The Walls. 

A cold and rainy breeze hitted Manaswi’s face as she took the first sip of her morning coffee by the window of her bedroom. Her calm face expressed her love for coffee, and how much she enjoyed having Matinal over the Classic one. Her morning routine was hectic but these few minutes spent with a cup of coffee were like meditation to her when she can introspect well.

“Tintin beta, come home early today. A few guests are visiting us in the evening. You have to be here for them.”, said Mrs. Mishra, knocking Manaswi’s door. Manaswi was Manaswi to the world, but her parents nicknamed her Tintin, after a cartoon character she used to adore in her childhood. Manaswi liked her nickname, until she came of age when she realised how silly it was.

Manaswi rolled over her eyes and expressed her resentment with a deep exhale. “I know what guests you are talking about.”, she muttered to herself, but shouted in the next moment. “YES, MA! Please stop calling me Tintin. I am not a kid anymore.” She unlocked the door, picked her empty cup and left it in the kitchen sink. Before her mother could say anything, she grabbed her bag and lunchbox and moved out of the house with a swift. Staying for another minute would have meant a lengthy discussion-turned-argument on a topic she never enjoyed.

Workplace was Manaswi’s safe haven. She had a place to go to, and work to keep her mind off from dreadful conversations like the one she had in the morning. By the evening, Manaswi forgot about her mother’s words, and planned to update her playlist before going to bed. It was a lot of work today at the office. Before she stepped inside the bus to her home, she checked her phone. “15 Missed Calls – Mom”, it read. “What happened, Ma?”, she muttered to herself, still unable to figure out the reason.

Tired, Manaswi decided to take a short nap, forgetting all about the 15 times her mom ringed. That is how Manaswi was. Sometimes angry as storm, and sometimes calmer than a monk. She had these abilities, to forget about the things that were irrelevant to her, like that morning conversation with her mother, and to be able to sleep in a moving vehicle. The good part of this whole commute was that the bus top was quite near to her home, saving her a lot of time for herself.

The driver pulled the brakes rather abruptly and the tires of the bus made a screeching sound, making Manaswi wake up with a jolt. “Madam ji, your stop is here.”, said the bus conductor. Manaswi swiftly stood up from the seat, despite being sleepy. Taking a sip from the bottle, she walked towards her home. Her phone beeped. She took it out and was taken a bit aback. “30 miss calls, 7 messages from MOM.”, the phone flashed.

She fastened her pace. As much as she hoped for everything being okay at home and her mother just being herself by making a fuss out of nothing, she prepared herself for being thrashed ruthlessly for being so ignorant. She scolded herself a bit for being so engrossed in her own world. Manaswi’s self-bashing stopped as she entered the gates of her home. The doors were open and she could see her mother talking to someone. “There’s a guest, i think. Thank God, Mom will go easy on me.”

Before she could guess who this guest was, she stepped inside the door. Another jolt hit her, like the driver has pulled the brakes again. Her expression changed. She didn’t seem angry but a part of her felt uneasy. Her face clearly said how unwelcoming she felt of this guest. “Where were you, beta? I was trying to reach you. I got worried.”, her mom said, taking away her bag.

“Sorry Ma, this won’t happen again.”, she said. “But what is he doing here?”

“Manaswi, this is not a right way to talk to your guest. Behave.”, her mother said. She knew why her daughter was seething this way. And this was nothing as compared to her real burstout. She wasn’t rude by nature, but found it difficult to hide her anger.

Before the mother-daughter duo could exchange anymore words, Shashwat stood up. He was Manaswi would-be fiance. Manaswi’s parents chose him for her. Not that the two didn’t like each other but Shashwat was pretty focused about each step he took in life and he wasn’t sure about marriage when Manaswi came into his life. However, before he could tell Manaswi about his thoughts, she had fallen for him. She felt cheated when he clearly told her what he had on his mind. But her sanity told her that he wasn’t at fault, neither was she. Life was.

“Calm down, Manu.”, Shashwat said. Manaswi was trembling with anger by now. His words sent her back in time. The same words Shashwat said to her that night.

“Calm down, Manu. I am…”, said Shashwat, but before he could complete his sentence, heartbroken Manaswi interrupted him. “It was my parents who introduced me to you. Tell them what you just said to me. I won’t explain them your choice, for I don’t understand this sudden enlightenment you just had. If you had other priorities, you shouldn’t have met me in the first place. Tell the world whatever you feel like telling them, I promise I will not be a part of your world from now on, until you decide to make me so.”
“Manu, please.”, Shashwat pleaded. “Manaswi. My name is Manaswi.”, she said hurting, before storming off.

“Are you listening to me, Manu?”, Shashwat asked, bringing Manaswi back to the present.

“Manaswi. My name is Manaswi.”, she replied in anger.

“I am sorry, if I hurted you. You were right that day. You are right today as well. I might be wrong then, but I know I am right today. Marry me, Manaswi. I can’t imagine being without you. I acted hastily. I accept breaking your heart. But I love you. Please.”

“It’s easy for you to walk away, trampling over my feelings like they are rotten leaves fallen on the ground. Why should I be with you? Why should I believe you won’t do again what you did that night?”

“Believe me please. I realise what I did. I love you and that is more than anything I do. Whatever step I take towards life, it will be with you. Please. ”

Manaswi broke down. She never stopped loving Shashwat. A part of her waited for him all this while and the other hated him for what he did. Deep down she knew she was in love with him. But when a broken heart bleeds, mind starts to rule over it. Manaswi cried inconsolably, not realising she was in Shashwat’s arms by now. Words refused to come out but Shashwat knew what she didn’t say.

Manaswi’s mother knew how her daughter was. Hard on the outside, but soft and vulnerable within. She wiped her tears away as she saw her daughter breaking all the walls away, one tear at a time.