Manik was dead sure of one thing that he couldn’t lose her…not at any cost….
Nandini took the bus no. 229 towards her street. Once inside her building, her apartment, she slept for the entire day. The stress of missed sleep was nothing as compared to the stress of weird theories inside her chaotic mind. She needed to stay with herself for one day to streamline her tangled thoughts and bubbling emotions.
Nikita made coffee for her when she saw that Nandini didn’t step out of her room for the entire day. She knocked at her door and entered when Nandini asked her to. Nandini lay in her bed, tired and worn out, with her eyes puffy and swollen, partly due to sleeping and partly due to unwanted tears that may have trickled on her cheeks, sometime during the day.
“Coffee for you! Not feeling well?” Nikita gave her the mug full of coffee and asked in a sweet voice.
“Tired, actually!” Nandini smiled and straightened to sit on the bed.
Not a great conversationist herself, Nikita sat down on the chair beside the bed and smiled to give solace to her new friend. They had been staying under the same roof since 8-10 days but they never had the chance to interact much. Both the girls generally talked less, kept to themselves and stayed busy with their jobs. Sharing issues was not going to come easy to them. Both knew that too.
“You look stressed out.”
“Hmm… long travel!” Nandini kept it short.
“If you ever want to talk about something, just remember that I’m here.” Nikita offered her an ear.
Nandini nodded, “Thanks a lot! I’ll be turning to you whenever I need a friend… just that, right now, I am not in a state to talk or discuss anything!”
“I would say that you can begin by talking about it. Trust me, you can offload a lot of stress just by sharing it. I am a good listener and a mature advisory.” Nikita spoke jovially, making Nandini smile.
“I’m sure about that. Just give me a day or two. If I think, I’m not able to handle it, I’ll come to you, definitely! Right now, the one I need to talk to, is myself… I need to do a lot of introspection and retrospection…”
Nikita smiled and said, “That is a good idea, too… Okay, you have your coffee. I’ll cook dinner tonight. You take rest.”
Nandini smiled, feeling blessed for getting such an amazing person as flatmate within a few days of landing in Paris.
Cabir sipped from his large glass of beer staring at Manik, who stayed lost in his thoughts and was staring at the table before them, right now.
Sitting at tall chairs across the bar at a famous pub in central Paris, they had been staring at the crowd, drinks, each other and furniture, ever since they had reached here. They had hardly talked except exchanging few pleasantries that each was fine. Cabir had nearly forced Manik to join him when he got to know that Manik was back from Lucerne. Manik had been sleeping all day before Cabir literally pestered him to come out of the Malhotra mansion and meet him for a couple of drinks.
Now, looking at Manik’s disrupted state, Cabir was sure that there was something wrong here.
“Stop!!” Cabir finally placed his hand before Manik’s eyes, “Dude, if you are trying to make a hole in the table by your fiery looks, I can assure you that we are right there!”
“Cabirrr!!” Manik rolled his eyes at Cabir’s silly attempt to crack a joke about his stare. He lifted his huge glass of beer and sipped from it. “Improve your sense of humour… You look like you need a break from your stressful job!”
Cabir laughed, “And, you look like you need a break from your stressful thoughts.”
“Huh??!!” Manik disregarded that.
“Really Manik… I thought you’ll be here, all rejuvenated and excited after a thrilling trip. No!!! All I get back is a dull and deranged Manik Malhotra… not in his spirits, any more! Take a chill pill and relax, dude!!”
Manik shrugged, lifting one shoulder, and replied, “I wish, I could…”
Manik replied with a hopeless look on his face, “I had heard that everything around you gets jammed in a disarray, when a girl enters your life. But I had never believed it. How can a girl do that?? … But no… Now I know that it was true!!!”
Cabir started laughing at that and couldn’t stop laughing for some time, earning Manik’s angry glares for himself, too!
“What?? What was so funny about it?”
Cabir slowed down and said, “You should hear yourself, when you speak.”
Manik spread his hands in air, unable to understand what Cabir was trying to say. Sometimes, it was him who heard what Cabir never spoke in words and sometimes, it was Cabir who knew what Manik wanted to say even without hearing him speak. They had been together since a long time to have that bond between them.
Cabir replied, when he found Manik staring at him with questioning eyes. “This is the first time, Mr. Malhotra, that you are acknowledging that a girl has entered your life!! You are forgetting that you were dating Alya since 2 years. You didn’t consider her a girl?”
“Goddd!!” Manik turned his face away with a disinterested nod. He was not going to discuss Alya.
“Think about it!! You never felt anything different when you were with Alya. She never disrupted your schedules, your thoughts, your work… your stable, routine life…She was hardly a part of your thoughts… and… you were so ‘normal’ when you were with Alya.”
“And??” Manik was listening to Cabir and knew that it was a silly theory but still he wanted him to complete it. “What has happened to me, now?”
Cabir smirked with one brow lifted in a tease, “I don’t know!! I need time to come to a conclusion before I declare something. Actually, this is the first time I’m seeing you like that, ever since I know you!!”
“Like… dumbfounded?? And disturbed?? Imagine… The Manik Malhotra is disturbed…”
Manik hissed under his breath, in frustration and anger, “Not a very pleasant feeling, I can assure you!!”
“Really??” Cabir became serious and asked, “What did she exactly do to make you so restless?? Did she reject you??”
“No…” Manik bit his lower lip.
Cabir almost sputtered at that, “Wha…whattttt!!! … what did you say??… come again…??”
Manik chewed the inner side of his lower lip in irritation and contempt. He nodded, “That’s true. I rejected her and broke her heart. And now, she is so so so pissed off at me!!”
Cabir looked at him as if he was talking Greek. His widened eyes stayed stuck at Manik’s face, unable to believe what he heard. Then, placing both his hands flat before him, in air, he said, “Wait…wait… you can’t just return from a trip and drop bombs like that… Can we just start from the start… like… what happened??”
“I told you, she is not talking to me… THAT is the exact problem!!” Manik spoke like a lost kid.
“No…no…no… you are getting it all wrong!! THAT is not the problem. THAT is the after-effect!! Now, you tell me what did YOU do, to earn that ‘not-talking’ reaction from her?? You rejected her?? How did that happen?? And here I thought that you were head over heels crazy for her!!”
“I was… I mean… I am!! I’m still crazy for her… but I guess… I messed it up!! Big time!! Everything was going so right! So amazing and so beautiful! I’ve never had such a wonderful time, in my life… but then…” Manik was lost in the memories of the surreal moments he spent with Nandini. She was ruling his mind and his heart and he couldn’t get her out of his mind.
“Then??” Cabir blinked his eyes, not interested in his beer anymore.
Manik moved his index finger over the rim of his glass in circles and observed the bubbles arising from the drink, making a froth at the top, when he replied in a slow voice, “Then, she asked me about our relationship… what we had between us and where we are going??”
“Dude, is she out of her mind? Who does that within a few days of togetherness?? These things come with time…”
Manik was in a different world altogether… He didn’t agree to Cabir and didn’t reply him. Instead, he kept talking, “She was also talking about things like ‘forever’… and, whether I believed in ‘marriage’… and how I saw our future…”
“Hahh??? Are you serious?? This girl is really silly!! You just met…a couple of weeks back?? How can you talk about such deep things… She’s weird…”
Manik stayed quiet and didn’t reply to that for a long time, still looking at his drink and his glass. Cabir tried to read his face with a mysterious look in his eyes. Manik not only appeared upset but guilt ridden and confused.
After some time, Cabir tapped on his wrist and spoke casually to distract his friend, “Okay… I think you should forget about this girl! She is just as desperate as those wannabes who swarm around you for you being the Malhotra… the rich and successful…owner and CEO of Malhotra empire. How dare she ask about marriage and forever to you, when you have just met?? What is she expecting??”
Manik frowned as he clearly didn’t like it!
“Please Cabir… first of all, her name is Nandini… so stop talking about her as ‘this girl’…. and ‘that girl’… I would expect you to respect her! And secondly and very importantly, she is NOT a wannabe!! She is not looking for money and anything that I have… or she would have slept with me… But she didn’t!!” Manik blurted without intending to share it.
“She…what??” Cabir was staring at him like he was an alien talking about rocket science.
“Yeah…” Manik spoke in a low voice, with a knotted brow and a deep sigh, “We… we kissed … and things went a bit too fast…”
Cabir was back to sipping his beer, “Okay… to be honest… I had guessed that…I know Nandini and I know that she is not anything like I spoke about her! But I just wanted to see if you defend her when I speak shit about her…you did !! That’s good!!”
Manik rested his elbows on the table, clasped the fingers of his hands into each other and just stretched the two index fingers out of the grip, to bang it lightly over his forehead. “It just spoilt everything… I spoilt everything… We had an incredible time at Lucerne… I loved every moment spent with her… but then…”
“You lost control…”
“Yeahhh…” Manik closed his eyes.
“She stopped you and asked you where you were heading with her??”
“Do you really think she is at fault?? Any self respecting girl will do that. You should be proud of her!”
“I AM !! Really proud of her. And I respect her !! But the problem is she is not talking to me now!”
“Not her fault again…what do you expect from her?? That she will take it with a pinch of salt and continue as before??”
“She should have given me some time before such emotional complications!!”
“Did you give her time before any physical complications??”
Manik rolled his eyes, “Okay… it’s my fault! Maybe… but can’t she forget and forgive that mistake?? No…she is so stubborn!!”
“You are no less, Manik!! And right now, she has every right to be so… She is as messed up as you are…maybe more!! She began to trust you after Harshad rejected her. And now, she got another rejection from you… I guess she must be too vulnerable right now…”
“I know!! And I am too overwhelmed with her questions! I don’t know how to deal with it…”
“Manik… do you even know what you just did?? You shattered her self esteem. She must be thinking that something is wrong with her…that ‘she’ is not worthy of love and all that… She must be thinking that you wanted to go around with her, spend time with her, kiss her and even sleep with her… but you were not serious about her!! Now, what do you expect from her?? That she will take everything casually after this?? Just the way you did!!”
Manik dragged his words in frustration, “Come on, Mannn… don’t make me more miserable, than I am already!!”
“Manik, just listen to me… stay away from her…for some time!! Please…please DO NOT force her to talk to you, unless you are too sure of what you want. Pestering her again and again will only make the matters worse… let her be…let her gather herself…let her get a grip of the situation and understand, what both of you want from this relationship… even if it is just friendship, a casual affair or a serious relationship… let it be very clear!! Don’t confuse her and don’t confuse yourself!!”
Manik huffed, “I wish, I could do that…”
“Alright… Just tell me one thing… one straight question…”
“Hmm??” Manik had never felt so tangled before this. Business with immaterial things and stocks had always been so easy as compared to trading of emotions, he felt.
Cabir was straightforward, “Are you in love with her??”
Manik stared at Cabir as if he was a silly kid asking stupid questions. “Why don’t you answer one question, for a change?? It will really help me…”
“Ask!!” Cabir shrugged confidently.
Manik was straightforward too, “What is love, by the way??”
Cabir widened his eyes, rolled them, coughed slightly and shrugged, “Good question!! I wish I knew the answer!!”
“Cabir, I’m stuck!! I am lost… honestly!!”
“And what exactly is your problem??”
“To be honest, Alya had always told me that I was emotionally unavailable. That I care for business more than people. That I am not capable of loving someone!! And I believed her!! When she wanted to go, I let her go from my life… I didn’t even want to stop her! I can’t make false promises to Nandini. I don’t want to see the same happening with Nandini. I like her, I care for her, I am attracted to her… but love?? I don’t know… What if I can never give her what she is expecting from me… what if I promise her things she is looking for and then break her heart all over again… you know about my parents… they were not a happy couple… I don’t believe in things like ‘love’… things like ‘forever’…”
“I don’t even believe in marriage. I said yes to Alya because of dadu and dadi… I didn’t even know her and even she was prepared for a relationship where there was nothing to begin with. It was easy to do it like a duty! But not with Nandini… she will have a lot of expectations, if I promise her a ‘forever’… what if… I can’t give her what she is looking for…”
“Hmm!! It’s quite complicated, buddy!!!”
“Cabir… can you please help me??”
“No… I’m sorry… I can’t!! This is something that should not be and cannot be explained… It’s something that will come from inside you!” Cabir pointed his finger at Manik’s heart and tapped him at his chest, “Only ‘you’ can help yourself, for it shouldn’t feel like a decision that was forced or influenced by someone. Take some time off… see how you feel for her… and then go back to her!! Don’t make it any more awkward for her…”
“Cabir!! I hate to tell you this, but I’m getting inexplicably restless…I can’t leave her alone… I can’t seem to stay away from her… I want her right before my eyes, to ensure that she is fine and doing well… I want her to talk to me, even if she wants to fight with me. I want her around me, even if she wants to hit me for being a jerk. And I want her to be there, with me, even if she decides to hate me!!!”
It was a long update!
Today’s question – Not talking about either Manik or Nandini or about this story… just tell me generally- “How do you know when you are in love?”
Looking forward to interesting responses from you… love you all…take care!}
More updates tomorrow as it is a Saturday ie 14/09/2019