A Long Journey Lies Ahead
A Long Journey Lies Ahead
The family consisted of seven members. An old man, aged about seventy years of age, his wife sixty-five years old, their son aged about forty-five years, his wife nearly thirty-eight and the three young kids of various age groups. Satnam, a farmer, had enough lands and a good old styled building, the courtyard of which was no way smaller than a basketball court. His wife Sarita was a lady of iron wills which never lost its strength and tenacity in the fifty years of their conjugal life. Their only son, Suraj, was their fourth child, all earlier issues died before they started walking.
However, Suraj survived all the fatal diseases that attacked him before he could attain his schools. Suraj, this became a rather pampered child because the kind of special attention he received from his parents and the well-wishers of the family. Satnam was never uniquely worried about the future of his son since he had ample financial strength to give support to his future sustenance. Hence Suraj became a spoiled brat and spent his younger days in useless activities which invited more troubles for Satnam than blessings and prayers for Suraj. He used to spend the whole day with some of his notorious friends in a deserted house at one end of their village while his father toiled hard in his lands under the scorching sun. Yet, Satnam never uttered a word condemning the nuisances Suraj created each passing day.
But the turn of the events on a day changed their lives completely when Suraj was arrested by the local police for his alleged involvement in the rape and murder of a girl of the same village. On the spot, investigation and the medical examination of the deceased girl and of Suraj confirmed his involvement beyond all reasonable doubts. The girl, Sonam had received multiple injuries on her private parts, breasts, cheeks and other parts of her body along with the strangulation marks on her neck gave ample evidence of the most brutal acts of rape and murder of the teenager. Suraj, on the other hand, was found under the influence of alcohol and was nabbed while trying to flee out of the village in a bicycle in the wee hours of the following day. The medical reports of the semen found in the private parts of the girl and that of Suraj matched perfectly to further develop the evidence against Suraj. He was arrested by the police and produced in a local SDJM court and the court rejected his bail petition and remanded him to judicial custody until the charge sheet was filed by the police.
Satnam and Sarita tried their best with all their money and the little influence they had on the local police to rescue Suraj but nothing could prevent Suraj's arrest and the consequent production in the court. They offered bribes to the police through a middleman and then appealed to the parents to make an out of the court settlement of the case by offering a large sum of money but nothing acted in their favour. Frustrated and dejected, they waited for the further hearing of the court and the submission of the charge sheet by the police.
Once the charge sheet was filed and the further hearing of the case commenced after nearly six months of the ghastly incident both Sarita and Satnam regularly ran from pillar to the post to get a milder verdict against Suraj. But the media and the local women's forum for atrocities on women escalated the pressure on the court to take stricter action against the accused. However, after a long and delayed series of trials of the witnesses and on the basis of the charge sheet and other evidence produced by the police the sessions court announced a sentence of imprisonment for seven years and a fine of one lakhs against the convict.
The court said in a media briefing that considering the young age of the convict and his first-time involvement in crime were the reasons for the milder sentence that the court had announced to give him a chance to improve his moral and character.
After his release from the gaol, Suraj was a changed character altogether. He became rather a reserve and withdrawn character and his activities showed much-improved conduct. His ageing parents decided to get him married to bring the smile back on the face of their remorse and reticent son. Though reluctant initially, he finally got married to a poor girl from a far off village because not a single parent from the nearby villages was ready to give their daughter in marriage to a rape and murder convict. However, life moved on and soon Suraj was blessed with twin sons and three years after with a daughter. The family again started rejoicing after the arrival of the three kids. Especially the grandparents were overjoyed with the latest arrival of the girl child whom they believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Laxmi in their house.
But again the situation changed drastically from joy to gloom as Sarita fell seriously ill just a few months after the birth of her granddaughter. It landed the family in further financial distress as they had already lost a huge sum of money for the court case and the subsequent marriage of Suraj. After initial treatment in a local hospital when things didn't improve Sarita was admitted in a hospital in the city which was nearly seventy kilometres away from their village. Satnam stayed in the hospital to attend his wife and the daily expenses for medicines, for the special cabin they availed and the food and other things amounted to a few thousand on a regular basis.
Despite all his efforts and the support of the doctors Sarita's conditions deteriorated day by day and after two weeks she was diagnosed with colon cancer. The malignancy was fast-spreading and it had already damaged a large part of the small intestine as well. The doctors knew that the inevitable was forthcoming and advised Satnam to take her back to the village so that she could spend the rest of her days with her family. Satnam, now at his wit's end requested, pleaded to the doctors to give their final try but the doctors asked him not to waste his hard-earned money as she was in the fourth stage of the infection and was left with a very few days. Satnam had no other option but to bring her back to the village.
The hospital bills and the overhead expenses had already broken his back and the debts had accrued to seven lakhs. Satnam was now sure that he would have to sale away a good part of his landed properties to repay the debts. Suraj, on the other hand, was still careless of the things happening around him. Though he had improved a lot as a person but he was still far away from taking care of his responsibilities as the only successor of the family until his sons grew up to become adults.
Eventually, the doom day arrived when Sarita started gasping with every inhalation and exhalation of her breath. Satnam was crying, perhaps for the first time in his life as he was sitting beside his departing wife and tears were rolling out incessantly from his eyes. Suraj and his wife stood at a little distance with eyes filled with tears when Sarita gestured towards her son to come near her.
She whispered a few lines with her fading power of speech, " son, I am leaving all of you in a long journey ahead of me and in that journey, I will be the lone traveller. But it hardly matters since this has to take place one day. But, the only disappointment that I shall carry with me is your lack of interest in the affairs of life. Your father will be shortly following me in a long journey of his own but before he departs I request you, my son, to be more involved and more responsible in life. You have many years of life lies ahead of you and if you don't care about your and your family's future then everything will be destroyed with the death of your father. Well, son, my time is up. The pain is excruciating all over my body. Take care, my son." Her extended hand fell down and her open mouth remained open. She had embarked on a long journey far ahead leaving everyone behind, the destination of which was completely unknown.