Thank you for being patient with me. I was travelling for an official work. And couldn’t inform.
So, the Thursday update had to be dropped as I couldn’t write.
Thankfully, a lot of work was done. A lot of positive things happened. And I am at a much better place in personal and professional spheres. I am deeply grateful to all the good wishes you all send my way. They work for me. And they are very special for me.
Love you all. Thank you so much.
Take care. Stay blessed 🤗🤗💓💓
He sighed looking at her. She looked all the more adorable when she was edgy and fidgety. Then, he said, not leaving sight of her.
Manasvi didn’t leave sight of him, either. As if it was only them – the two talking to each other – in a room full of people, and yet so much remained unsaid between them.
It would have been a fairytale wedding at any other time. But Manasvi knew she wasn’t comfortable at this time. At this stage.
Though Preksha had insisted that she didn’t mind sharing the limelight with her Bhai and Bhabhi, but there was more to it. Manasvi herself was in a dilemma. She felt weighed down by the kind gestures, and favours done to her by Shekhawat family. At a time, when she was suffering from a guilt for letting Anshuman go through hell because of her, it felt all the more constricting to go through wedding rituals. She couldn’t do this. She wanted to refuse. She wanted to leave.
And she knew the exact reason why Anshuman agreed despite not believing in formalities. She knew he was doing it for her. To make her feel comfortable. To let her drop her awkwardness.
He had no idea that her awkwardness was only increasing with this. She fought with a desperate, helpless look on her face and when she couldn’t avoid it, she lowered her eyelids, pressing her lips inside. Hoping no one noticed her unease.
No one did. Except one pair of eyes, observing only her.
It was already late, by the time Manasvi had reached Delhi. Madhu served dinner for everyone and asked them to sleep early so that they could go ahead with the preparations in the morning, the next day.
Close relatives of the Shekhawat family had arrived too. Arrangements were made to accommodate them. Guest rooms were all occupied. Anshuman and Preksha’s male cousins – Mehul, Prateek, and Shubham were adjusted in Anshuman’s room. Bua and chachiji settled their stuff in Dadi’s room. RajSingh and Madhu made space in their room too, for RajSingh’s elder brother’s family. Preksha was elated to host her cousin, Kavya, and Manasvi in her room.
Late at night, Kavya was busy scrolling through social media on her mobile phone, and Preksha was talking to Varun on phone, when Manasvi decided to bring a water bottle to their room. She went downstairs, into the kitchen, and filled a spare bottle of water.
When she was returning to Preksha’s room, she was startled by a subtle hold and pull at her arm. Her breath was caught in her chest, though she was now beginning to recognize the familiar touch. Anshuman had held her hand, moving her near the wall, and signaled her to keep quiet, placing his finger on his lips. She nodded to agree that she will keep quiet. He looked around to ensure that they were not being observed. Once satisfied, he tugged at her hand that was still in his hand, with a soft whisper, “Come.”
Like a robot on command, she followed him. He quickly ascended the stairs and took her to the terrace, opening its door as slowly as possible, without making any noise.
Once she entered the terrace, her memories of meeting Anshuman there for the first time, eight months back, came ripe, rushing to her like floodgates of emotions let loose. They had been there before, when they had arrived for Preksha’s engagement. That was the first time, she had talked to him directly. That was the first when she had come to know that he was working for a humanitarian NGO and not for a corporate hospital in New York City.
Their world had changed dramatically after that day.
He made her stand by a parapet wall inside the terrace. Manasvi didn’t remove her eyes from him. He was wearing a black vest and black track pants, and was drenched in sweat. It appeared like he had been exercising before this, when he must have seen her coming down for water. Almost breathless, he once again, looked out and ensured that no one was at the stairs before he closed the door behind them.
When he was back to face her, she gave him the water bottle in her hand. He took it quietly and took a sip from it, without leaving sight of her. Without blinking his eyes. She looked pristine in sky blue printed short kurta and white cotton pants. Her hair tied in a careless bun at the nape of her neck escaped as fine wisps near her ears, falling down to caress her face. Her long eyelashes fanned at her cheeks when she lowered them and spread out like sunshine when she flared her eyes wide. He could feel his heart beating fast whenever she fluttered her eyelashes. Though, she appeared a bit miffed. And that look made him smile.
Capping the lid of the bottle, he asked, “You appear angry.”
She nodded, “Nahh… I’m fine…”
“You can tell me.”
He just spoke in a simple sentence but it stirred her deeply. Of course, she could tell him. There was no one else in the entire world who she felt comfortable with and spoke her mind to.
They had spent hours, sitting near the cliff in the camp in Afghanistan, sometimes in conversation, and sometimes quietly. They had devoted time listening to the silence between them and deciphering every unsaid equation between them. Their gestures spoke volumes. Their muted eye locks conveyed all they had to say. In fact, they had started reading each other, without many words. She knew, he knew, even if she didn’t tell him.
She shrugged hesitatingly, and replied, in a low whisper, “Why did you agree for the marriage?”
“Why not?” He shrugged too.
She leaned her rear at the parapet wall, folded her hands across her front, and raised her chin up to stare straight at him, before she replied in firm words, “Because…we are already married… Dr. Shekhawat.”
He bent forwards, placing a hand at the wall behind her, stepping closer to her in the process. In a serious, husky, voice, he asked, “So?? What is the problem, then?”
She shuddered at the way he had been looking straight at her, his calm eyes communicating with her anxious ones. His proximity, the masculine fragrance of ‘him’, sweat dripping from his hair at the forehead felt unnerving to her. His carved muscles peeking out at his shoulders and arms distracted her attention. Every time he was close to her, she would feel her heartbeats deceiving her. He was a storm rocking her stable shores and yet she didn’t want to step away. She craved to be blown away in the tempest he brought with him.
He lowered further making her words stifle in the breath she inhaled deeply. With his first three fingers he removed fine wisps of hair falling down her face, caressing her cheek with his thumb.
When she didn’t reply to him, he urged, “What?”
“Umm…” She stammered, “It’s… Preksha’s…”
“Preksha is fine with it,” He interrupted her.
“I don’t know,” She winced.
“Say it…” He insisted, and waited for her to speak, before finishing it for her, “I know… that you are feeling awkward.”
She sighed, looking away for a moment, and admitted, “Yeah! I mean… every time they do something like this…reminds me of how ungrateful I am…how unworthy… and how they are doing so much for an orphan…”
He interrupted her again, “In that case…you need to remember that I am an orphan too.”
She closed her eyes at the blunder. That was not what she had meant. She pressed her lips, worried that she had unintentionally hurt him. That wasn’t her intention. He looked calm though. He was always calm, even during the worst of storms. His calmness couldn’t be taken as indifference, she knew.
Immediately, she tried to correct herself on an impulse, and said, “Your case is different. They are your family. And they love you.”
Anshuman looked at her for a long moment, before he asked in a low whisper, looking into her eyes, “And you think… both these points don’t apply to you?”
“Uhh…” She was bowled over after his question.
He leaned ahead, inhaling the fragrance from her hair, touching his cheek at her hair near her temple and whispered, “Do you think we are not your family… or people don’t love you?”
Her heart was beating harder than ever. He might have spoken it on behalf of everyone in the family and it wasn’t really about ‘him’… but even that was a big deal for her. She knew she didn’t have much to say, still she tried again, “It’s not like that…I mean…”
“What?” His whisper became huskier, as he lowered further.
She closed her eyes, unable to speak more. Her brain was not working anymore. And her heart was beating erratically. At this moment, at this hour, nothing mattered. Nothing really mattered than the fact that she was practically in his arms and he was insisting that they should get married, again. This time, with the holy chants invoking Gods to bless them, the blessed pyre of the mandapam sealing their lives in a togetherness forever.
She pressed her lips, waiting for him to speak. He didn’t. As always. Instead, he opened the bun at the nape of her neck and let her hair fall down, cascading on her back. She shuddered but she didn’t open her eyes. She couldn’t dare to. He intimidated her.
He moved his face away to look at her properly, before cupping her face in his palms. If her open eyes communicated with him, then her closed eyes enticed and invited him. She was almost a magnet that drew him closer to her from far. It was hard to stay unaffected by her charm and her simplicity. She held stories in those eyes, and poetry in her breath.
He kept looking at her for a long moment, before he lowered himself and softly gave a peck on her cheek. Not a small, fleeting peck. But a deep imprint of his lips communicating his promises to her in an unspoken form. Telling her that she need not worry. He was going to stay by her in all confusions, and indecisions. He was going to wait for her until she was comfortable in her own skin, and accepted them to be together.
For there was no way out, other than this. They knew that they were together. Forever and always. It was destined this way. And it had to be like this.
Her fingers curled at his chest, grasping the fabric of his vest when he stepped closer to her. Anticipation made her lips press inside, before she released them slowly.
“Won’t you open your eyes?” He asked.
“I’m scared.” She sighed.
“Scared of me?” He raised a brow, amused at her candid confession.
She nodded to refuse, and said, “Scared of fate. I don’t want it to be a dream.”
He smiled adoringly. Could anyone be cuter than this? Shaking his head slightly, he said, “Open your eyes, Manasvi. It’s not a dream.”
She slowly opened her eyes, and found him looking at her eyes. She felt shy and she looked down, letting her eyelashes softly flutter against her cheeks. He kissed her other cheek, making her blush beetroot red. She didn’t expect him to take those steps between them. He might not have been too good with words, but he knew how to convey his feelings. And especially with her, he had always known how to make her feel comfortable.
He kissed her forehead, letting his lips linger over her forehead for a second longer, before grazing them along her skin towards her temple. Tears dropped down from her eyes, one after the other, following each other rolling on her cheeks.
He wiped her tears and said, “I’m aware of every single thought that is troubling you. Trust me, I’ve been through every such negative emotion. And I can say this with experience that it’s not worth it.”
She buried her face in chest, and he curled his arms around her, holding her close to him, giving her strength that she needed to stand straight on her feet. Resting his chin on her head, drawing her closer, he asked, “You are not happy with our marriage?”
“It’s not like that,” She whispered.
“You don’t want the ceremonies?”
She nodded, hugging him closer, clutching his vest, “Forget it… I’ll do anything for you. If you ask me to go through this, I’ll do it.”
He knew she was serious and it was supposed to be a sincere discussion but he couldn’t stop laughing on this. “Go through this?? What is it? A torture.”
She was annoyed when she found him laughing. Moving away from him, she sighed, “Devil. You enjoy it when I suffer.”
He chuckled, and spread his hands sideways, “So, stop looking cute while you suffer.”
She huffed, folded her hands across her chest, and pressed her lips. Not sure how she should reply to this. Did he actually call her cute?
He appeared to be truly enjoying the situation. Suppressing his laughter, he asked, “Wait a minute… You do know you look cute when you are confused, and upset? Right?”
She nodded, frowning at him, “Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what?” He shrugged.
She winced, “Troubling me. You know very well, about how helpless, and hopeless, I am feeling right now. Still…”
“Still… I do this…” He interrupted her, “I want you to know that the worst is over for us. It’s only good times from now.”
He appeared so adorable when he said it that she didn’t contradict him. Such a simple thought, such a hopeful, positive feeling. He was really happy to be back home, with his family, parents, sister. He had been through worse. And it had been over for him.
Only that, it wasn’t the same for her.
“The worst is still not over for me. I’m still living in my own hell.” She sighed.
He took a deep breath, and walked ahead till he trapped her between the parapet wall and him. After a moment’s pause, searching her eyes for solace, he said, “Then, let me inside your hell. I promise, I’ll bring you out from there.”
She wet her dry lips moving them inside her mouth and said, “Haven’t I used you enough?”
“Trust me, you haven’t. I am worth much more.” He raised his brows teasingly.
She winced more, “You are just not serious.”
“Haven’t we been already too serious, all our lives?”
“Did we have options?” she asked.
“Now, we have!” he replied compellingly.
“You don’t understand.” She gave up trying to explain, and walked past him to go out.
He held her hand when she crossed him, and said, “Make me understand.”
She nodded to refuse. And retrieved her hand away from him. He turned around and was about to stop her to urge her to talk more when he received a call on his phone. He fetched it from his track pants, and answered it. This terrace had become privy to all the secrets between them. All that he didn’t share but she became an unintentional witness to them. She was at the door of the terrace when she overheard him.
“Yes, Sir! I am feeling much better… yeah, I am hoping to join the team in Jamaica after my sister’s wedding.”
Manasvi stopped near the exit. And smiled at the irony.
Happiness and choices are all about luxuries. Time bound. And fleeting.