“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” ~Pierce Brown
~Away From Home~
Shunya didn’t really know how she managed it, but as soon as she received the telepathy from Dr. Charak, she went to her apartment– the rented apartment which she had been staying in for six months now– packed all her clothes, the few books she had brought with her, and all her money as fast as she could. Next, she payed the entire months rent to her astonished and groggy Bengali neighbor and tenant (I had to wake her up from a good afternoon nap, poor thing! Ten bucks says she didn’t even understand what I was saying.) and left for the airport.
And now, three hours later (a year later, rather) she was back home…not exactly home, but the apartment near her home certainly. She would be home as soon as…
Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the door bell.
She walked across the hall to the front door, half-expecting a small, excited, starry-eyed, 15 year old boy, smiling up at her with crooked front-teeth and deep dimples.
She opened the door, and there he was.
She remembered how his honey-brown eyes would instantly light up the moment he saw her, but it was different this time. They did shine, but they also had a certain warm intensity in them. She looked for the dimples she had always been jealous of. But he wasn’t smiling. He just stood there for what felt like hours….watching her.
Her eyes….thought Shlok. She’s applying kohl now… that’s… that’s really nice…It’s just…wow…this is great. Okay, I should say something. Or wait, she’s about to say something. I should probably just keep my mouth shut for a while, or I’ll sputter nonsense and she’ll think I’m crazy…
“Hi..” she smiled at him, expecting him to return the smile. But he was still staring. (Okay this is getting a bit annoying, just start talking Shlok, she thought.)
“We really don’t have much time, Shlok. We have to hurry.” she said. She went inside, leaving the door ajar so he could come in (and just stop staring!)
Shlok smiled. Shunya looked absolutely different from what she did years back. All her chubby fat was gone (and well, she looks really really beautiful, I can’t deny that, he thought.) But otherwise, she hadn’t changed at all. She was still just the way he remembered her– serious and resolute. He went inside and closed the door.
“How are you, Shunya?” he asked her, while she had his back to him trying to avoid his intense gaze. She turned around and found his warm eyes trying to catch hers.
“Good. How are you? Really good, I presume. Now that you’re famous around the globe. Your videos are really popular, especially among the female masses.” she said, with a smile, and just a slight hint of jealousy in her tone.
“So you do watch my videos then?” he asked, his raw, dimpled, irritating, goofy smile in full flow now.
Shunya’s cheeks reddened. She chose to ignore the question and change the topic.
Of course she has watched his videos!
She has watched each and every one of them without fail. Whenever a new video comes up, she dims the lights, locks the door (she lives alone, but why take a chance?) and glares at him moodily. She tries her best to be angry at him….for never calling or texting her….for knowing her phone number and address, but never caring to find out how she is. But she fails to be angry. Not because of his easy charm, or even his dimples. But because she knew he was as helpless as her.
Baba had asked them to never meet or contact each other before he would want them to. It was essential to keep their association with each other and their real identities a secret, for this mission. It wouldn’t be wise to let anyone know about their past. And now here they were…
She said, “It’s…it’s been a while–”
“7 years, 3 months, and 12 days.” he retorted.
“We have met after such a long time.” he smiled.
“7 years, 3 months, and…14 days.” she smirked. “There were two leap years in between.” (Yeah, let me get the pleasure of seeing that goofy little smile wipe off your face now!)
“You were counting too?” he asked, his eyes warm.
“You really think I need to count? Everything’s right up here” she said, tapping her index finger to her forehead. Still blushing, she turned around to look for the book she had been taking out of her bag just before he came in.
“Of course.” He smiled, remembering how proud Shunya was of the powers she had been blessed with.
National Highway, Western U.P.
Asmin had been walking for quite sometime now. She was tired, sleepy, and thirsty. Her water bottle had run out of water and there was no human habitation in sight. Just a long, lonely highway and sparse forests on either side of the road. She couldn’t even dare to walk around crowded places. Her family must have read the letter by now. Her father could have easily informed the police department. They must be looking for her. So she decided she would walk to the nearest bus stand and take a bus. But her strained muscles had given her away, so she decided to take a ride to the nearest bus stop.
She tried to stop the first car coming her way, but it didn’t stop. Minutes later, a truck was coming towards her in a slow pace. She waved her hand at it. The truck came to a halt in front of her and a brawny man opened the door of the passenger seat and said:
“Hellllo, madumbji! Kahaan jaogi aap?”
“Bhaisaab, kya aap mujhe agle bus stand takk chod denge, please?”
“Arey ajao madumdji, godi pe bitha ke leke jaunga!”
Is he really offering me to sit on his lap and go!? What a pervert!? If I hadn’t been running away from home na, I would give him a good punch and grab his ears and drag him straight to the police, thought Asmin.
“No bhaisaab, thanks, it’s okay. I’ll go by myself.”
“Arey madumdji, the weather not good, you will catch cold!”
She kept walking, trying her best to ignore the man instead of punching him.
A car suddenly pulled up just in front of her.
The decent looking guy inside the car asked:
“Hey, are these guys bothering you?”
“Uhh, actually can you just drop me to the next bus stand?”
“Sure, get in.”
“Thanks.” A thought occurred to her. “Just one second, haan.”
She looked around and found a small stone. She picked it up and threw it at the front glass of the truck. The glass cracked.
“Oy!” shouted the truck-driver.
She laughed and got inside the car.
“You’re absolutely mad!” said the guy.
“Hahahah, chalo chalo, let’s go!” she shouted.
Lovers’ Point, Imphal, Manipur.
Hriday had been holding on to the railing overlooking the steep hill. He kept thinking about the time he had been able to fly again. He let go of the railing, backed a little away from the edge, looked left and right to check if anyone was watching him. When he was satisfied that no one was, he ran towards the railing hoping he would dodge it and jump, but he couldn’t, as a voice had called him from behind.
“What happened? Couldn’t our little butterfly…umm…fly? Should we help him boys?” laughed Sunil. Sunil’s father was the leader of the opposition party. Sunil was a rich, annoying, spoiled brat, and his friends were no better than him. Three of them came closer to Hriday.
“Mind your own business, Sunil.” said Hriday.
“Our business?! Look boys, the kid has lost his manners. I think we should show him how to speak with elders.” he smirked.
“Why–why do you keep messing around haan? Haven’t you got any work in life?”
“Oh right, right. We’re messing with you. So we’ll say sorry right? We really have no work at all, and we love you so much that we’ve personally come here just for you!” His friends were laughing now.
“Dekho, please, stop bothering me, and go where you had to.”
“Bothering you? You’re talking as if you’re the heroine of your story, and you’re making me the villain!” Both his friends guffawed at the remark.
He pulled Hriday’s chubby cheeks and said, “We have just come here to watch you fly.” His friends laughed again. “Come on! Show us! Fly na! Fly!”
Hriday didn’t even think about what he was about to do.
He pushed Sunil, ran towards the railing, and jumped over it.
“Oy! Oh my God, I was just joking! Yeh toh sach mein kood gaya! Bhaago! Run run!”
As they were running away they didn’t even look back out of fear. If they did, they would have seen the chubby little boy they had always irritated, come up, his hands spread apart, his feet not touching the ground but soaring higher and higher up in the air, and a huge grin etched across his baby-like face.
Mahesh Kashyap’s House, Mumbai.
“I’m here in the veranda, Tish!” she shouted back at her brother.
“Arey, I’ve been looking for you all over the house and you’re lying down here reading…oh great, that same old fashion magazine again! God Drish, don’t you get bored!?”
“Nope.” she said, while reading the magazine.
“Look what I fou–und!” he said in his sing song voice.
“I’m not intereste–ed!” she replied. But he knew how to grab his sister’s attention.
“Okay don’t see, actually this model isn’t worth seeing really. The dress she’s wearing is really bad!”
“Model?” He had piqued her interest. “Show!”
“Show it to me, Tish! Tish, give it! I’ll ruin your hair, Tish! Give it to me now!”
“Okay. Okay. Don’t touch my hair–Here.”
He handed her the photograph.
“Ha! That’s me! Bad model…? Tish–!” She laughed and hit his arm.
“Hey, you clicked this on that day, when we went to the beach, right?” she asked.
“Yes, that day.” he smiled.
She looked at the black and white photograph. The picture had been taken about 10 years back…but it seemed only yesterday that the day that had changed their lives forever had occurred.
21st June, 2005. 3:03 p.m.
“Ohfo, Tish! Just go and hide now! How much longer will I have to count?”
“Just 10 seconds, Drish. Close your eyes now!” He clicked a picture as soon as his sister shut her eyes and then he ran away with the camera.
“….4. 3. 2. 1. Okay, Tiiiish! I’m coming to fiiind youuuu!”
Mastishk was hiding behind a rock. After sometime he heard a voice. It was his sister’s voice, not shouting, but whispering. He thought he was just hallucinating…but he had a really strong feeling that he could hear what she was thinking. He heard her voice again, she was wondering where he was, and then suddenly the tone of her voice changed. He could her someone else’s voice as well, but he wasn’t really hearing the voice. It was his sister who could hear the voice. A grown man’s deep, calm voice. Calling her towards him.
“Come, Drishika. Come with me. Come.”
And then, suddenly, his sister cried out loud.
He ran towards the rock where he had last seen his sister. And she was lying a few feet away from the rock, lying down on her back. She had fainted.
“Drish! Drish! Wake up, Drish! What’s happened to you?”
Drishika opened her eyes and looked up at her brother. She looked as scared and confused as he did.
“I don’t know, Tish. I just don’t know. It…it was a dream…but, but it was real too. I’m saying the truth, Tish. I–I just don’t know.”
“I know, Drish. I heard. I could hear what you were thinking. I could hear that man. But there’s no one here. What’s going on, Drish? What’s happening to us?”
Drishika kept staring at the picture. It was the scariest day of her life. Well, life had taken a different turn since then. And the man she had seen had never come back.
“We were so young na, Drish? I feel old now!” joked her brother. “We were so scared remember? And now, it’s just so much fun.”
“You know, Tish, I still feel scared at times. Who was that man, Tish? Who was he?”
“We don’t even know whether he was real or not!” he joked again.
“Of course he was! Whatever I have seen yet, it has come true right? Even that bomb blast…”
“If he was real, then why didn’t he come back? In fact, he is supposed to know about our special powers right?
“But he’s not a nice man.” She said, seriously. “Whenever I think about him, I feel really scared, I don’t know why.
CS International Airport, Mumbai. 5:15 p.m.
Dr. Charak dragged his trolley bag through the spick and span airport, his wise eyes sparkling again. Looking for his children in the crowd of people waiting, he spotted a tall, athletic, beautiful lady, her eyes moist, and a tall, lean but strong man, smiling widely at him, with the same warm eyes and respectful demeanor that he had possessed even when he was younger. Both of them looked very different from when he had last seen them, about ten years ago. But there was no doubt that they were Shunya and Shlok.
They ran towards him, smiling widely. He was smiling at them too. They couldn’t even speak for a while, they were so overwhelmed. Dr. Charak— their mentor, their guru, their father, had come back. And he was just the same. They bend down together to touch is feet. They felt his hand touch their head. And when they looked up, he pulled them into a warm hug. The hug lasted for a few seconds, but in those few seconds, all of them could feel the energy surging through them. Their powers had recognized each other, and made the same old contact when they came together.
Shlok and Shunya had their eyes closed, but Dr. Charak had opened his, and he could see what no one else could. The three of them, while they hugged, were glowing with a certain blue light around them. This light, was the light of the protection their good powers gave them against evil forces.
The unity of their powers built a shield around them. It was their fortress. A fortress of deep love, friendship and respect for the power of good. A fortress that was impenetrable and unbreakable.