Justice Personified by Sowmya Rajkumar

Article Posted in: Short Story

Justice Personified

By – Sowmya Rajkumar

Published in January 2016, Issue XII

The “Periya Veedu” is very famous not only for its colossal looks but for the surreal tales surrounding it. The Sivapuram village had 6 bus services a day. But to reach the tenements of commoners a 2 mile hike was daily routine. The residents had learnt the art of self-sufficiency, bartering with each other for all daily requirements.

Electricity was not unheard of though it lit only the bungalow. Mobile companies never saw the reason to venture business into this small sustainable community. The only known telephone was in the bungalow.” Ayya “, the village headwas a man of few words and it was better that way as his words normally meant peril. It was difficult to say if it was his looks or his deeds that instilled terror.

 Neelima though was from a traditional Indian family, was born and brought up in the US and both Arjun and Neelima were professionals. But Arjun was emotionally shaken by the sudden break up note and disappearance of his then girlfriend and when God had sent Neelima in his life he felt so blessed and they clicked naturally. Arjun never once wanted to come back because of the primitive conditions and his father’s attitude but his mother’s failing health had its own emotional repercussions in compelling him to do so. Neelima was all excited like all NRIs born and raised abroad, to visit an Indian Village which belonged to another world and time. Also she had read somewhere that the goddess temple near the village could help her sire a child which was a dream despite the innumerable advanced treatments they both underwent in the past 5 years.

Their car screeched to a halt when a very old puny figure crossed the road. The driver started abusing and Neelima was jerked awake. It was almost nearing 04.00 AM by the time they reached the outskirts of the village. Arjun jus peeped and the silence was pierced by a menacing laugh” End will near soon” the old almost doll like woman looked straight at Neelima while shouting this , let out another cold piercing laugh and disappeared into the cane fields.

Neelima was visible shaken at this scene like out of a horror movie. Arjun was afraid that she was a very sensitive soft personality and may have been disturbed. He reserved his counseling and found it better not to start a conversation at this point.

The car sailed smoothly into the gates of the bungalow. Esaki the servant opened the door and Neelima alighted, the sight could be described only as pure elegance. Clad in a emerald green silk sari, adorned in light golden ornaments her almond skin gleamed in the early morning sun. The welcome party excluded Ayya but Arjun was not concerned.

Arjun rushed upstairs to see his mother’s room while Neelima marveled whatever she saw but was shaken by the resilience of the people around. A hundred roving eyes surveyed quickly her but no words were uttered.

Lakshmi Ammal once considered the banyan tree of this house lay tired and drifting in and out of consciousness. Arjun could not bear the sight and cursed his father for deciding not to move her to US for better care. He was a very stubborn man.

An unfamiliar voice reprimanded him from trying to wake her. “She is under sedatives, let her rest”, curt but stern. Even in this situation he could not help but notice her voluptuous figure and though not great but desirable looks. Mind gets partitioned to entertain itself when under stress he reminded himself quickly.

“Who are you?”

“Ranjini, She is her care taker and doctor sir” the chamber maid replied.

Without another word he stormed out of the room.

Neelima was awe struck by the kind of service she got. The domestic help was acting nothing short of her slave, she would even jump from the terrace on orders. Standing from the Balcony she could see the vast paddy fields surrounding the house glittering like gold in the rising sun. The thought of the incident in the morning kept haunting her. But she did not wanted to bother an already troubled Arjun. One thing certainly disturbed her, all the people working in the field never once looking up from the work and there was no talking. This was nothing like the cheerful atmosphere she had seen in the movies.

“What is your name” she asked her chamber maid. The rugged guy looking like a body guard passed a glance but the maid never replied. Once the guard was out of sight she whispered in a low voice; “I’m Bommi and added never speak only hear the end is near” and left quickly. Now Neelima was petrified and wanted to see Arjun at once. She was told he went to visit all his relatives and she could rest after food.

The whole day was spent in silence and confusion. Arjun returned late at night and Neelima was sound asleep exhausted…. He looked upon the innocent form of his sweetheart and not wanting to disturb her snuck into the bed quietly.

The next day’s prayers in the house temple were peaceful. Arjun never once spoke to Ayya. Arjun could not answer Neelima when she enquired as to why the antechamber of the temple was closed. When they were dispersing for lunch suddenly a tattered middle aged lunatic ran to grab Ayya by collar. He was swiftly hit severely and packed off by Ayya’s henchmen. Neelima noted him screaming throughout “Give us back all you took, the end is near”.

She was decisive to discuss this with Arjun today. When she brought the topic up during the evening stroll he swiftly waved her off saying they are leaving the next day. She could see the people still working in the field but never uttering a single word, strange very strange.

Arjun was sleeping light and could not resist but peek through the window at the rustling noise in the woods. He moved to the rear balcony for a better look. The two female figures were clear, the thin one could be one of his servants and the voluptuous was the doctor? Not far from the house he noticed Bommi and the doctor talking with 3 men, a full moon night was good for a clear view he thought. The clock struck two. After a swift internal argument his decision was to leave this place swiftly and settle back into his peaceful life.

However he never noticed the phone call made by the woman.

The day dawned with a wailing noise of the Chamber Maid, Ayya’s ferocious Blood Hound lay slaughtered in the courtyard. A note written in blood read “The end is near”. Ayya never accepted Arjun’s decision to call the police; he feared his dominance and the faith of the people would be shaken. This never even made Arjun think twice before calling his Classmate ACP Ram from Coimbatore.

Arjun was in a fix to stay or to leave. Surprisingly Neelima coaxed him to stay and resolve as said she understood his love towards Lakshmi Amma. He could not describe what he felt for her was pity, love, lust or guilt at this point but he felt warm in her embrace.

Ram was a charming man, late twenties almost 6. Something… Tan skin fit. Never once in plain clothes his baby face and flirty demeanor could let people guess his profession. Ram had taken this as a personal assignment for two reasons, this was not his judistriction and not to disturb the so called calm as claimed by Ayya. He requested the local inspector to be involved.

The scene was unusually surreal. Ayya was disturbed but not shaken, Arjun wanted answers, Neelima was shaken and never once stepped out of her room and the rest were trying to pretend going through their routine. Arjun had briefed Ram on his opinions and the scene he witnessed yester night from the balcony. Alas Ram being a true Taurus was never opinionated and weighed each situations based on facts only and nothing ever escaped his observation.

As expected the weapon was never found but Ram did the usual, he preserved the note walked the grid and spoke to the maid who was the first witness. Nothing more came up than the obvious.

The village watched with awe the first police Jeep after the British rule…. Inspector Kabilan did the usual, sent the note to forensics and the body to autopsy. This would have been filed as one amongst the thousand cases but for Ram’s involvement. Ranjani refused to give finger prints stating she was in a lifesaving profession. She has to be reminded of the law. But what made Ram most thoughtful was that no one ever spoke a word unless permitted and Ayya refused a search of his room without a warrant. Even Arjun could not coerce him to change his decision.

She marveled at her father’s intelligence and being very precise in his detailing. The route was perfect, the tunnel from Ayya’s room exactly filled one person and here she is in the permanently locked sanctum of the goddess looking at what all eyes in her family craved to see for generations.

It was startling for Ram to find that the house and the fields were not with Ayya’s family three generations back. It belonged to the last Chera Raja until 1840. The registrar informed that it was bequeathed as a gift to Ayya’s great grandfather, Somasundara Ayya by the king for fighting the British though the king was himself mortally wounded and dying when he gifted. The temple was closed on the day Somasundara Ayya took over as the Jamindar stating that the famine was caused by the direct vision of the deity in the temple and incidentally after the closure the harvest improved to instill the thought strongly in everyone’s’ minds.

Ram was shaken from this thought by the sudden ringing of his mobile. Arjun? Again? It was only 7.00 in the evening .The news was shocking even after his experience in this field. Ayya was killed the same way as the hound and Neelima was missing, presumable kidnapped. Ranjani was also nowhere to be found. The same note was in both places, the end is near. Almost at the same time a message from the doctor read that the autopsy revealed that the cut was skillfully done with a scalpel and only a trained professional could do this. Ram thought he has solved the case at once but Neelima was missing and when something was obvious something was amiss.

The leader of the upcoming revolutionaries Prabhu got the news when he was at his kalari, martial arts practice. He could never comprehend what went wrong, they had planned to kill Ayya on Pournami only and that was tomorrow. This would be the punishment Ayya and his family deserved for enslaving them for 150 long years. His girlfriend Bommi easily lured the doctor from city with sizable smuggled gold to kill Lakshmi Amma a bit a day with slow poisons. He felt pity for Lakshmi Amma but personal feelings never existed.

The whole village was busy harvesting and upon hearing the news had gathered outside the courtyard. Arjun was almost going mad on his decision to come here. The note read like a puzzle that the she was resting peacefully in her mother’s lap and will reveal herself on the luminous night.

A search of every corner available revealed that the leader of so called rebels Prabhu and Bommi were missing and she was his girlfriend. The checkposts were alert. Hours past and no one ever left the courtyard. Ram was convinced that Prabhu, Bommi and Ranjini would be captured within hours, But Neelima’s safety? He could not handle Arjun and something needed to be done soon.

Prabhu and Bommi were snuck in the remote cave on the hills not understanding one bit of what transpired in the last hours. Arjun was confused whether to grieve his father or search his wife and prayed that this all be a dream and he will be out of this soon, mind was a weird creature. Ram was in the temporary control room set up in the house to monitor any movement at the check point. Ranjani’s thoughts disturbed him even in this situation, mind self-relaxing under stress or stubborn women are always attractive to strong minded men?

The confused calm was torn at 03.15 AM by the same shrieking laugh. Arjun immediatelyrushed to the balcony, the puny figure was clear in the full moon night. She said in the local dialect, “The end is here moon is the proof then and now. Go to the mother of all” and she started walking toward the sanctum of the Goddess temple.

Arjun and Ram ran to keep pace with her and immediately understanding her looks, Ram told Arjun to break open the lock of the Sanctum.

The second was historical, the lock have way to 5 muscular men and 20 minutes of pounding. Eyes wide, loud gasps, numerous wails and the doors opened to an empty sanctum, no Goddess anywhere. It to sometime for even the ever observant Ram to notice the scripture engraved in the wall and the note stuck to the wall. The base of the non – existing deity was a gaping hole leading to stairs, the opening of a tunnel.

The note proclaimed itself to be a translation of the carving and took them back to 1847, freedom struggle was in the high and being famous for its lush nature and beautiful women attracted many British. The king was one of the few who refused to heed the rule and the British was waiting for their time. Saravanan was the king’s personal guard had never once flinched to keep his head on the guillotine if it was the question of the king or his safety. His wife and son came second he said. The king also relied greatly on the intelligence of Somasundara Ayya, Saravanan’sbest friend and the army chief to win battles. That fateful day when the British made a full on attack was devastating.

To cut a long story short the war was won with Saravanan’s might and the king though mortally wounded gave the first order to sculpt the fact that the village and surrounding areas are bequeathed to Saravanan for saving his territory and winning the war. The sculpting served as the proof and needs to be done immediately. Within hours the wall was ready and the palace doctor had predicted the king not to live beyond days. The coming full moon day was fixed to unveil this secret known only to the king, saravanan and the sculptor.

On the fateful day Saravanan went to Somasundaram Ayya’s chamber to deliver the good news. The loving hug turned fatal when the knife plunged into Saravanan’s back; taken over by greed the devil took his full form. Bribing the doctor and the sculptor with death threats as alternatives completed the task. Taking a finger print from the deceased King was easy to fake the documents and the sanctum was permanently sealed carrying the untold truth. In all the fury, Saravanan’s son who witnessed his father’s killing from behind the pillar clutching his ball was not noticed; neither the fact that the body was recovered but the plunged knife was never found.

The young kid of 12 never once forgot the betrayal and eloped and toiled through the chapters of life to finally end up in the USA as a doctor. The fire in the heart was passed on and two generations later the family was gifted with a beautiful girl child, Neelima.

The note continued to translate the sculpting in the wall in detail and that as the rightful owner now Neelima is setting the village free.

Arjun Froze, Ram was shaken and people did not know how to celebrate their new found freedom. The old woman had vanished.

On hitting the airport, she disposed off the blood drenched knife after clicking a picture. The knife was now drenched in the blood of killed and the killers heredity. Justice Prevailed.

But somewhere along this whole ordeal she had fallen for Arjun. She would live with his impression, alive and growing within her for the rest of her life. This is our little secret she told her tummy.

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