Monday, February 9, 2009

The Coward, being a comedy in two parts - 2

This is the concluding part of a story I had started some time back. You can read the first part here

More than the victors, it is the vultures who love a battle. But vultures don’t swoop in on a body as soon as it fells. For they can sense the dead souls lingering about their bodies, not wishing to let go of life and all its pains. But soon the vulture’s hunger overcomes their fear, and the dead souls, seeing their erstwhile havens getting destroyed, move on with a sigh.

A desolate dusk arrives stealthily, the setting sun mirroring the blood split on earth. Then slowly night comes, soothing, blissful, oh so different from the raging day! It is at night that the newly released souls realize the full extent of their freedom. For death is the absolute – it is chaos and it is serenity, it is the land of do as you please. They rush about in the dead fields, laughing deliriously, and then dispersing, only to converge again when they suddenly see a survivor.

Ram Lal was terrified. When the train was attacked, the driver very cleverly started off without waiting for anybody. Many people were mowed down, many fell off. The result was that around 200 people were trapped in the station with about the same number of attackers. Ram Lal, who had gone outside to take a leak, was one of the trapped passengers. They fought tooth and nails, literally, for they had very few weapons. But what value is a piece of blade when you are fighting with nothing but an animal passion? For this was not a fight between ideologies, but survival, at its basest and vilest.

Something knocked Ram Lal over, and the next moment he felt a piercing pain by the side of his chest. A huge body, face contorted with rage, loomed over him, swinging a huge sword. Being so close to death surely gives us astounding clarity (or delirium, since both are the same), for Ram Lal thought that the person was the same monster about whom his grandmother used to spin her bed time stories. A foolish grin spread across Ram Lal’s face as he remembered one tiny long forgotten stupid story. Then someone stabbed the monster from behind, and he crumpled and fell on Ram Lal, suffocating him.

When he woke up, he felt that he was buried. Furious indignation swept over him as he contemplated this fact. “But I am a Hindu!!!” he thought. Then realization dawned on him, accompanied by choking and a deep stench of torn flesh. Using his shoulders he pushed back the nameless bodies from above him, to emerge like a ghoul into the night. They dead battlefield stretched before him, accompanied by howling screams, oddly silent. “I have gone mad” he thought gleefully, scratching his head, the weight of the world off from his shoulder.

Wandering about in the battlefield, Ram Lal came upon the railway track. Its gleaming moon surface attracted him strangely. “Let me walk along this track. Perhaps I will come upon some village.” And he started walking.

About a mile later, he came upon a dead body sitting on the tracks. “Don’t sit on the tracks,” Ram Lal advised him, “a train might come and run over you.”

“Don’t worry,” the dead body told him cheerfully,”I am already dead.”

“No harm in being careful” Ram Lal said. “By the way, does this track lead to any village?”

“Yes, but why do you want to go to a village?” The dead body asked him.

“Actually I am pretty hungry” Ram Lal said, and waving to the dead body, started off.

The village was like a typical Punjabi hamlet of those times, deserted. Ram Lal searched about for food, but the village was stripped of everything worth scavenging for. With a sigh, Ram Lal turned back, and came back to the dead body.

“The entire village is deserted” he sulked.

“You know, I think there is a village on the other direction,” the dead body said.

“But that is Pakistan!” Ram Lal exclaimed, the memories his recent misfortunes flooding his consciousness, and he started trembling with rage.

The dead body yawned, “Its getting late, why won’t the train come?”

“I will kill every one in that village and take revenge,” Ram Lal shouted, and picking up a stone, started running in the other direction, full of righteous rage. Visions of holy war filled his mind, perhaps his glorious tale of revenge will become a song some day. After some time, the stone he was clutching felt very heavy, and he dropped it. “I will kill them with my bare hands.” After some time, he grew even more tired, and sat down on the tracks, cursing which soon turned into sobbing. Ram Lal was very alone.

Then the clouds passed over the moon, and he had a vision. Far away, he could see the village, the houses illuminated by the moon light. Painfully he started crawling towards it. As he drew nearer, human smells overwhelmed him. “Some one is living here,” the thought seemed to make him lighter, as he scurried forward on all fours. Arriving at the nearest house, he knocked on the door, feebly at first, and then more forcefully. The door was opened by a man armed with a knife.

Rahim Khan looked at the madman who had woken him up from sleep. He was filthy, covered in dust and grime and what looked like dried blood, and he was babbling something.

“Brother, give me some water.”

“Brother, give me some food.”

“Brother, it is so good to be alive.”

“Brother, it is so good not to be alone.”

The man smiled.

“Come in.”

And they went inside the house.


  1. tor ei puro lekhaTa amake dibi? amader ekTa e-zine achhe, sekhane debo?