As Maya’s senses started to falter, her mind started to replay Hari’s and her mother’s faces in an endless loop. Her parched throat constricted. Dragging herself to the stream waters in front of her, she cupped her wrinkled hands and drank from the sweet waters. The cool water revived her and her survival instincts kicked on again. Racking her dull brains for a solution, Maya happened to glance once more at the flowing water and she was reminded of the last words of Hari, before she left him.
He had said “Listen to me this once” while urging her to accept a case of sanctified water from the Naiad.
Could it really be that simple?
Forcing her now dead hands to obey her orders for one last time was not easy. As the darkness threatened to overwhelm her, Maya prayed to Lord Krishna for guidance and made one supreme effort. Her faltering hands grabbed at the sanctified water in her satchel. Racing against her impending doom, she opened the cap with shaking hands and raised it to her lips. The initial dribble followed by the gush of the sanctified water felt like life itself was pouring back into her. She gasped and sputtered but was careful even then not to spill a drop of the precious liquid. When the case was bone dry, she threw it down and steeled herself. Now was the time to check whether the cure had worked. She slowly moved towards the stream once again. The reflection that stared back at her was once again her old, strong self. In fact, her face looked healthier than it had been of yore with rose tints in her cheeks and her hair looked shinier.
She stood up and tested her limbs. They felt stronger than they had been before she had come on this crazy olive quest. Reminded of the Qalupalik, she decided to get going while the going was good.
The tiresome treading continued for a few miles. Maya, careful now to avoid other run-ins with Qalupalik-like creatures proceeded with caution with her senses in full alert.
Just as she was wondering whether this tiresome quest would never end, she caught sight of a peach tree. She had arrived at the first marker. Moving closer to the tree, she realised it was much taller and the peaches much higher up than it had looked from a distance. The bark of the tree was smooth providing no access for climbing the tree. As she circumbulated the tree for the fourth time, she wondered for the first time whether the Naiad had simply lied to her about the markers and the path to the olives to entrap Hari and lead her to her doom. She shook her head. These negative thoughts weren’t helping her to progress. She simply had to believe. There was no other way.
As she brooded, she realised she had once again been caught unawares when a huge shadow fell on her. This time, it was a huge Rakshasi. Maya felt an odd sense of deja vu when the Rakshasi grabbed her waist in a single hand up in the air.
In better control of her emotions now, Maya (not without fear) asked: “Who are you? You look like a Rakshasi. I am on a quest for rescuing my friend and curing my mother. Please let me go.”
The Rakshasi leered at her.
“Not so fast. You are in my domain. And I am hungry. My name is Surasa. I want you to enter my mouth now!”
The Rakshasi’s name oddly triggered a memory and a nugget of information in her mind. When she looked down at the Rakshasi’s feet and found a flicking tail instead, she was sure.
“Ok, Surasaji. In the absence of my real mother, I will regard you as a surrogate. I will enter your mouth.”
The Rakshasi seemed surprised at first and then bemused.
She opened her mouth wide enough to swallow horses and Maya disappeared into her cavernous mouth!
(1) If you haven’t heard of Rakshasas (Rakshasi is a female equivalent), read this link.
(2) Surasa has an interesting past. Stay tuned to know more about her tomorrow.