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Thursday, 30 April 2020

The last Zone

Sulabha was speaking. Vinay was listening quietly. There were still many questions which remained unanswered. But now that Sulabha was revealing everything to him, he withheld them.

‘Abhaya was Satish’s half-sister. Satish didn’t know she existed. When Satish was young, his father had walked upon his mother and started living with another woman, which happened to be Abhaya’s mother. The family had fell on hard times after Satish’s father deserted them. Obviously, Satish developed a resentment towards the other woman. It was only when Satish’s mother with the help of her brother, sued Ram that she got a share in his property. This is how Swarg Sadan came in their possession.’

‘Satish lost his senses on hearing that the woman whom he had picked up from the bar was his half-sister and the cause of his suffering. In a fit of anger he stabbed her to death. That’s what Satish had told me. Further, he had said her ghost continued to haunt him. In a bid to help him, I started to clandestinely learn the techniques to tame a ghost. For I believed that the ghost was causing trouble in our lives too.’
Vinay couldn’t control his curiosity at this point and he asked, ‘Since when you started believing in these things.’
‘We all change. Life, its twists and turns change us Vinay.’
‘But why didn’t you tell me about it earlier.’
‘Would you have believed me if I had told you.’
Vinay had no answer to that. So, he kept quiet. Sulabha continued, ‘But what Satish had told me was half-truth. That day the woman had not died.’

Vinay’s eyes shone with excitement. Sulabha said, ‘Satish had thrown the body into the valley. But the woman wasn’t dead. She remained suspended from a branch of the tree and was miraculously rescued by a goat herder. She recovered and told her father about everything. Enraged, Ram entered Swarg Sadan and confronted Satish. I feel one murder, even unsuccessful, emboldens a person to commit another. Vinay killed Ram and buried him in our kitchen garden. He didn’t wish to commit the same mistake again’

‘You mean to say that the skeleton which was found in our garden was of Ram?’
‘Yes, the forensic reports have confirmed that it was of Ram. Satish didn’t stop at that. He eliminated Abhaya and her mother as well. This is how Ram Madhvani and his family entirely disappeared. No one was left even to enquire about them. Soon, Satish sold off the bungalow. But the spirit of the young woman continued to haunt him.’

‘What about the murder case in which Ram was involved, for whom Mrs. Shah’s husband was surety?’
‘Some village folk was murdered and his body was thrown into the forest. Neither Ram nor Satish had anything to do with it.’

‘How do you know about all this? Did Satish tell you?’
‘I learnt it from the police. They are filling the final report today.’
The final report was filed. Sulabha was acquitted of all charges.  The couple didn’t want to have anything with Swarg Sadan. They sold the property and moved to Pune. They had bought an apartment near Nisha’s. While they were moving out of Swarg Sadan, Vinay looked back. Swarg Sadan was enveloped in the morning mist, and the mystery woman stood on the terrace, with her hands folded. Finally, justice was done.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Your past haunts you

That day I was convinced of how bad my choice was. Meeting of the eyes, the heart skipping a beat are all signs of love at first sight. The heart knows it all. At the same time, it is equally true that the heart makes bad choices as well. I wondered at what my plight would have been, had I been married to Satish.

Satish ensured that I reached home safely after the incident. He had almost threatened me, when he had said, ‘Don’t tell about it to anyone.’ I had just nodded my head in fear. That day I resolved that I would have nothing to do with Satish. He was a nightmare, which I wanted to forget. He was a thing of the past now.

I told my parents that I was ready to get married. My father was relieved. My mother said, ‘Hadn’t I told you before. Our sanskars won’t go in vain.’ Soon my parents started looking for a groom. Even I wanted to get married at the earliest. I felt a new person, a new life would help me to detach myself from a chance murder that I had encountered.

Then I got your proposal. There was nothing to disapprove of. We liked each other, and got married. I am speaking the truth when I am saying that I gave hundred per cent to this marriage. I wanted to be an ideal wife, the way my mother was. But I failed in one department. I couldn’t become a mother. After some time, we accepted the fact that we were going to be a childless couple. No matter how educated and independent a woman is, ours is a society where her inability to produce a heir, is publicly discussed and looked down upon. I was no exception to it.

Until then I was a rational. I brushed aside the theory of karma as non-sense on the stilts. But at that point I wondered if my state of childlessness was linked to my past. I had been a part of the sin. Even I had no active involvement in its commission, I had certainly aided in its concealment. Yes, I was scared, but I could have informed the police after sometime at least. But I didn’t. Neither did the police reach me. The murder was concealed from the law. But there is yet another law which governs the past and future of us mortals and no matter how much I wanted to disbelieve it, kept on staring at me, mocking at me.

Many years passed and one fine day I received a friend request on facebook from Satish. My first reaction was to decline it. Yet, for some strange reasons I kept it pending for a week. Unsure, whether I should accept it or not. Everyday, I would open it and stare at the screen. Should I accept or not. Satish had messaged me saying that he had something important to discuss with me. I wondered what it could be. After much deliberation I finally accepted his friend request.

‘Thank you,’ was what the first message that I received from Satish after I accepted his friend request. After casual banter Satish came straight to the point. He apologized for embroiling me in a mess. ‘It was not about you. It was just a case of bad timing. I was left with no other alternative,’ He said.
His life had been tragic. He had lost his parents and could no longer live alone in the big mansion. So, he shifted to a small place in the city of Kolhapur. He believed a change of place would make him feel better. But misfortune was on his prowl. He suffered heavy losses in his business. The girl whom he married, eloped.  He was devastated and had taken to drugs and alcohol.

One day when he entered his house after a heavy drink, he found a lady dressed in white waiting for him. He thought it was the alcohol that had reach his head was creating all the shapes. The lady didn’t speak a word. But she kept on weeping. He sighted the lady a couple of times more, and got an opportunity to study her face closely. She was the same woman – Abhaya, whom he had killed.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020


Read the previous part here
Horrified would be too small a word to describe my fright on seeing the dead body behind Satish. I had seen only two dead bodies until then. One of my paternal grandmother and the other of my maternal grandfather. I was a child when the former passed away. But never had I ever seen a badly mangled body lying in a pool of blood with the murderer standing face to face with me. I shuddered. For a moment I thought that I was going to faint. I caught hold of the door and tried to compose myself. Then I moved my head in another direction and threw up.
‘Disaster. Now you have left your finger prints around.’ Satish slapped his forehead and roared again, ‘What brought you here?’
When I didn’t answer, Satish asked me again, ‘Will you please tell me what the hell are you doing here?’
‘I thought… you had called me here.’
‘Have you gone mad?’ His angst reflected in his eyes. ‘Now that you have come, get inside soon or both of us would land in trouble.’ He said.

‘Listen I have killed this woman in a fit of anger. I have no time to narrate the entire story to you. You have to help me to get rid of this or else you too will land in trouble with me. You have touched the surfaces and the forensic team would easily collect them.’
All that little sap was left in my body was sucked out. With the body still before us, I was embroiled in a murder which I had never committed. I scraped my back down the wall and crouched on the ground. I didn’t know what was expected of me. I was too scared. I was afraid that if I didn’t follow Satish’s directions, he would kill me as well.
Reading my thoughts Satish said, ‘No need to worry. I am no professional killer. You are safe here. This just happened.’
Then Satish explained me my role. I had to walk to the terrace and keep a watch on the surroundings. Meanwhile Satish would dispose off the body. My feet staggered and my teeth clattered as I slowly climbed the fleet of stairs that led to the terrace. I could smell the murder. The smell of coagulated blood permeated every pore of my body. Then it began to rain. A cascade of rain drops severely affected my visibility. I shivered. I thought that the shower would wash away that obnoxious smell. But strangely it accentuated it. I felt like I was soaked in the blood. Every second looked like an eternity. I don’t know how long I stood on the terrace.

Satish came to the terrace panting. He sat on his haunches and cried in the rain. I moved at a safe distance from him. After sometime we came down. Satish removed all his clothes and burnt them in the hearth. The same body which had made promises of fragrant dreams was now stinking of blood. I looked the other way round when stark naked Satish scrambled to another room and came with a change of clothes. Thereafter, he cleaned the hallway and the door. ‘Let us go now.’ He said. I meekly followed him like an animal being taken for sacrifice.
I had nothing to do with the murder. I didn’t even know how Satish had disposed off the body. Years later I came to know that Satish had picked her up from the bar and he planned to have some good time with her.  Once at Swarg Sadan both of them had a drink and she casually mentioned that her father too owned one such  property. A property which he highly spoke off. She told him that her father too had named the property Swarg Sadan and he had promised her to take her to the site on her next birthday.
Satish had casually asked her what was the name of her father.
‘Ram Madhavani.’ She said.
‘And your mother?’ He said.
The moment Satish heard her mother’s name, he stabbed her in her chest, not once, not twice, but multiple times until he was assured that she no longer breath. 
Read the next part here

Monday, 27 April 2020

Wandering the Murky Path

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 Vinay entered the conference room. Its tall, thick  and arid walls made up of stones spoke volumes of the colourless lives of an inmate. An elderly sweeper was sweeping the room with a long broom. He was oblivious to the fact that Vinay had entered the room. He continued his work, raising clouds of dust in the air. Some of the dust particles entered Vinay’s nose and he had a bought of cough. Holding his handkerchief across him face he stood there cemented, waiting for the sweeper to complete his task. It was against this cloud of dust that he saw a familiar looking face emerge from another window.

A woman guard had held Sulabha’s forearm as she escorted her into the room. Is this my Sulabha Vinay thought for a moment. She was looking haggard. Dark circles of worries had formed on her face below her eyes. She looked emancipated too. Looking her condition Vinay wondered if it was the right time to pose any questions. Slowly she walked and sat on the wooden bench kept in the room. ‘You have only fifteen minutes.’ Said the woman guard. The guard went to another corner of the room, to chat with her colleague and offer some privacy to the couple.

Vinay was perplexed. He didn’t know where to start from. For a moment there was no conversation between the two and the only sounds that could be heard were of the rickety ceiling fan hovering over their heads. After a minute, Vinay said, ‘Sulabha how are you?’

Hearing the assuring voice of Vinay Sulabha couldn’t control her surging emotions. Her eyes turned moist and her voice choked as she spoke. She clasped Vinay’s hands tightly and cried. She kept on saying, ‘It is not the way you think Vinay.’

After a minute, she wiped her tears with the blue border of her white saree and said, ‘I have never cheated you Vinay. My motive was neither money nor love. Satish was just a friend. I know you wont believe it, but still I have to come out clean in front of you.  I cannot die with the guilt. You must have read it in my statement. But still I want to tell you in person. That day when I went to Satish’s house in the woods, I was bubbling with excitement. The thought of meeting your beloved clandestinely was exciting enough for me. I was dressed in my best salwar suit. I still remember its colour. It was turquoise with pearl embroidery on it. I was wearing a matching ear-rings and a necklace as well. I wouldn’t deny it that every pore of my body was jumping in excitement. Satish had drawn a map on a piece of paper giving directions to his rest house when he had invited me to his birthday part six months back. I had not attended the birthday party for the obvious reasons – my parents had not allowed me to go. But still I had kept that address with the map in Satish’s calligraphic handwriting. Today, when he casually mentioned that he was going to meet his beloved in the rest house, I had blushed. I knew no man could invite a girl from respectable family directly. So, making an indirect proposition he had added, ‘You know where the rest house is? No, you don’t. You didn’t make it for my birthday party.’ Today, I had decided that I would make up for everything. Soon we would pass out from college and I would be married to the man of my parent’s choices. Satish would fade in the oblivion. But I would clutch to this one beautiful day, made up of hundreds of moments that I would spend with Satish.’

‘Swarg Sadan was a solitary bungalow standing at the edge of the cliff. Locating it was no difficult at all. I was smitten by its surroundings. I envied Satish for owning such a piece of property, and secretly hankered to be its owner. The path to the bungalow was covered with a sheet of gentle, fragrant bakula flowers. I removed my sandals, for crushing these flowers with my sandals was utter disrespect towards them. Holding both my sandals into one hand of mine, I gingerly walked through the path, trying my best not to step on the flowers. I picked a few flowers in my hand and held close to my nose. Their fragrance enchanted me. This fragrance of love, this scent of longing should permeate my life, that is the only thing I wished for.

I was about to press the doorbell. But before I cold press it, the door opened. Satish stood in front of me. His shirt sprayed with blood. He wiped his forehead with the collar of his shirt. From what I could make out, he was dragging a dead body of a girl. ‘What are you doing here?’ He screamed. 
Read the next part here
Read my short read My Spiritual Journey 

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Venturing into the unknown

Read the previous part here
The next day when Vinay woke up from sleep, the dark clouds that had gathered in the sky had disappeared. The sun smiled and kissed the earth. Gone was the gloom of previous day, everything was sunny and bright. The sun rays entered directly into their room through the balcony. Vinay went out into the balcony and soaked the morning sun light. As the sun shone brighter, its light caused a glint in his eyes. He had lost all hope. But today was not like yesterday. In fact it was much better. He felt optimistic. 'Hope today is better.' He prayed to the sun god.

Nisha placed the breakfast on the table, but didn't speak a word. Vinay didn't wish to remember what had happened the previous day. He tried to brush it aside saying that everybody commits mistake and first mistake is always pardonable.

Nisha, on the other hand wanted to go back to Pune at the earliest. But given the situation, no matter how much badly she wanted to return, she couldn't. She had some responsibilities towards her sister. She felt terribly guilty for the things that had happened yesterday. She cursed herself for losing all her self control. How could she do that? How could she get attracted towards her sister's husband, when her sister was away? Was an educated woman like her just a slave of her senses? How could she even think of satisfying her carnal urges when her sister was in the jail?

With every question that popped up in her mind, Nisha felt like burying her head into the sand. She couldn't face anyone, not even herself. Whenever the scenes of the previous night played in her mind, she would shut her eyes tightly, as if doing so was going to erase the past. Everything had changed after the previous night for the two.

Vinay drove frantically to the jail. He wanted to meet Sulabha, and find answers to the questions that had been pricking him for quite sometime. He wanted to assure Sulabha that if she came clean, probably their relationship wouldn't suffer minimal damage. But what if Sulabha had made up her mind not to stay with him any longer. The sentence in her statement where she had said, her life would have been different if she had married the man of her choice continued to haunt Vinay. What would he say if she had decided to go with another man? Was he going to hold her back only because there was a legal document which bound them together? Is a mere paper so mighty that it can hold together a crumbling marriage?

Vinay stopped his car in the middle of the road. Was it a right decision to meet Sulabha in the jail, was the question he kept on asking himself. Though he had read it in her statement, he was not mentally prepared to hear it from her mouth. Destiny had put him in a strange dilemma.

It was only when the truck driver behind him hurled a series of abuses at him that Vinay started the car again. His legs on the accelerator, but his mind seriously doubting his decision to visit Sulabha.

He decided to divert his mind away from that thought. He saw the bellowing clouds in the sky. They reminded him of the events that had taken place the previous nights. He had certainly drifted away for sometime, though he was not sure if it could be called cheating. Wasn't Sulabha a human being too? Wasn't she allowed to commit mistakes, only because she was a woman that too a married one? Vinay's mind was presenting sharp, convincing arguments for both the sides, what it didn't deliver though was the final verdict.
Vinay parked the car in the parking lot of the jail and walked towards the meeting room with heavy legs. The police constable wearing crisp ironed khaki uniform asked him to wait in the waiting room for there was some more time for his scheduled appointment. Fidgeting the keys of his car, Vinay tapped both his feet.
Read the next part here
Read my short read My Spiritual Journey 

Friday, 24 April 2020

Utter Disaster

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A disappointed Vinay staggered towards his home. For the past few days unexpected events had taken place in his life, turning his life upside down. Dejected, he didn't want to return home at all. But where else could he go? Sulabha was still in jail. For the first time in his life, he repented not having children. If they had a child, things would have been different. Vinay would not have been all by himself. He could have got an emotional support at least. Most importantly, Sulabha wouldn't have drifted.

Back home, he started to read the police papers.
Satish's Statement
Full Name- Satish son of Ram Madhvani Age 42 Occupation Architect, Resident of Mittal Towers, Kasba Bavda, Kolhapur
That night I was drunk, to be honest a little more than usual. This girl who was attending the bar, had an almond shaped face and twinkling black eyes. I felt I had seen her somewhere. I tried to make small talk to her in an inebriated state. She was too busy with her work and turned around my advances. But I persisted not only for that day, but every day thereafter. One fine day she accepted my proposal and we went on a date. We met a couple of times thereafter, but nothing happened between us. Nothing apart from casual holding of hands. I wanted to take the relationship one step further, if you understand what I mean, and that was the reason I took her to our property – Swarg Sadan located in a spot secluded enough to offer us the much needed privacy.' Vinay couldn't read it any further and he leaped to the second statement.
'Name Sulabha Vinay Sharma Age 42 Occupation House wife Resident of Swarg Sadan Ajara.
I loved Satish and I never wanted to marry Vinay.' The first line itself stabbed into Vinay's heart.' But by now he was prepared to hear the inevitable. He somehow gathered courage and proceeded further. 'The greatest regret of my life is that I couldn't withstand parental opposition. My parents never liked what I liked. I wanted to be a commercial artist, but they disapproved of my drawing and painting. I wanted to marry the man of my choice, but they wanted me to marry someone from our caste. I wish I had been stronger enough, assertive enough. Had I been so, my life would have been so different. But I couldn't lie to my parents, nor could I go against them. The only time I lied to them was when Satish invited me to his rest house. It is a special place in the woods, no less than a paradise, aptly named Swarg Sadan. He had said. My initial reaction was to seek my parents' permission. But I knew they would never permit going to a boy's house. I knew our future was not together. Yet, I wanted to spend some precious moments with him. I wanted to treasure those moments in the corner of my heart for my entire life and that was the reason why I went to Satish's bungalow.'
That was enough. No matter how much he tried, Vinay couldn't read her statement. He placed the papers aside.

Dark clouds gathered in the sky, eclipsing the sun. The sunlight was shut now and a dark filter had cascaded the world outside. Everything was dark, everything was gloomy. The wind running through the woods produced a hideous sound. Vinay stood watching the baffled swaying trees. The dust was running in the air. Some of it entered Vinay's eyes. Instinctively, he rubbed his eyes. There was a storm within and outside. A strong gush of wind blew the papers with it. Vinay stood watching as the wind bounced the papers high in the air. The fate of the papers, like his life was uncertain now.

'Everything will be alright Vinay.' Nisha said as she placed her hands across his chest from behind. Then resting her head on his shoulders she said, 'I am there for you.' and whispered in his ears, 'Always.'

Vinay was taken aback by this behaviour of Nisha. She had never behaved like this him, except for her jocular references that she always wanted to marry a man like him.

At the same time Vinay couldn't deny that a pleasant sensation had coursed through his body. A part of him wanted to draw her closer and place his lips on hers. It hankered for the warmth that her body offered. However, another part of him was waging a war against all these thoughts. It wanted to bring Nisha back to her senses. It wanted to tell Nisha that he was the husband of her sister, that sister who was still in jail. Before he could make up his mind, it began to rain. But neither of the two moved. He could feel his polyster shirt turn wet and stick to his skin. The warmth of Nisha's body became prominent amidst the shower of cold rain drops.
Read the next part here
Read my short read My Spiritual Journey 


Thursday, 23 April 2020

The Trial Begins

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'Why did you do that Nisha? You knew that I was abstaining from milk. Yet you added milk to my food?' Sulabha asked. Her voice choked and tears welled up in her eyes.
'No Di, I didn't.' Nisha replied.
'Whoever did it, I shall never forgive him.'
'Your culprit is standing in front of you Sulabha. You can punish me the way you want.' Vinay said as he emerged out of the room.

Sulabha caught hold of his collars with both her hands and screamed 'Vinay.' For a moment, both Vinay and Nisha thought that she would strangle him to death, but soon her grip over his collars loosened and she rested her head on his chest and cried.
'I know Vinay. But...' She struggled with words but her overwhelming emotions prevented her from speaking.

Vinay stroked her back and said, 'Don't worry. Everything will be fine. Relax.' What a person needs most, particularly when he has erred is forgivance and acceptance from his near and dear ones.

After sometime Sulabha composed herself and said, 'Vinay I am the culprit, not you. I have hidden many things from you. In fact I have manipulated you on more times than one.' Saying this she began to weep again.
'Vinay you always wanted to buy a house at the foothills of Himalayas. But it was me who ensured that you didn't find the right house. I manipulated you into by this house. I … I...'

Before she could complete her sentence, the police arrived in the bungalow.
'You are under arrest Mrs. Sulabha.' They said, and before Vinay and Nisha could speak anything, the lady constable escorted Sulabha into the police van and the vehicle disappeared behind the tall trees.
'What are the charges?' Vinay asked their lawyer Niti Mohan.
'Murder.' He said.
'Murder?' Vinay said in disbelief and added, 'but to my knowledge she hasn't murdered anyone.'
'But the charges say so - murder and then destruction of evidence.'

'Who was the victim?' Nisha asked.
'The victim was Abhaya, Ram Madhvani's daughter.'
'What?' Vinay almost jumped from his seat.
'The other co-accused is Satish. He is absconding. Unless, he is apprehended, the chances of Sulabha getting bail are very slim.'
'This is all beyond my comprehension. I fail to understand anything.'
'You read these papers you will understand everything.' Niti said.

But Vinay moved his eyes away. He couldn't believe that the woman with whom he had lived for all these years was a murderer. She was strict, a disciplinarian, but not a murderer for sure.
Nisha took the papers from him and read ravenously. With every line that she read the expressions on her face changed.
'Vinay whatever has happened, has happened. We cannot change that. We will do our best to seek release of Sulabha. But you remember what Niti has said, the chances of her being released are very slim, until Satish is found out.'
'It is that bastard who has trapped my Sulabha into all this and absconded. If I meet him again I am going to kill him for sure.'
'You are not going to anything of that sort. For that would go against Sulabha. Our primary concern now is Sulabha and not Satish.'

'Poor Sulabha. She couldn't even sleep when there was change in place. She couldn't even sleep in the most exotic hotels, how would she sleep on the cold, infested floor.' Vinay broke down.
'Vinay I know how much you loved Sulabha. I wish she had understood your love for her.'
'She always loved me.'
'No Vinay. She loved Satish more. In fact she bought this house only because Satish suggested her to buy it.'
'He tricked her into it.'
'You know Sulabha. Is she so gullible? Is it so easy to trick her?'
'If she loved Satish, then why did she marry me?'
'She loved Satish, and then something happened. She didn't want to have any contact with Satish and then she married you.'
'Then how did he come back into his life?'
'Facebook. The first thing that people do on facebook is to search for their exes. Then they stalk them clandestinely, and mostly they get in touch again, for harmless friendship. Milk once transformed into curd, cannot revert back to its form as milk. Similarly, romantic lovers cannot remain just friends after break up. The emotions that pretend to have settled down, stir up again. That creates all the problems.'

'You mean to say Sulabha and Satish were reunited on facebook?'
'Yes. You were contemplating relocating to India at that time. One of the reasons why Sulabha supported your decision was Satish.'

Vinay was speechless. Nisha continued, 'Satish suggested this house, nestled in the lap of nature, he knew you would like it.'
'Sulabha made me buy this house so that she could be near to Satish?'
'Both yes and no.'
'How is that possible?'
'No, because unlike the way you think, there was no any romantic angle involved. Yes, because she felt bad because Satish was suffering.'
Vinay met Sulabha again after a month when she was produced in the court. She was looking pale and dark circles had formed under her eyes. Satish was still absconding and according to some reports, he had left India, which meant freedom was a distant dream for Sulabha. When she was being taken away, she screamed, 'Vinay, I was just helping a friend. I have not killed Abhaya. In fact I didn't even know that Satish was Ram's son. Get me out of this Vinay. I am innocent.'

Vinay's eyes were filled with tears. He wanted to release her wife as soon as possible. He couldn't bear her plight. But the dots were still missing. Satish was Ram's son. He and Sulabha were accused of killing Ram's daughter. So was that the girl Satish's sister. Probably not. For he never remembered mentioning his sister. So why had he murdered her? Was it for money, for succession? And what had Sulabha to do with her murder? Did Sulabha know Ram Madhvani? Vinay's head was buzzing with questions and only questions. Did Sulabha hold any answers to these questions? Probably she did. Vinay decided to seek an appointment to meet Sulabha in the jail. 
To be continued...
Read my short read My Spiritual Journey 


Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Saffron Robes

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That night Sulabha ensured that Vinay was fast asleep. She slowly got out of the bed and walked towards the bathroom. She loosened her hair, turned the knob of the shower and stood beneath it. Standing beneath the cascade of water, she mentally prayed for the success of the penance that she was to undertake.

She came out of the bathroom clad in a saffron saree. Vinay slowly semi-opened his eyes and looked at her. She was wearing a big red bindi on her forehead. Her eyes were embers and her sight was frightening. Vinay closed his eyes tightly and pretended to be asleep.

Sulabha walked into the drawing room. She arranged the havan kund and lit the fire. At the beginning she asked for forgivance. A sin was committed on that premises, and though not a direct party to it, by staying in the house she was drawing upon the fruits of that evil karma. Besides, the one who was involved in it was her best friend. She was undertaking this penance on his behalf. He couldn't do it by himself, for the spirit would have finished him off in the first night itself given the weight of his sin. With Sulabha things were different. Her track record was clean. She could undertake it.

The offering fire was lit. Sulabha made an offering of milk, ghee, rice, sugar and honey to the sacred fire. With every offering, the flames kept growing. Sulabha started chanting the verses and a circle of light hovered above her. She had to tame this spirit.

Vinay and Nisha who were watching this almost fainted on seeing the halo.
'What is that?' Vinay asked.
'Hsssh.' Nisha said and gestured him to keep quiet.

Sulabha started swaying rhythmically as the sadhana proceeded. For a moment Vinay thought she was hallucinating too. He couldn't believe that the woman who wore an exterior of a rationalist was adept at such ceremonies. He was dazed. Nisha ushered him to his room and went to her room. The door of her bedroom was ajar and she watched everything from the gap. At a point her teeth were clattering with fear. The entire episode lasted up to one in the midnight. Thereafter, Sulabha offered an obeisance to the fire pit and walked as her usual self.
'Your wife is an adept tantric. The practices that she is undertaking is to cage the soul wandering in your house.' Mauli said.
'Isn't it good if she is bringing a restless soul to peace?' Nisha asked.
'How would you feel if you are restless and in order to bring peace upon you, you are locked in a room of two by two square feet?' Mauli counter-questioned. 'Liberation of a soul and forcibly tying it down are two different things. What Sulabha is doing is the latter one. No one except an adept tantric can do it.'
'What will be the consequences of it?' Vinay asked.
'Temporarily, the soul wouldn't be able to cause any harm to others. But it will certainly add up to the bad karma of the persons who undertake the practice.' Mauli replied.

'Doesn't Sulabha know of the consequences?' A concerned Vinay asked.
'Of course she does.'
'Then why is she doing it?'
'Out of love and friendship. The way a father helps his son cheat in exams and a mother quotes false salary of his son so that he will get married.'

'Can we do something to prevent her from doing so?'
'Persuade her. Yesterday, was no moon day. She will continue her practices for another twenty-one days. The practice will fructify only when the final offering is made on the last day. If she is prevented from making the last offering, she will be saved of the evil karma.'

'Can't you do something to counter her actions?' Nisha asked.
'Sorry, I don't indulge in such activities. As I had told you earlier, I am a mere seeker.'
'But there must be some way.' Vinay said trying to control her anger.

Mauli smiled and said, 'Observe her. She must be abstaining from certain foods.'
'Yes, yesterday when I made tea, she said that she has developed lactose allergy and won't take anything made up of milk. I found it strange. Being a doctor, I knew she had neither the history nor any symptoms of lactose resistance' Nisha said.
'If you could somehow coax her into eating the food which she is abstaining from and break her fast, her power will be reduced and she will have to undertake the penance for double the amount of time.'
'Do you think, it is that easy? You know how stubborn she is.' Vinay said as they were returning.
'I agree Vinay. She is adamant. But we are her family. If she is going astray we have to bring her back on the right track. I mean by hook or crook.'
That night when Nisha offered to cook the dinner, Sulabha plainly refused.
'Let me do my work.' She said.
'Have some rest Di, until I am here. Once, I am gone, you are all by yourself.'
'That is what I am afraid. Habits are easily formed. Once you go, I will feel handicapped.'

When Vinay took her the tea next morning, she took the cup in her hands. She poured some tea into the saucer and took it near her lips as Vinay watched her with holded breath.
'Vinay, you have poured milk in it. Don't you know about my lactose intolerance?' She said and placed the cup and saucer aside.
'Indeed, Vinay it is not that easy.'
'Nothing is impossible. Even the word impossible says I am possible.' Vinay smiled.
'Vinay don't tell me you have done it? Tell me how did you do that?'
'Patience dear, patience. Everything has to be told at the right time and place.'
That night when Sulabha sat for her practice, she felt utterly restless. Something was amiss, but she couldn't pin point at that. She continued her practice, but she could feel something was pulling her back. The halo on her head was smiling. 
Read the next part here
Read my short read My Spiritual Journey 


Beneath the Eyes - Book Review

Beneath the Eyes is a suspense thriller penned by Upender Reddy. This is a sci-fi horror novel. It starts with a scientific invention and in the second half steps into the horror territory.

What I liked about the book is that all the characters are nicely sketched. Ditto for the setting. The author with his words builds a spooky world, where your heart skips a beat and a chill runs down the spine. The story idea is cent percent original and full marks to the author for coming with such a novel concept.

What I didn't like about the book was use of language and poor editing. Unnecessary descriptions should have been avoided and another round of editing was required for the book.

In spite of its drawbacks I loved the book. It is certainly a thriller not to be missed. Read this book during lockdown period. You will certainly have a great time.

Rest and Unrest

Read the previous part here

But there was no response. So Sulabha ambled towards the door. Before she could reach there, two khadi clad policemen came inside. Nisha staggered behind them.
'Who is the owner of the house?' The well built and moustached of the two and probably the boss of the other cop asked.

Vinay stepped forward, 'What is it Sahib? I am Vinay, the owner of the house. Please have a seat.'
The senior sat on the edge of the sofa while the junior stood besides him.
'Water.' Said Nisha and placed the two glasses on teapoy.

The senior gulped down the entire glass of water in one go and then said, 'We have received a tip that something sinister is going in this bungalow.'
Sulabha who had put the pan on the stove to make tea, wiped the sweat on her forehead with her pallu.

'Sir, you seem to have been mistaken. We are respectable members of the society. We would be the last persons to indulge in anything like this.' Vinay pleaded.
The cop smirked and said, 'The irony is that the more respectable and influential a person is, the deeper are his legs in illegal activities.'

Vinay couldn't understand what the cop was speaking about. Even Nisha was perplexed.
Reading their expressions, the cop said, 'Ok. Let me straight come to the point. Tell me wasn't a skeleton found in your garden?'
Vinay mumbled to reply. Nisha came from his behind and gently placed his hand on his shoulder. Gathering strength Vinay nodded his head.

'You call yourself well educated and respected. So wasn't it your duty to inform the police about your discovery?'
Vinay kept mum. The police continued, 'You didn't stop at that, you used it perform black magic. Do you knowing performing black magic is punishable up to five years of imprisonment?'

Vinay was flummoxed. He looked at Nisha who was equally clueless. Sulabha was on her way with the tea cups in her hands. Hearing the words black magic and imprisonment her hands trembled and the tea cups started dancing in the tray. Nisha quickly took the tray in her hands, while Sulabha retired to her room citing headache.

Nisha told the police that it was true that they had indeed found a skeleton in their garden, but it was wrong to say that they had performed any black magic. She brought forth the skeleton and asked the police if they could spot any evidence of black magic on the skeleton. Usually people anoint it with kumkum, oils, lemons, blood or what not, she said. Here, there was nothing like that. She told the policemen that she was a qualified doctor. She told further that she knew for sure that keeping a skeleton was not an offence. Hearing this the policemen mellowed down.

'Next time, come with better evidence,' She wanted to say. But Vinay stopped her. He removed five thousand rupees and handed it over to the police. The matter somehow had to be hushed up.

'I am going this time. But remember, if you again indulge in any such activities, the consequences will not be good.' The police were pleased with the money and they left.

Nisha closed the door and Vinay sank into the sofa.
'What is all this?' He said to no one in particular.
'Even I don't know about it. But we will have to unearth it soon.' Nisha said. That was when Sulabha stepped out of her room. Seeing that the situation was very much under control, she was relieved. Humming a song, she sauntered to the drawing room and sat next to Vinay. Placing his head on her lap, she asked, 'Is everything OK baby?'

Read the next part here

Read my short read My Spiritual Journey