Sleep broke early that morning for Moromi. The night was humid and the makeshift bamboo bed that she slept on was not as comfortable as the kher (thatch) covered bedspread. And then, there were the mosquitoes.

Every morning Moromi would wake up to her mother prattling away with Senehi, their gentle bovine, with a straw broom in one hand and the other on her back, elucidating the woes of her back pain from carrying heavy pitchers of water from the nearby pond. Senehi would munch on her fresh morning hay while almost nodding in agreement, Moromi would observe.

Mother does not go to that pond anymore, although the water in the pitchers is a tinge yellow now. Moromi feels content, mother’s back is no longer as much of a trouble.

Her mind traveled to the nearby pond again even as she scratched the evidence of a mosquito on her arm from the night before.

‘‘I wonder if Horen kai (brother) has already started fishing without me’’, she mused. The only meal that they can afford right at that moment was fish, available in abundance now. Yesterday, he didn’t come to wake her up for fishing; the water level had risen, they said, drastically. She immediately checked the star mark on the main door and yes, it was time.

Last year, Horen kai had taught her to draw stars. “If you’re going to stare at them every night, might as well learn to draw them”, he’d said. She missed looking at the star-studded sky nowadays. The twinkling stars and the ever blushing moon always fascinated her, and she would lose herself in a whirlpool of thoughts, “Where do the stars come from, what are they made of?”

That same year during monsoon, she carved a star on the bamboo door next to her mite-eaten study table. She remembered how she along with her family had to leave their home the very next day. And as she had left with the only treasure she possessed, the slate given by Horen kai, she looked back. She could see her compass-curved star on the bamboo slowly drowning in the cold waters of Dhansiri.

A raucous commotion broke her chain of thoughts; it sounded familiar, a déjà vu? Moromi saw a visibly perturbed Mother running towards her, trying to tear through the mass of water that had invaded their hut. Her face was distorted; agony, pain and panic. “Is mother’s back in trouble again?” Moromi tried to think. Something told her it was pain of a different kind. The kind that evokes muffled cries and heart wrenching helplessness. Of abandoned belongings and stranded dreams. This had happened before, she knew this pain from before; a similar kind with similar intensity.

Outside she saw Horen kai holding on to Senehi, flustered, moaning, in neck-high water. One question came floating to her mind as she started towards the nearest embankment, “Even if we are safe now, won’t the next year be the same again?”

Namrata Priyam Rajkumari