Apologies for making you wait. I have soooooo many things to say to you but I don’t want to spoil the update for you. So, I will write a separate personal post for that.
Right now – Thank you for each and every message, love and support.
Please know that you mean a lot to me. And if we have ever interacted – I may not have replied to last few messages and mails, but always remember that I value and cherish every word that we share and you will always be important for me.
Lots of love to all of you. Stay blessed.
~ I have uploaded all previous chapters once again. You can click on the book ‘Tangles & Ties’ on front page of this blog. All links are posted there.
~ Story so far –
Manik’s family is visiting MaNan home and Nandini is unable to understand why Manik wants her to maintain a distance from them. Being a clear-hearted, open personality with a transparent look towards life, she is baffled when even Latika, Manik’s mom, tries to pollute her mind against Manik. Eventually, Nandini decides to trust Manik.
Read further –
Early in the morning, Manik felt a movement within his arms. It was soft, as if a bird had fluttered its wings. But he could feel it. Already, he had a disturbed sleep all night as they were on the floor of the living room. They had given the room to his parents and guest room to his sisters. Nandini had taken the floor so Manik too, refused to sleep on the couch and joined her on the floor.
Nandini tried to be as discreet as possible but when she slipped out of his arms, it disturbed his sleep and he opened his eyes, almost with a yawn, “Where are you going?”
“Sorry, I woke you up.”
He whined, clearly unhappy on losing the peaceful sleep, “But, what makes you get up even?”
“Ssshhhh!!!” She placed her index finger on his lips, and whispered, “Speak low. Someone will overhear us!”
He raised his brows, questioning her, waiting for her reply. She had switched on the beautiful lamp near the couch. Her skin glowed in the yellow light from the lamp. Her smile and the blush added to the exoticness of the moment, when he drew her closer to him, wrapping his hands all around her, “Go back to sleep, Nandu.”
She rested her head on his chest and said, “I need to get up and get ready.”
“But it is 5:30 am. What? Is it an emergency at the hospital? Some early duty?”
“No. Your mom told me last night that she and your dad get up at 6:00 every morning and he takes tea before leaving for a walk.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Did she ask you to get up too?”
“Of course not! I just thought that I should do it!”
“Hmm!!” He sighed and nodded, “Okay!”
She got up and sat down, “Don’t make a big deal out of it. Everyone does that. And 5:30 is no early. I felt like it’s my duty to get up before them and make things easy for them as they are new to this home!”
He spread his hands in air with an evident shrug, “I didn’t say anything. Come on, I just wanted to know, if she asked you to do so!”
“No, she didn’t!” Nandini smiled and leaned towards him adoringly to plant a soft kiss over his cheek, “You go to sleep.”
“Nah!,” He got up too and folded the bedding on the floor, “I’ll go for a jog. I’ve missed it for few days and now, I’m missing it!”
“And I’ll set everything and get ready for the hospital. I forgot that there is a seminar coming up next week and the HOD has asked me to prepare a presentation.” She started moving towards the spare washroom, across the corridor from the living room, when he held her arm and stopped her. She was startled, “What happened?”
He held her other arm too and said, “I just wanted to say how special you made it for me. I don’t believe in celebrating birthdays but you ensured that I begin to look forward to it every year, from now!”
She grinned, “No… ‘you’ made it so special. Almost for ten days we were not even talking properly. Both of us were so busy, in last few days. Yesterday was such a beautiful break from the hectic routine. I loved being with you and meeting your family.”
His smile faded slowly at that. He moved his hands down her arms and enclosed her small, delicate hands in his palms. Bending towards her, he whispered in her ear, “Don’t get me wrong. I won’t stop you from doing all that you consider as your duty as a daughter-in-law…but… I repeat… keep a distance. My mom is crazy!”
That she was reminded of what Latika had told her. That Manik had promised them that he will keep his wife and family away from them. Did that mean that Latika was right? Did that also mean that Manik had deep feelings for those girls in his life and he was so hurt that he swore to keep his family away from his personal life? It wasn’t a good feeling but there was no point asking Manik. He didn’t believe in giving explanations. But then, it wasn’t in her to keep things in her heart and let problems grow. She knew that she had to talk to him about it. She decided to talk to him sometime later, as this was not the right time. At best, he would get annoyed and she didn’t want to spoil his mood early in the morning.
Manik went for a jog. Nandini freshened up and prepared the kitchen, cleaned it and arranged things before Latika woke up and entered the kitchen.
“Good morning, ma..” Nandini greeted her with a warm smile, clearly elated to have Manik’s family in their home. Staying alone for so many days and missing her family had left her craving for the bond that came from family, a bond that was so pure and selfless that one didn’t need to think twice about their intentions, a bond that stays above everything else, no matter how many friends and well wishers you have. She had friends in the hospital. They had Manik’s friends in the building, living around them, but at the end of the day, the need of having someone beside you, you could trust without thinking twice, made her feel empty. More so, because she had lived a protected life in a joint family. Manik never felt that pang for family because he had practically lived alone ever since he left his home at the age of 17.
Latika smiled lovingly, kissed her forehead and hugged her momentarily, “Good morning, beta!”
Her aura was so endearing and assuring that Nandini immediately felt comfortable. It always happened when she was with Latika. Latika was a lioness of her clan – fiercely independent, loving, caring, protecting and more than everything, she was perfect, at everything! Even at this age, she was swift and sharp about everything around her. She knew how to love and care for her kids. She loved her three kids to the core. It was so overwhelming that unknowingly Nandini felt a desperate need to be included in her loved ones. She wished to have Latika love her too and consider her as a daughter. And she was ready to do anything for that.
‘Manik is crazy, not his mom!’ She wondered, inwardly, ‘He misunderstands her so much. Probably because he has always stayed away from home. He loves her but needs to know her more.’
Latika owned the kitchen, once she was inside. She prepared the tea for her husband. And then she returned to make breakfast once Manik’s dad went for a walk. She cut vegetables along with the poha that she was preparing.
“Vegetables?” Nandini raised her brows.
“These are for lunch.”
“Oh!” Nandini let a soft sight.
Latika smiled, “You need to plan well ahead of time, if you want to prepare food for everyone on time. You don’t do that?”
Nandini nodded and honestly answered, “No! Manik and I are not home for lunch.”
“Okay, Manik is home. He has gone inside your room to get ready. See if he needs anything!”
“Yeah!” Nandini nodded and went to their room, only to find Manik take out his towel and going to the washroom. She quickly said, “Manik, call me if you need anything. I’m in the kitchen with ma.”
He gave her a tired look and nodded, “Well… all the best… then!”
She huffed, “Don’t be a jerk! She is so sweet!”
“Aww…really?” He was not amused.
“Of course! She sent me to look for you and ask you if you need anything. She is so warm. Just like my ma… just like a ma should be… but you know, kids these days – they don’t care about their parents who care so much about them!”
He smiled and walked back towards her. With a naughty, teasing look on her lips, he bent low to reach her height and looking into her eyes, he said, “The problem here is, wifey… that you are too sweet for everyone. You just trust everyone so much – You talk to strangers like they are your friends. You care about animals, random people, your patients, every tom, dick, and harry… so much… that okay, I understand that you have to go overboard when you meet my mom.”
She giggled softly, “Am I going overboard? Nooooo… I’m normal, that unfortunately, you are not!”
He sniggered, “So, you think I am not normal?”
“Unnecessarily bearing negative notions about your family and then spreading the poison too, is called ‘not normal’…”
He moved away with a lopsided sly smile on his face, “I think I should sit you down for a long talk to clear the fog from your brain.”
“I’d love to…anytime! I’ll be able to how you don’t know your mom…”
He had reached by the washroom door. He turned around and laughed, “And you do??? Yeah right!!”
She nodded as if it was such a waste talking to a hopeless creature, “No point arguing with you!”
“Good! Don’t even try that! By the way – last warning – don’t come to me crying!”
“Never!! In fact, I will clear this fog from ‘your’ brain!”
“All the best!” He shrugged and went inside. She nodded and went back to the kitchen wondering how to make him see how his mom was the umbrella who had given shade to all of them for her entire life and let them flourish and prosper while taking all the hard work and problems on herself.
She returned to the kitchen to help Latika who was now making mango shake for Gaurvi, cold coffee for Trisha and making arrangements for the second tea for Manoj when he returned back. She smiled when Nandini returned, “Everyone has a different choice. I try to finish the work before they reach the dining table for breakfast. Do you have bread?”
Nandini opened the bread box and gave it to Latika, with a confused look on her face. Latika explained, “I’m making sandwiches for breakfast.”
“But ma, you already prepared poha for breakfast?!”
“That is for Manik’s father, Gaurvi and me. But Trisha doesn’t eat poha. So, I’ll make sandwiches for her and few extra, if someone wants to have them.”
Nandini nodded. Latika asked her to boil potatoes for the sandwiches. Then she asked her to take out milk and set it on boil. Then she added cornflakes to a bowl and asked Nandini to put them on the dining table. Latika asked her, “Why don’t you prepare breakfast for Manik in the mean time?”
“Yeah!” Nandini nodded and took out eggs from the refrigerator. A little, tiny pang hit her that in all this, Latika didn’t ask her what she would have for breakfast and did she prefer something. But then, she quickly dismissed this thought. It was their home after all. They were free to do what they wanted, eat what they liked. It shouldn’t formal.
She beat the eggs for an omelette and took out almond muesli in a bowl when Latika stopped her, in a shrill, upset voice, “What are you doing? What is this?”
Nandini squirmed, “Err, Manik’s breakfast!”
“Is this what you ‘give’ Manik for breakfast?” Latika was clearly not happy.
The ‘give’ word was demeaning but Nandini didn’t react sharply. She answered patiently, “Ma, this is what Manik eats in the morning. This is what he likes…because he likes healt….”
She was telling Latika that Manik appreciated health food. But Latika wasn’t even listening to her. She explained to her as if talking to a small kid, “Listen Nandini, Manik ate all this because he was alone. He chose the easiest options. But you should understand that you are his wife now. You should take care of his food and his nutrition. He works so hard. All day. What energy do eggs and muesli give? Wait, I’ll make aloo parantha for him.”
She moved Nandini away and started rolling balls to make parantha. Nandini couldn’t stop this time, “But ma… eggs and muesli with milk are the healthiest options for breakfast.”
“Give me the butter and take out curd to make raita.” Latika wsa clearly not interested in Nandini’s gyan about breakfast. She had decided that aloo parantha was what was going to be served to Manik.
Nandini followed the orders without any further questions.
The dining table was laid for breakfast for everyone. The entire table was full and most of the preparation and hard work appeared needless to Nandini but she didn’t argue. Manik was ready and when he reached the dining table, he sensed the torture that was to follow. So he raised his hands in the air and said, “I’m not hungry!”
Before any of his sisters or father could coax him, he said, “I’m getting late for office. I have a meeting today, early morning. I’ll have breakfast at office.”
“But Manik, eat something and go.” Latika insisted, “I’ve made aloo parantha for you. You love them.”
He rolled his eyes and laughed, joking adding, “Mom, I ‘loved’ them… as in, that’s a past tense. Anyway, I’m leaving. Nandini, should I drop you to the hospital?”
“Yeah, I’ll just grab my bag!” Nandini went inside to get her bag.
Manik spoke to his family, “I’ll send the car after I reach office. The driver will take you to the market and bring you by lunch to the office. I’ll take the day off after lunch and take you around. I hope it’s fine!”
“Perfect!” Trisha beamed with excitement.
Latika nodded and said, “Okay. I hope you are free by lunch. Anyway, we will take another 2 hours to be ready.”
By the time, Nandini came out and said, “I’ll join you too, by the afternoon. I’ll ask another doctor to take care of my work.”
Latika wasn’t really happy. She said, softly and coaxingly, “But beta…I expected you to take an off today?!”
“Err…” Nandini was speechless and stunned, “Yeah… I mean.. I would have… but I didn’t know that all of you are coming or else I would have applied for leave and asked someone to take charge. We doctors, can’t take sudden leaves. There must be patients waiting…”
Latika smiled, “No problem. We will manage.”
She had said that they will manage. But it was added with such a laboured smile that Nandini almost felt guilty. She hated to go to work when they had family visiting them.
Saddened at that, she walked silently towards the car and even inside the car. Then she turned to Manik, “I should have taken a leave…na!”
Manik smiled knowingly, adjusted the seat belt, and started driving, “Did you know that they were visiting us?”
“No, but it is okay. Families can sometimes surprise kids…”
“Yes! I agree. But when you give surprise visits, you should give time to kids to adjust their routines. We can’t suddenly take leaves and take them around.”
“But… they are not wrong to expect that…”
“You are wrong to expect anything if you don’t know about someone’s job, routine, likes, dislikes…”
Nandini took a deep breath and reclined by the backrest, before she asked in a soft voice, “Is that why you didn’t eat breakfast?”
“You know, that I can’t eat aloo parantha in the morning… so heavy, fried in ghee, butter-laden… I don’t want to feel bloated…”
“But your mom made it with so much love!”
He corrected her, “Yeah, that’s the best part – She made them despite knowing that I don’t like them. That’s her problem, she judges everyone as per her fancies and decides what is best for you just as ‘she’ thinks. It has nothing to do with you and your likes, or wishes! And Nandu, you know what is ‘your’ problem? You care about everyone so much… I’m sure you would have eaten that parantha, just so that my mom doesn’t feel bad.”
“Of course! I would have had it even if I didn’t like it!”
“THAT IS exactly why I get worried for you. I wouldn’t have warned you again and again if you were someone like me. I can handle everyone and anyone. But you are too docile. Too good!! You will allow people to take undue advantage just because you don’t want to hurt them.”
She defended herself, “Huhh! I’m not naive. Not even a baby. But I do take care that I don’t hurt people. You could have told your mom that you don’t like the parantha…”
“One – she already knows it. And I would have had it for her, but it wouldn’t have stopped at one … she would have forced more…”
“Nandini… do you notice what we are discussing early in the morning while going to work? Food? Have we ever discussed food before? Is aloo parantha that big an issue that we give it so much time and energy. That’s what happens when mom is around. She gives needless importance to rubbish. She will prepare hundreds of things for everyone and then tell you how she works hard.”
Nandini nodded, “She is not wrong, Manik!”
“She is uselessly wasting her life in nonsense and she wants you to do the same. That is why I am not able to explain in words why I ask you to stay at a distance. She will force her wishes on you and make you feel guilty that you are not upto-the-mark!” He spoke in a bitter tone.
Nandini observed his disturbed face for long, placed her palm on his shoulder as he drove. Then she calmly asked, “Is that why you don’t like to constantly explain every move of yours?!!”
“I can’t explain each and every word that I say, why I took every breath that I took and why I do certain things. My mom is that strict school teacher who wants to know why you laughed during the class!”
“Hmm!” She nodded, trying to understand.
“Exactly what my ex used to do. Time spent with her was pure torture. Whatever I did was less… it was not enough… I was made to feel incapable… and I had to explain why I was working in the office till late, why I had to attend a meeting… why I went to the office on Sunday… I mean…it was all too much…”
Nandini didn’t tell him that his mom had told her that Manik was unhappy about having to let go of his ex-… while Manik had always told her that he didn’t care when she left.
Softly, she tried to change the topic, “I just thought that it would have looked nice if I had taken a leave!”
“Is it so easy for you to take a leave?”
“No… but I could have tried…it looks so bad that both of us left…”
“To join them at afternoon. We should get that space to arrange things at our work… And, by the way… do you think that all your effort of taking leaves and being there, with them, will make my mom happy??”
“Yeahhh… I really wanted to make her feel special… and feel happy that she decided to visit us!”
Manik made a pout and threw a huge bout of air out, nodding hopelessly. He was evidently worried. For this was just the beginning. He knew Nandini well. She would go at any length to be perfect at what she did and to make people fee comfortable. And he knew his mom too well. She would make Nandini feel that she was worth nothing.
“Say something!” Nandini murmured in an unsure voice.
“Nandini, always remember one thing – Some people are never happy with what you do. And my mom is one of them!”
Updates on Thursday & Sunday
~ Thanks for reading ~