Bonus Track Six The Joshis and Mehras
This takes place after Track 17, when Armaan takes everyone to the hospital.
Later that evening, Juhi was working in the kitchen in Armaan's house, but her mind was wandering. The excitement of the wedding had been catching up and all the goings on were making her miss someone dearly. She so badly wished that he could have been there to partake in the activities. She knew he'd have been the life of the celebration, even more excited than her or Rahul (Mehra) that their son was getting married. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't even realize when the curry boiled over and started spilling out of the vessel.
"Ma!" Armaan shouted, pulling her hand away from the stove.
His shout brought her out of her mind. She looked around, surprised that she was in his kitchen. "What happened?" She asked him.
"I should be asking you that," he replied. "You were miles away. Dekha? Abhi jal jaata."
Juhi noticed the spilt food for the first time. "Oh! She exclaimed. "I'm so sorry. I didn't even realize."
"It's okay," Armaan replied, pulling her into a side hug. "Waise, what are you doing here?" He asked. "Ghar pe kaun hai?"
Juhi shrugged. "Koi nahi. Actually, Shailee and Arjun went out to dinner for some alone time. And, Vedika is out on a date. The few guests who're over are also busy with something or the other. So, I thought I'd come here."
"Good," Armaan replied. Juhi smiled at him.
"Did Vedika tell you who she's going out with?" Juhi asked Armaan, concerned for her youngest daughter. She knew Vedika had been dating someone for the past few months and she was pretty sure that her daughter was in love. But, whenever she tried to broach the topic, Vedika would shut down with the same excuses every time - it's new, I want to be sure before I tell you guys about it, I need time.
Armaan smiled at her concern. "Don't worry, Ma. You know Vedika is smart. She'll be okay."
Truth was, Armaan knew who Vedika was seeing, but it wasn't his place to tell the family about it. Vedika needed to do it on her own. And, he wouldn't push her if she wasn't ready.
"Aap yeh chodiye. Tell me, what's wrong? I've been noticing, you've been a little lost these past few days. Kya hua hai? During Shailee Di's wedding also you were like this. Baat kya hai?" He asked.
Juhi sighed. He knew her so well.
"And don't even try brushing me off. Something is bothering you. I know," he said before she could divert the topic.
"Achcha, baba. Theek hai. I won't divert," she said.
"That's my girl," Armaan grinned, kissing the top of her head. "Ab batao."
"I really miss Omi, Armaan. You remember, I told you about him? He was my best friend, more like my brother. It's been years since he passed away, but on every occasion, I miss him so much. He would've been so happy if he was here today. The kids were young when he... But he was so fond of all of them. And he would've been over the moon to see Shailee and now Rohan getting married to the loves of their lives," she told Armaan.
Armaan nodded silently. He knew how much his Juhi Ma and Dad adored Omi Uncle.
"Pata hai, he was such a fun loving person. So warm and full of life. And his son, AJ, he insisted everyone call him. He was so cute. I adored him so much. He was like my own son. But, after Omi passed away, it got too much. We moved here and I lost all touch with AJ. I tried so hard to get him to come with us, but he wanted to stay in India with his father's memories."
Listening to her, Armaan felt his heart clench. He'd this story a few times, but Ma had never mentioned a son.
"On the first day of Sanjeevani, when we were just interns, it was Omi who'd befriended me. He'd always been so understanding, so supportive. He really was my brother. And then, he got AIDS because of that blood transfusion gone wrong. It was like the light had gone from my life, but he never wavered. He fought so hard, but his body couldn't cope," Juhi sobbed, leaning against Armaan.
Hearing this, Armaan perked up. He never knew that Omi Uncle had died because of AIDS. He also knew a certain someone who's dad had the same illness.
"What was his son's name again?" He asked Juhi.
"Atul," Juhi answered. "But we used to call him AJ."
Armaan grinned at the confirmation. He pulled away from Juhi, took her hand and walked out of the kitchen, to the living room where Atul was busy pampering Anjali. Padma Aunty and Riddhima were watching the scene with a smile on their faces, happy that Anjali had such a loving and caring husband.
"Champ," Armaan called him. Atul immediately turned to him.
"Haan, bol," he said.
"Come here," Armaan commanded.
"What?" Atul asked, walking over to him.
"I want to introduce you to somebody," Armaan explained, gesturing towards Juhi Ma.
Atul smiled. "What's there to introduce. I know this is Juhi Aunty. She knows I'm Atul. Aur kitna introduce karega?" Atul asked.
"Champ!" Armaan reprimanded. "Tune kabhi Ma ko apne dad ka naam bataya?" He asked.
Atul sobered up immediately at the mention of his father. "Kya, Armaan, tu yeh saari baatein lekar baith gaya," he said forlornly. "Tujhe pata haina ki Papa..." He trailed off, not wanting to finish the sentence.
"Champ, tell Ma your dad's name, please," Armaan requested.
"Armaan!" Anjali shouted, coming to stand beside Atul. "You know everything, fir bhi, why are you forcing Atul to talk about Papa?"
Only Armaan and Anjali knew how emotional Atul got at the mention of his dad. He'd loved him so much and his untimely demise had left Atul broken.
Juhi Ma, who'd been a silent spectator had connected the dots to Armaan's insistence. She should have figured it out earlier only. I mean, how many Atul Joshis could be there in the world. A lot, she immediately thought. Which is why, she never dared hope that the young man standing in front of her was actually her late best friend's son.
"AJ?" She asked tearfully, her voice breaking the argument between Armaan and Anjali. Atul looked at her, shocked.
"How do you know that name?" He asked.
"AJ, main hu. Juhi Bui," she sobbed, holding his hand in hers.
"Ju - Ju - Juhi Bui?" Atul asked, his voice croaky.
Juhi Ma nodded frantically. "Haan," she replied.
Atul stifled a sob and threw himself in her waiting arms, hugging her tightly.
"Pata hai, maine aapko kitna miss kiya!" Atul cried. "Aap kahaan chale gaye the?"
"I'm sorry, bachcha. I'm so sorry," Juhi Ma replied, hugging Atul tighter to herself.
Armaan smiled through his tears as he saw them reuniting after so many years. Beside him, Anjali was openly sobbing. He laughed lightly and pulled her into a tight hug, comforting her.
"Shhh, it's okay Anjy," he murmured. Anjali nodded against his chest but continued to cry.
Her sobs made Atul pull back from Juhi Ma and turn to her. He smiled on seeing Armaan consoling her. Silently, he asked Armaan to pry Anjali away from himself so that Atul could take her. Armaan did as he was asked and Anjali immediately left his embrace to cling to Atul.
Atul was eventually able to calm her down and Armaan smiled on seeing them like this. His Champ had grown so much. Earlier, Anjali would never have sought comfort from Atul, but now, she was clinging to him like he was her last hope. It warmed his heart to see their relationship. He was so happy that Anjali had finally realized how much Atul adored her and how she wouldn't ever find someone who could hold a candle to Atul when it came to loving her.
Juhi Ma hugged him hard. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear. "Aaj meri family sach mein complete ho gayi."
Armaan smiled when he heard that. Juhi Ma pulled back and kissed his forehead, blessing him and wishing for a very happy life for her pseudo son.
When Anjali had calmed down enough, she pulled back from Atul's arms and tried to bend to touch Juhi Ma's feet. But, Juhi Ma wouldn't let her do that.
"We don't let daughters touch our feet in the house," she murmured, pulling Anjali in a hug.
As the two women bonded, Atul hugged Armaan. "Armaan, aaj tune mujhe sab kuch de diya, yaar. Tera yeh ehsaan..." He said, but was cut off by Armaan.
"Champ!" He rebuked harshly. "Bhai hai tu mera. Isse ehsaan keh kar, please, humaare relationship ki insult mat kar."
"Sorry," Atul apologized immediately, holding his ears. Armaan smiled at his cuteness and pulled him into another tight hug.
"Hawww! Without me!" Rahul exclaimed. He'd just entered the room with Abhi and Sid. They'd been talking about the hospital and how impressed Abhi was with the infrastructure.
Armaan and Atul pulled away from the hug, smiling. They each extended an arm and Rahul rushed in. After years, the trio shared a brotherly hug, making tears leak from their eyes. All those years ago, they'd taken these same hugs for granted. They used to hug so much, but never thought that their last hug would actually be their last hug.
"Guys, why are you getting so sentimental? This is a happy day! I got my son back! This calls for a celebration!" Juhi Ma announced, looking at Atul, Anjali and Armaan who were crying. Her words caused them to smile widely and nod.
"Yes, Ma. You're right! This calls for a celebration!" Armaan agreed.
Juhi Ma rushed into the kitchen to cook. It was a special day. She was going to make all of Atul's favourites today. She quickly called her husband and asked him to come to Inayat (Armaan's bungalow's name is Inayat, guys) asap. She was bursting at the seams to tell him the good news, but she wanted to see his reaction when she did so, which is why she didn't tell him over the phone. With that taken care of, she got to work in the kitchen.
Chote Papa got home a couple of hours later to find everyone laughing and joking in the living room. Like always. It made him so happy to see them all there, having so much fun. He was really going to miss this sight when the wedding was over and everyone left. He so badly wished to keep all these people with him, or go with them, but he couldn't. They had jobs, lives, waiting for them back in Mumbai. And, his entire world was here in New York - his family and his hospital. He sighed and shook his head, wanting to rid himself of the negative thoughts plaguing his mind. He would enjoy the few days he had with them and think of the future later.
Right now, he wanted to know what had gotten his wife so excited over the phone. So, after a quick greeting to everybody, he went in search of his wife, wondering why Atul had given him such a tight hug when he got there.
He found her in the kitchen, working along with Armaan. More like, issuing instructions as Armaan did all the grunt work.
"Hello, wifey," he greeted, smiling flirtatiously. It had been almost 40 years since their marriage, but he still loved her so very much.
"Hi, hubby," she greeted back, kissing his cheek.
"And, that's my cue to leave. Don't do anything in my kitchen," Armaan warned before leaving them alone, walking outside quickly with his hands over his eyes. He was so adorable!
"So, kya baat hai? Aaj madam bohot khush lag rahin hain?" He asked her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
Juhi nodded happily, encircling her arms around his neck. "Baat hi aisi hai."
"Really?" He questioned.
"Really!" She answered.
Rahul smiled on seeing her so happy. Ecstatic might have been a better description. Rahul couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her so happy.
"Has Vedika decided to introduce us to her new boyfriend?" He asked. Vedika had been dating someone for many months, but she still hadn't introduced the person to her parents. Now, Rahul & Juhi were pretty lenient when it came to the love lives of their children and hadn't ever objected to them dating anybody, but they liked to know what kind of person their kids were spending time with. So, they always invited potential boyfriends and girlfriends to dinner to get to know them better and guide their children in case they were making a wrong decision.
But, Vedika had been really stubborn and she hadn't introduced her boyfriend to them even after almost 4 months. Both Rahul and Juhi were sure that she was in love, and that made them all the more anxious to meet this person. But, whenever the topic came up, Vedika would steer the conversation in another direction, not letting them talk.
Frankly, Rahul was getting really fed up with it. He wanted to meet this guy, dammit! His babygirl was spending almost every waking minute with this boy and he deserved to know who it was.
"Sadly, no," Juhi replied, making Rahul pout. He really wished that had been the case.
"But, isse bhi better news hai," she continued, making Rahul look at her in question.
Juhi grinned widely, wiping a few tears that had leaked out of her eyes because she was so overwhelmed. "You remember AJ?" She asked.
"AJ? Omi's son?" Rahul asked quietly.
"Of course I remember him! He was like my own child. Usse kaise bhool sakta hu?" He asked Juhi rhetorically. "Itne saal ho gaye, Juhi. Kabhi kabhi sochta hu ki humein usse apne saath zabardasti le aana chabiye tha, ya fir uske saath wahin India mein ruk jana chahiye tha." Rahul really regretted leaving AJ to fend for himself, but Omi's death had really affected everyone in his family very badly. And, Sanjeevani New York had given him a great opportunity to further his career. He couldn't refuse it. They'd tried to bring AJ with them, but he'd vehemently refused, stating that he wouldn't leave the city that held all his memories of his father. With a heavy heart, the Mehras had left him behind.
"Woh yahaan hai, Rahul," Juhi said, making Rahul gasp.
"What, really?" He asked, unable to believe what his wife was saying. Juhi nodded.
"Woh, Atul haina? Dr. Shashank ka son in law?" She asked him. Seeing Rahul nod, she continued. "That's AJ."
"What?!?!?" Rahul exclaimed.
"Yes, even I didn't know. Woh toh main Armaan se Omi ke baare mein baat kar rahi thi. And baaton baaton mein, uske bete ki baat nikli. Toh Armaan ko realize hua ki jiski main baat kar rahi hu woh toh Atul hai," she said, narrating the entire incident to him.
"I'm... I'm just going to go see him, okay? Abhi... abhi aaya," Chote Papa announced, rushing out of the kitchen.
Atul was talking to Muskaan and Nikki, telling them about the unexpected revelation of his father's best friends being Rohan's parents. When he was younger, Atul had always admired his "Juhi Bui so very much. She'd been his father's best friend, like his sister.
After his father's death, Juhi Bui had asked Atul and his mom to move to the States to be with them, seeing as Omi was the only family the two had and things were difficult after his death, but his mom had immediately refused the offer, not wanting to move from the city that had memories of her husband. Atul had agreed with his mom and so, the two had stayed in Mumbai even after the Mehras had moved to New York, despite constant pleadings from Rahul & Juhi.
As the years passed them by, they all got busy with their own lives with Chitra (Atul's mom) trying to earn enough money for her and Atul to get by and Rahul & Juhi settling in their new home and raising 4 kids. So, they lost touch, as was expected, but Atul remembered the one phone call after his mom's death. None of the Mehras had been present for the funeral because Rahul Fufu's mom had been terribly ill, but the minute they got the news, Juhi Bui had called Atul and asked him to come to New York and live with them, an offer he'd gently declined.
Post that phone call, Juhi had tried to stay in touch with Atul, but it had been really difficult, owing to Atul's reluctance to talk. Talking to Juhi only reminded Atul of what he had lost, and so, he tended to shy away from her phone calls, which slowly started dwindling till one day, they stopped.
And then, Atul joined Sanjeevani and found his own family, which made him forget about the others. His co - interns at Sanjeevani and Dr. Keerti and Dr. Shubhankar, along with Padma Aunty and Nani had made Atul feel like he was a part of their family and nothing else had mattered. But then, their happy life had shattered after the incident on Armaan and Riddhima's engagement and Atul was left all alone once again.
Now, 8 years later, he had found his brothers again. And today, they had given him back his last link to his parents, his aunt and uncle, who he had adored so very much once upon a time but had failed to recognize the, because of how long it had been since he'd last seen them (almost 25 years) or talked to them (almost 17 years).
"Atul?" Rahul Mehra's voice interrupted their discussion.
Atul looked up at him with tears in his eyes, unable to believe that his Rahul Fufu was standing in front of him right this instant. He immediately got up and pulled the elder man into a hug, which was returned fiercely.
As Atul sobbed in his uncle's arms, he realized, that for the first time in 25 years, he felt like he had a father.
Everyone was really tired after their shift at the hospital. Plus, it had been an emotional day. Atul had just realized that Rohan's parents had been his dad's close friends when they worked at Sanjeevani. His Juhi Bui and Rahul Fufu (as he affectionately liked to call them), who'd been like a second set of parents for him, but had moved to USA when he'd been very young. It was like he'd found his parents again.
The same could be said for the elder couple, who'd been fussing on Atul like he was their own. It seemed they'd forgotten he was a grown man, who was about to have a kid of his own, because they were treating him like he was still a 6 year old boy. Atul was basking in it.
Anjali looked at her husband, grinning widely. For the longest time, Atul had craved a family of his own. His father had died during his childhood and his mother, shortly after he'd joined med school. So, yes, he hadn't had a parent love over him for quite a while. Her own parents were nice, and they liked Atul, but only as their daughter's husband. Not like their own son - the way she wished they would. But, she realized that she couldn't blame her parents entirely. The last 7 years hadn't been easy on them.
Riddhima's aloofness had really been a prickling thorn in her parents' life. She understood where Riddhima was coming from, she really did - when she'd decided to separate from Sid because neither of them were happy in the relationship, they'd vehemently refused and her father had wasted no time in blaming Armaan for the whole situation. But, she knew, as much as her father blamed Armaan for everything wrong in Riddhima's life, he blamed himself more.
Riddhima had always been the quiet, meek one of the two, who always obeyed their father, no matter what. Anjali had been more outspoken, refusing to do things his way, ever since childhood. Which is why, Dr. Shashank never tried to take any decisions for her because he knew Anjali would do what she wanted to, no matter how much he tried to explain that he was only doing it for her good. But, that wasn't the case with Riddhima. Riddhima would always listen to what her father had to say and do things the way it pleased him, rather than her. So, Shashank had become accustomed to taking decisions for Riddhima. The slightest sign of rebellion from Riddhima upset Shashank a lot because he'd never seen her do it before. And Riddhima questioned Shashank only after Armaan came into her life, which is why Shashank disliked him so much. He knew that Armaan was the catalyst for Riddhima questioning his choices or refusing to abide by his decisions. But then, these decisions, the ones he forced on his daughter using her immense love for himself and her mother as bait, had caused Riddhima's personal life to dissolve into nothingness. So, yes, Shashank blamed himself too.
With all these changes in their life - Armaan moving away, Riddhima and Sid separating and then Riddhima not coming back home, but instead choosing to live separately - had been cause of a lot of emotional upheaval in her parents' life. It didn't help that for a long time, Anjali had blamed them for Riddhima's broken marriage too. She knew that her parents were only doing what they thought was best for Riddhima, but in doing so, the person they'd hurt most had been Riddhima herself - the one person both her parents loved most in the world.
So, when Anjali had started dating Atul and then later expressed her desire to marry him, they'd agreed immediately without any fuss. They were afraid of making the same mistake again. When Anjali had broached the subject of marriage, she's endured no resistance from her family. Soon after, her and Atul had been married in a small, intimate ceremony without any pomp and fare.
Anjali had always wanted a big, lavish wedding with all the bells and whistles, but she understood that such a wedding was not the best option because of the situation they were in. Though Atul was genuinely happy about the wedding and looking forward to sharing his life with Anjali, she knew he didn't want that big ceremony. He didn't have any family apart from Muskaan, Nikki and Abhi who'd all decided to represent the groom's side when the wedding was announced. And, she knew that Armaan and Rahul's absence would be a sore thumb for her would - be husband. The two of them were Atul's closest friends, more like brothers, and she knew he would have wanted them by his side more than anyone else the day he got married. Having a big wedding with a ton of her relatives would only have rubbed it in his face that he had no family.
Also, she didn't want those nosy aunties commenting on Riddhima's annulment. Those ladies didn't even understand that Riddhima wasn't divorced and had been quick to label her as a divorcee. Annulments weren't the same as divorces. An annulment meant that the courts acknowledged that such a marriage never existed. It wasn't a valid marriage. Divorces meant that the marriage had happened, it was legal and valid and binding, and now, the parties involved were choosing to undo it. But, who would explain all this to them? Especially when they would call anybody who tried to correct their mistakes arrogant or spoilt? So, yeah. She didn't want them around.
If all those weren't reasons enough, she'd seen how detached her parents had been from the whole wedding process. It seemed that their prior bad experience with their daughter's wedding was inadvertently colouring this happy occasion too. She didn't want them to have to go through the motions of a large, upscale wedding any more than she wanted to force it upon Atul.
So, yes. A small, simple, intimate wedding had been the way to go about it.
After the wedding, their lives had all carried on as usual and nothing had changed. Riddhima still treated Atul as a dear friend, only teasing him with the moniker of jeeju rarely, when she was in a good mood (something that in itself was a rare thing to happen) and her parents still treated him as one of their daughters' friend/colleague and not like their son - in - law. Though it hurt Atul, he understood where they were coming from and didn't try to change their attitude. After Riddhima's marriage, Dr. Shashank and Padma Aunty had treated Sid like their own and the end of their marriage had left them with a crippling guilt of having done him wrong. They weren't able to look in his eye for years. So, he never pushed.
Which is why, Anjali knew that Juhi Bui and Rahul Fufu's (as they'd insisted she call them) presence in their lives would only make things better for them as a family. Now that they were going to have a child of their own, Anjali was extremely happy that they would have two sets of grandparents like any other child who doted on them and loved them. Atul would finally find the contentment of a family - which was all she'd ever wanted for him.
So, yes. This was a really important day for one Dr. Atul Joshi. He'd found his family. But, it was an even more important day for his wife.
Thank God! Finally this is done! I've been writing this chapter for the past month. Lekin finish hi nahi ho raha tha. Aaj jaake hua hai. Waise, I still feel this one is not exactly up to the mark, but ab main isko aur better nahi bana sakti. So, isse hi kaam chala lo.
Think of this as a late anniversary present for #11YearsOfDMG !
And, Happy Birthday, Sheena! Sorry, yeh Abhi - Nikki centric nahi hai, but I will definitely write something about them soon. :)
Please, please, please batao kaisa laga! :D
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