Manasvi was perched on the writing desk in the hotel room, writing down in her diary, and noting down on the notepad of her phone at the same time – all the details she had noted throughout the day – names of people she had met, places, addresses, etc. – lest she would forget.
She made circles around all the important things she had to jot down and wrote her thoughts in points – it helped her sort out her thinking process. What else she needed to find out. And how she was going to proceed further on the following day.
She decided to call Azfar and his family on the following day. His mother had been very kind to her. Manasvi decided to give her a call and visit her in the morning. She was reminded of Anshuman’s mother. The last time, she had talked to her was when she had called Preksha for Anshuman’s pictures. Today, after informing them about Anshuman’s arrest in Karachi, Manasvi knew what Madhu and Preksha must be going through.
She called Madhu and as expected, she found her distraught and dismayed –just like any mother would be. Manasvi was mesmerized by the bond Anshuman shared with everyone he was related to. Especially, his mom.
It was difficult to fathom the love they had for each other. And Madhu loved him more than she loved anyone in their family.
“Manasvi, do you think he will be freed?” Madhu asked her, controlling her tears.
“Yes, ma. I have faith in God. And I have faith in Anshuman’s goodness. His Karma will save him.” Manasvi didn’t know if she said this to relieve Madhu or she really believed that he will be freed.
But she was sure of one thing – Anshuman had never harmed any life or soul in his capacity. He had only worked for the greater good of humanity, without worrying about his patient’s country, religion, region, or faith. For him, humanity was his religion. And she believed that God can never be unkind to someone who follows His true divine path.
She promised Madhu that she will tell her about anything and everything she came to know about Anshuman and keep her informed.
When she disconnected the call, she scrolled the picture gallery for Anshuman’s picture, and saved it as a screensaver on her phone. She ran her fingertips over his face in the picture. He had suffered so much. And he was still going through the worse. She didn’t know how much more he had to bear. But her heart tore down at his misery. She couldn’t stop her tears trickling down before she made herself a promise that she was going to do anything in her might to ease Anshuman’s problems and agony.
This time, he was in serious trouble and she needed to do everything possible to get him freed. The situation was bleak but she had to keep her hopes high. And keep doing the efforts.
While the phone was still in her hand and she was observing Anshuman’s picture as if talking to him, the phone rang. The name read – Anshuman.
She almost jumped in surprise. How was he even allowed to call? She immediately answered the call.
“Are you fine?” His voice had urgency. It had command. And deep concern. It was obvious that he was terribly worried for her.
She could perceive his state of mind. Instead of beating around the bush, she quickly updated him. “Yeah, I’m absolutely fine. I went to the older parts of the city today and found some crucial information about you. You will not have to dwell in the past, anymore.”
He appeared to be least interested in what she had to share about him. Instead, he shook his head impatiently, closing his eyes for a moment, and interrupted her, “Wait… wait! Where are you right now?”
She replied calmly, “Anshuman, I’m safe. Inside the hotel. I reached hotel before it was dark. The hotel is comfortable, with all safety measures, and it has staff that takes proper care of solo travellers. I’m well-sheltered here. Secure and protected.”
He heaved a deep sigh of relief, “Thank God! I was dead worried.”
“So am I.” She added softly.
Three simple words from her were more powerful than any verbal confession of love and care. Her voice, her tone, her admission that she was worried about him were more precious than any poetry he had ever heard.
He pressed his lips in, for a short moment, and said, “Don’t be worried about me. I’m sure the Chief will clarify everything tomorrow. I am innocent. I have done nothing wrong. So, I believe that I have nothing to worry about too.”
“I wish life was as simple as that,” Manasvi said, “We know that you are innocent. But we need to prove it to the authorities too. I’ve contacted everyone I could in India. They’ll definitely ensure your release. I promise. Now, I just hope we meet people on other side, who care about the truth.”
“We will.” Anshuman leaned by the bars of the cell. “I will keep believing that people are generally good.”
Manasvi thought for a moment, and then asked, “Does that mean, they are treating you well in custody?”
“Yes. I’m in state custody and they are being fair to me.”
“Did you eat?”
“Yes. I did.”
“I hope they don’t hit you.” She voiced her scariest thought.
He smiled. Her concern for him was adorable. He relieved her, “Don’t worry. They are trying to be humane with me.”
“By the way, I met your nanny today… she is a local lady who took care of you until you were five years old.”
“My nanny?!” He whispered in shock, unable to believe it.
Manasvi couldn’t wait to share with him how comforted and excited she had felt when she dug out his lineage and childhood. Nothing was more important for her than the fact that Anshuman will be able to shed the burden of guilt on his heart and will be able to leave his past behind once he knows who he was and who his parents were. “Yes! And she knows you since your birth. She was a nurse with your mother.”
“Wait! This is…unbeliev…”
She continued, “Your parents were both doctors. They were of Indian origin and were settled in Kabul. Like my parents. They had their own clinic that was attacked one day and you were kidnapped after that.”
He was speechless. This information was too much for him to process. Manasvi had gone ahead and searched for his roots today. He could never do that. Though he had chance to do so. But he didn’t.
This was something he had thought about but never did, fearing the worst outcome. He would have hated to be linked to the extremists and to all the crimes committed by them. He could never sum up the courage to find links to his ancestors. A few years spent in the training camps of extremists were enough of a torture for him and a burden for his soul that he could never get rid off.
Today, Manasvi had taken the leap of faith and removed all clouds of darkness and despair from his heart and mind. Finally, he knew that he was the son of doctors. Not extremists. He belonged to people who heal. Not those who hurt. To people who protect. Not those who attack.
As if a mist was cleared from his world, today. He didn’t remember if he had never asked for anything more than this from the Higher Power, before. But this was much before he knew Manasvi. Since a few days, he didn’t realise, when it happened that some new wishes had taken the place of older ones, even without his consent. Manasvi’s safety and wellbeing meant more than anything else to him.
He spoke in a deep, velvety voice, “You have no idea what you have done for me. You have finally given me a past that I can associate with. A past that signifies respect and dignity. It validates my entire life. I couldn’t breathe in peace thinking that in no way I could wash away my guilt of being with the extremists.”
“Even without this discovery, you have done enough to payback for the crimes you didn’t commit. And no one from your family committed any crimes, either. Still you kept working for people who need you. Sometimes, even risking your own life with that. Whether in army or with PBB, the work you did was beyond noble.”
“And I will continue to do that for my entire life.” He said, in a hope to warn her that she didn’t know what she was getting into.
She stayed quiet for a moment, knowing why he said that. Then, in a low, soft voice, she said, “I’ll never stop you. I’ll be proud of you, in fact.”
He didn’t know how he felt about that. But he knew for sure that her response wouldn’t be any less than this. She was a rare species. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she insisted on accompanying him to all the dangerous locations he went for his job.
He knew that she had learnt to fight adversities and danger. And she could do anything for him. But right now, it was important to protect her.
He asked, “Manasvi, can you do me a favour? Please?”
“Anything you say…”
“The ACP here has got the certificates from your school. I’ve requested him to send their pictures to you. Please get them printed asap and submit them in MEA. Get your passport and leave Afghanistan. Please!” His voice has urgency, all over again. He was nearly panic stricken, worrying about her.
She pressed her lips for a moment, thinking about the next step, and spoke doubtfully, “But I was planning to go to your parents’ nursing home tomorrow.”
He tried hard to suppress his anger, this time. He was about to lose his patience, but he didn’t. He urged in strong words, “My parents are dead, Manasvi! They are not coming back. Yes, I am glad that we found out that they were doctors. I can’t thank you enough for that. But please… please understand that nothing is more important for me than ‘you’…”
She was astounded. And blank. Did he really say that?
She knew she was important for him. But never before he had said it as clearly as he did, today. In no uncertain words, he made it very clear about what was important for him and exactly what he wanted from her.
It was sudden. And given the situation they were in, it was profound as well. He was in captivity himself. But not even once he had asked her what she had done to save him. It was, as if, after informing her, he had left it for her to take care. He knew that she must have done everything she could.
A dreadful pause followed after that. He hated it, for he didn’t know what else to say to dissuade her from continuing her quest. She hated it too, almost praying that he didn’t take back what he just said. It was the first time when he had declared so clearly, in words, how much she meant to him.
She wanted to hold on to this moment. For eternity. Without any frills, or fancy, this one moment was enough for an entire lifetime.
She whispered, “I will do as you say.”
“So, take the certificates to MEA, get the new passport, and off you fly to India – as soon as possible.”
“Done. But… on one promise.”
“When you are freed and we meet again in India, we will come back here, meet your nanny and visit your parents’ hospital too. For your closure.”
A tear dropped from her eye, when she asked, “Anshuman, I have a question.”
“Will we ever meet?”
“We will.” He spoke resolutely.
She wished she could hold her tears, streaming down her soft cheeks. She spoke on a choked throat. “I’m so scared.”
“Don’t be scared. And please don’t cry. I can’t see my source of strength crumbling down. Stay safe. Stay secure. Nothing will stop me on this side of the border. I’ll meet you in India.”
“I promise. Our relationship is beyond every border.”