This is Third Update of the day – Please read Chapters 72 and 73 before this one… and avoid any confusion 🙂
Manasvi was disturbed for a long time after that. They went inside one after the other and merged with the crowd of relatives to look as normal as possible. Anshuman helped his cousins arrange for caterers, decorations, and other arrangements like flowers and sweets.
Manasvi stayed with Madhu and other aunts to make lists of things required for carrying out rituals, helped Preksha in packing as she had to leave this house to live with her in-laws, and went to shopping with everyone to buy dresses.
For the entire day, both Anshuman and Manasvi remained disturbed because of their discussion near the garage that had culminated in a small fight. He was unable to understand her. He was ready to give her everything she had ever desired for. But she was not happy. She didn’t want him to leave things he loved for her. How was he going to explain to her that his happiness was in her happiness? He loved to do things for her and wanted her to always be peaceful and happy. But nothing seemed to please her and it frustrated him.
She was already in severe turmoil of a guilt bearing on her for leaving Anshuman in Pak jail and coming back safely to India. She couldn’t look at herself in mirror when she was reminded of how she had made things difficult for Anshuman and his entire family. Why was he unable to understand that she wouldn’t be able to take more of this burden?
Anshuman would never be satisfied in a corporate hospital. That was not ‘him’… She wouldn’t be able to live each day watching him slowly burn himself out in a place that didn’t define him. She wasn’t going to do this.
The day ended on a busy note. Everyone retired to their room to sleep. Kavya and Preksha had slept too, tired after a hectic day. But sleep was nowhere in Manasvi’s eyes. She tossed and turned in her bed, next to Preksha. She wanted to talk to Anshuman. She needed to meet him.
After some time, Manasvi stood up and slowly went towards the terrace. The gate of the terrace was open. She knew that Anshuman was there, waiting for her.
She opened the door slowly, without making any noise. He was there, looking far away towards the road and the garden, standing near the edge. When she entered the terrace, he turned around and folded his hands, resting his rear by the wall.
She walked in and latched the door behind her. She didn’t want anyone else to disturb their conversation. It was too important to talk undisturbed.
“I knew, you would be here.” She said, fiddling with her bangle, as she walked closer to him.
“I knew you would come.” He said.
“I had to. We need to talk.”
He spread his hands sideways, “I’m here. For the entire night, if you need that length of time.”
She sighed painfully, standing right before him, “Why are you making it sound like I’m a difficult person to deal with?”
“Are you not?”
“I’m difficult? And what are you? Who takes such decision?”
“It is the most sensible decision I could think of.” He spoke strongly.
“Sensible? To work in a corporate? While your heart beats for underprivileged and destitute patients, for those suffering due to catastrophes?”
“I’ve done that all my life.” He tried to reason it out.
“Alright, and what will I do?”
“You continue at The Insight.”
She winced, “Noooo, Anshuman! That’s not my dream. That’s a staircase. A place to reach higher after I get my experience there. My dreams are not around becoming a colored decorated reporter at a big magazine.”
He shrugged, as if it was no big deal, and said, “Okay. Then, do what makes you happy.”
“That’s what I am asking you to do. We shouldn’t give up on our dreams to live with each other.”
His face toughened when she said that. On pursed lips, he asked, “What do you mean?”
“I mean – we know each other well. We understand each other. Such a bond is unique. It doesn’t mean we should sacrifice ourselves for living together.”
“And be separated, again?” He asked, unable to believe what she was trying to say. He was deeply hurt.
She tried to explain, “Our connection transcends every border. We will meet. We will support each other. And we will stay in touch through mails and phone calls. Trust me… I know what makes you happy… please stop this remarriage… Let’s get divorced… go find your life… your purpose to live…feel free…”
Before she could speak more, Anshuman placed his hand on her mouth to stop her from speaking further. Shocked, Manasvi flared her eyes wide and stared at him. It had taken a great deal of effort from her to say what she had said. And now she didn’t want him to read her pain in her eyes. But she had forgotten that nothing was hidden from him. He curled an arm around her lower back to draw her towards him, and removed his hand from her mouth. She was still staring at him, speechless like a baby.
He couldn’t stop himself from claiming her lips for a small, soft, quick peck to assure her. Little did he know that his lips would refuse to leave her after touching the softness of her lips under them. He kissed her for a bit more, and before they realized, it turned into something so deep that it stirred them. She held him and kissed him back, instinctively and compulsively. He drew her further closer in his arms, and she stepped closer to him completely on volition.
After a few minutes, when breaths appeared to stifle them, he separated from her, however only for a few inches, only to look at her eyes, searching in them the truth of her words. He knew that her eyes would defy her words. She wanted to live with him as much as he wanted it. But she didn’t want him to compromise on his professional dreams for her. She was already living in a burden.
He had to tell her that every other feeling between them had to leave. Right at this stage. There was no scope for guilt, burdens, favours, compromises, or duties between them. From here, when they moved ahead, it will only be because they wanted to be with each other.
She looked at him, too, clueless. Wondering what he was thinking. She had been shaken by the kiss. Before she could ask anything or think more, he kissed her again. This time, softly, carelessly, and languidly, at a slower pace than before, making it clear that it was no impulsive kiss. It was a deliberate kiss, because he had thought about it before he kissed her again, mainly to let her know how much he wanted her. She kissed him too, as passionately as him.
After a significant moment, she separated, for the fear of losing her senses completely to him if they continued to kiss recklessly.
He threw his hands around her and hugged her before letting her go. Nervous, and shy, she tried to move away from him. But she couldn’t. She looked away towards the sky, and the moon.
He rested his hands at the parapet, standing next to her, and said, “Whatever you spoke was said in a fit of anger and confusion, and I understand that. But don’t say that again, please. Nothing will come between us.”
She turned from the sky to face him. Her throat was already dry. She didn’t say anything.
He continued, “My purpose to live is you. You give me inspiration to live and do my best, at all times… I had decided in jail that I don’t want to spend even a minute of my life without you.”
“I used to think the same… but…” She stopped.
“We were always married, Manasvi. Both of us were aware of each other. For so many years, we were not in touch, we stayed far, but tell me honestly, didn’t we always know that we were there for each other?”
She didn’t reply to him. Only stared at him.
He said, “We may have never confessed, we may have never spoken to each other, but right from day 1 of our marriage eight years ago, I used to think about your wellbeing, and you used to do things for my happiness. Without any commitment, any confession, any promises…we knew we were meant to be for each other. We are destined to be together… and that is why, we are together, today… beyond all hurdles… beyond all borders… our fates have brought us together.”
Her pain trickled in her moist eyes, as she murmured, “But… I keep thinking… do I… deserve you?”
“No one does, except you…”
“I have only been taking favours from everyone, getting all the privileges, I feel like I’m using all of you…giving nothing in return… I’m not able to explain how I feel…”
He cupped her face in his palms, lovingly, and said, “I know! I’ve been observing you. And I know exactly how you are feeling. I’ve been through this feeling of guilt… Guilt is a crippling, suffocating feeling, Manasvi…I’ve lived in guilt for almost all of my life. So, I know it well. Please don’t let it overcome you. Guilt is a prison – it captivates you and doesn’t let you live… it’s a poison…it eats you slowly to leave you empty and hollow from inside… gradually, but steadily…please don’t hold on to it…let it go.”
“How?” She whispered, holding the tears in her eyes.
“By accepting that there is no need to feel guilty. There never was. You did your best in those circumstances.”
“The problem is that I’ve done nothing for you.”
He looked at her like he would treat a small baby, and nodded to explain, “It only shows you have no idea of your power, your effect on me. I have always been in awe of you, indebted to you but you have no clue about what you have done… directly and indirectly… for me and our family.”
“Me? But… what have I done?” She flared her eyes wide in confusion.
He sighed and sat on the parapet wall beside her. He took her hand, warmly securing it between his hands, while she stood beside him, looking at him clueless. He said, “If I talk about the past, I used to derive my strength and tenacity from you. I used to think about you and be amazed at your fearlessness, your guts…my childhood struggle to reach India was nothing as compared to yours. You braved so many hurdles to reach here. I used to think that if you could fight against tough circumstances and survive against all odds for freedom, my problems were nothing… If you could achieve your dreams, then I could do that too…You are my inspiration, Manasvi. You are my strength.”
Manasvi stared at him disbelievingly. Her icon, her idol, her hero was telling her that he sourced his energy and power from her. Undoubtedly, it was the most beautiful compliment she had ever received in her life. Nobody had ever said that to her. She didn’t have the heart to not believe him. He spoke with such conviction and honesty that she knew he wasn’t lying. She stayed tongue-tied, struggling to accept what he was telling her.
He continued to speak. “More recently, when I was in Pakistan, you stayed back in Kabul taking all risks on your life and searched for my parents. While all my life, I never had the courage to do it, fearing the worse. I know I could have easily done it before, but I was always restless and guilt-ridden about my lineage, and what crimes they committed. That guilt, that fear stopped me every time from searching for them. But you, Manasvi… you went ahead and found closure for me. That my parents were Indian doctors, working in Kabul, has been the biggest news of my life. The ‘biggest’ happiness of my life… because of YOU… I can’t explain in words how I feel about that. I feel untied to guilt. I feel free… I feel liberated of all sins…I feel peace… this happiness is because I don’t owe anything to my past anymore… it’s all because of you…”
She pressed her lips, still unable to speak anything. She sniffed slightly to hold the tears in her eyes. Her throat ached as she struggled with a lump inside it.
He said, “I can’t thank you enough for all that you have been for me… all that you have done for me… but it’s painful for me that you insist on diminishing everything you do…You informed everyone that I was stuck in Karachi, you contacted as many people as you could. It may not have helped but people everywhere, at home, at PBB, knew where I was. They were all trying to help. That’s all we could do. We can only try. If you still think I should have allowed you to stay in Kabul while I was in jail, then think again. Would you have done it if you were in my place?”
She didn’t know what to say. She nodded.
“I know, it’s going to take some time… in fact, it will take a lot of time. I’m not asking you to hurry up. But I will just request you one thing – please don’t live a life ruled by guilt. Always remember, this was the best we could have done on our part. And we won. That’s more important than everything else.”
She looked at their hands, the way they were intertwined together, just like their lives. Connected at every intersection. Inseparable from each other. Making a complete picture. That is how she felt when she was with him. As if her life had come a full circle and she needed nothing more from her destiny.
He was her destiny.
Now that she was listening, he didn’t want to stop speaking. He wanted to say everything he could to convince her. He said, “In a way, you also helped me by coming back to India. At least, I was not worried for you. I was not struggling to talk to you. I was not distressed to know whether you are safe or not. You relieved me of that burden and I could sleep without stress. I could work there peacefully and was shown mercy. Sometimes, not doing much and staying a step behind helps more than any active intervention.”
She smiled slightly.
He teased her, “Convinced now, that you deserve me? Now, I’ve spoken so much… makes me think whether I deserve you or not…”
She smirked, “Shut up. How come you became a doctor? You should have been a lawyer, instead. You present your case so well.”
He chuckled, “Thank you. But I’ll accept the compliment only when I win the case.”
Her smiled widened. She looked at his face and asked, “Tell me, Anshuman… do you really want us to get married, again?”
“Honestly, I don’t care about formalities. Mom thinks you deserve that respect before the family. So, be it. For me, we were married long back, too early in our lives, to think more into it. I just know that I’ve never imagined any other woman even remotely taking your place in my life. Did you?”
“Not even me… not even in a dream.”
“Thank God. I was scared for a moment.”
“Then, why did you ask for divorce when you called me and talked to me for the first time before Preksha’s engagement?”
He remembered that and smiled. “I thought our relationship was forced on you because of documents. It was wrong to let you live with a burden of an unwanted relationship. I believed that you should be free to explore life… meet new people… date other men… and decide what you want in life… decide with whom you want to spend your life. And, I was also guilty about my past… so I thought I didn’t deserve you.”
She listened to each word he shared and admitted, “I thought the same… every word that you said…”
“Forget it. It’s a thing of past.”
“And now?” She softly whispered.
“Now, I wish to spend the rest of my life with you, provided you want that too. We have wasted a lot of time trying to fight an imposter syndrome – that we don’t deserve happiness… we don’t deserve each other…we did something wrong… we don’t belong here…whatever! but now, I guess…” He stopped speaking, hoping to find words that rightly expressed his state of mind.
She could feel goosebumps on her arms, her neck, and practically all over her skin, making her shudder. It was so exquisite, and yet so weird how she felt exactly the same that he felt. That every kid in their situation felt. The simple, elementary needs of life had been luxuries for them. What was considered a basic for kids their age had been privileges for them. They had struggled hard against destiny and harsh situations, thinking about facing the worst. Sinking between troughs and valleys of failing hope and survival instincts, making it through most of the difficult times.
But finally, they had their closure. A right to feel happy. A right to belong.
He finally said, “I’m leaving it here for you to decide how we are going to manage this. Please make a decision for ‘us’ that we will both follow together.”
She took a brief pause and nodded to agree.
“I’m trusting you to make a sane decision for both of us. Let’s grow over and above this pain.”
“Hmm… I guess, it’s time to move on.”
“It’s time to heal, Manasvi.”