She loved him. More than anyone or anything else in this life. He loved her too. They were married for more than 3 years now and still had the same chemistry between them. If not same, better. Living together had made them even more considerate of each other’s needs. Nainika sincerely believed they were soul mates and not really just partners who had loved, got married and settle down. Everybody knew they were perfect for each other and she could never thank God enough for what she had in her life. A nice family, supportive in-laws, a God-sent husband, a good career. When she folded her hands to prayer, she didn't know what to ask. Instead she thanked God a million times for all that He had blessed her with.
Nainika waited for Manik impatiently on the bed. As they started to get cozy and intimate, she told him, "I love you so much. I think I can die for you". Manik was not really pleased with the D-word. It put out his mood. But Nainika kindly explained to him that she had said that only because she was too afraid of death and it's unpredictability. But ever since Manik had made her life so beautiful, she wouldn't mind giving it away for him, rather than ever have to live without him. Manik understood and kissed her with all the passion in his heart. The night wore on and so did the love.
Manik shouted "Naini, come here. Look at the beautiful view". Nainika carefully made her way off-track and went in the direction where Manik stood. She exclaimed when she saw a small lake surrounded by beautiful mountains, lush green grass, completely concealed in a corner in the middle of the jungle. Immediately, they both decided to run down and steal a quick kiss. Manik helped Nainika down to the lake where they sat down admiring nature's beauty, looking into each other's eyes, stolen kisses and breathless promises were made.
As it started to turn dark, they realized they had sat there far longer they had planned to. They started on the trek again, oblivious of the facts that they were completely on the wrong trail. As night fell, and stars appeared in the sky, they reached a huge waterfall that was nowhere in the trail they had been following. But they decided to rest the night there and follow up with their friends in the morning. Both of them were tired to their bones. Nainika was quite terrified too. The darkness and the eerie silence made her uncomfortable and she jumped at the slightest noise. Manik held her in his arms and soothed her like a baby. After a while they both fell asleep.
Nainika woke up with a start. She thought she had heard some noises, but since she didn't want to disturb Manik, she kept still. But now she was sure there was some wild animal waiting to make them his next meal. But what came out of the adjacent bushes got the better of her scariest nightmares. She saw a herd of men, more like tribals, who wear only leaves around their genitalia. They held spears and pointed it at them as a threating gesture. Nainika shook Manik up and for a couple of uncomfortable seconds, no one spoke a word.
Assuaging the situation, Manik finally spoke up, "Wh-What do you want?"
Immediately Manik and Nainika were separated and bound with thick ropes. The tribals did not say a word to them and spoke excitedly amongst themselves in a language that both Manik and Nainika couldn't decipher. They both tried to calm each other and said their “I Love You” in English and Hindi. At about 3'o clock they both were forcibly taken near the huge waterfall they had earlier encountered on their way. Manik was stammering and Nainika crying. With fear. Finally, after much persuasion from them, their chief, a menacingly looking man, came forward and spoke some broken Hindi. Manik and Nainika froze. They ears were buzzing as if somebody had boxed them. "Sacrifice...1....man...woman....good luck...rain...happy....god".
It didn't take them long to realize that these tribals wanted to sacrifice and throw one of them down the waterfall to appease the rain gods. But they didn't know who would be chosen.
Just then, another bomb dropped on them. The chief tribal pointed his spear towards Nainika and asked her to be brought forward. Nainika took one look down the waterfall, then looked at Manik with horror in her eyes and stepped forward. And then the chief spoke again, "you decide....who goes to the God".
The sacrifice was to be made at the crack of dawn. Both of them were hung on poles with their hand and legs tied apart. Below them, they could see the waterfall gushing, as if prophesizing its mightiness. Both Manik and Nainika were speechless. The only words they both could hear were "I love you Manik. I could die for you"!
Nainika jumped and woke up with a start. She was sweating profusely despite the air conditioning in the room. Nainika was bewildered as she realized she had been in a horrible dream and started crying. Manik sat up, confused and looked at the clock. It was 5'o clock in the morning and sun was just about to rise. Manik laughed softly when he heard that his wife was crying due to a nightmare. He gave her some water to drink, calmed her down and went back to sleep. Nainika, however, could not sleep.
She kept tossing and turning. Only she knew in her heart the terror she had gone through. It was real. She could feel the fear of death in her ribs and heart and that the prospect of dying had put a lot of things in perspective for her. Including the love she had for Manik. And more importantly, herself. She kept thinking whose name she would have taken in the dream. She wanted to hear herself say Manik, but she knew better. She had just seen another facet of the human mind.