Pratima looks at her but stares at a woman standing beside the building with a white cane.
"Pratima, this is Darlana." Jyotsna turns toward her. "Her house was attacked by the bandits."
"Hello Darlana," the young woman speaks to her. "I am from Pilani. The Librarian has sent me to investigate the forbidden technology being used here."
"Welcome to our town Pratima," Darlana addresses her.
"I understand a doctor was kidnapped from your house?" Pratima inquires.
"Pratima of the libraries, would you care to see the house where the attack happened?" Darlana inquires.
"I would be very interested in seeing what happened when the doctor was taken." Pratima responds.
"Follow me," Darlana commands.
"The native language of the local village people is Hindi of the Urdu variety, and the town has Jamuna Pari bakri goats," Darlana tells her. "There is also Bhadavari buffaloes and DESI ghee."
"Yes, we first worried about what was going on here because William found some ghee from here." Darlana smiles.
"Tell me about the buffaloes and goats." Pratima asks.
"This district is known for Jamuna pari goats and Bhadabari buffalos," Darlana continues. "Jamunapari goats have long ears, noses like parrots and long hair. This breed eats babul, jharberi and other green leaves. These goats can produce as much as three litres of milk in a day."
"The Bhadawari buffaloes are copper colored and have two or three white lines on their necks." she tells her. "They have milk that is more fatty and other cow or buffalo milk."
"We also raise a lot of potatoes here. We are able to export to neighboring districts and to Delhi."
Darlana leads through paving stones to her porch, through the sage, coriander and lavender that flank the path.
They reach her porch, and Pratima waits while Darlana unlocks and enters her house. "I have some lemon water and fruit." she calls back.
"Thank you Darlana for bringing me to your home."
Pratima stands for a few minutes, watching the sunset stain the shades of pink and maroon that melted into violet shadows on the nearby hillsides. She hears soft music emanating from a nearby house, and Pratima listens for a bit, trying to identify the tune.
Darlana waves Pratima into the house and locks the front door. The house combines the festive vibe and colors of a eating establishment with the mellow energy of a courtyard retreat.
Pratima removes her shoes and pads across the rug on the living room floor. Darlana has already put food out on a coffee table in front of the couch, Pratima notices, as she stops beneath the arched doorway.
"Pour yourself a glass." Darlana says, pointing towards the table. Darlana sits at the table and begins slicing a mango on a small wooden cutting board.
She has let her dark hair hang free of its tie, falling around her shoulders. Pratima picks up a gourd of lemon water from the table and pours it into an empty glass Darlana has put beside it.
She set it down and watches Darlana work on the mango. Pratima sees the gray at her temples and crow's feet at the corners of her dark eyes.
"Darlana you are elegant yet down-to-earth, and are amazingly able to get around."
"Thank you, Pratima of the libraries," she continues slicing the rest of the mango.
Darlana puts the slices of fruit into a bright red ceramic bowl then turns toward Pratima, who takes a piece of mango and bit into it.
"Perfectly ripe. Thanks." She swallows then chases it with water.
"You sound like a beautiful woman," Pratima laughs at Darlana's words.
"You have my attention," Pratima laughs again. She takes a sip of water, regarding Darlana over the rim of her glass.
Darlana figures she is lucky to have settled into a nice rapport with Pratima.
"What happened here?" Pratima inquires.
"When the the inspector was asking me about why the doctor was kidnapped, I realized the kidnapping was because of a lie." Pratima mouths a gentle questioning sound.
"The paper about treating burn patients was my work, not his." Darlana continues. "He was kidnapped for knowledge I have, not him."
"Why would he get the credit?" Pratima asks.
"It just seemed to make more sense. He is the one who went to university. No one would believe I did the research and wrote the studies. I agreed to the deception," Darlana says. "Now ironically, that lie saved me from kidnapping."
"Do you love him?" Pratima wonders.
"We don't have that kind of relationship," she responds. "We started for the professional benefits. I could get the material out. He could get the credit." she cocks her head, listening to the sounds around them. "We have spent so much time together now, that I guess we have grown close."
"How long have you been blind, if it's permitted to ask?" Pratima requests.
"I lost my sight when I was a small girl," Darlana smiles. "I went to a blind school in Kerala. I learned Urdu Braille and English Braille there."
"Are there many Braille books in the Etawah library?"
"Not many, but I have enough, and correspond with Kerala to borrow more."
"Let me show you my writing tool" Darlana walks to a desk and picks up a thin sheet of metal.
"This aluminum writing slate allows me to write to my friends." she holds up small awl like peace if wood with a metal point.
"This stylus can punch the braille marks on paper for my letters."
"Should I get back to dine with Jyotsna?" Pratima wonders.
"Yes, let's get back." Darlana agrees.
Darlana leads Pratima out the doorway. Pratima stops suddenly and pulls on Darlana's arm.
"What is wrong?" Darlana inquires.
"The fog," Pratima's voice expresses shock.
"It is foggy," Darlana doesn't understand why she is upset.
"But, the fog is so thick," Pratima stutters out. "It is pitch dark, and with the fog I can't see a thing!"
"That's OK," Darlana reassures her. "I know the way."
"But I can't see two feet in front of us," Pratima has a quaver in her voice. "We could fall down, or run into something."
"Trust me Pratima," Darlana says strongly. "I know the way. This is how it always looks to me."
Pratima nervously clutches Darlana's arm as she uses her cane to tap in front of her and walk back through town. For the next 10 minutes they make all the turns and walk where they need to, perfectly.
"Here we are," Darlana announces. Pratima gropes her way forward and touches a doorknob.
"Well," Pratima says to Darlana. "You really do know the way. I would not have believed it, but I saw it."
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish