Since it is a Saturday, and for now, Saturdays will be BEB days… so here I am with a new update.
I really hope, wish, and pray that things are going well on your end. Times are difficult. Stay strong. Light is just around the tunnel.
On my end, I have several things to share – So, I will post separately about them tomorrow. I will also post an update a Love, Lies, Etc. and few updates of Fire & Ice tomorrow. Since Sundays, I have some free time in hand.
Love you all 💞
Stay blessed. Stay safe. Take care🤗
“Formalities?” Her throat choked. Her eyes were nearly hardened. Was she being too impulsive when allowing him a window to her feelings? Was her heart about to be broken, mercilessly?
“That’s what I thought. Our marriage was always a responsibility. A formality.”
Manasvi knew that what Anshuman had said about their marriage was true. But she wasn’t talking about the circumstances of their marriage. She wasn’t even thinking about the documents, her citizenship, or, the formalities, etc, right now. She was talking about ‘them’ and their relationship that had slowly but gradually developed in the last few months. She was talking to him about what they felt for each other, at this moment. She wished to share what she thought about him. She wanted to know what was her status in his life, and whether he considered her as anything in his life. She was talking about the present. And, if at all, they had ‘anything’ between them.
Ironically enough, he knew that! He was well aware that Manasvi was talking about their present status and not about how they got married. Still, he chose to avoid any discussion, to hide his feelings and intentions behind hurtful words like ‘formalities’ so that she was deterred.
Manasvi shook her head, staying as calm on the surface as Anshuman was, and over a choked throat, she said, “I understand. Our marriage was always a formality. And it will remain so.”
She turned away with that, leaving him standing by the wall. She was a reticent female when it came to people and relationships. She would sense a hostile environment from far and would avoid interacting with anyone who didn’t want her around. She was not someone who would push a man to accept her as his love. Especially, when the man was Anshuman. He had done so much for her that even if he had asked for her life, she would have happily given her life to him.
Here, he had just hinted that he wanted her to stay away from him. Why? She didn’t know. But she had to follow what he had asked her to do. If that meant, staying away from him, she decided to do that.
Anshuman could feel his heart sinking when he found her face drawn when she turned away. For a moment, he wanted to stop her and pull her in his arms, tight and secure. But he couldn’t. He knew that he shouldn’t.
Manasvi walked away to a few steps’ distance and sat down by the parapet of the terrace, looking outside towards the valley. The discomfort and disturbance in her heart and mind, the chaos in her thoughts resembled the warfare outside.
The smoke had increased and so did the smell of burnt carbon. The gunshots could be heard at intervals, after a few minutes. Occasionally, a sound of blast would also reverberate in the surroundings. Anshuman knew that he had hurt her and made her feel insignificant and unimportant. And this was certainly not his intention. He hated the fact that he didn’t know how to deal with this situation at this moment. How to make someone feel important without promising anything about the future? Was it even possible? Wasn’t the assurance of a future expected to accompany the words of acceptance and togetherness of today? Why was it so complicated? Why couldn’t they both be different?
Manasvi was not even sure why Anshuman had behaved as if he was taking care of her as a responsibility only…
It was tough for her to believe this. For she knew that this was not true. She had distinctly seen a deep-rooted longing entrenched in his eyes for her. She had sensed the vibes she received from him. They were much intense than ‘formal care’ or responsibility. Anshuman’s presence was like an impenetrable shield around her. Like Sphinx. He was always there to guard her, protect her, be there for her.
She noticed that Anshuman had left the wall and reached her. He sat down beside her, watching the valley. Quietly. Discreetly. Without creating any scene. She wished she could ask him all the questions that were ratling across her mind. He wished he could explain his stand to her.
She knew that he was uncomfortable. Yet, he was there. With her. For her. At all turns. During all phases. Wasn’t that enough? She wondered.
He knew that she deserved to know the reason behind his behaviour. She deserved to be a part of his complete story. A story that she was already a part of, but only a small part. How he wished to share everything with her. But he couldn’t.
They sat together for some time, without speaking anything, lost in their own thoughts, trying to find the solutions in the crests and troughs of the valley before them.
She noticed that he was quiet, just as she was. He appeared definitely disturbed. Still, he was sitting next to her. He didn’t walk away to some other corner of the terrace. No, he was right there. Her heart thawed when Anshuman was around. She felt warm, fuzzy, and secured with him.
She asked, “For how long will this continue?”
He turned his neck to look at her. Clearly dismayed. Visibly unsettled at the question, she had asked. He didn’t understand what she was asking and how he should answer her. She raised her brows at the changing look on his face and realized that he was blank. She shook her head casually and relieved him, “Uh… no, I mean… this fight between the army and the extremists. How long will it continue? Do you know?”
He was looking at her as if jolted out of his thoughts. He cleared his throat, “Err…Ohh!!” He was relieved that she was asking about the fight that went on. He sighed and tried to speak normally, “Actually, we can’t say… from few hours to almost an entire day, or maybe more… until all extremists are subdued or arrested or shot… whatever it takes to suppress them.”
“Do they hide?”
He shrugged, “Obviously! And this fortress has so many sites to hide for hours. So, the army will have a tough time to nab all of them. It all depends on how resilient each side is.”
“Hmm!” She wondered aloud, “It is so unfortunate. People have so much strength, grit, fortitude, and a passion to even die for a cause. Yet, some people choose to become protectors – like the army, the doctors – people like you; and some choose to become aggressors. They kill other people for their cause,”
As an afterthought, he said, “Everyone has a different motivation for what he chooses to do but in between these two are the ones who didn’t get to choose their fate and yet they suffer the most – people like you, the victims.”
She was moved when he mentioned the victims. He thought so deeply about everyone in need, poverty-ridden, resources starved, people who have no means to health care, safety and security. These few were the very basic responsibilities of a state. And then there were people like her, people who were victims of extremism, border politics, bureaucracy, and had no way out to get a life of dignity if they wanted to settle in one place and call it their own. She had no idea what would have happened to her if Anshuman was not her guardian angel.
At the same time, she was aware that every girl was not lucky to have an ‘Anshuman’ in her life. She was fortunate to have him, even for this small limited duration, and she should be grateful for that.
She replied, “Victims will keep increasing as long as there are assailants and aggressors. But I wish every victim gets a protector like you.”
He frowned, almost in pain, “Please don’t keep mentioning me. I don’t like it.”
The sudden change in his tone surprised her. This was not how she had expected or seen Anshuman. He had suddenly turned bitter. It was not modesty, or an inability to accept appreciation, or feeling awkward at being genuinely praised. It was none of these. Instead, he curtly stopped her from counting him among protectors or heroes. He was not angry. He was briskly dismissive.
She couldn’t fathom this one-eighty degree turn in his attitude. She observed him keenly and said, “What did I say that riled you so much? What happened?”
“Nothing!” he immediately shrugged and nodded to dismiss it, even without letting her say anything more, and added, “I don’t like to talk about it as I am not doing anything significant. Thousands of men and women all over the world are doing it.”
She was not convinced by his reasoning. She kept looking at him. And when she couldn’t decipher even a single expression on his face, she spoke in a disappointed tone, “No. Not a lot of people are doing it and even if they are, I believe that each one of them deserves to be appreciated. But it seems you thought that I praised you because I wanted something from you, or that I was trying to be in your good books. Sorry, but it wasn’t my intention.”
She was miffed at being misconstrued like this. Of all things, she had not expected to be counted as someone clingy or needlessly overawed by him. She twisted her lips, and shrugged, not finding correct words to define what she felt about him. When she didn’t find anything to say, she stood up to go away. She didn’t know where, but Anshuman was sitting so close to her that it unsettled her, and now he seemed to be inclined to misunderstand her. She had barely stood up, even before she could stand straight, he held her hand and jerked her back, with a demanding order, “Sit back.”
“No. I want to go.” She frowned and demanded back. She had no idea why a girl as mature as her, who had started learning about life at a tender age of eight, and who had always been so independent and grown-up, behaved like an adamant kid whenever he talked to her. She had never done that before. Not with anyone else.
It seems he noticed this too. She appeared like a baby to him, when she turned into a slightly stubborn girl, not listening to him most of the times, despite trying her best to obey him. Instead, he found her questioning him and challenging him. Once again, she was doing the same. Counter-replying to him when he ordered her to sit back. Her hand was still in his hand.
He smiled very slightly, though adoringly, and said, “We are not on a picnic. You can’t roam around the terrace.”
“But…” She winced, with a displeased look on her face. Already he had kinda rejected her. On top of that, he was hiding things from her, he was misunderstanding her, he had been lying to her, and now he was ordering her. She didn’t want to sit there and make a fool of herself.
“Do you want to get us killed?” He sighed in a husky whisper, stared at her eyes, straight, and leaned towards her.
She huffed, “You misunderstand everything I say, you don’t reply to my questions, you get annoyed with me… I shouldn’t sit with you and fight with you more…”
She tried to get up again, and he exerted another stronger pull on her hand that was still in his hand. Her leg lost balance and it tripped over a slant where they were sitting, letting her smooth leg graze at the broken floor, at the ankle. She winced in pain. “Ouch!”
Almost instantly, without another moment, he was irked and he scolded her, “Can’t you sit quietly? Why do you become such a baby when you are with me?”
He was not sure why he said that but the gravity of his own words hit him hard. She probably never had anyone close to her before him, with whom she could behave like one. It might have come instinctively to her because he cared so much about her that she had started losing her guards when she was with him. In fact, he ensured that she was so well taken care of, so securely cushioned and protected that it wasn’t even her fault that she had taken slight liberties with him. Maybe she felt close to him. Just like he did.
He bit his lower lip and avoided looking at her when the reality of his words hit him. Instead, he fixed his eyes on her ankle that was now grazed and oozing. With his hands, he dusted away the sand and the gravel from that area. She moved her questioning eyes from her ankle, his hands tending her and then shifted them towards him. She sighed, followed by a soft murmur, “I’m sorry… I… shouldn’t have…”
Once again, almost impulsively, he said, “Don’t say sorry. I want you to behave the way you always do, the way you like, without thinking twice about it.”
“How to do that when someone hates everything I say?”
He took out his kerchief from his trouser pocket and dusted her ankle well before he tied it at her ankle, carefully and expertly, after the wound was cleaned properly. She waited for those few minutes for his reply. His eyes were still on her ankle, with his hands tidying the wound when finally, he replied to her in a low, soft murmur, “Only a stone-hearted brute can hate you.”
Slowly, she let her hand slip over his hand that was on her ankle and enclosed it in both her hands, before tightly pressing it. He didn’t oppose it. She said, “I might not know much about you, but I am sure of one thing – that you are not a stone-hearted brute.”
He curled his fingers around her tiny hand and said, “I may not be able to tell you what I feel. But I can never hate you.”
“I’m fine with that. And now, I don’t even want to listen to what you feel. Your words are not needed, Anshuman.”
“If you think words are the only means to convey our feelings, you are mistaken.”