“When are we reaching the lake?” asked the girl annoyingly.
“We four might have to spend the night in the woods.” suggested another, pretending to find a way, through the rising mahoganies. As they rode through, they felt quite unattended by the serene woods around. The beams of the sun sieved their way through the dark canopies above. The calm winds dissolved the slow ounces of breath and whispered amidst the foggy woods, against a hilly backdrop.
Suddenly, someone among them spotted a stooped figure, walking sluggishly beside the road. They stopped and realized it was an old tribal woman, perhaps as old as the hills around.The woman kept staring the strangers with astonishment. The wrinkles on her face blended well with the scarred, hilly landscape. Her rough ungroomed locks, spread over her face like growing tentacles and gleamed through them her eyes filled with inquisition. She wore an old tribal outfit. Her slender hands revealing the veins in them, held a wooden bucket in each with water tumbling in them.
“How do we reach Lake Neelkunṭha?” a guy from the group asked sternly. His rough, forceful voice almost made her fragile hands drop the buckets. She replied in a tribal accent,’’Lake Neelkunṭha is behind Kaalshikha hills, still a long way from here. You can get lost on the way.“ Her soft voice had a mild resounding effect on them. “I live near the hills, I can come along to guide you.” said she with gentle expressions.
One of the girls advised, ”We can’t afford to get lost again. Let’s take her guys.”
The others agreed, and the woman joined them in the jeep. She began guiding them through the narrow, serpentine roads of the terrain. One of the girls asked her on the way, ”Why do you carry water from so far, when you live near the lake?”
The old woman replied calmly, ”Lake Neelkunṭha is sacred to us. We don’t use water from there.”
As they rode through, the dark woods on both sides whizzed past. Suddenly, an open blue mass of water was visible, with steep hills behind. “Isn’t that the lake?” a voice rang.
The old lady replied, “The sun is going to set soon. Many predators come to quench their thirst here. I will take you to a safer side.”
Her words delved too deep, for anyone to argue. After travelling for a while, the lady took them to a barren shore. Not even birds flew over the desolated place. The turquoise waters of the lake, reflecting the setting sun, made ripples of liquid gold. The group, delighted with the picturesque view, rushed for a dip into it.
The group had left all their belongings on the shore, and moved to deeper waters. But to their utmost horror, the sand beneath, began pulling them down. They splashed their arms furiously and screamed helplessly, drowned till their chests.The perilous sand beneath, was dragging them, sluggishly into its depths. But the old woman stood unmoved, near the shore. Her eyes with dark, merciless delight, inflicted the very souls of the hopeless figures. Their groans echoed around the deserted shore.
Then the old woman started shaking her head vigorously, chanting some sacred mantras. Her face smeared with vermilion, her eyes grew wide, as she performed the evil ritual. Her arms and legs, shuddered frantically, as if responding to the Devil’s howl. The sinking souls watched the gruesome scene, tremling in horror.
Then she started hunting their bags. She brought out each object that was unknown to her, with a surprise. Among the things that she took out, was a mirror. She turned her back on the group and held it up, as if mocking the group, showing them their own slow death. She looked herself in the mirror for a while, then one by one took out all the money that the gang had brought.The gang now immersed till their necks, had their hands on the surface stuck up for help. She threw all the currencies over the lake near them, as if stating, no amount of money can save them from the peril. Lastly, she brought out an hourglass from their bag and placed it on the shore. The helpless group, now almost fully drowned, could barely rise to see the sand in the hourglass, sinking slowly, quite symbolic to the sands beneath them. And in a few moments, the whole group, went into the depths, unknown to mortals. The lake was still again.
Th old woman then took all that was of a value to her, dumped the rest nearby, and disappeared into the woods.The next day, another group, riding through the woods, spotted that figure again: An old woman with wooden buckets. They stopped by her, and one of them asked, “Can you tell us where is Lake Neelkunṭha?”
“I live near the lake. I can guide you there.” said the woman with her eyes gleaming, restless for another stint of horror. She told herself, ”Time again to feed Neelkunṭha…”
[Often, a natural occurring unknown, unexplained to tribal people, take place of superstitions and religious beliefs. Likewise, the old tribal woman, not knowing the scientific reason behind a quicksand, believes a supernatural being Neelkunṭha resides in the lake and feeds on humans, who get dragged into its jaws. This story encourages the need to know scientific reasons before believing in wacky superstitions.]