There is no rest for some

 

Part 3

 

I woke up early and joined my father and the villagers sending a cheerful Malligai off into the forest with baskets of fruits, ootthampoo (a pale violet wild flower) maalai’s (garlands) and burning incense sticks to be offered to the spirit, all collected at her bidding. She had applied a large patch of kumkum (vermilion) on her forehead and bhasma (ashes) on her arms, all of it to signify her purity of purpose and to protect her if the spirit turned nasty during the interaction. She had to go to her tryst before the first lights. It was a moment when the spirits were at their benign best.

 

We waited anxiously, but she was not gone for long.  Everyone was greatly relieved to see her return with safely life and limbs. She was immediately mobbed by everyone, with questions flying. “Are you OK?” “Did you see the spirit?” “Did it have legs firmly on the ground?” “Did it blink?” Malligai replied without any fluster to all the queries: “I went into the forest where Kurikkaarar had gone and immediately saw the thicket with the greenish glow and I went up to it. And soon enough, I saw the spirit. It was the spirit of a young woman. I asked her about her grievances. It is a really sad story. She was born and raised in Vakroor, (the village touching the far side of the forest). She was born to a rich landowner and grew up lacking nothing. Her father emblazoned their house with lights like it was Diwali (festival of lights) everyday because his daughter was afraid of the dark. Her parents had passed away some years ago and she lived with her uncle’s family who had moved in. One day when she was walking close to the forest, she suddenly felt a blow on her head and then felt weightless as though she was flying. She looked back she saw her body lying collapsed on the ground and her servant Azhagan running away. Since then, her spirit roams the forest seeking justice. She does not know why her servant killed her. She wants justice and we can give it to her.” Everyone was a little shaken to hear this story.

 

After some discussion, a plan was put forward: My father and other elders from both the villages would get Azhagan somehow into the forest that evening. Hopefully, with some help from the sprit, he would confess to his crimes and seek pardon or accept some punishment. Contact was made with the elders from Vakroor. There was indeed a young girl whose body was found couple of days ago at the outskirts of the forest bludgeoned to death and there was in her household a servant named Azhagan. The elders persuaded the missing girl’s uncle to send the servant into the forest on the pretext of an errand. At the appointed time, the group was in wait for Azhagan to enter the forest. But there was no sign of Azhagan. Some hours later, Azhagan’s body was discovered on the way to the forest. His head was battered with a heavy piece of wood discarded by his side. Everyone assumed that the spirit had finally its vengeance. There was no splash of blood or gore, which strongly pointed to the handiwork of the spirit. When Malligai went out to check, she found the spirit still weeping. The spirit claimed that she had nothing to do with his death and justice had still not been served.

 

It was back to square one. Everyone was perplexed as to the strange developments. The constabulary from the near-by town was called in. The killer wooden baton was readily traced as coming from the uncle’s house. The needle of suspicion strongly pointed at the uncle who perhaps had committed the crimes, possessed by greed for the property inherited by the girl. Initial questioning did not yield any definite answers. It was decided to get the uncle’s entire household including the servants out into the forest and to seek the spirit’s help. As they all assembled at the haunting site of the spirit, a severe gust of wind suddenly kicked up out of nowhere like a giant blowing his breath from close, the trees lashed and bent like reeds. In under a minute it claimed a tall heavy tree as its first victim. All ran helter-skelter, screaming and getting out of the way of the crashing tree. The falling tree trunk pinned down a shrieking servant to a gory end on the ground. And with same suddenness the ravaging wind pulled out giving way to a mild and balmy breeze. When they re-assembled together a little dazed by the quick churn of events, Malligai asserted that the spirit had equaled the score and would have found her peace. There was nothing more to fear. So it was. There were no further encounters with the spirit. 

 

Subsequent inquiry revealed that the now-dead servant had tried to strike up relationship with the girl, mindless of his station and had been roundly rebuffed. Not able to take the rejection, he decided to ‘teach’ her a lesson. He persuaded Azhagan, on the promise of money, to sock her unconscious and take her to a hideout in the forest. Azhagan had overdone it, killing the girl. When he realized that Azhagan would soon finger him to the police, he had silenced Azhagan to cut the trail.

 

Normalcy returned and people went about their daily chores as before though the episode remained as a conversation piece for a long time.

 

The fair went on to be very successful. A record number of people came to the fair. There was gaiety and merriment all around.

 

Soon after, I joined medical school and went on to become a doctor, cut from my moorings.

 

(To be contd.)

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