The rain came down heavily and the clouds thundered. The lightning tore through the sky lighting up the dark sky. The steps leading down the Shiva temple down the narrow flight of more than two hundred steps had an unusually big bundle wrapped in a blanket at the bottom of the steps. Manwar, the postmaster was returning from the visit to the temple which had just closed after attending the evening prayer and ‘aarti’. As he searched for the steps, his feet struck the bundle that lay motionless. He bent down to see as the lightning struck once more!
‘What, he exclaimed as he stepped back’! He was aghast to see that it was, Kishan, the village rowdy, who lay motionless, apparently dead! Manwar, could not believe what he was seeing. “Good riddance’ he muttered inwardly as he shouted for help! Soon a small crowd gathered, including the priest and a beat constable! The body was lifted, with great difficulty in the dim lit of the lantern as there was no light around and taken to the dispensary where a doctor was summoned. He declared Kishan dead perhaps due to head injury sustained from a fall down the steps!
Munia was sixteen years old and the only daughter of the sweet seller who lived in the small town of
Lansdowne, ever since her birth. She had a
brother who was two years elder to her and had just finished his school. They
lived in a small house in small colony next to the sprawling Garwhal Rifles
Training Centre, an elite ! Lansdowne, is a
small hamlet perched at an altitude, about thirty km from Kotdwar in Pauri
Garhwal region. The town had a small market, a primary school and few tourists
during summer visiting the small hill station. It had salubrious surroundings with
oak and Pine trees and unhindered views of majestic snow clad school
of Army Himalayas
in the backdrop! The life moved at a slow pace in this sleepy hill station.
Kishan had come from the adjoining village in search of livelihood. He was around twenty five years old, strong built and worked as a porter. He would spend the meager earnings in consuming opium and country liquor every evening and create a ruckus! One day while returning from his work he saw Munia and stood transfixed! He was completely bowled over by her beauty, her cute face with dimples and almond eyes . A few days later he saw her returning from school and accosted her and made some lewd remarks! Munia was dumb found by the sudden encounter, and ran as fast as she could! She was panting when she reached home. Her brother who was at home asked her, as to what had happened! On hearing the story between the sobs of his sister his fury knew no bounds! Munia was too scared and managed to convince her brother to avoid the duel as she knew that only her brother would return back hurt!
It was getting dark and the clouds thundered! Munia had just started a descent down the long flight of steps leading to the Shiva temple when she heard a ruffle of bushes behind her! Too scared she froze for a minute and looked back! It was Kishan, who stood with a wide grin on his face!
‘Where will you go tonight’ he told her as he too started to walk down the flight of steps!
Lightning struck once more and the rain cascaded down making the steps slippery.
‘Oh God!’ please save me from this beast she silently prayed and tried to hurry down. She lost her balance and the bottle dropped from her hand and crashed on the steps. She hid behind the huge rock next to the steps as Kishan charged towards her!
One more step, and there was a huge crash! Kishan had slipped and next Munia heard cries of pain as he rolled on to the steps till she heard a thud and a silence!
She slowly emerged from behind the rock and instead of walking towards the temple, looked towards it in darkness and retraced her steps back home!
The next morning she woke up to the chimes of the temple bell and the blowing of conch shells, as the morning sun rose! The sky was clearing after the previous night’s rain. ‘Munia, “you know’, Kishen died last night, her brother broke the news as he came running to her’ looking relieved. The cooking oil which she had purchased the previous evening had saved her after the bottle slipped from her hand, was what she last remembered!
PS- Image Kind courtesy Google