He abandoned me here, in this tenebrous compartment that smells of wood, varnish and diesel. Why did he change his mind suddenly? I thought he liked me, he wanted to make me his possession and was even willing to take me home.
Jacob Aravindan peered up and down the eerie looking highway that ran through the jungle. He had heard stories of packs of hyenas attacking passers-by in the night on the highway.He had bruises all over his face as his head banged on the windshield that had cracked into pieces. With humongous effort he reversed his truck after changing the damaged wheel. His vest was soaked in sweat and stained with blood.Aravindan could hardly see anything ahead. The low lying branches hitting on his face and the insects flying all around the driver’s cabin added to his misery. The truck teetered at snail’s pace. Before he could cross the state border the policemen at the check post signalled Aravindan to stop.
I hear strange howls, squeaks and chirps. A speeding herd of deer knocks on the timber chest and rocks me. The waist chain, the anklets and the thick bracelets that had almost become part of my body tightens closer. I hear something loud. Something that sounds so familiar and nostalgic.
Aravindan’s wife began to get worried as he didn’t pick her call.She lit an earthen lamp and prayed in front of Krishna, her favourite deity. She hadn’t converted yet. She had overheard a few of his conversations. She knew he was into a misadventure but didn’t have the guts to ask him. What if he kicked her belly again? She couldn’t afford to lose another child.
Aravindan is just one among the millions out there. It is better to be alone in this jungle than in the company of those greedy monsters. It is only in humans that I see diverse personas. The artisan who created me, my beautiful face, proportional curves, exquisite jewellery and the divine smile with unperturbed dedication and meticulous mastery, was a human too. Those priests who took care of me like their own child, pampering me with sandalwood paste and aromatic oil, decorating me with silken drapes and fragrant flowers everyday were human too. Ah! Their mantras and lullabies were music to my ears. Now I hear only owl’s hooting.
The ones who stood hands folded in front of me were my real entertainment. Their prayers were like mirrors of their mind.
I hear it again, isn’t it the trumpet of an elephant? Which direction is the elephant headed? It’s pitch dark in here. Where are the LEDs?At least an oil lamp would do. I want to see one of those, the elephants, that added royal stature to every king who entered the temple. The elephant reminds me of the days when my blessings were sought to kill the enemies. The principle that decided my status back then was simple-If I’m on their motherland I’m god, if I’m on enemy’s land, I’m loot.
Now that you know my identity let me enlighten you on how I ended up here in the middle of this jungle. I’m a 9thcentury Shiva idol. I was gifted to a priest in Thamaraikulam village by the then king of Thanjavur Province, Parandhaka cholan. The temple in Thamaraikulam was maintained well until last century. My shrine got dilapidated like 1000 others in the kingdom and huge trees invaded the stone structure gradually. The last heir of the family that took care of me, migrated to a different country last week. Had he taken me with him, I wouldn’t have missed my everyday pampering.There are no archives or records about the ancient temples and idols in the country and idols are being smuggled in lots and sold for fortunes.
Aravindan, while delivering all the smuggled idols at the Cochin port, decided to keep me as my artistic make attracted him. While driving back home through the jungle, his headlights didn’t work and he hit a tree.
The principle that marks my status has changed for bad over the centuries, irrespective of whether I’m on their motherland or not.If I can fetch them quick money, I’m loot.
If they like me I’m a show piece.I get encased for perpetuity in an alien museum.
Ifthe smuggler encounters a strange accident in the middle of the jungle, I’m god and need to be abandoned.
Terror-stricken Jacob Aravindan alighted the truck. He didn’t utter a word until the first aid was given. He was too terrified to cook up a story. He closed his eyes to pray but was not sure of which god to pray to.
“You are not supposed to enter the reserve forest area during the night.”
“Isn’t Ravichandran sir on duty, I know him?” Aravindan mugged up some courage.
He regretted the question immediately. He could have pretended ignorance.
“Where are your papers?” the cops turned suspicious.
The papers are with me, in the wooden chest that he put me in andthrew in the jungle. His phone was confiscated and it had pictures of the consignment he delivered at the port. Aravindan’sbelief in my powers grew exponentially. I was lying inside the wooden chest, on the jungle floor, precisely for three nights and two days.
Breaking News on Media read:
9thCentury Shiva idol recovered from the jungle. Truck driver turned approver. A Tamilnadu based seasoned smuggler, a smuggling kingpin based in Europe and their associates were arrested by the special wing appointed by the Inspector General of Police. Idols will be returned to the respective temples after verification formalities.
Archaeologists test my age and my citizenship is confirmed. I receive an extravagant welcome at Thamaraikulam as news about my powers spread like wildfire.
I stand there with a sanguine smile, wondering how many more centuries are left, till they realize that the invisible conscience of everyone praying inside my shrine, is where the omnipotence lies.
Pic Credit: Mathew Daniels.