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...
For people who wanted a face for Krish Sahay:
“My problematic upbringing and meager resources turned out to be strong points. Thanks to you. Got the job!!”
Her little email to Anshuman didn’t get any reply.
Manasvi left the office building of The Insight and took a cab for her home. All through the way, she checked her phone 4-5 times in a hope to see a reply from Anshuman.
It was weird though.
Her hope, her wish, her anticipation was weird. He was not supposed to reply. He never said that he will reply. He just wanted to know how the interview went for her.
‘But… he can at least congratulate me in one word!’
‘He has come home after so many years. He is with family and relatives. Maybe, he didn’t get time to see the mail!’
She kept thinking about the proceedings of the day, the interview, the sense of achievement that accompanied it, the validation for her blog and her sincere efforts had been recognized on her own merit and not because of a recommendation. All through these thoughts, Anshuman never left the back of her mind. Her self-talk continued even while she cooked food – a simple chapatti and bhindi dinner – and switched on the laptop for recent news. She watched the live tv on her laptop while eating food and kept thinking about Anshuman.
Their subtle, small interactions haunted her.
The unspoken gestures when they exchanged glances; when they met on the terrace; the spoken comfort he had extended towards her when he dropped her at the airport. Everything was so different. Different from everyone else she met every day. Different from her colleagues, casual acquaintances, neighbours, and people she knew in Mumbai. He was different. She felt a storm inside her chest, struggling to be released when he was before her. An uneasy, difficult-to-deal-with emotion when she was near him.
She knew that she was not supposed to think about him. He might be her husband but they had never interacted before this. She had never thought about him in this way before but after meeting him, her intrigue about him had increased. Her respect for him had multiplied exponentially.
But again, she knew that she was not supposed to think like that. They had no relationship between them and he had a girlfriend, he wanted to marry. He wanted a divorce for that.
It was an irony, though. While she was not supposed to think about him, he was not even leaving her mind. Not even for one moment.
Apart from all the other things about him that she had always admired, she hated to admit that she found him attractive. He was good looking, tall, handsome, but the part of him that stayed with her for long were his eyes. The lost, gloomy, poignant eyes that had met with her eyes for so many times when they met in Delhi. And every time, they had a conversation of their own. His eyes haunted her. In fact, his eyes didn’t leave her mind at all.
‘No, Manasvi! You are not supposed to think about him. You need to divert your mind.’
After the food, she checked her email, yet again.
No reply! Once again.
She logged off, washed her utensils and cleaned the kitchen. It was time to go to bed. She was asked to report at 8:00 am sharp for the orientation and she couldn’t afford to be late on the first day.
Lying on the bed and reading something to tire her to sleep was a usual routine every day. Scared of nightmares, she couldn’t get sleep easily. Every single night, she would wake up terrified of the bloodshed she had seen with her eyes. Every single night, she trembled in sleep, tossed and turned in bed with no one to hold her or talk to her about the events, the pain, the trauma that had been troubling her for years and years. It lay buried, suffocated in her heart without any release. The tightening around her chest made her feel heavy. Once again, it became a struggle to fall asleep.
Anshuman had added himself to the long list of her nemesis.
Manasvi reached the office of The Insight at the right time as told by the girl on the reception desk. The orientation was a meet with the HR Manager and Head of Digital News in the conference hall.
The news magazine was an international brand with a huge, swanky office. The conference hall was on the ninth floor. Manasvi held the letter she had received at the reception, clutched her file, and balanced her handbag on her shoulders to walk carefully and hesitatingly towards the conference hall.
She had worn a straight cut, grey chikankari suit with a cream dupatta.
She waited outside the conference hall before she saw Krish Sahay walking through the corridor with a rushed speed and zoom into the conference hall. She stood up immediately. Krish signaled her to come inside the hall and she followed him in, reluctantly.
Inside the conference hall, she found Mr. Mehta, already on the chair, HR Manager Jenny M, Head of Digital News, Mr. Patel, a handsome man in his sixties and Krish, all four seated at one end, waiting for her to take the other end.
Mr. Mehta spoke, “This organization welcomes you, Ms. Rathore. I’ll just take a moment to remind you of the reputation this company holds. I hope your stint at this prestigious place will be meaningful for all of us and will take it’s position higher on the global scene.”
“I’ll try my best, Sir!”
“From here, Jenny will hold the meeting. She will tell you about the rules of the company, breakage of the pay scale, deductions, and taxes, etc. Basically, the paperwork. Then, Mr. Patel will talk to you about the scope of your media coverage, what you are supposed to do and what you should never do. Also, he will brief you about your rights and privileges in each state, each country that you visit when you are with us. Finally, Krish will oversee your work from now, teach you all the basics, guide you, be with you as a mentor, and analyze your performance. Any doubts?”
“No, Sir!” Manasvi replied in a confident manner. It was hard to believe that she was finally working for this company.
Mr. Mehta congratulated her again, introduced her to the other staff sitting there and left. Manasvi was then introduced to the working style of the organization, leaves that she was entitled to each year, the pay breakage, the do’s and don’ts with scores of papers that she had to sign, including appointment letter, confidentiality document, agreement with the company, joining letter, pay agreement and several such documents. It was taking a long time. So Krish stood up to leave. He asked her to see him in his cabin once she was done with it.
Finally, at around 12 pm, after thanking Jenny and Mr. Patel, Manasvi headed for the tenth-floor cabin belonging to Krish Sahay.
Krish’s cabin was a simple, beautiful space decorated with minimalistic furniture, basic decor in teakwood, and several plants at windows and corners of the room. The pleasing ambiance of the room gave her positive vibes just like Krish did. Manasvi inadvertently smiled when Krish raised his eyes from the folder that he had been reading and smiled at her.
He politely asked her to sit and asked about the distance from her home, how did she reach there, and general questions about her education, university, subjects, etc. Manasvi could guess that it was mainly to make her feel easy. She felt immensely thankful to him. He offered coffee to her that she declined.
“So, are you ready to begin working today or you need leaves or break to settle things at your end. People usually do that?” Krish asked with a warm smile.
“Sir, I’m ready to begin work right away. In fact, I can’t wait to work. It has been six months since I left my past job…so…”
“I understand. So, first I’ll show you your cabin and then tell you about the job profile.”
‘She was going to have a cabin!’
Manasvi was thrilled. Before this, in her last two jobs, she had working desks with several other executives and reporters at long working stations in big halls.
She nodded and stood up to follow Krish out of his cabin and then to enter a smaller cabin right next to his cabin.
“This entire tenth floor is for media inputs, photographs, videos, GIFs and edits. I head this department. I have four interns under me. They are all seniors now… say the newest one has been with us for 2 years, now. For a long time, I have been asking for a new intern and that day when we saw the pictures on your blog, we were floored!” He spoke lavishly praising her. The cabin was smaller but clean and well maintained with respect to lighting and air. Two things that Manasvi thrived on.
He took her around the cabin and asked the front desk lady, Lisa Mathew, on the tenth floor to bring his pen-drive from his cabin into Manasvi’s cabin.
Taking the pen-drive from Lisa, he smiled to thank her and sent her away. Then, he gave it to Manasvi. Manasvi was given a desktop system to work. She inserted the drive into the system and opened the folder specified by Krish. It had photographs Krish had taken in slums of Mumbai.
She was impressed with the quality of the pictures, “Sir, these are beautiful.”
“Nah! Just the basics. The credit goes to the imported camera I was using and then the equipment used for lighting. Nothing compared to what you did with a basic phone!”
“Please don’t embarrass me, sir! I’m just a novice.”
“Please don’t call me, sir, then?”
Manasvi smiled. “Okay!”
“Good. Where was I? … Oh yeah…the interns… so they are permanent employees of The Insight now. They are old and know their job well. I needed someone to assist me, learn new things and meanwhile, be valuable to the organization. So, for the next six months, you will accompany me to all the projects I go on… get the hang of the work that you are supposed to do… and later, we can make you independent. Is that fine?”
“Yes, sir…” Manasvi spoke.
Krish tilted his neck and shrugged, making her smile again, “I’m sorry, sir… I mean, Krish!”
“So, the work for today is – sort out all the 122 pictures from this folder into separate folders… according to picture quality, lighting, the relevance of each with the news item that I will send to your email after this. After that, shortlist 10 best pictures according to you, which can be published this week. Out of them, we will select 4. We will discuss it after lunch. Is it fine?”
“Absolutely!” Manasvi nodded.
“See you after lunch. Lisa will tell you the route to the in-house canteen and top floor cafe, whatever suits you.” Krish made a move after that. Right at the door, he stopped, “Two things more…”
“Yes, sir… Krish!”
“One – we have no working hours. Once you come to the office, you leave only when you are too tired to work anymore. And you will have to travel extensively.”
“I understand this business and nature of work…” Manasvi spoke with unmatched confidence.
“Two – Does your husband understand? I mean, he won’t mind your working late hours or travelling?”
Manasvi had been through such questions all her college life and from people who were inquisitive to know more. While in jobs. For getting home on rent. Everywhere she went, she faced similar questions about her husband and in-laws. Her mother had always told her that the world is full of wolves ready to pounce on a single woman living alone. So, she should try and avoid telling about the truth to everyone.
Manasvi had slowly learned to deal with uncomfortable questions. She had no close friends for many reasons. One – She avoided people because the crowd suffocated her. She felt claustrophobic when people encroached on her private space. Two – She needed to avoid creating an unnecessary buzz about her. She didn’t want anyone to know about her personal life. And most importantly, she never understood what her casual friends and batchmates and colleagues were talking about. Their lives were so different that Mansvi would always feel out of place.
But she had to reply to Krish. She smiled and nodded, “He understands. He was in the army and a doctor. So his life is more hectic than mine.”
“Sounds great! See you later!”
Krish moved out, leaving Manasvi alone inside her cabin. She had never been happier. Or even if she was, she didn’t remember being this excited. New work, new profile, good pay scale, interesting work and more than anything else, it was The Insight!!!!
Her hand went to her phone kept on the table and even after stopping herself for the nth time since morning, she opened Gmail to check if Anshuman had replied.
She couldn’t stop herself and dialed a call to Preksha. Preksha replied, “Heyyyy!! I was about to call you. Since yesterday, it was so mad that I kept thinking about you but couldn’t call you.”
“I was missing you too!”
“But you didn’t call!!!!”
“Actually… I thought…”
Preksha interrupted her, “Manasvi di, when you miss someone or love someone, you shouldn’t think. Just pick up the phone and call. I am so so so so happy that you called. Does it matter who calls first?!”
Manasvi smiled, “No, it doesn’t matter. The house was full of relatives, so I thought of calling later!”
“Which relatives, di?? All left… they are all cheaters… I’m not even inviting them to my wedding now!”
“What? How come? When I was there, they were so many…”
“Yeah! Even I thought that people will stay for more. You left early morning and then after breakfast, everyone started leaving one by one… by night everyone was gone…”
“Everyone?” Manasvi asked cautiously.
Preksha understood her question by her changed intonation. She assured her, “Yes, di, everyone left. Even Anshuman bhai got an emergency call and he left by afternoon. I’m wondering how he got the tickets for New York on this short notice.”
Manasvi was not sure what to say to Preksha. It was obvious that Anshuman hadn’t told his family about his work. She shouldn’t tell too. She had no business interfering in his life and the way he had decided for things to go. But it was a relief to know that he left by afternoon. That says that he might not have received her email. He must be in flight and he didn’t read it.
Where was he? Maybe, Israel?
Preksha’s voice disturbed her, “So how are you? How did the interview go?”
Her peppy voice reminded Manasvi that she had something exciting to tell her. She told her in detail about the interview and that she got the job. Preksha got excited too and she called Madhu. Both Madhu and Preksha congratulated her and talked to her for some time before Manasvi remembered that she had work to do.
Madhu asked Manasvi to take care of herself and to call them often. She also strictly ordered her to stay in touch with her.
Manasvi smiled and agreed. “Yes, I will keep you posted!”
After that Manasvi was back to working sincerely. Her work was appreciated and loved by Krish. He was thoroughly impressed at her descriptions, selections, and inputs.
He asked her to accompany him to the slum areas and building construction sites for a story on people working there in unsafe conditions and their children forced to live in an unhealthy environment.
Within three weeks, Manasvi Rathore managed to create a small niche for herself in The Insight. Krish’s discussions about representation of news and Mehta’s recommendations involved her solely on merit and hard work. Other interns were friendly with her but they were hardly in the office. They were mostly on some project or the other, and Manasvi saw then once in a week or so.
Three weeks later, Manasvi was called in Mehta’s cabin. Krish and Mr. Patel were there, along with the two women she had met during her interview and HR Jenny.
“Ms. Manasvi Rathore Shekhawat, we are impressed by the way you have been giving your 200% to the organization and working day and night for it.”
“Thank you, sir!”
“So, like I said, we wanted to begin posting you on the international circuit and your first posting will be in Paris. There is a climate change conclave there in two months. You will have to cover everything about it. But there is a problem…”
“What problem, sir?” Manasvi was not getting it.
“Your passport is an Afghan passport and you have given your documents for acquiring citizenship in India. There is some delay in your process and in such a case, we will not get a visa for you at short notice.”
Manasvi wet her dry lips with her tongue and waited for them to take a call. Mehta continued, “We need to send someone who can cover the Paris Conclave from the inception. Someone needs to cover the preparations etc… and meanwhile, waiting for your documents means delaying the process. So, we are considering another representative for the same.”
Manasvi felt low. The first big opportunity slipped out of her hand. It was not like she wasn’t used to it. She had lost so much that losing an opportunity didn’t actually hurt her much. It was just that she had started feeling that life was getting back on track and she could forget things from her past and move on. But her past was not leaving her.
Mehta continued, “Or, otherwise, you have another option…”
“What is it, sir?”
“Find out what exactly is the issue with the documents and get them personally from wherever they are missing. May be school documents or birth certificates?”
“I’ll do that sir! I’ll just check what is the issue and get the necessary documents personally!”
“Do you have someone who lives in these two countries?”
Manasvi froze at the question. She had few distant relatives from her mother’s side in Pakistan and her father’s friends in Afghanistan, but she was not even in touch with them. About her father’s family, her mother had told her that they lived in Hyderabad, India, but she had never seen them.
She sighed, “No!”
“Then, how will you manage?” Krish asked.
“I’ll go myself!”