SATISAR THE VALLEY OF DEMONS (XXII)

Nilnag’s plan was very simple, and once accomplished guaranteed success. He would give Kashyap a magical vibhuti, a powder prepared by Nilnag over a period of one hundred years. Kashyap was to go back to Kashmir and invite Jaladbhava and all his ministers, nobles, commanders and all who mattered, to a dinner. During the course of the dinner Kashyap would serve the vibhuti in cooked fish, which Jaladbhava and his tribe relished. The vibhuti would put them to sleep. “How long would they sleep?” Kashyap enquired.

“That my son, I do not know, but it could be 40, 400, or 4,000 years. Once the vibhuti has its effect and they go into a deep slumber, all my fairies will descend and carry the sleeping men into a cave in the dense forest within the mountains. There they will be interred and shall remain. You will take the throne and the rest of the populace will obey your command. By and by, you ferry your tribe to fill the vacuum at the top and rule the land as you wish.”

Kashyap was satisfied. After all he had to do as little as feeding the vibhuti and there was a strong chance that his life’s dream was about to materialize.

After a day’s squatting near the fishpond under the chinar tree, Kalhan Pandit, carrying his burden of genealogical tables, headed home. Home, he thought as he leisurely walked in the street. What home? His entire family had deserted him. He was now all alone like a ghost, in his own big mansion. By and by he came into his own street and saw a hustle and bustle near his house—some people were moving in and others were coming out. A few trucks stationed nearby also came in view. Perhaps his children had returned. The thought flashed through Kalhan Pandit’s mind. He prayed it were so. He almost ran the rest of the distance to his home. Crossing the outer gate he entered his courtyard. There he saw a young lady looking at him inquisitively. Kalhan Pandit moved near and said, “I did not recognize you daughter.”

“Neither did I,” said the lady with a frown.

“Well I am Kalhan Pandit. What do you want?”

“Nothing, what do you want? If you have to meet AC Sahib, he is not home.”

“AC sahib? Whose house is this my dear daughter?”

“It is ours. Don’t you know? The DC Sahib has allotted it to us.”

“DC sahib? Well. It is fine. I am happy. After all this big house was almost empty and you can stay here as long as you wish.”

“Pandit ji, what are you talking about? It seems you do not know my Sahib—the AC sahib.”

“No daughter, I am afraid I do not know the present AC Sahib.”

“What present AC? He was AC from the beginning of the movement and you say you don’t know him.” “My misfortunate lady, in fact, I do not have much liaison with officers—now take your Assistant Commissioner…” The lady broke into laughter. “You simpleton, AC is Area Commander not Assistant Commissioner.”

“Oh, yes yes I am hung in the past and what is DC dear?”

“It is District Commander. I told you DC sahib allotted this house to us. You know we have put our two children in the English medium School. It was getting difficult to send them to the town every morning though we have purchased a new Maruti car but you know life in a village is no life so we decided to move and here we are.”

“That is a very good decision. Do you know my sons also moved away from here for the education of their children? Anyway can I go upstairs?”

“You know the boys have been clearing the place. I do not know. I am waiting for the AC sahib.”

That evening Kalhan Pandit moved out of his ancestral house and into the small ramshackle room behind the temple, which used to be the grain store in the not very distant past. He carried nothing except his heritage—the long tortuous tables initiated by his long lost ancestors.

Following Col Tarkunde of the medical corps at Cantonment Hospital Badami Bagh, Col Sharma entered the doctor’s chamber. Col Tarkunde, the surgeon, offered him a seat in front of his small table. Col Sharma thanked him and sat down. The surgeon remained standing. Pacing the room, he was in a pensive mood. Both men kept silent for a while. Then Sharma broke the silence. “Well Col how is she now?”

“She will survive; you say she was mauled by a tiger.Well that would account for the multiple wounds, gashes, contusions all over her body, but how do you account for the devastation she seems to have undergone inside of her?” Col Sharma could not bear the piercing gaze of his friend. He turned his head sideways, without uttering a word. Col Tarkunde brought out a cigarette packet from his table drawer, and taking out a cigarette offered the pack to his visitor. Col Sharma nodded a no thank you. Col Tarkunde, lighting his cigarette and drawing a deep puff, again stared into Col Sharma’s face and letting out a cloud of smoke said, “When shall we learn to respect human beings Col? It has taken me three hours to stitch her inside.”

Col Sharma could take it no more. He exploded, “Come on man. She was not in the charge of the army. It is those bastards. What can I do? They are a law unto themselves.” Col Tarkunde sensing that his friend had nothing more to say enquired, “Who controls them?”

“None,” was the brief reply from Sharma. Col Tarkunde was taken aback. “What do you say? After all there is a joint command. Every force is subservient to this command. Why don’t you do something about it? Read the foreign newspapers. Look what the world is telling about us.” He realized that he was talking too much. He cut himself short and said, “Alright, I hope she will come out of anaesthesia in a couple of hours. But it is going to take a long time for her to get back on her feet.”

Col Sharma stood up, picked up his cap from the table and, offering his hand to Col Tarkunde said, “Please take care Doctor. She deserves it.” Saying this he turned and taking big strides left the room.

They had a sumptuous dinner—fried chicken with plenty of salad. Ajab Malik ate like a starved man. They did not talk much. After dinner his hostess proposed a cup of coffee. Ajab Malik volunteered to prepare it. Miss Braun was delighted. As Ajab Malik got busy in the kitchen, Miss Braun moved out into the balcony. It was a beautiful night; a full moon hung over the horizon. The dazzling city lights appeared to dim the soft silvery moonlight. Miss Braun sat on the steps and waited for him. She had been thinking deeply about this man. She thought him irresistible. There was something in this man—Miss Braun was unable to name it—something very tender, something very fresh and very gentle.What was it? She continued to ponder. Then in a flash she located it. It was something in his eyes. Sadness? Miss Braun questioned herself. No. Passion? No, then what? Love? Love? “Yes, yes, yes,” Miss Braun said aloud. Ajab Malik, standing in the doorway holding two coffee mugs in his outstretched hands, heard Miss Braun saying, “yes, yes, yes.” He simply said, “Miss Braun that is better—yes…an affirmation speaks of a positive bent of mind.” Miss Braun stood up, and taking her coffee thanked Ajab Malik, ignoring his remark. Both sat on the steps sipping their coffee. After a while, Ajab, unable to bear the silence that grew around them said, “How is the coffee?”

“Marvellous,” replied the lady.

Looking at the full moon he remarked, “You know Miss Braun, this full moon always reminds me of a small sleepy village nestled in the dense woods of Kashmir.”

“Any special event of your life?” enquired Miss Braun. ‘Well, you know Kashmir is a beautiful place. May be I am biased, but I tell you Miss Braun it is splendid.” Miss Braun was looking very intently into his eyes. Even in the dim light she could make out the flicker in his eyes as he cleverly sidelined the discussion from his person to Kashmir. She asked very bluntly, “Ajab, tell me who was she?”

“What do you mean Miss Braun?”

“I mean what I mean, you know what I mean. I have read a lot about the oriental mind. I know how it works.Love! Well it is not same in the occident and orient. Hell of a difference. I know now what keeps you ahead of all others. This vitality, this energy, this freshness, Ajab tell me about her.”

Ajab Malik looked at her for a while and then suddenly dropped his armour. He was totally exposed now. In measured tones he began, “Well, yes you are right. She was a part of me as we grew up together. We came from different backgrounds. As two little children we played together. She was the daughter of a small time businessman. I come from a family of scholars, an elite family, a family respected for its ideals, for its scholarship and hold over letters. We went to school, and slowly came of age. Side by side, her father prospered. He became very rich. By the time we moved to college, the distance between our households had widened. Then suddenly it all came out in the open. We were desperate. My family disapproved, her father opposed. There was no way. It was doomed.” Ajab Malik paused for breath and Miss Braun could see his misty eyes and flushed face. Putting down the coffee mug on the floor she touched his shoulder. He looked so innocent, yet so hurt. He resumed, “Well then, one day, unable to bear the whispers, her father took her away. For days and weeks I looked at the window desperately trying to catch a glimpse of her lovely face. But she was not there. Where had she gone? No one seemed to know.” Miss Braun moved closer to him. He seemed to be shaking from head to foot. She took his hand and touched his face in a gesture of sympathy. Ajab kissed her hand. Miss Braun felt deeply touched.

An excerpt from Ayaz Rasool Nazki’s  book SATISAR, THE VALLEY OF DEMONS published by Vitasta Publishing and the book is available on www.vitastapublishing.com