Karmic connection

“A gun? No, not a gun. A knife is all I need” he whispered on his phone while holding his palm over his lips; he was hiding something.

“I will end her struggle soon. So, please don’t call me again” he said abruptly ending the conversation, just as I entered the room.

“Good morning, Vivaan. Who was that?”

“That was Mr. Vardhan, Marketing Head of Chimes Publication; publisher of my next novel”, saying so he kissed me; it lacked any passion and had remained merely a formality.

We were married for two months now and since our marriage I found Vivaan’s behavior to be a bit mysterious. Even though we were newlyweds, our nights were mostly uneventful and Vivaan would be glued to his phone for hours together. Perhaps, he was planning the climax for his next novel, I could only guess.

“Do you want to discuss something?” I asked with an intention to open him up.

“No, nothing. Just that you are looking gorgeous this morning” he gave a mischievous smile.

Vivaan Chaudhary was a writer, a criminal mastermind. His novels made a fantastic read and always made it to bestsellers list. We met during the launch of his last novel titled “The blunt knife”. After our first meeting, we kept meeting on one pretext or another, dated for a while, fell in love and finally got married. All this happened so quickly that before I could realize, we were man and wife.

“Have you read my work? May be you should read my novels. That will prepare you” Vivaan remarked pointing to the bookshelf in our living room.

“Prepare me? Prepare me for what?”

“To face life, my love” Vivaan gave a mysterious smile.

I did not quite understand what he meant but as I had nothing much to do, I decided to read his work. That evening, I picked up “The mysterious window”. This was Vivaan’s debut novel and was an instant hit with readers as well as critics alike. On the cover page featured a beautiful girl in her mid- twenties standing next to a window.

“Hey, wait, I think I have seen this window before” I thought but wasn’t clear where I had seen.

Soon, I was completely glued to the plot; was making my guesses about the storyline and was completely oblivion to what’s happening around. I read non-stop and completed the novel in about six hours. Indrani, the lead character in the novel jumps out of the window in mysterious circumstances. Vivaan had introduced many characters in his story, developed them well and kept everybody guessing till the very end. An amazing masterpiece and had to be a best-seller, I thought.

While flipping through the pages, the dedication page caught my eye. Vivaan had dedicated his novel to his then wife, Devyani Dikshit. I did not know much about Devyani but knew that she committed suicide by jumping out of the window. I soon realized that there was some coincidence between the novel and Devyani’s life and her eventual death. I switched on my laptop and googled Devyani Dikshit.

Devyani was an investment banker with a multinational bank. Within two weeks of his novel’s release, she jumped out of the window and killed herself.

“They were a happy couple and why Devyani should take such an extreme step remains a mystery” the daily reported.

“Vivaan Chaudhary was questioned by the police, his phone records were investigated and this suicide was investigated in light of his new novel” another daily reported.

The investigation hit a dead end & Vivaan was finally acquitted. These newly learnt facts were a bit disturbing to say the least. I got up, walked a few steps towards the balcony and looked out of the window. The queen’s necklace looked beautiful at night from our apartment on 25th floor. I looked at the cover page again and I was just standing in front of the window; just like the girl was in the novel. I realized that it was the same window as in the novel. Instantaneously, my feet started trembling, I froze; a weird feeling never experienced before.

Two hands appeared from nowhere and caught me.

“Ghost, Ghost” I screamed loudly. Devyani’s mystery seems to have gripped me psychologically.

“I scared the shit out of Miss Braveheart” Vivaan remarked as he threw his tie on the sofa.

“You know me well enough now?” he asked looking at the novel in my hand.

“I don’t understand what you mean” I said clearing my throat in a low embarrassed tone.

“Read my other novels and you will get to know me better” he remarked, got up and putting some champagne in his glass went to the balcony.

It was past midnight, the breeze was cool but not cool enough to cool my brain. Devyani mystery was not allowing me to sleep.

“She is scared. Let me break her psychologically” the breeze brought in a few words through the window.

The night had gone from being uneventful to being tense.

“Did he kill Devyani or made circumstances which forced Devyani to take this extreme step? Can he strangle me when I am asleep?” I kept asking myself. I was not at peace and I tried not to sleep.

“Good morning sweetheart” Vivaan woke me up.

“Let’s have tea together” he kept the tray on the bed next to me.

“Is the tea poisoned? Should I refuse to drink? Will that make him suspicious?” my mind started questioning.

He handed me my cup. I sipped, smiled at him and kept my emotions in control.

In a few hours, Vivaan left. I had to finish reading his other two novels to understand his modus operandi. I read through his introduction in “The Blue Waters”. He was once a well-known criminal lawyer in Mumbai. His life took a spiritual turn; he renounced this materialistic life & went to the Himalayas. Few years later, he returned to Mumbai as a writer.

“This is so very unusual” my mind was telling me. It was now looking at everything with suspicion.

I finished reading “The Blue Water” and continued reading “The Blunt Knife”. The lead character, Kesar Bhatt in “The Blue Water” drowns while on a cruise. That character resembled to that of Kajal Sharma whom Vivaan was linked romantically prior to her death. Vivaan was not on that cruise on that fateful day. Again, the novel was released two weeks prior to Kajal’s death. Police investigated all angles and Vivaan came out clean. The same trend continued in “The Blunt Knife” and Sarah Paul, the lead character gets killed with a blunt knife. The scenes were brilliantly written and kept the reader hooked to the novel till the very end. I was impressed by his writings. The way he killed Sarah in his novel with a blunt knife was unthinkable and simply a masterpiece. Two weeks later, Amrita Rajan, an old friend of Vivaan was killed in New York in circumstances similar to those mentioned in the novel.

That night, Vivaan came home late.

“You seem to have read all my work”, he said looking at the novels kept on the sofa.

“Yes, I did but I am not sure if I understand the connection between the novel launch and death of your near and dear ones soon thereafter”, I confronted him.

“No one understands that. That’s the key” he laughed it off.

“Key? Does it not bother you that your dear ones are slaughtered?” I questioned

“Slaughtered? I am not so sure if that’s an appropriate word. But whatever you may call, its Eternal God, Creator of all, the mastermind and we are merely tools in his hands” he joked it off.

“And are you that tool who is doing it for him?” I was visibly angry at his indifference.

“This Sunday, I am launching my new novel. It’s dedicated to you and you will unveil” he gave a mischievous smile.

“That’s quite an honor”

Maybe he has made up his mind to send me to his eternal god” I thought.

“Can I take a quick peek at your novel. I can be a good reviewer?” I asked gathering some courage and sounding informal.

“No sweetheart, it’s a surprise. No one gets to read the novel before it is launched”

He got up, poured some whisky in a glass and walked towards the balcony.

Maybe I just have two weeks to live, I thought. Not if I kill him first, my inner voice suggested. I couldn’t sleep the whole night; thinking of a plan to save myself or atleast kill him before he gets me. I couldn’t think of one. I decided to rest my worries at Maharishi’s feet and visit his ashram the following morning.

Maharishi attained enlightenment at a very young age. My father was an ardent devotee of the Maharishi. As a baby, my father had brought me to Maharishi and put me in his lap.

“Please suggest a suitable name for my daughter”, he had requested the Maharishi. Maharishi kept looking at me and I was looking straight at him, my father recalled. An hour passed in silence but it seemed a lot of conversation was going on between me and Maharishi. He was silent and I was vocal though I was just two months old. I peed and our conversation abruptly ended.

Maharishi remained unperturbed.

“I am very sorry for this” my father sounded apologized touching his feet.

“It’s alright. She has lot of questions and she doesn’t seem to agree with my answers” Maharishi said softly. Maharishi seldom discussed such matters directly.

“Maharishi, she is a mangalik and her stars are not well aligned. She will struggle in her life as per the astrologers” my father lamented.

“Name her Sita” Maharishi suggested and my father agreed.

“Maharishi, you should guide her even if she turns out to be stubborn and unrelenting” my father pleaded with the maharishi

Maharishi just blinked his eyes, my father recalled and he took that as an assurance.

Next morning, the bell rang as I was about to leave for Maharishi’s ashram. I answered the door.

“Namaste Chacha. Please come in. I am happy to see you. Please come in” I greeted the old man.

It was Angappan Chacha, personal attender of the Maharishi. He would occasionally come to the city in connection to Ashram’s work.

“Beetiya, God bless you. I just came to deliver this envelope. Maharishi said this would give you courage at heart, a purpose in life and a possibility to explore”

The old man vanished as quickly as he came. I opened the envelope and to my utter surprise, I was holding a knife, a sharp one.

“Why did he send me a knife? May be to defend myself or to play offensive?” I questioned myself about Maharishi’s intentions.

The courage, the purpose, the possibility mentioned by Chacha was not clear. I decided to explore my possibilities with the knife.

The next two days passed on without much notice; I kept to myself spending most of my time in the kitchen. I tried my knife on whatever I could lay my hands on , from vegetables to meat  to explore its sharpness.

“It is pretty sharp and can kill a person” I concluded.

That night, I switched on the television only to learn that Vivaan’s novel had not gone well with a few religious factions and there would be a big protest on the day of the launch. Leaked portions of his next novel made it on social media; it was interpreted out of context and a huge controversy had built around his novel. Maybe it’s a marketing gimmick to increase the sales, I thought.

On Sunday, we reached Jahangir Art Gallery, the venue for the launch. As we alighted from the car, we could see thousands of protestors with sticks and were shouting slogans. As we were about to enter the gallery, someone hurled a stone at us, hurting none though. The situation soon spiraled out of control and the mob was upon us.

“This is my golden chance”, I thought. I quickly took my knife and stabbed Vivaan possibly on his chest as the mob caught us unawares. The extent of injury I could not gauge. We got separated and I was cordoned off to a nearby café. I could not see Vivaan; I just hoped that he succumbed. Soon reinforcements arrived and the situation was under control. All this commotion was covered live on TV.

“Maybe they will announce his demise anytime soon. I just had to be ready with tears in my eyes” I reminded myself.

I saw the police commissioner coming towards me. I pretended to be lost in thoughts.

“Madam, we are very sorry but you are under …” he was interrupted

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…….“, Vivaan read the first few lines from his novel ;now telecast live on TV.

“Vivaaaaan is alive? Oh God, How is it possible ?.” I almost cried.

A convoy of women police constables gathered around me.

“Please follow me”, the head constable signaled.

I blindly followed her and entered the gallery auditorium.

Vivaan who was standing on the dias now pointed at me and said “I now give you ‘The murderous Wife’ ” and there was a big round of applause with the audience turning towards me.

“Hey, wait. Something is wrong. Why the murderous wife is getting applause?” I was puzzled.

Mr. Vardhan handed over a copy of the novel which I showed the audience. There was another round of applause. The novel was now flashed on the auditorium screens and everyone was celebrating Vivaan and his work.

I could see “The Murderous Wife” embellished in Golden letters on the novel and a lady with a knife in her hand featured on the cover page.

“Was it a setup? Did I walk into a trap? How did Vivaan know about my plans months ahead of it getting materialized? Why did the Maharishi send me a knife? Did I misinterpret his message in any way” I had many questions but no answers.

I moved towards him, hugged him and whispered, “You trapped me off guard. You have made me look like a criminal. Contrary to your other dedications who didn’t survive a month; I succumbed much before both physically and psychologically. Why did you do this to me?”

“Sweetheart, Take a peek of what’s coming” he whispered back looking at the novel in my hand.

I stood amidst the audience; listening to their applause I opened the dedication page.

“I dedicate this novel to my loving wife Sita, for whom I have waited for many births now. All I am doing is for her good. Stay tuned.”

 

Who’s calling?

“Come to me, O chosen one. Come …..……” whispered the voice. Slowly, hands curled around my neck and its grip tightened. I could hardly breathe.

“Ahhh ,Ahhhh, Ahhhh ,Errrr”, I screamed struggling to loosen the grip only to  realize that it was only a dream; a few seconds earlier it seemed so real.

“Isn’t the medicine helping?” Annabeth questioned me patting on my shoulder as I sat helpless on a wet (with sweat ofcourse) bedsheet catching my breath.

“Na” I nodded.

For the past three months, every night was a nightmare. Someone was whispering in my dream, calling me the chosen one; I just didn’t know who had chosen me and for what?

“What’s happening to me, doc? Now, I am scared to even go to bed” I confessed to Dr. Harsimran on the phone, the next morning.

 “Your reports are normal, there isn’t anything. Maybe it’s stress. Calm your mind and meditate a bit before going to bed.” she suggested. I promised to try and hung up the receiver.

It was past midnight; Annabeth was fast asleep. I walked towards the balcony and stood there for a while.  Mumbai was still buzzing with activity; dogs were barking and chasing each other on the streets; the waves were quietly hitting the shores and turning back. Everything seemed normal, just my life wasn’t.

 I sat down for meditation. My mind was slowly settling down; which was quite contrary to my earlier experiences.  Few minutes into it, I found myself in a thick forest surrounded by tall trees. My heart skipped a beat or two; I had never expected this. I could feel a subtle force pushing me. I didn’t resist and decided to play along. My feet were traumatized walking over pointed stones and thorny terrain. Soon I was brought in front of a rocky hill with a small triangular opening at about my waist height; the force had ceased. I had never seen this hill before. I slowly walked up to the opening. There is no one here, I concluded. Just then an object came swinging back at me from within. I was taken aback and in an attempt to save my face, I lifted my arm. The object landed in my palm just in time. I brought the object closer; realized that it was an electronic gadget; it read “25.2 91.5”

“Meet me here. O chosen one”, the same voice whispered.

“Who are you?” mustering some courage I asked.

“I will leave you alone for a fortnight. Come and meet me. If you ignore my calling, you would land into a mental asylum”, the voice threatened disregarding my question.

I sat motionless for a few more minutes. There was slight discomfort in my feet and my hands were holding onto something. I gently opened my eyes. My feet were bleeding, few thorns had pricked. I was still holding on to the gadget. It read _25.2 91.5_

“How on earth did this happen? It was more like a dream” I couldn’t help wondering the whole night.

“Get up you lazy bones. It’s your mother on the phone” Annabeth said handing over the receiver; the sun was back in business.

 “Ma, I will call you later” saying so I abruptly put the receiver down after few minutes into unpleasant discussions. Ma never liked Annabeth. Firstly, Annabeth was a Roman Catholic whereas we were Brahmins and secondly, we were in a live-in relationship which was unacceptable to her. She hammered our relationship whenever she got a chance.

“What’s the matter? You look worried. Did Ma say something?” Annabeth looked concerned.

“It’s not about Ma. “ I took the electronic gadget from under my pillow and gave it to Annabeth “I am being summoned.”

I narrated my meditation experience, showed my traumatized feet and the GPS device. Annabeth couldn’t believe what I had just told her.

She left the bedroom in disbelief only to return a few minutes later with her laptop.

“Cherrapunji” She shouted.

“What?” I was confused.

“Cherrapunji-Mawsynram Reserve Forest is where the GPS is pointing to” Annabeth jumped with excitement.

Like most other kids, I had studied about Cherrapunji in our Geography textbooks in school. If we were to go to Cherrapunji, one thing we would need for sure; an umbrella. That’s all I knew about Cherrapunji.

Cherrapunji brought back old memories from school to the fore; one thought led to another; friends, teachers, my first girlfriend and my first kiss were all there somewhere; in my mind, in my heart. Those were the golden days!!!

 “Planning to take a month off and visit Cherrapunji. Would you like to join?” I informed Annabeth that evening.

“I would be thrilled to join. Will confirm in a day” I nodded.

That night I slept peacefully; something that was eluding for more than three months now. Next morning, after a hot bath and hot coffee it was time to look out for Cherrapunji on the web.

Cherrapunji is in the eastern part of India, in the state of Meghalaya, about 60 km from Shillong, the state capital. I was mesmerized looking at the Serene landscape, the breathtaking mountain views surrounded by clouds, the waterfalls and multitude of rivulets emanating from it, the deep forests and the experience and joy shared by travelers.

Resting back I thought “This is heaven on earth. What an amazing place this is? This would definitely turn out to be a great holiday to say the least.”

By the time Annabeth came back that evening, I had a file ready with pictures, literature, traveler reviews, places to visit, etc. in Cherrapunji.

“Are you planning on a doctorate on Cherrapunji?” Annabeth joked looking at the file on the table.

“Who do you think is calling me there? I just heard the voice but saw no one. Is it a spirit or a mystic or my mind is playing games with me?” I asked seeking her opinion.

There was no response. I peeped in; Annabeth was changing into a nightie from her executive suit. The answer no longer mattered as I walked slowly towards her.

Two days later, we alighted at the Umroi Airport in Shillong. Omar and Simran had joined me and Annabeth in this endeavor. I had narrated my experiences to Simran; about the GPS and my battered feet. I recollected how I had aroused her enough to embark on this journey. Simran was not only my doctor but also a good friend; more than a friend. In the past, we had indulged in acts which my ma would call evil. But that was before I met Annabeth. Now, I was in a relationship and Simran, I believe was still single.

“How long would it take to reach the forest?” Omar enquired fiddling the GPS.

“Be careful with that” I cautioned him “About 100 km from here. We should be there in two hours”

Omar Usman was Annabeth’s colleague at Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). He was an introvert and was particularly shy of women; quite contrary to me.

Amidst winding lanes, tall trees, breathtaking mountains, amazing views, small streams through the mountains and after multiple stop-overs to enjoy the picturesque and serene landscapes, we were at the gates of “Cherrapunji-Mawsynram Reserve Forest” four hours later.

“Namaste Sahabji. To the guest house? Please show me your reservation” the guard greeted and enquired.

“Bhaiyya, we are on Government of India duty; would be stationed in the forest. Here are the papers” Annabeth said handing over the papers.

“Bhaiyya, is there any cave inside the forest?” Annabeth enquired as he was scanning through the papers.

 “Madamji, there are many but one is more dangerous; one that of Trikoni Bhootnath.  Just stay away from it” he cautioned while making a few entries in his register.

“Who is that?” Simran asked moving her silky hair away from the face.

“No one knows. No one has seen. But there any many stories.100 years back, our village sarpanch ventured around the cave, never to be seen again” he replied turning towards Simran.

“Can you take us there?” Annabeth requested.

“Ummm, I will show you the place from a distance but won’t go near.” The guard answered in a trembling tone.

We agreed.

Ten minutes into the wet, thick, picturesque yet scary forest; the guard abruptly stopped his bike.  He turned back and signaled towards few scattered rocks. I reached out for my wallet, held out a 100 rupees note; the bike circled around our Jeep, the note was picked, and the bike left. So much action but seldom a word? People must be so scared of Trikoni Bhootnath, I thought.

I slowly maneuvered the Jeep till it could go no further. I got down from the Jeep, looked around; the surrounding looked familiar to what I had seen earlier during meditation. I slowly walked further down the scattered rocks and unattended terrain. A few steps further down, I was facing the very rocky hill I had seen; the triangular opening of the cave was clearly visible; chills went down my spine!!!

Back at the base camp (if I may call so), Omar was hard at work. He had already erected three tents.  I sat down on a broken tree trunk overlooking the tents; praying for courage.

Two hours later, we were still working on a strategy to enter the cave. The discussion wasn’t going anywhere.

“That’s it. I am going in. Who’s coming along?” I informed the crew; still scared at heart.

Omar tied one end of a rope around my waist and other end to a nearby rock. “Captain, lead the way” he said handing over a torch.

I climbed into the opening and started crawling. Others followed. The spider webs were thick, dense and well spun. For a moment, I felt I may get entangled in spidery web but somehow managed to clear my way through the thick cobwebs, dark spiders, lizards and after crawling for about thirty meters, I finally landed into the cave.

It was dark and mushy. In a matter of few minutes, others had negotiated their way through and joined me. It took us a while to see things clearly.

I could see an old man sitting in a meditative posture, his beard touching the ground. I prostrated before him and said “Maharaj, I have come as you commanded.”

“Why the hesitation in entering the cave?” questioned the same familiar voice. I looked at the old man but he wasn’t speaking. I looked towards the source of the voice but couldn’t see anyone.

“Sit down. You won’t be able to see me” the voice whispered back.

“Why are you torturing the dinosaur with this rope? It’s been dead 65 million years now.” The voice questioned possibly referring to the rope being tied to the rocks at the other end.

It continued “65 million years ago, when we, the mysticoids came to earth, the dinosaurs used to thrive here. We came with a purpose of providing humanoids, our new experiment with a natural habitat. That brought humanoids in direct conflict with the dinosaurs. For 1 million years, they co-existed but humanoids were at the receiving end. We had to do what we did; we blew away the dinosaurs from the face of the earth” the voice paused.

“Ha.. Ha… Ha. This must be a joke. I can’t believe this. We came all the way here to take this crap?” Omar could hardly control his laughter.

“You have the GPS which I threw at you. Don’t you? Do you know its age?” the voice aroused some curiosity in us. Omar quickly grabbed the gps and fed it to carbon dating analyzer. The analyzer made a few odd sounds and finally gave its estimate.

“What? 200 million years?” Omar shouted in disbelief.

“That’s right. Why the disbelief? If we could build a man 65 million years ago; couldn’t we make a gps 200 million years ago? You would be surprised to know that our lifespan is about 500 million years. Now, the time has finally come …?” Omar’s laughter had subsided.

 “Time for what?” Annabeth asked impatiently.

“To wipe out the humanoids”

“You can’t do this to humans” Simran who was quite all this while, protested.

“Why not? Remember the story of Noah and Sage Manu? Today, I have summoned my Manu, my Noah; my four pillars. This is not the first time humanoids are being destroyed” the voice clarified.

“You really don’t need to do this” Omar pleaded.

“We do. We created humanoids on the basis of mysticoids; a society which would think and work towards common good. But humanoids are anything but that. Humanoids have failed; so have we”. There was silence.

  I realized what he meant when he said “We were his Noah and Manu; Noah (Nirbhay, Omar, Annabeth, Harsimran) and Manu (Mann, Abraham, Nene, Usman)”

“You talk about common good and humans being selfish? You and your mysticoids should be ashamed. You wiped out the dinosaurs; god’s very own creation to make way for your own? Who authorized you to play God? You guys are hypocrites. What … “, I was seething with anger.

“Calm down humanoid. In time the plan would be revealed” the voice interrupted. 

 “Once I open that door, the beginning of the end would start. Humans, animals would be turned to dust.”

“Sarpanch, would you please open the door?”

We shockingly looked at each other; the man who had gone missing 100 years ago was very much alive; atleast 160 years old now even by rough estimates.

The old man got up. I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

The rocks had started falling from the sky, the sky had turned dusty; the winds had gained momentum. My heart cried out to the fact that I would never be able to see Ma, Pa and friends again. The old dinosaur would face further decimation for a long time, I thought.

“No, Not for long. And the rocks fell on the earth forty days and forty nights…….- Genesis 7:12” whispered the voice in a deep heart-pricking tone.

Nirbhay’s Journey has just begun; the mystery is about to unfold ……..

Journey through Time

It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. Namandeep had left home to join the Independence struggle. Though he was a member of INC, he  did not quite agree with Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. He felt Azad Hind Sena was our best bet to gain Independence.  While Gandhi’s Quit India movement was gaining popularity amongst  the masses, Namandeep decided to join the Azad Hind Sena. Subash was also a friend, philosopher and guide to Namandeep.

Last night, Suhasini had gone to  drop Namandeep at the railway station.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”, Suhasini had asked Namandeep.
“More than ever”, Namandeep had replied spontaneously.
“Who would look after papaji ?”
“Promise me. You would. I am not sure when I would return. I am not sure if I would ever return” Namandeep had got emotional.
“I would look after papaji. He is like a father to me.”, Suhasini had promised.
“We are very close to winning our freedom. Its now or never. Generations after generations we served the British Raj. This is my chance to wipe out the tag of Gaddar on our family. Papaji may still work for the Raj but not me anymore”. Suhasini could sense his determination.
Namandeep Sahu belonged to the elite Sahu family from Lucknow. His father, Sohandeep Sahu was a lawyer by profession and a good friend of Motilal Nehru. Motilal’s son Jawaharlal was Namandeep’s classmate  at the London Law School. Subash, Sarojini,  Lakshmi   were some of the high profile guests who would come to meet Namandeep and would sometimes stay at his place. Whether it was Gandhi or Subash, the masses had picked up their side. The freedom struggle would soon intensify.
As thoughts raced thru her mind, she saw an old man with white beard entering the room. He was wearing a white kurta and Pajama. Though his eyes looked tired, they were shinning  and beaming with joy to see me up.
“You would be ?” , Suhasini questioned.
“ohh. You must be papaji. Namandeep told me about you”, Suhasini jumped with joy to meet her would-be father-in-law. This was the first time she was meeting him.
She was about to get up and touch his feet as is the custom in India; the old man interrupted.
“It’s alright. You are still weak and you need rest. Please don’t strain yourself”
“Papaji, I must say that you look just like Namandeep. When he grows old, he would look just like you. He has got the same eyes, voice and height”, Suhasini said.
Just then another old guy with a beard and round spectacles entered the room with a lathi in his hand.
“You look familiar” Suhasini said looking at the old man.
“You can call be baba”, the old man replied.
“Babaji, you look very much like Subash Bose. Are you his papa? You are a day late else you could have given a letter to Namandeep who would be meeting Subash soon in Burma” Suhasini remarked.
Before Babaji could answer, papaji broke down into tears and was inconsolable for a moment.
“What is it ? Is something wrong ? I remember vaguely that there was a blast at the railway station yesterday and then I went blank. Is Namandeep alright ? I beg please tell me he is fine. Without him I cannot live”, Suhasini pleaded before the two men.
“He is alright. Do not worry about him.” papaji said wiping his tears.
“Then bring him here. I want to see him” Suhasini pleaded again. The two men looked at each other helplessly.
“He would be back in a day or two. I assure you. In the meantime, you get some strength”, papaji answered gathering some courage.
“Can you please get me a newspaper ? I want to know more about the blast yesterday”, Suhasini requested papaji.
“uummm. Ahhh. Not now. You need rest. Doctor would be upset if they see you reading. You need complete bed rest”, papaji said in an unconvincing tone. Suhasini could sense something was not right. She could only hope that Namandeep was safe and unharmed in this blast.
“Papaji, one more thing. Just before Namandeep left for Burma, we sold this house and donated the money to Azad Hind Sena. This would help the cause of freedom struggle to a some extent. We have to vacate this house and move to a smaller dwelling.” Suhasini said in a low tone.
“Don’t worry about it. I am sure we can sort this out after Namandeep returns”, Papaji replied
These words brought joy on Suhasini’s face. She was sure that Namandeep was alive else papaji would not have said those words.
“Papaji, Babaji. One last request before you go. Can you please tell me what really happened at the station yesterday?”
The two old men looked at each other. Papaji pulled a chair and sat down next to the bed.
“Britishers were transporting arms & ammunition in one of the bogie to the Burma Border to combat the Azad Hind Sena. Few revolutionaries got this news and planned their journey in the same train. Plan was to loot the arms en-route. The plan did not materialize and  the Britishers got the names of the revolutionaries. In the gun battle that ensued at the station, there was a big blast and hundreds were killed” papaji stopped. There was silence in the room; a rather disturbing one.
“Then ?” Suhasini could take the silence no longer.
“You were injured. As per the eye witnesses, a rod flew and hit you on your head, making you unconscious. Do you feel the pain ?” papaji inquired.
“No. Did Namandeep get injured? Where is he now? Please bring him here. I am choking here. Need some air. Please take me outside ” She cried.
Papaji obliged. The two old men helped her stand up on her feet.
“I have no strength to standup. It was a strange feeling. It seemed I haven’t used my feet for a long time.”, Suhasini thought to herself.
As she walked to the Garden, she saw a newspaper lying on one of the chairs.
“I will sit there” she said pointing to one of the chairs.
“Can I get a cup of coffee” She requested.
“Sure. I will ask Suramma to make you one” Papaji said leaving for the kitchen.
“Suramma ? Who is that ? Maybe the maid from Papaji’s  house” Suhasini wondered but it did not matter any more.
She picked up  “The Times of India”  from the nearby chair but it looked a little different. The font, the design looked different but it was not a matter of concern. She read the headlines; it read ” Prime minister Indira Gandhi assassinated by her bodyguards”.
“Indira Gandhi born as Indira Priyadarshini Nehru was assassinated by her bodyguards at ……… ” Suhasini stopped reading with a combined feeling of shock and terror. The photo displayed in the newspaper was not the sweet Indira Nehru she knew.
“What’s happening to me ? Am I going mad” She thought.
She looked around and the mango tree looked bigger and fuller. It was fully grown and was a huge tree now.
She turned the pages and checked the date on the newspaper.
“1st Nov 1984 ?” She was taken aback.
“Papaji ? Is this some kind of joke ?” She asked papaji who just came out with a cup of coffee.
Tears rolled down Papaji’s cheeks.
“I am not papaji. I am Namandeep. You have been in a coma for about 50 years now. I never gave up the hope that one day you would be back and we can start our life together. Today, I am the happiest man. There were only two goals in my life; one was freedom for our country and second was to marry you. I am glad that my second goal would fructify now.”
Just then babaji came and she looked at him.
“Subash ?” she questioned. Babaji nodded his head in affirmation.
“They call me Gumnani Baba these days”, he replied with a smile.
The whole afternoon, Suhasini spent her time  in the garden with Namandeep. At times, tears rolled over her cheeks. Fifty years was a long time and she wanted to atleast live those moments through his experiences. Realizing that one has lost 50 years in a matter to 5 minutes was a huge loss.
She looked up at the mango tree and the sky beyond.  Indeed, it has been a long long time ………..