Offspring….

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Akhil was sitting near the lake with his Kashmiri shawl on, looking at the light green water of it. Most of the ponds, lakes and other waterbodies turned light to dark green as the days go by, because with no much maintenance and cleaning, the algae and water hyacinth slowly take them over turning the water greenish.

Akhil could see few of fishes were swimming under those water plants, small fishes, they looked like few dark shadows swaying through the shallow water. He sighed, it’s the month February yet the chillness of the winter is evidently here in this part of the country, although in rural areas winter stays a little longer.

As he tried to get up he felt his weakness is still there. Akhil suffered from Jaundice last month, not an ideal start for the new-year. As he recovered, he was weak and feeble after the yellow fever.

“Why don’t you go for a change, take a vacation and regain your health.” His family physician Dr. Dutta advised. “But make sure you’re in good hands, do you have any kith and kin in any hill station?”

Akhil shook his hand, he hates being a burden to somebody. But his students from the university were aware of his condition and eager to help. One of them was Abhimanyu, a brilliant student of psychology, doing his PhD under Akhil.

“Sir, you have to say yes.” Abhimanyu almost pleaded. “I wish I could come with you, but I’m so stuck with my thesis, but I have spoken the caretaker of my farmhouse there, you won’t have to worry about a thing. Everything will be taken care of.”

Abhimanyu Baruah, hailing from a small village of northeast, but he hardly lived there, he was born there, but brought up in this city, though he and his family visit their ancestral village time to time, they are well settled in the city.

Akhil was not so sure, he never liked to take favors from anyone, let alone be from his students. As he was considering to decline the offer politely, Abhimanyu spoke, “Sir, you won’t be disappointed if you visit my village. You might as well meet a very strange yet interesting character.” There was something in his tone and way of speech that Akhil couldn’t say no, and now here he is.

Well, he can’t complain, he is here for 4 days and the caretaker Ratanlal’s treatment was royal. As he was specifically instructed by Abhimanyu. Strict yet delicious diet of Juices, fruits, vegetables and soups, maid Rashida and gardener Charan are always on their toes to serve him 24 hours, Akhil felt as if he is truly a royal emperor in this small, hilly village of Northeast.

 

 

“You are not from here, I know all the faces in this village, you must be an outsider.” A sweet yet sharp voice nudged the web of Akhil’s deep thoughts.

 

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A bit surprised Akhil turned his head towards his right shoulder, a girl most probably in her late teens was sitting beside him. Akhil has no idea when or how long she came and sat next to him. The girl was wearing a black and green Churidar, looking curiously at him. She got a scarf on her head.

Akhil couldn’t reply immediately, partially because he was surprised partially because of his weakness, he body response system became slow. As he opened his mouth to answer, she spoke, “Akhil Mitra. You are the guest of Abhimanyu, staying in Baruah farmhouse.” Her ringing voice was sweet yet piercing.

“Well, you already knew my name.” Akhil tried to smile and be easy.

“Naah! I just guessed.” She looked at the lake.

“You’ve guessed my name?” Akhil asked her foolishly.

“Yeah. I hope you like my village. I will come and meet you sometime in the farmhouse.” The girl stood up and walked away hurriedly.

Akhil sat there for some time, tried to think back what just happened. He noticed the girl was also wearing cotton gloves till her elbow, her scarf was hiding her head and good portion of neck. She was pale looking, must be around 18 to 19 years old. The only things noticeable were her sad yet glowing eyes and her sharp yet sweet voice. She didn’t smile as she was talking and claimed she guessed his name. And when she said I hope you like ‘My’ village, it was very authoritative, as if she owns the village.

Akhil started to walk towards the farmhouse, it’s breakfast time, he was sick of juices and fruits. All he wanted now to have deep fried Puri with potato and peas curry.

Midway he found the Rashida was standing, looking at him alarmingly. As he walked towards her she asked, “Did you meet Nalini?”

“Who’s Nalini?” Akhil asked in startled voice.

“The girl you were talking to.” Rashida replied with a hurried tone.

“Oh! I’ve no idea who she is. She just came and sat next to me. Asked me if I am Akhil Mitra, the guest of Abhimanyu, and walked away.”

“Alright, come along sir, your juice is ready. Rashida turned back and started to walk while mumbling something.

 

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Akhil was sipping into his glass of carrot juice and making faces. It’s been an hour he came back from the lake side. For last few days he started to hate all kinds of juices. A bowl of fruit salad was lying on the dining table, as per the strict instruction of Abhimanyu, Ratanlal is following the doctor’s diet chart word by word. Akhil sighed, how good it would be to have hot and puffy oily Puris with spicy potato peas curry.

 

“Witch!” Akhil heard the whisper and turned towards the source of that voice which was full of hate and disgust.

Rashida was looking steadily out of the window, the pale looking girl whom Akhil met a while ago is seen walking towards the farmhouse, she was holding something in her hand.

In few minutes she entered into the dining room, she was holding a something covered with newspaper. She placed it on the dining table and removed the newspaper cover. A plate full of deep fried Puris with potato and peas curry, the way Akhil liked them, dark brownish Puris and melted potato and peas gravy.

 

“It was so rude of me not to introduce myself back there, I’m Nalini, Nalini Dev Burman, daughter of Niranjan Dev Burman. Once upon a time our family was the land lord of this village. I hope you did not mind when I mentioned as ‘MY’ village back there, it should be our village isn’t it?” Nalini was smiling impishly now.

Akhil tried to be as normal as he could, “I am on a strict diet, I am still recovering from a prolonged illness, no fried or oily food.” Akhil cleared his throat.

“But sometimes you just crave for what is forbidden, isn’t it?” Nalini is sharp voice again pierced Akhil’s ears.

“Let me know whenever you feel good, I can be your guide, can show you around our village, there’s nothing much though, but you can visit my place, it’s a 200 years old bungalow. It might intrigue you.”

Nalini spoke those word causally and turned back to leave when she saw Rashida, “Why did you call me a witch?” Nalini voice was pretty normal.

Akhil was at his wits end, Rashida whispered those words when she saw Nalini outside through the windows, she she was good 200 to 300 meters away from the farmhouse, there’s no way Nalini could hear it.

“Answer me, why did you call me a witch?” Nalini’s voice is firm now.

Rashida suddenly held her head and sat on the floor as if someone pushed her down. “Never ever call me that.” Nalini spoke angrily and left.

Akhil saw Ratanlal standing in a corner hanging his head down. Rashida was still sitting on the floor holding her head.

“Ratan, take them away, it’s tempting.” Akhil pushed the plate and tried to speak in a normal tone.

“Sir, at least have one. Else she will be angry.” Ratanlal pleaded.

“How will she know?” Akhil asked astonishingly.

“She will know, she always knows.” Rashida whispered.

 

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At around 4 p.m. Abhimanyu called the landline. Ratan picked it up and passed it to Akhil.

“I met Nalini today.” Akhil started with that sentence without any small talk. There was a long pause from the other side and the Abhimanyu spoke. “Ohh!”

“Is there anything you want to tell me about?” Akhil asked in an assuring tone.

“I am ashamed to push you into something at this phase of your health, I am hesitatnt.” Abhimanyu sound embarrassed.

“You are my student Abhimanyu, and a teacher should and must help his pupil whichever way he can, so don’t hesitate and tell me.”

Abhimanyu took his time to arrange his thoughts and started.

“Last year, when I went to my farm house, I met Nalini at the market. She just stepped into eighteen and I was around 26. You can call it love at first sight.

When I was around 10 or 11 years old I had a babysitter, her name was Hiral, she was about 5 years elder to me. She loved me dearly and I was so fond of her, even I had a childish crush on her as well, I was too young and she was my fondest memory. When I was about 14 she died of snake bite. I was devastated.

The day I met Nalini I felt I found Hiral back, they were so alike. I was almost crazy for her and wanted to marry her. I fought with my parents, argued with her father as she was so young and tender to be married, but at last everyone came to terms and agreed for our marriage.

We got engaged soon and then there was a photo session, we got a photographer from the city. Before that we never clicked any photos of her or us. Once the photographer clicked the photos and sent them to me I was shocked. Nalini was a complete different woman in those photos, she is not even close to how Hiral used to look.

I showed those photos to my parents and other relatives, they argued that’s exactly how she looks in real, they were surprised and perplexed. I could swear on my life that she looks nothing like how those photos showed her. I was lost and depressed. My parents were worried and they were not ready to carry this relationship further, we broke our engagement.

After few days when I met her I was shocked again, she was looking exactly like Hiral, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She came to me and urged to get back together. Next day morning I stated for the city without telling anyone.

It’s almost been a year but everyday her thoughts eat me up. I don’t know whom to turn to, as everyone thinks I am crazy and I did her wrong. You are my last resort Sir, please help me.”

Abhimanyu took a long breath after finishing his story.

“Where are those engagement photos? Do you have them with you?” Akhil held the receiver tight.

I kept them in the cupboard of my bedroom, you can ask Ratan, he will give them to you.” Abhimanyu replied.

“Alright, let me look at them and see what I can do. Relax, I will do everything I can to solve this.” Akhil assured Abhimanyu.

 

After dinner Akhil took those photos to his study table and examined them closely under the table lamp. There are at least 20 photos of Abhimanyu and Nalini. Few of them are close up snaps. Nalini looked so happy and jubilant in all the pictures, with a shy smile in her face. But Akhil was unable to trace any abnormality in those photos, Nalini is looking as she looked today morning, though she had a scarf on her head.

Akhil gave up and switched off the lights, lying on bed he tried to take off his mind from all these.

As the time passed suddenly Akhil heard a sound of a gigging voice in his head, as if a girl laughing her head off.

“So you are going to solve the mystery, is it Dr. Akhil Mitra.” The giggling voice spoke. Akhil almost jumped off his feet and looked out of the window. There were no one, just a moonlight filled night and few trees are slowly waving their heads and leaves were making sounds.

“Who are you?” Akhil asked that question in his mind.

“Don’t you know?” The giggling voice answered with a question.

Akhil started to sweat even in a chilly February night.

 

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Akhil stood there for some time with his sweaty palms and forehead. Then he realized the voice was gone from his head. It’s 3 days since the full moon night, the moon was looking big and yellowish, the dark craters of the moon are visible. Akhil tried to calm his nerves, he wasn’t absolutely sure but he knew the voice he heard was Nalini’s.

 

Akhil couldn’t have a sound sleep the whole night. He had few dreams, the one he remembered was quite weird. He saw himself wandering into a garden, more like in a tropical forest. Akhil was walking around aimlessly when he saw a giant python snake. It creeps down from one of the tallest tree and hanged it’s face right in front of him.

 

“Oh yes Adam, I was waiting for you, for so long…” The python spoke in a female voice. “Come and take you prized possession, come and have bite, eat the forbidden apple.” The python whispered.

 

“And why should I listen to you?” Akhil heard his own words.

 

“Because if you have no knowledge of Sin and evil, how will you know about Virtue and good?” The snake was nodding its head and then climbed down onto the ground.

 

“For centuries, people thought of me as evil, what if I am just your inner voice? What if I am a part you? What if I am……Eve?” As the snake was whispering so, it was transforming into a woman.

 

To Akhil’s bewilderment the snake slowly became a woman, wearing nothing. And she looked so much like… Nalini.

Akhil opened up his eyes, he could hear the fazar’s namaz from a nearby mosque. “It’s already dawn.” He thought, “And what a weird dream I had.” Akhil muttered.

 

He pushed himself out of the bed, it was still dark outside. Akhil wore his slippers and came out of the farm house in his shirt and pajama. It was cold outside but Akhil did not wrap his shawl, instead he started to walk aimlessly.

 

After half an hour Akhil stopped near a playground, The east sky became red already and bird were chirping, the trees and grasses were wearing the dew drops like crown jewels. Akhil inhale the fresh and clean air of this country side, and then he saw a small hut, a man selling morning tea with fuming glasses.

 

He walked there and sat on the bench, made of bamboos, the traditional Northeastern households’ furniture. Akhil had two cups of tea back to back, after a while as he was about to pay for the tea he realized he left his wallet back in the farmhouse.

 

Embarrassed Akhil felt helpless, “I am so sorry, I forgot my wallet. I.. give me some time, I will pay you the double.” Akhil felt ashamed.

 

The old tea vendor smiled, he hardly had few teeth left in his mouth, “Don’t worry sir, you’re the guest of Baruah family. You can pay me whenever you want. Here sir, have another cup.” The old man offered another cup of tea.

 

Akhil did not want to have another cup of tea, but he felt it would be rude so he took it, “How do you know I’m Baruah family’s guest?” Akhil asked

 

“This is a small village, we know almost about everything around, beside I know Rashida, she told me.” He replied while serving tea to his other customers.

 

“Oh so you know Rashida!” Akhil felt relived.

 

“Yes sir, from the days she worked in Dev Burman’s palace.” The old man smiled.

 

“Dev Burman Palace as in Niranjan Dev Burman, the land lord?” Akhil asked astoundingly.

 

“Yes sir, there’s only one Dev Burman family in our village, that’s them.” Tea vendor shook his head.

 

Akhil finished his tea and started to walk towards the farmhouse.

 

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Once Akhil was back in the farm house he decided to ask few questions to Rashida.

 

She was in the kitchen making breakfast, Akhil walked in and sat on chair in the dinning room.

 

“Rashida, you used work for Dev Burman family once?” Akhil asked directly without any prelude.

 

“I used to, long back.” Rashida was caught off guarded but then she replied without fumbling, without looking at Akhil.

 

“You used to work there before Nalini was born or after?” Akhil was curious.

 

“After, they needed a baby sitter for Nalini, someone who could be with her 24 hours a day.” Rashida answered busily as she was making the breakfast.

 

“Was Nalini’s mother alive then?” Akhil asked.

 

“No, she died when Nalini was around 2 years old, her grandmother, Niranjan’s mother was alive then, she was taking care of her.”

 

“For how long you worked there? And why did you leave?” Akhil was feeling the uneasiness as Rashida was answering all the questions with one or two sentences, normally she’s a talkative lady but something of this conversation was putting her off.

 

“Around 4 years, I left once Niranjan’s mother died. I was not really comfortable there.” Rashida was cleaning the vessels as she spoke.

 

Akhil paused for some time and then he spoke again, “Rashida, I got a feeling that you’re extremely uncomfortable speaking about Nalini and her family, given the incident took place yesterday morning I don’t really blame you. But I really need to know if anything you know about her and her past. Don’t worry, nothing will happen to you.” His voice was calm and assuring.

 

“She’s a witch, if she wouldn’t be the daughter of the land lord of this village, she would been burned on the stake. I don’t know whom to blame for it, her or her mother. Nalini’s mother Madhavi was equally weird and mentally unstable. She committed suicide by hanging herself in one of the tree in the jungle behind Dev Burman palace.

 

Even Niranjan’s mother was found dead in the jungle under the same tree. That girl is a curse. Where ever she goes she brings chaos, she can enter into your head and can play with your thoughts, give you severe headache as if someone is cracking open your skull with an axe.

 

When I heard Abhimanyu was about to get married to her, I urged his parents not to even think about. Thank heaven Abhimanyu and his parents realized it and broke the marriage.”

 

Rashida paused, she was saying everything with the bitterest tone.

 

“I know she can hear each of my words but I couldn’t care less. She has her due punishment waiting for her.” Rashida was visibly furious.

 

“Nalini’s mother, Madhavi, You said she had a mental condition?” Akhil tried to bring her back on the track.

 

“Yes, Niranjan’s mother Suhasini was dead against this marriage, but Madhavi was the only daughter of childhood friend of Suranjan’s, Niranjan’s father. In his deathbed he made his wife and son promise him that they will bring Madhavi as their daughter in law in in that palace.” Rashida replied in a tired tone.

 

“What kind of mental illness Madhavi had?” Akhil was uncomfortable as he could she Rashida is getting tired of answering his questions, but his curiosity dominated his mind.

 

“I don’t really know, people say she was often seen wandering naked in the forest behind the Dev Burman palace. Niranjan and his mother were very embarrassed because of this. Who knows some evil power might possessed her while she was in there. All I know that once Suhasini died an unnatural death in those woods I knew I have to quit. I was scared for my life. Witches feed on others’ lives. Akhil understood Rashida’s mind is clouded with superstitions and other village myths as Black magic and witches.

 

 

“Even she (Nalini) goes into the woods regularly. I saw her going in there. She had a habit of sitting on the terrace for hours. Even in the scorching sun of May she would sit on the terrace for the whole day. Once I remember, she was only 5 years old, I was trying to feed her some milk but she was resisting, I lost my temper and slapped her. She looked at me like she’ll burn me down with those fiery eyes, and I felt a splitting headache, as if someone is hitting my head with an iron rod.

 

She did that to many people, even yesterday. That’s how she hurt people whenever she wants. She’s pure evil.” Rashida was breathing hard as she was speaking continuously.

 

Akhil stood up and slowly walked into his room, he drew the engagement photos of Nalini and Abhimanyu and started to looking at them again, after a while he was lost into deep thoughts.

 

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Akhil was roving around the Dev Burman villa, or the people call it as Dev Burman palace. He could see a small yet dense jungle behind the villa. After a while without thinking much he went near the gate and knocked, a well-built man in his 40’s opened the gate.

 

“What do you want?” he asked in a rough voice. “Who’s there?” There’s another voice behind him asked the question.

 

Through the half opened gate Akhil could see a man standing with his while shawl on, his presence was aristocratic and authoritative, slender build, fair, tall, mostly in his mid-50 with salt and pepper hair and a thick mustache.

 

Akhil was sure that’s Niranjan Dev Burman, he rose his voice, “This is Akhil Mitra, I met you daughter yesterday. She invited me to see your palace.”

The man looked surprised as he walked towards the gate, “I am Nalini’s father, Niranjan, Nalini never spoke about you.”

 

“She must have forgotten.” Akhil smiled.

 

Niranjan was in double mind whether or invite Akhil over,

 

“I am staying in the Baruah Farm house. Abhimanyu is a student of mine.” Akhil spoke again.

 

“Oh! Well then you can leave, I have nothing do with that boy or his family, you must know how they humiliated us by breaking up the engagement. He came to my doors begging for her and then he just throw everything away. I hope you understand my rudeness.” Niranjan turned back started to walk as the doorman was about to close the gate.

 

“I am just interested in that forest behind your palace. I want to know the history of it.” Akhil again rose his voice seeing Niranjan was going to disappear behind the closed gate.

 

Astonished Niranjan turned back, “That was a garden during my grandfather Abhiranjan’s time, he always wanted a huge garden behind the palace, but after him no one cared and it became a jungle. Good day.” Niranjan threw his words at Akhil and disappeared inside the palace.

 

As Akhil was walking into the woods, it started looking unusually familiar, then he came across a tall tree and instantly he found why this place was looking so familiar to him. This was the exact place he saw in his dreams today morning. Possibly the same tree he saw the Python coming down from, it looked like a Banyan tree but it’s bigger and taller than normal ones.

 

He decided to explore further, as he walked deep inside, while occasionally moving the small tree branches which were obstructing his way, he came near a pond, a small one, almost as if rain water trapped in a crater. The bamboo trees and other unknown plants were grown around it.

 

Akhil almost had a mini heart attack when he saw a female sitting nearby the lake, she was not wearing a single piece of cloth, hair hairs are open and covered her face and upper part of the body, she was swinging and splashing her legs on the pond water. Akhil looked closely and got a jolt again, it’s no one but Nalini.

 

All of a sudden Nalini turned her head towards Akhil, with her piercing eyes which were only visible through her unkempt hair falling on her face, almost covering it. She giggled hysterically and then jumped into the water with splashing sound, few bids chirped and flew away with that sound. Akhil felt as if suddenly the temperature went down a few degrees.

 

Akhil felt he shouldn’t be there anymore so started to walk back, while he was returning he felt his lost his way, after wandering around for few minutes he was back next to that Banyan tree. He could smell a wild scent. Something of a smell when the grass were mowed or if a tree branches were cut, a strong and powerful odor.

 

Suddenly he heard a voice in his head, it was giggling again, “Akhil Mitra, what are you seeking?” It asked.

 

“Nothing.” Akhil sighed.

 

“What are you thinking now?” The voice asked again. Akhil was silent this time.

 

“I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking If only you were half your age at this time, you would ask Nalini’s hand and get married to her. Leave the city life and get settled in this small beautiful village.” The voice laughed again as it finished.

 

Akhil felt a jolt, he wasn’t thinking that at all, but he after the voice he felt like the thought was been pushed inside his head forcefully. The strong wild smell was getting stronger. Akhil was feeling dizzy, his felt week in his knee, with half open eyes he felt like the tree was weaving it’s leaves, and as if it was talking to him all these time.

 

The smell was blinding all Akhil’s senses now, he started to feel as if the shrubs and hedges near his legs were creeping up taking over his legs, hands and body. He was about to fall down when two strong hands held his shoulder.

“Akhil sir! What are doing here?” The startled voice spoke.

 

Akhil open his eyes with all his might and whispered, “Abhimanyu!!??”

 

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Akhil hardly remember how he ended up in his bed from the forest. He vaguely remembered Abhimanyu was literally carrying him on his shoulder when Akhil was leaning in his shoulder.

As Akhil opened his eyes, he found Abhimanyu was sitting next to him on a chair, he was visibly worried. Rashida was standing near the door looking at him sadly.

“I should have never brought you here, it’s all my fault, I pushed you into this situation for my selfish reason. You’re not even half fit to carry on. I have arranged the tickets, we will travel to city by tomorrow” Abhimanyu was shaking his head remorse.

“What time it is?” Akhil asked weakly.

“It’s almost 9 o clock in the morning. You were sleeping from yesterday afternoon. Why did you even go there in that forest all alone? You could have taken Ratanlal with you.” Abhimanyu had a slight anger in his tone.

Akhil was about to open his mouth to answer when he saw something and his mouth was left open. It was Nalini who walked into the room, she was wearing a maroon Saari today, with a long single plait, her face look sad.

Abhimanyu turned back and saw Nalini, he was speechless as well.

“Sorry to be here unannounced, but I heard Akhil sir is sick. So I couldn’t wait to inform you first.” Nalini came and stood next to Abhimanyu.

“Amm sure, why don’t you sit next to him for some time, I need to arrange few things.” Abhimanyu got up from the chair and left the room in a hurry, as if he trying to escape from her, Rashida too left the room with a scared and disgusted face.

Nalini sat on the chair, her sad face slowly turned into an impishly smiling one, “So Dr Akhil Mitra, how are you doing now?”

“I.. amm.. I am kind of ok.” Akhil stammered while replying. Suddenly he felt he was looking a complete different girl. It took him back in his memory lane. Almost 15 years ago when Akhil started his career as a lecturer, he had student name Vidhya, she was calm and silent type of girl, used sit in the first bench. Something of her always attracted Akhil towards her, as if he had a crush on this student of his. In her second year she left college and Akhil had no trace of her again.

As Nalini was smiling devilishly at him, he suddenly felt Nalini is looking quite alike, as if Vidhya sitting right in front of him.

“Do I remind you of someone else Dr. Mitra?” Nalini asked.

“Yes you do.” Akhil murmured.

At that very moment Rashida came inside, she had a glass of orange juice in her hand. She came and placed the glass on the tea table next to the bed.

“Have this glass of juice, you will feel better. Nalini, I think we should let him rest. He is already weak and feeble.” Rashida spoke those words with a stone face.

“Sure, for once you are right Rashida. I will see you tomorrow Akhil sir.” Nalini got up from the chair.

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Akhil drank the full glass of juice and called Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu came and stood next to Akhil. He was looking pale and uncomfortable.

“Abhimanyu, how did she look today? Did she look like Hiral or someone else?” Akhil asked in a easy tone.

“Every time I see her in front of me, I only see Hiral. When she came in today I rushed out and checked our engagement photos again, she looks a complete different girl in those pictures.” Abhimanyu answered robotically.

“So I thought, I too saw a different woman in her. By the way I hope my ticket to the city is arranged already you told me, I am going tomorrow.” Akhil answered while looking out of the window thoughtfully.

Abhimanyu looked at him with disbelief and then replied in a calm tone, “I guess that will be good for all of us, there’s no need for you to stay in this godforsaken village with such health condition. Let us move from here tomorrow.”

Akhil looked at Abhimanyu and smiled, “Only I’m going to the city, you need to stay here and have to collect few information for me. Don’t worry, I am not leaving this case half way. I have to meet my doctor for my check up as well as I have to do a little research. So you don’t worry, I will be back in another 2 to 3 days.”

Abhimanyu looked surprised now, “What information?” he asked curiously

“I will give you list of people you and you have to find as much information you can, don’t worry, they all resides in this village here, a few are no more but I need as much information you can gather about them. By the way you haven’t told me how and when you came here and found me in the forest?”

“I was restless after sending you here all by yourself, so I finished my thesis as soon as I could and submitted it and took the next train here. Once I spoke to Ratanlal, he told me you probably went to meet Nalini. I was looking for you everywhere when I thought of entering into that forest.” Abhimanyu answered.

“Did you see or feel anything unusual or saw someone except me there?” Akhil asked absent mindedly.

“No. Why?” Abhimanyu asked.

“Nothing, let me pack, the train is at 8 AM tomorrow if am not wrong.” Akhil sounded as if he is in a hurry to leave the village.

 

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Once Akhil is back in the city the first thing he did was he met his physician Dr. Dutta.

“You told me to go for a change but you didn’t tell me I am so weak to even walk around, I was bed ridden for half a day after I took a hike in a forest.” Akhil spoke with mock anger.

“Really, lie down Dr. Mitra, let me check. Last time I saw you, you were weak but not so much that you’ll be bed ridden because of a little walk.” Dr Dutta said playfully.

Akhil told him about the incident in the forest but except the part where he saw Nalini or felt how the hedges and shrubs tried to grab him.

“Hmm! But Akhil if you are taking all the medication you wouldn’t be feeling so weak. In fact after initial checkup now I hardly find any of such. You are almost 90% recovered.” Dutta spoke in a worried tone. “Let’s run some more test and see.”

Akhil was about to tell him how even he felt weak when he was sitting near the pond and tried to get up his own feet, his head spun. But he did not mention it as he remembered something else.

 

Additional director Friedrich Wilhelm from Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences (DCPS) in Berlin was surprised to see a mail from Dr. Akhil Mitra, the renowned Indian Parapsychologist, he once met him in a seminar in New Delhi. They had quite a nice chat. Dr. Mitra in the mail requested his half an hour for a discussion in Skype. Friedrich was curious and was looking forward to have a video chat with Akhil. They started their session at 4 PM IST, the supposed half an hour chat turned into almost a 4 hours of intense discussion.

 

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Abhimanyu was waiting in the station. It’s almost 5 days that Akhil has gone to city, he promised he would come back in 3 days but something took him longer. Abhimanyu has collected almost all the information Akhil asked him to, he was quite surprised by himself after knowing things about the people in his own village.

Akhil got down from the train, it was around 2 PM, Abhimanyu carried his luggage to the firm house.

“So, what did you do in the city?” Abhimanyu asked interestedly.

“I’ll tell you, before that, let know about your findings.” Akhil Asked. Abhimanyu gave all the details he found in last few days about few persons.

“Hmm, is it possible for you to arrange a meeting with Niranjan Dev Burman by tomorrow at Dev Burman Palace?” Akhil asked Abhimanyu after listening to him.

“I can sure try, but not sure how Niranjan will react, after all he doesn’t like me.” Abhimanyu replied thoughtfully.

“Alright, I will go to Dev Burman palace tomorrow, you come along with me, I hope Nalini will be there in the evening.” Akhil spoke.

 

******************************************************************************

Niranjan was looking at both of them suspiciously, Akhil was showing no sign of discomfort while Abhimanyu was looking uneasy.

Half an hour back Akhil and Abhimanyu came and knocked the gate of Dev Burman palace, as the door keeper opened the gate Akhil asked for Nalini. As the door keeper informed her, both Nalini and her father came out.

“What are you doing here?” Niranjan asked in an angry tone.

“I am here to talk to you and Nalini.” Akhil answered calmly.

“Regarding what?” Niranjan demanded.

“Maybe I can help you find some answers of few questions which are yet unanswered.” Akhil replied.

“We have no such questions. Good bye.” Niranjan barked and turned around.

“Nalini?” Akhil looked at her.

“Please come in, both of you.” Nalini spoke while looking down at her feet, digging her nails.

“Why are you inviting them?” Niranjan roared at his daughter.

“Because they are our guests.” Nalini answered firmly.

 

Now all four of them are sitting in the drawing room, a huge one right in the middle of the palace, the ceiling is as high as 10 meters from the floor, the double stairs went up to the first floor, the palace really looks royal. A huge chandelier was hanging from the ceiling.

The tea and snacks were already served on the tea table, Nalini took the tea pot and started making tea.

“1 spoon or 2?” Nalini asked to Akhil.

“Do I really have to answer that?” Akhil smiled. Nalini put 2 spoons of sugar in the tea.

“Tell us, what would you like to tell?” Niranjan was impatient.

“Are you aware of the rumors around in the village that they think Nalini is some kind of a sorceress, that she possess supernatural power?” Akhil started.

“Those illiterate villagers, they make stories all the time, I have no time for all those rubbish.” Niranjan made a face.

“On the contrary, I do believe Nalini possess some power and I’m sure you and Nalini both know it. It’s my student Abhimanyu who told me the astonishing story of him and Nalini falling in love and then falling apart. All I need is sometime to tell you the surprising tale.”

Akhil cleared his throat and started.

******************************************************************************

“Since the first day of my meeting with Nalini, I felt a strange power within her. In a very normal way we can describe it as her telepathic ability. But there is more of it. As I tried to understand her abilities the more surprising it felt.

Most of the people know or believe that telepathic power or ability is all about connecting minds with thought frequencies. But Nalini also possess something called ‘Emotive telepathy’ in Parapsychology research. It is the power to control emotions, thought process and even compel a mind to do something as she pleases. She also can communicate and also can inflict pain on her targeted mind or person.

Nalini also have developed something called natural hypnotic ability. As we all know hypnosis is about human mind or consciousness controlled by another person or mind. We often see the act of hypnotism in magic shows where magicians make any of their audiences to do as he/she pleases by hypnotizing them. Those are forced hypnotism by using mind control methods. But the natural hypnotic ability uses natural means, like continuous eye contacts, body fragrance or touch.

If I am not wrong Nalini started to feel her powers at her early ages, when she sensed she has the power over others mind and she can control, punish and manipulate others thoughts, she started doing so.

When I spoke to Rashida who worked here for some time, she told me all the servants including Niranjan were afraid of her, but for strange reasons they were not able to make up their mind to leave their jobs in the palace.

Now Nalini’s enhanced telepathic ability is rare but not unheard of. Few years back an autistic Indian girl Nandana Unnikrishnan stunned the researchers by showing that she can read the exact thoughts from her mother’s mind. It’s often seen that the autistic children or the children born with rare physical or mental deformity often has special powers. And Nalini too… is a special case…”

nandana

Akhil paused and sipped into his tea cup, the tea was already cold. Abhimanyu was sitting like a statue on the sofa just opposite to Nalini. Nalini was looking down at her feet and digging her nails. Only Niranjan was looking impatient.

“What are you getting at Dr. Mitra, so my daughter has powers and you yourself said that it’s rare but happens, so what?” Nirajan asked in an irritated tone.

 

Akhil took his time, got up from the sofa and encircled all of the members sitting there, he stood behind the sofa, leaned on with both elbow resting on the top of it and looked at others intensely.

“Before I go ahead speaking more about the abilities of Nalini, let me tell about someone else, about a family member of yours. My student Abhimanyu collected a lot of information about you and your family members, of course about the deceased ones as well.

Remember you have told me about the forest that grew behind your palace, which was once a garden of your grandfather Abhiranjan.

Abhiranjan was a botanist, he had a degree from ‘University of London’ and his area of research was Paleobotany, studying plant evolution and fossil plants, or the plants and floras which were extinct or assumed extinct from the earth. He was a globetrotter and collected many rare breed of plants and seeded and sowed and grew them in his backyard, which has become his ‘Garden of Eden’. He had also wrote many journals for few British research facilities and magazines during pre and post era of British India.

He was a disciple and a great admirer of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, one of the greatest mind of India who established that plants have lives too. Abhiranjan was deep into the research of evolutions and physical changes of plants from dawn of this planet’s life.

j_c_bose_board

His son Suranjan chose to be a lawyer and thus after Abhiranjan’s demise his garden was hardly been taken care of, as the days went by it slowly turning into a jungle.  The high wall of the palace hid it behind and people of the palace slowly started to forget about it.

Niranjan’s father Suranjan was married to Suhasini, a very superstitious woman, Suranjan himself was a very open minded and rational man, probably he had the trait of his father. Suranjan gave his word to his childhood friend that his daughter Madhavi will be Suranjan’s Daughter-in-law someday. Madhavi was manglik, as per ancient Indian astrological chart she was supposed to be the cause of her first husband’s death. Perhaps because Surajan was above all these superstitions and knowing how hard it might be for his friend to marry off his daughter he vowed to make her his daughter-in-law.

Suhasini did not like that a bit, she never wanted her only son to get married to a girl could be a threat to her son’s life. Suranjan was adamant and he was a man of his word, because of his illness and early demise he couldn’t see it off that his son and Madhavi was getting married. But in his deathbed he made his wife and son promised that they will honor his words.

Niranjan had a profound effect of his mother on him, maybe because he lost his father in tender age. He is also quite superstitious. So the mother and son decided to take suggestions from various astrologers and as per their prescribed remedy, Madhavi was set to be married to a tree and then with Niranjan, another old ritual where it was believed that being the first of a manglik the misfortune will befall upon the tree.

But even after all these, the marriage between Niranjan and Madhavi never was consummated. Niranjan had this insane fear for his life which was fueled further by his mother and he never copulated with his wife. In fact they used sleep in different rooms. But being a rich son of a lawyer and landlord with his biological needs, he did have many lovers and concubines.

Madhavi, being married too early and pushed into a loveless relationship was always an unwelcomed guest in the palace, her husband’s indifference and her mother-in-law’s taunts were completely broken her down. Maybe people in the midst of the conversation, taunted of suggested her that, her actual husband is the tree got married to but Niranjan.

She was under immense mental pressure, perhaps she did not want to bother her family with her marital problems and keeping everything within her, resulting her subconscious mind actually started to believe that the tree she got married to, was actually her real husband.

A few villagers saw her wandering naked in that forest, that’s actually half true. Rashida and few other servants followed her and found she stood there hugging a tree in the forest without wearing anything.

Yes! Madhavi’s ritualistic first marriage was with the banyan tree or what it looks like I stumbled upon where Abhimanyu found me. She used to stand there embracing, holding the tree for hours together. Rashida is actually one of witness of this, when I spoke her for a long time, I found this details.

Here, my theory gets divided into two……”

Akhil took a long pause and looked at everyone again. And everyone else were looking at Akhil with probing eyes.

******************************************************************************

Akhil sat on the sofa and started again….

“The first theory is fairly simple and provided some answers, the second theory is complex and little far-fetched, nonetheless that provides a lot of answers.

Theory 1:

Madhavi, being a young and married woman, who was completely ignored by her husband, unfulfilled desire of her body and mind forced her to take a paramour or a lover. But I doubt it if in her mental state was it really possible, what I feel is someone who knew her mental state and knew that she goes alone, unprotected, in the forest took advantage of her mental vulnerability.

Thus Nalini came into her womb, when she gave birth to Nalini, Niranjan knew it wasn’t his child. When I saw Niranjan for the first time, I was surprised to see there is hardly any resemblance between Nalini and Niranjan, Abhimanyu also found some old photos of Madhavi, they both were tall, fair and with sharp features where Nalini is short, petty and dark.

Madhavi believed it’s the tree who is the father of Nalini, and she also kept telling her daughter so. Nalini grew up knowing she is the daughter a tree. Madhavi even took her time to time in the forest to show her that tree. Which created a very complex situation for Nalini, already she was an offspring of a mentally instable mother. As it is known, such abnormal situations make the offspring exposed to a very complicated mental state which might causes her acquiring such powers.

 

Theory 2:

There is a paranormal activity which comes under the research of botanist or plant scientists. It’s called Plant perception, Plant perception or biocommunication is the paranormal idea that plants are sentient, that they respond to humans in a manner that amounts to ESP(Extrasensory perception), and that they experience pain and fear, that it can see, smell, talk or respond. The idea is not accepted, as plants lack a nervous system.

The main difference between human and plants is the central nervous system or to be precise, human or animal has something called brain but Plants don’t.

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, one of the brilliant mind of India, known for his amazing contribution towards the invention of radio and also the man who discovered and knew more about lives of plants, always believed that irrespective of no nervous systems plants can behave like any other mortal living beings. He dedicated a good portion of his life researching on it. Recently it was in the news again. Which actually says, “Plants are just very slow animals.”

plants-sentinents

Abhiranjan Dev Burman, Niranjan’s Grandfather was also researching on similar ground, in lot of his thesis he mentioned the true evolution takes place in deep forests like how a lot of unknown species breed in the deepest part of the sea. He mentioned his travel in deep jungle of amazon and Congo and founding many unknown trees and plants the modern world is unaware of. Many carnivorous plants and one among them the legendary ‘man eating tree’ are carrying the evidence that plants have their weird ways to live in this world.

2013-06-02-plant-food

I am quite sure that a lot of those rare breeds of plants were sowed and grown in his garden turned forest. The tree in the forest which was thought of a banyan tree and Madhavi was married to, is not a banyan tree. When Abhimanyu found me and took me with him, there were few leaves of that tree were stuck on my body. I took them to the city and tested them the botany lab, also shared the details of the DNA and molecule structure of them with Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm from Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences in Berlin. He had a thorough investigation on them but yet determine the actual species of plants it belongs to.

We have also discussed about few very diverse and out of ordinary topics. Like reproduction similarities between plants and human, how plants communicate and it’s defense mechanism. And most out of ordinary, if at all it is possible to have offspring if a human mated a plant.

If we look at the cell structure of Plants and animals or human, it is not very different in fact there are many similarities.

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What if an evolved plant or a tree capable of mating a human produced an offspring and that offspring is Nalini. As many of Nalini’s powers can be explained. Her controlling telepathic ability, it’s is proven that plants and trees use unknown telepathic channel to communicate each other.

plants-comm

I remember when I met Nalini for the first time, I was about to get up from the steps near the pond when I felt dizzy and my head spun, cause senses were blinded by a wild scent, same I experienced in the forest when I was rescued by Abhimanyu. I saw Nalini there as well. At first I thought it was all happening because of my weakness but as I consulted my physician he declared me almost recovered, I realized the reason is something else.

It is a part of plant’s defense mechanism where they produces chemical signaling which they produce time to time every occasion they are threatened or harmed. Like when you pluck a flower, tear a leaf or cut a branch of a tree, you can smell that strange odor which can be sometime toxic and harmful. When Nalini attacks her victims telepathically they also can sense the odor and that makes them dizzy and nauseous, they experience the splitting headache.”

chemical-signalling

Akhil paused again. He could only see 3 faces with dumb and response less expressions

******************************************************************************

Akhil sighed and continued…

“Let me spare you all the complicated scientific explanations.

In simple words, my first theory establish that Nalini is having powers and abilities that can be only explained as a freak accident of nature. Where she is influenced to be delusional by her own mother that she is a daughter of plant, of a tree.

And my other theory deduce that Nalini is indeed an offspring of a human and plant. Which awarded her this magical capabilities as mutant, a mutation between flora and fauna. Which only can be established if we make scientific tests and experiments on her.”

Akhil started to feel tired, he sat on the sofa leaned on.

 

“If you are finished with your cock and bull story, you can now leave.” Niranjan got up on his feet edgily and was walking off.

“There is more to it.” Akhil found his voice was strong and hard. Niranjan turned back and looked at him.

“Madhavi’d death was not a suicide. During my long conversation with Rashida I came to know the night she was allegedly committed suicide, there was a huge fight between you and her. Rashida heard you and her screaming at the top of your voice and suddenly everything became quiet. Thought she claimed she left the job after the suicide of Madhavi, truth is she was fired with two other servants after that night.

My analysis about Madhavi tells me she might be delusional but not suicidal. It my strong belief that you killed her that night, probably by strangulating her in a blind rage. I believe it was almost impossible to bear the fact that your wife is staying under the same roof with someone else’s child known as yours.

The cruel irony is, to prove that she committed suicide, her body was hanged from the branch of the same tree whom she considered as her husband. If my 2nd theory is true and if indeed the tree actually reciprocated to her love and fathered her child I could only imagine what it might went through seeing her lifeless body hanging from one its own branch.

After this incidents few of the servants whom Niranjan suspected might know the truth were fired, Rashida was one of them. And then one day Suhasini was found dead under the same tree, cause of death was speculated as choked to death. If I know I better I would say it was the revenge of the same mysterious tree.”

 

“How dare you? I surprised to see your audacity to accuse me of a murder in my own house. Enough is enough, GET OUT! Or my men will throw you out of my house.” Nirajan was shouting like a mad man, his eyes were red as rotten tomato, his whole body was shaking in anger.

 

“Father, you know what he is saying is the truth.” The calm voice of Nalini made Akhil, Abhimanyu and Niranjan turned their head towards her, in disbelief.

“Yes Dr. Akhil Mitra, my father is a tree, my mother gave birth to a half tree half human. I know this man whom the world know as my father killed my mother. My real father told me everything. I am speaking to my real father from the age 4. When my mother took me to him and told me everything. We speak through our minds, people can’t hear us.

And you know what? There is more. I sit in the sun for hours with my feel in the water, you know why? Cause I make my own diet, yes, what human know as photosynthesis. My real father taught me everything. Remember the day you saw me in the forest near the pond?

Niranjan Dev Burman killed my mother, I have no regret, no complains. The real villain is my foster grandmother, his mother who poised his mind. And she got what she deserved. I don’t expect humans to understand me. But I cannot control myself punishing them when they do wrong, call me names.

Yes Dr. Mitra. You have successfully drawn the conclusion.” Nalini was smiling as she was talking.

 

“Or you are dangerously delusional as your mother fed all these ideas into your head from the very childhood, making you believe that you are a child of tree and you can speak to it.” Akhil murmured. “We can’t be sure of anything till we run tests on you, and I fear that might make you a lab rat.”

 

“ENOUGH!!!” Niranjan shouted at the top of his lungs. “I am tired of this crap. Because of this I killed Madhavi. I know Nalini is not my child, not possible as me and Madhavi never had a physical relation. But I tried to forgive her, I tried to ask her who Nalini’s real father is. And she kept telling about this tree. ABSURD!! I couldn’t take her lies anymore, so I killed her and hanged her on her beloved tree.”

 

“And she was true.” Nalini answered in a calm voice again.

“I will finish this story for once and all today. I will uproot that tree and burn it to ashes.” Niranjan clenched his teeth, “Raghu, get your men, get the axes and saws. We will cut and throw that tree.” He shouted at his men.

“No you can’t do that, you won’t do that.” Nalini screamed hysterically.

 

******************************************************************************

 

Niranjan was no mood to listen to anyone, as his men were gathering the saw, axes and other tools, Nalini ran out of palace. Akhil and Abhimanyu followed her.

When Niranjan walked inside the forest with his men carrying his double barrel gun, he saw Nalini was standing there hugging the tree, Abhimanyu and Akhil were baffled.

“You have killed my mother. I can’t let you kill my father.” Nalini was crying her heart out.

“Take her away Abhimanyu, else I will shoot her first.” Niranjan was aiming his double barrel at her.

When still Nalini did not move, Niranjan ordered his men to pull her away. As they did so, others advanced to cut it down. Niranjan, in his helpless wrath, shot few rounds at the tree. When his men started to cut it down, with each strike of axe, the tree was shaking violently. It almost felt to Akhil as if the tree is scream in pain and agony. But they were mute spectators, Abhimanyu was holding and trying to control the violent and hysterical Nalini as she was crying her heart out.

Akhil heard Niranjan murmuring looking at his men cutting and uprooting the tree, “Now from months to come you will burn in my kitchen and stable.”

It took almost 3 hours for Niranjan’s men to cut and pull up the root of it was in so deep. It left a big hole in there. The villagers heard the sound and gathered nearby, but did not have the courage to ask what was going on.

Nalini fainted in the arms of Abhimanyu. Tired Niranjan looked at them, “Take her upstairs and be with her.” He told Abhimanyu in a tired tone. “Dr. Mitra, I would be honored if you join me in dinner and stay in here tonight.” Niranjan sounded like a complete different man now, sounded like a warm welcoming host. Akhil was as his wit’s end, he did not know how to respond after all these. He just nod his head.

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The night was uneventful. Niranjan called his family doctor to check on Nalini. The doctor gave her a sedative injection to make her sleep, cautioned that she had gone through a tremendous mental trauma and she needs complete rest. Abhimanyu chose to be on her bed side. In the dinner Niranjan and Akhil sat together.

“I apologies for my behavior. But I should have cut down that poison tree way back. It was solely responsible for this ungodly situations.” Niranjan was smoking is pipe after the supper.

“Well, I am still not sure which of my theory is right so I don’t know.” Akhil spoke in a thoughtful voice.

“I don’t want to know. It’s true I never loved Madhavi and I killed her, but laws can’t do anything to me, I am the law here. But I raised Nalini as one of my own. I don’t want her to be turned a lab creature. Let her be. It would be better for us if you leave tomorrow. My men will see you off in the station. For tonight you can be my honorable guest.” Niranjan spoke in a very easy tone.

“Akhil went to bed with multiple thoughts in his head. He woke quite early in the morning when he heard so many voices making noise. He opened the door and found Abhimanyu looking restless.

“We can’t find Nalini, she was in her bedroom sleeping, I was in the couch and don’t know when I slept, when I woke up I saw the bed is empty.” Abhimanyu’s said in a chocked voice. Niranjan and his men were hurriedly moving in every direction.

Something struck Akhil instantly. He slowly walked out of the palace and stepped into the forest. He stopped near the big hole which was dug to pull up the root, the trunk of the huge tree was lying nearby. Akhil slowly passed by that, he started to walk towards the small pond where he saw Nalini here last time.

As he stopped by the pond, he looked around. Suddenly his eyes fell onto something. There was another tree, it looked so green, hardly 5 and ½ feet tall, it doesn’t look like any known trees. It’s two branches were looking like 2 hands held above, the leaves were like hairs and upper portion was looking like a very familiar face. The face of Nalini.

Akhil closed his eyes. Hoping that if it is truly Nalini, she might speak to his mind one more time. He kept his eyes closed for some time and then as he opened them, tears rolled down from them. Akhil murmured the famous line of the famous physicist, biologist and poet…

“They who behold the One, in all the changing manifoldness of the universe, unto them belongs the eternal truth, unto none else, unto none else.”

― Sri Jagadish Chandra Bose

 

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