It had happened with the heroes of the epics: the living away from their home for over a decade. Their exile had never been mysterious, as they had never been hidden from the eyes of their audience in that span. Bhaal’s disappearance remained mysterious because nobody knew where he had been, and what he had been doing. People pestered him a lot, but return repulsed by a wall of silence. He would not leave his city willingly and happily that they knew. He was born for Kasi, although he was not born there.
Chandra Bhaal was past thirty when his mother had brought them all to the city of light. His chronological childhood was spent in Jabalpur, but he had another waiting for him in Kasi: this one was the intenser one as it was not by default but by choice. The city would be his second mother, and father. He ad been an early rebel. His biological parents had tried to build him in their image and he had successfully repulsed and resisted all such attempts. When Kasi started making him in its image, he went with the flow. The fire of rebellion was strangely sated after his father’s murder.
Bhaal’s father was a very secretive man. He had died keeping secrets even from his wife. Kumar Sambhav had left his identity behind when he had moved to Kolkata, and he had entered Jabalpur with his new identity firmly established in place. He had successfully metamorphosed a mystery into an obvious fact. His double coup had come when he helped (abetted was the term commonly used by many for his act then) his son Bhaal secure a brahmin bride from Ujjain. Lopa was not Bhaal’s classmate. They had met at Madan Mahal through Lopa’s cousin who was Bhaal’s friend too. Bhaal was an unemployed postgraduate in Physics and Lopa was studying Philosophy in the newly established University of Jabalpur. It was only a chance occurrence that they had met there.
Theirs was not love at first sight. In fact, a part in Lopa was strongly repulsed by Bhaal’s placidity and his lack of drive even then. Their paths met so many times, and not completely accidentally, that a physiological kind of attraction developed between them. So it was, when they eloped too. They had no place to run to, so they camped at Sleemanabad near Katni at Mohsin’s place. Mohsin was Bhaal’s friend and had helped the couple out of pure selfishness.
He had failed in his love with a Hindu girl of Bhaal’s muhalla and it was during his loitering round her house that Bhaal had taken pity on him and taken him under his protection. He had advised his friend to elope with the girl, who had given a firm no in reply. So, Bhaal was the pining lover’s last hope and he wanted to bury him under his obligations so that he would help him later. He was the man who kept Sambhav informed about his son’s whereabouts during the fortnight he was at Sleemanabad. The couple had returned after their court marriage in Katni. There was a small and short Arya Samaj wedding in Jabalpur and the bride was brought into the house. It was the third day of Februry 1961.
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