THE DATE

4 min


Rana Tarak stared at the reflection in the mirror. Although already 22, he was feeling like a 16-year-old teenager. After all, it was his first date with Nima. The lonesome pair of her eyes had been haunting him.

“After meeting me, she will cherish this date of homecoming forever.”He spoke to himself.

*****************************************************************

Rana had the distinction of being one of the highest educated young man in the village though he had barely managed to complete his SSC examination from Dekhaijuli town, at a distance of 17km from his village Sital Mari by the Doyong riverside. The hostile terrain and unstable political conditions didn’t allow access to higher education beyond that.

He’d try to make the fellow villagers understand the political turmoil over the National Citizenship Survey. They trusted him with paperwork… he’d recently joined the All Assam Gorkha Students Association (AAGSA) after all.

His father Nekchand was a daily wage-earner at Shyamaguri Tea Estate. Income was meagre for a family with five children. Tarak was street smart and began earning well by selling souvenirs to the tourists at Golaghat which was a two and half hours’ journey by the bus but the scenic plantations and the curvy roads eased the daily toil.

It was during one such ride he’d noticed this frail young girl with features of a Gorkha. A slim, tall frame draped in a blue salwar kameez. A yellowish-white dupatta made her look gloomier.

“Nima, sit here”, a coarse voice pointed towards the seat in front of Tarak. The middle-aged man flashed a paan-stained toothy grin to Tarak as he plopped himself beside Tarak. A foul smell of cheap country liquor enveloped Tarak making him head to the door for a breath of fresh air.

Nima looked scared as she gazed outside the window humming some Assamese song. At the Golaghat bus depot, they dispersed.

Tarak would often spot the odd pair boarding the bus once or twice a month. The girl’s expression remained a constant phenomenon. Tarak felt drawn towards her tragic beauty and he wanted to know more about her. He would occasionally try to smile at her and would offer her peppermint toffees for nausea during the bus ride. She would rarely smile.

“Where do you live?” Tarak finally mustered the courage.

“Basapather”, came the reply making him wonder if it was close enough to visit someday.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be staying there…” her timid voice broke his thoughts.

“Why? Getting married?” he chuckled.

The bus halted and she left without answering.

As Tarak hopped on the 9PM bus for the return journey, he eyes caught sight of Nima’s companion in an inebriated state. But no sign of Nima…. He felt concerned as her gloomy face surfaced before his eyes. He couldn’t ask the man about her whereabouts.

*****************************************************************

Nima cried herself to sleep in the blanket, feeling cold in the lonely dark night that seemed endless. She was surrounded by strangers who were scrutinizing her. Some teased her, some touched her. Some welcomed her with lewd comments and jokes. They seemed to be adjusted with this way of life now.

“Don’t worry, you’ll also learn to adjust”, whispered a friendly voice in her ears. The foul smell of the surroundings, the dark walls scared her. But there was no escape. This was her destiny now. The friendly voice was of a plump, middle-aged Gorkha woman with a soft smile.

“Girl, you are too young for all this but our community has been suffering for years. I’m Maya and I’ve been here since last year. I’ll teach you how to survive here”, she said patting Nima’s head softly.

Next morning Maya showed Nima, the washrooms and how to get there quickly, where to wash up and most importantly whom not to pick up a fight with. She was a senior indeed.

*****************************************************************

It was almost two months since Tarak had seen Nima. He was worried.

“Today I’ll ask that creepy man about her”, he was determined when he saw the fellow hopping the bus.

“Hey, Dada!”

“I knew you’ll ask me someday”, his pan stained grin was repulsive.

“I haven’t seen her for a long time…Where is she?”

“Oh…that orphaned bitch. My brother died leaving a hell of a responsibility for me. Good they picked her up”, he slurred under alcohol’s effect.

“What kind of an uncle are you? She’s a young girl…tell me where she is now? I want to meet her…whatever it takes,” Tarak was getting impatient with the creep.

“Ha-ha…You think she’s a beauty? Good for nothing girl…I’d expected to fetch some money out of her, but before that……” coming closer, he winked, “Hmm… what am I getting from you, Romeo?”

He tagged along as Tarak walked towards the shop, drooling over the Old Monk. Tarak hated every minute of it but was relieved when he handed over a paper to him, “You’ll find your damsel-in-distress here.”

He had read that piece of paper at least for dozens of times. The trauma that she must have undergone sent a shiver down his spine. There were ten more days to go before he could see her.

*************************************************************

Ten days later

Tarak headed towards Golaghat as his train of thoughts led him to Nima. A jerk jolted him back to the present. The passengers were hurriedly vacating the bus as windows were smashed and protestors were pouring Kerosene. As he tried to figure out what was happening, his eyes fell on a poster. A gloomy face stared from it.

“Why? Nima?” he was puzzled.

Managing to find a shelter near the Foreigners’ Tribunal, he overheard the tea stall owner, “Poor girl…but then there are so many like her. They don’t even know the meaning of the word Bangladeshi.”

“What happened?”

He handed over the newspaper to Tarak. The headline read. “Nima, the ‘D’-Voter hangs herself inside the cell prison.”

With moist eyes he took out the crumpled piece of paper…Today was her ‘date’… the ‘Taarikh’* at the Foreigners’ Tribunal.

*****************************************************************

Author’s note: Assam has about 20-22 lakhs of Gorkhas. The National Register of Citizen (NCR) updating process in July 2018 greatly affected the community. Approximately 1.5 lakh Gorkhas are estimated to have been excluded from the first draft, out of which 50,000 have been marked as ‘D’ voters (Doubtful Voters). The All Assam Gorkha Students (AAGSU) sent an application in this regard to home Minister Rajnath Singh. On 24th September, the Home Ministry issued a notification that no Gorkhas in Assam can be treated as illegal migrants; neither could they be referred to Foreigners’ Tribunal.

Yet, five months down the line, the situation remains the same on the grounds. Gorkhas are still being served notices from FTs.

For the uneducated Gorkhas don’t even have the idea on which latitudes Bangladesh lies in. For them, Bangladeshi is a word for “someone who does not have documents.”

*Taarikh – A date of appearance issued by the court in a case/matter.

***

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The above story is an entry into the writing event(Feb. 02nd – 20th) hosted by ArtoonsInn: #PullTheRug #UniK-3

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Check out Bhavna’s space here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/author/bhavnagajbe/


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Piya Gajbe

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Bhavna Gajbe is a Nagpur based Freelance writer. She is a lawyer by educational qualification and a writer by choice. Being a mother to a seven-year-old son, writing comes to her as a medium to keep herself rooted and at times sane, expressing all the emotions. The digital space allows a great platform for writers like her to express on varied topics of social relevance and reach out to a greater number of readers. Other than writing, she loves reading a lot, movies and painting.
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