A pilgrim was passing through Kuppargaon. It was well past noon when he arrived in the village. He found all doors closed. No one was walking on the muddy village road. The street was littered with garbage, which was the only indication that people lived in the village.

The pilgrim found some reeds which he bundled together to make a broom, and got down to work.

In the evening, the doors opened. After a satisfying afternoon nap, people stumbled out of their homes lazily. They were surprised to see the street, their street, clean. They found a stranger who had gathered all the dirt in a heap at the end of the road.

The village chief, Kaliya, walked up to the stranger and shouted at him. “You rascal, how dare you enter our village without permission? What are you doing?”

The pilgrim smiled at Kaliya. “Don’t you know Goddess Lakshmi is coming this weekend?” he asked.

Chief Kaliya was confused.

“Lakshmi? Goddess Lakshmi? Coming to our village?”

Meanwhile people had gathered. Some elders spoke to Kaliya in a whisper, “He seems to be a holy man. Look at his forehead smeared with holy ash and kumkum. Let’s not displease him.”

No outsider had ever visited the village — no government official, police chief or even the humble postman. It was a forgotten village. Nobody in the state seemed to be aware there was a village in the state called Kuppargaon. Now a holy man had come, and he was telling them that Goddess Lakshmi was coming.

“Will the Goddess like it? I mean the street that is so dirty?” asked the pilgrim.

An old lady bent with age went inside and came out with a bucket of water, which she splashed in front of her house. Immediately other women followed suit. The street was now sparkling clean.

The pilgrim nodded his head in approval. He sat down in front of a small house and using a twig started drawing some design. A woman brought some rangoli powder and filled the design. Some children ran, brought flowers, and started filling the designs with the petals. By then dusk had fallen. A woman lit a lamp in front of her house. Soon there were lamps in front of every house.

The street wore a festive look. A child came to the pilgrim and gave him a hug. A girl brought him some sweet. The pilgrim broke into a smile. A young girl began to sing.

For once Kaliya the village chief had become quiet. He sat next to the pilgrim under a banyan tree.

“Where is Goddess Lakshmi? You said she would be coming.” he said.

“Can’t you see? She has already arrived,” said the pilgrim.

Kaliya looked around. He could hear the laughter of girls and shouts of joys from children running free. And he could see rows of light. He looked up. The stars were twinkling. There was a gentle breeze.

Kaliya broke into a smile. “Yes, Lakshmi is here,” he said softly.

“Happy Diwali,” said the pilgrim as he left the village.

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