An extremely narrow lane passed bordering my ancestral house. During rainy season, it served as the water course for the excess run-offs from a vast meadow that lay two km away. The lane during the nights of those days would be with full of people flashing torches to catch the fishes. Only from March till June, it remained dry.
It was probably the month of April. I would be then barely 6 or 7 (now I am 57). Electricity was a far cry. Night descended as soon as sun set. Kerosene lamps burnt within the confine of houses till people ate their evening meals. Periodic barking howls of jackals from the nearby jungles broke the otherwise mystic stillness of night. Households remained ever alert for their chickens, goats and tender calves as anytime the jackals might enter the village. At times, a few hyenas also strayed into the habitats.
I had caught a very nasty fever. It was there for several days. In one night, I was laid on the verandah in a semi-conscious state. My mother was pouring water on my head for hours. Yet the fever showed no sign of remitting. I was extremely weak and exhausted. Lying in that position, I was silently bearing with my depleting state.
Just then I became vaguely aware of some sounds of conversations. With a great effort, I half-opened my eyes and felt that some people were passing through the lane with a petromax lamp. I asked my mother who were they and where they were going at this hour of night. At first, she was reluctant and when I insisted, she said that a small boy of my age was not well. Today evening he died and these people were carrying the body to burry in the meadow.
‘But why he would be buried?’ I asked as I knew by then that the bodies of a few old people who died in the village were taken to the meadow only to be cremated. ‘He was too young to be cremated,’ mother replied.
Instantly, I experienced a chilling sensation that shivered my entire body. That it might also happen to me if the fever continued unabated...