Thank you for being patient with me. I've finished most of the projects I had set out for, in this break. I will post about them soon. For now, I won't come between you and the update :D I hope you all are safe, healthy, and coping well. Love you all... a lot... ........................................................... She grasped his shirt at his shoulders when she was near him, terrifi...
Thank you for the tremendous response to this story. I was skeptical before writing it as I wasn’t sure if it would be accepted. It is pretty intense and dark themed. I am overwhelmed at the love and support from you just the same way as you accepted and loved my previous stories.
Thank you! Love you all so much…
New Delhi, India.
For the past half an hour, Preksha had been trying various accessories that matched her designer outfit chosen for the day of her engagement to Varun. She picked up a beautiful Kundan-ear-ring and placed it near her ear to see whether it suited her. The reflection in the mirror loved the ear-ring but not the face that stared into it.
“Tch!” Disgusted, she threw it away on the bed with a click of her tongue.
“Why are you taking out your grudges on the poor accessories?” Madhu asked lovingly. She had been folding Preksha’s clothes and arranging her room that normally remained disheveled when Preksha was inside.
“Mom, why does he always have to do that? Anshuman Bhai never gets leaves.”
“It was an emergency, Preksha. He spoke to you last night.”
“No. He always does that. He cancels all the plans at the last moment. And this time, he promised…” Preksha was sad.
Like always, Anshuman had informed them that his leaves were cancelled due to an emergency and he couldn’t get time off to be at Delhi for Preksha’s engagement. Preksha knew that her brother was a busy committed doctor in New York. She understood the nature of his job and his responsibilities but that didn’t lessen her disappointment. Getting engaged without her Bhai was depressing.
“Oh, that’s really sad!” Manasvi expressed genuine concern when Preksha told her about Anshuman’s canceled plans at the last moment. Manasvi had never seen them together but she had always felt a warm sibling bond between Anshuman and Preksha through Preksha’s detailed descriptions about their fights. They had had their share of mischiefs too. Manasvi had been in awe of the level of understanding the sibling duo shared and secretly envied Shekhawats for being such a close-knit family. It was never in a negative way, though. Just that she had never seen such a comfortable and caring life, with kids having practically nothing to worry about. They had a lot of cousins too. Manasvi would listen to stories narrated by Preksha with great interest. Silently, she always prayed for the best for them.
During the countable times that Manasvi had been to the Shekhawat house, she and Preksha had grown closer and discovered few things as common interests. Their love for books, old classic movies, and music made it easier for them to interact and become friends. Initially, they sent e-mails to each other and sometimes talked on phone. Lately, they couldn’t keep in touch as regularly as they would have loved to. Preksha was busy with her CA course, guitar classes, and dance classes. She had a roaring set of friends in college which kept her busy. She couldn’t talk to Manasvi regularly and felt guilty about it because she knew that Manasvi was reserved and didn’t talk much to people.
Manasvi didn’t want to appear imposing so even she wouldn’t call Preksha often. But whenever they talked, they would try to catch up. Preksha adored Manasvi and Manasvi cared about Preksha. Their liking for each other was mutual and genuine.
Manasvi was aware that Preksha was terribly upset about her only brother not coming for the engagement. For this moment, she had no clue about how to comfort the girl. Preksha asked in a sad tone, “I’m so upset with Bhai. I’m not talking to him this time when he comes. You know, it has been 3 years since he came to India. I mean, what kind of obsession with his profession he has. Anyway, forget it! Tell me when are you reaching Delhi?”
“Err…woh…” Manasvi fumbled and fished for words to give a suitable excuse that didn’t upset Preksha more. She had no plans to attend this event at Shekhawat household. She knew that she won’t be missed in the large crowd of cousins, relatives and friends. Moreover, she had never been to their home when Anshuman was at home. She had purposefully avoided him as she felt too awkward about their weird relationship. A knot tied just for the sake of a tag. It made her nervous. Hence, she had never met Anshuman after their wedding.
Her decision to skip Preksha’s engagement was strengthened when Anshuman shared his plans to attend his sister’s big day. Manasvi had decided not to go. But Preksha’s sadness after Anshuman cancelled his plans moved her. Some of Preksha’s cousins had exams and even they were not coming. Preksha was really upset.
“What are you thinking about?” Preksha asked, “I hope you are not going to tell me that even you are not coming.”
“Preksha, actually I….” Manasvi murmured softly to begin, and tried to come up with something genuine to tell her, but she couldn’t.
“Manasvi di, if you back out, I’m not going to talk to you….ever!” Preksha spoke in very low but stern voice. Manasvi stayed quiet.
Suddenly Preksha was angry, “Great!! It’s my engagement and no one is bothered! Well, I didn’t expect this from any of you. Thanks a lot.”
Preksha disconnected the call and threw her phone on the bed, grumbling and fuming in anger. Manasvi called back again to apologize. This time, Madhu answered the call. She knew that Manasvi was on the other side. In fact, she had been waiting to talk to her since she had guessed that Manasvi was not coming.
“Manasvi, Preksha just left the room. Don’t worry, she’ll be fine in a while. She does that when she is upset.”
“I can understand, aunty.”
“Anshuman is not able to come for the function. His leaves got canceled for an emergency situation. Many kids in the family have exams. Preksha had made so many plans and now she is feeling low. She would have been really happy to have you around.”
“Err…” Manasvi wet her dry lips and confidently replied, “I’m coming, aunty. Please tell Preksha that I was teasing her. I’ll reach day after tomorrow.”
There was nothing more important than taking care of Preksha right now. The girl was upset. The darling daughter of the Shekhawat family, Anshuman’s baby sister was sad around her own engagement.
Somehow, it became Manasvi’s duty to make her feel good.
That was all that mattered to her right now.
“Things don’t happen as we plan them and want them to be. They happen as God plans them for us. And sometimes this delay in understanding the future plan of the Supreme Powers may lead to depression and distrust but things happen at their own pace, as they are destined to be, whether someone likes it or not !” Dadi gave one of her words of wisdom to Preksha, who lay on the diwan with her head in dadi’s lap.
Dadi patted her head and enlightened her with some chosen quotes and sayings from her holy books and scriptures. Preksha was not satisfied, She wished to know how and when every family decided that it was the time for the girl to go… for her to get married… and why once decided, they couldn’t delay it.
Why they couldn’t postpone it if Anshuman wasn’t able to come.
Dadi explained to her the importance of letting go of the desire to control situations once they are set in motion by an unexplained flow of incidents following one after the other. Preksha could understand only a part of the theory but didn’t want a long discourse from dadi so she nodded in agreement and got up to go. Dadi smiled at her lack of patience.
Preksha was finally happy to know that Manasvi was coming to attend her engagement ceremony. Few of her friends promised that they’ll reach a day before the function. A big smile made a comeback on her face.
Preksha was a little bundle of energy wrapped in a deceptive packaging of a petite and beautiful girl. She couldn’t sit in one place and never stopped talking. The Shekhawat household became a riot as the day of her engagement came nearer. Her tireless shopping baffled her parents. The additions to the food menu as per her choices, meticulous styling, designing of her dresses, accessories, jewellery, matching shoes were all done much before the engagement day. She made sure that she came up with something that kept almost everybody on their toes, every day.
RajSingh and Madhu pampered her by bowing before every small and huge demand from her.
The train journey from Mumbai to Delhi had been long and tiring. Manasvi had been trying to read a book she had picked up at the book exhibition last week, but again and again, her thoughts drifted towards Anshuman and Preksha.
Anshuman was expected at the engagement and the family was very excited about his visit as he usually came home once in two or three years. Preksha was five years younger to him and she had always spoken about him with extreme fondness. Many times, she had told Manasvi in great detail, about how Anshuman pampered her ceaselessly. They were inseparable once he was home, though they were exact opposites of each other when it came to mood and behavior. While she was a chatterbox, he was quiet and calm. She needed everything in life, from the latest gadgets to cars, designer dresses, branded purses and shoes, almost everything that her parents could afford to give her, while Anshuman was a man of few needs. He was happy with basics that let life running smoothly. She was temperamental who became happy or sad within few minutes. Anshuman was patient and had a stable personality. He was not known for his mood swings. He knew how to keep his emotions under his control.
Sometimes, Manasvi wondered about herself. How she was as a person – quiet or chatterbox? Naughty or calm? One with lots of dreams and wishes or one satisfied with basics?
The answer was that she didn’t know. She had no inherent personality as whatever she was today, whoever she had become was ingrained in her due to circumstances. She remembered faintly about being naughty and chirpy whenever she was with her father. But it was long, long back. Maybe when she was eight-years-old.
Nowadays, she had adjusted to the conditioning of the surroundings. She lived alone so she was quiet and reserved. She was almost an alien in Mumbai. The one with a dubious nationality. So she preferred to remain aloof and never interacted much with people. Her beliefs and principles earned her enemies in the workplace. She had no friends. She believed in saving money as she never wanted to ask anyone for anything. She had spent her mom’s jewellery one by one in the initial years to make ends meet. As soon as she was able, she did several part-time jobs along with her studies and saved as much as she could.
From her mom’s jewellery, she could only save a gold chain and a pendant in shape of an angel with wings, made in crystal and gold. This was given to her mother by her father when Manasvi was born, as a sign that an angel had graced their home.
Considering that her father had a jewellery shop in Kabul, this was all Manasvi was left with, in the name of jewellery and in the name of memories of her parents.
As promised, Manasvi reached 3 days before the engagement ceremony. She helped Preksha with the last bit of her shopping and beauty regimen, and stayed with her to make sure that she was happy and high in spirits. Manasvi took all the responsibility of taking care of Preksha and getting her ready for the party. Madhu was relieved that the girls were together now and Preksha was not going to trouble her anymore. Manasvi was glad that she had taken a wise and timely decision of coming to Delhi to be with Preksha.
Everybody in the Shekhawat family was delighted to see Manasvi. They loved her as much as they loved Preksha and Anshuman, if not more. They never made her feel like a guest or someone they haven’t interacted with. In fact, all cousins, extended family, and dadi tried their best to make Manasvi feel at home.
The Shekhawat bungalow proudly stood as the oldest and prettiest property in the posh locality of Golf Links in New Delhi. Lush gardens surrounded it on all four sides. The tall Ashok trees lined all along its boundary cut off the view from the road before it, giving it much-needed privacy. The balcony was spacious and white marbled with wrought iron chairs and a round marble table. Madhu had a fascination for exotic plants and cacti, hundreds of which were placed in the balcony giving it an ethereal appeal. The flora kept the balcony cool all through the day as the sun was cut off from warming it because of the tall trees surrounding the house. The evenings were exceptionally beautiful. The family gathered together and talked about so many things. Every evening, all of them sat in the balcony for tea and chatted about various topics… topics ranged from politics to books, latest trends in fashion and party arrangements, depending on who took the lead. All this – family thing – was new to Manasvi. She didn’t know how to respond. So she mostly stayed quiet but involved. She listened to everyone very keenly.
Whenever the topic shifted to Anshuman, Madhu could feel an evident awkwardness on Manasvi’s face. Manasvi had seen their family albums and Madhu had noticed her paying more attention to Anshuman than anyone else in the family. She could observe a visible admiration and intrigue in Manasvi’s innocent eyes for the man who was no less than a hero for her.
It was pretty evident to the elders that even after so many years of marriage, there was no relationship between Anshuman and Manasvi. It was planned for the sake of documents. Sadly, it remained so!!
They were married under weird circumstances and that barrier stayed between them. Neither of the two tried to make an effort to bridge the gap. The parents never forced it too. Anshuman and Manasvi were grown-ups now and had their own lives to live. They had never talked to each other, face to face. Neither before their marriage nor after it. Anshuman never discussed anything about her but Madhu made it a point to tell him about everything that happened in Manasvi’s life as she told Manasvi about Anshuman. She wanted them to at least stay informed about each other.
Madhu was aware that Anshuman never talked to her. On their first marriage anniversary, Madhu suggested that he should call her. He wasn’t really comfortable. But Madhu insisted that he should check on her if she was fine. At least, on their anniversary. She believed that Manasvi was already living under a pressure that her marriage was forced on Anshuman. She might feel good if Anshuman called her. After that, Anshuman called her on their anniversary. Though he didn’t talk much. He just asked about her well being. Just ensured her that he was there if she needed something. Told her to study well and wished her the best for her exams. For a man of few words, he had no clue about how to communicate more. How to speak, what he felt. So he didn’t.
After that, he called her without fail on every anniversary without being reminded about it but their communication still remained limited and very formal. Once a year. Two-three sentences. Formal. Robotic.
Madhu knew about everything and understood her son and daughter-in-law very well. At least, she and RajSingh considered Manasvi as their daughter-in-law. A thousand confusions going inside a woman’s mind in this state were unreadable to an outsider but Madhu appreciated the way Manasvi handled herself and every situation around her with an insurmountable strength. She adored Manasvi tremendously.
Many times, Madhu tried to talk to her about Anshuman, to know about her doubts, her insecurities, her fears, and her feelings but she couldn’t gather the courage to do so.
She had nothing to offer to the girl.
She had planned to make Anshuman meet Manasvi, once, this time. She had planned for them to spend some time together. She had also planned about talking to Anshuman to take Manasvi with him to New York. Now that she had completed her studies and was looking for a job after leaving the previous one, she could easily accompany him to New York. But Anshuman’s canceled plans spoiled all her plans.
Now she didn’t know when Anshuman will come to India. She didn’t know how she was going to get them to meet each other. Madhu kept thinking of the future and hopes for a happy life for both Anshuman and Manasvi.
But she had no idea that her son had asked Manasvi for divorce and Manasvi had agreed.
Without any question. Without any objection. Without another word.
Next Chapter – Chapter 3: The Hero!
Back to the book – Beyond Every Border