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 had woken 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.
“Hello, Dr. Biju Lal. How are you doing?” His thoughts were interrupted by the booming voice of a gentleman.
The old man knew at once, it was the young police officer as everyone in this small town called him either Doctor Grandpa or Doctor Uncle. Waving at the officer, he cleared his throat, but the officer patting Kaalu continued, “We’ve received information about some terrorists lurking nearby; among the mountains. Please be careful and inform us if you suspect anything. We’re alerting all the residents of the area.” He smiled and nodded at the officer.
It was getting dark due to the heavy gray clouds and the unpredictable rains as they both trekked through the winding, steep, narrow paths cutting through the mountainous terrains. His old legs weren’t as fast as Kaalu’s and as his pace slowed to gasp for breath, the little puppy way ahead would look around; and come panting back next to his master.
They both sat at the dimly lit table at the log hut, the master brooding on the wooden chair with his drink in hand and the faithful follower cuddled on the rug near his feet. He dropped the tidbits to him which he gladly licked and whined in appreciation.
At the background, the famous Jamaica Farewell song was playing when he spoke aloud to himself, “I’ve to act fast this time before it’s too late.”
Alerted by the familiar knock on the door, he gave a sharp command. Kaalu wagged his tail and placed himself near the door.
Bahadur entered the room scratching his head and a smile revealing his tobacco-stained teeth, a short stout man, and the old man’s trusted lieutenant.
He placed both his hands on Bahadur’s shoulders and instructed, “I want you to deliver these letters to their different destinations. There’s no doubt in my mind after so many years; about your fearless soul, but I still advise you to be careful while you tread the dangerous paths.”
“Yes Sir,” Bahadur firmly replied. He continued in the same emotionless manner, “Everyone should know, I’m out of town. Only for your information Bahadur, I don’t want any visitors for some days and want to take rest.”
Bahadur acknowledged, locked the door from outside and left.
It was a thunderous night both outside and inside the house, the incessant rains poured untiringly and the faces in the dreams haunted the old man indefatigably.
Many years have passed but he still visualized the astounded look; when he pointed the gun at his father’s face and uttered coldly, “Hand over all the family wealth to my comrades. We’re the warriors of the Proletariat National Organization (PNO); our mission in life is equality amongst all.” His father looked aghast when he found his young prodigal son was a member of the banned PNO.
The rain clouds had no mercy and kept up an even pace the next morning, challenging its own capabilities. There were footsteps outside, Kaalu looked up with alert ears, but he signaled Kaalu to be quiet. There was a sharp unfamiliar knock on the door; he quietly pulled out the gun from the drawer. The tapping on the door continued, but with the receding footsteps; all fell silent again except the pitter patter sound of the rains.
In the afternoon, he wanted to take a nap but the thoughts gushed back in his memory.
The bodies of his slain brother and father were lying in the house. His brother’s wife regained her consciousness after a long time and with all venom in her heart cursed him, “You’ll never live in peace, and it’ll haunt you throughout your life wherever you go.”
He looked at Kaalu’s innocent eyes and addressed, “Why is it occurring in my mind now again; after so many years?”
There was no further information from Bahadur till late at night. He sat in his chair with Kaalu near his feet, not aware when he dozed off.
Suddenly the urgent rap on the door woke him up and Kaalu; who was busy whisking his face on the old man’s feet. He waited with bated breath till the surrounding atmosphere recovered its peaceful existence once again.
The days and nights seemed longer with no connectivity with the outside world except to enjoy nature’s torments and its beauty in transgressions.
Three days later in the morning; the secluded life was again interrupted by an urgent thud on the door. He stepped out of the bathroom and found an envelope slid under the door. He signaled Kaalu to bring it over. He smelled it all over and then picked it up with his mouth.
“Good job, after all, it’s my training” he patted Kaalu with satisfaction.
He stretched on the bed, opened and read the letter.
Dear Dr. Biju Lal,
I’m leaving this town today as I’ve received the notice of my transfer orders. I’ve come to meet you for three consecutive days; but unfortunately, you were reluctant to meet any uninvited guests. I wouldn’t have taken much of your time; except to inform you what I’ve written in this letter; and to bid adieu. Pardon me for intruding into your personal space and disturbing your peaceful existence; as I was aware of your presence inside the house.
I was in a boarding school and never had an opportunity to meet you in person, but I’ve heard mesmerizing stories about your youthful days from my father. Your intelligence and knowledge were envious to all age groups. You were very meritorious; and have received many scholarships from the government and various organizations for your medical courses, but you donated majority of the money for charitable purposes and kept the minimum amount for your educational expenses. You were the hero of the entire community, and we were not only influenced by you but also worshipped your photograph.
I’m aware of that fateful day and the truth behind it. Your intentions were honest of uplifting the conditions of the downtrodden and a society based on equality. I wouldn’t comment on the path chosen by you to fulfill your vision, though you threatened but never wanted to tread the extremist notion of violence to attain the goals. There was a faction in the PNO who differed with you in their beliefs. The rift in the groups led to the unfortunate gruesome incident; where you were victimized.
The actual facts were revealed to a few police officers and I’m one of them. You were unaware that some of your colleagues have plotted against you. The members of the opponent faction have planned the murder of your family; as your father was reluctant to part with the hard earned wealth. That fateful day you paid a visit to your family when they were attacked and murdered in a premeditated manner.
You immediately contacted your brother’s friend, The Inspector General of Police (IGP). I know what happened between closed doors. You saved your friends and foes.
It was a big threat and challenge for the Police Department to lose one of its honest Superintendent of Police, your brother, and unable to trace and take any action against the culprits. It was also unfortunate for your supporters with a noble cause to suffer for the heinous act of the rebels in the PNO. You surrendered to the IGP; but the news was circulated that the police were successful in arresting the PNO leader and gaining full credence for their due diligence. In return you begged for the lives of the innocent PLO members, not to be tracked and hunted because they were harmless.
Due to lack of substantial evidence instead of death you were sentenced to 12 years in jail for the murder of your father and brother. You were disillusioned after this unexpected twist in your life but your faithful colleagues and the retired IGP have given you a new resource for your survival. Due to your good behavior you were released early from your prison term, and with their help you’ve settled in this remote area, serving mankind in the remotest places through your medical background.
Today also you’ve strategized and prioritized others before yourself. I’ve acknowledged your efforts of writing the letter to the ex IGP, who in turn have recommended it to his close acquaintances in the department for my immediate transfer to a safe destination. The other letter has been received by your ex-colleagues in PNO, who will maintain peace in this region for a while; till I’ve reached the secure ground.
I respect your feelings and have accepted your decision, though I have always followed the footsteps of my brave and honest father. You’re not a villain in my eyes and my son is waiting impatiently to meet his heroic grandpa. I know you were innocent and regret the horrific death of your father and brother. You’re most welcome to come back home whenever you desire.
Thank you uncle once again.
Kaalu wagged his tail as the door was being unlocked by Bahadur. The sky has cleared after so many days of torrential rains, but the tears flowed uncompromisingly as Biju Lal hugged Kaalu. The sun was shining in its full brightness; the water was dripping from the glistening leaves of the trees, the colorful birds chirping all around and the flirtatious butterflies flitting from one flower to another for its nectar. Biju Lal enjoyed the serene breathtaking view of the landscapes; and thought that today he would sleep peacefully after a long time, without the faces appearing in his dreams again.
PS – This is completely a work of fiction and there is no resemblance to any person/persons living or dead. There is no intention to harm or hurt any person/persons or groups and organizations.
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