“ Please don’t go today. Things are not yet normal,” His wife pleaded as Mohan came out to go for work.
Even he knew this ,but he also knew that the shop owner would deduct his salary if he didn’t go .
There had been violent riots in the city. Day curfew was lifted after ten days.Even the neighbours were eyeing each other with suspicion.
An uncanny silence prevailed in the air. The street that usually came alive with the sweet voice of school going children and women at this time, was dead silent. A few men could be seen standing in front of their houses, huddled like conspirators, throwing furtive glances off and on.
He had gone a few steps when he heard people shouting, He panicked and turned to run back .But then he halted .” Oh , no ! “ he thought with a sigh of relief, “ I am imagining things “ That was the sound of dogs fighting a little distance away.
He shuddered as someone called him. He stood there numb for a moment and then saw his friend coming towards him. He too appeared relieved to see him.
“ Someone was stabbed near the station.”
“ A Hindu? “
“ No, a Muslim.”
“ What a dangerous situation it is , When will all this be over?”
They walked in grim silence after that till they reached Auto rickshaw Stand.
” One passenger for Subhani Market.” An auto driver was shouting. Mohan quickly jumped and got in the vehicle.
“ Uh-oh !” He gasped to see the other passenger. He was a Muslim having a henna- dyed beard.There was no going back then.
They were trying to sit as far apart as possible. Stiff and conscious, keeping a wary eye on each other.
Auto rickshaw was passing through the narrow lanes of the city. Mohan was praying desperately, thinking of his wife and children .
Their auto passed near an Akhada, a wrestling ground. He could see a few sturdy looking young men near the gate. They seemed to point towards their rickshaw.
“ Ya Allah,” his co-passenger suddenly panicked. His face grew pale and he was trembling all over. He let his limp head rest on the bar in front.
Mohan was happy for a moment . Then he felt that the man might fall down. He touched his shoulder and asked,” Are you alright? “
“ Yes ,” he answered.
“ Don’t worry,” he said involuntarily.
He was surprised at his own words . But then he was a human- being after all .
The bearded man instantly felt relieved. Taking a deep breath he said,” Times are bad. I wouldn’t have come, but couldn’t see my children starving. “
As his destination arrived, the bearded man alighted from the auto, paid money and walked away Then he remembered something and returned. ‘ Thanks,Sir”’ he said and smiled.
Mohan’s eyes welled up with tears as the auto restarted.