aaji - my grandmother
by suyash bhardwaj
CHAPTER - 7
“Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit”
From nothing comes nothing
Shanaya reached the house of the boy who lives in her dreams. The house in her dreams looked nothing like. It was a quaint house with a large backyard. The eeriness of the house sent shivers down her spine. She entered the house to investigate and was surprised to see that everything inside the house remained and nothing seemed out of place. There were numerous books lined up at the shelf. She checked the contents of the book, but it was blank. The contents of the newspaper were blank as well. A stack of diaries filled up the place in one of the rooms. Shanaya thought this must be the room of the Zamindar. The investigation seemed to reach a dead end. She searched for the boy.
“Shanaya, come here” yelled the boy from one of the rooms. She entered the room and saw the boy sitting alongside the window. She stood near the window. The window was the only thing out of place. The blackness of the view outside the window did not match with dusk outside. She tried to get out of the window.
“It is of no use. There is something that repels us from getting out of the window. I have tried a lot. The only thing that gets out is sound. I have shouted for help a number of times from this window. The villagers must have thought my voice for the ghost’s presence in the house. It all makes sense why no one approached the house.” Said the boy.
“I stood outside the house on various occasions wondering what might have had happened here. Now that I think carefully, the vibration of your sound is familiar. The house looked sad to me. I sensed a broken cry of help. I never imagined the sensation I perceived were your weeping cries of help.” Said Shanaya.
“What should we do now?” asked the boy
Shumi clenched her pillow tightly.
“I don’t know what to do now,” said Shanaya.
The expression on her face became dull. She thought she could help him but nothing seemed to favor her. The boy cheered her. He was happy to know that someone deeply cared for him. Shanaya looked down and sighed. She looked up and suddenly saw the boy close to her. The boy took a few steps back. It felt to her like the boy tried to embrace her. The thought made Shanaya blush. She walked slowly down the stairs and reached the living area. Before she could step outside the room, a ring-like structure fixed to the wall caught her attention. It looked very odd. There was no purpose of a ring fixed to the wall. She touched the ring to examine the material and pulled it. The wall came off. It was a handle to a panel. Both of them were surprised. She asked the boy whether he was aware of this. The boy denied. Shanaya looked inside the opening of the wall. There were a few rolls of paper and a diary. The contents were blank but what struck Shanaya was that the diaries in the other room were different from this diary.
“This must be something special. These deeds must be special to your father. This is the key to your name. They were safely hidden inside the panel to be protected.” exclaimed Shanaya.
“If luck is in our favor, the panel must have protected the diary from fire and I have a positive feeling your father, the Zamindar must have left something. The truth about that night must be inside the diary.”
“What are you planning to do?” asked the boy.
“I will have to break into the house in my reality and find out.” Said Shanaya
Shanaya looked depressed. She sank down. The boy approached her.
“There is one problem. The annual prayer festival is tomorrow. The prayers in the festival are based on a ritual. The purpose of the annual prayer is to placate any possible negative effects of the ghost of the village. That would be you. They believe it is the power of the prayer that has kept you from causing any disaster. Now that I know everything, it looks hilarious. The ritual dictates the children of the village to sit in the temple for prayers throughout the day. The parents and elders would cordon the temple. According to the story of the comet, The name must be said when the comet appears on the horizon.”
The boy sat near her.
“If my theory is right and the diary does contain what we seek for then tomorrow is our last night.” Shanaya almost choked while speaking but did her best to hide her emotions. The inevitable is about to pass.
The boy said nothing.
“Tomorrow is the night the comet returns after 75 years.”
CHAPTER - 8
Seize the night
The temple had been prepared for the annual ritual. The day begins with assembling all the children in the morning and prepare them for prayer. The parents were not permitted near the prayer hall. Therefore they cordoned the prayer hall. The community hall construction inside the temple was incomplete and there were piles of brick lying near the compound wall. Shanaya was at her house thinking how to reach the charred house.
The radio had been over and over discussing the appearance of the comet and what one must do to protect themselves from the evil effect of the comet. The whole family moved out of the house and walked to the temple. Shanaya locked her gaze in anticipation of what lies in there as she passed the dilapidated house. The children gathered in a circle and sat down. The priest of the temple started his hymns and chants. The children were given a short break between prayer preparations. Shanaya looked everywhere for a way to escape but it was difficult to pass the cordon of all the elders and parents. She did not have much time left. The sun had set and constellations revealed themselves.
A white trail was visible on the horizon. Everyone was stupefied by the glorious night sky. Shanaya knew she did not have much time. A short break was given to the children before the final stage of the prayer. Shanaya pressured her mother that she wanted to go to the toilet. Initially, her mother resisted but gave in to her persistence. She took her to the adjacent farms and said to make it quick. Shanaya walked towards the farm slowly, stealthily crouched and suddenly made a dash without raising an alarm through the thick crops of the farm towards the boy’s house. Eventually, she resumed on the roads. It was the fastest she ever ran like a predator behind her prey. She could see the white trails clearly. It took her a while before she reached the house of the boy. The ruckus of the crowd could be heard from a distance. Her mother had reached the temple and alerted the villagers that her daughter had suddenly disappeared.
“I have to do this quickly before anyone finds me here” though Shanaya.
It was the first time anyone in 75 years had stepped in the house after that fateful night.
CHAPTER - 9
The condition of the house had deteriorated beyond recognition. It barely resembled the original house of 75 years ago. Shanaya scanned the house.
The vegetation over the walls made it extremely difficult for her to locate the handle. Luckily, it was a full moon day and the moonlight helped her vision. Shanaya envisioned the house in her dreams and tried to locate the handle. She traversed her hands over the wall and suddenly felt a ring-like structure in her hands. She found the handle. She looked at it. The secret of all the things happening to her was about to be revealed. It was only a pull away. She prayed and pulled the handle. The wall came off and the opening was visible. Shanaya could not control her excitement. The parchments were unaffected by the fire. The diary was intact but the pages had lost its color. She carefully removed the parchments and the diary and placed it on the floor. She tried to read the parchments but could not understand it. She turned and opened the diary.
After turning the last page of the diary, she closed it and looked at the comet, with a calm face, tears rolling down her face.
She took the diary in her hands, clenched it dearly to her heart and closed her eyes to make the final journey.