Wednesday, 19 March 2014


A Stranger Arrives

The bombs had just been dropped, and the war was coming to an awkward end. Atrocities of the most inhuman nature had been committed by all sides, and only the naive or the ignorant thought anyone had won.

Many had died in numerous names. Most of them had not lived at all.
Some had tried to escape the chaos and ended up in the remotest corners of the Earth.

Madari walked down the forest path, glancing now and then at the half-moon that lay low above the valley. The woods were dense, and home to bears and big cats, and looking at the wilderness below him made him conscious of the one he was about to enter. 

He paused for a bit when he reached the paghdandi that led in, took a deep breath, then resumed walking his normal pace. Shadows engulfed him instantly as he entered the narrow alley down the bosom of Mother Nature in her prime.

Madari laughed a bit. Indeed, it was Madari whose short, deep guffaws echoed in the dark silence, not the man he had been before. There was a life he had left behind, a life that he had loved and lived. A life that had ended in cinders, and irons, and pain, and misery, and bloodshed.

It had been a remote village on the Karnatic coast in 1938 where it had all changed. The fresh young Lieutenant Fredrick Lawley had been posted there to receive two unidentified guests, who were driving all the way from Simla.

Lawley had to be there two months in advance, with no clear orders on what had to be done. In fact, he had been summoned by the Governor himself, and subtly told to maintain discretion. "We don't want," he had said so many times in so many words, "We don't want this one to spread or stagnate, young man."

Madari's guffaws gave way to a sob, with a  sudden burst of thick tears that stuck to the glass on his spectacles. He stopped, and took a deep breath.

When the young and confident but not naive Lt. Frederick had arrived in the remote town of Karkid on the 13th of March, 1938, it was early evening. The town was silent, almost desolate, and cool sea breeze whispered above the warm tropical summer sand.

His arrangement had initially been the servants-quarters of a fish merchant's house. The white-skinned were of the lowest caste in this part of the world, and the young soldier did not mind  This was one land that no foreigner had dared touch. The villagers lived in neutral solitude, and it dawned on him that he was among some of the oldest peoples of this Earth.

He had a dinner of boiled rice and pomfret-curry after unpacking in the small thatched hut in the backyard. His bed that night was a small roped cot out under the open sky, by a clear beach washed by the Arabian Sea, under a black sky adorned with dots and blots and patches of every imaginable color.

While he slept like a child, a strange word in an unknown language kept throbbing over and over in his mind. It sounded gentle and peaceful, and induced in him a euphoria that he would never trade for any thing in the world.


It might have been a lamp of extraordinary proportions,
or an exquisite volcano on a distant planet.

It radiated euphoria and calm from deep within its flaming core.
It seduced, it overwhelmed, it entranced, it freed, it enslaved all Conscience with its beauty.

Bells clanked and conches bellowed at the ancient town-temple with the spreading of dawn, and shook young Lt. Lawley out of his hallucinatory sleep. Resonating peace and calm gave way to paranoia and confusion. Frederick jumped out of bed, flailing like a fish in this teleology of death. He stumbled to his legs, now white with sand, and ran awkwardly towards the Arabian Sea.

Mrinalini! His mind said.
Mrinalini! It yelled in agony.

He did not know what that meant. He had never heard the word before, but he ran as the water tickled his feet, he ran as his thighs struggled, he ran while his shoulders failed and his eyes were full of the sultry water, and he drifted till he saw that thing again.