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...
Ramadan Mubarak to all my friends who are observing this festival. May this month bring peace, good health, satisfaction, & inner strength to all of you and your families, and May God Almighty shower His blessings on the entire world and puts a rest to the tests He has put us through.
Love you all for the responses on my yesterday’s post. I had replied to few before going to sleep last night. Will reply to rest today on that post.
When I ask for a new story, it may mean – at any time, in near future. I work mainly on impulse and instincts. Though I love to work on one story at a time but sometimes creative ideas flow and you can’t help but pen them.
Anyway, thanks for all the love and willingness to read any story from me. You have no idea how much that means to me.
A long update of BEB for all the wait you suffered for one week. Take care. Lots of love.
“Is this a request to not worry about you from here? Or a complaint, that you’ve done this all alone, all your life?”
She tapped her fingers over the table by her side, feeling nervous and tongue-tied, like always. Unable to face the heat of his piercing gaze over her eyes, she lowered her eyes and sighed. Then, she said, “I try not to complain. You’ve been so kind that it will be criminal to complain. I can simply request.”
“To not worry about you?” He asked to confirm, “And that you can manage alone. That’s it?”
“Yeah.” She softly let out a whisper of a sound.
“Okay. Got the point.” He replied using the same words that she had always used whenever he instructed her to do something. Then, without saying anything more, he quietly left the cabin, leaving her alone, clueless and wondering if she had hurt him and if she could have avoided hurting him.
Not even in her faintest thoughts or weirdest dreams, she could have deliberately hurt him. But she knew that she had hurt him unknowingly, unwillingly. Not that she could have avoided it. This time, it was about him going out of the way to help her, making her feel better and cared for, raising her expectations in return. She had started losing her heart all over again and knew that she would be left empty-handed and heart-broken when it all ended one day. She had held herself strong for past 7 years and had accepted long back that there existed no relationship between them. Then, was it any worth to begin making new connections at this last leg of their bond, making it difficult to break away?
Anshuman went directly to the OT where Amanda had prepared a couple of patients scheduled for surgery. Anshuman tried his best to push away from his mind, every thought about Manasvi, about how she had literally asked him to stay away from her, and that she would manage alone. He tried his best not to get angry or upset about it.
‘Why am I thinking so much into it, when this was all that I had always wanted?’
Amanda assisted him, wondering why he was not even replying to her questions. She kept talking nevertheless, making Anshuman listen to her, eventually. The rest of the day was spent in finishing the surgeries and post-op care of the patients.
Manasvi sat with Alex to observe his work. Dr. Alex told her about the working at PBB, how doctors rotated in shifts, how they travelled to distant, remote places, how they were sometimes attacked when the local extremists groups didn’t want them to work in that area, and most of all, how they stayed away from their families and loved ones for a long period of time. The deep respect that Manasvi had for Anshuman would only grow whenever she delved deeper into his work. She wondered if there was any remedy to this fixation that she had developed for him.
God has his own ways!
When she could have easily separated from him without any damages, He, the Divine Power, had to make them meet, know each other more, and explore things that shouldn’t have mattered otherwise.
“It’s really very rare that pretty girls come and talk to poor souls like us.” Dr. Alex quipped when he saw Manasvi lost in her thoughts. She rolled her eyes and turned around with a very serious look on her face, saying, “Pretty girls?? Where???”
Alex laughed, “Ms. Rathore, you are too smart.”
“Am I?” She smirked, “Pretty? Check. Smart? Check. What next?” She raised her brows teasing him.
He sighed flirtatiously, “You tell me. I would like to know more about you.”
“How about – ‘married’??”
Disappointed, he frowned, “Nooooo!!”
She nodded, chuckling at his silly antics, “Oh yes!”
“You are pulling my leg.” Alex refused to believe.
“That’s true. You can confirm from your friend, Dr. Shekhawat.” She suggested.
“Aww…chuck that. I love my life too much to ask something like this from Anshuman. If he cares even an ounce about you, he will kill me for asking this.” Alex opened his mouth animatedly as if terrified, and then he added, “And you too, please don’t tell him that I was trying to act smart with you. I really don’t mean harm. Didn’t even know that you are married. Or else, I would have kept my mouth shut.”
Manasvi smiled, “I won’t.”
Her mind devotedly wandered around Anshuman, no matter which company she chose to spend time with. And here, with his friend, Dr. Alex, she missed him more. But missing someone doesn’t always mean that you can go up to meet him and talk to him. Sometimes, missing is followed by more missing.
Manasvi stood up when OPD queue of Dr. Alex was finished and he stood up for a coffee break.
“Coffee?” He asked her.
“No. Thank you. I need to visit my friend, Krish.”
Manasvi politely refused Alex and went to meet Krish who was doing better and was able to walk now, with a little support of a stick. Krish had been working on writing stories about PBB, had clicked pictures that he showed to Manasvi and asked about how she was working.
“I’ve been talking to Dr. Alex. And I prefer to work with him.” Manasvi told him.
“Why? You don’t like Dr. Anshuman?” Krish asked in a surprised tone, “Is he haughty or arrogant?”
“No, absolutely not!” Manasvi was quick to defend Anshuman, and then added on a low note, “Just a little difficult.”
Krish tried to understand, “See, I won’t push you for anything. We were here for your documents and official work. It’s a grace that we found this camp and now we have permissions to stay for more and work. So, from my side, whatever you are able to do is enough. As long as we need to stay here, as long as your documents are done, let’s make sure that we use our time to the best. Other than that, I don’t expect anything from you.”
“Hmm.” Manasvi nodded gratefully, “Thanks.”
“I hope Amanda is not that difficult a person,” Krish chuckled, “She looks sweet but I haven’t had any chance to talk to her for more. She was busy for last 2-3 days.”
Manasvi didn’t want Krish to be hurt after he discovered that Amanda was Anshuman’s girlfriend. But it was not her place to inform him about this. She neither believed in gossipping, nor in interfering in other’s relationships. Krish would eventually find out and was mature enough to handle it. She zipped her bag and stood up, “Okay, I’ll go. It’s late evening, already.”
Krish told her that he was getting discharged on the next day and could walk with a limp. So, the camp authorities had decided to arrange for his accomodation at one of the tents for the staff.
“You have an appointment at MEA at Kabul tomorrow, right? I’m coming with you.”
“Err… you don’t need to…” Manasvi started telling him Anshuman’s offer to be with her. But the very next moment, she shuddered at the thought of being with Anshuman for practically an entire day, eating with him, travelling with him, and staying with him for a long time, now that she had told him to not bother about her. He looked offended and upset. She didn’t know if he would go with her, anymore. She didn’t know what he wanted. And she didn’t even know what she wanted.
“What? It’s going to be a little difficult to be alone in this country.”
“Hmm!” She nodded, “Okay.”
“Okay, what?” Krish shrugged.
“Okay, you can come with me.” Manasvi whispered before she made a move.
Manasvi crossed the corridor to leave the male ward when at the end of the turn, she found Anshuman and Amanda leaving the post-op wing, close to the Operation Theatre. Amanda had a file in her hand and Anshuman was wiping his hands with a towel. Avoiding them and crossing them was not possible so she stopped.
“Hey!” Amanda had a wide grin on her face as Manasvi approached them. Anshuman chose to remain unreadable. He gave her a blank stare, wiping his hands, and spoke nothing. Manasvi shot a quick glance at him and tore away her eyes to concentrate on Amanda who was talking to her.
Amanda asked her, “Are you coming for dinner? I was about to call you.”
Anshuman huffed very softly, enough for Manasvi to notice, before he said, “Excuse me! I’ll have to check some machines.”
Even before waiting for any of the ladies to answer him, he turned around and left the corridor. Manasvi watched his back as he left and pressed her lips, wondering how to make amends to this iciness she had created between them. She loved the warmth and the camaraderie that they had been developing gradually but not at the stake of a broken heart. She had no one to hold her after she was left destroyed from here. And she didn’t know if she would be able to do it herself, anymore.
Amanda looked at him too and then at Manasvi and said, “He didn’t even ask you how you were doing or did you have dinner? Sometimes, it appears that you don’t know each other, at all.”
Manasvi felt like a piece of burning coal was trying to find its way through her throat. She sighed, “I told you. You have nothing to worry about.”
“I’m sorry. Please don’t get me wrong,” Amanda apologised sweetly, “It’s just that for past so many years, I’ve been with Anshuman and he is the only one I’ve ever thought about… you know what I mean. Even the thought of a girl around him makes me feel insecure.”
Manasvi blinked once to assure her, “Don’t worry.”
“Okay. Forget it. Let’s go back to the tent. We’ll freshen up and go for dinner.”
“I don’t feel hungry. You carry on. I’ll take a walk.”
“Alright. Come back soon.”
Manasvi didn’t want to meet Anshuman at the night walk. It seemed that he walked every night, just like she did. And meeting him again tonight was going to make things difficult for both of them. She had made things hostile. He had added more to that. They neither talked about it, nor clarified anything. Half of the times, they spoke small sentences and assumed the rest unspoken words. And when the camaraderie would develop a bit between them, one of them would push another away.
Manasvi sat near the edge of the cliff for a long time. Avoiding the outer world to stay immersed in her own inner world, her thoughts, her cluelessness, and her apprehensions felt much better than meeting people, answering their questions, become a part of expectations, and getting hurt in the process. She had been so confident that she had grown stronger but it was wrong. She had a hard work ahead of her. Since always, she had been a meek kid, terrified of circumstances that crushed her, tested her, and repeatedly blew her away; of people who intimidated her, dominated her, and neglected her; of life who refused to become easy despite giving her hundreds of promises to be better. She knew that if she had to survive the world, these people and life, as such, then she would have to be strong. And she worked hard for that, at every step, stayed stronger, tenacious, and did not succumb to any of them. She believed, and strongly believed, that she could win over all circumstances. And she had done that to a great extent, yet her insecurities came back rushing to her every night, in the form of her nightmares. She had hoped to grow over them some day, like she had learnt to fight with everything else in her life. But today, she had realised that she still had a long way to go. Her fears and scars reappeared time and again and wouldn’t let her stay in peace to forget the ordeals she had faced.
She didn’t realise that it was already late by the time she stood up from the broken part of the wall that she had been sitting on. She adjusted her dupatta on her head, and walked slowly towards the camp base. She was about to enter her tent when she found Anshuman coming out of his tent. He must have been going for a walk, she thought. Something that she had been avoiding. He stopped when he saw her and gave her a long stare without speaking anything, without smiling, without making any gesture. Enough for her to squirm at this sudden hostility between them.
She lowered her eyes. She was to blame, she knew that. But it wasn’t in her hands, she justified herself. It wasn’t something that she had planned and hurt him. It just happened in an effort to protect herself and protect him too.
Anshuman looked at her for a long moment, feeling angry at himself for creating such complications. He had asked her for divorce and then he was raising her expectations by doing things he didn’t even know why he was doing them, in the first place. He just wanted to be nice to her so that her work and stay in this country became easy. Hurting her was not his intention. Nor did he expect at any time, that she will ask him not to worry about her.
How could she do that? Why would she ask him to do something that he had no control over?
But in a way, she was right. He had to stop taking care of her, stop worrying about her, and let her do things in her own way so that she could manage alone, even after they left this place. Even after their divorce. He knew that he wouldn’t be there for her at all times, So, it was justified that she remained independent, like she had always been in last 7 years. Like she told him that she managed herself on her own.
Manasvi hesitatingly raised her eyes, cleared her throat, and gathered all her courage and said, “Dr. Shekhawat, Krish wants to accompany me to Kabul tomorrow. So, please don’t bother to disturb your schedule or your work for me. I can go with him.”
He didn’t opppose, question, or argue. In a simple, approving gesture, he nodded and made a small sound, “Hmm!”
She didn’t know why she added, “I’ll be back by the evening.”
He walked past her, thrusting his hands in his jacket, and nodded, “Okay.”
Next morning, quite early, Krish and Manasvi took a cab to the Jalalabad bus stand and then took a bus to Kabul. Krish could walk with a limp now and preferred to resume walking than sitting at one place, feeling frustrated.
At the MEA office, Manasvi submitted all her papers, old torn passport, birth certificate, copies of her photographs, etc. and the form that she had already filled online. Everything else was fine before she was asked to get a local witness who was a resident of Afghanistan.
Krish shrugged, “What do we do now?”
“I think, I can try.” She fished out the visiting card given by the Afghan official at the office of Population Registry. She read it – ‘Azfar Malik’.
She hesitatingly dialed his number. Azfar replied to her call with courtesy laced in every word that he spoke and even referred to her again as his sister. Manasvi’s confidence was slightly raised. She asked him if he could do something to help her as she needed a local witness to strengthen her documents.
Azfar replied, “I am on duty at Jalalabad. So, it won’t be possible for me to drive to Kabul to be there today. But I can still help you. My family is at Kabul. My brother and mother will be there at MEA for you.”
“But you don’t know me. And your family doesn’t know me either. Then, why would they…” Manasvi asked.
“You were born here. You are a part of this soil. At least this much we can do to help you. And before you ask, I’ll tell you that I might not have done for anyone else, but I genuinely felt that you are like my sister.”
“Thank you so much.” Manasvi couldn’t stop thanking him.
“Don’t thank me. Even your husband is serving us beyond the consideration of every border. It’s time for us to do our bit for you.”
“My husband? How do you know what he does?”
“That day, when he visited us, he gave us a number to be contacted if you visit us and also said that he worked as a doctor for PBB camp near Jalalabad.”
“Yeah, he does!” She whispered, missing Anshuman and his rare smile that he had given her for a couple of times.
“He called me today in the morning too.”
“Today morning?” This was surprising to her.
“Oh, yeah! He said that you were at MEA and might need a local witness. So, I called my parents in the morning itself.” Azfar informed her, “I was waiting for your call. I’m sending you my mother’s number, in case you need anything.”
“I have no words to thank you.”
“Take care. And do call any of us whenever you need anything.”
Manasvi smiled and thanked him again before disconnecting. She narrated it to Krish without mentioning Anshuman. Krish was immensely impressed.
“You were right. Local Afghans are kind people who take care of outsiders like they are their nation’s guests.”
“Yep!” Manasvi agreed, “When I came here, I was alone. Now, in a span of few days, I have so many people around me – at PBB camp, the doctors there, the nursing staff and guards, the officials at Population Registry, especially Azfar Malik and now his family here. Never knew that I will make so many connections across the borders.”
Krish smiled, “Connections are not made by conscious efforts. They are automatically wired. From one human being to another.”
“And sometimes, you can’t break them even after conscious efforts to do so.” Manasvi added, thinking about Anshuman and his call to Azfar, despite being told that he need not do anything for her.
She took out her phone and typed a message to Anshuman – ‘Thank you.’
He replied – ‘Don’t thank me. He already knew you and is doing it for you. Not because I asked him.”
She wrote back – ‘I didn’t mention why I thanked you.’
He read it. Sighed. Paused for a few minutes and typed back – ‘Then, you shouldn’t have understood what I replied.’
‘Can we please stop writing messages in riddles?’
‘Can we please start talking again, in real?’