Many of the significant civilizations of the past who had written language compiled sets of sacred texts. Often lengthy, these collections served various purposes, such as commemorating great people and great deeds, instilling central values and beliefs into new generations, and organizing the practice and system of religion. The Ramayana is one of the great Indian texts, commemorating the legend of the prince Rama. For more information, check out this site. In today’s post, Indian author Divyank Jain weaves a remarkable story of his own using themes found in the Ramayana.
In a City Made of Gold
The city was said to be the most beautiful city in the world and was made of gold. But, that night a shadow flew across its high-hanging roofs, and later, all you had once admired about the city was broken and sunk into an ever-spreading fire. Like the hands of a yellow monster, flames were only rising and ruining everything that came in their way. And then, there was nothing beautiful about the city except the stars above. Sadly, no one was looking at them. People were busy running across the street, screaming as their clothing caught fire and many died while sleeping in beds as roofs fell onto them, mercilessly. Then, the cloud of smoke enshrouded the city and there were no stars, no beauty.
In spite of this, many lonely souls had come and sat in the inn on their regular time but, strangely, not talking to each other today. That made them look like some cold-blooded non-humans. They were all right because they weren’t soldiers. Out there, the fear might have driven them crazy. Here, in the inn, they were busy–and sane.
He sat there with one of his old friends, and he was the only one there, who was looking out of the window. Afar, in the southern part of the city, the tall statues were burning like giant torches. The gold had melted down their sharply-carved faces, making them look like some tearing demons. Staring at them hurt his eyes. He lowered his eyes and shook his head, holding it in his palms.
“They hate us!” he muttered, looking down.
“Everybody hates his enemy.” said the tall soldier, who was sitting in front of him, with hands on the table. “Nothing new.”
“No, that’s a different kind of hating.”
“What kind of?”
“I don’t know,” said the small one, still looking down. “They call us demons.”
“We can be anything but demons. Look outside! Who are demons?”
“Maybe, they are right.”
“Maybe, because we don’t worship their gods,” said the small soldier who had both of their spears
, leaning against his chair, pointing towards him. Terrified, he looked at them and then moved his finger on the wetness of the mug while holding onto it.
The tall one refilled his mug from the pitcher.
“We worship the same black stone god, him that the prince had worshipped at the shore with his young arrogant brother. Didn’t you hear about it? Now they are coming to us.” He ended it with his laughter that echoed in the inn. Everyone looked at him for a moment then they were drowned in their mugs.
“Oh, I heard it,” said the small one, still glancing down at the spear points. “Then, maybe it is because we kill people mercilessly.”
“We only kill our enemies. That does not make us demons. And I am sure they won’t shower their mercy upon us when they arrive here.” The tall one waved his hand in the air after emptying the pitcher into his mug. “Better we have as many drinks as possible before dying.”
An old man came, trembling, with a pitcher shaking in his hand. He placed it on the table and the tall soldier lifted it to refill his mug. He sipped the sweetness of grapes from the mug, closing his eyes. “Thank you,” the tall one said to the old man. The old man went away without answering. He seemed deaf and blind. But he, the small soldier, could recall the old man answering to all of his clients, politely.
“I said, have as many drinks as possible before dying,” repeated the tall one who was also a high-ranking soldier. “We all are going to die anyway.”
“They don’t stand a chance against us,” the small one said, shifting his eyes from the old man to his boots as he put down his mug on the table.
“What makes you think so?”
The tall one put down his mug with a thud.
“Our king!” said the small one, frowning. “I’ve not even heard of such a great king in my life.”
“Yes, He WAS indeed a great king and every other king across the world was afraid of him. So afraid that there are still stories about him having ten heads, ha-ha. A man with ten heads.” The tall one guffawed. He drank another and, as he put down the mug, spoke, “He was a great king but ruined by a woman.”
The small soldier said nothing and looked outside the window again and it was too hot to look there. He lowered his eyes and said, “We all are ruined by something.”
“Yes, but he is being ruined by a woman.” The tall one put his arm wide across the chair, wiping his mustaches, as he laughed.
The small soldier looked up at the commoners. Their faces, floating in the dim light of hanging lanterns, were stiff and unlike his, remained the same when there was more light that came from outside, occasionally. Sitting there, they don’t look like humans anymore, he thought.
“You know what ruined me?” the tall one asked abruptly.
“Fighting. I’ve fought more than twenty battles. I won most of them. That truly ruined me. Defeat doesn’t ruin you. That only makes you better. But, victory! Victory ruins you. You won’t understand it. You are too young to understand it.”
“Yes, I am.”
“But one day you will understand it.” The tall one refilled his mug and drank in a single breath and then
, refilled it again.
“Maybe,” answered the small one.
He saw him guzzling down it again and then he saw the faces of men sitting there with half-full mugs in their hands.
“Now, we must go,” the young soldier suggested.
“We better not throw ourselves in this fight,” said the tall one. “We’ve already lost it, see?”
“But, what about our duty?” he asked the tall one.
“Staying alive is the only duty we have as a human.” The tall one said and drank another mug. “That’s cowardly!”
“You have seen what a single shadow has done with this city. This city once was said to be unassailable. Then, a woman ruined it. All you need to do is drink and stay away from women and that won’t make you a demon.”
“I must go,” said the young soldier.
“What ruined you?” asked the tall one without listening to him.
“I don’t know,” the small one said, “See, for now, I am done.” the small one stood up. “We just started.”
“My gut is burning.”
“You cannot stand it. You must learn to stand things, boy, if you want to be a great soldier. But here, you can drink as much as you want and that won’t make you a demon.” The tall one said, mockingly.
“But, I cannot stay anymore.”
While the tall one drank another mug, the small one lifted both the spears, one in each of his hands, and went out without looking at his friend. As he stepped out there was still fire with flames as high as the tallest war elephant he had seen in this life. The gold of the city had been melted and licked by the yellowness and whichever corner he let his sight fall upon, cries were coming to him, deafening his ears. There were cries all around him and he didn’t know what direction he would go. Once, he thought of going back into the inn and having some more mugs emptied. That was the safest choice. The city was already ruined, maybe by a woman or by his king or by a shadow or by whatever. He cannot undo it. He stood there with closed eyes for a few seconds. That made him numb. He opened his eyes again. There were more flames. He stepped ahead. He only wanted to prove that he wasn’t a demon!
About the Author
My name is Divyank Jain. I’m an aspiring writer from India. By profession, I am a teacher and a sketch artist. I have been writing for three years and have written many short stories. A few of them have been published in local magazines and national anthologies. This is my first time publishing with an international journal and I’m excited for the future of my writing. My Instagram handle is @divyank.me.