The Servant's Boy
The Servant's Boy
So long m’boy!
I wonder what you have been up to. No contact, not even a tiny hint about the whereabouts. Tell me- did you forget me? Or were you avoiding me on purpose?
Oh please don’t say that, Sire. I would never do that on purpose. I would never even think about doing such a thing. How can I, after all?
That you cannot! I trust you boy. So tell me now, what happened?
I cannot decide, Sire, from where should I begin.
Why don’t you first sit down son? Feel yourself at home now that you are home.
The boy hesitated, then went ahead to sit on the floor near by the seat upon which the man was sitting.
No no no! Don’t sit over there, boy. You come here and sit beside me on that chair.
Oh no, please Sire. I cannot do that. I cannot sit beside you as an equal. Vishnu remembered the day when he so happily took the seat beside his Sire, and the next moment he was scolded and beaten up by his own father who worked as a servant in that house.
The man looked dejected. His brows contracted, and a hint of age-old frustration was visible on his face.
Controlling himself, he told the boy, “Don’t you now worry about your father, he won’t come here now to scold you. Come here and sit beside me on that chair. After all you have earned that respect yourself, m’boy.”
The boy, though unwilling to but knew better than refusing his Sire, took the seat beside him.
He was a little uncomfortable as it was the first time he sat as an equal to this man.
“Your father was a loyal servant to this house.” The man said reminiscent of the past. “I trusted him with everything… everything. For twenty years he had been in this house. He always seemed so happy.”
Vishnu listened calmly to the old man ranting. He knew very well that this will pass soon. He knew he had to listen to everything his Sire has got to say.
“Your father always seemed so happy, son.” The man took the glass of water from table and gulped it down his throat.
“The weight of all those words must have made his throat heavy,” thought the boy. “Or is it the guilt?”
“Your father was a happy man,” he stressed again. “He seemed even more contented when I offered a job to your sister, Gwari.”
Vishnu flinched at the name of his sister. (Gwari was just a year older than him. Together they used to go to a nearby government school. After school they would play for hours in their own chawl with whatever they had. But then father started taking Gwari with him to work at his Sire. And Vishnu would stay at home alone. Sometimes his father would also take Vishnu with him along with Gwari.)
“I must say,” continued the old man, reviving Vishnu out of his thoughts, “I must say, your sister was quite talented. She was smart than your father.” He tried to bring a smile of sympathy on his face. “She worked really well here. I never could have thought that your father will ever do such a thing. But then he did that.”
Vishnu nodded his head just to convince his Sire that he agreed with everything he has got to say.
But Vishnu remembered the day very well. The day when Gwari came home from work… like a puppet. She looked like a body with no soul in it, but somehow forced to live. He never saw her smile again. He was eleven years then. And Gwari was twelve.
The man took another gulp from the glass of water, then remembering something he said, “I remember quite well that your father was upset about something that day. And he took out his anger upon your sister in front of me.” The man sneaked at the boy from corner of his eye. Perhaps he thought that the boy was listening to everything carefully. “I forbade him to do so, m’boy.” he continued. “I forbade him and warned him not to say anything to Gwari ever. And then he left for home along with your sister.”
Vishnu knew exactly what was coming next. And he waited for a little more.
“The next day I heard that your father committed suicide that very night.” The old man sighed. For the time he looked older than his age. “And then I sent to look for you and your sister at the chawl. But you were gone from there, forever, both of you. You know boy, I wanted to offer you and your sister the job of your father so that you don’t have to struggle.”
The old man looked down. He looked weary from all the talking. Or perhaps he couldn’t face the boy any longer.
The boy felt sick now. He couldn’t wear it any longer.
“Tell me Sire,” he finally spoke, “where is your son, Master Sunny, Sire?”
The man jumped in his seat. It was a simple question. Yet it somehow scared him.
“Why do you ask?” The man blurted. Sunny was studying at a university in another town, five hundred kilometers away from his home. “What does it matter to you?” he began shouting.
“Nothing Sire,” said Vishnu, “It’s just that I worry about him just as you worried about my sister Gwari.”
The fear was now visible on the man’s face. He now looked at Vishnu with his pleading eyes seeking mercy. He couldn’t make any sound for his throat was choked with all the buttery lies backfired within.
Vishnu noticed the time on his wrist. His lips curled in a soothing smile. He spoke again, “Why don’t you go and pick up the phone, Sire?”
The man looked at him puzzled. There was no phone ringing. As he tried to gather his words to ask the boy- “What phone, m’bo….?” There came loud ringing from the phone- trinnnnn…trinnnnn…. trinnnnnn… trinnnnn….
The man shivered. He looked at the boy once again.
“Better run for the phone before it’s too late!” exclaimed Vishnu.
The old man hurried to the phone…. Trinnnnn…trinnnnn….trinnnnn…trin – “Hello! Who is it?”
“Hello. Am I speaking to Mr. Tapan Das?”
“Yes! It’s me. Who is it?” His words were shaking. From the corner he tried to look at Vishnu who was sitting on the chair… But the seat was empty now. And the boy was gone. In other conditions, the man would have chased him down. But this was not the time. He knew the call was important.
“Mr. Das, We are speaking from the ITU University where your son was studying.”
The old man fell on his knees. There was a rage in his voice. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN –‘WAAS STUDYING’??”
“We are really sorry to say that, your son was found dead in his room.”
The man was paralyzed with the words from the other end of phone. DEAD… My son…
“Hello.. Are you listening, Mr. Das? Hello?”
“Hmmm” whispered the man in an almost inaudible voice.
“Mr. Das, your son was found hanging from the ceiling of his room today. He has committed suicide.”
YOUR FATHER COMMITTED SUICIDE, M’BOY…. your son committed suicide today in his room…
Words were now running rampant in his ears from everywhere. He couldn’t decide which one is which. He fell down to the ground. He wanted to go deeper and curl beneath the ground, for he knew there was nothing left for him in the world… for he knew the vengeance for all his sins was served.