The Tiny Giant of the Kokapo Marsh
Being a female in this man-dominated world has been difficult. And my difficulties were compounded when I chose to become an engineer. Despite the hardships, I managed to become one, and here I was, in a god forbidden country full of thorny bushes, snakes and crocs in the marsh that spread in front of me.
My assignment was to build a bridge over this marsh that would make life easier for villagers living in the Kakapo village. This marsh had been a boon as well as a bane for the poor village of Kakapo. The marsh was lush with reeds, plants and teemed with fishes that provided food and livelihood to the poor inhabitants of this far-flung village. For almost 150 miles there was no other settlement.
The dusty road that connected this village to the outside world was intercepted by this marsh, which was full of crocs. Several people had vanished while attempting to cross the “wicked marsh”. People were superstitious about the marsh and believed that the ‘Giant’ of the marsh killed villagers when they venture to cross. So, here I was, determined and enthusiastic to help these people and lessen their hardships.
My first day in the village gave me a mixed feeling. Villagers were perhaps happy to have me there but they were also uneasy about something. The very next day I came to learn about the cause of their concern. My briefcase, in which I had kept my engineering documents, maps and a pistol, went missing from my tent. My enquiries yielded nothing. Villagers gathered in groups and heated discussions ensued; I felt as if I were in a fish market. I was confused and angry at the loss.
One of the older persons was keenly examining the ground outside my tent. He came near me and whispered – “it is the giant”. I couldn’t understand a thing. I went to the spot where he had been examining the ground and then I saw huge footprints, apparently of an extraordinarily huge person.
All the people who had gathered seemed shocked; fear was written on their face. I, too, felt a cold shiver going down my spines, but only for a moment. I recollected my senses and decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. I had also made up my mind to recover my lost documents and my pistol. I was worried that the pistol might reach wrong hands and that would be dangerous.
I decided to follow the footprints. Some of the young men agreed to go with me. We followed the footprints for almost half a kilometer and then the footprints vanished. The footprints disappeared only a furlong away from the marsh under a huge banyan tree. I was at a loss, so were my companions on this blind trail. I looked up, but I could see nothing in the tree as thick foliage obstructed visibility. Suddenly a thought crossed my mind; I became eager to explore the tree. I asked one of the village folks to climb the tree.
He backed out. Then I decided to do it myself. My tom- boyish childhood had made me an adventurer, so here was a challenge and I was ready to hold it by the horn and bring it down from up the tree what ever it might be. I threw my boots away and climbed tree in the native style. I could find nothing till suddenly I saw a piece of cloth dangling through the top branches. I climbed further up and then I saw the ‘giant’.
I couldn’t help laughing loudly at this sight because the so-called giant was a tiny little village boy not more than twelve years old. He had my briefcase tied to his waist with a piece of rope and in his one hand was a wooden frame cut out in the shape of a big human foot. The boy was startled to see me; he began to climb further up. Worried about his safety, I decided to climb down. I came down laughing.
Every one was bowled over when I told them about my find. I asked the son of the village headman, to climb up and coax the boy to come down. When the boy came down a story of pettiness and hatred was unfolded before me. The boy was the son of a villager named Pondu, who had rivalry with the village headman.
In order to give a hard time to the headman and his supporters in the village he had created a myth of this giant, who came to the village to steal and kill people. In this heinous design, this mad villager included his innocent child. All the killings by the crocs were attributed to the giant as Pondu used to instruct the boy to make footprints marks around the marsh to mislead villagers.
Pondu was exposed, he was produced before the village council, and despite his repeated apologies he was banished from the village. Village folks became my friends and with their help I built the bridge in six months. There was no fear of the giant or the crocs now as nobody walked through the marsh. They walked over it.
Contributing Story Teller: Suhas Kumar, Bhopal [email protected]
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