Fandom(s): Bollywood - Om Shanti Om
Summary: No one should go through what she has been through. That's why she never leaves. She will wait till the end of time if she must. But fate has something else in store for her.
Notes: Rated for general darkness and death. Thanks to Anita for the beta.
inteqām- revenge, retaliation, reprisal
She can't believe he made it, he found her, terrified and alone and convinced that this once beautiful place would be her tomb. But Om is standing right in front of her, hand outstretched with a multitude of cuts and scorches decorating his battered body. He's walking through fire for her again, to protect and save her, and her heart swells with joy as she reaches for him and knows that everything will be just fine again.
The blast is deafening.
There's a screeching sound in the distance, foundations and glass crumbling maybe. But then Shanti realizes that she's screaming, because there's pain, so much pain, and the blast has shocked her eardrums so badly that she can barely hear her own voice. She falls to the ground, thrown backwards from the force of the fireball that has scorched her body, melting her clothing to her seared skin. The heat is now overwhelming and she can't find the willpower to open her eyes to see if Om is still there. Even screaming is too much of an effort. Her world has collapsed into a singularity of pain, her consciousness floating away to some place that isn't here, where she doesn't have to deal with the terrible sensations surrounding her...
When she finally comes to and opens her eyes, she's still lying on the ground, although the fire has died down to a smoulder at last. But there's something very wrong; her clothes are immaculate, her skin is no longer burnt to a crisp, her hair is in delicate ringlets that were never touched by an explosion. For a moment Shanti wonders if she imagined the entire thing, that Mukesh betraying her in such a vile way was nothing more than a nightmare. But the burnt building around her stands as a reminder of what has transpired. There is no way to deny what has happened to her; she just needs to piece together why she is still standing in one piece. Standing up gingerly, she makes her way down the long staircase, hoping to find Om intact as well. Instead, she freezes at what she sees at the end of the hallway.
Herself. Burned and unmoving. But how is that possible?!
Shanti tries to make sense of what she's seeing, but the sound of a vehicle catches her attention. Headlights flash outside, a door opening and closing. Picking her way through the debris, she moves towards the doorway, where her charred body lies motionless. Someone is coming.
It's like her heart has been plunged into icy waters. Mukesh (bhains ki aulad, she thinks, knowing he deserves such foul words) has actually come back, walking up the steps to the building like he didn't just attempt to murder his wife. Shanti is overcome with a thousand thoughts at once, (What will he say when he sees me? Should I run? Does he feel any guilt for what he did to me?) but before she can process her thoughts she feels her pristine self being tugged towards the burned body on the ground.
"No no no..." Shanti somehow knows why she doesn't want to go back inside. Dard. Maut.
A darkness comes over her as her consciousness merges with her body again. Hai bhagwan, the pain. It's everywhere, in her face, her arms, her back, her feet, inside and out oh god make it stop. But she can't speak, her throat merely rattling dryly with each breath. She ever so slowly opens her eyes and sees a set of polished dress shoes standing in front of her. He's watching her, examining her in this horrific state that he remorselessly inflicted onto her. Is he speaking to her now? Her hearing is faint and she strains to hear his words, but to no avail. But then she hears a clanging noise and sees that he has dropped something to the ground.
Shanti sucks in a shocked breath of air and the action hurts her more than she would have ever imagined. She whimpers hoarsely, knowing what Mukesh is planning to do to her. He moves out from her field of vision momentarily, and the panic steadily rises within her, even if she can't show it outwardly. Her body is too weak and broken to fight back. When he returns towards her, it's to pick up the shovel. He's gone for a long time after that and Shanti can do nothing more than to lie on the ground and wait. She prays in her mind that maybe she is mistaken, that she has read Mukesh's actions all wrong, that he does not plan on burying her alive. But then he is standing above her again, slowly pulling her body across the floor by her charred ankle. Shanti squeezes her eyes shut, whimpering and pleading and it all sounds like distant gibberish in her ears. How could he be doing this to her? How could she have ever loved this man? The very thought disgusts her.
He is rough and unkind, pushing her into the pit with his foot like she was a piece of garbage. She moans aloud as her body hits the hard earth. The panic is surging through her now, as the first few shovelfuls of dirt pile on top of her. What an atrocity is being done here! That she should be buried alive by her sala kutta of a husband, she who did nothing more than rightfully ask to be acknowledged as a wife. She who was loved by thousands, who did so much to make others smile. She had done nothing wrong in this life. Why was God treating her with such injustice, with such a horrific death?
There is a sudden lurch in her stomach, a rushing sensation, her heartbeat thrumming in her ears. The dirt has covered her entirely now, all is dark. Except... it isn't dirt that surrounds her, is it? Shanti opens her eyes and sees that the darkness is simply the darkness of the hall. She is alone and once again whole, pristine, lying on the floor of the burnt out set for her calamitous movie.
Directly underneath the chandelier is a mound of mortar and stone, unrecognizable unless one knows exactly what they are looking at.
Thirty years is a long time to be by yourself. But Shanti refuses to leave this place, the hollow ruins of where she had once had a glimpse of happiness before it was cruelly taken away from her.
She thinks about Mukesh and what a heartless, selfish, evil man he turned out to be. She thinks about her days on the big screen, and how maybe (just maybe) she enjoyed it more than she ever admitted to herself or Om. Yes, she even thinks about Om. About his heroic effort to rescue her, the lengths he went to ensure her safety, but most of all the look in his eyes when he was about to take her hand. Sometimes Shanti turns the tables, examines her own feelings as she had been reaching for Om's hand, the great upwelling of thankfulness and caring within her heart. She has come to love Om over her long years of supernatural solitude, for what he was willing to do for her, for his selfless bravery, for the sort of man he is... or was.
Shanti has no idea whether Om is alive or dead. She scoured every inch of the set and never found his body. Nevertheless, her curiousity about Om's fate is not enough to make her leave this familiar and tragic place.
It's another lazy afternoon, complete with thunderstorms and warm summer air. Shanti is sitting on the chandelier when she hears someone walking up to the steps of the set. But it can't be; no one has come to this place in decades.
She hears a man gasp, people calling after him. The words are indistinct but she is still shocked: civilization has returned to the haunted studios.
After her revelation, Shanti spends a lot of time hanging around the front door, wondering who will pass by. No one notices her, of course. She doesn't want them to, so they do not see her. It looks as if a movie is being shot within the ruins of the studio, something about a brightly dressed man who can fly. She can't quite tell, the filming is being done a distance away and she still refuses to step foot outside the set. Besides, there's something about movie filming that makes her feel a little bitter. It used to be her life, before her life was stolen from her.
Instead, she amuses herself by watching how little clothing women tend to wear nowadays, how ridiculously dressed the hero is. Times have indeed changed.
The movie about the flying, dancing, brightly dressed man has packed up, silence once again falling over the studios. Shanti muses over what she has seen, whether she will see living people again... how long she will remain here. For the first time in her (after)life, she is tired of waiting around. What is her purpose here on earth, with no one to speak with and no goal to achieve? Her only consolation is that fate has a plan for her and that she must be patient somehow.
Fate delivers not long after.
Shanti bolts upright from her seat on the balcony. There is a voice that sounds strangely familiar (yet deeper and older), and it's approaching the front door of the set.
"I have to admit that this plan sounds complicated. Are you sure it will work?" The man says, speaking to someone else.
"Trust me, it will work. Now that I'm a superstar we can throw as much money as we want into restoring the set."
The gasp that escapes her is involuntary and Shanti jumps up and runs for the stairs. I know that voice, I remember that voice. But how can it be? She makes it to the bottom of the long staircase and the door swings open with a rusty squeak.
And there he is, standing right in front of her: Om. And he hasn't aged a single day, still the sweet and kindhearted man she has loved for so many years. Shanti can't make sense of what she's seeing, considering Pappu is standing next to Om with a full head of grey hair. On the other side of Om is an elderly woman whom she guesses to be his mother.
"Beta, I believe in you." The woman pats Om's hand tenderly as they walk through the doorway. "Whatever you need to do to bring peace to my daughter-in-law, I will help."
Yes, definitely Om's mother.
"Thank you, ma." Om smiles, a different sort of smile than the one Shanti remembers. This is a smile that's full of love, no doubt. But there's also a sense of indulgence there, traces of privilege and good fortune. "It will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end. Mukesh will admit to his crimes, Shanti will get the justice she deserves, and Om Prakash Makhija's duty will be complete."
"We're with you to the end, Om." Pappu says, squeezing the younger man's shoulder reassuringly.
For the first time in many many years, Shanti smiles and laughs, walking alongside her hero with measured elegance. Everything will be just fine.
She plays her role perfectly; Shanti is an actress, after all. Even when she is hurt and livid, with the memories of what Mukesh did on that horrible night are pounding in her mind, she remembers to refer to herself in the third person, as if she really is Sandy. The last thing she wants is to scare Om. (There's a part of her that knows Om would not be scared to know she is a spirit, but she takes the cautious route anyway.) And once again he's braving fire for her sake, always the same selfless man no matter what his name is. He shoots Mukesh to protect her, even though Shanti knows she cannot be harmed. She could have stopped Om, but she feels a sense of grim satisfaction when the old man that was once her husband collapses from the bullet wound in his leg.
Shanti stops Om from killing Mukesh, because Om does not need that kind of karma staining his soul. She reaches out, supernaturally touches the building that she knows so well. She's been here so long that the very floors and walls of the set are an extension of herself. The chandelier crashes down and Om leaps backwards to shield himself from the glass that shatters in every direction.
The glass does nothing to her and she does not flinch.
And then it's over, really over, and justice has been served. Shanti smiles sadly (at last, a terrible burden has been lifted from her shoulders) and Om cannot stop looking at her with baffled eyes. A second later the side door opens up and Sandy and Pappu's panicked faces appear. She can see the shock on Om's face he looks at Sandy, finally putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Shanti has been helping them from the moment they stepped into the studios and now he knows. Om turns from his friends to her, realization in his eyes. She was right... he is not afraid to know she is a spirit. He waves, sorrowed and transfixed all at once to see the woman he cares so dearly for. A tear slips from her eye as she stares and smiles back at Om, whose fate is so intimately intertwined with her own. Meri jaan, I hope you know how much you mean to me.
Then she picks up her skirt and whirls away, running towards the light she has desperately craved for so many years.
inteqam - revenge
dard - pain
maut - death
bhains ki aulad - son of a buffalo
hai bhagwan - oh god
sala kutta - stupid dog
beta - son
meri jaan - my love