Chapter Twenty One - Uncle

It was difficult; not knowing what Mansi was thinking. Even though it disturbed him, he did not let that thought sink deeper into his mind. He knew he had to do the right thing. They drove back to his house in silence. Mansi stared outside the window, not exactly seeing anything; her mind, perhaps, full of thoughts – a chaos enough to give a headache.

He admired her mental strength and he was sure; her mental strength would be what would make her forgive him for not being there for her mother and her when they needed him.

When they reached his house he made sure Mansi was at ease. After Mansi had settled down he walked to the guest room to talk to her. Mansi’s reaction on seeing him proved that she had been waiting for him. She did not ask him in words but her eyes demanded explanation. He knew it was time.

He sat down on the chair and started talking. He told her everything. He told Mansi how her mother and he met and how they drifted apart. He told her about the sad day when his parents had started what had ruined his life. He told her about the pain he underwent when her mother’s parents told him that the woman he loved was happily married to someone else. He was not ashamed of admitting how vulnerable he had been. He told Mansi how he had turned to alcohol to get over the heartache. He told her about the day he had learned that he was a father and how vividly he remembered holding her in his arms even if it was only for few moments. He skipped telling her about how her mother had smiled and how that smile had haunted him every night he closed his eyes and how it still haunted him when he thought about the smile and how his heart still aches when he sees the smile, the same smile on the lips of his daughter. He could not tell Mansi that every time she smiled he was reminded of her mother. He then realised he had forgotten to tell her how he had pleaded for her mother to walk out on the husband who was twice her age and who raped her every night. He waited to see her reaction. Mansi’s face remained as expressionless as it had been when they had walked to the car. He then told her how her mother had refused to come with him. He could see that Mansi was surprised to know this. Finally, her face registered an expression. He had been desperate to evoke some kind of response from her and now that he got what he wanted, he was more confident about the end result. He then told her about the day he came to know about the death of Mansi’s first stepfather and how his ego had stopped him from reaching out to the woman he loved because he feared refusal. He admitted that he regrets that decision every single day. If he could go back in time, he would go back to that day and change the course of events.

He got up from the chair and walked across to the window and looked outside. He remembered how he had drowned himself in alcohol after hearing the news of second marriage. The woman he loved had moved on with her life; he had been unable to. When he turned around to look at Mansi he found her staring at him, tears in her eyes. He, himself, was dangerously close to crying.

He walked towards Mansi and sat down next to her on the bed. He looked into her eyes and smiled. Mansi did not respond with a smile, instead tears escaped from her eyes, she tried but she was too late in wiping them off.

He held her hand instinctively and Mansi let him hold it. Even though he had meant to hold her hand to support her, he felt otherwise. Holding Mansi’s hand gave him the strength he desperately needed. 
He continued telling Mansi about the day he came to know that her mother had re-married. He told her that he had been happy that day, assumed that the man Mansi’s mother had married was a good guy. He admitted keeping tabs on the life of her mother on one hand and starting his new life on the other. He told her about the woman he met and married. He was ashamed of admitting how his egoistical-self had been happy to learn that the second husband was no better than the first one, how he had concluded that her mother deserved what she got.

He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath.

She needed to know the truth, the whole truth. He opened his eyes and then told her about how he felt about knowing that the second husband mistreated her mother, he even told her how he had come back home and made wild love to his wife and then cried, hiding his face in between her breasts. He told Mansi about his wife’s questioning and how telling the truth had created a distance between them. He told Mansi about his wife’s death and his decision to become a responsible parent. He admitted that he had never been satisfied or proud of his success because in his heart he always thought that he had failed as a father. On one hand he had provided all the luxuries to his son; however, he had abandoned his daughter, though it was not willingly. He told Mansi how he had believed that his life had been a curse, until the day she had stood on his doorstep. Her return in his life had given him a reason to live, Mansi had to know that.

He finally told her about the decision he had made to start the office for her sake. When he looked at Mansi, he realised she had suspected it already. 
He had done his part, he had told his daughter the story of his life, even the most embarrassing parts; now, all that he had to do was - wait for her decision. Wait and see whether she would forgive him for abandoning her and accept him as her father. He waited in anticipation but Mansi did not speak for a long time, when she finally decided to talk, her voice failed her. She spoke in a shaky voice; “I need to go back to the chawl” He nodded and looked at the floor. It was too early to expect acceptance from her.

He told her that his chauffeur would drive her to the chawl. He waited for her to tell him that she won’t be working in the office anymore. Her decision of going back to the chawl immediately had brought out his pessimistic self.
“I won’t be seeing you in the office tomorrow.” Mansi said as she got up from the bed.
He continued looking at the floor.
“I will start working the night shift.” Mansi said and he looked up startled. He smiled and cried at the same time. He knew he must be looking funny but he did not care. He felt happy; his daughter was going to be with him. How long? He did not know, he did not want to know – he wanted to live in the now. 

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