Joined: 07 November 2014
This is Donna (formerly known as DonnaHarvey). I am primarily active on the Asiantforums these days, though my online presence was more expansive last year. I am known to be a binge-watcher of anything Korean and harbour a particular liking to "Boys over Flowers"- one of the many adaptations from the manga source material. Though I never bothered to read the source, I did religiously follow all of its international adaptations over the years. My heart happened to settle on the Korean version. It's another story that I fell in love with Lee Min Ho and want to marry him and make a baseball team of babies. I digress. Back to Yeh Hai Yaariyan, I started watching out of curiosity. I must say the story is dangerously autonomous of the source but it makes for good tv. I mean it got me out my shell to write a fanfic. Be warned, my fanfics never stick to the plot on tv though I do keep original characters. The title name sounds horrible because I have never been good with titles. I am open to suggestions. Here I go:
Manik Malhotra was a reformed bad-boy who just returned home from a long deployment in Afghanistan. What was supposed to be a quiet two week leave, to relax in the many luxuries upper Manhattan had to offer, turned to shit when he saw his sister-in-law cry. The woman was taking the kids away from his philandering elder brother who was living it up with a twenty-something Brooklyn girl in their summer home while his sister-in-law struggled alone to maintain an image of normalcy to the outside world. Manik couldn't take much more of this hypocrisy. He promised to separate the adulterous couple even at the risk of his own sanity. But what happened when he reached there wasn't the least of what he had expected. He saw her- Nandini- the transfer student in his senior high school homeroom who had been so tiny and introverted he found her invisible. Many years later, here she was fun and voluptuous swinging around his older brother like a hired prostitute. He had to get rid of her and fast.
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Manik Malhotra was a reformed bad-boy who had just returned home from a long deployment in Afghanistan. What was supposed to be a quiet two week leave, to relax in the many luxuries upper Manhattan had to offer, turned to shit when he saw his sister-in-law cry. The woman was taking the kids away from his philandering elder brother who was living it up with a twenty-something Brooklyn girl in their summer home while his sister-in-law struggled alone to maintain an image of normalcy to the outside world. Manik couldn't take much more of this hypocrisy. He promised to separate the adulterous couple even at the risk of his own sanity. So, he waved his nephews goodbye and set out into the night determined to reach the Hamptons before sunrise.
He arrived around three in the morning and was greeted by a crowd of hispanic construction workers and a racially ambiguous woman laughing along with the crowd. When he got out of his vehicle, they all turned to look at him at once. Then, the woman in the far corner said something in Spanish, a joke he imagined, and the crowd began pointing and laughing in his direction. He took no offence at this prickly reception now, though it would have been a shit-stirrer had this happened before his war stint. The Marine Corps change a man or so they say.
"You seen big boy Malhotra over here?" he asked in an uptown accent long after the men had passed him.
They seemed to ignore him and kept walking.
"No English", the woman explained as she came rushing back to where he was standing.
"Big boy Malhotra haan? Let me lead the way". She swayed her hips side to side as if dancing an exotic dance. Judging by her candid reply, this woman seemed to know more about his brother than she led on. Only close friends and family were in on the story behind this nickname. Everyone else just called his brother 'boss' or 'Mr. Malhotra'. The use of his first name was, rightfully, reserved for his wife and mother. Even Manik didn't dare call his brother by his name. But the woman surprisingly didn't hesitate.
"Mickey should be in his study. I will leave you two alone. I am out".
She saluted him in a crooked manner only a civilian was capable of. Manik realized then she had been the woman he was looking for.
"What did you say your name was?" He called after her when she was already a distance away.
He looked dumbfounded as if a revelation had just dawned on him.
"I said I didn't say my name".
"How did you..."
"Senior year S.P.A.C.E. academy. You transferred from that shithole in the Philly hood. I remember you".
She cocked her head to a side and gave him a good, long look.
"I want to say Manik Malhotra, which would make sense since you would share the same last name as your brother, but the army sweats and combat boots...nah".
He was a bit offended why this woman would not take him for a patriotic man but then again, none of his high school friends could guess he would end up in Afghanistan over the easy life his family name promised.
"What are you doing here?" he asked knowing he would not like the answer.
"Nothing. Taking a couple of days off work. Here to relax, you know, have fun".
"With a married man?" he jumped at the issue without hesitation.
"Why must I spare the feelings of a woman I have never met?" she fired right back.
"So you know?" his blood was boiling. All he needed was another trigger to jump at her throat and only stop when the life had been sucked out of her.
"I am going back next week. Then you can have your brother all to yourself".
"You are breaking up a family", he argued.
"Your brother is breaking up a family", she countered. "I am having sex".
Enough! She'd pushed him over the edge and there was no going back now. The residual anger and resentment from combat was glistening in his eyes. He walked closer toward her with firm steps. Soon, he had her locked into a corner with his arms blocking either side of her shrinking petite frame. She looked down, away, anywhere to avoid his gaze.
He could sense the fear in her eyes as her lips quivered and her quickened breathing was the only sound penetrating the silence between them. He used rough movements and calloused hands to turn her chin toward him. She tried to avert her gaze but he didn't offer an escape. Both his eyes and fingers treaded down her neck toward her bosom at a painfully slow pace. He unbuttoned all the buttons on her silk blouse so that her lace brassiere was exposed to view. He watched as tears trickled down her reddened face in an endless stream.
"Tell me again, are you breaking up a family?"
She kept on weeping without an answer. He narrowed the distance between them until his lips hovered over her neck.
"Yes", she murmured.
"Will you come here again? Ever again?"
"No", she replied.
He loosened his hold and she slipped down his shoulders, holding on to his leg as her body hit the muddy ground. Her blouse had slipped off her shoulders until it hung like a rag around her wrists. She wasn't shivering exactly but he could feel the distress from her fragile touch. He'd wanted to shake off from her hold and walk away but all he could muster up was to stand frozen staring down at her helpless frame. Soon, she picked herself up, wrapped her blouse around her torso, and began limping toward the driveway. He watched in place as she reached the bench in front of the villa gates to flag down a cab. As expected, no cab came. Rich people have too many of their own cars in waiting to ever enlist a substandard taxi for use. That shit is for mediocre lawyers and doctors who wished they were born of money.
Twenty minutes had passed, or perhaps an hour. He couldn't exactly tell. But Manik had to get moving. He pulled out his brother's mid-sized sedan that he had borrowed to drive around the city and stopped in front of her.
"Get in", he told her.
She pretended not to hear.
"Hurry up", he wasn't displaying much patience.
"I will be okay alone", she answered and he gave her a 'don't f**k with me' look. She jumped in without another question.
The drive back to the city passed in silence until Manik decided to make small talk. Not a good idea. The woman was trying hard not to cry. And the more he talked, the more she shrivelled up in a corner like a scolded kitten taken out of her mother's womb.
"Where will you go now?" he asked trying to stir up conversation.
"I...I don't know", she answered in between wiping fresh tears.
Shit! He didn't mean to make her cry again. "What do you mean?"
"I won't come back to your brother, I promise".
He sighed. He'd overdone it.
"You can drop me here", she pointed to the side of an empty road after they had exited the freeway.
"There's nothing here", he stated the obvious.
"There's a 7/11 down the block. I can stay there and catch the subway in the morning".
He looked confused. "You're staying there through the night? If you have no place to go, get a hotel or something".
"It's award season. The hotels are full. Plus, I don't have that kind of money or any money on me", she patted down her pant pockets as she realized she had left her belongings back at the villa.
Manik looked sympathetic but she couldn't be sure after what had transpired just hours ago.
"Get in. I'll take you to my place", he didn't ask, he commanded.
She pursed her lips and obeyed. They reached the end of a five storey walk-up and he pointed to a secret doorway that led to his penthouse apartment. This already had the scent of a horror movie murder scene but now all of Nandini's red flags went up. He turned the lights on and led her through a narrow doorway into the white minimalist style home that was frequently intercepted with images from Manik's time in combat. She was curious, of course, but did not ask any questions. He didn't seem interested in answering after all. He opened the locks to a guest bed room with its store bought smell still fresh and intact.
"You don't have many people over I see", she mused.
"I do. I usually take them to my bedroom", he answered. He had meant that as a joke but watching her step back in a stumble made him smirk with self-satisfaction. The girl was a little too easy to intimidate.
"Thank you", she blurted out not knowing what else to say. "I will have this room back in its original shape by morning. You won't even know I was here", she feigned enthusiasm.
He ignored her half-baked attempts at maintaining civility. He knew she hated him just as much as he'd hated her when found her. But now, that hatred had given way to a certain hollowness. He didn't like her, far from it, but a certain kindness mirrored in her tone and actions explained why his brother was drawn to her. She was inquisitive without being invasive, chirpy but not annoying, sociable but never smug. She was everything he wished he could be, what he hoped the Marines would force him to be. But he was still the same. The man who fought the war was only a facade. He returned the same wounded child he'd taken to Afghanistan. If anything, he now had some real wounds to his credit.
He dragged himself outside, stripped down to his boxers and stuck his head inside the refrigerator to inspect for microwavable late-night meals. It was almost four-o-clock now, the sun would rise anytime. But he was on Afghanistan time and wide awake with the energy of a five year old on DQ cake. While still in his musings, he heard a muffled moan from the corner near the couch. His nuisance of a guest had spotted him half-naked and stubbed her toe trying to make a quiet retreat.
"Come back", he yelled as she tiptoed behind a pillar. "I can see you, you know".
"I am sorry", she whispered staring down at the ground.
He had only wanted her to ramble on about her intrusion so he could have a good laugh. He was barely holding himself together now. If the woman didn't succeed at whatever career she was pursuing now, she could sure make it big as a slapstick comedian. Her unintentional body humour brought him to tears of joy.
"I am embarrassed that I did this to a friend. Had I known he was your brother, I would never have approached him. But you must know if it wasn't me, it would have been someone else. Your brother was seeking out women, I was merely a placeholder. I had my reasons, he had his. We were going to break apart after two weeks. I wasn't planning on hanging on to him. I never do. If you think I am pulling him away from his wife, trying to marry him and take his money, you are sorely mistaken. Yesterday was the first time we met. Yes, I planned on having a short affair with him but that's where it ends", she said all that in one breath.
She could tell she'd struck a nerve. He was enraged. "First, we are not friends. We never were Nandini. I only remember your name because in school you were the acne covered teenager who was so ugly she didn't even make it to girls' rating list. Second, it doesn't matter how long you were hoping to keep this shit up with my brother, what matters is you did my family wrong".
"And I am sorry about that. Had I known it was you, I would have never. As for strangers, I don't owe them. I can hurt them as much as I like, that's how I operate in life".
He could shoot her then and there.
"Let's be strangers then. According to your theory, I now reserve the right to hurt you as much as I please".
"But we are not strangers", she pleaded as a last ditch effort to stop his fast approaching body from mulling her down flat.
"I...I will be leaving now", she declared trying to figure out an escape plan.
"Where? Out to the streets?"
She didn't answer but maintained her body in a defensive stance.
"Go back into the room. The doors can be locked if you're that scared of me".
"What if you have the keys?"
"Now I don't", he said tossing the keys in her hand.
She walked back without a fight. The next morning there was no sign left of her. Manik ate his cold milk and cereal in complete silence.
Before leaving back for his deployment, he saw her a few times again. Mainly at social events where, just as she had indicated, his brother found other women. Indeed, it wasn't Nandini breaking their family, it was his own brother. But what was done could not be changed now. Whenever they met, she tried hard to avoid seeing him. She join a conversation, pretend to busy herself, or bolt in another direction anytime he tried to approach her. Finally, he'd had enough. Two days before his flight to Kabul, he cornered her in the parking lot outside a charity banquet. She was unloading boxes of tropical mangoes from her pickup truck- some giveaway present or some shit- when he pulled away and pinned her down on the hood of the car.
"Why are you running away?"
This time she didn't try to look away but watched him silently with her sparkling eyes.
"What do you want?" It was a question he'd asked himself more than her. Before he knew it, he found himself kissing her red velvet lips. "Is this what you want?" he said as he pulled himself away for a brief moment. She didn't have much chance to escape, he came down full force. His hungry thick lips swallowed her whole, she gasped and gasped trying to make room for rational thought. Where was that conservative man who had berated her days ago about her intimacy with his brother? Guess he was another one of the men in the herd who only acted morally superior until it was their own lust at stake. She tried resisting his hold with weak punches. He seemed to get the signal and loosened his grip on her. She rushed back to the truck, closed the trunk and drove away as quickly as she could to steady herself. He watched her leave with a faint hope they would meet again even if there was no real possibility she would cross paths with a delusional bas***d like him.
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When Manik got a four am phone call from Lance Corporal Afgani in Kandahar, he did not want to wake up. The boy was down there on a visit to a patriotic sister who pledged more allegiance to her father's homeland than to the country where she was born and brought up. Afgani was the polar opposite- an American through and through, that's why he joined the Marines. But when the sister called with one petty complaint after the other, he hauled his ass over there to check up on her. Apparently the Marines were adding to the distress already mounted on her village by the Taliban. Whatever, he could try to calm her down if he pleased, Manik couldn't be bothered to inspect that shit. He had Talibs to fry.
"Yo", Afgani screamed in an adrenaline filled voice. He started with the coordinates like a solider should. The situation already sounded urgent."This place be shot up boy. I got my baby sister in my arms. She's got a bullet to the wrist. Nothing dangerous but anything can kill you in time out in this shithole".
Manik could hear a woman cursing in the background.
"The others are dead. It's a literal morgue in here. I got one Talib down but that was all the rounds I had in my rifle. Wish I packed my Ammo. This is embarrassing but I wouldn't ask if it was just me. She is in here too and I am afraid they'll come for us again. Can you get us out?"
"Yeah. We're on our way".
"Don't rush and pack some heat. They might be waiting with IED's for all I know".
Afgani hung up. Manik pulled himself out of his room and rushed to wake up the battalion. It was go time. Took them an hour's time to make the trip up the foothills of Afgani's village. By the time they arrived, the sister had laid the dead bodies in a single file with their faces covered out of view. She kneeled in a corner doing a prayer while Afgani slept soundly under a tree soaking up the sun.
After they'd gotten the all clear from the team, the Marines' let their guard down. The sound of their huddled footsteps woke up Afgani. He jolted out of his seat in a motion that startled no one.
"You ready?" Manik joked with a well-rested Afgani who looked nothing short of a local patriarch in his getup.
"When in Rome..", he answered the implied question.
"Yo Nandu, hurry up", he poked his sister with his toes while Manik busied myself in instructing the battalion to carry the dead. It occurred to Manik after Afgani and his sister were buckled up in the back of the truck that he knew her from before.
"Nandini?" he asked in a low whisper and all eyes shot up to glance at the two of them. He would be lying if he said the boys weren't sizing up this petite lady. Between the eight of them in the team, they shared two po*nographic DVDs so the scent of a real woman turned them into thirsty grunts. But the Marines had a code and that code included never eyeing a fellow Marine's sister. The code had exceptions of course, like the times when that sister was already your girlfriend. Manik could con with that exception, or atleast he would try now that it had been eleven months since he last got laid.
"Oye, the girl's been shot. Stitch her up first", he signalled to the doe-eyed Marines staring blankly at the woman.
"I know her from my time in Manhattan", Nandini explained to her brother without looking at Manik.
With her wound securely bandaged, she slid in a far corner away from the men chatting it up cheerfully. Afgani was the type of guy who could get along with anyone and even with cascades of deadbodies they carried in the storage of their truck, he'd turned the team's solemn mood around. His sister seemed more affected. Understandably so, a civilian does not bear the daily brunt of war. You could never hope for her to understand. But with what had transpired, perhaps she understood a little more.
Those people had been her friends, her students, neighbours, people she ate dinner with, made Friday night gossip with, celebrated Eid with. Those people lying cold and alone in the trunk of this truck were so dear to her that she couldn't understand how her brother was so carefree about the situation. One of those women had been their midwife, another their father's nanny, yet another a neighbourhood aunt who once visited them in America for Thanksgiving back when the times were nice.
Then again, what would she know? This was her only encounter with war combat. When the AK fire came raining down on their isolated elementary school, her brother had shot back. He'd killed a man and not for the first time. What did she know about carrying that burden around all her life? Sure she'd taken fire before, but that's where the similarity ended. She was trying to be sympathetic but a melting pot of guilt, remorse and pure grief was taking over and she felt like she would drown anytime.
"So you been here long?" Manik pulled her out of her self-loathing.
"Since high school", she answered. "Mostly go back home for a few weeks every year to recharge".
"Same as me", he said as matter-of-factly.
"Yeah", the conversation died down.
"So how do you know each other sir?" a new recruit suddenly turned the attention toward them.
"We used to date in high school". Manik pulled this one out of his ass considering the other option to tell the truth was not so appealing. This earned him loud cheers from the men and two very angry looks from Afgani and Nandini.
"Hands off my sister!" Afgani's eyes betrayed his feelings but he didn't say anything for a while. Then, in a fit of pure joy masking his real fury, he joked, "Nandu doesn't date, she's half Muslim".
"I am not half Muslim, I am half Afghan. Learn the difference! And why can't a Muslim woman date?"
The argument quickly descended into sibling rivalry territory. The newbie tried to pull them back on track, "so you did date our Captain here?"
He'd got her into a corner only Manik could get her out of.
"You don't believe me boy?", Manik gave the newbie a look that said he was about to pull rank and noob wouldn't want that.
That shut him up.
"You finally going back up where you belong kiddo?" Afgani teased Nandini.
"If by that you mean the Marine infirmary then yes. I do take quite a liking to those medics".
The team gasped in a collective sigh. They all wished they'd ditched combat to go to medical school or atleast nursing school if that is what Afghani chicks dig.
"America, you are flying back to America now and settling there for good. You hear me?"
"Tell that to yourself", she shrugged.
"Enough of your f**king charity. I am calling dad".
"I am not f**king afraid of dad".
The men watched with proverbial popcorn in hand, it was their first time seeing a woman in a kaftan swear.
"Then I am telling mom".
"Go cry to mommy when you don't get your way, you little snitch!" she scoffed in a child like manner.
"Oh!" the men sneered at Afgani.
"f**k you!" this was typical Afgani when he wanted to end an argument.
"Well, f**k you too!" she barked back.
The sibling pair sat with their backs to each other the rest of the way. Manik looked on amused.
Three weeks later, Afgani's time in the Marines was over. He'd gotten himself a job at his dad's old workplace and he was settling in a Bay Area IT firm for good. His sister had decided to stay in Kandahar a little longer.
"Keep her alive for me", Afgani left Nandini to Manik's care. Even though he had his suspicions about Manik's intentions, he had no doubt the man was a good marine and marines keep their word. His sister was in safe hands.
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And their love does not seem to have been lost in spite of the ...
â€¦ well, if given a chance.
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