The gruesome sight on the concrete road below his apartment made Piku dizzy. His insides were melting in disgust at the horrendousness of the scene- a mutilated body, almost unrecognisable, lying in a pool of blood which was still fresh. This is undoubtedly a sight which Piku or any other child like him does not deserve to witness. It could traumatise the boldest of adults, so quite naturally Piku instinctively closed his eyes at first.
Gradually he gathered some courage to peep through his half shut eyes. A crowd had slowly started to form. Passers-by, shopkeepers, local residents, all formed a loose circle around the lifeless body in the red patch. Some covered their faces, a few held their heads; some were making quick phone-calls, perhaps to the parents of the dead boy. Piku was certain that the poor parents would rush to the spot in no time when news will reach them. They must be devastated at this loss and at this sight. He shuddered even at the thought. His heart was weeping yet he was helpless. Nothing could be done now. He could just stare at the pitiful scene that was unfolding around the dead body of Probal, whom he knew quite well.
Probal lived with his parents on the seventh floor of the same apartment. He turned fourteen last week. He was a very charming and jolly kid who always made friends with a lot of ease. However, in the last few months, Probal lacked his usual zeal. He rarely stepped out to play and never smiled. He lost the sparkle in his eyes. Probal’s father Prodosh worked at a prestigious and influential post in a Multi-National Company. His Mother Pooja too was a modern and educated woman who worked in an IT-Firm. They earned quite well and were among the most respected families of the Society.
Clearly, Probal’s childhood was full of all the materialistic luxuries that money could buy four a fourteen year old, yet what money could not buy was his parent’s time and attention. Thus, he was always deprived of what is heart wanted and had accepted this soberly. He was never a bright student like his father. He was mediocre in his studies and the aspirations of his father were never to be met, soon this was accepted reluctantly by his father. It so seemed that the innocent child Probal and his ambitions had mutually and mentally signed a deal to overlook their respective desires and the deal stayed strong for a long time unless one day Prodosh received a phone call. He was in a very important meeting when this unexpected interruption made him lose all the colour from his face and vigour from his voice .The call was from Probal’s Principal. He was summoned to school immediately.
Both Pooja and Prodosh arrived at Principal’s clumsy office. It was a matter of disgrace for Prodosh to be waiting for the School’s Principal to hurl polite but harsh words at him all because of his son. Every bit of his body and mind was on fire. All honour and respect he earned was being washed down the drain by the little brat. He was yet to know about his son’s offence but he had already pictured his son as the biggest criminal in the face of earth. Pooja too was embarrassed and annoyed. Soon the anger in them was replaced with pure fury when they were informed of the offence. Probal was caught stealing.
Prodosh did not move an inch from his place when he was informed that Probal had been caught stealing pencil box from a fellow classmate’s bag that morning. The Principal elaborately explained about all the thefts that had been taking place since a few weeks. A number of expensive, inexpensive and even worthless items were reported missing and no one could find the reason. However, that morning’s incident gave a clear indication that it was the deed of none other than Probal. The Principal was even suggested to rusticate Probal by his class teacher. However, for a brief moment that felt like a century to Prodosh and Pooja, they almost pleaded on their knees to the Principal to avoid taking such a grave step keeping in mind Probal’s future and their Social status. The Principal obliged them with a very clear warning that such kind of misbehaviour shall not be tolerated in future.
On returning home, Prodosh started whipping Probal mercilessly and constantly kept asking him “What is it that we failed to provide you?” Just like the question, the wails of Probal were constant “I am sorry…Dad..please…forgive me.” Probal would have died that very night if Pooja hadn’t pleaded with fierce Prodosh for the sake of their son. From then on, she started keeping a very close eye on Probal. His bags were checked by her regularly just like her official e-mails. Any suspicious behaviour would ensure that Probal was scolded and reminded of the Principal’s warning. Soon things were back on track. Pooja started to believe that gradually her son was learning to behave. While Prodosh’s bruised ego had started to heal, the father and son never talked comfortably. Probal was still a thief for Prodosh and the strange, disbelieving look in Prodosh’s eye still bothered Probal although his tiny mind could not understand why.
A few weeks after the incident Biplab ,Pooja’s elder brother from Delhi visited their house for three days. Biplab was a renowned doctor in Delhi and had taken off for three days. They spent some good time together. Young Probal recovered better in presence of his beloved uncle. Biplab’s stay was the welcome change that the family needed for quite some time and it started showing effect in all of them. Soon it was time for Biplab to bid them goodbye. On the morning when Biplab had to leave he found his expensive wristwatch missing. He searched his room, his luggage and everyplace he could think of but could not find it.
They were all worried as Biplab was getting late for his flight. Just then their maid hesitantly came out from the kitchen. Timidly she went to her mistress and whispered something into her ears. Pooja’s eyes widened in anger and in fear. She frantically ran towards Probal’s room. He was doing something stooped under his table. On hearing his mother rush in he immediately sprang to his feet and stood there trembling. Pooja’s mind was numb with the possibilities it carried. Probal’s head was hung down. With one push Pooja moved Probal from his place and she opened the drawer. There lay Biplab’s watch among other petty things like stationary, spoons, handkerchiefs, toys none of which belonged to Probal. Some of these had gone missing from their own kitchen.
Pooja froze. Prodosh stormed towards his worthless son, sleeves rolled up and fire in eyes. Just then Biplab caught him by his arm and stopped what was to follow. He took Prodosh to a separate room and explained to him that Probal was not a thief but was the victim of a mental condition where a person is tempted to steal without any ulterior motive. It is scientifically termed as “Kleptomania”. Patients of Kleptomania do not consider theft as something wrong. In fact it is a normal and acceptable behaviour to them just like the other day-to-day activities. They recurrently have the urge to steal random things they find intriguing. This could be cured if treated properly. Biplab recommended that Probal should be immediately admitted and given proper medical attention. Probal needed help, not punishment.
These words washed away all the determination that Prodosh had moments back. Suddenly, a key decision-maker of a Multi-National Company could not take the most appropriate and obvious decision for the benefit of his son or family because his focus was swayed by denial and the love for reputation. He was in denial that his son could have such an absurd mental disorder and his love for reputation reasoned to him that the world need not know about that. Therefore, Probal had not been admitted to any Mental Hospital.
The next incident, which was quite obviously inevitable, took place this morning. Probal kept thinking about it the entire afternoon, while he was alone at home. He sat still like living-statue who could think and thoughts wandered to the past, present and future. He had been rusticated from school this morning. His father is still in denial and has decided to end this farce for once and for all. He decided to send Probal to a boarding school and his decision is irrevocable. Probal’s unique mind was ordinary enough to understand that his father’s decision was final. Prodosh and his wife Pooja had gone out to get details about the Boarding school Probal would be admitted to. Probal spent the afternoon trying to accept his father’s decision. He spent the afternoon thinking about what went wrong. He spent the afternoon deciding whether to prove others that he was not a thief or whether to convince himself that he was. He kept on thinking with his different yet beautiful mind and just realised one thing- all the doors were closed for him.
He took out an elegant black ink pen from his pocket, the one he took from the Principal’s desk this morning and wrote a letter to his parents. Placing the letter on a table, with heavy steps he climbed to the terrace. What follows has already been described at the very beginning.
You must be wondering who I am and how do I know this intimate information, with all the intricate details. Well, I am Piku or better known as Probal Roychoudhury, and the distorted dead body that lie down there on the concrete road is mine….Was mine. I can see that nobody is calling me a thief today. No one is accusing me. Everyone is shedding tears for me. I can see my mother crying wildly. Even my father looks defeated. Maybe he too believes that I am not a thief. May be I am acquitted. They are carrying my body to the ambulance. Finally my father is taking me to the hospital but isn’t it quite late Dad?