She nodded, taking a long pause and then whispered, "Leave me alone." He blinked once and then sighed before he spoke in one single word... low, measured, deep, "Never!" She kept looking at him. He did the same. When she didn't reply to this, he held her hand and made her sit before him, facing him. Holding a strand of her wet hair coming in the front of her face, he pushed it behind her ear. It...
“It is based in Chennai!”
Manik sat up straight on the bed to listen to her when Nandini outlined the details of the offer that was given to her, the work profile, promise of a consultancy post after an year or if she wanted to join the fellowship, then they would consider her first and will give her the priority. The salary, the doctors, everything was good, with no pressure to learn the new language.
He listened to her quietly and seriously while she spoke, as if thinking about it seriously. Then, he cleared his throat and smiled, “That’s so awesome! When were you going to tell this to me, Nandu? This is amazing!”
She sat right before him, cocked a brow, confused and still clueless about it. “Is it?”
“Of course!! Of course, it is! It is your dream job, isn’t it?! Didn’t you always wanted to go to Chennai?? I remember that you wanted fellowships there?? So, it’s like, it’s wowww!!!”
“But…” She cleared her throat, strugging to find words in reply to this unexpected response from him.
“But nothing… I was sure that you will achieve your dream some day but this soon?? I didn’t know that!” He was happy for her. He held her cheek in his palm and pressed her close to him, “It’s a brilliant opportunity for you! I’m so happy!”
She separated from him, corrected the fringe of her hair falling down, pushing it sideways, behind her ear and said, “Yeah! I know… I always wanted it. That is why I’m confused now…”
“Manik… I was dreaming about it, when I wasn’t married.”
He spoke calmly and patiently, “Aww… Come on! What do you mean? Will you let go of a dream career and your ambitions just because you got married to me?”
“No… it isnt like that!” She frowned, “But Manik… what about us?? How will we manage?”
He took her hand in his hand and squeezed it lightly with his other hand. Sighing deeply, he assured her, “Hmm!! Yeah… that is an issue. Valid issue. But you don’t worry. These small working issues should not become the ground for you to refuse this opportunity. We will manage.”
She let her gaze rest over his face and whispered, “How?”
“There are so many ways. I will get a transfer to Chennai office. We do have an office at Chennai. I don’t think it will be a big issue. It will just take some time…”
“How much time?”
He shrugged, “Can’t say that. Maybe, a couple of months. But before that, we will manage by staying connected through phone, messages, calls, chats. See, Bangalore to Chennai, by air is hardly an hour away. I will fly down every Friday evening and be back on Monday to join work. You can do that on alernate weeks. It won’t be a big deal.”
“Pheewww!!” She sighed, not very happy about it and made a helpless pout of her lips. “I thought you will reject it outrightly. But, you make it sound so easy.”
“Of course, it is easy. You are not the only one in this entire world to work at a different city than your husband. Lacs of people do that. And do it well. By the way, why did you think that I will reject it. On the contrary, I’ve never understood people who make their partners the main center of their universe and sacrifice their careers for them. You should never give up a lovely opportunity for a trouble of few days!”
“I don’t know!” She sighed, “I’m so uneasy!”
“Look, I don’t know much about your job but I’ve heard that it is pretty much round the clock. Right? You won’t even get time to think about home and me. In fact, I think, at this stage, you should work free from home responsibilities or obligations towards me… go and join Chennai office, work non stop like I did when I joined here… like you did when you were doing PG…and make your dreams come true. We will get a lot of time to stay together in future…”
“Hmm!!” She sighed and nodded, and once again asked in a low voice, “You sure?”
“100 percent!” He blinked his eyes and squeezed her close to him.
He always said that he was practical and not very emotionally driven, but she didn’t know that he would be ‘this’ unaffected when she had to leave to work in a different city. It ‘somehow’ disappointed her. She was expecting him to reconsider it. She had expected that he will stop her from going and ask her to look for work in Bangalore. But he did nothing like that and her expectations came crashing down.
Nothing hurts more than broken expectations! They stabbed like broken glass pieces piercing right through her chest.
Though it was nothing new. Nothing that she didn’t know about. He had always said that he was an ambitious man and work came first for him. Maybe, that is why everyone’s work was important for him. He wasn’t wrong at that part. He wanted her to work hard in the first job and the initial years of career establishment just like he did in the beginning of his career.
Her job, her opportunities, her life were equally important for him. He wasn’t a typical male, whose work was the only important thing in the world. She was important too!!
But then, it hurt her a lot that he didn’t feel bad about letting her go…
Such a jerk!!! He didn’t even wince that she had to leave him and go away, even if he felt that it was for a few months. He was just too confident that they will manage it.
Here, she had been losing her mind for having to leave him. She had been considering giving up on this opportunity, hoping to get another good work in Bangalore just so that she could stay close to Manik.
And, Mr. Malhotra was fine with the fact that they had to stay apart.
Or, maybe, this was just her thought…she hoped!
She subtly pushed him away when he leaned over her for a kiss. He was surprised.
“Stay away. I’m not talking to you!”
He slightly twisted his hand in a questioning gesture, “Did I do something?”
“No… you didn’t!” She spoke, miffed with him, “And I guess that is the issue, right now. You are okay with me leaving Bangalore and going to Chennai?”
He shrugged, “I guess, I am!! It is a great opportunity!”
“And you won’t miss me??” She frowned, almost angrily.
He rolled his eyes, “Now, who said that I won’t miss you. Of course, I will surely miss you… That is why, I will try and get a transfer to Chennai.”
“And till you get transferred??” She asked in an innocent cute voice, with a sad face.
“Gawdd!! Such a melodrama queen you become sometimes. One, you won’t get time. Your job hours will be somewhere close to 18-20 hours. You will be running between OT, OPD and wards, stealing time for coffee and food… so don’t tell me that you will feel lonely.”
“It’s just not about being lonely… it’s about us… both of us!!” She didn’t know if she was explaining properly and clearly, how she wanted to be with him. He found it incredibly cute.
He curled his arm around her, squeezed her closeto him and said, “Listen Nandu, being emotional won’t take us anywhere. Let’s be practical. Our professions are what give us an identity. The maximum time we spend in a day is in office or workplace and not home. So we need to be satisfied and happy there. We studied for this, since what, we were 17 years old? Wrote and cleared tough exams… Studied hard… for what? To give it up??”
She lowered her eyelids with a sad face, “I am not giving it up. I know, I will get something here as well.”
“But I don’t know, for how long will I stay here. Why should you stay stuck in Bangalore because of me, when I have serious issues in office? No point leaving this opportunity.”
She nodded. “I wish, I could understand.”
He smiled adoringly, “Trust me! Never ever leave a good professional opportunity for anything or anyone!”
Next day morning, Nandini went to Hinduja Hospital, half-heartedly and had no idea why she accepted that offer to go to Chennai.
It had been only 2 weeks to their marriage and her professional dreams had been losing clarity, already. She had gradually started loving her life with Manik. If she stayed more with him, she knew that she would lose her vision totally. She was at the risk of making him the be-all and end-all of her life. At this stage, she didn’t want to lose the complete sense of purpose and her ambitions.
Manik had given her the reality check that professional opportunities shouldn’t be left for anything or anyone. Maybe, he was right. Doing a substandard job and compromising on dreams would lead to frustrations released on each other. Why make a beautiful relationship bitter.
This was the time to take up the best that was offered and when Manik had no problem, why was she making a fuss, she argued with herself. She knew that her justifications and his explanations were lame. Still, she did it. Convinced herself that she should go ahead!
She accepted that offer and was asked about the joining. She gave a random date in the next month.
Manik called Nandini from his office and told her to prepare to get ready in the evening for a formal dinner.
“The MD… He kinda likes my work ethics and result oriented approach. Ever since, I joined this office, he trusts my decisions and appreciates my work. When he came to know about the leave that I had applied for and that I was married recently, he ensured that the leave was sanctioned and now he and his wife have invited us to their home for a post wedding welcome dinner!”
“What do I wear?”
“Anything you are comfortable in… I’ll be there at seven. We’ll leave by eight!”
“Great! I’ll be ready!”
Manik reached by seven and quickly showered to change into the black tux that Nandini had got ironed for him. He looked dapper, as always in the black tuxedo with a white shirt. Hair neatly gelled and set. He smelt of his musk cologne.
Something about him made her heart racing ahead and she quickly turned around to focus on herself in the mirror.
When he threw a glance at Nandu, wearing her earrings standing before the mirror in their bedroom, he found himself stuck at the pristine beauty before him.
So soft. So delicate. So pure.
She noticed him looking at her in the mirror and slightly smirked. She knew that she was looking pretty and now, Manik’s eyes confirmed this belief too. He appeared as if she had mesmerized and stupified him.
How much she loved this look in his eyes, that he held for her!!! Just her!!!
This look told her that her husband didn’t need to speak her in words that he was completely smitten with her. Not just this look, but in fact, every step taken by him towards her proved that. Every look in his eyes said that. Every touch of his fingers revealed the soft spot he had for her in his heart. And it was much more than a physical attraction. She was so sure!
She knew that look so well… There was no lust, no desire in his eyes, at moments like these.
It was pure, unadulterated affection for her. A deep seated fondness. A profound attachment. She had worn a green colour paper silk saree with heavily sequined motifs on the blouse and borders. She looked unarguably cute in this attire.
Unable to stop himself, he slowly stepped behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. He slightly pulled her to tuck her back to his chest and lowered his chin to rest on her shoulder. She smiled slightly but adoringly.
“You really won’t miss me?” She asked cutely, making a pout.
He smiled, kissed her cheek softly and whispered, nestling in the crook of her neck “How is that even possible that I don’t miss my coping mechanism? Just wait for some time… I’ll come to Chennai, after you.”
“Without a trace of doubt… I’ll follow you wherever you go!”