FARWELL TO FRIENDS
[People will stand by my coming avatar, unknowingly that they are with the god himself. People will love me as people had loved me as Rama and Krishna when I took seventh and eighth avatar on the earth. I can’t do my work alone. It will be the test of humans- who is with God and who isn’t. The real test is when humans are put against the wall, tight-cornered wall, around their head and their heart. Then their true nature comes out. Therefore, I as an avatar will be distinguished. Many people will follow me, unknown that I’m the avatar but alarmed I’m something different than all and that’s what that trigger them.]
When I come out of the hut’s door and walk down the earthen steps, feeling the coldness of the last night held by the land, my father is on the old cot made of bamboo sticks near a Neem tree, he is poking ears of the corn into the embers of a tiny fire of dry wood. My mother has preferred a Neem tree for our hut. She has planted and maintained it, thinking it benefits our health. I wonder how she knows what is good and what is bad but then I think elders know because they have talked with their elders and they have talked with their elders and at last the persons who have read books – books of the knowledge.
My mother says that before Pralaya we weren’t banned from books. This new god has made this rules and condemned us from many rights we own before Pralaya.
Why – we don’t know.
I smile at my father and sit down on the ground, my back against the rude wall of the tree steam. I feel the smell of roasting corn. It’s pleasant.
My father does his one-millisecond smile, “Would you like to eat?” he asks, taking ears of the corn out from the ember.
“No,” I say, closing my eyes, my hands are in my lap.
“Nervous?” he asks, looking me into the face.
I open my eyes, “No.” though this is a lie.
My father is strong in physics and six feet tall, his face is black but looks beautiful, not as beautiful as my mother, she is much more beautiful, but pale and thin not strong while my father has a well-muscled body, perhaps due to labour in construction work beyond the wall.
He is in a grey shirt and black loose pant as our dress code.
“You lie,” he teases, “you are nervous.” he smiles, just barely, a brief smile.
“Shouldn’t I?” I ask but without irritation.
“It doesn’t matter if you are nervous,” he says, gentle now. “Almost ninety-nine percent of teenagers exhibit signs of nervousness.”
“Had you shown any sign when you go for the first time?” I lower my voice to a whisper.
He winks at me. “I was in ninety-nine percent.” He admits without hesitation, and I believe him. My father is kind of person who never lies to me.
“Do you remember your day?”
“Of course,” he says, “no one can forget the day.”
“Now accept it you are nervous.” He teases me again. I know he won’t leave me until I accept the truth.
“How could you tell I’m nervous?”
“Because you cracked your knuckles when you came out the hut and still your fingers are playing with each other,” he smiles, “these are signs of nervousness.”
“I wasn’t nervous until I came out the hut,” I say, “but I can control it.”
“Congratulation,” he greets me, “so are you ready to go beyond the wall?”
“I think so,” I answer, looking back at the hut. My mother is standing at the threshold of our hut to watch me going first time beyond the wall.
“Yes, he is.” she says, in loud voice, “just you have to take care he doesn’t make a question.”
“I will.” My father smiles and looks at me, “your friends are waiting for you outside, they are excited.”
“I know,” I say, lifting my eyebrows.
“Don't you want to meet them before we go to the station?”
“Then go, we haven’t much time.” He holds his hands out and says, “I need you ready before the dark.”
“Till dark is enough to say my GOODBYEs.” I get on my feet and brush the dust from my trousers.
“Samrat,” my mother says, smiling at me. I blink and look at her, startled. I know she is worried.
I hear her take a deep breath, “don’t be late.”
I smile “I won’t.”
I look at my father. Maybe he is a little nervous after all.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be on time,” I say before I rush out our premise, and pass through an open gate made of bamboos. We all have fencing of wood and thorny plants brought from the nearby semi-deserted area around our huts, to save our belongings from others. We’ve thieves as we’ve poverty.
The last things I see before passing the gate is my mother looking at my father, worry in her face, and my father stands up and reaches for her hand.
In-the-wall you can see all of the bad virtues – we’ve drunkards who manufacture wine I don’t know from what and some thieves who have gang and chock travelers even for some coins and then we’ve robbers and baggers and rogues who make loot.
My father says where poverty is, there are bad virtues, too.
I come out to see more than ten of my friends waiting for me, all smaller than me in age. They haven’t seen beyond the wall so they are excited but the fear is more dominant in every eye than the excitement.
I too am always excited to go beyond the wall, but now a bit feared.
Oh! I’ve forgotten to tell you one thing. Our colour is green as we are the producers, traders have blue coulor as their dull nature, Nirbhaya owns saffron, the colour of bravery and the Devatas have chosen the white, it shows their purity. The folk has yellow, representing them as a disease on the earth.
“Samrat, finally the day came?” Kirit says, “Are you nervous?” he is tall like me, but not as strong as me. He is thin, with almond-shaped eyes and long chick bone, more beautiful than all of my friends.
“A bit” I admit. That’s our characteristic we should admit our emotions, never hiding them. Still, most of us can hide. I too can, but never from my friends.
“You should.” Bhavesh says, “We all should when we go beyond the wall.” he is of fourteen years, two years smaller to go beyond the wall. He has curly hair, giving him a nickname – the curly.
“Why?” I ask.
“I don’t know.” He answers.
“But I know,” Karina says. She is my friend. She is the loudest voice than all wherever she is. Her conversations are buoyant and intended to be heard. There is something of the dramatic in her. Everyone knows her as Loudy-Girl within moments of meeting her, like it’s her most favourite badge by which to identify herself.
In-the-wall we have no discrimination like boy and girl (it’s all stuff of beyond the wall – their girls aren’t allowed to be friend with boys – even when they are teenagers)
“What you know?” I ask.
“I know why we feel nervous when we go beyond the wall,” she answers.
“Because that’s the day when we are in the realm of…” she lowers her voice, almost as if she is whispering in my ear, “the creator.”
“We suppose not to speak that name.” Anil says, “It is a sin.”
Anil is a thin, tall and raven-haired boy. Of course, he is beautiful, mostly due to his thick and black hair but that's why friends call him Crow face as some elders say his hair is as black as the crow. (We have never seen a crow.) He always prefers to be alone, never friendly, only having a few friends and he would ignore every girl who would try to flirt with him. That's what I liked him best. I never see him go out and deliberately make a friend, they just came to him. There is nothing threatening about him, nothing at all. He is an easy listener, a good audience, giving encouraging feedback laced with intelligent comments.
“I know, we suppose not to speak that name but what if no one is hearing?”
“But we are hearing.”
“You are Sunyas. You aren’t going to tell them I have done a sin.”
“So you don’t fear the sin?” Sanjay asks. We call him the son of Smith. His father Charan is a blacksmith in beyond the wall. We don’t know what work he does there. He never tells us.
“Why should we?” she asks, “and anyway I don’t think speaking a holy name can be the sin.”
“Okay. Forget it.” Daxa says, she is my neighbour, two inches shorter than my five feet five inch and thinner like my mother but of course beautiful, her lips are red like colour of twilight and her face isn’t as black as other girls, she is like the wheat that traders come to buy and we occasionally give them in exchange of cheap metal coins.
When we have a festival or something special day we eat wheat. Except that we eat fish and seafood - Nothing else. That’s how we earn coins; we give them our hard earned food.
“When you will come back you will tell us what you see there,” she says.
“Sure,” I say.
“My mother wants to meet you.” Daxa says, “Before you go beyond the wall.”
“Why?” I ask.
“I don’t know.” she raises her eyebrow. My mother says she has eyebrows like girls of Nirbhaya and her beauty is also comparable to them but we shouldn’t compare – it is also another sin.
Forget the sin. I don’t care if it’s matter to praise her beauty. I like her… I mean we are friends.
“Okay, friends I am getting late.” I say, “I have to reach the station.”
“Okay.” They all hug me and depart. Daxa stays.
“My mother is waiting for you,” she says, “she wants something important talk.”
“Let’s go.” I take her hand in mine and we start towards her hut which was several huts far from my hut.
“How are you feeling?” she asks, her fingers locked with mine while walking. We are childhood friends.
“I don’t know but something strange.” my voice cracks, though I cough to try and cover it up.
“There must be something I can do,” I say, secretly.
“There’s nothing anyone can do. No one has escaped from the station building and lived.”
She doesn’t need to tell me that. Every year, someone tries to run. And every year, we get dead body of that unlucky guy.
“No. I’m not talking about escaping,” I say, “I’m talking about I’m going to find a way to fight them.”
“We can’t fight them.” She says, “And you know that.
“I know,” I admit, “but we have no option Pralaya is still in the ocean and it would come back one day. There’s nowhere we can go. We can’t stay here to die. I’m not going to give up.
“What do you wish?” she asks, “don’t wish something stupid that made you killed.”
“The south is the sea, east, and west, two sides are also covered by the water. We have just one side to go – that’s the north but they have made a wall to prevent us.” I say, in a firm voice, “I wish my people live beyond the wall, happily, without any worry about Ocean and Pralaya.”
“That’s a death wish.”
“I know but I’ve.” I smile.
“What would be there?” she says, “what if it’s more dangerous than in the wall.”
“I don’t know but maybe the Devatas,” I say, “but if the folk can live there why we can’t?”
“Now you are going there, keep your eyes open as the teacher says and get everything in.” she says, “Do Devatas roam on the road?”
“I don’t think but others say.”
“So you believe in others?”
“Then?” she asks, looking into my face.
“I believe my heart.”
We passed near the hut of uncle Madhu, he has a big hut as he is much hard working and the second reason his family is big. He has two daughters and three sons. Luckily he knows good agriculture knowledge and he has a piece of land near the channel.
“And what your heart says about the Devata?
“They are also men.”
“I also think so.” She smiles; her smile is so kind and good.
As we entered the premise of her hut I say. “But we have to believe.”
“You are right,” she says, “or pretend to believe.”
“Yes, they have Nirbhayas on their side. If we don’t believe what they want us to believe Nirbhayas would tear us apart.” my voice in fear.
“That’s what I want to say.” she opened the door of her hut and led me inside.
“Welcome boy,” her mother greets me. She is a short woman, almost as tall as my shoulder and heavy in body. “I still can’t believe you are sixteen.”
“I, too,” I smile, “where is Krupa?”
Daxa latches the hut door from inside.
“She is with fishers. They are gone fishing.”
Daxa has no father. She and her mother have to earn bread for themselves. Her sister Krupa is small but wants to learn fishing so always goes with fisher women.
Anyway, her father, Manohar uncle was a hunter and had taught her how to hunt in the forest area where the channel ends and the area gets a lot of water to feed the trees, we haven’t lack sunlight.
Her mother can’t hunt but Daxa can. Her mother manages to get fish joining with fishers while she manages to hunt rabbits, squirrels or sometimes a deer and sell them in change for other necessary things for the kitchen.
Sometimes she feeds me the grapes and oranges gathered from the forest. Mostly I like mangoes but the forest has only small numbers of the mango trees.
Once she had fed me soup of the root vegetables constant three times a day for three days when I had fallen from my hut roof while repairing it. I hated her for a long time for that soup but later I knew that was her soup’s favour that I recovered otherwise I would have died.
She is clever in many other things. As her father hunter and roaming in the jungle, she knows many herbs. Which plant is edible and which isn’t. I am sure she will never die with starvation as long as there is forest and she has a bow.
“Sit my boy.” The words draw me out of thoughts.
“Thanks.” I sit on the cot. It’s old.
“So you are young now,” her mother smiles, “you are going on work.”
“Why we are meant to work there?”
“I don’t know my boy.” she comes to me, “but we are.” she kisses my forehead.
“I don’t think even our girls should go to work beyond the wall.”
“This is our fate.” her voice sad.
“Do you believe in fate?”
“Why shouldn’t we?”
“Because fate is for the human,” I say, “and we are just the Sunyas, not humans.”
“Still Vidhata writes our fates before we come to this world.”
“We are untouchable, no one touches us then why Vidhata?”
“I don’t know,” she says, “give him a glass of water” she looks at Daxa, “his mind isn’t working well.”
Daxa stands up from the cot, gripping hem of her skirt she goes to the pot and drinks a glass of water instead of giving to me.
Sure sign of her anger.
“What happened?” her mother says, “He needs water.”
“I too need when he talks like someone else, not a Sunya.” her voice angry, “as if he isn’t a Sunya. We shouldn’t question and he knows it”
“Sorry, Daxa,” I say, “I didn’t want to make you angry. I just can’t suppress my curiosity.”
“You shouldn’t have curiosity.” she makes an angry face.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“You shouldn’t because when you ask such questions I feel fear.” she takes my hand in her, both her hands cuddling my hand, “Samrat I fear…”
“Of what?” I cut her off.
“You know of what I fear.” she frees my hand, showing fake anger.
“Don’t you know what had happened with Rupesh uncle?”
“I know he made the mistake of asking a question beyond the wall and Nirbhayas killed him, cutting her body in more than ten pieces with their curved swords.”
“So I fear…”
“Do you think I am a fool to question them?”
“But what?” I ask.
Her mother interrupts us, “Curiosity… sometime we can’t control it…” she says, “sometimes it overweight the fear and terrible thing happens.”
“But I can.”
“I wish you can.” her mother comes to me, puts one of her compassionate hand over my shoulder and another over Daxa’s shoulder.
“Okay,” I say, lowering my voice.
She kisses my forehead and then Daxa’s.
“Now I should go. My father is waiting for me.”
“Yeah, you should.” Daxa comes to the way to see me off. Her mother stays inside the hut.
“After how many days will you come?”
“I don’t know, maybe some months.”
“Observe there everything and…” Tears trickle in her eyes. “Take care.” she says, looking back after getting sure her mother isn’t earshot, “don’t let anyone know that you are conversant.”
“I won’t give any doubt.” I say “and you take care of yourself and my mother. She would be alone after I go with my father.”
I know she will take care of my mother. She loves her as much as she loves her own mother.
“I will.” she says, “Won’t I?” she smiles in assurance.
I just nod as she smiles at me and gives me the best greeting we have in the wall. “Please come back alive” it’s the ‘goodbye’ and best encouragement in my world. My people believe that you never know how much time you'll have once you are beyond the wall.
“Okay,” I promise and she kisses my forehead.
I see her face growing serious again before I leave her hut. Obviously, she is lost in thoughts and worries.
To be continue.....
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