Strangers!! (kkb) – Part 16

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Part 16
Back in his office, Abhi was blissfully unaware that he was the cause of Pragya’s mental and emotional turmoil. After Ayesha left, his sub-staff brought in the tiffin carrier saying that his wife had handed it to him. Abhi was surprised that Pragya had come to visit him at his office and wondered why she did not come in. When the man mentioned that she had come with the baby, he presumed that Isha may have been restless, the reason why Pragya left almost immediately. He tried calling her on her cell but it was switched off. He called his residence but was told that Pragya and Isha had not reached home as yet. He thought he will call her later and find out why she left without meeting him.

After lunch, he went to the ATM to withdraw some money to settle payments for the elaborate arrangements he was making for the next day. He stood in the queue and was about to enter the ATM cubicle when he noticed that the person who just stepped out of it had dropped his wallet while trying to slip it in his hip pocket. He called out to him and bent down to retrieve the open wallet when he casually glanced at the photograph inside it. He completely froze seeing it. Could it really be her? He looked up at the owner of the wallet who had walked up to him and took it from his outstretched hands, thanking him as he did so. Just as the stranger turned to leave Abhi regained his composure and extended his hands to him.
“I’m Abhishek Mehra,” he introduced himself. “You are…?”
“Neev Shergill,” smiled the stranger and shook his hands.
Abhi felt the ground under him giving way. So it was her picture in the wallet. He was tempted to flee but stood his ground. He wanted to know what Neev was doing in this city and why he was still having his wife’s photograph in his wallet. A guy who has married another woman out of his own freewill should not go around carrying his ex’s picture. Something told him that he should not probe further for he may not like what he finds but his curiosity got the better of him.
“Are you new around here?” he asked conversationally.
“Well, not exactly. I’ve been living in this city for the past six months but am leaving for the U.K. tomorrow.” Neev replied.
“U.K? I lived in London for two years.”
“Is that so? I’m going to London too. Is accommodation expensive there?”
“That depends. Are you shifting with your family?”
“No. I’m going there alone. Right now my employer will arrange for something but eventually I’ll have to find my own place.”
“Well, there are wider options for single men. Why don’t we discuss it over coffee? That is.. if you have the time.”
“Thank you. I’m free for the afternoon,” Neev said and led Abhi to the nearest coffee shop.

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Abhi did not know what he was getting himself into. Since he was the one who set the ball rolling, he could not go back.
“Wait, I’ll have to withdraw some money,” he said trying to buy some more time to compose his thoughts.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize you have still not withdrawn your money. I’ll wait here,” said Neev.
Abhi quickly went into the cubicle. As he punched his PIN number in the machine, his mind raced through Pragya’s narration. If Neev had married his boss’s daughter, why was he here in Pune? And why was he still carrying his ex-girlfriend’s picture in his wallet even after ditching her? And more importantly where was his wife and why was he leaving for London alone? Only Neev can answer all his questions. He decided to get them out of him without raising his suspicions.

Soon the two men were seated in the coffee shop. After placing their orders they started conversing.
“I couldn’t help but notice the photograph in your wallet. Who is the girl?”
Neev smiled, “That is my girlfriend Pragya Arora. She is no more in this world but I cannot forget her.”
Abhi was shocked to hear this. What did he mean by that?
“You mean she is dead?” he asked stupidly.
“Yes, she died a year ago.”
“How?” Abhi’s voice was barely a whisper. Could there have been some serious misunderstanding?

Neev hesitated for a second wondering why he was saying all this to a stranger he just met but somehow Abhi looked like someone he can confide in. Moreover, he had been bottling up his emotions for so long; he needed to get it off his chest. He suddenly broke down and covering his face he wept uncontrollably. Abhi was shocked to see a grown man crying in a public place. He stretched his arm out and reassuringly patted his shoulder.
“Mr.Shergill. Please control yourself. You needn’t talk about it if you don’t want to.”
Neev hastily wiped his eyes and said that he was alright.
“We were to get married but everything went up in smoke,” he said mournfully.

Abhi slowly came to know of Neev’s painful past through his incoherent ramblings. Neev’s story matched Pragya’s up to the point where they were to meet in VT station. While Neev was waiting for Pragya, the diamond merchant old man who was to marry Pragya ,Mr.Dalal, his men attacked him with sticks. He was beaten up to a pulp and was left to die. He had passed out almost immediately. The few mute and scared spectators at the station later admitted him in a hospital. He was unconscious for nearly two weeks and was bedridden for nearly six months with multiple fractures involving ribs, thighs and forearms. He had tried to call Pragya several times after he regained consciousness but couldn’t reach her. During this time Pragya’s brother, Nikhil came to meet him at the hospital and lambasted him, blaming him for his sister’s death. He was shocked to learn from him that she committed suicide thinking that he ditched her. Although no one was aware that she was carrying his child, he knew that she would have taken this extreme step because she may not have wanted her child to go through what she did as an illegitimate child.

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At this point Neev broke down again and wept bitterly.
“I killed her, Mr.Mehra. I killed her. I got her pregnant and was not around when she needed me the most. ”

Abhi’s heart sank hearing Neev’s story. Neev was after all not the bad guy he and Pragya presumed him to be. How would this change his own equation with Pragya? He pushed aside this thought for the moment and tried his best to console the man in front of him by saying that he was not at fault. Fate seemed to have other plans. Just then the waiter came with their coffee. Neev wiped his eyes again, not wanting to create a scene. They had their coffee in silence for some time. Neev then continued with the rest of his story.

After he was discharged from the hospital he left Mumbai fearing that Nikhil or Mr.Dalal’s men will try to harm him again out of vengeance. He took up a job in his uncle’s business but found it difficult to forget the past. He wanted to leave the country so that he gets away from all the painful memories associated with it. That is when he saw an ad in the newspaper for an investment banker in an NRI firm in London. He applied for the job and got it.
“What about the cell?” Abhi suddenly asked.
Neev looked at him in confusion.
Realizing he said much more than he intended to, Abhi recovered to ask, “You must have had a cell at the time of attack. Did you use it to try calling Pragya up?”
“No, someone had stolen it when I was unconscious. In fact I lost my money as well. I had to use the hospital phone to try calling her up.”

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Abhi could now put together the missing pieces. Apparently somebody, maybe Nikhil, had deliberately misled Pragya into thinking that Neev had ditched her by sending her the SMS. After they finished their coffee, he left his card with Neev and asked him to get in touch with him for any help finding accommodation in London as he had several friends there. Neev, in turn, gave his cell number and asked him to get in touch with him if he comes to London anytime in future.Abhi then took leave of him and returned to his office.

For the rest of the day his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of what transpired in the meeting with Neev. Why did he have to meet Neev now when he was on the verge of confessing his love to Pragya? Why did he have to probe into his past? Why could he have not just walked away after handing over Neev’s wallet? Now that he knows about Neev’s past, was it right to let him continue to think that Pragya was dead? Should he tell Pragya about Neev? He was scared that if he tells Neev and Pragya the truth about each other he would lose not only his beloved wife but also the child he has grown to love and consider his own. But was it right to deprive Isha the right to be raised by her biological father? His conscience was torn between coming clean with both Neev and Pragya and wanting to hold on to the two people he loves the most in this world. He knew that both Pragya and Isha have grown attached to him but they are still in ignorance. Is ignorance always bliss? His head pounded with all these difficult questions and he had no answers to any of them.

Screen freezes with Abhi’s irritated face, Pragya’s crying face, Isha’s smiling face.

So what will be Abhi’s decision? Will he decide to leave Pragya and Isha to be with Neev? Or he will fight for his girls? Stay tuned to know more..
Thank u so so much for ur comments. Within a night I got more comments, I am so overwhelmed by your love for me.. sure I will take care of myself. And I apologize again for not updating regularly. Hope u all like this episode.. pls tell me ur views both positive and negative. Waiting eagerly for ur views on Abhi’s impending decision. Love u all stay blessed take care.

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