The birds chirped delightedly welcoming the dawn of the uniquely Square shaped village called Vahiri. At the very center of the village a “suddenly naturally formed”, or as claimed by the villagers was a hill that was filled with pasture.
The darkness was still blanketed over the hill where the villagers dared not to go. Many stories were flying around regarding the single occupant of the hill, an old lady called Kamba, who lived in a tiny shack all by herself. She was claimed to have killed the village Sarpanch’s elder brother Ravula. People believed that she practiced black magic. Many years ago she used to come down the hill to beg. People passing by the foothill were never spared. Either they had to give her whatever she asked for or they were cursed to meet with some unfortunate events.
Many people claimed she was the one who had been cursing the land all the while. Agriculture used to be the primary occupation of the people there. But recurring droughts had turned away many villagers from Vahiri, who had settled outside trying their luck with other set of blue collar jobs. As a result, not many people were left in Vahiri. And the ones who weren’t able to move out of the village made sure they never passed by the accursed hill.
Also the word was rampant among the villagers that summers gave Kamba the extra power to invoke the demon. The villagers believed that ever since she had stepped into the village, summers had been merciless and the death counts soared to uncontrollable level.
The old Sarpanch of the village, Lankesh, had strictly banned his people from going nearby the hill. Not even to get water from the fresh stream that ran over the hill in spite of the village experiencing water scarcity year after year.
This year too, the onset of summer had already started its course of heat attack. With the lakes and wells all dried up, the people of Vahiri were suffering yet another parched season. Everyone including the cattle was dying out of thirst. That included the 13 year old, Sukhi, an orphan girl, who had come to Vahiri two years ago in search of meagre jobs. She somehow used to support herself by stealing crops from the farms and indulging in shoplifting. People were aware of her activities and thus shunned her away whenever she approached them for any kind of help in finding a job. Not caring much she used to find her own ways to meet the ends. This year however she was reduced to begging for water from the villagers as none of the water body even had an ounce of water.
Sukhi, unable to bear the killing thirst, decided to trek the hill.
Reaching atop, she stealthily made way to the forest ahead from where she heard the gushing of the stream. Just then her eyes fell on a hut right before the forest. Sukhi had heard stories about a “Witch” living in a hut on the hill. Scared that the hut might be of hers, Sukhi tiptoed to the forest. She noticed a Square shape drawn outside the hut in a white powder. She quietly passed by the hut and reached the stream where crystal clear water welcomed her to quench her thirst.
She quickly filled her pot with water and took some water by her hands to drink.
Sukhi was startled to hear that. She turned around and saw an old lady in an extremely fragile condition holding a stick as a support. She offered a glass of water.
“You are the “Witch”; right?” Sukhi was scared.
The old lady looked disappointed. She turned back to go.
“Wait.” Sukhi hurried to her and drank the water the lady offered.
“You are Kamba; right? What do you do all alone here?”
“Who said I am all alone? God is by my side to whom I pray every day to save you all.”
“You pray for us? But you never let anyone pass by your side without demanding anything from them. You also curse them if they don’t give you…”
“I ask them nothing except a lotus flower with thousand petals that grows in your village pond. If only someone gave me that I swear I would save the village from your Sarpanch Lankesh who is turning every single villager into a demon.”
“What?” Sukhi was confused.
“Yes. I killed Ravula, Lankesh’s elder brother because I got to know that he was actively trying to wake up a demon that is sleeping under this hill for thousand years. Now Lankesh is doing that. Lankesh and Ravula… both are devil’s apprentice. If you don’t believe me, go and check outside his house. A black coloured Square shape rangoli would have been drawn. Black is the colour of the devil and Square shape represents our village.”
The dark black coloured Square shape drawn outside Lankesh’s house cleared all Sukhi’s doubts regarding Kamba. She soon hurried to the dried up village pond and looked for the lotus with thousand petals. After searching much, she found one growing in a bog. Sukhi plucked it, cleaned it up, and headed straight to Kamba.
Kamba was too happy to receive the flower. She quickly went to the drawn white Square and placed the flower in the center. “I waited for 30 long years for this.” She then looked at the white powder of the Rangoli that started turning grey.
“Rangolis have both the power to invoke good and bad spirit. But…” She stopped speaking and glared at Sukhi. “The Rangoli is saying it’s too late.”
“Maybe it’s right.” Sukhi sounded relaxed. “Maybe summers have nothing to do with invoking the demon as the villagers believe. Maybe the demon resting under the hill has already woken up. Maybe the demon has taken the form of a female.” Sukhi smiled devilishly as the Rangoli started burning.
Written by Uma Chandrasekar