Chapter Four - Mansi

Mansi stepped out of Uncle’s cabin and closed the door behind her. She did not turn around to look at him. When she had entered the cabin she had noticed that he was on the verge of crying. She had never seen him like this before and she did not want to see him like that ever again. She also felt slightly awkward for walking into that vulnerable moment of his. She knew she should have looked through the glass window of his cabin, which was visible from where she sat working but she had been too engrossed going through the list of candidates and wanted to get this done as soon as possible. She repented not being careful.

She always knew Uncle as the strongest person. He had endured so much in life; but he had done it with a smile on his face. Whatever it was that was bothering him, she wanted it to be fixed. She loved that man, not only because he had helped her when she needed help to survive in this city but also because she felt closer to him. She knew he was disappointed to know that she wanted to work the night shifts once they had more than one employee in his ‘office’. He wanted to spend time with her and that she could understand. He was lonely - he was a widower and his son had settled abroad. It was no surprise that he saw a daughter in her. It took a while for her to get used to the special treatment he gave her. What she had not understood in first place was why her mother had chosen him to help her and why he had offered to help without any questions. On one hand she had a hunch that this whole set up of office was to help her and on other hand her practical mind told her that it was just a coincidence. This was one of the reasons why she wanted to get out of this place and felt guilty about it at the same time. She wondered what would happen of the ‘office’ after she left. She wondered whether she would ever be able to fit into the world outside this ‘office'.

She reached her desk and despite herself she turned around to look towards Uncle’s cabin. Like she had half expected Uncle was looking in her direction. The tears and the vulnerability were long gone. She set out to work, attending calls and replying to queries by email. At the end of the office hours Uncle offered to drop her home; she refused because she liked to walk the distance to the bus-stop. She took in the nature as she walked on the familiar path to her bus-stop. The evening breeze was pleasant; the bus-stop was crowded. She walked towards the tea-stall near the bus-stop and asked for a glass of tea. She knew she would be standing here for a while. In no way was she going to join the crowd at the bus-stop, get pushed and groped and try to climb the already crowded bus. As she had expected, an almost crowded bus reached the bus-stop but did not halt. Some people at the bus-stop ran behind the bus, some cursed and some sighed. She smiled and ordered another glass of tea, this time she asked for biscuits as well. Realizing that there was time for the next bus to arrive, a few people from the bus-stop walked towards the tea stall. It was time for the tea-stall to get crowded. The tea-stall owner smiled. She cringed and moved away.

She was standing under a tree, few steps away from the tea-stall when she saw him. He was driving a cab. She recognized him immediately. He stopped the cab near the tea-stall and climbed out, obviously for a glass of tea. He casually looked in her direction and their eyes met. She looked away but she could feel his eyes on her. She felt as if he was undressing her with his eyes. She remembered the sounds of love-making and then the laughter echoed in her ears. The laughter, which was sarcastic and which made fun of her, the laughter that told her that he knew she had heard his sounds and he knew that her body had responded to it involuntarily. Suddenly, she could not eat the biscuits or finish her tea. She wanted to walk away immediately but before that she had to return the glass. The young kid who worked at the tea-stall was too busy attending to the recently gathered crowd. She wondered whether anyone would notice if she kept the glass near the tree and walked away. She had already paid for the tea. She decided against doing so and gathered courage to walk in the direction of the tea-stall. She handed over the glass to the kid and turned around to go. From the corner of her eye she could see her neighbour making a move, walking closer to her to try and initiate a conversation. She fled from there. Her hurried footsteps took her far away from that man; she had made up her mind of not waiting at the bus-stop. She was still walking when she saw him in the cab, driving at slow speed. He was not looking straight at the road but was looking towards her, a strange expression on his face, expression bordering on shock and frustration. She continued walking, he did not stop either. He stepped on the gas and drove past her and she stopped walking.

Apart from what she had heard through the thin walls of her room, there was hardly anything that made this man scary and unlikeable. For a moment, if she decided to put that behind her back, she might perhaps get to know this guy better; she thought, but immediately cancelled out the possibility. She did not need this in her life. She needed a better job. She made up her mind that she would talk to Uncle. She did not have to quit this job; she could work two shifts if Uncle agreed to reduce her working hours. She looked around, it was getting darker. She checked her purse; she had enough cash to take a rickshaw. She decided not to think of saving money for just this time. She tried to stop a few rickshaws but no one bothered to stop for her. She continued walking. She stopped walking suddenly when she saw him again at a red signal. He casually looked at her and a worried expression crossed his face as he looked at his wrist watch. When the signal turned green he purposefully drove closer toward the pavement. Mansi was still walking, trying her best to ignore him, her heart beat increasing with every step. He honked. She ignored. He honked again, longer this time. She continued to walk and ignore him; he honked and kept driving besides her.

“Get in” he finally shouted and she turned to look at him. “Get in, I will drive you home” he repeated. “No thank you, I will walk” she said and continued walking. He was silent for a moment, then he stepped on the gas and went away and Mansi heaved a sigh of relief. She continued walking, she managed to reach the next bus-stop for her bus; it was equally crowded. There was not a single rickshaw in sight. The bus arrived, this one was less crowded and when it halted, almost everyone at the bust-stop climbed into it. She sat on the bench at the bus-stop. She looked at her wrist watch, it was getting late. She was tired, she was hungry and she was angry; angry on her neighbour and angry on herself for being such a scaredy cat. She waited at the bus-stop for more than half an hour, the bus did not come. Too tired of waiting she started walking again.

There he was, leaning against the cab, a few steps away from the bus-stop. He stood up straight when he saw her walking towards him. Without saying a single word he held the back door of the cab open, she climbed in without uttering a word. He got in and started the ignition. He adjusted the rear-view mirror and she cringed. Neither of them said a word. After a few minutes she saw her bus speeding past the cab. She sighed. She looked at the mirror expecting him to be looking at her, but he was looking straight at the road. She was too tired and she not realise when she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

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