Tikem's Realization6 mins 612 6 mins 612
Tikem looked at the gigantic red book in front of her. The lilliputian black print was hard enough to read as it was but soon enough the pale pages; no, the whole room, turned black.
Tikem hated these power cuts. The electricity would come and go as it pleased, as if it were some independent entity and not in fact the find of her ancestors. What was even more aggravating, however, was the fact, that in addition to being the discovery of humankind (and thus, its property), it was Tikem's family's taxes which ensured its survival. How could it then come and go as it pleased?
Anyways, she was used to these power cuts. It was not too long ago that she had been living in a rural setting; in a small and picturesque village nestled in the Mountains known as Khati. She had only recently moved to Bageshwar, only a year ago in fact, when she was nine (yes, she was ten years old now, a big big girl). The electrical lines had just been set up in Khati when she was four years old. Of course, that was only for show. Electricity only started being supplied four
years later and even then it would come suddenly and go as quickly.
It only stayed constant when those 'big' men in spotless white clothes would come and visit and ask all the residents how they were feeling and how they were doing. They would stay in Kaka Ji's House for 2 days; eat, drink, take notes and go back when satisfied, taking the electricity with them.
Anyways, she didn't care for the electricity that much. She had learned to take care of her own energy requirements quite early in life.
She heard her mother call for her. She carefully went into her parents' room which was right across hers. Her mother told her to fetch two candles from the Drawing Room Cupboard's drawer and bring four cow dung cakes from the shed which was behind their house. She did so dutifully. She carefully picked out two candles from the big bunch that was kept in the drawer. She quickly went to her parents' room, lit one over there (keeping it on her mother's bedside), and lit the remaining candle and kept it on the mini-table kept in the drawing room, as per her mother's instructions (Her mother didn't have to specify the instructions any more since it had become such a common occurrence for the electricity to go).
After the job was done, she picked up the sole torch which was present in their house (which was always kept on display in the drawing room cupboard as a symbol of their modernity) and quickly went out of the house and proceeded towards the shed which was behind the house. Their house was present on a rectangular step present on the hill side. The gate ran along the front breadth of the rectangular step. A few paces in front of the gate was their house, a cozy little setup which housed her family. In the back left corner was the shed, and the remaining portion of the land behind her house was farming land. Towards the right hand side of the house was a path which led to the farming land and shed present behind the house. All around the rectangular step was forest land which included a variety of trees, shrubs, creepers and plants.
She quickly covered the distance and entered the shed.
Their two cows, Sri and Vidya, were silently chewing on the dry fodder that had been stacked in the shed for them (it had been kept right in front of them). If you didn't pay attention, you wouldn't notice their silent movements. Tikem had always loved these animals. While most people thought of cows as clumsy, slow creatures, she had always admired them as gentle and calm animals. Maybe that was why Hindus regarded them as equivalent to their mothers.
She stared down at the dung cakes which had been neatly piled in a corner of the shed. Just looking at them brought back a flood of memories. She remembered the times when her mother would make the dung cakes back in Khati. It was a painstakingly slow process requiring the utmost attention and hardwork. Her mother would collect the cow dung produced by their erstwhile cows, Laxmi and Saraswati, and slowly shape it into cakes. Tikem would watch her do the same with her eyes peeled, after all, she would have to do the same when she turned nine. When she asked her mother why she engaged in such mundane work instead of just using fire wood which could be collected by simply cutting down a tree with the help of an axe, her mother would respond by saying, "We must not cut down the trees for our need. It is like taking a child away from our Mother Earth. We are only allowed to collect the wood which has already fallen down. And anyways, if you don't do the same, the Gods will surely punish you."
That had never made sense to Tikem. Why would the Gods care whether one or two trees were cut down to help her family out, after all, weren't they supposed to ensure that all living beings lived a good life? Anyway, she never argued with her mother about the same, for if the Gods didn't punish her, her mother definitely would. She patted the two cows in the shed, picked up the four cow dung cakes and proceeded out of the shed.
She walked slowly to the house. That's when she heard it, a soft purring sound, like that of a baby cat. It was followed by a more feline hiss. She crept into the shadows of the house's roof and switched off the torch.
In that eerie silence, she witnessed a magnificent spectacle. A female leopard, with one bloody forelimb, was carrying a baby leopard in its mouth. It moved gracefully despite its wound. The baby was like a little stuffed toy in the mouth of the leopard. It was such a beautiful spectacle, she wanted to get closer….
'SNAP!' A twig broke under the pressure of her foot. The ears of the feline rose. She sniffed for any trace of an intruder. It didn't take her too long to locate Tikem.
Her bright eyes met with Tikem's. Tikem held her breath, not moving a muscle. The leopard continued to stare at her, studying all her features intently. Then, her head moved, as if nodding, as if it acknowledged Tikem's presence, and the leopard silently bounded out of sight.
Tikem breathed a sigh of relief. She had heard her father talking about how a huge portion of forest land had been cleared for gathering firewood and setting up some facility for the generation of electricity. That piece of land was known to house all kinds of animals. The leopard must have been from there. She must have been attacked by the henchmen of the person-in-charge. Tikem walked the rest of the way in silence.
She entered the house. She kept the cow dung cakes in the kitchen. She informed her mother about the cow dung cakes kept in the kitchen and entered her room. Just when she entered her room, the electricity came back.
Tikem smiled to herself. "You didn't go away just for fun today, did you? No, it was to teach me a lesson."
"What was that, Tikem?" cried her mother from the other room.
"Nothing, Iza," said Tikem.
Tikem thought to herself. If conserving energy, working hard, taking care of your fellow living beings meant not angering the Gods, then it was worth it.