Part-III — The Abyss (final)
There she lay; the early morning dew still fresh upon the yellow grass. The yellow umbrella, camouflaged neatly amongst the yellow fields. She lay there so peaceful with her yellow jacket, as if plastered with thick red paint, unwashed by the dew drops. What happened to her has been a foregone conclusion at first sight, as she remained there clothed with her yellow jacket only. It was as if she will feel cold in her afterlife. And she was very cold indeed.
The scene was very grotesque actually. There is no beauty in a crime scene. There is no melody in rape and murder. It is cruel and it is barbaric, capable of giving nightmares even for the bravest of souls for days. The civil militia came and picked her up; quite unceremoniously wrapped her in a poly ethylene bag and the crime scene was marked. The forensics descended like sweeping eagles after that. The secured body bag was then taken to the morgue. The civil militia then focused upon the early morning jogger who found her, asking questions and taking notes. The monotony continued.
Not so far away, the news spread like wildfire. The granddaughter of the Mr. A has been found raped and murdered in the yellow fields. The ever beloved Mr. A, who came as a refugee some fifteen years back, with tales of an undying human spirit. It was as if the whole hamlet went into mourning. The foggy winter morning bereft of sunlight added to the gloom that has been cast over. However, Mr. A was nowhere to be found. Has he heard about it? He must have surely since his grand-daughter didn’t come home last night. But where the hell is he? Even his neighbours are clueless. They had no inkling about it. They have neither seen him nor were they informed about the missing kid in the night also. In a feat which can be either impossible or incredulous on how you see it, Mr. A had vanished into thin air.
It was just a matter of time before tongues start wagging. Eyebrows were raised, suspicions were formulated, rumours were circulated, and then it became breaking news. The narrative changed. From granddaughter of Mr. A found raped and murdered, it became- Mr. A raped and murdered his own grandchild. Soon enough, the well wishers mobilized and demanded that the house of Mr. A be demolished and burnt down, and all the horrors inside. One person commented that one day he saw Mr. A chastising his granddaughter in a way which can always be termed as suspicious, and he further lamented that he was not able to do anything that day. Who knows, had he intervened, this unfortunate incident could have been prevented atleast. Another person concurred with him and stated that he has always found Mr. A to be somewhat sinister, and his intuitions has never been proved wrong till date. One woman also remembered that one day, Mr. A looked at her in some perverted way and she had made a mental note always to be aware of Mr. A. Nobody went into the specifics. There was no need for it. Everybody was in general consensus of the depraved act which Mr. A had committed. There was no excuse at all. His house had to be burnt down.
Do the ashes smell of justice? Do the burnt remnants represent that justice has prevailed? Was it the horrors or the memories which were burnt to the ground? The faint distant sound of the sirens, of the fire engines fades away. One civil militia lights up his cigarette from the charred remains, with smokes rising up slowly freeing the memories into the boundless skies. The house of horror lays demolished. Justice served.
One pot-bellied man stepped up and placed a rose in the memory of the departed soul. He then turned and proclaimed that justice is yet to be served. As long as the depraved offender is still free, no one of their children and womenfolk are safe. The demand for justice should end only when the murderer has been given the befitting punishment and representation should also be submitted to the Supreme Leader for speedy justice. Everybody present murmured in agreement. This has to be done. This was the right thing to do. The civil militia, cordoning off the area, watched in faint amusement of the situation that was unfolding. They knew it so well, what was happening and what was going to happen.
The memorandum of demands were concise and to the point.
- The rapist murderer should be arrested with the least possible delay and must be hanged till death immediately.
- A memorial to be built in the name of the dear departed soul, who has been taken in the flower of her youth.
- Such stringent laws to be framed to prevent commission of such evil.
The memorandum signed off by appealing to the Supreme Leader to direct the concerned authorities to carry out all the demands with the least possible delay. The pot-bellied man suggested that they stage a sit-in-demand also so that their demands will not fall on deaf ears. “3-stories” blared loudly in the background. It was the time for reckoning.
“The kingdom of mirth lay on the horizon
Freed from the vile human thoughts and reason
I climbed, higher and higher, on the wings of the child
The cherub, with the deep blue eyes of the Nile
I see hope in his eyes, a path to a better future
A path of roses, that leads to a hidden treasure
He is my heavenly guide, who leads me through the archway
Like the old hermit, who shows you the stairway
And at the threshold, I got a glimpse of the paradise
And a whiff of the joy, as boundless as the skies…”
All present were in consensus, and some young girls also joined in. They were reminiscent of the fond memories and the friendships they shared. It was a sight difficult to endure, when a young girl had been taken away in the most brutal of fashions from their midst. Life is indeed a tragedy, and at other times, a great mystery.
In the corner, the neighbours, Mr. T and his wife, Mrs. S, were sitting silently. None approached them for any details, and they remained so quietly. They were beyond grief and were speechless at the moment. At the moment, Mr. T was feeling quite ironic that Mr. A, who had sacrificed his own wife, when they were fleeing their native lands, in order to save the granddaughter, had committed this ghastly act in the end. Of course, he was not always in the good books of Mr. A, and there were huge differences of opinion between them since time immemorial. However, he always respected the man, and loved him actually; for what he can do and what he has done for his family and for his nation. It just didn’t make sense to him somehow, yet it seemed so real, and there were no other explanations. Where the hell was the old man anyway? Did he actually commit the act and fled? Mr. T was wrestling with the thought of the old man being guilty, the death of their precious girl in such manner and the shared memories. It was all too much.
Mrs. S was staring blankly straight ahead to the charred remains of the house that was. She could still hear her laughter, the jingle in her voice and her favourite yellow umbrella. It was so unreal. And the old man, who has been a fatherly figure, all throughout their lives. How can he do that? It was really, really unreal. Nobody, even her own husband, knew the story of the birth of the granddaughter in these areas. Mr. A was always a nationalist and he was ready to sacrifice his life, and even his family, without a moment’s hesitation for the cause. It was only because of the grand-daughter that Mr. A dropped all his ideals and fled from his beloved motherland. Because, it was the only way his granddaughter could survive and live a full life. There was no other choice whatsoever.
It was some fifteen years ago, at the height of the fallout of the gobermint days. A militia man had sexually assaulted the daughter of Mr. A. The said militia man was identified, and Mr. A led a personal tirade against that man and the system all together. The fight was relentless; however it was simply dismissed as a collateral damage. In any case, such incidents and occurrences were becoming more than sporadic. In the midst of all these, Mr. A had conveniently forgotten about his own daughter. It was often rumoured at that time that he was a bit ashamed of his own daughter. However, it may also be that he was more ashamed of himself as he was not able to do justice for his daughter even. In any case, he had neglected a bit. It was then found out that the daughter was with child. Mr. A pleaded with his daughter to abort the child, but to no avail. The daughter, probably in her own right, might have been disgusted by the neglect shown by her father that she refused point blank. Mr. A had no choice, but at least convinced her daughter to disappear together, because the environment there was not conducive for bringing up a child of such union. That was the story, and as fate would have it, the daughter died on her childbirth, leaving Mr. A, alone to raise his grand-daughter. Mrs. S remembered all this in cold fright, and how Mr. A made her swear never to tell a soul about this. Her daughter was her best friend. How could she? And now, she is thinking- after all these, how could he?…
Far away, from his home, Mr. A sat quietly inside the lock-up. He was picked up by the civil militia yesterday afternoon when he went to the town. He did tell his granddaughter that he will be reaching late night as he had to travel more than 8-9 hours, and asked her not to wait up for him. He was a bit worried that he had no means of contacting her and the civil militia offered none. But being no stranger to staying in lockups and getting picked up for odd reasons during his heydays, he remained there upright with his pride intact. He didn’t give a damn and betrayed even a sliver of fear. He was the real deal. And from what they told him, they had officially picked him on the charge of assaulting and threatening one Mr. X, who was taking care of his sister who was on ART. Unofficially, they told him – refugees should show proper respect to the militia man and their sons and daughters.
The writer is Deputy Member Secretary Manipur State Legal Services Authority