Chapter Five - Mansi

It was dark when Mansi opened her eyes. It took a while for her to realize where she was. The rain made it difficult to look outside the windows which were foggy. The constant tapping sound of the raindrops increased her heartbeat. She did not know how long she had been asleep. He was not around. She tried to look through the glass. There was no sign of him. She decided to step outside and run. She did not know for how long she had slept in the cab. She opened the door of the cab and tried to step outside but even before she could do so, she was half drenched in rain. Her face was covered with raindrops and the wind made it difficult for her to breathe. She moved back and closed the door; she then wiped the glass window and squinted to see clearly in the rain and the dark. The cab was parked in the parking area of the chawl, far away from the stairs. She realized she would have to wait until the rain stopped. She wondered where he was. 

She felt ashamed of herself for being so quick to judge him. On one hand she had been scared to be around him and on the other hand she had fallen asleep in his cab. He had parked the cab at the chawl but had not woken her up. She hated to admit but the fact was that he had the chance to do all possible things to her. Working day shift did not work well for her, she decided. 

Mansi was thrown out of her reverie by a knock on the glass window and then a face appeared near the glass. It was him. She saw that he was holding an umbrella and had one extra umbrella in his hand. Mansi opened the door and he handed over the umbrella to her. He held out his umbrella for her till she opened hers and then they walked together towards their room. She noticed that he had changed out of his uniform and into comfortable clothes. She had been asleep for a long time. As they walked towards the room a few people stared in their direction and he answered the stares with a stern look until people turned their eyes away from them. When she reached her room, Mansi handed over the umbrella to him and was about to thank him but he took the umbrella and walked inside his room immediately without saying a word to her. Mansi unlocked the door of her room and entered in. She remembered that she had not paid the fare. She walked out and knocked at his door. She knew she could pay him later but she wanted a chance to thank him, if not apologize for forming a quick and bad impression about him. His sex life was his personal business and she could not hate him for that. He had laughed at her the next morning, made fun of her, so what? Was that enough for her to hate him? Yes, her friend would say. That laughter was full of sarcasm. Then, why did she feel she was wrong to hate him.

She was still deep in thoughts when he opened the door. There was a strange look on his face on seeing her at the door. He cleared his throat and she came back to the real world. She asked him how much did she owe him and involuntarily looked beyond him, inside the house. Her eyes searched for something, for someone, a woman. She was embarrassed when she realized what she had been doing. How she could be so shameless, she thought. He told her the amount she had to pay and she paid him and walked away without looking at him. She heard the door being closed shut and that was when she remembered she had forgotten to thank him. She shook her head and walked back to her room. She had been too tired and that was the reason behind the nap in the cab, but now she was fresh. She walked to the kitchen and made a cup of coffee. She was hungry but too lazy to make anything. There was nothing in the refrigerator. She sat on bed and listened to the silence. She finished her coffee and slid inside the covers and opened the book she was reading for past one month. The sounds began. First slow and then loud and heavy. Mansi opened her eyes, she had been dreaming. 

Mansi covered her face with her palms and tried to sleep again. But she could not. She stayed awake for a long time. She had just slept when there was a sound outside her room. She got up and opened the door to pick up the milk bag delivered by the milkman. Her neighbour’s door was still closed. She walked back inside with the bag. She felt exhausted. The change in her schedule had upset her routine. Her stomach growled. She was hungry. She kept the milk on the burner and brushed her teeth. She opened the plastic bag kept on the kitchen platform and took out the supersaver packet of Maggi. She took out one slab of noodles and decided to satisfy her hunger. She wondered why they said only two minutes when making Maggi took much more time than that. Not being able to control her hunger she had finished eating four Parle-G biscuits dipping them in tea, the way she loved it. Her hunger partially satiated she eat only half of the Maggi she had cooked and packed the remaining in the tiffin. 

The sounds of the chawl waking up began and Mansi knew she would have to control her bowels yet again. She hated using the common toilet. The night shift job had been a real blessing for her. Unfortunately she had to go to the ‘office’ in the morning for a few days now, until the spot for Accountant was filled. Uncle preferred that she be present when he interviewed people for the posts. She owed him that much. 

There was a loud sound in the adjacent room and then the swearing. It seemed like her neighbour was not having a good day. She could not stop herself from laughing when she thought of the possible reason. She shook her head and collected her clothes. She stepped outside and looked towards the bathroom. A few people were already standing in queue. She sighed and locked the door of her room. She turned around and almost collided with her neighbour. She muttered an apology and rushed towards the stairs. She greeted a few people she met on the way. She felt happy today, she did not know exactly why. 

As she stood in the queue she saw him walk towards the toilet, which as usual had a longer queue at this time of the day. By the time she walked in to bathe he was still standing in queue. She wondered how people could control their bowels for such a long time and then she wondered why no one ever complained about single toilet for the entire chawl? What was she doing for the chawl, she thought? Maybe each one of all those who stayed here thought of getting out someday and hence did not feel the need to raise voice about the inconveniences. Those who were really supposed to be here for a long time were smart enough to adjust their body mechanism to suit non-queue timings. 

When Mansi stepped out of the bathroom, he was standing in the bathroom queue. He looked at her and their eyes met. An involuntary smile formed on her lips but he turned around to look in another direction. That felt like a huge blow in the gut. 

Chapter Six - Mansi

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