The Voice of the Silent

Hi Reader!

I am back with another short story. I know I promised this short story to my little sister a very long time ago (mostly because the protagonist is named similar to her name). I am very sorry about its lateness and will beg forgiveness of you the next time we meet.

I love you, darling girl! :*

One more thing that struck me when I chose to finish it today was how it’s Independence Day tomorrow. I think you would see how much we, as India, have grown since the days I have narrated of in this story. It’s set in the immediate post-Independence era, you see.

Enough rambling, let me post the actual story right away.

 

Of Dreams Coming True

The sun bore down upon Amrita and beads of perspiration had formed on her forehead. Her gold-brown skin shone with the sweat. The collecting basket lay neglected beside her.

“Why am I always expected to do things I don’t want to, Keshav?” she asked.

Without waiting for a reply, she went on gesturing with her hands and wrinkling her forehead with displeasure. The big brown eyes were annoyed.

“I mean, he doesn’t do the things he hates, does he? When he wants to sit with his books all day, he does! When I ask for it, I’m kicked out! And Aayi says women should not do all the things men do.”

She picked at the grass near her feet and sighed loudly.

“It’s just not fair.”

‘Baa!’ said Keshav.

She looked up and smiled at the hairy snout opposite her. Her sun-dappled hand reached out to stroke his head. With her other hand, she held out some of the grass for him to chew.

“You do understand, don’t you, Keshav?” Her features had softened out and a tiny dimple winked on her right cheek. Loosening the pallu of her saree, she softly dabbed at the sweat on her forehead, her eyebrows set in a worried line.
“Whenever I ask to be excused from the cotton-picking, for any reason at all, it’s always, ‘Now, Amrita, you don’t want to be doing that. That stuff is for the boys to do. Get to work.’ It just sucks, I tell you!” Her mimicry had swelled into a high-pitched scream by the end of the sentence.

Keshav chewed his blade of grass and gave her a blank stare. She sighed and stood up. She had to get a move on. Or Baba would be disappointed with her day’s work.

“Why do little boys get what they want, and big girls nothing?” She heaved a long breath and muttered angrily for a second or two.

They were cotton merchants, her father and his seven brothers. As far as she knew, they had been cotton merchants for three generations. Her great-grandfather had dandled her little brother on his knee and told the tale to an incoherently babbling baby. That little brother was the one she was being competitive with. For everyone in her family, it had always been Piyush this and Piyush that, and Amrita had been bossed about to fetch things that darling little Piyush wanted.

She did not like it one bit.

Slowly, she picked up where she left off at the edge of their cotton crop. Her mother worked her way from the other side of the crop. She was lightning fast in pulling off the soft centres of the exploded pods. Amrita always received a ‘oh darling, you need to pick up your pace if you want to finish in a thousand years’ from every old great-aunt who passed by her spot. With a loud cackle to boot.

All she had wanted was to go to the big, white building on the edge of the town. Like the other children did. Day after day, Armita watched with longing eyes at the crowd of school girls and boys reading thick books sitting around the trees in the backyard of the building. This was their daily routine around noon. After a while, they opened bundles of packed food and ate them, chatting happily.

Amrita burned to join that happy laughter. She wanted to be shooed back inside for the afternoon classes by the old teacher with his thick glasses.

They all looked vastly superior in her eyes. Piyush swaggered through the trees like he owned the place and sometimes, he waved at her as she straightened her back out and flexed her finger muscles. It seemed to her like he was mocking her fate. But, she knew he wouldn’t do that. Despite all her jealousy at his life, he was her little brother and absolutely doted on his big sister.

The afternoon sun shone with even more vigour as Amrita tried to watch what she was picking through the thin layer of the saree she had draped over and around her head. After the third time in which she had started to pry loose an unripened pod unable to see clearly, she dropped her basket and sat down.

The tears swelled up inside her and she let out a silent howl. She so badly wanted to cry out loud and bang her body onto the soil in frustration.

‘Why, God, why do you have to do this to me?’ she prayed.

All sleep was lost that night. Baba had been disappointed with her work, and Aayi had clucked over Piyush as he writhed in his bed with a fever. Amrita wondered if they should call a doctor, but dared not voice it out loud. They would chide her to leave the thinking to themselves.

The next morning dawned fresh and cold. It was the crack of dawn, and Armita had woken with a start. After checking on the sick six-year old, who was still muttering in his restless sleep, she crept outside wound in a shawl. In half an hour, she had slipped open the gate and stepped up in front of the idol. It was her favourite time of the day to visit Lord Shiva.

The early morning birds chirped softly overhead as she sat cross-legged at the base of the large banyan tree. Like every time, her eyes roved over the fiery God who sat in close-eyed meditation. It was the irony of the idol that always pulled her to Shiva. He was called Shiva the Destroyer in all his tales. But, the deity was always depicted as sitting in silent meditation. His third eye placed laterally in the middle of the forehead was open in a slit. Barely open and chiselled upon dark greyish stone with no colours, it looked as if it could penetrate her very soul. She shivered slightly.

Her mute conversation with God continued for a while. She told him about her recurring dream to study and travel the country, and her wishes for the little brat to snap out of his fever. The branches overhead rubbed against each other and expelled a cloud of parrots into the air. It was then that she realised that she was very late.

Hurrying through breakfast was quite impossible to her as she enjoyed her mother’s excellent rotis and dal very much. But, as she neared the house, there was no fire in the kitchen and no mother plucking a puffed roti off the stove with her bare hands. Piyush’s room was crowded and she made her way to it in dread.

Mother was fanning her little boy with a palm-leaf fan. All the while, tears streamed down her cheeks and splattered onto his twitching arm. Amrita knew her father was at the fields already and bit into her cheek painfully.

Amrita’s thoughts swirled around her head. She would never be allowed to leave if she asked. But, she might slip out unseen. Her two great-aunts had the eyesight of eagles, but, all eyes were trained on her mother’s movements then. She had wet a rag and placed it across Piyush’s forehead.

“It’s too wet, daughter-in-law,” sneered Sita Maa.

“Use a clean rag, why don’t you?” asked Lakshmi Taayi.

Mother never indicated that she had heard. She seemed in a daze. Mechanically wiping of the trickling wetness, she wiped her hands and felt Piyush’s neck for the temperature.

Amrita slowly backed out of the room and softly shut the front door. She couldn’t very well lock it from the outside, so she hoped it wouldn’t swing open with the breeze. It was perfectly safe though. Everyone knew each other in their village.

Trying to walk in a prim and erect manner to give her a little more height that her thirteen-year old frame could be expected to show, Amrita moved towards the one bus stop of the village. She knew that two buses to the big town plied through there everyday. She waited for it and willed her heart to slow down.

The bus came rattling into the stop and several dusty people alighted from it. Nobody noticed the young girl with her pallu pulled up over her head sneak onto it. Nobody asked any awkward questions. The bus conductor spied the girl boarding his bus.

“Wait right there, little lady. Do you have the money to spare for the ride?” he demanded of her.

“How much is the fare to the town, Saab?” she asked back politely.

The conductor seemed taken aback at such a respectful tone and stammered out that it was two rupees. Out drew a soft hand and it placed the small coin on his outstretched palm.

“One seat to the town, please.”

If he had been able to watch her face, he would have spotted the smug, satisfied smile upon it. Amrita spotted half a seat remaining after an enormous woman had sat in a seat for two. She made her shaky way towards it and perched on the remaining space. Everyone was giving the lady a wide berth as she lurched dangerously out of the seat whenever the bus made a sharp turn. But, she steadied herself incredibly when the little girl had sat by her side. She even pointed out all the important places as they passed through the town to the final bus stop.

The whole mass of standing and sitting people staggered out of the bus with relief. The roads had been slick with mud during that trip in addition to their general uphill nature. Amrita’s excitement had reduced into a quiet wonder at the task she was about to do.

With everything she had heard from the woman on the bus spinning through her head, she had never felt more like a child as she had then.

It was a brand new world to her. The tall, sophisticated buildings rose around her intimidatingly. She gulped and moved a few steps forward in the direction of the entrance to the bus stand. People shoved and bumped into her several times as she reached the pavement. She sighed and rubbed the sore spot on her shoulder where a particularly strong man’s arm had collided.

The cold morning had given into the warmer rays of the eight o’clock sun. Amrita knew it by the way the mud had started curling back into dryness on the edge of the roads.

‘I’m going to get into heaps of trouble,’ she thought helplessly.

But, she had to do something.

Within a little while, she had gotten the hang of walking through the thronging mass of people. Carefully, she recollected the numerous locations the woman on the bus had shown her. Her mental map began to take shape and she chose one turn after the other with much more ease than she had ever dreamed of.

If the town had been intimidating till then, the Town Hospital appeared like something Amrita should have avoided like the plague. The cleanliness of it blew her mind wide open. She stood opposite to it for minutes, making up her mind. Piyush’s baby face came to her in a flash and she squared her shoulders with a kind of reckless determination.

In ten minutes, she stood at the front desk, looking up at the matronly-looking woman who manned it.

“What is it, child?” she asked pleasantly.

“My brother is sick,” replied Amrita.

“You have to fill out the form and wait for a doctor to be able to see him. Here, fill this up,” she said, handing her a piece of paper with printed writing all over it.

“I cannot do that,” she replied, nervously.

The woman looked down at the girl from over her desk. The neat folds of her simple saree and her quiet eyes caught her unawares as she had been used to the rough and shoddy demands of the fast-moving town people. She walked around it and led Amrita to a seat.

“What is the problem, dear?” she asked her.

Amrita’s instincts buzzed about the woman. She would be patient, she thought.

“I need a doctor to come and visit my brother in the village. He has got a very bad fever for a few days now. And no one knows what to do. Cold compresses did not help. He shivers and has fitful hours of sleep,” she summarized.

“To go to the village? Did you come from there this morning?” the woman asked, wonderingly.

“Yes,” she replied impatiently.

“Please, hurry. Would any doctor be willing to go with me?”

The woman sighed in reply. What a brave, young girl from a small village, thought the woman. She knew that Dr Roy would help, and she went to fetch him.

Within an hour, Dr Roy and a nurse helped Amrita into the seat of his car and snapped on a seat-belt, the sharp click of which sounded very ominous. Her veins buzzed electricity however and she felt sharp and alert. Something about the kind eyes of the doctor had soothed her nerves about the whole trip to the big, scary town.

In an hour, Amrita superbly navigated the car into the shady banyan tree next to her house. A throng surrounded the front door and the sight of her rippled through it with hissing sounds. The crowd parted and the image of her father came forth.

She gulped and froze in her path of success, which slowly lit up and melted her insides.

“Where have you been, beti?” asked the furiously twitching moustache. Amrita hung her head and spoke no words.

“I asked you a question,” growled the moustache then.

Saab,” spoke Dr Roy.

Amrita turned to him for a fraction of a second and shook her head for half of one.

Baba,” she cleared her throat and held herself high.

“I went to fetch the doctor for Piyush. From the town. You can scold me later, but, first let him be examined,” she spoke in one breath.

“Come, doctor Saab.” Amrita led the way through the already crowded hallway into her little brother’s room.

An hour later, having administered a couple of shots, Dr Roy stood outside the house for a breath of fresh air. The crowd outside had dispersed silently and his young patient was sleeping in a natural manner inside.

“I can’t say how much I am grateful – “ started Amrita’s Baba.

“Oh, please don’t thank me, sir,” replied the doctor.

A sullen stare looked back at him. It was the face of a stubborn, village-bred man. One look at him said that he was guiltily grateful for the city doctor’s help. A closer examination revealed that there wasn’t an ounce of trust in his psyche for the very doctor. Susheel Roy sighed. He had met many a character similar to this fellow.

“You must thank your daughter,” he said lightly, making the older man start.

Susheel bowed his head. “I would not have been able to do my job if she hadn’t reached us today. She is the reason your son is alive,” he elaborated. The bushy eyebrows pushed themselves together.

“I don’t know – “

“All you need to know is that Amrita has been very brave and smart today,” finished the doctor.

“I will take your leave now. Pranaam.”

Pranaam, Doctor Saab,” he replied to his greeting in a daze.

Three days later, the children of the First Family of Pulgaon village played together at recess. Piyush helped his big sister with a slate and chalk piece to write her very first letters. With her saree pallu tucked into her waistband, Amrita sat cross-legged with the slate on her lap. The mango tree overhead swayed in a breeze and the smell enveloped the children. After having written the first letter to Piyush’s satisfaction, she looked up at the rustling leaves and smiled wide.

“Thank you,” she whispered to herself.

The End

Dedication : (As expected) To my beautiful-inside-and-out baby sister.

Love,

Priya

PS : I hope you like the story.

PPS : Happy Janmashtami. Thank you for kicking my inner writer alive, Krishna.

 

Kattappa’s Defence

Hi everyone!

I’ve been working on my novels, as promised. So, I hadn’t much time or content to write because I’d also simultaneously working on my next book idea (which is very damaging to the current book, if you ask me). So really, I hadn’t much to report except hush-hush information for which blogging about would be the bad option. But, I recently found a post so remarkably stupid, that I had to land here and defend what is probably my most favourite movie saga ever, the Bāhubali Saga.

I had come across this post on Facebook and Google Chrome suggested sites.

bahu

The link can be found here.

To summarise the accusation,

  1. Kattappa was watching the messengers from Mahishmati asking for Devasena’s hand in marriage to the Queen Mother’s ‘son’.
  2. There was a covered sword right behind the speaker, the one that Sivagami sent belonging to Bhallaladeva.
  3. Kattappa should have realised that this was obviously not Amarendra’s sword, because he knew that the horse-head hilt sword was with him throughout their journey.
  4. Kattappa should have realised then that Sivagami had asked for Devasena to marry her other son, not Amarendra.

The Defence

This is going to be in parts so that the dumbest of the dumb can comprehend the story.

Technicalities

Most of the readers and watchers had had these reasons figured out.

  1. Amarendra had two swords as seen in the movie itself. A different sword was presented to him with great ceremony as a child. Both him and Bhalla got those. The sword Sivagami sent with her messenger was Bhalla’s. And Kattappa technically assumes that it is the one that Amarendra had left behind.
  2. Kattappa assumed the usage of the Raja Kadgha, the ornamental swords that princes carry, especially in the royal court, in the matter of Kshatriya Vivah (i.e.) the type of wedding conducted when the groom is unavailable. And since he knows that Amarendra’s Raja Kadgha was not with them, he assumed that Sivagami sent his Raja Kadgha.
  3. We know the existence of this Raja Kadgha by several examples : the sword presented as a child, the one held up to defend Devasena’s honour when Sivagami orders her arrest as she refuses to marry Bhalla, the one that cut off Sethupathi’s head, and the one that he lays at his mother’s feet as they move out of the Fortress.

I will still maintain that these are technicalities only. I am willing to even ignore these strategic displays of different swords during the course of the movie. Amarendra could have been portrayed as using his horse-head hilt all the time, and I’m going to pretend that there weren’t any scenes involving his other sword.

The Real Reasons

  1. Let us assume that Kattappa did NOT see that sword which was brought for the Kshatriya Vivah (like it is shown in the actual footage, the sword is covered). In normal cases, no royal orders a Kshatriya Vivah to be conducted unless a case of emergency is comprehended. Kattappa would also assume that the Queen Mother of Mahishmati had such respect for an intended bride as to ask for her hand in marriage, and not force an in-absentia wedding. And since he never heard the messenger actually voice a Kshatriya Vivah, that conclusion would never have been reached.
  2. Another important fact which would have blocked the thought of a Kshatriya Vivah would be because the ceremonies of that Vivah are reserved for emergencies only, mainly when the warrior groom is away fighting a dangerous war. Even if he had had doubts about which son was the intended groom, as the Royal Slave, Kattappa would have known that Sivagami would never order a Kshatriya Vivah for either of her sons. Because neither were off fighting or comprehending any kind of danger. She had only done so because she had a guilty conscience for having undermined her older son. She had been feeling low as a mother that she had refused him the throne. Also, a feeling of insecurity had prompted such an order.
  3. If one assumes that Kattappa DID see that sword, owing to reasons stated above, it would have been perceived as one of the gifts for the bride.
  4. If we think that Kattappa saw that sword AND thought it was Amarendra’s Raja Kadgha, it is perfectly valid. Again, the rules of Kshatriya Vivah state that it is to be performed when the groom is away in war. Hence, he would be carrying his war sword with him. Hence, the Kshatriya Vivah would be conducted with his ornamental Raja Kadgha only.

There you go. That was all I could think of. And to hell with those idiotic haters! If I could stop you right from where I am, I would strangle you guys through my computer screen!!! Argh!

Love and lots of hate for some people,

Priya.

Finding Heart

Hello you guys!

I know I quit the blog for a while now, and I just posted a story last week (again, quoting that I’m really not coming out of hiatus). But, I can’t help it anymore. I am coming out of my break, having accomplished close to none of my hiatus-goals.

Seems depressing, doesn’t it?

Only, it’s not.

I have never loved myself or my life more than right now and I wanted to spread that very love over here on WordPress. Hell, I’d missed this!

I’d missed writing for no reason and actually resented my own book for streamlining me into boredom. I know it really is not boring, and I know that I actually have a piece of my heart etched into the plot, the characters, and the story line. But, I was sick and tired of forcing myself to write for my mind (which wanted me to focus only on my book). Now, I want to write for my heart and for the poor souls reading my ramblings.

Because, you know what? At the end of the day, all that matters is whether you spent that day following your heart or being prudent.

Can all of you swear that your entire day has been about the love you had for the activities you had carried out? I’m sure that most of you would frown and shuffle the topic away if I posed that above question.

That’s okay. I won’t be mad. I would react the same way.

As human beings, we are set in such discipline that survival, earning a livelihood, responsibilities, pride (yes, pride), and self-imposed rules all matter very much and influence even involuntary thoughts.

Have you really laughed out loud when you type ‘LOL’ into a text message? No? I didn’t think so. Then, why do you type it at all? It was force of habit and nothing else. You are hardwired into giving that reply.

Next time (when you actually have the breathing space for it; not when you are in an all-important hurry), question yourself. Live the moment as you see it happening and love the mystery of it all.

The human emotions.

The involuntary reactions.

The sudden gasp of horror at a slipping coffee mug.

Things like that.

There you will see the Heart in it. The Heart in everything you do and say and every way you choose to behave.

Love yourself.

Love,

Priya

PS : Totally random, and slightly insane. Definitely involuntary. I love it!

PPS : This is the kind of act I’m talking about! 😀

Amarendra Bāhubali + Devasena

Hi Readers!

I am writing after a long break, I know. Three things I would like to say here,

  • I am not returning from hiatus.
  • The story and plot are fully mine; whereas I have borrowed some characters from the world-famous Bāhubali franchise. Accordingly, I declare here that this is intended as fan-fiction only.
  • I hope you read this after watching both movies. It’ll be better that way. (but, it’s not a rule)

I’ve missed you badly, WordPress. And I am going to continue missing you. But, here is a short (long?) story for all the fans of Bāhubali out there.

Without further ado, behold the world of Amarendra Bāhubali.

Jai Mahishmati!

When Love is All…

“So, what you do you think?” asked Devasena. The fingers on her hands entwined with each other and shivered slightly. The woman in front of her frowned as she held Devasena’s right wrist.

“Shh,” she told the impatient Yuvarani. The veins of her wrinkled hand popped slightly as her grip tightened. The other hand counted rapidly off her fingers.

“Let her count in peace, Amma,” Karthiga whispered in Devasena’s ear. She nodded, but kept up the furtive rhythm on her foot. The many bells of her anklet chimed. A whiff of cool air from the fan Karthiga was waving towards her, made some hair at the back of her neck stand up. She forced herself to relax. The woman was ancient; she should be respected for her age and wisdom.

At once, Devasena stopped her foot-tapping. She let her fingers ease out of their tight hold.

That day had been very eventful. She had woken up at dawn for her usual prayers and had hoped that her husband would return. Her Amarendra Bāhubali was not at their home. He had started running drills with the new recruits for the Royal Army a week ago. Kattappa Ayya was his constant companion since. The prayers were followed by a nasty bout of vomiting. After a tense mental calculation, she had sent for the healer. Amarendra would have turned grave if she had so much as sneezed in his presence. She missed his warming presence. A flurry of emotions shook her as her thoughts strayed to him.

Her husband. It was disarming to call him husband even to herself. It was two months since their wedding, but she hadn’t quite wrapped her head around it. Devasena felt her mind scramble for sanity as she remembered the journey of their love. A neglected simpleton whom she had taken pity on. She laughed quietly. He was everything but a simpleton. The forced stoop to his shoulders had been easy to spot when they had met. But, the simpleton’s ‘Mama’ had vouched for him and she had quelled her doubt. One thing after the other proved that the ‘retarded’ Shivudu was no ordinary man.

“Amma,” interrupted the healer.

She opened her eyes immediately. Her senses fully alert, she managed to stop herself from physically shaking the frail woman.

“Tell me, Ammamma,” she asked softly instead.

In reply, the old woman smiled with a mouth having no teeth, and nodded at her. Devasena leaned back in her chair in a daze. Slowly, her lips widened and a red flush filled her cheeks.

“You have to be careful, Amma,” began the old woman. She held up a hand, and cut her off.

“Ammamma, I will listen to all you say.” She nodded to show her assent. When the woman frowned slightly and held the cup of her palm to her ear, she comprehended her partial deafness.

Devasena bade Karthiga close the door of the room. She raised the volume of her voice to speak to the old woman.

“I will do all that you say to take care, Ammamma. But, you have to give me your word for something,” she started.

“Anything, Amma. Tell me,” she swore and touched Devasena’s feet reverently. She immediately pulled her feet backwards.

“No, no. You are elder to me, Amma,” she admonished and gave her a seat.

“Please do not tell anyone of this right now. I ask you to do this for me,” Devasena begged.

“Of course, Amma. It will be like you ask.” The old woman held her hand and promised her.

“Now you can tell me what I should do.”

Karthiga brought forward a scroll and began to write down all that was said. After the healer left, Devasena asked Karthiga to remain quiet as well. Her prudence at being the Yuvarani of Mahishmati had kept the excitement at bay all along. Only when she had been left alone did the amazing news envelop her.

She was going to be a mother. The thundering heart inside her ribs had caught up to the fact. A small ache revealed itself and her arms wanted to be held in Bāhubali’s arms. His mischievous crooked smile filled her mind. The tingling in her arms intensified.

Her seat felt uncomfortable suddenly, and Devasena leapt to her feet to walk circles about the room. The pale blue silken curtains ruffled in the breeze for the evening had fallen then. One hand curved over her stomach. She looked down at it and smiled.

She retired to her bedroom and ate the food which had been set out by Karthiga. The girl was beside herself in excitement. And since she had been forbidden to talk to anyone about it, she chattered at Devasena. The pillows were fluffed and the sheet smoothed over the bed while Karthiga made a list of possible names for a possible baby girl. Her presence was soothing and she made Devasena giggle.

“What if it’s a boy, Karthiga?” she winked and asked her. The girl paused and dropped the cup of water she had been holding with a clatter and a splash.

“Oh no! I didn’t think of that at all!” she wailed in apparent distress. Devasena laughed happily at her expression.

“It’s all right, dear. Make another list,” she suggested.

“Yes, you are right, Amma. We can start with the Lord Shiva’s names! It will be perfect!” she had recalled the excitement over her horror. Devasena remembered Amarendra calling himself Shivudu when they had met. Lord Shiva. It would be perfect, she told herself.

‘What am I thinking? Amarendra does not know yet!’ her mind scolded her.

Karthiga kept up the flow of male names till she dismissed her. She had helped her remove some of her heavier jewellery pieces and draped a soft saree around her mistress in order to sleep comfortably.

The lights had been dimmed for only a few minutes when the room turned cold. Every night she had spent alone in Mahishmati had been alike. Her eyes moved to Bāhubali’s pillow. The sight of the empty side of the bed did not help. She sat up and pulled her knees up to her chin.

In her mind’s eye, she saw herself in their verandah. Her new pink saree fell in soft folds around her body. Amarendra was climbing up the steps towards her. The sun was setting softly right behind him. She checked her hurry and waited. Their eyes met. It arrested all motion and they simply stared. His eyes broke the spell and roved over her. The slight quivering in her limbs caught his attention and he started to climb faster.

He was a few feet away when she started to move. She let herself fall into the arms he held up at the right time. Something akin to ice flooded her veins as his fingers tangled in her hair which fell onto the small of her back. Her wrists locked themselves around his neck. The news she had been keeping filled her cheeks with a blush so deep that she placed her cheek against his. She didn’t want to look at his eyes directly.

“Tell me,” his voice rumbled through the whole of his body and she shivered.

“You,” she said.

“Me?” he asked.

She pressed her fingers into his shoulders. He tried to pull her away from his body to look into her eyes.

“No,” she ordered him. His hands stilled.

Her mouth breathed at his ear.

“You are going to be a father, my Amarendra,” she said softly. She let him loosen her grip and look into her eyes. Everything about him smiled. His eyes, his voice, his scent. The happiness oozed out of every pore of his body. She felt herself warmed to her core.

Back in her cold bed, Devasena hurt. She would tell him when he came back, she decided. Curling up into a foetal position, she dozed off.

Devasena dreamed.

The lotuses from her favourite pool spilled outside the bowl she had arranged them in. She had ridden long and hard for them. Her room was filled with their perfume. She wandered to the window when she had finished.

The sound of the fountain from the Kuntala palace courtyard was amplified to every corner of the palace. It was designed that way years ago. It was her home. It had been her home for years. When she had been a child, her sweet mother used to feed her food sitting next to the fountain. She smiled at the memory as she watched the droplets scatter into the air.

A soft song was heard as her sister-in-law walked inside. Music always accompanied her and Devasena felt all the sores of a day’s hard riding leave her body. They smiled at one another.

“Lie down and rest yourself, dear,” she said lovingly.

“I’m fine, Akka,” replied she. They had always felt their bond closer than that of sisters-in-law; she felt like her real sister.

The comforting thought shook her awake in the Mahishmati fort like good dreams often do. The sound of birds twittering at the windowsill aided the awakening. She cursed herself for the dream though. The truth was that she never admitted to herself the uneasy feeling her presence in the gloomy fortress caused her. There were only two souls inside the oppressive fort walls whom she trusted. Her Amarendra and their Kattappa. She knew no one else. No one knew her.

It had unsettled her, but she had never alluded to it. The vows he had made to her had rooted her firmly to his side. His love watered the roots consistently.

“Amma, you have to eat more than that,” chided Karthiga.

“Stop babying me, dear,” Devasena rolled her eyes.

“No, eat more,” said Karthiga and she ladled more dal into her bowl.

“I can’t. I’m nearly full,” she said.

“I don’t care. If Ayya was here, what would he say?” she glared. Devasena laughed.

“He wouldn’t know what you were hinting at. He’d probably never notice,” she replied.

“I will tell him word by word until he comprehends,” Karthiga retorted mischievously.

“You crazy girl!” said Devasena in alarm.

“You ought to tell him, Amma. He would celebrate a big festival if he knew!” she exclaimed.

“Just think of all the sweets and music and – “ she trailed off into wondrous thoughts.

“Silly Karthiga! Go and do something else.”

The girl jumped out of her reverie at the sound of her mistress’ voice and blushed before walking away with the empty dishes. Devasena was restless. Her young companion had reminded her of her dream from the previous night. If only Akka were here, she wondered. She would wait on her hand and foot. She would forbid her from even lifting up a finger. The idea of keeping her in one place amused her.

There is someone else who would be overjoyed at this, she reminded herself. The Raja Matha’s perfect circle of a face swam to the forefront of her thoughts.

Sivagami Devi. Her Amarendra’s mother. She sighed. She should have been by their side. She would have felt more at home in that grim fortress if Amma had accepted her. One warm look was all she had wanted. Even then, one loving motherly look was all it would take. One hand raised to bless them would be enough.

Amarendra had believed that his Amma would love her as much as she loved him. Little did they know then that she would give them both up. She would choose her pride over her love. Devasena had often thought that it was her who had transformed the palace of her dreams into an oppressive dwelling.

She turned restless. Her head snapped up from its bent position.

‘What is the matter with me?’ she thought. ‘This is the matter of Amarendra Bāhubali’s child. Who am I? Yuvarani Devasena of the Kuntala race. What am I waiting for?’ she asked herself. She rose and called to Karthiga.

“Amma?” Karthiga asked.

“Tell the guards to get the chariot ready. I am going to the Army Headquarters,” she ordered. Karthiga flew outside the door as soon as she heard her words.

Devasena’s bangles clicked together as she wrung her hands. She put on her soft slippers and waited. With Karthiga accompanying her, she went towards the chariot.

“Where to, Amma?” asked her driver Nallu.

“You sit in the chariot. I’m driving,” she replied.

“But – “ started Karthiga. Devasena knew that she was going to allude to her condition and hurriedly shook her head. Nallu was perplexed at the girl’s interruption because he had been asked to step aside from the driver’s seat several times by his mistress. Shrugging, he stepped into the back.

Devasena got hold of the reins. The horses cantered like the winds were chasing them. It was a short ride because their residence, the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mahishmati Royal Army was quite close to its headquarters. She passed the reins to Nallu and bade Karthiga wait there with him.

With every step, there was singing in Devasena’s ears. She forced herself to watch her feet. She knew that Amarendra would be in the training yard behind the building. So, she did not bother to walk to the door. The guards saluted her as she passed. When she reached the archery range, the guard running the drills there stopped the entire body of soldiers.

“Wait just a minute, Amma! I will bring your favourite bow!” He made to run back to the building. She stopped him with a raised hand. Her head shook and she greeted the soldiers with a Namaskara as she walked past them.

The sword-training section was right ahead. The singing in her head swelled to include the music of her Amarendra’s voice.

“You see how I twist the sword away from the enemy?” he fairly shouted to the watching trainees.

“Like this?” There was a clanging sound as a sword was dropped.

“Let us show them again, Krupa,” he said.

The group had converged around him in such a way that she was not visible to the centre of the ring. Some of the boys at the outer fringe spotted her and bowed. The circle slowly parted and silence grew.

“You have to hook your sword in a lock-grip around the enemy’s. That is very important. Do you see?” he was saying. There was no murmur of assent. Puzzled, he looked up to see Devasena standing there.

“Devasena?” he called.

“I do not wish to interrupt – “ she began to say.

“You never interrupt me,” he said, confusedly.

“Amma, when did you come?” boomed a voice behind her. Kattappa rushed up to the scene.

“Soldiers, what disrespect are you showing?” he demanded.

“No, Ayya. I should not disrupt. I will watch the training till it’s over,” Devasena said.

“But, Amma,” said Kattappa.

“I will wait here,” she said. Amarendra began to speak.

“Devasena!” he called. He gently obtained the sword that his partner was holding with an apologetic word.

“Will you join us?” he shouted to her. Her eyes sparkled with pleasure. Within seconds, the pallu of her saree was wound around her waist and the girl who fetched water for the trainees found herself guarding a heap of heavy jewellery. He was holding out the sword hilt-first to her.

The metallic sounds of their swordfight filled the area. The trees around the courtyard swayed with an unnatural breeze. They used the flat of their blades to demonstrate their moves. Bāhubali paused often to describe a particularly clever move of Devasena’s to the trainees. She glowed with pleasure at the incredibly proud look on his face.

All the while, she was having trouble breathing coherently around her husband. It was getting in the way of her prowess.

‘He’ll never stop teasing you if you give in to that!’ yelled her brain. She trimmed her focus hard.

For a change, Amarendra found himself fumbling a lot. His wife used a counter trick to resist him twisting the sword off her hand. Despite his best efforts, her sword stayed on and his slipped loose from his grip for a second. He immediately stopped and had her demonstrate it to his soldiers. A strong rush of pride enveloped him as she did so.

After about an hour of sparring, they stopped. A huge cheer rose from the soldiers for their Commander-in-Chief and his Yuvarani. Kattappa beamed happily from his view on the verandah. The girl brought her jewellery back to her with a cup of water. She flabbergastedly ran away when Devasena offered her one of her rings as a token of thanks.

Amarendra laughed at her shock. She gave him the water to drink. He gulped down a few sips and gave her the rest with such a look of mingled pride and love that her breathing hitched.

“What?” she asked him.

“Nothing. I wish we did this everyday,” he said wistfully.

“What is stopping us?” she demanded.

“Will you really come everyday?” came his question with an eager look. It was then her turn to laugh.

“If you want me to, I’ll be here,” she replied, putting her hand in his.

For a second, he glanced down at their fingers entwined together. He started leading her away from the crowd. A soft breeze came up and the sunny courtyard turned cooler when some clouds blew up across the sun.

“I wouldn’t say everyday,” he said.

She felt stung.

“You don’t want me around everyday?” she questioned.

“Hear me out, first. Today was wonderful. But, it reminded me too much of the day I first met you – “ he began.

“And what’s wrong with that?”

“Devasena, if I think of that day, I’d get d-i-s-t-r-a-c-t-e-d. Obviously!” he replied looking into her eyes.

“Oh, that,” she said, colouring softly.

“Wait one minute here, all right?” He seated her at the roots of the banyan tree and went to speak to Kattappa Ayya. She watched his hair blow back in the wind and smiled to herself. It had gone on long enough. She would tell him as soon as he came back to her. Right there. Right then.

She stood and waited for him. His profile slowly turned and started walking back towards her. She wanted to run and fling herself into his arms. She would scream the happiness at him from right there, she decided. He was only a few feet away.

Time to move, thought Devasena. She took a few jogging steps in Bāhubali’s direction. He smiled at her. He has no clue of the news I bring him, she giggled out loud. Her right foot struck a small protruding rock and she tripped. Of everything that flashed through her mind, she chose the nagging in her arms to fold themselves across her abdomen, protecting the baby.

Amarendra watched Devasena jog towards him. ‘Am I not coming right to her? What impatience!’ he thought as he moved faster. Suddenly, she was falling forward out of balance. The only thought that struck him was when he had held her waist to stop her falling during their boar-hunt in Kuntala. His hands shot forward by instinct to hold her back by the same waist.

“Could you not be careful?” he asked of her when she had steadied. When she did not reply, he went on, “What? Are you going to accuse me of pretending to be a simpleton again?”

She found her mind reeling for a minute. Amarendra was speaking to her and she paid no heed. Her arms were still around her waist. His arms rested lightly on the palms she had placed on either side of her hip.

“Don’t you feel that this is a sword-wielding hand n – “ he was saying when he noticed that his hands weren’t actually on her soft waist. Her hands had wound themselves around her waist and had blocked his own from holding it.

“Devasena, what happened to you? Don’t you remember that you should raise your hands to your head if you find yourself falling?” he asked in scandalised tones.

“So that you protect your head from smashing?” he continued.

She breathed out very slowly. Her arms loosened and caressed the small bump of her belly.

“Are you even listening to me?” Worry and uncertainty laced his voice.

Devasena was recovering from the scare she had had. Her baby would be safe, she thought with relief. He would be fine, her mind told her. With a rush of affection, she realised that it was going to be a boy. ‘How silly had I been to think otherwise?’ she thought. Her heart still thumped nervously. Her surroundings came back to her all at once.

“It’s going to be all right. All right,” she crooned under her breath, both to herself and the baby.

Amarendra’s touch disappeared from her body. She looked up at him. He seemed to be lost for words. A calculating, questioning look appeared in his eyes. He cocked his head to one side and gestured towards her caressing hand.

She smiled. He was surprised by the wink her eyes offered. Dawn alighted into his eyes and they widened with pleasure. Devasena wound one hand around his neck and pulled him closer. He waited with a bated breath.

“You are going to be a father, my Amarendra.”

The End

I very much enjoyed writing this one and I look forward to writing more. I am particularly interested in Bhallaladeva’s background. Let me know in the comments if you guys would like to hear about that! 😀

Love,

Priya
PS : This pair is my current obsession! ❤

PPS : Do you see the level of craze I have over them? 😀 🙂 ❤

Announcing : Blogging Hiatus

Hi everyone!

Very short post here. As my New Year post quoted here, I am officially swamped due to my novel commitments. I had hoped to balance WordPress and writing with a bit of self-motivation and courage. But, my novel is on tenterhooks right now and I have seen very minimal progress. Also, I assume that the guilt of not posting here has distracted me a little in this (along with my usual procrastination tendency).

Hence, I hereby declare a hiatus on WordPress. I am extremely sorry and sad that I have to do this. And anytime I have a pressing inclination to blog, I swear I will be posting that. But, officially, I am closed for the next few months, at the very least.

So long, and wish me loads of luck with the book!

Bye!

Priya

When Life gives you Lemons…

Hello everyone,

This is the sober post I was talking about in the previous post here.

(inspired by Real Life Events)

Everyone learns this proverb in middle-school English.

When Life gives you Lemons, make Lemonade!

I know of it for years now like everyone else. But something changed my perspective on this one recently. I’m not saying I disagree with it; I just take it to mean more profound things.

What is Lemonade?

From what I gather, Lemonade points to something sweet and delicious. When life is sour to you, find the sweetness in it and put the Universe to rights as you’d prefer.

What are Lemons?

Sticky spots. Split-second decisions. Anything that pricks you in the process of happening.

But, think of situations which seem dire all around. I do not need to quote examples here. Because everyone knows. That feeling of profound helplessness. That day which you never want to re-live again. That empty hollow in your heart. That throat-drying fear. That croaky voice with which you whisper rapid prayers. Those moments from which you were salvaged. The Saviour was not you. You did not find Lemonade. You merely wasted away till He came.

What if you are handed those Lemons again? Where do you find the Lemonade then?

I say this.

When Life gives you Lemons, make Pickles.

Pickles are sour and sharp. Pick up one of them every once in a while. Make things right.

You do not wish to face the same Lemons again, do you? Suck on one of the Pickled Lemons for ages. Learn the things which brought you the Lemon. Re-live the incident in your mind. And learn. Memorise the things which were your fault in the whole incident. Stew the taste in your mouth.

NEVER let it find its way to you again.

Build your sunning stand for the Pickles.

And you’ll fly far away when Lemons find you again.

Love,

PPD

Blogger Recognition Award!

Hi everyone!

I had a totally different, totally sober post in mind for this week. But, BLOGGER RECOGNITION AWARD!!!!!!!!!

I am too excited to chill! Now, moving on to the Interview!

Thank the person who nominated you by linking their blog

Thank you so much for nominating me, Sudalai. I am very honoured to be nominated by such an awesome poet.

Please check out Sudalai’s blog for Tamil and English poetry!

Write a post to show your award

Duh. This is the post!

Tell how you started blogging

Interesting question. I believe I started blogging after very successful diary records of my thoughts (successful because the audience, a.k.a. I, totally loved the diary). My first blog at Google Blogger was a poetry blog due to an emotional upheaval I was going through about seven years ago. I took it down because I felt the poems too personal to share.

(You can check two of them out at Wattpad; Shattered and Canvas of My Life)

Then, I started a more comprehensive blog on my thoughts, also at Blogger. Somehow, college exams, interviews for job applications and irritability got in the way and I gave it up. And last year, I yearned to live my Writer’s Life and my very good friend suggested WordPress. Let me tell you one thing, WordPress is Love.

*beams in pleasure*

Advice to new bloggers

  1. Never give up on your blog. You might write an essay-sized post one day, but draw a blank slate on another. Despite it all, never give it up. Write about a beautiful cloud shape you saw that day if you can’t think of anything. The blog will induct more abstractness into it, for all you know.
  2. Read a lot of blogs and voice your opinions on them. This is a lesson still in progress with me. I don’t read a lot on WordPress. And I really want to change that. As you explore, several blog ideas pop up and you can also stand in awe of the Writing World here. It’s beyond beautiful.

Nominate 15 bloggers

Like I said, I don’t read a lot on WordPress. So, I’m just going to nominate some blogs which I have read in the past. I have no idea if they’ve at all received the Award previously (most likely, they have).

  1. Pages that Rustle
  2. Discover Deepika
  3. BEcoming Bala
  4. Hanady Kitchen
  5. Frank Solanki
  6. Musings Lounge
  7. Small World, Smaller Girl
  8. America Maaplai
  9. Beauty Beyond Bones

Love and lots of thanks,

PPD