I have lots to share. But one, I wasn’t getting time to post. Two, when I came here to post, the site kept crashing. In case, it continues to behave like this, I will inform you beforehand and for some time, I will upload new chapters on my other site.
Anyway, I have got hundreds of messages and though I try to reply to everyone, it becomes impossible at times to address so many people. So in case, you don’t get a reply, please consider that either it might have skipped my notice or I might have been loaded with messages and emails and maybe I am busy with work. Otherwise, I don’t neglect or ignore people purposefully. That is not me. If I get some time, I try and reply to my buddies here. That is the only way, I think, I can thank you and show my gratitude to you, apart from updating.
Hope all of you are fine and doing well. Stay safe.
lots of love. Stay blessed.
“This is the first time that I am scared. Scared for you!”
She didn’t know if she had heard it correctly. Did he really say that he was scared for her? She had seen him taking care of her safety, running around to help her, be with her, and try his best to be around her. But to accept that he was scared for her was totally different. And he didn’t say that by mistake or by chance. He had spoken it with conviction, with his eyes resting adoringly on her. She couldn’t move her eyes away either.
This time spent with him was incredible. Their little moments by the cliff every night, talking about random things, their fights and tussle every other day when he insisted to stay by her as a well-wisher and friend but she refused to accept a fake cloak for their feelings under the garb of friendship, he going out of his way to make things work for her, she trying to prove that she was self-sufficient – every single moment where they tried to avoid each other had only brought them closer. They kept trying hard to resist this inevitable pull without even realizing that it had left their will, long back. It was no more in their hands.
Since yesterday, all they had witnessed was a blatant, raw concern for each other. To remain averse to this sensitivity wasn’t easy. Not for her, at least. She didn’t know about him but she was sure of herself. If she had always worshipped him, he had deserved every bit of it. She had completed the circle of her feelings with her love. She closed her eyes to hold his image in her eyes forever.
He nodded hopelessly when he found her smiling like an ecstatic baby with her eyes closed. He couldn’t stop smiling too. “Manasvi Rathore!”
“Hmm?” She opened her eyes.
“Are you even aware that we are standing in the middle of a warzone?” He chuckled softly, almost aware of what she was thinking.
She opened her eyes, still smiling, “No war can last more than my patience.”
He turned around and waved her dupatta again in the air. This time, the army saw them. Manasvi rode on the parapet end too and before she could stagger, he held her arm. He asked, “Aren’t you too confident about your fate?”
She replied, “Not fate. I’m too confident about my faith. How long will God test us? How long will the drought last? It has to rain someday!”
He became serious. “Sometimes, an entire life is spent waiting for that one drop of rain.”
She took a deep breath and replied confidently, “I’ll wait till my last breath.”
Speechless, he looked at her resolute face, her strength and her confidence, and the glow on her face. A glow that appeared only when love powered your conviction.
The army men rushed towards them and spread a tent cloth with eight men holding it’s ending. It was almost twelve feet from where they were standing at the edge of the parapet. Anshuman turned towards Manasvi and said, “We’ll have to jump.”
She looked down and her jaw dropped. She kept standing for a moment, trying to absorb the information. She had done many daring things in life and she was never really scared of many things in life. But she had never had an experience of jumping from such a height. Her throat dried, “But…it’s so…”
She had barely started speaking that he interrupted her and said, “Didn’t you say that you always trust me?” And before giving her any time to feel anything more or be prepared for the next step, he curled his arms around her and jumped down with his back towards the ground. Her voice was stuck in her throat, so hard, that she couldn’t even scream. She clutched him tightly and buried herself in him. With few seconds, they hit the tent material and were carefully cushioned by eight men holding them, who slowly lowered them to the ground.
Manasvi could feel her heart leaping out of her mouth, almost stuck in her throat. It was beating so hard that she couldn’t speak anything when she got up, shocked and astounded. She could hear Anshuman jumping to his feet and introducing himself to the army personnel and telling them how they were stuck there at the terrace for the past eighteen hours.
By a Universal code of conduct followed by doctors and army worldwide, he was respectfully introduced to the seniormost fellow in the unit that met them. They offered them water.
Manasvi looked around. The charred remains of what was a hospital facility till yesterday, the dead bodies of some extremists and the blood around the area made her sick. She felt like puking. Anshuman gave her a water bottle and said, “Have some water. You will feel better.”
She stared at him with complaining eyes, and whispered, “I could have died of shock. You didn’t even give me time to compose myself and think that we were about to jump.”
He chuckled, “Oh! Sorry. I should have waited for a good time to jump.”
Mortified, she murmured, “I didn’t mean to say that.”
“To be honest, this is what we are taught – take a quick decision. When you have to do something, do it right away. The more you think, the more you will try not to do it. I didn’t want to give you time to be scared.”
“We could have died.” She raised her doubt.
“No!” He spoke confidently, “With eight men holding a tent for you, there are bleak chances that you’ll be hurt. I’ve jumped without any tent, without anyone waiting for me to land.”
“My God! Really?” She could only imagine how he must have done that. Now, she knew why he was so confident.
He didn’t reply to her and walked away to thank the officers who had arranged for vehicles to carry OT equipment and for them to go to Kabul where the rest of the PBB staff, Amanda, Alex, and Krish were staying.
Anshuman found his mobile phone that he had dropped in the OT while helping the staff evacuate some of the equipment. Finally, they were seated in a gypsy at the back seats. Manasvi sat next to Anshuman in space good enough for one person. The army guys were literally stuffed in all the vehicles that were used in transit. Not all men left the arena of the fortress. Some people were still there, patrolling in case there was any other attack or any hidden unwanted elements.
The vehicles moved fast on the dusty, broken roads, towards Kabul. Manasvi looked outside the window and sighed in relief. Anshuman sat with his hands clasped together, resting on his knees. Manasvi curled her hands around Anshuman’s folded elbow. Space between them was so less that she was already leaning on his arm. Her head was on his shoulder. Holding him was an instinctive action to feel secured. Little did she knew that he will softly lean his face sideways to touch his cheek over her head.
Surprised, she slightly turned her face to look at him and found him looking at her from a hand’s distance, making her squirm. She parted her lips to release a small breath of air but didn’t remove her eyes away. Nor did he.
For a long time, when none spoke anything, she sighed and lowered her eyes. She didn’t have the strength to sustain the warmth in his eyes. It had the potential to melt even the toughest layers of snow. She moved her hand down his elbow, towards his wrist and then to his hand. He unclasped his hand and intertwined his fingers with her’s instead. She closed her eyes and let her head stay on his shoulder for the rest of the journey.
The army gypsy dropped them at a government stadium at Kabul, a temporary facility made to accommodate the ailing patients, the machines, the paraclinical staff, and all that they had rescued from the PBB camp. Amanda, Alex, and Krish were relieved to see them safe.
“PBB camp is being shut in this area. We are called back at the headquarters.” Amanda informed Anshuman.
He was not even listening to her. He just nodded and walked away.
He went inside the nearest washroom and shut himself before splashing water on his face. The last few days had been the most difficult days of his life. He had never struggled in his life, even when he had to face extreme situations, harsh weather, difficult people, and tough working conditions. Never. Never had he ever struggled with himself so much. Just to stay away from someone, while his heart and circumstances kept pushing him towards her. He had no idea what had drawn him towards Manasvi.
The strength of that girl when he saw her for the first time in his home in Delhi, when she was there with her mother, fighting to find ways to stay back in India. He didn’t know what exactly was the issue. He had been on a vacation from his course in Scotland and knew that he had to go back to his medical school studies but what he had seen from the glimpses that he had caught of her and heard from Preksha and his mom was enough to be in awe of how tough she was.
When his mom had asked him, if he would help her by getting married to her, he didn’t even think twice about it. Not because he was attracted to her or liked her. In fact, he didn’t even know her. But whatever he had known about her was enough to tell her that she was fighting a difficult battle and she needed his help. Strong people had always overwhelmed him since he was a kid.
Maybe because he knew that he was not strong.
He never was…
Alex knocked at the closed door of the washroom, “Bro, are you fine?”
“Yes!” Anshuman cleared his throat and replied. “I’ll be out in a moment.”
“Great. Come out and eat something. You must be exhausted from yesterday.” Alex said and walked away.
Anshuman looked at himself in the mirror. The reflection was someone he didn’t even recognize well. He recalled how he had worked hard to gain the strength that people found awe-worthy. How he had made himself so tough to be able to shed the scars of his past. How he had reminded himself day in and day out that he had to spend his life serving others. How he had tried his best to achieve what he had always admired in people who didn’t accept defeat.
Whenever he heard about Manasvi from his mother, his resolve to become stronger and better would multiply. She was his inspiration, since forever. Unknowingly, she had pushed him ahead in a positive way, in being shaped as what he had become, today.
And whenever he talked to her, once in a year, he would try his best to conclude the conversation in a few words, a few simple questions and routine ‘take care’ kinda statements. He took care that he didn’t talk more or maintained any continuity in the conversations. He had to talk to her only once in a year. That too, only because his mom asked him to do so. Otherwise, he would have never talked to her. Ever.
He had tried hard, not to fall in love with her. And he had been successful.
And now, he didn’t even know if it was any worth to try harder, anymore!