Submitted Date 07/29/2023

When they reached the shores of Kotipally to cross the Godavari, Sandhya's fear of water shored up by his assurances en route, sunk her heart as she saw the mighty river in its lean summer course. While the prospect of boating across it shocked her water- phobic psyche, Raja Rao's coaxing of her, which bordered on pecking, amused the travelers and the boatmen alike. Caught between the onshore embarrassment and the offshore predicament, as Sandhya stepped into the boat as though she were slipping into the river itself, Raja Rao, having jumped into it earlier like a habitual, tended his perplexed bride tenderly into it, and once in, she reached for a cross plank seemingly considering the center of gravity of that which was afloat. Seeing her predicament then, those who sat on it moved away to enable the newly-weds ensconced in the middle. In time, having adjusted herself in trepidation, Sandhya clasped her man as though he were the mast of the boat itself.

During the voyage, when he ventured to toy with the waters, she pulled him in fear and reprimanded him for his daring. Whenever the boat was rocked in motion, she enlaced him in confusion, inducing him to cuddle her for her comfort. As her primordial beauty pixilated by panic evoked pity in him, he was empathic in addressing her apprehensions. However, having got over her fears in his protective embrace, in time, while she felt that she has grasped the meaning of marriage, seeing her at ease thus, he could visualize the power of love over the fear of the unknown.

After turning her attention to the horizon, lined with coconut trees, and watching it for long in fascination, she interested herself in the vastness of the Godavari, and felt that the wavy currents of its bluish green waters synchronized with the romantic beats of her expectant heart. Then, looking lovingly at her man, she experienced rare warmth in her soul, which made her feel that the sheen of their love matched with the glint of the river.

After voyaging for well over an hour, they reached the banks of Mukteswaram, the gateway of Konaseema, where, courtesy Kamalakar's clout, an Ambassador awaited them. Looking back at the river they just crossed, she felt relaxed and thought, 'Haven't my fears got dissolved mid-course making way for hopes!' At that, as she got into the car, it crossed her mind that by the next day around, she would be on the other bank of her virginal canal. Amused at the thought, she looked at her man in amorous anticipation.

Soon, entering the hinterland, they found the roadside canal on course, seemingly guiding the visitors to their respective destinations. While the unending rows of coconut trees resembled sentries on duty for the visiting dignitaries, the lush green carpets of paddy seedlings went into ripples, as though stirred by their welcoming instinct. Lending variety to the landscape was many a mango grove apart from the fully-grown banana gardens and as if to avoid the monotony of the greenery, habitats abounded all along with cattle sheds as annexes.

"It looks like life is closer to nature in these tiled houses and thatched huts, with cattle for company!" Sandhya wondered aloud.

"It's an irony that we fail to fuse the new technology with the old environs in fashioning our modern way of living. It's sad we've to choose between nature's bounty in the rural settings and the make-believe of our urban environs," he said ruefully.

As if to demonstrate the difference, the driver brought them to Amalapuram, the commercial hub of Konaseema. After some snacks and coffee in a bustling hotel, they resumed their journey to their destination that was far from Hardy's madding crowds, and as they saw the back of Amalapuram, they came to face to face with the nature all again.

By the time they approached Bhatnavalli, the sun began to set, and the villagers were seen resting in their courtyards. While some men were seen rolling their cigars with lanka pogaku, others were puffing away at theirs. Women there were found gossiping with their neighbors across the fences as if they were mending fences over past quarrels. As the landlords rode home in their bullock carts, farmhands too started trekking back from the fields with their head loads. Giving a picture of the carefree life to the visitors, the youths were engaged in kabaddi and the children were lost in their marbles. As though symbolizing the surging spirit of the fair sex all over, village belles vied with each other to come up trumps in competitive hops in those eight square courts that were marked in the courtyards. However, the hen in helter-skelter disturbed them in between, making them cautious not to step on them.

As it was dusk by the time they reached Kothalanka, the Ambassador had a herd of cattle on the homeward stretch to accompany. It seemed the dust raised by the vehicle on the kachcha road matched with the mood of the setting sun. While children ceased playing, watching the spectacle of the four-wheeler in motion, the elders craned their necks to second-guess the destination of the visitors.

This episode is frm the author's maiden novel, Benign Flame: Saga of Love

Novelist, playwright, short story, non-fiction and articles writer, translator in verses, a little thinker and a budding philosopher of Addendum of Evolution - Origins of the World


Please login to post comments on this story