This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
It was mid-September; while the sun shone in its complete glory the preparations for Ramlila had hit its prime. In one among several hustled by-lanes of Delhi lived a potter named Raghu, it was his family legacy to work for Golbai Ramlila committee during this time of the year. After his father’s demise it was Raghu’s début this year at a tradition of fifty years.
In the courtyard of his house, Raghu sat amidst a fort of pots, preparing the mixture to model the most daunting Ravana face there was. As he rolled the clay between his palms, he saw little Raagi peep from behind the pots. She saw his creased forehead and asked,”Bhai, are you hiding?”
“Yes”, said Raghu.
“Hushh….the monster kings are looking for me.”
“Do they have big red eyes and horns? Do they have big teeth? Are they too hungry?” she whispers.
“Yes, runaway to Maa…”
Raagi ran screaming to her mother, clutched her waist, while Raghu let off a smile, thinking what an inspiration a 5 year old can be. Her questions had answers to all his troubles. He modelled the heads of Ravana exactly like something that Raagi had deemed scary and was pretty much amused at that.
He left the heads to dry, it was already afternoon. He was washing his hands, when his mother called out to him,” Raghu food is ready “.
“Coming Maa.” He wiped his hands on his kurta and rushed inside. Sat down besides Raagi and as he broke his chapatti he felt a nudge,” Bhai, what happened?” “I think I dodged them” Raghu smiled.
They finished the meal, and Raghu was getting prepared for a nap. “I am going over to Geeta bhabhi to help her with the jalebis, its Dussera time and shop gets busy by four.” Informed his mother. “I am taking Raagi”
“Ok Maa…” and he dozed off.
He woke up an hour later went straight to his monster heads, thanks to the sun they were baked dry. He pulled out a box from underneath his stool and picked up brushes and bright red, black and orange coloured paints. He filled the colours in to create lively beasts, painted their horns white, faces red, the eyes big and black and he placed them on the pots so the paint could dry out. The task accomplished, evening had set in, it was time for the Ramlila to start. He got dressed and went to the Ramlila field to help out.
The show went on till eleven; Raghu wrapped up work, bid goodbyes and picked up his mother and sister. As they were about to enter their courtyard a voice called out,” Raghu bhai how is the work going?” It was a fellow artisan from the Ramlila. Raghu went ahead to describe and chit-chat, while his mother went inside. Raagi lingered around him for a bit, then got bored and decided to get back.
“Aaaaaaaaah!” she screamed, and ran to her brother. Terrified as she was, nothing she was trying to say was quite clear. “What is the matter Raagi?” Raghu asked with concern. He excused himself from the man, and walked up to her.
“Th… the… Monsters bhai… they are hiding in the pots… I saw… dont go inside…” tears rolled down her cheeks, “they will eat you… I saw their heads popping out”
Raghu picked her in his arms, and said “You are a brave girl Raagi, you had the courage to come and tell me. I wont hide from them anymore, I ll fight them and cut their heads off…”
“Yes, its time for me to show some courage too”, saying so he put her down, picked up a stick and marched towards his pots. Raagi followed, scared and hid at some distance she braced herself and closed her eyes; she was too scared to see.
Just so that Raagi could hear, Raghu pretended to fight delivering dialogues for both him and the monster. He quickly placed the heads inside continuing his dramatic endeavor, then concluded the war declaring his victory over the evil. That’s when Raagi ran into his arms, he dropped the stick wiped her tears.
“I knew you would defeat them, the good always wins over the evil, you are like Sri Ram” Raagi murmured.
“and you are my hanuman.” Raghu smiled.
In the flavor of the festivities, this brother sister duo had a ‘Ramlila’ of their own.