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His Perpetual Paradise

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

An Artist’s Dream: Book II

The second part of An Artist’s Dream tells the story of Nihal & Priyanka through twenty incidents showcasing how the couple went through turbulent times during their married life but always stood their ground & continued battling their demons until the end.

“His Perpetual Paradise” by Maneesha Pujari showcases how individuals who stick to their reasoning no matter the pain they endure due to their disbelief are the most courageous & yet unsung of their times.

Cover Photo by Nikhil Narayanasa


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This contribution is created by R. S. Chintalapati, contributed by Maneesha Pujari, reviewed by Nikhila Kotni, edited by Sreekar Ayyagari, proofread by Madhulika Achanta, photographed by Nikhil Narayanasa, & acted by Bharat Kunuru.


Tale XI

The Tale of an Immortaliser

As cold winds tickled and the Sun bid goodbye for the day, welcoming the night as slowly as possible, glancing at Priyanka as she lay in my lap on our lawn. I moved the strand of her hair covering her face before planting a kiss on her cold lips.

Embracing me between her hands, she passionately kissed back. When we looked back into each other eyes, I softly whispered, “You’ll have to start writing your short story soon.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, and a smile appeared on her face, and I followed her. However, before a moment’s notice, I could see a list of questions forming in her mind. So before anything, I assured her, “My sister is taking care of dresses.”

A sense of relief appeared on her face, and taking a moment, I curiously questioned, “What do you intend to write about?”

She rose from my lap, smiled and just left.

The next evening at sunset, all my family gathered at a nearby studio. The office had nothing but a big empty room with two dressing rooms attached. Wearing what was expected of me, I walked out of the dressing chamber to enquire, “These colours of your choice should mean something, I suppose?”

Adjusting my white sherwani with red flowers embroidered on it, Priyanka whispered, “It’s an image of our family I often see in my dreams.”

Since I knew her thoughts on black, I confirmed again, “Doesn’t black mean darkness to you?”

Priyanka, dressed in a black saree with little golden roses, just stayed silent. Decorating our faces, we faced the bright lights for a moment before my mother exited the dressing room, remarking, “I cannot appreciate your choice of colour, Priya. Say what you must.”

Concentrating on setting up his camera, the photographer hastily assured, “Maybe the snapped photograph would change your mind, madam.”

Staring at the preoccupied young fellow for a moment, my mother explained, “Black is an unholy colour, child. Creating a memory with it will never fascinate me.”

Ending the discussion, Priyanka replied, “We’ll change mother. It’s just one snap with black and white dresses.”

After everyone was ready, my mother sat before us while all four of us stood behind her. The women wore black sarees, and the men wore white.

Staring at the photographer as he verified the postures, I whispered to Priyanka as she stood beside me, “You have finally immortalised your idea, haven’t you?”

With a genuine smile, Priyanka whispered, “That’s what artists do.”

I smiled, listening to her quoting me. Observing both of us smile at our best while the others clearly showed they were summoned, except for my sister, the photographer requested, “No fake smiles, please.”

However, before I heard the snap, I opened my eyes and sat on my bed to face the snap framed before me. The picture might have been immortalised but not the people in it. My eyes were flooded with tears recalling the past & I shrieked loudly in pain, only to be stopped by Naina rushing into the chamber in her nightgown.

She walked cautiously near me and held me towards her before assuring me in her soft voice, “It is okay. Everything is all right.”


Tale XII

The Tale of an Astrologer

A few years ago

On a pleasant Sunday morning, while the Sun was still waking up, Priyanka made two coffees and walked to the lawn before their villa. Passing the cup without sugar to her father, she sat in the rocking chair facing him.

Folding the newspaper and staring at the light blue sky lit by the first Sun’s rays, the old man exclaimed, “Life has always been unfair to me, Priya. It often offered me the unimaginable, only to take it back when I truly decide to claim it.”

Staring at the frail man that raised her to make what she was, Priyanka remained calm as she knew there was a point he was about to make. Turning his glance towards her and meeting her black eyes, the old man continued, “But I never thought my unluckiness would punish you.”

Sipping her coffee, Priyanka could map one way in her mind as to what it could be about. She knew sooner or later they were bound to have this conversation. But rather than raise an objection, she wanted to hear her father out.

Leaning forward, the old man wearing a white vest cleared his throat and declared, “For all the charm both of you as a couple ooze, I’m afraid you cannot marry Nihal. Apparently, the price Nihal’s family will pay for this deed is quite significant astrologically.”

Baffled, Priyanka retorted, “You are demanding me to walk away from the man I love because an astrologer had an interpretation where we are all doomed?”

Sipping his coffee & staring at the trimmed grass beneath their feet, the old man stayed silent. He certainly believed the stars don’t dictate our fates, but what could he do when such fears are held by the ones who should welcome his daughter to their home?

Unable to stand his silence, Priyanka questioned, “One man’s interpretation could be wrong. Couldn’t we get one from one of our own?”

Turing his eyes to her, the old man replied, “A fearful mind doesn’t pay heed to rationality, Priya. Your mother-in-law believes in this man who dreamt your impending doom.”

Putting down the morning coffee she adored, Priyanka furiously asked, “What if he is wrong? He is a mortal, after all!”

Recalling how his late wife always replied to such questions, the old man parrotted, “What if he is not?”

Standing up, Priyanka left disappointed, and the old man leaned back in his chair, looking at the Sun coming into the horizon.



The Tale of a Seer

After a long slumber, Nihal opened his eyes to see the shiny red ball out of the window. He took a deep breath and looked around to see no one at home. Realising it was the first day of the week, he pushed aside his quilt, but before he put down his feet, he heard the door being unlocked.

Realising his mother was home, he continued to sit on the bed to have a talk. Walking past the hall, she entered the bedroom to check on her son. Behind her was Nihal’s sister with a blank face. As his mother approached him, Nihal asked her what it was with his eyebrows, but there came no response.

Sitting beside him, Nihal’s mother put her hand on his cheek before saying, “I’m sorry, kanna.”

With a smile, Nihal moved her hand towards his mouth and planted a gentle kiss before stating, “Worry not, mama. I am marrying her no matter what the stars say.”

Recalling the past that she would pay anything to wipe out from her thoughts, Nihal’s mother said, “It’s not ignorance that makes me oppose this bond, Nihu. It is because I know the price we must pay for it.”

Hoping to support, Nihal’s sister asked, “When was the last time these mumbo-jumbo predictions worked, mama?”

Pulling her hand back and turning to her daughter, who was as lean as a stick with an oval face, long black hair, pale white skin, and brownish-black eyes, Nihal’s mother hesitantly replied, “Ah... I was no different than you are, Nitya. I even laughed when the same astrologer told me our family would be buried alive.”

Observing her children’s disbelief, the old woman continued, “I was carrying both of you when an astrologer summoned by our richness for his service warned us about our doom. He told us that we would be buried alive if we did not conduct a ritual, and that left us an awful impression that he was nothing more than a money-grubbing fraud.”

Frustrated, Nihal exclaimed, “What happened to our uncles is unfortunate. Their greed was their doom.”

Recalling how the astrologer pleaded with the three brothers to at least return their sister to her husband. Nihal’s mother exclaimed, “Three boys who were far more intelligent and powerful than you can ever be were wiped out of existence due to their judgement. If only they were not callous and paid heed.”

Looking at her brother’s face turn red, Nitya said, “Maa...”

With eyes filled with tears, she said brokenly, “All of what you have could be lost. For what except your arrogance and innate stupidity?”

Looking into her eyes, Nihal replied, “For love.”

With a smirk, the old woman vowed as silently as possible, “I have lost enough in my life. I will not lose more.”

Standing up, she left while Nitya asked, “Why don’t you offer him another choice?”

As much as Nihal wanted that too. He knew there was no other way. Hoping to settle it once and for all, he declared, “This marriage will happen with or without you in it, maa.”

Turning around to look at her son for a moment, Nihal’s mother continued her journey. Nitya looked at her brother disappointedly and never wished as severely as she did now for her father.


Tale XIV

The Tale of a Confidant

The sun was bidding goodbye as Nitya looked out of the window. She was lost in thinking about how to put her thoughts across. She could see the neatly mowed lawn and the only orange tree that survived her mother’s attempts at gardening. As she waited to meet her potential sister, Nitya took a deep breath before deciding to give a choice to her guest.

When Priyanka entered the calm chamber that Nitya often used for reading, Nitya greeted her affectionately, only to see her guest tensed. Asking her to sit on the other side of the table, Nitya poured her a cup of tea without milk.

Looking around, Priyanka could see bookshelves on either side and behind Nitya was the window facing the entrance that lit the room. Settling in her chair, Nitya forced a smile, not knowing how to start.

Noticing a faint smile on Priyanka’s face, Nitya decided not to play around but simply express herself. She told herself it was her sister after all, and why should she play around? So she firmly stated, “Presuming you are certain about marrying my brother, I wanted you to know that things might not be as simple as you were assured of Priyanka.”

Predicating there is more, Priyanka remained calm. Meanwhile, taking a sip of the mint tea, Nitya continued, “If you are one of us, I think you should have a strong heart and never let yourself crumble to circumstances.”

Taking a deep breath, Nitya continued, “Though my brother believes things will settle down for him like my marriage even after this astrology trouble, I must sadly admit that my mother-in-law is a far more optimistic lady than yours.”

Not even tasting her drink, Priyanka put her cup inscribed by ‘Home Sweet Home’ down to ask, “Please do not tell me you are rooting for me to walk away.”

Leaning forward, Nitya assured her immediately, “You are the sister I never had, Priya. Why would I seek you to leave? I just don’t want you to walk into something unaware... Innocence isn’t bliss anymore.”

A faint smile appeared on Priyanka’s face. There was a sign of comfort after all this while. Every living soul she cared about wanted her to let go, and here she was with someone she least expected pushing her to go ahead.

Pulling her back to reality, Nitya continued, “I called you to make me a promise that no matter what happens after this marriage, you will never let some asshat prediction or fortuneteller dictate your life or my brothers.”

Looking into Nitya’s eyes, Priyanka could still not understand what was happening. However, trusting her new companion, she nodded, and there was a sign of relief from Nitya. As much as a voice from within yelled at Nitya to tell Priyanka about her mother, the elder one could not muster the strength to express it. At least not yet.


Tale XV

The Tale of a Prospect

On a cloudy day, as the skies were all grey, Naina stood across the room. She wore a yellow saree, braided her hair & was packing her bag. She kept shouting for a while that it was over, and for the love of God, Nihal stood behind, asking her to reconsider.

Both of them looked way too old than they were, and their child, though adopted, stood outside the room, rooting for them to stick together. Nihal knew what could calm her but could not do it. He could not do that to Priyanka, but if not for that, he was out of options.

The clouds poured as Naina finished packing. She shouted, “I’ve sacrificed so much for this & you are…”

Though she didn’t complete it, Nihal knew he was a long cause to keep fighting for. As he stood helplessly, Naina held her bag and walked past him, and he almost let her go. But the fear of loneliness was so dreadful that he held her hand to plead. He wished to cave in & give her what she wanted.

When she turned to shoot a glance at the man she was almost done loving, he faintly whispered, “I’ll marry you!”

Those words echoed so many times that Nihal woke up terrified. He was breathing heavily as her mother, sipping her morning coffee, asked, “You haven’t even tied the knot yet & you struggle to sleep.”

Sitting up & wondering why the dream was even an occurrence, Nihal said nothing. He looked at his sister, who sat facing their mother while her mother put the paper on the table to ask, “How many times have you woken up at night to end up on a sofa early morning?”

She isn’t wrong, though, thought Nihal, but he first wanted to ask what was bothering him even more. Without any context, he put it out, “I keep dreaming of episodes of being married to a dear friend called Naina instead of Priyanka. Care to guess why?”

Sipping again, Nihal’s mother replied, “Could be a sign.”

Exhausted about this witch hunt to put down Priyanka at every opportunity, Nihal just stood up & left to freshen up. The moment he left the room, Nitya shouted, “Would you at least pretend to care about his feelings!”

Shrugging her words off, their mother asked, “Any idea who this girl is?”

Noticing visible disgust on her daughter’s face, Nitya’s mother hesitantly replied, “Maybe all of us are not as strong as you are.”

With her morning seared, Nitya retired, saying, “You need no strength to not believe that a giant rock in space will have no effect on us.”

Knowing pretty well her daughter was not in the distance, the old woman shouted again, “Do you even understand the consequences of your recklessness?”


Tale XVI

The Tale of a Spirit

As the sunset, Priyanka, adorned in a saree, visited the nearest shrine of the Holy Mother she could find. She did it once a decade when she wanted to meet the only one whose validation pushed her to make life-altering decisions.

Unlike the usual, Priyanka braided her hair & put jasmine flowers alongside it. Stepping into the small temple, only with a few visitors on a weekday, Priyanka rushed to the Devi without paying her dues to any other God & the moment she folded her hands, she heard a voice from behind asking her, “When will you learn to pay heed to the other deities before the main one?”

Continuing to look at the shrine at a distance, Priyanka smirked. She indeed met the person she wanted & to her pleasure, the voice itself stated, “I’m extremely disappointed in your choice to marry if you have come to ask about it, Priya.”

Without even raising a question, she got what she was looking for. Continuing to look at the Mother of Devas, Priyanka faintly whispered, “But maa, did you not like him as a person or the alignment of his stars?”

The voice was silent for a moment before it answered, “If something happens to their family after your marriage, would you bear that on your shoulders all your life? Would you bear the guilt all your life?”

Thinking about it for a moment, Priyanka stood mute. She continued to look at the small shrine in the garbhagriha with a big bindi & a yellow saree like her staring back at her with burning golden eyes. Meanwhile, the voice continued, “As if the world is deprived of chaps, do you really have to go for this one at this cost? For love, how far will you go?”

With tears sliding down, Priyanka defended in a broken voice, “Yes. For love, maa. Why can’t you stand with me once? Do you really have to kick an injured child seeking help?”

While all the surroundings were as calm as a library, the voice whispered, “I’m preparing the child for life, Priya. Don’t want her to be lost when she is slapped by reality.”

Infuriated, Priyanka turned to confront her maa only to realise no one was behind. Even in the afterlife, her Mother could not even concede with her actions or choices for a moment. Her attempt for validation left her even more broken & the last person who could have pushed her to the other side & commit not only bailed on her but called her mad in her pursuit.

With tears flooding her cheeks, Priyanka left before long, only to decide as the last time never to return again.

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The Tale of a Child

The dark sky was still not lit with the rays of the early morning sun, but the ceremony was at full pace. The bride and bridegroom hadn’t slept for thirty hours and promised every deity they could find their vows in return for a blessing & prosperous future.

Everyone was just around the couple, but Nihal’s eyes kept searching for the special woman in his life. He wanted her there, and if she didn’t show up, he could not live with himself all his life for his defiance. He offered ghee to the gods through the flame and chanted everything he was told but with such disinterest that, at one point, Priyanka presumed it was due to his atheistic perspective he was shying away.

But when she saw him traversing through the crowd once in a while, she knew something else was bugging him. So, crossing over the instructions, she leaned towards him again and asked, “Shall we pause the event for a while, love? You seem to await for someone.”

Bearing a sense of guilt staring into her eyes, Nihal replied, “Apologies. I’m too self-obsessed today. Let me not reroute anything.”

As assured, the event passed swiftly, only to the point when Nihal had to tie the knot. Neha held Priyanka’s long braided hair, and they all awaited for Nihal to go on.

Realising it was all to be done, Nihal looked at the members present only to search for her one last time and in his ears, her words echoed, “Heed my words, Nihu. I bore you, and I would never intend ill fate upon you. This marriage is an unholy alliance.”

As those words echoed, he heard a faint voice call him. Realising it was Priyanka and all the others waiting for him, Nihal, with eyes wide open and stressed, tied the knot only to hear everyone around them cheering. He could feel the rope around his neck tightening with each of the three knots he tied.

Suffocating, Nihal realised he had thrown his mother out of his wedding, and when he broke down, he heard the last words before he left, “None of us will be spared if we test the Gods!”

A sense of fear built into the crumbling mortal, and his dread came to life when he heard the priest bless “Tathastu,” & Nihal for once started believing, “So it will be!”



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