Akhil Das

NO NOT AGAIN

 

,NO NOT AGAIN

                       

It was a blistering summer afternoon in the steel city of Rourkela .The siren of the factory was blowing for the closure of general shift in the plant.  Abinash was busy in his office to wind up the days work.

 

A phone call came from his house, which conveyed him the same old story of the maidservant, Malti, who was missing from the house since last few hours. Abinash suddenly remembered one incident of similar nature when the same maidservant quietly vanished from the house and was rescued by police in the midst of the night walking on the street aimlessly. The patrolling police officer forewarned Abinash of a devastating consequence if he ventured to keep the girl in his house for further period and suggested him to immediately hand over her to the parents without fail. The experienced police officer could deduce from his interaction with the girl that there was every possibility; she would play the same stunt again and again.

 

That very night, as per the police officers advice, the modus operandi was being discussed to drop the girl at her native from where Abinash also hailed from. But the girl convinced everyone in the family that she would never repeat the same mistake again and Abinashs wife being prejudiced by the convincing statement from the girl, conceded to continue with her on compassionate ground for the little poor village girl.

 

The flash back of the same incident was becoming livelier in Abinashs mind and he was getting baffled and impatient as to why he did not listen to the advice of the Police officer that night. Abinash rushed to his house with a heavy heart and mind. His wife explained him that after a little scolding from her, the girl went to the annexed servant quarter and never returned back. Abinash started desperately searching all the possible locations in the city but there was no trace of the absconding girl, as if she had mingled in the air.

 

Days were passing and rigorous search by Abinash and his friends was continuing persistently. The anxiety in the mind of Abinash and his family members was getting deepened with the pace of time.

 

In the meantime, a Telegram was received from Abinashs father, which read as,

 

Maltis younger sister is absconding from your sisters house. Drop Malti with her parents immediately.

 

Abinash was taken aback, and realized as if the almighty god was determined to punish him creating such a coincidence.

 

For Abinash it was a nightmare that at the same time both the daughters of one parent were absconding who were at least 500 Km apart from each other. How was that possible, it was bothering him. In fact, Abinash for not troubling his father concealed the fact of the missing maid from his house. But how long he could bear the strain? Ultimately, he had to convey the tragic episode to his father.

 

The situation was getting worsen day by day. In the meantime, the father of the girl lodged a police case against Abinashs father with a charge that his both the daughters were the victims of either illegal trafficking or could have been murdered. It was a serious offence and Abinash could not believe that the maids family who were once dependant for their livelihood upon his parents could make such radical decision to approach the law. He almost broke down and prepared himself for a gloomy future ahead of him.

 

His father reminded him an incident that took place at his native few years before when a rich industrialist became a popper by paying a huge compensation to one tribal girls parents who was working as maid and absconded from the industrialists house. Probably, inferring such an incident, which happened in the locality, the parents of Malti being coaxed by a few touts started black mailing Abinashs father at his native .Few days after, Maltis sister was traced in the locality, but there was no existence of Malti.

 

Abinash tried all avenues those are possible and even advertised in Television, Radio and local dailies, but there was no response. Abinashs wife was also trying through means of fake astrologers and black magicians in the city. One day his wife informed him that a famous black magician in the city was capable to accurately trace out the missing girl and one could watch the live telecast like picture at his thumbnail.

 

Abinash could anticipate that another deceitful menu was on his way coupled with draining out his purse. But he had to join his wifes mission like a drowning man catches a straw. It would be an astounding experience for him to watch how the global positioning system of the modern tracking method would function without help of a satellite and he could watch a live telecast of Malti.

 

He was well aware that all those were gimmick but still he was standing in the queue amongst a bunch of imprudent people like him and waited for his turn. After an hour, he and his wife met the juggler who asked them to arrange a 12 years old boy who would be best suited for the so called live telecast to watch the video adaptation narrated by a young lad only.

 

Both of them expressed there regret that they were ignorant about such requirement.

 

The magician giggled, Dont worry, I will arrange a boy for you. And then he pointed his finger to a child playing at a distance with his friends.

 

He again said with a smile in his face, I think, the boy is   perfectly suiting for the purpose which we are looking for. 

He squealed Beta Aladdin, people want you here for some job and they will reward you adequately.

 

As if the boy was waiting for the call and came running to the magician. Then he immediately showed his left hand thumb, as he was fully aware of everything.

 

Abinash could observe that the thumb of the boy was partly painted black and he enquired out of inquisitiveness, Why the boys nail is so stained?

 

 The magician acted as if he had not heard him and quickly adding some more black paint over the thumb of the boy answered,   The boy will watch the movement of Malti over his nail.

 

After completion of some fake rituals by the magician, the boy started narrating in a very professional way, Malti is now walking along bank of the river with a bearded Sadhu and she is requesting the Sadhu to drop her at house.

 

Abinashs wife imagining the narration of the boy as true depiction of the incident, innocently asked, What is she doing at present?

 

Immediately, the boy replied, She is wiping her tears with her sari.

 

All rubbish, thought Abinash, because Malti was a 12 years old girl who never put on a sari and while she left she wore a T- shirt. He thanked the magician and paid him the charges to immediately get out from being further fooled because he could learn that the boy Aladdin was no one but the son of the magician.

 

To his greatest predicament, his wife insisted him to search for Malti as per the description of the location narrated by the boy which was at least 10 km from the place they were standing.

 

Abinash remembered one verse of Mahabharata when Yudistir was asked as to which one was the greatest wonder in the earth. Yudistir replied,

 

Knowing the blatant truth of life that one day he will die, every one makes a conscious effort to overcome this universal law of nature and this the greatest wonder.

 

For Abinash, as if consciously he was going to do something, knowing very well that was a hoax. Still to fulfill the desire of his wife, in the mid noon of scorching heat, he went to the similar locations and searched for Malti.

 

Almost a month has passed in between. Abinash as usually came to the office that day and quietly sitting in his office cabin was cursing his fate. The office boy entered to serve the morning tea and found his boss in a gloomy face. The office boy new all the development those were taking place with regard to the missing girl.

 

Serving the tea on his table, he approached Abinash and politely told,

 

 Sir, you have tried all means and your mission seems to become futile to trace out the girl. Why dont you engage someone with a public address system to move all the sector of the township as the last resort to appraise public about the missing girl? Probably we can get some clue.

 

At the outset, Abinash did not like the idea for exposing himself further to turn out to be a laughing stock amongst his friends and relatives. Later on he agreed to reconcile with the situation to go for a last attempt.

 

The very evening, a public address system and a taxi was arranged and the office boy taking that as an opportunity to speak over the mike took extra interest to organize things in order. The mission started from one sector to the other one after another and Abinash to conceal his identity was following the taxi at a distance. Suddenly he observed that the enthusiastic voice of the office boy was no more heard for sometime and he rushed to the place where the Taxi was halting. While reaching the spot, he found, some Bangladeshi Muslim people normally the domestic scrap collectors had encircled the taxi.

 

Apprehending some problem, Abinash quietly got into the crowd and asked the office boy about the reasons. The enthusiastic boy described him that the people surrounded the taxi belonged to the near by hutment area and they had seen a month back the girl with similar description in their locality.

 

First of all, Abinash did not believe it because of similar hoax calls he had received in the past. But he had to believe this after an elderly person from the group described about the girl vividly. As per his statement, the girl was seen with one man named Idris who had a lot of police charges against him for looting, child lifting etc.  Another one from the group expressed that Idris was not seen with his family in the locality since several day and the girl might have been sold to some one in big cities, which was one of his means of earnings.

 

It was a dark summer night, shot through with infrequent shimmers of lightning silently firing a cloud lying low in the west and portending a heavy rain. To find out more information about Idris, Abinash rushed to the hutment area located on the bank of an open sewerage drain. A heavy rain before the day had made the soil so spongy that it fairly sprang beneath the feet. A brief, stammering illumination brought out with ghastly distinctness of the environ and the mud road leading to the hutments, a forbidden place for descent people to approach that time of the night.

 

Abinash accompanied by his office boy cautiously entered to the hutment area. In the darkness, hardly it was possible to discriminate between pigs and the children loitering in the narrow aisle between the two rows of hutments. By seeing some outsiders, which was an uncommon phenomenon to them, the people became more alert and started interrogating.

 

From the interaction, no further clue about Idris was possible except that he hailed from a district of eastern part of West Bengal. However some one mentioned that one of Idriss relatives worked as a ticket collector in the railway station of the district head quarter.

 

Without making further delay, Abinash decided to visit the place in the same night with such scanty information against the will of his friends and relatives. With haze of anxiety and disoriented mind Abinash boarded in the mid night train accompanied by his office boy. On the way, to their bad luck, the train got delayed in the midst of the journey for almost 8 hours due to a derailment of down train on the same track.

 

It was almost in the late evening, both of them got down at the designated station. The office boy was almost worn out due to such tiring journey and wanted to get refreshed and eat something. But for Abinash, as if he was beyond fatigue and hunger. His only objective was how to trail the relative of Idris in the railway station.

 

When the office boy left, Abinash started enquiring about any Muslim staffs working in the railway office. Some one recommended him to go to the staff colony directly and to carry on his task there since it was difficult to figure out some one without a name.

 

 Abinash was well aware that he was beating around the bush and trying to trace some one whose name was even not known to him. After an hour of knocking several doors, Abinash could find one elderly person at his retirement age, distantly related to Idris. The old man patiently listened the episode from Abinash and looked at him with compassion and quietly sat for some time gazing through the open window of his living room. Abinashs trepidation was building up, as he was not in a position to accept any uncooperative statement from the man.

 

Who asked you to make such an idiotic speculation? asked the man.

 

As if in anguish, he spoke again,

 

Idris is a hard core criminal and wanted by the district police from long time. If he has picked up your maid and one month has passed in between, forget about the girl and go back to your home.

 

Abinash almost broke down with the obstinate counsel of the man and requested him to at least tell him the location of Idriss village. With repeated insistence by Abinash, the old man gave the address of the village which was about 50 Km from there. But he warned that all the villagers were criminals and even the local police was scared to enter the village based on several incidents happened in the past. He forewarned to Abinash not to venture alone without a escorting the police.

 

The night was pitch black, the moon was no comfort; the night seemed more scary with the moonlight casting eerie shadows on the night. Most of time the moon concealed its identity behind the dark clouds.

 

Abinash and his companion wasting no further time headed towards the Bus stop, where the last bus was scheduled to depart at 11 pm. Crossing lanes and by lanes, they reached at the nauseating bus terminus where the only bus was accumulating its last passengers.

 

Abinash on the spur of the moment tried to gather more information about the village, but after hearing about the paraphernalia to reach the village, he was dismayed. The bus would drop them on the main road after 30 km at the mid night from where a rickshaw would have to be arranged to travel another 20 km to reach their destination.

 

Passenger from the near by village and small vendors were struggling to put in place their luggage and making their seating comfortable. The Bus had been over crowded by that time. Abinash without having a second thought asked his companion to get into the bus immediately and to make a room for both.

 

The bus moved towards their destination on rickety undulating road. The fermented sea fish smell coupled with the odor of the sweat of the fellow passengers was getting intensified wherever the bus halted in local stops. Though Abinash new the local language, the fellow passenger through their interrogation were trying to ponder about their purpose of visit. Abinash someway or other was trying to evade them with some fabricated stories. Lastly, after an hour of travel, the bus stopped in the designated place. They both hurriedly got down from the bus to breathe over free air.

 

The scattered hutments, mostly the tea stalls were closed by that time. Stray dogs were fighting at the garbage place. A few people were sleeping under the open sky, a normal phenomenon in the village side. 

 

Abinashs sharp eyes were searching for a rickshaw, which was his ultimate aim. Finally, he could locate one rickshaw at a distance and found the rickshaw puller in deep sleep in a bow like posture to accommodate his body over the seat. With a mild patting from Abinash, he woke up and enquired about the reason. Abinash, explained his mission but the reluctant rickshaw puller finally agreed being allured to be paid a good sum of money.

 

It was the time beyond the midnight. It was a partly clear sky. The rickshaw puller lighted his lantern and hanged it beneath the seat. Abinash and his companion sat clutching themselves well over the seat putting their brief cases at the feet. The tricycle rolled on the main pitch road for sometime and then took a right turn on to dingy mud road. The rickshaw puller then had to put more effort to counter the frictional force of the mud road.

After a few moments, Abinash could watch the eastern sky getting brighter as the indication of approaching the sunrise. Early birds choir were heard in the near by trees, they were crossing. The sweet melody of cuckoo was reverberating from a far distance. Abinashs companion was in deep sleep and some time leaning over him. The rickshaw was rolling over an elevated, narrow band of mud road and on either side there were paddy fields. All of a sudden, the rickshaw got imbalanced and capsized over the paddy field. Abinashs companion was almost thrown out of the rickshaw since he had no grip over his seat. But Abinash could hold back to counter the impact since he was alert.

Till the rickshaw puller had to bring everything in order to resume the journey, Abinash laying flat over the paddy field looking up to the vast pervaded sky felt as if he was in his bed room and did not wish to get up. At a distance, there was some fire burning and a peculiar barbeque smell was coming. The rickshaw puller insisted both of them to get on to the rickshaw since the near by fire was not a camp fire but funeral fire. To make the moment more horrified, he started narrating some horror stories of the ghosts how once he encountered in the same location.

Now the tri cycle was back again on the mud road. The rickshaw puller was pedaling away to his heart's delight probably with a hope to get an unexpected remuneration.

Abinash looked up to the eastern sky; the pink sky was getting brighter and brighter. With the sun slowly rising above the eastern horizon, he could see from distance the patches of settlement. Like chasing a mirage in the desert, the rickshaw puller was pointing out the partly visible villages as their destination. As they were nearing the settlement, the rickshaw puller again was pointing his finger out to another location.

Finally, they reached to their destination; a typical low-lying mercy land. Ahead of them the sky laced with fragmented cloud had that peculiar intensity of light, which implied the close proximity of the sea. A small creak was encircling the village, which collected the catchments water during high tide.

The village was about 3 km from the Bay of Bengal. There were few houses with thatched roofs and some with earthen tiles. Wisps of gray-white smoke from early cooking fires were rising above some of the houses. Goats and hens scattered to the sides of the road as the rickshaw ploughed the way through main entrance of the village.

Children were playing and women sat in doorways gossiping and preparing for the day. The whole village seemed to become alert when they glimpsed two outsiders sitting in the back of the rickshaw and broke-off to stare in amazement.

An overweight and balding old man was seated on a wooden bench got up and stopped the rickshaw on the way. All the children playing near by have meantime gathered to watch two strangers seated on the back of the rickshaw.

The sun was blazing high above in the clear blue sky and a hot wind was blowing across the swampy plain. The heat and humidity were already becoming uncomfortable; over the course of the trip. Abinash felt bruised in his stomach from the constant pounding of the rickshaw coupled with the hunger.

Abinash and his companion got down from the rickshaw and asked whereabouts of Idris, the most wanted man of Abinash.

Few young men gathered and started interrogating with suspicion, probably thinking them as policeman in civil dress. Abinash politely narrated the crowd about their mission. Some one from the crowd said,

 

 There is no girl named Malti is residing in this village and no one knows about Idris.

 

Abinash was baffled to hear the arrogant replies from everyone gathered over there. He could realize that every one there was bluffing him to protect Idris.

 

Terrible hangover of humiliation and predicament was beginning to dawn on him. He looked desperately here and there with a hope that he could see Malti some where within the crowd.

Suddenly, he found Malti concealing her face behind a young lady. He yelled loudly,

Hey, there is the girl for whom I have been here.

Every one in the crowd looked at her. She was not prepared for the unprecedented situation and Abinash thought having been identified by her master; she would certainly come to ask for forgiveness.

But his triumph soon turned into utter misery while she told in their local language, I do not recognize this guy and I am seeing him for the first time.

Having tortured for days for the stupid girl and under all the struggle and pain, Abinash hardly could endure such blatant lie from the girl. He rushed to her and gave a hard slap on her face.

Soon, every thing, as if, turned negative for him. An young man at his thirties came running to him and clutched Abinashs right arm firmly and shouted,

 Mind your own business. You have hit our village girl without any reason. If you try the stunt once again, I will cut your hand.

Realising the situation becoming tense, the office boy was very much frightened .He whispered in the ear of Abinash and suggested him to get out of the situation without further delay.

It was a hot afternoon and the heat was unbearable.  He felt prickly on his arms and through his thin cotton t-shirt and trouser, which he had been putting on last 2 days. He walked back along with his companion to a cemented platform and sat over his unfolded hankie, to insulate his bottom from the hot cement pedestal.

 

For a while,Abinashs companion was too much frightened and asked his permission to go back and later on discarded his idea anticipating rather more problem to go back alone. Abinash was feeling too much hungry and preparing to go to a village tea stall to have some snacks.

 

As Abinash was wondering what to do next, his eye suddenly fell on a young woman in her late twenties, fairly good looking who was staring at him from a distance. Her hair was wild, loose in the wind, her eyes full of compassion, as if, she wanted to speak to him for something.

 

The woman smiled at him and  finally walked towards him. Apart from her wearing a semi soiled clothe, no one wouldnt have been able to believe that she did not hail from a descent family. Her mouth was slash of red with chewing betel.

 

She with a caution, looked over the near by surrounding and in very low voice told him,

 

I am wife of Idris and Malti is staying with us since she left you.

 

He could watch her from a close proximity and found quite attractive with  her sharp feature. Why she was interested to help him, could there be any dubious intention behind all these sympathy, pondred Abinash.

Abinash could see tears in her eyes and was convinced fully that there was a necessity for reciprocation of help. It was apparent to him that the lady did not want the young girl to stay in her house due to the enthrallment developed by Idris for the girl or to stop her husband committing another crime by disposing the girl to some one .

Blotting the tears in her eyes by the sari, she invited them to come to her cottage for some food. Both of them went to her cottage and the lady served some baked rice and tea. Malti was not seen anywhere near by. Abinash could bring the young lady in confidence and was flabbergasted to hear the malevolent intention of her husband.

Malti had some far relatives staying at Calcutta. Idris had given her hope to drop her there within 3 days. Malti, dreaming for a glorious future ahead of her to stay in Calcutta did not want to go back her native. This opportunity was encashed by Idris to take her to Calcutta with an ulterior motive to sell her for illegal trafficking .It was also disclosed by her that last few days Idris had been negotiating some strangers for the deal.

He was not able to reconcile the fact that had he delayed his mission for 2 days, probably Malti would have been sold in one of the red light areas in Calcutta and never could be found. He felt warmth through out his body and  a shiver within by imagining the consequence. While filling water in the empty glass, she told,

My husband is a drunkard and certainly he would be found in the local village country bar now.

The hot wind laden with moisture was gushing through the village forest from the sea side. It was unbearable to inhale the hot blast. They quickly headed towards the end of the village where scattered hutments were visible.

 On query, some one pointed out the country bar from a distance, a painful looking cottage made out of dried palm leaves and shredded bamboo. An old man sitting at the entrance could see them approaching and immediately disappeared, probably to inform the people inside.

They stepped inside the cottage by entwining their bodies to facilitate smooth entry and found a few fatigued drunken men with stooping heads busy in gulping the country spirit. Pungent smell of spirit coupled with dried fish snacks was unbearable. At the corner of the cottage, Abinash glanced; a ferocious-anemic-looking man with sandy eyebrows and mustache was giving a piercing look towards him. He could well guess that the man sitting at the corner was none other than Idris.

Hi, Idris, How do you do? I have come all along from Rourkela to meet you. uttered Abinash with a low voice but with confidence.

He made a fake introduction his companion as policeman from crime branch who had been accompanying him through out the journey.

While sitting on a broken wooden bench, he warned, Idris, the reality that my maid has been kidnapped by you is recognized by the police in both the provinces. Now, physically, I have also seen the girl at your house. No force in the earth could save you at this moment.

After concluding his statement, he was in the offing to observe Idriss first reaction. He was feeling gregarious as if some external force propelling him from inside devoid of the consequence. He could not believe himself as how could he act so confidently while endangering his life.

Idris , got up from his seat  and walked towards him plunged his knife on to a cucumber in filmy style and asked him in a challenging voice,

Who the hail are you to say that I have kidnapped the girl from your house.

Abinsah to conceal his nervousness lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply.

Idris moving forward towards him said, The girl was loitering on the street aimlessly like a destitute and I gave her shelter.

Throwing the semi finished cigarette on the ground and crushing it by his shoe to extinguish the fire, he looked up firmly at Idris and uttered, I appreciate your noble act and since  the girl has been sited by me now, please make necessary arrangement so that she returns back with me.

In the meantime, the sickening atmosphere was getting tenser and people around there started muttering. Some one from the gathering intervened and said,You immediately leave this village, because the girl does not want to go back.

It was his bad luck. thought Abinash. But he made it a point that he should not leave the place while he had been apprised about Idriss intention to take the girl to Calcutta.

Taking the last gulp his left out drink, Idris seemed to be bit calmed down and told, You can restore faith on me. I am certainly going to drop the girl in next three days at the place from where I picked up her.

Abinash could sense that some thing was cooking up in Idriss mind and undoubtedly he was playing a tactics to send him out of the village so that he could fulfill his mission by taking the girl to Calcutta. 

Abinash swiftly replied, I believe you and shall wait for you in Rourkela and left the place immediately.

His companion was stunned to see such foolish action from him. Hurriedly chasing behind, he asked,How do you believe that monster and leave the place coolly without fulfilling your mission?

Do not interrogate me now. Ask the rickshaw man to be ready since we have to go back to the railway station immediately. said Abinish in a sharp voice.

After a while both of them got into the rickshaw and started their journey back to the railway station.

At the horizon, the lilac clouds were congregating as the sun sets in pale gold. The chorus of birds was hard from the village forests. There were wind ruffles in the streak and Abinash felt coolness of the evening breeze .As they were nearing towards the rail station, he was recollecting the disorderly incidents happened to him in last few hours. Amidst all those hue and cry, he was still finding a ray of hope.

 

While they arrived at the rail station, it was almost late evening; the recorded voice was announcing the arrival and departure time schedules of various trains. They both rushed to a kiosk to buy some snacks and to have tea.

 

While taking a sip of tea, Abinash told, I am not going back to Rourkela. In fact, I now shall be heading towards my village.

 

His colleague got perplexed hearing such confusing statement from him. It was a mystery to him as to why; all of a sudden Abinash had changed his mind while he had specifically asked Idris to drop the girl at Rourkela in his presence.

 

He told in a polite voice, Sir, I would prefer to go back to Rourkela since I am missing too much my family since last few days.

 

While Abinash was expecting for such a reaction from him, he immediately replied, Certainly, you are at liberty to go back now. I really thank for your giving me company for such long time.

 

Abinash bought the tickets for separate destination for both. His colleague left him alone with a lot of qualms in mind.

 

Abinash quietly sitting on a cement bench at one end of the platform looked to the railway clock and it was nearing 12. O clock in mid night. Scanty passengers were waiting for the train. Tea vendors were preparing themselves for the next train. The voice announced to confirm the entry of the train into the platform.

 

It was a 5 hours journey to reach the nearest station to his village. He could find a seat in the ordinary compartment closer to the entrance door. The compartment was full of local passengers and hawker. There was no place to move but some how he managed to squeeze himself where his half of buttock was hanging in the air. There was no chance for him to take any rest but to remain alert though out to watch passengers getting in and out.

 

Finally, he reached his village by a local bus after getting down from the train.

His parents were dazed to see him unexpectedly at the village. They took a shy of relief after they came to know his episode in locating Malti at a village in West Bengal. But their euphoria turned into utter despair when they heard the entire story from their son.

 

His father insisted him, before taking any further action; he should seek the police help. Not to disappoint his father, he agreed to do so but in back of his mind he discarded his fathers suggestion. Message was sent to Maltis parents for immediately reporting at his house.

 

After he finished his stomach full of lunch for which he was craving since days, he met Maltis parents. He asked both of them to accompany him in his journey immediately without any loss of time. But, they resisted the idea with a plea that they needed time for preparing themselves.

 

Nothing doing,Abinash told to them firmly. He assured them to buy them clothes on the way.

 

To put a curb on his on going expense, his father suggested him to take only Maltis father, which was no dout, a better idea. But Abinash did not want to take any chance, because he could not rule out the possibility that the stupid girl might decline to recognize her father even. Hence for Abinash, it was safer to take both of them considering the surmounting expenses as secondary for him in that juncture.

Escorting the parents of Malti , he boarded in to the evening train  for heading towards his destination. What a horrendous month it had been for him,Abinash sighed while gazing through the window of the moving train.

He was feeling bit safe and sound due to the presence of Maltis parent and looking forward to at least physically hand over their daughter to them.

 

As the destination was nearing, his fretfulness becoming intensified. He was praying the God not to penalize him to discover that Malti had vanished once again after reaching the village. Because he had made all these strategy to hoodwink Idris without revealing his intention even to his colleague.

 

It was in the early morning when they got down at the rail station. No time was wasted by him to locate the Bus terminus due to his earlier acquaintance with the place. He offered both of them with a heavy breakfast to prepare them for the journey. He hired two rickshaws, got in to one and offered the other to both of them.

In the bright sunshine, everything was looking new to him though he had once traveled in the same route but in the darkness. He was bit apprehensive about the news of their approaching to the village should not be transmitted to Idris prior to their arrival. He was minutely looking at each passer by who were overtaking them on the way.

 

Finally, they arrived in the village in the late afternoon. He made a mental computation; he was back in the same spot exactly after 36 hours much ahead of Idriss plan to escort the girl to Calcutta.

 

He directed both the rickshaws to stall ahead of the village not to create a furor

amongst the villagers. He asked both her parents to be quick to follow him as he was heading towards Idris house. He could see from a distance Malti sitting in the verandah and fully engrossed in her gossip with some village girls of same age group. He almost ran towards the spot and grabbed Malti sternly in his both hands and shouted at her parents to speed up.

 

He dragged her to the parents and told, Take charge of your daughter and I will take charge of you at a later. In the meantime, the whole village became alert and everyone was watching the incident silently without any protest. He could observe the young man who challenged him during his last visit was staring at him from a distance with a heave of sigh in his face.

 

There was not single protest from any one. Probably, Idris could not have imagined such an unprecedented situation so soon where by jeopardizing all his plans. Abinash did not bother to even enquire whereabouts of Idris as his mission was getting fulfilled the way he had anticipated. Amidst the furor and joyance moment of his victory, he never forgot to convey his thanks to Idriss wife watching him at a distance through a biddable smile, which was reciprocated by her.

 

He hurriedly got back to the rickshaw and started his journey back to the rail station along with the rescued girl and her parents.He hardly spent a few minutes in the village to accomplish his mission. 

 

He had not fully ruled out any retaliation from Idris or his colleagues from behind. But nothing happened in the way and they were safely back to the rail station. The news of rescue of the girl was in the mean time spread like a wild fire. Interrogation from some inquisitive people in the platform had already started. Some people even appreciated Abinash for his daredevil act and congratulated him for the success.

 

But Abinash was still feeling as if some thing wrong was going to happen to him. So he changed his plan to expedite his movement by boarding into a local train and changing over at the ensuing Junction. He cautioned her parents to take extra precaution and keep a vigilant eye over her. They boarded into the heavily crowded local train and had to travel in standing. He was barricading her from one side and kept a watchful eye on her. He could observe that Malti was getting more tensed as if looking for a passage to escape and waiting for an opportunity.

 

After an hour, they got down at the junction and moved to the designated platform to wait for the train. It was a very long platform with intermittent kiosks and some bookstalls. He selected a less crowded place and asked all of them to sit there till he brought back for them some snacks from the nearest kiosk.

 

He left that place and walked towards the kiosk. To his greatest bewilderment, he could see the same young man who threatened him at Idriss village was sipping a cup of tea at the close proximity of the kiosk.

 

 Seeing him from a distance he giggled, How are you sir? A totally changed personality, he observed within him.

 

Reciprocating his gesture, Abinash asked him, What brings you here

 

The moment he finished his interrogation to the young man, he heard uproar, Hey Malti is fleeing away, Catch her. He suddenly looked back and found Malti jumping out of the platform and running over the railway tracks. By the time he realized, she was no more visible due to the obstruction of his sight by a running train.

 

Every one standing in the platform was watching the fun. Abinash without wasting a moment got into the running train, which was slowing down its speed for a halt. He crossed to the opposite door and jumped from the train and rushed towards the direction where she was running. He saw her concealing her body behind a standing wagon and shivering. The moment she discovered, it was Abinash and she acted as if she had come there for toilet.

 

He pounced upon her and dragged her against her tough resistance up to the platform. Now he could co-relate the presence of the young villager who had been following them to once again flee her away in connivance. Probably, Malti knew all about that and she had acted as per the indications given by the young villager from a distance.

 

 He shouted upon her parents for their callousness even though he had instructed them to remain alert. He asked her father to take out the turban and tie her securely at the waist and hold the twine till they boarded in the next train. After some time, every one the compartment has come to know about the whole story.

 

While some fellow passengers were sympathizing, one gentle man introduced himself as a journalist and told, The way you have tied up a young girl, it is inhuman and you have no right to act like this.

 

Abinash was so much thrown off balance that he lost his nerve and replied the gentle man agitatedly, Mind your own business, and snubbed him immediately.

 

Gazing through the window, he lit one cigarette and took a long puff. He was planning the stratagem to relieve the frozen stresses; the girl has given to him in every minutes and hours.The train reached his destination and he hurriedly hired two rickshaws as the bus for his village had left an hour ago.

 

The three got into one and Abinash sitting alone in the other rickshaw was following behind. He had planned that all of them would go directly to his house and there he will square up his score with her. As the rickshaw was approaching his house, she jumped from the rickshaw and started running towards her house located in opposite direction. The clever girl probably could read his mind and to save her from being hurt, he escaped from him.

 

That was the last time Abinash saw her and later on never bothered to enquire her welfare or whereabouts.

 

While he was preparing to go back to Rourkela, his father expressed his concern for Abinashs wife who could face problem without a maidservant. He asked him to escort one elderly widow who was waiting for him fully prepared at the courtyard of the house.

 

He screamed, No not again and left the house, bidding farewell to his parents.

 

 

By A B Das

Abu Dhabi

2/2/05

 

 

 

 

 

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Akhil Das.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/02/2010.

 

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