A Night To Remember

A Night To Remember

9 mins 18K 9 mins 18K

“Perhaps it may rain heavily. Can we reach before ten? “Mona asked sunil.

Sunil looked at the wrist watch.

It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Vizag to Sunabedha drive will take minimum five hours. He & Mona had come to vizag to attend a private function.

Sunil gave a glance to the cloudy sky. The sky resembled stomach of a pregnant cow.

‘The mood of the sky & rain are like a woman; quite unpredictable. Morning it was so clear blue sky & pleasant weather; but see now!’

‘Don’t blame women; we are forced to change our mood to suit the mood & attitude of our egoistic husband. You people are like chameleon, pat came the reply.

Sunil kept quite; He understood that his joke has boomeranged back towards him. He drove the car .

‘Hey, put on the seat belt & keep that god damn mobile in the dash box, or else give to me. Why don’t you follow the basics ? Each time I have to remind you? Have you forgotten? Last week only you had given 1000/- fine for traffic violation ?

Sunil laughed loudly & apologetically followed Mona’s instruction. Mona kept Sunil’s mobile in her hand bag & started reading a horror novel. Within half an hour they caught the national highway no-5. It started drizzling.

“Let us pack something from the KFC for Bunty. He has reminded me four times. It is your favorite too. “

“Do you have time sense ? In this way we may reach at eleven in the night. Bunty will be anxious. Mom too will be worried. You know her. After this I will not stop the car anywhere.”

Sunil packed few items from KFC & also purchased a scotch whisky bottle. The sky was totally black, as if someone has covered the sky with a carbon paper. He was praying to God. The highway road was fine; but the worrying factor was treacherous bad patch road in the Andhra – Odisha border & the 34 km Sunki Ghat road . It is sometime very difficult to negotiate the sharp ‘U ‘turns & the unruly trucks . Sunil was cursing himself. He could have started a bit early. ‘Don’t touch that whisky bottle while you drive. You know speed & drunken drive kills lakhs of people every year. So be a good boy.” Sunil was not happy with Mona’s advice, but kept quite.

Mona switched on the stereo. Old Kishore Kumar’s song, “Chala jata hoon, kisi ke dhoon main…..” Sunil too started singing.

“Do you remember this song ? In our college time, both of us have bunked the class & had gone to konark in my new motorcycle? I was singing this song & you were holding me tight. It was also raining on that day.” Sunil asked romantically holding Mona’s palm.

“Look at the road or else accident will happen just like that day. Your motor cycle slipped as you were driving like cinema hero to impress me. Both of us had fallen into the canal.’

Sunil suddenly applied the brake; two pigs were running across the road. “ Please drive slowly & steadily. See what is written on that billboard? It is better to be ‘Mr late than Late Mr.’ My dear hubby, be careful & stop rash driving.”

Sunil took a deep breath & started. They have already crossed Rambhadrapuram. From here it will take another four hours to reach Sunabedha. Though it was 5.30 in the evening, it appeared like midnight. It started to rain heavily. Even though wiper was on, Sunil could hardly see the road.

“Rain, rain, go to Spain, come tomorrow once again “ murmured Sunil. He stopped the car at the road side with indicator & head light on. Because it is highway; who will take the risk? Someone may hit from back side in this condition. It is not at all safe here, but no option either; thought Sunil.

Suddenly Mona shouted seeing a dark image in the window glass. Sunil switched on the mobile flash light & looked carefully. A middle aged local adivasi man with an umbrella in his hand. The man was trying to say something. Sunil’s heart beat had gone up. Perhaps he wants a lift. But is it a govt. bus or what ? thought Sunil. The man was perhaps yelling & shouting from outside.

Sunil lowered the window glass partially. “Sir a big branch of this tree is hanging on the electric wire & it may fall on your car at any time. Please move car immediately.”

Sunil moved forward immediately & looked back through the back window . He was thankful to that adivasi man as he has saved their life & new car too. After few second that big branch fell on the ground with a loud sound. ‘Oh God! We have just escaped the death .”

Rain has stooped. Sunil got down from the car & looked at the old man. Perhaps in his late fifties ; the man had a typical tribal innocence & calm face; he was wearing a blue half shirt & old dhoti. Lots of beard on his face. He was almost drenched in the rain as rain was falling on him through the old porous umbrella. He was holding a polythene bag in his right hand.

“Where are you going ? Come, I shall give you a lift.”

“Thank a lot sir. I am going to see my father-in-law. He is not well, don’t worry sir, bus will come.”

Sunil offered him a 100/- rupees note. He politely declined & told , “After the ghat road, put this note in the hundi box of Maa Mangala, the local goddess. She is very powerful & has saved you & madam from the accident. We tribals believe the goddess .’

Sunil did not expect such a reply from this poor man. Suddenly the govt auto arrived & the man got into it.

Sunil stopped the car at Sallur, a small hilly hamlet to have a cup of tea. Surprisingly there was no traffic & crowd as expected on a normal evening. Three people were busy in discussing something serious in the tea stall. Sunil ordered for two cup tea & try to listen the topic.

“Yesterday night four people have seen that ghost . Digulu’s wife fainted on the road seeing the ghost too. But the ghost could not harm her, as she urinated in her saree.” one person said.

The second man whispered “Yesterday, that old man’s soul was asking for lift to a motorcycle rider. Now it is enough. We should sacrifice a goat & do puja near Maa Mangala goddess. She only can save us. Or else it will be difficult to pass through the ghat road.”

“Which ghost you were talking about ?”asked Sunil.

The tea stall owner told, “ I have not seen, but people are talking about a dhoti clad old adivasi man ghost , with blue shirt & lot of beard on his face & a polythene packet in his hand, stopping people & asking for lift. People are talking that there were lot of precious stones in that polythene pack & he was murdered for that. Now his soul is moving around.”

Sunil was really surprised to listen the description of the ghost which was matching exactly with that adivasi man he had met just hours before. Oh no, it is all nonsence. Sunil thought.

Mona was tightly holding Sunil’s hand; Sunil knew the reason. Tea was served . The taste was heavenly, considering the cold climate.Just to change the topic Sunil asked , “Why there is no traffic today ?’

“Don’t you know that naxalites have given bandh call from today evnening ? where are you going ? “

Sunil got tensed .’To Sunabedha.

“You have madam with you. Normally they don’t harm common man.

Sunil had no option. Mummy & little bunty will be waiting for them. Sunil called back home & said that they are on the way.

Rain had stopped completely . Sunil put on the seat belt & started. Mona was looking very tense. “Don’t worry , there is no ghost & we will reach safely”. They were in the middle of the 34 km stretch Sunki ghat road. After a sharp turn , there was steep down road. Car was moving smoothly.

Suddenly there was some sound. Some continuous sound of crackers. Crackers in this place ? Suddenly someone came in front of the car & banged. Sunil applied sudden brake; The man was thrown at a distance like a football . In the car head light, Sunil could see a body lying stand still. “ Oh my god ! is that man dead ?” Sunil was trembling .

“Don’t stop & go out. I think he is the ghost.” said Mona.

“What rubbish ? It is not my fault, but we have to be a good Samaritan & help the accident victim. You talk about road safety & morality ?

Sunil went near the body & had a close look. Oh no!!! It cann’t be !! Shouted Sunil . The man was alive & it was the same tribal man who had helped them few hours back. Sunil brought a water bottle & poured on his face. The man looked at Sunil & cried , “Sir please don’t kill me. I am innocent”.

“Look at me ; you have helped us near that bus stand . What happened to you? You were supposed to go to your relative house ?

The man looked at sunil & pleaded “Sir please give me lift .Grey hound Police fired on our auto thinking that we are naxalites . The auto driver & one other man were killed by the bullet injury. Two bullets has just passed near my head , but one has hit my left leg. They are following me. Please hide me sir.“ He was limping & bleeding.

Mona whispered , ‘Who knows, he may be a naxalite. Don’t take chance.”

Sunil thought for a moment & told him to hide below the back seat . Sunil heard some whistle & boot sound. May be police? Sunil told Mona to lie on the back seat & put a double bedsheet on her, so that it will cover that tribal man too. He did not know, whether he was doing the correct thing or not, but following his conscious. He started the car , After few meters two men in military uniform stopped the car .

“Have you seen a naxalite ? Any man on this road ?” Both these men were trying to peep through the back seat.

“Sorry sir, I am a doctor. My wife is having high fever. That’s why I am in a hurry to reach sunadedha. We have seen a man running into the jungle in that left side.”

Sunil overheard the two men's discussion “ If that man escapes , then it will be problem. If he is killed, we can say that naxalites have killed them in the crossfire. We must get back that man at any cost.”

A cold chill feeling passed through Sunil’s backbone. The tribal man was telling the truth ?

They talked in the walky-talky & ran towards the bushes thanking Sunil. Sunil had a sigh of relief; On the way he stopped near Maa Mangala temple he put that 100/- rupees note in the hundi box. He took that man to a known nurshing home & got him the first aid. He was fine. Next day morning sunil took that man to the near by police station & lodged a complain regarding last night through a NGO. Already Breaking news about yesterday's false encounter was on each local channel.

There was ta ear in that tribal man’s eye. His name was Bhagwan. He touched Sunil’s feet while leaving . Sunil knew it was a memorable night full of accidents & a night to remember too.

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