Today I am standing on the same jinxed boulevard again, and found that these cacodemons are laughing at me, manifesting they have more power than the humans do. I reminisce about childhood I spent my summer holidays at my maternal uncle’s house in Ranakpur, Rajasthan. It used to be quite relaxing from hot and humid regular Mumbai days and provide chance to meet her, Nayanthara.

Nayanthara’s family used to live next to my uncle’s house. She was two year younger to me and was studying in the local government school. We used to run together up and down the hills, through the narrow lanes, scream as louder as we can and hear out the echo of our own voice, throw stones and obelisks in valleys. Those were the keenly priced games we used to play in Ranakpur village.

Her real name was Nayana but I was fascinated by the Indian princess of a forgotten kingdom, whose name was Nayanthara, in an old story book from school library. I started calling her with same name and the most interesting thing was she actually responded each time I call her with the name, I gave. One day I was irked for silly boyish reason and came back to my house by leaving her. That day later I found her crying, sitting at our lawn for hours. When I saw, I quickly ran to her and asked her to go back but she hugged me and replied sobbingly,

“I am your Nayanthara; how can you not play with me?”. First time ever, a 12 years old boy’s heart fell for a girl and since they the connection never went adrift. I felt hurt by hurting her. Since then my feelings had been different for her – probably a special; very special one.

When we were kids, we were scared to pass through cursed road to the Hindu Cremation ground. People of Ranakpur and nearby villages used to say, “Don’t go there. It is haunted road. Many bad demons live under that doomed tree”.

To pray these demons, people offered food in clay pots along with symbolic masked demonic dolls, hoping these demons of the haunted road would not trouble their ancestors’ souls and would allow the ancestors to rest in peace. We, Nayanthara and I, also used to chant those sacred words but in adolescence I started loving that haunted road because of the solitude, I needed to spend time with her. This road was only place in that small village where we could spend time together… only we two… My education in city made me not to believe in Black Magic, Haunted souls, after death existence or super natural existence. She though believed in such supernatural and paranormal power, she simply accompanied me on that road holding my hand tightly closer to her body. Her innocent eyes full of fear for those spirits, always multiplied the excitement of staying alone with her at that deserted road.

When I turned 24, with our families’ consent, I got engaged me with Nayanthara. I was overjoyed. The love of my life was supposed to be the most important person of my life. My childhood love story was going to attain its happy ending like any fairy tale.

Next day of our engagement, we met on the same deserted, haunted road. It was drizzling – a perfect romantic evening. She was shyer than ever before. Her face was blushing red. Wet hairs were magnifying her innocent beauty. I found my hand closer to her waist. Suddenly, I grabbed her by her waist, and pulled her in front of me. Our faces were very close to each other’s. In coldness of that evening I could feel warmth of her suspire. I leaned forward my face to lock her lips with mine…  Her palm crept between our shivering lips. She murmured,

“They are watching us!!”

I looked around but did not find anyone. “I don’t see anyone” and hurried my attempt once again to kiss her but in vain.

She signaled, having fear in her dark eyes, towards pots kept with food and two demons’ masks on top of them. It was nothing new. This sight was very common on that road. But I got irritated by seeing those colorful demons who were then shining after getting their bloody dust washed away in that romantic rain. One was unaware of our presence keeping a laddu in its mouth as if it wanted to devour whole offering as ransom to rest our ancestors’ soul in peace. Other had the sumptuous late lunch and now seemingly enjoying free rain scene of B-grade Hindi movie. Its pinkish tongue was coming out due to excessive lust greed.

I went near those monsters, gave a deep look in disgust, and kicked those colourful masks and pots.

She shrieked, “Hey, stop.”

The pot and mask were shattered all around the road along with my motionless body that was swung in air by a speedy car.All I could hear was her voice coming deep from other hill getting reflected somewhere from our past.

When I woke up, I found my self on hospital bed. Nurse told me that I had been sleeping for last six months. Suddenly, I realized I could not move my legs. Later I realised I couldn’t even feel anything in my body under the waist but survived. When I opened my eyes, the very first word I uttered was, ” Nayanthara…”

My mother sat next to me, held my hand and said, “she is here. She was here, right next to you, all the time.” Her eyes were limpid pool of tears but she was happy to see me waking up from a deep sleep. I saw Nayanthara. She was looking beautiful. She didn’t utter a word but just stood at a corner and starred at me. I wished to get up from bed and walk to her but my legs were motionless and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move a finger. I gaped into her eyes and doctor’s sedatives, I fell asleep.

The very next morning, I miraculously could sense my limbs. I was happy. I was discharged from the hospital. When my mother and father went for the formalities at discharge section, I decided to take a walk to see Nayanthara but she wasn’t there. I asked mother, “Maa, nayanthara didn’t come?”

Mum remained calm. I asked her once again but she didn’t reply at all. “Lets go son.” She said and her eyes were teary. I was worried for Nayanthara and I kept quite because I felt that something happened to her. My heart was breaking. I wished her to see me first when I could walk again. In car, everyone kept quite and no-one answered to my questions about her. The was driving through the narrower laws towards the haunted road.

We reached. I saw Nayanthara there. she was standing there, wearing a neat white spree and her face seemed pale as if there were no emotions at all. My parents walked towards her parents and they all started sobbing loudly. I couldn’t understand a thing. I quickly got down the vehicle and walked towards Nayanthara.

“Nayanthara!” I called her name. She didn’t look back. When I stepped ahead, all I could see was One pot filled with all the dishes I ever liked, a mask of a monster and picture of mine, decorated with flowers, next to it.

“Eat whatever you wish. I prepared only for you.” Nayanthara was murmering and she couldn’t control the ocean of tears in her eyes.

“Yes, yes I would!” I said and walked towards the pot to eat her offerings of our eternal love. The mask of monsters were ogling and laughing out loudly.

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