It’s Tuesday. As promised, I’m updating Beyond Every Border.
I’m trying to keep up with the schedule.
Though, I’m posting a bit late. But since it was a really long update, I hope I’ll be excused 😊
Love you all 💖💖💖
Stay blessed. Take care 🤗🤗
For two days, Manasvi spent time either inside the Metropolitan hotel or with Liz and Asfiya at their boutique studio, going out as less as possible. She had once gone to the market to get some necessities, but when she returned to the hotel, she felt that she saw the cab driven by the criminal who was following her.
She didn’t see the man but only the sight of the cab unnerved her. She had been plain lucky that she was saved until now. She decided to not venture out anymore.
Krish and RajSingh Shekhawat informed Manasvi that the Ministry of External Affairs was not keen on taking Anshuman’s case. They were firm that they hadn’t sent anyone to Pakistan in their knowledge. He didn’t stay in India for past several years, was in Syria and Afghanistan before this, and didn’t even take a flight from India to reach Pakistan. He had gone by flight from Abu Dhabi.
Every evidence increased suspicion on his intentions and they were unable to take responsibility of his actions.
Manasvi nearly panicked. Tears dropped from her eyes, one after the other, in a regular stream. She had been scared that Anshuman would get in trouble because of her. But she also had hopes that he would prove to be innocent and will be freed. The refusal from the ministry shattered her optimism to pieces. Each piece stabbing her like a knife through her heart.
She couldn’t stop herself and wept inconsolably, burying her face in the palms of her hands. Her misery wouldn’t come to an end. And now, she had been the reason for a lifetime of torture for the man who meant the most to her. Anshuman was everything for her. Her angel. Her saviour. He had eventually sacrificed his freedom while she was roaming free. She felt so disgusted that she couldn’t breathe.
She wished she could go back few months and change her decision to apply for job and renewal of passport. Her first priority should have been to give divorce to Anshuman, the day he had asked her for that.
He would have been free of her cursed shadows if they were divorced at this moment. He wouldn’t have followed her to Afghanistan and never gone to Karachi.
Asfiya hugged her to console her. Krish called her again to tell her that they were now trying to get a cabinet minister to recommend their case and to ask them to review again. Liz called her husband in the mean time and told him everything about Manasvi, Anshuman, and how he had landed there.
She disconnected the call and returned to sit with Asfiya and Manasvi. She patted Manasvi’s shoulder and said, “Manasvi, my husband is at a high post in the Ministry of External Affairs, Afghanistan. He says that he has strong contacts in the Ministry in Pakistan. He can try to get Anshuman freed on his level.”
Manasvi raised her face from her palms. She was shivering even now. She wiped her tears and whispered, “Really? Will he help us?”
Liz nodded, “Yes. He said he can’t promise how much time it will take. But he will try his level best. He will call someone in Pakistan ministry tomorrow and see how it needs to be taken ahead.”
Manasvi pressed her lips, and spoke resolutely, “I’ll postpone my tickets. I’ll stay here.”
Liz said, “You can go back to India, tomorrow. I’ll ensure Hamid calls his friends and takes up the case.”
Manasvi gave it a thought and wondered if the seriousness of the issue will be diluted if she went back from here. Why will anyone follow the case seriously to help her if she left? And they wouldn’t know how distressed she was. Maybe they needed some insights into Anshuman’s career and professional life. If she was here, she could contact Amanda, and Alex. Anshuman’s father and Krish were in India, so she wouldn’t be of much help there. Instead, she should stay here and pursue Liz’s husband to follow up Anshuman’s case and ask him to help them.
Manasvi finally decided and firmly declared, “No, I’ll stay here. Maybe your husband needs more information about Anshuman. You are leaving for France next week. I don’t want Hamid bhai to forget us.”
Liz smiled, “He won’t forget.”
“Still I want to stay.”
“To pressurize him?” Liz patted her hand jovially, to relax her.
It made Manasvi smile. She sighed. “Yes. Kind of.”
Manasvi might have smiled but deep down she knew that it was nearly an impossible task for an office in Afghanistan to get Anshuman freed. She knew Hamid could request and inquire, but will they leave Anshuman on his appeal? Will they??
She knew that it was a far-fetched hope but she had no other option left. She had to hold on to the last thread of hope, no matter how fragile it was.
At night, Manasvi was deep asleep when she woke up with a loud sound of blast, almost piercing through her ear drums. The sound was followed by large uproar, noise of people screaming, shrieks and cries. And then, it was the same familiar burning smell that diffused through the windows into the room.
For a moment, it felt that she was dreaming. But she was not. She jumped down from her bed and coughing through her way, she opened the window to see outside. The small eatery behind the hotel was in fumes now. People rushed to bring the dead and injured out of the rubble. Some screamed to search for their loved ones and some queued up to throw water and sand to douse the fire.
Manasvi closed the window and sat down on the floor, huddled together in a small bundle, trying to get rid of the goosebumps, reminding her of the childhood, and teenage she had spent with this noise and chaos.
Surprisingly, even after years had passed, the situation still remained similar. For one reason or the other, some people found it so easy to kill innocent people just to make their voices be heard.
This was the value of a living, breathing human life.
Two days had passed and Anshuman was drowning deeper in the ocean of despair, with no hopes to revive his faith.
He had heard stories about people rotting in jails for years without any hearing. Not even in his weirdest dreams, he had ever imagined his fate to meet him like this. Making him a part of those lost stories.
He couldn’t sleep for two nights, he didn’t eat well, he couldn’t stay calm. He had spent restless nights in underground bunkers for days but none was as scary as this.
He wished he could meet his parents once and thanked them for everything they had done for him. His dadi, his sister Preksha, his friends… and most of all, Manasvi.
If he ever knew that he was going to be suddenly stuck at a place, never to meet them again, he would have said his goodbye in a better way – thanking each of them for their presence in his life, telling them how much he loved them, asking them to move on without him.
Junaid Khan came to knock on the bars of his cell. His face was drawn and saddened. Anshuman was sitting on the floor of the cell. He didn’t move this time. He simply turned to throw a glance at Junaid and sighed, “I knew it.”
Junaid thrust his hands in his jacket and paced before his cell. Anshuman said, “They refused to file official request of release, right?”
Junaid tried to be hopeful. “For now, yes. But that doesn’t mean end of story. They have not refused as such. They haven’t replied, so it is considered as refusal. They will be given more time. There are more such cases like you. Your name will be sent again with them. Maybe next time, you get lucky.”
Anshuman had a lopsided smirk on his lips. A sad, sly of a smirk. Who knew government official works better than him. Even when genuine, they took years. Here, his entire history and past records were confusing. Who will take responsibility on his behalf?
For now, his story had indeed ended.
Junaid said, “We have to go.”
“Where?” Anshuman asked.
“We can’t keep you here in lock-up for long. We were questioning you so for the time being, you were in police custody. Now, for longer duration, you will be sent to Sindh Jail, until some decision is taken for you. Tomorrow, we will take your judicial custody.”
Anshuman stood up, visibly despondent and miserable. He ran his fingers in his ruffled hair to push them away from his forehead and closed his eyes, before taking a deep breath. He threw a glance at himself in the glass window of the police station. The man in the reflection wasn’t him. He couldn’t recognise himself. So many days in transit and travel had his beard and moustache grow more than he had ever let them grow. He had lost weight and he looked more frail than before. His eyes were sunken inside the hollow around them with a tinge of darkness increasing his sullen look. His face was sadder and disheartened.
His attention was distracted towards the small TV set running news in one corner. There had been a blast in Kabul. An eatery near Metropolitan hotel had been blown by insurgents. Nearly ten people had died, including three women and two children.
Anshuman froze when he heard the news. Deeply worried and anxious for Manasvi. He hoped Manasvi was fine. He wished he could talk to her.
Junaid saw him focused on the news, he came to him and said, “I want to tell you something.”
Junaid gave Anshuman’s phone to him, and said, “I was going through your phone. There were some messages from your wife. Sorry, I had to read them. She had sent pictures of a cab and possibly a driver. Maybe to stay on a safer side. Or maybe someone is harassing her.”
“What!” Anshuman was dumbfounded.
“You said she is alone in Kabul. It is not that safe for women to roam around alone. Though, in the message on the next day, she had written that she has booked ticket for India for tomorrow. So, that means she is safe. But still… as this blast happened last night. Ask her if she is fine…”
Anshuman wet his dried lips by running his tongue over the lower lips and took the phone to dial a call to Manasvi. He scrolled through her messages with a racing heart beat.
Manasvi was in the hotel room when her phone rang. She was almost startled when she read the name. Her tears flew down as she answered him, and broke down when she spoke in rapid sentences, “Anshuman, oh my God, is it you? Finally, they let you make a call… how are you?… are you fine?… I was so so so worried about you…”
“Are you fine?” He asked, ignoring all her questions of his whereabouts, almost interrupting her. He was extremely worried about her and he couldn’t wait to know if she was safe in the hotel. “I received a few messages… and a picture of cab driver…”
One sentence from him and she felt like she was home. His voice, his words, his presence on the other side of the call was so soothing, it was like a balm on her scars.
She wiped her tears and spoke in composed sentences this time. “Those messages – don’t worry about them, I sent them to everyone I know – to be on the safer side…”
“Was someone harassing you?”
“Yeah… but it was a small thing… I clicked the pictures, sent to few people and called the cops.”
He winced in agony, “Cops? Did they help you? Manasvi, please stay safe and take meticulous care when you are alone… you know how it is…”
“Anshuman, nothing bad happened.” Manasvi stressed on her words to relieve him. “I made few friends here and they helped me a lot. And I kept sending messages to you about everything so that you know where I am if you happen to get hold of your phone.”
“You are safe, right?” He asked again, to be sure and to relieve the chaos in his mind.
“Yes. I’m safe… But what about you? Are they treating you well?”
“Yes. As of now, I’m fine.”
“Krish, tells me that the Indian government…”
“Yes, I heard about that.”
“But you don’t worry. My friend’s husband is in the Ministry here. He has assured me that he will go out of his way to get you released. His close friend is a high official in Pakistan and he has some strong contacts there. He will request in his own capacity…”
Anshuman was not even interested. He knew how different governments, their official protocols, and especially diplomatic relations worked. They didn’t work on relationships and requests. He sighed, “Your safety is my prime priority, right now. I read your message that you are going to India tomorrow. Travel safely and for some time, stay with mom dad if you are feeling lonely.”
“I’m not going to India, tomorrow.” She said impulsively.
“What!!!” He couldn’t believe what he heard. Was this girl insane?
“I can’t go. Liz’s husband, Hamid bhai has assured that he will do something. Now that one road is closed, we have to try all options…”
“Listen, Manasvi…” Anshuman didn’t know what to tell her. This girl was stubborn. She was staying back to ensure that he was released. It was not even possible, according to him. And even if it was, it would take weeks, months, maybe years. How could she simply stay back in Kabul, relying on a faint hope that some stranger was going to help her.
“Anshuman, you listen… I can do nothing in India. They have already refused. Krish and uncle are there… they will try their best… but I can stay here… and…”
No…no…no… he couldn’t let her be there! Anshuman was panic stricken. So much that it made him very angry.
“Will. You. Shut. Up?” Anshuman yelled at her loudly, without realising that he was in lockup himself. For this moment, nothing else mattered than her. And it seemed nearly impossible to convince her to go back. She was hell bent on spoiling her life for him. His heart was racing hard, as he spoke gritting his teeth. With a clenched jaw, he shouted once again, “Just shut up and listen to me…PLEASE!!”
Manasvi squirmed. She hadn’t imagined Anshuman to lose his cool. He appeared so angry. So much so that he scared her. Anshuman could feel her apprehension in her silence. He didn’t mean to scare her.
He sighed and took a deep breath, before he spoke calmly, one word at a time. “Manasvi, listen to me, please.”
“The Chief had called and validated my identity. They know him. They also caught the driver who had stolen my passport and my documents. They know that I am innocent.”
“Really?” Her smile tore through her tears, warming her heart and her entire soul. What he was saying appeared unbelievable. Why was he telling it so late? Why didn’t he tell this to her before? Will they free him now?
Anshuman knew her questions. He knew what she was thinking. He leaned by the bars in his cell and said in a calm, serious voice, “Yes, they know that I am innocent and now, they have decided to free me. So, you don’t need to stay back in Kabul and struggle alone for my release. Take the flight for India and leave tomorrow. Do you get that?”
He crossed his fingers, constantly praying that she trusted him, believed his words and left Kabul tomorrow. It was very important for him. It was important for her safety and his peace of mind. He couldn’t imagine her running from pillar to post, alone, in an unknown country asking people to help her. With people like the cab driver harassing her and the blasts happening frequently, how was she even planning to stay safe.
Manasvi was still unable to believe it. This is was the biggest news she could get. She had wanted nothing more than Anshuman’s release. As if all her desires, wishes, and ambitions had melted to form this one wish of a lifetime. Just for him to be free.
“Anshuman, I’m so so happy… but why didn’t you tell me before? I was so worried…”
He sighed, and spoke on a hurting throat, “To be honest, I’m drained. Tired and exhausted. You know how it has been since years. Since my childhood, when I was maybe 3 or 4 years – all I have seen is disturbance and disruption – blasts, killings, poverty, hunger, noise, unrest – everywhere the same – in Kabul, in Kashmir, while working in PBB, in Iraq, in Syria – the same – the bombings, the faulty system, the pain, the torture, the bloodshed, the dead bodies, fumes suffocating the bronchii, the burning smell, broken ribs, hurt legs… there is no end… and I’m tired. I know I can’t make a difference and there is no point in trying anymore. I want to live my life now… a life away from all this nonsense. A rosy, beautiful life filled only with brightness, colours, happiness, and peace.”
Manasvi heard him patiently. Trying to understand what he was trying to say. She had often thought of a life like that. He did make sense. It was not unusual for a person to look for make-believe world after a bitter dose of reality. He had had enough of reality for which he had suffered for long. It was fine to wish for happiness forever.
She was so lost in listening to his deeply agonising description that she didn’t even consider that he was showing her an image that existed only in his words. There was no reality to it. His magic worked and she believed him.
He continued, “Am I wrong in asking for a better future?”
“No!” She sighed, and whispered.
“Will you be happy for me if I wanted to go away from this mayhem? This havoc is killing me. Can I hope for a life where I can forget my previous life? Every single day of my past? Including PBB?”
Her throat choked. He was asking for a life away from everything that reminded him of his past. Did it include her?
He didn’t wait for her reply, and said, “Manasvi, I didn’t tell you before because I didn’t want to hurt you. I feel guilty and it was killing me. But you insisted on staying back so I had to tell you. Please go back to India. I will be free in a day or two, and…”
“And?” She asked with trembling lips. Her goosebumps made her shudder, her spine stiffened, and her neck hurt.
She wanted the best for him and she could do anything for him, this was clear to her since years. She always knew that she could go to any lengths to ensure that he was happy. If his happiness meant going away from her, she was prepared for that too. All she wanted was for him to be happy, and free.
The fact that she had fallen in love with him was an unnecessary complication and she could deal with it. They could go back a few years, like she had wished for, and begin things where they didn’t even know each other.
He was not in love with her, she knew that. It was clear that he might have been carried away by the difficult situations in past few days and felt emotionally drawn to her, but only momentarily. She was not his love. She had never been. It was her one-sided feeling and she had to deal with it on her own.
Still, somewhere in the deepest corners of her heart, a teeny-tiny hope against hope grew, wishing to hear a happy twist that he would speak after her ‘and’ … that he would join her in India… or that he would take her with him to a faraway land where they began a new life together. They could escape this pain together.
But he said nothing like that. He didn’t intend to. He murmured disinterestedly.
“And… I have different plans.”