Friday, February 19, 2010

The Death of Raman

Go sometime to the southern parts of Chhattisgarh to spend a month in the tribal villages and memories of ancient existence. It’s a place kept from rest of the world with its heritage, its culture and its way of living, intact. Not intruded with technology, not intruded with education, and not revolutionised by the hype of Shining India, deep in the jungles of Bastar you will get to hear stories that sound mysterious and sometimes terrifying. Some traditions and rituals of this world are still dark and incomprehensible. This story is about a police officer who was well educated, rational and denied the existence of witch doctor of Fountainhead but his fate told him otherwise.

It was the night of winters and colonies in Kanker did not have any street lights. Far as you can see, it was all dark and grim with noise resembling the hollowness and disturbing sound of wild forest after it had rained at night. Raman was returning to his government quarter. Dealing with naxalite problems, kidnapping, mass uprising and political was just another day for him to retire and forget about all the worries and hope that tomorrow will be somewhat better. Thinking of all sorts of things he walked past a farmland where a he saw something burning in the middle of trees and a women sitting by the fire. Often he had heard the incidents of black magic in the area but he didn’t believe in it. He looked to towards it again but then moved on.

He reached his quarter, of which the ceiling was very high and even a little sound would echo like in a giant empty hall. Even today in Chhattisgarh you can find houses with big windows, high roof and fans having a wingspan of a mini-helicopter, hanging from the girders. Raman went to his bed room to change and prepare for dinner. From the window he saw the flames flickering in the distance illuminating the face of the women surrounded by the trees like a hovel. Something intrigued him but ignoring the unknown was the best thing to do at a place like this.
Kamla Bai, the maid, knocked on the door at 9 pm to prepare the dinner and brought fresh vegetables and fruits. Raman was unmarried and so he had hired the maid to do all the groceries, laundry, cooking etc. She would come twice a day to work and often talk about the local problems, incidents and mindset of people in the area. It helped Raman to understand the place and carry out his operations accordingly when tackling a problem. At 10 pm Kamla Bai left and Raman was left alone with a black and white television broadcasting DD Madhya Pradesh. Back then Chhattisgarh was a part of the parent state. After spending an hour on the tv serials Raman switched off the lights left to bed but as he reached there the view from the window baffled him! He saw the flames rising high up in the air and the women moving around the fire doing something with the colors in her hand.

Superstitions are widespread in Chhattisgarh and sometimes the customs are so eccentric, it would be hard to believe that its 21st century. Raman had seen such things happen around since he came here two years back but didn’t interfere. Today he felt strange and angry about the ignorance of the people. He decided to teach this women a lesson. He took his lathi and torch and walked up to the place. The women with long open hair was sitting by the flames refraining in some language and concentrating on the fire and then on the sky. Raman kept watching for a few minutes, the women had noticed his presence but did not react. This made him even more angry and started to yell on her, came to her and threw away all the wood, colors and clothes she had kept and was burning. But she did not react. In rage Raman pushed her away and extinguished the fire and suddenly it turned all dark. Raman switched the torch on and saw the women staring on him. In a loud, wild sound she asked him to leave her then and there.
On listening to her, Raman sensed the place had something grave and now he felt a little scared when he saw the look on the woman’s face and realized he was all alone. But he didn’t show his fear, and warned the women to never come again and returned.

For hours into the mid-night he couldn’t sleep. He was afraid that something might happen tonight. He was surrounded in the land full of haunting stories of black magic. What if they are all true? The night turned a nightmare for him. He thought he should not have gone there or at least should have called his neighbours with him. They have been living here for quite a while and would have stopped him. Frightened and panicked in his big quarter, alone, he kept thinking on and on...
It was 3 am. Raman was asleep but moving restlessly on his bed. Probably a dream. He started feeling his lungs suffocated. The chest was not expanding to let them take in any air. It felt like one has been locked in a small box with no windows. He started sweating, gasping and puffing for breaths. Suddenly he felt like a monolithic rock has been put up on his chest. As he opened his eyes he screamed in shock! The old women was sitting on him looking into his eyes. His body was stiff like a sculpture and not a thing would move. He kept screeching and screaming but no one would listen. Abruptly the women stood up and ran out of the door.
Afraid, Raman ran to the next door neighbour Ashish but couldn’t speak. He was still trying to breathe. Soon, the whole colony gathered listening to the screams at night. Raman was running after one person to another but no one could help him. They tried to pump his chest, they tried to breathe him through mouth but nothing would work and helpless Raman would look into the blank eyes begging for help. For ten minutes he continued to suffer in pain and smothering and suddenly he stood still and if hanging from strings. In seconds he suffered a massive heart attack and died on spot!

Nobody knows what actually had happened on the last night of Ramans life. But people had seen him go to the women and the women escaping from his room. For years such incidents had happened, people had seen their neighbours die like Raman. For them it was not new but still, the last night of every life that was taken in front of their eyes kept revealing the darkest secrets of the place. The black still exists wide and deep in the thoughts it makes one shiver.

P.S. I have lived in Chhattisgarh for 6 years and experiences there form my childhood memories.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Story Of A Snail

Once upon a time in the jungle Cilaze, there lived a family of snails. They called themselves The Slorers. They were incredibly slow but were the wisest of all. In the world of snails, they were renowned for being adventurers and dreamers. When no one could even dare to dream of racing with turtles, Slorers invented skates to outperform them. The elder in their family would teach the younger generation of snails, their skills, so as to pass wisdom and knowledge across Cilaze.

One day while taking a morning walk by the garden, Bate-the elder Slorer, saw Kip-the child snail from the family of Dumnails sitting alone. He was sad and weeping. When asked by Bate, Kip said that last night he had a dream. Like a butterfly, he grew wings and flew up in the sky. From there he saw Cliaze. He saw the waterfalls, the green pastures, the jungles, the mountain and it was beautiful! Like one can only dream of! But when he woke up, he didn’t find his wings and felt sad. He asked his mom and she told once great grand Dumnail also had the same dream and so he tried to climb the tallest tree in the forest to know how it looks like from the sky but before he could reach the top, a hungry hawk ate him. Now he knows he would never know how it looks like from the sky and will soon forget the dream as well. Even if he tries to climb the tree again and hungry hawk does not eat him, he will probably never reach the top and die on the way itself. This made him cry.

Wise Bate had never faced a situation like this but he could not afford to break the heart of young Kip. So he thought for a while and said to him that if he could dream that he can see from the sky then he will but he has to believe in his dream. Then Kip promised that he will believe in his dream and returned happily.

It was on his way back, Bate was thinking all the while what he can do for Kip. All of a sudden he heard elephant Zeus coming his way. Heard it? Yes! The whole jungle shivered from pounding and thumping footsteps of Zeus and earth would sound like drums. When he came close, Bate greeted him but he did not respond. Zeus was known for being arrogant because he was powerful and no one dared to disrespect or challenge him. Even lions were afraid! Bate called him again loudly this time. Zeus turned towards him and said that he does not talk to such puny creatures. But Bate convinced him that it was important and told him the story of Kip. Zeus felt really sad for the child and agreed to help and they started thinking. But even after trying long and hard they couldn’t figure out any way to help Kip realize his dream. Bate felt sad but kept mulling over. When they were about to give up broken leaves and branches started to fall over them. In amazement they turned their heads up and there it was the Great Grand Giraffe Eddie chewing the tallest trees with his head on the top of the jungle! Bate and Zeus looked at each other and beamed in joy. On an impulse of thought they knew what had to be done. Zeus whistled to Eddie and told him the plan.

Next morning, Bate knocked upon the Dumnails house. The Kip came out happily and told him how he spent all night dreaming like he told him to. Bate told him that he has brought him a surprise and from behind came Zeus and Eddie. But little Kip did not understand what was happening. Suddenly, Eddie lowered his neck, Zeus smiled and put young snail and Bate on his head and then Eddie lifted them up, high in the sky from where they could see the waterfalls, the pastures, the jungle, and the mountains, all so beautiful like one can only dream of! Kip cuddled wise Bate and tears started rolling down his eyes. His dream has come true!
“Just believe son, just believe!” Elder Slorer whispered.

P.S. The story has been selected for filming a three and half minute animation movie which will be released by the end of May 2010

The Gift

Giant cherry rose from the east and slowly turned orange! Dawn bathed the earth with its glow. And like a fearless robber, sunbeams streamed, from the window panes, into the room and robbed her of laziness from the last night. May felt her arm muscles stretching the warmth in the blood, chasing the cold gathered of sleep away. She opened her eyes smiled a song in the world and rose from the bed. Morning it is!
As she opened the door, her dog Kip came running for an early frolic, as if he was waiting the whole night just for that. Then she greeted her mother and set herself up for the daily chores.

May made beautiful paintings. The whole world knew her for the artist she was. She emblazoned the black and white sketches with such perfection and exquisiteness, it seemed that universe of colours existed to be variegated just by her. Every night she would take the brushes and colourful pigments to imbue the dead sheets with the vibrant life she was made of.

After the breakfast, she took a look at the paintings from last night, gave a thought or two to some and then walked up to her school. But she was alone as no classmates would gossip with her or share their jokes nor would any parents return her greetings or allow their children to befriend her. The whole town of Blume was jealous of May and she could not understand why? Once, in order to make friends she made portraits of all the children in the town and gave them as presents, still nobody came with her. She asked her mother about it and she said that they are just jealous of how beautiful, sweet and gifted she is. But could a child’s mind comprehend such idiotic thinking of human psyche? She was too innocent to believe her mother but did wonder how she really looked like but there were no mirrors back then, the pond in Blume was too dirty to look at anything and no one would draw her.

So every evening she would watch the neighbourhood children play in the fields while she would sit alone with Kip. No one would invite her, nor take in their groups. At first, she did not care but as days passed, slowly she turned sad and secluded. Even Kip felt estranged because she would not play with him anymore. And finally it all appeared in her paintings as they turned dull and dingy. Every evening she would hope that tomorrow will be a different day full of friends and joy.

It was the night of meteorite falls when her mother seeing her sad said “Pray it to the falling stars and they shall answer your wishes.” May looked at the sky, closed her eyes and with her heart she prayed to those millions of stars. She felt the stars are falling as if to bring a boon, falling as if to revitalise the world, falling as if to liven up every life and she remembered them all night. She felt that something is about to happen, something is about to change and she slept a deep peaceful slumber.

When she woke up there by her side was a gift. The door was locked from inside so she knew mother could not have put it. She was surprised! As she turned on top of it was written,
“Be yours,
whatever you asked,
whatever you dreamed of,
whatever you whispered to the stars,
the stars shall bring you!”

Suddenly she felt a great deal of excitement. She unwrapped the box as quickly as she could. Her heart was pounding with the speed of a cheetah. She wondered whether there would be magic, she wondered whether there would be friends, she wondered whether there would be happiness, her horse of imagination galloped free in the vast fields of dreams and hopes. She opened it, took out the gift and there it was looking onto her, the most beautiful girl in the whole world, smiling in amazement, filled with joy, animated with life. It was a mirror!

Suddenly she knew why the whole world was jealous of her. Suddenly she knew that her mother was right. She opened the door to greet the most miraculous dawn in her life. Kip sensed it and ran into her for he knew she was happy and he wanted his May back. She opened her arms wide for the hug but as Kip jumped on her, she lost the hold of the gift and the mirror fell onto ground and broke into millions of pieces. And all the joy of May turned into tears! In anger she pushed Kip away, yelled at him, went into her room and slammed the door. She could not believe her dream was broken so soon and started to cry.

After she had calmed down, Kip came and started to bark and pull her out of the room. She knew it was not his mistake and so playfully caressed him and when she came out of the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The broken pieces were growing big and right before her they all turned into mirrors and the whole house began to glow in the town of Blume. In amazement all the people came running. They had never seen a thing like that and all wanted to have one. May took all the mirrors and gave it to every child in Blume and they looked into it how beautiful they were.

Everything changed for May and they all became her friends for such a wonderful gift. For the first time everyone wanted to take May in their group and in the evening she played with them until she was empty of every ounce of energy she had.
At night she looked at the sky and thanked the stars. She took out the gift again to look at her smiling face and felt something in its back. When she turned the gift and on the back it was etched,
“May every kid know how beautiful they are!
May every child realise, the real gift!”
And May understood it all!