LONG SHADOW (WEP AUGUST, 2020)

Hola friends. This piece of flash is part of the WEP August 2020 Challenge, the prompt for which is ‘Long Shadow’. If you would like to be a part of this challenge and more in future visit here. Thank you to all the wonderful hosts of WEP. I love being a part of WEP!

Before I begin, just a little note. The setting of the story is a small village in Himachal. While names of places have been retained, the legend mentioned in the story is a piece of the writer’s imagination. I hope you will enjoy this take on the prompt.

LONG SHADOW

“This feather… where do you think she may have found it? I thought the birds had bid goodbye to this valley long ago!”

“My concern isn’t that Rimjhim discovered a brilliant plumage but that she looked for one… you do know what that means, don’t you?” Nirmala’s eyes drifted to the deodars outside the window.

“Don’t you worry! Do you see the Deo Tibba* out there?” Nikka Ram waved to the ranges perched behind the wooden walls of his tiny shack. “It guards our tiny village Rumsu, and nobody can ever escape its dome shaped peak. That is where the congregation of our Gods meets…”

“Your Gods couldn’t hold my son back,” Nirmala hit the ladle on the edge of the karahi.

“Woman, you need to get your facts right. The mountains can never be left behind. Those who dare leave their fold, must return. Now, I need to go and let the elders know that we have a jujurana** feather back home. I’m not giving away any of this without being rewarded.” Nikka Ram slipped his foot into a worn out rubber chappal. “And while I’m away, get hold of your girl and ask her!”

“Ask her what? Should I ask her where she found a useless feather belonging to an endangered bird, or should I ask her if she is all set to run away just like her brother and leave her old parents to lament all their life? You know collecting these rare plumages is symbolic of a new life she may be on the lookout for! Why don’t you care?”

Nirmala stood at the door, the ladle ranting and raving in her hand as her voice rose to a crescendo. Nikka Ram was already out of earshot . He was a tall man and it took him barely a few steps to reach the next bend. He would demand a good price for the plumage and maybe someday he would find the bird too! That would mean at least a year’s ration and of course, his name would appear in the papers for having added to that miniscule number of jujuranas in the state. Or at least, to the rare collection of their feathers.

‘But only if that stupid woman would mind her own business. What a mess she had made of it last time. Running helter-skelter like a lunatic, blaming it on a mere bird… “The bird’s taken my son away, the bird’s taken him away!” Crap. Young boys always want to move out of a chit of a village and find a life for themselves. But the mountains…they make sure to bring them home. A year, two, ten, fifteen- nobody ever escapes the rugged ranges. It’s for the very reason that the Gods parley on the top of the Tibba. They pull you back to the verdant meadows and imposing oaks… this time I am making no mistake. Neither am I going to let a crazy woman spoil it for me. I will get my due for this unusual find.’

Nirmala’s gaze was fixed on the door when Nikka Ram returned.

“Rimjhim isn’t back. I tell you it is the plumage. The jujurana doesn’t forgive those who secretly nurture the desire to own the bird. Legend says it follows them like the long shadow of late afternoons until they become endangered…or extinct. The bird’s taken my daughter away, the bird’s taken her away!” she said, looking at him with her bloodshot eyes. Her face was blotchy and red. Was it because of the onions in the karahi that had turned to ashes? She bent down, falling to the ground.

“That is no more than your imagination woman. Your girl will be back. If not today, then tomorrow, day after or may be ten years later. But the plumage, we won’t get this opportunity again. They are paying me good money. The last time you had your way. I am not letting you throw away that feather in a god forsaken place this time.”

Nikka Ram turned over the only chest in the house. “Now tell me where is it? The fellows are waiting for me and I must take it to them. I’m going to ask the Gods to get your children home. Just help me get done with this.”

He had overturned the cauldrons and emptied the rice canister. The clatter of utensils pricked through Nirmala’s cochlear membrane. Before she could react, Nikka Ram pulled her up, pushing her tiny frame against the wall.

“Look woman, you threw away the plumage last time. It’s been three years and your son isn’t back. I tell you, there is no truth in the legend. The mountains are going to bring them home. Their shadow hangs over all of us… over all of Rumsu, over your children. The Tibba will never desert them…just tell me once…”

“Yes, the shadow hangs over them,” a sob tore through Nirmala’s throat. “But it isn’t your Gods, it’s the jujurana. Trust me, it’s the bird.”  Nirmala looked up at the lone bulb hanging from the ceiling of the shack.

 The fog rolled into the night outside as the shivering pine needles glided in the wind.

One of those trees held an exotic orange plumage, buried in the hope that it might return to its owner. An invisible jujurana flew past the hut, casting its shadow over the heart of a lonely woman.

   The old shack was home to a noisy riot that night. A striking contrast to the silence of the Tibba, where the Gods whispered to each other only to be heard by an angry, battered man.

*********************

*Deo Tibba – a mountain range in the Pir Panjal in Himachal, India

** jujurana- The Western Tragopan, called jujurana in local language. An endangered bird that is also the state bird of Himachal Pradesh.

Total words – 975

FCA

67 Comments on “LONG SHADOW (WEP AUGUST, 2020)

  1. It has a folktale-ish fantastical air to it. It’s beautiful and it takes us to a faraway place like you see in dreams. Or that’s what I felt!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Apologies Sonia, for this late visit to your cleverly crafted Long Shadow tale – and congratulations on your Encouragement Award. I love the feeling of modern folktales like this. This echoed Slavic tales about the prized feathers of the Firebird, which I echoed in my IWSG Anthology story, Feathered Fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A beautiful take on the long shadow amidst mountains with jujurana/ tragopan. The old mountain tales and beliefs are well represented in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sonia – it was a wonderful story … I loved the imagery … so well done on your Encouragement award – all the best – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: WEP August- Encouragement Award – A Hundred Quills

  6. I am very happy to be the first of many to congratulate you on your WEP award. I loved the way you wove mythology through your tale, and it has been something which has returned to me again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am very happy to be the first of many to congratulate you on your WEP award. I loved the way you wove mythology through your tale, and it has been something which has returned to me again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: a hundred quills- behind the scenes & the journey ahead – A Hundred Quills

  9. Upon revisiting this, I see the comment I tried to submit didn’t make it. Technology doesn’t always love me, but I thought I’d give it a go again. Better late than never, right?

    This story is beautiful, and your writing is fantastic. Your descriptions transported me. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Sonia – wonderful weaving of myth and truth … ancient and difficult modern – the need to find new ways. Your story so reminded me of a film I saw nearly a year ago ‘Children of the Snowland’ – of children who need to be sent away from their Nepalese homes to get some schooling … but the journey is too long and once gone, they can only return occasionally … but is part of their tradition/culture. It’s an accepted way of life for them … but I can quite see the link of finding the bird which owned the feather … beautifully told and reminded me of Snowland and other films I’ve seen on the Himalayan area of the world. Thank you – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A story that draws the reader in – leaving home in whatever way is always difficult for the leaver and the stayer. I enjoyed reading your piece.

    Like

  12. This was beautiful and poignant and I am so impressed by your creation of a myth around a bird as fascinating as the Trogapan. The theme is relevant too, the young people of the mountains want to go and see the world, experience the excitement but, as the man says, they invariably return, drawn back to the beauty and the peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love discovering new myths like this. Very imaginative and enjoyable with the dueling points of view on the feather. Thanks for sharing this story and piquing my interest in a place I’d never heard of.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hello Sonia. This was fascinating. The theme of seeking independence was well wrought. Clever of you to create your own myth. I’m sure we’d all like to know more about the jujurana. Thanks for giving us a definition. As one of the commenters said, you could have taken this to even higher heights with more description of the mountains, but even without this, a riveting tale that many will be touched by as you’ve used a universal theme. Thanks for a great entry for August WEP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Denise. I agree with both of you. A brief on the mountains would do good. The flash limit was there but I plan to make this longer and will keep this in mind. Happy WEP

      Like

  15. I love the myth you’ve created here where superstition becomes solace for a mother against the natural desire of a child for independence. Wrapped in with the greed and frustration of a father who perhaps wishes he also could have escaped once.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Loved the story Sonia… Hope, despair,greed, longingness and the likes are like those dew on the pines… A whiff of wind and one or the other is definite to cast it’s shadow on you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi,
    A provoking story of a legend and of greed. I smiled as I read the tale because greed has been running throughout humanity for a very long time.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The cold, verdant valleys and mountains were visible through the words. Entire story I expected an allegory – return of feather to the Western Tragopan and return of the children to mother. Yet mother’s superstition built on a natural reality is enough take away for me.
    Regards,
    sanhita.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sanhita. I did not wish to reiterate any kind of belief…Be it the father’s or the mother’s. Hence I left it there.

      Like

  19. Beautiful. And a brilliant take on the prompt. Loved the mythology of the mountains and the jujurana. I’m firmly with Olga, give them roots and give them wings and let them go when they are ready 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Nilanjana. Yes, parents must come to terms with the leaving of children. They aren’t trees that wouldn’t move.

      Like

  20. Beautifully written Sonia. Good use of dialogue. Would have enjoyed a few more descriptive passages of the mountains and meadows. She’s never going to give the feather up, is she ?. Happy WEP week.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Perhaps when we are young and hopeful, we are all inclined to follow the Jujurana. Some of us come home.
    ~Cie from Naughty Netherworld Press~

    Liked by 2 people

  22. A very well woven tale. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I look forward to more tales and mysteries!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This story struck a chord in my heart. I was such a one. I left the security of my family and moved half a world away to be independent. And I took my young kids with me. And I never for a moment regretted this decision, no matter how hard it was to live without the safety net of the family, alone on another continent, even though my parents were not happy and urged me to return. I think it is very selfish on the parents’ part to try to tie the kids to their apron string.
    The mythology of this story is fascinating. The bare facts behind it – children moving away from parents – I could only applaud their bravery. I’m firmly on the children’s side of this conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

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