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Seeking Answers
Seeking Answers
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© Kartik Aggarwal

Tragedy

17 Minutes   20.4K    283


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Sitting on my desk against the light of the blue moon as it comes through my window. I desperately seek for my tears at the silent raindrops that fell in my life allowing me to feel their presence in their silent wetness. There is a very mean world out there and even if you don’t want to be a part of it, it will still knock you down. Three years have passed since I vowed myself to not look back. However, my broken down soul in this broken world didn’t for a single day cease to peep behind through the fogged vision. Each time I muster the courage to end it, a wild storm of unspoken questions start knocking on the doors of my mind. The memories start reverberating around my ears so loudly that my courage is crushed on the first word. No matter how hard I try, I’m at sea in figuring out why some things happen and I have to settle with the deafening silence. Perhaps, let me try one more time. If I succeed, then I leave it to you to find the explanation.

 

Sometimes when you feel you’ve taken all the correct decisions, played it all safe and are pretty sure of sailing home smoothly, reality splashes cold water on your eyes. You wake up only to realize that destiny had put you on a different track altogether. I knew the best thing I had done in my life was falling in love with her. However, if I’d known, that my life was like a leaf on the wind, my fate out of my control, I would not have been writing this today. I lived in the Kawal village, Muzaffarnagar, in the overly populated state of Uttar Pradesh. It was ridden with caste-ism. The one thing I knew for a fact was; there would never be any hindrances for our approval to marry. Love marriage in the small Indian villages is still a very big thing.

 

Our families were on very good terms due to ancestral friendships. Kawal was like any other Indian until destiny started getting suffocated seeing it that way. The state of mind of the people of UP and particularly west UP is that they are way too communist to worry about petty issues like development or corruption or the country. They have enough food to keep them alive and are least worried about the standard of living as it doesn’t mean much there.

We were a family of four; my father, mother, three year old sister Anju & me, Aman. Her family comprised of five- father, mother, twin brothers, Vidur & Vedant and their beautiful princess, Varsha the apple of the family’s eye. Both families were involved in agricultural activities. It predominantly involved production & distribution of sugarcane across the country. Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer of sugar cane in India. Like most children in the village, her brothers were not interested in studying so they yielded early into the family’s business aiding their father with the maintenance of the lands. Initially we exchanged glances only on festivals or in other village get-togethers. With time those amicable childhood glances only deepened. 

Varsha & I were of the same age. We studied in a Government School that worked in alternate shifts. The only thing that could have pulled our village out of pangs of illiteracy was the light of education. Since there is always a paucity of schools in the villages hence Government schools work both mornings and evenings even in metropolitans. There was also a dearth of good teachers in the villages. This problem prevails till date. We couldn’t openly roam around due to the conservative thinking of the people around us. The primary cause behind the demented thinking was that most people here were jobless and they needed something to keep their minds occupied. The people, especially the youth were seriously out of work, which gives them ample time to waste time and resort in clashes communal, religious or because of no apparent reason. Its a very old saying in Hindi: "khaali dimaag shaitan ka ghar": meaning "An empty head (or with no food for thought) is the place for devil to reside". We had to be careful of that sword of fear hanging around our reputations. I was determined that I would find a way to bypass that.

With time our acquaintanceship grew stronger. We started sneaking out time after examinations. The studies for me were far easier than planning to meet her and hoping not to be caught as if we were committing a crime. We didn’t have the luxury of cell phones & had to humbly accept that. I only rested on the hope that may be some day; I would sit with her and talk my heart out. From our brief conversations I’d learned that we both had ambitions to pursue higher education to make our village a better place (something I wish I’d realized would only happen in my dreams). I wanted to eradicate the excessive fanaticism amongst Muslims & Hindus regarding their myopic view towards religion. I wanted to bring in the paradigm shift in the mindset of the people to move beyond regressive thinking and talk in terms of development. Moreover the towering crime, rape & eve-teasing cases had always persisted and facilitated UP to retain its infamous title of ‘gundaraj’. It was steady due to the corrupt nuisance value of the political powers to score over one another and win brownie points for votes.

I wanted to pursue engineering besides preparing for the prestigious Civil Services Examinations. It was one way; I could make a difference for the society. She on the contrary wanted to serve people by becoming a surgeon. Destiny concurred with us on this stage and by God’s mercy we both secured respectable scores in our Higher Secondary School Examinations. I was the topper of my village and even received an award from the Sarpanch (village head).

 

With my scintillating performance, I received a full time scholarship in the University of Petroleum & Energy Studies. She too secured a seat in G I S Institute of Professional Studies. Why I’ve mentioned the names here is that both the institutions were located in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. Dehradun is a valley city and due to cover of the Shiwalik ranges around it, the weather there is always pleasant. It was 120 kilometers from our village. It was easily accessible by train or bus services. Our institutions were merely an hour’s ride. So finally I started believing that maybe the ‘someday’, I was patiently waiting for all these years may change into reality now. We never came to know this stuff from each other. It was only through our parents that we came to know about all this.

To move out of the village was the greatest respite for both of us. It was like escaping a prison where we had been suffocated for air all our childhood. The academic sessions in Indian colleges commence somewhere by the end of July. It took us some time to get settled in our respective colleges. It was the best time of my life. I don’t know why, but for the first time I could feel like a free person there. In college, we possessed cellphones. Our parents bought us only to know about our movements. It was very rare that students from our village used to go out to study. By then, we’d already exchanged our contact numbers. Due to the hollowness that at been created since our childhood with only the pleasantries exchanged, each of us were a little devoid of words and didn’t know how to take the first step. However, one day I mustered the courage and with a reservoir of positive energy, I asked her out. She accepted my proposal.

 

Our very first meeting in Dehradun was something I couldn’t have dreamt in the grandest of my dreams. I’d borrowed a bike from my friend in the college and ‘YES’! I was finally going to meet her with absolutely no one watching.

It was on 23rd July, 2013 when I dauntlessly met her for the very first time at the revered Ramakrishna Math situated on the famous Rajpur road. It was a temple dedicated to Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the spiritual master of the monk Swami Vivekananda. It was one place where anyone could seek solace.

She wasn’t one of those rare beauties you find. Neither did she have an extraordinary fashion sense. On meeting her that day, I felt a peculiar charm unparalleled to anyone I had ever met in my short life. They say, ‘You can resist beauty, but you cannot resist charm’. That day I understood the essence of the statement. We spent some time in the temple thanking God for bringing us together. We had to respect the deafening silence there. So we couldn’t talk much. We went to the Pacific Mall situated in its vicinity within walking distance. It was the first time we’d seen a mall. We spent the entire day in the mall. It was for the first time we came across all the International eating outlets which until then we’d only watched in movies or read in the newspapers. We roamed in the malls sometimes sipping coffee at Café Coffee day & sometimes savoring the sumptuous delicacies of the food court. We talked everything we possibly could. It was like the drought was being filled with rain. We chatted about childhood, academics, friends, likes & dislikes to what not! It was the most beautiful day of my life. She was an avid reader and also proposed to write her own medical journals. The pleasure of hearing her talk was paramount. I prayed so hard to live in those moments forever, so that the magical aura never ends. I dropped her at her college in the evening. After saying ‘goodbye’, she gave me a shy hug. That feeling was sensational. I couldn’t have wished a day better than that. She was so close that I lost myself all over in her boundless eyes.

 

For the next few days, all that kept me going was the captivity of her thoughts. Since then, I started sinking into the delusion that it was only a prelude to the innumerable encounters awaiting us in the future. It appeared to be like a first of firsts. It was a moment when I couldn’t believe anything could ever go wrong. I was completely oblivion of the plans of fate. There is always that one day in everyone’s life they can trade with the rest; mine was that.

 

Her birthday was on 7th September. I took a vow to make it the best of her life. On 1st August our respective sessions commenced. Not a single day passed when we didn’t hear each other’s voice. After spending a month in Dehradun, I came to know about the famous hill station of Mussoorie. It was popularly known as the ‘Queen of the Hills’. Mussoorie was 30 kilometers from there. On delving deeper about Mussoorie, I found some amazing facts. Ruskin Bond, India’s most celebrated children’s author resided in Landour, a small cantonment in its vicinity. Moreover, the famous Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, where all the newly recruited Civil Servants were sent for training was located there. I too wanted to get a feel of that place and dreamt to get there someday.

 

So now her birthday plan was set.

 

Talking to mother one evening, I got to know that back home there was a disruption in the village. Although eve teasing was something common but the matters were mostly resolved by the local panchayats or the intervention of the Police. However, this time the situation worsened as it had turned into some violent communal clashes. I was least bothered to hear. Except for my family’s safety, I was indifferent as I was contended with my new life. My mother along with sister Anjum were haling at her mother’s place in Meerut. As soon as I bid adieu to mom, Varsha called and said that her elder brother Vidur’s marriage was fixed for the 29th August. She had to go back home for the same. The mere aspect of her leaving me was difficult to digest. Somehow I masked my feelings superbly and happily congratulated her showing no intensions of me going back home. She requested me to come with her but I declined. I simply didn’t want to go back to prison again. It was one of those mistakes that I’ll regret forever.

 

She left for Kawal after the 15th August Independence Day celebrations at her college. We were unable to meet due to my ongoing Mid-semester examinations. It was important for me to perform well in them in order to sustain my scholarship. We spoke when she reached home. It was then that I came to know how exacerbated the situation there was. She told me that the security had been tightened up due to the protests of the gang rape of a 9th standard student in Muzaffarnagar. The preparations in her house were smooth. With each day passing by my impatience was soaring. Hell! I couldn’t focus on my studies and cursed myself for not going with her. Finally my patience ran out and I decided to take the next bus home. But then, my father pleaded me not to do the same as the violence was increasing. I concurred to him as there was also a curfew and my reaching there would have been very difficult. I spoke to Varsha that evening. She as usual appeased me with her charming voice. Although it was a little tense voice but I didn’t realize the infinite depth of pain in it. Little had I known that she had lied to me! Next morning when I called father, he was crying. I tried pacifying him and asked the reason. He said, “Guptaji’s house has been burned by an angry Muslim mob”. It was Varsha’s house. My body froze. He continued; Varsha was going to the temple last evening when Azam a local Muslim boy, tried to sexually harass her. On hearing about this her brothers were appalled & went to speak to Azam. Due to their wrath a heated scuffle broke out amongst them. As a consequence Azam died on the spot. This act of violence led to a spark. Seeing the demise of Azam an angry Muslim mob mostly Azam’s friends & some workers of a Muslim Party immediately chased them. In no time it mushroomed into a political conundrum. On seeing them enter their house, they put the house on fire. The entire family with some relatives was inside the house. An eve-teasing case had turned into communal violence now. Angry neighbors who were Hindus retaliated & pelted them with stones. There was no fire station in the village and the conflagration only spread. Clashes between the two communities broke down and as a result many more lives were lost. A curfew was imposed in the town & the army was called in. I was finding it impossible to digest whatever father was saying. By then, I felt that my world had come down collapsing. I abruptly hung the line and desperately started calling Varsha. Her cell was switched off. My body had frozen, legs aching, unable to bear the pain and I fell on the floor.

 

For the first time in my life I prayed to God for a miracle. It was 10 in the morning and my life had been shattered into smithereens. But then I received a call from an unknown number and I didn’t want to pick it up. I don’t know what compelled me so I took the call. It was Varsha! I felt God heard me and made my miracle true. I still couldn’t figure her voice. She was in a terrible agony. I resisted blurting a flux of million questions. But she was sobbing. She somehow mustered the courage to talk to me and told that she had managed to escape along with Ram, her caretaker as they were in the market when her house was put ablaze. To ensure Varsha’s safety, he took her to the highway on her moped. Since the bus-stand was not operating, it was the only way she could get out of there. He handed over his phone and made her sit in the bus to Dehradun. He went back only to witness horrendous state of affairs there. Since the battery in her phone was low, she asked me to meet at the café at bus-stand as she was about to reach. I assured to be there before her and wait until the bus arrived. I took my friend’s bike and rode as fast as I could. I knew she would be in hell as she wasn’t strong enough to bear all that at once. I somehow took a sign of relief as she was fine and hoped to see her. Little did I know destiny had another twirl for me!

 

The moment I reached the bus-stand & parked the bike, I saw an Ambulance coming out. I didn’t care to see as I rushed to the café and restlessly started looking out for her. There was only one café in the bus stand. She wasn’t there. She also wasn’t receiving my call. I enquired the waiter about any girl that had come to the café. He said a young girl had ordered coffee but slit her nerves before he delivered her. Due to the excessive bleeding, she was taken to the Hospital. I didn’t know what was happening and only prayed it wasn’t her. I begged the café manger to show me the girl in the CCTV camera installed there. He showed me the footage and all I saw was, she sat in the cafe, staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. As the crowd was almost negligible, no one noticed the knife in the blue scarf until she fell on the floor unconscious. I immediately rushed to the Hospital hoping for another miracle forgetting the deal of my morning prayer. The doctors had declared her, dead at the first glance. There was no one left in her family to come and collect her corpse. Moreover due to the carnage in Kawal & Muzaffarnagar, it was almost impossible to contact anyone now. I didn’t know what to do? My world had collapsed. They didn’t even allow me to see her for the last time as I had no legal proof of knowing her.

 

I came out of the Hospital. I was numb and senseless. I was utterly disillusioned. There was a renegade of wild thoughts all over my mind. It appeared that everything happened in a flash of a second. It was almost impossible to control my tears. I rode to Ramakrishna Math as nothing else came to mind. It was a time I simply wanted to die. That was the only way I could stop that train of thoughts. The Ashram was empty. I sat in front of the deity and began to cry loudly. I cried and cried and cried. I was touched by a soft hand. Swami Asimatmananda, who was the head of the Math, saw me in the dilapidated state. He put a hand on my shoulder. He tried to calm me down and enquired about my misery. I was unable to talk. He held my hand until I stopped weeping. I don’t remember how long I wept. Somehow I managed to leak out my heavy heart. He advised me to call home. I re-gained some conscious on hearing that father was safe. Until then, up to 62 people had been killed, in "the worst violence ever in the recent history of Uttar Pradesh". Swamiji held my hand & said in his deep voice, the simplest statement he could say was, ‘I know how it feels’, but he wouldn’t do that as no one can ever truly feel the pain of someone. Moreover he didn’t console me over my loss. He just kept holding my hand. I could feel his positivity seeping in through but my grief was blocking it.

 

Continuing in his calm voice he said, ‘The cheapest item on earth is the value of the human life. When it comes to the brim, killing is as easy as breathing. Communal violence & bloodshed run in our very own nerves. It’s deeply embedded in our roots & as long as mankind survives it’ll have to bear this deplorable stain. It was there then, and it still here now. People higher up the power echelons in the lust for more of it are adept in capitalizing on such situations without acknowledging & never having the least audacity to even accept it. We are born and we die, there cannot be a simpler truth than this but the journey is the entire problem. A chosen few are lucky indeed who can effortlessly sail through this life but some aren’t. All we can do is to live a life accepting whatever it offers keeping faith for the things to work out in the end. In the end even if it doesn’t and faith betrays, the journey will be worth it. All you can do right now is to surrender to God’s will because no matter how hard you try some questions will always remain unanswered.’ The words fell on my ears but I don’t know how far they impacted me.

 

She left me without saying anything. I don’t know why she didn’t tell me the truth that day. There were a thousand questions that were left unanswered. Sometime I feel it was my mistake by not going back with her. There are so many why’s still haunting me.

 

Three years gone and the scars continue to linger. Some memories are like poison darts guaranteed to spear right through are skin of thickness to the epicenter of weeping fragility. All I know is that, ‘we met and we parted only to never meet again.’ Sometime the rules of the game change even before the half way and we have to leave the arena without a backward glance. However, I’m still seeking answers…

 

memories violence bereavement

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