Hello dear lovely people,
I hope all of you are doing well in your personal and professional space. My wishes are always with you.
Thank you so much for your love and support to this story through the difficult and sad parts. I have no words to express my love and gratitude towards you. Thanks for being there.
I have replied to almost all comments on the previous updates. I try to do them as and when I read the responses, if they are made within a day or two of posting the update. The ones I miss, I will reply before the next update. Like I just replied to some, a few minutes back.
I’m trying to maintain a Monday – Thursday schedule of updates. So, next update will be on coming Thursday.
Love you 💖💖💖
Junaid gave his visiting card to Anshuman before he left. The card read his name, phone number, and post at Federal Investigation Agency, that took care of cross border terrorism, human trafficking, and other criminal investigations. He was Assistant Director at FIA and therefore he was taking care of Anshuman’s case with that authority.
“It’s just for emergency. Don’t call me otherwise,” He warned Anshuman.
Anshuman nodded, “I understand, I wouldn’t risk safety of any of us.”
“Azhar will take you till Umarkot. Beyond that we have our men, someone who will take you ahead on a camel because it is desert area for miles and miles after that. There won’t be water or shade anywhere on the way until you reach some village across the border. So, it is only advisable to cross that area in the night. Afternoons are unbearable. Also, night is safer because we don’t want you to be caught by armed forces heavily manning both sides of the border.”
Anshuman nodded, trying to understand. It was a very risky operation, but given the odds, he didn’t have any other option left. Junaid was going out of his way to help him and it was a debt that he wouldn’t be able to pay in his life.
“If at all, you need my help at any stage of life, call me. You know my name. I work at PBB. And I will go back to working for them. You will get my number and details from PBB database.”
“Hope we meet some day but not like in the circumstances that we are in right now.”
“Hope so. Take care.” Anshuman said.
“You too.” Junaid hugged him and wished him a safe journey.
The Jeep taking Anshuman left the outskirts of Karachi towards Umarkot via Hyderabad in Pakistan.
It was a long journey and it took around 6 hours to reach Umarkot. Azhar and the driver talked to Anshuman on the way and told him about the roads, people, and how he had to avoid getting noticed or attracting undue attention when he was going from Umarkot to Rajasthan border through the desert.
By the time they reached Umarkot, the sun was shining high in the sky. They decided to wait until 8 pm at night, when the darkness would set in.
“Have rest and eat something. The journey ahead is long, tiring, and very dangerous. You have to cross the desert in the dead of the night.”
Anshuman had lost his appetite. He simply let the time pass, and prayed to God that nothing went wrong this time.
By evening, a local man met them with a camel to take Anshuman across. Anshuman stared at him, dumbfounded, and said, “One camel? Are you not coming with me?”
Azhar shrugged and said, “No, we can’t cross the border. It is illegal.”
The old man with the camel patted the hoofed animal and said, “But this animal is trained. He will take you across. Leave him once you reach a village in Ransingh ki Dhani. He will find his way back.”
Anshuman was surprised. How easily people trained animals to cross the border on both sides.
Azhar understood his questions without he spoke them, and said, “You are thinking correct. These animals were once used for smuggling and human trafficking. We caught them and they are now in custody of FIA. But they are trained nevertheless. The entire border is heavily manned, with armed forces on both sides, some places it is electrified fencing too, along with round the clock patrolling by BSF. But this particular stretch is difficult because it is desert area, less populated, and a little vulnerable. We wish you all the best. Anywhere you are caught inside Pakistan side of the border, say nothing, and simply surrender yourself. They will bring you to us. But once you cross the border, I cannot say what will happen to you on the Indian side, if you are caught, and how they will treat you.”
Anshuman said, “I’m not worried about the Indian side. I can handle from there.”
“Great. May God bless you.”
They wished Anshuman and took his leave. Anshuman settled on the back of the camel with a small water bottle, and nothing else, except his passport, prayers for people who helped him in this journey, and hope.
Kajal’s operation had a few complications. She didn’t respond well. And a second surgery was scheduled in the coming week. She became more nervous. And she kept pestering Krish to ask Manasvi for her hand in marriage. Krish had promised her so that she would undergo the operation. However, he had no intention of spoiling his relationship with Manasvi. So, he tried his best to keep her away from his mother. So that she didn’t say something unexpected and made it awkward for them.
“I know, why she is not coming to meet me, anymore. You must have stopped her.” Kajal spoke to Krish, almost scolding him.
“I haven’t done anything like that.” Krish shrugged.
“I’ve given a call to her. I want to meet her.” Kajal’s eyes sparkled.
“No! Tell me you didn’t do that, ma. You can’t keep calling my friends, or colleagues.”
“She is Manasvi. Not just any friend, or colleague.” Kajal made it very clear to him, and refused to listen to anything he had to say in his defence. She had already called Manasvi to talk to her.
Manasvi hadn’t gone to meet Kajal, because she had herself felt weird. And before Krish could tell her not to come to the hospital, he found Manasvi entering their room.
Manasvi threw a glance at both mom and son, and stood speechless for a moment, before entering inside with flowers for Kajal. She gave her the flowers and sat beside her.
“How are you, aunty?” She asked.
“How can I be? When my son is giving me so much stress. Even if I ask him for a small favour, he refuses to agree to anything I say.” Kajal said.
Manasvi looked around clueless, first at Kajal, and then at Krish. Before setting any preface, without making any pretence or background, Kajal held Manasvi’s hand and said, “Manasvi, Krish won’t do it. So, I am asking you. Will you please think about the prospect of him as your life partner?”
“What!” Manasvi was left dumbfounded. For a moment, she was completely blank. What just happened, she hadn’t thought even in her weirdest dreams. She had never thought about Krish as anyone more than a casual friend. He had been good to her, kind and understanding, he had helped her a lot, but that was it. That was all she had thought about him.
“But aunty, I am…” quickly she tried to correct Kajal.
Kajal interrupted her, “I know! You were married long back. I know it was for documents sake so that you could live in India. Krish has said something about you. Rest I inquired from the office. Beta, don’t you think, life is too long to be spent alone. You are living away from your husband since years… and in fact, you were never with him…”
Manasvi gave a look of disbelief to Krish who was flabbergasted himself. Before going to Afghanistan, Krish had said the same thing about how the entire office gossiped about her. It was so easy for Kajal to know about her.
Krish intervened, “Ma, please! What are you saying?”
Kajal said, “I know, what I am saying. She married someone for getting Indian citizenship and it didn’t culminate in a proper marriage. It is not her fault. She is alone here. She has no parents, siblings, or family. Does she plan to live alone for the entire life? Is it that easy for a woman to pass live all by her herself, with no family to love, or support her? I am just hoping that you find happiness with each other.”
Manasvi frowned, “I don’t want to marry again. And I have never thought about Krish in any other way except like a friend.”
“If you haven’t, then this is the right time to think about this. I know, if I search in our community, I will get a pretty bride for him. But I like you a lot. You are nice, calm, mature… you work with him… understand him… you…”
“Ma, please?” Krish was getting angry now.
Manasvi sighed, and stood up, “But I don’t love him.”
Kajal was so low, and dejected that she had tears in her eyes. She didn’t speak anything after that. Her tears trickled down on her cheeks, unsettling Manasvi. She had seen her mother crying in moments of extreme helplessness. And they had been the worst moments of her life, she remembered them even now.
The camel smoothly treaded the vast expanse of the desert shared by the two countries. Anshuman sat alert and quiet, scanning the area in the way, trying to be as silent and as discreet as possible, to avoid being spotted by the armed forces. They slowly crossed miles in the darkest hours of the night and safely crossed the border, though suspecting the presence of border security forces far away, but fortunately managing to stay un-obtruded for a few miles inside the Indian side of the border.
Hardly a few miles inside the border at Rajasthan, around Ransingh ki Dhani, Anshuman got down the camel and left him, as instructed by Azhar and his accomplices. The camel turned around and quickly left him, running away in the dark.
Anshuman walked ahead on foot, hoping to find a path, in the deepest dark secluded area of the desert, his feet sinking in the sand, his throat drying, and his body dead tired due to long journey from Karachi till here. He kept walking, for a few hours. There appeared no end to this desert, and he had no idea for how long he had to walk. But he kept walking nevertheless. His feet started giving up, his back pained, his eyes drooped, and there was sand all over him – his face, his hair, his arms, his clothes, even in his mouth.
He dragged his feet through the sand for a long distance, exhausted, and directionless, before a spotlight fell on him. Four men in uniform surrounded him on their camels, and stopped his foray into the Indian territory.
“Why did you promise Ma, something which is totally out of question?” Krish was dumbfounded even now, when he asked Manasvi. They had stepped out of the room and he wanted to see her until taxi stand. He was extremely embarrassed at the way Kajal had been behaving lately.
Manasvi nodded, and replied in a low voice, “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see her in tears. I was lost and speechless. She asked me to promise. And I couldn’t speak.”
Krish lightly touched her arm, “I can understand. Sometimes, she can be too overwhelming. I’m so sorry. I’ll talk to her. You don’t worry.”
“Let the surgery be over.” Manasvi said, “Talk to her when you take her home. Don’t give her stress right now. We’ll wait until then.”
Krish gave it a thought. Manasvi’s suggestion made a point. There was no use arguing right now. Kajal would become more depressed and worried. Once the surgery was over, she wouldn’t even insist on marriage because right now, her only fear was who was going to be with Krish if she died. He decided to talk to her calmly after the surgery was over.
“Sure, you will be fine? Please don’t misunderstand me.” Krish said.
Manasvi said, “Come on, Krish. You have done so much for me. I can do this for your mother. And I know you very well, to misunderstand you for such a thing. And yes, I’ll be fine.”
Anshuman was caught by soldiers of Indian Border Security Forces, and taken to their nearest chowki.
But Anshuman was not scared. He confidently declared that he was a doctor with PBB and had wandered away from the Indian side to the border area because he didn’t know the route. He knew that there was no other way but to lie. If he said that he crossed the border on a camel, they were going to put him in jail and think that he was a terrorist.
He showed them his passport, with Indian seal, and stood strong at his statement that he was in this area to work with underprivileged people in a village and lost his way.
After that everything went smooth as beyond this one lie, everything else that he spoke about being an Indian, resident of Delhi, being a doctor, working for PBB, and previously in Indian Army, were all true. They took only a moment to believe him because of his language, and genuine details. They gave him privilege to make one call. Anshuman wanted to call Manasvi. But he didn’t know what to talk to her after lying to her that he was being freed and going to Scotland, leaving her. And how was he going to explain her how he reached there. BSF would arrest him if he said that he had crossed the border illegally.
After thinking well, Anshuman called his father, RajSingh Shekhawat, and quickly explained in two sentences that he was with BSF and he needed someone there to verify his identity as an Indian. Being an army man himself, RajSingh took only one minute to understand the whole issue. He talked to the chief of the chowki, as an army senior, and told him that they were on their way to receive their son.
“Dad, will you please…” Anshuman said, before stopping midway, wondering what to add to that.
RajSingh understood. And replied in a calm, understanding voice.
“We will inform Manasvi.”