Jyoti Kunwar and Bhairon Singh were a childless couple. They eked their living by tending to their little green patch near the local well and by quenching the thirsty as it was the only watering hole miles around in the desert. They were simple folk and were happy with their lot. In spare time, after prayers to the Goddess Kali, Jyoti Kunwar would make exquisite quilts w/rags that she collected from discarded clothes and gifts left by the travelers. Bhairon Singh would practice his homemade Ektara and sing folks songs that reverberated in the desert winds creating echoes of intoxicating music. His main chore was to go twice a month to the nearest town and sell the quilts, get their provisions alongwith a few bottles of country liquor for himself.
One day a tall mendicant arrived. Welcoming him, they fed him a lion share of their lunch. After some chitchat the Baba observed that Jyoti appeared sad. She burst into tears and informed Baba of their childless state. Baba assures them that with Ma Kali’s aid soon they would be blessed with a baby. Baba removes some powder from his bag of herbs and tells Jyoti Kunwar to mix it with the evening meal. He himself would fast and pray till the wee hours. After dinner and his nightly country dose, Bhairon falls into a stupor. Jyoti Kunwar also feels unusually sleepy. She too retires after ensuring that all of Baba’s needs had been met. Baba had preferred to sleep in the open. Early morning, the Baba emerges from the hut, quickly gathers his belongings and hops on his camel and leaves behind a trail of mantra chants floating in the morning desert air mixed with whiffs of opium.
Nine months later Jyoti Kunwar gives birth to a baby boy. They name him Heera Singh as he was priceless for them. Both Jyoti and Bhairon had never desired anything else and were happy with their lot. But now with the advent of the baby, they wanted to amass wealth for him so that he could have all they never had. They began building castles in air. Soon the baby was of school age and they decided to send him to her brother Maniram’s place in the city who had urged her to do so as he had already married off his two girls and would love to take care of his sister’s boy. He had a small jewelry shop and dealt in precious and semi-precious stones. In fact he wanted to groom the boy to takeover his business when the time was ripe.
It had been a hard summer and scarcity of travelers had been hard on them. Yet addled by the desert heat and lots of time on their hands, they constantly wove grander and grander dreams for their son Heera.
Reshma and Shera had gotten married a year ago and now he was taking her back to his home across the desert from her parents place after the Gauna. They decided to halt at Jyoti Bhairon’s well for the night. They were a very amiable pair and soon the air was rent with beautiful desert music and ghumar dance. Finally replete with food and fun the young couple fell asleep. Jyoti had given them their own bed for the night and she and Bhairon were out in the open.
Both Reshma and Shera Singh were well laden with jewellery and expensive clothes. Jyoti Kunwar as per their preplanning, had already mixed some poison in their food.
Then, quickly in the night, they denuded their guests of all their valuables and chopped and buried their bodies in the garden around the well. They had already prepared the ground for such an event. Their loot was significant and totally lost in their obsession to provide riches for their son, they had sold their soul to the devil. Thus began their reign of terror on every hapless traveler who came their way. Their wealth grew manifold- all glittery and bloody. In the meantime, years had passed by since they had laid eyes on their son as he had gone at a great distance for higher studies. They would lovingly look at the dog eared picture of the baby in between them when he was four years old and kiss it again and again.
One day a fine young man arrived at the well. He looked rich and handsome and was sporting big diamonds in his ears. His clothes too were expensive. Jyoti and Bairon rub their hands in glee. Today they would make a killing in more ways than one. They poison the young man and at night methodically chop up the body for better disposal. Excitedly they go through his effects. Hidden in his wallet is the same photograph that they lovingly kissed every day. They are beside themselves with grief and remorse. All their efforts and sins were in vain. In their blind greed they had chopped up their own son. They too partook of poison and commit suicide.
They had nothing to live for any more.
PS.: This story is based on a movie I saw a good 20-30 years ago and it had filled me with horror.
Ma Kali: Goddess Durga
Ektara: one stringed violin/instrument
Ghumar: Rajasthani Dance
Gauna: when a young bride becomes an adult
then the groom takes her to his home after the Gauna ceremony