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 :)...
I know each and every one of you. If you have ever left a comment here, or at Wattpad, or mailed, or messaged me at any place – remember that I cherish our interaction and you are special to me.
I’m saying this because these days I am not able to reply to the comments. My kids have exams this month and next month, I have certain other commitments, my clinic and then some basic things about the book that is coming in the next 2 months… so Feb and March are going to be very very hectic.
While I will keep updating regularly but kindly excuse me for not replying to you. I read all the comments but unable to thank separately to each of you…
I know you understand, but still…
Love you all, take care… stay blessed…
Slowly, people of the office and the building started leaving one by one. They wished Manik for a quick recovery, greeted Nandini on the way and left for their home. In the end, Mukti and Alya too asked if they could help her in any way and when she nodded sweetly and refused, they left.
Cabir and Dhruv were left. Dhruv had similar vibes from Nandini as she had from him – hostile and uncomfortable. So, he squirmed when she stared at him.
“Okay, I must leave too. It’s Sunday, so I have to call my mom.” Dhruv said and excused himself. When he left, Nandini spoke to Cabir, “Why didn’t you call me when you were taking him to the hospital?”
Cabir raised his hands in defence, “Don’t ask me. Ask your husband. He said that he was fine and not to call you as you will panic and drive fast because of this. At the hospital, we realised that he had a fracture-dislocation.”
Nandini kept a grim, angry face and turned to give a long look to Manik. Manik simply made a helpless pout and squeezed his eyes. He knew that she was worried and upset even now but at least she was not panicking, she wasn’t driving fast to reach him and she was not jittery. She was just angry. And that she had been, for a few days, so he knew that he would handle her. She swayed her neck in a hopeless move and turned around to go to the kitchen.
Cabir said, “Okay, I’ll leave.”
“Cabir, have coffee and go… I’m going to make one for Manik.” Nandini spoke from the kitchen.
Cabir twisted his lips and whispered to ask Manik, “How did she know that you need coffee?”
Manik treated him with a glorious, proud smirk earning a subtle punch from Cabir. They laughed about certain jokes circulating in the office and discussed the new project as Nandini brought coffee for them.
After around half an hour, Nandini received a call from her hospital. There was an emergency case and though it was a Sunday, it was her call day and she had to go. She made a terrible face and tapped her phone over her palm, wondering what to do. Manik observed her and said, “I’m fine. You go to the hospital.”
She nodded, “No. I’ll just call Dr. Padma to take the case instead.”
“Already, there is so much politics against you. And, it’s an emergency, right? So, why waste time?”
“But…” Nandini didn’t want to go but she couldn’t waste time too. Someone’s life was at risk.
Cabir stressed, “Don’t worry, Nandini. I’ll stay here with Manik.”
“Sure?” Nandini got a bit confident to hear that Cabir was with Manik, “You don’t mind, na… Cabir?”
“Come on… I’m free today. Waise bhi, it’s a Sunday! We’ll watch soccer. You go…”
“I’ll try to come as soon as I am free.”
“Don’t worry!” Manik and Cabir said together and convinced her to go to the hospital.
The soccer match was called off because of weather issues. There was nothing interesting on TV and Manik wanted to lie down, so he asked Cabir to help him towards the bedroom. He could stand and walk on one foot, keeping the other in the air but still, he needed some support.
Cabir helped him go to the washroom, wash his face and brought him to the bedroom to lie down.
“I’ll get you a towel to wipe the face,” Cabir said when he didn’t find the towel in the washroom. He was about to open the cupboard when Manik stopped him, with his mind tangled with Nandini’s clothes and personal belongings in the cupboard. He said, “Cabir, don’t open that cupboard.”
“Ohh!!! I forgot… Nandini must be sharing this with you… you don’t want me to see or touch her things?” Cabir teased him.
“Shut up!” Manik snubbed him, “Go to the balcony. Towels are there.”
Cabir couldn’t stop laughing and teasing him, “Wow! Manik Malhotra! You know so much about which thing is kept where… like…towels in the balcony… did you wash and dry them?”
“I did!” Manik smirked.
Cabir brought a hand towel for him and turned around the bed to sit near him. But when he noticed Manik looking at him, he raised his hands once again, in defence, “Okay…okay!! I won’t sit here… coz obviously Nandini uses this side of the bed.”
“Whatever!” Manik huffed and rolled his eyes, and diverted him by taking out his phone, saying, “So many meetings are lined up back to back. How will I manage?”
“Everything will wait. The entire office knows about you and your dedication,” Cabir dragged a chair to sit beside him, “And the entire office saw that you fell and got a fracture. You are not making excuses to evade work. So relax!”
“But international clients are coming for the deal…” Manik suddenly remembered.
“We will manage. On the final day, join us through video conferencing.” Cabir suggested.
“No…mannnn!! I wanted to be there!” Manik spoke in a worried tone.
“Okay, let’s try… if we can postpone the meeting to 3-4 weeks.”
Manik took a deep breath, “Hope so!”
Nandini drove at a higher speed and reached the hospital to attend to the patient with an emergency rupture of membranes. She had asked the patient to reach the labour room immediately.
It was a difficult case as the woman was in her forties, it was her first pregnancy and she had a history of previous miscarriages. It was a precious pregnancy with a breech baby and the woman was very weak and frail. The cervix was not sufficiently dilated. Nandini explained the situation to her family and suggested that they should go for a caesarian section. The relatives started accusing her of being money minded and pushing a normal case for an operation just for the benefit of the hospital.
Her heart broke at that. She had reached here by driving fast, only to attend to this female. She had forgone her Sunday, she had left Manik at home, though she needed to attend to him and be with him. Here, she was being harassed and accused of being selfish and greedy. On usual days, she took it as perils of the profession but not today. She couldn’t hold herself anymore. She had tears in her eyes.
She went back to her cabin and buried her face in her palms. Sometimes, it became too much to bear. At times like these, whenever things were going hard, talking to Manik had been like a breeze of fresh air. But for the last 3 weeks, Manik and she were not calling each other randomly. They were not even messaging each other, out of the blue, like they used to do after marriage and 4 months after that. These days they talked only when they met at home and that too, cordially and casually.
Right now, her mind was messed up and she was worried about Manik too. She knew that he won’t call because he wouldn’t disturb her thinking that she was in an emergency. She took out her phone from her bag and called him.
Manik was surprised to see Nandini’s name on the screen informing the incoming call.
It was a pleasant surprise that made him grin.
Finally… after sooooooo many days…
“Hey!” He immediately replied.
She knew that talking to him would ease out her stress but she had no idea that it was going to be this soothing. His voice brought a smile to her face. Her tears didn’t matter anymore. She wiped them and pressed her lips.
“Hi…” She replied, and closed her eyes, before she asked, “Are you feeling better?”
“Yeah… kind of! Cabir is here. Don’t worry.”
She didn’t know what to say. She was terribly worried about him. She wasn’t there when he fell down and was hurt, when he was getting bandaged in the hospital and now, again, he was at home and needed her but had to depend on his friend. She hated this situation. She hated to be away from him and she was angry at herself. When she should have been with Manik, she was here, crying because patients refused to understand that she was speaking for their benefit. The same had happened when Manik’s mom was there and they refused to understand that she was saying something for them, not for her. It was frustrating.
“Nandu…” He softly spoke her name, when he could hear her silence… that she had slightly sniffed… and also that her voice was low and dull.
“What happened? You were in an emergency, right?” He asked.
“Yeah. But something happened and …” She tried to dismiss as no big deal but he interrupted her.
He had authority in his voice and it had never happened that he asked something and she didn’t tell him. He wanted to know and she naturally vented out, “The patients think that they know better. They are not listening to me that they need surgery. Instead, they are accusing me that I am being greedy. It’s just a tough case.”
“So, you are crying?”He asked firmly
She winced, “I’m not crying. Tears trickled down automatically.”
He grinned at the way she defended herself – cutely but firmly. He said, “Okay…so…what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know. I’m waiting for them to make a decision.”
“Just go and try once more…maybe, they’ll understand.”
“It’s scary. They are simply fighting with me. I’m taking some time to let them think.”
“Hmm. You know better about how to deal with your patients and their attendants. Just remember that you are strong and you can deal with anything… ‘anything’ Nandu… if you can deal with Manik Malhotra, you can deal with anything!” He chuckled.
This made her chuckle too. Very softly. Her laughter might not be a big blast right now but even a soft smirk was something that he was waiting to hear for 3 weeks. It was like music to his ears.
He sighed. “Thank God, you laughed!”
She grinned, “No, I didn’t laugh. Your ears are ringing.”
“Sure. Haven’t heard your voice on the phone for so many days… so maybe…”
“Okay! I’m going. I’ll see how to convince them for the patient’s benefit.”
Nandini went out to the corridor where the family was seated. She was adamant not to give up. She took the lady’s husband to one side and talked to him, explaining that it was not safe for her and the baby to wait for another 18-20 hours for the cervix to be dilated and as such it was an inverted baby, so it had to be an assisted delivery. It wasn’t going to be easy.
The husband understood and went to talk to her family again. Nandini told them that she would leave her if there was no emergency and would come at a normal time next morning. During this time, the woman was the family’s responsibility. Finally, few people understood and gave her permission to operate.
It was draining as well as exhausting to operate while her mind was battling many things at one time. She tried her best to forget everything else and concentrate on work. For the next 3-4 hours, she was restless, till the woman was stabilized, with both newborn baby and mom doing well.
When she was going back to her cabin, she had a smile of relief on her lips. And she knew that Manik was responsible for the major part of this smile. If he hadn’t talked to her the way he did, she would have been lost and it would have been more difficult than it was now.
Manik and Cabir played chess for some time, ordered food for lunch and then talked about the project that they were working on. Cabir brought his laptop from his home and they worked for some time.
Cabir helped him when Manik wanted to go to the washroom, brought plates from the kitchen, helped him change this tee-shirt and brought everything he needed from phone charger, to laptop, from pen to pen-drive… everything…
Manik yawned and stretched himself, “Gawwdd!!! I’m so bored!”
Cabir punched him on his arm lightly, “I’m still sitting here. Have some shame and crib after I leave.”
Manik laughed loudly, “It wasn’t for you. I’m bored because I don’t know what to do sitting in one place for so long. I’m not used to sitting on the bed for hours and I’m here since morning.”
“Same happens in the living room…”
He reclined on the cushions behind him and rolled his eyes, “Hmm… the couch is not so comfortable to sit for long hours.”
“Tell me, what else you want me to do!” Cabir asked helplessly.
“Nothing!” Manik clicked his tongue, “Thanks buddy… you’ve already devoted an entire Sunday for me…”
“Like a wife!” Cabir chuckled and Manik laughed again. Cabir asked, “But from tomorrow, I’ll have to go to the office. What will you do, then?”
Manik shrugged, “Let’s see… maybe, I’ll ask someone to send a helper…”
“I know a few people… I’ll ask them…” Cabir assured him.
While packing her bag to go back home, Nandini received a phone call from the HOD.
“Yes, ma’am!” Nandini talked to her while walking towards the parking area.
“Nandini, I know that you are still in the hospital right now. It’s good that your emergency surgery went well. But don’t go home as I want you to do night today.”
“But ma’am, suddenly?? I mean, it is not my day today. It’s Dr. Padma’s turn.”
The head explained patiently, “Actually, Dr. Padma is new to Bangalore. So, she is still adjusting and I want her to spend some time with her in-laws and husband. So, we are not giving her any night duties for the next two months. Only you and Dr. Kavita will manage… do a night-duty on alternate nights from now.”
Cabir opened the main door to find a strange-looking man telling that he is from the dish antenna company.
“But we didn’t call you!” Cabir said and walked in to ask Manik if he had called the guy. The young man walked behind Cabir and met Manik who was as clueless as Cabir was. He repeated the same, “We didn’t call anyone.”
The man explained, “Madam called me, sir. She called an hour back and told me that I need to fix the television in the bedroom. You have a fracture, right?”
Both Manik and Cabir were zapped at that. They exchanged quiet glances that none of them had this idea that they could get the TV shifted to the bedroom, while Manik was getting bored and will continue to suffer for the next 3 weeks.
Manik nodded quietly and the guy started working. Cabir shrugged, “Cool mann!! You are so lucky… she remembers you and thinks about you even when she is busy attending emergencies.”
Manik grinned proudly. The tv guy fixed the tv in the bedroom, facing the bed and Manik was finally relieved to switch channels between news and sports. He didn’t like watching tv on his phone or laptop.
After half-an-hour, Nandini arrived. Cabir quickly gave her updates about Manik and what they ate and what they did throughout the day. Manik was looking at them spellbound. It was pretty later that he realised that Cabir used to give updates about him to Nandini and it was a normal talk between them.
When Cabir left, Nandini picked up the leftovers, plates, games from the room and was cleaning the room, dusting the place so that it was smelling fresh all over again. Manik loved her presence in the room and around him. Suddenly, everything became so pretty and attractive, just because she was around him.
She was busy cleaning the room, as she always did, as she was a cleanliness freak, and Manik kept observing her as he always did. When she threw a glance at him, he was observing her keenly. She raised her brows to ask what he was thinking.
Manik teased her, “So… You spy on me?”
She smiled and dumped the waste material in a bag to be disposed of, but didn’t speak anything in reply.
He rolled his tongue in his mouth and teasing her again, he said, “From tomorrow, Cabir will go to office. I’ll arrange for a helper to stay with me. I suppose you will bribe him too for information.”
“From tomorrow, I won’t have to ask anyone about you.” She washed her hands in the washroom and returned to sit beside him.
He shrugged, “Why?”
She smiled and swayed her neck side to side, as she replied, “From tomorrow, I’ll stay with you! All-day, all-night. No one else will come here.”
He was thrilled. But worried at the same time. “But… Nandu…”
She nodded frantically to interrupt him, very seriously, “I’ve already applied for a 3-weeks’ leave.”
“What if they don’t approve it?”
She wiggled her brows in a naughty manner, and said, “Then, I’ll have to choose – between hospital… and… you!”
He nodded grimly and sighed, “Hmm… Always choose work!”
She nodded too, very seriously, “Oh yeah??!!”
She grinned and giggled for the first time in so many days –
“Shut up! You already know that I’ll choose you!”
(Thanks for reading!)