Chapter Fifty Eight - Mansi

Mansi stepped into a restaurant and ordered food. She was not really hungry. She had been hungry earlier but the chaos inside her mind took away whatever appetite she had; but she had to eat. The sick feeling that she once had when she had to go on days without food was coming back to her and she did not want to fall sick. 
She was already mentally exhausted; she did not want to be physically ill as well. At least not at this point. 

There were things to be done. She somehow felt that she was walking back to the point where she had started when she had left home and come to Mumbai. Meeting with her father had been a stroke of luck but now there were chances of that relationship to be compromised. She should have not gotten too emotionally attached to him, should have not depended entirely on him. He had helped her settle. She had reluctantly accepted loan from him to rent a room in a chawl. She had promised him that she would return the money as soon as possible. On the day of her salary she had insisted that her father deduct some amount from the salary as instalment of the loan but he had refused saying that it could wait and that she needed to save money first. He was right. He had opened a bank account for her and she deposited her salary and future salaries into that account. 

The previous loan was yet to be paid and she was so desperate to get out of the chawl that she had asked for another loan. What was she thinking? 
Refusal from her father had been a wake-up call. She thought about the bank account. It was in his name. He had just told her that his son was taking care of the affairs. Would that account come under scrutiny as well? She wondered. What if it did? What would that mean? Where would that leave her? She’d been living in the city literally like a refugee. She did not have proper documents. The reason she had taken up room in that chawl was that it did not ask for any documents. It was clear now that her relationship with her father was about to be over soon. There was nothing on paper, which meant she was a part of his life as long as he wanted her to be. She did not want to contest her rights. She took out her mobile from her purse and gave a missed call to her bank to check the balance. She decided to talk to her father regarding the loan she had taken. She could not ask for her money directly but she could say that he can take the amount enough to clear her debts and give her the rest of the money. Would that make her look selfish? She thought. Maybe, but then he would understand. He was the one who had put her in this awkward situation and she had allowed him to do so. Her reaction was justified, she convinced herself. 

The waiter kept the plates on the table and she was jolted out of her thoughts. She looked at the food and felt sick. She closed her eyes and willed the sickness away, in no way was she going to vomit in a restaurant. She took a sip of water and tried to eat what was in front of her. She kept all her worries on the back-burner for a while. She ate as much as she could and then asked the waiter to pack the rest. 
On her way out she handed over the parcel to the kid standing outside the restaurant begging for money. 

She remembered to check her mobile for bank balance. She had decent amount and that brought a smile to her face. Something to feel good about amidst the bad things that were happening around her. Even after returning the loan she had enough money to pay rent for a few months even if she did not have a job. She was about to cross the road but she could not because her vision blurred all of sudden. She did not realise she had started to cry. The relief of having sufficient funds had taken the form of tears. 
She would start searching for a new job before her father told her that the office was going to be shut down. She had to think for herself because clearly, he was not going to be able to take care of her anymore. 

She got into a cab parked nearby and asked the cab driver to take her to Marine drive. The blast of fresh air was refreshing, even though it was very hot. When she reached Marine drive, the sun was getting closer to the horizon. There was still time for sunset but the sun was currently behind the clouds and overall it was pleasant to be out there. She paid the cab driver and got out of the cab. She sat on a bench and her thoughts went back to the time when she had been here with Rohan. She smiled. She had been happy that day. She looked around and spotted the man carrying tea in a huge container on the carrier of his bicycle. She called out to him and asked for a cup of tea. She looked at the sea and thought about her time with Rohan. She had caught him staring at her and then they had to get up abruptly because of a traffic police officer. Moments before their departure from there, when she had looked into his eyes after she had caught him staring at her, she had a feeling that he wanted to kiss her. 

Now, thinking back to that time she wondered whether she would have let him kiss her? Maybe she would have and not only that she would have kissed him back as well. On their way to the chawl, he had been silent, too deep in thoughts. At least, till the time she managed to stay awake. That was the night of the incident that had changed her way of looking at him. She had drunk water from the bottle kept in his cab and had fallen asleep only to wake up late; they had already reached the chawl. Going back to the memory gave rise to a question in her mind – when did he add whatever he added to water to make her feel drowsy? 

Her thought process was interrupted by a beep on her mobile phone. She looked at the display – it was Manish’s message – “Free to talk?”. She would have replied ‘yes’ had it been a different time, different day but right now, today, she was not free to talk. ‘Busy in office’ she replied. 

She went to the call registry and thumbed through the list to reach Pallavi’s number. Her communication with Manish always triggered thoughts of Pallavi, she did not know why. She wanted to talk to Pallavi about the mess in her life but unfortunately Pallavi was not available. 

She missed her. She missed her friend. It was a fact that Pallavi had lied about her parents coming to stay over and that hurt more than she had thought. Mansi knew Pallavi had a boyfriend once, although she was not sure whether Pallavi was serious about him; she had seen them together outside the office on the day when the accountant had left his job at the office. She had not seen the man again, she had not questioned Pallavi about him but maybe they were still together. She told everything to Pallavi did not mean that Pallavi told her everything as well and it was wrong for her to expect that from Pallavi. 

Maybe Pallavi needed time alone with the guy. Yes, that must be the case. That must be the reason why Pallavi wanted Mansi out of the apartment. She understood that, she was ready to accept that; yet – somewhere deep down, it hurt. A lot. 

Her life in Mumbai was seemingly completing a circle. She met her father, she met Pallavi, she met Rohan and she met Manish; now, her father was about to walk out of her life – perhaps forever, Pallavi had pushed her away, Rohan had betrayed her. She did not know what role Manish would play in the story of her life. Was she ready to give him a chance? 

People sitting around her started clicking photos and she turned to look at them. They were clicking photos of the sunset. She sighed. The day was about to complete its circle. It was time for her to return to the chawl. She watched the sunset for some time before leaving. As she walked towards a cab she saw a familiar face in the cab speeding past her. It was Rohan. He was with the woman she had seen him with, earlier.

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