The bedazzlement of the first window was now fading, that made Mrityu mind come back to the usual thoughts.. “I think its getting late.. I need to get back home.. Is this a dream? Well in that case I have been asleep for long. I think I must now return to real life… but how??” He tried to pinch himself and pull his hair off his scalp! But he remained suspended in this place away from home .. maybe his dream
With all his attempts proving futile, Mrityu made headway towards the door which had now almost disappeared in the uniform greyness of the space he was in. Just when he was trying to locate it.. He heard droplets of rain tippity-taping on dry leaves. The sound grew louder and louder until it merged with the bright light that came from the second window which also blew gusts of stormy winds. The winds were icy cold, something Mrityu was not used to in his tropical life. It was perhaps similar to the winter gusts that Mayo had experienced back at Domar La. but felt familiar from a far, long lost past that still had its dwindling fingerprints in his mind. The rain drops showed through the fading dazzle of the second window where mrityu could now see another beautiful valley dotted with pine, deodhar and other conifers. The sound of droplets grew louder and louder till there were loud thundering sounds too accompanied with fire and smoke with the shrills of whizzing bullets. It was ammunition indeed in its fiercest form coupled with the snow storm. Mrityu found himself in half sleep there till someone shook him awake.. “Maqbool!!! Do you want to be buried here in the rubble of the bombs and mines?? We need to leave this place.. The army is here to help us out!” Mrityu now found himself standing and staring at the same wrinkles of the wise monk and his co-passenger in the train!! But this was Majid, his caretaker.
Maqbool standing tall with his Himalayan built running on 20 years showed no signs of budging from the land which held fond memories of his parents who put in all their efforts and sacrificed a lot bringing the child up. He stood by the window looking outside to the once-was flower garden whose soil was now poisoned by burnt remains of ammunition and the blood of his innocent parents who were killed in the stray fire. Grief and revenge filled Maqbool’s heart, while Majid kept on nudging him off his trance that looked beyond the snowstorm and heard through the loudness of the ammo.
“Barf aur gole khoob saath baras rahen hain chhote ustad,. Yahaan khatre ke dayre main rehna thik nahi. Chalo beta jaate hain” (The snow and the shells are showering alike, its not good to stay within danger. Lets leave lad). A gentle caress followed by these words shook Maqbool, as Mrityu in his skin was reminded of the Jawaan’s pat on his shoulder. When he turned around, Alas, it was the same Soldier!
Just when Maqbool stood amazed, he was shook off the ground as a shell exploded few feet away triggering a wall of snow into an avalanche. Even before Maqbool could get up, the mass of snow got the better of him with its whiteness raging closer and turning into the mysterious grey where Mrityu found himself yet again.
Three windows, and those elements in the train now found a place in his past, but Mrityu pondered to himself, where was he?? Why did the place feel as though it was neither the past, nor the present with future out of question? This was perhaps an empty dream, which he caught while sleeping in the train. It was time to wake up! “Mrityu.. wake up fast, wake up, wake up” he chanted
“Mrityu wake up.. wake up”.. desperate but futile attempts went on just when, with a loud creak the door from where he entered opened with a peeking gap.
He could see the train crawling into the station with its melancholy horn signal.. two short and one long toot.. the announcement on the platform shrieked.. “On duty porters… on duty porters… please report to coach number three”. He wanted to cross the door and walk back into the train which had now halted on his home platform, Ghatkopar. Just when he was about to do so, he saw a bloodstained body being carried away from coach number three, and thought to himself, “Oh dear yet another victim, let the body pass and I shall walk back home through this door”
Just when the stretcher with its bloodstained cargo was taken to the far end of the platform, to the dead-body room, there were people who shook their head, so did a warm summer breeze that blew the cloth off the head of the body which was surprisingly the only part of the poor body that was not mangled beyond recognition. The face sighting knocked Mrityunjay in a state of shock, “That face… that’s mine.. how can it be!!?”
The heavy thought of departure from yet another scene of life sunk into Mrityu, “Is it really all over?? Were these the hidden answers?? The Monk? The Soldiers? And my undying quest for the truth, may it be in the icy mountains?? Or maybe the dark breezy Mumbai night whizzing past me in the train and bringing me to this grey chamber!! Alas!! Is this the world I will need to dwell forever. That aint have no colors but grey with its occasional white streaks!! This is worse than death!! Or is this what people call death??”
Just when Mrityu was getting agitated he was turned around 180 degrees from the door towards another blinding light. He could feel himself getting accelerated. The blinding light and the speed, took all his memories and his past, back into the cold mysterious subconscious where it would stay preserved till a later day of revelation. The speed and the white dazzle grew until Mrityu found himself getting compressed and coming to a abrupt halt.
He could feel fluids within him, in his eyes, his mouth, his ears which could hear those strange hums that you hear when you are submerged in water. His eyes could see a reddish white dazzle that he may have seen with his face to the sun with eyelids closed. He coughed to get the fluid out of his mouth and nose, gasping for his breath. He could hear whispers around him. In an attempt to throw up the fluid he cried but with a surprisingly higher pitch than his usual broad voice.
Just before he could open his eyes to broad daylight, someone held him in her arms and said, “Congratulations Madam, it’s a healthy baby boy!!”. A healthy new born baby he was indeed, embarked on a new quest for life, after having overcome yet another death.