Manasvi returned to Mumbai with her team and spent the entire day preparing for the article to be submitted with the report on the summit.
Krish was surprised to see her working diligently, from early morning after reaching Mumbai, to late at night. He shrugged, looking at her from across the desktop. She nodded to refuse.
“What happened? You seem to be in a hurry.” Krish commented.
“I want to finish the article and submit it. You work with the finer details. Rest, I’ll be there on mails and phone. Be in touch if you need to ask something.”
“You are going somewhere?” Krish asked.
She nodded, “Yes. I’m going to Delhi. Anshuman’s sister is getting married.”
She didn’t say anything beyond that. Neither did Krish ask anything.
Anshuman spent the day with his mom, dad, and dadi discussing the details of how preparations will be done for Preksha’s wedding on coming Saturday. It was supposed to be a close family affair, decided at the last moment. However, they didn’t want to leave any stone unturned to make it a memorable event for everyone. Especially Preksha.
Preksha was happy. She was getting married to the love of her life and her bhai, Anshuman was there. She let go of all the dreams she had seen of an elaborate big fat wedding spanning several days.
“Sorry!” Anshuman curled his hand around her shoulder and said.
“Come on, bhai! Wedding is important. Feelings and people are important. Like you are there. That matters the most. Rituals are only secondary.” Preksha spoke with maturity.
“Still… rituals matter too. Don’t say after few years that we didn’t do it properly.” Anshuman chuckled. Everyone laughed teasing Preksha.
Madhu spoke to Anshuman, “Anshuman, I have something in mind, if you don’t mind.”
“Now that Manasvi and you are together, no one can be happier than us. When you were married 8 years ago, it was a simple marriage, with court procedures and everything. Mainly a formality. Can we perform rituals like mehendi and haldi for you and Manasvi too, with Preksha? Followed by a proper wedding, with all sacred rituals?”
Preksha jumped in excitement, “Wow!! That will be too exciting.”
Anshuman stood up and walked away, “Come on, mom! I hope it is not a joke.”
“Arre…why are you feeling so shy?” Madhu grinned, teasing him, “Okay, don’t answer. I’ll ask Manasvi.”
He rode the stairs to his room, and replied from the stairs, “Try your luck. Manasvi is always one step ahead of me. In everything.”
Manasvi applied for a leave which was rejected by Mr. Mehta. Manasvi applied again. Asked the HR to reconsider her application as it was an urgent matter and requested to meet Mr. Mehta in case he didn’t relent.
Anshuman called Manasvi, at night, when he was alone in his room after a tough, tiring day. His voice was heavy, as he laid on bed talking to Manasvi, telling her about the preparations, the relatives who will be called, and how they were going about it. She could hear in his voice how he was trying to keep his eyes open. She could visualize him as drained, and fighting a yawn.
“Tired?” She asked him, in a considerate velvety voice.
“Not much. I’m used to working hard, so physical labour doesn’t exhaust me. I’m loving it as this work is satisfying. Mom and dad are very happy that I am here.”
“Preksha must be excited too.” Manasvi asked.
“Oh yes, she is! Too excited. She wanted to talk to you but I asked her not to as you might be busy in office.”
“I miss her but I don’t talk to her.” Manasvi admitted, feeling guilty, “Same with Ma. I miss her too.”
“So, why don’t you talk to them?”
“I don’t know. I guess… I feel awkward.” She accepted, “Especially since you were in Pakistan and I was free, while I should have been…”
He interrupted her, lovingly but firmly, “Stop saying that. No one is blaming you. No one said anything. It’s only in your mind. You get it?”
“Hmm.” She kept quiet.
He tried to deviate the topic and give it a lighter turn. So he said, “You know, everybody was asking about you… mom… dadi… they were asking how are you… Where did I meet you? Where did we spend the night?”
She blushed hard, “What did you tell them?”
He shrugged, “Told them the truth. That I was in Goa with you, in your room.”
“Gosh! They must be thinking…” She started speaking but stopped herself, biting her lip, and closing her eyes.
“What?” He lifted a brow, “They must be thinking…what? You were saying something?”
“No… nothing…” She stammered.
“Hmm?” She made a soft sound, unable to find words to communicate easily with him.
“Uhh… okay, forget it.” He knew she was embarrassed. He grinned, and decided to let her go this time. Though, he noticed that she was the only girl he had talked to, so much in his life, and the only single girl, he had felt like teasing. Something about her constantly pulled him towards her. There was an inexplicable charm in her that tugged at his heartstrings, making music out of all the cacophony and noise of the world. A mysterious magic bonded them together making sense of every fire of negativity, hopelessness, harshness life offered, turning it into little raindrops of positive energy. They were connected in several ways but the strongest connection between them comprised of feelings that began at one heart and reached the other without speaking even a word about it.
In a soft whisper, he asked, “When are you coming? Tomorrow, or day after tomorrow?”
“Err…” She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she wasn’t getting leaves. She was already stressed about it. She didn’t want to upset him. She said, “Day after tomorrow. Wednesday.”
“Great. Message me the flight details. I’ll come to pick you up at the airport.”
“Alright. I’ll message you.” She promised him.
The HR manager told Manasvi that her leave application was turned down by Mr. Mehta and she could see him personally if she wanted to appeal.
“Why do you want leave? You just came from Afghanistan.” Mehta shrugged.
“It was 5 months ago, Sir. That was a necessary trip as I went there for my documents. Also, Krish and I were working even in Afghanistan. We wrote a story about the PBB camps working there. So, technically it was wasn’t a holiday. Ever since I have come back, I am continuously working every single day without availing any leaves. This time, I want to avail my pending Casual Leaves, if you don’t mind. It is very urgent,” Manasvi said.
“Nothing is urgent, except work,” Mr. Mehta was adamant, “I want you to go and cover the water protest held for water crisis in the interior areas of Rajasthan.”
“You can send someone else in my place for that.”
“No, I want you to go. We were very kind to you when you were stuck in Afghanistan. Now, it’s your turn to repay.”
Manasvi folded her hands across her chest and replied in a soft, polite, yet firm tone, “Sir, I’m sorry. I know why you were kind to me then. Working in this organization for a few months has taught me enough. Still, thank you for being kind to me while I was away. I have repaid it there and then, by writing an article about it, praising the company on global platforms as tolerant to divergence, and open to new people, and I am repaying it every day by working beyond my time, and by attending every event you ask me to, without any extra pay or perks. In past 5 months, this is the first leave that I am asking for. And I think, I deserve it.”
Mr. Mehta reclined on his chair, observing her, and asked, “And what if I still don’t grant it?”
“I’ll resign.” She said, without thinking twice.
“Do you even know what you are saying? Resign? Is this leave ‘that’ important?”
“More important that my life. If I am not given leaves, I’ll put down my papers, and serve the notice period after coming back next week.”
“Think about it.” Mehta said.
“I’ve thought about it, Sir. I can’t let down the family and the people who stood by me through every difficult phase. I can do anything to be there. Even if it means putting my life and career at stake.”
Upset, Manasvi left Mehta’s office and sat on her chair, angrily tapping her fingers on the table. She had always been the most patient person in the office, and everywhere she went, but this time, even her patience was waning. The more she was aching to go to Delhi to be with Anshuman, the more difficult it became at every step.
She wrote messages to Krish, and one of her team-mates. Opened the laptop, and booked a ticket to Delhi at the earliest. And called Anshuman.
“I’m coming by afternoon. Will you be able to pick me up around 2:30 pm at the airport?”
Anshuman thought he hadn’t heard clearly. His jaw dropped, as he was pleasantly surprised, “This afternoon? You mean, today? 4 hours from now?? It’s Tuesday. Didn’t you say that you are coming on Wednesday?”
“I did. So? Shall I cancel the ticket? I can come tomorrow, if you want.” She replied dryly, rubbing her hand at her forehead.
“Whoa! Oops!!!” He couldn’t stop laughing at that, “The fiery side of you, returns!! Saw that avatar briefly in Kabul… the firebrand hidden under the layers of calm, docile, sweet Manasvi.”
She sighed, “Are you pulling my leg?”
“Never.” As always, he knew she was fighting a strong emotion inside. He asked in a loving, caring voice, “What happened? Fought with someone?”
“I’ll tell you after I reach there. I’m leaving the office, now. I don’t want to miss the flight.”
“Sure. I’ll be there at the airport. At 2:30.”
She wanted to say so much in reply to him. She wished she could tell him that she couldn’t sleep properly after he had left her in Goa and one thing she wished right now was to see him right before her. She wished she could tell him how her heart deceived her and left her to be with him, beat for him, remind her of him, all the time. She couldn’t say how she was in a tussle. On one side she felt guilty of being responsible for his pain and his ordeals, and she hated that, she wanted to stay away from him to redeem herself. On the other side, she wanted to be with him, at all times, to ensure that he was fine. She couldn’t sum up any sensible words to express her state of mind. She only sighed, “See ya.”
Even he wished he could say those things too. He couldn’t because the conversation didn’t end on that note and he didn’t want to make it awkward between them. But nevertheless, she was coming there. And he knew they would get ample opportunities to say all that they always wanted to but could never speak in words.
This time, he was going to convey to her everything he felt about her, how he missed her, how she was on his mind twenty-four-seven, how every beautiful thing reminded him of her, how every thought about her brought a smile on his face, how he caught himself lost in her thoughts, imagining what she was doing, and what she thought about certain things, and most of all, how he was looking forward for them to spend the rest of the days of their lives together.
He was going to say it all. Today. And in the next 5 days which she was going to spend with him. He couldn’t wait anymore. These four hours felt longer than the 5 months he had spent in jail. Every minute, every second spent in waiting for her felt like an era.
For the first time, he felt like giving a name to this connection between them.