Belated Answer

Once again the shrill wailings of the infant penetrated the darkness of the new moon night and echoed inside the mud plastered hut of Nagapa and Kanakamma. Kanakamma raised her hands in contempt and pain to shut her ears and hinder the heart breaking cries. Nagappa helplessly watched his wife Kanakamma shed tears of anguish and agony. How long should they be the silent witness to this cruel massacre? Don't the Gods have eyes and ears? Will not the true God prove that he is not an idol anymore? Will not the powerful God of the Mountains shake when he gets drenched with the innocent blood of infants? Will not the mighty God of Sea who roars, give ears to the pitiable pleas? Will not the God of radiant fire-flies burn the wretched black magic chieftain Shakunan to ashes?

An owl hooted announcing the time, what that village was then. It was midnight. The next phase was the early dawn. Along with the previous phase, sleep left Nagappa. He slowly searched for the match-box and lit the kerosene chimney lamp, and looked at Kanakamma, she was cuddled in the corner with mixed emotions reflected upon her shriveled face; somehow he wanted to ease the situation. He said, "Kanaki why not we have a cup of dried ginger tea, its soothing from this bitter cold"

While sipping the tea slowly, Kanakamma asked the same question she has asked several times, "Something has to be done to prevent this. How can you be so heartless? Is it because I am barren and didn't give you a child, you don't have feelings towards this human bali (sacrifice), this inhuman deed!" Nagappa remained silent, because he knew, as an old inhabitant of that village he could have done some¬thing to stop this. But how? He still remembered the vision he witnessed once when he approached Shakunan to discuss about the evil deed he does, it was with wavering stride Nagappa entered the hut of Shakunan, it was as though Shakunan was expecting him, he roared, out, "common", then chanting some manthras and throwing something which arouse thick cloudy smoke from the fire bed which was built in the middle of the room. Shakunan looked hard at the skull, it grew hair, flesh and slowly, got transformed to a human head, similar to his wife Kanaki, with rolled up eyes so ghastly. His panting didn't stop that day though he got convinced that it was Kanaki who is supplying him a cup of ginger tea made with her own hands. From that day onwards Nagappa didn't take the turning to Shakunan's hut. The price for the interrogation is too high; he can't part with his beloved wife.

The Jackdaws shrill cries woke the couple. With the disturbed dream both had dozed off for a long time. Nagappa left for the fileds and Kanaki got busy with the cattle, with heavy heart. Days rolled by, sometimes they could see Shakunan moving around with pin-pointed eyes and grave expression clad in saffron coloured dress. The villagers humbly moved aside to pave way for the holy one. Once when Kanakamma raised this topic with her close neighbour Thumla, she immediately hushed her and whispered "Kanaki don't ever mention his name, do you know what happened to Urmilla who lived at the rear end? Her whole body was burnt, saying that she had to be purified for the blasphemy uttered".
Once again the new moon day arrived, this time it was a special kind. Only once in a year this Amavasi arrived. An important offering has to be done at Shankunni's abode that day the whole village will witness it. This day special pujas will be performed and child offering done in public along with Manthras. All the aged, sick bed ridden villagers are forced to be present. Nagappa found that his wife was jittery that morning; he could hear her grumbling between grinded teeth, "Oh! Will ever my legs take me to the distant town to let know the public what is happening in this lonely isolated village?" Nagappa acted as though his hearing power is low. Time flew fast and Nagappa walked with his fidgeting Kannaki towards the place of offering. There was a big crowed already. Nagappa stayed close to Kanaki as he didn't know what her reaction will be, if she retorts to any unwanted com¬ments or reaction, he might loose her. He was afraid of her adamancy at times, for the umpteenth times. That day Nagappa prompted into Kanaki's ears, "please stay cool dear", she remained silent. The chain of blade was brought before the fire; this chain will be put around the body of the child and pulled slowly dripping blood drop by drop into the fire bed. Shakunna claims that it is for the prosperity of the entire village. Kanakamma's heart missed a beat when she saw the victim; it was the baby she assisted to show the light from the womb of Soumini, the pretty girl next door. It was her first born, her eyes searched for Soumini, poor girl, she was adorned with fake jewels and colours, from the head to shoulder and seated in a corner. Kannakamma clutched at the hands, of her husband tightly, "No, this cannot happen!" Her grip passed this message. The baby started crying when drops of fresh red blood started dripping. Some people started chanting manthras loudly, some cried, and lo! five to six policemen in ordinary village dresses jumped forward and arrested Shakunan. The child was given care immediately. Some raised the question who informed, who sent this policemen. Kanaki never said that, nor did I. But the God's heard it, God of Mountains, God of the Seas, God of the Fire flies. As nothing can be concealed forever. Wails of innocence are not always ignored.

Jacintha Morris A
Welfare Assistant, AG's Office
Trivandrum, Kerala State

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