Kedarnath said, “no…there is no time for that…I’ve to hurry…”
Rakshit laughed and said, “hurry…you’re in my town, and you’re in hurry…what has happened…causing this hastiness…”
Kedarnath said, “due to landslide our train had got derailed…”
Rakshit stopped smiling and said, “that was the reason for the ‘quaked being so intense…I said Roy something was wrong…he smiled it away…”
“To whom I shall talk…for next few days arrangement—food and lodging…and help in case it is needed…” Kedarnath asked; he was restless.
“Don’t think so much…I said you this is my town…so no need to panic or be tensed…”, turning to the stationmaster, he said, “Ahmed, I am sending few men to you…they will help in this rescue…”
Rakshit had come on a horse. He called a carriage, two or three were left there to keep them handy if needed, and ordered it to ride Major to the House of Council.
Annapurna was standing behind the chic wooden partition. She knew he would call him as soon as he tied the knot of his shoes. He never goes out without taking his medical box from her.
He tied his shoes and before he could call out for her, she present herself with the box and the watch.
“See…what will happen to me…when you will go away…after marriage…” his father says while adjusting the band of the watch.
Annapurna’s face turned red in shyness, and said, “as you said the old rotten father-said let me reply you with the old rotten daughter-said—I’m not going to get married, father.”
They both laughed out. Her father scrambled her hair, and said “no…really…I don’t know what I will do…without you…if your mother—”
“Dad, stop…don’t speak remorseful…find someone who will stay with us…” she said.
Her father was going to reply when a carriage stopped in front of the door. Before he could walk to the door to find out who was it, he recognized the knocks on the door.
“Hunter…anything serious…” Doctor asked after opening the door.
“Yes…there is a train wreck…and the passengers who are soldiers returning from war coming to our Town for next few days…”
“Soldiers…returning from war…and you offer them shelter and food…are you out of mind…I don’t trust them…you also should not…they carry diseases…they carry sins…they carry all the vile things in their minds and thoughts…they should not be trust…” Doctor said; his voices showcased his annoyance.
“Kedarnath…Major Kedarnath…my good old friend from the city had come to us…he is there in the carriage…” Rakshit said pointing to the carriage.
Meanwhile Kedarnath had sensed the doctor was scared and nervous. The same thing he had already faced back in Council when a short fat man named Roy denied providing his abandoned villa for the shelter. He was scared because he might lose the building to the government, and also he had this fear of the soldiers being of foul character and not-to-be-trusted one. He was made agreed to giving his villa away on the condition he wouldn’t be asked for anymore help. The Mayor, name Robert DeCosta, was a religious pious man. He agreed on listening to the need; to him it was penance for the sins he had committed unknowingly as well as knowingly. So, when he saw Rakshit was still standing at the door of the house, he knew Rakshit was trying to come in term. In the first two instances he was silent letting Rakshit talk for him; but, not this time. He open the door of the carriage and step down from the carriage.
“Rakshit…wait…” Kedarnath tapped on the shoulder of Rakshit.
He looked into the eyes of the doctor, and said, “whatever you have listened is partially truth…you have all the right to be panicked and scared…but, you can keep an eyes on us…set guard and all…whatever suits you…but please treat my men…they are already tired…and injured beforehand…now this might have added fresh coat on those injuries…”
Kedarnath voice was soft and mellow—a failed attempt to cover his heavy high-pitched voice. He was going to say few more things controlling his anger and disturbance, when he was stopped by a soft music similar to cuckoo bird singing in the spring.
“Dad…let them be here…not all soldiers are same as the fingers of our hands are…and this man is a gentleman, you could see that but could not feel that right now…so he will keep his words…” Annapurna says to her Dad.
Kedarnath could not see her due to the darkness inside the cottage.
“Now mister…what else can I say…”, doctor said, “my daughter wants you and your people can be here until your problem got solved…so where are you staying…”
Rakshit said in a heavy angry voice, “Roy Villa…the one near to the tower…”
One week passed away in a wink.
Major Kedarnath and his men became popular in the Town. Another General Major Siddique also became a popular for his singing. His men also become popular.
That evening, next day they were going to leave the town, Kedarnath was sitting on a boulder high at the mountain looking over the town. A small little town it was in the foothill of the mountain. On one side a river ran and on another side there was jungle. The west sun light was shining over the town which had seen spells of rain till last evening. Now the town is shining.
“So we are going away…we are going to leave this town…” his sahayak Neelkantha asked.
“Yes…how long are we going to be here…” Kedarnath replied in an aloof voice not moving his eyes away from the town/
“You can stay back…I heard few of our men want to be stay back here…” he replied while sitting down on another boulder, beside his.
“Yes…I also heard that…that’s why I told them…after they retire, they can think of that…” he replied.
“What do you want…not others…I wanted to know your thought…” he asked.
“You are becoming my best of the friends…I…I actually do not want to leave…” he says looking at his eyes.
“Have you told her…”
“Whom are you talking of…”
“Sahib, I know you liked her…daughter of Doctor Khastogir…” Neelkantha whispered at the last words.
“H’m…you have caught me…” Kedarnath smiled.
“Not me, only…few more…even the doctor had sensed something…” Neelkantha said.
“Acha…so should I ask her…for marrying me…” Kedarnath seek suggestion.
“Yes, Sahib…now, where are you going…”
Kedarnath had stood up and while dusting the dust off his pant he said, “to ask her…the pickle-maker…”
Neelkantha was surprised to see this sudden surge of excitement infused in his Sahib.
Annapurna was pouring into the jars the pickle in her kitchen. The kitchen was set at the back of the house. The aroma of the pickle had enthralled the entire environ. They sometimes surpassed the odor that medicine carries. She was assisted by some of the women and girls, most of them were her friends.
The company would be going away tomorrow before the noon. For last few days they had praised her pickle, their taste and the feeling of moksha they felt after having them. But, her thoughts were running haphazardly and halting only at one thought.
She had fallen for him when she saw him first at the door one week ago. His tall stature with the dark brown mustache over his mouth and those brown hazelnut eyes, every time she thought of that moment everything around her become hazy.
“Anna, where is your mind roaming…” asked one of her friends.
She saw she had overpoured oil in the jars she had poured pickle few moments ago. She cursed self and scolds another woman for tasting the pickle while pouring it into a jar—it can detaste the pickle. Then she took a dry cloth and starts moping the spilled over oil from the jar.
Ritu, her best friend came to her, and asked her under the breath, “you’re in love with the Major…am I right…”
She startled at first and then her face turned red. She shook her head silently.
“Have he asked you…for marriage or something like that…” Ritu asked.
Annapurna moves his head in negative replied.