The next full moon night was still far ahead. Mohanio was restless. To his chagrin, the news about his parents’ initiating the discussion about a hunt for his bride became the talk of the village.
At prayer times, he loved to concentrate on the lovely face of the kuldevi Merbai that everyone worshipped. His cute face made girls swoon but for Mohanio the only face that stirred love was that of Merbai.
From the fateful day that his parents initiated the move to get him to agree to the marriage, Merbai appeared in his dream regularly. But she didn’t offer any advice and kept smiling at him. It was as if Mohanio and Merbai were just one soul, strung together by a strange thread of love. And how could Mohanio tell his parents about these dreams?
The number of visitors to poojari’s little house swelled by the day. The bunch of women had a whale of time gossiping about the unfamiliar visitors.
The monsoon broke over the village exactly as Mohania had predicted and it was still mid Ashaadh month. The farmers got busy and so did the casual labourers who worked in the fields owned by high caste farmers of other prosperous villages far away.
It would be a full moon night once again in a couple of days.
“Will Mohanio get visions of his own future wife in his dream this time?” Parbhukaka craned his neck in vain to see who made that blasphemous query.
“It is time Mohanio looks at some of the charming girls in our Navgam first. That will save him the trouble to lead his wedding party all the way to the far off villages”
“But the old fashioned elders won’t permit that”
“The ban on such marriages has some God-damned reasons, you silly girls” Parbhukaka, the defender of traditions lambasted
“So Parbhukaka , then what about Dhiru and Geeta,? They are from the same village” Asha the newly married girl in the village looked at Geeta.
“Geeta’s parents from the village of Palwan lost their lives in the great floods two years ago and she is staying with her uncle here; get the point, Asha?”
It started raining. The open door meeting of gossiping women ended abruptly.
Mohanio had pretty much shut himself up in his room, except for the ritual of worship.
Babu, the herdsman said he once heard Mohanio talking to himself alone in his room. Was he going nuts?
While Ramji and Reva had a great time being the center of attention from all sorts of strange people coming forth with their proposals for betrothal, Mohanio couldn’t decipher his own dreams. For most part of his dreams, Merbai just continued with her enigmatic lovely smile, whispering no words to him. What does she want me to do? He loved the way she smiled at him, loved the way she came close to him.
Once he saw himself playing the cosmic flute, seated on the branch of a tree, just like Lord Krishna, and Merbai danced around him in a circle. It was heavenly.
But what was the meaning of all this? He feared he would not get the usual prophetic dream on the full moon night this time. Instead, Merbai would just materialize in front of him in the dream and dance around him in circles till the circle shrank with each round, finally to slip into hollow of his flute.
How will I show my face to the people who would come with high hopes? Oh Merbai, just stop playing tricks with me. Please let me get on with the prophetic dreams.
In the evening of the full moon day people did come with their queries, requests, some with tears in their eyes. Mohanio had to listen to each one of them, but in the heart of his heart, he was very scared. What if he failed this time? How would he face them the next morning? He had never been able to understand how he came up with those prophecies but some invisible power always made it happen. Was that Merbai? Who was she; a divine being? What was his relation with her?
He skipped his dinner that night. He hoped the full moon would never show up that night.
But the moon rose majestically, much larger than usual. After a heavy downpour in the day, the rains had taken a breather that night. The droplets fell from the leaves all night. No dogs barked that night. The hoot of a stray owl added a touch of foreboding.
Mohanio had his dream early in the night. He got up and came out in the verandah, smiling to himself. He stood there, leaning against a round pillar and watched the magnificent moon sailing by in the sky. His gaze finally fell on the shrine, under the peepal tree, the white paint, shining in the dazzling moonlight.
Mohanio, folded his hands in reverence to the deity from his verandah and quietly went back to his room. The village slept on. No one had noticed Mohanio. Everyone must be dreaming of an end to his woes.
Merbai ni jay.
Moahnio woke up late in the morning, on the first date of the Hindu Calendar- the dark fortnight of Ashadh.
The villagers had gathered at his doorstep, in complete reverence – to Merbai, if not to Mohanio – waiting to hear the prophecies from the mouth of her chief devotee.
“Arey, arey , arey,.get her out of the way; quick” Some youngsters made a dash at a listless cat as she crossed her path between the crowd and the doors of Mohanio.
‘Oh my God, a bad omen. What is going to happen?” Someone cried out.
And then they saw him materialize from the room, walking up to the bench and folding his hands at them
A hush fell over the crowd.
He turned towards everyone in turns and stared at the shrine, a few yards away.
The first rays of the rising sun made his face glow.
“My dear fellow villagers, I must confess…..” he paused for a few seconds that seemed liked an eternity, and continued,
“I have no prophecies today for you. It was our reverend Merbai, who kept guiding me all these months, as long she was a distinct soul, not a part of me. Now she is a part of me. I am forbidden to reveal anything. It will be a heresy. Like me, is you worship her with feelings she will be part of you and you will find a solution to your woes yourselves.”
The villagers looked at one another, stupefied.
“Arey Ramjubhai, why don’t you ask him to stop talking in riddles? Come clean, for heaven’s sake” The eldest among the village folks mustered up the courage to put Ramjibhai on the spot.
Ramji, as confused as everyone else, pointed his long stick towards Mohania, “Arey beta, people have come here with high expectations. Come on”
“” Come on Mohania” the crowd yelled
“Father, forgive me. Merbai is a part of me now. I can’t. Gods cannot sin”
“What do you mean she is a part of you now? She is a part of all of us here.” Prabhukaka started getting up to confront him.
“Mohanio has gone crazy. He has lost his balance” someone shouted
Ramjibhai raised his hand to keep the crowd quiet.
“Oh beta, come on now, you can’t disappoint them”
“Father, Merbai appeared in my dream and she garlanded me as her husband!. We are married now ”
The crowd fell silent. No one moved.
Blasphemy! Cheat! Crazy!
Ramjibhai had a hard time warding off people from coming close to Mohnaio, using all his strength to push Mohanio back into his room. He locked the door, pleading everyone to go home.
Merbai ni Jay.