Friday, October 3, 2014

The Idol

It was a glorious day. A beautiful morning. And she was ten years old today. Ten! How wonderful.
She jumped out of her bed and raced downstairs to her father’s workshop.
“I am ten today!” she squealed and launched herself into the idol-maker’s mud splattered arms. His days began early, with the festival just a month away. She could see the goddess coming alive. Those big, beautiful (and slightly intimidating) eyes just waiting to be painted open.
“Yes, you are. A big, big girl now”, her father smiled and tapped her nose.
“You remember your promise? You do? You do?” She hoped that he did. It was something that she had dreamt of all her life. And its fulfilment seemed so long in coming.
Her father’s smile deepened. Carrying her in his arms, he walked to a corner of the workshop, where something lay covered under a tarp. He set her down and pushed her forward.
“Go on. Pull off the cover.”
She first turned, with a smile beaming and blew a kiss. Then with a flourish, she pulled off the cover.
There stood the bamboo structure of a miniature idol. And next to it, sat a basket of clay. The same clay that the idol-maker used to create gods and goddesses.
“Thank you! Thank you”, she first shouted and then whispered. Finally she could also make her own goddess.
The goddess was so beautiful in her home. And what a home it was. Shaped like an iridescent lotus, with the lightest pink deepening into a glowing mauve.  The goddess herself sat amongst dark purple stamen that rose out of the lotus’ centre, while the lotus floated in a pond of mirrored flowers. The leaves that shaded the goddess, started at the base of the lotus and were a work of art by themselves.
She was so proud. Proud of her father who had made the goddess and her uncles who had created her home.
And she was proud of herself. Because next to the goddess, sat a slightly misshapen but actually perfect miniature version of the goddess. And she had created this goddess.
One day, this goddess would grow as big, as strong, as powerful as her father’s. She will just have to protect the young goddess, bring her up the way her father was bringing his daughter up.
Today was the last day of the festival. She knew what happened today though she had never seen it with her own eyes.
“On this day, the goddess returns to her divine palace”, the idol-maker had explained to his four-year old, inconsolable daughter, many years ago. “But she will be back next year. Don’t cry, darling.”
“Where are all these men taking her, then?”
“She needs the shoulders of these strong men to find her way back, you see.”
“I can help, too.”
“When you are older, maybe.”
And today, finally, she was old enough to help the goddess on her return journey. With the older goddess, her young goddess also had to go, her father had explained. She was sad about that but next year, they would all return. And her own goddess would have grown bigger by then. The thought excited her.
The contingent reached the edge of the river and down went the goddess.
“No!” she screamed. They were drowning the goddess. They were murdering her. How would she return if she died.
The idol-maker lifted her. “It’s okay. Her path goes through water.”
“No, you are lying. You are killing her.”
“I am not, child. That is the way of the world. You are all grown now, aren’t you? Ten years old. Practically a lady. You have to learn the ways of the world.” With these words, he gently pried the small goddess from his daughter’s fingers and let go of the statue into the water.
The young girl stood, silent, mute. Her goddess sank into the muddy water, not even putting up a fight.
Slowly, the girl walked away from the murderous river. She was an adult now.
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