Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Freedom Fighter's Son

Author : FJB

Even today no smoke escaped from the chimney jutting out of the leaking roof on Rahim Miya's tin shed. Under the roof, his two children wailed from hunger, while his wife chided them and coaxed her fate. In a sheer bid to escape the morbid atmosphere Rahim got up from the corner where he was huddled and walked out the door, stepping into the narrow lane. He couldn't help noticing that everywhere in that slum the same morbid atmosphere prevailed, to avoid which he had come out of his own hut.
This had been their fate for the last seven months, ever since the mill in which they were employed had closed down. Work was the rarest commodity to get.  He had walked up this lane every morning for these past few months in his search for employment, only to return every evening, carrying his bundle of disappointment, frustration and worries, which only got heavier with every passing day.

As he neared the end of the lane and stepped out on the side road by the highway, the sounds of raucous merriment came from Raghav's house. Rumors went that he was mixing with the wrong sort and was indulging in various questionable acts on the other side of law. The stench of illicit gains made a lot of people avoid going this way. Just last month he had even bought a transistor from which songs blared morning and evening.

It was also rumored that he had been recruiting people from the slum to join him in his nefarious activities and share his new found affluence. But Rahim Miya would never be able to bring himself to do any such thing which his morals and scruples would not permit.
Raghav's compund jutted right into the middle of the road and Rahim had to encircle it to proceed. As he rahed the backyard, a piece of red cloth in the ground caught his attention. He bent down to pick it up as it looked like something he would never throw away. You should have somthing to throw it away, thought Rahim Miya as a cynical smile filckered on his wizened lips. The cloth seemed stuck in the ground and he had to pull hard, before the ground, damp from last night's downpour, released it from its clutches.
To Rahim's bewilderment, what he had picked up as a rag to stoke the fire in his now cold stove, turned out to be a small cloth bag, with a string tied on top of it, in which he knew people kept their valuables.

Rahim Miya abandoned the thought of turning back home and proceeded towards Subhash Park, named after the great leader, which not many years ago used to be the rendezvous of freedom fighters for their clandestine meetings and now served as a shelter for his ilk. He sat down on his favorite bench, obscured from the outside world by a huge peepal tree.

The first thought which coursed through his mind was that the contents of this bag must be the ill gotten gains of one of Raghav's dubious schemes. The next thought was how to relieve himself from this burden. That he could himself use some of this fortune could not be doubted. He thought of his children wailing from hunger and his wife's sullen face, by now resigned to fate. He thought of all that he could buy with this new found wealth. He thought of all the smiles that he could bring back to the faces of his dejected family.
But his conscience was troubled by these thoughts entering his mind and he thought of what his father would have done in these circumstances. There were no two ways about his father. He would have surely handed over the bag to the police and openly confronted Raghav. In fact he would never have allowed the shady activities in their locality.

But then his father was a brave man. And he had never been out of work.

He made a firm resolve and was beginning to get up when a heavy hand fell on his shoulder. The local constable stared down at him and the cloth bag slipped away from his hands, revealing its rich contents.

Things happened rather quickly after that and were but a blur to him. Having been bundled down to the police station, he was put in the lock-up after a preliminary round of questioning. All his protestations of innocence were waved away and ended in a tight punch to his face leaving behind a bloodied nose.
In a daze, Rahim Miya took in his new surroundings. He grimly thought that it was at least more spacious than the shed he had stepped out of less than an hour back.

Something else on the far wall caught his eye. He saw that all the previous visitors had scratched their names and the reason for their esteemed visit on the wall. Hardly aware of what he was doing, he picked up a stone lying near the window and was about to scratch his name and supposed profession on the wall, when what he saw on the wall opposite sent a chill down his spine.

For there written in a bold hand were the words -

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FJB Blogs by Fakhruddin J Bandukwala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.