Hello my dear lovely readers,
Today, I’m posting 4 chapters + 1 small note at the end – to wrap up Beyond Every Border.
Take care. Lots of love.
“You didn’t hear my complete answer…”
“I don’t want anything from you. I want you. All of you.”
Manasvi felt goosebumps as each word Anshuman spoke kissed her like a layer of balm on a bruised soul.
She entered Preksha’s room and shut the door from inside, leaning her back at the door. Her heart was beating hard, and eyes were moist. Was this a dream? Was she so blessed that she had finally had the affection and attention of someone she had always revered, so deeply?
She knew what they felt for each other. But to have Anshuman speak about his emotions in words was not something she had expected.
She closed her eyes, and allowed her own feelings to overwhelm her. This was surreal. It had to flow down from her eyes. She knew Anshuman was not a great conversationalist. He spoke less when he was with everyone. It must have taken him a great deal of effort to push through his boundaries and reach out to her. He was trying. He was making efforts to connect to her and it showed in his actions, so clearly. He must have been as overwhelmed and rundown as she was. Their emotions were a deluge when merged together, immersing them in the profundity, and enormity of their mutual feelings and shared past. They needed to trust them and let go.
Preksha and Kavya were still asleep. Manasvi went inside the washroom to freshen up to get ready for the day. Her mind replayed every small interaction with Anshuman, his forlorn eyes over her, the memory of his fingers when he touched her, his breath on her skin when he was close to her. She had hoped to ask him if he was going to Jamaica. Instead, he had asked her what she wanted. He had made it very clear that her wishes and desires mattered to him.
Manasvi wore a lemon-yellow crepe kurta with white-beads and embroidery over neckline and hem of her long sleeves, and paired it with white jeggings. She dried her hair and wrapped a white dupatta over her head. Preksha had woken up by now. Manasvi told her that she was going out.
“Where?” Madhu asked, as she entered the room with tea for Preksha and Kavya. She kept the tray at the center table and asked the girls to get ready. Kavya woke up too.
Manasvi replied to Madhu, “Uhh… Anshuman said he was going to pick up Badi Dadi from the railway station. So, I thought… if you allow…”
“You want to go with him?” Madhu asked, pleasantly surprised. She turned to Manasvi after keeping the tray on the table. She had in her hand a bright-red Rajasthani bandhej odhani, in chiffon-silk fabric, with glass-work and gota work.
Manasvi was confused when Madhu approached her and took off her white dupatta. Instead, she wrapped the red odhani on her head, and said, “You don’t need to take my permission. You can go with Anshuman wherever you want. And I’ve brought this traditional odhani for you. It’s a family tradition kind-of thing. Wear this. It will make us happy.”
Manasvi blushed and looked into the mirror. The silky delicate material of the odhani and the bright red colour changed the way she looked at herself. A simple change of colour could make her look so bright and vibrant that she became nervous. She never wore such colours. Her wardrobe was all about pastel shades, blues, grays, and whites, if not denims.
She was reminded of Anshuman’s request of taking off the dupatta wrapped on her head.
It was awkward. She had worn it for practically her entire life. She felt uneasy removing it. But this time, she wanted to keep his word. He was going out of his way for her. She could do that too. At least one step ahead from where she was.
Slowly, she slipped the fabric down her head but let it stay wrapped on her torso, going around her neck and to rest at the back of her neck like it just slipped from the head.
Preksha said, “Bhabhi, you have beautiful hair.”
Manasvi smiled. “Thanks.”
Madhu opened Preksha’s almirah and took out a red velvet box. She took out 2 gold bangles from the box – thick, heavily carved, jadau kada – possibly of Madhu herself. She slipped one each in Manasvi’s hands before she could refuse or protest. Patting her hands, Madhu said, “Wear them. You are going to receive Badi Ma. You need to meet her like Anshuman’s bride. It’s fine to follow some traditions.”
Manasvi nodded. She was the last person to protest against following traditions. She didn’t believe in needless discussions, and usually followed what elders asked her to do, unless it was against her values, or education. Following traditions or making elders feel happy did no harm to anyone. And if small things make someone happy, it was fine to push through your comfort zone, she believed.
Madhu was happy. She hugged Manasvi and touched her cheek affectionately.
“She always loves you more than me,” Preksha made a pout, teasing them. Madhu slapped her shoulder lovingly, making Manasvi chuckle.
When Manasvi walked out of the house towards the garage, she saw Anshuman wiping his car with a duster. Wearing a polo-neck black tee shirt and cargo pants in army print, he looked so handsome that Manasvi had to remind herself to distract herself and turn her eyes away to avoid looking starstruck at him. Nothing escaped his eyes though. He was too sharp to notice subtle actions. He smiled when he saw her approaching.
He noticed that she was looking cute in a simple attire with a heavy odhani in contrast with the dress. He also noticed that her odhani was not on her head and as a welcome change, it lay somewhere around her neck and torso. But he didn’t point it out to her. He never did that. She could see him observing her attire and her odhani, before a smile appeared on his lips. He had loved it that she had considered his request, even if partially. She smiled slightly, sheepishly, and nervously played with her bangles.
He turned away for a moment, appearing busy. Throwing the duster under the seat, he asked, “What are you doing here?”
She cleared her throat, and came nearer, replying to him, “I’m coming with you to the railway station. I want to offer prayers in the Ganeshji temple near the old Delhi railway station.”
He chuckled softly. She had found a perfect eason to be with him and had initiated the effort. He didn’t have to ask her, pester her to go with him. She had decided to do it on her own. This was more than enough for him to be hopeful for their future. He picked up the keys, wore his aviators, and sat on the driving seat.
She opened the passenger side door to sit beside him, and asked, “Why are you chuckling?”
He nodded to refuse, and shrugged, “Nahhh! I just remembered I need to offer prayers too. I need to thank God for a lot of things.”
She glared at him as if he was teasing her. He tilted his head and spoke, “What? I’m serious.”
She smiled and looked ahead. He started driving, feeling how peaceful it felt to sit beside her, even if silently, to feel the warmth of her presence, breathing in the same air as her, inhaling the scent of her perfume, watching the world go by them, and behind them as they drove together towards the same destination.
“Won’t you say something?” He said after a few minutes.
“Mmm…I don’t know what to say,” She replied honestly, “I’m still not sure where this is going?”
“What?” He shrugged.
She turned to him, and said, “Us… Where are we going?”
“We are going to the railway station.” He reminded her as if she had forgotten.
She rolled her eyes, “Anshuman… please…”
He sniggered, “Sorry!”
To see him laughing and cracking jokes had been a dream come true. His laughter was so charismatic and delightful, she could look at him laughing for her entire life. She hated disturbing his bliss, so she shrugged, and let it go, “Forget it.”
“Sorry!” He cleared his throat, “Okay, I’ll not laugh more. Honestly, it’s not my fault. I’m just happy. Very happy…”
She looked at his face, as he spoke in a dreamy voice, while he drove the car and continued to speak, “Happy that you are with me. Happy that we are both back to our country, free, and not literally struggling for anything. Never knew if felt this awesome to be peaceful?? I never imagined this.”
She listened to him. Mesmerized. After a long pause, she sighed. “I’m happy too. And that scares me.”
“Scares me too. We aren’t used to happiness, peace, carefree life… right? It’s new. And it’s definitely weird. But trust me, Manasvi, we’ve worked very hard for this present. We totally deserve it.”
She whispered nervously, “It seems so unreal.”
“Yes, it does. But it’s up to us to make it real. The route towards the railway station is just the beginning. I wish all our routes from here merge together towards one destination.”
She stared at him speechlessly. It was unbelievable. “Are you the same Anshuman who never spoke a word more than basics. Not a word about his feelings?”
He smiled, “No. I’m not the same Anshuman. That Anshuman was in pain. He was struggling to come to terms with his past. He was striving to find a meaning of his life. He didn’t know if he deserved someone like you. He was weak. And fighting to be stronger, every single day. Today, I’ve grown out of that shell, at least for you. I hope I’ve grown stronger. And I know that the only way from here is – forward. No looking back.”
She was entranced. Both by his words, and his attitude. For her, he was always strong. He was always an icon. But he might have had his inner demons which never let him breathe in peace. He had defeated those demons in past few months. She was so proud of him for taking time and effort to come to terms with himself. His peace, his satisfaction, and his calmness made him appear all the more alluring. His exhilaration reflected on his face and in his eyes. She couldn’t move her eyes away from him. She didn’t speak after this. She kept looking at him and prayed silently for his bliss and contentment to become a permanent feature of his life.
Anshuman was an extraordinary human and she could go to any lengths to protect his smile.
They reached the station before time. Two turns before the parking, was an old Ganeshji temple. Manasvi got down the car and asked Anshuman to wait for 5 minutes so that she could pray and come back.
She wanted to thank God for keeping Anshuman safe and bringing him back to his family. She bought an aarti thali and placed a coconut, a marigold garland, prasad, and incense sticks in the plate and gave it to Panditji.
Panditji asked her, “What name shall I say when offering the prayer?”
Manasvi replied, “Anshuman.”
“And Manasvi.” Anshuman said from behind her. Almost making her heart beat at twice its speed. She didn’t know that he had parked the car in the mean time when she bought the thali and had now reached to stand behind her. He had heard her saying his name. Without making much fuss about it, he had confidently added her name with him. She pressed her lips and took a deep breath. Pulling her odhani to cover her head, she folded her hands and closed her eyes, bowing her neck to pray before Ganpati Bappa.
Panditji spoke to Anshuman, “Beta, come forward. Your place is next to her, and not behind her.”
“Ji.” Anshuman folded his hands too and took a single step ahead to stand beside Manasvi.
Manasvi opened her eyes and turned her neck towards him. He smiled warmly, and blinked both his eyes once, assuring her that he was right there with her. This made her smile too.
Panditji did a small puja, taking their names together, asking Ganpati Bappa to bless them. They stood together, hands folded, praying for some time, and then watched Panditji finish the puja.
Manasvi’s silk odhani kept slipping from her head. When she raised her hand to align it, the glasswork and thread embroidery got trapped in her new carved bangle. She struggled for a moment, trying to detangle it, but the bangle kept pulling the thread. “Tch!”
Her subtle tussle drew Anshuman’s attention.
“Wait.” He said, authoritatively.
She stopped, frozen and scared, fearing that she would tear the odhani given by Madhu. Anshuman raised his hands towards her hair and subtly pulled the thread from her bangle in a small, swift movement. For those ten seconds, Manasvi was tongue-tied. With Anshuman’s hands over her, arms around her amidst the presence of God, surrounded by hundreds of flowers, fumes from holy fire, fragrance of agarbattis and Panditji chanting prayers, it felt like they were getting married again. She could see the idol of Ganeshji beyond him. As if it was a blessing from God to send him to be with her.
He moved away after helping her. Back to the present, she lowered her hands. He turned to face Panditji, who brought the puja thali and prasad back to them. He applied red tika on Anshuman’s forehead, and asked Manasvi to put the tika herself. She applied a small dot of red sindoor on her forehead.
Panditji tied a red thread around their wrists and asked them, “Are you married? Or girlfriend-boyfriend?”
“We are married.” Anshuman spoke even before Panditji completed his sentence, nearly surprising Manasvi. As if he didn’t want to be mistaken as her boyfriend. He was in such a hurry to tell everyone that he was her husband. She grinned at how innocent it looked, as if a kid claiming his possession, claiming what belonged to him.
Panditji spoke to Manasvi, “Then, you should apply this same sindoor in your hair parting. It will bring blessings of God to your married life.”
Manasvi bowed her neck and followed what Panditji told her to do. She applied a small amount of sindoor in her parting, leaving Anshuman mesmerized. He couldn’t stop looking at how beautiful she looked. Manasvi lowered her eyes, feeling shy and embarrassed at the same time. They had never really behaved like husband and wife before this.
And now, the moment since she had arrived Delhi, every person, every incident, every moment reminded them of their relationship. Loud and clear.
As if a carefully crafted plan from Universe had been unfolding for them.