The wind blows across the open ground, howling, creating small eddies of dust. I kick the stones on the ground, then run after them, barely avoiding slipping on the scales of mica that lie littered across the field. They shine, like scales of fish, and are as slippery, a thing of wonder to a child’s eye. I pick a handful of them, rubbing them against each other. They feel soft, like an animal’s skin, like talcum. In the growing darkness I play in the desolate field, unafraid. There is someone else with me. She follows me like a shadow, her sari fluttering in the wind, pink, with purple flowers crocheted on the fabric. Her giggle reaches me sometimes, carried on the wind, as she watches me play. She is pleased to just watch me; it gives her happiness. She has short, silky hair. The wind ruffles them, as it ruffles mine. Her teeth shine in the twilight, pearly, as she smiles sometimes. I know she is there, and so I play, unconcerned. She follows me around, keeping an eye on me, keeping me within an arm’s reach, enjoying the evening stroll.
Far, far in the distance, the lights from a small group of tents twinkle, and flicker in the late evening light. She looks at the lights, a faraway look flits across her eyes. It is her home. But her face is solemn. Is she not happy? Do the lights not beckon her? Do they not invite her to come back? She is in no hurry to go back, she is happy, strolling here with me, laughing often, the stress has left her voice finally.
A cluster of bricks looms ahead in the dark. I run towards it; my curiosity aroused. What is it? It is hardly a few inches high, but it is circular in shape. What can it be? as I stroll towards it, a voice warns me.
‘Careful, don’t go too near.’ It is mother, the one with the pink sari, with the lavender flowers, the one with the short silky hair, with laughter like tinkling of bells. It is she who walks with me, watches me, guards me, like a guardian spirit.
But I am not listening. I hop and skip and reach the structure in a few jumps. It is only a few bricks high; it encircles something. I inch near it. It is a well. The brick circle has a hole in its midst, a hole in the earth which reaches down, down to the bosom of the earth. Maybe people come here in the day to draw water from it, but in the evening it is desolate. No one visits the water bodies after dark. The villagers say ancient spirits reside in the wells after dark, they hide there till sunrise, comforted by the dark and the water. They drink water only at night, the villagers say. In the daytime these spirits reside on treetops, the babool trees are their abode. I am blissfully unaware of this gossip…….
To be continued…………….
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