Version 2.0 : Devasena + Amarendra Bāhubali

Hi, you guys!

The header image must have warned you, nevertheless, I must give out these two explicit warnings.

  • This is a same-timeline-different-location story which runs parallel to scenes from the movie (you know which one). Accordingly, I declare here that this is intended as fan-fiction only.
  • I hope you read this after watching both movies. It’ll be perfect that way. (you can call this a rule)
  • You can read my other work on these two here, right now or after reading this one. However you prefer.

Not gonna spoil it with more explanations.

Jai Mahishmati!

When the Skies Cried…

“Rajamata? Is all of this happening within your knowledge?” asked Kattappa. His face was sober and his hands could not stop their trembling. He felt his existence crumble around him into tiny, tiny shards.

He spoke. “Let me grasp your feet and beseech you, Amma. Please, ask the Emperor to retract his order,” he begged. Sivagami Devi’s face was stoic. She did not answer. Her eyes were focussed on some imaginary target.

“Even if the world is turned upside down, Bāhubali would not have erred. He is the son you raised, Amma,” he attempted to remind her. He searched his mistress’ expression for a sign, any sign. There was still nothing. “He was nourished by your milk. Your teachings – “

“Bāhubali must die,” came the ominous reply from the stony face. Kattappa gasped. His sword hand shook like leaves in a strong breeze. ‘I cannot comprehend any of it,’ he thought.

An internal struggle began. He clasped his hands together and questioned himself how he was to carry out the Emperor’s command.

‘I simply can’t. There is no question of it,’ replied his heart.

“I cannot, Amma. I simply cannot,” he said out loud, echoing his heart’s words. The oath of his ancestors swept through the room like a whisper in the wind. His sword hand clenched the scabbard of his sword. He drew it out and rose up to his full height. The years of servitude imparted by his family should not be thrown away like a wasted piece of paper.

Sivagami saw the gleam of Kattappa’s sword slide into place at her feet. She looked up.

“As punishment to my refusal, please, cut my head off,” said the Royal Slave. Her eyes moved back to her distant spot. She had expected that he would refuse. Something in her cracked and oozed. The blood rushed into her palms and her eyes still remained cold.

“Will you kill him, or shall I finish him off?” asked her numb lips. Kattappa reeled back half a step in shock. Then arrived the tears. They spilled onto his cheeks like twin rivers.

“No, Amma. That sin shall not be yours. I will do it. I will do it myself,” he swore. His head hung to his breast and his shoulders seemed to have dropped to his hips. The Queen Mother moved not a muscle, but, the remaining two swept away as Kattappa left taking his sword.

Bijjala tapped his moustache with his one remaining hand. Bhallaladeva assumed his mother’s still form.

“Is this Dog to be trusted, Bhalla?” asked his father.

*

The contraction rippled through Devasena’s pelvic bones in a burst of pain. She bit her lower lip to stop herself from crying out. This boy is going to take a lot of her to be born. The thought filled her with such joy that she couldn’t breathe for a second.

Her companion, Karthiga, looked worried. Devasena gave her a rueful smile.

“This pain is a requirement for babies, Karthi,” she told her. She returned a bashful smile. ‘Poor child, she didn’t have to stay by my side when we left the fortress,’ thought Devasena. The young girl’s devotion had touched her these last few months.

The old midwife asked Karthiga to get more hot towels. She left her mistress’ side. Contraction after contraction broke through Devasena’s lower body. In a few minutes, it was impossible not to utter a soft scream in reply to the child’s every movement.

“Try to bear it, Amma,” consoled the old lady. Sweat dripped onto her forehead, and Karthiga kept wiping it off with a cold compress. The sound of raised voices from outside the door of the hut reached her ears.

*

“What are you saying?” boomed Amarendra Bāhubali. He did not need this complication when he was awaiting his child.

“Yes, Lord. I saw it with my own two eyes! Kattappa Ayya is in danger,” panted the young man.

The two or three friends of Amarendra who had been sitting with him leapt to their feet.

“Is this true?”

“What should be done?”

By then, a small crowd had formed around the man they called God. Every eye was fixed on his in pure confidence. Amarendra’s heart lurched. His Mama needed him. On the other hand, his unborn son needed him too. He tried to conceal the uncertainty in his eyes. An unsuccessfully suppressed scream interrupted his musing from the hut behind them.

In a flash, he was filled with all the power in the world. His love was there. Devasena would be there for their child. He felt the baby’s hold on his service draw into Devasena’s hand.

‘I’m right here,’ she seemed to say, invisibly.

He swiftly turned around and stepped inside. When his emotions shivered at the sight of Devasena lying weak and hunched in pain, he chose to ignore it. Enormous trust in their love shook off all fears.

“Devasena,” he called. Her lovely eyes opened and looked to his. He knelt beside her and caressed her cheek.

“Mama is in danger. I need to go to him, Devasena,” he spoke rapidly, lacing his words with his begging for forgiveness. Devasena immediately started lifting herself off the bed. His hand supported her and she assumed a half-sitting position. Her hair was plastered to her scalp with sweat.

Her eyes searched for something next to the bed, behind them. Karthiga handed her what she was looking for. Amarendra’s breastplate and the sword of his ancestors. The horse-head hilt gleamed in the lamp light.

“Here,” she said as she filled his hands with the tools of a warrior. Her eyes never clouded with worry or disappointment as he was feeling of himself. A ferocious pride oozed out of them.

“He promised to hold our child as he is born. Bring him back with great caution,” the warrior’s wife told her Amarendra. He nodded.

As an afterthought, he paused and looked at her once again. In a second, he had held her cheek and placed a loving kiss on her forehead. In a second second, he had said, “Take care” and left the room. The steel in his eyes lingered in hers for long after he had gone.

*

Amarendra had been shot. Multiple arrowheads were stuck into his back. The Kalakeyas had not been foreseen. His old Mama was hurt as well. The short respite was in no way enough for either of them. Their enemies were moving somewhere close to them, and they had to get up on their feet with their backs to each other.

Amarendra twitched his hurt limbs.

“Listen to me, Bāhu. Just for me, you are risking your… Leave me and go. Leave me to die. Please, heed what I say,” begged Kattappa’s voice from his right. Amarendra chuckled through his bloodied mouth.

“I want to leave you, oldie. You promised to hold my child. I have promised her that I would bring you back safely,” he started. The pause scared Kattappa.

“Bāhu?” he called.

“So,” spoke Amarendra in a pain-drenched voice. “If you remain quiet for a little while, I can carry out my duty,” he finished with a tearing sound. He had pulled out one of the arrowheads embedded in his body.

Kattappa watched his beloved child struggle towards him. The tears had quietly cascaded down his cheeks again. ‘What am I to do?’ he thought, wildly. The plan to trick him into saving his Mama had worked admirably. And Kattappa was beating himself up about it.

There are some things which never reach you when you want them so badly. And some things which burrow themselves into the palm of your hand when you’re looking the other way. There are a third category of things which you need to do, but, you don’t want to. It was horrorifying when they work out so easily.

The reeds binding his hands were being razored by the arrowtip. Blood oozed over both their hands.

“How will I ever tell you? Bāhu, Bāhu, I will grasp your feet and beg you. Leave me. Leave me, Bāhu!” his yells filled the area.

*

One last push, and Devasena’s son came into the world. Her eyes flitted between unconsciousness and consciousness. Light and dark. Her baby wriggled somewhere close to her skin.

But, she couldn’t hear him. She felt herself get alert in a snap. The midwife towelled off some of the placenta on her baby. Karthiga supported her shoulders.

“Why isn’t he crying?” she demanded in a frenzy. “Show me, show me,” she repeated until he was put into her lap. His eyes were closed and his chest more still than she would have liked. Her precious boy who had kicked like a motor in her womb was as still as a statue.

The fear crept into her slowly, but, in seconds, she found herself bawling. She rubbed his tiny palm in her own vigorously. The midwife put her ear to his chest and listened.

“Make him move!” she screamed.

*

“Are you afraid for me, Mama?” Amarendra asked with his crooked half-smile. Kattappa was incoherent, choking up in his throat.

“As long as you are with me, there hasn’t been born a man who can kill me, Mama,” he declared with his laughing lips. The small metal sliced through the last of the reeds in a snap. The choking in Kattappa’s throat turned into a roaring inside him.

*

The wail arose after the most tense three minutes of Devasena’s life. The relief flooded into her in as quick a pace as the fear had done. She peered closely into her child’s face immediately. His eyes were screwed up tight and he cried.

A little uneasy, she spoke softly to him. All the pain of her body was ignored and the midwife moved off to deliver the placenta and clean her lower body.

“There you are, my darling Mahendra,” she cooed. Her voice became inaudible through his cries. They rose in volume steadily, but, surely. Her forehead beaded with fresh sweat.

*

The sheer volume of the incoming Kalakeya fighters did not deter Amarendra Bāhubali. Slashes of his sword and the sound of Kattappa Mama’s fighting beside him were the only things that registered in his mind.

One last nick of his sword snapped the rope that had been used as an exertion of force to the palm tree. The tree snapped up in backward force. The grotesque tower of Kalakeya bodies pinned to the old tree stalled the onslaught. The enemies gazed in horror and wonder. The clouds rumbled in reply. A golden shaft of lightning split the skies and struck the tip of the old wood.

Somewhere, a baby boy cried his loudest. The fire enveloped the branches quickly. Everything was lit up by an ominous kind of sunlight.

*

Mahendra’s voice cracked open Devasena’s world. She didn’t know if she should be awed or afraid. His eyes hadn’t opened as yet. She begged him to open them and look at her. She enveloped him in her warmth. The contact did nothing to reduce the screaming.

*

“Mama!” called Amarendra. The men he was fighting with struggled against his iron limbs. His sword had never moved faster before.

Kattappa Mama moved in a zombie-like manner. His arms wanted to drop the sword he was holding. But, he forced determination into his palms with the image of his honoured mistress. The one child who had admired and respected him was fighting with his back to him. He could never do this face-to-face.

‘Go, Kattappa,’ an alien voice urged him from his insides.

‘This act strips you of your honour as a warrior,’ spoke his conscience and he submitted to it. He took his steps towards the man he had embraced as nephew.

‘This act strips you of your honour as a protector,’ came the second verdict. The salt drops on his face seemed never-ending.

‘This act strips you of your oath as Royal Slave towards this man of the Royal blood,’ fell the last words.

The sword hand rose up and the tip of his sword pierced flesh. Bāhubali’s sword swept past him as he lost his grip.

*

Devasena started wailing herself. “I don’t know what to do! Tell me what – “ she paused.

Mahendra had fallen dead silent. Somewhere, a sword cut through a man’s body.

She looked into Mahendra’s eyes for the first time. A strong current waved through both of them. His dark eyes properly locked eyes with her. She gazed in wonder at the person they had produced. Somehow, she choked up.

The tears re-appeared on her cheeks instead.

“Oh, why? Why?” she kept repeating to herself as her boy calmly watched the proceedings.

The midwife was rattled at the scene. The newborn she had just delivered and who had driven the entire village to attention with his screams lay at his mother’s bosom. Much too adult-like in his expression.

“Maybe you should feed him, Amma,” she started to say.

Something about the two of them struck her dumb, then. She signed to Karthiga and they both left the room. The atmosphere of the village had changed abruptly. The woman and the girl were puzzled. People started milling around them.

A plaintive voice, trembling with emotion arose in the background of the grave crowd.

Nera nera chupulake,” sang Devasena to her Mahendra.

(With your looks)

Karigi kadili neekai, bira bira vachitine…”

(I melted and running for you, I quickly came)

Tadi tadi kannulatho…”

(With tears and tears in my eyes)

Neepai vaali soli, tamakamu telipitine…”

(I beheld yourself, and revealed my feelings)

Na mathi maali doshamu jarigeo Vanamaali, yeddu ninnu podichepaapam antha nadenuraa… ” The words hung like a blade.

(My stubborn mind is the reason for this mistake happening… oh darling, the bull has hit you… the sin is mine alone…)

The people hung their heads like sunflowers at the end of the day. No one dared to look into the other’s eyes. Their Goddess was putting their son to sleep.

Kanna nidurincharana kanna nidurinchara… “ Devasena’s voice broke at the last note and she cried along with the baby. There was no meaning to these emotions, but still, they curled into each other and trembled. The air felt dry and heavy at the same time.

Her door opened. Karthiga stood there, silhouetted in the doorway. It was the darkest part of the night.

“Amma,” she called. Devasena sat up with Mahendra in her arms. Silence endured.

“They say that, that.. Ayya is killed,” she stammered and fell to her knees sobbing. Mahendra set off the crying for all the people in the village. Devasena sat absolutely still. She rose from her bed, held up her child.

The shadow of the Mother Goddess silently rose up close behind her. One step after the other was placed, and she did not know how. The people, her people trailed after her in droves as she walked out of the village.

Sometimes, her foot faltered and her body faced the danger of falling. But, she kept her steps steady. Mahendra screamed life into her limbs.

*

Sivagami Devi, the Queen Mother, felt her hands wetted. The deep red colour was still warm from the body it had come from. Her fingers tingled.

“Can we ever wash away these stains, Amma?” Kattappa asked hoarsely.

“Kattappa!” she shouted at the defeated figure in front of her.

“You have committed a mistake, Sivagami!” Kattappa yelled. His accusing finger was pointed directly at her, dripping with her child’s blood. His anguished eyes tore her heart apart. The Queen Mother’s throne vibrated of its own accord.

“What a terrible mistake have you committed?” It was a rhetorical question. “You hadn’t understood Bāhubali. You thought he was against you,” he cried. Her neck snapped upwards in shock.

“I was there. Right where he lay. The Emperor arrived,” he narrated.

“He spoke the following, ‘Rajamata! Mad-mata! I had her believe that you tried to kill me, and had her command your own death!’ He said that to the lifeless body of the one son who lived by your word, Amma.” The sobbing did not stop. There was no more reason for the sobbing to stop. Ever.

“At the grasp of death, he did not speak of the wife he had vowed to nor his unborn child. Do you know what he said?” Her slave asked.

Sivagami turned her glazed eyes to him.

“He told me, ‘Take care of Amma.’”

*

Devasena appeared at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Where she had renounced palace life. Where the people had welcomed her, along with their God and his unborn son, into their big hearts and homes. Mahendra snuffled like a puppy. She placed her right foot on the first step, like she was instructed to do when she had stepped into that palace as the wife of the Prince of Mahishmati.

The people did not follow her ahead. It was not their place. Cries and shouts rose up to the Throne Room doors. The heavens rebelled along with them. A bolt of lightning struck again as she appeared.

Kattappa and Sivagami looked to the dark eyes of the newcomer. The steel imparted onto Devasena’s vision by Amarendra spit fire into the air.

Kattappa raised his empty hands to his Goddess.

“With the hands into which you wanted to put your child and elevate this unworthy slave to the station of your father; with those very hands have I killed your husband, Amma!”

The End

I know, I know. I’m sorry. Please purchase a new box of tissues.

I felt that I should have heard Devasena’s side of this incident. Seeing as she was going through the birth of their child at the time her love became forever lost to her, it was necessary to write this.

Lots of tissues thrown your way,

Priya

PS : Sorry I took this long to post a normal post.

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.

 

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! 😀

Update : Check out part two, here.

Love,

Priya
PS : This pair is my current obsession! ❤

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

Airport Love Scenes!

Hello Reader!

Well, I think it’s high time for another post, don’t you think? So, here I am!

Okay, so basically, with this post, I’m hoping to accomplish two different things.

One : Get rid of one of my littering short story drafts.

Two : Write a new post.

There you have it! This is going to be my first short story! Choosing from my unfinished drafts was going to be the most difficult part. But, I guess writing it is going to be that much harder. I hope you’ll like the story anyway!

 

Happily Ever After with a Twist

The first warning bell sounded ominously at 8:35 am on a Monday morning. I was walking past the University Office. Wishing I had wings on my feet, and cursing the six buildings I would have to cross to reach my class, I broke into a run. My breaths came out as clouds of mist in the crispy-cold air.

Beta Arjun, I swear I will kill you if I miss class today,’ I swore silently.

Arjun was my roommate and he had a very weak stomach for alcohol. His alternate drunken-swagger speeches and retching sounds had kept me from sleeping the previous night. And since my attendance percentage had reached its limit, there I was, hopelessly winking the sleep out of my eyes and running towards class.

I reached the Civil Engineering Department and took the stairs two steps at a time, and where I could manage it, three at a time. The second bell rang over my head. I placed my sweaty palm on the newel post and swung my body around at every landing.

“It’s alright, it’s alright, I’m here, I’m here!”

Without thinking, I made a loud announcement as I arrived at the door of my class. The clang of the final bell was lost in the laughter from my classmates.

“That is enough.” Professor Senon’s quiet voice broke the loud hoot and silence was instantly restored. He waved me to my seat and turned back to the blackboard.

It was an amphitheatre-style classroom and I had to hide my embarrassed face at every step I climbed. Finally reaching an empty table, I plopped down my bag and placed my hot forehead on the cool tabletop.

“Good morning, students. Yesterday was our introductory session on Beams and Lintels. So, today I will be going into the topic in detail….”

Professor ‘Unstoppable’ Senon started his unstoppable droning. I tuned him out. His expression of mild annoyance a few minutes ago was actually an unusual phenomenon.

Professor Senon usually made his entry a calculated two minutes before the bell, and if the class hadn’t been scheduled as the first one of the day, he paced back and forth across the doorway until the previously presiding teacher left. His exit was also similar, exactly two minutes after the ending bell. He spoke to nothingness and made copious notes on the blackboard which the people on the first row of the class fervently copied onto thick notebooks. His list of eccentricities was endless.

All the lost sleep caught up to me and I was glassy-eyed asleep within seconds. After Professor Senon left, I shuffled out of the class like a zombie.

‘Coffee, coffee, coffee,’ chanted my brain as I made my way to the Coffee Room on the second floor.

The line in the Coffee Room was tediously slow, numbing my brain in the process. I was parched, dead-on-my-feet, and dangerously low on sugar. Shuffling slowly to the beginning of the queue, I felt someone elbow me out of the line and edge in. Bleary eyes not co-operating, I took a large dollop of will to mentally pinch myself awake then.

All I could see was this rippling waterfall of dark-chocolate hair and could hear a short, barking laugh. It was a girl. I tapped her on the shoulder to have her spin around, almost whipping me in the face with her huge mass of hair.

“I was in the line first,” I stated robotically.

She smiled wide, showing her pearly teeth.

“Yeah, my friend was here before you,” she literally trilled. The friend in question turned around and pulled his eyebrows together in a frown.

“So?”

The caffeine-deprivation had not given me the miraculous phenomenon of courtesy.

He can get his bloody coffee, and you can go to the back of the line, if you please,” I finished somewhat icily.

She blinked twice in those round, dark eyes of hers.

“I don’t think so. I think I’ll just stay right here.”

She spoke each word carefully as if talking to a child and turned back around to chat with her friend.

And that, that scene was the beginning of my downfall. You could also call it uprise. It depends on who you ask. I am Pavan Deshpande. And this, this is the story of how my life changed.

Six weeks later

“You never listen to what I say, Pavan.”

Sitaara’s arms were crossed and her lips set in a hard line. That was always a bad sign.

“What have I done now, ma’am?” Sarcasm dripped in my voice. I’d never been more angry in my life. Nothing is ever good enough for this damn woman. I struggled to compose myself as I looked at her, but I failed miserably.

“EVERYTHING you do is pathetic, you know that?” she yelled at my face.

“Yeah, well, you’re not unpathetic yourself, Tara!”

“At least I don’t suck at every single thing, you loser! And learn some grammar, for God’s sake!”

This is the way most of our fights began and ended. There was never a limiting point to them. They began with both of us angry and ended with both of us angry, avoiding the topic of the fight henceforth. You could imagine that we’d had a pile of stuff which was untouchable in our conversations.

Sitaara Mittal was the bane of my existence since that silly cutting-the-queue incident. She dogged my senses and ruined my days. After all of the nonsense subsides, she’d always end up saying, “I so love the way you love me, Pav. I don’t ever want to fight again. I’m sorry!” and wink those shimmering irises at me, and in that moment, I wouldn’t want anything different from that.

The way she cared about animals she found hungry on the street, the way her eyes glittered with unshed tears as we watched romantic movies, and the way she scolded her mother on the phone for ignoring her diabetes medication, all of it was so sweet to behold. But, the way she kept ignoring my warnings about walking on the street at night, the way she criticized my clothing, and the way she squandered her pocket money on her undeserving friends.. I wished I could throttle her into sanity when these happened.

Seven months later

My mind was swaying between two thoughts.

‘Should I tell Tara?’ and ‘Should I not tell her?’

‘If I tell her, she’ll yell, and she really hates whenever I do this,’ and ‘If I don’t tell her, I’ll feel bad, and she hates it when she finds out later.’

‘But if she yells, you’ll yell too, and then you’ll have a fight,’ and ‘But if she finds out later, she’s gonna yell even more.’

It was the worst day ever. Such a simple thing, and it had evoked so much drama in myself. I couldn’t be afraid of her reaction forever, could I?

I sighed heavily. She turned around with an inquiring raise of her eyebrows.

“We have to talk, Tara.”

The seven months with each other had been beautiful, but they had not been bliss. It was not the best idea to place two ferocious wildcats into the same cage, or in our terms, we were simply too different, too clashy, and getting on each other’s nerves for the simplest of reasons.

Yes, I still thought her the prettiest girl I’d ever met, and I loved all those things about her which I’d admired from the beginning. She cared about me and loved me still. But, this was for the best. We both knew so. After all, what relationship lasted when the participants did not get along at all?

Eight years later

The cold air blast made my eyes water. I’d just stepped out of the cab and was walking towards the entrance of the Delhi airport. February chills were always pleasant here.

I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend Arjun’s wedding. Five years ago we’d graduated and promised each other to stay in touch. The only call I’d received from him since then had been this invitation four weeks ago. I didn’t mind going despite that discourtesy because it was also going to be a reunion of our batch. I was quite excited to see how everyone had changed over the years. But what I didn’t know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the line at the airline counter.

I was almost sure it was she. She was of the same height, and I spied the same long, dark mass of hair. It was also the same pale sandy complexion. Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then a minute later, when she turned, she proved me right.

It was Tara. My mind scrambled to get out of the line and hide behind people. I hadn’t even known she was living in Delhi as well. We’d broken up just before college ended, almost six years ago. All the piled up conversation about our differences had left no actual conversations available for us, and we’d ended it on mutual terms. But, to see her again, now?

It seemed so impossibly cruel, and I cursed Arjun and his stupid wedding partly for it. What do I do?

I was pretty confused. She was at the head of the line, and a few minutes later, walked out of it, with her boarding pass in her hand. I ducked a little behind a tall guy in front of me, and peeked at her carefully.

My jaw dropped in a second. Her other hand was resting on the shoulder of a little boy, who looked to be about three years old. She was rapidly talking to him with a little animated look on her face. Her features hadn’t changed much, just a different hairstyle, and a nose stud winked merrily there.

Her boy walked with a spring on his feet and nodded happily at what she said. They took their seats a few feet away from where I stood in line. I was still bewildered about how she’d gotten married and had a child so soon after college. I have no idea how I got through the line that day. Ten minutes later, I was poised to get out of the line with my boarding pass. God, this is the worst thing, I thought.

I walked right into her line of sight, and suddenly, the little boy dashed off from his seat, and she looked up to call him back.

“Gautam! Kahaan jaa rahe ho?” she called out. Gautam ran right up to me, and stopped. Something clicked in his eyes, like recognition. And I was astonished. Sitaara had gathered up her carry-on luggage and ran up to him. Spotting me, she skidded to a halt.

“Pavan? Oh my God! It’s been ages! Gautam, do you remember Pavan Uncle?” she trilled with the same voice as on the day I’d first met her.

“What do you mean, he remembers Pavan Uncle?” I stage-whispered while blinking confusedly at Gautam.

“Oh, I’ve shown him pictures of you,” she whispered back.

Suddenly, as if he’d recalled his manners, Gautam put out his hand for a shake, and tremulously said, “Hello, Uncle.”

That one nervous look brought the dark eyes he’d inherited from Sitaara to focus, and I fell hard for the kid in a second. I brought myself to my knees and shook the whole of his little arm.

I grinned wide then. That day, I learned Tara’s story. She’d graduated and gone to her hometown with a job offer for a reputed IT company. Her parents were offered a good match for her, the groom worked with the central government here in Delhi. They were married then and she moved to Delhi. Her work had been curtailed when Gautam came and she’s been on a break since. I heard all about her loving in-laws and husband Ram.

I had had my insides churning when I saw her on the line before. All that initial embarrassment at meeting an ex-girlfriend, that too after she’s married and a mother, faded off completely as she spoke. She talked of old times as beautiful, funny stories of the past. And fondly remembered all our fights, and narrated them to her boy. Gautam was a darling child, he laughed at all the right places. She fussed over him a lot.

To my surprise, I felt normal. Any weird feeling I might have got, I never did get it. We boarded the flight together, and had a marvellous time in Bangalore. It got me thinking.

There were going to be awkward meetings throughout life, it would have been even more so if I’d been tugging a wife along by then. Then, I thought of all those years in the past when meeting ex-lovers was considered taboo, and men especially took extreme pains in hiding the stories of their love life.

But, this, this is the 21st century. People fell in love and committed themselves to relationships much more easily than they did years ago. They were much more individualistic and particular about their lives than before, and were bound to discard love interests after closer scrutiny. And of course, people were going to be running into their forgotten pasts around every corner. It was of no use to be scrambling around on eggshells about it. The fondness and magic will just be re-interpreted as a sweet memory. All Sitaara had been to me.. I now thought of it as a story, in which I’d had the time of my life.

Looking at her, struggling under the weight of a comfortably sleeping Gautam, I’d felt happy for how her life had turned out. As I dropped her off with her luggage at her home, I thought to myself, “All was well.”

The End

Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Priya

PS : I know my November 1st post for NaNoWriMo is due, but this draft was sitting in here for ages.

PPS : Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!

PPPS : Will be back in two days with my official NaNo kickoff!

Writing? Really?

Hi Reader!

This is going to be much, much sooner than my track record says. But, that’s a damn good thing! Sooooo… Hi again, Reader! How have you been the last few days? Me, I’ve been fantastic! 😀

Now to the topic of discussion.

  • Writing.
  • Writers.

And everything that stands in the way of the latter to the former.

Okay. Big questions.

Why do we write? Why does anyone write? Don’t they have something better to do?

I’m NOT going to yell profanities now. I’m still this deluded, believing-in-the-goodness-of-people girl who hopes to clear some of the air between the lunatics who ask these questions and the writers themselves. (That L-word will be the rudest thing I use henceforth, I swear!)

When I think back to the time I started writing, I don’t really remember the trigger which pushed me over to the dark side, so I’m just gonna make some stuff up here. The essence of it is the absolute truth though.

Writing is a platform for the inner soul of a Writer. It’s a form of communication which is as vital as a mother tongue is to people. Anything we write is something we wish to express to the world. You wouldn’t want to stop talking to people, would you? We write to talk. The difference being the scope of the talk, and the audience of the communication.

We write (talk) to the entire world, mainly because that’s just the way we let out anything on our minds! But also secretly because we want people to absorb the information we put out. It’s just a very small part though. The main thing is the letting out what’s on our mind.

That’s why people I know write! Nobody can ask us a why to this explanation. Oh and by the way, why do you people jabber like jackdaws about random nonsense? Care to answer that?

How do you find the time? Where do you find the time? In between coffee and sleepless nights?

Okay, there is this very common misconception that Writers are high on caffeine and do not sleep or shave (in the case of a male Writer, and some female ones) or do much else.

This is strictly an extreme case of Writing.

I have a full-time career, involving a day job and lots of staring into a computer screen. Plus, I’m actually interested in what I do, it’s not just a money-making procedure to me. And I am a person who maintains vehemently that caffeine is a drug. And I force myself to taking only one cup a day, only on a work day in which I actually work at the office, and I avoid other sources of caffeine, like soda, on those days. Not to forget is my ever-lasting love affair with sleep. I cannot function with less than seven hours of sleep. I walk around like a zombie when I try lesser hours.

This is just my case. I have Writer friends, who do not take coffee at all, sleep for nine hours every night, and are getting a college degree at the same time. See?

It’s all about the priorities.

You want to write? Make the time, give up some futile thing you do everyday. Like watching some old TV Series to kill the time.

Passions always require sacrifice. You keep that passion alive by coalescing all the time globules you get in a day to fester it. That’s how it works. It’s as simple as that.

Fine. We get it. Blah, b-blah, b-blah, what do you write about? It’s not like you guys walk around with writing prompts plastered into your minds!

One of the few, genuine questions. Instinct is the best driver of all the conversations we have. We stick to things that move us, things that trigger a long train of thought in our heads, and things that we think we know and like to do. These are the typical topics. But, there is this other, hugely magical thing.

It’s fiction. Making up scenarios, happy endings, different pathways, a whole new world, parallel universes, magic wands, and glass slippers. This action is most involuntary, contrary to popular belief. You get yourself a teeny bit of plot, and there you go! The characters grow and the story lines meet and before you know it, it’s a whole new book!

The sad shit is that people don’t get the fact that we are ruled by our book. For example, I’ve been held on the noose by my two protagonists for about six months because one of them just point-blank refused to ask the other one out. They kept on flirting, and giggling, and admiring, and he never popped the question! It was maddening! They were too caught up in the moment! And when I narrate this scene to people, it’s almost always like, “Make ’em do it!” And I sit there feeling like an idiot for ranting this to the most unsympathetic ear yet.

This is the main reason to disappointed Writers. Call it writer’s block or whatever. But, one day, one sweet day, I’ll wake up to a finished manuscript, and I’ll draft that first email to a publisher, it’ll be the best day of my life.

Any concluding thoughts?

People are judgemental and prejudiced and a little rude. But, that ain’t gonna stop me from doing what I wanna do. Because I love doing this. Granted there are days together when I do not even open the Google Doc I use to write my novel in, and there are weeks together when I forget the existence of my blog. But, I will not care for continuity when all I need is the passion.

The world is filled with writers who have unfinished stories. Be sympathetic and be nice, they’re not disturbing you. Then why annoy them with all the tacky questions?

If you want to go on doing the crap, keep at it, fine by me! You’ll end up being one of the antagonists who die a cruel death. And it’s not even going to be handled tastefully. It will be gruesome and painful.

PS : Strictly for educational purposes, to all those who are not acquainted with our lives.

PPS : I have only given the barest overview, there are heaps and heaps of information under the hood.