The impending anecdote is an imaginative creation and has no relevance to any factual or real life instance. Any resemblance to the same in relation to any person, dead or alive is purely coincidental.
All views expressed in the story are author’s personal. Names of individuals and places used in the story are fictitious.
The author does not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings or emotion. Nor wish to humiliate in any manner any person or any class or section of the society. The author neither wishes to incite any communal prejudice or ill feeling towards other community.
This is only a point of view which the author wishes to share with everyone.
As a child I always wondered, whether stories were real!
Now I know, Stories are not necessarily real. But they are just thoughts sometimes inspired from reality too.
Ordeal of a Widow
In a country where nearly everyone desire to be awaken with a cup of tea on the bedside table and for many who wouldn’t meet a natural morning call without gulping few sip of it, it is an acrimony that tea drinker hardly knows the veracities the tea makers goes through. Most of us would guess that Tea Industry is like any other food processing unit where workers, supervisors and executives would come and work under a concrete roof, call a Tea Factory with tea making machineries, get involve for a fixed period of time, do their bit and go home in the evening and the story for the day is over. On the contrary, Tea Industry is a different society all together. Every Tea Production unit is a village. And every village has its own populace, a diverse culture, perception and attitude. The emotional outburst and repercussion upon any issue in this society would probably and normally be insignificant and ignorable by the exterior civilization. The struggle for livelihood, the understanding of right and duty is dissimilar. The misunderstanding of good as evil and evil as good is predominant. And that’s what makes a Tea Industry far removed from rest of the industries. This is one industry or perhaps the only industry where the meaning of 24x7 hours working actually applies.
Neelakar, was a pleased man to be transferred back to Assam from Darjeeling. After all, it was returning home from a likely if not an alien land but a place not too easily adaptable to Neelakar. The tea culture in Darjeeling was pole apart from that of the Assam. Added to the linguistic hitch which made it difficult for some people who couldn’t speak Bengali or Nepali, Neelakar’s placement in Darjeeling garden was not normal. He had been serving a punishment posting. He was intended to give-up the job at his own so that nobody could blame the company that he was chucked out perversely.
But his new place of posting had happened to be just few hours from his native village. Anyone would feel comfortable staying and working in one’s place of abode or anywhere in its vicinity. But Neelakar had another reason for jubilation besides this. His work was lately been appreciated and he was given a hope of preferment if he was able to do well in his new assignment. He was now posted to the Garden out-division about 17 KM away from the main establishment, highly verminous of Bodo outfits. The division was quite isolated and was not doing well. And this was the only glitch in his mind. Never the less, he was the son of the soil, he supposed he would surely have an upper hand. With linguistic parallel he thought to get over with the apprehension. Moreover, insurgency problem of late had become a very common feature in Assam.
He reported to his new garden and soon his personal and professional skills begun to show convivial results. He was determined to prove himself and his work was being well taken by his higher-ups. The owner himself during one of his visit to the garden appreciated him candidly. He was commended for his hard-graft. He recalled, few years back when he was transferred to Dooars he was intended to leave the job at his own or be sacked and returned home empty handed. He knew this was one opportunity he needed dourly.
In some organization it is a fathomable stratagem; one way of asking its undesirable employees to leave is to strife and stress the person by the means of either frequent transfer from one unit to another or by relocating the person to the most isolated and deserted properties. But Neelakar survived it and now his superiors also felt that he had the potential which may not have been explored upon too well earlier or maybe he was another prey of the abhorrence of his former boss. Discrimination and nepotism is almost in every profession but no one admits it explicitly. Tea Industry is also no exclusion. Nevertheless, he has improved; enhanced his professional skills significantly and outcome of his hard graft stride favorably. He was liked by the workers too. He would sweat and wet himself with them at work.
A new executive is also habitually scanned by the workers. During initial months, even the workers stress up a newcomer and test his patience and attitude. In their own traditional way of pressure buildup they stretch the limits of an executive and test his sense of decision making, mental steadiness and the doorsill of accepting defeat. Neelakar was calm and compassionate and knew how to manage work out of his workers. Irrefutably, time and circumstances do its magic. Professional mellowness does not come overnight. This is perhaps an art most people learn by making mistakes. Not everyone is born with the stroke of luck to be professionally smart nor every time could anyone concoct situation to his advantage.
The company was not too old and therefore professionally it wasn’t placid. It had no prescribed policies. Things were still being managed ham-handedly. There was no systemic management and activities were often handled very insouciantly. Most of the vital activities were handled off-the-cuff manner. Monetarily there was always a dearth. Ground executives at times literally struggled for the basic necessities to run the garden. Production process would often come to a standstill as there were no diesel to run the generators. Disconnection of electricity supply was quite common. Managers would factually nag to the suppliers for agrochemicals. The anxiety amongst the executives would grow with the wage payment day getting closer.
Situation was worse among the ground executives too. Work pressure was tremendous and frustrations were far-reaching. Unpleasing remuneration had always been a portentous issue. But with not a very bright pedagogic background and diminishing respectable jobs elsewhere they had too little to choose between. Nor would the experience in tea befit in any other industry and profession.
This was becoming a burning issue with many of the well-endowed and established companies too. Apart from very few companies in Tea industry not many were good paymasters. It had always been a skintight situation compared to the status and the living standard tea executives were expected to maintain in the industry inherited from the Gentlemen of enslaved India.
The desire for the superficially adopted aristocratic lifestyle and erudition by which initially Neelakar got carried away soon died out. Merrymakings and braggadocio gradually became exasperating rather than fascinating. It was still manageable till Neelakar was a bachelor without any encumbrance and connubial obligations but after marriage the pecuniary crunch had become more ostensible and distressing. Apart from connubial wants it was now also expected that the lady was more sensible about housekeeping and embellishment of the bungalow, more buoyant and malleably social. Everyone did their utmost to keep their cottage well-endowed and festooned. A well maintained bungalow was always appreciated and augments recognition and distinction for the House Lady and this was a bonus point to her husband as well. Indeed each lady put in uphill struggle to maintain their bungalow at the highest order. It’s a gimmick every man wants her woman to thrive.
Each one of them in Neelakar’s Tea Estate was in an unsaid competition. Revelries at eachone‘s place would be grander than the other. In the rat race of corroborating preeminence and attention grabbing each one did something different, something special, and something extraordinaire. Sarcastically, though every guest on face would admire for the superfluous jollity organized at someone’s place, however at heart they envied and cursed too. In return, now they would need to do something even grander. After all, each one has to prove awesome than the other. Gratuitous and overdone celebration at one’s place became an unceremonious set-standard for the other.
“How have they been able to convene so lavishly?”
“…Must have picked up some means of spiteful earning.”
Career graph goes parallel to one’s personal exhibition and this is universal in any profession. In the contest of gratifying and pleasing the Boss, sometimes even Neelakar went overboard. He couldn’t have tarnished his stature in the crowd. This had become necessary for survival in the profession though it had always been at the cost of domestic pecuniary imbalance in each one of them.
Leading companies generally adopts the policy of revising monetary provision for their executives sporadically in terms of periodic revision of remuneration and also by the means of cash reward occasionally or additional cash benefit in appreciation to their performance, a judgment purportedly based upon individual merit. Then over the years, giants have also remained no more the same generous and lavish as yester years. They countered that prevailing decline in their margin of profitability for various unparallel reasons restrained in their act of bigheartedness.
Often the company bosses cited reasons too inexplicable and undeserved. Sometimes in the name of global economic depression, and at times the over laden teas in the market; then again increased wage rate of workforce and usually due to run-down of tea prices due to quality hassles and so on. And if these weren’t enough, amplified operational costs due to the inflation of various commodities were most common cover-ups for a made-up crisis. People had now begun to understand the hoax of this never ending corporate make-believe crisis.
Company bosses justify its parsimony by anything and the ground executives could do nothing about it. They could apprehend the whole shebang, but unlike stockholders could never challenge and question. They feared one who question shall be asked to leave or be made to leave. On such occasions of gathering and partying they would debate and put across their resentment amongst themselves and end the assemblage of joviality into environ of never-ending and irresolvable tête-à-tête. After a few drinks were in, these gentlemen like frustrated cats would only scratch the pillar.
Ground deck executives were the worst-hit of such concocted crunch though they were the ones who habitually absorb the shockwaves too and get by to such wooden nickel. In progression of time their families also fine-tunes their lifestyle accordingly to negotiate through their domiciliary quandaries. This heat and dust was a common spectacle in the Industry. Neelakar had also learnt to conquest his family’s tug of survival.
The Judgment Day
July 9th, 2006, as Neelakar walked out of his cabin humming a tune, he spotted Ranjit, his young bigheaded colleague grousing in wrath. He turned back to ease his young friend in distress. He passed on a word of counsel jestingly, “Keep your head cool, boy”. Ranjit was distraught since morning partaken by a harsh exchange of words with some of the union fellows and later even with the Manager. Apparently his Manager was not quite convinced with the manner in which he dealt with the union guys over an issue which could have been averted rather than turning it into an oral tug of tussle. Ranjit’s approach was questioned. He otherwise was quite proficient in handling laborers issues and his colleagues would mostly bank on him to resolve such disputes. He had always been in good book of his Manager though. But when self-belief dwindles into overconfidence even the most quick-witted makes the most asinine.
Neelakar had to go for labour payment to his out-division. The garden ambulance van engaged for carrying labour payment wasn’t behaving suitably. This was unbecomingly a regular feature. During the last disbursement the vehicle ceased in the middle of the road with whole lot of cash in it, isolated from any dwellings and populace. The driver had no clue how to restart it. Mobile network was also extremely weak and practically nought in this stretch of countryside. Vulnerable of Bodo militant movement in that terrain, Neelakar was in an uncanny situation where neither could he have waited for an unforeseen help to arrive out of the blue nor could he walk down with the entire cash in his hand to his divisional office which was still about 9KM away. He was left with no choice but to leave behind the cash in the vehicle and walk across to the locate signal on his cell. Fortunately at a distance his cell caught some signal and he managed to call up one of his staff to send the tractor to toe out the vehicle. Eventually disbursement of payment got quite delayed rousing a bit of unease amongst the workers.
Today’s situation had worsened in view of the two guards assigned to escort had fallen sick just at the neck of the hour due to suspected food poisoning and there was none to replace them. The sky was also getting overcast indicating a downpour sooner or little later.
“Sahibjee, once this Bailgaddi is cranked and started, please don’t turn it off. I am not too sure whether it will restart once stopped”, said the mechanic.
“You mean do I have to keep the engine running?”
“You mean as long time the disbursement of payment is not completed?” asked Neelakar apprehensively.
“Haanjee sir. I did the best I could. This vehicle is beyond my skill.”
“Don’t tell me……..” Neelakar was riled over the situation and wanted to blastoff the mechanic but then he realized there was hardly anything the mechanic could do about the ambulance van. Pathetic road condition on which the ambulance had to ply-over and practically every day and besides the inadequate monetary provisions forbade any major repair apart from the bare minimal running repairs like repairing the flat tyres or few welding that could be done in house so that the vehicle was on road. The situation of the vehicle was waning day by day. Indeed for over two years now, the Mechanic was the one who had relentlessly been complaining about the dismaying condition of the van.
Ever since the vehicle was purchased it hardly went through an orderly check and repair. The vehicle indispensably remains on run all the time. Aside from a breakdown alike, it was never made available to the garden mechanic for maintenance. Every time it was opened up for a repair, it would get a chase from somebody or other to scurry up. Initial five years, the company higher-ups refused to listen and rejected the need for any kind of repair for a new vehicle. Today after fifteen years of its purchase other than the horn everything in the Van honked.
Mechanicbabu had developed an abrupt dislike for the ambulance particularly since past two years. Two year back, while this doomed ambulance van was carrying an emergency patient at night referred for an outside treatment, got stuck midway and the patient died in the van. There was a big tumult over the issue. The management had to maneuver loads of stumbling blocks to mend the muddle and mollify the agitated workforce. A domestic enquiry afterwards suggested that the problem in the ambulance was reported to the mechanic but he overlooked it. Not alone the Management issued him a charge sheet and later suspended him for a month; but Mechanicbabu also encountered a scuffle by some labourers. Mechanicbabu feels that the Management had spun the issue against him purposely and made him a scapegoat. Since then the mechanic would levitate the perilous condition of the Ambulance van at every podium. But the management knew he picks the stir more for his indignation and self-defense. The management gradually had begun giving a deaf ear.
“Sirjee, kabhi isko leke bahoot bara hangama hoga, dekh lena”.
The van was as old as Mechanicbabu’s marriage. The Ambulance van had the privilege of charioting Mechanicbabu’s eloped bride. Nine years hence, when order was placed for this new ambulance van, its delivery was to be taken from Guwahati. Young Mechanicbabu was sent to Guwahati to collect it. It was thought that Mechanicbabu can examine the vehicle and would also learn the know-how of maintenance and basic repairs. After Mechanicbabu reached Guwahati, he was told by the dealer that the trailer truck carrying the shipment is stuck due to some traffic hassles and likely to be released only after a day, two or three. As the vehicle was to be collected from Guwahati under any circumstance, the Manager asked him to stay back at Guwahati and return only with the vehicle. One week later when Mechanicbabu returned with the new ambulance van, he had a surprise for his family too. He had with him his bride, eloped all the way from Guwahati. People often ridiculed him “Mechanicbabu ka Dahej me aaya huwa ambulance”.
After much sweat and exertion the despicable looking ambulance van finally pushed start its momentum. Many noticed Neelakar’s radiant smile as he sat with his hand waving joyfully though with a little disquiet as well.
“Finally, this damn thing is moving. I only hope it doesn’t trouble us the way it had last time.”
Entire way through the 17KM drive all three of them, Neelakar, one PSO and the driver were overwrought and kept begging that the vehicle do not cease anywhere in between. The cantankerous van with much donkey graft drive at last reached its destination. The trio looked at each other and took a deep breath of respite.
“Hoof! Finally we are here”. Each tittered cheerfully.
“Let’s not take such a risk next time, Sir” beseeched the PSO.
“No way, this is my last time… I shall not take such a horrible chance next.” groaned Neelakar.
Today destiny had predefined its clear intension and had been giving repeated admonitions too. Or maybe Neelakar was chosen and ordained to do it, indeed for one last time.
Neelakar had just stepped out his left foot on to the ground outside the van when he heard a deafening rattling gunfire behind him. He turned back to look in horror. The PSO was shot dead and was on the ground bleeding insolently. The assailant then turned his barrel at Neelakar and grabbed the cash bag from his hands and begun to run. The PSO’s SLR was just at the hand reach and Neelakar wasted no time to lift it to shoot. There was another rattling gunfire and it shook Neelakar entirely, and then there was a lifeless silence. Neelakar fall on the ground too, bleeding frenziedly.
He could hardly lift and aim the SLR; indiscriminate shots from behind got him down too. It was the other gunman undercover. He falls dead on the ground instantly. The carnage manifested in the purlieu of his office just about ten or twelve steps apart, in front of thousands of workers gathered around the office to collect their weekly wages. Perturbed and perplexed by the panorama the crowd merely watched the slaughter like marionettes, as dead as throng of men, women and children made of wax. It took a while for everyone to realize the bloodbath and then the crowd ran hither and thither to ensure their own safety and shelter. The assailants fired indiscriminately in the air to clear the crowd and make their escape way. People jumped over the tall fences ignorant of getting bruised or hurt, ran aimlessly through the drains. Horrified women and children screamed and cried. Women who couldn’t run with their toddler dodged on the ground crying for help. Vendors and hawkers left their shops to doom and ran for their lives. While both the corpse lay at the postern of the Out-divisional office splattering warm blood, painting their ill-fate on the ground and exhibiting their obsolescence.
The same crowd which when comes to exhibit their aggression and angst on petty issues against the Management demonstrates terrific unity and wild aggressiveness. And today on this instance of needing guts expelled the entire flocks like castle of cards by the least thrust of a wind. Perhaps a little act of nerve by the crowd could have let Neelakar and his escorting PSO with few more minutes to escape and avert death. Having aware of the slayers presence, someone could have forewarned them. Maybe if each one of them in the crowd had picked up a stone and pelted at the assailants, they could have overpowered them. And perhaps if by godsend grace, the bullets would have missed Neelakar and his PSO, it could have let them survive the carnage. And a fewer missed bullets could have made their corpse look a little less contorted and wieldy.
The story begins now
Neelakar married to Shayena, while he was working in Darjeeling. Yes, it was a knot of love deepened into a marriage.
Shayena was still doing her graduation when both met for the first time in a restaurant through a common acquaintance. They developed liking for each other. Shayena would always enjoy the company of Neelakar. Rather she would be amused by the manner Neelakar would commune in Bengali with Assamese accent. But he was gentle and good looking as well. Neelakar would never overdo and Shayen always admired it. To Neelakar, Shayena was serene, self-possessed, and beautiful. He would admire her eyes and say, “Tomaar choukh duto Lakkhi Pratimaar moto” and she would laugh at it. Both gradually grew understanding for each other.
It didn’t take too long to wriggle them with the unusual poignant anxiety for each other which was not usual with regular friends. Antipathy against one another so pompous that none wished to let it last too long. Jaunty pranks and tiffs thereupon, both hasten to patch up. Angst that only comforted by each other’s togetherness. More they tried distracting from each other, more demented they got for one another. Each one felt empty if they did not see each other even a single day. They realized, it was not just friendship but something more than it and something more into it. They had fallen for each other. They were in love.
But both knew it was not going to be an easy coming together. Both the families had very little in parallel. Different province, different community, different language, dissimilar ideology and unalike culture, disparate food habits, diverse lifestyle, nothing seemed to be identical for either of the families to accept. And both knew that the likelihood of according consent from their respective parents was pole apart. However, Neelakar and Shayena weren’t in favor of marrying without the consent of their families; at least not without attempting once to convince them. Neelakar too thought of giving his luck a chance. He thought, shortly he was going home on holidays, when he would talk to his parents and would try to convince them. In the interim, they decided to speak to Shayena’s father.
“I’ll hand you over to the cops if you try to meet my daughter again. You reckoned you will say you work in a tea garden and I’ll be awestruck. Tomar bagaangiri baagane dekhabe. Thengiye saheebgiri sob ber kore debo”.
So, from one end it’s a capital ‘‘NO’’.
But it wasn’t over simply with this “No”. Shayena’s father instantly spread a word to all in the family and relations to hunt for a groom for Shayena.
“Ae mey ke taraturi biye diye dao, noi to naak-kaan katabe”
Back at home, Neelakar’s parents were in no different mood than that of Shayena’s parent.
“In the whole world you didn’t find any Assamese girl? Why on earth you need to marry a girl belonging to a different community? This is nonsense.”
“If our boys marry girls belonging to other community, who will marry our girls?” neighbors objected too.
It always perturbs parents how a short spell of consociation between a boy and a girl could make them emotively so unbendable and obsessed that an enduring and venerable relation of blood and birth is relinquished overnight.
While children argues for a space for themselves, parent prefers providing a predetermined legroom to their children, a space they experienced themselves, felt suitable, and found well protected. Eventually the string attached between parents and children quivers in the cluster of losing confidence, lack of confidence and overconfidence. Perhaps parents at times become apprehensive about their own social circle too while children feels it essentially not enough necessary a thing for which their emotions be sacrificed for. No one seems to be appropriately right yet no one appears to be wrong either.
Friends and colleagues advocated that they do court marriage, and in due course things would settle. Neelakar and Shayena had no option but to stand against their family. Unenviably and unwillingly though, both had to cause displeasure to their families. Neelakar and Shayena, aided by their close associates very quietly went through a court marriage. Under asylum of law they were hallowed rather by the registrar as parents were reluctant. And once done, parent’s farce along with their aspirations were all slammed forever and coffined in a file wrap to let it rest under showering dust everlastingly.
And one fine day Shayena sneaked out of her abode and left behind a note for her parents.
I had always been an obedient child since my childhood. Your happiness and pride are as important to me as mine were to you both. Till I live I will always remain in debt for the love and values imparted to me.
My upbringing is laid on immense sacrifices you and Maa have made amidst the needs and dearth in our family. And you would agree I have always reciprocated maturely. Our family never disintegrated even in the most crucial and difficult time god has taken us through.
But today it is a question of my love, life and penchant which I am attempting to filch. Neelakar is a good person and I know I will be happy with him.
Whenever I use to appear an exam or a competition, I would touch your and Maa’s feet and take blessings for success. But today in this decisive juncture when I am taking the most important decision of my life, I have no courage to touch your feet and ask for your blessings. And I know I will carry this regret and guilt throughout my life.
Forgive me if possible. Bless me.
Yours ill-fated daughter
In some middle class families, if a daughter succeeds to grab a decent and employed partner for life, parents at heart are rather solaced, though amenably no one likes to reveal it. Often such self arranged eloped marriages contours into a boon in disguise to parents. Overburdened marriage expenditure and dowry obligations in most of the middle class family, sometime this kind of elope marriage turns out to be a relief and rescue to girl’s parents. They have very limited pickings anyways. It is customarily beseeched and desired by any parent that their daughter be wed away without any abuse or scar on her forehead. Sooner she is betrothed always the better for her and her parents.
In such elope marriage situation, the initial upheaval is natural but it normally dies out sooner or a little later. Eventually, most parents succumb to their own hardiness and realize “Children have become grown-ups.” The overcast in case of Shayena’s parents got over little sooner. Indeed the careworn got dwindled and died away closer than it was likely. The wrath, as her parents felt now bear no more connotation.
“… The boy is employed and earning…Rest is the girl’s destiny.”
However, sometimes disagreement does stretch too wide and too far. Unlike Shayena’s stroke of luck, Neelakar was inexorably luckless. It was not a soft pie for his parents to gulp in. They maintained their antipathy and it dragged on to the extent of literally renunciation of all relation with Neelakar.
“We disown you… From this time forth you are dead for us.”
Desolated by his dear ones, it was too harsh on him. A cost he paid for his marriage, a marriage which was meant for him and the matrimony intended for his happiness. If marriage was all about the perpetual happiness, then why is it unacceptable with someone of one’s penchant and choice? Isn’t a person with whom one ought to continue living the entire lifetime should essentially be the same person who touches the heart and assents to understand it? Is it vindicable to refuse the feelings of two matured individuals who share emotional concurrence in their poignant feelings of eternal togetherness? Is it not what love is all about?
Perhaps, in our colossal conformist society a marriage mean too larger than just the feelings of two individuals. Societal code seems to persuade a marriage as a familial contract, obligatorily be decided by parents and elders, a pledge sworn in by two individuals whether they knew anything about each other or not, and a matrimonial done in the manner elder members of the family decides. Once done it is also prophesized that the couple lives together gleefully and gracefully. A marriage which more than bonding two individuals rather urges to knot two families of parallel langue, religious accord, likings, tastes and behavior; an opinion predominant like in that of Neelakar’s family. But Neelakar decided to oppose the wind and rowed against the waves, so must he not also pay for it? He only hoped that time would heal the wound and someday he will again unite with his family.
Three years passed, with no exchange of words and greetings. Not even during any of the festive occasions did they greet or interacted. Initially, Shayena tried to resolve the situation but all her efforts went in vain. No one would pay any heed to her approaches. Rather they humiliated and cursed her. Exasperated and irritated Neelakar finally took a stand, “Enough is enough, nobody needs to initiate anymore attempt for a patch up. That’s my final word”.
But at heart he always craved and Shayena could read it clearly in Neelakar’s eyes. Rather than relinquishing relation once and for all, she decided to keep trying and not let the last string to snap with Neelakar’s family. She would delve into anything possible. Any one who showed even a faintest sign of leaning towards them she would beseech anything to mend the mess.
Shayena chose to maintain some visible space with her own parents as well. She thought this would let Neelakar breathe his concealed ache and succor with the sense of some similarity in their parental tags as well so that his ego remains unhurt.
Neelshay, was now almost two and half years, but his acquaintance with his grand parents was only from the infrequent go-through of the old photo album with his mother. Hard to say, at that age of his, may be amused by the splattered colorful spectra, he would chuckle and babble in his own toddler patois gazing in the photo album. There was neither much reason for his parents to stress up the little toddler the need to know the warmth needed to grow towards his grandparents in the existing capricious tie they had.
Sometimes what someone’s life cannot afford to pull off is seldom reached by one’s death. Neelakar’s parents were informed over telephone no sooner the Garden Doctor had declared him dead. Neelakar’s parents arrived at the estate and went straight to the Manager’s office. Without further ado the Manager’s office turned into a vociferous theatre of denunciation and blames; corollaries prevalently expected in situations akin.
“…Why did the Estate management force him to go to a terror-infested area with such huge cash? …Why only one-security personnel accompanied him? …Perhaps he was still alive and could have been saved if he was rushed to an outside hospital, with all modern amenities! …Why taken to the garden hospital instead and not elsewhere? …Why was there a delay to informing ….? Why….? ….And the ceaseless “Whys”.
Around 10:30 of nightfall, the dead body arrived after postmortem; to its bungalow from where it had gone out alive that afternoon. All of a sudden Neelakar had become a stranger to his own dwelling. So bizarre and so inimical he had become, today he lay quietly hidden under a white rag tugged under from tip of his head to his toes, a semblance too little to convince that someone is very tranquilly asleep. His corpse lay in a corner of the verandah like an unsought baggage waiting for disposal in a while. Wrapped around the white rag unmistakably visible through the edges of a thin cane mat tied around securing it firmly, it smelt pungently medicinal. All speechless friends and colleagues though stood near it but never too close as they would do when Neelakar was alive. It gave an enigmatic and eerie spectacle. Neelakar has today turned from “He” to “It”.
Everyone yearn to live. The delusion that death can’t happen or “…not yet, not so early” is an illusion everybody lives with and the propensity to believe this, perhaps keeps everyone blissfully alive. Death is perhaps the only veracity no one wishes to imagine but then this is the irrevocable truth – The foregone conclusion. It gaits inconspicuously abreast and all the time it follows everyone like an invisible gumshoe, quietly behind unwarned. It cannot be fooled or be disguised from. It is like the shadow that follows unwatched and unnoticed even through the darkness. Inaudibly and at its own volition it chases you wherever you go.
The ambiance was bizarre and disconsolate amidst the reticent whispers of the cold carcass, “The vanity that my soul subsists for me was a ploy of my mistaken belief. My silhouette for what, I believed, it existed, in a flickering of eyes gulped me into its darkness forever,… when it wished to,… when it wanted to and in the very manner it needed to. I eke out a living for it, and it treated me that insignificantly.”
Close acquaintances suggested in a whispering voice to each other that the body should be left the way it was and not be unwrapped. Eleven bullets from the AK-47 had pierced through the entire abdominal expanse making fissures and crevices enough large to ooze out the red fluid along with bits and pieces of crumpled and creased flesh, raptured on and through the indiscriminate path the lead metals spurt through. Moreover, the mercilessly done postnatal dissection, cutting and slitting the body fragments and then stitching back recklessly with hessian twine had moved heaven and earth to make the body dreadfully disgusting and vile. Except for the fascia anything else wasn’t worth unveiling. So it was decided to partially uncover so that the family could at best see the intact face.
No sooner Neelakar’s face was uncovered, the entire ambiance turned morose. The situation decanted down with emotional outburst and furor of cries which was so far been repressed. On a whim everyone became necessarily conscious that somebody lost a son, someone a friend, an associate, and a companion. But Shayena sat unmoved and unperturbed. She kept gazing at Neelakar’s dead face unruffled rather as if annoyed and her eyes radiated questioningly, “How… How could you do this to me? How can you leave me all alone? Wake up! Enough of your play-act!..... ”
“…Witch, you have devoured my son. If he had not married you he would be alive. Evil women,, to gratify your needs and comfort he worked in the Tea garden and see what he did to himself…” Neelakar’s mother yelled woefully.
Shayena still unyielding as if nothing could rattle her. The catastrophe was so gargantuan that everything else looked trivial and meaningless to her. The numbness on her feet, as she sat broken and devastated since the time the obnoxious fated news was delivered to her by her husband’s colleagues, could be read on her deadpan face. While her mother-in-law continued with the tantrum, abusing, accusing and cursing her, there was no sign of any retreat of any manner on Shayena’s face. To her everything that was happening around was irrelevant.
“She should cry” somebody whispered. “This will ease her, make her feel light and better.”
Neelakar’s father who all the while stood desolately flabbergasted walked forward to Shayena, put his hand on her head.
“… Daughter wake up. Look at him and break your mum. Don’t punish yourself.”
But Shayena continued to remain unmoved.
“Look at him, he is dead. What are you mum for? He won’t decoy you anymore…Accept the truth. He will no more mull over your obduracy. He will no more mollify your antipathy. Raise the wrap off your eyes.” Neelakar’s father broke into tears. “We are all puppets in His Hand. He raises us when He wishes to and slays us down when He wants us to. My child, what if it is not the decree of the almighty, should a father be so destitute and unblessed that he be kept alive for the need of immolating his own son’s cadaver”
And for the first time Shayena’s emotional weir surrendered to her father-in-laws grief and she exploded into tears too.
Shayena’s father-in-law always had a hidden pliancy for his son and daughter-in-law but could never overtly reveal it. From his childhood the old man was a timorous and introvert character, his parents always thought he could never do a thing unaided. He was married at an early age. But his first wife, Neelakar’s mother died soon after his birth. Motherless Neelakar grew into a laudable child. To parents, even the most malevolent child is dearest and precious; an emotion no parent can shy away; a truth no parent can rebuff and conceal for long and forever.
The lady making all tantrums on Neelakar’s death was his stepmother. Neelakar’s father was married again with a notion that his second wife shall nurture the baby. But the marriage only turned out to make his life miserable. The tiniest of a matter would turn into an enormous heated scene and tremor in the house thereafter the marriage. He had no say in the family and was always dominated by his wife. Neighbors teased him as “Wife’s ardent slave”. He embraced to silence and guzzled the humiliation, in a bargain to buy some peace for himself. She hated Neelakar. Even a remotest sign of any affection towards him by Neelakar’s father would ignite colossal fracas and hullabaloo. So his father always avoided him and concealed his warmth for his son. But at this moment of pandemonium he could no longer conceal his suppleness inside his core and it unfolded. He broke into tears and wept like a child.
In the panorama of this aggrieved situation, Malakar, Neelakar’s younger brother was unaffected and ingeniously mute as often as not and stood unembellished with the other visitors. He remained unmoved and unflustered and was keenly gazing at the chattels his brother made during the course.
“Is that the car, Dada bought recently? How did a new car get a dent? These guys, I tell you, had never been careful enough!”
The tragic melodrama unfolded many untold jumbled knots in the family. While it unearthed the hidden emotion of a father for his son, it exposed the antipathy of a step mother. It uncovered cupidity of a step brother, an avaricious man who always hated his elder sibling.
Malakar had been a spoilt brat. Pampered for his arrogance and encouraged for his misdemeanor he was his mother’s pet. He left no opportunity to disdain his elder brother. He would envy and all the time cooked something or other against his elder brother and tried to letdown Neelakar. Neelakar however ignored his brother’s despise. He would conceal Malakar’s waywardness and shielded him. Academically he was always a bottom liner. Socially he was ostracized.
Like in many families, Malakar being the youngest always cajoled with undeserved dispensation. His mother always needlessly showed laissez-faire and leaning towards his unfounded wants. Young Malakar’s waywardness were always ignored and contemplated as natural. Always compared and assessed that the elder one during his childhood had got much more; all of attention, the best of food, the best clothing, the best toy, while the younger one been underprivileged, deprived, dissected and hard-up. Some parents feel that the upbringing of younger one is frugal than the elder ones. And therefore many parents try to offset with unearned fulfillment which only spoils the child. Malakar was born-privileged being a stepbrother. Coddled by his thick-skinned and bigoted mother, Malakar’s impious behavior thrived.
Ever since rebuttal by the family after his marriage, Neelakar yearned to come home. But he never could. He knew his stepping into his house would only wakeup the sleeping dog and wreak up the torrent; so far what may have been quiescent by his severance. Early next morning the body was moved to its parental house. The Home Return and reunion, something what Neelakar had always hoped and craved about while he was alive. And today at last he was home, one for the last time.
Things did not change much in all these years. The coconut trees were still there and had only grown taller. The coop had however filled in with new lots of chicks and ducklings. The paint on doors and window had paled though curtains were looking newer. Kalu, Neelakar’s pet dog had grown old and it sat in the corner of the verandah sloppily shrugging its ears now and then to dispel flies on it. The courtyard corner where Neelakar played marble with his chums’ has taken over by a big pile of firewood. The earthen fireplace around which both the brothers warmth themselves after bath, now was the place where fodder for cattle was boiled. There in the corner behind the heap of hay which was young Neelakar’s favorite hidey-hole, was now dumped in with his old rusted bicycle with inflated wheels and its hanging chain. The swing on the mango tree seemed unmoved and untouched for a while now. With one end of the rope snapped and the rotten wooden plank dragged on to the ground, swayed gently with the wind as if someone had touched it. Things really didn’t change much. However, tugged under the white cloth of serenity, even during his final journey to perpetuity, he was forbidden to see his abode where his days of infantile chuckles reverberated to his manhood and today into a crestfallen stillness.
The casket was lifted and it was time for Neelakar to leave for the final journey. Childhood lullaby supplanted with woeful cries, the woods were mounded into a bedstead where he will be slept for one last time, unprotested and wearily and then will be immolated to ashes; the path of miasma that will escort him into the world of never-return and anonymity.
Everyone… Neelakar’s higher-ups, colleagues, father, brother, friends, relatives went to the site of cremation but without Shayena. Expelled and vindicated by custom, unwillingly though she bid her final farewell from the doorsteps. As the glimpse of the cavalcade diminished from her sight, Shayena knew she would never see Neelakar again, not even his lifeless cadaver anymore.
Down on the ground, splattered and cast over, the remains of the casket wastes and ritual orts giving an eerie look. The remaining of the customaries spread all over the ground as if leftover of an offering to an undesirable soul which it has purposely left behind to remind its presence just a while ago. The fumes of the incense-sticks held on to Neelakar’s casket dispersed and disappeared in the wind but also pierced deep into Shayena’s memory to hunt her like a post-obit. The melancholic cries will echo in her solitariness for indefinite spell. With the falling dusk the ambiance was turning more and more heavy and deserted.
That evening Shayena found herself in a nearly Martian world. Peering eyes of hatred and dislike sent through her nerves a shivering wave of soreness and solitude. Though few, yet there were some even headed visitors too who seemed caring and sympathetic. They consoled her. But most others left no opportunity to sneer a dictum of blame on her. The ambiance resembled to the living hell.
“You Tea garden people, you all don’t take note of others. You all think all other are untouchables and useless. You had been uncaring to your parents.” “…This is an outcome of nothing but curses … This is just nothing. You all are ordained for much more miseries.”
“Why utter such unkind things at this hour? She has lost her husband, have pity on her. … Pay no attention to rubbish talks, Buwaree. Have faith in God. He is there, aren’t he seeing and listening everything?”
“Great? You seem to have ripened much affection for the perpetrator. Has she offered you with promises for some kind of garden luxury too?”
“Oi! What’s wrong with you?” yelled an elderly lady. “If you can’t ingest your drink why do you drink?
“Why are you showing so much remorse for a witch, Oldie?”
“Will you shut your mouth?” she starred. “Buwaree, don’t pay any heed to this drunkard and don’t be scarred. He is my son. When he is drunk, he creates nuisance. It will die out as it dies out.”
That night she slept with Neelakar’s so called distant related sister. It was dark and weird thoughts distracted Shayena from sleeping.
“Bou, aren’t you sleeping? Why, what happened?”
“No, I am not getting a sleep. I don’t know. I’m feeling unsettled. I’m feeling so insecure and scared.”
“Don’t be scared. I’m with you. Hold me tight. …Do you need a glass of water?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t know…” Shayena begins to weep.
“Don’t cry. It’s a new place for you. You are not used to. So is this anxiety.”
“My life has finished…everything is finished. I wish I could die too.”
“Don’t say all these. You have a son. You have to up bring him. This is the moment you have to make yourself strong, transform yourself, if not for you for Neelshay. Dreams and ambition shared by Dada and you for Neelshay’s future must be fulfilled. Fulfillment of Dada’s dream alone will be the true reverence to him. Don’t you want it to happen?”
“Yes, I want to fulfill his dreams.”
“Then don’t get shattered. Try and sleep. Take some rest.”…”Oh god! Why do you afflict your beings so much? Oh Lord, have mercy on everyone!”
Nothing goes one’s way when one goes through rigor. Even fate looks to be cruel. It patiently watches miseries to let it continue unendingly. When situation become arduous the whole kit and caboodle becomes demanding. After 3rd day’s ritual, Shayena wished to return to the Garden with Neelshay. Shayena’s plea splashed fuel into inferno. There was an immediate resistance from all quarters. It was as if everyone had lain in wait to see the doe broke its silence and come out of its burrow and then they could all jump on it to tear it apart.
“What the hell is this woman talking about?”
“Look at her; in three days she is behaving as if she is in exile.”
“How can she go? She has to be here till shraadha atleast.”
“Why till shraadha, she’s got to be here rest of her life.”
“She is fit to lead a slavery rest of her life.”
“Look at my grandson’s face, how happy he is on my lap. How can I part him from my heart? He is the only reminiscence left by my son.”
“I don’t understand what this woman is up to!”
“Hell with her, why are you peopling giving her such undeserved importance………
The desire to go home erupt the wrangle for no return. Shayena’s cri de coer could persuade no one. One behind the other came up with sadistic reasoning. Someone for the sake of customaries and rituals, while other justifying emotional judgment and some other on societal compulsion. The grumble was loud and the ploy was distinctly explicated; Shayena must be prevented from going back.
“Calm down, will you all! Listen to her too. Let her also explain why she wishes to go?” the isolated voice of the Old man, Neelakar’s father sitting in the front verandah threw some light of hope to Shayena. “Yes my child, why do you want to go back to the garden?”
“Father,” Shayena spoke in her choked voice, “There are many time-bound formalities which will need to be completed. I have to intimate to the LIC about his death. Our car is bought on bank loan. Bank also has to be intimated regarding his demise. Moreover, this is an unnatural death. Police certificate and postmortem report has to be obtained as well. These will all be required for any kind of claims and settlements sooner or later.”
“Oh! So it’s the heirloom what is making the witch so restless and upset. Look at her greed, now she wants to bargain and deal her husband’s cadaver all by herself”.
“Wait; don’t just tattle whatever surfaces on your tongue. She is right and talking practically.” The Old man yelled then turns towards Shayena “….My child, I understand your reasons and worry but these aren’t things you could do yourself. And imagine what people would think and say! …Moreover staying in that house all alone will no longer be the same for you. Every nooks and corner will chew you like a demon. Loneliness will cloud you into depression.” The old man said caringly.
“If you and Maa come and stay with us….”
“…And what about me? Neelakar gambled agitatedly.
“…In any event, we cannot stay there for a long time. Once the company settles all dues we have to vacate the bungalow even so.”
And what about the Shraadha? Who is going to organize all these work out here? I am not going to do a single thing”, refuted Malakar. “You all will enjoy bungalow’s minutiae and want me to slog around and do preparations for Shraadha,, NEVER!”
“If you all agree, I’ll request the Manager to allow all of us to stay in the interim. If I approach I know he will help us. He might even help us in arranging the shraadha in the garden itself. We will get all kind of help in the garden. This will ease off the Shraddha expenditure too.” Shayena tried to persuade.
There was a breeze of silence for some time.
“Will it look good?”
“What is there to look bad?”
“Will it look good to persuade the Garden Management for their assistance in organizing the Shraddha?”
“Neelakar got killed while serving a company purpose.”
“Will it be morally a correct thing to do?...Will it not hurt Neelakar’s soul?”
“Is the question of morality pertinent when the person is no more?”
“What will the Society think about us…that we couldn’t even come up with the money for our son’s Shraddha?”
“What has the Society to poke into what we do and how we do?”
“Are we so penniless that we can’t even afford the expense of Shraddha rituals ourselves?”
“Think about the volume of expenditure that would incur, can we really bear it at our own?”
“Even if the expenditure is partly shared, still we save.”
“In all probability many guests will evade because of the distance and hassle of conveyance.”
“Yeah, lesser the crowd lesser the expenditure!”
When it comes to spending, amoral and insatiable misdemeanor always bears logic. In this materialistic world nothing is for free. To live, the source of livelihood is essential. In the brawl of existence, sentimental vows often accept defeat to the adversities of livelihood. Ethical values and survival corporeality often disappoints each other. In a situation of inescapability the later disproves the substance of the former. When it comes to spending, every penny spent counts. What may look unscrupulous, like an act of social cannibalism, to Neelakar’s family today it was their expediency.
The opinion which initially was felt to be bargaining the Shraadha ceremonial expenditure with the Garden Management on emotional ground as aberrant and sinful, in the unending pecuniary hardship Neelakar’s parents realized to be in, ended to be much sensible.
“I think she is right. This will reduce a hunk of the shraadha expenditure”, justified the Old man.
All of a sudden the brawl over Shayena’s returning and the angst thereof turned to look negated and redundant. In context to today’s situation, morality and magnanimity had become subjective, a preaching quite soothing to one’s auricles only. Objectively, these seemed illogical and meaningless.
The Lifeless White Companion
Shayena unlocked and stepped into her bedroom; a place which happened to be her coziest place on earth, her ultimate heaven. But it is never the same now. Today it was so unwelcoming, indifferent and gave her a deserted stare. It would never be the same again ever.
Her bungalow servants gave her a timorous watch each time they came to her and she wondered why they were so unlike and dismissive at her.
She looked out through the window and saw Neelakar’s T-shirt still hanging on the rope in the side courtyard and flapped with the wind.
“Sahib ka T-shirt abhi tak andar nahi kiya …?” she asked reflexively. The next moment she realized she would no more be seeing Neelakar’s apparels outside ever.
“Rehne do”. She stopped them and began to give an intent look at it, on and on as if she wished to arrest the sight of it forever.
After a long while she turned round. She then spotted her on the dressing table mirror; it was her own dreadful sight perplexed by her new identity. A sight which she might not have in past been too contented about when it was about someone else, but now it shall become her routine facet. A look she would always hate hereinafter and remind her of an irreplaceable loss and immutable barrenness. This was the distinctiveness though she has to continue living with rest of her life. This sullied moment of disbelief she could not shift her eyes away from. Wrapped in a white saree, open naked wrists, barren forehead debarred of the bindi and red sindoor, she was looking so dead, unalike and anonymous. She recalled whenever Neelakar would find her irked by a pinch of sindoor peppered on her nose; he would teasingly say “This is an omen to indicate that your hubby loves you too much”. Today the red band of sindoor also dilapidated and forsaken her.
Neelakar never liked white colour. He would say “Life should be colourful and not dull. Brilliancy of nature is in its colourful spectra.” He would ridicule, “White is Netajees colour behind which they hid their wickedness”. Shayena had different opinion however. She would argue “White indicates purity and divinity, white pigeon - the emblem of peace, white butterfly – icon of liberation, white flower – symbol of serenity. White calms down one’s mind and soul. Even god and goddesses are fond of white flowers. White engrosses all colour within it”.
The same white colour had an entirely different meaning for her today; repulsive and distressing. The white companion shall from this time forth alter her entire personae. Tearing and ripping off the silence of the room she burst out like a small child who had lost her most precious possession. The purity of the white colour had suddenly turned into a distinctly dark scar, her lifeless white companion.
It does happen sometimes, a thing of joy that we extol and surmise that we can never live without, ensues many a times to be the most repulsive thing we could ever imagine. We begin to abhor the very thought of it and the very glimpse of. Perhaps it is the decree of liking that one can’t like anything everlastingly.
That night, while she combed her numb finger through ignorant Neelshay’s curly rough hairs trying to soothe him to sleep, her subliminal mind awaited Neelakar to return home. She began to feel as if he will come. He will come after a while. He would switch off the motorbike at the gate so that the rattling noise from its cleft silencer might not disturb Nilshay who was trying to sleep and push it to the front porch and then shall call the chowkidaar and say, “Bike thu saaf kardega to”. Quietly he would then turn the door lever and open the door and whisper, “Is he asleep?”
Shayena turned round frantically towards the unbolted door. The door only swung subtly by the wind. The partially pressed door curtain furled in denial with the breeze.
There was a weird calmness in the ambiance today. She turned her eyes around the room. Uncapped jotter pen on the corner table, the dustbin with few crushed paper, the badminton racket with snapped string, the old tie, and many such meaningless and ignorable stuffs pertaining to days gone by had a new connotation now. These belonged to Neelakar.
For a woman habituated of slumbering in the clasp of her companion with her feet clutched into his and her head on his cozy arms, secured by the embrace of possessiveness, blithely and serenely self-surrendered and then to this moment of never-ending solitude, barrenness and desolation. In absence of the person she knew the best and trusted the most, the person of her longing and lust, to one whom she would agreeably giveaway her everything, her body and soul and her urge for vehement inseparableness, the closeness of passion, to this moment of the sudden exile, banished of the shield of obsession, expelled by the warmth of intimacy; abruptly threw a shivering wave of coldness and solitary pain.
Shayena clasped beside on the coverlet to feel her man. A closeness she was so habituated of ever since her marriage, everything vanished overnight. She watched and watched indefatigably at the place on her bed beside. It was barren, unoccupied by her beloved. Her heart bled. As she moved her hand to feel over the bed where till four nights past she could breathe the fragrance so familiar and so personal has now befall to be so cold, empty and untouched as if no one ever slept over it before. Even the tiniest tickle of sound woke her up from the unasked catnap which her weary eyes took unenviably. Each and every time she woke up she realized something was mislaid and it broke her into tears. Somebody ever so dear to her is no more with her.
Moments she ignored till the other day all pooled together and flashed into her eyes only to give her the kiss of irreversible bygone life and made her predicament exacerbate into manifolds. Each instances of past became so liven and desirable to repeat. The vibes were never so melancholic and perturbing. Will this night ever end?
It was no statute though; despite of many unfamiliar repugnant ambiguities there were some unfound virtuousness among Neelakar’s colleagues as well. Unlike in any normal societal environ, at this arduous hour on Shayena, his colleagues rose together like a family. They decided to uphold her during her difficult time. And in a situation of their colleague’s bereavement the bond among the executives unrolls generously, unbiased and unasked. They reached out bigheartedly for bearing the Shraadha ceremony expenses if so needed from their personal expanse. And the circumstances in which Neelakar lost his life each one in the clan was ready to volunteer.
In this sporadic individual case even the company showed solidarity and readily cleared a go ahead with whatsoever required for ceremonial rudiments demonstrating its grief and laudable support to the bereaved family.
All executives were summoned to Manager’s office to discuss an expedient way to arrange the Shraadha ceremony.
“So what do you people suggest, how do we go about it?’ the Manager asked.
“We have to raise a pandaal.” Suggested one
“We will need a priest to perform rituals”
“Food and all preparation can be given to a caterer.”
“What should be the menu…….” And so on.
“Who will take the responsibility? One of you volunteer yourself”, asked the Manager
Everyone looked at one another. No one seemed to be willing to take the charge. Ethical understanding is one thing and shouldering responsibility is another. With the company’s voluntary consent to bear the expenses, seemingly all unfound virtuousness among Neelakar’s colleagues vanished. Now, no one was willing to show greatness. It has become a Company affair now rather than a moral obligation.
“Let us give it on contract to someone, sir” recommended one of them
“Okay, tell me whom do we give?” asked the Manager again
There was hush again.
“There is only one man who can arrange such hopeless jobs,” whispered one.
“Sir, give it to Baniya”
Naresh, “The Baniyaa”, a garden vendor who is also a part-time contractor cum supplier was summoned to the Manager’s office.
“Can you arrange Neelakar Sahib’s Shraadh? We shall give it to you on a contract basis?”
Naresh, the baniyaa, was a character. Crooke of the highest order, Naresh was capable of managing any exigency quite effectively. He was therefore, always the first choice of the Garden Management to mend any unmanageable chores. Added to his credit, he knew not only every surreptitious matters pertaining to the Management but would sneak news of their family and private lives too. He was ‘The Sherlock Holmes’ of the Manager and indeed a gainful stool pigeon to the Assistants too. He would be having precise information like what was being conspired amid the workers union against the Management, who were behind Greenleaf theft, how and who were attempting Black tea theft from the factory. He was well cognizant of any unrevealed movement of the Manager favorable to appease the Assistants. They coded him as the “E-Executive” meaning extra executive.
“I’ve never done this before but I think it can be done. What is your budget like?”
“Look into it yourself. No overdoing but it should be decently organized. You can discuss with Mistri Saheb and Kaamjari Saheb. They are acquainted well with the customary. They would know better. If required go down to Neelakar sahib’s bungalow, speak to Memsahib. Neelkar Sahib’s parents are also there. You could ask them as well.”
“Shayena will not be able to.” overruled one.
“Yes, in such a state of affair and the ordeal she is going through, it will be immoral to ask her”.
“It is pointless to ask his parents either, sir. They will make hundred demands. I’ll rather discuss with Ranjit Sahib. They follow same mode and rituals.” Baniya revoked.
“Alright between two of you arrange it accordingly. But inform his parents. In the end they have to be satisfied more than anybody else.”
So a pandaal, as cheapest as possible was raised. A priest from the nearby village was also called to organize the sacramental with a special instruction, “Windup the rituals fast.” Baniyaa personally went for marketing the edibles, and picked up all that was available cheap. A proletarian garden nuptial cook was arranged to make the food. Catering was segregated for the less important guests and the Executives.
Even the full moon sometimes runs into an eclipse. A thought started with munificence by the Company finally ended up with malevolence. Exclusive arrangement was made for the Executives to have liquor in privacy as appetizer before food. Amid customary sacraments, the Shraadha was finally completed. Delighted by the proceeding of sacramental, the priest was also complemented with a quarter bottle of wine. If the drunken priest was to be believed, the success of the last rite of any deceased depends upon his or her conduct led in the life while alive.
“The deceased must have been a very demure person. So you see, god has also accepted his offering so blissfully. His shradha is so successful. In my lifetime I have never carried out such an extraordinary shradha” the priest claimed.
Yes, in no other shraadha he might have been offered bilaieti daroo and more so, ever will he have another occasion of having liquor sitting next to the garden Sahibs. Rather than bereavement the event was made out into a eat al fresco.
“Sirjee, Sixty Thousand have been spent on this shraadh. Many items I brought from my home. What could one do for the last minute demanded items …?”
So royal was the arrangement, leaving aside the case of underpayment of Priest and pandalwalla, Baniya claimed this was a very useful know-how to organize a shraadh. So now hereinafter Baniya can also manage a Shraddha.
The Family tête-à-tête
“Oof! It was so tiring, had it been at our village house, things would have been quite different”, exclaimed Neelakar’s stepmother.
“What made you so tired; you did nothing other than sitting on the sofa like a special guest demanding for tea every now and then. You are one never satisfied woman”, murmured the Old man irritated.
“My sister-in-law,” she complained, “she said the food was rubbish. Rice was overcooked into mud. All food prepared was so horrible and distasteful. And there were hardly any chunk of meat, all flooded with watery gravy and ….”
“What a pity on all of you? You are not here to attend your son’s wedding, it was his shraadha”. “…Daughter, I am going for a walk. If I stay here longer, I will turn mad”. The old man walked out of the gate.
Despair and exasperation was prominently visible on his aging face. His wrinkled forehead and over raised eyebrow only questioned the reason for his being alive. Of his two adult sons, one has died and his cremation bed was probably still warm. The other, pampered and spoiled child of his mother was yet to give up his street rowdiness and establish himself. Stance which he ought to have taken on time he never did. Somehow he could never resist to the undeserved predilections of his wife. Soon after his marriage, she overwrought him to relinquish his own younger brother. Till his father was alive, situation was still under some governess. After his death the lady was the boss. His mother also died neglected. In a family where men folk have no say more often than not, family becomes recalcitrant.
Whenever the Old man exerted to protest to any reprehensible act of his wife it resulted into fierce conjugal squabbles and nuisance in the family. Once any such wrangle started, it would continue for the whole night and day till the Old man bent down and acknowledged it to be his fault. And every time it was the Old man who bent down and accepted defeat. Slowly his relatives stepped aside and friends distanced themselves. Only the lady’s parents, relations and friends received welcome. Sooner he realized the best part was to be deaf and dumb. Life was much easier and peaceful in doing so.
Today’s scenario is the outcome of his compromises which he made yesterdays. He recalled and rumored, in the first occasion after his marriage when his lady had quarreled with her in-laws and had gone back to her parents, he shouldn’t have pleaded her and brought her back.
The Family Affair
“What now? When to shift all these stuff to our own house?” asked Malakar’s mother.
“As early as possible, Mother! Let’s start packing up things from tomorrow. Then we ask the Manager to provide a vehicle. These entire sofas, table, bed and other furniture, aren’t these ours?” Malakar asked.
Shayena kept mum though she was flaming inside with anger.
“I’m asking you. Aren’t all these belongings ours?” Malakar demanded.
“.. No. These are all company property” Shayena sighed.
“You mean, Freeze, AC, curtains, dining table, fan …..”
“Everything belongs to the company. We have nothing.” Shayena was now getting agitated.
“…And the Car? Don’t tell me it also belongs to the Company?” Malakar taunted.
Shayena decided to maintain muteness.
“Okay, fine. I will take away the car. I am not interested in any other things”. Malakar was thrilled.
“Indeed true, the car will get spoiled if it is left unattended. Malakar has picked up very nice driving skill.” Malakar’s mother joined his son. “ It is all yours, happy now? All that belonged to your brother belongs to you only”.
Thrilled Malakar picked up the car keys. Shayena was uncontrollably angry and did not know how to react. At a distance she saw unattended Neelshay in the corner of the room thumping on his pee with his tiny hands. She walked angrily to him and dragged him inside the bedroom, “Why don’t you die as well?” She slammed the door and bolted it from inside.
Mothers often attempt to express their umbrage on others by coerces and abuses upon their own kids. By doing so they exert to display their annoyance and protest but their action hardly influences anyone.
The Recompense Drama
Meanwhile at Head Office, the owner of the company was finally apprised of the modalities for compensation. The owner was however turned out to be a kindhearted old man, unwell and bedridden for some time. But he readily agreed to any compensation the board would decide for the poor boy.
“He was a good boy. We lost a good employee. Give his widow 20 Lakhs rupees in compensation. Indeed the poor boy deserved a lot, somehow things always got deferred. At least now let his widow get it, what he deserved since long.”
“…Twenty lacs!! Are we crazy? It is not even what the director’s gets annually in this company. … How could we pay such a huge amount in compensation? …This will become a wrong precedent …This will become a practice ….After all the Company didn’t ask him to go with such big cash without adequate security… He should have asked for more security if it was inadequate.… Yes, moreover when his escorting PSO was already shot down inside the vehicle and that he had also handed over the cash to those guys, what was the necessity for him to act hero and attempt to grab the gun from the dead PSO? …This was a suicidal attempt… This is entirely his fault…. Absolutely, his own mistake…It has happened, so it has happened, too bad….Give the widow a Two - Three Lacs compensation…Engage her in a job of Welfare Officer if she’s interested… Yah, this would be enough… After all we have spent on his cremation and other rituals as well… Why, look at the productivity of the garden in last fifteen days ever since this turmoil? ...How much do we also need to compensate for the PSO? ...Tell the manager to officially inform the lady to take 3 Lacs and be happy.”
So the compensation was unanimously decided by the Board at Three Lacs with a job offer in addition for the widow to support her family.
It is perhaps not always enough to be virtuous to conceive a noble idea but also essential that the noble proposition be envisaged amidst righteous companions. The king essentially cannot take a righteous decision if his courtiers were avaricious and spiteful.
Would this generosity be good enough for a lady who had lost her man forever?
Back in the garden, the decision fell like a bombshell. It took everyone to a complete shock and surprise.
“… Sir, this is not done.”
“What not done? This is absolutely nonsense. And they want me to go and persuade the lady? Ridiculous!”
“This is the limit, Sir.”
“Buddhe (Owner) ko kisi ne padhaya hoga. Someone must have parroted the Owner”
“Sir, who would like to work in a situation like this?….whatsoever it may happen or you may say or feel, I am the last person to go to the out division for payment”
“…Tu apna chhor, ab to khud mae nahi janewalla. Send our lorry to collect workers from the out division on payment days. We shall pay them over here. If there’s a query from HO, we’ll tell them none of the drivers willing to go to that damn division with cash”.
“Why, earlier no one use to go to that ill-fated Division..”
“Yeh, it was always a vacation for the Staffs”
“Why alone Staffs, prior to Neelakar, none of the Divisional Incharge use to visit. In the count of Kamjari they would sneak through the shortcut and trip down to the town, see movies…”
“Oh really! Is there a shortcut to the town from there?” asked the Manager
“Yes yes, from the three-way diversion point as you cross across the shop, there is a non-tarmac road that leads to the town.”
“Is it? I thought that road led to some village” quip the Manager.
“No sir, that leads to the town once you cross the village. Although the road is not so good but you can drive through.”
“People really enjoyed their tenures in that Division.”
“Staffs would leave behind their leave application on the office table and when they would return from their leave they would find it lying on the table untouched.”
“They tore it and then they would say they never went on leave”
“Why, earlier even no Managers use to visit the Division. Remember my predecessor had been showing me a private cultivated land mistaken it to be ours and then the owner came out shouting why we trespassed his garden….what a fracas!”
“But Neelakar had brought about a drastic improvement in that division”
“Poor chap, on many occasions he would skip his lunch and remain in the garden…was a tough guy”
“…And what he has been rewarded with?”
“Three Lakhs as compensation…after his death!” taunted the Manager
“Despite of being a blue-eyed boy of all Big Bosses…”
“…Yes, remember when Directors would visit, they recognized no one else but Neelakar. They would only look for Neelakar. …Pruning program – Call Neelakar, Irrigation detail – Call Neelakar, Mandays deployment – Ask Neelakar, as if we never existed.”
“Yes, sometime even I use to feel dishonored the way they treated me infront of him. As if he was my Manager and I was his Assistant.” growled the Manager
Irony of being a human is that, we all want to portray ourselves as Saints and lands up proving ourselves into Satan. Till a time no one touches our Achilles heel, we present ourselves holy and the moment we find it is probably our interest being talked about we reveal our credo.
“But, now the question is who is going to convey this information to Shayena?”
“Ranjit, you go. You are quite close with them.”
“What will I say, sir?”
“Go and explain her nicely that… the company has decided this. …So this is it. We are sorry. Too bad, we can’t help it.”
“Sir, are you agreeable to this decision yourself.”
“Who cares for what I feel. They didn’t even consult me on this.”
“But sir, you can still talk to HO?”
“And say what? Company belongs to my father? Tomorrow if I die a similar death, they are going to do the same thing with me”.
The Futile Endeavor
That evening Ranjit went to meet Shayena. After the usual wellbeing chat Ranjit finally revealed the real intention of his visit.
“See Shayena, you know this company. They had always been very rude and penny-pinching as far as money is concern. I feel Neelakar should not have attempted to defend the loot. At one hand he lost his life and on the other hand now the company has decided to pay this scanty compensation.”
Shayena listened to Ranjit unuttered.
Ranjit continued, “What more can I tell you. I feel you should accept this amount and if you want to work, I shall speak to the Manager. We will definitely negotiate with the HO. Moreover, we are there to help you in every possible manner. Actually you know, you don’t have any option either. So it is better you accept the proposal. ”
“Are you here to sympathy me or mediate this deal, Ranjit?” Shayena raised her head.
“Shayena, this is a ridiculous remark from you. Of course I have full sympathy for you. But my sympathy will not upsurge the predicated redeem. Will it? I strongly feel you should have been compensated much more but… Take the sum and let the sleeping dog lie. What if they bluntly refuse to give you any compensation, can you do anything? We are Executives. We do not have a union to back us up.” Ranjit was exasperated
“You came here at your own accord or somebody sent you here, Ranjit?”
“Of course, the Manager has sent me here. He knows that I share a good relation with you and you will not turn down my advice. So he sent me to convince you to agree upon the same.”
Unaware that he was stretching the mediation far too much and now that his conversation was also beginning to dictate the touch of his dominance over Shayena, he continued demandingly, “Okay, that’s it then. I will tell the Manager that you have agreed to the offer...”
“Who the hell, you think you are? Now you will decide what I should do and not? Rascal, you think I am the same kind like you all. Since you are fond of licking your Manager’s boots, you thought I would do the same thing? Just get the hell out of my house. Out, right now!”
This was a new quintessence of Shayena. She was well-known among the clan for her calm and compost nature. Conflicting to her character today she was looking as ferocious as a wounded tigress, capable of doing anything at that moment.
Ranjit realized the blunder he attempted and decided to leave the situation straightway.
Shayena shouted as never she did before, “Tell your Manager and your damn higher-ups, I will not let it happen. I will not let his or his bloody company to get away with it. You all will see what extent I can stretch it. You all presumed me to be a weak woman. Now you all will see my real incarnation. Where are you running, you bloody parcel of coward?”
Shayena’s in-laws stood stunt and speechless and were rather in the state of shock and terror. She fiercely walked down to the guestroom and picked up the car keys from the peg table beside Malakar’s bed.
“These are my car keys. You got it, dumbly headless swine. That’s my car. Don’t you ever dare think of touching it again?” She went back to her room and slammed the door.
Back in the room she broke into tears. Everything and everyone seemed so mean and inimical.
“…Is it what my man lost his life for? …It isn’t what Neelakar gave up his life for… During his entire working career he slogged and slogged for a mortifying salary. We compromised with our livelihood hoping that one day time would alter and we will also have the comfort and amenities others have; one day we will also have our space of bliss and respect. …They have always squeezed out of him, deprived him of what he always deserved. And now when he is no more, they are still bargaining on yet another deceit and craftiness?...His death won’t go in vain….They cannot tag Neelakar in this cheap manner, he is worth much more than what they could afford … Now that they have shown their black skin, I will make them repent… I will show them how a dead soul is bargained.”
Shayena realized that she could not afford to be weak and mournful any longer. She had battles to fight and fight hard, ones with guts and verve. She must transform her personae and combat for her rights. It is now or never.
Early next morning, she picked up a sword in one hand and Neelshay on her shoulder. Seeing her in this fierce incarnation the terrified maid ran into the kitchen. She was literally trembling with fear and thought Memsahib was attempting to kill herself.
“Eay Kaka,” she cried out to the cook, “ Look what Memsahib is trying to do…She …She is killing herself.”
Kiron, the cook happened to be Neelakar’s most reliable among the servants. He rushed to the bedroom and pleaded Shayena, “Memsahib, please don’t do this! What are you doing? Sahib’s soul will not be at peace. So what if we cannot see him, Sahib is there and watching you all the while. I beg you, please don’t do anything needless. If you do anything wrong it will come on us. Police will pick us up and harass us. Everyone will blame us only. Please.”
Shayena could read the panic on her servant face. For any eventuality in a bungalow, it is always the servants who are the first picked up and questioned.
“Kiron, I will not let anyone put blame on you all. I know if I do something here you will all be troubled. If at all I have to do anything, I will do it in front of the Manager. Do me a favour, you carry Neelshaybaba with you and come along with me to the Manager’s office.”
Kiron took a deep breath of relief and obliged to Shayena’s hookum.
Having a working day it was a kaamjari time in the morning and various work allocation and signing of kaamjari books were on. Shayena entered the Manager’s office with her sword still in her hand. She pulled Neelshay from Kiron’s hold and put him on the Manager’s table.
“You are such a coward I never realized. You sent Ranjit to negotiate a price for my husband’s death? …Is it what my man lost his life for? …Is it what Neelakar gave up his life for? This is the kind of respect you demonstrate towards a dead man and his widow? Is it how you are rewarding my husband? Is it the homage you pay to your subordinate after his death? Neelakar had always carried out any of your orders no matter whether he liked or disliked, whether it chastened his dignity? If you think you are justified and your company is vindicated by deciding so, then why Neelakar alone should die, I am going to kill my baby and kill myself here… in front of you… in your office so that you all don’t have to pay even a penny to anyone as compensation.” Shayena exploded out ragingly.
It took the Manager topsy-turvy what was happening. After all every person possess a delicate human heart!
“Wait-wait, Shayena wait. Cool down,… calm down. Your reaction is very obvious. Even if I were at your place I swear, I may have reacted in the same manner …or maybe I could not have been that bold as you. …I really value your courage. …Keep the sword down; …see you are after all an executive’s wife so what if today Neelakar is not alive. … You are like my daughter or may be of my younger sister’s age. … You think I don’t feel for Neelakar? Even I have lost my best man. I miss him the same way you do. … He had always been very close to me...you may ask anyone. He was always my favorite. You calm down…you sit down… take it easy. .. Aye… get a glass of water for Memsahib.”
Though the Manager tried to calm her down nothing seemed to be working out. One could see clearly on his pale face, what he exerted in this couple of minutes was his lifetime acquired skill and knowledge of HR handling to pacify a furious tigress.
The panic stricken crowd preferred peeping from far outside than to enter the room. There was an undeclared halt all around. People started running hither and thither not knowing what to do and whom to call for help.
Somebody from within the crowd intelligently rushed down and informed the first lady about the ongoing scenario. Bara Memsahib hurried down to the office, perhaps more with the intention to save her own husband from getting killed by an incensed widow or perhaps her own man who would get killed by an cardiac arrest resisting a storming wrath of disoriented women or the situation which would send him into a tortuous legal hassles if the widow kills herself and the child in her husband’s office.
“Shayena, Beta what happened to you?”
What so many valiantly and boldly peering lads could not dared to, the lady did it much effortlessly. Perhaps a lady alone understands where and how to touch the weak nerves of another lady. She gently took away the sword from Shayena and hugged her. Shayena dripped like a kid into her arms who at that moment appeared to truthfully understand and genuinely stood by her side. She drove her down to the Bara Bungalow.
The crowd dispersed speechlessly after being statue for quite some time. The work allocation registers got signed one by one without any resistance or questioning from the Manager after this tantrum. So petrified he hardly knew what he was signing. There was a silence prevailed all over like never been before.
That afternoon, having received no response or update from the Garden, HO rung up to enquire whether the message has been conveyed to the widow or not.
“… I am sorry sir, but in a situation like this I am left with no option but to inform the police. If another untoward occurrence takes place, I am not to be held responsible for. I think the matter is being handled too casually and unfeelingly by all of you. You all have given a verdict which to my mind is too harsh, inconsiderate and insane. Everything has been dumped upon my head to deal with. This is weird. I am the man on the spot and facing the tantrum. I am facing the consequence and now I cannot take a chance anymore. I am sorry but I am informing the matter to the police and the local administration and definitely in detail.”
“You are the Manager over there and you are expected to deal with the situation.”
“Deal with what? Did anyone of you even bothered to ask me? You took a call and now you dump it on my head to deal with? Ridiculous! Do you all imagine what state of affairs we are doing through each moment? On one hand you all take an absurd and inhumane decision and on the other that frenetic lady is threatening to kill herself or kill me. Boys are all demoralized, challenging, willing to resign.”
“Somebody trying to be coercive and threatening the company should be asked to resign and go if they wish to. Who all are willing to resign?”
“What difference does it make who is willing to resign and who is not?”
“Someone willing to resign, tell him to pack up and go.”
“Then send a replacement for the entire team over here tomorrow. We are all resigning.”
“What’s wrong with you man?”
“What’s wrong with you rather? Do you realize the ground realities over here?”
“Come on now. You are the Manager of that property. It is not expected of you to get carried away emotionally and be so reluctant on such a measly issue. You must have seen such drama many a times in your carrier. This is nothing but a maneuver the lady is trying out. Revealing company’s internal affairs to outsiders will only demean the Company. This Company means you and me and not the Local Administration or police. I suggest take a break. You need some rest. We all can realize what hell you are going through. It’s a matter of time. Soon the situation will get stale. People don’t have a long memory, dear. Be patient. Call me in the evening once you have calmed down.”
The Manager knew that after this intense conversation things are not going to be same any more for him. This chapter will only undermine his career. But he went with the surge of the conversation and conveyed a clear message. He made this abstemious callous statement as it was inevitable. He gambled, now whatever it yields is his providence.
The Mob Support
The following morning Shayena made the same move but unlike the other day, today her destination was not the manager’s office but the section where plucking was on.
“…I am here to demand justice from all of you for my deceased husband and for my child. The company has decided to compensate three lakhs for my slaughtered husband. They feel this to be the worth of my husband’s corpse… My husband who shaded his life while trying to defend company’s money being looted by miscreants; the money which was meant for disbursement among workers like you… Is this a reward for an act of bravery? …Is this the honor he worth, for being an assiduous executive? …. Look at my son’s face who has not even realized that his father has died. By the time he grows up and understand the meaning of being an orphan, he will not even remember his father’s face….You all have children too. As a father, as a mother, would you ever wish that your child lead a life of a beggar after your death? If you would not wish this misfortune for your own child, will you wish this misery for my child? …It is better that you kill us both here now rather than getting us killed due to dearth, starvation and dissolution later. … You all have a union to fight for your grievances, honour and justice. I have none. Even all my husband’s colleagues are spineless to raise a voice of protest. They all are selfishly concerned about safeguarding their own jobs. Whom do I look upon if not you all to be our savior?”
The workers smelt the burnt milk from the day one of this incident. They were aware that some nasty meal was being cooked up by the top brass in this case as well. The bungalow servants do speak around what they overhear and see. They have been seeing the kind of vileness happening in the bungalow. They discuss and word spreads of the foulness being played with her. The call was humane. They all felt suffered deprivation in some way or other due to the vindictiveness and wrath of certain managements before and now. Moreover, Neelakar had a good repo among the workforce due to his helpfulness. The sentimental spark did not take much of a spell to unite their consensus in favour of Shayena.
“Memsahib, from now on you will not fight this battle alone, we are with you. We will get you the justice, because we feel you deserve it. They cannot deprive you…. Sahib had not been with us for a very long period but within this short span, he did a lot for many of us which others won’t have done even if they spend their lifetime here….Come on … This is no joke. This is the question of their life and dignity. Company owners had always discriminated us…dominated us…suppressed us … deprived us. But see the stature of their greed, cult and cruelty. Now they have turned into blood thirsty wolves and have started sucking blood from their own faction as well. This is another example of how inhuman and hostile the Management could be”.
The agitated workers marched to the Manager’s office. The message went across the further sections and division as well where other workers were working. For workers, this is always an opportunity look ahead of when they are able to denigrate and dictate the Management.
The Crowd surrounded the Manager’s office from all around. The Factory was turned down to a standstill and all factory workers merged in as well to augment the fume. People started shouting anti-management slogans and abusing the Management. An unstoppable mob forced itself into the Manager’s office. Fortunately, the Manager wasn’t in his office. The mob therefore decided to persist around and outside the office compound and continue their remonstration.
“Sir, don’t come to your office now. All workers have hemmed in your office. Workers are very agitated”. The Manager got the message through his most trustworthy source, the Baniyaa.
“Now what the hell has gone wrong with them? What do they want?”
“I think it is something to do with Neelakar Sahib. I have seen Shayena memsahib with the crowd”
“This lady, I swear is a….Inform Mistri-sahib and Kaamjari-sahib to talk to the workers, try and calm them down. Tell them to persuade the workers to get back to work. …And listen, inform my driver to pickup Memsahib and bring her from the road behind the bungalow to the town”.
“Koun Memsahib, sirjee?”
“Obviously, I’m talking about my wife.”
“Sirjee, if driver is unavailable?”
“Damn it, you drive her to town.”
“…Sirjee, mujhe to gaari chalana naheen aata…Dhat teri, line hi kaat diya.” Before he could finish his sentence the line got disconnected.
Meanwhile, Mistri-sahib and Kaamjari-sahib were trying to make their own arrangement to slip out of the garden. With some agitated workers pelting stone at Manager’s office, they took no time to realize that the situation was worsening. Any moment now they shall look for any management executives available. The entire grudge will befall upon the one found. They were rather now concerned with their own safety in this impulsive situation. Each one of them had at some point or other been harsh and merciless upon their constituents. Workers hark back to all such incidents whether diminutive or large, if it had demeaned their sentiment, this is the kind of occasion they wait for to conjure up with their aversion and recapitulate chip on their shoulder. Workers go to any extent to flaunt their umbrage and do anything to avenge.
In such a mass moved turmoil, they knew law cannot single out the real culprits. On the other hand, law cannot go against a mob. Moreover, when it comes upon tea garden workers even the Local Administration takes a back seat. The law enforcement agencies yield to political pressure. And the trouble causers in tea garden often get away despite of committing a gruesome act.
In the tea garden workers campaign that begins with a certain cause habitually shambles up with some other as it end. The most irrelevant issues reek up unwarranted during such unruly agitations. Perhaps the idea behind raising many such cumulative issues is also to confuse the management so that it makes a mess of the situation. Or maybe the union also tries to persuade its constituent that it has raised all the issues reported by its constituents. The crusade which started with the cause to support Shayena eventually got overcast by the grievances of the workers. Shayena could see that her movement had lost its ground and was no more visible. It rather got hijacked and that it has taken an entirely different course.
“…The Management has not repaired our houses and our poor workers are left to lead miserable life and yet they spend lakhs on their own bungalows… Defective Tube wells in our labour lines have not been repaired since a long time…don’t we need water?...The Management perhaps gets pleasure to see our women and children taking bath in the open, they pay no heed to repair the damaged bathing enclosures...Company has not constructed any new houses for the workers.. Sick workers die due to spurious medicines, all good medicines are meant for the Management…Rice and wheat issued to the workers are of such a bad quality even our dogs won’t eat them…Bungalows are floodlit free of cost while we hardly gets electricity…If we are little late to our work they turns us back while they can’t even settle our retirement dues on time…This act of atrocity we will not tolerate any more… fight away the perpetrators… “
All babus watched the hubbub. While this was heading towards an undeclared holiday quite a few of them were over the moon by this development. Some of them had already started to plan out for outings.
“My brother-in-law had been inviting us since quite long. He has bought a duck”
“Well good day to have a feast.”
“Yeah, what about you?”
“I’ll go and watch movie. I am told this one is a good action packed.”
“So you see movies quite often are you?”
“O yes. I’m a big fan of Salman Khan. I don’t miss any of his movies.”
…While few others had more important things to do.
“This run amok is quite justified. This is cruelty. After all, the man died whilst on duty.”
“Of course, as per rule they must compensate the widow adequately.”
“Forget about rule and law, Company at its own should demonstrate some sense of morality.”
“Why, don’t you remember, when I met with an accident, what did they say? Your accident didn’t occur during working hours. So they cannot entertain my treatment. I met with the accident while I was returning from work.”
“Why, remember my medical bills? They said, expenses for vitamins cannot be reimbursed. And for them, even their dog’s diet is reimbursed on human medicine.”
“I undergone appendicitis operation during my annual leave what did they say, Company is not responsible for anything that happens during leave. Ruthless pigs”
“Actually our Manager is Dheela.”
“Not Dheela, he is spineless…voiceless but a crook of the highest order.”
Everyone had some or other rancor inside them against the Manager or the management and all the sleeping ghosts seemed to have woken up from sleep at the same time. How long could anyone prevent themselves from baking their own self-seeking cakes inside them?
“Aye babu, what happened to my loan?”
“Hell with your loan! Go and take it from the Manager. Come after a week.”
“Every time I come, you ask me to come next week.”
If the Manager doesn’t sign your cheque do I pay you from my pocket?”
“These bugger, never see a time to ask for things.”
“Nay, this is the time they always look upon.”
“I really hate workers coming to me.”
The Police Intervention
After a long persisting stage show, Cops finally arrived; a convoy of six police personnel with the In-charge Officer, as many as could comfortably fit into the police van. Amidst the shouting and ear-piercing boggle they managed to conceive into the matter.
“Okay, we have understood your grievances. We appreciate your concern and respect your sentiment. This is indeed a very noble cause you all have decided to uphold and support a widow who as per you all, is being deprived of a legitimate compensation. …Good very good. We as an administrative body will definitely persuade the management and ask them to adequately compensate the lady. We will talk to the Manager to inform about your demands and our own strong recommendation will be conveyed to them as well. But this will definitely take some time. So let your company higher-ups decide on this issue. Meanwhile, we appeal that you all calm down and go back, resume your respective duty”. The In-charge Officer tried to pacify the mob.
“What duty shall we resume now? Half the day has already passed. We are all tired shouting. We are also feeling hungry now. We will go back home but the management shouldn’t mark us absent. They shouldn’t take any action against anyone of us”, proclaimed Roghu, the union leader.
“Yes, we shall convey this to your Manager as well. Don’t worry we will ask them not to mark any one of you absent”, the In-charge Officer assured.
“No sir, the Manager has to come and say this in front of us”.
“Where are you seeing the Manager? Can you see your Manager anywhere?” the In-charge Officer giggled. “I don’t see any of his Assistants either. Everyone seems to have fled somewhere. God knows, how these chickenhearted people are running this garden?”
Everyone laughed scornfully.
“The Manager is nowhere, neither his courtiers are visible anywhere. Now we will look for them and pull them out from their hidey-hole, make them feel brave …and then pass them what we have all discussed. Okay now all of you disperse”, the In-charge Officer furthered with poise.
The crowd dispersed gradually leaving behind Shayena drenched in sweat wet cloths at the mercy of the cops
“What a bloody hot sunny day. These crazy herds of cattle didn’t get any other day to create a nuisance.”
“Sir, sun or rain doesn’t make any difference to them.”
“But to me it does. Tell someone to get me glass of water. Get a chilled one.”
While the In-charge Officer sat in the Manager’s room under the fan he starred at Shayena standing outside in the car porch. When everyone left, the In-charge Officer called for Shayena.
“Call her in.”
He gave a very venomous gape at Shayena from top to bottom. Standing in the sun for all the while made her chicks bleeding pink. She was sweating through and through. Her clothes were almost drenched. Exhausted and hopelessly she walked in. A sight any common man would perhaps be drawn sympathetic to. But then cops are no commoners. The Officer Incharge was instead much thrilled and pleased by the spectacle. His noxious eyes scanned her from top to bottom. He peer her through the soaked cloths as if was hunting to see anything behind her underclothing apparently visible. For quite a while, like a blood thirsty wolf waiting for the appropriate moment to grab its prey, he gave her a deleterious look.
“Sir, would you like to ask her something?” asked the constable flippantly.
“Yeah, I called her to ask something but look at her. Seeing her condition I actually forgot what actually I called her for.”
He was still enjoying and unwilling to shy away this opportunity of gazing an isolated and helpless women.
After a hiatus he sarcastically asked, “Now what? All your sympathizers and supporters are gone…So what do we do now?...You shouldn’t have done this lady. These people will not stand by you all the time. You reckoned, if you are into any trouble this mob is going to protect you? These herd of sheep, the manner you turned their direction today, anyone can rotate their course against you tomorrow.”
He took some more time and said, “Young Lady, don’t you realize, you can be arrested for instigating the mob to craft unrest and chaos in the Estate?”
His venomous gaze threw piercing feeling of annoyance, humiliation and disgust into Shayena’s heart. She knew why the dog was biting its bone so leisurely. But she maintained mum.
And he continued, “Look, You are young, beautiful and seems to be educated as well. If you had any problem resolving a desired recompense with the management you should have approached us. What are we for? We are after all been employed for rendering services to distressed people like you ....You know any kind of services…and at any point of time. Anyways, I insist that you go home and take rest …and don’t attempt anything like this again. You can take my phone number, should you have any problem you can always count on me. I am well known for my neighborliness.”
The constables giggled.
“Officer, you really think I need your phone number? By now, I expected you to be au fait with my guts. Should I need to approach anyone, don’t you think I would rather approach the court? Instead of being sympathetic towards a widow going through a commotion like this, you are mortifying her. You are trying to threaten me. What do you think you can undermine my determination? What if I commit suicide and leave behind a note saying that along with the management even you, the In-charge Officer of police harassed me? ” Shayena walked out of the room leaving the In-charge Officer thunderstruck.
“My god, She is very cantankerous… rock-strewn and hot too. I’m quite impressed.”
“Sir, she’s really got guts.”
“Hooh! Yeah she’s quite daring…Having guts is it! I think she needs to see my guts too.”
“…She can’t match you sir.”
“No, I think she ought to be taught a lesson for her guts.”
“Eri diyok Sir, She is already devastated.”
“I see, you are becoming too kindhearted latterly.”
“No sir, she reminded me of my daughter. Becoming widow at this young age…I can imagine her frame of mind.”
“Oh really! So you want such trouble causer be left scot-free.”
“No sir, but I feel she’s time-tried. She’s already serving the verdict of the Almighty. God knows for what sin of her she is serving god’s dander.”
“What has made you so poignant about this one? There are many widows all over.”
“I don’t know sir, but I feel sympathetic for this lady.”
“Don’t you know, sympathetic people have no place in our department?”
“I’m getting old Sir. Maybe hardiness is yielding to my conscious. Sooner or later I’ll also need to answer the Xomraj for my conducts.”
“So now you can tell your Xomraj in the heaven that you have saved a widow from another Xomraj on the earth…Ha..ha.”
“Thank you sir, we all know at heart you are kind man.”
The Officer Incharge was quite exhilarated by the praise.
The world is not habituated by filthy and selfish people alone. And this is why innocents are often left unscathed. Or perhaps commandment of heavenly justice maneuver every kind and characters in a manner that it equipoise the other.
After a little while the Manager along with two other cops appeared. The Assistants were also now available.
“Thank you so much. Had it not been you it really would have been a serious problem today. Thank you once again.”
“That’s alright, but in the first place, why such a situation should arise? After all, the deceased was an executive of yours and died on duty. He must be compensated.”
“The company has offered compensation along with a job offer to the lady. She herself is unwilling to accept”.
“Then what is the hullabaloo for? What amount of compensation has been offered to her?”
“…Well, I am not very sure …but may be three or four lakhs.”
“ Areh! You are the Manager. How can you be not sure of the amount being offered?”
“…Err! It’s actually three lakhs rupees with offer for a job if she is interested in.”
“Manager Sahib, What are you saying? …Only three lakhs? Such a big company paying only three lakhs to its deceased executive’s widow who died while defending a loot of company’s cash, this is ridiculous. … If she approaches the court you all will land up paying an unimaginable compensation. If this matter goes to media, your company had it.”
“What can I say, this is company’s decision.”
“Anyways, this is your company affair, I shouldn’t comment. Well I have already apprised you of your workers demand in pretext to today’s affair. Please look into it”.
“Yah, I’ll talk to my higher-ups. …This is a small packet for you”. A packet filled with some currency note was handed over to the In-charge Officer and he gladly put it in his pocket.
“Chowkidaar, tell godownbabu to fill diesel in OC sahib’s vehicle,..”
“Not diesel, petrol in my vehicle. Diesel only in the Police van.”
“Oh! Tell him to fill petrol. Tell Mistri-sahib for ten-twelve packets of good tea leaf as well.”
“And if you can also ask them to give another 20 Ltrs of petrol in a jerry can.”
“Oh surely!”“…20 Ltr Petrol as well…”
“It has already been given, Sahib”.
“Okay then, we shall leave. If you have any problem, give us a call”
In situation alike many people come forward to claim undeserved acclamation. Early next morning Roghu, the union leader with his associates knocked in to the Manager’s office.
“It was a wrong thing to happen, Sahib.”
“Workers shouldn’t have agitated.”
“Yah, but you all didn’t do anything to prevent it either.”
“No sir, it was we only who distracted the mob. If we won’t have come on time there would have been a real serious outcome yesterday.”
“Why did you all allowed the mob to upheaval in the first step?”
“I wasn’t here sir. I was in the town. The moment I was told about it, I rushed down. It was a bad scene.”
“What is the workers opinion now?”
“Now? Now there is nothing. I convinced them that this is not our problem and we should not poke our nose into it.”
“Well, that’s good. We all must work in tangent to keep the harmony in the estate.”
“Now you don’t worry sir. I will not let them create any nuisance.”
“Good. Call the Head Clerk… Keranibabu, pay Raghoo one thousand rupees.”
People are perhaps people’s biggest enemy. When a person is in trouble he tries to bribe away his plight. He allure others by the means of undeserved gratifications, allows other to explore opportunity to deceit and be nasty, to be inhumane. Or perhaps this is again another approach to buy tranquility and a shield for oneself. Unfortunately, an unfavorable situation always legitimizes illegitimate acts. People always bend down to the necessity of a circumstance one is in by hook or by crook. In this materialistic and self-seeking world anything can be managed or so to say anyone could be molded. Money plays a decisive role. We are the ones who encourage corrupt practice and then we creep against it. The whole shebang was after all for the sake of “Money”. For someone it was the matter of legitimate just for other it was the matter of arrogance.
The Final Recompense
The matter eventually slipped into the Owner’s knowledge. He now not only knows that there was a closure of the garden for a day but also the manner in which it occurred and more importantly the reason for which the entire unrest transpired. He was very infuriated and pulled up everyone who was even remotely involved in overriding and doctoring his original pronouncement.
“How dare you folks overrule my decision? When I clearly said what amount to be compensated why was it not abided to? This is my company, my money. Wherever and whichever way I wish to drain it, it’s none of your business to nudge. If I’ve said a sum to be paid to someone, it has to be paid. Pay Twenty Lakhs straightaway to the widow and no more questions on this issue. You all are being paid to do as you are told. Anyone trying to defy my decision may leave my company and go home.”
The breeze of Solace and glorification
The news was conveyed to Shayena the very same day. It was a breeze of solace for everyone. For Shayena it was a crusade that finally reaped a fruitful outcome. For the Manager it’s a breath of relief from a recurring unprecedented pandemonium. For other executives it was a launch of a new insurance policy.
“Yah, Congratulations to all of us. In fact, it should be a double congratulation. ”
“Why double congratulation, Sir?”
“Tomorrow, if we die in similar manner, hopefully our widows will get similar compensation.”
“It’s entirely your effort sir.”
“Yes, I know.”
Everybody smiled and the reason for the wicket smile on each one’s face was understood by everyone.
That evening it was a celebration time in Shayena’s family as well. Pools of appreciation poured on Shayena by all her family members, friends and distant acquaintances. They who had never bothered to call her up when she had lost her husband also took the opportunity to redefine their concern and relationship.
“I always knew, our daughter-in-law can do it”, exclaimed Neelakar’s mother with pride.
“Bou, what a start of the show and what a finish! Brilliant”, Malakar joined his mother too.
“This is exemplary display of courage …” remarked a visitor
“Yes, and intelligence too”, commented the other.
“These days, there is no sense of any morality among people at all. Why was she needed to scuffle? Company should have compensated her at its own”.
“The company owners are all indeed very greedy. They wouldn’t leave any opportunity to deprive their employees”.
“Yeah, they might have thought that no one will raise a voice and they can get away with it”.
“People are becoming so unkind and crooks”
While everybody else were busy in hero-worshiping, the Old man sat all alone in the front verandah quietly. He showed no sign of contentment, nor did he join his family to pat Shayena for her attainment. His eyes only indicated a concealed edginess.
Shayena, took a breach through the so magnanimously seemed gathering and move to the old man. “Are you not happy, Father?”She asked.
“Hmm! Oh yes. I am happy. I am happy for you my child. Your courage and determination has yielded this outcome.”
“Then why are you sitting in isolation?”
“You know, my child, in our life we often fail to foresee things that lies in the grasp of future. When people are in a sudden woe and misery they feel, happiness will never return an eye on them. However, in course of time happiness reoccurs. Again when happiness decants on us, for a while we forget that the next in the cycle is again sadness and wretchedness”.
After a pause the old man murmured, “As long as the coffer remains filled with wealth no one endure discontent. Today everybody seems so own, so intimate. When the pitcher is filled no one feels thirsty.” The old man passed a serene smile.
Amassing up the bequest
Meanwhile, the insurance agent, Kundan who happened to be a close friend of Neelakar met Shayena in the bungalow. All claim application and documents were filled and signed for official formalities.
“I suggest you make an affidavit in the court and obtain a succession certificate as well. This will help you in the near future in many ways for claims and other purposes like transferring of cash from your joint bank account to your personal account,” Kundan pressed.
“You may have to go down to Guwahati once to our regional office along with all documents like postmortem report, police closure report for the final settlement of the insurance policies. You may discuss and place an application to directly transfer the settled amount to your bank account. Otherwise it will be difficult for you to run around. As also requested by you, I have checked up with the Bank Manager regarding your car loan. You are only due for three months EMI and you can pay it off at one go and close the chapter. Luckily the car is registered in your name and therefore there is no hassle for transfer of ownership at DTO’s office” Kundan added.
“I don’t know how to thank you for all what you have done for me. I’m very embarrassed today. Honestly I’ll admit, I never liked you and always in a way or other humiliated you. And I knew you were aware of it. Still you have…” Shayena turned emotional.
“You don’t have to. It’s my duty Shayena. Neelakar and I were very close friends. He helped me in innumerable occasions. So what if you didn’t like me. I always liked you, adored you as my Pal’s wife. Moreover it is not necessary that we like everyone. And don’t feel embarrassed. We Insurance Agents are all enduringly shameless people. Should you need any other help, don’t hesitate.”
“Kundan, please forgive for all my gibberish behavior in the past…”
“Shayena, I had been a nonsensical. Rather thanks to you for tolerating me. See I’m an Insurance Agent. My job is to settle things. I have been doing it for so long….But honestly I never thought and wished to do this for my pal.”
After the settlement proceedings Shayena felt much relieved now. Shayena was indeed very grateful to Kundan. She always disliked him and she knew that Kundan was also aware of Shayen’s revulsion. She had never imagined Kundan would be such humbly duty bound and trustworthy. She could never expect such generosity from an outsider when her own ones had always been so deceitful towards her. She was feeling guilt. Perhaps this is this great virtue of humane relationship that keeps reminding of the repugnance of betrayal at one hand and its beauty of trust on the other. A lesson of complementary that never let trust anyone blindly but also not let anyone to lose complete hope.
At times earlier, when Kundan use to visit Neelakar, Shayena would feel very annoyed. Kundan had no timing and more so often he would land up at odd hours, when they would be having their food or be taking an afternoon nap; on Sundays or holidays mostly. Many a times Kundan would get over drunk and Neelakar prevented him from going back at night.
“How could I let him go in this condition? Kundan will meet with an accident and get killed.”
Naturally, no lady would like to bear such inconvenient friend even if it was too close a friendship. But today this disgusting friend of a time had been quite helpful. Almost certainly, by his altruistic gesture today he has returned all debt which he owed to his deceased pal.
As suggested by Kundan, Shayena went to the court with her father-in-law and managed to get the affidavit and succession certificate. They also went to the Bank and cleared the bank loan for the car. Shayena converted the joint account to her name.
Neelakar and Shayena opened a joint account perhaps with a maudlin gesture that they were one individual. Whatever possessions they had was meant for each other; and perhaps for the ease of banking operation a joint account was practical. However the sentimental decision had turned into a technical hitch after Neelakar’s demise. The emotional association had now become so necessary to get rid of to avoid legal hassles.
While sitting in the lobby of the bank the old man asked Shayena, “My child, what have you decided for your future?”
“I didn’t get you father?”
“See you are still very young and life for a young widow is never an easy one. The world is very nasty and cruel. It will make your life miserable if you attempt to lead it alone. This world is full of such people who will endeavor every wicked means to cash away regrettable opportunities from you. My days are also countable. Moreover, even if I do live for sometime what protection or safety could you count from me who himself will soon be staggering and begging for assistance to survive the remaining part of his life. I want you to re-plan your future.”
“Father, I wish I could stay with you. In the entire family, you alone have been supportive and caring. I misunderstood you earlier. But now I realize what circumstances must have compelled you to disown us for such a long time.”
“Have you thought about a remarriage?”
Shayena kept mum.
“Look my child; you have a huge life ahead of you. You will feel the need for someone to stand beside every now and then. The need for a companion is not alone to beguile ones youth but to ensure security. More than in youth a companion is needed in the later life. A companion is needed to fight against the ambiguities of old age. A companion of old age is needed to sum up the chronicles of lifetime, achievements and failures, glory and impediments, reverence and sins.”
“Father, I have not thought about these things as yet. But remarriage, I am afraid if I can ever make-up my mind for it. But being honest to you, I don’t think I can stay in our village house with Mother and Malaakar.”
The old man knew he can’t amass the wrecks of his family anymore. It was too late now and he could do too little about it. When there was necessity to do so he unheeded its need and rowed away with his family ego. Now he only yearns and prays that his present day action does not deter the impending prospect of his family member. At the same time with so much of conflicting interests in this present-day scenario within his family members his favour to one will compromise the ambition of the other. But this time he was single-minded that he would not gratify any unjust. He could envisage the impending bedlam within the family regarding Neelaakar’s bequest consequent to his demise.
An account payable cheque for Rs. 20 Lakhs was handed over to Shayena along with a letter from HO regretting the delay. The letter conveyed her good luck for the future endeavor and ended with a note to vacate the bungalow within one week from the time of the delivery of the cheque. For the Manager an annotation in the same letter “Bungalow inventory to be taken carefully and correctly in presence of the occupant outgoing.”
“Does any outgoing person ever grab anything from the bungalow other than their own stuffs while leaving?” Shayena eschewed.
She reconciled her bungalow inventories in presence of one of Neelakar’s colleague deputed for the same and signed the handing over note.
“When are you leaving Shayena?”
“…Maybe in a day or two.”
“Don’t carry any hard feelings with you. We all know what you have gone through all these days. Besides showing sympathy we had very little to lighten your anguish and misfortune.”
“I’ve no hard feelings against anyone of you. I can understand the impasse you all were in. Yet, I expected you all to stand against the unfairness which they tried to ploy me through.”
“You are right but we were blinded by our own trepidations and sense of insecurity.”
“I would pray that this don’t happen to anyone but tell me, can’t this carnage repeat? But this could have happened to anyone. This time it was Neelakar’s destiny. Next time it will be someone else…. When a person’s heart is subdued by the sense of self-regard and fear he becomes a coward. And a coward can’t judge the path of rectitude…I’m forgiving you all and pray for everyone.”
Shayena knew she doesn’t have much time henceforth. She had nothing much to pack though except for her clothing, crockeries, few decorative pieces. As for the plants she grew in last couple of months bear no importance today and she would leave them behind, she thought. More than these, she was in need to see the Bank Manager and request for a special favour.
Next day, accompanied with the Old man and Nilshay too, she went to the Bank. While the Old man did baby-sitting outside in the lounge at the front of the Bank Manager’s office, Shayena went into and met the Manager. Though the conversing people could be seen through the office window but the soundproof room allowed the privacy Shayena wanted.
After considerable discussion and exchange and signing of documents, while the Manager finally took his finger on his computer Shayena turned around to the window and stared through it. Neelshay was joyfully playing with his granddad chuckling naughtily while the Old man also reciprocated to his grandson blissfully, Shayena passed a smile. The Old man smiled back too. The work was almost over and also in the manner Shayena wanted it to be.
After a few last words Shayena got up from her chair and thanked the Manager with a smile. The Manager also acknowledged her back smilingly. She came out of the room quite blissfully and contented.
“Are you done with your work?” the Old man asked.
“Almost”, Shayena replied little anxiously though.
After a pause, she said, “There is little more formalities and after that it will be all over.”
“Father, I am going downstairs at the counter and will be back soon. Are you feeling hungry?”
“Yah, a little.”
“Okay, you sit here while I go and get you something to eat.”
“It is alright Child, don’t bother. I don’t need anything right now.”
“No I insist you have something as it might take longer by the time we really finish the job and leave.”
“As you wish, My child”
Shayena rushed out of the bank and got some good snacks and a bottle of soft drink for the Old man.
“I am taking Neelshay with me and in the meanwhile you have it all father.”
As the Old man begun to unwrap the packet of snacks, Shayena looked at him guilt-fully. She then walked towards the Old man and touched his feet.
“Bless me Deutah, I am now going to the counter to collect the money. I am about to take a big step in my life.”
“My blessings are always be with you, my child; wherever you are and whatever you do.”
Tears rolled down Shayena’s cheeks. The Old man however pretended as if he didn’t see Shayena’s tear-filled eyes and started having the snacks.
Hours passed; there was no sign of Shayena and Neelshay. The bank was closing down. There were no customers left. Most of the Bank staffs had left as well.
The Security guard, who had been watching the Old man sitting in the lounge ever since his shift begun, asked curiously, “Are you waiting for somebody?”
The Old man nodded his head negatively and slowly got up from the chair and started walking down the staircase to the ground floor. He looked around to make sure Shayena and Neelshay weren’t there in the bank. Yes, there was no sign of them anywhere. He stepped out of the bank gate and started walking down the highway.
As he walked he recalled what had happened that early morning. Before rest of the family woke up; Shayena opened the main door very quietly. She stepped out of the front verandah and went and unlocked the trunk of her car. Then slowly she rolled down her two suitcases and a hand bag from her bedroom one by one. Gently loaded the car trunk and then locked it not making much noise as if not to disturb anyone or perhaps not to get disturbed by anyone. From a distance uncaught of Shayena’s sight, the Old man who had just returned from a morning stroll and had stood for a while outside the gate watched everything silently. He could presume what was happening and what is likely to happen later as well.
Shayena had not much of a reason to blindly believe the Old man. Although in this entire episode the Old man was the only one who took her side and supported her but was it enough, she thought. Uttering a word about it even to the old man could jeopardize and upset her entire plan. The Old man was sad though. Perhaps he expected Shayena to trust him but then he asked himself “Why would she?” The very thought that his very dear ones were departing from him without a hint or a word in such a clandestine manner was painful and perturbing. He would never see them again. But he recognized Shayena’s trepidation too. He knew, it was inevitable for Shayena and prayed that let it be good for her and her child. So he decided to well-preserve the way she wanted it to be and the manner it was meant to be. There was though a pain in witnessing this pleasure but a soothing pleasure in bearing the pain too. He was happy for Shayena as it really needs guts and big heart to attempt such a daring risk and be able to take the final leap. “Barely any woman of her age would imagine setting out all alone in the alien world and to be independent.”
The Abandoned Nest
It was getting dusk and back in the bungalow Neelakar’s mother was worried for her Lakhpati daughter-in-law.
“What happened to them? They should have been back long time ago. Did somebody rob them on the way…? Bringing so much of cash from the bank! Days are as it is so bad. .. O Malakar, why don’t you go and find out?”
“And where am I to look for them? And how do I go out?”
“Why don’t you call up Ranjit or somebody... among your brother’s colleagues?”
“It’s disgusting. I am always made to do such kind of annoying jobs.”
As the high beam of lights from the long queue of trucks passed across, Malakar’s eyes suddenly sighted the Old man slowly trying to negotiate his way down the highway.
“Ranjitda, please stop. I think I saw my father”.
“Where?” Ranjit slowed down his car and tried to peep out his head through the window.
“No…No… We left him behind. He is on his foot, walking alone”.
“Wait let me turn my car….Yes there he is. But where is Shayena?”
The Old man was sweating through and through and breathing hard. Over 23 KM on foot at his age and if he had not been tracked and traced out, another almost the same or may be more distance to the garden and then to the bungalow. After leaving the highway he would have proceeded to the road leading to the garden … Uncertain of the right path, he would have walked the road fully on presumption …Through a lonely terrain …Amidst darkness all over … And jungles on both the sides of the road … And then the old wooden bridge with stolen railings …And over and above with acute night vision problem, had he been able to make it?
“What happened? Why are you alone? Where is Shayena?”
The Old man did not utter a word and limped to the dinning space, poured a glass of water and gulped it. He had few more glasses of water. Then he retired on the sofa wearily though occurring much capaciously contented.
“Shayena made me sit in the lounge in the bank. She said she would be in the cash counter. Gave me some snacks to eat too. I kept waiting for her in the lounge but she never returned.”
He paused a while and muttered “…. She has abandoned her old nest. She has emancipated herself. Let her fly, wide and far, to find a new blue. May be she will be able to find one, a new sphere for herself and make a new nest for her, again. ”
Three months later:
The Manager was transferred to Darjeeling. He later resigned and left.
Two year after:
Malakar’s mother slid and fell while taking bath and broke her spine. She is bedridden ever since then.
Neelakar’s father is still alive but he lost his eyesight completely. He sits in the verandah and often seen murmuring to himself.
Malaakar is behind the bars accused of fraud and extortion.
In the Present Day:
Acquaintances say, Shayena has bought a flat in Siligurie. She is running a boutique and named it “Neel-Aakaar”. Neelshay is now enough grown to go to the school.
She has eventually emancipated herself. She found a new blue, a new sphere for herself and built a new nest for her, again.