Updated: Jun 26, 2018
There is no running away from your destiny. There is no escaping the consequences. THE FUTURE IS HERE
The Journey of Two Souls - Mrityunjay
That which cannot to be mutilated by weapons, that which cannot be burned by any fire, that which remains untouched by water and that which cannot be withered by wind – that eternal, immortal, YOU, transcend……
Gaekwad Farms – That Fateful Night
Mrityunjay watched as Shivani stood at the edge of the fire. The heat from the fire must be unbearable, almost feverish, but she stood, at a touching distance from the fire, with no feeling of pain or distress in her face. In fact, she stood, almost hugging the raging inferno, as if the heat was not heat, but the cool moonlight. There was a serene glow on her face, as if every problem she had faced till that moment was going to pass. Her calm scared Mrityunjay. If anything, she should have been screaming in pain, as the heat threatened to lick her body. Instead she stood, as if a child would stand close to a mother, waiting for the mother to throw her arms around and feel the security of a mother’s embrace.
She looked only at Mrityunjay, as if nothing else existed between them. She spoke, only for his ears, her eyes looked only at him, as if memorizing every little detail of his face on her soul, if it was not already etched there, to perfection.
He heard the words then, every spec of noise surrounding him, drowning as her voice, feeble, yet determined reached his ears. He had no sensation of the tears that sprang into his eyes. But the words, rang deep into the recesses of his soul.
“I love you Mrityunjay, but for as long as I live, they will not let you get on with your life. I am the cause for all your problems. It will all be OK the minute I go away. This is the only solution. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU.”
He knew he was losing her, as she proclaimed her love to him. Have you ever experienced fear like that? That one moment. When you don’t know if the person you love the most, more than everything in this life, will be there to share the next moment with you. You are standing there… and you know…things will never be the same… that you are about to lose …. what can never be replaced… yet, you can do nothing about it. There is no means to stop what is about to happen.
Mrityunjay stood, like he was cast in stone, his face was blank, the tears rolling down his face, the only movement in his body, was his heavy chest, laboring to breath. His palm was gradually balling into fists, his eyes, holding onto Shivani’s vision. His brain refused to accept what he was witnessing, for the sake if his sanity. His heart refused to slow down, pumping at inhuman levels. He wanted to run to her, but stood rock still, as if some unseen force was holding him by his ankles, as if some unseen shackles were placed on his legs.
Shivani though smiled a serene smile, her face taking on the reddish orangish glow from the fire she stood in front of. One moment she stood in front of the fire and the other, she had leapt into it. If she had screamed in pain, Mrityunjay had not heard it. If she writhed in pain, he did not see. As soon as she had lept into the flames, Mrityunjay’s senses went blank. There was just black smog in front of him. His ears rang, and his body felt numb. He just stood, almost like a dead man, as Shivani burned in that fire and then the gut wrenching scream tore through the night sky.
“NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO.” He had no idea, how it happened. But in the next few seconds, he was in the embrace of the flames himself. He caught Shivani, as she came willingly into his embrace, her skin and flesh already burning. He did not see the burning skin and flesh nor felt the pungent odor of burning flesh. All he saw, was her beautiful face, exactly as he remembered, when he saw her for the first time. Her wide, olive eyes, teasing him, the mischievous smile on her lips, ready for his kisses.
He pulled her to himself and hugged her close to him, until their bodies meshed into each other as the fire burned them to ash, layer by layer. The cloths were all gone, only the body remained. The OM pendant he had placed around Shivani’s neck, was now enmeshed into both their bodies, marking out the ancient sign of enlightenment on both their bodies. On Shivani’s body, it was visible as normal and on Mrityunjay’s chest, it formed a mirror image.
He held her close, as the fire burned all around them, and as they burned in the fire, his eyes satisfied to hold her close. It happened then, a strange pain, an inexplicable fear, he tried to breath, but he felt as if he was pressed down by a million tons on his chest, his physical body was shivering, he felt as if thousand scorpions were biting him all at once, felt as if something was pulling him, forcibly out of his body. He didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to be parted from Shivani. He looked towards Shivani. He body lay in the pit of fire, limp. “NO… wait…stop… SHIVANI……SHIVANI……” he looked all around him.
Everyone was there. He saw Brihannal look towards the fire pit, shock writ large over her face, He saw, Saanvi, screaming and crying, her hand raised towards the fire pit. He saw Anirudh, sit with his head held in his hands and rocking back and forth. He saw Madhu Bhau come running towards the flames and scream in agony. But why were they not looking at him. They all seemed to look at the fire pit…...down below.
Mrityunjay froze. Down Below? Where was he. Was he not in the fire pit, being engulfed by the fire. He looked around him and then found a chord emerge from his naval. He held the chord with his hands and pulled it. As he puled at the chord that seemed to be attached to his naval, he felt himself float around like a lite whose chord had been pulled. Mrityunjay was scared now? What was happening to him? He looked down again into the fire pit. Suddenly, his vision cleared. He could see everything clearly, as if he was watching a movie in high definition. As he looked into the fire pit, he felt a surge of emotion like never before. He was looking not just at Shivani’s body but his body hugging Shivani’s body as the fire burned them to bones.
A huge well of grief erupted within Mrityunjay. he looked all around him and realized he was floating in the air, the only link to body, the chord that passed through his naval. He looked all around himself crazed. He didn’t want to leave Shivani... where is Shivani. “SHIVANI…. SHIVANI…” Mrityunjay screamed, hovering over the fire pit, but no one heard him.
As he floated around watching, the chord around his naval slowly began to disappear and in a few seconds the chord was gone. Mrityunjay felt light, as if a huge burden, that was weighing him down, was lifted off his shoulders. The grief, the pain, the mourning, that had taken over his features, slowly disappeared and he felt feather light. Before he knew what was happening, Mrityunjay was sucked into a vortex, a portal, like he was passing through a tunnel, slowly floating in the calm serene space. As he passed through this tunnel, he saw moments from his life all around him. Whatever moments he saw, he could feel the emotions he had felt, while he was alive.
He saw his parents, his grandfather, Godha Ma, Milind, his party workers, the crowds, Nandita. He also saw Brihannala, Anirudh and Saanvi. As he came out of this tunnel, Mrityunjay experienced peace, like he had never known before. He craved to see Shivani and all the time that they spent together, when he entered a cool, dark space. There was nothing in that space…. just darkness all around. There was no way to tell, how huge or how small the space was. Mrityunjay could not understand how or where he was. The dark space was not scary but at the same time intimidating. He floated around, his body a translucent, glow of energy, floating about in Nothing. He had no idea how far he had floated or how long he had been floating like this. But at some point, of time, he found himself standing in front of what seemed like water framed by a translucent substance. It had the exact impact of standing in front of a mirror, except, instead of seeing himself, all he saw in the mirror, was the soft glow of what seemed like a human form. There were no features, no face, no hands, no legs, just a light, glowing on its own.
It was also a beautiful feeling, free of all bondage, all emotions, a feeling of being free, truly and wonderfully free. As he stood in front of what seemed like a fluid mirror, every scene from his life, played out in front of him. From the time of his birth, every minute aspect of his life, he stood a witness too. What was intriguing though, was he could feel every emotion, he felt as if he was reliving his life all over again. But there was one major difference. He could also see, how everything he did, impacted others in his life. The happiness others derived from his actions, made him feel happy, in his present state and any actions that hurt others in his lifetime, brought tears to his present state.
It was at this point that he realized, that he was no longer just Mrityunjay. That identity, that name did not apply to him anymore. It did not evoke passions like he experienced while still alive. He was looking at himself, objectively, almost like observing the life of a third party. He was just a witness to whatever he had experienced as Mrityunjay, until her face came up on the fluid surface.
As he saw her face form contours in the fluid surface of the mirror of destiny, the soul that once identified itself as Mrityunjay, felt an acute pain, right in the center, a place where humans would identify with having a heart. The sensation was unbearable, like the energy of the soul was being eaten up by hell fire. “ARAHHHHH” he screamed as the pain became so acute that he spun like an endless tornado in the m idle of nothing.
Is translucent body, a warm glow all around, turned reddish right in the center. He didn’t know how the pain will go, he tried to kick and push, but he was in the middle of nothing, darkness all around him, no pace, no time… just nothing.
And then, the free fall began. He had the sensation of falling, as if he was being pulled by a magnetic force. He looked to see where he was falling. Nothing, nothing on all the sides. And then, like clouds make for a bright sun, the nothing gave way to a brilliant blue. He was being sucked into the blue, like a ton of weight was tied to someone and dropped down from Mount Everest. He had no idea how long he had been falling and then suddenly he hit blue waters and crashed into a deep blue ocean.
Ordinarily, if a body is dropped into water from great heights, as soon as it hits the surface of the water, due to surface tension, the body will bounce off the water. However, despite falling from what seemed like great heights, he seemed to drown straight into the water. He did not feel any sensations, as he had been expecting on impact. He went straight, into the ocean of water and back into complete darkness.
He was back into nothing. But something was inexplicable different this time. He no longer felt weightless or the translucent glow he had experienced until a while ago. He now felt the sensation of floating in a liquid. As if he was floating in water, he was inside water and he was not breathing. But he did not feel the weightlessness, free like a while ago. The water he was floating in seemed very stinky. All kinds of pungent odors surrounded him. Also, he could feel things floating around in the water that surrounded him. He was amazed that the sensory perception, that he did not feel until a while ago, had now returned. He was experiencing, senses of smell and touch, as if he had returned to a physical body.
It was at this exact moment, that he heard a faint noise. Mrityunjay concentrated on what the voice was saying. He could hear the chanting clearly now.
Devanam Cha Rishinam Cha
Gurum Kanchana Sannibham I
Buddhi Bhutam Trilokesam
Tam Namami Brihaspatim II
Mrityunjay heard these chants and felt like a bird caged in a golden cage. A cage, that stink with pungent odors, a cage where his food was feed into him, with a pipe that ran from out of nowhere, into his naval, a cage, where he floated inside water, like a tadpole inside a pond. Mrityunjay opened his eyes and looked at himself. He saw tiny fingers that were not fully developed. He tried to kick his way out but met a soft jelly like liquidy surface all around him. This was not possible, this cannot be real… this is not possible. He tried to move and look all around him. “God, get me out of here…. I need to get to ……. SHIVANI…...” he tried to speak, but he just did not know how it was done any more. All he had for company were his thoughts. And they wished for only one thing, to break free of the cage he was imprisoned in.
13 days After Mrityunjay’s Death – New Delhi
Malhotra House – New Delhi
Himalay Malhotra or as he was fondly called Him Malhotra was a tense man. His 40 something year old wife, was 7 months pregnant and that too when they had given up all hope. Meenu Malhotra, was a simple, woman, from a traditional Punjabi Family. She was married off to Him, as their fathers had been childhood friends. From the time she got married to Him, lady luck smiled on the hard working, young man, who worked day and night, to build a good life for himself and his family. He started off as a lorry driver and soon built a small fleet. Then as the fleet expanded, he ventured into Logistics and was now, the owner of one of the Largest Logistics companies in India. – Pan India Logistics.
From Tractors, to cargo, to mover and packers. Pan India dealt with a variety of operations and was a market leader. Him and Meene’s love grew with time as did their fortunes, but their love was incomplete. For reason’s unknown to Medical sciences, Meenu could never conceive a child. They tried all tests. Everything seemed normal, said the doctors. Second opinions too did not help as did not Fertility treatments. When Science failed them, Meenu turned to faith, going to every temple she could, doing every Pooja, every Anushtan she heard of or read about. Nothing.
When nothing seemed to be working, Him suggested adoption. “NO, I will conceive... I know I will…. I will wait…even it takes a while I will wait,” menu had refused. “But the clock is ticking…Meenu,” he tried to reason. She did not budge.
Someone suggested to go to Sri Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh, and when the couple finished their Pooja and were on the way back to Delhi, Meenu had fainted in the airport itself. At a local hospital, then suspected she was [regnant and it was pregnancy related stress. She was airlifted to Delhi, where it was confirmed that she was 6 weeks pregnant. But since she was over 40 and had conceived after all kinds of treatments failed, she was a high-risk case. She was advised complete bed rest and had to under go weekly checkups with a doctor.
The pregnancy had now reached the 7th month. As Him sat next to Meenu, reclining on the bed, she sat upright with a jolt. “What is it?” asked Him, looking worried. “I felt a kick….” She said, looking at him wonderstruck.
“What!” he said, sounding exhilarated. “Here,” she caught his hand, in hers and put it over her obviously pregnant stomach. As Him’s hand rested over her tummy, he felt the surface of Meenu’s skin curve as the baby inside kicked. It was the most magical sensation Him had ever experienced. As his eyes lighted up with a tear or two, he looked into Meenu eyes, finding the tears of happiness rolled down her cheeks. “Our baby... Meenu… our baby….” He said, as his voice chocked with emotions.
The Journey Of Two Souls - Shivani
There are two ways a person can die. One is out of natural or man-made causes. Due to old age, disease, circumstances etc. Then there is this. A person’s will to live is extinguished. A human is pushed to such an extent, that he or she begins to believe, that death is a better option than to continue to live. A return to normalcy from this point is near impossible. Because everything that happens around them, reminds them how much suffering they are causing to everyone around them and themselves. Every waking moment, strengthens in them, a belief, that the world will be a better place, especially for the people they love, if they simply did not exist.
There is nothing left to say, nothing to help bring them back to normalcy.
Gaekwad Farms – Hours Before that Fateful Night
As Shivani pulled through each day at the farms, she clung to the hope that Mrityunjay would somehow emerge from his exile and come to find her. She lived and breathed so she may see him one more time. The brutal torture in the hands of Anirudh, put paid to all her hopes that she would live to see Mrityunjay again. That was perhaps the beginning of Shivani’s end. A woman who had always lived for her dignity, who chose to walk away from her love, rather than stay put, after his refusal, a woman, who refused to abandon the man she loved, even when he was accused of the most heinous crimes, a woman, who came back from near death, because she believed that her love would come back to her.
As Shivani sat, all roughed up, already gone beyond the threshold of pain, for the first time in her life, she realized that she may not ever see Mrityunjay again. It was at this precise moment that Shivani was broken. She would have fought her way back to life, even from the clutches of death, if her breath had been snatched away, or her heart had stopped. But to be separated from Mrityunjay meant to live a lifeless life. As she sat, with swollen eyes and sore muscles, she saw no hope of Mrityunjay ever finding her…here…right where their love story began.
Yet, he found her. The very next day, he not only found her, he held her, kissed her, held her close, in the comfort of his arms. Shivani came alive again, drawing from his hope that they would somehow be able to escape the dreadful situation, they both found themselves in. And then he spoke of leaving her for some time to return to her. Those were some of the toughest moments Shivani had ever lived. In all her life, she had never been so relieved to see a man, as she was at meeting Mrityunjay again. She wanted not, to be separated from him, for even a Nano second. But, the truth was, Mrityunjay’s responsibility was not just towards her, but to the people who believed in the party of his grandfather and father. She could not tie him down to herself, just because she loved him, more than anyone, ever. So, she let him go.
Saanvi could not have chosen a more opportune time to push Shivani over the edge of reason. “For as long as you are alive, he lives not be able to live peacefully” – Saanvi’s words were confirming Shivani’s worst fears. Somewhere deep down, Shivani blamed herself for everything that had been happening in Mrityunjay’s life’s she had not entered his life, perhaps his life would have been much more pleasant. It was after meeting her, and then marrying her, that Mrityunjay got entangled in a direct conflict with Brihannala.
“If I had not returned into his life, he would never have come back to Mumbai and into all this conflict. He would have lived in Baragoan, under the impression that I am dead. Perhaps one day he would have married Saanvi and lived a content life with her. I dragged him bac k into all this muck… it is I who is responsible for everything. I am the cause of his misfortune.”
Shivani had slipped into the endless pit of self-blame. Just as Shivani had made up her min d that she was the cause for all the problems that surrounded Mrityunjay, Anirudh walked in. As Anirudh came in eyeing Shivani with lustful eyes, she cringed at the thought of being in the same room as Anirudh or breathing the same air as him. She hated the look of him, hated the confidence with which he walked in, hated his belief that she would accept him in place of Mrityunjay.
“So, he found you,” said Anirudh, his eyes mirroring the fear that was beginning to grip his heart. Shivani refused to even look at the monster that Anirudh had become.
“See what I have become in your love. You have turned me from a man of reason to a complete monster,” he said, almost as if reading her thoughts.
“For once, take responsibility Anirudh. What you term as love, is nothing but your obsession with a woman who is happily married,” said Shivani, moving away from his shadow. Her words were enough to enrage Anirudh.
“I promise you this Shivani… and this I promise with all the love, that you call obsession I can summon. If he manages to free you from here today, I will make sur4e, he is separated from you. I will use any and every means I must keep him away from you. I will pull out so muck about his past, that he will have to remain in prison for the next 7 lifetimes…. That’s my promise to you…” he said, leaning closer into her.
If there was even a shred of hope in Shivani as a that point of time, it now remained shattered. Anirudh’s words reaffirmed what she had now come to believe as the reality. The only thought in her mind at that moment was to “Save Mrityunjay – At All Costs” And the only way to accomplish that was to go away from him – forever.
And the only way to go away from him, forever, was to eliminate herself. Is she continued to live, this tug of war for her would never end and Mrityunjay would never be able to live in peace. Mrityunjay…... he deserved so much more in life…... and she would ensure that he found everything he deserved…. with or without her. Without her… was the best way forward for Mrityunjay. He would understand why she was doing what she was… she knew he would… he had to.
When she walked into the Gazebo and saw the inferno in the fire pit raging…. All Shivani could see, was a gateway… a gateway to free Mrityunjay from the binds of her love. As she walked towards the fire… she experienced a sense of peace, like she not experienced since she rediscovered Mrityunjay in Baragoan. From the time she entered the Gazebo, her eyes had searched for him and once they fond him, they did not leave him alone, even for a second. When Anirudh commanded her to break his heart, she had gone beyond the edge of sanity. She was already dead, having lost the will to live, a few minutes ago.
As she stood at the edge of the fire, she experienced nothing but a lightness of weight. She felt no body consciousness, all she felt was a sense of floating in the air. What few words she spoke, were to comfort Mrityunjay. He would be sad… but that sadness would only be momentary. Then he would rediscover love in Saanvi and everything would be ok. She would have fulfilled the purpose of her life.
As Shivani jumped into the flames, her mind instantly shutdown, so she may be able to withstand the pain of being burnt alive by fire. The trauma of the pain, was completely superseded by the ecstasy of the emotion, freeing Mrityunjay from the bonds of her love, was giving her. As the fire eat through flesh and blood, Shivani felt, instantly separated from her body, hovering over the fire…. watching only Mrityunjay, as he stood blank while she jumped into the fire. But the real agony began when he came running to her, and in an instant jumped into the flames and held her close. If was then that Shivani began to feel the agony of the burns. She tried to scream out loud, to tell him to get out of the fire…but the words would just not come.
She tried to push him away from the fire, out into safety, yet she just could not feel his touch or sensation any more. Shivani screamed loudly… “NOOOO MRITYUNJAY” but her screams, it seemed did not reach Mrityunjay. He continued to be engulfed by the flames, as she watched in utter despair.
And then she was suddenly sucked into a vortex, as if she was struck in the eye of a huge tornado. She was pulled and pushed from one part of the emptiness to another, almost like she was alone a flight, that diving nose down into nothing. She had no control over where she was going or how far she had to go. She was just getting pushed and pulled and as her eyes searched to see where she was or where she was headed, all they saw was nothing…. a vast nothing. After what seemed like a never-ending tumble through the vortex of time itself, Shivani felt as if she was dropped in front of a huge mirror.
As she stood in front of the mirror, it flashed his face…. up close, his eyes blank, his body numb. Shivani tried to move away from the mirror, unable to face the pain that she saw in the image, but she couldn’t. Try as much as she could, she could not move, nor look away. It was then that she heard a voice…. It came from nowhere and it came from everywhere. Shivani tried to close her eyes… but …The consciousness, that was Shivani until a few units of time ago, now realized, there were no eyes to close, nor were there any feet to walk away.
In fact, there existed no body…. there was only energy… the soul…formless, shapeless, nameless.
“Look at the images in the mirror and see the amount of suffering you have caused to my creation,” the voice boomed all around her.
As the soul. That was enshrined in a body called Shivani looked at the images flash through on the Mirror of Destiny, she saw, how she had knowingly or unknowingly hurt Mrityunjay. She saw clearly, how he had fallen in love with her, the first time, he had looked into her eyes, she saw, how he lay sleepless in his bed, after she had pressed her lips into his on an impulse, how he fought with himself, when she stood in front of him, with that Bengali breakfast…she saw how he had spent the whole day, preparing food for her. Saw his chest pound in anticipation as he bent down to take her lips, how it nearly broke his heart to refuse her, how he had cursed himself every single night after that, until the night of their marriage, saw the pain he suffered, to stay away from her. Saw his worry’s saw his fears and saw his desperation to keep her from getting involved in his life, so she may get a chance at normalcy.
She saw his passions rage furiously, that night at the stables, when wearing a red saree, she tried to seduce, and he very nearly succumbed to her seduction. Saw his torment and dilemma, when Godha ma played her trump car, asking Mrittyunjay to take the blame for Milind mistakes and how, with absolute disregard for his own needs and feelings, he had sponsored her entire trip to USA. She saw how, every word spoken by her, thawed at the ice that had frozen his heart, when she went into the chamber to meet him in prison and convince him to come out and take on his responsibilities towards her and the people of Maharashtra. Saw how his every single thought from that moment, until he stood in front of her in the stables, was to get a few moments of solitude with her and her alone. Saw his fears as she stood in front of Brihannala, challenging her authority, saw is made fury as he broke Brihannala’s jaw, for trying to drug her…. every spec of pain and agony Mrityunjay suffered, before she entered his life and then, she saw his image, as he ran towards her, in mad rage and jumped into the flames with her.
As she saw him jump into the flames, the soul screamed in agony…. It felt the pain of being burnt in hell fire... a pain of indescribable proportion.
Unable to bear the pain any further, the soul cried…. “why make me suffer now… when I lo longer have a body…”
The voice came back. “You will be punished for causing so much suffering to a person who loved you so much… you will be punished for committing a heinous act like suicide…. But that is not enough… Choose your destiny… to compensate for all your actions…repent for the pain you caused... Choose your punishment for when you will regain a body…” the voice seemed to float all around …yet from nowhere.
With the heaviness of guilt, riding over her, the soul proclaimed, “every pain he has suffered… I will suffer too. And this shall be my repentance,” she said, feeling a tinge of lightness reenter her existence.
Few Days After Shivani’s Death
Arjun Mhatra was a rich heir to a wealthy goldsmith in Nagpur. And being rich came with its own perks and eccentricities. He was young, arrogant and felt the need to answer no one. His favorite past time? Girls. He loved beautiful girls and had the natural ability to have any girl fall for him in minutes. It was during one such affairs while in MBA school, when he got so carried away in fulfilling his bodily needs, that he forgot to take some necessary precautions.
He spent the night with a beautiful girl he met at a pub and forgot about it completely, until after one year…. early morning, his family cook, found a few days old baby, with a letter, at their doorstep. All the letter said was… “I am unable to take care of your mistakes… Arjun Mhatre. If you don’t believe me, you can perform a DNA test. Her name is Aparna Mhatra… and do what you want with her….” said the letter.
An Ounce Of Love Reloaded - Chapter 1-Conqueror Of Death
Meenu had never been happier in all her life. In fact, she was sure, she would never be as happy as she had been ever again in her life. To Him, it may have seemed like she was never going to give up the hope that she would be able to carry a child in womb, but the truth was that Meenu had begun to lose hope slowly and surely. When they were visiting Kalahasti, she did more as a ritual, than anything else. If she had been destined to have a child, she would have had one by now. She had slowly begun to accept that, perhaps… being a mother the natural way… was just not in her destiny.
But then, it happened so suddenly, that initially she was scared. Very very scared, that things might go wrong. She was first, well over 40, and after all the medication and treatment she had undergone, what is something went wrong… terribly wrong? So, far all her fears were unfounded. The pregnancy was going on smoothly and things were pretty much under control. Her weight was fine, the baby’s weight was just as if should be. Her BP was slightly erratic, but that was common. She did not have any pregnancy diabetes…no down’s syndrome….so far so good.
Him, on the other hand, was on cloud 9. This was the most expected, the best event to ever happen to him. The anticipation, that in a few weeks he would be able to hold with his hands, his very own daughter or son, was driving him crazy with happiness. He wanted to build a new Penn, he wanted to but new toys, cloths… everything. But there were strict instructions from Meenu and his parents, who lived back in his village near Ludhiana. “No Telling Anyone or Buying Things Until the Baby Has Come” And so Him, with earnest effort subdued his excitement. But that didn’t stop him from pampering Meenu silly.
He was going to take her out for dinner, as she neared week 35, a surprise dinner for Valentine’s day. He had reserved a honeymoon suit at the Leela Palace. It was going to their evening together… an evening the would rememeb4er for the rest of their lives. It did turn out that way…an evening they would never forget for the rest of their lives, but not exactly in the sense that Him had imagined.
As he got home, with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates in his hands and entered his villa at the post Chanakya Puri in New Delhi, he could sense almost as soon as he got into the house that something was wrong. The nurse who usually greeted him at the door and gave him a report of Meenu’s condition was not there to greet him today. He gave the bouquet and chocolates to Madhav, his cook cum errands man and ran up the marble tiled stairs into their bedroom. In was a large wide room, with a king-sized bed placed to the wall. There was a door n the left side, which lead into a walk-in wardrobe and further left was another door, which led into a hue bathroom.
As he walked into the room, though, his eyes only saw, the woman, lying down on the bed, her eyes closed, and the nurse leaning over her, a few sensors stuck to the belly of the woman lying down. “What’s going on?” Him, nearly screamed in panic, as his voice startled the nurse as well as Meenu. As soon as Meenu saw Him. the tears descended from her eyes. “Baby… what happened… why are you crying…” asked Him, looking over at the nurse, as he sat down next to his wife.
“Thank God you’re here Sir, I was just about to call you. We need to rush to the Hospital…” He didn’t wait for the nurse to complete. Him pulled out his phone as soon as he heard the words of the nurse and called for an ambulance. He looked up at the nurse then. “They’ll be here in 15 minutes… is that OK?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the nurse, with a calm expression on her face. He looked over at Meenu, who seemed to be panicking now. He looked back at the nurse. “What is happening… is everything OK… “he asked scared to hear the answer to his questions. “Is that baby….?” He paused, looking over at Meenu, as she came into his embrace and cried openly now.
“Actually, mam has been complaining of stomach pain since afternoon. Then in the evening, ….” She paused and looked worriedly at Meenu. “What!” hissed Him impatiently. “By evening, the baby stopped moving,” she completed. The wind got knocked out of Him’s lungs as he sat shocked. “What does that mean….?” He asked. “What does your machine say?” he asked pointing at the machine that seemed to be whirring in the background.
The nurse pursed her lips, signaling with her eyes to walk out of the room. She left him with Meenu and walked out first. Him looked as the nurse walked away and blinked as tears formed in his eyes. He swallowed the pain, that began to surround his heart…drew in a deep breath and tried to pretend confidence he did not feel. He pulled Meenu away from himself and wiped her tears away. “Meenu… c’mon… you have to brave here. We will go to the hospital and we will make sure we do everything we can for our baby to be fine… I promise you nothing will happen,” he said, looking into her distraught face. Meenu looked up at Him, and his confidence, seemed to work on her.
She nodded her head slowly, “I will not let anything happen to our baby,” she said, meaning each word.
As Him stepped out of the room, the nurse was waiting for him. “The baby’s heartrate is very slow…. we might have to operate her… tonight?” she said, as if to prepare Him for the long night ahead.
In under an hour they had reached the Indraprastha Hospitals and Dr Rekha Bharadwaj, the resident Gynecologist with who Meenu consulted examined Meenu. Although she was off duty, she had come on the special request of Him, to attend to Meenu.
Meenu was immediately rushed into the ICU and a few tests were made on her. Then she was taken into Dr Rekha’s chamber. As she checked the Ultra sound, there was frown on Dr Rekha’s face. She looked at the nurse and nodded her head. Then she looked at Meenu and in a calm voice she said. “Meenu, you have to be very brave right now,” Meenu’s heart sank at the doctor’s words. The tears were waiting to spring out of her eyes. “We need to take the baby out immediately, because, the umbilical chord has tied itself around the baby’s neck… but the problem is I can’t induce labor now, because the baby is in breach position. So, we’ll have to operate on you….” As Dr Rekha was explaining this to Meenu, Him walked into the chamber.
The doctor repeated her words and said, “we will do everything we can. Have faith,” she said, pressing Meenu’s hand hard.
Meenu looed at Him, as he starred down at her helplessly. What could you do in a situation like this. Him walked over slowly towards Meenu and knelt at her feet. “If I must give away all my money, businesses and wealth… I would give it away gladly, just to hear someone say, everything is normal,” he said, looking at her, suppressing his own tears.
“Why me…why us?” she said, as the sob tore out.
“Shhh… please don’t cry, don’t stress yourself. It’s not good for the baby…. please…” he tried to cajole her.
Meenu swallowed her sob as soon as Him had said, it was not good for the baby. And then the couple waited in anticipation
A Few Hours Later
Him sat in Dr Rakhi’s chamber as the doctor stepped inside. She looked at him, her expression exhausted, but the glow of having accomplished something special, clearly visible on her face.
“I must say, your son is a fighter,” she said, smiling widely as Him felt relieve course all through his body.
“My Son? Is Meenu OK? Can I see her. Them?” the questions just wouldn’t stop.
“Yes of course, but we need to do a few routine checks and then you can see both. They will be shifted into a private room. So, when we went into the operation theater, to be very honest, I had no expectations,” said Dr Rekha. He was badly entangled in the umbilical chord and he was very tired trying to free himself. His heartbeat was barely there, and it took us a while to free him from the tangles. But I must say, he literally fought death today. Hearty congratulation. So far, all his vitals are normal. He is slightly premature, so we will keep him under observation. But if he is anything like he has shown during delivery, he will pull through easily. Indeed, you are blessed….” She said
A Couple of Hours Later
As they brought in Meenu on the stretcher into the room, Him, stood watching as they shifted his wife from the stretcher on the bed. It was shocking to see, the strain and fatigue on her face, which until a few hours ago, was so full of life. Him, was beginning to understand how stressful this entire night must’ve been for Meenu.
As Meenu slowly opened her eyes, Him, sat next to her, stroking her forehead gently.
“Where is my baby?” she asked, her voice barely audible.
“Our Son you mean?” he asked, smiling widely.
His words brought a sparkle to her tired eyes. “Son? Is it a boy?” she asked.
“Yes…and the doctor says, he is a fighter… just like his mother,” said Him, feeling his chest widen with pride, that gleamed in his eyes.
Meenu smiled, despite her fatigue.
“It’s Shivaratri today….” She whispered… not forgetting the Lord, with who’s blessing the impossible became possible.
“It’s decided then… we will name him… Mrityunjay… the one who conquered death at birth…”
To Be Continued
Chapter 2 - TheHarbinger Of Fate
The Malhotra household in the posh Chanakyapuri neighborhood was buzzing with activity ever since the Malhotra’s had had their son. What days, what nights… there was never a dull moment with baby in a household, that craved to hear the cries and cackles of a newborn. But what you imagine life after a baby is like, if very different from the reality.
As news of the Malhotra’s having a son spread, so too did the list of people who invited themselves to see the miracle baby, as they called him, increase. As Meenu and Him struggled with the rigors of raising an infant, the people who visited them every day… made life more challenging.
As one friendly neighbor picked up he tiny tot from the crib, the thin cotton shirt that was wrapped around the tiny body came off and the woman’s eyes immediately went to the mark, as big as lemon, almost as if it was embossed onto the baby’s skin. The woman exclaimed loudly… “MEENU… did you see this mark… “said the woman, screaming loudly.
Meenu immediate realized what must’ve happened and grabbed the tiny Mrityunjay from the woman. The woman though, fell silent as the mark on the baby seemed too familiar, but she was unable to place exactly what it was.
“It’s not a mark Sarla,” said Meenu, trying to cover up for what the neighbor had seen. “Since he was born premature, they did a few tests and checks on him, his heart etc. They put some gadgets on his chest and it’s the glue mark from some attachment. It was much thicker earlier, but slowly it is going away,” explained Meenu, lying without hesitation.
That evening as Him returned from work, Meenu spoke to him about what had happened in the morning.
“What is that mark on his body… I just can’t understand. It’s like a 3 written in mirror image. Why is it even there? The doctors said, he was born with it…will it never go….” She stated without even pausing to take a breath.
“Let it be na… it’s like a birth mark…. anyway, it will always be covered by his shirt. No one will see it… just let it be. When he grows up, we’ll see, if he wants to have a cosmetic surgery and have it removed,” said Him, dismissing Meenu’s worries.
Nagpur – Maharashtra – Arjun Mhatre’s House
As the Malhotra’s got busy with their lives and their new born, bang in the center of India, the Mhatre family had sat down to watch the news, as was the tradition in the family, before going to the dining table for dinner.
Vallabh Mhatre, the head of the family and one of the most respected Jewelers in Nagpur was following the Mrityunjay Gaekwad case with a lot of zeal. In his younger days, he was an ardent follower of Harshwardhan Gaekwad and he watched in hoor, over the past few years, how the family had gradually declined. First Milind died and now, both Mrityunjay and his wife, who had miraculously escaped death 3 years ago, were found dead, charred to death under mysterious circumstances.
The Inspector in charge of the case, Anirudh Dixit, was sitting along with the Commissioner of Police Mumbai, and addressing a press conference. Vallabh, his elder son Ritesh and his youngest son Arjun sat listening as the Inspector gave out details of how Mirtyunjay Gaekwad and his wife Shivani Gaekwad were found dead in what he termed as mysterious circumstances.
Arjun was least interested in what was going on in the news program. He was busy texting and surfing on his phone, as his father and elder brother were deep in conversation at the cursed life of Shivani and Mrityunjay.
In the TV set Anirudh spoke a prepared speech, as the reporters scrambled to ask him questions. “At the moment the only thing we can tell you, is that it is now confirmed by the doctors that the mortal remains we found inside the fire pit here Vishwamitra Pharmaceuticals is that of Mrityunjay Gaekwad as well as his wife Shivani. How they got here or what exactly transpired is still a matter of investigation. We will give out a detailed press statement once the entire investigation is complete,” he stated, failing to give out any details of any relevance.
Ne of the reporters immediately scrambled onto to her feet. “But, just a few days ago, Mr. Mrityunjay Gaekwad, accused Brihannala of being behind the kidnap of his wife. And now we find them both murdered under mysterious circumstances. What do you have to say about that? Would Brihannala’s case be reopened after this double murder?” she asked pointedly.
“At the moment it is too premature to call this murder…. we are investigating the case and as soon as we have more information we will share the same with you,” replied Anirudh, even as the Commissioner tried to stop him from answering the question.
Arjun Mhatre, got up from his couch, stepping out in to the wide lounge for guests.
“Where are you going?” asked Vallabh, his voice stern as he looked at his young spoilt son. Despite all the wealth and prosperity, Vallabh, did not have very many happy nights. On the one hand, the challenges of the business and n the other hand, his young spoilt son, kept Vallabh sleepless most of the nights. At the age Arjun was currently, Rishabh had already started assisting him in Business, where as Arjun, spoilt by his mother… had become a complete brat and spendthrift. His credit card bills were a minor headache, as he spent amounts with which middle class people could get their daughters married, on parties with friends. And if you asked him any questions, his instant reply would be… “for who else are you earning all this money for?”
“Please don’t lecture me dad. I am too bored to watch this Mrityunjay soap opera. I am going out to meet some friends,” he said stepping out of the house.
Mumbai – Gaekwad Mansion – Some Days Ago
Madhu Bhau sat with his head in his hands. He had just come back from the crematorium, having finished the funeral rites of whatever was left of Shivani and Mrityunjay. Nandita, sat on the floor, her face, her eyes blank, as Prashanth sat next to her and comforted her or at least tried.
“Why are you quite Bhau? You know everything right? You know exactly what happened? Why are you not talking to the cops about it?” she asked, her voice dripping with the pain. How many more times, would she lose someone she loved?
“Nandita… that rogue Anirudh oversees this case. Right now, we are weak, and he is very strong. If I make one wrong move, he will eliminate you me, Prashanth… everyone one by one…. And God knows what he has done with that Brihannala and that girl. So, the intelligent thing to do right now, is to keep quiet. I had to strike a deal with him. In war there is always the strategy of “Live Today and Fight Tomorrow” My only priority right now is to keep YOU safe. And for that to happen, I had to strike a deal with Anirudh. My silence for your life.
“What happens now…what happens to Swaraj party… this estate…” asked Prashanth, looking visibly worried.
Madhu Bhau looked away at the door. The night he went away, Mrityunjay’s words rang in Madhu Bhau’s ears. “Wait for me…...no matter what happens…” As the tears rolled down Madhu Bhau’s eyes he said, “he promised me he would come back and now he is gone forever. I won’t let the party fall. I will take over the responsibility of Swaraj Party. In remembrance of Mrityunjay… I owe it to him….” he said, his face, turning into steely resolve.
Nandita, looked away, the gaping hole that had formed in her heart, hurting now more than ever. As Prashant pressed her palm, knowing how much she hurt, she looked at Prashanth. He knew from looking at her, that it was all over for them. Her words, confirmed his worst fears. “I can’t pretend any more… Prashanth. I have tried for the past 2 years I have tried…but I can’t do it anymore. There is only one man I have ever loved and that is Milind. I can’t go on living with you. Let’s divorce…. it’s not you…. You are a great man. It’s just me. I can’t,” she said, breaking down, as Prasanth held her close.
“Whatever you want, Nandita… I guess I always knew this would happen one day. But what are you going to do? Where will you go?” he asked, looking at her with a worried look on his face.
“Far away from here... this place… this city… will drive me mad. Everything has gone wrong from the time I came here. I’ll go to Singapore. I have an Uncle there. I’ll ask him for help,” she was cut short by Bhau. “What do you need to ask someone to help for. You are Milind’s wife as far as I am concerned. I will arrange everything for you. If you want to go to Singapore… you will be properly settled there. And you won’t refuse, for Milind’s sake,” he ordered, as Prashanth looked on sadly.
“I will arrange everything for you. I’ll make sure, everything is comfortable for your stay there,” he said hugging Nandita close. Nandita closed her eyes shut tight. “Thank you Prashanth. Thank you for everything,” she said.
Nagpur – One Year Later
It had been nearly 3 years since Ritesh had got married. Yet Mhatre household did not have any grand children to dote or so felt Susheela Mhatre, wife of Vallabh. This year was a very taxing time. India was moving into bold economic reforms, the first being Demonetization. Most of the businessmen, including the Mhatre’s dealt with a lot of cash, which was kept away from the banking system. In other words, they lost a lot of undeclared money with demonetization and then came GST, like a blow to the back. Of course, most countries across the world are following GST for at least over 20 years now. Even tiny countries like Singapore follow GST. India, one of the top economies of the world, had a lot of catching up to do in terms of integration into World Trade and one of the late entrants into the GST club. But, the short-term pain and suffering in a massive and over populated country like India is hard to imagine. So, the Mhatre’s were going through a tough phase, with Business and Cash Flow affected like never.
While Ritesh and Varaahi, his wife, were going through a turbulent marriage on one side, Arjun seemed to have gone completely astray, with no one to bother how he was doing in college or what his friends circle was like. Susheela was busy with the household. Vallabh with the business and Ritesh with his failing marriage and Business. It seemed like all problems were coming at them all at once, when one early morning, Nandu Kaka, their cook, found a small baby left at the door step.
He passed on the letter that came along with the baby to Vallabh and all hell broke loose. Arjun, who still had not woken up after partying till the wee hours of the morning, was unceremoniously woken up from bed, with a jug full of freezing water poured on his face.
“What the f#@$,” he screamed, as he rubbed his eyes open and then sat up in a jolt as his hangover deserted him, in seconds. “Daddy!” he exclaimed, scared to say anything more as his father stood in front of him.
“What the hell is this?” screamed Vallabh, throwing the paper on Arjun’s face. “What…what happened?” asked Arjun sheepishly.
Vallabh yanked Arjun out of the bed as Ritesh, Varaahi and Susheela watched in shock. Susheela came over to Vallabh, trying to pull him away. “What’s wrong with you? Will you manhandle the young man… let go…” she reprimanded her husband, as Vallabh looked on at Arjun with disgust? “As if we don’t have enough problems, your son will now destroy the reputation built over generations. YOU!” he pointed at Arjun. “I don’t care what you do or how you do it. Clean up this mess and I don’t want that,” he said pointing to the door, “in this house for even a minute,” he said and walked out.
Arjun watched the whole seen utterly confused. “What’s going on. What happened to him?” he asked his mother confused. “Has he finally gone mad?” he asked, now smiling.
“ARJUN!” shouted Susheela. “You are driving all of us mad. What have done to deserve a son like you. Read that letter you fool, read it and clean this mess, if you have any brains on your head,” she said, speaking through her tears. “What melodrama!” he thought, reading the letter that was thrown on his face. As he read the few lines written in clear handwriting, in the letter, his face turned pale. In utter shock, he ran out of the room, down the stairs to the lounge, where in a small car seat, was a tiny baby of a probably a few days old.
Arjun squat down next to the crib as both shock and awe gripped him suddenly. What was he supposed to do now? He looked towards Ritesh and Varaahi, as they stood watching him, a little distance away. “I have an idea…if you want,” he offered, as Arjun looked on helplessly.
To Be Continued.
Chapter- 3 Mrityunjay At Six
Year -2022 – New Delhi-Malhotra Household
It had been nearly 3 months since Mrityunjay Malhotra joined school. Delhi Public School, to be precise. Him and Meenu had registered Mrityunjay in the school, just as he turned 3 years old. Now as a nearly 5-year-old, Mrityunjay was a bundle f energy and curiosity. At home, he was impossible to manage. It seems the lad could not sit quietly for even a few seconds. He was always on his feet, running up and down the stairs or sliding down the riling to the stairway.
If nothing he would run around the circular Sofa arrangement and not tire after running several rounds. His appetite matched his restless energy. He would eat anything and everything he was given and was a healthy child, with above average height and weight for his age. Meenu could not tire of her son’s hyperactivity. For someone, who had very nearly given up all hope of being a mother, every moment spent with Mrtyunjay was a blessing. His breaking things, his restlessness, nothing could make her angry with him. He was the apple of her eyes and she doted on him, like he was her very life, which he was, no doubt.
Him on the other hand, was the voice of reason in the house, chiding Meenu, for turning Mrityunjay from an innocent boy, into Mama’s pet, spoilt brat. “If you don’t control him now, when he grows up, you will have to suffer yourself,” he often warned her. “There is time…if we don’t correct his restlessness and hyperactivity now, it will be too late,” he would tell her, during dinnertime conversations. A couple who were until then, known for their compatibility and understanding, started to fight and argue, about methods of raising Mrityunjay.
“He is just a small child, if he doesn’t run around and break things, then will you and I do it?” Meenu would retort in anger and defense of her son. “If you say a word to him, it will be over my dead body,” she tied him, to a threat of seeing her dead.
Despite being a hyperactive child and constantly braking things and getting himself hurt, Mrityunjay as a child seemed to have a natural charisma, that people found themselves attracted to. Wherever, they went, be it to a doctor’s appointment, or to movies or social gatherings, both Him and Meenu noticed, how random people that they had never met would just come over and ask if they could hold Mrityunjay for a little while. Or they would walk over to them and tell them, they had been looking at Mrityunjay for a while since he entered the place and couldn’t take their eyes off him.
It had become a ritual, in the Malhotra household, whenever they went out, as soon as they returned home, an argument would break out between Him and Meenu.
“Why do you have to dress him up so much and with such eye-catching cloths. See now! Everyone has cast eyes on my son,” Him would scream at Meenu.
“What do you mean?” Meenu would counter. “You and I will dress in the best of cloths and I will put rags on for our child… What are you talking?” she would argue back.
“Now, if he falls sick or something happens, you can sit and cry,” Him would provoke.
“Can you please not say such awful things, if you can’t say anything nice,” Meenu would reply.
But Mrityunjay at home, with his parents was the uncrowded prince of the household, with no one to question his action. At least if Meenu could help it.
But when the Prince of Malhotra household joined school, it was an altogether different story. Although a little boy, Mrityunjay could not understand or help feeling the urge to lead. His innocence as a child, clashed with his strong urge to do something… But more than anything else, even as a child Mrityunjay could not help feeling the sense of incompletion in his life. He felt it, deep inside him, something was not there, something was not right…. But he just did not know how to articulate it.
He did not even know if he understood what he felt, except this very uncomfortable feeling. He could neither sit nor stand. He could not relax for a minute. He had to keep moving, keep searching…. But he had no clue what he was looking for or not even why he was feeling the way he did. He was after all just a 4 plus year boy child.
In order to get over this nagging, uncomfortable feeling, Mrityunjay formed a band of boys in his class. He named the gang, Super Ninjas and they thought of themselves as the protectors of their class and everything to do with their class, including a cat, that lived in the playground where they played.
One Quite Afternoon
As Meenu sat sipping a cup of hot tea, having just sent off lunch for Him, she saw her phone buzzing. She saw the name of Mrityunjay’s school and immediately answered the call, her tone now worried.
“Hello, this is Mrityunjay’s mother. Is everything OK?” she asked, without even pausing for a breath.
As she heard the voice on the other hand, give her some information, Meenu’s hand gradually went from her lap to her chest, where she pressed her palm to her hand. Her voice lost its thickness, as if someone had muffled her voice chords. “I am coming right away,” she said and ran to the exit, screaming out to her driver to start the car.
DPS – The Principal’s Chamber
“Mrs. Malhotra, today you should really thank your stars. If we had not noticed in time… I dread to think what could have happened,” said the Principal, with a worried look on her face.
Meenu sat, with tear stained eyes, as Mrityunjay played with some toys kept in the room, oblivious to the distress both the women were going through.
“But what exactly happened?” asked Meenu, looking from the Principal towards her beloved son.
“He says he was trying to save the cat. Three stories Mrs. Malhotra, he climbed over to the ledge and was tying to get down to the ledge at the next level. And it was not just him, behind him, there were 4 other boys who were going to get on to the ledge and try and rescue the cat. If anything had happened, who will take responsibility?” asked the Principal, her face now angrier than concerned.
“I am very sorry. I will talk to him,” said Meenu. “But you should also be more careful. How could my child go up the staircase in the first place? Why were the teacher’s not watching over the children?” cross questioned.
“Why don’t you ask your son Mrs. Malhotra,” said the Principal with her eyes narrowed, “how he managed to dodge 2 teachers and 2 aayas, to get to the staircase,” she challenged.
Meenu turned towards Mrityubnjay with her brows knotted. “Mrityunjay!” she called out. The little boy, came over to his mother, in two leaps, climbing atop her, as if she was a tree. “What did you do today huh?” asked Meenu, looking at him, as he played with her Malgalsutra.
The little boy shrugged his shoulders. “We had to rescue the cat Mama. I am the leader of Super Ninjas and it is my duty to save, anyone in trouble,” he said, fiddling around with the Mangalsutra.
“But mera bacha, without telling the teacher’s you must not do something like this. This is very dangerous. Did you inform your teacher?” asked Meenu, looking at Mrityunjay, with a smile.
The little boy looked at her sheepishly. “Mama…mama…. I want to go home,” he said, making a baby face.
Meenu’s eyes narrowed. “Mrityunjay, answer my question,” she said, her voice turning a tad stern.
“Umm…” said the little child, looking away. “umm, Riya was not feeling well, so the teachers were busy, and I did not want to disturb them, so I went all by myself,” he said, now resting her head on his mother’s bosom.
“And how did Riya fall sick?” asked the Principal, directly to Mrityunay.
When the child was quiet, she said, “They got this girl to pretend that she has a tummy ache and as the teachers were busy trying to check on the child, your son and his friends sneaked out of the class,” informed the Principal, as Meenu heard with disbelief.
To be Continued.
Chapter-4 The Unwanted Child
There is some indescribable charm in the goo’s and gaa’s of a newly born. If you are a decent human being, you cannot pass an infant, without admiring the innocence and that unnamable charm on their faces. Once you look at them, you want to hold them, the urge to hold that tiny life n your arms and protect it from the entire world around is almost nearly instinctive and undeniable. And once you have held that tiny life in your arms, you are done for. It’s love, pure, unconditional love, for you know there is nothing the little life you hold can give you in return to your love, except to trust you take care of it. And this bond somehow multiplies, if you were told this tiny life, was parented by you. You played a small part in shaping what you now hold. The eyes, the smile, the tiny fingers, with hardly any strength of their own, curling around your little finger and gripping it hard for comfort, somehow coils like a tightly bound string around your heart and you know you are done for. Bound for life.
It was such a moment for Arjun Mhatre. He was playboy, no doubt, but it didn’t mean he was a bad human being. No, he wasn’t. The moment he laid eyes on the baby in the crib, looking at him, reflecting some of his features, cackling aimlessly, completely oblivious to the situation she was in, something snapped inside of him. He was never the same again. He knew, from that moment, his life belonged to that tiny life and everything he did from that point on, would have a cascading effect on the tiny tot.
And so, he took Ritesh’s offer. Varrahi got the child she had been yearning for, Ritesh got some much-needed stability in his marriage, Arjun got to keep his child in front of his eyes and the little girl got a home.
But the struggle for the little one had only just begun. And it started with the mark on her chest. The symbol, most Hindus, recognize as the primordial sound of creation. “Om” embossed in the middle of her chest, exactly over her heart. When Varrahi saw this symbol, she was shocked. She wasted no time in showing it to Ritesh, who was equally shocked. Why the symbol? How? Many baffling questions, but no answers. They decided to keep the matter a secret until the child was old enough to consult an astrologer.
Another problem confronted Varrahi, immediately after this discovery. The baby would just not feed. She tried different types of formula, a feeding bottle, tried to feed with a spoon, nothing seemed to be working. The infant would have two gulps and then refuse to drink any more. The doctors reprimanded Varrahi for taking poor care of the child. The infant would have to be admitted into a hospital, if something was not done immediately, they warned.
At her wits end, Varrahi, did not know what to do or how to deal with this baby, who refused to take any nourishment. But sometimes, a solution to a grave situation, just presents itself, when you feel there’s no way out, something or someone appears, as if to pull you out of a problem. Call it divine intervention if you must. But I call it, signs… If you can read these signs, you can almost predict what is about to happen.
The Mhatre household has an annual ritual. They paint the threshold of their house in Turmeric yellow, with red, white and yellow dots, every year. For an Indian Household the threshold is the line that demarcates your house from the rest of the street, the fist point of entry for prosperity and wellbeing. Having it painted every year, is to welcome the prosperity with both hands. As the painter, sat with brushes tucked into his year, focused on getting the pattern right, Varrahi was attempting to feed the infant some milk in the patio, hoping that the distractions and sounds of the outside world would help her feed the baby.
Rocking from side to side, as Varrahi attempted to feed the infant, she noticed how the little girl craned to look at the man painting the threshold. Curious at the girl’s reaction, Varrahi, walked closer to the man and observed how the infant, watched without blinking an eyelid. The man looked up from the threshold and smiled at the little child. “want to paint?” asked the man, handing a painting brush to the baby.
Before Varrahi could stop the man from giving the child an unhygienic paint brush, the infant had grabbed the brush in a vice like grip. Varrahi tried to free the brush, but the grip was too firm. A thought stuck Varrahi. She put the feeding bottle to the child’s mouth and for the first time since she had arrived into the household, the child finished the entire bottle in no time.
Few Days Later – At A Temple in Nagpur
Arjun, Ritesh and Varrahi stood in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple, as they waited for the priest to finish the pooja. They were going to name the child today Of course, Vallabh and Susheela, did not consider the child a part of the family. They would never accept her, and they had made their decision very clear. If it had not been for Varaahi’s fierce protectiveness, they would have condemned the infant to an orphanage.
Varaahi’s defiance opened a new door in the relationship between the brothers as well between Arjun and Varrahi too. Arjun who up until this point did not care for Varrahi, saw her in a new light. She had finally become his sister-in-law, not just in title, but in affection too. Arjun was grateful to his brother and sister-in-law for stepping into his shoes for his daughter.
The Poojari came out and handed the Pooja Thali to Ritesh. Then looking at the infant sleeping peacefully in Varaahi’s arms, he said, “I think an appropriate name for this girl would be, Aparna – the girl who refused to eat. It’s one of Mata Parvati’s many names,” he said. And so, Aparna went to her temporary home, for the moment oblivious to the quest that awaited her, in the future.
Year 2032 – Academy For The Specially Aware(AFSA) – Singapore
The Office was a small glass cubicle, that was set up facing the huge Marina Bay area. The glass was what was common these days. When MS Bhattacharya wanted, she could turn the glass into an opaque wall, through which she could see the rest of the floor, but she herself could be invisible inside.
She had only a transparent glass sheet, set on a Nickle frame. The desk, a small squarish, Oak Panel on top and looking more like a cube of wood, was devoid of any other gadgets or wires or papers. It was a paperless, phoneless environment.
Mrs. Chi appeared on the Glass panel in front of MS Bhattacharya. “Hello, I have news from the special case you are observing these days. She wants to go to Shimla. What should be done. The money has already been deposited by her family?” asked Mrs. Chi.
MS Bhattacharya smiled a cryptic smile. She had waited for a sign, since the first time she met the girl. The girl wanting to go to Shimla, by herself, was no less than a miracle. Could it be……possible…….
Out loud she only said, “this is very good news. Prepare to take her along. Don’t forget to ensure, she packs a note pad and her sketching tools. It’s essential,” instructed Ms. Bhattacharya. The I mage of MS Chi disappeared from the glass and the clear, transparent pane of glass re appeared in its place. All she needed to do now…. was wait….
Shimla – 2032
It was the toughest thing she had done, next to coming to Singapore all those years ago, when her foster mother, sent her away, due to her strange behavior. There was no scope for a normal childhood, for this abnormally talented young girl, in India. The move, although came with a huge emotional price for her foster mother, still for the sake of her child, she bore the pain. Aparna Mhatre was sent away to Singapore, at the tender age of 6, to row up in an institution that catered only to people with special awareness or as commonly called people with extreme phobias.
While the world called them Mad, AFSA was an academy that specialized in dealing with people with such extreme conditions.
When the notification of the trip to Shimla came, the words on the email “SHIMLA” stood out, engulfing her vision, with images… images that she had so far only seen in her dreams. She knew there was something there in Shimla, the moment its name was mentioned.
As Aparna sat in the flight, her fingers curled in a tight grip on the arm of the chair, she knew from deep within, that there was something in Shimla…. That she had a deep connection with a place that she had never been to in all her life. The air carried a scent, that was enshrined in her very soul. It was a strange sort of home coming... a sense of Deja vu... like she had been on a plane like the one she was in, many times before this. Like she had visited the place, many times before searching.... Yes, she was searching then, and she still is. But this was the first time, she had ever come to Shimla.... How? How? What was this pull?
Redwood Camp - Shimla
"I am really not sure how to handle this?" Mrs. Chi spoke in Chinese to her colleague. "Aparna... she is always sitting alone, away from all other children. And I must be next to her, because MS Bhattacharya wants someone to take personal care of her! What a bore! To come so far and sit with that loner," she complained.
"Shh... she is coming," Mrs. Ming said, as the two-woman watched with shock, Aparna approaching them.
No matter what they said about her, they could not deny that Aparna was a beautiful girl, even at the tender age of 14. She was among the taller girls in the class, with her chiseled features and those olive eyes. Her lips had a natural pink tinge and her nose was crafted to perfection. She had all the making of being a head turner when she grew up. They could already sense the boys of the class ogling at her as she came into the class from the Hostel. But such beauty for a personality like hers was wasted. For Aparna was Anthropophobic. She feared "FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS".
Mrs. Chi got up and followed as Aparna walked with her head cast down. That was how she usually walked. She made eye contact with no one. "Where to?" asked Mrs. Chi tersely.
"I ... I..." stuttered Aparna, looking around her briefly and quickly casting her head down again.
"Washroom is next to your tent," said Mrs. Chi, her brows arched now.
Aparna shook her head, to signal it was not what she was after.
"I I... tour guide...." she said, her voice a soft murmur now.
"Why?" asked Mrs. Chi.
Aparna picked up the Map from her pocket and showed Mrs. Chi. Her fingers circled around a spot Mrs. Chi could not pronounce. "OK, come with me," she said, grabbing Aparna by her elbow.
A few minutes later, they stood in front of their tour guide.
That's when Aparna raised her head slowly. She refused to look at the man in front of her, in his eyes. And the man watched the young girl, with curious eyes. "Yes?" he asked.
"Is there any place here called Baragoan!" Aparna had rehearsed the question repeatedly, in her head since the name appeared in her conscious, as they landed in Shimla.
"Yes, there is..." the man had not even finished his sentence as he stood watching in shock, as the young girl ran away.... like a hare running away from a Tiger.
That Night – Aparna’s Tent.
Flames, everywhere, the smell of flesh burning, yet there was calm, until, he came running towards the flames. As she savored the peaceful calm, his anguish filled voice tore through the serene calm. “NOOOOOOOOOOO” she wanted to scream, but it was too late. He was in there too…. Burning just like her…….
Aparna got up with a jerk, as if some unseen force had yanked her to sit up. Her eyes were still closed and sweat, dripping down from her face and forehead. In sleep, her hands, went automatically to the small stool place next to her side of the bed. She picked up the notepad and a pencil, and then she sketched, blindly, still in deep sleep. As her hands worked to translate the images forming in her head, the sketching became rapid. As her hands tried to keep up with her thoughts, the sketching grew into a frenzy. Her face mirrored the pain she was experiencing within, as sweat and tears emerged freely. The hands, moved almost like a seismometer, predicting an impending earthquake, rapid, non-stop, frenzied. And then, as suddenly as it had all begun, the pencil dropped from her hand, the mote pad slipped away too. Too exhausted from the ordeal she had just been through, Aparna collapsed onto the bed, still in deep sleep.
The Next Morning – Baragoan – Bhrameshwar Mahadev Temple
Mrs. Chi was completely livid with Aparna. But the girl would not budge. She refused to do anything else until she was taken to some temple in some village close by. Mrs. Chi controlled her frustration with great effort.
“We are at the temple now. I will wait for you here. You have 30 minutes,” she had warned as she sat at the fully covered, centrally heated market, a few meters away from the temple. Aparna though walked slowly towards the temple. Her mind was blank. According to the guide, this was Baragoan and there was only one famous temple here. But Aparna felt completely lost coming to this place. This was not what she was expecting. She was expecting to something from the sketches she drew in sleep at night. But this place, it did not mean anything to her. It evoked nothing inside of her. As she walked slowly towards the temple, observing her surrounding, as casually turned to her left and looked at the incline of the mountain raising next to her. It was a beautiful sight, to stand there, in front of the imposing peak, and look as the fog slipped down slowly from the hill top.
The silhouette, emerged in front of her, out of nowhere. Kicking at a few stones as it raced down, almost like racing the fast descending fog itself. The silhouette stopped abruptly, a few hundred meters away from Aparna now.
Aparna saw herself, at a different time, different place……a lifetime away.
"The plate with her offerings, that she held in her hand, dropped down. Just then, there was some commotion, at a shop nearby and Shivani turned to look at what had happened. When she turned around to look at the approaching figure…… he was gone…. Shivani ran forward in panic, turning around to look for Mrityunjay…. He was nowhere to be found. Shivani clutched her fore head, spinning around, trying to look around the small group of people who descended the hill. No sight of him…It was as if he had vanished into thin air…."
The boy watched with heightened curiosity, as the beautiful girl, starred at him unabashedly, standing like a statue at the foot of the hill. His eyes narrowed with curiosity and unstated mischief. At just 15, he was already tall and well built. His razor-sharp eyes and the hawkish nose not only gave him excruciatingly handsome face, but a touch of arrogance too. He bent his head slightly to the right, as if thinking what must be done next.
“RUDY…...!” a loud voice of another boy echoed through the hill. It was enough to bring Aparna back into the present.
“C’mon man! The bus is leaving… RUN!” the other boy shouted.
The boy being addressed as Rudy merely shrugged and followed his friend, running away from the girl at the foot of the hill. “If only he could see her up close. But he would probably never see her again,” he thought as he turned back to look at her one last time.
Aparna felt the world coming crashing down on her. “Mrityunjay…….!” the words escaped her lips as she collapsed on to the moist earth.
To Be Continued