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      /  Literature   /  The Hidden Shades of the Light

    The Hidden Shades of the Light

    Author: Chandan Sach

    It was a summer afternoon. It was so hot that when the heat reached our toes through the sandals, the burning sensations were felt all the way up to the eyes. We had never walked on the sand in the heat. I was exhausted and dizzy, my sight was failing me , I could faint at any moment. The year that I was sailing, we had encountered extreme heat at sea. A sailor had died. It was such a terrible heat. Today’s heat reminded me of the lethal heat of that sea, that had taken so many lives.

    I put my feet on the ground slowly. I was with my hunter and he said, “Wait a little while, let me rest a bit or this excessive heat will get the better of me.” I helped the hunter walk to the shade of a tree. What a cool shadow it was. The sand was so cool that one could not even think of a fierce deadly heat outside that shadow.

    We took out our sandals and just stretched our legs until we saw an agile old woman come to us. She stood near us. Her face was so dark that her features were not coming through. We didn’t say anything. She checked us properly with her gaze and then asked us where we came from. The hunter replied that we are from Mitap. We have come on a hunting trip and have sought refuge under the shadow of the tree because of the high heat.

    “I see, you’re from Mitap”, the old woman said to herself.

    Babu, the hunter confirmed and asked the old woman why was she out and about in the middle of the day.

    The old woman replied that she had left the house looking for her grandson. She continued that it had been six months that day that her grandson had gone to graze the sheep but had never returned and was missing. Someone had told her that he was once seen in the Kundri then he left the place for Gorani and he was now working there. But,she couldn’t believe it. That’s why she lingers from desert to desert, forest to forest and mountain to mountain to search for her grandson.

    She then asked us if we had seen him. We answered that we had not.

    “So you don’t know about my grandson”, the old woman plunged her stick into the ground and continued on her way.

    A few moments later someone appeared from the alley and came towards us. He took a breather and asked us if we had seen a passerby. I didn’t say anything, but Babu replied that we had seen an old woman who had come there earlier to find her grandson. The passerby was a young boy, his face turned red, “God’s curse be upon the old woman”, he said. “I have been looking for her for six months and I have always found her footprints, but she doesn’t appear before us. . I am her grandson and it is she who is missing, yet she says that she is looking for her grandson. Anyway, did she mention where she was going?”

    The hunter pointed towards the direction the old lady had walked towards. And the young lad went on his way.

    I asked the peon if he thought the two were ghosts or human beings?

    Babu was silent. I looked up and Babu’s tongue was hanging out, his eyes were rolled and he was unconscious. I was terrified. I shook him hard. Left, right, upward downward but at last realized he didn’t have a heartbeat and he had died.

    I put on my sandals in shock and disbelief and grabbed the hunter’s gun, put it on my shoulder and ran at a full speed like a madman for about an hour until I saw a village. I went towards the direction of village and saw a muddy porch under the shade. When I got there, I saw that Babu was sitting there before me. I said, “Babu you hadn’t died under the shade of the tree?”

    Babu, the hunter replied, shocked. “You dead or me? Your tongue had come out and your eyes were up. That is why I came here to bring ask people to carry your body.”

    I look at Babu, Babu looks at me. The porch was getting full with villagers. But I was afraid of those people. Because who was standing there but the old woman’s young grandson, gazing at me.