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By Anand Neelakantan

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The General took a tentative step to climb the stairs but stopped again. Something had caught his eye. He bent down painfully and picked it up. It was a wooden cart with a broken wheel – a little boy’s toy. A smear of blood had dried on its broken side. With a sigh, the General started climbing up. The steps groaned in protest. As if on cue, the sobbing stopped. The long verandah ran a considerable distance, vanishing into shadow. It started snowing and the white flakes fell on the wooden benches placed along the corridor, forming strange shapes.

The little boy cowered under the massive wooden bed, trembling with fear. The emptiness of the cavernous room oppressed him. Cloaked in the musty darkness under his father’s bed, he hoped his tormentor would not find him. He could smell the lingering traces of the faint and musky odour which clung to his father, and wished he would return soon. For the last six months, every day had been like this – being chased by his cousin while he hid under the bed and waited with thumping heart for his enemy to lose interest in him and give up, while he cowered in fear.

Jarasandha: The King of Magadha. In his kingdom, merit rules instead of caste. General Hiranayadhanus: Father of Ekalavya and Commander-in-Chief of Jarasandha’s army, he has risen from the lowliest caste, the Nishadas, by dint of his own merit and the friendship of King Jarasandha. Mayasura: A great architect and a low caste Asura. Indra: The last King of the illustrious Deva Empire. Living in penury in the forest, he wants to make a secret weapon for his son, Arjuna, without which he fears his son is doomed.

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Ajaya by Anand Neelakantan

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