"Those three lines on your forehead, that fake smile, that twitch of your lip and this tub of ice-cream in the morning, instead of coffee – all this is not you, Nandu. These are the traits of that disturbed side of Nandini who sometimes takes over my girl!" Nandini didn’t know what to say to this. The way he had shown concern for her, the way he was quick to guess that something was disturbin...
This is a really, really long update – of the size of 2 updates. Happy Reading!!
It was simply three days that he had asked for them to spend together without whining and complaining about being separated. She didn’t even think twice before she agreed. She would have done anything for him. And it was just some time that he had asked.
She took him to the hospital and the plaster-cast was removed. But Manik still had stiffness and some pain. He had to use crutches and Nandini’s shoulder to walk straight.
Since he was barely walking, they didn’t have much to do. Their home, their haven was everything to them – it was their workplace, their entertainment, their respite for every high and low…
She cooked and he sat beside her on the kitchen slab reading recipes for her. They made playlists of their favourite music to listen to, when they were away. They played with Dobby in the living room and discussed their non-existent kids – how many they will have, what will they name them by making different combinations of their own names, and how Manik was going to spoil them.
“I won’t let you spoil my kids.” She whined worriedly.
“Okay, I won’t spoil them. I will be a responsible father. I’m going to love them like no one has ever loved their babies. I will always listen to them and understand their point of view. I will give them whatever they want. Anything. I will work hard to ensure that they never have to work in their lives and I will always, always have their back, whatever they do…even if they kill someone.”
Nandini was staring at him with a hopeless look on her face. Then she nodded, leaving a deep sigh and said, “Manik, I hate to inform you that whatever you just said qualifies for spoiling kids and there is not even 1% responsibility involved in your plans.”
He rolled his eyes and twisted his lips like a novice, “Really?”
“Yes!” She nodded, with her chin up and down.
“Leave the kids to me… I will discipline them correctly…” She squeezed her eyes.
He grinned and teased her, “Like, how? Letting them watch stupid TV shows till late at night? Or teaching them choicest abuses? Or maybe, showing them how to survive on junk food?”
She hid her sheepish smile and buried her face in her palms. After some time, she said hopelessly, “We are in a mess, aren’t we? Our kids will disown us.”
He laughed heartily when she said that. She was the only one in the world who could make him forget the world, his work, and could bring a big goofy grin on his face. It was so so hard, not to love her.
She was his happiness and the reason for every smile on his lips.
He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. I’m sure there must be a way out of this. You should search for some books on parenting and I will look out for some apps. We’ll do something.”
She didn’t know if what he said, made any sense. But she knew that he was the only one who could stop her from worrying unnecessarily. When he assured her, the world seemed like a better place. Every task seemed do-able. Every difficulty and problem appeared smaller.
He was her anchor and her hope against the world.
They sorted their wedding album into sections, discussed and dissected every picture in that album, and laughed at every situation, remembering how life had changed since then. After that, they did the same with their honeymoon pictures. Most of them were all about her. She remembered how he hated being clicked and was always clicking her pictures when they were in Geithoorn. Each and every moment spent together brought back thousands of memories.
There’s something about memories. The silly fights and disagreements in the past make you smile when you remember them later. While the beautiful, loving memories bring tears to you.
The same happened with Nandini. She hugged him close, thinking of the time that they were about to spend away from each other. She knew that they would eventually learn to cope up and become so busy that the time will fly away. But they had just learnt to get used to each other. They had been learning to read the unwritten in their eyes. They were in their way to understand the unsaid. It was so early in the relationship, hardly six months now, that she was scared that they will be back to ground zero after this break. They will have to start from scratch and rebuild the relationship. Not that she was insecure in any way. She was sure that they would make it work. But the time lost was going to hurt her definitely.
He drew her close to him and stroked her ring finger, with his name tattooed over it. Almost as an afterthought, he said, “Nandu, do you think that I should get your name tattooed too?”
This made her giggle and she separated from him with a big grin on her lips, “You? And tattoo?”
“Why? I can’t be as cool as you are?” He shrugged.
She laughed at that, and spoke adoringly, “Manik, you are already so cool. I’m worried if you become more cool, I won’t be able to handle it.”
He grinned, “Come on. Anything to become like you.”
She sighed, with the overwhelming smile not leaving her lips. With a soft nod, she said, “You don’t need to become like me. And I won’t try to become like you. We are both incomplete and flawed. So we complete each other and make one picture. Let’s not disturb the beauty of it.”
“So… no essay about you?”
She laughed wholeheartedly and hugged him again
Three days passed. Just like the last 6 months had passed. And just like all good times usually pass.
Fast. And fleetingly!
Nandini was called by the management of the hospital to talk about the HODs conduct and the investigations. Dr. Kavita met Nandini outside the MD’s office.
“She is a senior doctor. So most likely she will be sent with a stricter warning or maybe a transfer.” Kavita informed her.
“Oh, dear!” Nandini sighed. To work in the same environment again, with the same HOD was going to be more pain this time. She bit her lower lip and said, “What do you plan to do now?”
“I explained everything that I faced and when they asked me if I was willing to continue if the HOD is given a warning, I asked for a transfer at a vacant position in Odisha. I will get it most likely.”
Nandini nodded. “Okay!”
When Nandini went ahead, she was asked about the same questions that were asked to Kavita and that they had written in their complaint. They asked her if she was willing to work in the same department if the HOD was given a warning and if she promised to behave.
Nandini thought about it and took a long pause before saying, “Sir, I have no problem in continuing if we are treated like humans and a fair deal is given to all resident doctors.”
“Whyyyyyyy??? Why did you do so?? You had a golden opportunity to go to Mumbai. Your parents are living there and now that your husband is going to LA, what will you do here?” Kavita was unable to bring herself to understand this.
“I thought about it Kavita. I have my reasons.” Nandini sat at the bench in the doctors’ canteen.
“And they are?”
“One, since Manik is going to LA, I’m going to miss him like hell. If I go to Mumbai, my only connection with him will be our calls and emails and the time gap is so much that it will drive us nuts. I don’t want to harass him while he works. When I am here, my connection with him is everywhere. Just he will be missing.”
“Means – his office is here, his colleagues and friends are living in the same building. I will feel more connected and every news related to the office will reach me. And then I will be living in our home. Each wall, each corner of our home, our room speaks of his presence. My cupboard smells of him. Things that he uses every day will be there to share my loneliness. I can’t leave his fragrance here and go away. I can’t!!! I will wait for him… here!!” Nandini could feel her throat choking and eyes getting moist when she spoke about Manik.
Kavita hugged her.
Nandini smiled and continued, “And the other reason is that Manik has taught me to stay! I used to run away and escape from problems before. I never looked back if people hurt me. I used to leave and walk away. But he taught me to stay. And fight back. I will give one more chance to this department. I hope that the HOD will behave now after this big scandal has happened.”
Kavita grinned, “My, my!! Have you ever noticed that you blush when you take his name?”
Nandini blushed more and shook her head, “You are crazy!”
“No. You are crazy. In love. It doesn’t look like you had an arranged marriage.”
Nandini chuckled, “It doesn’t really matter how you meet your soulmate. What matters is that you recognise that he is the one. That you can be sure that this is the man I can be myself with.”
Manik presented the project and the proposal for expansion at LA and as it always happened with him, he was profusely applauded.
The MD and other managers couldn’t stop raving about him. Cabir was an inherent part of the project and being with Manik paid him big time as now, even he was going to LA with him.
Shobha Diwan, Dhruv, and Sonalika didn’t like it much. But who cared about them, anyway.
The MD asked Manik, “You can stay back in LA for longer if you want but the initial expansion and working takes around 18-20 months before we call it stable. Now, we know that Cabir is single. So there is no problem with him. But Manik, you can ask your wife to accompany you on this project. The company has no problem. We will pay for your condo and other allowances as we always do for all CEOs and their families.”
Manik could feel his heart sinking at that. If only, Nandini was not a doctor. If only, she could find something of her caliber and experience in the US. If only, she didn’t have training in Mumbai.
He swayed his jaw to fight the heavy burden on his chest making his face blank. Then he said, “No, thank you, sir. My wife has training in Mumbai. She won’t be going with me.”
Nandini returned from the hospital in an emotional mess. She didn’t know how she was going to face Manik, keep a smiling look on her own face to make him go peacefully. This guy read her eyes as well. How was she going to make her eyes smile and look genuinely happy?
She was walking absent-mindedly when the security guard stopped her, “Madam!”
Nandini turned around and smiled, “Yeah? What happened?”
The security guard gave her a sealed envelope and said in broken Hindi, “Ma’am, Manik saab diya aapko dene ke liye.”
Nandini thanked him and walked away with the envelope. She opened it, took out a small paper from it, unfolded it and read it –
I really wanted to write something for you…
Though I don’t know how to write an essay.
But it is said that one drop after another forms an ocean, one step at a time covers miles together, one block over another makes a huge building
So, I decided to write a few words at a time
just to let you know what you mean to me.
I hope they form an essay for you…
Her mushy, gooey heart was already overflowing with emotions. She didn’t have the heart to contain all the love she felt for him. It overflowed. As tears from her eyes.
She had told him that he didn’t need to do that for her. But still, he was doing it. For her!!
His cute little efforts meant so much to her. She took a deep breath and carefully folded the paper. After few steps ahead, she pressed the elevator button. When the lift arrived and opened, the liftman gave her another envelope, “Nandini madam, this is from Manik sir…for you.”
Nandini tried not to make any unusual facial expression. She plainly took the envelope and opened it to read it –
‘Now, don’t get angry.
I’m doing this to add a little drama to my H.U.G.E. efforts for you.
you better remember that I did it for you…
Jokes apart, I really want to tell you how much you mean to me.. but I am unable to do so. You know that I don’t know how to do it right. But I know one thing –
That you love fairytales!
And this is my effort to make it more like a fantasy… make it a bit dreamy…
Coz you have no idea about all those things that you do for me, all the time!!’
Nandini smiled and folded it back, tapping her foor impatiently to reach home. To be with Manik.
When the lift opened, she walked out and was about to press the doorbell, when Cabir stepped out of their house. She was almost startled.
“Cabirrrrr!! You scared me.” Nandini exclaimed.
Cabir chuckled, “Sorry! Manik asked me to get lost when I hear the sound of footsteps. So, I came out running.”
Nandini folded her hands across her front and tilted her neck, “What’s going on?”
“You will know when you go inside. Your husband asked me not to tell you and only I know how I kept this secret for so many days. Now, I’m finally relieved!” He sniggered.
“But what were you hiding?”
“Office and work apart, I have helped your husband in the biggest personal project of his life. He couldn’t have done it without me.”
“You are making no sense!” Nandini rolled her eyes.
Cabir gave her an envelope and chuckled, “Go inside and you will know. Tell your husband that I’ll ask a return favour any day.”
Nandini was getting super-inquisitive now. She snapped the envelope from his hand and quickly opened it. Cabir walked away. The letter was again written by hand in a roughly, scribbly handwriting, that was Manik –
‘I know that you were just pushing me to the edge,
knowing that I will never do it.
And this will give you a chance to tease me.
I also know you were simply teasing me to write an essay,
and you didn’t really want me to do anything like that.
You even told me that I don’t need to do that.
But this time, I want to do it – For Us!
And do you know what you mean to me?
You are my home, Nandu…
A home – A place where you shed your deepest doubts and scariest of worries.
A place where even if you cry, fight, feel suffocated, feel restless…
You will eventually come back again…
Because… at the end of the day, when all the curtains of the world fall…
You come back to a place, to be ‘you’
As it is the only place that accepts you as you are…
It gives you the warmest security, the craziest laughter,
the heartfelt happiness and a love that is forever…
That for me – is you!!’
The moisture in her eyes could barely contain itself. The lump in her throat hardened and she could hardly gulp her saliva. Pressing her lips, trying not to cry, she folded the third letter and pushed the door of their home.
It was dark inside. The lights were switched off. Only beautiful fairy lights glowed by the balcony, windows, near the dream-catcher and the curtain bar. There were small white candles glowing on the dining table and the center table. The smell of fresh red roses from a huge bunch on the center table made her catch her breath in her throat.
Dobby came running to her. She brushed his back with her hands and hugged him. This boy was growing so fast. Now a big baby.
She stood up as her eyes darted around to search for Manik. In a low whisper, she said, “Manik, where are you?”
“Here! Right behind you.” He murmured.
She immediately turned around. He was by the door, with his back tucked to the wall. She didn’t notice him due to the darkness when she had entered. She tilted her neck and showed him three envelopes and folded papers.
“Who does that?” She complained lovingly, on a choked throat.
“You ask me for something… I’ll always go one step ahead!” He chuckled and walked ahead.
“Without warning?” She whispered when he didn’t stop even when he reached her and took her in his arms.
He brushed his nose over her cheek and spoke at a thread’s distance, “You got married to Manik Malhotra. You have been warned enough!”
She curled her arms around him, and replied, “I told you that you don’t need to do anything. I know it doesn’t come naturally to you.”
“Well, I’m trying!” He separated from her after a quick peck on her cheek and held her hand to take her inside. “And I have actually arranged a romantic date for you at home. Everything that you love… all that you would never forget…”
There were roses, candles, fairy lights, chocolates on the center table. Nandini grinned, “How do you know about my idea of a romantic date?”
He spread his hands in the air, as a matter-of-fact and spoke like a perfect businessman made a presentation, “Hey! I’m living with you for the last 6 months… and honestly… I have noticed few things about you – So, your idea of romantic date has to be something related to a combination of darkness, faint lights, us and sweets… all permutations and combinations of these will work – like candle-light dinner, moonlight walk, ice-cream date, late at night over the car, under the moon, or maybe, chocolates at midnight watching fireflies…” He teased her.
She whacked him at his arm, “Such a jerk, you are!! Are you making fun of me??”
He laughed loudly, “You are not supposed to hit your husband.”
“It’s allowed if the husband is a lunatic.”
“The wife is no less! Who even has such a weird taste?!! But hey… I gathered all this for you… okay, I asked Cabir to do it… as you would have got angry if I exerted my leg. But boyyy, it took so much planning. We had to keep it a secret.”
“So, this is what you were hiding!”
“Hmm! What did you think?”
“Nothing!” She nodded, “I’m so overwhelmed.”
Her throat choked again when she looked around the room, all the arrangements, lights, done for her. She didn’t have words to say. She crawled her hands over his torso and snuggled deeper into his chest, “I’m speechless… you wrote so much for me!”
“That was nothing…”
“Hmm?” She raised her head to look at him.
“That was just the beginning. I have more to say!”
“No…no… you don’t need to…” She stopped him. But he bent down and picked up another envelope and gave it to her, “I have already written it…”
“Manik…” She whispered softly. She couldn’t read it for she knew that if she read more, she will cry.
He knew what she was thinking. He took the envelope and said, “I will read it for you!”
“No,” She took the envelope from him and said, “I will read it later.”
“Read it now.” He rested his hands on her back, holding her close.
“No, I’m a mess right now!”
“Nandu!” He nearly ordered.
She painfully gulped the lump in her throat and said, “No. I want to spend every moment with you right now. I don’t want to move my eyes from you today. I will read it when I am alone…when you go to LA…after your flight takes off!”
He smiled and removed her silky, wavy tresses from her face and tucked them behind her ears, cradling her face in his hands and said, “I’m not going to LA.”
“What? Why?” She was flabbergasted.
He shrugged as if it was nothing. “It is not a big deal. I am in a good position here. I always wanted to be CEO.”
“But you wanted to go to LA… always dreamt of that…” She hoped that he was not sacrificing it for her.
“No, I always wanted to launch my own company. Everything else like becoming a CEO here, going to LA, gaining experience were all milestones that could have helped me achieve it. I realised that I don’t need to go to LA for this experience. I would have gone to the US if I was single, like Cabir. But right now, my priorities have changed. It doesn’t even feature in my plans right now. It doesn’t hurt because I don’t think about it all day or feel that I am missing out on anything.”
“So? What will you do now?”
“All that I was doing before. Take care of the company here, as CEO.”
“And LA project?”
“It’s ON! Cabir will go there and I will be in touch through the phone, skype etc. He is good enough to manage. It will be a big boost for his career too.”
“But the MD?”
“He is fine with that. I told him about my priorities today and he said that he is okay if Cabir goes there. He wants me here as well. So, he didn’t make any fuss.”
She sighed heavily, “Oh, Manik!”
He immediately added more, “But heyyy… it doesn’t mean that you have to stop. Please carry on with your plans. You go and join Mumbai hospital for training. I was worried that if I go to LA, I will be really far from you. But when I am here, it’s just a 2-hour flight to Mumbai. We can be together on weekends, we can meet on festivals and off days… 2 years will pass quickly… at least, I’ll be home when I wait for you. This home has a touch of Nandini in everything. Everything smells of you, speaks of you.. and Dobby is here too…”
She rested her forehead over his chest and sighed, “I’m not going either.”
“What?!” He didn’t know whether to be happy or surprised or be concerned.
“I had an option but I thought the same, like you. I wanted to be home while you were away. And I thought that I will face the HOD and win, instead of running away.”
He held her face and raised it again, to peer into her eyes through the faint light of the fairy lights. “All that dilemma about joining Mumbai and training was a lie, right? You spoke all that because you wanted me to go.”
“I did it because I couldn’t be the reason you fall short of achieving your dreams.”
“You silly… you are the reason, I will ever see any dreams. I had been losing faith in my dreams, my smiles, my laughter…I had been losing faith in my ability to love someone and care for someone… I hardly bothered when people left me, for I knew that I deserved that. I deserved people leaving me because I never cared enough… and I couldn’t bring myself to fake that I care… But I couldn’t let you go because you are the only person, I genuinely care for. It matters to me if you are upset or sad… it matters when you are happy… I want to make everything beautiful and happy for you.”
She pressed her lips once, and softly said, “I thought your broken dreams will hurt you.”
“They never broke. They just changed form. Now, my dreams are tangled and tied with you. You! Who can hold me strong when I break to pieces… you ensured that you bring me back from every dark corner that I had resigned to… You scraped off every layer of dust from my past and no matter how badly I behaved with you, you gave me one chance to prove how much you mean to me…”
“Manik…” She had tears in her eyes, all over again. This time, they trickled down.
He opened the envelope and gave it to her. But before she could read, he said, “I want to say what I wrote there…”
He kissed her cheek to remove the fleck of her tear off it and said, “I always knew what I mean to you. You talk so much. Everyone knows what you feel for them. But I couldn’t speak everything… Now, that I have this chance to let you know what you mean, I won’t let it go…”
She pressed her lips again and looked at his face with teary eyes. He smiled and touched her forehead with his own. “Nandu, I’ve already said that you are home to me… but I have more to add – I feel more like myself when I am with you… I have started liking me more when I see you smile at me… When you hug me, I don’t even care if the world simply ceases to exist, it’s sufficient to have you around. For me, everything else comes after you. You have become a part of every thought, every decision, every move of my life… And now, I want to do everything that makes you happy… I want to grow old with you… make lots of babies with you… maybe…6…”
“6??” She rolled her eyes.
“Shut up!” He grinned too, “And listen…make our kids just like you – with all your spark, they should be chatterboxes, honest and straightforward. They will say whatever they want to, just like you speak… and they will never be scared to express anything… not like me…”
She smiled, “But they will be exremely responsible and loving like you.”
“I never knew that I could love so much. I never knew that I will find a girl who would teach me that it was okay if I stayed the way I was…”
“You are amazing. I wouldn’t want to change anything in you.”
“It feels like I waited for an eternity for you. And now that I have found you, I ain’t letting you go anywhere.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” She sniffed as her tears fell down and she rubbed her nose to ward off the tickling.
He grinned as she looked cute when she did that. She was literally a mess in tears flowing out of her eyes, rolling down on her cheeks, wetting them. He made her sit at the couch, held her hands in his own and knelt before her, “You are the best thing that has happened to me in my life, Nandu. In last few weeks, due to a small stupidity, I almost lost you…but found you back… now, I will never want to lose you again. Thanks for not going. Stay with me.”
She nodded, smiling through the tears, “I’m not able to believe it. So, we are not separating?”
He nodded too, “Nopes. We are stuck together by default. We will not be separating, no matter how hard we try.”
Overwhelmed, she leaned ahead and kissed his forehead, “You have no idea what I was going through…”
“And still you wanted to send me away?” He complained.
“I wanted you to be happy.”
“I AM happy. With you. I’ve achieved enough to take a break now, take a deep breath of relief and say – yeah, I’ve arrived. I don’t want to run around anymore. I do have a good career and a good life. Now, I want to spend this life with you.”
She wiped her tears, “I always wanted life to be perfect. To have the best of everything. And wanted everything best for you too. But when I thought about me… I was thinking the same… I am happy here. Even when I knew that you were going away. I wanted to stay at home. Waiting for you. Life will never be perfect. Something or the other will be missing. But we can make it perfect by finding happiness in little things that make life… and deciding to follow what makes us happiest…”
He rubbed his nose with hers, “We think so similar.”
“I’m so glad we became friends more than everything else.”
She grinned, “Best friends!”
“Okay… I want to say something…”
“Bas! You have spoken enough for an year…”
He chuckled, “A last thing!”
“Okay!” She wiped her tears.
He took a small pause and said, “Nandini… I have a favour to ask.. I may sometimes be cranky and have unpredictable mood, I might act stupid, and unreasonable… and I don’t want to say that it is going to be a routine. I’m working on my anger and moods… and I know that you put up with lots of stupid traits of mine, but it’s a request… please never leave me! We will fight, argue, be upset and maybe we stop talking for sometime, but I promise we will find a solution… together!! Please… please never leave me.”
She looked at him and at their intertwined hands, “Manik, if I could leave you, I would have gone when you asked me to leave. But my problem is that I love you too much to be able to leave you.”
He sighed in relief and grinned with a visible sparkle of satisfaction in his eyes, “I will never misbehave again. I promise!”
“One more thing…” She said.
“Now what?” He shrugged.
“I want to confess something…”
“Manik Malhotra, if our parents hadn’t chosen us for each other, and if we had met otherwise… at any other place… in any other setting… even then I would have chosen you!”
He remembered how he had been troubling her for this one sentence that she had spoken weeks ago. It had hurt him deeply that she wouldn’t have chosen him if it wasn’t for her parents. Now, this sentence brought an unbeatable, evident goofy grin on his lips that he couldn’t suppress.
He replied raising his brows, with a sparkle in his eyes, and a widening smile, “Gosshhhh!!! Finallllyyyy…. finally you said that!! My God, I was so depressed and so low after you said that. It became my only problem in life!”
She giggled, “Stop over-acting!”
“No, seriously, life started feeling such a waste. That ‘The Manik Malhotra’ is such a loser – he couldn’t even impress the girl he loves and she wouldn’t have chosen him if it wasn’t a marriage arranged by his parents. Such a low down on a man.”
She giggled more and held the lapels of his shirt, bringing him closer, “Ssssshuttttt Uppppp!!!”
He sighed over her lips, “ I love you!”
“Love you more!”
…………………………….. ~ The End ~ …………………………….