He had never expected that she would say ‘this’. Not even in his dreams. Neither did she ever imagine that she would speak like this with anyone. With him! But such words are not planned and articulated. They just spill out. Like emotions. Like tears. Like an overwhelming surge of a deeply felt pain. The way she didn’t think even for a moment before she ran towards him to ensure that he w...
It was a right that he had just given her. On him!
She blinked her eyes twice, wondering what she had heard was true and how profound it was for her.
She had always thought about him in gratitude. Everything and anything, she was thankful for in her life, she had credited it to him. During troubles, she remembered no one. She believed that she could handle them alone. But he was asking her to think of him in her troubles.
He wasn’t asking for too much. Once again, he was giving her too much.
With a questioning look in her pretty eyes, focused on his resolute face, she murmured softly, “But… I can’t promise.”
His silence intensified the depth in his poignant eyes. They were locked with hers. He sighed, gulping his saliva laboriously. After what appeared like a long moment, he said, “You are scared of building expectations. You think that I may or may not be available for you at all times and that will disappoint you. You don’t want to be dependent on someone. Right?”
With a soft crease between her brows, right in the middle of her forehead, she said, “I was always taught to protect myself.”
Impulsively, he said, “And I was always taught to protect others… especially… you!”
She opened her mouth to say something but no words found their way to her lips. Did he really speak what she just heard? She always knew that he considered it as his duty to protect her. But he confirmed it in words right now. It was inexplicable but she heard more in his words. Something that he didn’t even say.
He continued, “I won’t disappoint you, Manasvi.”
“I don’t doubt you. I have doubts about the circumstances.”
“Circumstances can be overcome. By a little patience and faith.”
“I’m scared.” She could hardly whisper, as she lowered her eyes to turn them towards the ground.
“Fair enough! I think it is too soon for you to trust me. We have never talked properly, before. Will you, at least, promise that you will inform me about what is going in your life? Keep me posted about any trouble that you are facing without any second thought.”
She pressed her lips once and then slowly released them, parting them a little, “I did inform you about my new job around eight weeks back. There was no reply!”
Did she just complain??
She swayed her jaw and regretted what she had just said. Wasn’t Anshuman doing more than he should be? Wasn’t he taking care of things beyond his scope? Didn’t she know what kind of job he did and with all the pressures and international travel associated with his work? Wasn’t he injured when she saw him last? The scars of those wounds were still there on his forehead and hands.
He was astounded too. He had no idea that she had sent him an email about her job after she left Delhi. He didn’t read his emails as he had left the same afternoon. After that, he always had some issue or the other – either network issue or he was too occupied to check his emails.
But did she just say that she had sent him an email and he hadn’t replied??
He had no idea where this discussion was going? Wasn’t he supposed to stay away from her? Didn’t he decide to stop talking to her? Didn’t he ask her for divorce and didn’t she agree easily? Then what was it about asking her to trust him and she asking him why he didn’t reply to her emails?
It made him uneasy. It was going beyond the normal realms of control a human had on his emotions and over a conversation, he made with a stranger. That was what they were! Strangers till now. They hadn’t interacted beyond the periphery of what was called as ‘formal and cordial’ exchange of words.
Before he could reply, she brushed off everything with a subtle wave of her tiny hand, “Please forget what I said. I shouldn’t complain. I can see how busy and occupied you are. How tired you must be getting every night. And I am cribbing about reply to a silly email telling you about my job.”
Without even given another thought to it, without realizing what he was about to say and without understanding how it was in such a contrast to his resolutions, he quickly dismissed her apology, “No, it’s perfectly fine. I asked you to tell me about the interview. I should have checked my mailbox but I didn’t get enough signals. It’s my fault. Give me your phone.”
She stretched her hand towards him. He took her phone without touching her and typed something on the screen after locating his name. He said as he typed, “I’m giving you another email id which is my official id. I check it 2-3 times a day without fail. We get rosters of our duties, travel and stay arrangements, tickets and other official documents, like visa and permits sent to us on this mail-id. So, none of us can afford to miss it. Whenever you want to contact me, send a mail to this id, and I will call you.”
Dumbfounded, she tried not to look at his face. She couldn’t. This guy was a star with so much radiant energy around him that if you constantly look at him, you would be hypnotized beyond power. She believed that!
She took the phone back from him and without speaking anything, she nodded. He shrugged too, dismissing their conversation, in an unspoken ‘good night’.
She returned to her tent. So did he…
Long back, Manasvi had promised herself that she won’t fall in love with the man who had saved her. Given a thought, she had always known that it was natural to happen. So much, that it was actually expected. You end up falling in love with people who care for you, help you in some way or the other, and be there for you. But was it even justified to weigh down these people, these angels, with the burden of your love?
Maybe, they are just doing their duty and that comes naturally to them? Expecting more from them emotionally was a way to major disappointments. Letting them know of the love was putting them under pressure. Attaching frivolous human emotions, like love, to a benevolent act like help, appeared shallow to her. She had elevated Anshuman on a pedestal and she wanted him to stay there.
Again, when he had asked for the divorce, she had only been happy. She was happy even now. This was one thing that she could do for him and it pleased her no end that she could make life easy for him by getting out of his way. She knew that she should not even think about him.
Then, why did she feel a gradual shift in her thoughts and emotions when she was with him? First at Preksha’s engagement, and now here? They were meeting only for the second time, then why it felt like they knew each other since forever? Why the walls around her began to crack when he was around? Why the distance she kept from all men appeared justified and sensible, except with him?
She lay down on her bed and buried herself inside the comforter. It was a new feeling for her and she didn’t know how to deal with it. She felt giddy and nauseous. She felt warm and fuzzy. She felt heavy at heart. A drop of tear trickled down her cheek and she wanted him to wipe it… just him…
She didn’t know how to fight with her heart who wanted him to sit down and talk to her.
No. It wanted Anshuman to sit down and simply listen to her…
Anshuman couldn’t sleep for the entire night. He frowned and clicked his jaw, frustrated with his responses to this girl.
Why did he keep forgetting about his decisions, his resolutions, his strength or will-power when she was around? Why did he speak opposite to what he wanted to and why did he behave as if this was the end of the world and they had only this much time?
He needed better control next time. He needed to constantly remember who they were.
He tossed and turned in the bed for the major part of the dark night – trying to struggle with his own nightmares which never let him sleep peacefully – the noise of heavy boots, the bloodshed, the deafening sound of bomb blasts, the shrill cry of women and children, the smoke all around obscuring the visibility.
And, then a ray of hope – beautiful eyes, covered by long lashes, long hair covered under the headscarf, delicate hands, and a nerve of steel.
She had been bestowed with divine powers to soothe his burns. But he wasn’t selfish to scathe her life with his fire.
Manasvi could feel her breaths getting ragged and irregular as she had been running in darkness. There were only sounds of commotion and cries of pain around her as she rushed past the dead bodies. The darkness and the fog shaded the vision. She became uneasy with the distinct burning smell around her. She heard footsteps behind her and she started running faster. Into the dark, eerie, dangerous, smelly valley. Right then, she smashed into something tall and strong, standing before her. He was very tall, stronger than anyone she had ever known; he had deep, eloquent eyes; and his voice was husky and assuring.
“I will always protect you!” He said.
Manasvi woke up with a dry throat and searched for the water bottle near her cot. She was shaken by the dream. She lay back after sipping water. With her eyelids feeling heavy and droopy due to disturbed sleep, she stared at the roof of her tent. Anshuman wouldn’t leave her thoughts and mind usually during the day. And now, he was in her dreams too. It was still early morning and Amanda was sleeping peacefully in her bed.
One look at her and Manasvi immediately felt guilty. Amanda had been so good to her. What was she doing? Betraying her trust? Amanda had every right to know that she was Anshuman’s wife and they were heading for a divorce.
She wondered why Amanda asked for her help, last night before their talk was distracted. ‘What help does she want from me, if she is Anshuman’s girlfriend? Maybe, she wants an opinion to decide about a gift or a surprise for him?’
‘Whatever…’ She decided to be happy for him and her! And she was going to maintain this stand, she decided.
Anshuman and his thoughts had to stop, right where they started troubling her. She had never felt like this before. Not for him. Not for any other man. Never before.
Her priority right now was getting Indian citizenship and let Anshuman be free of this burden.
A breakfast of pav bread with some butter and coffee was all that the camp administrators could arrange. The doctors and paramedics and all other staff were back to work early in the morning as the patients had started arriving. Manasvi went to see Krish and see if he was fine.
“Better than ever!” Krish quipped with a gleam in his eyes.
“You sound excited?!” Manasvi observed his widening smile.
“Yes! I am… work always makes me happy!”
“Work?” Manasvi shrugged.
“Yes. I had a talk with Mr. Mehta last night. I told him about this unexpected find. Our accidental landing to this humanitarian medical camp and how I found about the doctors here. So now, he is getting permits for us to do a story here over PBB and the doctors working here. Isn’t it exciting? It’s just by a stroke of luck that we got this opportunity! Imagine, how interesting it will be to observe them, note a day by day record and do a series of stories about these noble guys!”
Manasvi was staring at him dumbfounded, “So, you are planning to stay here for more? I thought we are going back as soon as I get my certificates.”
“No, I am not staying here for more. WE are staying here for more – both of us.”
“But Krish…” Manasvi could feel all the blood draining away from her face. Fate was testing her. By letting her stay around Anshuman more and more, God wanted to see if she could be strong enough to keep a check on her emotions. Only that, she didn’t like such complications. Wasn’t she already dealing with so much that matters of the heart had to trouble her more? Her new-found feelings for Anshuman were becoming tough to deal with.
Krish added, “So, I have decided. You work with Dr. Anshuman and Dr. Alex and I will give you 3 more names. But basically Dr. Anshuman. Observe him, record his work, his routine. Click his pictures. Write a story about him. A story that the world needs to know.”
She felt like her tongue was stuck to her palate and her entire mouth was so dry that she couldn’t open it to speak. Her eyes widened and she frowned, “What?!”
Krish smiled, with a subtle blush that couldn’t be missed, however subtle it was. “And I will work with Dr. Amanda!”
“Krishhhh!!! But… why Dr. Anshuman? I can work with Amanda.” Manasvi spoke sense. It seemed like a better proposition. Easy and comfortable.
“There are other 3 doctors and Dr. Alex too! But mainly Dr. Anshuman Shekhawat!”
“Because I want to work with Amanda. She is so cute. I think I am smitten!” Krish confessed.
“What?!” Manasvi was staring at him, absolutely clueless about what he was saying. “Is that the reason why you took so many pains of convincing Mr. Mehta?!”
“No… absolutely not! I wouldn’t have come to Afghanistan if it wasn’t for you. And maybe, I would have never met these people. Now that we are here, I believe that they need a story to be told to the world.”
Manasvi thought about Anshuman’s family and then asked, “What if they don’t allow us to feature them?”
“Why won’t they?”
“Maybe, they haven’t told their families about their nature of work. Maybe, they are media shy and don’t want their work to be highlighted. Maybe, they find us as a disturbance…” She suggested a few reasons.
“Hmm!” Krish sighed, “That’s my job to convince them. Inspiring work should reach the world. Leave that to me. I know that I am going to gel really well with Amanda. Meanwhile, you focus on Dr. Anshuman’s work!”
Manasvi felt awkward at the last part. She whispered, turning away to get the water bottle and successfully hiding the reddened cheeks burning now, “Why do you want me to be with him?”
“Because he hardly speaks. I haven’t seen him speaking more since last evening. You don’t speak as well. So, two silent people may or may not strike a huge conversation, but I’ve observed that they do communicate well. Maybe, because they usually find a frequency that matches. Let’s hope for that.”
Manasvi didn’t know what Krish meant by all that he was speaking but she was sure that he was a dedicated professional who would find work in every place he was. She had the least doubts about his intentions. He was a thorough workaholic and the first thing that could have come to his mind after being stuck here was to start working here, as well. His passion for news and socio-political stories impressed her no end. There was one more thing that she couldn’t disagree with.
Something deep inside her knew that however distant they may be from each other, Anshuman and she shared a frequency that matched.