Hello everyone, I haven't been able to finish writing the update and I am busy in too many things this week. My kids are having exams, my younger one celebrates her birthday on 26th, I have to wrap up all aspects of The Masquerade, including blurb, bio, cover, and acknowledgments, my clinic has loads of appointments, and some paperwork is pending. In short, you all will have to wait for a bit :)...
First of all, I apologize for posting so late. I was stuck in a lot of things and didn’t get time to write. But I wanted to write it, so I started writing late…
School exams, clinic, some minor things are keeping me busy…
I’ll be free soon, hopefully 🙂
Thank you for all the love and support… means a lot to me!!
She always knew that he observed her when he was around her as she did the same. Their eyes often met each other, whether in a group or when they were alone. Many times, they had communicated like that. But when he said that in words, it led to an inexplicable sizzle down her spine. She blushed. And he could figure it out that she loved this compliment. Not only this but when he said that he missed her, needed her in totality, she had blushed gloriously. It was all the truth. Not just for the sake of saying something. He was glad that he was always honest with her. Honesty was easy to maintain. Facades fall off soon.
The power was restored in the morning and this day appeared brighter than previous gloomy ones.
Again, the next two weeks passed in meetings and presentations for Manik, surgeries and deliveries for Nandini. Emergencies and nights kept her busy and client meets kept him occupied.
A significant change that happened during these two weeks was that they were talking now. Whenever they met at home and were together, they were cordial and not fighting. They spoke less, but they were still talking about some things –
Like – She asked him about basic necessities, everything she did for him, clothes to be washed, food that she prepared and kept for him and everything regarding Dobby. He asked about bills to be paid, as he had kept that responsibility with him since the beginning, about any basic utilties she needed from the grocery store as she had no time for shopping for little things and for repair work, like calling the plumber, fixing the electric plugs etc whenever needed. He did all that and informed her. Other than these, they did whatever they could in other’s absence and communicated in simple words. They were still not messaging each other in between work and not calling each other randomly, but Manik was okay with that. He wanted to take it slow. Nandini was fine too.
He cooked whenever he could.
He tried to wash clothes in the washing machine too… to be nice to her and help her. Not knowing that it will backfire.
On Saturday night, Nandini reached home late, only to find her new dresses missing from the washroom. Her heart almost skipped a beat when he said that he had thrown them in the automatic washing machine for washing and drying.
When she took them out, she stared at them in disbelief and the first thing she did was to strictly ask him not to touch her clothes. Not because of some formality or hesitation of letting him wash her clothes. But because he had spoilt all her new, delicate, designer dresses by washing them in heaps of Tide detergent.
She was so angry that she couldn’t stop grumbling, “My God!!! The reds and blues have left their colour and coloured the white trouser and grey top!! Manik Malhotra, you are so dumb…so, so dumb… you spoilt 4 dresses of mine, in one go… all new designer ones!!! Mummmmmyyyy!!”
He shrugged innocently, looking at the damaged dresses, “I thought, you wanted to wash them… that is why they were in the washroom!!”
“I WAS!! I was about to wash them… I would have washed them today… but they need soft fabric liquid detergent… not a strong one…”
“How do I know??”
“Exactly!! You wouldn’t know that… why did you even do it?” She winced and made a sad face. Her favourite dresses were completely spoilt.
He knew that it was a big blunder but he also knew that his intentions were noble. He gathered courage and approached her. Slowly, he held her hand and said, “I’m sorry! I always goof up. Woh… I really don’t know… how to handle soft, delicate things around me…”
He said it in a way, with an apologetic face and slight squeeze of eyes, like she knew that he included her in the soft-delicate-things-around-him… This made her smile. She nodded, “Forget it… by the way, you are really learning to speak well!!”
“What to do… I’m learning and taking baby steps!”
“I’m impressed!” She whispered, not taking away any credits from his efforts.
“But your dresses are on me… I’ll buy you four better dresses than these…”
She softly grinned, “I’ll ensure that you pay four times these cost me!”
“Anytime!” He was pleased to finally see her smile widening to a grin. His efforts were paying off. He was not leaving any stone unturned to please her and she was beginning to lose her guards again. He didn’t want to take chances, this time… he wasn’t going to take it easy until she was just like her original unique self…
“Okay… I’ve made dinner …you have it and go to sleep. I have work!” He informed her.
“On Saturday night?”
“Yeah!! I’m not going out of the building. I’m with Cabir and Dhruv. We are planning a new project for expansion to the East as well.”
Dhruv’s name made her alarm bells ring and she cocked a brow. She tried to stop herself. But she couldn’t. Finally, she said, in a guarded voice, “Dhruv?? Did you start trusting Dhruv again, all over?”
He laughed. He didn’t know what was cuter and what he loved more. The way she was wary of Dhruv, going back to her original trait of being wary of people who lost their trust? Or the way she was protective of her husband? Maybe, both!!
“What’s so funny?” She rolled her eyes.
“I know that you don’t like Dhruv! And it’s cute… to see you so worked up against him!”
She shrugged, “I’m just worried… he has betrayed you once…”
Manik took a deep breath and nodded. Thrusting his hands in his shorts’ pockets, he said, “I know! But Nandu… he had apologised and has been begging for a second chance…”
“So… how can I refuse him when I am in the same position as him?!” He spoke in a poignant tone, “Maybe, he is genuine. Maybe, he is really regretting. He deserves a second chance…”
It was in such a deep voice that she was shaken. She knew that he had spoken the last 3 sentences, not for Dhruv! But from his side… to her!!
She didn’t reply after this. She pressed her lips and nodded. “Hmm!”
Manik went to Cabir and Dhruv’s apartment to work on the project and returned late at night. Around 1:30 am. He was surprised to see the lights one. Nandini had still not slept. She was watching Netflix with a 1-litre tub of nutty-choc-brownie ice-cream.
He entered the living room and stood zapped for a minute. She was so engrossed in the movie that she simply smiled to acknowledge that he had come back, and she went back to her tub of ice-cream.
Impulsively, he sat beside her and took away the ice-cream.
“What??!!” She was irritated and gave him the same look.
“Nandu.. this is so unhealthy… middle of the night you are eating this?? Are you silly?”
She didn’t fight with him or gave him a counter-argument. She was back to watching the movie after a slight frown. He stood up and stashed the tub inside the freezer and was back to sit near her, not leaving the sight of her. She was absorbed in the movie, with her legs folded up and hands wrapped around them, her favourite posture.
After sitting near her for ten minutes, he picked up the TV remote, lowered the volume, distracting her and when she looked at him with a raised brow, he raised his brows questioningly. She nodded and fidgeted with her bangle in her hand.
In a considerate, soft voice, he asked, “You can talk to me!”
She nodded to refuse and took a deep breath in reply, but her normal expressions disappeared and a painful cringe appeared on her face. He waited for a minute and then asked, taking her hand, “Tell me… what happened?”
“I’m leaving the job… I’ll resign on Monday.”
“What!!! Why??” He was gaping at her blankly.
She huffed and started speaking,“The same crap everywhere… office politics is same in hospitals too…A new female has joined and she is HODs relatives. She gets all kinds of patients to operate on, complicated surgeries, though she is a newbie too, I get all the nights… and emergencies… while she cools her heels…”
He speculated and after thinking patiently, he suggested, “Well, you can complain to someone…I’m sure there must be a way out…”
“She is not the only one. There are more…I’ve been trying to adjust to a hostile environment since I joined… I mean, they are all good people… but they have a community of sorts… they watch each others’ back and leave me out. They have a lobby… Kannada-speaking versus non-Kannada speaking doctors…”
“Come on… maybe you are overthinking…”
“There is another doctor who feels the same… both of us are doing most of the secondary jobs… until now, I was fine as I thought that I was the juniormost, so I let the seniors take the call, but since this new girl has joined 2 weeks back, I am seeing the bias against me…”
He nodded, trying to understand, and said, “Do you remember when I was facing the same thing in my office? There was a proper lobby against me and people had been teaming up against me. You asked me not to give up. You are stronger than this, right?”
“No…. I’m not! I am stronger in theory. When you have to face it everyday, you don’t want to go to a place that erodes your self-esteem.”
“Okay! I get it… my point is that go there, till you find a solution or a new job. Apply at other hospitals and keep finding jobs. But don’t resign without a job in hand…”
She listened to him patiently as he explained his point. He made sense, when he said, “See, emotionally, you are struggling through a lot of things… we are not at a comfortable, stable space…now, if you lag professionally too, you will begin losing hope, very quickly. Of course, I’m always there for you… you can leave the job without worrying about finances and other petty things… but I know you… you will start getting hyper if you don’t get another job soon… remember last time?”
“Hmm!” She nodded, pressing her lips.
“And why will you leave a job coz of politics… make them understand your value…”
She sighed. And nodded. Impulsively, she shifted closer to him as he spoke and rested her head on his shoulder. He lowered to adjust the position so that she was comfortable holding his hand and leaning over him.
She didn’t even think about it consciously, so natural it felt to seek solace in his arms.
He said the last thing he had on his mind, “And maybe, Nandu… just maybe… it is your fault?”
“The way I know you, maybe you are too giving… too understanding… too perfectionist… trying to do the best in every situation… trying to help people even when they can manage on their own, you might have offered to do locum for others and now they are taking you for-granted?”
“You know, what… Manik?!” She said sharoply.
He was worried that he might have spoken more than necessary and upset her. But she continued –
“You do have a point!”
The next day, on Sunday, they had to go for grocery shopping. Nandini took the keys and told him that she would be back in 2 hours. Manik insisted to tag along with her. When they reached down the building, they saw his friends from office in the ground below the buidling. They were many colleagues, along with Cabir and Dhruv, Mukti and Alya too. They were playing a game of volleyball. Manik waved at them. They called him, shouting his name and making a hand signal for him to join them.
Nandini looked at them and then at Manik. Then, she smiled, “You can go and play with your friends!”
Manik nodded, “No, I’ll come with you.”
“Come on… I’m not buying a building or a farm that someone has to tag along with me.”
Manik smirked, “I’m sure, you would have managed even that…alone!”
She grinned coyly, “Men will be men…right?? Shower your wife with compliments when you have to play with your friends!”
He smirked sheepishly and rubbed his palm, at the nape of his neck. “I hope you don’t mind.”
She grinned more, “I don’t!! I’ll be back in 2 hours.”
He said, “I’ll be in this ground. See you in 2 hours…”
2 hours later, when Nandini was back from the market, she found no one in the ground and the park was deserted. It appeared weird.
When she reached her home, her heart sank when she saw the entire office staff, that stayed in their building, Cabir, Dhruv and everyone else in her home.
She reached the living room and found Manik sitting on the couch with his legs raised up. One of the legs had a plaster cast from his knee to his foot joint covering the ankle joint.
Mukti saw Nandini and informed her, “Just when the play started, Dhruv and Manik collided with each other. Manik fell down and had his ankle joint twisted. We took him to the hospital and got him examined. There is a fracture-dislocation of lower leg, around ankle joint…”
Nandini took the medical reports and X-ray to read and couldn’t understand the relation of impact and severity of fall. How did a simple collision result in such massive fracture. Manik was an athlete and not new to physical exercise. How did he twist his ankle so brutally?
She was suddenly angry on Dhruv and hated that she left Manik to play with his friends. He would have been better with her. She folded her hands across her chest and stared at him, hating every bit of the fact that he was hurt, hating that she was not with him when they too him to the hospital and got him bandaged… that he was suffering alone…it must be painful to him and she wasn’t there…”
He looked back at her, right across the length of the living room and knew what exactly she was thinking. He blinked once in assurance, trying to relieve her. She clenched her jaw and gritted her teeth against each other. This was so adorable that he smiled.
He didn’t even mind that he was hurt right now. All it mattered was that they could once again communicate without speaking, only through eyes, right across a room surrounded by other people.
He could do anything to relieve her that she was fine and didn’t want her to be upset about him. She was upset because he was hurt. She could do anything to ease his pain and stay beside him till he was comfortable.
If this was not love, then no one on the earth knew what love actually was…