I’m overwhelmed with the response to the last update. God bless you all for writing such positive and encouraging words. They make me feel blessed and motivated to write more.
Thanks and lots of love to all of you.
I’ve replied to most, but I apologize if someone was left as I did my best with the time I could squeeze in. My gratitude towards all of you shall stay forever.
Stay blessed. Stay safe.
He cupped her face in his hands and searched her eyes for an unspoken communication with her. But all he could see in those eyes were tears laden with terror, anxiety, and worries. He sighed and whispered –
“Trust me. I will never let anyone harm you.”
Speechless, she couldn’t blink her eyes. She simply peered into his eyes to see how his words stood in sharp contrast with his actions and how his eyes remained a mute spectator to the tug of war between the two. They wouldn’t take sides. Yet, they declared how deeply he cared about her and could do anything to save her. There was an unspoken, disquieted fear on his face. Fear for ‘her’ well-being.
Her lips trembled. But she could speak nothing. She was in his arms and for a small moment, it felt like there was no world beyond them. The chaos, the blasts, the cries, the worries – nothing existed anymore.
He noticed how shaken she had been, and he softly asked, “Are you fine?”
She sighed and nodded to affirm, “Yeah.”
Amanda came running from the other side and broke this surreal moment between them. She quickly asked, “Hey, Manasvi! Are you okay?”
Manasvi nodded and didn’t reply. As if Anshuman was jolted out of a trance-like state, he quietly left her and stepped aside. His expressions, attitude, body language changed as Amanda arrived. Before Manasvi could notice more, Anshuman had completely left her and walked away, instructing them, “Amanda, Manasvi, go back to the base. I’ll be back.”
Amanda held Manasvi’s hand and asked, “You look shocked?”
Manasvi’s eyes were on Anshuman who had gone to the back of the maternity ward to check for more patients and nursing staff. She murmured, in a confused tone, “I’m fine. But…”
“What?” Amanda started walking towards the base, with her hand holding Manasvi’s hand.
“Anshuman?” Manasvi asked her, unwilling to go with her. Her heart, mind, soul, everything was with Anshuman.
Amanda insisted to walk away and said, “Don’t worry about him. He is used to dealing with these attacks and emergencies. He was trained for the Indian Army, so he knows how to protect himself and protect others too.”
Manasvi followed Amanda, half-heartedly. They reached the base where people were collecting and Krish, Alex, and other doctors, along with the rest of the staff were helping the patients. Manasvi made people comfortable, especially the ones who were injured but her eyes were stuck on the entrance of the base of the fortress, waiting for Anshuman.
Suddenly, she stood up, worried and nervous, almost on the verge of tears, “Oh God!”
“What happened?” Amanda was near her. The rest of the staff and doctors and Krish were away.
“My birth certificate! It is in my bag, at the tent.” Manasvi was stammering by now, too worried to be coherent.
“Oh crap!” Amanda sighed, “It must be burnt by now.”
Manasvi made a dash towards the exit, saying, “I’ll check.”
Amanda didn’t get much time to stop her, as Manasvi didn’t give her much time to tell her not to go.
Anshuman removed the burnt pieces of the tent towards one side by using the half-burnt bamboo sticks used for setting the tent. He had located Manasvi and Amanda’s tent by counting the number of tents from the beginning. Their tent was fourth from the beginning and his tent was fifth.
He was not worried by passport, certificates, visa of his team as they stayed safely deposited with the PBB authorities at the airport. Inside a country, they had to face such attacks and emergencies, so they only managed with PBB Identity card and that stayed hanging on their neck.
But Manasvi’s bag had her birth certificate. He picked the edge of her burnt ‘charpoy’ of the bed and pulled out the burning bag from below it, by bare hands. Quickly, he dusted it to stop it from burning. Thankfully, the outer surface of the bag was a thick, sturdy material and didn’t catch so much fire that it could burn the inner contents of the bag. He unzipped it and found the inner contents safe, mainly her diary and her birth certificate. He stood up, and turned around to leave the charred remains of the tent but was startled to see Manasvi there.
She was standing with a clearly evident frown on her face. One single expression holding numerous questions for him. One look on her face and in her eyes, that asked him – ‘Why?’
He became nervous at that look from her. He pressed his lips and cleared his throat, trying hard not to meet her eyes. But it became increasingly impossible. Finally, to divert her attention, he raised the bag towards her and spoke casually, “Err, I just came to check my belongings, so I thought I will check your bag too. Your birth certificate is safe.”
She took the bag from his hands, not leaving the sight of his eyes. He was glad that she didn’t say anything. She didn’t counter-question him about anything, she didn’t accuse him, nor did she remind him of anything that he had said to her to stay away from him but was taking care of her instead.
She simply took the bag in her hand and when she didn’t say anything, he crossed past her to leave that area. When he was crossing her, she held his wrist to stop him. Not expecting this touch, he stopped. Dumbfounded, he looked at their hands. She turned his hand to see his palm that was black now. She took the edge of her dupatta to wipe off the ashes and black soot from his hand. He grimaced slightly, not making it evident that his hand was slightly burnt. When the black particles were removed, she could see the scratches and reddened palm, which was hurt.
He quickly dismissed it, “It’s a slight burn. Nothing to worry.”
She bit her lower lip and looked at him in apprehension. Her heart had leaped to her mouth on having to see his burn, his pain, his dedication.
He smiled casually, “It’s nothing. Forget it.” Saying that he retrieved his hand from her hand and walked away, leaving her fighting with the huge rock on her chest that neither let her breathe properly nor let her heartbeat in sync with her mind. It just pained hard at the left of her chest and she wished she could get rid of this feeling which made her feel helplessly aware of ‘his’ pain.
Manasvi came back to the base of the fortress, with her bag in her hand. The entire area was in a state of commotion as some people were hurt and bleeding. Some women were crying because their kids were hurt.
Two more blasts happened, making everyone nervous. Manasvi was very anxious for Anshuman as he hadn’t come till now. Amanda was taking care of a small baby in a woman’s hand, and Manasvi was consoling the woman when Krish came towards them and said, “The Afghan army is on its way to rescue us. The PBB camp cannot continue here, anymore.”
Amanda nodded solemnly, “It always happens like that. A goodwill camp serving humanity is disrupted so mercilessly and we have to shift.”
Krish said, “That is what the extremists want. If the relief work continues without any break then their efforts to shake the system will be wasted. Moreover, an attack on international organizations will embarrass their own govt. So they won’t let go of this chance.”
Amanda nodded to agree, “I know.”
Manasvi listened to both of them. But she didn’t feel like adding any of her own inputs. Her views were more or less same as Krish. Alex and one other doctor joined them. They made people arrange in several queues so that there was no stampede or commotion while evacuation.
PBB owned a few buses used to transport patients and staff and necessary equipment of surgery and sterilization. Along with the tent material and safety equipment needed by doctors. A few jeeps and gypsy were also there. More buses were arranged from the nearby towns and Jalalabad city. Anshuman came running inside and got them to board the buses one by one.
Manasvi heaved a sigh of relief when she saw Anshuman back. Only for a fraction of a second, their eyes met, simply to ensure that the other was safe. Manasvi helped Amanda and Krish was with Alex, with Anshuman guiding them to help the patients and other paramedical staff board the buses.
As the Afghan police force and army arrived and counter-fired at the assaulting groups, the attacks reduced. The buses moved with Alex in first, Krish in second accompanying the seriously injured patients. Krish was far off. He searched for Manasvi as the bus moved and waved to her to join them. Manasvi waved back and said, “Don’t worry… I’ll come with Amanda.”
Amanda was with the women and small kids, making them comfortable in a bus. Manasvi turned around to find Anshuman. He was with the patients that he had operated on and made them sit inside another bus till it was filled. Amanda and Manasvi got down to bring some children and when Manasvi made the kids sit in the bus and got down, she found Amanda running towards the bus. In the way, she held Manasvi’s hand and said, “Run! I saw some extremists on foot. They have guns. Let’s leave.” She signalled the bus driver to start the buses and called Manasvi as she ran towards the bus, “Come, the Afghan army will take care.”
“But… Anshuman…,” Manasvi was terribly worried and she turned all-around to locate Anshuman but she couldn’t see him till far. The last buses started moving. And all she could see was army officers running ahead, the police cordoning the area to counter-attack the extremists, the patients and doctors had all moved out and there were only officers in olive and brown uniforms, with guns in their hands, and dust storms blinding their eyes.
“Anshuman will manage.” Amanda said and ran towards the bus to ride it. There were 2 more buses behind it. Amanda’s bus started going away. She didn’t even think about her next move. She just knew that Anshuman was missing and she couldn’t go. Instead of boarding a bus, Manasvi ran in the opposite direction towards the base of the camp, the broken fort where she had last seen Anshuman going. She had been trying to keep track of him and she didn’t remember seeing him leaving that area. He was probably trapped inside.
She ran away before anyone could notice her or stop her. She ran faster. Almost under a magnetic influence, drawing her towards Anshuman.
With all her might, she ran towards the fortress and rode the stairs. Thankfully, she met neither the extremists nor the army men, who were on the backside of the fort now. She entered the fortress and ran through the empty corridor, hoping to turn towards the Operation theatre when she heard the sound of boots coming towards the corridor. She could see no-one, but even the synchronized sound of boots of men running was scary.
She almost froze and stood still at her place with her feet stuck on the ground. The very next moment, Anshuman appeared from nowhere, held her arm, and dragged her inside the makeshift OT. She was stunned as her mouth went dry. It seemed like he was sent on earth to be her saviour, she thought.
He quickly dragged her to a smaller room inside the OT and tucked her to the wall behind the door, with his arms securing her between him at her front and the wall behind her. Terrified, she held him for support.
Anger dripped in his reddened eyes as he strongly restrained her to the wall and stared at her as if he would tear through her skin with his eyes. He reprimanded her, but in a strong, very very angry whisper, “Are you brainless? What are you doing here?”
She had been trembling in fear a moment ago, but when he pulled her, she sighed in relief at the same time, on seeing him safe, and on seeing him with her. There was nothing to worry about when she had Anshuman with her.
“You could have died?” He continued to scold her, angrily. She could see how disturbed and anxious, he was. She delicately rested her hand on his chest and whispered in a soft, worried, helpless voice –
“I don’t care. But I couldn’t leave you here.”