? Yaad hain?
Manavs frown clears and he gives the girl a quick look up and down: Aah..Anjali Solanki! How are
you?
Anus grin widens: I am fine. I am fine. Aap kaise hain? Mein toh kab se aap ko jeejaji jeejaji pukaar
rahi hoon aur aap hain ki sunhi nahi rahe the.
Manav raises his eyebrow: Aap meri saali kab se bangayi Anjali?
Anu: Jab se aap Nisha ke honewaale bangaye tab se. Oh aur yeh hain Dr Vishaal..my friend and
Nishas colleague in CGH.
Vishaal extends his hand: Hello Mr Manav. Pleasure to meet you.
Manav shakes his hand with a small smile: Hello. So are you guys going somewhere or..?
Anu shakes her head rapidly: No no no no..we are your welcoming committee. Dulha aaaraha hain
aur airport mein koi receive na kare..aise thoda hi na hota hain? Chaliye chaliye..aap ka sab luggage
aagaya? (Anu barely gives Manav time to reply before she continues) Aap ko pata hain..Nisha ke
haathon mein mehendi lagchuki hain. Bahut pyaari lagrahi hain. Aap dekhenge toh buss dekhte
rehjaayenge. Aaj shaam ko dinner hain na. Aap aayenge toh you can see for yourself.
Manav: Dinner?
Anu: Haan. Kal shaadi hain toh aaj uncle ne aap ko unke ghar dinner pe bulaaya hain. Buss aap aur
kuch nazdeeki rishtedaar aur dost.
Vishaal intervens: Mr Manav, we are formally inviting you for the dinner on behalf of Yog uncle.
Manav: Mr..Dr Vishaal, thank you. But I dont think I can make it. I am too tired. The last one month
was pretty hectic and I havent got a single moment for a breather. So I am going to go home now and
crash. (A slight pause) That is..if my home is fit for some kind of occupation.
Anus face falls a bit on hearing that he is not going to come but at that last bit she perks up again: Fit?
Oh..you are in for a surprise jeejaji. Chaliye chaliye..we will drop you at your place. Aap ko pata
hain..I work at VM now.
Manav: Uh huh..as?
Anu: GM Finance.
Manav: Impressive. So you did your MBA?
Anu nods vigorously: From Delhi University.
Manav grins: Uh huh! So you were in touch with Nisha despite your different career choices, huh!
Anu smiles in fond remembrance: Ji. It never mattered to us. We got together as frequently as we
could and the rest of the time, it was letters, emails, phones..I have loads of friends. But no one can

take Nishas place. She is the best.


Manav: Chalo achcha hain..good to know that she didnt backstab you too.
Vishaal holds Anus wrist and squeezes a warning to shut her mouth before she can blast off and tries
to divert the topic: Leejiye. Gaadi tak pahoonchgaye. Mr Manav, please aap jaake baitiye, mein yeh
luggage rakhke aata hoon.
The driver rushes to open the trunk and load the luggage and within minutes, the car is on its way to
Manavs residence with Vishaal in the front seat beside the driver and Manav and Anu in the back seat.
The journey is made with Anu gritting her teeth and remaining silent and Vishaal trying to make
polite conversation. Soon they reach Manavs home. For once, Manav is rendered completely
speechless. The house has been transformed into a beautiful home. The front lawn and plants are lush
and green and the house freshly painted and shining. Seeing his reaction, Anus temper cools down a
little: Kaisa laga?
Manav nods distractedly and makes his way inside with Vishaal taking out the keys and unlocking the
main door. The interior has mostly been kept the same as before with a few changes wherein the worn
out furniture has been replaced by new one. The colours of the wall also have been changed a bit but
the end result has given the whole house a warm homely feeling. One of the walls in the main hall had
the photograph of his parents, not the traditional kind but, one that was taken during one of their
family vacation. His mom was laughing out loud at a joke that his dad had cracked and his dad was
looking at her with loving smiling eyes. Below it hung another frame that had all 3 of them that was
taken during one Diwali with lamps around them and fireworks in the background. Manav touches the
photograph of his parents with slightly trembling fingers: Who..(Realising that his throat has clogged
up, he clears it and continues) Who did all this?
Anu smiles: Nisha. The last one month she spent all her free time here and Vishaal and I helped a bit
when she was at CGH. Aap ko pasand aaya? Ooper aap ka kamra bhi ready hain. She chose everything
herself. The paints, wall hangings, furniture..
Manav cuts in: Thank you..both of you. But who paid for it?
Anu: Uh..what?
Manav turns to look at Anu: Mera matlab hain saali sahiba, inn sabkeliye paise kisne diye?
Anu gives an awkward smile: Nisha ne.
Manav frowns: Nisha ne ya Yog uncle ne?
Anu: Nahi nahi..Nisha ne. She has been working at CGH for the last 8 months na. And they pay her
well and before that she had her stipend during her internship..she never spent any of it. It was just
lying there in her account. so..honestly..she didnt take a pie from uncle.
Manav: And how much did all this cost?
Anu: How..how does it matter Jeejaji?
Manav raises his eyebrow again: You are GM Finance. So I assume you kept track of this. Now I am
asking you..how much did the whole thing cost?

Anu: The exact amount is in my laptop but roughly it comes to about 3.2 lakhs.
Manav opens his bag pack and pulls out his check book, scribbles, and signs before passing it on to
Anu: Please make sure this is deposited into her account as soon as possible.
Anu doesnt take the check: Par kyon jeejaji? Ab yeh ghar toh uska bhi honewaala hain na. I mean she
is going to be living here from tomorrow. Toh kya farak padta hain?
Manav takes Anus hand and puts the check in her palm: This is MY house and I dont want someone
else spending their money on it. So please..give it to her or better yet, deposit it in her account.
Before Anu could blow off, Vishaal comes to the rescue again: Mr Manav, we didnt know if you
would have had time for shopping and all that so Nandini aunty and I got some sherwaanis for you to
wear for the wedding tomorrow. We got 3 so you can pick and choose whichever you like. Aap yahi
rukiye mein abhi laata hoon. (Saying that he rushes out and comes back with a couple of shopping
bags)
Manav smiles at him: Thank you Dr Vishaal. (He randomly pulls out one from one of the bags. Its a
maroon gold sherwaani with gold colour pyjama and maroon top with gold embroidery and sequin
design.)
Anu glares at Vishaal: I told you not to buy maroon na. Nisha hates that colour.
Manavs eyes light up and his smile widens: Oh, she hates maroon, does she?
Vishaal: Koi baat nahi. There are two more in that. One blue with silver and one cream with red.
Manav continues to smile: Thank you Dr Vishaal. (He then turns to look at Anu) Is that all?
Taking the hint, both Anu and Vishaal back off: Ok. See you Mr Manav. I will come and pick you up
tomorrow morning. Hiraman kaka sent you something to eat and Ni..we have stocked the refrigerator.
So..
Manav gives Anu a lopsided smile: Goodnight Sali sahiba and thank you for all the wonderful help.
Anu frowns at the way he says it but Vishaal pulls her away from the room.

Next day morning: Ram Krishna Mandir:
The mandap is decorated with red, white and yellow flowers along with red and pink gauze curtains.
Hawan kund is placed in the middle and the pandit is already getting things ready for the marriage.
Relatives and friends have already arrived and have been seated around in the open place around the
mandap. Two flower decorated cars reach the temple from opposite directions almost at the same
time. Anu and Nandini get down from one car and Anu extends her hand inside. A henna decorated
hand is placed in hers and Nisha steps out of the car. A vision of loveliness and graceful beauty in
mustard yellow with silver beads and sequins interwoven into an intricate design and red and yellow
bangles adorning both the hands, a gold and ruby choker around the neck and the ghoonghat covering
her knotted hair. Manav steps out from the second car looking as dashing as ever in the maroon gold
sherwaani minus the pagdi. Anu glares daggers at him which only manages to widen his grin before

his gaze slides and rests on his bride as if waiting for her reaction. Calm cool eyes stare back at him
before she takes a couple of steps and stands in front of him at the bottom of the temple steps. The air
fairly crackles with their gazes meet.
Nisha: Hello Manav.
Manav continues to look at her: All set to become Mrs Mathur, Dr Verma?
Before she could reply, a dashing handsome young man of about 25-26 wearing a t shirt and jeans
comes behind her and closes her eyes. Startled, she feels the hand thats covering her eyes with her
own palm and an involuntary smile graces her full lips: Rohan! I thought you said you cant make it?
With a grin, Rohan removes his palm and gives her a one armed hug before stepping away: Mere
sabse achchi dost ki shaadi hain aur mein na aau? Not possible. My superior gave me the go ahead. So
I..(he gestures with his palm that he flew down.)
Nisha looks at Manav, who is observing the exchange in simmering silence: Manav, this is my friend,
Rohan. He was my classmate in school.
Rohan extends his hand: Hello Manavji.
Manav shakes his hand: Hi. Another childhood dost I see! I remember you too. You were her shadow
in those days. The last I remember, you were in your 11th, right?
Rohan nods with a smile: I just cleared my IPS.
Manavs eyebrows almost touch his hairline: Policewala!
Nandini: Muhurat ka samay horaha hain. Andar chale Manav? Nisha?
Seeing Nisha and Rohan discussing something in low tones, Manav extends his hand to her: Baaten
khatam hogayi ho toh..chale? (Nisha places her hand in his and Manav observes Rohan taking a step
back quietly and Anu placing her hand softly on his shoulder.)
Nisha looks at the man standing beside her. Manav! My husband..my partner for life. For me, this is
the most memorable day of my life. The day I finally became his. Forever. I will never forget a single
moment of this day. The moment when my hand was placed in his during the kanyadaan..the
pheras..each step of his followed by a step of hers for the first 4 pheras and then the way he stepped
back and let me lead the way for the rest of the 3..the slight betraying tremble of his fingers when he
was about to put sindoor in my maang. Why? Had he felt the intensity of the whole ritual as I did? Had
he felt the invisible bond tightening around them like she did? Or..had he been wishing I was someone
else? No. No negative thoughts today. It has been 10 years! And I wont think about the past any more.
I wont let it affect my present and my future. Irrespective of what happened or how it happened, he is
now mine. MINE! As I have always been his. When he had come forward to tie the mangalsutra, his
gaze had been intense and probing. As if he was trying to read my thoughts. Was he able to read them?
Was he able to see my desperation to be with him?
Armaan and Abhi, both had attended the wedding. Other than a look and a nod, Manav didnt try to
converse with them in any way. But the locking of his jaw and the glittering eyes indicate that whoever
had dared to invite THIS GUY to HIS wedding was going to pay! After a slight hesitation, both of
them had come forward to wish Nisha: Congratulations Nisha.

Nisha: Thank you sir. Thanks Abhi. (Then she deliberately turns towards Manav) Armaan is now my
senior at CGH. Abhi cleared his M.L recently and practicing law. (Although both Armaan and Manav
nod at each other, neither of them smile or try to shake hands.)
Manav: Congratulations Abhimanyu.
Abhi gives an awkward smile: Thanks Manav.
Manav looks at Nisha: Chalo then lets make a move. I think we are done here.
Yog: Pehle humaare ghar chalte hain Manav. Nisha ki bidaai wahi se hogi.
Manav frowns: Why? Uncle, shaadi mandir mein hochuki hain na. Toh aap bidaai bhi yahi se
kardeejiye. Kya farak padta hain? I have called for the investors meeting this afternoon. So we are
going to go home then I will get changed and come to the office soon after my lunch. Ok? Aap bhi
pahoonchjaayiye. Nisha..
Nisha replies in a calm unperturbed voice: Mein maa se bolke aati hoon. Aap chaliye.
Manav nods: Make it fast. I will be waiting in the car.
Nisha: Ji.

Chapter 4

Armaan and Abhi are on their way back from the wedding in Armaans car with Abhi in the driver s
seat: Bhai, can I say something?
Armaan, who is lost in thoughts, brings himself back to the world: Haan bolo
Abhi: Bhai, ab toh Manav ne bhi shaadi karli..aap bhi karlona. I mean he is moving on in his life. Why
cant you do the same?
Armaan sighs: I dont know Abhi. This guilt na..its a horrible thing. Aur jab tak yeh bojh mere saath
hain, mein kisi aur ko apne zindagi mein involve nahi karna chaahta.
Abhi: Lekin jo kuch bhi hua usme aap ki galti nahi thi bhai. Aap aisa kyon sochte ho? In fact I think
Aditi should have..
Armaan cuts in: Dont start that topic Abhimanyu. I dont want to talk about it. Mein jab bhi woh
sochta hoon mujhe apne aap par sharam aati hain.
Abhi tries to reason: Par bhai..
Armaan: Buss ab aur nahi. I dont want to discuss that now. Aur ab baat karke bhi koi faayda nahi hain.
Abhi: But I think its high time you sit and talk to Manav and explain. Kam se kam aap ke dil ka bojh
toh halka hojaayega na. Aur Srutiji aapkeliye kab tak intezaar karengi bhai? You are not being fair to
her.
Armaan snaps: I never asked Sruti to wait for me Abhi. She was and is free to move on.
Abhi looks taken aback: You really think she could do that? I know I am not an expert in these things
but 6 saal se dekh raha hoon bhai! I see the way she looks at you and I also see the way YOU look at
her. Aur ab Manav ne Nisha se shaadi karliya hain na..
Armaan looks out of the window with a worried expression: You really think either of them is happy
with that marriage today Abhi? Didnt you see the way he spoke to Nisha and Yog uncle?
Abhi nods: I always liked Nisha you know..even when she was a little girl, always tagging Manav
wherever he went..poor guy, he couldnt even come to play basketball with you all without her sitting
in one of the benches and cheering him in her loud excited voice.(He gives a soft laugh) You know I
used to wonder if Manav at least had the freedom to take a shower in privacy. She is a gutsy girl bhai.
After everything, to come back and settle down here in the same city..aur uss din bhi the way she went
to the police station and told what she did..it wouldnt have been easy na.
Armaan: Yeah. She has changed a lot in all these years Abhi. But inside, I think she is still the same
girl. I hope she is happy. She deserves to be happy.
Abhi glances at his brother before turning his attention back to the traffic: Even YOU deserve to be
happy bhai. Please think about it.

Manavs residence:

The flower decorated car comes to a halt in front of the house and Manav and Nisha get down. Manav
looks at the floral pathway that leads from the car to the main door with a frown: Yeh sab kisne kiya?
Nisha adjusts her sari and starts unloading her luggage from the trunk: Hiraman Kaka said he is
going to come here. So maybe he did it. I dont know.
Manav picks up one large carry on and shoulder bag, leaving the smaller one to Nisha and makes his
way to the door: This is it? Your luggage? Or is there more to come in a truck behind us?
Nisha shakes her head: No. This is it. What time is your meeting?
Manav: 2 oclock. God I need to get out of this dress!
Ek minute wahi ruko bitiya.
Both Manav and Nisha stop in their tracks at that. A man of about 55-56 years of age, hair turned
almost grey and wearing a light blue kurta with brown pyjama comes forward carrying an arti ki
thali.
Nisha: Kaka..yeh sab kya hain?
HK smiles: Tum shaadi ke baad pehli baar apne sasuraal mein kadam rakhrahi ho beti. And since I am
the only one here, I am going to do the welcoming rituals.
Manav raises his eyebrow at that but decides to remain silent. HK does the arti for the new couple and
places the rice bowl near Nishas feet: Ab iss kalash ko apne dahine pyer se giraado aur ghar mein
apna kadam rakho.
Nisha softly kicks the rice bowl with her right foot and enters the house and bends to touch HKs feet.
He places his hand on her head in obvious paternal love: Khush raho beti. Sada suhaagan raho.
(Manav smiles a little and does the same. HK awkwardly steps back) Arre arre yeh kya kar rahe ho
saab?
Manav frowns: Kaka, mein aapkeliye saab kabse bangaya? Aap toh mujhe Manav beta bulaate the na.
HK smiles a little: You were young then but you are a grown up now. It wouldnt be right. (He turns
towards Nisha) Beti, andar jaake fresh hojaao aur mein khaana lagaata hoon. Tumne toh subah se
kuch nahi khaaya hain na.
Nisha: Mein woh sab dekhloongi kaka. Aap ghar jaayiye.
HK: Mein kahi nahi jaanewaala. Ab se mein yahi rahoonga.
Nisha gives a startled look first at kaka and then at Manav as if not knowing what to say to that. Kaka
had practically brought her up since she was little and has been her bulwark at the home front since
her childhood. But this is unexpected and she doesnt know how Manav is going to react to it:
Par..kaka..
Manav cuts in: Aap ek condition pe yahaan rehsakte hain kaka. Woh yeh ki aap mujhe saab nahi
bulaayenge. (HK nods with a smile)

Joy brightens Nishas eyes but its too fleeting to be visible and they are once again impassive when
she looks at Manav: Thank you
Manav shrugs and starts walking towards the steps that would lead him to the upstairs master
bedroom, Nishas luggage once again in his hands: At least now I dont have to worry about the kind
of food I would have to eat through your cooking. Kaka, office jaana hain. Khaana lagaayiye please.
After one quick look at Nisha, HK replies: Ji. (And goes off towards the kitchen. Nisha picks up the
carry on and makes her way up the stairs behind Manav.)

That night: Manavs residence:

HK: Beti, Manav ka koi phone aaya kya? Raat hochuki hain na.
Nisha hesitates a bit and standing in the centre of the hall biting her lip before picking up her phone
and calling her dad: Papa?
Yog: Yes beta? Sab teek?
Nisha gives a quick look at HK: Ji. Kaka mere paas aagaye.
Yog gives a small laugh: I know. He refused to stay here..told me and your mom quite some time back
that after your marriage, Chote Sarkar will help your mom and he would be going to stay wherever
you are.
Nisha: Ji..papa..I..can you give me Manavs phone number please?
A slight pause and then: Beta, you dont have his number with you?
Nisha: Ji..nahi..woh..we never got a chance to exchange our numbers.
Yog sighs: Ok. I will sms you the number. Your mom is already missing you. She wants to come by
tomorrow to see how you are doing.
Nisha: Nahi papa. Unse kahiye mein hi aaungi. Kuch din baad. Let me get settled down first. Then one
day on my way back from CGH I will come home. Ok?
Yog smiles: Ok. I will tell her. Take care beta. Aur kuch baat ho toh bataana. Ok?
Nisha: Ji. Thank you papa. Goodnight.
Her phone immediately pings with the incoming sms and she quickly stores the number before
dialing Manav.

VM Industries: Manavs cabin:

Manav stretches himself and rolls his neck to remove the kinks and gives a small sigh of satisfaction.

It had been tough but he did it. He managed to cool down the tempers of the investors and made them
not only back off for another 6 months but also shell a few more of their lakhs into the company in
the next few weeks. The ringing of his phone interrupts his thoughts and he looks at the unknown
number with a small frown before answering: Yes?
Nisha wets her lips: Manav..mein..Nisha..
Manavs lips split into a mocking grin as he seats himself in the chair and props his feet on the table
in front of him: Aaahhh..Mrs Mathur..what can I do for you?
Nisha, who is standing in front of the photo frames hanging on the wall, softly runs her fingers over
Manavs laughing face: How did the meeting go?
Manav: Arre waah..Dr Nisha is interested in my meeting! I am honoured indeed! The meeting went
well..thank you.
Nisha: So you are coming home? I mean..dinner?
Manavs grin widens as he waits for a couple of seconds before answering: Nnoo. A couple of
investors are still dragging their feet so I am taking them out for dinner and charm them out of their
shoes.
Nisha swallows her disappointment and looks at the candle light dinner arrangement that she made in
the dining area. Her voice when she replies, though, is as cool as cucumber: Ok.
Manav: Hum dono ki kurbaani bekaar nahi jaayegi Doctarni Sahiba. Have your dinner and wait for
me. (The last sentence comes out as both a threat and a promise.)
Nisha: Ok. See you then.
Manav huffs out a laugh: Oh yeah..you will definitely see me. (And cuts the call.)
Nisha puts the phone down and looks at HK: Manav ko ek dinner meeting hain kaka. Woh nahi aarahe.
HKs face looks part disappointed and part angry: Apne shaadi ke din?!
Nisha sighs: We got married to save the company kaka. So that will always come first. Aap kuch
khaaleejiye aur sojaayiye.
HK folds his hands: Aur tum bhooki rahogi. Thats why I said I am going to stay here from now on.
You will starve yourself if I am not there around to hound you. (He raises his hand and stops her
words) Nahi. Pehle tum khaao phir mein khaaunga.
Nisha gets up: Achcha chaliye. Dono saath mein khaate hain.
Both of them go to the kitchen and have a light dinner there itself after which they quickly tidy up the
dining area before retiring for the night.
Nisha goes up to the master bedroom and has a quick shower. She opens the box that Anu had given
her the previous evening and takes out the nightdress and slowly hesitantly slides it over her freshly
showered rosy pink body. Its a pale blue..his favourite colour..silk so soft that its wonder it stays on
without sliding off. It is sleeveless with two one inch straps over her shoulders and a self-design
embroidery covering the chest, straps and the back. The rest of it is plain and falls gracefully over her

ankles. It covers the whole body but the way it moulds to the dips and curves, leaves practically
nothing to imagination. Nisha looks at her henna covered palms and the bangles adorning both her
hands. A small A had been inscribed into the middle of it and she had made sure no one would even
notice it. The only jewellery around her neck is her mangalsutra. Her gaze falls on the sindoor box on
the dressing table. With a tiny smile, she opens it and makes sure her maang sindoor is clear and
visible. A slight lip-gloss covers her lips and she brushes her loose left out hair until it shines. Taking
a step back, she looks at herself critically in the mirror. How do I look? Will his eyes light up when he
sees me waiting for him like this? Is this too much? Did I go overboard? She quickly goes back to the
gift box and pulls out the silk robe that goes along with the negligee and knots it around her waist.
There! Thats better! She hugs herself and does a small twirl before coming and sitting on the huge
king size bed. Her fingers run over the white bedspread with tiny blue and pink flowers on it and she
hugs a pillow and closes her eyes on a blissful sigh. Tiger! I never thought this day would come..you
know! (Her eyes turn soft and dreamy and she rubs her cheek over the pillow) But that didnt stop me
from dreaming. I never had any hopes but could never control my dreams. And it was always you in
them..always.

Manav inserts the key to the main door and enters the house. Only the main hall light has been left on
and the rest of the house shredded in darkness. A quick look at the watch suggests 10.30. He throws the
car keys in the direction of the corner table, goes to the kitchen to gulp down some cool refreshing
water from the fridge before slinging his coat over his shoulder and making his way up to his room.
The scene that meets him there stops him in his tracks. Nisha, with her feet curled up under her,
hugging a pillow is fast asleep on the bed. The robe has parted in the middle giving a tantalizing
glimpse of her neck and the sleeve has slid off a little leaving one of her shoulders bare. He throws
his coat carelessly onto the floor before removing his tie and unbuttoning his shirt. His measured
footsteps carry him to the bed and he bends over her with both his arms braced on either side of her
head. His calculating looks takes in her dress, her bangles, the slight ruffling of her hair in the breeze
and her sleeping form. He bends a little more and gives her naked shoulder a small bite. She wakes up
suddenly with a small squeak and her startled, slightly frightened eyes meet his devilish ones. He puts
his finger and stops her flow of words before sliding the same finger down her chin and neck where
he feels her swallow before detouring and cupping her soft breast in his palm. Her breath hitches in a
little and her eyes flutter as emotions and feelings bombard her from all directions. Her palms fist
themselves in the bedspread as nervousness and excitement battle with each other and she looks into
his eyes and finds them resting on his palm thats cupping her breast. After giving it a gentle squeeze,
his fingers find the knot of the gown at the waist and pulls it. Both his hands grip the gown and the
negligee under it over her shoulder and he drags them down simultaneously until she is bared to him
from waist up. Goosebumps raise over her body and her breathing speeds up: Ma..nav?
He doesnt look up at her as he finishes unbuttoning his shirt and throws it down on the floor and
removes his glasses and carelessly places them over the side table before sliding over her and
covering her body with his own. Nisha shudders at the impact of him on her for the first time and her
palms tentatively reach out to touch his cheeks and run her fingers through his hair. With a small
groan, he bends and takes her breast into his mouth and suckles hard. Her back arches up and her
fingers tighten their grip in his hair. He quickly shifts to the second one and gives it the same
treatment. His hands continue to finish undressing her and himself as his lips, tongue and teeth play
havoc over her neck and shoulders and chest before venturing down. Her trembling fingers slide and
grip his back as she feels him for the first time over her. His legs part hers as he settles himself over

her and he removes both her hands from him, places them on the pillow beside her head and grips
both her wrists to make sure she doesnt move them as he starts impaling her. Her hands flutter a little
and her fingers form into fists as her eyes drift close to better experience the feeling. Her cheeks and
neck turn red as her lips tremble and try to form him name before pain takes over and a small scream
escapes her before she could control it. That small sound stills all the movement in him and sweat
beads on his forehead and rolls down his back as he tries to remain still over her. His breath with
lingering smell of whiskey in it huffs out over her face as she tries to adjust to the feel of him inside
her, breaching her for the first time. After a few moments, the pain recedes to the background and her
inner muscles relax and her breath sighs out. Not satisfied with that, he lowers his head once again
and gives a small bite to one of her nipples. The instinctive arch of her back completes his invasion.
Taking that as a sign, he tightens his grip on her wrists and the small cracking sound goes unnoticed
as a few bangles break under the impact. His movements, which start out slow, rapidly gather
momentum until the only sounds in the room are her soft moans. They crash together with a loud
groan from him and a whispered sigh of his name from her. Sweat rolls down their bodies as he
moves, falling on the bed beside her, covering his eyes with one bended arm. Breathing settles down
and with a sigh he gets up from the bed and makes his way to the adjoining bathroom. Just before
going, he looks back at her with that typical lopsided smile of his: I wonder if this was what you
imagined me doing when you drugged me all those years ago. Was it?
Her eyes glaze over for a moment before blanking out all the pain that single comment has caused.
She looks at him silently without betraying her bleeding heart by any word or action before silently
getting up and bending down to pick up her discarded dress. The soft click indicates the bathroom
door being closed and locked and thats when her legs finally give out on her and she collapses on the
floor and closes her eyes as tears roll down her cheeks. Tiger..is this what you have become now?
Because you were not like this before. You were a lot of things but you were never deliberately cruel to
anyone. Is this what I have done to you with my stupid act? Did that one act wipe out all the previous
15 years? I never..you were never an itch that needed to be scratched Manav..It was not some morbid
teenage curiosity that made me do the things that I did. I just wanted a few moments with you. I was
just..desperate and stupid. I just gave my whole self to you including my heart and you were what?
Screwing? Sealing the deal? Is this how its going to be from now on? God in heaven what do I do!

The next morning:

Manav stretches himself and rolls on the bed to pull his wife once again beneath him only to find an
empty space save the few cracked bangles and a noticeable stain on the bedsheet. He sits up and runs a
hand through his dishevelled hair and shakes his head a little trying to dislodge the cobwebs
surrounding his brain, looks at the clock and makes his way to the bathroom. About 20 minutes later,
dressed in a semi-formal shirt and trousers with a jacket thrown over, he makes his way down. HK
comes out of the kitchen: Aap keliye coffee banaadoo ya chai?
Manav frowns: Nisha kahaan hain kaka?
HK: Woh toh hospital chaligayi saa..Manav. 7.30 kohi nikal gayi. Chai ya coffee?
Manav locks his jaw: Coffee kaka. Thank you.

He quickly goes to the downstairs room that has been converted into an office cum study room and
closes the door before pulling out his phone: Where are you? (His voice is seething with anger)
Nisha, who is doing her rounds at CGH walks a little away from the patients: I am at CGH Manav. Kya
hua? (Her calm unperturbed voice only manages to aggrevate him further.)
Manav replies in a low angry tone: Meine kaka ko yahaan rehne diya iska yeh matlab nahi hain ki aap
jab chaahe jo chaahe karsakti hain.
Nisha: Mein samjhi nahi.
Manav: Samjhi nahi? Teek hain toh samjhaata hoon. Suniye. Mrs Mathur, I dont care how good a
doctor you are. But from now on, you are my wife first. I want you to be here when I get up in the
morning. You have to give me coffee and breakfast. Aur raat ko jab thak kar office se lautu toh I want
you there waiting for me. Awake..not asleep.
A slight pause and then in the same calm voice Nisha: I understand Manav.
Manav: Good. (Silence for a few moments on both the ends and then Manav cuts the call angrily and
walks out of the room.)

At CGH:

Nisha finishes the rounds and knocks on Armaans cabin: Good morning sir.
Armaan looks taken aback: Nisha? What are you doing here?
Nisha frowns as if surprised by that question: Duty kar rahi hoon sir. Aap aisa kyon poochrahe hain?
Armaan: But you got married yesterday. Are you not on leave or something?
Nisha shrugs: Manav is busy at the office with that loan and investors and all that. What will I stay
home and do? (Then she hands him a file.) The child is ready for surgery. If you dont mind, can I
scrub along with you? I always wanted to see the procedure.
Armaan gives her a frowning look and then finally shrugs: Sure. Come along then. What about your
OP?
Nisha: It doesnt start until 11 so no issues. (With a small nod, she leaves the cabin.)
The news that the bride of one day is back at hospital doing her duty spreads like wild fire all through
CGH and soon it reaches Vishaal. He gives the staff nurse a glare for gossiping about non hospital
related issues and quickly sends a message to Anu. Around 2 pm Anu calls Nisha: yeh kya horaha hain
Nisha?
Nisha: What Anu?
Anu growls: Naatak mat kar Nisha. Mere saath toh bilkul nahi. Why are you back to work so soon?
You took an off for one week na. Toh?

Nisha sighs and leans back against the chair: I didnt see any point Anu. He is also back to work na.
Anu, who is sitting in her cubicle, leans in and glares at Manav, who is on a conference call for the
last one hour, through the glass separating his cabin from the rest of the office: Yeah..I know..I am
looking at him right now. Honestly, he is has turned into an A class..
Nisha: Anu..
Anu: Aur nahi toh kya yaar..he openly snubs you and uncle..and as if thats not enough, through his
actions, sheher mein dindora peet peet ke bolraha hain ki this marriage is a sham. Samjhta kya hain
apne aap ko?
Nisha: Ghaayal sher hain Anu. Jaane de.
Anu: Ghaav sirf usko hosakta hain kya? Baaki logon ko nahi?
Nisha: Anu..
Anu sighs: Achcha chal chod..yeh bata..how are you?
Nisha: I am fine.
Anu: Raat ko..he was fine last night?
Nisha closes her eyes in pleasure and pain. How do I answer that Anu? Do I tell you that last night
was the most amazing night of my life? That every time he pulled me under him, I went just as eagerly
even when my body was protesting? That I could no more resist him than I could resist breathing? That
once the lights were off, I felt relieved and free to express myself through my body? That I tried to
convey my love for him through my actions? That despite all that, for him, I was just a female body?
That he never once uttered my name or kissed my lips? How do I tell you all that Anu?
Anus voice cuts into her thoughts: Oye..u there? What happened? Everything ok?
Nisha: Yeah..everything is good. Fine.
Anu: You didnt answer me Nisha. How was he with you last night?
Nisha: He was like my husband Anu. He is my husband. And now..I am his wife.

Chapter 5

10 days later: Night time: Manavs residence:

Manav and Nisha are having dinner with HK serving them: Nisha bitiya thoda aur sabzi lo. Yeh toh
tumhe pasand hain na
Nisha: nahi kaka. I am done. Thank you. (She turns towards Manav) Aap?
Manav looks at Nisha with a small frown as HK serves him the sabzi. The words seem to be forced
out of him: You hardly ate anything.
Nisha looks at her plate and then back at him: Nahi. Mein..teek hoon.
HK intervens: Kya teek hoon? Yeh aisi hi hain Manav. Bachpan mein kitni achchi tarah khaati peeti thi.
Tumhe yaad hain na?
Nisha cuts in as if not wanting to be reminded of her childhood or may be anything of the past:
Kaka..aisa kuch nahi hain. Aaj sach mein pet bhargaya hain. (HK shakes his head a little in an I give
up kind of an expression and Manavs sharp eyes take in HKs expression as well as Nishas down
bent head.) Office mein sab kaisa chalraha hain?
Manav raises his eyebrow: You mean your best friend is not giving you daily updates?
Nisha looks at him: No. I didnt ask her.
Manav wipes his hands with the napkin as HK takes the dishes into the kitchen: Its going on. Things
are picking up. We have applied for the loan and I am going to start hiring more people from next
week on. Systems still need to be upgraded..(He looks at her) But I am sure you are not interested in
all those technical details. Come up..I want to have a shower with you. (Nishas face turns pink and
then red as she quickly looks around to make sure HK didnt hear that. Manav raises his eyebrows at
that.) You are really worried about what he would think? (A small pause and then) A pity that thought
didnt cross your mind all those years ago.
Nisha continues to look at him with impassive eyes: You are not going to let me forget that, are you?
Manav comes close until he is almost on her face: Forget? FORGET? (Then immediately lowers his
tone) Whats with you females? You find it so easy to forget? You..Aditi..even she wanted to forget the
whole thing..mein koi mahatma nahi hoon, na kabhi tha aur na kabhi banne ki koshish ki hain. (He
waves his hand) Haan haan jaanta hoon..she is not here to defend herself but sometimes I just..! I loved
her like crazy damn it and she..(He cuts off the rest of the sentence and gives her a quick look, a brief
glimpse of regret flashing in his eyes.)
For once, her face betrays her. It turns pale and lifeless as she quickly averts her eyes and starts
climbing the steps. Her voice though, is steady: Jaanti hoon Manav.
HK comes out of the kitchen: Aur kuch chaahiye Manav?
Manav sighs and runs a distracted hand through his hair: Nahi kaka. I am done. Aap bhi khaana khaake

sojaayiye. Goodnight.
Saying that he quickly climbs the steps that lead him to the bedroom and barges into the room to find
Nisha picking out the clothes from the wardrobe to change: You wont be needing them tonight. (He
picks her up in his arms and carries her into the bathroom and deposits her near the shower area and
starts undressing himself. She quickly blinks back her tears and catches the trembling lower lip
between her teeth. I know he loved her like crazy..but does he STILL love her? Now..when he is with
me, is he wishing me to be her? Why doesnt he at least call me by name so that I will know? He looks
up to find her standing as still as a statue staring at him.) What are you waiting for?
Nisha swallows: Lights..
Manav pushes her back against the wall and flattens himself against her. His bare body covering her
fully clothed one sends shivers of excitement down her spine and her fingers blindly fumble over the
wall until they encounter the switch and the light gets switched off: Why? Why dont you want the
lights on? Why do you like darkness so much? You dont like to see me? You dont like to see
yourself with someone 15 years older than you? Is that it?
She shakes her head at each of those statements. With both her hands help immobile, she leans her
head forward and places a soft tender kiss on his neck and when he just stands still as if waiting, her
mouth travels all over his neck and shoulders peppering kisses wherever she could reach. His hands
release their hold on her wrists and place themselves on the wall either side of her head. Her fingers
comb through his hair at the temples before she rises up on her toes and kisses his cheeks, his eyes,
forehead, nose, and chin before gliding her fingers over his chest, waist and back. Her eyes follow
the movement of her hands and soon her lips follow those seeking hands as his glittering eyes stare at
her with rapt attention. Her lips never leaving his body, she takes a step closer to him forcing him to
back one step and reaches out her hand blindly to turn on the shower. A blast of cold water hits both of
them with full force and drenches them in seconds before the temperature moderates and starts
fogging the mirror. Her arms hug him from behind as her lips continue to kiss and lick the back of
his neck before travelling down to his back. Just when she is about to go down on her knees, with a
swift sudden movement, Manav turns, lifts her up and pulls her top away from her skirt and over her
head. Within seconds, he has her bare and once again pinned to the wall this time with her legs
wrapped around his waist and his body possessing hers. He sees her eyes drift close in obvious
pleasure and approaching ecstasy. Her fingers dig into his shoulders as her lips part with a soft
whisper of his name and with a rough growl his movements pick up. The sound of the shower drowns
out the sound of their thundering hearts as release hits both of them almost simultaneously.

Next day afternoon: CGH: Nishas cabin in OPD:

Dr Nisha, a boy has just been brought in. He was playing and fell down from the top of a slide.
Nisha, stops massaging her neck and gets up with a tired sigh: I am coming Shanti. Where is he? In
the ER?
Shanti looks at her with concern: Ji. Kya baat hain Dr Nisha? Aap ki tabiyat teek nahi hain kya?
Nisha tries to smile: Nothing like that. Just a bit of a headache.

Shanti nods in understanding: Aap ghar kyon nahi chalijaati Dr Nisha? OPD is almost done aur agar
koi emergency hain toh yahaan pe Dr Rihaan hain na. Mein unse kehdoongi. You are looking really
tired.
Nisha nods: Thank you Shanti. I will just see to this kid and will go off. Can you please inform Dr
Vishaal also?
Shanti: Sure maam. Not a problem.
Both make their way to the ER and Nisha checks over the 5 yr old. The wrist is swollen and twisted at
an odd angle. She immediately injects a pain killer and orders some X-rays before informing Shanti
to call Dr Rao, the orthopaedist at CGH. Both his knees are scraped and bleeding so she quickly
cleans them up while reassuring the worried father. Within minutes, Dr Rao comes and she hands
over the case to him, gives her diagnosis and takes his leave.

Manav parks his car that night in the garage and gives a tired sigh. Good thing that he likes a
challenging work environment otherwise he would have fallen apart by now with all the stress. He not
only likes it, he thrives on a challenge and gets a kick out of adrenalin pumping situations. In
Mumbai, he used to end such days with a tough, physically exhausting match of basketball with some
of his colleagues at work but since thats ruled out here; he goes for a run every morning a little
before sunrise. That has become almost his daily routine for the past 10-12 days. Nisha, run, coffee,
shower, breakfast, office, home, dinner and Nisha. A few years ago, if someone had said that this is
what he would be doing, he would either have laughed or punched the guy on his face. Probably latter.
Yet, today, here he is looking forward to..(With all these thoughts running through his mind, he
distractedly gets out of the car, locks the garage and makes his way to the door. But before his fingers
could reach the door bell, HK opens the door. A frown gathers on his forehead as he throws the keys
and wallet on the side table before taking out his phone)
HK says in a low voice: Manav, bura na maano toh zyaada aawaaz mat karna. Nisha bitiya ki tabiyat
teek nahi hain. Woh ooper kamre mein hain.
Manav immediately disconnects the call that he was going to make to Nisha and frowns: Tabiyat teek
nahi hain? Kya hua usse?
HK sighs: Migraine hain. It doesnt hit her as often as before but when it hits her, it hits her real hard.
Woh roshni aur aawaaz dono bardaasht nahi karsakti aur jab tak woh sar dard jaayega nahi, kuch bhi
khaapeenahi paati.
Manav quickly sheds his coat and starts climbing the steps: Kab se hain?
HK: Lagta hain aaj dopahar se. Hospital se 3 baje hi waapas aagayi.
Without another word, he goes into the room only to find it empty. The sounds of retching from the
bathroom propel him in that direction and wordlessly, he goes and holds her head and she is bent
over the toilet puking. Once thats done, he hands over her the mouthwash cup and with her leaning
over the sink, washes her face with cold water. Eyes dulled with pain look at him in the mirror: Thank
you.
He brings her back into the room and pulls out a soft shirt with a pyjama bottom from her cupboard

and efficiently helps her in changing. She almost falls down on the bed and covers her face with a
pillow to block out the light and sound. Manav looks at the pitiful picture that she made in that
position. His fingers ball into fists and as if unable to just leave her like that and go off, he reluctantly
asks: Dawaai liya?
Nisha: Nahi. I forgot to pack them while I was coming here.
Manav sighs: Tell me the name and I will get it.
Nisha: Its ok. Kal tak teek hojaayegga.
Manav sits on the bed and continues to talk in a low tone: Mom had the same migraine problem. Its
not going to go away like that. Give me the name of the tablet.
Nisha: Headset.
Manav nods, gets up and leaves the room silently making sure to close the door noiselessly behind
him. Within a few minutes, he comes back from the 24 hr pharmacy with the tablets in hand: Kaka,
fridge mein ice hain kya?
HK nods and quickly gets out the ice tray. Manav dumps the cubes onto a hanky and makes a cold
compress with it by tying the ends. With the meds and the cold compress in hand, he goes to the room
and makes her sit up to swallow the tablet. She swallows just enough water to get the medicine down
and lies back down again. Before she could pull the pillow over her head, he removes it and puts the
cold compress in its place. The shuddering sigh from Nisha clearly indicates the relief it provides
against the throbbing head. He alternates the compress between the forehead and neck until her deep
even breathing indicates real restful sleep. Manav leaves the compress on her forehead and covers her
lightly with a blanket before sighing and sitting beside her sleeping form again. He talks in a soft
even tone so as not to awaken her: My daadi and my mom both suffered from migraine, you know.
Looks like its the bane of Mathur family bahus. (He rubs his face tiredly and as if unable to stop
himself, continues to talk) Tum kya ho? Kaun ho? Meri chulbuli toh tum ho nahi. She was like a
waterfall and you..you are some still silent lake and I dont even know how deep that lake is! Woh
kahaan chaligayi? Whenever mom and dad visited me in Mumbai, I restrained myself from asking
about anyone and everyone. I didnt want to know and they understood and after a point didnt force
me to listen to them. But I thought you know..I thought of what you would be doing..what kind of new
mischief you would have landed yourself in..Duss saal ke baad mein tumse mila. (He huffs out a small
laugh) You know..realistically, I knew that you would have grown up in these 10 years. But..in here
(He points his finger to his heart) I always saw you as the same chubby cheerful girl who thought the
sun rose and set with me. Now..now I feel that girl is gone and in her place there is this..this..doll. A
beautiful exquisite one which nearly felled me with her beauty but a doll nonetheless. No emotions, no
expressions..kuch nahi. Where once I could read your every thought before it formed fully in your
head, now I feel as if I am looking at some statue. Whats going on behind those deep eyes that just
stare at me? I loved Aditi and her betrayal cut me so deep that I still have the scars to prove it. I could
never trust a woman or a friend again after that. Yeah..I have moved on in my life..in a way but..(He
leans forward and carefully removes the compress, squeezes out the excess water dripping from the
melted ice and puts it back on her forehead again.) What you did that night nearly killed me Chulbuli
because I never expected it. Not for a single second. Not from you. Tum toh meri parchaayi thi. Aur
meri parchaayi ne khud mere saath aisa..!! Amidst all that turmoil and police taking me and
questioning me, when I saw you waiting for me outside the police station, I felt so..so..relieved. Then

when I saw those snaps..I felt as if you were rubbing salt over my already raw wound..that you used
me to satisfy some kind of morbid teenage fantasy. I left. And when I left, along with all this anger and
pain, there was also a kind of helplessness that I was probably letting Aditis killer go free. That
haunted me for a long time but in the end I realized that there was nothing I could do. And when I met
you after all these years, you know what I thought? I thought you would come running to me the
moment you see me, throw your arms around me and say Tiger, mujhe maaf kardo please. Mujhse
galti hogayi. Lekin tum toh..(Restless, he gets up and stuffs his hands into his trouser pockets and
starts pacing) Lekin tumne toh aise baat kiya jaise kuch hua hi nahi..maafi maangna toh door aisa
lagraha tha ki tumhe kuch yaad hi nahi hain. As if you had wiped off me and the first 15 years of your
life from your memory. I did everything I could to get a reaction out of you because my chulbuli had
never been one to take things lying down. (He smiles a little as he remembers the incident when she
once slapped a boys face with her sandal) She had grit and spunk. I came home almost drunk on that
first night. I needed something to dull my senses so that I..(He closes his eyes as images assault him) I
insulted you..snubbed you and your father..ridiculed you every step of the way in these last 2 weeks..I
was downright cruel sometimes..but nothing is working. I look at you and all I can think of is..taking
you..mein apne aap ke nizron mein girraha hoon par tumhe hila nahi paaraha. I dont know what to do
any more. I just..dont..know! (With a sigh of frustration, he walks away from the room and sleeping
form of his wife.)
HK looks up as Manav comes down the stairs: Khaana lagau Manav?
Manav nods: Ji.
HK gets the food on to the dining table and starts serving: Nisha bitiya sogayi?
Manav: Haan. Meine dawaai diya hain. (A slight pause and then) Kaka, usko yeh migraine kab se hain?
HK doesnt look at him as he answers: Kuch saal pehle se. Pehle bahut aksar hota tha. Hafte mein
lagbhag teen din aise hi padirehti thi. Ab itna zyaada nahi rehta.
Manav frowns: That often? Why?
HK hesitates: Khaana khaalo. Bahut der hogayi. Mein aur roti laata hoon. (Manav frowns at the
obvious change of topic but decides not to pursue kaka further.)

Next day morning:

Manav is getting ready to go to office by the time Nisha wakes up. She looks at him with sleepy
slightly confused eyes: Ab tabiyat kaisi hain?
Nisha swallows past the dryness of her throat and replies in a slightly raspy voice: Better. Aap office
jaarahe hain?
Manav picks up the laptop bag: haan. But you stay at home and take rest for today. Kahi jaane ki
zaroorat nahi hain. Ok?
Nisha nods and with another probing look, he leaves. Once he reaches the office, time runs away with
him tackling one issue after the other. Major system upgradation is taking place that takes up all his

attention and before he realizes it, its evening. With a quick look at the clock, he calls Nisha. But the
call goes straight to voice mail. He frowns and calls the home number: Kaka, Nisha kaisi hain ab?
HK: Teek hain. Hospital gayi hain.
Manav: Kya?
HK: Haan. Dopahar ko Armaan ka phone aaya tha kuch patient ke baare mein. Woh tabhi chaligayi.
Manavs eyes turn cold: Ok kaka. Thank you.
He quickly shuts down his laptop and reschedules the meeting with his team to the next day morning
and leaves the cabin. He almost throws the laptop bag into the backseat of his car before getting into
the driver seat.
Anu comes almost running and holds on the door just as he is about to back the car out of the parking
lot: Jeejaji..jeejaji..aap ghar jaarahe hain?
Manav locks his jaw but replies in an even tone: Nahi. CGH.
Anus eyes light up: Oh wow. Please mein bhi CGH hi jaarahi thi. Lekin mera car ka tyre puncture
hogaya. Wahaa Vishaal mera wait kar raha hain. Please mujhe lift dedeejiye? (Manav nods and with a
hasty thank you, Anu gets into the passenger side moments before the car shoots out into the road
with a slight squeal of tyres.) Baap re itna fast kyon chalaarahe hain? Thoda aaraam se chalaayiye na.
(Manav doesnt reply. Just continues to drive and within minutes they reach CGH. Both of them make
their way inside and as they near Nishas cabin, Manav comes to a standstill. He sees Nisha and
Armaan walking towards them in the corridor. Both of them are in their surgical scrubs and
immersed deep in conversation. Neither notices his seething presence a few feet away.)
Armaan: That was quick thinking Nisha. I am proud of you.
Nisha looks at Armaan with a small smile: Thank you sir.
Armaan sighs: Dont you sir me again ok? Keh keh ke thak gaya..(His gaze falls on Manav and the
rest of his sentence gets cut off. Following his line of vision, Nisha also looks at her husband and
Anu.)
Nisha: Aap dono yahaan?
Manav: I thought I told you to stay home and take rest?
Nisha: Yeah..there was an emergency and..
Manav: Go and change. We are leaving.
Nisha looks at him for a moment before nodding: Just give me 10 minutes. I will help the staff shift
the child to the ICU and come. You can wait inside. (She gestures towards her cabin and walks away
briskly towards the OT, leaving behind a fairly crackling atmosphere as the once upon a time best
friends now turned adversaries stare at each other. Manavs seething temper practically surrounds
them. Armaan is the first one to blink and look away.)
Manav: Old habits die hard, I see!
Armaan sighs and removes his head cap: Manav..

Manav cuts in: Whats this temptation that you have to take whats mine? Huh?
Armaans own temper sparks at that: You think I would..you actually think..
Manav takes a step forward: Think what? I actually think what Armaan?
Anu observes the staff gathering around in the corridor and forcefully pushes both men into Nishas
cabin and closes the door. Something inside her snaps in that moment: Enough! Back off! Both of
you! Armaanji, yeh hospital hain. You want a meeting and talking event, go somewhere else. (Then
she looks at Manav) Aur aap..kuch hosh bhi hain ki aap kya kehrehe hain? Aur koi jagah nahi mila
kya aap ko? Aap ki biwi yahaan kaam karti hain aur aap yahaan aake aisa tamasha karenge toh log
kya kahenge? Agreed that whatever happened all those years ago, shouldnt have happened. It was
wrong. You were wronged. I accept that. But I think its time YOU get something into your head Mr
Manav Mathur! You are not the only one who got hurt. Aur log bhi hain yahaan jo..(Her sentence
stops in the middle as the door opens and Nisha walks in, once again dressed in the normal dress of
salwar kameez. She looks at all the 3 faces which show different degrees of anger.)
Nisha: Kya hua?
Manav gives a final look at Armaan before walking: Kuch nahi. Chalo. (A slight frown remains on
Nishas face but she silently picks up her bag and follows him.)
The journey back to their home is made in silence..Nisha lost in her own thoughts and Manav boiling
in his. The almost tense environment continues for the next days. Every time Nisha gets a call, Manav
listens into the conversation in blistering silence. And every day when she leaves for CGH, he waits
until she leaves and follows her in his car to see if she is detouring to any other place. Nights turn
more silent and more aggressive but thats the one place where Nisha doesnt back off..almost
delighting in his aggression and responding to it with every fibre of her being. Their bed is the one
place where both of them let go of their silence and let their bodies speak for themselves. One night
Nisha gets a call from the hospital. The ER doctor informs her about a child brought in with burst
appendix so with a hasty explanation, Nisha leaves. Manav once again follows her and parks his car a
little away from the hospital. Just when he is about to sigh and turn it around to go home, he sees
Armaans car almost screeching into the CGH parking lot and Nisha rushing forward to the main
entrance to meet him and both of them walking inside once again. She comes back home a little after
midnight and leaves once again early in the morning.
That nights dinner also continues to be the same silent affair and at the end of it Manav gets a call. He
gets up and walks off into the study room and bangs the door shut. HK gives Nisha concerned looks:
Bitiya, hospital mein sab teek?
Nisha gulps down the water and gets up: Ji kaka. Sab teek hain. Buss thak gayi hoon. Goodnight kaka.
HK takes the dishes and goes off into the kitchen. He washes his hands and stands before the Ganesh
Idol that he has placed over there and folds his hands: Aur kitna intehaan loge meri bitiya ka? Bahut
hogaya. Ab aur nahi. Uski khushi aur muskaan waapas dedo Bappa.
About 45 minutes later, Manav walks into the bedroom. Nisha looks up from the diwaan where she is
reclining and reading a medical journal. Wordlessly, he switches off the light and comes to her in the
pitch darkness. He holds her hands and places them on his shirt: Undress me.
This darkness helps me to hide my feelings. But I wish I could see him once. I wish I could see what I

am touching and kissing with my fingers, lips and heart. I wish I could look into his eyes and lose
myself in them. I wish I could see his eyes look at me and light up with love and affection. Will that day
ever come? He comes to me every night and morning. He is almost wild. Has he started liking me?
May be his silence is an indicator that he is rethinking..maybe this is his way of expressing it..
Her thoughts come to a halt as he pushes her on to the diwaan and falls on her. Their naked bodies
entwine bringing a sharp gasp from her. She digs her fingers in his hair and tries to direct his mouth
to her breast when he pulls back a little: Do you pretend that I am Armaan? (He pushes himself against
her and continues) Do you think about him when we are like this? Is that why you like darkness so
much?
Shock courses through her body and she jerks in his arms before hastily pulling away from him and
covering her nakedness with her arms crossed over her chest. A few moments of dead silence and
then her soft cry of pain cuts through the silence. He stretches his arm to reach out to her but she
stumbles back awkwardly before getting up and gathering her clothes with as much dignity as
possible. For once, he doesnt get her usual stoic silence. With a hiccupping breath and tear filled
voice, she replies: I accept that I was a bad girl, a bad daughter and a bad friend. But does that make
me a bad wife too by default?
Saying that, she goes off into the bathroom, shuts the door and locks it. Her smothered cries of pain
are heard even through that locked door. What he couldnt achieve in 2 weeks, he has managed to
achieve in 2 minutes. Manav Mathur has finally managed to break the silence of his wife.

Chapter 6

Manav: Anu, can I talk to you for a minute?
Anu looks up from her laptop and frowns: Ji? Any problems with the numbers that I sent you?
Manav: No. Its not about that. I just..come to my cabin once please. I want to know about something.
(Anu nods and quickly saves and locks her computer before making way to Manavs cabin. I accept
that I was a bad girl, a bad daughter and a bad friend. But does that make me a bad wife too by
default? The words and those tears were haunting him since the previous night. So much so that for
the first time after marriage, he had actively avoided her by sleeping in the guestroom and leaving for
his work when she was in the shower. Something happened. Something happened that robbed her of
her zeal and had her thinking that she is a bad girl, bad daughter. He has to know and Anu is the best
person. The one who knew everything including her friend) Baito. Want to have some coffee or tea?
Anu: No thank you. Kya baat hain jeejaji? Nisha..Nisha teek hain na? Phirse usse migraine hua hain
kya? (Worry enters her voice and on her face.)
Manav: Migraines..I will get to that later. But first tell me this Anu. What happened to Nisha? Why is
she like this?
Anu gives him a suspicious look: Like this? Like this matlab?
Manav sighs: Come on Anu..this is not the same Nisha that I knew before. I accept that people change
and grow up and all that but to this extent? No. Tell me please. I want to know.
Anu gets a defensive look on her face..as if daring him to say one word against her friend and she
would probably fry him alive: Why? Why do you want to know? So that you can rub it on her face
some more? So that you can insult her some more?
Manav: No! I just..I just want to know
Anu still looks at him suspiciously: Then you have to promise me that you wont get this topic in
front of her EVER.. And try to punish her some more for some juvenile thing that she did a decade
ago!
Manav raises his eyebrow: Fine. I promise. (A slight pause and then) Juvenile? You call that juvenile?
Did you even see those snaps? Do you know how it feels that I have..(He looks away) she was 15. 15
dammit! What if I had..
Anu cuts in: And have you never thought that if she HADNT done what she did, you would probably
be still behind bars? That police would have arrested you for Aditis murder based on circumstantial
evidence? (His stunned silence is answer enough for her that the thought never crossed his mind) Bad
or ugly, fact is if she hadnt done it that night, you would have been accused of murder. Even if you
wouldnt have been sentenced due to lack of evidence, the suspicion would still have hovered over
you. Everyone would have pointed fingers at you and your family. Nishas act saved you jeejaji. You
would have realized it sooner if you had stopped thinking about yourself for a second and thought
about her. (Once she has started, Anus words start flowing as if she has suppressed them all this while
and they are bursting out now without a break) I was there with her that night, you know? I was there
with both of you in that hotel room. Who do you think clicked those pictures? I did. And the next day I

was the one who told her about Aditis death and police taking you in for questioning. She didnt
hesitate for a second once she realized you were being blamed. I told her..(She swallows and grips her
pen tighter) I told her if you didnt do it, the lawyers and stuff would find a way to bring you out. But
she said no. I will get Manav back home before the day is out. Thats what she said. I got scared. I
thought what if my dad comes to know about it. She said she wont bring out my name. Zidd meri thi
toh consequences bhi mein hi face karoongi. Aur woh apne papa ke paas photos leke chaligayi. She
was ready to face anything and everything to get you out..to make sure your name is completely free
and clear of all suspicion. (Anu looks at him angrily and wipes her eyes roughly with the back of her
hand) Aur Yog uncle ko bhi pata tha ki agar yeh baat baahar nikalgayi toh unki badnaami hogi. Phir
bhi unhoone yeh baat chupaane ki koshish nahi ki. He came and showed the pictures and told
everything that happened to the police. Unpe uss waqt kya guzri hogi yeh toh wohi jaane but you
HAVE to accept what he did was not a small thing. Beti hain unki jeejaji..
Manav gets up and goes to the window. He stuffs his hands into his trouser pockets as his eyes stare
out. But in his minds eye, he sees his chulbuli..walking towards her father..scared but determined to
save her Tiger. He clears his throat before: Phir?
Anu: This is not some Mumbai jeejaji. 10 years back, it was still relatively small city. News about
what she did got leaked. They could not get hold of the pictures but only daughter of a famous
industrialist who was a teenager..father s partner s daughter got killed.. These sentences were pretty
obvious for everyone. A local newspaper ran the story for a few days. Parents started warning their
kids about being friends with someone like her..her friends started making snide and sometimes
open comments about her..boys started..started..(Her trembling voice stops. She takes a deep breath
before continuing) She was 15 years old jeejaji..aur woh sharaarati zaroor thi lekin aisi nahi..woh toh
sirf..(She stops herself once again) She didnt know how to handle all that. She used to be scared all
the time. Uncle and aunty couldnt go anywhere socially without someone bringing out that topic.
Nandini aunty started blaming herself as a mother for not bringing up her daughter well. She was..is a
good mom. She took care of Nisha and me too like her own daughter. But it was too unexpected and
too much for her to take. She didnt talk to Nisha for a long time.
Manav locks his jaw: Migraines..was..was that when..these..migraines of hers started?
Anu nods: Yeah. Initially, she didnt even tell anyone that she was not well. She just used to shut
herself in her room and bear the pain. Then one day Rohan got it out of her and told aunty. Thats
when aunty finally broke her silence and took her to the doctor. She used to have them too frequently
so she was put on constant medication. That used to make her drowsy. HK used to make special light
diet for her to eat and she spent a lot of time in the kitchen sitting while he cooked and made some
general small talk. I think it relaxed her. And thats when she realized that she cant go on like that. She
fought it, went on runs and cycling to reduce her stress, controlled her diet and her emotions. She is
stronger now because the wall she built around herself is stronger now.
Manav: How did she manage to study with all this?
Anu: It was not easy but since she gave her parents so much pain, she was determined to redeem
herself and make them proud. Rohan and I kept her company during her nightouts and she finally
cleared the med entrance. She got a seat here in Ahmedabad too but she wanted to get away. Mathur
uncle also thought it was a good idea.
Manav turns at that: Dad..dad spoke to Nisha?

Anu nods: Ji. Not often like before but..she never went back to your house though. Nor could she meet
your moms eyes.
Manav closes his eyes as waves of pain, regret and guilt wash over him. I had been undergoing a
crisis of my own..with Aditi and Armaans betrayal and my whole life and dreams crashed at my
feet..then Nishas act..I never thought of what she would have gone through. And I should have. I knew
her better than anyone. And that what she did was probably more impulsive than some kind of
preplanned premeditated act of teenage rebellion. But I didnt. I never once gave a thought to her and
left her literally to face the wolves on her own. And the wolves made a mincemeat out of her and tore
her to pieces. He huffs out a sad painful laugh. What wolves? I myself had turned into a monster ever
since I returned and saw her. All I had seen was a beautiful sexy woman with a cold expressionless
face and had set out to see if she was as cold on the inside as she was on the outside. I didnt even give
her the dignity as a person with feelings when I took her to bed time and again..every morning..every
night. She had become a kind of a drug that I got addicted to and had to have her no matter what. It
stopped being revenge after the first time..now its just that.. Addiction.. And I never stopped to think..
(He cringes as shame overwhelms him.) I never realized that she was probably hiding all her pain and
fear behind that facade.
Anu waits for him to speak but after a while she clears her throat: Is that all?
Manav turns but doesnt meet her eyes: Why did she come back? Wouldnt she have been better off
staying away..working somewhere else?
Anu: Nandini aunty was missing her and recently her health took a bad turn. She had to undergo
hysterectomy. So Nisha came back. (Her face reddens again) When she applied in CGH, the
management took a few days to decide whether to hire her or not..she is the same girl who did that
right? Can we hire her? Kahi hospital ka reputation kharaab na hojaay. Even now its like everyone is
waiting for her to make a mistake..(She turns her face away in disgust and gets up) Mein jaau?
Manav nods and swallows: Thank you Anu.

An hour or so later, there is a knock on Yograjs cabin. He looks up from his desktop with a frown
before the frown dissolves a small smile replaces it: Hello Manav. Come in come in. Sit. Meri abhi
abhi Shyam se baat hui and he was telling me that everything is set for the interviews. (Manav takes
the seat and just looks at Yog..his father in law. For the first time he doesnt know what to say or how
to say it) Kya hua Manav? Any problem?
Manav looks at his stapled fingers before meeting Yogs eyes: Uncle..Anu told me what happened
after I left all those years ago.
Yog looks at him blankly before sighing and removing his glasses. He takes a sip of water from the
glass beside him: Kissi ne sach hi kahaa hain Manav. Hum bachche toh paida karsakte hain lekin unki
kismat nahi. Nandini ne aur mein ne hameshaa Nisha ko achchi parvarish dene ki koshish ki. She was
pampered..correct but we always made sure she knew the difference between right and wrong.
Acceptable and not acceptable. And she got it right for the most part. She never crossed the line
before that night. We knew about her crush but when Nandini said, I waved it away saying teenage
hain..she will be fine after a while. We always think we know everything there is to know about our
children but they still somehow manage to surprise us.

Manav: People talked. That would have hurt you and aunty a lot..(Yogs silence is answer enough) I
never knew any of this. Mom and dad never told me..(Manav sighs and rubs a hand over his face)
No..thats not true. Whenever dad got the topic about anyone involved here, I used to get up and walk
away. Mom finally said that its not good to be so judgemental and left it at that.
Yog: Anyone in your situation would probably have reacted in the same way Manav.
Manav leans back in the chair and closes his eyes: Is that why you wanted a grand wedding? To negate
the gossip?
Yog nods after a pause: Yeah..lekin ab inn sab baaton ka kya faayda. Jaane do Manav. People will
anyway come to know soon enough and once things settle down, they will accept and keep quiet.
Chale? We are supposed to hold a marketing heads meet right? (Manav nods and both of them leave
for the meeting. But throughout the rest of the day he remains distracted and even a little down.)

That night:

Manav walks into the bedroom and hears the sound of the shower running from the bathroom. With a
tired sigh he plops down on the bed and falls back into a reclining position with feet still touching the
floor and covers his eyes with a bended arm. The sound of the shower stops and a few moments later
the sound of the door opening is heard. He still doesnt move from his position or open his eyes. He
feels her coming and standing near the bed looking at him without trying to talk. The thought that she
is probably afraid of starting a conversation or worse that she is probably waiting for him to pounce
on her like a rutting bull is like an arrow piercing his insides. Finally in a soft almost tentative voice,
she asks: Tired?
Manav swallows and gets up from the bed before snagging the towel from the hanger..all without
looking at her: Yeah..I will just have a shower and we can eat. Tum neeche jaao mein aata hoon.
(Saying that he closes the bathroom door)
Nisha quickly changes into her usual nightdress and brushes her hair mechanically. Is he really tired?
Or is he still angry? The same thought keeps running in her mind as she goes down to help HK set the
table and heat up the food. Just as she begins to serve, Manav comes down. HK goes into the kitchen:
Mein jaake garma garam roti laata hoon. Aap dono khaane keliye baitjao bitiya.
Nisha: Ji kaka.
Again that night, dinner becomes a silent affair with Manav drowning in guilt and shame and Nisha
waiting for him to break the silence. Midway through, he gets up abruptly from the half eaten plate
and walks off towards the study room: I have some work to do. Tum jaake sojaao. Goodnight. (And
closes the study door before leaning against it and closing his eyes. what do I do? How do I talk to
her? WHAT do I talk to her? How do I begin to undo the damage that I have done? WHERE do I
begin? I cant even meet her eyes anymore!)

Next day morning: (Sunday)


Nisha wakes up later than her usual time with the realisation that Manav didnt come to the bed the
previous night. She quickly freshens up and goes downstairs to find him already having his first
coffee and reading the business section of the newspaper. He looks up: Good morning.
Nisha: Good morning. (HK comes with her tea cup) Thank you kaka. Aap kehrahe the kuch groceries
laane hain?
HK nods: Jaldi nahi hain bitiya. Aaj Sunday hain na..thoda aaraam karo. I got the vegetables yesterday.
So its just the groceries. Kabhibhi jaasakte hain.
Nisha: Teek hain. Breakfast ke baad chalte hain.
Manav puts the cup down and gets up: Mein saath chaloo?
Nisha and HK both look at him in obvious surprise: Ji?
Manav looks at Nisha with unusual hesitancy: Can I come with you? For the shopping? I am kind of
tired after working the whole week and need a break. (Then he shrugs) We can do shopping and then
may be..have lunch outside..? (The last bit comes out like a question.)
Nisha blinks and swallows before nodding. If he hadnt been paying such close attention to her, he
would have missed the brief glimpse of surprised joy followed by a kind of resigned sadness. Its
gone before he could completely register it leaving her face once again solemn. She probably thinks I
still suspect her and trying to keep tabs on her. The light in his eyes dims a little at that thought but he
turns towards HK: Kaka aap aaraam keejiye. We will do the shopping and have lunch outside and be
home by evening.
HK gives him a genuine smile for the first time: Teek hain. mein abhi list banaata hoon.
Both of them get ready, have their breakfast and leave in Manavs car: Kahaa jaana hain?
Nisha wets her lips: Woh..there is a super market a few streets away. We can go there.
Manav nods and with Nisha giving him the address, soon parks the car in front of the super market.
They meet a couple with a small boy on their way into the store. The lady stops when she looks at
Nisha: Hello Doctor.
Nisha also stops and nods with a small smile: Hello Mrs Tandon. How are you?
Mrs Tandon grins: Chalraha hain. Weekend shopping?
Nisha: Yeah. (Just then the boy pulls his mother s arm down and whispers something in her ear) How
are you doing Sachin? (Sachin, the 7 year old boy smiles shyly.)
Mrs Tandon gives Manav a quick look before continuing: We went to Mumbai recently and Sachin
got an autograph from Sachin Tendulkar. He wants me to tell you that.
Nisha smiles and shakes the kids hand: Congratulations Sachin. You told him that you were his fan?
(Sachin nods. Nisha observes Mrs Tandon giving Manav another look) Mrs Tandon, this is my
husband Manav. (She turns to Manav) Manav, Mr and Mrs Bhardwaj Tandon and their son Sachin.
(Manav nods politely at the lady and shakes the husbands hand.)

Bhardwaj looks at Manav interestingly: Are you also a doctor?


Manav smiles a little: No. I work at VM. I am one of the partners there.
With another polite nod and farewell, they walk away.
Manav: Kya sochrahi ho?
Nisha shakes her head and silently pulls out a shopping cart and goes inside the store. It felt good. It
felt so so good. How many times did I dream about something like this happening! That I would go out
with Tiger and proudly introduce him as my husband! Who knew that one day that childish fantasy of
mine would come true! Shopping takes up more time than expected with the Sunday morning rush at
the store but finally all the stuff in stoved in the trunk and Manav closes it with a thunk: Toh ab?
Nisha: Ji?
Manav: Hungry? Want to go for lunch or drive around for a while before going to eat?
Nisha looks at him with wide blinking eyes as if trying to decide if he really wants to know her
opinion in this or not. Finally she shrugs almost indifferently: Aap ki marzi. I am ok with anything.
Manav sighs then rethinks: Ok. Lets do one thing. Lets have an early lunch and go for a movie. What
say? (This time the surprise and look of delight is more open in her eyes but her nod is as solemn as
ever. He realizes that if he has to know what she is thinking, he has to pay real close attention to her
face..at least until she lets her guard down around him. He tilts his head a little to the side once
indicating toh chalo! and quickly goes around to open the car door for her. He makes sure she is
settled in completely before closing the door and going to the driver s side and starting the car.)
Manav: The other day I took one of the investors to Barbeque Nation. Achcha hain. Wahaa chalte hain.
Which movie do you want to see? Its been ages since I went to one. Mumbai mein most of the time I
was too busy and when I had free time, I just used to get something home and watch it. Theater ko
gaye ek arsa hogaya.
Nisha: My last movie was Bol Bachchan. I went with Anu on her birthday.
Manav: Hmmm..I heard it looks a little like Golmaal.
Her lips stretch into a tiny smile: I liked Ajay Devgan in this one.
Manav: Ok lunch ke baad we will go to INOX..and whatever movie is running there we will see. Ok?
(Nisha nods and starts looking out of the window. Soon they reach the restaurant and take the lift to
the third floor. Once inside, Manav chooses a two seater table towards a corner and pulls up a chair
for her to sit. After giving a quick look at him, she sits. Her fingers tremble slightly in suppressed
excitement.)
After seating himself in the opposite chair, Manav: You like it?
Startled once again, Nisha looks up at Manav. After a hasty swallow of a little water, she replies: It..its
good. I like it. How is your work coming along?
Manav shrugs and browses through the menu without looking at her: The usual. You had some
emergency that night. How is the kid now?

Nisha: He is better. Much better. There was some infection due to the burst appendix but we could
control it with antibiotics.
Manav: You do surgeries too or just treat the children?
Try as she might, she is unable to stop the glow that takes over her face: I dont do surgeries. I
monitor the child while the surgeon does the surgery. We need to do super speciality, MCH, to do
surgeries. Performing surgery on a kid is more delicate and tough than an adult na..especially
babies..sometimes..(Realizing that she is blabbering, she suddenly shuts her mouth. How easy it is to
fall into old habits..to forget the 10 years and talk to him like she always used to! He probably just
asked for the sake of appearences..or whatever and here I am, falling all over myself like an idiot!)
After a slight pause, Manav: So you like this being a childrens doctor. (Its a statement but at the same
time asking for her confirmation.)
Nisha nods with a small smile: Yes. I like it very much.
Manav: And you want to do these surgeries too?
Nisha starts fiddling with the napkin: Yes but I need to do a specialization for that.
Manav: You did both your MBBS and your..PG..(He waves his hand in a vague gesture because he
doesnt know the correct medical term.)
Nisha: MD
Manav nods: MD..so you did your MBBS and MD from which college?
Nisha: Calcutta Medical College.
Manavs lips stretch into a smile. The waiter comes in and Manav looks at Nisha with his eyebrow
raised: You want to order or try the buffet?
Nisha: Order..I think.
After deciding on the starters and the main course, they place the order and the waiter leaves with a
slight bow. Manav continues the conversation from where he left off: You learnt Bengali while you
were there?
Again a tiny smile: Thoda. Most of my classmates knew Hindi and I anyway didnt..Mumbai..Mumbai
mein aap ka job..you liked it?
His pause while eating indicates that he caught the deliberate change of topic but just lets it be:
Yeah..the company was huge but I kind of liked the challenge. What about you? You liked the college
and the teaching?
Nisha: It was good for the most part. I never could enjoy pathology but the rest of the subjects were
good.
Manav grins: You need to explain that. What is pathology?
Nisha: Blood tests and things like that. I mean..if someone has say..malaria, we do a particular blood
test. Usse pata chalta hain ki usko uss tarah ki bimaari hain ki nahi.

Manav: Aahh..ok. So this pathology was the toughest subject. Whats your favourite?
The waiter gets the food along with the fruit sizzlers and after that brief interruption, the conversation
once again picks up. He keeps the topics mostly pertaining to her college days, professors and their
teachings and hostel life. Slowly as the lunch progresses, Nisha begins to relax and really enjoy the
conversation..her only thought being that may be he has decided to forgive and let the past go..or is he
testing me and just waiting to dig more arrows? Lunch gets wrapped up and Manav pays the bill: HK
told me aunty called once or twice to talk to you.
Nisha nods and once again tenses up: Ji. She just..just wanted to say hi.
Manav nods: She must be missing you. Maybe you should go over to your place more
often..whenever you are free.. Maybe when you finish your hospital work soon or something like that.
Tumko bhi achcha lagega. (He glances at his watch) Chale? Nahi toh we will miss the starting of the
movie.

Chapter 7

HK: Kya baat hain bitiya..bahut der lagaadi?
Nisha brings in the grocery bags into the kitchen and places them on the counter before starting to
arrange them in the shelves. Her voice contains a hint of smile: Hum picture dekhne gaye the kaka.
HK can neither hide his surprise nor delight: Arre waah..yeh toh bahut achchi baat hain..kaunsi
picture?
Manav walks in with the rest of the grocery bags: Poochiye mat kaka..woh Ajay Devgan waali..Son of
Sardar. (Then he looks at Nisha) You were right though. He sure has come a long long way from
Phool aur Kaante.
Nisha takes over the bags from him and nods: Aap..aap jaake fresh hojaayiye.
Manav turns to HK: Dinner mein kya hain kaka?
HK: Kya chahiye?
Manav shakes his head: Kuch bhi light. I am still full. Lunch, uske baad movie mein popcorn aur
return trip mein paanipuri. Duss saal guzar gaye lekin aap ki bitiya aaj bhi popcorn aur paanipuri ke
peeche paagal hain.
Nisha closes the shelf with a slight bang: Kaka..mein change karke aati hoon (There is a certain
amount of escapism in her exit and Manav looks at her departing back with a small sigh of
resignation. She still thinks any mention of the past is my way of digging holes into her. All through the
day, she had alternated between being happy and being wary. As if she was not able to completely trust
the U turn in my behavioural pattern. In this short period, I got her so used to my taunts and sarcasm
that now even the most casual humorous comment brings down the shield of indifference over her
face..just in case I hurt her. He runs a distracted hand through his hair. Chulbuli..I miss you!)
HK puts his hand on Manavs shoulder: Usse thoda waqt do beta.
Manav nods and turns to HK: Kaka, Nisha khulke hasti hain kya?
HK shakes his head sadly and turns away: Uski khuli hassi ko sune duss saal hogaye beta. Kaan taras
gaye. (Manav nods once again and leaves the kitchen)
Soon they both sit for dinner, the landline phone rings and Manav, being the closest, lifts it: Hello?
A nano second of silence and then: Manav? Mein Nandini.
Manav swallows: Hi aunty. How are you?
Nandini: I am fine beta. How are you?
Manav: Fine aunty. Just having dinner.
Nandini: Oh. Toh mein baad mein phone karti hoon. Mein toh buss Nisha ko hello bolne keliye phone
kiya tha.

Manav glances at Nisha, who hasnt looked up but has stopped eating as if waiting and bracing
herself: No no aunty. Its fine. We are almost done anyway. Kya baat hain aunty? Shaadi ke baad aap
apni beti ko bhool gayi kya? You have never come to our house.
Silence and then Nandini: Arre nahi nahi..aisi koi baat nahi. I talk to her over the phone na..
Manav smiles: Phir bhi..I mean if we are living in different cities, then thats a different thing. Kabhi
aayiye aunty. Aap ke beti ka hi ghar hain yeh.
Nandini almost stumbles in her reply: Haan haan kyon nahi. Zaroor zaroor.
Manav: Leejiye.. baat keejiye.
Nisha takes the phone and moves away from the table so that she is facing away from him: Hello?
Mom?
Nandini: Nisha..kaisi hain beta?
Nisha swallows: Mein teek hoon ma. Just finished my dinner.
Nandini lowers her tone a little: Meine subah bhi phone kiya tha.
Nishas cheeks turn pink: Ji..kaka ne bataya. We went to get some groceries then went out for lunch.
Aur wahaa se picture dekhne chalegaye.
Nandini: Thats.. Thats really good beta.
Nisha: Aaplog kaise hain?
Nandini: We are fine Nisha. Manav ne invite bhi kiya hain na toh beti ka ghar dekhne hum zaroor
aayenge. Rakhti hoon beta.
Nisha: Ji. Goodnight mom.
Nandini: Goodnight beta. (Nandini puts the phone down and looks at her husband) Both of them went
out for lunch and movie today Yog.
Yog smiles: Meine kahaa tha na..things will settle down slowly. Unn dono ka rishta shuru se hi alag
tha Nandini. He always had a soft spot for her. Ghar mein sab log Nisha par bhadak jaate the aur woh
bhaagke Manav ke peech chupjaati thi. (That memory brings a kind of sad smile on his face. Then he
recovers.) I still remember Alok talking to me about Manav after every trip of theirs to Mumbai. He
sure is angry Nandini. Par woh dil ka aaj bhi achcha hain. sachcha hain. Meine kisi ko bataya nahi par
I even spoke to the CEO of the company where he worked. He gave a glowing report about him as an
employee as well as as a person. Now looks like he is slowly letting go of his anger too.
Nandini: Yog, Manav invited us to come to their house some time.
Surprise and delight lights up his eyes: Oh. Thats..wonderful. Chalo achcha hain.
Nandini lies down on the bed: Itne dino se meine apne aap ko kaise roka yeh sirf mein jaanti hoon
Yog. She came to our house just once after her marriage and she didnt even stay long. Yu aayi aur yu
chaligayi. Woh toh humne achcha kiya ki Hiraman ko wahaa bhejdiya. Kam se kam hume pata toh
chalraha hain ki waha kya horaha hain. Warna yeh Nisha toh kabhi kuch bolegi nahi.

Yog nods: Haan. Hiraman is anyway more attached to Nisha than this house. So he immediately
agreed.
Nandini sighs a little happily: Mein jab jaaungi toh kuch banaake lejaaungi. Usse mere haath ka
khaana bahut pasand hain. Bhagwaan kare ab sab teek hojaaye.

Manavs residence:

Manav looks up from the paper: Abhi sone jaarahi ho?
Nisha stops on her way towards the stairs: Ji? Nahi aisa kuch nahi..koi kaam hain kya?
Manav pats the seat beside his on the sofa: Tomorrow is the meeting with the bankers, right? I guess I
am a little nervous. Itni jaldi neend nahi aayega and I am expecting a call too. Come sit. Lets do the
crossword puzzle. I am stuck. Help me out. (Nisha wets her lips and her helpless love is obvious in
her look but since he is not facing her, he doesnt see it. wordlessly, she comes around and sits beside
him. he brings the paper close to her so that she can see.) See this here? 15 across..shore birds..
Nisha: Terns
Manav grins: Hmmm..not bad. (He quickly scribbles the word) Now the 6 down that
connects..Unbleached colour
Nisha: Ecru
Manav turns to look at her with both his eyebrows raised: That was fast! You still do crosswords like
you used to?
Nishas face lights up in surprise. Crossword puzzles were another thing that connected both of them
in the past. She literally used to eat his head off until he helped her solve the Sunday crossword. She
blinks and looks away: Nahi. Itna time nahi milta.
Manav turns back towards the puzzle as if he hasnt noticed anything..neither the joy nor the
hesitation: Hmmm..I can imagine. Medicine takes lots of hardwork na. Did you take any coaching for
the entrance?
Nisha: My lecturers helped me a bit. I used to get model question papers from them on individual
subjects and try to answer them on my own. And then I took some postal coaching too.
Manav grins at her almost mischievously: I wonder how reacted the first time you had dissect a
cockroach!
Nisha smiles: That thing jumped and I screamed and ran.
Manav throws back his head and laughs out aloud at that and is about to continue the conversation but
his phone rings. With a quick look at the id, he turns back to Nisha with a regretful sigh: I have to take
this call. You finish this crossword and I will be back ok? (Nisha nods and takes the paper from him.
He quickly puts on his headset and goes into his study. The call takes more than an hour and by the
time he finishes it and comes out, he finds Nisha fast asleep on the sofa with her feet tucked under her

and her head resting on her bent arm. HK also walks into the hall and Manav gestures him to be quiet.
He bends down and carefully lifts her up into his arms, nods a silent goodnight to HK before
climbing the stairs to their room. After gently tucking her into the bed he remains bending down
looking at her innocent sleeping face. His mind takes him back to their first night together..the way he
woke her up and the way he..(He closes his eyes and turns his head away as the memory makes him
cringe. May be mom had been right. I become inhuman in my anger.)

Next morning:

Manav turns from his wardrobe: Nisha?
Nisha, who is stuffing her steth and CGH id into her bag, drops the bag at that call. Its the first time he
has actually called her by name. Not the sarcastic Mrs Mathur or Dr Nisha..just Nisha. Try as she
might, the obvious shine in her eyes gives her away: J..ji?
Manav takes out 3 ties of different colours: We have that meeting with the bank today. I am going to
have to wear this suit. Which tie would go better with it?
Nisha picks up her bag and puts it back on the table before walking towards him. Hesitantly, she looks
at him in the suit minus the jacket and tie, then back at the three ties before picking up the blue and
purple one and extending it to him. He throws the other two back into the wardrobe and quickly ties it
around his neck while she observes his quick efficient movements through the mirror. He observes
that and turns towards her with a smile: So..howz it? (With her upper lip held between her teeth, she
reaches up and adjusts the knot to a perfect centre before backing up a step and picking up his jacket
and holding it open for him. He turns back and puts his hands into the sleeves so that she can pull it up
and again turns to face her so that she can button it up. Finally he gives a quick look at the mirror and
runs a hasty brush over his hair.) You are ready to go to the hospital now?
Nisha: Yes. Buss abhi nikalne hi waali thi.
Manav: Uh..wish me luck?
Nisha smiles: All the best Manav.
Manav grins before adjusting his jacket one final time: Thank you. Chale?
Nisha nods and both of them leave for their respective work. Once in CGH, Nisha gets immersed first
in the usual rounds, then a surgical assistance and then the OPD. Around 2 pm, she gets a call from
Manav for the first time ever: Hello?
She would remember the jubilant voice forever: NISHA! WE DID IT! We got the loan! (Nishas face
first lights up and then she swallows as fear overtakes her joy. Now he would probably say..tumhaari
qurbaani bekaar nahi gayi Dr Nisha..the purpose our marriage has been served! She tightens the grip
on her phone and closes her eyes as if getting her heart ready to hear those words out of his lips.)
Hello? Nisha? You there?
Nisha: Ji. Yeah I am here. Congratulations Manav!

Manav sighs in obvious relief: Oh what a day Nisha! Ab tum dekhna we will turn the company around
and surpass the previous glory. God I feel great Nisha!
Nisha slowly opens her tightly shut eyes: I..I am sure you will Manav. I never doubted that.
Manav laughs: Looks like you had more confidence than I did. Issi khushi mein celebration toh banta
hain. What say?
Nishas smile lights up her cabin: Yes. Celebration toh definitely banta hain.
Manav: Uncle se poochte hain. Uncle, what do you think? Shall we celebrate? You and aunty come to
dinner at our place na..
Nisha: Papa is there with you?
Yog: Sure. Definitely. Kab?
Manav: Kab? Kissi aur din kyon? Aaj hi karte hain. Why postpone? Kyon Nisha?
Nisha: Yeah..yeah..sure. That would be great.
Manav: Aur waise bhi aunty ke haath ka matar paneer khaaye kitne saal hogaye. Uncle? Can aunty
make that?
Yog takes out his phone with a broad smile on his face: Sure. Why not. Mein abhi kehdeta hoon.
Manav: Nisha..a part of the menu has also been decided. baaki you take care of. Ok?
Nisha: Ji. Mein Hiraman Kaka se baat karti hoon. Congrats once again Manav.
Manav: Thanks. This is just the starting Nisha..abhi toh we have to hire more people, advertising,
marketing..there is loads to do.
Nisha: Starting toh hogayi hain na. Woh sab bhi hojaayega.
Manav: Yeah..cant wait. Chalo rakhta hoon. Uh..Nisha?
Nisha: Ji?
Manav: Had your lunch?
Nisha: Yes. I just had it. You?
Manav: Uncle and I are headed out for that now. See you later. Bye.
Nisha: Bye. (She cuts the call and hugs the phone to herself.)

That night: Manavs residence: Dinner time:

Manav: I am done kaka. Mazaa aagaya.
Nisha gets up: I will just get the dessert. (And goes into the kitchen along with HK)

Manav looks at Nandini: Aunty..sabzi was great. For me, after my moms cooking, it has always been
yours.
Nandini gives a smile in a kind of fond rememberance: Rukmini was one of my best friends you
know..jab shaadi karke mein nayi nayi iss shehar mein aayi, your mom was the first one to welcome
me. We used to talk non stop about anything and everything. (Then her face becomes sad and a little
ashamed) Nisha ne jo kiya uske baad mein usse teek se nazren bhi nahi mila paayi. There was a
strange awkwardness between us. She was never the one to hold a grudge for long par mujhe
samjhmein hi nahi aaraha tha ki kaise baat karoo..kaise sorry bolu apni beti ki taraf se. If she didnt do
what she did, may be you wouldnt have left us..maybe we would have stopped you..haq se humlog
tumhaare paas aate aur tumhe rokte. Koi aur hi kyon..khud Nisha tumhe jaane na deti. (She looks at his
parents photograph and continues) I couldnt come to your house like before you know.
Manav: And so neither could Nisha. (He sighs) Aunty..forget it now. Jo hogaya so hogaya. Lets put it
behind us.
Nandini nods: Tumne khud mujhe apne ghar bulaaya, mere haath ka khaana maanga..haq se..aur aaj
Nisha ko itna khush dekha..mere khushi ke tikaane hi nahi rahe Manav. Thank you so much beta. (She
pats Manavs cheek affectionately and just then Nisha comes with the dessert bowls held in a tray so
Manav quickly changes the topic) Uncle..you know..I think we should hold a party. Something huge
and grand. Invite everyone.
Yog smiles: Loan ki khushi mein?
Manav returns the smile: Haan..Loan ki khushi..VM ke naye shuruvaad ki khushi..and it will also be a
kind of a reception after our wedding. All in one. Kyon Nisha?
The shine in Nishas eyes competes with that of the stars and the smile on her face is wholehearted..no
artifice or politeness in it. And Manav for the first time sees his Chulbuli peeping out from behind that
smile.
Nandini: Humaare ghar mein hi rakhte hain.
Yog thinks: No. It wont be large enough. We will book a hall. All this will take time Manav.
Manav shrugs: No problem. Lets give it say..10 days? I think we can arrange everything in 10 days.
Aap hall aur decoration dekhleejiye aur mein catering aur baaki cheezen sambhaloonga. Together we
can invite.
Nandini gets up and impulsively hugs Nisha: I cant wait for that day. I will show my beti and damaad
to the whole world. Sablog buss dekhte rehjaayenge. I am so happy Nisha.
Manav looks at the dessert: Wow..gajar ka halwa..my favourite. You remember? (His eyes taken in his
wifes shy smile on her full lips, pink blushing cheeks and eyes that he begins to suspect he can drown
in and desire slams into him with the force of a sucker punch) Thank you Nisha.
Nandini and Yog already start making plans for the upcoming party. So they quickly finish the dessert
and after hasty farewells and see you soons and talk to you laters, take their leave. HK practically
orders Nisha to go up..that he would clean up everything and Manav, after a quick trip back into the
kitchen, follows Nisha to their room.
Manav: Nisha..apni aankhen band karo

Nisha, who is just about to take out the nightdress from her wardrobe stops and turns: Ji?
Manav has his hands behind him: I said close your eyes. (She obediently closes them) Ab muh kholo
(Nisha opens her mouth and a moment later, the taste of cold kulfi icecream explodes on her tongue.
Startled, she opens her eyes to meet his grinning ones.) Nisha: Ji..yeh..?
Manav: Tumhaara favourite dessert.
Nisha leans against the wardrobe as if she is not sure if her legs would support her: Aap..aapko aaj bhi
yaad hain?
Manav raises his eyebrows: You remember mine, dont you? I thought I would surprise you and we
both ended up surprising each other.
He extends the kulfi stick and her trembling hand holds his own as takes another sweet bite. She keeps
looking at the icecream with tears blurring her vision and swallows repeatedly just in case her eyes
misbehave and let the tears of joy escape. He keeps his hand steady with effort but his eyes start
glittering and there is a slash of red across his cheekbones as he sees her pink tongue licking the kulfi
before taking a bite. All he wants to do is throw the icecream away and just take her..No..I wont do it
again. Thats not how its going to be from now on.
Finally the icecream is done and Nisha looks up: Aap ka haath..its going to be sticky.
Wordlessly, he extends his palm to her and she looks at him with innocent confused eyes. He touches
her lower lip with one sticky finger as if asking her to open. Pink cheeks turn red as his implication
sinks in. After a shy painful hesitation; she once again holds his wrist with one hand before taking
each of his fingers into her mouth and licking them clean. By the time she reaches his palm, his
controls snaps and with a soft groan of enough he digs all his 10 fingers in her hair and pulls her
head up: Kiss me! Nisha..kiss me please!
A soft cry escapes her and a moment later, she peppers his whole face with small desperate kisses and
her fingers start pulling his tucked in shirt so that they can touch him properly. He cups her cheeks
and pulls her a little away from him so that he can look into her passion drugged eyes before placing
an almost gentle kisses on her forehead, cheeks, chin, nose..and stop a hair s breath away from her
lips. Their breath sighs out in a silent shudder a moment before their lips join for the first time.
Everything in her including her breath comes to a standstill at that first kiss. He said Nisha! And my
first kiss! My first kiss from my Tiger! Neither of them move or try to take the kiss further. Its as if
they want to experience each nano second of it and every minute sensation zinging through their
bodies. Slowly Manav glides his lips overs hers seeking her permission to enter. Time stands still as
both of them get to know each other s taste. His palms slide from her cheeks to her neck to her arms
and fingers before landing on her waist and sliding around it. The kiss changes in dimension as he
pulls her more fully against his tall rigid form. One hand blindly searches and gets hold of her sari
pallu and he pulls it down tearing it a little where it had been pinned. In an almost instinctive gesture
she turns back on him and crosses her arms over her chest. Wordlessly, with a soft smile of
understanding, he switches off the light, lifts her up in his arms and carries her to their bed.

Next day morning:

Nisha burrows further under the covers and stretches her arm only to encounter an empty space.
Startled, she opens her eyes and gets up before realizing her state of undress and pulls up the blanket
till her neck. Her wide slightly apprehensive eyes search for her husband and the sound of the
splashing water and electric razor suggests that he is in the bathroom. A kind of bemused almost
peaceful smile graces her lips and she literally falls on his pillow and hugs it to herself. Tiger! My
God Tiger! What was last night all about? Everything you did was so..different. More intense..More
passionate..Yet (She frowns as she tries to pinpoint the difference then her frown clears) Tender!
Yes..you were tender last night. It was like..like..loving. And you kept saying my name! (She closes her
eyes and emotions overwhelm her) You have forgiven me. You are not going to hold the past against
me. Buss Tiger mujhe aur kuch nahi chaahiye. You are with me and you are willing to give me and this
relationship a chance. Thats enough for me. I love you enough for both of us. You just..your friendship
is enough for me. Sachchi. The sound of the door opening makes her quickly school her features: Hey
sleepyhead! Aaj hospital nahi jaana hain kya?
Nisha opens her eyes and with the blanket still wrapped around her, sits up with a smile: Good
morning.
Manav tweaks her nose playfully: Good morning. Get up and get ready fast or you are going to be
late. (Seeing her looking around for something to wear, he grins and pulls out the t shirt he is wearing
and puts it over her head and helps her put her hands through the sleeves.) Better? (Nisha nods. He sits
on the bed and pushes back the hair that has fallen over her forehead) When did you decide to grow
your hair so long?
Nisha shrugs: During my MBBS. Initially I didnt have time to get it cut and then sort of liked the long
hair.
Manav wraps her hair around his wrist: Its beautiful. (A slight pause and then) Nisha..can you take off
for a few days?
Nisha: Kyon?
Manav: I want to spend time with you. I want to get to know you. Duss saal mein hum dono kitne badal
gaye. I think we should have some time for ourselves. Lets go somewhere na. Kya kehti ho?
Nisha leans in so that her forehead rests on his bare shoulder: Ok. Where do you want to go?
Manav shrugs: Somewhere..anywhere..doesnt matter. Ab toh loan ka issue bhi clear hogaya hain. Can
you take off at a short notice?
Nisha: Yes. That wont be a problem. Kab jaayenge?
Manav mentally checks through his calendar: How about Thursday? We can include the weekend and
be back by Sunday night.
Nisha: Ok. I will apply for leave today when I go to CGH.
Manav: You still like snow? (Nisha looks up in surprise) I will take that as a yes. Hmmm..then lets go
to Manali. (Her impulsive tight hug makes him realize the extent to which she usually holds herself
back. He returns her hug.) Chalo then. Get ready. Shall I drop you at work today?
With another happy nod, Nisha quickly jumps out of the bed to shower and get ready. Soon, both of
them have their breakfast and leave in the same car. Manav drops her at CGH and backs out the car

after a quick wave and smile. His car merges into the traffic and he switches on the radio. Just as he is
about to get on the main road, a school bus comes right behind and gives an irritated look at the
continuous honking from that driver and changes the lane so that the bus can go ahead. Right when it
is overtaking Manavs car, there is a loud pop and the bus swivers irratically grazing Manavs car
roughly on the side. Manav momentarily loses control but gets it right back and stops the car to the
side almost hitting the lamp post. The terrified screams get mixed with ear screeching crash reaches
him and before he could think, his feet hit the road and he starts running towards the toppled school
bus. He hears other cars and vehicles coming to a sudden stop and people shouting and screaming in
the background but he doesnt stop. He, along with a couple of more guys reach the bus that has fallen
and turned sideways and with a quick look around, Manav climbs on to the bus and forces the door
open. He picks up the kid nearest to him and lifts him up and passes him down to another pair of
receiving hands. About 10 kids are quickly taken out and moved away from the bus. Manav peeks
inside to find a lot of them injured and unconscious or terrified and crying including the driver. He
shouts call some ambulance to whoever is standing within hearing distance before slowly easing
himself into the vehicle. The sound of someone else climbing onto the bus is heard as he picks up the
first unconscious kid and lifts him up to the pair of reaching hands. One after the other..one after the
other..quickly all the kids are transferred out and the ambulance sirens are heard soon enough. Getting
the driver out becomes tricky as he is stuck between the steering wheel and the seat and his skull
almost split open under the impact of the door and the road. After a quick check at the pulse with
trembling fingers, Manav swallows down his nausea and stumbles back. His hand grips the hand thats
stretched towards him and he pulls himself out of the bus. His gaze falls on the chaos of traffic jam
amidst the amulances and police jeeps and stunned bystanders before landing on the person who
helped him in getting all the kids out. The Thank you he is about to utter stops midway as he looks
at his once upon a time best friend and betrayer..Armaan!

Chapter 8

Manav pulls his hand away from Armaans grip and dusts himself. Both of them jump down from the
bus but Armaan, who is trying to make Manav look at him, suddenly spots a couple of kids a little
away on the footpath. They had probably fallen out of the front shield window. Their faces are
covered with blood and broken glass pieces. He runs towards them without a word and after a quick
questioning look, Manav also follows. Armaan bends down and checks the pulse of both the kids
before looking up at Manav: Both are alive. We need to get them to the hospital.
Wordlessly, they turn to see that all the ambulances have left with the rest of the kids. After checking
for spinal fractures, Armaan breathes a small sigh of relief and lifts one kid in his arms: Mein apni
gaadi mein lejaata hoon. Its faster that way. Can you get the second kid?
Manav nods and picks up the second kid and walks fast towards his own battered car. Within minutes
both the cars screech to a halt at the already chaotic CGH and Armaan shouts for stretchers to be
brought in. Nisha, already in surgical scrubs rushes in along with the ward boys. Her feet come to a
shuddering halt as she spots Manav. Without a word, she runs and helps him shift the child from the
car onto the stretcher. After feeling the pulse, she instructs the stretcher to be taken into the ER exam
room and turns towards Manav: Aap..aap teek hain? (Manav nods. But she looks at the torn shirt and
the gash on his arm above the elbow.) You need dressing and TT for that. Come inside please. (She
turns to an intern) Please take my husband to the consultaion room and dress up his wound.
Administer TT also. (Then she turns back to Manav) I have to go.
Manav again nods and takes a step back: Go. Good luck.
Nisha nods and runs inside. Manav goes along with the intern and within minutes, his wound and TT
is taken care of. Just as he is putting his shirt back on, there is a polite knock on the wall beside and
Rohan walks in. If Manav hadnt met him during the wedding, there is no way he would have
recognised this friend of Nishas who is looking smart and a complete no nonsense kind in his police
uniform with a black jacket thrown on top. He nods and extends his hand: Hello Mr Manav.
Manav shakes his hand with his famous side smile: Hi. Wow! You have joined duty already? I heard
Nisha telling aunty that your first posting is in Ahmedabad.
Rohan nods: Ji. I just joined yesterday. I was informed that you were there when this accident
happened and you helped in getting the kids out. Can you tell me more of how all this happened?
(Both of them take seats and Manav gives a slight shake of his head as if unable to believe everything
that happened and starts narrating everything as precisely as possible. By the end of it, both of them
remain silent for a few moments.) Thank you. Punctured tyre seems to be the most possible cause but
I will look into it further. (He looks at Manavs torn shirt) You are done here? (Manav nods and both
men get up) I will go and talk to the school admin people and the bus service management too. (Then
he shakes Manavs hand again) That was really a great thing that you did today. I am sure lots of
parents out there are grateful.
Manav: I didnt think. I just..it was more instinctive and impulsive than anything else.
Rohan nods: Mein ab chalta hoon. Please tell Nisha that I will meet her later. (A slight pause) She takes
it hard when she loses a child. (With another small nod he turns and leaves while Manav is left with

another insight on his wifes personality and her profession.)


The rest of the day passes in a daze for Nisha as she tackles one child after the other and talks to the
parents, some times reassuring them and some times consoling them and sometimes just watching
them helplessly as they fell apart. 4 kids had passed away with multiple fractures and broken necks in
addition to the driver. By 7 pm she is exhausted with the lives that they had managed to save and
depressed at the lives that they could not despite their best efforts. She plops down in the chair in her
cabin and rests her head on the table with a weary sigh. Right on cue her phone rings: Uh hello?
Manav: Hi Nisha. How are things?
Nishas voice chokes up and swallows before answering: Ok. We lost 2 kids and 2 are just hanging..I
dont know..what..
Manav sighs: God! Just hang on Nisha. (And cuts the call. Within 20 minutes, there is a knock on her
cabin door before it opens. He looks at his wife..her head resting on the table in front and supported
by both her folded arms. She looks up with a resigned look that quickly turns into one of mild
surprise. He goes inside with a soft smile and crouches down in front of her chair before taking her
hand in his) Nisha..
Nisha blinks her wide wide eyes at him: Aap..yahaa?
Manav: How are you doing? Subah se kuch khaaya?
Nishas lips tremble: N..nahi. I was not hungry. And there was no time. (Then as if a sudden thought
occurred, her eyes dim further and she hangs her head almost guiltily) I am sorry..today I was not
there by the time you got home..I..
Manav closes his eyes and locks his jaw. I am going to have to erase and make up for so many things!
He quickly gets the smile back on his face and chucks her softly over her chin: Hey, dont worry
about that. I know today would have been hectic for you. see..I got some sandwiches and juice for you.
aao. Pehle kuch khaalo. (Nisha shakes her head) Come on..you need energy to go on na.
Nisha gets up reluctantly and Manav guides her onto the sofa. Both of them share the sandwiches and
the juice. Manav keeps her diverted and entertained with his small talk about what happened in VM
that day and his meeting with the work force and by the end of it, Nisha, with a little food inside her,
does feel a little better: Thank you. Aap ka haath kaisa hain?
Manav waves it away: Just a scratch. I will remove the plaster once I get home.
Before he could add more, the door opens suddenly and a nurse comes in with a panicked look on her
face: Dr Nisha..Vijay is flat lining. (Nisha drops the last piece of sandwich and gets up. Manav puts a
hand over her shoulder): Kuch nahi hoga. Jaao. I will wait here for you. Good luck.
And he is there 3 hours later..feet propped up in the table, fast asleep on the sofa..but waiting for
her..just like he said. Nisha extends her hand as if to touch his hair but right at that moment his eyes
open and she quickly withdraws her hand. He rubs his eyes and gets up: Howz the child?
Nisha nods: Stabilized. Not out of danger but..ok for now. Ghar chale?

At home:

Nisha is lying down on the bed, her head supported by her palm and keeps looking at her husband. He
is fast asleep on his stomach with one arm thrown carelessly in her direction but face turned away
from her. Her eyes are full of joy, wonder and a strange kind of peace. Tiger, pata hain mujhe aisa
lagraha hain ki mein koi sapna dekhrahi hoon..a beautiful dream where you are the same Tiger that
you were all those years ago..caring, thoughtful..who was just there for me no matter what. Today the
way you came to the hospital, made sure that I ate, reassured me and stayed back waiting for me..as if
unable to resist, she rests her head on his bare back. With a sleepy hmmmm..he turns to her side, pulls
her closer to him cuddling her up in his arms before settling down again. With a small contented
smile, her eyes drift close.

Next morning (Wednesday):
Manav comes out of the study room at home with his phone and laptop bag in his hand: Aaj CGH
jaarahi ho? (Nisha turns from her conversation with HK and nods.)
Manav: Teek hain. Mujhe office jaana hain. I have to wrap up a few things before our trip tomorrow.
You will take care of the packing, right? (Nisha nods) Our flight is tomorrow morning..Ahmedabad
to Delhi and then Delhi to Kullu. Ok? (Another solemn nod) Excited? (This time a small shy smile
with the nod) Toh mein jaau? (Another nod) Aaj tumhaara koi vrat hain kya?
Nisha frowns: Ji?
Manav grins: Nahi..the way you were answering without speaking..I thought koi maun vrat kuch hain..
A tiny involuntary chuckle escapes her and she starts shaking her head before smiling again: Ji aisa
kuch nahi hain. I will take care of the packing. Aap office jaayiye. (With a small wave to Nisha and a
nod to HK, he leaves.)

Next day Evening: Manali: Holiday Cottages:

Nisha is looking out of the window of the room while Manav tips the bellboy and closes the door: It
really IS cold!
Nisha turns back from the window: The receptionist was saying it touched zero last night.
Manav looks around the room: You want me to light the fireplace? (Nisha wraps her arms around
herself but shakes her head. He grins and pulls her cheek) Tand lagrahi hain..kaamp rahi ho aur fire
nahi chaahiye! Achcha chalo.. Lets go out and walk around for a while before the dinner time.
Both of them pull on the warm clothing and go out. After walking down a couple of blocks enjoying
the scenic beauty despite the freezing cold. Soon, they find a quiet park and sit on one of the benches.
Manav: So how are the kids from that bus accident?

Nisha gives a relieved smile: They are much better. I got an sms when we were in Delhi airport that
the 2 kids are now out of ICU..(She gives him a hasty look) I mean..I just wanted to make sure..
Manav continues to look at the darkening skies with a thoughtful smile on his face: You are a great
doctor and somehow I am not surprised you know. Mein jaanta tha..ki tum jispe bhi apna dimaag
lagaaogi usme kamiyaab hokarhi chodogi. The day you said you want to take up medicine, I knew
you wont leave it until you had that degree in your hands.
Nishas cheeks, which are already pink from the cold become warm with the blush: Thank you.
Manavs smile slowly dissolves: Ek baat poochu Nisha? (As if already knowing what he is going to
ask, she swallows, wets her lips and nods) Why did you do it? All those years ago? Thats what I
never understood or rather could not accept. I knew you so well yet I could never imagine for one
single nano second that YOU..
Nisha looks away guiltily: I guess I wasnt thinking.
Manav turns towards her: Lekin Nisha..how could you NOT think? (Silence) I mean how can the
thought NOT come that something could have badly gone wrong at that time. What if I hadnt lost
consciousness when I did? What if I had..(He shudders as if the thought still has the power to send a
shiver down his spine.)
Nisha wets her lips, swallows repeatedly and looks away: I am sorry. I really just wasnt thinking. I
kind of liked you..I mean I always liked you but I mean I REALLY liked you and I was scared that if I
ever told you youd be disgusted. I could never tell you but I used to dream about going out with
you..you know..like a date..Somewhere romantic..dinner woh sab..I probably wouldnt have done
anything if you had got engaged and later on married Aditi but then the engagement got cancelled and
I realized you were free. That I could have this time with you and no one would know anything about
it including you and technically I wouldnt be sharing you with anybody else. For that short time you
would have been mine. (She swallows and looks into his eyes as a lone tear rolls down her cheek) All
I can say is I am sorry. I was stupid and impulsive and reckless.
That open admission and at the open vulnerability in her eyes as they look into his for the first time
moves him. She accepted everything giving out her reasons, however twisted they were at that point
all those years ago and that douzes his temper and his own fear and vulnerability peaks out: You were
15 Nisha! I was older, stronger, taller..agar mein uss haalat mein kuch kardeta toh? What would have
happened to you? What would have happened to ME? I would probably have killed mys..
Nisha covers his mouth with her gloved hand while he continues to lock his eyes with her now horror
filled ones. She just shakes her head continuously. Her lower trip trembles and she bows her head. I
wish I could tell you Tiger. I wish I could tell you that I loved you..that I still love you..but you have
just begun to let everything go and trust me again. If I tell you now that I loved you when I was
15..then..I dont want you to laugh at me or worse, feel disgust now any more that I did then.: No.
Please. Dont say that. You were special to me. Our relationship was precious to me. You were my
best friend and I am sorry..more sorry than I can say that I erased all that with my stupidity.
Manav looks at her downbent head for endless moments before sighing and putting his arm around
her and pulling her into a one armed hug before wiping away her tear with his gloved hand: Its ok. (A
slight pause and then) I guess all said and done I cant deny that if you hadnt done that then I wouldnt
have had that alibi. (He leans his cheek over her hair and continues to think) You know..if it was just

about what you did, my reaction wouldnt have been so extreme that I would have left the town. But
everything and everyone hit me and slashed me to pieces at the same time. Aditi, Armaan, you..it was
like wherever I turned, I saw betrayal. (Nisha closes her eyes to stop her tears) I dont know why both
of them did what they did but I can never forgive them. Ek hi jhatke mein dosti aur pyaar..dono parse
vishwaas udgaya mera. I mean..neither of them ever..I mean I honestly never suspected anything like..
(He cuts off the sentence as if suddenly remembering the fact that he is talking to his wife about his
past lover. But she always had the ability to make him comfortable and at ease with himself. Guess
something dont change after all!) Ab woh sab beeti baaten dohraake koi faayda nahi hain Nisha. Lets
try and move on.
Nisha swallows and softly ventures: Aur Armaan sir bhi..
Manav removes his arm from around her and gets up angrily: Enough I said. I dont want to talk
about him and dont you DARE to try to defend him.
Nisha gets up: Nahi..mein toh buss..
Manav catches her arm and pulls her close until his fogged breath blows over her face and his eyes
spit fire at her: Ek baat sunlo Nisha..I know that he is your senior in CGH. I cant do anything about it.
I dont like it. Not one bit. But I am willing to trust you. YOU Nisha. Not him. So no more inviting
him to our functions and family gatherings. And I want you to be careful. Ok? (He holds both her
arms above her elbows and gently shakes her) Ok? Promise me that.
Nisha nods: I promise. (Manav nods curtly and after a while both of them make their way back to the
hotel each lost in their own thoughts. His gaze falls on one of the shops in the street and wordlessly he
goes inside that only to come out a few minutes later with a plastic bag containing a box inside. He
looks at Nisha as if expecting her to ask what it is but she starts walking beside him, with her hands
stuffed inside her long winter coat. The Chulbuli I knew would have hopped beside me into the shop
and if by chance I refused to take her, would have snatched the bag and peeped inside as soon as I
came out. He sighs and looks at her thoughtfully. May be its a good thing that I missed out on all the
growing up years when she turned from a naughty girl into a professional woman! I probably couldnt
have accepted her as my partner if she had remained the same or had I been there during those
growing up years. Both of them reach the hotel and have their dinner before going back to the room.
Topics during dinner remain neutral as if both of them are trying to let the painful past finally go and
move on. Once back in the room Nisha opens her carry on to take out her clothes but he takes her
hand and pulls her to the bed and makes her sit on it before opening the box he had bought at the
store. She peeps inside to see lots of multicoloured glass bangles. Her delightfully surprised adoring
eyes continue to look at him as he silently takes the bangles from the box and starts putting them on
her hand. He doesnt look up or meet her eyes: Nisha..tumhaara pati..tumhaara pati koi Ram toh nahi
hain but I want to give this relationship..us..a chance. I want to move on. Will you help me do that?
Will you be able to forgive and forget everything that happened right after our marriage and make a
fresh start?
Nisha nods enthusiastically as she continues to look at him with stars in her eyes. The fact that he
remembered the cracked bangles of that night and is trying to say sorry in his own way makes her
entire face light up with joy. She almost stumbles in her haste to get the words out: The past doesnt
matter Manav..if..if you..the present and the future..those matter more. If you can give me those then I
will be happy.

Manav looks up with a small sideways smile: Even with someone 15 years older than you? We are
bound to have issues.
As if unable to resist anymore, she cups his cheek: That never..(She bites her lip to cut off the words)
That doesnt matter. We were friends once. I think we can be friends again. I would love that. We will
deal with the issues. I mean..Everyone has issues right?
The hopeful look in her eyes melts the last of his defences. He nods in relief and his fingers remove
the pins holding her hair in the top knot. With a small groan of anticipated pleasure, he spreads her
hair all over her shoulders and back before gripping it with both his hands and rubbing his face all
over it: I love this..I love your long hair..makes me want to (He gently pushes her back until her head
rests on the pillow with her hair spread all around her and leans over her before falling on the empty
space beside her. He then wraps his arm around her waist and literally pulls her completely over him
until her hair becomes a curtain covering both their faces.) Makes me want to do this..aah
Nisha..beautiful..just beautiful!
His lips touch hers and her passionate response almost singes him. He takes a small bite at her lower
lip and immediately soothes it with his tongue. One hand travels from her waist up to her shoulder
where he tries to remove the pin thats holding the sari together. He pulls his lips away from hers and
takes a deep breath before muttering: You better remove that or I will end up tearing it. (A moments
pause and then he tightens his arms around her to prevent her movement.) Nisha..that first time..did I
hurt you?
Nisha hides her face in his neck and her fingers grip his shirt over his chest: Nahi.
Manav pulls back her face so that he can look into her eyes: Sure?
Nisha nods shyly before impulsively placing a sudden kiss on his cheek. But before she could roll
off, he reverses their positions until she is under him and pulls her arms until they are wrapped
around his neck: What was that?
Nishas eyes are closed; face turned away with a pink cheek facing him and he tenderly brushes away
the hair thats fallen over her face. She mumbles: Kiss.
Manav grins: Thats called a kiss? Dr Nisha, you need to learn a lot.
Nishas arms tighten around his neck until her fingers softly dig in his hair at the nape: Then teach
me.
Manavs lips travel from her cheek to her neck as his fingers start unhooking her blouse: Teach?
Hmmm..not a bad idea par mera fees ka kya?
Nisha arches her neck: Jo chaahe..jab chaahe..
He cups her breast and lowers his head: Tempting..so very tempting Mrs Mathur. (He licks her lower
lips until she parts it and gives her an open mouthed kiss before softly pushing his tongue inside to
taste and invites her to reciprocate. His breath huffs out on her face when they part finally to draw a
breath.) Thats called a kiss. (Nishas red lips stretch into a smile but she obediently nods. His palm
cups her breast and he lowers his head to take the beaded nipple into his mouth to suckle hard.
Minutes stretch as he pays homage to one and then the next before coming back once again to the first
one. Her back arches and her lips part in an instinctive protest when he finally raises his head.) You

know what thats called? (She is incapable of speech by now..just nods and tries to pull his head back
to her chest.) You have to answer me first. Whats it called? (Nisha bites her lip but finally whispers the
word in his ear causing his eyes to darken further with passion. He lowers his head and gives a small
nip at the point where her neck meets her shoulder causing goosebumps to raise all over her.) And
what is that? (He lifts her hand and places it on his shirt buttons and her fingers dont waste a second
before they get to work and soon she has him forgetting his questions and lessons. Finally, with a
rough exclamation he spreads her legs and claims her.) You drive me crazy Nisha..absolutely crazy..
Her hand fumbles until she can turn the lights off and in the darkness, with only the fire crackling in
the room; she shows him that he has already driven her crazy to the point of madness.

The rest of the trip they spend time getting to know each other in every way. They compare what they
knew from before to what has changed now in their tastes and preferences. Other than one conference
call and checking his mails through his phone, Manav manages to spend the rest of the time with
Nisha. Second day they visit the Hadimba temple and the Tibetian Monasteries and the third day they
go to see the hot water springs and the Naggar castle. Manav surprises Nisha by taking her to the
Rohtang pass highway where Manav tempts her into a game of snowball throwing match. After
getting hit about 3 times successively, Nisha sheds her reserve and gets into the spirit of things. Both
fight and roll in the snow and he ends up stuffing the cold snow inside her shirt making her scream
out loud amidst his laughter and her own uncontrollable chuckles. Soon Sunday arrives and both of
them start packing for their departure. He rolls and stuffs one of his shirt in the carry on and
wordlessly she takes it out, folds it and puts it back again neatly: Kya farak padta hain? They anyway
need to be washed.
Nisha smiles: Farak toh nahi padega par iss tarah zyaada kapde rakhsakte hain na? Aap ka woh waala
jacket aap pehke aanewaale hain ya andar rakhdoo?
Manav stops packing and looks at her: Yeh aap aap kya hain Nisha? Bahut ajeeb lagta hain mujhe. You
never used to address me like that before na.
Nisha smiles: Baan par..(She just shrugs awkwardly)
He sits on the bed and pulls her until she is standing before him: Just call me by name na..yeh ji, aap,
aayiye, baitiye..Yaar why do you want to make me feel old?
Nisha grins as if she cant help herself any more: Mera iraada aap ko booda bananeka nahi tha.
Manav pulls her closer, wraps his arms around her and rubs his face on her tummy and gives a mock
growl: Phir wohi aap! And yes, it does make me feel old. So stop it. (Then he looks up) Please?
(Nisha nods and both of them quickly finish the packing. He gives a quick look around the room and
searches his pockets making sure everything is there.) Hogaya? Shall we go?
Nisha picks up her bagpack: Ji. (He looks at her with a tired sigh and she bites her tongue. With a
small laugh, both of them begin their journey back home.)

A few days later: On the morning of the party / reception: Verma Residence:

Nandini rushes into the kitchen: CS, sab taiyyaar hain na?
CS: Phikr na karo memsaab. Sab ready hain.
Nandini: Aur woh fruits sab cut karke rakhe hain na? Manav ko khaane ke baad fruit salad pasand
hain.
CS: Ji. Wahi kar raha hoon. Aap jaake baaki ka kaam dekhleejiye mein sab sambhaal loonga.
Nandini: Sab kuch achcha hona chahiye CS. Damaad pehli baar ghar aarahe hain.
Anu pops in: Kya aunty? Itne tension mein kyon hain?
Nandini gives a sigh of relief: Anu..tu aagayi beti? Good. Good. Shaam ke party ka dress saath mein
laayi ho na?
Anu: Ji. No issues. Ab mein yahaa se kal subah hi jaaungi. Mummy se bolke aayi hoon. (Nandini
kisses Anus cheek with obvious affection) Waise Nisha kab aarahi hain? She told me that they would
be coming for lunch here and then we would all get ready and go to the party together.
Nandinis face glows: Abhi. Woh teeno wahaa se nikal chuke hain.
Anu: Teeno?
Nandini: Haan. Nisha, Manav aur Hiraman. Hiraman wanted to stay back but both Manav and Nisha
insisted so he is also coming.
Yogs quick strides bring him into the kitchen: You are here gossiping? They have come. Chalo chalo.
Nandini takes the arti ki thaali and after adjusting her sari goes towards the main door: Arre arre..itni
jaldi nahi. Ruko ruko.
Manav looks at Nandini doing the aarti and tilak for him with a confused smile on his face: Yeh sab
kya hain aunty?
Nandini: You have come to our house for the first time as our damaad. Swaagat toh honi chaahiye na.
Manav looks away for a second but gets back his smile and bends down to take the blessings of Yog
and Nandini. With a small smile Nisha also follows suit. Lunch takes on a festive air with everyone in
a jubiliant mood and talking over each other. Nisha is the only one who just sits back and lets the
conversation flow over her until Anu pulls her arm: Oye, shaam ko kya pehenrahi hain?
Nisha: one of the two ghagras we bought the other day. The dark green with gold one. You?
Anu: Baby pink and silver wala. Aur..(She lowers her voice) Jeejaji kya pehenne waale hain?
Nishas eyes automatically look at Manav, who is busy conversing the current stock rates with her
father: That midnight blue with silver one.
Anus eyes become wide: Haan..your favourite colour?! (She immediately tones down her tone but
her voice comes out as a squeak) Sachchi? Wow yaar! (Nishas smile widens and Anu tilts her head to
look at her best friends glowing face) Tu khush hain? (Nisha nods) Good. Achcha chal kuch khaale.
Shaam ko party mein naachna hain. Vishaal and Rohan chose some movie songs to do play and dance.
Mazaa aayega. I am going to dance and I am going to make YOU dance too.


That evening: Function Hall:

The hall has been decorated with cream, red and gold coloured curtains with red, white and yellow
roses and tulips. Chandeliars hang from the ceiling illuminating the whole hall. Round tables with
chairs are places in strategic places but the centre area is left open as a dance floor and a small dias
though not very high, just a step up, is arranged near the wall and decorated chairs are placed for both
Manav and Nisha to sit. 3 cars reach the hall right one after the other. First one has Yog, Nandini, CS
and HK. The second one has Anu, Vishaal and Anus parents. And as the third flower decorated car
comes to a halt in front of the entrance, the door opens and is held by someone from the outside.
Manav exits first and gives a surprised smile at the person holding the door open: Oh! Hello Rohan!
Dressed in a black sherwani, Rohan smiles back and extends his hand: Hello Manavji!

Chapter 9

Yeh Manav wahi tha na jo kuch saal pehle inke teesre partner ke beti se shaadi karna chaahta tha?
Haan yeh wahi hain. Woh ladki marr gayi aur ab iss partner ke ladki se shaadi karli
Oh God! Whats with this guy and his father s partners and their daughters? And how did THIS girl
agree?
Arre all this is common in business circles. Aur phir maze ki baat toh yeh hain ki yeh Nisha wahi
ladki hain jissne Manav ko kuch pilaake uske saath apne photos khichvaayi thi..
Oh wow..and here I was thinking poor girl ended up having to marry to save her father s business.
Mein toh kehti hoon, even her parents would have been glad to wash their hands off her this way.
Aur karte bhi kya? Zara socho..15 saal ki umr mein agar yeh aisi thi toh..
Vishaal pulls Anu back: Shshhh..yeh kya kar rahi ho?
Anus face is red and her voice is nowhere near as quiet as it should be ensuring that the two
gossiping women hear whatever it is she is speaking: Mera hath chodo Vishaal. Inn logo ko sharm
naam ki bhi koi cheez hain ki nahi? Duss saal pehle jo hua uska poora sach inko maloom hain kya?
Kya hua..kyon hua..uske baad kya hua..yeh shaadi ab kyon hua..they dont want the facts. They just love
pointing fingers at others. They forget the fact that when they point one finger at someone, the rest of
the fingers are pointing at themselves. They have come to uncle and Jeejajis party, enjoying the food
and still commenting on them.
By now the two women are red in the face. They quickly avert their eyes and move away from the
vicinity of Anu, the ticking time bomb. Vishaal chuckles softly and sighs: Lo..tumne toh unn logo ko
bhagahi diya. Aadha khaana chodke chalegaye. Itna gussa teek nahi hain Anu.
Anu looks at the dias where Nisha and Manav are standing and coversing with someone. Both for the
first time after their meeting a little more than a month ago, are looking happy. No crackling tension
or blistering temper or stony silence. Vishaal also observes the same with a smile on his face.

Suno Ik Thi Kaanch Ki Gudiya Suno Ik Thi Pyaar Ki Pudiya
Sadke, Uss Pyaar Ke
Suno Ik Tha Pind Da Shera Aaya Kas Ke Baandh Woh Sehra
Sadke, Uss Yaar Ke

Everyone turns to see Rohan standing in the middle of the dance floor with his hands folded and with
a small smile on his face singing for his friend and her husband. Vishaal grins and pulls Anu along
with him and both of them join Rohan in his song and dance. And soon other friends also join them in
the dance:

Saji Thi Doli Woh,Chadha Tha Ghodi Voh


Khoya Jaane Kahan Inna Sona
Pyaar Baliye
Jogi Mahi, Heer Raanjhana,
Sab Nu Ja Ke Main Yeh Bolna,
Baat Bol Ke, Raaz Kholna

Yog and Nandini climb on to the dias with a plate of sweets. Yog feeds Nisha and Nandini feeds
Manav. He takes a small bite, grins and stuffs the rest of it in Nishas mouth as the parents look on
indulgently at the pair. Rohan smiles at that but his eyes hold a kind of sadness as he looks at Nisha:

Dil Thaame Hue,
Woh Tha Khada, Chup Ke Se Yun,
Dur Baithe Hue, Umra Gaiyaan
Jaane Na Tu

Anu pushes Vishaal towards Rohan and he takes over the song:

Deewane Ne Di Jawani, Ke Har Gham Tu Bhula De,
Deta Hi Raha Sadayein, Ke Dil Se Tu Bula Le

It gives Rohan time to school his features back to his usual smile and pick up the song along with
Vishaal with Anu whirling and dancing between them:

O Chhad De Ve Zid Hun, Chhaje Uttey Aaja Hun,
Dil Tuta Janda Sun Pyaar Dulya
Jogi Mahi, Heer Raanjhana,
Sab Nu Ja Ke Main Yeh Bolna,
Baat Bol Ke, Raaz Kholna
Jind Meri, Jind Meri, Hun Te Aaja Jind Meri, Jind Meri, Hun Te Aaja
Jadon Da Rus Gaya, Khuda Bhi Bhul Gaya,
Jindadi Jaandi Hai Dholna

Anu starts walking towards the dias and Nisha. Images keep flashing before her. An image of a 12-13
yr old mischievous Nisha making faces and running away before she could catch her, Nisha jumping
the wall of her house to go and play cricket in the street, Nisha pleadingly looking at Anu and
extending her camera to her, Nisha all scared and hurt with the crude comments from the boys, hiding

behind Rohan, Nisha completely hidden behind a blank doll face. She goes and hugs Nisha tightly and
places a soft kiss on her cheek:

Woh, Jaane Kahan, Gum Ho Gayi, Phir Na Mili
Jo Phoolon Si Thi, Rus Hi Gayi, Phir Na Khili,

Then before Manav or Nisha catch her expression, she gets her smile back and turns towards Vishaal
extending her hand towards him. He pulls her to him with an arm around her waist and twirls her
around:

Pyaar Maanga Tha Maine Rabb Se, Woh Rehta Tha Yahin Pe,
Maangun Mein Yehi Duayein, Laut Aaye Woh Kahin Se
Oh Chhad De Ve Zid Hun Chhaje Uttey Aaja Hun,
Dil Tuta Janda Sun Pyaar Dulya

Anu, Vishaal and Rohan all 3 climb on to the dias and pull both Manav and Nisha into the dance with
them. After the initial protest, Manav and Nisha start clapping and dancing around each other to the
beat of the music:

Suno Ik Thi Kaanch Ki Gudiya Suno Ik Thi Pyaar Ki Pudiya
Sadke, Uss Pyaar Ke
Suno Ik Tha Pind Da Shera Aaya Kas Ke Baandh Woh Sehra
Sadke, Uss Yaar Ke
Saji Thi Doli Woh, Chadha Tha Ghodi Voh
Khoya Jaane Kahan Inna Sona Pyaar Baliye
Jogi Mahi, Heer Raanjhana, Sab Nu Ja Ke Main Yeh Bolna,
Baat Bol Ke, Raaz Kholna

Almost at the end of it, Manav gives a mera toh hogaya expression and walks back to the dias and
settles down. Nisha turns from the dance and on seeing that Manav is missing, looks around. Upon
spotting him on the dias, she also follows him. Manav extends his hand while she is climbing the dias
and snags a couple of drinks from the passing waiter. Anu runs and tries to pull a protesting Nisha
back to the dancing and Nisha gets down. She gestures the juice in her hand and goes back to sit and
drink it. Manav frowns and fumbles in his pocket to take out his phone, checks the id and with a quick
look of apology to Nisha starts walking a little away from the noise with one ear covered and the
second one listening to the caller. Rohan continues to dance but suddenly his gaze falls on the ceiling
right above to the place where Nisha is sitting and he starts running. With a quick shout of NISHA
WATCH OUT! he pulls her down and away from the dias shielding her completely as the heavy
chandelier hanging above her comes crashing down missing both Nisha and Rohan by mere inches.

Stunned silence follows the resounding crash and a second later Manavs shout of NISHA echoes in
the hall. He runs back to where both Rohan and Nisha are standing..pale, stunned but unharmed and he
snatches Nisha into his arms and hugs her tight. His panicked gaze meets that of Rohans: Kya hua?
Rohan shakes his head a little and turns back towards the broken chandelier: Pata nahi. I was dancing
and I saw..
Manav pulls Nisha back to look at her face and runs his trembling hands hastily all over her:
Tum..teek ho?
Nisha nods and is once again pulled into Manavs hug. The rapid loud thud thud of his heart echoes
her own. Still in her husbands arms, looks at Rohan: Th..thank you Rohan.
Manav glares around at everyone: Who the hell was so careless while decorating the hall? I want that
guy in front of me in exactly 2 minutes. (Rohan continues to look at the chandelier with a frown and
slowly goes closer to it and starts walking around it.) Rohan sambhalke. The power cord is hanging
loose. (Rohan nods without looking up at Manav and he starts looking around as if searching for
something. Manav picks up one of the wooden drum sticks from the dance floor) Here catch! (Rohan
nods his thank you and lifts the thick rope thats supposed to hold the chandelier with the stick and
rolls it around so that it doesnt slip off. His frown deepens and anger takes over his expression)
He looks at Manav: Aap log ghar jaayiye. Mein baad mein milta hoon. (His eyes follow the rod on the
ceiling and back to the area in the back stage where the ropes were tied to a thick poll. He turns to
look at the crowd.) Please do not touch the poll or the rod or the chandelier. (Then he walks back to
Manav and gestures him to come aside) Manavji, go home. and be careful while going. Dont take any
lonely streets or short cuts. And dont leave Nisha alone at any point of time.
Manav frowns: Kya baat hain Rohan?
Rohan shakes his head: I dont know. Something is not right. I will come and talk to you in a while.
Just..just be careful. Ok?
Manav nods and everyone leaves. Yog and Anus father stay back to talk to the function hall manager
regarding the accident and Rohan takes his phone and moves away from the departing crowd.

At Manavs residence: Their bedroom:

Manav: You sure you are not hurt, right?
Nisha: Not even a scratch. (A small pause) But otherwise, the party was good until then, right?
Manav nods and then frowns: Something is bothering you. Come on Nisha..out with it.
She blinks in surprise: Ji? Nahi. Aisa kuch nahi hain. Buss..I just have a little headache thats all.
Manav: Migraine?
Nisha sighs and sits down on the bed and starts rubbing her neck and shoulder: I hope not. I dont want
that medication again. Makes me too drowsy.

Manav pulls her up: Jaao. Tande paane se muh dholo and get changed. I will darken the room and get
the ice pack for you. Lets see if we can avoid the medication this time.
He quickly closes the curtains, switches off the lights except the small bedlight and adjusts the bed
before going down to get the ice pack. He comes back to find her already in the bed in her usual loose
t shirt and track pant. He sits beside her and puts the ice pack on her forehead before massaging her
neck and shoulder: Itna tension kyon leti ho Nisha? You need to relax. Dont think and worry so much.
Kuch nahi hoga. Mein hoon na? Hmmm? (She bites her lower lip to stop herself from saying I love
you so much Tiger!) Kuch chahiye? (She shakes her head) Then why have you stiffened up?
Nisha swallows: Ji..woh..can I ask you something?
Manav: Sure.
Nisha: Will you hug me while I go to sleep? Achcha lagta hain.
Manav pushes away the hair falling on her forehead affectionately: Yeh bhi koi poochne ki baat hain?
Tumhaara haq hain Nisha. You can demand for it. Any time. Move a little and give me some space.
She quickly moves and he lies down beside her before pulling her into his arms. She rests her head on
his shoulder with a sigh of relief while his arm tightens around her. He continues to use the cold
compress on her forehead with his free hand and within minutes, her hand gripping his t shirt tightly,
she slides off into sleep.

About an hour later, Rohans Scorpio Jeep stops in front of Manavs residence. HK gets him a tall
glass of juice while he waits for Manav and soon enough, Manav comes down the stairs: Hi Rohan.
Rohan gets up and looks around as if searching for someone. Manav observes that: Nisha is having a
headache. I didnt want another migraine attack so I put her to bed. You need to talk to her too?
Rohan shakes his head: No. I would prefer if she is not there actually. I need to ask you a few
questions.
Manav gestures him to sit and seats himself opposite to him: Baat kya hain Rohan? That accident..it
WAS an accident right?
Rohan leans forward: No. It was not an accident. There was no snagging of the rope and no finger
prints anywhere on the rod. The clean cut and the wiping off of the finger prints indicate..
Manav locks his jaw and springs up from the chair: Indicate someone did it deliberately. Who the hell
would dare to do something like that?
Rohan: Its too soon to conclude and point fingers at someone. I still have to go through the video of
the function yesterday and see if anything pops up. I am going to head out there from here. I just want
to ask if you suspect anyone. I mean does anyone hold a grudge against her because of you?
Manav gives an uncomprehending look: Grudge against HER because ME? I dont understand.
Rohan sighs: Do you have any ex girlfriends or lovers?
Manav gives a slightly awkward laugh and runs a distracted hand through his hair: Haan par isse uss

baat ka kya connection hain?


Rohan: 90% of the cases of this kind end up with that factor Manavji. It usually boils down to some
jealous ex in the past and thats why I am asking you. This never happened before to Nisha. Someone
waited until you got down from the dias and she got on it before cutting the rope..Indicating they
didnt want to harm you only HER. So I just thought I will ask you. Maybe an ex lover or ex girlfriend
or someone of that kind..someone you suspect..
Manav laughs: I dont know of anyone who is or was in love with me. And as far as Nisha goes I don't
know of anyone other than you.
Rohan is taken aback: What do you mean?
Manav: I am not trying to imply anything here. But I do know that you love her.
Rohan looks embarrassed: Aap ko kaise pata? Meine toh Nisha ko bhi..
Manav smiles: Oh come on Rohan. Koi bachcha bhi bata dega. Tumhari aakhoon mein saaf dikhta hai.

Rohan for once has no answer: Ji?
Manav gives Rohan a shrewd look: What? You think I cant see the adoration in your eyes when you
look at her? And yet, you have remained her true friend all these years. (Rohan frowns) Yes. Anu told
me everything that happened.
Rohan looks away and then back at Manav with a smile. A small yet a genuine one: Meri baat hi alag
hain Manavji. I always knew where I stood with Nisha. I knew Nisha never saw me as anything other
than a friend. If I say something then I would end up losing that friendship. And its not worth it.
(Manav looks at him with his head slightly tilted and finally gives him a nod. Rohan picks up his
jacket and gets up) Toh ab mein chalta hoon. Please think and let me know if any names pop up in
your mind.
Manav nods and shakes his hand: Will do. Thanks Rohan.
Rohan takes a few steps and turns back again to face Manav: Meri aakhhon ka dikhta hai. Par itne
saalon se aapko Nisha ki aakhoon mein nahi dikha? You say you can see the adoration in my eyes
when I look at Nisha. Then how come you missed the look in her eyes when she sees you? (Manav
frowns as if he still doesnt get it and Rohan shakes his head with a smile) You never saw her
adoration..her love when she looks at you? The way she has ALWAYS looked at you? As long as I
remember, there has been only one man for her. Aur woh aap hain Manavji. Chalta hoon. Goodnight.
(The main door closes softly behind his exit.)

Gobsmacked is the only word to describe Manavs feelings on hearing that. Nisha..my Chulbuli..my
wife..was..is..has been in love with me? All this time? All these years? How? Is it even possible? I was
not even here most of that time! May be Rohan is wrong? But then why would he be wrong? He and
Anu were the only ones who stayed with her all through. So that means..(The reason behind her
coming out with the snaps all those years ago and everything that she did now, took a whole new
meaning to him now. He looks up in the direction of the bedroom) Why didnt you say something
Nisha? Why didnt you..huh..I hardly ever gave you a reason to trust me na. You probably think I wont

believe you or worse, laugh at you and your emotions. (He almost collapses back into the sofa and
covers his face) Hey Chulbuli, aaj mein nahi aasakta re. I am going out on a date with Aditi. I am
going to propose to her during the dinner. You are the only one to know it first so keep quiet. No
spilling beans. Ok? Hey Chulbuli, yeh mein kya sunn raha hoon? Tu aunty aur mom ke saath
shopping nahi jaarahi hain? Go na. Mom wants to buy you something special to wear on the day of my
engagement. Why? You still not over your crush on me? You seem to have turned into quite a
good lapdog in the last decade. So trot back out there and tell your darling daddy that VM will be
saved. Do you pretend that I am Armaan? Do you think about him when we are like this? Is that why
you like darkness so much? How did you feel then..when I said those things to you? And after we got
married..(His head falls back and he blinks repeatedly as his eyes stare at the ceiling with blurred
vision) Is that why you want darkness when we are..? Is that your way of hiding your feelings from
me? And stupid that I am, I thought God knows what and later on just assumed that you were feeling
shy. He climbs the steps still in a kind of daze and goes into the room. He looks at the curled up
sleeping form of his wife. His first instinct is to shake her awake and look into her eyes so that he
could get the confirmation. He shakes his head a little as he rejects the thought of waking her up but as
if unable to resist, slides in beside her and carefully pulls her into his arms so that her head once
again rests on his shoulder. She jerks a little and he soothes her with a soft shhhh and rubs his hand
over her back until she settles down once again with a soft sigh. And now this incident tonight! If
Rohan is right and someone really is after you..(He tightens his arm around her and his eyes blaze
fire) Koi haath lagaake toh dekhe! I could not do anything to save Aditi..could not even bring the
killer to justice because I was too wrapped up in my own anger and sense of betrayal but this time!
Tumhe kuch nahi hone doonga Nisha. I swear! Whoever it is, will have to go through ME first. Tumhe
kuch nahi hoga!

Next day morning around 6 am:

Manav finishes tying his shoelace and picks up his phone to make a call: Hello Rohan? I want to talk
to you.
Rohan: Achcha hua Manavji ki aap ne call kiya. I was just about to call you myself. Can you meet me?
Manav: Sure. I am going for a run now. Want to join?
Rohan: I will do that. Aap ke street corner pe milte hain. 10 minutes.
Manav: Ok. Bye.
Rohan: Manavji..ghar mein Nisha..
Manav: Dont worry Rohan. Kaka hain aur meine unko mera number speed dial mein rakhke diya
hain. And we will run just around the street.
Rohan: Ok. See you in 10.
Sure enough, within 10 minutes Rohans jeep comes to a halt at the street corner and he gets down in
his track suit. Both of them do the warm up for a couple of minutes and start jogging. They remain
silent for the first couple of rounds.

Manav: You sure this one was deliberate?


Rohan: Ji. There were absolutely no finger prints on the rod. Someone wiped it clean. I am going to
look into the video today to see if I can catch anyone going in that direction or someone uninvited
being there. I need the guest list.
Manav nods: I will email it to you as soon as I reach home. (He shakes his head) Tough to believe this
though.
By now Manav is panting due to talking and running and Rohan slows down to keep up with him.
They finally stop at the other end of the street from where Manavs house is still visible.
Manav: Yaar..I am too old for this. I cant talk, run and keep up with you. So what were you saying?
Rohan: Itna hi nahi. There is actually something else. That school bus accident..you remember, right?
(Manav nods) Woh tyre puncture nahi hua tha. Someone shot with it with a sniper. Bullet was
recovered and report says the sniper is an unregistered one. We were thinking of who would shoot at
a school bus but now..
Manavs frown deepens as his mind tries to work out the connection. His gaze snaps back to Rohan:
You think that was intended for my car? But you said Nisha (His eyes clear and fury burns in them)
that was Nishas car. It had tinted windows. So you are saying whoever it is, mistook me for her?
Rohan nods. The anger in his eyes matches that of Manavs: Possible. Or they were hired and were
just given Nishas car number without any further details. That guy missed and hit the school bus
instead, killing 4 children and the driver in the process.
Manav almost growls out the words: The driver was honking so I just changed the lane so that he can
go ahead.
Rohan: That explains it. I wonder why he took a chance in that road at that point! You know..I am
thinking of something else too. (Manav looks at him questioningly) Aditis killer was never caught,
right?
Manav nods: Lack of evidence. So the case was closed after a couple of years. After that her father
shifted to US.
Rohan: May be these two are connected Manavji.
Manav: What? But that was 10 years back..you mean..the person who killed Aditi is now trying to kill
Nisha?
Rohan nods: Thats what I think. That murder was unsolved. Whoever it was, kept quiet. Probably
because you left town and never came back. But now you are not only back but also have married
Nisha. She or he is targeting whomever you are getting close to.
Manav gives a completely baffled look: But why? I mean, I dont have..I mean no one as far as I
remember was ever that obsessed with me. Not then. Not now.
Rohan: You sure?
Manav huffs out a small laugh: Yeah.

Rohan thinks for a minute: I know it was 10-12 years back but still..please think. I need more evidence
of course. Idea and thought are far fetched but I want to persue this angle and see what happens. Waise
aap ki aur Aditi ki engagement..was it love or a business deal kind of a thing?
Manav sighs: Chalo. We will sit at that tea shop and talk.
Both make their way to the tea stall close by and Manav tries to bring some order to his thoughts: It
was not a business deal. She was my junior by 3 years in school and college. Very smart and
ambitious. She wanted to do Marketing in MBA and become part of MVM. Both of us thought we
would marry and build the business together. I waited until she cleared her MBA before proposing to
her. Needless to say, our respective parents were jubilant over the news. I thought our lives were set
and all plans were in place. And then suddenly on the day of the engagement, the news of her
pregnancy popped up. I honestly had no idea that she was even seeing someone..Armaan and that both
of them were..that he was the father of the child until he himself told me AFTER she got killed.
Rohan: And where was he when this happened? Was he questioned?
Manav grits his teeth: He was at some conference in Delhi so he was officially cleared. And last night
he was not invited to the party.
Rohan remains silent as his mind continues to work in various directions. Finally, he puts the tea glass
aside: Manavji, I agree that right now there are just too many dots and we dont know which dot
connects to which one. But these 2 incidents right one after the other..(He shakes his head) We cant
afford to think that its just a coincidence. I dont believe in that kind of a coincidence.
Manav nods: You have a plan in mind?
Rohan nods and gets up: Yes. I am going to reopen Aditis case again.

Chapter 10

Manav also gets up: Reopen? But its 10 yr old cold case. You really think you will find something
new in that now Rohan?
Rohan looks at the brightening sky: Dekhte hain Manavji. Kahi na kahi kuch na kuch toh milega. I will
talk to the DIG today. (Then something strikes him) Waise why did you get down from the dias last
night?
Manav: I got a call from one of my ex colleagues in Mumbai. He was shifting off to US and wanted to
say bye. (Rohan nods and both men remain pensive for a few moments) Aur mujhe kya karnahoga
Rohan? Should I ask Nisha to take off for a few days or something?
Rohan: No. Right now all we have is a suspicion and gut feeling. So just make sure she is never alone
or goes with anyone other than the people we can trust blindly. You know what I mean?
Manav nods: May be I should change the cars too.
Rohan: Not a bad idea actually. And until that happens, you can drop her and pick her up. Or I can
send a cop in a civil dress as a temporary driver.
Manav: Agar zaroorat hua toh mein kehdoonga. Abhi keliye I will be that driver.
Rohan: Chinta mat keejiye Manavji. Hum sab hain na. Nisha ko kuch nahi hoga.
Manav starts walking towards the house but turns back: One question Rohan..how can Aditis murder
and this attempt be related? I mean I had already broken off the engagement by then, right?
Rohan: And Aditi or her family never made any attempt to patch things up?
Manav sighs: Yes. They did. She tried to call me and her father met my parents..
Rohan nods: Then may be whoever it was, didnt want the patch up to happen. (Then shrugs) As I said,
at this point I am just doing a random guess work.
Both men shake hands and exchange number and mail ids and part for the day.

At home:

After calling CGH and confirming her OPD appointments, Nisha starts getting ready for the day.
Before going to the shower, she opens the wardrobe and is trying to decide what to wear for the day
ahead when a hand touches her shoulder from behind. Startled, she gives a small squeak and turns to
face her husband: Aap? Aap kab aaye? I didnt hear..(He cups her cheeks with his palms and continues
to look into her eyes as if searching for something) Kya hua? Aise kyon dekhrahe hain?
Manav: Bataya kyon nahi Nisha?
Nisha blinks a little apprehensively: Kya? Kya nahi bataya? Mein..mein kuch samjhi nahi.

Manav: Bataya kyon nahi ki tum mujhse pyaar karti ho? You loved me all those years ago..you love
me still..yet you never told me..not once. Why Nisha?
Nisha looks like a deer caught in headlights. She stumbles back before turning away and hugging
herself: How..how did you know?
Manav comes to stand in front of her once again as if he doesnt want her hiding herself any more:
Thats not important Nisha. Its true isnt it? Why didnt you say something?
Nisha swallows but refuses to look into his eyes: Aur agar kehti toh aap kya kehte? Would you have
believed me? Or would you have laughed and brushed it off? Or felt..felt..disgusted that..you yourself
kept saying na..I was 15 to your 30.
Manav thinks for a few moments before once again cupping her cheeks and pulling her close, this
time refusing to let her look away from his eyes: May be you are right. May be I wouldnt have taken
it seriously..would have laughed even. Par itne saal..mein toh yahaa tha bhi nahi..tum akeli..aur agar
mein kabhi waapas nahi aata toh?
Nisha wets her lips and decides to take the leap: Toh shaayad zindagi bhar mein aap ka intezaar karti.
He snatches her into his arms at that and hugs her tight. His breath shudders out as the complete depth
of her feelings hit him: Nisha!! Aur jab mein waapas aaya toh..I was like a..and yet you still! (He
closes his eyes and just experiences the feeling of her in his arms) Thank you Nisha. Thank you so
very much. I mean it. (He once again cups her cheeks and places a tender kiss on her forehead as a
tribute.) Thank you. (Her tremulous smile turns into a soft hiccupping laugh just before she dives into
his arms and hugs him tight. He is not angry with me..he is not disgusted.. He said thank you..That
means he is ok with the fact that I love him! Thank you God! Thank you for this! Manav tilts her head
up and places a soft kiss on her lips.) Much as I want to stay like this, I think we better get ready.
(Nisha smiles and both part reluctantly to begin their day) I will drop you at CGH on my way.
Nisha: Why? I can manage.
Manav: Kyon ka sawaal hi paida nahi hota. Meri biwi hain aur mein meri biwi ko drop karna chaahta
hoon. Buss! Ab no arguments. Go have your shower fast. I have a meeting at 9. (She grabs the towel
and goes into the bathroom only to have him say loudly through the closed door.) And I already told
you no more ji business. (And her face splits into a wide grin.)
Both of them literally gulp down the breakfast in a hurry. But before either could get up, HK places
tall glasses of freshly squeezed juice in front of them.
Nisha shakes her head and puts it back in the tray: Mera hogaya kaka.
Before HK could open his mouth and protest, Manav places the glass back in front of her, gulps down
his own juice, folds his hands and looks at her with his eyebrow raised as if waiting for her to finish
hers. She sighs with a smile and drinks half glass and puts it back. He picks it up again and places it in
front of her.
HK laughs softly: Ek tu hi hain beta jo isko badal sakta hain.
Left with no choice, she finishes the rest of the juice and with a wave at HK, both of them leave. HK
looks at the Bappa idol with a look of gratitude.


On the way to CGH, Nisha spots Sruti waiting on the road: Manav..she is my senior in CGH. Can you
stop the car once please? (Manav stops the car and Nisha gets down.) Dr Sruti! You need a lift? Mein
CGH hi jaarahi hoon
Sruti gives a relieved smile: Oh thank you Nisha. (Nisha opens the back door and Sruti gets in. Once
Nisha is also seated, Manav starts the car.)
Nisha: Dr Sruti, this is my husband Manav. Manav, Dr Sruti is my senior and an OBG at CGH. (Manav
looks at Sruti through the rearview mirror and smiles a hello.)
Sruti: Nisha batarahi thi ki aap VM Industries mein partner hain..Nisha ke papa ke saath.
Manav smiles: Ji.
Sruti: Mere baba VM Industries mein kaam karte the. Yeh toh kuch 7 saal puraani baat hain. He
worked there for a couple of years before he had his heart attack. Ab toh woh nahi rahe
Manav: Oh I am sorry to hear that. What was he?
Sruti: Prakash Trivedi. He used to head the Marketing Team.
Manav: Oh. Ok. My father in law would be knowing him then. (Manav parks the car in front of the
hospital.) Sruti: Thank you Mr Manav. Nice meeting you.
Manav nods: Same here. Take care. (Sruti nods and walks away with a smile.)
Nisha: Suniye..(He raises his eyebrow) Suno..(He grins) Shaam ko mujhe aane mein thodi der
hojaayegi.
Manav: Not a problem. I will pick you up. Waise bhi kal ke incident ke baad I am not comfortable with
you going anywhere alone.
Nisha: Nahi. Anu hogi mere saath. I want to go shopping with her. (He opens his mouth to object but
sees the suppressed excitement in her eyes and relents. I dont want her tense and worried. Whatever
or whoever it is, Rohan and I will handle it.)
Manav: But be careful and dont be too late. Ok? (Nisha nods with a smile, waves and goes inside.
Once the rounds are done, she rushes back to the cabin and calls Anu.)
Nisha: Hey Anu..
Anu gets startled and looks at the time. Nisha usually calls her only during lunch time: Nisha? Kya
hua? Sab teek?
Nisha smiles: Anu, please relax. I am fine yaar. I just..I just wanted to talk to you.
Anu settles back in her seat: Kya baat hain? Badi khush sunaayi derahi hain?
Nisha does a small twirl in her chair: Yes Anu. I am happy. I am really happy. Itni khushi..ajeeb lagrahi
hain re. It will be like this, right? Kuch badal toh nahi jaayega na?
Anu frowns but then smiles determined to cheer her friend up: Chal dhat. Kuch nahi badlega. Dont

think so much. Achcha sunn tere honeymoon kaisa raha? Did you guys talk? I mean..
Nisha nods: Haan. We talked. It was good Anu. I feel lighter now actually..jaise ek bojh mann se
utgaya.
Anu: Thats good yaar. Ab yeh baat sunke na mein bhi lighter feel kar rahi hoon. (Both friends share a
soft laugh of understanding) Achcha yeh bata subah subah mujhe yaad kaise kiya? Jeejaji office
keliye nikal gaye?
Nisha lifts her mangalsutra and swings it as her eyes stare at the movement: Yeah. Unhone..I
mean..usne raaste mein mujhe CGH mein drop kiya.
Anu: Oye hoye..kya baat hain! Yeh kab se?
Nishas lips stretch wider and her cheeks turn pink: Manali mein. Manav ne kaha ki jab mein aap ji
bulaati hoon toh usse bahut ajeeb lagta hain.
Anu smiles: Oh! Cool. Toh ab tu phir se unko Tiger bularahi hain?
Nishas smile slips and falls off: Nahi. He might not want to be called like that any more. (Yeh dil kitna
paagal hain Anu. Jitna bhi do usse zyaada maangta hain. Kuch nahi tha toh dosti maanga aur ab dosti
milgaya toh pyaar maangta hain.)
Anu: Oye..kahaa khogayi?
Nisha shakes a little: Kuch nahi. Achcha sunn aaj shaam ko tu free hain kya?
Anu: Woh toh jeejaji se poochna padega. He called us for some meeting at 4. Agar woh jaldi khatam
hojaaye toh free hoon. Kyon?
Nisha: Mere saath chalegi? Shopping?
Anu sits up straight: Sure. Wow! Itne din..nahi itne saal baad tu khud mujhe shopping karne keliye
bularahi hain aur mein na aau? Not possible. Bol kahaa chalna hain.
Nisha: Woh baad mein bolti hoon. Kuch khareedna hain. Aur bata..tera aur Vishaal ka kaisa chalraha
hain?
Anu growls: Dont ask! He still has not spoken to his parents about us. Honest to God one of these
days, I will go to their house and introduce myself.
Nisha gives a soft chuckle: Tu ne uncle aunty ko bataya or are you both still just good friends?
Anu: Ma ko bataya. Dad ko baad mein boloongi. Let HIM talk to his parents first na.
Nisha: Tum dono ki jodi achchi hain yaar. You look good together. I saw the way both of you were
dancing yesterday.
Anu gets a dreamy look on her face: Vishaal kitna cute dikhraha tha na uss sherwani mein! Aay
haaye..mein waari jaawa..Nisha!!
Nisha grins: I think uncle also would have guessed by now.
Anu bites her nails: You think so? What do I say if he asks me?

Nisha: That you and Vishaal decide. Mein rakhti hoon. Shaam ko milte hain. Sms me the time and pick
me up from CGH. My car is still with the mechanic.
Anu: Ok ok tu rakh. Mein Vishaal se baad mein baat karti hoon. Abhi boss bularahe hain. Bye bye bye.

That afternoon Rohan walks out of the DIG office with the file in hand. If it was just the incident with
the chandelier, the DIG would have taken more time to decide, but that one combined with the school
bus incident got the the 10 yr old Aditi murder case reopened once again. Now he has to go through
the case notes and what little evidence the then police had gathered and filed. His phone rings and he
picks it up: Haan Sharma bolo. Did you get the cd? Its the complete one right? No editing done at any
point? There were two videographers in that party. Have the recordings been combined? Ok. Good.
Get everything ready. I am on my way.
He spends more than 4 hours going through every small bit of the video of the party. Almost when he
is ready to sigh and give up, his gaze catches something and he frowns: Wait. Back that up. Freeze it.
Now zoom it. (His frown deepens) Pass me the guest list please. (He quickly scans through the names
before looking back up at the screen) He is not in the guest list. So whats he doing here? Keep the CD
safe. I will be have a talk with him and be back again. (But just as he is about to go, a call comes in
about a lead in another case that he is dealing with which forces him to change his direction and his
priority for the time being.)

VM Industries:

Meeting draws to a conclusion and everyone start piling out of the conference room. Manav: Anu?
(Anu stops and waits for the rest to leave the room) You and Nisha are going shopping today?
Anu smiles and nods: Ji.
Manav: Listen..uh..sambhalke jaana ok? Rohan thinks last nights chandelier crash was not an accident.
Someone might be trying to hurt Nisha deliberately. He is looking into it. I didnt tell her anything
because I dont want her tense and worried and getting herself migraines. And its all probably
nothing anyway. But just..be careful ok?
Anus face creases with concern and then later she nods in understanding: Aap fikr mat keejiye jeejaji.
I will tell my dad to send the driver over. And we wont be too late. But Nisha ko koi kyon chot
pohonchana chaahta hain?
Manav tries to tone it down: Relax. Now you dont start worrying. Rohan said it could be something
or nothing. He will investigate and let us know. I will keep you posted if there is anything. But until
then its better to be on our guard. I dont want her hurt. (Anu tilts her head and looks at her Jeejaji)
Kya?
Anu: Kuch nahi. Dont worry. I will be with her and I will tell Vishaal to keep an eye on her while she
is in CGH.
Manav: Good. Thanks Anu.

Anu grins: Welcome to the family Jeejaji.


Manav pats her cheek affectionately: Thank you Saali Sahiba. Now, go and get to work. Kal subah tak
mujhe woh reports chahiye.
Anu: Yes sir.
Just as she turns back, he calls her once again: Arre haan Anu..
Anu turns back: Ji?
Manav: I want to buy a new car for Nisha. a kind of surprise. What kind does she prefer? Small or
big?
Anu giggles: She hates big cars. Says they are more ships than cars. (She thinks for a few moments)
She loves i10 Jeejaji. I remember her telling me once that if she ever changes her present car, she will
get herself an i10.
Manav: i10. Ok. Any specific colour?
Anu smiles: I think you already know which colour Jeejaji. She is nothing if not consistent. (Manav
thinks a moment and nods with a grin.) If you dont mind my asking, are you going to take another
loan for this?
Manav: No. I earned enough and most of it is in mutual funds. Will break a couple. That should do it.
Dont worry. No more loans. (A slight pause) I hope.
Anu: Fingers crossed. Mein jaau? (Manav nods.)

Evening: Around 7pm:

Nisha gets down from Anus car: Chal thanks buddy.
Anu peeps out from the window: Ghar mein kaka honge na.
Nisha: Haan. Dont worry. Ab tak toh Manav bhi aachuka hoga.
Anu grins: Ok. Bye. Goodnight.
Nisha: Anu..I had fun today. Goodnight. (Anu gives a thumbsup sign and tells the driver to take her
home. Nisha turns but before she could ring the bell, HK opens the door) Manav aagaye kaka?
HK: Abhi abhi beti. Ooper kamre mein hain.
Nisha takes out the gift wrapped box from her bag with a happy smile of anticipation and climbs a
couple of steps before coming to a sudden halt. She keeps looking at the box biting her lip. Will he
accept it? What if he doesnt? What if he asks me the cost and pays me back? The grip on the box
tightens and her steps slowly retreat until she back in the hall standing near the sofa again.
HK: Kya hua beti?

Nisha quickly schools her face and starts stuffing the box back into her bag: Kuch nahi kaka. Kuch bhi
toh nahi.
HK: Itne pyaar se laayi ho toh waapas kyon rakhdi..(He gives a quick glance towards the stairs and
goes off into the kitchen without completing the sentence.)
Nisha turns and gives Manav an awkward smile: Hi. Kab aaye office se?
Manav smiles: Buss abhi abhi. How was your day?
Nisha: It was good. Mein change karke aati hoon. (He stops her by catching hold of her handbag.
Wordlessly he opens it while his eyes just look at his downbent head, biting lip and the nails digging
into her palm in obvious sign of nervousness. His hands find and bring out the gift wrapped box.)
Manav: This is for me? (She gaze meets his once before sliding away and answers him with a small
nod) Can I open it?
Nisha swallows and like a shutter falling down, her face turns blank: Yeah. Sure. Meine toh buss yu hi
khareeda. (With that, she turns and goes off to their room. A minute later Manav also comes in and
closes the door, one hand still holding the unopened box. Wordlessly, he makes her sit on the bed
beside him and opens the gift wrap to find the latest Samsung Galaxy Note.) It costs about 38K.
That softly said sentence completely annihilates him. He doesnt even know what to say for a few
seconds and just keeps looking at the box. She thinks I am going to ridicule her and insult her gift. She
thinks I am going to pay her for this..like I did after she turned this house into a home. Finally in a
rough voice he says: I hurt you so badly, didnt I? (silence) Some times I dont even know if I would
ever be able to make it up to you. I was angry at so many things..the past..the present..your
silence..your seeming indifference to me..and I lashed out. I took out all my anger at everyone and
everything on the first available person, you. Every gesture and word of mine had you bleeding
inside but had me thinking that they were merely bouncing off your skin. There was only one place I
could connect with you..get SOME response from you and that was when we were in bed. All your ice
turned to fire in that one place. Every time..with every gesture you showered me with your love and I
didnt even realize it. I didnt get the fact that your actions are speaking far far louder than any words
ever could. (A slight pause) If I promise that I would never ever be such a monster again, will you
give me another chance?
The few moments of silence following that seem to be the longest in his life. Then her soft hands turn
his face towards her and her fingers lovingly brush through the greying hair at his temples before
bringing his face close to hers and softly kissing his lips. He doesnt make any attempt to take over
the kiss. Instead, he just lets her do whatever she wants. Her lips cling to his, part and then come back
to cling once again. Her tongue slides along his lower lip until with a rough exhale, he opens his
mouth allowing entrance. The box falls on the bed beside them as he wraps his arms around her waist
and pulls her until she is sitting astride him all without breaking the kiss. the need for air forces them
apart but undeterred, her lips travel all over his face and neck while her hands dig under his shirt to
run over his naked back. He falls backwards on the bed taking her along with him: Nisha..Nisha..stop.
Wait..aah..Nisha..(Her lips smother the rest of his words and this sudden aggression from her turns
him on like never before. He digs his fingers in her hair and pulls her away from his mouth)
Uh..listen to me..please. (Love and passion drugged eyes slowly open to look at him.) Will you let me
keep the lights on this time? (Her entire face lights up brighter than any light in the room as she nods.
With a soft groan, he tumbles her back on the bed. Their clothes are shed in a haze and soon a soft

sheen of sweat covers their writhing bodies. They roll until she is once again on the top and then she
begins to torture him with her fingers, lips, teeth and tongue until he is ready to explode from sheer
ecstacy. Finally, with a cry of frustration..or is it desperation..she falls back on the bed and pulls him
on top of her before gripping his hair and wrapping both her legs around his waist. His voice is
hoarse as he mutters) Dont..dont close your eyes ok? I want you to keep them open. I want to drown
in them as I drown in you.
She locks her eyes with his as he starts joining his body to hers. The naked emotion in her eyes rocks
his world and her arms are there to catch him as he tumbles and falls.

Rohan rings the bell and waits. After a few moments, Abhi opens the door: Yes?
Rohan gives a formal smile: Hello. I am Rohan. Yahaa ka nayaa SP.
Abhi blinks: Oh. Please come in. have a seat. I heard that we have a new SP in town. I am Abhimanyu.
Criminal Lawyer.
Both men shake hands and Rohan sits in a chair from which the whole room and kitchen are visible:
Ji. Jaanta hoon. I saw you in the court house the other day. Actually, I am Nishas classmate from
school too. Meine ek aad baar aap ko aur Armaan ko dekha bhi tha.
Abhi frowns as if trying to place him and then smiles: Aah..I saw you at Nishas wedding. (Rohan
nods) Now I realize why you look familiar. And I am sorry I cant place you from all those years
back.
Rohan smiles: Understandable I suppose. I was a 14 yr old lanky kid then.
Abhi grins and nods: Would you like to have something? Tea, coffee..?
Rohan: Nothing. Thanks. I actually have come to meet Dr Armaan.
Abhi: Bhai is not back from CGH yet. Aane ka waqt toh hogaya hain.
Rohan: He is Nishas colleague, right?
Abhi: Yeah. Well..her senior actually. CGH had that issue while hiring Nisha na..(He gives a disgusted
look) Honestly, I tell you..this society and its double standards! Anyway, when they raised the issue,
bhai recommended and argued in her favour. I dont even think he ever told her that.
Rohan nods: He knew Nisha for a long time, right?
Abhi smiles: Yeah. Both of us do. I used to tag along with my brother and she used to tag behind
Manav.
Rohan: And Armaan knew Aditi too, right?
Abhis face turns serious: Any particular reason you are asking that question now?
Rohan: All this is probably nothing but I wanted to clarify a few things with Dr Armaan.
The lawyer in Abhi recognises that tone and language: Can you tell me what this is about? May be I
can help you?

Rohan: Yesterday there was a party held at Gokhle Marg. It was a kind of a wedding reception of..
Abhi sits and crosses his legs: Nisha and Manav. I know. I heard about it.
Rohan: There was a small accident..ya yu kahoo ki there was an incident. One of the chandeliers
almost fell on Nisha.
Abhi gets startled: WHAT? Is she hurt?
Rohan: No. Luckily. The thing is it was not an accident. Someone deliberately cut the rope.
Abhi: Whoa whoa..why..who would do something like THAT? I mean..Nisha ne kisi ka kya bigaada
hain?
Rohan answers that question with a question of his own: Did your brother attend the function?
Abhi huffs out a small laugh: No. Neither of us was invited.
Rohan: Then why was his car parked near the hall?

Chapter 11

Abhi gives Rohan an incomprehending look: Bhais car? Are you sure?
Rohan: Ji. Its covered in the video coverage taken to show the hall decoration. It shows Armaan
unlocking and getting into the car and driving off.
Abhi shakes his head: But why would my brother do something like that? There is some mistake Mr
Rohan. It must be some kind of coincidence.
Rohan: Thats what I need to clarify.
Abhi gets up: Has a complaint been filed? Does he need to come to the station?
Rohan: Please. Aisa kuch nahi hain. I saw the video and I just want to know what he was doing in the
same place at the same time.
Abhi starts pacing and then suddenly stops: You said Gokhle Marg, right? (Rohan nods) City Centre
Hospital is in the same street. My brother is a consultant over there. He performs surgeries. May be he
went to that hospital.
Rohan: The hospital does not have parking?
Anger snaps in Abhis eyes: May be the parking was full. There must be some reason because I refuse
to believe my brother would even THINK of doing something like this.
There is a sound of key turning in the lock and a couple of moments later, Armaan enters. His gaze
falls on both the men. He smiles at Abhi, frowns a little at Rohan before smiling in recognition:
Rohan right? Nishas friend? (Both men shake hands) cleared your IPS, is it?
Rohan smiles: Ji. My first posting is here and I just joined the duty.
Armaan throws his coat over the back of the sofa: Sit sit. Are you here to discuss something official
with Abhi?
Rohan: No. Actually I wanted to talk to you Dr Armaan.
Armaan: About?
Rohan: Yesterday night between 8 and 8.30 where were you?
Armaan frowns: Most of the day I was at home but in the evening I got a call from City Centre
hospital about a case so I went there. Why?
Abhi: See, I told you na. Got your reason now?
Rohan does not even look at Abhi this time: Why didnt you park your car in the hospital?
Armaan by now realizes that he is not being questioned just out of curiosity: The parking lot was full.
It was the visiting hours and weekend so..if you dont mind, why the questions?
Rohan explains everything concisely without sounding accusatory but at the same time determined to
get the facts straight: I am just checking out everyone and everything Dr Armaan. I saw the guest list

and you were not in it so I got curious. (He collects his jacket and cap and gets up) Anyway, since you
have explained it, I will make a move. Thank you Dr Armaan.
Armaans frown remains but he shakes Rohans hand nonetheless: No problem.
Rohan turns towards Abhi: It was nice meeting you too Abhimanyuji.
Abhi nods and Rohan comes out of the house. His next stop is City Centre hospital where he enquires
and gets confirmation that Armaan was indeed there the previous evening. But when Rohan talks to
the watchman at the entrance gate, he comes to know that Armaan left the premises around 7.30. The
watchman had night shift the previous day and he had just come in and saw Armaan walking out. This
makes Rohan think again. Armaan didnt come and start his car until around 8.15. What was he doing
for 45 minutes? The chandelier crashed at 8.10. he takes out his phone to make a call: Sharma, do one
thing. Contact the organiser of the All India Med conference that was held in Delhi ten years
back..well..then find out..yes, go to Delhi if required. They would definitely have some video
coverage and snaps or some kind of log sheet for that 2 day event. I want that as soon as possible..I
dont care how you get it done Sharma. Mujhe woh chahiye within the next 3 days. Buss. (And cuts the
call.)

Back at Armaans residence:

Armaan: I wonder who would try and hurt Nisha. Seems weird though, isnt it?
Abhi: Tell me about it! As if that girl has not suffered enough facing public ridicule and this societys
double standard judgement, now this! Honestly, they never said anything to you about what happened..
(He cuts off and looks at Armaan with a contrite expression.)
Armaan sighs and leans back: I know. I was not judged and condemned. In fact, the topic was rarely
brought in front of me.
Abhi: Bhai..I didnt mean..
Armaan halts Abhis apology: No. What you say is true. A man is rarely questioned and that girl was
put through a wringer for her one thoughtless act.
Abhi continues to think: May be its someone from VM. May be they dont want VM to get back on its
feet again and are trying to..
Armaan: If thats the case then why try and harm Nisha? Why not Manav or even Yograjji?
Abhi gets and shrugs: Who knows! Aap zyaada mat sochiye bhai. There is no way anyone can
implicate you with something that you didnt do. Aur mein hoon na. Aap chinta mat keejiye. (Armaan
nods but the frown on his face remains long after Abhi leaves the room.)

A couple of days later: VM Industries:

There is a knock on Manavs cabin door. Manav looks up: Come in. (An elderly lady of about 55-56
walks inside hesitantly but Manav immediately smiles and gets up.) Menakaji..sit sit. Kya baat hain?
Any problem? You look..worried. (Wordlessly, she extends a paper to him and after reading the first
couple of lines, he looks up with startled eyes) You are resigning? Why? Menakaji..you have been
with us for more than 20 years now. Is there any problem? With the paycheck or..
Menaka shakes her head even before the sentence is complete: Nahi nahi aisa kuch nahi hain Manav.
Daraasal aaj kal..aaj kal meri tabiyat teek nahi rehti. Baat baat par thak jaati hoon. Aur kuch aur
problems bhi hain..
Manav leans forward and his brow creases in concern: Doctor ko dikhaya?
Menaka nods: My family doctor did some tests and said..said its..its probably ovarian ca..cancer.
Manav gets stunned and doesnt know what to say for a few moments: Oh. Is she sure? I mean..did you
go to a proper gynac or someone?
Menaka: Nahi. You know na..I never fell ill all that much. Your dad used to complain that I never get
sick or take off and he used to make jokes on me being a medical miracle.
Manav nods with a smile: Yeah I remember. But I think you should get yourself properly checked out
before jumping to conclusions and panicking. Do you know of any OBG?
Menaka shakes her head: Unmarried, no kids. I never even felt the need.
Manav thinks fast: Ok. Wait. (He quickly calls Nisha) Hey Nisha..that day we gave lift to that doctor in
CGH..she is an OBG, right?
Nisha frowns with a smile: Haan. Dr Sruti. Kyon?
Manav: Is she good?
Nisha: She is one of the best in Ahmedabad. Kya hua Manav?
Manav: One of the staff members at VM has some health issues. I wanted to refer her. Can you sms me
her number please?
Nisha: Haan. Buss abhi karti hoon.
Manav: Thanks buddy. Bye.
Nisha grins: Bye. (Sure enough, his phone pings and he gets the business card. He saves it and clicks
the call button.)
Manav: Uh..Hello Dr Sruti?
Sruti frowns: Yes?
Manav: This is Manav..Manav Mathur..Dr Nishas husband? (His face splits into a small smile at the
way he has introduced himself for the first time.)
Sruti: Oh. Hello Mr Manav. How are you?
Manav: I am fine. Actually, I need a small favour.

Sruti: Sure. Tell me. (Manav explains Menakas condition and what her PP has told.) Aap unhe mere
paas bhejdeejiye. I am free today afternoon actually. No surgeries aur OPD bhi kam hain. Naam kya
bataya aap ne?
Manav: Ji..Menaka Avasti.
Sruti jots it down: Ok. I will inform the receptionist to send her straight in. Dont worry Mr Manav. I
will probably need to run a few tests and then I will let you know.
Manav: And Dr Sruti, I just wanted to let you know that our companys med insurance would cover
her tests and any further treatment.
Sruti smiles: Ji. Aap fikr mat keejiye.
Manav: Thank you Dr Sruti.
Sruti: You are most welcome.
Manav cuts the call and looks at Menaka: Meine Dr Sruti se appointment leliye hain. Nisha says she is
one of the best OBG in Ahmedabad. Aap wahaa jaake ek baar unse millejiye. (And he puts the letter of
resignation away) And lets leave this aside for now. Dont decide anything hastily. For now, you are
still a part of VM and we will take care of you.
Menaka looks at the table in front of her until she could get her emotions under control. Finally she
nods and gets up: Thank you Manav. (Then as if unable to resist, she touches his hair in a gesture of
blessing.) You have become just like your father.

Next day late evening: On the way back from CGH:

Nisha: Tum yeh roz roz kyon pick up aur drop karte ho Manav? Mein aajaungi na.
Manav gives her a sideways look: Kyon? Tumhe achcha nahi lagta?
Nisha: Nahi. Woh baat nahi hain. Achcha lagta hain. But you always have to end up coordinating your
day to suit mine! As if you dont have enough to do at VM!
Manav: You know something?
Nisha: What?
Manav: I have a very cooperative and understanding wife at home.
Nisha bites her lip to stop her grin but her eyes twinkle back at him: Achcha?
Manav wriggles his eyebrows: Aur nahi toh kya? Raat ko jitni der tak bhi kaam karoo kuch nahi bolti.
She makes sure I have my lassi and fruit salad if there is a late night call and all that. Now I dont even
earn that much. Yet she doesnt complain. Kismat waalon ko milti hain itni achchi biwi. (Nisha looks
out of the window.) Hey, kya hua?
Nisha: Tumhe sach mein aisa lagta hain?

Manav removes his hand from the gearshift and entwines his fingers with hers before kissing her
palm: Yes. I honestly feel I am lucky to have you as my wife, my lover and partner. (Then he changes
the tone) Achcha woh sab baad mein. Pehle apni aankhen band karo.
Nisha: Kyon?
Manav: Because. Now close your eyes. (She closes them with a smile and after a few moments, Manav
parks the car in front of their house) Sit like that and dont open your eyes. Ok?
Nisha: Ok. (Then as if unable to stop herself, she asks) Am I going to get another kulfi icecream
today?
Manavs eyes darken as he remembers the icecream and everything that followed after that: You can
have that too if you want. But this is something else.
Nisha: Batao na kya hain.
The slight pout in her voice literally lights up his face. His impatient Chulbuli is getting her feet back:
Arre ruko toh. Buss ek minute. Ok? (He opens her door for her to get down and closes her eyes with
his palms and guides her a few steps until they reach the portico.) Ready? (She nods vigorously in
enthusiasm.) Ok here you go. One..two..three..(And removes his hands. She blinks her eyes open and
her gaze falls on the shiny brand new deep ocean blue colour Hyundai i10 standing right from of her
complete with the red satin ribbon tied around it. Her stunned gaze blinks, looks at the car again,
blinks and turns to look at her husband) You like it?
Nisha: Yeh..yeh kya hain?
Manav puts a hand around her shoulders and pulls her into a one armed hug: Isse car kehte hain
Nisha. 4 paiyyon par chalti hain aur ek engine hota hain..
Nisha: But why?
Manav: That one is a total wreck Nisha. I could get it repaired but then thought..(He shrugs, then
fumbles in his pockets before pulling out the keys) Lo. All yours. Tomorrow that guy will come and
you will need to sign some papers..insurance, registration and stuff like that.
Nisha looks at the grinning HK and passes him her bag before almost snatching the keys from Manav
and giving him an impulsive tight hug in the same breath along with a whispered: Thank you.
Manav: Shall we go for a drive?
Nisha nods: Just give me 2 minutes. I will change and come. (And turns and runs inside.)
Sure enough, within a few minutes, she comes out in a fresh cream and baby pink coloured sari and
her hair brushed and left out. HK extends a scissors and Nisha cuts the ribbon. Both Manav and HK
clap before Manav instructs HK that they would be dining out that night and for him not to wait up for
them. He can feel Nisha practically vibrating with excitement beside him and with a soft laugh extends
the keys to her once again: Chaliye Dr Nisha. Ahmedabad ki sair karke aate hain.
Both of them leave and their first stop is a gas station where they fill up the tank and go for a drive.
Manav discreetly sends a message to Rohan about the new car and the colour and model and informs
him that the registration is still pending. Rohan replies with an ok and tells him to still be careful just

in case. They drive around for some time before Nisha stops at a paani puri stalls and gives Manav a
pleading look. Manav rolls his eyes but nevertheless gets down along with her. Just like before, all
those years ago, he stands and watches amazed as she gulps down one golgappa after another in rapid
succession and just like before, she suddenly turns and stuffs one unexpectedly in his mouth making
him back off a couple of steps with his mouth stuffed with the spicy golgappa.
Her soft giggle stops his mock glare as his eyes taken in yet another glimpse of Chulbuli: Chalo.
Uncle Aunty ko bhi tumhaara naya car dikhaate hain.
Nisha wipes her mouth with a tissue: But you said dinner?
Manav: Haan toh wahaa se chalte hain na. Its only 7 now. We can say hi to them and be in the
restaurant by 8. (Nisha nods happily and the car soon reaches Verma residence.)
Nisha: Ma!
Nandini, who is about to go into the kitchen looks at the main door startled: Arre Nisha! Manav! Yeh
kya surprise! Aao aao. Andar aao. (She raises her tone) YOG! YOG! Dekhiye toh kaun aaya hain.
Yog comes out of the study and his face splits into a smile and he opens his arms for his daughter s
hug: Hello beta. How are you?
Nisha returns the hug: Hi papa.
Nandini: Baito Manav. Mein abhi aati hoon.
Manav: Aunty nahi. Abhi kuch khaane ko nahi. We are going out for dinner. But Nisha wanted to show
you all something so..
Both Yog and Nandini look at Nisha with question on their faces. Nisha: Woh.. Manav bought me a car
today..i10. (After a round of delighted exclamations, everyone pile out to have a look at the car
including CS.)
CS: Bibiji..car toh badiya hain. Aur aap keliye ek aur maze ki khushkhabri bhi hain. Baaju waale galli
mein paani puri ka naya dukaan khula hain. Meine chakke dekha hain. Ek dum mast hain bibiji. Ek din
zaroor jaayiye.
Nandini glares at CS in mock anger: Koi zaroorat nahi hain. Ghar mein achcha khaasa khaana banta
hain na..(Then her gaze falls on Nishas guilty expression.) Nisha!! (She turns towards Yog) Dekha
aapke laadli gali ke paani puri khaake aarahi hain. (But Yog doesnt look at her. Instead, he keeps
looking at his daughter, who has instinctively moved until she stood behind Manav with only her eyes
peeping out from behind his shoulder.)
Manav: Arre nahi aunty. Actually I told her its been long since I had some and so we stopped on our
way here.
Yog gives a small nostalgic laugh. Soon, they take leave and Yog and Nandini stand at the gate waving
them bye. Yog looks at his wife: Nandini, Nisha ka Tiger waapas aagaya hain.

In the meanwhile, Sharma gets the guest list and video tapes of the AIMC that was held 10 years back
and which Armaan had attended during the time of Aditis murder. After going through the list and

noting down their time of arrivals and departures, Rohan and Sharma sit down to watch the video
tapes one by one.
Rohan: Aditi was murdered on Tuesday night. And this video covers Tuesday mornings
event..and..there is Armaan. Ok. Now how about Wednesday mornings video? Do we have that?
(Sharma changes the tape and inserts the 3rd one and both start watching it) Hmmmm..(He rewinds it
and watches it a couple of times before holding the pause button.)
Sharma: Kya hua sir?
Rohan: Yeh Dr Armaan ka body language.. this was taken the day after Aditi got murdered, right?
Agle din subah. Look at his demeanour Sharma. (He rewinds and plays it again) Mujhe yeh medical
lingo zyaada kuch pata nahi hain par yeh aadmi kuch zyaada hi nervous dikhraha hain. (He watches it
for a few more minutes and then) Inn dono events ke beech kuch nahi tha kya? Uss din raat ko? These
conferences have dinner events or parties, right?
Sharma: Yes sir but that night the videographer skipped..Aisa kuch hua tha. Haan lekin photographer
tha. He took some snaps covering the whole dinner party.
Rohan: You got them with you? (Sharma silently extends the envelope.) Good work Sharma. Well
done. How did you manage to get all this?
Sharma grins: Yeh India hain sir. Paisa bolta hain.
Rohan shakes his head as he pulls out the snaps and starts going through one by one: Policewale se
bhi rishwat lete hain yeh log? (He gaze quickly scans the whole bunch before spreading them one
beside the other on the table and starts the process of going through them again one by one. he looks
at the glittering lights and formal dinner table arrangements with an odd smile on his face and says
softly almost to himself) Nisha hates formal dinner parties. Now I understand why. I would hate them
too.
Sharma looks up with a frown: Ji?
Rohan shakes himself: Kuch nahi. Lets concentrate. (And both of them go through each and every
photograph) Where are you Dr Armaan!

At the restaurant:

Nisha: So..what was the call to Dr Sruti about?
Manav: You remember Menakaji in our office? (She nods) Out of the blue, today she submitted her
resignation saying that her she has been diagnosed ovarian cancer.
Nisha: Oh my God! I remember her from the time when I used to come to the office to meet papa..
Manav: Yeah. I told her she should show herself to a proper OBG and then take it from there. Then
remembered your Dr Sruti.
Nisha: Oh ok. Dont worry. I will also talk to Dr Sruti.

Manav nods and then grins: Do you even remember the number of times I have had to bail you out of
trouble? Half the time I had to run out of the office dumping things on Menakaji.
Nisha blinks but she looks at his teasing eyes and laughing face and relaxes into a smile: I wasnt that
bad.
Manav: Uh uh uh..you were worse. Remember the time when you flattened all the 4 tyres of that poor
guys car..hey what was his name? Tere school ka teacher tha.
Nisha grins: Chandra Sekhar Iyaar. Tamilian tha.
Manav laughs out aloud: Iyyar. Thats right. He was all set to go to the principal. Woh toh achcha hua i
got to him before that.
Nisha this time is unable to prevent her chuckle: I didnt know whatelse to do! Mera itna achcha naam
hain Nisha and he always used to call me Nichcha..Nichcha..
Manav shakes his head in apparent tiredness: Honestly, I always used to wonder how you even got
those ideas. I mean your pranks were never repetitive. Kabhi tyre puncture toh kabhi dressing like a
vampire toh kabhi kursi mein ande rakhna.
(He raises his eyebrow at that) Uncle still doesnt know about that one.
Nishas tongue peeps out a little as she bites it: I know.
Manav covers his face: Jeez! That guy sat on those eggs..you actually came running to me and
explained in detail the crack of the eggs and how they were looking on his cream trousers. Honestly!!
I wanted to get angry and shout at you but all I could do was sit beside you and both of us ended up
laughing like two maniacs.
Nisha looks up at Manav with a mischievous glint in her eyes: You remember the conversation about
car racing during that party?
Manav starts coughing between bites and quickly sips some water: Oh dont remind me of that one!
Uncle was talking about sports cars with a friend of his and you shouted from the other end of the
table I would like to have a sports car when I grow up Papa..one of those Pontiac Grand Pricks I
could actually see uncles face turn red when you deliberately pronounced Prix as pricks. I thought
for sure he was going to turn you over his knee right there in front of everyone.
Nisha growls at him in remembered anger: What you did was worse. On the way back you
PRETENDED the car battery was dead and made me push the car almost half way home!
Manav grins: Serves you right! (He looks at her empty plate) Aur kuch order karna hain?
Nisha: Baap re. No. I am done. I cant move as it is!
Manav titls his head to the side: Dont worry. You have enough things to do before going to sleep
anyway. (And winks suggestively.)
Nisha, for the first time gives him a bold reply: May be I want you to be the one doing things tonight.
(And before he could reply, she gets up and gestures towards the restroom) Abhi aati hoon.
Manav: Nisha..(She turns back) You have your phone with you? (She nods) Sambhalkar jaana. Ok?

Nisha frowns in confusion but nods again before turning and going. Manav sits back and signals the
waiter to bring the check. He casually glances at the rest of the diners and his gaze falls on one
woman sitting alone a few tables away and looking at her watch. Dr Sruti! With a smile, he gets up
and makes his way to her. She sees him when he is close enough and gets up too: Hello Mr Manav!
Manav and Sruti shake hands: Hello Dr Sruti. How are you?
Sruti smiles: Good. Aap yahaa akele aaye hain?
Manav: Nahi. Nisha bhi aayi hain. She is just..(He vaguely gestures towards the restrooms and Sruti
nods in understanding) Aur aap? Aap kisika wait karrahe hain?
(Sruti shrugs and nods) Friend?
Srutis smile is kind of hopeful and at the same time a little sad: A little more than a friend..at least
thats what I hope. (Then she looks over his shoulder and her face lights up) Lo aagaye. (Manav turns
his head but his smile freezes on his face as he comes face to face once again with Armaan.) Armaan,
this is Mr Manav Mathur..Nishas husband. Manavji, yeh hain mere dost aur CGH mein paediatric
surgeon, Dr Armaan.

Chapter 12

The very air comes to a stand still as Manav and Armaan once again come to face to face and stare at
each other. Finally, Armaan sighs softly and pastes a smile on his face and extends his hand: Hello.
Manav looks at the outstretched hand and then back at his once upon a time best friend without saying
a word. The waiter in the meanwhile comes and hands over the check to Manav who takes it with a
nod before smiling politely at Sruti: I see your companion has arrived Dr Sruti. Hope you enjoy your
dinner. Please take care of yourself. Goodnight.
Sruti gives him a confused smile but nods nevertheless: Goodnight Manavji. Say my hi to Nisha.
Manav nods and goes off to his table right when Nisha walks back from the rest room: Toh chale?
Manav: In a minute. Just have to get the credit card back.
Nisha smiles a little naughtily: I thought it was supposed to be my treat? (Not getting any response,
Nisha gives him a questioning look) Kya hua?
Manav locks his jaw and deliberately turns his face away from the direction of Armaan and Srutis
table: Kuch nahi. (Then he looks at Nishas wide unblinking eyes and sighs) Armaan is here. With Dr
Sruti. She was sitting over there alone so I went and said hello. (And his voice turns acidic) And
voila!! Who do I find? Dr Armaan! Ahmedabad is a big city damn it! Why do I have to cross him all
the time!
Nisha puts her hand over his: Manav..shaanth hojaao.
Manav removes his hand from hers as his eyes blaze with anger. But Nisha sees the suppressed pain
behind that flashing anger: I want to, Nisha. I want to be completely indifferent to that guy. Lekin nahi
karpaata. I grew up with him. My parents treated him like their own son. I treated him like my own
brother. There was never anything I was NOT comfortable sharing with him. You know na..you
remember right? (Nisha nods and he remains silent before banging his fist on the table rattling the
cutlery.) Damn it Nisha! I am not able to forget. Thats one wound thats just not healing Nisha. Its
still raw and whenever I see him, its like someone is poking that raw wound. Dard hota hain mujhe. I
hate what he did..I dont want to see his face ever again but I miss my best friend. (He runs his hand
through his hair.) I dont even know what to do anymore.
Nisha: Manav may be..
Manav gets up: Chalo. I dont want to talk about it any more. Lets go.
Nisha puts her hand in his: Manav..
Manav tightens his hand: Please? (Nisha looks into his eyes and sees his need to escape from the past.
She silently gets up and entwines her fingers with his. Both of them leave the restaurant without
looking back.)

Armaan stops the car in front of Srutis house and turns towards her with a smile: Chalo. Tumhaara
ghar aagaya.

Sruti sighs a little disappointedly: Yeah..(Then brightens a little) Want to come inside and have some
coffee?
Armaans smile slips off: Phir kabhi Sruti. I am kind of tired today. Sorry. Please..bura mat manna ok?
Sruti nods and gets down: Goodnight Armaan.
Armaan gives a small wave: goodnight Sruti. See you tomorrow. (He backs off his car and drives off
leaving a perturbed Sruti behind.)
I had so many hopes when he invited me for dinner. He had looked and sounded so happy..even said he
was looking forward to spending that time with me. Then why the sudden change in the mood? He
neither had proper dinner nor did he converse with me properly. Instead he spent his time fiddling with
his water glass with a distracted look on his face. Something happened. But what? (A sudden thought
strikes her) All this started when I introduced Nishas husband and Armaan to each other because
Armaan was fine during our drive to the restaurant. I came inside and he had gone ahead to park the
car. And when he came in, I introduced him to Manav Mathur and it was like a shutter coming down.
Why? And he kept looking at them as long as they were in the restaurant. Or..or.. maybe he was not
looking at THEM in the restaurant..maybe he was he looking at HER! Whats going on? (Srutis frown
deepens) Is he..does he have feelings for NISHA? Is that why he was antagonastic towards her
husband? Did Manav come to know about this? Is that why he was decidedly unfriendly when I made
the introductions? Nisha and Armaan work together. Has he fallen for her during this time? Is that
why he is being distant with me? What do I do now? Whom do I ask? Nisha? No. I cant ask Nisha. She
is my junior not my friend or anything. Then who? Abhi! I can ask Abhi. May be he knows something.
Both the brothers are close. May be Armaan shared something with Abhi! But would Abhi tell me if
there is anything? May be he would..maybe he wouldnt. But I will definitely ask. Better to know whats
going on and face it rather than be an ostrich.

Next day morning: At a coffee shop near CGH:

Abhi gets up from the chair with a broad smile on his face: Srutiji..Good morning again.
Sruti pulls up the opposite chair with a smile: Good morning Abhi. Sorry to have called you so early
in the morning.
Abhi shakes his head: Not a problem at all. So, how was the dinner last night? (Then his face lights
up.) Is that why you called me? Koi good news hain kya? Kya mera bhai sudhargaya? Do i get to call
you bhabhi from now on? (Sruti folds and unfolds the napkin in front of her with her eyes downcast)
Kya baat hain Srutiji? Did something happen?
Sruti sighs and looks up: Thats what I want to know Abhi.
Abhi: Ji? Mein kuch samjha nahi..
Sruti: Abhi..I dont know how to ask this any other way so I am going to ask directly (Abhi nods to
say go ahead) Is Armaan in love with Nisha?
Abhis mouth hangs open for a few seconds before he starts laughing: Yeh..yeh kaisa sawaal hain

Srutiji? Koi joke tha kya?


Sruti: I am serious Abhi. I want to know. If its anything like that..
Abhi gives her an incredulous look: Whoa..no. no way! Why would he..why did you..aap ko yeh
khayaal aaya kaise?
Sruti shakes her head: I dont know..but something is definitely bothering him. I mean..he has always
been quiet and even a little brooding but the last few months..Koi baat toh hain jo usse pareshaan kar
rahi hain. Its literally eating him away Abhi.
Abhi remains silent as the waiter places two cups of coffee in front of them: Srutiji, by nature, my
brother is neither quiet nor the brooding type. (He gets a faraway look on his face as he thinks back to
his childhood and adolescent days.) He was so fun loving. Always had a great sense of humour and
smile on his face and a group of friends around him. He was my rock when our parents passed away..
Sruti frowns: Then what made him change so much? I mean I dont even know the Armaan you are
talking about.
Abhi folds his hands, looks away for a few silent moments before looking back at Sruti: The two
biggest mistakes that my brother made in his life are Manav and Aditi.
Sruti: Manav? Kaun Manav? You mean Manav Mathur? (He nods.) Armaan and Manav know each
other? (He nods again. Srutis confusion turns into incomprehension) But then why did they behave
like strangers when I introduced them last night?
Abhi frowns: Last night? (Sruti nods and explains the events of previous night. Abhi remains silent
for a few moments.) Manav and Armaan were best friends Srutiji..until Aditi. Trust me Srutiji,
whatever happened..it was not bhais fault. Ek taraf se dekhajaaye toh Manav ka gussa bhi jaayaz hain.
I understand. I just wish he hears out bhais side of story once instead of..(He puts the half finished
coffee cup back on the table) You know, I wish neither Manav nor Aditi entered my brother s life.
Sruti frowns: Aditi..name sounds..I dont know..kind of familiar. Where is she now?
Abhi: She is dead. (Before he could say more or she could ask, he gets a call and he talks for a few
moments before ending it with an I am on my way) Sorry Srutiji..I have to go. Some new evidence
the DA has got hold of in the case that I am handling. (He quickly settles the bill and gets up) Mera
vishwaas keejiye..bhai thinks the world of you. (And leaves, his quick strides carrying him to his car.)

Around the same time: At CGH: Nishas cabin:

There is a soft knock and Nisha looks up to see Rohan: Hi!
Rohan in his police dress, enters with a smile: Hi. Howz it going?
Nisha gestures him to sit: Buss chalraha hain. Aaj inspector saab CGH mein?
Rohan raises his eyebrows: What..I cant come to say hi to my friend?
Nisha leans back in her chair: Haan. You can do that but something tells me its official.

Rohan grins and nods: Yeah. But nothing serious. Just came to meet someone and clear a few things.
Aur phir socha tumse bhi milta chaloo. (Just then the nurse comes and informs her about a new child
in the paediatric ward and Nisha gets up) Tum jaao Nisha. We will catch up later.
Nisha nods: Anu ka birthday aaraha hain Rohan. Parson.
Rohan slaps his forehead: Jeez I forgot. She would have killed me. Chalo teek hain. Lets plan and
meet on that day. (He grins suddenly.) Hey bahut din hogaye since we went clubbing. So lets do that
na.
Nisha hesitates: Manav..
Rohan: Haan toh he can also join us na. Usme kya hain?
Nishas face brightens in anticipation: I will talk to Manav and Anu.
Rohan nods: Do that and let me know the final plan. Ok? (Then his gaze softens.) Achchi lagrahi ho
Nisha. (She gives him a questioning look to which he gestures to her smiling face.) Your face..its
happy and its good. (With a tiny wave, both part ways outside her cabin. Nisha goes towards the
paediatric ward and Rohan goes towards Armaans cabin and enters after knocking.) Hello Dr
Armaan.
Armaan looks up with a frown: Hello Rohan. Come. Have a seat. (Rohan sits.) Some more questions?
Rohan: Ji. Just two.
Armaan leans back in his chair: Fire away.
Rohan looks into Armaans eyes: You came out of City Centre hospital at 7.30 and got into your car at
8.15..
Armaan: Yes. I came out at 7.30 but at the gate I met one of my classmate from medical college days.
Dr Rastogi. He is in Ahmedabad for a brief visit and we were catching up. (Armaan pulls out his
wallet, searches and extracts a business card.) Here is his card. You can call and confirm if required.
Rohan takes the card with a nod: Armaan, 10 saal pehle jab Aditi ka murder hua tha..you were in Delhi
attending a conference, right?
Armaan gets confused: Yes but why are you asking me that now?
Rohan: That case has been reopened again. I am handling it.
Armaan: What?
Rohan nods: Ji.
Armaan leans forward: Koi naya evidence aaya hain kya?
Rohan: I am looking at all angles and hence these questions. So please..you were in Delhi attending a
conference, right?
Armaan: Yes. I came back to Ahmedabad the evening after Aditi was killed.
Rohan: And the night she was killed, you were in Delhi?

Armaan: Yes.
Rohan: There was a formal dinner party that night, right?
Armaan nods: Yes.
Rohan: Did you attend?
Armaan looks away: Why do you ask?
Rohans eyes turn a little frosty though his voice remains polite: Maaf keejiye Armaan par yeh mere
sawaal ka jawaab nahi hain.
Armaan sighs: No. I did not attend it.
Rohan: Why?
Armaan: Because I got drunk that night. I was not..not fit for company. In fact, I had a hangover next
day and it was obvious to a lot of other doctors and colleagues. Some of them even commented and
cracked jokes about it. (A moment of silence and then) Is there anything else?
Rohan gets up: No sir. Nothing else. Thank you for your time. Chalta hoon.
Armaan nods and both men shake hands before Rohan picks up his jacket and leaves.

Sruti enters her cabin in CGH to find Rohan sitting and waiting for her. He gets up as soon he sees
her: Hello. Aap Dr Sruti hain?
Sruti nods: Ji?
Rohan: I am Rohan. Yahaa ka naya SP.
Sruti gestures him to sit and takes her seat: Boliye. Is it about the rape case that came in the other day?
Rohan shakes his head: That guy is still on the run. No. This is about something else. Actually a 10 yr
old murder case got reopened recently Dr Sruti and while I was going through the general info about
the victim, I came to know that she was your patient.
Sruti: 10 years back..then I was working at Metro Hospital.
Rohan: Mujhe usske baare mein kuch information chahiye.
Sruti smiles with regret: Mr Rohan..baat duss saal puraani hain. So I cant help you without the case
file. Haan, agar aap mujhe uss hospital se woh file laasakte hain toh I could probably tell you
something.
Rohan gets up: Ok. I will see what I can do. thank you for your time Dr Sruti.
Sruti also gets up: You are most welcome. (With a nod Rohan leaves.)

That night: Manavs residence:


Nisha is in the kitchen cooking and talking over the phone at the same time: Yeah..just got back home.
HK nahi hain na..
Anu on the other end: Kyon? Uncle ke ghar waapas chalegaye kya?
Nisha: Arre nahi re. He went out of town. Unke koi rishtedaar ki shaadi hain. 3 din mein waapas
aajayenge.
Anu: Toh Dr Nisha aaj khud khaana pakaarahi hain..hmmm..not bad. Whats the menu?
Nisha stirs the onions in the pan: Pasta.
Anu sits up: White ya red?
Nisha smiles and checks the boiling pasta: White. Aaj Rohan aaya tha CGH.
Anu: Yeah he told me. You and Jeejaji are coming for my birthday thing, right?
Nisha: I think so. He is still on a call. Ghar mein aate hi he went into the study with the phone in his
hand. So didnt get a chance to ask. (A pair of masculine arms wrap around her from behind bringing
a startled squeak from her.)
Manav: Didnt get a chance to ask me what?
Anu grins: Achcha toh mein rakhti hoon. You guys enjoy your pasta.
Nisha: Bye Anu. Goodnight.
Anu: Goodnight. (Then in a louder voice) Goodnight Jeejaji.
Manav leans in: Goodnight saali sahiba. (Nisha cuts the call and turns towards him.) Toh..
Nisha puts her arms around his neck: Toh?
Manav brushes back the hair thats fallen over her forehead: Didnt get a chance to ask me what?
Nisha raises on her toes to give him a smacking kiss on his cheek before turning back towards the
stove: Anu ka bday hain parson. Planning on going out. She wants both of us to come.
Manav leans in from behind her to see what she is cooking: Sounds interesting. Urrghh..pasta?
Nisha stops stirring: Tumhe pasand nahi hain?
The disappointment in her tone makes him sigh but he cant resist mumbling: Kuch..aur nahi hain?
Nisha: Nahi. I thought we have roti everyday toh thoda change hojaayega..
Manav comes to stand beside her and chucks her chin softly: Hey dont worry about it. Its not that I
hate it or anything like that. I just find it too bland for my taste thats all. You know I like spicy things,
right?
Nisha nods: Thats why I added my own spice into this one. Thoda teekha banaya hain with jalepenos.
(She blows and picks up a pasta piece from the bowl and extends it to him.) Chakke dekho..shaayad

biwi ke haath ka pasta pasand aajay.


He makes a face but obediently opens his mouth and takes a bite before chewing it thoughtfully: Not
bad but still..give me roti sabzi any day boss.
Nishas tone turns pleading: Lekin aaj keliye adjust karlo na please? Yeh mera favourite hain. Aur
healthy bhi hain.
Manav pretends to think: Hmmm..badle mein mujhe kya milega?
Nisha smiles through her blush but answers boldly: Your favourite dessert.
Manav gives her a devilish look and tries to unbutton her nightshirt: Uh huh..I want a taste of my
dessert first.
Nisha pushes him away with a small laugh: No. You never stop with a taste. Dinner and then dessert. I
cant eat cold pasta. (His fingers once again try to get hold of her buttons and she squirms) Chodo na..
(Then she bites her lip and gives him a naughty look) The sooner we eat the dinner the sooner you
can have your dessert..uninterrupted.
Both of them get their bowls and have their dinner while watching the TV and Manav updates her on
the latest goings on at VM. She doesnt have a head for business but the simple way in which he
explains things to her helps her in understanding the progress thats being made. It is slow but steady.
In between, the topic turns towards Anu and Manav asks: Yeh Anu aur Vishaal ka chakkar kya hain?
Nisha: Matlab? They are seeing each other.
Manav: Casually?
Nisha smiles: Nahi. They want to get married. They have told their parents the other day. Baat-cheet
chal rahi hain. Uncle is still..kind of..checking Vishaal out.
Manav: Reserving judgement, huh! (Nisha nods.) How did this GM finance meet a doctor?
Nisha: While I was away doing PG, Anu one day met with a small accident. She used to have a two
wheeler then. Had a few scrapes and bruises. CGH was the closest so she went there..met Vishaal..
Manav: And the rest is history. Hmmm..interesting.
Finally dinner wrapped up and dishes back in the sink, Manav turns to her with his arms folded:
Now..my dessert.
Nisha switches off the kitchen light and continues to go up the stairs without looking back: Mera
mood nahi hain. (And before she can take two steps, arms close around her and she is lifted and
thrown over his shoulder in a typical caveman style. Her howls turn into spurts of laughter.)
Manav..chodo..(And laughingly starts punching his back with her fists) Mein girjaaungi
chodo..Manav..(He carries her with his ears taking in and rejoicing in every tiny tinkle of her laugh.
His vision blurs a little at hearing that sound after all these years and for the first time after their
marriage. He throws her on the bed and before she could roll away, he falls on her and starts tickling
her mercilessly. She twists and turns trying to escape his fingers..her giggles quickly turning into loud
laughter.) Manav..chodo na..oh please mercy mercy..achcha achcha ok..you can have your dessert..(He
stops and moves away a little and she tries to slip through and escape only to have him pull her back

and this time, start tickling her neck with his stubble. The sounds of her laughter are like a punch in
his gut hardening his body almost instantly. Her laughter slowly dies down and her fingers comb
through his hair and her eyes drift close in ecstacy as his lips, teeth and tongue start having their most
favourite dessert..her. His fingers fumble a little while undressing her and moments later, his soft
groan suggests that any time..any day..she is going to be his most favourite main course too and her
soft sighs echo his feelings.)

About a couple of hours later:

Manav: And that was the deciding factor for me. I gave my ok and took up the job.
Nisha continues to brush her fingers through his hair: That was the last job before you came to
Ahmedabad, right?
Manav nods with his head still in her lap: Yeah. I was with them for 3 years.
Nisha: Your apt in Mumbai..you bought it?
Manav looks up at her: No. I rented it. You know..I kept telling myself agle saal I will get something
permanent but just kept putting it off. I guess in heart of hearts it didnt feel like home. (And he grins)
But you should have seen..Mumbai mein apartments kaise hote hain tumhe pata hain? (Nisha shakes
her head..her eyes adoring him) We will go one day. We can cover Mumbai, Goa or Lonawala..let
things settle down a bit at VM..phir plan karte hain. (He looks up and sees her staring at him with
unblinking eyes.) Aise kya dekhrahi ho? Trying to count my grey hair? Dont bother. There are too
many of them.
Nisha grins and pinches his cheek softly: Nahi. I was not counting. You actually look more dashing
with the grey hair. (Manav raises his eyebrow at that) Chalo hato. I am feeling thirsty. Jaake paani
peeke aati hoon.
Manav yawns and shifts on to the pillow: I was the one talking aur pyaas tumhe lagi hain. Get the
bottle up na please.
Nisha nods and buttons up her shirt before going down. Manav stretches and settles down on the
pillow. Just as he is adjusting the blanket, the house resounds with Nishas terrified blood curdling
scream.

Chapter 13

Manav has absolutely no knowledge of how he came down the stairs and barged into the kitchen. He
only knew that he heard Nisha scream and the next thing he realizes he is in the kitchen with both his
arms wrapped tightly around Nishas shivering body: shshhhh..kuch nahi hua. I am here Nisha. I am
right here with you.
Nishas terrified eyes continue to stare at the other kitchen door which lead to the utility as it
continues to swing slightly: Kkkoi tha..(Her trembling finger points at the door.)
Manav gives a quick look around the kitchen and the windows before pulling her away a little to look
at her face: Tumne dekha usse?
Nisha nods jerkily. Her forehead is beaded with sweat: Haan. He was wearing a mask kind of a thing..
Manav pulls her away from the kitchen, grabs the water bottle on the way and makes her sit in the sofa
before going and closing and bolting the kitchen door. He gives a quick look around the rest of the
doors and windows before running up the stairs to get his phone. His quick strides once again bring
him downstairs: Rohan! You need to come. Someone broke into our house. No. Nisha screamed and
he ran off. Ok. (And cuts the call before sitting down in front of her on his hunches and taking her
balled fists into his) I called Rohan. He is on his way. Lo yeh paani peelo (She gulps down almost half
the bottle before taking a breather.)Tum yahi baito mein baahar dekhke aata hoon.
Nisha immediately grips his wrist: Nahi. Tum kahi nahi jaaoge. He..that guy had a knife. No.
Manav grits his teeth. Who is this bastard? Why is he after Nisha? Thank God she saw him first and
surprised him by screaming. If he had seen her first!? (His whole body shudders at the thought and he
gets up to start pacing) Nisha ne kissi ka kya bigaada hain? And if Rohan is right and she is being
targeted because of me then..try as I might, I cant ever think of anyone who was that obsessed with
me. Nahi. Kuch toh gadbad hain..kuch aur baat hain. There is something that we are missing here.
The sound of sirens and the tyres screeching to a halt is heard a moment before his phone buzzes
again. Rohan: Manavji, open the door. Its me.
Manav rushes and opens the door. Rohan and his team of cops enter. Rohan first looks for Nisha and
on spotting her, he goes to her and gets down on his hunches just like Manav did a few minutes
before: Nisha..meri taraf dekho Nisha.
Nisha looks at Rohan and tries to smile: Hi
Rohan smiles: Hi. You ok? (She nods) Meine suna HK nahi hain. Toh dinner mein kya banaya?
Nisha swallows: Pasta
Rohans smile turns into a small grin: Wow..white one? (She nods and starts to visibly relax) Kya yaar
mujhe bhi bulaliya hota! So you guys had dinner and went up right?
Nisha: Yeah. Later I was feeling thirsty so I came down.
Rohan: Did you switch on the lights on the way?

Nisha: No. I got used to the house now so I just came down.
Rohan: And you went straight into the kitchen?
Manav cant help but appreciate the meticulous way of questioning and at the same time he observes
Rohans fisted palms and locked jaw..the way he is holding on to his anger by a thread but making
sure it doesnt show on his face and scare Nisha.
Nisha: Yes. I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
Rohan: You didnt switch on the kitchen light there either?
Nisha shakes her head: No. But the small bed lamp kind of a thing is always on. Kaka has a Bappa idol
in the kitchen toh humesha woh light on karke hi rakhte hain.
Rohan: Ok. You opened the fridge and took the bottle out.
Nisha: And I was about to close the door when I saw him. He had..had that long carving knife kind of a
thing in his hand. That was the first thing I saw and I screamed. He turned and ran towards the other
door.
Rohan gestures Sharma to go and look in the kitchen: Did you see his face?
Nisha: No. He was wearing a mask
Rohan: Like a winter monkey cap kind of a thing?
Nisha shakes her head: Nahi..the one like..you remember that guy in school who tried to..(She quickly
glances at Manav and swallows before turning back to Rohan) Remember he wore a mask?
Rohans face reddens in remembered anger: Yes. I remember. Can you tell if it was a male or a
female?
Nisha: Male. He was tall..not very tall but the built was that of a man. No mistaking it.
Rohan pats her hand: Dont worry. I will look into it. (Then deliberately tries to lighten the situation)
Kisi ki himmat hain jo policewale ki dost par humla kare? Hmmm? (One of the policemen comes
down from the stairs and shakes his head subtley indicating that there was no one up in the terrace or
any of the rooms.) Tum apne kamre mein jaao aur aaraam karo. Ok?
Nisha looks at Manav: Nahi. Mein teek hoon. I just panicked for a minute thats all. I will stay with
Manav. (Rohan nods and goes in the direction of the kitchen.)
Sharma gets up from his position: Sir..this lock is broken in. I called in the team to check out for
finger prints. Pehle woh chandelier ab yeh..kya horaha hain sir?
Rohan crouches in front of the door and checks out the lock: Wahi toh pata karna hain Sharma. Koi
foot prints hain kya near the door or outside? (Sharma shakes his head) Its weird come to think of it.
If he has indeed come to attack Nisha then why didnt he? He had ample time before she turned saw
and screamed. (He frowns some more.) And even on the day of the party, initially, Anu pulled Nisha
down for the dance and Manav was on the dias and then he got a call so he got down and she got on it
because she didnt want to dance. (His mind starts running in another direction) Aur woh bus wala
case. Manav was driving..

Sharma: So you are saying all these are aimed at Mr Mathur and not his wife?
Rohan: Could be. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. But I spoke to Yog uncle and as
far as he knows there is no business rivalry kind of a thing either. I checked that angle. So this one is
personal Sharma. Yeh jo koi bhi hain he has some personal score to settle with Manav. And if that is
right then Aditis murder and the current attacks might not be related either. (He gets up just as Manav
walks into the kitchen.)
Manav: Rohan, I dont want to take any more chances where Nishas safety is concerned. So until all
this is resolved, we will stay with Verma uncle in their house. That way she will always have someone
with her.
Rohan nods: Achcha idea hain Manavji. Pack whatever is needed. We will leave right away. (He turns
to Sharma) Sharma, go check out and see if both the cars are safe. (Sharma nods and leaves) Manavji,
you need to tell her at least briefly so that she will be more careful.
Manav runs a distracted hand through his hair and nods before frowning and looking at Rohan: What
was Nisha talking about? What boy? What mask?
Rohan looks away: News paper mein woh sab aane ke baad guys had started misbehaving with
her..rude crude comments and a few tried to touch her..(Manav squeezes his eyes shut and smashes his
fist on the kitchen counter.) One of the guys had a mask and it scared her big time. I pulled the mask
away, sent Nisha home with Anu and..(He sighs) I guess its a good thing that guy didnt report me.
Beeti baaten hain Manavji. Dohraake koi faayda nahi hain. Lets take care of your packing first.
Manav nods before giving Rohan an impulsive hug: Thank you Rohan..thank you for being there for
her when I was not..for being her true friend. (And leaves.)
Things move at a fast pace after that. Their luggage packed, both of them along with Sharma leave in
Manavs car while another cop drives Nishas car and follows them behind. Rohan stays back along
with the rest of the team to see if the intruder had left any clues behind.

Verma Residence: Nishas bedroom:

Manav looks around at the feminine room with a small smile: You changed it from the last time I saw.
Nisha comes and hugs him from behind: Considering the fact that I had spiderman wall posters the
last time you saw it..
Manav huffs out a small laugh and pulls her arms further around him making her completely stick to
his back: Yeah I know..girls usually want flowers or barbies and doras but not you! You had to have
spiderman! (Then he sighs and turns. He looks into her eyes silently for a few moments before
hugging her tightly. Apne Tiger ko bachanekeliye bahut badi keemat chukaana pada tumko..hain na? I
not only left you alone but when I returned, I became one of them..mujhe apni Chulbuli waapas
chahiye Nisha. He forcibly brings himself to the present matter at hand.) I want to tell you something
but I dont want you to worry about it. Ok? (Nisha nods.) Rohan thinks all these attacks are deliberate.
Someone is trying to harm you specifically. He and I are going to make sure that doesnt happen. But
I want you to be very careful. Ok? That is another reason I brought you here..so that you will always

have someone with you. No matter how urgent or important, dont go anywhere alone or go with
someone you dont trust your life with. Promise me.
Nisha: I promise. But why would..who would..
Manav: We dont know anything yet. (Seeing her biting her lip and at the fear clouding her eyes, he
cups her cheek.) You trust me, dont you? (She nods without hesitation.) Then dont worry. I wont let
anything happen to you. I swear. I told you this just so that you will be extra careful. Ok? (He pats her
cheek in a deliberate attempt to lighten the atmosphere.) Chalo. Lets get some sleep now. Its almost 3.
Nisha smiles: I guess its a good thing I changed the bed too. The previous one was a single one. (She
gives him a small wink)
Manav gives an innocent look: That wouldnt have been a problem at all. We anyway sleep one on top
of the other na..well..almost (He blocks her mock punch with a grin..his eyes fairly devouring the
twinkle in her eyes.)

The next day evening:

Manav: Aunty, ek cup chai milegi?
Nandini turns to look at her son in law with a smile: Haan beta. Abhi banaati hoon. Kya hua Manav,
bahut thake hue lagrahe ho?
Manav walks into the kitchen: Kuch nahi aunty. Aaj kuch zyaada hi kaam tha. I am fine.
Nandini: And now I think you all are going out na. Anu ka bday celebration pe?
Manav rubs his forehead: Oh yeah. I almost forgot about that.
Nisha: Tum aagaye?
Manav turns at the sound of her voice: Haan buss..(The rest of his sentence gets cut off as he stares at
his wife who is looking stunning in a lavender and baby pink short sleeved top and a full length dark
violet skirt with a shiny black belt to go with it and her hair in a long ponytail. He clears his throat
before trying to speak) Uh..where are we going?
Nishas excitement is too high to contain: Pub.
Nandinis eyes take in her daughter s joy filled face while giving the tea cup to Manav: Bahut pyaari
lagrahi ho Nisha..hain na Manav?
Manav nods while his eyes take in the expectant look on Nishas face and he swallows down the
painful groan at the mention of clubbing: Give me 10 minutes and I will get ready. Ok?
Soon after that Vishaal, Anu and Rohan come in Rohans scorpio and start honking from outside.
With a wave at Yog and Nandini, they leave for the evenings celebration. The pub is full of typical
loud and boisterous crowd amidst blaring music and lights. All 5 of them find a corner table and
settle down. Rohan and Manav go to get the drinks for everyone while Anu, Vishaal and Nisha catch
up. Nishas eyes follow Manav and continue to gaze at his back until Anu shakes her out of her

reverie: O Madam..aur log bhi hain yahaa. And its been more than a month since you guys got
married. Stop giving him those besotted looks.
Nishas smile includes both Anu and Vishaal: Its not that re. Its just..tu nahi samjhegi.
Vishaal: Aap ki khushi aap ka chehra hi bataraha hain Nishaji. Kuch aur kehne ki zaroorat bhi nahi
hain.
Nisha: Some times words seem inadequate na.
Anu gives her a one armed hug: What you cant express in words, you can express it with music and
dance. Ek baar try karke dekh Nisha. Just let yourself go and show him AND yourself what you
feel..how you feel. (Nisha looks at Manav, who is conversing with Rohan as they wait for drinks and
back at the dance floor.)
Manav: You think its a good idea to get her here in this crowd? May be we should have gone
somewhere else.
Rohan gives a quick look around: Dont worry Manavji. My team is here with us. Then his gaze halts
and with a smile, he taps Manavs shoulder and gestures him towards the dance floor where Nisha is
at the centre twirling, clapping and dancing in beat to the music. With a loud whoop and a whistle,
Rohan gestures to Anu and Vishaal and they join Nisha on the dance floor. Rohan and Vishaal dance
along with Anu and Nisha twisting and turning them and passing them from one to another matching
to the beat of the music while Manav just stands and looks at his wife come alive on the dance floor.
Her gaze meets his and her feet take wings in his direction as the rest of the world falls away. She
catches his arm and pulls him on to the dance floor with her eyes locked on to his and he follows her
as if mesmerized. The rest of the dancers move away to give her more space and she circles around
him with arms held high until he suddenly turns catching her by the waist and pulling her plush
against his body. Her smile turns brighter than before as she runs her palm from the back of his head
to his neck to his shoulder before sliding it along his arm and joining her palm to his. They dance
with each other, for each other..lost in each other as the beat of the music takes over them. When the
song draws to a close, she arches her back and he pulls her up before twirling her and lifting her up
in his arms and turning once along with her. Anus whistle this time beats that of Rohans a few
minutes back. Its a little after midnight by the time Rohan drops Manav and Nisha back at Verma
residence: Manavji, are you sure you dont want me to send a driver? Trust me, I have handpicked that
guy.
Nisha looks at Manav: May be we should..
Manav shakes his head: Nahi Rohan. I will take care of it. Dont worry. (He gives a tired sigh) Chalo
goodnight. Am off to bed. I think you also should go and get some sleep.
Rohan smiles: Abhi kahaa Manavji..I still have some work to do. We caught one guy yesterday in
another case. Abhi uska interrogation chalraha hain. I am headed out there now. Goodnight.
Nisha also waves him a goodnight. CS opens the door for them with sleep blurry eyes and both of
them quietly make their way to their room where Manav practicalls falls on the bed face down: I am
done.
Nisha crawls beside him and slides her hand inside his t shirt: Abhi kahaa? Abhi mujhe aur kaam hain
tum se. If you sleep I am going to be very disappointed.

Manav doesnt move his head but squints his eyes open with difficulty: You got to be kidding me.
Forget it.
She quickly masks her disappointment with a smile and kisses his lips softly but realizes he really is
down for the night. Poor guy! He had looked so tired in the evening yet came to the party just to make
her happy. She ruffles his hair, kisses him once again before getting up to change.

The next 4 days pass uneventfully for both of them. Work pressure at VM increases for Manav and
Nisha starts getting concerned as he continues to insist on dropping and picking her up irrespective of
the hour and day. Twice she and Rohan suggest getting a cop as a driver and twice he refuses. She puts
down his irritability and snapping temper to the increased work load and the discomfort of staying at
his in-laws place. She fails to notice the way his alert eyes follow her and Rohan whenever he came
home to discuss the break in case and stayed on to chat some general mutually favourite topics with
her. She fails to realize that try as he might, he is not able get the disappointed look she had that night
on her face from his mind. His silent struggle with himself finds relief only in her arms turning the
nights more aggressive. She meets his aggression with her own passion and tries to soothe him out of
his restlessness with her lips and body. On the 5th consecutive day as she observes him once again
getting ready early to drop her at CGH, she softly inserts: Manav..I think we should take up on
Rohans offer of the driver. Tum aise roz roz..
Her sentence gets cuts off as he throws the hair brush on the table and the car keys on the bed and
snaps out: You know what? I think you are right. Your husband is 40 years old. Not strong enough to
keep up. He does not have the energy of a 27 yr old strong young man. So please..go ahead and tell
Rohan to send the driver. (He leaves the room but comes right back after a moment and snatches back
the keys before looking at the stunned Nisha.) But for now, you have no choice. I wont allow you to
go alone. So even if it is tiring out my old bones, I am going to drop you now. Chale?
Nisha finally finds her voice: Par meine toh sirf..
Manav: Are you coming or not? Mujhe office bhi jaana hain. (Without giving her further chance to
respond, he leaves the room.)
Is that what he thinks? Is that why he has been disturbed the last few days? Is the age factor playing
so much in his mind? (Nishas mind goes back to all the events in the last one week and she starts
looking at things in a new light.) He thinks he is too old for me. 27 yr old strong young man? He is
comparing himself to Rohan? Doesnt he know yet that for me, there is only him?how do I tell him?
She quickly picks up her bag and goes out.

VM Industries: Manavs cabin:

Manav calls Rohan as soon as he reaches: Rohan? You have a minute?
Rohan: Ji kahiye. Good morning
Manav: Good morning. That offer for the driver is still on?

Rohan smiles: Of course. I will send him right away. Nisha is at CGH?
Manav: Yes. I just dropped her.
Rohan: Ok. I am going that way anyway. So I will take the guy and introduce him. that way..
Manav nods: She will know that she can see who it is. Thanks Rohan.
Rohan: Not a problem. See you.
Manav: Bye (He cuts the call and sighs. The rest of the day passes without incident. Yog and Manav
share the car on their way back home that night with Manav in the driver seat and Yog sitting beside
him.)
Manav: Uncle, ek baat poochu?
Yog: Haan poocho.
Manav: Why didnt you get Nisha married before? I mean I understand the talk was bad but surely it
would have died down slowly and had you searched, you would have found someone, right? May be
someone not from Ahmedabad, a good guy who is closer to her age..why?
Yog looks out of the window in silence for a few moments: Woh maane tab na Manav. Kissi aur se
shaadi karna toh door ki baat thi woh toh kissi aur ke baare mein sochti bhi nahi thi. Kasam diya tha
usne hum dono ko ki uske shaadi ki baat kabhi nahi chedenge. I guess that was the day that I finally
accepted that my daughter is the kind who can love only once and you were that one for her. (Then he
gives Manav a slightly quizzical look) Par yeh sab ab kyon poochrahe ho?
Manav tries to swallow the lump in his throat and replies: Nahi..kuch nahi..buss aise hi.
Does the age gap really matter so much? Let me be frank with myself here. I was jealous..more than
jealous, I was insecure. Whenever I saw her with Rohan, all I could see was that he was there when I
was not..he literally placed himself between her and harm.. He was probably better suited to her than
he himself every would be..closer to her age, similar tastes and preferences, no past hang ups..and he
never hurt her. (Then he remembers something that she told him a few days back. Aur agar mein
kabhi waapas nahi aata toh? Toh mein zindagi bhar aap ka intezaar karti.) I guess there is a
difference between knowing and completely believing. And if SHE thinks I am good enough for her..if
her PARENTS think I am the one for her, why should I question it? (The car reaches home.)

That night: Nishas bedroom:

She throws the bag on the table and plops down on the bed with a tired sigh. Manav comes out of the
bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist: Hi.
Nisha: Hi. Rohan said you called and asked for the driver.
Manav nods: Haan. (Then frowns.) He came to pick you up, right?
Nisha: Yeah. Rohan came and introduced me and all that.

Manav starts rubbing his hair with another towel: I felt that was more practical. Kal se naya campaign
shuru honewaala hain. I probably wont be able to adjust my timings with yours. (He sits beside her
on the bed.) Tired?
Nisha puts her head on his shoulder and cuddles closer to him: Hmmm..poocho mat. Had to monitor 3
surgeries and a full OPD aur jab baahar niklne waali thi toh 2 accident cases.
Manav starts rubbing her shoulders and neck: What do you normally do to relax then? When the days
are hectic or bad..(He shrugs.) Go on a run..cycling..talking to friends kuch toh hota hoga na.
Nisha nods: Cycling aur uske baad music. (Then she looks up at him. Here is the opening that she has
been waiting for since morning and she takes it up.) But you know the best way that always worked
for me? (He gives her a questioning look. She hesitates for a second before going to her wardrobe
and pulling out his t shirt that she had always treasured with her. She rubs her cheek to it..an almost
instinctive gesture before passing it on to him.) Yeh shirt tumhe yaad hain?
Manav frowns and turns it this way and that before realization dawns on him: This is mine? This is
mine! How did you..when did you..holi!
She nods and takes the shirt back from him: Hmmm..whenever things got bad over the years, I used to
put this on. It was almost like you were hugging me. I used to forget everything then. (Her eyes fill up
and a lone tear rolls down her cheek.) Even when uncle and aunty passed away, I wanted to come to
you but..(She gives an awkward shrug.) So that whole night I hugged this t shirt..I know silly but..
Manav pushes her back on the bed smothers her face and neck with kisses before locking his lips to
hers. He drinks deeply from her mouth as his tears mingle with hers wetting both their faces. His
breath shudders out of his chest: Nahi..nahi Nisha. It was not silly. A couple of my colleagues from
Mumbai had come, uncle and aunty were there but..I felt so alone. Uss din Tiger Chulbuli ke bina
bahut akela padgaya tha re.
Nisha cups his face with trembling hands. Her eyes hold both pain and joy: I missed you too Tiger.
(Both of them laugh and cry and hug and roll on the bed.)
Manav finally sits up and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand before laughing softly: Lagta hain
hum dono kuch zyada hi senti hogaye. (He pulls her up into a sitting position.) Go and freshen up.
(Seeing her fiddling with the t shirt.) Kya hua?
Nisha: I have a photograph of yours and mine..(She inserts hastily.) Uss raat waale nahi..(Seeing him
patiently waiting for her to continue, she gets up and brings a book and extends to him.) It was
actually a group photograph but..(He sees the photograph of just the two of them with the rest of the
group been cut off. His face splits into a grin as he sees her young chubby face with short bob hair
making faces at the camera and leaning towards him. He gives it back to her.) Isse sambhalke rakhna.
Or better yet, give it to me and I will make a soft copy of it. I will show it to our kids one day and tell
them stories of how naughty their mom used to be.
Nisha blinks before her entire face lights up and turns pink: Kids?
Manav: Yeah..you dont want kids?
Goosebumps raise all over her at the mere thought: But..but..I thought..I mean..you use..
Manav gets up and starts getting dressed in a t shirt and track pants: I didnt want to involve a kid with

so many unresolved issues surrounding us..(He shrugs.) So what do you say? You want kids? (She
starts nodding repeatedly even before he could complete his sentence making him raise his eyebrow.)
Now? (Her smile turns a little shy as she looks away from him.) Ek kaam karte hain. Lets get past all
this and in a few months things will also pick up at VM and then we will talk about it. Ok? (She nods
happily and with a joyous screech pounces on him with arms wrapped tight around his neck and legs
around his waist. The dinner that night got delayed but neither cared.)

Next day morning: CGH: Srutis cabin:

Srutis cell phone pings on an incoming sms: Reached Ahmedabad Just now. On my way home.
Armaan.
She quickly types her reply: Ok. I need to talk to you about something important. Will come by your
house this evening..say 6?
Reply is almost immediate: Sure. Will be waiting.
Sruti sighs and puts the phone away. After her talk with Abhi, she wanted to go straight to Armaan and
ask him what all that was about but her work load didnt permit that day and the next day morning he
had to attend a VIP surgery in Delhi and had left the next day. The child had developed some
complications and his two day trip got extended to 5 days. Finally he is back and she is going to go
and have that talk. There is a soft knock on the door and after her come in, Rohan enters: Hello
Maam.
Sruti smiles: Hello. Have a seat. You were asking me about some 10 yr old case, right?
Rohan extends a file: Yes. I finally could get the case file from Metro Hospital. I just want you to look
into it and see if you remember anything about her..anything significant.
Sruti reads the first page and looks up with a frown: Aditi Malhotra. This is the same girl who was
murdered, right? (Rohan nods.) I remember that because she had an appointment for an MTP..abortion
and she didnt turn up. when the police questioned me, thats when I came to know that she was killed
the previous night.
Rohan leans forward: Yes, it was in the report that she was to have an abortion. Did you interact much
with her? Can you recall any of your conversations?
Sruti thinks back and shakes her head: No. She was unmarried and pregnant. I understood and didnt
question her much although I did advice her that she needs to be careful. (She leans back in her chair
and fiddles with her pen.) But I did find one thing unusual. She was hell bent on getting the MTP but
the babys father wanted the child. He came with her and kept pleading and arguing with her to think
one more time and all that. It stuck in my mind because its usually the other way around in these
cases..you know..women want the child but men dont..
Rohan nods: So Dr Armaan was with Aditi when she came for the check up?
Sruti gets totally confused: Dr Armaan? Why would Dr Armaan be with Aditi?

Rohan frowns: But you just said the babys father was with her.. (She nods still confused.) Dr Armaan
was the babys father. (It comes out like a part statement and part question.)
Srutis mouth drops open: What?

Chapter 14

Rohan nods with a frown: Yeah. Thats what he said in his statement to the police all those years ago.
Sruti shakes her head as if to clear it: ARMAAN was the father? But the guy I met was some body else
Mr. Rohan.
Rohan leans forward: Kya? Aap poora yakeen ke saath yeh kehsakti hain?
Sruti nods still dazed and confused but sure: Of course. I have known Armaan for the past 6-7 years
and he is most definitely NOT the guy who came along with Aditi Malhotra.
Rohan: Can you tell me his name? Yaad karne ki koshish keejiye please?
Sruti: No. I cant remember the name. I dont even think he explicitly introduced himself..when he
started trying to convince her, she just gave me an awkward smile and said that he was the babys
father. Thats all. (Her face is still a mixture of shock and confusion.) But I dont understand. Why did
Dr Armaan say..
Rohan sighs in apparent frustration: I dont know Dr Sruti. This tangle is just getting worse. Did you
tell this to the police then?
Sruti nods: I asked them if they had spoken to the father of the baby and they said yes and that he was
on clear because he was out of town that night. I didnt ask further and they didnt expand.
Rohan taps his fingers on the table before looking up: Dr Sruti, if I get some snaps or something of
that kind, would you be able to pick the guy?
Sruti: I can try. I will definitely try but its 10 years old and the image I have of that guy is quite hazy.
Rohan gets up: Ok. I will see what I can do. thank you. Phir milte hain.
Sruti picks up the intercom phone and cancels all her appoitments for the day and leaves to Armaans
house. This issue is not going to wait till evening. Within 15 minutes, she reaches Armaans residence
and rings the bell.
Armaan opens the door: Sruti? Aao andar aao. You said you would be coming in this evening na.
Sruti: Yes. But I could not wait till the evening. Armaan, I think its time we talked. I mean really talked.
No beating around the bush and no monosyllabal answers. (Armaan sighs and nods before gesturing
her to have a seat.) Armaan..Aditi kaun hain? And if you and Manav Mathur were friends once, why
arent you now?
Armaan closes his eyes and shakes his head: I wanted to tell you..I honestly did. But..
Sruti takes his hand in hers: Then talk now. I am listening. Aur itne saalon ka saath aur dosti ke baad
tumhe itna vishwaas toh hogayahoga na ki I am not a judgemental kind of a person? (Armaan looks
into her appealing wide brown eyes and nods.) Toh batao aisa kya hua jo tumhe itne saalon se andar
hi andar khaaye jaaraha hain?
Armaan: Manav and I were friends since school days. (His lips stretch into a reluctant smile as a

memory teases him.) When we were in school, our friends used to sing Mere do anmol ratan ek hain
Raam toh ek Lakhan. When we walked by. Abhi and I used to fight over everything all the time and
Manav used to come as a peacemaker. Our parents knew that if one of us was not at home, that means
we were with each other. Then we lost our mother to cancer. I honestly dont know how I would have
coped had it not been for Manav. Uss sadme se baahar aaya hi nahi tha ki 3 weeks later my dad got
killed in a freak automobile accident. (He lowers his head and grips his hair with both hands.) God!
Sometimes I still see myself standing in the corridor of CGH as I saw my dad being wheeled in all
bloodied and lifeless.
Sruti puts her hand on his shoulder: I am sorry. I never knew their deaths were so close. Where was
Abhi then?
Armaan: He was doing his M.L. He had just gone back to the hostel after moms death.
Sruti: Aur..Manav? Manav tumhaare saath tha?
Armaan nods: He was my rock during that time. Never moved from my side..used to stay at my house
as much as he could. And I betrayed him in the worst possible way. (Sruti remains silent and waits for
him to continue.)

Abhi parks his car and gets down. Srutiji ka car yahaa? (He smiles.) May be I should back off and
give them both some time. Khaamakha beech mein jaake kabab mein haddi kyon banoo? I will just
collect my file, say hello and come off. He tiptoes to the main door and opens it slowly and
soundlessly to peek inside. What meets his eye wipes the smile off his face and he takes an
involuntary step forward in concern but stops himself. Sruti is standing facing the window hence he is
unable to see her expression. And his brother is sitting in the sofa completely lost and dejected: I am
sorry Sruti. I am really sorry. I tried..believe me..I really did. But I just cant seem to get past this
guilt..the fact that he trusted me and I betrayed his trust. I cant move on..cant seem to look past that. I
tried talking to him..par woh toh meri shakl se bhi nafrat karta hain..and Sruti..I cant ask you to share
my life with this guilt hanging around my neck. I love you. I really do..but..its not..it wont be fair to
you..
Abhi looks at his brother as tears gather in his eyes. Aur kitne saal bhai? Aur kitne saal tu apne aap ko
isstarah sazaa dega? everyone has moved on. (He grits his teeth.) Even Manav has moved on..but you!!
He backs off from the door as silently as he had come.
Sruti turns and comes to crouch in front of Armaan. She takes his hand in hers: Armaan..meri taraf
dekho Armaan. whatever happened, just happened. Tumne jaan boochkar toh kuch nahi kiya na. Aur
tumhi toh kehrahe ho ki tumhe kuch yaad nahi. So how can you even say that something happened?
Yeh bhi toh hosakta hain na ki uss raat kuch hua hi nahi. Yeh bhi toh hosakta hain na ki Aditi ke
bachche ka baap tum ho hi nahi?
Armaan cant hide his incredulity: What? What are you saying? No. Aditi was not like that. She
was..she was a nice girl.
Sruti tightens her grip on his palm: Did she come and tell you that you were the father?
Armaan: No. I was a coward. I did not..I could not face her for a lot of days after that. I could not face
Manav either. And then..then..Manav came one day and told me that he and Aditi were getting

engaged..I thought..I hoped..but then the news came that she was pregnant..
Sruti opens her mouth as if to say something but closes it. Nahi. Abhi nahi. Pehle poori sachchai ka
pata toh chale. Armaan needs hope but not false hope. And I dont want to raise it only to bring it
crashing back down again. I will talk to the SP again. She puts her palm on his cheek: And you didnt
tell me all this until now..why? You thought I would judge and condemn you for being a human?
Armaan, for the first time leans in on another person..on the woman..on the only woman he had ever
loved in his life. His arms close around her as he pulls her into a hug while tremours wrack his body.
She holds him in her arms and provides the only thing that she can at that point..solace.

That evening: around 7 pm: Verma residence: Nishas room:

Nisha is running around the bed trying to catch Manav: Tiger..Mujhe dekhna hain..dikhaona
please..woh kya hain..mere liye laaye ho na..
Manav goes off to the other end of the room with the paper wrapped rectangular box in his hand:
Haan..Tere liye hi laaya hoon..tabhi toh kehrahan hoon..aake lelo na.
Nisha tries to jump and catch only to have him raise up his hand and back another step. She finally
stomps her foot in frustration and folds her hands with a pout: Jaao mujhe nahi dekhna hain.
Manav comes and wraps his arms around her from behind: Nahi dekhna hain? (She shakes her head
with a sulk) Sachchi mein nahi dekhna hain?
Nisha pushes his arms away: Nahi. Apna gift apne paas hi rakho.
Manav comes to stand in front of her: dekhoo toh meri Chulbuli gusse mein kaise dikhti
hain..hmmm..dekhoo toh..(she whirls away from him in anger) Achcha teek hain. Yehlo
Nisha smiles and makes a move to take it from his hand only to have him change it to another hand.
She turns that way and he once again shifts it to this hand. Frustrated, she starts punching his chest:
TIGER! Seedha seedha dedo warna tumse baat nahi karoongi.
Manav raises his eyebrow: Uh huh..for how many seconds? 2 or 3? (Nisha stops hitting him and
flaunts off to go and sit on the bed. He comes and sits beside her only to have her move away a little.
He moves closer again with a perfectly straight face and she growls and moves away again. Before
she could move away again, he holds her hand and puts the box in it and grins at the enthusiasm with
which she tears off the paper. She comes to a complete stand still as she sees whats inside. Its a
beautiful photo frame..similar to the ones that hang over the wall in their house..but this one held a
digital mastered photograph of both of them with his arm around her taken during the Manali trip on
the right side and on the left side is the one that Nisha had showed him the other day. The total effect is
endearing..both of them together then and now..yet in a totally different way. His voice softly inserts
from beside her) This one will look beside those two photographs in our hall na.
Nisha nods and her tremulous smile quickly turns into a huge grin as she hugs the photo frame tightly
to herself and bounces on the bed nodding at the same time bringing out amused chuckles from him.
She looks at his laughing face for a few moments before carefully putting the frame on the table

beside the bed and climbing on him until she is sitting astride on his lap, leans forward and gives a
smacking kiss on his lips: Thank you Tiger. I love it.
Before he could say anything, his phone rings and he picks it up still with one arm wrapped around
her: Hello?
Abhi: Manav..This is Abhimanyu.
Manavs smile vanishes but he remains cordial: Hello Abhi.
Abhi: Manav, the bank has forward your loan papers for some verification. Can you pass on the
property documents stated in them?
Manav frowns: Uh..ok. Sure. The papers are at my house right now. I am at Nishas place. So just give
me half an hour and I will go and collect the papers. I can send them across to you first thing
tomorrow morning, right?
Abhi: Yeah..any time before 9 am is fine.
Manav: Ok. Thank you Abhi.
Abhi: Not a problem. Bye.
Manav cuts the call and looks at Nishas enquiring face: I need to go to our house to get some papers.
Nisha frowns: Now?
Manav nods: Kal subah ki bhaag daud mein time nahi milega Chulbuli..I will just go and get them
now.
Nisha doesnt move from her position on top of him: Raat honeko aayi hain. No. Go tomorrow
morning. I will wake you up early.
Manav tweaks her nose: YOU will wake ME up?
Nisha scowls: Haan toh alarm rakhke utke tumhe uta doongi na.
Manav sighs: Uto. Mujhe jaana hain. Buss yu gaya aur yu aaya.
Nisha: You dont allow me to go out alone. Now why are you going? Aur woh bhi raat ko! Nahi (She
realizes she is sounding actually petulant but she doesnt care. Something about him going out now is
not sounding good to her.)
Manav: Zidd mat karo Nisha..
Nisha: Toh mein bhi chalti hoon tumhaare ke saath. I dont want you to go alone.
Manav: Nisha..(He pushes back her hair that has fallen over her forehead.) Its not safe buddy. I dont
want to take any chances where you are concerned. Achcha teek hain..I will get your kulfi icecream on
my way back ok?
He rolls her on the bed, kisses her within an inch of her life before getting up to change his shirt. She
comes behind him and helps him remove his shirt. But before he could pull out a fresh one from
inside, he feels the touch of her lips on his bare back. They start at one shoulder and travel down to

his waist and lower back before coming back up on the other side and ending it at the other shoulder.
Her hands, unwilling to be idle, start tracing delicate patterns over his abdomen and chest. His breath
hitches and his pulse rockets up at the feel of her fingers over his flat nipples. His thought process
comes to a shuddering halt as she moves under his arm without her lips leaving his body until she is
standing in front of him. Her lips replace her fingers and with a rough groan, he digs his fingers in
her hair as if unable to decide whether to tell her to stop or beg her to continue. Her palms make a
path over his back before coming forward to slowly touch and grip his hardness. His growl of
Nisha.. goes unheaded as she continues to pay homage to him which soon has him leaning against
the wardrobe cabinets because there is no way in hell that his legs are going to support this onslaught
of hers. She locks her eyes with his as she completes undressing him and continues to look at him as
she kneels in front of him. His eyes flare up as he realises her intention. His thumb rubs her lower lips
as he manages to blurt out: You sure? Her softly uttered Please smashes all his defences and he
surrenders himself to her as she takes him heaven.

Next day morning:

Manav continues to speak on the phone while getting dressed for work: Yes. I want those papers ready.
And did you email the customer explaining the delay?..Why? (Steel enters his voice) No Bhavna. It is
NOT his responsibility. It is YOURS. Whoever makes the mess gets to clean it up themselves..(He cuts
in when the person on the other end starts saying something.) I dont care what your job description
says. There is such a thing called basic people skills and at the level you are in, I expect you to have
them. (He collects his wallet and keys before making his way out of the room with a distracted wave
to Nisha.)
Just as he is at the main door after shaking his head at kaka when asked for breakfast, Nisha calls him
from behind: Manav? (He turns to find her walking gracefully towards him with his jacket in her
hand. Wordlessly she helps him don it on, picks up a couple of bananas from the fruit bowl on the
dining table and puts them in his bagpack along with his laptop. He thanks her with a soft pat on her
cheek and a smile, gestures HK to make sure she eats, before going out, his mind already back with
whoever he is talking over the phone and his face a tight mask of anger and impatience.) You owe it
not only to the customer but also to your team Bhavna so move on with it.
She waits until he backs his car out of the gate before turning towards HK and her mom with a smile:
Good morning mom. Good morning kaka. Breakfast mein kya hain?
Nandini: Tera favourite. Aa bait beta. (She puts her hand on Nishas head.) Rohan ka kuch phone aaya?
Woh intruder kaun tha kuch pata chala?
Nisha: Nahi ma. He is still looking into it. Manav said he will talk to him again today.
Nandini: Chalo issi bahaane beti aur damaad thode din humaare saath rahenge. Manav is comfortable
here, right?
Nisha nods: Yes mom. Dont worry. But once Rohan gives his ok, we will go back to our home. Kaka
was there yesterday evening to clean up the house and water the plants. So..
Nandini smiles and nods. Soon Yograj joins them and everyone have their breakfast before Nisha and

Yog leave for their work.



Rohans jeep screeches to a halt in front of Manavs residence and he fairly leaps out of it:
Manavji..what happened?
Manav, who is sitting on the front porch steps talking to someone over the phone, cuts the call
abruptly and gets up: Hi Rohan..another break in..I think last night. The window pane in the study
room is broken and the papers are scattered all over.
Rohans gaze sharpens: How do you know it was last night? Were you here?
Manav: No. Yesterday evening HK was here to clean up and all. Tab toh sab kuch teek tha. (He runs a
distracted hand through his hair) Rohan..I think our initial theory is wrong. Whoever it is, I think, is
after ME not Nisha.
Rohan nods: I had the same doubt the night Nisha saw the intruder in your house. If he wanted to harm
her, he would have done so before she screemed.
Manav nods: And I was supposed to come here last night.
Rohan frowns: Why? (Manav explains Abhis call and the request for property papers and Rohans
frown deepens. Why would ABHIMANYU want the property papers? He is a criminal lawyer na..why
would he deal with..Rohan looks up.) Did anyone know that you were coming here to collect the
papers?
Manav: No. Abhi asked for papers and I said I will collect them right away and send them across first
thing in the morning. But I couldnt come so came in early today..so..someone knew that I was going
to be here and was waiting for me! (Rohan nods..his mind working in various directions. The bus
incident..a criminal lawyer could collect some favours or know whom to hire for such a job..the
chandelier..lack of finger prints or any kind of evidence at all the crime scenes..what if..what if its
ABHIMANYU who has a score to settle with Manav? ) Rohan? I want to suggest something. (Rohan
nods as if to say go ahead) How about we give this guy a chance to get to me..I can make sure I am
alone at some point and..
Rohan: You want to set yourself as a bait Manavji? (Manav nods.) Aap jaante hain na some times, the
animal manages to get the bait without getting caught? High risk and at this point we dont know what
is it thats triggering this guy.
Manav smiles: Tum ho na. And frankly, I dont see any other option.
Rohan: Let me think on this some more and I will call you. Lekin jab tak mein na kahoo aap kuch mat
keejiye. (He smiles a little.) Nisha will kill me if she comes to know about this.
Manav also smiles: Then dont tell her. (A slight pause and then) I was supposed to come here last
night. Lekin usne mujhe jaane nahi diya. She kept saying she has a bad feeling about it..
Rohan: Never discount intuition Manavji..especially a womans. Did you take the papers that you
need? (Manav nods) Toh chaliye. I will follow you in my jeep till your office.

Same day evening around 3 pm: At CGH: Srutis cabin:



Sruti looks up at Manav: Please dont worry Mr Manav. Dr Palash is one of the best. She is a specialist
in female reproductive cancer, who has recently moved here from US. And we will take all
precautions for Menakaji before, during and after the surgery. Uske baad chemotherapy hoga aur
uske baad regular complete physical check up every 2-3 months for the first two years followed by
every 6 months for 3 years and then annually from there on.
Manav: But this cancer..its just in the ovaries, right? It has not spread anywhere else?
Sruti: Abhi tak toh nahi. We did a complete CT of chest, abdomen and pelvic area and we also did a
chest x ray. So lets hope for the best.
Manav nods: When is the surgery? I mean..what time?
Sruti: Tomorrow around 11 am.
Manav nods and gets up: I will try to be here. aap..aap rahengi na Menakaji ke saath..OT mein?
Sruti nods: Yes. I will be there. (She smiles.) Its good to see someone so concerned about their
employee.
Manav: She has been with the company almost all her life Srutiji..taught me a lot when I was raw and
fresh out of college..(He shrugs and leaves it at that before making a move to leave.)
Sruti thinks for a moment before speaking: Ek baat kahoo aapse? (Manav nods.) I probably dont have
any right to say this but..I think you should hear Armaans side of the story before passing judgement
on him. (Manav looks away and remains silent but Sruti gets a glimpse of his pain, anger and hurt in
his eyes before they frost over.) I know it was not a small triffle that we are talking about here
but..Manavji..dont you think you should at least listen to what he has to say? What if you come to
know that he actually might not have done anything? (He takes his leave from her without a word,
leaves a note in Nishas cabin that he had come by since she is in the OT and makes his way out, with
Srutis words still playing in his mind. What if you come to know that he actually might not have done
anything..)

Around the same time: Armaans residence:

Armaan opens the door: Hello Rohan. please..come in.
Rohan: I went by CGH and they said you were on leave today.
Armaan nods: Aaj mere ma ki barsi hain toh..(Just then Abhi also walks into the room.)
Rohan nods a hello to Abhi before turning back to Armaan: I can come back tomorrow if its not a
good time sir.
Armaan: No no. nothing like that. Both of us just spend some time together today. We used to fight
like cats and dogs when we were younger and mom always used to worry about us..(He gives a small

smile.) Anyway, tell me..whats it about?


Rohan: We think that the attacks on Nisha were actually meant for Manav..she just got in the way. We
think HE is the main target. (Rohan takes in the total shock on Armaans face along with a slight
stiffening of Abhis body. But he doesnt shift his eyes from Armaan giving out the impression that
whatever he has to say, is only for him.) There have been a couple of break ins at his home recently.
Armaan: Kuch pata chala kaun hain? Is it some kind of business rivalry?
Rohan leans back in the single seat sofa: Investigation jaari hain. I asked Manav if he suspects anyone.
(He gives a slight pause before striking.) He said he cant think of anyone other than YOU Dr
Armaan.
Both Armaan and Abhi get up. Armaan is stunned: ME?
Abhi shouts: WHAT THE HELL! HOW DARE HE!
Rohan also gets up: Please calm down. We dont have any proof but I just wanted to ask you if you
want to say something at this point of time. (Abhi opens his mouth but Rohan raises his hand asking
him to be quiet without taking his eyes off Armaans pale face.) Mein sirf Armaan se baat kar raha
hoon. (If looks could kill, Rohan is sure he would have turned to ashes by now from the way Abhi is
looking at him.)
Armaan fairly staggers back under the blow of that statement: Manav..Manav said I would try to KILL
HIM? (He looks up to see Rohans nod. his eyes fill up before he sternly controls himself) No Rohan.
I do not want to say anything at this point of time.
Rohan nods and comes out of the house before making a fake call: Haan Anu..yes I remember and
yes, I will be there. I spoke to Nisha and she will be at your house by 5 with uncle and aunty. Manavji..I
dont think so. Nisha batarahi thi ki unhe kuch client call kuch hain. He will probably stay back home.
Arre chodna yaar..hum sab hain na tere saath. Chal mein abhi duty mein hoon. We will talk later.
He cuts the calls and starts his jeep and drives a couple of streets away from Armaans house before
stopping and making a call: Sharma..I want you to do two things. One..keep an eye on both Armaan
and Abhimanyu. I want to know every movement of theirs from this minute on. And two..make sure at
least two of you are always around Manav. No matter where he is. Got that? (He cuts the call and
makes another one.) Manavji..aap kahaa hain?
Manav: Office mein. I just got back from CGH. one of our employees is admitted there. Why?
Rohan: Nisha ne bataya hain ki aaj shaam ko sab log Anu ke yahaa jaarahe hain. Vishaals parents are
going to come over and all that.
Manav: Yeah. Nisha is pretty excited about it. Currently I am trying my best to avoid going along. I
mean..mein kissi ko teek se jaanta bhi nahi. Are you going?
Rohan: No. And I want you also not to go. Stay back at home Manavji.
Manav frowns: Why?
Rohan smiles: Since you so kindly offered yourself as a bait, I have decided to take you up on that. I
have set the plan in motion. Now lets see if it works. Make sure everyone is out of the house. HK aur

CS ko bhi koi kaam se baahar bhejdeejiye. And give me a missed call once you are alone.
Manav: Ok. You really think this will work?
Rohan: Dekhte hain. Lets hope so. And dont worry. We will be watching you and the house. Trust me
Manavji..koi aap ko choo bhi nahi paayega.
Manav grins: As you say SP saab. Par aap fikr mat keejiye. Baat Nisha ki hoti toh it would have been
different. I probably would have killed you for even thinking of something like this. But I can take
care of myself.
Rohan looks out at the passing traffic: Jaanta hoon. Chaliye..Good luck.
Manav: Good luck to you too.

Chapter 15

That evening: Nishas bedroom:

Nisha glares at Manav: Toh tum nahi aaoge!
Manav sighs: Chulbuli..I have work to do. Aur mein wahaa aake kya karoonga? I dont know anyone
there.
Nisha pouts: But I wanted to stand beside you and proudly introduce you as my husband. Namaste.
Mein Nisha Mathur..Anu ki dost aur yeh mere pati Manav Mathur.
Manav laughs softly before pulling her close to him until she is standing in front of him and he is
sitting on the bed. He puts his arms around her waist and nuzzles his face in her tummy: And if they
say Aapne iss budde se shaadi kyon ki? Toh?
She pushes him away from her and growls out: I will tell them Budda hoga tera baap (Manav roars
out his laughter.) Haso mat. I will really give them that reply.
Manav looks at her face: Hasu nahi toh aur kya karoo? Chalo ab zidd chodo aur jaldi se taiyar
hojao..jao. (Seeing that she is about to stomp her foot and get more stubborn, he pulls her close, cups
her cheeks and gives her a soft loving kiss on her lips) Please? Abhi toh bahut saare chances honge
mujhe introduce karne keliye..hain na..Anu ki sagai, mehendi, sangeet, shaadi..
Nisha gets her smile back at that thought and her face lights up once again: Haan. But you should not
skip any of those..ok?
Manav sighs in relief and nods: I promise. Ab jaao. (She grins and takes out her sari to get dressed.)
Nisha..(She turns with a questioning look.) Kuch nahi..buss..apna khayaal rakhna ok? I want you to
smile, laugh and enjoy yourself.
Nisha nods but her frown does not disappear: You will be working from home only, right? (Manav
nods but senses her sudden unease..womans intuition indeed!) And you wont go out alone? (He nods
again and before she could add anything else, Nandini calls out to her asking her if she is ready and
with a quick reply of Almost done ma. She runs off into the bathroom and Manav sighs in relief.)
30 minutes later Manav calls Rohan and informs him that everyone is out of the house except him.
Rohan instructs him to close all the main doors, front and back and leave only the front main window
open so that they can keep an eye on him and for him to stay in the hall itself. After about 15 minutes,
Armaan parks his car beside the gate and gets down. Sharma turns towards Rohan: Sir..shall I close
in?
Rohan shakes his head: Nahi Sharma. He would not go to the front door and knock if he wants to
attack Manav na..but see..thats what he is doing. Lets wait and watch for now. Tell Vinod not to move
his eyes from the back entrance. (Sharma nods and passes on the message.)
Manav frowns at the sound of the door bell and goes to open it only to stop dead and stare at Armaan
who just stares back at him with his arms folded. For the first time Manav does not find guilt in his

eyes. All he sees is deep pain and burning anger. Both of them just look at each other from either side
of the open door. Finally Armaan breaks the silence: I am going to talk and you are going to listen.
The only choice you are going to have is the place. You want me to come inside or do you want to
stand here or do we go out somewhere. Decide Manav. (Manav takes a silent step back and opens the
door wider) Thank you. (Manav closes the door and gestures Armaan to take a seat before seating
himself in the opposite chair. Both of them remain silent. Armaan gathering his thoughts and Manav
finally waiting to hear what he has to say) You banned me, my voice and my face for 10 years. Mein
chup rahaa. You came back but refused to even look at me. Mein chup rahaa. You outright accused me
of having dirty thoughts about your wife. Tab bhi mein chup rahaa. Jaante ho kyon? Kyon ki agar
tumhaari jagah pe mein hota toh mein BHI shaayad WAHI karta. Lekin aaj tumne jo kahaa..jo
kiya..mera sabr toot gaya hain Manav. Mein jaanta hoon ki jo meine kiya woh shaayad maafi ke
laayak nahi but to think that I would plan and plot to KILL you..YOU!!
Manav by now looks completely taken aback: WHAT?
But Armaan once started, he does not stop: Since childhood, you were more than my friend. You were
my brother. You were my anchor when I lost my parents. Par jiss din papa uss accident mein guzar
gaye..mein toot gaya tha. Kuch samajh mein nahi aaraha tha ki mein kya horaha hain. It was too
sudden..too unexpected. After the cremation, you wanted to stay with me in my house. You didnt want
me to be alone that night. You knew I was not close to Abhi and would not share my pain with him.
But that night I could not share my pain with you either. So I told you to go. I told you that I wanted to
be alone. And I could feel your reluctance in every step that you took away from me. (He swallows
and fixes his gaze at one of the painting hanging on the wall although his thoughts are miles and years
away.) I gave a sleeping pill to Abhi and told him to sleep. Then I got drunk. Rip roaring drunk. I
wanted to forget..forget that now I neither had my mom nor my dad with me. Thats when Aditi had
come. She got dinner for me and Abhi..she forced me to eat a few bites..that broke something in
me..and I cried. I cried for the first time after my mom passed away..after I saw my dad bloodied and
lifeless on the stretcher. She hugged me and let me get everything out. I remember begging her not to
go..not to leave me alone..(He closes his eyes) I remember..hugging her. Next thing I know..its
morning and I was in my bed with my clothes scattered all around. (There is just silence in the
room..pin drop silence. Armaan as if unable to bear that silence gets up and starts pacing.) I dont
remember what I did..I did not know what happened..I was too ashamed to face you or Aditi. I wanted
to ask her what happened..but how does one ask something like that? I kept quiet and hoped and
prayed and avoided everyone and everything. Then a few weeks later you came and told me about
your engagement to Aditi. I felt..I dont know..relieved. I thought if she is going ahead with it that
means probably nothing happened that night. (His pacing comes to a stop and he squeezes his eyes
shut.) Then the news about her pregnancy came out and..(He whispers out) I wanted to die. (Manav
rubs his face with his palms while his mind paints pictures what could have happened that night. He
remembers his own state of mind soon after his parents had passed away..his friendship with the bottle
the first few weeks..the hazy wild nights and the dazed days. Armaan and Aditi didnt backstab me.
They did not have an affair behind my back. So many years..so much pain..so much anger..could I have
avoided all that if I had not been so judgemental? I condemned him for being human while I stood on
some moral high ground which I dont have the right to stand in the first place! Armaan opens his eyes
to the feel of Manavs hand on his shoulder. He turns to face him with tear filled eyes..only he sees
Manavs eyes also gleaming and wet. The next moment both of them hug each other tightly for the
first time in over a decade.) Manav..mujhe maaf karde yaar. (Manav tightens his hug before pulling
away and wiping his own eyes with the back of his hand) Manav..(Manav looks at Armaan) You really
think I would try to kill you?

Manav frowns as he remembers how the whole conversation started: Yeh kya kehrahe ho
Armaan..why would I even..I never..the thought didnt even cross my mind.
Armaan frowns: Then why did Rohan say..(Both of them get startled at the sounds of shouts, running
feet and the banging of the door followed by someone swearing.) Whats happening?
Manav: Dont know. (Just then the back door opens and Rohan enters. Behind him a couple of cops
along with Sharma almost drag Abhi into the hall. Everyone speaks at the same time) Rohan?
Armaan: Abhi?
Abhi: BHAI?
Rohan shows him the mask that he is holding: Our plan worked Manavji. We caught him while he was
trying to break open the back door.
Armaans bewildered look passes from Rohan to Manav to Abhi. He seems completely incapable of
comprehension and speech. Manav seems to be equally taken aback: Abhi? But..I dont understand.
Rohan: Abhimanyu is a criminal lawyer Manavji. When you told me today that he called and asked
for the property papers..I felt something is not right. So I went and deliberately provoked his anger
this morning and made sure he knew about the fact that you would be alone at home in the evening.
Manav looks at Abhi, who continues to stare at him in blistering silence: Why?
Abhi pulls himself away from both the cops: WHY? You dare to stand there and ask me WHY? You
keep hurting my brother time and again and you ask me WHY? I understood your anger all those
years ago. So I kept quiet. I knew my brother was drowning in guilt but I didnt say a word against
you or come after you because you moved away from my brother s life. You were not HERE. Then
you came back. I thought now, he will talk and things will get cleared. Bhai can move on. You
married Nisha. I thought ok..one step ahead. He will forgive Nisha and later be willing to talk to bhai
too. But did you do that? NO! You forgave what she did..you were happily enjoying all the attention
and love that she showered on you..and continued to look down on my brother. The day you created
that scene in CGH and accused him..I was right there! I could not take it. My brother is NOT like that.
Apne shaadi ka reception rakha and you invited every single person EXCEPT my brother. Then you
take your pretty young wife out to dinner and openly snub at my brother in front of Srutiji..wohi
Srutiji jo 6 saal se bhai se pyaar karti hain aur 6 saal se unka intezaar kar rahi hain..wohi Srutiji jisse
bhai apne jaan se bhi zyaada pyaar karte hain par bolnahi pate. because all he keeps seeing is his
betrayal to YOU. He cant love because of YOU. He cant move on because of YOU. He drinks
because of YOU. He stopped laughing..doesnt have friends..because of YOU. Then yesterday I heard
bhai and Srutiji talking. Bhai told her he cant move on past that night..he kept saying sorry to her..sab
kuch TERI wajah se!
By now Armaan has reached his brother. He catches hold of his shoulders and shakes him out of his
anger: ABHI! NO! Its NOT because of Manav. Its because of my own guilt. I could not face MYSELF
Abhi.
Abhi pushes him away: And your guilt would not have smothered you if HE had listened to you in the
first place. You told me what actually happened only a year ago bhai. (Abhi wipes his own tears with
his sleeve.) Sab kuch akele hi sehte rahe..

Armaan gives Abhi a sad resigned look: So for that you wanted to..? What would have changed after
that Abhi? (Then his look changes to one of utter horror.) Aditi..Abhi..did you..were you? (He stops as
if unable to complete the thought and the sentence.)
Abhi shakes his head vigorously: Bhai NO! I didnt kill Aditi. I didnt even know she was murdered
until I was at the airport that day to pick you up. One of my friend had called and gave me the news.
Armaan: Sach sach bata Abhi..
Abhi: Bhai..aap ki kasam..ma ki kasam bhai. I didnt kill Aditi. I was in the library that whole night
with 4 of my friends.
Rohan sighs and looks at Manav: Manavji..I need you to come and file the FIR at the police station.
(Armaan closes his eyes at that.)
Manav continues to look at both the brothers before turning back to Rohan: Do you have any evidence
to convict him..other than todays attempt at breaking in?
Rohan: No. And you need to file the case and give your statement..
Manav continues to look at Rohan: No. Rohan. I will not file the FIR against Abhi. (It was tough to
say who is more stunned. Armaan or Abhi or Rohan.)
Rohans eyes burn fire at Abhi: Nisha could have been badly hurt or died Manavji..
Manav: And I would have killed him myself if that happened. but it didnt. Abhi is right in a way. (He
walks up to Abhi.) Armaan spoke to me just now. He told me everything. I dont blame him for what
happened all those years ago. I know I should have given him a chance..heard him out..I cant change
the past. But I wont cause him more pain by being the person who sends you to prison. But if
anything you do from now on..ANYTHING..ever hurts Nisha again..I will tear you apart with my bare
hands.
(Abhi looks at Manav silently for a few moments before giving a short nod.)
Rohan unwilling to let it go, gives another try: Mr Abhimanyu..did you have anything to do with the
shooting of the school bus? The same incident which killed 2 kids and the driver?
Abhi looks away from the force of the glare: I was not even there in that area. I was out meeting a
client whole of that morning. I can give you his contact details if you want to verify my alibi.
Rohan looks at Manav once again to see if he has changed his mind and Manav answers him with a
slight shake of his head: You got away THIS time Mr Abhimanyu. But once I get my hands on the
sniper..once the sniper opens his mouth..which I assure you he will..once that happens nothing and no
one is going to help you. (Without taking his eyes away from Abhi, Rohan barks.) Sharma..chalo.
No one speaks until Rohan and his team pile out closing the door behind them. finally, Abhi turns to
Armaan: Bhai..
Armaan takes a step back and puts his hand up to stop him..his face a tight mask of pain: Dont. I
cant..I cant think or talk right now Abhi. What you did..is not a small thing to forgive and forget.
Anything could have happened and because of you..because of YOU Abhi..2 kids lost their lives along
with that bus driver.

Abhis look turns pleading: But bhai..that was not my fault.


Armaan shouts: IT WAS YOUR FAULT!

Outside near the jeep, Sharma looks at Rohan: Ab?
Rohan: Ek kaam toh hogaya. Do aur bache hain. Aditis killer and the sniper.
Sharma: Are you really out to catch him sir? The sniper?
Rohan: Dosti apni jagah hain Sharma. Aur duty apni jagah. I will catch the guy and make him confess.
Chalo. Lets go have a break for now. Bhook lagi hain.

That night: Nishas bedroom:

Nisha comes out of the bathroom after changing into her night dress and looks at Manav, who is lying
down on the bed staring at the ceiling. When they had come home earlier, Armaan and Abhi were just
on their way out and the atmosphere was so tense that it could be cut with a knife. Manav had
explained about the attacks and everything that happened before and after in crisp concise words
without going into details of how he had set himself as a bait, before excusing himself and going off
into their room leaving behind a kind of stunned silence. Finally, with a nod at her parents that she
would talk later, she had followed him up to the room. As if he had been waiting for her, Manav
pushed her against the wall as soon as she entered, locked the door and taken her right there standing
up. Whatever feelings he had suppressed all evening had erupted and took on a physical form as if he
could not convey them with mere words..his realisation..his relief..it was as if a great weight has been
lifted off his shoulders and he is flying and determined to take her along with him. She puts the now
crumpled sari to the hanger before going and sitting beside him on the bed.
Manav feels her soft touch on his forehead a moment before her voice wraps itself around him: Kya
sochrahe ho?
Manav takes her hand, kisses her palm before placing it over his heart: Kuch nahi..buss..
Nisha: You did the right thing, you know..in not filing the case against Abhimanyu..
Manav blinks: Yeah..I know..but Rohan is quite pissed off at me right now.
Nisha smiles: He will get over it. But he wont give up Manav.
Manav: I know. (He looks at her.) He is a good guy..a true friend.
Nisha nods before entwining her fingers with his: You know..I think you should go and meet Armaan.
One on one. Sit and talk..I think you should do that.
Manav looks at their entwined fingers: You think he will be at home now?
Nisha: You remember the basket ball court where you all used to play? (He nods.) Try there. I used to
go there sometimes..Just to..you know..(She shrugs.) And I saw him a couple of times sitting on those

benches..silent..lost.. I think he has missed you a lot too.


Manav: Shall I go?
Nisha nods and takes out her phone: I will sms you his number. If he is not there, you can always call
him. Jaao Tiger.
Manav gets up quickly and exchanges his track pant with a pair of jeans and leaves the same t-shirt on.
He grabs the keys and wallet before turning back to look at her: Uh..I didnt hurt you, right? I mean..
(He gestures to the wall where he had taken her a few minutes back.)
Nisha smiles with a naughty glint in her eyes: Go meet your friend and come. We can try it again just
to make sure how much you..didnt hurt me..(She gives a small wink which makes him come back to
give her a long hard kiss that smothers her giggle.)

Armaan is sitting on one of the benches in the basketball court looking at a few kids playing a late
night game. How many times did Manav and I do that? Park our cycles or bikes out and play
irrespective of the hour and day..He is startled out of his thoughts when Manavs voice says the same
thing a little behind him: I wonder how many times we came here and spent hours playing..kabhi
cycles pe toh kabhi apne bikes pe. (He jumps over a couple of chairs before coming and sitting beside
Armaan. Both of them for a while simply sit and watch the kids playing and shouting in between) You
come here often?
Armaan shrugs: Kabhi kabhi. Tujhe kisne bataya? Nisha ne? (Manav nods.) I used to see her..sitting in
one corner..(He gestures to the other end of the court.) Silent..as still as a statue..lost..
Manav: She told me the same thing about you. (Silence and then,) My mom was right..I am too
judgemental.
Armaan: I was not here when uncle and aunty..
Manav nods: I know.
Both of them start at the same time: Toh..(Then give a small smile and Manav gestures Armaan to
continue.) Toh tu khush hain? Nisha ke saath?
Manav nods: Haan. I was..angry at first but later..(He shrugs.) Now I just think about ways and means
to make her smile and laugh like before.
Armaan looks at his friend: Pyaar karne laga hain usse. (It was part statement, part question.)
Manav shrugs: Meri chod apni suna..Srutiji se pyaar karta hain. (Part statement part question. Armaan
smiles and shrugs.) Bataya kya unko?
Armaan: We never talked about it explicitly but..I guess both of us know what we feel for each other.
Manav: I met her through Nisha. Gave her lift once..she is treating one of our employees at VM.
(Manav finally turns and looks at Armaan.) She is a nice person..and Nisha says she is one of the best
OBG in Ahmedabad. (Armaan nods. Manav gives a small grin.) At least both of your professions are
the same. Meri toh..Nisha agar kuch bolti hain toh phir usko ruk ke usse translate karna padta hain.
And she starts yawning when I talk about the company shares and upgrading the technology.

A soft laugh escapes Armaan: I can imagine. Par mera situation kuch aur hain. No matter what the
occasion we end up talking about CGH and the patients.
Manav leans back on the bench with both arms propped on either side: Achcha lagraha hain yahaa itne
saal baad..I didnt expect..
Armaan cuts in: I dont know if I can get over what Abhi did. Why didnt you file the FIR Manav?
Manav: One reason. He was with you when I was not. He stuck with you when I did not. (A heartbeat of
silence and then,) Uske gunaah ki sazaa milega ya nahi mujhe nahi pata..but I didnt want to be the
instrument that would only end up hurting you.
Armaan looks at Manav: Thanks.
Manav gives a lopsided smile: I got the door repaired for our house this afternoon. Planning to move
back tomorrow evening some time. Shifting mein madad karega?
Armaan has a twinkle in his eye as he replies: Kyon? 40 saal ke umr mein kamzor padgaya kya?
Manav grins: Kabhi match khelke dekh mere saath. Pata chaljaayega kaun kamzor hain. (Before they
realize their grins turn to chuckles and chuckles turn to laughter. finally they just hug each other and
pat each other s backs.)

Next day afternoon CGH:

Sruti and a few of the staff come out of the OT to find Manav and Nisha standing and talking quietly
in the corridor: Hello Nisha..hello Manav.
Manav: Srutiji..Menakaji?
Sruti nods: She is fine. We took out the tumour completely and sent it to the biopsy. Filhaal she is still
under anaesthesia. Thodi der mein ICU mein shift kardenge where she will be under observation for
24 hrs. Barring complications, she will be shifted to the regular room later on.
Nisha: Oh thats good. Chaliye mein aap logo se baad mein milti hoon. OPD is waiting. (She looks at
Manav.) Shaam ka program fixed hain na? (Manav nods and with a final smile at Sruti, Nisha leaves.)
Manav: I..uh..I spoke with Armaan. (Sruti nods with a happy smile as if to say I know) Can I ask you
something Srutiji? You said What if I come to know that he didnt do anything. Why did you say
that?
Sruti explains her talk with Rohan and the conclusion she had come to: I didnt say anything to
Armaan because..
Manav completes the sentence: You didnt want to give him false hope. I will help you Srutiji. Lets
talk to Rohan and see what we can do.

Chapter 16

Armaan walks into his cabin removing his surgical cap, still in his surgical scrubs only to come to a
sudden halt. He finds Manav standing with his back to him and staring at one of the wall hanging.
Manav also turns at the sound of the door opening. Both look at each other and smile at the once
again familiar tableau. All those years ago, when Armaan had recently joined at CGH, Manav used to
come whenever he wanted, just to chat and catch up.
Armaan closes the door behind him: Kab aaya?
Manav: Buss abhi abhi. Employee ka surgery tha aaj..socha tum se bhi milta chaloo
Armaan: Bait. Chai peeyega?
Manav: Canteen mein chalte hain na. Chal.
Armaan looks at his scrubs: Arre par..
Manav pushes him towards the door: Abe chal na. Baad mein change karlo. Mujhe office bhi jaana
hain.(both men reach the canteen and get their tea before sitting at one of the corner tables.)
Manav: Abhi se baat ki?
Armaan shakes his head: Thoda time lagega yaar. I am too angry right now.
Manav nods then grins: Srutiji ko batadiya (Its a statement and Armaan smiles and nods.) Proposed
her?
Armaan blinks: What? No.
Manav: Why? (Armaan looks away as if he has no answer.) Karo karo..what are you waiting for?
Today..nahi aaj toh tu mere saath rahega. (Armaan blinks rapidly and takes a sip of the tea in an effort
to dislodge the lump in his throat. Both men remain silent as if they want to say some many things but
not sure if they would ever find the words. finally Manav runs a distracted hand through his hair,
clears his throat and resumes.) Take her out to dinner tomorrow and do it Armaan. (Armaan nods his
ok with a slight smile.) Achcha sunn..apni gaadi laaya?
Armaan frowns: Haan. Kyon?
Manav: Toh tu ek kaam kar. Shaam ko aate waqt Nisha ko bhi leke aaja. I dropped her today so she
doesnt have a car. Then from there on, we will take the luggage and stuff..go home and have dinner.
Kya kehta hain? I will tell Nisha to cook your biryani.
Armaan looks at Manavs face silently for a few moments before nodding: Tujhe yaad hain? (Manavs
smile of response says he never forgot making Armaans eyes sparkle with genine happiness.) Teek
hain. Shaam ko milte hain. (Both of them slap each other s backs and leave the canteen to go to their
respective jobs.)
That evening: Verma residence:
Manav looks aghast at the food items spread on the table: Aunty..yeh sab kya hain?

Nandini comes out of the kitchen carrying two bottles of pickles: Kya hain matlab? Yeh mitai hain..aur
kuch chatpati snacks..aur yeh..tumhaare favourite achaar.
Manav: Par itne saare..
Nandini: Chup. Bilkul chup. Mein de rahi hoon aur tum lejarahe ho. Buss.
Manav gives a tired sigh which turns into one of relief as Armaan and Nisha walk in: Oh hi..aagaye
tum dono. Cool. I think we need to hire a truck or something. (He gestures to the display on the table
making Armaan grin and Nisha smile.)
Nandini looks at Armaan: Chai peeyoge beta?
Armaan: Nahi aunty. Thanks.
Nisha: Aaplog baaten keejiye mein change karke aati hoon.
Manav: Your big carry on is already in the car. And I am not bringing it back up.
Nisha scowls which makes him grin at her devilishly but she refrains from picking a fight after a
hasty glance at the others in the room: Teek hain. Mein fresh hoke aati hoon. Phir nikalte hain. (Soon
enough they load the luggage in Manavs and Armaans cars since Nishas car was already parked in
their house that morning on the way to CGH. Manav closes the trunk and throws the car keys at Nisha
who catches in reflexively before he goes and settles himself down in Armaans car. Nisha and
Armaan exchange a smile of understanding and in a minute both the cars, one with Manav and
Armaan and another with Nisha and HK, leave for Manavs home waving bye to Nandini and Yog.)

After dinner: Manavs house: In the hall:

Nisha comes out of the kitchen wiping her hands. She looks at Manav, who is sprawled on the sofa
and chatting with Armaan, as if unable to keep her eyes away from his relaxed smiling laughing face.
the weight is off his shoulders and its obvious on his face.
Manav gives Armaan a look of open astonishment: You really learnt how to cook?
Armaan: I didnt have a choice. London mein roz roz baahar ka angresi khaana kaun khaayega yaar.
Its not as tasty as what I just had but..(He shrugs.)
Nisha softly intervenes: Aap log baaten karo mein ooper jaarahi hoon. Goodnight Armaan.
Armaan looks at his watch: I will also make a move.
Manav: Arre baito na..whats the hurry? (Then he turns to look at the tired face of his Chulbuli and his
eyes turn tender and soft.) Took the water bottle? (She nods and shows it) Teek hain. Jaake sojao.
(With another nod at Armaan, Nisha goes up.)
Armaan gives Manav a thoughtful look: You love her (This time there is no question. It is just a
statement of fact.)
Manav shrugs: I guess so..kabhi kabhi ajeeb lagta hain. I loved her before too..not love love but you

know..(Armaan nods.) But now I love her like..like..(Again Armaan nods.) In some ways she is the
same Chulbuli and in some ways she is not..(His eyes dull a bit.) She still doesnt talk about whatever
happened in the last decade Armaan.
Armaan: May be she doesnt want to hurt you or make you feel guilty..may be with you in her life
now, the past has seized to matter. I think you should tell her that you love her.
Manav: I think she knows. (Armaan just looks at him making Manav sigh out) Yeah ok I will tell her.
Tu pehle Srutiji ko bolke propose kar phir mein batata hoon. Ab kuch aur baat kare? Yeh goey goey
stuff ajeeb lagraha hain. (Armaan laughs and nods.)
Manav comes up almost an hour later and stretches himself before cuddling up to her by pulling her
back to his front. She holds his palm to her cheek with a soft hmmm and settles down. Manav stays
awake for a long while after that. How do I tell you that I love you Chulbuli. Pyaar karta hoon tumse.
Bahut zyaada pyaar karta hoon. (A frown gathers on his brow) But you do know that, right? Or do
you still think I see you only as my friend and companion? You are all that and more. I love you..the
woman you have become..the woman you have made yourself to be..you make my brain go soft, my
knees go weak and every time I look at you, all I want is to be inside you. When you walk into a room,
my heart damn near jumps out of my chest and when you smile..(His arm tightens around her
involuntarily.) When you smile I feel as if I have won some Nobel prize, your laughter lights up my life
and your eyes..your eyes reach inside and grab my heart every time you look at me. I cant tell you how
much or in how many ways I love you..I dont know how. I just know that I love you. (He is jolted out of
his thoughts when she turns and almost climbs on top of him in her sleep..her fingers once again
gripping his t-shirt as if making sure he doesnt move away from her. He smiles to himself at his
bodys predictable reaction and his hands start wandering over her body.)
Nisha mumbles: Tiger..
Manav: hmmm?
Nisha: Thak gayi hoon. hanky panky nahi. Sone do na please.
Manav chuckles: Hanky panky? Woh word kahaa se mila re tujhe? (But he realizes that she has once
again drifted off to sleep. With an indulgent smile, he wraps her in a bear hug, digs his fingers in her
hair and closes his eyes on a blissful sigh.)

Next day morning:

Rohan picks up his phone after checking the caller id: Hello Manavji boliye.
Manav: Hi Rohan. You have a minute?
Rohan: Ji kahiye.
Manav: Srutiji told me about Aditi being her patient and someone else being the father of her child.
Rohan: Ji. I am trying to contact her friends etc. Kyon? Aap ko kuch pata hain kya?
Manav: No. But I think I can help you. Why dont we start with her college? I will email you the

details of the year she attended, name of the college etc..she did her UG and PG at the same place. If
you can get the year books of those years..they will have the class group photos etc, right? May be its
one of her classmates..may be Srutiji can identify the person and we can go from there?
Rohan gets up: Achcha idea hain Manavji. Ok. Mail me the details and I will see what I can do.
Manav: Ok. Will do it right away. Thanks Rohan. Bye.
Rohan: Bye.
That night: In a restaurant:
Armaan looks at Srutis glowing face with unblinking eyes: You are looking beautiful today.
Srutis face becomes a cute mixture of surprise and shyness at the compliment: Thank you. Ek baat
kahoo? (Armaan nods.) You are looking different today. Aaj tak meine tumhe aise pehle kabhi nahi
dekha.
Armaan places his hand over hers on the table: Do I take that as a comment or a compliment?
Sruti looks at his hand on hers and slowly turns her palm so that their fingers get entwined: Tumhe
sach mein nahi pata?
A few moments of silence and then Armaan says: Sruti..I want to ask you something.
Sruti: Haan poocho na. Waise today you are being very formal Armaan..opening doors, baat baat pe
please..thank you..ab yeh..if I didnt know you better, I would think you are nervous..aur sabse badi
baat toh yeh hain ki..
Armaan cuts her: Sruti mujhse shaadi karogi? (Sruti blinks not sure if she has really heard what she
thought she heard.) Mein tumse pyaar karta hoon. I love you. Will you marry me? (Sruti covers her
mouth, blinks away her happy tears, nods her yes, laughs and nods again before managing a wobbly
yes.) I know that you dont like finger rings so..(he takes out a square box and extends it to her.) I
got this for you. (Sruti takes it with slightly trembling fingers, fumbles with the catch before opening
it. her slight intake of breath tells Armaan that he has succeeded in surprising her. inside is a thin
platinum chain with a heart shaped diamond locket.) Its an engagement heart..instead of an
engagement ring.
Sruti looks at him with her heart in her eyes: Thank you Armaan.
Armaan shakes his head: Thank YOU. For your love, your patience and your understanding. Thank
you. Chale? (She nods, her smile still wobbly and both of them get up and leave the restaurant and
Armaan guides her with his hand on her waist. A little while later, he stops his car in front of her
house and turns to look at her in the dim light from the street lights. Wordlessly she extends opens the
jewellery box and extends it to him. He smiles into her eyes before taking the chain, leaning forward
and fastening it around her neck. She places a soft kiss on his cheek, whispers a Goodnight. I love
you before getting down and running inside her house. Armaan remains sitting in his car silently for
a few moments before smilingly taking out his phone and calling his best friend. No greeting. He just
says,) She said yes.
Manav closes his eyes at the feeling of staggering relief before deliberately making his voice
cheerful: Awesome. Congrats. Ab jaldi bol kaisi shaadi chahiye..grand one..simple one or register

marriage?
Armaan: Woh sab baad mein. Meine boldiya toh ab teri baari hain.
Manav: Yeah yeah..I know. I will do it. Tomorrow. Kal uska birthday hain.
Armaan leans back so that the back of his head rests on the head rest. He closes his eyes: Achcha
lagraha hain Manav.
Manav attempts to lighten the atmosphere: Kya? Shaadi ka idea?
Armaan: Nahi..buss..ab zindagi achchi lagne lagi hain.
Manav: Mujhe bhi. I will talk to you tomorrow. Ok?
Armaan: Goodnight.
Manav: Goodnight.
Armaan starts the car and drives home. Once inside his house, he stops near Abhis room as if
undecided and then gives a decisive knock on the door. Abhi opens it, sees him and gives a hesitant
smile: Bhai..
Armaan: Just wanted to tell you that I have proposed to Sruti and she has said yes.
Abhis whole face lights up and he gives an impulsive tight hug to his brother: Sach? Wow bhai!
Congratulations! Tumhe pata nahi bhai ki mein kitna khush hoon..(The fact that Armaan is not
hugging him back registers then. His arms slacken before falling away from him and he takes a step
back. His smile slips off.) Congrats bhai. Sach mein aaj mein bahut khush hoon. (Armaan nods and
turns towards his own room.) Bhai..mein bhi aapse kuch kehna chaahta hoon. I am going to shift to
another apartment close by. (Armaans back stiffens but he doesnt turn towards Abhi.) Galat mat
samjhna bhai. I am not going to leave Ahmedabad or you. But I think for now, mera yahaa se jaana hi
behtar hoga. (He forces cheer into his voice.) Lekin mein aata rahoonga. Aap se milne aur bhabhi ka
haath ka khaana khaane.
Armaan swirls towards Abhi and slaps him hard across his face: Samjhta kya hain tu apne aap ko?
You can do whatever you want and expect instant forgiveness for everything that you did and if you
dont get it you run away? NO. Tum YAHI rahoge. Issi ghar mein! You will live here and wait for my
forgiveness. Is that understood Abhimanyu? (Abhi battles his shame and relief, bows his head and
nods.)
Next day morning: AshNis residence: their bedroom:
Nisha stretches herself on the bed before rolling and flinging her arm towards her husband. She
frowns and blinks open her eyes slowly when her fingers touch something soft. Her frown dissolves
and in its place a beautiful smile dawns in her eyes and spreads to her lips. Then excitement takes over
and she gives a small whoop and a squeal, almost jumps up to sit on the bed to look at the huge bunch
of red roses and a greeting card under them. Tiger ko yaad hain!! Oh My God! Tiger ko yaad hain! He
got me red roses! She bounces around on the bed a little before settling down and carefully picking up
the flowers with both the hands. She smells them, rubs her cheek softly over the petals and kisses them
before placing them back on the bed and opening the card. There is a swift intake of breath and it gets
locked in her throat as she just stares at the card and her eyes take in the words.


You mean everything to me
I love you..
Happy Birthday!
Have a day as special as you are!

Manav stands near the door and just watches the mirade of expressions chasing across her face one
after the other. The slight frown, the smile, the slight disbelief and then the excitement. His feet had
come to a shuddering halt at the sound of her whoop and her excited squeal almost had brought him
to his knees. She brings the card to her lips and places a kiss where he has placed his signature in his
bold scrawl:
Sirf tumhaara, Manav.
His measured steps slowly take him into the room until he is standing right in front of her. Her wide
eyes slowly raise up until they meet his content and smiling ones. His eyes still locked with hers, he
opens his arms. She gets up on the bed on her knees, puts her arms around his neck and homes into
his embrace as if its the only place in the world that she has ever wanted to be.
Manav pulls her a little away from him by cupping her cheeks, leans forward and kisses her forehead:
Happy birthday!
Nishas arms slide down and wrap themselves around his waist. She tightens her arms around him and
lays her head over his beating heart: Thank you.
Manav: You dont want to see your birthday gift?
Her arms tighten some more around him as she turns her head and kisses his chest right over his
heart before lifting up her eyes to his: Aur bhi gift hain? (He nods and with one arm still wrapped
around her, he stretches his other arm and pulls out a small square box from under the pillow. With a
press of his thumb, the box opens revealing a beautiful diamond studded platinum finger ring. He
removes it from the box and throws the box carelessly on the bed. Wordlessly, he opens the palm
thats wrapped around her waist and she places her left hand in his. He lifts it up and places a tender
kiss on her palm before putting the ring on her middle finger.)
She wets her lips before saying: I love you too.
Manavs fingers tighten around hers and his breath puffs out on a shudder: I know.
She looks at the ring thats now gracing her finger and kisses it: Its beautiful Tiger. Her eyes become
a little damp and she quickly blinks to clear her vision. Manav rubs his face in her hair as his lips
search for the point where her neck meets her shoulder. Finally finding it, his lips pay homage before
his tongue and teeth decide to join.
She tilts her neck to give him better access: Aaj office nahi jaana?
Manav: Jaana hain. Of course jaana hain. (He fingers start unbuttoning her night shirt.) Pehle birthday

girl ko birthday suit mein dekhloo..


She pulls away from him with a laugh and hops down from the bed: Sirf dekhke kaam chaljaayega?
Manav raises his eyebrow and shrugs: Depends. What does the birthday girl have in mind?
Nishas eyes spark with pure mischief: Agar Tiger ne birthday girl ko pakaliya toh jo chaahe inaam
milega..aur agar nahi..
She shrugs and jumps back with a shout just as he moves in to catch her. She puts her tongue out just
to tweak the Tiger s tail some more and runs towards the bathroom. But before she could close the
door literally on his face, his palm stops it. His eyes glitter as he barges in right behind her and closes
the door. Undettered by the fact that she has been effectively cornered, she picks up the hand shower
spray and a second later the full blast of cold water hits his chest wetting his shirt and part of his face.
But it doesnt even slow him down. She keeps giggling and backing off alternately wetting his face
and body with the shower spray. Uncaring, he closes in on her and before she could slip through, he
catches hold of her hand thats holding the shower spray and he turns it towards her own face. Her
laughter gets cut off on a startled small scream and a moment later, the tussle is on: This is MY
shower. I didnt invite you.
Manav: Oh yeah? (he turns and calmly starts undressing.) So who is stopping you? Go ahead and have
your shower na.
Nisha gives him a doubtful look: Game pause ok? (Manav shrugs and she puts the nuzzle on the floor
and puts her foot on it just to make sure he doesnt take it away from her before starting to hastily
remove the wet clothes away from her body. She looks at his tightening features as each piece of
clothing gets peeled off and she slows down to better relish his reaction.) I..I think this knot is stuck.
(Wordlessly, Manav comes forward, picks up the scissors from the bowl at the sink and cuts the knot
at her waist. She back up a step and completes her undressing.) Thank you. Now go. I need to have my
shower. Kya dekhrahe ho? Jao na.
She knows she is challenging him with that statement and sure enough, a moment later, the whole
bathroom is splattered with water and their wet naked bodies slide against each other. Neither of them
can get a good grasp on any body part. At least, she cant. She suspects he could have won the tussle at
any time simply by using his size and strength and wrapping his arms around her. He holds back so
that he can play at her level. But his hands are everywhere..on her breasts, the slight curve of her
waist, her bottom while she laughs and tries to bat them away. The wrestiling match has a predictable
effect on both them them and soon their laughter fades. Still anchoring her to him with one arm, he
smooths a hand up her torso to cup her breasts and they both watch as his long fingers curve around
the pale globes. He groans and bends his head, water dripping from his hair onto her skin as he kisses
and sucks both breasts. She leans far back over his arm and her tight grasp on his shoulders conveys
her own desperation. She trembles, not sure how long her legs would support her. Her soft moan of
Ma..nav is answered by his own rough I am here..I am right here! He dips down and lifts her up
until she has both her legs around his waist and her back to the wall. Instinctively, she bows back to
aid his penetration, taking all of him deep within her. Her eyes flutter close but just then he gives her a
small shake: Look at me. Nisha..I want you to look at me. (She opens them and locks them with his as
he begins driving into her) Mine! Mine, arent you? (She nods jerkily and their movements pick up
speed and climax hits them both almost simultaneously dissolving the world around them until its just
the two of them and their love for each other.)

Later that day: At CGH: Nishas cabin:



Nisha picks up the phone: Hi Anu..
Anu starts an off key song making Nisha grin: Happy Birthday to you..happy birthday to you..happy
Birthday dear Ni..sha..
Nisha: Thaaannkk you..
Anu: Jeejaji ne kya gift diya?
Nisha: Platinum finger ring. Tu shaam ko aayegi na toh dikhaadoongi. Waise tu aarahi hain na?
Anu: Of course aarahi hoon. Aunty called up this morning and invited all of us for dinner tonight at
your maika. Ring kaisa hain? MMS karna yaar. Shaam tak kaun wait karega?
Nisha: Abhi I have to go to the OT. Baad mein kardoongi. Teek hain? Rakhti hoon.
Anu: Ok bye. Bhoolna nahi. Ok?
Nisha: Ok. Bye.
Anu: Achcha sunn..Rohan bhi aaraha hain kya?
Nisha: Yes. He called me this morning and I invited him. Mom ne bhi baat kihogi ab tak toh.
Anu: Cool. Ok. Bye.

About the same time: At VM: Manavs cabin:

Manav picks up the phone: Haan bol Armaan
Armaan: Tu busy hain Manav?
Manav: Nahi. I have a call in 15 minutes. Bol kya baat hain
Armaan: Just wanted to ask..did you tell?
Manav grins: Haan boldiya. Tu bata tera kya situation hain? Shaadi ka date kuch fix hua?
Armaan: Nahi yaar. But neither of us want a grand wedding. Sruti ka koi khaas rishtedaar bhi nahi
hain. Her mom died when Sruti was 3 years old and after her father passed away..
Manav nods: Hmmm..so two options left. register marriage or mandir mein shaadi.
Armaan: I was thinking register marriage and some kind of party for friends and staff of CGH..kya
kehta hain?
Manav leans back and fiddles with his pen: Idea achcha hain. Less fuss. Par tu mujhse kyon poochraha

hain? Apne dulhan se poochna.


Armaan also leans back in his chair: She says whatever I want is ok with her. (A bit of silence and
then,) Manav..Abhi wanted to move away to another apartment somewhere.
Manav: Oh. You ok with that?
Armaan shrugs: I refused. I cant think. Those 2 kids died in my OT Manav..and try as I might, I am
not able to get over that. I feel..I feel responsible..but..it is Abhi and I cant let him go like that.
Manav closes his eyes: May be I am responsible too. If I had heard you out, none of this would have
happened.
Armaan: And if I had tried harder, I would have made sure you heard me..if I had paid more attention
to him, I would have realised..
Manav: Enough Armaan. Stop thinking of ways and means to blame yourself some more. Ab buss.
Aur nahi. Now just be happy. Be happy Armaan. Jo hoga dekha jaayega.
Armaan nods and sighs: Yeah..I guess so. Chal rakhta hoon. OT jaana hain.
Manav: Shaam ko aaraha hain na Srutiji ke saath?
Armaan: Haan. Aunty ne invite kiya hum dono ko. Will be there. Bada party hain kya?
Manav: Arre yaar nahi. Nisha hates them. Its just friends..hers and mine at Yog uncles house for
dinner. Thats it. Teek hain phir. Milte hain shaam ko. Bye
Armaan: Bye.
Manav cuts the call, thinks for a bit before sending an sms to Nisha: Need to tell you something.
Come home and we will go to the dinner from there.
Nisha replies: sure. Everything ok?
Manav: Yes. Nothing to worry.
Nisha: Will be home around 6.
Manav: Perfect. Ok. Love you
Nisha: :) love you too

Chapter 17

That evening: Around 5.30: Nisha Manavs residence: Main hall:

HK walks into the hall from the kitchen: Bitiya mein jaau? CS ko wahaa pe madad ki zaroorat hogi na.
Nisha, who has plopped herself down on the sofa after coming from CGH nods: Teek hain Kaka. Aap
auto mein jaayiye and we can come together on the way back. (HKs exit and Manavs entry coincide.)
Hi..
Manav: Hi (He slings off the laptop bag on the chair before lying down on the sofa with his head in
Nishas lap. Her fingers automatically run through his hair.) God! What a day boss! Honestly, I think
now I understand why uncle could not manage this alone
Nisha: Kya hua? Koi problem?
Manav: Stupid problem. Client had some kind of technical snag on his end and the call that was
supposed to last for all of 45 minutes took 3 hours.
Nisha: Why dont you hire someone to help you out? I mean..your assistant or someone like that..
Manav smiles: Assistant nahi Dr Nisha..I have to hire a senior manager..and yes, I chose a guy
yesterday. Zyaada experience toh nahi hain but he seems very flexible and hardworking. (Manav rubs
his forehead.)
Nisha: Sar dukhraha hain?
Manav: Nahi..kuch khaas nahi..but feeling all drained out.
Nisha: Apna shirt utaaro (Manav raises his eyebrow and Nisha swats him on his chest) Uskeliye nahi.
Take off your shirt and I will give you a massage.
Manav: But wont we be late?
Nisha: No. We wont. Now come on..move. I will go and get some baby oil. (And for the next 20
minutes, with him on the floor in the V of her legs and her sitting on the sofa, the only sounds in the
room are his groans of pleasure as she first oils and massages his hair and then the forehead and then
the shoulders and back.)
Manav, with his eyes still closed: Mom used to do this.
Nisha: I remember. One day when I was 10 years old, you were so tired after your basketball match
that you made me stand on your back and walk.
Manav laughs: Yeah..dad was holding your hands so that you didnt fall and mom kept scolding all 3
of us.
Nisha grins at that fond memory: You said you wanted to talk?
Manav sighs: I told Rohan that I would help him in Aditis case. I emailed him the details of her

college, year of studying etc. (He tilts his head back to look at her patiently waiting expression. He
turns and takes both her palms in his.) Nisha..I know that both you and Armaan..esp you, have suffered
because I was too hot headed and judgemental to listen to your side of the story. You never told me
but I know. I will always carry the guilt about that. I cant change the past..but..I want to give Armaan a
closure. With what Srutiji told Rohan..
Nisha nods: I think you need a closure too.
Manav once again puts his head in her lap and wraps his arms around her waist: I am not bitter any
more Nisha. But yes, I would like to know what happened.
Nisha leans forward until her cheek is resting on his hair: I am happy that you have let the bitterness
go. Now let your guilt also go Tiger. Whatever happened, happened. We cant change it. Yes, I was
hurt but now, wounds have healed and scars have faded. Mujhe tum milgaye..tumhaara pyaar
milgaya..aur kuch nahi chahiye. Nothing else matters. You have time. You have already started
rebuilding your friendship with Armaan. You are right. For all of us to let the past go completely, we
need closure. We need to know what happened the night that changed all our lives.
Manav: You are ok with it, right? I mean..
Nisha nods: Yes Tiger.
Manav: Thank you Chulbuli.
Nisha pulls his head up and kisses his forehead just the way he does: You are welcome my hubby. Feel
better now? (He nods. He really did look and feel better. 100 times better.) Toh chalo..you need a
shower. Lets get ready and go. (She tries to lighten the atmosphere.) Mein kya pehnoo? Dress ya sari?
(Manav smiles and shrugs. She pouts and pushes him away.) You never say anything! You never tell
me Yeh dress achcha hain or you look good in this sari kuch nahi. So bad!
Manav tweaks her nose before getting up and pulling her up until both of them are standing: Thats
because it doesnt matter to me. hogi toh tum meri Chulbuli hi na (Seeing her getting ready for
another temper tantrum he quickly adds on) Achcha teek hain..wear a sari today..wear that pink one.
Nisha rolls her eyes: Sari toh decide hochuka hain..but you come and choose the jewellery for
me..come come come..arre chalo na..(She forcefully pulls an exasperated Manav along with her to
their room.)

That night: Verma residence: After dinner:

Manav walks to Anu with the ice cream cup in his hand: Toh saali sahiba..aap ki sagaai kab hain?
Anu: After 10 days jeejaji..aaj hi decide hua hain. no excuses this time ok?
Manav grins: I promise..no excuses. (He looks at the smiling Vishaal.) Congratulations Dr Vishaal
and..all the best!
Vishaal laughs and shakes Manavs hand: Thank you Manavji. I think I am gonna need it..ouch..(He
rubs his arm where Anu had just pinched him hard.) What did I say?

Manav grins and then turns towards Rohan: So Rohan how are things?
Rohan gives a quick look at Anu and Anu taking the hint nods and the couple move away: I got the
year book from the college Manavji. The photographs have been enlarged digitally to get a better
look. I think we should show them to Srutiji..(Both men look at Sruti, who is sitting and chatting with
Nisha and Armaan.) I hope she recognises the guy. (Rohan turns to look at Manav.) I am tracing the
foot steps of the sniper Manavji.
Manav nods: I wont even try to dissuade you Rohan. Just remember that Abhimanyu himself is a
criminal lawyer. You really think he wont find a loophole?
Rohan ponders on that: He might. Depends on what and how that guy confesses and if there is any
evidence thats linking both of them. (A slight pause and then) We know that each of your
confrontation with Armaan was followed by one attack but we might never get to know some of the
details though..like the night he broke into your house..how did he know that HK wont be there..
Manav thinks a bit: May be he didnt..maybe he was just so pi..(With a quick look around) He was just
so angry that he didnt care and assumed that everyone would be asleep. Aur waise bhi kakas room is
on the opposite side of the kitchen. Abhi knows the house layout..he came to our house enough
number of times previously..he knows where the servant room is located..maybe thats why he chose
the kitchen entrance to break in.
Rohan nods: Makes sense. But all this thinking is pointless anyway. He wont confess and we cant
implicate him in any of those cases for sheer lack of evidence. If you file a complaint for breaking in
that day (Manav shakes his head. Rohan sighs with a mixture of frustration and resignation but nods.
His eyes gleam in challenge.) I will get him Manavji. Once that guy confesses, I will get the court
order to go through Abhimanyus bank accounts and stuff..everyone makes mistakes. Even a criminal
lawyer!
Manav nods and extends his hand: Good luck Rohan. Now..Lets talk to Srutiji and fix up a time. We
can come down to the station or..whatever works
Rohan: I will get the snaps..Lets ask if we can come to her house some time tomorrow.
Manav: Will talk to her later and sms you. (Rohan nods and soon after that one by one everyone takes
leave to go to their respective homes.)

Next day early morning: Srutis residence:

Both Manav and Rohan, in their track suits and knock on her door. She opens it almost immediately as
if waiting for them: Hi. Good morning. Come in. (She gestures them towards the chairs and both men
take their seats.) Sorry meine itni subah subah aap dono ko aanekeliye bola..I had a C section posted
this morning and didnt want to postpone this one.
Rohan: No problem Dr Sruti. (A slight pause and then) Before I show the snaps, I want you to close
your eyes and try to think about the guys face. Think if there is anything specific that you remember
seeing..like a scar or beard..something of that kind. koi jaldi nahi hain. Relax and take your time.

Sruti nods and closes her eyes with a frown. About a minute later, the frown deepens: Eyebrows. His
eyebrows were joined in the middle. (She gestures to the area above her nose.) But I think if I can see
the picture I will be able to tell you better.
(Rohan nods and extends the file. Sruti spends the next few minutes going through each and every
face in that. Just when Rohan and Manav exchange looks as if to say this is not working, she points to
one person.) I think this one. Haan. Yeh wohi hain. He had the same baby face with a pleading
expression in it when he came to the hospital along with Aditi. (Rohan and Manav lean forward to get
a better look. The boy really did have a baby face. Completely clean shaven, fair complexion, thick
black hair and yes, bushy eyebrows. The name under it read Suhaas Banerjee.)
Rohan tilts the book towards Manav: Aap isse jaante hain?
Manav thinks and shakes his head: No. But then I didnt know her classmates or even friends for that
matter. I once went to her college and she introduced her close circle. (He shrugs.) I didnt pay that
close of an attention to their faces.
Rohan circles the snap and scribbles some notes before looking at Sruti: You want to see once again
just to make sure?
Sruti shakes her head: No. I am almost 99% sure its this guy. Ever since you told me about this, I have
been thinking and trying to remember his face.
Rohan closes the file and both men get up: Teek hain Srutiji. I will see if we can get the current
address of this guy.
Manav: I will search in linked in and facebook. This guy did his MBA..his profile must be somewhere
na..
Rohan nods: If anything pops up, let me know. Meanwhile I will go to the college and pull out some
old records..see if some kind of permanent address is given. Chalte hain Srutiji.
Sruti: Sure you dont want to have some tea or something?
Manav shakes his head but smiles: Abhi nahi. Once you and Armaan get married, expect me as a
frequent guest at your place. (Sruti nods with a grin and soon both men leave.)

A couple of days later: One morning: Nisha-Manavs residence:

HK looks up at the sound of running feet on the steps to see Nisha bounding over the steps: Arre arre
bitiya sambhalke..(But his face splits into a happy smile as he sees Manav running right behind her.)
Manav: NISHA..ruk toh..listen to me..give me my keys. Nisha..der horahi hain mujhe..meeting keliye
nikalna hain. Come on Chulbuli..(Nisha puts HK between her and Manav and just to be on the safe
side, puts both the hands behind her back holding on the car keys. Manav sighs in irritation.) Kaka,
apni bitiya ko boliye seedha seedha mere chaabi dede warna..
Nisha: Kaka..apne bete se boliye ki jab tak woh promise nahi karta mein keys nahi dene waali. (HK
shakes his head with a grin and walks into the kitchen effectively removing himself from between

them. Manav fairly leaps at her only to have her jump back immediately.) Pehle promise karo ki you
wont talk on the phone while driving.
Manav pulls out his headset to show her: I use THIS in case I have to talk.
Nisha: Not done. No phone while driving and thats it. (Seeing him gritting his teeth she tries another
track.) How long does it take to reach the office?
Manav: 15 minutes.
Nisha: Will VM collapse in that 15 minutes if you dont lift the phone?
Manav: No but..
Nisha: Are your clients or whoever some kind of monsters who will eat you if you tell them that you
are driving and hence could not pick up the phone?
Manav: No but..
Nisha pouts: Humaare shaadi ke baad pehli baar mein tumse kuch maang rahi hoon. Kya mere liye
itna bhi nahi karsakte?
Manav rolls his eyes: Dr Nisha Mathur is resorting to emotional blackmail now? (Seeing her muted
expression, he sighs in defeat.) Achcha ok FINE! I promise NOT to talk on the phone while driving.
(She grins and extends the keys. He snatches them and pulls her ponytail) Ziddi ladki! (And almost
runs out of the house on that note.)

That evening:

Manav gets a call from Rohan: Haan bolo Rohan.
Rohan: I found the permanent address of this Suhaas from the college records. Its 10 years old but I
am going to give it a try. Ahmedabad ka hi hain. Sharma found out that only an old lady with the name
of Vidya Banerjee is currently living there. I am going to go there now and talk to her.
Manav: I will also come Rohan (Then as if sensing Rohans hesitation.) I wont open my mouth I
swear. I just..Rohan..please.
Rohan: Ok. Meet me at the signal near your office at 6.30.
Manav sighs: Ok. Thanks.
Both of them meet at the assigned time and place and with Manavs car following Rohans jeep, they
reach the address which Sharma had given to Rohan earlier that day. There is no name board of any
kind on the gate but since it has the house number displayed clearly, they open the gate and ring the
door bell. After a few moments, the door is opened by an elderly lady of about 65 with a shock of
grey hair and slightly bowed back.
Rohan: Ji Namaste. Mera naam Rohan hain. Yahaa ka SP. Kya mein aap se do minute baat karsakta
hoon? (The lady nods and opens the door wider.)

Baitiye. (She carefully lowers herself to another chair..her expression almost resigned. Manav and
Rohan take their seats.)
Rohan: Actually hum Suhaas Banerjee ke baare mein kuch information chahiye. Kya aap usse jaante
hain?
Woh mera beta hain
Rohan nods: Aap Vidyaji hain? (She nods.) Kya aap bataasakti hain ki aap ka beta ab kahaa rehta hain?
I need to talk to him about something that happened about 10 years ago.
She gets a faraway look on her face: Duss saal pehle?
Rohan: Ji. Daraasal tab Suhaas ki ek classmate ka khoon hua tha..
Vidya: Is this about Aditi?
Both Rohan and Manav get startled: Aap Aditi ko jaante hain?
Wordlessly, she gets up and goes inside and comes back after about 3-4 minutes and hands over a
neatly folded A4 size paper and a dairy to Rohan. He takes it with a slight frown on his face and opens
the letter to read. Manav also leans in.
May 2nd
Meri maut ka mujhe koi ghum nahi hain. Jiss waqt mere gusse ne mujhse meri Aditi aur mere bachche
ko cheenliya, mein toh ussi waqt mar gaya. Yeh toh sirf mera shareer hain jo ab jaaraha hain..unn
dono ke paas..unse maafi maangne..unka saath dene.
-Suhaas.

Manav and Rohan look at each other s faces. With a sigh, Rohan puts the letter aside and opens the
book. It is obvious that it is some kind of dairy.

March 7th.
I met Aditi today. Weird coincidence it was. I was just driving around and there she was coming out of
someones house. I stopped my bike and asked if I could drop her home. she agreed with a smile and
hopped on. For her, I am a friend. a good friend. She doesnt know and I never told her how much I
love her..or how crazy I am for her. Not once during all these 5 years. I asked her what she was doing
so late at night. She told me one of her family friend had lost his father that day and she just came to
make sure he is doing ok. But that guy was apparently drunk and completely out of it so she helped him
to bed. I noticed her stumble while talking and I asked her if he misbehaved or anything..my anger
boiled at the thought of someone..and she hesitated a bit and said all he did was throw away all his
clothes and fall flat on the bed. It probably embarrassed the hell out of her so I didnt press for more. I
dropped her home safely and came back.

March 15th.

Aditi came to my house today. I wanted to introduce her to my mom and dad but they had left for a
wedding. She sat and talked about the results being out the next day and how nervous she was. Then
somehow the topic went to boy friends and girl friends and who is having affair with whom in our
class. She started teasing about how I never seem to look at anyone. What you need now is a girl
friend. a nice girl. I will choose one for you if you want. she said. Something broke inside me when I
heard that and before I knew I was on my knees before her and screaming and crying that I love
her..have always loved her..I cant think of anyone else because she is all I want. She cupped my cheeks
and wiped my tears and before I knew, I was kissing her. I dont know what she felt..surprise, shock or
pity. All I knew was I was finally able to express my feelings and show her how much I love her. All I
can remember now is the way she felt in my arms and the way I kept repeating I love you
Aditi..Aditi..i love you
Guilt hit us both later. It shouldnt have happened Suhaas she said and I agreed. She got dressed
and left leaving behind memories that I think will last me a lifetime.

March 16th.
Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man. I went and asked her if
there was a chance that she and I..but her reply was very firm. I love Manav. There has never been
another person for me. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart but I really dont know what had come
over me yesterday. Please Suhaas. I want to forget it and move on. Please. I nodded and backed off. I
had no choice.

April 30th.
I will never forget this day as long as I live. As soon as Vivek told me that Aditis engagement got
cancelled the previous evening and that he had heard that she is pregnant, I went to meet her. She was
on her way out. Said, she is going to meet her OBG. I walked along with her till the Metro Hospital. I
asked her if what I heard is true. She said yes. I wanted to ask her if the child is mine..but hesitated.
Then she looked at me and said Its yours. My feet took wings and I flew in the air. My child! Mine
and Aditis! A living breathing proof of everything that I felt for her. I am going to be a father! I will
talk to Aditis father and somehow convince him for our marriage. I will be a good father and husband.
I will never give her a reason to complain. Agreed, that she doesnt love me now but friendship is a
good foundation and with the child bonding us together, surely one day she will.. Lost in my own
thoughts I did not realize that we had reached the hospital or that she went in for her appointment. I
stood outside undecided whether to go in and talk to the doctor and make sure everything is alright or
wait until she comes out, when her conversation with the doctor penetrated the dreamy fog of my mind.
She doesnt want to be pregnant. She wanted to abort! I barged into the consultation room and pleaded
with her not to be hasty..to think it through before deciding. I knew I was creating a scene but I didnt
care. She cant do this! I told her to relax, take a days time and think things through.

May 1st.
I called Aditi just now. She said she is going to go ahead with the abortion. Nothing I say is making
any difference to her. She says she doesnt want her one mistake to ruin her whole life. I have to talk to

her and convince her that what happened is not a mistake. The man she loves has abandoned her but I
will take care of her and our child. She has to agree. She HAS to. She cant kill our child. I wont let
her. I will convince her. We will be one happy family. She has to accept. I will go now..right away and
talk to her in person.

That was the last entry which was made a day before Aditis death. Manav just closes his eyes and
ploughs his fingers through his hair. Rohan closes the book before clearing his throat and asking:
Aapne police ko yeh sab kyon nahi bataya Vidyaji?
Vidya looks at him with hopeless eyes: My husband had a heart attack and passed away two days after
Suhaas committed suicide. I didnt even know what was happening around me until much later. Then I
came to know that there is no evidence against anyone and they could not make any arrest. Call me
selfish but I didnt want my dead son to be called a murderer. I would have come out if anyone was
wrongly arrested but since that didnt happen..I kept quiet.
Rohan: I would need to take this with me as an evidence Vidyaji. But I will try and keep the media out
of it. (Vidya nods and both men make their way out of the house.)
Just before getting into his car, Manav turns to Rohan: I will tell Yog uncle to inform Aditis father.
(Rohan nods and starts his own Scorpio.)

After about 20 minutes: At a coffee shop:

Rohan irritably looks at his watch and then again at the door. I told Sharma to meet me here in 10
minutes. Honestly, punctuality se iss insaan ka door ddor tak koi rishta hi nahi hain! Just when he is
about the take his phone out and call Sharma again, a girl comes running into the coffee shop like
whirlwind and her dupatta gets caught in one of the nails on the chair opposite to Rohans. With a
startled squeak, she stumbles back and Rohan gets up and catches her with his arm around her
shoulders, before she falls flat on her face. She blinks slowly and Rohan immediately straightens her
and removes the dupatta from the nail: You ok Miss? (The girl nods but continues to stare at him, not
bothering to hide her obvious interest.) Sambhalkar chaliye.
Ji..woh..darasal meri friend mera wait kar rahi hain and I always like to be punctual and today I got
late. But its not my fault you see..mein aahi rahi thi ki mere professor ne..
Rohan smiles: I think you should be giving this explanation to your friend, not me.
She smiles: I know. (A slight pause and then she gestures her dupatta.) Thank you. (Rohan nods.)
Oh..by the way, I am Aishwarya. (She extends her hand and Rohan shakes it.)
Rohan: Rohan.
Aishwarya gestures towards the college thats right opposite to the coffee shop: Mein yahaa college
mein student hoon. MA Econometrics.
Rohan nods: Mein yahaa ka SP.

Aishwaryas eyes go round: Oh Wow! Really? (Before she could add more, Sharma walks up to
them.)
Sharma salutes: Sir..sorry..aane mein thodi der hogayi. We got the driver we have been searching for
sir.
Rohans whole demeanour changes. He looks at Aishwarya, who still has not moved from the
spot..nor has she blinked: Ji..I have to go. It was nice talking to you.
Aishwarya nods: Same here. Take care.
Rohan gives a small wave followed by You too before walking away with Sharma. Another girl
comes and taps Aishwarya on the shoulder: Oye..kya hua?
Aishwarya smiles: Pyaar
Her friend gets a disbelieving look on her face: KYA?
Aishwarya pulls her along: Chal chal mere saath chal..we have to find out more about Ahmedabad ka
SP. Chai baad mein peelena. Chal yaar.
About an hour later:

Manavs car comes to a halt in front of Srutis house. Armaan, who has been silent for the last 5
minutes finally looks at Manav..the disbelief still evident on his face: You mean..I didnt do anything?
(Manav nods. Armaan shakes his head as if the whole thing still hasnt sunk into him. When Manav
had gone to CGH and almost dragged him out of the paediatric ward, this wasnt what he was
expecting. Anything but..THIS!)
Manav puts a hand over his shoulder: Armaan..you held on to the guilt for 10 years for something that
never even happened. Ab ek minute bhi waste mat kar yaar. Jaa..(He gestures towards the door, which
is now open and Sruti standing there with a smile on her face.) Jaao Armaan..tumhaari zindagi
tumhaara intezaar kar rahi hain. (Just then Manavs phone starts ringing and his face lights up when he
sees the caller id. He shows the phone to Armaan.) Aur mein chala apne zindagi ke paas. (He answers
the phone.) Haan Nisha..yeah yeah..I am on my way..arre baba aaraha hoon na. Buss 10 minute. Ok?
And shuts the phone. Both friends slap each other s back and smile before Armaan gets down from
the car and walks towards Sruti. Manav backs out the car to go home with a wave at them both. The
timing almost coinciding with Rohan striding towards Abhimanyus office with the arrest warrant in
his hand.

------x-----