She was having cramps since morning and was taken to Breach Candy soon. As she was being wheeled in the OT, Nihal requested the doctor if he too could accompany Shaheen inside.
Shaheen felt a cool touch of someone’s hands on her forehead, she opened her eyes in that reaping pain and saw Niharika Oberoi standing at her head. She squeezed Shaheen’s hands and said excitedly, “now go inside quickly and give me the good news soon, tell the junior, Grandma can’t wait to hold her in her hands”
“HER?” asked a surprised Shaheen, “how do you know it’s a girl? Might be a boy ”
“Experience beta, the way you have been glowing lately and have bloomed and started looking more beautiful, it has to be a girl.”
Her next conscious memory was when she was handed over a cute little chubby fair baby with curly hair all over the head, wrapped in a pink blanket by the doctor. She was dwelling between conscious and subconscious and heard the doctor saying, “Congratulations you have a beautiful baby girl” and the baby in her arms nestled in the crook of her nape and neck and snuggled against her bare flesh.
“This is the most divine feeling only a woman goes through,” she thought and saw through her veiled eyes, Nihal and Niharika Oberoi were standing and smiling at her. Both mother and son, blissfully happy at the advent of the new family member.
The baby was named Roshni as both Shaheen and Nihal knew what a bright light she has brought to their lives. Her toothless smile, her gummy grins, her little fingers, angry cries whenever she was hungry or wanted to be cradled in arms, everything brightened up their days and nights.
Niharika came and stayed with them for 4 months teaching Shaheen how to bathe the baby, how to feed her and other necessary things, post partum care was also needed for Shaheen, which she ensured.
After Roshni’s birth and as she was growing up Avantika had sort of accepted her defeat because everything in life was either a victory or defeat to Avantika. But she didn’t stop extorting money from Nihal.
Money and status were her 2 main weaknesses which became her nemesis too.
Avantika was throwing a huge party to launch her new range of perfume after her clothing line which was a tremendous success. There was not a single celebrity be it from any walk of life; actors, sportsmen, industrialists, politicians and the entire press were invited in the grand launch.
Oberoi senior had personally hired the best event management company of the country to organize the party. He left no stone unturned to make it a talk of the town party for ages to come. Nihal was invited but he refused politely and his father never forced him after that showdown after the Karwachauth party.
Shaheen and Nihal were busy playing with Roshni and then Nihal went to watch the news. Shaheen joined him too after putting Roshni to bed.
Like a bolt from the blue, the reporters started reporting there was a huge car accident near Sea Link and the car has been smashed from both the sides, the front side totally ambushed. The car was being driven by Mrs.Avantika Oberoi, she had been brutally injured and had been rushed to Lilavati Hospital.
Nihal jumped up from the couch “Shaheen I will have to go”, “Yes you should” she agreed.
“You try and sleep and I will keep you updated.”
She couldn’t sleep the whole night and was fixated to the TV screen. She saw Nihal reaching the hospital and was escorted inside. The reporters were reporting the same story and were waiting for the latest updates. A few hours later Nihal called and said “Avantika was driving that SUV herself in a complete inebriated state; doctors just told me this after checking her blood sample. She is in a comatose stage, like a vegetable and there is no guarantee she will ever recover, she may live for next 20 years or may expire tomorrow,” Nihal updated Shaheen, “I am coming home” he added.
Shaheen sat silently and told herself “I never wished her ill. I never wanted this for her, never, my God knows that, my heart knows that. Please, Avantika wake up, wake up and fight with me as you have always done. Don’t lie there like a vegetable, doesn’t suit your status Mrs.Oberoi.”
Next morning a surprise visitor came to meet Shaheen, while Nihal was still sleeping out of last night’s exhaustion.
Mr.Mrigank Oberoi, father of Nihal Oberoi came to meet Shaheen.
He sat and looked into Shaheen’s red-rimmed eyes and in a booming voice he said, “You must be terribly surprised as in why I have come, well I will not waste either of our time and juggle with words. You must know I love Avantika as my own daughter, however mean or unfair she has been to Nihal, I couldn’t reprimand her as I should have done. Neither could I control her wild lifestyle and boozing. Today I agree she was not the correct choice for my son, but nevertheless, I still love that child. I do respect your sacrifices too and understood what searing pain you must have gone through every time Avantika attacked you or humiliated you.
Anyway; I have come to ask for a favor. I want to take Avantika to the States and have already consulted a team of doctors there. They will treat her for a month and a half and then we will have to accept what is there in Avantika’s fate. Nihal too has to accompany us because there will be a number of medical documents he would need to sign there before each course of treatment as her legal husband. I will tell this to Nihal, but you have to let him go. He will not go unless you approve of it.
Can I expect this from you as someone who must be your father’s age and has come with a request for someone who is dying?”
“Mr.Oberoi, I am quite surprised that you don’t know your son at all. His humane side will force him to go whether I approve of it or not. And why should I not let him go? I know exactly where I stand and I am not one bit insecure about my relationship with Nihal. Had it been fragile, you would not have come to me today morning, even you know how strongly cemented our relationship is.
You know Mr.Oberoi, I belong to a very simple family where I have been taught to value your commitments and remain humane and honest under any circumstances. And my relationship with Nihal has taught me you don’t need to sign any legal papers or follow any religious rituals or have a lavish party to get married, that’s wedding, not marriage.
Avantika is wedded to Nihal but I am married to Nihal. Do you want to know how? We are united by our souls, we are entwined by our hearts, we are committed for the lifetime and my marriage will not come in the way of my husband’s duty and humanity. We trust each other implicitly and our respect has never withered however big a storm came, now that’s MARRIAGE, isn’t it? You approach Nihal, he will surely go, I will personally pack his things.”
Mr.Mrigank Oberoi was astounded by Shaheen’s show of grace, humility and confidence. He blessed her in his minds and thought, “if only it was in our hands when we meet whom in our lives, I would have wanted Nihal to meet Shaheen at least 2 decades back. Now who can turn the clock? At least not us, humans.
Nihal went as Shaheen predicted and today after failing every effort of Mr.Mrigank Oberoi, Avantika left the world. Nihal had done everything dutifully; all her last rites were performed by Nihal as it should have been done.
“The trauma finally ended. The picture ran for too long, 16 years to be precise” thought Shaheen as she was waiting for Nihal to come back. The time again was testing her patience. It was close to 3 am in the morning.
The doorbell rang and Shaheen ran towards the door with beating heart and anticipation. She opened the door and Nihal walked in, they stood facing each other. Time stood still.
Two pairs of eyes stared at each other with love and affinity enmeshed with respect, trust and ample amount of agony of this long separation. The pangs of the pain were so strong and palpable that they both felt electrocuted and went in each other’s arms. They stood there hugging each other losing the count of time and moments, each recollecting the memories of the past 16 years in their own way.
“Marry me Shaheen, will you?” Nihal whispered in Shaheen’s ears not letting her slip away from his embrace, he tightened his arms more firmly.
Shaheen was crying softly, she freed herself from Nihal, cupped his face in her hands and kissed his forehead and in a firm yet affectionate tone said, “No Nihal. I will not. In these 16 years, I have designed my life, my thoughts, and my universe as your wife only, even though the world called me your mistress or keep. I for once never thought you to be my live-in partner; to me, you were always my husband, my life partner and I know you too never thought of me as your live in girlfriend, to you I was and I am your wife.
I can read that in your eyes, in your every gesture. I don’t want to sign any two bit legal papers or go through some religious rituals and make a farce of our 16 years old relationship, spare me that Nihal. I am happy and gratified as Shaheen Afroz, I will be demeaning my own values and principles if today I go through all that circus and become Mrs.Shaheen Oberoi only because Avantika doesn’t exist in this mortal world anymore. It will kill my dignity as an individual.
You surely don’t want that. Do you Nihal?” she asked, “No jaan I don’t want that. I only wish the world now spare a thought about you who have suffered in silence for so many years, rest I am a content man, ensconced in your arms, cuddling my little princess and coming back to a place called HOME after a hard day to my WIFE and child. Thank You for giving me that.”
Nihal emotionally hugged back Shaheen but not before kissing her tear strained eyelids and forehead. There is always a zone where right and wrong, legal and illegal, normal and abnormal and especially societal norms take a backseat, only personal gratification and mental peace predominate, these two wounded souls Shaheen and Nihal were transported to that zone for never to look back again.
The sun was rising in the east to a new beginning.