Spark & Spice: Chapter 19: New Avenues

Apologies for keeping you waiting. I was too tired yesterday.  I just couldn’t write or post any chapters. 

Thanks for understanding… Lots of love to all of you…

Also, I had planned to keep the story here for 11 days of Ganpati festival but as many people requested for letting it stay here for longer, so I am posting slowly… 3-4 parts a day… 

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Manik was right!

The room that was allotted to Nandini, was not only small but dingy and messy too. It just had enough space for 3 beds and 3 almirahs and a small table. She knew that Paris was known for small cramped spaces so she had almost expected it. Everywhere she was going to get the same space.

But Nandini was fine with that. She was used to adjustments and she had lived in places like these, with some relatives who were not so well-off! She had stayed with different relatives after her parents demise, till the age of 10 years, after which Meera mom took her in her wings and adopted her officially!

The way the other two girls smiled at her and welcomed her in the room was more than enough for her to feel at home. In general, she was not a person with high demands and pricey airs. She had a humble upbringing.

Hardships had trained Nandini to stay confident and safe, where-ever she went, and just because of that, she had moved to Paris with an internship and training in hand and had ensured she had accomodation provided with a good stipend in hand. She didn’t want to depend on her in-laws for supporting her till she got married. It came handy now!!

She checked her clutch. She had only fifty euros with her. But they were more than enough for a meal. She still hadn’t eaten anything since evening. The entire drama and the after effects had caused so much adrenaline to pump in her system that she hardly felt like eating anything, at that time. Now that the hormones had started settling to some extent, she felt famished.

She sat down on her bed and folded her knees to hug them close to her chest. The heavily embroidered dress was weighing her down and the sequins and beads had started pricking on her skin. The girls looked as if they were just back from a party. One was on phone constantly, speaking all lovey dovey things in French, to probably her boyfriend. The other one was lazing around with a heart shaped stuff toy, chatting with someone on her laptop, with a prominent blush on her face!!

‘Valentine’s Day! Obviously!!” Nandini gave a hopeless nod and observed them for some time, observed the room, used washroom and drank water to fight starvation and exhaustion. She was too tired and drained to even think of some action. She lay down on her bed, slightly reclining on the wall behind her.

She felt awkward and lonely! She was with entirely new people and she was tongue tied on how to initiate the talk!! It was weird and awkward… But she didn’t have any other way out. The night was turning to be difficult!!

Finally, she decided to talk to one of the girls who had offered her a spare bedsheet. She had just closed her laptop.

“Excuse me, do you speak English?”Nandini asked.

“Yeah… I am from Scotland!”

“Thank God!! Listen.. I need some help!! Can I please borrow something to wear?? My luggage is still in the transit.” It wasn’t a lie. It was about to reach the next day. Well, she could hope so!!

The girl was more than willing to help her. “No problem, take this!” She pulled out a pair of denim shorts and a pink spaghetti crop top from her cupboard.

“Thank you!” Nandini stared at the attire and wondered if she could pull it off. She used to wear smart dresses and designer wear in Delhi too. Thanks to her profession, she got to design clothes and wear them often, but not revealing ones. Delhi was neither safe for girls to roam around in revealing clothes. nor she felt like going totally rebel in her middle class neighbourhood.

“No worries !!” The girl rolled her eyes when she saw Nandini staring at the dress with a puzzled look on her face. “Any problem??” She asked sweetly in a cute accent.

“Actually… I’m not sure if I can carry this with confidence! But no worries, I’ll be wearing my jacket over it… so it’s okay… ” She blurted honestly.

She grinned, “Are you going out?”

“I’m starving! Will I get to eat something, at this hour?”

“No!! Most of the stores shut down by eight. But you’ll get a few pubs and eateries open at the main market and I won’t suggest going out alone at this time! Paris isn’t that safe as rest of the Europe!”

Nandini frowned. She had no idea what she was  going to do next! She changed, nevertheless, ducked herself inside the duvet provided with the bed and tried to sleep.

After a few minutes, the senior lady who had attended to her at the reception knocked at the door. She entered without permission and addressed Nandini, giving her a box of medium size, steaming hot pizza, “Your boyfriend has given this for you! This is your first day here, so I allowed it.”

‘He sent it!!!! For me?? How thoughtful!! Did he know that I haven’t eaten? Aiyappa, he won’t even let me hate him properly!!’

Nandini sat up, confused and embarrassed, “Err… he is not my…”

The lady was not even listening to her. She had made up her mind, “See, next time onwards, see to it that you go out with him. Don’t call him here okay?”

Nandini nodded. She had realised there was no point in defending herself before this woman. The lady incharge left and the girl who had helped Nandu with the dress, grinned more, “Your boyfriend is so caring! See, you didn’t have to go out. He knew that you are starving! So, he sent the pizza.”

Nandini pressed her lips and nodded in helplessness. “Would you like to share it with me?”

“You won’t mind, right??” The girl hesitated, “I mean, you are so hungry and afterall, your boyfriend sent it…”

“First of all, he is ‘NOT’ my boyfriend… secondly, no matter how hungry I am, I can never eat the whole 10 inches pizza… so please… I’d like to share with you!!”

The girl was nice and talkative and Nandini liked her company a lot! The third girl joined them too and the two girls had a blast talking to Nandini for some time. Nandini, otherwise reticent and reclusive with new people, listened more and talked less, but certainly liked both of them. She had to talk to them. She had to divert her mind from the pizza and how it had saved her life… They shared the pizza and some small talk about their backgrounds and native places… Talking to them was not so difficult afterall.

After a while, when they dispersed to go to sleep, Nandini was feeling much better. A pizza and two new friends had filled her with what was immediately needed, for the night, to go to sleep peacefully… a full stomach and a little joy!!!

She picked up Manik’s phone from the bed, after tucking herself in the warm bed and typed. “Thank you for making the night easy for me!”

He immediately answered. “How about you doing the same for me, as well?! How about some forgiveness??!!”

She replied. “What a perfect businessman you are! You don’t leave any opportunity to be tapped!”

“That’s what makes me successful!”

“And mean too!! Mr. Mean Malhotra!!”

He laughed out loud at that and smirked. “You won’t be able to hate me for long!”

“Good night!!” She knew she had no answer to his confident declaration. She had to ensure that she didn’t meet him enough for him to prove this true!

She couldn’t sleep all night. Harshad’s betrayal left her with a bitter feeling in her mouth. Her heart was full of regret and pain for trusting someone so blindly that she ha left her country for him! It wasn’t entirely her fault! Meera mom, dadi and Maya aunty had promised her that nothing could be better for her than this! And she had believed!! How naive of her!!!

She hated every moment that she had spent thinking about Harshad!!

And then, there was Manik! Someone she had begun to trust… like… admire… By morning, her thoughts had shifted slowly and gradually from Harshad to Manik. She had never seen or met Harshad in person so all her anger and hatred on Harshad was boiling down on Manik !!

Worst of all, she had shared with Manik about her deepest feelings, which she shared with no one! And what he did… She wasn’t even sure what she felt about it… It was all too painful…

……………….

Next morning, Dadi and Maya aunty came to meet her. It was more of a formal session of apologies and regrets. They tried their best to take her back to the Malhotra mansion but Nandini was determined to not go there and she made it clear to them without speaking much. Just the same way, as she had told them that she wanted to wear the dress bought by her mom!

She didn’t speak much but her attitude, her demeanour, her body language said it all. She stayed with hands folded, sitting on the sofa in the reception with her eyes lowered but not even one sign of weakness on her side was displayed. Finally the duo left after blessing her and asking her to come to them, if anytime she needed any help.

Manik called her, when she was getting ready, “Nandini…”

“Stop calling me, Manik!”

“I want to talk to you!”

“I know what this is about. Trust me, I’m getting over it!”

“Still… is it possible that we meet and talk??” He tried again.

“Give me a few days!”

“I wish I could wait that much!”

“Your problem!” She closed her eyes, to ward off the constant pressure from his end. “Why are you pressurizing me, Manik?? I hope it gets settled in a few days, and I start feeling better… I will be able to talk to you, then, without fighting!!”

“Can we not meet… now?? Today??”

“You need to learn patience, Malhotra!! You can’t make people feel the way you want them to!! I have to go now! And please… I hate to say this… but please don’t keep calling me… It is only driving me crazy!!”

Manik’s driver arrived with her luggage, her wallet and her belongings. She gave him Manik’s iphone and asked him to give it back to Manik.

She applied for a new number, saved the two girls’ numbers in her diary and moved around, without the phone for a while. No one could track her now!!

She felt liberated!!!

She cried her heart out… and threw away every thought of Harshad out of her system and was ready to live a new chapter in her life… She had her food and headed to the company to join the new life waiting for her!!

She joined the prestigious company that she had applied for and was accepted for the highly coveted internship. They had offered 2000 Euros as monthly stipend and it was pretty awesome for a person like Nandini who had few requirements and simple living! She was happy…

A week passed in settling down in the new place… And she was loving it !!!! No matter how small and cramped her hostel was… no matter how sick her team-manager at the company was… no matter how she had an issue with French-French everywhere… no matter how there was quite a partial favouritism going on in the company right now… no matter how less exposure she was getting… She was still loving it… against all odds!!!

Finally!!!! Finally, she had something to look forward to! Something to be happy about!! Something that would keep her busy, that would give her a new lease of life, help her get back to her feet… She had so many dreams about it!!

One week had passed and Manik had not called her! She remembered this and smiled! He had finally given her the space she had asked… And she felt like she was beginning to heal!

Not for long….

On Monday, the team organiser called them and informed them, “Listen people, this is for everyone. This year, we are low on finances and opportunities and over loaded with trainees and staff. We are finding it difficult to manage. So, we have decided to send you for advanced training to other companies, to reduce the load on us and still not affect your training. Trust me, these companies need hard working trainees and are much better than us. So you will only gain from going there!!”

The trainees looked at the organiser with anxious eyes. He started speaking out the names in an orderly fashion, along with the name of the companies they were being sent to…

Out of the list of five being sent away, last was Nandini, obviously!!

“….. and finally Ms. Nandini Murthy, from India… to The Zenith International!!!”

Nandini marveled at her sixth sense and was so proud of it that she knew what was coming!!

Wow!! So Mr. Mighty Mean Malhotra was behind it??!!!

And she had just started considering being easy on him! She had just started to feel that she could be nice to him…

………………….

She had no choice!! She called him, “You can’t do this?!”

“Really?? You want to try me?” He smirked.

“Manik… you are taking it too far!!”

“You did that already!!”

“I love my company. I’m not coming to your company!!” She huffed.

“Your joining time is 09:00 am …Sharp!! I don’t like latecomers!!” He spoke in a stern voice.

“So, THIS is what you meant when you said that you will make it ‘your‘ business??!!”

In a deep husky voice, that made her go red even across the phone, he asked, “Of course!! Did you think something else??

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{ Lots and lots of love to each and every one of you!! All likes, comments and all reads are special to me!! You have no idea how happy you make me feel!!!

I’m deeply touched… Love you all }

One thought on “Spark & Spice: Chapter 19: New Avenues

  1. Soo excited for the further journey… So now we will see the real tushal between MaNan.. 😁
    Thank you for updating Di.
    And take care. 🌼

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