Eternity Behind The Bars

Posted: August 31, 2013 by Ankur in Writes...
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Some stories begin with a character – some with a idea, or a theme. His story began with a dish behind his bars; a white turned yellowish image of a concrete
dish. Yellowish-because of the staled food spoiled day by day in the same dish. It was a massive monolith as compared to normal dishes, some 0.5 – 1.0 ft. in diameter – it was like a giant dish-maybe it was too generous for one person and so I was welcomed in the prison, or rather thrown in the prison with Yogen. 

Yogen ,a 65 aged man with his zebra striped jail suit, sitting at the corner of the cell waved a hi with a plastic-plastered smile, more satisfactorily because at least he had someone with whom he could share the disgustion of the food given in the jail.

“Hello, main Bhucchan,ji aap?”,I introduced myself.
“Main Yogen”,he said.
“Toh bhaiyya, let’s hear your story. You murdered-shurdered anyone,ha?”,I asked him in utter curiosity, expecting him spill the beans as I parked my ass on the floor.

Oh well, “Shut uppp!” with probably a frequency of 560 hertz was his instant reflex.
“I have not murdered anyone, I AM NOT A SINNER! I was there with him, I was present, I was left with no choice, I couldn’t stop her too…I had to do this..I AM NOT A SINNER!”
I do not know why he started blabbering like this, but it did make the whole atmosphere stupefying for a minute. In no time the watchmen came to handle the panic situation, held him hard, and put a medicine in his mouth. At that moment, I couldn’t help my flabbergasted look on Yogen Ji and those two watchmen, and the whole pity situation for I had the least idea of what was happening!

Later I was acknowledged about Yogendra Kumar, his life, his family, HIS STORY.
Though those watchmen narrated the juiciest part of his story in a jiffy, I came to know things about Yogen Ji, that I needed to take care of. Yogen Ji was in a subnormal state from three months after he was in prison. Parting away from his family for the past 5 years, embodied without any concrete physical support(until I was thrown in his cell room), a strong sense of guilt, remorse and culpability for some known and unknown reasons, and his troublesome age, all made debut to his subnormality. 

Days passed by, but it least bothered me whether I was bailed out or I stayed jailed. Atleast,I never minded free food however unpalatable it might be. My house was anyway a shack. Maa and Bau walked hand in hand together to experience their dynamic ‘afterlife’ while I was left in that dirty shantytown,money-less and orphaned. 
Future wasn’t a straight road for me, it was a straight rod. I wanted to try the plains because anyway the mountains was out of my league, and hence the transition. I chose theft as a profession without any regrets, until this man(Yogen Ji) tried the brain-wash sessions. His stories somehow thrilled me every time I heard those. I mean, I obviously had little concept about the whole beta-let-me-tell-you-the-grandma-tales stuff, but yes, whatever he said touched me. One day, while eating stale khicdi,

“Beta, you know I keep telling you I am not a sinner. Its true son, I have not murdered anyone. I have…or rather had a happy family, nothing to worry about. But then one day..”

I had to stop him from over-anxiety and do as I was directed. 
“It’s okay Yogen ji. I know you did nothing wrong. Please eat the food. The khicdi tastes good today”, I lied. It tasted horrible.

After a while,
“Soooo,what exactly happened that day?” Ok,so my nature is to blame. I couldn’t resist.

And thus began the story of the old man. I always knew my life was no less than famines in barren land, and the little crops that would germinate in that effete land, was only because of my illegal means of earning. Yogen Ji had had everything-a small, happy family, a modest income that would run his family, and a decent house until that day in the evening….

“2nd of February,2008. It was a Saturday, the second day of the month and I just got paid. Since it was time for me to pay the house rent to Maalik Sahab,I handed over the rent to my daughter,Gunjan. Gunjan beti never cooled her heels her forthcoming life to be of such misfortune and tragic.

“Saab ji,fabraary(February) mahine ke ghar ka kiraya”, Gunjan said with the traditional posture of the typical girls in India, head down!

“Arey Gunjan, you have come! Come here young girl and sit with me. Arey kiraya-wiraya will happen later. Let’s sit here.” With that,the landlord touched Gunjan’s shoulder and forcefully held her tight.

Gunjan sensed the characterless attitude in him and tried to flee home as soon as possible. She kept the money on the table and tried to exit from the main door when she was caught in the hands of the ruthless landlord. Gunjan was frightened out of the daylights. She tried to fight, fight for her self-respect, dignity but her body abandoned. For once and for all, she felt that all she was, was a puppet to the moneyed, to the well heeled, wrapped with guilt, martyrdom and nasty torment from the money-superiored.
She no longer visualized herself as the girl who loved to wear that blue-stoned bindi that she recently had bought from the Chowk market and jump like a new bride, looking herself in the mirror, she felt debased. She felt prostitutory. 

She could have back downed immediately and walk home as if nothing happened. The landlord got his pleasure, and my daughter would have been bribed. But for her, this was the end of the earth. Either she puts an end to her life, or she dooms the ruthless monster forever and dug his nasty torture along with him in his grave. 
Meanwhile, I was heavily panicked. 

‘She shouldn’t take much time in Sahab ji’s house. It’s late. Maybe I should go to the landlord’s house and bring her home’.

‘Sita,I am leaving for the landlord’s house. Dinner ready rakhna!’

By the time I reached his house,it was too late. I saw my daughter whom I still dream of her playing ‘ghar-ghar’ was wrapped in a bedsheet,crying and lying on the floor. Beside her was my daughter’s culprit, flooded in blood. Yes, he was dead. My daughter having no options left anyway, grabbed a giant knife from the dining table and inserted in his chest. She was a murderer, but I couldn’t destroy her life anymore. She was young but destroyed. Facing the consequences of murdering someone would make her nothing but a lifeless soul. I was old, lived my life with my family and was left with nothing but do something for my family.
I gave a statement to the police that for defence of my daughter and leaving with no choice to save her, I had to kill him. I haven’t seen my family for years. I wish I never had asked bitia to give the rent that day…” 

With that, he ended his story weeping blatantly. I ended up looking at Yogen ji,with tears in my eyes. By no means, I found a way to console him. I was dumfounded. I put him to sleep and had just one thought in my mind-‘I have to get him out of the jail, by any means’.

I was released from the jail in a week. The very thought of leaving a guardian, Yogen Ji was disagreeable. . Anyways,I came to visit him every day and had long hours to chat like our old times together. 

I joined a tea stall. Oh yes, I was actually starting to earn by legal means. Although the touch-screen mobile phone that I stole from the thakurain last time made my pyjama pockets balloon like a big cotton ball, but this earning was peaceful. Mountains isn’t that bad,you see. You get fresh air too.

Concurrently, I also consulted Yogen ji’s lawyer too and asked him to do his best in bailing him out of the jail.

“On account of Yogendra Kumar’s mental illness and wellness in behaviour and work records in the jail, he is free from all the charges.”
The court is adjourned.”

I was unable to portray my happiness at that very scene. I looked at Yogen Ji, he wept. He had nothing to say. He just tried to walk away, out of the court, out of the jail and meet his family, meet his daughter. I walked him out of the court, and hugged him like I was the happiest person on earth. He said nothing. He just caressed my hair and left. 

The next morning, I left early to meet Yogen Ji. Be it as a visitor to meet prisoners, or myself as a prisoner, I was a bonafide visitor. It was his last day in the black hole. He would have been freed today. No longer sitting in the solitude, and no stressing about about his family. He would soon be there with bells on with his daughter and spend the rest of his life with his dear ones in no time. I brought his favourite dish,rajma chawal today.

I have never seen him so cheerful. His face conveyed the expression of excitement and happiness. He constantly kept saying,’Sita,Gunjan…I’l meet them soon..very soon.’

I tried to talk to him,but he would not pay attention to what I said. At some point of time, he was blabbering. I saw dozens of pill spilled over the floor. Must be his sleeping pill. Maybe he had an overdose of it. Never mind, he was going to his house after half a decade, that’s what counted.

I fed him the rajma chawal, made him sign the legal documents and within thirty minutes,
he was out of the jail. He never felt happier, because all he chanted was his wife’s and daughter’s name. 

We went to the bus station.

“Bhaiyaa,Chapragunj ke bus ka ek ticket dena”

“Yeh lijiye saab”

“Kitne hue?”

“Ji 50 rupay”

I handed over the money to the person in the counter,and bought a seat in the bus. Yogen ji sat there and remained surprisingly silent.

“Thik se rahiega Yogen ji,aur hume yaad kijiyega. Ji chalta hoon”,I was crying.

“Oye sun.” 

“Haan ji,boliye”

” Rajma Chawal bahut changa banaya tha tune! Apna khayal rakhna”

I began crying to the blues. I never imagined my life after my life as a prisoner without my inspiration, without his guidance. He held my hand and we bid goodbye with a smile. 
As the bus started its way to Chapragunj, I again heard him chanting,’Sita, Gunjan…I am coming’ and closed his eyes to dream of his happy life.

He closed his eyes forever.
He dreamt of eternity,not of his happy life. 
He was lifeless. More than his family,
The Almighty called for him. 
As they say,

“The deeper the grief, the closer is God.
The better the person, the closer is God.”

As for the massive monolith dish, me and Yogen ji shared,
maybe it was waiting for an another story inside the cage, behind the bars.

Oliva Das

KIIT University

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