गुरुवार, 7 दिसंबर 2017

An unknown destination

An unknown destination

I was just 9 years old. I had just returned from my school. Many boys and girls from my village were playing cricket. I also joined them. After sometime children started quarrelling over some issue. I attacked a boy with the cricket stick. He got injured. Blood started oozing out from his forehead. This followed lot of hue and cry. I was scared and ran away from the scene.

I kept running as I felt as if some people are following me. After a while I was, too, much tired. I did not had energy left to move even an inch further. It was a railway platform and a train going to Kolkata had reached there. I managed just to get into it and slept.

Next day when I got up, I found myself surrounded by lot of Bengali speaking people. I could not speak anything as I did not know Bengali. I just kept watching. In fact, co-travellers had helped me to get out of the train when it reached Howrah junction. They were trying to locate my destination which in fact was none.

One of the travellers named Shrikant, offered to take me along. I had no option. I came out of the platform along with him. Shrikant was a known business man of Kolkata. He owned several shops in the city.  He had many servants working at his household. His family was small, comprising only his wife and a daughter.

As I was just 9 years old, they were finding it difficult to provide suitable work for me. The language, too, was a barrier in my rehabilitation. However, they continued to bear with me. I was unable to speak for a few days So, Shrikant asked one of his staff to teach me basic Bengali. I started learning it gradually. I started understanding Bengali in a couple of months. I could now speak a few words which made my mixing with the family of Shrikant convenient.

Shrikant had only one daughter aged 12. Her name was Shrishti. She was handsome. She had great interest in singing but was, too, much talkative and did not like her studies. So, her academic performance in the school was hardly good.

Gradually I was given simple tasks which included helping the only daughter of Shrikant. Gradually she developed affection for me and started paying personal attention for my daily requirements. That made my life sustainable.

Shrishti used to call me Ramu. She would engage me in lengthy talks. I liked this also because it gave me an escape from boredom. But Shrikant was worried due to her poor academic performance. As my association with Shrishti was growing with time, Shrikant shifted me to his factory where other workers were residing. Shrishti did not like this and made lot of arguments with his father and requested him to bring me back in the family residence. Shrikant agreed with the condition that she would take interest in her studies and will not fritter away her time in gossiping.

Shrishti was happy to see me back in the family house. She continued gossiping and playing. She will hardly study. This annoyed her father. He would now take me to the factory along with him where I used to stay whole day. I used to help Shrikant in his office work. However, I felt absence of Shrishti very much. I used to wait for evening when I would return to the  family home of Shrikant. On seeing me back Shrishti also used to be happy. She would gossip with me endlessly.

As the school performance of Shrishti was deteriorating, Shrikant put her in the school hostel. I was permanently shifted to the factory sight where the labourers were my next-door neighbours. I had no choice. I started passing my time with them.

One day there was lot of fight among the labourers. I was, too, much scared at the sight of the police which had just arrived. I thought they have come from my village and are following me. So, I ran away from that place.

I stopped only to find myself in a tricky situation. I could not find anybody around. It was a vacant land near a temple. I was too much hungry. After a while I saw an old couple going to the temple. On seeing me all alone they stopped. They enquired about me. I could only say that I was hungry and needed something to eat urgently. They were kind people. They gave me food to eat and also some money and went away.

I gathered some strength and went up to the temple. I stood there for a while. People used to come, pray God, and go out but nobody had time to listen to me. Finding no other solution, I used to stand near the temple every day .I used to spend night on the nearby road.

One day a mendicant came to the temple. He saw me standing on the temple gate. I do not know what attracted him. He immediately called me by name and started asking so many questions. I could barely say a few words in Bengali. He was a kind man and took me along.

From that date my daily routine changed. The mendicant will make me get up early morning. I used to complete my daily chorus followed by prayer to God. Everybody in the Ashram used to guide me with love and affection. The mendicant was head of the Math and was popularly called as   Swamiji by inmates. He admitted to the nearby Sanskrit school where I started learning. Gradually my interest in learning Sanskrit grew. I started paying full attention to the daily teachings. The environment was so much pious that it transformed my life entirely.

Swamyji used to say that I was a great saint in my past life and died due to an accident near this temple. He would tell a lot about my past life and inspired me to be a mendicant. Gradually I developed affection for Swamiji and got anointed. I became his disciple.

Ten years have passed since then. I continue to serve at the temple. I had acquired good knowledge of scriptures. I often used to deliver lectures on religious topics and had developed respect among the devotees. Swamyji liked me very much. This made my fellow mendicant zealous. They would create scenes against me but Swamiji understood everything. He had often cautioned me against these persons.

One day I got up to know that Swamiji has been killed. I could not believe this. I ran towards his room. His body was lying on the floor. He was actually dead. He was strangulated by someone. Large number of his devotees came to know about this incident and rushed towards the temple. The police arrived after a short while. They took away his dead body for autopsy. They also took away CCTV footage from the temple area.

Nobody was arrested till late evening. Soon there was a breaking news. My name was being flashed as a suspect. Soon thereafter the police arrived at the temple and arrested me and took away in the police van. I was totally nervous and could not say anything. That made them more suspicious. They locked me in the custody room in the police station and kept threatening the whole night. They also used third degree methods. I was absolutely innocent but they would not listen.

Next day I was produced before the Magistrate. The public prosecutor was a lady of my age. She stared towards me again and again. Initially I could not understand this. My dress of a mendicant had confused her but as soon as I opened my mouth, she recognised me and shouted: Ramu,Ramu…?How did this happen? You cannot do all this…. The judge was totally perplexed. He asked her to cool down and to let the court function. The court directed me to be kept in the police custody till next day and was adjourned.

While in the temple I had gathered lot of respect among the devotees. My lectures were heard with pin drop silence. When these devotees heard about the news of my arrest, they could not believe. They started protesting. Shrishthi who was the public prosecutor also did not believe this. She supported the agitators and requested the Government to hand over the matter to the CBI for investigation. The public protest was so strong that the Government had no choice. The case was transferred to the CBI.

The court was informed about the decision of the Government to hand over investigation into this to the CBI.  The court, therefore, adjourned after sending me to the judicial custody for three days.

The CBI moved very fast. It reviewed CCTV footages of the locality. It also questioned some inmates. They were able to locate some inmates entering the room of Swamiji from the CCTV footage. But they had fled away after the incident. The CBI made exhaustive search for them and was able to trace one of the killers. He was disciple of Swamiji and was expected to take over as Head priest after the death of Swamiji but he got annoyed on hearing that Swamiji was thinking to make me the Head priest. It enraged him too much and conspired to kill him.

Other two culprits too were arrested by the CBI. All the three accuseds were produced in the court next day. The judge went through the records produced by the CBI and also heard the public prosecutor. There was not an iota of evidence favouring my involvement in the case. The public prosecutor strongly pleaded my case and requested for my release. The judge agreed, deleted my name from the case and ordered my release. The three accuseds were remanded to the police custody.

Shrishti was jubilant. The court adjourned for the next hearing to be held after a week. I was set free from the jail. Shrishti had come to the jail to receive me. Many followers of Swamiji were also present. At the outset people could not believe that the killer was from inside the temple. He had hired two contract killers to execute the plan.

Shrishti had lot of affection for me. She could not forget me even for a moment since we had separated. She was surprised to see so much change in me. However, she did not like my mendicant rob and wanted to accompany her to her office. I, however, could not agree. I returned to the temple.

 I was immensely sad due to absence of Swamiji .I had no peace of mind. Temple was a place of worship. People come here to pray. They are supposed to sacrifice everything before adopting the life of mendicant. But here, too, I saw them involved in adopting dirty tricks for worldly gains. Great scholar and saint like Swamiji was killed by his own disciple due to material ambitions. This made me sad.

I, therefore left the temple for an unknown destination. I had just moved a few steps. I saw Shrishti shouting from her car. She came out of it and started asking so many questions. I could not understand what to tell her but she was intelligent enough to understand my predicament.

I had left the temple but had no destination. She offered one. She requested me to marry her. I was astonished at this but she will not buzz. She put forth very strong arguments in favour of my leaving the life of mendicant which had so much troubled me.

In the backdrop the radio was playing the music..Sansaar se bhaage firate ho...Bhagawaan ko tum kya paaoge..(You are escaping from the world. How can you see God?....)

It influenced me. The contents of the music were not only soothing but also answered so many questions in my mind. I ultimately agreed. I decided to leave the garb of mendicant. I accompanied Shrishti to her household. She introduced me to her father, Shrikant. He could not believe so much change in me but was actually impressed by my behaviour and knowledge. Shrishti was his only daughter. He could not disagree with her proposal to marry me.

Soon thereafter the entire household started preparing for the marriage.

Lot of preparations were made. The date of marriage came soon. I could not believe the things which I was seeing. Thousands of guests had participated in the function organized by Shrikant and his family. However, there only a few from my side.  I was married with lots of pomp and show. They had also arranged for our travel to London.  Next day we left for the honeymoon…….

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