Red Blue Gray: Day 26

Time started flowing slowly and steadily. Most of the freedom fighters were released while few those remain were either murderer or burglar and there was this old gardener—Mehboob his name was. He had no-where to go; his family was killed by some British officers while trying to kill him by putting fire on his hut. He had survived with this rotten ghastly melted face with two eyes partially popped out. Looking at him suddenly will send a chill down anyone’s spine. In the years he had grown beard that covered his melted-face but those eyes cannot be hidden. This old gardener used to say that the prison building has been cursed by some Bibhuti Baba. His pet cat Bijli roams here and there in that prison building. But we have never seen such cat except the one that had died after the Brahmin died.

On the third year of the independence and fifth year of mine there, on a summer night arrive this figure, a tall gentleman with a beard reaching his bosom and a head of half crescent bald.  His arrival we had came to know the morning before and for that Das Gupta sahib ordered us to clean the corner cell. Mehboob also joined and every time often I saw him looking around and turning thing to see something. When I asked him, he smiled and said it was nothing. He was looking for big bugs and cockroaches. After the cleaning done, the jailor sahib put a board at the platform of the staircase leading to the third floor. It reads of dangerous floor and should not be visited without authorisation.

That old man later I came to know was one of the finest and honest freedom fighters we had in few. And he was supposed to be the prime minister of our country. His best friend, you know, had played him and staged a false air plane crash to show the world he was dead. But he was there; living and breathing. He never used to talk; always used to remain quiet and silent in his cell. It was six months later he complained of some weakness and the doctor came. After checking he said the old man was losing blood. So we checked and there was no bruise or cut that could cause the loss of blood. We take him down to the office and checked the room for bugs and all. Mehboob was there also. He repeated his actions, suspicious ones, and we found nothing.

I will not drag much. I am feeling tired. In the meanwhile Das Gupta sahib had been transferred and a young new jailor came in. Forgive me; I do not remember his name. Actually, I never asked his name and he never told us. This fellow was in his late thirties but look much more-younger than his age. The old man lived for another month or so, and then he passed away. The then government hearing the news ordered us to bury him by the moor. And thus a man who should be getting all the gun salute and a mourning day was dead in the oblivion and got buried in some moor bank sharing the grave with another man whose skeleton we found there.

Few days later we received a letter of a guest arriving. It was a giant but tender giant who used to get scared of the lighting and thunderclaps. Sometimes he used to scream to free him and most of the time he used to remain quiet. I will not go into the details. The only thing he died with a month or two being there. He had also died of the loss of blood. Oh, I forget about Mehboob. He was another one who died few weeks back of this giant. He, as I can recollect now, had been screaming when we were taking down the missing-fighter—the old man before the giant—he had been screaming of someone being there. We never paid a heed to his screaming and pleading. But that young lad, the new jailor sahib, was seemed to be scared and frightened. I tried to once talk in on the things that were bothering him. But he never spoke to me of that.

The death of the three prisoners had happened in the beginning of the year 19—. At the mid of the year arrived another guest. He was guest in all form. A prominent leader in the political arena those days; he had born and brought up in the neighbouring village. Once he was a business man of supplying leather to the tanneries in the city. His father was a spy of the British who was killed under unknown circumstances. This I had learned from Mehboob when he used smoked his bidi while taking rest from his gardening. There was a beautiful flowery garden at the boundary inside the premise of building. Where was I?

Yes, at the guest, the political leader who had been known for his honesty. After few weeks he insulted the new sahib and barred him from entering the premise. It were we four—me, Qasim, x, and the leader. Few days later of his exile, the young sahib came and told me that he was going to the city. He would talk with the authority to close this prison down as soon as the tenure of the leader concluded. He promised he would talk for my pensions and transfer for the other two. But, he never returned. Never ever. Every time there was some sort of sounds like that of hooves, I used to run to the gate thinking he had returned but no he never returned. He proved self to be selfish bastard who made me danced at his tune with the false hope of a serene retired life.

Those few months were the worst ones for me. The leader used scream and shout. Qasim had become his ass licking guy. He used to obey everything he was ordered to do like bringing girls from the village. Sometimes they used tied me up to the chair in the office for whole night or day when I used to protest. But soon everything started changing. The leader started to remain quiet; he allowed no one to visit him. Before he died on a monsoon noon he had hadn’t eaten for days and hadn’t drank for days.

I remember that day as it had happened last day or night, whatever suits you, doctor. The uniqueness of that night was not only the death of that leader but the hours before it and after it and between the both. (Cont’d)

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