Chapter Eighteen - Uncle and Mansi

Mansi knew her behaviour was wrong. She knew Uncle cared for her. She should have been thankful for his presence in her life. Had it not been for him she would have hardly survived in the city.

It was wrong for her to accept his help when she thought it was appropriate and reject at other times. The fact was, she had intended to talk to Uncle about her decision and being sceptical now. The way things turned out she ended up being adamant and rude. When she looked around, Mansi realised that she had walked involuntarily towards her bus stop. She sat on the bench at the bus stop and covered her face with her palms, her elbows resting on her knees. She was the only person at the bus stop and when the bus arrived she looked up. The conductor stared at her, wondering whether she was going to climb in or not. Mansi got up and the conductor stepped back in synchronization to give her space to climb in, however, Mansi turned around and walked away from the bus – on her way back to the office.

Uncle knew that he was being over protective. The father in him wanted to take care of Mansi and protect her from the cruel world. First impression of Manish Kumar had not been bad; in fact he had really felt sorry for the guy. What was it now that worried him? He did not know. He did not like that after talking to him; Manish Kumar had found his way to Mansi; had waited for her outside the office and tried talking to her. What shocked him further was – Mansi had talked to him. What had gotten into that girl? After being careful for all these days how could she allow it to happen? Did she not realize it was not safe for her to walk the streets with a stranger? True, it was not too late but he had rather hoped she would contact him about Manish’s behaviour and talk to him instead of taking the matters in her own hands and talking to Manish Kumar.

He did not have any right on her; he knew it but he found it hard to accept. He knew it was a matter of time – Mansi would find a new job – one that paid better. He could afford to pay her better, could afford to provide accommodation but he did not want to risk it because he did not want to lose her. What if she decided to leave him after knowing the truth?

She would be leaving him anyway. He simply wanted to cherish the time he had with her. Better late than early, he thought. He did not want to give her an excuse to be angry on him and quit job. All he wanted, right from the day when he had met her for the first time was to be accepted as a part of her life. He was ashamed of himself, in fact he hated himself for not being around for her or for the only woman he had truly loved. He could never really be the part of Mansi’s life but he was happy with whatever was possible. Mansi rejected staying with him in his house, she refused to take money from him but at least she worked in his office, the one he had set up for her. He did not want her to leave. He simply wanted her to be around. On one hand he knew it was too much to ask from her to accept him as her father and hence he could never get around to telling her and on the other hand he also knew a day would come when she would question his concern for her and he would have to tell her the truth. He sighed.

He made up his mind to support her decision of allowing Manish to work at night with her. He would talk to her. He would have to find a way to get rid of his fears. He could have them watched. He could install cameras in the office. No, that would be too obvious – he thought. 

May be stage a break-in and then install cameras to make it look like he was just being careful. Uncle shook his head. Who would want to break into his ‘office’?

He trusted her and he had to trust her decision making capability, he convinced himself. He opened the file of candidates who had applied for job at his office. He needed to find at least one more person who was in desperate need of a job and someone who wanted to work night shift. That would do and that would not look suspicious. The father in him smiled. He was mentally short-listing the candidates when Mansi knocked on the door of his cabin. She never knocked; he had asked her not to knock, ever. But she did. A sign of the worse that would follow! 

Uncle closed the file and asked her to come in.
Mansi stepped in and involuntarily looked at the file in Uncle’s hand.
“Are you planning on hiring someone else?” Mansi questioned. 
Uncle heard the unspoken, “instead of Manish Kumar”
“No.” he answered. He kept the file aside. He did not know what more to say. 

There was an awkward silence between them. An awkward silence between a father and a daughter was a shame. Mansi cleared her throat to speak something but Uncle broke the silence before she could talk, “Manish Kumar would continue to work in this office. And, he would work the night shift with you. I am sorry, I should have not reacted the way I did earlier.”

Mansi shook her head. This was not what she had expected or wanted. She respected Uncle and knew he cared for her. Hearing an apology from Uncle hurt her. Tears gathered into her eyes as she spoke, “Please do not say sorry. I am the one who should apologize for being rude. I never intended to talk to you the way I did. I did not know how to react to your decision.” Mansi stopped talking.
Uncle knew it was time; he knew what was coming next.

“Why?” she asked. 

Just one word; a simple question – a simple question with a complicated answer! He could either pretend not to understand the question or offer a straight forward reply. How long could he stretch this? Was it worth not saying in words? 

Mansi could see tears gathering in Uncle’s eyes as he removed his spectacles and stared at his desk. He neither pinched the bridge of his nose to stop the tears from flowing nor did he wipe the tears as them jumped off from his eyes on to his cheeks and lips and end up on the desk leaving a salty trail over his lips. Mansi got her answer. 

“How well did you know her?” Mansi asked. 

Uncle looked up and stared into Mansi’s eyes. He knew she knew. She had perhaps known all along. “I loved her” he replied.

It was Mansi’s turn to let out the emotions. She had been holding back her tears for a long time. Slurred words came out of her salty lips, “Why did I never get to see it then?”

The question slashed through his heart. Uncle did not know what to reply. There was only one thing he could do. Tell her the story. His story. Their story. Even if it meant that she would hate it. The time had come to make the tough decision. To tell her the truth; even if it meant that she would walk out of his life forever. It was time to tell her that he loved her mother a lot and because he could not be there for her when she needed him, he was cursed to live a lonely life.

He could hardly see Mansi now, the tears blurred his vision. He did not want to wipe the tears, they felt good. They somehow soothed his aching heart. He needed to cry. Every time he was on the verge of crying he thought of what his father told him and stopped crying. Perhaps he was not man enough according to his father. He did not care. Not at this moment. Everything ceased to matter. He knew Mansi was waiting for an answer but before he could speak he had to do it. He had to mourn the death of his beloved. He had to cry out loud. The moment he thought about Mansi’s mother he let out a loud sob and started crying and Mansi cried silently with him.

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