Kneeling on a small stool, hunched back, she rested her chin on the metallic frame of the window gazing at the mile-long straight stretch of concrete road running across her.
On either side, two protesting groups were separated unsymmetrically by the deserted strip of road. The right side, were the people from the Vrikanth state, demanding for water and the left were the Krikanth state who firmly refused to share their water resources.
The excruciatingly long period of drought had vaporized their economy and traumatized the health of the Vrikanth people, leaving them no choice but showcase their desperation for survival. A mass demonstration of this caliber would surely pinch the thick-skinned rulers into taking some action.
“Gampu, Gampu, Gampu” her mother called out to her frantically.
She immediately jumped out of her chair and ran to the kitchen.
“Stay with your brother now, how many times do I have to call you. Your brother is not feeling well. Stay there, I will get him some water. Go” as she squeezed and twisted the wet cloth, draining all the excess salt water into a small bowel.
Raku was lying on a mattress set up tightly against the corner of the room. The thin, long cracks appeared dark against the pale wall adjoining it. Aging rotating blades
Weak and barely conscious, a blanket was pulled up till his chest and his left leg crossed over his right like a withered leaf.
Gampu looking at her brother felt a chill down her spine, his condition had worsened considerably from just minutes before she drifted to the window. She couldn’t imagine her brother so weak. She couldn’t contemplate what was happening to her brother, but an overwhelming sense of sadness and fear had engulfed her.
The dim light from the overused coiled tube bounced of his shiny tachypnic chest as his prominent neck muscles contracted to maintain his breathing.
She watched her brother from a distance.
The mother rushed to her son and neatly spread the moist warm cloth on his forehead, trying to get the temperature down.
She placed her palm over his chest “Raku, Raku…….” She called softly, her words helping him open his eyes.
“Raku, drink a little bit more son………” she poured the salt water to his mouth gently through a metal spoon.
His eyes twitched and lips stretched back as he took a strainful gulp.
Gampu listened to the loud marching noises in the background as the angry public gathered themselves.
The mother rubbed her son’s chest, eyes barely moist as she examined the smooth contours of his face. His smooth, big forehead demarcated below by thin eyebrows, through the narrow midline forming a small depression, obtusely rising up to the rounded tip of his nose merging, gently sliding down to his widely parted lips down to his chin and running along the ill-defined jaw lines on either side to complete his well-padded face.
Only, if I had left this diseased town, my children would have lived a better life.
Images of Raku playing and reconstructing his favorite toy red car flashed in front of her eyes. He sometimes fixed a better motor, painted new colors, replaced thicker wheels and added miniature fan motors on the sides, so as to give it some extra speed.
And Gampu she could go to school, read her books and become whatever she wanted to.
If only I had left this town.
She felt a sharp stinging pain, behind the right ear as thoughts of regret and failure inundated her brain.
The city on the whole was on the brink of a major existential crisis.
Krikanth land had the major chunk of the river flowing through them, the dying tributaries branching out to Gampu’s state, so during the split of the states they had agreed for the states to use the water in their own territory except in conditions of drought or war.
if case such a circumstance should arise then the water would be fairly divided among the two states till the situation resolves.
The law was not yet implemented fully yet.
Only in times of such grave crisis, does human nature show true vulnerability and desperation, when he is stripped away from the basic elements of life, when he fights for survival, when he realizes he is just like any other life form on the planet who could be wiped away any moment by the forces of nature.
The Krikanths, saw this as an opportunity. They could achieve their futile goal from being the resourceful to the powerful.
They demanded a part of land in return for water.
The Krikanth territory armored their border with water tanks to prevent the demanding neighbors from entering their state.
A Vrikanth woman standing at the center of the frontline led the march slowly and steadily. They didn’t want any bloodshed. They were only asking for their survival.
The water pipes spraying high velocity, water jets would flush out anyone trying to cross the Krikanth territory.
The vrikanths were closing in steadily.
A loud squeal of the speaker, halted everyone.
A warning followed “Please do not attempt to cross our land in such huge numbers, demanding any resource of any matter.” A Krikanth man said. He wasn’t very threatening.
The Vrikanth frontline, progressed again. They weren’t going to stop unless they got an answer from the administrators.
“Let us not intrude each other’s space” came another vain warning.
The frontline was now within striking distance of the water pipes.
The Krikanths were given the go signal by the announcer.
A sharp gush of water with tremendous force left the pipes, in unison. The water lines piercing the air like arrows struck their targets with great effectiveness and precision.
The frontline was pushed back causing a chain reaction behind them.
It immediately disrupted the peaceful march causing panic and havoc.
Now the Krikanthis were pushing ahead with their tanks, ruthlessly spraying water from one end to the other, clearing the field line by line.
The vrikanths tried to stand their ground, but the frontlines were pushing back leading to heavy congestion, shoving and inevitably, causing a stampede.
Their limbs tangled, shoved, their chest compressed, ribs crushed, heads stomped over and over by their own people and bodies piled up in a small plateau.
The stampede would have catastrophic consequences for both of their economies.
Loud helpless screams spread terror though the city and to Gampu’s ear as she retracted from her mother to see the terror happening outside.
“Gampu, go see what is going on outside and be careful”
Raku’s abdomen spasmosed as a wheeze was let through from his mouth. He was very dizzy now, losing his consciousness.
“Raku, Raku……here take some water” she gently shook him twice.
His lips quivered, uttering inaudible words.
She placed the spoon, close to his mouth which he wasn’t able to open. The mother pursed his lips and poured the drops over.
“Raku……. Raku” she again shoved him little harder than before.
She wiped herself, maintaining her composure.
“Ma” Gampu called her at the same time.
“What is happening Gampu”. She shifted her attention to the outside.
“Ma, they are fighting with each other and spraying water from big vehicles.” She said bluntly, not able to express the seriousness of it.
Her life was a nothing but a consequence of a series of riots between intellectually differing groups
All she could do was hope.
From the opposite lane across the street, a middle-aged man seemed to be rushing to his destination. The riots seemed to have caught up with him as he was swallowed by the crowd.
The damages and consequences of this was never going to be salvaged by the government.
The crowd was being pushed back and the center of the riots was only a few meters away. He couldn’t wait any longer. He couldn’t take the long route as it would prolong his travel not guaranteeing safety as riots erupted at every corner.
He was trapped between riots from both ends closing in.
So, he dashed to the other side with his bag hanging from the side but unfortunately the water canon was beaming towards him now. A sudden forceful gush threw him to the floor, immediately followed by an elbow, a knee to his head and then there was darkness.
The riots were happening right in front of Gampu’s eyes.
Saddened by the sight, she herself returned back to her brother.
Gampu’s weakened gait gave her mother all the answers.
Raku was barely moving now.
The mother placed her palm on his forehead and applied gentle pressure, still warm enough to keep her unsettled.
She hopelessly planted a kiss on her son’s forehead.
It was a tough journey for her, being a single mother. Gampu was 9, Raku 7. Both born during the separation of the two states. Their father, a political worker working who had worked for the separation of the states succumbed due to a chronic lung disease. He believed that the separation was necessary to lead a functional government, the two sides radically differing culturally and intellectually.
After her husband passed away, she worked as a caterer in the area, bringing in just sufficient income to raise the kids at home. The constant personal sorrow and the fact that she wasn’t going to contribute to a progressive society filled the void of her shattered dreams.
Her children were the only way she could build a legacy of her own.
It looked as if her journey was of a lone lioness, wandering on vast dry plains of the excrutiatingly, long summer. Starving to their deaths.
A loud banging on the door shook both of them. She carefully unlocked the door to see her bruised doctor who had wrestled his way out through the tumbling pile of human bodies to bring about a speck of hope in her life.