Natasha replied to Ram's question : Kartik
Priya was stunned at that one word. Ram turned around to look at her. The amazement in his face was reflected in Priya's face as well. Slowly however the amazement changed to disbelief and finally anger set in. Irrespective of whatever, whatever his Chhoti had done, nobody could do this to her. Questions would come later. He dragged Natasha with him and led her to the car. He didn't even bother to wait for Priya who had followed him as he'd started moving. Niharika, Sid, Shiney and Priya all reached the gate at almost the same time when they saw Ram's car pulling off the driveway at breakneck speed.
Niharika immediately shouted for a driver and got into the next car. She gave a look to Priya as if suggesting that Priya stay out of this for her own good. However Priya was also beyond caring now. She got into the car as well and they started.
Around 5 minutes later, their car screeched to a halt behind Ram's car, parked at the side of the road. Shiney was about to get out of the car when they saw Ram coming down the steps of a chemist shop with a bottle of pills in his hand. By the time Ram reached the car, he had already shaken out half a dozen pills or so and popped them into his mouth. Even in that scenario, in that stage of tension, Niharika gave a slight smirk. Nobody could save Kartik now from Ram's anger and Priya would automatically be sidelined in the process. Priya closed her eyes for the next ten-fifteen minutes and prayed like she had never prayed before. Finally they reached Sharma House at almost the same time as Ram and Natasha.
An irrelevant thought crossed Priya's mind as they all got into the lift '. thank God, the lift was working '. otherwise in this mentally agitated condition, Ram would just have popped a dozen more pills on his way up the stairs.
Ram angrily pressed the buzzer. Kartik was pacing the drawing room and he hurriedly opened the door hoping to find Natasha outside. However all he saw was Ram and that too, a blazing Ram ' a Ram he had never seen before.
Sudhir and Shipra got up from the sofa ' as a long line of people made their way into the house. They were shocked when suddenly Ram lunged towards Kartik and challenged him to hit him. Kartik was already in a state of shock looking at Natasha's battered face and he started stammering. Ram repeated what he'd said again and then in a burst of anger, pulled him by the collar.
Shipra : Mr. Ram ' Mr.Ram.
Sudhir : Ram beta '.
Ram was in no mood to listen. He shook Kartik a few more times and Shipra was afraid that Ram might even strike Kartik. Shiney and Sid watched from the sidelines and enjoyed the scene. A drink ! that's what Shiney needed now. It was as if they were sitting in the arena and watching a bull fight. It was just a matter of time before Ram, the bigger bull, would toss Kartik up in the air and Kartik would fall down on Priya, squashing her in the process. Sid rubbed his hands in glee.
Niharika too was on cloud 9. She felt she could speak her heart out. Ram was in such a frame of mind that it would be very easy to manipulate him.
Niharika : Kartik, when my daughter wanted to marry you, I was the first one to support this marriage inspite of knowing that you and she belonged to totally different societies. In our society, there are no incidents of wife bashing and such ugly fights.
Shiney : Haanji '. Jhagde toh pati patni mein hote rehte hai .. aisa kaun sa ghar hai jahan jhagde nahin hote .. ab dekho '. humne Ram aur Pirya ke kamre se bhi toh jhagde ke awaaz suna hai ' ab Ram ne Pirya par hath toh nahin uthaya !
Sid went to stand behind Ayesha and tried to comfort her.
Niharika : I'm sure Shipraji ' aap aur Sudhir ji mein bhi kabhi kabhi problems toh hoti hogi, par this is not the way to deal with a problem. Ram was so angry that he came down straight here. We haven't even gone to the doctor till now. And every doctor will ask for a police report in these kind of cases. Ram's reputation will be at stake if the media get even a whiff of this news. Bhaiyya aapko hi kuch karna padega.
Shiney : Haan, don't worry sister. Main hoon na.
Niharika : Priya, I think its better you remain in Sharma House for some time. In case the media come to know, it would be better if you're not in Kapoor Mansion so that they don't hound you and try and interrogate you. I will call you up in a few weeks and let you know when it's safe to return back.
It was then that Priya took charge. She remembered the slapping incident earlier when she'd blasted Kartik in front of everyone. But she knew very well that Kartik would never have inflicted that kind of injury on Natasha whatever be the circumstances. Maybe a few weeks earlier, she would have said so at Kapoor Mansion itself when Natasha had accused Kartik but the incident with Ayesha had shaken her up a lot. But now after seeing Kartik's face, she was on sure ground once again.
Priya removed Kartik from Ram's clutches and moved him away from Ram.
Niharika : Priya, mere khayal se tum iss mein na hi shaamil ho toh accha hoga. Your brother is at fault and'
Priya interrupted her : Please, this is not a question my my brother or Ram's sister (Niharika gave a gasp on hearing the name "Ram" from Priya's mouth). Natasha is my husband's sister as well as my brother's wife. She is as close to me as Ayesha. And like I sorted out the fight between Ayesha and Natasha, I shall take care of this issue too.
Niharika interrupted : Priya, tum apne aap ko koi mahaan counselor agar samajh rahe ho '
It was Priya's turn to interrupt : No, I don't and never will think on those lines. What is important to me is that my family members are hurt and apparently on account of fights/misunderstandings between each other.
Everyone was silent for a while. This was one side of Priya which Niharika had never seen before. She always knew that Priya was a strong personality but that she would stand up against her and that too in front of Ram was something she had not imagined in her wildest dreams.
But there was so much at stake for Niharika. If she let things go out of hand now, she would never be able to retain control over Ram and the entire business empire at any time in the future. She could see Ram was still furious. It was time to emphasise her place in the house and also time to play on Ram's love for Chhoti.
Niharika : Ram, there are certain issues I think only you can take the best call on. Maine aapki daadi ke baton ke upar kabhie kuch nahin bola hai and I cannot accept my daughter in law talking to me in this manner. Ram, you know I treat you like my own son but if you ''
There were tears in Niharika's eyes suddenly. Ram moved forward.
Ram : Nahin Ma, please don't feel hurt ' I don't think p
Niharika interrupted : And after marriage , if you feel Priya is more important to you than Natasha's safety, Natasha's respect and even Natasha's life, then I have nothing more to say.
The anger returned to Ram in full flow again and he turned towards Kartik.
Niharika : Ram, I don't think we should have expected anything more from middle class people. I think the only alternative now is an immediate separation. First things first. Let us go home and get Natasha treated. And I shall get divorce papers served on Kartik tomorrow morning. At least this time she is only injured; next time I do not want to attend her funeral in Sharma House. I am not taking any chances with my baby.
There was a stunned silence at this, all around. Everyone was looking at each other.
Niharika had her eyes fixed on Priya, to try and anticipate her next move. Shiney was shocked. He had not expected her sister to play her trump card so soon. Only he knew how much it would pain Niharika to have Natasha back with her tantrums in Kapoor Mansion again. But then, anything for money. And power. Sid still had his hands around Ayesha's shoulders but at this statement, she moved away a bit. Tears began to roll down Shipra's face. At the end of the day, inspite of her million dramas and dramas, she was not a bad person at heart. Sudhir felt the beginnings of another attack and willed himself to stand straight. He could not afford to buckle down now.
Kartik was probably the most scared person in the room. It had been a bad day for him. He had had to go to office for some urgent work on a Sunday, and then had come back home to see his father lying on the floor. That had been followed by his angry words to his wife and she'd walked out of the door and refused to take his calls. And now, on opening the door, he had been shell shocked to see her behind Ram, with a battered face. He'd thought for a moment that she'd been in an accident and had been totally perplexed when Ram had collared him. It was only now that he'd finally realized that everyone in Kapoor Mansion believed he had hit his wife ! How could he? He loved his wife, had told her to leave the house in a fit of anger but he couldn't live without her !. Did she not know that?
Ram was stunned and silent as well. He slowly removed his fingers from Kartik's collar and kept on looking at Kartik and Chhoti alternately, wondering what to do. And whether his mother was actually right. Divorce did not seem the right way out to him. He looked at Priya somehow trying to reassure himself that Priya would set everything right, as usual. Somehow he had too much faith. She would not let him down !
But Priya was not looking at him. In fact, she was the only one who seemed unperturbed by this threat. There was a very slight smile in her lips and Ram knew that only he could make out that slight smile.
Why was Priya smiling? And who was she looking at?
Yes, it was true. Priya did have a slight smile on her face. She was looking intently at Natasha. Almost forcing her mentally to look back at her. Would Natasha understand what she was trying to say? Would Natasha understand the importance of what was going on?
Everyone was surprised to see Priya and Natasha looking at each other so intently. This ' speaking to each other through the eyes ' continued for a mere five minutes but to the silent spectators surrounding them, it seemed much much longer.
Finally Natasha broke the eye contact. And she ran to Kartik and buried herself in his chest. In a trice, Kartik had his arms around her and they were enclosed in a tight hug.
Priya gave a sigh of relief. A distinct sense of dj vu gripped Ram as he tried to analyse what he'd just seen. It had been just around three months back that Priya and he had gone through the same experience ! They had been having fights and matters were brought to a dirty close by Niharika who'd given him divorce papersto hand over to Priya. Thank God Priya had saved him ! And the hug? Chhoti had run to Kartik exactly the same way Priya had walked into his arms. And he had hugged her back the same way Kartik was hugging her now. They loved each other the same way he and Priya loved each other !
Priya : Natasha, Kartik ' aap dono please mere saath andar chalo.
Natasha finally looked up shyly : Priya dii, nahin andar nahin jaana. I want to confess in front of everyone. Maine ek galti kiya tha.. and Kartik also behaved badly and was rude to me. And so I did all this myself to try and get Bhai angry with Kartik and teach him a lesson. But dii, I was wrong. And looking at you just now made me understand that.
She went to Priya and hugged her.
Natasha : Meri shaadi pehli hui hai toh pehle aap mere dii bane aur baad mein bhabhi toh agar aap bura na maano toh main bhi Kartik aur Ayesha ki tarah aapko dii bula sakti hoon?
Without waiting for an answer, she walked to Sudhir and touched his feet : Papa, meri vajai se aapka itna bada attack hone ki baad bhi aapne mujhe support kiya. As always. I promise you I'll never behave like that again. Then she turned to Shipra. Tears were still falling down Shipra's cheeks. Before Natasha could say anything, Shipra put her hands around her and hugged her close.
Ayesha was the only one standing a bit away from everyone. She had been shocked to hear Niharika's words and finally understood how evil that woman was. It was so surprising that a single incident which did not even involve her made her realize such an important truth. She turned sideways to look at Siddhant and realized that what Natasha and Priya had explained to her about Sid was probably all true. She would be on her guard now.
Slowly Niharika, Sid and Shiney made their way out of the house silently. They did not even wait for the elevator and walked down the stairs, trying their best to escape from the place as soon as possible. Ram took Priya's hand and pulled her towards the door too. Everything was all right and he felt so relaxed, so peaceful. How did Priya manage to solve anything? He asked Priya as soon as they were safely outside the door. But Priya only gave a mysterious smile and did not reply. How could she explain that it was not she but rather Niharika who had unknowingly engineered the happy solution by trying to separate two people in love? Ram did not force her to reply. He just pulled her close as they entered the lift. Their conversation about starting their own family seemed to have happened ages ago and he wanted to go home and resume that conversation again. They reached the ground floor and walked out of the lift. They were hidden from the stairs and suddenly heard Shiney's voice as the trio were walking down the last flight of stairs.
Shiney : Sister, now I have finally lost all my faith in you. You did not manage to bring about Ram Pirya's divorce and you failed in this one too. The only divorce you successfully manipulated was around two decades ago between Amarnath and Ram's mother. You've lost your touch now.
They walked out oblivious to Ram and Priya. Priya had pulled Ram to a corner as soon as she'd heard this and they watched the trio walk out to their car and drive away.
Ram sat down on the ground. He felt his legs give way beneath him and he sat down hurriedly. Priya sat down beside him, underneath the staircase, in the dark. It was impossible for anyone to see them unless they came specifically looking at that place. She tried to embrace Ram to comfort him but he pushed her away, his eyes displaying the state of shock he was in. For so many years for as long as he could recollect, he had blamed his own mother for leaving him and walking away from him and his father and now it seemed that his mother too had fallen into a trap ! Priya had saved his marriage and had helped saved Natasha's too. But maybe his parents had not been strong enough or maybe circumstances had been such that they had not been able to deal with it. He knew deep in his heart that he would never have blamed Priya if she'd chosen to walk away that day when he'd handed over the divorce papers. Then how could he blame his mother any more?
Ram started to speak about all he had suffered, by not having a mother's hand over his head. How he had craved for the love and affection of his family and how he had always been denied love.
Unknown to him, Priya dialled a number and put the phone on speaker mode. Ram continued to speak, trying to explain his anger and anguish, trying to release the bottled up fear and felling of being unloved and uncared for over so many years. But he still did not cry.
He suddenly heard "Ram beta, main hoon tumhare saath. Main tumhe aaj bhi utna hi pyaar karti hoon aur hamesha se karte aayi hoon jaise ki jab tum chhote se the ". It was then that he saw the display light on the phone in the darkness and realized who was speaking to him. And finally broke down; tears rushing down his face. He cried his heart out and held the phone to his ear. Priya held him close but did not speak. Krishnaji continued to speak in a soothing voice.
It was a long time before the call was disconnected. They had to disconnect, since there was barely time to reach Kapoor Mansion, pick up their passports and rush to the airport to catch the last flight to Australia.
They smiled at each other other when Ram raced his car down the road on his way back.
Ram : I only have one grudge in my life now.
Priya : What?
Ram : Yeh bachche ka idea ek din ke liye postpone karna padega. Ab aircraft mein toh'.
Edited by LalitaLahiri - 2012-04-13T10:01:50Z
Priya blushed and looked out of the window. What a day it had been !
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