Rising Generation-The Original Ending to Tiger’s Destiny
January 13, 2014
Wearily, I rubbed my eyes and fluffed the pillow behind my head. I heard Ren’s warm voice as he crooned to our newborn son in the next room. He was speaking to him softly in Hindi and though I still hadn’t mastered the language, I recognized the name Ren called our son—mera raja beta—which meant, my son the prince.
I smiled and closed my eyes as I listened to him. The baby loved to hear Ren’s voice as much as I did and always watched his father with wide eyes when he read stories or poems.
Ren had been in his senior year of college and was just a few weeks away from graduation when we found out I was going to have a baby. The night I told him the news, I’d made his favorite dinner and gave him a present—a children’s book about tigers.
He laughed and said, “Did you think I needed a reminder, Iadala?”
“No,” I replied with a grin.
Studying my expression, he narrowed his eyes. “You’re hiding something.”
I shrugged playfully.
Wrapping his hands around my waist, Ren pulled me onto his lap. Nuzzling my ear, he murmured, “What can I do to convince you to share your secret, mere jaan?”
After kissing him softly, I answered, “My secret, my very handsome husband, is that there will be another person for you to call ‘mere jaan.’
He tilted his head quizzically. “Kells, what do you—?”
Interrupting him, I took his hand and slid it on top of my still flat belly. I pressed my hand over his and saw the moment when he understood.
“Are you sure?” he asked tenderly.
I nodded and beamed.
“And did the doctor say you’re okay?”
“She said everything looked great.”
Ren pressed his forehead to mine and let out a relieved laugh. I wrapped my arms around his neck while he kissed my cheeks, my nose, and my forehead. When his lips found mine, I wasn’t sure if I should attribute the flutterings in my stomach to my new pregnancy or the fact that Ren was touching me.
Now another year had gone by. Two since our wedding. We lived in a house that was way too large for our tiny family. It had been built according to Ren’s design on a wide plot of forested land up on our mountain where we’d once had a little duplex. Both of us had attended Western Oregon University with me graduating first because of his frequent absences.
During the summer months I’d continued school while he flew back and forth between Oregon and India. While he worked with Nilima to learn all about the business of Rajaram Industries, I took every class available so I wouldn’t miss him but it never worked. Though we still had our divine connection and I could feel him even across the ocean, I still wanted him near. I’d call him just to hear his voice and cuddle my old stuffed tiger at night.
In the last month of my pregnancy, he made arrangements with his instructors to take time off from studying for his Masters and negotiated with Nilima to be away from the business so he could spend time with me and the baby.
Our little son had been born at home, home being a relative term, since Ren had brought in a team of specialists and had a wing of the house redesigned to look like a state-of-the-art birthing center. An Indian midwife was hired to work with me throughout my pregnancy and though we had doctors on call, she was the one who actually delivered our baby just after Christmas.
Two months later we were celebrating Valentine’s Day. Ren had started the day off by bringing me breakfast in bed. He insisted on feeding me every single bite which was very romantic and then he left me to lounge while he took care of the baby. We were going out to dinner later and he’d arranged to have a sitter come to watch our son. I was nervous about it since it would be my first time away from him.
My thoughts were interrupted when my gorgeous husband came into the room and gave me his special lopsided smile which still made my cheeks warm. The baby was fussy so Ren brought him over to me. I laid my newborn son on the bed and readjusted my grandmother’s quilt around his wiggling body. As I snuggled him in my arms and pressed my lips to the downy cap of black hair, Ren settled himself next to me and snuck his arm around my shoulders, pulling my head back against his chest.
“Little baby, why aren’t you sleepy?” I asked my squirming bundle.
Ren pressed his lips to my forehead and we both laughed when the baby’s little fists shot out of the blanket and he kicked hard.
“What a feisty little man you are, Anik Kishan Rajaram.” After wrapping the quilt around him again, I leaned against Ren and yawned. “Maybe you should recite him a poem,” I suggested.
He stroked the baby’s head and, with his arms cradling the both of us, began speaking in his soft, rhythmic, and still very hypnotic voice.
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master,
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Ren’s words trailed off and I whispered quietly, “Ren, look.”
Our baby Anik had stopped fussing completely. His little body was still and his eyes were wide open and focused on his father. Ren held out a finger and a tiny fist opened and teeny fingers latched on. As father and son looked into each other’s eyes a feeling of hushed enchantment swirled around us and I felt as if we were sitting in a mountain shrine.
The silence was broken by a sniffle. I glanced up at Ren and found his beautiful cobalt blue eyes full of tears. He dashed them away with his free hand.
“What is it?” I asked softly.
“It’s…his eyes,” Ren said.
I looked at my baby and touched my finger to his soft cheek. Moving his head, he jerked it towards my finger as if he were still hungry. He blinked and for a moment his bright golden eyes were hidden behind his almost translucent lids that were framed by thick dark eyelashes. “Are you disappointed that they aren’t blue like yours?” I queried hesitantly.
Pressing his lips to my temple, he let out a shaky breath and explained, “When Lokesh took you from the yacht, Kishan and I went looking for you. During that time he told me that he’d had a vision of you with a little baby.”
“Yes. I remember. It was in the Grove of Dreams.”
“What he didn’t tell you was that he lied to you about seeing the baby’s eyes. In his vision your son had golden eyes. So he thought—”
“He must have thought that the baby was his.”
“Yes. All this time I believed that I had stolen his rightful place. That his destiny was to be with you, when really Anik was always mine. You were always meant to be mine.”
“He never told me,” I whispered sadly.
Ren touched my chin, turning me to face him. “Do you regret it, Kelsey?”
“Do I regret marrying you and having your baby? Never. Do I regret leaving him behind? Every day.”
As our baby closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep, I asked, “Do you think about him?”
“How could I not? Every time I look at our son I think of my brother. Kishan sacrificed himself so I could have what I always wanted. My only hope is that he somehow found a measure of happiness.”
A chime sounded interrupting our reminiscing and Ren got up to answer the door while I put baby Anik in his crib. I climbed back into bed myself hoping for an afternoon nap but when Ren returned he brought in a stack of mail and a box. He rifled through the mail and handed me a fancy envelope. “It’s from Nilima,” he said.
Sliding my fingers under the edge, I exclaimed, “It’s the wedding invitation! They’re getting married this summer.”
Ren grunted. “It took Sunil long enough.”
“It wasn’t entirely his fault. Nilima was stubborn.”
“Not unlike another woman I know,” he teased.
“Their engagement picture is beautiful.” I handed him the picture and picked up the big box he’d placed on the bed. “What’s this?”
“I don’t know. It shipped from India.”
He opened the box and took out a letter that had been laminated. After a quick glance, he sat on the bed and said quietly, “It’s from Kadam.”
“What?” Incredulous, I swung my legs over the side and sat next to him.
“It just contains instructions. It says, ‘To be delivered upon the birth of Alagan Dhiren Rajaram’s first born son. Signed Anik Kadam.”
Ren set the page aside and took out a heavy wooden box. The lock clicked open and he lifted the polished lid. Both of us stared at the contents.
“It’s the Scroll of Wisdom,” I whispered. “The ocean teacher said we weren’t to read it until after the fifth sacrifice had been made.”
Ren lifted the tube of glass and found the scroll was perfectly encased as if the glass had been blown around it. There was no opening or way to remove the scroll without damaging the container.
“I’ll have to break it,” Ren said. He held the cylinder inside the packaging box and I heard a snap and the tinkling of broken glass as it fell. Carefully, he shook the glass away from the ancient paper and set it between us. The sheets of thick parchment quickly began to yellow around the edges. I took hold of one wooden roller while Ren took the other and we spread out the pages on the bed between us.
“Is that Sanskrit?” I asked.
Ren nodded and started reading the first page. “This part contains instructions for the Ocean Teacher. It only includes the second prophecy as it related to him. It says he was to preserve this scroll, use the liquid to anoint your eyes, and lead you to the spirit gate. It goes into great detail where to find the gate and warns that this information is only to be shared with the three travelers who would appear. It describes you, Kadam, and Kishan in great detail and talks about the yin/yang medallion. The chosen one would see a cat, a tiger specifically.”
“And this?” I pointed to the bottom.
“The monks had been encouraged to make a copy of the writing up until this part before the document was sealed in the glass. This section contains a warning. It says that he who reads further will be subject to the punishment of the gods, his eyes will burn, and he will suffer indescribably.”
“That can’t be good.”
“No.” He raised his eyes to meet mine. “So do we read on?”
“I don’t think Mr. Kadam would have given us something that would actually kill us. Besides, the Ocean Teacher said that it was meant for us after the fifth sacrifice had been accomplished. He said it contained the truth about the origins of the world.”
I bit my lip as Ren rolled the completed section and then we both held our breath as he revealed the next portion. A heavy wax insignia was the first thing we saw. Ren trailed his fingers over it. “It’s my family seal. The house of Rajaram,” he said excitedly.
Smoothing the paper flat for him, I watched intently as he ran his fingertip lightly over the words. After reading a section to himself, he sat back with a look of shock. He paled and reached for my hand.
“What is it?” I asked anxiously.
“It’s…it’s a letter to us.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Kelsey,” he gripped my hand tightly. “It’s a letter from Kishan.”
I gaped openly. “But that’s…impossible.”
“He sent us a letter, preserving it through time.”
I tried ineffectually to swallow the lump in my throat. “What does it say?”
Ren adjusted the document over his lap and began to read.
Ren and Kelsey,
I apologize for corresponding in such a dramatic fashion but I couldn’t risk either of you reading this before certain events had been set in motion. I wouldn’t have written at all except that I wanted to dispel any worries either of you might retain over my decision to stay in the past.
After you left, Durga and Damon spent many years serving all manner of people. We built a home high in the clouds on the rocky slope of Mount Kailash. Durga used the power of the Pearl Necklace to feed pure healing water to the five rivers of Asia—the Indus, the Sutlej, the Brahmaputra, the Karnali, and the Ganges.
Our home was considered sacred to five world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Ayyavazhi, and the Bön and many made pilgrimages to worship Durga at the mountain base. Any who attempted to climb up to our home were dispelled quickly and soon word spread that the gods protected their home and all attempts to reach us ceased.
In the beginning we would descend on a cloud daily to serve as arbitrators in settling disputes for the people. Anamika would bestow gifts of food, clothing, and healing. If a supplicant came and told of famine or drought, we would use the Rope of Fire to travel quickly to those locations and resolve the issue. We refused to side in wars but to the innocent Durga was a kind and benevolent goddess.
Anamika and I formed a bond of friendship and respect that led to love. We were married and had many children and grandchildren. We aged very slowly and as our posterity made their way in the world, we kept vigil on our mountainside and watched the decades pass.
Eventually, the acolytes grew fewer in number and we knew that Durga and her powers were no longer needed. We left our home and traveled, secretly helping people when we saw a need.
The peoples of Asia thrived under her hands. She inspired artists, poets, political reform, religion, and social harmony. I am proud to have served as her companion and I am blessed that she agreed to be my wife.
We have had a very long and a happy life and it would have been wrong for me to leave you thinking that I was miserable or disappointed with the choice I made. It took me some time to learn to live without you, Kelsey, and I’ll admit that there were many times I cursed my decision to stay behind, but destiny treated me well and I have a family and a life that has enriched me and made me a better man.
Speaking of family, Phet informed me that I am my own ancestor. One of my descendants was my great, great, great grandfather which means your baby gets his eyes from me. I’m sorry I kept that from you, bilauta.
Ren, forgive me for my jealous impetuous youth. Whatever good I have done in the world, whatever strides I have made as a man, it was because I was able to look to my brother for an example. For what it’s worth, you would have made a great king. I know you are a good husband and will be an excellent father.
Congratulations on the birth of your first born son. Fatherhood is an experience unlike anything else. Treasure your time with your family for the days pass quickly.
Kelsey, there is still a piece of my heart that belongs to you. I have cherished it all these centuries. You were the angel that saved me from a life squandered and your influence has impacted me in more ways than you know. The warmth, kindness, and love you offered when you decided to save two lost tigers changed the course of my life. A happy ending was promised and a happy ending was delivered. Every single day my heart swells with gratitude for you.
If there is one regret that I have, it’s that I wish I could pass through the long centuries with you. I miss you both, but I know that your lives will be full and rich. May your love for one another continue to grow and may you find joy in the life you build together.
Perhaps in another time and another place we will meet again.
A tear trickled down my cheek. Ren let go of the scroll and the curved pages twisted loosely back together. He put his arm around me and pulled me close, cuddling me against his chest. As if knowing we were sad, little Anik, uncle Kishan’s namesake, let out a heart wrenching wail. I laughed and wiped my eyes.
“I’d say he’s got a pretty good roar, wouldn’t you?” I asked.
Ren rubbed my back and replied, “I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Rajaram.”
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