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“We will wait for an official request from government of India to release you.” Junaid Khan said.
Anshuman couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Did ACP Junaid Khan really speak what he had been fearing?
Anshuman had been apprehensive about it for long. He had heard stories about how certain people caught in a foreign land spent years behind bars before they were proved innocent. But this wasn’t even the case here.
He was proved innocent and there was valid evidence to verify all that he had spoken and claimed. Yet, they were not releasing him. They were waiting for the government to claim that he was Indian citizen and request them officially to release him.
The relationship between the two countries didn’t give him much hope. It was a dire situation.
He shook his head disbelievingly and reminded Junaid, “Didn’t you say that I will be treated fairly? Now, that you know that I am innocent, you have proofs too, is it fair to detain me?”
Junaid nodded and replied, “No, it isn’t fair. Trust me. I’ll try my level best to get your case expedited.”
“Try?” Anshuman murmured, losing all his hopes, slowly and gradually. He was banking on his documents, PBB chief, every proof from visa office, and Manasvi’s school. He was sure that these were enough to prove the reason of his visit and that he was not a spay. Now every proof was in ACP’s hands and was in favour of Anshuman.
There was nothing more to hold on to. Anshuman went back inside the cell, where he was sitting previously, on the floor, with his head dropped in uncertainty and hopelessness.
He knew, he had to wait. For how long, he didn’t know.
Manasvi lay back on the bed of her hotel room. She hadn’t eaten anything since morning. First the incident with the cab driver had her shaking. And then there was no breakthrough in Anshuman’s case.
Everyone she had laid her hopes on expressed inability to move ahead due to some reason or the other. No one could help them. Neither Krish nor Mr. Mehta. Neither Anshuman’s dad nor the Chief. Alex, Amanda, no one.
It seemed as if the entire world was helpless.
She had gone to Elizabeth’s fashion studio before she was dropped by her safely to the hotel. Inside the studio, there was a different world – of fashion, clothes, style, choices and desires, frills and flounces, colours and shades. Elizabeth believed in bringing out the brighter side of every situation and Manasvi loved her approach.
Elizabeth was a French designer, living in Afghanistan, out of choice. It wasn’t easy. It must have come with a lot of struggle and persistence to stay in a different country, more conservative than yours, accept and appreciate their culture, and then dare to open a business. Drive a car. Move around on your own.
Each chore that seemed easy and casual in some countries was a fight women fought on an everyday basis in many parts of the world. Elizabeth must have faced ridicule and disbelief too.
But love made her cross the threshold. Beyond every fear, fight, and struggle.
There existed different people in the world. All kinds of human beings with their own set of beliefs and ideologies. They had their own stories of tenacity and perseverance. They braved different battles for love.
Elizabeth’s story gave hope to Manasvi.
Anshuman and Manasvi belonged to two different worlds too, and yet they were so similar. Their stories coincided and merged together. As if they were destined to be. As if they were made for each other. How could it be explained otherwise!
They could hope for a happy ending too. They deserved it.
She couldn’t lose hope. That was all she had.
She knew, she had to wait. The following morning would surely bring some good news.
Morning arrived with terrible headache shearing her scalp as if it would split in two. Not having proper food on the previous day and not sleeping well did that to her.
Manasvi had her breakfast in the room and took a pain killer to be able to get ready. She had to collect her passport today. It was ‘the’ most important chore right now. A passport was the power which would enable her to stay back, or leave for India, on choice. Not on any compulsion.
When she stepped out towards the foyer, she spotted the cab driver, she had complained against, yesterday. He looked anxious, peering around nervously, though standing far from the hotel driveway, but Manasvi recognised him. She didn’t forget people easily.
What should she do at this stage?
Fighting with him, complaining against him, confronting him, so many things came to her mind but she was drained out of her energy. She didn’t need any drama for now. He was obviously not alone. He might have a gang. Maybe a nexus with human traffickers. Should she go all out to expose him?
No. She would have done that in India or wherever her office was, where she had access to support. She was a journalist, after all.
But journalists should have brain too, she argued with herself. They should know what is and what is not in their scope. She had no one here. For how long, would she be able to survive after putting up a fight and not winning it? What were the chances that the police and system would believe and favour her?
Human traffickers had high contacts. What would happen if a powerful official was involved and she was trapped without anyone to rescue her.
She kept arguing with herself as she walked back into the hotel. Her brave side, the one who fought for right and truth, the one who was a journalist was upset with her weaker side, who wanted to hide inside her room and search for a refuge.
She remembered how they had to run away in the middle of the night, and then cross borders several times, amidst chaos and bloodshed.
All her confidence melted away and she realised that she was shivering by the time she reached her room. She bolted the door tightly from inside and sat huddled in a corner.
She was trapped. And so was Anshuman.
She hadn’t slept for the entire night. After she slipped inside her quilt over the cozy bed, she trembled for a long time before drifting to sleep.
When she woke up, it was already 2:00 pm.
Manasvi could feel her tears, dried and sticking on her cheek. Her body ached because she had been too stiff to sleep well.
She hated to feel sick. She had behaved courageously in front of that scoundrel yesterday and she didn’t know what was the source of that confidence. She had spent her life dealing with creepy men.
But today, deep down she was scared. Maybe because of lack of energy. Or maybe, fear of unknown.
She dialled a call to Elizabeth.
“Liz, he is here.”
“See, I told you, right? I knew he would. Not only him but his entire creepy gang must be around. Now that they know that you are alone, they will try their best to get you.”
“Should I call the police?” Manasvi weighed the options. Police had done nothing much yesterday. They didn’t even drop her back safely. She had to ride with Liz.
“Forget it. Take your passport and book an earliest flight to India. That’s the only way you will escape them. There is no point in staying here for more.”
“I’m thinking about the same. I should go back to India. To avoid these guys. And to see, if I can do something for Anshuman.”
“Yes. You won’t be able to do much sitting here. Anyway, you met people you wanted to search for. It’s time to go back.” Liz said with concern.
Manasvi had shared with her that she had stayed back alone to meet and search for some old relatives of her and Anshuman. Most of Anshuman’s story, Liz had guessed from Manasvi’s frantic calls to Krish, and others.
“But how do I get my passport?” Manasvi said. “They are outside.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll come to pick you up. Be ready in an hour.”
“Won’t they recognise me? Won’t you be at risk for helping me?” Manasvi was worried.
Liz smiled, “Relax. I’ll bring a friend with me and bring a chador for you. All three of us will move out covered head to toe. No one will stop or bother us. No one will recognise.”
An hour later, Liz did as she had promised. She had brought a chador for Manasvi. She helped her wear it. Her other friend, Asfiya, an Afghan woman in her thirties, found it an adventure. She shared with Manasvi how she was rescued by police when the car in which they were transporting her after kidnapping met with an accident.
“You were kidnapped?” Manasvi nearly shrieked, adjusting her attire and trying to walk in it so that it appeared natural.
“From my school bus. They just stopped the bus and took away four of us. But the car toppled after an accident as the driver lost control, we were rescued by police, and our parents got us back.”
Manasvi felt grateful that she was saved in time. She thanked God and took a deep breath. The three woman casually walked out of the hotel, sat in Liz’s car and left for the office of MEA to collect Manasvi’s passport.
Manasvi collected her passport and couldn’t stop her tears trickling down from her eyes. Liz and Asfiya felt like godsent angels to her. Overwhelmed, she hugged them.
Sometimes, you live with people for years and yet you don’t feel any connection with them. On the other times, you meet someone and within moments they feel like family. Liz and Asfiya were those angels for Manasvi.
She closed her eyes and prayed as her tears didn’t stop streaming.
‘God, please send an angel for Anshuman, too! Please!’
Next Update – Tomorrow, ie 16.12.2020
Thanks for reading 🤗💖