Thank you for all the messages, emails, and all the love that you pour on my stories and me… I am surely privileged and lucky to have you all…
I try to reply to everyone… though unable to reply to some of you…
But please do know that I cherish this bond that I have made with people here.
You all are love💖
“Someday… you will realize that we don’t redeem ourselves only by punishing us. Forgiving can be another way to redemption. It is not necessary to die for a cause. You can ‘live’ for people you care about and fight for them.”
“Do you think I’ll be able to do that?”
She nodded confidently.
“Yes. The day your love for me dominates over your hatred for yourself, you will forgive yourself. And you will come back. For me!”
Manasvi’s hand was still in Anshuman’s hand. He couldn’t leave it. In fact, he couldn’t get the courage to turn around and go. Something weird tied him to her. Something was not right. And he couldn’t pin his finger on that. Just that, deep down, he knew that something was not making sense.
He was breaking into two pieces. One, who believed in his decision, for himself, for Manasvi, and for their relationship. And the other, who knew nothing, understood nothing, didn’t believe in right or wrong. That part of him didn’t want to leave this hand that he had been holding.
He wanted to stay back. With her.
With a smile on her lips, as radiant as sunrays tearing through the dark clouds of despair, she joined her other hand to hold his hand firmly. And after slightly pressing it, she withdrew her hands, letting him go.
“I’ll wait for you!” She tried her best to hide her tears.
He nodded, took a step ahead, and curled his arm around her. Softly, he whispered, “Take care.”
After a short moment, he left her and turned around to go. She stood frozen at her place, watching him go. He went and sat inside the Gypsy, at the corner seat.
Amanda and Alex had been focused on a map they had received on the headquarters and were discussing where they had to go from their next stop, which is Abu Dhabi. When Anshuman came and sat beside them, they looked at his sad face and shrugged, looking at each other.
“What happened to you?” Alex asked.
Anshuman shrugged and murmured, “Something is nagging me…very badly!”
“And what is that?”
Anshuman frowned and winced painfully, “I don’t know what… but I think I’m missing something…it doesn’t feel right.”
Amanda said, “Don’t worry. It is called ‘separation anxiety’…”
The way she said that and the way she pressed her lips, nearly taunting him, Anshuman knew that she had guessed that Manasvi was dear to him. She might have not known about their relationship, but it was easy for anyone to notice how he had been treating Manasvi like someone cared for his near-and-dear ones. Amanda was not an alien. She was sensible.
And so was Krish!
He observed Manasvi standing at her place with her gaze fixed in the direction where Anshuman’s Gypsy left. Krish came and stood beside Manasvi. After a long moment, when Manasvi noticed that he was standing beside her, she tried to avoid his eyes and leave but Krish was quick to ask.
“Dr. Anshuman is your husband. Right?”
Stunned, Manasvi stopped immediately. Her jaw dropped. She had never imagined that Krish would guess so easily. She nearly stammered.
“How… how did you guess?”
“So, that means, he is?” Krish confirmed again.
“You have some exceptional observational skills!” Manasvi was still shocked. Unable to believe that someone could be so observant.
“Thank you!” Krish smiled and bowed his neck, “But it wasn’t tough to guess.”
“How?” She folded her arms across her chest.
“See, I already knew that your husband is a doctor and is in the army. So half the work was already done. Some office politics, some observation while working with you said that you were not really in touch with him. And here, the way both of you behave around each other…”
“How do we behave?” Manasvi was red on her cheeks by now. She really wanted to know.
“Remember, I had once told you that Amanda and Anshuman are not a couple? Just the same logic can be applied to you and Anshuman but in the opposite direction. You two seem to be looking for each other. When you are around him, it appears that all your focus is on him, and his center of attraction is you. He cares for you, makes things easy for you, protects you, and looks at you as if his world revolves around you. You are always working with him. And it was only a guess initially, but when both of you were stuck together at the base camp, I knew that one of you must be protecting the other and you were caught in the situation there. Isn’t it?”
Manasvi listened to him patiently. Then she said, “Krish, I’m so inspired. Someday, I want to be as good a journalist as you.”
“So, I’m right?” Krish smiled at the small victory, but looked further confused as he asked, “So? Looks like you got married for the documents but ended up falling in love.”
Manasvi pressed her lips inside and slightly nodded to agree, before turning away. She started walking to avoid further interrogation. Always uncomfortable about discussing her personal life, she felt weirdly restless when talking about her relationship with Anshuman. Krish understood her hesitation. He knew that he should give her space but still, couldn’t stop from asking.
“But then, why did he go? Why are you not together? Why did you even let him go?”
Manasvi turned around and replied, “Krish, some bonds are like knots. The more you pull them, the more they get tangled. We are trying to find the loose ends before sorting this knot.”
Krish looked at her as if dumbfounded. He understood nothing. And it was clearly visible on his face.
“Not that I understand any of it but I love the strength you display during difficult times.”
“Thank you.” Manasvi smiled and walked away towards the section of the stadium where their things were kept. It was getting vacated completely now.
Anshuman was restless even when he passed through the security check and immigration before boarding the plane from Kabul to Abu Dhabi. His heart felt so heavy that for some time he felt that he couldn’t breathe well. He took a deep breath, only to find fine tear droplets lying on his eyelids. His mind, his heart, his thoughts, and in fact his soul was left behind, and he could feel every bit of traction towards the place where Manasvi was waiting for him.
‘Should I go back? Is my heart restless because it is rooting to be with her?
Can we manage a new relationship with all the baggage of the past, I carry?
No… I will keep hurting her… rather, she will be hurt and I would never realize…’
Anshuman sat on his seat and tied the seat-belt, waiting for the plane to take off from the land that had taken so much from him and also, given him a lot too. He looked out of the window. It appeared as if his life, his soul was stuck here. Only his body was leaving this city.
The plane ran on the runaway at a mad speed before taking off, not different from Anshuman’s state of mind.
Manasvi and Krish were at the airport. Krish was restless too. He was going alone.
“I can’t go, Manasvi. It feels so selfish. I had come all the way with you and now, having to go alone is killing me.” He bit his lower lip.
“Krish, you have to report back to The Insight. And your mom is not well. How long can you live here to be with me… you know that I can’t come… I don’t have a passport to travel back to India. They won’t allow me.”
“Show the documents…maybe…” He was rapidly thinking of options.
“I did everything. You know that.” Manasvi shrugged, “I’m trying to communicate with my school in Pakistan. I really hope they send the required conduct certificate by post or something.”
“Did they reply?”
“No, I have just sent a mail. If they don’t respond, I’ll write a letter and send it by post. Many schools don’t respond to emails.”
Krish tapped his passport on his palm, quickly thinking, “Oh-kay!!! Do you have anyone who can go there on your behalf? It makes things easy if you go personally.”
“I thought the same. But I can’t go… passport issue…”
Krish rolled his eyes, “I wish I could go. But they have banned The Insight and its employees from travelling there. Last year we wrote some political articles which got us banned.”
Manasvi couldn’t stop smiling when she observed the way Krish said that part with a frown on his face. She chuckled, teasing him, “Good for you! At least, there is some place on the earth where you are not allowed to poke your nose.”
Krish grinned sheepishly. “What now?”
“Nothing. I’ll see what can be done. Think like this – you were not supposed to come with me in the first place. You tagged along and I am deeply grateful to you for that. But it has been a few days. Your mother is alone in Mumbai, worried after knowing about the attack at the base and not even well. Your responsibility towards her is more than with me. Go back and join the office.”
Krish sighed and said in a deeply regretful tone, “Tell me what I can do for you.”
Manasvi thought for a moment and opened her bag to take out her keys. She gave it to him, “These are the keys to my apartment. In case, I need any documents or anything, I will tell you.”
“Listen, I’ll be back once I see mom and report at the office. Max 2-3 days. The hotel we stayed at on the first day on landing here looked safe. Stay there. I’ll be back.”
“That’s so sweet of you, Krish! But you really don’t need to be back.” Manasvi was touched at the way he cared for her.
“Come on, how can I NOT come. I can’t leave you alone, here. Why didn’t you ask Dr. Anshuman? He is your husband. He could have helped you.”
Manasvi didn’t reply to this question. How could she tell Krish that it didn’t occur as even a fleeting thought to her that she will be in trouble after Anshuman leaves? When she was with him, all she could think was – Anshuman, Anshuman… and only Anshuman!
What he was going through, what he felt, what he wanted, and how he was distraught was more important for her.
She was not even thinking of herself.
She smiled and replied, “I can’t keep using Anshuman for my own work. He deserves a slice of peace for himself.”
“It’s so tough to know what is going in your mind. Do you even realize the situation?” Krish asked.
Manasvi smiled, “It isn’t that bad if you change the perspective of thinking.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean to say that since my Tazkira is made, I am officially an Afghan citizen. I will be safe here if I plan properly. This is my country too. Why do I even want to go to India, now?”
Anshuman closed his eyes and fixed ear-plugs to cut off the unwanted noise from outside and inside his mind. His mind, however, was not a slave to his wishes. It had its own trajectory. And it kept racing at a high speed.
His thoughts ricocheted in tandem through each other, in haphazard flow, cutting across lines of his childhood, his tumultuous years at the training camp in Afghanistan, running away, being saved and taken to India and growing up there in a safe environment, studying to become a doctor, working at PBB and facing all the risk and danger all over again, but fighting from the right side this time.
He was always inspired by the way Manasvi had made her life and moved on from her past traumatic experiences. She was strong. She had the patience and courage to let go of the shackles of the yesteryears from her ankles and keep moving ahead. She had immense grit to stay alone in Mumbai and complete her studies, all by herself, without any help from the Shekhawat family. She had secured prestigious jobs, wrote blogs, clicked pictures, so alluring that they nearly spoke. He was so proud of her. He hoped that she goes back to India and begin her life all over again and forget about him.
Suddenly a thought struck at one spot!!
All restlessness of uncertainty ceased at this one point for he knew exactly what was troubling him since the beginning and why he was so disturbed all the way. He realised what was nagging him and he didn’t want to leave Manasvi. Now he knew why. His heart was beating hard, forehead laced with sweat beads in a row and throat dried as a new fear crept up in his mind this time.
‘Oh, God! How will she go back to India? She doesn’t have a passport!’