As promised in my last My Corner post – The Fortnight That It Was
I will be posting new updates of BEB on Every Tuesday. So here, it is.
I’m trying to get back to the schedule mode😊 It is easier for me to maintain a deadline and peaceful for you so that you know when to expect the update.
Thank you so much for all the love to this story. You are the reason I am posting it here 💖💖
Love you all. Take care 🤗🤗🤗
The man talking to Manasvi in a derogatory manner was taken aback at being snapped at. Before this he had gotten away with passing snide remarks carelessly about women. Before this women ignored his mannerlessness to avoid unnecessary altercation. Maybe that resulted in his guts to swell up and spew venom on any woman he came in contact with.
After Manasvi’s retort, he sheepishly looked around and stayed quiet.
Men and women, both officials and visitors, were attracted to the little spat and suddenly everyone was looking at them. They included Afghan citizens, and several foreigners who had come for correction in their passports, or Tazkira, or other official work. One of them was Elizabeth, who was particularly interested in the clash as she was immediately impressed by Manasvi’s voice and defiant tone.
The officer in-charge stepped ahead in the meantime, and scolded the offender, “What’s your issue buddy? Don’t make things difficult here.”
The man cleared his throat and disinterestedly mouthed a formal apology. “Sorry!”
Manasvi didn’t want to stretch the conversation. So she ended it, saying, “It’s okay. But I am very much a citizen of Afghanistan. I have every right to ask for respect. I may ask for a change when something that doesn’t guarantee safety for me. And even if I was a tourist, your responsibilities don’t decrease. They increase. Isn’t it up to you to ensure safety of women around you? On top of that, you are government officials. Where will we go if officers behave like rogues?”
She was not fighting or shouting at any moment. She spoke in a polite, yet offended tone. She was firm and not weak. Yet she was neither yelling, nor pleading.
Something that impressed everyone. Especially Elizabeth. The officer in charge apologised too and said, “Sorry again, on behalf of my staff. Your documents are completed. It will take a few hours to issue the passport. You can pick it up any time after tomorrow.”
Manasvi thanked the officer. He left Manasvi in the visitors lounge after that.
Elizabeth approached Manasvi, with a hand stretched towards her for a hand-shake, “Hello! Seems like you are new here. I’m Elizabeth. You can call me Liz. May I help you?”
Manasvi liked her friendly attitude, offer for help and lovely polite tone. She was a tall, white woman, with wavy blonde hair and green eyes, her lips were naturally pink and she was wearing a strong perfume. She was clad in a long kurta, with full sleeves, stretching almost till her ankles. Below the kurta was denim jeans, visible through the side slits of the kurta. Black boots and a hijab covering her hair and her head completed her look.
“Hello, I’m Manasvi Rathore. Thanks for the offer, but the police has been called.”
The woman looked around her and asked, “Are you alone? There is no one with you?”
Manasvi felt uneasy with this question. Already she was having a tough time in this country, persistent reminder that she was alone was a constant hammering of nails in her patience level. She wished she could hold on for more. And once again, with a smile on her lips, she nodded, “Yes.”
Elizabeth understood her problem and said, “Don’t worry. I am harmless.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.” Manasvi was apologetic. Then, she explained to her that she was from India and was here for renewal of her passport and how a cab driver had tried to act nasty with her.
“They are like that, when they see a woman alone. Afghanistan is notorious for being dangerous for women.”
“I know. I’m trying to take all precautions.”
In the meanwhile, the cops arrived. The driver had already fled from the scene. He disappeared before the cops arrived and called his associates for a change in strategy. He wasn’t able to get Manasvi with him. So the cops found nothing. They took Manasvi’s statement and asked her to inform in case someone troubles them. Azfar too called back to know if all was well with Manasvi. Manasvi confirmed that she was fine.
Elizabeth was looking at her in awe. She sighed, “Oh my God! You speak Persian?”
“I do!” Manasvi grinned.
“How?” Elizabeth asked.
“It’s a long story.” Manasvi tried to brush it off.
“That is why you are able to manage so well. So smoothly.”
“Well… I’m just trying to.”
“And you’ve come from India?” Liz rolled her eyes, “Look at me, I’m here for 10 years and still can’t speak fluent Dari. It’s broken… I kinda manage…”
“10 years?” Manasvi was surprised. She didn’t expect this European woman to say that she was living in Afghanistan for 10 years. At best, she looked like a tourist. Moreover, she was alone too.
“Yeah. I’m French, married to an Afghan man. My husband is an official in the ministry. I came here to get some papers signed.”
It was fascinating for Manasvi to hear that. There were all sorts of people in the world, with unique stories, special love stories, different types of marriages. She was pleased to meet Liz.
“Come, I’ll take you to the hotel.”
“Please don’t bother. I’ll take a cab.”
“The cab driver must be lurking around nearby, hoping to catch you unawares. You can’t trust any cab driver at this moment. They might be connected to him.”
Manasvi squirmed. There were high chances that what Liz as saying was true. But then, she met this lady only few minutes ago, how can she trust her. Wasn’t it too early to trust someone? But what options she had in hand, anyway?
This one looked more reliable than any cab driver. If she had to choose between the two, and since there was no other way out, she would choose Liz.
“Okay!” Manasvi spoke in a low, reluctant voice.
Liz smiled, and took out a card from her purse. Giving it to Manasvi, she said, “Trust me, I will try my best to help you. Once I was like you in this country – alone, confused, scared… I know the pain.”
Manasvi read the card – Elizabeth Martin Sayed – Fashion Designer.
It had her full address and phone number. Manasvi was relieved as she firmly clutched the card in her fist.
Liz filled her with the information written on the visiting card, as they walked out of the building of MEA, towards the parking, “Martin is my parental surname that I didn’t want to leave. Sayed is my husband’s last name. I’m a Fashion Designer and I have a fashion studio in the central market of Kabul.”
“Fashion studio?” Manasvi smiled. She had started liking Elizabeth a lot. Such a strong woman. She moved around the city, drove an SUV, owned a Fashion Studio and was empowered enough to help others.
Liz started driving the big SUV vehicle and said, “Don’t look at the chador and the hijab. Beneath that, Afghanis was extremely fashionable. It is an extremely conservative society but women do know how to make the best of their lives. I have some dresses to pick up from my studio. I have to deliver them to a place near your hotel. If you permit…”
“Sure. No problem.” The journalist in Manasvi was intrigued. She had explored so much of Afghanistan that now she wanted to write a story on it. This was a totally different facet and she was curious to know more. Liz took a turn towards central Kabul.
Manasvi checked her phone for any message from Anshuman. Her throat dried. She called Krish who told her that he had been trying every single source to get access to the MEA at New Delhi. But they were not sure if they wanted to take up Anshuman’s case on a national level. They didn’t send him and didn’t want to cut a sorry figure on international level, in case he was linked to insurgent outfits. So they had their own procedure of investigation before they went ahead and asked for his release.
Anshuman’s father also confirmed the same thing. The officials in the ministry had asked them to wait as it was a sensitive issue and they wouldn’t initiate any official request for Anshuman’s release unless they investigated and confirmed that he was innocent.
Manasvi felt her heart sinking. The Indian government had it’s own protocol to follow and that was absolutely justified, giving the threats and insurgency from small groups, they faced on a regular basis. They didn’t want to take a chance by representing someone they didn’t know and was associated with any crime.
Manasvi smiled meekly, looking at Elizabeth. It was a pity that almost everyone she had met knew the problems she was facing. Her phone calls spoke of her issues and she couldn’t avoid them. She had always been vulnerable and insecure but not to this extent.
She called the Chief of the PBB but his number was out of reach. Manasvi called Amanda and Alex, both one by one, and then on conference call, and nearly begged them to get in touch with the Chief. Only he could save Anshuman. He had contacts in Pakistan and he had ensured Anshuman’s visa on the last moment.
Amanda told her that Chief was at some place in Africa and even they weren’t in touch with him. But they will try their best to get in touch with him.
“Please! You can do that. Contact all PBB centers in Africa, or wherever. He needs to be found to save Anshuman.” Manasvi wiped her tear that dropped from her eyes.
“We’ll ensure that Anshuman is released in next 24 hours. We’ll get Chief from wherever he is.”
“Thank you!” Manasvi’s throat choked. She disconnected the phone.
Liz took out tissue-paper box from the dashboard and gave it to Manasvi. Manasvi pulled out a paper to wipe her face, feeling awkward.
“I’m sorry… actually…”
“I understood the issue. Don’t bother explaining about it. It is a regular case in this part of the world.”
Manasvi sighed and leaned at the backrest of the car. The moment life looked promising and hopeful was the one that acted as a turning point for yet another curvy road. It had been years since she had been hoping that finally her life will be on track and she will live happily like everyone else. But problems and hardships only increased.
She felt as if she was in a computer game. One level crossed would lead to another tougher level to beat.
She missed Anshuman a lot. They might not have spent a lot of time with each other. But still it felt that they had always been together. Whether they were around each other or miles apart, he never left her mind even for a second. He lived there and belonged like it was his own space.
Junaid Khan knocked at the bars of the cell with the gun in his hand and called Anshuman who was sitting in a corner, with his eyes fixed on the wall facing him.
Anshuman was lost in his thoughts – about life at PBB, how he needed to be back to PBB, because he missed seeing patients, operating on them, helping them – how he missed Manasvi, sorely and deeply, how she was alone in Afghanistan, and he needed to be with her. When he was freed from here, he was going to ask Manasvi to be with him forever. He might have been reluctant once, but now, trapped in this jail he realized what he needed to be peaceful in life – Manasvi, and her happiness. He would do everything she wanted from him. Wherever they went, they would go together. She may choose where she wanted to make a life and he would follow. He had struggled and fought with himself to an extent that he once thought that he didn’t deserve to be happy, didn’t deserve to live, didn’t have any right to spoil her life…but not anymore. He knew that life was precious and how it was important to cherish people you love when you are still able to do that. With a snap of a finger, life takes a sharp turn, leaving you regretting about decisions you didn’t take, things you didn’t do, confessions you didn’t make…
He was so lost that he didn’t notice Junaid. A screeching sound at the bars alarmed him.
Anshuman quickly stood up, hopeful that some breakthrough has happened in his case. He held the bars and asked Junaid. “Some news?”
Junaid sat down on his chair, chewing a gum in his mouth, and with a taut jaw and clenched face, he said, “Two good news and one bad news. What would you want to hear first?”
Anshuman said, “All I am waiting is for some good news. You have two of them. I think bad news can wait. Tell me the good ones.”
Juanid spoke on a grim, tensed face, “We’ve caught the taxi driver who stole your bag. He had your documents, passport, everything.”
Anshuman sighed in relief. With a genuine wide smile, he spoke excitedly, “Thank God! Now you know that I am innocent and I was speaking the truth?”
“Yes. Everything you spoke was true. The other good news is that your Chief just called us an hour back. He confirmed that you are associated with PBB and not a spy. You are a doctor who has worked with PBB for years!”
Anshuman couldn’t stop smiling. He was finally proven genuine. He shrugged, “So? Why am I still behind the bars?”
“That’s the ‘bad news’ part.” Junaid spoke in a low, dejected voice.
“What does that mean?”
“Secretary to the minister has asked me to hold on all proofs of your innocence and not submit them anywhere.”
“We will wait for an official request from government of India to release you.”