A feather flutters in the wind close to me, as I walk towards the well. It is white, and blue, and indigo, and iridescent blue. It is a peacock’s feather, shiny, magical, like the one which the dark-skinned God, Krishna wears in his hair. It flutters and shimmers and entices me. I run towards it and pick it up, as Mother looks on.
‘Look mother what I found,’ I exclaim, waving my treasure in my hand.
‘Wonder where it came from,’ she says. ‘There are no peacocks in these areas; none that I know of.’
I show it to her. She takes it in her hands and examines it closely, the twinkle in her eyes reflecting the fluorescent green of the feather. After a while, she smiles and hands back my treasure to me. I receive it back with glee. Happy to be rich again. I continue to examine its brilliant colors as I resume my walk to the brick boundary of the well.
‘Careful,’ mother repeats, sounding a word of caution.
I hesitate, stop a few steps away from the boundary of the well, and try to peer inside. It is a human thing, or maybe it is exclusive to all children. If we encounter a well, we just HAVE to peer inside. See how deep it is, how the water looks, what is the color of the walls, if there a plant growing inside?? There are so many questions inside a young one’s mind.
I peer inside the well, gingerly. It is deep, very deep. It keeps on going on and on. At the end of the dark tunnel is light. No, not light, it is the reflection of the sky on the placid water of the well. The water is dark, it reflects the dark, star-spangled, moonlit sky; and it moves a little, as if by a life of its own. Dark and light, stillness and motion. I look at the water mesmerized!
The water moves, and with it the stars which swim on its surface; they move too. I am so intent at looking inside, at the water that I lose my grip on my treasure, and the feather slips out of my hands. I feel as if I have frozen, as I see the feather slip out of my hands and start to fall. In slow motion, it falls, slowly, swaying a little, moving from side to side as it catches a breeze, it descends into the empty void. I see it going, see it leave my hands and reach for the stars that shine inside the well. It is my treasure, – I cannot let it go. Everything happens one after the other in quick succession, but it looks frozen to me since I am frozen in that moment of time.
I reach out, to recapture my treasure, my peacock feather. As my arm reaches out, I lose my balance and trip over the small brick boundary, and stumble. The feather falls, and I start to follow it, slowly. I look inside, the dark beckons, as does the sheet of stars throbbing inside the well, moving up and down. The dark is enveloping me, as I realize what has happened. In an instant fear envelops me from head to toe, as I realize that I have lost my footing and have started to fall, slowly, staring at the emptiness in the well. My limbs are paralyzed, a deep fear wrenches my gut, my mind frozen. My mouth is open, but I cannot say anything, I will fall, I am sure.
Suddenly something breaks my falls, stops me. Someone has pulled my other hand. As I stand poised on the edge of the well, looking into the dark waters, the other arm is pulled by a hand, and I am out of the well and into the warm embrace of mother. From the cold fear, the starlit darkness of the well to the familiar warm embrace. My senses start working again. The full force of the calamity that could have been hits me, and I start to whimper, hiding my face in the soft fabric of her sari, enveloped in her perfume. As I cry, she strokes my head, pats me and plants a kiss on the forehead, warm and moist. I am safe again. Mother is here……..
Am I sleeping or am I awake? I ask myself as the alarm goes off. It is Monday – I have an OPD!!!
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