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“Will you do this for me?”

“Yes.”

The first evening, the first book. The cracking steps of a dusty campus building, weighed down by the stifling Sun. One voice reciting, in smoothly flowing Tamil, and echoing in English, the story of a crooked sage who dreamed of writing of a war that ended everything. The other silent, listening raptly.

The next, on a rainy morning, the second book. The iron-wrought balcony, and two black coffee mugs, steam spiralling into the nothingness. Through the muting sound of rain on everything, the first voice speaking of the dejected princess, her longing for revenge, and the beginning of the end. The second, listening, enthralled.

Then, the third book, as they sat beneath the sprawling banyan, as the mela existed in constant motion of color around them. In between bites of chaat and sips of buttermilk, the first voice, describing the tale of an unfortunate brethren, turned against each other by the deeds of their fathers. The second, listening.

The fourth book, on a summer afternoon. The sunlit grassy courtyard of a stark white colonial building, remnant of a chained and enslaved history, under the free open cloudless sky. A platter of mangoes between them. The first voice reading out some familiar age-old love story that was destined to end in sombre seperation. The other listening to the first, looking, but not seeing, the sky above, feeling a strange pleasant unease.

The saga does not end there, but the distance does.

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