She was sitting on a rock on the bank of the shallow river, with her legs crossed, like a yogini. The near by bamboo trees were whistling in the wind and giving her shade. The river was shining in the morning light. It was a serene atmosphere. Her eyes were wide open and she was looking past the river, into eternity it seems!
The village women who came there to wash the clothes, while having their usual chat saw her and passed secret conversations among themselves. They moved to a distant place to be far away from her. Suddenly it rained, the women ran to the shade of the big tree on the bank. But she remained there in the rain, enjoying it, smiling like a child. It was evident, she was not aware of her surroundings. The village women looked at her in surprise. Now she was singing beautifully in some unknown language. Who was she? Nobody in that village knew. They only knew this:
On a fine morning, two days ago, four friends of the village, two farmers, one carpenter and one potter came to take bath in the river. They noticed something like a small hut on the bank, which didn’t exist there till the previous evening. The curious friends went near the hut.
When looked from outside, the hut had polythene sheets as its roof with bamboo and plastic sheets forming the wall. The entrance remained shut by a door made of plated coconut leaves. They were a bit scared to open and check.
The first farmer spoke, “From where comes these much of plastics in this village? When I needed one, I had to travel to the town. So this might be some one from the town! ”
There was no place in the village where plastics were dumped, for they don’t use plastics much. They used cloth bags or paper bags, made by the village women.
The carpenter said, “It can’t be any beggars! We know all the beggars here and they all have found a suitable place to sleep and rest. So it must be certainly some stranger!”
“But let’s check, anyway!” Told the second farmer.
“What if the stranger didn’t like our intrusion? Some times he may mistake us as thieves or attackers…and we will be attacked!” the first farmer shared his fear.
“Don’t worry, we are four, we can easily deal one!” The second farmer showed confidence.
They all wanted the first farmer to open the door, and at last he accepted their request.
As he opened the door the four friends stood like statues, with their eyes bulging out. A figure ran to them from inside and shouted some thing at them in rage and shut the door. Four of them felt numbed. They didn’t understand the language. Moreover, they were shocked to see that it was not a man, but a woman, of some 75-80 years old. They assumed she was telling some wretched words in her language. And the friends decided that she was mad and they left the place.
The potter who had been silent up to that moment, told his friends now.
“I don’t think she is a mad woman! She is having some power. I could see that in her eyes! They were so beautiful and kind like a goddess! Didn’t you people feel so?”
“Oye, this potter guy too has gone mad after seeing her!” The other three friends laughed at him.
“How could you even think like that?” The potter remained silent.
The friends left for their respective jobs and all except the potter flashed the news of the mad woman in the hut near the river, who will curse any one whom she sees. All men, women and especially children were exempted from going near the hut. All feared she will curse and bring bad luck to them.
The village women discussed again this already known news among themselves and asked to take care of each other’s children.
It was rainy season. All workers except farmers disliked rainy season. Most of them found it difficult to carry out their works, without sunshine. And to make the matters worse, the season brought many diseases too, so that the health and finance situation of the village went weak. The season vexed the villagers. Few had the money to go to the doctor in the town, in case they got some disease. Most of them were starving.
The ritual of morning baths of the four friends in the river got a break, mainly because of the heavy downpour, it made the river flow so fiercely that they feared they might either get swept away or get some disease. The potter’s son was already having fever and cough and it was becoming worse. Without money to go to the doctor, he was in great misery.
At that time of difficulty, he felt to go near the river just to see whether the old woman was still there. The rain has come to a halt, but it may resume any time with more intensity. But, the potter didn’t bother to take an umbrella. He left the house. He wife thought he was going to get a loan from someone to take their son to the doctor.
Reaching the bank of the river, he looked at the place where the hut has been standing. It was still there. He walked briskly towards it. The door was shut and he doubted whether it was empty. Very slowly he opened the door. He saw the old woman inside, sitting on a sheet of plastic. He was really surprised to see that no drop of water has reached the inside of the hut even after the heavy rainfall.
The old woman looked at him. He stood there expecting a “come in” from her. She said nothing. She was simply sitting and murmuring something. At that moment, he felt what his friends thought could be right, she might be a mad woman. He took a look at the inside of the hut. There lay four dogs scattered inside the small hut, so entering it was absolutely impossible. Seeing him the dogs became vigilant and were about to get up. The woman made some sound, and they lay there again, peacefully. So these dogs came with her, or she came with them, thought the potter.The inside of the walls of the hut were covered with different colored silk sarees. He didn’t know how much a silk saree would cost, but he knew they were expensive. So this lady might have been rich before, he guessed.
He observed the woman carefully. She was tanned, but without even a single sign of weakness. She was wearing a red saree and green blouse, but clean. Big ear rings, necklaces and bangles of different coloured big beads adorned her ears, neck and hands. Black and white hairs were seen mixed on her head, which was made to a big bun, with blue and yellow ribbons. She was murmuring something in the unknown language. All indications of a typical mad woman!
But she had a nose pin that was glittering. Though old her big round face had only few wrinkles, the big lotus shaped eyes, the shapely nose and lips told him she had been a beauty in her young days. The potter had believed that she was not mad but powerful in some way, even without a basis. That was the only thought that brought him there that moment.
The old woman was looking at the floor as if something there fascinated her. He wanted to tell her what he wanted without expecting any reply from her.
“Maathaji, I don’t know who you are and from where you come. I am not even sure whether you will follow what I am telling. But I think you are a special and powerful woman. I came here to tell my pain. I am a potter and in this rainy season I don’t have any work, so no money even to buy food. My son is now having fever and cough and I can’t even to take him to a doctor. People in this place are having more or less the same plight as mine, so I can’t borrow money from them too…..”
He paused and looked at the woman’s face. It was clear that she was not paying any attention. Also she might not have understood his language. The potter thought for a while, why he had come there as if to a temple and why he was going on telling his woes to this old woman, who didn’t even appear normal. He thought he also might have gone mad, as his friends told. He was about to leave the place.
The old woman now made a strange sound and her hands asked him to come in. Naturally he was a bit scared about her response. He took a step forward and stood there. She took something wrapped in a red paper from the cloth bundle beside her and handed to him. With shivering hands, he received it. Then she waved her hands as if asking him to go. Instantly he left the hut and reached near the river and stared at the red paper.
“This would be some pebbles or sand, what else a mad woman can offer me? Better to throw this in this river before any one sees me with this and declare me mad!”, he thought.
But his mind urged him to open and take a look at whatever it was inside. So he opened the wrap. Unable to believe his own eyes, he stared and stared. It was two gold ear rings. So this lady is really mad to give away her gold to anyone who goes to the hut? Or did she understand what I told and was trying to help me? The potter was really astonished. Whatever it was, he immediately went to the town, sold the ear rings, got the money and came back home. His wife was shocked to see the bundle of money in his hand. He told her everything. She said that woman might be some goddess in disguise, for which he didn’t bother to reply. He was happy that he could take his son to a doctor and get medicines for him, and food for the family.
The potter being a good man at heart, told everyone he met that the old woman was not mad but a goddess. He also told his story to prove that any one who approached her, would get help. No one believed. But a tailor woman whose husband was ill with asthma believed his words and took her husband to the woman. She told the old her husband’s condition. The tailor woman told every one that she got some kind of medicinal powder from the old and after taking that her husband has become well, and anyone can check that meeting her husband. Following her and the potter, a few people approached the old woman and told their worries, mostly they complained about poverty, disease, bad luck and evil eye. They all claimed they got help from her. Thus the old woman became the topic of heated discussions in the place.
The priests of the place were really unhappy about this hoopla. They made announcements:
“No one knows the whereabouts of this old woman, not even her name. No one here knows her language and she don’t know our’s. There is no point in believing such wicked people as divine. She is misleading the poor villagers, giving them some stolen gold, poisonous powders and similar things in order to make money. So no one who follows god should to go her again for any help!”
They purposefully ignored the fact that the old woman demanded nothing in return from her clients and she never received any gifts, cash or kind from any one. Some rich people from nearby villages came and offered her money, which she flew away outside the hut. Some one gave her a diamond ring, she took it in her hand and gave a terrible laugh looking at it and threw it into the river. She didn’t want anything, she had divorced this world and the worldly things, but, sadly, no one got it.
The priests protested and they wanted to check the reality. All the people who were benefited by the old woman united under the leadership of the potter. The potter’s friends joined the priests’ group. The priests told they wanted to see her power directly. So the villagers led by the priests and supporters of the old woman went near the river bank. But they couldn’t see the small plastic hut there. They went near the place where the hut had been and saw one dog sleeping there peacefully. Not even the remnants of the hut were seen there. The priests became happy and shouted at the supporters.
“Hey fools, didn’t you understand now that she was an evil thing, evil things are afraid of us, priests, who work for god. That’s why she fled away so quickly!”
The priests together with the potter’s friends left the place in joy. They mocked the supporters calling them names.
The potter along with the supporters stood there in agony. The dog which was sleeping till that time, now woke up from the sleep, came near the potter first and put a gold coin at his feet, as if from air. The dog did the same to all the supporters. It then went back to its place and started sleeping again peacefully. They were all amazed. They knew, avadhoothas needn’t prove anything to the unworthy.