Abdullah looked up to his mentor to ask, “Can you teach me to write in Hindi? My ideas come to me in Hindi and I dream in Hindi. But I don’t know how to write in the language I know best.”
Deepak looked up at the sky, searching for a palatable response. “Abdullah, Hindi cannot be written. It is what Innovation Law refers to as a Savage language. But to be pragmatic Abdullah, it is simply an unwritten language. No symbols exist to write it.”
Abdullah persisted, “Why can’t we use Kangxi to write Hindi?”
“I’m not sure it would work Abdullah, but regardless; it is Innovation Law that all writing be done in only Kangxi, and only for the Mandarin language. Your father, before he left to fight in the Technology Wars, explicitly instructed me to teach you Mandarin. That is the language of the world Abdullah.”
“Are there others in the world who can write Hindi?” Abdullah’s persistence sometimes bordered on being dense, but then he was only 7 years old.
“Abdullah, listen to me carefully. Normally, because your mother is a Savage, such discussion is prohibited. But because your father is an Innovation Officer, and I am your Innovation Mentor, we are allowed some liberties as part of your education. Officially, Hindi is not even a term in Mandarin. Your birth language is simply referred to as Savage linguistics. Now, there are theories – among Savages – that Hindi was a written language far in the past. And that Innovation Law caused it to atrophy over generations. But because there is no written text anywhere to be found, this cannot be corroborated. Now, that is everything I know Abdullah. Let us speak of this no more.”
Abdullah was now 14 when he looked across to his mentor to ask, “While my Mandarin vocabulary is now very strong, I feel there are some common words that I don’t understand their meanings very well. Would you please elaborate to me on the meaning of the word, innovation?”
Deepak was taken aback with this question and his nature was to respond cautiously, “That is indeed a word you should understand fully. Let’s start by having you tell me what you think it means.”
“I have always understood it, at a high level, to be synonymous with integration. The message seems to be that we should strive to find solutions to new challenges that fit within existing, standard constructs. And that change should occur incrementally. I struggle with this understanding because monthly political announcements rationalize significant events as innovation. And this seems to sometimes stretch my original interpretation.”
“I see.” Deepak could see that this conversation would require him to speak on a personal level. “There is another word in Hindi, Abdullah – propaganda. Oftentimes political messages can leverage existing mantra. Not unlike what is done sometimes in marketing. The unintended consequence of which is that the meaning of words can evolve over time. It is not inconceivable that this has happened with the word innovation. One can imagine that our political party chose the word for its populism and the strong sense of progress it evoked emotionally. I can tell you that I have listened to recordings of speeches, hundreds of years old, wherein the word was used quite differently than it is today. In fact, the syllables were even stressed differently. Now, you should understand that it is important for you to only think of this word in its present meaning. Debate on possible past meanings is not allowed as that is not constructive or germane to progress. The message for you is that innovation is the way forward. And the way forward is through innovation.”
Abdullah was now 17. His mentor passed away a year earlier. He fulfilled his obligations by contributing to the needs of his mentor’s family when he was in a position to do so. Many of his friends had conscripted with the Innovation Forces and were away in training. Abdullah was expected to have done the same, and certainly would have. However, he needed his father’s signature and his father was currently a POW on some island in the Caribbean. Abdullah was fine with that too because while he was willing to join the Innovation Forces, he had to admit to himself that he didn’t necessarily believe in any of their doctrine. But while he sensed in his heart that his predicament was for a reason, his body endured tsunami force hormones that required action. Anything. Abdullah needed a mission. Thus were his thoughts to himself as he sat alone during the waning stages of the Holi festival.
An older man with a well groomed but oddly long beard sat down next to Abdullah. “You’re Abdullah aren’t you? The one who’s dad is a POW?”
“Yes. I’m sorry but I don’t recognize you?”
“That’s because you have never participated in Brahma-charya Ashram, Abdullah. You may address me, Arya.”
“Pleased to meet you, Arya. I received my education from Deepak – an Innovation Mentor.”
“Yes, I knew Deepak well. He was a Guru before he accepted the Innovation title of Mentor. He did this to serve your father – and you Abdullah. I have waited to speak to you until you completed your obligations to Deepak’s family. You are ready now Abdullah to begin your Karma marg. You are to go to Puri, Abdullah. Once you are there, you will know what to do with your life. Namaste.” Arya then stood and walked off through the crowd that seemed to part for his approaching steps and close around his passing.
Abdullah reflected on his conversation with Arya for 7 days before telling his mother that he intended to travel to Puri. She didn’t challenge him but instead gave him an old postcard of a building in New Delhi called the Lotus Temple; and she told him to contact a man there called Bábí. She suggested Abdullah could spend the night there on his way to Puri.
The building was easy to locate from its address, although no one seemed to know it by the name Lotus Temple. At the door, Abdullah asked to talk with Bábí who arrived within a few minutes. “It’s good to meet you Abdullah. I know your mother well. How is she?”
“She is fine, although she is very concerned for my father.” She gave me this postcard to find you. Is this no longer the Lotus Temple?”
“Oh my, may I see your postcard? This is very old, I remember giving it to your mother. We need to destroy this Abdullah because we are no longer allowed to use that name. We are now the Technology Leadership Exchange. Our mission is to provide direction to the Innovation technologists and to help them set their technology roadmap.”
“Ah, I thought maybe this was an Innovation temple of worship. It looks like a temple.”
“It was, centuries ago. We practiced a faith different from what is now allowed under Innovation law. But our doctrine of inclusion and harmony of faith and science uniquely qualify us to provide technical leadership to the Innovation Science Academy. I know I can trust your discretion Abdullah so I will tell something that cannot be repeated publicly. The Innovation Science Academy is unable to maintain the pace of innovation in the Savage Lands. My center here is allowed to quietly engage with the Savage Lands so that we can share in their discoveries and make them available to the Academy. In exchange for our service, we are also allowed to continue, albeit quietly, the practice of our Bahá’í faith.”
“That’s incredible. I’ve always been lead to believe we were more advanced than the Savage Lands.”
“We are more efficient in ways. And our standards adoption is more pervasive. The Technology Wars are not about who has the best technology, but rather about methodologies. The Innovationists believe that competition and technology pluralism is inefficient and ultimately unsustainable. The Savages don’t deny the destructive nature inherent in their radical model of innovation diffusion. Their value system favors technological advancement over social costs. You must be tired Abdullah. I understand you will travel to Puri tomorrow. I suggest you visit the Jagannath Temple, only like this center it is no longer called that. It is the Puri Museum. Take their Sanskrit tour. I believe you will find it enlightening.”
Abdullah hadn’t realized he was so tired until it was suggested he was. He followed Bábí to his sleeping quarters. His mind was heavy with the new and illicit knowledge.
Abdullah arrived at the Puri Museum the next day as many tourists were dining for lunch, so the crowds were thin. He bought a ticket to the Sanskrit tour and the guide didn’t wait for a larger group to form before starting. “You appear to me to be the Abdullah whose father is a POW? And you’ve come from the Lotus Temple?” The old man’s dark brown eyes sparkled at Abdullah with the intensity of a blazing camp fire at night.
“Yes, how did you know this?”
“You may call me, Acharya. And how is my brother, Bábí?”
“He is well. He told me I should take your Sanskrit tour. I guess he wanted me to meet you?”
“Yes, Abdullah. And how is my sister, Sita?”
“My mother is also quite well, but worried for my father.”
“Of course. Let’s begin the tour. The Innovationists allow our collection of Sanskrit scripts to persist because they represent dead languages and are of no threat to their rule. They study it as the Savages might have revered Latin at one time.”
“What is Latin?” Abdullah wasn’t sure if he should interrupt but was so curious for knowledge.
“Another written language lost to history Abdullah. And according to myth, one that may have existed exclusively for the act of writing – which would be ironic. Back to my story. These scripts are all very ancient. While it’s possible that up to half of your words in Hindi could be derived from words in Sanskrit, there is no known script linking these to what might have served as a modern-day script for Hindi. I believe the Innovationists have destroyed such scripts over the centuries. In Sanskrit, this is what would be called Satya – the truth.”
Abdullah’s mind was racing. He had felt for years that this might be possible, but he was never allowed to explore the concept of Hindi writing. “Why are you telling me this Acharya? Is this told to everyone on tours?”
“No Abdullah, such conjecture is against Innovationist law. I am telling you this Abdullah because you are the Kalki Avatar. We expected your arrival before your mother even married your father. You were mentored by Deepak Parashurama to destroy this Age of Darkness.”
“Kalki is simply my middle name. I’m no Avatar. What Age of Darkness?”
“Abdullah. Avatar Kalki. With the exception of Sanskrit, every written language in India has disappeared from history. You’ve sensed this most of your life. The Innovationists have attacked our Cultural Trinity of language, arts and technology and brought about these Dark Ages. You must go to the Savage Lands, Avatar Kalki to find Veda – our books of knowledge. It is prophecy that you will find these books written in Hindi script. And you will release them to the world to restore our culture. To restore light to the Trinity. Come Abdullah, let us finish our tour of the Sanskrit display.”
Abdullah’s Maglev train took him as far as the terminus in Shanghai, where he then boarded a jet to the Savage Lands. His visa and ticket didn’t specify the city but he understood it to be near the technological center of the Savage Lands. Once aboard the aircraft, there was reading material in his seat pocket that suggested the city might be called San Francisco. Acharya had arranged for him to stay with a scholar named Joshua Packard. Abdullah arrived at 8 in the morning local time and required 3 hours to clear customs – as the Savage Lands officials were meticulous in determining that Peter was not an Innovation Technologist. Abdullah saw Joshua holding a sign with his name near the baggage terminal. “You must be Mr. Packard. I am Abdullah.”
“Abdullah, yes. I already have your bags loaded in my car. We can walk this way.” The man lead Abdullah outside, occasionally guiding him with his arm on his shoulder. “There is our driver Abdullah. We can sit in the back.”
Abdullah entered the car on the curbside and scooted over to the driver side so that Joshua could also enter and sit down. “Honestly Mr. Packard, I thought tha…”
“Please Abdullah, call me Joshua.”
“Yes, well Mr. Joshua, I did not think I would be allowed to travel so easily to the Savage Lands. My 3 hours in customs notwithstanding, I thought we were at war.”
“Your ideas of war are perhaps romanticized from watching too many movies Abdullah. Modern warfare doesn’t involve armies and killing – well not much. The Technology Wars are really a legal dispute, albeit on a global scale, but for the most part totally managed by the World Governance Board. That your father is being held against his will is quite extraordinary and I’m certain his case will be resolved soon.”
“Do you know why my father is being held as a POW?”
“Well, that’s where the irony comes in Abdullah. Now that we are in the privacy of my car, I can address you as Avatar. He was here to destroy what you have come to claim – the Veda manuscripts. I am taking you to see them now. But first we will have lun…” Joshua was interrupted by a blinding light and deafening noise. Abdullah felt the car lift but then felt nothing as he was knocked unconscious by the blast.
Abdullah could see his father in the distance on the beach. He walked toward him but the wind picked up and he had to walk harder. And harder. He couldn’t seem to close the gap. He could hear his father calling his name but he felt helpless. Abdullah opened his eyes. A man in a white shirt was waking him by calling his name. “Abdullah, good. You’re coming to. Can you hear me Abdullah?”
“Good, can you see me Abdullah?”
“Yes, I can see you. Where’s Mr. Packard? Is he OK?”
“Yes, Abdullah. I think everyone is going to be fine. Your friends are over there, to your right. You’ve had an accident and you’ve been unconscious for about 15 minutes. I’m a Paramedic and I need you to do a couple of things for me. I don’t want you to try standing but see if you can sit up. Can you do that for me?”
Abdullah sat up without assistance, it was quite easy. He felt fine. He then saw the car – turned over with Fire Fighters walking around it – and the day’s events flooded back into his memory.
“Now Abdullah, I want you to keep your head still, but follow my finger with your eyes.” The paramedic went through a series of motions and Abdullah did as instructed. “I think you’re going to be fine Abdullah. The bomb concussion must have knocked you unconscious but you don’t have any injuries. Still, you’ll need to come with us to the hospital. You can ride with one of your friends when we’re ready. Just stay here for now, OK?” With that the Paramedic walked over to his ambulance and began chatting with a Police Officer. Abdullah stood up and walked over to Mr. Packard.
“Abdullah! Thank goodness you’re all right. I have to tell you I was going to pick you up today in my Jeep. I thought you’d enjoy riding with the top down. My security staff made the right call today by insisting otherwise. That car – what’s left of it – is a tank. Actually, now that I look at it, it looks OK. It’s just upside down. Abdullah, you look a bit woozie. Sit down here.”
Abdullah caught himself swaying a bit. He corrected his stance and refocused his eyes. “I’m fine Mr. Packard. My mother told me to expect jet lag feeling like pushing an elephant up a hill and boy was she right.” Abdullah noticed Mr. Packard smile a bit. “Mr. Packard, what happened? Is the government trying to kill me?”
“Oh no, Abdullah. I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I can assure you that the government isn’t trying to kill you. The U.S. Government not only gave you a visa, but just had 3 hours with you. And your own government gave you an exit visa to travel here. But yes, someone did just try to harm us. We can’t talk here Abdullah. We’ll talk when we return to my house after we get checked out at the hospital. Whoever talks to you, and there will be several people – Doctors and Law Officers – let them know that I am your host. Defer any questions you are uncomfortable with to me. OK?”
“Sure, but do we have to go to the hospital? I don’t know who to trust. Can I ride with you Mr. Packard?”
“Of course, Abdullah. We’ll stay together. But we need to go to the hospital first for my insurance. It’ll just be an hour or so and then we’ll go home. You can trust me Avatar.”
Abdullah’s concern about the hospital proved unwarranted as it was an uneventful 45 minutes. He was now sitting on the redwood deck in Joshua’s backyard, looking out over a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay. While he never heard of San Francisco before, or Marin County where this house was located, the large span bridge in the distance looked eerily familiar. Maybe all span bridges look the same, but it occurred to him that the Innovationist censorship of Savage Land cities might not have been as effective against photos as it was against text. The double-French doors opened and Joshua emerged carrying sandwiches and tea. “Your view is awesome Mr. Packard. That bridge looks so familiar, but I don’t know how or where I might have seen it.”
“Well it’s unlikely you’ve ever seen pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, Abdullah. Innovationist censorship over the last several centuries has been pretty severe. Hence, the purpose of your visit – to discover remnants of Hindi script.” Joshua sat down across from Abdullah so the sun would not be in his eyes. “I don’t know that it’s safe to take you to see my collection just now. We should give my security staff time to determine what happened today. You’ll be safe here, I assure you.” Joshua poured the tea.
“Thank you Mr. Packard.”
“Please Abdullah, call me Joshua.”
“Yes, of course Mr. Joshua. Can you tell me more about my father?”
Joshua looked directly at Abdullah and then sideways toward the view of the bridge. “I don’t really know anything that isn’t public knowledge, but I suppose that’s more than you know. His visit here was big news at the time, although he wasn’t the central figure. He was part of the Innovationist Policy Negotiation Team led by Hydra Down. My understanding of that team is that it’s quasi-government. But it appears to really be driven by large Asian multi-national corporations. Your father was of course a government Innovation Officer acting as a language translator. Your English is quite good by the way.”
“Thank you. My mentor was very strong in languages.”
“Your mentor, Deepak Parashurama, was world renowned for his strength in languages Abdullah. My Security Team is working on some intelligence around your father’s connection to your mentor. Your father is quite successful, but he isn’t wealthy. It doesn’t seem likely he could afford Deepak. And it also was never clear why Deepak left a prestigious University Chair to mentor you. Even without knowing the answers to these questions, the oddity would have generated concern. The theory my Security Team is working on as of this morning is that it was the Innovationist Policy Negotiation Team that perhaps set your father up with some false evidence that resulted in his detainment by the U.S. Government. Your father’s connection to Deepak is the key to understanding this affair Abdullah.”
“What is he charged with or suspected of having done? Abdullah had yet to touch his food, he was so deep into Joshua’s story.
“I don’t know with certainty Abdullah. Prisoners of Trade Wars are not subject to the Geneva Convention or any other normal civil rights. The government can hold him indefinitely without ever formally charging him. The rumor is that he planned to destroy the Veda manuscripts. Because this is only rumor is partly why we think he was setup. If there were any truth to it, then he’d probably have been executed already.”
Abdullah was no longer hungry and his tea was now cold.
Abdullah was starving by the time they sat down for dinner. But Joshua had invited several dinner guests and it was difficult to eat while responding to conversation. To his left was the most radiant Japanese woman he’d ever met or seen. She introduced herself as Amaterasu. “Abdullah, you appear quite young to be traveling abroad alone. You must be very brave.”
“No Miss Amaterasu, just very curious. I feel I have a purpose in coming here, although I’m not sure what it is. I feel that I am searching. I want to make some sort of difference. My English is not so good, but can you understand that?”
“Yes Abdullah, I do. All it takes Abdullah to find something, anything, is to search for it. Things want to be found. Light always finds darkness.”
“By your accent Miss Amaterasu, I don’t think you grew up here in the West. Forgive me if I am too forward, but are you an Innovationist?”
“Do I appear to be an Innovationist Abdullah?”
“No Miss Amaterasu. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. You have such an aura, an ambience of light. I could not imagine you as an Innovationist. But you are clearly Eastern.”
“You have not offended me, Abdullah. And I will not dodge the question. Let us speak of innovation. When I was your age Abdullah, I was quite an athlete. I ran the fastest 400 meters in all of Japan. When I was training for the Olympics, I was given a new coach. She was from the West. You would not believe how she had me train. She told me that I already knew how to run. And all my competition knew how to run. She made me start swimming for about a third of my workouts. The swimming taught me to better control my breathing, and I medalled in the Olympics. Bronze, but my performance far surpassed expectations.”
“Are you suggesting variety promotes innovation?”
“More than variety per se. There are certainly some benefits to standardization. But one reaches diminishing returns. With variety comes competition. Unthinkable things become possible. Mandarin has brought political stability and peace to 3 quarters of the world’s population Abdullah. But its usefulness wanes. There are words in other languages that don’t exist in Mandarin. Abdullah. Avatar Kalki. When you bring forth the light of Hindi to the world, you will attack Innovationism and Mandarin at right angles with philosophies and culture that billions have never imagined. In doing so you will destroy Innovationism while lifting up Mandarin – making it stronger for the world to move forward. It will seem chaotic, but the world waits for this as darkness thirsts for light.”
“You seem to know me Miss Amaterasu, but I am not so confident. There seems to be much expected of me but honestly, I don’t know what to do.”
“At night Abdullah when you lie down. When you think of me. You will think of me. I will guide you then, Abdullah. I will talk to you as your consciousness alters. And I will tell you what you must do. Now eat your peas, Abdullah. You look hungry.”
Abdullah ate his peas. They were tasty.
Abdullah shuffled up to the breakfast table groggy from the previous night’s dinner party. Joshua Packard was quite the entertainer. Joshua was already seated and sipping coffee. “Good morning Abdullah. I trust you slept well?”
“Yes Mr. Joshua. I’d have slept longer I think but the sunlight in my room woke me up.”
“Of course, the east guest room catches the morning sun in full. Well, I’m glad you’re up to join me for breakfast. We’re going to have a big day.”
“Is it safe today to see your collection?” Abdullah was hopeful.
“No, but we are going to visit it anyway. There’s very little time. We will be hosting Ms. Hydra Down this evening for dinner. My Security Team believes she is behind our little bomb scare. If so, she will definitely have her assassins in place after she arrives today; so we must go this morning and hope any of her henchmen have instructions to not take action until she arrives. Are you OK with that?”
“Yes, of course. Not that I’m not a bit afraid, but I am trained in self defense and can take care of myself. Why are we having dinner with this woman if you don’t trust her?”
“She sort of invited herself, ostensibly to meet you and to provide assurances on the welfare of your father. He was in her charge when he was captured. I’m going to shower Abdullah; your breakfast will be out in a minute. We will leave for my collection in 40 minutes. Namaste.”
Abdullah ate mostly the vegetables. The server called it Okra. And the bread was delicious as well, but the butter was richer than he was used to. The server said it was quite healthy and imported from a place called France. He shied away from the bacon and eggs, although he was familiar with them he wasn’t accustomed to eating it. He waited for Joshua on the back deck while sipping tea. He still could not get over the magnificent view of the bridge.
Joshua strolled up as his tea was finished wearing chinos and a light, tweed sport coat. “Are you ready Abdullah? The drive is out front.” They both sat in the backseat of a vehicle Abdullah could only imagine designed for military use. The only detail missing was the camouflage as it was painted black.
To reach their destination, they drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. This reminded Abdullah of their earlier conversation regarding his mentor. “You asked me earlier Mr. Joshua on the connection between my mentor and my father. I met several other men over the last 2 weeks who seemed to know not only both of them but my mother as well. I met a man named Arya at the Holi festival in my village. I would tell you he was a Holy Man, but I imagine if he is then his position is secret. He set me up to visit a man in New Delhi named Bábí, whom is either a Bahá’í faith Guru, or the Executive of a technology think tank, or quite possibly both. Bábí arranged for me to visit a man I suspect is also a Guru, Acharya, at the Puri Museum. Each of these Gurus gave me clues to my family, and suggested that I have a role in political terrorism. They went as far as to tell me I am the Kalki Avatar.” Abdullah paused for a reaction. There was none. “I appreciate you not laughing at me Mr. Joshua. I have to assume you know this last man since he arranged for me to visit you?”
“Yes, Acharya and I are long time friends. And we are much more than friends as I will explain. Thank you for connecting the dots for me though, as I didn’t know Arya or Bábí. And while I knew of Deepak, we were not acquaintances.” Joshua paused and turned to look out the rear window, as if watching for followers. Their car finished crossing the bridge and was now in thick traffic. “Acharya and I belong to a secret society we call Polari. You won’t find references to it anywhere so don’t bother looking it up. I have to assume all these men, possibly even your father, are also secret members. We maintain small cells where only one member knows a contact in another cell. We are hardly terrorists. I mean, we don’t subscribe to violence. But we are very much dedicated to language revival which is of course against international law. And it is inevitable that to succeed, we must bring about the destruction of Innovationism. We believe this will be the result rather than the means of reviving important languages; although that is arguable. And I can tell you that Acharya very much believes you are indeed Avatar Kalki. My museum is just up the street another block. When the driver stops, let’s not troll the sidewalk. Let’s get inside quick.” The car came to a stop and they both darted inside.
Abdullah followed Joshua though the museum foyer, past double doors on their right that appeared to lead to the museum collections, through a door he expected to be an office but instead led up some stairs to the second floor. They walked the length of the hallway back towards the front of the building and entered an office – now on their left – that took Joshua several moments to find his keys and unlock. Once Joshua hit the light switch Abdullah realized it was actually a storage room rather than an office, although there was a desk bearing a keyboard and monitor that was running a screensaver. “As you might have guessed Abdullah, this is a work room for prepping our collections for display. However, the collection you’re about to see has never been on display. Well, at least not in the last 300 years.” Joshua caught Abdullah a little off guard by suddenly letting out a 3 syllable whistle, quite loudly, and the entire length of ceiling towards the back 2 feet of the room began to lower towards the floor.
Abdullah realized immediately that it was a display of the collection of the Veda Manuscripts. The ceiling, now a table, stopped at roughly waist height. Lumps of the apparent collection were covered by a white sheet that Joshua, fairly dramatically, lifted off. “Oh my.” Abdullah was whispering but ecstatic. He knew how special this was, not just personally from his lifelong beliefs, but this would have been an overwhelming display for billions of Hindus worldwide. He felt suddenly very paranoid. “Are we safe to view this? What if we were followed?”
“We were most certainly followed Abdullah, but this room, this building, is quite secure. What you see before you Abdullah are the texts of the Veda Manuscripts, along with some other works, arguably as important. Understand that you could use any of these to relearn the modern Hindi script – your written language that was pervasive a few centuries ago. But the emotional impact of announcing the Veda Manuscripts will be Earth shattering Abdullah. You cannot imagine the reaction, the ensuing chaos, the revolution that will result from these being publicly published worldwide. Hindus know of the Veda Manuscripts as legend. Rig. Yaju. Sama. Atharva. They are all here and when revealed, the latent religious zeal will be an unstoppable force. And for others, the revelation of the Hindi script, discovering that there is in fact a written language, will bring forth other questions. Ironically, at least from what we can ascertain, the extinction of most of the world’s written languages was accepted at the time. Or at least known right? Who knows what levels of fear and force were used to gain that acceptance. But now, after so much time, the revelation of the truth – satya – will sweep across Innovationism like a tsunami. Abdullah, with this, you will destroy the darkness.”
Abdullah began to sober to the understanding of his role. “Why me? Why now, Joshua? Why haven’t you published this already?” Abdullah stood facing Joshua accusingly.
“Abdullah. Assembling this collection has been a life long effort. Longer! I inherited the first 2 Vedas from my father. I only collected the 3rd from my relationship with Acharya. And the instructions we’ve always followed have been to wait for all 4 Vedas. We had to wait for the complete manuscript. And legend foretold that completion would occur with the advent of the Kalki Avatar.”
“And the 4th Veda? When did you obtain that?”
“When your father arrived with the Innovationist Policy Negotiation Team – with Hydra Down. About a year ago. I had reservations for dinner at a place I visit regularly, and when I was seated at my table – the 4th Veda, Atharva – was just sitting there at my table. We didn’t take action then because we also already knew – well we were told to believe – that you were the Avatar. We planned to wait for you. And look, here you are.” Joshua grew a wide smile and looked at Abdullah as if he were done explaining himself.
Abdullah and Joshua spent 3 hours reviewing the Veda Manuscripts. Joshua explained to Abdullah how the script was actually a forbearer of Western languages as it belonged to the Indo-European language family, whereas Mandarin came from the Sino-Tibetan language family. But the characters were entirely foreign to Abdullah as he was much more familiar with Kangxi. They spent a 4th hour at the computer using some steganography software to hide digital versions of the manuscripts within the pixels of pictures on Abdullah’s smart phone. They couldn’t successfully transmit these pics past the Innovationist’s Internet firewalls, but they reasoned this could get past Customs. Joshua ordered pizza as they neared the completion of their efforts.
Abdullah reached for a piece he thought might have the most anchovies and casually asked, “Joshua, what is that you do exactly? Do you run this museum?”
“Oh, this place mostly runs itself. It’s more of a gallery than a museum since I sell and trade artifacts. And I only provide viewing by appointment. I call it a museum for tax reasons. I mostly keep myself busy pretending to be a Professor of Semiotics at the Stanford School of Postmodernity.”
“What artifacts do you display here?”
“In the most general sense, I display examples of signs which demonstrate value to cultural growth throughout history. Signs and symbols normally involve language. Many are books, and mostly centuries old. If you are successful Abdullah, I will display the Veda Manuscripts for awhile here.”
“Will you then sell them for profit?” Abdullah wasn’t judgmental but curious.
“You can’t sell antiquities like this Abdullah, such things are like ideas that belong to the world. I’ll display it for a short while in order to bring some attention to my work. Then I’ll donate it to Acharya and the Puri Museum. Did he show you the Diamond Sutra while you were there? I gave him that.”
“Yes, he said it was the oldest printed book in the world. If such things can’t be sold, then how do you get them?”
“Oh, I buy them. Most of these things were lost when the British Museum and Library were looted early in the Technology Wars. There’s a thriving trade for that loot. Such trade is often referred to as a black market. But once the whereabouts of any of it become known, the only ethical action is to give it back to the people. I’ll give you a personal tour of my sign collection after we finish this pizza. The collection is organized by the 3 branches of Semiotics: Semantics, Syntactics and Pragmatics. I think after you tour it, you’ll understand why it is so important to Acharya and me to revive lost written languages. It’s essential to end these Dark Ages.”
They toured the collections for 2 hours after lunch. Then drove back to Marin County to ready themselves for dinner – and Hydra Down.
Abdullah dressed for dinner and went downstairs into the parlor where he was accustomed to Joshua’s dinner parties starting. Hydra was standing at the back of the room looking out the wall-length, single paned windows towards the bridge. As Abdullah fully entered the room, he also noticed two men sitting in chairs toward the front of the room. The room itself was maybe 600 sq feet with 4 large chairs in the center facing opposite each other that nearly made it 2 rooms. Without acknowledging the 2 men in his peripheral vision, Abdullah crossed the full length of the room and stood directly behind Hydra as he stated, “Miss Down I presume, I am Abdullah.”
Hydra revolved to face Abdullah to reveal she was smoking what might have been a cigarette. “Abdullah. I am so very grateful you’ve agreed to meet with me. I’ve wanted for so long to meet with you. Are you comfortable Abdullah if I talk to you about your father?”
“I’ve been looking forward to what you have to tell me Miss Down, but at the same time, I would not say that I am comfortable. Quite frankly Miss down, I felt the sun on the other side of those windows much stronger before I crossed the room.”
Hydra pulled in half the air of the room in her last inhale of the burning paper between her lips and spit the remains to the floor in the small space between her and Abdullah. “You are very young Abdullah but please understand me when I say that I will not be spoken to in such a manner. You shall recognize my superior position and not embarrass ourselves with such insolence.” Hydra then exhaled smoke that enveloped them both fully and he knew immediately the cloud was unnatural.
“Embarrass ourselves to whom when it’s just the 2 of us Hydra? Why is my father imprisoned?” Abdullah’s light brown eyes pierced through to the back of Hydra’s skull.
Hydra’s response was immediate, “Your father remains alive Abdullah. Half my staff was denied entry to these Savage Lands upon landing here and returned home. Your father was clever and passed customs. But he apparently had a mission apart from my goals and the Savages became aware of it.”
Abdullah felt the intimidation of the older woman and took the out. “Perhaps you can explain to me your mission at dinner?” With that Abdullah walked passed the woman and through French doors onto the deck to look at the view of the bay and bridge. He waited there alone until called for dinner several minutes later.
Abdullah was seated for dinner immediately to Hydra’s left. Her colleagues were seated across the table, and Joshua sat at the end to Hydra’s right. While out on the deck earlier, Abdullah came to understand that he was wrong to have approached Hydra so aggressively. And so rudely. It was disrespectful and as insolent as she claimed. It simply was not constructive and he should apologize. But he was also fearful. Their 45 second dialog was surreal. Abdullah was certain that he could physically feel Hydra attempting to enter into his mind. Deepak had schooled Abdullah on such powers but Abdullah had never sensed it before. Over the last 30 minutes he could sense his mind expanding as if it had discovered a new level of consciousness. His mind reached out to the men seated across the table and he believed he could read their minds. Not their precise thoughts, but he was certain he knew they were thinking about him. And they seemed to fear him. This was all extraordinary. He turned to Hydra and said, “Miss Down, please forgive my behavior earlier. I’ve been very emotional over my father’s detainment.”
“That’s understandable Abdullah. Let me explain to you my mission and how your father was to help me.” Hydra swirled wine around in her chardonnay glass as she spoke. “My goal is to negotiate trade in key industries that have been blocked for a very long time. I am fully sanctioned by the Innovation Consortium of Transportation Corporations. The Savage Lands have fully migrated off fossil fuels and we have to advance. I expect to obtain patent free technologies for achieving this.” Hydra paused to sip her wine.
“Are you an Innovation Officer?” Abdullah took advantage of her pause.
“Oh heavens, no. I’ve always been in private industry. But 20 years ago I negotiated the Global Transport Policy which allowed for domestic, inter-regional travel between Innovation Lands and the Savage Lands. That’s been extremely successful and has even persisted during the current Technology Wars. Your father and 5 others on my team were government officers. This was completely transparent and they were allowed to enter this country. Their specialty was computer languages. The expectation is that in exchange for American technology, we would standardize on the American agile programming methodologies.”
“It seems like really they are giving you two things, transportation technology and programming skills?” Abdullah wasn’t challenging Hydra but felt the question necessary to ensure he followed her.
“Well, that would be why some are in opposition to these negotiations. But really, adapting to the Savage software development methodologies is their requirement on us. On the one hand, we should benefit from more productive programming techniques. But on the other hand, implementation will be costly. And the Savages expect to then benefit from using our lower cost developers once they are trained in their methods. No such thing as a free lunch Abdullah. It was much the same when we opened up our cities for travel. Our transport industry supported it for the increased revenue. But there were those in opposition because they understood it would make us open to Savage culture.”
“Why is that bad?” Abdullah didn’t intend to start down this path. He wanted to keep the discussion unemotional, but it just came out.
After another sip, Hydra continued looking at her glass and swirling her wine as she responded. “First, let’s be clear Abdullah that we are broaching a conversation that would not be proper, possibly even be illegal, were we not in this country.” She then looked across at her colleagues and continued. “Before the Information Age, culture and technology were thought to be quite distinct. In the 20th century, a communications theorist popularized the phrase, ‘the medium is the message’. This turned out to be quite prophetic as media companies and folk culture converged into a production model of co-creation. This relationship between content developer and consumer grew to become the predominant method for all industries and society. This is behind much of the Innovationist dogma for social and technological harmony.” Hydra expected Abdullah to be knowledgeable on this subject at the point she had now reached, but paused and looked at him directly to ensure he understood her.
“I was unaware of the pre-Information Age history, but understand the Innovationist doctrine. How do you reconcile the value lost in cultures that the Innovationists have – well quite literally – killed? This is the satya that I search for Miss Down.”
Hydra set down her chardonnay, “Abdullah, truth is a social construct. As we share technology, we are one culture.”
Abdullah recalled his dinner conversation with Hydra as the view outside his plane window filled white with clouds. She suggested that her enemies, inspired culturalists she called them, were behind his father’s detainment and likely the car bombing. She was fairly convincing as she agreed with Joshua’s assessment that his father had been framed and accusations that he was attempting to steal the Veda Manuscripts were preposterous. She even arranged for Abdullah to meet with his father – suggesting she held considerable power even in this country. Abdullah had felt her other power as well – her telepathy. He couldn’t tell if she was reading his mind, but felt as if he’d fended her off. He needed to mature his own powers to fully understand this new awareness in his mind. The plane broke through the clouds and Abdullah could see the ocean and island. He saw that it was an island from a map, but it was big enough that he couldn’t see over the horizon of the land and would not have known otherwise. The plane landed smoothly and an escort met him and ferried him to the detainment center. Everyone and everything appeared very military.
Abdullah was seated in a private room with a small, square wooden table with two chairs, and told to wait for his father. 15 minutes later, Abdullah’s father was escorted into the room. He wasn’t handcuffed or bound in any fashion. The escort left immediately without saying a word. As soon as the door was closed, they embraced one another with a lifetime of passion. Abdullah’s father had been detained for only a year, but it had been 3 years since they had seen each other.
“Father, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I am able to visit you. Are you OK?” Abdullah still held his father’s arms with his hands. He didn’t want to let go.
“I’m fine son, just fine. I’m somewhat amazed to see you as well. Let’s sit down. We only get 15 minutes. I want to hear all about your plans now that you’re grown. I know my absence will make it difficult to attend the University, but I hope you intend to go.” They both sat down as his father spoke, and then his father began speaking without moving his lips. He was speaking telepathically. And stronger than anything Abdullah had felt before. His father was speaking in complete telepathic sentences, not simply conveying feelings and thoughts. His father said telepathically, “Son, don’t be alarmed, but we must speak both telepathically and verbally for secrecy.”
It was awkward for Abdullah as he began to mumble something verbally about the University, and then attempted to mentally construct a sentence telepathically.
“You’re doing fine Abdullah. I understand you well. I’d hoped for you to be stronger at this, but it will come to you quickly. Naturally in fact. Our family, my side anyway, has a genetic predisposition for telepathy. It’s difficult when you don’t understand it, but as soon as you speak with someone who has mastered it – myself for instance – you’ll be quite adept in no time at all.” His father mumbled a verbal response to Abdullah on their other conversation, but it was short and that secondary chat remained laconic. “You can well imagine Abdullah why we need to talk secretly in this place, but I assure you, telepathy is just as important in the outside world. There is no privacy and our ability to communicate like this is paramount to our success – if not our survival. Trust me, Miss Hydra Down would not be where she is today if not for telepathy. There are very few self-made billionaires anymore. She got there because she has been able to privately communicate with the West – the Savage Lands. I don’t know how much time you spent with her Abdullah, but if you think back, did she talk much verbally with others? Or just you?”
Abdullah thought back to his dinner party. Wow! It just didn’t occur to him. She barely spoke at all to anyone else. That would have been rude normally. That meant not only was she mentally chatting with her colleagues, but also to Joshua. Wow! “You are right father. I could feel something and quite honestly it totally freaked me out.”
“Now you understand Abdullah. This will serve you quite well in the future. But we haven’t much time. Do you possess the Veda Manuscripts?” Abdullah’s father kept talking verbally. He was on a roll discussing family obligations, saving Abdullah from having to follow the second dialog – which frankly he didn’t have the capacity to maintain.
“Yes father. I have them hidden within the digital pixels of pictures on my phone.” Abdullah began to pull his phone out from his satchel but his father stopped him.
“That’s fine, don’t show your camera phone here. Innovation Customs will not check for that, but they will view your pictures and delete any they think contain significant cultural information – such as famous geographical landmarks.”
“Joshua prepared me for that and I have triplicate copies on mostly mundane pics. But father, I have no idea what I am to do once I return home. How do I publish this without landing in prison?”
Abdullah’s father responded rapidly, knowing they were short on time. “People are waiting to help you Abdullah. Hydra’s organization will represent you if necessary with legal counsel. But publishing this will not violate any serious crimes. The current laws on language standardization don’t apply to historical texts because none, other than Sanskrit, are thought to still exist. You must still publish in secrecy initially and Acharya will help you. Then, your role as a catalyst will be over. The masses of Hindi-speaking people will take it from there. There will be a cultural revolution Abdullah. I can’t predict the timeline, but it will go viral. And from this cultural revolution, Hindus will drive the future technological innovation in our world.”
The escort suddenly reentered the room and without speaking, removed Abdullah’s father. They both hurriedly shouted their affections to one another and ‘namaste’.
Abdullah fully expected to rebook his return flight, but he was back at the airport within 90 minutes of having left it earlier in the day and would easily be able to make his planned departure. This flight would return him all the way back to Shanghai, with a stopover in San Francisco. He had time for a late lunch and ordered some tacos from a vendor on the concourse near his departure gate. Some young children were playing in the waiting area; they appeared to be siblings but were dressed in very colorful clothes and Abdullah thought he would take their picture. After powering up his phone, the LCD indicated his memory chip was full so he popped it out and placed it in his pocket while he removed a new one from his media bag. He thought he was fairly efficient about the operation but once he was ready the boy hit the girl and she was now crying. They still seemed pretty cute, certainly colorful, but it no longer seemed appropriate to take their picture. And besides, it would be difficult now to exclude their mother from the shot. So he put his camera phone way. He sat there for the next 45 minutes waiting to board and replayed the meeting with his father in his mind.
Abdullah’s father seemed fully aware of what he was up to. Amazing considering he didn’t know himself really until he’d met Joshua. Though to be fair, he knew he had a role in finding the Veda Manuscripts from his encounter with Acharya. And he even felt much more confident after talking to Amaterasu for dinner. Or at least he did the next morning. But his father was the first to confirm the mission given to him by Joshua – to publish the manuscripts. Abdullah felt this odd. Joshua didn’t seem that well connected to his father. If anything, his father seemed closer to Hydra. In fact, he seemed to trust her to the extent that Abdullah was to call upon her if he needed legal council. It made sense that his father should trust her – he worked for her. But if his father knew of Abdullah’s mission, his Karma marg, then perhaps so did Hydra. Abdullah could not accept that he should trust that woman. Something just wasn’t adding up in all this. Abdullah boarded the plane considering all this and fell asleep for the entire flight to San Francisco.
Abdullah awoke as the American flight attendant instructed him to prepare for landing. He noticed the passenger sitting next to him during the flight was no longer there and was glad he had the window seat so that he wouldn’t have to get up when the man returned. The man never did return and the plane landed without incident. Passengers were instructed to remain in their seats if continuing to Shanghai, although they were allowed to de-board the craft if they were certain they could return in 40 minutes. Abdullah chose to remain. He could see some skyscrapers outside his window and thought he would take a picture of them. No harm if the pictures got confiscated later at customs. Abdullah opened the overhead to fetch his camera. He didn’t see it immediately. There was another bag belonging to the passenger in front of him and nothing else. He started to think about where he placed it exactly and began to slowly panic as he realized with clarity that he placed it in this bin. But being panicky he began to search nearby overhead bins. The plane was half empty and the bins were easy to search as they were also half empty. His media bag was gone and he knew it. The realization of his failure made him feel like a child; totally unequipped to succeed on a mission that involved such importance, so many people and politics previously unknown to him. He was over his head. He returned to his seat and covered his eyes with his hands, not certain if tears would erupt but wanting to simply hide.
Abdullah felt like exiting the plane to walk around, but he’d wasted too much time and people were re-boarding. A beautiful woman approached him and it appeared she was going to sit next to him, and then he saw it was Amaterasu. Her face lit up in a warm smile as she said, “Abdullah, so wonderful to see you again. May I sit down here?”
“Please.” Abdullah momentarily forgot his bad fortune and recalled her amazing positive presence. “Are you traveling to Shanghai?”
“For my first hop, yes. Then I continue on to Japan. Joshua’s assistant booked my passage with yours’ so she arranged for us to travel together. Isn’t that nice? How was your trip to visit your father?” Amaterasu had seated herself and was adjusting her seatbelt.
“Fine. A bit weird really. And very short.” Abdullah remembered his predicament over the stolen phone and the expression on his face suddenly changed to express his worry.
Amaterasu noticed. “What, do I have food in my teeth?” In her vanity, she was serious.
Abdullah looked at her, “I don’t know how to say this. You know I was smuggling digital copies of the Veda Manuscripts back to India right? Well I lost them. I mean my camera phone was stolen, from the overhead bin on my earlier flight. I’ve totally failed.” Abdullah turned away and looked out the window.
Amaterasu put forth a tremendous smile and told Abdullah to look at her. “Failure is never absolute Abdullah until you stop trying. Return in a few weeks with me and just try again. The Dark Ages didn’t befall overnight, they will not abate through a single action. Many events must still transpire and heroes will be legion. For now, consider the bright side – you need no longer fear Chinese Customs searching the pictures on your memory card.”
Abdullah’s heart jumped. The memory card with the Veda Manuscripts on it was in his pocket. He reached his hand into his cargo pants pocket to be sure. “Whew, the memory card is in my pocket! I took it out to load a new one before the flight. Wow! Amaterasu, you are a Goddess!”
Amaterasu laughed. “That will be much easier for you to smuggle. Want to know where I put mine?”
“You’re smuggling pictures too? Where?”
Amaterasu smiled slyly and winked. “Nothing as earth changing as you Abdullah, but I have personal pictures that I care about. I put the chip behind my phone battery. Fits perfectly. I do it all the time. Here, take my phone”
Abdullah tried and it did fit nicely. He felt good. The plane began its ascent and they were both quiet for a few minutes. Then Abdullah asked, “Amaterasu, would you tell me about the Dark Ages? I learned a great deal from Joshua and understand now how important language is to culture and to technological growth. But why do the Innovationists not acknowledge this stagnation? Are they so blind?”
Amaterasu pondered. “That’s an excellent question Abdullah. Surely you’ve studied the Dark Ages known to Western Civilization as the Early Middle Ages – from around 476 to 1000 AD?” Abdullah nodded. “Well that period of time is well accepted, but no one really understands it. Theories for its cause range from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the Plague to the rise of Roman Catholicism. Ironically, the phrase originally referenced the Latin Language – or a derivative of it. But the real irony, well maybe not irony but what’s really perplexing with the Dark Ages is that so little information is available. And that’s true also for the various Dark Ages that have inflicted China and Southeast Asia. It’s true as you say that this current era is not acknowledged, but similar times in the past have hardly been accepted either. And they are extremely difficult to understand. There was a period in the 10th century, in between Dynasties and coinciding with the end of the Early Middle Ages. Then again, although arguably, between 1500 and the 20th century. But no one really understands why. This latter period is famously known as the Needham Question, and it’s never been answered. I’m sad to say that in this case, understanding our past helps us very little for this current crisis. The idea that language is so important is still just theory. But I will tell you that I believe it is paramount just as your colleagues do. I’m not sure that helps Abdullah. Sometimes, it all comes down to faith.”
Abdullah thought about that. He thought about faith. It was going to be a long flight and he had plenty of time to think.
Abdullah awoke as Amaterasu was putting a blanket over him. He was embarrassed to have fallen asleep. She was clearly wide awake. He had no idea what time it was as he didn’t wear a watch but knew he’d fallen asleep hard enough to where it must have been an hour or so. “Thank you Amaterasu, it is a bit cold. I’m sorry for falling asleep on you. I really did want to talk with you on my trip.” Abdullah sat more upright but kept the blanket wrapped over himself.
“Of course Abdullah. You mentioned visiting your father earlier but didn’t go into much detail. What was so weird about it.?” Amaterasu had the appearance of a sunrise about her.
“Yeah, right.” Abdullah recalled the visit. “It just wasn’t what I expected. My father knows everything. He seemed to anticipate I was smuggling the Veda Manuscripts. How did he know that? Two weeks ago I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t know what San Francisco was. And then his closeness to Hydra; I just don’t trust that woman. But then if this were in fact planned by those two, it would explain my ability to get a travel visa. That should have been my first red flag. I’m an idiot!”
“Abdullah, to listen to you now, I sense that perhaps you don’t trust your own father? I apologize if this is too forward of me.”
“Hmm. No Amaterasu, that does not upset me. You are almost thinking out loud for the things I can’t say to myself. I am suspicious. Or confused. I just want to make sense of all this. I am having trouble reconciling my father’s relationship to Hydra. Why don’t I trust them?”
“I can tell you things Abdullah, but I don’t want to sway your opinion against your father. I am sure you love him as you should. Let me tell you what I know of Hydra.” Amaterasu appeared timid for the 1st time to Abdullah when she apologized, but she had now returned to full confidence – like the assurance she instilled in him. She presented herself like a beam of light that one could grab onto and propel forward at warp speed. “Hydra is both good and evil. And I say those terms with full Veda connotation. She has power Abdullah and she can and has used it for whatever whim satisfies her. If her objectives are in line with those of her sponsors and humanity, then she can move nations forward. But when her whims are completely selfish, she can destroy completely. She is Kali, Mother Goddess of Shiva the Destroyer. It is Shiva’s nature to be ambiguous and paradoxical, so it is no wonder you are confused by his – her actions. Shiva is described in your Rig Veda Manuscript as Rudra – the Storm. Read about him and understand that she is all powerful. This conflict you are in Abdullah is epic. You need not fear your destiny, but do not be ignorant of it either. You can actually use Hydra. Or in her mind, let her use you. She will bring about the destruction of Innovationism, if it suits her. She is our catalyst. Your goal cannot be achieved without her.” Amaterasu paused.
“Then what about my father?” Abdullah hesitated to ask knowing the answer might not be good.
“Another paradox. You love him Abdullah and he loves you. He wants what he believes is best for you but he is her servant. It really isn’t about your father. This all comes down to you leveraging Hydra – Kali – to your benefit. Be very clear Abdullah, you are looking to destroy a system that has brought about peace and stability to billions – for centuries. You are doing it to benefit both your people and what you believe will benefit all people. The sun cannot rise until it has set. You are tired Abdullah. Continue your sleep. It’s a long flight.”
Abdullah and Amaterasu walked to the security checkpoint and said their farewells. Amaterasu remained in the concourse and Abdullah exited to customs – which was totally uneventful. He read regional newspapers and magazines on the maglev train ride home to India. His first plan of action regarding the Veda Manuscripts was to consult with his mother. Amaterasu suggested his mother might have much to say. It was logical to assume she could provide more background on Abdullah’s father than anyone else alive. And, despite the supposed secrecy of the Veda cells, she apparently had connections to Arya, Bábí, and Acharya. And as Abdullah stepped off the train platform after arriving at his destination, he saw his mother, Sita, waiting for him. He waived at her and in a few moments, they were together.
“Abdullah dear, I have missed you so much. I heard from Bábí and Acharya that you were well, but you couldn’t find the time to call me?” Abdullah’s mother waived her long, slender finger in his face as she scolded him.
“I’m sorry mother, my trip was a whirlwind. And my phone battery wouldn’t keep a charge.” Abdullah changed the subject, “I saw Father, in some military prison. Can you believe it?”
The worry initially on his mother’s face transposed to fear. “Oh my! How did you get to see him? How is he, Abdullah?”
“Yes mother, he is quite well. Everyone seems to think he will be released soon. There’s apparently no evidence to justify holding him. There’s so much for us to discuss mother, but I think it’s best we wait until we get home. But here, while we walk you can eat this. I got it for you in San Francisco. It’s a Girardelli chocolate bar.
Abdullah’s mother ate the chocolate bar on their walk home, and 20 minutes later he was seated in the kitchen while she made tea. “Here Abdullah, this Assam tea will wash away your travel-weariness. Now, tell me about everyone you met.” Abdullah’s mother sat down with her own cup of tea across from Abdullah at their small breakfast table.
“Well, of course you know that I first met Arya here in town. It was he who started me on my journey. And then I stayed with Bábí at the Lotus Temple in New Delhi. He kept your postcard because he said the temple is not to be called that anymore. It seems to be some sort of think tank for scholars.”
“Bábí and I went to school together at Oxford. We haven’t seen each other since he gave me that post card. I hope he is doing well?” Sita sipped her tea while Abdullah responded.
“Yes, quite well. He then sent me to visit Acharya in Puri. Acharya runs a museum that displays Sanskrit writings. It was very interesting. Like Bábí, Acharya extends his wishes to you. How do you know him Mother?”
“Oxford as well. I was in Humanities and Acharya was a research assistant in the Khalili Research Center. Bábí was part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Your father was studying for his masters in the Language Center when I met him. He was older and already had his undergraduate degree in computer science. We all hung out together for a couple of years and even though we went separate ways, we’ve maintained our friendships. What did Acharya tell you?” Sita seemed to know Acharya would task Abdullah with some mission.
“He told me I was Avatar Kalki. Can you imagine?”
“Yes Abdullah, I can. I can’t tell you I believe it, but a Guru – who is now passed away – prophesized at our wedding that your father and I would give birth to the Avatar Kalki. And Acharya really believed it. Your father and I were never very religious and we didn’t give it much thought. What did you think when he told you this?”
“I thought it was all a bit much, but then gave me a mission. After teaching me a great deal about dead languages, he told me it was my destiny to find the Veda Manuscripts. And that I must publish these ancient texts in order to prove to the world that Hindi is a written language. I was incredibly excited by that, and he arranged for me to visit a man named Joshua Packard in America. Do you know of him as well?”
“Yes, I know of him from Acharya but we’ve never met. I know that Acharya and him work together somehow.”
“Joshua explained to me that none of you should know everyone because you maintain cells. I believe that’s a terrorist term?”
“Well, the American would know about terrorism, but no, we all know each other from Oxford. Joshua just doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And did he help you find the Veda Manuscripts?” Abdullah’s mother began to take on a more serious tone in her voice, and her expression returned to the look when Abdullah mentioned meeting his father earlier.
“Yes, he actually had them. I’ve returned with digital copies.” Abdullah pulled apart his phone to show his mother the memory card.
“Oh no, tell me you did not do this Abdullah. Your father and these men have been planning this since they attended Oxford together. They were obsessed with finding proof of Hindi text. I can’t believe they’ve involved you. This is dangerous Abdullah. Do you know whom your father works for?”
“Do you mean Hydra Down? Yes, I’ve met her.” Abdullah was curious as to what his mother could tell him on her.
“She’s an evil, dangerous woman Abdullah. Your father works for her because he thinks he can use her for this obsession. He thinks he can control her. But look who’s in prison!” Sita put her hand over her heart and looked away from Abdullah.
Abdullah slept well his first night home, despite the lecture of fear his mother gave him for nearly 2 hours on the power of Hydra. Like he needed it – he’d met the woman. He woke early not knowing what to expect for the day. He brushed his teeth and put on some tea. Still in his bed clothes, he booted up his mother’s computer and copied his pictures onto its hard drive. He was thinking about Amaterasu when there was a knock on the door. Despite the early hour, it was too gentle to startle him. He opened the door to a smiling young woman, about his age, with the morning sun forming a halo behind her head of soft, dark hair. She wore ornate, silver earrings that mirrored rays of sun around her face. Abdullah was too slow to say hello.
“Good morning. You must be Abdullah, am I right?” The girl was absolutely stunning as she revealed her teeth in her smile. Her skin was a soft brown and her sari was also a light brown near her feet but blended upward to a sunlight yellow with her choli continuing the blend to a vibrant sunset orange. It was if she planned her outfit knowing the rising sun would frame her in the doorway.
“Good morning. Yes, I am Abdullah.” Abdullah would have been anyone or anything she wanted him to be. “Please, come in. I can offer you some tea?”
“Tea would be wonderful, thank you. I am Charusheela, but my friends just call me Charu.” Charusheela walked inside and sat in the living room while Abdullah fetched some tea. When he returned she took the tea and explained the reason for her visit. “Thank you, Abdullah. We’ve never met, but Arya asked me to visit you once you returned from the Savage Lands.”
“I see. I hope Arya is well.” Charu nodded that he was. “You can refer to the Savage Lands as America, or the specific city I traveled to as San Francisco. Does he want some sort of report from me?” Abdullah didn’t indicate reluctance in his response, but did feel suspect.
“He didn’t ask for that, although I would love to hear about your travels Abdullah. It sounds very exciting. I don’t know anyone who has ever traveled to America.” Charu sipped her tea and smiled with approval. “Guru Arya seems to know the purpose of your visit and wants me to express to you that he will help you to complete your mission. He wants you to know that he has data encryption software if that is something you need.”
“I see. Well, I do need help. I will go visit him today. Would you like to see some pictures of America Charu? I just loaded them to my mother’s computer. I can show them on the TV monitor.” Abdullah stood to turn on the electronics assuming she would be interested, and not wanting her to leave right away. They spent the next 90 minutes viewing Abdullah’s photos of his visit. Charu felt certain she had seen pictures of the bridge before.
Abdullah knew his way to Guru Arya’s Temple. Well, if you could call it that. His following gathered in a doublewide storefront located at the bottom of a 4 story apartment building a couple blocks from Abdullah’s house. He’d never been inside the Temple because his parents didn’t follow Hinduism. At least not in his lifetime. He understood his father had been born Hindu, but clearly he never practiced it. Abdullah himself didn’t feel any strong spiritual draw, although he could be flexible on the topic if doing so would get him closer to Charu.
As he walked out his front door to walk there, the idea crossed his mind that faith has perhaps followed a path similar to technological innovation. Perhaps it too has atrophied with the dissolution of Hindi text. Hmm. And then he suddenly noticed Charu across the street, up half a block partially in an alleyway. Even if he hadn’t already seen her sari earlier in the morning, he’d have noticed her for her beauty. Half a block’s distance did little to dim her attraction. She was looking straight at him, standing perpendicular to the street. She was pointing her fingers, reserved yet animated, indicating he should turn around and go the other direction. Having been blown up just a few days earlier, he immediately understood there was possible danger and he turned to walk the other way. After a few steps, he wondered why he didn’t just go back inside his house. And as he walked past a shopkeeper sweeping the dirt sidewalk, he caught the man instructing him to turn left around the corner. He understood. He was being directed to walk the longer way around to the Temple. Not much longer, but not the most direct route either.
Abdullah arrived at the temple a few minutes later and entered the building. Upon closing the door, he noticed the street’s noise ambient completely shut off, and as his eyes adjusted to the decreased light, he gazed upon the large, empty room. He saw dozens, perhaps a hundred, pillows piled against the wall to his left. He didn’t expect pillows, That seemed so transient. It wasn’t like Hinduism had been outlawed. Maybe they just couldn’t afford permanent seating. A door across from him opened and out strode Guru Arya.
“Abdullah, I’m so glad you made it home safely. Let me get some pillows and we will we sit down together.” Arya gathered four pillows from the wall and arranged them in the center of the room. Sitting down across from each other, Arya asked, “So tell me Abdullah, what it was like to meet Hydra Down?”
This wasn’t the conversation Abdullah anticipated, but he was quick to converse. “Well Guru, quite interesting. I felt like I had two meetings with her really. For the first, I was naïve. I was angry. I came on a little too strong. She was actually quite nice, forgiving even. Well in speech. Mentally, I felt like she attacked me. I’ve never felt so intimidated by a woman in all my life. I felt fearful and I retreated. We met for a second time about a half hour later for dinner. I was more respectful of whatever power she possesses, and we talked for over an hour. I continued to sense her power, although I didn’t feel as threatened at dinner. The entire telepathy thing is new to me. I hope I’m not relating things too quickly. I’m sorry. But I think I learned telepathy on my trip. And as far as I know, I believe that is the source of Hydra’s power.” Abdullah had been talking quickly and he paused for a reaction from Arya.
“Yes indeed. It might not sound like such a sinister power, but trust me Abdullah, a skilled mind can have quite an advantage. I suspect you have not yet practiced offensive telepathy, but once you can effectively halt a person’s ability to complete their thoughts or to speak, you’ve gained quite an advantage. Given your familial aptitude in telepathy, I imagine your natural defenses were at play.” Arya paused and looked as if he wanted to change topic. And he did. “Tell me Abdullah, did you bring me the Veda Manuscripts?”
This was the conversation Abdullah was prepared for and he responded quickly, “I brought a copy, yes. But how do I know I am to trust you?” This question was mostly rhetorical but he felt he had to ask. While waiting for a response, Abdullah held out his memory card to Arya.
Arya took the card. “Thank you, Abdullah. You really can’t trust anyone right now, nor should you. You’ve never been in so much danger for your life since you began this journey. But then, I started you on this journey, so why not end it with me?” Arya inserted the card into a slot on his mobile phone.
Abdullah sensed the moment was near where he would be putting possibly his life on the line. He tried to read Arya’s mind but it was blank. Not surprising. Arya was typing away on his mobile, clearly decrypting the texts would be his first step. But when should Abdullah interrupt? He had questions to ask before Arya published the manuscripts.
“There we are, Abdullah. Your manuscripts are now legible. I’ll leave you clear text copies on your memory card.” Arya typed a few more key strokes and returned the card to Abdullah. “Do you have any questions for me before I proceed?”
Abdullah knew exactly what he wanted to say, but he struggled to say it coherently. He didn’t want admit his fear. “I’m not really clear on, well, how this will um, I don’t quite understand what role I have after you publish this. Am I really done?” Abdullah hoped Arya understood.
“You are not needed for these remaining mechanical steps Abdullah, but your involvement is still desired. Perhaps not totally necessary, but you can still make a difference. When I hit send, a publishing botnet will distribute this package to over 100 million sites throughout India. There will be no possible trace back to me or you electronically. But I want to include – with your permission – that the Veda Manuscripts were discovered by Avatar Kalki. This is the prophecy…and as far as I am concerned, this is true. There are people who believe you to be this Avatar. You do not need to believe it yourself although you might come to in time. My advice is that you not deny being the one who discovered the manuscripts. You will have time. This will not happen overnight. You’ll have days if not weeks to slowly admit to bringing these to India. You’ll sense how much you can say honestly and at what pace. You don’t want to backtrack on your statements – you want to remain honest. Even when not fully disclosing everything you know. A cultural community will form around you and protect you more and more as it grows in size. This Adhocracy will perform all the necessary steps to restore the symbols of the Hindi language. Your participation is desired in order to validate the authenticity of these texts. For them to be real, you must be real. I expect this to play out in 2 to 3 weeks time. You will be protected Abdullah by a groundswell of believers. An ad hoc army will form to learn these symbols and promote the relearning of Hindi in written form. You will become one of the students I imagine. But you are also a symbol Abdullah. Are you afraid?”
“Yes,” Abdullah looked directly into the Guru’s eyes, “but I am ready.”