They reached their destination on the scheduled time. They took their positions. The tall man looked at his friend and made a facial gesture. The other fellow handed him the packet. The tall fellow took the device out of the packet and pressed some buttons present on it. He then checked his time-piece. “The train is to reach here in five minutes”. The others didn’t reply. They just raised their thumbs. The tall fellow then placed the device carefully on the railway track and covered it with some stone-chips. He then took out his remote control. “Let’s move,” he said, and all of them moved to a distance and hid behind the bushes.
Seven minutes passed, and they did not hear the sound of any train. Their faces showed tension. Their eyes showed anger. Today they were to avenge their years of hunger and poverty.
And then, they heard the noise of the train. Each soul got excited. The tall fellow got up from his place. As the train was running over the place where he had put that device, the tall fellow closed his eyes and pressed the remote button hard.
Two seconds. Four seconds. Ten seconds. The train crossed the place and took its way. It soon got out of site. Silence prevailed. There was no noise that they were expecting for.
The tall fellow opened his eyes, unable to judge if they had failed in their attempt, or had he suddenly gone deaf. The other members also came out of the bushes. They looked at each other. And then, they suddenly heard somebody speak in shrill tone- “Don’t move, else we will shoot. Stay where you are.”
The area was filled with police and CISF.
Three months later
“Sitting with the phone every minute! Have you forgotten we had to go shopping?”
“I remember, Rimi. Just a minute more.”
“Who is online? Painter babu?”
Srijita looked at Rimi with a half-annoyed face. “I have told you not to use that name.”
“Achcha baba I won’t say again. You enjoy your copyright. Happy now? So… is Joy online?”
“Yep,” Srijita replied with a smile. “He has sent another sketch. Just see.”
“Wow! Looks so real yaar!”
They stayed in the hostel present inside the grand campus of Durgapur College of Medicines, better known as DCM. It had been a long time Srijita had not gone home. So this time, she had decided to take with herself, gifts for every member of her family. And now, when the time of shopping had come, she got busy on Facebook. She is actually not a Facebook addict. But then, Joy was online.
Judging from his Facebook profile, Joy was a fair-complexioned guy with spiky hair who loved painting and was extremely good at it. He stayed in Kolkata where he was pursuing MBA. His hometown was in some village. He and Srijita were Facebook-friends for a couple of months. Srijita loved to see his paintings. But she herself did not know how close she came to him when she saw portrait of her own face as drawn by him. The portrait is now her laptop’s wallpaper.
As Srijita shut her laptop and was ready to leave for shopping her phone rang.
“Hello aunty… yes… please tell what happened… WHAT?!!!”
She stood with her phone like a statue. On the constant pokes by Rimi, she just replied- “Papa has been hit by a bullet.”
The train rushed at its speed. Sometimes over the bridges. Sometimes amidst the greenery. The bogie was almost empty of passengers. Srijita’s eyes were wet. She felt lonely. Just as infectious creatures like mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, similarly, ominous thoughts breed in an idle brain. The same happened with Srijita as well. The ominous thoughts could find no other victim as good as her at this moment. To rescue herself from them, Srijita took her phone and tried listening to her favourite songs. But they didn’t help. She wanted to call somebody. But to whom? She rolled down her contacts list to see if she could find anybody worthy of calling- one who, she felt, could beat those ominous thoughts. There was no one. Whenever she fell in any problem she called her papa itself. But today he himself was the cause of her problem. She was to keep her phone back in her bag only when she noticed the facebook icon.
She logged in to her account, still unsure if it would be of some help. A few of her friends were online. As she scrolled the list she came across the name ‘Joy’. She clicked on it.
‘Hi’ she typed.
‘Hello dearie. How are you?’
‘Not so fine. Papa is ill’
‘Why? What happened?’
She wondered whether she should tell everything. She had never seen this fellow. But he also had never seen him. What would happen if he came to know it?
‘A bullet has hit him.’
‘What? Hope you are not kidding.’
Was she kidding? Her papa was there in the hospital this fellow asked if she was kidding! Srijita was to type something out of anger but then controlled herself. The fellow didn’t know the truth, and this fact is really an unusual one.
‘I am not kidding,’ she replied.
‘How did it happen?’
‘He is a police commissioner. It is the work of the Hartists.’
‘I see’, the fellow replied and paused. His message then came again- ‘Would you mind telling me everything about you? Just wanted to know.’
Srijita had friends, but they never valued her so much. She had no mother. She shared everything with her father, but today this option too was not with her. She actually felt alone. And when every known person becomes a stranger, the mind relieves its burden by speaking it out to a stranger itself- a stranger who has not ‘become’ a stranger.
She typed- ‘I have lost my mother in an accident. My father is a police commissioner and is prone to attacks as he is a big enemy of the Hartists. For my protection he has sent me to Durgapur but with repeated warnings that I do not mix so much with people lest some enemy traces me and tries to harm me. I am very lonely, Joy. I have nobody in my life to share my feelings with.’
She felt some amount of relief as she pressed the ‘send’ button. The heart had released its burden, and the eyes- some drops of tear.
A minute passed and no reply came from Joy. What it mentioned was just that he was typing. Why was Joy taking so long? Perhaps his reply would be some long philosophical speech. Or perhaps he is still thinking of a suitable reply.
The reply was- ‘I understand dear. I am really sorry about your life. All will be fine. Don’t worry.’
The reply was quite formal. But it brought a lot of peace to Srijita.
As Srijita got down the train in Chalsa station she found two men in khakee waiting for her. They had come to pick her up. She went with them to their car. As the driver took them towards their home, she asked them what the actual cause was.
“The Hartists did this in order to seek revenge,” one of them replied, “because of your papa’s smart plan they had failed in their attempt to bombard Kanchankanya Express three months ago. The team members along with the leader were taken captive. Their men, as a result, decided to avenge this.”
“How is papa now?”
“He is quite good. The bullet had hit his arm. It was a narrow escape.”
“And the fellow who had shot him?”
“He has escaped. We are looking for him.”
The Hartists hailed from the village named Hartkhola. The people there, after years of suffering, had decided not to let anybody stay in peace. They believed they are poor because somebody has become rich with their money. For years they had been looking for jobs, going door to door for money, but nobody helped them. Each day they saw their near and dear ones die because of diseases and hunger. And this thing ultimately had compelled them to rise against the ones who were not like them.
“Beta… see what has happened..!” Aunt said as she ran to hug Srijita. The other members helped her with her huge luggage. They didn’t stay there for long. Despite her unwillingness, Srijita was somehow forced to take her meal. And then, they drove to the hospital, where her father, Commissioner Anand was admitted.
Srijita hugged her father with tear-filled eyes as she saw him sitting on his bed. His right arm had a big bandage.
“Don’t cry beta. You must be proud of your papa.”
“I don’t want all this, papa. I just want you. What would have happened had the bullet hit your chest?”
Commissioner Anand caressed his daughter’s head and said, “Do not worry. Nothing bad will happen as long as my daughter is with me.”
Srijita was not moved by this flattery. She was sad for her papa. But deep inside she was proud of him.
In another part of the town
“How could you miss it, you fool?” asked the man in the dhoti-kurta to the other man whose head was bent.
“Sorry dada. Just for a bit…”
“Just keep your bloody mouth shut! Where had you been when I was teaching you people to shoot?”
“Now what will we do, baba?” asked the fellow sitting on the fibre chair.
“Now we have just one way out. I have heard that bloody commissioner’s daughter has come. It is time to kill her.”
“Are you sure?” the fellow in the chair stood up.
“Why? What is the problem?”
“She hasn’t done anything.”
The man in dhoti came close to his son. He held his arms. “No son. Every person like them is at fault. And it will really be a good lesson for them. The commissioner will lose his daughter, and only then will he realize what a child’s death means to a father.”
The young fellow’s innocent eyes filled with vengeance as he recalled how his sister had died of a terrible disease. She was admitted in the nearby government hospital, but the doctors there recommended her to be transferred to a better place as her condition was very serious. She was admitted in the nearest private hospital where they charged huge money. These people had to sell a portion of their land for the same. But ultimately there was no improvement in her. When they lacked money they had knocked many doors for help, but all in vain. The major operation, as a result, could not be carried out. She had to depend on small medicines till the day the doctor declared with a sad face that she was dead.
The fellow got ready with the gun. He and the other fellows went to the jungle by the road and took their positions. The moment they saw Srijita returning from the hospital they blocked the place. Soon the guards, who were with them, also got active with their guns. The fight began.
Srijita and the other members inside the car were told to hide themselves below the seats lest some bullet hit the window. Srijita was terrified as she heard the sounds of bullets and cries of pain of the people who were hit, from both sides. As the firing continued, she picked up bit of courage and raised her head upto her eyes to look outside the window. She was, indeed, shocked to see the bodies of the dead people fallen on the floor, bleeding- be it some guard, or some Hartist. Earlier she had never seen such a thing in real. She closed her eyes for a second, but looked again. The Hartists were scattered in the jungle, hiding behind the trees and bushes and aiming at the guards from there. There were so many of them.
And then, suddenly her attention fell on the face of an angry young Hartist trying to shoot from a distance. She just stared at his face. The fellow, from the distance, also noticed the eyes of the girl. He closed his eyes and recalled his sister’s lifeless face. He opened his eyes and as he aimed at her forehead, he saw the girl raise her head to the fullest. They saw each other clear. The sounds of bullets surpassed any other sound. Nobody heard what the girl suddenly said at that time. Only the boy could understand by the movement of her lips what she had uttered. She had uttered his name. She had uttered- ‘JOY’.
Before anything else could be done by them, the road had been cleared of any rival. The driver was asked to move on. He raised his head in fear, and sped the car towards the destination.
The CISF Jawans were informed of this. They soon arrived there with different kind of rifles for their protection.
In her room, Srijita was on her bed with tears in her eyes. She still could not believe if it was Joy whom she had seen. How could Joy be her enemy? Or how could she herself come such close to her enemy? She remembered how in the train she had shared her deepest secrets with him. How she had believed in him. She wept as she thought all this. And her every fallen tear made her strong. Strong and determined. She knew what she had to do. She rang up one of her father’s colleagues.
“Uncle, I know one of the Hartists involved in this. I would give you every detail of him.”
It was 11 pm. Srijita and her other relatives had their dinner. They had almost gone to sleep when a guard came in to announce that the Hartists had placed their attack. They had to be careful.
The CISF Jawans got into action in no time. Very soon the firing began again. This time, the Hartists were a huge force. They had covered a good part of the fields behind their house. The grass had grown tall enough and it was difficult for one to see where they exactly were hiding. And then, they heard a huge noise. A portion of their house was in flames. “Goodness! They are throwing bombs,” Uncle said.
They did not know what to do. All three of them- Uncle, aunt and Srijita herself- hid under the bed. They could see a Hartist enter the room and search for them. He inspected every corner and was about to lean down to look under the bed, when a CISF Jawan hit him from behind. All three had a sigh of relief.
But this relief was temporary. There came another bomb soon. This time, it destroyed the wall of the room they were in.
Aunt whispered in Srijita’s ear- “Beta, right now they won’t come this side as they must be assuming nobody is alive here because of the bomb. You crawl through this area and try to escape this place secretly.”
“Yes, it would be good if you leave the place now,” uncle supported.
“But what will happen to you people?”
“Do not worry. Nothing will happen to us. You leave before they come again.”
Srijita didn’t want to. But her uncle and aunt forced her to leave. With tears in her eyes she crawled out of the broken wall and went towards the dark. She crossed her backyard and entered the grassy land.
A little away, one could see from the moonlight, the silhouette of a father and a son.
“Take this gun. Get ready. We HAVE to make our mission a success this time at any cost.”
“Yes baba,” Joy replied.
Just then the man’s phone rang. He picked it up.
“Yes,” he said as he held the phone.
From the other side it said- “Everything is going as per our plan. Our niece has left the place and has entered the farm.”
“Good!” the man said and hung up. He then turned to his son. “Your turn has come. Go ahead. All the best.”
As Joy marched towards that direction a cavalcade of thoughts went on in his mind. He felt his mind get divided into two parts- an angel and a devil. But which one was the angel and which one was devil, he couldn’t decide.
“Joy don’t do this. The girl is not at fault.”
“Joy, this is our mission. You are the hope of every Hartist right now.”
“Joy you are doing wrong. It is not good to kill innocent.”
“Then why did your sister have to die? Was she not innocent?”
“The girl trusts you Joy. She has shared her feelings with you.”
“It is not your fault if she trusts you. And you should be proud you have been able to fool one among those who have been fooling you people for decades.”
“This is not a solution. Hatred carries nothing.”
“You are getting soft corner towards one who is your enemy! Think about your baba. His respect among Hartists is in your hands now.”
“So for him am I compelled to do something I feel wrong?”
“It is not wrong. And the fact is if you don’t kill the girl your baba is definitely going to kill himself. He can’t stand this.”
As Srijita tried to cross the area she came across the body of a dead Hartist. This time, she had no time for feelings for the dead. She saw the revolver in his hand and picked it up. She then went ahead. She crawled and crawled until she reached at a distance. And then, she suddenly saw somebody holding a gun. She could not see the face, just the silhouette. But it was enough for her to understand who the person was. Her fear was replaced by anger. She stood up. The guy noticed her. He raised his revolver to shoot her. “Are you doing right?” something asked him again.
The girl also raised the revolver. This time she had no fear. She just had anger. The revolver weighed heavy. For the first time she was going to use it.
She closed her eyes tight, and pressed the trigger. BOOM!
The revolver fell from her hand.
Soon there came a shrill cry from the boy’s side. The girl opened her eyes. From the moonlight, she could just see the boy hold his chest with one hand. She knew she had taken her revenge.
The boy held his gun with the other hand. She pointed it towards the girl. The girl’s anger gradually got over as she had taken her revenge. And the fear again took its place. She turned the other side and began running as fast as she could. “Boom!” came the noise from the boy’s revolver, followed by the words “I’m sorry”, which nobody except him could hear. The girl fell down. She closed her eyes. She felt it is all over. It took half a minute for her, before she realized she had escaped the bullet. She got up and began running again.
On the other hand, the boy lay flat on the ground, writhing with pain. The moon, from the top, had seen a good amount of bloodshed by then. It hid behind the cloud. The darkness increased. The boy himself could not see the blood that was oozing out of his chest. He could just feel it. Questions and arguments still went in his mind.
“Have you done right?”
“Why not? Now baba won’t have to face insults from any Hartist. His son would die a martyr’s death for them.”
“But you could not hit the girl.”
“I had tried. But couldn’t.”
“Didn’t you think of the lots of Hartists who have been suffering?”
“Our suffering won’t reduce if we make them suffer.”
“Your Baba had taught you to use the gun. But you could not make its proper use. You couldn’t even shoot a girl. Why?”
“Because I… I loved the girl.”
“You loved the girl?! You loved your enemy?”
“The rich can be the poor’s enemy. A police commissioner or his daughter can be a Hartist’s enemy. But ‘Srijita’ was never ‘Joy’’s enemy. If at all I have made a mistake, it was a fortunate one. It has rescued me from committing a blunder. And secondly, hatred can be overcome only by love.”
As Joy thought all this he felt his soul leaving his body. He closed his eyes. When he knew he could utter just one last line, he said- “Stay happy, my Hartist companions. Stay happy, Srijita.”
He was now a lifeless body.
Srijita ran and ran until she found some of her papa’s acquaintances. She narrated everything to them. Some of their men went to the spot, only to find the lifeless body of Joy, his one hand holding the gun, and other one on his blood-stained chest.
One of them phoned Commissioner Anand in the hospital- “Good news, sir. The situation has been brought under control. Majority of the Hartists have been killed. Others have been taken captive.”
“That’s great. Anything else?”
“And there is a sad news. We could not rescue your brother and his wife. They have been killed. Your house has also been bombarded. But your daughter has done a very brave act. She has killed the Hartist who had tried to kill her.”
And in a short time, the area was completely at peace. The localites saw the alive Hartists being carried to jail. The Hartist leader had tears as well as pride in his eyes. His son had died a martyr’s death.
This incident ultimately led to a conference. After a lot of debate and discussion, the Hartists decided to drop their guns, while the Government decided to take special steps regarding their benefit as a whole.
Srijita was awarded by the President for her brave act. She still could not believe how she could do such a task. It was beyond her dreams.
It was yet another night. The farm behind Srijita’s re-constructed house was deserted. From the moonlight one could just see the silhouette of the two owls that stayed there. They were talking to each other.
“So, is your nest complete?” one of them asked.
“Yes. Pray no bullet damages it again,” the other replied.
“It seems the boy had got a liking for you. He had cried with pain when the girl shot your nest.
“May be it was fear that had made him cry out in that manner. You could see how nervous he was throughout the time.”
“No. The boy was fearless. He had cried when the girl hit your nest. But did not make a single noise later when he shot himself.”