FICTION…: A lake of dismay and strength
By: Vivek Bhat
At noon when her father inquired the whereabouts of his wife he came to know that she had got a labor pain and was under the supervision of a local lady. He got delighted and prayed for a boy. He already had many mouths to feed and being a small carpenter he was hardly able to make ends meet still his quest for a boy was perennial.
There came “the first cry” of baby deep from the room. He ran inside to behold the countenance of his boy but stopped by the lady at the doors. While he was persuading her to let him go another lady came up with a baby in her arms. He was nervous still in prayers. He implored, “Mai, ask me to hold my boy.” But the Mai spoke a word different. “Hold your girl, Beta”, told she. A chill ran out into his spines. He lost all his senses for a while. Penumbra of dismay surrounded his vicinity rendering him motionless.
“This time I will not keep her, throw her in any lake or river”, he shouted.
“What a fool you are!”, replied Mai.
“Do what I told you to do and don’t tell my wife anything about this matter, we will persuade her that the baby died of a neonatal death”.
“You are really a fool. How can we hide a baby from her mother who had kept her inside her soul for nine months and tell her a lie of such extent? No, it’s a sin that I am not going to commit, sorry”.
“Take my leave then”, roared he.
She left the premise cursing him but her words were little effective on his adamancy. He decided to kill her. There began the farce of unlucky her and the fable of agony, oppression and insurmountable strength ultimately.
He had trudged towards the lake. Night was wintery and dark, the chatter from nocturnal birds had made it gloomier, hooting of owls and barking of dogs was audible from the distant place. He reached the lakeside, mounted to a bit elevated place and was about to hurl her down when suddenly the child held his forefinger tightly as if she she was not ready to die and was pleading for.
His legs shook. He was moved a bit. He decided not to throw her in the lakewater instead left her beside a drunkard all stained with mud, sleeping under a tattered blanket.
Poor mother wailed for months but was managed with lies eventually.
Fortunately and unfortunately she was adopted by that drunkard, once a hangman by profession who had decided to raise her. Without much love, with no care like an orphan she had begun to grow. From motherless and loveless childhood she grew up to a young girl. To her misfortune, there came a big jolt that the man he always thought as a careless father was not her father, and he being lured by few bucks, was about to sell her for illegal flesh trade to a brothel.
All this raised her agony exponentially. It became unbearable hence she decided to end the tale altogether.
She tramped towards the same lake. The night was same wintry and dark, the owls were hooting; the dogs barking from the distant place; audible. She climbed to the highest place to jump from. The death she escaped about thirty years ago had followed her like a repeated sequence of old-school movie scene. To bid adieu to this cruel world she was to jump when she heard sobs of small girl audible from leeward of giant rock. She followed the sound and found a little girl with blood oozing from her forehead. The little girl exclaimed, “We met with an accident, my maternal grandfather and driver are in the car down the lake. My mother works in a hospital, she is renowned surgeon please make a call to her.”
As she approached more close to her, little girl held her hand followed by a hug. The child could see the purity of her heart, and compassion smitten inside her through teary eyes thus came to her warmly. “I fear dark”, please save us”, she exclaimed.
The young lady consoled her and made a call and helped rescue them. The driver succumbed on the spot but the old man was saved. In hospital she got to know that the ex-hangman was also admitted there next to the old man as he suffered acute renal failure and was in the dire need of a donor. She without giving a second thought asked for possibility of her donation and did so after approval from the doctors.
The old man, who she helped rescue, watched everything. When the ex-hangman came back to senses, he told him: “You are very lucky brother that you got a daughter like her.”
The hangman, being already apprised by nurses about the donation and donor, remained quiet. His guilt had choked him beyond breath. The daughter he raised like someone in hell and the innocent life he had rotten has given him a new life notwithstanding his deeds.
“You know what, I have lost all my youth and my peace in the quest for the boy. The boy who I thought would make my life worth living. I had committed grave sins in this adamancy. But my daughters had established me. They gave me this life. I didn’t raise them they raised me instead. I used to be small carpenter but now I am being counted in big furniture designers and sellers, I am a proud father and you too must be the one,”, said the old man.
The tears rolled down the eyes of ex-hangman. He broke the chain of silence. In a delinquent voice he said, “There could never be the one more sinner than me. The daughter of mine who had given me new life was being raised in abysmal substandard way. I had never given her anything instead I snatched her childhood and in youth I had tried to force her into wild darkness. Hardly I remember taking to her the way a man should talk to a daughter. I repent. She was neither my daughter indeed nor I deserved to be her father”.
“What does that mean?”,enquired the old man.
The hangman narrated the whole story to him. The gust of culpability caught hold of the old man. Deep in his memory he reminded the tight grip of that angel lakeside. He too got into tears. Their conversation was broken with the visit of nurse. They both wanted to visit the girl in her ward but were not allowed.
The day they both got the strength to walk, they decided to visit her but the bed was empty. She was all gone leaving nothing except insurmountable cliff of guilt for both of them and great example of indomitable spirit and loyalty of a daughter. They both wept along but it was all in vain. No-one knows her whereabouts not even the lake, nocturnal birds or wintery dark night.
- The writer works in Department of Posts, GoI.