Five years have passed, Five years ever since I left India and my life over there behind. Life has changed ever since I left India. I have changed. The pain has changed me to such an extent that I am no longer the same chirpy riddhima that I used to be. I have no regret of leaving India but somewhere in my heart, I have a regret that before leaving, I couldn’t tell armaan my feelings and neither told him about my decision of leaving the country. I still remember when papa told me that armaan had come to home to meet me, a week after my departure because my mobile phone was coming unreachable. Papa said when he informed armaan about my decision of leaving the country he was shocked and shattered. Yes, he was shattered that’s what papa said and at that time I could clearly imagine his expressions.
Nevertheless, I was helpless if I had to keep our friendship intact I needed time to accept the reality, a reality that said armaan would never love me the way I love him. Until I felt confident that I won’t breakdown in front of armaan I decided not to talk to him.
Nevertheless, that time never came. I thought I would call him after a week but then also I wasn’t confident if I would be able to explain him the reason behind why I left India. Weeks turned into months and months into years. From past five years I haven’t been able to gain the courage to call armaan and explain him the reason why I left India without informing him.
I know to keep our friendship intact I came here so that we can remain in touch on call without him seeing my facial expressions because if he saw me every day while talking about his marriage it wouldn’t take him long to understand my feelings for him. However, it wasn’t as easy as I thought, after coming here I was quite depressed and loneliness had engulfed me. If he had heard my sad voice, he would have coaxed me to spill the truth. Due to lack of courage, I have failed to keep our friendship intact, which was the sole reason why I had left India.
Now it feels as if it was not worth it. To keep our friendship intact I left India stayed away from my parents, family and friends and still after sacrificing everything, I couldn’t keep our friendship intact. May be I should have told him my feelings that would have ended our friendship in a better way considering the fact that it has ended on a very bad note. By telling him my feelings, I would have just lost him and his friendship but would have had my family and friends to help me cope with that loss. Now I have not only lost him and his friendship but my family and friends as well. I just hoped and prayed that if I ever meet armaan again I am able to act normally in front of him.
Coming to present, today I work with one of the elite company in the country. I am proud of myself that in such less time I have achieved the position of assistant manager. Now I can finally call my parents here to stay with me. I miss their presence near me. Through video calls, I can see them but it can’t compensate for the feeling that shall come with their presence around me.
Finally, I arrive at my office. I look at my office with a smile and then start walking towards it. Every day I walk the same path but today there was a strange feeling inside me. I was feeling restless, but why? I had no answer to this question. Something inside me was telling that today something was about to happen, something that I do not wan’t it to happen. I was having second thoughts of attending the office today. In past five years, I haven’t felt such way then why today? What was going to happen today? I was standing in front of the office gate and for the first time in these five years I was not having the courage to cross this gate. An unknown feeling was stopping me from going inside. I was busy thinking what to do when my manager who just arrived greeted morning to me. I smiled and wished him back. Now I had no choice but to go inside so, I walked along with him.
My manager and I were in the lift when he said, “Today some delegates are coming from India and our bosses want our team to take care of them. You remember about the project I told you two days back?” I nodded my head in yes and said “But that was supposed to start after two weeks right?” He smiled and said “Yes but apparently its preponed. I also got to know about it today morning. I got a call from boss; he informed me that it was a last minute decision so he couldn’t inform us yesterday about it. He wants us to be the part of that project as it involves Indians. He also said since we both are Indians it will be our responsibility to make their stay a comfortable one”.
I looked at him and smiled. Yes, my manager was Indian and his name was Abhimanyu Modi. When I was new in this office, he was the first one whom I talked with. May be because he was Indian I felt like talking to him. This country and its people were strangers for me. I was missing the warmth, care and love of family so when I saw him in office I felt relieved. Even though we share a boss and employee relationship, but for me he would always be my mentor. He has always guided me both professionally and personally. I have not shared about my past with him yet but whenever I feel low or upset he always cheers me up. To my relief, he has never asked me about my past, never questioned me that why I do not visit India. Many a times I have sent gifts for my parents through him whenever he has gone India to visit his family. Sometimes my parents have sent gifts for me through him and whenever I saw those gifts, they have brought tears in my eyes. The feeling of loneliness has always engulfed me whenever I saw those gifts sent by parents.
The lift opened and I walked towards my seat while he walked towards his cabin. Before entering his cabin he called my name and said “Riddhima meet me in fifteen minutes as delegates will arrive in one hour and we need to prepare our self for meeting. Boss has mailed me all the presentations and we need to have a look at it”. I smiled and nodded my head in ‘Yes’.
Once I settled on my own seat, I opened my drawer and took out a photo. It was armaan and me in the photo. This photo was taken when we were in the first year of college. It was of the time when I considered him as my best friend. This photo was to remind myself that he was, is and will remain my best friend, nothing more. This compelled me to think would he be a married man now? He was engaged five years ago due to which I left India so logically he must be a married man by now.
In these past five years a question kept haunting me and that was ‘did he missed me even once in these five years?’ Logic said no because if he would have missed me he would have taken some effort to find me or connect with me over calls and mails. Heart said yes he missed me. I was his best friend with whom he used to share all his turmoil, his happiness etc. He must have missed me when he must have felt lonely or extremely happy. This has brought me back to the same question if he indeed missed me then why didn’t he contacted me? Question has always remained same but answers kept changing. Sometimes I thought maybe he got busy with life and forgot about me. Sometimes I thought maybe he was married and now his wife replaced my place in his life. This one really hurts because can someone’s presence be replaced by someone else’s presence so easily. While growing up I have always heard every individual is different then, my presence should also be different. how can my presence in his life be replaceable?
This again compelled me to think of another reason that was, maybe now he has his own family, and above all, he can share his turmoil or happiness with them. To be specific if was married then he has a life partner and that person would always be above friends. A place that could never be mine no matter how much I wanted it to be mine.
My thoughts were broken when my Abhimanyu called me on the intercom. I kept aside all my thoughts and took a long breath before walking towards Abhimanyu’s cabin. I knocked on his door and after he said come in I walked inside his cabin. For next one hour, we kept discussing about the project. Since it was a last minute decision, the team that was going to visit our office their names were still unknown. Suddenly Abhimanyu’s phone rang and after he kept the receiver, he said that the team has arrived and we need to proceed towards the meeting hall. I smiled at him and then we both walked towards the meeting hall. While I was walking that strange feeling that I was feeling in the morning returned. With each step towards the meeting hall, that strange feeling kept increasing. I was continuously pressing both my hands to control myself. This strange feeling was as if something was burning inside me, I felt heaviness in my chest.
We finally reached the meeting hall and Abhimanyu opened the door for both of us. As soon as I entered the hall, I saw it was empty. I looked at Abhimanyu and was about to question him when he himself gave me the answer to my unasked question.
“The delegates are on their way towards this hall. They may come any moment just see if everything is ok or not” abhmanyu said.
I nodded my head and started checking the room if everything was in order or not. After few minutes, the door opened and the delegates started entering the room one by one. Along with them, our manager also entered.
I smiled at the delegates present in the hall and greeted each of them with a polite handshake. I was going through the contents of the folder given to me by my manager just now when my eyes landed on the person standing in front of me. I had felt someone staring at me and out of curiosity instead of reading the file, I looked towards the person, perhaps a wrong decision. I hoped I mistook him for someone else and tried to find solace in that. Nevertheless, I knew I was wrong when he smiled at me warmly. It was none other than Rahul Ghrewal. Yes Rahul, armaan and mine’s college friend. My heart stopped beating for a second and I started searching around frantically for Armaan. I tried to calm down when I did not find him and convinced myself that Rahul might have been here on the project and Armaan might still be in India. I believed it, for I did not have the energy left in me to meet him now, as I was still not ready to face him. I know I was wrong to leave India without informing him and he might be angry as well but still I am not prepared to meet him.
My world came crashing down when Armaan Mallik walked inside the hall with no expressions on his face. I felt as if I had received a punch on my face when I watched him walk in to the hall with my manager. All the blood drained off my face and I felt my limbs shaking slightly. I just kept staring at him without blinking my eyes. The world stopped when he looked towards me. Our eyes met and I could not breathe for few seconds. He had absolutely no expressions on his face; it looked like there was calmness before the storm. Sweat started forming on my forehead as I dread to think what will happen next. All I could hope now was that I was not assign to work with him otherwise hell will break loose.
Abhimanyu kept his hand on my shoulder and that brought me back to reality. I looked at him and smiled. He asked me if I was fine and I gently nodded my head in ‘yes’. Rahul was still standing in front of me so I quickly masked my face and shook hands with him. Rahul smiled warmly and moved ahead. I knew from his expressions that I would have to play question answer session with him later.
I slowly looked towards armaan and saw he was already looking towards me. His eyes was speaking volumes. I could see anger, pain, shocked, hurt and jealousy in them. Jealousy did I really saw that or was it a figment of my imagination? It had to be an imagination why would he be jealous? My heart skipped a beat when he started walking towards me.
Upon reaching, he shook hands with Abhimanyu and said, “It’s good to see Indians in this foreign country. Our stay will be indeed fun”.
With his voice tone, I knew he was being sarcastic but what has Abhimanyu done to receive this sarcastic comment? Did it really meant for Abhimanyu? I required no answer it was meant for me. I was trying to understand the meaning of that sentence when he turned towards me for shaking hands. He held his hand out for handshake.
I first looked towards his hand and then towards his face. This time his eyes displayed the emotion of anger. If one could kill someone with that expression then armaan would have killed me by now. I slowly extended my hands for handshake. As soon as our hands met, he squeezed my hands showing his anger. I was trying hard not to show any kind of pain on my face.
After few seconds, before leaving my hand he whispered “It was an indeed pleasure to see you here riddhima. Prepare yourself now”.
He went and sat on his designated seat. He was constantly looking towards me. I was feeling uncomfortable under his intense gaze. Soon everyone sat on their respective seats and the meeting began. Apart from me, I felt Rahul was the only silent spectator of the building tension in the room that everyone was unaware of. After looking at Armaan's clenched jaw, my face would have paled by now. I was trying hard to control my inner turmoil. I just hoped no one saw my paled face.
The presentation finished and now was the time to announce who will assist whom. I dread to think what will happen if I would be assigned to work with armaan. I winced when my manager read out the names of who will assist whom. Whatever blood was remaining on my face, it was gone when I heard whom I would assist. I looked at armaan and his face had turned red when he heard his assistant’s name. I was sure that the hell was about to break loose in the cabin. The only good thing about it was Rahul and Abhimanyu too would be around me. That would save me from being grilled with armaan’s question answer session. With Abhimanyu around, he would not dare to ask me anything else apart from work related questions. I prayed that he should not ask any personal question in front of Abhimanyu at least. What’s between us should remain between us only.
I took several deep breaths before knocking on Abhimanyu's cabin. It was decided that one team which had Abhimanyu and me would have our meeting in abhimanyu’s cabin. I was already dreading facing him for two reasons. Firstly, I was left breathless in the hall one hour ago when I witnessed anger in his eyes that was directed towards me. Secondly, I was already 10 minutes late for the meeting.
"Come in." I heard his deep voice and felt my heart beat increasing.
"I am so sorry Arm um Mr. Mallik. I was late because-" I tried to explain the reason behind me coming late as soon as I entered the cabin but he cut me short.
"Ms. Gupta, I hate excuses and the people who use them to cover their mistakes. So save them for yourself." Armaan shouted at me. His formal tone scared me and all his team members present in the cabin along with Abhimanyu stared at me.
"But-" I tried again.
"I don’t like to repeat myself so if we are done with your nonsense, shall we get back to more important stuff?" His sarcastic tone pained me. Our friendship was really lost somewhere. The person who never talked with me rudely was now being sarcastic and shouting at me.
All his team members, along with Abhimanyu, looked at Armaan for his lashing out at me. I guess like me even they all knew him as a sweet dimpled guy from India and never saw him in such a temper. I almost dropped the papers I was holding.
I blinked away the tears threatening to spill from my eyes and swallowed the lump that was forming in my throat. I didn't understand why he was behaving rudely with me. Nevertheless, I knew one thing for sure I was shaken completely with his hatred that I just witnessed in his voice. Of all the reactions, I had expected out from him, this was not even on my list. I thought when we would meet he would either play question answer session with me or ignore my presence completely. However, second one, would have left her shattered but this one is killing her.
"Y, Ye, Yes." I answered, lowering my face, signalling that I have surrendered.
"Good!" He said sternly and turned to Abhimanyu who was looking at us with shocked look.
“Armaan is everything fine?” Abhimanyu asked him, as he was puzzled with his outburst.
“Not yet but everything will be fine soon” armaan said while looking at me.
I swallowed the lump that was forming in my throat. I walked and quietly took my seat. During the discussion, I was trying to focus on the discussion that was going on in the cabin. Nevertheless, all I could feel was emptiness inside me. I felt exhausted and drained by the end of the meeting because Armaan played rapid-fire questions with me. His rude and sarcastic tone indirectly conveyed he was insulting me for the lack of knowledge rather letting me think when I fumbled with the answers.
I excused myself quickly when the meeting was over and rushed to the washroom. I shut myself in the washroom and let the tears fall from my eyes. I did not expect that one decision taken five years back would destroy our friendship to such an extent that we would face trouble in facing each other let alone talking. I was able to live with the fact that he didn't love her but I won’t be able to live with the fact that their friendship was also over. I can’t lose armaan’s friendship, I know I was wrong and I am ready to apologise as well not once but many times but how will I apologise if he continues to behave indifferent?
I looked at the mirror and said, “I know armaan it was my fault all along, even after coming here I didn’t contact you to explain my sudden departure. I should have called you but I wasn’t sure if my false excuse would have convinced you or not. I know it is because of me that we have distance in our friendship and now I will only have to bridge the gap between us. I can’t take your indifferent behaviour its killing me armaan. It pains to see a sweet and caring friend turning into a stranger. You were never like this armaan what has happened to you? So much rudeness, from where did you get this? I want us to be friends like before and that will happen no matter what I have to do. I will do everything to reinstate our friendship. I have lost my love but I am not ready to lose my friendship. I have postponed our confrontation for long and it’s about time “Dill main dabi baat” comes out.
I know i am updating this story after a long time but in between i had written this story, somehow i didn't like the out come of it so deleted it and wrote again. I know i said this story will have two parts but when i started writing this part i felt there should be a pov of armaan as well otherwise story will remain incomplete. So next part will be the final part along with armaan's POV. Btw hope the wait was worth it.
Waiting to read your comments, suggestions and feedback as they motivate me to improve further. Really looking forward for your reviews.