Anshuman continued to do this work in the jail without hoping a lot from the agencies and the system. He tried to immerse himself so much in work that he could forget everything else in his life. The patients, their illnesses, and his work needed to be on his mind at all times. He used to get so tired all day that his body would ache by night.
Still, when he would lie down to sleep every night, every muscle of his body aching, he was unable to tame his heart to not beat for her, mind to not think about her.
He wished she was fine, and doing well. He wished he could talk to her, even if it was only for once. He had to say so much to her. But he couldn’t. His thoughts, feelings, emotions stayed buried silently inside him.
Just like Manasvi’s memories.
One morning, the jailer called Anshuman to inform him that he had received a letter about him. Upset and worried, jailer was making calls to confirm if he had to send Anshuman as per the letter. The letter from the govt. agencies said that Anshuman’s case will now be heard in Islamabad court and a new bench of judges had been appointed to take a decision about him. Until then, he would stay in Islamabad jail.
Anshuman sat in the chair in the jailer’s office listening to Junaid Khan, who had arrived when the jailer called him, and his discussion with the jailer that said that he had received a similar intimation. Anshuman knew by experience and hearsay about how things worked in a govt. system. Even if they tried to help him genuinely, the formalities would take years. It was the same everywhere.
He didn’t even know which charges were levied on him and how he was going to counter them, whether the proofs of his innocence were submitted in the court of justice or they were with a higher official in his personal capacity, and how he was going to know in which direction the case was going once the jailer and Junaid were gone.
He didn’t even know how the new jailer in Islamabad jail would be. Not everyone was kind. Not everyone was tolerant to Indians.
Krish’s mother, Kajal, was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy along with the respiratory distress she had been going through for months now.
The cardiothoracic surgeon advised surgery for the same. She refused to undergo surgery because she believed that heart surgery was risky and she would die. A few of their relatives had died during risky surgeries and she didn’t want to take any chances. Krish and doctors tried their best to convince her but she remained undeterred.
“Try to understand Krish, I’m so worried for you. I can’t die leaving you alone.” She had tears in her eyes
“No one is dying Ma.” Krish rolled his eyes, and said, “Our doctors are the best. They will try their best to relieve you. After surgery, your breathlessness will improve and life expectancy will increase. You are going to die, otherwise, not because of surgery.”
Kajal sighed, “Then, I’ll quickly find a bride for you and die peacefully.”
Krish stood up, angry on her, “Come on… don’t act like a baby.”
Manasvi had just reached hospital when she saw them discussing this issue. She stood for a moment trying to understand the issue, and gave flowers to Kajal, without saying anything. She generally never interfered in other people’s business, and convincing her was not her job. She stood quiet.
Kajal looked at her and said, “You tell him, Manasvi, not to pester me for surgery.”
Manasvi thought for a moment, and then replied in a low voice, “In such cases, I personally prefer to go by doctors’ advice.”
“Happy?” Krish said to his mom, “You will not get anyone who will support you in this issue.”
Kajal said, “But what if I die?”
“You won’t?” he assured her holding her hand.
“What if I do? Do you promise to get married if I am no more. I want to be relieved that you will be taken care of.”
He huffed, “Okay, I will. Fine, now?”
Kajal smiled, “Yes. That’s all I want. I can’t leave you alone.” Then she turned to Manasvi, “Manasvi, I want you to do something for me. Can you do me a favour, please?”
“Will you please help Krish find a nice girl for him? In case I am no more… I know how dumb he is, regarding girls. He won’t take the step. You have to be with him to help him.”
Manasvi replied, “You will be fine, aunty. The surgery is going to be successful. But God forbid, if something happens, I’ll see to it that Krish gets married and is well taken care of. He will not be alone.”
Kajal sighed in relief. “Thank God. And thank you. Now, I can go for the surgery and I’m not worried anymore, even if I die. He has such a great friend in you.”
Manasvi simply smiled in reply.
The surgery was scheduled to be done two days later. Krish kept counselling his mother that she will be fine and he will get married because that was all she could talk about.
“Why don’t you ask Manasvi?” Kajal said, on the night before the surgery.
“Ask what?” Krish stared at her, flabbergasted.
Kajal nodded in irritation, shrugging, “What are we talking about always, at all times? What I am expecting from you? About marriage, obviously!”
“Ma… she is already married.” Krish couldn’t believe it that his ma said that. Thank God, Manasvi wasn’t here. Or else, his mom would have made it embarrassing for both Manasvi and him.
“I know, she is married. But I also know that she is not with her husband since years. Look, she doesn’t have a family. She has no one here. And she is such a nice girl. Both of you would look amazing together.” Kajal had already thought a lot about it, it seemed.
Krish heaved a deep breath, “Ma, she is my friend. Honestly, I’ve never thought anything like this about her.”
“So, why don’t you think now? She works with you. You understand each other. You were with her in Afghanistan. I can see how well you gel along with her. I’ve never seen you bond with anyone that much.”
Krish made her lie down on her bed and said, “Stop saying all that, ma! And now you should sleep. It’s your surgery tomorrow.”
“Okay. I’ll take rest, but promise me that you will think about it.” Kajal spoke with dreamy eyes.
“Uhh…okay… just spare me for now. Let’s talk after the surgery.” Krish switched off the light and settled his pillow on the spare attendant’s bed in his mom’s room in the hospital.
“Promise me, Krish!”
“Why are you always taking promises about everything?” Krish was irked.
“Okay… I promise… I will think… and that is all I can promise for now. Fine?” Krish said.
Krish closed his eyes, hoping to deflect his mom’s thoughts after the surgery was over. Definitely he was going to think but not about a way to propose to Manasvi, but he was going to think how to ease her pain. How to make her meet Anshuman.
Krish had personally witnessed Anshuman and Manasvi’s story and guessed that they were in love, only by his observation of their behaviour around each other. He considered Manasvi as a dear friend and he was never going to let his mom disturb their equations with each other.
Junaid Khan arrived to take Anshuman with him and submitted a letter from the authorities that he and his team was supposed to take Anshuman to Islamabad by air.
The jailer and the jail inmates were unhappy at having to let their favourite person leave them. Anshuman had bonded with many of the inmates, talked to them about their families, and the issues they were suffering from.
It wasn’t a bond of long duration, but in last 3.5 months, they had grown used to him being around them and grown to like him. They hugged him and thanked him for doing all that he had done for them.
Anshuman left Sindh jail with Junaid and two of his constables who were accompanying him. They left in a police jeep. Anshuman didn’t speak much through the small journey towards the airport. Nor did Junaid talk much except asking if he had been fine in the jail and whether he needed anything. Anshuman replied in short, not feeling like saying much. He silently observed the route and was shocked when Junaid crossed the signboard indicating towards the Karachi airport.
Anshuman stared at Junaid, turning to him, surprised and clueless. Junaid didn’t say anything. He kept quiet for a long time, until they crossed the entire Karachi city and reached the outskirts and then finally a secluded area out of the main city, on the highway towards Hyderabad. Another police jeep was waiting there on one side of the road.
Junaid stopped near the other white jeep, and parked his jeep in a corner. Turning to Anshuman, he moved his brows asking him to get down.
Anshuman spread his hands in air, “What?”
“I had said long back that I trust in justice. And I was hoping for that for you. But I also said that justice delayed is justice denied. You have already lost a lot because of us. We all know that you are innocent but this diplomatic paperwork is taking time and no one knows how long it is going to take. I don’t want you to spend your life waiting for justice.”
“So?” Anshuman was unable to believe what he was thinking and whether Junaid was helping him to leave.
“So, I am feeling guilty. I am not going to spend my life chasing your case, trying to ensure that everything went well and you were freed. I have other works to do, catch other criminals, serve my nation, and make it great, do things for my family… More than everything, my ammi is trying to get me married, and I am unable to think of anything personal because I feel, I was unable to help you. It’s pricking my conscience.”
“You don’t need to feel like that.” Anshuman said, “You are doing your job and you are pretty good at that.”
“Thanks. Anyway, both of us know how the system works. I’ve realised that there is no end point to it and it may take years. Also, we don’t know when the authorities change and a new officer comes, who changes the entire scenario. We can’t wait.” Junaid asked him to step out of his jeep and took him to another jeep to meet 2 men – a driver and another man with him.
“He is Azhar. I can trust him with my life. He works with us undercover. He will take you to the border towards Indian side, and help you cross the border discreetly. After that, it is your responsibility. I’ll handle here.” Junaid said, leaving Anshuman speechless all over again. He was not reacting, anymore. He only listened.
Junaid took out Anshuman’s passport from his pocket and said, “Azhar will give you a set of clothes to change. Here’s your passport. I can only give your passport right now. Everything else, including your phone will remain with us because we need to handle here after you go.”
Overwhelmed, Anshuman couldn’t speak for a moment. His heart was heavy and throat choked. He had almost thought an end to his life in one of a dingy, dark cell of an unknown jail. And here, an unrelated man was giving him his life back. It was unbelievable.
Anshuman took his passport from Junaid. As if his soul, his heart, his existence, his life had returned back to him, on this silent deserted road out of Karachi. His eyes became moist. He stepped ahead and hugged Junaid, who hugged him back, saying, “Take care.”
Anshuman sat in the jeep. Before they left, Anshuman said, “I hope you don’t face any problem because of this. What will you tell them?”
“Don’t worry about that. I have planned it well. For a long time, Islamabad people will think that you are in Sindh and Sindh jailer will assume that you are in Islamabad. I’ve set some colleagues to help me. After few months, people will stop bothering. Like the media and news segments died after you were shifted to jail. People have short memory.”
“I will never be able to forget you and what you did for me.” Anshuman sighed, on a choked throat.
“I will never forget you too. You taught me a new meaning of patience and selflessness. You gave a hardened cop, a chance to revive his human side. You worked with our people without thinking who they are, where they come from, what they believe in, and whether you like them or not.”
Anshuman smiled slightly, and replied. “Who am I to judge people? After working with different people across several countries, I’ve seen that deep inside, we are all the same. Craving for love and compassion. Bound by similar desires, similar needs and wants, almost same problems, same fights within ourselves, and same struggles through life.”
Junaid smiled too, “Divided by borders.”
“United by feelings.”
Next Update on Monday. Let’s see if I can follow a Monday-Thursday routine of updating this story.
Hope all of you are doing fine. Take care