The fairly desolate village on the banks of the sea would always retire for the day, as soon as the sun went down over the horizon. Their routine seldom changed. The day and it’s work would be left abruptly, and the whole populace would gather around the dazzlingly decorated and yet hauntingly silent temple right in the middle of the village, reliving the same story over and over again, bettering it sometimes, or yet coming up with a whole new dimension to it, when they had nothing left to add. But each one of them, in their hearts laid their belief in the same commonly accepted legend, and silently hoped that, the one these stories talked about, would walk down the temple steps, and protect them. They feared that the God’s curse would stare upon them soon, and this time around, there would be no one left alive and healthy, to even mull over them. Their only hope lay with in their Village Deity. It was the virgin Goddess, who needed to save them. But what could a seven year old child do to overturn the impending misery? She hardly ever knew the world outside her muddy hut. One which had turned to dust 15 years ago…
Cholera had struck the village one night, after the moon stood in all it’s glory over the skies and the ocean had become restless in it’s game. The Sea Gods were utterly displeased for some reason, or so the priest after entering a trance at the shore at the stroke of midnight, concluded. They had to be calmed down or they would go on to consume everyone in their wrath. And it seemed that they had found their first victim already. The sickness first touched the seven year old girl, living in the poor potter’s hut beside the banyan tree, as she quenched her thirst from the earthen pot her mother had filled to the brim, early in the morning. First she vomited, then she burned. And before late, she was struggling with life itself. A lost battle, people assumed. Her brother, one of the very few children in the village, to have access to school and books, couldn’t bear to watch his sister in such pain. After their father and mother had fallen asleep, the ten year old boy slid out of the hut, and rode with his friend on his bicycle, to the nearest town. He could get her medicines. His friend knew of a registered medical practitioner, who had put shop in a slum on the other end of the town. The Only problem with that was, that the villagers abhorred English medicine. They had even shamefully disbanded a family for merely mentioning English medicine during the last epidemic. The prayer would heal them. Diseases were punishments given by God’s. Just like a father punishes their children, only to put them on the righteous path. There was obviously the local priest, who used to pour the same leafy green concoction for any kind of ailment. But all in all it was the prayers that were supposed to heal everything. The boy however somehow knew that whatever his sister was suffering from, even the God’s wouldn’t want to enter their hut.
The boy and his friend braved the night, and rode through the steely winds, to finally reach the practitioner. They described the symptoms of their sister, and fortunately for them, Cholera was not entirely unheard of, in the town. He took out the bundle of crumpled ten rupee notes, that he had sneaked out from his mother’s savings box, that she kept above the stove. His friend looked on sceptically at what was going on. But he would support his friend nevertheless. He was the only friend he had, and somewhere in a corner of his heart, he knew that his friend was right. That he couldn’t be blamed for reaching out beyond their belief’s.
The two boys rode back to their village, moments before the sun playfully peeped over the ocean. On reaching the hut, the boy took out the pills, crushed them into powder, silently woke up his sister, and gave her the medicine. However, that was only the start. Once every two days he would go to the town and bring medicines for her. He would beg the practitioner for the medicine on some-days or steal them on the others. The Cholera started to take it’s catch by the numbers in the village. Every few hours someone would leave them. Every night some hut would be burned down to the ground. The rest of the family had to move somewhere else, find or build a new hut thereafter. And turn their previous home to hut. The boy’s hut still remained intact, however fate wasn’t kind on his friend. He succumbed to the curse after a few days, never wishing for the option that in his final moments, he realized could actually save his life. His hut too was burned down a few hours later.
Slowly the word spread that the seven year old girl was showing signs of recovery. Something incredible was happening to the girl. Her skin had grown healthier. Life had started to seep into her body. She had fought the devil for three weeks and was now emerging victorious. The villagers grew curious. They would corner the boy and his father at every available opportunity, and enquire about the deity who was so very compassionate towards them. The boy had an answer, the father however had none. Yet they stuck to the same story. They said that the girl was born under the most auspicious alignment of stars, and maybe that was the reason she survived. Once this story fell on the ears of the local priest, he came to visit the girl. Over the suffering, the villagers trust in God had been wavering. They were losing their trust. It was necessary to find them a new God. Someone they knew and had believed with their own eyes. They needed a new God. Or in this case, A Goddess. The priest prepared to give them one.
She was announced the village deity. The hut gradually became a shrine. The well she drank from became the holy water. People from every corner of the state flocked to see the young Goddess, clad in a white saree, with her face covered in turmeric pasture, and yet cheerfully playing with her dolls which she had moulded herself from the wet clay. Stories were woven. Miracles were attributed. However the ritual had to be delayed, until the time she bled.
The boy, who was now, the Goddess’s brother, never uttered the secret to anyone. His family was holy now. His parents was being showered with respects from any one visiting the shrine. They prayed to them too. As for the boy himself, one of the devotees, a well to do zamindar started sponsoring his education in Visakhapatnam. A whole room to himself in the hostel, and a dozen new shirts to wear, apart from admission into a convent, was what he was being blessed with. And it was at this point he decided to become a Doctor, and one day educate his people. He hoped they would listen to him one day.
Years passed, and it was time. As the boy rushed to the village, it was already too late. The procession carried her over a wooden plank, occasionally touching her head and legs with utmost reverence. She was just unconscious, but her travel to the heavens would soon begin. People came in thousands, blocking the urging boy out. He could hardly see what was happening. The girl was laid in a shallow pit right in the middle of the village with her doll. Sweaty men before the boy murmured that the girl was still alive. She needed to be alive. The boy then saw his mother walk towards the pit. She took a fistful of mud and threw on her sleeping child and with closed eyes chanted something. The ritual had started. The boy screamed them to stop, but those who heard him ushered him away and tied him up to a tree. One by one, the good devotees poured a handful of mud in the pit. The Goddess would bless each one of them. The boy screamed and struggled until he fell unconscious. The ritual was completed in the most auspicious way, by butchering seven goats and pouring their blood over the now completely covered pit. The Girl used to mould mud to make a doll. Now, the mud moulded the Girl into a Deity. The Goddess had then arrived………….
Dr.Nagaraju to this day practices medicine in and around the slums of Visakhapatnam, providing treatment and medicine for free, to the poor and deprived. He never found it in himself to visit his village after that ill fated day, fifteen years ago. Neither when his parents passed away nor when Cholera consumed it recently. He never stepped into his sister’s kingdom….