The little mole on his left cheek left me wondering of my lost son, I lost him in a fair ten years ago. There are no surreal glimpses of the incident rather a vivid picture of everything that took place on that unfortunate day.
We hadn’t planned for an outing that year, with low rains that monsoon, the paddy fields went dry and we had lost most of the crops that year. Shiva was only five years old. My husband and I had toiled incessantly to earn our daily bread, but the monsoon promises were broken. These repercussions that year led us to find different ways to earn. I had taken the daily pay job of weaving the baskets at a friend’s acquaintance place and my husband decided to toil as a shop help for the festivities of the fair in our village Somadurga.
It was the auspicious saturday when the village god, Somanatha would be pleased with the sacrifices that we offer him. The monsoon ruins were regarded as his fury over the village and hence all the elders had declared to an ancient ritual that demanded the presence of kids of all families to be sent to the temple a day before and then they would be made to sleep in the temple premises after a long lecture in spirituality and then early next morning they would be bathed in the small yet pure waters of the pond in front of the temple. Later their hairs would be given as a sacrifice to the rain gods and the ritual would complete after all the children assist the main pujaris of the temple in the pooja and distribute the prasadam to all its devotees.
I stood at the entrance of the temple as I saw my dear son, with a fully shaven head and dressed only in the dhoti was helping an older boy while distributing the prasadam. At such an young age, he never fret nor cried over to stay cudled in my arms. His parents never led a luxurious life and always frequented to work and hence he was an independant boy.
He folded his hands as soon as he got a glimpse of me into a namaste, he was growing up way too fast. The older kid pulled him into the crowded venue of the devotees awaiting their turn to be fed with the blessings of the Lord.
It was all too quick, just before I could blink an eye, the temple’s only elephant, Rudra had broken free, disturbed by the pompous celebration and the crackers fueled him with anger to the mass crowd that counted more than a few thousands. All I could sense was that everybody was scattered, screaming, running, falling and fleeing from the victimised area to a higher altitudes with their families. It soon turned out to be a stampede as everybody pushed and stamped me to the ground.
My eyes only looked for my innocent young child, Shiva was nowhere to be seen. He was lost, or in hiding or even worse killed in this burial field.
There was a strong vertical pull, it was my husband, screaming me to move and I could hear the worry and fear in his voice. I never left my ground, finally he had used all his strengths to move to a safer place. A place inside the temple premises. People cursed the liars and cruel people of the land who had raised the fury of Lord Somanatha, it was believed to be a punishment for our illegal ways or the lord was not satisfied with our rituals.
All through the ordeal, I remember that I prayed for the lord’s mercy and our son’s safety. But we were denied of the both, the baskets that I had weaved were destroyed and the owner who hired my husband was one of the three victims who faced death in the hands of the rogue elephant Rudra. My only son Shiva was missing, the only satisfaction was that his body was never found and hence was deemed to be alive, somewhere!
Even to this day, I pray for his well-being and until I came across this rich boy who came into the temple to pray along with his affluent parents, my concentration and heart was on him. If my Shiva would be here, he would look similar to him. I pondered for a long time as I enjoyed his every act, the way he stole the prasadam, the way he hid behind the temple pillar when his mother caught him doing so. The way his eyes sparkled when he saw me, gesturing me to cover the view of his parents as he would plunge outside to play.
They weren’t from our village, most probably from a city nearby but they seemed to be grateful to the Lord.
My whole ground shattered under my feet when I heard the woman who seemed like his mother say that the childless couple had found this boy on the highway near to this temple, injured on the very day of the fair, ten years ago. When asked for his parents, the only answer they got was silence and hence after years of waiting, they had completely adopted him as their own son providing him with the best education and a luxurious life. They believed that he was a gift from the Lord Himself.
There was no boundary for my happiness, I finally had found my Shiva, he was alive, well settled and happy but as his mother, I longed for my child to stay with me. I would tell him that I was his birth mother and never let him go. I raced down the stairs looking for him, near the pond, near the shops and everywhere my foot would take me.
I finally found him seated on Rudra and chewing on the sugarcane stick, looking like the lord himself, a mischievous smile lit his face. I would do anything to get him. As I plunged at him, the reality struck me like a bolt, what would I provide him with? We were poverty stricken, my husband was sick and I was the sole breadwinner of the family. Questions if he would ever stay with me or whether I would provide him the luxury he was accustomed to was way out of the equation.
It was then that I realized that Lord Somanatha had plans for him. He would remain there and grow up well. I brought him a packet of barfis from the shop nearby and presented him with all my love.
Before he could take it, the lady from behind snatched it from me.
“He doesn’t eat such things, he is the son of the richest man of the Gompur city” She scowled at me and lovingly helped my son get down from Rudra.
But before they went, Shiva came running towards me, folded his hands as a namaste, touched my feet and took the burfis whispering in an undertone
“Thank You Amma”
He left with that sentence, a part of me knew that he had recognised me! My prayers were finally answered. I bowed down to the lord and offered my sincerest thanks!