In a small stone tribal hut devoid of any hint of natural light, under an abnormally pitch-black night sky, with the moon and the stars hidden behind a veil of a never seen before black cloud, a mother gave birth to an unnaturally dark-skinned curly-haired girlchild. At 8,600 feet above sea level, isolated from the rest of the world, in 1960, Malana was a village of around a thousand five hundred individuals in one of the most secluded regions in the cradle of the mighty Himalayan Mountain range.
Amara had broken a taboo. For thousands of years, it was forbidden for the people of her tribe to share their secrets, their sacred Kanashi language, and their way of life with outsiders. A year back, she fell in love with an African traveller to the region and became pregnant.
While the traveller, who claimed to be a descendant of King Shaka Zulu himself, was banned from ever entering the village again and returned to his country, Amara was branded an outcast by her own people and left to live her life in a small stone hut outside the village.
The oldest known republic in the Indian subcontinent, the hamlet of Malana in the Pavitra Valley region, nestled amidst the icy peaks of the gargantuan Himalayas, surrounded by steep cliffs and snow-capped mountains, had always been a realm of mysterious origins, intrigue, and legends.
The year is 326 BC. Alexander the Great had just fought and won the epic Battle of Hydaspes against king Porus of Punjab. Sometime after this iconic victory, his army exhausted by years of campaigning, in the end, mutinied on the banks of the River Beas, refusing to march further east.
Finally, after twelve years of warfare, which started with the Battle of Chaeronea on 2nd August 338 BC, and after defeating thirteen formidable opponents, empires, and kings, Alexander had reached the easternmost extent of his conquests.
Seeing no hope for returning back to their homeland, a small division abandoned its main army and mysteriously disappeared in the Himalayan mountains. After wandering for days on some of the world’s highest terrains, these Greek soldiers had finally found a patch of heaven on earth, where they could rest their battle bruised bones. Gradually over the years, they took wives from other tribes in the region and settled permanently in this heavenly land, which they came to call the Malana village.
For more than two thousand years since then, the descendants of that division of Alexander’s army continued their secluded existence in this mysterious patch of earthly heaven.
Though mostly secretive, the people of Malana were not completely unwelcoming to outsiders. High spirited adventurers who found their way into the village very rarely, were tolerated with restrictions. There was a strong attraction for these overzealous travellers to seek out this hidden and mysterious hamlet.
Amidst the cool gushes of sooting mountain winds and arrays of bottle green deodar trees and in the hazy fields on the hilly slopes grew an herb, which the villagers considered holy and to outsiders was one of the best experiences of transcendental ecstasy. The resin or Hashish made from the cannabis plant that grew wildly in the region was known as the world-renowned Malana cream.
The unique hand rubbing technique used to produce it and the fabled intoxicating effect of this rare Hashish attracted the highly adventurous seekers of the ultimate high to this tiny village. Over the years, it had become a good source of rare but fabulous income for the villagers. They did not mind selling Hashish to outsiders as long as the visitors did not overstay in the village, kept to themselves, and did not become involved with the locals in any way.
Dawning their traditional light brown robes, caps and hem shoes, the residents of Malana looked more Mediterranean than Himachali on any given day. With distinguishably different physical features from the other tribes in the region, they had had light brown hair and eyes, long noses, and a golden-brown complexion. Strict rules on mixing with outsiders had helped in preserving their Greek looks through the generations.
Now when Amara got pregnant by a charcoal-black-skinned African Zulu descendant, it was more than a scandal. It was nearly a death sentence for the couple. The African’s life was spared, and he was forced to flee back to his country. It was Amara who suffered a greater punishment. She was placed in a small stone hut outside the hamlet and barred from entering the main village, ever in her life again.
Then on that abnormally pitch-black night on the 20th of October in 1960, Amara gave birth to the unnaturally swarthy girlchild, whom she woefully named Kaali, meaning black or dark-skinned.
Kaali grew up as an outcast in her own community. Though unlike her mother she was allowed to enter the village but was always looked down upon, by everyone for her dark skin and curly hair. Her complexion and her hair were her greatest enemies, for they were different from the others. For them, she could not make any friends or find affection from anyone in the village. Everyone looked down upon her and her bastard origin.
Kaali was, however, not weak. She was a hybrid of Greek and Zulu warrior genes. From a very early age, she displayed unnatural physical strength and the unique skill to wield any object as a weapon. Kaali, however, did not display these qualities in public but practised this self-discovered combating art secretly, while everyone kept on mocking, bullying, and behaving with her indifferently.
As the years passed, Kali grew immensely in both her mental and physical capabilities. Training in the wilderness secretly every day, she had become a warrior who was unaware of the extent of her very own skills. There was no one to rage a battle with. Though everyone in the village treated her miserably, she did not consider them her enemies, on whom she could test her abilities. They were no match for her anyway; she could easily snap any of their heads like twigs.
Years passed in this way, and it was the month of June in 1980. Kali was four months short of her twentieth birthday, and a terrible cloud of darkness befell on the village. On one beautiful summer day, as most of the peaceful residents of Malana strolled and carried on with their activities, a Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter landed on one of the cannabis fields right outside the hamlet.
From the chopper came out a group of twenty heavily armed combat-trained scary-looking men. Wielding AK-47 assault rifles and PSM semi-automatic pistols, they took control of the entire village.
As the villagers were rounded at gunpoint in the centre of the hamlet, the tallest giant among the assailants, their leader, slowly walked up and stood atop a high rock so that everyone could see what he did next. Stooping down, he picked up a seven-headed cannabis leaf. Dramatically crushing it into a lump, holding and displaying it between his thumb and index finger, he slowly moved his gigantic arm from left to right and put the herbal pellet in his pocket.
At that moment, the intention of these armed men became clear to the villagers. They were there to loot the fabled Malana cream, as much of it as possible.
Within a week, the mercenaries organised themselves. Though they could not speak the native language, and neither could the natives understand their dialect, they made their intentions and instructions pretty clear. They would inhumanly torture and even kill anyone who refused to listen or understand what they said.
They were there to stay for as long as they desired. They were there to force the villagers to make Malana cream for them. As much of it as possible and for as long as possible. Soon the peaceful heavenly village turned into a concentration camp. The villagers were made to work from morning till evening in shifts. When not working on the production of Hashish, most of them were locked in their own houses.
More than three months passed this way, and in a newly built central godown in the village, the smugglers had managed to amass the largest stockpile of Malana cream ever accumulated. They could keep operations up and running because no official of the Indian Government had ever visited the village. For that matter, most of the world, apart from the seldom adventure traveller, did not even know about the existence of this place.
The smugglers guarded the village pretty well making sure that outsiders did not come into the village and that none of the natives escaped. They had well planned to capture and prison or even kill any traveller who laned in the village during this dark phase. Fortunately, no outsiders came to the hamlet during their terrorising reign.
All this while the mercenaries had mapped the village and the surrounding areas well, but they were unaware of the existence of one individual whose self-taught skills and dark skin helped her stay hidden in the shadows away from their knowledge.
Kaali had managed to hide from them. During the last three months, she took her time to study every movement that the mercenaries made. Then finally on an abnormally pitch-black night sky, similar to the one seen only once before, some twenty years ago during the time of her birth, Kaali made her move.
The Zulu-Greek warrior of the blackest skin ever seen, shed all the clothes from her body and moved invisibly in the shadows of the pitch-black night camouflaged in the darkness. She knew exactly where the sentinels were and how they moved about. As the night progressed, the black warrior moved through the village with her touch of death.
Kaali now stood at the door of the leader of the mercenary’s room, who could not see but had sensed her presence. The giant had sprung from sleep and now stood clothless with his right hand firmly gripping a massive combat blade.
“Pokazhi sebya ubiytsey (show yourself assassin),” spoke up the giant, bending and stretching his arms forward and lowering his stance to make a lethal move. He knew no one could defeat him in hand-to-hand combat.
Then from the shadows slowly emerged the darkest woman the man had ever seen. The blood of his men was all over the female warrior’s naked black skin. “YA razorvu tebya, ved’ma (i will tear you apart witch),” screamed the Russian Goliath and leapt towards Kaali.
As the first rays of morning light pierced through the cracks of the stone and wooden cottages, the villagers realised that something had happened. As they broke out of their home prisons, they saw one after the other nineteen lifeless bodies of the Russian men.
When they entered the hut where the mercenary leader had taken up residence, they found his stiff naked body in a pool of his own blood on the floor of the cottage. His massive Russian blade crested deep in his solar plexus and few strands of curly black hair in his left fist, firmly clenched.
There were footprints of blood that limped away from the body and vanished into the nearby cannabis field. The field ended in a deep ravine that fell thousands of meters into a fast-flowing river that vanished into a dark abyss.
It would not be till 1996 when the police could reach the Manala village for the first time in history. The villagers however did not tell the authorities about their brush with the Russian drug lord and his mercenaries. They had torn apart and discarded the chopper in the ravine and gradually sold a considerable portion of the Hashish made during that time and hid the remainder of the harvest.
Right after the incident, the villagers asked for Amara’s forgiveness and requested her to return to the village. She however decided to continue living in the stone hut, where she had given birth to her beloved daughter, who became the warrior to save the hamlet.
Though Kaali was never seen again, and it was presumed that severely injured in the fight, she must have wandered off into the nearby cannabis field and fallen off the cliff half-conscious and disoriented in pain. Many, however, believe that she lives in the shadows to this very day, protecting the people, way of life, and secrets of the Malana village.
Copyright © 2021 TRISHIKH DASGUPTA
This work of fiction, written by Trishikh Dasgupta is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, send an email to the author at email@example.com or get in touch with Trishikh on the CONTACT page of this website.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adventurer, philosopher, writer, painter, photographer, craftsman, innovator, or just a momentary speck in the universe flickering to leave behind a footprint on the sands of time... READ MORE