Neelamani Sutar



Neelamani Sutar


End Of A Darker Dawn

End Of A Darker Dawn

9 mins 37.6K 9 mins 37.6K

It was mid-night. She was watching a late night movie. Suddenly she heard knocking at the main door. Some loud but authoritative knocks and then serene silence. She felt something compelling, almost hypnotic about that knocking - specially about the strange silence that followed it.

It stole from under her mosquito net and went straight to the main door. Some preserve instinct forced her switch on the light over the door step before she opened the door. If she was to be shot dead this morning she did at least want to see the face of her enemy before she went. She had expected a group – a minimum of three or five. But there was just a single figure. A thick following heard, dense moustache, a black monkey cap, slim, tall and straight, and strong as steel. No AK-47 slung over his shoulder. No pistol held to her head.

“Yes ?” she said, embarrassed because her voice came out with a slight edge of irritation to it when really she was frightened to the core of her being.

“I’m sorry to disturb you”. It was fluent Kui (a tribal language) without any artificial account. “I need your help, I am seriously wounded”. She was aware of the right hand clutched to the right thigh and the blood which had dripped on the mud doorstep.

“And if I say I cannot help you ?” she knew, even as she asked that it was a question which hold only academic interest.

“My friends wait in the forest nearby to see what you will answer.” There was a slight smile on the place, drawn face, “Come in then, “She stepped back to let him enter into the room. He hesitated on the threshold and she thought he was afraid of making a mess on her carpet. She had the advantage of an attached toilet. She got him to lie down on the bed taking care to put a towel under his leg.

Drawing a mangerful of water she bathed the wounds as best as she could. To her ordinary eyes it did not seem a very deep injury. But it was devious that he had lost a great deal of blood and it was painful. She squeezed a whole tube of ointment into it and applied a tight bandage of her napkin. She turned to leave the room.

“Where are you going ?” She saw the suspicion in his eyes. She now realized she was on a tight tether. She must make sure not to make any sudden or inexplicable moves.

“I am only giving way to my instinct of self-preservation,” She said, trying a reassuring smile on her withered lips.

“You’ve dripped blood all over the doorstep and entrance; and I must get rid of that,”

He got to his feet and shuffled towards her.

“Look, you can trust me. I know you must have a revolver or whatever you call it and I love life too much to risk, it by standing on the doorstep, making melodramatic sounds to attract attention of village folks.” His eyes never left her face and after a long moment he smiled a very small cynical smile. “No, I didn’t think you would steal away in dark. But let’s not get into an argument about what you intended to do. Let’s just say that having made the mess on your door-step. I want to help you clear it up.”

She cleared up the blood to the best of her ability and they soon returned to that room. She knew under normal circumstances she should have offered him something to eat or perhaps merely a glass of hot turmeric-milk-God knows he needed it. But she resented the way he had barged into her home and she was quite determined that she would only do what she had to do. He lay down on the bed, his eyes all the time fixed on her face.

“I suppose its no use my suggesting that I go to my bedroom?”

“You suppose right,” he said dryly, “In any case this is a double bed so if you loose out on any sleep you have only yourself to blame.”

She lay down on the empty bed and gradually the terror speeded out of her and in spite of his closeness, the closeness of someone whom she was sure had killed in cold blood. She found herself drifting off to sleep, she must have snapped awake just thirty minutes later, conscious now of the fix she was in. She turned to look at him and in the dim glow of the bed side lamp she saw his eyes on her, large and stirring and fully awake and when he caught her eye there was a smile in them. She turned away from him, and a little while drifted of to sleep again.

She was an early riser. For many years she has been used to waking up at 4.30 in the dawn, summer and winter, come rain or shine and going for a long walk beside foot hill and kneel before her husband’s tomb at ‘Shahid Minar’ for few minutes, silently. This morning too, in spite of the disturbance, she woke up at 4.30. He was asleep, curried up in a foetal position. In the soft glow of the lamp there was something very vulnerable and native about him. There was a nip in the morning and she knew that even in his sleep he must be cold. She stole out of bed and went to the box driven against the wall to get a blanket for him. When she turned it was to face a revolver pointed straight at her head. For a moment time stood still, she felt a trickle of sweat down the nape of her neck. It was the closest she had come to death and she wished she had made peace with her world and with her God so that she was prepared for it.

“Don’t you ever do that again.” There was no menace in his voice, only a quiet firmness. He had seen her draw out the blanket and knew it was for him. “People like me have lived on the edge so long that any unexpected movement frightens us. Always tell me what you are going to do.”

“Dawn you !” she said, relief that she was going to live expressing itself in impotent anger. She threw the blanket at him. “Next time you freeze to death”. She turned and stomped towards the door.

“Stop-the revolver is still cocked.” She stopped in her tracks but did not turn back to look at him.

“I’ve told you, you must explain your movements to me before you make them. I am not going to tell you again. Where do you think you are going ?”

“For my daily prayer,”

He sniggered and she turned at last towards him. “Yes, laugh” she said, her voice carefully controlled, possible to make it. “Laugh as much as you want. But remember that I have been going for daily prayer every day, almost from the time I turned a widow. If I don’t go today you’ll have to at least have a dozen folks coming to find out what has happened to me. At least one of them will be intelligent enough to put two and two together.” If she had hoped to ruffle him, she failed miserably. He merely smiled at her and got to his feet.

“Well,” he sighed, “It seems, much as I hate daily prayers for life and death, or you say, for other else’ I’ll have to take one today.”

“You’re coming with me ? How will I explain you to the people we meet ?”

“You can always that I am a long-lost cousin who has suddenly turned up.” She walked more briskly than was her norm and it gave her a juvenile satisfaction to see him wincing with pain as he kept up with her. But he made no expression and after a hundred yards she relented and slowed to a pace which he could comfortable keep.

“You don’t enjoy my pain ?” his left eyebrow was raised quizzically and she realized how hand-some he was-handsome and how very young.

“Let’s just say I don’t want to go back and have to dress your wounds again.” He laughed and slapped her on the back,” first I must see how you pray your God !”

The dawn was unusually silent. No one on the road at all. After a forty five minutes walk, they entered into the Shahid Minar Park. This religious park was built in the memory of the brave soldiers who have dedicated their lives for the sake of nation and were brutally killed by the Maoists of Andhra-Odisha Range. With tearful eyes she knelt down before a certain tomb for few minutes and enchanted few lines from Geeta. He eagerly, was searching something among the tombs and at last coming to that tomb he kicked the epitaph hard and cried, “This man, I had killed him brutally in the deep forest of Lal Corridor. He was a dangerous dog and had destroyed all plans of Pahari Cheetah Bahini.” Then he threw a sharp look at her, “We had lifted him from their army camp and played with him the whole night. How funny he looked when we undressed him and tied to a tree. We asked him to lick our feet and he denied. And I beheaded him with this knife”. He showed her the sharp tip of the dagger of his AK-47.

She saw with her red shot eyes, the murderer of her husband. Once she touched her forehead and collected force of seven lions in her being. She pondered over her predicament. If she failed he would kill her. She had no illusion about that. If she succeeded she would have his death on her hands. Over all he is a traitor, involved in treason. So he should be killed.

He interrupted her thought, “Don’t look so amazed. When you let your prayer boil over I know that your mind was working on it. And now when you handed your flowers over the tomb, I could see a strange look being trapped had left your face !”

She looked closely at him, “Look, how far can you trust me ?”

“Not very far,” he said smiling again.

“Trust me in my sphere of life is a commodity in very short supply.” She ignored this comment and snatched away the firearm from his shoulder at a lightening speed. She was looking as if she were a deity of almighty power. He was kneeling  before her as a wild animal grumbling vacantly and fear was playing hide and sick in his vigil eyes.

“You must have killed many people. You have snatched away vermilion from my forehead. You traitor, you have no right to live any more”. A moment time later, sounds of three bullets were heard tearing the silence of dawn. Some morning birds flew away making fearful sounds. The head of that man was on the feet of the tomb in a distressed manner. Resting her head against the epitaph, she saw a purple sun coming out of the dark sky, and thought, “Ah, the new morn has peeped in !”

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