Chapter Ten - Mansi

After spending some time reading the newspaper, Mansi finally decided to take some rest. She thought about the ten candidates Uncle had short-listed. Would he take the final decision or include her in it? If he did include her, she wondered how she would decide. Her thoughts went back to Manish Kumar. It did seem that he was in desperate need of the job. Mansi closed her eyes and tried to rest.

After a short nap Mansi prepared some snacks and satiated her hunger. Since she felt strong and fresh enough, she decided to step out of the room and go for a walk. She picked up the newspaper and walked out of the room.

She walked out of the chawl and turned to go to the nearby park. She could use some fresh air, she thought. She watched the sun shift closer to the horizon as she sat on the only empty bench in the park. There were too many people in the park. Couples, joggers, aged people walking at their slow pace, breathing in fresh air and a group of people were laughing out loud in the corner of the park. The laughter club, she realized and she could not stop herself from smiling.

Suddenly, it crept on her – like a venomous serpent; the feeling of being watched. She looked around, scanning the crowd. In a far corner, opposite to the laughter club, she saw a lone man staring at her. She looked away, beads of sweat starting to form on the forehead and above the lips. She decided to walk out of the park. What if he followed, she thought. It was getting darker; the sun had sunk deeper into the horizon, seemingly faster than expected. The western sky had turned orange and the rest of the sky was dull grey. She turned to look at the man again, he was gone. She realized she had been holding her breath; she took a deep breath and relaxed. The stiffness in the shoulders was back. She got up from the bench and rushed out of the park. She turned around a couple of times to look back and see whether she was being followed. She no more felt the weird feeling of being watched but she wanted to be careful. 

As she entered the chawl, she turned around once again to check for the last time whether someone was following her, whoever it was she did not want that person to know where she lived. It was too late when she turned to look ahead; she bumped into someone and the person instinctively wrapped his arms around her to steady her. She moved back immediately and looked at the man she had bumped into. Her neighbour stared back at her, deep into her eyes and deeper into her soul. She apologized and ran towards the stairs. Her neighbour kept looking at her until she reached her room and walked inside. He could feel the trembling of her body as she had bumped into him and he did not fail to see the fear in her eyes. He was tempted to walk to her room and comfort her but then he remembered how weird her responses had been to his simple approaches. He did not want to startle her. He decided he would take it slow. He continued walking and got into his cab.

Mansi stayed in for the rest of the evening. She did not even keep the door of the room open as she often did in the evening to let the breeze in. She cooked and ate, she cleaned her room, changed the bed-sheet, folded the washed clothes, and kept the unwashed clothes in the laundry bag. She looked around for the newspaper only to realize that she had forgotten the newspaper in the park in the hurry to leave. She tried to remember the addresses she had circled in the newspaper but in vain. The fear which had momentarily left her was back. It seemed even though her step father was dead, his shadow still persisted in her life, making it a living hell. She sat on the bed and started crying.

She slid into the bed and pulled up the covers. After a while she got up and pulled out the extra pillow from under the bed. She placed the extra pillow over her ears. She knew it would begin soon, the action that always rendered her sleepless. She did not want to be awakened from her sleep tonight. Moving the bed away from the wall and covering her ears with a pillow were temporary measures she reminded herself again. She would have to buy another newspaper and find the places again; she would do it the following day she promised herself as she closed her eyes. She did not realize when she removed the pillow from over her ears and held it close to her chest; her arms tightly wrapped around it. She heard it then, the sound she was now getting used to. The sounds were louder than before; they were coming from her room, from her bed – it was she who was making the sound. Mansi woke up with a jolt. Her heartbeats were loud in her ears and the extra pillow had fallen down on the floor. She tried to calm herself down; allowing her body to stop feeling the way it did. She wondered whether she had merely dreamt it or had she really been making those sounds in her sleep. She tried to listen to the sounds in the neighbouring room – silence. She got up from the bed and walked closer to the wall separating the two rooms. Still silence. 

She opened the door of her room and shivered as the cold night air brushed against her skin. She came back inside and wrapped a shawl around her shoulders. She stood outside her room, her body supported by the wooden railing and then, slowly, she looked towards her neighbour’s room. It was locked. She closed her eyes and smiled and then she started laughing.

Return to Main Page