“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?”
He had slightly murmured, walking behind her for the billing of their selections. She turned around to look at him again and grinned, “Did you say something?”
He nodded to refuse, “Nothing!” But the fact was that he was deeply disturbed. And instead of her, he had to answer this question himself. It was him, who needed the deep thought about why he was so uneasy, all of a sudden, while till now, he had been enjoying even a silly chore like shopping ‘with her’…
She had given him something, he had always wanted in a relationship. The freedom to do ‘his’ thing… the ability to work at the office, without being questioned… the liberty to be ‘himself’… and Nandini had given him exactly that. She had managed to keep her part of the deal between them. She was aware of the circumstances of their marriage.
But that’s what it boiled down to – the deal…
No, it was no more a deal for him… was it for her?
Is that why she was always so understanding and accommodating to his needs? Is that why she let him have his way when it came to work and his commitments? Maybe, because she assumed it to be an obligation to be nice to him?
And now, he just felt like she had taken a step away from him by giving him an option of choosing to stay away from all shopping chores in future. Why did she have to offer any choices to him??
She could have clearly exerted her rights on him and insisted that he came along with her…that he HAD to do it?? Wasn’t that a real relationship?? But then, maybe he would have felt suffocated in that scenario too for he didn’t even know what he really wanted and if there was something like a ‘real’ relationship, at all…
She might have known it. And that is why she chose to stay away from him…
He knew that he was confused… about different situations, their responses, their attitude and more than everything, he was confused about their relationship. As individuals, they were clear about their needs, their wants and desires but they were so new to each other that they had no clear idea about what the other wanted. They just went along the flow…
And now, once again, she had created a barrier between them, even for a small distance, and he didn’t know how to cross that.
His mouth went dry and his lips parted slightly to let him breathe the heavy bout of air waiting for his approval. He sighed visibly.
They were through the billing process without any obvious difficulty that two working newly-weds have – who pays?
She checked and collected the items billed, he fished out his credit card from his wallet. She didn’t protest or discuss it at that time. Once back to their car, with their bags, she disturbed his train of thoughts and brought him back from another planet. “Manik, can I say something?”
“Hmm?” He turned to her for a second, while beginning to drive.
“It feels awkward to ask you to pay for things that I wanted to have or things I selected… I mean…”
He frowned. Was she even serious?? She was actually talking as if they were two different people, living under one roof as roommates.
He checked his own voice in his mind again. Didn’t he ask her for this exact stupidity when he asked her to marry him? Didn’t he actually believe that they could live like that, without affecting each other?
That’s exactly what it was – a stupidity!
For once, he really thought that this kind of hypothetical relationship was even possible when two people got their lives tangled and tied to each other.
Without turning to her, he asked, “What do you want?”
“Can we decide, who pays for what? I mean, you can choose to pay for the household expenses or the grocery bills, or maybe the electricity and water bills, I can pick up any of them, maybe the maids, extras like movies or maybe dinner…”
He didn’t reply to her, at that time. He had never heard about it at his home. His parents or relatives or friends didn’t talk about these things much, but it was sure weird and to top it all, he was beginning to hate the choices she was giving him. It seemed that he hated every option of every choice she lay before him, for every choice made set them apart as just partners and not …
He didn’t know!!
This confusion was enough to send Manik’s mind for a royal toss. He had always hated relationships. He knew that he was not made for one. He knew that he couldn’t handle a relationship. He was sure to mess up. He was sure to make blunders. He was not prepared for marriage. Why did he even get inside this ball of confusions with threads and webs woven around him, making him feel a victim of his own emotions?
It was almost 8 pm, by the time, they returned to the house. She immediately went inside and held Dobby in her arms. Though the pup was on medication and mostly sleeping during the day because of the drugs and pain and though she had arranged milk and pieces of unsweetened biscuits in a pan before leaving, yet she felt as if she had left a baby alone and that made her feel guilty.
Nandini sat on the floor and cuddled the puppy close to her. She looked so cute that Manik left the bags on the dining table and stood still for one minute just to observe her. This time, there was no envy, no irritation in his heart. It was pure, unadulterated admiration. How cute she could be! She cared for a creature she didn’t even know properly. She didn’t leave him after a display of humanity by giving him medication and food. She actually brought him home. She wanted to be there for him.
Manik smiled warmly at the way she had held the puppy close to her in her lap and patted him adoringly, “You just met him last night. It’s not even a day and you already love him so much!”
She chuckled, “Manik… you need just a moment to fall in love with someone.”
He grinned, nodding at what she said. Not exactly believing her but not denying it, either. They had different beliefs and the trend continued. There was no point discussing and arguing every little thing!
Another point of difference between them was food. It was already 8 pm. He came back with a bottle of water from the kitchen and came back to the living room to sit on the couch before her.
“The cook comes at around 7 pm. She cooks for Cabir and Dhruv. You can ask her to cook for us, from tomorrow!”
She continued to caress Dobby, and looked up at him, “She doesn’t cook for you?”
“Err… no! I have a very …”
“Weird??” She tried to fill in for him.
He laughed and said, “Shut up!” He continued after that, “I have a very different taste and choice in food and no cook can actually make what I eat at night. Mostly soups, veggies, grilled chicken or maybe fish… so… I didn’t ask her to cook for me… but now that you are here…”
“You know na, that I can’t cook!”
“I know!” He grinned, “And that’s fine with me. I don’t expect a gynaecologist to come back from the hospital, tired and irked, to come home at odd timings and cook for us. Having a cook will be a better option.”
“Manik, along with an inability to cook, can I also confess something?” She grinned sheepishly, almost waiting for a taunt.
One look at her and he could guess what she was about to say, “That you have a peculiar taste and choice too??”
“Haha!! You got that!” She chuckled, “Actually, I’ve never enjoyed regular meals, roti, sabzi, dal, chawal are so boring! I will be in the hospital for most of the day and when I am home, I would love to indulge in things that are readymade or quick bites… like pizza, pasta, maggi, eggs, bread and butter… So, if you have been managing your food till now, I will manage mine. We don’t need the cook!”
Was she serious???
How can someone eat all that junk in dinner, every-damn-day?!!! He had never heard of it, before. But there was no point even discussing this. The only silly part of her theory was – ‘you manage yours and I will manage my food’ …
Damnnnnn… she loved pressing his buttons, even if she did it unknowingly! Since evening, he had been hating every moment of her efforts to stay at a distance from him. It was unintentional but it was irritating.
He rolled his eyes and got up. They were two sides of a coin and the irony was that the coin was one. They were together but looking in different directions.
The unease and the restlessness didn’t decrease even after the long night. In fact, it increased.
Manik was worried about how she will manage the home decor and furnishing alone, but Nandini relieved him by saying that she wanted to do it on her own.
Manik left for work, as early as 8 am, as the last date of delivering the project was approaching fast and he had too much to deal with on the work front. All the politics against him was taking shape under the current CEO, Cabir and Dhruv informed him. He had to be perfect at work and he could neither afford lapses, not leaves.
It was not possible for him to take leaves and be with Nandini to help her. He was aware that she needed him, but she didn’t say anything for she didn’t want to disturb him. He asked his office driver to go home and take another maid with him to help Nandini.
When the doorbell rang, Nandini was surprised. She settled Dobby and opened the door. Only to find the driver, along with the maid. She grinned at the thoughtfulness of her husband who was probably-and-hopefully thinking about her even at work.
The driver fixed the curtains as instructed by Nandini. The maid arranged the cupboard and dusted the living room, couches etc. The sweeper was sent by the building guard to clean the washroom and the regular maid arrived too, to clean the kitchen, wash utensils and mopping. Suddenly, Nandini was surrounded by helpers all around her to make her work easy.
She instructed them and sighed, leaning by the door jamb, observing them. Not very happy. Not sad either. She was just clueless. She pressed her lips together. ‘Do you really think, your responsibilities get over by sending people in your place, Manik? I understand, that you are busy and you can’t come… but I would have preferred you by my side, any day, compared to the army of helpers you’ve arranged!’
Nevertheless, she was thankful!! Immensely thankful…
Her work had eased and she could have a major chunk of work done in less time. The groceries and household articles ordered online arrived too and she got them arranged as well. While the helpers cleaned, dusted and arranged the entire house as per her specifications, she sat down at the dining table and made a list of all the hospitals which had a famous gynaec and obs deptt and where she wanted to work. She made a plan for the next day to be followed to hunt for SR -ship post of her choice.
But before all that, she sent a message to Manik. Thanking him was just an excuse. She simply wanted to send him a message.
‘The helpers have been a great assistance. Thanks a lot!’
Manik was preceding upon a meeting with the rest of his staff, and it was mainly the troubleshooting session today. So he was listening to the issues and reverting them to the concerned departments. He knew that the message was from Nandini, when out of nowhere his phone buzzed. He generally didn’t check messages in between meetings. But he had been breaking this rule since some time, now.
The ‘thank-you’ message from her didn’t make him smile. In fact, it made him feel low! Just like the choices, given by her yesterday in the mall. Something stabbed deep inside his heart. He was aware that it wasn’t enough to send people in his place, where it should have been ‘him’ with her, decorating their house. But he was helpless and he felt bad.
The fact that she was not complaining made it worse.
She spent the day finishing the last bit of arranging and settings of the home and he was busy for rest of the day with back-to-back meetings and last moment finishing up of the project.
None of them had enough time to notice how they were getting irrevocably tangled into the changing dynamics between the two.
Late in the evening, he messaged her that he would eat at the office and asked her if she wanted him to order something for her. She messaged in reply that she would manage as she had the kitchen set according to her.
It was almost 10 pm, Nandini was in the living room with Dobby in her lap, watching a Hindi film when she started feeling sleepy. Tiredness through the day almost overlayed her efforts to stay awake and to wait for Manik to come back home. She slouched at first, struggled to keep her eyes open and then finally, she didn’t realise when she drifted to sleep. Dobby slowly stepped down from her lap and crawled over his own bed to take rest. The apartment retired to an eerie silence.
It was late at night when Manik returned. Almost 3 am.
He was not sure about their routine, so he had carried a spare key with him and had decided to keep the spare key at all times so that they didn’t disturb each other. He opened the lock and entered silently, only to witness, all the lights on and Nandini sleeping on the couch, almost hugging her hands and curled around herself due to December breeze.
The apartment looked like someone had used her magic wand to alter it’s appearance and sprayed the magic sparkle to make it completely different from what he had left in the morning.
Without adding any new furniture, she had added an elegant ethnic touch to the old basic furniture and with lots of cushions, paintings and decorative artefacts, she had transformed the living room to a homely Indian living room. With limited means and without adding new furniture, it was a difficult task but she had done it!
He knew that his mom would definitely be happy with this daughter-in-law for her choice and taste in home decor.
Without disturbing her, he moved to the bedroom to bring a duvet for her. The bedroom was in contrast to the colourful brightness of the living room. It was dark. It was black. He remembered telling her that he loved dark colours. She had remembered it and to consider his choice, she had done the bedroom in a darker shade.
Instead of bringing the duvet for her, he came back to bring her to the bedroom. She had been on the settee, curled up and fast asleep. He knelt before her and caressed her hair from her head downwards. Her closed eyes, her long lashes, her soft, supple cheeks and her nude lips, each part of her face defined calmness and peace. He would voluntarily drown in the sea of serenity she offered.
Since yesterday, she had been disturbing him and his thoughts as no one had ever done before.
He was not happy. He was torn apart. His heart ached. His emotions were all over the place and his mind couldn’t stop thinking about her, or be affected by her thoughts from haunting him even for a second. It had to happen to him!!! Why???
She was so beautiful. So cute and witty. So good at heart. She was an angel. So divine and peaceful. And she was so giving. It wasn’t even a week into their marriage and she had taken it upon herself to make his life easier.
How did one stay unaffected by her…how could one stay away from her…
Her eyes opened when she found him caressing her hair. She gave him a lazy, sleepy smile. “When did you come?”
“Just now! And why are you sleeping here, without any quilt?”
“I was waiting for you!” She murmured in a sleepy voice.
He was not happy. He chided her, “Never do that again! I don’t like it!”
“Okay!” She nodded, confused.
“Okay, I promise. Did you see the house?” She sat on the couch.
“You liked it?”
“Loved it! Now come inside and sleep properly. It’s 3 already…” He held her hand and helped her get up to go inside.
She wanted to talk about it right away, “Did you notice the contrast between the bedroom and the living room?”
“Yes, I did!” He chuckled, “Living room is lively and colourful and really pretty. Full of life. The bedroom is class and darker. It looks mysterious but warm.”
“They represent you and me!” She stepped on the bed.
He laughed at the analogy and spread the duvet over her. “I like it! Both the contrast and…”
She blushed and rested her head on the pillow, He moved away, “I’ll change.”
“Hmm!” She nodded and nestled into the duvet, wrapping it all around her.
He opened the cupboard and found it neatly arranged. His things with her things. Their clothes, accessories, belts and watches. Along with her purses and bags and perfumes and lotions… her scarves, stoles, bangles, ear rings and other pieces of trinkets that she loved.
His grey, blue and black wardrobe was suddenly colourful and vibrant… just like his life…
The washroom was as neatly arranged and tidied and decorated as rest of the house. She had used lots of glass vases with flowers, artefacts and paintings, fresh plants and lamps all over the house, and that gave it a warm appeal like a home.
When he returned back after changing, she had fallen deep in sleep. He climbed the bed softly, so as to not disturb her and slipped inside the quilt.
She was sleeping on her side facing him, with her hand between them. He was on his side too, facing her and observed her for a long time.
Slowly, he slipped his hand ahead on the bed to let it lie over her hand, so softly that she was not woken up. Thankfully, she was not…
He hated this feeling! This helplessness, this pain! As if something deep inside his chest didn’t belong to him anymore. His heart was beating for her, now…
It wanted her to be happy at all costs. It wanted her to be protected at all costs. It just wanted her wellbeing.
This is crazy, Mannn!!!! It’s happening for the first time…
Have I never been in deep shit before? And if those were deep feelings, which I felt at that time, then what is this?? They were not even a fraction of what I feel right now.
No…. I’m sure, I haven’t felt like this ever before…What weird feeling is this?
What Do You Call It??