PEACE

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story on the very famous MANIK MALHOTRA AND NANDINI MURTHY. Peep in to read!

Submitted: November 09, 2016

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Submitted: November 09, 2016

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1.Fighting the battle.

'Laal laal gaal jese tamatar nandu ka gussa char gaya sar par

Kaise manau use lagta hein darr kahu kuch to royegi vo balti var var....tch,tch,tch look who's crying? our very own Nandu'...came those lyrics from a famous voice of their college...Nandini turned around to see a smiling Malhotra staring at her.Had it been any other person she would have reacted instantly,she never cried just because of someone's taunt ...atleast not infront of anyone,she would always wear the facade of a strong girl but deep down she knew things were going out of her hands.Death of her parents did give her a big blow but she never knelt before anyone.However paying her bills and living life alone in a rented apartment was giving her a tough time...that day is not very far when she might starve for days to meet her needs-she thought.

'Kaha kho gayi miss murthy' ,said Manik clicking his fingers infront of her.She immediately looked away.Now she realised that she was staring him since he taunted her with that parody.'I know that I m too handsome but that doesnot mean you keep checking me out'said Manik with his famous smirk.' Such a self obsessed person' muttered Nandu under her breath.

M: I heard that. N:Good for u then.M:fine .Are we gonna argue standing over here or u have taken the job of being the caretaker of college?N:Now u are not getting late?Let's go.M:Mujhe koi shauk nehi hai..vo to Mukti ne bola islie varna I have absolutely no interest to drop u home,samjhi.

Ahh!Mukti ..how can she forget her...pehle she did everything to bring her to the fairwell party but the moment she saw drinks,she forgot herself,Aur next morning feeling wasted daurke aegi apne nandu ke pass to get her lime water,Opposite flats mein rehneke fayde. The journey to Naandini's apartment was quiet...................Nandini was looking outside through the window of the car while Manik was stealing glances of her. He wanted to absorb all her tensions,wanted to lend his shoulder for her to cry but he himself was fighting a battle between his heart and mind.

Manik was noticing her facial expressions,the frowns in her forehead was giving him a tough time.He was trying his best not to ask her anything.It was because of his request that Mukti brought her along to the party forcefully.He wanted to see her in that red dress that he handed over to mukti to give Nandu.He himself wanted to gift that to her but he knew Nandu will never agree.Everyone in the college knew about the sudden mis haps going on in Nandu's life and keeping that in mind he did not find that wise. Manik could never express in words, what he felt for her. He had a disturbed childhood ,thanks to his mother and did not want to drag Nandini in his already messed up life. At a very young age he witnessed the harsh realities of life- watching his mother indulging in extra-marital affairs just to extract money while his father was deeply involved in his business.When his father came to know about Nyonika's truth he distanced himself from everyone and moved onto pune declaring his 8years old son to be the heir after he turns 21.Since then Manik has maintained the give and take relationship with his mother.Fab 5 were his only family,he thought but Nandini's entry as a scholarship student did make a difference.He started smiling ..even laughing to his heart's content. Mukti was the first one to notice this change and was bugging Manik since then to propose her but he was adamant.He made her promise not to reveal it to fab 3 but unknown to Manik others were aware of it when Mukti accidentlly spilled the beans oneday after party.All were genuinely happy hearing this news..especially Cabir who thought atlast Manik got someone to express his emotions too.All of them had a troubled childhood and Manik was the binding force of fab 5...every evil has to pass through him before touching them.

The car halted near the apartment and Manik had to press the horn to make Nandu realise that.'Thanks' said Nandu before leaving. Save this thank u for someone else'came his reply and this was enough to make her fire .... Her life was already in a mess and unable to bear his taunts further she hurried back towards the car.

N:step out of the car right now. Manik was about to gear up when he heard her voice.He looked at her only to see that her eyes were spitting fire at him. M:why should i?ek to tumhe drop kiya and now u are ordering me. Nandini could never win against him in arguments.Though they were never friends, but he was capable of bringing the worst in her...unaware of her feelings herself,she always got teary eyed whenever Manik taunted her.And tonight it just flared up.

N: Manik why u have to behave like that with me always?Kya bigara hain maine tumhara.I was thanking u for dropping me safely but tum humesha hi apne monster mode pe rehte ho...Bullying others is ur habit but atleast aj to u can behave properly ....tomorrow after the university results get published we will never meet again...par aj ke din bhi u have to behave coldly . As reality hit him, he felt a sharp pang in his chest,he was feeling suffocated...all the moments of him bullying her flashed infront of his eyes,he felt nauseatic....the thought that entire 3 years he could never talk to her properly made him feel dizzy except from the part when he would watch her secretely , follow her till she reaches home safely and spending almost all his nights sitting inside his car parked opposite to her apartment.

N:ab bolona chup kyo ho,ab bolti kyo bandh ho gayi...o u look so sad ab to kabhi mujhe bully nehi kar paoge .I annoy u a lot hai na? Don't worry from tomorrow u even don't have to see my face....

And then All her moments with him flashed infront of her eyes.Inspite of getting bulled from him almost everyday she always had a soft corner for him.She could never thank him enough for what he did...be it recommending her name for the part time job of research assistant in their college or saving her from failing in the exam that was held right after her parents' death.She couldnot even imagine that Manik Malhotra actually studied and literally forced her to copy his answers.She always had admired him for being a friend who could turn the world upside down if any harm even approach fab 5.She always longed for such a friend but never had that priviledge .She even approached him with a friendship band on FRIENDSHIP'S DAY but he rewarded her not only with harsh words but also popped eggs on her.

Nandini had no idea why she was behaving like a maniac infront of him today.She had managed to keep her calm all throughout but it seems like she could not suppress anymore.She could not bear that despite her continuous rantings , he stood there quiet,listening to whatever she was saying.That's so not Manik Malhotra.On the other hand Manik was trying to absorb her presence as much as he could,maybe after tomorrow he won't get to meet her.Staring at her from a distance won't be enough for him.

N:Manik I m talking to u.Are u even listening? I promise i will never appear infront of u,ever again.

'Nandini ,will you miss me?', Came Manik's reply.

N.B. PLS DROP IN UR COMMENTS AND DO PRESS THE LIKE BUTTON IF U FIND IT TO BE WORTHY 2.BY UR SIDE. Manik moved closer to her . He slowly placed his palm on her cheek and caressed it with feathery soft touches.'Bolo na Nandu, will u miss me?' Today Nandini could see a pool of emotions in his brown orbs which she was not able to identify.'How does that matter to him? I have to live alone for the rest of my life', she thought.Inspite of getting annoyed by his behaviour ,it was only him who talked to her in college....he was the only one who helped her in a way no one could do,he drove .away her loneliness...be it by bullying or teasing.

Tring,tring....Manik's phone buzzed and it brought them back to reality. 'Manik,tumhara phone'....'Haan , Cabir, bol'

C:Manik , tu kaha hain? ' Main..Main abhi 'and he was fumbling. C:Kya bat hain!The Manik Malhotra is fumbling!Achha,jaha bhi hain don't come back....hehe....aese hi thick hain. 'What?' C:'I mean the roads are getting closed becz of the snow.So don't drive back to college.Hum log yaha se Dhruv ke ghar ja rahey hein.Mukti bhi hamare sath chalegi.'....

'ok ,cool'

C: Aur sun,is bar batadena,thik hain..chal mein rakhta hun,bye.

There prevailed an awekward silence.

'Umm...Cabir ca call tha.Roads abhi bandh ho rahe hein because of the snowfall....ummm...tum..tum bahar kyu khari,u will catch cold.Go...get inside.'

'Aur tum?'asked NAndini.

'I will go back home.' ' Manik,stop fooling around.I know tumhare ghar ka raste mein college parta hain.Aur abhi to tumne kaha ki roads bandh ho rahe hein.' 'O to tum thori bohot smart bhi ho!' 'Are!Don't u know Nandini Murthy is already smart?' ' Yeah, I know', replied Manik in a sarcastic tone. 'Sooo...' .....

' So? Tumhe kaise pata that I like snowman?' 'What rubbish are u talking about ? ' , said Manik cringing his eyebrows. 'I mean agar aese hi khare rahoge to kal subha tak u will definitely turn into a snow man.',said Nandini smiling a bit.

'Really! ye joke tha? Main hasu kya?' 'To Ab main kya tumhe invitation card du to come with me?' ' Listen,I will sit inside the car,Tum jao' 'Re aese kaise chali jau,tumhe yaha chhorke?' 'O hello madam,stop this drama and get inside.or vase bhi tum akeli rehti ho...so letting me inside ur flat at this hour...u know main bauhat kuch karsakta hu',said Manik moving a bit closer. 'But I trust u.' This sudden confession of Nandini made Manik fall for her all over again.To Manik, trust was the only thing that could bond two unknown people ,as was n case of fab 5 and if once broken,it's very hard to gain.

'Abhi chalo' said Nandini and holding his hand dragged him into her apartment.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Nandini was ransacking her cupboards in kitchen to look for something eatable other than instant noodles.

Today even Manik was there,as her guest and she did not want him to have those instant noodles.But that's how she was living, on noodles and bread to survive.Suddenly the landline buzzed and she rushed to her bedroom to pick it up.

'Hello ,Nandini ,pehchana.. kaisi hain?' came Pia's voice from the other side.

Pia was her bestie till 10th after which she moved to Dehradun.

N: Bas thikthak.Tu bata.. what's up?Itne dino bad yad aa hi gayi meri.

P: Nothing like that.You know Papa ke death ke bad everything changed...aur bhaiya bhi zid lagae bathe ki meri shadi pehle hogi,phir he will get married.To aur kya bas yehi batane ke lie phone kia tha...I'm getting married tomorrow.

'Kya! really?' replied a shocked Nandini. ' Aur mujhe ab bata rahi hein.Btw,who is that lucky guy jise itni pyari wife milne wali hai?' She teased.

P: Wo,his name is Kunal.Tujhe pata hain ,I never thought life would be this beautiful.The butterflies that arise in my tummy when he looks at me....I can't tell u in words what I feel for him,This special feeling na,..this is awesome. And he also works in Shimla...after this wedding gets over hum wahi settled hone wale hain..so we will meet soon bestie.

N: That's a good news.Jaldi aja,we will enjoy like old days and immediately those happy memories flashed infront of her eyes...when she used to be a carefree girl, living through each and every moment and that black day when her aiyappa snatched away her appa and amma,snatching that contagious smile from her face.

'Hello,Nandini are u there,hello?enquired Pia.

N: Ha Pia bol.

P: Nandini i feel every one needs a support in his or her life.I know this is a bit early thinking about ur carrier but I guess even you should have someone in life who will be by ur side however hard the circumstances are,tu samajh rahi hai na what I'm trying to say?

N:Yes I understand and surely I will think about it.U need not worry.Just enjoy this phase of ur life.

P: Accha chal main rakhti hun,Mom is calling me . And next time we meet,I want to see that special one holding ur hand.Ok? 'Hmm,ok .I will try',said Nandini with a deep sigh.Only she knew how grave her condition is!

P:Bye Bestie,take care.

'Ok,bye...see u soon' and the phone got cut off with a beep sound leaving Nandini in deep thoughts.Those strange feelings that she just heard of ,she felt the same when Manik was around. Was it love? Then perhaps she never realised.She was so occupied with her life that she never tried to find what these feelings are all about! 'Shit , my noodles',she uttered and instantly left for the kitchen. It was while leaving the room ,that those glowing fireflies caught her attention. Her mother's voice ringed in her ears and her lips curved into a small smile after a long time.

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Manik was standing near the window of the hall watching the snow fall.It was the heaviest snow fall he observed in these years.His phone beeped with Cabir's message,'Khush to aaj bohot hoga tu,teri only wish jo puri hone ja rahi hain! Hamari sabki tarafse best of luck!meet u tomorrow,jaldi ajana clg,dying to know the details of ur nightstay....hehe,wink emoji'

'I'm not here for some picnic ,Cabir.Let's meet tomorrow.I will definitely let u know about my nightstay and also decide about ur stay in this world!'messaged Manik .A small smile played on his lips as he watched the remainig dried leaves hugging the ice sheet getting carried away by the chilly wind.'Winter can never be more beautiful',he thought. 3.U and I...in this beautiful world

'Umm...Manik do u like noodles?I mean mujhe aur kuch babana nehi ata',Nandini asked nervously.Yes! that was the only excuse she could think of(i mean the writer could think of!). 'Ha chalega,I'm not that hungry vase bhi'came his instant reply.

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As both of them sat enjoying their noodles,Manik could feel the sudden restlessness in Nandini's behaviour.

'What happened Nandini?U know, u can share.'

But Nandini remained silent. He then cupped her face and made her look at him.

'Say something, your silence is killing me!'

'Manik,what are we?'Nandini asked all of a sudden leaving him baffled.

Manik looked at her with shocked expressions.Shock will be an uderestimate . He was least prepared for this.Though he could never express in words what he felt for her,he wanted her to realise those feelings first.Those special feelings! that moment he started feeling alive,when he felt like dancing freely to the tunes of his guitar,humming a song anytime ,when a mere glance of her face would make him glow after a dark night. He could easily force her to be in a relationship knowing her helplessness. But he did not do that. He wanted her to go through same happiness that he felt when she was around. Or may be he was scared,scared to face rejection? However strong he tried to look,he knew deep inside that he would never be able to bear Nandu's 'NO'.

'Why are u asking such a question?'

'Manik what I mean to say is u r neither my friend nor do I know you since chilhood like fab 5.Then why do I feel the safest when u r around?It's been 3 years of college and I cannot remember when we had a friendly conversation last!'

'May be we understand each other too well to have a conversation', replied Manik after a pause.His eyes were getting teary.He faced the window again.He did not have the strength to say those words looking through her eyes.He knew,she could read his mind well.

'Manik,Someone told me that i can't live my entire life alone,that I need a support,someone to hold me tight when i might fall,to assure me that everything will be okay, when my smile will vanish,that person will turn the entire world upside down to bring that back to me,who will give me a shoulder to cry!'

'So?' Manik asked .He himself had no idea why he was behaving this stupid.

'Manik will U be that support?' Nandini asked with a hint of confidence in her voice.She believed in her mom.She knew her mom will never be wrong...and those glowing fireflies,definitely not!Manik immediately looked at Nandini.

There was a pin drop silence for a minute or 2 following which Nandini was taken into a bone-crashing hug.She tightened the hug in response and they stayed like that for God knows how long.

'Though my Aiyyappa snatched away my smile 2years back , he did return it in The form of Manik',she thought.

She silently thanked her Aiyyapa for keeping her alive till that day while she thought of ending her life many a times before. She could feel her tee getting wet and realised her Manik was weeping.This was the last thing she wanted to see being alive.Nandini unwillingly broke the hug and wiped his tears with her tiny fingers.

'Speak up Manik!It's ok to let ur walls off sometimes.Don't keep it suppressed.' Nandini said rubbing her hand on his back and nodding indicating him that she is listening.She always wondered why he was so introvert.He always cared for his friends but never expressed his feelings.

M: Nandini I thought I won't see u from tomorrow.This very thought was killing me from inside.And when u did not answer my question,I assumed u don't feel the same as I do.

His voice almost choked.

'Which question?',Nandini asked completely clueless.

M: Whether u will miss me or not? Pain was evident from his voice.

'I'm sorry Manik.I am so sorry.I was so occupied with myself that I failed to realise it ',Nandini said holding her ears.And this act of hers managed to bring that charming smile back on Manik's lips of which Nandini was a huge fan.'Manik, I ',Nandini tried to speak but was cut off by him. 'Sshhh',Manik said putting his finger on her lips gesturing her to keep quiet.'Bohot bolti ho tum Nandu,yaar.Let me speak today.'Nandini nodded her head obediently and Manik smiled at her chidish acts.

'I promise to be ur support, MISS NANDINI MURTHY ,for the rest of ur life.I promise to never let u fall,to never let this smile vanish,to never let u cry and l promise to never break your heart.I will always be your sunshine and u will always find me by ur side.You are my happiness,Nandu.'Manik confessed all those looking straight in her eyes and Nandini smiled to the brightest.She beamed with happiness and the glow in her face reflected that pretty well .Nandini's eyes moistened and she hugged him tight.It seemed after ages Manik felt content,her being the only one he wanted...entirely for himself.And they both were each others' happiness.

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Smile just refused to leave Manik's lips as both of them stood together ,hand in hand, near the window listening to the gush of wind outside and enjoying the view.

May be, the best feeling of happiness is when u make that one person whom you have yearned for, happy!Manik thought.

He realised , falling in love with Nandini somehow made him a better person....and those beautiful lyrics he composed,he can never thank her enough for that.He looked at the stars thanking them for blessing him with Fab 5,with Nandini. The stars shone bright above the cold world. The street lights went dim by then.Still the houses in the neighbourhood lit up , all decorated with lights . The trees were glittering . Yes! Christmas was near.Lucky Manik! he got his Christmas gift 2 days early and this time Cabir was the Santa.Cabir once again proved the proverb true "A FRIEND IN NEED IS A FRIEND INDEED." ' Cabir's words came true,his continuous push made me confess today',thought Manik smilingly and this time his smile reached his eyes. 4.You are my Peace! Sometimes words are not at all needed to express urself,  silence itself has a voice of its own, isn't it?Both the lovers were sitting together, Nandu resting  her head on Manik's shoulder and Manik wrapping his arms around her.

N:Manik, u like Christmas very much,isn't it?

'Yes .I remember this was the only day Papa used to be at home and the best part being  so many gifts arranged neatly under the decorated Christmas tree.And this year toh even my Christmas gift is along with me,that too before time', Manik answered wrapping his both hands around her ,bringing her a bit closure. She could see his smile reaching his eyes.His happy smiling face reminded her of those old days...

when her appa  would build a snowman, just to see a smile on her face, their fights regarding who would decorate the christmas tree.  Her amma's smiling face flashed infront of her eyes.....her promise ! that she won't let anything snatch away that contagious smile from her daughter's face...., when  she  for the first  time read  O.Henry's LAST LEAF and fell in love with his short stories. Life seemed to be so perfect then ,she thought.

Immediately ,a tear drop escaped  her eyes and dropped on  Manik's shirt.

N:Manik u know ,even I liked Christmas a lot.But...

Manik cut her off and said 'It's ok Nandini. You do not have to share.I understand.'

'But,I want to'. Her voice almost chocked.'2 years back on  Christmas day,both my parents left me alone'. Saying this she sobbed hard.'They left me alone ...Manik ,without thinking about me'.A lump formed in her throat and she found it hard to breathe. Manik just rubbed her back and cocooned her in himself and she snuggled more into him.'They died in a car crash'. Tears were continuosly flowing out of her eyes.'And since then  I m living  alone here....I thought it to be some kind of punishment that I will live my entire life with, but only smile of urs is enough to light up my life,you entered my life in the form of a blessing Manik,you have no idea what u are to me '.  Nandini confessed with all her heart.

Manik was happy to hear that.He felt relieved ...that Nandini was finally letting him in,in her life.

'Nandini,Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.U did this today  and I'm proud of u', Manik replied while wiping her tears .

And  all Nandini could  do was to give  him a weak smile. 'Even ur parents won't be happy seeing you crying on such a day when u should be happy just like u used to be before.See they r shining.Look above.' ,Manik said pointing at the stars shining brightly in the night sky.

M:Promise me! Nandu from today u will look at Christmas through my eyes.You will only cherish the happy memories and Christmas from now on is a symbol of our togetherness.

'I promise!', Nandini replied feeling relieved,as if a huge burden had been removed from her heart. ******************************** YEARS AFTER *In the woods

I can see both of them standing near Cabir's grave with white lilies in hand.

M:See tere lie lilies laya Hu, tujhe bohot pasand hain,hain na? He was trying his best not to break down.

Nandini bent down on her knees and placed those lilies on his grave.And Manik followed her.

N:Don't worry Manik ! He is sleeping peacefully .And he is always present amongst us ....In our hearts,watching us from above.Tumhi to kehte ho ki appa amma are shining for us from above,so does he.

They say,'The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone'.

Yes,it was Cabir who never let them break apart,the most important reason of achieving their together forever!Cabir's vision for both of them becoming one soul came true after all!

Had he been physically  present among them,Manik would have beaten the shit out of him so that he could never vanish like that,never ever!Cabir gave him the courage to get what he wanted entirely for himself,his Nandini.But Alas!he could not save Cabir from the hands of  death.And this mere thought was suffocating him.

Unable to control his emotions,Manik just  hugged her tight. 'You are my heartbeat, my PEACE, Nandini.'

'Feelings are mutual,Mr. Malhotra ' Nandini replied and the word 'Mr.Malhotra' reminded him that they were there today for one more reason.

M:Haan,to Cabir! I m going to fulfill the promise I made to u. Saying this ,Manik shoved his hand inside his pocket and took out the ring and slipped it in her ring finger and Nandini too did the same . 'Forever',said Manik intently gazing at her face. 'Yes.Till infinity and beyond', replied Nandini with a huge smile.

And then again Nandini continued with her complaints to Cabir about Manik's deeds of the last week.  They  used to visit Cabir every week and complained about each other and he ,like a happy soul silently listened to their rantings.

I can still hear their voices , fading away as I march forward resting their fate on Aiyyappa's hands with the belief that HE would keep them together till infinity and beyond. ******************************* Signing off, COLLEEN


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