Murder of water
Translated from Tamil by PADMA NARAYANAN
The pure, life-giving water was dying, crushed under the weight of more and more rubble falling in...
I SAW for the first time the story of the clever crow quenching its thirst in a "look at the picture and tell the story" book. And after that many more times as well. There never was any change in the way the crow was picturised; only the water container got drawn in many different forms different kinds of clay pots, strangely transparent, letting us see what was inside.
Was it not only glass that could be transparent? Then, how could that pot be of clay? How could a clay pot ever reveal what was inside it? Hence, in the picture that I drew to illustrate the story, the crow was small. The container became a glass jar. Tiny broken lines at intervals showed the water.
Just as the dark, curled tip of a banana leaf not fully torn at frequent intervals became continuous black lines, subtly performing the magic of indicating an unbroken filament, the black pencil lines filled up half the glass jar.
I felt like laughing at the crow dropping small stones inside the jar, the water level rising up and the bird flying away after quenching its thirst. Why couldn't the crow throw the stone a little harder, break the pot or jar breakables all and drink the water that trickled out?
The story was, perhaps, not just to show the cleverness of the crow in staking its thirst, but also a lesson to illustrate that heavy objects when dropped into a container of liquid would make the liquid rise. So much for science; the inference seems to have been proved wrong today.
It is an unwritten order of cities that independent houses or long, wide plots of ground have to be converted into vertical structures. By the same law, the house nearby has been marked to be destroyed; it is being destroyed.
The trees all around, flowers and fruits are sure to lose their existence any time now. The red earth around is facing bleak changes like a once prosperous family passing through bad times.
Pickaxe, spade, dark people moving around under the sun from morning to night are all telltale signs of this change. You would need to fit in a filter to protect your eyes and ears from dust getting inside you.
Imperceptible particles dangled from your eyes and ears almost all the time. Large chunks of wall are scattered all around showing distinctly the different materials that went into its composition, cement, lime-washed pieces and painted slabs.
Today, as on other days, demolition work has begun early in the morning. The wall, raised from the ground at the backyard of the house around the circular well and the pillar that supported the beam and the wheel to draw water, have disappeared.
The round wall is being demolished and thrown inside the well. The echoes of those pieces being hurled into the well are much like the sound of men jumping into it.
An anxiety, rather expectation, about one of those men walking around, falling inside the well or getting buried under the debris is palpable.
People are all around the wall-less deep circle; moving around rolling, pushing and hurling big chunks of the wall into the well-water.
The water that came up when the crow put stones in the jar should come up now, too. Would that water coming up from inside the well, cross over the wall-less ground, gush and flow over the G.S.T. road, assuaging the thirst of lives here and there, making it a happy day for the city?
Water without enimity, unbounded, would perhaps flow everywhere, loving everyone. Our entire race loves food, life and water. Lovers and children would, then, splash that water on each other, gasp, laugh, getting cooled inside and outside, with water following them with its musical sounds...
Nothing happened. None of these happened. The well accepted all the pieces of wall thrown at it like a slave. With the wall and bricks sucking up all its water, ingesting everything thrown inside it, the well stood unopposing, motionless. The pure, life-giving water was dying, crushed under the weight of more and more rubble falling in, inflicting endless wounds.
Gradually the pit vanished and instead of the water of the well coming up, concrete pieces of the wall arose filling the deep hole.
The entire well lay there dead, transformed into a piece of even ground with no trace at all of the water it had, not long ago, held.
From the collection Krushangini Kadaikal
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