STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING!
QUESTIONABLE MORALITY ACTIONS TAKEN BY CERTAIN CHARACTERS!
In an old village in Maharashtra after the sun would set down, the men of the village, their wives and their children shall close all the doors and windows and go to sleep, hoping to wake up only when the sun comes out.
The month of July was beginning to be the hottest month this year with no sign of rainfall. The ground roasted the feet of people on the streets and the hot wind scorched their faces. The only relief came from bathing in the ever cold water of Godavari River. In the folklore told by the Old Wives of the temple, the Godavari River was blessed by the mightiest of Gods, Shiva and thus the river is known for cleansing the soul.
The water felt like silk on the burning skin. The men would wake up earlier than the sun up above in the sky and take a bath there. The women of the house after completing their household chores would grab their naughty children who would become dirty from playing in mud and hanging on this tree or that and they'd walk in small groups to the river.
The river stretched into several miles surrounded by mangroves on both sides. The womenfolk bathed in a small area surrounded by the mangroves, hiding them from any pervy eyes and giving them privacy. It soon became the hive of gossip-mongers.
The new gossip circulating was about the jeweller Kishwar who was found out by his wife while he was gifting an expensive gold anklet to his mistress who was a cook in their house. The wife went crying to the head of the village who scolded Kishwar, sent the mistress to another village as a maid in dowry with his daughter and the matter came to an end.
"Poor Rajni! Her husband is a scoundrel. He cheated my husband out a hundred bucks when he had gone to sell my old mother-in-law's silver jewellery. He brainwashed my husband that it was a low quality silver and paid him less than the market price." One of them lamented.
Another was aghast to hear and exclaimed, "This is robbing in broad daylight!"
Everyone nodded in response and looked at the lamenting woman with sympathy.
"I wish Chedipe is listening and will serve justice."
This comment was met with gasps of horror.
"I'd not wish Chedipe even on my worst enemy. It simply terrifies me even to think she's listening. What more if she takes action, I'll die of terror."
"Don't take her name. It's so unlucky."
"I'll pray to God one more hour today to protect me from her evil gaze."
Everybody's thoughts became gloomy and scared and in a few minutes the joy of bathing vanished. They all started wiping themselves and after collecting their personal items they left one by one.
In one of the folklores in the region around Godavari River told by the Old Wives was about Chedipe. Chedipe means a prostitute. A woman who died of childbirth or suicide or a prostitute become Chedipe. She hides in the mangroves surrounding Godavari and once a decade she chooses her victims, all of them men and visits their houses to suck out their blood.
The last victim was so long back that the people refused to believe in the Old Wives' tale anymore. Everyone listened about the victims of Chedipe as a form of entertainment and she soon just became an imaginative character of scary stories told to children to make them sleep early.
But the women of the village believed it to be true. They didn't want their husband to encounter Chedipe or themselves turn into a Chedipe.
On the Eighth Day of July, the milkman went from door to door and recounted the scene he saw at the jeweller Kishwar's house when he went to deliver milk in the early morning. By noon every household in the village was surrounded with despair and dread.
"As usual I went to deliver two litres of cow milk at Master Kishwar's house as his wife uses the milk of our shop to make curd and butter." With a haughty tone the milkman started his story.
"It was five in the morning when I knocked on their door but no one answered. It was not surprising for everyone in their household to wake up at four-thirty and everyday when I arrive, Master Kishwar is always reading the economic section of the newspaper but today there wasn't even a sign of movement."
"I waited a few minutes and then knocked again. This time I made a call for their son to open the door. I was going to knock again when the door slowly opened. You won't believe what I saw. It was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her dark hair fell in curls like a waterfall, her skin was glistening like pearls and when she smiled at me, it felt like a lotus blossomed." The dreamy look at his face was interrupted when his listener shook him to continue.
"Yes...yes, her entrancing beauty blinded me so deeply that I missed watching her leave. When I came to, the youngest son of Master Kishwar was shaking me asking me to call a doctor. I felt confused and asked why. He took me inside to the bedchamber of his parents. I hesitated at the door to the room, I'm of a lowly caste how could I have dared to enter the room of my master? But the son dragged me in."
"I'll never forget what I saw today, It will haunt me forever in my dreams. There on the bed which had turned red with blood, Master Kishwar was convulsing in shock. All ten of his toes were bleeding, his face was contorted in fear and he was struggling to breathe. His wife was sitting in a corner, her face covered in the veil of her saree but the heart wrenching sobs escaped the veil to our ears."
"I ran back to my bicycle and paddled as fast as I could to the doctor's house. I explained about the convulsions and blood on the way back to the doctor. When the doctor saw him, his knees weakened with fright and me and the son had to hold him up. After checking on him he asked to immediately transfuse blood and Master Kishwar had lost a lot of blood making his body go into a shock."
"Alas! Before someone could have run to the doctor's clinic to bring his tools, Master Kishwar died. His eyes were wide with fright and confusion."
"Who do you think killed Kishwar?" A man questioned in a low tone to his friends who had gathered forming a group under the village's largest banyan tree.
"There was no sign of attack. His wife woke up feeling the tremors shaking the bed thinking it was an earthquake but it was her husband who was convulsing badly."
"I think it's the wife. Didn't he get caught by her while he was with his mistress? There's no one more avengeful than a woman scorned, they say. Tsk!" One of them expressed his opinion.
"Do you think it could be another mistress? The milkman saw a beautiful woman coming out of the house. How did he describe her? Oh yes, "ethereal as the full moon", "smile like a lotus".
"Pfft! Our old milkman should pen poems and write stories instead of raising cattle and milking them. Just some lowly maid and portraying her as an angel."
A declaration arrived by noon from the Temple, hammer and tongs and was stuck on the board in the middle of the market. The Old Wives had identified the person behind the attack as Chedipe.
The notice released said, "The Chedipe has returned to our village after three hundred years. The banks of Godavari is her home and we as guests should respect her. Everyone should return home before dusk and close their doors. Every man, woman and child should not wander after dark.
The victim Kishwar had committed adultery and his body didn't have any injury except the bleeding from his toes. Chedipe preys on unfaithful men, she visits them for seven days, unknown to them and sucks their blood and drains them of their virility little by little until on the seventh day where the victim dies if he doesn't get any help within seven days.
Doctor should be called immediately to check up if anyone feels unusually lethargic, faint or weak."
At the end it was signed by the head of the Old Wives.
The astonished, shocked and terrified murmurs of Chedipe's name ran through the crowd.
"I can't believe it. She's real?"
"I told you she's real. You better stop eyeing your neighbour's wife or you'll be next."
"SHUT UP! What nonsense?" The man could only splutter and disappeared in the crowd.
"Can we believe the Old Wives. They are deep in the mountains and how can they have access to the body?"
"Idiot! The Old Wives are aware of everything that goes on in this village. They have divine eyes. It's a vulgar term but they are prostitutes of Gods. They never marry and only worship the gods. The river of Godavari is still cold and pious because of them. The Gods have blessed them that is why our land is fertile and business is good."
"Why did they say that Chedipe's home is Godavari but we are guests? My five generations of ancestors have lived here. Why am I a guest?" An annoyed voice rang amongst the crowd. Most of the men felt the same.
In the crowd there was an old man, he stamped his walking stick on the ground harshly, making everyone look at him.
"Impudent! The river of Godavari is home to the Old Wives. The Old Wives deserve the utmost respect. Old Wives in the ancient times were highly regarded but also looked down upon by ignorant. Often there were cases where the Old Wives were assaulted. These Old Wives would turn into a Chedipe after death. A woman wronged turns into a Chedipe. And even undead she has to be respected in her home. It's your generation that thinks them a fool and refuse to serve them. Don't be ignorant of their mercy.
A man cleans himself of filth in his soul by bathing in Godavari.
Chedipe is an evil soul according to you all but how pious is Godavari that it's her home?"
A week passed by where nobody dared to take a bath in Godavari or step out of their house before the sunrise and after the sunset. The prejudice was weaker than before but they didn't want to take a risk.
On the 13th day, a funeral was held by jeweller Kishwar's family to pray for his departed soul. Surprisingly, no one cried or expressed grief, neither his suddenly widowed wife nor his two teenage sons. The guests who came to console felt stuffed in their hearts on whether to speak sympathizing words or to congratulate them. It was a known fact that Kishwar was a typical merchant. He believed in living miserly and made his family lived like that too. He didn't spend a dime on his sons' studies so his poor wife had to sell her dowry jewellery to save up money for their schooling. Not to mention how he kept a mistress on the side. His wife couldn't resist a touch of schadenfreude when she saw how much wealth her departed husband was sitting on. She silently thanked Chedipe in her heart with gratitude.
The newly arrived general manager of the bank had just settled a few weeks ago in midst of murder and tales of witch-vampire. Being the most educated person in the village he dismissed it as a rumour.
His wife being from the city disdained to spend even a minute in the company of the illiterate, superstitious women of the village and just spent her day doing her chores, listening to classical songs and reading romance novels the whole day.
On the evening of 20th of July, the couple were coming back from attending a wedding in the city. The horse ride carriage swayed slowly as the horse ran. The husband and wife were tired from the journey and were taking a nap.
Suddenly in the middle of the deserted market street, the horse neighed loudly as if in distress and came to a halt, jarring the whole carriage violently.
The banker secured his wife by his side and forced the door of the carriage open.
The market street which was filled with people throughout the day, at this time only looked as an abandoned street. The only source of light was the oil lamp burning hundred metres in distance outside a house. Their horse carriage had two oil lamps hanging on the both sides. One of them crashed on the floor in the aftermath, leaving only one surviving. Grabbing one, the husband one by one checked the four direction to find what spooked the horse when he found one of the wheels of the carriage on the road, lying broken.
The husband and wife disconnected the carriage from the already restless horses to ride them. As soon as the horses were freed, they their tails on them and sprinted off, abandoning them.
"What good horses! Load of crap. Ran away leaving their masters behind. Let them come back in the morning, I'll file a complain and ask for a refund from the Stable Master. Hmph!" The husband grumbled towards the direction they disappeared.
Finally the eerie darkness and the absence of living creatures finally creeped in the bones of the husband and wife, chilling them.
They decided to hold on to their surviving oil lamp and walk to their house. As they took a step, the sound of ankle bells rang sharply beside them. Another step and once more the ankle bells rang.
The husband was annoyed, he looked at his wife and asked,"Why did you wear the ankle bells for the wedding? They are so loud, take them off please."
He only noticed then that his wife was shaking and her already fair complexion had turned chalk-white.
"What has happened to you? Are you alright?"
"No no. That..that husband, I'm not wearing any ankle bells. They are coming from someone beside us." The wife started crying after complaining.
And lo and behold a beautiful woman shimmered into existence. She looked bored as she stared at them.
Draped in a beautiful red dress, she mesmerised the husband and wife. Her jingling ankle bells added to the charm of her as she twirled indifferently beside them like a courtesan performing for the King in court.
"Wife..don't be offended but...wow, she's beautiful isn't she? That old milkman can still see." This remark was met with two pairs of glaring eyes.
"I'm sorry Miss Chedipe. I lost my mind for a second. Please be kind and forgive me." His ingratiating attitude pleased
Chedipe and she swayed her hand in forgiveness in the air like a lotus root.
"Elder sister we just came back from attending a relative's wedding. You know how harrowing it is. So we both won't disturb your midnight strolling and take our leave." The wife explained in a faster tone, eager to escape.
"You can leave but before that you have to listen to my three conditions. I'd have told this to the people already but you all hiding like mice in your little holes delayed my time. If you fail to fulfill, I'll visit your house for dinner..hmm?"
"Yes. Yes, of course. Please state your conditions."
"First, the river of Godavari has to be cleaned regularly. I have seen the children throwing leftover snacks and broken toys in the river. It's against my principles to harm children but I'll not tolerate the disrespect."
"Principles...?" The husband whispered to himself wondering undeads have principles too?
"Second, the men should follow all the laws of filial piety, monogamy and honesty in work and place."
"Last, the temple should be looked after by all the residents and the Old Wives's living expenses too. Their blessings protect you from disaster and hunger, you should pay it back in kindness."
After she finished, she transformed into a three legged tigress with one human leg. Her voracious eyes took a glance at them making the pair tremble, then she lazily crouched and pounced forward before she disappeared into the market after a few seconds.
"Husband, was it a dream?"
"No. It was a warning."
She'll come back someday.