(The story is written in first person, it is influenced and inspired by someone or something, either real or fictitious. The characters and occurrence are may be fictitious or real and any resemblance with any character or real occurrence might be purely coincidental or not. Writer doesn’t claim it’s a true story, at the same he doesn’t claim it’s a fictitious one either. It is left to readers to judge.
If you like this post, I would be glad to know that you are entertained, if not and you feel it’s a complete wastage of your precious time reading it, my apologies in advance are already on the table.)
I checked my watch. It is 11:35 PM, quite late at night. All alone, I am walking around in this city, without an aim, without a destination. But it feels kind of good, late at night this city shows its hidden face you can’t see during other times of the day. The yellowish street lights, one or two vehicles passing by in high speed, strange sounds coming from far away, piercing though the natural silence of the magical night. I was standing on the over-bridge, drinking every drop of this night’s intoxicated beauty.
“Hey, whose there?” I heard a heavy voice and few footsteps, I looked over my shoulder and found few policemen are on their patrolling duty. “What are you doing here at this hour of the night?” another voice inquired. “Nothing, I am just walking around.” I replied with sweetest smile I could pull out at that time.
“Show us some identification.” Most probably the guy who asked the question this time, is leader of this team. I smiled at them again and replied “I am not carrying any. “What’s your name? And address?” someone among them barked. “Name is Ani, Address Planet Earth, It’s called the Planet Blue as well.” The whole gang was stunned now.
The leader of the police group stepped forward. “There was case of snatching took place last night, I am arresting you for your suspicious behavior.”
“Good, let’s go.” I yawned and replied, they all looked at me surprisingly, perhaps they never had such willing participant to visit police station.
“Confucius said, ‘Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.’” I felt Confucius himself couldn’t say it better.
It’s been more than 3 hours I am sitting here on the bench, never been to any police station before, that too at this ungodly hour. The group who arrested me, gone out again for patrolling leaving behind 2 of their men. Suddenly I felt a sense of urgency and attention among the people here, a man in his khaki dress entered through the door, I assumed he must be the Inspector in charge of the station. I was immediately summoned to his cabin.
“What’s the name?” The Inspector started his interrogation in passive voice.
“What’s in the name?” I replied. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”
For a moment the Inspector looked perplexed, “What?” He asked in puzzled voice.
“Shakespeare sir, couldn’t help when I heard the question.” I answered with a puppy face.
For few moments he couldn’t speak anything, then he leaned on the table and hissed, “You think you are too smart, don’t show your smartness with police, when you’ll be lying on the ice slab and I will be beating your ass off you won’t be in a position to joke.”
“Sir, please make sure those ice slabs are bought from proper shops, I heard these people supplying the ice slabs from the hospital morgues to police, It’s so unhygienic.” I spoke with a concerned voice.
Inspector Subodh Dhar (Read his name on the name-tag of his uniform) redirected his attention to his men, he shouted at one of them, “Did you search him? Did you find anything suspicious?” I smiled, I am not carrying my purse or mobile, my pockets are empty, so they did not find anything.
“Nothing sir, we have searched him thoroughly”, one of them replied in a scared voice.
Inspector turned his attention back to me, “From your presence and attire you look like you are from a good family, I am not sure about your mental condition though, call any of your family member or friends to bring a proper identity of yours, then you are free to go.”
As none of my family member lives in this city now I was totally dependent on my friends and I don’t remember any of their numbers. One of the many disadvantages of using mobile phones, you don’t remember you’re near and dear ones numbers, names are enough. I was thinking hard as Inspector Dhar was staring at me. All of a sudden I remember Siraj, my school friend Siraj Karim, I remember his land line number, as back in those days I used to call him frequently.
We both were best friends in school, then after that we lost touch, best part is even today I can’t remember how and when we stopped talking. His dad is a renowned barrister who joined politics and currently serving as the state Minister of horticulture and food processing industries. I decided to call Siraj, after all ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed.’ I wasn’t sure if he has the same number, but nonetheless I dialed it.
Siraj is sitting in front of me in the police station. He is also completely baffled. Our conversation in the phone was short.
Me: Hey Siraj, this is Ani, come to this police station right now, I am giving you the address. Come fast.”
Siraj: “Aniiiiii….. Such a long time, what the hell you are doing in police station at this time?”
I gave the address and put the phone down. During school days he was the notorious do-gooder among us, always on his toes to help people. Once he rescued an 8 years old boy thinking he got stuck on a tree branch, once saved we came to know he was hiding there on the tree after stealing money from his dad.
Inspector Subodh is watching both of us may be because Siraj is still in his pajama and t-shirt, I am sure he came running from his bed as soon as he got my call. “Did you bring some identification proof of your friend?” Inspector asked. “I didn’t get much time, actually….” Before Siraj could finish I stopped him by winked at him.
“Inspector, I have a confession to make, remember that snatching incident on the over-bridge you have got me arrested for, I have done that, and this is my friend and accomplice, Siraj Karim.” I was smiling wickedly while speaking.
Siraj was speechless as he opened his mouth so big that a full size cat go walk in there easily. Inspector Subodh Dhar was at his wit’s last end where anything and everything might sound truth and lies at the same time.
We both were sitting inside the lockup. Me and Siraj, from his face it was clear he is still in shock. “What is going on?” he whispered,
“Isn’t it exciting?” I whispered back.
“Of course it is, but if you could tell me what is your plan and what is next?” he looked a bit relaxed now, maybe he is thinking it’s a practical joke.
“Now this is the fun part, do you see the cops are going through your belongings they seized, they soon find your identity and your dad might be here any minute to release us.” I tried to sound happy,
Siraj looked at me with frightened eyes, “My d..dad will s..s..slaughter me if he knows I am sitting in lockup.” He somehow completed the whole sentence, he was stammering.
“Well, too late for that.” I sighed. “As Jesus Christ said ‘So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.’ Guess this lockup door will also open.”
Inspector Dhar almost started to weep when he heard, Siraj is the son of the state minister of horticulture and food processing, Abdul Karim. He started to sob when he heard the minister himself is coming to his police station to release his son. As he reached in his VIP cars with red lights glowing on their top, cops were overly anxious, running around here and there, Subodh Dhar was standing like a statue made of stone.
We all sat in Inspector’s cabin, Us, Siraj’s dad and the zonal DCP.
Inspector: “S..Sir, I had no idea he is your son, I mean I was totally misguided by Mr. Ani, I didn’t know what to do. Please don’t mind me being such a fool. They were absolutely comfortable here.”
Siraj’s Dad: “It’s alright, I knew there is a misunderstanding, now if you finish your formalities and let him go.” He finished and threw a hateful burning look at me.
I smiled sweetly again and asked, “How are you uncle? Remember, I used to come visit your place regularly once upon a time.” He didn’t reply and turned his face.
Things wrapped up pretty fast after that. The DCP warned the Inspector he will have words with him later. Abdul Karim denied to recognize me and asked for the law to take its own course. Siraj tried hard to convince his dad.
Siraj: “Dad we can’t leave Ani here.”
Abdul Karim: ‘He is the sole reason for all these trouble, for sure he is harmful to you and to me as well, let the police take care of him.” He almost dragged Siraj out of there.
I was left on the mercy of entire police station totally pissed with me.
“GO and sit on that bench, you make a sound and I will shoot you without warning.” Inspector roared. I wondered if he is really planning for a false encounter.
It’s already morning 8, all the other policemen are curiously watching at me who just came in and don’t know the whole story, Others I guess were waiting for the green signal from the inspector to start their third degree treatment on me. I was sitting there quietly.
“Sir.” A stranger just came in, walked up to Inspector Dhar.
“What?” Inspector barked
“Sir, this is Bhola butcher, you ordered 2kg of mutton today.” Bhola spoke in panicky tone.
“Oh, send it to my home.” He looked back.
“Sir, payment………” As Bhola spoke those words inspector looked at him with blood red eyes, “GET LOST.”
Bhola almost ran away out of his sight. I don’t know why but I felt like following him, a cop tried to stop me, I quietly showed him the universal pinky finger sign and showed him the empty space near the station, he shrugged and told me to do it quickly. I saw Bhola standing near the road, as a bus came near him and slowed down he jumped in, I followed and jumped in it too. Did not hear any voice shouting behind, I think no one noticed.
Aristotle said ‘The wise man does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life – knowing that under certain conditions it is not worthwhile to live.’
As Bhola got down from the bus and started walking through a narrow lane with so many small shops on both sides, I followed him. He stopped in front of a butcher shop, I stood behind him and knocked on his shoulder.
“Inspector Subodh Dhar has sent me to get the mutton.” He looked at me from head to toe.
“But, I never saw you before.” As he spoke those words I made a straight face, “You want to call him and confirm?”
“No. its fine, give me 5 minutes.” I waited till he chopped the meat and packed it.
“Ok, come with me then.” I told him, he looked at me with surprise. “I thought you are taking the meat to his place.”
“Don’t you want to have the payment for that?” I indicated at the meat pack. He looked completely puzzled.
“Come on. Let’s go.” I pretend as if I know where we are going, we got into a cab, “Where to?” cab driver asked. As I didn’t reply, Bhola gave him the address.
We reached at Subodh Dhar’s flat, it’s on 5t floor in a multi-stored apartment. I pressed the calling bell and almost immediately the door opened as if someone was waiting there to open the door. The lady who opened the door wearing a yellow saari looked at us with a curiosity, I could describe her as a presence of sad yet elegant beauty.
“Hello Ma’m, here’s the mutton. And I am Ani, this is Bhola, it’s 1400 plus 200 for cab fare, total 1600.” I was holding the meat pack in my hand with a grin.
“Oh, thanks, I thought he already paid Bhola.” She took the packet and asked. “Oh, no, he asked me to get it from you.” I smiled and replied to her, I forgot to mention, I made Bhola to pay the cab fare as I told him I am not carrying my purse, he paid it with an uninterested face, as if it’s a regular occurrence.
She came back from inside while counting the cash, “Here’s your 1600.” She gave it Bhola, he took it, looked at my face and then hers, probably first time he is getting paid for the meat Subodh Dhar ever bought from him, then he almost ran down by the stairs. Inspector’s wife was surprised to see that and she turned to me and asked “Sorry, I did not recognize you, you are?” “Oh. I am Ani, I work with Subodh sir, newly joined.” Smiling lies have their own effects.
I was invited in for a cup of tea and I accepted without any formalities. In the drawing room and old man was watching TV and old lady weaving wools. “My father-in-law and mother-in-law, the came from Pune yesterday, and this Ani, Subodh’s colleague.” She introduced. “It’s our 5th marriage anniversary today.” She announced. “Ahh, where are the kids?” I spoke in an enthusiastic voice, her face went dark and she hurried to the kitchen. In another 5 minutes the mother-in-law vented all her deep sorrows and frustration out as how she is waiting to make woolen socks and sweaters for her grandchild but so far the couples are childless, she also deliberately hinting that it’s her daughter-in-law’s fault. I shook my head like a wise guy.
“I called Subodh, but he was too busy, it seems some criminal ran away from his custody, he is already so tensed regarding another issue, he arrested a minister’s son by mistake, before I could say anything he cut the call. Every anniversary he gets into some or the other thing and spoils the entire day.” She spoke as she was coming out of the kitchen. “Would you like to stay till lunch?” She asked. “Oh yes, Subodh sir actually invited me for lunch, I think he forgot to tell you because of all these trouble.” Subodh’s parents and his wife looked at each other and at me. I again produced my trademark heavenly smile.
Once we finished our lunch, I was already a fan of ‘Antima Dhar’s’ cooking, Subodh Dhar truly is a lucky husband and I couldn’t but feel jealous. The lunch was simple, Fried rice, mung daal, fine potato fry, hilsa fish curry, mutton kosha, pineapple chutney, yogurt and gulabjamun. Antima tried to call husband thrice but he cut the calls every time, I guess he was truly busy. I bid Subodh’s family goodbye and promised I will go back to police station and send him home as soon as possible.
As I hit the road, I could only think of one sentence of George Bernard Shaw, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
I got up hearing my calling bell ringing madly, it’s 9:15 am, I slept almost for 10 hours, rubbed my eyes and opened the door. Inspector Subodh Dhar was standing at my door.
I admit I was kind of impressed by the efficiency of our police force, it only took them less than 24 hours to locate my house and find me.
“Hello Inspector.” I cleared my throat, “Would you like to come in?”
“You have to come with me now….. Please….” I was astonished to hear his pleading voice rather than his authoritative one. I thought by this time he will rough me up and throw at the back seat of his police car.
“Ammm, I am yet to have my morning tea and breakfast. Would you mind waiting for an hour, I haven’t been to loo either.” My concerns were genuine.
“Please, please, my job is at stake, Minister Abdul Karim himself told me to produce you in front him. From today morning I am getting calls after calls from home ministry to commissioner’s desk. You have visited my house, had lunch with my family, they know everything and suspecting me that I am involved. Please come with me to Minister’s house and explain everything, he wanted to meet you urgently.” It looks really ugly when a full uniformed police officer crying and pleading.
We are now sitting in Siraj’s home, nothing changed much since I stop coming here, huge 3 story building with around 24 rooms, Surrounded by a big garden, a small swimming pool on the north side. Inspector left as soon as we reached here, he was unwanted. Its Siraj’s father Abdul, his mother Rashida and his Sister Ayesha sitting in front of me and I could see 3 different expressions on those 3 faces, Abdul Karim is keeping a straight unconcerned face, Rashida Begum clearly was crying as her eyes are red and swelled, Ayesha is looking straight at me with her forehead wrinkled, I haven’t seen so much hatred and loathsomeness in anyone’s eyes for me.
“Hello Abdul uncle.” I started, He looked at me and throw a piece of paper at me. It was a letter from Siraj, it reads,
How are you doing now? I know you won’t so good, I am sure police has roughed you up and I know I am indirectly responsible for that. You called me to help you and being the son of a powerful man I couldn’t help. You know, my father has changed a lot as he joined politics, it made him cruel, violent and power hungry. He was always ruthless in his career but I haven’t seen his this characteristics.
Let me tell you an incident, do you remember our school teacher Harish Roy, the fair and square history teacher. He was his opponent during the election. My father conspired with few powerful people and got him under the false charge of murder. He is in jail now and his family is in hand to mouth situation, but he has no remorse. All my respect for him is gone. Even my mother supports him silently. One day few people came up to him with a suitcase full of money, later I came to know they are involved in illegal mining and my father is helping them accepting a huge sum. After they are gone my father handed over the money to my mother and she didn’t ask a question and kept it in the locker.
Only Esha, my sister is still away from all these, but how long? I am already a part his sins. After we got back home we had a heated argument, my father mocked me for my pseudo honesty and uprightness, he said all my expenditure, my school, college, MBA from Australia, everything is funded by this sinful wealth, and now when I am well settled in a multinational farm, I despise the same money that got me all the comfort in the world. I couldn’t answer him, my head hung in shame.
But my friend, I can’t accept leaving you behind in misery. I still consider you my best friend, all my friends drifted or driven away after my father attained this political status. But no more I can stay in this hell so I am running away from here, for good.
I don’t know your current address so sending it to same police station address you still might be.
I finished reading and yawned, “He will come back home as soon as he gets calm. He is angry now.”
“So are my thoughts, actually I don’t even mind if he doesn’t come back, who needs a son who think so highly of his own parents. I wouldn’t have called you here, but his mother wanted to speak to you. I have work, so I have to leave.” Abdul Karim finished his words and walked out.
“Ani, son, do you know where Siraj is? He is always this emotional and short tempered, if you know where he is please tell us.” Siraj’s mother spoke in a trembling and crying voice.
“I have no idea Rashida aunty, I should leave now. I’ll let you know if I hear from him.” I replied in an indifferent tune.
“No, don’t go, stay for the day, I need to talk to you. Have lunch with us.” She stopped me.
“I can’t eat without having bath, I didn’t even brushed my teeth today morning. “I yawned again.
“Esha, go and ask the servants to open the guest house and give him a spare tooth brush and a towel.” Rashida Begum instructed to her daughter.
“Hey Esha, how are you?” I smiled at her, she grew up a fine lady. And she is still holding the fierce hatred and disgust in her eyes
“Don’t call me that, my name is Ayesha, only the closest people of me call me that.” She left the room with angry footsteps.
I sighed. ‘Anger begets more anger, and forgiveness and love lead to more forgiveness and love. – Mahavira’
It’s such fun to have bath in a bathroom almost as big as my bedroom. I don’t even know the name of half of the things on the bathroom rack, It took me 2 hours to come out of that Jacuzzi.
I was having lunch, on the dining table I was the only one eating. Esha was sitting on the chair left to me and Rashida aunty was standing and serving, Abdul Karim has gone to office.
“Son, are you eating properly? Don’t be shy, Do you need anything else?” Rashida aunty was looking sad yet trying to look busy.
“Don’t call me son so frequently, I feel uncomfortable.” I replied.
I could see from her face she was hurt. “Anything else is making you uncomfortable?”
“Yes, you don’t have to stand and serve the food, I can manage, please go and have some rest”, I spoke bluntly
She didn’t say anything and slowly walked out of the dining room.
“So what’s your ploy? Why are you playing this game?” Esha who kept quite all these while blurted out now
“There is no game Esha.” I replied with a smile.
“I have told you not to call me so, and my brother told me everything that happened in police station, what the hell you are trying to do?” Her face was turning red in anger.
“But I always called you Esha, don’t you remember our school days?” I was smiling to her
“I want my brother back as soon as possible, all these have happened because of you. I am warning you, you will pay for all these. Don’t you see everyone is worried here?” She was totally mad at me now.
“I smiled and replied, Buddha said ’Happiness or sorrow – whatever befalls you, walk on, untouched, unattached.’
“Stop playing these games Ani, enough of quoting all these gibberish sayings. You are a thug, a scumbag, not a sage or Buddha” Her voice was trembling with anger and resentment. Why she looks so beautiful when she is angry?
She stood up and threw a piercing look at me, “Remember that day Ani when you ran away like a thief, that’s who you really are, not what you are pretending to be.” And she stormed out of there.
I came out of Siraj’s house without informing anybody, don’t know how they will feel when they will see the empty guest room. I reached to the police station by 4 PM. Saw Inspector Subodh is sitting in his cabin holding his head with both hands.
“May I come in sir?” I asked.
“Do you have any info about your friends? I am getting calls after calls from all highest possible places.” Inspector looked completely helpless.
“Don’t worry, he will come back, how about you? How are you doing? And how’s your family and wife?”
Inspector sighed, “I have another problem on my head. There was a murder of a key witness, few goons have done it, now I am being pressurized to release them.
“What’s the big deal? Happens all the time.” I sounded apathetic.
“Yes, but they want me make a false case and arrest few innocent men instead of them” Inspector impatiently answered.
“Inspector, why don’t you do something different this time, arrest the actual culprits and file a case against them as well who are pressurizing you.” I spoke in a cheerful tone.
He dumb fondly looked at me, and then sighed, “I wish I too had friends whose dads are ministers. I guess you should go Ani, I have so much to do.”
I came out of there, ‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.– Lao Tzu’
I read it in newspaper after few days. Minister Abdul Karim is charged with corruption and receiving kickbacks. He is forced to resign from his post and an investigation is currently carried out against him. The report also reads Minister’s personal life is also going through a turmoil as his eldest son is missing for months now and his wife is sick and bed ridden, Abdul Karim denied any kind of such involvements and kept accusing the opposition for false charges.
I folded the newspaper and kept it on my table. Suddenly I felt this strong urge to visit Inspector Subodh Dhar’s place. So in the evening I reached there and press the calling bell. Antima opened the door. She saw me but didn’t act dazed or surprised, she greeted me a very polite voice “Please come in, we were waiting when you will visit us again.”
Inside Subodh was sitting on his sofa, wearing white pajama and vest, sipping his tea, he looked at me and smiled, a sad smile of a worrier who lost the battle.
“Please have a sit, Antima, get Ani some tea and snacks will you? How are you sir?” I sat down.
“I have done something foolish, I have done as you said, I arrested the real culprits and put them behind the bars and complained against my superiors and local politicians who were pressurizing me. Few days back I have got my transfer order, I have been transferred into a core Naxalites zone, will have to report and join there this month end.
Antima came back with tea pot and sandwiches. She kept it on the table and stood beside her husband, Subodh held her head against his wife’s waist.
“She is 2 months conceived, we are going to have a child after all, I hope be alive to see the face of my first born.” He spoke in unmoved tone.
I murmured, “As Omar Khayyam said ‘Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.’
I am sitting here in front of Abdul Karim now, he is in jail. His own people whom he trusted played him, he is now an outcast, an embarrassment to his own party and soon he will be expelled. He isn’t looking worried anymore, rather he is looking calm and quite. May be during absolute adverse situation human acceptability tests and touches its limit, people admit to their situation without any resistance.
“How are you?” He asked.
“I am good, how about you.”
“I am fine too, as you can see.” I had a hearty laugh, then he spoke again, “Any news of Siraj? Its good in a way that he is not here, better he stays away from all these else media would have had a field day with him. Rashida is at her brother’s place, she got low blood pressure and over anxiety. Even Esha is not well. She’s having frequent emotional outburst. Would you do me a favour? Would you keep an eye on her, she’s all alone now, she has to take care of mother as well.”
I nodded, “Yes.”
I got the news as soon as I reach to Siraj’s house. Esha was taken to hospital. She tried to commit suicide by slitting her wrists. I am sitting in the hospital now, she is under intensive care, she lost a lot of blood, doctors are not able confirm anything as 24 hours need to be passed. I am sitting near her head, she unconscious. The funny part is, I can clearly remember how and when I and Siraj parted our ways.
It’s just after our 12th standard exam, Esha was in her 10th class. I was always so fond of her, but never knew my true feelings for her.
That day when I was at Siraj’s house waiting for him, Esha came into the drawing room with a piece of paper in her hand. “Did you write this left it inside my book?” She asked me with a naughty smile. I was dumbstruck for some time and nodded my head slowly.
“Wait here, I will bring your answer in my writing.” She ran in, I saw Siraj coming through the main gate from the window, suddenly I felt a sense of shame, a guilt of betrayal. How Siraj might feel if he knows I have written a love letter to his sister?
I sneaked out of his house, just like a thief, next day I traveled to my ancestral house to cut all my ties with Siraj and his family.
And I remember the story, ‘And Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: “She has lost her senses. The boy is dead. At length Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request: “I cannot give thee medicine for thy child, but I know a physician who can.” The girl said: “Pray tell me, sir; who is it?” And the man replied: “Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha.”
Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried: “Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.” The Buddha answered: “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend.” Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said: “Here is mustard-seed; take it!” But when she asked Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?” They answered her: “Alas the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief.” And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.’
I touched her forehead and whispered, ‘Yo ca vassasatam jeeve, apassam amatam padam, Ekaaham jeevitam seyyo, passato amatam padam. Though one should live a hundred years, without seeing the Deathless State, yet better indeed, is a single day’s life, of one who sees the Deathless State.’
I closed my eyes and saw Abdul Karim is released from jail and now at his house with Rashida Begum. Siraj came back, he was smiling at us, and I am standing there, holding Esha’s hand.
But life ain’t a fairy tale and Ani doesn’t possess any power to change the course of the fate.
I walked out slowly from the hospital to the road. The moon was smiling at me, the south sky is getting cloudy, it might rain tonight. But I will walk, and I will go and stand on the same over-bridge, who knows, may be another patrolling police force will arrest me, may be this time I will be able to change the story.