The whole surrounding seems to going out of mind and sense when a storm strikes. To-day is the second day the storm strikes here. The whole process starts with increasing darkness as the noon started to turn to early evening. The azure blue sky started colouring itself into grey. Then an hour or two before the sun set the wind brings in the news of the storm. The storm hits on the south of the palace. Joseph said once, years ago, when a cyclone hits the area the boundary wall of the jail seems to be getting broken down. The whole building seems to be quaking.
To-day I also sense something like that. As I was sitting at my table the whole building seems to be shaking. And the sturdy wall that surrounds the compound seems to be complaining of growing old and wants to break down. The gust when passing through the empty cells and open space, someone was whispering I had heard. Then I realized soon that it was the trespassing mad breeze that was making that whispers, those voices. I ordered Qasim and Joseph to bring down the spy which they obliged.
The spy had grown lean in these few days. He was sitting silently on the ground with knees gather at his chest. When somewhere in the building a noise was heard for hitting a door or loose wall he was getting scared and looking around as if he was expecting someone. He was looking like my son when he used to be scared by listening to stories I used to tell him from the war or some ghost fairy tales. The spy was really scared.
He once or twice asked me to let him go because he was feeling uncomfortable there. I called Qasim and after tying a rope to his waist let him walk around which he liked a lot. As soon as the storm stopped and rain started pouring in, he thanks me and started walking towards the stairs. Qasim went with him and leave him in the cell. He said the spy enter the cell and had lied down on the bed. I want to change his cell but he will again started screaming like he does few days back.
I now curse myself for allotting him that cell. He can be kept at one of the cells in the second floor where most of the cells are still in usable state.
The compound looks like a surreal object in this real moonlit scenery. It is standing there at the bank and seems to breathing in bated breath. Lots of tales are hidden there. Each brick and each stone seems to be talking now; conversing between them the old days, the by-gone days, and getting titillated with the interim howls of the pack of the wolves. When I looked at it from my veranda, it just takes the shape of a big structure; the giants at the fairy tales might be used to look like it. A big unmoving object is sitting at the bank and looking at the moon. The silence that used to disturbed me now is my muse. I find this solace in the wind that comes from the moor on the other side of the river. The village is a couple of kilometres from here, so its noises cannot reach here. But, sometimes a conch shell blown can be heard; though it’s a faint fragment of sound taking the resemblance of a mysterious suspected tone.
Near to two month here I at last visited the village. The village is made of twenty or twenty-five houses made of mud and roof of hay or tiles. Most of the villagers depend on farming. They cultivate rice, wheat, sugar cane, and bamboo. They were surprised to see me because the last jailor never visited them. The only time they heard from him was once or twice a month when he needs a woman for his bed. Being frightened of the threat he used to send through the constables the villager used to send their daughter and sometimes their wives also. Sometimes infant boys were also sent on order. Das Gupta used to pay them a hefty amount.
I was accompanied with Qasim. When they saw him and following him was me on the horses, they were scared. I at that time thought it was they are scared of the police. Later while returning Qasim told me the reason for being them scared. Then I understand why the women were coming forward while talking with most of the faces uncovered. I had told Qasim to go to the village and assure them I am not like that. They can come to me if they have unresolved problem.
Now I am getting how Das Gupta had spent his two years here.
The old gardener was found dead in his cell. He was lying there on the stone floor with his face to the ground. Rastogi said he had dies of a massive cardiac attack.
I had this hidden urge to have a talk with him. It just seems he knew a lot of things of this jail. I heard from Joseph he was here for a long time. When Joseph came here he was twenty-eight and the garden was thirty or something. He was arrested for being participating in a rally, and killing there a British officer. He had also faced the tortured in the hand of McGraften but he never broke done and confessed to his doings. He was never put on trial and never anyone show any interest in freeing him. Even after the independence when the prisoners were free, he demanded and request of staying there. It just seems he had no one in the world.
We first decided to bury him. Then we decided to put him on the pyre as per Hindu ritual. When the flame of the pyre was in its full blown it just seems to be making a face of a man with beard and matted peaked hair like a sadhu. Later Joseph said he had also witness that face the same moment I had.
Now the prison doesn’t have prisoners but prison and that is the spy at the third floor. I am thinking on drafting a letter and asking the higher authority to close this jail and declare it “ABANDONED”. There are jails, better ones, in Calcutta and there is no need to send the prisoners here so far away from the city. I have to give a thought on this.
There was a storm last night. So the morning was calm and composed. But it was for a bit. Raghu came running to me with the message of the spy being found dead at the cell.
He resembled the similar look that the old man had, the forgotten hero of the Independence. The eyes had been popping out. There are some marks on his chest, and few scratches over his face and at the place of the nerve on the wrist. Raghu and other constables who were at duty last night said they hadn’t heard of anything. The claps of the thunder and the howling of the stormy wind might have muffled his screams or his voice.
I send Qasim to the village with the message of this sudden death and said him to send a man to the city to telegraph the message. The nearest city from here is ten or twelve kilometres while from the village it is less than eight or so kilometres. I need Qasim here so I ordered him to return after delivering the message.
The body now lies in the cell under a sheet. It had started decomposing. I know the response I will receive—to bury him at the bank. He had stopped belonging to any country as soon as he was arrested and transported to an undisclosed location that is to us.
Now I should started working on the letter to close this jail.
As I had presumed last evening the order was to bury the dead spy. And we do that. A strange thing happened when Qasim and Raghu was digging on the lowland. There were few men from the village also.
At first it was bones of the rib cage and then a skeleton of a full grown human was dug out. No one was scared of seeing the skeleton. Joseph asked me what should be done and I order to bury the skeleton. So, we didn’t use the spot but threw back the soil and bury the skeleton. We select another spot and bury the body of the spy.
The body had started melting and it was sending off foul smell. That smell still lingers in my smelling sense.
The men from the village were happy when I paid them. They touched my feet and said me whenever I need them, they will be there.
The letter had arrived late. When a man wanted something and he received something then the feeling that happens, I felt that. (Cont’d)