Ma’s Agony

Mother Earth or Ma* as she was fondly called since time immemorial, was in agony. Good god, the intense pain! She felt her insides churn and the feeling to throw up was so intense. Oh, how she clamped her lips and resisted the urge!

She hadn’t been herself for a while now, she knew. Each day, as the pressure on the belly had increased; it had now become unbearable. Nausea hit her again and she tried hard not to think about it.

Just then, Air or Vayu* as he was called, passed by. 

Usually as he whistled past, he heard a loud “Good Morning”. Yet today, all was quiet. Sensing something amiss, he turned to look at Mother Earth and he was surprised to see her face contorted with pain. 

Mother Earth was of a cheerful disposition by nature and Vayu was alarmed to see her in this state.

“Ma, what happened? Is something hurting or bothering you?” he asked concerned.

There was only complete silence in response. Scratching his head, he edged closer for a look. Mother’s eyes were closed, it seemed like she was in deep meditation. 

Not sure if he should disturb her, he called out hesitantly again, “Ma?”

Mother’s eyes opened with a start. A glazed look in her eyes, she stared at him blank faced. Vayu was perturbed. Something was surely wrong! 

And he didn’t know what to do. He looked around to see if someone would help.

“Hello Vayu! Is anything the matter? Hellooo, here…. Stop looking here and there. It’s me…” Vayu turned to the husky voice and looked down to see rolling waves and pretty, brown eyes stared back into his. Ahh! There she was. Water or Jal*, his life!

He stared on dreamily while she fluttered her eyelashes, flirting with him. Ooh, he was such a handsome chap, she thought. Whitish in complexion, he was gentle and soft at most times, unless provoked. Then he could be downright nasty, she knew. Blowing away people and their livelihood and homes, he wreaked havoc and destruction wherever he went, when angry. 

“Vayu, such a naughty boy! Stop staring. You are making me blush,” she smiled coyly.

Vayu snapped out of his trance blinking furiously. He was embarrassed. What is wrong with me? Every time I see her, I forget everything. Here Ma isn’t herself and I am wasting my time like a lovestruck lover. Grow up Vayu! he chided himself.

“Jal dear, I sense something is wrong with Ma. Look at her. She is in agony, that much is visible. I called out to her earlier, but she didn’t respond. It’s almost like she was in some sort of a trance. Do you know anything about it since you well, live with her?” Vayu asked clearly concerned.

“No, I don’t know. Well, let me see. She hasn’t been herself for some days, now that I think about it. She seems distracted, almost brusque whereas we all know how cheerful she usually is. Do you think she’s doing drugs? The other day while I was talking about how humans were dumping more filth into my seabed, she cut me off rudely. She said that there was something that needed urgent attention and turned me away. Oh, how hurt I was that day, Vayu! You know no one has EVER spoken to me in that tone…” she said softly, sounding hurt.

Unable to bear that, Vayu glided up to her and gently caressed her. A shock ran through him as he did that and she felt it too. She looked up at him and he felt like he was staring into her very soul. 

Feeling shaken and not wanting to contemplate upon it, Jal turned to Mother Earth and said, “Ma, are you okay? Vayu feels something isn’t right. Please tell us what has happened.”

As she turned slowly to them both, Mother Earth started sobbing. Her chest heaved and her shoulders shuddered. Huge tears rolled down her eyes and she clutched her stomach, clearly in pain.

“Ma, what is the matter? Are you unwell? Tell us please…” Jal asked her gently, coaxing her to speak.

“Nooo…I..I feel sick. My insides are churning and it hurts. I have been feeling sick for a while, but now it’s getting unbearable,” Ma added in a matter of fact tone.

Vayu groaned. He felt that Ma was being dramatic and said as much to Jal as he pulled her aside. She glared back at him. Her eyes were no longer warm and welcoming, they resembled chips of ice now. 

Tossing her liquid mane, she turned her back on him and asked Ma, “Ma, what can I do? I don’t think Vayu can be of much help here; but tell me what you need. I will try my best to help you out.”

Mother Earth smiled. Oh, how sweet and gentle Jal was at most times. The seaside was a preferred destination by humans and just listening to the sound of the waves and water lapping at their feet was enough to bring them out of deep melancholy and put them back in a happy mood. Jal was also tough and unforgiving when she wanted to be, but she generally avoided conflict as she loved mankind.

Vayu in the meantime was stung by her words. How callous she was! Whatever did Jal think? Pegging him as incompetent, that too, in front of Ma. 

“Yes Ma, please do tell. I too will help you out any way I can…” He butted in.

This exchange was not missed by Mother although she felt miserable. 

Softly she said, “You both aren’t the reason and you know it. I mean the amount of filth that is thrown into my pit every day, it’s taking a toll on my insides. My gut is compromised and I don’t know what to do anymore,” and she started bawling again.

Vayu and Jal were aghast. Of course! How stupid they both were…they thought looking at each other. As elements they all relied on each other to function. So, filth that was released into the air in the form of poisonous gases and dust often found its way into water. Jal traversed her way through land stuffed with garbage in the form of harmful chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides, landfills with plastic waste etc. And she was herself also polluted with plastic, heavy chemical waste, oil spills and petroleum products, the list was endless. Both turned morose and pensive as the images flashed before their eyes.

“Ow, Ow!” Ma’s cries drew them back to the present.

Jal who realized why Ma was bearing up with the pain, immediately spoke up, “Ma, obviously you can’t continue this way. I know you worry about the pollutants that will be released in the air and water if you throw up. But what other choice do we have?”

“Yes, what is there to think? You must do what you must do, Ma” said Vayu.

Mother shook her head sadly. She knew that Jal and Vayu were right, but her heart refused to cause damage and pain. If only humans, her children had paid attention earlier, none of this would need to happen!

As the three looked at each other despondently, Fire or Agni* streaked past clearly in a rush. He paused after he went ahead and retraced his steps. 

“Hello there, what’s happening? Seems like a discussion of some sort, that too early in the morning,” he asked.

“Ma is feeling under the weather,” Jal replied, concern lacing her voice.

Agni crept closer and Vayu shrunk back, due to the intense heat. Agni gazed at Mother and noticed that she was pale and clutching her belly. She seemed to be in intense pain.

“What can we do to help?” he asked her, holding her hand.

“Nothing, child. If I act on my instinct, mankind will be lost,” she cried despondently.

“But how? Why?” Agni questioned, clearly confused.

As Vayu and Jal brought him up-to speed with the situation, Agni’s brows furrowed and he heard them out with full concentration.

“Oh ho! Now I understand. So, Mother’s belly hurts due to all the filth that has accumulated. If she throws it out, it will harm mankind, and if she doesn’t, she continues to suffer. That sounds like a serious problem. A No Win situation!”

Out of the blue, Jal piped up, “What if….?”

Vayu, still irritated with her, asked in a bristling tone, “What…What if? Hmmpphhh.”

“Vayu, I sort of have a plan. But I don’t know how far it will work.”

“Go ahead, Jal dear. We all are listening,” Agni gushed and smiled sweetly at Jal, who responded with a shy smile. Feeling his temper rising at the exchange, Vayu reminded himself, Not now Vayu. Mother matters and who knows, Jal may actually have something in mind.

“Well Ma, what happens if you purge? I mean if all of us, ie. Vayu, Agni and me, were to absorb it together, do you think it will help? I mean you will feel better and I don’t think that we will be worse for wear! What do you think?”

Barf! She wanted Mother to barf and he was meant to absorb it! But how?

Vayu cried indignantly, “How am I supposed to absorb that? Are you stupid? I am Vayu, the wind. You and Agni are on the ground, but I am free. I barely skim the surface of land, I try not to touch it as whenever I do, it causes destruction. Do you want me to destroy mankind?”

Mother and Agni turned in horror to face Jal. They hadn’t expected this at all from her and she shrunk from their harsh glares.

“No, No…that is not what I meant at all. Please, hear me out at least first,” she pleaded.

Disbelieving, all of them stood quiet waiting for her to continue. Vayu tapped his fingers, giving her a hostile look. He couldn’t believe it! He had thought that she was gentle and loved mankind. So, why was she saying such things? 

“What I meant was, what if you were to spew out the filth through an opening of some sort? A volcano, maybe? The filth will come out in the form of molten lava and will be burnt anyways. And Agni along with Vayu can ensure that it doesn’t hit civilization. Vayu, you can move some of the lava in my direction too by blowing it and I well, will be able to take the heat. I won’t sizzle and burn, if you know what I mean. Agni please don’t be offended, it’s just the way I am. And Vayu you could also help me move it further out into the ocean. And the gases released, could you carry them someplace else into Ether, away from mankind to minimize the harm?”

Ma, Vayu and Agni looked at her stunned. It was such a simple solution, yet none of them had thought about it. Ahh, there is more to her than meets the eye. Beauty with brains, thought Vayu.

Agni was skeptical about the plan. He asked, “But is it possible? I mean we are talking about a lot here. Even if we were to move everything into the oceans, there will be some damage on land. And which Volcano? The ash and gases that will spew will cause so much harm to this generation and even the next. Let me be clear, that I refuse to be held responsible for the harm to the future generation.”

Mother had been listening quietly all this while, but she chipped in, “I think Jal dear, what you say can be done. We need to choose an active volcano, as there will be less harm to civilization around. Most of those locations are thinly populated. And while we are at it, let’s check for all the water bodies around and figure out all the logistics.”

All of them huddled together and pored over a huge map. As they discussed various possibilities and locations, they slowly charted out a plan. Mother was in discomfort, but she pulled along, nevertheless. This was for the greater good of mankind, she reminded herself. 

Finally, they all took a break. Exhausted, they looked at each other and smiled. Day had slowly transformed into night amidst all this.

It was decided that this plan would be put into action at the break of dawn. Agreeing to meet in the same place, they parted ways.

As the day dawned, Agni came clad in fiery red. Jal looked her cool, calm, collected self. Mother Earth looked dull, alternating between shades of blue and green as her belly churned and threatened to spill its contents. Vayu was pale and nervous since a lot depended upon him. 

The army was ready and soon it was time for action.

At daybreak, the ground shuddered and trembled and smoke arose from the mouth of the volcano that had been asleep for the last few years. Some people stayed on the fringes of the wild land and they rushed out as the earth shook. Seeing the smoke, they quickly rounded up their belongings and began the trudge to higher ground, where they would be safe.

Mother’s insides burned with Agni in her belly and she was glad she didn’t need to hold back. Hot lava spewed out of the mouth of the volcano and slid down the slopes, burning everything in its path. 

Right on cue, Vayu stepped in. Huffing and Puffing with all his might, he maneuvered the hot lava slowly, getting closer inch by inch to Jal. His forehead was beaded with sweat, but there was no time to stop. As he managed to reach the Jal’s edge, they exchanged glances. Vayu was worried, but Jal reassured him. She reached out to touch hot lava and didn’t let on a single crease on her forehead, although she felt liquid heat grab her insides. Using all her might, she pulled more of the molten mess into her and coaxed her waves to carry them away, as far as they could, away from mankind. 

Vayu gently grazed her surface, cooling her, urging her along. Like two lovers, they pulled and tugged playfully, feeling and caressing. Hot lava sizzled and cooled slowly, getting heavier. Drawing on her inner strength, Jal urged the currents and they slowly navigated together to push it to the far end of the ocean, away from most forms of life.

But there was more to be done. Vayu, though tired, gathered his strength and rounding up the ash, smoke and poisonous gases in the air, flew further into Ether to disperse it off. 

Agni and Jal turned to Ma and she smiled. No longer in great pain, she felt relieved as the damage was minimal. Agreed some homes and land was destroyed, but it seemed like a small price to pay for all the harm mankind caused.

As Vayu made his way back, all of them together voiced what had been bothering them all along, “What now? Will it all continue the same way? And will it be left to us to clean up their act after a while again? Is mankind really so selfish?” Mother Earth too shrugged her shoulders. She had no answer.

Just then a clear voice echoed around, “Stop Global Warming! School strike for the climate. Stop playing with our future.”

They edged closer together and were stunned by what they saw.

A young girl, around sixteen years, stood addressing a huge crowd that consisted of other school going children and adults alike. Her voice had the power and charisma to elicit great response as her passion was evident from her talk. And soon chants of ‘School strike for the climate. Stop Global Warming’ could be heard across the gathering.

Mother Earth turned to all and smiled. She smiled benevolently and said, “I feel better on the inside and the outside now. I don’t know what the future holds, but somewhere I believe that all will be well.”

Vayu, Jal and Agni smiled and nodded in agreement as they believed the same too.

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Glossary:
Ma – Mother in Hindi
Vayu – Air in Hindi
Jal – Water in Hindi
Agni – Fire in Hindi

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Sheetal Ashpalia

With a teenage son and a full time job, writing is what Sheetal enjoys in her spare time apart from singing and reading. She firmly believes that “Something beautiful is about to happen”.

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