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CLEAR SKIES

II: Expect anything in life

The stories were told of how the father of our village once came down the mountain top after so many seasons away, hidden from his own people on his long drawn out self exile. He was now a fully grown up man and actually wanted to return to his people because he was lonely. He had thought about it and came down well prepared. He took with him lots of gifts. He had with him lots of dried fruits, feathers from hunted birds and dried bird and monkey meat.

He also had large sharp monkey bones for tools and dried up monkey blood; he had grounded into powder for body paint. He had with him tree gum and monkey hide, monkey body fat for body oils and plaited ropes from freshly cut tall grasses bark. He had tied everything into one huge bundle and lowered it down the mountain side with a very long thick rope he had plaited. He tied the end of the rope to a huge tree on the mountain and used the rope to climb down the mountain.

Once down, he hid his gifts, waited till it was dark and walked in the cover of the darkness into the village of his indigenous people on the vast plains beneath the mountain. These are people of his childhood, from the village he had run away from so long ago. The stories were sketchy and it is not too clear what happened on his return back to his childhood village; though it was obvious that he was not recognized.

After being away for so many seasons and only returning when he was already a fully grown man; clearly not the same small shy boy that ran away from the village long ago. He was not recognized. His bad speech was worse and his words could not be understood. It was said that his body smelt offensively and his hair was very unkempt. His badly cut lower lip appeared wider. He must have been a very repulsive and scary sight with his face covered in uneven facial hair.

They must have been suspicious of him and his intentions. That must have been why they chased him away with stones and sticks. It is said that he was stoned, beaten and pursued out of the village. He ran for his life for the second time in his life time; for the second time from the same village, villagers and his own people. He vowed there and then, never to run again. He promised himself that for the remaining seasons of his life time, he would never run again and he never did. He was determined to be the aggressive chaser next time instead.

He spent that night beneath the mountain, beside his bundle of gifts, where he had hid it. Morning came with his final decision taken. He decided to be vengeful. He swore and vowed to have the whole people in the village pay for the way they had treated him. He swore loudly to himself that he will make sure they all die and forfeit their comfortable village for what they had done to him. It was then he made a grand plan to start his own village up on the sacred mountain.

He decided to originate and grow his own descendants, a specialized breed of the most fearless people up on the mountain, hidden away high up and covered up by his old village’s myth of the sacred mountain. In their revered fear and worship they would never climb up the mountain. He would beat drums and the village people below the mountain would say the Gods were singing. He laughed with the thought and he was so happy with the idea. He stayed in the shadows all through the next day and did not climb back up the mountain yet.

He knew that to start a village of his own, he must have a woman. So he waited until it was dark again on the second day and then he stole back into the silent village. As almost the whole villagers converged together in a small clearing, beside a huge fire, telling funny stories, he sneaked into a hut and quietly stole away with two young girls as they slept. He had discreetly tied and gagged them up before they woke up and carried them away quickly, without being seen. He left the still sleeping girls beside his bundle of gift, by the mountain side.

He had already tied up the end of the rope he had descended with to his bundle of gifts, all ready for lifting from the mountain top. Leaving the tied and gagged sleeping girls beside the mountain, he hurriedly returned back in the darkness, to sweep off and wipe clear his tracks, by walking backwards while haphazardly sweeping his foot-prints with a broken short tree branch. A coincidental very brief heavy rainfall that soon followed his quick attempt to disguise his nefarious activity, further conspired to cover up his tracks pretty well.

Then he strapped both the young girls to his back before climbing up the mountain with the rope he had descended with. It was a real mean feat, but he was a very strong young man. Though he had to rest several times on the way back up, he managed to make it all the way back up by using the strong plaited rope with such dexterity. He had managed the ascent with such animalistic skills that made his outwards appearance seem more like a monkey in human disguise.

By dawn he was already on top of the mountain and had pulled back up his bundle of gifts after him. He then set about removing the fresh leaves he had gagged the girls with but delayed untying his captives, as he forcibly fed them fresh fruits amidst their frightened cries. They had woken up as he ascended and had struggled to free themselves all the way up, but since he had tied them up and gagged their mouths well enough, he was able to make it up the mountain with much less difficulty than would have been the case if he hadn’t restrained them.

As he fed them, they still continued to struggle. But after they choked a number of times, they simply ate and drank quietly eventually. He had kept them tied up, without gagging them this time. When he was all done, he felt so drained and afterwards he slept all day long. The two girls had remained tied up for quite a while until he was satisfied they wouldn’t try something silly or stupid. He had to be sure for their own safety too. Soon the girls fully comprehended their situation and like it is usual with children, came to terms with it.

As our village on top of the mountain grew and became a populated community, it very naturally lived for this sole old revenge of our founding father. Old as the village’s existence, this revenge governed the whole existence of our village on the mountain top. We practically lived it and for it. It had conceived us, nourished us and it is us. When I was a little girl, a boy I was purely coincidently seated beside one cold Story night, asked the Eldest what the name of our village is. Without any warning, the old man picked up a large pebble and threw it with such force at the boy. It missed him and hit my fore-head. I bled from the cut of the impact of the sharp stone. I still have the cut it had made on my fore-head. It had healed to leave this straight short vertical mark on my fore-head, which has since been admired by so many as a beauty mark, and I had since pretended it is.

It has always been considered a great taboo to even make reference to a name for our village because it was considered only a temporary abode, until we conquered our real village at the foot of the mountain. Hence naming it, would insinuate otherwise. All the boys of our village are routinely trained in physical combat. The village has maintained armory, consisting of the most diverse arsenal of the crudest contraptions of dangerous weapons. The founding father of our village fashioned out a comprehensive plan that had as a key part of it, the military training of the entire male population.

Systematically, generations of boys were taught the act of war, trained as fighting men. They steadily grew into a fairly big army of strong fearless men that would be needed for that final war. Only the current serving Eldest has the generational privilege of knowing the predetermined exact number of warriors required and fixed by the grand plan of the founding father of our village. Only he will determine when it is the right time for the final war; that one impending war we all called ‘The return’. It is the war that will seek our long sought revenge. We all awaited it for it with hidden mixed feelings, even though we were all conditioned to pretend we didn’t.

The father of our village spoke badly. His ability to talk clearly had never been good. His speech was impaired by the cut on his lower lip from birth. The two wives he kidnapped had clearer speech initially, but since they were still quite young when they were forcibly taken from their family and hadn’t completely developed their speech then, they spoke loosely too and their vocabulary was quite limited as well.

The family they all started had no option but to learn a kind of speech that was a hybrid of their father’s impaired speaking and their mothers’ adolescent vocabulary. Hence their off-springs also spoke in this disjointedly impaired, undeveloped and limited manner. This eventually made the language of the entire village sound funny and with fewer words than is normal for any tribe. We had a hugely depleted vocabulary and we used sounds to mainly register feelings.

Sixteen children in all were borne by these first two kidnapped girls. Nothing is known of which of them had what number of children or amongst their children, how many wives a brother took from his own sisters in the second generation of the family that pioneered our close knit village on the mountain. It wasn’t stated if the founding father did or didn’t add to his two wives from the ranks of his daughters. It was known that no one came down or up the mountain ever again and that there were just six brothers and ten sisters in the second generation. It was the father of our village that out-lawed marrying more than a single wife, around the time of the second generation.

So we know six of those first ten sisters would have married their six brothers, leaving four unmarried sisters. But it is also known that all the ten sisters had no less than six children each. So we speculate the rest of the story. Brothers had since made wives of their sisters and it is still one woman to one man. The communal coupling rite isn’t new and it was said to have been necessitated by certain skirmishes. The unmarried free girls are still only permitted to conceive at the special combined village ceremonies and give birth to their claimed children.

My only brother is much older than me and already had a wife, so he could not shield me from the shame of the humiliating rejection I lived with. He is not the sort for such strong protective masculine actions. He is a timid emotional sort and was not the type to seek redress through any form of violence. He is the last person to rely on if such act of bravado was required. He was however the most sympathetic of my situation, though he didn’t vocalize it.

The moon lit the village well on its full days. Its gray light reflects on the rocky surroundings and casts a glow that is friendly to the eyes. It embraces the cold nights and calls out the villagers to play. To warm up the people, a dance is often called on such cold moon lit nights and a Story telling night is declared if it is a warm moon lit night.

On these Dancing nights the old and elderly clapped and sang along, as the young danced. The pregnant girls are made to join in the dancing because the older women always said a good exercise eases a child’s passage and a mother’s pains. One of the first things I realized on the next set of moon lit dancing nights, was that no one urged me to dance as usual and I was left to sit alone on my own. Then I heard the words of the new song the new free girls were singing and I knew I was not special anymore. My time of honour had passed and I had turned into a joke, a ridiculed clown for silly songs.

In the new song, they sang of a beautiful bird that once sang and danced well, but it is now all alone and will die alone. The bird is alone because all its mates had been caught and eaten up by the Gods. Only the bird was left alone because of its pride. It wasn’t chosen and it must now die of loneliness, nursing its single egg that will never hatch. The song did not worry or bother me, but seeing my father clap to the tune and the rest of my family joyfully dance and sing along to the words of the song too, was very painful. I felt like the father of our village must have felt. I comprehended his feelings and I was hurt so deeply like he must have been, those so many seasons ago.

My father had told me that the father of our village’s last living child had died only two nights before my great grandfather was born. This second generation son of our founding father was buried differently. His burial vigil was said to be the longest ever held. It had lasted two full nights. It is said that his bones were not displayed and shown to the village until the dawn of the second night. His were the only bones dropped down the steepest end of the mountain at dawn, when the whole world was well lit up and not at night like it is usually done.

We were told the gathering watched as vultures feasted on his flesh, placed on the highest peak of the highest hill on the mountain. Usually people go about their chores as the vultures descend, but his was a symbolic vigil, unique in every sense. I sort of reflected on this as my peers began to let out their babies, one after the other. My own full burden was now large; my skin fully stretched out thin at the place it was housed. The other new mothers received guests bearing gifts from all over the village as I waited for my turn to let out my child. One hot night it was my turn and it was almost easier than I thought and feared it would be. I had eased my child out with little prompting, restrained quiet screams and lots of exaggerated panting.

Then my situation dawned on me when I held you in my arms, not inside me. For days no one came to see us to wish us well, besides my family. No guests came or little gifts sent; even from friends. I knew I was wrong to expect anything in life and right to expect anything. People will only strife for their own good and can be unfair if it doesn’t concern them. Most of those we think are good, are often not worth trusting. I knew I will never trust people again. My people are my family. If I cannot trust them, then who do I trust? My son;

‘Expect anything in life,
In its all human strife.
That very fair sort
Are often so very not.’

(2 PARTS TO GO)

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