I had issues with slow internet here so I couldn’t upload last night. For any given update day, if I don’t update till 10:00 pm IST, kindly don’t wait for it. I will then update next day morning, whenever I get time and opportunity.
Overwhelmed with response to this blog and this new story. Love you all so much. I have tried to reply to everyone on chapter 1. I felt like I should welcome everyone here 🙂
Thanks for being there. Stay blessed. Stay safe.
A tear dropped over her mehendi-adorned hand to be smudged under her haath-chura. Nandini’s maasi fastened the beautiful diamond studded haath-chura at her wrist after taking each chain extending from rings in different fingers. Her tear caught maasi’s attention and she looked up at her niece’s pretty face, decked in light makeup, completely lost and distraught now.
“Oh, dear! Please don’t cry. You’ll spoil your make up.” Maasi took her kerchief to touch at the edge of Nandini’s eyes, taking care not to smudge her kohl.
“Maasi, I don’t want to get married.” Nandini sobbed.
Maasi could understand her. She sighed, “Look beta, you are alone in this big world and too young to face the harshness that it brings along. You are only 25 years old. And have already suffered so much. I wouldn’t have sent you off with anyone who came with a proposal, but this is the doctor uncle’s family. Dr. Malhotra’s son Manik is also a doctor. And the best part is that he is settled in Innsbruck. You will go to Austria after marriage and forget this city, this place, this part of your life forever.”
“This is something that troubles me the most. I don’t want to spoil someone’s life. Doctor uncle is too kind and loves me as he has seen me for years. But what is Manik’s fault?” Nandini asked, teary-eyed, and with a choked throat.
“What was your fault? None. These things are destined to happen. Get past them.” Maasi suggested, “Aren’t you happy?”
“Happy??” Nandini sighed, “Maasi, you know how I feel about marriage. I don’t even think of marriage. I never wanted this but since you wanted me to, so I…”
“Yes. I wanted to see you settled and happy.” Maasi said, “I have family who doesn’t approve of you staying here. I can’t leave you alone and I don’t know how to convince others to not disturb you constantly, after the allegations on you. I am always worried for you. And when Dr. Malhotra said that he wanted you and Manik to get married, I was really relieved and happy. Manik seems to be a nice guy.”
“I hope he knows about me,” Nandini wondered, “This marriage was fixed in such haste. Just 2 days?! We haven’t met each other. What if he is being forced or emotionally blackmailed into agreeing with doctor uncle’s wishes?”
“Hmm. That can be an issue.” Maasi agreed, “Do you want to talk to him?”
“Can I?” Nandini asked.
“You can if you are feeling so anxious. Maybe, talking to him clarifies your doubts.”
Maasi gave her a phone and stood up to open the first drawer of her side table, where she had placed a small card where she had noted down Superna’s phone number. Since Manik didn’t stay in India, Dr. Malhotra had told her that Manik was using Superna’s number while he was here on this trip.
Nandini dialed the phone and waited for the call to ring with bated breath.
Manik had been tying his shoes’ laces after Superna left him. She had tried hard to convince him against this marriage but all in vain. When the phone rang, he looked at the screen for a moment and answered it.
“Hello,” He spoke in his typical, heavy, throaty baritone, and introduced himself since the phone belonged to his mother, “hey, this is Dr. Manik Malhotra.’
“Hi. I’m Nandini. Nandini Murthy.” She softly said her name.
Manik frowned and pressed his lips. ‘Was she supposed to call him?’ No one had told him about it. ‘Was he supposed to call her? And when he didn’t, she had to call?’
He wondered if he was missing something. Not expecting her call, at this moment, he didn’t know what to say to her. He cleared his throat, loud enough for her to hear, and said, “Um…yeah… Nandini?”
“Is this the right time to talk to you?” She asked as a routine. Her job as an accountant at a book store had taught her to be polite with every call and ask permission before continuing any discussion.
Manik replied, “I guess, this IS the right time to talk. As after some time, we will be already married.”
“I’m not sure why you agreed for this marriage at such a short notice but it is only justified that I should tell you some things about me, that perhaps you have no idea about.” She blurted it out in one sentence. Her heavy ear-rings and nose-pin had started disturbing her. She had never liked bridal wear, ever. In fact, she hated it. Her previous experience was a disaster so she hated everything related to marriage – the trousseau, the make-up, the jewellery, and every ritual – she hated them all.
Manik fixed his phone between his ear and his shoulder and freed his hands to tie his laces, as he said, “What if I tell you that I know everything about you?”
“Everything? You mean, doctor uncle told you everything?” Nandini couldn’t believe it.
“Mmm…I guess, the fact that you were married before, but had a bad marriage, and that everyone around you died quite early in life, and that you are alone in life constitutes ‘pretty much’ everything about you!”
It was unbelievable to Nandini that Manik knew almost everything about her and was actually nonchalant about the entire thing. She couldn’t fathom why would anyone be okay with all these things.
She asked, “And why would you agree to get married to a woman with such history? We haven’t even met each other so it’s not about liking someone. Are you being pressurized?”
“Not in the least.” Manik raised his other leg to tie the lace.
“Well… I have my own reasons. And don’t ask me, as I am not going to tell you.” Manik stood straight after finishing his job, now looking at the grave face in the mirror.
“Such strong reasons, that you don’t care who you are getting married to?”
Nandini sighed, “I cannot give you anything in this marriage. I am done with this system of connecting men and women.”
“Same here. I’m glad that you won’t be expecting anything in return.”
“Is this why you said – ‘yes’…?”
“Of course! My parents are after my life to get me married and I’m just not interested. I never will be.”
Nandini took a long, dead pause and said, “I’m evil, ominous… and very dangerous. People around me die mysteriously.”
Manik smirked, “Are you trying to threaten me?”
“I’m trying to warn you – I am a witch.”
“Bring it on!” He swayed his jawline.
“I will never be sharing any dark secrets of mine. I will never tell you what I am doing and why. I am sinister.”
“So, are we getting married?” He asked.
“It’s up to you to decide. I have added more to ‘everything’ that you knew.”
“I got that.” Manik sighed, “But before we get married, I want to remind you that you know nothing about me, Nandini. Do you want to know more?”
She frowned and winced, “I don’t care.”
“Neither do I. So, that’s good.”
“Before disconnecting, I want to add one more thing…”
“What?” He asked.
“I’m a lesbian.”