Source: ytimg

Mandava was unreal.

Ahinya came across a lush green field with wind among the reeds. She felt the gentle touch of flowers in her palm. The lake spread out far ahead, was shimmering in the sun. The grasses grew upto her waist. A few little steps down, the grasses were upto her chest. A few steps down, she was lost in the blinding maze of tall yellow grasses. Wind swished like a serpent through the oscillating grass blades. Ahinya stopped, thinking whether to move forward or not. She did, dexterously moving the blades aside and suddenly out of nowhere, she stood before a gigantic monument, red, dilapidated.

She walked upto the two storeyed structure. On the ground above a platform was a series of pillars lined up like pillars in a hall. It was dark. What was this monument? No banner. Just an unnamed relic of lived memory…

Clink…clink…clink…clink… she turned around and found a local boy grazing a herd of goats.

“Hey, what is this monument? Can you tell?” Ahinya was eager.

“Ye Dai ki kabr hai. This is Dai’s tomb.” The boy replied uninterested.

“Okay...But who is Dai?” The boy shrugged his shoulder and went on with the goats; the bells tied to their throat let out a soft tinkle.

The boy vanished into the distance and Ahinya walked upto the angular stairs. Clueless, she started climbing the steep stone rocks hoping that the ravages of time would provide her with answers.

“Dai”, Ahinya thought. "Midwife", she concluded.

She must have been a midwife to lost dynasties, an ancient apothecary of sorts, a surgeon. Perhaps, she medicated queens. Perhaps, the queens and the women in court successfully gave birth to children in her presence. Was this ‘Dai’ only one woman or a host of nameless women engaged to the same profession generation after generation?

Ahinya’s mind raced along… She reached on top of the stairs to an open platform. On one side of the platform was a series of broken columns that once bore the weight of domed roofs above them. A few pillars thankfully stood intact as specimens of architectural magnificence. Between two pillars were two graves. There were no names – just two big slabs of stone. With the dome broken, they now lay exposed to rain, wind and heat, alike.

The distant tinkle of the goat bells were heard again…

Whose graves were these? The size was shorter, lesser than a normal six feet.

Children… Ahinya thought. What happened to them?

There have been instances of epidemics in the past. Malaria. The wind grew stronger. Ahinya looked steadfast into their stony coldness. A few dry leaves

brushed over the stones. The sunlight touched the columns splintering itself above the square plots.

On the other side of the platform stood an octagonal room having a similar arched domed roof with doors on all four directions. It was gigantic. This was not a tomb… Ahinya thought. This was Dai’s house! She lived here!

The room stared back at her with hollow eyes. It could also have been her chamber. Ahinya went upto the stone slab beside the western door and looked out across the field. Not a single soul to be seen. Amazed at her new found discovery she sat down on the slab and looked upto the dome and blurted out a sudden- “Aa!”… The sound rippled through the air, touched the stony mass and came back reverberating a few notches higher. “Aaa…aaa!!” Ahinya continued. An alarm room. One word and anybody can hear ten miles across the ravine.

Source: thedailybeast

Ahinya leaned back against the wall and stared out into the stark meadow...

A swish of wind and 'her' lock leapt up. 'She' turned around but before 'she' could comprehend what was happening, a figure wrapped in black caught hold of 'her' throat. Another one tossed 'her' above the slab and clutched 'her' legs. 'She' grappled with great force. 'She' wanted to scream but 'she' was choking under the pressure of cold fingers. 'Her' heart pumped all the blood. 'Her' lungs wanted air. 'Her' legs were twitching under pain. 'Her' hands were being held together under great pressure. 'Her' eyes bulged out and 'she' wriggled like a fish under the weight of the assassins.


'She' tried to tilt 'her' head and saw 'her' sons being dragged out into the adjacent platform. With a sudden demonic force 'she' kicked above the groin of the hooded figure who held 'her' feet and released 'her' hands free from the assassin who caught 'her' across and dug 'her' nails on the face of 'her' primary assaulter.

“Let them go…No…my sons…no!!” 'She' hollered struggling to run out of 'her' chamber. But a brutal kick from behind threw 'her' straight on 'her' face on the hard ground. 'She' turned over, desperate to come up with a fight again but a savage kick, this time on 'her' belly, left 'her' writhing in pain.

'She' heard them- “Maa…mother!!!”- one more time before 'she' was blinded by a black shroud. 'She' gasped for air within the black sack but the firm fingers came down on 'her' throat and a heavy knee dug itself on 'her' stomach. From within the dark mantle 'she' simultaneously heard one last stentorian “Mother!!!” and the slash of a sword being unsheathed from the scabbard. A quick and clear swish, a wet slash ended their caterwaul.

“Nooooooo….” 'she' wailed, utterly defeated and gave in. The pain in 'her' throat was slowly becoming intolerable; 'her' heart pumped again, faster and intermittently and then it slowed down; missed a few beats; and staggered… Lubb dubb lubb dubb… lubb dubb… dubb… dubb.

Ahinya woke up with a jerk. Her friend looked into her agitated face and asked, “Are you okay? We have been searching for you all this while. How did you come up here?”

“I...I lost my way.” Ahinya replied, her head tossing in the sudden break of profound drowsiness.

“Yes you did. What are you doing here? And how did you fall asleep?”

“I guess I was tired.” “I think so too. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

Ahinya was walking down the stairs with Agasta before her. Once they had descended the stairs, he halted, looked back at her and said, “You know I heard a story from the manager. She was saying that there was a Dai in this place long back.” “Her sons were beheaded. Killed and buried without recognition.” Agasta continued.

“What for?” Ahinya asked faintly.

“I don’t know. Maybe some royal secret she got hold of.” Agasta retorted.


“What happened to you? Why are you answering like this?”

“Nothing… I am just tired. I fell asleep on the slab.”

“Slab? Slab! Slab!!! Why that’s a stone bier! You might as well be sleeping over her corpse... I mean legends say she was strangulated and killed!”

Ahinya stared at him blankly. Saying those words was easier than living through it. She wondered if no one really heard her shrieks or the boys’ cry for help. In the dark corridors formed by the rows of pillars, the cows and buffaloes were ruminating over straw in the acrid stink of dung and cattle urine.

.    .    .