Chaturthya (Fourth Day)

By Pradipta Dutta (copyrights 2017)

 

Prologue

 

Ajam Nirvikalpam Niraakaaram Ekam

Unborn, Beyond Imagination, Formless and Absolute

Niraanandam Aanandam Advaitam Poornam

Beyond Bliss, the Absolute Bliss, Indivisible, Whole

Param Nirgunam Nirvishesham Nireeham

The Best Among the Best, Attributeless, Obtainable, Desireless

Para Brahma Roopam Ganesham Bhajema

To That Form I Worship That Is Most Supreme

Gunateetamaanam Chidananda Roopam

Transcendental to Material Modes of Nature, Bliss of Consciousness

Chida – Bhaasakam Sarvagam Jnana Gamyam

The One Who Is Experienced Through Consciousness, All Pervading, Approachable through Knowledge

Munidhyeyam Aakaasha Roopam Paresham

The One Who Is Meditated On By Sages and Is the Form of the Sky

Para Brahma Roopam Ganesham Bhajema

To That Form I worship That Is Most Supreme

Jagat Kaaranam Kaarana – Jnana Roopam

The Cause for the Existence of the Universe and of Knowledge

Suraadim Sukhaadim Gunesham Ganesham

Premier of Gods, of Primal Happiness, Lord of Qualities

Jagad Vyaapinam Vishwa Vandyam Suresham

The One Who pervades through the Universe, Worshipped by the World, Lord of the Gods

Para Brahma Roopam Ganesham Bhajema

To That Form I Worship That Is Most Supreme.

  • (Ganesh Strotam)

 

Circa 1400 A.D.

Mauryapuri is burning with the cries of its innocent villagers.

The world is reined by evil and injustice.

Our homes of mud are melting from the heat of our tears.

I am Aaryangini, work-mate of Durja, the Invincible One.

Heramba, Her Beloved Son.

Rudrapriya, the Beloved of Shiva Himself.

I, the Lady of Visions, have witnessed the streets of Mauryapuri, overflowing with the blood of parasites that plague us.

Who is Durja?

Durja is neither an idol, nor the pomp and gaiety of worldliness.

Durja is the center – point of eternal consciousness and is birthed within the consciousness of the man whose mind has been opened, and who has become the Beloved of his own audacity.

I first met Durja on the banks of River Aaranyaka that flows through the forests of Mauryapuri.

Durja, at that time, had been fasting for thirteen days, and was desperately trying to find the perfect balance in his artwork.

I watched him, as he pounded rice on stone shelves.

Durja is a rice-painter.

They have named him Dagdu.

He is thin and tiny- bodied – and for many men, he is the centerpiece of mockery, but they stand shocked, when they see him lift up heavy stones on his back, to take them to his laboratory which are three trees of Banana, outside his mud home.

Durja is prudent but his mind is plagued with questions and he immerses himself in his artwork to evade them.

This is not how balance is achieved.

“I will teach you.” I tell him.

He stares at me blankly. He is still lost in his work.

“Who are you?” He asks.

“I am Aaryangini. I know balance.”

His face changes when he recognizes my facilitation.

Durja and I, spend hours in his laboratory, thenceforth, preparing the most balanced form of rice paste the world has known.

Consistency may bring absolution, but balance is what upholds it.

He offers to make me his work-mate.

I accept his offer and yet, I know what it would mean for me to complete him – and how he would be flustered with lacuna if he started becoming dependent on me.

Therefore, I keep distance.

A woman of purpose must never weaken.

I make rice paste for Durja and prepare for the day of my desiccation that will one day arrive.

Durja loves to eat sweets and has a pot belly, because of malnourishment that afflicted him when he was a child…

Yes, he is malnourished, and yet nourishes our minds with wisdom.

Durja’s only friends are brown mice that live on the fields of rice.

He talks to mice and has named all of them.

One of these, is a mouse he calls, Krauncha.

Krauncha follows Durja wherever he goes.

Durja knows only focus and tenacity.

Nobody has seen him weep, except for his Mother.

Durja’s Mother is Ambadevi and he calls her ‘Aai’.

Ambadevi is everything. Durja adores her.

She is his friend, his sister, his Mother and his God.

She chose to hold him in her arms, and fed him from her shrunk breasts that had only little drops of milk left, as she had not eaten for days together.

Everyone told her that Durja would die, but she held onto hope.

She had always been a woman of strength, who chose never to leave her responsibilities.

Becoming a Mother to Durja was her conscious decision and nobody could take it away from her.

Durja had come not from her womb, but her Aatman itself.

Eshanadeva, Ambadevi’s Husband, never understood her – he just made his choice.

Just two years into his marriage with Ambadevi, he left her behind with a dying child, because he said, that he’d had a sudden calling that asked him to go to the Himalayas.

When he announced it, she did not resist.

He asked her if she wished to accompany him on his journey, but she plainly refused.

“That is your calling. This is mine.” She said, simply.

When he the left her, teary – eyed, Ambadevi did not speak a word, shed no tears, and did not pray to the Gods for his safety.

She just held her baby’s shivering body onto her chest tightly.

The baby had caught an infection and there was no money to go to the Upacharaka, medicine man of the village.

“Follow your Husband, foolish woman! This child has no hope. He will perish soon.”

Oftentimes, when you stand for a cause, a lot of cruel and harsh words land on your doorstep, but mustn’t you pay heed, for your cause is your only beneficiary.

“How can you hope to survive alone? Uppurushas will swallow you.” People said.

Uppurushas, were the village heads and temple priests.

They preyed on abandoned women and treated them as slaves.

At nights, Ambadevi would freeze in fear when she would contemplate the days that were to come – those of terrifying limitless loneliness, of molestation and rape, of being beaten and turned into nothing, but a living corpse.

Why does a man leave his woman and his child behind, when he is very much aware of the vultures that plague Kaliyuga?

As much as she tried to hate the world that had wronged her, she found that she was, instead, overcome by a strange sense of calmness.

She focused on her breathing, while her baby suckled her breast, and discovered that her peace was untouched by the troubles of her life.

It shocked her, beyond measure.

People like her Husband, were seekers of the quiet seclusion that Himalayas offered, to find salvation, and here she was, experiencing it in its intensity, in the midst of storms and tragedies, all by herself.

Perhaps it was her motherhood that saved her child or her child that saved her.

She would sing the sweetest of lullabies to her sick child every night and her heart would become filled with ecstatic purity.

Dagdu survived his sickness, miraculously, and the villagers told her it was God’s mercy – but only she knew it was hers. She had saved her son and her son, in turn, had saved her.

God was not up in the sky like they believed.

God was in the choices people made.

 

In the hours of nothingness, when I sat with nothing but my rice painting, I became whole.

People called me Dagdu, for I possessed a pot-belly.

I loved eating sweets, whenever made available to us.

I lived in a small village named Mauryapuri.

What is sweetness, you’d ask.

Sweetness is the face of my Aai, my Mother, the sweetest of all faces that ever was and ever will be…

When I eat sweets, I feel happy because I feel her kindness enter my spirit.

Her sweetest smile is reserved, but for me…

If you take me as a mere boy, God save you, for you do your intellect much harm.

We come from a family of rice – painters, and we paint wherever life takes us.

“Dagdu Seth!”

One day, the Landlord for whom my Mother worked, comes.

I don’t know why he calls me that.

Older men, have always a condescending way of treating young boys.

I suspect very much that he is jealous of the fact that I am still a young boy who does not have a wife.

 “My wife wants you to paint our home floorings, this Chaturthi.” He announces.

 I shudder.

 I now have  to paint the house floorings of the very people who have always disrespected my Mother, and have often tortured her.

 You see, Jagirdars thought that they had a right over our willingness and good nature, but this was not so.

One day, I threw tantrums at my Mother.

There were tears in my eyes.

I wanted to ask her, why such kind of  pain afflicted the walls of our mud – home?

 “The Moon has been weighed down, my child. They’ve tied down weights and casted them into oceans. And yet, tides flock toward the Moon. The Moon is eternal Mother, and She will be kind, no matter what the doings of logical minds. Our Love must never know logical aspiration, and neither be the basis of vengeance.”

 Mother always calmed me.

And I, Dagdu, rice – painter, the friend of mice, stayed flabbergasted, at the wisdom she encompassed in her being.

 “Paint, Dagdu. Pull out the rivers of your soul. Paint on gutters, walls, brothels, houses, temples and mosques. Never assess, never count. Never judge. Conflicts dissolve where you lay your soul, and keep it most vulnerable. Wholeness enters. Joy unfolds.”

 

 

Ambadevi’s life had been brutal truth and she chose never to run from it.

She chose not to follow her Husband to renunciation.

Peace of mind?

How can one be peaceful if there are corpses levied upon your shoulders?

It may be a convincing way to escape life, but Ambadevi chose not to hate.

Hatred exhausted energy and she had to preserve hers.

She dedicated her life to teaching her son their art of rice – painting.

Children are malleable and adapt quickly to surroundings.

Mind is vagrant.

Work is meditation that brings it back to the center.

Revulsion is easy, resilience is difficult.

She chose resilience.

Ambadevi did not even know the kind of mental toughness she’d bestowed upon her son.

“There are no easy solutions to difficult problems. Purity comes only with perseverance.” She would say.

In the process, Dagdu realised.

He became Prathameshwara, the First Among All and Durja, the Invincible one.

A conscious parent can awaken a child’s heroism. Otherwise parents kill, like they were killed by theirs and children spend entire lifetimes coping with life, instead of wholly living it.

 

Bhausahib’s home was the center – point of our village Mauryapuri.

Their courtyard size was a thousand times the size of our mud house.

“Dagdu!”

Aatyabai shouts.

Aatyabai is Bhausahib’s dreaded wife.

I do not understand why people feared her.

I feared nobody.

 “The whole courtyard should be painted before evening.” She orders.

 “That is not possible, Aatyabai.” I smile.

 “Moron! What did you say?”

 “I said what you heard. To soak this courtyard with my rice – painting, I need four days. On the Fourth Day, I will bring an end to misery.”

“What an arrogant little cheeser!” She scoffs at me.

“Fourth Day from today is Chaturthi, that’s when we bring our Ishtadeva ‘Avighna’ home.”

 “I will enter your home, only if you see my people with honour. Your hands are stained with the blood of innocent villagers. Lot of repentance is required.” Avighna answers.

 Her face turns pale with shock.

 “Who are you?” She asks.

Her voice is shaking.

 “I am Akhuratha, friend of mice you kill every day. I am the Heramba, the beloved son of Ambadevi, the woman your Husband beats not because she is less competent, but because he seeks pleasure out of torture. Somewhere his heart broke and he turned evil.”

 Aatyabai faints and six servants come running, to help her ventilate.

 I go to my rice – painting, unhindered.

 Work is worship.

Integrity takes you where people have forgotten to visit, because it does not seem profitable.

There are no easy solutions to difficult problems.

First, we soak dry rice in water.

The rice imbibes water in its being and becomes available.

That is the truth with you.

Unless you imbibe life and become malleable, you will not flow freely onto the canvas.

Water is life.

Learn to use it wisely or perish.

Then, we grind the softened rice on a stone board with a pestle.

Let life grind you, allow yourself to be battered and bruised.

There is no space for pity.

Without passing through fire, there is no Kundana.

Each particle of rice must dissolve in its own self, such is the fineness necessary for success.

It is like egotism, the more you destroy rigidity of thought process, quicker comes the understanding of absolution.

Rice paste has to be consistent.

The key to perfection is balance between fluid and solid, between bank and river, dynamic and static.

If you lose consistency and balance, you waver from path, when you waver from path, you become open to external forces.

When external forces rein you, your soul sleeps, and you cannot paint life.

To paint, you have to become not just the painter, but rice, water, the floor, the dust.

To do, become the doing.

Every fibre has to scream, passion, passion, passion.

My work-mate is Aaryangini.

She makes rice paste, while I paint.

Without Her, I am nothing.

She knows balance, while I know art.

She’s within me, Aaryangini.

On the first day, we clean the Earth upon which to paint.

We use not broomsticks but our hands to clean.

Nobody must place their feet on the Earth.

Our feet are tied with cotton clothing and we clean with our bodies prostrate on the ground. Nobody should stand on the Earth.

Cold water is sprinkled and the Earth is watched.

She is calmed.

The heat is allowed to be released.

To cleanse your thought process of distractions, you must toil patiently.

If you do not honour the Earth and your root, you will not paint.

 “Durja!” Aaryangini says, as I drape my feet with cotton clothing.

 “What if Aatyabai steps on the floor?”

 “She will not.” I say.

“Go and wash yourself near the river, and wait patiently. On the Fourth Day, when the first crow cries at dawn, bring me what you have found.”

 “But my task is unfinished.” Aaryangini protests.

 “I will do your part. You do what you have been asked.”

 She frowns.

“Durja, I will. Be sure of one thing, I will accentuate your purpose but I will desiccate soon, thereafter. I will not be your wife.”

 Aaryangini’s last words are heavy.

I watch, as she leaves Bhausahib’s courtyard to follow her calling.

Aatyabai watches her penetratingly, as she leaves the gate.

Aatyabai does not speak a word, and does not dare to look in my direction.

I sprinkle water upon the Earth and direct my focus onto my task.

I wear only a loincloth, and my feet are tied.

I prostrate on the Earth and offer my prayers to Her, before starting to clean Her, the canvas of my Aatman.

 

 

“Heramba, eat something.”

Ambadevi says, staring at Dagdu.

Dagdu does not speak a word.

He chooses not to talk while working.

Ambadevi gives up and leaves for Bhausahib’s rice fields.

Her son is stubborn, and does what most fits his conscience. 

She chooses not to obstruct his path.

She wans nothing.

Her wounds mean nothing…

Ever since her Husband had left her, she’d become open to all kinds of torture, at the hands of the village head and temple priests.

She endured, for their stomachs had to be filled.

When you haven’t eaten in days, and your child is a marasmic skeleton, unconscious and about to die, it doesn’t matter – you’ll overwork yourself in rice fields and quietly endure harassment in the hands of rich people who employ you.

What is respect, then?

What is pity?

What is justice?

Tell that to poor people with shrunk bodies. Even thinking stops, even desperation dies.

The mind sleeps, the body shuts itself down, and there is only the awareness of thirst in the receptors of one’s throat. Everything else is a blatant lie.

 

 

 

On the Second Day, at dawn, we bathe and invoke the Sun.

 We smear our forehead with Earth and get down to work.

 The entire digestive tract must be empty and therefore, no food enters the mouth.

 Food distracts the mind and we, sons of poverty have learnt to keep ourselves off it, conditionally.

 As a child, I was so sick, I did not even cry of hunger or thirst.

 I closed my eyes and sat locking the point between the genital and the anal.

 In the process, I witnessed quietly, all the occurrences inside my physical body.

 I noticed how the mind controlled the body, and the only way to become their master was to be the master of the mind.

It came easily as I became absorbed in my work.

 Fingers had started controlling the mind.

 Touch remembers what mind forgets…

 By this time, the Earth has cooled and she has become accepting.

 The courtyard has to be concealed.

 Four pillars of bamboo are erected on four corners and the area is cordoned off with white clothing.

 The canvas is open only to the sky.

 Sun attends to the canvas through the day.

 At night, Moon guards her.

 For this reason, we paint only after Amaavasyam has passed.

 Humans will soon forget how Sun and Moon impact not just the ocean, but every fibre particle in the animal body and plant life.

 When I spend hours working on my canvas, the spine is exposed to the Sun’s heat and the nerve cells become receptive to Sun energy, which is then directed to my task and a tiny part of that energy, burns the skin and makes it brown.

 In the center-point of the canvas, we begin making our rice – paste.

 Aaryangini has already soaked rice in herb – water for three days.

 She goes to the forest at dawn, to pick up all the herbs – a balance that is known only to her.

 She then, sublimates these herbs in low heat for hours together and creates a potion which has the colour and consistency of cow – urine.

 We need water and for this purpose we must visit Aaranyaka, at the most sacred hour of night when her waters are most still.

We bring the holy water to our laboratory.

 We add the herb potion to this holy water.

Rice is added and kept covered with a lid for three days.

 Aaryangini is waiting patiently on the bank of Aaranyaka, and therefore, I must solely do the task of preparing the rice – paste.

 For mortars, we use rough stone boulders that live on the bank of Aaranyaka.

 As pestles, smoother stones are necessary, which are found underwater.

 We place the rice paste in the middle of the mortar and begin grinding.

 It has to be ground 9*108 times to become completely empty of character, and of desirable consistency.

 

 It is just a day before Chaturthya and her Son has been away from her since the past three days.

If Ambadevi has any meaning to her life, it is her Son.

Ascetic in passion, he has channeled all his energy, toward a purpose and that shall be enough to see him through life.

Ambadevi’s responsibilities have been met and finally after all these years, she notices that her bones ache.

She feels herself be swept by a feverish fatigue – she senses that her life is about to end, she can feel it coming.

Hot tears flow down her cheeks.

Ambadevi, has never been a woman of cowardice and weakness.

She is nothing but an empty vessel.

Her parents filled her with apathy and ostracism.

Her Husband filled her with abandonment.

Rich men filled her with their lust and torture.

Not a moment went past, when she retaliated.

She did what was necessary, what was required of her, what circumstances demanded.

She was true to her work – she was true to the rice fields, true to seeds, to sprouts and to the harvest.

Sometimes, Bhausahib used her and another woman on the rice field, instead of cattle.

She became cattle and made the soil receptive.

She received physical torture if the rice did not sell, if rains destroyed the crop, if Sun scorched the harvest…

They held her accountable for everything that went wrong – Ambadevi was merely, an end to the wrath of Zamindari.

When Dagdu resisted, she asked him to focus on the task at hand.

“One day, you will answer them. Be patient.” She would tell him.

She was the best rice – painter the village had seen, and she had passed her art onto her Son.

Sometimes, she did not eat and kept the food instead for her Son to come and eat, after he finished working in his rice – laboratory.

One meal, two people – what is essential?

As she now stands in the middle of the rice – field, she looks over at the horizon.

The Sun has patiently colored the sky a tinge of crimson and one of violet.

Layers and layers of clouds hang threateningly over her.

She feels her knees weaken.

For the first time in her life, she feels tired.

She is suddenly overcome by the need to go toward Aaranyaka.

Maybe she would take a bath, maybe she would just let the river take her.

She starts walking toward the river.

On the way, she meets Suryaki, turmeric woman.

“Where are you going, Ambe?” Suryaki asks.

“I am going for a bath in Aaranyaka.” Ambadevi smiles.

Ambadevi always smiled, whatever be her state.

“Deva! At this hour? You do not look well.” Suryaki warns.

“Yes.”

Ambadevi resumes her walking.

“Wait! Listen.” Suryaki exclaims.

“Take this turmeric. Apply it onto your body before you immerse yourself in the river. It will honor you.”

Suryaki hands over the turmeric to Ambadevi.

Ambadevi thanks her and continues on her journey.

An hour later, she reaches the river bank.

She is shocked at what she sees.

Aaryangini, work – mate of Dagdu, sits cross-legged in a meditative posture by the bank.

What is she doing here? She is supposed to be with Dagdu.

 

It is Third Day.

We have rested two hours.

We awaken at the sacred hour and bathe near the well.

 Moon looks slightly rusted.

 She is as tired, as is Mother.

 The wind is too chilly for regulars but it fails to affect us.

 We don’t have blankets at home and we sleep on cold floors.

 It hardens mind and body.

 There isn’t anything left, to feel anymore.

 Today is the day we start painting.

 This is not merely a painting, this will be the answer.

 We have waited all our lives.

 Not a moment, mind flickers.

 We paint Truth, not imagination.

 We offer an invocation to Shivoham, the emptiness of consciousness and ultimate bliss.

 The rice – paste has settled within itself – it became whole when it imbibed within its being the water of Aaranyaka.

 Balance is key.

 If you do not allow it to fill you completely, if you do not become the vessel, you will not know life.

 A stone has sad state. Rigidity punctures its experience.

 It comes to life only when it watches rice come to life on its surface – as an observer, a facilitator, and in the process becomes it.

 The brush is ready to be dipped. Its mouth is of cotton.

 Cotton is close to life.

 In Future, they will make synthetic attachments and destroy its existence.

 But that is true with everything that was once pure.

 Days get darker, until Another arrives.

 An hour before Sun comes the first light.

 We begin at the first light.

 The hand becomes one with the brush, the brush with the rice – paste, the paste with the Earth, the Earth with consciousness.

 Egotism has been killed, logic has been surprised, and work has come to be guided by the One who knows eternally.

Perpetrators of evil will be caught and they will come face to face with Truth.

The entire day I paint, I paint like there is no tomorrow, no again.

 My blood boils with ecstasy, I intend to never cease.

 

 

My name is Krauncha.

I am the charioteer of Akhuratha, Ambadevi’s Heramba, Aaryangini’s Durja and Mauryapuri’s Dagdu.

My species is one with the rice-field mouse.

Witnessing Akhuratha, I have become one with his principle, his essence.

I am not of today.

The coven of mice has been around, since time immemorial.

We have documented history.

Our ancestors lived off these lands before humans came.

In those times, we were not considered pests that spread disease but respectful members of the Forest.

One man came, another followed and an entire village was established.

Each man had his own land and lived joyously in abundance.

They respected us and chose not to come in the way of Nature.

Instead of destroying Nature that birthed them, they lived symbiotically alongside us.

A few years later, man began to feel a vacuum  – he was no more satisfied with what he had…

He wanted to expand.

Greed took over his better sense.

Greed destroys because it compels one to acquire that, which is not deserved.

Greed excludes. Greed is acquisition at the cost of another.

Zamindari was born.

Individualism was killed.

One man told other men, they should give away their lands to him and he would then help them expand the boundaries of their village.

He was clever and they were unawares.

By the time, they realized, it was too late.

He owned them.

They became his slaves.

The descendants of that man, became the rulers of the village.

The inhabitants of the village who once lived in abundance and joy, became stricken with poverty and hunger.

Balance was lost.

The rulers thought they owned souls of the ones who were poor, and together they thought that even the Forest was just an extension of their territory.

Food chain was disturbed, and we became burrowers of their rice fields.

Man had initiated conflict and he would eventually pay for his avarice and grandiose exclusion, inconsideration for the one next to him, ignorance of responsibility that accompanies power.

One fine day, a little boy came to play in the fields.

He saw one of our friends, a mouse, hurt and instead of killing it, he touched it with utmost tenderness.

He looked after the mouse for a week and the mouse healed.

Our tribe named him, Akhuratha, although he told us that humans called him, Dagdu.

The boy had the gift to converse with everything animate and inanimate.

He was a meager boy, who lived in dire poverty, but for his Mother who entrusted him with his individualism.

With focus and concentration, Akhuratha had come to master his mind and body, hunger and thirst, cause and effect.

Traits such as fear, avarice, anxiety and resistance never touched his frame – he thereby, became Durja, the Invincible one.

Inside his calm exterior, burns an undying flame which he has, time and again, revealed to us, on the banks of Aaranyaka.

This flame will devour the perpetrators of evil.

It is time for the lions of our Forest to roar in unison, for the wolves to howl and for crows to cry out and announce the coming of the one who will restore balance.

Akhuratha has entrusted me with a sacred job.

At the darkest hour, I steal the keys to Bhausahib’s wealth reserve and harvest quarters.

Next, we steal the key to the Temple’s Charity Trust.

We then proceed toward Aaranyaka, where Aaryangini awaits us.

When we reach Aaranyaka, we are surprised to see Ambadevi alongside Aaryangini.

When we stop at her feet, Ambadevi smiles.

Her face is pale, her heartbeat has slowed down and her breathing has become heavy and labored.

I, Krauncha, foresee death.

Ambadevi is nearing her end.

Akhuratha needs to be informed, so he may offer her the waters of Aaranyaka.

The dying, need water, for their journey is arduous and long.

This particular news however, will greatly disturb his calm and calm is what is most necessary at this hour.

I am bound by duty more than I am with helplessness.

I will guard Ambadevi with my brethren, and together we will make sure, she is protected, until Akhuratha arrives.

At the first call of the crow, Aaryangini emerges from her meditation.

“Aarya.” Ambadevi gathers all her grit to speak.

Aaryangini drops down.

“Aai!” She screams.

“Aarya, my time has come.”

“No! No!” Aaryangini sobs.

It is the first time; we have seen tears and shock on the beautiful, moon-like face of Aaryangini.

“Aai. You cannot die. Durja will be devastated. We will become orphans.”

“You are your own parents. My job was to guide you to your respective paths. My work is done, Aarya.” Ambadevi says with all the vitality that is left in her sinking gut.

Aaryangini places Ambadevi’s head on her lap and weeps hysterically.

“You must calm down, Aarya. Your task is unfinished. You are his strength. He should not see weakness.”

Aaryangini composes herself.

“Aarya, these are the turmeric scrapings from my body – they have my blood and sweat. Hand it over to Dagdu. He will need it.”

Ambadevi indicates toward the turmeric scrapings that lie beside her body, in a pile.

Aaryangini gathers them and quietly places them in her sack.

 We go and place the keys at her feet.

She stares at us.

We stare back at her.

“So, this is what I am supposed to receive when the crow calls first!” She exclaims.

I nod gently.

“Aarya, do not delay. Go to him as early as possible.” Ambadevi whispers.

Aaryangini embraces Ambadevi.

“Aai, I will bring him soon. Please stay till he comes.”

“Go, Aarya.”

Ambadevi closes her eyes. Dollops of tears leave the sides of her face and moisten the insides of her earlobes.

A few hundreds of my mouse friends follow the fast footsteps of Aaryangini.

 

 

The Fourth Day has arrived.

 Chaturthya has entered the chart.

 The paintings have been completed.

 They have dried and taken form.

 Aaryangini has brought me the turmeric scrapings that belong to my Mother’s body.

 Her eyes are swollen, and I cannot ascertain the cause of her distress.

 She chooses to always be quiet.

 Before I can ask any further question, Aatyabai emerges from her home.

 “I hope you have finished the task. In an hour from now, we will bring Ishtadeva home.”

 

 Our time has arrived.

The whole of Mauryapuri has been decorated with mango leaves and marigold blossoms.

There are drums playing and the temple bells ring constantly.

Occasionally, the music of the conch shell, tugs on the eardrum.

The town is fragrant with jasmine incense.

The palace’s backyard has been converted into a massive kitchen where they are cooking sweetmeats, rice porridge, and payasam, alongside other delicacies.

 The palace has been decorated with oil lamps – they wish to make a show out of it, at night.

Bhausahib derives a strange kind of pleasure, when he sees famine-stricken poor villagers gape at the mere size of his palace, at food, at every other luxury he owns and others do not.

Some children are filling their stomachs, only by the whiff of the food that is drawn toward the village, along with the west wind.

This is a morbid experimentation of extremes – where is the place for balance in this world?

Therefore, I Aaryangini, embodiment of balance, must immolate myself at Aai’s burning pyre.

What better death, than alongside Mother?

I may have been an orphan, but if not for her, I would have no home.

Durja can live without her, but I wish not to.

Durja has managed to conceal the paintings.

They will be revealed only when Ishtadeva is brought at the doorstep.

 

An Hour Later…

 

Villagers of Mauryapuri are submerged in frenzy.

They are howling the name of their deity and beating drums.

Women stand just outside Bhausahib’s courtyard, awaiting the coming of their husbands with the idol of Avighna, their Ishtadeva.

The village elders are seated under the shade of the Banyan tree which lives outside the palace.

One of them is the oldest of the lot – his name is Kakaram.

Soon, the sound of drum-beating intensifies.

The idol has reached the town’s square…

Inside the doors of Bhausahib’s palace, a scuffle has erupted.

Aatyabai is weeping.

“Where have the keys gone?” Bhausahib screams furiously.

He is pacing up and down, beads of sweat overmark his long forehead.

“I swear, I swear. I know nothing.” Aatyabai cries out.

“Check the servant quarters. Check everywhere!”

“How can I check now? The whole village is here.” Aatyabai says, sobbing into her drape.

“Bhausahib! Bhausahib!” Sound of hurried footsteps fill the eerie quiet of the empty palace.

The Head Priest comes rushing inside.

“What is it?” Bhausahib asks. He is much irritated.

“You cannot imagine the misfortune that has fallen upon us!”

The Earth from beneath Bhausahib’s feet begins to shake.

“The key to the Charity Trust has been stolen!”

Bhausahib’s eyes become bloodshot and his speech stutters.

“What?”

“What on earth is happening?” Aatyabai fumbles for words.

“Smuggle out all the money.” Bhausahib orders the Head Priest.

“What are you saying, Deva? That lock is a thousand years old. It was created so as to have no other key. The only way, is for it to be broken!”

“Then break it! For God’s sake! Can these pigs not be a little more vigilant!”

The Head Priest raises his eyebrows.

“Be in your limit, Bhausahib. Have you forgotten who stands in front of you?”

Bhausahib sits down.

“Is there no way to find out what is happening, Deva?” Aatyabai asks.

“Sadly, there isn’t. Let the day unfold. I will keep my men on strict vigil. Meanwhile, the locks cannot be broken, and the money cannot be smuggled out. Anything remotely suspicious, can cost us a great price! The villagers know nothing about all the wealth we keep hidden. We have constantly lied in the accounts.”

“He is here! The Lord is here! Avighna Deva is here! Hail Avighna!”

Voices from outside make the windowsills shiver.

“We have to go out.” The Head Priest hurriedly walks out of the palace.

Aatyabai follows him obediently.

Bhausahib holds his head in between his hands and murmurs.

“Whoever is behind this, I will have the son of a bitch murdered.”

He speaks a few abuse words and angrily hurls outside the palace.

.

.

“The Kumkuma has been done. Open the stall. Let the world witness the rice – paintings. Only then Bappa will be placed in the precinct.” A lower priest shouts.

Durja takes off all the white clothing off the bamboo sticks.

As the paintings are revealed, a few women on the front porch scream in agony.

Aatyabai nearly faints. Two servants hold her.

Bhausahib shouts. “You, moron! What is this you have painted?”

People glare in shock as they see what has been drawn on the courtyard of Bhausahib’s palace.

A few people climb through the walls, to witness the artwork that has had everyone in shock.

“I have painted the Truth.” Durja speaks. His voice is calm, fearless and firm.

On the floor, are the best paintings, Mauryapuri has ever seen.

They have been so divinely carved, and the balance is so perfect, that life leaks out of them.

If witnessed even for a moment, it shatters one’s spine and awakens consciousness.

Some women have already begun weeping.

In one of the paintings, Bhausahib is seen raping women – their clothes are torn, their eyes are in horror, their mouths have been tied, while his face reeks of animosity and lust.

In the neighbouring painting, Bhausahib’s wife, Aatyabai, is seen beating the children of poor people, whom she has made her servants. She apparently uses hot iron rods to burn their backs and hangs them upside down from tree – tops. When they later die, of septic wounds or brain hemorrhaging, none of their parents know what went wrong so suddenly.

One painting displays a funeral, in which a family has lost their children from famine and the Mother, has died beside the corpses of her three children. Durja has shown the face of a man who has lost his entire family in just one day.

Another painting, shows a farmer contemplating suicide in Aaranyaka – because nothing is left of his self-respect.

The temple priests are shown molesting young girls, in the name of marrying them off to Gods. Their skirts are stained with blood, their eyes are lifeless, while beside their naked bodies, priests are shown drinking bhaang and laddoos.

A painting shows Bhausahib’s and Temple Trust’s wealth reserves – full of gold coins and jewellery – limitless wealth, which the villagers know nothing about.

Another painting shows dried rivers, chopped trees and dead animals.

But Durja’s ultimate piece, boggles the whole of human consciousness. It showcases fire – fire that has engulfed the entire village of Mauryapuri – the streets are overflowing with the blood of its people, rats and iguanas lie scattered here and about, burnt birds have fallen into the river. There is destruction everywhere. Broken necks and limbs, lie here and there and there in the midst of it, he has painted my face – the face of Parashakti, with her hair messed – up, her eyes open in rage, her nostrils flared and her lips curled up. She is shown exhaling fire from her mouth, and has thereby, She has torched, the entire world.

Villagers of Mauryapuri ogle at the paintings – some have fainted, some are weeping, whilst, some are in shock.

“Kill this heretic!” A man screams.

“You wretched rice – painter! How dare you paint such horrendous pictures at the coming of our Father – our Ishtadeva, Avighna!”

“Kill him!” Another man shouts.

“Yes!”

A mob of men catch Durja and one of them slaps his face.

“Is there even an ounce of lie in what I have created?” Durja asks, calmly, looking at the women who are weeping.

“Haven’t our children been murdered, our women raped, our respect torn in tatters?”

His voice describes agony, in its most controlled state.

That such control can withhold even agony, is a surprising element, but which the blind are incapable of recognising.

Everyone becomes quiet.

“We have been plagued by people who call themselves superior, more privileged, and trailblazers of godhead!” Durja says.

“Behold! These men of religion, how they commit murder and rape everyday!”

 

“Durja! This is no day to showcase what you want to prove.” The eldest village man says.

“Which day is more suitable, Kakaram?” Durja scoffs at him.

Durja frees himself from the clutches of the men who have held him.

“What do I want to prove? You all have become blind! You need proof? Bring my Mother and remove her clothes! See the marks on her body!”

People place their hands on their ears and express shame at what they’ve just heard a son speak, of his Mother.

“Open all the women – ask them. Look into their eyes!”

Durja walks towards Bhausahib and Aatyabai. They take a few steps back – they are sweating profusely and hyperventilating.

“These two! These two are the faces of evil – they have brought you all to a point that you have forgotten to fend for your self-respect and you cannot tell right from wrong!”

“Day in and day out, they have killed your children and stolen money from you – they have kept you in the dark – enjoyed the fruits of your hard labor, and kept you in famine and poverty.”

The Village Accountant interrupts Durja’s oration.

“But the accounts say otherwise! I am the Accountant. There have been no lies!”

“Kadu Seth! Truth concealed is lie spoken – with or without omission!” Durja responds.

The accountant hangs his head down.

“Hang yourselves but touch not the plague that afflicts you!”

A woman falls down and begins to wail.

Durja goes to her and picks her up in his arms.

“Tell them what you have seen!”

Suddenly, the Head Priest comes forward.

“We are running out of time. Muhurtam is passing. The second prahara is nearing.”

Durja laughs.

“Try to bring the idol inside. Avighna will not step inside the courtyard, where women have been man-handled and children murdered brutally!”

“Heretic!” The Head Priest spits on the ground. “Hey! Bring the idol inside!”

A few servants, try to hold up the magnanimous idol, but it does not rise from the ground.

I, Aaryangini, speak thence.

“This idol will not rise, keepers of Mauryapuri!”

“Who are you?” A woman asks, curiously.

“I am Aaryangini.” I say.

“The idol will rise above the ground only when it is touched by the man who speaks Truth – and only when, he places turmeric at Avighna’s feet.”

People look at me in disbelief.

“Try.” I smile.

One by one, Bhausahib, the Head Priest and the Accountant, go and touch the idol and place turmeric at Avighna’s feet – but the idol does not rise from the ground.

Finally, Durja goes and touches the idol and places Aai’s turmeric scrapings at Avighna’s feet.

When the servants hold the idol up, it rises.

People scream in amazement and wonder.

What they do not know, is that hundreds of rats have helped lift the idol up from the ground.

A few men walk, and catch hold of Bhausahib and the Head Priest.

Others, grab the Village Accountant.

“Tell us the Truth!” People scream.

“We want Truth!” Another man shouts.

Soon, the entire village is screaming.

“Give us the Truth!”

A woman screams. “ They are murderers. I have been raped. My children have been murdered!”

“Truth! Truth!”

“Open your house! Let us see how much wealth you have!” Another woman screams.

Durja speaks.

“Calm down! You will receive Truth!”

People become quiet. They have become strangely obedient to Durja…

“I have the keys to their wealth reserves. You will see for yourself.”

“How do you have their keys?” A man asks.

“I stole it this morning.”

Bhausahib shouts. “You moron! I will kill you.”

He desperately tries to free himself from the clutches of the mob, but in vain.

“This is pre-orchestrated! This man is a liar!” The Head Priest exclaims.

“Give us the keys, Dagdu.” People shout.

“Give us the keys!”

Durja speaks.

“I will give you the keys. But I want you to promise me something first.”

People stare at Durja.

“Only ten of you, will go and witness the wealth house – once you see for yourself what lies inside, you will come and indicate it to others. Kakaram will thenceforth keep the keys safely under guard. You will not kill the criminals. They will be tied to trees and kept under vigil.”

“You will first complete the ceremony for Avighna at town’s square.

We will try them only after Avighna’s visarjana, twelve days from today.

On the Thirteenth Day, we will try them.

Meanwhile, all the wealth will be equally distributed amongst the villagers of Mauryapuri – we will go back to our days of individualistic farming.

A government will be formed, to look after the welfare of the town, but they will have no control – money will be in the hands of its people.”

There is an eerie quiet, and people look at each other.

Finally someone speaks.

“We will do what you say.”

Another man screams. “You have our word.”

“Yes! We will do what you say.”

“Give us the keys.”

“Aaryangini!” Durja motions his hand at me.

I step forward, and hand over the keys to Kakaram.

Kakaram chooses ten men and women and they walk inside Bhausahib’s palace.

 

They emerge a few minutes later…

 

Everyone stares at them.

Kakaram speaks.

“Take the felons to the town’s square and tie them. They have lied to us and wronged us. They have played with our lives.”

“Make sure they are tied to trees opposite Avighna Deva’s idol. They should witness the ceremony before we try them on the Thirteenth day.” Kakaram finishes.

The mob grabs Bhausahib, the Head Priest and the Accountant and takes them to the town’s square.

Aatyabai is dragged by women, as she fights and bites.

Others carry Avighna’s idol to the town’s square, with loud cheers of victory over evil.

The noise settles.

In the courtyard of Bhausahib’s Palace, stands Durja, alone.

His face holds the calmness of an ascetic. His eyes are the precision of an arrowhead.

His purpose has been served.

 

A while later…

 

Krauncha, the mouse, comes running.

He says something to Durja and Durja looks at me.

“Aaryangini!” He whispers in the most dejected voice, that I have ever heard.

He feels betrayed by me – for not having told him his Mother’s state in the Forest.

My heart shatters.

I have lost everything – and my time has come…

******

 

Epilogue

I have put her to rest.

 Or is it her that has rested me?

 Today, I become an orphan.

 On the way back, I carry her ashes in my hand, which have mixed with the ashes of Aaryangini – the girl who immolated herself on my Mother’s pyre.

 Two sufis cross me.

 “Lay them, lay them. The journey is long – she is with her and hers is the ocean. Immerse, Immerse.”

 My spine aches…

 The one who liberated the world from the clutches of treachery and deception – the one they call Akhuratha, Durja, and Heramba, is now all alone.

 A brilliant light shines on the horizon.

 Two stars fall on the Earth.

 I fall within.

 My consciousness glows – I am free of pain.

 I am nothing.

My Mother is everywhere and yet I see her nowhere…

 “Immerse, immerse. She, the eternal fish, that swims in Her and Hers is the ocean. Delve, delve.”

 Justice has prevailed.

 People have awakened.

 Lives have been lost – but civilizations are built over the dead of ruins…

 Remembrance forgets.

 Time shifts.

 Cycle repeats…

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Smita Ray says:

    I have been reading few of your stories and this one is outstanding. You’re exceptionally​ gifted storyteller. I am grateful to Neal for introducing you to us. Did you have your stories published earlier?

    1. Hello Smita, thank you so much. 🙂 Neal has been very kind to me, and I am glad to have such beautiful readership. No, I have not published before, I have just been blogging here and on Instagram. I have a few manuscripts in hand and would want to publish sometime in the near future. 🙂

      1. Smita Ray says:

        Pleasure. It’s yonks since I have become addicted​ to the kindness of online people. 🙂 All the very best with your writing. 👍

        1. thank you so much 🙂 much love!

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