"Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift white horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, will travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic magnificences and eight special qualities of Godhead. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill by the millions those thieves who have dared dress as kings."
-The Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.2.19-20)
After Samrat goes beyond the wall, I can't concentrate on anything. I can’t catch fish from the water. I can’t talk to my friend. I can’t reveal I’m worried to anyone, not even to Atul.
The thought he would do something stupid makes me white. The unthinkable thought fills my stomach with heavy stones and I even feel the weight in my chest. I even feel hungry after he left.
Till evening I was with Atul but after coming to my hut I felt lonely, alone and completely dejected.
Though I’d no appetite, I’ve to eat with my mother. I didn’t want to trigger her sadness. She isn’t in her senses but yet she feels sad if I refuse to take dinner.
As the darkness covers everything in the wall I lay on the cot near my mother, my eyes looking at the hut roof.
I don’t know when I fell asleep but that night, I had a dream. I've had many daydreams of Samrat but I’ve never seen him in a dream before that night.
In the dream, he is beyond the wall, at a huge abandoned city, near the edge of a big building made out of metal and metal. The ground around him is crowded with people. Not my people but the folk, the Nirbhayas and the Devatas. All the people around him have weapons in their hands as if there is a war and Samrat is launching a speech as if he is their leader.
The strange thing in the dream is a white horse on which Samrat is mounted. The horse is a strong and strange animal for me. I’ve never seen it before but now I know it’s a horse that is incomprehensible. The wind there is carrying only and only sand and the snow-white mane of the horse is wisping in the air like flames wisps when we throw ears of wheat into it.
“Devadatta,” Samrat shouted as he threw his sword in the air. His sword isn’t curved like Nirbhaya’s sword but it is different, it neither is straight nor curved but something between them.
Horse raises his head, his muscles ripple from under his freshly groomed pelt and his powerful legs.
Samrat propels him forward and keeps going ahead. The remaining crowd around him follows him, some on horses, some on machines, and the rest on foot.
They are in battle.
On the battlefield - the battlefield is dust and dirt.
Then I see the other side. The other side is soldiers from the PATANAGR. They seem more like blood-thirsty animals than the soldiers. For Samrat and his men, it is the hardest time they've ever faced. The army against them is ten times more than them. They are outnumbered. Their bodies are baking in the heat and soaking with sweat. No armor like the foes, no machines like the foes, or no numbers like foes. They seem vulnerable.
After both armies crashed into each other in no time, the battlefield was littered with blood. Red, brown and black are the colors visible in the sand.
The ruthless battle is going on. The air is now heavy and thick with the scent of smoke. Hell has descended upon the battlefield.
Men following Samrat are barely trained, still fighting to the finish, but it seems clear which side will win. The dead and wounded of the Samrat’s side are scattered across the field and the faces of the fighters are grim with strain and the certainty of death, fighting is useless, but they are fighting to the death.
Samrat is on his horse, among the army of the Creator. Slicing and dicing, jabbing and stabbing with his sword.
“Ratnameru can’t save you,” a man half made of Vajra shouts and the next moment he thrust his sword through Samrat’s chest.
“Your sword can’t save you.” Man of Vajra yells as Samrat falls to the Ground.
“Rantnameru will…” Samrat can’t finish as Vajra 's sword catches his chest.
That's when I wake up.
My clothes are wet with sweat and my pillow is damp. I've been crying in my sleep.
As I open my mouth a cry escapes from my throat and I feel a scratchy feeling in my throat.
“Padhma…” My mother cries with me, thinking something has happened to me.
“What happened?” she wraps her hands around me, “I’m here, with you.” My senseless mother can sense that I’m in fear, somehow.
She brushes my wet hair away from my forehead and kisses me there.
“I'm here,” she says, “I’m sorry my dear I wasn’t with you when you needed me.”
“It is okay, Ma,” I say, hugging her tight.
She isn’t mad.
I know that always.
It was our secret that has made me more close to her. It has bonded us together.
She is the only one who knows Love: a feeling that every human should feel. The feeling I feel when I'm with Samrat. The sweet, loving feeling that makes me alive and when he isn’t with me it snatches away all the life from inside me and leaves me alone as though I've just been thrown into darkness.
And of course, I know. I'm the only one who knows that my mother isn't mad, or crazy: There's nothing wrong with her at all.
Everyone says she is mad because she never speaks in public after my father’s death. I'm the only one who has ever heard her speak. Every night she comes to sleep in my cot and I wake up at midnight to see her curled up in a ball on her side. I hear her sobbing, quietly into her pillow so I don’t hear but I hear it.
I hear her chanting the same word over and over, like it's her Mantra, stuffing her mouth with blankets so I could barely hear her: "Shankar, Shankar, Shankar."
She chants the name as if it's the name of her only God. As if she is testing something sweet while speaking it. And then she cries as though it’s choking her in her sleep.
I would put my arms around her and squeeze her, and she becomes mute, in my arms. I would hear her chanting for hours till she is exhausted herself on the word and falls back to sleep. I feel the tension in her body slowly relaxing, in my arm and I see, in the faint light of the lantern, her eyes swollen with tears.
She doesn’t like to say anything but my father’s name. It is the name that makes her heart beat. It makes her breathe and it makes her what she is.
That's the real reason she doesn't speak. All the rest of the words in the world are nothing for her. Every world except that is useless for her. She lives in the past more than the present. She blames herself. She suffers pain. I know these things can’t help my father. He is gone now but she can’t understand it and that’s the peak of the love. The world has unnumberable words but she has only a word, a word that echoes in the dark corners of her memory. SHANKAR – the name of my father.
She sits up and looks at my face, “Are you crying.”
I look away at the light of the lantern, “no,” I lie.
She doesn’t speak but stares at me, she grips my shoulders and turns me to her face, “you are crying.”
I nod, “yes.” I admit.
“Don’t cry,” she says, “he will come back.”
“I know,” I say, surprised she has the sense to know what I’m crying about.
“I have a nightmare,” I say.
“They come to test your love,” she sighs, “they come to check if they can break you but you don’t let them break you.” She wipes my tears, “I too have nightmares, every night.”
“I know.” More tears in my eyes.
“But I never allow them to distract me. I never allow the world to distract Me." She speaks with firm belief, her lips pressed in a hard line, “I know he is like your father, he won’t break his promise.”
I sigh. She isn’t still in her senses, at least not in all her senses. Still, she believes my father will come back but I know it’s impossible.
I wish I could find a cure for my mother. Sooner, I need to find it sooner. That’s why I’m learning the book of healing and trying each herb described in it. But none has worked yet.
I always comfort myself by thinking that someday I will figure out the cure and she will have her all senses back. Someday she will be cured, and the past and all its pain will vanish from her heart as smoothly and swiftly as the empty clouds disappear from the sky.
Someday all my people will be cured. We have many people on the wall who are out of their senses. Some mothers who have lost their sons and daughters beyond the wall, some brothers who have lost their brothers or sisters there. Some fathers who have lost their sons and daughters. Daughters like me who have lost their fathers.
But this doesn't make any sense to others. They think as long as no one rebels or tries to get knowledge, everyone's happy. We're not supposed to know about old books. But I do because I want a cure for my mother. I want a cure for all mothers in the wall. I want a cure for my people - a cure for their fear - a cure for their ignorance – a cure for the wall, not around us that stops us from going beyond it but the walls that my people have built around their mind, around their thoughts, around their hearts. I want to make them free, not from the wall made of brick and stone but the imaginary wall around their consciousness that is invisible and they can’t see it but still, it is there, blocking knowledge and their emotion. These walls aren’t even supposed to exist; supposedly, all the people who live in the wall were destroyed over five hundred years since Pralaya by these walls. These walls are more dangerous than the ones we can see around us.
The most dangerous fact about these walls is most people are unaware that even these walls exist.
“Don’t worry, and sleep.” My mother’s voice shatters the chain of my thought, “you need rest.”
"I know but I can’t." I blink at her as she puts her hand over my head. I feel the touch of mother’s hand after a long time as her fingers pass in my hair precisely.
"What's wrong with you?" Back and forth, back and forth her fingers move against the edge of my forehead. "You look like a younger version of me."
"Samrat," I say. "What if he breaks a promise?"
“He won’t,” she says, “nor your father has broken yet,” her face becomes serious, “Shankar is in a cell means alive and one day he’ll come back.”
"He’ll," I say the last thing I want to tell her is my father is dead as she doesn’t believe this.
She looks at me. Her face has always reminded me of the moon. Even when she's talking, even when she's irritated or happy or confused, her face stays weirdly beautiful. I bet my mother is more beautiful than she looks. She doesn’t care about her beauty after my father has gone. My people mistake her love toward my father as her madness.
I nod and lay on my side.
After fifteen minutes I’m still awake. My mother turns to me, "Can't sleep?" she asks.
"I’m trying," I say. "I just fear the bad dream will come back, that's all."
"Oh, God. I remember.” She says, “I had a dream too."
“What dream Ma?” I ask, surprised.
“I see him,” she says, “I see Samrat, on a horse- a white horse.”
I never expected her to remember Samrat. He often comes to my hut but I’ve never thought my mother knows her as she never speaks to him, not to anyone else.
“What else did you see?” I ask.
“Your father,” she says, “he rescued your father from the cell of PATANAGAR.” Hope sparkles in her eyes, “he won over Devatas.”
I understand my mother needs a cure. She still lives in the fantasy world where she has my father, still alive.
“One day he’ll rescue him,” I say. There isn’t any way to explain to my mother so I’ve left trying for a long time. Each time I try to convince her of the truth it hurts her beyond what I can imagine. I don’t want to hurt her anymore.
She nods and says, “I’m hungry, dear?” she looks at the wooden case under the lantern where we keep extra food, “have we something to eat?” she asks.
This happens a lot, she mostly does not take proper dinner and when nightmares wake her up at midnight she feels hungry.
“Let me check.” I push off my covers and stand up, go to the case and open its lid.
The case has two oranges and some potatoes. I don’t want to light a fire in the night so I leave potatoes and take out oranges.
I sit on a cot near my mother and peel an orange for her, using my nail. I unwind orange curls and drop them in her lap.
“Eat now,” I say, remembering how she fed me when I was young, how she peels oranges and lemon for me, and how she bakes ears of corn for me.
She takes an orange, separates one of its sections and puts it in her mouth. “Thank you,” she whispers, as gently as possible.
Tears threaten my eyes but I fight them back. If I cry she will stop eating and join me or try to mum me. I do want neither.
Like Samrat, I don’t know what heaven is but seeing how my mother holds an unpeeled orange in both her hands, like a small kid, is heaven for me.
She doesn’t speak until she finishes orange, separating each section one by one. I just stare at her. My mother doesn’t speak much. She speaks little with me but she keeps complete silence if there is anyone else in our hut. I’ve never heard her talking with my neighbour. She used to talk to small children. She liked children but in the whole years after my father’s death, I’ve not heard her say a single syllable to any children living around my hut.
That night none of us could sleep. We both lay in the cot, our eyes closed but we both know we are awake. Each time I open my eyes and look outside the hut window I find the blackness strange. This is the blackness that I can't recall seeing before. The night seems like a nightmare where I can’t see any light coming.
to be continue