Shyamasundari heard the gurgling water even before the river came into view. Clasping her companion’s hand tightly, she continued guiding her gently through the familiar yet dense woodlands. The sky was still dark and the wind coming from the river biting cold. She felt Nalini’s hand tremble in hers.
“Are you alright Nali?”
“I…I can’t walk any further Ma!”
Shyama’s anxious gaze dropped to her daughter in law’s protruding belly. Once again, she was drawn back to the rendezvous that took place two nights ago.
Pandit Sadashiv, the Raj Jyotishi and head priest, was pacing the room like a caged tiger.
“My predictions have never gone wrong. Never! No one in this kingdom initiates anything without consulting me first. Not even our respected Maharaj! Why, the Maharani would have yet again produced a stillborn hadn’t I insisted her on worshipping the Banyan tree for one whole month. And this young chit!” He hissed. “Not once, but twice the lass went against my predictions and gave birth to girls.”
As her husband paused to take a breath, Shyama interjected softly, “God willing, Nalini might be blessed with a boy this time.”
Sadashiv shook his head vehemently. “I don’t think so. The planetary positions in her chart indicate otherwise. There is only one way. Nalini will have to perform a shuddhikaran for the next 21 days. Every morning before the sun rises, she will take a dip in the holy water of the Ganges. Only then will she be blessed with a boy!”
“But..” Shyamasundari protested, “It’s Magh mash now. The water is freezing cold at this time of the year. She..she might die! “
Sadashiv came to stand in front of her.
“Well, then we would have to find a suitable girl for our son again.’’ His eyes hardened. ‘’ I won’t stand and watch my bloodline coming to an end!”
Nalini’s voice shook.
Shyamasundari caressed her long tresses. “Have faith in me.”.
Scanning her surroundings with furtive eyes, she then led Nalini towards the riverbank.
On the 21st day, right after the completion of the ritual, Nalini went into labour and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Sadashiv fell exhausted in a chair.
He had followed Shyama and Nalini to the riverbank this morning. The freezing water spared none yet how come Nalini looked more healthy than ever?
The answer came when he saw Shyama splashing a handful of water over the younger woman’s head and then taking her behind a tree to change into a fresh saree.
His neighbour, who had come to congratulate him, broke into his thoughts. “Could you please suggest some remedy for my daughter too? She has three girls. If she doesn’t produce an heir, her in-laws will throw her out!”
Sadashiv stared. What should he tell him? That Nalini had again gone against his prediction?
He was a great astrologer who had once again proved his worth to the world?
He chose the later.
Raj Jyotishi – royal astrologer
Maharaj – king
Maharani – queen
Shuddhikaran – purification
Magh Mash – Magh is the tenth month in the Bengali calendar. This is the last month of the two months of winter season and probably the coldest.
Pandit moshai – a form of address
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