‘Rajdghani Expresses will reach station no. 4 at 23:35. The passengers are requested to move cautiously and not to touch any unidentified object.....’
The announcer went on. I checked my watch. It said 11:30. Waiting in the middle of the night in a rather dusty and deserted station, for a typical Delhi resident is not as easy as it sounds.
There was nothing here that could give you a clue about human inhabitation.. I could have easily given myself credit for being the first human to set foot in this place in our history of five thousand years if I had not seen Kaka, a typical Rajasthani man with a pagri on his head and an exceptionally well built body. I understood that he belonged to the railway staff as he wore a striped shirt with a tag “Indian railways’ printed just above the breast pocket.
I decided to phone Sid and remind him for making arrangements for me in Raigang, the only district in the entire country to have a Rana of its own. The call had almost been made. But as they say Anything can happen in Rajasthan, my sim card lost all its signals. Thinking what to do next and cursing the telecom company, I felt something that I regret feeling. A chilling sensation went past my body.
Nights are really colder in deserts.
“Ishan! Ishan!” Is it you?” came a voice from somewhere behind me. A faint figure was seen rushing towards me. I had to put on my glasses to see who it was. Yes, now my vision was crystal clear. You see I have a way too weak eyesight. So the figure approaching me was that of a girl. I knew her, but could not recognize her. By the time I could’ve said anything, the girl was standing before me.
After staring into my eyes for about ninety seconds, she said “You are Ishan!! Aren’t you?”
I nodded. My nod was answered with a rather strange expression on her face.
“Ishan,” she said “Do you even remember me?”
I didn’t want to say no. But I also didn’t want to lie. So what I did was just smiled. Yes, with a hope that she would tell her name and also how she knew me.
And you know there is always a scope, a great great scope for hope.
“I am Mahishra. Mahishra Sheshdershi.”
Oh now I recognized her. Mahira Sheshdsarshi. M. Sheshdarshi . The one who used to sit behind me in high school.
“Yes I remember you!” I exclaimed. “We were in the same school, rather in the same batch.”
“ Now you recognized me. So what do you do now , I mean –“ I interrupted her.
“I work for HdyroStructure, we make dams for almost all states in the nation.” I completed in a more or less proud tone.
“That sounds great! I am a trained physiotherapist. After getting my MBBS from Delhi, I went to the US and then the royal family of Rajganj hired me to cure the paralysed legs of the Rana” spoke Mahirsha.
It was quite strange. For a king, that too a Rana, to have his legs paralysed.
“Mahirsha, did you just say that the Rana is paralysed”
“Oh Yes!” Mahrisha exclaimed in a rather happy tone, “ The Rana once came under a car, a vintage Rolls Royce, being driven by his very own niece.”
“But why would a niece kill her uncle, that too when the uncle was a Rana, the only Rana of India” I asked her another logical question. You know the HydroStructure must have seen something in me, and hired me.
“Oh Ishan, do not tell me that you don’t know the folklore of the Rana and his family. The folktale of Maheshna.
Without waiting for me to answer, she went on
“Raigang was ruled by Maharana Udaysena Rajput. He had to sons Kunwar Rudrapratap and Kunwar Indranath. However during the time of independence, the Rana joined the union of India, most of the Rajganj remained under his jurisdiction. People did not go to the government for help, not to the courts for justice but to the Rana.”
I wanted to ask her something but the glare of her eyes stopped me and she continued.
“The popular Rana was getting weak day by day. So he called for the rajyaabhishekha of his elder son Kunwar Udaysena. The younger prince could not stand this and asked the governor to intervene. The corrupt governor had Kunwar Rudrapratap arrested just a day before his abhishekha for murdering the Rana. Seeing his path clear, the younger prince Indranath ascended the throne of Rajganj and became the only living Rana in the country.” shouted Mahrisha.
“Mahrisha!” I said “Are you okay-”
I was interrupted by her again. Tears rolled out of her eyes as she said, what I wish I had not heard “The only witness of the conspiracy was Mahesna, the daughter of Kunwaar Rudrapratap.” Cried she “No one can imagine how much pain she underwent when her grandfather was killed, father declared a murderer and all because of her beloved kaka, Indranath for the throne! What she did was kill her in an accident!” And she cried more even more.
It sounded a lot funny to me. In a sarcastic tone I inquired “Mahrisha, you are crying as if you are the princess of Raigang, Maheseana?” And I laughed, a little bit inviting a little bit of laughter from my old classmate. Wait she didn’t laugh. The expression on her face was something terrible. But I didn’t care, the Rajdhani was arriving. Biding her goodbye, I picked up my backpack and set off , towards the train, but she held my hand.
She started to smile . Smile. And smile. For about ten seconds she just smiled, standing there like a statue, with no expression on her face but just an evil meaningless smile.
“The Rana , however survived the accident and the brave princess got the reward of her bravery. She was put under house arrest for the whole of teenage years of her life until she attained her independence from the world. She committed suicide." shouted Mahrisha.
“Wake up !! Ishan" came Sid’s voice “Why on earth weren’t you picking up my phone?”
I opened my eyes. I was on the station. My watch said 11:30. Sid was standing before me with a bottle of Himalyan mineral water in his hands
‘Was it just a dream?’ I wondered.
“Sid! Do you remember Mahrisha. Mahrisha Sheshdarshi was with us back in school?” I asked him with lot lot expectations.
Sid looked perplexed. A bit confused. “ Yes, Ishan, the one who was found dead with her dad last year in Rajasthan.”
Saying this he opened a newspaper report on his phone titled Double murder in Jainagar” As I went through the article, I saw two pictures. One of Mahrisha, my classmate and the other of an old typical Rajastahni man, with a fairly built body and a colourful turban.
I instantly recognized him. Unknowingly, I was in the company of the only royal family of India, yesterday night.
Now I was smiling, the way Mahrisha smiled yesterday, inviting a similar expression of confusion that I had, on Sid’s face.
‘Rajdhani Express will reach station no. 4 at 11:30. Passengers are requested not to touch any unidentified object as.......’ The announcer went on.