~ Apologies for keeping you waiting. Next time onwards, I will update by evening itself - Wednesdays and Saturdays. ~ Thank you for comments on last part. These days I've become bit busy so I'm not able to reply to each of you separately... thank you for sticking around. ~ Thanks for participating in the contest question on the teaser. It had a phenomenal response. I will declare the winner wi...
Thank you for all the love, patience, support & motivation. I know these parts are tough to handle but these are as difficult for me as they are for you. Thanks for understanding.
Loads of love to you…
“Manik… I can’t live with you… You have broken my faith in this relationship!”
Manik’s smile was already lost long back, but it became painful to bear when she began telling him how hurt she had been. He was aware that he had hurt her but didn’t know that it was to this extent that she wouldn’t want to give him another chance.
Her final sentence shook him deeply. He held her arms just below her shoulders and unintentionally pressing them hard, he drew her closer to him, almost a bit higher on her toes. She didn’t shy away from staring right back at him, with her chin lifted up.
He murmured, “If I am messy with relationships, then what are you? I don’t allow people to come close to me and push them away… and you… you allow people too quickly, even strangers to come close to you but if they are not up to your mark, you cut them off completely. Aren’t we the same?”
“No… Manik, I don’t dump people. I am not the one to do that. But when someone wants to walk out of my life or asks me to go, I make it easy for them. What do you expect me to do? Beg to stay? I can’t do that.”
“Right!” He sighed, nodding with a tense look on his face, “I’ll do that! I will beg you to stay.”
“You don’t need to do that, either,” She said, “Because this is not how it works. My self- respect is not so shallow that it would want to see you on knees… my ego doesn’t want to defeat you in any game making me happy that you pleaded and begged and so I stayed back.”
He huffed and winced with a pained look in his eyes, and said, “Then what? What exactly do you want me to do? I apologised. You said that you forgive me, understand me but you are not willing to live with me… I am willing to keep apologising, but you said that you don’t want me to do that… I am ready to be punished in any way that you want… but you don’t want that too…and now that I am pleading before you to rethink about leaving, you don’t want that either…so what exactly do you want…Trust me. I’ll do that. Just say it!!”
She was in tears. She nodded, “I don’t know. I’m too shattered to think clearly. I don’t want you to do anything. Just stay true to who you are… don’t explain… don’t stop me when I go…that’s what you do, right?”
His eyes were reddened and fiery when he spoke in low, deliberate and determined words, “Don’t tell me what I do and what I don’t. I haven’t followed any pattern with you, ever… why will I do it now?? And when I’ve said before that I will follow you to the end of the world, then trust me, I’ll do that.”
She held his hands and tore them away from her making him leave her. Moving her tongue over her dried lips she said, “Okay! And I might stop if you do that… you can make me stay back… you can make me live with you… but what is the use when you cannot make me believe in ‘us’ all over again? You can never make me trust you as purely as before. You can never make me feel secure about us. I had invested all my love… all my faith in this marriage and you… I gave it everything I had… and now, it broke. I will always live in a fear that after one serious fight, you will ask me to leave… I will always be scared to speak before you, thinking that it might hurt you, and may lead to the breaking of this relationship… I will be struggling to maintain our marriage and you will do that too… we will eventually fall in the trap that most of the arranged marriages are usually in… they are mostly concerned about maintaining the marriage… they were all chosen by their parents, so they have to maintain the farce… do you think it is worth it? Because… I don’t think so…”
He knew that he had hurt her and was ready to suffer pain in return, he had apologised and was willing to do it again and again, he could live in remorse till she forgave him and he could suffer anything that came in the way of their love… but he didn’t want her to go away from him, for only he knew that he didn’t mean even a word of what he had spoken in an outburst of anger. He didn’t even know what he was saying when he spoke. It hurt him more when she repeated it that he had asked her to leave. And now, her pain was difficult for him to endure for he loved her more than anything. He couldn’t see her in this agony.
He grimaced, unable to think of any words to pacify her. He said, “Wow! Do you seriously believe in what you are speaking?”
“Yes!” She nodded, not even trying to hold her tears, “This marriage was a mistake. We don’t even know each other properly. We shouldn’t have agreed for this marriage. We shouldn’t go for an arranged marriage when we were not prepared to accept the flaws and weaknesses that come as a package with all the good traits of a person. In love marriage, at least you know what you are getting into. It’s ‘us’ who choose a partner in love marriage and not our parents.”
He pressed his lips for a second and couldn’t find any semblance in this Nandini and the one he knew a day before who understood him like the back of her hand. Suddenly she had distanced so much that it felt she was light years away from him and they didn’t connect at any level. So much for one outburst.
Deeply saddened, he asked, “Does that mean, if it wasn’t an arranged marriage and we would have met in other circumstances, if you knew me otherwise, you wouldn’t have chosen me?”
She took a moment as her jaw stiffened and face had a toughened look. She finally whispered in a low breaking voice, “Never!”
“Great!” He murmured, almost to himself, unable to believe that things had gone down so badly. He closed his eyes, but he didn’t speak anything after that.
They got a call from Manoj that Latika was now conscious. She was aware of what had happened. Nandini, Manik, Gaurvi, and Trisha reached the hospital to be around her.
Nandini talked to the doctor and after taking all the details of the treatment given, she went to the room that Latika was shifted to, after initial treatment at the Emergency Room. Inside the room, Latika was on the bed and Manik was sitting on a chair beside her, holding her hand.
“I’m sorry,” Latika said in a frail, broken voice, first looking at Manik and then she looked at the girls and Manoj.
Manik didn’t say anything. He simply held her hand strongly, grasped between his palms and took it near his cheek, lowering his face while his tears dropped. Nandini couldn’t see him like that. He was lost and shattered himself and didn’t know what to say. He had no words for this moment.
Gaurvi and Trisha sat on the other side of Latika. Trisha complained, “Mom, you didn’t think about me? Why did you do it.”
Latika didn’t reply. Manoj went near her and nodded, “It’s all my fault. I should have been more invested. I didn’t realise your self-medication could be this dangerous…”
Latika wept and closed her eyes, “I’m so weak. Even a small problem appears like a mountain…”
“Don’t worry. We are with you…” Gaurvi sat on her bed.
Nandini was at the entrance of the room, heavy-hearted as she witnessed the entire family trying to cheer up and support Latika. Slowly, she stepped out and left them alone to deal with this crisis. She couldn’t decide if she should go inside and console her mother-in-law. She was still considered an outsider and it was her first major interaction with them. She didn’t want to disturb the harmony that could develop at this time. Her presence had the chance that Latika would go on a recoil, defensive mode.
So she left them and went back to the doctor to ask about Dr. Sarkar. Dr. Sarkar was on his rounds and was informed about Latika’s state. He messaged them that he will reach in an hour and talk to Latika in detail.
Relieved, Nandini left the hospital and went to attend her duties at her own hospital. After that, she was busy for the entire day, in OPD, OT, ward rounds, post op…
It felt weird not to receive Manik’s phone or message for the entire day. He was with his family at the time of an emergency, taking care of them and being with them, so it was justified that he didn’t get time to call or send her a message. But she knew that it wasn’t just that… the main reason was that she had asked him not to keep calling her or contacting her.
She didn’t call him or message him, either.
By evening, when she reached back home, Manik and his two sisters were having dinner.
“Bhabhi, please come and eat with us,” Trisha asked her.
Manik raised his eyes to look at her but didn’t speak anything. Nandini nodded and smiled, “I’m not hungry, Trish.”
Gaurvi stood up, took her bag and placed it on the sofa and made Nandini sit on one of the chairs, “Sit and eat something. Bhai has made dinner. He didn’t let me cook and Trisha… toh, you know… knows nothing!”
Gaurvi giggled with that. Trisha winced, “See, everyone is always teasing me.”
Nandini took a plate and said, “You are the youngest, na… and you are studying… so you are excused from household work. Even I didn’t know how to cook when we were just married.”
“Really!” Trisha chirped, “At least, someone is with me.”
“Everyone is only pampering you, all the time!” Manik said, “Stop complaining like a baby. And… you have exams next month, na…stop worrying about mom and everyone else and start reading.”
Trisha nodded, “Okay, that reminds me…Bhai, the CAT forms are out… can you give me your laptop for some time, I need to see the details.”
“Yeah… take it. And send me the link too…” Manik said.
“I need some books. I had to buy from Delhi, anyway.”
“Come with me to market tomorrow.” Manik assured her, “I’ll buy you.”
Gaurvi turned to Nandini, “Thank you so much, Bhabhi. Your promptness saved mom’s life.”
“Nahi di… it’s just…” Nandini tried to say something to avoid taking the credit but Gaurvi insisted.
“No, I’m serious. We all knew mom…how she had temper tantrums… how she was always cranky about things, she had mood swings so abnormal that we would wonder what happened to her. She lashed out on everyone. But we tolerated because we were family and thought that giving her attention will solve her problems. But it increased them… I’m scared to imagine, what would have happened if you hadn’t intervened in time.”
“She had to be saved… I was just the medium. To think of it, I was the reason too…” Nandini said.
“No, you were not the reason. Last two times, you were not there na…still it happened. It’s not about you. It’s ‘her’… and us too. We are more responsible for her state. She never took medicines on time, took papa’s medicines… ignored her sudden unreasonable demands… we were all responsible.”
Nandini simply smiled. Her eyes were turned to Manik who was looking at her keenly. He had gratitude and apology in his eyes.
Nandini said, “Manik, ma took all of papa’s tablets. I guess we need to take care of his medicines too. I’ve told the doctor at the hospital to measure his BP and other routine tests and then advise medicines. But once ma gets discharged, you need to see to it.”
“Hmm!” He nodded, agreeing to her and not knowing what else to say.
When the girls went inside their room to sleep, Manik turned to Nandini, who was in the kitchen, taking care of the leftovers.
He walked hesitatingly and when he started speaking, “Nandini…err…”
She stopped him, “Manik, please don’t say anything.”
“You can listen to me, at least.”
She straightened after adjusting the ceramic bowl of dal in the fridge, “What will you say? You will apologise… you will ask me to talk to you… you will request me to stay back…right?? Do you have anything new?”
He nodded to refuse, taking his lips in. She spoke on a choked throat, hurting badly, “Then, please don’t say anything. I don’t want to hear it all over again and feel bad for myself and for you too.”
She crossed him to go out when he said, “Let me know what will it take to convince you to give me a second chance.”
She stopped and turned to look at him. He was more drained and tired than yesterday. This changing scenario was new to him and he didn’t know how to cope. Nandini had seen emergencies and crisis closely during her work. She knew how to handle a lot of things at hand when racing against time. But it might not be the same who hardly ever manages an emergency. And it showed on his face, how helpless he was. He was not getting enough time to talk to her and that disturbed him. He was not able to apologise the way he wanted to… She knew about his deadlines at the office and now that he was on leave suddenly, his opponents must be very happy. They must be calling him every day and he was not able to go. It must be a huge stress. His job was already stressful and now, Trisha’s books, papa’s medicines, Gaurvi’s nutrition, mom’s hospital care were added responsibilities…
Nandini could feel his pain. She said, “Do you want me to help you? I mean – I’m taking Gaurvi di for a scan tomorrow to my hospital. Do you want me to take Trisha to market for books and get papa’s medicines checked – I can do that!”
“No!” He sighed, “I didn’t talk to you because I wanted you to take my responsibilities. I can manage them. I wanted to talk to you about ‘us’…”
She pressed her lips and lowered her eyes to look at the floor. Then, she folded her hands and leaned by the doorjamb, speaking after a long moment, “Manik, please don’t push me…”
He walked close to her and hesitatingly held her face in his hands. When she didn’t oppose him, he lifted it up to look at her. Her eyes were moist and red. He could hear his heart beating hard at the way she was crying like a baby. He could hardly speak, but he tried, “Nandu… you only said that it is a marriage and not a joke. This relationship is not so fickle to be ended like that… so easily… and now, you are giving up?”
She spoke between her hiccups, “You gave up, first! I am just unable to tolerate it… in fact, unable to believe it.”
In a tired, depressed voice, he said, “I am an idiot. I’ve always been… you know that! But you also know that I have been open with you like I have never been to anyone before. I felt so hurt that day because you are the only one who knew me inside out, I’ve shared so much with you like I haven’t with anyone else… I felt exposed… I felt destroyed… so I shouted… I regretted falling in love that made me so vulnerable that someone could use my secrets and hurt me… you have always been so understanding… then why are you not trying to understand today?”
“I understand. That is why I didn’t stomp out the very same moment when you asked me to leave. That is why I am still here, waiting for your mom to be discharged. That is why we are still talking…”
“Can we give it another chance? Please?”
She pressed her lips and didn’t reply for a long moment. Then she said, almost breaking down, “I’m not sure.”
“Then, what do you want?”
“Let’s take a break. Stay away from each other and then decide, if we really want to be together…”