The traffic at this blog is phenomenal! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have no words to express gratitude. The number of subscribers and number of hits every day is massive such that it has started causing glitches, I am told.
75 chapters of T&T and 15 chapters of BEB and so many ‘My corner’ posts and random notes has been huge for the blog. Kindly let me know of every problem that you are facing.
I’ve announced that I will post all 110 chapters of Spark & Spice, starting from 02/09/2019, ie Ganpati Festival. I have made a post about it and set a countdown timer on my front page. Hope all goes well.
Thank you and love you all… stay blessed and happy!
Manik had been taking a brief from the different Heads of the back-end team – Head of Operations, Head of Marketing, Head of Resources and Personnel before he assimilated the consolidated status of the new project assigned to them by a media giant. The said group and the MD were to preside by the meeting and the CEO was supposed to be there to ensure that the operations were smooth and timely.
His phone rang and even before picking up, he knew that it was from Nandini. She had set a different ring-tone for herself on his phone. He tried not to smile before his staff while thinking about the day he had missed a few calls from her as he was busy and she had asked him to keep her separate from anyone else he knew. In fact, from ‘everyone else’ he knew. She actually took his phone and set a musical ring tone for her, some song that she loved and he was supposed to remember that it was ‘her’ call when he heard this particular piece of music.
This was something that only she could do to him and his phone!!
He cleared his throat, kept a straight face and nodded to dismiss the staff with a short sentence, “Alright then, we’ll meet at lunch. Be ready with your presentations.”
“Yes, sir!” The staff left the room. With that, Manik Malhotra picked up his phone, rotated his tongue in his mouth and couldn’t stop grinning, as he closed his eyes for once and replied, “Why are you disturbing me?”
“Manners, Mr. Malhotra!! Where are your manners? How many times have I told you, not to speak rudely with me?!”
He grinned more, “This is not even one percent of the word ‘rudeness’ defined by me in the office.”
“Yes, I know. Cabir told me how you dismiss everyone if you are not interested.”
“This Cabir na…” Manik laughed more, “He needs a good thrashing. He is simply feeding you with all the office gossip.”
She laughed too, “Someone has to tell me, right? You don’t talk much about the office, except when it is nagging you deeply…”
He yawned, rolling his eyes, “Come on! I can’t gossip with you about the office. What is there to talk about office anyway?”
She started counting things, “There is so much… everything that Cabir tells me about your office… everything that I tell you about my hospital…what is there to talk about my hospital, but still you know about every staff member, my colleagues, my wards, my HOD, my rosters, duties, patients, deliveries, surgeries…”
He laughed subtly, “That’s because you don’t stop talking. And I can’t talk that much, on and on… in fact, I run out of topics when I start talking…”
She squeezed her eyes shut, and scrunched her nose, “I know… I really hope I don’t bore you when I talk continuously…”
“You don’t! And you know that too!” He smiled adoringly. A day would become perfect just by one call from her.
Grinning like a teenager, she asked in a low, coy voice, “So… Do you mean to say that Mr. Malhotra likes his wife’s company?”
He sighed, “Mrs. Malhotra knows that very well. She keeps finding ways to hear odes to her praises…”
She sniggered this time, in a cute bubbly voice that it reverberated through the phone like music to his ears. His definition of happiness was simple and easy.
If she was happy, he was happy! He didn’t think much beyond that!
“So… then… how about going out for lunch together?”
“Lunch?” He cocked a brow, “Suddenly?”
“Yeah!” She packed her phone, diary, sunglasses and other necessary stuff in her handbag and zipped it after taking out her car keys, “Actually, I am free early today. Lisa Mathews is getting married next week, I told you na, that day…??” She asked, hoping for him to remember that detail. He didn’t, yet he replied in a ‘hmm’…
She continued, “So, Lisa wanted some leaves after her marriage and she requested the rest of the staff to compensate for her. She wants to do half-day for me today and I will do one night for her next week.”
“So, I’m free. I thought to call you and ask you if you have some time for a quick lunch!”
He twisted his lips in disappointment. “I wish!! Actually, I have a business lunch scheduled with clients and MD. There will be some discussions along with lunch!”
She shrugged, “No problem. I’ll go home, then!”
He was quiet for a moment before he scraped his lower right gums with his tongue and asked, “Are you upset?”
“Are you silly?”
“No one calls me that. I am the CEO, Phoenix Adlabs Ltd.” He frowned.
She giggled, “At the office… okay!! At home, you are a cutie! You tell me, will you be upset that I will be doing 2 nights in a row next week?”
“Exactly! Because that is work. I mean, I would have been upset if you were partying with your friends, leaving me alone behind, or maybe didn’t care about me…but since you are going for a business lunch and since you didn’t even know that I was going to be free suddenly, you are excused!”
He left a deep breath of relief. He knew that she won’t mind. In last 4 months, she had never even once made him believe that he was neglecting her or not doing enough for them, still this nagging feeling stayed at the back of his mind, that someday she was going to be upset at him… she will be angry with the ways he was busy at office… she was going to tell him how she was disappointed in him… how he was not good enough…
He knew that she was not going to do any of that. She had proved to be understanding about his work and schedules and he tried his best to adjust to her schedules and work, yet… this weird gnawing feeling deep inside him resurfaced again and again…
He couldn’t stop himself, from saying, “Nandini… whenever you feel that I am not doing enough, please let me know…”
She laughed, “Mr. Malhotra… ‘doing’ something for me is not even the criteria of happiness for me… if someone doesn’t do things for me, I am self-sufficient enough to do it myself… I need someone to ‘be’ with me… ‘being’ does the trick. And I know that you will always be with me… even if not physically present! Right??”
“Right!!” He chuckled, evidently happy at what she said to relieve him. “Always!”
Nandini woke up at around 8:00 am, just because she had to reach the hospital by 9 am. Or else, she would have slept till late – So tired and drained out, she felt.
She found Manik right beside her, breathing softly. He was deep in sleep, lying flat on his belly as if he had the entire world under his feet. She sighed and pressed her lips, trying to control the urge to snuggle within his arms.
There was no point cuddling with him or even caressing his hair, no matter how much she craved for the same. It would disturb his sleep and she didn’t want that.
Last night, she had waited for him till quite late. She had watched several episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, season 8, back to back on Netflix. Then, she had her food alone, as they had made a pact that none of them was going to wait for the other in case the other was getting late at work, as it caused unnecessary stress on one who was working. There was no point drowning the other in guilt when they were both busy and working hard. It was okay to wait when they were free to have lunch or dinner together. But not when any of them was busy. It also created a stupid confusion when one was starving while the other ate food while working. It applied to both of them and proved to be an easy solution to avoid useless complications.
When Manik didn’t come till almost 11 pm, she texted him. He texted back that he would take time. So, she ate dinner and drifted to sleep.
She had no idea about what time did Manik actually came back home from the office. Right now, she was very clear that he needed a proper sleep and so she avoided touching him or disturbing him in any way.
It was good that it was a Saturday. He could sleep till long. No matter how busy the week, his weekends were off days. Not like her, who worked for almost all Saturdays and sometimes, Sundays too.
She stepped down the bed, collecting her hair behind to form a loose bun and gave him a long adoring look. She smiled softly, once again fought an urge to slip beside him and almost sleepwalked into the washroom to freshen up.
Quickly, she attended to the basics and walked out taking slow, quiet steps to get ready so that Manik didn’t get disturbed. She wore a blue-green georgette saree and was carefully brushing her hair when Manik’s phone rang.
It was such a loud, blaring, shrill noise that she immediately frowned at the sheer disruption of peace in the bedroom. She muttered under her breath, “I’m so going to kill him, whoever he is…”
Manik didn’t even open his eyes. He just smiled at the subtle rumbling sound coming from his one side in contrast to the silly ring of the phone from the side table. He moved his hand to locate the phone and put it on his ear, only to talk in short sentences, simple words, “Hmm… yeah… okay… no problem… yes… any time…”
Nandini looked at him through the tall, human-sized mirror before her. The entire bed behind her was visible in the mirror. He looked so adorable in the messy hair that she immediately hated having to go away.
“Who was that?”
“I knew that!” She huffed, “Every day my hatred for this guy grows. Is this the time to call someone on a Saturday?”
“You already know that he is an idiot!” Manik yawned, closed his eyes and went back to bury his face in his pillow.
“What does he want?”
“He has to submit a project for a client in HongKong. He wants my input on that!”
Nandini tried her best not to speak anything ill about someone, early in the morning. Still, she couldn’t. She turned to him and finally spoke her mind like she always did, “What a selfish creep!”
He spoke in a muffled voice, eyes closed and face in the pillow, “Chill! Why are you spoiling your day for him?”
“Coz he spoilt your Saturday. You were sleeping so peacefully and he had to disturb you. Here, I was being soft-padded, so that you don’t get bothered. I avoided hugging you, cuddling with you and kissing you…” She went on speaking in a flow and then stopped abruptly when she realized that she had spoken more than required. Squeezing her eyes, she turned away awkwardly as he had raised his head immediately with a huge grin on his face.
With a surprise on his face and an evident snigger, he asked, “You avoided doing … what??”
She grinned too, blushed hard, rolled her eyes and decided to leave the room before he actually stretched his hand and thanks to his length and swiftness, he was able to hold her hand to pull her back to him before she could actually take a step away.
“Manik, please… let me go… my saree will get wrinkled and I have to leave in 10 minutes…”
He laughed, turning her below him, “Big deal… You take only 3.5 minutes to wear saree.”
She pulled a cushion and hit him, “No way, I’m going to let you do anything right now.”
“You can’t do naughty things for a few minutes and leave your wife ‘hot and bothered’ for the entire day… to go to work… can you??” She raised her brows innocently.
He pressed his lips seriously and moved away, “Point!! Get up now and go to work in a sober mood!”
“Awww!! You look so cute when you are angry and helpless!” She got up from the bed giggling like a kid.
He sighed, “Anyone would be! It has been 10 days…”
“I’ve been counting too. It has been 10 days since we spent time together, ate together, went out on a date…”
“Whenever you are free, I am busy… when I am free, you have to go the hospital…”
“Sometimes I’m doing late nights, sometimes you…” She shrugged, “10 days since we actually sat down and talked to each other…”
“Talked?! You think I was talking about ‘talking’??” He made a pout.
“10 days since we made love…” He shrugged.
She giggled and pulled another cushion to hurl towards him. She replied walking away, to pick up her earrings, “Of course! Why did I expect something else from you?! Men will be men!”
He sighed, “What time you are going to be back?”
She wore her earrings and came back to him. With sparkling eyes, she spoke about her plans, “I’ll come early today and I have taken an off tomorrow.”
He tilted his head and raised a brow, asking her to elaborate. Sundays were always off for him. And for last 2 Sundays, she had been working. She chuckled, “I remember that it is your birthday tomorrow.”
He shrugged carelessly, “I don’t believe in birthdays. I don’t even celebrate them!”
She nodded, “I know… You have said that before. But that was when you were not with me. Now, Nandini Murthy Malhotra has entered your life… and it’s your first birthday with me. I will make it memorable for years to come.”
“Just to break your bubble…” He scratched his one-day-old stubble on his jaw, “You had told my friends that they were more than welcome here, on Sunday!”
“Shitttt…. shittt…. Oh no!!!” She frowned and winced, making him chuckle. He loved to see her exaggerated responses to everything and every situation around her. She opened her mouth wide in disgust, cursed herself and winced, “What now?? Wait… I have a plan…”
“Let’s run away from here… let’s take a one day break…”
“Run away??” He laughed, “To where?”
“Anywhere… some nearby resort… somewhere away from here…”
He shrugged, “Didn’t you say that you will plan and make it special? Up to you now!!”
“So you are with me?”
“I’m in!” He raised his hands in the air, like in surrender and held her waist to get up. He leaned towards her and gave her a strong peck on her jawline, “Come home soon!”
“Will you miss me!”
“No… coz I’ll be watching movies and eating like a hog and sleeping all day!”
“Only if Dhruv leaves you alone…” She murmured.
“You look so cute when you are angry!! Gawdd!!!”
He simply laughed it off but deep somewhere, he adored her for her restlessness about things that threatened to hurt him. His heart had been melting like butter under a warm knife simply at the way she was always … always… so protective of him.
As always, there were emergencies. There were surgeries. There were difficult to handle cases of PPH, eclampsia… pre-eclampsia… and so on…
And then there was a high profile case. A minister’s daughter. A local minister, who not only funded the hospital but was powerful and influential too. His daughter needed special attention and no one from the entire team was allowed to leave.
Nandini reached home at 11:30 pm… exhausted, frustrated and suffocated at not being able to come back home on time, as promised to Manik. It was his birthday, the next day, and she had promised him that she will be back early and they will go somewhere. He might not have expected much as he didn’t believe in celebrating birthdays. But she did!
And she wanted to do it for him!!
She wanted to show him how special he was for her… how blessed she felt having him in her life… how she was grateful for every moment spent with him after their marriage…
And now, he had slept. She slowly entered the dark, quiet home. Dinner was set in casseroles on the dining table. She didn’t have dinner but she wasn’t hungry either. She kept the dishes in the fridge, changed into a loose white tee shirt and a rayon palazzo that she wore to sleep and slipped beside him. He looked as adorable as he was in the morning. When she slipped on the bed, beside him, he opened his eyes and smiled.
She smiled back… a half-smile… just a subtle movement of lips… with an apologetic, guilt-ridden look on her face.
He spoke in a sleepy, muffled, huskier-than-ever voice. “Don’t feel bad… I knew that you would get late…”
“I’m sorry!” She whispered.
He sighed and murmured, his left cheek tucked to his pillow, “Don’t be…” He pulled her within him and buried his face in her neck, this time.
“What did you do?”
“Cabir and Dhruv had come… so we cooked… watched soccer… and played chess…”
“Wow! I had a tough day…”
“I can see it on your face… you look so tired…”
“To be honest… each and every muscle on my body is aching… and drained of energy…”
He gave her a tight squeeze, “Go to sleep now!”
He smiled, warmly, “Thank you… And every day is happy for me when you are around…”
“I’ll always be around! And for tomorrow – I’ve taken an off. Let’s get up early and go disappear somewhere, na?!”
“Actually, not for my birthday, but for you to take some rest, I really think that it is a brilliant idea!”
She was evidently happy. “I seriously need some time off with you. Away from everyone else.”
“A time off when none of us is worn out, fatigued, heavy-lidded with sleep and struggling to hold a conversation.”
“Conversation???!!” She teased him, closed her eyes and hugged him, making him chuckle softly.
“And… conversation too…” He laughed.
“Jerk!! Manik….It’s just 4 months and we are struggling to spend a little time together. I’m scared. I don’t want us to drift apart because of our work.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because…” He spoke patiently as if explaining to a small baby, “Because we chose this life. It was not forced on us. We will take a break or slow down if we feel drifted…right?”
“Hmm!! Right!!” She sighed, with creases of worry coursing through her pretty face. He sensed that she was feeling low. Softly, he shifted himself slightly over her, nuzzling his nose over her cheek, his breath mingling with hers, his heartbeat racing to match hers and ran his fingertips playing over her neckline. With a husky low whisper, he assured her, “Don’t worry! None of us is going to let that happen. We are addicted to each other.”
His lips wandered over her cheeks, neck and lips, making her accept the beauty of whatever little time, they stole from their busy lives. He nudged her into forgetting every worry and she nodded and gave in to his kisses, closing her eyes to surrender all her apprehensions towards a positive future.
If destiny had planned to make them reach till here, and if they were determined to get past every obstacle, then nothing could go wrong!
None of them knew that there was a major difference between planning or hoping and actually facing a situation, which could be just around the corner.