[I’ll come when the time of great evil mentioned in the prophecies come. After the World Wars, regimes of mad dictators and authoritarian rulers, nuclear weapons, famines, diseases, pollution, crime, violence, catastrophes, will have declined the morality worldwide. I’ll come when the ruler will be robber and there will be no order on my dear earth.]
When I reach my hut the sun is about to set, my shadow is now twice as long as me. The horizon is an ember and the rays of twilight turning the earth red. The whole sky looks as though the fire has caught it just now and the horizon is making the last stand against the darkness.
My father says before Pralaya at dusk you can see a flock of birds in the sky, birds of different colours and different sizes, singing and dancing in the sky, making melodious noise, feeling the sky with the music of their wings and returning to their nests.
I wish I would have seen such flocks but I haven’t. I have seen the bird but not in the flock. We have birds in the forest but rare, just in small numbers and not much variety of species. Sometimes rare birds from beyond the wall come in the wall and children gather to see it and give it more than a hundred different names which aren’t suitable for them.
Mention of the flock of birds reminds me another fucking rule. Beyond this wall, they say Sunya shouldn’t wish anything. That was the wish that ruined the world. People start to wish for this and that and their wishes never ended. They ruined the world to fulfill their wishes.
I don’t believe this. Why we shouldn’t wish anything? If we don’t wish we have no happiness in life. If I get something that I haven’t wished for it won’t give me any pleasure. We should wish – everyone has right to wish.
Another fucking rule is you shouldn’t have any longings or desires. That’s why people think knowledge is harmful. Knowledge tells you about good and beautiful things and soon you find yourself longing for them.
I don’t think longing is bad.
If a mother longs to see smile over his child’ face is it wrong?
If I long to see a flock of birds, even though I know they aren’t in the world now and I will see it never is it wrong?
If I see paintings of big beautiful bird and wish to see its feathers with hundred eyes is it wrong?
I don’t think so.
Then they say happiness and sadness are just illusion. You shouldn’t be happy when you get something or you shouldn’t be sad when you lost something.
Again I think they are making us inhuman.
If I can’t feel happiness while seeing the face of my friend what shall become of me?
If I can’t find happiness in rays of twilight Am I what I’m?
SADNESS – again they are wrong.
I’ve seen Padma's face while everytime someone mentions about her father. – is this wrong?
If she has lost someone she loved should she remain unaffected? Should she remain calm?
NO, I don’t think so.
Happiness and sadness – these are basic emotions that make us human and I think they want to make us inhuman.
Shaking away thoughts I pay attention to the pole in front of my hut on which my mother has lit the lantern. She doesn’t like darkness. She fears it. Most of the women in the wall fear darkness. They think it a symbol of evil and say darkness is a friend of troubles while daylight is a friend of strength.
My father is sharpening his tools with a whetstone. He has just finished sharpening a cutting knife. He puts it on the edge of the cot.
“Wash your hand,” my mother says as I sit on the cot across my father, “dinner is ready.”
Again a rule – beyond the wall they make rules and they say having dinner after darkness is the mark of evil. Only devils do that. So my mother thinks we should have dinner during twilight. We always follow this tradition.
“I am ready,” I say before going to wash my hand.
We sit in asana called Palanthi under the light of a lantern. My father does a daily prayer to whom I don’t know. No one knows whom we pray but we all pray the creator and my parents believe we should pray to him before dinner as it indirectly comes from him.
I never understand but never question too. My parents are too much religious and mostly follow every rule of religion.
NO TALK WHILE EATING – another fucking rule.
Why should we keep mum like inanimate while eating? I can’t understand.
I am going to beyond the wall for the first time so my mother had cooked rice. We mostly eat wheat and corn cropped on our farms around the channel but when something special we cook rice.
I eat Sambhar rice with kingfish, my mother has marinated the fish in red chili powder, salt, and turmeric and coat it with semolina crumbs and fried it.
I like to fish in dinner, most of us like as we’ve nothing else which can we eat regularly except seer, pearl spot, kingfish, Indian salmon, mackerel, tuna, baby shark and sardins.
My mother handed me an earthen bowl of fish Gassi, made of coconut milk. We have coconut trees at sea cost.
After dinner, I put my earthen bowl and glass in Chokadi (the place where we wash our vessels), and sit on the cot.
“Ready to go?” my father asks as he finishes his dinner, “or still some friends to meet?”
“I met every friend,” I say, “I am ready.”
“Your clothes,” my mother hands me a duffel bag, two feet long, in the shape of a cylinder made of cotton cloth and as our dress code it was also of grey colour with a drawstring closure at the top, its drawstring also made of cotton cord with an aglet made of metal at each end of the string. We’re provided bags and tools from beyond the wall. At last trip of the traders, we have got two such bags and many tools from them. When they come they have a list of new workers joining the work in the present year so they give us tools and bags and other stuff as per their list.
“Thanks, Ma,” I say.
She doesn’t say anything but hugs me.
Please – come – back - alive - hug.
I glance at my mother thin shoulders, which carve a deep shadow into the ground beneath her, under effect of lantern light and I wish for the days when I was little enough to perch on her back, feeling the rumble of her voice through my skin as we walked to the farmer’s market to sell what she has gathered from the forest, in each rip different thing: roots, tubers, mushrooms, nuts, fruits, flowers, herbs, honey and whatever she could get.
It was when I was a child but as I grew up I started to question my mother and once I’ve asked so many questions to her. After that, she never took me with her while selling things in the farmers market.
I still can remember the discussion that day I’ve with my mother.
I: Ma, whose forest is this?
She: the Creator.
I: who was owner earlier?
She: The Government.
I: And before the Government?
She: it was always of the government.
I: Did the government create it?
I: did the Creator create it?
She: God who ruled the earth before Pralaya, who lived in the starts.
She: for humans, animals, birds, other insects, and everything that old god has made.
I: then why everyone says the creator is the owner of the forest?
She: because he allows the water by a channel that's why the forest is surviving.
I: is the Creator owner of the water?
I: and before him?
She: Old God.
I: why old god created rivers?
She: for every living creature so they can drink it. He made it for the survival of every living being.
I: Then to whom should the river belong?
I: Then we think it belongs to the creator?
She: because he is powerful.
She: the one who denies his ownership dies.
I: so, we believe him owner because of the fear?
I: so, he isn't a real owner?
I: it is our so the forest is also ours.
She: as Satya right is of those for whom it is necessary for survival but this is Kaliyuga and there are no rules.
I: then I'll bring Satyayuga back and the forest and the river would be of all not a single one.
After that, my mother never took me with her in the farmer’s market. That time I didn’t understand those questions were my divergent thought and they can kill me and my family.
“Promise me you will grip over yourself,” she says as she feels fear of my curious nature. My question and I’m sure like me she still can remember all of my questions I asked her when I was a child.
“Ma, nothing will happen to me.” when I say she can’t fight back her tears.
My father’s voice is steady as he says “I am with him.” he puts his compassionate hand over her shoulder, “I will take care of him.”
For a moment, she stands to stare at my father. Then she wraps an arm around my father and says, “I know,” she wipes her tears and curses herself, “I shouldn’t cry. It’s a bad omen.”
I hate my parent’s superstitious nature. Crying is just to get relaxation from the emotional choke, what’s bad in it?
Nothing is bad in it.
My people believe in so many superstitions because they are still feared – fear of Pralaya is still visible over every face.
Beyond the wall they make rules for us and most of my people believe in rules only fearing Pralaya. The creator doesn’t need anyone to supervise my people. Only fear of Pralaya would come again if we don’t follow rules is enough.
“There is no bad omen, Ma,” I say, my voice catches on a sudden surge of grief—a dark fear of leaving my mother alone passes through me.
I forced my face not to betray me and I do my best to pretend I’m not crying but I’m.
Tears sting my eyes, and I clench my jaw so hard my teeth grind together. I’m not going to cry. Not now. Later, I’ll cry when I’m alone, on a train or wherever but not here.
Thank god, our neighbour Mehul and his father Aalok enter our premise and the conversation ends so I’m able to stop my tears.
Uncle Alok is my father’s best friends; they mostly go to work together. My father says they both have joined work beyond the wall together when they reached sixteen and during the fortnight of construction work, they both became best friends.
I can’t say same for Mehul and me. We are just neighbours, not friends. His thinking is different than me like his appearance. He isn’t tall or strong he is rather an insignificant boy whom no one gives attention if he passes nearby.
His father, contrary, is a strong and short-tempered man. Mostly I see him quarrel with his wife or son, even for small matters. Sometimes I wonder how a calm man like my father became his friend.
“Hi,” Alok uncle says as he comes to stand beside us. His voice is its usual calm, I envy I can have calmness like him in my voice, and on another hand, I have a sudden desire to pick a fight with him as I feel he shouldn’t be calm. “Ready?” he asks.
“Alok, is your son also coming?” my father asks, even his voice isn’t as calm as uncle Alok.
“Vishvash, my friend,” he hugs my father, “no, my daughter is coming. She is sixteen.”
Again I wonder about this thing – why we have no last name?
Men who go beyond the wall say Nirbhayas and Devatas have the last names. But we don’t have. No one in the wall has the last name. We are just Sunyas.
I’m Samrat Sunya.
My father is Vishvash Sunya.
My mother is Jaya Sunya.
We are all Sunya – 0 - nothing else.
We are nobody and I hate to be nobody.
“Surekha is coming?” my father’s voice is surprised, “she is sixteen?”
“Yes, she is,” Mehul answers instead of his father, “but she feels fear.”
I jerk forward at his words, leaning past my mother on my left so I can meet Mehul's gaze, but my mother grips my right arm and pulls me back.
“Shh,” she breathes against my ear. “I said you to control your curiosity.”
I yank my arm from her grasp and swallow the protest begging to be unleashed.
“She fears of what?” my father asks.
“Of going beyond the wall,” Mehul says, “she has shut herself in the hut and closed the door behind her.”
“She is a coward,” uncle Amol says, angrily, “beyond the wall is nothing to fear.”
Anger hums beneath my skin. She feels fear doesn’t mean she is coward. Every human feels fear. She just needs more time to prepare herself for her first trip beyond the wall. That’s all. My body vibrates, tension coiling within me until I have to clamp my jaw tight to keep from interrupting.
“There is.” Mehul answers him, with disappointment, “if not why everyone says so?”
“Who says?” his father shouts back, “boy, who says you?”
“All the boys,” He says, “all my friends say that.”
“Have they gone beyond the wall?” his father asks. His voice is loud and his face is angry.
“No.” Mehul manages a small squeak.
“Then how they know?”
Mehul has no answer. He remains silent.
“Your sister is a coward, that’s all.” He is panting now.
“Calm down,” my father interrupted, “she is a child, not a coward.” He adds, “Don’t you remember we were also feared when it was the first time for us.”
“We were excited.”
“No, we were feared.” My father insists, repeating his words.
“We were,” Uncle Alok admits, “but we haven’t shut ourselves in a hut”
“And we weren’t girls, too.” my father says and they both laugh.
“Shouldn’t we give her strength to come out?” I dare to interrupt, breaking the rule of not interrupting elders.
“Yes, let’s give her strength.” my father says and we all start to uncle Alok’s hut.
When we reach uncle Alok’s hut twilight has turned into the darkness, still a faint hint of redness in the sky. Lantern on the pole in front of the hut is trying to illuminate but only capable to do light in some miter’s diameter which is enough for us.
“Surekha,” Mehul’s mother Amba is sobbing, “My daughter, she has locked herself.”
A hard knot forms in the pit of my stomach.
“Don’t worry,” my father says, trying to console her, “we all are here with her.”
She nods her head, her hair is kohl-black and it plunged over her shoulders. She looks thin with hunched shoulders but Kind-hearted and soft natured, just like God on the earth and I feel all mothers are just like God on the earth.
“Surekha, are you listening to me?” my father asks. His voice is genial and mild, no hint of anger of contempt in it.
“Dear, we all fear when it’s the first time but believe me there isn’t anything to afraid.”
“There is.” The response comes from the hut, in a sobbing voice.
“Beyond the wall is a beautiful place, everyone should visit it, at least once in the life,” my father pauses, “we are lucky my son, the God has given us chance to visit that wonderful realm.”
Here I hate my father’s words.
Who is this creator who allows us?
But I keep silent. My teacher says people in the wall have no knowledge. They have followed rules and lived a life of misery and slavery till 350 years without uttering a word. But then some of our thieves stole books of knowledge and we tried to understand it. Some of our clever people read not whole but half or how long they can read from them and they became teachers and started to find the youth who has a mind to learn the language, then this youth learn how to read and write.
We are still trying to understand their language that they call Devbhasha and we call nothing. And when we got semi-success in decoding their language and when we youth understood their language and read the books of knowledge everything changed.
Something happened with the mind of the youth – our mind left old thinking and conjured divergent thinking.
I don’t know why?
But I am one of the youth.
Teachers have strictly warned us to not reveal our divergent thoughts to anyone in the wall, not even our parents because most of us believe such divergent thought brings destructions – it brings Pralaya.
And to prevent Pralaya coming my people are ready to kill even their own children.
Teacher says we are conversant, having knowledge of books of knowledge and that’s why our thinking is divergent than our parents and our peoples.
I don’t know what is conversant but we are conversant and divergent thoughts come in our mind, without our wish, we have no control over them.
“What’s beautiful there?” Surekha asks from inside, now her voice a bit soothes.
“Trees, forests, dams, animals and most beautiful birds,” my father answers, “and the sky are clear there.”
“What are dams?” she asks, curiously. Curiosity is a ban characteristic of the Sunya.
“It’s a barrier that stops the flow of water and reservoirs it for later use.”
“Over the rivers.”
“Are there so many rivers?”
“Yes, but all small,” my father answers, “We shouldn’t call them rivers.”
“What’s a stream?”
“Child River like you, too innocent and too beautiful.”
My father should be Devata. I thought. He is a man of speech then why he is a Sunya?
“Why beyond the wall has streams and we haven’t?”
“Because they have mount Mare in Madhya Pradesh, it’s a barrier that stops the clouds and that’s why they have rain and streams and we haven’t.” my father says, surprising me.
He has knowledge too. He understands science, anyway, he doesn’t know what he has told just now is science.
“But I have to work there how can I enjoy all these?”
“Who said you have to work there?”
My father and Surekha are talking – no one else has mastery in speech so no one interrupts them.
“When you first time goes beyond the wall, you are an apprentice under your parents. You have to see and observe how to work.”
“You are just saying.”
“Do you think they allow you work of construction when you don’t know even what a building is?” my father says, “They are building cities which can withstand even Pralaya if it comes again.”
“Cities?” her curiosity increases which shouldn’t increase. “What are they?”
“Haven’t you heard in the west where the wall starts is a ruined city?”
“Ahmedabad?” she says, “my father has told me.”
“Yes Ahmedabad, but this time city would be strong, with enough strength to withstand Pralaya.”
“Then I should be one who has constructed it.”
“But for it, you have to come with us.”
“To come with us you have to open the door.”
She opens the door and comes out. Her mother runs and hugs her. I remember my mother’s hug and I feel it’s a physical manifestation of emotion.
For a minute, I see Surekha and Ambha holding each other, both are crying but still I feel mother’s tears are different, they have something to like warmth, compassion, and safety and it soothes Surekha. For the daughter, it’s like a momentary salvation from the bitter and cruel world waiting for her beyond the wall.
I look at my father to see his face smiling and my mind doubts - Is he conversant?
To be continue.....
Follow Vicky Trivedi on
Facebook : Vicky Trivedi
Instagram : author_vicky