Thank you for being patient with me. I've finished most of the projects I had set out for, in this break. I will post about them soon. For now, I won't come between you and the update :D I hope you all are safe, healthy, and coping well. Love you all... a lot... ........................................................... She grasped his shirt at his shoulders when she was near him, terrifi...
Why a new story?? — Because I am a writer, and an artist and have moods… hahaha!!
Because this story has been nagging me strongly since few months… and vaguely since few years…
I cannot ‘not write’ it…
Also… whenever I write a light story, I crave to write an intense one… and when I am writing an intense one, it affects me so deeply that I crave to write a lighter one… the pattern has continued since forever… and hence my stories are alternately lighter and intense… I know, it’s rather silly… but I know I can share anything with you…
So an intense story this time… A new set up… new characters for Parth and Niti… my muse for life…
Please give them the same love… like the rest of my 4 stories…
The phone rang for a full thirty seconds before it silenced again. Manasvi Rathore turned to her side and switched on the bedside lamp. Squinting her sleepy eyes, struggling to open them she reached for the phone, lying somewhere on the bed. She picked it up and stared on the screen to locate the source of the missed call. It was an unknown number from a strange destination, the codes of which she couldn’t recognize. She checked the time on the phone screen.
Nobody ever called her at this time of the hour. It was quite late at night and she almost never had any unknown numbers calling her. She thought for a moment and was sure that it had to be her husband.
She sat up on the bed and straightened her back, focusing on the phone screen, waiting for the phone to ring again. It did. And she was right. This was her husband’s seventh call in past seven years of their marriage. He called her once a year. On their wedding anniversary.
She answered the call after the third ring, “Hello.”
A familiar awkward silence followed before he started speaking softly after much deliberation, “Hello, Manasvi. Kaisi hai aap?”
His questioning about her well-being was always in a short Hindi sentence with the use of ‘aap’ signifying respect. She admired that small gesture and was sure that his concern for her was genuine. It wasn’t fake. She liked the depth in his husky voice. The small, measured sentences, though not elaborate but enough to reflect that he cared.
She replied back in equally soft tone, “I’m fine. Aur aap?”
“I’m good, too! How were your exams ?”
This was another regular question as she had exams round the year and though he called only once a year, he had a fair idea about what she was doing and how she was managing her day-to-day routine, just like she had. They never talked to each other but were informed about everything that concerned them by his mother who stayed in New Delhi. Her exams had been over a few days back and he knew about that.
“They were good.” She replied in short. She had no idea what else to talk to him. Whether to discuss more about how tough the papers were and how one of them was completely out of syllabus, one paper was leaked and they had to rewrite it, how the education system was going down every day but overall, she managed to do well.
All these thoughts remained as thoughts as she couldn’t speak anything when talking to him. They had never talked more, other than exchanging basic civilities. To talk more at this stage appeared almost unnecessary.
Their conversations had always been formal and awkward.
“Err… I wanted to talk about something…” He continued.
Now, this was something new. He was into his fourth sentence and second minute of the call in the past seven years which was absolutely unusual activity coming from him. She pulled the cushion in her lap and stayed alert to prepare herself for an unexpected turn of their talk. Her mind did a quick exercise about what he could have in mind.
“About what ?” She asked, feeling strange about actually ‘talking’ to him other than murmuring monosyllables like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and saying ‘I’m fine’ to his one-line questions.
“I wanted a favour from you.”
“Favour? From me? Please tell me what may I do for you?”
“Manasvi, as you know that we have been married for the past seven years. The seventh-year completes today.”
“Yeah, I’m aware of that !”
“Err… I was thinking…” He stammered, licked his lower lip with his tongue and cleared his throat before he spoke again. It was evident that he couldn’t speak as easily as he had imagined or rehearsed.
“Please go on…” She probed and tried to make it easy for him to say it. By now, she was almost sure that she knew what he was talking about.
Feeling a bit confident, he asked directly, “Is it okay for you if we apply for divorce this year ?”
A subtle smile appeared on her face when she heard this. She had expected this and she was nearly sure that his hesitation was for this question. So this was the favour her husband of seven years was asking from her at their wedding anniversary.
The irony of the situation would have been pathetically distressing for anyone else in her place but not for Manasvi. She was aware that this would dawn on her one day. With a smile in her voice, she replied confidently, even without thinking for another moment, “Sure. Just let me know where I have to sign.”
She could hear a relieved sigh on the other end after her answer.
“Thank you so much, Manasvi. Actually, the thing is that I have a girlfriend and I need to go through this before I propose marriage to her.”
“You don’t need to explain all that.” She smiled widely, at the simple thought that he was happy with this.
“One more thing.”
“Always remember that at any time in life, if you ever need me, you just need to make a call. I’ll always be there.”
“I know that, Anshuman. Thanks.”
He wanted to say something more but the phone disconnected due to poor signals. She waited for some time but when it stayed silent, she held the phone close to her bosom and closed her eyes to go back to sleep.
But sleep had never been a cozy friend. It was that enemy that had made her struggle to get close to her all through her childhood and teenage. It was usual for her. To toss and turn in bed, for hours together, night after night, weeks after weeks, years on years…
She lay on the bed, remembering her past, analyzing her present and thinking about her future. Her thoughts darted back and forth between the last fifteen years and the turns in her life that had brought her to the present stage. She could vividly remember the incidents which flashed through her mind like a film strip and made her panic every time she was reminded of them.
She could still feel it so clearly – the smell of smoke, the sight of burnt vehicles, a young girl, injured, panic-stricken and scared, stumbling through dead bodies…all around her…
It wasn’t an easy night in another part of the world, as well.
The heavy rainfall had effortlessly washed down the debris accumulated over everything that interrupted it’s a pathway down to meet the sand. The gush of water flew down the streets forming canals carrying with it all that it could hold in the forceful mad rush. The next to be threatened were the trees heavily swaying due to the storm and the mud houses which began to give way, with one fragile wall going down after another.
The darkness and the rain made it difficult to figure out anything beyond a few meters even with a normal six by six vision. The clouds once again roared to declare their supremacy and then a flash of lightening reiterated their claim. It was getting darker and scarier.
An old man, barely balancing his umbrella in the storm, came running towards the SUV standing outside a worn-out building. A huge signboard in yellow boasting of housing a ‘Public Telephone Booth’ stood just outside the building.
One window of the vehicle rolled down to receive the information the man had to give.
The old man waved his hand and had to shout to be heard properly, “Sir!!! NO SIGNALS !”
“Jeez!” The man on the driving seat banged his hand on the steering wheel and sighed in disappointment.
“Thank you!” The other man on the passenger seat waved back and the windows were rolled up.
The motor vehicle roared as if competing with the clouds, struggled to steer clear from the muddy road and sped fast on the highway towards the outskirts of Duhok.
“There is no internet connectivity or phone signals till Duhok. It’s getting terrible.” He tapped his fingers restlessly on the steering wheel to divert his attention from the growing impatience inside him.
He was still talking to his wife when the phone was disconnected and after that, he couldn’t get through to her. He had tried several public phones after that. It was only once in a year that he talked to her and today he was talking about something important. He didn’t want to make her feel lonely and uncared for. He wanted to let her know that he will always be there for her but he couldn’t convey it properly. The line was disconnected and it frustrated him. He grumbled something under his breath low enough for only him to hear.
“The terror attacks and the steep, rocky mountains were less of a challenge for studs like us. So the rain Gods decided to play spoilsport too.” A careless attempt from his friend to make the situation lighter worked well and momentary smiles flashed inside the big car.
Duhok was nearly 80 km towards north of Monsul. Ideally, it would be an hour’s drive. A large area on the outskirts of Duhok towards Zakho was currently the base ground of all PBB camps providing humanitarian aids and emergency care to people affected by bombings, terror attacks and riots following it. The terror attack had shaken the North-eastern part of Iraq so severely that its echo could be heard till the central governance. Exactly, what was desired by the extremists’ groups.
It was international news flashing across all TV channels. All possible help was sent to the people affected by the attacks. It was baffling for the hospitals and health care personnel to have the number of deaths and injured rising every day and the health care system threatened to collapse. Around 50 people were killed and nearly 170 injured. More numbers were expected to follow. The desperate need for medical attention, food, and freshwater was attended to by the government but it wasn’t a smooth task with limited access to the area that was hit the most.
The execution of the operations had been extremely difficult but there was one organization whose volunteers were well prepared to deal with such crisis. ‘People Beyond Borders’ had been working under such stressful situations for many years. They acted swiftly and worked round the clock to bring some relief to innocent citizens of Kurdistan who were selectively targeted by the cowards. Piles of debris from the bomb attacks obstructed the passages and access to the ones buried alive below the debris. PBB volunteers reached the site within hours of the catastrophe and resumed the relief work. The makeshift PBB camps ensured prompt medical care, timely intervention, and transportation of those severely injured to the central tertiary hospitals equipped to perform complicated operations.
Captain Dr. Anshuman Shekhawat and Dr. Alex Faegermann were two of those doctors who had accompanied the ambulance carrying people with gunshot injuries and traumatic pneumothorax to the Kirkuk hospital and were now returning back after the successful transit. Rains had made it difficult to move ahead and they had stopped at a local motel at Monsul for a long time.
It was there when Anshuman realized that it was his wedding anniversary and he should call Manasvi. It was strange to talk of divorce at this time, but he had to do it. He had been thinking about it for a long time. He was relieved after the call though he had not expected the conversation to be any different. He had always known that she will go with what he said and Manasvi had pleasantly agreed for the divorce. He was immensely thankful for that. He wanted to talk a bit more, though it wasn’t required per se, he wanted to. To assure her that he would be there if she needed anything in life or whenever she was in trouble at any point in time, she could count on him. But the poor signals called the shots and the phone got disconnected. Disgruntled, he decided to continue the journey despite the heavy rainfall. On the way to Duhok, he tried a few public payphones but signals were down or shops were shut at most places.
Finally, he had to be content with whatever little was exchanged between Manasvi.
He just hoped that he didn’t hurt her as that was something, he could never do. Not even in his dreams.