Next morning, as the dawn break, Annapurna walked towards her kitchen and found it was under lock. The sturdy door was in the grasp of a strong metal chain arrange from one corner to other making a tilted cross. Doctor Khastogir at first tried to hide the key saying he couldn’t remember where he had kept it. Then in the end he had gave in when Anna screamed at him in the harsh manner—a rare thing she had done with her Papa.
In this three and a half years, the Town hadn’t changed a few with some new stores coming up, the last Mayor DeCosta had died and now someone named Bakshi was the Mayor. No one knows of him so much and selection of him had been done by the old DeCosta on last day of his Mayor-tenure. Mr. and Mrs. Rakshit was a parent of a boy named … Ritu had got married with a baker who had a store at the head of the alley. But, the biggest changes were two in number.
The first one is the clock tower. The tower that used to be standing in the middle of the town working as its precious ornament then had a clock and big brass bell. Last time when Anna came to the town with her infant daughter it was under construction; like many others she had opined that never going to happen. And, now, it’s standing there; chiming the bell at every hour—one at one, two when it was two and like that.
After few days she came to know the clock was designed and set up by a group of four people who were soldiers; they had been few of those who had taken shelter after that landslide five years ago. These four people had set up a hardware store near to the tower, and had also lease the abandoned Roy Villa transforming it into a hospital. One of the four was the army doctor and he supervised the daily chore of the hospital. Doctor Khastogir was invited to joined them but he denied that, and said everyone that they (the soldiers) were there to kill them not to save them.
This is the another change, and the most drastic change, Annapurna had ever expected of. Her father was going insane. Sometimes he talks gibberish; sometimes he just remains silent. Most of the times he remain sitted deep into his high back chair in his room. He never play with her granddaughter but always find a way to run away whenever she was awake. Annapurna with the help of soldier created a chair for her when she was able to sit. And the mother and daughter remain in the kitchen together. Once Sunayana got scared of her mother; it was on the morning next to the evening of their arrival when her mother screamed at her father demanding some keys. Doctor Khastogir listening to the shout had throws the key to his daughter’s face.
Six months after they had arrived to the town, Anna was hurt by another death. She used to keep her lock in her pickle kitchen. Only when her daughter was hungry, she used to come out of her kitchen and use to cook something for them. The existence of her father was muted to her after that key-incident. She, though, kept the food under the plate on the table—most of the time he used to eat and sometimes not. Sometimes she could saw his shadow over the garden at the back of her kitchen. Sunayana used to play there with the son of Rakshit and daughter of Ritu. She also used to report her of her grandfather looking at them from the windows of the house’s kitchen or standing under the olive tree at the garden.
That day, six months later of their arrival, Anna was preparing dishes for her daughter in the kitchen of the house. Sunayana and her friends were playing at the garden. It was a spring late-morning. The tower-clock had chimed the eleven am and few minutes had passed away when she heard a commotion from the road. The town was calm and composed, so, when a noise arise everyone become alert and the same thing happened with Anna. But, she paid less attention.
“Mama, they are bringing grandfather in…” Sunayana came running to her panting and grasping on her breath.
“And Aunt he is bleeding…like the river in the mountain…” little Rakshit said.
She looked up; she was startled at the last detail. She ran to the door and opened it. Few of the people who had shop around the tower were carrying him on a long pull-cart. His head had burst. The army doctor was there beside him.
Later she learned, her Dad had fallen victim of a horse who had gone rogue due to some unknown animal disease. Doctor Khastogir was walking towards the hospital when the knot of the tie of the horse gotten loose and it has galloped. In the way it had injured five of the pedestrian and the sixth one, the last one, was Doctor Khastogir before the army doctor shoot it down with her rifle.
At the dawn Doctor Khastogir died. Before leaving his last breath he had called his daughter Annapurna who on insistent by others there walked to her dying father.
Doctor Khastogir mumbled in her ear, “he’s alive…”
Those were the last words he had said leaving Annapurna in bewilderment.
“Where have you been…when the school does have had over…” Annapurna scold her daughter, seven years old Sunayana.
Sunayana embrace her mother at the waist and said, “sorry Mama…I was listening to a story of the old man…”
Annapurna had heard of this old storyteller. Few mornings back Ritu came to her and while having tea she asked her, “have you heard the news…”
“What news…” Annapurna asked sensing a gossip on Bakshi who was still then Mayor and had became a popular womanizer of the town.
“There’s this old man…he had taken shelter in one of the cave of the mountain…every morning he comes down, and sit down under the banyan tree near to the school…he tells stories…my daughter says he is great storyteller…far better than her father…” Ritu had said in one breath.
Annapurna said to her daughter, “you could have come to home first…and then go for the story…”
Sunayana was still holding her mother; she said, “I don’t’ want to miss the beginning Mama…”
Annapurna smiled and dragging her daughter in front said, “he’s a good storyteller…you’re saying…”
“Yes Mama…and I was going to forget…I had invited him over here on this week’s Sunday at lunch…”
Before Annapurna could scold her Sunayana ran away.