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The Curse of Nalanda
by Manna Bahadur (Book Preview) | Published On:

31st March 2006, 4 p.m.


The crumbling red bricks still stood proud, defiant against the vagaries of war and weather. The wear and tear of centuries had not been able to diminish the distinguished aura of the Nalanda University. Its majestic remains carried an unparalleled serenity around itself from time immemorial.

As dusk slowly crept in, the setting sun paid obeisance to the ruins, bathing its vast expanse in a gentle golden glow. 

Chandni had completed taking pictures of the ruins for her story on ‘The Pride of Bihar–Nalanda University’ for a local newspaper. She walked towards a tea stall on a narrow path lined with trees on one side and eating joints on the other. Suddenly, she heard a loud explosion. 

Chandni hurriedly grasped a Gulmohar tree for support and turned back to see a scene of complete pandemonium; people were running helter-skelter, shouting, shrieking, shock writ large on their faces.

There were flames and fumes rising from one of the small restaurants, perhaps a gas cylinder had burst creating panic
in the area.

But what Chandni saw was not this. She saw a hazy picture of a building that was on fire, surrounded by devastation, flames and pools of blood. She stood dazed, utterly confused, her senses were numb . . . her eyes seemed to freeze with a sense of déjà vu, this had happened earlier as well.

She was on fire . . . she was choking . . . there was death and destruction everywhere . . . her ears could not bear the onslaught of howling and wailing all around. What had unleashed this havoc of annihilation on her senses? Her soul seared in pain as her head started reeling, her knees gave way and she collapsed on the road.

A passerby helped Chandni collect herself and get to her car. She slumped on the backseat. The driver swiftly drove back to Patna.
She had to file her story by April 1. The President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, had proposed an idea of reviving the Nalanda University in a joint session of the Bihar Assembly and Legislative Council on March 30; so an article covering the ancient Nalanda University had to be done immediately.

As Chandni finished filing her story, the Nalanda episode flashed in her mind again. She was now even more curious to know what could have triggered another bout of unconsciousness when she visited the ruins. Could there be a link with Nalanda in the bygone era that cast its shadow once again?

What was lingering in the shadows of those red brick structures? Not only was she hounded by gruesome visions . . . there were ugly keloids which kept appearing all over her body. They looked like burnt lumps of flesh. She had tried various methods of treatment, even attempting radiotherapy and cryotherapy, but with no luck so far. Psychoanalysis mentioned trauma as one of the reasons . . . but hers was a normal healthy family life . . . or was there a past rearing an unwanted head?

The gypsy she had met some time back on her mother’s insistence had advised atonement. But Chandni did not believe in pagan rituals; she was a  modern, level-headed girl, and believed that sooner or later she would definitely find some cure for her ailments.

She was absolutely fed up of listening to the myriad advices from her family and friends on this issue. So when her appointment letter came from a news channel based in New Delhi, Chandni was simply elated.

Her parents came to see her off at the crowded Patna Junction. Her mother kept up the endless intonation of do’s and don’ts, and the daughter kept nodding her head mechanically. Chandni hugged them both and boarded the train, with a promise to stay in touch.

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Author
Manna Bahadur

Manna Bahadur

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Member Since: 10-Mar-2016

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