Don’t rouse me from slumber

4 min


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The old man woke up with a start. He looked around groggily and squinted as his eyes settled on the cloudy sky above. A droplet of rain landed on his forehead. He brushed it off and sat up. The little puppy that had been sleeping beside him on the stone bench sat up too. The inclement weather had driven most of the people back home and apart from a few stray dogs; a couple of cab drivers and some pedestrians, the lane was largely empty. He ran a hand through his unkempt hair, rose, stumbled and then steadying himself, began to walk towards the little tea shop at the end of the lane. The puppy followed him. It knew that a treat was in store.
He sat on the little stool outside the tea stall while the puppy settled at his feet.

“Will pay tomorrow,” he grunted as the young boy, who worked at the stall handed him a cup of black tea and two biscuits.
The boy nodded and held out a biscuit to the puppy.
“Here, take these too,” the old man dropped the two biscuits on the ground, much to the delight of the puppy.
He sipped his tea noisily and stared into the distance. He wasn’t sure what woke him up. It wasn’t the drizzle of rain. It was something else. Perhaps it was a dream. Hazy images of faces came flooding into his mind. Had he really seen those faces in his dream? He shook his head restlessly. Perhaps he needed to go back.

Manu, the puppy swarmed around his feet excitedly jumping up to reach his face. His weather beaten face with the thorny uneven stubble still attracted Manu. He often licked the face with gratitude.

“Manu, has here take this “, he said as he offered him a biscuit. The ominous dark weather almost blinded him.

Just then,” Baba, I want to climb up that tree”, the words sounded like music to his ears. Manushi, his five year old daughter tugged at his shirt. Her twinkling bright eyes shone on a smiling round face. Her curly tresses swayed lightly as a soft breeze swept past. He gently lifted his princess; his daughter was a princess in his own little empire, his home, his family. Lata, his wife peeped out from the kitchen window as she stirred the vegetables.” Manu, it is getting hot now, come home” she said in a gentle voice.

Madan’s life revolved around his home and his fields.Madanbabu, as he was popularly known among villagers was an epitome of kindness and happiness. Lata, his better half, complimented his nature. They were married for Ten years. Lata was a loving wife and mother. But Bhabhiji’s compassionate and benign nature made her as popular as Madan Babu.

Manushi’s arrival was celebrated with the traditional festivities. The chirpy toddler brightened up the home. She was the apple of Madan’s eye.

“Bhabhiji, here are the vegetables that you asked for”, Gopal, a helper at their house cheerfully called from the door. Lata took the vegetables and offered some tea and water to Gopal.

Just then Baldev entered through the gate. His huge frame and large moustache along with the felonious look was very intimidating.” Madanbabu, how are you? I don’t see you at the Panchayat nowadays”, Baldev’s booming voice rang in the courtyard.” Oh welcome, Baldevbabu. How are you?”

“So how is the harvest this year? You are a rich man; you don’t have to worry about anything”

“Oh, by the grace of God we are comfortable”.

Meanwhile, Lata sent tea and snacks at the hands of Gopal.” Bhabhiji prepares good tea, you are lucky Madanbabu”.

Madanbabu smiled as he cast a glance at his house.Lata’s frame could be seen moving around in the kitchen.

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Madanbabu’s house has caught fire……… villagers ran helter skelter with buckets and pots of water. The once a paradise was slowly turning into ashes. Screams could be heard even at a distance. Villagers gathered around the burnt debris. There was conversation in hushed tones.

The station house officer came with two constables.” Have you seen any suspicious person around, Atmaram”. The officer asked Madanbabu”s neighbour.” No Sahib” Atmaram replied with his eyes cast down.

“Inspector Sahib, you must catch the culprit”, Baldev spoke with anger. “This must be done by Madanbabu’s enemies”. “But how could someone like Madanbabu have any enemies?”

Madan sat before his destroyed paradise with his hand over his forehead. His eyes stared in oblivion. His dishevelled hair, uneven stubble, dry lips were in complete contrast to the once radiant, smiling face.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Madan looked at the little bundle of joy cradled in his arms. Lata had bathed the baby and dressed her in a soft vest and diapers and then wrapped her in soft white blanket. The little one made bubbly and raspberry sounds. Her wriggling movements in the blanket gave immense joy to Lata and Madan.

As Manushi grew up, every milestone was rejoiced. Her babbling, her crawling and baby steps were nothing less than record breaking feats for the proud parents. As she moved around the house, her giggles echoed around the house. Her little feet pattered on the bright shiny floor.

Meal times became occasions of celebrations as Manushi weaned to solid foods. Madan lovingly watched as Lata fed soft khichdi to Manushi.

Both Lata and Madan cherished every moment with Manushi. As her babbling was taken over by words and sentences, her parents listened to it like musical notes. Madan longed to get back home every day.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The tea shop owner and another villager sat in the clinic lobby in a serene mood. Madan had lost consciousness while sipping tea. As he collapsed the tea cup was tossed up spilling the chai all over. Manu, the puppy whined as he jumped towards Ramu, the tea shop owner. He tugged at Ramu’s pyjamas and frantically tried to get his attention. Just then Chhotu came running towards his master.” Babuji, that Chachaji has fainted”. Ramu rushed towards Madan.”Babuji, what happened?”He splashed some water on Madan’s face.

Ramu, along with another villager took Madan to the Government clinic.”Doctorsaab, he fainted while having tea”. “What is his name and address?”, the clerk at the counter asked Ramu.”We just know him as Chachaji. He came here some months back. Doesn’t speak much and drinks a lot. We don’t know anything about him.He does odd jobs at the village shops”.

“Hmmm, He require treatment for liver cirrhosis, and may also need psycjiatric treatment”, said the Doctor after examining Madan.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Madan mumbled something……

The beautiful house, graceful lady, smiling child, the fields, and the workers……. all the images floated as Madan fell into deep slumber.

He seemed to be saying, “Don’t rouse me from slumber”.

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