Since morning, Manik was typing and sending emails, replying to allegations to him. Around mid-noon, he received a message from Nandini. It had now become an addiction for both of them to send and receive messages to each other, all through the day.
She had informed him that she had attended an interview at Max hospital and was pretty satisfied with it as the response looked positive. He smiled, looking at the message and the smilie, she sent with it. She had a bad day yesterday. This interview was something that she needed to retain her zeal to go on. He was happy for her and told her that he was typing emails as a reply to the MD and management executives. He had typed several emails. One, defending himself against all the accusations. Another, complaining against his CEO, Shobha Diwan, and her stupid sycophant gang. The third one, refusal to work under Dhruv.
Worried, she innocently tucked her lip inside her mouth, and ferociously typed – ‘Listen, please behave yourself while writing the emails. Don’t be over-rude and don’t accept anything!’
He smirked and typed – ‘As you say…‘
‘One more thing – Please don’t fight with everyone. Keep your point view, loud and clear, without sounding mean.‘
He rolled his eyes and typed back with a small careless smile on his face – ‘Stop nagging, wifey! And let me do my work.’
She read the message and a hopeless smile appeared on her face. His silly rude messages were beginning to get addictive as much as his cute ones. Something was seriously wrong with her.
Around 4:30 pm, she messaged him –
‘Going home early today. Shopped for groceries at Big Bazaar. What did you do?’
‘Sent the passports and documents for visa application.’
‘Wow! I’m excited already… listen, we don’t have the marriage certificate, yet… so I hope it won’t be an issue…’
‘No! As you didn’t change the name, so you travel with the maiden name on both the passport, visa, and tickets. So, technically, no one is going to ask the marital status unless you tell them…’
She chuckled – ‘So technically, we aren’t even married? We are traveling like a girlfriend and boyfriend on a holiday abroad.’
‘So technically, I am allowed to flirt with other girls?!’
She sent several angry emoticons and typed – ‘You try doing that and I will happily strangle you and every ‘other’ girl, you talk to…’
He laughed when he read that – ‘Yeah, sure! Anything to make you happy!’
‘Ha! Stop trying to be funny and finish work. Come home soon and talk to me, face to face…’
‘Let me work, then. I even forgot what I was doing before chatting with you…’
‘Why don’t you hire an assistant to keep a log for you?’
He rolled his eyes again – ‘A wife can never stop advising, questioning and bullying her husband…’
She flared her nostrils, supremely irritated – ‘Haww!! You started branding girls again?! You know what… sometimes, I really find you misogynistic… opinionated… rude… mannerless… and such an idiot…’
He laughed loudly -‘But I ALWAYS find you adorable!’
She read the last message and was speechless. He just knew how to make her speechless all the time, without fail. She blushed and rolled her eyes with a whisper to herself – ‘Such a smartie!’
Manik had a naughty smile on his lips when he twisted them mischievously and put his phone back, very sure that she won’t message him for some time now.
Moments like these were the only saving grace for him through the tough days. The office environment was getting hostile with every passing day. Manik found it difficult to manage and coordinate with his colleagues and subordinates as he could clearly see them taking a side and getting divided. Few, loyal to him and rest, loyal to Shobha.
The sad part was that Dhruv had taken Shobha’s side and refused to talk to Manik just because he was being offered a responsible project and Manik had openly refused to work under him.
On one side, the entire world was going against him. On the other, his own world was getting concentrated around just one person –Nandini.
He hardly cared about anyone else…anymore…
She had reached home early and shopped for veggies and grocery at BB, so instead of getting bored, she plugged on FM channel for music and cooked Spinach-corn gravy and multigrain roti with brown rice and Russian salad.
He came home tired but the smell of food, the sight of his lovely wife smiling warmly and the beautiful house, enlivened his spirit.
He wiggled his brows when he sat down for dinner. Lifting the lids from over the bowls, he sighed, “Wooowwww!!! And…what did you cook for yourself?”
She smiled sheepishly, serving the rice and gravy in her plate too, “The same! I didn’t have any energy left to cook more!”
He chuckled, “Awww!! Didn’t I say that we are changing? The Great Junkie, finally, started eating healthy…”
She laughed too, “Gosh! Now, that I eat it… I realize that it isn’t that bad!”
“Especially when it is cooked by you..”
“And once I join the hospital, I think junk is not good if I need energy on a constant basis. Mom used to say so. So, I’m good! I’ll call her and tell her that I am eating healthy.”
“She will be so thankful to me!” He teased her.
She swayed her jaw and teased him back, “Ahaa!!! Awesome! I cook and you get all the praises?!! Not fair!!”
“On a serious note, you don’t need to do it every day. We can hire the cook that comes in the building.”
“We’ll think about it later. Once we come back from the holiday and once I join something.”
He felt bad that she had been searching and hunting for hospitals for more than a week, without any breakthrough. He was sure that she will get something good, but sometimes a good opportunity takes a bit of time to come by and that needs patience from an individual to hold on during the testing time.
He could read Nandini’s unease about sitting at home and being jobless at work front. Her frustration would come to fore whenever she talked about joining the hospital. Even she was sure that she will get something that she would love and that suited her too… but patience was not a virtue, she excelled at. She twisted her lips and shrugged, finishing the last morsel of her food. And he could read every move that she made.
He asked, “What do you think? Did Max interview appear promising?”
“It was good. And they looked positive. The HOD liked me. But then, most doctors like me and everyone else when we apply. They are respectful to all doctors and never misbehave… they maintain professional decorum, give you proper attention and a sweet welcome. And then, maintaining the same sweetness, they tell you ‘no’…” She chuckled.
Impressed at how easily she joked about it, he smiled and added in a loving, assuring tone, “Soon… You will get something that is worth your potential. Just wait for some time.”
She nodded as she blinked once appreciating his supporting words and stood up to pick up the empty plates. She cleared the table. He assisted her in settling the leftovers in the fridge. She had been toying with the idea of the Chennai offer but wasn’t really sure about it. She really didn’t know if she wanted to go away from Manik and focus on her profession.
She would have once jumped at this offer. Before marriage. But now, she was in love with Manik. She loved spending time with him. She loved that both of them were growing closer day by day… finally getting to understand each other. Slowly, getting used to each other. It was an arranged marriage. It needed efforts and time. Creating physical distance between them had the risk of creating an emotional distance too.
They had been together for less than 2 weeks. Misunderstandings and issues were still creeping up and they were trying their best to deal with it…together!
On the other hand, she didn’t know how he was going to react to it. Would he accept it? Would he want to live without her for some time?
She didn’t know how it was going to turn out to be… But she definitely wanted to discuss it with him.
He was washing his hands in the washroom when she settled Dobby over its bed, switched off the living room lights and followed Manik. His clothes were scattered all over the bedroom. When he changed, he just left on the bed, all the clothes that he got rid off. His socks were on the floor and shoes right before the bed. It irritated her as she couldn’t think straight when she found the house or bedroom in a mess.
Picking up his shirt and trousers, she lay them on her forearm, while dusting the bed and straightening the bedsheet. She arranged the cushions and then, in a pained voice, she said, “I don’t like these clothes and your things spread everywhere. So many times, I’ve told you. You know that.”
He walked out of the washroom and stood before her, leaving a labored breath, “You also know that I’ve always been like that. I don’t even remember that I let them here…because…”
“Because your mind was not here? You were thinking about office and the new struggles?” She asked directly, folding her hands across her chest.
“You know that, too!” He winked, with a flirtatious smile leaning towards her aiming for a kiss.
“Manik, this house is beginning to scare me.” She stopped him from coming closer and bent down to collect his shoes. She placed them out of the room in the shoe rack. She dumped his clothes in the washing machine in the spare washroom off the corridor, his aviators and wallet in the bedside drawer and tidied the entire bedroom while talking.
She wasn’t angry. She wasn’t upset.
She just grumbled something nonsensical and he patiently followed her everywhere, making an apologetic face and listening to her, when she rambled and muttered something, nonstop, “I mean, do you even know why I leave the house, in the morning, every day. After you leave for work, it becomes so important for me to leave too because I don’t want to live alone in the house. I don’t like being alone. I’ve never been alone. You know that, too! I want to join work, because, once I join work, I will be busy and I love, love being busy at work, not being busy tidying the house and cooking… Also, I want to join work because I am missing the hospital, the smell of disinfectants and the beep of life care support units… I miss the cry of newborn babies and solving issues of mothers-to-be…and what I am doing here…??!!” She spread her hands sideways, with a helpless shrug. He nodded in a silly manner, tried to understand her.
She rolled her eyes at his silly look and continued, “Plus, add to all that… you and your messiness… I feel like, the more I will stay here, I will become someone who will find pleasure in doing things for you… COZ… I AM like that, Manik… I love to cook for you… for us… I love to decorate the house… tend to the plants… take care of your things, your clothes, your little needs… These things give me pleasure… you were right… I might be a case of OCD… I know that I WILL become a satisfied home-maker because deep in my heart, that facet of a woman attracts me too… I love my mom and masi doing all that for their homes and husbands and I will do that for us in the future, but right now, I’m scared… I don’t want to dilute my goals and mess with my career ambitions before I have achieved anything in life… I want to join work…so desperately…” She frowned.
He held her wrist to bring her closer and curled his hand around her waist. She wriggled slightly when he drew her closer, almost shocking her.
She opened her eyes wide, shocked and suddenly nervous with this unexpected closeness. No matter how comfortable and how intimate they had been in past few days, yet his touch, his smell, his eyes roving over her face, stopping at her eyes to lock with them and drifting towards her lips to make his intentions clear to her… all of it, always brought goosebumps to her.
“What?” She whispered, softly.
In a husky, throaty voice, he asked, “Did I ever tell you that I love it when you rant like that? Speaking sooooo much, non-stop, nonsense…and still making sense… disappointed but never, ever harsh or rude… irritated but to-the-point… you know, since the day, I met you first, I’ve become a huge fan of the way you talk.”
She blushed, “So, you finally cracked the trick to deal with every messy situation – Flirt and flirt!”
He laughed out loud, throwing his head backward, nodding hopelessly, “And you got every trick in the trade to deal with me!”
She winced, “Don’t joke about it, Manik! I’m serious. Were you even listening?”
“Okay! Come here…” He held her hand and dragged her back to the bedroom, made her sit on the bed and sat before her. “I heard everything. And I understood it. But your fears are baseless. I told you that you don’t need to cook and don’t do the housework too. We will hire a full-time maid, fine? She will do all this stuff for you. You won’t get that pleasure. Honestly, I didn’t even think that it was creating this chaos in your mind. I was always messy and I never bothered about it. All it mattered was work, work, work. And when I saw you cleaning and preening the house, I accepted it that you like to keep it that way, so you do it!”
She frowned, “So, you won’t change?”
“You want me to change??!! That’s news!! We decided that we won’t nag each other for our habits and we won’t expect any changes…”
“Wow!!” She made a huge surprised gesture, and was angry, though very slightly but she complained, “Like really!! When it suits you, you say that there are no rules between us… and then when it doesn’t suit you, you bring back the rules saying we are not supposed to nag, expect, change, complain… No??!”
He huffed, raising his hands in air, “Yaar, Nandu… What do you want? You always fight!”
She fiercely protested, “Noooooo!!!! I don’t!! I just respond. You are always so unreasonable that I have to grumble and nag you.”
He sighed, and teased her, “Just because I said that I love it when you rant it out, doesn’t mean that you will over-do it”!
No, he was not going to change. He won’t accept his flaws. And will flirt when will try to make a point. Not letting her fight with him. Not letting her win. She was no less. She nodded as if glaring at him in anger. Then, she twisted her lips, with an evident blush and couldn’t stop the helpless smile on her face, “You know, Manik… you are so impossible!! Right now, I seriously want to fight with you…”
He couldn’t stop laughing when she complained that she wanted to fight but couldn’t. He settled his pillow and a huge cushion at the backrest of the bed and reclined over it. Holding her hand, he dragged her over him, “Okay, honestly… I feel it is just a helpless rant and I don’t mind it… go on… go on speaking… the frustration will be out of your mind and then you will be back to your happy, chirpy self.”
She followed his pull and lay over him with her head on his shoulder, “You are not upset? I said so much to you…”
“No. Just promise me that you will not change. I don’t want you to change your coping mechanism. Shout at your loudest. Rant it out. Speak whatever you want… To Me! I want to become your wall. The wall between all problems and you… the wall, before which you can scream about anything and everything…”
“Sure?” She teased him. “It needs a lot of patience!”
“Yep. I’m sure. I have some patience. I’ll allow all of that to you!”
She laughed sweetly. All her anger had diffused by now. She nodded, “Okay! I promise to rant it all, before you. But on one condition…”
“In return, I want you to change your coping mechanism. I want to become your coping mechanism, just like you want to be for me. You said that you get relaxed when you see me happy and smiling.”
“So, let me become the wall for you. Stay with me when you are feeling the lowest…”
“No… But there is a big problem in that.” She spoke in a concerned tone.
“I and cigarette don’t get along well with each other. If you choose me, you will have to leave it… Forever!”
Adoringly, he smiled, “Not a problem. I was never happy with it anyway! I am not an addict so no problem in leaving it. Years ago, some friends said that it helps beat stress, so I tried. It was stupid. I never liked it though. So it stayed just like a companion… only… and ONLY… when I was alone, or under stress.”
“Not anymore. I’m there for you, now!”
He turned to face her, wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her in a loving embrace, once again lowering his lips, over hers for a kiss, before he assured her, “Don’t worry about the housework, or SR ship, or anything… I’m sure there is something really good around the corner…”
“Actually!” She was not sure if this was the correct time to talk about the offer at Chennai hospital. But she had to do it. She let her hand rest on his chest and spoke softly, “Manik… I wanted to talk about an offer… it’s a really lucrative offer, from Hinduja… but I am not sure… so I am still wondering… I mean, it is a good post, big busy hospital, attractive salary, eminent doctors as mentors and everything that I wanted…in fact, no language hurdles too… but…”
He keenly listened to her and was surprised why didn’t she tell him about it, till now. Studying her face, he asked, “But what?”
“It is based in Chennai!”