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An incident

In the middle of night:

Her eyeballs wobbled focusing on the clock hung across the wall. The ghost dark room was creepily silent. Rhythemic beat of tic-toc and glowing radium of needles paced up her nerves. It flashed 2 a.m.This was not the first time she had woken up in the middle of her sleep. With raucous clonking of heart beats. Echoing in the darkness of her room. Heavy breaths fueling up the air around. Neither it was the first time she had seen him in her dream. His blood shot eyes dreaded through her soul every time he stared at her. His deep cries thundering inside. And countless teardrops wetting her gown. Turning its shimmering fabric to somewhat matt.

Memories never fade away. They relax. Under layers of time. Each one coated with myriad of emotions. some honey & some pepper. One such memory walks through the lane of nights knocking on her dreams. Now many a times. However she tries to wash them off, they continue…to walk, haunting her dreams, scaring her and on top of all, laughing sarcastically at  her cowardness.

A week ago:

Sneha’s lobes bursted with the successive blares of passing by trains. One after another. Floor beneath her feet shivered everytime a train brushed off the surface. Number of people flushed out as a train would stop. And soon after, the station regained its decorum. Sellers with carts loaded with fruits and toys passed by occasionally. After spending a whole long hour at the luckeesarai station, she was slowly getting used to its ambiance. She had been waiting for her train connecting this unknown station to her destination.

The announcement declared another hour of delay for her train. It was getting dark outside and she was shaking on the thought of being alone here in the night and that too in Bihar. Sweat drops trickled down the corners of her forhead. “Urghhh… its nothing like scary. But is all adventurous”, she murmured inside boosting up her shattering confidence. This was all she could do at that point of time. ‘Soon the train will come and all this will come to an end’, she flipped through the pages of a book. Lights were dimming outside the station and inside it started getting illuminated. It felt as scary eyes would hawk on her sitting alone for a long time. Threatening her to immerse inside the pages of the book she was reading.

The clock hung in the middle of platform ticked 7 in the evening. Train was still half an hour away. Her stomach grumbled. She pulled up her bag reaching to the restaurant located at the corner of the stairs on the platform. While waiting for her plate she was scanning pictures of traditional dishes like litti-chokha and bhajka on the walls. She wondered how come she dreaded this place so much. Was it an image created by news channels or some movies she had watched in her childhood ? All she believed was Bihar the state with no rules. She smiled at the silly perception. It was feeling indifferent from any other station. A simple quite small station.

Out of the blue a boy thrashed across the platform. following him was a huge mob. ” Thief, catch him, thief” echoed all around. Everyone rushed to that side. Squeaks allover tore off the momentum of station. She drew her bag closer. Soon the boy slipped off and was caught by the mob. A giant man held him by his collar and threw him in the middle of a circle of people. Everyone in the group was shouting angrily at the boy. He seemed around 20 of the age. His muddied white shirt was torn off from a sleeve. People started cicking him off. Soon the shoes were replaced by bats and sticks. “Kill him” a man shouted from the mob. “Yes don’t spare him”, the other one followed hitting his back with a heavy cricket bat. The boy landed on his face.

Sneha’s heart pounded at horrifying scene. Aghast, her fingers fiddled to hold on to her luggage. She was not the only one fear striken. Each passenger present at the station was befuddled. Few were hidden behind shops and pillers, while some were furiously rushing. Little kids were hiding in their mother’s lap.

‘Whatever he might have done. He should not be punished like this. What so ever it be, but this was not the way to deal with it. The guy could have died’. She mumbled gathering up all her courage. But, her words died in her throat. Many times we assume how would we respond if such things happen in real life. But in fact when it comes to reality we actually never know how to react at the very moment. She decided to step ahead.

She glanced at the silent spectators in khakhi uniforms standing at close distance. There was no time to moan. The boy was all on floor. His shirt and trouser had both turned crimson. He pleaded for life to those ruthless guys. ‘Rather be a criminal..one is a human first…’ She stepped ahead to face the horrendous killers in the mob.

Stop guys stop, what are you doing”. She heard a loud scream. To her surprise in was not her. She made her way forward. There was a man in his late forties. Dressed up in formal attire. “He would die this way”, he reached the man with a rod. “That’s what we want him to”, he spat out on him. “but police is there why don’t you hand him over to the”,…slaaapppHe couldn’t complete his sentence, as the man with the rod slapped him hard on his cheek. Every one was gobsmacked. He landed on to floor with a swirl. “Here we are the police and we are the judge”. The man howled. “He is guilty and will die for it”. Sneha’s bravery had kneeled down. Her feet glued to the floor.

The man with rod stomped forward and pulled the boy again by his neck. Smashed his head with a stroke of his rod. Soon he was off the ground. Still ruthnlessness of the mad mob didn’t satisfied. Everyone stroked him like I football in their feet untill the police man entered and fumbled something in the ear of a fat old man among them. Sneha was still standing like a puppet. Dumbstrucked.

Soon the mob dispersed and police took away the boy. He seemed unconscious.  Blood staining the floor. An ambulance outside the station later carried him away. Crowd faded. People left to their desinations. But, what didn’t fade away was the boy’s cries and squeals. His blood scattered all over and emotionless behavior of police officers at the site.

Sneha’s hunger had already given up. Everyone was too mortified of what they had just witnessed. Soon she took off to her destination. And reached back to her place afterwards. Settled into her daily routine. She tried to erase the horrendous memory off her mind. But a day later she heard his name.

‘Santosh’.. His face was flashing on the television screen. The whole incident was being captured in a cellphone an played repeatitively on news channels. She succumbed into her misery. He was the guy she saw beaten to death in front off her eyes. He had lost his life. He was the cruel reality of world. She cried out loud to the boy’s pleading fingers clasping for apology. Who knows what he did? But what happened to him was a bigger sin. And for that everyone standing there was responsible. She felt disgut rising up inside. Mirror dared to call her as a criminal. She was not in that mob but she was there. Witnessing his death. Witnessing thetmob lynching. Coward enough to save him. Rather tried to save him.

She had hoped this was the last time she was seeing his face. But no. This was just the beginning…of guilt and of pain.

The dawn:

Jerking off the blanket aside, she slipped into her slippers. ‘Why would I alone feel guilty for him’ ? Tucking her long curls into a ponytail she had made up her mind. ‘why don’t I move on’? Her heart skipped beats but she had no time to loose. ‘what if no one listens to her’ ? Swift ly she filled up her handbag with essentials and banged the door at her back. ‘ This was the last night for this dream’. She knows it’s going to be tough. Harsh and perhaps torturous. But at least she could breath freely this way.’ If he’ll come to me now on, I have an answer for him’… Within next half an hour she was standing next to the nearest police station. Her heart thumping hard. Yet…prepared for whatever comes ahead.

Image credit:thebetterindia

Smriti Srivastava
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