“Don’t worry. It won’t reach that stage. You and me are never going to get married!” Nandini had spoken very confidently.
Manik couldn’t stop grinning. He slightly bowed his head to thank her, “I’m really grateful, Madam! Thank you. Now, please pray to God that we don’t get married to anyone in this year… I mean, I plan to shift to LA next year. That’s one of my biggest dreams. After marriage, it will be my wife calling the shots – do this… do that…don’t do this…don’t do that…”
She never supported anyone degrading women. She was glaring at him once again, in anger, “And, you say that you talk less…”
He laughed. “Sorry! But that’s the truth… And by the way, I do talk… but I talk only with very few… like you…”
“I’m seeing that since yesterday! Why me?”
He wondered aloud and shrugged, “Probably, because we are in a similar situation. Slightly dis-illusioned by love and marriage… not looking forward to it for next few years… following our own dreams and ambitions…busy people!”
“Hmm!” She nodded. “What do we do now? Our parents are not ready to listen.”
“I can ask my masi to intervene. She is sensible and understanding!” he suggested.
She rolled her eyes, “Will your masi talk to my parents too?”
He sniggered at that and nodded to refuse. Nandini Murthy was definitely cute. Just not his type!
On one hand, she had gone to meet him to reject him or make him reject her. On the other, she loved to spend time with him. He was just so different, so simple, yet so complicated… Of course, she liked him. There was no doubt about that. There was nothing about Manik Malhotra, that any normal girl with a sane mind and straight heart would not like. He was definitely adorable. Just not her type!
“I have an idea!” Manik came up with a light bulb moment.
“Instead of telling them, that we don’t like each other… why don’t we tell them that we liked each other?”
“What do you mean? Why will we do that?” She raised her brows and was genuinely surprised.
He was suddenly excited, “See, if we tell them that we liked each other and are considering each other, they will be relieved of ALL the stress they are taking to get us married soon. The current file with fifteen boys for you and twenty five girls for me will be pushed in the bin. These girls and boys will eventually get married or hooked up with someone in next few months….Now, we live in different cities… we can keep the thing lingering for a few months… while we prepare for our careers and then one fine day, we can tell them that it is not working anymore. The new file they will make will again take a few months and lot of hard work…”
She made a sad face, and declared, “Cheating?? Manik, we can’t cheat our parents!”
He spread his hands in air, “Good! Then, go ahead and marry anyone they select for you! Spare me. All the best!”
She pressed her lips and noticed that he was angry. Tapping his foot on the car floor, he angrily turned to face the window on his side and looked outside. Resting his folded elbow on the window, he rubbed his index finger over his lower lip to allow himself to cool down. He had no idea why he was losing his cool on this poor girl whom he had met just a day before. But the fact, that she wasn’t listening or understanding his point of view, irked him.
He hand bunked the last day of his seminar to be with her, considering that she was in the same shit as he was… he had attended a wedding function because of her and she refused to even listen to him…
For her, his anger was shocking. she had never really dealt with angry people around her. In fact, she was so sweet and joyful that she never understood why would someone become so angry on others. She waited for him to speak something but when he didn’t, she started the car and drove in silence, praying that he spoke something to her. His silence was troubling her.
She dropped him at his hotel. Before he opened the door to step down, she said, “Baap re! Your gussa is like a simmering volcano…”
He had been guilty already and was wondering how to begin talking again. She was amazing and he wanted to smack himself for ruining the day for her. When she spoke so cutely, a smile returned to his face within a moment, “Tch… I’m so sorry! Really sorry, Nandini… I don’t know why I lost my cool on you. You are not my friend, or a close one… we just met yesterday…don’t even know each other properly… I shouldn’t have been harsh just because you didn’t agree with me…”
She smiled warmly, “No worries! It happens…”
“Sorry again. But I was making a valid point.” He spoke and stepped down the car.
“Manik!” She called him.
“Yeah?” He turned around and lowered himself to lean over the window.
“I will think about what you said.”
“Please do! It will make a lot of things easier!”
She nodded. “Yes… Okay! Have a safe journey!”
“Thank you! all the best for your results.”
That day they returned to their homes with a lot of turbulence in their minds.
Manik went back to Bangalore and Nandini was left in Mumbai.. She spent a few days catching up on everything she had missed due to her exams – movies, shopping, friends, sleep and chatting with her mother.
2 weeks passed…
“Nandu, get ready…” Her mother ordered her when she found her asleep at 11:00 am in the morning, “Why are you so late today?”
“Ma… I was watching a movie at night.”
“Aiyappa! When will this girl learn?!!” Her mother, Swarna Murthy, sat down beside her, chiding in a worried tone, “Nandu, how many times, have I told you that you need to change your habits… your sleep-wake cycle. It will be tough for you when you get married. In your new home, you will be required to get up before everyone else, take care of the home, manage the maids, take care of your husband, prepare food for everyone…how are you going to manage all that beta?!”
Nandu lifted her head from the pillow and placed it in her ma’s lap and spoke in a muffled tone. “How do you remember this dialogue to be repeated day after day…everyday?”
“Nandini Murthy…” Ma slapped her arm in a stern tone, “Get up! You need to get ready. Reddys are coming home today to meet you.”
“Reddys??” Nandu immediately sat up on the bed.
“Didn’t I tell you last night?”
“That guy who is an oncologist in Singapore?”
“Yes. They have liked your picture. They want to meet you today! I told you last night, beta. How can you forget that?”
“Hmm… I was watching the movie!” Nandini defended herself.
“The Krishnan family from Kolkata also loved your profile. I just pray to Aiyappa that your match is fixed out of one of these boys!” Ma prayed, murmuring to Lord Aiyappa.
There was no point arguing with her. Nandini had done that many times in last six months. But after the fiasco with Vansh, backing out of the wedding at last moment, they had become panic ridden to marry her at the earliest. That, she was going to be 27 this year, was their other worry. Not wanting to hurt them, Nandini nodded and headed for the washroom, feeling sick at the thought of meeting another prospective boy…. and then the other Krishnan boy… Just 2 days back, she had met a guy from Delhi… who was so floored after meeting her that he declared that he was already in love… he was so keen on marrying her that she had to spend 2 hours trying to explain to him that she was not interested and he had to reject her.
It was such a tiring and demoralizing thing to do… for both the guy and her…
Wasn’t that cheating on her parents? She was meeting people and telling them to back off… while her parents were hoping and praying for her marriage. Manik’s proposal for lying was better than this. At least their parents will be hurt only once, after 8-10 months… but here, they were hopeful that the match will be fixed and without realising that she was the one refusing them, they were hurt everyday…
It was depressing… This had to stop!!
She stopped just before the washroom and turned to her ma. Papa had entered her room by now to ask what time should he give to Reddys.
“Ma, papa… I want to say something!” Nandini gathered courage to lie to them. She was not a habitual liar. She usually didn’t lie to them and whenever she did, she was very uneasy and remorseful.
“What?” Papa stood before her, with the phone in his hand.
“Papa…ma…do you remember Manik Malhotra?”
“Of course, the guy from Bangalore? The IIT, IIM boy?” Papa’s smile widened. Obviously, he had loved the first boy she had met.
Nandini hated to do this. But she convinced herself that it was better than having to meet 15 people and asking them to refuse. Her parents would be disappointed in both cases, yet the option suggested by Manik was better. She just hoped that Manik supported her this time.
“Yeah, papa. That one. Actually, at that time, we met twice…before leaving, he said that he liked me and I like him too… So… now… we are considering each other!”
She said that!
And heaved a sigh of relief, hoping that everything will be fine now. She had no idea that she had thrown a stone at honeybee’s nest, releasing hundreds of them to follow her…
Ma and papa were elated. Ma rushed to hug her, “Why didn’t you tell this before? Oh My God… I always loved that boy… Dev, call Reddys first… ask them not to come now. I knew it was going to be Manik. He was the first guy you met and I always knew there would be a deeper connection with him.”
Nandini rolled her eyes. If only ma had any idea about what Manik and Nandini thought about getting married.
Papa was excited too, but on a practical side, “So? Have you two decided? or you want more time?”
She stammered to add more lies to her first one, obviously nervous, “We are taking it slow. I mean, for now, we don’t want to meet more people.”
Papa agreed. “That’s justified… We will wait for a positive decision soon.”
Ma too chirped, “For me, this is enough for now, that both of you liked each other. That says a lot!”
Nandini decided to call Manik and inform him, immediately after she was out of washroom and was ready for the day. He should know that she had followed his suggestion before the news reaches him.
She took her tweety towel from the almirah and dashed inside the washroom for freshening up.
Manik was in his cabin when he received a call from Lucknow. His mother Latika Malhotra was beaming with excitement. He spoke nothing. Simply rested his cheek on his folded hand and listened to the entire thing with patience.
After disconnecting, he immediately dialled a call to Nandini. Nandini was still in the washroom. She wrapped a towel around herself and rushed to pick up the phone.
The caller id display surprised her. She answered the call, “Manik!”
No formalities, no hello-hi, no prologue. He simply shot the question when she answered the call, “Did you tell your parents that we liked each other, to get married?”
He appeared a bit worked up and having witnessed once, she was nervous at his anger, “Err… Manik… what you suggested that day…”
“Gawwwddd!!!!” He was really angry… he exaggerrated the word ‘God’ in frustration, “Nandini Murthy, you should have talked to me, at least, before saying all those lies to your parents!”
“It was an innocent lie!” She sweetly defended herself, “What? Wait a minute… how do you know about it? It was hardly few minutes back… Oh God! My parents called your parents??”
“Exactly!!” He gritted his teeth.
“I’m sorry! I was about to call you… It just happened a few minutes back.. didn’t have time to call you first… I’ll tell you everything… first you tell me, why are you so panic ridden.”
“Panic?? You have no idea, Madam, what you have done? We are in a big soup!”
“What happened? Why are you saying so? Will you please elaborate?” She was worried too.
“I’m coming by afternoon flight. Pick me up at the CSI airport… I will send you the message with the flight details.”
“Manik…” She sighed.
“Yeah?” He had calmed down by now.
“What happened? What did I do? Was it a big blunder?”
He took a deep breath, “I don’t know about that Nandini. But we are not left with much in our hand.”
“And that means?”
“I’m afraid that we’ll be getting married this week.”