Chapter Seventeen - Mansi

Mansi closed the door of her room after entering and did not bother to check whether her neighbour was back in the room. A few moments later she could hear movements in the adjacent room. Despite her decision to care less she could not stop herself from wondering whether he was alone or the woman she had seen earlier had joined him.
She shook her head and changed into comfortable clothes. She was tired and hungry. She went to the kitchen and managed a simple meal.
After a while she heard the neighbouring door being closed. She waited a while before opening the door of her room and peeked outside. She saw him climbing down the stairs. He was alone. She smiled and closed the door again.
She finished her dinner and got ready to sleep. She was reading her book when she heard sounds in the adjacent room again. He was back. Few days ago, the sounds in the adjacent room irked her; and now she found herself being attentive to the sound of movement in that room. She did not know when her opinion about her neighbour had changed; she did not know why she bothered to track his movements. She did not know why she smiled when she did not hear the sounds of love-making anymore. It just happened and she let it happen to her, enjoying every moment of this new feeling that was taking root in her heart. The complete silence on the other side of the wall helped her to fall asleep as soon as she kept the book aside and slid under the covers. 

It was past her waking time when she finally opened her eyes. She finished her routine with zombie speed, skipped the breakfast and tiffin and walked out of the door. She turned to look at the neighbouring door as she locked hers. The door was closed but it was not locked. She climbed down the stairs hurriedly and on her way out of the chawl she noticed that the cab was parked in its usual spot. He was there; inside the room. It had been surprisingly silent in the adjacent room. A thought crossed her mind, despite her hurry to catch her regular bus - Was something wrong? Was he ill? 

She was deep in thoughts as she reached her bus stop and did not notice a familiar face staring back at her from the bus stop. It was not until the man waved and she reached closer did she realize it was none other than Manish. Great, she thought, he would now be boarding the bus from where she boarded hers. It took a while for her to realize that he was not going to be there in the office that day. He was perhaps taking the bus to his old job. Why had she not seen him before if he boarded the bus from the same stop at the same time? She wondered but did not care to ask him. Perhaps the question was evident on her face because the moment she reached the bus stop, Manish told her that he was on his way to his previous job and that he was late today. While going through his papers, Mansi had noticed that he had not mentioned the job he was currently working. The previous jobs mentioned were meant to be verified and she hoped Uncle had done that because she did not like she was supposed to. Something about this man had screamed ‘I-desperately-need-this-job’ and she had paid heed only to that voice before discussing her opinion about the short-listed candidates. 

“Where do you work?” Mansi asked him both for starting a conversation and getting to know him.
“Huh?” he replied as he arranged his laptop bag on his shoulder.
Mansi was about to repeat the question when her bus arrived.
“That’s your bus”, Manish said and stepped back. A hint, that she should board the bus. She bid him goodbye and got into the bus. As she peeked out of the window while sitting she saw him turn around and walk away from the bus stop.
What was he up to? She wondered. Had he come to the bus stop just to see her off? 
Was he trying to figure out where she stayed?
Had she taken the right decision to allow him to work night shifts with her?
She did not have answers for these questions that assaulted her mind. She paid the bus conductor the fare to her regular bus stop and he handed her the ticket. She made up her mind to talk to Uncle about it. 

She got down at the bus-stop, the one closer to the office. She was not in the mood to walk. When she entered the office Uncle was already in his cabin, his spectacles on his nose and papers in his hands. She walked to her desk and started her computer. By the time she settled down Uncle had finished his work and he called for her.
“I heard that Manish Kumar waited for you outside the office yesterday evening.” Uncle asked her the moment she entered.
“Yes.” Mansi said “He wanted to talk to me about giving him a chance to work the night shifts with me.” Mansi continued.
“That is inappropriate. I will talk to him.” Uncle said.
“He is desperate. From what he told me yesterday, it seems he really needs this job and right now he has no option but to work night shifts.” Mansi stated matter-of-factly. 
“You talked to him?” Uncle was surprised. 
“Yes, I did.” Mansi replied

“You should have not. His approach to you was inappropriate. I had already told him that he cannot work night shifts. He should have not talked to you about it. And, you should have not allowed it. I never took you to be such a careless person.” Uncle said slightly annoyed. 
Mansi respected Uncle and was indebted to him, but she did not like it when he called her careless. It was entirely her decision to talk to Manish and no one had the right to tell her what to do and what not to do. The frustration was evident on her face; she stood there in silence, lots of thoughts running through her mind. 
“I will call Manish and talk to him about his and confirm that he cannot work in this office, neither day shift nor night shift.”

Mansi looked at him, surprised. What had gotten into Uncle? He never took decisions in haste the way he was doing now. This infuriated her further. At the back of her mind, she knew that Uncle’s decision to not let Manish work was related to her.
“I have told him that he can work the night shifts with me.” Mansi informed Uncle.
“What?” Uncle almost shouted taking Mansi by surprise. 
“Are you crazy?” Uncle said standing up. “You cannot take that decision.” He said.
“I just did.” Mansi replied. She knew it was rude on her part to argue with Uncle but she was not thinking rationally. 
“He is not going to work here and that is final” Uncle said sitting down in his chair again and picking up the stack of papers from his desk. He put on his spectacles and began reading, indirectly dismissing Mansi.
“You cannot decide to throw someone out of the office for such a petty reason.” Mansi said in a raised voice.
“Yes, I can. This is my office.” Uncle replied, his voice loud enough to travel out of the closed glass door. The staff turned around to look at the two of them.
“You wanted him to work for us. You had even given him this job. You asked me what I thought about allowing him to work night shifts. You cannot refuse him the job only because he spoke to me.” Mansi pleaded.

“I refuse him the job because of my concern for you. I do not think it would be a wise decision to let him work with you at nights. His attitude of going behind my back and talking to you proves that he can get dangerous and I won’t allow that.” Uncle clarified.
“I can take care of myself and I don’t need you.” Mansi replied with frustration and stormed out of the office.

Mansi did not walk back to her desk, she walked out. She could feel several eyes on her as she stormed past everyone. She needed time to cool down. The truth was that she had been sceptical herself about her decision to allow Manish to work with her. But, the way Uncle had initiated the subject and the way he had called her crazy had infuriated her. She had lost her temper and out went with it her rational thinking. She did not like that Uncle cared for her so much. It not only made her feel guilty about thinking of quitting the job, it also gave rise to a weird and uneasy feeling. 

She had taken her time to approach Uncle with her mother’s letter in hand. She did not know why her mother had asked her to reach out to Uncle for help. She had been very desperate and hungry when she had finally reached out to Uncle. A little voice at the back of her mind kept telling her that Uncle and her mother had a history – a history she did not wish to learn about. A history, the thought of which made her upset. 

Chapter Eighteen - Uncle and Mansi

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