The next day Amrita came over to their house to meet her sister.
"Nikki darling, living in the same city, we hardly see anything of you," she laments. "Last we saw you was at your wedding. Even before that we must have barely met twice for the two years you lived in the city."
Nikki smiles awkwardly. "I am sorry Aunty, you know how busy doctors are," she mumbles. Abhi clears his throat in trying to hide his smile. Nikki makes eyes at him.
Nikki preferred to be alone in the big city than be under Amrita's snobbery wing. This was another grouse her mother had with her.
Amrtia, then hands over an invitation card for her daughter Sonam's wedding to Abhi. To everyone's surprise, including Nikki, Abhi tells them, he has already received the invitation for the wedding from the groom Rohit Raheja. He tells them that Rohit and he did their schooling in London and have, kept in touch with each other, even if it was only occasionally.
"Good," Amrita tells him. "but, your loyalty should be more towards your sister-in-law, now that we are family." She laughs huskily.
Amrita then invites all of them to dinner in the evening, which Nikki tries her best to wriggle out from. Sonam and she never got along well and Nikki definitely wanted to keep their meetings to the barest minimum as possible.
"You have to come Nikki," Amrita tells her. " Rohit will be there too and I would like you all to meet him and his family.
Reluctantly, Nikki agrees to go.
Sometime later, as Abhi enters their room, he finds Nikki standing in front of the mirror, twirling to and fro, checking out her stomach. He notices a pile of clothes strewn all over the bed.
"Are those for charity?" he asks her.
Startled by his sudden entry, Nikki pulls down the kurti to cover the bareness of her stomach.
"I have become fat," she laments " everything is getting tight for me,"
"Nikki you are doing perfect," Abhi tells her soothingly. "Infact you are hardly showing."
"Yeah?" Nikki mocks him. "Can you see my waistline, its disappearing. Look at this, she points at the slight bulge of her stomach." As Abhi flops on the bed and begins to scrutinize her, Nikki flushes scarlet.
"Very soon, I'll have to wear sacks," she tries to divert his attention.
Abhi bursts out laughing looking at her action of wearing sacks.
"Laugh, laugh," Niki glares at him. "you don't have to go through all this"
"Don't tell me you thought for the whole nine months, your waistline would remain as it was before," Abhi teases. Nikki takes a pillow and flings it at him. He manages to duck it.
"Come on," he gets up and holding her hand pulls her along with him.
"Where?" asks Nikki in puzzlement.
"Lets get you some sacks to wear for the next few months that you'll remain pregnant," he winks.
They arrive at a store that sold exclusive maternity outfits. Looking at the trendy clothes, halter dresses, strappy tops, off shoulder tops and dresses, flared capris, Nikki's heart begins to dance with excitement. She picks up a horde of them and goes to the fitting room.
Everytime she tried out an outfit and came out to show Abhi, his heart would begin to pound rapidly. He always found his wife the most beautiful and sexy woman, but now, it seems ,she is cut out to be even more beautiful and sexier than before.
"Beta, you are completely finished now," he tells himself.
Nikki, on the other hand, was enjoying the feminity and sensuality of the dresses. Everytime she questioned Abhi whether she should buy the outfit, the nod of his head would light up her face with delight.
The whole of the car's back seat was stacked with their purchases inspite of some lying in the boot.
Everyone was waiting for Nikki to come out so that they could leave for the dinner. Excusing himself to check on her, Abhi goes to their room.
"Nikki, what's taking you so.........." He is unable to continue as he sees her standing there looking so gorgeous, dressed in the newly purchased teal coloured, lycra top, with straps crossed and held at the middle of her chest by an O ring and black, split pant styled, lycra skirt.
Nikki blushes under his unblinking gaze.
"Am I looking okay?" she asks.
"No," Abhi shakes his head.
Surprised Nikki turns to look in the mirror and begins to check herself, wondering what was wrong.
"You are not looking okay," Abhi continues, in a daze "You are looking out of the world."
Nikki turns red with his compliment.
"Abhimanyu, Nikki, are you guys coming or not?" Kavita calls out aloud from the living room.
"Lets go," Abhi tells Nikki "Or else everyone will land up here in our room.
With a laugh Nikki walks out with him.
Dinner at the Kapoor's house was quiet a formal affair. Amrita introduces Abhi and Nikki to Rohit and his family. Rohit was a good looking, pleasant faced guy. Nikki quiet liked his down to earth attitude and carefree spirit. The elderly couples were busy with their conversations, while Abhi and Rohit were chatting with each other. Left to themselves, Nikki and Sonam made polite conversations, while, her younger sister Simran, a pretty college-going girl, couldn't help admiring her two brother-in-laws, hoping one day she would find a guy like them.
After dinner was over, Nikki's boredom increased. She was feeling suffocated. She stares at Abhi who was standing with Rohit at the other end of the room, talking away as if there was no tomorrow. Nikki felt ignored by him. Finding her eyes on him, Abhi excuses himself and goes over to her.
"Are you okay?" he asks with concerned.
"Do you care?" she snaps back.
Abhi is taken aback. "What happened?"
"I am tired and sleepy."
"Okay fine, lets go home,"
They make their excuses and because of Nikki's condition, they were excused. Amrita tells them she is keeping Kavita and Jas with her for the night.
Back home, Nikki was so tired, she had no energy to change. To Abhi's surprise, barely had her head touched the pillow, she was out like a light.
The shaking of the bed awakes Abhi from his sleep. Droopy eyed, he groans. 'Didn't he just sleep off, It couldn't be morn so early!'
He looks up groggily and finds Nikki sitting up and caressing her stomach. Rubbing his eyes, he quickly leans over to her.
"What happened Nikki? Are you alright?" His hands instinctively goes to her stomach.
"I am hungry," Nikki tells him.
"Oh," says Abhi, relieved it was nothing dangerous. "I'll go to the kitchen and get something for you," he says putting his legs on the floor and moving them around, in search for his slippers.
"What would you like to have?" he asks.
Abhi, who was attempting to stand up, is jolted by her word.
He turns to look at her.
"What did you say?"
"Paanipuri," confirms Nikki, smacking her tongue over watering lips.
Abhi looks at his watch. It was fifteen minutes to 1 am.
"And where do you think you will you get paani puri so late?"
"I don't know, I just have the urge to eat them. We'll find it somewhere, maybe the stalls on the beach"
"Even they, won't be open so late," Abhi pleads. "Besides, don't you know in this condition its best not to eat roadside food. You, being a doctor, should know this. Who the hell made you a Doctor?"
"You" pat comes Nikki's sweet reply.
"Yeah right! That's the problem when you follow love blindly" Abhi mutters between his breath.
"What did you say?" Nikki asks, straining her ears to listen.
"Nothing. Can I get you anything else to eat? We'll find a good place that sells paani puri tomorrow. Okay?" he cajoles.
To his horror, Nikki begins to wail loudly.
"No I want paani puri now. My mouth is watering for it. I want it now I said," she sniffs in between her wailing.
Abhi tries to hold her shoulders to calm her down, but Nikki keeps pushing his hands away.
"You want to become a father," she says in between sniffs "and you just don't care about what your child wants."
"Nikki you know its not the requirement of the child, its your own craving," he tries to make her see sense.
Nikki wails even more louder. "Just because you are a doctor, you are trying to show off," she sniffs. "Don't forget I am a doctor too. I also know whats good for me. I'll go find paanipuri for myself. You need not bother."
Abhi slaps his forehead.
"So you are not going to listen?"
Nikki shakes her head in agreement.
"You still want to eat paani puri?"
Nikki nods in confirmation, letting out a few sniffs in between.
"Accha," Abhi sighs deeply. "lets go and find one."
Nikki wipes her tears and flashes a wide smile at him.
Abhi returns it with a feeble one.
He said they would find one. But where, he had no idea. He begins to visualise himself having opened a stall and spending the whole night making paani puris.
He shudders at the thought. 'Help me God!' he sends up a silent prayer.
Having driven all over, they were unable to find a decent place that would sell paani puri.
Disappointed, Nikki continues wailing "I want paani puri, I want paani puri" till Abhi was bursting from the ear.
If it weren't for her present condition, he would have given her a few good shakes and quietened her up.
Frustrated, he stops over at a tiny shop to buy a bottle of water, leaving Nikki sitting in the car. Just then an idea strikes him and he dials the number of the 24 hour telephone directory service. He tells the person at the other side of the line, he wants a good place where they sell paani puri.
"Paani puri?" comes the shocked reply. "at this hour?"
"Yes, my friend, Paani puri at this hour!" he replies, his voice laced with irritation. "Please let me know where can I find one. Let it be any place, any city, any country or any planet, just find it, Please. I need paani puri," he yells into the phone.
"Okay, okay, relax, let me see what I can do," comes a baffled answer.
The few minutes Abhi was kept waiting, he kept praying hard for paani puri. Never, in his life did he pray so hard for anything like he was doing now.
The guy comes back to him saying, "Sir, there seems to be a post midnight chaat festival going on at the coffee shop of a Hotel on Marine Drive." He then proceeds to give the address to Abhi.
To Abhi, he sounded like a magician speaking the magic words.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he kept singing into the phone.
He would have even kissed the guy if he was in front of him. Would he ? He rolls his eyes. Lord, the things pregnancy makes one to do!
When he disconnects, the executive looks at his colleague and says, "Good Lord, that man sounded as if he is pregnant!"
At the coffee shop, Nikki was delighted to see a huge buffet spread with various kind of chaat. Her mouth watering, she decides to have a bit of everything. For all the chaos she created for paani puri, she passes it off with a cursory glance, Watching her, an exasperated Abhi, buries his head in his hands.
"What happened ? Feeling hungry?" Nikki asks placing a plateful of food in front of her. Abhi looks up at her and finds that she was innocently awaiting for an answer from him.
"No, I am not hungry. I've ordered for black coffee."
"What are you saying? How can you not be hungry? I am so ravenous."
"That is because, dear wife, you are pregnant, not me. Besides," he eyes her plate suspiciously. "I don't want to go through indigestion. I am fine with coffee."
Nikki gives him a disgusted look.
She then happily digs into her plate. Finally, she eats two pieces of paani puri and gives a satisfied smile.
"Wow, now I am feeling so satisfied," she looks happily at Abhi like a cat who got all the cream.
"Good," he says in relief. "Shall we go?"
"Won't you have some ice cream, Madam?" flashing a smile, the waiter asks her in sweet tone. "Actually the kulfi-falooda is one of its kind"
"Kulfi-falooda!" Nikki exclaims in delight. "I haven't had one in ages."
Abhi glares at the waiter. How, he wished he could double the guy up as a punching bag and box him till the word kulfi falooda was completely wiped out from his memory box.
"Nikki, its okay to eat when you feel hungry, but don't overeat. You'll be sick by the morning," he warns her.
"Haven't you heard before? Never to come in between a pregnant woman and her cravings," she dismisses his warning with the wave of her hand.
Rolling his eyes, Abhi decides to gives up.
"Will you get the kulfi falooda for me please?" she smiles sweetly at the steward who returns it with a happy smile.
"Can I get you anything Sir?" the waiter asks Abhi.
Seething inwardly, Abhi keeps clenching and unclenching his fists, under the table.
'Yes, I would like to put you in the grinder and make a falooda of you!'
With a "Hmmmm" he comes out of his musings. Realising Nikki and the waiter were waiting for his reply, he smiles weakly and nods his head in the negative.
It was only an hour later that Abhi enters their bedroom, carrying a sleeping Nikki in his arms.
"Phew!" he puffs as he lays her gently on the bed. Not only was she getting beautiful and sexier, she was becoming heavy and demanding too.
Sleepy and exhausted, he lies down beside her. He then turns over to look at her and unable to control himself, he gently caresses her face. He then notices the slight bulge of her tummy.
Putting his hand gently over it, he whispers. "Hey Baby, when we meet at the end of six months, I really hope your father has his sanity intact"
Nikki stirs and puts her hand over his hand that was holding her stomach. Relieved she was asleep, Abhi takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, hoping for some good sleep.
The next morning he is woken up with loud sounds coming from the washroom and realizes Nikki is sick.
'Ziddi Ladki! Never listens,' he shakes his head.
With hurried steps, he rushes to the washroom.
He finds Nikki splashing water on her face. Seeing him through the mirror, she turns to him.
"Oh Abhi, I am feeling so sick," she wails.
"Really? Shall we go out for some more paanipuri and kulfi faloodas"
"Abhi you are so horrible !" she cries rushing towards the pot retching out the next lot.
Abhi, tenderly rubs her back till she finishes. He then wipes her face with a wet towel. Nikki washes her mouth. Weak and completely drained out, she leans against him. Tenderly, he carries her, in his arms and lays her on the bed.
Then, going over to his side of the bed, he pulls out a pill from the drawer and turning to face her, puts it in her mouth. Taking the glass of water from him, Nikki swallows down the pill.
"Lie down" he tells her "Try and sleep."
"I am feeling so sick," she tells him again.. Her head was heavy and the life in her legs seemed like jelly. Feeling nauseated once again, she begins to rub her stomach, fervently hoping, she is able to avoid another visit to the washroom. She just had no stamina to go through with it again.
"You'll be fine," Abhi soothes her, placing his hand on her stomach and rubbing it gently "Just close your eyes."
Seeking comfort, Nikki leans against his chest and closes her eyes. His protective arm around her, indeed , was comforting. The gentleness of his hand on her stomach begins to calm her insides.
Not realizing the soothing effect his hand was having on her, Abhi removes it and turns to check the time on the bedside table. It was 5 am.
Realising he has removed his hand from her stomach, Nikki felt a sense of uneasiness and panic. Sleepily, she reaches out for his hand and places it back on her stomach. Snuggled up close against him, she falls asleep. Abhi smiles as he watches her sleep. Holding her firmly, he closes his eyes and also falls off to sleep.
to be continued.....