‘What is the Evil that baba is fighting? How has it entrenched its claws so deeply?’
Ganesh took Kartik by the hand and made him sit at the foot of one of the banyans. ‘This is for you alone, Kartik. You are not to tell anyone else. For it is baba’s right to decide when and how others are to be informed.’
Kartik nodded in response.
Ganesh sat next to Kartik and explained to him about what Brahaspati and Shiva had discussed the previous day.
‘What have you been doing these past five years, Brahaspati?’ asked Shiva.
Sati and Shiva had joined the chief scientist in the Naga queen’s chambers. Brahaspati felt like he was being interrogated. But he could understand Shiva’s need to get to the bottom of the issue.
‘I was trying to find a permanent solution to the Somras problem,’ answered Brahaspati.
‘Destroying Mount Mandar is a temporary solution. We know it will get rebuilt. The Nagas tell me the reconstruction has been surprisingly slow. It shouldn’t have taken five years. Not with Meluhan efficiency. But it’s only a matter of time before it gets rebuilt.’
Shiva looked at Sati, but she didn’t say anything.
‘Once Mandar is back to full manufacturing capacity, the destruction of the Saraswati and the production of the toxic waste will begin in large measure once again. So we have to find a permanent solution. The best way to do that is to examine the Somras’ ingredients. If we can somehow control that, we could possibly control the poisonous impact of the Somras waste. Many ingredients can be easily replaced. But two of them cannot. The first are the bark and branches of the Sanjeevani tree, and the second is the Saraswati water. We cannot control the availability of the Sanjeevani tree. Meluha has large plantations of it across its northern reaches. How many plantations can one destroy? Besides, trees can always be replanted. That brings us to the Saraswati. Can we somehow control its waters?’
Shiva remembered parts of a conversation with Daksha when he had first arrived in Devagiri. ‘I was told by Emperor Daksha that the Chandravanshis did try to destroy the Saraswati more than a hundred years ago. By taking one of its main tributaries, the Yamuna, away from it and redirecting its flow towards the Ganga. It didn’t really make much sense to me but the Meluhans seem to believe it.’
Brahaspati sniggered. ‘The Chandravanshi ruling class cannot even build roads in their own empire. How can anyone think that they would have the ability to change the course of a river? What happened a hundred years ago was an earthquake that changed the course of the Yamuna. The Meluhans subsequently defeated the Chandravanshis and the resultant treaty mandated that the early course of the Yamuna would become no-man’s land. And Meluhans do have the technology to change the course of rivers. They built giant embankments to block and change the course of the Yamuna to make it flow back into the Saraswati.’
‘So what was your plan? Destroy the Yamuna embankments?’
‘No. I had considered it, but that is impossible as well. They have many fail-safe options. It would take five brigades and months of open work to be able to destroy those embankments. We would obviously have had to work in secret with a small number of people.’
‘So what was your plan?’
‘An alternative. We cannot take the Saraswati away. But could we make the Saraswati much less potent in the production of the Somras? Is it possible to add something to the Yamuna waters, at its source, which would then flow into the Saraswati and control the amount of waste being produced? I thought that we had found one such ingredient.’
‘A bacterium which reacts with the Sanjeevani tree and makes it decay almost instantly.’
‘I thought the Sanjeevani tree was already unstable and decayed rapidly. Ayurvati had told me the Naga medicine is created by mixing the crushed branches of another tree with the Sanjeevani bark to stabilise it. If the Sanjeevani is already unstable, why would it need bacteria to aid the decay? Wouldn’t it just decay anyway?’
‘The Sanjeevani bark becomes unstable once stripped off the branch. The entire branch, if used, is not. The bark is easier for small-scale manufacture, but for manufacturing the Somras in large quantities, we have to use crushed branches. This is what we did at Mount Mandar. But it is a method known only to my scientists.’
‘So what you want to do is make the Sanjeevani branch also unstable.’
‘Yes. And, I discovered that it was possible to do so with this bacterium. But it is only available in Mesopotamia.’
‘Is this what you picked up from Karachapa when you accompanied me on my initial travels through Meluha? You had said you were expecting a shipment from Mesopotamia.’
‘Yes,’ said Brahaspati. ‘And it would have worked perfectly. The Somras cannot be made without both the Sanjeevani tree and the Saraswati water. The presence of bacteria in the Saraswati water would render useless the Sanjeevani tree at the beginning of the process itself. And in any case, without the Saraswati water, the Somras cannot be made. Without the power of the Sanjeevani, the Somras would not be as potent. It will not triple or quadruple one’s lifespan, but only increase it by twenty or thirty years. However, it would also mean that there would be practically no production of Somras waste. By sacrificing some of the powers of the Somras, we would take away all the poison of the Somras waste. Furthermore, these bacteria also mix with water and then multiply prodigiously. All we needed to do was release it in the Yamuna and the rest would follow.’
‘Sounds perfect. Why didn’t you?’
‘There is no free lunch,’ said Brahaspati. ‘The bacteria came with its own problems. It is a mild toxin in itself. If we mix it in large quantities, as would be required in the Saraswati, we could create a new set of diseases for all living beings dependant not just on the Saraswati but also the Yamuna. We would have only replaced one problem with another.’
‘So you were trying to see if the poisonous effect of the bacteria could be reduced or removed, without disturbing its ability to destroy the Sanjeevani tree?’
‘Yes. Secrecy was required. If those who support the Somras knew about these bacteria, they would try to kill it at its source. Had they known I was working on an experiment such as this, they would have had me assassinated.’
‘Aren’t you afraid of being killed now?’ asked Shiva. ‘A lot of Meluhans will be angry with you when they discover you weren’t the victim, but the perpetrator of the attack on Mount Mandar.’
Brahaspati breathed deeply. ‘Earlier, it was important for me to remain alive since I alone could have done this research. But I have failed. And the solution to the Somras problem is not in my hands anymore. It’s in your hands. It doesn’t matter if I live any longer. Mount Mandar will be reconstructed. It’s a matter of time. And Somras production will begin once again. You have to stop it, Shiva. For the sake of India, you have to stop the Somras.’
‘The reconstruction is a charade, Brahaspatiji,’ said Sati. ‘It’s to mislead enemies into thinking that it will take time to get Somras production back on track. To make them think that Meluha must be surviving on lower quantities of Somras.’
‘What? Is there another facility?’ asked Brahaspati, as he looked quickly at Kali. ‘But that cannot be true.’