Chapter Twenty Five - Mansi

Mansi cried - for how long she did not know. She just lay there on the floor of her room, her knees drawn closer to her chest; wanting to go back to the foetus stage of her life. She missed her mother; she wanted her mother to hold her tight in her arms so that she could continue crying in the protective arms of her mother. No one loved her as much as her mother did. Her mother had been helpless being bedridden but not once did she think of what would happen to her if Mansi left. In fact, she insisted that Mansi leave the house, run away; but it was Mansi who decided to stick around. Mansi had run away from her house the same day of her mother’s death. 

Mansi needed her mother to be there for her. She needed her mother’s protective instinct that safeguarded Mansi from the bad. She needed her mother to tell her who was to be trusted. Mansi did not believe in her instincts anymore. She was confused; she was devastated. 

Mansi’s head started to ache and the nauseous wave was back but she did not have the strength to get up. She willed the nausea to go away as silent tears continued dropping to the floor. Mansi did not know when she fell asleep. Mansi’s already disturbed sleep was disturbed further by the sounds coming from the adjacent room. It was the same irritating sound of love-making. Her neighbour was back to business. Mansi straightened from the foetus position she had fallen asleep in but did not get up immediately. The sounds continued and Mansi covered her ears with her hands trying her best to block out the sounds but in vain. Finally she managed to get up and with unsteady gait reached the common wall that separated the two rooms and banged her fist on the wall. The sounds ceased; and then she heard the taunting laughter. The end of the laughter coincided with the beginning of the moans and heavy breathing.

Mansi felt humiliated and exploited. She walked to the kitchen sink and splashed some water over her face. She checked her watch; it was early morning. A couple of hours later the chawl would wake up from its sleep and the day would begin. Mansi decided to walk out of the room; try to get rid of the sounds as well as try and watch the sunrise. She wrapped a shawl around her shoulder and stepped out of her room. The sounds from the neighbouring room were faint but they could still be heard on the outside. The venomous frustration was back and she kicked hard on the neighbour’s door. It was too late, the show was already over and the room was silent.

She walked towards the stairs, her gaze involuntarily turning towards the spot where Rohan parked his cab. In addition to the mixed emotions of frustration and humiliation, she felt something she could not put a name tag to. Was it jealousy? Was it possible that she was jealous of the woman moaning under Rohan? Or was it betrayal? There was no reason for her to feel betrayed. They were not in any committed relationship. In fact, there was no relationship at all. Why then, did she feel as if someone had held her heart in their palms and squeezed it tight? Why did she find it difficult to breathe? What was it that really hurt? Being exploited by Rohan or betrayal of her trust that he was a good man? Mansi’s vision blurred and through the tears she saw the cab parked in the same place as usual. She wanted to hurl stones and break the windows of the cab, she even visualised herself doing it. She visualised Rohan walking out of his room, a towel wrapped around his waist. She visualised him running towards her and she visualised herself slapping him hard across the face and then she heard that taunting laughter. Mansi looked around. The laughter had sounded so real. It took a while for Mansi to believe that she had imagined it as well.

Mansi climbed down the stairs and walked towards the playground area. Unfortunately, it was late. The sun had risen already. The previous night had ended in disappointment and the day had begun with disappointment as well. People had started to wake up. The silence she so much desired was soon replaced with noises of all sorts. These noises were still tolerable than the sounds coming from Rohan's room. The headache worsened. She walked back to her room, trying her best to ignore the existence of the adjacent room and its occupants. She collected fresh clothes and her towel. She had made up her mind to go to the office and work the day shift.

She needed to talk to her father. It was not the right thing, it was in fact inappropriate for her to have such an expectation from him but she was going to be shameless about it. She had made up her mind of requesting a loan from him. She was going to take shifting base seriously. She needed to find a new place. It did not matter if the new place happened to be some other chawl. She knew her father would offer his place for her to stay but she was not ready for it. She did not want to stay with him because she feared she may get used to his presence in her life. She did not want to be dependent on him. This was one reason why asking for loan was unethical according to her. However, what she was going through right now; over-shadowed everything else. 

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