Ashwathama was his name , and Aarav simply called him old man. He had asked Aarav to wake up at 4 , sharp. And Aarav thought that it would be easy , but the climate was too cold to wake up even at 8 , so he slept and exactly at 4 , the old man put a whole bucket of cold water on him .
The old man hit him on the head , and said,
“While you’re here , i shouldn't hear you swearing . If i hear you again , it will be a pain in your...”
“You said no swearing...“Aarav said .
“Don’t teach me ! Now follow . You should have some changes made before we start.”
Aarav was given a new haircut , a pair of clothes which he had to wear while he was staying at the temple. The clothes felt heavy , especially the pant . He felt dragged downwards and his walking was making him tired.
“Hey , old man , why do i feel so heavy?”
“Don’t call me that. And as for your clothes , they’re training clothes made specially for increasing your speed . Now , talking about your schedule , the time is now 5 :15 , before 6 , milk and eggs have to be present at every door step of the village . Today i will accompany you , but from tomorrow , this will be your job. Now come on .”
In a single leap , the old man jumped the steps of the temple . Panting and huffing , Aarav reached the bottom , where the old man was standing with his hands folded , he said,
“You’re too slow for a 17 year old and short and weak. Now , follow ...”
“Atleast...let me ...breathe...“Aarav said as he simply followed him.
For the next hour , Aarav was following the old man through out the village , going house to house to deliver the cartons and eggs. They finally reached the last house and began their way back . Aarav saw that the people were already headed for their work . Women were cleaning the verandas of the homes , sweeping , then pouring water , drawing Rangolis ,in front of the house door and praying to the sun.
While men were heading to the fields.
When they were half way the old man spoke,
“Alright , now have some milk and eggs and we head to the lake for the further training. I’m telling you now itself that this will be no easy training , and if u want to give up , now’s the time...”
Aarav , drenched in sweat , and legs aching already from the morning village run , said,
“Nope, i've come too far to go back. I have to find my mother and to protect Shiba , who you let be taken away...”
“Now , now , don’t go angry on me . It wasn't as if you would’ve stopped dear Hector from taking her away. I was asked to save you and i did , i don’t even know the girl , why should i save her?”
“Why did you save me in the first place ? Who told you to?” Aarav asked as he was having boiled eggs .
“That is none of your concern , now lets go , or we’ll be late...”
Aarav was standing on the lake edge beside the old man. Aarav was peeping in the deep lake , to see how deep it was.
“What exactly are we doing?” Aarav asked him.
“Listen carefully , Aarav , for a warrior , especially a swordsman , the most important strength is agility. Now as you can see , you’re too slow , and weak , and useless...”
“Do you have to remind me that in every sentence you speak?”
“So as i was saying , agility. You will have to improve your movement . So you will run inside the water , for as long as i say , this way , your speed , your underwater control and strength , will improve . So...”
He kicked Aarav straight on his butt , so he fell face in the water. Aarav was struggling for breath.
“Atleast...give a warning ...old man...”
“I did not ask you to talk or swim , i asked you to run. Go on ...”
Aarav had no choice but to do as the old man said.
After hours of drowning , and not at all succeeding in ‘running’ inside the water , he was starting to feel the muscle pain. His hands and legs were paining , and were urging him to give up . The old man on the other hand , whenever saw Aarav taking a break , would throw a stone or a stick at Aarav’s head to resume the unsuccessful attempts.
Aarav couldn’t stay in the water for more than a minute , and to add more troubles to his already miserable training , the clothes he was wearing , were feeling even more heavier and troubling him to reach the surface back . Twice he was rescued by the old man from dying underwater .
It was near afternoon when the old man finally allowed him to come out of the water . He said,
“You’re too weak to be true! I haven’t seen a weaker student than you. And what were you doing in the lake ? I had asked you to run inside the water , but all you did was come back to the surface within a minute . You’re just useless...”
“You’re such an encouraging teacher...” Aarav said as he was lying on the grass.
“Cut the sarcasm ,boy . Have some food , and that’s the end of today’s training . That doesn’t mean you rest all the remaining day . I have to go to the temple , keep trying , not too hard , i dont want you to die on your first day .And roam around the village a bit if you want, who knows ? Maybe you'll find some interesting people.”
Aarav was lying there for some time , and fell asleep . When he woke up , it was evening . He walked to the town and about to climb the steps when he felt he was being watched .
He turned and found no one . So he headed back to the temple and found the food was ready . The old man said ,
“Alright , boy , now before you have dinner , you have a work to do...”
“Didn't you say training for the day was over ?”
“Yes , i said . And this is not training , this is your job. Now take these....” he gave Aarav two buckets and asked him to fill the tank at the stables with water.
“I want it done in an hour ....The well is near the end of the steps....”
“Great...” Aarav said and started his descent . He found the well , which was at some distance from the bottom . He had to pull a bucket of water from the well using a pulley , and pour it into the two buckets the old man had given him. He filled the buckets and ran back.
With every step he took , he felt light weighted , and so he thought he had finally grown strong and that too in a day!
He went to the stables , and emptied the bucket , just to find them empty. Then he looked back , and saw that the whole path which he had walked was wet. He glanced at the buckets and saw that they were cracked.
He ran to the old man,
“Hey, old man , you didn’t mention that the buckets were cracked!”
“Oh...sorry , did i really? Now you know right ? Run boy , 45 minutes left , or no food...”
“That’s not fair!”
And he ran , and for two hours he struggled and yet didn’t completely fill the tanks.
So finally when he was about to descend back to the bottom , the old man came and said,
“So ...i see you’re 1 hour fifteen minutes late , and yet have not filled the tank . That clearly means , punishment ....”
Aarav stomach was starving for food and was making rumbling noises , and he became sure that if he slept with an empty stomach , he would never see the next morning of the village. But , he wasn’t weak willed , if he had to save Shiba to find his mother, he had no choice but to go on , no matter what.
“Alright , i’ll have no dinner...” He said.
“Did i say that? That was just to keep you pushing . And besides , though you have miserably failed in today’s training , i should not forget that its your first day , and also that you are remarkably weak . So there will be no such harsh punishment . What you have to do , is after having dinner , you have to clean the stables and then go to sleep. And cleaning includes , washing the tank , and filling them with the tap water , then picking up the cowdung and finally bathing the cows .Is that clear?”
“Cowdung? And there's a tap too?Seriously?”
“Do i look like i’m joking ?”
“Yes...i mean no , your not ...i’ll do it.”
So finally , stinking of cowdung , and grass and sweat , Aarav took a refreshing cold water bath and ended up sleeping the moment he fell on the hard floor of the cottage .
The old man took one last look at Aarav , covered his body with a blanket and headed to the temple for the night offering . He reached there and found someone waiting for him. The person was looking down at the village from the railings , he heard the old man’s footsteps and said,
“You’re going too hard on the boy ,Ashwa..”
" I have no choice , but to go hard on him . He still has a long way to go , and very less time in hand . He’s very weak , do you really think he is the one?”
The Priest smiled and said, “Ashwa , do you remember your younger self when you first came asking to train you? You were more or less just like him.”
“I know that , but i was and i am a mortal , but he’s not . He is special , just like him. "
“Ashwa , he isn’t special , just his birth was . And i want you to train him , just like you were trained by me , or even better . Dont you see any resemblance of the boy with Silver?”
“Not a spec . I am still doubting whether or not you’ve picked the right one . Whatever be your predictions , they weren’t always right . Atleast not in my case...” The old man said shaking his head.
“Ashwa , i have asked for your forgiveness a million times , and i know its unforgivable , but trust me this one last time ...”
“As you wish ...”