This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
This story contain no graphic scenes of sex


TUM   BIN...
[ Without You... ]

Part Six

"Welcome to Delhi," Neeladri smiled as they walked out of the craft, "Heard the name before?"

"Of course," Aahan exclaimed, giving Neeladri a look of disbelief, "it's the capital!"

Neeladri nodded, "Been here?"

Aahan shrugged, looking around, "I don't know... and you?"

"I did my medicine here," Neeladri smiled.

"Oh, so you were here for nearly five years, huh?"

Neeladri nodded, "Five and a half, and of course, I pass through Delhi each time I visit my parents now!"

"Well, in another about five hours we'll be home," Neeladri said as they stood near the baggage carousel, waiting for their luggage.

Aahan nodded, "Lansdowne?" his eyes suddenly dull as he looked around the large baggage claim area.

"Yes," Neeladri answered looking at him, noticing what seemed like a slight flicker in those strangely vacant eyes, "We take a cab..."

He had already called the cab service and booked the car, requesting for his favourite driver, Kartar Singh. And as they walked out of the arrival lounge, he spotted the man, both men smiling as they greeted each other.

"And how are you, Kartara?" Neeladri asked.

"I'm fine, sir," the man replied, offering to take their suitcases.

"No, we'll keep it," Neeladri smiled his thanks, "they're on wheels, we are not lugging them!"

Kartar smiled back, "The hand-baggage?"

"Thank you Kartar," he shook his head, "just lead us to the car!"

"This way, sir," the man replied, leading the way. "Straight home, or do you have some work in the city?"

"No way," exclaimed Neeladri, "straight to Lansdowne, the quicker, the better!"

"Don't worry, sir," Kartar smiled, "it's still early and we won't see much traffic..."

They swiftly drove down NH-8, past the Central Ridge forest area, and as they reached the region around Sector Four, Neeladri turned to look at Aahan, noticing the oddly agitated expression on his face, the eyes suddenly shifty, like that of a caged animal... terrorised.

"You've been here before?" Neeladri enquired once more, reaching out and taking Aahan's hand, feeling the slight tremor.

The young man shook his head.

"Kartar, could you please take the India Gate route and drive past Connaught Place," Neeladri asked the driver, suddenly keen to see how Aahan would react once they entered the heart of the city... Could this place finally trigger Aahan's recovery?

"Yes, sir," the driver nodded, speeding down the early morning streets, "would you like to have your breakfast there?"

"No, just drive past the area," the doctor responded, observing Aahan closely.

"Does anything look familiar?" he asked as they neared the India Gate.

But Aahan didn't respond, his eyes blank and unseeing... the breathing slightly ragged, the tremors more pronounced now.

And as they drove along the Janpath towards Connaught Circle, Aahan's breathing became laboured... his pulse racing... suddenly perspiring heavily, sweat pouring out of every pore... his whole body shaking visibly.

"Kartar, quick, get out of here..." Neeladri instructed the bewildered driver, leaning over as he held Aahan, whispering softly, "Aahan, you okay?"

But the man didn't seem to hear the words, his eyes slowly glazing over as they sped down the relatively empty streets, the shudders spasmodic, the face contorting...

Well, tablets wouldn't work now... Neeladri quickly reached for his gripsack, taking out a fresh syringe and the ampule... rapidly working as he got the cotton wool and surgical spirit... carefully injecting Aahan with the medicine...

Kartar drove swiftly along the outer ring, and then through Pahargunj, and once they had crossed the river, Aahan slumped back against the doctor, his eyes closing... slowly relaxing... the tremors gradually subsiding.

They took the NH-58 and sped along before getting off the highway and giving both Modinagar and Meerut (and the maddening chaos of the two towns), a complete miss, rejoining it beyond Meerut and driving on to Mawana.

"Kartar, let's stop here for breakfast," Neeladri told the driver, turning to Aahan, "Hungry?"

Aahan slowly sat up, as if waking up from a deep slumber, turning to look at him... the pupils still slightly dilated, smiling weakly as he nodded.

The doctor wanted to ask, ask questions about Delhi, about what had happened as they drove through the city... but seeing Aahan, so normal now, didn't feel like pursuing the matter any further, not right then. Yes, there had to be some connection... something; Neeladri had seen the flicker in those fear laced eyes, he was sure of it... a flicker of recognition? Probably Aahan had been to Delhi earlier... and seeing the place once more, the subconscious part of his brain had recognised it, yet, the conscious mind couldn't remember. Oh well, he'd talk to Aahan later...

After breakfast they sped along NH-119, winding their way through lush meadows and breathtakingly beautiful landscape, soon reaching Kotdwar, the borderland of the mighty Himalayas; and then began the climb, the road meandering along the wooded hillside, through beautiful forests... the crisp mountain air impregnated with the scent of pine... watching the mist rise as they went uphill, surrounding them one minute and gone the next!

In just over an hour Kartar Singh pulled up in front of the little bungalow, surrounded by ancient trees and set in its own lush garden bursting with the myriad flowers, smiling as he announced, "Your home, sir!" cutting the engine and turning back to look at Neeladri.

"Thank you, Kartara," Neeladri smiled back, opening the door, "that was one of the pleasantest drive I've ever had, and we actually made it in record time!" Suddenly in a rush to get inside, see his parents. He knew he didn't have to say anything, tell anything... they'd know; would understand... and he just wanted their reassurance, have them tell him that he wasn't wrong, had made no mistake.

"Young man," his dad smiled walking down the steps, his mother right behind, "this year you're late!"

Neeladri went over, paying his respects, "Well, you know about the blasts, and then things were really hectic, I just couldn't get away..." he smiled.

"And when you finally managed, to get away, it's only for ten days!" his mother smiled, hugging him.

"I'm sorry, but I couldn't get a longer leave..."

"That's okay, you're here and that's what matters," his father said, patting his shoulder.

"Dad, Ma, I want you to meet Aahan," Neeladri said, turning towards Aahan and motioning him to come over, "Aahan, my parents..."

"Welcome to Lansdowne," his dad greeted Aahan, shaking his hand.

"Welcome," his mother smiled at Aahan, looking briefly at Neeladri, but giving nothing away.

"Kartara, have your lunch before you go back..." he called as they went in.

Surrounded by thick oak and blue pine forests, Lansdowne was a charming little paradise nestled in the very lap of Nature - quiet and isolated... peaceful and tranquil. Winding roads and narrow tracks crisscrossing the lush hillsides cloaked in soothing green, dotted with sprawling bungalows and quaint little cottages tucked seductively away in secluded little corners atop ridges and hilltops, majestic in their reclusive isolation.

After lunch they went for a leisurely walk... following the tree-lined roads and meandering trails under the towering oaks and pines...

"Tired?" Neeladri asked.

Aahan shook his head, very quiet.

"Well, the uniqueness of this place it not its amazing pristine beauty, but its distinctive quietness, the total lack of hustle and bustle that's usually associated with Indian hill resorts," Neeladri said as they sat on the edge of the ridge looking down at the wooded valley below. "And tomorrow we'll go into town, not that there's much to see or do," he grinned, "but since this is your first visit, you must see the place, you know... and everything's within walkable distance of the town centre."

Aahan nodded, silently watching the play of light along the northern horizon.

"I hope you don't mind walking?" Neeladri asked after a moment.

The man once more shook his head.

And so they sat, in silence, immersed in the serenity of the Himalayas... watching the wondrous play of Nature around them... observing the wispy strands of mist rise over the edge, swirl around, as if caressing them, before drifting on...

"Well, it's almost tea-time," Neeladri finally announced standing up, "let's go back."

Aahan looked up, thoughtful, and then nodded, slowly getting up.

"Something wrong?" Neeladri asked, wondering.

The man shook his head before giving a slight smile, staring back at Neeladri, into his eyes.

"Well, since we had a long day," Neeladri announced after tea, "today I'm crashing in early!"

"No dinner for you, huh?" asked his mother, eyebrows high, "So, my spending time in the kitchen was a total waste?!"

"I meant, AFTER DINNER!" - making both, his father and Aahan, laugh out loud.

Early next morning the two young men went for a walk, once more following the dappled paths under the towering oaks, both enchanted by the sheer beauty of the place... everything enshrouded by the clouds of mist, the curtain parting intermittently to afford mystical visions of the magnificent snow-clad Himalayan peaks - breathtakingly beautiful!

"After breakfast," Neeladri panted as they trudged up a steep incline, "we'll go into town. And in the evening I'll take you to a place that you'll never want to leave!"

"Where?" Aahan asked, surprisingly sprightly, astonishingly nimble, walking ahead.

"Right here, the best trek route you'll ever find anywhere!"

After breakfast they headed for the 'view point', trekking up the well-marked trail and spending over an hour admiring the panoramic view of the Himalayas before following the ridge down to St. Mary's.

"The structure is over 110 years old, abandoned after the British left and later restored and converted to a museum," Neeladri whispered as they entered the building, Aahan looking around, fascinated by the magnificent stained glass windows and murals. "There's the photo gallery and a reading room, and they also have a audio-visual display."

"Now to the lake," Neeladri announced as they walked out, "and on the way you'll get to see St. John's - a Forest Bungalow converted to a Church!"

"Boating?" he asked as they stood by the lakeshore, but Aahan shook his head... so they sat there, watching the swans, the young doctor once more wondering...

In the past twenty-four hours, ever since their arrival, he had notice the subtle change... though laughing and participating in conversations, Aahan seemed pensive, especially when they were out trekking the trails. And the look - gazing at him but turning away as soon as Neeladri looked at him. He didn't understand... the man seemed relaxed and happy, had had no nightmares or incidents, there was absolutely nothing to worry about... and yet the strange silence disturbed him.

"Oops," Neeladri exclaimed looking at his watch, "it's nearly lunch time, we better hurry!"

"So, what's planned for after lunch?" his mother asked as Bhola began clearing the table, the smile almost condescending.

"Thought we'd... um, nothing really," Neeladri mumbled, recognising the tone of her voice and quickly changing the subject, "er... by the way, you never told me what you're doing for Dusshera?!" making his father chuckle.

His mother let out an exaggerated sigh, "Thank God, you remembered, I had almost forgotten..."

"Maaa..." Neeladri broke in.

"Neel, its Navratri season, and you come home late," his father said, laughing, "but then, we hardly get to see you..."

"Okay-okay," his mother shushed him, turning to Neeladri with a smile, "nothing unusual is planned, just the customary..."

"And we'd appreciate it very much if you would make yourself available for the occasion, today evening and tomorrow!" his father finished it for her, chuckling.

Neeladri, as promised, stayed home - a dutiful son participating in all the rituals and ceremonies; spending the remaining day just lazing around the house or the garden, Aahan with him.

And on Dusshera afternoon, as they sat in the garden, he saw the cook's little son walk in the wicker gate, loaded down with a huge bag. He liked the kid - a shy and quiet boy of about ten.

"Hey, what's that you've got there?" he called and immediately the kid bolted, vanishing behind the house.

Neeladri laughed, "You know, he's a very smart kid, but only if you can get hold of him, extremely shy!"

Aahan nodded, smiling, but said nothing.

"Aahan, you've been very quiet lately, is something wrong?" Neeladri asked, looking at the man.

He shook his head.

"Is something bothering you?" he persisted, seeing Aahan look at him, but refusing to make or hold eye contact.

"Tea is ready," Bhola announced, "Madam wants you to come inside."

They had just finished tea, and were talking when the first sound came... a small 'bang'... and almost immediately followed by a whole series of loud explosions...

Instinctively Neeladri jumped up, shouting, "Bhola, who's bursting crackers here, stop him!" and then turned to look at Aahan.

The man sat frozen... his eyes wide with fear... his whole body wracked by spasmodic tremors...

It took a while for his stunned parents to register and react, his father immediately rushing for the phone, "I'm calling Dr. Pradhan..."

"Dad, I'm a doctor," Neeladri said, bending over Aahan, holding him, whispering softly... But the man was oblivious, his face contorting as he let out a gurgle, the eyes rolling...

"Bhola," Neeladri called, "help me take him up to his room... and Ma, please ask them to stop it!"

She nodded, rushing towards the kitchen.

"How's he now?" his mother enquired as he entered the living room.

"Sleeping," Neeladri answered, walking over and sitting down. "He'll be fine."

"You're in love, Neel, in love with Aahan!" it wasn't a question, but a statement.

He looked at both parents, undecided on what to say, before finally nodding his head, "Yes, I like him very much..."

"Neel, we really need to talk..." she said, looking at him.

They hadn't said anything, mentioned anything in the past two days... and yet he had seen the anguish in their eyes... the agonised doubts as they looked at him. He had smiled at them, trying to assuage their fears... and each time they had smiled back, but the look remaining worried.

"We brought you up to be responsible and independent, always respected and supported you in all your decisions..." his mother stated, pausing for a moment before continuing, "After high-school you told us you're gay, we were proud that you were being truthful, being honest... wanted to share your life with us."

Neeladri reached out and took her hand, "I know Mama, and I'm so lucky, and proud, to have you both as my parent..."

She patted his hand, smiling back, "You wanted to be a doctor, said you wanted to attend to people who didn't get proper medical care, couldn't afford the expense... we agreed. During your second year you introduced Abhishek, your classmate, said you liked each other and wanted to be together, we were happy, happy for you, though I never really liked the man.

"After graduating, while your father wanted you to pursue your post-graduate course, do your MD or MS, you wanted to first work for a few years before you did your Masters... joining that government hospital, while your friends either joined the corporate sector, or went on to do their Masters... and Abhi too left.

"You never really shared the details with us, but we could see the hurt, the pain... and Neel, we don't want to see you hurt again." she said, looking at him, her eyes moist.

He squeezed her hand, looking at both his parents, "I won't be hurt, no one can hurt me again!"

"Neeladri, please, this is something we just can't accept!" his father said, the voice firm.

"Don't you think it's so very wrong to..." she started to say, but he interrupted, shocked at the imputation, "Mama, I like him, and I took him home, but I've done nothing to hurt him, or shame you... I never even touc..." he paused, looking at both of them, "I'm aware that he could have a girlfriend, or even be married... and that he'll go back once he recovers..."

"Then why, Neel?" she questioned, beseeching.

"I've already mentioned, I told you everything... The very idea of him being put away at a Home was..." he shook his head, "I don't know what, but I felt my heart go out to him the very moment I saw him, lying on that gurney... so alone, so helpless. I like him, Ma... no, I really love him!"

"And he doesn't even know his own name!"

"Yes, he remembers nothing, nothing at all..." Neeladri replied, "and I'm aware that once he gets back his memory, he won't probably remember me. I just want him to be okay, and go back to his family, be happy!"

"Oh, Neelu..." his mother cried, pulling him close, hugging him.

to be continued...            

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