The Promotion

Around six that evening, when the doorbell rang, Eshan was busy getting things ready for the evening’s party. Wondering who had turned up so early, he grumpily went to the door. It was Nathan. “I’m here to help you,” he said with a smile. “How much can you possibly do all by yourself.” Holding forward a single rose that had a long, slender stalk, he bowed dramatically. “Congratulations. For now, you could stop being jealous,” he sneered. Eshan knew that the emphatic ‘all by yourself’ was hardly intentional, but it bothered him.

“That’s so kind of you, Nathan. But I am almost done with it and was going to give a bath to Bruno. You can make yourself comfortable if you wish, or else, I will see you in an hour,” Eshan said reluctantly. Somehow, he wanted to get rid of Nathan. He never wanted to invite him at all, but as a colleague, choices were limited.

“Alright, then. I will see you at seven like others,” Nathan said. Eshan found that a deep sigh of relief and went back to wrap up the mess around when the phone rang. It was Laila. “Where the hell are you? I am waiting for you for almost an hour. On top of it, that jerk turned up and was offering his help.” Laila laughed over the phone and said, “I always knew it, he is gay and has some sort of inclination towards you.”

“Oh, really? You are ignoring the fact that he is happily married,” Eshan said irritably.

Laila quickly responded to it by saying, “Come on. Happily married is not something meant for men. And his marriage has always made me feel deceptive. Do not worry. I am almost there and cannot wait to hear more about it.”

Eshan was frustrated to the core and fumed over Laila for those remarks, but before he could even respond, she hung up the phone.

She invariably cherished the heated exchange of words between the two at work. Nathan was senior to both Eshan and Laila at a pharmaceutical company named Pfizer. A couple of days back, Eshan was reported to be promoted at a senior position than Nathan which was announced through email notification by the senior leadership.

Till that day, Nathan exploited every subordinate who worked under him, specially Eshan in particular. He often asked Eshan to prepare the presentation deck and presented it himself to the client without keeping Eshan in the loop. That way, he earned a good reputation among the leadership team, which got him remarkable hikes and promotions in every appraisal cycle.

Even the best of boot-licker ability was of no help, and on the other side, nothing stopped Eshan winning the sympathy from across the board. Getting promoted two-level up in the hierarchy was something that had never happened before within the organization. The hard work of all those years finally paid him off. He got promoted to the position of General Manager for the sales team. Patricia left the job immediately after her marriage because she could not face Eshan any longer. But Bruno continued to be in his life as a symbol of their love. It was a gift to Patricia when she was down with a high fever last year. After breaking up with Eshan, she abandoned the dog as well. Maybe intentionally!

While giving a bath to Bruno, Eshan remembered his girlfriend Patricia who broke his four-year-long relationship with Eshan and eloped with Nathan to marry him. Everyone at the office knew that Nathan took advantage of his position and deputed Patricia as one of her assistants. They used to gossip that he seduced Patricia to snatch her away from Eshan to envy him. That caused a severe loss of reputation for Nathan at the workplace, and that year he failed to receive a single penny of hike in his salary for the first time in his career.

Laila came within ten minutes of their conversation over the phone and took the charge of catering services and checked the arrangements for the drink and cocktails. She had prepared two cups of coffee by the time Eshan took a shower and found it entirely mesmerizing to see Laila in a red gown. She looked fabulous. “So, what do you think? Why did he turn up early today?” she asked while sipping her coffee.

“I don’t know. Maybe Nathan wants to rub the salt over my wound like always or maybe to satisfy his ego by taunting me for being single after he snatched away my girlfriend. By the way, who even cares about the wisdom of a dumbass like him?” Eshan said reluctantly.

“Ah, how many times do I need to correct that he was not the one who snatched away your girlfriend. The bitch never loved you truly and was looking for an opportunity to dump you. She was living with you and worked with you. She saw you being hunted down by Nathan at work on multiple occasions, and you never resisted it till the time she was with you. That certainly made you look like a spineless person who could not defend himself in an adverse situation. She might have attested you a looser in her mind,” She growled.

Now, it was Eshan’s turn to tease Laila. “How could you be so sure? You are not a psychiatrist, and your life is itself a hell. I mean, a lady who herself had more than three breakups all in one year is preaching me about infidelity. I mean, that certainly deserves an applaud. By the way, thanks for the coffee,” he said and was about to leave to get dressed up for the party. But she was not going to give up that easily.

“I may not be an expert and might have suffered a couple of more breakups than you, but I certainly know about a woman slightly more. You are forgetting the fact that she was a close friend of mine before she dumped you and fled with the favorite foe. We had many great conversations, and as proof, I know a lot of secrets, which she told me about you.” She said that and looked at me with a tilted head.

Eshan preferred to put the conversation on hold and walked towards his room. She followed him there. While combing his hair, he asked, “What secrets did she reveal to you?”

“Don’t ask me. You can ask her directly as she too is going to come today.”

He was about to faint hearing that. “What did you say? Is she coming over to the party? That’s not possible as I did not see any sign of her when Nathan came at six.”

Laila smiled to see his uneasiness and said, “Let us wait and watch. She texted me in the morning today. And why are you getting excited about it? Maybe she is coming over to check on Bruno. She often misses him.”

“Huh, let her come. Bruno will bite her ass off. The boy is eagerly waiting to avenge his master.” Eshan said while slipping into his pant carelessly.

“I know. Even dogs are insane in this house.” And she burst out in laughter saying that.

Eshan grabbed her in his arms and locked her lips into his own. For a moment, time stopped in between their mouths, and then he slowly kissed her neck. She too embraced him tightly as if never to let him go. Laila was the only hope left in Eshan’s life. She provided the required solace to him after the betrayal from Patricia.

“Leave me else I will remain unstoppable throughout the night in case you pour any more romance in me. We have guests to come,” with that Laila managed to untie herself from his grip. She loved Eshan insanely from the very inception of their friendship at work but silenced her emotions seeing Eshan’s love for Patricia. Soon after their breakup, Eshan proposed Laila for marriage but she asked for some more time citing the reason for the ongoing treatment of her mother.

Quickly after the bell rang seven, guests started to assemble at Eshan’s house, and soon everyone started enjoying the ecstatic combination of champagne and lobster along with a soul-nourishing Jazz that was being played over the gramophone. Eshan had a great collection of music albums. He traveled across the world with the sales team to have a great collection of wine, scotch, and folk music.

He was overwhelmed to see Laila playing a perfect host at his house and while he was overlooking at everything from a corner, someone kept her hand over his left shoulder. “She blends naturally with your house. Isn’t it?” It was Patricia, who looked elegant like always in her long black dress. “I hope it doesn’t bring much discomfort to you seeing me here,” She said while picking a glass of wine from the tray. For a moment, Eshan was not able to utter anything as words simply did not find a way to emerge out of him. There was a magical radiance present all over her face.

“Is she expecting a baby?” He murmured to himself.

“Did you say something?” She asked which made Eshan think whether she can still read his mind.

“No, I did not say anything. In fact, I was so captivated by your magical presence that I could not hear anything you said so far. I am sorry about it.” Eshan was having no idea how to continue the conversation with her.

“Oh, really? Am I still so desirable to you or is it just a fling of yours?” she worded it again in her usual style of questioning every intent around her, making it complicated for others to answer.

“Ah, I had always been a great admirer of beautiful women and you know that. As per me, every woman is desirable irrespective of her relationship status. Now, for you, the answer is no because you are married to one of my colleagues, and I can be anything but not a wife poacher,” Eshan knew how to handle her tantrums. Both knew about the worst secrets of each other.

Laila was keeping a close eye at them and her concern was the irritable character of Eshan. It was easy to break him specially by a witch. But the moment she started to walk towards them, Nathan stopped her and asked for a dance, which she politely refused.

“You are forgetting that even though Eshan got the promotion, I am still your boss and I guess this is the first time I am asking you for a dance. You should oblige me today,” He said giving a devilish smile, but unknowingly got on her nerves.

“Why don’t you ask your beautiful chirping wife for the same? Or maybe it is your personal ambition to try charming every woman in Eshan’s life. Trust me, I am not among those bitches who can be inspired to taste the filthy stinking tongue of yours. Now, please go and settle off your butt somewhere else. I got a lot more people to oblige,” Laila gave it back for all the trauma she and Eshan had to bear due to Nathan’s superiority over them at work. But the shameless creature continued smiling even at the worst response.

On the other corner, Eshan could not say no to Patricia for dance, but before they could even start, Laila came and joined the duo. “Hello dear, I was telling it to Eshan that you look more natural and insidious to this house,” Patricia said to Laila.

“That’s true. Because I do not have any hidden agenda with me. I genuinely love him. By the way, how is your life with that jerk husband of yours? Looks like he is still trying his luck with other women.” Laila was in no mood to give it up that day. Seeing Laila in such a fit of anger, Eshan decided to go along with other guests. “Let me see what all they need.” He said and left.

“Laila, my sweetheart. You know adequately how desperate he is and still questioning me. Unfortunately, both turned out to be the same.” She said keeping Laila puzzled with her last statement. “Anyways, you tell me. How is your mother and when are you guys planning to shift here?” Patricia tried calming down the annoyed Laila and it worked.

“Not anytime soon. Mom is going to have her last session of chemotherapy in this week itself and then most likely she is going to be discharged from there. All my savings are gone behind her treatment and so I need some time to restructure my life before I get into marriage and all,” Laila shared her feelings while sitting over the railing and covering her face with a face towel.

“Don’t overthink in such matters. You are simply doing great and every mother wishes to have a daughter like you,” Patricia was looking for something while encouraging Laila with her kind words. Somehow Laila found it to be metaphoric.

“Where is Bruno?” She asked Laila.

“Might be in the basement. That is where I saw him last before the party began.” She responded reluctantly.

“I think I shall go and look for him. Would you like to join me?” She said and started heading towards the basement.

“Sure. But, let me get some food for him.” Laila said. She picked up a torch and the packet of pedigree for Bruna. While they were on the stairs itself, they heard someone moan while making love in the basement in between the constant barking of Bruna. Patricia signaled Laila to remain quiet and slowly started moving down the stairs.

Finally, they reached the basement silently, and Laila lit up the torch. It was Nathan and Eshan sleeping over the floor in a semi-nude posture.

                                                              The End

Pune to Howrah-Part 3

In continuation of the stories(Pune to Howrah) and (The Howrah Bridge)

the train

She continued to hold me tightly for almost 20 minutes and sobbed without a break. I was not having a clue about how to sublime her pain. But, then I whispered into her ear, “Are you serious about crying your heart out for a gutless person, and that too at a marvelous place like this? Moreover, I am still a stranger.” And guess what? It worked.

She rubbed her head on my chest and said, “Thanks a lot for taking the garbage out of me! It was stuck over there for quite some time. I will never forget your help, and I am not going to leave you now as you don’t even look like a stranger to me.”

“Hey, come on. Don’t scare me now. Just ten days back, I had a terrible breakup with my girlfriend. All this while I never cared about it, but today I am feeling ashamed after seeing you mourn for a story, which failed some two years back. I mean, are you kidding me? Either you are insane, or I am heartless,”

She gave a weird look to me, but then unleashed the magic, through her splendorous smile. “You don’t need to worry about it, Mr. Software Engineer. Neither I am insane, nor you seem to be heartless. Forgive me for ruining your evening like that. And, allow me to compensate for all of it by taking you for a boat ride.”, She pointed at a point meant for the jetty ride.

“That’s not boating. It’s a kind of public transportation, and you are simply ignoring the fact that its winters and we may freeze to death during such stunt.”

I guess she did not pay the heed to whatever I said and dragged me to the counter. Luckily, it was closed. “Now, what? I hope you do not have a plan for a filthy tram ride because you will never be able to compensate such stupidity.” I said while sipping the rest of my drink from the pot.

“Now, You being rude!”

“No, I am not. I am exhausted and may doze off like a horse in standing position. I need a place to sit and have something to drink. Maybe at a family bar, not a pub or disk.”

“Well, then I guess I know a place nearby. But, the treat will be mine.”

I was in no mood to argue a lady about who is going to pay the bill. Guess what? I always knew the answer :-). So, I hopped in a taxi with her, which took us to a place near Naya Bazar. In between the crowded market, she held my hand like some newly crafted love. For a moment, I felt the shiver in my body and tried to unlock myself from her clutch, but couldn’t.

Finally, we reached a vintage bar, most probably the one from the British era. Ugly looking from the outside, but inside it was decorated beyond my imagination. A band of music was playing Jazz at the center, and an elite group of people was celebrating it.

We got a place meant for the couples in particular, and she ordered a plate of pomfret fry and a bottle of red wine. After the waiter served us the wine, she raised her glass and said, “For the freedom to have a drink with a stranger, who got a pair of sad eyes over the happy face.”

“Now, you are judging me,” I said in a way to protest, but deep within my heart, I was quite amazed to see all that was happening from the last few hours. It was certainly an experience to live.

“I am not judging anyone here. I am a criminal lawyer, and my eyes can see things, which can remain unseen for years. So, what’s your side of the story? I mean, you mentioned that you had a terrible breakup a few days back.” She asked comfortably, but I mistook it as some kind of interrogation.

“Well, it’s nothing that sort of drama or emotional vengeance kind of story that I have. It’s just an ordinary thing which happens to any Tom, Dick, and Harry in India. So, forget about all that, and let’s live the moment.” I tried to avoid that awkward conversation with her.

She poured some more wine into my glass, looked straight into my eyes, and said, “Trust me! I won’t judge you. I just want you to get liberated with even a small ml of pain that you are holding with yourself.”

Before opening up, I calculated the risk associated with it and found it to be none. Seeing the time constraint, I was not sure which part of the story to begin with, but Patricia was interested in all of it.

“Well, here is the thing. There was a girl named Alisha, whom I met during a friend’s party, we exchanged our phone numbers. She was studying architecture at Pune University and had plenty of time to talk, and me being a professional had to manage time, but I liked talking to her.”

“You liked talking to her, or was it some sort of loneliness?” She interrupted in between, showing a typical behavior of a lawyer.

“I guess it was my loneliness because recently my flat partner had shifted to Amsterdam, for an onsite project. That created some vacuum, which got filled by that girl. So, nevertheless, one Friday, when I told her that my parents are seeing a match for me to marry, she mentioned that she has fallen for me.”

“Now, you are talking.” she interrupted again and served a portion of fish fry on my plate.

“I avoided talking to her for a couple of days and submerged myself totally into my work at the office, keeping myself sane. She kept dialing me day in day out, but I did not pick it up. One day, she turned up to my office, and with a lot of difficulties, I prevented a scene from getting created. Finally, I asked her about what she wanted from me. She told me that she was finding it difficult to live without talking to me.”

“And then what did you do?”, She had that smile over her face, which usually indicates that a person knows the rest of the story.

“I did nothing. I simply told that even I needed companionship, but was not in favor of getting into a relationship with a girl who was seven years younger to me and still not done with college. But, finally, I succumbed to all the mental pressure due to crying and those sad inventions, and that way unleashed hell upon myself.” I was done with my story and had no further desire to continue it.

She said, “Now, let me guess the remaining part of it. After you accepted her proposal, she might have shown you the real face. Violent, stubborn, demanding for expensive gifts, movies, dinner at non-affordable places, etc.”

By that time, I had it clear that the girl I was talking to all the time was a genius. I smiled at her and said, “I told you, at the beginning itself, that I got nothing new to share. An ordinary person with an ordinary story.”

She took hold of my hands and said, “But, you still got to tell me about the breakup part.”

“Yes, that is something which may interest you. In the initial few days itself, I realized the loss I caused to myself, and it was going to cost me dearly. So, whenever I tried to get out of the relationship, Alisha created a ruckus. Finally, I had to involve her father into it and explained to him that she threatened to commit suicide in several instances.” I went silent for sometime after saying that.

She said, “Then what happened?”

“Her father understood the gravity of it, and he helped me out to get rid of his daughter. He warned her daughter about breaking up all the terms with her if she continues to traumatize me emotionally. As a demo, he cut off on her finances.”

“Lucky you! Now, let’s go. We got to catch our respective trains.”

I felt like waking up from a dream. I even forgot for how long I was sitting there in that bar? I asked the attendant about the bill. He said politely, “Sir, it has already been paid by mam when I served you.”

“But, when? I did not see it.” I could not believe that I did not even notice her paying the bill.

“You are drunk, my stranger friend. Let’s go. We already got a taxi waiting outside.” She said. This time I allowed her to drag me out. I felt so light after sharing the story of that witch to her.

It was 10.45 PM, and we were back at Howrah station. We got our luggage back from the cloakroom and rested it at the waiting chair near the display board. Her train was at 11:00 PM, some 30 minutes before my train, and so it was already stationed at platform number 3. I assisted her with luggage to her compartment, which seemed to be full of college students.

She requested one fellow passenger, a girl, to look after her stuff, and came at the gate with me. It was time to say goodbye to each other. She requested for my phone, which I gave instantly. She dialed her number from it and then returned my phone. A long siren, signaling the train to depart.

I shook my hands with her, and before getting down from the train, I said, “Sorry, I was drunk in the last few minutes at bar and might have blabbered something out of blue. You had been nice to me throughout the time, and I sincerely thank you for that. You are a beautiful woman, and..” Before I could finish it up, she gently kept her hand over my mouth and kept looking into my eyes.

The train started to crawl, and I quickly got down from it. I waived in bye at Patricia but saw her typing something on her mobile. So, I turned back and started walking towards the other side. My phone beeped for the message. It was an SMS(short message service) alert from an unknown number. I quickly opened it up, and my heart pounded severely after reading the message, which said, “I love you too… Patricia”.

I looked back at the train, which had the last compartment visible from there, but slowly disappearing in the dark. Irrespective of whatever I was thinking then, my soul simply came out in the open and laughed out loudly at me.

And that’s the end of it…

The last emperor of Mithila!

The story goes in the backdrop of post-independence era when freedom to India was something new to cherish. In those days, I used to work as an accountant for the last emperor of the Mithila region. It was 29th of July,1954, when the first misfortune ever known to me hit the kingdom. I was at the animal ward of the royal hospital when I was informed about Bhagwati, which Maharani was supposed to know in the absence of the King. So, I quickly rushed to the palace and looked for her everywhere.

After the constant hunt for an hour, I finally saw her entering through the main door of Maharaja Sir Kameshwar Singh’s library. I followed her over there and stood at the door itself as no one was permitted inside except Maharani Kam Sundari and some extremely trusted maintenance staff.

‘She stood by the palace window, tall and still, gazing absently at the blurred distance. She had two choices: both unattractive, out of which, she would have to take a decision…’

After the initial few moments of hesitation, I finally knocked on the door.

“What is it?” She asked firmly without caring much to look at me.

“I am sorry, Maharani, but there is an important message to tell. Trust me, I have already considered it more than a hundred times before bothering you.”, I wanted to say it all at once, but every word seemed to be exhaustible.

“If it is that urgent, then do not wait for any further to tell me, and then, please leave. It looks like rain is going to be relentless till morning, and you must reach your home before it gets too dark to see.”

With the best possible verbal techniques known to convey sad news, I said it all. She turned back and looked into my eyes. I bowed my head and was about to leave, but she asked me to wait.

“What has happened to her?” She further interrogated.

“I am not sure Maharani, but after verifying the autopsy report, Bhagwati was found to be poisoned last night itself. Doctors did their level best to revive her, but it all went in vain. I have asked them to send the report to you by tomorrow morning.”

She took a deep breath. Then instructed me to leave and went back to her position at the window.

“Shall I send the telegram to Maharaj?”

She pretended not to hear anything, and I then preferred to leave without troubling her with any further stupid questions.

            Bhagwati was a beautiful female tigress brought up by the great King himself some five years back as a cub after her man-eating mother tigress was shot dead in the nearby jungle. It was a gift to the King’s third wife, Rani Kam Sundari, who was not happily married to the King because he was an elderly and twice married man, and as a result, she spent most of her time in solitude.

           The arrival of a tiger cub changed the chemistry between the two, and it was well-taken care by the Queen herself who decided to name it “Bhagwati.”, which shortly became the symbol of pride for the princely estate of Mithila along with its unmatched beauty of forts and temples.

                   Things never remained the same for Mithila in the post-independence era as one of the most flourishing princely states of India doomed forever. The government decided to snatch away significant powers from the King, who was once the head of All India Association of Landlords, a member of the constituent assembly of India and a prominent member of the administrative committee of Banaras Hindu University.

                             That evening, on my way back, I kept on thinking about all the possible suspects who could poison a beautiful animal and dare to face the wrath of the King. It smelled like a much bigger conspiracy for a small servant like me to understand. On top of it, the mysterious silence of Maharani. What was about to happen? Maharaja was out to Delhi to attend the monsoon session of parliament.

             The next day Bhagwati was cremated with state honor in the backyard of the palace. Maharani Kam Sundari was sobbing inconsolably while the other two queens were sharing some lighter moments with their servants. At that moment, it was evident and straightforward to understand why the King bestowed his love towards the youngest queen and deplored the other two.

She kept the pride of Maharaja in every aspect. She studied the old secret scriptures preserved in the library along with ancient architecture to design the famous Raj Kali temple as per the King’s wish and got it constructed under her own supervision. Her excellent reputation among the royal families and politicians was an outcome of her intellect and dignity, which she carried in her work.

That day, I could not control my emotions, seeing her cry. So, I went to her and said, “I will find the killers and will bring them to justice. Bhagwati was not merely an animal; she was the pride of our great Mithilanchal.”

Maharani asked me to accompany her till the sandalwood garden along with her trusted sepoys. I followed her there. In the lowest possible decibel of her voice, she gave precise instructions to the head of security, and they all dispersed in different directions to kill anyone found spying on her in any way.

                 “I have something important to discuss with you, Ram Sevak, since you are the most trusted sevadar(servant) of Maharaj. There is a ploy by someone from inside the family to put Maharaj’s life in danger. The killing of Bhagwati was just an indication of the power and advantages that enemies have. I wanted to tell you that I got only two miserable options at this juncture of my life. Either to accept all the horrifying things as my destiny or to kill everyone behind this conspiracy.”, She said.

With limited understanding of politics, initially, I tried to compile everything in my semi-literate brain and then asked, “And who do you think is behind all this? I mean, do you suspect anyone in particular?”

 “I suspect everyone and most likely the queens because an ignored and powerful woman can burn the entire lineage to ashes, and we got two such burning souls in the palace. They hate me equally to an extent where they will not even mind murdering the King to ruin my life. But their significance is limited in the game, and so we can think about them later.”

I heard everything keeping all my senses awake as being trusted is one of the many challenging responsibilities a man can handle. Maharaj’s life was undoubtedly more precious than anyone else I knew in the state. I thought of confirming the killers of Bhagwati because it was vital for me to know that who could murder a tigress with the name of a much-worshipped deity in the region, and for sure, it was never considered a good omen in those days.

“It could be anyone. Trust is hard to keep these days. Even the daily suppliers of meat are under my suspicion, and I have already set up a team to investigate it silently. Whoever did so will meet a similar kind of fate? So, for now, focus on how to evade the danger lingering on Maharaj’s life.”, She said, interrupting my thoughts.

    “I am a tiny person with limited education, and so I can’t think much like a detective. You tell me what to do, and I will not disappoint you. But it is essential to know who the real enemies are and by what interest they would like to murder a king who spent his entire life serving the humankind.”

She stayed silent for a moment and then whispered, “Have you heard of Shyam Nandan Mishra?”

“Yes, Maharani. He is one of the freedom fighters from our region and a famous congressman.”

“As per my information, he is the one behind this conspiracy, and the reason is pretty simple. He can never win the election from Darbhanga till the time Maharaj is alive, and he is desperate to go to Lok Sabha. You must be knowing; he is quite popular within the royal family and servants, and a lot of them are secret admirers of him. He has promised them all a gratifying job through the central government of the congress party. I hope you can connect the dots now.”

I heard everything loud and clear, but still was not convinced by her convictions. As a loyalist, I had to believe in everything that she was saying, but what bothered me that even if she was lying, Maharaj’s life was still in danger.

I tried to reason with Maharani, but she was confident in all that she said.

I knew Mr. Mishra and heard his speeches during my college days. He was a learned man like our King, who himself was the big supporter of democracy, unlike many in royal families. Mr. Mishra was in jail for almost 41 months and remained sick for a very long-time post-independence. He could be everything but not a murderer or a conspirator.

I guess she read my mind and thus spoke, “Look, Ram Sevak! I may be wrong, but at this part of the time, there is no one else who could be suspected based on the information I have. If you do not agree with me, then you are free to continue with your work. Think that we never had such a discussion, and I assume you will maintain the confidentiality of it.”

“You certainly misunderstood, Maharani. I do not see any reason for suspecting your words. It’s just my personal view about Mishraji that made me reason you, and I am extremely sorry about that, but then I want to understand how are we going to foil their plan?”

For the first time, she smiled and said, “It is getting late now. We will have a long hour of meeting and discussion tomorrow at my palace. You will get to know about the plan. Please be there at 9 AM sharp.”

            That night was proved to be the longest one in my life. I could not sleep and vowed to kill any secret wisher of King’s death. Around ten years back I had to kill a British coup for putting Maharaj into a dangerous fight with malicious intentions. Later, I fed the body to vultures residing next to the railway station. Except for King and his personal bodyguards, nobody else knew about it, but that night I had the gut feeling that Maharani knew about it.

                    The next day, I reached the palace on time. She had organized the meeting at a secret chamber attached to her living room. The latest ammunitions were decorated on the wall, and in very dim light, her face was shining like a river on a full moon night. Upon her instruction, a white paper was laid on the wooden table. She took an ink marker and started writing things in English. Basically, she was laying out a plan.

“1. Ram Sevak will go to meet Shyam Nandan Mishra today evening at his residence and will engage with him in political discussions.

2. During that timeframe, Mohan Singh (head of security), along with his two associates, will secretly explore Mishra’s room to collect any sort of communication (letter or telegram) or personal diary.

3. Ram lochan Singh will spy on both the queens and their sons for the next five days. Make a note of their activities and visitors.

4. Nobody will allow any kind of letter or telegram to be reaching to Maharaj, which talks about the painful death of Bhagwati.”

She turned to me and asked me if I had any questions, which was none.

As per the plan, I went to meet Mishraji at his residence near the congress party district office at Hasan Chak. He gave a warm hug to me with the same generosity of college days. I touched his feet and asked about his health conditions.

“It’s all good now, Ram Sevak. Sugar is under control, but poor me can’t have the sweets to eat. You say. Got the news about Bhagwati but could not come to meet Maharani Kam Sundari due to election campaigning and all.”

 I could not say anything because my eyes were trying to grab a glimpse of a treacherous man in him, but it was nowhere to be found. His simplicity was still mesmerizing, and the hidden socialist in me got into conflict with a loyalist.

He ordered two cups of tea from a nearby shop and then enquired about my family. Apart from Maharaj, he was the only one who would care to know about the miseries of a poor man.

“Ram Sevak, I always wonder that how come an educated person like you has opted to work as the slave of a kingdom. It is democracy now, and people like you are required to establish democratic values in a great nation like ours. I know you are burdened by some unwanted favors of King, but self-respect is equally important.” He used the same old philosophy of socialist movement to break the hold of aristocracy.

I was not delighted to hear all that, and so my quick reaction to him was like, “Sir, I had been a great admirer of your noble words from my college days itself and did arrange chairs for your rallies. You always dared to speak against Maharaj in many instances, but he always considered you a friend and never ever spoken ill about you.”

“So, why do you think kings are displaying the act of mercy these days? Especially when they got the rich legacy of slaughtering anyone in the name of honor and false pride? I will explain that to you. It is because even the Britishers were afraid to mess up with revolutionaries and freedom fighters. Do you think your King can afford to win an election by retaliating against a freedom fighter? Never in this life.” He smiled with his last statement giving a gentle pat on my shoulder and left for a walk with his party members.

He was very rationale and not a person to argue with, but still, he remained cautious while choosing his words. I was left with no further notions about him, but I was still on duty. I went on the other side of his unguarded home to look for Mohan Singh. It seemed like they were all gone leaving me alone in the darkness.

The next day, early morning, my son rushed into my room and almost dragged me out of bed. I furiously slapped him hard, but he looked so traumatized that I could not take any further action against him. I went out of my door and was astonished to see Mohan Singh weeping at my door. I could not understand anything at that moment. My wife got some water for him.

“A brave son of Rajput crying like a baby. What is the reason behind such pain, my friend? We both are childhood friends and work together for the same master. Tell me what ill has happened?” I asked Mohan about the well-being of everyone I knew common between us.

“Everything is over, my friend. We both had been used as the clowns in a dirty game, and sooner or later, karma will catch up with both of us. Last night I assassinated Shyam Nandan Mishra along with his four-party members as per the order.” He said with tearful eyes.

“You killed whom?”

“You heard it right, my friend. I killed the great freedom fighter along with his men on their way back from Raj ground after you two had the conversation.” This time he could not look into my eyes.

“And who ordered that murder? Maharani Kam Sundari?”

“No, my friend. It was our Maharaj who ordered me to do so. You know I cannot take someone’s life without his orders. Yesterday after you left the meeting, Maharani dialed the phone to Maharaj and made me talk to him.”

It was still not making sense to me. But I further asked, “Then what’s the need to cry. You have followed your dharma following the instruction from the King himself.”

“Because he too is dead, my friend!!” He said, interrupting me.

I heard it like a thunderstorm and was not left with the courage to affirm that. Did I hear about the Maharaja Kameshwar Singh? I looked at my wife, my son, and others, and their bowed heads confirmed what I heard.

“But how is that possible? I had received his telegram day before yesterday, which stated that he will be back in 7 days. Is this a kind of joke?” I was yelling at Singh.

“I do not have the strength left in me to explain all that to you. You can go and hear it yourself at the radio station. They have already made the announcement about the King being deceased at the official residence in Delhi.” He said, keeping his hands on my shoulder.

“Let me go to the palace. Maharani must be in distress.”

He laughed out loudly, hearing that, which I found quite rude.

“She has gone to registrar office to file the nomination for upcoming elections, my friend. Today is the last day to file it. We need to go to the aerodrome to receive the dead body of Maharaj. So, let’s go. It will be there at any moment.”

           Maharaj was given the last rite with state honor in the presence of the first president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, along with other senior politicians, and the name of Shyam Nandan Mishra will remain buried in the pages of history.   

The End