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 :)...
It was great catching up with you on my post yesterday – Let’s Catch Up…
I’ve always loved to connect with all of you. And I feel privileged to have my dearest bunch around me.
Love to all of you!!
Nandini looked at them, cluelessly and waited for someone to introduce them. She didn’t say anything, so the woman introduced herself, with her hand stretched towards her –
“Hey, I’m Sonalika. Manik must have spoken about me…”
Nandini looked at her squarely, threw a glance at Manik and then Cabir and was back to take her hand in a warm smile with a reply, “No, I’m sorry. I’ve never heard about you.”
Sonalika was surprised. She lifted her unibrow and asked, “Never?!… Err… Anyway, I’m Manik’s old friend.”
“Nice to meet you,” Nandini spoke formally. Then, she added, “Please be comfortable. I have a night duty today. So, I must leave.”
“We’ll meet soon,” Sonalika said confidently and warmly.
“Sure!” Nandini spoke in a measured tone, without being over-friendly, that she usually was, even with strangers. In fact, she was aloof and distant with Sonalika.
Manik knew that Nandini remembered Sonalika even if he had mentioned her long back. She had a sharp memory and her behaviour and responses said that she remembered everything he had spoken about his ex-girlfriend and was now super annoyed that he didn’t tell her that she had joined office temporarily 2 weeks back. Sonalika was working in their branch in Kolkata and was here for few weeks to oversee a project. It would hardly take 4-5 weeks for her to go back. He didn’t tell Nandini about her because they were in a fragile phase already. They had barely started talking properly 2 weeks back and he didn’t want her to react adversely. Moreover, it didn’t even strike him that he should tell her. He had almost ignored Sonalika’s presence in the office and told her at the first meet that he was married to Nandini 5 months ago. After that, they never interacted for more though Sonalika had tried to be friendly with him and tried to invite him for coffee or drinks but he turned her down. He generally disliked people and Sonalika was one of those, he specifically detested. Also, he was not someone who would encourage ex-girlfriends to create more complications in his life.
Nandini’s face right now looked like no amount of explanations would suffice to pacify her raising temper. He sighed and kept quiet. Nandini picked up her handbag, gave a long look to Manik and left the room and their house.
Back at the hospital, the time would always pass quickly. She took an evening round of admitted patients and called the HOD that she was at work.
The HOD smirked, “I knew that you will come back. Who will leave such a promising job?”
Nandini felt like saying something but didn’t feel like saying it. She winced and kept the phone down. Her mind was not with her anymore. She was missing her previous stable state. She was missing Manik and how they were before rude problems hit them one after the other. More than anything, she was now missing herself. She knew that this was not her. She was not like this – dull, sad, worried and quiet… no, this was not her!
She was happy, friendly, bubbly and vocal. She spoke about everything. She spoke what she felt and she never kept things in her heart. These days she was mostly talking to herself. Whatever came in her mind was stifled and suffocated inside her. She had been trying to get past her hurt and shattered stability but she was consistently losing her balance. She knew that Manik had been trying hard to woo her back and she appreciated and valued him. She was trying too. She was trying to tell him how much she loved him around her and needed him to be with her. That is why she had told the HOD that she won’t be in the hospital for 3 weeks but Manik sent her back. So harshly!! And now, she got to know that he didn’t tell her about Sonalika. His previous girlfriend was working with him in the office for 2 weeks and he didn’t think that he should tell his wife.
She had no idea what was going in Manik’s mind and she knew that there was no point asking Manik. This made her feel more helpless and lost. She picked up patients’ files and started reading them one by one, to divert her mind.
Early in the morning, the HOD called, “Nandini, Padma called me that she is not well. You be there in the ward till afternoon and leave only after Kavita comes.”
Nandini winced, “But Ma’am, I’m here since last afternoon. I was attending emergencies and then I came back for night duty.”
HOD smirked, “You young doctors these days have no stamina. We have done back to back nights and straight 48 hours duties when we were in Residency. So what?! You are here since yesterday… Is it a big deal? It’s not even 24 hours. Doctors around the world work harder than that!”
The HOD disconnected the phone, leaving Nandini in tears. She sat down determined not to cry. Not in the ward. She couldn’t let the ward boys, nurses, patients and their attendants to see her tears. She desperately wanted to talk to Manik, she needed someone to hug her and tell her that it was going to be okay and he was with her. But she recalled what he had said last night while sending her to the hospital to do night duty. He had chosen to side with the HOD and had told her that they had every right to harass her. Right now, she was so angry that she could have punched both the HOD and Manik.
Somehow, she controlled her anger and went out to bring coffee for her. She tried hard but couldn’t control herself. So instead of calling Manik, she called Cabir.
“Hey!” Cabir answered in a surprised tone, “How come you called me so early in the morning?”
“Hey… err… I just wanted to check, if everything is fine?” Nandini asked.
“Yep! All is well…” Cabir asked cautiously, “If you are asking about Manik, he is more than well… his life is chill…”
“What are you saying?” Nandini was not in a mood of jokes.
Cabir elaborated, “Early in the morning if your wife is not home and your ex- comes and makes coffee for you… we call that life, chill!”
“Whatttt??!!!” Nandini was flabbergasted, “What are you talking about?! That b*t*h is in ‘MY’ home!”
Cabir always coughed when he heard Nandini swearing. He knew that she did it and he found it funny. “Yeah, she is in ‘YOUR’ home… making coffee for ‘YOUR’ husband.” Cabir rolled his tongue in his mouth.
Nandini could feel her heart sinking, “And Manik is fine with that?”
“Well… I can’t blame him…he has a fractured leg so technically he is trapped… To add to that, Sonalika is pretty and makes awesome coffee.”
To add to that, Manik and Nandini were going through a tough phase, Nandini thought. She hopes that it didn’t led Manik to compare the two girls. Nandini hated to even think like that. Her anger was boiling inside her by now, “I’m going to kill her… no, I think I’m going to kill Manik… or maybe, kill them both…”
“Listen, don’t worry! I’ll keep an eye on them!” Cabir smirked.
“Please do that! And keep her away from Manik.” She frowned before she reached her cabin and disconnected.
Her heart sank at the possibility of Sonalika being with Manik. She tried to shrug that off and continue with her work. Somehow, she passed time till mid-afternoon, finished OPD, and left when both Padma and Kavita arrived.
The fatigue of working tirelessly since last afternoon, for the entire night and for the entire morning got the better of her, making her feel physically exhausted. Along with that, a drained emotional state didn’t help her. She hadn’t talked to Manik since last evening after she left for the hospital and she hated that. Their differences were fading and they had been coming closer again in last 2-3 weeks. Just yesterday, it felt like all was going to be fine. She would have taken 3 weeks off and they could have spent time together. But no, Manik had to behave like an idiot. And his girlfriend… okay, ex-girlfriend… had to come to make things worse.
Nandini was feeling so hopeless and helpless that she dug her nails deep in the steering wheel cover as she drove. It was hard to stay awake and drive cautiously, without losing concentration and track, so she drove slowly, in the second lane, and tried not to think of how ridiculously challenging her life had become.
Manik stared at Sonalika when she cooked upma for him. Last night when she had come to see him and even before that, 2 weeks ago when she had met him in the office, he had at least smiled and behaved courteously with her. Not anymore. She was getting on his nerves. And Manik was not the one to indulge people in formalities.
He asked Cabir to help him sit in the living room as he was bored in the bedroom, he didn’t like to work on the bed and it was embarrassing to be with Sonalika in his bedroom. The dining table in the living room was a comfortable, airy space to work with his laptop settled on the table before him.
“Listen Sonalika, you are here for some time, right? I’ll just go to my home and come back in 10-15 minutes.” Cabir excused himself for some time as he had to go to his home for some plumbing work and Dhruv was in office. Cabir promised to be back as soon as the work was done. This little time was enough to test Manik’s patience.
Sonalika smiled widely and shifted the bowl of upma before him. “For you!”
Manik gave her a long tired stare, waited, and then after much deliberation, he said, “I told you not to make anything. Nandini doesn’t like anyone messing in her kitchen. She is a cleanliness freak and VERY possessive about her things…”
“Oh, my!!” Sonalika leaned over the headrest of a chair with her forearms resting on the wooden bar and joined her hands together, “So much concern?!?!?”
He gave her another piercing stare and instead of replying to her taunt, he asked, “What do you want?”
“I want nothing!” She smirked, “I’m just here to help you, you know!”
“I don’t need your help. I didn’t call you here. Why did you even come here?”
She laughed, “Tch, tch… I feel soooo bad for you, Manik. Karma served you, right? You are emotionally unavailable for people. Now, your wife is physically unavailable for you, especially when you need her the most! So sad…tch…tch…”
He tilted his neck and snubbed her, “If you have enjoyed enough, you can make a move.”
She swayed her jaw, clearly happy and satisfied, “But I haven’t enjoyed enough… Isn’t it obvious?”
“Of course, I’ll go. Did you think I was here to come close to you or rekindle any feelings? No way… I’m here to show you what you lost when you took me for granted. I’m just glad to see you suffering.”
Manik stayed quiet. Only his jaw muscles were clenched while he was staring at her straight. Then he said, “I’m not going to discuss this with you. Though, I’m shocked to see the audacity.”
“Good that you can now see my audacity. You could never see my feelings.”
He interrupted her, “I’m not interested in your feelings… However, I will definitely tell you what I am feeling – too glad, satisfied and happy that you left the sinking ship when you didn’t find me good enough for you… Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me… it was a natural response. No one can tolerate you, Manik. No one can live with you. Trust me, Nandini will leave you too.”
Irritated beyond his patience limits, Manik rolled his tongue in his mouth carelessly and said, “I don’t want to insult Nandini by comparing her with you. Though, I would love to burst your bubble…”
He waited to add effect to his words while Sonalika looked at his face. After a pause of few seconds, he said, very strongly and firmly –
“Even if Nandini decides to leave me, I won’t let her go!”