I was told a story to, as a child. They say not just a story, but folk lore. About one pot-bellied beggar. Who begged for alms, fistfuls of rice and few coins if hardly ever fate implied good, across parched summer afternoons in homes inebriated of siesta. He held an umbrella of stitched palm leaves, above his shoulder, a walking stick with his one hand, and held out a bowl on the other, begging and singing, in that softened pitiful voice. His feet would burn in the heat and his pot belly would let go with hunger, because no matter how much he sang and how much he begged, his hunger knew no end. He would weep like a child sitting on the river stairs and pray. For something to happen and alleviate his plight. Days went by and nothing happened, no one came. His despair grew more immense and more his suffering more acute. He would just drink the water, taking aloud the names of the delicacies he wanted and assuming it was them, and walk back home. One day, however, the river rippled and the Goddess emerged. Dry like paper, out, as the water whirled all around her and then calmed. She smiled and sent an earthen pot floating towards him before disappearing. I remember the delight in his eyes and the delirious joy in my child's mind as I imagined him unwrap the banana leaf from the pot and dig his hands into each of those delicacies whose name he had taken in the days leading to this, cooked in ghee and filling my nostrils as strongly as his.
Now, those stories had hidden themselves somewhere as life suddenly has become a travesty of priorities. Until recently, I met his niece. In a video from years ago, shot in their courtyard. She had just about almost learnt how to walk. The art of walking, unraveled, she who had her uncle's exact eyelashes and brows, walked about like a queen with a long stick on her shoulder, losing her balance midway due to its weight. Her hair tied in a tight pigtail and her eyes with two mystifying black pools of awe in them. Baby talking, baby screaming, and baby giggling her way around, with the stick intact on her shoulder. Sometimes elves would appear from above the skies and swoop down below with a speed only known to her and I. Now ants would climb shrubs of hibiscus, beginning their life long pilgrimage to the top. And dust would rise up in the coagulated fatigue of my fake adulthood and give way to many storms. I saw them, these phantoms of imagination, in her eyes, black pools of awe. Like, we shared our secret, without quite knowing we did. He, only stared on.