Even though Veera could run faster than Ishi but he never did outrun her. He would always slow down when she slowed down a little.
Just as they reached their playing spot, the forest behind her house, they started to play their favourite game, hide and seek. But Veera knew she would find him whenever he hid somewhere no matter what. It would take her time but she eventually would.
That day it had taken her longer than usual. The moment she found out where he was hiding, she climbed on his back laughing hard. Both of them collapsed on the forest floor giggling hysterically.
“Don’t you dare hide like that again,” Ishi said to him the moment she sat up.
He just laughed and knuckled her hair messing it up completely. She pouted angrily and he started to guffaw like an idiot. He loved teasing her, he loved messing her hair. In fact, he had never liked it done in braids.
“Are you afraid that you won’t find me?” he asked dragging her towards him.
“I’ll always find you no matter where you hide,” she replied turning away from him.
Veera knew she was angry but didn’t do anything to calm her down. There was no way she could stay angry with him for long.
Minutes later, she turned towards him and smiled.
They played until the evening and then it was time for her to go home. He helped her climb the tree and waited till she waved him bye and disappeared inside her room.
Sighing he started to walk off. As he neared their end of the forest, he was suddenly surrounded by some men armed with wooden sticks. He didn’t need to second guess who they were. One of them shoved him but he steadied himself and stood his ground.
However, as the second one shoved him he lost his balance and fell down. Anger flooded inside him as he saw one of them lifting his foot and placing it on his hand. Pain laced through him as the pressure grew but he clamped down his teeth smashing the scream bubbling inside.
The man who had kept his foot on his hand suddenly grabbed his face and tilted it up. Then he opened his mouth to say something but his words turned into a scream as Veera struck hard on his foot with the brick he had picked up.
All the men were about to raise their sticks when suddenly people shouting his name stopped them. By the time Chandrapal’s men reached him they were already gone.
“Come on let’s go,” Chandrapal said to him as he dragged him off towards the haveli.
That day when he had returned home Chandrapal had reported everything to his father. And Vikramveer hadn’t spared his son. He had not only scolded him with strong words but had also beaten him. And Veera being his son had for the first time shown his anger in front of his father, which had resulted in more beatings.
But he knew his father. If there was anyone his father loved the most after his mother Uma, was his children. If Shanker was his strength then Gera, his daughter was his pride. That night he had seen his father come inside his room and place the blanket on him.
Ruffling his hair gently, he had said, “I didn’t beat you because you went to meet her. I beat you because I want you to understand why you can’t meet her. Even after understanding the reason if you want to meet her then I won’t stop you.”
Just as he had heard these words he had woken up and had been welcomed by a huge smile on his father’s face. But then the smile had disappeared.
And then he had said the words, which had been itched on his heart forever.
“There will be times Veera when your anger will fail you but there will be moments when your rage will be the only answer you have. Know how to use your anger as people will not respect you in fear. They will respect you only when they know how right your anger is.”
“What if I always fail, Baba?”
With a smile, his father had said, “You can’t always win. If you keep on winning then there’s no fun in playing. You have to taste failure to know the joy of winning. Once you win don’t forget why you failed. Knowing that will save you from failing again but it will not guarantee your win. It will only guarantee your path.”
Rudra convulsed with anguish as his mind played these words back. He dashed to close the doors of his memories but couldn’t. His demons came rushing down trampling him on the way. Bruised and battered he lay there and let his mind take control of him.
Obvious to his nature, he hadn’t listened to his father but he had understood his reason for not letting him meet Ishi. But he had always maintained caution from then on. However, he hadn’t ever told her about this for he had never wanted her to know any of it.
The holidays had continued just the way he had wanted. Playing with his cousins and friend Amar; teasing his kid sister and making her run around the house behind him and then hugging her hard when she would cry out with frustration, and spending endless hours with Ishi.
Then the time had come for him to go back to school in Jaipur. It had always been a tearful farewell when it came to him and Ishi parting ways after the holidays. She would hug him and sob like crazy and he would console her even though his heart would be breaking inside.
He never cried in front of her but he did when he was alone in his room. And then when it would become unbearable he would drag Viman and Ram with him to the forest and would climb the tree to her window. Watching her sleep had been his favourite pastime. The peace on her face and her gentle smile would always soothe his ragged emotions.
When he would return home after his nightly tryst, his mother would always be waiting at the door along with Chandrapal to make him escape to his room without his father knowing. Well, Vikramveer did know but he never said anything. He didn’t want the rivalry between the two families poisoning their innocent minds.
And then his sister would pester him all night to tell stories and he would always oblige no matter how tired he was.