SIX MONTHS LATER
Aarush was making frantic calls one after the other, his forehead full of sweat and worry-lines, Love and Sameera were trying to support him but to no use. His parents were there along with Radhika’s parents. Radhika was inside the operation theatre.
‘What happened doctor? Any progress?’ Aarush jumped at the doctor who came out of the operation theatre for the first time in two hours.
‘Nothing, we can’t say anything right now Mr Choudhury, excuse me…’ the doctor excused himself and walked right past him.
‘I can’t believe it…’ Aarush kicked the bench lying outside the OT, and folded his hands to pray.
‘It will be alright son, why are you worrying?’
‘Because it’s my wife inside, who is having a baby!’ Aarush shouted at his own mother because of tension, and immediately realized his mistake, ‘I am sorry maa, just that I am too worried…’
‘It’s okay! You know you took almost fourteen hours to come out. I was in labour pain for that long time!’
‘But I’m not going to let Radhika suffer for that long. We will opt for C-section if it takes anymore time…’ saying this, Aarush walked towards the doctor’s cabin.
‘May I come in, Sir?’
‘Yes sure, Mr Choudhury…please have a seat!’
‘Thank you Doctor, I just want to ask you if Radhika is alright…’
‘Absolutely she is! There’s no need to worry. She’s fine, she’s dilated, just a little more time and we can have the baby.’
‘If there’s any problem, we can always resort to C-section, I have no issues…’
‘I can understand your condition Mr Choudhury, but having a C-section when the mother can give natural birth, is not recommended. Natural birth is always better than Caesarean and no doubt even we doctors recommend new mothers to go for natural birth…’
‘If you say so…but I am worried about my wife.’
‘I know, of course you are! Every husband is…’ saying this the doctor got up, ‘Excuse me, Mr Choudhury, I’ve got to attend another case. Mrs Saxena is there inside the operation theatre, with your wife, and I can assure you, she’s in the best hands! She’s the best gynaecologist of the city!’
‘Thank you doctor…’ Aarush got up and followed the doctor out of the cabin.
Still worried and troubled, Aarush was strolling restlessly outside the operation theatre, in the corridor.
‘Have something, son. You haven’t eaten a single thing since morning!’ Radhika’s mother asked her son-in-law to have lunch.
‘No, it’s alright maa…even Radhika hasn’t had anything, and she’s in the middle of a childbirth. How can I eat anything?’
‘It’s alright maa…’ Aarush didn’t want anymore discussions on this.
After one more hour, even Sahil and his girlfriend Sheeba came to the hospital.
‘Hey man, what’s the news?’ Sahil asked Love who was sitting in a corner with Sameera. He had spotted a worried father-to-be and didn’t want to disturb him.
‘Nothing at all. Radhika is still inside, and the doctors are saying she can have a baby any moment now!’
‘And they are saying that since morning!’ Love looked at Sahil with a straight face now.
‘Oh…’ Sahil didn’t know what more to say.
‘I hope everything is alright…’ Sheeba expressed her worries.
‘I’m sure it will be, Radhika is a strong woman!’ Sameera said.
‘Let me meet Aarush.’ Sahil got up and went to Aarush who was worried and strolling with one hand in his pocket and other on his forehead.
‘Hey brother!’ Sahil patted his shoulder.
‘Hey! When did you come?’
‘Oh, how’s Sheeba? When are you planning to marry her?’
‘Next year. Her family knows about us, and have agreed for the alliance, but Sheeba’s grandfather expired so the wedding is delayed, we would have otherwise had it this year only!’
‘Oh great! Don’t worry, you are anyways living with her, what’s the issue?’
‘No man…that’s the issue! Her family called her back to spend some time with them before she gets married to me. I am once again – alone!’
‘That’s still fine, as long as you are not Love!’ Aarush commented and Sahil laughed.
‘So what’s up with Radhika? Any news from inside?’ Sahil inquired.
‘Nothing man, even I am waiting for the same.’
‘Yeah brother…I was thinking that we would enjoy Love’s wedding all together!’
‘That we will, why do you worry about that?’
‘No, just that it would be difficult for Radhika to drink and party that soon, isn’t it?’
‘Yeah, that of course will be a problem, but it’s okay man! Love is getting married next month, there’s still plenty of time for Radhika to recover!’
‘Hmm…so we all grew up…’ Sahil looked at Aarush and could see a father waiting for his baby.
‘Yeah brother…we did!’ Aarush hugged him. He could still remember their old times when they used to fight for cutting-chai and now, they had stable relationships, one was married and expecting a baby, and the other two were going to marry. Life indeed had changed a lot.
‘Congratulations, Mr Choudhury!’ a nurse walked out of the operation theatre after almost seven hours since Radhika checked into the hospital.
‘Oh thank God!’ Aarush wiped off the sweat off his face, ‘Is Radhika alright?’
‘Yeah, ma’am is fine, you are blessed with a baby girl!’ The nurse smiled.
‘What? Awesome!’ Aarush hugged Sahil and Love joined them both.
‘See, I told you…I told you right?’ Aarush was jumping with joy.
‘Mom, you finally became a grandmother to a baby-daughter!’ Aarush hugged his mother and father, and also touched the feet of his in-laws.
‘We can’t be happier, Aarush…’ his mother-in-law kissed his forehead.
‘Thank you maa…’ Aarush had tears in his eyes. He hugged Sameera and Sheeba who congratulated him for the new-born.
‘I can’t express how happy I am…’ Aarush had moist eyes. He was never as emotional, and happy at the same time, as he was today.
‘Sister…’ he called a nurse from the cabin next to him.
‘Yes, Mr Choudhury?’
‘Can I see my girl?’
‘The baby is in the nursery. The nurses are cleaning it up actually, they will bring it back in a minute…’
‘No, I am talking about my wife actually!’ Aarush cleared the confusion.
‘Oh! That…’ the nurse started laughing and nodded in approval. Aarush entered the operation theatre, where Radhika was lying in the bed, her eyes closed and her hand pierced with a needle in it.
‘Hey sweetheart…’ Aarush kissed her forehead, ‘Congratulations!’
‘Aarush…’ Radhika faintly whispered.
‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ Radhika didn’t know that.
‘It’s a boy, isn’t it? That’s why you are grinning with joy, you got your teammate to revolt against me in the house…’ she smiled with weakness.
‘Hey, no! It’s my teammate yes, undoubtedly, but it’s a girl! Don’t worry, even she will revolt against you in the house!’ Aarush smirked and Radhika punched him lightly. He grabbed her arm and hugged her tight.
‘Can’t believe we are parents…’ he whispered in her ear.
‘Neither can I…’ Radhika was crying too.
They kept hugging each other for a minute more, and were enjoying their moment, that a nurse entered the operation theatre and interrupted them.
‘Ma’am…the baby…’ she handed over the wrapped fairy to Radhika. She looked at her. Her eyes were closed, her hands, so small and soft, a little tuft of hair on her soft head. She was cooing with her little mouth that was opening and closing at intervals. Aarush touched her cheek with his finger.
‘She’s our daughter…’ Radhika cried.
‘I can’t believe this is real. She’s so beautiful, she’s a doll…’ Aarush took the baby from Radhika and cradled it in his arms.
‘Here, you take it back. I am scared I will drop it.’
‘Shut up Aarush!’ Radhika took her back, and kissed her on her forehead.
‘Ma’am, you should feed the baby.’ the nurse advised her, while Aarush was lost in his new baby girl.
‘I am sorry Radhika…I might love her more than you!’ Aarush couldn’t look away from her.
‘Go away, Aarush, I have to feed her.’
‘I can’t. Just look at her, how can you go away from this little bundle of joy?’ Aarush placed a hand on her head, ‘Little girl, I can’t promise that I will be able to fulfil all your wishes, but I promise that my love for you will never be less than it is right at this moment. I don’t know if I will be a great father or not, but I will never let you cry…’ he kissed her forehead once more, and Radhika shooed him away.
‘Come on, she’s hungry!’
‘Alright, alright…’ Aarush got up from the side of the bed, ‘But I am going only for her, because she’s hungry.’
‘Thank you, daddy!’ Radhika smiled at him and Aarush came out of the operation theatre.
‘Yes, she’s fine!’ Aarush announced it to the anxious looking people who were waiting for him restlessly.
‘Yay! Thank God!’ Love, Sahil, Sameera and Sheeba hugged him once more.
‘You are a big man now, Aarush!’ Love was getting all emotional.
‘I hope you don’t cry again…’ Aarush looked at Sameera who laughed.
‘Hey, I am a changed man now!’ Love cried, and as usual, everyone ignored him.
‘Radhika will be shifted to her personal room in a few minutes, you all can see here there then…’ Aarush sat in a bench peacefully for the first time since morning and gulped an entire bottle of water.
After an hour, Radhika was shifted to her room and everyone came to meet her there.
‘Congratulations, Radhika!’ everyone said in unison.
‘Thank you everyone, I can’t thank you guys enough for your never ending support…’
‘Where is the superstar? Don’t we get to see her?’ Love demanded to see the baby.
‘No! Not now, she’s in the nursery. They don’t give babies that easily, they are more prone to infection at an early stage after birth.’ Aarush explained.
‘Oh yeah, who am I kidding? It’s Aarush’s baby!’ Sahil said and everyone laughed. They knew how overprotective and cautious Aarush was since the very beginning about his little things.
‘So you guys are coming to my wedding, isn’t it? Or tell me, I can postpone it!’ Love was worried about getting married now.
‘Hey chill man, we are coming and you don’t need to delay or anything. We will be there!’ Aarush assured him.
‘Radhika…’ Love sat next to her and wrapped an arm around her.
‘What is it Love?’ Radhika found it a little strange.
‘I just want to say that I am really happy about the baby’s birth. I just want you to make sure that the baby girl spends more time with her uncle love, than her father!’
‘See, I am a bad boy. I know how guys are, and I will make your daughter so independent and self-aware that no guy can ever take any advantage of her, I bet she will break their skulls. Guys are such assholes I tell you! I’m an asshole too, you agree?’
‘Absolutely!’ Radhika nodded and everyone laughed.
‘Hey, hey! I am trying to be sensible here. Aarush is an emotional man, he can’t take responsibility of a father. Just make sure you send your daughter to meet her uncle Love at least once in a week and she will never need any man’s support in her life. Forget that, she’ll never need a man at all! I don’t want that she should marry some guy in future and…’
‘Hey, hey you’re losing the plot here, Love.’ Radhika interrupted Love who was flown away in his own emotions, ‘She’s not even one day old yet, and you are already discussing her marriage? Give that child a break!’
‘I am just laying out the possibilities you see. Girls grow up, they have boyfriends, they meet asshole guys, they get into trouble, I don’t want anything to happen to her you know!’ Love explained.
‘We know that. And thank you for your concern.’ Aarush patted his shoulder and Love got up from the bed. Radhika adjusted and sat comfortably, smiling at Aarush.
‘So, what’s the name?’ Sahil asked.
‘Jesus…we decided on all baby boy names, as we thought it will be a little Aarush.’
‘And I thank God it’s not little Aarush!’ Love said, ‘Little Radhika is much better than little Aarush…no offence brother, but your daughter has left you behind in just her four hours on Earth!’ Love commented.
‘So you didn’t think of any name?’ Sameera asked, worried.
‘No, it’s not like we didn’t think of. Aarush had some names in his mind, but I am not sure whether we should go for them.’ Radhika pointed out.
‘Oh, leave Aarush, he will come up with something nasty!’ Love said, ‘You can name her Grace, or Melody, you know, choose a name that has an amazing ring to it!’
‘For heaven’s sake, Love, I am not going to name my baby girl after your bitchy ex-girlfriends! Grace? Melody? Do you think I don’t know the story behind that?’ Aarush revealed his secrets.
‘Hey, hey…’ Love immediately covered Aarush’s mouth with his hands.
‘I have decided one name…’ Radhika grabbed everyone’s attention.
‘What?’ Aarush asked.
‘Aarushi…’ Radhika said with gleaming eyes.
‘Hey, no! That’s so not fair.’ Love cried.
Aarush went near Radhika and hugged her tight.
‘Are you sure?’ Love asked her again.
‘Yes, I am!’ Radhika and Aarush kissed.
‘What about you, father of the child?’ Love turned towards Aarush.
‘What problem can I have?’
‘Of course! You anyways are one hell of a narcissist, why will you have any problem Aarushi’s father?’ Love sarcastically commented.
‘Hey, enough! I love the name, anyone has a problem, I don’t care it’s my baby!’ Radhika said and everyone laughed out loud. They joined them in their happiness, and later at night, the nurse brought the baby to the room from the nursery.
‘Since all the babies look so same, how are you so sure that this one is yours?’ Love asked.
‘I bet Love, you will not go out from this hospital in one piece!’ Aarush eyed him angrily.
‘Kick his ass, Aarush. We will have him admitted in the next room…’ Sahil suggested.
‘Not bad, you know!’ Aarush neared Love.
‘Hey…’ Love grabbed his daughter from the crib, ‘I have the mighty power of princess Aarushi, if you step near me…’
‘What the hell is wrong with you guys? That’s a baby, not a toy!’ Radhika shouted at what they were doing. Everyone immediately shut up and sat down like obedient dogs.
‘Men will be men, I tell you…’ Sheeba and Sameera said.
‘Now give me back my baby!’ Radhika ordered and Love presented her with her child.
‘Go out everyone…and give me some peaceful time with her!’ Radhika was not in a mood to argue. Everyone immediately rushed out.
‘This is amazing, Radhika. This is how they should be treated.’ Sameera said.
‘And when the three of them get together, God save us!’ Sheeba smirked.
‘Next week some matches are going to start, I am thinking to kick Aarush out of the house for some days.’ Radhika asked.
‘Excellent idea! He can live with Sahil, who is anyways living alone now.’ Sheeba said.
‘And I won’t mind Love joining them either. I will call some of my girl-friends at the apartment and have some fun before I marry him next month.’ Sameera smiled with all her teeth out!
‘What a great idea. We can also take turns to visit Radhika and help her with raising the baby.’
‘Thank you so much girls, but Sameera, this is an important time for you, and I want you to enjoy yourself to the fullest! I have my mother and mother-in-law to help me with the child, you don’t bother, please…’ Radhika suggested them and the girls agreed, while the boys outside had no idea that the plans of kicking them out were being hatched inside the room.
‘Hey, are you fine now?’ Aarush came inside after half an hour, ‘I am sorry for that…’
‘I’m good. You just pack your bags tomorrow and shift with Sahil.’
‘What? Why? What have I done?’ Aarush asked anxiously like a five year old who was being thrown out of class.
‘Nothing, I just need some time with the baby, and I think it would be good if you also have some rest!’
‘What are you talking about Radhika? This is my child too, I have some responsibility towards it as well. Why will I not be present with her?’
‘I am not kicking you out forever! You can see her any time you want to, just shift out for one week…’
‘And IPL is starting from tomorrow…’ Sameera lured Aarush.
‘Oh…right! I don’t mind giving you quality time with the baby…have fun!’ Aarush turned towards Love, ‘Hey, tomorrow is KKR against RCB or what?’
Radhika, Sameera and Sheeba – the three of them looked at Aarush, Sahil and Love, and laughed at how they could never grow up. Radhika had become a mother now, but Aarush was still a child. They sat their all night, spent time with the little Aarushi. While Love and Sameera discussed about their wedding, Sahil and Sheeba discussed about how theirs was delayed, and Aarush and Radhika couldn’t get enough of their baby girl. The nurse would bring her and take her back at regular intervals, but the six of them slept in that tiny room together, like their old days when they used to be just friends. Life had changed for them, but it still was the same somehow. They had undoubtedly grown up, but they were still children somewhere. They had become parents, but they were still ruled by their own parents somehow. They had everything in life, yet they missed their old days, somewhere…