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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Timeless

‘What the heck do you think you are doing ?’ a furious Anand raged. ‘Flee or stay till I thrash you into pulp’ he warned.  The neighbourhood bullies scurried away. The scoundrels had resorted to their reprehensible antic of pulling down the dangling trouser of the harebrained Jaga. The target of their mockery stood shell shocked, stuttering hard to mouth the right words. Unlike the brain inside his head, his perfectly normal legs were trembling out of weakness. To his childlike wits, pulling up his pants at that moment seemed as complex as building a spaceship. So his fallen pants remained vanquished at his feet and he began to weep like a toddler. It provided for a perfect dose of laughter for the gathering around him. The customers of the nearby betel shop and grocery store were visibly amused by the sadistic hilarity in Jaga's humiliation. All  laughd in chorus.

Anand rushed to Jaga's aid. He placed his briefcase by his side and bent down to lift the latter’s pants, which sat crumpled on his feet screaming to be restored to its proper position.  Anand never tolerated anyone tormenting or ridiculing Jaga. Nor did he ever reply to the hackneyed question as to why he was so protective of Jaga, causing a pervasive suspicion that he was privy to some covert cause. But the truth simply was that Anand felt so outraged over the disgraceful repetition of such insensitive query that he invariably chose to stay quiet, instead of spitting on their faces the simple answer that as a man it was his rudimentary purpose to prevent undue harassment to another, more so when that poor soul was one who could not tell the difference between sun and moon.

A year ago when Anand had arrived at Sunrise Colony, with a truck load of furniture, surveying the area for the correct address of his soon to be home and to join his first employment, he was quite affable to the people of the locality. At thirty Anand had no intention of getting married and starting a family. He had made up his mind that, unlike his friends, he was going to devote his life to the upliftment of the needy and impoverished, instead of reconciling with the unexciting and commonplace way of life. As a first step he had offered to serve an organisation which had similar goals. They pay was minimal but he didn't care. Money wasn't a problem. He had been bequeathed dizzying amount of wealth from his industrialist grandfather.

In the beginning, Anand was not so acerbic on the tormentors of the social pariah that Jaga was. But soon Anand repeatedly noticed that almost every passerby  somehow considered it his inviolable entitlement to deride Jaga in one manner or another. It wasn't as if he didn't suppress his natural revulsion against the whole affair. However, when he confronted his conscience he held himself equally guilty for not raising his voice in protest.  That moment onwards, Anand dutifully stood between Jaga and anyone who purported to trouble him. He even tried to reason with the incorrigible frolic mongers that it's unkind to treat anyone in their manner, hypothetically putting them and their family members in Jaga’s position. He realized that he was wasting his time.  The only difficulty was that Anand could not remain around Jaga at all times.

Anand was most disturbed upon knowing that, though the plight of Jaga was a household tale of the whole community, none treated him with the love he deserved. Forget love, on the contrary they made him their amusement toy. The priest of their temple, Madhav Babu, had found him as fragile as a sapling, fully wrapped in a thin white linen sheet of cloth, leaving his pink face adorned by his gem like eyes and his pursed lips, hanging to its life by a thin thread. Madhav babu was strolling down the flight of temple stairs to make his customary walk around the deity chanting hymns of dawn puja, when for no apparent reason he felt like peeping inside the small dark chamber just around the corner. The murky cavity which was used as a dump yard for unused material had sheltered a newborn life. The priest forthwith took Jaga in his arms and strolled out under light and checked for signs of life in its tiny form. He was assured of it when he noticed his furtive breathing. He wasted no time in taking him to their community health centre where the Lord Almighty not only restored to him his life but also ensured that the child would have the love of a father. Thence the priest and Jaga lived under the same roof provided by the temple committee where the former became inextricably entwined to his fate of being a devoted father to Jaga, who was given up for dead by his own. As time passed Jaga's frame grew stronger and he looked healthy and fit with no hint of his endangered infancy presenting itself about his appearance. But it didn't take long for his kin to discover that he wasn't mentally able as other children. His mind hadn't kept pace with his age. At fifteen he had the brains of a five year old.

Many blamed it on providence, many on past life sins and many figured that it could be the result of the lack of mother's milk. Madhav babu was unable to cope with this misery. He had invested his dreams of being succeeded by his adopted son but that hope was reduced into a mirage with his son's newfound disability. It was too much for the ageing man and he took ill. A man's old age is perhaps livened by his family and his children's prosperity. That was not to be in the priest's case. Dark imaginings and sorrow took their toll on him. He reduced into a living straw and finally one stormy night he breathed his last. The whole night Jaga sat besides his father rambling to him unsure of what to make of his still lying frame. The next day his body was cremated on the banks of the Mahanadi. Everyone returned except Jaga who sat their for two days clueless as to where his father had vanished from the pyre. When he strolled back, life was not the same for him. The pitiless society blamed him for the priest's demise. They ostracized him. The doors of the temple room were forever closed for him. He was banished, back to nature's lap. He found shelter under the large Peepul tree in the center of the colony where he remained resigned to his dreadful fate, surviving on scraps thrown in by a kind few. Till the powers that rule providence sent Anand as his saviour.

On a bright autumn morning as Jaga lay gaily immersed in his senile delusions , Chintu and his partners in crime hurled a bagful of cow dung at Jaga. The poor chap was startled from his sleep as if earthquake had jolted him. He woke up to find the smelly waste smeared all over his shrunken belly. Anand saw this. Outraged, he threw his handbag where he stood and rolled up his sleeves readying himself to catch hold of the rogues and give them the beating of their lives. But being alien to the geography of the area, he looked helplessly as the scoundrels melted into the myriad lanes and by lanes of the neighbourhood. The next day he ensured that Chintu’s pristinely shining white school uniform was given the same treatment that its wearer had meted out to the innocent Jaga. He waited till Chintu got down his father’s scooter, waved him good bye and sauntered along the pathway towards the school gate. Just when the rogue was about to step inside, Anand took a perfect aim at him and forcefully flinged a polyethene bag brimming with fresh manure at him. It landed exactly where it was supposed to. The dung lay plastered on his spotless shirt, partially dripping down to his feet. The whole gathering around him broke into laughter. Anand emerged from his hiding and strolled towards a stunned Chintu.

The gang was never going to take this insult of their leader, lying down. So they beat Jaga black and blue, a night later. Leaving his arms and face swollen beyond recognition. When Anand saw this he swore then and there that he wasn't going to leave Jaga at the mercy of his tormentors. He took him in, & let him live with him. He held his hands and guided him inside his house. He fed him warm soup and boiled rice. He took a close look at his wounds and applied ointment on them. They stayed together from that day onwards. Anand purchased a set of toys for Jaga to keep him from straying out of his house in his absence. He didn't feel embarrassed at all when he bought those in a large transparent polythene bag for his seventeen year old friend.  Jaga fell in love with the toys. He would play with them for hours when Anand was away. When he came back from work, he would take him out for a stroll under his watch.

Soon the neighbours stopped troubling Jaga. Word of Anand and Jaga's friendship spread far and wide. People in the locality began to revere Anand. Persons who dismissed Jaga as a madman began inquiring from Anand about his well being. Such was his unadulterated and unpretentious sincerity in caring back for Anand, that the latter claimed he'd found a true friend in Jaga. People started paying visits to Anand's house and many even wanted to say 'Hello' to Jaga. When summoned by Anand, he would come out and offer a perfected namaskar to their doting guests, and quickly amble back into his room. Women prepared special dishes and sent them over for the friends. At times when Jaga remained adamant not to open his mouth for a morsel, Anand would announce that he too wouldn't touch his food and conjure up an act of pain in his stomach. Within moments, Jaga would surrender, assume his favourite lotus position ready to be fed. During idle Sunday noons a relieved Anand would loudly sing songs of friendship and Jaga would incoherently join him.

At times when Jaga would be engrossed arranging and rearranging the plastic puzzles Anand would confide in him about his inner feelings. He would tell him that he understood his destitution as he himself was an orphan. He would often caress Jaga's head when he'd be fidgety and scared for no reason. Jaga would wake him up in the middle of night pulling his hands demanding him to take him for a walk outside. It would take a great deal of explaining and cajoling for Anand to convince him against his wish. Despite many inconveniences and annoying antics of Jaga, Anand never regretted having brought him along. When it would rain with gurgling thunder and blinding flashes of lightning, Jaga would hug Anand tightly and sit close to him. Anand would always quickly return his embrace. With passing time, Anand discovered certain remarkable traits in his friend. He came to know that Jaga was an avid observer and a quick learner. Whenever he had to hurry for his office without performing cleaning chores, he often returned to notice that his bed and other places were pristine, his dishes and sheets put exactly the way he normally kept them. Jaga remembered the names of birds and animals that he'd told him. The two friends would secretly make fun of a few chosen men of their colony and their peculiar funny habits and mannerisms. In the best of his days, Jaga would even mimic the most funny ones, whatever he remembered of it. He often pleasantly surprised Anand with his ability to remember about the latter's most annoying habits. Anand was elated. He couldn't have asked for more.

A year had passed since the day Jaga was ushered into Anand's house And the latter was always curious to know about Jaga's actual date of birth. But he never asked anyone. He'd been toying with the idea of celebrating his pal's birthday and once when the two friends were lost in banter, Anand declared  ' I don't know when exactly you were born, but let's just celebrate the day we began to share this roof over our heads, as your birthday. It'd be a celebration of our friendship too. What do you say ?' Anand wasn't quite sure if his friend understood his message. The latter simply looked out of the window and said "Sky.. Big Sky". 'Yes, that's a big sky my friend just about as big as your heart.'  replied a smirking Anand. He got ready in a jiffy and announced to him that he'd be back in an hour with his favourite cartoon toys from T.V. and ofcourse unputdownably delicious snacks. Jaga was unduly adamant that Sunday evening to accompany Anand. Anand had to speak a few harsh words to quiet him down. Something he regretted all the way he walked to their town's most busy Chinese restaurant. He would make it upto him when he got back, he assured himself.

But the delightful soul that Jaga was, soon forgot his savior's chides and became busy in conducting a fierce talon fight between a rubber dinosaur and a plastic dragon. A few hours later when Jaga was in the loving arms of sleep which had rescued him from boredom, a relentless rapping on the door jostled him out of it's embalming hold. When he opened the door he saw two uniformed policemen posted outside like twin poles. He quickly dropped his toys and raised his left hand to salute them. Realizing his mistake he immediately put down his left hand and raised his right. He'd learnt  about it during the Republic Day parade at the town gallery, where he had accompanied Anand. He remembered how uniformed men like the ones standing before him gave and took salutes. He was a bit perplexed when no salute was returned by them. Even more puzzled were the two gentlemen who received the honour. One of them strolled inside after important queries by him weren't replied with any rational answer by Jaga. His eyes fell on a framed photograph of Anand, which he surveyed it with rapt attention. Then he turned around to show it to his colleague, who took a deep breathe after taking a good look at it.

A police van in an untimely hour in front of the most unlikely house of their peaceful colony had naturally attracted a small crowd. The elderly men of the locality curiously gawked at the Policemen and the women stood far behind them trying to figure what was going on. Why had the Police come to Anand's house ? they wondered and exchanged hisses among themselves. The Officer came outside with Anand's photograph and quickly swapped his glances between it and what looked like a small card sized document and asked the crowd aloud

'Is this man Anand Majhitia ? And does he live in this house ?' 

'Yes..yes' came the half hearted chorus reply.

'Where is his family ?' he continued probing

'He has none Sir' replied the grey bearded man standing just near him.

'And who is this man ?' the officer asked pointing his finger at Jaga.

'That's Jaga Sir. But he's not Anand's relative. They are just fiends, living in one house.' the same man answered gleefully.

'I need to take him to the Police Station' said the officer.

 'He's of no use Sir. He's a lunatic.' someone objected.

The officer took a good look at Jaga and nodded his head as if he now understood where the salute came from.

'' Someone has to come to the Station' he announced with pretentious regret

'But why Sir ? What's he done ?' the same old man asked

'Just come.' the officer blurted dismissively.

The van roared to life as two of Anand's neighbours hopped inside it following the officers. It sped away with the rest of the onlookers trailing it's dwindling form swallowed by smoke and dust. Jaga strolled back inside the house and shut its doors.

At the entrance of the Police Station a white mini van was parked. The men got down from the vehicle and were led to the back of the mini van. A constable rushed and flung it's doors open. The two men who had accompanied the officers hissed and damned and turned their heads away aghast. Anand lay still inside it, on a decrepit stretcher covered with starched white cloth upto his neck. Had it not been for his still chest, one could not have said whether the man was in slumber or asleep for good.

What happened Sir ? asked one of the men in between stutters.

'He was hit by a speeding car. Probably died on spot.'

This time Jaga was inconsolable when he saw his friend being torched. When his adoptive father had left him, death was not an idea that his mind had known then. But today, even for a feeble minded fellow like him, flaring up the body of his friend was beyond his tolerance. How could he stand and watch while they burnt his friend. It took three sturdy men to subdue his relentless attempts at salvaging his friend's blazing body. Only when it had been fully devoured by the insanely dancing flames and the bits of his flesh and bone had been reduced to smoking ash, Jaga was let off. He howled for an hour, sure of his loss. Like an infant deserted by his mother, thrown into the dark confines of nothingness, with no light to guide him, with no hand to caress him during hopelessness, no gentle voice to reassure him and no one to shelter him from his fears, forsaken and forlorn he cried and cried till the source of his tears dried up. Someone saw him lying unconscious and brought him to his residence. People feared that miseries would return swiftly to Jaga's life, when he would open his eyes, now that his friend, his liberator had abandoned him, once again leaving his survival to the mercy of the cruel. But Anand didn't abandon his friend. To even think of such a thing was to disgrace the great soul that he was.

Anand had made his friend the nominee for receiving twenty five lakh rupees of his insurance policy. But confident of the fact the he'd be swindled, he had put all of it in a trust constituted in Jaga's favour and made its trustee his mentor cum boss Mr. Bimal Mishra, the man who also ran "Sharan', a philanthropic organization for the care and upliftment of abandoned and forsaken children. The fifteen paged 'Trust Deed' stipulated that the money could only be spent on his treatment, education and if need be other of his necessary expenses. So that he could attain the best flight to his destination with  dignity. Anand had never disclosed that he'd purchased the house where they lived and that he had made a will whereby it now stood tranfserred in Jaga's name, also protected by the trust, in case Anand's allies turned against him. At no cost he could have gone without ensuring a roof over his beloved friend's head.

A week later Mr. Bimal won over Jaga and convinced him to come with him to 'Sharan'. Jaga now resides there in a cozy quarter allotted to him. How soon time flies. Jaga has managed to find his laughter. He is adored by all his mates at 'Sharan', as much for his affability as for the fact that he was the great Anand's friend. After all Anand had been Bimal babu's most hardworking deputee in building 'Sharan' from scratch to what it is today. He deeply connected with all the teenagers living under 'Sharan's roof.  Though many times Bimal babu asked him to bring Jaga there, Anand had respectfully denied saying that he needed his personal care, concealing within himself the truth that he too needed Jaga's company.

When Anand is reminisced at 'Sharan', Jaga keenly listens to the tales of his dear departed friend and smiles over whatever he understands of it.  They also ask him about their friendship. He is unable to answer, yet. Many have spotted him staring infinitely at the garlanded portrait of his friend, put up on the wall of the auditorium. As if the two are engrossed in a clandestine communication.  Memories of his friend are not hard for him to recall. They are the only good memories he has in his life. They are immortally etched in his mind just as the eternal sun and stars painted on the heavenly canvass.

He has recently begun his lessons on English alphabets and he enjoys it to the core. It's fast sharpening his mind. Someday he'll find smartness. He has abundant good wishes pushing him ahead to that goal. He loves being at 'Sharan' but misses his home where countless memories lie bundled. They await for him to return to them. He plans the same.




**   ' Timeless ' is a work of fiction.and any resemblance in it with any person, place or incident is purely coincidental. 





14 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Sorry Rehya your comment got inadvertently deleted. Anyways I'm thankful for your kind words of appreciation for "Timeless' and I agree with you that no child, normal or not, should be deprived of love and care. That's in a way the motto of 'Timeless'

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  2. wow ! I hope there are people like Anand and if there are then may God protect them and keep them out of harms way! Jagas of this world need them in their lives

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    1. Indeed Jerly. Thanks for reading 'Timeless' and sharing your thoughts

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  3. really a touchy one :) :) awesomely narrated :)

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  4. very absorbing tale! Loved it!!

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  5. It brought tears to my eyes Anupam. Splendid. But I think its a little bit too long for a single post. You could have split it into two parts probably?

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    1. I know Jayashree. Even I feel the same. Will keep your advice in mind.

      Thank You Jayashree, for reading 'Timeless'. I'm glad that the story could move you.

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  6. Awesome story :) Excellent selection of words as well :)

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