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...
First of all, a million thanks, hugs and kisses for all those who left beautiful loving comments on Tangles & Ties, finale. I am speechless, touched and overwhelmed by each one of you. I’m sorry, I couldn’t reply to each of you separately. But I will… as soon as I get time. That story is special for all of us. Thank you for loving it.
Secondly, thank you for waiting for this story. I stopped it as I wanted to write one story at a time and after I finish Tangles & Ties. With that, I feel so satisfied to have completed 4 long stories with all of you beside me. I wish people keep reading and I keep writing for my favourite people with my favourites as my lead pair.
No words to thank you. Only love and gratitude. Stay happy and healthy.
God bless you.
(The new parts of Beyond Every Border continue from here… hope to update regularly… )
Something deep inside her knew that however distant they were from each other, Anshuman and she shared a frequency that matched.
It was true that both of them didn’t talk much. Neither of them had many friends nor do they believed in sharing details of their lives with anyone else. They stayed elusive, recluse, and were loners. There was a lot that was similar between them. But that didn’t mean that she was going to work with him. Or maybe, write a story on him. He made her nervous with just one look. Standing with him for more would definitely lead her to make a fool of herself.
Especially now, when she knew that he didn’t want her to be around him, or step closer to him. She knew that he had been avoiding her and wanted to push her away. She wasn’t going to let him think that she was following him or being clingy. She had more self-respect than that.
Immediately, she nodded strongly to refuse Krish’s suggestion, “No… no… I don’t think that is a great idea. I can’t work with Dr. Shekhawat.”
Krish tried to convince her in a mature tone, “Listen Manasvi, trust me on this. Dr. Shekhawat seems to be a nice guy. I observed him during the ward rounds, as well. He is very dedicated and compassionate. Clearly one of the best doctors I have ever met.”
Manasvi listened to him patiently without changing her facial expressions. This was the last thing she wanted – Krish convincing her about how nice a person Anshuman was – what an irony!
She tried not to let her expressions reveal anything about them to Krish. Instead, with a subtle smile, she said, “No… it’s not like I’m uncomfortable with him…”
“Then, what?” Krish asked.
She didn’t know what to say that would dissuade him. Still, she tried, “See… it’s a humanitarian camp… I can see people pouring in hundreds. The tents are getting filled up. Dr. Anshuman seems to be a busy doctor…we can’t be…”
Krish interrupted her, “Oh come on, it’s not like we will be disturbing Dr. Shekhawat… like, what are journalists for?… don’t we cover every emergency situation?… do we ever disturb the authorities or doctors… likewise, even Dr. Shekhawat will understand…,” Then he turned his eyes away towards Manasvi’s back and said, “Oh, look Dr. Shekhawat is here.”
Manasvi almost froze. Anshuman had approached them and Krish didn’t even warn her and now, he was standing right behind her. How embarrassing!
Anshuman cleared his throat and paused for a moment before saying, “I came to check if all is fine. Did I hear my name being a part of some discussion?”
He spoke casually and came to stand near Manasvi. She tried not to look at him but couldn’t stop herself from throwing a cursory glance at him. He looked dapper in a white shirt and light brown trousers, fitting nicely at his waist through a thin dark-brown belt. The crisp, stark white shirt was folded at the sleeves for around 2 folds up his forearms, giving an ample view of his tanned forearms, black hair at his wrist, a brown-leather strapped watch and his sturdy fingers.
Manasvi closed her eyes and released a slow breath. She hated it all. Krish’s suggestion, the discussion, Anshuman hearing it, and now asking them to share what they were talking about.
She knew that Anshuman will hate even the idea of Manasvi working around him. How she wished she could do something to avoid this colossal embarrassment!!
However, Krish shared with Anshuman about how they were journalists and reporters for The Insight, how they missed their stint at Paris because Manasvi had a passport issue, how they had to come to Afghanistan, and how luck had them land here at the PBB camp at Jalalabad. He added strongly about how he would be delighted to write a story for them. Anshuman listened to him patiently like he didn’t know any of it. Krish explained in detail about how they were planning to get permission to cover PBB, both from The Insight and the PBB authorities. And along with that, he didn’t fail to mention ‘very clearly’ that though it was a very good opportunity for Manasvi, she didn’t want to work with him because she was apprehensive of working with such a busy and esteemed doctor.
Frowning subtly, Manasvi tried to hush him, in a whisper, “Krish… will you please stop it?”
Krish shrugged and stopped speaking. Anshuman turned to her and spoke in a well-measured, balanced tone, “Well, I have no problem if it does good to your career!”
Manasvi frowned slightly more and shook her head to refuse the offer firmly, and almost immediately, “No… you don’t need to do this.”
The way she spoke with an endearing authority shook both Krish and Anshuman. Krish was left gaping at them as she spoke like she knew Anshuman well. It surprised Anshuman too, as he had never expected such straight refusal from her.
He shrugged, “I really have no problem… at all…”
This time, Manasvi raised her eyes to look at him and gave him a disapproving glance. He pressed his lips and stayed quiet after that. It was all, not only new but too weird for Krish. He stayed quiet too, wondering why Manasvi didn’t want to do this assignment, though it was an amazing opportunity for them.
Without making it any more awkward, Manasvi spoke to him, “It’s already 11:30 am. I have to go to the city center to the Population Registrar’s office.”
Krish asked, “But… how will you manage alone?”
Without waiting for anyone else to speak, Anshuman informed them, “I have asked the managers to arrange for a PBB Jeep as I have some important work in the city center. I can drop you there.”
Gleefully, Krish nodded, appearing evidently relieved, “That will be great! Manasvi needs to pick up her birth certificate from the registrar’s office.”
Manasvi stared first at Krish, who was smiling even now. When she turned to look at Anshuman, he ignored her looks and walked away, saying, “Come!”
Manasvi followed him, almost rushing to catch up, as he walked faster, thanks to his long legs. He stopped outside the main section of the destroyed fortress-like structure, where a white coloured Gypsy was waiting for them. It looked like a convertible ambulance kind of a vehicle because of the oxygen cylinder, and some emergency instruments and medicines kept on the backside.
Anshuman took the keys from the driver, “Thank you. I’ll drive.”
Manasvi had been standing with a helpless look on her pretty face and her arms crossed at her front when the driver left and they were left alone. Anshuman sat on the driver’s seat and tilted his neck to look at her. She slowly stepped ahead, opened the passengers’ side door and sat inside the car quietly. She closed the door softly and wet her dried lips with her tongue.
Anshuman switched on the ignition and started driving. After driving for almost ten minutes towards the city, the silence between them grew uncomfortable. He huffed, waiting for her to talk. She squeezed her eyes narrow and tapped her foot wondering what to say. After another two minutes, they spoke together.
“Will you speak something?” He said.
“Why are you doing this?” She said, at the same time.
He shrugged cluelessly and asked, “What did I do?”
She protested in a low soft voice, “I could have gone with the driver. Or hired a cab. You didn’t have to take me there.”
He brushed it off, “I had some work at the city center. It’s not for you.”
Manasvi turned to look at his face at how efficient he had become at lying. Her sharp, beautiful eyes roved around his ragged jawline, a week-old beard, slightly grown hair in absence of a hair cut and the most intense eyes in the world. He kept his eyes on the road ahead and concentrated on driving but when he momentarily turned to look at her, she noticed those intense eyes and he noticed her noticing him.
It was weird to both. Until yesterday, his eyes and his persona intimidated her and made her nervous. But today, even she was surprised where she had got that confidence from to question him. Maybe, because she didn’t want him to do anything for her. Not anymore. She had enough of a burden over her soul to take any more favours from him. She wanted to trouble him as less as possible and he went on doing things for her. Mostly, going out of his way. To top it all, he didn’t even want the credit. He kept denying that he did something.
He shrugged again, “What? You think I am lying?”
She took a small pause and then replied, “I don’t ‘think’… I ‘know’ that you are lying.”
It made him smile. A rare and genuine smile that thawed her frozen core making her forget all that she had wanted to ask.
He said, “Don’t be so confident. You don’t really ‘know’ me.”
“Dr. Shekhawat, why did you say that you have no problem if I write a news story about you? I would have tackled Krish.”
“Because I really don’t mind.”
Genuinely, she spoke, “Your family doesn’t know that you are working for PBB.”
“You can change my name and put some other name there. People do that when reporting true stories, write ‘name-changed’ in brackets. And don’t click my pictures. Instead, focus on the work. We can manage. What is important is that it will be good for your career. Plus, the time you used in coming here for documents will be utilized and counted as ‘work’… win-win, eh?”
This man amazed her. His words, his voice, his attitude demanded attention and authority. He had a strange aura that mesmerized people talking to him. Almost always be convinced into what he wanted from them.
He again threw a glance at her. This time, she was looking at him, perplexed, with a subtle questioning crease between her brows. Lips twisted in confusion.
“Do you have a solution for everything?” She asked innocently.
With a subtle smile on his lips, he nodded, “Not ‘every’ thing… but I try to make things easy for people I…” He stopped speaking after that, cleared his throat, and fiddled with the dashboard to switch on the music system.
She didn’t have enough guts to ask him what was on the tip of his tongue but he didn’t say –
‘people I…’ what? … what was the last part??…
people I …cared about?… felt responsible about?… want to get rid of?… or feel close to?’
She let it go but knew that this unfinished sentence was going to give her a difficult time for long. Already Anshuman raked innumerable storms inside her, that he had to go ahead and treat her with unfinished sentences.
She stayed quiet after that and so did he. They reached the city as it was hardly an hour away and Anshuman drove at a fairly high speed. He was a pro at driving, she had seen in Delhi. Now, she knew that he was used to driving in difficult terrains in emergency conditions, maybe transferring and shifting patients too.
They reached the Population registrar’s office. Anshuman stayed outside the office and asked her to go inside and get the birth certificate.
“Aren’t you coming inside?” She asked.
“Nah! You bring it. I have a call to make.” He lied again. He didn’t want the officers to notice him and remind him that the girl he was looking for, yesterday, was here.
Manasvi went inside and he leaned by a side wall, facing the city. He took out his phone and scrolled for messages. He needed to tell his mom to not worry about Manasvi and she was with him.
After a wait of 15 minutes, the official printed the duplicate copy of the birth certificate. Manasvi took it in her trembling hands. Her name was printed below her father’s and mother’s name, place and time of birth and their local address in Kabul. Such a simple, basic document brought uncountable memories for her – their home, her parents, the trauma, the uprooting, and the never-ending pain.
A tear trickled down her eyes before she wiped it off with the back of her hand. Her attention was distracted by a young officer who had just come inside and was observing her. He was happy for her since he knew that she had come all the way from India for this document.
He said, “Congratulations Ma’am.”
“Big problem solved?”
“So, why are you here, getting so emotional. Your husband is waiting outside. Go and tell him.” The guy spoke excitedly.
Manasvi nodded and turned to walk away with a satisfied smile on her lips. After taking 2 steps towards the door, she returned. “Excuse me! What did you say? Husband? How do you know he is my husband?”
“I saw him waiting outside when I came in after my coffee break.”
“But, why would you know that he is my husband?”
“He was here, yesterday. Looking devastated. Searching for you.”