A Body Or Sale
A Body Or Sale10 mins 136 10 mins 136
The corpse was lying on the left side of the street on the footpath. It was a predominantly residential area and quite upmarket. No one knew when and from where the body came here to rest. No one recognized the man who lay dead on the footpath. It was nobody’s fault that the corpse was not yet removed. Not many people walk on this street as most of the residents own vehicles. They just drove past without noticing the corpse. Had it been a busy thoroughfare, perhaps some conscientious citizens would have caused the body to be moved away to the city morgue or some such safe location. But here, it was not to be. So, there lay the dead body, patiently waiting for deliverance from the footpath.
The maids, drivers and other workers who frequented the homes here mistook the corpse for a man fast asleep, perhaps a drunk who had lost his way and had fallen asleep here. It was not uncommon. Just a week earlier there was this drunk from somewhere who had just collapsed in the middle of the street. He could have been run over by speeding vehicles but God is great. He somehow survived the night, came to his senses in the morning, got up and dusted himself and walked away to rejoin his loving wife and children. Those who saw the body on the footpath suspected foul play just decided to ignore the corpse and go their way. These were not the days when you can report something to the authorities without getting into trouble yourself. And who wanted to court trouble in times when your own survival demanded all your time and attention?
The corpse finally got noticed, and soon there was a group of residents discussing the situation animatedly. They were discussing possible reasons for the corpse being here. Either there was a death due to some natural causes, or murder most foul had been committed. Or it could just be possible that someone just dumped the body here, finding the place most suitable. It could be some orphan killed in some accident. Whatever it was, the situation demanded some urgent steps be taken. In a short time, the body, if not taken away from here, would begin to emit a foul smell. Already some stray dogs could be spied at a distance, looking curiously at the corpse and the residents. Some of them were barking as if communicating a lunch invitation to friends and relatives.
The group of residents was also trying to ascertain whether anyone had called the police. Some members of the group represented the respective welfare societies of the buildings, and they had not called the police so far. They were approached by the security guards who informed the respected residents that the police have indeed been informed, but had not yet turned up. In fact, it transpired that the police staff were deployed in an emergency case and would come only after they were relieved from there. The residents were irate and discussed the possibility of having the corpse removed forthwith without police intervention, but the fear of law and authorities restrained them from doing so. Even if they had tried, who would like to be engaged to cart away the corpse?
The corpse itself lay there, quite unaware and unconcerned about all the discomfort it was causing to people who lived around it. The deceased appeared to be a young lad of about 25 years and seemed to be quite content being dead. There were no apparent wounds on the visible side of the body, suggesting violence of any sort. There were no bloodstains on the body to suggest he was killed with a weapon or hit by some vehicle. His tattered clothes, unshaven beard, and unkempt hair provided strong evidence to the premise that he had lived an impoverished life. Maybe he died of starvation? Thousands die on the streets every day and go unnoticed. The residents were hardly concerned with all this, except for the fact that very soon the body would start smelling. They were also apprehensive of the impact such a sight would have on their young, tender children.
At a distance, a few lady residents had gathered to understand what was happening. They looked at the dead boy and wondered whether he was married and had children. Poor man, his family would perhaps be waiting for him to get home. The wife would be thinking about all the dreadful things one could imagine to have happened. Looking at the man, maybe his wife would be more worried about what would happen to her?
A few kids who tried to have a close look were shooed away by elders. The sight of a corpse was definitely not the best thing for kids. Meanwhile, time passed, and the group had already left the site, leaving it for the guards to take care of. The police were yet to arrive. Flies had by now gathered on and around the dead boy. They could hardly wait for the body to be taken away.
Finally, the law arrived in the form of a beat constable. He was already under some pressure, having had to walk it up for a fair distance. No police vehicle was available. He could not get a lift either from a taxi or rickshaw. It was definitely not his lucky day. Now there was this matter of some dead man lying on the pavement. His day was really screwed up. There was no way he could make something out of this case.
The constable was sweating profusely and there were wet patches under his armpits. He was fat and this made him more uncomfortable in the heat. The residents looked at him suspiciously. They expected the law to arrive in full splendor, blaring sirens, screeching tires. But here was a fat, sweating cop without even his usual baton.
The constable knew even before he saw the corpse that this would be a boring case. No one had reported murder and so this would be one of those deaths that happen by themselves. There was nothing to be gained here; no money, no fame, absolutely nothing. He looked at the people waiting for him. Idiots. They would now start abusing him and the department for their inefficiency. These buggers had no idea what it was to be a cop. All the dirty work and no money.
Without looking at the residents he walked over to the corpse. The flies were now there in big numbers and the smell was getting stronger and he pulled out his handkerchief to cover his nostrils. The security guards gingerly approached him and waited for his inspection to be over. The constable could see a pack of cheap cigarettes falling out of the body’s shirt pocket. He put his finger into the pocket and could feel some loose change, coins and not notes. He then beckoned the guards and asked one of them to probe the body for any ID. The guard chosen for this task stiffened and suddenly felt important. He had never done this before, touching a dead body, and he felt thrilled to do so. He would go home and narrate this adventure to his children.
The pockets yielded nothing except some rags. The constable asked the guard to turn the corpse over. There were no apparent signs of violence there either. The constable concluded this was a case of starvation death. Unidentified body. Now, how the hell was he supposed to move this out? There was no case for registering a complaint here, it would only add to the already long list of cases and his station superintendent had given clear instructions that no FIR will be made without his consent and permission. He was already under pressure for poor performance, though most of the pending cases pertained to petty thefts, family disputes with one member filing report against another; and the other filing a counter-complaint.
A dignified elder introduced himself to the constable as the President of the Apex body of Residents. He demanded what the police were going to do to rid the area of this body. And an explanation of why it took them almost ten hours to reach?
The constable took out a small plastic pack, tore it open, poured the contents into his mouth and threw the pack away. He understood the need to be patient with these fools, and to keep his words to the minimum he had to stuff his mouth with the gutka. This helped him in two ways. He will not speak more than needed, and the tobacco will help him concentrate on the solution. He took his time to decide what he would say to this idiot. He ran a few options in his mind. He could behave with aggression that went with the police. He could be polite with this old man and explain in detail what and why police do. He could just ignore the idiot and walk away, asking him to do what he liked. He was already feeling tired and wished to report back home. His wife would be waiting for him to return so that she can start her nagging. He suddenly remembered that his wife had asked him to bring some provisions today. How the hell was he going to get away from here? There was no point talking to his bosses, they would just curse him and bang the phone down. He was on his own here, surrounded by rich idiots and saddled with a corpse.
The President was getting excited. He was repeatedly calling for an explanation. The constable smiled at him and asked him whether they had made any written complaint about the corpse. The President asked around and replied in negative. The constable, relieved, told the President that there was nothing he could do. This was not a murder case and since there was no criminal angle to it, police were not involved. The residents were furious. They demanded the removal of the corpse forthwith. The constable was shaking his head. It was the job of the municipality to remove rubbish from the streets and not the police. Have they asked the municipal authorities?
The situation was getting messier. The residents were confused and animated. The constable offered to inform municipality the first thing the next morning. As he began to walk away, some residents threatened to ring up the commissioner. The constable asked them whether they had his number and whether he could help them? As he walked away, unchallenged, he spied a man lurking in the shadows. The man motioned to him to come to him.
The two, constable and the mystery man spoke for about five minutes in hushed tones. The residents meanwhile were discussing the hopelessness of the situation. The constable broke away from the man and approached the residents. There was hope. Help had arrived. He introduced the mystery man, who was offering to carry the corpse away for a small price. Discussions ensued and the price was fixed. The constable assured the residents there would be no trouble for any of them in this deal.
The man and the constable walked away to arrange the necessary cartage. On their way out, the man shared the money with the constable and thanked him profusely.
The next day, people who went to the railway station beheld a strange sight. A swarthy man, apparently in great distress, was sitting with a corpse. He was begging for money to cremate his brother. And those passing by were showering coins on the corpse. Strong incense burnt away possible body odor. The body was covered in a white sheet but the face was kept visible. It bore a strong resemblance to a corpse which was discovered by residents of a local colony a day ago.c