It wasn’t that he didn’t ‘want’ to listen to her. It was mainly because Manik was scared to listen to Nandini. He was scared of any mishap. He was scared of his fears coming true all over again…
He couldn’t sit and listen to Nandini… he didn’t have that patience… And she knew it!!!
Before Nandini could speak any more, or tried to stop him, Manik dashed out of the room and ran down the stairs, asking someone to get his car. He wanted to go and see himself!!
Through his way to Tour Montparnasse, he tapped his feet impatiently and chewed his nails. He had asked his driver to drive for him and didn’t take the car himself for he knew that he won’t be able to concentrate to drive through the traffic and locate the parking. His mind was fuzzy, with thoughts darting everywhere and was blunted of intellect, right now.
‘What did Nandini want to say? I promised that I’ll listen to her!
But then, even she promised that she will take care, which she didn’t.
‘How did I become so careless… I used to be perfection personified… flawless, at one point of time… and now?? I left Harshad on fate… after holding him captive… just based on one assurance from Nandini…’
‘Why am I blaming her now… she is naive and too inexperienced… It was all my fault to let her monitor Harshad…’
‘How could I forget about Harshad… How could I leave him to die… while I was busy having a lovely time in Barcelona…’
Manik almost drowned in guilt. Guilt was one emotion that never left him. It had gripped him in childhood and stayed with him, all through his growing years… and even now…
‘No…no…no…no…. nothing must have happened to him… Nandini might be mistaken… she must have meant something else… if anything bad had happened, she would have told me in Barcelona only…it didn’t even appear on her face even once that something had happened to Harshad…’
Manik tried to call his staff, posted outside Harshad’s room but no one was reachable on phone. He became more and more restless… angry…. irritated …. guilty… and helpless…
‘Goshhhh… Nandu!!!! What have you done???!!!!!!!’
‘Did I really kill Harshad???!!!’
‘That was never my intention…how will I explain that to dadu… dadi… Maya chachi… How will I justify it to myself…’
‘What did I just do to Maya chachi? I was responsible for Chachu’s death and now… Harshad? God… I am her culprit…’
‘How will I live with this guilt?’
His way through the heavy traffic, the elevator up towards the office space where Harshad was held and till he reached that space, was made difficult by all the negative thoughts rushing in and out of his mind. Manik almost convinced himself that nothing was wrong with Harshad and Nandini had been probably mistaken.
It couldn’t have gone ‘that’ wrong…
But his fear came down crashing on him when he saw the room beside the office space that was meant for the security guards and the doctors was empty too. It was open and vacant. So was the office next door. He banged open the door of the office and found that it was deserted. His heart sank at that.
“Shittt!!! Shittttt!!!!! Shitttttt!!!!!”
He ran around the room, hit open the door of the washroom, searched another room and tried calling the staff yet again. Unable to reach anyone, he sat down on one of the desks, covering his mouth with his palms and tried not to smash the desktop computer placed before him.
‘If this is a prank or a joke, Nandini… I’m never going to forgive you…’
“Goddd!!! When will I learn?? When will I grow up?? Why didn’t I listen to her???”
He was irritated that he didn’t even listen to her version. Now, once again, he took out his phone to call Nandini, to find out from her about what exactly happened to Harshad… where was the staff and doctors posted with him… who vacated the room and the staff when she was there with him in Barcelona… who else knew about it…
And most of all… How dare she betray him?!
He was not only worried but right now, he felt let down and betrayed by Nandini. He was very angry that she was with him all the time, kept his phone and laptop with her, assured him that she will take care and had been so careless about Harshad!!
Nandini didn’t answer his call.
‘Dammmnnnn!!!’ He felt like banging the phone on the desk but he didn’t do so. He had his hands on the phone after one week and he couldn’t afford to lose it right now. He was about to get up and leave when the guard at the floor came to the office and knocked, “Sir, may I know your name please??”
Manik angrily gritted his teeth, “How does it bother you?”
“Sir, if you are Mr. Manik Malhotra, I have an envelope for you!!”
“What envelope?” Manik frowned.
“I would like to see your id card please!”
Manik felt like punching him but then realised that the poor guy was doing his duty and wanted to give the envelope to the rightful owner. He quickly took out his wallet, flashed his driving license before the guard and got the envelope.
It was a brown envelope…with an inscription on it’s top – ‘For Manik’…
He opened the envelope with a confused mind. There was an A4 size, white paper inside it. It was a handwritten note, written by … he scanned it from top to bottom and read – Nandu… at the bottom! It was quite shocking!!!
He started reading –
I’m sorry for putting you through this. I have written this letter and I’m sending it through Cabir, even before I ask you to come to Barcelona with me.
I don’t know what makes me feel so confident that you WILL come to Barcelona with me. That is why I wrote this and asked Cabir to put this letter here.
Don’t worry! Harshad hasn’t died. But I know, you thought that I let him die. Did you notice, how deeply guilty you would have felt if he had died? Or something bad had happened to him?
He could have died, though… the way he was tortured…
He is at this below address – You can meet him here —
**Saint Paul’s Hospital for Psychiatry and Depression,
Rue de Bernard, 25th Arr,
~ Someone who loves you deeply,
PS: Sorry again !!!
He read it again and again and again… Phewwww!!!! So Harshad was alive!!! Thank God!!!
But… Hospital for Psychiatry and Depression??? Has Harshad landed into depression?? Is he mentally sick??
It was too confusing… But for now, he was grateful that Harshad hadn’t died and Nandini had kept her promise. She had shifted him to a mental hospital when needed.
He rushed out and made his way to the given address. There was no point calling Nandini or Cabir. He knew that they were not going to answer his call. This made him more angry, more irritated and upset.
In the car, he thanked God again. At least, Harshad hasn’t died. And, it was a huge relief!! If he was mentally not well, Manik knew that he could still help him. He felt guilty that he was responsible for this… He had been so harsh on Harshad that maybe it had lead to him suffering mentally and he landed in a mental hospital. It was a disturbing thought.
Manik entered the hospital and inquired at the reception about Harshad Malhotra. The lady at the reception confirmed his name, “Are you Mr. Manik Malhotra?”
“Yes… yes!! How do you know?”
“A guy came a while back to ask us to give you this envelope, in case you come asking for Mr. Harshad.” The lady opened the drawer and gave him another envelope.
Manik took the envelope with a confused look on his face and thanked the girl at the reception. He walked away opening it and reading the letter. By now, he was sure that it was another of Nandini’s letter.
If you are reading this letter, it means you’ve come rushing to the asylum to see if Harshad is fine or not. Before this, you went to the tower where he was held captive, almost thinking that he has died.
Now relieved that he is alive, you are stressed about him on losing his mind due to his phobias.
I’m so sorry for bringing this upon you. I betrayed you! I broke your trust. I told you that I won’t let Harshad leave those premises but I did it… maybe you will be able to understand why I HAD to do it… there was no other way…
Also, I’m sorry that I wrote these letters. I am writing this letter in the plane from Barcelona to Paris and will give it to Cabir at the airport. You are sleeping and blissfully ignorant about it.
I wrote these letters because I’m not sure if you will listen to me when I speak about it. If I know you well, I’m sure that you won’t listen to me, even after promising to do so.
I was trying and you were not even talking about it, since so many days when we were in Engelberg… and maybe, even if you listened, you wouldn’t have understood how it is going to feel if Harshad dies, or loses his mind…
Now you know, how it will feel!!!
It would have been terrible, Manik… Unforgivable…
You don’t forgive anyone. Not even yourself. And I won’t be able to see you live forever in another guilt!
I’m glad that you are here for him.
No matter how much the hatred, how deep the contempt… afterall, he is family!! Right?? I’m glad that you care for him, even now… you care for your family… For dadu, dadi and Maya chachi…I’m glad because you haven’t changed…
You were right when you said that you wouldn’t let him die!! You always cared.
But Manik, my point is – you may be a big control-freak and you may strongly rule over everyone, I know that you are extremely powerful and intuitive… still… not everything is under our direct control… we may never realise when certain things go out of control!!
Anything, that can go wrong… WILL go wrong!!!
You never let him drown in the swimming pool, even when you were 15 years old… you never harmed him so much that he lost his life or lost anything significant for him… you helped him whenever he was stuck… you bailed him out of every sticky situation… Because, basically you are a good guy, Manik. In fact, you are an amazing human being.
Then, what happened this time??
Why were you not moved by his cries and pleading for help? Why didn’t you let him go away after a day or two of punishment? I can understand that you didn’t want to involve the cops, but the way you were dealing with him, he would have died…It had been soooooo many days and you were not relenting. Why??
Think about it.
You know the answer… Because he had hurt ‘me’! I am your sore spot… your weakness…And it hurts me to know this.
You may be in-control, but how will you know when things are going out of control??
It had already started to happen with you.
Your anger and your hatred was growing on you. So much so that you didn’t realise how bitter you had become. It was taking a toll on our relationship. You were becoming rude with everyone you met. You were a visionary in business, you were an achiever but then, you started losing that focus.
Going away to Barcelona gave me some hope… for you… for us!! And it worked… You began to lose the negativity and we focused on us… our relationship … it was a beautiful and memorable part of our lives.
I was sure that after Barcelona, you will come and tell me that you wanted to free him. And you did!!
But letting him free was not the solution. I could have made you do that long back. I could have thrown a huge tantrum and made you free him without this drama… I could have persuaded you by shedding a few tears and emotionally blackmailing you into leaving him… You might have agreed… but that was not the solution…
Your fears of his next move were going to stay forever!! Even when you said that you want to free him, you were worried that what he will do, next, to avenge this… I always knew that! You had that fear right when you got him locked up. And it is necessary to deal with that fear! You will always be scared that he is going to harm us.
It was important to let you know that he is free for a week. He knew that we are in Barcelona and still he did nothing to harm us. Do you remember the note about our whereabouts that I stuck at the front door in Engelberg. It was for Harshad. I did that so that he knows where we are, in case he wants to harm us. He didn’t.
Doctors at this center, dadu, Niki and Cabir were talking to him, counselling him, coaching him, every day… I hope it has worked in this one week…even if it didn’t work, dadu and Cabir are keeping a constant check on him…
I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry that I embarrassed you before dadu, Niki and Cabir. Sorry, I had to involve them. I know that they are your well-wishers and they know you so well that they were not even surprised when I told them about it. They had almost expected you to be involved, when they were in Engelberg last week, after Harshad disappeared.
Dadi and Maya chachi know nothing about it. They have been told that Harshad is in Los Angeles for a concert. Even Harshad doesn’t know that he was kidnapped and held by you. He thinks that it was some mafia whom he had to pay back his debts. When he was freed, all he wanted to do was eat and sleep properly and then he needed some mental peace. He knew that we are in Barcelona. Dadu ordered your staff to free him but still kept him in this asylum for a much-needed rejuvenation… Cabir is helping us too.
I had to do this, Manik… please, please forgive me!! I hated every moment of this… I hate to lie to you… I hate to go against you… I hate to betray you…
I always say that you are my hero!!!
How could I let you become a villain this time? How could I let you be responsible for someone’s death or even someone’s pain? How could I let you live in guilt forever? How could I let you live in a fear that someone is going to harm us?
Love you so much, you may never know…
Manik folded the letter and placed it in the envelope. He had no idea how to react to this. He turned around to talk to the reception lady and asked about Harshad. He was told that Harshad was in the garden area and was completely fine.
Manik wondered if he should be happy about Harshad being alive and sane.
Or be angry on Nandini for letting Harshad go without telling him, clearly betraying him and involving dadu and Cabir, thus embarrassing him before them.