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Re: critique pls

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  • albiaicehouse
    Suzianne, I know we do not quibble with the comments, but I disagree with your claim the piece seems to end. First, there is the matter of this piece of
    Message 1 of 10 , Jan 30, 2010
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      Suzianne,

      I know we do not quibble with the comments, but I disagree with your claim the piece seems to end.

      First, there is the matter of this piece of dialog: ""Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"

      "Who?"


      " A journalist from Mumbai?"

      Second, poor Master John has not made an irrevocable decision. No, this "temptation" to use his terminology, will last a long time, perhaps the rest of this life.

      So...I like how this ends.

      Rod


      --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "Susan Donahue" <suzianne411@...> wrote:
      >
      > Dear Navin,
      >
      > This is an interesting lead in to a story. I like most of it, but have two comments: (1) I think most readers would like to see something in the first couple of paragraphs that would ground them in the place and time of the story, and (2) the end of this piece seems to wind up the story rather than lead into another chapter. A good cliff hanger would keep the reader wanting more.
      >
      > My only other problem with this is the tendency you have to make what should be the subject of certain sentences into objects. The very first sentence has the child as the subject. Is that the strongest way to introduce your POV character? Why not begin with, "Master John held a tiny child in his arms." or "Master John looked down at the fragile infant...." Something like that would have more strength and establish your POV character. The next sentence has fingers and a row of small teeth as the subjects. That is awkward and weak structure. These may seem like trivial points, but they make a difference. As a writer, you want language to work for you.
      >
      > Good luck with this. You have a good start.
      >
      > Suzianne
      >
      >
      >
      > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "novin_kr" <novin_kr@> wrote:
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The Broken God
      > >
      > > By Navin Upadhyay
      > > (novin_kr@)
      > >
      > > Chapter-1
      > > ==========
      > >
      > > The anemic child fluttered in the cradle of Master John's arms. Tiny fingers grabbed the breast pocket of his kurta and a row of small teeth dug into his shoulders. A desperate struggle to remain locked to life and warmth.
      > >
      > > Master John panicked. Has God abandoned him? Goosebumps rippled his skin. The last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now this�he could not even revive a child.
      > >
      > > A desperate cry broke out from his lips." Don't abandon me, God."
      > >
      > > Tears coursed down Master John's face. He dragged himself before the glittering assembly of Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity at the high altar of the cathedral---, and prayed.
      > >
      > > But the Blessed trio remained indifferent to the chaos at their feet and the child gasped like a fish in death throe.
      > >
      > > Doubts' ugly horns gorged Master John's heart. Will he have to live without his healing gifts�abandoned by God and abused by men? Or was God merely measuring his faith? How can the Father let down his Chosen Son?
      > >
      > >
      > > Propping up the child in one swift motion on his outstretched arms as if hoping to catch the eyes of the trio at the gold-leafed rear wall , he screamed out, "Father, Son and Holy Ghost-- help me, help this child."
      > >
      > > Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity ignored him again. The child gasped for breath, threw its legs and flapped its palms. But in vain. Death's python like grip shattered the spirit of delicate bones. The body settled down motionless on his palms, its head dangling on one side.
      > >
      > > Piercing the gloom of the cathedral, the first flush of sun light slanted through the sanctuary's windows like a flicker of hope. The dusty parallelogram of rays filled up the chancel and choir and altar of the Bom Jesus Basilica and lit up the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier.
      > >
      > > Master John stumbled to the shrine and stood holding the Corinthian columns, shivering like a man in grip of pneumonic fever. He propped the child like a voodoo doll against the surface of the casket in which, defying death's destructive weevils, the Saint's body lied intact even after 400 years of death. Perhaps, the Saint will save his honour and the child's life. After all, thousands of worshippers from across the world descended on Old Goa every year for the Saint's blessings and provided touching testimonies of Francis Xavier's miracle working power.
      > >
      > > "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"
      > >
      > >
      > > He poured his heart out; he went around the casket bowing before all of the thirty two silver plates that depicted scenes from the Saint's life�scenes that depicted the testimony of St Xavier's mercy, compassion and power to work miracles. He banged his head against the feet of the casket, and wept. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard.
      > >
      > > But the Saint won't intercede with God either.
      > >
      > > The body slid and crashed against the floor. Tiny dots of blood trickled of the back of child's head. The mother rushed and lifted her son. A pair of snowy irises stared at Master John from behind unblinking lids. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.
      > >
      > > Sweats slicked his palms and soaked his armpits. From the days of childhood, he'd lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons. What was his crime, God?
      > >
      > > The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice and all she could do was to gasp and groan as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. He touched the child's head; a drop of blood smeared his fingers. He took the mother's hand. "You`ll reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment. Don't cry now. Go and pray to Lord so that he keeps your path straight and you are saved.'
      > >
      > > The young lady raised her face and fixed her gaze on him.
      > >
      > > Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.
      > >
      > > Then in a fit of frenzy she begun kissing the child �nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes-- as if her maternal love will make up for Master John's devotional failure. Her husband threw his arms around her. The shattered couple dragged themselves through the side aisle and plodded out of the high double door--- not even looking at him once.
      > >
      > > He could not take it any more. His knees gave in and he found himself straggled over the sarcophagus , hands thrown asunder , back planted against the platform, like a man tied to a ship's prow. His fate was sealed. The ship will unload him mid sea. He will be a helpless castaway, in a water full of man-eating sharks. He thought of the slanders and rebukes---the Hindus would rejoice his fall; and, who knows even the Christians would abandon him the way God had done.
      > >
      > > Just then, a slender hand came over his shoulders, warm and comforting, a faint smell of lavender wafted over him. "God has his own reason, Master."
      > >
      > > Diya took his hands and pressed them softly. Her breathing came fast. The glow on her face matched the hallo around St Loyola's visage. "Master John," she whispered. "You just can't give up like this. Have faith in God?"
      > >
      > > Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him. "What crime, what sin have I committed? Why do you make me so helpless, God?"
      > >
      > > A faint sound like the rap of a gavel issued forth from the sacristy. He tried to stand up, but she did not let him go. Tuck�tuck...tuck�.. The taps grew louder, her grip tighter.
      > >
      > > "Please leave, Diya, please."
      > >
      > > "Why are you so scared of him, Master?" She looked up at him; her lips quivered. She tried to rise on her toe to match his height and meet his lips, but he backed out. She let her head rest against his shoulders.
      > >
      > > "I grew up that way. He showed me the way of God."
      > >
      > > "And told you that Love is sin." She drew him close. "Did he tell you why God didn't grow human beings on tree if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"
      > >
      > > Father Rodriguez never said that Love was sin. . But he did grill in him the significances of the Immaculate Conception�both in case of Mother Mary and his own Ammu. He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion in his mind.
      > >
      > > The sound grew closer and Father Rodriguez emerged from the transept. Under bushy white lashes his small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a leaning sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up. A predator ready to pounce on his prey.
      > >
      > > "I told you not to stalk Master John?" Father Rodriguez stared at Diya.
      > >
      > > "I've heard you telling people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" she said, cocking her head and staring at the priest.
      > >
      > > "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."
      > >
      > > "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna, Father?"
      > >
      > > "Get out of here."
      > >
      > > "You don't own up God or the church, Father.
      > >
      > > "Fear God, you fool."
      > >
      > > "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."
      > >
      > > Master John squirmed with unease. He felt sorry for Diya. Father Rodriguez always treated her with hostility, though never before she confronted him in this defiant manner. Master John had asked her keep off the cathedral, but this morning, even before the sunrise, catching the first boat to cross the Mandovi, she came running to tell him about the flowering of the cashews trees, and insisted he must come to Las Mangis and smell their fragrance.
      > >
      > > "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "
      > >
      > > "Father, please---"
      > >
      > > "That`s why God has abandoned you�that's why you're so miserable.'
      > >
      > > His soul whispered words of comfort. "You're confused, Master. God and Diya could co-exist in your life."
      > >
      > > The mind reacted with a violent `No'. The world will never accept a Messiah who loved a woman. Remember, two thousands after crucifixion, people still wrote innuendoes about Christ's and Magdalene.
      > >
      > > Master John turned to Diya. Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair. Her rumpled low-cut blouse exposed the line of her cleavage, and the long black skirt accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He shivered.
      > >
      > > "Come back before it is too late," Father Rodriguez`s said. "You're the chosen one, Master John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"
      > >
      > > Hell or Heaven? Within him was a stockpile of catechisms and preaching about the after-life abodes Twenty year or more he had been fed those tales on daily basis even if the . priest did not spoon fed those stories during the five of infancy of which he ahd no memory. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on. He looked at Diya again. He could not leave her in state of such abject despair.
      > >
      > > His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and its residents hurtled towards him; the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity seemed set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven. The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. He must escape from being trapped under the walls.
      > >
      > > A cry squeezed out of his mouth and he shook his head. " No�no ..No� God."
      > >
      > > Diya stood near a pulpit that stuck out of the wall. Her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes. Don't leave me, Master John�.don't leave me�
      > >
      > > " Go back to God, you fool. Think of your Father in heaven and your mother on earth, and the millions who need your blessing and healing touch. Think of the blood on your hand, think of the dead child. " Father Rodriguez said.
      > >
      > > Blood on your hand�.There has to be some reason for God to abandon him. World needed him. Las Mangis needed him. He can't leave his folks in the arms of devil, lured to the fire and brimstone of hell. He can't be so cruel...he can't dip his fingers in more blood.
      > >
      > > He wiped his fingers at his matted hair.
      > >
      > > " Can you allow millions to suffer everlasting torture of hell, son." Father Rodriguez said. " No more blood on your hand, son. You've a duty to save the world. You can do it. Wake up...wake up."
      > >
      > > In his heart welled a strong sense of guilt, drowning all other shades of feeling and emotions. The dizzy feeling intensified, the floor and the vault danced and the cathedrals went into a tailspin. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. His heart thudded. He crashed in the pew. A bundle of slim bones and broken heart.
      > >
      > > " Please, leave me, Diya . Our paths are different," a cry leaped out of his lips.
      > >
      > > Her face lost its color. The tanned skin looked dark, and her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. " Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."
      > >
      > > The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.
      > >
      > > Master John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.
      > >
      > > " You're not kid any more. Youth has its own strength and weakness, Master. You'll never be happy �never.." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.
      > >
      > > He spoke at length, his voice barely audible. " I'll talk to you later, Diya. God bless you." Then he clutched the priest's hand. " Yu need rest, Father."
      > >
      > > " God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master," she shouted. " But Devil wants them to be miserable. Come out of his clutch."
      > >
      > > The stick rattled in furious rapid fire but Rodriguez kept walking.
      > >
      > > "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindu Devils."
      > >
      > > " I know why you failed to heal. You'll fail again. I know the secret."
      > >
      > > The priest tugged at Master John's wrist. " Let us go�let `s go." There was urgency in his voice.
      > >
      > > Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed, and sobbed. He felt a strange emptiness. He prayed all evening, but God didn't help. A black hole of turmoil sucked all his feelings and sensation; he lay on the bed like a comatose patient. It was a long night of torture. He had a difficult choice to make.
      > >
      > > ++++
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Next day, Father Rodriguez dispatched him to a descript church at the outskirts of Goa, on the Maharashtra border. He must cleanse his body and soul through prayer and penance. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake; his own salvation; salvation of the world.
      > >
      > > He devoted himself to the task. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spend his hours reciting Pater Noster and rosary . He would stand before a massive wooded cross and mediated on the suffering of Christ.
      > > He gave up food, and suffered from headaches, nausea and muscle aches. But after a week hunger vanished and a his body became light and mind strangely empty. One day, as he stood up after a two hour-prayer, he suffered a feinting spell and collapsed at the foot of the cross. Once Sheba appeared with a pleading look in her eyes, and stretching her arms, like a fairy, and tried to reach out to him, but a dark winged beast flew out from the sky and clutched her in his talons and few off the in the sky. She cried for help, but Father Rodriogue held him back.
      > >
      > > On waking up, he struggled with doubts.
      > >
      > > Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?
      > >
      > >
      > > Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.
      > >
      > >
      > > He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the days when the moon did not tug at his heart and the night did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God. A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall. Sheba did not matter.
      > >
      > >
      > > On reaching the stage of complete detachment when a young priest called on him that morning and invited him to a mass two days later, he accepted the proposal. The priest carried a note from Father Rodriguez. You must your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and feed hungry mouths. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd.
      > >
      > > He must recoup to stand the rigors of his mission. He'd grown week and could not even stand without support. The church was small, but the local priest had a big heart. He lit up the altar with candles and decorated the church with small lights and announced a big lunch to honur Master John. The first meal was hard to swallow. But then hunger returned , and he felt strength flowing back to his limbs with every meal.
      > >
      > > When he set out for Las Mangis on a Sunday afternoon, he was fresh and light and there were spring in his feet. He decided he'll first go Las Mangis, meet his Ammu and Grandma and Grabndpap and then leave for Ponda for the mass on Monday morning. He would never be able to forget was his mother. Ammu did not even know where he was. She must be worried for him. She always worried for him.
      > >
      > >
      > > By the time he reached Old Goa , the world was asleep. He woke up a boatman, who kissed his hands and thanked God for the chance to serve his son. A gibbous moon scattered into thousands of stars at the rippling breasts of the Mandovi. Nature smiled at him. As the boat rowed towards Las Mangis memories flooded the emptiness of his self. He may have emptied the his mind and body of all worldly thoughts, but nature did not allow void, so it begun to fill up his soul. The canoe's rhythmic tilt, the songs of cicadas, the croaking of frogs, and playful leap of silvery cods, begun to resurrect the man in him. His heart ached. The river heaved with dark longing for the golden moon.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He shuddered: had he failed even after all these days of penance?
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The bank of Las Mangis was deserted at this hour. He stood for while breathing heavily. The distant hills thrived with dark trees and beyond the steep road, above a hillock, stood a lonely church, its towers desperate to touch the heavens.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He thanked the boatman and plunged into the heart of loneliness. The road snaked between paddy plantations, small and big houses and huts, cottages and Portuguese- styled bungalows. The island lay ensconced between the river and the sea, hills and forest, paddy fields and maize crops, between the huts of fishermen and pillared houses of rich farmers, between date palms and cashew trees, between the virgin earth and the blue sky.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The song of cicadas thickened. He walked past the Church of Our Lady; past Farmacia Jo�o Menezes, Lisbon poultry, Ganesha store(with a billboard showing a picture of an elephant-faced god feasting on ladoos) Ripley baker, past Mona Lisa STD booth (with an a picture of a frocked priest holding a receiver and slashes of sound waves traveling up heavenward).
      > >
      > >
      > > He did not know when he left Furtado villa behind. He hurried through a maze of palas, laburnum, jackbeans and clematis. A volcano smoldered in his chest and his heart pounded like pestle in mortar. How long, how long before the island sniffed his presence. How long before they mobbed him for blessing and deliverance.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > A sting in the sole pulled him to a stop. He sat down, lifted his pajama and wiped a warm bubble. His soles were callused sandpapers. He carried on bare feet with his wounds. They never healed. His path was strewn with far too many thorns. But did he have a choice? Did he ever have a choice?
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Life offered him none.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He grew up at Bom Jesus Basilica, nurtured on the stories of Jesus and Apostles. Father Rodriguez groomed him as the Son of God. He never doubted his divine callings and went about preaching Gospels and sounding warning about the approaching wrath of God. He was happy, content, and full of gratitude to God. Then one day she slipped into his life and changed it into a battle ground.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Oh God, where was he going?
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He must meet her. Must know the secret? He could not fail again. He could not put up with the snigger and mockings of the doubters. He could not let down Ammu when she lied on the death bed. Life has been a long riddle, could Sheba untangle it for him. Could he ever be happy?
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He walked straight; heading towards a sleepy habitation of small houses silhouetted in the darkness--- the shrouds of leaves and branches kept off the moon and the stars. The bright light of a watchtower gleamed like a second moon, quarantined by God for going too close to the forsaken earth. A whiff of queen-of-the nigh pulsated in the air and a green light under a tiled canopy told him she still waited for him.
      > >
      > >
      > > " When you see the green, you know I long to meet you," she told him one day.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Why green? Won't your parents be puzzled?" he asked.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "The green remind me of your eyes," she said. " And I told my mother that Green keeps away Sea ghosts."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Green light to invite restless God!
      > >
      > > Green light to put off a Sea Ghost!
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The house stood in the midst of banana groves and toddy palms and beetle nut trees. Inside the waist high four walls, a dark red stone stairway led up to a balcony with stone benches and croton pots�and a rocking chair.
      > >
      > > He knocked at the door. Rustle of bed sheets and soft sound of rubber sleepers. The door opened, first a little, a pair of cautious eyes peeped through the gap, and then it flung wide like arms ready to embrace.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Master John?', she whispered. " I waited for you every night�I knew you'll come."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > She led him inside the room. In the faint neon light, the room with its high titled roof and big windows seemed inviting after such a long journey.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Who's that, Sheba ?" someone coughed.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Master John," she replied.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > An old couple doddered out of a side room and bowed. They sat near his feet.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > " What a surprise? We're blessed," the old man said. "
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The lady wiped her eyes and pinned her glaucoma gaze on him; the old man kept coughing. .
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Why at this hour , Master? " The old man asked.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "God led me here," he said. "He may have his reasons."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "May be God wants to help us?" The old man looked up at him; His blank eyes were two dried up pools of despair.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Is anything wrong?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Master John sank back the chair. Tonight, he did not want to be called upon to resolve human miseries. Tonight, he wanted to fight his own battle.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "It's about Sheba ? She won't marry," the old man said.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Why?" Master John asked.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "She says God does not love her.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > " God loves every one. I'll talk to her."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Sheba returned to set the table and offered him a plate of rice and a bowl of prawn curry. She looked like an angel in a flowing white nightgown with butterfly-like puffs on the shoulders.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Hot waves of aroma rose from the food. For four week he had either fasted or lived off fruits and water. But still he did not feel like eating. He wanted to be left alone with her. His soul was in turmoil. He ate a few morsels while the couple talked in hushed tone and Sheba stood in attendance.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "I want to have a word with Sheba , "he said.
      > >
      > > The old lady looked at the old man, and they smiled. "Bless her, Master. Put some sense in her head, "the old lady said.
      > >
      > >
      > > They retired inside the house. Sheba closed the door behind them and flashed a chrome-plated battery torch as they walked on the tree-flanked pebbled path. She lit up his way, dispelled his darkness.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > " So you came to know your secret? " she asked, her dark eyes bore into him.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > " Well, yes, I'm curious."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > She laughed and a string of coral tossed in her neck. "Just curious...Aha. You can't fool me, Master. You're haunted by fear. It's written on your face, in your eyes."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The moon came closer and the tan of her skin glistened on her chiseled cheekbones. Soft sand melted under his feet; ahead of them clamored the restless sea. They trampled over shadows of palms.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "I missed you, Master? " She stared at him from beneath dark lashes, eyes aglow.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > A massive wave crashed against the shore. White mass of surf leaped and touched his feet. He looked at the formation of another wave in the distance. He ignored her with silence.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"
      > >
      > > "Who?"
      > >
      > >
      > > " A journalist from Mumbai?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "I want peace. I'm tired."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "He insists on meeting you. A nice guy he seems."
      > >
      > >
      > > "I want to be left alone for some time.."
      > >
      > >
      > > "Can you be happy without me, Master?"
      > >
      > >
      > > "Is happiness everything, Sheba ?"
      > >
      > >
      > > "It's what our soul seeks all the time," she said. "Why do you deny yourself happiness, Master? Why don't you love me when you go around preaching the gospel of Love to others? Why do you torture me?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > " A Messiah can only preach love, Sheba ," he sighed. " He can't rejoice it. That's his destiny. His cross."
      > >
      > >
      > > " But there's deliverance even for a Messiah."
      > >
      > >
      > > His fingers drew a cross on the wet sand, and after a long pause he hung a man on it. "
      > >
      > >
      > > That's it�one can't fight destiny�.".:
      > >
      > >
      > > "What's your destiny, Master?"
      > >
      > >
      > > He looked straight at the sea. "Christ died on cross"
      > >
      > >
      > > "No�no�he chose to die on the cross."
      > >
      > > "What do you mean?" he asked.
      > >
      > >
      > > "We make our own destiny."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > She wiped away the cross and drew a man and woman in tight embrace with ducks playing in a pond.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > " I've no choice, Sheba ," he said. ""Don't you there are any number of people out there who want to kill me.".
      > >
      > > " Are you scared?".
      > >
      > > " No, you asked about my destiny."
      > >
      > > "Can son of God be so helpless?"
      > >
      > >
      > > "Please, Sheba , now tell why I lost the healing touch of my fingers," he said. " . I can't betray God. I'll die of shame and guilt."
      > >
      > >
      > > "First, let me tell you ask something," she said. "Didn't Jesus allow Magdalene to be with him?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "She did serve him," Master John said
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Well, she did more than that. Jesus is supposed to be father of her child."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Stop it..." he shouted above the roar of waves.
      > >
      > >
      > > She ignored his command. "We could have great life together, we and you, Master John. God and Sheba could co-exist in your life."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He slumped by an abandoned boat. She sat close to him. He looked up at her. Her dark tresses hung in loose curls over her shoulders. She yawned and lifted her hands. A shiver ran up his spine. He gazed at the smoothness of her nape, the colors of her cheeks, , and her pert mouth. In the moonlight, her face looked luminous. He was reminded of the raredos, the savior and the saint.
      > >
      > >
      > > "Tell me the secret? Has it anything to do about my birth?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Perhaps, she never heard him, or perhaps she chose to ignore him.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "I'll wash your clothes and breed you God Children. Master John? That's where my salvation lies, and yours, too. "
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > A fishing trawler whirred in distance. A strain of soft music filled the air. At the boat, somebody played a depressing note on mouth organ. For a long time, he stared at the sea and listened to the music. The sky looked bigger than ever and the ocean an infinite pool of sadness. A yellow fireball darted across the sky. His mother told him shooting stars brought bad omen if seen at the start of a journey. He cupped his face.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Why've you crying, Master?" She caressed his hair.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > In the faint yellow light, her oval face with its sharp feature and big eyes, reminded him of a fresco of Magdelne. Swimming, working 12 hours at the bar, scampering in the forest and hills, gave her a slim and supple body. Her hair flopped around her face; dark line of kohl in her eyes and fine layers of pink on her lips. The fresco came alive.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The church bell tolled the midnight, like a danger bugle. The suddenness of it jolted him. It was a summon from God: "Come back son, come back�"
      > >
      > > He crossed himself. "Please, Sheba . Tell me what you hide from me. Don't torture me� I don't have time. I'm on trial tomorrow."
      > >
      > >
      > > "Some other day, Master�some other day�" she said. " I'll tell you everything when the time is ripe. You got to wait till then."
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "What if I fail?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Accept it as a God's will, Master. Don't you ask others not to lose faith?"
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Crickets chirped in the underbrush and a black cat crossed his path. He felt a stab of fear.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Please, Sheba . Please�I can't fail. Save me. "
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > "Come back to me, Master. I'll save you. "
      > >
      > > He threw his hands to the sky. "Forgive me God�.protect me Holy Ghost�"
      > >
      > > The heaven remained mute. God ignored his pleas. He went down on his knees and quaked with fear. He dreaded the everlasting torture of hell, snakes and scorpions, fire and brimstones.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > He dreaded the morrow's mass�..
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > --
      > >
      >
    • Susan Donahue
      Dear Rod, Good point. You are quite right. This promises to be an interesting story. Suzianne
      Message 2 of 10 , Jan 30, 2010
      • 0 Attachment
        Dear Rod,

        Good point. You are quite right. This promises to be an interesting story.

        Suzianne

        --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse <no_reply@...> wrote:
        >
        > Suzianne,
        >
        > I know we do not quibble with the comments, but I disagree with your claim the piece seems to end.
        >
        > First, there is the matter of this piece of dialog: ""Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"
        >
        > "Who?"
        >
        >
        > " A journalist from Mumbai?"
        >
        > Second, poor Master John has not made an irrevocable decision. No, this "temptation" to use his terminology, will last a long time, perhaps the rest of this life.
        >
        > So...I like how this ends.
        >
        > Rod
        >
        >
        > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "Susan Donahue" <suzianne411@> wrote:
        > >
        > > Dear Navin,
        > >
        > > This is an interesting lead in to a story. I like most of it, but have two comments: (1) I think most readers would like to see something in the first couple of paragraphs that would ground them in the place and time of the story, and (2) the end of this piece seems to wind up the story rather than lead into another chapter. A good cliff hanger would keep the reader wanting more.
        > >
        > > My only other problem with this is the tendency you have to make what should be the subject of certain sentences into objects. The very first sentence has the child as the subject. Is that the strongest way to introduce your POV character? Why not begin with, "Master John held a tiny child in his arms." or "Master John looked down at the fragile infant...." Something like that would have more strength and establish your POV character. The next sentence has fingers and a row of small teeth as the subjects. That is awkward and weak structure. These may seem like trivial points, but they make a difference. As a writer, you want language to work for you.
        > >
        > > Good luck with this. You have a good start.
        > >
        > > Suzianne
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "novin_kr" <novin_kr@> wrote:
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The Broken God
        > > >
        > > > By Navin Upadhyay
        > > > (novin_kr@)
        > > >
        > > > Chapter-1
        > > > ==========
        > > >
        > > > The anemic child fluttered in the cradle of Master John's arms. Tiny fingers grabbed the breast pocket of his kurta and a row of small teeth dug into his shoulders. A desperate struggle to remain locked to life and warmth.
        > > >
        > > > Master John panicked. Has God abandoned him? Goosebumps rippled his skin. The last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now this�he could not even revive a child.
        > > >
        > > > A desperate cry broke out from his lips." Don't abandon me, God."
        > > >
        > > > Tears coursed down Master John's face. He dragged himself before the glittering assembly of Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity at the high altar of the cathedral---, and prayed.
        > > >
        > > > But the Blessed trio remained indifferent to the chaos at their feet and the child gasped like a fish in death throe.
        > > >
        > > > Doubts' ugly horns gorged Master John's heart. Will he have to live without his healing gifts�abandoned by God and abused by men? Or was God merely measuring his faith? How can the Father let down his Chosen Son?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Propping up the child in one swift motion on his outstretched arms as if hoping to catch the eyes of the trio at the gold-leafed rear wall , he screamed out, "Father, Son and Holy Ghost-- help me, help this child."
        > > >
        > > > Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity ignored him again. The child gasped for breath, threw its legs and flapped its palms. But in vain. Death's python like grip shattered the spirit of delicate bones. The body settled down motionless on his palms, its head dangling on one side.
        > > >
        > > > Piercing the gloom of the cathedral, the first flush of sun light slanted through the sanctuary's windows like a flicker of hope. The dusty parallelogram of rays filled up the chancel and choir and altar of the Bom Jesus Basilica and lit up the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier.
        > > >
        > > > Master John stumbled to the shrine and stood holding the Corinthian columns, shivering like a man in grip of pneumonic fever. He propped the child like a voodoo doll against the surface of the casket in which, defying death's destructive weevils, the Saint's body lied intact even after 400 years of death. Perhaps, the Saint will save his honour and the child's life. After all, thousands of worshippers from across the world descended on Old Goa every year for the Saint's blessings and provided touching testimonies of Francis Xavier's miracle working power.
        > > >
        > > > "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He poured his heart out; he went around the casket bowing before all of the thirty two silver plates that depicted scenes from the Saint's life�scenes that depicted the testimony of St Xavier's mercy, compassion and power to work miracles. He banged his head against the feet of the casket, and wept. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard.
        > > >
        > > > But the Saint won't intercede with God either.
        > > >
        > > > The body slid and crashed against the floor. Tiny dots of blood trickled of the back of child's head. The mother rushed and lifted her son. A pair of snowy irises stared at Master John from behind unblinking lids. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.
        > > >
        > > > Sweats slicked his palms and soaked his armpits. From the days of childhood, he'd lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons. What was his crime, God?
        > > >
        > > > The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice and all she could do was to gasp and groan as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. He touched the child's head; a drop of blood smeared his fingers. He took the mother's hand. "You`ll reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment. Don't cry now. Go and pray to Lord so that he keeps your path straight and you are saved.'
        > > >
        > > > The young lady raised her face and fixed her gaze on him.
        > > >
        > > > Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.
        > > >
        > > > Then in a fit of frenzy she begun kissing the child �nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes-- as if her maternal love will make up for Master John's devotional failure. Her husband threw his arms around her. The shattered couple dragged themselves through the side aisle and plodded out of the high double door--- not even looking at him once.
        > > >
        > > > He could not take it any more. His knees gave in and he found himself straggled over the sarcophagus , hands thrown asunder , back planted against the platform, like a man tied to a ship's prow. His fate was sealed. The ship will unload him mid sea. He will be a helpless castaway, in a water full of man-eating sharks. He thought of the slanders and rebukes---the Hindus would rejoice his fall; and, who knows even the Christians would abandon him the way God had done.
        > > >
        > > > Just then, a slender hand came over his shoulders, warm and comforting, a faint smell of lavender wafted over him. "God has his own reason, Master."
        > > >
        > > > Diya took his hands and pressed them softly. Her breathing came fast. The glow on her face matched the hallo around St Loyola's visage. "Master John," she whispered. "You just can't give up like this. Have faith in God?"
        > > >
        > > > Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him. "What crime, what sin have I committed? Why do you make me so helpless, God?"
        > > >
        > > > A faint sound like the rap of a gavel issued forth from the sacristy. He tried to stand up, but she did not let him go. Tuck�tuck...tuck�.. The taps grew louder, her grip tighter.
        > > >
        > > > "Please leave, Diya, please."
        > > >
        > > > "Why are you so scared of him, Master?" She looked up at him; her lips quivered. She tried to rise on her toe to match his height and meet his lips, but he backed out. She let her head rest against his shoulders.
        > > >
        > > > "I grew up that way. He showed me the way of God."
        > > >
        > > > "And told you that Love is sin." She drew him close. "Did he tell you why God didn't grow human beings on tree if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"
        > > >
        > > > Father Rodriguez never said that Love was sin. . But he did grill in him the significances of the Immaculate Conception�both in case of Mother Mary and his own Ammu. He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion in his mind.
        > > >
        > > > The sound grew closer and Father Rodriguez emerged from the transept. Under bushy white lashes his small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a leaning sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up. A predator ready to pounce on his prey.
        > > >
        > > > "I told you not to stalk Master John?" Father Rodriguez stared at Diya.
        > > >
        > > > "I've heard you telling people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" she said, cocking her head and staring at the priest.
        > > >
        > > > "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."
        > > >
        > > > "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna, Father?"
        > > >
        > > > "Get out of here."
        > > >
        > > > "You don't own up God or the church, Father.
        > > >
        > > > "Fear God, you fool."
        > > >
        > > > "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."
        > > >
        > > > Master John squirmed with unease. He felt sorry for Diya. Father Rodriguez always treated her with hostility, though never before she confronted him in this defiant manner. Master John had asked her keep off the cathedral, but this morning, even before the sunrise, catching the first boat to cross the Mandovi, she came running to tell him about the flowering of the cashews trees, and insisted he must come to Las Mangis and smell their fragrance.
        > > >
        > > > "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "
        > > >
        > > > "Father, please---"
        > > >
        > > > "That`s why God has abandoned you�that's why you're so miserable.'
        > > >
        > > > His soul whispered words of comfort. "You're confused, Master. God and Diya could co-exist in your life."
        > > >
        > > > The mind reacted with a violent `No'. The world will never accept a Messiah who loved a woman. Remember, two thousands after crucifixion, people still wrote innuendoes about Christ's and Magdalene.
        > > >
        > > > Master John turned to Diya. Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair. Her rumpled low-cut blouse exposed the line of her cleavage, and the long black skirt accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He shivered.
        > > >
        > > > "Come back before it is too late," Father Rodriguez`s said. "You're the chosen one, Master John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"
        > > >
        > > > Hell or Heaven? Within him was a stockpile of catechisms and preaching about the after-life abodes Twenty year or more he had been fed those tales on daily basis even if the . priest did not spoon fed those stories during the five of infancy of which he ahd no memory. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on. He looked at Diya again. He could not leave her in state of such abject despair.
        > > >
        > > > His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and its residents hurtled towards him; the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity seemed set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven. The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. He must escape from being trapped under the walls.
        > > >
        > > > A cry squeezed out of his mouth and he shook his head. " No�no ..No� God."
        > > >
        > > > Diya stood near a pulpit that stuck out of the wall. Her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes. Don't leave me, Master John�.don't leave me�
        > > >
        > > > " Go back to God, you fool. Think of your Father in heaven and your mother on earth, and the millions who need your blessing and healing touch. Think of the blood on your hand, think of the dead child. " Father Rodriguez said.
        > > >
        > > > Blood on your hand�.There has to be some reason for God to abandon him. World needed him. Las Mangis needed him. He can't leave his folks in the arms of devil, lured to the fire and brimstone of hell. He can't be so cruel...he can't dip his fingers in more blood.
        > > >
        > > > He wiped his fingers at his matted hair.
        > > >
        > > > " Can you allow millions to suffer everlasting torture of hell, son." Father Rodriguez said. " No more blood on your hand, son. You've a duty to save the world. You can do it. Wake up...wake up."
        > > >
        > > > In his heart welled a strong sense of guilt, drowning all other shades of feeling and emotions. The dizzy feeling intensified, the floor and the vault danced and the cathedrals went into a tailspin. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. His heart thudded. He crashed in the pew. A bundle of slim bones and broken heart.
        > > >
        > > > " Please, leave me, Diya . Our paths are different," a cry leaped out of his lips.
        > > >
        > > > Her face lost its color. The tanned skin looked dark, and her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. " Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."
        > > >
        > > > The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.
        > > >
        > > > Master John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.
        > > >
        > > > " You're not kid any more. Youth has its own strength and weakness, Master. You'll never be happy �never.." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.
        > > >
        > > > He spoke at length, his voice barely audible. " I'll talk to you later, Diya. God bless you." Then he clutched the priest's hand. " Yu need rest, Father."
        > > >
        > > > " God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master," she shouted. " But Devil wants them to be miserable. Come out of his clutch."
        > > >
        > > > The stick rattled in furious rapid fire but Rodriguez kept walking.
        > > >
        > > > "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindu Devils."
        > > >
        > > > " I know why you failed to heal. You'll fail again. I know the secret."
        > > >
        > > > The priest tugged at Master John's wrist. " Let us go�let `s go." There was urgency in his voice.
        > > >
        > > > Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed, and sobbed. He felt a strange emptiness. He prayed all evening, but God didn't help. A black hole of turmoil sucked all his feelings and sensation; he lay on the bed like a comatose patient. It was a long night of torture. He had a difficult choice to make.
        > > >
        > > > ++++
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Next day, Father Rodriguez dispatched him to a descript church at the outskirts of Goa, on the Maharashtra border. He must cleanse his body and soul through prayer and penance. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake; his own salvation; salvation of the world.
        > > >
        > > > He devoted himself to the task. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spend his hours reciting Pater Noster and rosary . He would stand before a massive wooded cross and mediated on the suffering of Christ.
        > > > He gave up food, and suffered from headaches, nausea and muscle aches. But after a week hunger vanished and a his body became light and mind strangely empty. One day, as he stood up after a two hour-prayer, he suffered a feinting spell and collapsed at the foot of the cross. Once Sheba appeared with a pleading look in her eyes, and stretching her arms, like a fairy, and tried to reach out to him, but a dark winged beast flew out from the sky and clutched her in his talons and few off the in the sky. She cried for help, but Father Rodriogue held him back.
        > > >
        > > > On waking up, he struggled with doubts.
        > > >
        > > > Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the days when the moon did not tug at his heart and the night did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God. A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall. Sheba did not matter.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > On reaching the stage of complete detachment when a young priest called on him that morning and invited him to a mass two days later, he accepted the proposal. The priest carried a note from Father Rodriguez. You must your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and feed hungry mouths. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd.
        > > >
        > > > He must recoup to stand the rigors of his mission. He'd grown week and could not even stand without support. The church was small, but the local priest had a big heart. He lit up the altar with candles and decorated the church with small lights and announced a big lunch to honur Master John. The first meal was hard to swallow. But then hunger returned , and he felt strength flowing back to his limbs with every meal.
        > > >
        > > > When he set out for Las Mangis on a Sunday afternoon, he was fresh and light and there were spring in his feet. He decided he'll first go Las Mangis, meet his Ammu and Grandma and Grabndpap and then leave for Ponda for the mass on Monday morning. He would never be able to forget was his mother. Ammu did not even know where he was. She must be worried for him. She always worried for him.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > By the time he reached Old Goa , the world was asleep. He woke up a boatman, who kissed his hands and thanked God for the chance to serve his son. A gibbous moon scattered into thousands of stars at the rippling breasts of the Mandovi. Nature smiled at him. As the boat rowed towards Las Mangis memories flooded the emptiness of his self. He may have emptied the his mind and body of all worldly thoughts, but nature did not allow void, so it begun to fill up his soul. The canoe's rhythmic tilt, the songs of cicadas, the croaking of frogs, and playful leap of silvery cods, begun to resurrect the man in him. His heart ached. The river heaved with dark longing for the golden moon.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He shuddered: had he failed even after all these days of penance?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The bank of Las Mangis was deserted at this hour. He stood for while breathing heavily. The distant hills thrived with dark trees and beyond the steep road, above a hillock, stood a lonely church, its towers desperate to touch the heavens.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He thanked the boatman and plunged into the heart of loneliness. The road snaked between paddy plantations, small and big houses and huts, cottages and Portuguese- styled bungalows. The island lay ensconced between the river and the sea, hills and forest, paddy fields and maize crops, between the huts of fishermen and pillared houses of rich farmers, between date palms and cashew trees, between the virgin earth and the blue sky.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The song of cicadas thickened. He walked past the Church of Our Lady; past Farmacia Jo�o Menezes, Lisbon poultry, Ganesha store(with a billboard showing a picture of an elephant-faced god feasting on ladoos) Ripley baker, past Mona Lisa STD booth (with an a picture of a frocked priest holding a receiver and slashes of sound waves traveling up heavenward).
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He did not know when he left Furtado villa behind. He hurried through a maze of palas, laburnum, jackbeans and clematis. A volcano smoldered in his chest and his heart pounded like pestle in mortar. How long, how long before the island sniffed his presence. How long before they mobbed him for blessing and deliverance.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > A sting in the sole pulled him to a stop. He sat down, lifted his pajama and wiped a warm bubble. His soles were callused sandpapers. He carried on bare feet with his wounds. They never healed. His path was strewn with far too many thorns. But did he have a choice? Did he ever have a choice?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Life offered him none.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He grew up at Bom Jesus Basilica, nurtured on the stories of Jesus and Apostles. Father Rodriguez groomed him as the Son of God. He never doubted his divine callings and went about preaching Gospels and sounding warning about the approaching wrath of God. He was happy, content, and full of gratitude to God. Then one day she slipped into his life and changed it into a battle ground.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Oh God, where was he going?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He must meet her. Must know the secret? He could not fail again. He could not put up with the snigger and mockings of the doubters. He could not let down Ammu when she lied on the death bed. Life has been a long riddle, could Sheba untangle it for him. Could he ever be happy?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He walked straight; heading towards a sleepy habitation of small houses silhouetted in the darkness--- the shrouds of leaves and branches kept off the moon and the stars. The bright light of a watchtower gleamed like a second moon, quarantined by God for going too close to the forsaken earth. A whiff of queen-of-the nigh pulsated in the air and a green light under a tiled canopy told him she still waited for him.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " When you see the green, you know I long to meet you," she told him one day.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Why green? Won't your parents be puzzled?" he asked.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "The green remind me of your eyes," she said. " And I told my mother that Green keeps away Sea ghosts."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Green light to invite restless God!
        > > >
        > > > Green light to put off a Sea Ghost!
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The house stood in the midst of banana groves and toddy palms and beetle nut trees. Inside the waist high four walls, a dark red stone stairway led up to a balcony with stone benches and croton pots�and a rocking chair.
        > > >
        > > > He knocked at the door. Rustle of bed sheets and soft sound of rubber sleepers. The door opened, first a little, a pair of cautious eyes peeped through the gap, and then it flung wide like arms ready to embrace.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Master John?', she whispered. " I waited for you every night�I knew you'll come."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > She led him inside the room. In the faint neon light, the room with its high titled roof and big windows seemed inviting after such a long journey.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Who's that, Sheba ?" someone coughed.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Master John," she replied.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > An old couple doddered out of a side room and bowed. They sat near his feet.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " What a surprise? We're blessed," the old man said. "
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The lady wiped her eyes and pinned her glaucoma gaze on him; the old man kept coughing. .
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Why at this hour , Master? " The old man asked.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "God led me here," he said. "He may have his reasons."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "May be God wants to help us?" The old man looked up at him; His blank eyes were two dried up pools of despair.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Is anything wrong?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Master John sank back the chair. Tonight, he did not want to be called upon to resolve human miseries. Tonight, he wanted to fight his own battle.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "It's about Sheba ? She won't marry," the old man said.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Why?" Master John asked.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "She says God does not love her.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " God loves every one. I'll talk to her."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Sheba returned to set the table and offered him a plate of rice and a bowl of prawn curry. She looked like an angel in a flowing white nightgown with butterfly-like puffs on the shoulders.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Hot waves of aroma rose from the food. For four week he had either fasted or lived off fruits and water. But still he did not feel like eating. He wanted to be left alone with her. His soul was in turmoil. He ate a few morsels while the couple talked in hushed tone and Sheba stood in attendance.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "I want to have a word with Sheba , "he said.
        > > >
        > > > The old lady looked at the old man, and they smiled. "Bless her, Master. Put some sense in her head, "the old lady said.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > They retired inside the house. Sheba closed the door behind them and flashed a chrome-plated battery torch as they walked on the tree-flanked pebbled path. She lit up his way, dispelled his darkness.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " So you came to know your secret? " she asked, her dark eyes bore into him.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " Well, yes, I'm curious."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > She laughed and a string of coral tossed in her neck. "Just curious...Aha. You can't fool me, Master. You're haunted by fear. It's written on your face, in your eyes."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The moon came closer and the tan of her skin glistened on her chiseled cheekbones. Soft sand melted under his feet; ahead of them clamored the restless sea. They trampled over shadows of palms.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "I missed you, Master? " She stared at him from beneath dark lashes, eyes aglow.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > A massive wave crashed against the shore. White mass of surf leaped and touched his feet. He looked at the formation of another wave in the distance. He ignored her with silence.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"
        > > >
        > > > "Who?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " A journalist from Mumbai?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "I want peace. I'm tired."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "He insists on meeting you. A nice guy he seems."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "I want to be left alone for some time.."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Can you be happy without me, Master?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Is happiness everything, Sheba ?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "It's what our soul seeks all the time," she said. "Why do you deny yourself happiness, Master? Why don't you love me when you go around preaching the gospel of Love to others? Why do you torture me?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " A Messiah can only preach love, Sheba ," he sighed. " He can't rejoice it. That's his destiny. His cross."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " But there's deliverance even for a Messiah."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > His fingers drew a cross on the wet sand, and after a long pause he hung a man on it. "
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > That's it�one can't fight destiny�.".:
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "What's your destiny, Master?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He looked straight at the sea. "Christ died on cross"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "No�no�he chose to die on the cross."
        > > >
        > > > "What do you mean?" he asked.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "We make our own destiny."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > She wiped away the cross and drew a man and woman in tight embrace with ducks playing in a pond.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > " I've no choice, Sheba ," he said. ""Don't you there are any number of people out there who want to kill me.".
        > > >
        > > > " Are you scared?".
        > > >
        > > > " No, you asked about my destiny."
        > > >
        > > > "Can son of God be so helpless?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Please, Sheba , now tell why I lost the healing touch of my fingers," he said. " . I can't betray God. I'll die of shame and guilt."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "First, let me tell you ask something," she said. "Didn't Jesus allow Magdalene to be with him?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "She did serve him," Master John said
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Well, she did more than that. Jesus is supposed to be father of her child."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Stop it..." he shouted above the roar of waves.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > She ignored his command. "We could have great life together, we and you, Master John. God and Sheba could co-exist in your life."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He slumped by an abandoned boat. She sat close to him. He looked up at her. Her dark tresses hung in loose curls over her shoulders. She yawned and lifted her hands. A shiver ran up his spine. He gazed at the smoothness of her nape, the colors of her cheeks, , and her pert mouth. In the moonlight, her face looked luminous. He was reminded of the raredos, the savior and the saint.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Tell me the secret? Has it anything to do about my birth?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Perhaps, she never heard him, or perhaps she chose to ignore him.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "I'll wash your clothes and breed you God Children. Master John? That's where my salvation lies, and yours, too. "
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > A fishing trawler whirred in distance. A strain of soft music filled the air. At the boat, somebody played a depressing note on mouth organ. For a long time, he stared at the sea and listened to the music. The sky looked bigger than ever and the ocean an infinite pool of sadness. A yellow fireball darted across the sky. His mother told him shooting stars brought bad omen if seen at the start of a journey. He cupped his face.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Why've you crying, Master?" She caressed his hair.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > In the faint yellow light, her oval face with its sharp feature and big eyes, reminded him of a fresco of Magdelne. Swimming, working 12 hours at the bar, scampering in the forest and hills, gave her a slim and supple body. Her hair flopped around her face; dark line of kohl in her eyes and fine layers of pink on her lips. The fresco came alive.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > The church bell tolled the midnight, like a danger bugle. The suddenness of it jolted him. It was a summon from God: "Come back son, come back�"
        > > >
        > > > He crossed himself. "Please, Sheba . Tell me what you hide from me. Don't torture me� I don't have time. I'm on trial tomorrow."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Some other day, Master�some other day�" she said. " I'll tell you everything when the time is ripe. You got to wait till then."
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "What if I fail?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Accept it as a God's will, Master. Don't you ask others not to lose faith?"
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Crickets chirped in the underbrush and a black cat crossed his path. He felt a stab of fear.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Please, Sheba . Please�I can't fail. Save me. "
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > "Come back to me, Master. I'll save you. "
        > > >
        > > > He threw his hands to the sky. "Forgive me God�.protect me Holy Ghost�"
        > > >
        > > > The heaven remained mute. God ignored his pleas. He went down on his knees and quaked with fear. He dreaded the everlasting torture of hell, snakes and scorpions, fire and brimstones.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > He dreaded the morrow's mass�..
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > --
        > > >
        > >
        >
      • novin_kr
        Dear Rod, Thanks a lot. I m touched by the interest you took in going through the first chapter of my fiction that is nealry complete. Diya and Sheba are the
        Message 3 of 10 , Jan 31, 2010
        • 0 Attachment
          Dear Rod,

          Thanks a lot. I'm touched by the interest you took in going through the first chapter of my fiction that is nealry complete. Diya and Sheba are the same person. I startd with Sheba and changed it to Diya. Forgot to make changes at a couple of places. I'll also be more careful with punctuation marks in future. Hope you won't mind me approaching for help in future.

          The book is my dream, my life.

          Kind regards

          Navin


          --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse <no_reply@...> wrote:
          >
          > Novin,
          >
          > This is very gripping.
          >
          > A major question, is Diya the same woman as Sheba? If not, then how do they both know Master John's secret?
          >
          > Editing you might find useful after the creative stage:
          >
          > At: "But the Saint won't intercede with God either." fix the tense with:
          >
          > "But the Saint wouldn't intercede with God either."
          >
          > At: ""May be God wants to help us?" The old man..."
          >
          > Remove the extra quote mark. You should start with the word "Maybe..." in my English dialect.
          >
          > At: "Master John sank back the chair." insert "in" or "into" after "back".
          >
          > At: "His fingers drew a cross on the wet sand, and after a long pause he hung a man
          > on it. "
          >
          >
          > That's it�one can't fight destiny�."
          >
          > Move the quote marks down to be before "That's"
          >
          > At: """Don't you there are any number of people
          > out there who want to kill me.".
          >
          > Remove the extra quote marks, add: "know" after "you", and delete final period.
          >
          > At: ""We could have great life together, we and you, Master..."
          >
          > change "we" to "me".
          >
          > At: "Perhaps, she never heard him, or perhaps she chose to ignore him."
          >
          > remove the first comma.
          >
          > At: ""Why've you crying, Master?" She caressed his hair." change "Why've" to "Why're" or to "Why are".
          >
          > Good luck with this.
          >
          > Rod
          > aka albi
          >
          > http://www.cairdeas.webs.com/
          >
          > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "novin_kr" <novin_kr@> wrote:
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The Broken God
          > >
          > > By Navin Upadhyay
          > > (novin_kr@)
          > >
          > > Chapter-1
          > > ==========
          > >
          > > The anemic child fluttered in the cradle of Master John's arms. Tiny fingers grabbed the breast pocket of his kurta and a row of small teeth dug into his shoulders. A desperate struggle to remain locked to life and warmth.
          > >
          > > Master John panicked. Has God abandoned him? Goosebumps rippled his skin. The last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now this�he could not even revive a child.
          > >
          > > A desperate cry broke out from his lips." Don't abandon me, God."
          > >
          > > Tears coursed down Master John's face. He dragged himself before the glittering assembly of Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity at the high altar of the cathedral---, and prayed.
          > >
          > > But the Blessed trio remained indifferent to the chaos at their feet and the child gasped like a fish in death throe.
          > >
          > > Doubts' ugly horns gorged Master John's heart. Will he have to live without his healing gifts�abandoned by God and abused by men? Or was God merely measuring his faith? How can the Father let down his Chosen Son?
          > >
          > >
          > > Propping up the child in one swift motion on his outstretched arms as if hoping to catch the eyes of the trio at the gold-leafed rear wall , he screamed out, "Father, Son and Holy Ghost-- help me, help this child."
          > >
          > > Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity ignored him again. The child gasped for breath, threw its legs and flapped its palms. But in vain. Death's python like grip shattered the spirit of delicate bones. The body settled down motionless on his palms, its head dangling on one side.
          > >
          > > Piercing the gloom of the cathedral, the first flush of sun light slanted through the sanctuary's windows like a flicker of hope. The dusty parallelogram of rays filled up the chancel and choir and altar of the Bom Jesus Basilica and lit up the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier.
          > >
          > > Master John stumbled to the shrine and stood holding the Corinthian columns, shivering like a man in grip of pneumonic fever. He propped the child like a voodoo doll against the surface of the casket in which, defying death's destructive weevils, the Saint's body lied intact even after 400 years of death. Perhaps, the Saint will save his honour and the child's life. After all, thousands of worshippers from across the world descended on Old Goa every year for the Saint's blessings and provided touching testimonies of Francis Xavier's miracle working power.
          > >
          > > "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"
          > >
          > >
          > > He poured his heart out; he went around the casket bowing before all of the thirty two silver plates that depicted scenes from the Saint's life�scenes that depicted the testimony of St Xavier's mercy, compassion and power to work miracles. He banged his head against the feet of the casket, and wept. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard.
          > >
          > > But the Saint won't intercede with God either.
          > >
          > > The body slid and crashed against the floor. Tiny dots of blood trickled of the back of child's head. The mother rushed and lifted her son. A pair of snowy irises stared at Master John from behind unblinking lids. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.
          > >
          > > Sweats slicked his palms and soaked his armpits. From the days of childhood, he'd lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons. What was his crime, God?
          > >
          > > The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice and all she could do was to gasp and groan as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. He touched the child's head; a drop of blood smeared his fingers. He took the mother's hand. "You`ll reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment. Don't cry now. Go and pray to Lord so that he keeps your path straight and you are saved.'
          > >
          > > The young lady raised her face and fixed her gaze on him.
          > >
          > > Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.
          > >
          > > Then in a fit of frenzy she begun kissing the child �nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes-- as if her maternal love will make up for Master John's devotional failure. Her husband threw his arms around her. The shattered couple dragged themselves through the side aisle and plodded out of the high double door--- not even looking at him once.
          > >
          > > He could not take it any more. His knees gave in and he found himself straggled over the sarcophagus , hands thrown asunder , back planted against the platform, like a man tied to a ship's prow. His fate was sealed. The ship will unload him mid sea. He will be a helpless castaway, in a water full of man-eating sharks. He thought of the slanders and rebukes---the Hindus would rejoice his fall; and, who knows even the Christians would abandon him the way God had done.
          > >
          > > Just then, a slender hand came over his shoulders, warm and comforting, a faint smell of lavender wafted over him. "God has his own reason, Master."
          > >
          > > Diya took his hands and pressed them softly. Her breathing came fast. The glow on her face matched the hallo around St Loyola's visage. "Master John," she whispered. "You just can't give up like this. Have faith in God?"
          > >
          > > Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him. "What crime, what sin have I committed? Why do you make me so helpless, God?"
          > >
          > > A faint sound like the rap of a gavel issued forth from the sacristy. He tried to stand up, but she did not let him go. Tuck�tuck...tuck�.. The taps grew louder, her grip tighter.
          > >
          > > "Please leave, Diya, please."
          > >
          > > "Why are you so scared of him, Master?" She looked up at him; her lips quivered. She tried to rise on her toe to match his height and meet his lips, but he backed out. She let her head rest against his shoulders.
          > >
          > > "I grew up that way. He showed me the way of God."
          > >
          > > "And told you that Love is sin." She drew him close. "Did he tell you why God didn't grow human beings on tree if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"
          > >
          > > Father Rodriguez never said that Love was sin. . But he did grill in him the significances of the Immaculate Conception�both in case of Mother Mary and his own Ammu. He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion in his mind.
          > >
          > > The sound grew closer and Father Rodriguez emerged from the transept. Under bushy white lashes his small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a leaning sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up. A predator ready to pounce on his prey.
          > >
          > > "I told you not to stalk Master John?" Father Rodriguez stared at Diya.
          > >
          > > "I've heard you telling people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" she said, cocking her head and staring at the priest.
          > >
          > > "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."
          > >
          > > "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna, Father?"
          > >
          > > "Get out of here."
          > >
          > > "You don't own up God or the church, Father.
          > >
          > > "Fear God, you fool."
          > >
          > > "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."
          > >
          > > Master John squirmed with unease. He felt sorry for Diya. Father Rodriguez always treated her with hostility, though never before she confronted him in this defiant manner. Master John had asked her keep off the cathedral, but this morning, even before the sunrise, catching the first boat to cross the Mandovi, she came running to tell him about the flowering of the cashews trees, and insisted he must come to Las Mangis and smell their fragrance.
          > >
          > > "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "
          > >
          > > "Father, please---"
          > >
          > > "That`s why God has abandoned you�that's why you're so miserable.'
          > >
          > > His soul whispered words of comfort. "You're confused, Master. God and Diya could co-exist in your life."
          > >
          > > The mind reacted with a violent `No'. The world will never accept a Messiah who loved a woman. Remember, two thousands after crucifixion, people still wrote innuendoes about Christ's and Magdalene.
          > >
          > > Master John turned to Diya. Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair. Her rumpled low-cut blouse exposed the line of her cleavage, and the long black skirt accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He shivered.
          > >
          > > "Come back before it is too late," Father Rodriguez`s said. "You're the chosen one, Master John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"
          > >
          > > Hell or Heaven? Within him was a stockpile of catechisms and preaching about the after-life abodes Twenty year or more he had been fed those tales on daily basis even if the . priest did not spoon fed those stories during the five of infancy of which he ahd no memory. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on. He looked at Diya again. He could not leave her in state of such abject despair.
          > >
          > > His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and its residents hurtled towards him; the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity seemed set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven. The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. He must escape from being trapped under the walls.
          > >
          > > A cry squeezed out of his mouth and he shook his head. " No�no ..No� God."
          > >
          > > Diya stood near a pulpit that stuck out of the wall. Her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes. Don't leave me, Master John�.don't leave me�
          > >
          > > " Go back to God, you fool. Think of your Father in heaven and your mother on earth, and the millions who need your blessing and healing touch. Think of the blood on your hand, think of the dead child. " Father Rodriguez said.
          > >
          > > Blood on your hand�.There has to be some reason for God to abandon him. World needed him. Las Mangis needed him. He can't leave his folks in the arms of devil, lured to the fire and brimstone of hell. He can't be so cruel...he can't dip his fingers in more blood.
          > >
          > > He wiped his fingers at his matted hair.
          > >
          > > " Can you allow millions to suffer everlasting torture of hell, son." Father Rodriguez said. " No more blood on your hand, son. You've a duty to save the world. You can do it. Wake up...wake up."
          > >
          > > In his heart welled a strong sense of guilt, drowning all other shades of feeling and emotions. The dizzy feeling intensified, the floor and the vault danced and the cathedrals went into a tailspin. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. His heart thudded. He crashed in the pew. A bundle of slim bones and broken heart.
          > >
          > > " Please, leave me, Diya . Our paths are different," a cry leaped out of his lips.
          > >
          > > Her face lost its color. The tanned skin looked dark, and her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. " Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."
          > >
          > > The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.
          > >
          > > Master John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.
          > >
          > > " You're not kid any more. Youth has its own strength and weakness, Master. You'll never be happy �never.." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.
          > >
          > > He spoke at length, his voice barely audible. " I'll talk to you later, Diya. God bless you." Then he clutched the priest's hand. " Yu need rest, Father."
          > >
          > > " God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master," she shouted. " But Devil wants them to be miserable. Come out of his clutch."
          > >
          > > The stick rattled in furious rapid fire but Rodriguez kept walking.
          > >
          > > "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindu Devils."
          > >
          > > " I know why you failed to heal. You'll fail again. I know the secret."
          > >
          > > The priest tugged at Master John's wrist. " Let us go�let `s go." There was urgency in his voice.
          > >
          > > Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed, and sobbed. He felt a strange emptiness. He prayed all evening, but God didn't help. A black hole of turmoil sucked all his feelings and sensation; he lay on the bed like a comatose patient. It was a long night of torture. He had a difficult choice to make.
          > >
          > > ++++
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Next day, Father Rodriguez dispatched him to a descript church at the outskirts of Goa, on the Maharashtra border. He must cleanse his body and soul through prayer and penance. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake; his own salvation; salvation of the world.
          > >
          > > He devoted himself to the task. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spend his hours reciting Pater Noster and rosary . He would stand before a massive wooded cross and mediated on the suffering of Christ.
          > > He gave up food, and suffered from headaches, nausea and muscle aches. But after a week hunger vanished and a his body became light and mind strangely empty. One day, as he stood up after a two hour-prayer, he suffered a feinting spell and collapsed at the foot of the cross. Once Sheba appeared with a pleading look in her eyes, and stretching her arms, like a fairy, and tried to reach out to him, but a dark winged beast flew out from the sky and clutched her in his talons and few off the in the sky. She cried for help, but Father Rodriogue held him back.
          > >
          > > On waking up, he struggled with doubts.
          > >
          > > Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?
          > >
          > >
          > > Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.
          > >
          > >
          > > He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the days when the moon did not tug at his heart and the night did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God. A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall. Sheba did not matter.
          > >
          > >
          > > On reaching the stage of complete detachment when a young priest called on him that morning and invited him to a mass two days later, he accepted the proposal. The priest carried a note from Father Rodriguez. You must your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and feed hungry mouths. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd.
          > >
          > > He must recoup to stand the rigors of his mission. He'd grown week and could not even stand without support. The church was small, but the local priest had a big heart. He lit up the altar with candles and decorated the church with small lights and announced a big lunch to honur Master John. The first meal was hard to swallow. But then hunger returned , and he felt strength flowing back to his limbs with every meal.
          > >
          > > When he set out for Las Mangis on a Sunday afternoon, he was fresh and light and there were spring in his feet. He decided he'll first go Las Mangis, meet his Ammu and Grandma and Grabndpap and then leave for Ponda for the mass on Monday morning. He would never be able to forget was his mother. Ammu did not even know where he was. She must be worried for him. She always worried for him.
          > >
          > >
          > > By the time he reached Old Goa , the world was asleep. He woke up a boatman, who kissed his hands and thanked God for the chance to serve his son. A gibbous moon scattered into thousands of stars at the rippling breasts of the Mandovi. Nature smiled at him. As the boat rowed towards Las Mangis memories flooded the emptiness of his self. He may have emptied the his mind and body of all worldly thoughts, but nature did not allow void, so it begun to fill up his soul. The canoe's rhythmic tilt, the songs of cicadas, the croaking of frogs, and playful leap of silvery cods, begun to resurrect the man in him. His heart ached. The river heaved with dark longing for the golden moon.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He shuddered: had he failed even after all these days of penance?
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The bank of Las Mangis was deserted at this hour. He stood for while breathing heavily. The distant hills thrived with dark trees and beyond the steep road, above a hillock, stood a lonely church, its towers desperate to touch the heavens.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He thanked the boatman and plunged into the heart of loneliness. The road snaked between paddy plantations, small and big houses and huts, cottages and Portuguese- styled bungalows. The island lay ensconced between the river and the sea, hills and forest, paddy fields and maize crops, between the huts of fishermen and pillared houses of rich farmers, between date palms and cashew trees, between the virgin earth and the blue sky.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The song of cicadas thickened. He walked past the Church of Our Lady; past Farmacia Jo�o Menezes, Lisbon poultry, Ganesha store(with a billboard showing a picture of an elephant-faced god feasting on ladoos) Ripley baker, past Mona Lisa STD booth (with an a picture of a frocked priest holding a receiver and slashes of sound waves traveling up heavenward).
          > >
          > >
          > > He did not know when he left Furtado villa behind. He hurried through a maze of palas, laburnum, jackbeans and clematis. A volcano smoldered in his chest and his heart pounded like pestle in mortar. How long, how long before the island sniffed his presence. How long before they mobbed him for blessing and deliverance.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > A sting in the sole pulled him to a stop. He sat down, lifted his pajama and wiped a warm bubble. His soles were callused sandpapers. He carried on bare feet with his wounds. They never healed. His path was strewn with far too many thorns. But did he have a choice? Did he ever have a choice?
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Life offered him none.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He grew up at Bom Jesus Basilica, nurtured on the stories of Jesus and Apostles. Father Rodriguez groomed him as the Son of God. He never doubted his divine callings and went about preaching Gospels and sounding warning about the approaching wrath of God. He was happy, content, and full of gratitude to God. Then one day she slipped into his life and changed it into a battle ground.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Oh God, where was he going?
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He must meet her. Must know the secret? He could not fail again. He could not put up with the snigger and mockings of the doubters. He could not let down Ammu when she lied on the death bed. Life has been a long riddle, could Sheba untangle it for him. Could he ever be happy?
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He walked straight; heading towards a sleepy habitation of small houses silhouetted in the darkness--- the shrouds of leaves and branches kept off the moon and the stars. The bright light of a watchtower gleamed like a second moon, quarantined by God for going too close to the forsaken earth. A whiff of queen-of-the nigh pulsated in the air and a green light under a tiled canopy told him she still waited for him.
          > >
          > >
          > > " When you see the green, you know I long to meet you," she told him one day.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Why green? Won't your parents be puzzled?" he asked.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "The green remind me of your eyes," she said. " And I told my mother that Green keeps away Sea ghosts."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Green light to invite restless God!
          > >
          > > Green light to put off a Sea Ghost!
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The house stood in the midst of banana groves and toddy palms and beetle nut trees. Inside the waist high four walls, a dark red stone stairway led up to a balcony with stone benches and croton pots�and a rocking chair.
          > >
          > > He knocked at the door. Rustle of bed sheets and soft sound of rubber sleepers. The door opened, first a little, a pair of cautious eyes peeped through the gap, and then it flung wide like arms ready to embrace.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Master John?', she whispered. " I waited for you every night�I knew you'll come."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > She led him inside the room. In the faint neon light, the room with its high titled roof and big windows seemed inviting after such a long journey.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Who's that, Sheba ?" someone coughed.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Master John," she replied.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > An old couple doddered out of a side room and bowed. They sat near his feet.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > " What a surprise? We're blessed," the old man said. "
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The lady wiped her eyes and pinned her glaucoma gaze on him; the old man kept coughing. .
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Why at this hour , Master? " The old man asked.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "God led me here," he said. "He may have his reasons."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "May be God wants to help us?" The old man looked up at him; His blank eyes were two dried up pools of despair.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Is anything wrong?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Master John sank back the chair. Tonight, he did not want to be called upon to resolve human miseries. Tonight, he wanted to fight his own battle.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "It's about Sheba ? She won't marry," the old man said.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Why?" Master John asked.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "She says God does not love her.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > " God loves every one. I'll talk to her."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Sheba returned to set the table and offered him a plate of rice and a bowl of prawn curry. She looked like an angel in a flowing white nightgown with butterfly-like puffs on the shoulders.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Hot waves of aroma rose from the food. For four week he had either fasted or lived off fruits and water. But still he did not feel like eating. He wanted to be left alone with her. His soul was in turmoil. He ate a few morsels while the couple talked in hushed tone and Sheba stood in attendance.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "I want to have a word with Sheba , "he said.
          > >
          > > The old lady looked at the old man, and they smiled. "Bless her, Master. Put some sense in her head, "the old lady said.
          > >
          > >
          > > They retired inside the house. Sheba closed the door behind them and flashed a chrome-plated battery torch as they walked on the tree-flanked pebbled path. She lit up his way, dispelled his darkness.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > " So you came to know your secret? " she asked, her dark eyes bore into him.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > " Well, yes, I'm curious."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > She laughed and a string of coral tossed in her neck. "Just curious...Aha. You can't fool me, Master. You're haunted by fear. It's written on your face, in your eyes."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The moon came closer and the tan of her skin glistened on her chiseled cheekbones. Soft sand melted under his feet; ahead of them clamored the restless sea. They trampled over shadows of palms.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "I missed you, Master? " She stared at him from beneath dark lashes, eyes aglow.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > A massive wave crashed against the shore. White mass of surf leaped and touched his feet. He looked at the formation of another wave in the distance. He ignored her with silence.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"
          > >
          > > "Who?"
          > >
          > >
          > > " A journalist from Mumbai?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "I want peace. I'm tired."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "He insists on meeting you. A nice guy he seems."
          > >
          > >
          > > "I want to be left alone for some time.."
          > >
          > >
          > > "Can you be happy without me, Master?"
          > >
          > >
          > > "Is happiness everything, Sheba ?"
          > >
          > >
          > > "It's what our soul seeks all the time," she said. "Why do you deny yourself happiness, Master? Why don't you love me when you go around preaching the gospel of Love to others? Why do you torture me?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > " A Messiah can only preach love, Sheba ," he sighed. " He can't rejoice it. That's his destiny. His cross."
          > >
          > >
          > > " But there's deliverance even for a Messiah."
          > >
          > >
          > > His fingers drew a cross on the wet sand, and after a long pause he hung a man on it. "
          > >
          > >
          > > That's it�one can't fight destiny�.".:
          > >
          > >
          > > "What's your destiny, Master?"
          > >
          > >
          > > He looked straight at the sea. "Christ died on cross"
          > >
          > >
          > > "No�no�he chose to die on the cross."
          > >
          > > "What do you mean?" he asked.
          > >
          > >
          > > "We make our own destiny."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > She wiped away the cross and drew a man and woman in tight embrace with ducks playing in a pond.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > " I've no choice, Sheba ," he said. ""Don't you there are any number of people out there who want to kill me.".
          > >
          > > " Are you scared?".
          > >
          > > " No, you asked about my destiny."
          > >
          > > "Can son of God be so helpless?"
          > >
          > >
          > > "Please, Sheba , now tell why I lost the healing touch of my fingers," he said. " . I can't betray God. I'll die of shame and guilt."
          > >
          > >
          > > "First, let me tell you ask something," she said. "Didn't Jesus allow Magdalene to be with him?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "She did serve him," Master John said
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Well, she did more than that. Jesus is supposed to be father of her child."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Stop it..." he shouted above the roar of waves.
          > >
          > >
          > > She ignored his command. "We could have great life together, we and you, Master John. God and Sheba could co-exist in your life."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He slumped by an abandoned boat. She sat close to him. He looked up at her. Her dark tresses hung in loose curls over her shoulders. She yawned and lifted her hands. A shiver ran up his spine. He gazed at the smoothness of her nape, the colors of her cheeks, , and her pert mouth. In the moonlight, her face looked luminous. He was reminded of the raredos, the savior and the saint.
          > >
          > >
          > > "Tell me the secret? Has it anything to do about my birth?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Perhaps, she never heard him, or perhaps she chose to ignore him.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "I'll wash your clothes and breed you God Children. Master John? That's where my salvation lies, and yours, too. "
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > A fishing trawler whirred in distance. A strain of soft music filled the air. At the boat, somebody played a depressing note on mouth organ. For a long time, he stared at the sea and listened to the music. The sky looked bigger than ever and the ocean an infinite pool of sadness. A yellow fireball darted across the sky. His mother told him shooting stars brought bad omen if seen at the start of a journey. He cupped his face.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Why've you crying, Master?" She caressed his hair.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > In the faint yellow light, her oval face with its sharp feature and big eyes, reminded him of a fresco of Magdelne. Swimming, working 12 hours at the bar, scampering in the forest and hills, gave her a slim and supple body. Her hair flopped around her face; dark line of kohl in her eyes and fine layers of pink on her lips. The fresco came alive.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > The church bell tolled the midnight, like a danger bugle. The suddenness of it jolted him. It was a summon from God: "Come back son, come back�"
          > >
          > > He crossed himself. "Please, Sheba . Tell me what you hide from me. Don't torture me� I don't have time. I'm on trial tomorrow."
          > >
          > >
          > > "Some other day, Master�some other day�" she said. " I'll tell you everything when the time is ripe. You got to wait till then."
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "What if I fail?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Accept it as a God's will, Master. Don't you ask others not to lose faith?"
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > Crickets chirped in the underbrush and a black cat crossed his path. He felt a stab of fear.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Please, Sheba . Please�I can't fail. Save me. "
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > "Come back to me, Master. I'll save you. "
          > >
          > > He threw his hands to the sky. "Forgive me God�.protect me Holy Ghost�"
          > >
          > > The heaven remained mute. God ignored his pleas. He went down on his knees and quaked with fear. He dreaded the everlasting torture of hell, snakes and scorpions, fire and brimstones.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > He dreaded the morrow's mass�..
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > --
          > >
          >
        • dave_n2chi
          This is a beautiful piece. Here are a few random thoughts from my reading of it. If it s a short story in the making and is self contained, then 1)the
          Message 4 of 10 , Jan 31, 2010
          • 0 Attachment
            This is a beautiful piece. Here are a few random thoughts from my reading of it. If it's a short story in the making and is self contained, then 1)the beginning setup with the dying baby seems too long, and 2) the ending is disappointing. However, I suspect this is part of a larger piece, and that is gratifying because you have grabbed my attention and I want to read more!

            Also, the wonderful imagery and dialog have a lovely antique feel, but are often interrupted by the clang of one modern thing or another. E.g., why does Sheba work in a bar? Also, why both Diya and Sheba in the story? Or will the need for both become apparent, other than the obvious representation of two religious cultures? And why does Master John think Sheba has an answer? If that was hinted at or explained, I missed it.

            Very good piece, and I can't wait to read more.
            Dave



            --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "novin_kr" <novin_kr@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            >
            > The Broken God
            >
            > By Navin Upadhyay
            > (novin_kr@...)
            >
            > Chapter-1
            > ==========
            >
            > The anemic child fluttered in the cradle of Master John's arms. Tiny fingers grabbed the breast pocket of his kurta and a row of small teeth dug into his shoulders. A desperate struggle to remain locked to life and warmth.
            >
            > Master John panicked. Has God abandoned him? Goosebumps rippled his skin. The last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now this—he could not even revive a child.
            >
            > A desperate cry broke out from his lips." Don't abandon me, God."
            >
            > Tears coursed down Master John's face. He dragged himself before the glittering assembly of Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity at the high altar of the cathedral---, and prayed.
            >
            > But the Blessed trio remained indifferent to the chaos at their feet and the child gasped like a fish in death throe.
            >
            > Doubts' ugly horns gorged Master John's heart. Will he have to live without his healing gifts—abandoned by God and abused by men? Or was God merely measuring his faith? How can the Father let down his Chosen Son?
            >
            >
            > Propping up the child in one swift motion on his outstretched arms as if hoping to catch the eyes of the trio at the gold-leafed rear wall , he screamed out, "Father, Son and Holy Ghost-- help me, help this child."
            >
            > Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity ignored him again. The child gasped for breath, threw its legs and flapped its palms. But in vain. Death's python like grip shattered the spirit of delicate bones. The body settled down motionless on his palms, its head dangling on one side.
            >
            > Piercing the gloom of the cathedral, the first flush of sun light slanted through the sanctuary's windows like a flicker of hope. The dusty parallelogram of rays filled up the chancel and choir and altar of the Bom Jesus Basilica and lit up the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier.
            >
            > Master John stumbled to the shrine and stood holding the Corinthian columns, shivering like a man in grip of pneumonic fever. He propped the child like a voodoo doll against the surface of the casket in which, defying death's destructive weevils, the Saint's body lied intact even after 400 years of death. Perhaps, the Saint will save his honour and the child's life. After all, thousands of worshippers from across the world descended on Old Goa every year for the Saint's blessings and provided touching testimonies of Francis Xavier's miracle working power.
            >
            > "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"
            >
            >
            > He poured his heart out; he went around the casket bowing before all of the thirty two silver plates that depicted scenes from the Saint's life—scenes that depicted the testimony of St Xavier's mercy, compassion and power to work miracles. He banged his head against the feet of the casket, and wept. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard.
            >
            > But the Saint won't intercede with God either.
            >
            > The body slid and crashed against the floor. Tiny dots of blood trickled of the back of child's head. The mother rushed and lifted her son. A pair of snowy irises stared at Master John from behind unblinking lids. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.
            >
            > Sweats slicked his palms and soaked his armpits. From the days of childhood, he'd lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons. What was his crime, God?
            >
            > The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice and all she could do was to gasp and groan as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. He touched the child's head; a drop of blood smeared his fingers. He took the mother's hand. "You`ll reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment. Don't cry now. Go and pray to Lord so that he keeps your path straight and you are saved.'
            >
            > The young lady raised her face and fixed her gaze on him.
            >
            > Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.
            >
            > Then in a fit of frenzy she begun kissing the child –nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes-- as if her maternal love will make up for Master John's devotional failure. Her husband threw his arms around her. The shattered couple dragged themselves through the side aisle and plodded out of the high double door--- not even looking at him once.
            >
            > He could not take it any more. His knees gave in and he found himself straggled over the sarcophagus , hands thrown asunder , back planted against the platform, like a man tied to a ship's prow. His fate was sealed. The ship will unload him mid sea. He will be a helpless castaway, in a water full of man-eating sharks. He thought of the slanders and rebukes---the Hindus would rejoice his fall; and, who knows even the Christians would abandon him the way God had done.
            >
            > Just then, a slender hand came over his shoulders, warm and comforting, a faint smell of lavender wafted over him. "God has his own reason, Master."
            >
            > Diya took his hands and pressed them softly. Her breathing came fast. The glow on her face matched the hallo around St Loyola's visage. "Master John," she whispered. "You just can't give up like this. Have faith in God?"
            >
            > Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him. "What crime, what sin have I committed? Why do you make me so helpless, God?"
            >
            > A faint sound like the rap of a gavel issued forth from the sacristy. He tried to stand up, but she did not let him go. Tuck…tuck...tuck….. The taps grew louder, her grip tighter.
            >
            > "Please leave, Diya, please."
            >
            > "Why are you so scared of him, Master?" She looked up at him; her lips quivered. She tried to rise on her toe to match his height and meet his lips, but he backed out. She let her head rest against his shoulders.
            >
            > "I grew up that way. He showed me the way of God."
            >
            > "And told you that Love is sin." She drew him close. "Did he tell you why God didn't grow human beings on tree if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"
            >
            > Father Rodriguez never said that Love was sin. . But he did grill in him the significances of the Immaculate Conception—both in case of Mother Mary and his own Ammu. He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion in his mind.
            >
            > The sound grew closer and Father Rodriguez emerged from the transept. Under bushy white lashes his small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a leaning sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up. A predator ready to pounce on his prey.
            >
            > "I told you not to stalk Master John?" Father Rodriguez stared at Diya.
            >
            > "I've heard you telling people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" she said, cocking her head and staring at the priest.
            >
            > "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."
            >
            > "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna, Father?"
            >
            > "Get out of here."
            >
            > "You don't own up God or the church, Father.
            >
            > "Fear God, you fool."
            >
            > "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."
            >
            > Master John squirmed with unease. He felt sorry for Diya. Father Rodriguez always treated her with hostility, though never before she confronted him in this defiant manner. Master John had asked her keep off the cathedral, but this morning, even before the sunrise, catching the first boat to cross the Mandovi, she came running to tell him about the flowering of the cashews trees, and insisted he must come to Las Mangis and smell their fragrance.
            >
            > "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "
            >
            > "Father, please---"
            >
            > "That`s why God has abandoned you…that's why you're so miserable.'
            >
            > His soul whispered words of comfort. "You're confused, Master. God and Diya could co-exist in your life."
            >
            > The mind reacted with a violent `No'. The world will never accept a Messiah who loved a woman. Remember, two thousands after crucifixion, people still wrote innuendoes about Christ's and Magdalene.
            >
            > Master John turned to Diya. Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair. Her rumpled low-cut blouse exposed the line of her cleavage, and the long black skirt accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He shivered.
            >
            > "Come back before it is too late," Father Rodriguez`s said. "You're the chosen one, Master John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"
            >
            > Hell or Heaven? Within him was a stockpile of catechisms and preaching about the after-life abodes Twenty year or more he had been fed those tales on daily basis even if the . priest did not spoon fed those stories during the five of infancy of which he ahd no memory. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on. He looked at Diya again. He could not leave her in state of such abject despair.
            >
            > His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and its residents hurtled towards him; the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity seemed set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven. The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. He must escape from being trapped under the walls.
            >
            > A cry squeezed out of his mouth and he shook his head. " No…no ..No… God."
            >
            > Diya stood near a pulpit that stuck out of the wall. Her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes. Don't leave me, Master John….don't leave me…
            >
            > " Go back to God, you fool. Think of your Father in heaven and your mother on earth, and the millions who need your blessing and healing touch. Think of the blood on your hand, think of the dead child. " Father Rodriguez said.
            >
            > Blood on your hand….There has to be some reason for God to abandon him. World needed him. Las Mangis needed him. He can't leave his folks in the arms of devil, lured to the fire and brimstone of hell. He can't be so cruel...he can't dip his fingers in more blood.
            >
            > He wiped his fingers at his matted hair.
            >
            > " Can you allow millions to suffer everlasting torture of hell, son." Father Rodriguez said. " No more blood on your hand, son. You've a duty to save the world. You can do it. Wake up...wake up."
            >
            > In his heart welled a strong sense of guilt, drowning all other shades of feeling and emotions. The dizzy feeling intensified, the floor and the vault danced and the cathedrals went into a tailspin. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. His heart thudded. He crashed in the pew. A bundle of slim bones and broken heart.
            >
            > " Please, leave me, Diya . Our paths are different," a cry leaped out of his lips.
            >
            > Her face lost its color. The tanned skin looked dark, and her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. " Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."
            >
            > The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.
            >
            > Master John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.
            >
            > " You're not kid any more. Youth has its own strength and weakness, Master. You'll never be happy …never.." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.
            >
            > He spoke at length, his voice barely audible. " I'll talk to you later, Diya. God bless you." Then he clutched the priest's hand. " Yu need rest, Father."
            >
            > " God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master," she shouted. " But Devil wants them to be miserable. Come out of his clutch."
            >
            > The stick rattled in furious rapid fire but Rodriguez kept walking.
            >
            > "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindu Devils."
            >
            > " I know why you failed to heal. You'll fail again. I know the secret."
            >
            > The priest tugged at Master John's wrist. " Let us go…let `s go." There was urgency in his voice.
            >
            > Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed, and sobbed. He felt a strange emptiness. He prayed all evening, but God didn't help. A black hole of turmoil sucked all his feelings and sensation; he lay on the bed like a comatose patient. It was a long night of torture. He had a difficult choice to make.
            >
            > ++++
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > Next day, Father Rodriguez dispatched him to a descript church at the outskirts of Goa, on the Maharashtra border. He must cleanse his body and soul through prayer and penance. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake; his own salvation; salvation of the world.
            >
            > He devoted himself to the task. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spend his hours reciting Pater Noster and rosary . He would stand before a massive wooded cross and mediated on the suffering of Christ.
            > He gave up food, and suffered from headaches, nausea and muscle aches. But after a week hunger vanished and a his body became light and mind strangely empty. One day, as he stood up after a two hour-prayer, he suffered a feinting spell and collapsed at the foot of the cross. Once Sheba appeared with a pleading look in her eyes, and stretching her arms, like a fairy, and tried to reach out to him, but a dark winged beast flew out from the sky and clutched her in his talons and few off the in the sky. She cried for help, but Father Rodriogue held him back.
            >
            > On waking up, he struggled with doubts.
            >
            > Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?
            >
            >
            > Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.
            >
            >
            > He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the days when the moon did not tug at his heart and the night did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God. A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall. Sheba did not matter.
            >
            >
            > On reaching the stage of complete detachment when a young priest called on him that morning and invited him to a mass two days later, he accepted the proposal. The priest carried a note from Father Rodriguez. You must your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and feed hungry mouths. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd.
            >
            > He must recoup to stand the rigors of his mission. He'd grown week and could not even stand without support. The church was small, but the local priest had a big heart. He lit up the altar with candles and decorated the church with small lights and announced a big lunch to honur Master John. The first meal was hard to swallow. But then hunger returned , and he felt strength flowing back to his limbs with every meal.
            >
            > When he set out for Las Mangis on a Sunday afternoon, he was fresh and light and there were spring in his feet. He decided he'll first go Las Mangis, meet his Ammu and Grandma and Grabndpap and then leave for Ponda for the mass on Monday morning. He would never be able to forget was his mother. Ammu did not even know where he was. She must be worried for him. She always worried for him.
            >
            >
            > By the time he reached Old Goa , the world was asleep. He woke up a boatman, who kissed his hands and thanked God for the chance to serve his son. A gibbous moon scattered into thousands of stars at the rippling breasts of the Mandovi. Nature smiled at him. As the boat rowed towards Las Mangis memories flooded the emptiness of his self. He may have emptied the his mind and body of all worldly thoughts, but nature did not allow void, so it begun to fill up his soul. The canoe's rhythmic tilt, the songs of cicadas, the croaking of frogs, and playful leap of silvery cods, begun to resurrect the man in him. His heart ached. The river heaved with dark longing for the golden moon.
            >
            >
            >
            > He shuddered: had he failed even after all these days of penance?
            >
            >
            >
            > The bank of Las Mangis was deserted at this hour. He stood for while breathing heavily. The distant hills thrived with dark trees and beyond the steep road, above a hillock, stood a lonely church, its towers desperate to touch the heavens.
            >
            >
            >
            > He thanked the boatman and plunged into the heart of loneliness. The road snaked between paddy plantations, small and big houses and huts, cottages and Portuguese- styled bungalows. The island lay ensconced between the river and the sea, hills and forest, paddy fields and maize crops, between the huts of fishermen and pillared houses of rich farmers, between date palms and cashew trees, between the virgin earth and the blue sky.
            >
            >
            >
            > The song of cicadas thickened. He walked past the Church of Our Lady; past Farmacia João Menezes, Lisbon poultry, Ganesha store(with a billboard showing a picture of an elephant-faced god feasting on ladoos) Ripley baker, past Mona Lisa STD booth (with an a picture of a frocked priest holding a receiver and slashes of sound waves traveling up heavenward).
            >
            >
            > He did not know when he left Furtado villa behind. He hurried through a maze of palas, laburnum, jackbeans and clematis. A volcano smoldered in his chest and his heart pounded like pestle in mortar. How long, how long before the island sniffed his presence. How long before they mobbed him for blessing and deliverance.
            >
            >
            >
            > A sting in the sole pulled him to a stop. He sat down, lifted his pajama and wiped a warm bubble. His soles were callused sandpapers. He carried on bare feet with his wounds. They never healed. His path was strewn with far too many thorns. But did he have a choice? Did he ever have a choice?
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > Life offered him none.
            >
            >
            >
            > He grew up at Bom Jesus Basilica, nurtured on the stories of Jesus and Apostles. Father Rodriguez groomed him as the Son of God. He never doubted his divine callings and went about preaching Gospels and sounding warning about the approaching wrath of God. He was happy, content, and full of gratitude to God. Then one day she slipped into his life and changed it into a battle ground.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Oh God, where was he going?
            >
            >
            >
            > He must meet her. Must know the secret? He could not fail again. He could not put up with the snigger and mockings of the doubters. He could not let down Ammu when she lied on the death bed. Life has been a long riddle, could Sheba untangle it for him. Could he ever be happy?
            >
            >
            >
            > He walked straight; heading towards a sleepy habitation of small houses silhouetted in the darkness--- the shrouds of leaves and branches kept off the moon and the stars. The bright light of a watchtower gleamed like a second moon, quarantined by God for going too close to the forsaken earth. A whiff of queen-of-the nigh pulsated in the air and a green light under a tiled canopy told him she still waited for him.
            >
            >
            > " When you see the green, you know I long to meet you," she told him one day.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Why green? Won't your parents be puzzled?" he asked.
            >
            >
            >
            > "The green remind me of your eyes," she said. " And I told my mother that Green keeps away Sea ghosts."
            >
            >
            >
            > Green light to invite restless God!
            >
            > Green light to put off a Sea Ghost!
            >
            >
            >
            > The house stood in the midst of banana groves and toddy palms and beetle nut trees. Inside the waist high four walls, a dark red stone stairway led up to a balcony with stone benches and croton pots—and a rocking chair.
            >
            > He knocked at the door. Rustle of bed sheets and soft sound of rubber sleepers. The door opened, first a little, a pair of cautious eyes peeped through the gap, and then it flung wide like arms ready to embrace.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Master John?', she whispered. " I waited for you every night…I knew you'll come."
            >
            >
            >
            > She led him inside the room. In the faint neon light, the room with its high titled roof and big windows seemed inviting after such a long journey.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Who's that, Sheba ?" someone coughed.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Master John," she replied.
            >
            >
            >
            > An old couple doddered out of a side room and bowed. They sat near his feet.
            >
            >
            >
            > " What a surprise? We're blessed," the old man said. "
            >
            >
            >
            > The lady wiped her eyes and pinned her glaucoma gaze on him; the old man kept coughing. .
            >
            >
            >
            > "Why at this hour , Master? " The old man asked.
            >
            >
            >
            > "God led me here," he said. "He may have his reasons."
            >
            >
            >
            > "May be God wants to help us?" The old man looked up at him; His blank eyes were two dried up pools of despair.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Is anything wrong?"
            >
            >
            >
            > Master John sank back the chair. Tonight, he did not want to be called upon to resolve human miseries. Tonight, he wanted to fight his own battle.
            >
            >
            >
            > "It's about Sheba ? She won't marry," the old man said.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Why?" Master John asked.
            >
            >
            >
            > "She says God does not love her.
            >
            >
            >
            > " God loves every one. I'll talk to her."
            >
            >
            >
            > Sheba returned to set the table and offered him a plate of rice and a bowl of prawn curry. She looked like an angel in a flowing white nightgown with butterfly-like puffs on the shoulders.
            >
            >
            >
            > Hot waves of aroma rose from the food. For four week he had either fasted or lived off fruits and water. But still he did not feel like eating. He wanted to be left alone with her. His soul was in turmoil. He ate a few morsels while the couple talked in hushed tone and Sheba stood in attendance.
            >
            >
            >
            > "I want to have a word with Sheba , "he said.
            >
            > The old lady looked at the old man, and they smiled. "Bless her, Master. Put some sense in her head, "the old lady said.
            >
            >
            > They retired inside the house. Sheba closed the door behind them and flashed a chrome-plated battery torch as they walked on the tree-flanked pebbled path. She lit up his way, dispelled his darkness.
            >
            >
            >
            > " So you came to know your secret? " she asked, her dark eyes bore into him.
            >
            >
            >
            > " Well, yes, I'm curious."
            >
            >
            >
            > She laughed and a string of coral tossed in her neck. "Just curious...Aha. You can't fool me, Master. You're haunted by fear. It's written on your face, in your eyes."
            >
            >
            >
            > The moon came closer and the tan of her skin glistened on her chiseled cheekbones. Soft sand melted under his feet; ahead of them clamored the restless sea. They trampled over shadows of palms.
            >
            >
            >
            > "I missed you, Master? " She stared at him from beneath dark lashes, eyes aglow.
            >
            >
            >
            > A massive wave crashed against the shore. White mass of surf leaped and touched his feet. He looked at the formation of another wave in the distance. He ignored her with silence.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"
            >
            > "Who?"
            >
            >
            > " A journalist from Mumbai?"
            >
            >
            >
            > "I want peace. I'm tired."
            >
            >
            >
            > "He insists on meeting you. A nice guy he seems."
            >
            >
            > "I want to be left alone for some time.."
            >
            >
            > "Can you be happy without me, Master?"
            >
            >
            > "Is happiness everything, Sheba ?"
            >
            >
            > "It's what our soul seeks all the time," she said. "Why do you deny yourself happiness, Master? Why don't you love me when you go around preaching the gospel of Love to others? Why do you torture me?"
            >
            >
            >
            > " A Messiah can only preach love, Sheba ," he sighed. " He can't rejoice it. That's his destiny. His cross."
            >
            >
            > " But there's deliverance even for a Messiah."
            >
            >
            > His fingers drew a cross on the wet sand, and after a long pause he hung a man on it. "
            >
            >
            > That's it…one can't fight destiny….".:
            >
            >
            > "What's your destiny, Master?"
            >
            >
            > He looked straight at the sea. "Christ died on cross"
            >
            >
            > "No…no…he chose to die on the cross."
            >
            > "What do you mean?" he asked.
            >
            >
            > "We make our own destiny."
            >
            >
            >
            > She wiped away the cross and drew a man and woman in tight embrace with ducks playing in a pond.
            >
            >
            >
            > " I've no choice, Sheba ," he said. ""Don't you there are any number of people out there who want to kill me.".
            >
            > " Are you scared?".
            >
            > " No, you asked about my destiny."
            >
            > "Can son of God be so helpless?"
            >
            >
            > "Please, Sheba , now tell why I lost the healing touch of my fingers," he said. " . I can't betray God. I'll die of shame and guilt."
            >
            >
            > "First, let me tell you ask something," she said. "Didn't Jesus allow Magdalene to be with him?"
            >
            >
            >
            > "She did serve him," Master John said
            >
            >
            >
            > "Well, she did more than that. Jesus is supposed to be father of her child."
            >
            >
            >
            > "Stop it..." he shouted above the roar of waves.
            >
            >
            > She ignored his command. "We could have great life together, we and you, Master John. God and Sheba could co-exist in your life."
            >
            >
            >
            > He slumped by an abandoned boat. She sat close to him. He looked up at her. Her dark tresses hung in loose curls over her shoulders. She yawned and lifted her hands. A shiver ran up his spine. He gazed at the smoothness of her nape, the colors of her cheeks, , and her pert mouth. In the moonlight, her face looked luminous. He was reminded of the raredos, the savior and the saint.
            >
            >
            > "Tell me the secret? Has it anything to do about my birth?"
            >
            >
            >
            > Perhaps, she never heard him, or perhaps she chose to ignore him.
            >
            >
            >
            > "I'll wash your clothes and breed you God Children. Master John? That's where my salvation lies, and yours, too. "
            >
            >
            >
            > A fishing trawler whirred in distance. A strain of soft music filled the air. At the boat, somebody played a depressing note on mouth organ. For a long time, he stared at the sea and listened to the music. The sky looked bigger than ever and the ocean an infinite pool of sadness. A yellow fireball darted across the sky. His mother told him shooting stars brought bad omen if seen at the start of a journey. He cupped his face.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Why've you crying, Master?" She caressed his hair.
            >
            >
            >
            > In the faint yellow light, her oval face with its sharp feature and big eyes, reminded him of a fresco of Magdelne. Swimming, working 12 hours at the bar, scampering in the forest and hills, gave her a slim and supple body. Her hair flopped around her face; dark line of kohl in her eyes and fine layers of pink on her lips. The fresco came alive.
            >
            >
            >
            > The church bell tolled the midnight, like a danger bugle. The suddenness of it jolted him. It was a summon from God: "Come back son, come back…"
            >
            > He crossed himself. "Please, Sheba . Tell me what you hide from me. Don't torture me… I don't have time. I'm on trial tomorrow."
            >
            >
            > "Some other day, Master…some other day…" she said. " I'll tell you everything when the time is ripe. You got to wait till then."
            >
            >
            >
            > "What if I fail?"
            >
            >
            >
            > "Accept it as a God's will, Master. Don't you ask others not to lose faith?"
            >
            >
            >
            > Crickets chirped in the underbrush and a black cat crossed his path. He felt a stab of fear.
            >
            >
            >
            > "Please, Sheba . Please…I can't fail. Save me. "
            >
            >
            >
            > "Come back to me, Master. I'll save you. "
            >
            > He threw his hands to the sky. "Forgive me God….protect me Holy Ghost…"
            >
            > The heaven remained mute. God ignored his pleas. He went down on his knees and quaked with fear. He dreaded the everlasting torture of hell, snakes and scorpions, fire and brimstones.
            >
            >
            >
            > He dreaded the morrow's mass…..
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > --
            >
          • novin_kr
            The Broken God ( A NOVEL) By Navin Upadhyay (novin_kr@yahoo.com) Chapter-1 ========== Master John panicked. Goosebumps rippled his skin. The last two
            Message 5 of 10 , Jan 31, 2010
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              The Broken God
              ( A NOVEL)
              By Navin Upadhyay
              (novin_kr@...)

              Chapter-1
              ==========


              Master John panicked. Goosebumps rippled his skin. The last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now this—he could not even revive a child.

              A desperate cry broke out from his lips. "Don't abandon me, God."

              The child fluttered in the cradle of his arms. Tiny fingers tried to grab the breast pocket of his kurta, but they lacked strength to hold on to him—to life and warmth.

              Piercing the gloom of the cathedral, the first bloom of sun light slanted through the sanctuary's windows and filled up the chancel and choir. Soon Bom Jesus Basilica will be filled with crowd of `seekers' from Goa and all over India. They all needed his blessing, miracles. They saw God in him; he was their Saviour, their Messiah.

              Tears coursed down Master John's face. He dragged himself to the high altar and prayed. But the gold-leafed assembly of Infant Jesus, St Loyola and Holy Trinity remained indifferent to the chaos at their feet and the child gasped like a fish in death throe.

              Doubts' ugly horns gorged Master John's heart. Will he have to live without his healing gifts—abandoned by God and abused by men? Or was God merely measuring his faith? How can the Father let down his Chosen Son?

              Propping up the child on his outstretched arms , he cried out , "Father, Son and Holy Ghost-- help me, help this child."

              He was ignored again. The child gasped for breath, threw its legs and flapped its palms. But in vain. Death's python like grip shattered the spirit of delicate bones. The body settled down motionless on his palms, its head dangling on one side.

              A dusty parallelogram of rays now lit up the main altar and the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier. Master John stumbled to the shrine and placed the child at the casket in which the Saint's body lied intact even after 400 years of death. Perhaps, the Saint will save his honor and the child's life. After all, thousands of worshippers from across the world descended on Old Goa every year for the Saint's blessings. The year 1962 was also the year of exposition of St Francis Xavier's body for public display and pilgrims had begun to pour in even though the actual event was full nine months away..

              "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"

              He spilled his heart out; he went around the casket bowing before all of the thirty two silver plates that depicted scenes from the Saint's life—scenes that offered testimony to St Xavier's mercy, compassion and power to work miracles. He banged his head against the feet of the casket, and wept. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard.

              But the Saint wouldn't intercede with God either.

              The body slid and crashed against the floor. Tiny dots of blood trickled of the back of child's head. The mother rushed and lifted her son. A pair of snowy irises stared at Master John from behind unblinking lids. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.

              Sweats slicked his palms and soaked his armpits. From the days of childhood, he'd lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons. What was his crime, God?

              The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice and all she could do was to gasp and groan as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. He touched the child's head; a drop of blood smeared his fingers. He took the mother's hand. "You`ll reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment. Don't cry now. Go and pray to Lord so that he keeps your path straight and you are saved.'

              The young lady raised her face and fixed her gaze on him.

              Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.

              Then in a fit of frenzy she begun kissing the child –nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes-- as if her maternal love will make up for Master John's devotional failure. Her husband threw his arms around her. The shattered couple dragged themselves through the side aisle and plodded out of the high double door--- not even looking at him once. They had come all the way from Delhi, and woken him from the sleep to save their dying son. .

              He could not take it any more. His knees gave in and he found himself straggled over the sarcophagus , hands thrown asunder , back planted against the platform, like a man tied to a ship's prow. His fate was sealed. The ship will unload him mid sea. He will be a helpless castaway, in water full of man-eating sharks. He thought of the slanders and rebukes---the Hindus would rejoice his fall; and, who knows even the Christians would abandon him the way God had done.

              Just then, a slender hand came over his shoulders, warm and comforting, a faint smell of lavender wafted over him. "God has his own reason, Master."

              Diya took his hands and pressed them softly. Her breathing came fast. The glow on her face matched the hallo around St Loyola's visage. "Master John," she whispered. "You just can't give up like this. Have faith in God?"

              Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him. "What crime, what sin have I committed? Why do you make me so helpless, God?"

              A faint sound like the rap of a gavel issued forth from the sacristy. He tried to stand up, but she did not let him go. Tuck…tuck...tuck….. The taps grew louder, her grip tighter.

              "Please leave, , please."

              "Why are you so scared of him, Master?" She looked up at him; her lips quivered. She tried to rise on her toe to match his height and meet his lips, but he backed out. She let her head rest against his shoulders.

              "I grew up that way. He showed me the way of God."

              "And told you that Love is sin." She drew him close. "Did he tell you why God didn't grow human beings on tree if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"

              Father Rodriguez never said that Love was sin. . But he did grill in him the significances of the Immaculate Conception—both in case of Mother Mary and his own Ammu. He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion in his mind.

              The sound grew closer and Father Rodriguez emerged from the transept. Under bushy white lashes his small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a leaning sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up. A predator ready to pounce on his prey.

              "I told you not to stalk Master John?" Father Rodriguez stared at .

              "I've heard you telling people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" she said, cocking her head and staring at the priest.

              "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."

              "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna, Father?"

              "Get out of here."

              "You don't own up God or the church, Father.

              "Fear God, you fool."

              "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."

              Master John squirmed with unease. He felt sorry for . Father Rodriguez always treated her with hostility, though never before she confronted him in this defiant manner. Master John had asked her keep off the cathedral, but this morning, even before the sunrise, catching the first boat to cross the Mandovi, she came running to tell him about the flowering of the cashews trees, and insisted he must come to Las Mangis and smell their fragrance.

              "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "

              "Father, please---"

              "That`s why God has abandoned you…that's why you're so miserable.'

              His soul whispered words of comfort. "You're confused, Master. God and could co-exist in your life."

              The mind reacted with a violent `No'. The world will never accept a Messiah who loved a woman. Remember, two thousands after crucifixion, people still wrote innuendoes about Christ's and Magdalene.

              Master John turned to . Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair. Her rumpled low-cut blouse exposed the line of her cleavage, and the long black skirt accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He shivered.

              "Come back before it is too late," Father Rodriguez`s said. "You're the chosen one, Master John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"

              Hell or Heaven? Within him was a stockpile of catechisms and preaching about the after-life abodes Twenty year or more he had been fed those tales on daily basis even if the . Priest did not spoon fed those stories during the five of infancy of which he had no memory. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on. He looked at again. He could not leave her in state of such abject despair.

              His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and its residents hurtled towards him; the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity seemed set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven. The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. He must escape from being trapped under the walls.

              A cry squeezed out of his mouth and he shook his head. " No…no ..No… God."

              stood near a pulpit that stuck out of the wall. Her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes. Don't leave me, Master John….don't leave me…

              " Go back to God, you fool. Think of your Father in heaven and your mother on earth, and the millions who need your blessing and healing touch. Think of the blood on your hand, think of the dead child. " Father Rodriguez said.

              Blood on your hand….There has to be some reason for God to abandon him. World needed him. Las Mangis needed him. He can't leave his folks in the arms of devil, lured to the fire and brimstone of hell. He can't be so cruel...he can't dip his fingers in more blood.

              He wiped his fingers at his matted hair.

              " Can you allow millions to suffer everlasting torture of hell, son." Father Rodriguez said. " No more blood on your hand, son. You've a duty to save the world. You can do it. Wake up...wake up."

              In his heart welled a strong sense of guilt, drowning all other shades of feeling and emotions. The dizzy feeling intensified, the floor and the vault danced and the cathedrals went into a tailspin. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. His heart thudded. He crashed in the pew. A bundle of slim bones and broken heart.

              " Please, leave me, . Our paths are different," a cry leaped out of his lips.

              Her face lost its color. The tanned skin looked dark, and her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. " Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."

              The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.

              Master John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.

              " You're not kid any more. Youth has its own strength and weakness, Master. You'll never be happy …never.." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.

              He spoke at length, his voice barely audible. " I'll talk to you later, . God bless you." Then he clutched the priest's hand. " Yu need rest, Father."

              " God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master," she shouted. " But Devil wants them to be miserable. Come out of his clutch."

              The stick rattled in furious rapid fire but Rodriguez kept walking.

              "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindu Devils."

              " I know why you failed to heal. You'll fail again. I know the secret."

              The priest tugged at Master John's wrist. " Let us go…let `s go." There was urgency in his voice.

              Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed, and sobbed. He felt a strange emptiness. He prayed all evening, but God didn't help. A black hole of turmoil sucked all his feelings and sensation; he lay on the bed like a comatose patient. It was a long night of torture. He had a difficult choice to make.

              ++++
              Next day, Father Rodriguez dispatched him to a descript church at the outskirts of Goa, on the Maharashtra border. He must cleanse his body and soul through prayer and penance. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake; his own salvation; salvation of the world.

              He devoted himself to the task. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spend his hours reciting Pater Noster and rosary . He would stand before a massive wooded cross and mediated on the suffering of Christ.
              He gave up food, and suffered from headaches, nausea and muscle aches. But after a week hunger vanished and his body became light and mind strangely empty. One day, as he stood up after a two hour-prayer, he suffered a feinting spell and collapsed at the foot of the cross. Once Diya appeared with a pleading look in her eyes, and stretching her arms, like a fairy, and tried to reach out to him, but a dark winged beast flew out from the sky and clutched her in his talons and few off the in the sky. She cried for help, but Father Rodriguez held him back.
              On waking up, he struggled with doubts.

              Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?

              Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.

              He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the days when the moon did not tug at his heart and the night did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God. A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall. Diya did not matter.

              On reaching the stage of complete detachment when a young priest called on him that morning and invited him to a mass two days later, he accepted the proposal. The priest carried a note from Father Rodriguez. You must your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and feed hungry mouths. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd.

              He must recoup to stand the rigors of his mission. He'd grown week and could not even stand without support. The church was small, but the local priest had a big heart. He lit up the altar with candles and decorated the church with small lights and announced a big lunch to honor Master John. The first meal was hard to swallow. But then hunger returned , and he felt strength flowing back to his limbs with every meal.

              When he set out for Las Mangis on a Sunday afternoon, he was fresh and light and there were spring in his feet. He decided he'll first go Las Mangis, meet his Ammu and Grandma and Grandpa and then leave for Ponda for the mass on Monday morning. He would never be able to forget was his mother. Ammu did not even know where he was. She must be worried for him. She always worried for him.

              By the time he reached Old Goa , the world was asleep. He woke up a boatman, who kissed his hands and thanked God for the chance to serve his son. A gibbous moon scattered into thousands of stars at the rippling breasts of the Mandovi. Nature smiled at him. As the boat rowed towards Las Mangis memories flooded the emptiness of his self. He may have emptied the his mind and body of all worldly thoughts, but nature did not allow void, so it begun to fill up his soul. The canoe's rhythmic tilt, the songs of cicadas, the croaking of frogs, and playful leap of silvery cods, begun to resurrect the man in him. His heart ached. The river heaved with dark longing for the golden moon.

              He shuddered: had he failed even after all these days of penance?

              The bank of Las Mangis was deserted at this hour. He stood for while breathing heavily. The distant hills thrived with dark trees and beyond the steep road, above a hillock, stood a lonely church, its towers desperate to touch the heavens.

              He thanked the boatman and plunged into the heart of loneliness. The road snaked between paddy plantations, small and big houses and huts, cottages and Portuguese- styled bungalows. The island lay ensconced between the river and the sea, hills and forest, paddy fields and maize crops, between the huts of fishermen and pillared houses of rich farmers, between date palms and cashew trees, between the virgin earth and the blue sky.

              The song of cicadas thickened. He walked past the Church of Our Lady; past Farmacia João Menezes, Lisbon poultry, Ganesha store(with a billboard showing a picture of an elephant-faced god feasting on ladoos) Ripley baker, past Mona Lisa STD booth (with an a picture of a frocked priest holding a receiver and slashes of sound waves traveling up heavenward).

              He did not know when he left Furtado villa behind. He hurried through a maze of palas, laburnum, jackbeans and clematis. A volcano smoldered in his chest and his heart pounded like pestle in mortar. How long, how long before the island sniffed his presence. How long before they mobbed him for blessing and deliverance.

              A sting in the sole pulled him to a stop. He sat down, lifted his pajama and wiped a warm bubble. His soles were callused sandpapers. He carried on bare feet with his wounds. They never healed. His path was strewn with far too many thorns. But did he have a choice? Did he ever have a choice?

              Life offered him none.

              He grew up at Bom Jesus Basilica, nurtured on the stories of Jesus and Apostles. Father Rodriguez groomed him as the Son of God. He never doubted his divine callings and went about preaching Gospels and sounding warning about the approaching wrath of God. He was happy, content, and full of gratitude to God. Then one day she slipped into his life and changed it into a battle ground.

              "Oh God, where was he going?

              He must meet her. Must know the secret? He could not fail again. He could not put up with the snigger and mockings of the doubters. He could not let down Ammu when she lied on the death bed. Life has been a long riddle, could Diya untangle it for him. Could he ever be happy?

              He walked straight; heading towards a sleepy habitation of small houses silhouetted in the darkness--- the shrouds of leaves and branches kept off the moon and the stars. The bright light of a watchtower gleamed like a second moon, quarantined by God for going too close to the forsaken earth. A whiff of queen-of-the nigh pulsated in the air and a green light under a tiled canopy told him she still waited for him.


              " When you see the green, you know I long to meet you," she told him one day.

              "Why green? Won't your parents be puzzled?" he asked.

              "The green remind me of your eyes," she said. " And I told my mother that Green keeps away Sea ghosts."

              Green light to invite restless God!

              Green light to put off a Sea Ghost!

              The house stood in the midst of banana groves and toddy palms and beetle nut trees. Inside the waist high four walls, a dark red stone stairway led up to a balcony with stone benches and croton pots—and a rocking chair.

              He knocked at the door. Rustle of bed sheets and soft sound of rubber sleepers. The door opened, first a little, a pair of cautious eyes peeped through the gap, and then it flung wide like arms ready to embrace.

              "Master John?', she whispered. " I waited for you every night…I knew you'll come."

              She led him inside the room. In the faint neon light, the room with its high titled roof and big windows seemed inviting after such a long journey.

              "Who's that, Diya ?" someone coughed.

              "Master John," she replied.

              An old couple doddered out of a side room and bowed. They sat near his feet.

              " What a surprise? We're blessed," the old man said. "

              The lady wiped her eyes and pinned her glaucoma gaze on him; the old man kept coughing. .

              "Why at this hour , Master? " The old man asked.

              "God led me here," he said. "He may have his reasons."

              "Maybe God wants to help us?" The old man looked up at him; His blank eyes were two dried up pools of despair.

              "Is anything wrong?"

              Master John sank back in the chair. Tonight, he did not want to be called upon to resolve human miseries. Tonight, he wanted to fight his own battle.

              "It's about Diya ? She won't marry," the old man said.

              "Why?" Master John asked.

              "She says God does not love her.

              " God loves every one. I'll talk to her."

              Diya returned to set the table and offered him a plate of rice and a bowl of prawn curry. She looked like an angel in a flowing white nightgown with butterfly-like puffs on the shoulders.

              Hot waves of aroma rose from the food. For four week he had either fasted or lived off fruits and water. But still he did not feel like eating. He wanted to be left alone with her. His soul was in turmoil. He ate a few morsels while the couple talked in hushed tone and Diya stood in attendance.



              "I want to have a word with Diya , "he said.

              The old lady looked at the old man, and they smiled. "Bless her, Master. Put some sense in her head, "the old lady said.

              They retired inside the house. Diya closed the door behind them and flashed a chrome-plated battery torch as they walked on the tree-flanked pebbled path. She lit up his way, dispelled his darkness.

              " So you came to know your secret? " she asked, her dark eyes bore into him.

              " Well, yes, I'm curious."

              She laughed and a string of coral tossed in her neck. "Just curious...Aha. You can't fool me, Master. You're haunted by fear. It's written on your face, in your eyes."

              The moon came closer and the tan of her skin glistened on her chiseled cheekbones. Soft sand melted under his feet; ahead of them clamored the restless sea. They trampled over shadows of palms.

              "I missed you, Master? " She stared at him from beneath dark lashes, eyes aglow.

              A massive wave crashed against the shore. White mass of surf leaped and touched his feet. He looked at the formation of another wave in the distance. He ignored her with silence.

              "Someone was inquiring about you, Master?"

              "Who?"


              " A journalist from Mumbai?"


              "I want peace. I'm tired."

              "He insists on meeting you. A nice guy he seems."

              "I want to be left alone for some time.."

              "Can you be happy without me, Master?"

              "Is happiness everything, Diya ?"

              "It's what our soul seeks all the time," she said. "Why do you deny yourself happiness, Master? Why don't you love me when you go around preaching the gospel of Love to others? Why do you torture me?"

              " A Messiah can only preach love, Diya ," he sighed. " He can't rejoice it. That's his destiny. His cross."

              " But there's deliverance even for a Messiah."

              His fingers drew a cross on the wet sand, and after a long pause he hung a man on it.

              "That's it…one can't fight destiny."

              "What's your destiny, Master?"

              He looked straight at the sea. "Christ died on cross"


              "No…no…he chose to die on the cross."

              "What do you mean?" he asked.

              "We make our own destiny."

              She wiped away the cross and drew a man and woman in tight embrace with ducks playing in a pond.

              " I've no choice, Diya ," he said. "Don't you know there are any number of people out there who want to kill me.".

              " Are you scared?".

              " No, you asked about my destiny."

              "Can son of God be so helpless?"

              "Please, Diya , now tell why I lost the healing touch of my fingers," he said. " . I can't betray God. I'll die of shame and guilt."

              "First, let me tell you ask something," she said. "Didn't Jesus allow Magdalene to be with him?"

              "She did serve him," Master John said

              "Well, she did more than that. Jesus is supposed to be father of her child."

              "Stop it..." he shouted above the roar of waves.

              She ignored his command. "We could have great life together, me and you, Master John. God and Diya could co-exist in your life."

              He slumped by an abandoned boat. She sat close to him. He looked up at her. Her dark tresses hung in loose curls over her shoulders. She yawned and lifted her hands. A shiver ran up his spine. He gazed at the smoothness of her nape, the colors of her cheeks, , and her pert mouth. In the moonlight, her face looked luminous. He was reminded of the raredos, the savior and the saint.

              "Tell me the secret? Has it anything to do about my birth?"

              Perhaps she never heard him, or perhaps she chose to ignore him.

              "I'll wash your clothes and breed you God Children. Master John? That's where my salvation lies, and yours, too. "

              A fishing trawler whirred in distance. A strain of soft music filled the air. At the boat, somebody played a depressing note on mouth organ. For a long time, he stared at the sea and listened to the music. The sky looked bigger than ever and the ocean an infinite pool of sadness. A yellow fireball darted across the sky. His mother told him shooting stars brought bad omen if seen at the start of a journey. He cupped his face.

              "Why are you crying, Master?" She caressed his hair.

              In the faint yellow light, her oval face with its sharp feature and big eyes, reminded him of a fresco of Magdalene. Swimming, working 12 hours at the bar, scampering in the forest and hills, gave her a slim and supple body. Her hair flopped around her face; dark line of kohl in her eyes and fine layers of pink on her lips. The fresco came alive.

              The church bell tolled the midnight, like a danger bugle. The suddenness of it jolted him. It was a summon from God: "Come back son, come back…"

              He crossed himself. "Please, Diya . Tell me what you hide from me. Don't torture me… I don't have time. I'm on trial tomorrow."

              "Some other day, Master…some other day…" she said. " I'll tell you everything when the time is ripe. You got to wait till then."

              "What if I fail?"

              "Accept it as a God's will, Master. Don't you ask others not to lose faith?"

              Crickets chirped in the underbrush and a black cat crossed his path. He felt a stab of fear.

              "Please, Diya . Please…I can't fail. Save me. "

              "Come back to me, Master. I'll save you. "

              He threw his hands to the sky. "Forgive me God….protect me Holy Ghost…"

              The heaven remained mute. God ignored his pleas. He went down on his knees and quaked with fear. He dreaded the everlasting torture of hell, snakes and scorpions, fire and brimstones.

              He dreaded the morrow's mass…..

              Will he be able to regain the healing touch of his fingers?






              --
            • novin
              A SAVIOR REBORN/Literary fiction/105,000 words By Navin Upadhyay CHAPTER ONE John s heart throbbed as the baby fluttered in the cradle of his arms and grabbed
              Message 6 of 10 , Feb 12, 2011
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                A SAVIOR REBORN/Literary fiction/105,000 words

                By Navin Upadhyay

                CHAPTER ONE

                John's heart throbbed as the baby fluttered in the cradle of his arms and grabbed the breast pocket of his kurta in a desperate attempt to cling to life.

                "You're the last hope, Master," the infant's mother sobbed and lit yet another candle. Its flames nibbled at the crepuscular gloom around the altar of Our Lady of Hope and filled the back of Father Rodriguez's frock with wavering geckos and scorpions.

                A baby lizard crawled up the Father's neck. "No…no...," John screamed and blew into the candle.

                "What the hell are you doing," the Father's voiced boomed aloud.
                Flames, lizard and scorpions vanished.

                John wiped his forehead. He hated that loud authoritarian voice. It struck at the root of his existence. As if he was nobody. A man without will, and borrowed destiny.

                " What was it?" The Father looked at him as if he'd grown two horns.

                " I can't explain. Please leave it." John's cold voice did not leave scope for argument.

                The lady tiptoed to him and kissed his baby." Her papa is dead. And she is the only one I've in this world, Please do something, Master."

                John wished people will simply call him John. He was nobody's Master and no one was his slave. But that's the way it has been. They all called him Master John.

                " Don's stand there like a statute, son. You must act. Time is running out."

                John moved his healing fingers over the cold bundle of flesh and bone and shuffled across to the main altar. Looking up at the infant Jesus on the golden raredos, he cast out all his suppressed sorrows and despairs in a piercing outcry: "How long, father, how long? How long will your son suffer on the Cross?"

                The ferocity of his supplication vibrated in the air heavy with tears, smoke, camphor and wax; a pigeon darted out from a hole in the roof, and the lady looked seem to shiver cap-a-pie.

                The infant's fingers slipped off his pocket.

                God ignored him.

                "I begged before every doctor in Mumbai," the lady said. "Not in the power of men to save it, they said."

                John cringed. How long before they threw stones at him? His last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now these—he can't even revive an infant.

                He didn't have much time. Soon the first flicker of sunlight will fill up the chancel and choir and the crowd of `seekers' from Goa and across India throng Bom Jesus Basilica for blessing and miracles.

                They saw God in him, but he was a big let down.

                A Big let down indeed.

                " Don't be so nervous, Son," Father Rodriguez's voice boomed. " You can do it again."

                The Father was wrong. John had performed many miracle before, cured numerous sickness in the past, but now he was like a gypsy without his crystal ball. He'd lost something, and his powers were gone with it . Was it his faith or something even bigger---his Divinity? Had he been reduced to just another human being?

                " No, Father, I can never do it again," he said.
                Father Rodriguez stubbed the tip of his silver-handle stick at the floor and stood staring at him. Then he moved. With every eerie sound of the tap, John wanted to escape from the cathedral and hide among people who did not care if he was son of a god or devil.

                " Bring me down from this cross, Father." He closed his eyes and his lips trembled. "I want to live."

                The priest stood before him like an aged three-legged monsters who had still not lost his predatory instinct. A tall and hefty monster with bushy eye brows, deep set eyes and long hands with squat palms.

                " Purge your mind, you fool." he roared." God won't spare you if you let him down. You're his son."

                With the back of his hand, John brushed off sweat drops that soaked his ducktail beard, and then turned to a life-size sandstone Christ in a side chapel.

                Why do they see You in Me when I'm so apart, Jesus? I' so fair, and you so tanned for your rigors? Anyone can grow big hair and curl his beard. Anyone can have your height and profile? Or I'm little taller and more emaciated than you--- you my crucified brother? Do I share the curve and shape of your sharp nose and long ears? Maybe or maybe not?

                I'm confused, Jesus.

                And If I'm really the Chosen One, then why turn me into such a louse
                who can't even gift a few breaths to a dying child? Look, Jesus, look at his mother, look at her tears; look how she shivers like a lonely palm in the wind--whipped desert of Sinai ?
                Silence.

                Jesus didn't hear, or if he did so, he chose to ignore him.
                "Throw her of your mind or face the wrath of God," Father Rodriguez said.

                How can one separate rays from the sun, mind from body? She was part of him. Part of his bones, flesh and soul. Can he survive the wound if he exercised her out of his life? Can mind survive without neurons and axons and heart without capillaries?

                The lady looked at John and then turned to Father Rodriguez.
                " Sorry, lady," the priest said. " But I'm talking about a temptress."

                The woman lit up more candles and burnt more camphor, but Jesus and the Blessed saints had their ears shut by beeswax of indifference. How did they expect him to carry their yokes when they won't even give him a helping hand? They'd got so used to their cozy comforts that they abandoned their missions. Must he alone carry the cross of entire divinity?

                For one last time, the infant shook its legs and flapped its palms. Then the body settled down between his hands and a pair of snowy irises stared at John from behind unblinking eyes. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.

                " Open that window " Father Rodriguez told the lady. " John needs some clean air and light."

                Clean air and light, does not everyone else need them too. Why he alone? Was he a sinner? Can Father Rodriguez live without clean air and light. Then it struck him that bats didn't need clear air and light. And so did snakes. He was not surely of their species. But what about all those who can live without clear air and light? Why her grandma never came out of her room ? Why Father Rodriguez remained shut inside his room, praying and fasting, in darkness, without clean air and light..

                The lady opened the door and a dusty parallelogram of rays stirred to life the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier.

                "Seek the mercy of St Xavier," Father Rodriguez said, his eyes fixed on John.

                John turned towards the massive three-layer sarcophagus and crossed himself.

                "You can do it, son. Plead for mercy. He can still give back your powers. Look at his body, still like mine and yours, and he's not breathed for 400 years."

                John read a silent prayer and then walked to the holy casket. He placed the infant at the sarcophagus and stood praying. Perhaps Francis Xavier will save his honor. After all, John had gone around mobilizing the heathens for the decennial exposition when the blessed body would be showcased as a reminder of the Saint's marvel. John was just 12 when the last exposition took place in 1980. But he never forgot the crowd and the fervor of faith and tales of cures and healings.

                "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"

                He spilled his heart out. He banged his head against the casket. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard and sweats slicked his palms. From the days of childhood, he had lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons.

                The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. "Don't cry, you`ll surely reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment," John said. He did not know what else he could do.

                She stared at him. Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.

                Then in a fit of frenzy she lifted the child and begun kissing it --- nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes--- as if her maternal love will make up for John's devotional failure.

                Having done that, she covered the infant's face with a portion of her sari and came face to face with John. " Rascal," she said and caught him by the collar. Her nails dug nails into his chest. " I hate you."

                A glob of spit hit him on the nose.

                " Stop it," Father Rodriguez shouted. "Stop it."

                She scampered towards the door, hitting against benches in the pew, hurling curses and raising the fury of hell.

                "Trust me, I did all I could do," John said after the lady.
                She turned back and hissed. " God will never forgive you…you shall suffer my agony … you are cursed."

                A chill tugged at John's heart.

                "It's too bad. She 'd have come to our fold." Father Rodriguez said.

                "What happen to her now?" John asked.

                "Like other Hindus, she'll go to hell."

                " Even if she never harmed anyone and helped the poor and the meek?"

                " Don't talk like an advocate of Devil," Father Rodriguez shouted. .

                "You've not answered me, Father." John said in his cold , impersonal voice that made him such an aloof a creature. But then his impersonal voice was part of his impersonal self. After all he was Son of God.

                " We're all born sinners," the Father said.

                " Even without committing a sin?"

                " Sin is part of the flesh, son?"

                "So even you're a sinner, Father?"

                "Of course. So are your mother, and your Grandma and your grandpa and
                everyone you know and don't know."

                "And unless the body is purified by the blessing of Christ one can't go to heaven?"

                "Yes."

                "Am I also a sinner, Father?"

                "You're born sinless, just like Jesus."

                "So even if I killed someone, I'll go to heaven?"

                "No, the God will punish you more if you let him down."

                "In that case, either I serve his wishes or rot in hell."

                "It's not about you, son. Think of the world. Can you let millions
                rot in hell for your pleasures?" Father Rodriguez's voice mellowed.

                He patted John's shoulder and kissed his forehead. " You're Ammu,
                grandma, Grandpa and me."

                Ma in hell. Ammu in hell. Grandma in hell. Grandpa in hell. Fire raging around Ammu's soft flesh. Grandma roasting in oven. Grandpa in hot oil. Father Rodriguez devoured by geckos and scorpions.

                He shook his head and grasped the Father's hand. He wrestled with a sudden desire to hug the priest and seek his forgiveness..

                " Trust me , I'll never put you on a wrong path, Son?"
                John never doubted the priest. Father Rodriguez 's heart must bleed
                in urging him the to walk the difficult path of God. Which father would like his son to go on carrying a cross every day, every hour. And Father Rodriguez was more than his father.

                "Father---" the world hung in the air as sound of footfalls and chime of anklets turned John to the door. Not now, God. He could not face her now.

                Tanya came wrapped in a mourning black gown that fluttered around her slim profile. The wind blew her disheveled hair and her swollen eyes told him she had not slept all night. She looked at Father Rodriguez and froze.

                " Didn't I ask you to keep off him," Father Rodriguez said.

                " Someone is dying," she said.

                " Don't count on me, Tanya," John sighed. " I failed to revive even a child just now."

                " Have faith in God, Master?"
                Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him.

                " Don't be so unhappy, Master." She tried to caress his hair.
                He pushed her away.

                " You need care and love, Master. Let me be your servant." 0

                "I have to walk in the path of Lord."

                " Just because this man wants you to do so? Just because he thinks Love is sin? Ask him why God didn't grow human beings on trees if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"

                He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion.

                Father Rodriguez's small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up.

                "I told you not to stalk Master John?" he hissed.

                "But you ask people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" She cocked her head and stared at the priest.

                "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."

                "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna , Father?"

                "Get out of here." The priest positioned himself between her and John.

                "You don't own up God or the church, Father."

                "Fear God, you fool."

                "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."
                John wished Father Rodriguez would not be so hostile to Tanya. But then the Hindus were dirtballs for the priest, and Tanya a temptress of the Devil.

                "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "

                "Father, please---"

                "That`s why God has abandoned you…that's why you're so miserable."
                John turned to her. Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair.

                "Rid of her," Father Rodriguez said. "You're the Chosen One, John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"

                Hell or Heaven? His mind was stockpiled with catechisms of after-life abodes. For twenty years or more, ever since as a five-year toddler he came under Father Rodriguez's tutelage, he had been daily fed those tales. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on.

                He shook his head and a cry erupted from his mouth. "No…No ...No… God."

                Tanya clasped his hands and her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes: Don't leave me, Master John….don't leave me…

                "Wake up...wake up…the world needs you, son…."

                A strong sense of guilt welled in his heart and drowned all other feeling and emotions. His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity looked all set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven.

                The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. He crashed in the pew. A scaffolding of fragile bones and a broken heart.

                She bent over him and offered her hands. His eyes fell on the divide under her low-cut blouse and traveled down to the long black skirt that accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He begun to shiver and then freed himself with such force that she almost lost her balance.

                "Leave me, Tanya...Go away….our paths are different."

                Her face lost its color and the tanned skin looked darker. Her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. "Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."

                The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.

                John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.

                "This way, you'll never be happy …never. And remember, an unhappy soul can never serve God." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.

                The priest held his hands and dragged him. "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindus."

                "Come out of his clutch," she shouted. "God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master, but Devil wants them to be miserable."
                The priest pulled him again. "Let us go from here." There was urgency in his voice.

                "I know why you failed to heal, Master. You'll fail again. I know the secret."

                "Tanya…"

                "Forget her," Father Rodriguez yelled as they entered the transept and hurried towards the living quarters.

                "Come back to, Master. I know the secret." Her soft voice still trailed him.

                Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed and sobbed. A Chosen son of God or another human being?
                Who was he?
                __
                That sorrowful night, when unable to sleep he churned in the bed , she came and drowned him in a seductive aroma of ripened cashews and roses. She ran her slender fingers on his face, down his neck, over his broad chest, and down to his tout belly. The touch excited him. He had not known such joy of abandonment for a long time.

                When he woke up, the sun cascaded through the window, and Father Rodriguez stood scrutinizing the bed. Master John followed his gaze, and saw a smaller stain in the middle of the crumpled sheet and a bigger one on his pajama.

                "Come to the study," the priest said and dragged his stick as if he reeled under a massive burden that his aged body could not lift up.
                The priest handed him a thick book, its pages brittle like osteoporosis-inflicted bones. An unidentified work, penned by an author, whose name had disappeared along with the cover pages.

                "Read it tonight, and every night before you go to bed," he said. " And strictly follow the instructions."

                John read the book and learnt that the could land him in hell. That he must penance so that never again he wallowed in carnal thoughts ----and sin.

                Hell again…Hell for Ammu, Grandma, Grandpa...for millions others. Fire, oil. Lizard and scorpions.

                He prayed and burnt fragrance in his room to leave no place for her sensual presence. He wept like a child and begged forgiveness from the angry God.

                But he failed. Just after midnight his eyes closed, and she returned to explore his face and belly. He woke up with the explosion of warm flow on his pajama and sheet.
                ===

                "You can't go on like this," Father Rodriguez said.

                "Like what?"

                "Do you doubt your mother is a virgin?"

                "Ma is like a Goddess to me."

                " Then you should know who you are." "

                He kept looking at the wooden cross on the table.

                "Ever thought how you cured the sick and exorcise the possessed?"
                Goose bump crawled up his chest and his fingers shivered.

                `Think about it. If you were not sent on mission to deliver the sinners, God would never have blessed you with his powers."

                That was it. If he was not the Chosen One, whence came his power to work those miracles? He must accept his role, he must accept the cross.

                "Dread his fury. If he could bless you, he could also punish you," Father Rodriguez leaned across the table. " Never forget hell and its everlasting torture."

                Hell…he shuddered. The harrowing description of the God's torture chamber with its lakes of fire and sulphur, weeping, tears, creaking of teeth, frightened him. He must cleanse his body and soul. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake: his own salvation; salvation of the world. He must return to his mission. He must forget her.

                He grasped the priest`s hand. " Bring the nails and hammer, Father ."

                " What?"

                " I know why Christ opted for the cross."

                " Son…"

                " He was afraid of hell like me, Father."

                " No, he died for the sake of us, son. "

                "He died or he was killed?"

                " What do you think?"

                "He was killed."

                "You're confused. Just now you said he opted for the cross."

                " He turned his killing into martyrdom."

                " Why are you talking like that, son?

                " Because I know, no one will choose to die on the cross if he'd a choice."

                " I don't understand you."

                " I also don'[t have a choice, Father."

                "To do what?"

                "To live my own life."

                " What you`ve decided."

                "I'll fulfill my destiny."

                " Let me first regain my powers."

                ++
                He devoted himself to prayer. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spent hours reciting Pater Noster. He gave up food, and suffered from headaches and nausea. He must gain his powers, if wanted to fulfill his destiny and save the heathens.

                After a week hunger vanished and his body became light and mind empty. On the eleventh day, when he stood up after a two-hour prayer, his head spun and whirlpool of darkness engulfed him. His legs trembled. He groped for support and just as he caught hold of wooden cross, the earth below seemed to cave in. He collapsed and then with a rattling noise that shattered the peace of the church, the cross came over him and pinned him to the floor. He tried to get up, but the cross would not move. " God…rescue me," he shouted, and made another effort to stand. But the burden grew heavier. He dragged himself and bruised his elbows and knees. And then…then in that moment, when he gave up all resistance and hope, she came, and held out her milky hands. He tried to hold them, but then came a fierce outcry and flapping of wings. A dark-winged beast tore through the windowpanes, and clutched her in his talons. She cried for help, but Father Rodriguez held him back.


                On waking up, he again struggled with doubts.

                Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?

                Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.

                He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the time when the night and the moon did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God.

                A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall.

                Tanya did not matter.

                It was then Father Rodriguez directed him to attend a mass two days later at Ponda. You must resume your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and save the heathens. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd, Father Rodriguez said.

                " There will be four hundreds heathens. If you can bring all of them to Christ, it'll be a big gain, Son."

                " I'll do that, Father, "he said. " Don't you worry."

                ===
              • Wings081
                Hi Novin As promised earlier, I will critique your work, but I would ask you, in this particular instance, to allow me to refrain from digging too deep. My
                Message 7 of 10 , Feb 13, 2011
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                  Hi Novin
                  As promised earlier, I will critique your work, but I would ask you, in this particular instance, to allow me to refrain from digging too deep.
                  My reason is: less than two years have passed since I lost a baby girl close relative who survived for only a few brief hours. From my favourite armchair I can see a photo of my Lily taken for the short time she was allowed to share our lives.
                  And so my friend, I must ask you to excuse my reticence on this occasion and allow me to pick up on typos and other possible errors.

                  "Don's stand there like a statue". I believe you meant Don't not Don's.
                  "Lady looked seem to shiver cap-a-pie." You've lost me there.
                  "Like other Hindus, she'll go to hell". You're treading on unstable ground with that statement and that is the reason religion is usually a `no go' area on this site.
                  "Down to his tout belly" should that read `taut belly'
                  "And learnt that the could land him in hell" The What could land him in hell.
                  "No other though crossed his mind" Should though be `Thought'?.
                  Last one I promise: The screen behind the altar is called the reredos not raredos.
                  I hope this is of some help and look forward to more from you.
                  As always
                  Wings

                  --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "novin" <novin_kr@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > A SAVIOR REBORN/Literary fiction/105,000 words
                  >
                  > By Navin Upadhyay
                  >
                  > CHAPTER ONE
                  >
                  > John's heart throbbed as the baby fluttered in the cradle of his arms and grabbed the breast pocket of his kurta in a desperate attempt to cling to life.
                  >
                  > "You're the last hope, Master," the infant's mother sobbed and lit yet another candle. Its flames nibbled at the crepuscular gloom around the altar of Our Lady of Hope and filled the back of Father Rodriguez's frock with wavering geckos and scorpions.
                  >
                  > A baby lizard crawled up the Father's neck. "No…no...," John screamed and blew into the candle.
                  >
                  > "What the hell are you doing," the Father's voiced boomed aloud.
                  > Flames, lizard and scorpions vanished.
                  >
                  > John wiped his forehead. He hated that loud authoritarian voice. It struck at the root of his existence. As if he was nobody. A man without will, and borrowed destiny.
                  >
                  > " What was it?" The Father looked at him as if he'd grown two horns.
                  >
                  > " I can't explain. Please leave it." John's cold voice did not leave scope for argument.
                  >
                  > The lady tiptoed to him and kissed his baby." Her papa is dead. And she is the only one I've in this world, Please do something, Master."
                  >
                  > John wished people will simply call him John. He was nobody's Master and no one was his slave. But that's the way it has been. They all called him Master John.
                  >
                  > " Don's stand there like a statute, son. You must act. Time is running out."
                  >
                  > John moved his healing fingers over the cold bundle of flesh and bone and shuffled across to the main altar. Looking up at the infant Jesus on the golden raredos, he cast out all his suppressed sorrows and despairs in a piercing outcry: "How long, father, how long? How long will your son suffer on the Cross?"
                  >
                  > The ferocity of his supplication vibrated in the air heavy with tears, smoke, camphor and wax; a pigeon darted out from a hole in the roof, and the lady looked seem to shiver cap-a-pie.
                  >
                  > The infant's fingers slipped off his pocket.
                  >
                  > God ignored him.
                  >
                  > "I begged before every doctor in Mumbai," the lady said. "Not in the power of men to save it, they said."
                  >
                  > John cringed. How long before they threw stones at him? His last two faith-healing masses were disastrous, and now these—he can't even revive an infant.
                  >
                  > He didn't have much time. Soon the first flicker of sunlight will fill up the chancel and choir and the crowd of `seekers' from Goa and across India throng Bom Jesus Basilica for blessing and miracles.
                  >
                  > They saw God in him, but he was a big let down.
                  >
                  > A Big let down indeed.
                  >
                  > " Don't be so nervous, Son," Father Rodriguez's voice boomed. " You can do it again."
                  >
                  > The Father was wrong. John had performed many miracle before, cured numerous sickness in the past, but now he was like a gypsy without his crystal ball. He'd lost something, and his powers were gone with it . Was it his faith or something even bigger---his Divinity? Had he been reduced to just another human being?
                  >
                  > " No, Father, I can never do it again," he said.
                  > Father Rodriguez stubbed the tip of his silver-handle stick at the floor and stood staring at him. Then he moved. With every eerie sound of the tap, John wanted to escape from the cathedral and hide among people who did not care if he was son of a god or devil.
                  >
                  > " Bring me down from this cross, Father." He closed his eyes and his lips trembled. "I want to live."
                  >
                  > The priest stood before him like an aged three-legged monsters who had still not lost his predatory instinct. A tall and hefty monster with bushy eye brows, deep set eyes and long hands with squat palms.
                  >
                  > " Purge your mind, you fool." he roared." God won't spare you if you let him down. You're his son."
                  >
                  > With the back of his hand, John brushed off sweat drops that soaked his ducktail beard, and then turned to a life-size sandstone Christ in a side chapel.
                  >
                  > Why do they see You in Me when I'm so apart, Jesus? I' so fair, and you so tanned for your rigors? Anyone can grow big hair and curl his beard. Anyone can have your height and profile? Or I'm little taller and more emaciated than you--- you my crucified brother? Do I share the curve and shape of your sharp nose and long ears? Maybe or maybe not?
                  >
                  > I'm confused, Jesus.
                  >
                  > And If I'm really the Chosen One, then why turn me into such a louse
                  > who can't even gift a few breaths to a dying child? Look, Jesus, look at his mother, look at her tears; look how she shivers like a lonely palm in the wind--whipped desert of Sinai ?
                  > Silence.
                  >
                  > Jesus didn't hear, or if he did so, he chose to ignore him.
                  > "Throw her of your mind or face the wrath of God," Father Rodriguez said.
                  >
                  > How can one separate rays from the sun, mind from body? She was part of him. Part of his bones, flesh and soul. Can he survive the wound if he exercised her out of his life? Can mind survive without neurons and axons and heart without capillaries?
                  >
                  > The lady looked at John and then turned to Father Rodriguez.
                  > " Sorry, lady," the priest said. " But I'm talking about a temptress."
                  >
                  > The woman lit up more candles and burnt more camphor, but Jesus and the Blessed saints had their ears shut by beeswax of indifference. How did they expect him to carry their yokes when they won't even give him a helping hand? They'd got so used to their cozy comforts that they abandoned their missions. Must he alone carry the cross of entire divinity?
                  >
                  > For one last time, the infant shook its legs and flapped its palms. Then the body settled down between his hands and a pair of snowy irises stared at John from behind unblinking eyes. It was a gaze of innocence, seeking nothing, neither Life nor Heaven.
                  >
                  > " Open that window " Father Rodriguez told the lady. " John needs some clean air and light."
                  >
                  > Clean air and light, does not everyone else need them too. Why he alone? Was he a sinner? Can Father Rodriguez live without clean air and light. Then it struck him that bats didn't need clear air and light. And so did snakes. He was not surely of their species. But what about all those who can live without clear air and light? Why her grandma never came out of her room ? Why Father Rodriguez remained shut inside his room, praying and fasting, in darkness, without clean air and light..
                  >
                  > The lady opened the door and a dusty parallelogram of rays stirred to life the northern transept and within it the mammoth sarcophagus of St Francis Xavier.
                  >
                  > "Seek the mercy of St Xavier," Father Rodriguez said, his eyes fixed on John.
                  >
                  > John turned towards the massive three-layer sarcophagus and crossed himself.
                  >
                  > "You can do it, son. Plead for mercy. He can still give back your powers. Look at his body, still like mine and yours, and he's not breathed for 400 years."
                  >
                  > John read a silent prayer and then walked to the holy casket. He placed the infant at the sarcophagus and stood praying. Perhaps Francis Xavier will save his honor. After all, John had gone around mobilizing the heathens for the decennial exposition when the blessed body would be showcased as a reminder of the Saint's marvel. John was just 12 when the last exposition took place in 1980. But he never forgot the crowd and the fervor of faith and tales of cures and healings.
                  >
                  > "One more miracle, Goachenvo, one more---"
                  >
                  > He spilled his heart out. He banged his head against the casket. Tears coursed down the tangle of his beard and sweats slicked his palms. From the days of childhood, he had lit up vigil light at the brass candelabrum in this transept, but even Francis Xavier ignored his summons.
                  >
                  > The lady attempted to say something but grief choked her voice as if some unseen hands garroted her throat. "Don't cry, you`ll surely reunite with your son on the Day of Judgment," John said. He did not know what else he could do.
                  >
                  > She stared at him. Anger, betrayal, hurt, he could not pinpoint the expression of those eyes.
                  >
                  > Then in a fit of frenzy she lifted the child and begun kissing it --- nose, lips, forehead, cheeks, eyes--- as if her maternal love will make up for John's devotional failure.
                  >
                  > Having done that, she covered the infant's face with a portion of her sari and came face to face with John. " Rascal," she said and caught him by the collar. Her nails dug nails into his chest. " I hate you."
                  >
                  > A glob of spit hit him on the nose.
                  >
                  > " Stop it," Father Rodriguez shouted. "Stop it."
                  >
                  > She scampered towards the door, hitting against benches in the pew, hurling curses and raising the fury of hell.
                  >
                  > "Trust me, I did all I could do," John said after the lady.
                  > She turned back and hissed. " God will never forgive you…you shall suffer my agony … you are cursed."
                  >
                  > A chill tugged at John's heart.
                  >
                  > "It's too bad. She 'd have come to our fold." Father Rodriguez said.
                  >
                  > "What happen to her now?" John asked.
                  >
                  > "Like other Hindus, she'll go to hell."
                  >
                  > " Even if she never harmed anyone and helped the poor and the meek?"
                  >
                  > " Don't talk like an advocate of Devil," Father Rodriguez shouted. .
                  >
                  > "You've not answered me, Father." John said in his cold , impersonal voice that made him such an aloof a creature. But then his impersonal voice was part of his impersonal self. After all he was Son of God.
                  >
                  > " We're all born sinners," the Father said.
                  >
                  > " Even without committing a sin?"
                  >
                  > " Sin is part of the flesh, son?"
                  >
                  > "So even you're a sinner, Father?"
                  >
                  > "Of course. So are your mother, and your Grandma and your grandpa and
                  > everyone you know and don't know."
                  >
                  > "And unless the body is purified by the blessing of Christ one can't go to heaven?"
                  >
                  > "Yes."
                  >
                  > "Am I also a sinner, Father?"
                  >
                  > "You're born sinless, just like Jesus."
                  >
                  > "So even if I killed someone, I'll go to heaven?"
                  >
                  > "No, the God will punish you more if you let him down."
                  >
                  > "In that case, either I serve his wishes or rot in hell."
                  >
                  > "It's not about you, son. Think of the world. Can you let millions
                  > rot in hell for your pleasures?" Father Rodriguez's voice mellowed.
                  >
                  > He patted John's shoulder and kissed his forehead. " You're Ammu,
                  > grandma, Grandpa and me."
                  >
                  > Ma in hell. Ammu in hell. Grandma in hell. Grandpa in hell. Fire raging around Ammu's soft flesh. Grandma roasting in oven. Grandpa in hot oil. Father Rodriguez devoured by geckos and scorpions.
                  >
                  > He shook his head and grasped the Father's hand. He wrestled with a sudden desire to hug the priest and seek his forgiveness..
                  >
                  > " Trust me , I'll never put you on a wrong path, Son?"
                  > John never doubted the priest. Father Rodriguez 's heart must bleed
                  > in urging him the to walk the difficult path of God. Which father would like his son to go on carrying a cross every day, every hour. And Father Rodriguez was more than his father.
                  >
                  > "Father---" the world hung in the air as sound of footfalls and chime of anklets turned John to the door. Not now, God. He could not face her now.
                  >
                  > Tanya came wrapped in a mourning black gown that fluttered around her slim profile. The wind blew her disheveled hair and her swollen eyes told him she had not slept all night. She looked at Father Rodriguez and froze.
                  >
                  > " Didn't I ask you to keep off him," Father Rodriguez said.
                  >
                  > " Someone is dying," she said.
                  >
                  > " Don't count on me, Tanya," John sighed. " I failed to revive even a child just now."
                  >
                  > " Have faith in God, Master?"
                  > Have faith in God? When did he ever lose his faith? It was the other way round: God had lost faith in him.
                  >
                  > " Don't be so unhappy, Master." She tried to caress his hair.
                  > He pushed her away.
                  >
                  > " You need care and love, Master. Let me be your servant." 0
                  >
                  > "I have to walk in the path of Lord."
                  >
                  > " Just because this man wants you to do so? Just because he thinks Love is sin? Ask him why God didn't grow human beings on trees if Original Sin was indeed the Original Sin?"
                  >
                  > He wished someone could draw the line between sin and virtue for him, and clear the cobwebs of confusion.
                  >
                  > Father Rodriguez's small eyes twitched like lancet windows of a sunlit minaret. His long nostrils flared and lips curled up.
                  >
                  > "I told you not to stalk Master John?" he hissed.
                  >
                  > "But you ask people to walk in the path of Lord, Father?" She cocked her head and stared at the priest.
                  >
                  > "You'd be better walking the path of your Gods."
                  >
                  > "I see no differences between Christ and Krishna , Father?"
                  >
                  > "Get out of here." The priest positioned himself between her and John.
                  >
                  > "You don't own up God or the church, Father."
                  >
                  > "Fear God, you fool."
                  >
                  > "I love God, Father," she said. "You may have reasons to fear him."
                  > John wished Father Rodriguez would not be so hostile to Tanya. But then the Hindus were dirtballs for the priest, and Tanya a temptress of the Devil.
                  >
                  > "Keep off her, John. My eyes still see, and see well. See is trying to snare you---. "
                  >
                  > "Father, please---"
                  >
                  > "That`s why God has abandoned you…that's why you're so miserable."
                  > John turned to her. Her eyes cased a pleading look, a look of helplessness and despair.
                  >
                  > "Rid of her," Father Rodriguez said. "You're the Chosen One, John. Betray God, and you rot in hell, follow his wishes and you`ll have a seat by him in heaven. Decide what you want?"
                  >
                  > Hell or Heaven? His mind was stockpiled with catechisms of after-life abodes. For twenty years or more, ever since as a five-year toddler he came under Father Rodriguez's tutelage, he had been daily fed those tales. Heaven and hell were as real for him as the earth he walked on.
                  >
                  > He shook his head and a cry erupted from his mouth. "No…No ...No… God."
                  >
                  > Tanya clasped his hands and her eyes brimmed with tears. He knew the look of those trusting eyes: Don't leave me, Master John….don't leave me…
                  >
                  > "Wake up...wake up…the world needs you, son…."
                  >
                  > A strong sense of guilt welled in his heart and drowned all other feeling and emotions. His head swam and his legs wobbled. The raredos and the Divine assembly of St Loyola, infant Jesus and Holy Trinity looked all set to punish him for letting down the Father in heaven.
                  >
                  > The hall danced around him, and darkness filled his mind. The balconies above his head crashed and the altars and pulpits shook. He crashed in the pew. A scaffolding of fragile bones and a broken heart.
                  >
                  > She bent over him and offered her hands. His eyes fell on the divide under her low-cut blouse and traveled down to the long black skirt that accentuated the sharpness of her profile. He begun to shiver and then freed himself with such force that she almost lost her balance.
                  >
                  > "Leave me, Tanya...Go away….our paths are different."
                  >
                  > Her face lost its color and the tanned skin looked darker. Her eyes dazzled like the glare of a tigress in the dark. "Don't allow him to trap you, Master. Not for heaven or hell."
                  >
                  > The point of Father Rodriguez's stick clattered like the tail of an angry rattlesnake.
                  >
                  > John lowered his gaze and didn't speak.
                  >
                  > "This way, you'll never be happy …never. And remember, an unhappy soul can never serve God." Her voice was even, it betrayed no anger or bitterness.
                  >
                  > The priest held his hands and dragged him. "Don't listen to her, Son. She is an agent of the Hindus."
                  >
                  > "Come out of his clutch," she shouted. "God wants his son and daughters to be happy, Master, but Devil wants them to be miserable."
                  > The priest pulled him again. "Let us go from here." There was urgency in his voice.
                  >
                  > "I know why you failed to heal, Master. You'll fail again. I know the secret."
                  >
                  > "Tanya…"
                  >
                  > "Forget her," Father Rodriguez yelled as they entered the transept and hurried towards the living quarters.
                  >
                  > "Come back to, Master. I know the secret." Her soft voice still trailed him.
                  >
                  > Back in his room, he collapsed in the bed and sobbed. A Chosen son of God or another human being?
                  > Who was he?
                  > __
                  > That sorrowful night, when unable to sleep he churned in the bed , she came and drowned him in a seductive aroma of ripened cashews and roses. She ran her slender fingers on his face, down his neck, over his broad chest, and down to his tout belly. The touch excited him. He had not known such joy of abandonment for a long time.
                  >
                  > When he woke up, the sun cascaded through the window, and Father Rodriguez stood scrutinizing the bed. Master John followed his gaze, and saw a smaller stain in the middle of the crumpled sheet and a bigger one on his pajama.
                  >
                  > "Come to the study," the priest said and dragged his stick as if he reeled under a massive burden that his aged body could not lift up.
                  > The priest handed him a thick book, its pages brittle like osteoporosis-inflicted bones. An unidentified work, penned by an author, whose name had disappeared along with the cover pages.
                  >
                  > "Read it tonight, and every night before you go to bed," he said. " And strictly follow the instructions."
                  >
                  > John read the book and learnt that the could land him in hell. That he must penance so that never again he wallowed in carnal thoughts ----and sin.
                  >
                  > Hell again…Hell for Ammu, Grandma, Grandpa...for millions others. Fire, oil. Lizard and scorpions.
                  >
                  > He prayed and burnt fragrance in his room to leave no place for her sensual presence. He wept like a child and begged forgiveness from the angry God.
                  >
                  > But he failed. Just after midnight his eyes closed, and she returned to explore his face and belly. He woke up with the explosion of warm flow on his pajama and sheet.
                  > ===
                  >
                  > "You can't go on like this," Father Rodriguez said.
                  >
                  > "Like what?"
                  >
                  > "Do you doubt your mother is a virgin?"
                  >
                  > "Ma is like a Goddess to me."
                  >
                  > " Then you should know who you are." "
                  >
                  > He kept looking at the wooden cross on the table.
                  >
                  > "Ever thought how you cured the sick and exorcise the possessed?"
                  > Goose bump crawled up his chest and his fingers shivered.
                  >
                  > `Think about it. If you were not sent on mission to deliver the sinners, God would never have blessed you with his powers."
                  >
                  > That was it. If he was not the Chosen One, whence came his power to work those miracles? He must accept his role, he must accept the cross.
                  >
                  > "Dread his fury. If he could bless you, he could also punish you," Father Rodriguez leaned across the table. " Never forget hell and its everlasting torture."
                  >
                  > Hell…he shuddered. The harrowing description of the God's torture chamber with its lakes of fire and sulphur, weeping, tears, creaking of teeth, frightened him. He must cleanse his body and soul. He must return to the path of God. He must conquer his longings and desires. There was much at stake: his own salvation; salvation of the world. He must return to his mission. He must forget her.
                  >
                  > He grasped the priest`s hand. " Bring the nails and hammer, Father ."
                  >
                  > " What?"
                  >
                  > " I know why Christ opted for the cross."
                  >
                  > " Son…"
                  >
                  > " He was afraid of hell like me, Father."
                  >
                  > " No, he died for the sake of us, son. "
                  >
                  > "He died or he was killed?"
                  >
                  > " What do you think?"
                  >
                  > "He was killed."
                  >
                  > "You're confused. Just now you said he opted for the cross."
                  >
                  > " He turned his killing into martyrdom."
                  >
                  > " Why are you talking like that, son?
                  >
                  > " Because I know, no one will choose to die on the cross if he'd a choice."
                  >
                  > " I don't understand you."
                  >
                  > " I also don'[t have a choice, Father."
                  >
                  > "To do what?"
                  >
                  > "To live my own life."
                  >
                  > " What you`ve decided."
                  >
                  > "I'll fulfill my destiny."
                  >
                  > " Let me first regain my powers."
                  >
                  > ++
                  > He devoted himself to prayer. He never came out of his room except for ablution and food. He wept, he cried, he stood before the altar and begged God to light up his path. He spent hours reciting Pater Noster. He gave up food, and suffered from headaches and nausea. He must gain his powers, if wanted to fulfill his destiny and save the heathens.
                  >
                  > After a week hunger vanished and his body became light and mind empty. On the eleventh day, when he stood up after a two-hour prayer, his head spun and whirlpool of darkness engulfed him. His legs trembled. He groped for support and just as he caught hold of wooden cross, the earth below seemed to cave in. He collapsed and then with a rattling noise that shattered the peace of the church, the cross came over him and pinned him to the floor. He tried to get up, but the cross would not move. " God…rescue me," he shouted, and made another effort to stand. But the burden grew heavier. He dragged himself and bruised his elbows and knees. And then…then in that moment, when he gave up all resistance and hope, she came, and held out her milky hands. He tried to hold them, but then came a fierce outcry and flapping of wings. A dark-winged beast tore through the windowpanes, and clutched her in his talons. She cried for help, but Father Rodriguez held him back.
                  >
                  >
                  > On waking up, he again struggled with doubts.
                  >
                  > Messiah or man. Mind or soul. Body or heart. What should be annihilated, what saved?
                  >
                  > Mind accepted the crown of Messiah and soul cried out for the suffering of the man; and together they urged him to follow the path of God. But the body had its own desires, and the heart had its own needs, and together they warned that Messiahs were cursed to live without love and care, and condemned to drink their own sorrows and sorrows of the world.
                  >
                  > He prayed to conquer the weakness of his flesh, to break her spell, to take him back to the time when the night and the moon did not fill him with sensuous longings. He thought of nothing but God, sought nothing but God.
                  >
                  > A month passed, then another one. Weakness overwhelmed him. Flesh and its desire melted away. His mind was a big void. He felt as if he`d been drifting down , falling through a fathomless pit. No other though crossed his mind except the dreaded sensation of an all-annihilating fall.
                  >
                  > Tanya did not matter.
                  >
                  > It was then Father Rodriguez directed him to attend a mass two days later at Ponda. You must resume your mission now : heal the sick, help the lame sprint, give light to the blind, fill up barren wombs, and save the heathens. On the Day of Judgment, you have to be their light, their chaperon, their sailor and their shepherd, Father Rodriguez said.
                  >
                  > " There will be four hundreds heathens. If you can bring all of them to Christ, it'll be a big gain, Son."
                  >
                  > " I'll do that, Father, "he said. " Don't you worry."
                  >
                  > ===
                  >
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