Manasvi took a leave from the women she had met and returned to sit in the cab she had hired from the hotel. Once she was inside the cab, she started making calls once after the other, to Krish, to Anshuman’s father, RajSingh Shekhawat, to the Chief. The Chief’s phone was out of the coverage area. Krish informed her that he was in touch with Mr. Mehta and he had assured that he would use ...
Apologies for posting late. love you all. Take care. Stay blessed.
Anshuman was escorted to the nearest police station in the central old city of Karachi under a stringent security arrangement. He could feel the tension in the atmosphere. But speaking anything felt useless. They were not going to believe him, he knew by instinct.
He was made to sit on a chair and asked to wait till a senior official arrived. The crowd of onlookers grew as the word spread that a man of Indian origin was arrested for spying and he was without any documents needed to be in the city.
The crowd began to gather outside the police station but the cops restricted them outside the police station.
Anshuman asked the police inspector, “Can I have my phone, please? I need to make a call.”
“Sorry!” The officer nodded and refused in a stern tone. He was busy scribbling the entry in the register to present his report of the concerned arrest.
Anshuman nodded to agree and shifted back in his chair. He raised one leg to take his knee over the other and settled his elbow at the arm rest before burying his right cheek on the folded hand of right hand. He could sense the growing gravity of the situation. If something happened to his phone and he was not able to prove his innocence, there was no way he could get out from this situation. He had heard stories of how people of questionable identity detained as spies spent years in the jail with no one to help them.
He decided to stay hopeful and wait for the senior official who was about to arrive to interrogate him. The situation appeared bleak, for now.
The worst was the nagging feeling constantly troubling him that Manasvi was in Kabul. What was she going to do there all by herself? How was she going to manage? Was she fine?
The sinking feeling grew deeper and he realised that he was less worried about himself, more about her. He chewed the inner skin of his lower lip, trying to fight the growing urge to do something to help her. If only, he could talk to her, only for once.
He was distracted at the sound of boots outside the police station. The ASI and the SI stood up and greeted the Assistant Commisioner of Police (ACP) who had arrived to interrogate Anshuman.
The ACP looked a tough man, with hardened looks and straight posture. He went straight to Anshuman and observed him keenly for a long minute, his eyes boring into Anshuman’s eyes and his facial muscles getting taut with every passing second.
Then, he leaned his rear at the desk facing Anshuman’s chair and said, “Okay! Start!”
Anshuman shrugged, “What?”
“Start speaking!” The ACP nearly barked, “Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are your passport and identity cards? Which agency are you reporting to?”
Anshuman took a deep breath and said, “I’m not reporting to any agency. I am a doctor and I’m here to collect conduct certificate from my wife’s school as she had studied in Karachi.”
The officer stretched his hand towards him and asked, “Show me. Where is the certificate?”
“I couldn’t reach the school. I came by morning flight and the autorickshaw driver fled with my bag. My wallet, my passport, and all papers were in that bag.”
“Why didn’t you inform the police?” The man narrowed his eyes and stared at Anshuman.
“I was going to do that but my phone battery was low and I thought that I will call my Chief and my colleagues to help me reach people in the ministry.”
“Start again! In detail, this time!” The officer yelled at the top of his voice.
Anshuman patiently explained about himself, his post at PBB, how he reached there, where his bag was stolen, and what exactly was his purpose of visiting Karachi. He was asked again and again and again… and every time, he spoke the same things… he was asked about his country, his family, his friends, even his schooling, which Anshuman deliberately avoided speaking about. But rest of the story, he recited the same every time. So many times, they asked. Shouted and yelled at him. But Anshuman stayed strong and stable.
The ACP smirked, “Do you think that we’ll believe this story?”
“Well, you should! Because that is the only story that I have!”
“That, you think. But we don’t. A lot of people change stories and versions when we take them to the torture cell. Don’t worry, we are not in a hurry. We cut each body part very calmly.” Spoke the ACP in a mysterious tone, gauging Anshuman’s response to this gory detail of what was going to happen to him if he didn’t speak.
Not a muscle flinched on Anshuman’s face. He was as calm as before. He raised a brow, “You are scaring me. All policemen do that.”
ACP leaned ahead and spoke in measured words, one word at a time, chewing each word, “All policemen don’t mean what they say. But trust me – many, many –do! Don’t force me to do that.”
Anshuman sat straight in his chair and said, “Can I please have my phone?”
“No!” The man roared. He was trying his best to intimidate Anshuman who was genuinely trying to prove himself. It was an old tactic to threaten the enemy and get him to speak the secrets.
Anshuman spread his hands in air and asked, “Then how will I prove my innocence? Trust me, I have nothing to hide. They have checked me thoroughly. I have no snooping devices on my body.”
“You will not get your phone. We can’t risk getting any sensitive information deleted if we do that. An expert is examining your phone.”
Anshuman nodded as if understanding their position. He replied like a senior doctor would talk to an officer who was just doing his duty, “Okay! Listen, I get it. I can understand how it goes. So, I can’t have my phone, but you can! Right?”
“What does that mean?” The officer tilted his head.
“Please, do me a favour. You can access my phone. I can give you a few numbers. Talk to them and they will tell you that I am a doctor working with an organization called People Beyond Borders. I have just finished a posting in Kabul. I travel from one country to another, to serve at disaster hit areas. I am not a spy.”
“It’s a bogus story. You won’t say the truth easily, it seems!” The ACP roared again.
“There is no harm in investigating, right?” Anshuman said, “There is no point in shouting, threatening, or even beating me as I will still say the same. That’s the truth.”
“What if everything turns out to be false?” The ACP moved around to ask the gadget expert for Anshuman’s phone.
This looked a little hopeful to Anshuman. At least the officer had paid heed to his request and went to get the phone. Anshuman smiled and said, “What if everything turns out to be true?”
The man asked him to write all the numbers and names on a piece of paper with the names of people he wanted to be contacted. Anshuman wrote as he was asked and then sent to the custody.
The officer said, “We are not going to call up these people because of course, why won’t it be any set up. We are not fools to believe anyone over a phone call. We will carry out our own investigation.
“But that’s going to take time.” Anshuman expressed his doubt.
“Yes! Be our guest till then.” The ACP sniggered as the guard locked the door of the lock up.
Anshuman was getting worried now, “But how will they know that I am stuck here? They need to be informed. Please.”
The ACP shrugged and turned around to leave when Anshuman called him again, “Officer… Sir… Can I make a personal request? Please? For the sake of humanity can you please do one favour?”
The guy turned around and shrugged, “What?”
“My wife knows that I am in Karachi. If she tries to call me and I am not available, she will get worried. I don’t want her to freak out. She is in Kabul. Can you please tell her that I am fine?”
The ACP looked at him for a long moment and returned to him to stand right before him. After giving him a long look, he extended his hand towards Anshuman. It had his phone. The officer said in a grave voice, “Just one call. To your wife. Only 60 seconds.”
Anshuman sighed in relief. With a smile, he whispered, “Thank you!”
Manasvi walked into the old, dilapidated locality which once belonged to her community in Kabul.
Each step in the dusty lanes of the neighbourhood brought her eerily closer to her roots. The broken, now degenerated houses were strangely not restored even to this day. They were simply left as it is. She had thought that she was over that phase of her life. But she was wrong. The steps she took inside the tatters of the once prosperous area broke her heart all over again. It appeared as if she was meeting her parents for one more time. Maybe for one last time. Maybe she needed the closure as much as Anshuman.
She had never said a proper goodbye to this place. This was her chance of being here and then calmly leaving this place after a peaceful farewell, to move on forever. She was glad that she stayed back and came here. She never knew that she needed it. She ran her fingers at the walls of the houses. Her heart sank as it was unbelievable to her that she could still remember those days as vividly as it had all happened just yesterday.
She sat down before a house, at the stairs at the doorstep, for it was the most beautiful house of the neighbourhood, located at the corner and hence accessible from all roads. It was hard to forget this house. The most magnificent house at that time. Afterall, her father was a jeweller. She didn’t have the heart to go inside. She just sat at the doorstep and buried her face in her palms to cry her heart out.
After spending some time there, she stood up. There was no point in going inside. She knew that there must be nothing inside, no memories, no last belongings of her parents as it was broken, destroyed and open for years. Animals, owls and bats lived there.
She crossed the road and once the small locality ended, she reached another neighbourhood where she could see people roaming around. She went to them and asked them if anyone knew people from the destroyed locality or anything about what had happened around 13 years ago. The people, who were mostly young adults expressed ignorance. They looked at each other and then at Manasvi, as her questions were unexpected and weird. Not getting any breakthrough, she asked about the nearest police station.
At the police station, she took out her phone and opened a picture of Anshuman’s childhood. The evening before, she had called Preksha to send her on mail, the earliest picture of Anshuman that they had with them. It was possibly from the time when he had come to their home after being rescued.
Manasvi showed the picture to the cops and asked the officers if they knew anything about kids kidnapped at that time. Or any kids arrested with the extremist group. As Anshuman had described about the place where he was kept and trained with the extremists’ group, it didn’t appear far from the place where they had attacked, ie their surrounding area. There were high chances that he was kidnapped from the area nearby.
The officers nodded to refuse. They said that they had frequent transfers and so they didn’t know much about that area. The records were not well maintained from that time and they couldn’t help her much.
Disappointed Manasvi walked out. She was upset but she didn’t lose hope. She had faith on her years spent in journalism. She knew that she should keep her quest going on, as sometimes what you are looking for is just around you and you are unable to see. You only have to look harder.
But why did he never try to find it himself. He could have come here and searched for his parents and about his history. She wondered.
Maybe he was too traumatised to visit that painful past? Maybe he never wanted to? It scared him and made him feel weak? And Anshuman hated to feel weak. He believes himself to be strong. Maybe he didn’t want to dig the old skeletons. Possibly! She shrugged and moved on.
She walked towards the interiors of the immediately neighbouring locality, with similar houses but still cared for. It was sparsely populated even now and had few men sitting out on cots, and kids playing around. Manasvi reached upto a few people and asked them if she could meet anyone who was there for past 15-16 years in that place.
Finally, she was told about a few women who were living there since ages. Heaving a sigh of relief and hoping that she would meet someone who could give her a clue into the past, she reached their houses and asked the relatives if she could meet one of the old woman.
Her phone rang. Anshuman’s name brought a smile on her face. She immediately answered it. Anshuman was relieved too when he heard her answering the phone with a cheery voice.
“Hey! What’s up?” She asked.
“Manasvi, are you fine? How are you managing? Hope there is no problem.”
“No…no… not at all! Why are you asking this?” Manasvi replied in confused voice but at the same time found it sensible to inform him about her and relieve him. So she quickly replied, “I’m at Metropolitan hotel. Both the staff and cab driver that I got are helpful and courteous. Don’t worry, I’m not alone. I have some really nice people helping me.”
Anshuman sighed, and spoke as calmly as possible, “Thank God! I was worried about you. Now, listen carefully… get in touch with Krish, Amanda, Alex, Chief, whoever you can…”
She knew that something was wrong. Her sixth sense had been screaming since forever that he was going to land in a trouble. She interrupted him, “Wait… what happened… are you fine?”
He spoke in a composed voice, “Yeah! Yeah!!! I am completely fine. It’s just that my bag and all my documents are stolen while going to the school…”
“Stolen??? Whatttt??” Her jaw dropped in horror, “Oh my God! What will you do now?”
“Don’t panic, Manasvi! I knew that you will freak out if I don’t answer my phone. That is why I requested to make a call to you. My phone will be with the officers here but don’t worry, I’m fine. Still, waiting for investigations to be over. I’m confident that these people will let me go once I am proven innocent but it might take time. So please don’t worry. And keep trying!”
She bit her lower lip, fighting to stop her tears as she whispered, “For me?? Why did you take such a big risk? Why did you go there for me?”
He smiled, took a small pause, and asked lovingly, “Aren’t you there for me?”
Her tears rolled down. She wanted to make things easy for him. She wanted to make him happy. She was hoping to see him relieved of his traumatic past. Adding more to this pain was not in her plans. But some way or the other, she would unknowingly become the reason of more ordeals for him. He had always been her saviour. He had put his life at stake for her and she couldn’t help but feel guilty for the same. She felt sorry that she had entered his life at a time when he was not even settled himself, around eight years ago. And till date, she had thrown his life in massive turbulent situations.
“I’m sorry!” She whispered.
“This is not what I was hoping to hear when I called.” He realised that 60 seconds were about to be over and the officer was looking at him to return the phone. He added, “I have to give the phone now. Keep trying to get the officials reach out to me. And please stay strong.”
“Yeah! Don’t worry! I won’t let you stay stuck there for a long time.” She spoke with a strong resolve, this time.
“I know! Just don’t be worried. I’m fine.”
She was beginning to get worried. Her voice dipped when she asked, “When can I talk to you, again?”
“I don’t know.” He leaned his forehead at the bar of the lock-up. “Hopefully soon!”
She closed her eyes and assured him, “Anshuman, I don’t forget even for a second that you are my knight in shining armour. You have been my saviour at times when I had almost lost hope. You are the strongest, bravest person, I have ever seen in my life. I want you to always remember how proud I feel… so so proud of you!”
He sighed, “You do??”
“Yes. At all times. And more than proud, I feel fortunate to be married to someone like you! Please come back soon. I’ll be waiting for you.”
“What if I can’t get out of here for a few years?” He asked.
“I don’t count life in years. I count them in breaths. And I will wait till the last breath I take.”