She waited for hours that became days, which in turn became months and on the verge of it becoming a year, came the news that her son has been found. Happiness adorned her face, a smile creeped across her mouth and she felt like jumping up and down in joy.
She looked at the photograph of her husband hanging on the wall and thanked him for bringing their son back to her. How did you find him? Where did you find him? How is he? Zillion questions reverberated inside her head. She wanted to ask all of them to the man who brought her the information that her son has been found. But he never spoke a word.
Why is he not speaking? Is something wrong? She hadn't noticed properly earlier due to the sudden euphoria of the tiding. The man's face was doom and gloom written all over. Perhaps the faces of police men was supposed to be like that. It should never reveal what they feel inside. But this police man doesn't seem to be of the vicious types. It was just that his face exhibited melancholy at that moment, which she interpreted as something that is not right. Something wrong. Terribly wrong. But she did follow him like a faithful dog. Her mind was posing the same questions again and again. Why is he not saying anything? “You must always ask questions”, her husband used to say, “if not people would take you for a ride”. Yes. I must ask questions, she decided. She had the right to know!
Bringing up the courage, she enquired, "You have to tell me what happened to my son!". What was meant to be an enquiry became a pleading request. He turned to look at her with a pitiful face but without comprehending her current predicament and the agony she was going through, he started walking fast, not bothering to give her a reply. All she could do then was to sprint to catch up with him.
Nothing would've happened to him! The sister living next door, a teacher, used to say that positive thinking is essential for your dreams to come true. He would be fine. He'll run to me and hug me tight. All her sadness would sail away like dust the moment he’s within her arms. How amazing it would be if he was still inside her, ready to step into this world, just a baby out of a mother's womb and not someone who had the audacity to vanish. “Oh god, how much have I missed him! Please bring him safe to me!”, a drop of tear accompanied the prayer.
"It’s those books that corrupted his mind. I should've burnt all of them" she reproached herself. She felt delighted that books could neither disturb her thought process nor destroy her innocence and a lack of reading prowess fantastically left her living in her own utopian world. She believed that the demons and satans in every page of those books were responsible for creating a rogue out of an innocent kid. Probably reading books was responsible for your thoughts to become skewed, else the decision making is always very simple. Choosing between white or black is always a lot simpler until the concept of grey comes into the picture. She remembered how her husband burnt midnight oil, reading those tomes. He had tried to teach her the art of reading, but the world of kitchen was a lot safe & sound for her compared to the demonic letters and words present in those books.
Her son too attempted it by showing a books written by some Russian writers and often repeats the word “revolution” while talking. Standing in the entrance to the kitchen with a plate in hand, he used to say, "Maxim Gorky's protagonist in his book Mother is just like you, but she actively participated in the revolution", to which her reply had been, " Is it?". She wanted to know what is meant by revolution but she never bothered to ask him because it just wasn't her cup of tea. "Reading makes you knowledgeable", her husband used to say. But she always wanted to ask him, "Why do I need that knowledge?"
Her legs were tired from the sprint. She called out to the police man, "Please Sir! You're way too fast. I'm unable to cope with your speed!". She promised him that she won't be asking any question about her son. He nodded back. How different their life would've been if he had been a normal child!
She remembered the day her son took centre stage in a meeting and spoke about liberating the wealth from the bourgeoisie and giving it to the common folk. She had felt delighted despite not understanding what he spoke. He was gifted with the eloquence of his father, who had cried for the liberation from the tyranny of foreigners. "He's just like his father!" That thought made her feel happy and sad at the same time. Her son possessed the same charisma that can captivate the crowd and the cogency too which had forced the teacher living next door to be on her feat when he ended his speech. When the whole village was eulogizing her son, alarm bells had started ringing inside her.
After her husband's death, the last thing she wanted was to lose another family member to some stupid social cause, let alone her own son.She was scared that a day like this was anytime possible. The people of this village, town and even country don’t deserve people like her husband and Son. They praise you first and then cast you aside later. How nice if you had been like the countless kids who don’t worry about the frailties of the world! Amidst her reverie, where her son was raising his fist to the crowd, commanding all their applause and channelizing the commotion below, her destination had arrived.
The building was an old and dilapidated structure, that she felt could become just rubbles any time soon. But it was not the police station, that he has brought her to. What are they doing to her son there? The moment she realised that it wasn’t the police station, her heart had started to beat faster. It could’ve been due to the fear of whatever tragic news awaited her inside.
When she entered it, her apprehension got doubled because of the deluge of masculine creatures out there. The policeman who had accompanied her, asked her to be seated on a bench. To alleviate her nervousness, she tried to divert her mind to something else. But the fear of what might have happened to her son, made sure that the nervousness continued. She looked around the interior of the place and it looked like it was abandoned by its residents a long time back. The paint had worn off in several places and cobwebs decorated the place in many corners.
A quarter or half of an hour would have passed, when another tall and well built police man, took her to a room where the chief inspector was seated. "Your son is a spoiled brat" he barked at her the moment she entered. She was taken aback by the bluntness of the words. The square shaped face and thick moustache coupled with the authority and forceful nature of the voice, sent a chill down her spine. Even without the uniform, there was authority and power oozing from every part of his body.
“I should have hanged him for his crimes.” he shouted. Crimes? “He was working with the rebels, writing pamphlets for them! All those words against the government were all his” He threw a rectangular paper at her. She stood stunned staring at the paper. What did he write that made this policeman angry and irritated?
“Sir, I apologize for him”, she stammered to say that.
"Apologies?" laughed the chief with sarcasm and then he blurted, “I need some information from him!”
“What information?” she asked with her voice shaking with nervousness.
"Nothing unusual" replied the chief with a grin on his face. "I need the other outlaws. So ask your son to reveal their whereabouts. I'll release him that very moment" he said. Can I trust him was the first question that came to her mind. The neighbour-friend teacher used to say that policemen are the least trustworthy.
“I’ll talk to him, Sir! But can I see my son now?” asked she, with a tone that was half hesitant and half scared.
At his command, another constable escorted her outside to the same bench where she sat before meeting the chief. The same constable went to fetch her son and came back with him.
He limped to her, with a bruised face and a torso showing the lashes laid out by a stick. Blood flowed from his temple, his torn lips and from the wounds on his cheeks. When he approached her, the beating he received from the brutal policemen was evident all over his body. She understood now the reason behind the sadness on the face of the policeman who accompanied her.
Her son's legs couldn't hold the weight above it. The staggering motion didn't last longer and he fell down in front of her. She rushed to him and with the help of the constable pulled him up. His right hand came right over her shoulder, applying his weight on her. When she sat him down on the bench and sat next to him, his body, tired out of exhaustion, fell down on her lap.
Her mind had felt elated when she knew that her son was alive but seeing him in his current plight made her weep. His eyes kept staring at her, blinking occasionally. His mouth quivered and conveyed something that she couldn't understand. He pulled her hand and kept it close to his cheeks. At that moment it was that little baby that she gave to this world, was right in front of her. The warmth of his mother's hand acted as the comforting medicine to his injuries.
He looked at her with tired eyes and whispered, "What did they ask? Confess the whereabouts of my comrades?"
"I'm very tired. I'll tell them everything, Mother."
The chief Inspector, when he heard all that the prisoner wanted to say, allowed him to go home with his mother. He barked at them and vowed to kill both if the location of the outlaws is found to be a ruse.
One hand over her shoulders, they both walked out from the building. He applied more pressure on her shoulder to take each step. When the building was slowly disappearing behind them, he whispered to her, “I’m sorry, Mother” and he kissed her on the forehead.
All her worries were forgotten in that kiss from her son. She felt like flying high. With tears flowing from her eyes, she reproached him, "Why did you run away without telling me?"
"You wouldn't let me join the rebellion" he smiled at her. That smile. Even in the blood smeared face, his smile shined beautifully. How many women are going to melt because of that smile!
“I want to apologize for something else too. We cannot go back to our house. From now, these policemen will never allow us to live a peaceful life, especially after what is about to happen here”
“What is going to happen now?” Panic gripped her voice.
From the moment she left her house, her eyes had been fixed on the man she’s following and not the man following her. Now from her vantage, she could make out the tiny figures circling the building. After a while, the first set of gunshots were heard. It couldn’t have lasted long. The tiny figures came running out of the building and in few seconds, the building was blown to just rubbles.
“What just happened?”
“Revolution, Mother!” he replied calmly staring at the flames rising from the debris.
She wanted to ask him, What have you got yourself into? Where do we go now? Did you realise that I cannot be running with you all the time? Won’t they come back to take your life? Have I got anyone else other than you? But none came out of her mouth. She stared at the building engulfed in fire, probably burning all those policemen - The Chief inspector, the man who escorted her and all the others too. From the bottom of her heart, being a woman possessing the gentlest of souls, she weeped for her son, his comrades and all the men who have and will have to give their life for this revolution. She cried for all the mothers of those would-be martyrs.
The word revolution kept reverberating in her head. She now understood clearly the meaning of it.