The God of Wind
In the June heat, as he prays for a light breeze, his dead mother’s words come to him: “Pavan means wind. Lord Hanuman was called Pavanaputra, because the Wind God had carried divine power to his mother’s womb.”
Pavan had told his school friends, so filled with wonder and pride that his mouth had opened wide. He winces at the memory of their raucous ridicule, how they had chased him around the shanties, yelling at him to run like the wind.
What he would not give now, in his middle age, for such a superpower as he revs his rickshaw through the thick Bandra traffic. Exhaust smoke fills his lungs, leaving an acidic aftertaste in his mouth.
He has dropped off his last passengers—an older couple with several shopping bags. Diwali shopping seems to start earlier each year. They had argued the entire way, with each other and him, about the quickest route. Drained of energy, he had given in. It had not surprised him when they had also haggled about the meter reading and refused to pay the full fare.
When a scooter cuts him off at the first turning away from their street, causing him to nearly hit his head on the rear-view mirror from the sharp braking, he barely has the strength for his usual curses.
Before a traffic light, the rickshaw sputters and gasps and the fuel gauge wavers wildly in the engine’s death throes. He pulls over to the side and calls Ananda to tell him to bring over a gas can. There is no answer. The kid is probably still at his tuition class. Maybe a fellow rickshaw driver will stop. This, he knows, is not highly likely at this hour, when many are either returning home after a full day’s work, or starting their night shift and looking for passengers.
The open gutter near where he waits is filled with rotting vegetables, bits of newspaper, plastic bottles, and more. Something moves jerkily in the smoggy dusk. A rabid dog? A feral cat? Or, one of the large rats he has seen scampering along Bombay Central’s rails, somehow managing to stay alive under all the rushing trains?
The squalling cry gives the girl away. Barely three feet tall, with a thin brown cloth draped around her bony body, she is trying to get out, clutching a package against her chest with one hand. Seeing her fall back in a third time, he goes to help, pulling her free arm. She is so weightless, she falls right into him. And, just as rapidly, she darts away into a swarm of pedestrians, leaving her tiny bundle in his arms.
He opens the covers. Dark and glistening, the eyes blink back and the mouth whimpers. Pavan holds the baby up and runs, like the God of Wind, after the disappearing girl. A cacophonous chorus of horns and shouts rises into the air like an accompanying evening prayer.
About the Author: Jenny Bhatt's writing has appeared or is upcoming in, among others, Femina India, The Ladies Finger, LitBreak, York Literary Review, The Indian Quarterly, Eleven Eleven Journal, NonBinary Review, Lunch Ticket, Amazon’s Day One Literary Journal, and an anthology, Sulekha Select: The Indian Experience in a Connected World. Having lived and worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, she now splits her time between Atlanta, Georgia, and Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in India. She is currently working on her first short story collection. Find out more about her here.