‘The Parihan system of medicine believes that the pineal gland, which exists deep within our brain, is the third eye. It is a peculiar gland. The cortical brain is divided into two equal hemispheres within which most components exist in pairs. The singular pineal gland, however, is present between the two hemispheres. It is a little like an eye and is impacted by light; darkness activates it and light inhibits it. A hyperactive pineal gland is regenerative. This is probably what made your body such that the Somras did not only lengthen your life but also repaired your injuries. Furthermore, the pineal gland is not covered by the blood barrier system.’
‘Blood barrier system?’
‘Yes. One’s blood flows freely throughout the body. But there is a barrier when it approaches the brain. Perhaps this is so as to prevent germs and infections from affecting the brain, the seat of one’s soul. However, the pineal gland, despite being lodged between the two hemispheres, is not covered by the blood barrier system. It is obvious why your third eye throbs when you are upset; this is the result of blood gushing through your hyperactive pineal gland.’
Shiva nodded slowly. ‘Does this happen to others?’
‘Yes, it does. But only amongst those who practice decades of yoga to train their third eye. Or it is active amongst those who are given medicines to stimulate it. What is unnatural about your case is that you were born with an active third eye. This is unheard of.’
Shiva shifted uneasily in his chair. ‘So a congenital event just set me up for this role? My uncle could have got it all wrong. I could still be an erroneous choice and maybe I will not achieve the purpose set out for me.’
‘But I am sure your uncle did not give you the medicine merely because of your active third eye. He would have judged your character and found you worthy. He must have trained you for this.’
‘I was trained by him, no doubt. He taught me ethics, warfare, psychology, arts. But he did not say anything to me about my purported task.’
‘You must concede he did an excellent job, though. For you have done well as the Neelkanth.’
‘Just luck,’ said Shiva wryly.
‘Great Neelkanth, a non-believer will credit luck for one’s achievements. But a believer in the Parmatma, like me, will know that the Neelkanth has achieved all that he has because the Parmatma willed it. And that means that the Neelkanth will complete his journey and eventually succeed in taking Evil out of the equation.’
Shiva smiled. ‘Sometimes, faith can lean towards over-simplicity.’
Gopal smiled in return. ‘Maybe simplicity is what this world needs right now.’
Shiva laughed softly and looked at the audience of Vasudev pandits, listening to the two of them with rapt attention. ‘Well, many of my doubts have been cleared. The Somras is the greatest Good and will therefore, one day, certainly emerge as the greatest Evil. But how do we know that the moment has arrived? How can we be sure?’
One of the Vasudev pandits answered. ‘We can never be completely sure, great Neelkanth. But if you allow me to express an opinion, we have had a Good which has had a glorious journey for thousands of years and humanity has grown tremendously with its munificence. However, we also know that it is close to becoming Evil now. It is possible that the Somras is taken out of the equation a trifle early, and the world will lose out on a few hundred years of additional good that it could do. But that pales in comparison to the enormous contribution it has already made for thousands of years. On the other hand, there is the risk that the Somras is getting closer to Evil and is likely to lead to chaos and destruction. It is already causing it in substantial measure; I’m not merely referring to the plague of Branga or the deformities of the Nagas. It is believed that the Somras is also responsible for the drastic fall in the birth rate of the Meluhans.’
‘Yes,’ answered Gopal. ‘Perhaps in refusing to embrace death, they pay the price of not seeing their own genes propagate.’
Shiva acknowledged that he’d understood with a gentle nod. The massive images of Lord Ram and Lady Sita that formed the carved central pillar seemed to smile at him. Accepting their blessings, his eyes were drawn farther, towards a grand painting depicting Lord Ram at the feet of Lord Rudra in the backdrop of holy Rameshwaram. Shiva smiled at the giant circle of life. He joined his hands together in a respectful Namaste, closed his eyes and prayed. Jai Maa Sita. Jai Shri Ram.
Shiva was resolute as he opened his eyes and beheld Gopal. ‘I have made my decision. We will strive to avoid war and needless bloodshed. But should our efforts prove futile, we shall fight to the last man. We will end the reign of the Somras.’
The Love-struck Barbarian
‘Your uncle was a Vayuputra Lord?’ asked an amazed Sati.
Sati and Shiva were in their private chambers. Shiva had just related his entire conversation with the Vasudevs and the decision that he had arrived at.
‘Not just an ordinary Lord!’ smiled Shiva. ‘An Amartya Shpand.’
Sati raised her arms and rested them on Shiva’s muscular shoulders, her eyes teasing. ‘I always knew there was something special about you; that you couldn’t have been just another rough tribal. And now I have proof. You have pedigree!’
Shiva laughed loudly, holding Sati close. ‘Rubbish! You thought I was an uncouth barbarian when you first laid your eyes on me!’
Sati edged up on her toes and kissed Shiva warmly on his lips. ‘Oh, you are still an uncouth barbarian...’
Shiva raised his eyebrows.
‘But you are my uncouth barbarian...’
Shiva’s face lit up with the crooked smile he reserved for Sati; the smile that made her weak in the knees. He held her tight and lifted her up, close to his lips. Her feet dangling in the air, they kissed languidly; warm and deep.
‘You are my life,’ whispered Shiva.
‘You are the sum of all my lives,’ said Sati.
Shiva continued to hold her up in the air, embracing her tight, resting his head on her shoulders. Sati had her arms around her husband, her fingers running circles in his hair.
‘So, are you going to let me down sometime?’ asked Sati.
Shiva just shook his head in answer. He was in no hurry.
Sati smiled and rested her head on his shoulders, content to let her feet dangle in mid-air, playing with Shiva’s hair.
‘Here you go,’ said Sati.
Shiva took the glass of milk from her. He liked his milk raw: no boiling, no jaggery, no cardamom, nothing but plain milk. Shiva drained the glass in large gulps, handed it to Sati and sank back on his chair with his feet up on the table. Sati put the glass down and sat next to him. Shiva looked across the balcony, towards the Vishnu temple. He took a deep breath and turned to Sati. ‘You’re right. Much as I respect Ganesh’s tactical thinking, this time he is wrong. Parvateshwar will not leave me.’
Sati nodded emphatically in agreement. ‘Without an inspirational leader like him, the armies of Meluha and Swadweep, though strong, will lack motivation as well as sound battle tactics.’
‘That is true. But let us hope that the people themselves will rise up in rebellion and there will be no need for war.’
‘How can we ensure that, though? If you send the proclamation banning the Somras to the kings, they will make sure that the general public will not know.’