I know this phase is sad and depressing. I haven’t been able to write faster and so it has stretched for days.
But what is life without the worst of downfalls and peaks of glories
And what is a story without a roller coaster ride.
Love you for staying by me through this.
Sitting around the round coffee table in Liz’s studio, Manasvi browsed through the various sites opened her laptop, to book a ticket for New Delhi.
She didn’t want to go back to the hotel for now. She didn’t have the heart to. Nor she felt like returning to the cold, silent room. It brought bad thoughts and panic.
So, when Liz offered her a cup of coffee at her studio, Manasvi gladly agreed. They talked about several things. Manasvi’s education and job, life in Mumbai, and about journalism.
Manasvi observed the beautifully decorated studio, the designer dresses, exquisitely embroidered and embellished in sequins and lace.
After some time, Manasvi opened the laptop to book the ticket.
At the same time, she decided to contact a Human Rights Commission and a lawyer in Karachi for Anshuman as things were getting delayed and it made her nervous. Liz told her that she would request her husband to contact the lawyer and NGO, in case she needed help.
Asfiya arranged the couture gowns on a long stand meant for the same. She worked for Liz and her parents had allowed her to go out of the home to work if she was with Elizabeth and in her studio. As Elizabeth sold only women’s clothes, it was a safe place for women to go, both for shopping and working.
The wooden doors of Elizabeth’s studio cast a perfect barrier to shut away a world outside, a world that wasn’t kind to women. Inside those doors, the story was different. Inside, it was their domain, their choice, their life!
Manasvi sipped from her coffee that one of the assistant served her, and said, “I’m getting a flight, for Saturday. Delhi is not far, anymore.”
A satisfied, yet nervous sigh escaped her lips. For some weird reason, she was hopeful that she might be able to do something for Anshuman after she reached Delhi. She would beg before the authorities to help him. She would do anything in her capacity to see to it that he was out of the bars.
He had gone there because of her and she couldn’t live with this burden that he was trapped because of her. And despite that he had ensured that she received her papers in time.
All that Anshuman had done for her, at every step, every phase of her life, had been instrumental in shaping the arc of her existence.
She was what she was, because of him. She was strong and independent, because of him. In fact, she was alive, because of him.
She had come to Afghanistan on her own, hoping to sort out the matter of citizenship and passport. But Anshuman followed her and stood by her through every step. Today, she had all certificates, and her passport. She was going back to India.
But where was Anshuman?
He had to sacrifice his freedom for her.
She couldn’t let anything happen to him, no matter what it took from her. She would go to any lengths to see him safe, sound, and happy.
Liz and Asfiya were both glad. Liz said, “Saturday is two days from now.”
“Yeah! The flights before that are all booked.”
“No problem. These two days will pass soon. You stay with us until then.” Liz offered.
Manasvi refused, “Oh no! Please don’t bother. I’ll go back to the hotel once the sun sets.”
Liz raised her hands in air and smiled, “Sure, you won’t be scared?”
Manasvi nodded, “Once inside the hotel, I feel pretty safe. I hope those guys give up on their search for me.”
“Don’t worry! It’s only 2 days.”
“Yeah!” Manasvi sighed.
“Do you know, even we are leaving for France next week?” Asfiya said.
“Really?” Manasvi was glad to see Asfiya beaming in happiness.
Liz nodded, “Yes! We are opening a new store in Milan. Once it sets in action and the operations begin, we will have more work in my native place and I will freely commute. I’m bored living here. I miss France.”
“I understand.” Manasvi murmured. It was indeed tough for a French to adjust to Afghan way of living. Liz had managed until now, was commendable. They told her that Asfiya will stay in France after that. She wanted this allocation because even of her parents understood her decision to have a career, her extended family wanted to see her married this year.
Manasvi booked the ticket for New Delhi, for Saturday. She called Krish to inform him. He was overjoyed. He had been missing her too.
“First tell me, are you safe?” Krish was suddenly reminded of her message. “I saw the pictures of the driver that you sent me, along with the car number and all… sorry, I was in the hospital. I saw them just today and wondered what it was all about.”
Manasvi relieved him, “Yes, I am safe. I just sent them to be on a safer side that you have a proof about who I am with. That driver was trying to act nasty with me.”
“All sorted? Or…??” Krish asked.
“Everything fine. Leave that aside, I’m fine and coming back on Saturday.”
“That’s the best news I’ve heard today.”
“How’s your mother?” She asked.
“She is fine now. She was admitted in a hospital for 2 days but now she is discharged. Weakness and blood pressure, along with some cardiac issues, the doctors say!”
“Hmm! Take care of her. Mothers are precious.” Manasvi murmured softly, remembering her own mother and how ill she had been during the last few years of her life.
“Yes. They are precious. Thank you.”
“Take care. I’ll see you after I come to Mumbai.”
“Great. Mr. Mehta cannot wait to see you. He is mighty impressed with the way you have handled the Afghanistan trip, managed every dire situation. He says that he is privileged to have someone like you in the team.”
Manasvi was surprised. “Really?”
“Yes. When you come back, we have a line-up of possible new roles that you take up in the team. We want to see you in leadership roles.”
Manasvi smiled, “And here I was thinking that I might have lost the job.”
“No way. You are a journalist who doesn’t do her job. She lives it. You have a rich experience. You are brave. You understand the situation and the socio-geographic-politics of so many countries. Which organisation will let you leave?”
“Hey! I wanted to tell you something,” Krish said, “Next week, I’m going to Vienna for a conclave on climate change. The Insight has exclusive rights to interview the speakers/leaders from all over the world. Would you come?”
Manasvi said, “Krish, you are forgetting that Anshuman is in jail. I can’t go anywhere as long as he is in captivity. I can’t leave any stone unturned unless I get him out of the bars.”
Krish explained patiently, “Manasvi, what can you possibly do? Meet the ministers and plead to them? We are doing that already. All applications are in process. I went to every office myself. Anshuman’s dad goes there twice a day. They don’t even give appointment to talk. Mr.Mehta is personally monitoring his case only because of you.”
“I know! But…”
“But it is not in our hands. These things take time. You know how governments work. The file gets shifted up in due course of time. They are investigating his case and whether they can officially ask for his release.”
Manasvi frowned, “I feel so helpless.”
“All of us do. But we can’t stop working. We can’t stop living.”
Manasvi wished to tell him that she had stopped living the moment she heard that Anshuman was captured. He was in jail, suffering what she doesn’t even know. How could her life, go on smoothly? She had stopped living the moment Anshuman left her in Kabul. She was desperately waiting for him to be back now. Desperately waiting for her life, her breaths, her heartbeats to return to her. At this moment, she was merely existing. Just being there, as if in a daze, without him.
But she didn’t tell him. Krish will never understand.
She just said, “Give me some time, Krish. I’m coming home on Saturday. I’ll decide what I want to do after I take rest for some time. But I am definitely not going to Vienna. Or anywhere else.
“Okay! Take your time.” Krish disconnected, wondering if Anshuman would ever be freed. And will Manasvi will ever be able to work like before. Her concentration, her heart, her life was now tugged to Anshuman.
Junaid Khan said, “See, we all know that you were not lying. And that you are innocent. But some things are to be done according to the protocol and the guidelines. I have full confidence in justice. Allah never fails the innocent. You will get justice. And we are waiting for the same.”
Anshuman kept sitting on the jail floor. He looked at Junaid pointedly and said, “Your government wants to prove to the United Nations and the world that they are benevolent and nice and they let an innocent man go, but for that they will need to create a noise to the world that I am here, right?”
Junaid shrugged, “There is no harm in gaining some brownie points from a situation. In all honesty, if we let you go, it WILL be an act of generosity and kindness. It will be humane. So I have full faith that you will be freed.”
Anshuman nodded to refuse, his voice lowering, “But I don’t.”
“Why?” Junaid was surprised.
“You are too hopeful. There is a clause here. IF, AT ALL, the Indian government requests for my release, they will do so, right? Deep down, I’m sure that they won’t.”
“How can you say so?”
“They will investigate. I haven’t lived in India for last several years. No one knows where I was. Only PBB does. Who will convince the officials in India to request for my release. They will wonder if I was a real spy associated with an insurgent group. Why will they risk their reputation for one ambiguous PBB doctor.”
Juanid jumped down from the desk that he was sitting on, in the Police HQ. He rested his hands in his pockets and spoke confidently, “Don’t be so negative. We will find a way. We have a sent a letter about your arrest to MEA of India. Let’s wait for their response.”
Anshuman shook his head, “I’ve lost all hope.”
“My ammi says that every breath we take is a blessing from God. As long as we are breathing, let the hope stay alive.”