Realistic Fiction

A Tale of a River

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There I see her, elegant and beautiful yet strong and fierce, with a flowing nature. Her noise would give me goosebumps. I was completely mesmerized with all that cool majestic water, for it was hot, especially in these months of April and May. Temperatures would shoot up to 48. Sometimes it would be so hot that you could smell the ground cooking and the mud would have a sort of smokey flavor. In Ahmedabad the news would say

“It has been 2 days of heat wave and the temperatures have been nearly 45 and 6 people have died due to heat stroke!!”

My friends would say in astonishment,

“Ha ha! Look they get heat strokes at 45!”

Krankach my mausal is situated deep into the Kathiawadi peninsular, it is in the heart of Kathiawad. The land here is extremely mineral rich or as the villagers say “salty”. I grew up in Shelana, just some kilometers away from Krankach and the same weather would continue there. All these villages come in the jungle area. Because of the saline nature of the soil , finding pure drinking water would be the toughest, especially in summers but because of the great Shetrunji , a mighty river, it had never been a problem.

I was standing there mesmerized by her beauty and the cool water , till suddenly I felt something freezing my toes then that sensation went up to my waist and then my torso.

“Woah ! IS THERE A FLOOD!”

It was not the flood but even worse than that

“I AM IN THE RIVER!!”

“Oh god help me , oh I don’t know how to swim, oh my lord!”

I was 12 and didn’t know how to swim. Gradually all the heat and dirt on my body vanished and then I understood that she was not a foe. The rocks and flow created a melody , the trees and the winds produced a rustle , the frogs croaked and the birds chirped and together they formed a song ,the song of the river.  It seemed they all were enjoying and in the blazing heat I too loved the cold water.

The flow was calm and steady and the fishes tickled , it seemed a heaven until there were huge rocks,

“Now I’ll be smashed and killed , and then there’ll be a photo of me in the news and the tv’ and I closed my eyes that’s what I was capable of at that time. As I opened them, the rocks were behind, not a scratch on me.

The flow turned me upside down and instead of drowning, I swam, that was the first time that in that deep river I was swimming. I loved the water and the winds and then after some time I came out of the river.

We shifted to Ahmedabad then. Then we would seldom visit the village but then in the vacations of tenth, I decided to go there. I was missing those friends and wanted some peace from the rat race. I decided to go by bus , my mom and dad were not coming as they were busy in other things.

The bus was not going to Krankach as the bridge had washed away in the flood last year. The bus dropped me at Amreli , where my friend Ketan was waiting ,on the route

“What caused the flood ?”

-“It was shetrunji”

“But this never used to happen before”

-“Yes but this is a different shetrunji.”

“if it caused the flood then there would be plenty of water in it right now?”

-“nope , its completely dry”

“But how?”

-“it’s the land mafia, they took away all the sediments and the stones.Without the sediments the water won’t stop ,there is nothing except sand left in the riverbed.”

Outside the car-window , there were fields of white and brown, nowhere did I see any green. Then started the old mud houses and the earthen roofs.

On reaching there, I unlocked the deli of the old house and saw the same old assembled diesel bullet as old as my dad, it was looking at me standing there ,as if I was my grandfather whom it belonged to. I straightaway went to Krankach on that bullet ,I met my friends and my mama, then after having lunch I went to the river from the same old path ,the weather seemed odd ,there were clouds ,dark clouds.

On reaching there through the bawals , I smelt a filthy smell  ,there were bodies of innocent fishes and toads. There lay the board “The mighty river” behind it was a desert of yellowish soil.No birds were chirping and no melodies were sung.In the main vein of the river there seemed some water.

I went near ,walking the mighty river which was once almost 15 feet deep and 30m wide had shrunken up and limited herself to 4 by 4 m. The flow was fast but not calm, it was not cold ,burned my skin. The river which provided fresh crystal clear water to almost 21 villages in that salty region had now no fresh water, whatever was left was not water, they were the tears ,salty and sour. Those were the dying days of the mighty river. I was not able to swim in that fast stream , the bed underneath scratched my back and bruised my skin. Then came the massive rocks, I got smashed ,crunched in them and almost broke my elbow. The river threw me out as garbage on the hot sand. I sat myself up wondering what had happened.

The river now no more looked majestic or beautiful .Then suddenly the flow stopped .A moment later what I saw was chilling . The clouds poured on the death of the river. The were sounds and lights produced by the clouds ,they were the ones who played the mridangam and the damroo , on the path ,the onset of the river , I saw the anguish of the mighty shiv, Shiv tandav.The water started flowing from that path, its flow as well as the quantity increased, it increased dangerously. I ran for my life to warn my village .Even the kings went sinking in that killing force. As I reached , the half of the village had submerged in the blue-red blood-water. There ,for saving my life .I had to climb up a tree. It took 2 days to quench the thirst of river which had quenched our thirst since these many years. I climbed down, all the houses, even the cemented ones had turned into a debris. There was no house .It seemed there was no village, just vast open muddy fields and land. I felt something hard beneath the sand, it was the board , “Krankach” it said, it meant that I was standing where once was a bus stop. The ancient temple had no shelter, it was half submerged in blue. There were three idols. Brahm had turned himself to the wall ,Shiv’s idol had cracked open and Vishnu was submerged inside the mud. There were some who had survived probably tenth of total population ,houses obliterated, people annihilated . I saw the river , mightier than before, but not the same old one she was reborn ,recreated.

Since then many rivers have died and many villages have dried ,then destroyed.

 

Glossary

  • Mausal-The place or village from where the mother had grown up or lived.
  • Kathiawad- A place in the southern peninsular region of Gujarat which was ruled by Kathis
  • Deli-a small portion in the huge wooden door at the main entrance for people to enter without opening the whole door.
  • Mama- mother’s brother
  • Bawals- Wild plants which grow in dry areas

 

Vaivasvat Bhatt

Vaivasvat Bhatt was born on 1 December, 2001. He is an alumnus of Rachana School and is currently working on translation of Gujrati short stories.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Deepak Bhatt (translator) Reply

    Shetrunji nadini hrday sprshi katha mate abhinandan.

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