From Different Times

A sample from the story 'From Different TImes' - a time travel tale!

It was late morning by the time Murar Bhide finished his last abhishek at the Saras Baug Ganapati temple and left. As was his wont sometimes, he wondered at the twist of fate that had landed him here. His great-grandfather had been the last priest in the family. His grandfather had been an accountant with the Colonial Government while his father, Vasant, was the first engineer in the family.

Murar too, had followed in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. He landed a lucrative job with a cutting edge technology company in Hadapsar. But the recession of 2008 caught him out. Along with other freshers who had less than a year’s experience, he had lost his job to the vagaries of economics. Try as he might, he hadn’t been able to land a new job for more than six months; no one seemed to want people like him. In desperation and what he had hoped would be a stop-gap arrangement, he acted on his grandfather’s suggestion and had taken to bhikshuki as a freelance priest. Hailing from a orthodox family, he had most of the requisite training; what he lacked was taken care of by his grandfather, in a crash course.

This stop-gap arrangement had proved so successful, that he had been doing it for the past four years without thinking of a change, though he sometimes rued the decision. His long, curly, black locks had been replaced by the traditional chakot with shendi at the back. Jeans and t-shirts had given way to crisp white dhotar and uparna. The jahnva had found its way back across his chest.

Murar still met his old friends sometimes, but it was not the same as before. On the positive side, he had been able to devote more time to regaining the physical fitness he had lost in the few months of sitting for long hours in the tiny cubicle at his job.

It had been raining heavily with roaring thunder and blinding lightning. Murar was soaked through by the time he left the temple complex and reached his bike. He did not mind as he was going home for lunch anyway. Lightning forked in the skies ahead. Just as Murar unlocked his helmet from the bike’s grab rail, the air around him seemed to sizzle. There was a loud thunderclap and a streak of lightning sped from above; the electrical charge struck him directly. As luck would have it, his skin resistance was high and the current didn’t kill him but flashed around his body and into the ground, generating a huge magnetic field and stunning him. His heart almost stopped. He dropped to the ground, losing consciousness.

Murar felt droplets of water on his face. He was unsure how much time had passed. The last thing he recollected was falling to the ground. He groaned and opened his eyes. His gaze met the concerned face of a man who was sprinkling him with water from a kamandalu. The man’s plump features split into a smile. He had a large nose and twinkling eyes. A pagdi covered his head, which seemed odd to Murar, as nobody wore them now, except in period plays.

Murar checked his limbs. Everything seemed to be in place. Amazingly, his clothes were not torn, though dirty, but he seemed to have lost his helmet and the bike keys. His money pouch, which also held his mobile, wasn’t around his neck either. Had somebody stolen it while he was unconscious? He looked around and then gasped involuntarily. He was sitting on dirt instead of a pavement, and the tar road had been replaced by hard packed earth. A large lake had appeared as if by magic, in place of the Saras Baug gardens, and the Ganapati temple was nowhere to be seen. As his gaze moved further, he was shocked to see there was no traffic at all, and the few people about were wearing clothes which only villagers sometimes did. What had happened to the buildings lining the road? There were none to be seen.

Murar couldn’t understand what had happened to the busy thoroughfare. Had the lightning strike somehow thrown him into a village, miles from Pune? There was no such place anywhere in the city that he knew of. He noticed the round-faced man was asking him how he was feeling. Murar nodded his head. The man’s accent matched his attire, he sounded as though he had walked straight out of an old Sangeet Natak. Murar nodded again, hoping he had not fallen into the clutches of some wacko.

Murar got up and dusted himself off. He was about to ask the man where they were when he saw a group of horsemen ride towards them. The lead rider looked just out of his teens. He sat proud and straight. The gold embroidery on his clothes must have cost a fortune. They rode past the lake in a flurry of dust. Was it some sort of fancy dress parade?

“Who was that?” he asked the portly man.

It was the man’s turn to stare at him in surprise. “Don’t you recognise Narayanrao Peshwa and his retinue, going to Parvati?”

It crossed Murar’s mind that he must be dreaming, or perhaps one of them was insane. But his still throbbing head and aching body told him otherwise, unless he was dreaming that too. If the man was to be believed, and if he trusted his own eyes, he had not been thrown to some far-off village, but had travelled back in time to somewhere between 1772 and 1773, when Narayanrao had been Peshwa.

However improbable it seemed, the other evidence pointed that way too. He could see Parvati in the distance, so this had to be Pune. This must be the Saras Baug lake, built by Nanasaheb Peshwa, while the Ganapati temple, which had been completed by Sawai Madhavrao in 1784 wasn’t there. He stared into the distance. How was this possible? It was like something straight out of science fiction. He recollected the stories of H. G. Wells and movies like Back to the Future. It was just too fantastic to be true! It must have been that blasted bolt of lightning that did it. If he had truly travelled to 1773, how was he going to get back to 2014?