August 10, 1993 Keshavpur
“You can’t make such important decisions of your life based on Ishant’s whims and fancies” Meera was lecturing Gunjan over the phone. Gunjan had decided to let go of her invitation from the University of Mashkaangir, so that she could stay back in Keshavpur with her boyfriend. Meera continued, “Do you even know what a beautiful city Mashkaangir is and how many people in India would give their right hand to get a seat in the National Law college of Mashkaangir.” Gunjan laughed at her dear friend from the other end of the phone. She had known Meera for 5 years and she knew how strong-willed she was. “What time is your train tomorrow”, Gunjan interjected in between and asked Meera. “It’s at 6 am. Still there is some time”, Meera said. Gunjan just wanted to keep the conversation going till 12 am so that she could wish Meera happy birthday. They both continued talking about how their lives will change after school till Gunjan started singing the birthday song. They both laughed and promised to be in touch before keeping the phone.
Lying on her bed, Meera thought to herself, ‘All my friends are joining college except for me. Am I doing the right thing?’ In another moment, she answered herself, ‘This is what I always wanted to do. Wouldn’t it be the greatest tragedy of my life that in spite having a hugely respected and recognized artist as my grand mother, I could never learn from her.’ She got up from her bed and saw her packed suitcases and her heart filled with pride and excitement. She was walking towards the kitchen to get water, when she saw the light coming from her parents room. It was surprising because her parents used to follow 10 pm to 5 am shut down time. Even her birthday midnight wishes or exams were not an exception. She went towards their room and saw her mother immersed in her notes.
‘Hey Ma, something important keeping you up’, Meera leaned on the door of her parents room and whispered. Aarti took her eyes off the papers and gave a wide smile while stretching out her arms. Meera hugged Aarti and the latter wished her daughter birthday and kissed her forehead. Aarti tapped on the chair beside her and Meera sat on it cross-legged while looking at her mom’s notes. Aarti sighed and said, ‘Today evening I got a call from the reporter of my team about the sudden demise of Mr. Shailon Sharma.’ Meera looked shockingly at her mother. She had heard so much about Shailon uncle from Aarti. No childhood story of her mother was complete without the mention of Shailon uncle’s house and her mischievous adventures with Anindya, Shailon uncle’s son.
Aarti continued with her report, ‘Preliminary reports suggest heart attack. His body was found in the middle of the jungle in Krsna Nagar. Although, there are no injury marks, the police is suspecting a foul play.’ Meera gawked at her mom and said, ‘Foul Play?’ ‘Yes, he was found 14 kms away from his house and no one at his house knows what was he doing in the jungle in the night. Although, he was only 68 years old; he was not keeping well lately. Anindya is reaching Krsna Nagar tonight and I plan to talk with him tomorrow.’ Aarti put her notes down and looked at Mayur sleeping with his back towards them, ‘You father will get up sharp at 5 am. You should also go back to sleep.’ Meera nodded and got up from the chair. She kissed her mother good night and left the room.
Meera came back to her room and switched off the lights. while lying on her bed, she remembered the stories her mother had told her about Shailon or Shah uncle, as he was fondly called by his friends and family. He used to live in Krsna Nagar and was a close friend of her grandma. One of the most interesting stories was how Shah uncle got his unique name. Shailon uncle’s father, Kavi Sharma was a merchant and a collector of unique art pieces. Once he got a chance to visit China and there he got hugely inspired by the Chinese kungfu martial art form – Shaolin. Back in India, when his son was born, he decided to name him Shaolin. But, except for him, no one in the house could pronounce the name correctly. Kavi Sharma’s wife started calling her son Shai and everyone in the household followed her – and the fact that it resonated with the most popular Indian beverage, Chai – made it easier for them to relate to. Never the one to give up on his decision, Kavi Sharma formally named his son Shailon. Soon, everyone in the household was instructed to call Shailon – Shai, Shah, or Shahji. Meera smiled as she remembered the story and slowly dozed off.
After Meera left, Aarti went to her bed. She kept lying there with her eyes open. Till this evening, she was happy that Meera is going to Krsna Nagar – the place where she grew up – to be with her grandmother. Aarti had called her mother, Kavita this evening and her mother was still in shock. With this new development, Aarti was not sure if it was a good idea for Meera to go and live in Krsna Nagar. But, Kavita insisted that Mayur and her granddaughter should not change their plans and that she was so much looking forward to having them with her. Mr. Shailon Sharma – a great businessman, as reported by her colleague in his report this evening, was only Shah uncle for her – her mother’s friend and her friend Anindya’s father – with a big house full of magic and mystery.
Part 5…coming soon…