It feels easier to interact on random posts on ‘my corner’ and talk in detail but so difficult to reply to comments on the stories… so I settle with likes and emoticons as I have nothing much to say — except that —
“I am deeply humbled. It means a lot to me that someone out there is taking out her precious time to give to me and my story. I promise, I will try to be responsible and try not to let you down for the faith and emotions you have invested in me and my stories. Thank you from the deepest corners of my heart. Love you all …. xoxo”
Since I am free, I have decided to write another part as I had delayed the last chapter by so many days and I was badly missing it… so to compensate… here’s another part 🙂
“Can I go to Afghanistan and offer any other doctor to go to Mexico in my place?” Anshuman asked hopefully.
A huge smile swam on Amanda’s lips on that. This was the first time Anshuman had requested for a change in schedule. He was not someone who would request changes in the ongoing system, go out of his way to do things for others or subtly stand by someone. He was just not!
Right through their college days, Amanda had seen him as reserved and introvert. And now, suddenly when she asked him to support her, he offered to go to Afghanistan with her?!
It came as a huge surprise to her! She couldn’t stop grinning as it was hard to believe. Was luck really favouring her after all these years of perseverance?
She met with a rude shock just the very next moment. The convener had refused. Not because he didn’t want to do it but because he was helpless. He explained, “I’m sorry, doctor… these rosters are decided at the HQ level keeping in mind a team’s skills and experience in working in a particular setting. I’m afraid, it won’t be possible to change at this level!”
Anshuman frowned and sweeped his tongue along his lower right side of gums for a moment, quickly thinking if he should apply for leave in this case. But he didn’t even know where Manasvi was? How was he going to follow her, in Afghanistan, if at all they both reached there at the same place? It wasn’t a small country!
And why was he even bothered?!
Didn’t he promise himself long back that he will stay away from her, other than giving her his name for a social standing… When he didn’t bother about how she struggled through life in last seven years, how she met with ups and downs, faced difficulties at every level, from getting education to job and living alone, and yet she emerged stronger every time, why was he bothered now??
No… He had to live up to the resolve to stay away from her and let her fight her battles. He won’t be there always… they were heading for a divorce… that meant that she had to fight through her life’s challenges for all the coming years, alone… a mere presence of him at this level was not going to change anything for her… why build expectations when he couldn’t live upto them??
One part of his mind argued that it was just for this one trip that he should be with her… It was for citizenship and passport only, the very basis of their marriage and then his responsibility will be over… after that, she will manage herself!
The other part was skeptical that it will hurt her self esteem – The way she had behaved last time, at the terrace and the airport, she seems to be someone with high self esteem.
I have already asked for divorce. She will not accept my help at this stage. That is why, she didn’t want my family to inform me, she didn’t tell them about the flight details, she doesn’t want me to be there.
Amanda was worried while Anshuman was struggling with his thoughts. She slightly nudged him to speak something as the convener and rest of the doctors were waiting for him to say something.
Anshuman was back to his present and he cleared his throat before he said, “In that case, am I allowed to take a leave? It’s urgent for me to go to Afghanistan. I have a work for a couple of days… which I can manage with a short break from duty… or else, I will take the leave!”
The convener realised that Anshuman was serious about this. It was not just a casual request. He nodded, “Give me an hour. I will talk to the HQs and get back to you!”
“Thank you, Sir!”
Amanda was not happy. As far as she knew Anshuman, he would never express his feelings so openly. So, even though he had expressed his desire to go to Afghanistan with her but when refused, he would have accepted, But he didn’t. Instead, he wanted a leave but he had to go to Afghanistan! For what?? Work?? What work? She frowned.
It could be anything but not her! At least, this she was sure about. Or maybe, she didn’t know him well. She had to find out!
The meeting was adjourned and all the doctors and convener left the room. Amanda almost jumped in excitement. Reaching out to Anshuman, she chirped, “Thank you… thank you soooo much!!”
“Huhh??!!” Anshuman didn’t even know what she was talking about. He took out his phone and scrolled down for the last dialed call.
Alex came to him and patted him on the back, “Whoa! Bro… what’s up? Work in Afghanistan? Go in my place! I’ll love to be in Mexico!”
“Thanks!” Anshuman replied dialing the call and walked away. Amanda looked at Alex to ask if he knew what Anshuman was talking about. Alex shrugged as if he was totally clueless. Amanda shrugged too.
Anshuman dialed the call to Preksha. She replied instantly.
“Hey, did you talk to her?”
“Bhai… I talked to her! She was about to board a AI flight to Kabul at IGI airport at 5. She will go to the embassy in Kabul and will do accordingly as they guide her.”
“And she is not alone. She told me that she has a friend from her company who is going with her!”
“Friend? Which friend?”
“How do I know, Bhai? She just mentioned that a friend was with her and there was nothing to worry… so relax!”
“Phewww!!” Anshuman was slightly relieved. It was great that someone was there with her. At least, she was not alone. His resolve for staying away from her would be easy to follow, now. Like he had always found a way to ensure that she was fine… still maintaining a significant distance… still letting her be the sole anchor of her life… not interfering in her decisions and actions in any way…
But he can still be around her, without letting her know!! In case, she needs him… In case, she gets into trouble… God forbid, if something untoward happens, he didn’t want to be at an unreachable position. He decided that he had to go to Afghanistan even if she doesn’t want him there, doesn’t need him for some basic things… He should just be around, in case of an emergency!
The AI pilot announced the landing at Kabul and more than Manasvi, Krish got some solid goosebumps.
He had requested the passenger beside Manasvi to exchange his seat with him and was honoured quite easily. Manasvi read a book all the while and tried not to talk to him. She was still upset that he had followed her even without informing her or taking her permission and he was aware of the gossip about her marriage and personal life, but he never told her… he told her just today… because he had to do her a great favour by coming along with her when her husband didn’t do that. Everything about the entire incident made her cringe and she didn’t know if she would ever forgive him for this.
The flight landed at Kabul airport and the moment Manasvi set her foot on the ground, it felt home! Dark , lonely, depressing, but still home!
The heart doesn’t know political disputes, religious doctrines, border separations and fights over different beliefs. The heart only relates to the sense of belonging, however painful it is! It basks in the warmth of the familiar sunshine melting the cold, frozen interiors. It tries to breathe under the ever increasing burden of overflowing memories.
She had seen the worst in this land. She had lost everything here. Every memory related to Kabul came rushing back to her. Her baba, her ma, their jewellery store and their home with lots of trees and brick walls. Happy days in the past are the first to bring tears. And then followed the darker memories, which had never left her. They visited her every night as nightmares and palpitations. As sweat beads on her forehead and in rising pace of her heart. The visions had never left her – the processions, rallies, burning vehicles and people, charred bodies, dead children and mutilated families of friends and relatives. Suffocation. Blood. Smoke. Fear.
It was no denying that she was born here. And she fled from here in the middle of the night. It was an irony that no matter how painful it had been, but this was once her home.
She shuddered when she walked on her homeland. Krish noticed her blank, white face and whispered, slightly bowing to her side, “I’m right here. In case, you want to talk or need someone to hold you in this terrifying moment!”
She smiled and nodded.
“You have no idea how a terrifying moment actually looks like!”
The convener informed Anshuman that he was allowed to go to Afghanistan, and resume the duties there. There were supposed to be around 3 camps there, in different parts of the country and he could choose any one of them, according to his preference.
Anshuman thanked him and denied any assistance in travel arrangements. “No, thank you! I don’t want to wait for the Head Quarters to arrange for transportation and tickets… I wish to take the earliest flight to Kabul.”
“As you wish!” The convener agreed, while Alex and Amanda stood stoned, perplexed and worried about what he was upto. He was going at the same place but he had a choice out of 3 camps and he was going there before them and separately.
“What’s going on?” Alex asked Amanda.
“You tell me. I know that you know… you are his friend!” Amanda replied dryly.
“I don’t know much coz he never discusses much. But yes, I have spent so much time with him that you get to know certain things inadvertently!”
“Like??” Amanda was intrigued and was excited to know that Alex knew more.
“There is a lot about him that stays buried! Let it stay like that. If you scratch it, it will bleed!” Alex replied and walked away.
Anshuman balanced his backpack on his shoulder and called his mom, Madhu. “Mom, do you remember Manasvi’s birth place in Afghanistan?”
“Yes. She was born in another city near Kabul! Let me remember the name…”
“Another city? But they lived in Kabul!”
“Yeah… they were visiting a holy shrine where her mother developed labour pains. Manasvi was delivered in a small hospital in a rural area outside the city.”
“No way! So that means, if she needs a birth certificate, she will have to go there?”
“Ashu… are you going to Afghanistan… to be with her?” Madhu couldn’t hide her glee. Her subtle efforts were paying up.
Anshuman didn’t want his mother to feel let down. “I’m going there and will stay around. I don’t want to hurt her self esteem. If she needs me, I’ll be there for her. Happy?”
“Yes. Enough for me!” Madhu wiped her tears and said, “I’m not able to recall the name of that city, right now. Let me ask your dad and tell you!”
“Okay, I’m boarding a flight to Kabul. Please find that name and send me the message as my phone will remain off. But I need to know her place of birth. It is very important.”
“I think, I remembered… She was born in Jalalabad!”
“Alright! I’ll call you once I reach Kabul.”
“May God bless you… both! And … just remember one thing…”
“Ashu, Manasvi deserves all the happiness in the world!”
“I know!” He sighed as he replied her in a low voice and disconnected the call. No one knew it better than him, how she was worthy of all the happiness of the world… no less than what any other girl on this planet received. And he was also aware of one more thing –
To ensure happiness for someone doesn’t always mean being a part of the same!