Aditya Raj had an over whelming urge to visit his ancestral home before his by-pass surgery inNew York. His wife and kids dissuaded vociferously but to no avail. He was sure that after completing this niggling task left undone in his old home; he could go under the knife worriless. Hence, sixty five year old Aditya returned toIndiaaccompanied by his elder son Vijay Raj.
Raj family had migrated toNew Yorkafter Aditya’s marriage. He was in the family’s diamond business and had entered into a 50-50 partnership with his childhood buddy Shiva who was already settled inNew York. The ancestral home had been in their family for almost two hundred years and he had left it in the able hands of his younger brother Satya and grandmother. Their parents had retired in the holy place ofBanarasbut the old grandmother refused to leave the home where she’d come as a bride. No lure of a holy place could pry her away from this house. Then five years ago just before grandpa’s first death anniversary, grandmother had taken ill and passed away. Satya was single and had no desire to wed, hence joined Aditya inNew Yorkafter granny’s death. The house was left in the care of their old faithful cook and jack of all Ramu and his wife.
Aditya and son Vijay had a good night’s sleep and were ready to walk down memory lane. This was their first visit after granny’s demise. Sounds of joyous laughter and scampering feet reverberated in their ears. Granny’s beckoning voice the loudest. She had a whole repertoire of fairytales and delicious goodies to share with her grandchildren. The kids adored her. Neighborhood children came by even after her grandchildren had migrated toNew York. She never tired of telling stories.
Zeba Khan was very attractive. Classic features, long brown hair and almond shaped eyes and an hourglass figure made her an instant cynosure for all eyes. She had eyes for Satya Raj only. No one else existed as far as she was concerned. All alliances put forward by kith and kin were summarily dismissed.
By one pretext or another, she would visit Satya in his oldDelhijewelry store and chat him up. She intimated that one of her ancestors had been an important minister inDelhi’s royal court where Satya’s ancestors were the royal jewelers. She shared many such anecdotes with facts and figures leaving no doubt in Satya’s mind that indeed, their family lines were interconnected. She tried to dangle a family secret as a carrot as she was madly in love with his looks and demeanor. But Satya would have none of it. Zeba was beautiful he admitted to himself and had gotten under his skin but he never gave up his resolve to remain celibate like his beloved deity Hanuman. Plus he was a staunch Hindu and she was a Muslim. His folks would be scandalized, not that he wished to marry. Then granny had passed away.
Caretaker Ramu and wife, in order to properly care for the house and make some extra money on the side, rented the house without Raj family’s knowledge. It was Zeba and her elder brother Ali who had rented the house. Unbeknownst to Ramu and wife, both Zeba and Ali searched the house every night. They especially targeted granny’s room. They had almost finished searching every inch of the room when by accident, Zeba’s hand hit upon the center rose carving on the bed’s head board. With a whirring sound the rose opened up and inside was a secret drawer. Full of excitement, Ali pushed his sister back and stuck his hand inside the drawer. A velvet pouch touched his fingers. With shaky fingers he extracted it and opened the bag. Out popped a priceless diamond, the size of an egg. This is what they had been seeking. Finally their hard work had paid off.
Ali was up to his eyebrows in gambling debts and needed money badly. He was aware that he was living on borrowed time. Zeba cried that in all fairness half of the money belonged to the Raj family as it was their property. As family history ran, this diamond was meant for the favored Queen of the King but she had been mysteriously poisoned and subsequently the King had declared the diamond unlucky. Raj family had since then hidden it from view for sake of its safety and family honor. Ali had no intention of sharing the proceeds from the diamond’s sale even with his half sister Zeba. Hence he had no compunction of ending her life. He smothered her with a pillow when she was asleep and fled. Ever since that day, Zeba’s ghost roamed the corridors of the old mansion always on the lookout for her beloved Satya Raj.
The caretaker and his wife had come to know about this ghost as it had appeared to them while cleaning the house. The police case had been closed after thorough investigation due to lack of clues. Ali had vanished into thin air.
Ramu and wife reluctantly confessed to renting the house in their absentia and the murder thereafter. Aditya and son were quite upset. Somehow Aditya felt, maybe that was the reason he had this urge to return home. He decided to play it by ear. That night he slept in granny’s room with her favorite shawl around his shoulders. After a while, he felt the air around the bed change a bit and he felt a presence. He saw the floating figure of granny and she seemed to be looking at him with love in her eyes. Aditya’s eyes moistened involuntarily. Granny seemed to be pointing at something. Then her finger elongated and touched the carved rose on the headboard. Aditya decided to examine it. He tapped it gently and it sprang open. Excitedly, he put his hand inside but came up empty. Then he pushed it further and came into another compartment and in that he found a small diary and a pouch. He removed both. The diary was written in pristine “Urdu” language (Urdu -is a register of the Hindi-Urdu language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia).
Luckily Aditya knew Urdu and read the diary with growing excitement. In great detail it narrated the story of their ancestor, the royal jeweler. His son had been fatally wounded while fleeing from dacoits. The ancestor had prayed to Lord Krishna promising a twenty one diamond studded crown in return for his son. The son healed in record time and now the promise was yet to be fulfilled. Somehow, the favorite queen got a whiff of this through her spies and wanted a necklace made with the biggest stone from the lot of 21 diamonds. Even before Satya Raj could plead his case, the queen died mysteriously after being poisoned. The diamonds were declared unlucky and went underground. This news did not deter the court’s greedy sycophants. Thus began the quest for diamonds. The promise to the lord remained unfulfilled. The chase was on.
Gafoor Ali Khan was one such greedy minister plagued by his many wives for expensive baubles. To end his money troubles, he set his sights on those diamonds. In the interim, Satya Raj had a master carpenter build a solid bed with a carved headboard with secret drawers. In the first drawer he had placed a false diamond; the size of the largest one to misguide any would be thief. He had the carpenter swear to secrecy on his only son’s head. The elder sons of the clan were privy to this secret only. Time sped and the diamonds stayed hidden in the second drawer, to this day.
Aditya Raj was inNew Yorkon business when grandpa shared the family secret with granny on his deathbed, to pass along to him only as Aditya’s father; their only son was unworldly and had no interest in family affairs. Granny had waited to convey this secret on grandpa’s first death anniversary when Aditya was sure to come down fromNew Yorkbut died without revealing it.
Aditya got in touch with one of his old trusted craftsmen. He had him overnight craft a beautiful crown for the lord studded with the promised twenty-one diamonds under a cloak of extreme secrecy. After swearing him on Lord Krishna’s name, he quickly left for the Lord Krishna’s temple in Vrindavan to make good the promise and uphold family honor. The Lord had a playful smile after receiving this offering.
Aditya and son returned toNew York. As promised, he checked into the hospital for the by-pass surgery. He felt on top of the world. A sense of well being pervaded his person. The doctors were mystified. After several tests, they discovered that his heart was completely normal and blockage free. The Lord smiled mischievously in his temple inIndia.
*Lord Krishna and Hanuman are Hindu deities