They had both started laughing. Chandra Bhaal had known Bhanu since he was just three days old. He had first seen the little Bhanu in the Emergency Ward of SSL Hospital, where he was rushed from his paternal village near Ghazipur. The infant had tetanus, and his jaws were half-locked. He was only five on 5 November 1969 – five days, that is. A thick needle inserted into an infant’s skin was not a thing that Bhaal would ever forget. He would not pray for the child, for he knew that prayers are for fools and imbeciles, and he was neither. He went to the head of the pediatrics department instead, and talked, while Rudra Pratap stood there, praying and helpless.
They talked about the bad times the country had reached due to the critical position of Saturn in Indiraji’s horoscope, about the recent communal riots in Gujarat, and about the test debut of one G R Vishwanath in the match between India and Australia at Green Park. At the end of the talk, the infant in the Emergency Ward was mentioned. Dr. Sahi had instantly understood the real purpose of the prefatory small talk. Chandra Bhaal was a very important person, at least for his whole family. He had saved his career once, and life twice. Now was the time for the first installment of the repayment. It was a difficult case. He knew that the child was born in the village house of his grandfather, and had neonatal tetanus that was nearly seventy per cent fatal in India.
Well, Bhanu did not join the seventy percent fatality statistics. He survived. Some said it was all because Bhanu’s grandmother had gone without water or food for three days so that Kedar Baba would save the child. Some said that the doctors of SSL Hospital were gods and some called the child lucky. Rudra Pratap knew that the real reason behind the child’s miraculous survival was his friend Bhaal and from that day onwards, the saver of the child’s life was his unannounced godfather.
The term wasn’t used by anyone, but Bhaal performed all the functions of a good godfather. Since that day of 1969, when he had seen that helpless infant in the emergency ward, Bhaal had appointed himself his guardian angel. He was playing this role of his at Lanka that day. Only this time, there were no brown infant eyes looking into his for a moment, pleading for life.
Bhanu was in full form that morning. Wearing a khadee kurta and grey trousers, with a long tika of Sankatmochan on his forehead, he shone among his fellow students. It was an important occasion for the students. One of their leaders was going major league by immolating himself. It was a criminal offense, so there were two constables by the paan shack in the corner. They were sent there not to do anything, but to observe and flee when they smelt danger. Students of BHU had caused a lot of harm to the police in the past, and Ram Asre Yadav, the Officer In-charge of Lanka Police Station had no plan to add two more names to the list of casualties.
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