Chapter Twenty Six - Mansi

Mansi got ready to go to the office at unimaginable speed; a hanging sword over her head of coming face to face with Rohan. She did not know how she would react. Her turmoil had increased over the night and the uneasiness continued. Her body repeatedly told her that she was not raped but Mansi’s mind, which was already assaulted many times before, refused to agree with it. Her mind told her that something was not right and she decided to go along with it. When painful memories are repeatedly inflicted upon the mind; it ceases to think rationally.

The best option; Mansi believed was to walk away from all this mess. There was an option of talking to Rohan about it but she did not want to take it; not yet. For the first time Mansi felt the need to talk to someone; really talk. There was a difference between feeling lonely and feeling so lonely that it became unbearable. Mansi had reached that stage. She made up her mind to talk to her only friend in the office. 

Even though Mansi got ready to go to the office, she was not really in the mood. She knew ‘Uncle’ was not expecting her for day shift, her father might be happy to see her though. There were only two reasons she wanted to go to the office. To talk to her father about lending money to her for renting an apartment and to talk to her friend about what was going on with her. Rohan had become a serious subject she needed to discuss with someone.

Despite keeping herself neutral initially; Mansi felt a bond forming with her father. She found it strange that her perspective over the matter could change so fast and so easily. If this was what she felt without even meeting him after the truth was revealed; how would things go when she interacted with him day to day? But, Rohan was not the topic she could possibly discuss with her father; given his reaction to allowing Manish to work night shift with her, Mansi knew his decision would be biased.

Mansi locked her room and walked down the stairs at super speed. She cursed herself for involuntarily looking out for the cab, which was not parked at its regular place. Rohan was already out of the chawl. Her pace slowed down automatically. What if she came across him on the road? Considering how many times she had come across him in the past, there was no denying that she would find him this time too. She opened her purse and took out her wallet; she was not carrying enough cash. She rushed back towards the stairs and towards her room. Surprisingly the neighbouring room was still unlocked. Mansi gave a ‘I-care-a-damn’ look and opened the door of her room. She walked straight to the kitchen and took out the box in which she kept the extra cash. She pulled out enough cash for her to get a cab. Best way to avoid seeing a particular cab was to get into another one, Mansi thought.

She hailed a cab just outside her chawl and then decided to take the longest possible way to the office. She was in no mood to work today. When she finally reached the office everyone had already settled at their desks and had buried their heads in their work. Good, Mansi thought. She hoped they would keep working and not really acknowledge her presence. Unfortunately, the moment she stepped into the office, one by one all the heads turned towards her. Mansi took a deep breath. She realised that Sampada had obviously told the story in the office, the one which ended in her being fired. Even though ‘Uncle’ had given the ladies the permission to work in the office until they found a new job Mansi realised that their desks were cleared out. Their ego, obviously, had gotten in the way. They had left immediately but not before talking to others in the office; telling them what, God Knows. Mansi sighed.

As she walked a few steps further, Mansi’s friend got up from her desk and walked towards Mansi. “Let’s go outside for a minute” she said and held Mansi’s arm.
“No. I need to talk to my father” Mansi replied boldly and looked few faces. Those faces did not register surprise. That was a relief; in a way.
“Okay.” Her friend replied and walked back to her desk.
“I need to talk to you, anyway.” Mansi said as she walked past her friend’s desk and towards her father’s cabin. He had already seen her come into the office.
“I knew you were here.” He said. “I knew it was either that or everyone in the office had died at the same time.” He added and laughed. 
“Such pin-drop silence never existed in my office before today.” He joked.

Mansi smiled as she took a seat across him. It was good to see this man happy and joking.  All of a sudden all the times she had pitied him for being treated the way he was treated by his family came back to haunt her. She did not pity him anymore or feel sorry for him, she felt proud of him, proud of how he had taken care of himself in the face of the odds. Mansi looked into the eyes of the man sitting across her; his eyes looked so familiar. They were her eyes. 
“I need a favour.” She came straight to the point. No ‘how are you?’ or similar dialogues. She mentally slapped herself for doing this.
“Yes, tell me” he said, concern evident in his voice. He knew Mansi was not the kind of person to ask for favours, especially considering the recent developments.

“I need a loan.” Mansi said. “I will return the amount over the as soon as I can; you can take the amount from my salary.” She added.
Her father raised a hand indicating ‘wait-a-minute’ and said, “The part of repaying comes later. First, I need to know why you need the loan.”
Mansi knew he would ask her this question. Of course a father would like to know why his daughter wanted money from him. Had the circumstances been different, had it been a secret that he was her father, perhaps then he would have given her the money without questioning.
Mansi hated herself for her thoughts.
“I need the loan for an apartment. I am looking for a new place.” she said aloud.
“So I assumed.” Her father replied. 
“I know you would not accept my offer; however I do want you to consider it. Do consider staying at my house.” he said.

Mansi had prepared herself for this.
“I would have happily considered it if I had been your only family.” She said and looked away.
She knew her father understood what she meant, understood that she wanted to avoid any conflicts with her half-brother if he came to know about her and became desperate. 
“Okay” replied her father and Mansi nodded. She never thanked the man when he was ‘Uncle’ for her and she did not want to say thanks even now, despite being really thankful. She wondered whether he knew what this meant for her.

“It means a lot to me.” She said and her father nodded. Every moment that passed by; Mansi grew fonder of this man. No, not because he granted her the loan or started the office for her. She had always acknowledged the understanding they shared but now, she loved it. The understanding between them was what made the bond stronger each moment. This man understood her almost like her mother did.
“I will come in again in the evening for my shift and if you do not mind, I want to take Pallavi out for some time.” Mansi said. 
“Okay.” ‘Uncle’ replied. No questions asked.
Mansi got up to go.
“I am glad you came.” Mansi’s father said and Mansi turned to look into his eyes, which were brimming with tears.
“Me too.” She said and walked out.

Mansi walked to her friend’s desk and told her that she had spoken to ‘Uncle’ about taking her out for some time.
“Does it not feel sound weird? Calling him Uncle when you know he is your father?” Pallavi said and giggled. Only her best friend could make a joke out of this, Mansi thought.
Both women walked out of the office and every head turned in their direction once again.


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