Neeru Nagarajan "A Quick Dip"
One of the women on the shore hobbles into the Ganga on her crutches. Some people try to warn her. The river's running especially rampant today. But many devotees from all over the world are doing it. A quick dip and all your sins are gone. A quick dip and you can forget your past. A quick dip and you're blessed with forgiveness from God. I think it's too cold for a quick dip, though.
She balances herself on her crutches, and quickly, like a hawk swooping down on its prey, immerses herself all the way down in the water. Head to toe. She doesn’t test it out with her toes. She doesn’t tremble. She’s just gone.
For a few seconds, I’m sure she's drowned. Her head doesn't emerge for the longest time. I bounce my baby impatiently as I wait for her head to pop back up.
When she rises again, I’m reminded of this scene from Godzilla where Godzilla emerges from the water, magnificent, forceful, completely aware of his power – she throws her crutches away, raises her arms to the heavens, and shouts, "Hare Rama! Hare Krishna!"
She's soaked to the bone, but she doesn't look chilled. I can almost smell the holy water on her when she walks past me. Her long hair lies limp on her shoulders, her shoulders are purposeful, her stride is confident. She's left the crutches behind; the crutches belong at the bottom of the holy river.
I'm aware I might have witnessed a miracle. I watch people surrounding her with questions. She says God makes anything possible for those who have faith. I don't know.
I wipe dribble from my son’s chin. I consider walking into the water, holding him as I am now, tightly against my body, with one arm. I consider taking the mossy steps one at a time, and plunging my head and my son's deep under the water. Maybe I could give the river something in exchange for what I want, like the woman left her crutches behind to get what she wanted. Maybe I could let the great river wash my child away from me.
"Hare Rama! Hare Krishna!" I hear the woman chanting aloud again and again, and the echoing chorus of the believers who have gathered around her.
I cover my son's ears from the cold wind and walk away from the crowd.
Neeru Nagarajan is an Indian Tamil writer. My work appears in Flash Fiction Magazine, Hypertext, Cleaver Magazine, The Forge Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. I'm @poonaikaari on Twitter.