I stand on the cliff looking at the blissful sun rays bathing my magnificent country. It is early, yet I see many of them carrying huge trunks of trees tied to their backs. A deep sigh escapes my lips to witness these men being crushed under enormous weight. It takes no time to fall the tree but it takes days to carry them to different parts of the town. Those who are rich, hire slaves to carry their logs but the poor must carry them alone. I wish I could help them.
My gaze falls onto my right and left sides. I see them spiraling and twisting like two serpents, potent and substantial to our existence. Tigris and Euphrates choose to ignore me as always but my fascination for them never ceases. Could Mesopotamian civilization survive without their generous, sweet gifts? Soil and water. Food and trade. My heart swells with pride.
“Aruru”, I hear her call my name. I look behind. She looks radiant in white robes. My father’s second wife. Not my mother but that does not stop me from loving her. My mother too feels grateful to her. Had it not been for her, I wouldn’t have lived to witness the sixteen summers and winters. I have heard it from my mother so many times. Her labor pain went on for sixteen days and nights but I just wouldn’t come out. Inanna came to help. At that time, she was going through rigorous training to learn medicine. It is not easy to be a priestess. She was the one who pulled me out and gave us both a new lease of life.
Inanna was the first one to hold me when I was born. She earned the right to call me Aruru. I love my name.
“Aruru, a seer has arrived from a faraway land to bless our settlement. I want you to meet him.” Inanna is standing close to me. I nod but feel afraid from inside.
What could the seer say? I am worried. I look around. I feel lonely. I have lost most of my playmates. Girls had chosen to get married. After all, isn’t that the biggest role of a woman? To bear children? They are all fulfilling their duty. Boys, too have found the work of their liking. Some are farming, and some are fishing. Others are weaving baskets or cloth. I am still lost as I haven’t found my reason to be here. I am not prepared to get married or bear children yet.
We Sumerians, ‘the black-headed people have not been a very happy, peaceful race but we are curious. We believe that every day is a reason to explore a little more of the wonders of our beautiful, mystical land. I am no different.
“Come, daughter let’s go to the Ziggurat as everyone awaits there.” Inanna never shies from addressing me as her daughter and I feel her love around me. Being a priestess, she can marry, though many choose celibacy as it is not easy to do justice to both roles. Inanna married my father but she is not allowed to have her children. Secretly, I am grateful.
“I have been assigned the duty to receive the seer when he arrives. This is the first big event in our temple since I became the priestess. I am so nervous.” Her uncertain smile says it all. I squeeze her hand. She looks up and smiles more sincerely. “You always make me feel better.” She reciprocates the squeeze as we head towards the temple.
“You will do fine,” I mumble as we approach the gathering. I know she has worked very hard to be the priestess. She is undoubtedly the wisest and gentlest of all the other priests and priestesses. Her benevolence has made her very popular. So popular that sometimes I feel uneasy on her behalf. Men and women are jealous of her. I hear them talking in the marketplace, “She has charmed the chief.” I discern an expression so dangerous in their eyes: hatred.
Ziggurat, the temple, the pyramid-shaped structure, built on an elevated platform is located in the center of the village. It consists of a colossal room. The inner sanctum is the most beautiful part of this mystical place. In our temple, my favorite goddess Ishtar resides. I know she blesses me. I feel her presence.
“There he comes, the wise, old man. He has toured the earth and knows every God and Goddess.” I hear the fervor in their voices and smile. Inanna still holds my hand as she brings the holy man inside the temple. I can’t help feeling important, standing by his side as people look at him with reverence. His long white beard looks divine. He wears a long robe of some soft, glistening fabric that I haven’t ever seen anyone wearing. Not even the king or the queen. His sun-kissed face has many lines and furrows but it is his eyes that hold me captive. They are small, piercing ones staring straight into one’s soul. I know I can’t hide anything from him.
He raises his hand and I hear him speak in his deep, resonant voice. He speaks in a strange language but from some divine intervention, I understand what he is saying. Suddenly I experience a strange vision. He and I are alone in the chamber.
I look around. Not a soul but somehow, I am not afraid. I am soaked in this strange happiness. “Go and find it. It is waiting for you. You will find your answers where dwells the dance of the sunlight.”
I open my eyes. He is still speaking and people are still listening to him but I must leave. He has shown me the path that awaits me. I must go and seek it but where to go?
I sneak out of the temple and look around. “Dance of the Sunlight?” What does it mean? Ambling through the streets, I reach where I had begun my day. Not knowing what to do, I decided to sit on a log of a tree. Someone will soon come to claim the log, the way it is strategically kept right on the top of the cliff facing the open grounds. A Gentle breeze greets me and I jump with pure joy, for it is right there in front of me.
“O wise one! Thank you!” I shout and scream for I see it in front of my eyes. Sunlight danced on the water. Gleefully, I push the trunk towards the field and as it rolls, I know I have found what I have been looking for. All the answers dance rapturously in front of my eyes. His magic is working!
I rush to the ziggurat to thank him but he is gone.
The next dawn finds me away from the prying eyes, inside my father’s workshop. I call it a workshop because it is his secret room where he creates wooden artifacts that have never seen the light of the day. “They are ugly.” He snorts his nose whenever I coax him to sell them at the artisans’ fair. “They are beautiful. Look at this doll and that figurine. No, father, they are beautiful.” I have tried to convince him but he stubbornly sticks to his belief.
I quietly enter the hut and almost squeal in sheer delight for I see everything that I am looking for. There is a huge trunk of a tree and a saw. I know how to use it. I am a trained carpenter. I pray to the Goddess and begin.
“Come and see, what I have made. I feel it is going to change our lives.” The excitement in my voice aroused her interest. “Oh! I am dying of curiosity. Can’t you tell? “Inanna asks again. “No, I want to know what you think of it.”
“Alright, let us go. I am too curious to wait. I know you must have brought new light to this world.” Inanna’s words fill me with fear. “What if I fail?”
“Then you try again. You are not to give up.”
I stealthily open the door of my father’s workshop. I let Inanna enter first. I hear her gasp before I come inside. She is standing in front of my invention and looking at it in wonder. She looks at me and smiles. “Now tell me everything about it.” She speaks.
“The idea struck me when I saw the log of a tree rolling down the hill. I cut a round piece from a log and made a hollow in its center. See it moves freely now when we raise it above the ground. I have a feeling; its movement means much more than what I can decipher now.”
“I have an idea. Why don’t we take it to the artisans’ fair and keep it there? Let people come up with their suggestions for its usage. I share your enthusiasm. Moreover, the seer’s prophesy can never go wrong. You have given birth to something big. Something that is still beyond us but we will eventually reach there.” Inanna’s confidence infuses me with a strange verve. I nod my head jubilantly. I seek her blessings but there is something that I haven’t shared with her. The name of my invention.
I call it a Wheel. It moves.
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