'Bravo Chanda' - By Sharvari
Chanda was awakened as usual by the calls of roosters. She got up from the straw mat she was sleeping on. As she rubbed her eyes, she saw her 3-year-old sister sleeping on the cot. She smiled as she went to plant a kiss on her soft cheeks. “Chanda, are you awake? Why don’t you go to the lake and fresh up dear?” came her mother’s voice from outside. Chanda didn’t need to be told twice. At once, she ran out of the hut on the mud streets of Nandanpuri, stumbling here and there over stones, stopping as two dogs broke into an early morning fight right in the middle of the road, almost stamping over chickens who were merrily crossing the road behind their mother, listening to the moos of cows, bleats of goats, chirping of birds, chattering of monkeys (and some little kids) and occasionally, a cycle rattling. Fields on both sides of the road were gleaming with golden crop, even the non-living huts built of straw, mud and stones seemed to be dancing full of life.
She finally reached the lake. The view was so spectacular that even Chanda, who saw this everyday had to stand for a minute to take it all in. The sun was now rising, creating a spectacle of so many hues that no canvas could capture. The lake, clearer than crystal, reflected the glory of the sun as he rose majestically to his throne in the skies. The ripples of water sounded like they were happily laughing with each other. Lotuses and lilies bloomed here and there beaming like ornaments of the lake. The dhobis were already at their work. Chanda stepped into the refreshing, cool water and washed her hands, feet and face and started back home. It was as if the forest had woken up now; she could hear the trees rustling and insects making weird noises.
At home as the time passed, her father, mother, aunt, uncle and neighbours sat in the front yard as Chanda played with her baby sister. The elders were talking about something but the only thing Chanda understood was, “our village is the best, we are so happy here.”
The elders spoke too soon. They heard crumbling sounds, screams and cries of people and something that sounded like……… “Elephants!!” - they said in union. A look of pure terror was pasted on every face. Before they could blink, the roof collapsed. They could see an elephant’s trunk ready for its next blow, its eyes, as red as fire. Everyone ran for their lives. People fell, stumbled, got stamped, were thrown. They all huddled in a clearing far away. The village looked nothing like it looked a few minutes ago. Everything was destroyed, there was chaos everywhere. A herd of red-eyed, wild elephants was all the life there was.
But Chanda had a gut feeling that they had forgotten something, had left something behind. “Wait,” she said, grabbing everyone’s attention, “where’s the baby?” she asked the wide-eyed elders. Terror of realisation slowly crept upon the elders’ faces. Her mother was soon in tears and collapsed. Her father sat down, trying to console her, with his own eyes wet. Chanda’s gaze shifted from her parents to the others, it was hopeless. All the elders, who had to fill hope and courage in children like her, had lost all their hope and courage themselves and were crying hysterically holding and hugging each other.
Chanda felt a mix of emotions. She was furious at the elders and scared at the thought of her sister. Without giving it a second thought, the 7-year-old ran like wind towards the distorted village. She dodged the elephants, scampered over little rocks on her little legs. Where she thought her house was, she began clawing through the debris frantically. Little sharp pieces pierced her tender, soft hands. She was covered head to toe with wounds and bruises. But none of them seemed to sting or pain. The only thing that bothered her was the child. Where was she? The elephants had headed back to the jungle. Chanda flopped on the ground. Everything was silent except for Chanda’s sobs. From the silence she heard something, a baby’s cry! She turned around lifting some hay from the top of a haystack.
There she was! Her little sister! Warm joy and pride filled Chanda. Tears still came out of her eyes, tears of joy they were. Needless to say, the elders were overwhelmed with joy on finding them both alive.
Years later, the same hands which foraged a baby in a distorted village held the National Bravery Award in front of the President of India, making the entire Chhattisgarh proud.
PS: This story is based on the real life story of a girl named Kanti of Mohanpur in Chhattisgarh.