aaji - my grandmother
by suyash bhardwaj
CHAPTER - 3
“An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, despite the time, the place, despite the circumstances. The thread can be tightened or tangled, but never be broken”
A Chinese Proverb
She was walking on a familiar road. She remembers it. This is the path she takes from the school to her house. She continues to walk forward and reaches where the road forks into two paths. She takes the path which leads to the top of the hill. The peak of the hill had a majestic panorama of her serene village and the humming sounds of the insects bring the view alive. The sun was waning and hiding beyond the horizon slowly stealing light away from the countryside. The moonlight flushed the landscape with its white lux. What grabbed her attention was a falling rock with an extremely beautiful white trail. Underneath the view, she could unmistakably observe the village, school, residences, the great lake, her house and the forbidden land nearby. She walked with a saunter as if she did not care about the world and charmed herself in this mesmerizing environment. Abruptly, she ceased and almost stumbled in doing so. She stealthily walked and watched carefully a figure next to an old tree. There was something unusual about him. She was taken aback because the figure was shining splendidly in white. She moved closer to clearly see the figure. She drew near but she could not recognize it. She again moved closer to get a decent look however suddenly, the figure moved. The girl was petrified as she stood frozen. She knew it saw her. The figure approached her and came closer and closer. She identified that the figure was of a young boy although she never met him or saw him in her life. The boy looked at her curiously and asked her whether she can see him. The girl gave a puzzled look not knowing what to say. She stared into his enchanting blue eyes. She never saw anyone as beautiful as him. The boy turned and quickly looks beyond the horizon. The girl was shocked. The landscape turned green in a flash and the girl woke up.
She was drenched in sweat. She realized it was just a dream. She stood up and saw herself in the mirror wondering about the identity of the boy, from her dream, whom she had never met. Neglecting the dream as inconsequential, she moved on to her daily chores of helping her parents.
She completed her morning routine and prepared for her school. She navigated the same route up to her school. The bell rang flagging the end of the school. The girl followed the same path across the lake which meets the main road adjacent to the village temple ending at the divergence that passes through the haunted house and finally reaches to her house. Before she reached home, she waited outside the haunted house. She could not shake the eeriness about the house. The cold stillness of the house devoid of any warmth haunts her. She stood outside the premises of the land listening to the forest leaves rustling in the breeze. She reached home, completed her work and relaxed in the bedroom. She gazed out of her window watching the waxing moon. The cool wind breezed past her delicate face and unsettled her straight black hair. She was pondering about the boy from her dream whom she had never met. She slowly shut her eyes as the moon and stars came alive in a clear night sky.
She was walking on a familiar road. She remembers it. This is the path she takes from school to her house. She continues to walk forward and reaches where the road forks into two paths. She takes the path which leads to the top of the hill. She remembers it. She was aware of what lies ahead. As soon as she reached the peak of the hill, she saw a similar landscape of the setting sun and a falling rock with a beautiful white trail. She reached the place where the old tree stood. She saw him. The young boy standing and looking out, as if searching, slowly approaching the girl glowing brightly in white. The girl held her nerves this time.
The young boy approached and said to her, “I am so happy.”
The girl was feeling uneasy. She could not comprehend what the boy meant. They have never met before, yet he feels happy to see me. The girl had a lot of questions and no answers. The boy looks at her and realizes her apprehensions.
“Do you realize where you are, Shanaya?” She was shocked to hear her name. She moved away from the boy. She began to quickly squint her eyes, squeeze herself and slap her out of the dream yet none of them appears to work for her. She started to chant the name of the village deity asking the gods to protect her. The boy was amused by the theatrics of her visitor.
Shanaya was in a state of utter confusion. She could not understand what is happening to her. It was extremely unreal to imagine that she would encounter a ghost of a beautiful boy, who apparently knows her name, whom she had never met before in the most unfathomable and unimaginable place, her dreams. The series of thoughts made her mind dizzy and she fell to the ground. She found it funny that the ground is as hard as in reality.
“You must have a lot of questions?” asked the boy.
“How do you know my name? Who are you? Where am I? This is definitely not real. I must be dreaming but why am I not in control? Why is it that I cannot wake up from my own dream? What is happening?” cried Shanaya.
"Even I am not sure what world we are in, but it seems to be a village. I do not remember my name. My memories are fragmented, and some are lost. I do not remember how long I have been trapped in this place. I feel like I know this place. The last thing I remember is the sight of the falling rock with a white trail on a clear night sky.”
Shanaya gave a puzzled look. None of it makes any sense.
Shanaya looked over the hills. She saw the setting sun. It gave a dazzling green flash as the sun dived into the horizon. She gradually opened her eyes and finds herself in the bedroom.
“What in the world is happening?” she wondered as birds chirped and the first rays of the sun gently fall on her dusky face.
CHAPTER - 4
“Audere Est Facere”
To do is to dare
The primary school was mundane in comparison to last night's escapades. Shanaya was lost throughout the lessons. Her mind was preoccupied with the thoughts of the dream. She could not believe what she saw. She wondered if her dreams are hers anymore She thought about the identity of the boy. She was certain that she had never seen him and wondered how he knew her name. She couldn’t understand anything. She thought of sharing it with her parents and friends, but no one would take her seriously and dismiss it as one of her wild imaginations. Although she had a lot of apprehensions, there was a little part of her curious about this unusual phenomenon. Her anxiousness drove her crazy throughout the day. The bell rang and Shanaya quickly stood up and ran towards her house. She could barely keep up with the excitement and confusion. The sun dipped and the moonlight filled the starry sky. She did her daily chores and completed her homework. She told her mother that she would be sleeping. Her mother gave a surprised look as she never expected it from her teenage daughter. She arranged her bed and prepared herself.
She was walking on a familiar road. She remembers it. This is the path she takes from school to her house. She continues to walk forward to reach where the road forks into two paths. She takes the path that leads to the top of the hill. She rushed to the old tree at the peak of the hill. She saw the falling rock with a beautiful white trail on the horizon. As soon as she reached the old tree, she did not find anyone. The boy with the blue eyes had disappeared. She walked slowly near the old tree. Shanaya never saw such a big tree in her life. The girth of the tree was large enough to accommodate her entire house. The old tree had long branches and a rugged surface. She imagined what it would be like watching the village from atop the old tree. “No one is going to catch hold of me. It’s my dream.” she thought cheekily. She traversed her hand on the tree looking for small grooves. She started her climb. It was difficult to get hold of the grooves due to her minute stature but she managed to get hold of the branches and worked her way to the top of the tree. She sat on the top branch, watching the landscape, wondering about the whereabouts of the boy. The dying light from the setting sun illuminated her brown eyes baring each little detail of her construct.
A tender voice frightened Shanaya as she looked at the boy, sitting beside her, appearing out of nowhere. It was the boy with the blue eyes. Shanaya saw the boy quickly turning his gaze towards the falling rock.
“How did you come here? You were not here a second ago.” Inquired Shanaya. She was extremely annoyed with the enigma surrounding the place and about the identity of the boy.
“Who are you?”
“It is difficult to say. I have been trapped in this place for a very long time. At least it feels like it. All I remember is the falling rock with a white trail on a clear night sky. Suddenly you arrive. You are the first person I have ever met here. This place is deserted. You vanished the moment the sun had set. My memories aren’t intact. I have a few flashes of memory of a house in the village and one of a strong man with a black mustache and a beautiful lady. Perhaps, I belong to this village and have a past which I do not remember.
Does this village resemble the village you live in your reality?”
Shanaya nodded in approval.
“I thought so.”
“How do you know my name?”
The white complexion of the boy soon turned red. “I have seen you through the window of my house.” replied the boy as he pointed his hand to a dilapidated house. The girl immediately recognized the house. It was in proximity to her residence. The house where the boy lived in the forbidden land of the zamindar. She froze in terror.
“Impossible,” she thought. The ghost of the village is the boy with blue eyes who is haunting her dreams. He is the dead son of the zamindar. Fear slowly wrapped and coiled her. She couldn’t move. The legends were true. There indeed exist a ghost. She thought her death is imminent. There was no escape. The green flash did not seem to happen any soon. The ghost would soon consume her. Anxiety and fear slowly consumed her. Suddenly, she felt a hand touching her shoulder.
“What happened? Why have you gone silent?” asked the boy.
Shanaya cried. The tears were rolling down her cheeks. She begged the boy to spare her life.
“I do not understand, Shanaya,” said the boy.
She timidly explained about her village, the identity of the boy and the legends associated with the forbidden land.
The boy was absorbed in deep thought after Shanaya revealed his identity.
“Are you going to kill me?” asked Shanaya.
“Do not be afraid of me?” said the boy. His emotions swelled up.
The boy turned and gave a bright smile. His eyes teared up.
“The window of my house is special. I was alone in this place. I wandered around in search of villagers. I yelled and cried for help but nobody would turn up. This place is devoid of any sound. Only eerie silence exists broken only by my forlorn voice. I sought perpetually for companionship, but I could not cross these lands. There is nothing beyond the horizon. I almost gave up and accepted this way of life. There are fruits but no hunger, bright sun but no warmth, white clouds but no shadow, tallest of trees but not enough to look beyond the horizon and falling rock that is floating ceaselessly never to hit the land. I was left to find no solace. It was all dark for what feels like decades. Suddenly when I crossed a house, I heard thunder. I thought it was a figment of my imagination, but I heard it again. The sound of thunder was the first sound which was not mine. I rushed towards the house. The sound of the thunder grew stronger. I entered the house and climbed the staircase to find a window. The sound emanated from there. I watched through the window and saw it was raining heavily outside. It did not rain when I was outside. I looked through another window. It was not raining outside. I tried to open the window, but it was stuck. It would not budge no matter how much I tried. The sound of rain calmed my heart but that was not the only sound I heard that day. I heard a name. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. I never imagined a sound could make my heart flutter. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I was happy.”
Shanaya was lost in his moist blue eyes. Her anxiety disappeared. The feeling of joy and happiness embraced her. His blue eyes shone brightly. She never realized when the blue in her eyes turned green. She opened her eyes. The birds chirped and roosters crowed. Moments later, the morning sun broke the dawn. She reached for the basin, turned the tap and washed her face. She returned to her bed and watched the sunrise.
“Whose name did he hear Aaji?” thought Shumi. Her curiosity made her impatient and agitated. Shumi demanded Aaji to tell her the name the boy heard through the window of his house. Aaji gave her a smile and said who else it could be. Shumi radiated with joy.