What the heck!

I wrote a story sometime back and ever since, worried much about sharing it with the world. “What the heck!” – that is how people would react, I was sure! Then, one day I said to myself, bad reaction is better than no reaction at all- so let me share it. I will be sharing further chapters, if the audience insists on it! Before we begin, let me state: 

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This is
essentially a work of fiction- a story meant for young adults. No offence meant to any group or community or anyone living or dead. Just pure fiction!

The Zanskar Adventure

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  1. Prologue

Early
winter, 1992, India.
Dharamshala.
The
elderly man in a coarse white gown took a few steps to the window. It
opened north – to the Dhauladhar ranges. Setting sun caught its
upper peaks in a contrast of autumn colors, as the valley lower down
sank in a gloom. In Dharamshala, Dhauladhar comes quite close to
north Indian planes – just one hour drive from green carpet like
tea gardens of Palampur. Their sudden rise as a white insurmountable
wall appeared like a high mysterious parapet, hiding many secrets
behind.
This
second storey room in a shabby little hotel in MacLeodgunj, half an
hour above Dharamshala, had a great view north. In early nineties,
MacLeodgunj was still a small non-descript suburb of Dharamshala.
Only few enthusiasts used to walk up to this lonely road on clear
mornings, in search of better views of Himalayas. A small colony of
Tibetans lay huddled around this road, interspersed with half a dozen
tea shops which doubled as hotels too. During tourist season and also
when Dalai Lama would be in residence in Dharamshala, crowd of
tourists, sometimes spilled over to this suburb.
The man
stood erect as Dhauladhar, despite his age. He was in late sixties.
His swarthy face was creased but gave no hint, as to his antecedents.
He could be a professor, a recluse, a tourist – anything. His
features stood on the borderline of orient and occident- more like
middle eastern. His loose white gown was woven of a coarse sheep
fiber, found in Tigris valley in southern Iraq. The sash of the same
color and material, used to tie it, had a small wooden pendant, which
appeared like a cross on a cursory look. A closer enquiry revealed
significant differences: All the four arms were of equal length,
something like a plus sign. Instead of customary “INRI” of the
Christian cross, one arm had one word engraved on it – Theraputas,
in a stylized unusual script – like the calligraphy used to adorn
the margins of ancient texts. There was no image anywhere on it.
His
thoughts were in turmoil. He represented a search, a journey – many
centuries old. His face spoke of an “injustice” and a lifelong
battle to undo it. No price seemed big enough in this endeavor.
There was
a sound – and he turned- as the door opened and four Lamas entered
the room, bowed and stood – as if waiting for further instructions.
They were young men, in late twenties, dressed just like any other
lama, so common in Dharamshala; Maroon long skirts and yellow uppers,
sleeveless shirts, shaven heads. Of course their features lacked that
mongoloid high cheek bones and jovial open expression characteristic
of young lamas in these parts of Himalayas. Not very tall, may be 5
feet 4 to 6 inches. Rounded foreheads and dark hair. They could be
middle eastern in origin. They had addressed the elder, as Rabbi,
who had turned and faced them now:
“How did
it go?”
“Security
check is there. But we had no problem. Our Thai contact was
there. Dalai Lama gave us his blessings and granted us our placement
requests at the four gompas.” One of them, may be a couple of years
older than the rest, answered for the whole group.
Rabbi
motioned them to take a seat- then, looked up at the speaker for some
time, as if he doubted him; Could everything have gone so
smoothly?
Apparently it had. Then suddenly his expression
mellowed. He turned towards window and spoke with his back to the
young men:
“I must
leave tonight. Now it is up to you. Whether you live or die,
remember, I want this key to our creed. For seventeen centuries our
Elders have been persecuted for their faith. Now the moment
has come. Our life means little, but the world must see the light –
the light of truth. They gave their lives- now it is our turn. Do you
understand?”
Suddenly
the atmosphere in the room became still and oppressive. The four
young men, turned in their seats uncomfortably. It was late autumn.
Six winters they had spent away from their land, trying to master an
alien culture, tongue and way of life in a Thai forest monastery-
suppressing their true identity. Today they had passed just one test.
The first test. How many more were there?
After a
few minutes, the Rabbi turned to them and said –
“Before
I leave, you must surrender all your personal belongings.”
The four
lamas searched their pockets and small bits and bobs began piling up
on the table: some letters, photographs, a small diary, some foreign
coins, rosaries; The young lama who had been the spokesman so far for
the group, inserted his hand in his ochre tunic and hesitated for a
second; His fingers clutched a small wooden pendant attached to a
rosary for a few seconds- then left it where it was, hidden in many
folds of his tunic – his last tie with the past.
The last
item to be surrendered on the table was a small faded prayer book;
The title in a stylized script read: Theraputas: Doctrine of the
Elders
.
*
*
*
Spring 1993, Swizerland.
The four
european men were dressed for business and this meeting in a house on
17th Boulevard, in Geneva, just across the lake, could have passed
for a business meeting, except for the setting. It was a deserted
coffee house and all the four men were meeting each other for the
first time. None wanted it to lead to a second meeting. As far as
their forged travel documents were concerned this meeting never took
place. It was an unusual meeting: Three men claimed to represent
three western governments but had nothing to prove it. Fourth, a fat
short man with a fringe of brown hair on his shiny head, had passed
off as a scholar most of his life but in his heart of heart knew that
he was only a businessman after all. He knew that even the most
useless information could be sold for gold – you just have to find
right customer for it. Value is a subjective notion.
The three
consulted among themselves before tackling the fourth, fat short man,
known as Dr Frances:
“Dr
Frances, we can not wait-” He pushed a cutting from an Archeology
journal across to the fourth man, “We will have to go for direct
action soon.”
Dr
Frances, the “scholar”, did not pick up the cutting but looked at
it with some interest:
“A Pali
scholar from Banaras Hindu University has raked up the old
controversy: Jesus not only survived crucifixion, traveled to India
but wrote a book as well! Academics have declared it to be a hoax
since nothing substantial has been found in the past to support
similar claims; the Russian traveler in 19th Century Kashmir, Nicolas
Notovitch claimed that Jesus was in India before crucifixion. Another
Muslim scholar claimed same, but AFTER the crucifixion. This is the
latest attempt to revive a controversy which adds little to
Archeology and offends many, especially the Church in the west…”
The
“scholar” calculated every word and chalked out his strategy in
mind; His critics claimed that he started his career from a basement
room, specializing in reproductions of medieval paintings and
scrolls; What could not be stolen, could be faked expertly. Now he
had a glass fronted office abutting the lake in that quarter of
Geneva, which was better known for the offices of international
organizations like United Nations. He was now well known in the
academic circles, specially dealing with textual archeology, also
known as Paleography. Dr Frances had achieved all this and much more
through just one ability: He could think deeply and see the
un-obvious.
“Monsieur,
I will request you to reconsider that decision: To destroy something
you have to find it first; And when you destroy it, you acknowledge
two things: that it exists as an object and – that it is too
dangerous to be left alone. Can we afford that?”
Everyone
was lost in thoughts. Silence. Dr Frances continued:
“Looking
for this manuscript is a specialized task; My men are best at it.
Once it is in my hands, tempering it and proving it to be a latter
day forgery, will be a simple job. THAT is better than destroying it
outright. What do you say?”
Heads
around him nodded.
“I agree
that my approach takes some time. Yes, it takes considerable money
too. But don’t forget, ancient text, fake or genuine, fetches ten
times more money than your entire campaign in Qumran valley.”
The
reference to Qumran valley silenced all the arguments; In sixties and
seventies, dead sea scrolls were found in that region of Israel;
These scrolls had unleashed a debate about the history of early
church and its founder. The three men in black business suits again
consulted each other and appeared to be in agreement about the fact
that this was the only man they could deal with: nature of their
business was such. The three had already dealt with Dr Frances over Q-scrolls,
smuggled out of original find of Dead Sea scrolls. Qumran valley
campaign
was a reference to that earlier collaboration.
“How
much more money do you want?”
Dr Frances
did not have to think-
“Just a
couple of million Euros, nothing more, Monsieur.”
The three
men in business suit looked at each other- then nodded. The business
settled, the four dispersed.
2 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Anandh Sundar 5 years ago

    Hi Sachin,
    nice story, can't believe there was not a single response until now! would certainly like to see the next part(s)

  2. Sachin 5 years ago

    Thanks Anand – i think i will send you the remainder as a pdf file.. it might make good bed time reading..

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