Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Sleeping River – Narain Rao, Balijipeta


I heard last night, the statue of our village goddess moaning in low sounds like
those from a baby who just finished crying. Only I could hear them. I ran to the
temple but did not venture to inside its sanctum sanctorum because it is
scandalous to do so. Only the priest is allowed. I stood there and continued to
hear the moans low and mournful.

“What happened to you mother?” I beseeched for the mystery behind her
“You know the sleeping river, Muni?”
“Yes, I do ma, what is it with her?” I inquired further.
“She slashed me on the dorsum with her water-fangs this evening, do you see
the marks” saying so she glided round on the statue pedestal so that I could
view the purple marks glistening with clotted blood.
“O Ma. Dastardly! How could she do that to you?”

“She defended that I’m no exception and that I should thank her for sparing
life. The priest is dead my dear Muni. It was he who escorted me after my
ownership transfer. He held me to his heart and tended me like a baby
throughout the boat-ride. All for the sake of you people, thank him, you have a
goddess to worship today.”

“Ma, who? The priest? What a pious man. He was an emblem of truth, how
could she kill such a soul. It is too much of the river. You have the power to
diminish her, don’t you?”

“It is beyond my control Muni, it is nature. I have no right to destroy what I
create and that too she is a dominant type, she is incredible”.

Having heard such account on the sleeping river, I walked out of the temple.
The goddess fell into an unusually solemn meditation. I could have dressed her
wounds but I’m not qualified to enter the sanctum sanctorum.

Where there is a hillock of solidified milk, there are cows with deflated udders
waiting for their turn, where ghosts of the innocent dead moonwalked on its
surface, where there is a music of incessant mourns chorused by shrilling
voices, all of infernal kind, in the heart of where humans uninhabited and
where an opportunistic nature conquered and prevailed, flowed the sleeping

“Idiot, you bitchy croc, bitch! How many times should I tell you not to disturb
me at night? See what you done, useless idiot. Now, I’m polluted with impure
blood of the python. I hate these snaking species. And have you any common
sense left? You know how ardently I sleep at nights. It’s the only sleep I enjoy
and you ransack it with your untimely game.” The river was irritated at the

“I ia aaam…aiiaaam hungry, River….I’m hungry. If I don’t kill it, it’d have
swallowed me. It’s a tricky gamble with these pythons – you kill them or get
killed by them. It depends on who takes the first bite. So I had to splatter your
waters at this unusual hour. I apologize” pleaded the crocodile.

“Do you eat a rotten fruit? You should never ever eat cruel people or animals
that are rotten, their blood is tainted, their flesh isn’t fresh and tender. They
are tasteless entities. The greedy, the gross and the graft are polluted, they
ought to live longer. You should kill the good, the virtuous, the righteous, the
truthful, and those with several permutations of these virtues. The blood of the
good, innocent and the meek is tastier, it’s pure and unpolluted much like its
hosts. Those who know the truth should die first – those who believe in its
imposters must remain to watch the game. We should talk of a little philosophy
before sleeping which sets one into given its bore”.

“I agree with you, the innocent ought to die – there is no ruthlessness in this
regard. It’s all about the game. One has to be cunning or is hunted down for
not being. See, the python would have killed me if I didn’t make the first move.
Anyways, as you say it has corrupt blood, I shall not consume it. All my friends
kill the meekest in a fleeing pack of deer. Let me extricate the carcass out of
your holy waters now” the crocodile leapt out lazily flinging the lifeless belt with
its bulleted teeth as far as it can away from the river bank. It leapt in again,
swimming quietly so as not to create too many ripples should they disturb the
river which was beginning to resume sleeping.

Like a silent rock, it floated out its partial face watching into the horizon of the
river’s expansiveness glistening in moonlight. Seeing my boat approach, the
crocodile began whispering despite the river’s slumber, “there is sign of fresh
blood madam, please wake up, there is a boat and there is the writer on it. The
writer, Holy blood!”

“Bitch! You never realize the scent of the hunted. But this is an exception –
moreover who told you his blood is holy?” the river grumbled with its eyes half
open to confirm the croc’s excitement on seeing me.

Continuing its semi-conscious discourse, “he has to be spared my boy – to
write about us, to evoke a resistance which we shall subdue – the hunter’s
pursuit is not worth it otherwise. Spare that monk, that fool sailing on a paper
boat”, the river closed her eyes trying to sleep again.
The ripples continued to increase.


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