The red Red Hill and the white White Hill have come together
and formed our village pond. Gangamai is her name.
On three sides of it a, maze of shrubs, plants and trees
that makes a wanderer lose his way. And within it,
a million screams and screeches of dog, foxes, pigs,
parrots, and nightingales. To each one its own
portion of air, rain, light, grove, shrub, green,
food, fear, sleep and sex.
A colony of bats hang from the tops of the trees on the banks.
And you can see their crooked reflection in the waters below.
Perennial movement of generations of flies, mosquitoes and insects.
A trade of giving and taking and killing, at a comfortable price.
Water—on which no breeze blows, where no big waves rise
or has no outlets to flow—whispers among the roots of the old tree,
and in the drains and gutters of the village, and in the bubbles
that burst on the crab white mud.
Once the boil in the east bursts oozing blood and pus
the movements commence here: tiny snakelets of waves
arise, turnabout, break and bend, intertwine and move apart.
The reflections of the bats are torn into a thousand lines
and lose their form and gyrate in shriveled shapes.
Hundreds of cranes standing on their single legs
hop around in slimy water picking out and eating fish
that float with their bellies gleaming.
People start using this water—for drinking and for bathing;
for washing their cattle covered with dung and urine;
for washing the feet of Beerappa, our holy father,
for washing the ebony body of Karewa, our divine mother;
for washing one’s bums of shit and piss;
for the holy dip of Brahmin widows. And
the village priest takes asipor two to cleanse himself off his sins.
People use this water for all this, and everything else.
Total amount of water taken out of the pond, every day,
returns to the pond through the drains of each house and hut
this daily transaction is the miracle of our pond.
Even this pond has a host of ashtakas, labaris, sahasranamavalis
legends and myth woven like plaits by village Brahmins;
this is Mother Ganga who washed the grime of Lord Shiva,
cleaned the thighs and ears: of that ancient sage,
she descended from the heavens and trapped herself here
She brought with her holy sand, mud and bacteria from heaven,
and also the mirror of illusion for us that makes us mistake
a piece of rope as snake. She is: great indeed:
She has powers indeed.
She will make the bronze coin rust the moment you dip it here,
and if you rub it again she will turn it to gold,
or create an illusion that it has become gold;
if a barren woman takes just three sips of water from here
she is sure to become pregnant. She swallows young lads
with their bicycles who were trying to learn how to pedal.
When a padre said, “Jesus walked on these waters,”
descended on to the body of an untouchable woman
and said, “yes, it is true.”
The bottom of this pond, unfathomable, beyond the nether worlds,
is not just mud and slime and stones. If any one says so
worms will fester his tongue. Its bottom is nothing but
a heap of pearls and rubies. There are four or five heroes
of our village who were bold enough to take a plunge
and reach the bottom, it is said they enjoyed the company
of naginis, have now become idols for worship
and stories for ballads. They are worshiped on every full-moon day.
Fish, it is said, having swallowed pearls and rubies,
can not digest that sin and float with their bellies turned upside.
For that to happen people wait day and night,
do a tapas standing on one leg like a baka.
At present this pond is the haven for bastard baby-Karnas,
and for their frightened mothers. This is true. These people
who do not merit a tomb or cremation
float upon the waters for three days and three nights,
and only then, Mother Ganga opens her eyes.
And then the body of those said persons
become food for fish. Their souls climb up
the branches of trees on the bank, swing head down
like bats, and are recruited to the troupe of personal guards
of Mother Ganga who keep a watch on the heaps of pearls
rubies and other treasures. There is no evidence for all this
in the books of bhatta, or in the songs of shepherds.
But, the bhatta says orally, all this is so.