Chapter 3 :
“That day a new chapter was written in the book of hell. A new era heralded in our dark world of crime and death. And a new death’s own messenger announced his arrival.”
“As you know Sam, most of our bodyguards and servants live in this mansion. So Saabji gave a room for the boy to live in here in this very mansion. It was a small room, but a room the boy did not have to share with anyone else. It was his and his alone. I thought at that time it might lead to resentment among others and i guess it did but no one protested openly. And then the training started.”
Samrat with supreme effort controlled his raging emotions and started paying attention to his Uncle.
“Everyday the training went on. Nobody knew the timings. No one had any idea when the boy woke up or slept if he ever did. Each moment that he could account for was spent under the tutelage of the legend called Rana. Sam! It is an honour to spend even an hour in the company of the man Rana. To hear him speak and share his experiences. And here that boy of 17 spent his entire days and nights learning from the master himself.”
Samrat controlling his growing resentment asked “Uncle! Rana is a shooter. Right! OK a great one. So that boy learnt only shooting and survival skills from Him. But i heard that he is good (Samrat choked at that word) in hand to hand fights too. So i am just curious where he picked up his other skills from”.
Bhanu Pratap smiled at his nephew. An enigmatic smile; the same smile of Mona Lisa as if she knows a secret she would like to share but is waiting for you to ask first.
He then replied “Sam! I know you would ask this question.Yes Rana is known for his shooting skills. He is almost a mythological figure in shooting world. No one challenged him in that area. At least no one who survived long enough to tell the tale. But there is a hidden facet of Rana that not many people know about or rather i should only 2-3 people are aware of it. One of them is Saabji Himself. I think that was the main reason he choose Rana to train that boy”.
Samrat was curious. Very curious.
He wanted his uncle to get on with the story in hurry but knowing his uncle Samrat knew that the older man will take his own time. So he maintained silence with effort.
Bhanu Pratap then revealed what Samrat was curious to know.
“Rana is a legendary shooter but more than guns, knifes and any other weapons with him, His most lethal weapons are His Hands”.
Samrat’s eyes widened up in surprise.
“Hands!” he whsipered softly.
“Yes! His hands!” reiterated Bhanu Pratap.
“Rana is beyond lethal in the field called hand to hand combat.”
Samrat asked in awe “You mean he knew Karate and stuff?”
Bhanu Pratap dismissed his nephew’s question in contempt.
“Karate and stuff like that are Child’s play for Rana. That man is trained in all known forms of attack and defence mortal combats. And his knowledge goes beyond what you youngsters could comprehend. Rana even mastered one of the toughest knowledge’s in Indian history of martial arts. I don’t know the name of that martial art form. I guess it is called marma or something. It trains one to paralyse, maim and kill another person with your bare hands. A very old art of Attack and indefensible. And I believe Rana is one of the few men who knew that art inside out. And if i am not wrong he passed on this and all other learnings and legacies of his to that boy.”
Samrat felt a burst of anger inside him. He asked in barely controlled anger
“How do you know that uncle? Rana may not have shared his Knowledge with that boy. After all as you said no one knew about that boy. So why would a man like Rana would willingly share his skills and learnings with a boy he has never heard off before and for all we know who was thrust upon him by Dad and was just a responsibility.”
Bhanu Pratap again smiled.
“Sam! What happened between those two during that training period no one knew. Though we all were curious. After all we are humans. Still no one dared to question either Rana or that boy. And i know that even Saabji never asked for any updates. But I know this for sure that Rana taught that boy everything he knew, everything he learnt and everything he mastered. And i know this like i know my own name and my love for you and my dead sister lad”.
“How?” Samrat asked in a tight voice.
“Because the day Rana accepted to take that boy under his wings, the moment he looked at the boy and said He will be giving that boy a Name when the boy is ready I saw in his eyes that He accepted that boy not as a responsibility but as a challenge. A challenge worthy enough to earn, learn and master his expertise.
Rana was a Master waiting for a student to pass his legacy on. With that boy his search ended!”
Samrat’s rage imploded inside him corroding his heart and guts. A nobody from nowhere earned a legend for a Master. And He; the true heir is cheated out of his rightful place in this world of power and death.
Samrat wanted to scream, shout and break everything in sight. But he knew this was not the time. So he looked at his uncle and asked in barely controlled voice.
“What happened next uncle?”
Bhanu Pratap took a deep swallow of whiskey from his glass. Then inhaled deeply. He stared at the unseen for a long moment.
Samrat was waiting patiently.
The older man started the saga of the past again.
“More than a year passed by. We accepted the boy. His unknown past. His silence.His arrangement with Rana. Though admittedly we all were curious to know more about that boy. And we would have loved to know about the training that Rana is giving to the boy. Still we gave that boy a wide way to just be himself. That calm, silent most of the time, almost invisible boy of 17. We rarely saw him, hardly talked with him and rarely heard him talk. Most of his waking hours were spent with Rana.
Do you know Sam that Rana lives in a farm house that is far away from here?”
Samrat shook his head in negative.
“Yes! Bhanu Pratap said “He lives in an old fashioned farm house close to jungle. Far away from hustle bustle of the city. That boy spent most of his days and sometimes nights there. We rarely saw him here in the mansion. During rare occasions he was here he just used to come for lunch or dinner depending upon the time, sit silently in corner, finish his food and go back to his room. I have never seen him speaking to anyone voluntarily. He spoke when spoken to. Mostly one line answers to our questions mundane questions like how are you and all that. We never asked him what he is learning under Rana or what does he do in his room all alone when he gets any free time.”
But underneath all this acceptance of that boy I could feel some undercurrents of resentments long buried among some young guns in our gang. Older and wiser men knew it was prudent to keep away from that boy. It’s the younger ones who wanted to have a go at the boy who was having the privilege of being trained under a Master besides being someone chosen by Saabji himself. I knew the boy will be challenged soon. And that day came and How!”
Samrat’s eyes lit up. Finally his uncle is going to tell him that part of the story he kept dangling out of the reach of his. He was curious to know how that boy was challenged. Was he attacked and beaten up. Or he defended himself emerging as a hero. Samrat gave a derisive smile at the thought of the boy emerging as a Hero but still looking appealingly at his uncle to continue with the story.
Bhanu Pratap went on with the tale. He had a smile on his face. He knew Samrat was waiting for this part the story the moment he heard the snippet of it. So smiling at his beloved nephew he continued:
“I remember that day so clearly. So vividly! I don’t think i will ever forget it. It was night time. We all were having dinner in the banquet hall of our mansion. It was buffet. We all were eating, drinking, talking loudly. Some of us were drunk, some sober but all were having good time. Then that boy entered. There was a moment of silence when we saw him entering. Then we went on with our discussions, drinks, food and fun. The boy silently went to the food stalls, took a plate, chose whatever he wanted to have and was coming back to a vacant table to sit with his food laden plate in his hand.”
Bhanu pratap then went silent as if he wanted to gather that moment of the past from his memory.
Samrat asked in hushed tones.
His uncle gave him a loving smile then continued.
“So the boy was just walking towards a vacant table in the corner carrying his plate. Suddenly a guy called Rocky simply blocked his path with his foot. Rocky was sitting on a chair and he stretched his foot deliberately to stop the boy from moving forward. Now i must tell you about this character Rocky. He is one of those high on hormones, cocky confident young man of 25- 27years wearing those hideously tight t-shirts to show off his bulging muscles. All brawn no brain. Just a hunk of a raging bull kind of young guy.”
Samrat tried not to laugh at his uncle’s description of Rocky character. He arranged his face in polite expression and looked at his uncle innocently.
Bhanu Pratap was in flow.
“So that Rocky barred that boy’s path. We all started staring at that unfolding scene. All conversations were stopped. The silence was so total that we could actually hear it. We knew something is going to happen at that very night. Something big. Just not sure what. What the boy did was totally unexpected. He very politely asked Rocky to remove his foot so that he can go on. That boy has a good voice. And the way he spoke so politely that was really good to hear. But Rocky took it as a challenge. Maybe he wanted that boy to react aggressively and was disappointed by his polite reaction. So he went on aggressive mode. He got up and pushed that boy placing his big massive hairy hand over that boy’s chest. The boy staggered a little to the back.
He then said again in his very polite tone he doesn’t want to fight and to let him go. Rocky should have moved away and allowed that boy to pass on. But no he was already so ahead he did not want to back down. So he asked that boy loudly what will the boy do if Rocky wont move. The boy simply stared at him. And the way he looked. My!! I really thought Rocky was real dumb not to turn around and run for his life. He sure must have been dropped on his head by his mother when he was a baby. That is if he even was a baby; looking at the size of him”.
Samrat grinned at that.
Bhanu pratap went on with the flow.
“So this giant of Rocky then kept his hand over the shoulder of that boy and repeated again: “What will that boy do if Rocky wont get out of the way. Will the boy hit him?” Then challenged the boy to go ahead and hit him. That boy merely looked at Rocky and then at the hand on his shoulder. Then he reacted.”
Samrat was so engrossed in the tale that it took him a moment to realize that his uncle had stopped the narration. He scrunched up his eyes and looked at the older man in confusion. When he saw Bhanup pratap smiling at him serenely he realized that he is being baited.
And then cribbed “Uncle! Get on with the story!”.
With his boyishly charming and handsome looks and that childlike pout he looked adorable. Bhanu Pratap smiled lovingly at his nephew then ruffled the silky mop of hair of the young man. Then unable to control his laughter looking at how adoring his nephew is looking with irritated frown and childish pout he guffawed.
Samrat wasn’t amused. He kept on pouting. His uncle then threw up his hands in air and said placetingly “OK! Sammy i will get on with the story.”
Samrat’s frown cleared and he adjusted himself on the bar chair waiting to know how the boy reacted.
Bhanu Pratap got on with the story.
“So that boy first gave a look to that Rocky character and then bent his head slightly down and looked at that massive hand of Rocky lying on his shoulder. He then very calmly placed his food laden plate on the table within his reach. And then he slowly lifted his right hand and grabbed Rocky hand which he so foolishly placed on that boy’s shoulder. And then his fingers squeezed that wrist of the offensive hand. We were just watching. But even we could feel the force coming out of that boy’s hand then way his fingers were choking the life out of Rocky’s blood veins.You should have seen the expressions change on Rocky’s face. First it was shock, then disbelief and then the man of his size couldn’t take the pain being inflicted upon his hand by a mere child, a pain so harsh that his legs started buckling. Then that boy calmly removed Rocky’s abused hand from his shoulders, simply dropped it, dusted his shoulders with his fingers as if he is removing some kind of dirt from his shirt and then placed his palm on the face of Rocky and gently pushed him sideways. Out of his way. Rocky was grabbing his hand which had red welts over it which were rapidly turning purple.
He was staring at his hand in sheer pain and disbelief. And when that boy so insultingly pushed him out of his way he simply moved to a side giving the boy his way to move on. That boy simply started walking away. Then Rocky realized what has happened. He realized that he has been so effectively snubbed, insulted and wounded and that boy did not even had to make much effort in doing that. Hell he did not even uttered a single word and delivered a lasting insult.”
You know Sam! In our world though we deliver and receive death, we are not as much afraid of it as we are afraid of failure. We are the men of frail self confidence and fragile egos. We can take blow on our bodies but not on our egos.”
Rocky realized his name, reputation and above all his ego were razed to ground in front of his peers and superiors that too by a boy. A mere boy! He couldn’t take it. So he charged at the back of the boy who was so calmly walking away. It happened so suddenly that we had no time to shout a warning at the boy but we shouldn’t have bothered; for that boy needed no warning. I guess his senses are so finely tuned that he just sensed the attack without actually being able to see it coming since it came from back. He dropped on his knees whirled around and threw an amazing punch at Rocky’s solar plexus.
What a punch! We were standing at a distance still we could see the power emerging out of the boy’s fist and could see veins standing out in his hand protesting against the strain of transferring that force. Rocky staggered. I must say I admired him at that moment for any other man would have collapsed never to get up again for a long time. But this man had a strong constitution. He clutched his stomach and looked at the boy who was getting up from his kneeled position and now is standing tall in front of him. Despite being shorter than Rocky by good 4-5 inches he looked tall and yes! Menacing! Then I saw fear in the eyes of Rocky.
Sam! When a man is scared either he flees or he lashes out with everything he has got. Rocky lashed out. The boy simply parried his each blow and punch and parried with such an ease as if he was finding the entire exercise ridiculously easy. Then Rocky got lucky. He managed to connect his fist to that boys jaw. The force of that blow was so strong that the boy’s head swung to his right with a sharp jerk and his lip was split open at the end. There was a spurt of blood coming from the boys lip. Rocky stood like a gorilla and started grinning at his victory. It was short lived. For what the boy did to him next that was probably the last time Rocky ever laughed.”
Samrat was listening in with complete attention with his big dark eyes wide open.
Bhanu pratap continued.
“The boy first simply touched his bleeding lip with his thumb then brought it in front of his eyes and gave the blood stained thumb a look. Not in pain but in almost detached fashion. Then he looked up at Rocky. And I believe that was the moment when Rocky realized he had made a mistake. A fatal one. Probably the biggest mistake in his life. But there was no going back for him. One! He was way too ahead and second! The boy won’t let him. And then the boy attacked.
Sam! I have seen a man hitting another man angrily. I have seen a man hitting another man strongly. But i have never seen any man hitting another man so carefully. That boy was hitting the man Rocky with such a care and precision. Each blow; each punch thrown with such a prefect aim and precision. He knew exactly how much of pain his each punch will inflict on Rocky. He knew exactly how much damage his each blow would cause. He was not aiming to kill. If he wanted to kill to Rocky, Rocky would have been dead at the first blow. No he wanted to cause maximum damage with minimum effort. And that massive hulk of Rocky could just do nothing. He could neither stop the brutal attack or could try to protect himself. It was as if a gale is simply sweeping away a massive oak from roots and the poor oak simply could do nothing but surrender to the mighty gale.
At the relentless onslaught of that boy’s pounding Rocky was rendered bloodied, broken and bruised. The boy then grabbed Rocky’s collar and pulled the sagging man straight for one more punch. Rocky was too down and out to focus even his eyes at his avenging angel. But that boy didn’t throw his last punch. He unclenched his fist which was ready to throw one more killer punch and released his other hand holding Rocky’s collar.
Rocky dropped down.
Sam! You can understand a lot about a man when he is fighting someone. But you would know more about him when the fight is over and that man emerges victorious. Some men gloat over the fallen fighters; some kick the man who is down. You can ignore the men belonging to first category. Pride comes before fall. You should feel disgusted at later category of those who would kick the helpless victim. They are cowards.
This boy stood over the broken Rocky whimpering at his feet. He tilted his head down and gave him a look. A look that I cannot define. There was no regret but no victors pride either. The close I would come to describing that look would be: The boy simply analyzed the damage he caused, found it disinteresting.
But that moment I instinctively knew that this boy would never kick a man who is down. This one would always believe in Honour while fighting. He will never lose. But even if he ever loses a fight, he would do so with dignity.
The boy did not kick Rocky. He simply turned his back and started walking away.
Sammy! In our world we have seen men fighting among themselves. We sometimes allowed the fight to go on for sheer amusement. Sometimes if the fight go out of hand we intervene and separate the fighting men.
But this fight!”Bhanu pratap shook his head in wonder “This fight Sam we have never seen anything like this. All we could do is stare in horrified fascination. That boy of seventeen looked taller, mightier and above all than all of us standing there. Looking at the broken state of Rocky and watching the boy so calmly walking away it felt like ..”
Bhanu pratap paused searching for the words.
Samrat was listening in wide eyed waiting for his uncle to continue.
The older man struggled for words for some moments then he slowly said.
“Looking at the broken state on Rocky lying on the floor and watching the boy so calmly walking away; it felt like Death himself has came for the kill, touched the victim, then changed his mind and with swirl of cloak is walking away without claiming the kill leaving behind his victim broken and bleeding on the floor”.
Samrat sucked his breath in at that description. Despite the world that he was born into Samrat was not accustomed to the brutality of it. Maybe because he stayed away from this world for long or maybe he is built that way. He never actually killed anyone not with a weapon and certainly not in hand to hand fight. That could be one of his many reasons to loathe the Man because Samrat knew that Man was more capable, more mighty and yes! He belong in this world. Samrat doesn’t belong here.
Samrat shook his head irritated with himself. “I Belong Here. This is My World!” he mentally shook himself.
Then took a deep breathe and looked at his uncle mutely asking him to go ahead with the tale.
Bhanu Pratap was lost in the past world.
“The boy walked away amid the deathly silence of all the spectators who were too horrified, too fascinated and too dumbstruck at the sheer brutality of the entire scenario. No wait brutality is the wrong word.” Bhanu pratap shook his head and paused.
He started clicking his fingers in his search for the perfect word.
“Yes! Got it!” He clicked his thumb and middle finger together.
“Brutality is not the word. Watching that fight was like watching a very violent poetry in action.”
Samrat’s lips curled up in sneer at that description but he said nothing.
His uncle continued oblivious to his single audience.
“It took us full minute to react after the boy left the stage; that room. One moment total and complete silence then there was a rush to reach Rocky lying bloodied on the floor still whimpering. We took to the hospital we have our trusted doctors at.
When the Doctor looked at Rocky he couldn’t believe the extent of damage been dealt to that body. He thought Rocky must have been in fight with couple of hefty roughnecks to sustain that kind of damage. We did not enlighten him. He wouldn’t have believed us anyways.
It took close to 14 hours of operation to patch up Rocky. Right from broken cartilage of nose, to shattered ribs which punctured his lungs, a kidney that probably would not function normally from that day on, to the broken jaw that needed rewiring, not to mention the teeth that bid adieu to their master. Rocky had an extensive and very painful work done on him that too by a master who was just a teenager.
It was clear Rocky would need months if not years to recover fully. And there was that question whether he would be fit for our kind of work. But the most important question was how Thakur Saab would react. Rocky deliberately provoked and attacked ‘His Boy’. So will he punished or was it the time to discipline the boy for the violence that he unleashed.
Samrat looked upon curiously. Deep down inside he wanted that boy of the long gone time to be punished and punished severely. He looked at his uncle in anticipation and asked softly.
“Was the boy punished uncle?”
Bhanu Pratap gave a wry smile and shook his head in negative.
“No Sammy! The boy was not punished”
Samrat’s face fell at that.
“The curious part is that neither the boy nor Rocky was punished. In fact Saabji told Rocky to report back to work when he recovers. And Rocky joined us back too. I don’t think he wanted too though. He lost his face, name and reputation all in the hands of a mere boy but then Sam in our job there is only one way to go: Forwards!! We don’t have exits. You enter this world then you have to stay here. There is no way out. Rocky had no where to go. So he joined back.”
“And the boy?” Samrat asked curiously.
“The boy” replied Bhanu Pratap “stayed in the same room in this very mansion. Same routine, same existence, same aloofness, same secrecy.”
“Why did dad do nothing to punish those guys. He didn’t even reprimand them?” Samrat demanded uncomprehendingly.
“No Sammy! Saabji did not so much as say a word about this incident to anyone. Not to the boy, not to Rocky no one. But I think i know the reason why he bought Rocky back to the mansion.”
Samrat looked at his uncle hiding his disappointment at the way the boy simply breezed into his routine with no reprimand, no punishment, no facing the famous wrath of Thakur Saab. Samrat was curious despite himself to know the reason of the uncharacteristic attitude of his father. Virendra Thakur is not known to be generous to those who broke rules.
Bhanu pratap went on.
Thakur Saab bought Rocky back to the mansion, I am guessing here but i think i am right, to show him off as an example to what would happen to those who would touch the boy. A deterrent to other hot heads maybe. Or maybe he was showing his pride in the work of ‘His boy’ by keeping the creation on whom the work was done right in front of everyone.
Samrat’s lips curled up in disgust hearing that explanation. He hated the fact that his father took pride in that Man from no where, whereas his only son doesn’t remember the last time his father spoke to him directly.
With great difficulty Samrat brought himself back from the world of thoughts to the present to pay attention to his uncle, his most favourite person in the whole wide world.
Bhanu Pratap gave an amused smile.
Samrat not knowing the reason for that smile asked “What?!”
“Nothing Sam! I was just thinking Saabji shouldn’t have bothered to put put danger signs around that boy. Anyone who saw what he did to Rocky; anyone who heard the tale wouldn’t even dare to look at him straight. I am sure from that day on no one even dreamt of touching that boy; forget actually going ahead and tangling with him.”
We are survivors first at the end of the day Sam. And this boy had an Aura of death around him. Who would want to play poker with Death?
No Sir! Not us.”
Samrat was hating the description of the boy who was the past of the Man that he loathed. For once in his life he wanted someone anyone to say something on the lines of ridicule, mockery or scorn about the Man. Someone should say that the Man is a loser, a coward, someone who made mistakes. But no! Every time the Man is mentioned it was in awe, fear or respect. Even his uncle who always called spade a spade and had a caustic remark on everyone albeit in a kind way never ever said a thing in jest or scorn about that Man. In fact Samrat always felt his uncle respected the Man and his uncle is a very good judge of character. Whenever he stated his opinion about anyone, he is always right. Samrat always felt that his uncle should have been a professor of some college. He is kind, wise and understanding. He too doesn’t belong in this world. He is capable of loving for he loved Samrat, visited him in the boarding schools long and far away, always bought him gifts, told him stories, took pride when Samrat won any prize, congratulated when he cleared his exams. In short been Samrat’s Father in every sense of the world; more of father than Thakur Saab was or could ever be.
Smarat brought his mind back to the present and jerked his head up to look at his uncle when he heard the older man mentioning his name.
“Sorry Uncle! Didn’t catch you. You said something?”
Bhanu Pratap smiled lovingly
“Sammy I was asking you came back to the mansion from your boarding school sometimes during holidays in between Right! So have you ever met that boy? I remember you asking me about him couple of times but i was just wondering whether you met him face to face. You never told me.”
Samrat hesitated slightly then shook his head and said said
“No uncle! I never met him; just heard about him in whispers” He did not meet his uncle’s eyes directly while saying this.
Bhanu pratap thought nothing unusual in Samrat’s answer so he continued.
“Yeah that Boy stayed here but he was rarely present and when he was here nobody wanted to bother him by chit-chatting forget being friends with him. Natural for you to miss him. So where was I?” He asked his nephew.
Samrat replied “The boy was not punished and rocky stayed back in the job.”
“Yes! Yes!” agreed Bhanu pratap “So the boy stayed here. His training continued under Rana. God-forsaken times. Early Mornings, past Midnights. The boy had no fix timings to come home. No one wanted to ask him about the training. Heck no dared to so much as look at him straight. And he himself was in absolutely no hurry to make friends. Years passed by the routine continued. Then came that day when Saabji called for a meeting again. Everyone was to report. We have meetings regularly but we knew this one was special. Because Saabji asked for the boy to be present. And Rana too. It happened close to 4 years later. When the boy came in here for the first time he was no more than 17 years. So that would make him 21 now. We were all curious. The meeting was held in our conference room. All seats taken. Saabji took his usual Kings chair at the head of the table. The boy and Rana were not present. We all started waiting for them.”
“What happened in that meeting Uncle?” Samrat almost whispered.
Bhanu Pratap stared at the unseen horizon.
To be continued
— Candy Lemon [Nimmi] —