Life Of A Fugitive
Life Of A Fugitive4 mins 291 4 mins 291
Three months went by. I was now pulling rickshaw like a professional and so was Rakesh. We didn’t dress like the traditional pullers but continued to wear our city dresses, trousers, bush shirt, shoes and were well groomed. The surprise and puzzled looks that we received were now fading, people were getting accustomed to the city boys pulling a rickshaw. JDP was kind enough to allow us to sleep in the school room, he had even lent us few utensils and we cooked food in turn. Paying the rickshaw rent was not at all difficult; we were rather making some money. The food didn’t cost much, we both contributed towards the cost of groceries and anyways home-cooked food doesn’t cost much. There was however a reason for worry. The local newspaper carried a story about us.
“City unemployed youths pulling rickshaw” The story projected us as educated and unemployed city youths, not finding suitable jobs we were trapped in the circle of an inefficient government. Left with no option we were forced to opt for a lowly profession of pulling a rickshaw. The story presented the lack of job opportunities and the failure of the government to address this glaring issue. The story received widespread attention to the extent that the District Magistrate summoned us to learn about our misfortune.
We were anxious. The newspaper story was making us popular which was a threat to our concealed identities. We were at the risk of being identified as ‘Jail-breaker’. We could have been apprehended at any moment.
“Our time is over here, let’s flee again” Rakesh advised putting his clothes in a jute bag.
“But where do we go” I spoke with a doubt in mind. It took a lot of effort and luck to land in a comfortable situation. Life was looking good but permanence is not meant for fugitives.
That night we boarded the train without leaving any clue behind. Just a chit was left behind for JDP. “Thank you for everything, you are a nice man. May God bless you”
The train left the station late in the night and was bound for Kolkata. The city we ran away from. We hadn’t decided to go there but it appeared that we both wanted to be there. I had been talking and thinking about my father a lot of let. I often wondered what must have happened to him. I was even unsure about the treatment that the police must have meted out to him.
We had grown beards and had long hairs. Nothing peculiar about it, those days all young men aspired to appear like the popular Hindi film heroes those who donned long wavy hairs. However, the heroes were clean-shaven but we grew the facial hairs to hide the maximum of our face.
The train arrived at Howrah late in the morning. We quietly made our way towards College Street. Once there, I chose an empty bench near the tea stall, the one where I toiled as a young lad. The malik appeared old and fatigued.
“Chai sahib..” a young boy, around ten years old, asked me.
I nodded my head thinking that the cycle of life is so predictable. One revolt and runs away and the next moment another takes the empty place to repeat the same misfortune. While I sipped the tea, malik walked towards me and whispered “You father is still alive but he is very sick”
I was stunned. He had recognized me. I got up hurriedly but he assured me to sit and said “No worries, I won’t cause any harm- I won’t tell anyone but you must see your father”
He perhaps read my eyes of askance.
“In the general hospital” he pointed towards the way that led to the hospital. It was the same hospital where I had lost my mother. I had to run from one ward to another to finally find her abandoned body in the morgue.
I got up and walked away from the tea stall. Rakesh followed me.
“I will go and find my father, you remain somewhere nearby, both us going together can cause suspicion. Further, we don’t know if it is a trap”
I walked towards the hospital. I turned back to see that Rakesh was crossing the road to find a place for himself to wait for me.
I didn’t know then that the next few minutes were going to turn my life upside down.