Chapter Three - Uncle

He knew that people talked behind his back. He knew that they debated over the reason he had started the ‘office’ and as to why he still kept it operating. Some people said that he had too much money to waste and the ‘office’ was just for that, some people said that he had to maintain the books and hence he used the ‘office’ to 'officialise' his black money. Nevertheless, they all took benefit of the ‘office’ and earned their living. The sole purpose of the ‘office’ was to keep someone close, to allow someone to earn a decent living. 

Everyone benefited from the ‘office’, people working for him got their pays and he got to keep that someone close to him. Mr. Accountant was not the first person to leave his job. There were many others. People came to work for him when they were in need and left him when they had gained enough experience to find a better job, a real job. His former workers requested him to write referral letters and he happily did. He was happy for them. He also knew that if one went, two more would join. As long as the person he cared for worked for him, he did not mind the goings and cared less about the comings.

A couple of times he had seen the person reading emails regarding better job offers and he had turned to go back to his cabin without letting that person know what he had just witnessed. He did not want her to leave but he had no right to stop her. 
After handing over the resumes to Mansi, he opened his drawer and took out his notebook. He added Mr. Accountant’s name to the list of people who had left him.
He watched Mansi as she walked to her desk. He thought of the day Mansi had first met him. He was staring at her when she suddenly turned around to look towards his cabin. Their eyes met and they exchanged smiles. He loved that smile. He loved those eyes. He loved those lips. He loved that face. He had his reasons.

It was a little less than a year when Mansi had first come to his house. They both were strangers then. Yet, when he saw her for the first time, he recognised her. It had to be her, he knew it. And, his doubts were cleared when she handed him an envelope with his name on it. The envelope had been opened; obviously Mansi had read the note. His eyes filled with tears. Mansi standing at his door with the envelope in her hand meant only one thing - the woman he loved was dead.
He asked her to come inside the house and as she sat on the sofa, he pulled out the letter from the envelope; put on his glasses and read –
              Please help her.

That’s it! He was surprised and disappointed at the same time. He turned the paper, the other side was blank. He checked the envelope; there was no sign of another note. What was he expecting? A lengthy love letter?

“That is it” the girl had said. Damn the voice. She even had her mother’s voice. His legs trembled beneath him, he took the support of the wall to reach to the sofa and sit opposite to the girl. He did not know how to start a conversation. He had never been good at it.

“How long have you been in Mumbai?” He asked and then realized he should have asked her the name first.
“A little over a month” she replied. He was surprised. She had survived for a month before meeting him. She told him the story from arrival to Mumbai till date. The arduous efforts taken by the girl to survive were commendable. Had she opened the box her mother had given her a little earlier, she could have been saved of the hardships. He could not believe that she had survived as a homeless, sleeping on the road, under the bridge, sometimes in a park. She worked at construction sites, carrying heavy loads on her head, she served at a road-side restaurant, she washed utensils but she had not opened her mother’s box. She had, finally, that is why she was here.

“How did you know my mother?” the girl asked an obvious question.
“What is your name?” he asked
"Mansi” she replied and waited for his answer.
“We were good friends, Mansi.” He told her the half-truth. They were good friends and they were lovers.He asked the girl to get cleaned up and called for the maid servant to guide her. The girl walked away silently. He was surprised that she did not question him further. Had she believed that they were just friends? Was it possible for her to believe that her mother could ask such a huge favour from a friend and that friend would be ready to help simply after reading three words from her mother? He did not know, what he knew was that he was going to help her, he had to.
The love story of his life seemed to be picked up straight from a Bollywood movie.
Boy meets a girl, they become friends, they fall in love, they kiss, they hug, they make love, the boy’s parents do not like the girl but they do not oppose directly, they send him away for further studies, the boy promises the girl that he will write, call and be in touch and then come back and marry her, she cries, he consoles her, they make love, neither of them know that it is for the last time, the boy goes away, the boy’s parents humiliate the girl and her parents, she cries, her parents are furious, they start looking for a groom for her, the boy writes, the letters never reach her, the boy calls, she never comes on the phone, one day the girl finds out that she is pregnant, her parents beat her black and blue, they get her married to a man twice her age, the boy comes back, goes to her house, talk to her parents who tell him that she is happily married, he goes away again without meeting his parents, without meeting the girl, he is hurt, he does not even cry, because his father says guys do not cry, when it becomes unbearable, he starts drinking, he comes back a different man, he meets the girl accidentally and finds out that she had given birth to his child, that her husband is twice her age and that he rapes her every night, he sees the bruises on her body and he pleads for her to come with him, she refuses, he is hurt once again, this time he cannot contain his emotions, he cries, then and there in front of the girl, she does not know what to do, she tries to console him, she tells him that he can meet his daughter if he wishes to, he says he wants to, she brings her daughter to meet him the next day, his daughter is beautiful, just like her mother, he tells her that, she smiles, the smile haunts him day and night, so much pain behind that smile, he knows he cannot stay there any longer, he goes away again, he keeps tabs on her life; finds out that her husband is dead, he is too much of a man to fly back again and ask her to marry him because he knows that she would refuse and hurt his ego and his feelings, he drowns in alcohol, years later he finds out that she has married another man, her age, a good man, he is happy for her, he puts on a brave face and decides to move on, he drowns further in alcohol until he finds a woman who changes his life, he marries her and they have a son together, he becomes the care-taker of her property, her money becomes his money, he works hard and adds more to it, more and more every year, one day he finds out that the man the girl had married turned out to be a bad man, after all, he hears stories that he beats her up, he smiles, his heart aches for her, but the egoistical self thinks that she deserves it, that night he comes back to his house and makes wild love to his wife, she is surprised and ecstatic at the same time, and then he cries, hiding his face in between her breasts, he cries and she knows something is wrong, she asks him, he tells her and over a period of time they begin to drift apart, the girl despite not being in his life ruins his life, he becomes a loner, he starts drinking again, his wife falls sick and dies, he does not cry, he joins alcoholic anonymous for the sake of his son, he becomes a responsible parent, his son grows up, he grows old, he sends his son abroad, away from him, to prosper, he has earned enough money, so much that he can sit, drink, sleep, get up, sit, drink and sleep for the rest of his life and even then his son would have enough to sit, eat, sleep, get up, sit, eat and sleep for the rest of his life, his son works hard, expands his father’s business abroad, he is a proud father, he wants to die but he continues living, a curse.
He realized that he continued living because the girl still needed him for one last favor, the girl he loved had returned his gift to him and now it was his responsibility to take care of her. He felt ashamed of himself that he had forgotten his daughter. He was ashamed that she had to live on the streets when her father lived in a big house. He knew that the girl would not accept his offer of staying with him and living the rest of her life as a rich girl, marry a rich man and start a family, be happy forever, he knew this because he was sure Mansi not only looked like her mother, she would be of the same nature as hers.
Mansi had returned from the bath while he was still deep in thoughts. She had worn the same dirty dress she had been wearing before, obviously he did not have women’s wear in his house and she had not brought an extra pair, it seemed like she had been wearing this for at least 2-3 days.
He took an instant decision and told her that his son was planning on expanding his business and wanted to start a small outsourced office in Mumbai, he had asked her whether she would be interested in working with him. She had immediately said yes but when asked about living with him, she had preferred not to. She had taken a loan from him and found a room in a chawl.
Mansi knocked on the door and he jolted back to present from the past. “Uncle” she said, “I have short-listed a few names; we can call them for the interview next week. He agreed. He really did not care who worked for him, who left him, as long as his daughter was with him.

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