The four of them sat huddled together near the fireplace. Although Natasha was eager to start the session with Jacob right away, Jacob had held it for the morning. It was important that Natasha become comfortable around him and trust him in this journey and it needed time. It was unusual for Jacob to take someone into trance without extensive counselling but he had no choice here. The least he could do was to get Natasha talk more.
"So Natasha, had you had any visions before you moved into the wooden house?" Jacob asked casually as they sipped their coffee.
"No.. I mean I always had a vivid recollection of my dreams. But nothing that could be called visions."
"You never dreamt of someone you never saw?"
"Do you have any kind of phobia?" Jacob tried to explore this aspect.
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Uttara looked stunned.
"Any particular reason why?" He went on
"Not that I can remember."
"Jacob, there is a spirit. It's not just her imagination!" Rebecca cut in before Jacob asked more.
"Rebecca, it's my job to know. You of course believe that there is a spirit and I don't counter that. I need to establish that there is no other reason for her disturbing dreams." Jacob calmed her.
"Rebecca why is it that now I feel the presence more than I felt before?" Natasha questioned.
"I was wondering when you would ask it. A women's overall senses are heightened during pregnancy. Some believe its an adaptation for women to protect themselves and the unborn child." She said in a detached tone, perhaps in sad remembrance of her loss.
"That explains a lot of things..." Uttara joined in.
The next morning, Natasha and Jacob sat in his office. Natasha reclined in the chair while Rebecca and Uttara observed from a distance. Slowly Jacob relaxed Natasha and she slipped into heavy drowsiness. His words seemed to transport her into her world of dreams where bizarre images played in a slideshow. Jacob made her concentrate on each without panicking. Slowly absorbing each frame, clearing the jumble of emotions.
"What do you see Natasha?"
"A woman in red sari and a man in white. They are walking around the fire."
"No one else?"
Uttara and Rebecca are frozen at this reply.
"You? What are you doing?" Jacob asked
"I brought her here."
"Who is she?"
"My best friend Charu. She is in love with Abhimanyu. I'm happy they are getting married."
"What year is it?"
"Holy cow! She's in another lifetime!! She knew the spirit!" Rebecca shrieks from the other side where Natasha can't hear them.
"Why is no one else present?"
"Charu and Abhimanyu are from different castes. Equivalent but different castes. Abhimanyu's father is the head of the village. No one will agree to the match. But Abhimanyu has already put kusha into the fire. They are married."
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Rebecca looked perplexed but now Uttara knows what it's about.
"Kusha leaves in fire! Best friend bringing the girl. It's Gandharva vivah!" Of course she knows. She has done post graduation in Sanskrit and this form of marriage is well known in literature. It's even the most advisable form in Kamasutra!
"Do you wait till the end of the ceremony?" Jacob asked.
"No, I have tasks to attend. I'm Charu's servant in position although we are best friends."
"Is Charu happy?"
"She is scared. But Abhimanyu is determined to have her. He knows the mantras and the promises. I m scared too, to have brought Charu but Abhimanyu told me, "There is no superior authority for approval other than God. “If God is for us, who could be against us?” If God or Gandharvas have witnessed it, everyone deemed to have witnessed it, and hence there is no need to register it. There is no need to prove it to any other authorities once you have cleared it with the heavens. It is set in stone.".
"I'm relieved that they are married. I go to my house after Charu hugs me and mouths Thank you."
"When do you next see them?" Jacob asks wiping the sweat from his brow.
"A month after their marriage. They are hiding in the woods in small wooden house. Charu is pregnant and they can no longer hide it from their parents as she is showing all the signs of pregnancy. Abhimanyu had chalked a plan to escape from the village as soon as the sun sets."
"What are you doing there?"
"I have brought Charu again from her parents house. They had been secretly meeting all this while after their marriage too."
"Did you leave again or wait?"
"I left as to not arise any suspicion."
"What happened to Charu and Abhimanyu?"
The question tenses Natasha. Her muscles tighten and Jacob is worried that she will be in agony.
"Abhimanyu had gone to fetch water for Charu. They killed him!!"
"The villagers. They have come to know. They are in a mad rage. I'm horrified. I want to help Charu but I can see no way I can."
"What are you doing there?"
"I'm trying to sneak in through the back door but Charu doesn't open. I scream at her to run but she stays put. She is telling me that Abhimanyu has told her to wait till he returns and she is going to wait for him no matter what. I cry, I threaten but my pleas fall on deaf ears. She is petrified but she is not willing to leave."
"What are the villagers doing?"
"They... they are setting the house on fire! Fire engulfs the house in no time. She is trapped. She is running in the house like a blinded animal. She is screaming for help but no one can help her. She is charred to death..."
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The experience turned too violent for Natasha to endure. She was in pain. Jacob calms her with soothing words, easing her into her present self. She was in a pool of sweat. It was only sometime after she regained composure, Rebecca and Uttara entered the room.
Although they knew paranormal things were going to be revealed today, no one could have thought what they just experienced.
It was Vivan's phonecall which breaks the eery silence.
When he got to know their location he requested them to come back. The urgency in his tone didn't go unnoticed by Natasha.
Jacob and Rebecca accompanied Natasha and Uttara to the wooden house. Vivan was waiting outside along with Melissa. Seeing Natasha he pulled her close and held on to her.
"Natasha, you were right! There is something wrong here."
"Vivan?" she looked confused.
"Natasha, remember the sari you wore when we signed the marriage papers? It was on fire when I returned from the bath..."
Fire, marriage, baby.....
It was Rebecca who summed it up.
"She is desperate. She is asking for help. She knows the connection Natasha. She is reaching out to you.. To Charu..."
"What can I do?"
"You have already done. You have figured out her sorrow. She was communicating her agony. Natasha she is aching for Abhimanyu. She is waiting for him still.. .on this side... Abhimanyu on the other hand might have already passed the light..."
"What light?" Vivan asked perplexed.
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The entire story was unfolded by Natasha.
"The spirits which haunt are those which could not pass the light and leave this realm. They might have unfulfilled wishes or simply not aware that they are no longer alive. But the rarest happens, in case of children, where they do not leave because they have been ordered by their parents to not move unless told. Here Charu is waiting because Abhimanyu has told her not to move. She is waiting for him. Through the years. Through the various constructions on the same land", Rebecca said with grief.
"We need to free her. Unite her with Abhimanyu." Natasha said
"That's what you have done always. Unite her with Abhimanyu. It's your second chance to save her. Something which you could not do in that lifetime." Jacob smiles.
"But how?" Uttara asked.
"It's simple. She needs positive energy. She needs prayers.That is why prayers are always held when someone dies. To ease them into the other world. We have to arrange for a mass or a puja in this house. Group prayers to spread the positivity and love her. Let her know that Abhimanyu has passed on to the other end and it's time for her to go." Rebecca added.
Rebecca can't contain the joy she feels as they go to bed each night. Separated by a bundle of joy who lies between them. Their baby, their child. She runs her index figure along the lines of her husband's face who gently kisses her hand and wishes her good night. Life is complete :)
Vivan and Natasha have the wooden house to themselves. A little girl in pink frock runs around. The house is filled with her laughter. They name her Charu.
On the other end...
It's the Gandharva Marriage,
If God is with us, who can be against us?
She glows in the radiance of his love,
Here no boundaries to limit her love,
No division of birth, no shackles of customs,
She is with the man she waited for,
and who waited for her...
Too tired to enter the cycle,
Too consumed to part again...
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"What did you do all the while?"
"Watched over you." he answers
And they are one again...
Whoa!! Wasn't this awesome!? Maithili, as I have always said, is one of the best storytellers on the block! :D I could picture every scene! I hope you all loved it as much as I did!! :D
Pour in your thoughts People!! Blessed Be!!