Friday, October 3, 2014

The Idol

It was a glorious day. A beautiful morning. And she was ten years old today. Ten! How wonderful.
She jumped out of her bed and raced downstairs to her father’s workshop.
“I am ten today!” she squealed and launched herself into the idol-maker’s mud splattered arms. His days began early, with the festival just a month away. She could see the goddess coming alive. Those big, beautiful (and slightly intimidating) eyes just waiting to be painted open.
“Yes, you are. A big, big girl now”, her father smiled and tapped her nose.
“You remember your promise? You do? You do?” She hoped that he did. It was something that she had dreamt of all her life. And its fulfilment seemed so long in coming.
Her father’s smile deepened. Carrying her in his arms, he walked to a corner of the workshop, where something lay covered under a tarp. He set her down and pushed her forward.
“Go on. Pull off the cover.”
She first turned, with a smile beaming and blew a kiss. Then with a flourish, she pulled off the cover.
There stood the bamboo structure of a miniature idol. And next to it, sat a basket of clay. The same clay that the idol-maker used to create gods and goddesses.
“Thank you! Thank you”, she first shouted and then whispered. Finally she could also make her own goddess.
The goddess was so beautiful in her home. And what a home it was. Shaped like an iridescent lotus, with the lightest pink deepening into a glowing mauve.  The goddess herself sat amongst dark purple stamen that rose out of the lotus’ centre, while the lotus floated in a pond of mirrored flowers. The leaves that shaded the goddess, started at the base of the lotus and were a work of art by themselves.
She was so proud. Proud of her father who had made the goddess and her uncles who had created her home.
And she was proud of herself. Because next to the goddess, sat a slightly misshapen but actually perfect miniature version of the goddess. And she had created this goddess.
One day, this goddess would grow as big, as strong, as powerful as her father’s. She will just have to protect the young goddess, bring her up the way her father was bringing his daughter up.
Today was the last day of the festival. She knew what happened today though she had never seen it with her own eyes.
“On this day, the goddess returns to her divine palace”, the idol-maker had explained to his four-year old, inconsolable daughter, many years ago. “But she will be back next year. Don’t cry, darling.”
“Where are all these men taking her, then?”
“She needs the shoulders of these strong men to find her way back, you see.”
“I can help, too.”
“When you are older, maybe.”
And today, finally, she was old enough to help the goddess on her return journey. With the older goddess, her young goddess also had to go, her father had explained. She was sad about that but next year, they would all return. And her own goddess would have grown bigger by then. The thought excited her.
The contingent reached the edge of the river and down went the goddess.
“No!” she screamed. They were drowning the goddess. They were murdering her. How would she return if she died.
The idol-maker lifted her. “It’s okay. Her path goes through water.”
“No, you are lying. You are killing her.”
“I am not, child. That is the way of the world. You are all grown now, aren’t you? Ten years old. Practically a lady. You have to learn the ways of the world.” With these words, he gently pried the small goddess from his daughter’s fingers and let go of the statue into the water.
The young girl stood, silent, mute. Her goddess sank into the muddy water, not even putting up a fight.
Slowly, the girl walked away from the murderous river. She was an adult now.
Photo source:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Fort

Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur (Courtesy:
The old fort where the party was being held did not really have any legends attached to it. At least none that she knew about. Maybe Google would throw up something or asking some locals. Not that it mattered.

However, its location atop a hill allowed one to view unmatched panorama of the old city spread below. But it was night, so that picture was cloaked in darkness. The revelers had to pass through twisting passages, laid out with electronic red carpet, to reach the inner courtyard where the dance floor, the food and the booze were. They were advised not to step off the path to explore the unlit part of the fort.

So, she left the lit passages and walked through one of the doors along the path. And emerged into an open space, high above the ground and under a vast blue, grey sky. Moonlight created a comfortable shadow play. Her hands, when she extended them, were awash in a silvery blue and if she tried very hard, she could feel a cool tingle in her fingertips.

The shadows in the corners were shy, gathering within themselves. She was tempted to go coax them out, explore them, learn their secrets. Were there any stories hidden within their soft folds?

Later, she decided. This hushed light had its own story to tell. While it was silent all around and any noise was too far away to be heard, occasionally she heard the voices of her fellow revelers passing on the paths to the party.

She ignored them. She was drawn towards the high boundary walls. The city lay hushed and spread below her like some covered feast. All she had to do was extend her hand and scoop the darkness out, laying bare the lives that were cloaked. She turned back to the unlit, moonlit terrace. She was beginning to feel a little cheated. Disappointed. Where was the grandeur of the moment? She might never come back here. And she deserved something special. A memory that belonged to her alone, transcending time and history.

Suddenly, there was a twinkle in those cornered shadows. It caught her eye. She was intrigued but also a little wary. She had wanted something special, hadn’t she? This could be it. She was both hopeful and trying very hard to be pragmatic. Hope fluttered and quivered in her belly, threaded through a vague, unnamed fear. In the end, she walked forward. Curiosity and imagination had always been her salvation and her doom.
It twinkled again. She was now in the extreme corner of the terrace, where the shadows were most bashful. Her shoes echoed, muted in the stillness. The night remained cool, fresh, flowing through her unbound hair. She reached.

She stooped down and extended her hand. It touched a papery, wrinkly silver foil of some candy.

Disgusted, disappointed, relieved, she muttered under her breath. “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.”

Stupid tears stung her eyes. In helpless anger, she picked up a small stone lying next to the deceitful foil. It was uneven with pointed, jagged edges. She tested the edges and threw it with all her strength into the shadows.

Getting up, she spun on her heels, leaving behind the dust of some unnamed, unrealized romance.

Sometime in the night, from some where in the soft , trembling shadows, dropped and rolled onto the silver stones, the muted tinkle from a broken, silver anklet.