I got stuck (Is it a good sign?)

I was thinking about it every time I had some leisure. I had discovered a “mind-blowing” way to convert my short story “Leave Me Alone” into a novel. I had worked about eight chapters within a month. These chapters would end the first part and I was ready to move into the crucial second part. Then I suddenly felt I needed a prologue. A chapter apart from the rest of the story that would create suspense. (It already had some suspense. I was trying to mix some spices.) That prologue introduced me to the major problem in my plot: how was my heroine doing what she was doing?

I had worked out the “why” and I had thought I knew “how” but things got complicated. I was teleporting her to places where I wanted her to be, and she was doing things the way I wanted in an unnatural way. My story is not a fantasy. It’s a contemporary psychological thriller. No way was I going to introduce myself opening doors for her (I feel this would make a good sci-fi!), and neither was I going to let anything happen just like that. So, why the plot hole?

I don’t know. Maybe, I planned in the wrong manner. Perhaps the changes I had brought about in the prologue rang the bells. Whatever it was, I believe, was for the best! How would I make others believe in an unbelievable story? I’ve stalled it until I find a solution.

***

I felt an itch. Actually, I’d been thinking about it for a few days now. I had linked “Quest” with “Leave Me Alone”, and the latter with “The Peacemaker” (I have built its concept but not written a word yet. Or, can I say it’s first chapter is already in “Leave Me Alone”, just in another POV?). So, because there was a link, I was thinking of completing “Quest”.

The biggest problem in this rewriting was that my old computer is dead and until it’s repaired I had no access to the “latest” version I created about last year. Or, so I thought. Then I searched my phone. I found the original version (Thank God!). I checked Google Docs. There were eight chapters each of last two versions. Now the problem is: I first need to sort out which “doc” belongs to which version. Then I need to compile and (probably) rewrite.

This rewrite is going to be fun. I have a guide. I have versions in third person and in first person. I need to decide what to use now. I have events in different orders. I might have to reorder, delete and add. I have written four or five versions of “Quest” already. I must make it my final. The solution for the plot problem I had discovered last year, is going to make it interesting. But the biggest challenge is to stand out as the self-proclaimed genius! (After sorting out the problems, I had called myself a “genius”. Damn, that’s a crown I cannot handle!)

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Personal Achievements in 2074

Some months ago I had decided that at the end of the year 2074 B.S., I would make a list of some of the achievements I can boast upon. I discovered 8 points.

1. Edited and Published a College Journal

Publication of the Journal

On Falgun 2073, just before the end of the academic session, Prof. Dr Tara Nidhi Bhattarai had announced that the final year had to publish a scientific journal. I had been nominated the Editor-in-chief of the journal unanimously by my friends. I had added four friends and had completed the Editorial Board.

The real job began in 2074. After a week since the end of our final exams, I called for the articles via our Facebook group. By the end of the month, we had very few articles. I had to ask for them again with a stricter deadline.

The Editorial Board initially received 15-16 articles. We worked with what we had and then making sure that very few percentages of students had submitted, we asked again.

The other board members got extremely busy. I took the help of Grammarly to edit the grammar and spelling. It took more than a month to compile all the 29 articles. Then we had to prepare cover pages, and print the file out. We published Geology, Vol. 8 just before the Dashain. I was the happiest man that day because I had spent almost 5 months of my year for the

2. Photoshop Basics and Inkscape

The tools of Adobe Photoshop always scared me. Because of that, I could never go through its basics even though it was installed on my computer for years.

This year, a fortnight before the publication of the Geoworld Journal, I decided to learn GIS on my own. I downloaded QGIS and completed a tutorial I obtained at a website. After that, when I looked at Photoshop, it did not become as challenging as it used to be.

I learnt to select, crop, change image size, resolution, use brush, paint and so on. I never completed other tutorials on QGIS (must learn it completely by the end of 2075), but I learnt how to manipulate images and now I am able to use another application Inkscape to produce vector images. My current Gravatar is one of my earliest works on Inkscape.

3. Got the Bachelor’s Degree

A day before the publication of Geoworld, the results of the final year was published. And obviously, I got the Bachelor’s Degree. I took the certificates much later. I was happy but not as much as I wanted to be because I am not earning anything.

4. Gardening

In the month of Bhadau, I was writing a chapter for a novel. The garden in the setting was beautiful. Small trees lined it and beautiful flowers bloomed. As soon as I wrote that scene, I went up to our terrace and saw plants basking. The soil had dried and the plants did not look good. That day onwards, I made a routine of watering them every evening. It soon turned into a habit and now, whenever I don’t have to water them, I feel like I have missed something.

My parents, too, are happy that I have been at least watering plants every day. That their terrace garden is not dried up.

5. Learnt to ride two-wheelers

I had a fear of riding bikes. I still do. But I had to overcome my fear after Tihar (in November) to learn to ride motorbikes. It was extremely difficult and tiring in the first week. I was just catching up in the second week when the course ended. Nevertheless, I could ride a scooter. Riding a two-wheeler requires your mind working in several directions at a time. To bring balance to a vehicle that is clearly imbalanced was a difficult achievement.

6. Learnt a lot about life from a little kitten

Just at the end of the first week of my motorbike training, I found two kittens crying inside a drum under the stairs. The mother left the kittens and we adopted them. One month later, the male was taken by the mother. We see them running sometimes on the terraces of our neighbours.

The female, however, refused to go with the mother cat and stayed with us. She was growing well and just as we thought everything was fine, she went downstairs and got caught by dogs.

Her life and the grief she gave me at death made me understand that nature and life were cruel. I also learnt a great deal about cats and other animals, their behaviours and the problems they face because of us.

7. Tribhuvan University (TU)

The day I went the Office of the Controller of the Examinations (OCE) was the day I stepped into the TU premises for the first time. It was quite depressing because of the unmanaged system and earthquake-affected buildings.

However, when I entered the Tribhuvan University Campus area, I felt a magical calmness in the surrounding. It was so influential that I forgot the chaos of the world outside.

Last week, I got admitted for the M.Sc. The classes will begin from the second week of the New Year.

8. Quora

Quora happened to me all through the year 2074. In Baishakh, after the final exams, I got back to the website because of some of my friend’s posts on Facebook. I realized that I had answered a few questions in the past and they were still generating some views. So, I got excited and began answering questions on Geology and Nepal.

On the second week of March, I was provided a “Top Writer 2018” badge. I have about 300 followers and my answers don’t have much views compared to so many popular users but obtaining the badge felt great. I reserved the celebration for New Year, though!

When I died

I had been sick for some time. My parents, wife and children were sitting around me with grim faces. I had already lived more than twenty five years of my years and I felt like I was going to die. However, I did not want to die young. So I remembered my parents, my wife, my children and everyone who had been dear to me. All of a sudden, I lost consciousness. I stopped remembering anything.

When I regained consciousness, a man dressed in black was standing before me. He had a pale face with a big mustache and huge beard. His eyes were hollow. He looked at me as if he was disgusted with me. He produced a whip from the thin air and lashed hard at me. Before I could cry, the whip had tightened around my throat. I struggled but in vain. He was too strong.

He rose above in the air and I was dragged behind him. I tried to free myself again but I feared that I would fall down. He dragged me up to the clouds. He stopped and looked at me with disdain. He said, “Do you want to see your world before I take you to mine?” His voice was deep and sounded like he was speaking through a hollow bamboo. That moment I knew that he was death. I nodded slowly in affirmation to his question. He then told me to look down and that I did.

The world looked tiny from that height but Death mystically zoomed it for me. He said, “Look at your family for the last time.” And my children were in front of my eyes.

They were crying. My body lay amongst them. I called them out. But they could not listen to me. I tried to touch them but could not. I could do nothing to console them. Sometimes later, they carried my body to the crematorium and it was cremated. The existence of my body had come to an end.

Death did something and the time ran pretty quickly. My family was not sad. My children were playing. My wife looked a little weak but she was smiling. “They have learnt to live without you now,” Death said. He then showed me images from all around the world. Poor and rich, happy and sad, stupids and geniuses, religious and non-religious, rulers and the ruled, he showed me all sorts of people. “Why do you think I showed you all these?”

I noticed that the whip had gone away from my throat but still I could not speak. He said, “Everyone I have showed you and every life in this world, everything in this universe will die one day. They can’t escape death.”

“You know you must die. Yet you are scared of Death. You never lived life to their fullest because of the fear. You were also more concerned about afterlife than the life you lived. You donated to the poor to make your afterlife better, so that you can rest in heaven and avoid hell after death. That was very selfish of you. You followed religions in the hope that the door to the heaven will be opened. You looked after your parents because the scriptures said you will be in heaven after your death.

“You have not done anything that will make other people’s lives better. Give to the poor to see their smiles. Take care of your parents with all your heart. Start thinking that good things you do will make someone happy, that those acts will create heaven in your life. Stop thinking that your good deeds will land you to heaven only after your death. Stop fearing hell. Understand that your bad deeds will create hell around you. You don’t need to die to see the hell. Stop fearing death. Death will come to you for sure.”

I opened my eyes. The sun had risen up high. I was neither sick, nor dead. I recalled everything the man in black robes said in the dream. I smiled, got off from my bed and went to meet my life. It was grinning ear to ear.

​बाह्र सत्ताइस कविता 

बिहान सबेरै उठेर
हतार हतार हिँड्यो केटो

परीक्षा दिन भनी ।

‘ढिलो हुन्छ होला,’ ऊ सोच्छ ।

रिङ्गरोडमा उडेको धुँवा हेर्दै,

बानेश्वर पुग्ने गाडी कुर्दै,

‘कसरी समयमा पुग्ने होला?”

सोच्छ घडी हेर्दै ।
भाग्यले साथ दियो,

एउटा माइक्रो आयो

धुम्बाराहीदेखि बानेश्वर जाने ।

चार मिनेटमा चाबेल पुर्‍यायो

अनि सुरु भयो जाम

गाडीहरूको अद्भूत जाम !

धुवाँ उडाउँदै उभिएका गाडी

लस्कर लागेर एकअर्कालाई धुँवा दिँदैछन्

चुरोट पिउने साथीहरूले चुरोट बाँडेझैँ ।

‘तिनीहरूको फोक्सो दह्रो हुँदो हो,’ ऊ गम्छ

‘यस्तो धुँवा धुलो खप्न

धुँवा पहिल्यै भरिएको छ !’
कछुवा गतिमा गाडी अघि बढिरहेछ

आफूभित्र धुलो भरिरहेछ !

दम बढ्यो केटोको

झ्याल खोल्ने कि नखोल्ने

अलमलमा पर्छ ।

झ्याल खोले पनि नखोले पनि

धुलोले आखिर फोक्सो भरेकै छ ।
जाम खुल्यो पन्ध्र मिनेटमा !

खुलेकै त होइन

ट्रकले छोड्यो बाटो थोरै ।

गयो माइक्रो अघि

केटोले बाटो देख्यो

बाटो बाँकी थिएन

हिलोमा गाडी गुड्दैथे

अनि देब्रेपट्टी एउटा डोजर

मेलम्चीको पानी आउने पाइप

बिछ्याएपछि

बाटो पुर्दैथ्यो ।
साढे छ बजे पुग्यो बानेश्वर

पुग्न अझै थियो शंखमुल

हिँड्दा हिँड्दै देख्यो एउटा पुल

आकाशे पुल

नभए पनि हुने ठाउँमा 

बानेश्वर चोकमा पुल बनेन

तर थापागाउँ जाने बाटोमा बनेछ !

आवश्यक भएको ठाउँमा

जेब्रा क्रस पनि राम्रो रहेनछ !
फोटो खिच्न हुन्थ्यो

मोबाइल रहेनछ !

सेन्टर नै अजिब

ब्याग बिल्डिङ बाहिर राख्नुपर्ने

मोबाइल पनि त्यैँ

घरै राख्नु बेस भनेर छोडेको घरमै !
लमकलमक हिँड्दै

पुग्नै लाग्दा शंखमुल पुल

बोलायो कसैले !

रहेछ एन ओल्ड फ्रेन्ड फ्रम लिभरपुल

“ओहो अबिन !” भन्दै

लामो कुरा गर्न नपाउँदै

एक्जाममा पुग्न ढिलो हुन्छ भन्दै

स्यँस्याँफ्याँफ्याँ गर्दै पुग्यो

एक्जाम हलमा !
मिति लेख्दा कपीमा

बाह्र-सत्ताइस पो रैछ

बेमतलब, बेकार

जाममा फसेर,

बीस मिनेट लम्केर

प्रश्न सजिलै परे

त्यसै दु:ख पाको हरे !

​Listen, will you?

“Are you listening?” I asked myself as my sister was talking the other day.

“No,” I confessed. 

“Why weren’t you listening?”

Honestly, I didn’t have the answer. I did not feel like talking at that time. When I came back contemplating over the matter, I understood I did not want to speak because I was not listening well.

I am not good at making conversations. I wanted to know the secrets of better conversations. I sought the help of YouTube. I don’t remember most of the advices I got through speakers at TED Conferences, and some psychology related channels but the one I remember is “Listen!” And this was the only advice I could listen when I thought why I was not conversing with my sister the other day.

Why is listening important? All the videos I watched agree that by listening properly one can decide what to speak with ease. If I had been listening to my sister, I might have easily understood her talk and would have carried it on further. Because I got selfish and stopped listening, I had to make her repeat the same thing twice, which in turn bored both of us. Hence, no conversation!

One speaker on one of the videos said, “These days we listen things so that we can argue and react upon some particular words.” She said something like: “Listen so that you understand. Listen to learn and listen to talk well.”  If we listen just to react upon things, we are not good listeners. We must react, of course, but by listening properly, we can decide whether we need to react or not. People say, “We have two ears but one mouth so that we can listen well and talk less. ” It is also said that those who talk less, speak precisely when they must.

I remembered a Folk tale as I was writing this. I am going to keep it as short as possible.

Once upon a time, a king brought three human skulls to the court and asked his ministers, “Can you tell me the price of these skulls?”

‘What could be the price of human skulls?’ The ministers thought. None of them came up with a solution. The king gave them three days to come up with a solution. Three days passed. The king said, “Have you come up with the answer?”

The ministers hung their heads in shame. One minister, however stood up and said, “Your Highness, I got curious when you asked the question. I took a trip to my teacher’s house far away from the city. He gave me the knowledge in discovering the price of a human skull.”

The minister asked permission to demonstrate. He took up a skull in his hand and poked a stick into its right ear hole. The stick went in a and was out through the other ear hole. He inserted another stick into the right ear hole of the second skull. This time it bended towards the throat. He repeated the procedure with the third. This time, the stick went in through the ear hole, and snapped. A larger part went to the cranium and a small part to the throat.

The minister explained, “The first skull is worth four annas. It is the cheapest one because it does not listen to anything. Whatever it listens from one ear goes out through the other.

“The second skull is worth eight annas. It listens but reacts without speaking. The third one is worth sixteen annas or a rupee. It listens, keeps most of it in its mind and speaks only what is necessary. Such skulls are rare.”

The king was happy. The minister was granted his prize for being able to explain the price of the skull.

Here’s what the story wants you to know just like the people said in videos I watched: ‘Listen and understand before you speak, will you?’

इण्डियन लाहुरे

(समर्पण : गोर्खा रेजिमेन्टमा भर्ति भएर युद्ध लडेका, लडिरहेका र वीरगति पाएका सबै नेपालीप्रति )

अफिस पुगेर गार्डको युनिफर्म भिरें अनि बाहिर गेटमा निस्केर बुढियालाई फोन गरें, “केही खबर आयो ?”

“छैन ।”

“टिभीमा पनि केही आ’को छैन ?”

“छैन । आ’को भए त तपाईंलाई फोन गरिहाल्थें नि ।”

हो त उसैले फोन गरिहाल्थी नि । उसलाई पनि त कम गाह्रो भएको थिएन । मैले भनेँ, “उफ्, केही सोच्नै सकेको छैन मैले त । खबर आउनेवित्तिकै मलाई भनिहाल है त ।”

उसले केही भनेझैं लाग्यो तर फोन काट्ने सुरमा मैले सुनिनँ । फेरि फोन नआएकोले खासै जरुरी कुरा होला भन्ने लागेन । मन फेरि एक तमासको भयो । काममा पनि ध्यान गएनछ । ” सन्चो छैन दावा दाइ ?” सँगै काम गर्ने कार्की भाइले भन्यो ।

“त्यस्तो केही हैन, कार्की भाइ ।”

“केही त भएकै छ, दाइ । अघि फोनमा कुनै खबरको कुरा गर्दै हुनुहुन्थ्यो । अनुहार पनि मलिन देख्छु । शरीर पनि थाकेजस्तो देखिन्छ । के भयो ?”

“खै भाइ, के भन्ने ? काश्मिर सीमामा भारत र पाकिस्तानका सेना लडिरा’का छन् रे । छोरो त्यतै छ । मन साह्रै आत्तिइरहेको छ ।”

“सेनाको जागिर । जता भन्यो त्यतै जानुपर्छ ।”

“आफ्नै देशको सीमामा भए नि देशको लागि लड्दैछ भनेर चित्त बुझाउने बाटोसम्म हुन्थ्यो । अर्काको देशको सीमामा छ । मामालाई देखेर त्यतै जान रहर गर्यो । त्यो छोरोलाई नजा भनेर कति सम्झाएँ । मान्दै मानेन । भन्यो, “नेपालको सरकारले नै जान हुन्छ भन्छ भने किन नजाने । यहाँ बसेर बेरोजगार हुनुभन्दा त त्यही ठीक ।””

मेरा आँखामा आँसु भरिए । कार्की  भाइ  पनि एकछिन  टोलायो अनि भन्यो,  “उसले भनेको पनि ठीकै हो । हाम्रो देशचाहिँ आफ्नो सीमाको रक्षा आफैँ गर्न सक्दैन । फेरि नेपालीलाई चैं अर्काको देशको सैनिक बनेर उनीहरूको लडाइँ लड् पनि भन्छ । किन हो कुन्नि त्यस्तो ?”

मेरो मन चसक्क दुख्यो । ऊ भन्दै थियो, “मेरा छोराछोरी अस्ति भन्दै थिए, पाकिस्तानले भारतलाई खत्तम गर्दे हुन्थ्यो भनेर । उनीहरूलाई थाहा नै छैन कति नेपालीहरू भारतीय सेनाको गोर्खा रेजिमेन्टमा छन् ।”

“नेपाली, इण्डियन, पाकिस्तानी जे भने पनि मान्छे नै त मर्ने हुन् नि होइन र भाइ ?”

“युद्धले कसलाई पो फाइदा गर्छ र, दाइ ।” दिनभर मसँग कुरा गरेर ढाडस दिइरह्यो उसले । घरमा फोन गरिरहें तर केही खबर आएन । छटपटी बढिरह्यो । दिन साह्रै लामो लाग्यो । बल्लतल्ल दिन बित्यो ।

ड्युटी सकिनेवित्तिकै घरतिर लागें । खासै टाढा थिएन तर हिंड्दाहिंड्दै थकाइ लाग्यो । बैंकको ढोकाअघि बस्दा पनि थकाइ लागेको थियो । पहिले यस्तो कहिले भएको थिएन । मनको पीडाले शरीर पनि बिरामी हुँदोरहेछ । निकै बेर लगाएर घर पुगें । सिधै टिभी राखेको कोठामा पुगें । हिन्दी न्युज च्यानलको ब्रेकिंग न्युज आइरहेको थियो: भारत-पाकिस्तान सीमामा अठार भारतीय सैनिकको मृत्यु । मन झन् भारी भयो । छोरी र बुढियासँग पनि केही बोल्न सकिन । त्यो कोठाबाट उठेर अर्को कोठामा गएँ अनि पल्टिएँ ।

“बाबा खाना खान आउनुस् ।” छोरीको स्वर सुनेर झस्किएँ ।

“खानै मन छैन ।”

“मन त मलाइ पनि छैन तर पिर लिएर मात्रै पनि त भएन ।”

बिस्तारै उठेर भान्छामा पुगें । बिहान उब्रेको खाना तताइछ बुढियाले । भाग बसें तर दुई गाँसभन्दा खानै सकिनँ । छोरी र बुढिया पनि भक्कानिए । त्यस दिनको खाना फ्याँकियो । टिभी कोठामा एकछिन पछि आइपुगें । त्यही समाचार छ हिन्दी च्यानलमा । नेपाली मिडियालाई त मतलब छैन । नेपाली पनि परे भने खबर ल्याउने मात्रै हुन् । नराम्रो खबर नाओस् भनेर भगवानसँग प्रार्थना गरें ।

मोबाइलको घन्टी बज्यो । बुढिया र छोरी दौदिंदै आइपुगे । नम्बर हेरें । इण्डियन हो तर छोराले गर्ने भन्दा फरक । मुटुले ढ्यांग्रो ठोक्यो । सास फेर्न गाह्रो भयो । जसोतसो लाउडस्पिकर अन गरें । उताबाट नेपालीमै कसैले भन्यो, “यो दावा तामांगको नम्बर हो ?”

“ज्यू ।”

“एउटा दु:खको खबर छ ।” एकछिन रोकियो, सुस्केरा हाल्यो अनि भन्यो, “तपाईंको छोरा सोनामले वीरगती पायो । दुस्मनको गोलीले उसको छाती छेड्यो । ढलेपछि पनि निकै साहस देखायो तर उपचार पुरा नुहुँदै उसको निधन भयो ।”

मेरा आँखाबाट बरर्र आँशु खसे । टीभी राखेको टेबुलमा उसको तस्बिर थियो । गोलो, गोरो मुहार, अग्लो गंठिलो शरीर, इण्डियन सेनाको पोशाक लागएर उसले त्यो फोटो खिचाएको थियो । त्यही फोटो मात्रै आँखाअघि नाचिरह्यो । उताबाट भन्दै थियो, “भारतीय सरकारले उसलाई शहीद घोषणा गर्नेछ । त्यसैले उसको अन्तिम संस्कार यतै हुनेछ ।”

मुटु चुँडियो । न सास, न लाश । टिभी टेबुलको तस्बिर नै त्यो लाहुरेको अन्तिम निशानी भयो ।

(कार्तिक १७, २०७३मा नागरिक मा प्रकाशित समाचारबाट प्रेरित)

Leave Me Alone-5

Previously on Leave Me Alone:

Ajay and Sasha go Sasha’s house to celebrate her birthday. Ajay sees a portrait of a woman on red saree. A woman similar to that on the portrait attacks him and he runs to the police station. There he meets Dr. Shrestha, who tells him something about Sasha’s past. Ajay does not believe him. So he calls Parmila, Sasha’s maid to confirm his story. Ajay still has some questions about Sasha. 

What answers will he get? In this chapter…

“I still don’t understand,” Ajay said, “why I was attacked?”

“There are some probabilities,” Dr. Shrestha replied grimly. “It is a fact known to me and my colleagues that Sasha believed within her subconscious that her mother was alive. Sasha used to have hallucinations in which her mother would talk to her. Whenever that happened, Sasha’s personality would alter. She used to be more aggressive, and used to gain immense strength. Ten men would find it difficult to calm her down.”

“So you believe Sasha’s alternate personality influenced by her dead mother in her subconscious attacked me?” Ajay intervened. “But would she?”

As if he had not heard anything Ajay said, the old doctor continued, “Using medication, we had been able to suppress the hallucinations and to some extent, the alteration of her personality. Some years ago, when she joined nursing, I recommended the medication be stopped. That was the biggest mistake I made.

“Because the medicines were not being administered, the hallucinations may have begun controlling over her for some time. Her mother might have talked to her, and convinced Sasha that you are either the one or related to someone who led into her mother’s death,” the doctor told to Ajay.

“But I am not related to any bank manager who went missing.”

“There was a lawyer who proved falsely that Sasha’s mother was mentally ill.”

Ajay was stunned. Dr. Shrestha seemed to look through him. He stammered the question that came into his mind: How do you know my father is a lawyer?

Dr. Shrestha smiled at Ajay without being surprised. “I knew your father’s name from your license last night,” the doctor replied. “I had doubted that he is the famous lawyer. You’ve confirmed my suspicions.”

“My dad can’t have done anything wrong,” Ajay said, terrified by what the doctor was trying to say to him. He stood up and looking straight at Dr. Shrestha, announced, “He might not have been involved in the case.”

“He is a professional advocate. It’s within his right to do anything to save his client. Why don’t you ask him yourself about his involvement in that case?” Dr. Shrestha replied, unclenched.

‘Was my dad involved?’ Ajay thought, his fear escalating. His mind was divided. Prior to the talk with the doctor, he could confidently bet that his father advocated the truth. However, after the doctor’s indication that his father had falsely accused Sasha’s mother of being a psycho. Trembling, he inserted his hand into his pocket, produced his cell phone and dialled his father’s number. “Ajay, where had you been all night? I’ve searched everywhere for you,” a hoarse voice asked.

“I’m at a doctor’s, dad.”

“Is everything all right?” Ajay’s father asked him.

Ajay wanted to lie by saying ‘yes’; instead, he said, “No dad, something is wrong. My girlfriend attacked me last night and her guardian says that you are related somewhere in the case. That I’ve been assaulted because she believed I was you in her state of altered personality.”

“Who attacked you? Sasha, is it? Are you all right, Ajay?” his father asked and before Ajay could reply, he continued furiously, “Anyway, don’t believe in any nonsense. How can I be involved in your girlfriend’s madness?”

“Do you remember a case twenty years ago?” Ajay said. When he received only silence in reply, he continued, “That case in which a reputed bank manager had been accused of abusing his employee. Though that woman had written the truth in her diary, the manager’s lawyer had proved in the court that she was mad and her letter could not be solid evidence against the manager. Do you remember that case, dad?”

Ajay had expected a reply but he actually received a hanging up tone in answer. He redialled the number four times but his father did not receive the call. He looked at both Dr. Shrestha and Parmila sadly. He felt weak. His legs could not keep him standing. He sat down on an empty chair and covered his face with his palms. He wanted to cry but he could not. Ajay could not believe that his father had done something that had affected him twenty years later.

Dr. Shrestha broke the silence, “You need to go to your father and talk to him. You have to ask him everything. You deserve the truth.”

“I don’t think I can bear the truth, doctor,” Ajay said bitterly.

“You have to face it, Ajay,” the doctor said, “not just for yourself but for Sasha as well.”

“Oh, I can’t,” Ajay y and stood up from his chair again. He picked his phone and dashed out. Before he reached the edge of the garden, Dr. Shrestha shouted out these words, which Ajay would clearly recall the following week: “Talk to your father, Ajay. If you don’t he might harm himself.”

Ajay did not return home for a week. He stayed most of his time at the hospital looking at his unconscious lover outside the ICU. She did not show up much improvement. Ajay was sad but was hopeful. He ate at the canteen. He made friends with the doctors, nurses and other medical staffs. When he felt extremely tired, he called his friends and slept at their houses. That was because he never felt like going back to Sasha’s place. His father called him several times during that week. Ajay picked up just twice. He had no will to talk to his father. Ajay’s father too had not been able to say anything. Silence had ruled over both the calls Ajay received.

The call, which overruled the silence, was too chaotic for Ajay. The man on the other side said, “Mr. Ajay, I am Inspector Pradhan.” After a few seconds of silence, Inspector Pradhan added with a loud sigh, “I have a bad news for you. Your father has killed himself.”

Ajay felt as if the world had collapsed. The doctor’s words rushed into his mind. ‘That doctor had the tongue of a wizard,’ he thought. For some minutes, he could not stand still. He sat on a chair covering his face. He gathered up courage and rushed down the stairs. ‘He must have left something.’ Ajay’s instincts told him that his father had not gone without letting him know the truth. He reached the street and got on to a bus that went the nearest chowk from his house. All through the journey in the bus, he thought, ‘I made a mistake in choosing to avoid myself from the truth. I should have followed Dr. Shrestha’s words. He is an experienced psychiatrist after all.’

Ajay sensed a chaotic silence when he reached his home. His mother lay unconscious because she had cried a lot. His older brother sat beside his mother in silence. Some officers were roaming around, still investigating the house. Ajay noted Inspector Pradhan giving orders to his juniors. He went up to the officer and said, “Inspector Pradhan, where is he?”

“In his own room,” the inspector said, “I’m extremely sorry at your loss.”

“Did you find anything, Inspector?” Ajay queried. “Any note he had written before his suicide?”

“Yes, we did find a note,” Inspector Pradhan said. “It was inside an envelope on his table. Your father had written on the envelope that the letter should be given to you only. I’ve ensured no one reads that before you do.”

Inspector Pradhan then produced the letter and gave it to Ajay, who tore the envelope and read instantly:

Ajay,

I had made several mistakes during the early days of my career as a lawyer. Those immoral acts, I never intended to do myself. I had been forced to.

Those days I worked as the legal advisor at a bank. The manager was, at first, friendly. He used to ask me the laws related to everything he was going to do. He paid me well. But one day, he showed his true colours. He talked to me about a lady who worked in his office. He said she was beautiful and that he lusted for her. He asked me to suggest ways so as to incite her. I was shocked by the way his true self had come out. So I resolved not to help him.

He was a reader of minds, however. He told me that if I didn’t help him, he would not pay my fees and he would get all of us into trouble by messing up with the loans I had obtained from the bank. I remembered you, Ajay. I could not let you suffer. I had to oblige to that evil man.

I had just said this, “Be her Messiah.” The manager talked to the lady about a profitable business and she told that to her husband. They took loans from the bank but the information the manager had fed into them was fake. Their business collapsed. Their house was bought in the bidding by the manager’s relatives and he took the house himself later on. And when the lady was in deep sorrow, he increased her salary, promoted her and gave back her house as a “gift”. By doing that he gained her trust.

One day, the manager expressed his feelings towards her. Because she was married and had a child, she did not accept his proposal. The manager turned mad and brutally forced her into physical intimacy. I told him that he could get into trouble but he did not listen to me. He continued his brutality and the lady suffered a lot in her mind. Some months later, she ended up her miseries herself.

The note she left before she died could get the manager into trouble. He told me to help him by calling her mad and that she could not be believed. I refused to do so. He threatened me that he would torture me and my family so much that I too would get crazy like that lady and commit suicide. I had to give in to his threats and I saved him from punishment by doing whatever he told me to do.

After he retained his post, I quit the bank and practiced in the court. I never saw the manager again but then I heard that the wicked man disappeared. He deserved such a punishment and I thank God for punishing him.

I don’t expect you to forgive me Ajay. I have committed sins by letting that manager play with the mind of the lady. Because of my deed, you have suffered. You’ll never have to face any trouble I create from now onwards.

Your dad

P.S.: A doctor took custody of Reshma’s daughter. He is the girl’s biological father.

Ajay trembled. The letter fell off his hand. He had made a mistake by not talking too his father before the latter’s death. He cried bitterly until Inspector Pradhan said, “I’m sorry, Ajay. But I am curious about something.”

‘What is it?’ Ajay asked through his gestures. The inspector pointed at a small photo on the top of the table and continued, “Is that you?”

“No,” Ajay said in a low voice, “It’s Dad”. The officer then remarked, “You two look strikingly similar.”

Read Chapter 4