It was a dark night, darker than the word dark itself. The household of our concern or I may say Yadav household was needless to say, death quiet at the dead of the night. Malini and Shreedhar had just slipped into the bed with the 6 months old Aadhinkar. An hour or probably two elapsed before Aadhinkar burst out crying, with an even greater burst of piss. Malini seemed to be brought to reality a bit too harshly. This was the last straw. Honestly, speaking the last 6 months had not been pleasant and now this piss, crying at the dead of the night was making bad, worse. She somehow controlled her petite trembling body, her eyes ablaze with emotions and managed to blend her tears with the pitch black night. The hidden moon was struggling, rather bitterly to show up its brilliance between the monsoon clouds, it seemed to personify the bitterness, Malini contained for Aadhinkar. She scurried out of her bed to fetch the mop and clean the mess up. Meanwhile, Shreedhar had waked up finding the bed a bit too wet to sleep, partially terminating his night duty of snoring.
Malini quickly cleaned the mess, wobbling a little. She managed to comfort herself, stating that she was anyways going to Katra, if only to see temples that vaguely made her yawn and Aadhinkar was off course not coming. How was she to know that the baby was coming, if only to heat things as a volcano. Shreedhar switched off the lights only to resume his snoring. Malini was feeling greatly irritated, her hands still a bit shaky, her body still trembling, as a smile shone on the face of Aadhinkar who looked like moon god in dark with his emotion clouded, dreamy parents. All became quiet again except for the chilling winds that were still fencing with windows breaking but a few panes.
The next day passed quiet passively with Aadhinkar crying just once. Malini was quiet looking forward to the trip, the tickets had been booked in advanced, rooms had been reserved and just packing remained between her and train. It was the first trip after the cold alliance of Malini and Shreedhar. Their families couldn’t have figured out that icy Shreedhar combined with calm Malini would give a nuclear bomb. It had been two years since the fateful day they had married and not a single day had passed without quarrel. They seemed to be fighting all the time and on all topics from T.V to movies and even brands. You see they had their own share of differences beginning from lifestyle to Shreedhar’s wish of not keeping a maid for Aadhinkar. Malini started packing her bag a little dreamy as always. Having packed it all quietly, she took a quick nap before rushing into the kitchen to cook. All the while she had been thinking of where to dump Aadhinkar for the vacation. She even talked to her mother about it, eventually deciding to leave Aadhinkar with his maternal grandparents.
Shreedhar came late as usual but highlight of the day was still pending. Shreedhar scolded Malini for not packing Aadhinkar’s clothes. The tussle that followed involved almost half of the household’s furniture. Shreedhar won and Malini was obliged to pack Aadhinkar’s clothes looking vaguely unhappy. But she was not to give up. Aadhinkar seemed as an obvious foe to her peace, his smile a gentle bitterness. His relationship with her seemed to be cluttered by darkness. With negativity reeling in her mind Malini was almost keen on killing her 6 months old son. Little did she know this gut feeling was to change her life forever. She could not sleep that night pledging to avenge her tears with blood.
Finally the d-day arrived. The Yadav family calmly boarded the train bound for Jammu Tawi. Malini appeared quiet cheerful that day, at least for the moment. Her body was glistening in the sun, along with her mind that was loitering about. At the back of her mind she was a little worried, particularly about a white sachet which was kept securely in her bag, it really contained nothing except for arsenic, which scientist’s had labelled highly poisonous. Aadhinkar must die she thought, waiting for the right moment. It was not so that she wasn’t his mother or she hated children, but she could not tolerate one at such at such a close call. She had not imagined in even her wildest dream that being a mother could be such a dilemma. She always wanted to marry a Prince Charming and become a princess herself just like in the stories. She also like everyone wanted to live happily ever after. It was just now that Shreedhar was more of a villain than prince charming and she almost had no words to describe Aadhinkar. The baby’s crying seemed like a billion vases breaking together to her and not to forget the piss. She could not take it anymore. Moreover think of her a 21 year old ceasing to be independent, leaving her job and being chained.
Anyways, Shreedhar seemed to be at the top of the universe and why not, his age old dream of visiting Vaishno Devi Shrine, one of the holiest spots for Hindus was unfolding before his eyes. He had dreamt of this day, each night of his cold existence. As for him the cherry atop the cake seemed to be that he was visiting with his own family. The mother goddess had been kind with him for a lot of reasons. He was settled, had a permanent and respectable job, was owner of a house and a car and it seemed like a day dream to achieve this at just 25. He just could not stop thanking her for her grace and kindness. At 12:50 the lunch was served to the passengers. Shreedhar and Malini were greatly disappointed with the quality of the meal but had no other option. The outer landscape seemed to change a bit as they entered the mountainous area. White stones spread like eternity along the small stream seemed like diamonds in the bright sunshine. The stream moving on seemed to playfully touch the never ending line of pine. Some unrecognizable animals seemed to move about freely in the shade. Echoes of birds seemed to liven up the environment. Slight drizzle and scent of wet earth decorated this sight to behold. Even the sun seemed merry and gay spreading happiness to mountains and their people. The train stooped shortly to switch engine for the further journey.
The day changed effortlessly to evening which morphed into night. The Yadav family after having what could be called a joke in the name of dinner slipped inside their harsh bed sheets, if only to stay awake uncomfortably. Soon it was 11 when the Jammu Cantonment station came into sight, the last before their destination Jammu Tawi. On reaching Shreedhar picked up their bags and fished for a taxi to take them to their hotel Country-inn. On reaching they were assigned the room no. 301 only to sleep peacefully up till 9 A.M.
Shreedhar was the first one to wake up to the chirping of birds. The scene outside was panoramic. Mountains and lush green forests extended endlessly. The Shrine was visible from the windows and looked like dream bathed in sunlight. The flowers were dancing around in the garden which surrounded the hotel. Shreedhar ordered some tea before he tiptoed to the bathroom for a quick shower. He bathed in the icy cold water and changed his clothes. Malini woke up much later only to find Shreedhar and Aadhinkar ready to go. Honestly speaking she was least interested in this trip. She lazily got up, changed and non-interestedly walked to dining hall. The family broke their fast with some paranthas and kahwa. They decided to take a little stroll in the town of Katra before beginning the trek.
Katra is not like the average Indian towns. It had no hustle and bustle, no traffic and a clean air. Government might say that it is not developed but it looks much better than most developed towns. Shreedhar was altogether a different person; an air of devotion seemed to engulf him. Even little Aadhinkar seemed to behave properly, he wasn’t crying at all since the departure day. But Malini could not give up her plans. After about an hour of roaming about, the family decided to stop over a Dhaba. Shreedhar being most thoughtful went a little farther to fetch some juice; after all it was a hot day. This is when Malini got her chance. As soon as he was out of sight, she frantically began searching her bag, only to realize, the biggest mistake of her life. The pouch of arsenic which was hidden in her suitcase was basking about in the hotel. She quickly closed her bag, kept it on a side and began with her meal consisting of rajma rice. The family quickly finished with their meal. What seemed to go unnoticed was the look in her eyes, weary yet powerful, normal yet strange. A number of negative thoughts reeled in her mind. “Aadhinkar must die, if not of poison then of height.”
The family procured their “Yatra Parchi” or special identification which enabled them to travel to the holy cave. Shreedhar’s excitement seemed to grow with every step; every second seemed to delay his audience with the divine. Malini looked too distracted to speak. Nevertheless she was still walking.
Slowly the time passed as they were walking. Finally Sanchichaat came into sight, which is the highest point in the trek. Shreedhar’s mother goddess was just 3.5 kilometres away. It was this spot that disaster struck the family. Malini stopped by a bend to show little Aadhinkar the beautiful scene which seemed like nature’s expression of love. She held the little Aadhinkar above her head and dropped him deliberately. The baby started falling down like a boulder. He cried and cried until he panted and within blink of a eye the valley was spluttered with his young blood. Shreedhar could not bear this sight and even before Malini knew, he embraced the same fate as his child. Malini could not travel the remaining distance. She started climbing down the valley, call it sorrow, call it despair, call it whatever you like. She retuned back to the hotel and slept hard and crying every now and then. The next day’s newspaper carried a headline which sent shivers down many spines, “ Woman dies of arsenic in Country-inn, Katra.”