- Ashu Chaubey
The Shadow of the Moon
Revati……Revati, Vinay was back from his duty and was caressing her locks, trying to wake her up. She opened her eyes as if arousing from a deep slumber and found herself comfortably lying in her bed
The last night’s occurrence was still clear in her thoughts.
Revati, married to Vinay, a forest officer, had recently shifted to his place of posting. That night she was feeling very uneasy.
The newly wed bride was observing her karwachauth fast that day. Vinay acting on a tip off, of smugglers hiding in the forest, had to leave with his team to arrest them red-handed. The servants had also left by evening.
Rajjo, the morning watchman’s wife, after finishing with cooking, was expeditiously helping her husband in feeding the buffaloes, goats and hens and cleaning their shed.
The night watchman had already arrived. While leaving Rajjo warned Revati, “Baai saa, be cautious. You are alone and witches wander in this area during these dark nights. Revati brushed her words aside with a laugh. After-all no educated woman from a big city would believe in such weird superstitions.
On the other hand, Vinay while leaving had asked her to remain cautious and keep the door closed at all times as some rebels living in the jungles, used to frequently commit robberies and murders disguised as villagers.
Though a watchman was deployed there round the clock but still he had cautioned her that if he gets late in returning then she shouldn’t go out anywhere after dark. After-all their house was on one side of the dense forest and the staff quarters were at a distance of about half-a-mile.
The house wasn't any modern structure but an old British-Era wooden two storied stone building. The kitchen was on one end of the verandah facing the backyard. At the other end of the backyard was a shed meant for keeping domestic animals. The washroom was just opposite to the shed. Outside the kitchen was a big water tank where a cleaning place to wash utensils and clothes was neatly designed with a tap connected to the water-tank. Adjacent to it was the chulha*, meant for heating water and cooking.
There wasn’t any room on the second floor just above the verandah and some of the stone tiles in the roof had been removed to allow sunlight and air. The wall enclosing the verandah, facing the backyard was a cross structured wooden partition with a wooden door. There was a big hall and bedroom in the front. On the first floor was Vinay’s office.
Due to the house being located in the forest area, there weren’t any comforts nor electricity. Lanterns used to be lighted before dark for light in and around the house at night. Across the garden, on the main door the night watchman would keep the main door lighted by igniting a small bonfire. This would keep him warm too.
Though the servant quarters were nearby, but still the loneliness was frightening her that night. She was expecting Vinay to return by late evening but now it was eleven o’clock and Vinay’s jeep was nowhere in sight.
The watchman came to her and said, “Baai saa, Sir won’t be able to return tonight as it isn’t possible to drive back after dark from the Daak Bungalow located on the other side of the dense jungle. You please have your dinner and go to sleep. In case you need anything, you may call me anytime. I’ll be sitting in the garden tonight.
But that night sleep eluded her. Her eyes weren’t even ready to blink. She was feeling afraid and anxious simultaneously . Dressed up beautifully as a bride, wearing her wedding lehenga, a garland of jasmine adorning her braid, henna tinted hands and feet with a bright vermillion mark on her forehead, she was eagerly and impatiently waiting for Vinay to return.
The rustling of the Peepal tree leaves in the backyard too seemed to her like the sound of someone’s footsteps. It was around 2 o’clock at night, when cries of the pregnant buffalo who was about to give birth to a calf in a day or two, coming from the shed woke her up just after she had dozed off sitting in the arm chair.
The hens were also flapping their wings noisily.
“Hariaa kaka**,Hariaa kaka”
He might have gone to take a round outside the main gate, she thought to herself.
The noise of the animals kept on increasing.
‘Hariaa kaka”, she once again called him up. On not getting any reply she thought of checking herself, the reason for such chaos, from window in her room facing the verandah. May be some wild animal had entered the shed.
Frightened and scared, she walked towards the window, her feet trembling in fear and peeped out. Though she couldn’t see much through the darkness but the noises were increasing exponentially.
Suddenly she saw upwards towards the hole in the roof. The moon shinning from behind the leaves of the peepal tree swaying with the cold breeze seemed so bright and mesmerizing.
But then, what was this, a shadow emerging out of the moon, round as a ball, resembling the full moon but increasing in size, advancing towards her. Exiting from those leaves, that soft cottony snow-white mist ball entered inside from that hole in the roof and advanced towards the window where Revati was standing. Eagerness forced Revati to peep out of the window to have a closer look without realising that she was blocking it’s way. Out of fear her feet turned cold and her face turned red. She stood stunned, wishing to move but couldn’t.
She felt as if someone slapped her hard on her face and fainted the next moment.
How long did she keep lying there, she didn’t know but when she regained her senses, she was in her bed, Vinay sitting besides her, caressing her hair.
*chulha - stove
**kaka - uncle