Chapter 8 – Kali & Bonga
Excerpt: But something was already a little different about this morning Grace sensed with a hint of trepidation.
It was a cold wretched Sunday morning in June when Grace woke to yet another wet colourless day. It had been raining consistently for weeks without any hint that a change was drawing near. Grace felt agitated by the smothering grey sadness that had shadowed her constantly since her father’s death.
She decided that she had had enough of her miserable existence behind the cold steel bars of grief. And that it was up to her alone to make the necessary changes to rectify this problem.
She pushed the blankets away and swung her legs enthusiastically over the edge of her bed. Her pathetic life, coupled with the gloomy weather, had become too depressing and predictable.
But something was already a little different about this morning Grace sensed with a hint of trepidation. She frowned, her stomach growled. She felt hungry, something she hadn’t felt for a while. Really, really hungry with an unyielding urge to find food and eat.
Grace felt instantaneously sick with hunger as she stood, her legs trembled uncontrollably. She crouched down onto her haunches to steady herself and grasped her stomach. She looked up toward the ceiling that started to vibrate and blur. Snowy white dots, like a television that had just gone off the air filled her vision. “Oh no, not again,” she whispered in a frightened voice before she collapsed unconscious on the bedroom floor.
My mouth and tongue are parched, void of saliva, and it hurts when I try to swallow. My lips are dehydrated, cracked and resembled an old worn-out brown leather belt. A kitten meowed on the ground beside my filthy bare feet. “Bonga?” I say in a small raspy voice as I reach down to stroke the skeletal animal. I study my hand, it is bony. I try to rub mud off my hand with equally dirty fingers. I gasp when I realise that it wasn’t dirt that coated my body.
I was in Bengal and it was 1769. I was re-experiencing the wretched suffering of myself as an 11-year-old brown-skinned girl. An obnoxious stink assaulted my nostrils, I didn’t smell good, nothing smelt good. The soiled walls around me were emitting a foul-smelling stench of excrement, urine and rotting flesh. I covered my nose and mouth with a grubby hand, it didn’t help.
“Kali, stay here with your mother, I will return with food by nightfall.” A man said to me in a foreign language, that somehow I understand. I nod obediently. Maybe tonight he would bring home a rat and we would eat like kings. He was tall, softly spoken, rakish thin and dressed in rags. Starvation had taken its toll and left him haggard, defeated. Only the love and devotion that he felt for our family had kept him alive, day after day. I knew this truth about him, and it made me love him even more. My heart was bursting at the seams with love, my stomach bloated but empty.
I remembered that he had been a well dressed and wealthy man once. He had been a prosperous merchant trader, trading in textiles, tea and exotic spices throughout India and foreign lands.
I watched him prepare to leave; intuitively, I sensed that I would never see this man again. A dirty tear ran slowly down and over my protruding cheek bone. “Good bye father,” I said weakly to his retreating back, “I love you.” He never heard me, the bustling noise outside had already swallowed him up whole.
My kitten Bonga shrieked loudly in protest behind me, I spun around in time to see a girl snatch the kitten up from the floor by its oversized head. The girl snarled and threatened me with her wild yellowy eyes, her teeth bared. In one swift movement, she twisted the kitten’s scrawny neck, breaking it. It dangled silently in her hands as the girl turned and flew quickly out into the dirty alleyway. My kitten Bonga, would be an appetizing meal for four that evening.
A woman’s voice behind me, “Kali, come.”
This woman who summoned me, I knew intuitively, was my mother. My heart swelled with unbounded love for her. She was lying on dirty rags on the floor and looked like a beautiful skeleton draped in satiny brown skin. By nightfall I knew my mother would be dead, and I would be alone in this place.
So would ten million other men, women and children. They would starve to death during one of the worst famines in history during the 17th century. It will happen again.
I laid down beside my mother and closed my eyes. I prayed for a quick walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The Gods smiled down upon my mother and me that night. We did not have to wait long before the child-like Angel held our hands and walked us home.
Grace slowly blinked and opened her eyes; she was lying on the carpeted floor in her familiar bedroom. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and thought about the thin brown-skinned girl Kali and her parents. They were all dead; their brown bodies had decayed into the parched cracked earth over 300 years ago. She thought about Bonga, the Bengali kitten dangling from the hands of the yellow eyed girl, its neck limp and broken.
Grace rubbed her eyes to erase the brutal images and memories floating in her mind. The dreams and visions that Grace had experienced from an early age were occurring more frequently now. The visions and dreams, that had once dissolved as quickly as they had manifested, now started to linger a little longer.
“I need to eat.” Grace said to herself standing slowly, her legs still trembling. She inspected herself carefully in the mirror from head to toe. She pushed the long flannel sleeve up to her elbow, examining the colour of her skin. She was clean, white, she was back – she was Grace.
By early 1770 there was Starvation, and by mid-1770 deaths from Starvation were occurring on a large scale. There were also reports of the living feeding on the bodies of the dead in the middle of that year. Smallpox and other diseases further took their toll of the population. Later in 1770 good Rainfall resulted in a good harvest and the famine abated. However, other shortfalls occurred in the following years, raising the total death toll.
Twitter the Angels