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A game of destiny. A short story.

              THAKUR RANDHIR PRATAP SINGH....said the bronze name plate on the rusted iron gate that led to the old, dilapidated bungalow.  The meter high grass and the weeds growing wild all over the grounds surrounding the bungalow at once gave it an eerie feel.  The facade of the decrepit, old house seemed to be begging for attention.  But, how could a sane person even think of entering the house, leave alone residing  in this place that had DEATH written all over it? The spine chilling screams that could be heard on some nights were enough to keep even the bravest of men miles away from here.
             Rahul Khanna pushed open the creaky gate, entered the forbidden territory and took a deep breath. He stood still and fixed his gaze on the bungalow. What a beauty it must have been in it's heydays, he wondered.  Elegant and understated, it spoke highly about the visionary who had built this structure. In spite of it's present run down condition, the architecture was awe inspiring.
       
  "Sahib, you have seen what you wanted to see. Now, shall we leave? The sun is nearing the horizon. And soon it will be dark ", chipped in Manglu, the tea vendor, breaking into Rahul's reverie. He had been very disturbed on hearing Rahul's plans of visiting the old bungalow. And standing in front of the scary place had sent shivers down his spine. These city folks have no respect for departed souls, he had grumbled under his breath. His eyes fixed to the ground, observing his shadow as it grew longer by the minute, all he could do was pray for divine intervention to get this shehri babu out of here.
           "Manglu, don't you worry, brother. Ghosts, ghouls are all a myth. I don't believe in it. If you want to leave, you may. I want to be here for some more time. It is so peaceful here. Why worry? Old Thakur was a kind soul, you said. He won't harm us. So, just chill!" Rahul chimed in.
   "Okay, sahib, I leave now. You stay here for as long as you please. But, be careful. And remember what I told you. People who have ventured inside this house have never returned alive. So, if you.."
 "Yes, yes. I get it, Manglu. Now will you just leave?" an exasperated Rahul shooed Manglu away. Village folks...timid souls....he mused and got back to admiring the stately structure in front of him.
 "Thakurji, I intend to bring back the past glory of your majestic abode. I only need your blessings ", spoke Rahul with closed eyes and a humble heart.

            Rahul Khanna, a young and dynamic architect from Delhi, had taken a long leave from work to visit his aunt who stayed in Jaipur. The city fascinated him and gave him immense inspiration for his work. And  aunt Jyotsna, his favourite aunt, had been the mother he never had...a week long visit to spend time with her had been  his top priority. Aunt Jyotsna had told him tales of this quaint little village, Vikaspur, some fifty odd kilometres from Jaipur.  The simple people of the place were very warm towards outsiders. And the most famous spot in the village that evoked a sense of awe and fear was Thakur Randhir Singh's bungalow.  A beautiful structure that now lay in a complete state of disrepair and housed the souls of Thakur and his wife, Reema Devi.  Intrigued by these tales, Rahul had  taken leave of his aunt to go visit this place that now seemed to call out to him.
         Taking a break for snacks and tea at the dhaba, Rahul had asked the locals gathered there if they could supply him with any more information about the house. At once he had felt all eyes on him. Had he gone mad? Or was he tempting fate? they murmured to each other. The house long since lay in ruins. The old timers gathered there reminisced about the halcyon days when it was the pride of their entire community. Thakurji had built it with such love and care. It had been a  dream of his wife to have a huge house that would offer shelter to every soul in need, a house where their three sons would grow into handsome lads, sheltered from the hardships their parents had faced.
     "Tch tch...what a waste of  money and all that labour!  Old man Thakur would have grieved  had he been alive to witness  the doings of his descendants! "they rued.

  "All the wealth squandered away, all the property frittered away on wine and women!  The rascals now languish in abject poverty, cursing their fate!" spat the village elders disgustingly.  "Aah...don't they say, "Man is the master of his own destiny?" they nodded in agreement.

     " Old Thakur's wife still haunts  the house....the poor old thing died of a broken heart. Why would she ever forgive them?" they concurred.
        
        It was indeed a sad story. Thakur Randhir Singh had given his life for the betterment of his village. He had fulfilled every dream of his sons. And what had he got in return? Yes, the villagers did respect him whole heartedly, but his sons...his sons had been his worst enemies. No sooner had they come of age than they had taken over his prosperous business, messed up with all his hard work and brought about his downfall. Thakur had been unable to bear it all and lost his will to live. He cursed his life till his last breath....ohh..what good was it having three sons?! The sorrow and heart break had taken his life. Reema devi, unable to face such a huge blow, had committed suicide. She could neither  live without her husband nor live with her cruel, ruthless sons. Death had been the only alternative.
       After the death of their mother, the heartless sons  put up the house for sale so as to earn a few quick bucks to finance their notorious activities.  But, as luck would have it, the house never got sold. Every time someone went to the place to have a look around, some or other terrible incident took place which  drove away the prospective buyers. Days turned into months and months into years, but the house stood unoccupied. The worthless sons of Thakur then left the village in search of a shelter. Gory stories of  the dishonourable bastards did the rounds of the village for quite some time before they became history....but, it was a lesson well learnt.

         Rahul stood looking at the imposing structure, thinking, wondering. The story had definitely been disturbing. The large hearted Thakur, his selfless service towards his village and it's people, his boundless love for his sons...and the sad end of his life. What sort of life was it? All his good deeds had not earned him a moment's happiness in his later years. The price he had paid for being an indulgent, loving father! Poor soul...And what about Reema devi? The gentle and kind hearted mother who had showered her sons with love had been made to take her own life to escape the jaws of misery! Lucky are those who are blessed with a loving mother and unlucky are those who know not her importance in their lives! His heart went out to Thakur and his wife. 
       He had never known them, met them or been related to them, but he felt for them. His heart bled for them. What could be the reason, he asked himself. Had the plan of developing this property been a hastily made but wrong decision? He was never a hard hearted businessman who would build his dreams over other people's sorrows. What good would his aunt's teachings be if he could not implement them in real life? No, he would never do what those boys did to their parents. Rahul had made up his mind.

                                                        
       Nearly 5 months since the day when he first set his eyes on the awe-inspiring house, Rahul had poured his resources, his blood and sweat to repair and restore the ancient wreck which had been someone's dream. The clean up and the renovation had been quite a task as finding man power to complete the job was the toughest part, nevertheless, Rahul with his wit and charm had ensured the workers complete safety during duty hours. The villagers, doubtful in the beginning, had later turned out in full force to encourage and applaud the young city-dweller's labour of love for a stranger. 

"What a magnanimous human being! Thakur Randhir Singh and Reema devi would have been so happy and proud of this young man who  they would have wished to have as their own off spring!" they all agreed in unison.
       
                                                         
                                                      ******************

   Rahul's business had not only doubled in the following period, he had also been bestowed with the title of Thakur by his villagers!  Yes, the young Thakur  had not been born to the benevolent Thakur Randhir Singh, but had surely carried forward his legacy....his dream. 

      Long live Thakurji!

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