20 THE FIELD
[As an avatar, I’ll take birth among common people and I’ll live the life as people around me. I’ll learn everything from my people. My people will be my true teachers. I’ll be thrown in the labour with my people and I’ll suffer all the sufferings of my people with them where I’ll learn the most important lessons of the life and later this knowledge would become my strength.]
I’m again on my seat, near that nervous girl.
“What’s your name?” she touches her forehead and asks. Her eyes glued to the floor.
We shouldn’t talk during the test. Is she mad? Or is she conversant and don’t believe in the rules? No matter I decide to answer her, “Samrat is my name?”
I gaze at the stage. The test administrators are busy in their work.
“What happened?” she whispers, not looking at me.
“Nothing,” I also pretend I’m not talking and keep my eyes on the floor, “the tests are simple.”
“Hum...” she says, plastering a smile on her face. “You not want to tell me.”
“Nothing is like that,” I say, scanning around but no one is paying attention to us.
“It was hard for me. I was in a lake, drowning and I’m supposed to save myself but I can’t.” she says, “It was horrible to see myself dying.”
“Are you all right?” I ask, “It was just inside the brain, not real.”
“I’m okay.” She mumbles, “thank you.” she smiles, not looking at me but the floor.
A group of the Nirbhayas is standing in a circle several meters away from us but their whole attention is at the stage. I don’t think they care if we talk in low voice.
Then she turns her head to me, her dark straight eyebrows are up, so crease appears on her forehead. She frowns and looks like my mother, “Don’t you want to know my name?”
“Oh! Sorry!” I say, “What’s your name?”
“Kajal is my name.”
“Really it’s a beautiful name.” I smile.
“Friends?” she asks.
“Are you going to tell me the truth now? She asks, softly.
“The truth is,” I lie, “I’m supposed to kill a wolf-like-beast but the contrary happened, it killed me.” I add, “We shouldn’t discuss it?”
Administrator speaks five names and they go to the stage and then to test rooms but none of them are familiar to me.
The last troop in test comes out and gets their seats. I boy takes seat several seats away from me. His face is pale and white, means he isn’t out of test’s fear yet.
He clenches and unclenches his firsts like I do when I’m angry. I wonder if he also can feel anger like me. But when he unclenches them again, I see his fingers are shaking. I understand he isn’t angry but feared.
The girl next to me narrows her eyes, the same way Padhma does when she suspects someone of lying, “you can bend rules in presence of a Devata but you can’t bend them with your own people,” she raises an eyes brow, “I saw you talking with the Devata when you were coming out from the hallway.”
“He had asked questions and I was just answering,” I try to smile convincingly, “just don’t tell anyone, okay?” I say, my hear pounds.
“Are you their spy?” her next question spooks me. I’ve to try hard to keep myself on the chair.
“How do you know what is a spy?”
She doesn’t answer. I know why- she is not supposed to tell anyone, at least not the one who she suspects as a spy of the Devata. But my people can’t think like this. How her mind can suspect.
“Did your teacher say you what is a spy?” I ask.
She still doesn’t answer.
The administrator speaks the next round of names.
“I’m not an enemy.” I say, “You can tell me.”
She nods, satisfied. “My mother,” she says, “she has told me what a spy is.” her face grows pale, “she says due to the spy they knew about my uncle and they killed him.”
“Who was your uncle?”
“Ratan,” she whispers, sadly. “He lived in the village while we were on the farm. We couldn’t help him when they raid his hut.”
The sadness in her voice makes my heart skip. I remember what I had seen that day. Ratan uncle’s hut was tree huts away from my hut and I, with my parents have eavesdropped and see everything from a hole in our hut. The raid was horrible. They had killed the whole family – husband, wife and two children.
“He was my teacher,” I say, I wish some of her sadness would rub off on me. “He was teaching me with other kids.”
“And that’s why they killed him.” she says, “now I’m observing here everything to find out that spy. I want revenge.”
REVENGE. The words ring in my mind.
Looking at her now, at her sad eyes and her pale face, I feel a tug of fear, fear for her safety. “Be careful,” I say, “what you are doing isn’t easy.”
“I know,” she says, “my uncle has taught me many things before they killed me. And my mother is also like my uncle.”
I'm still feeling sorry for her. “So what will you do when you will find the spy?”
“I’ll kill him.”
I see her nails are digging into her palms as she clenches her fists, and at that moment I'm terrified of her.
“You should think bigger than it,” I say. I take a deep breath. “In the wall, we have just a few people who can think like us and we should use our knowledge for a bigger purpose.”
“Like my uncle.” she turns and gives me a sad smile.
“Yes,” I say, “but in a different way.”
“What do you mean by the different way?” she lifts her eyes to the stand and in a second her gaze comes back to me.
“We should make them thinking like us,” I say, “that’s the only way to take revenge of your uncle. The spy was just a puppet if you want revenge you should do something that harms real killers.”
“My mother also says me the same – we are for a bigger purpose,” she hesitates…, “we are conversant.”
“Don’t you feel fear?” I say, “You shouldn’t speak that word.”
“I feel fear but not as much as other people feel.” she shakes her head.
The administrator declares – the test is over now. The experienced lead your apprentice to the room.
I say goodbye to Kajal before my father leads me to the same room which was allotted to us.
“Be ready for the field,” my father says as soon as we enter the room and he closes the door behind us.
“The field is what?”
“It’s a place where we all suppose to work,” he says, “in the half- Pralaya.”
“The half-Pralaya?” I get a glass of water for myself.
“Have you seen the storms of lightning in the way?” he asks.
“Yes.” I nod, sitting on the bed.
“It was nothing,” he says, “we have to work where the strong storms come every night.”
“No during the day but at night we get shelter in abandoned buildings which aren’t enough to withstand against the storms.”
“Any harm of life happens?”
“Many,” he says, flatly, “not only the Sunyas but also the Nirbhayas lose their lives.”
“Then why they make us work there?”
“There are buildings which are repairable.” He says.
“For the folk.”
“Do folk will settle in the storms?”
“Not willingly,” he says, “they will force them once they repair any city.”
“to make cities alive,” he says, “they send water in those cities and foods and everything people need to live and orders them to grow trees as many as they can.”
“How people survive?”
“Every building has underground basements and there are underground ways that they call tunnels.” He says, “the folk uses them in the starting period to survive from the night and during the day they come out and live a normal life, grow trees and do whatever they like.”
“Why they force to grow trees?”
“They chase the storm away,” he says, “once the city has enough trees no storms come only rain comes like in the wall.”
“we don’t know but they say the creator like the trees,” he says, “where there is no tree he allows storms of lightning to dwell but once there are trees no lightning, no disaster no death.”
I open mouth to ask more but knock on the door interrupts me. My father reaches and opens the door.
The folk woman who has delivered food last night enters inside and put our meal on the three-legged table. She observes us for a while and without a word she leaves the room, closing the door behind her as if it’s a rule.
We sit cross-legged on the floor and my father makes the dish giving me something made of rice and many wheat foods.
Our meal again is vegetarian and somber.
Hunger is so powerful; we don’t speak till we finish half of the meal.
I break the silence, “how we repair buildings.”
He says, swallowing his mouthful, “with machines.”
“How can we run the machine,” I say, under morsel.
“We know it.”
“Who taught you?”
“Their experienced and them their experienced….”
“I see.” I say, finishing my rice, it’s tasty but with less chilly, “you will teach me how to use this machines.”
“It’s easy,” he says, his plate almost empty.
“Then what’s hard?”
“Surviving,” he reaches a glass of water, “it’s hard but most important.”
I have no words. I don’t ask more till I finish my meal.
We wash dishes and place them on the three-legged table, covering again with the same white cloth.
After ten minutes, the same woman enters the room, a big vessel in her hand. It’s same as a dish but dual off its diameter, covered in same white cloth.
“What’s this?” when the women leave the room, I ask my father.
“Food for the field.”
I don’t need to ask more as he removes the cloth and I see many things which I haven’t seen before.
“This is biscuits.” My father informs me and puts more than ten small packets in our rucksack.
“That’s dry food,” he says, “we aren’t allowed to eat these packets until we are trapped somewhere and we have to stay more than the decided time.” He puts them in the bag and continued, “Dry food is so powerful, and you can run a day on a handful of it.”
“that’s milk powder,” he put a packet of white powder like flour we make of wheat by grinding between heavy round stone.”
We make some adjustments as we ready for the journey.
My father knows what we should take with us. He packs the food and water bags tightly into our rucksacks then the hands me my rucksack and throws his bag on his right shoulder.
We leave the room and gather in the hall. This time hall has no chairs. Perhaps the folk is so active – they have removed chairs.
On the stage are two Nirbhayas and a devata, holding a voice amplifier torch.
“Out of the terminus, the experienced will lead their apprentice to the parking lots.” He observes the crowd of Sunyas who are standing as immobile as statues, “tell them about what they should know about the field,”
All heads nod in approval, without making a slight sound.
“The most important is the survival,” he continues, “teach them how to survive in the storms.”
His words ‘the storms’ have created commotion but fear is more powerful than curiosity. No head there is ready to be cut by making the mistake of whispering.
After some more instruction, we are marching to the parking lots.
Now the talks are audible, and then the whispers raise soft around me like birds beating their wings in the forest at the end of the channel.
“What’s parking lot?” I ask my father, we are walking side by side, among hundreds of my people.
“Where we get on the bus.”
“It’s a vehicle.”
“I can’t explain to you by words you need to see it.
And really when we reach the parking lot I feel my father was right. Buses are something can’t be explained by words. They are as big as the cars of the train. All standing over so many round objects made of black material.
“They run on wheels.” My father says, “These round objects are wheels.”
“But there aren’t so many tracks,” I say, shifting my rucksack to the right shoulder.
“They don’t need tracks,” he says, clutching my hand and leading me towards one of it, “they run on the road.”
I don’t ask – what’s the road- as I feel it wouldn’t be explained in words.
My father leads me inside the bus. It has some steps to climb in. inside it resembles the train car, only the seats here were slightly different, right side the seats wherein a pattern of three seats together and left side two.
I sit at the fourth seat in left side next to my father.
“It’s easy to climb in the bus,” I say, observing outside.
“It’s called ‘board’. We board in a bus not climb in.”
“So boarding in a bus is easy.”
“Due to those steps.” He says.
“Yes,” I ask, “how have they thought about making steps so we can board it easily.”
“People before Pralaya have.”
“They were clever,” I say, “then why they can’t save themselves?”
“We don’t know,” He says, and adds, “but we should.”
Nirbhaya boards the bus, close the door behind him and get a seat near the door, the first from the door.
My body feels a jolt when the bus moves. I see a Nirbhaya in the separate car of the bus, making it move, first slowly then gaining speed.
The bus leaves the parking lot, then passes through a wide entrance and starts to move across the hard, rock-strewn ground.
Through the glass window of the bus, I see the dry wind scratching across the ground, filling the air with dust, as far as my eyes can see is dust and dust in the air nothing to see.
“Why so much dust?” I ask my father.
“Because there aren’t trees.”
“Trees are so important?”
“More than we can imagine,” he says, “If there isn’t tree there isn’t life on the earth.”
I look at the bright orange dome of the sun getting paler and the sky turning dark. I hear the sounds of people drinking from their water bags.
A flat pan of the dry and lifeless earth is passing by the bus, stretching as far as my eyes can see. Not a single tree. Not a bush. No sign of human or of any other creature. No hills or valleys, just an orange-yellow sea of dust and rocks.
After half an hour the bus turns in the left, revealing a line of jagged and barren mountains rose far in the distance. In front of the mountains, maybe halfway between there and where the bus is now running, a cluster of buildings resting squatting together like a pile of useless boxes of those traders.
“It’s a town,” my father says, “we are going there.”
“How big is it?” I ask, curiously.
“it’s impossible to tell how big it’s from this distance,” my father says, “it’s looking near but the hot air shimmering is blurring everything so it’s hard to make any guess.”
The orange glow above the town is sinking behind it tells me the way we are going is ‘the west’. The terminus is in the west.
Finally, when every last trace of dusk is gone, full darkness settle on the land like a black fog, the bus stops against a cluster of big buildings.
The buildings really are tall; one of them even stretched up and disappeared in the darkness. The glasses of all the windows are broken. All are taller than the wall itself as if hundreds of pieces of the wall are scattered around.
The gusty air hits at me through the window, and a thick layer of dirt seems trying to cover the bus. I shake head and my hair felt stiff with wind-dried grime. I brush dust out my hair by finger combing them.
To be continue.....
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