“We are their guardians. We have been born to protect them.”
Agastya Martial Arts Centre, Kolkata. 1:30 p.m.
One of the greatest gifts of martial arts is that it ultimately guides us to new levels of spirituality.
And for her, it was the simplest, purest and the most spiritually satisfying way of letting out the feelings of rage and pride that disturbed her being. It calmed her mind to open up to every new, evolving knowledge that she could grasp.
The intricacy of this art was fascinatingly unique. Every move– every small move, required sincere concentration and skilled perfection. She had perfected every move so that all the pressure points, every joint, every nerve in the human body she had learnt about, was vulnerable to her touch. A few of these moves could also be fatal to her ignorant opponent.
She was a teacher now, to a group of women varying in age from about 25 to 40, who followed what she showed them, as perfectly as they could manage. Self-defense was really important for women these days.
But as much she as she appreciated her ordinary, risk-free life, she knew this wouldn’t last for long. Because she knew that she had not been taught this great lesson for mere self-defense. Her skills would be required for a much greater cause. A cause greater than these women…greater than her…greater than them all…
But the one who had taught her this art, who had taught her almost everything thing she knows today, had not spoken to her in years. She never said it aloud, but she felt…abandoned. She felt neglected.
How could he expect her to not hear from him for all these years and then suddenly ‘when the time was right’ come to his aid to fulfill his lifelong aim? Well, he could. He knew he could. He had raised her as his own after all; protected her throughout her childhood so that no evil would ever befall her. And then…..he left. And in spite of this, her love and respect for him was greater than any daughter could have for her own father, considering what he had done for her despite not being her father.
She had been teaching these women for almost a year now. The women did not really admire her much though. She was tall and athletic, with her wavy jet-black hair, almost long enough to touch her waist. Her eyes were always heavily rimmed with kohl, which made her look a bit intimidating despite being beautiful. But it was not exactly her beauty that made them jealous of her or dislike her. It was the way she behaved. Her “I’m far more superior to all of you silly old hags” attitude. Her haughty expressions every time anyone asked her to repeat the movement she had shown. The way she spoke to everyone, her impatience and short temper, and her superiority kept her far away from emotions that meant nothing to her. Let alone love, she did not even have time for simple happiness. She always seemed to be driven. Driven by a sense of competition. A need to be better than everyone.
And where love was concerned, it seemed that she almost ran away, a million miles away from love. Besides, which man would ever be good enough, or “great enough” for her?
She had no boyfriend, no friends, no family. None that they knew of. And if anyone would be brave, or even pitiful enough to ask her out, she would dismiss them, right away, without a second thought.
And the sad thing was, she knew all of this. She knew what they thought about her. But she didn’t care. Because she did not want to care. She couldn’t afford to care. To let her emotions overwhelm her. Not again.
But there were only two people in the world whom she actually cared about, whom she could call family. And yet, ironically, she had not been in contact with either of them for a long, long time.
But still, people here, in her life now, didn’t know her. In fact, they knew nothing. She acted superior, because she was, far more superior. Her mind could learn, analyze and retain in seconds, what they couldn’t even learn in years. She was no ordinary human, she was unique. One of the very few ‘higher minds’ that were left in this world. And these ordinary human minds…they knew nothing…nothing at all.
There hadn’t been one day in all these years when she hadn’t thought about them, her only family; when she hadn’t missed them; when she hadn’t been angry because they hadn’t kept any contacts with her at all.
The same sequence of thoughts disturbed her everyday, but today was a surprisingly calm day. She didn’t know why, but the feeling in her gut kept telling her that, today was different. But that might have probably been because she had stayed up till 4:00 a.m in the morning and kept staring at the beautiful dark sky, which finally, after years, had shown the Saptarishi constellation.
She usually took her classes early in the morning, but as she could not wake up early today, she had to reschedule it to 1:30 p.m. She started the class with warm-up exercises and yogic postures to calm the mind, and then showed her students a few defensive movements with her hand, in a slow motion so that they could follow. But as she was about to show the leg movement, a voice, a voice that no one could hear but her, interrupted her.
It really was him. His voice was just the same, just as she remembered it. Loving, concerned, caring, wise…
Her hand was in a defensive position, blocking her forehead, and her eyes, and she kept it there, so that the women in front of her couldn’t see her eyes, her glistening eyes. She was happy. She was so, so happy. But she was really angry too…and for a moment when she thought that she was just imagining it, she received his telepathy again.
Her teacher, her mentor, her Baba, Dr. Charak, summoned her again.
“Woh ghari aa chuki hai, Shunya. It’s time. This mission is beyond the capabilities of ordinary human intelligence, Shunya; don’t let your emotions overpower you. Questions will be raised, and at this moment, we do not have the time to answer questions. Come home.”
“Yes, Sir.” said Shunya.
Without waiting for another second, she addressed her astonished students and said, “Class dismissed.”
Swaranjali Studio, Mumbai.
The guitar he held was not helping his excited mind today.
Any moment now… He thought. He had seen the Saptarishi constellation last night, and couldn’t sleep. He kept waiting, the entire night, waiting for the moment when Dr. Charak would call him.
Any moment now…
His black hair was slightly ruffled today and the sleeves of his black kurta were folded up to his forearms, which was exactly how the flirtatious assistant of the music director liked it (She didn’t even know why she liked him! Was it his heart-warming dimpled smile? Or was it the fact that there was no instrument in the world that he couldn’t play? Or was it because he was an absolute gentleman? But he hadn’t even noticed her today. How humiliating!) , but she couldn’t see his honey-brown eyeballs, as he had closed his eyes to concentrate on the tune he was supposed to play.
But something was wrong, he wasn’t really in the mood to play today. Just as he hit the second line her boss said, “Cut cut cut cut! Yaar, don’t play it like a machine, please! The second line needs some punch! Okay?” said Mohit, the music director.
“Ready for a take then?”
“Yeah…yeah, I’m good.”
“Take 22. Three…two…one…Go.”
“Shlok, the moment you had been waiting for, has come. It’s time. Come home.”
Dhang! The tune sounded worse when he played it the second time. But he didn’t care. Nothing in the world, this world, the world he had been living in for the past few years, mattered anymore.
“Cut cut cut! Arey Shlok, what’s the problem man? What’s wrong?”
Shlok raised his hand and gestured Mohit to be quiet.
“Shunya will meet you in 3 hours. It’s time, you have to look for them.”
Shlok smiled. “Alright, Sir.”
“Alright Sir? Who’s he talking to?” Mohit asked his assistant (who had no doubt, gone weak at the knees the moment Shlok’s dimples had made their appearance).
“Okay listen, I need to go. Bye!” said Shlok. He took his headphones off, kept the guitar on the chair he was sitting on, and before they knew it, slammed the door of the recording room shut, and took off.
“Shlok! Hey Shlok, wait! Arey! He’s completely crazy yaar…zyaada talent hone se matlab, aadmi paagal ho jata hai.”
Devanahalli Airport, Bangalore. 3:45 p.m.
Dr. Charak didn’t remember the last time he was this happy. He was finally going to meet his children, his best students, his pride, Shunya and Shlok, after years of wait. As he checked the time, the announcement for the next flight to Mumbai was made, and he proceeded towards the check point to board the plane, oblivious to the fact that a man was following him.
The C.B.I. Officer who had been given orders to follow Dr. Charak called his senior officer, Mahesh Kashyap, and informed him about the movements of their cases’ prime suspect.
“Hello, Sir? The suspect is boarding the plane, Sir.”
“Alright. Keep following him.” said Mahesh.
“How much longer, Sir?”
“Till he lands.”
“May I have a window seat, please?” asked Dr. Charak to the young lady on the opposite side of the counter. Smiling at the lady, he wondered how his little girl Shunya would like after all these years. Would she be as tall as this girl in front of him? Was she still as stubborn and short-tempered as she had been? Would she remember how her Baba looked? Of course she would, it’s Shunya, she can never forget anything. And Shlok? Did he still play the flute with the same simplicity and brilliance? Did he still have the same heart-warming smile and wise, gentle eyes? Would he have the same look of utmost respect, pride and hero-worship in his eyes when they would meet after all these years?
However they were now, Dr. Charak believed one thing without any doubt— that he had raised his children well enough to be good human beings, if nothing else. He just couldn’t wait to meet them.
“Of course, Sir.” said the lady, interrupting his thoughts.
“Thank you.” he said.
Somewhere far away Dr. Charak’s oldest friend and enemy read a rather special book of his, with a black cover, with writings within in the Devanagari script. He closed the book and kept it on the table and placed on top of the book a small black stone, spherical in shape, with a design etched on it. Even the sun’s light barging in through the window of his study failed to lighten up his mind which kept thinking:
“Charak was getting away from me, hiding from me. I tried so hard to look for him. If I would have found him, he would have been saved. But then again, how would the events that would lead towards fulfilling the prophecy be made? Our war had been prophesied years and years ago. Only, the beginning of this war…had just begun.”