Manasvi’s phone remained unreachable for the entire day, making Anshuman restless.
He reached home by lunchtime and was greeted warmly by Dadi and Preksha, and some of their very close relatives. His parents hadn’t told anyone else that he had arrived because people knew that he was stuck in Pakistan and they didn’t want friends and relatives to speculate about his release, or gossip about him leading to spreading of news, and thus causing more problems for Anshuman.
Preksha had bought a new phone and sim card for him. The first number that he saved and dialled from his phone was Manasvi’s. He called almost every fifteen minutes, hoping for her to switch it on.
At tea time, the family was discussing further plan of action. Preksha’s marriage had been postponed because Anshuman was in Pakistan for past 5 months, and she had refused to get married in his absence.
“Now, that Anshuman is here, we can plan for Preksha’s wedding.” Dadi suggested, eternally worried about Preksha’s postponed wedding. Dipping her Parle G biscuit in his tea, she added, “It’s good that Tarun’s family waited for so long for us. But we shouldn’t delay it anymore.”
“But mummy, we can’t let everyone know that Anshuman is suddenly back to India. Everyone knows that we have applied for his release application at MEA. They will ask how he was freed. We can’t tell that someone helped him across the border to pass through it illegally. We will all be in deep trouble. Including Junaid Khan who helped him.” RajSingh elaborated on his opinion.
“But… what about Preksha…” Dadi asked.
Tea time in Shekhawat household was always about brainstorming. But today was different. Anshuman was here and they were all gathered for tea, asking him how he spent his days in jail, how he was treated, how were the people across the border, and what were his future plans. Dadi, as always, was worried about Preksha, who was cool herself. Not in any hurry of getting married.
“Come on, Dadi, I’m not in any hurry. Tarun and I are fine with this stretched courtship. Tarun understands and doesn’t mind.”
Anshuman had been busy with his phone, getting anxious every moment because he wasn’t able to reach Manasvi. His attention was on his phone, yet he was aware of the conversation going on around him. He moved his eyes from his phone to Preksha.
“But why did you delay it? You should have gone ahead and got married. I would have met you afterwards too.”
“Like really?” Preksha rolled his eyes, “That can never happen. You were in such a huge problem and you think I will get married? I couldn’t even think of that. All each one of us would think of and talk about, was how deep you were stuck, and how to get you freed.”
Anshuman curled his arm around his little sis and hugged her sideways. She was adorable and he loved her dearly.
His aunt arrived with a fresh bunch of pakodas and everyone was busy talking to each other when Anshuman once again tried to call Manasvi. When she was unreachable again, he was worried. Five months was a big time. He was not in touch with her. His family had reduced interaction with her on practical grounds. Because any connection with Manasvi would have circulated negative light about him. They told him about it and confessed that they were extremely guilty about it. Though they tried to talk to her once in a month to know if she was fine. But they wanted to do more. But couldn’t because they were scared and clueless about Anshuman.
Anshuman winced on realising that no one was in touch with Manasvi for past one month. Was she fine? What if… she was ill? Or met with some accident? Or facing some problem? What if she was in a trouble and needed him?
He became more restless with every passing moment. He didn’t have Krish’s number as his phone was with Junaid, and none of the numbers saved by him in his phone were with him, right now. His mom didn’t have Krish’s number either.
Anshuman searched the internet for the number of office of The Insight in Mumbai and luckily got through their reception. He asked for Manasvi, and after a painful wait period, he was informed that she was not in office on that day. She was out of office. When he asked for Krish Sahay, he was informed about the same.
Anshuman knew that Manasvi worked with Krish. Any lead from Krish would guide him about Manasvi. His dad had booked a late evening flight, at around 8:00 pm, for Mumbai. But Anshuman couldn’t wait. He had to reach Manasvi as soon as possible. It had been a long time, and he wanted to know that she was fine, taking care of herself, and doing well.
Anshuman called The Insight office again and asked if they had an alternate or emergency number of Krish. The reception lady gave him an emergency number that was given by Krish.
Anshuman dialled the number. The number belonged to Krish’s mother Kajal, as she was the only emergency contact that Krish needed to be in touch with, in case of a problem.
“Hello, this is Kajal Sahay. Krish’s mom.” Kajal spoke when Anshuman asked if the number belonged to Krish.
“Hello Aunty, may I please talk to Krish? His phone is switched off.” Anshuman said.
“Oh! I think you don’t know. Krish has gone to Goa for three days. He is covering the Achiever’s conclave. His phone is off because many biggies are speaking there, including cabinet ministers. So they are asked to switch off their phones. Krish called me before switching it off.” Kajal informed him, politely and kindly.
Anshuman heaved a sigh of relief. Maybe Manasvi was with Krish and covering the same programme. That is why her phone was off too. But her phone was off since early morning today. He had been trying all the time. He tried to confirm.
“Do you know if his associate Manasvi Rathore… err… is she with him? Her phone is off too.”
Kajal chuckled, “Oh yes, Manasvi is with him. But her phone is not off because of the conclave. It’s because she mistakenly left it at our house. They left in a hurry as they were getting late, and Manasvi dropped it here. I saw it only after they had left.”
“Ohh!” Anshuman was relieved for a bit, wondering if he should still board the flight to Mumbai. Manasvi was not there for 3 days. And her phone was not with her. What would he do in Mumbai for 3 days? Or should he go to Goa instead and surprise her? That seemed like a perfect option before Kajal spoke next.
She said, “You might have got worried when you found both their phones switched off? Are you a friend of Krish and Manasvi?”
“Umm…yeah…” Anshuman weighed words, wondering what he should say to her, when Kajal spoke further, “Do you work in their office? Do you know Manasvi too? She is such a sweet girl. I’m sure she would be a perfect life partner to Krish.”
“What!” Anshuman was not sure if he heard it right. He stammered, “Excuse me?”
“Krish didn’t tell you? This guy is so shy.” Kajal grinned and added, “Manasvi is shy too. They wouldn’t commit to getting married for quite some time. But now that they have, I’ll make sure that they get married in the next weekend itself. There is no point in delaying more as none of us wants an elaborate wedding. And what is the point in delaying once they had a holiday in Goa together… I mean, they said, it’s work, but I’m not a naïve kid… I understand. They were in such hurry… it didn’t look like work…” Kajal chuckled more, and added, “Okay, you give me your name and phone number. I’ll tell them when they come back.”
Anshuman disconnected the call. He was not sure if he really heard what he did, and whether he understood it correctly, or if it was even true.
No… no… no…
Manasvi will never do that. I know her. I know her so well.
His heart was unable to believe but his mind asked him – She can’t… what?? She can’t move on???
Didn’t he ask her to move on? Didn’t he ask her to submit the divorce papers and forget him? Didn’t he tell her that he was going to Scotland and she shouldn’t think about him?
She did exactly what he had asked her to do.
Why was he offended now? Why was he expecting her to not move on?
She had believed him that he was freed, going away for a peaceful life, and had left her.
His heart was still not ready to believe that the Manasvi would do this. She was not someone who would forget him so easily and move on to get married with someone else.
Someone said something about her. Why was he even believing it??
No, he should talk to Manasvi directly. If she said that she has moved on, only then he should believe it. He can’t be believing anyone’s words about Manasvi.
Anshuman paced around the hall contemplating the next move, dealing with the hundreds of thoughts rushing in and out of her mind.
He asked his dad about the ticket to Mumbai and decided to get it changed to Goa. He had to meet her. He had to see her. He had to feel her presence around him, hold her hand, look into her eyes, and know what was going in her mind.
Their bond was too deep. At least, that is what he had always thought.
Anshuman’s ticket was rescheduled and he got it changed for Goa. He was anxious all through the journey, during the flight, and the route from Goa airport to the hotel that he had searched online where the conclave was happening. The Insight was a big news portal and the reception guys had no idea where Manasvi and Krish were. But when Anshuman asked them specifically about the Achiever’s conclave, they told him about the hotel where their team was staying.
Anshuman was nervous. He didn’t know why he was holding on to every hope of having her back when he had himself told her to go away. Maybe because he had wished for her to reach India safely. And just that. Maybe he had never wanted her to move on from him?
Post dinner, Manasvi took a long walk at the beach adjacent to the hotel they were staying at, and watched the chaotic ocean for a long time. She sat down at one of the beach chairs and raised her legs hugging them close to her.
The journey from Mumbai and then the conclave had been too tiring. Krish and her had come with a team, in the van provided by The Insight, carrying camera and other equipment like satellite connection, mic etc. They were already late, and they had picked her first, and then she had to rush to Krish’s home, asking him to hurry up. In this mess, her phone was dropped at Krish’s home.
She missed it. She had nothing to do if she didn’t have her phone. She couldn’t read news, or check random social media pings, or watch animal videos on youtube. More than everything else, she couldn’t see Anshuman’s picture saved in her phone. Something she did every night.
She missed him so much. She missed him like a person drowning in the ocean missed his breath. She missed him like the world missed the sun on a cold, rainy day. He was the sunshine she needed in her life. And the more she missed him, the more helpless she felt. The more she knew that she couldn’t meet him, the more difficult it appeared to be.
“Thinking about something deep?” Krish asked her, approaching her in the dark silence of the night, “I knew you would be here, when you went for a long walk after dinner. Aren’t you scared here?”
“Scared?” Manasvi smiled, “No, I like the silence. The calmness.”
“Of course! You’ve seen so heavy-duty noise that you appreciate silence well.”
“I’m missing my phone.” Manasvi diverted the conversation. She didn’t want to discuss anything about her past anymore. Not with Krish. He had been a strong support for her but she didn’t want to harp on her past miseries and make them the focus of her life and discussions. She didn’t want to use Krish’s sympathy for her to rule his professional decisions. She didn’t want to allow Krish more space that he already had, as a friend, and as a mentor. She was fine, suffering it all alone, finding ways to deal with it. She wanted to appear mature and confident to deal with her issues, without needing a shoulder to lighten her burden. She was well equipped to do that on her own. More than that, she didn’t want her personal life to become a spectacle than it already was.
Krish was important but only at a certain distance. There were other casual friends at office and they were only acquaintances. Manasvi had never felt the need to talk to any man to shed her burden or share her pain.
The only man, she was ever going to talk her heart out with, would be Anshuman. He was the only man she had ever felt close to. So close that it felt like he was a part of her. The only man who could make her feel beautiful. She liked herself more when he was around because his eyes were always on her. His attention remained undivided to shower on her, and only her. He was the only man who made her feel like she mattered and that she was cared for. She was special. And she was the centre of his Universe.
Until he told her that they were not meant to be. He needed a peaceful life that didn’t remind him of their painful past. And that included her.
But it wasn’t her fault that she loved him despite every twist and turn in their life. It wasn’t her fault that her heart would beat only for him. He was the only one who made her feel complete because they fit like parts of a jigsaw puzzle. Crooked, weird, irregular, and yet they fit so perfectly together. He was the only man who made her feel perfect.
The only man she needed in her life was Anshuman.