Mansi was sleeping peacefully in their two month old apartment. They had bought it together, a small yet a plush and polished apartment. Mansi had taken all care to make it look modern, yet cosy and comfortable. It had taken them months, from saving to buy the house, hunting down to find the right colony, the right home for them to move into.
Atul opened the door quietly. He just come back from the shift at the call centre. His usual time to reach home was four in the morning. He would not disturb Mansi and slide quietly into the bed beside her. Today she looked calm and peaceful. He kissed her forehead lightly, so as not to wake her up, and lay down and slept.
Mansi woke up, tired she looked out of the window, forlorn. Life seemed to have been sucked out of her. She felt the burden of her limbs. It required enormous amount of willpower to begin the daily chores. She dusted, cleaned the house and as she did she picked up a framed picture of her and Atul. It had been clicked on the trip to Leh. The picture was of Hemis monastery, tucked away in the mountains. For Mansi, peace here seem to have acquired a strong physical presence. She felt it was a palatable energy that surrounded her. How she wished they could go back to those times. Life however has its own way of taking you in its ebb and flow. She skipped her breakfast again and got ready for the long haul in the office, as it was the only means to keep her sanity alive.
Atul saw that Mansi had gone. How he wish he could hug her! He looked around the empty house. He remembered the excitement in Mansi’s eyes when they first came here. She had dance around, excitedly running around the rooms. It was their home, even though they had decided not to marry till both of them were steady with their jobs and totally ready to marry. They had decided to move in together.
Atul and Mansi, worked in the same company. What brought them together was the fact that both were introverts, and liked to plan everything down to the last detail. They sat at the same table eating dinner at the company. Even though it had taken them three months to say the first hello, they had connected instantly after that. They had planned everyday meticulously. How much they would spend on the meals, how they would spend their weekends, what would be the budget of their weekend binge, everything. When they started dating they decided they would not spend more than a night together. It moved to twice a month, then all weekends, until after year, they finally decided to move in together.
Atul look at the picture, the same Mansi was holding in the morning. They had taken the bike, which they had bought together and were paying the EMI for. They had planned to buy a bike and then a home, which they had planned to pay the mortgage for, in five years and then get married. Everything was planned. Atul usually left after Mansi came home. They spent four hours together before he left. Discussing, laughing, planning. Life’s little pleasures. These days however he left early. He did not like to see her forlorn, sad and lost. He hated when she cried and he was not able to comfort her.
Atul returned home around three a.m. It was still dark. He had developed a sort of ritual, since the past fifteen days, of sitting and talking with the night watchman of the society. Infact, as he had entered fifteen days ago, Sadhuram had called him and offered a cup of hot tea, that he sat sipping alone. Even though it was a summer night, Sadhuram liked to sip hot tea to keep himself alert. Seeing Atul, he had smiled broadly and and invited him for a cup. Atul was surprised at being called out, but he gladly obliged as going home wasn’t going to be easy.
Sadhuram seemed to be a big talker, probably because he rarely had any company. He was, after all, the night watchman. As they started drinking tea, Sadhuram would talk of his family. He had come from the village many years back. It was apparent that he loved his family. He had a big family, wife, five sons, all married and working. He even had grandchildren. Being inquisitive he easily pulled Atul into conversation.
Daily they would share a snippets and anecdotes from their lives. Sadhuram spoke nostalgically about his village and his marriage and Atul about the days Mansi and he were dating. Sadhuram fondly spoke of his sons and Atul was lovingly reminiscent of how beautiful Mansi looked and even now, a smile from her stopped him right in his tracks.
Today specially Sadhuram was particularly sentimental. He was full of emotions as he described how once he had a heart attack and his entire family stood by his side. He told Atul he had to be hospitalized. All his sons and daughters in law were keeping vigil round-the-clock. His condition got worse and he was on a ventilator, but his sons left no stone unturned to see that he got the best of medical facilities. When he was finally awake he saw how relieved everyone was. He expressed how satisfying it was and how he felt he was the richest man around. Today being the day he had been hospitalized, all the memories had come rushing in. He asked Atul if he had ever felt the same.
Atul was silent for awhile. Of course, he said only fifteen days back his office had given him a day off. Mansi was not aware of this, so he decided to surprise her. Both of them never deviated from their plans, as both of them disliked surprises. But today he wanted to reach home with flowers and chocolates for her. He thought he would explain the expenses later. He bought lilies and her favourite chocolate and was driving home. He was waiting at the traffic signal when he was hit from behind, by a car driven by unruly drunken, underage young boys. He fell of his bike and his head hit the pavement, and started bleeding immediately. They drove the car over his legs. He screamed in pain and they ran away. An ambulance pick him up and he was taken to the hospital. The pain caused him to lose consciousness and when he opened his eyes, he saw a bizzare scene. He saw Mansi and his parents sitting at home crying inconsolably. Mansi was telling them that Atul never ever acted rash. He always went according to the plan. He was the kindest person she had ever met in her life. How could God snatch him away from her when they had just begun their life together.