Dr. Shashank nodded.
"Hum dono ko?" Riddhima asked.
He nodded again.
"Kyu?" They asked in unison.
Dr. Shashank laughed at their shell shocked expressions before replying. "Wahaan par ek bohot badi medical conference hai, aur hum sabne milke decide kiya hai, ki hum chaahte hai tum dono wahaan Sanjeevani, India ko represent karo."
They both looked even more shocked, if that was possible, on hearing this.
"Hum... hum dono?" Armaan asked.
"Haan, Armaan, tum dono."
"Lekin, Papa, hum dono kaise wahaan jaa sakte hain?"
"Kyu nahi jaa sakte?"
"Woh Riddhima ke kehna ka matlab hai, ki India mein har Sanjeevani mein, humse bhi zyada experienced aur better doctors hain. Humaare apne branch mein bhi - aap, Dr. Keerti, Dr. Shubahnkar. Waise hi India ke doosre branches mein bhi humse behat doctors honge, toh aap hume kyu bhejna chaahte hain?"
Dr. Shashank looked at his two kids and smiled fondly. Always so down to Earth. He knew, that they knew, that they were better than most of the doctors at Sanjeevani, Mumbai, Hell, Sanjeevani, India. And together, they were a force to be reckoned. He couldn't remember the last time he had met 2 doctors who worked so well together. Their success rate as interns in their 3 years at Sanjeevani had been phenomenal. And later, as senior doctors, their tema had only gotten better.
Yet, here they were, genuinely shocked that out of all the doctors in the hospital, they had been chosen as representatives of Sanjeevani for India.
"Armaan, Riddhima, tumhe Dhruv yaad hai?" He asked them, referring to the patient they had tended to during their internship.
"Yaad hai, us din, Valentine's Day par, Dhruv ki haalat bohot zada bigad gayi thi?"
They nodded again.
"Us waqt humse koi bhi nahi jaan paaya ki usse kya hua hai. Na main, na Dr. Keerti, na ko aur. Lekin tum dono ko samajh aa gaya,"he said, remembering that none of them had even thought about the little boy having diabetes and hence, they hadn't bothered to wait for his stool tests to return. But, it was them who had figured out that it was actually that.
"Aur, Armaan, tumhe yaad hai jab woh police officer ko bullet lagi thi aur tum life mein atak gaye the," he started, referring to their early internship days.
Armaan nodded, knowing full well where this was going.
"Us waqt, tumhaare paas zyada practical experience nahi tha, lekin phir bhi, tumne us police officer ka operation successfully kiya tha," he said, beaming with pride.
"Aur, Riddhima," he said, looking at his daughter. "Tumhe yaad woh pregnant lady, jinhe brain tumor bhi tha," he asked, referring to that one lady to whom Riddhima had made promises without knowing baou the consequences.
"Itne saare problems hone ke baad bhi, tumne Dr. Keerti ko bohot hi achche tarah se us surgery mein assist kiya. Us Ma ko apni beti di," he told her, his voice laced with immense pride.
"Main aise hazaar aur cases ginaa sakta hu, jahaan tum dono ne itna achcha kaam kiya hai. Ab bhi lagta hai ki humein kisi aur ko chunna chahiye tha?" He asked them.
"Thank you, Papa. Hum aapko disappoint nahi karenge,"Armaan said, his coice thick with emotion.
"Thank you, Papa. Hum par itna bharosa karne,"Riddhima said. Both of them moved in and hugged him tightly.
"Paagal ho, tum dono. Main jaanta hu ki tum mujhe kabhi disappoint nahi karoge," he said, kissing their heads.
Riddhima looked up at him and smiled knowingly.
Dr. Shashank sighed. That girl had always been able to read him like an open book. So what if he had had to pressure the Board a little and throw his weight around to get them to agree that they were the best choice for this conference. This was an amazing opportunity for them and he wasn't about to let it get away from them. He would do it over a hundred times for his kids.
"Okay. Toh conference next month hai. Saare instructions tumhe Dr. Keerti de dengi. Aur tumhe kisi bhi cheez mein help chahiye ho, toh mujhe keh dena."
Armaan and Riddhima smiled at him gratefully and they left the study to join the party.
They told all their friends about the conference and everyone agreed that Dr. Shashank was right and they deserved it. Many congratulations were passed around.
After dinner was done, Armaan asked permission to take Riddhima out on a drive which was promptly given. He grinned at Dr. Shashank and Padma Mom before taking Riddhima's hand and tugging her out of the house.
They drove to the beach and decided to take a walk.
They talked and Riddhima told him how happy she was about Paris. He echoed the sentiment. She then started blabbing about the Colessa' (apparently it was their couple name) wedding and how she was totally and utterly excited for it.
On hearing her talk so excitedly about the wedding, Armaa felt guilty. He should have proposed to her.
In keeping with their honest and open policy, he decided that it was better that he talk about it now rather than letting it stew inside him.
"Jaan, yeh Cole aur Tessa ki shaadi se tum khush ho?"
"Haan, Armaan. Maine tumhe bataya na. Main bohot khush hu," she replied.
"Aur tumhe koi problem nahi hai?" He asked in a small voice.
She immediately understood what hhe was referring to.
"Armaan, maine tumhe pehle bhi kaha tha, aur ab bhi keh rahi hu. Jab tak tum mere saath ho, mujhe kuch aur nahi chahiye. Hum shaadi ke liye wait kar sakte hain," she replied.
"Haan, baba, pakka."
"Aur agar hum un dono ki tarah jaaye, toh tumhe kamse kam 7 saal rukna padega, mujhe propose karne," she replied referring to how they'd been together for 11 years before Cole had popped the question, while they had been together for only about 4 years now.
Armaan smiled at her playfulness.
"So, unki shaadi kahaan hai?"
"Paris mein hi hai," she replied.
Armaan looked at her, as if waiting to elaborate.
"Cole ne propose toh abhi kiya hai, but unhone planning toh bohot pehle se start kardi thi. I mean not planning, planning. But they always knew ki unhe kuch chota karna hai, with only family and close friends aur Paris mein karna hai. Aur irrespective of the year, unhone date decide kari hui hai," she explained.
"Kyuki us din unhone ek doosre ko pehli baar I love you' bola tha."
"That's so cute," Armaan replied, before a thought struck him.
"Lekin tab toh hum bhi wahaan honge na? I mean, Papa ne kaha next month, toh 29thko ho sakta hai ki hum wahaan par hi ho,"he said.
"Armaan, will you be my date to the wedding?"Riddhima asked.
"Of course!" Armaan replied. "Lekin, are you sure unhe problem nahi hogi? I mean tumne kaha, sirf kuch close friends hi aane waale hain."
"Tum tension mat lo. London ke mere saare friends tumse milna chaahte hain," she replied.
"Achcha?" He asked.
"Haan. Woh log bohot excited hain. I mean, pehle toh woh log bilkul Rahul ki tarah the, jab tak humein sab sach nahi pata tha, tumhaare nervous breakdown ke baare mein. Tab woh tumhe pasand nahi karte the, obviously," she said.
"Aur ab?" He asedk.
"Ab jabse maine unhe sab sach bataya hai, sab tumse milna chaahte hain, especially Cole aur Tessa. Rahul ke baad woh dono hi mere sabse achche dost they wahaan. I mean Ray aur Donna bhi mere friends hain, lekin main Cole aur Tessa se bohot close thi," she explained.
Armaan nodded as he absorbed all the information Riddhima was providing about her friends to Armaan. They were genuinely nice people and Armaan was glad that they were there to support Riddhima during such a difficult phase in her life.
The next day, Dr. Keerti called Armaan& Riddhima in her cabin to discuss about the conference. They were to give a presentation while there and they had to attend all seminars and talks held, alongwith any other extra curricular activities that might have been scheduled. The conference was slated to start from the 2nd of November and go on till the 13th, for 10 days. She gave them several pamphlets and brochures outlining the various studies and topics that were going to be discussed at the conference. She instructed them to start work on their presentation immediately and told them to feel free to seek her, Dr. Shashank or anyone else in the hospital for any kind of advice.
Armaan & Riddhima nodded gratefully before leaving. This was kind of surreal. They read through the brochures and were surprised to see that so many prominent doctors were scheduled to conduct various panels in their fields of expertise. It was truly a very great opportunity for them.
They also decided that it was a good time to talk to Muskaan about what had been bothering her. Muskaan had been uncharacteristically quiet since she had come back and that was bothering them. Atul had tried to talk to her several times but she would easily divert the topic from her and start talking about food or Anjali and distract him successfully. Anjali wasn't able to talk to her because she would always fake emergencies and leave before Anjali had a chance to say anything when the particular topic was brought up. Muskaan knew that Riddhima wouldn't ever pry too much if Muskaan wasn't ready to share and so she used that to her advantage. Armaan hadn't had much luck either as she would never get past the general talks with him. She knew that Armaan wouldn't be deterred easily, so most days Muskaan avoided Armaan like the plague. And, of course, Rahul didn't even dare to be in a 5 foot radius of Muskaan. So, no one was successfully able to talk to Muskaan about why she was so upset.
Deciding to end the matter, once and for all, they all came up with a plan that would have Muskaan locked up in a room with Armaan and Riddhima and then they would force her to talk.
Bright and early that day, the plan was set in motion. They found an empty private room in the hospital and banned the nurses from assigning that room to anyone that day. One of them would be on Muskaan's tail all day, and when she was free, they would the nurse fake an emergency in that room. Armaan and Riddhima would be waiting for Muskaan over there, and when she would come to, the others would lock the door from outside and listen in patiently while their friends got Muskaan to talk.
Finally, during Atul's shift, Muskaan was free. He immediately radioed the others in. Rahul had Sister Lovely page Muskaan abput an emergency while Armaan & Riddhima assigned Yuvi and Naina to look after their patient as they made their way to room. Anjali followed them.
As soon as Muskaan was in the room, Atul locked it from outside and the three of them stood by the door to listen in.
To say that Muskaan was surprised to see Armaan & Riddhima in the room would be an understatement.
"Hey, guys! Tum dono yahaan kya kar rahe ho? Sister Lovely ne page kiya tha ki yahaan emergency hai. Tum bhi uske liye hi aaye ho kya?"She asked.
Armaan and Riddhima nodded. Looking around, Muskaan noticed that there was no one in the room apart from the three of them.
"Patient kahaan hai?" She asked them, dreading the answer. She suspected that she had walked right into an ambush.
Armaan pointed at her. "Yeh raha patient," he said.
So, she was right. This was an ambush.
"Main? Mujhe kya hua?" She asked, playing innocent.
"Muski, tu bholi mat ban. Hum sab jaante hain ki koi baat hai jo tujhe pareshaan kar rahi hai, lekin tu humse share karne ke liye tayyar nahi hai. Aisa kyu?" Riddhima asked.
"Aisa nahi hai, Ridzy," Muskaan tried to say.
"Aisa hi hai, Muski. Itne dino se main chup hu, yeh sochkar ki jab tujhe baat karni hogi, tu khud aayegi, lekin tu toh baat hi nahi karna chaahti. Tune ab tak kisi ko nahi bataya na, ki us din, accident ke agle din, tu raat bhar Rahul ke room mein thi?" Riddhima asked.
"Ridzy," Muskaan whispered, while the others were shocked to hear this.
"Tu kyu thi us raat wahaan, Muskaan?"
"Main... main bas dekhna chaahti thi ki Rahul theek hai ya nahi, aur phir meri aankh lag gayi, maine tujhe bataya tha, Ridzy,"Muskaan said.
"Lekin tujhe itni raat ko hi kyu janna tha, ki Rahul theek hai ya nahi? Tu usse baad mein bhi milne jaa sakti thi. Teri hum sab se baat hui thi, toh tujhe pata tha na, ki Rahul ki condition itni bhi serious nahi hai," Riddhima prodded.
"Haan. Lekin main bas ek baar khud dekhar kar confirm karna chaahti thi..."
"Kyu? Muskaan, agar tu Rahul se ab bhi pyaar karti hai, toh usse keh kyu nahi deti?" Armaan asked.
"Sirf isliye kyuki mujhe uski fikr hai, iska yeh matlab nahi hai ki main usse pyaar karti hu, Armaan. Hum sabse pehle dost the, ab bhi hain. Aur ek dost ki tarah, main apne dost ke liye pareshaan thi, isliye main dekhne gayi thi ki woh theek hai ya nahi. Isme kisiko koi problem hai?"She asked. Rahul was relieved. Atleast she still thought of him as a friend. He could work with that.
"Agar Rahul tera dost hai, toh jabse waapas aayi hai, usse kabhi baat kyu nahi ki?" Armaan asked.
"Armaan, hum dono har waqt baat kare yeh zaruri nahi. Aur is sabke baare mein tu mujhe kya sunaa raha hai? Jab tu aur Riddhima bhi ek saath nahi the, sirf dost the, tu kab Riddhima se baat karta tha?"
"Woh isliye ki main Riddhima se us waqt bhi pyaar karta tha, Muskaan. Lekin tune toh kaha ki tu Rahul se pyaar nahi karti. Toh phir problem kya hai?"
"Problem kuch nahi hai, Armaan. Main bas busy hu. Yahaan settle hone mein mujhe thoda time lag raha hai. Isme koi problem hai?"
"Nahi. Usme koi problem nahi hai. Problem yeh hai ki tu hum sabko avoid kar rahi hai."
"Main tum logon ko avoid nahi kar rahi,"she replied.
"Muskaan, tu kisse jhooth bolne ki koshish kar rahi hai? Humein toh tu bewakoof nahi banaa rahi. Khudko bhi banana chod de,"Armaan told her.
"Dekho, Rahul ko waapas dekhna, maine jitna socha tha, usse bohot zyada difficult hai, okay. Mujhe bas thoda waqt chahiye."
"Muskaan, kyu tere liye yeh itna mushkil hai? Hum sab teri madad karna chaahte hain. Agar tu humein nahi batayegi, toh hum kuch nahi kar paayenge," Riddhima told her, hugging Muskaan, as she saw tears brimming in her eyes.
"I'm sorry, guys. Main jaanti hu ki tum sab meri help karna chaahte ho. Lekin main kuch nahi keh paa rahi hu," Muskaan said.
"Muskaan, hum tere dost hai, yaar. Tera bura nahi chaahte. Hum sab tere liye bohot pareshaan hain. Please humein bata kya problem hai," Armaan asked, joining the hug.
Muskaan took a deep breath before answering.
"Meri... meri engagement ho chuki hai," she whispered.
And that's when Rahul's entire world crumbled.
Topic started by DMGThings
Last replied by DMGThings