A Jugalbandi in Devbhoomi

Limitless azure sky was welcoming them with open arms. Just a few whitish gray vagabond clouds were floating in its edge where it was ready to meet the verdant earth. The green horizon flanked with tall deodar trees seemingly pushed the jellyfish sky away. But, it was too adamant to give up so easily and soon gripped it in its arms. “Wow! Ritika, we’re indeed in the heaven,” exclaimed Rishi as the salubrious clime of the place touched his heart and soul and hold her better half’s hand and fell into his arms.
Like an apple.
Next morning also, something fell.
No, not an apple, but thousands of truckloads of stones!
“Or, hundreds of bombs had exploded or as if have fallen from the heavens,” Rishi felt as they woke up with deafening sound on the wee hours of 16 June. Being ardent mountain lovers, they had come to Kedarnath, one of the holy char dhams (four abodes of gods).
They were at Srinagar, Garhwal, at the premises of the historic 16th Century Dhari Temple, only to realize that they were those few fortunate people who would witness a turning page in history. For, today, the June 14, 2013, was the last day when this temple was going to stand at its original place. Tomorrow, people’s faith, belief and culture would yield to the interests of a few stakeholders of development; namely politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats and this temple would be sacrificed at the altar of 330 MW hydro-power project of Alaknanda Hydro Power Company Limited.
Women were performing Jhumailo as a ceremony, to pay last respect to the Devi was being paid and it being a temple of Kali Ma, the goddess of vigor and courage who destroys demons and quench Her thrust from their blood, and in modern era, this is satisfied through the blood of goats and sheep who are sacrificed there.
“Arre Bhaiya, they have brought only death and destruction to us, pointing to the 330 MW hydro-power project in Srinagar, Tushar Bhatt, their host, the owner of a modest double-story house where they’d stayed, says, “Initially, its capacity was 200 MW and height was 63 meters. Under the pressure of netas and builders who wanted to reap profits, sarkar increased the height to 93 meters and the capacity to 330 MW, threatening the loss of our lands and lives. Forget being temples they are our graveyards,” he was bitter as they finished the dinner.
“Aur dekhana (wait and see), destruction they will bring,” he had quipped, Tomorrow, (June 15th, 2013), these papis (sinners) will remove our deity from her home to God knows where so that this rakshas (demon); a 330 MW Srinagar Hydroelectric Project that was going to be constructed on the revered Alaknanda River, damming it so that homes of people in cities like Delhi could be lightened will anger the devi and we’ll be facing her wrath. Our goddess will not tolerate this,” Bhatt concluded.
They didn’t have to wait long.
Next morning, the hell broke.
It was not the sweet dream of Ritika, but the nightmare Rishi had quipped about, was becoming true.
They were deep in the slumber when they woke up with a huge thud. It sounded like the Big Bang as if it was a volcano that has blasted.
A volcano in the Himalayas when all hell had broken.
The explosion was so massive that is seems as if a truckload had fallen in the wee hours of June 16. They got up and rushed down, but couldn’t go out of the house. Instead, they had to stay under the verandah. Outside, not one truckload, but many were falling and all they could see was a thick, translucent wall of water that was massive amount of rain as billions of gallons of water fell from the skies that had simple opened up.
The massive amount of rain on the upper reaches of the Garhwal Himalayas was pouring down with an accelerated speed as if a free falling spacecraft has accelerated because of the gravitational force. Even at Dhari village, their temporary abode, water came with full force and hit the ongoing construction site of the dam.
After three hours, the sky had belched out all its treasure, they decided to venture out, “Rishi, we must go and see what the fist of fury is.”
They were frozen as they ventured out and reached to the banks of the swollen rivulet. No, not because of the chilly weather. But, because of the bone chilling onslaught of nature. The small, tiny rivulet had become a huge blitz of over bulging volcano that had emitted out all that came across it.
Including a young woman; nay body of a young woman; or seemingly so. A big red tika was still there on her forehead and a mangalsutra around her neck. Wearing a bright red sari and a full sleeve blouse, she was lying with open arms on the left bank of the river; in the adjacent field. Scores of red glass bangles were shrew broken in the fields around.
They immediately took her out from the swelling river as her half body was still in water and put her aside. Rishi hold her wrist and Ritika put her hands on her chest. Rishi could felt a faint nerve and exclaimed with joy, “She is alive, by the grace of God!”, “Yeah, Jai Bhole Shankar, I can also feel her heart’s beat,” Ritika also shouted sanguinely.
They carried her and put her under sheets of blankets and alighted a fire next to her.
But, the grace of god didn’t blessed many other devotees of Him. The entire region, not just that village had washed away as if the lord Shiva had opened His third eye.
“Why this curse had to fall on dev-bhumi, gods’ own land that is Uttarakhand,” wondered Ritika, now a bit relaxed while enjoying the warmth of the burning fire.”
“No, it is not the curse of God, but of humans as Uttarakhand is located in the geologically young Himalayan belt is an active seismic zone 5 that is the highest degree of seismic danger where hill are prone to earthquakes, landslides, avalanches and hailstorms. Heavy rains are natural, but irresponsible development of concrete constructions along river beds and flood zones and of dams and hydro-electricity projects have aggravated it many folds and made it man-made disasters,” Rishi negated her.
They nursed the half-dead woman, feeding her biscuits that they had kept with themselves as an emergency ration and extending the warmth of fire to her. The only saving grace was that the rain had stopped by now, but the sky was still overcast and it could burst any time. They kept their finger crossed and waited for some human or divine intervention that looked divine at the time.
They look around for any help and it seems god listened to them as a young, sturdy frame, supporting light beard and a skull cap was visible at the horizon. Slowly, that figure came closer, but not alone, with a train of mules. “My name is Yaqub Khan and I’m a bakarwal (goat & mules rarer). We carry goods and people across the hills and today this apada (disaster) has also hit us, but looks like this woman is badly wounded and needs immediate help. Let’s take her to a doctor,” he offered.
He hapless woman indeed was half-dead and needed urgent medical attention. We immediately took her out from the swelling river as her half body was still in water and put her aside. Rishi hold her wrist and Ritika put her hands on her chest, Khan carried her and we managed to put her on one of his mules. Rishi could felt a faint nerve and exclaimed with joy, “She is alive, by the grace of God!”, “Yeah, Jai Bhole Shankar, I can also feel her heart’s beat,” Ritika also shouted sanguinely.
Khan also raised his hands to the sky and paid thanks to Allah and recited “Allahu Akbar” (God is Most Great) that was Al-ḥamdu lillāh (Praise be to God).
They carried her and put her under sheets of blankets and alighted a fire next to her.
But, the grace of god didn’t blessed many other devotees of Him. The entire region, not just that village had washed away as if the lord Shiva had opened His third eye.
Khan pushed the mule and it started walking slowly on a narrow pill track between the steep hill on one side and the mighty Alaknanda flowing several hundred feet below. Rain was unabated and falling from the heavens like a thick sheet of slate, not water. Khan produced a thick sheet of tarpaulin from the back of a mule walking behind and covered the lady and asked us, “You people must sit on the two mules walking behind as these animals mustn’t remain free of load and it is about 15 kilometers through the hills and if you walk in this weather, you will get tiered to death. I’ll walk as I’m quite used to walking in the hills and must control these buggers.”
They went on moving with a slow, but steady pace. They took utmost caution, lest not fall into the ditch, leading directly into the gurgling river. The sky was a mass of jelly hovering above them and threatening to come down. On every step, they’d to face a stumbling block in the form of heavily falling rain and big and small pebbles rolling down the hills.
Ultimately, the steep valley opened into a wider ground where the wide, gray and surfaced road; the national highway 58 was visible. “Aha! We reached Srinagar. Now, mohtarma (the lady) can be treated and be healthy soon,” chirped Khan.
It was not Srinagar, but Srikot, the first major point of the town with a big market and all necessary infrastructures like hotels, restaurants, shops and off course, hospitals.
And there were temples and a mosque as well.
They first went to the small hospital, but it was over crowded with hundreds of wounded and injured persons screaming and shouting with pain. Doctors, nurses and para-medical personnel running halter-skelter to treat them.
A mosque stood next to it. “Let’s go there as I know the maulavi (priest) there and he may be of some help,” said Khan.
They landed up in the broad and sprawling campus of the mosque. Many injured persons were lying there. Some of the floor and a few on the portable cots that the maulavi has arranged.
A huge hearth was ignited with a huge kadahi (cauldron) kept on it. A woman in black burqa (veil) was rolling puries on a big wooden chakla-belan (roller and pestle) mortar and pestle. Another woman in red sari with a thick mangalsutra around her neck was putting them into the kadahi, full of oil. “Salaam Valekum,” Yakub paid allegiance to the maulavi, re replied, “Valekum assalam,” and seeing the half-dead lady, he went inside and came back with a cot.
They made the lady to lie on the cot. A man, supporting a light beard and wearing a stethoscope appeared on the horizon. Khan rushed to him, “Dr. Ismail, please come and examine this lady.”
Dr. Mohammad Ismail lost no time. He came and put his instrument on the woman’s chest and felt her pulse.
It was almost evening. The loudspeaker on the mosque’s minaret started blurting azan, ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.’
The bells of the temple just opposite the mosque began tolling simultaneously and another loudspeaker mounted on its shikhar (crest) cried, ‘Jai Ganesh, jai ganesh, jai ganesh deva.’
A jugalbandi swung on the thin sheet of moist air.

Advertisements

About rirakesh

I feel a bit disturbed by the prevailing condition in our society, so I write: poems, articles & stories.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s