Chapter Two - Mansi

By the time she reached her bus stop she could hear her heart beats in her ears, her throat was dry and she was slightly shivering. Her experience with guys over the past year that she had been in Mumbai made her turn and run away from every guy she came across. It was not a surprise that she did not have a single guy friend and only one friend, the one she worked with and the one whose shift she was going to work now. She took out her handkerchief from her handbag and wiped the beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead. 

She kept looking back, over her shoulder – half expecting the shirtless guy to come running towards her. There is no reason to be scared, she tried to convince herself. She did not know what she was scared of exactly. She tried to conjure up his image - tall, fair, perfect built, strong muscles, handsome. She tried to concentrate on the face – expressive eyes, smiling lips – that’s it; she thought. She was scared of the smile that man gave her. It signaled ‘danger’ or was it what the smile did to her that did? She did not get the time to contemplate. Her bus arrived and she got into it. The bus was crowded and she had to stand, being subjected to ‘pushes’ and ‘jerks’ for almost the entire way to the place where she worked. She found an empty seat a few stops before hers but she allowed an elderly woman to sit. She got down at the stop nearest to her working place and walked the distance, which took twenty minutes. She was sweating profusely by the time she reached the working place. She did not like the day shift, it was much better in the evenings. She enjoyed the twenty minutes she walked to the working place. She left early just to enjoy the evening breeze. Her friend was waiting for her at the door. Neither of them liked to call this place as ‘office’ since it was more like a second home to them. The person they worked for was an elderly man, in his late sixties. Rumors were, he did not really need to run this place. He had enough to live a comfortable retired life however he did. Not only did he employ these two women, he preferred to work at this place 9 to 6. There were a few more employees – accountant, courier guy, telephone guy, computer guy, gardener (yes, he had a garden at the back of his ‘office’ which was single storied, and stood separate from other buildings around that place. His was the only land, which had little bit of nature left in it; rest was quickly turning into a concrete jungle.) 

All the people employed at this place were like family. Uncle, they all called him – Uncle did not need services of any, yet he loved having them employed. He did not even really need the accountant because he himself was a very good one. Perhaps all this was about having company. Uncle was a widower. He had a son who conveniently walked out of his life when he was qualified enough to earn lots of money. People said he had settled abroad. Uncle was lonely and sad. Lonely people could see, sad – his eyes told them.

Mansi and her friend worked as customer support attending calls and solving queries of people which ranged from small products to advice on relationships. People called for various reasons. They even received a few prank calls – asking for call girls. Almost always it was Mansi who had to attend these calls because she worked the night shifts. Truth be told, there was no need for night shifts, anyone hardly called. But, Mansi never complained. How could she? It gave her dough to pay the bills. People called for refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, telephones, kitchen appliances and all sort of things. No one actually knew the story behind how this ‘office’ came to be. Uncle simply told them that his son had managed to get an American company to outsource their customer support to his ‘office’. Since Uncle took care of the real accounting, no one knew anything about the profit he made and how and from where was Uncle paying them their salaries. They did not even know the name of the company, all that the ladies said after attending the call was – how may I help you? 
Mansi liked it. She loved saying ‘how may I help you? Made her feel important. Someone was looking up to her for help.

“You are late” her friend complained.
“I am sorry. Long story” Mansi replied.
“Do you know our Mr. Accountant is leaving this job?” Her friend provided the flash news
“Really? Why would he?” Mansi asked. She could not understand why someone would leave such a comfortable job.
“He says his talents are wasted at this place. Asshole realizes this now after he lands up a highly paying job in a multinational company. All these days he looted Uncle, taking payment without work.” Mansi’s friend was truly angry with Mr. Accountant. 
Were they all not selfish that way? Mansi wondered. When Mansi joined here she had made up her mind that she would work here until she finds a decent job. However, over a period of time she had started loving the job. Actually, she loved being here with all these people. She had gotten fond of Uncle. Sometimes, she pitied him. It was sad how lonely he was at this age. She realized companionship really mattered at this age. 
“That’s how it is; people sometimes need to be selfish to survive.” Mansi told her friend.
“Maybe you are right. I feel so sorry for Uncle. What surprises me is Uncle is really happy for him.” Mansi’s friend shook her head.

“Aren’t you getting late?” Mansi reminded her friend trying to close the conversation. There was something which needed her immediate attention. Her friend said goodbye and left. Her boyfriend was standing at some distance, resting against his motorbike. He handed over the helmet to the girl and kick started the bike. Mansi’s stomach growled. “Ugh” she exhaled before entering the office. She did not want to walk straight to the restroom after entering the office but that is what she had to do since a lot of time was wasted standing at the door, which she could have comfortably used to go to her desk and switch on her computer. 
Mansi walked to the restroom and relieved herself. When she returned she saw Mr. Accountant clearing his desk. 

“Good luck” she told the man who looked at her and smiled.
“Thank you” he said.
She walked to her desk and started her computer but before it sprang to life she heard Uncle calling out her name. She turned around and saw him wave to her, gesturing her to come inside. 
She walked to his cabin and entered without knocking. He liked it that way, they were family after all. 
“These are some new resumes I received for the recently opened Accountant post. Could you please go through the papers for me?” Uncle requested. 
“We don’t need one; you know it Uncle, then why?” Mansi asked. 
Uncle simply smiled. “I cannot see the figures properly with cataract in my eyes.” He gave his excuse. 
“I will go through and sort out a few ‘eligible’ candidates and hand over the list to you.” Mansi said as she left Uncle’s cabin. By eligible candidates, she meant those who were in dire need of a job. It was strange how she could make that out from resumes. Uncle admired that ability in her and made good use of it. Mansi was the senior most employee of the office. 

After spending the night at the police station, when Mansi stepped out into the unknown and unfriendly city she did not know where to go and what to do. She had kind of hoped that the police officer would care enough to find her a place to stay. Some temporary arrangements! But, this was life and not some Bollywood movie where the hero takes the poor girl to his house and offers her lodgings. The officer tried to hand over some cash to her, which she refused to accept. She could see the look in his eyes, not the look of a hungry high testosterone levels, the look of pity. She saw pity in his eyes and she felt as if he had raped her dignity with that look. It hurt more than the hurt physical rape would have caused. What she had experienced once when her stepfather had been drunk and her mother had been down with fever and put to sleep with medication was bad enough for her. To think about what he could have done to her both physically and mentally was too tortuous to even think about. He had torn her clothes, covered her mouth with his making her suffocate with the alcohol smell in nostrils and mouth. He had managed to hold her down as he opened his fly with one hand. He was about to penetrate but at that exact moment she had thrown up, straight into his mouth. Feeling disgusted, he had pushed her away and rushed to rinse his mouth. She had managed to collect her clothes and run out of the house, out into the darkness, which felt safer than being in the house with that man.

Mansi heard the *ding* and returned to the present. She had new mail in her personal id. Mail from with exciting job offers which matched her resume. She moved the email to trash and looked over her shoulders towards Uncle. She could never leave this man. The one who had helped her survive in this unknown and unfriendly place where there still were good people like him scattered amidst the selfish ones.

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