"Geet. Tumne is shirt ke saath ye kaun si tie nikaal di hai. Bilkul sahi nahin lagegi."
"Sorry Maan... Mujhe samajh nahin aaya. Aap bata dijiye kaun si nikalni hai."
Maan sighed! Another attempt wasted.
"Nahin Geet. Theek hai, main mazaak kar raha tha."
It had been over a week since he had completely recovered from his accident. Things were back to normal. Except Geet! In one sense there was nothing wrong with her. Her love and concern for him had only grown. She respected him and his decisions like ever. She behaved more maturely.
A bit too maturely for Maan's comfort. She no longer put any childish demands to him. She did not fight with him. She did not drag him out for an ice-cream or golgappe. She did not insist on buying balloons. She smiled lovingly even when he tried to tease her, instead of fighting back and pouting in anger.
She looked at him with heart-wenching fear in her eyes, when he left for the office. He had asked her if she wanted to join the office back.
"Jaisa aap kahein."
"Geet. Main to 24 ghante tumhein apni aakhon ke saamne rakhna chahta hoon. Aur tum office aaogi to mujhe bhi madad milegi kaam mein."
"Theek hai. Phir main join kar leti hoon."
That was it? What did she want? No opinions? It seemed like she was afraid of expressing her opinions or taking any decisions. That was not the Geet Maan had known. She was the girl who had risked her life to stand for what she wanted. What should he do? His attempts at talking to her were being wasted. She told him that he was unnecessarily getting worried.
Maan kept looking at her through the curtain between their cabins. She was engrossed in work, but he could not concentrate. Finally an idea occurred to him. He made a call and took an appointment.
"Geet! Chalo mere saath. Kucch kaam hai."
She hesitated for a moment as she looked at the papers in front of her. She seemed to have a lot of stuff to finish. But she did not say anything and got up to go with him. As they were heading out she finally asked, "Kya kaam hai Maan?"
"Tumehin Car chalana sikhana hai."
She stopped right there and expression on her face changed, to that of utter fear and shock, "Nahin Maan. Main car nahin chalaungi."
First resistance in over a week! Maan wasn't sure if he should feel happy about that or if he should feel sad that the incident had left such a scar on her psyche.
"Kyon Geet? Tumhara to kitna man tha car chalana seekhne ka."
"Main aapke saamne bahut gair-zimmedaar ho jati hoon Maan. Bachkani zidd karti hoon. Aur aap meri khushi ke liye sab kuchh maan lete hain. Lekin jab meri ek bachkani zidd aur harqat ne aapki jaan ko khatre mein daal diya, tab mujhe ahsaas hua ki main kitni galat thi."
"Geet!" Maan was heart-broken to see her in guilt like this, "Tum aisa kyon soch rahi ho. Woh ek accident tha jo kabhi bhi, kissi se bhi ho sakta tha."
"Nahin Maan. Aap hamesha meri khushi chahte hain aur main hamesha apni zidd ki wajah se hum dono ko museebat mein daal deti hoon. Aur pichhli baar to... Nahin Maan. Mujhe car chalana nahin seekhna hai. Main aise hi theek hoon."
"Geet! Tum itni kamzor kab se ho gayi? Meri Geet to apni jaan ko khatre mein daal kar bhi apne man ki karti hai. To phir aaj kya ho gaya?"
"Meri jaan aaj bhi chali jaye to mujhe koi dar nahin hai. Lekin main aapko kissi khatre mein dubara nahin dekh sakti. Main jeete-ji mar jaungi."
"To meri baat dhyaan se suno Geet. Us accident mein tumhari koi galti nahin thi. Tumhein car chalani nahin aati thi. Aur maine bina cheezein bataye tumhein driver ki seat par bitha diya. Woh bhi highway par. Tumehin ye bhi nahin bataya ki gear kahan hain aur breaks kahan. I was a lousy teacher Geet. Aur isliye..."
"Maan please! Aap phir se saara blame apne oopar lekar mujhe khush karne ki koshish kar rahe hain. Iski koi zaroorat nahin hai."
"Nahin Geet. Main kewal sach bol raha hoon. Main sahi se sikha nahin pa raha tha. Tumehin to pata hai na ki mujhme bilkul bhi patience nahin hai. Aur isliye is baar tumhein main nahin sikhaunga. Maine professional driving trainer ko bulaya hai. Aur woh tumhein ek chhoti car chalana sikhayenge pahle."
Maan could not contain his emotions any longer. He shook her by holding her at shoulders, "Kyon Geet? Kyon aisi ho gayi ho tum? Kyon mujhse koi zidd nahin karti. Kyon mujhe palat kar jawaab nahin deti? Main kuchh bhi karoon, na mujhse jhagda karti ho, na hi gussa hoti ho. Kyon meri har baat bina koi sawaal poochhe maan leti ho? Geet. Meri baat to sab log maante hain; bas tum hi to ho jo mujhe jawaab de sakti ho, mujhse apni baat manwa sakti ho. Mujhse sab log darte hain. Sirf tum hi to mujhse pyaar kar sakti ho na. Phir tum kyon aisi ho gayi ho? Ab main kiske saath hasoon-kheloon Geet? Kise saath shararatein karoon? Kiski zidd poori karoon? Batao main kya karoon, Geet?" Maan had bared it all and it really shook Geet.
She started crying uncontrollably and leaned her head on his chest. He hugged her tight and caressed her hair to soothe her, but he did not stop her from crying. All the tears that had welled up since she had seen him after the accident were coming out. It was good for her to let go. Otherwise her guilt was eating her up. A drop of tear came out of Maan's eye as well. But he wiped it off before breaking the hug.
"Geet. Duniya mein sadkon par roz accidents hote hain, unke dar se koi ghar se bahar nikalna to nahin chhod deta hai Geet. Ek baar galti hui to dubara koshish karna to hum nahin chhod sakte hain. Balki us galti se ubarne ka tareeka hi yahi hai ki hum woh kaam sahi tareeke se karna seekh lein. Chalo mere saath. Tum car chalana seekhogi aur phir roz mujhe drive kar ke office se ghar le jaogi. Samjhi tum?"
Geet nodded, still teary eyed. Maan wiped her tears and led her out of her cabin and the office.
"Maan! Chaat." Geet pointed towards the chaat stall on the roadside, after she had parked the car.
Maan got out from the passenger's seat, "Geet, woh log aise khule mein saaraa samaan rakhte hain. Woh bahut unhygienic hai. Abhi hum restaurant mein ja rahe hain na. Wahan bhi chaat milti hai."
"Haan, haan. Pata hai. Mineral water se banayi hui, haathon par polythene pahan kar. Ab us chaat mein bhi koi mazaa hai. Chaat to khule mein, sadak ke kinare hi sahi banti hai."
"Geet. Tum ye nahin khaogi. Kahin beemaar pad gayi to?"
"Main aapki tarah nahin hoon, ki zara si dhool se allergy ho jaye. Mujhe kuchh nahin hone waala hai."
"Aap baby ka naam le kar mujhe blackmail mat kijiye. Use main itna komal nahin banana chahti ki har samay mineral water ki zaroorat pade."
"Kuchh bhi ho Geet. Main tumhein ye nahin khane doonga."
"Main to yahi khaungi!"
And he suddenly realized something and smiled. His sherni was back! All was well with life!