You are on page 1of 103

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

1

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

2

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter I

It is not every day that you confront a great five feet long snake in the principal‘s office. But, there we go, all that would definitely happen to Gaurav. It all started with the school organising a field trip to the Marina Beach for swimming practice. Gaurav was sick of listening to the same words from the principal, Mr.Nagraj, stating the terrible state of the school in sports and athletics. He was really desperate; to send off a whole terrible lot to the Marina is no small feat, of course. Once they reached the Beach Road, the students at the back seat howled and hooted with glee. Gaurav got down with his best friend, Kamal and then came another bus. This bus had ‗The BLUEBELLS HIGH‘ on the side. Down came two girls, chatting away their time and laughing. Behind came another two girls, who looked like they were amidst a deep discussion. Then a set of boys poured out, with one of them reading a paperback novel. He was stern, and his sideparted black hair made him look like— well, like someone who loves books and hates disobedience. ‗Hey, Ashwin, can‘t you ever leave your novel alone?‘ asked a boy in front. He did not reply, much too engrossed to talk.

3

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Um, Gaurav, would you please follow the line, or risk staying back, dear?‘ asked Mrs. Mehta, their Geography teacher. She did not leave any opportunity to show the class how the beach was formed and explain about the waves and tides and the breeze and whatnot. Kamal dragged him along so that they‘d not leave their class. Gaurav hated the sea. How much ever the teachers forced him, he could not help being hydrophobic. So, the swimming teacher told them to change, and once they came back, they headed out to a safe part of the coast. ‗Students, we have to understand the proper techniques of swimming. It is essential that you hold yourself properly and make sure that you don‘t forget the posture. So let us practice the most essential...‘ said the swimming teacher, but Gaurav‘s mind had already drifted off. He saw the BLUEBELLS HIGH group heading towards the lighthouse. He had no control over himself. He slipped away. He saw that the boy, Ashwin, had finally stuffed his novel away. He now had a notepad and a pencil in his hands and intently, he was making notes. The other girls, the chatting ones had stopped chatting but they were discussing something and giggling. He heard a few words, ‗Nandita!!‘; ‗Hey, it‘s not my fault, Swati!‘ The shorter one, with very dark brown hair, was gazing at the southern horizon, and she looked at the sea lovingly like it was her life force. The taller one poked her, her brown eyes twinkling golden in the sunlight. ‗What, Nandita?‘ asked the shorter one. ‗To remind you that we are here for half an hour not a lifetime,‘ said Nandita. ‗Swati and Nandita, will you ever stop chatting?‘ asked Ashwin from behind. ‗And don‘t you guess that you‘re being watched?‘ he said, gazing exactly where Gaurav stood. ‗What?‘ asked Swati. She looked behind to find Gaurav looking at them. He felt himself pressing the urge to run away. Ashwin seemed to have spotted that.

4

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Hey, don‘t worry. I do hate spies, but you don‘t look like one. I just thought you were purposefully observing these two,‘ he said. Gaurav must have been taken aback, but he said nothing. ‗My name is Gaurav, and I am from Class 7,‘he said. ‗O‘ course you are!‘ said a voice behind them. Gaurav turned back to see Kamal in his favourite pink shirt and gentle smile. ‗So now you are another character from the Redwood School?‘ asked Ashwin. Yet again, this reasoning ability shocked Gaurav and Kamal. ‗How did you find out? I mean, are we wearing our uniform?‘ asked Kamal. ‗Big surprise. I saw another school bus standing next to ours. I noticed the name, that‘s all,‘ said Ashwin. ‗Think we have to go,‘ said Kamal. Both Gaurav and Kamal rushed off to see their school leaving. They got onto their bus at the last second. After the trip, there were a few more lessons to endure. There was Mathematics, which did not go well. Especially when Gaurav messed up the value of pi and somehow got the answer in Greek letters, like around alpha and scribbled stuff all over the notebook. End of the day was Value Education, and Gaurav forgot his textbook. ‗That is the tenth time you have not brought your book, Gaurav! Go to the principal‘s office, now!‘ roared Mr.Gupta. One thing about Nagraj‘s office was that it always smelled wet and evil, the kind of principal personality you don‘t wish for. So, as Gaurav entered the room he confronted his principal storming over a rat. Yes, it was a dead rat. 5

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Hello, Gaurav. I have been waiting for your entransss. I hope you r parentsss will believe me that you are dead indeed. Sorry for being your teacher, child! I have been waiting for too LONG!‘ With the last word, he turned into a huge five feet long snake in a sickly shade of mauve with a huge rasping voice. He lunged. Gaurav just had one thing. He wanted to call out for help, but his moment of shock overpowered him. Suddenly, Nagraj turned into a huge wisp of purple smoke. ‗Tum hisaab chukaoge, Gaurav!!!’ said the same voice before disappearing.

6

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter II

Usually, Ashwin would have wanted to stay right there at the lighthouse for a while to observe the excellent use of logic on the top, but well, maybe he could use the time to read his novel. This novel was no ordinary novel, a great story, and an absorbing one too. It didn‘t matter to him all the name-callings and matter which could just be ignored. Just then, Swati and Nandita came towards him. Probably they had an argument, he thought. ‗Swati is immersed in the world of books. But I am not. Tell me, how to exactly select the trial method among the principle of Pythagoras?‘ asked Nandita. ‗No, I am not. I have to get marks, don‘t I? Tell me too.‘ ‗You can do it this way. Select the smallest square to the next set of numbers and L-divide it, simple. Anyway, I know you came here to talk about that spy boy, right?‘ he asked. ‗Bingo!‘ said Jasnoor from behind. She was sitting with Madhumita, who seemed to be sleepy. They were talking about something. Parvati approached Ashwin, too, but with a different question.

7

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗I want to know whether you go for any extra tuition,‘ she declared. ‗No, I don‘t.‘ Ashwin replied. ‗Then tell me how do you get good marks?‘ enquired Madhumita. ‗All will be learnt in due course,‘ said an unknown person, a parent. They got down from the bus and approached their school. Ashwin liked this building. He, of course, like Swati, loved books, but he had a different feeling about this place, almost like home. Students were running about here and there. There was perfect commotion around. Yet, he felt some kind of connection with this place. ‗I want six of you- Nandita, Swati, you, Parvati, Jasnoor and Madhumita to come with me,‘ said the parent. Weird, Ashwin thought. A parent asks them to come for a ride with him? Suspicious and question arising. That reminded him. Questions-asking session. ‗Sir, who are you, exactly? What do you want?‘ ‗My dear, just call all of them. Special orders cannot be ignored,‘ he replied. So he called all of them. The car of the parent set out towards north. ‗Sir, we don‘t have to go north, do we? That‘s out of city,‘ said the driver. The parent muttered something about meanwhile and then continued giving directions. They reached a huge campus of school outside town. Redwood School had arrived. Two people were waiting outside. Ashwin did a doubletake. It was Kamal and Gaurav. ‗Sorry we‘re late. Get in and keep quiet,‘ said the parent. The car veered off towards east till they raced through the outskirts of Chennai. They arrived at a small port village.

8

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗North of here is Ishwar Academy. Please keep quiet when you reach there. And of course, by the looks of it, Mr.Ashwin, you‘re in altar four. And perhaps Madhumita is in altar three. I don‘t know. The Ishwar will only claim your adoption,‘ he said. ‗Adoption? Excuse me, sir, we have parents. So if this orphanage is to take us, say no,‘ boomed Ashwin. ‗Dear me,‘ mumbled the parent. ‗My dear child, I am Narada, the messenger of the lords. Do not say something like that.‘ The car trembled. They were now in a huge temple complex around a huge lake; something that cannot be found on Google Maps. With that, they saw, that the whole temple spread out over altars. Not normal ones, but huge altars with marvellous colouring. As they passed the gates, Ashwin‘s face began to illuminate, and a Nandita appeared over his head and a book fell on his hand from nowhere. ‗Behold, Ashwin, the son of almighty Saraswati, goddess of wisdom, knowledge and arts. Please accept Ma‘s offering. Saraswati Namasthubyam.‘ Ashwin took the book. It was named ‗Hamare Sanskaar va Icchaen’ That was in Hindi. Understandable it was. And then, the sky rumbled, and Nandita‘s head glowed a reddish hue. Then, a silver trident appeared above her head. ‗Behold, my godliness, Nandita, the almighty daughter of Shiva, the great destroyer of evil and the perfection expert. Om Nama Shivaya.‘ They entered the city complex and the parent, actually Narada, led them towards a huge complex. The Sabha, it was called. It was full of mats on the floor and people talking. They entered. ‗Nandita, and Ashwin, please go to your respective altars. Ashwin, as I said before, go to that white altar up there, near the Pustakalaya. And Nandita, you 9

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

must go to altar one, the huge altar with three stripes and a red eye, go.‘ Narada said so, and started in the general direction of the setting sun. The others were left. They felt really nervous. Ashwin followed Narada to the main complex, and through a confusing set of signs in Sanskrit, one sign said: Vidya Ma Viman. That one felt right, so he followed that path. It was marvellous. The altar was huge: in white and with enormous bookcases inside, and lots of worktables and beds where you could read. It was just Ashwin‘s kind of place to live in. ‗Svagatam. Dear me, welcome to the Vidya Ma Viman that is the Saraswati Altar, that‘s what we call it anyway. You will excel if Ma wishes you luck. You have a great future ahead. Good bye, dear boy. Krupya agya devam.’ He said so and rushed off towards a huge temple.

10

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter III

Nandita was faint with surprise. God! (Correction: gods!) Lord Shiva had accepted her in! Just like that! A trident appeared over her head, and voila! Nandita, the daughter of Shiva is referred to as ‗Her Godliness‘. But her friends, they were blank, left out, knowing nothing about their godly parent. Why had Lord Shiva claimed her, anyway? Why was she supposed to be his daughter? All these questions confused her, but she had no room for more, as she approached the grand Altar One, a huge dome protruding from a small sanctorum, with a Shivalinga, and of course, the whole outer colour was deep blue and three stripes of white were there above. There also was a red eye, glaring at them, as though it had been forced there. And it was really scary to look at. Chants of ‗Om Nama Shivaya‘ were coming from the sanctorum, though Nandita never saw any living soul inside. ‗Svagatam. Welcome to Lord Shiva‘s abode for ardha-ishwaras. Half- gods in your language, I suppose. You and I, sadly, are the only ones part of this huge cabin, and sadly enough, my sister, Jyoti, is missing, or perhaps dead from the

11

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

deadly quest our dear Narada had given her. Who can survive Naraka?‘ asked a boy, fourteen years or so, with such bitterness, that Nandita almost felt pity. ‗Sorry, but I don‘t know who you are, and what you do. Please, tell me who this Naraka is, and perhaps I could help you.‘ Nandita said. The boy looked stunned, as though he had not even realized that Nandita was there, and suddenly became aware of that fact. He shrugged and then started telling, ‗So, welcome to our heavenly abode for Lord Shiva‘s favourite children. I am one of those, so are you. Let me show you around,‘ he pointed at a huge Shivalinga in front, ‗this, the most prized treasure of our institute, is the Mahalinga. You must see that this radiates such immense power that the bhoot, prêt, pisach and danav don‘t enter our premises. But, only our people can control it. We are the only ones who can make the Shivalinga work for the camp. So, I hope you do help me.‘ They followed a thin staircase lined with flaming fire brackets and entered a huge room with the walls full of candles. Glowing chandeliers and beautiful golden spheres filled the room. There were sofas and couches spiked on the east side, with a merry fire burning on the west. It was written, ‗Danavo Bhagatam Shivam.’ Loosely translated, it must have meant, all demons must fear Shiva. There were two doors, one for ‗Mahila’ and the other for the ‗Purush’. ‗From here, I cannot guide you. So, please go front, and explore our great altar. Oh and just come back by five o‘clock, just to come to the Bhojanalaya on time,‘ he said and rushed off. And so the time came. Nandita rushed off to the main hall, that is, The Sabha, to see a huge set of people gathered around a yagna, or a fire, and she recognized four of them- Madhumita, Parvati, Swati and Jasnoor. ‗Sa Vachan, give me your wish, Lords of Kailash and Sagar. Give me the ability, Narayana, to determine the fates of these people. What should I do?‘ Narada was saying this in pure Sanskrit, but Nandita somehow understood.

12

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗What is he doing?‘ asked Nandita. ‗And where is Gaurav?‘ ‗There is always a sacrifice ceremony. If one of these four are not suitable for the god‘s choices, and they have found out about this, the memory wil l be erased and cleaned forever,‘ said the boy. ‗WHAT?!‘ exclaimed Nandita. Narada had started using his rites and rituals. He stood up straight and muttered mantras, waiting for the Lords to inform them about the decision. The breeze grew stronger. The water in the pond rose higher. The fire danced and roared upwards. The sky rumbled, and the Nandita started playing itself. Then, from nowhere, appeared six figures- the forms of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Parvati, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. These were just images, but it sure looked like the gods had changed a lot over the ages. Vishnu wore a delicately woven kurta in blue colour with actual fishes swimming in it. Brahma wore a nice velvet violet suit and had well-groomed silver hair. But worst of all for Nandita was to see Lord Shiva, her newly acclaimed father. He wore a nice full-sleeve red shirt, and the symbol of a tiger was present in his pleated pants. He looked like a normal person who, like Shiva, enjoyed controlled lives. Saraswati wore a white skirt and top and had a novel- ‗Great Expectations‘ in her hand along with her aeon old Nandita. Lakshmi was more modern. She wore a green top and a pink dupatta, and also a beautiful sea-blue pyjama. Parvati aka Durga wore a nice sari in red with gold border. This was how the gods looked now. ‗My gods, how do you think of these children? Are they any help to you?‘ asked Narada. ‗Narada, I strongly objected to this method of memory erasing in the council years ago. You refuse. But if you have read our laws carefully enough, there is a statement that if we gods claim our adoptions after a particular championship or contest, you cannot kill the children,‘ said Saraswati.

13

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Right. So this godly contest must be held on...?‘ ‗...on Chaitra‘s first day. And that is tomorrow,‘ said Brahma. ‗Jai Bhagwan Aham Priyam!’ all the students exclaimed.

Chapter IV

Swati had never experienced a colder night than this, of course. She was abandoned for doing nothing, a child of nobody, and her friend Nandita had flown away to Shiva‘s Altar. This competition, of course, was not her game. She knew nothing of what the temple complex offered in the library; about Chakra Aiming and whatnot. Swati was hopeless at Talwaar Vaar and no better at other things. And she was jealous of Nandita for her excellence in YogMukta, their complex‘s toughest endurance test. And there was Ashwin, of course, getting time to be in the library and to have Vedanta and Ayurveda and Sanskrit classes to enjoy in. She felt equal to Jasnoor and Madhumita, and of course, not Parvati. Parvati’s mother must be Parvati. She thought and thought, and felt sore not able to comprehend why Parvati had not been claimed. And she did not want to think.

14

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

She often would say in desperation to Jasnoor, ‗Nandita means Saraswati in Sanskrit, then why in world would she be the daughter of Shiva?‘ Moreover, the campus seemed to be poisonous to the four of them. Everyone mostly avoided them, like they were a cluster of seaweed left in the bottom of the nearby Shrishti Lake, a tribute to Vishnu and Lakshmi. Swati acquired just one power which she wasn‘t too happy about— speaking to animals. She discovered it when she was pondering over possibilities of her brain being infiltrated and destroyed by the gods themselves, under a banyan tree. She saw a cute little squirrel approaching her. She saw it and said grumpily, ‗Hi there, squeaky. How are you?‘ And, the squirrel spoke to her. ‗Hi madam. My name is Pip, and I am the chieftain of all squirrels in north branch sector. I came to ask you about a major crisis in Road A-5, Nutshell Avenue. Tell me where to get an ah-corn?‘ it said. Swati got one from the kitchens and gave the animal, and it happily hopped away. So, that was all she had: the power of talking to animals. Nothing else, only that was her power. The horns and shankh blared and she scuttled away to the podium. She had to do something. Then she saw the Chakra and understood. She was born to use that thing. It was round and shaped like a metal ball. They were divided, with Madhumita getting magic talent show as a challenge, Jasnoor getting cooking, sewing and treasure hunting in one hour, and Swati getting Chakra throwing. Parvati was about to get her task, but the head of Mahishasura severed appeared above her head. ‗Behold, Almighty Durga has claimed you, my child!‘ shouted Narada.

15

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

So, that was end of one contestant. Selected before even getting her task. Now Swati has three more to defeat. In one hour, Swati had to throw fifty chakras in the water with a small stretch of land. The land must be targeted every single time. If not successful, she would be thrown out. Narada counted down to ten and blew the conch horn. The task had started.

Chapter V

Jasnoor felt awkward for being have set this task. It was too tough for her, mostly because she wasn‘t a great cook. Even if she managed to cook something good at all, it would take supposedly a few days for her to master that technique. She was not good at sewing, too, and not to mention her clumsiness in knitting two strings of yarn in an hour.

16

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

She could simply not finish searching for a treasure; that too underground. She felt her memory ebbing away from her already. What was she supposed to do? She could just do what she was told to. She checked her ingredients on the table: a few loaves of bread, some butter, cheese slices and a small tava. This was all she could muster of making: a simple sandwich. This sandwich would have to be very simple. Really hard it would be for her. She fumbled with the knives for a moment, and finally she was able to cut a few pieces of cheese. She had to do ten more in around ten more minutes. How much time could she waste? Suddenly, her friend, Madhumita appeared behind her, apparently dropping from a trapdoor above them on the ceiling. She whispered, ‗Jasnoor, I can make things appear out of thin air, you know! What do you want? Tell me, fast! I have to reappear onstage after two minutes!‘ Jasnoor thought rapidly. What would she need to make her task easier? A knife which could cut automatically? No, that would be impossible. Perhaps a bottle opener? That would be waste of her time. She kept on eliminating choices till she got it: a bread toaster! ‗Quick, give me a toaster. Fast!‘ Madhumita looked like she was concentrating really hard (like once she had during a history test), and suddenly a toaster appeared out of thin air in front of Jasnoor. ‗I caught it!‘ she exclaimed. ‗Good luck!‘ Madhumita said and disappeared. Jasnoor had no time left, she had to do it. She assembled the contents in place and made a passable toast. She rushed on to the knitting loom. Two pink sets of yarn lay waiting for her. She picked them up and started sewing them. She found these very soft and smooth. Not silk, but something as valuable as that.

17

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

She continued knitting, till she got a nymph sized sweater. She had somehow done this in a short while. Five past eight: twenty five minutes to go! She rushed along the corridor to the outside ground, where there was a hole. As she came nearer, this divided into two more holes. Then, she found out that one of these holes had to be correct. The others were fake. She somehow sensed that the third path, the one to her left, had some kind of unearthly metal inside. She knew that would be precious. She went in. The tunnel seemed long, dark and endless. She whispered, and it echoed down the low ceilinged tunnel. She kept on walking till she found a small block of pure pink metal, lustrous and beautiful, yet it did not feel like part of the Earth. It felt almost heavenly. She saw the sign next to it, Lakshmi Kamal Stone the most precious stone of the heavens, only next in value to the Kailashanath Diamond. She had no real idea what Kailashanath Diamond was, but she found a staircase. She ran up the staircase. It emerged right in the heart of the Sabha, and she heard loud cheering coming from her left. It was Swati: she looked really calmer now, and much, much less talkative. She radiated a sense of power Nandita and Ashwin did last night. It meant only one thing: Swati was claimed; she had a beautiful serpent hovering over her head. She was the daughter of Vishnu: the maintainer, the operator. She was in Altar Five. Behind, Madhumita was searching for Jasnoor. She spotted her, and she ran forwards. ‗Jasnoor! You made it! I thought you wouldn‘t be able to finish within the time limit! You were simply excellent!‘ she said. Jasnoor didn‘t know how Madhumita came to know of this but that was explained. There was a TV screen in the front. 18

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗My dear friends, Jasnoor, also, will not be insulted mentally, and behold...‘ Jasnoor‘s face illuminated with pink light. A lotus appeared over her head. ‗...Jasnoor, the Almighty Daughter of Lakshmi, the bringer of wealth, valour, and gentleness! Jasnoor may join Altar Six, if you please,‘ boomed Narada. ‗Madhumita, I realized in the cookery area, you create things, right? So, you are the daughter of Brahma!‘ said Ashwin. ‗Of course, so I am in Altar Three! Lucky me... anyway, I have to learn th is art. It is not so easy, you know.‘ Madhumita said so and marched away to congratulate Swati. Of course, Gaurav was still missing, but no one noticed that.

Chapter VI

Gaurav felt terrible. The ones at Ishwar Academy had abandoned him, and they left him in this musty place in the middle of nowhere. He had last seen Nandita being claimed and felt something sharp hit his head, and he had fainted.

19

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

And now that he had woken up, he found himself somewhere in a deep and musty cave, and by the looks of it, it was not in India. It was surely somewhere colder, and this cave‘s freezing temperature explained that. He then remembered. ‗Kamal?‘ he called out. Nobody answered him. He could see the faint silhouette of something in a diamond shape, and something which glittered really well. Next to it, gagged and tied was... ‗Kamal!‘ he exclaimed. How he had got there, he didn‘t know. Except, he could see and hear two very deep voices arguing over something. ‗Maharajadhiraj, this Gaurav has not been any use to us. Blacked out for a day, and he doesn‘t look like Lord‘s child either. And Nagraj bhai would have not been wrong by the looks of him,‘ said a first voice. Nagraj struck a bell somewhere in Gaurav‘s memory. Then he remembered. How had Mr. Nagraj disappeared? Gaurav had done nothing, just he had got nervous and had fumbled, but nothing else. What did these voices mean by Lord? Who was their master? ‗This boy will be of no use to us, indeed. But, as Lord Yama tells us to keep him in, I think he feels really tentative. I checked deep into his memory, but as far as I could see, he has no memory of his parentage,‘ said another voice. ‗Maharajadhiraj pe kasam, I know that this boy was being claimed by some lord before we kidnapped him and left a holographic image. Imagine our Lord‘s plight. He has had no adept children in two centuries, why not adopt him?‘ Chilly though the cave was, but at the mention of Yama, the cave got colder. And Gaurav got scared. How had he got kidnapped?

20

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Nagraj bhai did a great thing by vaporising. If he hadn‘t, he would have felt the wrath of Lord.‘ Gaurav felt scared. He quietly was doing something that he didn‘t realise. He was biting his ropes. He had become free. He quietly slipped away, as slippery as an

Chapter VII

The tunnel was colder than Gaurav had expected it to be. After around ten minutes of trudging down the icy cavern with pointed stalactites and stalagmites, and cruel looking shadows following Gaurav and strange noises,

21

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Gaurav felt eerie. The school could not be nearby, and Chennai never housed such mean temperature. The noises of something grinding were coming from behind. Gaurav did not understand where they came from. ‗Karunyaye, Yamiye! Om Bhagwane Priyaye! Om... nashtandriye! Karuppadivye! Yamiye Vibramhate!‘ some voices echoed down the cavern, as though chants were being made. The cave bended into a curve and the path started moving uphill. Gaurav panted and wheezed, but this path was not an easy route. The voices disappeared now, and the path opened up into a round pipeline. This pipeline had skeletons of dead mice, rats and other insects like cockroaches. There was a steep rise in temperature. There were homely voices echoing above, ‗Jai Bhagwan Aham Priyam! Jai Bhagwan Aham Priyam! Vishwa janani Durgaye, bananyare Brahmane! Jodhir nashta vipudaye, purvaya nama Shive! Prasiddo samsaaro Vishnave, Padhanti saadhana prakritiye, Saraswati Namostute! Dhanupadiye, ramave Lakshmi namostute! Jai Bhagwan Aham Priyam, aham Ishwar Gurukulamtam, Vardurtaya Chaturbhujam!’ ‗Come on, children, repeat after me. This sloka is our academy‘s anthem. This means that we pay our homage to all the main gods, and of course, also to our academy. We pay homage to our gurus, and experts, and pledge our loyalty. Now, I want each one of you to make a note that in today‘s Sanskrit class, whatever learnt, will owe you! So, Dhanyavaad Tvamev Chatron!’ ‘Dhanyavaad Guruvam Priyam!’ These voices... Gaurav knew. They came from Ishwar Academy, he supposed, because the total amount of energy of the song was unthinkable. He kept on walking, and found out that the path was no longer rocky, but it was becoming sandier, and he was getting nauseous. He kept on walking till he realised that he was drifting, drifting in the middle of the open ocean. He felt a plunging feeling in his stomach, and he fainted.

22

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter VIII

Ashwin saw the point in attending Ishwar Academy. The nice Sanskrit classes, the well-equipped Pustakalaya, the breathtakingly blissful Altars, the Bhojanalaya (the food hall) and the Shrishti Lake were simply great. Number one, he found out about the various Altars within the campus. He got to know that there were totally nine altars, Nava Sthanaha, or the Nine Sacred Altars. They belonged respectively to- Shiva in altar one, Durga in altar two, 23

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Brahma in altar three, Saraswati in altar four, Vishnu in altar five, Lakshmi in altar six, Ganesha in altar seven, Hanuman in altar eight, and Kartikeya in altar nine.

These children, of course, had respective qualities. As Jasnoor and Swati were in Bhagwan Chatvasthav, or simply the Big Six, along with Nandita, Madhumita, Parvati, and Ashwin, they felt special. Nandita acted lonely, as though the Shiva Altar was boring. Swati excellently described the altar five. ‗You know what? The Vishnu Altar is shaped like a clam, and inside, we have a collection of seashells, conch horns, and we have a private aquarium! The long Ananthashayana posture of Pitashri is often seen at night! And, well, I am good at archery and Chakra throwing suddenly...‘ The Ishwar Academy‘s students would never address their fathers and mothers by their name. They would often use Pitashri or Mata or Ambe. The students had to wake up at 6 in the morning, and, must have a compulsory set of activities in the morning, depending on their altar number.

24

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati did discus throwing, Nandita did meditation and penance, Madhumita did magic practice (Brahma‘s children had compulsory creation classes where they would be taught to make objects appear out of thin air, like magic), Ashwin went for Sanskrit classes, Jasnoor went for arts and crafts, and Parvati went for challenges in the ocean. Ashwin had made one friend at the academy. A boy from altar seven was really friendly. His name was Vignesh. He always had vibhoodi smeared over his head, and he spoke faster than anyone could catch. ‗Hi! Ashwin, did you get the eighteenth translation for Sanskrit? I got it as ―my mother is everything, though thy not know thou‖. What did you get?‘ he asked at top speed, and Ashwin took a second to interpret his words. ‗Of course, the Sanskrit translation master had told us not to use old English words like thy and thou and shalt, but it‘s your wish, to understand about the, you know concept.‘ The activities around were occupying, and took most of the students‘ energy. The altars five and four were collaboratively preparing a ceremony, called the Annual RathSamorav Inauguration. They had planned a set of rules for the Raths, or the chariots, that there would be a five kilometre long track along Ishwaralayam Parvat, the nearby mountain, and the altar to come first will get a prize, a direct conversation with their human parents. The race inauguration was to be held on the Amavasya on the fifth day of Chaitra. The members would sign their names. The ceremony would have gone perfectly, except for the materialisation of a boy. A boy who was thin and spindly in a red uniform with the logo of Redwood School. This boy appeared in the YogMukta period. This boy was named as Gaurav, though Ashwin remembered him, he did not remember seeing him. A vague and old and tarnished memory is what he was... ‗Hi everybody...um, I‘m Gaurav, erm, if you know that I was picked up by Narada in front of the school and...‘ he mumbled.

25

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Of course, dear child! You are indeed Gaurav, the son of mighty Lord Kartikeya...‘ Narada said, as a symbol of a Peacock appeared over Gaurav. Gaurav was looking unhealthy. He had, as far as Ashwin could tell, not eaten for days. ‗Jai Bhagwan Aham Priyam!’ said Narada. ‘Jai Bhagwan Aham Priyam!!!’ exclaimed all.

Chapter IX

26

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Madhumita knew that magic would not be easy for her. She had to focus really hard, and most of the times there was always a risk of failure. Often the magicians would turn out to be children of Brahma or else huge liars and cheats. ‗The irony of magic is, even though it can do an ything, it always ends up in a complete opposite intention,‘ said Narada, once, at Creations class. Madhumita had a lot of things to do. The days were often busy, and people had no time to sit in their respective altars and relax. Morning was usually really busy. Then, after lunch at the Bhojanalaya, they had to go for skill-moulding, that is, as Narada put it, different types of arts being learnt rather than one. The day almost always ended cheerfully, and then after dinner, at the Bhojanalaya, where they would sit according to their altars at their respective tables (not just tables, often Rajgaddis, or royal throne like chairs). Then the whole academy feared the dreaded lecture by the Sanskrit advisor, Mr.Gupta, who spoke in pure Sanskrit and spoke about values and karma. ‗Students, my dears, I do not think you would do such a thing! I have come to know that during the YogMukta classes, you scream and shout rather than meditate in peace! Do you know that you are only insulting Lord Shiva, by not following proper methods?‘ he said one day, to tumultuous regard by Shiva. Shiva answered in a weird way. The fire near the diya rose in such vigour, that the nearest table caught fire, and the ones there were incidentally, Kapil and his friends, the main troublemakers during YogMukta, the sons of Hanuman. The fire turned a deep red and everyone gasped as the form became redder and redder. ‗My Gods! You have brought up the wrath of the lord! Children, you are not fit to be taught anything! The Lord approaches with the almighty trident and the powerful eye!‘ said Mr.Gupta.

27

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Unfortunately, Madhumita thought, Mr.Gupta was wrong. A deep rasping voice filled the room. The lights went off. Someone in the back row screamed, for a skeleton had appeared in their midst and it said in a horrible, rasping voice: ‘Behold all you people, who do not differentiate the unthinkable powers of Maharajadhiraj! You who think to betray him, and you who make us downtrodden! May the Curse of Yamraj hit every one of you!’ ‗Ah! Thank you... my dearest people in the whole of upper world! How grateful am I to have heard your voices! You have underestimated our forces for years! You, the puny living souls, have made death a disgrace rather than something welcome. You at the very peak of your mischief have stolen my most prized Yama Bhoomi Diamond!‘ ‗I, after all these years of complete riddance from the Bharatiya Samaj, have in turn had good riddance from you! But all your pestering little kinds have destroyed my most prized possession, which I have painstakingly made as an exact replica of the Kailashanath Diamond, and you, of all things hateable, have utterly sentenced it to doom! Your kind is the worst that ever happened to this world!‘ ‗Lord Yama curses every single soul in this room. The curse will bring every living soul in this room to our realm, in a very forcible way. Do not worry how grateful you must be to Maharajadhiraj, for he gives you a deadline! You must restore his diamond, as quickly as possible, before the start of Spring, to a planned location on Mount Aphrahan. Remember, you must get to the realm wherever it is, and bring it back. If you do not... you know the consequences!’ continued the horrible rasping voice. The lights came back on. The heat came back. The room was filled with whispers; the people in every table were discussing about the same thing: Lord Yama addresses us personally? And there is a deadline to this and the students at the academy would perish in just a fortnight. Suddenly, Narada came in to the lecture hall and announced graver news still.

28

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗My dear students, we have grave news. Lord Shiva‘s power, The Kailashanath Diamond, the power of Bharatiya Samaj, is lost! Or perhaps, as a second thought, it is stolen! ‗We have a tradition, and I hope the older students will inform the newest ones about this challenge they have to face. One guide will be an old student, and the others‘ names are as follows: Parvati, Ashwin, Nandita, Jasnoor, Madhumita and Swati. Who will volunteer for the guidance that is the choice of the Drishta!‘ With this, he walked away, and after around five minutes, he returned with an orb. This orb was very big, about the size of a football, and it was in the colour of sapphire. Much more, it radiated an immense kind of power. ‗This is the Drishta, the seer of Lord Vishnu. This will tell you what to do. It will tell you the guide‘s identity, and it will tell you of your adventure: will it pass or fail?‘ The newcomers ordered up according to altar number. When Nandita came front, it glowed bluer, and words started coming out of it. A clear female voice spoke: ‗Ardha-Ishwaras will go to the Samudra Devta’s place, Led by a boy, the son of the mammoth’s race. They will join hands with the tide and moon, Their powers will lie in Saraswati’s throne. A son of wisdom will lay down a path, And the powers of one lord will be broken apart’ ‗AHA! Anyone from the Ganesha altar who would like to try?‘ asked Narada. Vignesh tentatively raised his hand, but the sign of Ganesha appeared over his head- red sandstone, meaning yes, you must go.

29

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Settled indeed. Now we must move on to the next lines which are important. Let‘s see. You have to go to a Samudra Devta‘s palace, right in the bay of Bengal, and you must seek some clue. After that, I think, one power, either of the diamonds will be utterly destroyed. Feels really sad. Please, Nandita, you must penance to your father. Appeal him. Try to make him believe the state of the camp and try to undo the curse. That is all we can hope for!‘ With that, he strode away, leaving all the newcomers and Vignesh in deep confusion. ‗I know of one place, the nearest palace of the Samudra Devta: his realm is the area around the Marina Beach. Maybe we should try that,‘ said Swati. ‗You can do that? Right then. Everyone, tomorrow morning, we must pray to our parents, then the godly parents. Try to take their blessings, and once we do that, let‘s set out for the beach in the morning,‘ said Ashwin. As the dawn came, all the seven of them went out to the waiting car- the same white car of the parent. They got in, their hearts beating fast.

Chapter X

30

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Vignesh had never thought that he would lead the journey essential for the Bharatiya Samaj. A sandstone block had appeared over his head, and voila! A quest to save the world from peril! The prophecy had clearly stated that a child of the mammoth‘s race would lead the quest: and Ganesha was (sorry my lord) after all an elephant headed god. Vignesh had been giving deep thought about their quest on their ride towards the Marina. As the city got nearer, the ride became smoother; with fewer bumps. Ashwin discussed the possibilities of the diamond‘s location with Vignesh. ‗I think this diamond would be up in the Himalayas, and not in Mount Aphrahan. It is supposed to be the guardian of our time, isn‘t it?‘ asked Ashwin. ‗Yes, and a daughter of Shiva, Jyoti, had disappeared after a task given to her about a month back. She hasn‘t returned yet, and sources tell she had been to Naraka.‘ ‗Naraka? You mean the underworld? How could anyone go to a place meant for the dead?‘ replied Ashwin, amazed. ‗Actually, the underworld is meant for the dead. Maybe Jyoti is dead. We can‘t do anything about it. Let us check it with the Samudra Devta of the Marina, first. Then we will think about that.‘ So they decided to stay calm and the journey was very quiet, for Swati was too nervous to talk, and Nandita was in a trance, trying to appease Lord Shiva. About thirty minutes later, their car pulled up at the Beach Road, full of determined people running and walking to lose weight. A few people were

31

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

running towards the ocean, and they were standing in front of the waves, staring and grinning, as though they wanted the waves to be fiercer. Swati‘s face contorted with rage. ‗How dare you! You think the waves will obey your command?‘ Swati was angry enough to go and hit the man doing the baiting trick, but Jasnoor and Madhumita restrained her from going. ‗How dare you! I mean, the waves will not obey them, and they will pollute it for a good cause! They never learn, do they? The tsunami our Pitashri triggered was not enough to make these people learn a lesson!‘ roared Swati. ‗Calm down, Swati! We have a quest to finish, remember?‘ Swati came to her senses at that. ‗I thought someone said Vishnu‘s children are submissive?‘ asked Jasnoor. ‗Oh please, here‘s a proving exception!‘ said Ashwin. ‗Enough is enough! We are wasting our time. We have to contact the Samudra Devta. Swati, where exactly is he?‘ asked Vignesh. ‗Over there.‘ Swati pointed at the waves, and it was funny enough to see Swati pointing at nothing. Seconds later, their mouths fell open, as a beautiful crystalline palace glittered over the horizon. ‗How come the other people don‘t see it?‘ asked Jasnoor. ‗The Dhund takes care of that. This layer masks everything we see, and we don‘t see anything until we are adopted by the lords,‘ said Vignesh. ‗But how do we get over?‘ asked Ashwin. ‗That‘s easy. See over there?‘

32

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati pointed at an old broken down fisherman‘s boat, The Madrasakappal. ‗That is, as far as I can see, an illusion. It is not just a simple boat. The neare r we get, the more it covers up its massiveness,‘ said Swati. They approached the broken down boat, and it slowly changed before their eyes. And before they knew it, they were standing beneath a huge ship, with its sails in pale blue colour, and a marvellous deck with a great view. The ship‘s real name was Bharatiya Nauka. This was a ship used by the Vishnu‘s children during the Great Wrath (the 2004 tsunami in Chennai was called so). They glided this ship in the waters to rescue fishermen who had almost drowned. ‗Let‘s get in!‘ cheered Madhumita. So they went in. They found out that the whole ship consisted of eight rooms, each room complete with its own TV and computer. There was also a commons area, a dining room, and an empty fridge. Ashwin went near the fridge, and saw a familiar silver mark he had been told about by his half-brothers, and this was Saraswati Kalyan, or the Mark of Saraswati. ‗I know what to do. Anything you all want to eat?‘ he asked. All of them nodded in exasperation. They had skipped their breakfast because they were nervous, and they did not have time. Ashwin spoke in pure Sanskrit: ‗Right then... Saraswati Maye tum ham varadam swaha! Ma jayate! Oh Goddess Saraswati, Mata, we are in deep hunger, and we want something to eat. Please fulfil our wishes of food, deep down!‘ exclaimed Ashwin. And they opened the fridge. ‗Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!‘ shouted Madhumita.

33

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

The fridge was filled with goodies unimaginable; bottles of orange juice, water bottles, packets of bread, butter and jam, marmalade paste, jellies and stuff Vignesh really hated: pizzas, onion rings and tomatoes. They ate to their heart‘s content. And the ship‘s sail was flared up. Swati prayed to her father. ‗Shantakaram bhujangashayanam, Padmanabham suresham, Vishwadharam gaganasudusham, Meghavarnam shubhangam! Lakshmikantam kamalanayanam, Yogihridyanagamyam, Vande vishnum bhavabayaharam, SARVALOKAIKANATAM!’ At the last word, the ship started moving. Everyone settled comfortably on the main deck, surrounded by the blue sea on all sides. The ship set sail towards east. After five minutes, Ashwin muttered, ‗My goodness! I have something important to tell you! The Great Wrath had ended with Vishnu‘s children not able to convince their father, and they took the help of Chandra! Perhaps we could pray to him at night!‘ ‗Good idea! Ashwin, you must do the praying, because it is Saraswati who understands Chandra. Chandra hates Ganesha‘s sons, and you know why,‘ said Vignesh. ‗Why?‘ asked Parvati. ‗I think you know my Pitashri cursed the moon what we call today the phases of the moon?‘ ‗Oh, right,‘ said Madhumita. After around an hour or so, the palace loomed into sharper focus: the sun was directly above it, but the walls glinted like they had been plastered with diamonds. Wait, Vignesh thought diamonds! ‗Hey, do you think that this place might be an underwater mine‘s location?‘ he said. 34

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati shook her head. She went to the front of the ship. ‗Hey, anyone of you could just cut out that piece of rope over there? We might use it as an anchor.‘ Nandita obliged. She went to the front of the ship, caught the rope, and cut it with a single strike of her knife: Trinayan. The rope was tied to a very huge rock near the palace. Swati jumped out of the ship and onto the rock. This rock was connected by a bridge to the palace across the water. Swati got down, followed by the rest. Nandita suddenly sighed very deeply. ‗My father seems too busy to hear my penance, and he is not answering. Perhaps he is testing my patience,‘ she said. They walked down the long bridge till Ashwin yelled. ‗Ouch!‘ ‗What?‘ ‗Nothing, just hit my leg with a rock. A very hard rock. Hey, wait. That is harder than any metal! My gods, it is a diamond!!‘ he shouted. Parvati picked up the diamond and examined it. ‗Looks like an alloy- it is oyster diamond. Ever heard of it?‘ she said. Everybody shook their heads. ‗The property is like that. It cannot be a pure diamond at any cost.‘ They ignored it, but Ashwin pocketed it anyway: Vignesh saw it from the corner of his eye. They marched towards the palace, and the gates flung open by themselves. 35

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

A conch horn blew. ‗Behold! My dear friends, allies of the lords!‘ said a deep merry voice. A tall man ran forward, with black- blue hair (was there such a colour?) and smiles so broad, that it could have been the mouth led to Naraka. He was wearing robes of pure silk, and the colour was the colour of the waves, if there was any. He had a crown on the top of his head, which was wavy, and shaped like an oyster. ‗How may I help you, Swamini Swati?’ He held out his hand and looked really nice. ‗Actually, we are here to ask your advice.‘ ‗Seek, child, seek.‘ ‗So, yeah, we are here on the purpose of finding Mount Aphrahan, and also Kailash. The diamonds are missing from both the places. Could you help us out?‘ The sea god grinned. ‗Sure, my dear. You are the guests of my palace now, do come in and make yourselves comfortable.‘ He replied. Swati explained about their ship, and the sea king looked very sad. ‗Oh we cannot have you then? Anyway, all you have to do is to find the Samudra Hira and it will give you all the advice. Know the mantras and you will find your path! I am really busy today. So please don‘t pester me now.‘ Vignesh was shocked. All the hospitality ended in just one dialogue. He knew why, because of his experience in sea gods. He did not tell anything.

36

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

(Actually, the sea gods usually would lure sailors into their palaces, and after doing a favour to those unwary sailors, they would put them to death or imprison them as bait to sea monsters) ‗Don‘t listen! Run back to the ship!‘ he shouted. They ran as fast as they could, with Ashwin puffing behind, and finally fed up, Ashwin vanished. ‗My gods! Where did he go?‘ After the six of them reached the ship, they found Ashwin waving at them. ‗How did you get there so fast?‘ enquired Swati. ‗Sunlight travel... it is the method of using heat molecules to transfer your substance into another place.‘ ‗Huh?‘ asked Swati. ‗Oh nothing.‘ Ashwin opened his palm. He still had the Samudra Hira. He whispered to the others, ‗This is the Hira. I have it, and keep quiet. I am going to consult it.‘ With that, he opened up his palm, placed the Hira on a sacred stool, the Palag and chanted words in Sanskrit, which Vignesh could translate as ‗Thy almighty Hira! You are the one we seek, thou almighty. You shall tell us the way we could find Aphrahan, and thou shalt tell us true!‘ The Hira glowed blue: Vishnu was always related to Prophecies on Sea. ‗The four Ardha Ishwaras shall make a call, The power of Luna, greatest of all. They will traverse the seas of yore, To the land far ashore.

37

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

They will think of the old Samaj, The olden forests of Koulen-Kambaj.‘ ‗Another prophecy?‘ Madhumita complained. ‗Well, we have to figure it out, don‘t we?‘ said Ashwin.

38

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XI

Being the daughter of Vishnu and all, Swati knew how to control the Bharatiya Nauka. She also knew the perfect bearings of the sea; that they were at 11.55 degree north of the equator and 91.24 degree east of the prime meridian. She also knew that they were passing an island to the west of Little Andaman, named as South Sentinel Island. She knew that this area was deserted and prone to earthquakes, and she also knew that they were quite near to Barren Island, and as anybody knows, that is where the only active volcano in India is. She tried to stir the ship away from that particular island, just in case anything erupted. She was gazing at the afternoon sky, and the serene ocean below. Behind her, at the deck of the ship, the others were discussing the possibilities of the location of the old Bharatiya Samaj. ‗Old Bharatiya Samaj, at some Kamaj? What does that mean?‘

39

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗The Bharatiya Samaj declared one place throughout the Indian Territory as their main seat of power. And this place, as far as we should know, must be in the west, as the prophecy tells us to traverse the seas of yore,‘ said Vignesh. ‗That means we must look for a country conquered by India in the east, is it not?‘ asked Nandita, twirling Trinayan between her fingers. Ashwin looked as though in deep thought. He was frowning as though looking for something in a book with a thousand words per page. His eyes were moving too, like some kind of virtual book was in front of him. ‗Hey! I have got it! We have to set sail to Cambodia! Now, or else we would be too late for it!‘ he exploded, leaving Jasnoor whimpering in pain as she closed her ears. His eyes gleamed strangely, like as though something had covered them for a while. He glanced about, looking for a reply. ‗Exactly...‘ said Vignesh. Swati turned around, and spoke. ‗I thought this voyage would be nice and comfortable. All we find is ...‘ she muttered something that nobody could hear, and she turned pale. This was because she had seen her father‘s most powerful enemy, Kalia, or the mighty five headed serpent. He had such poison that could turn things to ashes, and he could kill goats with a stare. He was just like a basilisk. ‗I have seen Kalia lurking beneath our ship,‘ she announced, looking grim. ‗C‘est impossible! Kalia a été killed par seigneur Vishnu ya très longtemps!‘ shouted Ashwin, and he covered his mouth. ‗I don‘t know French!‘ he said glumly. No one had time to ponder over that French outbreak, for a loud hiss filled the deck of the ship.

40

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Sssurrender, Ardha Ishwarasss, for I am the king of the evil snakesss of the world. I know that thy friend, SsSwati, knows of me, and my almighty father. He was ssslayed by thy father in the form of a puny boy.‘ The snake said all this in a cold whisper, and it dragged out the‗s‘ like a snake should. Swati was the only one who could control that snake. She knew that the snake, Kalia could only be killed underwater, which her father had done. She did not know swimming that well, but she supposed Vishnu could help her in such a sticky situation. She prayed for emergency and jumped into the water. She saw why the Bay of Bengal was considered a cluster of the cleanest water. The least number of ports in the eastern coast made it clear that this sea was less polluted, and more vibrant than the one on the other end. All around her were corals that gleamed in silver, lavender, hazel, blue and red. Small and cute goldfish scuttled past, and they stopped in front of her, and bent their little bodies like they were bowing to her. She went in front, and saw a black tail gleaming in front. Then she realised that she had forgotten her Chakra back at the ship. She saw something glittering in front of her. It was a pearl Chakra. This looked sharp enough, so she threw it with all her might. The Chakra moved amazingly fast, and hit the snake at its tail. It howled in agony, but did not look quite diminished. How had her father killed the snake? Then she got it. He had not killed the snake, but he had removed the power out of it by dancing on its head. So it was. Swati knew the acidic properties of the snake‘s venom. She also had done chemistry in class. She somehow knew that something with a base would be perfect to give to the snake for eating. She got it. There were many bars of soap in the common bathroom in the ship. She would summon some of those into the snake‘s stomach.

41

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Hey, Snaky! Come here if you are truly a venomous python!‘ she taunted. It turned around, hissed and came forward. ‗I have a deal with you. In our ship, we have some excellent Cake of Amrit which you would like to have. You will not go to the underworld, you see. You will become immortal, and you will be the ever god of snakes!‘ sh e told it. It hissed in delight. ‗Surely I will not refuse such an excellent deal. The children of Vishnu are getting better, perhaps?‘ it muttered to itself and pushed Swati ashore with the back of its fin. Swati broke the surface of the ocean, and tumbled back on to the ship. Ashwin interjected her, ‗Hey, is Mr. Snaky dead?‘ he asked. ‗No, Ashwin, and I don‘t have time for all your questions. Nandita, please quickly fetch me five bars of soap from the restroom.‘ She shouted. Nandita obliged and ran into towards the commons. ‗Look here, we don‘t have time at all. That snake is thinking if devouring all of us, and it is vicious enough to survive the Great Wrath. So, I have thought about weakening it by adding basic properties to acidic properties of its venom. That explains the soap,‘ she explained to the others. ‗Good thinking. Sorry about my French. That was Mata’s blessing, I suppose.‘ Nandita came back in, with her arms laden with Fiama di Wills and Cinthol soap bars, and a few sachets of hand wash. Swati ran towards the railing and jumped in. The serpent did not wait for her, and it just snatched everything. It ate all the bars in one gulp, and drunk the handwash liquid in one go. ‗Bitter and I thought Amrit was sweet,‘ it muttered.

42

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Suddenly it jumped fiercely. It opened its mouth, as wide as it could. It spat a bit of its venom on a seaweed, which remained stable, and if possible, became brighter. ‗You wretched Ardha Ishwaras! You never keep thy promises. You shall suffer, only in later times. Let the wrath of the serpent be with you!‘ The serpent had nothing other than its venom as its power, and as Swati had predicted, it swam away like it could disappear. ************* Swati and the others went back into their cabins in their ship, and each cabin magically suited itself for its owner. Ashwin‘s and Swati‘s changed themselves into Marine Libraries, Nandita‘s became a meditation hall (almost), Vignesh‘s became a study hall, lined with blackboard and whatnot, Madhumita‘s room was full of statues and had its own TV, Jasnoor‘s room was complete with a table, chair and an extra fitting- an induction stove. Parvati‘s room was like a mini- science lab. The second Swati sat on her bed, with a novel in her hand, she felt her eyes close, and the novel drop behind her. ********** Swati did not have a peaceful night. She dreamt that there were huge bugs feasting on something disgusting. She saw the silhouette of something in a dome like shape- a temple, perhaps, and trees all around her. Sounds were coming from the temple. ‗Do you not know, wicked soul, that you and your worse colleagues cannot even try to find the legendary diamonds? And I am sure you wicked ones do not have the power to control this forest, as it is the life source, and a living thing. I am sure your kind has no power over my territory,‘ said a high pitched voice, something more primitive rather than a human voice.

43

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗No, Lord of The Wild, Shri Hanuman, it is not that which I am talking of,‘ said another voice, which sounded panicky. ‗Oh nonsense. I know of my co operators of the world. I know what Yama is up to. I know of his plans to seize the Kailashanath which is identical to the Yama Bhoomi. I just know of your work. Why will you set fire to my territories around the world, otherwise?‘ said Hanuman. ‗My Lord, it is only we want to protect your pestering children, that‘s all.‘ Behind Swati‘s dreamy self, huge figures were moving. Crying and shouting filled the area. ‗Why did you set fire to Angkor Wat? I must regret this,‘ said Hanuman. The second voice shouted in pain as the owner of the voice crumpled beneath, the ground dissolving around him.

44

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XII

Nandita was not able to sleep at all even when the ship was silent and it rocked its way through the bay. The adjacent cabin, Ashwin‘s had its light on, but there was no audible sound. All the other cabins‘ occupants were soundly asleep. Nandita felt a bit uneasy, and she always was a bit scared of the sea sometimes, but she had never felt so uncomfortable. So, she switched on her light, and walked over, went outside, and leaned over the railing, and viewed the horizon. She peeked inside Ashwin‘s cabin through the window, and saw him reading a book in full attention. She suspected if he was deserted of his extra powerful senses when he was reading.

45

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

She moved a bit closer, only to find that he was reading is mother‘s gift: Hamare Sanskaar va Icchaen. He was too engulfed in its world to observe his surroundings. She wondered of his sudden French outbreak during Swati‘s return, and how sudden it had been... She felt it did not matter much, but she knew that Swati had changed a lot after her claiming and adoption. The chatterbox had somehow turned a bit more subtle, if possible. Swati was a bit more patient and less impulsive. She had inherited her Pitashri‘s traits: Vishnu was submissive and gentle, but his anger was really immense: especially the Great Wrath... She knew that the 2004 tsunami at Chennai had caused the most disaster in Indian history, and she also knew of Vishnu‘s children and how they had eradicated their father‘s Wrath. Nandita was thinking too much, a bit just more and more... She was too occupied to notice a strange red light near her shoulder, where she usually kept Trinayan and she was thinking of too many things. If she had been any observant, she would have noticed that this particular glow spread through her dress like anything, and she was glowing like a lustrous diamond. Until a voice spoke to her, she never knew what was happening to her... ‗Dear child, you have my blessing. I have removed the curse from your academy, and of course, I have entrusted the search of my own diamond to you. You see, child, my diamond is made out of the very things Yama Bhoomi feeds upon: happiness, hope and cheer. If you need to get my diamond, sense these feelings in an extreme around you, and you will find the Kailashanath. If not, I do shudder to think of my despair, and of this country‘s, too. You are my only hope, child...‘ With that, the calm yet overpowering voice faded, and so did her glow. She was sure that that message was from her very own father. She knew it.

46

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Whereas, Ashwin was inside his room, and Nandita peeped inside, beside herself in anxiety. ‗Ma, how in the world can I pinpoint this location? Firstly, I must go out now and pray to Chandra. Then I must also accomplish your task... How do you expect me to do this?‘ he whispered, to a white glow on his book. Nandita saw it and gasped. It was Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge and studies. She looked a bit angry and sad at the same time. ‗Son, you are the only one I feel worthy of this quest. You will have to do it. The throne is very weak without that particular mantra, and the mantra is the holder of all universal truths, out of which only two have been revealed.‘ ‗But Ma, I have to accompany these people on their quest too. I must not parry with a double burden, it might lead to my failure.‘ He said it with such modulation that it felt almost desperate not to leave this quest. ‗I know you are one of the only children of mine who has read this book in my prescribed time: a week after I gave this book. You have done it and proved yourself worthy. You will at all costs, join me and my other children on this quest. You will be the one to seek the power of Gyana, or knowledge! You must alert all your friends of it. You should make sure that you remain faithful in both your quests. Varadam ichhavam Padhanti!‘ She said so and vanished. Ashwin seemed to have got back his extra senses. ‗Nandita! What in the world are you doing here?‘ he asked. ‗Thinking of coincidences…‘ ‗What kind of coincidences?‘ he asked. ‗I got a message form Pitashri, and you get one from Ma. How very deliberate it seems...‘

47

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Oh, so you witnessed it all. Wish I‘d closed the window shutters. Anyway, I have to go on another flipping quest to save the Brahmane Shweta Padma. How so unlucky... These gods have made us their very powerful aids,‘ he said. ‗Oh, and I have to find Jyoti,‘ said Nandita exasperatedly. ‗So both of us have the woes of our parent gods... And the others? It is already nearing dawn, and Swati must wake up to accelerate the ship!‘ said Ashwin. So it was. After around fifteen minutes of brushing teeth, washing up and having breakfast, Swati signalled everyone at the table and swallowed her toast forcefully. ‗Friends,‘ Gulp. ‗I have something to tell you. I dreamt last night of something really weird. I saw Lord Hanuman blast an underworld creature to pieces, near a forest, near a huge temple called Angko What.‘ ‗Surely you mean Angkor Wat?‘ asked Ashwin. ‗Yeah, yeah. So I am setting sail for Kambaj right away.‘ It was as arranged. They passed a huge island with sprawling acres of forests and a nasty mountain up at the top. According to Nandita, that looked like someone‘s turned up nose. Swati informed it was Barren Island, and she could think of no other way to Cambodia. ‗What about our quests? I mean, Nandita‘s quest is too too connected. She gets to find Jyoti, while I have to search for a white lotus made of pure knowledge, and every grain of pollen made from a Vedic hymn.‘ Ashwin moaned a lot, but he remained occupied with his gift. ‗What is so interesting in there?‘ asked Swati. ‗Oh just facts about gods, us and demons, and we also have a glossary on the main places related to the Bharatiya Samaj.

48

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗So Cambodia is there in the list?‘ ‗Of course. The ruler Jayavarman II, the son of Lord Vishnu, built a temple in the honour of the Big Six at Angkor, where he stored his Ardha Ishwara faculties. His empire was lost after his death, and it was covered in the Kanyo and Koulen forests till an excavation happened.‘ ‗Oh!‘

Chapter XIII

Ashwin could not comprehend the location of the White Lotus, the symbol of Ma Saraswati. He thought and pondered over it, but he could in no way find any pinpointed location anywhere in that world. Meanwhile, Swati and Nandita were discussing how to navigate through the ocean towards Cambodia. ‗I think we must set sail through Borneo,‘ said Swati. ‗No, it will be foolish. We must move to Cambodia through the Indian Ocean right away!‘ exclaimed Nandita.

49

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Ashwin felt he was being selfish and he opened up his gift, Hamare Sanskaar Va Icchaen. He flipped over the page to Kambaj, the old power of the gods. He read out an interesting passage to the others. ‗Hey, hear this. Cambodia is one of the countries in the SAARC. It is a country filled with marvellous forests and ancient temples to all our lords. Mainly, the people of this region follow Buddhism, and the area around the ancient temple of Angkor Wat houses more than a hundred Hindus. Geographically, Cambodia is divided into two by Tanyakoa River, which is underground, and is mythical. This river is the channel to Cambodia from 12.2778° N, 93.8583° E, that is, our modern Barren Island.‘ He said this slowly, so each and everyone could comprehend. ‗So, we have to find this Tanyakoa River?‘ asked Swati. ‗The real Indian name of this river is Tanyakaveri River, so you must just find a water source which is like a river around here.‘ ‗D‘you have any idea where this river would end up?‘ asked Nandita. ‗According to Ma, it ends up right in the Kanyo and Koulen forests, in the heart of Cambodia. That is about fifteen miles to Angkor Wat.‘ Ashwin thought he had overstuffed everybody with facts, but he had no other choice but to inform them. ‗What about the first line of the second prophecy?‘ ‗Yeah, what about it?‘ ‗My goodness, haven‘t you guessed? Four of us must appeal Chandra, and make him help us in this quest for surviving!‘ said Ashwin, exasperated. Nandita looked serious, and thoughtful at the same time. ‗We have to find it, no other go.‘

50

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati suddenly exclaimed. ‗Oh no! I think we have a whirlpool below our ship,‘ she said. Swati was right. The ship lurched forcefully to one side, and then to another. There was a huge plunge hole right in front of their ship. Swati looked like she had had a heart attack. ‗That whirlpool, it ends up somewhere in a lake… I think it is the Tanyakao River… which else river would teleport us somewhere else?‘ she said. Ashwin looked determined. ‗We must will the ship to get inside. The power of the river won‘t be enough to break this ship, I know. Swati, do it now.‘ He said it with such command; Swati obliged and forced the ship. Jasnoor and Madhumita screamed together, as they plunged deeper and deeper into a field of dark blue… ****** Ashwin was the one to wake up first. He found that all of them were unconscious, and that the ship was sailing peacefully through a calm river, and Ashwin craned his neck up, to see a deep tube-like structure in which water flowed, like a pipe. He willed himself to walk to the fridge and take out ice-cold water. He went to Swati and spilt five really cold drops on her eyes. She shook, and then opened her eyes. ‗I feel like I hit a brick wall,‘ she said, clutching her forehead. Ashwin thought that Swati was the best simile speaker, because that was exactly how he felt, too.

51

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati now aided him in waking up all the others, who groaned and held their temples as though they too experienced the same feeling. ‗Cosmovelocity,‘ said Vignesh. ‗What?‘ ‗Cosmovelocity occurs when you enter an impossible world, according to physics, and your human side faces pain, whereas your god side remains healthy. You experience slight pain on your forehead,‘ explained Vignesh. Ashwin gestured everyone to come to his cabin. He went inside, the others followed, and he closed the door. He went to the TV, switched it on, and opened surveillance CCTV. ‗What do you want to do?‘ asked Madhumita. Ashwin remained silent. He selected the deck camera, and hit enter. All of them gasped, except Ashwin, who still seriously stared at the screen. ‗How on earth is the moon visible?‘ asked Swati. The moon was visible, even though they were in a cosmic world. ‗Nandita, Swati and Parvati, come here. Repeat after me,‘ he ordered. ‘Chandrasya srunu naamaani, shubadhani mahee pathe, Yani sruthwa narodukhan muchyathe nathra samsaya. They repeated properly. Swati clasped her mouth when they saw the Moon getting bigger and bigger, and finally, a young man of about twenty descending from it. He wore a silver pyjama-kurta and had a warm smile. He walked onto the ship, and the moon‘s brightness seemed to follow him. Knock. Knock. Noises came from the door. Ashwin went and answered the door.

52

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Svagatam, my lord. Welcome to our abode. I really enjoy your sheetal company. Please help us in navigating through this river,‘ Ashwin said, Chandra Devta smiled and raised his right hand. He blessed them, and disappeared. The ship started sailing faster. Swati noticed the speed and spoke: ‗How are we getting faster? I am not doing anything,‘ she said. ‗Tides, Swati… the moon has blessed us with high tide!‘ said Vignesh. Vignesh had kept quiet through the meeting. He whimpered behind the curtain all the time when Chandra spoke. Ashwin somehow became cheerful. ‗One burden over! Two more to go,‘ he said to himself. Ashwin opened the door of his cabin and sent everybody to their cabins and told them to sleep. They were puzzled like Ashwin, because they could not believe they were out for twelve hours and day had become night? Ashwin opened his book. ‗O Ma, please give me the power to find our location. Please shower your knowledge on us too,‘ he said. The book glowed white, and Saraswati appeared. ‗Son, you are the cleverest I have met. You understood the value of Chandra on your trip. I of course want your success, but I myself do not have any way to find my own Shweta Padma. If you have to find it, you must, as a hint, think how we churned Amrit,‘ she said, and disappeared, leaving Ashwin more disturbed than ever.

53

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XIV

Parvati was confused for this trip was in no way rational or scientific. They had just plunged into deep darkness, fainted for half a day, and reached a cosmic river which looked more like a giant pipeline than a river. More than that, the moon had just jumped on board their ship. The next morning when they woke up, Parvati walked over to Ashwin and asked him for the new element he had discovered at the Samudra Devta’s Palace. He gave it to her and whispered. ‗Don‘t judge me badly; no lab machine can decipher this element. This is the precious mark of the ocean. It values a lot,‘ he said so, looking grave. Parvati thought about all the impossible things that were happening around her, and she decided to give up her Quest for a new element. She had other things on her mind, after all. Ashwin, she noticed, was feverishly scanning his gift. His eyes moved fast as a rocket as he scanned each page. She decided to leave this alleyway. She went to the deck out in the front. She found Jasnoor and Madhumita fussing over a puny thing. ‗I can try cooking, what is wrong with you?‘ asked Jasnoor.

54

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Why work hard, when I can bring food out of thin air for you?‘ countered Madhumita, with a concerned look. Ashwin entered the deck, without his book. He sighed deeply and went to the fridge. ‗You all have memory disorders, I think,‘ he said meekly and opened the door, ‗Maye tvam mam abhilasham jagrati! Fill our desires for ann please!‘ As usual, the white fridge filled itself with the tastiest delights Parvati could think of. Very neatly, Jasnoor arranged the toast and milk at the table for everybody. It seemed that Nandita and Swati were still sleeping. Suddenly, Swati entered the hall, grinning widely, followed by Nandita. ‗Hey, I have something to tell you. Nandita, do the honours,‘ she said. ‗Well, last night, we were discussing about Jyoti. We were wondering she disappeared on a quest for what?‘ asked Nandita. ‗You see, we have guessed that Jyoti was sent by Narada to Naraka to search for something else that was stolen. As I know, Ashwin has been granted a job by Saraswati. So, this means, that someone from Naraka has stolen the Shweta Padma. That could be the only reason,‘ Nandita said this with such confidence, that it made Parvati think in the same way. ‗So you claim our special quests to save mankind are interconnected?‘ asked Ashwin, frowning and looking moody. Parvati thought about it. It seemed very unlikely that the Shweta Padma would be in the Underworld – a place with no knowledge at all. Ashwin stared at Nandita in surprise. ‗So this theory is- Swati‘s?‘ he asked. Swati nodded. She seemed to back at her usual self again. ‗The real reason for Kambaj being destroyed is the Angkor Wat temple being lost across the centuries isn‘t it?‘ asked Swati.

55

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗True.‘ ‗Then there must be an entrance to Naraka in this temple,‘ Nandita declared. ‗Of course! So the bad luck from Naraka inflicted on Angkor, and Kambaj declined. That must be it!‘ exclaimed Parvati, establishing the connection. ‗Hmm – So the Underworld entrance was right there and the powerful influence of Yamraj made the empire decline…‘ Vignesh thought deeply, for he had not spoken the entire time. ‗Oh my gods, I did not read this paragraph!‘ Ashwin opened up his book, and read out for everyone. ―The Cambodian Authorities hide this fact, but all gods know that Angkor Wat was destroyed by Yamraj‘s Wrath, a curse. This curse inflicted forgetfulness among kambujans (Cambodians) who slowly forgot their homeland. Later, after the excavation, the temple serves only as a tourist spot and its aura (Oravam) is gone completely.‖ After reading the paragraph, Swati looked triumphant and glared at Ashwin. ‗Alright, alright. Your theory makes sense. So now just sail about, shall we?‘ ***** Many days passed by in the Bharatiya Nauka. Often, Parvati would set up research on the oyster diamond. She would research on the computer; use her equipment, but no way. This oyster diamond had an ‗X ELEMENT‘ sign on it always. She only could scan a photo and get thousands of reports on Google Goggles. Yet, no proper answer showed up. Ashwin kept occupied with his gift. He seemed to have finished reading it, but he kept on looking at each and every topic. Vignesh seemed more desperate to open up his computer and read stuff on Wikipedia. Seemingly, the others kept on gossiping something on the deck.

56

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

At night, Parvati would open up the lab and do her usual things. But one night was very different. She saw the research screen and gasped. ‗E-9048-XD- ELEMENT ON KEPLER 22-B‘ it read on the screen. She went to Google, and typed the same. Only results on KEPLER 22-B came up. There was only one thing on minerals on Kepler. ‘Minerals on Kepler: Due to its strange earthlike pretence, Kepler 22-b has a set of earthly metals and new subdivides metals. Click Durga@bharatiyasamajonline.com to know more.‘ Looking at the web address, she was shocked. She typed that address out and opened up a new tab. ‗WELCOME TO DURGA@BHARATIYA SAMAJ Today’s Scoop: The Quest which we all see… learn about the latest quest for Ardha-Ishwaras. Subscribe today! Know more about my own planet: Kepler 22-b (Kamanya 22-B) I have introduced a new element on this planet which I have rented recently. Enjoying the hot dry winds on Kamanya is my hobby. Every single breath of mine echoes in the empty soulless region of Durga Valley. I have constructed (With the help of Brahma Reality Co.) a huge metropolis for myself. In the E sector, I have introduced the Veera Stone. It is located in the Mahishasura Bay, and is an alloy of oyster and diamond. Cost: 20000 Mohar only! (Order online at Karma online) Regardless, I have sent one souvenir copy to the Earth. Wherever it falls, it will bring challenges and monsters only. I wanted the Earthlings to be more sportive… MA DURGA’S LATEST UPDATES (AND GOSSIP FROM HEAVEN)

57

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

LIVE @ DURGA Newsletter. Subscribe today!’ ‘My Ambe has her own website?‘ she asked to herself incredulously. She understood. This was a threat. A challenge by her godly parent. ‘Dear, dear. My dear Ardha-Ishwara is getting nervous! Battle the next challenge if you can!’ The voice of Durga clang in her head throughout the night, she rolled about, unable to sleep. ***** Parvati woke up to an alarm bell of an eagle. Outside, the pipe had somehow opened up partially to the morning sky. There were yells coming from the outer cabins. She ran outside, seeing the First Parvati Challenge. Even by Indian Standards, it was huge. This eagle was as huge as a sedan, but vaguely tall and with very sharp talons that glinted gold in the sunlight. The eagle screeched and others ran for cover. ‗My Ambe‘s first challenge. Everyone, please come back on deck. It will not go away without hurting any one of us,‘ she said. Ashwin went a bit back and stood in front of the harsh sunlight. ‗Maye tum mam Varadam svaha. Ichha devtam pavittam…Javargo!’ He chanted this in full speed, and it more of a mumble, but the eagle wined in pain at this. There was a huge gash in both its wings. It could not escape now. This meant they had to kill it. Ashwin vanished for a millisecond and appeared at the side of back of the eagle. It whimpered in pain as he stepped on its injured wing. Ashwin rematerialized safely near the stairs to the cabins.

58

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati was closing her eyes and praying heavily. She was muttering slokas at full speed. Here Nandita and Parvati was circling the creature, finding a weak spot where they could hit it and move back. ‗Ichhadehi Pitashri mam vatan jagrato! Aham bhiksham tam.‘ Vignesh was adding to the mantra attack. He was forcefully thinking of his father, Parvati thought. WHOOSH! A huge wave swished aboard onto the whimpering eagle‘s wound, at this, the eagle cried in anger and frustration. It slashed its talons fiercely and the end of one of those grazed Nandita‘s little finger and she yelled in pain. Parvati grabbed Trinayan and jabbed it forcefully in the region where an eagle‘s lungs would be. The eagle collapsed on the spot, turning into golden mist. This slowly changed colour. It became a lion, the symbol of Durga, weaved onto a silk cloth. Parvati grabbed it, very happy at what she had finally done. Ambe, I have done something you would not have expected, She thought. Definitely, dear. The same voice replied to her.

59

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XV

60

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Gaurav felt ignored, mutilated, even mistreated at the kind of confusing treatment he was being given at the Ishwar Academy. Every single person there (except Narada, who always nodded as he went past) seemed to feel that Gaurav was somebody alien. First of all, he remembered those PSBBMS students who had gone for an adventure to save the world. (Lucky me, I’m out of the proceedings, he thought). Every time he would approach Narada, he would stop whatever he was doing and would just nod his head. Every single time. Mainly, the Kartikeya Altar seemed almost foreign to him. The peacock, the lance, and every single symbol of Kartikeya made him feel… confused. No, rebellious is the word. Gaurav was brought out of every single class (be it Sanskrit, where he wrote something disgusting on the board, or YogMukta, where he created a havoc during breathing exercises, or Talwaar Vaar where he threw his sword in frustration) and was termed ‗trouble by Ishwar‘s standards‘. Everyone avoided his eyes, as though he had something infectious, and they jumped really high if they talked to him. Gaurav had to endure all of this, to another notice that caused him to yell at the notice board (which wouldn‘t budge). ‗The Ardha-Ishwaras from all the altars except four and five are supposed to assemble at the shore of the lake this afternoon.‘ Surely, that would mean something in the water? Gaurav was, to his opinion, the worst hydrophobic case in the world. The sight of water more than five litres was enough to make him faint, or in worse cases, vomit. Anyway, Gaurav assembled along with other children of Kartikeya at the lakeshore. Narada was there, along with Shri and Jagdish. Jagdish was the head of the Altar Five, and Shri was the head of Altar Four. ‗As everyone assembled knows about the RathSamorav this year, we will be inaugurating this ceremony with these two Ardha-Ishwaras. The shortlisted students for each and every altar are as follows:‘

61

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Narada kept on droning about the rules of RathSthan and the honour in being part of designing a Rath for your altar. Gaurav again had a surge of rebelliousness inside him. He slipped away from the lakeside and ran towards a completely remote corner of the campus. This area was considered haunted. The rebellious part of him wanted to be in this area till the droning ceremony got over. The wise part of him told him to look around and think twice. He chose the rebellious part of his brain as his leader. Along with this area being rumoured as haunted, there was an old shack over here - more like a haveli or an Indian mansion. This was completely black in colour, with crumbling walls and ivy all over. Gaurav thrust the old Iron Gate, which creaked in response and walked inside. The once lively lawn was now covered with dead willow trees. He went past the ivy-covered archway which looked like an entrance. The second he entered the building, all his rebelliousness vanished. The problem was, his wise self also vanished. Mist-- not normal-- but deep grey mist started moving towards him. He stumbled on an old skeleton of a rat. Maranam taradi chatvam taradi. Yama-vara yama-swaha! A queer mantra was echoing around a small cubicle in the middle of the hall. He approached it. ‗AAAARGH!‘ The last thing he remembered was slipping through a small black cavern before darkness engulfed him. ****** Gaurav came to his senses when he stopped falling and was woken by a strange hissing sound. Oh no, water! He thought. When he opened his eyes, he saw nothing but a small pinprick of orange light coming from front of him. He got

62

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

up and felt a weird pain in his temples, like someone had smashed a brick onto his head. He regained his walking ability, and started walking. And walking. And walking, and walking and walking. He saw that the soil below him was a deep red colour- something never seen on Earth. It was patched with series of grey in between- like a massive cowhide pattern. The hissing noise was coming from, he found out, the soil itself, which steamed and hissed. The whiff of the steam which his nostrils caught was very much like a chemical- chlorine. He thought chlorine was poisonous to humans, not until then, when he understood what Ardha Ishwaras were vulnerable to. He kept on walking till he found a pewter grey lake beside… something like a megalopolis, with levels of steaming hillocks and towering black turrets. Again, he heard small parts of slokas which left him completely chilly- like his bone marrow itself was freezing. Maranam taradi chatvam taradi. Yama-vara yama-swaha! Karunyaye, Yamiye! Om Bhagwane Priyaye! Om... nashtandriye! Karuppadivye! Yamiye Vibramhate! Though the hillocks in the city were emitting hot steam, Gaurav felt oddly cold. He kept on walking towards a massive turret- the biggest of all in this area, behind which he saw a long a steep rope bridge heading somewhere north. He came at the borders of the huge city, and found tall rusted iron gates, under which words were written. Mostly they were Sanskrit words, and one of them was Arvada Nashtandriye which Gaurav had written on the board in Sanskrit class. He pushed the gates, an odd urge engulfing him, his rebel returning to him. The gates, though rusted, did not move even a centimetre, and Gaurav had to say something which he could translate as Death is Great.

63

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Maranam taradi mahanam,‘ replied a gate, and the gates swung open. Gaurav walked past massive turrets, which (after a peek inside one of the tiny windows) Gaurav saw were full of cells with something hot and liquid inside them, and beds made of melted iron. He did not want to peep inside such unpleasant places again, but out of curiosity, he looked at various signs in front of each turret. ‗By the order of Yamraj Every single person had committed one sin throughout his life. Presumably, persons who would have committed less than 5 would go to the land Maharajadhiraj hates the most. Those of you who have the privilege of entering Naraka must have committed more than 5 sins. CELLS A, B AND C: For those who committed 5-10 sins CELLS D TO G: For those who are VIPs and committed 10-30 CELLS H AND I- THE HELL AND I PEOPLE: THE VVIPs who committed more than 30 sins per year. Signed, यमराज‘ He was now in hell! He was in Naraka! He kept on walking to reach the palace of Yama! The rebel in him seemed to be a daredevil. He entered the building with ease, and found that the doors were open. He walked through and felt almost… home. ‗Welcome to the court of Yama,’ said a skeleton next to a painting of Hiroshima. (How do I know it’s Hiroshima? he thought) He walked on till he found a long black- fully black hall which opened up at the top to reveal an orange sky. ‗Welcome, you, boy!‘ shouted a harsh female voice. It was quite deep and the voice‘s owner was right in front of the painting of Hiroshima.

64

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗I know you were claimed by the pestering hospitality god, I put an emphasis on that, for I hate every upperworld creature who dares trespass to lands of the dead. You, boy, come over here!‘ Gaurav did not obey. However, his legs moved front of their own accord and he came in front of a lady with long flowing reddish black hair. She wore a necklace of skeletons, and a black sequin dress with shimmering orange designs of something evil. Gaurav did not know what. ‗Yami,‘ he whispered quietly. ‗Dear me, as though nobody will identify me, little Ardha Ishwara! Now, come over here and pledge yourself to the Naraka‘s Lord before I crush you to pieces,‘ Yami said coldly. ‗Or, on a second thought, crush that Ardha-Ishwara to pieces. Yes, that would be good. It will be fun to watch Shiva‘s daughter crumble to Naraka is it not?‘ she added nastily. Gaurav kept quiet. The air shimmered and a rusted iron cage appeared with a girl inside. She wore the custom Ishwar Academy dress- a standard white kurta pyjama. Her hair was long and unkempt, and she looked really thin, like she had not eaten for ages. And she was asleep or dead, he did not know. ‗Basically, pestering upperworld creature, she is part of Naraka. She is neither dead nor fully alive. The power of Shiva saves her. But the second the Yama Bhoomi diamond will come back here…‘ Yami imitated a knife cutting her neck. ‗So, what do you have to do? Bring me the powerful Kailashanath, and you might, you might, save this pestering girl.‘ Gaurav did not know what to do. He looked at Yami with disgust and hatred. ‗Where is Yama?‘ he asked, frowning, noticing that the other throne like black chair was empty. ‗Brother gone to judge,‘ Yami mumbled.

65

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Gaurav found himself floating. ‗Goodbye pestering kind! I just wanted to give you a treat! Was I joking? No! I am here to warn your kind! So, Aphrahan is going to be your destination, understand? Adios, not my amigo!‘ Yami laughed, while Gaurav kept on going up, a maniacal laughter that suited her costume well. She shrieked in glee till Gaurav was back in the Academy‘s Haunted Mansion. He knew now. This was no haunted mansion. This was a passage to Naraka, right in the heart of Ishwar Academy. This was a temple to Yama, maybe the only one in the whole world…

Chapter XVI

66

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Jasnoor hated this journey. Not to mention the horrible purpose. The danger involved in this journey, she thought, was just way too much for her. One, being put on the deck when a rogue eagle wants to kill you did not seem as an excellent idea to her. Two, ripping up that eagle at its heart, she would give that a perfect eleven on ten rating on her ‗Gross‘ scale. The main thing she seemed to be able to do was cook. Even that usefulness was being absorbed by Madhumita, who seemed to be eager to create food out of thin air. Jasnoor privately thought she had a point, but she would counter by saying that food made out of air was unlikely to be healthy. Even more, to add to her avalanche of objections, everyone seemed to be interested in fighting. Be it mantras, water or sword, everybody wanted to kill dirty great serpents and ugly predators of the sky. She felt that everybody seemed to ignore the fact that anything cannot disintegrate just like that unless bewitched. There seemed to be a slight understanding problem over there. More and more challenges by Durga was going to, in her opinion, not give Parvati fighting experience, but actually get her severely injured. Durga definitely was a taunting, annoying character. I mean, which kind of godly parent thinks killing people is a way of helping them? she thought. Even her godly Ma, Lakshmi, seemed better than Durga. The ‗Man Booker Prize Worthy‘ story cooked up by Swati only made her seem intelligent, but it seemed to be a tall tale to Jasnoor. Swati thinks Yama stole the Shweta Padma? Impossible. Of course, this wild theory was accepted by everyone except Ashwin, who seemed to have taken an objective to practice mantras. He seemed to be preparing for some battle, and Jasnoor dreaded if she would be asked to join the next one. She had whimpered behind the cabin door when the others fought the eagle. She simply loathed birds of all shapes and sizes.

67

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

On the deck, the ever-chatting duo seemed to be serious at last. Swati, whose father, incidentally the patron of medicine, was nursing Nandita‘s little finger, with Nandita herself glaring at Swati. ‗Will you stop this, Swati? I think you know that more challenges are to come, for Parvati told us about those challenges?‘ she said. ‗I know, Nandita, but I feel that something serious is going to happen. My Pitashri is all-knowing, you cannot deny that,‘ replied Swati. Nandita dragged her hand away from Swati‘s. ‗Nandita!!‘ ‗Oh please. Your father is all-knowing so you want to be at the top?‘ ‗It‘s nothing like that!‘ Nandita furiously took deep breaths. She seemed to be unable to control her anger, because she continued. ‗So you sense something serious is about to happen. Big deal. So, you mean that this challenge should be ignored?‘ ‗I am not telling you to ignore the challenges, but I just…‘ Swati‘s voice trailed away, her sentence left hanging open. Jasnoor wanted to stop the argument, but it seemed stopped already. ‗Fine. I will inform you if anything serious happens,‘ said Nandita and she stalked away towards her cabin. Swati looked flabbergasted, but she turned her expression to something else, fear. ‗I know something is about to happen, I know,‘ she said to herself. Jasnoor went back inside her room, filled with a useless induction stove. What was she to do with such an useless object? Pass her time cooking things? There

68

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

were no raw materials, and she could not cook anything just like that. She went out to the cabin corridor. She saw Madhumita lurking around. Madhumita caught her eye and approached her. ‗Oh hello, Jasnoor, why were you hiding when they battled that eagle?‘ she asked, smiling coolly, not unfriendly, but somewhat teasingly. ‗I am scared of eagles,‘ Jasnoor said in monotonous voice. Madhumita giggled. Jasnoor shove her aside. Madhumita burst out with laughter. ‗Jus‘ joking!‘ she gasped, still laughing uncontrollably. Jasnoor walked towards the Marine Library, Cabin Two, along with Madhumita at her heels. She knocked twice on the door. She had a few questions to ask. Ashwin answered the door a bit late. He held up a hand, gestured them inside. A marvellous sight met her eyes. The cabin had transformed itself very differently. The cabin‘s bookcases, which were half-empty last time, were now full of books, huge dusty volumes covered in golden Devnagri text. The bed was spiked next to the circular window. The rest was a comfortable looking blue armchair, and one pale violet armchair, and one pink armchair. Jasnoor stuffed herself onto the pink one and immediately felt better. All the confusion, the hatred for the trip ebbed away, and was replaced by comfortable thoughts, positive ones. Madhumita looked the same too, (she had stuffed herself onto the pale violet one) Ashwin alone seemed normal. He asked in a serious voice, ‗Why exactly have you come here? I want to know why this sudden company.‘ Jasnoor took it as a yes for the questions she was going to ask, and was about to start asking him about the Lakshmi Kamal Stone, about which she had realized only now, that a knock came from the door.

69

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Before Ashwin opened the door, a straight backed sea-blue chair propped up. The door opened, and Jasnoor saw a highly hot-tempered Swati glaring at Ashwin. He told her, somewhat coldly, ‗Get in.‘ and he closed the door with a sharp snap. ‗What business do you have here?‘ he asked, somewhat more coldly, when Swati settled uncomfortably on the sea blue chair. ‗I sense something serious is about to happen.‘ ‗What?‘ asked Madhumita, rolling forwards. ‗Serious, in the sense?‘ When Swati opened her mouth to speak… ‗Not again!‘ shouted Ashwin, and a pale yellow chair appeared out of nowhere, making the room cramped, and he answered the door. It was Vignesh. ‗Get in,‘ said Ashwin, pointing at the vacant yellow chair. ‗So, you sense something bad and serious is about to happen. To whom exactly?‘ asked Ashwin, in a flat and drooling voice. Swati seemed to be outraged at this response, and flared up at once. ‗I have no idea to whom! I only know something is about to happen!‘ ‗Yeah, maybe…‘ said Madhumita, who seemed to be contemplating the situation. She frowned at the ceiling, and kept on listening. ‗AARGH!!!!!!!!!!!‘ There was a piercing scream echoing from somewhere near the deck, and Swati ran towards the door, opened it, and rushed forwards. Then the others followed her. Jasnoor felt the scene need not be described. It was terrible. The creature on deck was terrible enough to scare anybody. It

70

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

looked notoriously young- a ghost like creature, with a pale grey complexion. Moreover, Vignesh almost screamed at others, ‗We cannot kill it! It‘s Jyoti!‘ ‗Jyoti?‘ asked Nandita, who was there already, with an element of surprise. The outfit was recognisable enough- the pale white salwar kameez, the standard Senior Student uniform of the Ishwar Academy. The only problem was, her face was bloodless, as though she had been dead for long. Jasnoor could say that nobody wanted to kill a girl. Even the mantra chanters seemed hesitant to chant. The ghost Jyoti opened her mouth wide and let out a piercing scream, and now Jasnoor knew the source of the scream. The ship rattled past the tunnel‘s side, almost like a bus which collided with a railing. The screeching noise, along with the howling of Jyoti‘s ghost, seemed to make Jasnoor deaf. No, dear. You must talk to her. Reason with her. A soft female voice spoke to her inside her head. It kept on reassuring her, till she felt quite confident. She approached the terrifying ghostly form and spoke to her in a calm voice. ‗Jyoti, are you Jyoti?‘ The ghost did not turn at her words. Jasnoor felt more confused, but went on. ‗You, are you listening, dear? You can reveal yur identity and let go. Enjoy yur time!‘ Jasnoor did not know how her accent had oddly become like a Welsh person, but saw the effect immediately. ‗Maranam jayate! Yu do not understand this statement, do yu, idiotic Yami? I am simply not going to do yur dirty work. Sorry.’ With that, the shimmering ghost vanished, but so did Swati, with her.

71

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‘Got fooled by ugly buttering did we, Daughter of Lakshmi? Out of all the gods of upperworld, I hate yur Mother the most! Ask why? Well, I shall answer yur question. She is my exact opposite is it not? Well, I have taken yur most great treasure, a person! Control this ship now, and show me!’ The ringing harsh and deep female voice‘s echoes subsided, with Nandita looking like she had visited a funeral, and the others looking confused. Jasnoor saw that Ashwin seemed to have brought up a virtual copy of his mother‘s gift again. He read the pages and burst out. ‗Listen! The most important person in Naraka for female spirits is Yami, who has further set of death ministers behind her. Of course, she has the right to seize people who are dead. She also has written the female laws, in which she states that, every female that enters her realm will be subjected to eternal pleasure, and those who have come unasked will die the hard way.‘ After completing the depressing paragraph, he waited for the others to start bawling about the ship. ‗What if she has been imprisoned?‘ asked Ashwin. ‗You mean like Jyoti?‘ asked a familiar but unfamiliar voice. Behind them was a boy with a pale complexion, long brown hair hanging in curtains around his thin oval face, and unblinking deep black eyes. ‗Gaurav?‘ **************************************************************** Chapter XVII

72

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Madhumita wanted a time machine. (No, she could not summon it; it was one of the Forbidden Items of Creation) She wanted to reverse everything that happened on the ship the previous night. Or even what happened from the previous week. At this rate, one person was vanishing per week, which could not mean good. Only good news was as such: the boat was moving, and Durga seemed to have ceased giving Parvati some challenges. Ashwin seemed to explain that the Power of Luna was acting upon the ship; the ship would not have moved without Swati. Nandita seemed to be taking her outbreak of rage very seriously. She seemed to think had it not been her rage; she could have easily made Swati calm. Their spirits were lower than usual, on this particular night, when something peculiar happened. Some news was delivered by Gaurav. ‗Everybody, I want to tell you something.‘ Everybody at the dinner table looked at him. Ashwin had a slight expression of disgust on his face; like he had swallowed some nasty Yama Bhaji (Madhumita believed that this was the staple food of Naraka, where rubber is made into a dish by squelching it in a drum of oil and tar. That was exactly how Ashwin had his expression.) Madhumita saw his annoyance. Gaurav was very unmannered when it came to eating, for he swallowed food noisily and insisted that he would say the mantras to open the fridge. The problem was, Gaurav only kept on humming a bonechilling sound, and not actually chanting anything.

73

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Ashwin would intervene, usually, with a slight look of horror on his face, and then immediately hide it with a disgusted expression. He would go and chant the proper sloka so as to fill their no appetite stomachs. ‗Yeah, yeah. I hope it‘s good news,‘ said Ashwin sarcastically. ‗No. Not good news. Swati has been kidnapped by Yami, and Jyoti also has been kidnapped by Yami. Yami seems to want the Kailashanath Diamond, too.‘ Ashwin looked like he already knew that. ‗So you mean we need to return both diamonds to Yami?‘ asked Nandita, regaining her usual self at last. ‗Yes, we have to, lest we face the wrath of Yami… she will by hook or crook get the diamonds and destroy the living beings,‘ replied Gaurav. ‗So what about Kamal?‘ Jasnoor asked conversationally. ‗Oh, him. Kamal is a pushpan. He is a flower spirit. The flower spirit of the lotus flower in Altar…‘ Gaurav‘s voice trailed off at Nandita‘s expression. Madhumita knew why: Swati‘s Altar, Altar Five. How had Swati disappeared? Asked a voice inside Madhumita. Was she… No, she could not be. Simply not. Said another. But Yami is the guardian of female spirits of Naraka. So what? Said the first voice. While Madhumita was debating among herself, Ashwin and Vignesh were amidst deep discussion. Madhumita went to Jasnoor and started discussing about Swati. Suddenly, a blaring bell rang through the ship. It seemed Ashwin had created it. ‗All of you to your beds, NOW!‘ said Ashwin‘s voice, magnified. All of them obeyed, with Madhumita dreamily switching on the T.V. before lolling away into sleep…

74

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

************* Madhumita was standing inside a tall and magnificent palace, full in black, with curves with flames embedded on them. She seemed to be moving, dreamlike, through the gates, into a chamber, probably the entrance hall, lined with photos of… photos of gods: gods who were completely looking ugly, and behind that picture was a picture of a woman, tall, stern and beautiful looking, with red hair and an evil, majestic grin. This seemed to portray the lady in a better light, as though all gods were fools, and she alone was magnificent. Madhumita floated on, past the gates of the building‘s court, which was empty, through a long corridor lined with flaming blue torches, past an endless looking hole, into a huge temple. This temple was not a temple. Not anything from the Bharatiya Samaj. It was primitive, with ugly geometrical shapes, and all of them seemed to portray a lady. The ugly temple was divided into two parts: one which was suspended above the ground and another built on the ground. The lower part was yellowgreen in colour, and the upper part was bigger, grander, and was in a pale blue colour, standing out well against the orange sky. ‗Dyaus vame Prithvia Devi Pitam Shri. Kruya do doferam!’ There were weird inscriptions on the walls, in Devnagri script, but with words neither in Sanskrit nor in Hindi. The language, like the temple, was more primitive. Madhumita floated right across the temple, past the pale blue one, into the orange sky. She kept on floating for what felt like hours, except she found that a dark violet temple, very small, yet graceful, stood right parallel to the pale blue one. The inscriptions here seemed to be in Chinese, but were similar to Devnagri somehow. Madhumita could make out the words: Aditia Devam Pura! Once she read these words, something took hold of her. She kept on shouting till she was out of breath. She screamed.

75

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

**********

Chapter XVIII

76

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati was astonished. For a second she had been running towards the deck… and poof! She was gone, after seeing the ghostly form of Jyoti mumbling words in a Welsh accent. She did not have full consciousness the whole journey, if there had been any, and she could not focus on trying to get up. She almost died of pain when something sharp hit her at the back of her neck. She could feel something sharp and hard being wrapped around her, and some… not one but something had pushed her into an orange place. When she fully regained consciousness, she observed her surroundings. Number one, the place she was a kind of cell, like in a jail, with a glistening orange wall which seemed to radiate heat but the floor was thankfully black granite. The cell seemed to be reeking of chlorine, and there was an enormous bump near the corner of the cell. There was no ceiling. Only vast endless orange sky. Not the kind of orange you see in sunsets, but the evil kind. The one you see in… No, it could not be. Swati could simply not believe that she was dead and of all places to visit after death, she did not want her post-mortem to be in Naraka. What sin had she made to come to this ugly place? The label next to her eased her tension a bit. ‗High Security Upperworld Vault: Diogelwch Uchel ifynybyd Vault’ Swati could not understand the second set of words, which somehow seemed to be not an Indian language. The bump next to the wall stirred. How can a bump move? She could not come to any conclusion except that the bump was not something, but a person. A person. And that person was a girl in tattered white kurta pyjama, with a trishul pinned to it. It was the symbol of Head of Altar One. This means she was… Swati got it. ‗Jyoti!‘ Swati shouted.

77

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Her once beautiful hair was smeared with dust and a peculiar red material which Swati did not want to know what. She felt thin and fragile, and Swati tried to lift her. She found that Jyoti was feather light. If even Swati, (short by Ishwar‘s standards) could lift her up, Jyoti must have been fasting for years. It simply could not be possible that Jyoti had lived for so long in such a prison. ‗Maranam taradi mahanam! Yama-vara Yama-swaha! Karuppadivye! Yamiye Vibramhate! Mai y marw byd, gall y cynnydd ymerodraeth! Mai Yama byw yn hir!’ The chants in Sanskrit and… the foreign language. The chants kept on getting louder. ‗Looks like the kidnappers are on their way!‘ she whispered to the fragile Jyoti. ‗Kya? Mam Varadam Samajhaste Jyoti! Mama Nama Jyoti!’ Jyoti seemed to be speaking in Sanskrit, and she kept on mumbling her own name. She also kept on telling ‗Samajhaste’ which should have either meant ‗The Bharatiya Samaj laughs‘ or ‗Believe me!‘. Swati cursed herself for not paying attention in Sanskrit class. ‗What? I will believe you! The Samaj will not laugh!‘ she said, adding both of her interpretations in one sentence. ‗Mam… Mam… jaladharam!‘ Jyoti said. When Swati put up an expression of confusion and disgust, Jyoti seemed to understand Swati‘s deficiency in Sanskrit. ‗I am sorry. I thought you knew Sanskrit. The language acts as a barrier between the dead and the living, so. I want to escape!‘ she bawled. Just as Swati opened her mouth to talk, the orange wall turned grey, and two towering figures that were skeletons armed with AK-47s and had ‗The AntiSamaj League‘ written neatly on their shirts entered the cell, breaking the grey substance as though made of paper. ‘Yama-vara Yama-swaha!’

78

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

The building in which they were imprisoned shook like an earthquake had occurred, and an ear-splitting noise, like the bull‘s, filled the cell. Jyoti cowered and closed her ears. Swati opened her mouth, furious, and tried to argue with the guard, but she was pushed back by another guard, who bowed to invisibility. No, Swati was wrong. It was not invisibility. The air shimmered, and the stench of chlorine reduced drastically, and a man appeared. The guards bowed very deeply, that their skeletal noses touched the ground with a sickening squeak, and the man stepped inside, quite gracefully, and observed Jyoti closely. ‗My go—er— in the name of death! What have you done?‘ he asked hesitantly, pointing at the tattered costume of Jyoti. The guards stared. ‗It is- um- very beneficial that we should have that grea- er- filthy costume as um –a souvenir. You know, to show those… um, death people. On my orders, get her out, now, and feed her and pamper her for a while! Now!‘ The guards sensed the order and moved away, dragging Jyoti along. Swati looked at the man. He seemed to be… looking like Yama, but his eyes had a twinkle, and he had looked like he had controlled himself from laughing when he gave orders to the guards. He spotted Swati‘s confused expression and… hard to believe, you know, laughed. He threw back his head, and shimmered again, and Swati hoped he would go away. No, he did not, but this time, a god, (Swati was sure he was) with seablue pyjama kurta, and a very gentle smile, stood before her, smiling with pleasure. ‗Hard acting, isn‘t it?‘ he asked.

79

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati almost cried out in surprise. Vishnu was here to save her! He had come as though gods had no other work and stood before her matter-of-factly, and he smiled at her when she looked surprised. Not fair at all. ‗Pitashri,‘ she said, hiding her joy. Vishnu shrugged. He looked at the wall, and with a steady gaze, turned it to dust. ‗I thought you‘d be grateful. But, no, I never seem to predict mankind properly. Never,‘ he said, looking at her with a calm and serene expression, like entering Naraka was no big deal. ‗How did you enter, Pitashri?‘ Swati asked. ‗Oh, please, Swati, don‘t stick to formalities. Call me Father or Dad or whatever. Please do not embarrass me by calling me that old times‘ Pitashri,‘ Vishnu replied, smiling and winking. He regained a godly composure and said in an authoritative voice, ‗Swati, dear, you have only half an hour left. You have to escape right out of Naraka, and I will get you to Realm 65-A, Bay of Bengal, Tanyakoa River Sector. Don‘t look funny, that‘s the nearest to your ship. Jyoti will be teleported right with you, and if any skeleton touches her at that time, you will get an extra offer. Take one get two dead people free,‘ he continued, winking at his joke. ‗Once you reach there, no Underworld creature may lay hands upon you. It is an important source of godly power. But, beware. Yami is sensing a godly presence here, and Yama is currently… um… out of station. You have to escape, and if Yami alerts the guards, not even I can get you help,‘ he said, ending his speech dramatically. ‗Are they alright?‘ Swati asked, referring to her fellow academy members. ‗They are in very good hands, thanks.‘ Vishnu waved his hand as though saying goodbye, and pushed himself with a humph, and vanished, leaving Swati flabbergasted, confused, and nervous and scared.

80

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XIX

81

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati was confused. The Almighty Lord of Sustenance, Vishnu, the Calm One, and her father, had offered to help her and had impersonated Yama to save her from the greedy clutches of Yami. Whew, that seemed a lot. Swati had completely become blind to things in the cell. There was nobody in there, and she had confirmed that there was only Jyoti inside. Almost. A kind of silhouette of a human being shimmered in the air whenever Swati moved. She did not know what this was, and she paid no attention to it. She sighed heavily and sat down. ‘Aaaaaaaargh!’ An ear-splitting scream filled the cell, and it almost shook. ‗Arvada Nashtandriye! What in the name of the Samaj are you doing? Get up!‘ a boy‘s voice roared from somewhere under Swati. Swati was too confused to respond. ‗Oh gods, please, get up now, my Swamini!‘ the voice shouted. Swati tentatively spoke. ‗Hello, I‘m Swati Daughter of—‘ she was interrupted. ‗—Vishnu, on an adventure to save the Samaj. I know, there‘s quite enough gossip on Kailash nowadays, and I do subscribe to it.‘

82

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati was outraged, despite her confusion and nervousness. Gossip of Mount Kailash? What sins had they committed to be telecasted like they were sources of entertainment for the gods? She kept on thinking till the voice groaned heavily. ‗Arvada- Nashtandriye- get up! I—‘pant ‗—Get up! Now!‘ Swati woke out of her stupor. Whomever the voice belonged to was in trouble. She got up and saw that the floor was shimmering below her. ‗Thanks,‘ mumbled the voice, breathing heavily. Swati was too dumbstruck to reply. She kept on gazing at the floor like she was caught mid-motion. Apparently, the person whom the voice belonged to was in trying hard not to shout in anger. There was muffled silence for a while. The person whom the voice belonged to seemed to be in deep thought. ‗Summon water, Daughter of Vishnu,‘ it said after a while. Swati felt relieved as she had already done this on the ship. The only problem was, the water was nowhere in the building other than in the pipelines. What did the invisible boy want water for, anyway? ‗Splash a few drops, goodness,‘ repeated the voice. Swati concentrated with all might. She imagined all the pure water from the pipes rushing towards her, feeling the walls crumbling beneath. She almost strained herself, when a loud blast echoed down the empty corridor outside the cell and another scream shook the cell. The faint silhouette was not so anymore. A boy was slowly emerging from the silhouette, as it got clearer and clearer. The boy was covered head to toe in water, unlike Swati, who was surprisingly dry. She seemed to have doused him with fresh pipe water.

83

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

The boy gasped and spluttered, ‗Tell- you- drops- you- drench- me- damagebrain!‘Swati saw him coming around, probably adapting himself to the strange visible body of his. ‗You… okay?‘ Swati asked lightly, expecting the worst. The boy got up, staggered a bit, steadied himself, and spoke in almost a hiss and a voice which seemed inhumane. ‗That was not necessary, daughter of Vishnu. You have drenched me in filthy water. You father and uncles will pay for your mistake…‘ He suddenly fell back again, and Swati pulled him back before he hit the floor with a bang. Great. Pitashri expects such people to help me. So fragile that they can’t even lift a pencil. The boy regained consciousness, and woke up as though he never knew what had happened. He blinked innocently at Swati and spoke in the lightest whisper audible to human ears. ‗What am I doing here? Who‘re you?‘ Swati was surprised. Just a minute ago he had called her Swati, told her about gossip on Kailash, and here he was, blinking innocently and acting like Swati had had a hallucination. ‗Um… do I know you?‘ he asked tentatively. Swati wanted to douse him again with water. She controlled her impulse to do that, and spoke slowly. ‗First tell me. Who are you?‘ ‗Aadityan. The son of Agni.‘ Swati was confused. The son of Agni? Wasn‘t the fire god a minor one? She thought she might find out about it later. 84

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗We‘re in hell. I mean— um— Naraka,‘ Swati said. Aadityan‘s face morphed into a confused expression. ‗W-where?‘ he asked. Swati repeated what she had said. Aadityan remained confused. What kind of Ardha-ishwara did not know about Naraka? It was a fabled place after all and most longed to go and return. Swati hosted Aadityan up on the wall, and gave him some water. Thankfully, Naraka‘s sewage system was quite good and pure water flowed through the pipelines. As she gave him the water, he started to stand properly. ‗So… um, Aadityan, right? Uh… you have to help me escape from this land along with a girl called Jyoti,‘ she said. She immediately realised she was talking awkwardly and stopped herself. ‗Just let‘s get out of here,‘ she said. The power of Vishnu could not last long. About time, Jyoti‘s identity would be discovered, and Yami‘s wrath would destroy Swati and Jyoti. Perhaps Aadityan, too. Swati had to do this right now. ‗Come on, we‘ll break free from this cell,‘ she said. Aadityan was probably a well-equipped Ardha-ishwara, for he drew out a long orange dagger, which seemed to emit flame. ‗How about this?‘ he asked. Swati was surprised and quite impressed. She knew what to do. She concentrated with the will power which did not suit her, and pushed the water on to the lava. The hot lava immediately changed to stone. ‗Fast now, break these stones!‘ she exclaimed. Aadityan obliged. He just touched the rock, and it gave way, forming an arch big enough for people the size of Aadityan and Swati.

85

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Come on!‘ Swati urged. ‗Yami‘s security systems would‘ve spotted us already!‘ Swati rushed along the chill corridor, with Aadityan tagging along, looking at the tall walls and orange sky with awe. The ceiling was now filled with swarms of bats. ‗No time to stare!‘ Swati scolded Aadityan, as one bat approached him, looking hopeful. They kept on pacing past the ugly corridor, till it branched out into two. That‘s when it happened. Swati had always heard voices of a particular man when she was in the school. Rarely did she hear it now that the Academy had adopted her. Kind of, at least. Swati, sense your power. It lies in your path. The entrance to the Tanyakaveri is right over there. Go, and don’t let down my hopes, child. Now Swati understood. Vishnu had taken the form of a bat, and Swati‘s ability to communicate with animals was keeping her conversation secret. And Vishnu was guiding her. He had sent Aadityan here and hopefully he was the reason for Aadityan‘s supposed amnesia. Swati ran towards the left path, for she sensed the flow of a liquid, and kept on walking. That was when she spotted the Three Temples. There were three of them— a pale blue one, which hung suspended over the sky, a greenish yellow one, which was just below the previous temple, and above all of them, a graceful dark violet temple, that seemed to be the only place where the sky was heavenly black, and not orange. ―Prithvi Mam. Dyaus Pitram. Ambaram Aratartaop. Dharta vippudhia. Aditiam Mahanam Maha mahanam.” Such words were written in ancient Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Swati somehow read it. She did not stop, however, for a bone-chilling ―var‖ horn had blown, and a deep female voice was already yelling things.

86

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

If I don’t save Jyoti… I’d rather stay here, she thought. ‗My battlements, CHARGE!!‘ the lady‘s voice echoed through the cold air of the temple courtyard. ‗Don‘t leave those children. Yur powers are great and yurr invincible, for yurr already dead!!‘ she roared. Swati knew she had already run out of time. That was Yami and her army. (Ha-ha. Yami and her army…, Swati thought miserably.) Jyoti was nowhere to be seen. The bat whistled loudly and went right next to Yami. ‗NOOOOOO! You idiotic pest! NOOOOOO!‘ Yami‘s eyes were attacked. The bat kept on piercing all available body parts while Swati knew what to do. ‗Aadityan? You search for… this diamond. Yeah, a diamond. A big diamond which is red in one side, and blue in the other. Go, quick!‘ Aadityan rushed off towards the doors of the unguarded palace. Swati only had to hope Yama had not arrived. She wanted this adventure over as soon as possible. She charged towards the centre of the phalanx of soldiers: dead martyrs who‘d lost their lives in the Kargil War. Their sins had followed their noble acts to trouble them all the way till here. She knew Jyoti had to be here. Her instincts told her that Yami would soon recover from her attack. If she did, all would be lost. ‗Mam mitraam Swati!!‘ Jyoti‘s voice yelled loudly from the centre of the green temple, where the blue temple was suspended. The voice was strained, like Jyoti had been holding something heavy. Swati rushed as quickly as she could towards the temples, and once she had crossed a kind of invisible line, the sky changed to black. There was no sound, no sign that Naraka had been there at all.

87

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Maybe this is an entrance to the Upperworld? Swati got as close as she could to the temple, the cool tropical breeze playing gently, and she saw Jyoti. Jyoti was standing right beneath the blue temple, which seemed to be intent on strangling her. ‗Nashtandriye!‘ Jyoti cursed in Sanskrit. What would Swati do? Yeah, I can call myself the impulsive Vishnu child of the year. She ran up to the temple steps, crossed a picture of a frowning lady wearing long dark violet robes, holding something on her shoulders, a boy child in blue clothes, perhaps, and a young girl smiling at you like she was saying Dare you come nearer! Swati crossed a bridge standing upon nothing, and saw that the temple was crushing Jyoti with the help of the smallest temple- the violet one on the top. Swati knew that she had to save Jyoti and get out of there, so she pushed herself towards Jyoti, and tackled her like a bull does in Spain during bull fights. It worked. When Swati pushed and hit Jyoti, she stumbled, thankfully, and fell. But an odd hiss followed her fall, like it had during Aadityan‘s fall. Swati dragged Jyoti, who looked faint now, with heavy breaths. Gods, Jyoti is heavy! She crossed a particular line, and saw that all hell had broken loose. Literally. Naraka‘s palace temple lobby looked like the surface of the moon. Many craters filled the area, and there was no sign of Aadityan. He seemed to have disappeared. He has gone home, child. Your destiny will bring you together again. Swati raised herself a bit, and telepathically tried to contact the bat. It worked.

88

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Father, I know, Jyoti is ill, but how exactly could I go up to Upperworld again? ‘Dear, did you not guess it? All you have to do is say the words Shuklam Bharadharum Vishnum. I’ll help you then.’ With that, the bat vanished. Swati took a deep breath and chanted that sloka. Well, Vishnu was right. She took a deep gasp, for she was now underwater, with Jyoti floating alongside her. There were anguished noises, and a voice that sounded like Nandita‘s from aboard a leaf-shaped shadow above Swati and Jyoti. ‗Get out of here, now. It is vulnerable to advanced mantras only. And long swords. So, my Trinayan is only of use here.‘ Swati rushed, started flipping madly. No, swimming ashore was a big problem. And… wait. If Swati was breathing normally, that was because she was a child of Vishnu. With a jolt, she realized that Jyoti would drown in a few minutes. Just then a set of fish came forward. They bent their multicoloured bodies , and Swati was hoisted onto a school of fish, as well as Jyoti. After about a few seconds, they broke the surface of the ocean. Swati took a deep breath. YES! THE BHARATIYA NAUKA AT LAST!! She jumped on to the railing of the ship, which swayed funnily, and saw a terror before her eyes. There was no way this could happen. No. But it was true. There were seven seven-headed horses aboard. And they were breathing fire. They were dodging Nandita‘s sword attacks by flying. There was trouble. And Swati had come in the nick of time.

89

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XX

Nandita was sad, and then got a shock. Had it not been her sense of insecurity, she would have been sitting calmly in her cabin, oblivious to the fact that the horses of Indra were attacking them. What had Ashwin called them? Ah, yes, he‘d called them ‘Uchchaihshravas’. As if she had asked him for a tongue twister early in the morning. These— seven-headed horses— Uchchaihshravas – were powerful enough to carry Indra‘s chariot across the heavens, then of course, they were also powerful enough to leave a ship in flames.

90

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

As the nearest one breathed fire, Nandita yelled, ‗Get out of here, now. It is vulnerable to advanced mantras only. And long swords. So, my Trinayan is only of use here.‘ Ashwin was frantically and haphazardly mumbling words in Sanskrit, which seemed to be more like an essay or a speech rather than a short spell. Vignesh was doing the same. Swati— with a jolt, Nandita realized the bitter truth, Swati was nowhere aboard. She obviously was still in Naraka. Gaurav was nowhere to be seen. Probably dozing in his new cabin. Madhumita and Jasnoor seemed to be only pushing their willpower to run away. Jasnoor pushed Madhumita, and Madhumita somehow joined the battle. Sevenseven headed horses? There was no way they could defeat it. The mantras were not powerful enough, they were hopelessly outnumbered, and the time limit was also quite less. Nandita was slowly losing hope until she heard it. ‗Nandita! What are you doing? Water attacks fire,‘ said a voice of a girl. Nandita doubled over, almost fainting with shock. ‗Don‘t tell me!‘ said Ashwin. Standing beneath the deck, quite out of the visibility of the Uchchaihshravas, was Swati, carrying what seemed like a hump, and with another jolt, and an involuntary shudder, Nandita realised that it was Jyoti‘s limp form. ‗Shuklam Bharadaram Vishnum!‘ she shouted. WHOOSH! A huge wave swished aboard the ship, submerging two of the Uchchaihshravas, and immediately, they turned to cement statues. How, Nandita didn‘t want to know. Swati‘s appearance put a new heart into everybody. Ashwin and Vignesh starting chanting with more vigour and confidence, and Nandita and Parvati‘s 91

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

blows became stronger. Madhumita now created lesser number of paper cups, and started summoning more water. Slowly, the Uchchaihshravas were reduced to only four in number. Ashwin chanted, ‗Vidya Devi mam Abhilasham Jagrati! Javargo! Javargo!’ and one of the four got beheaded. Just like that. Vignesh added his power of chants, and together, Ashwin and he killed (made a sculptor‘s masterpiece, more likely) them. This seemed to be nothing compared to the occasional ‗Whooshes‘ on board, or the tangle of metal against skin every few seconds. Jasnoor lay whimpering behind the curtain leading to the cabins. Madhumita summoned six—seven and more amounts of water balloons, and splashed them more than two times apiece. Soon the Uchchaihshravas could only sputter smoke and had no power at all. ‗Vidya Devi mam Abhilasham Jagrati! Javargo! Javargo!’ Vidya Devi mam Abhilasham—‘ chanted Ashwin along with the furious battle cries of Nandita and Parvati. ‗Shuklam! Bharadaram! Vishnum!‘ chanted Swati. ‗Creation- now! Brahmane! Namo Brahmane!‘ said Madhumita. Jasnoor shrieked in the background. With one furious ‗UH!‘And another ‗Swoosh!‘ and a powerful ‗Javargo!‘ the last horse turned to stone. It glowed a brilliant blue, and turned into a zigzag blue sword. ‗No! It can‘t be…!‘ shouted Ashwin. ‗What can‘t be?‘ ‗This… is…th-the Indra Hasta! Th-the most important weapon in heaven.‘ Vignesh exclaimed and covered his mouth, and Jasnoor came out of the curtain in response. ‗Uh- what?‘ she asked. ‗Don‘t you know? The thunderbolt,‘ said Ashwin, regaining his normal composure. ‗The Naraka devils fear this thing. They tremble.‘

92

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗And why exactly is it here?‘ asked Swati irritably. ‗How do I know?‘ Nandita was at the verge of laughter. Swati just returned from Naraka and these two started bickering already. Something was definitely wrong. It was Vignesh who spoke sense first, breaking the glaring duel. ‗I think we must help poor Jyoti.‘ Swati turned back instantly, and ran towards the limp form of the girl she‘d left near the railing. She quickly started muttering prayers to Vishnu, while Nandita whined in the background. Not whined exactly, more like an apology. ‗I‘m so sorry, Swati. I knew, I knew that you were somewhat right, I thought we‘d already—‘ she was saying. Swati cut her off rather abruptly. ‗I know, Nandita, but the main point is, even I don‘t get it. Why was I—‘Swati stopped. Ashwin offered to help her. ‗—kidnapped,‘ he finished triumphantly. ‗Exactly.‘ Swati continued nursing the trembling form of Jyoti, until she tiredly raised her index finger, and a drop of water fell onto Jyoti‘s eyes. Jyoti blinked. ‗Main kahan hoon?‘ she asked, her accent Delhi-ish. Apparently everyone on board had a gist of what she said, and Ashwin replied, ‗Tvam Bharatiya Nauka sa.‘ Jyoti eyes scanned the deck tiredly, and shifted their gaze in the direction of the voice. ‗Mam svaraksham dhanyavad,‘ she said, pointing from Ashwin to Swati. Ashwin understood her meaning, and turned to Swati. ‗She thanks you for rescuing her,‘ he said.

93

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Oh, really? You‘re welcome,‘ said Swati. Jyoti nodded faintly like it was nothing, and smiled. ‗Jaldhara!‘ she declared. Nandita was getting furious now. Can’t this girl speak English, for Shiva’s sake? And she is supposed to be my half-sister! Weird! As Swati was about to open her mouth, Nandita gestured awkwardly to Madhumita, frantically pointing her thumb towards her mouth. Thank the gods of Kailash, Madhumita got her message. Madhumita frowned, and a glass of water appeared in Swati‘s hands. Swati gave it to Jyoti. Meanwhile, a mental conversation was going on between Ashwin and Vignesh. Their eyes and their expressions seemed to convey that this conversation was desperate and anxious. Ashwin: This implies that… Vignesh: No, it can simply not be. Ashwin: But it is! It is staring under our noses! Vignesh: No time for jokes, this must be—dangerous to the core. Ashwin: Ah, yes. Most of the quests tend to be so. Vignesh: Go, boy! Ashwin: They’re working against us? Nandita shifted her attention to the slowly rising Jyoti, her half sister, whom Swati was feeding Cake of Amrit. No, the real cake of Amrit, not the cake of soap. She stared at the small golden tablet that looked like chewable multivitamins they sold in stores to attract the attention of small children. Jyoti opened her mouth, and as she did, Nandita found herself offering a silent prayer to Shiva.

94

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Not Sanskrit, Pitashri. Not Sanskrit! ‗I have news.‘ The three words brought no response from any of the girls, but Ashwin and Vignesh looked like their greatest fears had been confirmed. Jyoti ploughed on. ‗Bad news. And it is about—‘she was interrupted by a highly flustered Ashwin. ‗—No more, Jyoti. This is information which I don‘t want to be out to people who have little understanding of it. After all, jnanam mam saksham.‘ The quote Ashwin was referring to, Nandita had no idea, but she knew it was related to Ma Saraswati. If so, Nandita wondered, why was Ashwin calling it information not suitable for the four of them? ‗Hey, look. We need whatsoever information. And what‘s this jnanam ma’am sakkam thing? Don‘t be ridiculous. We need the news, and you’re not going to stop us from getting it,‘ Swati said, with a familiar glare in her eyes. ‗C’est un highly classified knowledge. N’est pas interruptez,‘ Ashwin said, making the matter final with French being his tool. ‗Stop your French! I need the information, Jyoti, now!‘ Jyoti looked bewildered, and, if these people were going to keep on bickering, Nandita feared Jyoti would faint from too much exertion. She had to stop these two. ‗—vous êtes une stupide fille!‘ ‗—don‘t be foolish! We have right to information.‘ ‗STOP!‘ she bellowed, her voice shocking even her. ‗I mean,‘ Nandita lowered her voice. ‗If we keep of bickering like this, we‘ll all end up without a clue where to go, what to do, and what we are. Got it?‘ Ashwin flared down instantly. ‗Very well.‘

95

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Swati was not the same. ‗But Nandita!‘ she complained, her voice both pleading, and commanding. ‗We need to know whatever that is!‘ Nandita raised her hand. ‗No. We need to discuss what we are going to do once we reach Cambodia. Did you ever hear the language crisis? Passport crisis? The tourists sure will wonder what—‘Nandita did a quick count. ‗—what seven kids are doing in a place with no adult supervision and no visible form of transport. Did you ever notice that?‘ Ashwin looked like a boulder had hit him. ‗That,‘ he said. ‗Is one of the most sensible things said on board the Bharatiya Nauka.‘ He glared pointedly at Swati. ‗At least some people are part of a rational crew.‘ These two will not start bickering again under my reign! ‗Stop! We have to discuss. Follow me,‘ said Nandita, marching quickly to the cabin corridor. Surprisingly, a new cabin had formed itself, Number Eight, with feather blankets in a violent shade of pink, and tiny stuffed teddies. Nandita was shocked. Jyoti recognised the expression and her face morphed into an expression of shame. As Nandita passed a cabin where a boy in a black shirt seemed to be sleeping, she did a double take, totally revolted. This room was a janitor‘s nightmare. Clothes were piled up haphazardly, the TV blared and the music system rumbled. The computer screen cast a dim glow all over the room, and Gaurav himself was hidden under a huge black blanket with pictures of skulls. Ew! Housekeeping! Come over here! They finally reached Cabin One, where Nandita opened the door, and saw seven chairs waiting for them, each colour coded for an Altar. There were two red chairs. She found the chairs arranged in an oval shape—like in a round table conference—and she would sit at the Head Chair. She thought it funny to be

96

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

there, and she nervously closed the door as everybody entered. The room was dreadfully cold, as the air-conditioner was somehow resetting itself to 16 degree Celsius. They even had memo-pads, on top of the chairs, and pens which were also colour coded. As she sat down at the Head Chair, she felt a sense of authority she‘d never felt. There was a microphone for Nandita to speak in, and the sound came out quite loud. This was going to be like a boardroom meeting. When she saw Swati, Swati raised her eyebrows feigning fake impression. ‗Hmm, yeah, um—welcome to the planning meet at the Bharatiya Nauka, please note down the particulars of your meeting, the date, time etc. So, please participate wholeheartedly in this meet. Thank you for attending.‘ Swati and Madhumita were sharing small fits of laughter. Even Jasnoor and Parvati looked at the brink of it. The only ones who looked very serious—Jyoti, Ashwin and Vignesh—seemed to be very sad, too. ‗So today, our objectives will be a) assessing our situation b) attending to the difficulties, and c) getting to a conclusion.‘ Nandita wasn‘t actually speaking these lines by herself; an invisible hand was writing it on her memo-pad, and she was just reciting it. She read out the next lines, where there were huge blanks. ‗So, let us look at the scenario before we move on. What are we going to do?‘ This question came out at large, and Madhumita, who was acting like she was asleep, jerked ―awake‖ and looked around. ‗We will go to Cambodia, to Angkor Wat, search for a route to the place where the sinners go, then we will get the Kailashanath diamond, then we‘ll have a look for the Shweta Padma, and come back, safe and sound.‘ Ashwin said this with such bluntness, Vignesh looked revolted.

97

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗What about the Yama Bhoomi?‘ No, not the bluntness. The Yama-Bhoomi is the reason. Ashwin looked disgusted. ‗S’il vous plaît. You know very well that the curse is undone. There is no point in simply going to Aphrahan and risk killing ourselves,‘ he said. Nandita moved on. ‗Our difficulties. Can somebody brief us on Cambodia…?‘ Ashwin now stared at the wall. His eyes moved, just as usual. ‗Hmm, this whole set of things seem interesting. Have a look. Maye tvam mam abhilasham jagrati!‘ The wall turned into a projector screen with words written. Ashwin read out for the others to follow those who were unfamiliar to the Devnagri script or Hindi. ‗Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia. The major languages spoken are Khmer and French. The people here follow either Theravada Buddhism or Hinduism. One of the major relic temples of the Trimurti, the Angkor Wat, is situated here.‘ The text on the wall disappeared. ‗That is great. Ashwin shall aid us in French, but Khmar?‘ Swati asked. ‗That-can-be-left-to-me,‘ gasped a voice from the door. It was Gaurav, breathless, changed into fresh orange clothes. ‗I went to Phnom Penh, when I was ten,‘ he said. Swati, Jasnoor and Madhumita looked confused, as usual. ‗Capital of Cambodia. Big place. Streets named after Indian leaders.‘ Ashwin flapped his hands like the others couldn‘t get him. 98

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

‗Enough! We shall simply use the language experts. The cover story?‘ This was a question Nandita was itching to ask from first. Ashwin looked at her, so did Vignesh and Jyoti. All three of them spoke together. ‗There is a way.‘ Vignesh took over. ‗We shall go to Cambodia as students on an educational trip to study the architecture of our temples. If any—‘Vignesh hesitated. ‗—problem arises, we would get the cover up as Ardha-Ishwaras on a trip to see the honourable building to Vishnu.‘ Ashwin and Jyoti nodded together. ‗What kind of problem?‘ asked Parvati, as Swati and Madhumita nodded. ‗Nothing. Just if we stumble upon children of Yami, who will be hunting for us,‘ Ashwin said. Vignesh and Jyoti looked relieved. ‗OK, Situation two accepted. Next, we shall conclude our session by saying that…‘ Nandita said. ‗…Session over!‘ shouted Swati. ****************************************************************

99

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Chapter XXI

Jyoti was utterly bamboozled. She didn‘t have a clue what was going on, other than one thing; she had been kidnapped, and was now aboard a ship with a few strangers and a daughter of Vishnu who gave her the creeps. No, nothing more. Just that. 100

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

But she did meet a Son of Saraswati (she actually heaved a sigh, for somebody on the ship spoke Sanskrit without any difficulty) and a Son of Ganesha who seemed to be more knowledgeable than the others on board. However, the dazed feeling she had was something she couldn‘t comprehend. And not able to understand things was something she hated. She had stared from Ashwin to Swati to Vignesh, hoping for clues, but nobody had paid any attention to her. And now, here she was, aboard a huge blue ship on waters which she didn‘t recognise, and people whom she didn‘t know. This continued feeling of cluelessness was frustrating her. She ran to her cabin now that the ―brainstorming session‖ had ended, and she pushed the violet door with an extra effort, and crashed onto her extra soft, internally heated mattress, on top of a teddy bear. She promptly screamed. She felt something fluffy and alive behind her, and she turned back, and screamed again. The teddy bear was simply like the others; pink skin, small snout, cute and mischievous smile. Obviously, she had to get an output for her anger. Her frustration and pain came out as she threw each teddy bear to the small circular window, and when she finally made all the unfortunate teddies sit on top of each other, she heaved a sigh. What’s happening to you, Jyoti ?Are you the same calm and composed person I had counted upon since seven? You, of all people, must not do this! A voice echoed in her head, sounding familiar. Agraj? She thought back. Is it you? Oh, yes, didi, it is me. Your dear little impulsive brother whom you cared for despite of his tantrums.

101

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

Jyoti‘s eyes grew watery. Of course, the same bored drawl, the slight amount of pride in the deep voice, yes, this was Jyoti‘s brother, Agraj, the Son of Shiva. So, my dear little sister, can you please call Nandita? I want to talk to her. Jyoti nodded. Then she realised Agraj wouldn‘t be able to see her. It is okay, I sense your yes, said Agraj. Jyoti walked to Cabin One, and entered. She saw Nandita feverishly reading a book with a picture of a boy holding a sword on the cover. The Ishwar Academy textbook— Sanskrit to Angrezi in Two Weeks! — lay open next to her left hand. Nandita didn‘t look up when Jyoti stared at her with an intense expression. Jyoti softly whispered, ‗Dear… you need to learn your Sanskrit if you need to learn theory of Talwaar Vaar.‘ Her trick worked. Nandita looked up, smiled and spoke. ‗What brought you here, Jyoti?‘ Jyoti didn‘t know how to start. She simply mumbled. ‗A-A-Agraj w-wants t-to t-talk to you.‘ ‗Agraj who?‘ asked Nandita sharply.

102

Indian Chronicles- The Kailashanath Diamond A tribute to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Written By Ashwin T Shekhar

103