Tuesday 7 October 2014

#CelebrateBlogging Contest @Blogadda Chapter 24 - When the Diamonds danced!

Team #Alphabet Soup
Read the previous part of the story Chapter 23 on Reema's blog

Chapter 24

She wiped her tears. That must be it. She grabbed her bag and left her room immediately.
She sent a text to Ravi, Tara and Sudheeran.

Lets meet madman ASAP!

She reached the Janamaitri police station.  He was seated inside the station. But not imprisoned. Sudheeran, out of deep respect towards him, had asked Ravi to just keep an eye on the madman. The madman had made the station his place of meditation.
As soon as he saw her, he guffawed loudly.
“I was waiting for you. Where are the others?”
No sooner did he speak those words, the team reached the station.

“What is it?” Sudheeran asked looking at the madman and Jennifer.
“He can help us.”
Ravi moaned, “Not again! He has already caused enough-“
“Just think Ravi! One evening, release the nightingale and she’ll sing her song. He is the caged nightingale! Aren’t you?”
She looked hopefully at him.
“I am but a Bhranthan (Madman)”
Ravi ran his fingers through his hair in irritation. “Do you know anything about the temple?”
“I know many things about the temple. Amma has-“
“Alright! Alright! Let me rephrase it. The child is missing. Again! Wait! Did you arrange her kidnap again?”
“Hahaha! I was under your observation. How do you-?”
Tara interjected half sobbing, “My daughter is missing. She must be inside the temple. Please! Please tell us about the secret chambers.”

He said, “I know some of the chambers and passages. But I don’t know how many chambers there are in all.”
Sudheeran was calm again, “Is there any other way we could find that out?”
“The temple has immense powers. More than you can imagine. There is a chamber in the temple that holds the entire world within its walls. Come with me.”

They entered the interior of the temple where the Garbhagriha was. After an area around the Garbhagriha for circumambulation, the rooms lay. He took them inside the 4th room from the left.
“These aren’t the secret chambers. These are but rooms. The secret chambers are hidden within these rooms. That is how the temple has been built. To normal people’s eyes, these are the secret chambers. While they are deep within. It is like our mind. We think that the peripheral thoughts and desires are important. We think that we are our emotions and actions. While the self, is deep within.”

He asked the priest to open the only chamber inside the room.

“Isn’t this the chamber of scriptures?” the priest asked.
“you spoke about the power of the entire world.”
“Think again! This chamber houses numerous age-old scriptures, Vedas, Vedantas, Shlokas and Stotras. There are very powerful Shlokas in here. You utter one word wrong, and you shall be beheaded. Pronounce them right, with the right intonations, you will attain Moksha. Tell me another chamber as powerful as this.”

Jennifer felt a chill. Her hands involuntarily went for her camera. But she stopped herself.
Some things were better unknown.
She noticed that the madman was looking at her, hint of a smile on his face.
The scriptures room had never been opened for several years and there was a lot of dust and moisture in the room. The chamber was big and there were racks on all the four sides with a small door on one side of the room.
The priest went and got an old torchlight. He hit it hard thrice and then it lit up the room.
“What are we searching for?” asked Ravi
“The details about the temple architecture.”
“Are all these in Malayalam?”
“Most of the scriptures are in Sanskrit. There are a few in Malayalam too.”
The madman went towards one of the racks. The writings were on dry palm leaves. They were all neatly arranged in piles. Each section of a rack had six piles of palm leaves. He sat down on the floor and began leafing through the age old dry leaves on which there were many writings. He skimmed through one set of writings in a pile, skipped a pile and reached for another. After around five to six trials, he sat still with a set of palm leaves in his hands. He poured through them and kept saying “Hm…” as though he was humming in approval to an invisible voice. 

“So, that is it.” The madman looked up.

No one dared to breathe.

“There is a meaning for everything happening in this cosmos. There are 18 chambers in this temple and 9 passages.”
“Meaning?”  Ravi questioned.

 “8 indicating the Ashta-lakshmi – The eight Lakshmis’.  9 indicating the number that cannot be destroyed.”

“A number that cannot be destroyed?” asked Ravi. Tara was now becoming restless.

“ Any number multiplied with 9 adds up to 9.
He quickly took out his pen and a small diary he kept in his pocket always and wrote an equation -  
9*3 = 27  >  2+7=9
 9*5 = 45  >  4+5=9
“And the 1 chamber?” asked Jennifer.
 “This one. The chamber of scriptures is the last one.”  
“ In total 18. The number again adds up to 9. This is the 18th chamber because scriptures, and 18 are connected. There are 18 puranas, 18 upa-puranas, the epic Mahabharata has 18 parvas. So does Bhagavad Gita. The temple was built keeping all these in mind.”

 Shekhar quickly asked – “How many of these chambers and passages do you know?”
“I know 13 of them. And 7 passages. The directions about the passages or the chambers aren’t given here. We’ll have to find the rest.”

He quickly added based on his experience, “There is another thing that you have to keep in mind. Some of these chambers do not have ventilation at all. So make sure that none of you get stuck in any of these chambers. You will suffocate to death.”

He gave the team the directions about the 13 chambers he knew. They quickly began the search.
They first tried to find the passages, mainly to stop Cyrus from leaving the temple. This was the topmost priority at the moment. They had to find the right chamber before Cyrus escaped with the child. They decided to guard the known passages with the help of the Sub-Inspectors and extra constables called by the Ravi. He informed them that it was an urgent operation. No questions asked. The search continued. They had strict instructions not to make any noise.

The madman hadn’t left the room. From the start, his eyes were tied to some kind of a symmetrical arrangement between two racks. He used all his force to drag one of the racks aside to reveal the wall behind. It took him a while to notice an outline of a door. After applying varied amount of force and moving the door in all directions, it opened. He had found the first chamber.

Apart from a few empty earthen vessels lying around, the chamber had nothing exciting to offer. He informed the others that one of the unknown chambers were found. The team slogged continuously for a long time. After what seemed like a couple of hours, they heard someone scream. They quickly ran in the direction of the voice.

It was coming from below the 5th room around the Garbhagriha. A police constable had fallen into a chamber accidentally & was stuck halfway through. It was a chamber whose door was on the floor. They pulled him out of the chamber. Two of the constables checked inside the chamber. It was one among the unknown chambers and looked like an old well without water.

Sudheeran said, “Three more to go.”

Going from chamber to chamber, wall to wall, Tara and Jennifer met and hit many things but with no luck. They began to feel dejected. Jennifer began feeling guilty as she entered another room. She kept blaming herself for involving Cyrus in this. She kept searching every nook and corner trying to fight against her guilty conscience. 

Suddenly an idea struck her, she remembered the pictures Roohi had clicked the day the idol went missing. Jennifer had spent a lot of time safeguarding her in this very temple premises. She looked at them and decided to compare the pictures and the premises. It might take some time. But she would do it so thoroughly that a second time check wouldn’t be necessary. She called a few others and told them her plan. She asked them to feel each part of the temple & search. She had read a lot of books and seen many movies. A picture might just speak a thousand words.

She took the eastern side and began with the temple kitchen first on the row.
Kitchen was the usual Kerala Style temple kitchen with big utensils.
The first room after the kitchen was a kind of service room.  The temple gave Annadaanam – donating food. The food prepared for the same was kept in this room. Third was a hall with a huge sitting space. They had small stools everywhere along with a lot of utensils and mats to sit on.  On the right side of hall, it had stairs to go up. She began climbing the stairs.  In one picture, Jennifer saw something shining on the stairway. She began searching for the source of the reflection. She climbed around five steps and there she saw it. A tiny loop, towards the right, almost in line with her eyes.

Who would look for a chamber while walking up the stairs?

She pulled the loop. No luck! Her fingers hurt. She pushed at the wall with all her might and it slightly moved. Again, she pushed hard with the pent up anger, guilt and memory of the accusations. It gave away to a room. Extremely excited, she entered and saw someone in the room. She moved closer to realize that it was a dummy wearing a kathakali dress. It was the room where the dance and elephant's costumes were kept. She  was disappointed. She informed the others that there were just two to go. She continued searching with a renewed energy.

Two more to go

Two more to go

Cyrus! You jerk! Where are you?

She continued comparing the pictures to the fourth room only to be disappointed further by finding nothing in there.

She went to the next room and looked at the pictures. Nothing. She looked at the wall. A white mark! It wasn't there in the image on her camera. She moved closer and sees something stuck to the wall. Sandal paste? She began to scratch it absent mindedly wondering why it was not in the picture. She noticed it was shaped well and was just drying.

Why would someone play with the sandal paste while searching for the chambers?

She removed her finger from the mark. A triangle!
'Triangle means, you're close to me.', she thought to herself.
Roohi is somewhere nearby!

---end of chapter 24--- 

Read the next part of the story here - Sarita's blog
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