Faith And Hope
Faith And Hope
All the letters had been delivered by Bholu, the village postman. Bholu came to Noya's village twice a week. The village hardly had a population of 50 people. Noya, would be found at the curve of the village road on these two days. She had not heard from her brother since last three months. He would send a letter to her once a week. She was not ready to believe that any ill had befallen him.
She being illiterate had to depend on village folk for reading out the letters. Her brother was a drill mechanic with Oil and Natural Gas Commission in Assam. It was a two-day train journey and then an arduous trek of another eight hours. So he would come only once a year. It was only in August. This year the rains had been incessant and news of landslides and mudslides were very common.
Today, Bholu did not greet her with his usual bright and cheerful demeanour. He rather went to the elders' house and spoke to him in hushed tones. Noya was perplexed as people looked at her endearingly and patted her head more than often. Noya was overcome with anxiety and demanded the village elder to tell her why there was an eerie silence in the village, why they were told not to light evening lamps. Why she was asked not to eat ? Why her aunts were teary-eyed and covered their faces?
Meanwhile, grandson of the village elder, barely two or three years elder to Noya came running to her and told her that a tempo carrying four-five people was washed away in midlife and there was no trace of any survivors though the vehicle was stuck half-turned net to a huge boulder. Also, her brother was in the vehicle.
Noya froze at what she heard. She was not ready to believe. She will not believe, she went straight to the village deity temple, lit the lamps without the priests and madly clanged the bells dangling from the stone roof. People gathered there, trying to dissuade her, but Noya was not going to budge. Noya was fossilised in her own thoughts. She sat there through the night. People keeping vigil on turns. The priest could not shut the temple gates. Time as if had come to a standstill.
The morning was grey and raining heavily. Every heart crying for this now orphaned little girl. She was just there oblivious to the happenings around her. In the late evening, a herd boy came running to the village elder and told him that three people were found and they were still alive yet her brother was not amongst these.
All men rushed and escorted those fortunate survivors to the temple hall and gave them food, clothes and a warm place to stay. They told that they were only four of them and Rajilal had jumped off as he sensed the imminent death.
People then gathered together and in small groups set out with lanterns, ropes, hooks and sticks and drums towards the site. They kept calling out his name all the time and then pausing in silence to hear any faint whisper, cry or shout. It was a night of futile search. By dawn, they were quite at the bottom of the river but no trace of Rajilal. They had now given up and were returning back after making a complaint to the DRDO and BSF people.
Barely five kilometres off the village road where the river fell sharply into a tributary coming from the mountain above to make a dynamic waterfall they saw a man clung to a rock or stuck between the rocks against the water. The young boys swung into action. Ropes were hooked to make a survival guard and haul the poor man out of the water. It was a tough fight but after an hour-long ordeal they pulled out the collapsed body. The moment they turned him over, he was Rajilal. They felt his pulse, gave him warmth by building a quick fire, rubbed his body and revived him. After almost a quarter of an hour, he opened his faint eyes. They were overjoyed. The young lads by then had made a bamboo cradle in which he was put and quickly carried to the village.
Noya was given the news and she came running to see him. She hugged him all the while muttering a strong gratitude prayer. When he had supper, the village herbal brew and was regaining his self she tied the sacred thread and told him that our village deity had brought him back to her.