He was standing at the window. The house was not his own, it was a strange house; he has never been there before. A little distance away, across a sprawling green lawn there was a pond, surrounded by bushes and trees.
Its water looked blue, capturing the cloudless sky in its heart. There was a black swan swimming in it. He was surprised to see a black swan in India. He has never seen one before barring television screen of-course.
The swan was swimming towards the bank when a thin black mist started to rise from the pond, it started to thicken rapidly and within minutes it was like a black cloud covering the pond surface.
A woman dressed in a black gown stepped out of that mist and looked at him.
She was beautiful, her black hair and fluttering black gown created a black halo around her ivory body and face. That face was carved out of dreams. Suddenly a pair of hairy hands shot out of the mist and pulled her back into it.
She screamed, “Champak, help me!”
He tried to run but could not move his legs were cemented to the floor of the room.
He woke up bathed in perspiration.
“What happened?” Abhi his classmate asked.
“Nothing… A nightmare…!”
They got up and left for school.
It was half way through the first period when principal called for him. He went there, raking his brain, trying to presume about which complain was he summoned in the horror chamber.
“Sit down Champak!” the old man fidgeted in his chair. “Your father called, your mother is very sick. The car will be here to pick you up in a few minutes.”
When the car pulled in the driveway of their Mumbai mansion he realized something was wrong because his father was waiting for him in the porch, the road in front of the mansion has transformed into a parking space, most of the cars were familiar.
His mother was a super hit heroine. His father, a more established hero, was away to Switzerland for his own shooting last evening when he called him from there, asking what he wanted for gift, he was yet to receive the news that his wife Lily, who was shooting in some village was dead, her boat overturned and in the chaos she lost her life.
There was a team of rescuers, paramedics with the shooting team but nothing worked out right. It seemed like destiny.
The boat overturned when it was returning to the banks after shooting a night scene, that’s why all the searchlights failed them, the divers instantly jumped into the water but could not save her, the recovered her body after an hour, from the depth of the pond, she was dead before drowning. Something hit her in the chaos- may be an oar or something else…
He did not shattered to pieces, nor did his father, even though they both loved Lilly, but life moved forward like a car resumes its normal speed after a speed-breaker.
Like most celebrity kids, his relationship with his parents was warm, funny but never too emotionally entangled.
His father remarried a few years later when he was studying in his first year in a college in USA.
“How are the studies?” Abhimanyu asked.
“Fine dad!” he replied, they had a habit of talking every night, no matter what. “How is mom?”
“She is fine; we will be there this week-end. There is something to celebrate together!” he laughed.
His relationship with his step mother was warm; she was a nice woman absolutely crazy about her superstar husband. She was fourteen or fifteen years older than him, that made their relationship half friendly and half guardian ward.
They often teamed up when Abhimanyu went to shoot in some interesting place, they combed the place while he was busy shooting. It was great to have her around.
He tidied up his desk with a happy mood and went out for a lunch in the cafeteria.
The garden was familiar, he could not recollect where, but he has seen it before. The window where he was standing gave the full view of a garden, luscious green carpet of grass stretched from one end to the other, trees, bushes and small patches of seasonal flowers was planted in between in a very artistic way, he could see the portions of old buildings, some dilapidated, some in a nice condition surrounding the garden, partially hidden by the bushes and trees.
Then his eyes fell on the pond. It has grown older than his last dream, the stone banks looked weary; there was a pair of black swans with a duckling in the pond. They were swimming peacefully. He tried to move but could not, he looked at his feet, they were not flesh and blood anymore; they were made of the same gray stone that made the bank of the pond.
An explosion startled him, his eyes instantly went back to the pond, it was covered in black fume; flames were leaping out of that fume.
The same woman was standing on the bank, looking at him then the hand shot out to grab her ankle… it was an hairy, ugly huge hand with dirty nails and gnarled fingers.
He woke up with a sweat soaked body.
Morning light was slowly pouring in from the window. He went out for a long morning walk.
It was Wednesday morning. Two more days before Abhimanyu and Disha showed up, so he had to tidy up his week-end assignments so he could dedicate his weekend to them.
The day vanished like a rocket bursting out to sky. Every bone of his body was aching when he went to bed.
The dream returned…”Run!” he tried to scream to the woman but his tongue was as heavy as stone… he knew why… he knew if he looked at himself in a mirror he will see a statue made of gray stone.
The hand shot out and a shrill sound shattered his sleep. The phone was ringing.
He jumped out of the bed; his heart was beating like a drum, large drops of sweat rolled down his forehead, leaving their salty taste on his lips.
“Hello?” he picked it up.
“Son, it’s me!” it was his father’s friend Raj Shetty. He instantly felt blood draining out of his body.
His father planned a surprise trip, their plane crashed. There were no survivors. His step mother was three month pregnant, that’s what they were about to celebrate.
This time the wound was much deeper than the earlier one.
His friends were sympathetic, but he could not open his heart to them. He wanted to talk with someone. But who will believe in the “premonition” mumbo jumbo!
Guilt started to gnaw him; he started to feel he might have been able to save his father at least, if only he had contacted him and asked him to cancel the trip… or be cautious while he was driving or flying…
A month later he was standing in front of his home in Mumbai. He had performed the last rite of his father and mother.
He has decided to sell off the properties in India and start afresh. He was too hesitant to live in places wrapped in his parents and Disha’s memories.
“It will take me a few days to give you details of the properties your father left behind, you know he was quite a keeper, invested a lot on lands and buildings through-out his life, heaven only knows what was he planning for…. Then his forty seventh birthday is round the corner… he was planning to retire next year.” Mr. Joshi his lawyer told him when they discussed his Will.
He knew that his father planned to spend the rest of his life away from limelight, restoring and reselling the property he has been buying through these years.
He has taken a six month break from his studies in college to sort out thing here. He was semi decided that he will buy a small house in Mumbai or suburb, and leave for US to complete his studies after sorting out the things here.
His cell phone beeped, it was Mr. Joshi, “Can I come down?”
“Yes, of course.” He was glad that he called, that meant he has sorted out the things, he was an ace lawyer, his parents and Disha depended on him almost blindly to take care of their financial matters and other legal matters.
In twenty five years of his connection with them he has never, ever let them down.
“Good morning uncle.” He got up and smiled a little. Nothing seemed to help him in getting rid of the deep gloom that has penetrated in his cheerful heart. It clung to his soul like the dampness of an old, haunted house.
Mr. Joshi was fully prepared. He was surprised to know that he had a huge property entitled to his name from his mother’s side of family. In some small town in West Bengal!
He knew his mother was Bengali Brahmin, the only daughter of a king, when she married her father a Sikh her family disowned her; she was barred from setting her feet in her home. She was not allowed to go anywhere near actually.
Seemed his grandparents have left everything they had in his name.
“It will be better if you go there and see the property before selling it off.” Mr. Joshi said, “It will be more decent, in case you show up in a house filled with poor relatives you may reconsider selling the house… and leave it to them.”
He shrugged. He was not very curious to go there. After all, they have disowned his mother, broken her heart.
He decided that he will go there and get rid of the property without taking a single dime from it.
Namaskar= Namaste = greetings
Dadababu= elder brother
Dewan= manager Saheb= saab
Mukherjeebabu = Mr. Mukherjee
Makali = Mother Goddess Kali- one of the most worshipped hindu deities.
He descended in the small railway station near Siliguri; the greenery of the place was amazing. Small, big hills were scattered all over the region.
An ambassador was waiting for him, “Namaskar Dadababu!” a young man opened the car door for him. “We read about Lily pishimoni and her husband in newspaper.”
The car soon reached a place that was filled with serene beauty, green fields stretched till they reached the feet of small, big hills, small huts were scattered here and there, a tree here, a grove there, the only sign of modern life was the cars and trucks moving in the road.
They both fell silent.
The car reached a small village after more than an hour of journey.
An old dilapidated gate welcomed them into it. There were old, ruined buildings littered all over it, telling the sad story of a small town that was once here. Now only small huts confirmed that it was not a ghost town, it was still alive.
“This is your town dadababu.” The man said, his eyes glued on the bumpy village road, it was a dusty road; they have left the highway a little while ago.
“My town?” he laughed a little.
“I am not joking. Most of the property here belongs to you now.”
That sounded like trouble. That meant he will have to leave the things just the way they were after studying the details.
“Who takes care of these things? These lands?” he asked.
“Dewansaheb, Mukherjeebabu.” The man answered.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Ashok Das.” The car stopped in front of a small temple.
There was a small group of people waiting there. A tall, very handsome man in his early sixties stepped forward.
Ashok whispered Mukherjeebabu.
He stepped forward to touch his feet. There was something in that man that invoked respect.
“Have a long, blessed life my child.” The man gently kissed his forehead. “Come inside. This is the temple of your family deity Makali. It’s a rigid rule of your family to offer puja here before doing anything good, so before you enter your home for the first time I thought that you will like to offer puja.”
He nodded. He was not religious but he was not rude either. He knew and knew how to respect these vulnerable beliefs.
Mangalghat = as per hindu belief when a puja is held, that is, when we worship a deity s/he comes down to the earth and resides in the mangalghat- a pitcher filled with water of river, the purified by mantras and finally adorned in their own special ways.
Arati = usually its used to worship deities but sometimes human beings are worshipped too, newly- weds, infants etc are welcomed to new life through it. Its methods differ from family to family.
The priest was waiting for him. He started the ritual after he sat down. An hour later they left the temple. Mr. Mukherjee was holding a small mangalghat in his hand; it was to be placed in the small temple in his mother’s home.
“Shall we walk? It’s barely fifteen minutes from here. Your grandfather, grandmother and your mother used to worship here every morning. They used to first worship here, and then in your private temple in your home.” Mr. Mukherjee said.
They were walking down the dusty village road, the dust was soft as powder, felt very pleasant, there were small big ponds on both sides of the road, surrounded by lush greenery- trees, bushes, bamboo groves- name them and they were there. It seemed nature was extra generous to this area. All he has seen after descending from the train is greenery.
People were waiting in small clusters for a look of their new king.
A huge stone gate was waiting for him at a little distance, on both sides of the gates there were small rooms in line.
“They were guest houses built by your ancestors; your family never turned away a single person if they asked for shelter for a night or few. That brought too many blessings and their doom.” The old man sighed.
“Doom?” he was surprised.
“Yes. But let’s not talk about it.” The tight setting of the jaws of the old man indicated he was not going to indulge any further.
They reached the gate. The rooms were very old but have been maintained properly. There was a small temple right beside the gate, the same priest was waiting there; another arrangement of puja could be seen.
There were few women inside the temple, all wearing white saris with red border. He knew that Bengali women wear white saris with red border on holy occasions like puja. The deity was mother goddess kali. The priest started the puja after he sat down.
The puja took another hour and they got up. The women have already left for the house by the time they reached the gate to enter.
One of them was standing there with a gold arati plate, a burning pradeep, flowers, vermillion powder, sandal paste and Prasad on it. She was a very beautiful woman in her fifties. She performed the arati; his attention went to the second woman when she blew the conch shell ….
… And time stood still as he stared at her like a thunderstruck man…
She was a young girl, seventeen or eighteen years old; she was the girl of his dream- the girl he has been dreaming about for so many years.
“Meet my wife Supreeti and my niece Mrinalini!” Mr. Mukherjee introduced them.
He bent down to touch Supreeti’s feet.
“God bless you my son!” she kissed his forehead.
The girl bowed down to touch his feet. He muttered “God bless you!” awkwardly. He knew it was rude to stop someone from touching your feet but the circle in which he moved was more inclined towards hugs and handshakes than these Indian rituals.
A sense of deep unease entered him. There was no doubt at all that Mrinalini was the girl of his dreams… he has seen her face so clearly in those nightmares.
“Come!” Mr. Mukherjee called out when he noticed that Champak was standing at the gate, lost in his own thoughts.
There were endless buildings under the boundary wall, small big houses of another era, some in good condition, some bad and some in ruins.
They walked on the gravel road for a little while before reaching a beautiful three storey house.
“This is where your mother’s ancestors have lived.” Mr. Mukherjee said.
There were quite a substantial number of stairs and two platforms before one could reach the verandah of ground floor.
“These platforms are still used to feed villagers during the pujas.” Mr. Mukherjee said, “Your family feeds the entire village during Durgapuja, Kalipuja, Laxmipuja and Saraswatipuja. All four pujas are held in your home temple and the temple where you first went.”
“By the way, you will be staying for saraswati puja, right? It’s just a week away!” Supreeti asked.
“I don’t know auntie. Actually I came with a plan of touch and go…” he answered honestly.
“Please son, stay for a week. We loved Lilavati so much!” her eyes filled up with tears. “You have so much resemblance with her. When she ran away with your father she was your age… she walked and talked like you, you even use some of the words she frequently used.”
“Don’t pressurize him Supreeti. He may have more important affairs to handle.” Mr. Mukherjee softly said.
“No, no… I will stay back.” He promised. “I can spare a fortnight; I am not prime minister of India.” He laughed.
He noted that the girl has vanished after the arati. Only Mr. and Mrs. Mukheree and Ashok were still with him.
The servants were waiting for him in the verandah.
It took a while to get done with the servants and visitors eagerly waiting for him.
“Come! I will show you your bedroom; we have made your sleeping arrangements in your mother’s bedroom.” Mr. Mukherjee called out to him.
The floor of the entire house was marbled; it seemed to be very good quality marble too. They reached the staircase, a spacious flight of stairs lead to the first floor. On one side there was a wall studded with fabulous paintings, the other side was giving them the view of the sprawling sitting room. Huge windows gave a full view of the garden outside.
They reached the passage that circled all around the first floor. “Your room is in the top floor. Lila loved solitude. But before we say goodbye I will love to show you around a bit. It will take half an hour, if that’s okay with you. You can always stroll around in leisure later.”
The rooms were all open, as if waiting for the family members to show up. Everyone was stuffed with antiques- perfectly maintained.
They took a quick tour of the floor and went upstairs; there were three or four rooms upstairs. “Your mother used all of them.” Mr. Mukherjee said.
He gestured to one of the room- this one is your bedroom. A servant will be sleeping in the next room, in case you need anything or feel uneasy during the night.
“I will be gone now. Ashok will bring you to my home when you have changed. Have lunch and dinner with us today from tomorrow I will have to hand you over to your servants or else they will never talk with me.” He laughed a little before leaving him.
The huge terrace was the best feature of that house. All around it was greenery and old buildings, at distance he could see hills decking up against the horizons.
“It’s amazing!” he muttered. “How could you stay away from this heaven mom?” he whispered softly.
He entered the bedroom and started to unpack his suitcase.
There were huge windows on three sides; on the fourth side was the next room. He came out after a long luxurious bath.
He came out to the terrace. Ashok was waiting for him, they left for Mr. Mukherjee’s home, two minutes away from his home.
He was waiting for him on the verandah.
“Come son.” He gestured to the seat beside him. “Ashok, your auntie is looking for you in the kitchen.”
Ashok disappeared inside, he sat down beside him.
“It’s really good to see you here son.” Mr. Mukherjee handed him over a glass of juice. It was chilled and very refreshing.
He left his home late in afternoon. Ashok was coming along but he said he will be able to return on his own.
A golden light was enveloping the small village road.
The road was dusty, powder like, very soft for feet but very bad for boots. He decided he will have to discard the boots and go for the slippers he had brought fortunately.
Old trees and young saplings were growing on both sides, people here seemed to be devoid of chopping spree so their branches have grown naturally, sometimes leaning down to the dusty road, sometimes spreading across the narrow road.
There were small groves scattered here and there, he could recognize some trees like mango or bamboo remaining were either mixed or unknown.
His home was half an hour walk from Mr. Mukherjee. There was no chance of missing it because there was only one main road of the village and all prominent buildings of the village was on the sides of that road.
There were very little traffic on the road, bicycles, rickshaw vans were the main, he was embarrassed, surprised and touched to see them widely grin at him and fold hands as they passed by.
His jaw was aching by the time he entered the gate.
An elderly man was sitting on the stairs, apparently waiting for him. He remembered Mr. Mukherjee telling him that his name was Jiban, his wife has brought up his mother, she was now dead, have passed away after knowing of his mother’s death.
“I have prepared your bed dadababu. Will I bring something cold for you?” he stood up when Champak entered the gate.
“Why are you not sleeping Jibankaka (uncle)?” he lovingly reprimanded the old man, knowing very well it was a habit of Bengalis to catch a small nap after lunch.
“Sleep won’t run away… you will!” the old man smiled baring his almost empty gums.
He went to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of Thumbs up, “This will be alright for me!”
“We have placed a refrigerator in your room too; there are more bottles there and water. You don’t drink… you know… Mukherjee babu was saying…” the old man asked with clearly visible hesitation.
He knew he was referring to alcohol; he drank of course but could do without a peg for long time. So he chuckled and nodded in disagreement.
The face of the old man beamed. “I told Mukherjee babu so….”
He placed the beverage bottle back in the refrigerator after asking if there was a bottle of Thumbs up there. After asking him to go to bed and started climbing the stairs. He too was exhausted.
He entered his bedroom. There was an old fashioned bed in the middle of the room, a fabulous piece of craftsmanship. With wooden body, carved with mirrors… a desk with a chair was placed facing one of the windows. His laptop was placed on it, someone has nicely decorated his things on that desk, things like pen, diary, books… the laptop’s charger was plugged in. that told him that someone knew how to handle modern gadgets.
He went to the desk, intending to check his mails, placed the bottle of cold drink he has taken out of the refrigerator filled with mineral water and all sorts of soft drinks.
He looked out of the window; the curtains were pulled aside… for the second time since coming to this village his heart froze.
He was looking out of the window of his nightmares.
He slumped in the chair.
It was that same window… there was no doubt about it.
The window where he was standing gave the full view of a garden, luscious green carpet of grass stretched from one end to the other, trees, bushes and small patches of seasonal flowers was planted in between in a very artistic way, he could see the portions of old buildings, some dilapidated, some in a nice condition surrounding the garden, partially hidden by the bushes and trees.
Then his eyes fell on the pond. It has grown older than his last dream, the stone banks looked weary but it was the same. The only difference was there were no black swans in the pond; there was a gaggle of white swans and ducks in its greenish water. Some were preening in the bank.
His hand and feet were cold numb… there was no rational explanation at all!
Then he saw her. Mr. Mukherjee’s niece, Mrinalini… she was sitting on a bench, reading a book. He went downstairs and headed for the garden, where she was sitting.
She stood up when she saw him approaching, shy and flustered. He remembered that in small towns young girls are not supposed to mingle with strangers. But he could not resist himself. There was a strange magnetism in that girl that was irresistible.
“What are you reading?” he asked sounding absolutely normal.
She showed him the cover in place of answering, it was a Bengali book.
“I can’t read Bengali, tell me the name and gist of the story…” he smiled and settled down on the grass a little distance away from her bench. “But before that, sit down… I am not your teacher!”
She smiled shyly and sat down. It was an old classic written by Bankimchandra, a legendary Bengali writer, “Durgeshnandini” the love story of a princess and a prince whose families were arch enemies, in the fantastic background of Mughal era.
“Mrinalini is a character of Bankimchandra too, is not she?” he asked mischievously.
She blushed and nodded in agreement.
They met again on next day, at the same place, at same time.
He wrote a letter to Mr. Joshi telling him he intended to stay there for a month or two, requested him to contact him whenever he needs him.
There was a strange magic working on him. A part of his heart was warning him to break free from Mrinalini the other part was nagging, telling him, may be her life laid in his hands… because in that dream she called out his name, begging him to save her… may be… may be he will be able to defeat fate and save her.
Mrinalini’s nature was making the spell work even deeper. She was an amazing creature. Beautiful like a goddess, cultured, soft, polished and very loving and caring. A wonderful trait he noticed present in every Bengali woman he came across, even the strangers, it seemed showering an absolute stranger with motherly affection came to them naturally and that trait was widely respected.
The men here quite unlike the men of his province did not think that meant that woman was available for cheap delight. They respected that motherly, sisterly affection deeply. They cherished their women and they in return cherished them.
Next morning Mr. Mukherjee paid a visit, “Supreeti has been bugging me to no end… are you staying for the saraswatipuja son?”
He nodded in agreement the old man beamed. “I will tell her then… thanks son… we loved Lilavati so much…”
Then before exiting he stopped at the door, “It’s on next Monday!”
“Mukherjee uncle…” he called out.
“Yes son?” he turned again.
“Do you have some time?” he asked.
“Plenty of it…” he chuckled happily.
“I wanted to ask you something…” he hesitated a bit. “You were talking about some curse on my mother’s family….”
“Why?” the old man turned back and stopped near him, beside the window.
“Do you believe in forebodings?” he asked.
“Do you?” Mr. Mukherjee asked in return.
“Yes and no….” he said and then shared his nightmares with him excluding the one involving Mrinalini.
A deep furrow formed on Mr. Mukherjee’s brow. He started to gaze out of the window at the pond…
“It was decades ago….”
“Your great grandfather was running the family then, that is, your mother’s grandfather. He was a little clumsy. The atithishala (guestrooms) I have shown you, outside the main entrance, were free, not only the night stay but the food too. At that time the temple was a gala affair, every day bhog (here food) was offered to the deity two times a day, and that bhog was distributed to those who were staying in the atithishala (guestrooms).”
“Even though that time was unsafe, full of dacoits, your grandfather never took notice that the guards he has appointed for the atithishala often bunked duty.”
“It was a stormy night; the wind was roaring like hundred demons, an old Brahmin came to pass night there with his pregnant daughter. In the middle of the night dacoits struck. They were the only guests that night; no one heard their scream for help.”
“The Brahmin cursed your grandfather that he will never see the face of a grandson. Nor will any of his children or descendants.”
“His curse turned out to be true. Untimely death became a ritual in your family. Your great grandfather had eleven children, all died before a decent age, the youngest one 17, during his first child birth…. Yes… he was so much in a hurry to see his child that he took a boat in stormy night, the boat got capsized … his body was never found. That child was your grandfather. “
“Lilavati had an elder sister, fifteen years older than her, Kusumika, she was a goddess, in looks, in behaviour, in virtue and skills….”
The eyes of the old man became moist.
“She was adored by everyone in the village, forget about household.”
He paused for a long time, trying to control his emotions. It seemed he was really fond of Kusumika. Then he started to stare out of the window vacantly.
“She drowned in that pond… the strange thing was her body vanished… your grandmother appointed every possible person to dive and used hundreds of fishing nets to search the pond but her body was not there…”
“Then how did you know she died there?” Champak asked.
“She never ventured out of the household after dusk. The last time she was seen was she was going towards the temple of Shiva on the bank of the pond. To light up a pradeep (a clay lamp with oil and wick) there!
“It was one of her cherished habits, there are dozens of temples on the bank of that pond, she used to place prasad, pradeep and incense stick in each one every evening, flower, prasad (food offered to God) and incense stick every morning.”
“She was Laxmi in human flesh!”
Few drops of tears rolled down his cheek.
“Your grandfather was shattered to pieces, he doted on Kusumika, Lilavati was only two years old then, the thing that increased the pain in million-fold was her marriage has been finalized on the day after … all arrangements were made… the house was filled with guests, every nook and cranny was lit up … heaven only knows how could that thing happen…”
Your grandfather died soon after that incident.
He clutched his hair in his hands, unable to hide his grief.
“If it’s causing you so much distress then forget it… I am sorry I started the topic… I really am!” he touched the shoulder of the old man.
“No…” he moaned. “You should know!”
“Do you know Lilavati died in that pond?”
“What…?” he asked incredulously.
“You have been told that your grandmother has disowned your mother after she married your father!”
“That was a lie! She gladly married her off to your father, hoping she will be safe there… heaven only knows why she came back here to shoot….”
“We were out on a trip… your grandparents have already passed away…”
“If I was here I would have slapped her … if she had even dared to utter that she wanted to shoot something in that cursed pond…”
“Her body was at-least found…. Last rites could be performed….”
“I still don’t know how could she commit that blunder … how could she!!”
“May be after spending so much time in Mumbai she has forgotten the truth that there are things beyond human comprehension and grasp.” Mr. Mukherjee shook his head sadly.
“I hope I will never see you anywhere near the pond…”
He bowed his head, unable to say that he met Mrinalini every day on its bank.
“Promise me son!” Mr. Mukherjee asked.
“I will try my best to not …” he did not wanted to lie to the old man.
He looked at Champak with penetrating eyes but did not pushed his limit. It seemed he knew his place well.
Anyway, it was barely a fortnight or at the maximum a month… so… even though Champak was a bit spooked but he did not believed in paranormal, especially curses that deeply. He had an open mind, that’s all! He neither sniggered at nor supported such beliefs.
He went to the bench where Mrinalini sat reading her books, the afternoon was very pleasant. The skies were cloudy. A sweet breeze was blowing.
He sat down on the bench, splash of water caught his attention, it was Mrinalini, she was in the pond, swimming towards a beautiful lotus blooming in almost middle of the pond.
“Hey!” he tried to shout and realized it was a dream, his voice was absolutely choked.
He ran towards the pond, this time he could move and in no time he jumped in the water, thinking he will drag her back if required because without his power to speak he was helpless, and this was the only way to take her back to safety.
He felt something grabbing his ankle, it was cold and slithery. He could feel the tips of the claws touching his ankle…almost digging in…they felt sharp.
In one tug he was under water.
He saw a pair of burning red eyes, a body covered with scale. Its structure was human like but it was nowhere close to a human being. It started to pull him deeper and deeper, the ground parted and a tunnel was formed, he struggled hard, his lungs screaming for air but the grip was too strong.
He woke up bathed in sweat.
It was broad daylight outside.
He had to see Mrinalini but how? Every time he went to Mukherjee house-hold she never showed up. She was there but was too shy to come out.
He could not just barge in there and beg to see her! The old man and his wife may have a heart attack or get really annoyed.
As if his prayers were answered. She showed up right at the doorstep of his room and blushed red. “You have not gone out for your morning walk?” she mumbled to hide her embarrassment.
he was supposed to be out on his morning tour of the village, he loved it and returned late, later than now, somewhere near ten, it was eight thirty now.
“So it’s been you who has been cleaning up this messy room in stealth.” He in return remarked trying to ease her shyness. “Thanks! And presume that you did not see me, I am gone…”
He instantly left the room, relieved… partially.
He returned a couple of hours later, she was gone. His room was tidied up. A vase filled with flowers was placed on the table near his bed.
TO BE CONTINUED