Red Stands For Redemption

It was a hard day’s night, and I was lying upside down, all by myself, revelling in the silence that I earned for the day. The leaves above my head were dancing, creating a rhythmic sound as if singing their own mystical song. The wind, as playful as it could be, was attempting to push and hit the leaves, trying to curb their revelry, and frankly, I wasn’t shocked, for I just wanted to lie there.

My bed was as wet as wet could be, protruding needle-like thicket on my skin. Water droplets fell over my lower body from time to time, but it didn’t bother me much. What bothered me the most was the silence of the house; surprisingly maddening for a winter night like this, yet my eyes scouted for any movement in the shadows every minute. I didn’t want to miss on anything while comforting my lethargy. I stretched my lower body a bit in the air, trying to escape the water falling on it, and I slipped into the night’s slumber, slowly.

The next morning I woke up to a rather funny sound. Drizzle here tempests there. Nothing was in its place. Agile tree-dwelling rodents jumped from one branch to another; some falling prey to the weakness of hanging tendrils, hitting the ground eventually, antelopes crushing the evenness of the detritus with their quick moves were followed by foxes, wolves, and bears. I wasn’t in any hurry to fight the untaught crisis, but before I could decide for myself, the branch on which I coiled myself so quintessentially, fell, leaving me aghast and in great haste.

I slithered one of the quickest runs I ever did in search of a way out from this violent wind. My heavy body worked against my will to move fast, and anyone could tell that I was too full to my appetite to be moving like this. The Sun began to bask over us slowly, and even the ugliest of us were glistening, but the storm had no intention to stop. I slithered some more and came a long way from what I thought should be my home for next couple of days.

Moving speedily, I reached a comfortingly warm area, what looked a decent place to camp. I did not know if I was okay with luxuriating in that spot for next couple of days, but it felt really good in there, and without further ado, I slept.

In a parallel world, Mohak was still in the jungle, and it was close to dark, worrying Avani more than usual. Waiting for him, she stood close to the door, her hands busy caressing Adya’s head.

The storm was growing silent, yet few claps of thunder shook the village every now and then. It wasn’t just Avani, several other women were clinging to the fragile wooden doors, waiting for their husbands, brothers, and sons to venture back home; they’ve all gone in the quest of food, roots, and produce from the jungle.

Even though the world was securing several folds of evolution every second, particularly this village, on the outskirts of Maharashtra was dwelling in the past. The village welcomed darkness at dusk, charcoal cooking was omnipresent, the houses were made of cow dung and fresh mud; covered with stacks of grass on the top, and people wore similar clothes because only one person would go out every month to buy clothes for everyone. Quiet self-sufficient in producing food for themselves, their prime source of earning wages comes from sugarcane fields, and that’s why these villagers were in no hurry to see the world outside.

Avani calculated her distance from the sundown, which was nearing rapidly.

“Mohak should be home anytime now.”, she murmured to herself.

“It usually doesn’t take him this long. Maybe he’s coming home with something big tonight.” Avani thought.

Adya fell asleep on her mother’s arm while she too was waiting for her father to come home. Looking at Adya’s petite, dark, and big eyes, anyone could tell that she was Avani’s daughter. Resting her head on the door beside her, Avani stood still. From time to time, she’d dig her eyes on the nearby houses; looks like, nobody’s home yet. Some ladies gathered together; singing in unison, some were busy in their chitter-chatter, and a few like Avani, stood alone, with their kids close to their breasts. There was some sense of comfort in waiting together, and these women were familiar with that. Even if one of them saw his man nearing, she would ignite a chain of merriment.

Avani stood there, gazing her way through the farthest point of the jungle, looking for Mohak, and there he was; drenched, covered in debris that had fallen from the trees above him. He carried a huge sack of what looked like edible leaves and roots, and by the look of it, Avani jumped in sheer bliss.

He shouted from distance “There’s enough supplement for 10 days.”

Avani could sense the elation in his voice, and she replied: “Come home, already.”

The storm was over by now, the Sun was inches away from settling down, the trees began to move swiftly, and Mohak was home; according to Avani, her day was coming to an end. They entered the house, and Mohak asked for Adya. He couldn’t wait to embrace her in his arms. Avani handed Adya to Mohak, pulling her away from the warmth of her bosom.

“Keep her close, she might be feeling cold”, said Avani, while she dragged the sack inside the house.

“I will keep it next to Jowar bag, eh”, Avani continued. She pulled the sack with all her will for this one last stretch, but she had no idea what she was nearing, a dark-black-fat-venomous snake.

Avani shouted, and staggered backwards in tension. Mohak stood up quickly, with Adya in his arms.

“Bring my stick”, Mohak ordered.

“Oh yes, Oh yes”, Avani replied as she ran outside the house for his stick.

It was nearly dark and they turned their lanterns on, but the light wasn’t enough to illuminate this room overloaded with crops, leaves, and their diet for the next few days. Avani and Mohak started to move these sacks in absolute traction.

“What are you doing?” Shouted Avani, pressing Adya to her shoulder

“Can’t you see? Trying to take it out from there”, replied Mohak

“Should I call Mahesh Babu? I think he’s an expert in this” Mohak instantly objected. “No point, it’s nearly dark”

Now this agitation woke me up. I could not understand a word they were saying. These humans are most difficult to comprehend. I did not know what I did to cause such horror for them to hover around me like dancing monkeys. I was too lazy anyway, and considering that, I snuggled inside, a bit more, trying to cast an impression that I wasn’t interested in their play. And just when I thought I have signalled well, something hit me, real bad.

Avani wailed loudly, “Mohak, what are you doing? He will come and bit us. Stop hitting him.”

Mohak exploded with utter apprehension “What can I possibly do? I barely see him now.”

Avani opined. “Let’s do one thing.”

Mohak, not paying much heed to what she was saying, continued poking the snake so he’d unsettle and move.

She continued “It’s anyway too dark to find it. Let’s lock the house and leave. We can find it tomorrow morning when the Sun rises.”

I looked at my tail and it started to bleed. I pushed myself up and stood straight, making a hood like figure. I did not want to feast upon anyone, I was just there to sleep, maybe digest the big rabbit that I ate yesterday. I erected both my fangs, but nothing helped. I began to hunt my way out of this place. Something on my right looked like a safe exit, I guess, it’s the same place from where I swept in.

Avani rushed vehemently “Mohak, it’s coming near me. I’m telling you, let’s go to Kaki’s house for the night, and kill it tomorrow morning. At least, we will know where to look for.”

It was pitch dark, and the lantern’s light was of no help. Mohak thought that it is for best that he concurs with what Avani was saying and come to this tomorrow morning. For once, it occurred to him that he could leave the doors open, and let it go by itself, but what if it didn’t? What if it finds a safer place in this shack made of mud and wood. What if it attacks Avani and Adya after he’s gone for work? It was too much for him to comprehend, but it was too dangerous for him to stay with both of them in this hut.

Perplexed, he locks the windows from outside, shuts the door, and goes to Kaki’s house. Kaki, Mohak’s paternal aunt is one of the oldest women in the village, and quite experienced, so to say. She has inexplicable stories to tell, and many of snakes too, but the best ones end with having dealt with them in broad daylight, and not in the defeating silver of the night.

I could not sense any movement around me, but for what it’s worth, I knew that I could not stay here for any longer. I sensed, hissed and sniffed a bit. The fangs above my jaws expanded to shudder the danger if any. Damn, could I not rest for a while in this good God’s land? I began to slide, slithering my way through the warm land under me, and my head banged, I changed my path and moved in another direction, and it banged again. I pushed my body upwards towards a distant exit, I could feel the brisk action outside those walls. But I failed, every single time. Tired and weary, I set in one corner. I wish I could reiterate, I wasn’t there to harm anyone.

All night, Mohak was waiting for the Sun to rise. He had planned it all. He informed Mahesh babu and his disciples about the matter. Mohak did not want to wait even a minute to get done with it. After all, it was a hard day’s night.

As the day rose, Mohak rose with the Sun. It took him precisely 20 minutes to beat the snake to death. They picked his body unceremoniously. They bordered its carcass from all sides, pouring kerosene over it, laughing and commemorating their act of heroism. And the snake, well, it lay there, lodged, and dead.

Glancing at the frozen carcass, Mohak sat at a distance and puffed up some victory. Deep inside, a contentment flowed in leaps and bounds. Now his family was safe, away from the venomous brute.

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