The Search

Moyna’s eyes darted towards the window. Every time the wind swished, the panes rattled, sending shivers through her tiny frame. What had started as a cool breeze had gradually gained momentum, turning into a fiery storm. The rhythmic rat-a-tats on the Asbestos roof had turned into a steady battering, threatening to barge inside their modest hut.

 “The season of Kaalboishakhi*,” Mother had warned. “Do NOT step out unless it’s urgent.” She sat back trying to sew her tattered dress. Ticktock, ticktock. The clock reminded her how late Mother was. Mother was forced to work. Else who will run the household…

Moti growled every time the lightning whipped across the sky. The wick in the hurricane* flickered. Suddenly, one of the windows banged, splitting into fragments, letting in a gust of air. The wick died out plunging them into darkness. 

Thunder rumbled making Moyna tremble. Terrified, she jumped up, grabbed the torch bought at the village fair, gripped the umbrella and rushed out. Moti followed suit. She…she has to reach Mother…

Trying hard to keep the umbrella from flying away, she noticed how the wind played with the dry leaves, rustling them and swirling them in circles before dropping them afar. 

“Chant the Hanuman Chalisa* when scared,” Mother seemed to remind her from afar. The red flag atop the Bajrangbali Mandir* flapped in the wind. She couldn’t wait to escape the wrath of nature and seek refuge in her mother’s warmth. “Maa…Oh, Maa…” She cried out. Moti whimpered.

The torch slipped from her hands and fell into the mud. It was difficult to find their way out. Moti led her on through the darkness and the rain. The streaks of lightning lit the way intermittently as they struggled through the dense undergrowth. The dog stopped abruptly and growled. She heard the hiss. One of those big snakes for sure. Undisturbed, it slithered away. Maa-go*! That was a close shave. Her teeth chattered as she tightened the shawl around her. 

Thunder rumbled again. “Steer clear of the trees when the sky roars,” she remembered. Fastening her pace, she ran through the bamboo thickets, towards the field. Her tiny feet hit a rock and she stumbled. It must have cut her for she couldn’t lift her foot. The pain, coupled with the rain blinded her. Moti sniffed her, pulled her frock, urging her to move. Tears mixed with rain ran down her face. “Ma, Ma…where are you,” she whimpered. All she wanted was to sit by a warm, crackling fire, with Mother.  

Suddenly the lighting crackled followed by a thunderous burst. The lone coconut tree in the field bore the brunt, as it went up in flames. Moti and Moyna stood in shock watching it fall on them.  

The crash could be heard from afar. 

***

The villagers say that every year when there is a Kaalboishakhi, Moyna and Moti can be heard crying out for mother. 

The mother, insane with grief wanders around on these stormy nights frantically searching for them. 

***

GLOSSARY:
Kaalboishakhi: Norwesters which occur in India and Bangladesh. Are often accompanied by rainfall and thunderstorms causing widespread damage. 
Hurricane: An oil lamp with a wick dipped in kerosene. Mostly used in villages. 
Hanuman Chalisa: A series of chant addressed to Lord Hanuman
Bajrangbali Mandir: A temple/shrine for Bajrangabali, also known as Lord Hanuman.
Maa-go:  A popular cry in Bengali at times of pain and shock. 
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