Disclaimers: Indiana Jones created by Stephen Spielberg. Chattar Lal, portrayed by the talented Roshan Seth.
No monetary profits are being made here.
Summary: Chattar Lal is given a new lease on life.
Author’s Notes: Set before, during and after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, (1984) Chattar’s history here, invention of Seawave. Fic first written in 1998 (since revised and edited) … Anyways, obviously long before the Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull. (At first, the 'new' Indiana Jones movie rumoured to feature Chattar Lal –supposedly portrayed as a bad guy out for revenge. Poor Chattar! Couldn’t they pick on someone else??!! Anyway I'm glad to say the rumour turned out to be just that, if not this story would have to be an AU :) (It was a quite a good movie in the end) That's what fanfic's for, playing, creating and exploring all sorts of avenues for the characters, taking them deeper, scenes you wanted to see, read and it truly is a labour of love :)
Rating M – Drama
A BEGINNING FROM AN END
Why had he been given a second chance at life? He had been left for dead, but he did not die, which had amazed him. His question would have to wait, because right now, his body hurt like hell. He'd never been in such agony in his life and it made him wish he was dead, and he nearly had been, but something kept him going. Something. His back ached and his left leg felt like it had been crushed, and something was telling him to get the hell out of there. He cursed and swore at the one who had done this to him, even though Indiana Jones and his friends had long gone. He tore off his annoying grey robe and threw it into the pit - that which once had been the sacrificial pit of Kali. Chattar Lal shuddered, feeling as if his whole world had collapsed in on him. He had never been so frightened, so alone ...
* * *
Indiana Jones had thrown him into the spokes on the great wheel. Chattar was terrified - his spine may have been crushed, and the wheel continued to bear down on him. With a considerable effort, he managed to pry himself away. He could move his arms and legs, though his body ached like heck, which was good news for him in those moments, because it meant his spine had not been permanently damaged. As he moved, he cried out in pain. Pain which shot through him like a red hot skewer - but there was more to worry about. Chattar Lal was petrified Indiana Jones would throw him into the fire pit. As furious as he was with the brash archaeologist, he decided to stay low. He hid under his grey robe and prayed - he didn't know who he prayed to - he just prayed that he be safe. After all, his name "Chattar," in Hindi meant 'roof' or 'shelter.' His mother had named him. Chattar tried his best to ignore the pain. It was hard, but somehow, he managed to do it. His self training had helped there, but the fear would not be blocked out so easily. After a while, he peeked from under his robe. He was relived and delighted to see Indiana Jones, the woman and the kid gone. He had previously seen Mola Ram escape, the coward. Chattar felt a fool to have once admired him. He heard noise coming from the mine, shouts, gunshots, clangs, crashed, screams - and then an odd sound, which grew louder ... louder and LOUDER ... sounding like the whole Earth was being torn apart, and then, Chattar saw a huge foreboding, shapeless shadow entering the cavern, almost instantly, followed by a colossal, angry, violent torrent of water. He yelped in fear, scrambled to the rocks, and crawled into a small crevice. The worshippers on the other side of the pit tried to scramble to safety, only to be drowned by the water, washed into the sacrificial pit or smashed against the rocks by the water and their bodies crushed by the sheer force of the tons of water. Chattar did the only things he could - pray and cry. He stayed low inside the crevice. So far the water had gushed past him, not into him and he hoped it stayed that way. He waited for all the water to pass. Fortunately, patience was one of his virtues. He made sure he had enough room to move if the water came too close. It was closer now. Chattar prayed for safety, not caring who he was praying to, as long as they made him safe. And then before he knew it, he flopped down in the crevice, and fell asleep, totally exhausted.
* * *
Wet. Chattar woke up with a start and an instinctual shriek, as he felt water around him, remembering the gigantic, ferocious torrent which had swept through the place, the previous day. In his panic, Chattar bashed his head on the top of the crevice, squinted with pain and rubbed his sore head, then his nerves calmed as he looked at what was directly before him - a thin layer of water covered the ground. Some of it had seeped into the crevice where he lay, soaking his clothes. The remnants of the huge flood which had almost claimed his life. Chattar squirmed out of the crevice in which he had sought shelter and winced again. His leg cried out and his back was still sore, but in less pain than the day before. Chattar looked beyond, and shuddered. Hundreds of human corpses - killed, whilst trying to escape or some, because they refused to run, probably believing it was the will of Kali Ma. Chattar Lal stood full, although his leg still ached and looked at the grotesque statue of the Demon Goddess, Kali and he realised - all his beliefs had been a crock of shit. Kali herself had been grotesquely misinterpreted. She was the Hindu Goddess of Death and Punishment, but the punishment of the evil. How Ironic, Chattar thought. He'd been so desperate and so gullible when he first came here - desperately wanting a new life and believing that this was his path to greatness. Once it had been everything to him .. But now he didn't know what to believe. Chattar suddenly felt for all these people he saw lying dead, and the many human sacrifices offered to Kali Ma. He walked closer to the pit and looked down. Much of the water had fallen into it and had cooled the fires. Lal almost threw up when he saw the charred remains of bodies, smouldering, half melted away by the cooling fires. He could bear to look no longer and turned away. Chattar Lal heard a terrible noise - one which made him feel like a rock had been thrown into the pit of his stomach. He hoped what he was hearing wasn't what he thought it was, but he wasn't about to place a wager. His eyes bulged, madly searching for a way out. There. Some of the cavern had partially collapsed under the force of the water, so rubble had partially covered up the gap between the two sides of the sacrificial pit. Chattar ran, or rather limp ran, as his leg was still fairly sore. He clambered over the rubble. Without warning, it started to give way and fall to the smouldering pit below. Chattar yelped and grabbed onto the other side and managed to pull himself up with a considerable effort. He scrambled up the rocky wall as fast as his bung leg would allow. There was only one way out now - through the guest house bedroom. Chattar started off with all the speed he could muster. He could feel and hear the whole place shaking apart. He made it into the tunnel and saw he had been cut off by the crushing spike booby trap. Obviously others had tried to make it out and failed. Fortunately, Chattar knew how to operate it. He pulled the lever and the doors rose, as did the ceiling and the spikes. He was met with the gruesome sight of more than a dozen bloodied, skewered bodies of men and women. Forcing himself to ignore them, Chattar made his way through the trap. A jolt. He skidded sideways and his foot tripped the floor button, which activated the trap. Chattar bolted, ignoring the pain in his leg, the door slamming shut on his shirt. He ripped it off and continued. The tunnel began shaking vigorously and Chattar heard an implosion. The mine had caved in and the tunnel would be next. Chattar bolted like his pants were on fire, trying to ignore the screaming pain of is sore leg. He ran through the bugs, hearing then crunching and cracking underfoot and feeling their stings. He could feel the tunnel shaking apart all around him and kept running to the entrance which he slammed open. Long dead lifeless bodies fell out of the walls. Although they had been dead for centuries, Chattar had seen enough death and wasn't going to become just another body buried here. He scrambled out of the entrance and banged his sore leg on the statue and howled in pain. He burst out into the guest bedroom, which had been the room they had given to Willie, the annoying American woman Indiana Jones had brought with him - but Chattar Lal's mind wasn't on that. He kept running, ignoring his leg's pain. He ran out of the guest house of Pankot Palace and headed for the main building, up yonder. He heard an almighty implosion, turned around, and saw the entire guest house and the surrounding area, under which had been the worshipping place of Kali and the mine crumble and cascade into the vast river below, creating a new cliff face. Chattar kept on running, fearing that more of the ground would crumble, but nothing more happened. He looked back once again. Nothing was left, bar dust and bad memories. Everything had turned to dust, the rock, the statues and the bodies. The Cult was truly dead. The river below was deep and all was buried within its flowing waters. That river was now a vast grave, of which Chattar was grateful not to be a part. He felt pity for those people - something which he had not felt before. He'd always felt above them, even that annoying shit of a Maharajah. Chattar Lal had never liked children. Always found them to be annoying, noisy nuisances, and he'd never stopped to consider why, until now. He thought back to his childhood, very difficult for him. A part of his life he was glad to be over and done with.
* * *
Chattar Lal's mother had died of pneumonia when he was one year old. He had no memory of her, except from a few black and white photographs. She was a beautiful woman and Chattar wished more than anything that he could have known her. His father, had been strict, militaristic and brutal. Chattar was never allowed to cry. His father considered it weak and unmanly. He often beat Chattar for little things, harder if he cried. Chattar was never allowed to play with the other children. As far as his father was concerned, playing was not something a man did and Chattar was never allowed any toys. His father never read him bedtime stories, totally oblivious to the face that he was robbing his son of a childhood. His father taught him how to fight and be ruthless, and Chattar was forbidden to disagree or talk back, and if he did, he would be sorely beaten. Indulgences were also forbidden in the household. The only luxury Chattar had was a hot bath, but his father would not allow long leisurely soaks. When his father was away, he would soak for half an hour or more and hope his father wouldn't beat him if he found out. Only the barest essential foods and possessions were allowed in the house, and of course, the housework was Chattar's job.
The best part of Chattar's life was going to school. He hated his father and everything he stood for and school (and hot baths) were his only escape. He worked hard at school and got good grades, which pleased his father. The only thing they agreed on was that one needed an education. Chattar loved reading, another escape from his father. He read many books, books he needed to read for school and books he read for enjoyment. He loved the old English books and told his father he had to read them for school, which was partially true. One learns more from reading. Chattar's father wanted him to be the best at everything, although he disapproved of Chattar having his nose stuck in a book. Chattar was going to become a fighter, as far as his father was concerned, not a scholar. Chattar was forbidden to study at home, although he snuck in a book or two. He spent all his spare time at school studying and reading. He had no friends at school. All the other students all through his school life treated him as strange and boring. Most of the time they didn't know what to make of him and so they teased him. Some of the things that said upset Chattar and made him want to cry and even although his father wasn't here to beat him for it, he didn't want to look weak or get into the habit. The other students branded him as 'cold.' Chattar understood why, but he didn't know how to be otherwise. He had a good heart and couldn't understand why the other students were so mean to him. He'd never done anything to harm them, but they continued to tease him, saying very hurtful things. Chattar wished they would understand, but they didn't, so he grew to hate all the other students. Sometimes they stole his books, his lunch and even threatened to beat him up. Chattar had enough beatings in his life. He didn't want to tell the teachers the way he was being treated, in fear of being ridiculed even more by the other students and called a teacher's pet.
One time a gang of students did beat him up after school, sending his books flying. They battered and bruised him quite badly. After what seemed like an age, they left him. Chattar sat up, his body aching and wanting to get every one of them back. He gathered his books and walked home, slowly, even that hurt. Chattar Lal returned home, only to be beaten again by his father for losing the fight.
He stayed alone at the back of the classrooms away from the other students and at recess and lunch time, he studied in the library. He studied in the library after school too, so none of the other students would be around to bash him up. Chattar began returning home later and later, and lying to his father about fighting other students and winning. Chattar's father was suspicious of everyone and everything, including Chattar. He was at the school one day, speaking to one of Chattar's teachers, who was very pleased with Chattar's work, assignments and results. She told him how Chattar studied after school in the town library. Chattar's father was furious, but his face showed nothing to the teacher. His son had been telling him that he made the boxing team and that they practised after school. That very lunch time, Chattar's father stormed to Chattar and dragged him, literally kicking and screaming from the school and beat him in front of the students - and it was only then when they began to understand why Chattar had been so secluded and why he had shut himself away. The teachers were horrified, but could do nothing about Chattar Lal's father, as what he was doing to Chattar was not illegal in those days.
Chattar was beaten at home until he was black and blue. His father screamed obscenities at him in Hindi and yelled at him that he was a coward for trying to elude his blows. Chattar begged his father to stop, but he did not. He continued to bash and beat is son until he was beaten unconscious. From then on Chattar was forbidden to leave the house for periods longer than an hour - and he dared not. He was forbidden to go to school and his books were burned. Chattar Lal despised his father now more than ever. He was 15 now and learned that he was old enough to learn and study by correspondence. He got assignments and work sent from Oxford in England and received very good results. All his mail was held at the post office. Chattar worked under his bed, under the light of a small torch, or on his desk when his father was away. He hid all his books and papers under the floorboards under his bed. His bedroom door had no lock. He also spent some time in the library when his father was away for a few days. Chattar was grateful that there was no telephone in the house, so when his father was away, he had no way of knowing if Chattar was home or not. After receiving top marks, in all but one subject, he was offered a scholarship at Oxford. Chattar was extremely grateful and happy, but how would he get to England?
Chattar was only allowed to go out of the house to do the grocery shopping, and he picked up his mail once a week. He kept the change from the shopping, and always bought the cheapest products, so there was more change left over. His father knew nothing about the cost of things. As far as he was concerned, shopping and housework was a woman's job, but there was no woman to do it here, so it was Chattar's job. He always gave Chattar too much money, which delighted his son. Chattar didn't consider it stealing. As far as he was concerned, his father owed him, big time.
In a few months, Chattar had saved enough money for a one way ticket to England. He didn't want to come back to India any time soon. He paid for his ticket and they kept it for him.
Chattar didn't know how, but his father found out and was absolutely fuming. Perhaps he spied on Chattar, or had spies somewhere, or he could read Chattar's mind, the bastard seemed to find out everything, Chattar thought. He knew that if he didn't stand up to his father, he would continue to beat him and control him and his life as he was about to do so now. He'd be trapped here with his father, like a prison, until one of them died. Chattar concluded that prison would be better. He wouldn't get beaten nearly as much.
"You are a disgrace to the family name!" his father spat in Hindi.
Chattar had taken enough and for the first time, yelled back at his father, which intensified the older man's anger. He cursed his son in Hindi. Chattar swore back at him in English. He'd learnt the language through correspondence with Oxford and had become quite fluent.
"You are the disgrace," he spat in Hindi. "You have hurt me and controlled me, but no longer! My life is mine! Mine!" Chattar yelled "and I will not marry some woman I have never met. I found these in your drawer." He threw photographs of and letters about a woman Shahiti, that Chattar's father intended to marry him off to.
"You will do what is demanded of you. It is tradition."
"To hell with tradition. I'd not ready for marriage and it's not right. People are supposed to marry for love."
"It was the same with your mother. She did not love me when we married."
"I don't blame her!"
Chattar's father's face twisted with rage and he moved closer to beat his son was taken aback when Chattar viciously back handed him across the face, and then punched him with so much force he fell backwards. Chattar kicked his father as hard as he could, spat on him, grabbed a case of belongings, then fled. He almost missed the plane in his panic.
Chattar had never flown before and he was absolutely terrified. Some people on the plane laughed at his uneasiness and he resented them for that.
Chattar was relieved when the rickety plane landed in London. Relieved that he had survived and to have escaped his father.
He was escorted to Oxford with a small suitcase of belongings, which he had packed the week before. It contained some of his books, some clothes and money he had rightfully stolen from his father. He studied at Oxford under the sir name "Lal," which meant beloved in Hindi. Lal was his mother's maiden name. He did not want anything more to do with his father and he disowned him. Chattar loved his mother, even if he didn't know her at all.
When he arrived at Oxford, the first thing he did was bathe. It was such a relief to wash himself and soak for a over an hour in a hot tub, without his father ordering him out in five minutes. Chattar often wished his father would get himself a life. He could not ever imagine ever becoming like his father. Damn him, Chattar thought with conviction. He can rot in the pit of Tartarus for all I care.
Chattar worked very hard at Oxford. Unlike his school back in India, the other students didn't tease him or beat him, but they did talk about him behind his back. That was obvious. Chattar chose to ignore them. Who were they anyway? He was sick and tired of feeling unworthy. He made himself feel above the other students, but he was very careful not to let anyone know that. Secretly it hurt him that he had no friends, but is studies were more important. He wanted to top his classes in everything and having friends to fraternise with would take up his study time.
Chattar's studies paid off. He topped all his classes in all his subjects, except sport. He hated sport. No one seemed to want him on their team. He was thin and scrawny and couldn't play very well. It wasn't his thing. The only thing he did like about sport was when the period was finished, and the boys all changed out of their uniforms and showered. Chattar discreetly admired the other boys' bodies, and was careful not to let any of them see him looking at them. Particularly the head boy, William. He had the most beautiful and perfect body Chattar had ever seen. He was statuesque, with a flat stomach, hairless chest but strong looking, and his skin was firm, a fair creamish colour. His neck was slender and his face was round, blemish free. His dark brown hair was always ruffled and his bright blue eyes seemed gentle and understanding. He had a beautiful smooth English accent, but Chattar was terrified if William ever found out about his infatuation, he would be disgusted. He ha no idea why he wasn't interested in women, like most men. He just wasn't. Women didn't seem particularly interested in him either. He hadn't been keen on an arranged marriage. The woman probably wouldn't want to marry him either. Chattar knew he was going against tradition here, but he felt people should have the choice to get married or not and marry for love, not tradition.
He didn't hate women. He just was not interested in having intimate relationships with them. For one assignment on archaeology, which had to be done in pairs, Chattar teamed up with a friendly new girl called Janine. They did their assignment on the world renowned Archaeologist, Dr. Indiana Jones. Indiana had intrigued both Chattar and Janine. He was more than your average archaeologist, digging up some old dinosaur bones. Chattar wondered what being involved in so many dangerous and daring adventures would be like. His life did not seem to have adventure.
Janine had a nice sounding voice which made him smile. She said he had an interesting voice, sort of a mixture of the Indian and English accents. It seemed silly, but that had been the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him. He and Janine became friends and Chattar was sad when she left Oxford for Cambridge.
Chattar continued to excel at Oxford. When he graduated, he became a scholar and became respected for his knowledge. Although his teaching methods differed from other scholars, Chattar wondered what made him want to become a teacher. He knew part of the reason was for revenge to have students look up to him, instead of teasing im and talking behind his back, but the other was to give students his opinions and freedom to learn, which he was denied.
While he was teaching at Oxford, Chattar received a telegram informing him that his father had passed away and asking him to attend the funeral. Chattar read the telegram again. How could he pay his respects when he had none? Chattar sent a letter politely declining, saying he hadn't enough money or time to return, which was a lie. He considered going back to spit on his father's grave, but no, Chattar thought. He couldn't even be bothered to do that.
Slowly but surely, the other scholars at Oxford began to discover Chattar's attraction to the same gender and he was discreetly asked to leave Oxford. To them homosexuality was a disgrace and would not be tolerated, and that his teachings were unorthodox and not to be endorsed - and they would not give him another chance. It hurt Chattar deeply. Oxford had been his freedom, his home - until now. Why did the world have to be so unfair? What had he done to deserve this?
Chattar almost cried when he returned to the small apartment he was renting. He was determined not to let this get the better of him and furthered his studies. Too much knowledge was never enough.
Chattar was approaching his thirty second birthday. He'd never celebrated a birthday and had always wanted to have a party like other children, with a cake and presents, but his father forbade it. Parties and presents were unnecessary luxuries. Even though his father was dead now, Chattar had no one to invite. He'd lost contact with Janine and he wouldn't have the foggiest idea what to do at a party, since he'd never been to one.
Chattar Lal was in the library, in an isle, looking for a book he hadn't read. One caught his attention, by falling on his head from the top shelf. He angrily caught it and was about to shove it back, when he looked at what it was about - Ancient Cults. He knew little about Cults and he liked learning, so he borrowed the book and began reading it. The chapter that intrigued him most was the one on the ancient Thuggee Cult, who worshipped the Hindi Goddess of Death, Kali Ma. In fact it so intrigued Chattar that he began researching all the information he could about the Cult, and Kali being very devious indeed, as the information was hard to come by.
He gave a different name and said he was a Journalist for the newspaper to one library, that he was a writer to another library and they had let him borrow extremely restricted material. Chattar practically learnt everything there was to know about the Cult and found himself wishing he was a part of it, but he'd read that the Cult had been extinct for over a hundred years, destroyed by the British Army, or so it was believed.
One night, Chattar Lal had a dream. He was in a huge underground cavern, dressed in extravagant robes. There was a raging fire pit in front of him. Many people knelt on the other side of the pit. A severe looking, burly bald man, with a painted face, wearing ceremonial skins. He was the High Priest, Mola Ram. They were Thuggee, worshipping their Goddess, Kali Ma.
When Chattar awoke he found himself staring right into the face of the man in his dream. He was looking at Mola Ram. his eyes nearly fell out of his head and he backed up on his bed. He knew he was not dreaming now.
"Join us," the deep voiced man said. "Welcome!"
And he was gone in a burst of flames, which left no mark on the carpet.
"My God!" Chattar exclaimed and became a true believer.
His God was Kali.
Somehow Chattar knew exactly where to go. He packed some essential belongings and was off. He had become used to flying, but still didn't like it very much.
* * *
Chattar Lal arrived at Pankot Palace. It was the most beautiful place he'd ever seen. The inside was even more spectacular. He was greeted by the palace guards - the guards of the new Maharajah. Previously Chattar had been told that his function at the palace was to be the Prime Minister to the Maharajah. The previous one had tried to kill the Maharajah and had been put to death, by means of being thrown alive to the crocodiles in the river. Chattar bore no malevolence to the Maharajah, and so he felt safe and very important.
Chattar looked at a little boy coming to greet him, dressed to the nines.
//The Maharajah's son, no doubt.//
The boy stuck his chin out. "You are welcome in my palace, Prime Minister, Chattar Lal," he said. "I am your Maharajah, Zalim Singh."
It took everything Chattar had to keep from exploding. A thirteen year old child??!! He could now understand why the previous Prime Minister had wanted to do away with him. But he kept a straight face and knelt down. "It is an honour to serve you."
"You may stand."
Chattar grudgingly, but obediently did so.
Right from the start, he hated the Maharajah, even though he was good looking for a child, had a pretty face. Chattar never let his disgust show. His life depended on it. He always gave his best advice to the Maharajah, hoping someday to become great and more than a Prime Minister. He was jealous of the Maharajah, though was careful not to let it show. Why should some people have more privileges? He had no idea why the Maharajah trusted him. Although the trust felt nice, Chattar despised being under a child. He loathed having to read the Maharajah bedtime stories. It reminded him of the childhood he never had. The Maharajah's father had recently died and Chattar felt uncomfortable acting as the Maharajah's father. He had no idea what a father should act like. He would never be like his own father, no matter how much he hated the child, and he could never beat the Maharajah, even if he wanted to.
It wasn't long after Chattar got settled that Mola Ram came to him, late one night, long after the Maharajah had gone to sleep. Mola Ram, Chattar had learned had been born into the Thuggee Cult. All his ancestors had been High Priests, and in one way or another, sacrificed to Kali when the time was right. Those who dishonoured or spoke any word against Kali were sacrificed. Chattar was determined to prove his worth. No way would he be sacrificed. He soon became Mola Ram's favourite student. Chattar was a quick learner. He loved to learn - but this time he was learning something he really wanted to learn. Something of which he felt a part. There were hundreds of worshippers, who bowed down before Kali. Chattar felt above them. He and Mola Ram were the only two who were not required to kneel at all times. Mola Ram told Chattar of the power of the Sankara Stones. He had three in his possession, the last one stolen from the village of Mayapore, because they refused to pray to Kali. Ram told Chattar that it had been Kali's will to take their children as punishment. The children worked in the mines, mining for gemstones to support the Thuggee Cult and for the remaining two Sankara Stones, where a loyal Priest had hidden them, over a hundred years ago. Chattar Lal accepted that. Mola Ram also told Chattar that he must drink the Blood of Kali. And he did. At first it felt as if his insides were burning out, but he decided it was for the best and the pain did not last long. The Blood had a different effect on some people. It had not made Chattar Lal into a mindless zombie as it had done with the others.
Chattar saw with his own eyes, Mola Ram, pluck the heart out of a victim about to be sacrificed. His fingers penetrated the man's skin as if it were butter ad removed the heart, which was still beating and the man's chest closed up as if nothing had happened and he was still alive. And then he was lowered into the sacrificial pit and died as his body was engulfed by the eternal raging fires of Kali. The heart burst into flames in Mola Ram's hand as held it up to Kali, and then the flames died and there was nothing left. It was a pity to sacrifice life, Chattar thought, but Mola Ram insisted that Kali demanded it and he wasn't about to argue.
No matter how many times Chattar Lal saw Mola Ram pluck a sacrificial victim's heart out, it always amazed him in a sickening way, but he was getting used to it. As long as it didn't happen to him. Mola Ram was indeed a powerful man and even though Chattar Lal was amazed by him, and respected his power, he was also afraid of him and he had grown to despise him, but he never let that show, in fear of becoming the next sacrifice. To save his life, he had to allow Mola Ram to defile him, violate him, several times, whenever it was the Priest's pleasure. Chattar was attracted to the opposite sex, but not in this way, not to be raped. Chattar wanted to throw the bastard into the pit, but Ram was stronger and much more powerful than he and had many loyal followers, and Chattar thought that Kali would be angry if he did anything against Mola Ram.
He hated this vicious circle he'd been caught up in. He had come here to worship Kali Ma, not Mola Ram. He thought he'd wait until Ram had kicked the bucket, but he learned that the Blood of Kali gave one eternal life. Chattar thought that Ram's ancestors would have had to drink the blood to, so where were they? He remembered Mola Ram saying something about them being sacrificed when the time was right, but Ram didn't look like someone who would sacrifice himself time or no time. Chattar too had drunk the blood. He would not grow old and die - at least that was something but would he have to endure Mola Ram for the rest of his existence? He hoped not.
Chattar learned that the so called 'Blood of Kali' was nothing more than the blood of sacrificial victims, cursed with Mola Ram's darkness, which he found out was a chemical concoction to make people lose their self worth, and their direction, but the reaction inside the human body would strengthen cells and those who drank the blood would not be cursed with old age. The only power the Mola Ram really had was mind control over the weak. Chattar reasoned that the blood Ram had given him was not as potent, and therefore he did not become a mindless zombie, probably because Mola Ram didn't want him that way. Chattar despised Ram, particularly when he discovered that the "power" the priest had came from the magic of the Sankara Stones. He used their powers to control the others, who were in awe, as Chattar Lal was at first at Mola Ram's "power." Chattar pretended he didn't know a thing and was careful not to let Ram into his mind. He successfully blocked the intrusions without Ram suspecting a thing and Chattar was very careful not to slip up.
Chattar still despised the Maharajah and his pristine high voice. The Maharajah was susceptible to Chattar Lal's comforting lies. In the Cult, Chattar Lal was higher than the Maharajah, who was merely a worshipper. Once one of Chattar Lal's untruths was discovered, and he simply told the Maharajah, that's what he had been told and the gullible fool believed him. Chattar Lal praised the young one's gullibility. His cool manner had almost always got him out of situations, even with his late father at times.
The Maharajah and his guards and everyone at Pankot, male or female were slowly captured and forced into the cult, by drinking the blood of Kali, becoming a servant of the Cult and Mola Ram.
The Sankara Stones never ceased to amaze Chattar Lal. The way they glowed when they were near each other and became dull when they were apart, as if they needed to be near each other and grew sad when they were apart - as if they were alive.
Chattar Lal revelled in his position. He was trusted by the Maharajah and all his guards. Although under the spell of Kali, they were still loyal to the Maharajah. Chattar was also held in high esteem by the other worshippers of Kali. Even Mola Ram trusted him and that was very important as far as Chattar was concerned. He knew he would not be sacrificed if Mola Ram trusted him and respected him. He knew where he stood and hoped that his position would improve the more he was looked up upon, but all that was about to change ...
* * *
On a usual very hot Summer's day, Pankot, received three strange looking visitors. Reluctantly, Chattar Lal greeted them. He hoped they left soon. He did not like strangers, particularly strange visitors. He thought the trio were the most unusual, ridiculous looking group he'd ever come across and wished they'd leave as soon as possible, along with Captain Phillip Blumburtt and his troops. Blumburtt, a pompous British soldier, come to check up on the happenings at Pankot. Chattar had grown to hate the British and he wished all these people would leave the palace. Chattar was aghast to learn that the unshaven, rugged dirty man was the revelled Dr. Indiana Jones. And that child, Short Round, what an arrogant annoyance! And a woman, Willie, dressed in a man's clothing. Why had they come here? Chattar definitely wanted them to go, but put on a polite facade and escorted them inside.
He found it increasingly amusing how Willie was constantly bugging him about the Maharajah. Clearly after his wealth and power - to be 'the wife of the Maharajah.' Amused, Chattar played innocent and lead her on, barely being able to wait for her reaction when she saw the Maharajah.
Willie was barely able to contain her disappointment. A thirteen year old kid! Chattar did not show his amusement and took great pleasure to Willie's reaction to the dinner menu. Americans were so predictable.
Chattar recalled telling Dr. Jones something about the luxury of childhood. He had said it only to gain the archaeologist's trust. What luxury indeed! He also recalled having an argument with Dr. Jones about the Thuggee during dinner. The archaeologist was on to something. Chattar was sure of it. He did everything he could to stop the nosy Dr. Jones from getting too close. He even tried offending him, using information he'd gathered from an assignment he remembered doing way back at Oxford. He knew exactly what the Sultan of Madagascar had threatened to chop off.
Chattar Lal was proud when the Maharajah announced that the Thuggee Cult was evil and cruel and he would 'never allow it to exist in his Kingdom.' Chattar smiled. The Maharajah was loyal. He almost laughed when Indiana Jones felt uncomfortable, that he may have offended the Maharajah and apologised. Indiana Jones was unique. Chattar would give him that - he wasn't your average archaeologist, far from it, but he knew his stuff well and how to get around things. That's what Chattar was afraid of. Indiana was getting too close for comfort. He and his friends had to die.
It was a pity to have to sacrifice the woman, but Chattar and Mola Ram felt it had to be done. At least it would stop her accursed squawking! She had her place somewhere, Chattar guessed.
Things did not go according to plan. Short Round, escaped from the mine and broke the spell of the Blood of Kali on Indiana Jones.
Chattar had tried to stop Indiana from stopping the sacrifice of Willie and escaping, but he failed, almost getting killed in the process and barely escaping with his life.
* * *
Chattar had barely made it out of the mine before it had collapsed entirely. He walked the remaining few yards into Pankot Palace. The Maharajah's guards, merchants and dancing girls had died in the cavern. And the Maharajah had probably died there too. Chattar didn't want to think about death. He entered the palace. It felt as if he were the only living soul in the dwelling. Chattar hadn't realised until now how ravenously hungry he was. He began searching the palace for any sign of food, keeping alert for any other survivors. if there were any, perhaps they could help each other, or perhaps they would pose a threat to him. His guard dropped as he saw a tantalising platter of fruit in the dining room. He ran to it, grabbed a bunch of purple grapes and began cramming them hungrily into his mouth. It was only when he reached for a second handful that he discovered that the entire platter was crawling with maggots, ants and cockroaches. Chattar gagged and threw up what he had just eaten. The only other the food on the table was a platter of rancid meat. Chattar screwed up his nose, wondering why he hadn't noticed the smell before. He brushed some cockroaches off himself in a hurry. The disgusting brown bugs were everywhere, running amok.
When Chattar regained his appetite, he found some edible food in the large ice-chest. Quite a lot in fact. It was chokers, so Chattar knew he would not go hungry in a while.
* * *
Kali Ma. KALI KALI ... KALI ... Chattar saw the hideous Queen of Death, the Bitch Queen from hell. She had trapped him. And she was not a statue anymore and looked even more cruel, ugly and evil in the flesh. She walked toward him. He had betrayed her. He had to die.
"NO!" Chattar shrieked in terror. "PLEASE."
"Too late..." Kali said, her voice, evil, crackling and sounding like boiling blood, sending shivers up Chattar's entire body. She raised her arm sending Chattar into her Sacrificial Flame.
Chattar awoke in a cold sweat, breathing deeply and shivering. Was Kali real? Had he betrayed her? Would she punish him? Chattar shut his eyes. The power had come from the Sankara Stones, not Kali or Mola Ram and Chattar knew what he feared - his doubt. He believed in the true Kali. The one who punished evil, and she would have her hands full. Would she punish him, or would she see how Mola Ram had manipulated him? She was a Goddess, Chattar reasoned. She would see the truth. He had been a devout Thuggee and to suddenly drop it all took some doing, to disbelieve what he had believed, but he believed now, what he was doing was right and as for the dream and his doubt, Chattar ran to the nearest door, which lead outside, flung it open, and yelled out onto the day lit desert sands, such profanity, it would have made a trooper blush. And Chattar definitely felt better.
* * *
Chattar began to clean up Pankot Palace. He threw all the rotten food beyond the palace walls. The maggots, ants and cockroaches could fight for it out there and when they were done with it, it would decompose, leaving nothing behind. He killed as many of the pests as he could, but they tended to leave voluntarily when they discovered that there was no food for them to get to. Chattar spent the next few weeks cleaning up the palace. His leg had almost healed, but his back still ached.
Eating meat had never bothered Chattar until now. In fact he had enjoyed it. Not so much the taste, but the power he felt it gave him. He used to take perverted pleasure in swallowing helpless baby eels and feeling them squirming around and digesting in his stomach with no possible escape. Boiled stag beetles had never been his thing, nor had stewed ants so he steered clear of them, and he threatened to gut and eat the servants if they ever brought him candied cockroaches again. The meals at Pankot had mainly consisted of meats and had suited Chattar very well, until now. He was born a Hindu and Hindu's did not eat meat and now Chattar felt shame and guilt for all those creatures he had killed and eaten. He was ashamed of what he had become. He took all the meat out of the castle and threw it outside for the bugs, bats and whoever else wanted to fight over it and it would decay into nothingness after a while. It was a shame to waste food, but all the people for miles around were Hindu and Chattar knew they would be disgusted and deeply offended if he offered it to them.
He sometimes felt lonely, although he valued his solitude. Not even the cockroaches came anymore - and the other bugs had upped and left, not so much as a peep, and the bats never circled the palace anymore. He never liked bugs or bats, so it was a good thing, but once in a while he wouldn't've minded some company. The place was entirely deserted, except for Chattar Lal.
He had destroyed all artifacts representing the Thuggee cult, by putting them into the stone grinder, and using the many pebbles to make a pathway. He did the same with the statues of the previous Maharajahs and burnt the portraits and any paintings which depicted anything to do with the Thuggee. He also burned all his books he'd brought on the Thuggee and many books and writings about the Cult in the palace. He took the ashes outside and let the wind scatter them harmlessly. He destroyed the statue of Kali which stood down below on the path to Pankot, where fresh human flesh was placed to scare off unwanted visitors. He kept a charm in the shape of Kali, which he had brought from India. The True Kali. Chattar knew since the statue was not there to frighten anyone anymore, it might bring visitors, but he would rather them, than the evil darkness. He ground up the rubble of the statue and finished his pathway. The artifacts and paintings he kept were ones depicting the ancient Hindu culture, and other statues which had been collected over the years, such as ancient American-Indian sculptures, Gothic and Ancient Greek sculptures. Chattar was quite fond of Gargoyles, and none of his statues depicted anything evil. He was through with that. This was his palace now and he had to look after it. He began tidying the rooms. It reminded him of when he was young in India, but this time he was cleaning because he wanted to and how he wanted to. No one was forcing him. Chattar went through all the clothes in the palace and kept the ones he wanted. He put all the women's clothes and clothes he didn't like or were too big for him in a box. There was one suit there that would have fit four elephants! It must have belonged to that fat, disgusting merchant at the dinner table. Chattar also put the Maharajah's clothes in the box. Most of them were too small for him, but he had found clothes of the previous Maharajahs. Most of them were too flash for him, and not his style, but he kept one golden robe. Chattar gave away all his accursed English suits, bar one which he liked. He began distributing the clothes to the surrounding villages. The villages were poor and gratefully accepted the hand outs. Before, Chattar had looked down on all of them, but now, he envied their simple lives. They the clothes when Winter came upon the land. Chattar felt glad about what he had done and returned to Pankot.
* * *
At first, he felt alone in the palace, all by himself - no one to talk to or protect him. He felt vulnerable. Even though he'd always looked after himself, no one else did. He sometimes visited the surrounding villages.
Chattar visited a nearby village and learnt that Zalim Singh had escaped the cavern's collapse, and was cared for by the British, until his assassination, by an Indian group who did not believe in having a Maharajah, child or not. Zalim had no next of kin and both his parents were dead, so Chattar felt safe in proclaiming Pankot palace as his. It would have been his anyway - since the Maharajah was too young to have an heir and he had no family, the palace would go to the person closest to the Maharajah - his advisor, the Prime Minister, and so the palace rightfully belonged to Chattar Lal, even though he felt uncomfortable claiming it. He often wondered what the Maharajah would be like growing up. Probably the same as all Maharajahs - spoiled and pompous, wanting the best of everything and being sickeningly single minded about everything and totally ignorant to what was going on around him. Chattar found himself not blaming Zalim Singh for the way he had been. He was brought up that way - the way all his ancestors and many other rulers had been brought up, and it was what was expected of him, even if he wanted to be different. Chattar also learned that Mola Ram's Thuggee guards sent to kill Indiana Jones and his friends were either eaten by the crocodiles in the river or shot and executed by the British. He was relieved to learn that Mola Ram, himself had been bested by Indiana Jones and too been thrown to the crocodiles. Chattar wanted to jump for joy, but kept his cool.
Those poor crocodiles will probably get indigestion, he thought.
The villagers told Chattar that two Sankara Stones 'flowed in the waters of time.' Chattar guessed they meant the river. He could try and retrieve them, but why? He knew the power of the Stones and what that power could do in the wrong hands and decided to leave them at peace. He also learnt that Blumburtt had escaped, but his troops had been killed by Indian countrymen opposed to British rule. He had never liked Blumburtt or the British, but he had had enough death for one lifetime.
Chattar went onto the next Village, Mayapore. He felt uncomfortable here. The villagers were happily going about their business, carrying things hither and dither, children playing. Chattar saw the village was greener than he remembered it. This was the village the children and the third Sankara Stone were taken from. Some of them tortured and killed. Chattar felt the burden of guilt. he did felt somewhat responsible. He hoped the villagers didn't know who he was. They would surely banish him or even try to molest him. Chattar heard someone near him, and uncomfortably turned around to see a thin elderly Shaman.
"Come, come ..." he said.
Nervous and uncomfortable, Chattar followed. The Shaman stopped at the foot of a stone hill. A hollow was carved out of the hill, near the bottom. In the hollow, a Stone sat. Chattar in took a breath. A Sankara Stone. The one Mola Ram had stolen from this village. It had been returned by Indiana Jones. The Shaman and the nearby villagers knelt by the Stone. Uncomfortable, Chattar joined them. The Shaman reached forward, took the Sankara Stone from the carving and held it up with both hands. Chattar admired the Stone, but it was much more than that. He looked at the three lines carved across it, representing the three lines of the Universe. Chattar knew its power and was in awe of it, but at the same time, terrified. The Shaman held the Stone to Chattar Lal. "Hold," he said in Hindi tongue.
"I can't," Chattar said, speaking in his native language, his voice shaky, but the Shaman placed the Stone in Chattar's hands anyway. Chattar gasped, terrified it would burn through his hands, as the other villagers had told him what the Stones had done to the evil Mola Ram, but it did not. Chattar relaxed his hands, and his whole body grew less tense. He held the Sacred Stone and breathed an inward sigh of relief and he almost started to cry. The Stone felt warm to is touch, not cold as one would imagine a smooth stone to feel. It was if the Stone knew that Chattar Lal had a change of heart and had forgiven him. Chattar admired the Stone. It knew him. It was if it was alive. Chattar felt immense guilt for what he had done. He felt as if he'd violated this beautiful, invaluable, priceless Stone. It was much more than just a precious, powerful rock. Chattar knew that now. It felt like he was cradling a baby, although he'd never held a baby in his life and he burst into tears, uncontrollably. It was the first time he'd cried since his fourth birthday and he couldn't stop himself, but there was no one to hurt him for it. The villagers understood and let Chattar cry. He needed to. The Stone understood too. Still sobbing, Chattar looked at it and ran his hands gently over the three lines and carefully set the sacred entity back in its place and threw his arms around the nearest child. Chattar gently hugged the small one, not knowing who he was or anything about him or what the child would do. The child returned the embrace and Chattar had never felt to warm and uplifted in all his life. He felt as if his heart had been lifted out of a murky sewer, a prison, cleaned and freed. They broke from the embrace and smiled at each other. Chattar's dislike and irritation for children vanished as if it had never been there at all.
"You must go now, Chattar Lal," the Shaman said. "For you there is hope."
Chattar looked into the old man's eyes. The Shaman had known who he was all along - and what he had done. The old man's eyes showed pity, forgiveness and love.
"Thank you," Chattar said in Hindi, never being more sincere in his life. "Thank you."
He stood and left Mayapore for the hike back to Pankot. They had offered him an elephant ride, which he had politely declined. Chattar had put on some weight since coming from Oxford back to India and was determined to lose it.
Chattar spent most of his time at the palace. Fortunately very few visitors had stopped by. Chattar still did not like visitors. That hadn't changed. Nothing personal, he valued his solitude.
* * *
He had created a large garden outside the palace in which he grew pleasing, bright flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit. When they bore their wares there was a lot and Chattar didn't mind sharing. Two useful things his father had taught him was how to look after a garden, and how to cook, including making delicious salads and dressings. Chattar caught himself thinking about his father and felt a pang of guilt. Even though his father had been such a brutal, domineering bastard, Chattar felt sad that they had not come to an understanding of each other.
He returned to the town of his birth for the first time in twenty years. His house was no longer there, and his old was deserted. Chattar walked to the graveyard where his father had been buried. The grave was next to his mother's. He left a bunch of flowers at each of the graves, said a silent prayer in Hindi and paid his respects. He had no love for what his father did to him. All his life he'd felt as if he'd failed his father and hated his father for the way he had treated him, but now, older and wiser and more seasoned, Chattar had a different view. Perhaps his grandfather, who died before Chattar was born, had brought up his father that way. Perhaps he had failed Chattar's grandfather and wanted to do what he felt was best for Chattar. Whatever the reason, Chattar felt good - he finally felt that he'd reconciled his differences with his father and laid them to rest.
* * *
Lal returned to Pankot Palace - his home. He spent much of his time restoring it - the cracked, chipped dusty walls on the outside and the cracks and chips on the walls inside. It took quite a lot out of him. It was a huge palace and there were many paintings on the outside walls which needed touching up. It was quite a few months hard work for one person.
He sometimes felt lonely and frightened, even although the evil was gone and there was nothing to be afraid of. Everyone else was dead. Most of them deserved to be. Chattar thought about the slaves of Kali. What were their thoughts in the final moments? Did they turn on Kali, stay loyal or pray to her to save them? No one would ever know. Chattar often wondered where the Sankara Stones came from originally. Were they created by man, or Gods? Or were they from another place - another world, perhaps? There had been talk about other inhabited planets in the Universe - other than this Earth. Some had dismissed it as nonsense, science fiction and blasphemy, but Chattar believed it and he believed the Sankara were from another world, perhaps another dimension, but he knew that wherever the four 'missing' Stones were that they were safe, cleansed from all evil and at peace.
* * *
Chattar had been living alone at Pankot for some time now, pleased with his restoration of the palace. It had taken him quite a while. Most of the palace had remained deserted, except for the bedroom, the largest one, (previously belonging to the Maharajah) on the middle floor, which Chattar had chosen, - the large bathroom, adjacent to it, the kitchen and dining rooms, the bar and the foyer which lead to the front door. Chattar kept all the windows and doors closed, unless he wanted a breeze in the room he was in, so no one could come in unexpectedly.
He also spent a lot of time in what he called "The Inspiration Room." It was a room at the top of the tower in the palace, which captured the sun beautifully through the stained glass windows, during the day, and if Chattar wanted a nice breeze, he'd pry open one of the windows. In this room, Chattar gathered inspiration and wrote. This room was small, secluded and private. He discovered it when he was cleaning the dust out of the tower. The room had been so full of sand, dirt, cobwebs and dust - it had looked awful, dirty and not appealing at all. It had been a full two day's work to clean it and when he was finished, it really was quite beautiful. It had its own special beauty and magic and he came here often.
* * *
It was an abnormally hot day. Chattar took off his sweaty, smelly clothes and put them on his washing pile, then bunged the dirty washing in the machine and began to wash. It wasn't long before he was satisfied, wrung the clothes and hung them on the line in the laundry to dry. Chattar then went to his bathroom. Later, he emerged feeling clean and refreshed after his cool, soapy shower. He didn't bother putting his clothes back on. It was simply too hot, and why bother? They'd just get sweaty and smelly again. He dried himself, put a clean pair of underpants on for decency and walked to the kitchen to prepare his lunch.
* * *
The man had travelled a long way to get to Pankot. A memory trip. He'd been here once before, quite some years ago now. The stranger took a sip from his waterproof ox skin pouch. He stopped on the way at the village of Mayapore, who were grateful he had returned. He gratefully sipped tea that they had given him, and ate the food that they gave him. He hadn't eaten in a while. He was intrigued and surprised when they told him of "The Lonely Man who Dwells in Pankot." The villagers had not spoken of any evil, but the palace was supposed to be deserted. Yes, the visitor was most interested to meet this "Lonely Man." And he started on his way again.
As the stranger approached the palace, he was surprised to see, or rather surprised not to see the Statue of Kali. It was gone. He knelt down to the ground, dipped his fingers in it and tasted it.
He stood and continued on his way. When he arrived he was amazed to see the palace in much better condition than the first time he had come. It looked whiter, brighter and cleaner and the drawings on the walls clearer. No bats circled the palace. The stranger looked around. It definitely did not look as menacing, cold and foreboding as it had done at first. In fact, it looked quite beautiful. The visitor began to wonder if it appeared nicer because the evil of Mola Ram and his cult had died. Even so, someone had definitely restored this palace and the stranger definitely wanted to know who and why, so he entered the palace through the open front door.
Chattar Lal was in the kitchen, chopping up fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs. It was too hot a day to have a cooked lunch. It was then that he heard someone in the palace and remembered that he had left the front door open for a cool breeze. Chattar had become more tolerant of visitors. Some were just curious, and some wanted a place to sleep for the night of a few days, and Chattar reasoned the palace was big enough for that. Perhaps the stranger's hungry, Chattar thought and began chopping up more ingredients.
The visitor was inside the foyer. It definitely had a lighter - and different look to it. There was nothing at all depicting evil. He was sure the palace had been 'done up' by the "Lonely Man" and he was very intrigued to find out who this person was. He hadn't done a bad job with the palace. It was actually quite pleasant. The stranger heard some noise in the kitchen, and headed in that direction.
Chattar picked up the salad fork he had just dropped, rinsed it and began tossing the salad. He was always inventing his own salads. The stranger came around the corner and looked into the kitchen. His eyes bulged and then became filled with anger. At that moment, Chattar Lal looked up and his jaw fell open. He dropped the salad fork again and didn't waste a second in bolting. Indiana Jones gave hot pursuit.
Chattar ran. "How could this happen?" he asked himself. He saw Indiana Jones out of the corner of his eye after him, full throttle, coming at him with a rather large, curved sword. Chattar exclaimed the Hindi equivalent of a certain four letter word. He tried to increase his speed, but was slowed down by statues, furniture and obstacles in his way. Chattar ran through the bar room with the newly polished floor and he slipped behind the bar. NO! This can't happen! Not now! He was about to stand, but it was too late. Indiana had seen him and was coming toward him and was almost upon him. At that moment, Indiana Jones reminded Chattar Lal of his father - but this man wasn't just going to beat him - he was going to kill him.
Chattar tried to keep himself from shivering. He was absolutely petrified. Indiana Jones raised his sword and his mouth curled up into a snarl.
"NOOOH!! PLEASE!!" Chattar shrieked, shutting his eyes, and hiding his face. He tried to bury himself into the bar and he began to whimper.
"You're a coward," Indiana Jones spat. "Nothing more than a pathetic coward."
Chattar Lal opened his eyes and saw Indiana Jones had lowered his sword.
"I know," was all he could say.
"At least you admit it ... Do you know that you're the only Thuggee worshipper left in the entire world?"
"No," Chattar said, "I'm not." For a moment Indiana Jones looked uneasy, then Chattar continued. "I do not worship the false Kali any longer. I realise my mistake, Dr. Jones and I have tried to make amends."
"Hmph! ... You expect me to believe that, you snivelling weasel? Give one good reason why I shouldn't gut you right now."
Indiana Jones placed the curve of his sword against Chattar Lal's bare side. Chattar Lal breathed deeply. One slice was all it would take.
"I'm waiting, Lal - one reason why I shouldn't spill your guts all over this nice polished floor - and eat your liver." He pressed the sword closer to Chattar's side, drawing blood.
Chattar Lal took a deep breath. "I suppose you're right, Indi," he said. "I've done a lot of things in my life that I am not proud of and my less than adequate childhood and painful early adulthood is no excuse for that. I've tried my best to make amends, but maybe it isn't enough. Maybe I deserve this. Do what you have to do, Dr. Jones. Eat my liver. It should be nice braised with red Spanish onions, the best kind, nice and sweet and don’t forget the sage and oregano, but please, make it quick and painless." Chattar shut his eyes and prepared himself.
At that moment, Indiana Jones felt a pang of sympathy for the pathetic man before him. Feeling no blade slicing through him, Chattar Lal cautiously opened his eyes and looked straight into Indiana's. The archaeologist could see a change. He wasn't exactly sure what it was, but there was something and it was the first time he'd seen sincerity in Chattar Lal's eyes.
"I know I've done some very questionable things," Chattar said, "and I realise I was wrong and I bear the shame." The next few moments seemed like an eternity. Chattar became conscious of his own breathing. "I don't know why I survived. I'm sorry for the things I did, whether that means anything to you."
Indiana Jones looked at his sword against Chattar Lal's skin. "You've lost weight," he said.
The statement threw Chattar Lal off guard for a moment. "Before you kill me," he said, "I'd like to thank you."
Now it was Indiana Jones' turn to be caught off guard and surprised. "Thank me? What on Earth for?"
"Saving me, " Chattar Lal said, "if it wasn't for you and your friends, I'd still be on the wrong side. I realise now that Mola Ram and the Thuggee were nothing more than an obscure, hideous, moronic obscenity. I searched for meaning in my life, Dr. Jones. Everyone rejected me. My father beat me more times that I'd care to remember." Chattar gave Indiana Jones a brief description of his life history. "I know where I'm going now," he said, "even if you don't. I have made amends and have been forgiven by those around me. I feel that I have come to terms with myself and others - and the evil has been driven out of this place. I could not have hoped for more than that. Do what you have to do." This time Chattar Lal kept his eyes wide open.
Indiana Jones moved his sword away from Chattar Lal's side and holstered it.
"Dr. Jones?" Chattar Lal inquired.
"I don't know why, but I believe you."
Indiana Jones saw the relief in Chattar Lal's eyes - and the relief went beyond not having his innards staining the floor. He allowed Chattar Lal to stand.
"I still don't exactly trust you," he said. "You're a strange man."
Chattar Lal nodded. "I understand, but if we were all the same, Dr. Jones, where would that leave individuality?"
Indiana Jones smiled. "True - and you'd better get some clothes on. Do you always go around in your underpants?"
"Oh," Chattar Lal said with an embarrassed smile. "Only when I'm not expecting visitors."
"Sorry about that," Indiana Jones said. "I have a reputation for dropping in unannounced."
"You can certainly say that again," Chattar said, "excuse me."
He rushed to his bedroom and let out a relieved sigh. He changed his wet underpants for a dry pair and put on a traditional cool white robe, made from a thin cotton and the arms, large long sleeves, quite a cool robe for such a day. Chattar put his soiled underpants in the machine in the laundry, what he would now call "his underpants cleaner" and went back to greet Indiana Jones on more friendly terms.
"Can I offer you some refreshments?"
"I should be polite and decline, but I'd kill for a drink and a bite to eat."
"My pleasure," Chattar said, as he entered the kitchen.
It seemed aeons ago when he was making this salad, but it still looked crisp and fresh and so he threw a few more ingredients in and poured two large glasses of water for both him and Dr. Jones. He took them to the dining room where Indiana Jones sat.
"The water's fresh from the river." Chattar set the glasses down and fetched the salad, utensils and two bowls. He put the large salad bowl in the centre of the table.
"What?" Indiana said, "No snakes, eels, bugs or monkey's heads?"
Chattar gave him a smile. "Not anymore. I'm ashamed of many things I've done and I've not eaten meat since the dinner with you and Captain Blumburtt."
"Are you sure there are no bugs in here?"
Chattar Lal nodded.
"Then what's this?" Indiana Jones fished a wriggling beetle out of the portion of the salad he'd dished up for himself.
Chattar Lal gasped. "It must've crawled in ... we sometimes get them here. I ..."
Seeing Indiana smiling at him, Chattar Lal calmed. Dr. Jones had been toying with him. Indiana was amused by Chattar Lal's flustered reaction. He tossed the green bug away and it flew off.
Chattar Lal looked at the rugged archaeologist. When he was at Oxford, he was intrigued by him. When they met for the first time he had despised him. He had loathed the way Indiana Jones had embarrassed him at the dinner table in front of the Maharajah and all those people. Even when he was under the spell of the blood of Kali, Chattar Lal had still hated him. When he had thrown Chattar against the wheel, he cursed Dr. Jones, and too when he crawled away in pain - but now his life had improved. He had become in control of it - not ruled by anyone. Others forgave him and accepted him for who he was and for the first time in his life Chattar truly felt free. He felt wonderful. He looked at Indiana Jones. This man too had drunken the blood - the chemicals had also given him immortality. He still looked as handsome as Chattar first remembered him. Now, he was again intrigued by this unique archaeologist. Chattar watched as Indiana swallowed his salad and felt a strange attraction. He looked at the other man's unshaven stubble, his bare, masculine chest - the most unique and adventurous archaeologist in the entire world - and if there were other worlds, Chattar doubted they would have one as different as Indiana Jones. More people had tried to kill Indiana than the archaeologist had cared to count. He'd done the impossible, found things that had been believed lost forever. He'd found the Lost Ark, the Holy Grail and many more wondrous things.
"What are you staring at?" Indiana Jones asked Chattar Lal, with a mouthful of salad.
Chattar Lal snapped out of it. "Sorry, Dr. Jones. I was lost in thought ... What became of the woman, Ms. Willie Scott and the child, Short Round?"
"You have a good memory," Indiana Jones commented. "Willie, bless her, has become a famous singer on Broadway, and Short Round, the little rascal's not so little anymore - he's become a teacher in America, teaching Chinese Mythology."
Chattar Lal smiled. He'd hated the 'brat' at first, but now he was happy for both Short Round and Willie.
"So," Indiana Jones said, taking a sip of his fresh river water. "You're the 'lonely man' the villagers spoke of."
Chattar Lal smiled. "I suppose I am, but I'm happy here."
The archaeologist smiled. "You've sure come around, but I should be used to the unexpected."
Chattar Lal smiled. "It is amazing, isn't it? And I'd like to thank you for it. If it wasn't for you, it would never have happened."
Indiana Jones felt awkward being honoured in such a way. "I guess it's my pleasure," he said, taking another swig of his water.
Indiana Jones decided to stay the night, confident that no one was going to try and jump him while he slept this time. He felt a touch sorry for Chattar Lal. "Well, at least he's found what he's looking for ... I think." He now fully believed Chattar, and felt guilty about wanting to kill him.
"He even offered to wash my clothes, just like a parent," Indiana mused.
By morning Indiana's clothes had dried. It had been a hot night. The archaeologist showered, dressed and readied himself to leave.
"Ready for your next adventure, Dr. Jones?"
"Yes, actually. My spies tell me the whereabouts of numerous artifacts, which disappeared long ago have been discovered, including he arms of the Venus de Milo."
Chattar smiled. "Good luck."
"I don't know what that is," Indiana Jones said, "but I sure do seem to have plenty of it."
Chattar Lal smiled again. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to stay longer?" His voice was hopeful.
Indiana stopped for a moment on his way out. Why did Chattar want him to stay? He dismissed it, because he couldn't.
"I'm afraid I can't. I'd love to, but time's a wastin' and I need to get to those artifacts before anyone else does."
Chattar tried not to appear hurt. He didn't blame Indiana - the archaeologist had a mission to accomplish and Chattar hoped it would be a fruitful one.
Again, Indiana Jones turned to leave.
"Indy, wait ..." Chattar Lal called.
Indiana Jones turned around. It was the first time Chattar had used his nick name.
The other took a deep breath. "I ... I love you."
Indiana Jones was taken aback and was at a loss for words, which didn't happen very often. In his adventures, many women had wooed over him, or come to him in the end, as Willie had done, but he'd never been fancied by a man before. Indiana wasn't sure what to think and he was too late to catch an awkward smile touching his lips, and although he didn't admit it, he felt quite flattered. "Uh ... thank you ..." he said.
Chattar felt grateful that Indiana Jones had not been revolted. He didn't expect the archaeologist to jump into bed with him, although he'd dreamt about it.
Indiana Jones gave his hat a polite tilt.
"Good bye, Chattar Lal," he said, "and good luck."
"Thank you," Chattar said, watching Indiana Jones exit and wondered if they would ever cross paths again.
He watched until Indiana Jones' hat had long disappeared down the mountain trail which lead from Pankot Palace. He felt a cool breeze through the palace. One of those refreshing, relaxing breezes. Chattar judged by the nature of the breeze that a storm was on the way and would hit Pankot soon. He found storms exciting and liked preparing for them. There was only one door to close this time, so he didn't have to race around, closing a heap of windows and doors, which was rather fun. He closed the front door to the palace and walked back to the dining room. He ate some more of the beetle-free salad and placed the remainder in the cool-chest.
He didn't know whether to feel upset or glad. Perhaps both. A strange feeling. It felt as if another crushing weight had been lifted off him and he smiled. He hadn't realised how much he wanted to see Indiana Jones again. Chattar smiled. It was as though his life was complete. He felt even more confident now. It was fantastic! He wanted to continue to help others. It came naturally to him now.
As Chattar had predicted, the storm was upon Pankot within the hour. Rain pelted down on the palace with a vengeance and lightning brightened the sky. Although it was day time, the sky had been darkened by the blanket of clouds, thanks to the stinker of a day before. Thunder boomed overhead. Chattar loved thunder. It gave him inspiration. He raced up to his inspirational room. There was no sun, so he turned on a light. He was absolutely bursting and bubbling with ideas. He continued to work on his life story. An autobiography he'd planned to get published and he had an enthusiastic publisher eager to accept the book once it was done. A colossal thunder bolt shook the very walls of the palace, causing Chattar to jump at first, then smile as he listened to the sound and watched the rain streak down the stained glass windows.
His autobiography started when he was born, right up until this very moment. He described his life in the utmost detail - his innermost feelings, what he had done and what had happened. No lies, no excuses - just the truth. The book was thick and Chattar was very proud of it. It was then he finally discovered the prefect title for his unique story.
A Beginning From An End