“People of Uri, can you hear us?” spluttered the radio in the dark late one night. Mrs. Godse had been trying to adjust the radio knob furtively, to drive away the silence. But all she got was static. Right turn. Static. Left turn. Static. Round and round and round. Still more static. The radio host with a thick, syrupy voice had obviously dozed off. And the songs had eventually run out. It was this silence or the static … or the incessant crick-crick-crick of the crickets down below.
“People of Uri” had slowly returned to their daily routine, waving at her as they passed by to work in the fields or attend school or from the rooftops and windows as they dried laundry or cleaned house or just reposed in their chairs. Mrs. Godse was no longer a novelty but a part of their daily lives. Ever present. Like a fruit hanging from a tree. She wasn’t going anywhere.
At these words, she stiffened, alert, and readjusted the knob to catch the station better. She craned her neck as far out as possible and cocked her ears, so as not to miss a single word.
“People of U-r-r-ri,” the grave voice stuttered. Some words crackling loudly, some fading to nothing, and some lost completely to the ear; like waves on a shore.
“This is G-g-gaitonde, … minister speaking. If you c-c-can hear us, we request … to pleas… stay calm. We … doing e-e-everything in … power to figure out the anomaly … befallen you. Is … man-made, is it extra…? We are not yet sure. Why is it hap-p-pening? We cannot yet confirm. We do know … breaking through … not the solution. As you all are already aware. But rest assured … scientists are hard at work … a fix. We hope to reverse the … but we cannot be sure by when a … … be found. We urge you … … stay calm, ratio food and neces… supplies, and r-r-rely on each other in this time of g-g-g… turmoil. On the upside … town … famous. Thanks to the anomaly and that round fa… pink bottom … out in space. This is Gaitonde, your minister signing out. God bless. This message will be played on a loop. Brought to you by–”
Mrs. Godse turned off the radio and rolled her eyes, her sunglasses snapping back on and sliding to the tip of her nose. No clue what’s happening? Still looking for a fix? How long was she to hang there? A fat, round, pink bottom in space?
When the lanterns came on as the darkness lifted into a dull gray and the village began to stir back into life, Mrs. Godse sighed. “Oh, this is it, isn’t it, Mr. Godse?” she spoke to the air above her, and the frozen sky. “This is where our adventures end.”
She gave her bum a great wriggle but found herself getting sucked up further into the hole.
“A bird caught in a trap, I am,” she cried as the frozen sky tightened around her. “Nowhere to go. I’m stuck in this village for good.”
She cried and sighed and cried the whole day. And refused to eat or drink. The parade of dishes from the mayor’s own kitchen returned untouched, without a second look.
“How am I ever to get out?” she wailed. “Fly again over the green fields and rivers and return home to Tooting. He must be miserable with that sister of mine, being fed to death. Like me. With no exercise.”
Mrs. Vashisht, who bought her new batteries, fresh flowers, and crunchy carrots, couldn’t console her either. She couldn’t even get her to sing.
Mrs. Naidu, who had so far delighted her with her merry compositions, hard on the hearing as they were, couldn’t bring her to laugh. Her impromptu recital (this time about her dog Tooting, titled Tooting the Terrier) was put to a stop hastily and she forced to come down as Mrs. Godse began to weep harder, streaking her plump, reddened face.
The gathering below of curious onlookers only worsened her mood.
“Why are they so calm?” she asked the mayor, who looked worriedly at her shrinking girth, still dabbing his nose with a monogrammed, lemon-scented handkerchief. “Don’t they know this is it. They’re stuck here for good?”
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