The Inhabitants of Anamnagar
Anamnagar was peaceful that today. There was no clamor anywhere. Nor could one spot any human in the village. The people from the neighboring villages found it queer, and talked among themselves.
“Why is Anamnagar so silent today?”
“Why is there no clamor in Anamnagar today?”
It was natural. People in the neighborhood took it as a matter of wonder if ever they heard of no quarrel or fight in Anamnagar. They were questioning one another out of this normalcy.
“Why is Anamnagar peaceful today?”
“Why is there no clamor in Anamnagar today?”
The village was named Anamnagar – the nameless village – because it did not have any name. It did not have old settlers too, nor was it known around by any name. It was just a river bank and summer flood would widen or narrow the fringe, off and on. One thing to notice was that climate change had been pressing hard upon the people for a couple of years, and rain had been growing scantier, and no flood would occur. So, the river banks had been extending these days. The farmers were initially keen to expand their territories, but they dropped the idea because the sandy soil there would reluctantly give any considerable yield. In a way, the land was a no man’s land, and no individual could lay a claim on it.
The country’s population went on increasing. Industries in the hills, slopes and mountains could not prosper. Agriculture too could not satisfy the farmers. Unemployment increased and the people were deprived of the basics. The city allured them, and everyone started dropping into it. As a result, the fertile land in the city was occupied, and tall buildings rose. People from across the border too started rushing in for food and work. The influx was uncontrolled. The government could not make any plan; nor could it implement the plans that existed.
People started building adobe houses everywhere with bamboos, wood and sticks indiscriminately. Anamnagar was one of those hunts.
Anamnagar did not have much of the general amenities. People used polluted water. They relieved themselves in the open. Rubbish piled everywhere. The sand on the river bank had been crushed fine by innumerable feet. Whenever it rained, scum covered people’s bodies. There was no name of light. Some managed oil lamps, while many managed with the little drift-off light from their ovens where they prepared their porridge and bread. They finished eating before it was dark. The earth was their bed, and the sky their quilt. Yet, they loved to call their village a ‘town’ as though it had all facilities to befit the label. An old man said, “Everyone names what exists. Braves are those who name and do things unnamed and undone hitherto.”
“That’s it,” everyone seconded. Since then, the village came to be called Anamnagar – the nameless town.
But Anamnagar could never progress. The earth rotated on; the sun and the moon rose and set. The stars twinkled; days and years progresses. But Anamnagar remained motionless. The villagers there could neither smile with the sunrays, nor could enjoy the pristine coolness of the moon. Every morning, the rising sun bore their hope, and as it set, the hopes too transpired into thick darkness. It seemed as though Anamnagar was a symbol of scarcity. It appeared to be a mockery of progress, a semantic corruption of civilization, and above all a frustration from human life. For all these reasons, the village was a cause of quarrel too. Clamor, quarrel and fight constantly marked this village. Peace would instantly return, though. People tied themselves to work, or to their search for work during the day. As homeward they plodded in the evening, they carried stuffs for their meals. But it was considered a rare luck if the one that carried the stuffs could avail the stuffs himself.
Such was Anamnagar, a model of poverty.
Whenever night fell, the inhabitants of Anamnagar stared at the stars through their roofs made of perforated plastic sheets, sacks, mats or rags, as people in deserts do. As they gazed at the moon every evening, they would drown in sweet imaginations. They had heard – man has set his foot on the moon, and people are trying to establish a village there. They would muse that it would be great, if they could go to the moon, and establish a village there. They would pass their nights praying for a miraculous blessing by their goddess, some day.
This way, on the on, the settlers of Anamnagar waited for their luck and their lot. One night, as they tossed left and right counting each second, a bright object with innumerable rays entered the village. The villagers were amazed and woke up, squeezing their eyes to know what it was. But before they had studied one, another wonder followed. A voice shouted, “Wake up! Everyone, wake up now! I have come with your luck!”
The settlers asked, “Whose voice is that? We can see no one around.”
Magically, a human form stood in front of them. With smiles on the lip, he said, “Didn’t you recognize me? I am an angel, set to relieve you from your miseries.”
“Angel…?” the villagers asked in a voice that had an admixture of happiness and surprise.
“Yes, mortals! I could not stand the differences among you the humans, the beings of one creation.” He made it further clear, “You were all born with similar stars. You all have the same number of hands and legs. But later, man divided man according to power principle. Since then the policy of the stronger exploiting the weaker has been continuing. You are a victim of the same exploitation at present, and are enduring through such a hellish misery. Your hardship moved me, and I have descended on the village to relieve you. Come on; ask from me whatever you want. I shall readily grant it.”
Initially, the villagers did not believe what they heard. But when the angel told them stories of God incarnating in human form whenever injustice, atrocities, evil and crimes increased on earth, they developed a belief in him. The angel smiled to himself at his success in winning the mass trust, and raising his right hand in a blessed mood said, “Ask, mortals; ask without delay. I shall fulfill your wishes, whatever they are!”
However, the villagers who had been reeling under utter scarcity could not assert a unanimous demand. They demanded what they needed right then. Some said, “Lord, bless us with a satisfying meal.”
“No, Lord! Bless us with clothes in the cold!”
“Lord, bless us with a small house to live in!”
A man from the crowd cried with folded hands, “My son is seriously sick, and is dying. Please Lord, save his soul!”
Another man from another corner shouted, “My children are utterly foolish. Please bless them with some wisdom.”
After everyone had asserted his demands, the old man who had named the village Anamnagar rose to speak. He said, “Lord, we may or may not be blessed with the things we individually demanded. But, let our village get water, electricity, road, market, hospital, and school. Make our village in par with other towns.”
Ultimately, the angel prepared to answer. The villagers waited with folded hands, postponing their further demands. The angel declared with honor, “Your demands are ordinary, mortals! I will give you what you haven’t even thought of. That is the land of the moon…!”
“The moon? For us?” the inhabitants were shocked.
“That’s it, mortals! The land of the moon is vacant. It has no village in it,” he explained them, and added, “But other people like you have discovered this fact, and are plotting to establish a village there, against us the gods. We won’t allow them the land at all cost. We have reserved the moon for the poverty-stricken people like you; you shall be the first human to live there. This will give your heavenly bliss.”
The settlers of Anamagar were overwhelmed by happiness, and started praising the angel. The angel raised his hands, and admonished the villagers to be quiet. When they were all silent, he said, “Mortals! I will grant you the moon. But you ought to do one thing to avail the same.”
“We are ready, Lord! We shall comply with whatever you say,” they assured in a single voice.
“You ought to worship me all the time to get the moon. Thereafter, I shall send a plane from the moon, and you will board the same to go there.”
The people readily accepted the angel’s proposal. The angel blessed them that everything would be as they wished, and disappeared.
Days passed. The people of Anamnagar continuously worshipped the angel. They organized feasts and fiestas, danced and enjoyed at their prospect of flying to the moon. They finished whatever they had, in the name of the angel. Whenever they saw anything flying in the air – be it an airplane or anything else – they would stretch their eyes to see if it was a plane from the moon, intended for them. At night, they would look at the moon and muse about their settlement there. They would imagine that they were on the moon, and look down from there to the earth, trying to spot where they had come from. They would see many people like them still living on the earth. But, no plane ever came to take them. Neither did the angel ever return.
This made the settlers of Anamnagar hopeless. A stage came when they abandoned all their works, and merely kept staring at the sky with their heads up, saying, “O, the land of the moon; the land of our dreams!” They even jumped with their legs up in the sky, as though they were trying to touch the moon. At some other time, they folded their hands and ran after the invisible angel. They were not even mindful of their situation, or of their village. As this went on, a terrible storm coming from the west battered the village, and blew everything on the way off. With it flew the adobe houses on the river bank, rippling up and down in the sky. Anamnagar however remained peaceful… No clamor marked the village.
Translation: Mahesh Paudyal