by Omali Jayah
(Las Cruces, USA)
Back to page 1 of the story
She took a little break to relax her hand and wipe the sweat dripping down her cheeks, and then again started to ring the bell. After a while she saw some figures wrapped in sarees slowly appearing from far away. Ladies of the village came one by one. Finally, she found all her village women standing in front of the stage; a surprised and curious bunch of faces.
“ They have come again!” Gaura Devi informed.
Women let out surprised reactions in unison.
“ Soma saw them. Three big trucks full of men.”
“ But...but Didi...what are we supposed to do?” someone asked.
“ Yeah Gaura Devi, what are we supposed to do? Our men are out of the village”
“ Yes, the sardaris fooled us.” Gaura Devi said. “That’s what I’m telling you. Now, it’s our turn to save the forest”
“ Save the forest? Without men? Even our men couldn’t do that Didi...!” women looked at each other confused.
“ I don’t know exactly how. But we must do it. We don’t have much time left, Soma saw three trucks entered the forest.” Gaura Devi stepped down the brick stage and started to walk towards the forest. Women followed her slowly, in a silent rally, even though they were not sure of what they were going to do against a gang of town thugs.
They passed Naren’s field, the last farming field and entered the jungle. As they went a little bit deeper, they could hear all the sounds. The loud machines; moving trucks; men’s voices that were shouting at each other.
Gaura Devi, having other ladies behind her, confronted the men. Seeing the most unexpected group from the village, ladies, the leader got down from his truck.
“What’s up with you women?”
He shouted from distance. “Go back...! you got no business here.”
“ You go back.” Gaura Devi replied him. “ This is my village, my forest, and you are simply destroying all of us. Please leave, right now.”
Showing his reddened teeth with yellow and black stains, he laughed.
He came to Gaura Devi and took out one sheet of paper from his pocket. He unfolded it and shoved it on her face.
“Can you read this? Government had offered us the permission to cut these trees. We are taking them to a big company.”
Gaura Devi went in front of one truck and stood solidly.
“Hey...!” The driver shouted.
“Get out of my way...!”
He pushed Gaura Devi, she fell back, women ran to her. Some men pulled out their guns.
“Did you see this? Just go back!’
Gaura Devi stood up. She turned to her ladies, her eyes were gleaming with full of determination. They reflected the boldness and courage hidden
in her small, feeble, bony body structure. She wasn’t ready to step back. She wasn’t concentrating on something mundane, but something far more divine and spiritual. It might have taken a few split seconds.
Intuitively she turned back, ran to a colossal tree the men were targeting at, and hugged it. Ladies watched her, and the storm began. All women ran to trees and hugged them. Few ladies around each big tree, making a human safety ring around their huge, ancient trunks.
The men were astonished for couple of minute having no clue what to do. They shouted and tried to pull away the women. But their hands were tightened together and glued to tree trunks, so the men couldn’t move them away.
The leader came in front of Gaura Devi and pointed his gun to her back.
“Bitch...!” he blurted out a filthy curse.
“Move…! Move before I blast you into pieces” He poked her back with the gun.
Gaura Devi did not reply. She just closed her eyes, stood straight and hugged the tree even tightly. All the ladies were silent. Man put down his gun confusedly. They were not allowed to kill the villagers. Specially, a group of village women. After many futile efforts to push women away and threaten them off to village, they gave it up and tried to move deep inside the forest. But women just followed them and hugged all the big trees on wood cutters’ way. Men didn’t have an option but continue to threaten and beat the women trying to stop them and wait till they leave.
Hours and hours passed by, and the women never left. A heavy blackish-grey rain cloud appeared above the village as if to protect the tree-huggers from the burning sun. It was getting dark and the gloomy sky released an occasional thunder or two. Rain makes the Seni-Dharampur road even worse, so men didn’t want to get trapped in the rain. Cursing the women with all filthy words, promising to come back and destroy them all, the trucks finally left. Gaura Devi stood on the edge of the woods with her ladies, still their hands bound together, watching big trucks moving far and far away from their village.
The cloud released its load and pain; pouring a heavy rain on the village. Women looked up the sky, laughed with joy and started to dance singing their folk songs dedicated to forest deities. Their silk sarees were fully soaked in water and stuck to their bodies portraying their beautiful, sensual curves. Their long black hairs were all wet and glued to their backs. When it lit with thundering roars, they looked like a group of mountain goddesses who decided to descend in a rainy night and have a feast under the trees. ***