“Sure, you are talking about our home?”
“Of course!! You only said na, that I shouldn’t expect anything like that from you!! Or… should I??”
He lifted one brow and smiled mysteriously, before coming up with a soft, husky whisper, almost lowering down towards her shoulder, “Expectations are the fixed frame, inside which, we bind others and ourselves too… and keep hurting each other… So, why expect? Let’s follow the flow of situations, and we might get more than what we could have ever expected!!”
She raised a brow too, teasingly and made a teasing pout before she murmured, “Oooohhhh!!! Like that???”
He spread his hands sideways, in the air, saying, “Like that!!! Just the way, you didn’t want anything counted between us?!”
“Cool! I’m game for it!! Let’s see what follows…” She chuckled and was back to selecting stuff for the house, while he observed the array of towels in a separate section. He never knew that towels came in hundreds of colours, sizes and designs… he used to go home and pack the stuff given by his mom…including towels, bedsheets etc and never thought of buying them from a speciality store.
At best, he had ordered utiltiy items online so his choice and size was always clear which he clicked in hardly 15 minutes, ordered and paid. He had never seen so many collections of towels, bedsheets, curtains and doormats before. He almost felt lost.
Nandini picked out the curtain fabric of different types and turned around to ask Manik about the choice, but found him talking on the phone and moving around. She waited for him as she didn’t want to disturb him but when he continued for 10 minutes, she went before him and shrugged. He squeezed his brows, requested her to give him some time. She rolled her eyes and came back to select the bedsheets.
Manik finished the phone call and came back, “What?”
“Can you help select the colour and design for curtains?? For the living room and the bedroom?”
He gave her a helpless look and moved his tongue around his gums and inner cheek, “Nandini…”
“I mean… how do I know?” He sweetly shrugged.
“Manik, I’m asking you to select as I don’t want to appear imposing or dominating… I want ‘your’ say too…”
“I have no say… go ahead with whatever you like…”
“Come on!” She spread the samples of different designs and the colour palette before him and said, “At least, you can tell me your favourite colours…whether you like darker shades or lighter ones… or bold designs or subtle ones… we are living together… in one house… I don’t want you to feel like an alien there…”
He was too impressed at how considerate she was… only that, he didn’t really know what was in store for him on the next corner…
He shrugged and said, “My favourite colour is red!”
She giggled, “That doesn’t mean that we can have red colour curtains or bedsheets or doormats!”
“No??” It surprised him.
She stopped smiling and was serious this time, “Of course, no!!! Are you crazy!!?? Red is too bold a colour for home furnishings and it will slowly become irritating to wake up to red in the morning… every day…”
“Ohh!!” He nodded thoughtfully, “Then, after that I love all dark colours, black, brown, grey, purple…”
She interrupted him, softly, sweetly, cutely, “But Manik… I am trying to give some life to that house… it should be warm and welcoming… I was just thinking… that – black is too negative… brown, err… it is a bit boring and old fashioned… grey will become dull, don’t you also think so?… and purple is always called depressing… that’s what colour therapists say… you can check online…”
He rolled his eyes, “Then??”
“It should be something soothing…warm…welcoming… homely…like white, off-white, cream, beige, muted tones of green, blue and yellow… then we can have a dash of your dark colours here and there…”
He huffed, “Wow!!! Like wowwwwww!!!!!”
She giggled, “Thanks!”
“Did they teach you this in medical college?”
This time, she laughed hysterically, “Whattttt!!! Why would they teach that in medical college?”
He rolled his eyes, “Nahhh… the way you seem to be an expert at that… I am sooooo impressed with your knowledge in home furnishings!!”
She narrowed her eyes, “You are teasing me??? Dare you do that…ek toh… you were on phone all the time… I selected all these designs and colours… but then I waited for you so that you don’t feel outcast that you were not consulted…”
He laughed at that. “Thank you so much, before err…consulting… and yeahhh… asking my opinion…” With that he glared while she smiled sheepishly and walked away, to ask the store guy to measure the curtain material, stitch the rings around it and deliver it to their home.
“Don’t we need measurements for that?” Manik asked.
Before she could reply, the store guy came back and said, “Ma’m, we need measurements for each type of window and door… actually…”
She raised her hand to stop him from speaking more, fished a small paper from her handbag and gave it to him, “Take these… these are the measurements of the windows and door of the bedroom and below are the details about the living room…”
This time, Manik was truly impressed at her preparation, but he wasn’t going to show that to her. His phone rang and he was back to talking to some creative guy about the production design and lighting. She took out towels and doormats and waited for him. Again, she went to him and held his hand to bring him back while he was still talking on phone. Without speaking anything, she showed him her selections and asked him to choose. He was busy on phone and needed some time off, so he placed his index finger randomly on 2-3 designs…
“This….this… and this… okay?”He declared.
She glared at him, disbelievingly. Those were the least favourites of Nandini. But she had taken them out just to give some choice to Manik. She glared at him again after giving a long look at those selections and huffed. He smirked and leaned over the row of towels to continue talking. She dumped those 3 designs and picked up the rest, making him laugh more. He observed her angry face and blew a kiss in air for her. She scrunched her nose, visibly upset.
She went towards the bedsheets section and after spending 20 minutes there, she realised that Manik was somewhere far away, answering one phone call after another. She went towards him and folded her hands, crossed at her chest facing him. He finished the call and shrugged, “Hope you are not bored!”
“Nopes! Not at all…” She gave him a big fake smile and immediately changing her expressions, she added, “I’m irritated!”
He laughed at the way she said that, “Sorry!!!”
“Manik, why did you come with me, if you are still in the office?”
He took a heavy breath, and continued to chuckle, “Errmm… moral support??!!”
“I hate you!!! Sooooo much!!”
She stomped her feet towards the bedsheets section and asked him to follow her. He followed her. Then she asked him to pick 3 out of 5… He pretended to look at the designs while his mind was in the pending project at the office. He had to approve the latest row of campaigns and the new plan to be shown to the client the next day. Here he had to select bedsheets….
He observed the bedsheets and very thoughtfully, very carefully he chose 1st, 3rd and 5th…
She smiled gorgeously, folding her hands across her chest again, tilting her head to one side and swaying her body as if in a carol group.
“Huhh?? Fine now??” He smiled too and asked, “I hope, you like them !!”
This time she giggled, touched his chin and made him look at them again, “Manik!!! They are all same… I took out 5 pieces of same bedsheet!!”
“Whatttttt!!!!??” He sheepishly looked at them as if caught red-handed committing a murder and then tucked his lower lip under his teeth, “Errr…. mmm….”
“You were hardly paying any attention!!” She was super angry, “You were not even looking at them properly… why did you come with me… go back to your office…”
She walked away and he followed, grinning and thinking of words to justify himself. She instructed the store guy to help them with the billing of the things she had already chosen and then he realised that she had chosen the bedsheets before running him through the litmus test, in which he had failed big time.
There was another bag which had few cotton tops. He observed them and asked, “When did you pick them? Do they sell clothes too??”
“Only basic cotton tee shirts for casual wear… I’ve taken them to wear at home?”
He peered inside, “Did you try them?”
“Why didn’t you show them to me?”
She chuckled, “Wow… Manik Malhotra… when it comes to bedsheets and curtains, you feel lost… and when it comes to stupid ganjis… you want to see them ??? Get lost!!!!”
He held her elbow and pulled her closer, teasing her, “Come to the trial room… I want to see themmm…”
She laughed hysterically, “Whatttttt…are you silly…”
“You tried and didn’t show me… why did I come, then?”
She was still laughing, “Okay…I give up! I didn’t try them… i just picked them up as there was a sale running on them… buy 2 get 3 free….”
“Goodness!!!!! What kind of sale is this?? And who buys stuff like that??”
“I do…” She shrugged and followed the store guy with their selected stuff to go towards the billing counter. “I pick up stuff I like at a quick glance… At least, I don’t pretend to be with people and stay busy somewhere else…”
“I will never forget that you were always on phone… while the drive and shopping… I should have come alone… I would have saved a lot of time and headache… you are so useless…”
“Err… okay sorry… really sorry…” Mortified, he pleaded, standing behind her in the queue.
She nodded, totally miffed with him, “No…enough of sorrys… I don’t think, I like it that you apologise all the time, whenever I get upset or I apologise when you don’t like something…”
“I believe in redemption, amendments or punishments…”
“Ohhhkayyyy???!!!!” He was interested. This was new to him…for he had never heard anything like that, before. “What do you want?”
She turned to him and said, “You can redeem yourself or choose a punishment?”
“You have a choice – Either redemption, by taking me to shopping every Sunday or you can choose punishment – of never coming to shopping with me… I will never ask you to come with me… I will neither feel bad…nor will expect it…ever…”
“I hope, you are not saying this in anger??” He pressed his lips and murmured, unsure about it.
She smiled. A very genuine and warm smile swam on her lips, when she assured him, “No, Manik… I can understand that you are busy, but even I can’t shop like that… My time is precious too… and my feelings too. So you need to choose – redemption or punishment?”
“Do you really want me to be honest?? Or… you are asking that, to give me a safety window to please and pacify you?”
“No, I don’t play stupid games just to boost my ego… I’m serious… I’m up with both… any of them you can choose… at least, I won’t expect more from you…”
“Honest?” He ran his tongue over his dried lips.
“The way you are asking, I think I know what you are going to choose!!”
He gave her a hopeless, uneasy look and said, “I won’t be able to redeem myself after maybe one or two Sundays… I’m bad with keeping promises… I’m not good at living up to expectations…”
“It’s okay…why are you explaining yourself??… You choose ‘punishment’…right??”
He pressed his lips and sighed.
The queue moved ahead and she sighed too, “Very well!! I don’t mind. At least we are honest and clear about what we want… from each other…”
“Come on…the entire point of this choice is not having to apologise… for being ourselves!!” Then she flashed a really warm smile and said, “Manik, do you remember the first dinner date in Mumbai, when we met for the first time and went to the Pizzeria?”
“How can I forget that?”
“Didn’t I tell you the same thing – then? You shouldn’t apologise for being ‘YOU’… everyone is a package of positive and negatives… the other can choose you or leave you depending on that… you can make changes if you want to do the same, for someone, if you really really want… but I shouldn’t try to make you feel low, just because you are you… you have every right to be you… and you don’t like shopping!!! That’s it!!” She shrugged.
He found his heart beating at twice the speed. Something was not right… something was missing… something weird and uneasy was nagging at the back of his mind…
Wasn’t she giving him everything that he had ever wanted from a relationship???
Then, why was he frowning…
He threw a huge frustrated bout of air outside and asked in an irked tone, “So, basically you are giving me the liberty of being ‘me’…”
She chuckled and squeezed her eyes as she nodded, “Exactly!!!”
“Then, why don’t I feel happy about it?”