Mr. Sekhar Das Gupta handed me all the duties and responsibilities. Now I have to be the jailor of this god forsaken prison. I already hate this place for being so silent and nothing to do nature. But, at the same time I am liking this place. There was need for some to be alone after she died. Das Gupta didn’t give me a tour of the prison though. He make sat at the office and show me all the documents and name of the prisoners. He also show me a letter from the headquarter where it was stated arrival of a guest. The man was kept at the third floor. He was there before I came here. I want to write his identity but I cannot because who knows this diary will reach someone else and then our country’s one of the greatest “let’s keep it secret” will be out there in the world.
Joseph, oldest of the twelve guards, had been bestowed with the duty to assist me whenever I need some help or assistance. This house was built by Das Gupta, and now it is mine. He had leave for the city at the late noon. And before bidding he told me not to pay attention to the stories that the guards or the villagers would told me. He was attentive when he said this as his eyes make a round before and after the saying. He wanted to be sure no one heard him.
There is this calmness in this loneliness. I have faced the loneliness back at the line. Day after day looking at the men someone who at the time not only became best of the lot friends and some became brothers. Sometimes when the snow used to drizzle there was this whispering sound that could be heard when the flakes touched the ground. This silence, this loneliness is all we had. Night after night we used to be in this half dozed stage. Our eyes were closed; our ears opened. The wail of the siren they used to be waits for. This village also has this silent in its bosom. The sound of the fallen flakes has been replaced by the chirping of the crickets and locust. The lighted snowflakes, used to be get lighted by the light of the tower, replaced by the fluorescent colour of the fireflies over the bush and shrubs and over the flowers’ plants. There were no trees in the trench. As far the eyes used to go there were yellow; there were dunes. They were sandstorms at odd time of the day. Here as far the eyes go touch of green is there. Haven’t experienced the storm yet but the season of them are coming.
There is a garden outside this one-floor cardboard-type house. This is the only bricked house in this village. The only eyesore is the prison.
Calcutta is not far from here.
The prison had been formed on a stone palace in the guise of a castle. I still need to know the history of this area because such castle is a surprising one at this place. The castle stands beside a weakened slim river that once was strong and young. It let me to deduce on the fact that this river was once a port or something like and the British used to use this as godown or may be a stronghold for the army or prisoner or both. This prison dated as I came to know on the second day of my here is dated back to pre-1857 Mutiny. It is surprising that it stand tall and sturdy. Except the third floor the other two floors are still working. At the horizon of serene verdant and blue of the river the palace stands as a blotch on painted scenery.
In this full moon it stands outlining the ray of the moon looking like a giant sitting on the bank of the river and waiting to strike. There’s a silence in this silence that this village is keeping hidden in its bosom.
The prison is like a big rectangular wooden box in which our guns and ammunition used to come in. There are three floors. The cells or chambers are on the edge of the line creating a rectangular shaped void in between and thus allowing the light and air to reach it cell in different approaches depending on the time. Like at morning the upper two floors get the maximum light. As the noon walked in the second and the first floor gets the light. My office is at the first floor just at the middle. The entry to the prison is an alley that runs beside my office after a flight of four steps. The platform lies at an angular position. The corner of the platform runs the flight of stairs to the second floor. Most of the times, as the old constable Joseph said, the prisoners or the convicted needs to be dragged to the upper floors because of their reluctance to be in the jail. Though these days there not much prisoners. Joseph said this prison was formed to prison the freedom fighters and revolutionaries. Calcutta was then capital and many political prisoners were kept in this prison because of the less distance from the capital as well for the deserted verdant area that lets the guards at the tower to keep an eye on a vast area. Many fighters were murdered here in that prison and there body had been either thrown in to the river for the crocodiles or were buried at the lowland on the other side of the river. The crocodiles were brought in from the Barrackpore zoo. There were two of them. Joseph said once the river used to be red from the blood.
I was surprised to hear to the zoo being in Barrackpore. But it was truth Joseph demanded vouching on his Lord’s name. May be, once, there was a zoo there. I have to search on this may be when I will retire.
Last night I saw her. I saw my dead wife. She was standing there…right there in front of the rose shrub. And she was looking at me. Just looking at me. She was wearing the red Banarashi sharee, that she wore at the marriage a decade ago and again when we take her on her next journey to the pyre. She had the dots of Chandan on her forehead as a bride on her marriage day should be and as she was on her journey to the heaven.
It was just before the dawn. I got attentive by calls of jackals. I was in half dozed state when I heard someone calling my name. I thought at first it was a dream; but then I got up and the beckoning stopped soon followed by another round of jackals’ calls. I walked out to the small balcony and there she was standing there. The moon was not there; it was amabasya last night. There was this hazy blurred light that the stars were throwing in. In that hazy light I saw her. Standing right front of me under the mango tree and looking at me. It might be a minute or so when she looked back and disappeared. I also look at the way the apparition had seen before going away.
Nothing could be seen but I know the prison is there. I do not the reason of the shiver I had felt at that moment; and I also heard a scream which I am attributing to some nocturnal bird flying over that moment or was sitting at some trees out there. I came back to my room and remain awake in the bed.
This morning as I was getting ready for jail, Qasim came running to me. He was one of the four night guards this week. He delivered to me the news of this dead of the man.
The man had grown old. He was near to eighty. As per the higher official’s order he had been kept at the third floor cell number 2811. A board declaring the floor is dangerous had been arranged before he came Qasim told me on second day when I visited him. He looked into my eyes and smiled. He was pale. Qasim told me, few day back he had gone through a bout of indigestion and dehydration. The doctor had injected him with some nerve calming medicine. I met this doctor this morning when he was checking on the body.
The thing that amused us both was loss of blood from the body of the old man. It just seems he was drained out using some methods. He was laying there, as Horen—another guard—told me with eyes wide open and mouth wide open. Doctor Rastogi said, listening to this, he died while catching the breath. To me it seems someone had strangled him sitting on his chest because there were some marks on his chest which doctor may be sort of rash or something like that.
We take the body down wrapped in a sheet as few of the prisoners looked at our procession. The old gardener, as we were passing his cell, screamed suddenly “he’s there. He’s still there. Believe me. Don’t you see the cat? It was him”
It halted me and the doctor. I asked the doctor to check on him and we walked towards the bank as Joseph show us the way where to bury him. We had buried him beside the bank of the river. And put up a fence around it. It is all we can do for one of the greatest man this country ever have. I sent his news of dead and of the burial to headquarter soon after returning. It was instructed beforehand that we need to bury him soon he died.
As of I now sit here in my chair in my quarter the voice of the old gardener ringing in my ears. The reason of him to scream like that and the secret hidden behind his outburst had been tormenting my mind and thought process till I return to my abode. (Cont’d)