Hello everyone, I haven't been able to finish writing the update and I am busy in too many things this week. My kids are having exams, my younger one celebrates her birthday on 26th, I have to wrap up all aspects of The Masquerade, including blurb, bio, cover, and acknowledgments, my clinic has loads of appointments, and some paperwork is pending. In short, you all will have to wait for a bit :)...
Thank you for all your wishes on the last update. They are closest to my heart and I cherish them like crazy!!
Love you people!
I had thought that I will reply to everyone on the 100th post, but alas…something kept coming up and I couldn’t!
I always reply to everyone on my personal post, as that is the basic purpose of making personal posts in ‘My Corner’… to stay in touch!! That is one place that I love to connect with everyone. My personal posts have been irregular in past few months. So to streamline them, I decided that I will post a blogpost in ‘My Corner’ – a personal post on Fridays as #FridayConnect so that we can share about ourselves. The last post was Lets Catch up!
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! So, I will post a bonus update of T & T + a personal post + an announcement regarding The Masquerade…
So, look forward to more…
She frowned, and was so angry and irritated that she couldn’t keep it inside her, “I can’t believe you allowed her to make coffee and upma for you!”
This time, he simply observed her – Quietly! He was silent and calm, while she was fidgety with the quilt as she removed it from her and stood up, grumbling angrily, spitting words like fire, one after the other, “Don’t you dare ask me to shut up, this time. You have no idea how my work has sucked the life out of me… and when I come home to get some peace, I see this!! Do you even know, Manik… how I am feeling right now??”
“No!” He nodded, and softly spoke in a very low, soothing voice –
“How would I know? It has been 4 weeks since you stopped talking to me about you!”
His words had pain. His words had a distinct complaint. For her.
She knew that she had stopped talking as freely as she used to do it. It wasn’t just him. She was not even cracking jokes in the hospital, with Dr. Kavita and other colleagues. She wasn’t making friends with patients, strangers, or random people anymore. Even her parents, extended family and Priyanka masi complained once that she wasn’t being the old Nandini. And she knew that they were all right.
She knew that she wasn’t herself anymore. She had retracted in a shell of her own. A safe cocoon that shielded her from the outside world. From any more pain. Or so she thought. For it wasn’t helping her. It didn’t protect her. It made her more vulnerable. It made her less protected than she had hoped for.
Her personal turmoil wasn’t the only reason. The hospital issues, lack of friends and new environment had all started piling on one over the other. Her physical fatigue was making her more emotionally labile, more sensitive and less forgiving. And she knew that this was not her. This was that distorted form of her which couldn’t identify with the ‘real Nandu’ anymore…
She was scared that this phase if it stayed for long, was going to change her forever. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want to lose herself. Her innocence. Her goodness. Her transparency. Her willingness to trust and love, unconditionally.
But it wasn’t in her hands. The fact is that every bitter experience does change you. It changes you for good.
Was there any hope left for her? She wondered.
Maybe! She was known to not look back at people who hurt her. She was not known to forgive. But she had stayed back when Manik requested her to be with him while she decides to take a break. She knew that he was the only one who will do anything in his capacity to not let her break down. And even if she breaks, he was the only one who would hold her pieces intact.
She might have some enemies. But Manik was not one of them…
He was the one who gave her a reality check, time and again. She needed him as much he needed her.
She was still looking at him when he complained that she had stopped talking to him. She pressed her lips together and went near him. And then, she slowly sat down on the bed beside him. Without speaking anything. Without looking at him. Without any other movement.
For so many days, even when they were fighting with each other, he was the only one who was a source of peace to her. With other people, friends and colleagues, even some relatives, if she was in an argument, she wouldn’t even look at them again.
But with Manik, she would purposefully stay around him.
Her world began and ended around him…
She knew that Manik was observing her. Keenly. With his sharp, soul-piercing eyes focused just on her. She slowly turned her neck around and he was indeed looking at her.
He loved it when she came closer and sat beside him. He loved the way she was taking care of him. He felt pampered, like a baby. Nandu exactly knew how to take care of people. She knew how to make people around her feel special and happy. She was in the worst of state and her face showed that. Still, she didn’t forget him. She was so sleepy after she came back from work. But she made him be comfortable. Only later, she slept.
And now, she was grumbling because of Sonalika and accusing him of letting her make coffee for him. He didn’t know in the morning when Cabir opened the door for Sonalika and she made coffee. Manik had woken up after that. Otherwise, he would have thrashed her right there. Even at breakfast time, he was lost in discussion with Cabir and didn’t even know that Sonalika was in the kitchen. He had hoped that she was gone. When he realised that she was cooking something, he asked Cabir to shift him into the living room. He had initially been kind and distant just because he felt a bit guilty. But Sonalika proved that she didn’t deserve kindness and formality.
Nandu thought that Sonalika was being lovey-dovey with Manik and he allowed it. For a moment, he thought that he would clarify his stand. But he was in two thoughts.
But will she listen? Will she believe him?
If this anger on Sonalika made her respond and react to him, why clarify?!
Even if she was grumbling, she was talking to him directly and looked evidently upset. It was a great relief because that displayed her possessiveness for him.
He loved it and dropped the idea of clarifying. It was anyways difficult and out of his capacity.
After a few unsure moments, Nandini stood up. But before she could walk away, Manik held her elbow and stopped her. She stopped and turned back to look at him. He was looking at her straight as if he had all the time in the world. As if he had nothing else to do than look at her and make her feel conscious of his eyes on her. As if she was his Universe and he had nowhere to go…
She squeezed her eyes in a complaint. This time, Manik had a soft smile on his face – an assuring and loving smile. She didn’t retract her hand away. Instead, she turned around completely to face him. He drew her towards him to make her sit back and she followed. Not just to sit with him or near him… but much closer… over his lap. She curled her arms around his neck and hugged him, resting her head on his shoulder. He hadn’t expected this. Thrilled and speechless, he wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her within himself, so warmly and so close that her tiny frame was almost engulfed within his long arms and broad shoulder.
She sighed and snuggled closer. With every moment, the chains of her fears, her apprehensions, her doubts, and worries seemed to be breaking apart. Her fatigue, her exhaustion, and her frustration melted like ice melting over the fire. Her confusions, her anger, her questions found an anchor… in his arms…
And all of those feelings found a release as her tears fell down… one after the other…
He was speechless even now…
He didn’t know what to say. He was sure of just one thing that every feeling on the earth was secondary to this feeling of Nandini deciding to trust him and slip in his arms. It said that hope was still alive. Nothing was lost…
She sniffed as she cried silently, with only her tears falling down and wetting his tee-shirt over his shoulder. He could sense that she was crying because he could feel her tears and feel her shivering and sniffing. He drew her closer and tighter. His arms overlapped themselves so that she was within that hold, safe and secure.
“I’m so sorry!” He whispered, “Please don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying because of you.”
He was confused, “Then?”
She murmured over his shoulder, almost breaking down, “I don’t want to talk.”
She moved slightly, to lift her face up and to crawl her hand over his lips to shut him up, “Just don’t talk.”
He could see her turning to him. At a hand’s distance, he could see her face drenched in her tears and reddened, tired, moist eyes. Her face was distraught, and as vulnerable as her entire body, almost limping in his arms like a delicate dove caught in a net.
He pressed his lower lip in, heaving a deep sigh captivated at the look of her and overwhelmed after holding her so close to him. She was distressed like a leaf that lost its way after falling from the tree. It made him uneasy too.
He could feel his heart sinking at the sight. He removed her hand from his mouth, lowered his head enough to touch his forehead over hers and spoke impatiently, “Nandu… please talk to me?”
She turned her face away, once again to hide in his shoulder, and nodded vigorously. Helpless, he moved his hand up to keep it on her head, and stroked her hair lovingly, bringing her closer into the nest of his arms. He held her strongly supporting her while she cried her heart out, none of them remembered for how long.
When she stopped crying, she moved away and left him to go inside the washroom and wash her face. With every splash of cold water over her dried tears and distressed face, she realised that she was already feeling better. She didn’t have to worry about anything when Manik was with her.
After a long time, she felt like there was indeed hope for her. He was her hope!
She came back in the bedroom, softly wiping her face with a hand towel. He tilted his neck to observe her. She looked at him and slightly opened her mouth as if to say something. But then she changed her mind and left it. He raised her brows, asking her to speak. She nodded to refuse and went out, to go to the kitchen and get food for them.
After lunch, she was reading a book and he was watching tv, sitting on the bed, side by side. Without talking to each other. They were quiet but there was a different kind of tranquility between them. There was no bitterness, no angst, no anger. It was only peace that they could feel within and around them.
Her phone was kept on the bed, between them. By evening, around 6 pm, her phone rang. Her eyes were in the book, by now. She removed them and peered at the display screen. It said – HOD.
Nandini stared at the phone and frowned, without any hurry to pick it up. Manik observed the phone first, then Nandini and it took him only a second to guess what had happened. Nandini was back to reading the book, ignoring the phone. It stopped ringing.
After 5 minutes, it started ringing again. Once again, Nandini was distracted and she looked at the screen. Manik did the same. Once again, he was looking at her. This time, Nandini turned to him and found that he had been looking at her. It was embarrassing.
She shrugged and stretched her hand to pick up the phone but her hand was caught in the air by him. She was surprised and tilted her neck. He softly held her hand and secured it in his warm grasp, leisurely interlacing their fingers and exerting a firm grip on her. Without her telling him, he had guessed about the trash treatment she had been receiving at the hospital.
“You don’t want me to answer the phone?” She asked.
He nodded. And said, “Think about the reply first – what you are going to say – before you answer.”
She rolled her eyes, “What’s the use? You will speak from ‘her’ side… you will tell me to listen to her…right?”
He twisted his lips slightly, and spoke in firm words, laying stress on each word, “It doesn’t even matter what I think, or, what I will speak… or tell you to do… you should think about what YOU – Dr. Nandini Murthy Malhotra, will do in a situation like this.”
She lifted her chin in defiance, huffed visibly, slammed her book down on the bed, with her hand still in his hand, and spoke angrily in random rapid sentences, “What’s your problem? Yesterday, you almost forced me to go back to the hospital. It wasn’t even my night duty. I had to do it because you nearly pushed me away. You have no idea how this lady is behaving with me and Kavita in the hospital. And instead of supporting me, you supported her, saying that they had every right to harass us because they have hired us? And now, you want me to answer after thinking well… what do you want from me, Manik?”
He patiently replied, “Yesterday, I sent you back because the girl who wanted to be here with me was not my Nandini. She was a weak female, oppressed at the hospital, unsure about what she wanted to do so she simply avoided her HOD, sent a message of leave, and wanted to run away from every problem. She wasn’t talking. She wasn’t reacting. She was just quiet. Listening and suffering. Trying to escape. They would have taken action against you as you didn’t even assert yourself. You lost your voice because of me… you wouldn’t have suffered so much at the hospital, had you not lost your sense of assertion because of me… I made it difficult for you to express yourself…and you lost yourself…”
His eyes lowered and his voice dipped so low that she knew that his throat was choked. He felt guilty for making her lose her natural stable state. Nandini had tears in her eyes. She stared at him, cluelessly, with her lips slightly parted to speak. But she couldn’t utter a single word.
He continued, “I sent that girl back to be pushed to a limit that she is unable to tolerate any more and starts reacting…Today, this girl who is so angry at me… shouting at me, fighting with me and demanding answers… she is the girl I fell in love with…”
She was tongue-tied. She always knew that he could read through her. As she could read through him. But she didn’t know that he would resist these unwelcome changes in her, that she hated too. She didn’t know that he would read through her suffocation and wouldn’t allow her to lose herself…
He left her hand and held her shoulders, “I always told you, Nandu… I loved the way you speak… Right from the day we met – I loved your spontaneity, your ability to speak whatever came to your mind, your effervescence… apart from everything else about you… which you are beginning to lose… to become someone you are not.”
“Manik…” She didn’t know what to say, so she simply whispered his name, with her teary eyes still fixed on him helplessly.
“Do what you would have done if you were the old fiery Nandu. The girl sitting before me, right now – This is my girl! And I am madly in love with her.”