By Sadho Ram
She thumped her naked, swollen chest, with tight fists, falling one after another, rhythmically. As if drum-sticks falling on drums. Making a sort of sound very unusual to be made by fist thumping on a women’s naked, swollen chest is supposed to make.
She thumped, and thumped, inviting each head in that mob, which knew nothing about her, about an hour ago, absolutely nothing, and knew at that very moment only that it was the first time anyone is the village saw her. And going by the monstrous expressions in each set of those eyes, which seemed ready to pop out, of each of those heads, probably, it will be the last time anyone will ever see her.
I was very small then, I don’t exactly recall my age. I was 11, or maybe 10. 11, probably! I don’t know exactly. All I know that I never saw that women again. I heard stories, though. Yes, stories.
But in all those stories, her end was the same. Death. Bitten till she bled and bled the last drop of her blood. Slapped. Kicked. Punched. Spat, and then bitten again. Some of the stories also include that, they tossed her body, not dead yet, but almost there, in the air and then tied it on two long bamboo sticks and (kind of) held a victory march.
And while they narrated the story, in pride; familiar only to them and they to it, I cried, not in fear. But in disgust. I cried for being able to do nothing about it. For just sitting there, and listen to them, narrating a tale of horrendous mannerism and take pride in it for at last killing the Daayan who had eaten away their so many little kids.
She was spotted near the pond with Raju, the boy who had gone missing since past two days. He was semi-conscious and lay on her arms. People coming from the farms saw her and saw Raju in her arms. But never bothered to ask her – “why” or “how” instead they ran towards her, stone in hands, cuss words on lips, and shot at her – “Daayan” … “Daayan”.
And then a crowd, of adult and angry, blind followers, joined them. Almost as if hypnotised, completely, by the sheer magnitude of the word “Daayan” just like those little kids, who upon hearing any sound which pleases to them, turns their heads or runs towards it, they ran too, the crowd of adult and angry, blind followers, in the direction, from the horizon of which, came the sound in the name they all have been waiting and waiting to hear from last 3 months. Yes, it all had started 3 months before that fateful day, when that woman was seen in the village for the first and last. As if, she was born on that day to die on that day, as she did, indeed die on that day.
My father, whose words I trust, kept telling me; till he was alive, that he tried to persuade people to let her go, let her live, at least let her first speak. But I don’t know why, I somehow cannot bring myself to completely trust his words here, in this case. I know he probably did try. That he was the Sarpanch he had to try. It was, after all, his first duty – “to save lives, irrespective of geographical location of the person, who currently stands on his turf, till he/she is proven guilty of the crime he/she is being charged with.”
So, when he says, he tried and he failed, that means he failed not just as the Sarpanch who could not live up to his first duty but also as a human who could not be true to that one thing that a human is thought to have for another fellow human being i.e. compassion, right?
From past 3 months, children of my village were mysteriously being vanished. No one came to know what happened to them after that, because they or their bodies (if in any case) were never found out. No, absolutely no trace of them; as if they never existed.
People, whose children went missing, were aghast, and people who had children, were scared. Some were angry, too. Most of such, the angry ones, didn’t have any children or anything else to do. Though, none of them knew of what or at whom. But they were angry, just plain angry at whatever that it was.
And so, in their fear, the parents stopped letting their children go out. They barred them from going to school either. Police jeep, which before always stood outside the Thaana, now patrolled the entire village and on some day’s outskirts of the village too, day and night. But it did not stop. The children kept vanishing, not missing, but vanishing. Because the missing one has the possibility of reappearing, like Raju did, but the ones who vanish, never do. Like the children, who vanished from my village, never did. And so they kept vanishing, though not in the same speed, but they did, nevertheless.
The story is now almost a legend in the village, almost. Now the grandparents narrate it to their grandchildren in a manner they find it suitable, fairytale i.e. good always triumphs over bad. That, she was the bad, very bad and that her death was the good. A victory over her could have come only from her death and so it came.
I too, have forgotten about it, almost. Till, I saw him crossing the tracks near the Meera Road station a week ago. He wore a red shirt, and faded jeans, whose colour I couldn’t make out. He had only one arm. I understood what he does here. I opened my mouth to call out his name, but couldn’t recall it. The train, which was waiting for the signal at outer, started moving. I tried to remember his name, as hard as I could do. But it did not came to me. And then, it came to me, no, not the name, but the reason behind the disappearance of children from my village some 12-13 years ago.
The reason, that took away the life of that woman who, probably had nothing to do with it, or maybe had? But who knows? No one cared enough to ask her. All they cared was what they all have been waiting and waiting to hear and when they finally heard, they had to do it to fulfill that particular desire which their anger had aroused – Blind Rage.
Author’s Note: The story above is a true-life incident. I’ve, in past, tried to write about it, but failed, for reasons unknown to me. Everything happened in real. I remember not being able to sleep for many nights after the incident. I though no longer remember her face, but she is still alive in my memory in some vague form. I do not hope to redeem anything from this write for anybody. Just that, it is a story that needed to be told and so today, it is being told. Thank you!