"People are trapped in History and History is trapped in them."
- James Baldwin
Inspired by historical events and facts, this is purely a work of fiction. With the exception of public facts; all names, characters, places, events, locales, and incidents are either products of imagination or used in a fictitious manner to complement the story.
"When I close my eyes, I hear voices."
Diya was not looking at me.
I smiled, "Voices? like hush sounds?". I was trying to make her comfortable.
"No... You don't understand, Voices! Not just sounds. I hear someone whispering."
She blurted out, I didn't expect that. "Please, you're a doctor. Make it go away.", she was on the verge of tears.
Diya wasn't lying. I could see it in her eyes. Either she was telling the truth or she blindly believed that as truth. Whatever it was, I knew I had to help her. She trusted me.
I took her palms and placed them between mine. She was panting. "Don't you worry dear, I'll make the voices go away. I promise."
Little did I knew then, that I was going to fail her...
Chapter One -The Doctor
It was on the night of 15 August 1947 that I met Diya for the first time. The country was celebrating. British India was dissolved, India had gained its Independence.North of the country was still at unrest as the Indian Independence Act of 1947 also meant a partition displacing 10-12 million people along religious lines. The imminent threat of an overwhelming refugee crisis in the newly constituted dominions of India and Pakistan were largely overlooked.
The scenario was much better in the south. Don't get me wrong, 200 years of brutal colonial rule had truly left India in rubbles, but the country was determined. And that fire was all they needed.
There were many of us who had moved to India under various circumstances, fell in love with the country and always believed that our country's colonialism was downright unjust.
I was living then along the coast of Malabar, in the state of Madras. At least twenty-thousand of us had decided to stay back after the end of colonialism. It was an easy decision. Most of us were working men, some with families, employed in plantations or, as boxwallahs, in a range of commercial activities for big companies.
I was a doctor by profession. British had established several health care facilities across the country, mostly to cater to the needs of British officials. I was recruited as a General Consultant at Madras General Hospital. My displeasure with the system was something that I had expressed ever since the beginning. Eventually, that led to the termination of my position at Madras General Hospital.
Thereafter I moved to settle in a coastal village of Malabar, trying to set up an independent private clinic. There were not many patients. Local residents were mostly indifferent to western medicines. They preferred the traditional treatment of Ayurveda. But still, life was peaceful and without incidents.
Then I met Diya.
Chapter Two: The Girl
Diya was a peculiar 10-year-old girl. She was the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Mishra. Mr. Mishra had an annoying obsession to please white people. He was one of the few Indians who had supported colonialism. When India gained it's independence he along with his family was forced to move from the north, where the rebellion was much more strong.
They had moved into the house adjacent to mine, a few days ago. Mr. Mishra was a trusted servant of several British officers. He was fluent in the English language. He had also taught his knowledge of English to his daughter. However, as for Mrs. Mishra, it flew right over her head.
Though Diya was quite withdrawn to herself, I managed to make a connection with her. She was a tough nut to crack. Mr. Mishra had told me this the very first time we met. But that itself is what intrigued me to get close to her. It took me a while to get through to her, but once I did, I discovered a little genius, someone who was much smarter than other girls of her age. A girl with strong views and opinions. She too was against her father's view of supporting the oppressors.
Chapter Three: The Whispers
28 January 1948
Diya came to my door, early that morning, with an unusual request of wanting to talk to me, alone. Her eyes were red.
"When I close my eyes, I hear voices.", Diya wasn't looking at me.
I smiled, "Voices? like hush sounds?". I was trying to make her comfortable.
"No... You don't understand, Voices! Not just sounds. I hear people whispering.", she blurted out. I didn't expect that. I could see tears forming in her eyes."Please, you're a doctor. Make it go away."
Diya wasn't lying. I could see it in her eyes. Either she was telling the truth or she blindly believed that as truth. Whatever it was, it knew I had to help her. She trusted me.
I took her palms and placed them between mine. I could hear her panting. "Don't you worry dear, I'll make the voices go away. I promise."
"When did voices begin Diya?", I asked.
"Last Night. It woke me up. It was like someone whispering into my ears. I was scared. But there was no one.", Her face was turning white. Something had frightened her to the core.
"Hey, relax. Just tell me everything. I promise nothing's going to happen." I assured her.
"The voice was whispering the same thing again and again. As soon as I opened my eyes, it was gone. But when I closed my eyes, it started again. I was scared.", tears were rolling down her cheek. " I've been staying up the whole night. What is happening to me.", Diya was exhausted.
"Diya... we'll sort it out. Don't you worry." I was trying to comfort her, "why don't you tell me what the voices were whispering?"
Diya raised her head and looked at me. "It was the same four words, over and over again...
'Gandhi will be shot' ."
Both of us were silent for the next few seconds.
"Doctor?", Diya was the one who broke the silence.
"Yes dear", I answered with a smile. "Why don't we try something now. Close your eyes and let's see if the voices are still there." Diya was nervous. She didn't want to. "Come on Diya, you're a brave girl. Nothing will happen. Trust me.I'm with you na?", I assured her.
With much hesitation, she agreed. She held my hands tight and took a deep breath. I could feel her hands trembling. "Trust me Diya.".
Diya closed her eyes slowly.
"It's gone! It's really gone." she exclaimed. "Thank you doctor.", she hugged me.
"Now you listen to me girl, didn't I tell you how our brain works. Whatever you felt like whispers were just random thoughts emerging from your subconscious. Nothing else and it's gone.", I explained.
Diya was relieved. I expected her to ask more questions about it. But she didn't. She was just happy to put it behind her.
"Don't you have school today?", i asked.
"Yes Doctor, I'll go now. Thanks again."
"Anytime dear." I smiled as she went running.
Whatever I had told her, in the end, were plain lies. But she needed to hear it. I didn't know what those whispers were, but I was glad that it was gone.
Chapter Four: The Day of Deaths
30 January 1948
M K Gandhi has been assassinated! The news had spread like wildfire. The country was in chaos. But nobody was more shocked than I was. It took me a few minutes to get a grip on my reality, when I first heard the news. I was at a local bookstore then. The news was broadcast on the radio. It was the shopkeeper who had translated it to me.
She had told me.
Diya had warned me.
She had heard it from the 'voices'.
Of course, I didn't believe her then, but now...
I had to find her. If she had told someone else the same things she told me, she could be in trouble.
My heart was racing.
And then that question popped into my mind.
What am I supposed to do when I find her? Even I didn't know what was happening.
Time was of the essence.
It was 6.13 pm, and I was running down the street. An hour had passed since the assassination. I had a feeling that something bad was about to happen.
I wasn't wrong.
The house was on fire. A Mob had surrounded it with stones and weapons. People were shouting. I did not understand what it was. Tamil was still difficult for me to comprehend.
"What the hell happened here!?", I asked as soon as I found someone who could understand me.
"That dog of Britishers...Mishra, a traitor. He planned to killing Gandhi. His daughter heard. She telled with her friends in school ...", the man tried his best to explain with the little English he knew. That was enough for me.
The mob had chased Mr. Mishra and his family into the house. Someone then set it on fire. it's been 10 minutes since. They were all dead, burnt alive.
All I could do was, watch, as the house burnt down. I had failed her. Darkness crept into my eyes, and I collapsed, unconscious.
Chapter Five: The Intellectuals
21 May 3139
Research and Experiments division, ALO
"Gentlemen, as you all know, an year ago our division made an incredible breakthrough in quantum spacetime research. The hypothetical, discrete and indivisible unit of time, Chronon is no longer a mere concept.
Earlier this year we were also able to isolate the sub-atomic particles responsible for temporal anomalies. Yes, I'm extremely proud to say that, we here at the ALO Research and Experiments division have discovered the key to time travel."
The board of directors was impressed. ALO was in dire need of something like this. The criticisms were too much.
"Over the past few months, we've been experimenting on constructing a system that can send data across time, an elementary approach to time travel.
Our primary concern was regarding the data we send. It was essential that, the data packets were of minimal energy signature, yet it should also be able to deliver a clear and concise message. Data packets of higher energy signature would only end up interfering with the quantum particles, making the entire system obsolete.
The obvious answer was Slow Cortical Potentials or Infra-Low brainwaves. These are the waves that help advanced lifeforms, like ourselves, for telepathic communications. Data can be sent as these waves, and their energy signature is well within our requirements.
The second hurdle was that every advanced lifeform can receive and interpret these waves. With our input energy being so low, if the number of receivers were in such large numbers, chances are that the data would get dispersed all over, with no result. We still don't have means to target it onto something specific. All we can do is broadcast it blindly, maybe in loops, hoping that someone would pick it up. In other words, data broadcast to a recent past, say yesterday or last month, is just not possible. The number of receivers are too many.
Telepathic abilities were fully evolved in higher lifeforms somewhere around the year 3000. Before that it was just a rudimentary system within the brain. Consider the year 2000, or even before that. A very few who lived then might have had a basic, functional telepathic system without even understanding what it was.
And that is the perfect target for us!
Our scientists have already shortlisted several potential individuals who might have possessed that ability to receive our data packets. This was done by closely studying their contributions, along with a reconstructed genetic map. Our goal is to deliver a message to them, something significant on a scale, that would be documented in the course of history as something significant. We'll then have conclusive proof that our technology works."
Dr. Richard concluded his proposal, but he wasn't finished.
"Let me also answer the biggest question that all of you might have. Doesn't altering history result in drastic consequences for the future?
The answer is No. Universe has an innate tendency to correct itself. It would have resulted in an alternate reality, a rip in space-time if that change was drastic with a small window of time, but that's exactly why we're planning on delivering our message so back into the past. There's enough buffer time for the universe to correct the course of events. Thus we would get the results we need and our reality would still be intact."
The chairman had a question, "What's our message and who all are the recipients?".
"Yes, in order to make sure that our message has a significant impact, and will be documented, we've chosen one critical target point in the life of each individual. The messages would also be personalized.
For instance, a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he was shot dead on January 30th, 1948 in India. Since we can only transcribe limited words, the message will be "Gandhi will be shot". Note that we're addressing that individual by name, because there are possibilities that along with him there may be others in proximity, also with the ability to perceive that message. Specifying the name would avoid any confusions. We're attempting to deliver this message to his consciousness at least a few days before the assassination. Something like that would never miss the books."
"Impressive. It seems you have worked out every angle of the experiment. So how many individuals are shortlisted in total?", asked another member.
"137 individuals. The target message isn't always a death warning. It's carefully personalized to an important event in their life. The full list of shortlisted individuals and the messages will be submitted before the board for approval."
The chairman stood up from his seat. A wide smile of pride was evident on his face. "Dr. Richard, you've managed to achieve something that is going to revolutionize our future. I believe all of as are anxious to see it in action. When can you make that happen?"
"As soon as I have your approval, Sir.", Richard was proud.
January 28, 1948
(actual documented incident)
"If I'm to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling. God must be in my heart and on my lips. And if anything happens, you are not to shed a single tear.", Gandhi was talking to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, his former secretary and the then Minister for Health.
It was two days before his assassination.
A note to the reader
M K Gandhi, John F Kennedy, Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln are just a few names in a long list of people who foresaw their death, not vaguely, but with shocking precision. And this isn't just about deaths.
In 1898 author Morgan Robertson published a novel titled ‘Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan’. It was the story of a fictional ocean liner, ‘Titan’, which sinks in the North Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg. Fourteen years later, the events of Robertson’s book were mirrored almost exactly with the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.
Our past is full of strange incidents like this.
My story was inspired in an attempt to explain such incidents. It may be bizarre, but remember, so is our History.