Sunday, September 20, 2009

AN EPITAPH - SHORT STORY
V.R.PRAKASH [ZONAL.ASST.SECRETARY / SOUTH ZONE] vrprakash0191@yahoo.co.in

Nithyananthan was arrested …. It was really dramatic... cant believe even as a dream ….The miraculous thing was that it was happened when he was delivering a speech at the occasion of the condolence meeting in connection with the accidental death of our intimate friend Sathyananthan. He was being arrested by another friend and colleague Circle Inspector Saran Kumar of our same village. It made a lot of problems at the function and there after….There was a lot of interferences from our TU side and administrative side. But Saran Kumar was very much categorical that he will take Nithyan in to custody and he was in possession of relevant records to do so. After he was being carried away by the Police I was covered by the persons attending the function as Nithyan is my best friend. They should not be accused for that, since we four….myself, Saran Kumar, Sathynanthan and Nithyananthan were friends and colleagues in our village school. We never departed after our studies except Saran Kumar who choose college studies instead of us three. We joined in a polytechnic in the city nearer to our village for the diploma course after completion of school studies and till we joined Railways as Assistant Loco Pilot in the same place. So far we worked together keeping deep amity among us and our family members except in little time and even nick named as “Three men army” among the co workers. But I was in the same position as that of the others available at the condolence function, knowing nothing about the arrest and the things connected around.
My introspective nature pulled me away from the function soon, since as ridiculed by Sathyan and Nithyan I fear light and like always to stay away from gatherings, almost, and like darkness than anything. Almost with an exhausted physic and mind I reached home…. done everything as a machine…failed to do the routine things even…not having the feeling of hunger till this moment…not in position to eat the chapathi parceled from Saravanabhavan…I sat on the chair and simply closed my eyelids to gather the old days …I was not in a position to synchronies with the things happened around..The accidental death of Sathyan and his innocent family who was the leading light for all of us for a longer period of time and latter the arrest of Nithyan…how I can digest all….How…I can….
Among us Sathyananthan was very bold .He was very strong and bold enough to face any sort of consequences and always swam against the current.
Whenever both got a chance I was being ridiculed by them “Areh what a man you are? Always skipping away from the mainstream and running away as a person alienated. Why you are always introspective?” It was Nithyan’s comment
Sathyananthan advanced one more step ahead and told me “Little things in the world are to be opposed with. You must have a deferent perspective in this connection and to fight it tooth and nail. We must have the muscles of a Slave and the valor of a King. Live while you, and die as a valor not as a coward who dies a thousand times during fights “.
I nodded and said “I am this much and I don’t want any more crown other than this’. Sathyanathan was having a lot of differences even with Nithyananthan including constructing a house of ours in the big city which was a dream among the common labourer to have one nearer to the work place, as persons joined the big firm and there were no further hope of repatriation to the home cradle. Myself along with Nithyananthan joined in the scheme for purchasing a plot in the metropolitan city. Even though both are having empty hands when the proposal was aired, the encouragement of friends and relatives including wife helped us to do so.
For a courtesy only a question was raised before Sathyananthan regarding this idea by me... Other than slapping every thing happened...he roughed angrily “You want me to be a slave. You want to quash my peace... You don’t know Prajith?”… I expressed my inability to recollect from memory.
“How you will? .The world of yours is the Running Rooms, Crew booking Office and the Quarters in the Colony .Beyond that what you know? .Where you came? .Not even joined in any programs, any get-together, nothing... Then how
you will be able to know people and things around?”. Sathyananthan shouted and I was unable to face his furry.
“Sorry for... Please tell me what happened to him” .Recollecting memory of my batch mate who joined Palakkad Division at the same time, I requested.
“What else may happen to him? He made all efforts to construct a house at his HQ and completed it .Won’t you get any invitation for his house warming”. Without expecting any reply from me he continued, “A super house ...that too, a two storied one. Everybody came for the house warming function astonished. I become proud of him very much due to the major achievement of a common worker in the firm within such a short span. But latter I met him at Erode while after working train. He was totally desperate, as a person who lost all the interest in life, too gloomy and even tried to elude away from me. Later on compulsion he told me that he become fed up with the construction of the house and he was not in a position for a peaceful sleep for near about two years. At nights he saw dreadful dreams….in the fragmented doze…. which were the worst nightmares in his life and even it entirely changed his life style to cope up with the debit he had to pay in the Bank and to other persons, which he took for the construction of the dream house and even skipped away from public functions. He told me about the money lenders who knocked his doors at the end of the month, the days he was helpless in fulfilling the little pleas of his kids…. the days he worked trains with worn out pants and shirt…. the days they were forced to have the ration in all levels and the hurdles they had gone through to make both ends together. The days he prayed to god for keeping him and his family away from any diseases and the dreadful end if he becomes sick for a week and the loss in salary and the so called repercussions and so on Shyam …so on. I don’t want anything Shyam. You are well aware that the day today train working is a regular fight...a fight unfathomable…and you know well that to whom we are fighting keeping our nations flag to heights by not compromising a micro millimeter to safety. When it is the prime agenda you very well knows that who were become our foes, who are ones our good friends…think of why we lost a lot of good friends because we never compromised with safety. You can see the change in the voice of a Controller who was the best friend of you yesterday, when we stick on to safety. So ours is a relentless struggle without compromise, amidst it I don’t want a negotiation of debt… See Shyam the common man will always have a sigh after the construction of a house which is always a dream for him but this house of Prajith become a hell of grave incidents for him. So please my friend don’t make me a slave, let me live with pride”. He folded his both hands together.
“Ok... Sathyan I am having little works in connection with the registration of the land”. I escaped in the gap when he stopped for breathing saying about the registration process.
Myself and Nithyananthan shifted from the colony after constructing the house. The departure from the place where we resided was a sad one because of the amity among us, since all of us belonged to running cadre and the absence of a person in the colony was balanced by others and it was the most painful thing during our parting.
But later after years I astonished seeing the damn changes in Sathynanthan. He purchased land and constructed a large house within the limits of the big city. Unbelievable changes in Sathynanthan’s life …changes vertically and horizontally...He became a coward to face even his colleagues …always seen with bowed head…became shrunk to his own shell. Lost his talkative nature…acquainted through a small wet smile with extreme miser ship...Changes in his nature were unbelievable and rapid. He himself shrunk to his own shield like a tortoise when he met friends... He used to run trains frequently without proper rest just like a thirsty crow wandering hither thither for water. But with Nithyananthan he had better relations than me.
Yes now the same intimate friend is being arrested in the purview of suspicion for the death of his own friend. A family altogether was killed…Sathynanthan, wife and two children. It was only a road mishap which scored the death of the entire family after visiting Nithyananthan’s house. All except Sathyananthan died at the spot and Sathyananthan succumbed to death in the GH without giving his death statement.
I was sure that I can’t sleep in the night…but how far I can sit ?...I really afraid to switch on the TV channels ,I am sure that they will be flourished and nourished with Sathyananthan vs. Nithyananthan stories. I cursed myself for not going to the Police Station for seeing or soothing my ever friend who is under the investigative custody of another friend. My conscience haunted me badly…. “What a man you are ...sitting like a stone wont you have emotions? Are you belonging to the race of man or animal? A friend of yours...that too natives and childhood friend is being arrested and you… keeping yourself within the doors closed...How you can forget the inestimable helps he had done for you? ...Go and have some words to Nithyananthan…”
“No…No …I will not, I can’t …I am not able to see him inside the bars…I afraid to see him” The real Shyam inside me corrected me. I shrank again to my shell…just like a tortoise unable to brave its surroundings and enemies…
I was troubled a little ….a bell tone in the cell phone ….
I relaxed soon… before reaching to the phone placed on the table…It may be Suma…to talk about homely news ….may be to ask when I will be reaching home to take them back to Chennai.. Unless other wise about the news spreading around through visual media…. (Investigative journalism and its consequence) ...About Nithyananthan’s position….a brief narration about everything…
But I was wrong…it was not Suma .A new land phone number around Chennai... There was a ‘horns of dilemma’ in accepting the call .Latter I took it. “Hello this is me”... Saran at the other end …I trembled with fear… sound collapsed in my throat itself… I froze for a moment. Thousand lightning waves passed through my head. If anything had revealed by Nithyananthan…regarding the old days or anything he told about the past days. Anything had wrongly spelt by him…Hey no there is no chance...He will not …and there is nothing wrong with Sathyananthan and me … While I relaxed myself with justifications, Saran again started…“Are you slept …what a kind of human being you are? ...Your best friend and native was being arrested on a suspicion in connection with the death of our friend …You don’t want to see him? I was actually expecting you… and you are sleeping without having a word of ice to calm his heat… I think that you might have a thought to reach your friend... Don’t be afraid...This is only a friendly call…See in my place if somebody else was in charge of this station and then what will be the mental condition of Nithya.. Now he feels little panic... You please come... Don’t fear here are no other higher Officers... I am alone here... He wants your presence and he wants to talk to you…I also require little more explanations from you since the technical words ,position and the thing related to your system are very new to me …So whether I have to send jeep to fetch you or..”? Before he could complete I started.
“Saran… I…I…that …I….”
Saran cautioned me in his language of rank and file... Stop weeping and come immediately...I will send jeep if you are not in a position to drive…. what you say?
“No…Not indeed I will be there in another few minutes...” Seeing the tough language from Saran, I answered. I actually fear to have a Police jeep in my premises that too after the latest development. While on riding the vehicle I was
in extreme puzzle with a hundred questions in my brain... for what purpose I have been called... Whether there is anything connecting, me and Sathynanthan … any new inventions. I missed the route due to the panic and reached Station taking 20 minutes instead of 10.
I entered police station with extreme fear as this is the first time I am being forced to do so. The police man at the sentry made a sharp look at me which even scared me. Good luck… Saran came to the entrance and called me inside, keeping his powers not lost even neglecting my position as his friend as a part of pretension… I thought so.
He murmured in my ear “See Shyam, Nithya, is having a lot of secrets in his mind. He wants to reveal all the facts. He wants a friend to hear all the things. Every thing he lights is having some technicalities and I am no way having any idea about the same. You can certainly help me…”Saran eased himself from his official postures seeing my anguished face…
I nodded my head with a search for my comrade…I have seen him sitting on a chair with bowed head, just like a culprit. Eyes… reddish… fear everywhere in his face as a bait before a famished tiger... with entirely changed face…not the face I saw in the evening when he was delivering the speech just before his arrest…He was unable to face the soft eyes of mine even.…
Saran sat on a seat and with gestures he asked me to sit on a seat nearby Nithya.I was not in a braveness to face my friend…Suddenly he grabbed my hands…I was little bit shivered and I felt the cold of the death Nithya had done by his hands…He sobbed ..bowed his head on my hands and yelled…. “I killed him Nithya ….I killed him …kill me …I don’t want to live more…kill me too”…keeping my hands in his hands he slapped himself on his head and cheek…
I was very confused with …I felt a vacuum to converse with my friend…without any words I sat like a statue …words froze in my throat... How I can sooth him... he is saying that thing ….the same thing which I never expected to hear from his tongue…Sitting before me is a cold blooded killer…that too….flashes through my head ….why...for what? ...Any business transactions within them ….I really surprised…
Saran asked me to sooth him through some gesture….I made a bit trial which I am sure that I can’t…as a man never faced any such events… as a machine I tried for the same…. There was a slit of minutes for Nithyananthan to come back from the sudden emotions thawed out while seeing me…We two sat nearby… waited for his next response.
He started … “You know Nithya, Sathya was in a terrific condition recently. I think that you noticed the changes in him recently... You know pretty well that he was struggling to meet the ends together after purchasing car to suit with his new home for which he was having a heavy debit in the private bank which he himself opted neglecting all my woes. He even bend away from me and become a workaholic fellow leaving all policies for which he fought in the past… The only monster before him was the debt he had to pay in the Private bank and he even afraid of the repercussions due to any lapses in paying it, these things even dragged him from the main stream and he was fond to be in train working without taking proper rest at home which he cant even have while working in normal link and the monster haunted him to have a lot of bad practices even. I even had seen a bonded labour in him, the history repeats - a barter system and bonded labour in the 21 ST century. He was recently awarded with three major penalties. Raising his head to me he continued…One was very severe that was a removal from service and for the other two, he was penalized with pay reversion and he was in extreme trouble”.
“It is not new to him …So far how many charge sheets and major penalties he got when he was keeping in line with safety as an arrogant worker in the eyes of Authorities?”….It was my doubt.
“Hey …what you are telling about ... he got a lot when he was keeping the policies aloft. He was not worried about it, by that time. Now he was rewarded with these major penalties when he become very loyal to the administration and coped up with all its agendas in minimizing staff strength by tightening the Link by increasing the work load and stress over us and stretched us to work in longer night hours with continuous ones”. Nithyananthan steamed up like any thing.
Saran interrupted… “What for the penalty...Any departmental action…any charge sheets served?”
Leaving no space for me to answer Nithyananthan replied “It is as usual, one for loco failure, other for not wearing uniforms and the third one for signal passing for which he got removal from service”.
“Arey… why you people are not wearing uniforms? I was about to ask it for confirmation”. Saran skipped away from the core.
Nithyananthan’s face became too reddish and even I felt he will burst. “How we can? They supply two pairs of uniform clothes for a year. Do you know the cost? Rs.57.42 for pants and Rs.29.65 for shirt bit. We got all the data through RTI. We had tested the same in the textile testing lab and the quality is below the normal standards and we have to use these two pair inferior quality clothes which will give a clown look because of its colour patches and bulged yarn balls, even for four days in the extremely vulnerable tropical climate”. Even at this juncture Nithya heated up …I tried to calm him down. Soon, Saran interrupted amidst and asked him to continue the story…
“Where I stopped…”all of us were trying to recollect…
Nithyananthan again started. “Yes… regarding penalties. He was actually waiting for the reply from the Appellate Authority after the penalty of removal from service… He was totally depressed. In one day, when we were talking, he opened the terrific idea to me…”
Saran and I become more vigilant.
“Yes… he told me about a suicide attempt. Keeping his family to travel in any of the suburban trains and taking it away from its berth place and to make it hit on any other opposing train. The temptation for this was the latest article in a journal regarding two Foreign Air Pilots who made crash landing along with their family to escape from the debts scored from the share market. When Sathyananthan repeated this idea twice or thrice, I become feared. I was doubtful, whether Sathyananthan is going mad… his gestures… his movements…everything made me suspicious. I finally decided that my mother land should not be ashamed off…my own innocent people should not be killed by a worker who was being harassed brutally by some infantile and authoritarian Officers. My land should not be peeled before the world because of Sathyananthan who become eccentric due to the mental torture of some unripe despots. My poor people should not be a prey for such immature Authorities who never admire the workforce for the prosperity of our great nation ..who never find the real cause behind, instead using the sword of punishment over the poor worker….” Nithyananthan restored his form as an Orator…which is his own field…
We two sat before him, opening our mouth wide as we are hearing a detective story.
After a short stop, after gulping little water, Nithyananthan started… “I took some firm decisions and invited him to home, with his family... He was little bit doubtful…the non availability of my family at home… I told him that I want to have dinner with him which we had years back…that too in my house…He agreed. He came with his family…after a long gap…I made everything parceled from Buhaarri hotel and asked his kids and wife to have it, since we have planned for a separate party .I called him alone to upstairs, to my personnel room… We started drinking that too after years … Nithya on that day I was too cruel and brutal…every thing had gone as I planned…I was well aware not to be intoxicated, while I tried my level best to make him that. I took it…the drug… I filled it in the syringe… I was sure about the practice which we had during our polytechnic hostel life…Yes I know you are not fond of….Nithyananthan hint on to my position. There was no hesitation from the part of Sathyan…. As a person prepared to have anything and everything from my hands, he spread his hands to me as he got a command. Without losing a single moment I made the needle on the hand and injected the drug in to his vain slowly”. Nithyananthan breathed.
I had a glimpse on Saran. He was actually shocked. “Nithya you got this idea from a Malayalam movie”?. Nithyananthan rejected the relevance of the question and continued.
“Everything was very hasty. I wish to send him in the midst of the busy roads. Then only I can conclude things as I planned, before the drug starts its work, since they have to cover 12 kilometers from my home through the busy roads, as you know Shyam. When we came down, Sathyan’s family was ready for the departure after having their last supper. I followed simply behind them to confirm the accident”.
Before completion Saran interfered. “You are not so professional Nithya. This made to book you in this case .One of your friend witnessed you there at the accident spot in the bike and you simply escaped from the spot and also the biopsy report of Sathyan...” Saran was very particular about his departmental efficiency.
Nithyananthan was very nervous… “Shyam you tell me …am I a culprit…with the fist placing over his chest he said “I am the real patriot…you tell me whether I am the patriot or Sathyan….whether I am the Patriot or the Authority who brutally punished Sathyan….whether I am the culprit or this inspector is the culprit…” changes in Nithyananthan were very rapid…he tried to tear his shirt…he beat himself on his head and chest…he show the gestures of a mad fellow…laughed …cried ....yelled..
“No…..No….ha…ha I killed him…he killed me …you killed him…this system killed him…we altogether killed him…. but I never killed him…then who will kill me …nobody can…. nobody can…but I killed me…I am not mad....but he was mad….you are mad”………
Nithyananthan yelled, roared, smiled, busted in to laughter and become violent and he was beyond control…slowly I realized that I am loosing my friend.


[NOTE: This is only a STORY…If any incidents, names or any other things narrated in this story is having resemblance with any real incidents or names it is quiet accidental]

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