Chapter Eight - Mansi

She had a headache. Of course she had a headache. Firstly she was not used to the routine she was following recently. Had it been her old schedule staying up at night would have not been a problem. But her body had started to adapt to the new routine and secondly, she was not used to crying. She was not under the false impression that she was a strong woman but she had never been able to display her emotions; as if her emotions were locked away somewhere, in some dark corner of her mind and all that floated in and out of that place was ‘fear’. She knew she did not have anything to fear now; the man who had damaged her was no more but that did not stop her from feeling insecure.

Until the recent events in her life, she never knew that she needed someone in her life. However, it was there, deep within the recesses of her mind, the desire to be understood and loved. She wanted to be loved. She wanted to love someone. Mansi stood up and started walking back to her room. Involuntarily she looked towards her neighbour’s room just in time to see a figure walk inside and close the door. The cab was not his after all, she thought as she started to climb the stairs.

She did not attempt to fall asleep again. She decided to start her day early. When she walked out of the room with her clothes and towel, the chawl had started to wake up. However, there were not many people awake. The queues were shorter than the past few days. She liked it this way. It was one of the reasons she loved doing the night shift. Working late at night and returning to the chawl when only a few early risers were seen outside their room suited her well. 

Despite the shorter line outside the common toilet she walked towards the queue outside the bathroom. Her bowels were at rest. She did not have to wait much before her turn came and she entered the bathroom. When she stepped out of the bathroom and started walking towards her room, her wet hair draped in towel, she saw him again. He was just a few steps away and was dressed in cab driver uniform. He turned around and caught her looking. His eyes rested on her for a while before he gathered himself and looked away. Mansi smiled. He climbed the steps two at a time to reach his room well before Mansi could start climbing the stairs. By the time Mansi reached the last step he had already opened the door to his room. The next moment she saw a woman step outside the room and walk past her with a smile on her face. Mansi stood frozen for a moment. Only after her neighbour closed the door did she walk towards her room. 

Mansi had her breakfast and packed lunch. She checked her watch; she still had a lot of time on hand thanks to the early start to the day. She could either wait in the room or start for office early. Finally she made up her mind and walked out of the room. Mansi decided to get down a few stops before her bus-stop and walk to her office, taking in fresh morning air. Her bus arrived a few minutes after she reached the bus stop. There were not many people at the stop. She had almost climbed in when the bus took an early start. She felt someone’s hand over hers and as she turned around she came face to face with a man who had climbed the bus after her at the last moment. The man apologized and waited for her to walk ahead. The bus was less crowded. She took the seat closer to the exit. From the corner of her eyes she could see the man occupying the seat diagonal to hers. 

Mansi stepped out of the bus a few stops before hers as she had decided and started to walk. Her mind wandered to the recent encounters of hers with her neighbour. How coming face to face with him had stirred something within her. Then she thought of the man who had climbed in the bus after her. That man’s touch had not made her cringe. It was either because it had happened to fast for her brain to process or her fear had been laid to rest after she had finally let down the barriers and allowed herself to cry. Mansi smiled. 

Mansi reached office in time to see Uncle opening the door with his key. As usual he was the first person to reach office and Mansi was usually the last person from the staff to enter. This time she was the first one amongst the staff. The empty seats reminded her of the night shift. She convinced herself that it was a matter of few more days and then she would be back to her routine of night shifts. She had to get done with the interviews as soon as she could. Mansi wished Good Morning to Uncle and as she switched on the lights in the office she saw the man from the bus waiting outside. He had put on a tie and combed his hair. He, it seemed, was there for interview. The look on his face, the way he held the file close to his chest and the way he checked his wrist watch at regular intervals screamed ‘I am desperately in need of this job’ and in addition to all these signs, the most important sign was that he was the first one waiting for interview. A few more joined him as the other staff members entered the office and occupied their seats. Mansi switched on her computer to check her emails. There were four new mails from She shifted them to the folder named ‘Personal’ and replied to a few mails before getting up to go to Uncle’s cabin to join him for the interview.

The long lost peon of the office was back on duty. He was the only person in the office who had multiple jobs. He worked at two other offices – real ones and visited this one as per his wish. He asked the desperate job seekers to occupy the bench meant for visitors and the remaining few to stand in a queue and avoid crowding the office. ‘Chalo hawa aane do’ he yelled at those who were blocking the entrance of the office. He looked at Mansi and smiled. She smiled back. She was fond of this man, he was a few years younger than her and he called her ‘didi’. That was the reason she had started talking to him in the first place. He made her feel wanted. He shared the story of his life with her; and more she interacted with him, closer she came to this man; the only man who did not wake fear in her. In fact, he inspired her in a way. At such a young age he was juggling three different jobs, taking care of his mother and two siblings – younger brother and a sister. 

Mansi took her seat next to Uncle who handed her the file with the forms of the applicants. She checked the first form. A passport size photograph was stapled to the form and the name on the form read – Manish Kumar. It was the same man she had seen on the bus. It was time for the interviews to begin.


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