He had never expected that she would say ‘this’. Not even in his dreams. Neither did she ever imagine that she would speak like this with anyone. With him! But such words are not planned and articulated. They just spill out. Like emotions. Like tears. Like an overwhelming surge of a deeply felt pain. The way she didn’t think even for a moment before she ran towards him to ensure that he w...
Mortified at being cornered so easily, and grateful for her promise that she was with him in this pursuit, Anshuman sheepishly rolled his eyes, pressed his lips, and turned to look around at the road. Then, he slightly huffed, “I’m sorry!”
Softly she murmured and grinned as that subtle gesture from him was adorable. Her assessment of him had been true. He was just trying to push her away by being indifferent and rude and couldn’t do that properly.
It was not in him to behave uncouthly with anyone. ‘And did he really think that she will believe him when he was mean to her?’
Manasvi bid the last goodbye to everyone, now standing far from the car. The engine roared in full throttle as the car moved out of their bungalow and ran on the smooth road.
It was quite dark and the roads were nearly empty. Anshuman drove at a good speed. He appeared to be a pro at driving and it seemed that he drove a lot, she thought. There was so much that she had only heard about him. So much, she had just imagined. So much, that she had only assumed. And now, when he was right beside her, she didn’t know what to talk to him. She wished for this road to never end. She was not looking for a destination now when the journey was so smooth. With Anshuman driving, she found her peace in the route. Manasvi tucked her hair behind her ear and corrected the dupatta on her head.
She was aware that this might be their first and last moment together where they were alone with each other for a long time. She had numerous questions about his work. But why would he share it with her? They were not friends. They were not even in touch. Though she wanted to know about him, it was only intrigue and curiosity, she convinced herself!
Why did he insist on dropping her? Did he want to talk about the divorce? Or his girlfriend?
Anshuman didn’t talk to her, contrary to what she had been thinking. He drove quietly, concentrating on the road ahead. She wondered what was going in his mind and stayed quiet too, waiting for him to start talking.
On the other hand, he was clueless about how to initiate the conversation again. There was so much that she had every right to know. So much that was linked to her and before he asked for the divorce, he wanted to ensure that she was fine and doing well for herself. He couldn’t be callous to leave her like that. She didn’t have a job right now. And though they had never supported her financially, there was moral support attached to be related to a family. Once she has a job, she will meet new people, make new friends, move on in life and maybe, she will find love too. She didn’t deserve to be stuck in a relationship which she had entered for the sake of a few documents when she was so young that she didn’t even know how her life was about to shape after that.
But he couldn’t talk to her. An awkward silence had grown it’s tentacles between them. After every moment of careful interaction, there appeared a hundred moments of wordlessness between them.
They reached the airport. Anshuman parked the car in the dedicated parking area, stepped down first, and walked around the car to help her take out her bags.
Manasvi spoke first, “Thank you so much. I will manage from here.”
Anshuman rubbed his hand through his neck, visibly uneasy, and said, “Come, it’s 4:45 only. We have a few minutes to talk!”
“Talk?” She asked, walking with him.
“I told you on phone.”
“Oh! The divorce?!” She tried to keep her voice as stable as possible. As unaffected as possible. And as distant as possible, as she said, “You can get the papers ready and send them to me. I’ll sign them.”
“Hmm!!” He nodded and moved ahead, taking care of the gate number and the details of her flight. She was to enter from Gate 1 of Terminal 3 at IGI airport, New Delhi.
The security guard at the entrance gate asked for an identity card from both. Anshuman flashed his driving license from his wallet and was allowed to enter. When the guard asked Manasvi for the id card, she took out her passport along with her ticket.
“Manasvi Rathore?” The guard looked perplexed. It was a Hindu name. On an Afghan passport, “Ma’m you are an Afghan national?”
“How does it matter?” Manasvi asked softly yet firmly, “Do you only allow Indians to board flights from this airport??”
“No…no!!” He was embarrassed, “Woh…err… nothing!”
He didn’t speak more after this but looked at Manasvi with suspicious eyes, before asking another female security guard to escort Mansvi for a screening which other passengers were not subjected to. Others could simply enter by showing their identity cards and tickets. He called his office in the meanwhile.
After careful scrutiny, she was asked to wait while another safety officer reached there and asked Manasvi to show her passport to him. He examined the passport and asked her to come with him to the control room. Before Manasvi could reply, Anshuman intervened, “What happened? Is there any problem?”
The security officer shrugged, “Nothing Sir! Just a safety measure!”
Anshuman spoke in a stronger, angry tone this time, “But you didn’t do the same with other passengers. They can enter the airport showing the ticket and id card. Why her?”
The safety officer asserted, “It’s just a routine check, Sir! Please don’t be offended.”
Anshuman was about to speak more when Manasvi intervened, “Dr. Shekhawat! Please let it be…”
“Wait!” Anshuman spoke to her this time, in not a pretense but in a real upset tone, “Let me talk!” Then he turned to the officer and asked, “What’s the problem? Why do you want her to go with you?”
“For some interrogation. It will hardly take a couple of minutes. Our Head of Security will meet her and ask a few questions. Then we will let her go!”
Manasvi almost pleaded, “Dr. Shekhawat, please! It will just take a few minutes. If we get into a fight or delay it, I will miss my flight. Let me go. It’s okay!”
“No, it’s not okay!” Anshuman took out his driving license again, his voter’s card and several other cards that he had and showed it to the officer, “I’m Dr. Anshuman Singh Shekhawat. I’m an Orthopedic Surgeon. I worked for Indian Army for six months and my dad is a retired ex-army man. She is my wife Manasvi Rathore. And she holds a passport from Afghanistan. How is that a security issue for us?”
Anshuman spoke a bit strongly, using a firm louder tone, and threatening eyes. The security officer was intimidated as it appeared to be a genuine case. Manasvi quickly retrieved the copy of their marriage certificate that she always carried with her in her purse, and showed it to the officer. He examined the documents and apologized, “I’m sorry. You may go.”
Manasvi heaved a huge sigh of relief and started walking towards the check-in counter. “Thank God!”
“How humiliating!” Anshuman spoke in disgust, still looking at the retreating back of the officer.
Manasvi shrugged, “It’s not their fault, actually! They were doing their duty and it is okay to be a little strict with security than putting the lives of hundreds at risk!”
“Yeah! Okay! But how are you a threat to security! You look so innocent and harmless!” He spoke just out of the blue and folded the photocopy of the certificate and the passport to her which the officer had given to him.
She took both the things back but with her mind stuck on what he just spoke unintentionally. That she was ‘harmless’… she looked ‘innocent’ …
Inadvertently a blush appeared on her cheek and she lowered her face to fight it off.
“Does it always happen?” He asked.
She nodded, and softly replied in a very low voice, “Hmm! Always!”
“Today, I was there. What do you do at other times?” He was worried.
“I go with them. They ask a few questions. About my background, about my education, about you…” She stopped speaking and bit her lip. After a pause, she said, “Then, they let me go!”
He frowned. A simple process like travel from one city to another and many more such basic things, which were citizens’ rights in India, were a nightmare for Manasvi. Every small step of hers must be scrutinized, even if she bought a SIM card for phone or wifi connectivity… rental accomodation … or gas connection…
He thought that he was annoyed for no reason. Or, that’s what he thought – that there was no reason. Manasvi went ahead and gave her luggage for check-in. She showed her identity card and got her boarding pass. She came back with her boarding pass and phone in her hand and a handbag on her shoulder.
They proceeded towards security check-in. Anshuman was still struggling with the turmoil in his heart. He was restless. He chewed the side of his lower lip and nodded, unable to understand.
“It’s 7 years already! Why haven’t you applied for the permanent residence permit, citizenship and change of passport?”
Manasvi replied, “I had brought the forms after the completion of seven years. They needed a lot of affidavits and your signatures, along with witnesses and references of eminent people that I know here. So, I thought that once I get a job, then I will apply!”
“Tch! How is getting a job related to citizenship?”
“I’ll have to deposit old passport and the new is generated and sent after a process of 6-8 weeks. I don’t have any other identity card, except for the passport. I thought it wasn’t wise to give it right now. I’ll get it made after I get selected.”
He thrust his hands in the denim jeans pockets and tilted his neck slightly to observe her. She was a tiny little creature, packed with abundant, powerful zing, taking everyone by surprise. No wonder his parents and sister were crazy about her. It was neither pity nor humanity from them when they rooted for her. It was pure love. No one could be averse from her charm when she decided to demonstrate extreme resilience and strength. She was narrating her ordeals and problems as casually as girls her age talked about dates. She had seen such deeply shattering pain in her life, including her parents’ death and relocation from one country to another in extreme situations, that she had become immune to mild discomforts.
Hunger, lack of sleep, standing in government offices for hours, dealing with problematic officers and narrow mindsets, facing hostile people, living alone, managing every little issue on her own, joblessness, loneliness – any ONE of these problems will break any normal individual.
But all these together couldn’t break her!
She stopped speaking and when she saw him observing her keenly, she smiled warmly and raised her brows. Those raised brows drew his attention towards the mole under her left brow. And her eyes, as deeply engaging as she was.
He shrugged in reply and nodded to refuse to share anything. She smiled and turned away to locate the way towards the security check. She was aware that she will never get to meet Anshuman again. She knew that she had no right on him. They had no relationship. She knew that he had a girlfriend and he wanted to propose to her to get married to her. She knew that there never was anything between them and will never be… she had always respected him… and that feeling will remain in her heart …
Why was she counting every little second before they were going in different directions? It was a weird kind of separation anxiety while going away from him. The same anxiety that she felt when running away from Afghanistan; moving out from Pakistan leaving her relatives behind; leaving Delhi and going away from Shekhawats; holding her dying mother in her hands – the same anxiety!! As if she was dislocating from her roots. Separating from someone close!!!
She took a deep breath and left it slowly before she tucked her lower lips below her upper ones.
“I hope you are fine?” He asked, observing the rapidly changing expressions on her face.
She nodded, and smiled to make light of the situation, “Yeah… yeah!! I’m used to all this. These are the perks that come with a complicated background…”
He smiled slightly and didn’t speak after that. For a long moment, they were quiet. Awkwardly looking here and there, waiting for the other to speak something.
“So?” He shrugged. It was time for her to go and they hadn’t talked about anything.
She smiled slightly, and not knowing what else to talk, she said again, “Err… You can get the divorce papers prepared. I’ll sign.”
“Don’t bother about that, right now!” He spoke in a firm tone, with his brows puckered in concern and continued in a flow, even without thinking about it as if he had already decided it. “First get your documents ready for permanent residency and citizenship of India. That should be our prime concern. I don’t want your status to be jeopardized because of any technical glitch. In fact, send me the papers. I’ll sign wherever they ask for husband’s signatures!”
She nodded to agree.
“Wait for a moment!” He asked her to wait and quickly disappeared towards the turn behind the check-in counter. Manasvi craned her neck to check where he went but couldn’t see anything. She simply stood there perplexed. He was back after 2 minutes.
He had a big bar of Dairy Milk Silk in his hand. “Umm… mom said that you didn’t eat anything. Take this.”
She was looking at his hand and didn’t know how to react. He remembered that she hadn’t eaten after yesterday afternoon and he was bothered about it. He wanted her to eat something. She hesitatingly took the chocolate bar and put it inside her handbag. While he said, “They won’t let you take anything inside so I brought only a bar of chocolate.”
“Thank you!” She was still shocked and dumbfounded. Absolutely speechless.
He walked her towards the queue for the security check, beyond which point they knew that they will never see each other again.
“Take care. Will you call me and let me know how the interview went and if you got the job!”
“How will I call you? You are going to Israel, na?” She asked innocently.
For the first time, he grinned. She was the only one, privy to his secret. He nodded, “Leave an email!”
“Err… Manasvi…” He spoke as an afterthought.
“I saw your blog when we were in the hall.”
“You did?” This was another shock for her as he had appeared busy on his phone and she had been sure that he wasn’t even listening to her. Instead, he had not only listened to her but also checked her blog immediately. She was flattered. “Did you like it?”
He nodded. “Yes! It’s fabulous. I wanted to tell you to keep doing what you are doing. Your reports on the helpless farmers and miners were amazing. If I’m not wrong, even the pictures were taken by you?!”
“Yes. I was traveling alone and with meager resources, I couldn’t afford a photographer!”
“Do you have a DSLR camera or something?”
She softly chuckled, almost sheepishly, “No…no… they were clicked on my phone. I don’t even have a sophisticated smartphone… just a basic Chinese one…”
“Then, I must say that they were impressive. You made very good use of natural lighting and interesting profiling. Ever thought about taking up photography seriously?”
“Mmm… not really! I love taking photographs but was never serious about it.”
“Think about it! You are good at it!”
She was confused. “Okay!”
“Hope you get this job!”
They were talking in short sentences, some relevant and some irrelevant… none forming a flow of conversation… yet they were talking…
“Remember one thing – Never let your meager resources or complicated background make you feel low. Make them your strongest points!”
She listened to him keenly and then nodded to agree. “I will!”
“We may or may not meet again. But always remember that I am just an email and a few hours away. I’ll be there whenever you ask me to be with you!”
It was a big promise. She didn’t understand what he exactly meant by that. She knew that he was a well-wisher. For 7 years, he had called her on their wedding anniversary and every time, he talked, he had assured her that he’ll be there whenever she needed him. Every time, they talked he asked her if she was fine.
And when it came to her, she was the biggest well-wisher he could ever have. She could do anything to ensure that he was happy in his life. She prayed for his well-being, good health, and happiness.
She just hoped that even if they had no relationship ahead of today, they would stay there for each other – well-wishers for life.
Thanks for reading!!
Something Very Important
I would like all of you to read something REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT : Read Till Last!!
- This story is part reality, part fiction. The rules, laws, procedures of different countries are not bluff. I have done thorough research before writing it and read the ordeals and sufferings of survivors. They are all true. Manasvi’s horror is real! It is faced by hundreds of girls across every border, not just these three countries.
- There is a French NGO: MSF / “Doctors Without Borders” This was the initial inspiration behind this story as I was moved by the way those doctors work in extreme situations in different countries helping victims of war, disasters and epidemics. PBB is the fictional name I gave to that real organization that Anshuman works for. These MSF doctors are sent all over the world wherever there are extremes of situations and they don’t care about borders when giving their services to the needy.
- Having spoken about the reality behind both Manasvi and Anshuman’s characters, I would assert that their story is completely fictional.
- Now – Something VERY IMPORTANT, for which I wrote all this.
When I was reading articles about victims, doctors, army, NGOs, etc in such situations, I came across a disturbing account of scammers using the above situation to trick innocent people : Like, they will act as soldiers working in Syria, hired by UN or MSF and say that they are trapped and all… they contact innocent girls on Instagram and Hangouts. There are some who ask for money to reach their families. Others tell you how much they have fallen in love with you. Fictional stories like this one and real news about soldiers and doctors working for humanity evoke sympathy, love and respect. This is shamelessly USED BY TRICKSTERS!!!
I am worried about teenage minds and innocent people affected by these real-life incidents and emotions attached with these. An innocent human is easily conned by these tricks. Exactly the same goes for people who pose as war victims and homeless. Please remember, the UN and the MSF take care of their personnel, doctors, etc. They are paid and connected to their relatives as soon as it is possible and their transit is taken care of. No doctor / soldier, under any circumstances, will ever ask you for money. Don’t fall in false claims of love and emotions if you don’t know more about a person. Even if you want to donate to victims, do it through a proper channel or organisations. Neither donate your own or parents’ hard-earned money to strangers nor go to meet them and tell them about your personal details. It is most definitely a scam!!
I was shaken by the number of women conned by these scams!
- Please be alert and do not fall for all the love you have for genuine doctors and soldiers and victims who are too busy fighting their battles than to chat with you over the internet.
THEY ARE NOT ON THE INTERNET!
Take care… I love you all soooooo much!!!!