Read #1 book on Hinduism and enhance your understanding of ancient Indian history.
Read #1 book on Hinduism and enhance your understanding of ancient Indian history.

Sheehan Shukla

Drama Fantasy Tragedy


Sheehan Shukla

Drama Fantasy Tragedy

The Monster & The Eklavyas - 2

The Monster & The Eklavyas - 2

9 mins 22K 9 mins 22K

Part 2

Chapter 1: The Trio


Year 1999

Khandwa, M.P.

Next evening, while walking back from the college he saw the three again inside the park, collecting firewood. The koel was also there, only higher up in the tree keen on finishing its day’s quota of calls. The little girl was hunched over a stack, arranging it, when she saw him. She straightened up, tidying up the soiled frock by running her hands over it, and smiled.

He peeled his gaze away from her, opened the gate and entered.

The girl’s unblinking gaze followed him. Suddenly, one of the boys said something loudly. She left her place and ran towards him.

Varan came inside and lowered himself to his usual sofa chair. Tired from work and tired from the heat. But mostly from the memories that refuse to go away. The permanent residents of his mind, both conscious and subconscious, they were like those persistent encroachers who even after being driven away, time and again, would come back at the first opportunity and lay claim to the place, yet again.

Resting his head on the sofa back, he gazed up at the blades of the ceiling fan doing lazy rounds. A low thud from the AC kicking to life echoed in the silence of his empty house.  

The melancholy rushed in to embrace the lone member of the house. Equally eager, he gave himself in. His tired mind raced away from the painful present to the cherished memories of the past, transporting him some ten years back to the 15th day of the April of 1989. The time when the house was still alive and complete. His wife Malini and their two children were its soul. The boy, Aadi, was all of six years and Niya, the baby girl, had just completed her sixth month.

The house was a home, then.

* * *

“Papa, are we really going with Daada ji to his place?” The boy came scurrying on his little feet. The excitement of traveling to a different city and that to his favourite place was shining through.

“Yes, but not we. Just your mother, you, and this cute little baby,” Varan replied, snuggling to his daughter in his arms.

“Why are you not coming? I don’t want to go without you,” the boy protested, tugging at the waistband of his trousers.

Varan shifted the gurgling baby onto the bed. Kneeling down, he put an arm around the boy’s narrow waist, drawing him closer. “I cannot take any leaves right now. I am sorry. There is so much work at the college,” he gestured with his free hand signifying the volume. “If I take leaves now then my share of work will go to my colleagues, I mean, my friends who work with me. So if someone gets ill or wants to take a day or two off due to some emergency, they will not be able to do so. It won’t be right, isn’t it?” He explained the situation to the boy as talking to an adult.

 The boy pondered over the explanation for a while. His eyes lit up with a possibility. “That means you can take leaves after the work is done. So will you come after that?”

He chuckled, pleased with his son’s observation. “I promise. As soon as the work here is finished, I will rush to be by your side.”

The boy beamed at the reply.    

Baba, tea is ready,” his wife’s voice calling his father drifted into his ears.

He was picking the baby up from the bed when Malini appeared at the doorstep of their room. “Come, the tea is ready. Come Aadi, have your milk.”

“Yes, we have heard, and we were just coming out. Isn’t it, Niya?” His reply was to his wife, but his eyes and the words were directed at the baby.

Little Niya broke into a wide toothless smile affirming his answer.

They came into the living room with Aadi holding Malini’s arm swinging it wildly and getting admonished in return.

Already at the dining table, his Daada ji was glancing through the day’s newspaper. Aadi went ahead, crouching on tiptoes.

“Boo!” he cried, jumping up.

The grandfather feigned a start at the sudden noise making the boy giggle with pleasure.

“Behave yourself, Aadi!” Malini admonished again, taking Niya into her arms.

The Grandpa and Grandson shared a suppressed laugh.

Varan took the chair beside his father, passing him a cup of piping hot tea.

“Did you call the driver?” His father asked in between the sips.

“Yes, Baba. He will be here by nine tomorrow morning.”

“When are you coming?”

“As soon as my work is finished here, I will take some leaves.”

“Make sure you take enough to be with us for at least a week,” his father directed.

He nodded in affirmation and glanced towards Malini. Malini gave a weak smile, busy rocking Niya to sleep.

Daada ji, are we going for a walk?” Aadi asked from the other side stuffing his mouth with his favourite orange cream biscuit.

“Yes, we are, as soon as you finish your milk.”

Having lost interest in her mother’s rocking effort, Little Niya squirmed in Malini’s lap. The array of plates on the table holding items of different colors; the faces gathered around it; the ever-changing tones of the sounds those faces were making was much more interesting than her mother’s lame attempt to put her to insipid sleep.

Malini made her stand up on her lap. She, at once, leaned out and stomped a hand towards a plate filled with biscuits.

With a deft hand, Varan pulled the plate away from her reach. Malini grabbed her hand before it could hit the hard tabletop.

Little Niya found it insulting and squealed in annoyance looking towards her Daada ji, complaining about her parents. The Daada ji, responding at once, got up and rushed to his complaining granddaughter. Lifting her up high in the air, he began mimicking the calls of cows and cats.

 Attention diverted successfully before it could break into an ear-splitting cry, the baby kept gazing at her Daada ji with her doe-eyes trying to comprehend intriguing sounds.

Beta, prepare her pram. I am taking her along.”

“Yes, Baba,” Malini replied, putting her empty teacup down.

“Niya will go for a walk; Niya will see trees, and flowers, and birds, and squirrels . . .” Her Daada ji was talking to her in an animated voice emphasizing each and every word. Niya flapped her tiny hands in reply making incoherent sounds of her own.

Aadi had emptied his glass of milk and was sliding out of the chair.

“Wash your hands and face before you go out,” Varan instructed him, taking the final sip of his tea.

* * * 

Malini closed the door behind her as the children went for a stroll with their grandfather. “Baba is not happy that you are not coming with us. He really wanted all of us to go with him.”

Varan sighed. “I know, but there’s too much work at the college right now. It’s examination time. You know that. As soon as they are over, I will come,” he replied walking back into the living room with Malini, in tow.

Malini gave a faint grunt of affirmation and went ahead to clear the table. He went back to his room to pack the bags for his family’s journey tomorrow.

* * *

Some ten minutes before nine the next morning, the clang of the doorbell accompanied by a loud call signaled the arrival of the driver. He was to drive them to their ancestral home in the village. His father’s regular driver had fallen ill soon after arriving in the city and had to be relieved. His sister, who lived in the city, took him to her place.

An excited Aadi helped with the bags and running other errands.

The car was an old model Ambassador from the time when floor mounted gears were still a novelty. The gearstick was mounted adjacent to the steering wheel. Long decades had robbed the sheen from the car’s body leaving a lusterless blue colour in its wake. A wide, circular patch of paint near the left headlight had chipped off exposing the rusty brown metal underneath.

Varan walked up to his father and bent down to touch his feet. His father held him from the shoulders and blessed him. He stepped back as his father turned to open the door.

Holding the door open, his father turned towards him. “Do come to our home this time, son. It’s been four years since your mother passed away. You never came back after that. That house and this old man desperately want their son to make it come alive one more time with his presence.” His lips quivered. “I don’t have much life left in me. This could be our last time together. I know you hold me responsible for your mother’s sudden demise. You are not wrong. I took her asthma attack very lightly. Had I acted promptly, your mother wou . . . hav . . .” His voice cracked. “Can you not forgive this ol . . . man  . . . Plea. . .sss . . .” The cracked voice shattered into innumerable, incoherent sound slivers. Those which could only be felt not heard.

The sight of his father breaking down into tears made Varan overcome with guilt. He found himself incapable of stopping the torrent of emotions that brimmed his heart and raring to spill through his eyes. He took two hasty steps and embraced him. “No, Baba, please do not say that! I am sorry . . . I am sorry for all the pain that I caused you . . .” he said, hugging his father tight.

The duo stayed like that for quite a while.

A wave of new-found energy had begun coursing through the dilapidated muscles of the old man. In that precise moment, the father found his estranged son back. He closed his eyes and thanked god. The immediate emotions spent, they pulled away from the embrace somewhat conscious of the others.

Varan closed the car door after his father was comfortably seated. His gaze moved towards Malini. Their eyes locked. A smile of approval made its way on her face. She gave a silent nod for having done the right thing. His son looked worried, though. Varan ruffled his hair with a smile indicating that everything is alright. Little Niya wanted to come to him. She squirmed in her mother’s lap. He took her hands and kissed them. With a final kiss on her forehead, he tapped the car’s roof signaling the driver to move.

I will miss you! Varan and Malini mouthed the words to each other as the car started to roll.

Aadi kept waving at him until the car took a right turn at the intersection and disappeared.

At twelve in the noon, he was in a lazy conversation, over late morning tea, with the other professors when the call came.

* * *


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