WSPI-2012-03: Moral Short Story – NONE OF THE ARROWS HURTED ME
This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
[Moral Short Story – NONE OF THE ARROWS HURTED ME]
Akilesh was one who was negatively popular amongst his friends. He was well known for his radical thoughts and abrupt and sharp remarks. He never hesitated to make fun of the people believing in superstitions and taking steps for remedial measures. He laughed at Naresh for the red band he had on his left arm and enquired him about it. “Oh! That one! It was tied by my grandmother. One day it so happened that during sleep, I happened to blabber some nonsense. She thought I was possessed by some evil spirits. So, next day morning she called some priests and immediately arranged for elaborate homam, pooja and some more rituals. Later she tied this string on my arms as a shield. She said ‘It is called Raksha’. You know, she is very very fond of me. In fact, you cannot find an affectionate lady like her.” Akhilesh, bluntly asked him, “Do you believe in such myths – that this band will protect you from all ghosts and evil spirits haunting you at night during your sleep? Above all has your blabbering at night has stopped?” “No, No, Akhi, you cannot understand these sentimental stuffs. It is more a matter of belief, you see.” “Yes, Yes, Blind belief” was the curt reply from Akhilesh. The argument went on and on and finally Naresh had to give up and surrender. Akhilesh never realized that he was winning arguments but was losing on friends. There were many instances.
On another occasion, he had to visit his friend Ritesh. It was naming ceremony of his baby boy of 21 days old. When Akhilesh was about to enter their house, at the door step, near the verandah, he happened to hear his name being taken by Ritesh. He was telling his wife something about Akhi. He stopped there itself, paused for a while – just to know what was being talked about him on is back. His natural curiosity took the best of him and was eager to know what was spoken about him in his absence. He knew Ritesh very well from a long time and so he thought, Ritesh must be appraising to his wife about all the goodness of his friend.
Actually Ritesh was telling his wife Gitanjali that Akhilesh would drop in anytime and the first thing he would notice would be the black dots she had placed on the tender cheeks of the darling baby boy. To Akhilesh the black dot might appear as big blotches and he might not keep quite. He told her “I am sure he would tell you to smear the whole cheek with black grease and that too on both cheeks, so that you derive maximum benefits. If a small black dot of Kaajal can keep at bay, the evil effects of those casting undesirable eyesight on the baby, then a bigger dot, will certainly yield greater effect.” What further conversations went on and on, Akhilesh did not wait to listen. He smiled to himself and was very happy that there was one friend at least, who would agree with him and follow his ideals.
On many occasions he encountered with similar situations. Even before he would arrive, wild comments about him, his ways and his deeds would be in the air. Sometimes in appreciation, but many times he was criticized. Such was his reputation. For him, friends, foes, and for that matter even relatives make no difference. His cousin sister Kalawathy, who was in her early stage of pregnancy, requested him to join her and her parents to a temple where she had to fulfill a vow. It was a customary practice that she had to tie a toy cradle on one of the branches of the temple tree known as STHALA VRUKSHA which was inside the temple. By such an offering, it was believed that she would have a safe and normal delivery and give birth to a healthy baby – be it a girl or a boy. As the proceedings took off, Akhilesh was naturally provoked. How could a toy cradle – forget about tying it to the temple tree – even if it was placed right inside the sanctum sanctorum, under the lotus feet of God, ensure a safe and normal delivery for a pregnant woman! The God being Baidnath, ie., the cosmic super doctor, people tend to rely on Him rather than their family doctor. Then too, was it not superstitious to believe that toy cradle tied to a branch of the temple tree, would ensure a healthy baby would be born in future and play in the crib. He could not control himself. He raised his doubts to his uncle who simply brushed aside his questions as silly nonsense. He wanted that his daughter should not lose her confidence and faith in these sentiments. ‘Rituals may be absurd – but they are there to ensure and boost our moral confidence. After all faith and faith healing are great virtues in any religion’. But Akhilesh was not convinced. He saw litres and litres of milk being poured over the idols of God in the name appeasing Him. Who pleases whom? God only knows.
Then they went to the tree for tying the cradle there. He saw there were plenty of cradles, bangles, strings, small cloth bags, coins tied inside yellow cloth, and what not – all tied to various branches of the tree. No doubt the tree was colorful with so many colourful items tied to it. Akhilesh found that even in this computer age, people do not give up their superstitious beliefs and Kalawathy was no exception. She had no scientific background either and could not reason out her actions. His attempts to make them understand his views and apply rational thinking for all activities, went a waste. Instead Kalawathy tried to brainwash Akhilesh. She started preaching sermons, “In matters of religion, follow your heart and not your brain, Okay!” For the first time, Akhi had to remain silent, not because he was convinced – but because it was a waste of time and energy to bring a change of heart in such strong believers. To make the situation easy and comfortable for all, he changed to the topic. He asked Kalawathy whether she would like to have anything special. He was aware that some pregnant women developed special interest for some peculiar taste and objects. His uncle said “Yes, she likes to drink water from a new earthen pot. She likes the muddy taste of water stored in the new pot. So please get her a pot with a tap attached at the bottom.”
Akhilesh went to the market in search of earthenware. He ultimately found a lady selling varieties of pottery items, prominent among them, two colourful eye-catching idols. He asked the lady what Kalawathy wanted, a pot with a tap attached. But that was not available there and there were no other pottery venders too anywhere around. He asked her to get the item ready in a few days time so that in his next visit he would pick up. He was about to leave when the lady called him and requested him to buy some articles from her shop, as she was running short of sufficient money to meet her daughter’s medical requirements. Her daughter was already admitted in a nursing home for delivery and an old lady was there to look after her. Though the vendor lady was physically present here attending to sales, her mind was with her daughter at the nursing home. Anytime the baby would be born. All she wanted was a few more hundred rupees. So she requested Akhilesh to buy some item or other so that she could garner enough cash to meet the hospital bill. Again a pregnant woman and her needs! He thought. A few more rupees and that was the key to the door of new arrival – Akhilesh decided to extend help for a genuine cause. ‘Kalawathhy can wait let me see if I can fulfill this woman’s genuine needs.’ Akhilesh was no doubt a radical person but not without a tender heart. When his perspective changed, he had to decide upon what to buy. The only items worth buying were, the two tiles like idols of colourful demons with popping eyeballs and protruding tongues and with long and short horns. They did not seem to be masks to be worn on face. They must be items hung on buildings as a shield to ward off evil spirits. He had seen drawings of such fearful creatures drawn with charcoal on ash gourds – the white pumpkins and hung on new houses. Such an item was needed to guard the house and the inmates from evil spirits and jealousy people with bad intentions. He looked at the earthen demon idols again. The two scary idols with their flaring mustachios and poking horns were leering at the onlookers. For a second, he thought what he would do with them after buying. “Oh! Yes! I can hang them on the wall in the front courtyard of the house – of course as a Showpiece.” But who would believe his words that they were mere showpieces only! Everyone knows the masks of this type are meant to ward off evil sights of jealousy onlookers and scare them away and ensure safety of inmates – just like the red band Raksha worn by Naresh, the Kaajal dot on baby’s cheeks and Kalawathy’s toy cradle.
Akhilesh was fully aware that all the curt and sharp comments he threw on others would undoubtedly be hurled on him with double force. Their arrows were bound to be sharp edged and nothing less than steep pointed ones. It did not matter to him now. Unmindful of what others would say, he went ahead. He was very clear of what he had to do. He simply purchased the two masks like idols of demon without bargaining. He paid what she quoted as price – for he knew the price he was paying, was not for the items of purchase – but something more than that. A valuable expenditure for higher values in life.
Akhilesh felt very happy for the purchases he made on that day.