Chapter 1

 

He twisted to grab again the swinging ice axe that lingered around his waist. The clouds beneath him covered the deathly descent of that icy cliff. The hawkish disorderly winds had a lugged dust of snow. Its impact banged his fluttering body against the rigid ice. He looked like a bright yellow minuscule in contrast to the magnificent white acclivity around him. Ice helmet and large snow goggles covered a considerable proportion of his face but they were unable to conceal his fatigue. Tiny studs of beard on his face had turned white with frosted crystals of ice. His frozen lips were unable to move and press the excitement between them. The deadly steep mountain had spoken but he wasn’t obedient enough to recede. He penetrated his foot claw deep into the ice and sunk his curved axe into it. Those seracs looked explosive, burdened with fragile ice. 

The sky was clouding again and fresh snow was on its way. The steep bifurcated peak of that mountain was oddly pointed, like the tail of a fish. The striking soft rays of the cloud-sheltered sun illuminated its peak with a golden glow. The surrounding snow dust also shone like golden crystals, making that fascinating peak all the more enticing. He set a stroke on the seracs yet again. The impact ran a rapidly enlarging crack within it to dislodge a large chunk of ice. He fell off the altitude along with the disintegrating ice. His heart sunk in horror. He looked up at the peak, the tiny icy crystals were scattering the sun rays into a rainbow. He fell further into the doom as his eyes watched the interplay of those faultless rays. They swirled to appear like a translucent colorful pinwheel. He blinked his eyes to see them again, it was a pinwheel. A child sitting on the opposite park bench was rotating his pinwheel against the sun. 

Rudra rapidly blinked his orb round, down turned turquoise eyes, which were unique in its color variation, a thin black rim that mingles with the turquoise iris and turns light green just before touching the dark pupil. Those youthful eyes had the color of sun’s reflection over the Adriatic Sea and the clarity of a glacial river. The imperial nose he sported complemented his angular cheekbones. A charming depression ran below his cheekbones to vanish before mingling with his sculpted to perfection jaw line. He had a light olive skin with golden undertone, dark brown neat hair, crescent brows and a tall muscular physique. 

His exquisite eyes not only had a unique color for his South-Asian race but also possessed atypically enhanced vision. He was able to perceive lights in the electromagnetic spectrum that are outside the range of normal human vision, like infrared and bio-photonic emissions. He had a spontaneous ability to perceive aura, which helps him to study intent, emotion, spirituality, power and even the health of an individual. He was blessed with an exceptional IQ. Whenever he is posed with a dilemma, his mind unfolds the analysis in front of his eyes in a high speed cascade like fashion. But he was unlike the other geeks who are socially awkward instead he was brilliant both socially as well as emotionally. 

He quickly diverted his sight and looked around. He wasn’t sure how long he had been staring at the pinwheel. He knew it wasn’t a dream. He was taking his morning jog, but it also isn’t unusual for him to have these involuntary visions every now and then. It all started a few months back that he began to experience frequent psychic visions. Whether he was walking, running, driving or resting, no matter whatever he did, those visions always chased him down. For that brief moment everything else disappears and all he could see is himself cast off somewhere amidst the forlorn heights of Himalayas and the solstice. He is unable to understand why it is happening to him. He thought his brain was mingling the childhood memories from his early monastery life with his unresolved issues, creating a neurological confusion. His perplexity only grew with each passing day but an obstinate battler within him refused to take down the numbness of those shrink prescribed medicines to his thoughts.

Naively to reconcile his awkwardly state his phone rang, he took out the phone from his pocket. The phone displayed, Gopal. He received the call.

“The counting has started, where are you? Aren’t u watching the news, we are winning everywhere.” The buzz in his gruff voice was evident.

He couldn’t sleep last night in anticipation of tomorrow’s result. The more he tried, the more he was awakened by his exhilaration. He wanted to avoid going out today but he wasn’t able to wait anymore for the counting to start. He came to the park much later than his usual time, to subdue his overbearing excitement. 

“Winning? Isn’t it quite early to predict that?” He rubbed his itchy eyes which had turned red underneath.

“No, it’s more than eleven. Where have you been?” 

Rudra checked his watch. It was 11:14 a.m. He knew how he lost track of time.

“Rudra, are you there?” 

“Oh! Yes.”

“So I asked you, where have you been?”

 “I came to the park to jog. I will reach the office in another forty minutes.” 

 “Ok.” 

So the day has finally come, yes, it’s the D day, and our efforts will finally be paid off, he thought and ran towards his home. He opened the door, switched on the television and started to get ready. 

It’s a massive day for Chandra Gautam and the Unified India Party. A huge victory and a clear mandate. India has unequivocally selected its new Prime Minister.  

He couldn’t believe what the news reporter just said. 

Yes, it is in the News everywhere, seems like the entire universe is with us on our side. He couldn’t wait anymore to meet his dad. He sipped the coffee. It tasted bitter. He left it and rushed to the office. 

Ah! I can smell the celebrations, he pondered while sitting in his car. 

The crowd was pouring on the streets nearby. Many policemen were trying to make way for the traffic to pass. A few meters ahead of his office he could smell the burning crackers and hear noises of workers and supporters chanting Chandra Gautam’s and his party’s name . 

Rudra was about to open the car door when the driver turned towards him. “Sir, today whole India is celebrating and not only me but my entire village has voted for Chandra sir. He has won the heart of our nation, never before have I seen such a huge backing for any leader. Please congratulate him from my side.” The driver appeared delighted with the victory.

“Sure Mohan and we too are grateful to you and to every single person of your village who had voted for him.” Rudra replied as he was getting out of the car. 

He ran towards his dad’s chamber. Phew! What a rush, flowers, garlands, sweets, it seems like I am crossing a carnival, he thought. Oh! There he is. He managed to get a brief sighting of his father from between the numerous heads and waving hands. 

“Dad!” He shouted. His word goes unheard amidst the excitement of crowd. He voiced louder this time, “Dad!” 

Chandra Gautam turned swiftly in response. His big brown eyes were trying to look for his son in the crowd.     

Rudra waved his hand and Chandra looked at him with a mystic smile. Chandra generously handled the brigade of supporters and indicated Rudra to wait in his cabin as he slowly sequestered out of the unceasing crowd. 

Gautam opened his cabin door.

“Dad, you have done it,” an elated son chimed. 

“No, we have done it, my son,” Gautam delightedly held his son’s shoulders and hugged him. 

“We all followed your instructions,” Rudra replied, “you were the writer and we merely enacted your script. Seriously dad, the world was unaware of such a political knowledge. Today I believe that even the scum of this dirty politics can be washed with morals of pure knowledge and hard work.” 

“Rudra, there is so much to change, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, the real task begins now,” Gautam stated. “Come, let’s have a cup of tea with your favorite salted cookies.”

Rudra sipped on his tea. 

Gautam’s overjoyed eyes adored his son, revering his presence in his life like a gratified parent. “You know Rudra, you are a gem. You have worked so hard & above all else you believed in me like an ardent follower. You have carried my message to the remotest locations and across the strata of society. This was a mammoth task & I can proudly say that I am blessed to have you by my side.”

“Come ‘on dad, now you are embarrassing me. I am what I am today because of you. All that I have learned is from you.” Rudra rubbed his palms to spread the heat received by holding the cup, the rubbing gradually halted as his fixed eyes stared the steam emanating out of the hot tea. A sudden flash of memories crossed his mind as he remembered the day he met Chandra Gautam. He must be five years old, as told by Tashi Bai. Tashi Bai was the monastery’s mother as she had so much of love and care for every child there. She was the epitome of kindness and love. She must be in her seventies back then. Her crinkled grey eyes were obscured by cataract. Even the cobweb of wrinkles on her face couldn’t hide the beautiful soul she possessed. Her face had an amazing bunch of lines, which crisscrossed each other wherever her loose skin sagged. She used to wear a red loose fit cape and a multicolored tiny beaded round cap. That amazing cap was Tashi bai’s own handicraft, so talented she was. Her grayish black hair were dense for her age, she always tied them in thin multiple braids. 

I so enjoyed counting them every day, he thought.

Whenever Rudra asked her about where and how she found him, she told him an amazing story: ‘In the month of June or July she went for grazing the goats in the mountains, singing her favorite folk song. A song that sounded like an opera in the valleys of Himalayas. She came looking for her lost goat down the hill and saw a beautiful rudraksha tree. That tree was so majestic that it was standing alone like a giant warrior between the tall snow-capped hills. It had long cylindrical trunk and blue pyramidal crown. The otherwise evergreen tree had shed almost all its leaves but hundreds of blue rudraksha fruits were studded over its branches. The geometrical branches of that blue tree had the shape of a giant pyramid. She heard a faint cry of a baby, so she went ahead to see. She found a four month old baby boy lying in the crevice of land which was cushioned by the fresh leaves of that tree. She took him out of the mother earth’s womb and named him Rudra.’ I use to believe her story then, Rudra had a simpering smile on his face.

The monastery was picturesque like scenery. Amidst the snow capped mountains of the Himalayas there was a small town called Nidelli, the monastery was at the heart of this town. The building had four separate units pointing at the poles with a central garden and prayer area. The monastery was run by learned monks, who knew vedas right at the back of their head and were accomplished with the art of meditation. They taught vedas, Sanskrit, yoga, meditation and techniques of vedic self defense to the children. One day Rudra was playing with a singing bowl, which is a uniquely designed brass bowl to produce a soothing sound, the monastery had one such huge bowl right in front of the meditation hall. Upon hitting the rim of the bowl gently with a wooden rolling pin and then dragging it along its circumference a calming vibrating sound is generated. Rudra saw a man coming towards him. Was he fascinated with the calming sound of the bowl or was he eager to know how a little boy was making music out of a simple giant bowl was something little Rudra was unsure of. 

As he approached further, Rudra found him walking synchronously with the vibrations of the bowl, making his walk slow and elegant. That man was in his mid-thirties, he had big brown eyes that had the glitter of gold. His well chiseled face had an unusual combination of sun’s charm and calmness of the moon. His centrally parted dark brown hair was waving along the contours of his face reaching just below his broad shoulders. His light brown scanty beard was confined to a few millimeters above his jaw-line and was barely touching his moustache. His face was thin and long, his features sharp and well carved. He wore a white boat neck kurta with a distinct big golden locket of a rising sun resting over his sternum. He came to stand right in front of Rudra and before the little boys eyes could rise up to reach his face, he picked him in his arms and said, “Sorry son, I am late.” He took him to the head monk’s chamber. “Namaste!” He greeted the monk. 

The head monk or Guruji as they all called him sat on the ground wearing a red commodious full sleeved robe that skirted around his knees with red broad bottoms. This was the attire for all the monks in the monastery. Guruji was sitting in gyan posture i.e. only his index finger were touching his thumbs while the rest of the palm was straight and resting over his knees facing upwards. 

Guruji replied to him by slightly bending his neck. “Rudra, why don’t you go outside and play, we’ll call you in some time,” he asked Rudra. 

Rudra left the room but kept wondering about that man and why he said, ‘sorry, I am late’?

The stranger came back after twenty minutes and this time with Guruji. “Rudra, it’s time to go home”, he sat down on his knees and held Rudra’s tiny hands between his fingers and thumb. 

Rudra looked at Guruji, his big turquoise eyes were open wide, his subtly open lips froze as he didn’t know what to say.

“Rudra, he is your paternal uncle and he has come to take you to your real home.” Guruji’s words weren’t just enough to sway Rudra’s muddle. 

Rudra gave his neck a quick jerk to stare at that stranger briefly. “But I don’t think I know him and I am pretty sure I haven’t met him before,” the little boy replied with a straight face. 

Rudra’s naïve and brazen response was followed by the gleeful chuckle of that stranger and Guruji

Guruji bent and rubbed Rudra’s frontal hair, “Silly boy, you were too young to remember him, he is your uncle. You are in very safe and efficient hands now. Trust me son, one day you will remember this day as one of the most important days in your life. He’ll groom you to such an extent that only a few people in this whole world gets the luxury to.” 

“Does that mean, I have to leave this monastery?” Rudra questioned.

“Right son, but you know why this makes me happy? Because you will be going to an even better place,” Guruji’s eyes had a flicker of assurance.

“Can I just say goodbye to someone?” Rudra asked the head above with taunted brows and filled eyes.

“Sure son”, Guruji smiled.

Rudra ran to search for Tashi Bai. He looked at the sun. It was slightly towards the west. He figured that it must be 1:30 p.m. and Tashi Bai must have finished her lunch and she must be sitting and knitting under the banyan tree. He rushed to find her and reached there almost breathless. 

Tashi bai tried to look through her cataract stricken eyes. She wasn’t sure who was coming towards her in such a hurry.

“Tashi ba,” his thin voice was broken by rapid puffs after running so fast. “I am going.”

Her shaky rough hands were the gentlest ever to touch his cheeks, “Going where baba?” she asked.

“My uncle has come to take me home. I have to leave this monastery.”  Rudra’s amateurish eyes could no longer hold on to those tears.

“Oh! Baba, I will miss you,” her pearly eyes were drenched. Many tears rolled down her creased face. She gave him a long, tight hug.

“Tashi ba, don’t cry. Guruji said I am in very safe hands.” Rudra wiped her tears with his soiled little hands.

“Ah! Baba, if Guruji said so then I don’t think there is any doubt about it, but I will remember my most beloved son every single day.” She kissed his forehead and blessed him to live a thousand years. 

Rudra came to Guruji’s chamber where they both were waiting for him and he finally left the monastery.

Chandra Gautam has been everything to him since then. Only a few things have changed now. Chandra’s shoulder long hair is reduced to just an inch long and his lithe face has acquired the elegance of age while his energy and agility is still the same. 

Guruji was right. Rudra had been nurtured in the best hands. Gautam raised him, loved him, protected him and educated him with some of the unique skills that only a few special ones are blessed to receive. He had a vast knowledge which is not confined to any particular discipline. His poise, his eloquence, his excellent communication skills and suave personality made an irresistible impact on people who met him or have ever heard him speak. He had an unusually fast speed of thinking that in spite of being a prodigy himself, it was difficult for little Rudra to follow his train of thoughts. Gautam always told Rudra that it’s in their DNA, like those few families where brilliance runs in blood, but Rudra knew he had a long way to go. 

‘Success is a byproduct of knowledge’, this phrase was spot on for Rudra’s dad. Be it micro financing the small and marginal farmers and helping them with pioneering agricultural techniques or venturing new set-up for poor’s with his business acumen. From venture philanthropy to addressing some of the most pressing social issues to even helping a person or a family through their tough times. It was a corollary to his good deeds over the years that had left a mark in people’s mind, ergo he will be swearing in as the prime minister of India in a few days.

“So Rudra, why are you so silent, are those flash visions bothering you again?” Gautam’s eyes narrowed as he looked at him.

“No dad,” He smiled. “This time they came with my permission.” 

Gopal entered the room with a whiny squeak of the door hinge, like a metal rubbing against metal. Gopal was a short man in his late forties. His straight, silky and sparse hair was greased neatly to follow the contours of his scalp. “It sure needs some greasing, I’ll get it fixed today”, Gopal murmured. “Hi Rudra.” He waved. “Chandra sir, total valid votes were 642804257 out of which 53% voted for us, which mean around-”

“340686256.21,” Rudra and Gautam uttered together.

“You know even a calculator takes time because you have to feed the information and all but apart from you two, aren’t these numbers amazing. We will have a majority.” Gopal zestfully pulled a chair to sit next to Rudra.

“Yes it is amazing.” Gautam gave a cup of tea to him. 

Gopal was Chandra Gautam’s close associate who has been working for him for more than twenty years. 

“So now it’s time for you to take a break and have some fun,” Gautam suggested while dipping a biscotti into the steaming teacup. 

Rudra had a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics from the University of Oxford. Soon after completing his research on theoretical astrophysics and plasma physics he moved back to India to assist Chandra Gautam with his political aspirations. Since five years, Rudra has been working with him at the grass root level, helping and understanding the needs of the citizens who lack resources, knowledge and vision to transform their lives. 

“Who? Me?” Rudra asked.

“Yes, you have been working night and day. Now when the results are out and they are way more than what we had expected, you deserve a break from this tedious work and a bonus for your splendid performance.” Gautam leaned back in his chair to sip his tea.

“But dad, how can I leave before the swearing in? There is so much work to do.” Rudra’s words expressed his solicitude.

Gautam countered, “That will be taken care of. I have planned it all, the swearing in will be two days from now. But I don’t want you to be there because if you are here, you will take everything in your own hands.”

“What do you mean? You don’t want me to see you swearing in as the prime minister? A dream for which we all had been working for over these years,” he frowned.

“See. You are too young to waste your precious time bothering about everything around you,” Gautam explained, “Also I feel your frequent flash visions are an outcome of the anxiety and stress you have been handling. How will you enjoy your life if you will bother about every little work? I want my old son back. I want you to start living Rudra. I want you to savor some quality time with your friends or enjoy your solitude or do whatever you wish but just take a break from this work and tell me where you want to go?”

Rudra was lost, somewhere in the abyss of his own thoughts. He knew something was not right with him, he also knew how desperately he wants to correct it for the sake of his own peace. Gautam’s advice appeared as a silver lining to come out of that vagueness. “I want to walk the place I see,” He replied with a pensive face and dreamy eyes.

“Ok let’s make the arrangements Gopal, Rudra will leave for Kathmandu tomorrow,” Gautam declared.  

 

                                                                                                       Chapter 2

 

It was the end of a big day for Rudra. There was overplay of emotions and subsequent over release of adrenaline as he discussed and pondered over their achievement throughout the day. He met over a thousand supporters and workers over the day and was tired even before leaving the office. He was resting in his apartment, lying down on the couch and cuddling a throw for some warmth. He surfed through the channels to fade away the pace of his clashing thoughts. His face froze, his eyes widened to see a giant rainbow, the biggest that he had ever seen, emanating from behind his muted television screen. His eyes fixedly glared at that sight. The television disappeared and a giant crystalline obelisk grew in its place. His couch turned into a snow hillock. He was in the same snowy mountain again, in the middle of nowhere. His anxious eyes followed the arch of the rainbow that had emerged from the towering obelisk. It was going all across and behind the snow covered Himalayan peak, glittering along its way. Before he could cherish that oddly alluring sight, a sudden force pulled the rainbow into the giant pillar. The obelisk was unable to contain that sucked up rainbow within itself and started to disintegrate. Soon it radiated the rainbow light through its numerous cracks. That bright flash blurred the surroundings and within seconds everything turned back to normal. Rudra kept gazing at the white ceiling, fascinated by what he just saw. He got up, took his coffee mug and stepped out into his balcony. 

It is a good sign to see a rainbow, he thought. His smiling lips sipped the coffee, even this one was bitter. He wondered why he picked a new brand of coffee from the store. 

The vision made one thing clear in his mind that he is going in the right direction. He started to prepare for his morning flight to Kathmandu. He arranged things in order and crossed the items in his checklist. It was behavioral for Rudra to do tasks in order. Unlike any bachelor house, his apartment was neat as a pin with everything kept in apple pie order. It didn’t take him long to finish his work and then go to sleep early for his morning flight. 

He got up with his morning alarm at 6:00 a.m. and got ready. After cross checking the locks and switches twice, he boarded a car to reach the airport. It was a two hour long flight. He arrived at the Kathmandu airport at 1:00 p.m. He had to wait there for about an hour for his next flight to Pokhara, which is the closest city accessible by air for the high pass trek of Annapurna Himalayan range. At 1:45 p.m. he started to board. They had strict baggage rules and almost everyone’s baggage was heavier but not Rudra’s and two others, so they paid no fines. In less than ten minutes the boarding was complete. It was a small seventy seater ATR plane. The take off was a bit bumpy but the plane soared to finally relax in the stratosphere. The chasing Himalayas pierced the clouds and followed him. Only some part of the Himalayan apexes were visible above the clouds. It appeared as if hundreds of children of disparate sizes with white hair were peeking out of the cloud fence to watch his plane. 

The plane reached Pokhara in just twenty five minutes. Though the city comes only second to Kathmandu in Nepal yet it was a small hill town with greenery and nature bracing it all the way and was less congested. The string of snowy mountains neck laced the city. 

Gopal managed to book a room for Rudra in one of the finest hotels of the city. From there he will be leaving early morning the next day to start his trek for Annapurna Mountain range. After checking into the hotel room, he kept his bags and ended up at the hotel’s restaurant to have his lunch. The restaurant was nearly empty as it was an odd time. Apart from him, there were just a few European travelers who might have returned from their trekking trip as they seemed dog tired and a newlywed Nepalese couple. After finishing his meal which was quite late for lunch and early for dinner he retired early to wake up fresh for his morning trek tomorrow.

 

                                                                                                                                                        ###

 

The first leg of the journey for him was from Pokhara to Beshi Sahar. It was 5:00 a.m. in the morning. A private taxi arranged by the camp manager was waiting for him. 

Namaste sir! Myself Babu, let me help you with your luggage,” a short man with a round face, wearing a khaki shirt and black pants hastened to pick up his luggage.  

“Sir three more travelers will be accompanying you,” Babu introduced them. There were three Swedish travelers, one woman named Asta and two men named Enok and Daan. Rudra greeted all of them.

“Sir, Mr.Gopal had called up personally to arrange the best trip for you and we are obliged to have you as our guest,” Babu’s delighted face was clearly expressing his happiness to render his service to the son of the newly elected Prime Minister of his neighboring country. 

“Call me Rudra, please.”

“Ok sir.” 

“So tell me Babu, how many people are there in the camp?” Rudra asked.

“It’s a small camp sir, we take no more than twelve people for trekking at a time and we cover almost every possible and accessible location in the Annapurna circuit. The remaining people will be joining us at Chamje, they started from Kathmandu early morning today and will reach there around the same time.” Babu’s reply initiated their journey through the highways of Nepal.

They reached Beshi Sahar at 7:30 a.m. Till Beshi Sahar the road was smooth to some extent, many people start hiking from here. Their camp manager had decided to cut short their hike for preserving some energy for Throng La pass which is the highest pass of Annapurna circuit and one of the most difficult in the world to ascend. The narrow stony mountain trekking path was a difficult terrain for their fuel eating buddy but it was an adventure to roll it over the flowing streams and waterfalls along the way. After four and a half hours they reached Chamje.

“Sir, madam, we have reached Chamje. See the camp organizer is waiting there with the other trekkers.” Babu pointed at a group standing on their left, “Happy trekking to you all.”

“Babu, you won’t be coming?” Daan asked.

“No sir. It’s winters and the highway road ahead is inaccessible, I am fit only to drive, not to hike.” Babu’s misleading smile had glances of blues.

“But you might have some experience of trekking the Himalayas, haven’t you?” Asta asked promptly.

“No mam, not all Nepalese are mountaineers,” he chuckled quietly, “only physically fit people are allowed to trek. I have developed hypothyroidism and so no longer medically fit for higher altitudes.” 

“Oh! I see. But do you have any insights for the trek Babu?” Asta questioned.

“Yes madam, don’t be afraid of the suspension bridge, they are safe.” Babu’s reply stirred a mix of smile and laughter.

“Come everyone let’s meet Alok, he is our camp manager,” Babu guided them ahead. “I must suggest, looks can be deceiving here as his experience is way more than that youthfulness on his face.”

A small man with his arms folded and fist concealed well behind his elbow came running towards them. 

“That’s an interesting way of running,” Enok commented as everyone looked at that unique run.

“You know what’s more interesting? This manner of running actually runs in their tribe.” Babu mentioned. 

Namaste sir. My name is Hari. I am one of your porters. Welcome to Annapurna Parbat.” He bowed his head to greet everyone individually.  

“Hello Hari. Meet Rudra, Daan, Enok and Asta.” 

“Sir I will take care of the luggage, you all can meet Alok sir and the rest of the camp members.” Hari ran towards the car boot to get the luggage.

Alok was a fairly young lanky guy in his early twenties. His face was thin, elongated and flawless with just a dash of puberty moustache to add to his masculinity. 

“Hi Alok!” 

“Hey Babu!”

“Meet Asta, Enok, Daan and Rudra. They all are yours now.”

“Thanks Babu and hello to everyone. Let’s meet your other trekking companions. This is Miranda and Ben from Burgos, Spain.” 

Their introduction was followed by amiable gesticulations of the camp group.

“Welcome to the world’s most elongated circular trek. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Alok Sherpa. I am your camp manager, organizer and your guide for the tour. I have undergone advanced level training in mountaineering, mountain rescuing and trekking. Trust me ladies and gentleman you are in young, adventurous yet very safe hands,” Alok grinned. “We will trek for not more than six to seven hours per day in our fourteen day trip. We will be staying in the tea houses and lodges of the adjoining villages along the trekking circuits. Also we will be carrying enough tents in case anyone of you wants to enjoy the lonesomeness at remote locations or in case of non-availability of accommodation. We have a cook and his name is Bahadur-” he pointed at a small man who was standing along with the other porters. 

Namaste,” Bahadur greeted everyone. 

“-And three porters to carry some of your gears as well as other important equipment for the camp,” Alok again pointed them out. “Our company is a member of TAAN i.e. trekking agencies association of Nepal and in case of any situation or emergency we will not ask you to forget it and continue the trip,” he laughed. “But we will take it as a responsibility and help you come out of it in the best possible way. So without wasting any time, let’s start our first trek towards Dharapani which will roughly be around five hours from here.” 

Chamje was a small village amidst the verdant valleys of Himalayas. Luscious rain forests and clamorous rivers entwined the well developed routes. Numerous suspension bridges which were surely safe to cross over fascinated the trekkers. For four days they crossed the pine forests, felt the sanctity of touching the prayer wheels and walked over rigid stones and bridges on the turbulent rivers. Those wooden bridges made by locals were singing high notes to match up to the rhythm of caroling water. The mountain was turning snobbish and steep. With every step and breath it challenged their zeal. On the contrary the motherly side of Annapurna was alleviating their discomfort with a constant boost from magna mater. 

Alok ascended the routes as if he owned that place. He was so acquainted with every nook and cranny that he fascinated the journey with tales and geological, botanical and zoological aspects of every bit of land they stepped over or saw. After crossing the crystal blue Marsayandi River they headed west and reached Manang at 6:00 P.M on the fifth day. 

The camp was resting in the lodge’s living room. Bahadur had served them warm refreshing ginger tea with cookies.

“This lodge is probably the best stay we had so far,” Ben stated.

“Yes, best one in terms of mountain luxury,” Asta added as she dropped a purification tablet to the glass of water and gave it a stir. 

“Manang is the largest village in this trekking circuit. The facilities you find here would be utmost. After eating daal bhaat for four days in a row, you will thank me for tonight’s dinner.” Alok raised his brows and radiated a broad smile.

“Ah! Seems like Alok is all set to woo us today,” Asta said. She kept her glass at the teak wood table and looked at Alok who was amusing over his own arrangements for the camp’s dinner tonight.

The lodge was actually a home stay. It was a double storied structure with multiple rooms and attached bathrooms in the upper floor and a big living area, kitchen and the caretaker’s outhouse at the lower. The hall had a huge dining table on its right end to accommodate ten people and a comfy corner sofa with few chairs on its left. A chimney with a wrought iron cage was positioned at the centre. 

After thirty minutes at 7:30 P.M. sharp, the dinner was served. 

“Pizza, noodles, sandwiches. Oh Alok! Annapurna is really Annapurna, ‘the Goddess of food’,” Enok was taken by surprise to look at the dinner spread topping that creaky wooden table.

“Yes, Goddess Annapurna has bestowed her love on you,” Alok replied. “I told you Manang has much to offer, now one more day here for acclimatization and then we will continue our trek towards Letdar.” Alok pulled a chair to sit next to Rudra. Rudra was sitting on the chair in front of a small tea table and was busy rubbing his hands with a sanitizer, preparing himself to grab that luscious food. 

Alok’s narrowed eyes were hooked at Rudra’s palms. “I am bewildered to see how you have been managing your hygiene standards,” he commented. “But I would love to see when you will dodge them. As you know my friend, Annapurna is one of the deadliest mountains of the world.” Alok’s thin lip curled at one end, his mind had already conceived a notion about Rudra. “But tell me one thing, why a sanitizer here?”

“Couldn’t find a liquid soap here, moreover it is a homemade herbal sanitizer. I always weigh the amount of chemicals I expose my body to.” Rudra picked up a carrot stick kept on the table and dipped it into the mayo.

“Huh! Impressive.” Alok munched a dumpling from his soup. He bent his head to whisper his mind out on Rudra’s ear, “But that has not brought me here. I saw something in your mesmerizing turquoise eyes. But nope, it’s not something that makes the girls go crazy for you.” He giggled. “I have seen turmoil in your eyes. It appeared almost like a furor. It is quite uncommon because whenever someone visits Himalayas they experience tranquility and calm but your internal disturbance is only growing each day as we are ascending.”

Rudra sneered at Alok’s mocking tenor. “I would call it anticipation instead,” he paused, “Come, let’s eat, my taste buds are tickling with the mere smell of this tasty food.”

“Oh! C’mon Rudra. Is your mannerism to avoid that question actually pointing towards some unsettled issues in your life?” Alok’s insolent words needed the numbness of a tacit reply. 

“No Alok…not everyone has unresolved issues with their parents,” Rudra took a fleeting look at Alok’s wrist and added, “Or with their dads to be precise.” 

The statement was enough to rub Alok the wrong way. Rudra’s words shrunk his forehead. “My dad, really? How much do you know about me to even say something like that? Are you even aware of what you are saying?” Alok’s eyes were full of agony and confusion.

Rudra halted his reply for a few seconds. He noticed Alok pushing out his lower lip in annoyance while waiting for his reply. Rudra explained, “A young boy who has just crossed the milestone of teenage but has a mountaineering experience far ahead of his age, not only in his native Himalayas but across the major elevations of the world. Your excellent knowledge of terrains shouts out loud that it is an outcome of a comprehensive study. How you explain even the minutest of the details associated with these mountains is something which you have acquired on your own because no mountain guide can train you to that extent. Not just that, your over disciplined schedule and rules which seems to be so deeply engraved in your brain tells the story of a son trained by an authoritarian dad. On the other hand, that hand woven scarf which you wear which doesn’t go with any of your branded stuff and this red thread on your wrist tells the story of a son over pampered by his mother. So buddy, you were wrong. The restlessness you saw in my eyes isn’t similar to yours, the latter being a result of a constant urge to prove that you are doing the right thing.” Rudra looked directly into his eyes throughout the conversation to notice the slightest of the changes in his expressions. Hearing Rudra’s words, Alok’s eyes widened and he began to blink at a faster rate. “Or doing the right profession which was surely against your father’s will.” Rudra added.

Alok was spellbound by the charm of Rudra’s unusual skill, at the same time he was flustered at surfacing a well concealed truth in front of a near stranger. He imbibed the situation and replied with a heavy voice, “Excellent cold reading. So this is what brings you to the Himalayas, to read the cold mountains and crack open some truth.”

“No. As I said, it is just out of anticipation. Come let’s grab some dinner.” 

Undeniably disappointed with the answer Alok got up from his chair and joined him for dinner. The subsequent conversation between them through the dinner was devoid of any words.

Soon after the dinner, the group headed back to their respective rooms. After an exhausting day and heavy meal, sleep came on the dot.

 

 

                                                                                                  Chapter 3

 

Oh! Smell of this weed is suffocating me, Rudra thought as he rolled over his bed out of discomfort. He got up and squeezed his forehead and nose. His eyes were still trying hard to open. A constant smoke of marijuana was coming from the caretaker’s cabin. He walked out of his bed to close the window. He looked at the clock. It’s 5:30 in the morning, how can someone start smoking so early? He thought and juggled his head. He moved towards the opposite window to open and ventilate the space. He took a few deep breaths to fill his lungs with fresh air, the view outside was breathtaking. Tall frigid mountains traversing the clouds and, wait a second. “It’s a rainbow!” He shouted and hurriedly grabbed his coat. He ran towards the stairs to go out and get a wider view of the rainbow. 

Hari heard him stepping down the noisy and creaky wooden staircase. “Sir, tea,” he offered in his low and flat voice.

Rudra ran across the hallway by the side of the kitchen to step out through the backdoor. “Wait Hari, bring my tea outside and come fast,” he threw a reply just before stepping out of the door.

Rudra gasped, “Phew! Wow! I have never seen a rainbow so beautiful.” His breathless words were excited to see the view ahead. 

The rainbow was unique. It roughly covered three arid peaks of Annapurna, originating from behind and middle of the very first peak. A perfect vibgyor against a fairly white background was a treat for the onlooker. 

“Hari, Hari!” Rudra shouted.

“Sir……coming.”

Rudra moved towards the building to look for Hari. He was stepping out of the kitchen. He carried a tray with a cup of steaming tea and a plate full of cookies. His monkey cap, tiny features and thin moustache along with his distinct way of walking in baby steps with a forward bent spine brought an instant smile on Rudra’s face. 

“Sir, tea,” Hari offered.

“Thanks Hari. Come with me I need to show you something.” Rudra took him to the place from where he saw the rainbow, but there was no sign of it now.

“Oh! It vanished.” Rudra was surprised, as within a few seconds the rainbow disappeared completely.

“What has vanished sir?” Hari asked to know the reason for Rudra’s disappointment. 

“There was a beautiful rainbow covering those three peaks. It was coming from somewhere behind that acute snowy peak with black ridges.” Rudra pointed at the peak.

Hari thumped his chest a little with a jerk of elf laughter, “Sir, are you sure?” 

“Yes Hari, but why? What’s so funny about it?” He asked suspiciously.

“Look at that place again sir.”

Rudra gave a once-over to scan that area again. He glanced at the parched mountains and its barrenness, every bit of land was bone-dry and had no sign of greenery. “It’s a high-altitude desert.” Rudra’s words answered the question he had asked.

“Exactly sir. The place you pointed is more than 6000 meters above sea level and is in a rain-shadow area. Can you see those tall peaks?” Hari questioned.

“Yes”

“Clouds cannot pass them and behind those peaks is Pokhara, the city which receives maximum rainfall in Nepal.”

“What about that place?” Rudra asked.

“Which place? Pokhara?” Hari wasn’t sure what he meant.

“No, the one I pointed, I mean from where the rainbow was originating.”

“Oh! That. It must be some twenty odd kilometers from here. Moreover it’s not in our trekking route. We will go to-”

Rudra interrupted him, “How much time will it take to reach there if I start now?”

“Now!” Hari screamed brazenly. “No, no sir you cannot go there now. You have to acclimatize yourself for at least a day. If you continue to ascend, it might result in lung swelling which can turn fatal.” Hari’s concern was obvious.

“I know Hari, but I really need to go. Just guide me how to reach there.” Rudra was adamant.

“I don’t think it’s a wise idea sir.” 

“Don’t worry. I have enough experience with mountaineering.” Rudra was right. This was not his first mountain trek. He and Chandra Gautam have climbed many mountains in the Alps range and Himalayas. 

“But it will take more than seven hours for you to reach there. You can’t trek at night which means you will have to spend the night there and the weather of Annapurna is insanely unpredictable. You are trying to set your foot at a place no known human has ever walked, that part is the deadliest part of the most deadly mountain on earth. I request you sir, please abandon this plan.” Hari pleaded.

“Don’t worry. I am an experienced mountaineer. I have scaled another such deadly peak like K2.” Rudra had already set his mind. He wanted to convince Hari to help him reach that place.

“But Sir.” 

“Relax Hari. Just tell me the route.” 

“Ok sir, if you wish. But that place is not a part of the circuit. The trail will be extremely dangerous. It is prone to avalanche and is very deserted. I will draw a map for you based purely on my logic and understanding of the mountain as even I am unaware of the exact route. After reaching there, find a safe place to set a tent and spend the night there as it will be suicidal to trek down on the same day, also so late in the evening. So early mornings you must start your trek back to Manang. Even if the rest of the camp goes, I’ll stay here for you and then we can continue our trip.” Hari’s reply wasn’t synchronizing with his anxious looks.

“Thanks Hari.” Rudra was finally at relief, that though unwillingly but Hari finally agreed to help him with his plan. 

“In fact Sir, I’ll come with you.” Hari prompted to lend his help.

“No Hari, I can’t take you with me.” Rudra shook his head many times making sure that he was stern on his decision.

“Sir I insist.” He joined his hands in request.

“No Hari.” Rudra never wanted to unnecessarily involve him into his internal tussle.

“But Alok sir will never allow this.” Hari was right, Alok was too particular about camp rules and now he had an additional crease of grudge against Rudra.

“Tell him that I left a note and that even you weren’t aware of my plans. You must understand that it is really important for me and trust me Alok will understand.” Rudra knew somewhere that Alok would be more comfortable in continuing the trek without him.

They started to prepare for the trek. Hari gave him a detailed map which defined the route with the tiniest of details to make sure that he reaches the right place. Hari forewarned Rudra with the perils of that route.  

Rudra was ready for his solitary mountain trek. He packed all the gadgets, food, water and medicines that he would need during his ascent. To make sure that he reaches an unascertained location by noon, he started sharp at 6:30 a.m. 

Just I, my two alpine axes and my backpack, I am ready to walk over my dreams, he thought. I know it was not a normal rainbow, nor was I hallucinating. The rainbow was starkly similar to the one I had seen in my vision and I can’t wait to find out the phenomenality behind it.

He crossed the occasional pastures of grazing yaks, effete lands and tortuously callous paths. As the altitude continued to rise, the raw wind and thin air made it difficult for him to trek with his normal pace. He took a hundred meter horizontal detour. There was some strange logic going at the back of his head which was cogent enough to convince him to walk that unknown path. After a while he reached an icy lake, it was déjà vu.

I know this place. I have seen this lake and the flying birds. He swayed his head to look up and yes, there was a flock of Himalayan birds gliding across the peaks. Just a single bird was sitting next to the lake. Rudra closed his eyes and looked at that bird again. It was some Himalayan species of goose with orange beak and legs, its white head had two unique black bars, one crossing its head just at the level of its eyes while the other five centimeters beneath it. Its light grayish thorax with white streaks was illuminating a yellow light which was confined below its long grey neck, going till its abdomen. The rest of its body had a weak hazy outline of yellow light. Rudra took off his backpack, removed his shoes and sat on the ground with crossed leg and a straight spine. He started to perform some breathing exercises. The unusual light coming from the bird’s thorax was nothing but a weak bio-photonic emission, otherwise undetectable by naked human eyes. It helped Rudra to understand how that creature was acclimatizing to such high altitude by hyperventilating its body with short frequent breaths. After fifteen minutes of rhythmic breathing Rudra looked at his altimeter watch, it displayed 4275 meters. He still had to climb eight hundred odd meters. 

He started to trek again. He walked for five hours, his nostrils puffed steam and his chest hurled rapidly. The mountain ridge was stubbornly steep and loaded with deceiving layers of loose snow. Stepping over that obscurity not only needed an experience in snow mountaineering but also the nerves of steel. 

He finally reached the hill from where the rainbow appeared to originate, but he didn’t know where to go from there. He looked around the place. It was as deserted as it can be. He took a few deep breaths and sat over a rock nearby. He ate some energy bars and drank water to contain his bodily energies while his eyes vehemently searched for some sign to go forth. He had no time to sit ideally. Twenty minutes have already passed since he had been there. He decided to make a move and look for a suitable place to set his tent. Distressed by how the events have unfolded he slowly began to walk ahead. He took a few steps just when he heard someone chanting, “Om.” Someone with an unusually thin baby like voice was hymning Om. Rudra halted and looked towards his right. The voice seems to be coming from that direction, he thought and dashed towards it.

He walked an uneven staircase which was naturally carved out on a pile of horizontal sheets of rocks that in turn was cushioned with fresh snow. He reached the top of that small hillock but he couldn’t find anyone there.

“So you are finally here Rudra.” Someone spoke with the same fine voice.

“Who? Where?” Rudra turned and looked around. “And how do you know my-” Rudra was jolted by what he saw. On top of a big flat ovoid stone with furrowed edges was lying a bright yellow soiled robe, over it was sitting a creature hardly a forty to fifty centimeters in height and with a million wrinkle flaps all over his body. He had the anatomy of an adult human but the size of a meerkat. He was sitting in lotus position with closed eyes. His scanty hair covered his wrinkled scalp completely and were long enough to flow and rest on the yellow cloth underneath. His thin brown triangular beard which by some means managed to grow out of his creased flappy jaw was resting over his ankles, barely concealing his nude wrinkled body. He gently opened his eyes. His eyes were saggy like the rest of his body but also were pure and bright like that of a newborn. His eyes had big black iris with just a thin rim of paleness around. His nose, ears and cheeks dangled like his lose face. His puckered skin and ruck features were narrating some off the wall incident which shrunk that man to 1/10th of his original size. 

Keeping his angst at the bay Rudra asked, “Who are you and how do you know my name?” Rudra was flabbergasted. He had never seen or read something like that. Also, he being aware of his name only grew his daze.

“Naaame,” a sheer voice escaped his plunged, skin pleated sunken mouth. “What’s in the name Rudra Gautam, I know a lot more about you, even more than what you know about yourself.” He made the statement slowly moving his hand and barely opening his mouth transpiring an obvious difficulty in movement like a terminally ill patient. 

“There is something terribly wrong with you, you need help. I have never known about a disease which can cause atrophy to this extent. How long have you been here? No, why are you even here?” Rudra was devastated to look at his condition. “Ok let me, let me help you first.” Though still unsure of his stance, Rudra dubiously offered his help. 

“Care comes ahead of all, even whilst a thousand questions boggle your brain. It’s typical of you, isn’t it? How is the cognitive part of your brain dealing with the downpour of questions and inquisitiveness that could have otherwise been your prime concern?” His puckered lips stretched a little to articulate.

“We can discuss all that on our way to the hospital, but let me fix this first.” Rudra wasn’t really sure how long that creature would be able to survive. He was unable to understand that what he was witnessing was a result of some aberrancy or affliction. 

“There is nothing wrong with me son, my body is not diseased. Eventually you will come to know about everything, even the visions that bothered you from time to time, even the one that brought you here. Against all odds and alone you have travelled to a forsaken place just because you once saw a rainbow in your vision and then for real.” The words from that wrinkled creature hardened Rudra’s advancing emotions.   

“Wait! It’s going ferociously berserk now. Only two people in this world knew about my problem. No matter how strange it might sound but only I knew about the vision in which I saw that rainbow and if I haven’t shared it with anyone, then how on earth can you know it?” Rudra anxiously waited for an apposite reply. 

“Yes I know, but what if no one else but the person who is actually planting those visions in your brain knows about them.”

“What do you mean? Be direct.” 

“I planted those visions in your brain.” The creature spoke aloud.

“Oh! Seriously, though I am really amazed how you know all that, but telepathy? Is it so advanced a technology here in your hinterland world that sitting here you can make people think and act as per your whims and dispositions?” The ongoing drama that bemused him was now provoking his senses.

“You were given thoughts and visions of Himalayas because it was inevitable for you to come here. When you were asked where you want to go, of all the places in the world you said Himalayas. And tell me why you have chosen Annapurna specifically? Wasn’t it because you had seen Machhipuchare and Throng la in your visions, after which you would have searched extensively to know more about these locations and where they belonged, though you were quite certain it’s Himalayas. Rudra, there is a lot you need to explore, to help the world, to save the world. I am just delivering to you what is yours and I have been waiting for this to happen since ages.” 

His epilogue sounded like a testament. Rudra’s creased forehead was now eased. “I have no option but to trust you. No amount of technological advancement known to mankind can reveal all those facts you quoted.” Rudra didn’t take any more time as he needed no further explanations to garner his faith upon him.

“I am in process or rather verge of dissolving my body into light. Soon with a bright flash, I will disappear into emptiness forever. Thusly, in the process of enlightenment my body has been shrunk to this size or to its minimum.” 

“Disappear into light forever? Does it imply to the rainbow body?” Rudra could link it to something he had read about the highly venerated monks of Himalayas.

“Yes, now you can comprehend why you have seen that rainbow and what brings you here.” His statement answered a few of Rudra’s doubts. 

“The rainbow was your aura!” Rudra’s sluggish words had a prick of shock.

“Yes, I am just a milestone of your destined excursion. Your journey starts from here. You have to plan an odyssey to Mount Kailash soon after this.” 

“Mount Kailash, why?” 

“You have to endure a constant willingness for patience and fortitude, as the coming events will not only appear illogical or irrelevant but will sometimes appear like a hallucination. Trust me, in the end it will all turn deducible. You only have to make sure you follow what you have been told.” His raised finger stressed the significance of the words he spoke.

“But what and why you said about saving the world?” Rudra’s confusion was only soaring.

“As I said son, have patience. After I disappear forever, you will have to take my clothes and whatever is left behind to my monastery. The monks there will shelter you till the time you want to be there, just give all my belongings to them but not this one.” He took out a bright green irregular stone which was about five centimeters in size from beneath the yellow cloth and handed it over to him.

Rudra had never seen such a piece of gem before. It appeared to be getting illuminated from within and had glimpses of galaxy within, as if a million shiny stars were contained within along with numerous nebulas lying in between.

“What is this?” Rudra asked.

“It is called the Sirius stone.” 

“Is it the famous Sirius stone?” Rudra was taken aback by the happenings.

“Yes, it will stay with you till your quest is complete. It will give you strength and vision to move forward whenever you are in a dilemma and commotion. You should keep this with you all the time. Now as you move eastwards towards my monastery after some four hundred meters you will find a frozen cascade, you should take a left turn soon after that and walk for another eight kilometers in a straight line. No matter what may come you must strictly adhere to my directions in order to reach that place. Also son, rely on the directions from heavenly bodies because technology turns obsolete in comparison to nature sometimes. Once you reach close to the monastery, you will see the giant red pagodas from a distance. You can narrate how you met me and discuss the details with any of the monks of my monastery. They will further guide you to my chamber where you have to stay and find an ancient palm leaf script which I have kept hidden and well concealed so that it might not fall in any wrong hands.” 

“But where exactly in your room am I going to find it and why do you want to give it to me specifically if it’s so sacred?” Rudra couldn’t understand why he had planned and chosen him to be a part of this esoteric pursuit.

“Rudra, how often have things been normal with you? Normal people don’t have special powers, gifted brains and an exceptional physical endurance. Look at the distance you have ascended in a single day. Not only that, you managed to hike without acclimatizing which would have otherwise been disastrous for a normal human.” He asked as he stretched his curvy brows.

“Oh! That’s not true. No amount of physical strength can help you or save you from altitude sickness.” Rudra replied.

“Yes, but haven’t your years of yoga & breathing practices gave you an extra edge there.” Every word coming from his mouth only suggested how extensively he knew Rudra and gave Rudra’s senses a chase towards a blind end.

“It does, but my dad taught me all that, I was fortunate to learn all that from him.”

“Yes your dad. He was just polishing a precious stone. You are chosen to be the safeguard of an extremely clandestine piece of truth. This book is so precious that it should never fall in the hands of Barbarians.” He warned him of the dangers ahead.

“Barbarians! Who are they? Wait, you mean there is someone else also who is looking for this book?”

“Not only the book, they have a deeper motive. And if they succeed, this world will be in grave danger. So you not only have to take this book back with you as soon as you get it but you also have to make sure it stays with you and hidden from the world throughout your quest. Use your powers, stay cautious and keep distance from anyone who seems suspicious because they can come in any form. Pay heeds to my words, everything that is written in this book is a gospel and when I say that it means you should never doubt whatever you have correctly deciphered from it, even if it sounds irrational. I have just told you your next destination but this book will tell you why and wherefore you are standing at that place. But remember, you have to plan your trip to Mount Kailash and then after correctly reading the book and acting accordingly, you have to finish this work on or before the 13th night of the waning moon. And about your question as to how you are going to find that book, you have to feel the unseen and hear what’s unsaid.” He closed his eyes and raised his head again to sit back in the position he had been sitting into since God knows how many years.

“Wait …is it some kind of a puzzle?” Rudra shouted to disembark him from going back into a meditative trance and to answer his valid doubts before he finally disappear.

“Yes, but an easy one for Rudra Gautam. Now it’s time for me to go son. May you conquer!” His words were the last blessings that echoed the surroundings and muted Rudra’s call to stop.

“Wait, wait!” Rudra screamed.

Numerous streaks of bright rainbow light came out of every centimeter of his body. Rudra was unable to continuously gaze at him. His eyes blinked rapidly and eyelids were forced shut in response to the bleaching caused by that sharp, bright light. The last that he saw was a mosaic of skin around the rainbow light which kept diminishing and then with a blast he diminished into light completely, a light so bright that it can’t be looked upon. Rudra tried to adapt his eyes to see what was left behind. After a few seconds he was able to see properly. Only a few hairs were left on the yellow cloth where he was sitting. He kept the hairs in his backpack. As he pulled the yellow fabric a sound of metal dragged against a stone caught his attention, he lifted the cloth to reveal a small circular metal ring which had red and yellow blocks over its rim and some multicolor squares within. Rudra sat on his knees in front of that stone. Indolently he kept everything inside a separate front pocket of his backpack. He briefly stared at the place and then at the sky above. Reflection of the cotton sky sailed through his big turquoise eyes. There wasn’t a single crease of doubt on his forehead. His mental acquisitiveness was taking a shape now and was explicitly not futile. There was no question of him not going to that monastery, if a few visions can get him to the highest and deadliest peaks on earth then this was clear as a bell. Hence he took no time to weigh the semantics and moved forth. 

 

                                                                                                                                   ###

 

 

Meanwhile at the Manang lodge…….

Alok was getting restive as there was no sign of Rudra since morning. Upon inquiring the caretakers and his porters he found that Rudra took his morning tea and went back to sleep after which he didn’t even come down for breakfast. Since it was already half past two in the afternoon, he decided to force open his door and he wasn’t surprised at what he found. As speculated, Rudra wasn’t there in his room and had left a note for him that read: 

‘Alok, I couldn’t avoid trekking to this important place which was not in our route. I will be back by noon tomorrow. Sorry for the troubles, see you soon.

Rudra’

I was right. You are here for some deeper motive, Alok thought. He hastily went down the stairs. The old wooden stairs took every jump and jerk with a reflex sound that grabbed the attention of the camp members who were having their lunch in the dining area.

“We will start our trek to Ledar tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. sharp.” Alok declared the modified itinerary to his camp and moved towards the kitchen to inform the cook and porters to make arrangements accordingly. 

Hari was concerned with his sudden change of plan and thus he followed him. “But sir what about Rudra sir, he will reach only by noon tomorrow.” Hari explicated his involvement. 

“So you were aware of his plans,” Alok growled in Hari’s ears. “Don’t you worry, Hari. Your sir will not trek forward with us, he has reached where he wanted to and this trekking route was never in his plan.”

“But sir, I must stay here in case he comes back.” Hari requested in a feeble tone with his neck bent and eyes digging into the wooden floor.

“No, no. You must hurry Hari. Pack your bags and go back to meet your family. Who knows, helping him might cost you to not meet your family for the next six months.” His wide open and glaring eyes stared at Hari’s discomfort. A sharp tick in his right eye released his pulled eyebrow. He added, “Also, don’t forget that he is a very important citizen of our neighboring nation. Just inform at the Kathmandu office if he doesn’t reach on time tomorrow, also if he does, whatever being the case and inform your fellow workers of the change in our schedule.” He banged the back door as he stepped out. He was chafed with Rudra’s actions and so he didn’t want to wait and take along a rule breaker.

                                                                                  Chapter 1

 

He twisted to grab again the swinging ice axe that lingered around his waist. The clouds beneath him covered the deathly descent of that icy cliff. The hawkish disorderly winds had a lugged dust of snow. Its impact banged his fluttering body against the rigid ice. He looked like a bright yellow minuscule in contrast to the magnificent white acclivity around him. Ice helmet and large snow goggles covered a considerable proportion of his face but they were unable to conceal his fatigue. Tiny studs of beard on his face had turned white with frosted crystals of ice. His frozen lips were unable to move and press the excitement between them. The deadly steep mountain had spoken but he wasn’t obedient enough to recede. He penetrated his foot claw deep into the ice and sunk his curved axe into it. Those seracs looked explosive, burdened with fragile ice. 

The sky was clouding again and fresh snow was on its way. The steep bifurcated peak of that mountain was oddly pointed, like the tail of a fish. The striking soft rays of the cloud-sheltered sun illuminated its peak with a golden glow. The surrounding snow dust also shone like golden crystals, making that fascinating peak all the more enticing. He set a stroke on the seracs yet again. The impact ran a rapidly enlarging crack within it to dislodge a large chunk of ice. He fell off the altitude along with the disintegrating ice. His heart sunk in horror. He looked up at the peak, the tiny icy crystals were scattering the sun rays into a rainbow. He fell further into the doom as his eyes watched the interplay of those faultless rays. They swirled to appear like a translucent colorful pinwheel. He blinked his eyes to see them again, it was a pinwheel. A child sitting on the opposite park bench was rotating his pinwheel against the sun. 

Rudra rapidly blinked his orb round, down turned turquoise eyes, which were unique in its color variation, a thin black rim that mingles with the turquoise iris and turns light green just before touching the dark pupil. Those youthful eyes had the color of sun’s reflection over the Adriatic Sea and the clarity of a glacial river. The imperial nose he sported complemented his angular cheekbones. A charming depression ran below his cheekbones to vanish before mingling with his sculpted to perfection jaw line. He had a light olive skin with golden undertone, dark brown neat hair, crescent brows and a tall muscular physique. 

His exquisite eyes not only had a unique color for his South-Asian race but also possessed atypically enhanced vision. He was able to perceive lights in the electromagnetic spectrum that are outside the range of normal human vision, like infrared and bio-photonic emissions. He had a spontaneous ability to perceive aura, which helps him to study intent, emotion, spirituality, power and even the health of an individual. He was blessed with an exceptional IQ. Whenever he is posed with a dilemma, his mind unfolds the analysis in front of his eyes in a high speed cascade like fashion. But he was unlike the other geeks who are socially awkward instead he was brilliant both socially as well as emotionally. 

He quickly diverted his sight and looked around. He wasn’t sure how long he had been staring at the pinwheel. He knew it wasn’t a dream. He was taking his morning jog, but it also isn’t unusual for him to have these involuntary visions every now and then. It all started a few months back that he began to experience frequent psychic visions. Whether he was walking, running, driving or resting, no matter whatever he did, those visions always chased him down. For that brief moment everything else disappears and all he could see is himself cast off somewhere amidst the forlorn heights of Himalayas and the solstice. He is unable to understand why it is happening to him. He thought his brain was mingling the childhood memories from his early monastery life with his unresolved issues, creating a neurological confusion. His perplexity only grew with each passing day but an obstinate battler within him refused to take down the numbness of those shrink prescribed medicines to his thoughts.

Naively to reconcile his awkwardly state his phone rang, he took out the phone from his pocket. The phone displayed, Gopal. He received the call.

“The counting has started, where are you? Aren’t u watching the news, we are winning everywhere.” The buzz in his gruff voice was evident.

He couldn’t sleep last night in anticipation of tomorrow’s result. The more he tried, the more he was awakened by his exhilaration. He wanted to avoid going out today but he wasn’t able to wait anymore for the counting to start. He came to the park much later than his usual time, to subdue his overbearing excitement. 

“Winning? Isn’t it quite early to predict that?” He rubbed his itchy eyes which had turned red underneath.

“No, it’s more than eleven. Where have you been?” 

Rudra checked his watch. It was 11:14 a.m. He knew how he lost track of time.

“Rudra, are you there?” 

“Oh! Yes.”

“So I asked you, where have you been?”

 “I came to the park to jog. I will reach the office in another forty minutes.” 

 “Ok.” 

So the day has finally come, yes, it’s the D day, and our efforts will finally be paid off, he thought and ran towards his home. He opened the door, switched on the television and started to get ready. 

It’s a massive day for Chandra Gautam and the Unified India Party. A huge victory and a clear mandate. India has unequivocally selected its new Prime Minister.  

He couldn’t believe what the news reporter just said. 

Yes, it is in the News everywhere, seems like the entire universe is with us on our side. He couldn’t wait anymore to meet his dad. He sipped the coffee. It tasted bitter. He left it and rushed to the office. 

Ah! I can smell the celebrations, he pondered while sitting in his car. 

The crowd was pouring on the streets nearby. Many policemen were trying to make way for the traffic to pass. A few meters ahead of his office he could smell the burning crackers and hear noises of workers and supporters chanting Chandra Gautam’s and his party’s name . 

Rudra was about to open the car door when the driver turned towards him. “Sir, today whole India is celebrating and not only me but my entire village has voted for Chandra sir. He has won the heart of our nation, never before have I seen such a huge backing for any leader. Please congratulate him from my side.” The driver appeared delighted with the victory.

“Sure Mohan and we too are grateful to you and to every single person of your village who had voted for him.” Rudra replied as he was getting out of the car. 

He ran towards his dad’s chamber. Phew! What a rush, flowers, garlands, sweets, it seems like I am crossing a carnival, he thought. Oh! There he is. He managed to get a brief sighting of his father from between the numerous heads and waving hands. 

“Dad!” He shouted. His word goes unheard amidst the excitement of crowd. He voiced louder this time, “Dad!” 

Chandra Gautam turned swiftly in response. His big brown eyes were trying to look for his son in the crowd.     

Rudra waved his hand and Chandra looked at him with a mystic smile. Chandra generously handled the brigade of supporters and indicated Rudra to wait in his cabin as he slowly sequestered out of the unceasing crowd. 

Gautam opened his cabin door.

“Dad, you have done it,” an elated son chimed. 

“No, we have done it, my son,” Gautam delightedly held his son’s shoulders and hugged him. 

“We all followed your instructions,” Rudra replied, “you were the writer and we merely enacted your script. Seriously dad, the world was unaware of such a political knowledge. Today I believe that even the scum of this dirty politics can be washed with morals of pure knowledge and hard work.” 

“Rudra, there is so much to change, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, the real task begins now,” Gautam stated. “Come, let’s have a cup of tea with your favorite salted cookies.”

Rudra sipped on his tea. 

Gautam’s overjoyed eyes adored his son, revering his presence in his life like a gratified parent. “You know Rudra, you are a gem. You have worked so hard & above all else you believed in me like an ardent follower. You have carried my message to the remotest locations and across the strata of society. This was a mammoth task & I can proudly say that I am blessed to have you by my side.”

“Come ‘on dad, now you are embarrassing me. I am what I am today because of you. All that I have learned is from you.” Rudra rubbed his palms to spread the heat received by holding the cup, the rubbing gradually halted as his fixed eyes stared the steam emanating out of the hot tea. A sudden flash of memories crossed his mind as he remembered the day he met Chandra Gautam. He must be five years old, as told by Tashi Bai. Tashi Bai was the monastery’s mother as she had so much of love and care for every child there. She was the epitome of kindness and love. She must be in her seventies back then. Her crinkled grey eyes were obscured by cataract. Even the cobweb of wrinkles on her face couldn’t hide the beautiful soul she possessed. Her face had an amazing bunch of lines, which crisscrossed each other wherever her loose skin sagged. She used to wear a red loose fit cape and a multicolored tiny beaded round cap. That amazing cap was Tashi bai’s own handicraft, so talented she was. Her grayish black hair were dense for her age, she always tied them in thin multiple braids. 

I so enjoyed counting them every day, he thought.

Whenever Rudra asked her about where and how she found him, she told him an amazing story: ‘In the month of June or July she went for grazing the goats in the mountains, singing her favorite folk song. A song that sounded like an opera in the valleys of Himalayas. She came looking for her lost goat down the hill and saw a beautiful rudraksha tree. That tree was so majestic that it was standing alone like a giant warrior between the tall snow-capped hills. It had long cylindrical trunk and blue pyramidal crown. The otherwise evergreen tree had shed almost all its leaves but hundreds of blue rudraksha fruits were studded over its branches. The geometrical branches of that blue tree had the shape of a giant pyramid. She heard a faint cry of a baby, so she went ahead to see. She found a four month old baby boy lying in the crevice of land which was cushioned by the fresh leaves of that tree. She took him out of the mother earth’s womb and named him Rudra.’ I use to believe her story then, Rudra had a simpering smile on his face.

The monastery was picturesque like scenery. Amidst the snow capped mountains of the Himalayas there was a small town called Nidelli, the monastery was at the heart of this town. The building had four separate units pointing at the poles with a central garden and prayer area. The monastery was run by learned monks, who knew vedas right at the back of their head and were accomplished with the art of meditation. They taught vedas, Sanskrit, yoga, meditation and techniques of vedic self defense to the children. One day Rudra was playing with a singing bowl, which is a uniquely designed brass bowl to produce a soothing sound, the monastery had one such huge bowl right in front of the meditation hall. Upon hitting the rim of the bowl gently with a wooden rolling pin and then dragging it along its circumference a calming vibrating sound is generated. Rudra saw a man coming towards him. Was he fascinated with the calming sound of the bowl or was he eager to know how a little boy was making music out of a simple giant bowl was something little Rudra was unsure of. 

As he approached further, Rudra found him walking synchronously with the vibrations of the bowl, making his walk slow and elegant. That man was in his mid-thirties, he had big brown eyes that had the glitter of gold. His well chiseled face had an unusual combination of sun’s charm and calmness of the moon. His centrally parted dark brown hair was waving along the contours of his face reaching just below his broad shoulders. His light brown scanty beard was confined to a few millimeters above his jaw-line and was barely touching his moustache. His face was thin and long, his features sharp and well carved. He wore a white boat neck kurta with a distinct big golden locket of a rising sun resting over his sternum. He came to stand right in front of Rudra and before the little boys eyes could rise up to reach his face, he picked him in his arms and said, “Sorry son, I am late.” He took him to the head monk’s chamber. “Namaste!” He greeted the monk. 

The head monk or Guruji as they all called him sat on the ground wearing a red commodious full sleeved robe that skirted around his knees with red broad bottoms. This was the attire for all the monks in the monastery. Guruji was sitting in gyan posture i.e. only his index finger were touching his thumbs while the rest of the palm was straight and resting over his knees facing upwards. 

Guruji replied to him by slightly bending his neck. “Rudra, why don’t you go outside and play, we’ll call you in some time,” he asked Rudra. 

Rudra left the room but kept wondering about that man and why he said, ‘sorry, I am late’?

The stranger came back after twenty minutes and this time with Guruji. “Rudra, it’s time to go home”, he sat down on his knees and held Rudra’s tiny hands between his fingers and thumb. 

Rudra looked at Guruji, his big turquoise eyes were open wide, his subtly open lips froze as he didn’t know what to say.

“Rudra, he is your paternal uncle and he has come to take you to your real home.” Guruji’s words weren’t just enough to sway Rudra’s muddle. 

Rudra gave his neck a quick jerk to stare at that stranger briefly. “But I don’t think I know him and I am pretty sure I haven’t met him before,” the little boy replied with a straight face. 

Rudra’s naïve and brazen response was followed by the gleeful chuckle of that stranger and Guruji

Guruji bent and rubbed Rudra’s frontal hair, “Silly boy, you were too young to remember him, he is your uncle. You are in very safe and efficient hands now. Trust me son, one day you will remember this day as one of the most important days in your life. He’ll groom you to such an extent that only a few people in this whole world gets the luxury to.” 

“Does that mean, I have to leave this monastery?” Rudra questioned.

“Right son, but you know why this makes me happy? Because you will be going to an even better place,” Guruji’s eyes had a flicker of assurance.

“Can I just say goodbye to someone?” Rudra asked the head above with taunted brows and filled eyes.

“Sure son”, Guruji smiled.

Rudra ran to search for Tashi Bai. He looked at the sun. It was slightly towards the west. He figured that it must be 1:30 p.m. and Tashi Bai must have finished her lunch and she must be sitting and knitting under the banyan tree. He rushed to find her and reached there almost breathless. 

Tashi bai tried to look through her cataract stricken eyes. She wasn’t sure who was coming towards her in such a hurry.

“Tashi ba,” his thin voice was broken by rapid puffs after running so fast. “I am going.”

Her shaky rough hands were the gentlest ever to touch his cheeks, “Going where baba?” she asked.

“My uncle has come to take me home. I have to leave this monastery.”  Rudra’s amateurish eyes could no longer hold on to those tears.

“Oh! Baba, I will miss you,” her pearly eyes were drenched. Many tears rolled down her creased face. She gave him a long, tight hug.

“Tashi ba, don’t cry. Guruji said I am in very safe hands.” Rudra wiped her tears with his soiled little hands.

“Ah! Baba, if Guruji said so then I don’t think there is any doubt about it, but I will remember my most beloved son every single day.” She kissed his forehead and blessed him to live a thousand years. 

Rudra came to Guruji’s chamber where they both were waiting for him and he finally left the monastery.

Chandra Gautam has been everything to him since then. Only a few things have changed now. Chandra’s shoulder long hair is reduced to just an inch long and his lithe face has acquired the elegance of age while his energy and agility is still the same. 

Guruji was right. Rudra had been nurtured in the best hands. Gautam raised him, loved him, protected him and educated him with some of the unique skills that only a few special ones are blessed to receive. He had a vast knowledge which is not confined to any particular discipline. His poise, his eloquence, his excellent communication skills and suave personality made an irresistible impact on people who met him or have ever heard him speak. He had an unusually fast speed of thinking that in spite of being a prodigy himself, it was difficult for little Rudra to follow his train of thoughts. Gautam always told Rudra that it’s in their DNA, like those few families where brilliance runs in blood, but Rudra knew he had a long way to go. 

‘Success is a byproduct of knowledge’, this phrase was spot on for Rudra’s dad. Be it micro financing the small and marginal farmers and helping them with pioneering agricultural techniques or venturing new set-up for poor’s with his business acumen. From venture philanthropy to addressing some of the most pressing social issues to even helping a person or a family through their tough times. It was a corollary to his good deeds over the years that had left a mark in people’s mind, ergo he will be swearing in as the prime minister of India in a few days.

“So Rudra, why are you so silent, are those flash visions bothering you again?” Gautam’s eyes narrowed as he looked at him.

“No dad,” He smiled. “This time they came with my permission.” 

Gopal entered the room with a whiny squeak of the door hinge, like a metal rubbing against metal. Gopal was a short man in his late forties. His straight, silky and sparse hair was greased neatly to follow the contours of his scalp. “It sure needs some greasing, I’ll get it fixed today”, Gopal murmured. “Hi Rudra.” He waved. “Chandra sir, total valid votes were 642804257 out of which 53% voted for us, which mean around-”

“340686256.21,” Rudra and Gautam uttered together.

“You know even a calculator takes time because you have to feed the information and all but apart from you two, aren’t these numbers amazing. We will have a majority.” Gopal zestfully pulled a chair to sit next to Rudra.

“Yes it is amazing.” Gautam gave a cup of tea to him. 

Gopal was Chandra Gautam’s close associate who has been working for him for more than twenty years. 

“So now it’s time for you to take a break and have some fun,” Gautam suggested while dipping a biscotti into the steaming teacup. 

Rudra had a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics from the University of Oxford. Soon after completing his research on theoretical astrophysics and plasma physics he moved back to India to assist Chandra Gautam with his political aspirations. Since five years, Rudra has been working with him at the grass root level, helping and understanding the needs of the citizens who lack resources, knowledge and vision to transform their lives. 

“Who? Me?” Rudra asked.

“Yes, you have been working night and day. Now when the results are out and they are way more than what we had expected, you deserve a break from this tedious work and a bonus for your splendid performance.” Gautam leaned back in his chair to sip his tea.

“But dad, how can I leave before the swearing in? There is so much work to do.” Rudra’s words expressed his solicitude.

Gautam countered, “That will be taken care of. I have planned it all, the swearing in will be two days from now. But I don’t want you to be there because if you are here, you will take everything in your own hands.”

“What do you mean? You don’t want me to see you swearing in as the prime minister? A dream for which we all had been working for over these years,” he frowned.

“See. You are too young to waste your precious time bothering about everything around you,” Gautam explained, “Also I feel your frequent flash visions are an outcome of the anxiety and stress you have been handling. How will you enjoy your life if you will bother about every little work? I want my old son back. I want you to start living Rudra. I want you to savor some quality time with your friends or enjoy your solitude or do whatever you wish but just take a break from this work and tell me where you want to go?”

Rudra was lost, somewhere in the abyss of his own thoughts. He knew something was not right with him, he also knew how desperately he wants to correct it for the sake of his own peace. Gautam’s advice appeared as a silver lining to come out of that vagueness. “I want to walk the place I see,” He replied with a pensive face and dreamy eyes.

“Ok let’s make the arrangements Gopal, Rudra will leave for Kathmandu tomorrow,” Gautam declared.  

                                                                                        Chapter 2

 

It was the end of a big day for Rudra. There was overplay of emotions and subsequent over release of adrenaline as he discussed and pondered over their achievement throughout the day. He met over a thousand supporters and workers over the day and was tired even before leaving the office. He was resting in his apartment, lying down on the couch and cuddling a throw for some warmth. He surfed through the channels to fade away the pace of his clashing thoughts. His face froze, his eyes widened to see a giant rainbow, the biggest that he had ever seen, emanating from behind his muted television screen. His eyes fixedly glared at that sight. The television disappeared and a giant crystalline obelisk grew in its place. His couch turned into a snow hillock. He was in the same snowy mountain again, in the middle of nowhere. His anxious eyes followed the arch of the rainbow that had emerged from the towering obelisk. It was going all across and behind the snow covered Himalayan peak, glittering along its way. Before he could cherish that oddly alluring sight, a sudden force pulled the rainbow into the giant pillar. The obelisk was unable to contain that sucked up rainbow within itself and started to disintegrate. Soon it radiated the rainbow light through its numerous cracks. That bright flash blurred the surroundings and within seconds everything turned back to normal. Rudra kept gazing at the white ceiling, fascinated by what he just saw. He got up, took his coffee mug and stepped out into his balcony. 

It is a good sign to see a rainbow, he thought. His smiling lips sipped the coffee, even this one was bitter. He wondered why he picked a new brand of coffee from the store. 

The vision made one thing clear in his mind that he is going in the right direction. He started to prepare for his morning flight to Kathmandu. He arranged things in order and crossed the items in his checklist. It was behavioral for Rudra to do tasks in order. Unlike any bachelor house, his apartment was neat as a pin with everything kept in apple pie order. It didn’t take him long to finish his work and then go to sleep early for his morning flight. 

He got up with his morning alarm at 6:00 a.m. and got ready. After cross checking the locks and switches twice, he boarded a car to reach the airport. It was a two hour long flight. He arrived at the Kathmandu airport at 1:00 p.m. He had to wait there for about an hour for his next flight to Pokhara, which is the closest city accessible by air for the high pass trek of Annapurna Himalayan range. At 1:45 p.m. he started to board. They had strict baggage rules and almost everyone’s baggage was heavier but not Rudra’s and two others, so they paid no fines. In less than ten minutes the boarding was complete. It was a small seventy seater ATR plane. The take off was a bit bumpy but the plane soared to finally relax in the stratosphere. The chasing Himalayas pierced the clouds and followed him. Only some part of the Himalayan apexes were visible above the clouds. It appeared as if hundreds of children of disparate sizes with white hair were peeking out of the cloud fence to watch his plane. 

The plane reached Pokhara in just twenty five minutes. Though the city comes only second to Kathmandu in Nepal yet it was a small hill town with greenery and nature bracing it all the way and was less congested. The string of snowy mountains neck laced the city. 

Gopal managed to book a room for Rudra in one of the finest hotels of the city. From there he will be leaving early morning the next day to start his trek for Annapurna Mountain range. After checking into the hotel room, he kept his bags and ended up at the hotel’s restaurant to have his lunch. The restaurant was nearly empty as it was an odd time. Apart from him, there were just a few European travelers who might have returned from their trekking trip as they seemed dog tired and a newlywed Nepalese couple. After finishing his meal which was quite late for lunch and early for dinner he retired early to wake up fresh for his morning trek tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                ###

 

The first leg of the journey for him was from Pokhara to Beshi Sahar. It was 5:00 a.m. in the morning. A private taxi arranged by the camp manager was waiting for him. 

Namaste sir! Myself Babu, let me help you with your luggage,” a short man with a round face, wearing a khaki shirt and black pants hastened to pick up his luggage.  

“Sir three more travelers will be accompanying you,” Babu introduced them. There were three Swedish travelers, one woman named Asta and two men named Enok and Daan. Rudra greeted all of them.

“Sir, Mr.Gopal had called up personally to arrange the best trip for you and we are obliged to have you as our guest,” Babu’s delighted face was clearly expressing his happiness to render his service to the son of the newly elected Prime Minister of his neighboring country. 

“Call me Rudra, please.”

“Ok sir.” 

“So tell me Babu, how many people are there in the camp?” Rudra asked.

“It’s a small camp sir, we take no more than twelve people for trekking at a time and we cover almost every possible and accessible location in the Annapurna circuit. The remaining people will be joining us at Chamje, they started from Kathmandu early morning today and will reach there around the same time.” Babu’s reply initiated their journey through the highways of Nepal.

They reached Beshi Sahar at 7:30 a.m. Till Beshi Sahar the road was smooth to some extent, many people start hiking from here. Their camp manager had decided to cut short their hike for preserving some energy for Throng La pass which is the highest pass of Annapurna circuit and one of the most difficult in the world to ascend. The narrow stony mountain trekking path was a difficult terrain for their fuel eating buddy but it was an adventure to roll it over the flowing streams and waterfalls along the way. After four and a half hours they reached Chamje.

“Sir, madam, we have reached Chamje. See the camp organizer is waiting there with the other trekkers.” Babu pointed at a group standing on their left, “Happy trekking to you all.”

“Babu, you won’t be coming?” Daan asked.

“No sir. It’s winters and the highway road ahead is inaccessible, I am fit only to drive, not to hike.” Babu’s misleading smile had glances of blues.

“But you might have some experience of trekking the Himalayas, haven’t you?” Asta asked promptly.

“No mam, not all Nepalese are mountaineers,” he chuckled quietly, “only physically fit people are allowed to trek. I have developed hypothyroidism and so no longer medically fit for higher altitudes.” 

“Oh! I see. But do you have any insights for the trek Babu?” Asta questioned.

“Yes madam, don’t be afraid of the suspension bridge, they are safe.” Babu’s reply stirred a mix of smile and laughter.

“Come everyone let’s meet Alok, he is our camp manager,” Babu guided them ahead. “I must suggest, looks can be deceiving here as his experience is way more than that youthfulness on his face.”

A small man with his arms folded and fist concealed well behind his elbow came running towards them. 

“That’s an interesting way of running,” Enok commented as everyone looked at that unique run.

“You know what’s more interesting? This manner of running actually runs in their tribe.” Babu mentioned. 

Namaste sir. My name is Hari. I am one of your porters. Welcome to Annapurna Parbat.” He bowed his head to greet everyone individually.  

“Hello Hari. Meet Rudra, Daan, Enok and Asta.” 

“Sir I will take care of the luggage, you all can meet Alok sir and the rest of the camp members.” Hari ran towards the car boot to get the luggage.

Alok was a fairly young lanky guy in his early twenties. His face was thin, elongated and flawless with just a dash of puberty moustache to add to his masculinity. 

“Hi Alok!” 

“Hey Babu!”

“Meet Asta, Enok, Daan and Rudra. They all are yours now.”

“Thanks Babu and hello to everyone. Let’s meet your other trekking companions. This is Miranda and Ben from Burgos, Spain.” 

Their introduction was followed by amiable gesticulations of the camp group.

“Welcome to the world’s most elongated circular trek. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Alok Sherpa. I am your camp manager, organizer and your guide for the tour. I have undergone advanced level training in mountaineering, mountain rescuing and trekking. Trust me ladies and gentleman you are in young, adventurous yet very safe hands,” Alok grinned. “We will trek for not more than six to seven hours per day in our fourteen day trip. We will be staying in the tea houses and lodges of the adjoining villages along the trekking circuits. Also we will be carrying enough tents in case anyone of you wants to enjoy the lonesomeness at remote locations or in case of non-availability of accommodation. We have a cook and his name is Bahadur-” he pointed at a small man who was standing along with the other porters. 

Namaste,” Bahadur greeted everyone. 

“-And three porters to carry some of your gears as well as other important equipment for the camp,” Alok again pointed them out. “Our company is a member of TAAN i.e. trekking agencies association of Nepal and in case of any situation or emergency we will not ask you to forget it and continue the trip,” he laughed. “But we will take it as a responsibility and help you come out of it in the best possible way. So without wasting any time, let’s start our first trek towards Dharapani which will roughly be around five hours from here.” 

Chamje was a small village amidst the verdant valleys of Himalayas. Luscious rain forests and clamorous rivers entwined the well developed routes. Numerous suspension bridges which were surely safe to cross over fascinated the trekkers. For four days they crossed the pine forests, felt the sanctity of touching the prayer wheels and walked over rigid stones and bridges on the turbulent rivers. Those wooden bridges made by locals were singing high notes to match up to the rhythm of caroling water. The mountain was turning snobbish and steep. With every step and breath it challenged their zeal. On the contrary the motherly side of Annapurna was alleviating their discomfort with a constant boost from magna mater. 

Alok ascended the routes as if he owned that place. He was so acquainted with every nook and cranny that he fascinated the journey with tales and geological, botanical and zoological aspects of every bit of land they stepped over or saw. After crossing the crystal blue Marsayandi River they headed west and reached Manang at 6:00 P.M on the fifth day. 

The camp was resting in the lodge’s living room. Bahadur had served them warm refreshing ginger tea with cookies.

“This lodge is probably the best stay we had so far,” Ben stated.

“Yes, best one in terms of mountain luxury,” Asta added as she dropped a purification tablet to the glass of water and gave it a stir. 

“Manang is the largest village in this trekking circuit. The facilities you find here would be utmost. After eating daal bhaat for four days in a row, you will thank me for tonight’s dinner.” Alok raised his brows and radiated a broad smile.

“Ah! Seems like Alok is all set to woo us today,” Asta said. She kept her glass at the teak wood table and looked at Alok who was amusing over his own arrangements for the camp’s dinner tonight.

The lodge was actually a home stay. It was a double storied structure with multiple rooms and attached bathrooms in the upper floor and a big living area, kitchen and the caretaker’s outhouse at the lower. The hall had a huge dining table on its right end to accommodate ten people and a comfy corner sofa with few chairs on its left. A chimney with a wrought iron cage was positioned at the centre. 

After thirty minutes at 7:30 P.M. sharp, the dinner was served. 

“Pizza, noodles, sandwiches. Oh Alok! Annapurna is really Annapurna, ‘the Goddess of food’,” Enok was taken by surprise to look at the dinner spread topping that creaky wooden table.

“Yes, Goddess Annapurna has bestowed her love on you,” Alok replied. “I told you Manang has much to offer, now one more day here for acclimatization and then we will continue our trek towards Letdar.” Alok pulled a chair to sit next to Rudra. Rudra was sitting on the chair in front of a small tea table and was busy rubbing his hands with a sanitizer, preparing himself to grab that luscious food. 

Alok’s narrowed eyes were hooked at Rudra’s palms. “I am bewildered to see how you have been managing your hygiene standards,” he commented. “But I would love to see when you will dodge them. As you know my friend, Annapurna is one of the deadliest mountains of the world.” Alok’s thin lip curled at one end, his mind had already conceived a notion about Rudra. “But tell me one thing, why a sanitizer here?”

“Couldn’t find a liquid soap here, moreover it is a homemade herbal sanitizer. I always weigh the amount of chemicals I expose my body to.” Rudra picked up a carrot stick kept on the table and dipped it into the mayo.

“Huh! Impressive.” Alok munched a dumpling from his soup. He bent his head to whisper his mind out on Rudra’s ear, “But that has not brought me here. I saw something in your mesmerizing turquoise eyes. But nope, it’s not something that makes the girls go crazy for you.” He giggled. “I have seen turmoil in your eyes. It appeared almost like a furor. It is quite uncommon because whenever someone visits Himalayas they experience tranquility and calm but your internal disturbance is only growing each day as we are ascending.”

Rudra sneered at Alok’s mocking tenor. “I would call it anticipation instead,” he paused, “Come, let’s eat, my taste buds are tickling with the mere smell of this tasty food.”

“Oh! C’mon Rudra. Is your mannerism to avoid that question actually pointing towards some unsettled issues in your life?” Alok’s insolent words needed the numbness of a tacit reply. 

“No Alok…not everyone has unresolved issues with their parents,” Rudra took a fleeting look at Alok’s wrist and added, “Or with their dads to be precise.” 

The statement was enough to rub Alok the wrong way. Rudra’s words shrunk his forehead. “My dad, really? How much do you know about me to even say something like that? Are you even aware of what you are saying?” Alok’s eyes were full of agony and confusion.

Rudra halted his reply for a few seconds. He noticed Alok pushing out his lower lip in annoyance while waiting for his reply. Rudra explained, “A young boy who has just crossed the milestone of teenage but has a mountaineering experience far ahead of his age, not only in his native Himalayas but across the major elevations of the world. Your excellent knowledge of terrains shouts out loud that it is an outcome of a comprehensive study. How you explain even the minutest of the details associated with these mountains is something which you have acquired on your own because no mountain guide can train you to that extent. Not just that, your over disciplined schedule and rules which seems to be so deeply engraved in your brain tells the story of a son trained by an authoritarian dad. On the other hand, that hand woven scarf which you wear which doesn’t go with any of your branded stuff and this red thread on your wrist tells the story of a son over pampered by his mother. So buddy, you were wrong. The restlessness you saw in my eyes isn’t similar to yours, the latter being a result of a constant urge to prove that you are doing the right thing.” Rudra looked directly into his eyes throughout the conversation to notice the slightest of the changes in his expressions. Hearing Rudra’s words, Alok’s eyes widened and he began to blink at a faster rate. “Or doing the right profession which was surely against your father’s will.” Rudra added.

Alok was spellbound by the charm of Rudra’s unusual skill, at the same time he was flustered at surfacing a well concealed truth in front of a near stranger. He imbibed the situation and replied with a heavy voice, “Excellent cold reading. So this is what brings you to the Himalayas, to read the cold mountains and crack open some truth.”

“No. As I said, it is just out of anticipation. Come let’s grab some dinner.” 

Undeniably disappointed with the answer Alok got up from his chair and joined him for dinner. The subsequent conversation between them through the dinner was devoid of any words.

Soon after the dinner, the group headed back to their respective rooms. After an exhausting day and heavy meal, sleep came on the dot.

 

                                                                                     Chapter 3

 

Oh! Smell of this weed is suffocating me, Rudra thought as he rolled over his bed out of discomfort. He got up and squeezed his forehead and nose. His eyes were still trying hard to open. A constant smoke of marijuana was coming from the caretaker’s cabin. He walked out of his bed to close the window. He looked at the clock. It’s 5:30 in the morning, how can someone start smoking so early? He thought and juggled his head. He moved towards the opposite window to open and ventilate the space. He took a few deep breaths to fill his lungs with fresh air, the view outside was breathtaking. Tall frigid mountains traversing the clouds and, wait a second. “It’s a rainbow!” He shouted and hurriedly grabbed his coat. He ran towards the stairs to go out and get a wider view of the rainbow. 

Hari heard him stepping down the noisy and creaky wooden staircase. “Sir, tea,” he offered in his low and flat voice.

Rudra ran across the hallway by the side of the kitchen to step out through the backdoor. “Wait Hari, bring my tea outside and come fast,” he threw a reply just before stepping out of the door.

Rudra gasped, “Phew! Wow! I have never seen a rainbow so beautiful.” His breathless words were excited to see the view ahead. 

The rainbow was unique. It roughly covered three arid peaks of Annapurna, originating from behind and middle of the very first peak. A perfect vibgyor against a fairly white background was a treat for the onlooker. 

“Hari, Hari!” Rudra shouted.

“Sir……coming.”

Rudra moved towards the building to look for Hari. He was stepping out of the kitchen. He carried a tray with a cup of steaming tea and a plate full of cookies. His monkey cap, tiny features and thin moustache along with his distinct way of walking in baby steps with a forward bent spine brought an instant smile on Rudra’s face. 

“Sir, tea,” Hari offered.

“Thanks Hari. Come with me I need to show you something.” Rudra took him to the place from where he saw the rainbow, but there was no sign of it now.

“Oh! It vanished.” Rudra was surprised, as within a few seconds the rainbow disappeared completely.

“What has vanished sir?” Hari asked to know the reason for Rudra’s disappointment. 

“There was a beautiful rainbow covering those three peaks. It was coming from somewhere behind that acute snowy peak with black ridges.” Rudra pointed at the peak.

Hari thumped his chest a little with a jerk of elf laughter, “Sir, are you sure?” 

“Yes Hari, but why? What’s so funny about it?” He asked suspiciously.

“Look at that place again sir.”

Rudra gave a once-over to scan that area again. He glanced at the parched mountains and its barrenness, every bit of land was bone-dry and had no sign of greenery. “It’s a high-altitude desert.” Rudra’s words answered the question he had asked.

“Exactly sir. The place you pointed is more than 6000 meters above sea level and is in a rain-shadow area. Can you see those tall peaks?” Hari questioned.

“Yes”

“Clouds cannot pass them and behind those peaks is Pokhara, the city which receives maximum rainfall in Nepal.”

“What about that place?” Rudra asked.

“Which place? Pokhara?” Hari wasn’t sure what he meant.

“No, the one I pointed, I mean from where the rainbow was originating.”

“Oh! That. It must be some twenty odd kilometers from here. Moreover it’s not in our trekking route. We will go to-”

Rudra interrupted him, “How much time will it take to reach there if I start now?”

“Now!” Hari screamed brazenly. “No, no sir you cannot go there now. You have to acclimatize yourself for at least a day. If you continue to ascend, it might result in lung swelling which can turn fatal.” Hari’s concern was obvious.

“I know Hari, but I really need to go. Just guide me how to reach there.” Rudra was adamant.

“I don’t think it’s a wise idea sir.” 

“Don’t worry. I have enough experience with mountaineering.” Rudra was right. This was not his first mountain trek. He and Chandra Gautam have climbed many mountains in the Alps range and Himalayas. 

“But it will take more than seven hours for you to reach there. You can’t trek at night which means you will have to spend the night there and the weather of Annapurna is insanely unpredictable. You are trying to set your foot at a place no known human has ever walked, that part is the deadliest part of the most deadly mountain on earth. I request you sir, please abandon this plan.” Hari pleaded.

“Don’t worry. I am an experienced mountaineer. I have scaled another such deadly peak like K2.” Rudra had already set his mind. He wanted to convince Hari to help him reach that place.

“But Sir.” 

“Relax Hari. Just tell me the route.” 

“Ok sir, if you wish. But that place is not a part of the circuit. The trail will be extremely dangerous. It is prone to avalanche and is very deserted. I will draw a map for you based purely on my logic and understanding of the mountain as even I am unaware of the exact route. After reaching there, find a safe place to set a tent and spend the night there as it will be suicidal to trek down on the same day, also so late in the evening. So early mornings you must start your trek back to Manang. Even if the rest of the camp goes, I’ll stay here for you and then we can continue our trip.” Hari’s reply wasn’t synchronizing with his anxious looks.

“Thanks Hari.” Rudra was finally at relief, that though unwillingly but Hari finally agreed to help him with his plan. 

“In fact Sir, I’ll come with you.” Hari prompted to lend his help.

“No Hari, I can’t take you with me.” Rudra shook his head many times making sure that he was stern on his decision.

“Sir I insist.” He joined his hands in request.

“No Hari.” Rudra never wanted to unnecessarily involve him into his internal tussle.

“But Alok sir will never allow this.” Hari was right, Alok was too particular about camp rules and now he had an additional crease of grudge against Rudra.

“Tell him that I left a note and that even you weren’t aware of my plans. You must understand that it is really important for me and trust me Alok will understand.” Rudra knew somewhere that Alok would be more comfortable in continuing the trek without him.

They started to prepare for the trek. Hari gave him a detailed map which defined the route with the tiniest of details to make sure that he reaches the right place. Hari forewarned Rudra with the perils of that route.  

Rudra was ready for his solitary mountain trek. He packed all the gadgets, food, water and medicines that he would need during his ascent. To make sure that he reaches an unascertained location by noon, he started sharp at 6:30 a.m. 

Just I, my two alpine axes and my backpack, I am ready to walk over my dreams, he thought. I know it was not a normal rainbow, nor was I hallucinating. The rainbow was starkly similar to the one I had seen in my vision and I can’t wait to find out the phenomenality behind it.

He crossed the occasional pastures of grazing yaks, effete lands and tortuously callous paths. As the altitude continued to rise, the raw wind and thin air made it difficult for him to trek with his normal pace. He took a hundred meter horizontal detour. There was some strange logic going at the back of his head which was cogent enough to convince him to walk that unknown path. After a while he reached an icy lake, it was déjà vu.

I know this place. I have seen this lake and the flying birds. He swayed his head to look up and yes, there was a flock of Himalayan birds gliding across the peaks. Just a single bird was sitting next to the lake. Rudra closed his eyes and looked at that bird again. It was some Himalayan species of goose with orange beak and legs, its white head had two unique black bars, one crossing its head just at the level of its eyes while the other five centimeters beneath it. Its light grayish thorax with white streaks was illuminating a yellow light which was confined below its long grey neck, going till its abdomen. The rest of its body had a weak hazy outline of yellow light. Rudra took off his backpack, removed his shoes and sat on the ground with crossed leg and a straight spine. He started to perform some breathing exercises. The unusual light coming from the bird’s thorax was nothing but a weak bio-photonic emission, otherwise undetectable by naked human eyes. It helped Rudra to understand how that creature was acclimatizing to such high altitude by hyperventilating its body with short frequent breaths. After fifteen minutes of rhythmic breathing Rudra looked at his altimeter watch, it displayed 4275 meters. He still had to climb eight hundred odd meters. 

He started to trek again. He walked for five hours, his nostrils puffed steam and his chest hurled rapidly. The mountain ridge was stubbornly steep and loaded with deceiving layers of loose snow. Stepping over that obscurity not only needed an experience in snow mountaineering but also the nerves of steel. 

He finally reached the hill from where the rainbow appeared to originate, but he didn’t know where to go from there. He looked around the place. It was as deserted as it can be. He took a few deep breaths and sat over a rock nearby. He ate some energy bars and drank water to contain his bodily energies while his eyes vehemently searched for some sign to go forth. He had no time to sit ideally. Twenty minutes have already passed since he had been there. He decided to make a move and look for a suitable place to set his tent. Distressed by how the events have unfolded he slowly began to walk ahead. He took a few steps just when he heard someone chanting, “Om.” Someone with an unusually thin baby like voice was hymning Om. Rudra halted and looked towards his right. The voice seems to be coming from that direction, he thought and dashed towards it.

He walked an uneven staircase which was naturally carved out on a pile of horizontal sheets of rocks that in turn was cushioned with fresh snow. He reached the top of that small hillock but he couldn’t find anyone there.

“So you are finally here Rudra.” Someone spoke with the same fine voice.

“Who? Where?” Rudra turned and looked around. “And how do you know my-” Rudra was jolted by what he saw. On top of a big flat ovoid stone with furrowed edges was lying a bright yellow soiled robe, over it was sitting a creature hardly a forty to fifty centimeters in height and with a million wrinkle flaps all over his body. He had the anatomy of an adult human but the size of a meerkat. He was sitting in lotus position with closed eyes. His scanty hair covered his wrinkled scalp completely and were long enough to flow and rest on the yellow cloth underneath. His thin brown triangular beard which by some means managed to grow out of his creased flappy jaw was resting over his ankles, barely concealing his nude wrinkled body. He gently opened his eyes. His eyes were saggy like the rest of his body but also were pure and bright like that of a newborn. His eyes had big black iris with just a thin rim of paleness around. His nose, ears and cheeks dangled like his lose face. His puckered skin and ruck features were narrating some off the wall incident which shrunk that man to 1/10th of his original size. 

Keeping his angst at the bay Rudra asked, “Who are you and how do you know my name?” Rudra was flabbergasted. He had never seen or read something like that. Also, he being aware of his name only grew his daze.

“Naaame,” a sheer voice escaped his plunged, skin pleated sunken mouth. “What’s in the name Rudra Gautam, I know a lot more about you, even more than what you know about yourself.” He made the statement slowly moving his hand and barely opening his mouth transpiring an obvious difficulty in movement like a terminally ill patient. 

“There is something terribly wrong with you, you need help. I have never known about a disease which can cause atrophy to this extent. How long have you been here? No, why are you even here?” Rudra was devastated to look at his condition. “Ok let me, let me help you first.” Though still unsure of his stance, Rudra dubiously offered his help. 

“Care comes ahead of all, even whilst a thousand questions boggle your brain. It’s typical of you, isn’t it? How is the cognitive part of your brain dealing with the downpour of questions and inquisitiveness that could have otherwise been your prime concern?” His puckered lips stretched a little to articulate.

“We can discuss all that on our way to the hospital, but let me fix this first.” Rudra wasn’t really sure how long that creature would be able to survive. He was unable to understand that what he was witnessing was a result of some aberrancy or affliction. 

“There is nothing wrong with me son, my body is not diseased. Eventually you will come to know about everything, even the visions that bothered you from time to time, even the one that brought you here. Against all odds and alone you have travelled to a forsaken place just because you once saw a rainbow in your vision and then for real.” The words from that wrinkled creature hardened Rudra’s advancing emotions.   

“Wait! It’s going ferociously berserk now. Only two people in this world knew about my problem. No matter how strange it might sound but only I knew about the vision in which I saw that rainbow and if I haven’t shared it with anyone, then how on earth can you know it?” Rudra anxiously waited for an apposite reply. 

“Yes I know, but what if no one else but the person who is actually planting those visions in your brain knows about them.”

“What do you mean? Be direct.” 

“I planted those visions in your brain.” The creature spoke aloud.

“Oh! Seriously, though I am really amazed how you know all that, but telepathy? Is it so advanced a technology here in your hinterland world that sitting here you can make people think and act as per your whims and dispositions?” The ongoing drama that bemused him was now provoking his senses.

“You were given thoughts and visions of Himalayas because it was inevitable for you to come here. When you were asked where you want to go, of all the places in the world you said Himalayas. And tell me why you have chosen Annapurna specifically? Wasn’t it because you had seen Machhipuchare and Throng la in your visions, after which you would have searched extensively to know more about these locations and where they belonged, though you were quite certain it’s Himalayas. Rudra, there is a lot you need to explore, to help the world, to save the world. I am just delivering to you what is yours and I have been waiting for this to happen since ages.” 

His epilogue sounded like a testament. Rudra’s creased forehead was now eased. “I have no option but to trust you. No amount of technological advancement known to mankind can reveal all those facts you quoted.” Rudra didn’t take any more time as he needed no further explanations to garner his faith upon him.

“I am in process or rather verge of dissolving my body into light. Soon with a bright flash, I will disappear into emptiness forever. Thusly, in the process of enlightenment my body has been shrunk to this size or to its minimum.” 

“Disappear into light forever? Does it imply to the rainbow body?” Rudra could link it to something he had read about the highly venerated monks of Himalayas.

“Yes, now you can comprehend why you have seen that rainbow and what brings you here.” His statement answered a few of Rudra’s doubts. 

“The rainbow was your aura!” Rudra’s sluggish words had a prick of shock.

“Yes, I am just a milestone of your destined excursion. Your journey starts from here. You have to plan an odyssey to Mount Kailash soon after this.” 

“Mount Kailash, why?” 

“You have to endure a constant willingness for patience and fortitude, as the coming events will not only appear illogical or irrelevant but will sometimes appear like a hallucination. Trust me, in the end it will all turn deducible. You only have to make sure you follow what you have been told.” His raised finger stressed the significance of the words he spoke.

“But what and why you said about saving the world?” Rudra’s confusion was only soaring.

“As I said son, have patience. After I disappear forever, you will have to take my clothes and whatever is left behind to my monastery. The monks there will shelter you till the time you want to be there, just give all my belongings to them but not this one.” He took out a bright green irregular stone which was about five centimeters in size from beneath the yellow cloth and handed it over to him.

Rudra had never seen such a piece of gem before. It appeared to be getting illuminated from within and had glimpses of galaxy within, as if a million shiny stars were contained within along with numerous nebulas lying in between.

“What is this?” Rudra asked.

“It is called the Sirius stone.” 

“Is it the famous Sirius stone?” Rudra was taken aback by the happenings.

“Yes, it will stay with you till your quest is complete. It will give you strength and vision to move forward whenever you are in a dilemma and commotion. You should keep this with you all the time. Now as you move eastwards towards my monastery after some four hundred meters you will find a frozen cascade, you should take a left turn soon after that and walk for another eight kilometers in a straight line. No matter what may come you must strictly adhere to my directions in order to reach that place. Also son, rely on the directions from heavenly bodies because technology turns obsolete in comparison to nature sometimes. Once you reach close to the monastery, you will see the giant red pagodas from a distance. You can narrate how you met me and discuss the details with any of the monks of my monastery. They will further guide you to my chamber where you have to stay and find an ancient palm leaf script which I have kept hidden and well concealed so that it might not fall in any wrong hands.” 

“But where exactly in your room am I going to find it and why do you want to give it to me specifically if it’s so sacred?” Rudra couldn’t understand why he had planned and chosen him to be a part of this esoteric pursuit.

“Rudra, how often have things been normal with you? Normal people don’t have special powers, gifted brains and an exceptional physical endurance. Look at the distance you have ascended in a single day. Not only that, you managed to hike without acclimatizing which would have otherwise been disastrous for a normal human.” He asked as he stretched his curvy brows.

“Oh! That’s not true. No amount of physical strength can help you or save you from altitude sickness.” Rudra replied.

“Yes, but haven’t your years of yoga & breathing practices gave you an extra edge there.” Every word coming from his mouth only suggested how extensively he knew Rudra and gave Rudra’s senses a chase towards a blind end.

“It does, but my dad taught me all that, I was fortunate to learn all that from him.”

“Yes your dad. He was just polishing a precious stone. You are chosen to be the safeguard of an extremely clandestine piece of truth. This book is so precious that it should never fall in the hands of Barbarians.” He warned him of the dangers ahead.

“Barbarians! Who are they? Wait, you mean there is someone else also who is looking for this book?”

“Not only the book, they have a deeper motive. And if they succeed, this world will be in grave danger. So you not only have to take this book back with you as soon as you get it but you also have to make sure it stays with you and hidden from the world throughout your quest. Use your powers, stay cautious and keep distance from anyone who seems suspicious because they can come in any form. Pay heeds to my words, everything that is written in this book is a gospel and when I say that it means you should never doubt whatever you have correctly deciphered from it, even if it sounds irrational. I have just told you your next destination but this book will tell you why and wherefore you are standing at that place. But remember, you have to plan your trip to Mount Kailash and then after correctly reading the book and acting accordingly, you have to finish this work on or before the 13th night of the waning moon. And about your question as to how you are going to find that book, you have to feel the unseen and hear what’s unsaid.” He closed his eyes and raised his head again to sit back in the position he had been sitting into since God knows how many years.

“Wait …is it some kind of a puzzle?” Rudra shouted to disembark him from going back into a meditative trance and to answer his valid doubts before he finally disappear.

“Yes, but an easy one for Rudra Gautam. Now it’s time for me to go son. May you conquer!” His words were the last blessings that echoed the surroundings and muted Rudra’s call to stop.

“Wait, wait!” Rudra screamed.

Numerous streaks of bright rainbow light came out of every centimeter of his body. Rudra was unable to continuously gaze at him. His eyes blinked rapidly and eyelids were forced shut in response to the bleaching caused by that sharp, bright light. The last that he saw was a mosaic of skin around the rainbow light which kept diminishing and then with a blast he diminished into light completely, a light so bright that it can’t be looked upon. Rudra tried to adapt his eyes to see what was left behind. After a few seconds he was able to see properly. Only a few hairs were left on the yellow cloth where he was sitting. He kept the hairs in his backpack. As he pulled the yellow fabric a sound of metal dragged against a stone caught his attention, he lifted the cloth to reveal a small circular metal ring which had red and yellow blocks over its rim and some multicolor squares within. Rudra sat on his knees in front of that stone. Indolently he kept everything inside a separate front pocket of his backpack. He briefly stared at the place and then at the sky above. Reflection of the cotton sky sailed through his big turquoise eyes. There wasn’t a single crease of doubt on his forehead. His mental acquisitiveness was taking a shape now and was explicitly not futile. There was no question of him not going to that monastery, if a few visions can get him to the highest and deadliest peaks on earth then this was clear as a bell. Hence he took no time to weigh the semantics and moved forth. 

                                                                                                                         ###

 

Meanwhile at the Manang lodge…….

Alok was getting restive as there was no sign of Rudra since morning. Upon inquiring the caretakers and his porters he found that Rudra took his morning tea and went back to sleep after which he didn’t even come down for breakfast. Since it was already half past two in the afternoon, he decided to force open his door and he wasn’t surprised at what he found. As speculated, Rudra wasn’t there in his room and had left a note for him that read: 

‘Alok, I couldn’t avoid trekking to this important place which was not in our route. I will be back by noon tomorrow. Sorry for the troubles, see you soon.

Rudra’

I was right. You are here for some deeper motive, Alok thought. He hastily went down the stairs. The old wooden stairs took every jump and jerk with a reflex sound that grabbed the attention of the camp members who were having their lunch in the dining area.

“We will start our trek to Ledar tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. sharp.” Alok declared the modified itinerary to his camp and moved towards the kitchen to inform the cook and porters to make arrangements accordingly. 

Hari was concerned with his sudden change of plan and thus he followed him. “But sir what about Rudra sir, he will reach only by noon tomorrow.” Hari explicated his involvement. 

“So you were aware of his plans,” Alok growled in Hari’s ears. “Don’t you worry, Hari. Your sir will not trek forward with us, he has reached where he wanted to and this trekking route was never in his plan.”

“But sir, I must stay here in case he comes back.” Hari requested in a feeble tone with his neck bent and eyes digging into the wooden floor.

“No, no. You must hurry Hari. Pack your bags and go back to meet your family. Who knows, helping him might cost you to not meet your family for the next six months.” His wide open and glaring eyes stared at Hari’s discomfort. A sharp tick in his right eye released his pulled eyebrow. He added, “Also, don’t forget that he is a very important citizen of our neighboring nation. Just inform at the Kathmandu office if he doesn’t reach on time tomorrow, also if he does, whatever being the case and inform your fellow workers of the change in our schedule.” He banged the back door as he stepped out. He was chafed with Rudra’s actions and so he didn’t want to wait and take along a rule breaker.

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