Distant Silhouette-Chapter 1
by Tanuja Chatterjee
Before entering the plains, the river ran through two villages, each on its either side. Though the villages were situated on a hilly area, at a height, slightly higher than the base of the Himalayas, but where the course of the river lay,it was actually a naturally pebbled flat land. It appeared as if it ran through a valley. Here, it had no depth at all! The river bed could be seen crystal clear. People crossed it by walking over its pebbled bed, with just ankle deep water. Many round shaped big and small boulders lay here and there all along its course. Some even lay within its waters, as if, to restrict its flow. The flowing waters know no obstruction, it just flows? moves on. If anything tries to hinder its flow, it changes its course, and paves a new road, new path for itself, without ever succumbing to stagnation.
The river currents had great speed near these villages, which was evident by its waters. Hitting and pounding the rocks on the way, splashing and turning into sprays of innumerable tiny droplets, the river charged along, from infinite past, traversing a great distance from the mighty Himalayas to the Gangetic plains! No one knew since when! ............
It had been a bright sunny day. The womenfolk of these villages had just returned from their early morning daily chore of drawing water from the river. It was a very normal scene one could see! While the boys and the men, enjoyed their comforting sleep, the little girls with smaller vessels, almost ran and walked briskly to catch up with the older ones, who carried larger vessels, all made haste towards the direction of the river, just before dawn. After drawing pure, sweet and fresh icy cold water, they would each carry their heavy load back, on their own head. Singing together a joyful melody as they returned, was actually an effort on their part to push away their grief and pain. Taking slow and measured paces, to balance their heavy load above, all through their uphill path was no joke but this task was performed as a daily ritual by the girls and the womenfolk of each household here. They had no respite even after they returned. Now, they would quickly cook food for their families and hurriedly move out of their houses again...to perform another tiring and back breaking task. Some even carried their little babies by tying them tightly on their back. With sharp sickles they would carefully chop soft new grass of the hills, for their sheep and return home by dusk with their daily load of grass.
That day, every thing was quiet and soothing. The two pregnant women chose their comfortable patches,on the hillock, close to each other. Their loud voices, full of cheer and chatter could be heard from far. The other nearby women, at times, exchanged notes. The sound of laughter reverberated through the air. And then.....! All of a sudden, that painful stillness descended! To be continued ......