Bhojpur, Bihar

A rainy day of the rainy season. Iqbal khan wanders through the jungle with his long rifle and his belongings hanging on his shoulders. He wears long boots. His rain jacket protects as it rains lightly today. It’s afternoon time but appears to be the evening. He stops suddenly; he cannot go ahead as the area afterward is flooded. He sits under a thick banyan tree and takes out his food. He waits as he eats. He must cross this flooded area to reach the ruins of the Kali temple. A dim picture of a small boat appears at the edge. He shouts. The boat approaches him slowly. 

IQBAL.  Could you take me to the Kali temple? It’s very urgent. I must go there.

BOATMAN.  Well, I will take you there, Saab. How much will you pay?

IQBAL.  You know the fare. How much would you take?

BOATMAN.  Pay whatever you wish, Saab. Get in the boat. I’m going in the same direction. 

IQBAL hops in the boat and realizes that it’s quite spacious and somewhat cozy inside. 

IQBAL.  Nice boat, you got. How far is the temple?

BOATMAN.  About a mile. I’m wondering why you should be going there. It’s dilapidated in this season. The fair ended a few months ago. Only the monk lives there with his two servants. 

IQBAL.  I’m a journalist. I’m going to write about the temple and its glorious past. I’d be interviewing the monk also. My job, you see. 

BOATMAN.  I see, Saab. 

They slowly wade through the flood. Water, as far as one could see, only water. The water had reached the top of the trees. IQBAL shivered as he realized the depth of the water. Even the roaring frogs and toads couldn’t breach the deadly silence of the flood.  The dark clouds started pouring again. Now, it’s the evening… a frightening one. 

BOATMAN.  I thought you were a policeman with a gun. I fear guns. 

IQBAL.  This gun is a licensed one. It’s for personal protection from wild animals. I usually travel alone and into the wilderness. Such is my job. 

BOATMAN.  I see, Saab. The temple is haunted by the ghosts, villagers say. I’m afraid your gun may not be of any use there.  You must find some shelter under the holy monk. A great soul he is. 

IQBAL. What more do you know about the monk? I hear some bad stuff about him.

BOATMAN. All rumors Saab. All rumors. I know the monk myself. I’ve spent time with him; a few months under his blessings. A great soul he is. 

IQBAL. About the abduction and the vanishing of the servants who lived there. People say he’s a rapist too.

BOATMAN. It’s very easy to vilify a monk these days, Saab. But, all rumors. I hope you meet him soon, and you’d know what I meant. 

The boat sails further under the dark clouds and the deadly silence. Drowned trees and thatched huts everywhere, but no signs of human beings. They sail further in silence. A dead sari-clad woman among dead animal carcasses floats in the water. THE BOATMAN shivers with fear, and IQBAL looks terrified. They must go on. 

IQBAL. The terrible flood this year, no.

BOATMAN. I didn’t see such a flood that I can remember. The old ones say they’ve seen worse than this though. 

IQBAL. Hundreds have died, I read. But, nobody cares. 

BOATMAN. Once we get the freedom from the white folks, we can hope for a better future. God bless Gandhi baba.

IQBAL. Nonsense! Nobody is fighting for freedom or a better future. They all are fighting for themselves. They are fighting for power. The white ones will go, the brown ones will rule. 

BOATMAN. Haha, this is what I think too. Only god can save us. 

IQBAL. Only we can save ourselves. 

BOATMAN. You don’t believe in god, Saab? 

IQBAL. I don’t know. Maybe, I don’t wanna burden god with unnecessary stuff. Why disturb god all the time!

They sail further in silence for a while.

BOATMAN. I think it’s time you should strengthen your trust in God, Saab. 


BOATMAN. Why don’t you look back, Saab?

IQBAL. Why? What’s back there?

IQBAL sees back involuntarily. He sees that the head of the dead sari-clad woman was looking at him. 

IQBAL. Oh, god! Oh god! What is that! Oh god! Is she following us? Is she alive? Sail faster! Oh god! What is that!

BOATMAN. Calm down, Saab. Calm down. Take lord Rama’s name. Nothing can harm you. Jai Siya Ram! Jai Siya Ram! She soon will be gone, Saab, don’t fear. Don’t look in that direction. 

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