Chapter Twenty Seven - Mansi

Mansi tried her best to ignore the gazes. Pallavi on the other hand, being the kind of person that she was; turned around to look at the people and gave a flying kiss to no one in particular. Mansi walked straight out of the office while Pallavi waited to see the reaction on the faces of the staff members.

Mansi was still in deep thoughts when Pallavi joined her outside.
“Hey. Wait for me” she called out and Mansi stopped abruptly.
“There was absolutely no need for what you did back at the office.” Mansi complained.

“You don’t tell me what to do and I won’t tell you what to do. Deal?” Pallavi said casually but immediately repented saying it when she saw the look on Mansi’s face. 
“Actually, that is what I am here to talk about. I want you to tell me what to do.” Mansi said
“Look, I am sorry ... I did not mean it the way it came out.” Pallavi apologized.
“Let’s go and sit somewhere.” Pallavi continued and put her arm around Mansi’s and they walked silently towards the bus-stop that would take them to their favourite hangout, both deeply engrossed in their own worlds.

On reaching the bus-stop Pallavi sat on the bench and signalled Mansi to sit next to her. Mansi walked to the bench and sat next to Pallavi, staring straight at the road. She was not sure how to begin. ‘Start from the beginning’ Pallavi would have said. Mansi smiled at the thought and Pallavi smiled seeing her smile.

Without saying a word, Pallavi held Mansi’s hand and stared straight at the road just like Mansi did. Both were staring at no one in particular and both had a smile stuck on their face; which would have made anyone think that something was wrong with them.

However, Mansi did not feel that way. In fact she felt the opposite. When Pallavi held Mansi’s hand; she in fact passed on her enthusiasm to Mansi, which made Mansi feel that everything would be fine. 
Their bus arrived and they got into it after almost everyone else at the bus-stop climbed in. Pallavi led the way to the seat at the back side of the bus and Mansi followed. 

“So… Is it true what I heard?” Pallavi asked in an attempt to start the conversation. Mansi knew this was not exactly a question she was meant to answer. It was a statement – “You do realize how I feel about coming to know the truth from others, right?”

“I am sorry you had to hear it from others, I did not get the chance to talk to you. Trust me, I would have told you.” Mansi apologized. She knew Pallavi knew that Mansi would have talked to her, at the same time both also knew that whatever the scenario – Pallavi was hurt.

“Hmmm” Pallavi replied. Both of them were silent for some time, the silence was not awkward, though. The bus conductor walked towards them just as Mansi was about to say something. Pallavi paid for two tickets to Bandra Station and said to Mansi, “Let’s talk when we reach there.” Mansi nodded.

“Do I get some additional benefits; now that I am working for my friend’s father?” Pallavi joked. Mansi shook her head. Had it been anyone else other than Pallavi, she would have perhaps felt offended. But she knew Pallavi, she knew how she liked to joke often; without realizing that she might hurt someone in the process; even though she had no intentions of hurting anyone on purpose. She simply was made that way. On one hand she was this carefree person who had no worries, and on the other hand she was this responsible person who sometimes felt that she was meant to share the burden of worries of other people.

They climbed out of the bus at Bandra Station and took an auto-rickshaw to Jogger’s Park where they could sit and talk. Both would have preferred walking to the park had it not been too hot.
Pallavi purchased the tickets to the park and both of them walked in and towards one of their regular benches. The benches facing the sea were their first choice for the evenings but they preferred their second best and relaxed for a while before starting the conversation. Pallavi took a deep breath and looked at Mansi – a silent ‘okay-tell-me-what-the-problem-is’ to start the conversation
“You remember the neighbouring room at the chawl, which had been empty for some time?” Mansi began.
“Yes. What about that?” Pallavi joined in
“Someone rented it recently. His name is Rohan.” 
“Okay!” Pallavi said enthusiastically. “Guy problem, huh?” She added.

Mansi told her about the sounds she heard, about coming face to face with him, about how she ran into him a couple of times, about her long drive with Rohan around the city late at night and then she told him about what she thought had happened to her in the cab. Pallavi listened without saying a word. She turned around to look at Mansi and saw the confusion on her face.
“What?” Pallavi asked
“What?” Mansi questioned in return.
“The look on your face, what are you thinking?” Pallavi asked staring at Mansi’s face trying to read the expression. Mansi looked away. 
“I don’t know.” Mansi said looking as far as she could towards the horizon.
Pallavi picked on the dilemma Mansi was in. “You think you love this guy, don’t you?” she asked. Mansi did not reply. She did not know what to reply. She kept staring at the horizon.
“I do not know this man, I have never met him but what I gather from the things you have told me about him – I think we both know he is a womaniser. You cannot really be seriously thinking about this man!” Pallavi said.
Mansi preferred not to say anything but she did not stare towards the horizon anymore; her gaze shifted to her hands. 
“Please talk to me.” Pallavi said

Mansi looked at Pallavi and tried to speak but could not. Tears threatened to flow any moment. She wiped the first tear which had discretely made its way out. 
“Come on. Please don’t. You know it makes me uncomfortable.” Pallavi said taking Mansi’s hands in hers.
Mansi remembered how uncomfortable Pallavi had become when Mansi had talked to her for the first time about being mistreated by her step-father. Mansi had wondered then, what would be Pallavi’s reaction if she told her that she had killed her step-father.
“Hello” Pallavi said and Mansi came out of her reverie.
“I am sorry.” Mansi apologised, both for tuning out of the conversation and for being on the verge of crying.

“I really do not know what it is that I feel for this person but it is true that he affects me the way no one has affected me before. There are times when I completely forget that he is a womaniser and those are the times when I see him as the most decent man I have come across and then suddenly something happens that reminds me of the fact. I find myself being attracted to this man and then I purposely pull myself away from him.” Mansi said and took a deep breath, an attempt to compensate for the loss of breath in saying this without a pause as well as attempt to control her emotions and not cry. She hated being the delicate person that she was.
Pallavi looked at Mansi but did not say anything. She waited because she knew Mansi had something more to add.

“Yesterday night when I was with him at Marine Drive; I felt safe – the way I had never felt before. I knew I could trust him. I had almost told him about my personal life, about my step-father and my struggle, about the recent development of coming face to face with my biological father. But, I did not. I asked myself as to why I did not tell him about it. I realised it was not because I did not trust him, it was not because of some deep-seated doubt I had in my mind about him, it was only because I did not want to ruin the good time I was having in his company. The mess that my life is, it has been haunting me day and night. There are times, Pallavi when I think I cannot go on; there are times when I wake up at night, profusely sweating. The headache is so much that I feel my head would explode. But when I was with him, I forgot about it. For a moment, my life was not a mess- it was beautiful, worth living, worth smiling. I wanted to live in the moment.

Maybe that is the reason why I am feeling so cheated. It is not Rohan who has cheated. We do not have any sort of commitment. It is my fate, my life that has cheated. It made me believe I could trust someone, it gave me hope, gave me smile, it made me forget the pain and then the next moment; it dumped everything on me at once. The betrayal, the fear, the pessimism, the pain – everything. And, this time I felt it with much force than before because earlier I had never been this happy. Being happy and carefree made the pain hurt more than it otherwise could have.” Mansi found herself choking with emotions towards the end. She tried her best not to cry. She did not want to make her friend feel uncomfortable. She did not dare to look at Pallavi lest she lose the control over her emotions and breakdown like a weak person that she was.

“First of all – stop pitying yourself.” Pallavi’s statement came as a shock to Mansi and she turned around to look at Pallavi. Had these words being said over the telephone; Mansi might have misread them, however – even though these words sounded rude, the look on Pallavi’s face was compassionate.
Mansi knew in her heart Pallavi was right. That’s what she was doing – that’s what she had always done.

“Now, do not get me wrong. I know you have been through a lot of shitty things in life. Things I would not curse my enemy with, but that does not give you the right to turn yourself into this self-pitying woman. I hate to see you like this. I always have. There are moments when I decide I am going to talk to you; and then I get a glimpse of the stronger you. It’s like the sunshine that is blocked by clouds. I know there is a stronger person inside; a person who has dealt with the problems life has dumped on her. You told me about your step-father but what I have read from your body language is that you have somehow taken care of this. Yes, there are times, you say, when you wake up sweating, times when your past haunt you but – make it through later. Yes, you do not always smile it is not because you do not have anything to smile about – it is only because you do not allow yourself to smile. And – who says people who smile are happy? Everyone lives in their own hell, Mansi.

It’s okay not to smile, but please do not brood about shitty life.” Pallavi stopped realising that she had perhaps said too much. She felt she should have not said the last sentence. She waited for Mansi’s reaction. She waited to see her friend fold herself into this protective cocoon she had created for herself when she wanted to block out something or someone. However, Mansi did not do anything of that sort. Pallavi tried to read her expression and was relieved to see that Mansi understood what she had said and trusted that she had said it for Mansi’s own good. That encouraged Pallavi to continue –

“I know what I said about brooding was too harsh but we both know what my intentions are, right?” Pallavi tried to clarify nevertheless.
“Yes, I know you mean well and you are right. I am sorry for being this person I have always been. I wish I could step into better shoes.” Mansi said.
“You always can.” Pallavi assured.
“I will tell you this – it is okay to feel the way you do but never allow that feeling to take a grip on you, Mansi. And about this feeling you think you have for this man, it is the result of the loneliness you subjected to your entire life. All these negative thoughts and feelings stuffed up inside of you; this was bound to happen someday, with someone who gives you attention and care. This might or might not be accompanied by lust but this is definitely not love.” Pallavi finished sharing her opinion and waited for Mansi’s response.

“I really do not understand what to say; but I cannot stay there anymore.” Mansi replied. 
“I can understand.” Pallavi said reaching out to her.
“That’s why I talked to Uncle and asked for a loan.” Mansi said.
Pallavi smiled and corrected her, “You mean your father.”
Mansi smiled, “Yes, it will take some time to call him that.” And then she added, “I am feeling guilty about asking for the loan.”
“Why?” Pallavi asked.
“It seems inappropriate to ask for a loan because I know he cannot and will not say no because I am his daughter.” Mansi replied.

“You are wrong, again.” Pallavi said and before Mansi could object she explained, “You asked for a loan from him to stay in the chawl you are staying in. You did not know then about the truth. It is different that he knew. He gave you the loan and you repaid. You asked again and he agreed. It is your perspective that has changed, that’s all. You need to rearrange your thoughts.”

“I know” Mansi said and stared towards the horizon. It was time she did the right thing. It was time to rearrange her thoughts, rearrange her life.


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