All the Chapters of the Book are now published here.

One can select chapters from the Blog list below.

For Chapters 2 to 6, and 28, please see the August, 2016 section below. Rest of the Chapters are in May, 2020 section below.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chapter 2. Morning in a tribal village

Remembering that day, i.e. the next day, is difficult for me. It is one of those days when one's life gets fragmented - it takes a blind turn from where past road is not visible. Such turns are sharp and difficult to recall. One can only focus on what’s ahead. What complicates the matters is that it was only one of those turns. 
That day can be broken in three parts - a tribal morning, a tense day and then an evening that didn’t happen.
We were dead tired when we slept but I still got up at six in the morning. Being early winter, the forests and hilly region located just at the base of Satpura Mountains, it was quite cold.  I really wanted to get up early and see the early morning in the tribal village. The chirping of birds, and alarms by a few hen were enough to wake me up.
The hosts were already up, and they knew I wanted a tea. So a tea came, full of milk and sugar. Villagers take these two ingredients in tea as if there is no better thing on earth, more the better.
Next to me, Revaram was also having tea. He had a saucer in which the tea was poured, and then it was taken in, with a peculiar sound that comes with each sip.  I tried aping him and realized that I could like the tea more by following his style; I liked the act and the sound more than the tea.
Then we went for a walk - I requested him to show me around. Most villagers, in some twenty homes, were still asleep. This was contrary to the image that I had of folks rising before dawn. But the animals - mostly cows, buffaloes, dogs, cats, and poultry were up and trying to wake others in the house. We walked on a narrow path just wide enough for one bullock cart to pass and made of mud and stones. On either side there were huts but fairly away from the path. Each family had a small hut with one central room and other rooms sharing one wall with the central room but open on the outside.
Revaram was taking me around as if he had got some medal. We met a couple of old tribals and they stood and bowed. Revaram boasted that he had brought me to Baba. I smiled and moved on. Barely a quarter kilometer and the village ended. The path went on; it steeply went down to a river and came out on the other side. The river had knee deep flowing water and thick bushes around.
There were several small paths originating near the river and going towards forests and hills. I asked Revaram about the destination of the main path. He replied, “Babuji, there are two more villages ahead, and then it ends.”
I asked, “You mean no one lives beyond those villages?’'
He said, “No, there are about fifty tribal villages, inside the forest, located every five to ten kilometers. The bullock cart path ends here but there are paths to walk. The forest extends for over 1000 kilometers; much beyond the Satpuras (actually it was around 300 kilometers). The forest tribals come out sometimes but on foot. I haven't gone there for very long.”
We continued our walk back on another path. I came to know many things- about the livelihood of folks in that village, their passion for Mahua (a local wine made from Mahua fruit), and the relaxed society when it came to marriages and other customs. Many things had changed in last few years since they had more access to television and went outside regularly. Many folks worked in cities, and came back for three months each year.
When we returned to the Nagbaba’s hut, he was not there. He had gone in the forest to get wood and also to get fresh water from river. Normally women folk go and bring water but today he had gone.
It was 9 am when I woke up Sooraj, and prepared to leave. I waited for the Nagbaba to return as we had some questions to ask and wanted to thank him. It was a tense night before we had arrived here, and we had been relaxed.
He came back and also brought some wild fruits and some raw chana (gram) to eat. We had milk and fruits and gram as breakfast. Then, I thanked him softly and said I will be back when time permitted. I told him about our work. He just listened with a mild smile; I noticed that his face that got more wrinkled when he smiled.
Before I could ask about his last night's comment that took us by surprise, he asked me to wait here till noon. He said, “Babuji, I will know by then if and where that Scorpio is waiting for you to come out of forests; my guess is where the road joins the highway and turns left for Bhopal.” 
I asked, “How do you know if they are still pursuing?”
“Because folks at Bichua village saw them when they came after you. They were four men with bad breadth. And they were not innocent like you because they turned back, and dreaded entering our boundary. They won't come this far if they didn't have a purpose and they won’t turn back if they didn't have anything to fear.”' He explained.
“Hmmm....then let’s wait till noon. Anyways this place is so beautiful.” I said. Now Sooraj also got involved, adding, “But I don't think they are after us or there might be some misunderstanding; that should get cleared in daylight when they see us and realize it.”
Nagbaba said, “The odds are heavily against a misunderstanding. If there is one, then it’s too rare and too costly in such cases. Besides, you are not a onetime tourist - you have a project going on in a nearby area; the odds of a misunderstanding are reduced further. You are most educated at this moment in this area, are straight and you think progress.”
Nagbaba's tone was straight without any emotions. He was looking away at the cows while speaking, and quickly stared at me, “I think there are no odds of any misunderstanding. They are looking for you.”
With that, he closed that thought in our mind. Though he had an old frail body, he had a tantric's eyes and one needed to be truthful to hold that stare.
Suddenly, a shadow of concern swept across mine and Sooraj's face. All this while, we had done whatever to avoid them or go on instincts but never believed with certainty that a trouble was chasing us.
I no longer had the mind to ask him about his last night's comment. I had an insight by now that the information network of tribals in forests was good, and Nagbaba's reading of events was sharp.
A small thing troubling me was that the cell phone battery had completely drained. Someone in village had an arrangement to charge it using auto-battery and invertors, and that problem was fixed. Leaving it charging, I was back to Nagbaba. In a village gathering point under a banyan tree, there were now about ten men sitting and chatting with him.
We still had an hour to go before noon and I had a few more questions bothering me. I asked him, “Why did the tribal in Madai send me to this place? These folks must be having great faith in you.”
Sooraj also added, “What if those men had come here and had weapons?”
Before Nagbaba could speak, one of the younger folks with eager blood intervened and said, “Ten years back; a jamindar had sent his men here to move us from our lands. No one returned - all dead bodies were given to jaraks.” Hyena was called ‘Jarak’ in their dialect. 
Nagbaba said, “They know we don't want any trouble here. We have enough of our own hunger and worries of survival. They won’t come here. Why you were sent here? These tribals know of very few places to trust. More than the outside world, they believe in me for no reason. A faith based on a reason would have long back eroded.”
Now, I had started listening to Nagbaba. Far removed from his demeanor, poverty and half naked body, he was turning out to be witty and profound. 
Our arrival had been some event for the tribal villagers. Each had his version of the reason. And they loved discussing it, even in our presence, as me, Sooraj and Nagbaba looked on. Some had doubts that we were here to check on cut woods and frame charges of wood cutting on them, a threat used by forest officials to extort money; some had doubts that we wanted to buy land.
But they were good enough to ask directly in a good natured manner.  In all this, I didn’t get time to talk and know more about Nagbaba but made up my mind to come back.
Soon it was post noon and some men arrived to meet Nagbaba. They had a private discussion. Then Baba called me to his hut, and said, “See these men have returned from the road. The men who seek you are resting in a dhaba, two kilometers on the highway towards Bhopal, once you turn left on the highway. One of them must be watching for you. Or maybe there are more informers on the road. Your journey is not safe.”
Sooraj said, “All we need is to make a call the moment we get a network.”
Tulsi, another man who had just joined our discussion, said, “Whom can you call - police, family, friends? The folks out there are not good, and they have a dire reason and plan. Police is most likely already a party paid in the deal - else they won’t wait so calmly. Your family and friends are of no use – if they try to reach you and come across these folks and become an obstacle, their heads would be separated from body, if that is what is required to reach you.”
I said, “Then I feel like going. Once at home, I will be able to think about it with my friend network.”
Nagbaba thought deeply for a few seconds, and advised, “If you have to go, then going now makes more sense. You can enter the city limits before dark. Remember the every word of advice I give now and act on it.  If you call anyone in Police or otherwise, they have to be absolutely trustworthy and those who will act immediately.  Do not stop anywhere for anything. Drive till you reach Bhopal. In the city, you are safe for a reason, but only for a few days till they figure out a way.”
He continued, “You should be safe in broad daylight till you drive for next sixty kilometers on plains. Then hills and mountains start for forty kilometers. Do not drive rashly there, and be on alert. If your car breaks down, or you have to abandon it for any reason, run into the forest. If you cross this patch, then the journey will be safer as the nearer to the city, the traffic will be heavier. Do not forget or doubt my advice.
I am sending this one man, Tulsi, with you. He doesn’t look so but he is much stronger than four of those big men, just like a small wild animal is much stronger than men. But he doesn’t think too much, he works more on instincts. In danger, just do what he does - when pushed to fight, he will fight like a mad man but on a slight chance he will flee. You can drop him when you feel safe. He can walk back to this place.”

I thanked him, promised to return and felt relieved to take my destiny back into my hands. But for some reason, both I and Sooraj felt sad at parting. While we had our problem to occupy us, our hearts could feel that the whole area and folks there had a bigger problem. In all their conversations and lovely smiles and hospitality, there was no talk of tomorrow, there was a deep sense of insecurity and for some reason there was no optimism. I felt guilty for my well being and selfishness in life.

Revaram's cart was ready to take us back. The return journey was faster- it only took half the time spent at night. And the scenery around was rather pleasant, unlike the image we had in mind in the dark. There were grass fields in view and one odd hut at a distance. In the cart, I joked that we didn’t see any snakes with Nagbaba. Revaram defended saying there are many and many visit him also, including some ‘ichhadharis’ (those who can take human form when they desire) and ‘amrit nags’  (those who inject divine panacea instead of venom). I and Sooraj laughed but Revaram was dead serious about this belief.

Back to the car, the three of us settled down. We came out of forest in half an hour and waited as we drove towards the Highway crossing with some anxiety. Taking a left turn towards Bhopal at around half past three pm, I started speeding. By five p.m., we had relaxed - there was no sign of any chase.
While driving, I called my parents but did not tell them about any problem. I also called a close relative, Mr.Lal, who was a junior level police officer. We didn’t have time to discuss details but his immediate response was, “I am calling the nearest police station in your range and giving your cell number. They will call you and send someone along if required. Drive peacefully and if you find a police vehicle, make them talk to me.”
I had not ignored Nagbaba’s advice - I had called a trusted fellow. But was it a blunder? I will never know. All I know is that Mr.Lal felt guilty inside for that small damage, and has tried to make good. But it was my naivety – Mr.Lal did the best he could.
We had crossed the Narmada and were approaching a Dhaba just before the Ghats (mountain roads) start. It’s a place where we used to have tea. We were in two minds- whether to stop as our practice was, now that we were relaxed or to go on without stop, as was advised. I saw a police jeep there at dhaba. And we decided to have a quick tea and also talk to them.
The police sub inspector there was returning from a work. When my relative Mr.Lal spoke to him, he seemed rattled and quickly told him everything seems fine. I felt he already had some message about us. I noted his name, and moved on quickly.
Mr.Lal also had a good nose. He called up and asked me to move quickly, not to trust the police and not to stop. He was sending a car in our direction but till then we were on our own and had to cover as much distance as we can. I felt my spine as I spoke to him on cell.
As we were starting, I instructed, “Sooraj, sit behind. Tulsi, put on the seatbelt. In case of an accident, it will help.”  They acted according to my instructions.
Can brain foresee? I don’t know but I interchanged fate that moment.
Till that day, I never had faced a situation where I had to physically fight with someone for survival. Same was the case with Sooraj. We had not even killed a bird or an animal. Most I remember doing is childish fights at home and then throwing small stones at stray dogs, when I was small. There was never a thought in mind that someone could mortally injure us, those kinds of things were for others.
It was different with Tulsi. He had never killed a man, but he had been a part of more physical fights. He had killed wild animals from deer to boar, and cut domestic animals. I had been against taking lives of innocent animals, but today we were at the mercy of a person whom we would have otherwise detested. He had unselfishly sided with us in this hour, and more importantly sided believing he was on the right side.

Now I believe that if we had met him without these circumstances, we would have not liked him without knowing him fully, and he would have liked us still as he was devoid of opinion

Chapter 3. The serpent bites

The busy and important National Highway No.69, which connects north to south, is a great symbol of political brain and its collective apathy. Despite the commercial value, its fate has not changed in decades as there are no voters alongside. A large tract is forests on either side of road and tribals are mostly found around it.
We rushed and quickly traveled the ten kilometers of lower ghats (mountain roads). The remaining higher ghats were thirty kilometers, with another five kilometers of narrow stretch of road on either side of ghats. But it used to take an hour and a half's drive to cross it on low traffic days.
As we drove, we were circumspect. Keeping an eye every few seconds on the meter reading, I tried to relax by talking to Sooraj about tomorrow's works. Tomorrow is such a construct of mind that beautifully seems like a reality, most of the times. We forget that in that moment, it’s just as good as an imagination.
The conversation soon turned to Tulsi, to make him a part of it. I asked him about his home and family. His own name was not Tulsi. Actually his wife's name was Tulsi. He was from interior forest villages and had moved to Nagbaba's village to live in his wife's hut, after marriage. He was initially called as Tulsi's man, but over time, Tulsi became his proxy name. Living a tribal life, name changes or such things were not a major matter for him.
The tribal marriages were also simple affairs. The girl and boy could decide the matter, and a simple ritual finalized it. If the couple were offering a feast, the ritual was well attended; otherwise marriage ritual was a few persons affair. I asked Tulsi how large his feast gathering was, and how much did it cost.
Tulsi smiled and said, “Bhaiya, our feast didn’t cost anything but it is a lot of work as we have to gather Mahua and other food and wood. And there is no estimate how much to gather since people just come in. It was too much hassle for me and my wife since both of us don’t have siblings to help.”
He also had a four year daughter. He had a small hut and a few animals and lived in the outermost hut in the village. His source of livelihood was mostly cutting wood and selling it in the district. Occasionally, he used to do odd jobs for Nagbaba like delivering snakes to a forest office in the city, or delivering message to his friends who lived faraway. He didn't know his exact age but we discussed and decided it was thirty years.
Once driven by poverty and hunger, he had gone out with his family, to find work under the government schemes. But they had returned back after exploitation by middlemen. Since then, they had lived here.
For last few months, he had been worried about his wife as she had been running temperature frequently and had deteriorated. The village 'jhola chap Bengali doctor' (they are not Bengalis or from Bengal -they just have become known by that adjective) used to give her some injections and medicines but nothing had improved. I suspected some kind of typhoid, and told him I will guide him to a decent doctor coming week itself.
It was getting dark. There was much lower traffic on road this time. Once every 2-3 kilometers, we were passing a truck. We had steadily climbed the roads and now we had crossed the highest point on ghats, which was almost the midpoint of the forty km stretch. The mountains and forests from this point could be seen for a long distance.
Tulsi opened up a bit and asked, “Babuji, if those folks come near us in open, what would have you done?” Before I could answer, Sooraj said jokingly, “In that situation, we need not worry what to do, they only would decide what to do with us.”
Sooraj's answer made me think - actually I didn't even have a plan for that situation. My only plan was to drive to safety. But I was not as resigned as him. My problem was that I didn't have the experience or the skills to think of something in such situations.
Still in my thoughts, I said, “Sooraj, we have a car jack and its rod behind your seat. Take it out. It’s good to hit with.”  There my plan ended.
Tulsi continued, “If we are in a forest, I will only need a whistle, a wood and lots of rope to handle all of them, and even pass a night safely with animals. I always carry a whistle. Rest we can find there in abundance.”
As I asked, “What will you so with a whistle?” I noticed bright flash lights of a larger vehicle, just one blind turn behind us. The frequent turns had hidden it till now. It was roughly 200 to 400 meters behind us, and we were still five kilometers from the end of ghats section. I increased the speed, and thought - not much to go.
Others caught my tension. Yet Tulsi completed the answer, “Keep blowing the whistle after moving a bit. Forest folks will spot you accurately but these folks, even if they are near, they won’t be able to accurately figure out which direction the sound is coming from. There are small gathering of five to ten tribal huts inside every few kilometers in the jungle.”
My confidence grew about our circumstances and I wondered if I should have learnt more about fighting in jungle from him. Instead of running away, I would have rather invited these folks for a meeting inside the forest that was around the road.   But we didn't get that much time to know more from Tulsi.
On a potholed road where we were feeling every jerk in the small car, the vehicle behind was catching up fast. We were still four kilometers to the finish of ghats section and this vehicle was barely ten meters behind us. Due to lights and deep darkness of forest around, we could not make out which car was that.
I told Sooraj, “Let me see if these guys are not the same and they just want to overtake. I will slightly slow down. You keep a watch behind and tell if they come too close to hit instead of trying to quickly overtake. If they overtake and turn out to be the same Scorpio, we will quickly take a U-turn and rush back.”
As I steadied the speed and brought it down, the Vehicle kept closing in to the point where they were just behind. Sooraj freaked, “Five feet, coming fast”.
I immediately pushed the accelerator. In the same moment, our car was hit from behind. Thankfully, our speed had increased in that last split second, so the impact was nothing more than a deep dent and a jerk. We were not thrown off the road.
They were now chasing with more ferocity. While we had he small car advantage on turns and were able to increase the lead at turns but potholed roads gave them greater advantage. There was no way we were not going to be hit again before another kilometer crossed. Even if ghats were crossed, I was sure we had no advantage over their madness on the straighter road. Further I was sure if they saw an oncoming traffic, they would surely hit. On plain sections, it was not beyond them to hit us when they chose.
Our only hope, if any, was the police car, sent by Mr.Lal, on our way from the opposite direction. It should have reached us by now. Had it even started from there?
I was angry as I drove, “When a police officer says don't trust the police, what does he mean? Tomorrow, they will say don't trust the government of the country.”  I now said things without reason but we were distressed. There was no reason that could be expected of us.
They had closed in for a second hit and were teasing us with flashlights, before making the final assault.
Tulsi said, “Bhaiya, we have to turn left inside the forest, whenever we find an opening between trees. There will be paths where a cart or this car can go for some distance.”
I didn't see any other option. If destiny has chosen this day for us, we were not going down without a fight. I remembered my family and my responsibilities and sadness came over.
 I remember what I had prayed for in that moment, “God, take care of everyone if I don't return.” I didn't ask for more help from Him.

At the moment, I got a call on cell phone. The network was back as the end of ghats was approaching. It was Mr.Lal, he asked “The car has crossed Obedullaganj. Where are you?”
I told him where we were and that we were going to be hit any moment again and we were going to take left inside forest at the next opportunity. He said, “Okay, I will ask them to search on the left side  from the point you are currently at. It will take our car fifteen minutes to reach there.”
That gave us a real chance. More than distance, I had to count fifteen minutes. Forest path seemed a certain escape. Now we had to just find one opening quickly.
Such openings are frequent; every kilometer one can spot three to four such paths going inside the forest. I put on the alarm lights in the car and slowed a little, causing some uncertainty in the vehicle behind that their prey is giving up the escape and is going to stop soon.
Tulsi was adept at spotting forest paths from a distance, even in a dark night. He quickly alerted me to the next one, when we were about twenty meters away from it.
The turn came and I took a swift left turn. Then I increased the speed by a little to reach 50 kmph. There were dense growth on both sides, and the path was rocky. Barely after 50 meters, it met a steep downward incline; the path became narrow and full of small stones and rocks. It seemed to be a path for monsoon stream to flow. It was narrow so we knew that the Scorpio won’t enter beyond this point.
And from here our advantage started. But our car was also struggling on stones and rocks. It was bumpy but the rocks were smoother than I thought. The car skidded whenever I applied breaks. We must have gone another fifty meters, when I lost control and memory.
When I came back to senses a few seconds later, the car was turned upside down, and I was trapped in driver's seat. Everything was dark but the car lights were on. I tried to move, but couldn't feel my right hand. Releasing the belt and dragging myself with the left, I came out of the window. I called for Sooraj and he answered. He had crawled out and was sitting somewhere. He was feeling giddy.  I told him to check for head and spine injuries. I told him that I looked fine.
But I had no clue where my right hand was. It was not paining or bleeding. On searching with the left one, I realized it was behind my back and in the sleeve of the full shirt that I was wearing. I softly brought it forward, and unbuttoned the shirt and placed it there.
 In the meanwhile, Tulsi wanted help to come out. Sooraj was up by now and released Tulsi's seat belt. Then we both dragged him out of the window. He had extreme pain in the left leg. A piece of metal had pierced it below the knee, and he could not stand.
This all happened within a minute or two. We had hit a ditch that lights could not spot. The car's front tires and body went inside the ditch and then it tumbled over and dragged a bit.  Tulsi got injured as his side of the car was dented in badly, while my right hand must have been partially flung outside the window in that moment. Miraculously we all seemed fine to live for another day.
But that day was still far. We could hear a couple of men coming towards us. I quickly switched off the car's lights. Now it was totally dark - darkness that only can be seen in a forest. But Tulsi was adept at seeing even now.
We dragged Tulsi to a side of the path, and I sat down there. There was a small rock to make him sit there. Sooraj groped for the jack and its rod, and brought it. I asked all of us to remain huddled together - whatever happened. Tulsi asked Sooraj to take his whistle, walk for 20 steps randomly in 2-3 directions, blow the whistle with all his lung power and come back. He was trying to split the goons. But Sooraj himself got lost and delayed in coming back.
Suddenly, one man shouted loudly, “Car is here. They must be around.” Another one replied, “Where are you?”  They were properly split without a sense of direction.
The man near the car had small cell phone light to guide. He spotted the blood stains of Tulsi near the front door, and shouted, “One of the two has got injured badly. They didn't know that there were three of us. And one was a tribal and Nagbaba's man.”
The man followed the blood trail and came within four to five steps away from us. Any moment his cell phone lights were going to reveal us. I was ready standing to a side with the jack while Tulsi had the rod.
The man saw Tulsi only, quickly stepped back and put the cell light out. Then I heard a gunshot from close and Tulsi's cry. Tulsi had been shot. I threw the jack with my left hand towards the man, with all force at my disposal. It did hit him somewhere but not hard enough to knock out. He fired another wayward shot.
Meanwhile, Sooraj had found his way back. And now, after groping in the dark for a few minutes, he was able to see a bit in dark. The Gun shots, cell phone light and the sound of jack hitting made him realize where man was and where we were. He jumped on the man from behind, making both fall forward.
Tulsi immediately flung forward, held the man's neck in his arm, and in a swift motion of his arm, the neck was broken, and the man's body gave away. He was dead.
Tulsi's condition had become grave. The bullet had hit him in the stomach and he was bleeding profusely now. We gathered energy to drag him for ten feet to another spot. Sooraj gave the gun to Tulsi.
Within moments, another man found the trail and reached the spot where his accomplice lay dead. He turned back immediately and there were no more signs of anyone coming.
We waited as Tulsi started shivering. It must have been ten minutes since the gunshot and I hoped for the police party to reach by now.  But instead, a few men from a nearby forest tribal village had heard the whistle and gun shots and quickly found us. They wouldn't have cared to interfere in our matter but on seeing Tulsi, and us nursing him, they gathered courage to talk to us. I lied to them that I was a police myself; else they were running away leaving us there. I could not place a higher premium on truth than saving Tulsi's and our lives. But sometimes, I still think I was not lying. We were doing what police should have done two hours back- protect us honestly.
We left a tribal to wait there and inform the police about us, if they came. I told him he would be rewarded and not harassed by police. Others started to carry Tulsi. They knew a shorter and easier path back to road, and intended to take us to the nearest government hospital, roughly two hours walk, if no vehicle helped us.
Later I was told that a police car had come to the crash spot, roughly fifteen minutes after we had left. On seeing a dead body, they quickly fled the scene of crime since they were out of jurisdiction area, and were not supposed to be there. Mr.Lal could not get his friends to break the rules, as they were in service!
We felt safe in the company of four tribals. We walked for half an hour and reached the road, some four kilometers farther from where we had entered the forest. We stopped on one side of the road to stop passing cars or trucks. A few cars passed but no one stopped. Meanwhile I had managed to call home and informed them that I was reaching a hospital. My wallet was gone.
Severe pain was returning to my right arm. Tulsi was lying nearby. I sat near him and felt his hand. It was cold. I felt he was dying. I held his hand and inside my heart, I asked him to hang on. But he had gone to the point of no return. I promised him that I will look after his family.
Tulsi had passed away. In a few hours of togetherness, he had left us with a lifelong debt. Such debts would test and tear me apart in coming time. I had tears in my eyes.
Soon one truck stopped. I was accommodated in the front seat while others were behind. Within moments of sitting in the car, pain overtook me and I lost consciousness. It was all dark till next morning.   
Some snake had finally bitten me.

Chapter 4. Hell for born poor

I came to senses next day at about 10 am. My arm was plastered, and the other limbs were tied to the bed, while a liquid was being fed through the left hand.
I could not recognize anyone familiar around. It was a government health care center or a hospital in Obedullaganj, a small town. In a small hall, I was placed in a corner and was the only one on bed. The rest of them, roughly forty odd, were lying on the ground with a few having a relative nearby.
The stench in the hall was horrible, and on another day, I would have vomited or fainted immediately. But for now, my own stench was bad and I think it pleasantly diverted the mind, as one's own stench is far more bearable.
As I woke up, one old lady accompanying the nearby patient, came forward, and told me that my folks are outside, and that she was going to call them.
Away from the squalor inside, my mother, along with two of employees and a cousin brother, and a policeman were sitting outside the small hospital building, in its compound.
When they came in, I told them to free my hand and legs as I was feeling cramps. I was told not to move them suddenly in case of shooting pain, and I nodded. 
I asked them about Sooraj, and my father. I was surprised not to find them around. Another thing worrying me was that I needed better treatment soon. In all these hours, they had not shifted me to a private and better hospital in the Bhopal city. It was another puzzle.
My mother said they will be here in a while and then we will shift. To comfort me, she added that Mr.Lal was also helping in arranging things. But her tone was one meant to hide matters which she was not good at.

I wanted her to go out before asking a few things from one of the fellows, and I wanted to speak to the doctor; I persuaded her to rest outside and send tea.
My maternal cousin brother stayed back. He was quite mature, a clerk in a government department. While the doctor was coming, I chatted with him to know what was going on.
He narrated, “Last night, when you were brought here, the doctor first refused to start the treatment till police filed a case”.
He continued, “Sooraj and your father went to the police station in Obedullaganj, but since the place of accident and crime was not in this area, the police here wants the report to be filed in Hoshangabad (the next police district). So Sooraj and your father have gone there to file the police report. Without that, even shifting is not possible to a private hospital. They should have come back by early morning. Mr.Lal is helping them.”
As he finished, the doctor was here. He was an old man nearing his retirement age, and had chosen this posting. The other patients and their relatives became quiet and started looking at him in expectation, something they had been doing regularly every time he entered. He came to me and asked how I was feeling.
I greeted him and asked about my injury, and if an X-ray or a scan can be arranged.
The doctor replied, “Son, don't ask for more - I cannot even treat you officially till I get the nod from police. But don't worry; it doesn't change things much as long as you are here, as I have put a plaster. We don't have a CT-Scan and our X-ray machine is out of service. There is a Goyal's X-ray machine that is across the road that works in the evening when electricity is there.”  He glanced at his staff, one old nurse and one mature ward-boy, when he said that.
I understood why the government's free X-ray machine was always out of order.
He continued, “I have checked that your hand has blood circulation, and the swelling and pain is a good sign. The bones can be set when you get operated upon, in the city. Till then, we need to keep a watch that the blood circulation is not affected by any twist or turn. The plaster will take care of it and you inform someone to shift it a bit if your hand goes to sleep for long.”
I asked, “How long will this arrangement last, without causing permanent harm?”
He answered, “For a few days, may be a week; I am sure your matter will be sorted in a day.” I was sure too.
But it would be three more days before I would move to a private hospital in the city.
By evening, I knew what was going on with Sooraj, my father and the police. They had not returned yet but had worked out an arrangement.
The police had initially refused to take the 'first information report' (called FIR) from Sooraj; registering an FIR itself was a hurdle. To add to it, the constables had one prepared already to be filed by a fellow, who supposedly had seen the car go inside and had followed to the spot of accident and death.
In either case, they had Sooraj and me as the main suspect for both murders, and had grounds to arrest us immediately. The second false FIR was just a ploy to extract some money in the process, and to arrest him after declaring him absconding. It was a technicality but legally very harming. The price demanded to avoid it was one lac. Another one lac was demanded to quickly instruct the hospital to move me. Else, it could get lost in files and process.

Mr.Lal was trying his best; he called up the Superintendent of Police, one Mr.Thakur, who had been his senior officer long back, and brought the matter to his knowledge.  Mr.Thakur had a reputation of very honest and a principled person. That had forced the Inspectors under him to be very innovative in money collection. Mr.Thakur immediately asked the inspector to expedite. But many more hours passed and nothing happened.
My father realized only money would work. He had retired from administration twenty years back, and things were different then. The senior bureaucrats had more say on the ground and in general their quality had been maintained.
But now things had changed with the leap in telecommunications. Most powerful politicians had direct contacts with lower level administration and police, and ran their collection network. Further, in this case, the police guy had sensed an opportunity to make much more from some persons.
Time was running out fast. My father knew we needed a police report receipt and we needed Sooraj's report to be filed first and be the only one filed. It would matter to us a lot in the coming investigation and litigation.
My father had crossed seventy. I and he were always opposing each other for decades, in every matter of the world. While he favored arranged marriages and hated my ideas, I would never fall in line. He favored either a government service for me, or a tuition class business or to make a compromise, a software job though he didn’t understand it much. He preferred stability to income, telling me that he had seen enough of instability in his life. I avoided his ideas, and his way of life.
It is impossible to win an argument with an old, slightly senile person. So every time, I closed it saying that he no longer should worry about me. The world has changed, they are grown ups and he had done his part.
By late night, without my knowledge, he had promised the inspector to pay three lacs by next morning. An extra lac was being given to be lenient towards me in their initial investigation reports. He consulted my mother about the amount. They roughly had that much amount left as savings, and no health insurance available in this country for their age.
While they could always depend on me but from their perspective, they were going to lose their financial security at this age. But he had no second thoughts- this had to be done for me.
Over next few months, till I recover, he would be driven to bankruptcy and debts. He was fighting a battle he was never equipped to.
But parents don't easily give up their job. And wait for an opportunity to serve again. And I stopped having anymore arguments with them, though they were always ready with a petty issue. I learnt to accept and ignore their idiosyncrasies.
It would take two more days for my father to collect the money.  He could not get money released from his Provident Fund at such a short notice so he got it from one of his contacts and promised to repay when he got the Provident Fund. Meanwhile, Sooraj had been arrested on suspicion of murders, and remanded by the magistrate for a few days in custody.
I had a medical case and hence not considered fit for influencing investigation or running away, and a constable was assigned to keep watch on me in the hospital. My questioning could be done in hospital itself once doctors approve. I was also allowed to move to any hospital of choice.
Prima facie, the car had met with an accident and I was injured in that accident. One unidentified person was shot by an unlicensed gun which had three fingerprints- two of whom were dead. Only Sooraj was alive and healthy. And he had stated in his account that he had pushed the dead fellow from behind. Out of all persons, he looked the suspect for the other murder too.
Only the motive for the incident was missing. Competing media had a few hours to think of one.
Most of them were small time reporters who made their monthly income by sensational reporting. They didn’t trouble us much; once first day's story was over, they had to move on to something else.
By next day, I was realizing that I was in a hell. The squalor and the stench were now taking effect. The higher level of the bed made it worse as the entire hall was visible to me.
The government center had two halls, a room for the doctor and a store room. It was the only medical center in the small town and most poor villagers, after trying their own and jhola chap's treatment, came there. Most would get discharged after an injection and some medicines but a few stayed.
Those who stayed had only two most probable exits: affording a stay in the city if they went to city's government hospital, or leaving this world. This place was only a temporary stay. When they left, and if there were no attendants, the staff would take their belongings and auction.
In most cases, a spouse or child or a parent were accompanying, and they came with provisions and some utensils to cook.
I had been in packed train compartments but they were nothing compared to this hall. The official capacity was fifteen beds but it had more than double the patients and twenty to thirty attendants. Most were those not admitted officially, but had forced their way to find a place. The other hall was for women and it was equally packed.
The bed sheets were stained and filthy. On record, they were washed before issuing.
The urinal box was with the nurse, and limited in supply. Some had their own arrangement, while others waited for the nurse to visit. A few without attendants, and who could not handle the pressure of waiting, released it. A few were prone to vomiting.

By noon, I wanted to be out. It didn't matter where. But the policeman there informed me that I can't leave. I had to comply; I didn't want to create one more issue. My mother slipped a note of fifty to the policeman and the nurse. And I was shifted next to the wide door, moving all others to accommodate the shift. It made air a bit fresher, and my bed was turned to make it look outside.
But the inmates, officially or unofficially in, were quite helpful to each other. They had no complaints on another one encroaching on their place or medical care. Despite the cramped space and medical situation each one faced, the atmosphere was quite cheerful. Many knew each other by name, their village and even their family had formed bonds so that they can take turns attending. Most of them had recurring temperatures, some were coughing and a minority had injuries or fractures.
By evening, I knew quite a few around. Many were curious to know what had happened and many wanted to know who this person with a bed was - certainly not one with their economic status. A bed was like a throne in the middle of a population which didn't feel that a bed in a government hospital was their right.
Actually, the five or six fundamental rights of living humans seemed quite complex notions compared to tangible needs here. There I thought of a seventh- a right to dignity for human life. I didn’t have much thought for animal life at that moment; anyways it was futile as they were outside the scope of this right in our society.
Soon, a woman came with her two small children and asked if her children can sit on the bed. There was some space. I answered, “Yes they can as long as they don't play with my plaster.”
That set all of them laughing, “Babuji, you joke a lot.”
I said, “I am myself a joke right now.”

That made others smile too, and started a series of dialogues. Soon there were comments from a distant corner too.
The distance between my throne and everyone disappeared. They realized that I was another patient needing care, just that I was used to more comforts. But I didn't think of them as lesser beings.
Soon more affection followed - a cup of tea, some food from the common pool (though they were still hesitant).  I slept early that night but by then, I had no thought of running away. The place was a hell but people had made up for it.
By next noon, the money was paid, and I could move to a private hospital. Sooraj would remain in custody for a few days while Mr.Thakur would himself take my statement later. 
Leaving the filthy government medical center hadn't been as pleasant.  As the other patients and their relatives looked on, I had to look into their eyes and accept that I had bought something they don't have a right to.
This was not the kind of thing where I had wanted my earnings to make a difference. This was not the world I had bargained for while working in the air conditioned offices in Mumbai or Bangalore or California.
When I was leaving, many of the hospital mates came to help out. They never charged for any help or tea.
I had learnt an important lesson- that in return for a little affection and dignity, these folks will give anything they have, though they have very little. This lesson will go very far in my coming struggle.
I had been moved to a Private Orthopedic Hospital in Bhopal, and was much more at ease. The private hospitals were known by one or two prominent doctors; and they would be also part owners. This one was run by one Surgeon, Dr. Khanna, who also took up my case.
On the fourth day, we had all the medical reports. The arm was in bad shape - the bone completely broken below the shoulder and smashed below the elbow, including the wrist.  The doctor said it would be difficult to restore the original motion but most of it can be done.
This doctor was a sharp businessman. Long back he had realized that a good orthopedic hospital in a city will be a great business, assisted with some help from apathy in government hospitals. A lot of government hospitals' nurses and staff were paid a small amount every month to guide the distressed patients to this modern hospital.
But what he himself could not gauge was that the bad roads, faster cars and surging rate of road accidents will itself be a huge growth factor for his business. He also had fully used the short sightedness or greed of Insurance companies, like many other hospitals in the country. Covered patients had a good chance of extended treatments and more tests than uncovered ones.  Further the emergence of generic drug companies had improved his earnings even more.
But while many of these were macro events combined with his tactics, he had many shrewd partners in his hospital. He had been generous with the treatment, as the case with all businessmen, to the families of politicians, police, judges and administration, and hence had built good rapport with them, to be called upon when it mattered. And to make sure that no other private hospital got a license easily.
When he started setting up his orthopedic hospital some ten years back, he had struggled to find a place. The city planners had given lands for housing societies and some commercial outlets but had entirely forgotten about marked spaces for hospitals and similar services. So he had to set it up in a residential locality, after buying out a few houses.
As soon as he was set up, some nearby residents objected and approached the local courts to evict him. The court case dragged on with no result for three years. By this time, many others were waking up to the potential of a specialty hospital, and all had the same problem of space.
 The doctor then planned a master stroke, to ensure the scarcity and monopoly. He sponsored appeals in the court to stop any hospitals from coming up in residential area and unfit commercial places. For the already existing ones, the case was pending to be decided in lower court.
The court saw the logic and granted a stay order.  The order existed till date, so did the case in the lower court, so did his almost monopolistic business. And so it was the only hospital I preferred to go to.
The doctor was a picture of humility and care. Despite his workload, he offered personal care and attention to each patient. While he had grown as a businessman, he had diminished as a human, and so had his skills as a doctor. His team of assistants realized this. They were themselves orthopedics. But they had no option but to work here. The government centers didn't offer good salaries, choice of location, good facilities and obedient staff, while this hospital didn't give them peace or ethics.
I had one operation on the fourth day itself. They had fixed the upper right arm with rods and screws while just plastered the lower arm. They had to wait till some bones strengthened in the lower arm, to operate and add any fixtures. The next review was planned after four weeks while I stayed there. 
The pain had gone but movement was restricted. Further, a single posture for more than thirty minutes created unbearable fatigue and swelling.

It meant that I didn't have sound sleep for almost six months. Then for the next three months after that, my mind had forgotten how to sleep for long. It will be next July or so, when one fine day I would sleep and sleep.

Chapter 5. Hyenas


By the sixth day, I had started coming out of post operational stress.  I had to arrange money immediately for payment of the hospital bills. There were two more issues to be handled - Sooraj's bail, and then transferring my work to someone.
The hospital had done the first operations and now wanted an immediate deposit of fifty thousand.  I had a cashless insurance which covered accidents.
For some reason, the insurance company had not processed the hospital charges. Possibly and quite likely, the hospital had not been on good books of the Insurance companies, suspecting the hospital for overcharging. Possibly, the cashless payment processing agency agent was assessed on how less burden it created for the Insuring Company. Of all people in the world, I could not complain about such practices; after all while I worked in the financial world, I turned a blind eye to many such practices.
Whatever be the reason, there was a certain resistance to pay for the treatment. When I pursued to the extent of calling responsible people in the Insurance Company, a response came immediately that the hospital bills shall be reimbursed. I would have to pay now and get them reimbursed later - again a promise that I fell for, having no other choice.
But I had no free cash left after the initial hospital payments. That exposed me to amusing events. Now I had to arrange money, and I was aware of my father's situation after bribes to the police.
My right hand was not functional - I could not sign checks or withdrawal slips. My cards were gone with the wallet.  And I used to take pride in having very unique signature not easily copied. It made situation hopeless.
Soon I arranged to travel to the bank branch manager's office - a modern bank that suited my needs. The Manager, a young fellow, understood my situation, and arranged for withdrawal of cash.
Frankly, we tried to imitate the signatures and he overlooked who was forging.
But I needed more from my fixed deposits for future treatment. He called up his head office to check and they recommended that either my finger prints be matched with an official record or a notarized affidavit be produced.
There was no official record of my finger prints - one never planned that way here. And an affidavit again required forgery of signatures. This time the notary overlooked. The application was submitted to the Bank.
 Next day, I came to know that the head-office of the bank had rejected my papers, fearing some scam.
It was time to turn to relatives and friends – and I had now discovered the surest way of limiting the visitors and well wishers.
Some help did arrive from friends and some from my company's cash. But I wanted to remain on my own - it was strange to ask people, even close ones for money. 
While the hospital was busy plotting maximum cash from me, my father was busy attracting more and more recipients of his money.
He had been very worried about ensuring my safety here.  At his age, he was very prone to believing in any threat. A couple of hospital staff soon recognized it. And told him they would keep an eye on all visitors and mislead if anyone suspicious asks for me. They bagged a weekly payment from him. Soon it would be discussed amongst the entire staff and they would draw a weekly amount from my father.
When I got the news and confronted him about such payments, first he tried to explain to me that it was just for a few days. Later he would deny any such payments but quietly give his entire pension to these folks.
 From the hospital nursing staff, the news of the incident and the threat to me had spread. Now my father was getting phone calls to either pay or wait for consequences.
Every time such a call came, initially he would consider it a hoax and someone exploiting him. His confidence remained while we had some company in the hospital. But within a few hours of solitude, his thoughts transformed to worry.  And without my knowledge, he was negotiating with unknowns.
My mother, unaware of the deteriorating cash situation, had her own contributions to make. She had realized, with some help from a saint, that some snake formation in my horoscope was the reason for these events. And it needed a silver snake to be donated to the temple, along with some money to perform rituals to correct the horoscope.
She had more faith in these saints and rituals than on her own self.  And her faith had grown as she had diminished with age.
The cash situation brought an end to civilities between the two oldies. Both were spending without letting anyone know, and suspecting each other for the cash distress.
I told them that I had enough cash lined up for entire treatment. It was my fourth lie; after the first lie to tribals in trying to save Tulsi and the two forgeries approved by me to get my cash from the bank.
Almost 10 days had passed since I had come here.  While my physical distress was getting in control, the mind had relaxed on worldly issues. Time, a trusted healer for distressed, and a great foe for the relaxed, was doing its work on either side.
I had relaxed not because I did not comprehend the scale of the problem that could happen next, but I trusted the goodwill of a lot of responsible men around. I trusted that truth will eventually prevail.
What I did not understand was that truth was not of much importance to anyone - only thing that mattered was what was at stake? It was the first rule followed in corporate cases, police stations, personal life, investments and wherever I had been. Yet this had not occurred to me.
Meanwhile, Sooraj had been sent to police custody for seven days by the local court. There were no charges framed but investigation required this. Sooraj had not panicked. His poverty and a life of struggle had been a great inner strength, as I would realize later. He would take any insult, pain or pressure with a smile that said to the system that he expected no better result.
A few days passed. I waited for Sooraj's release. I had to leave him to fend for himself and find someone to give his bail and get him released. Looking back, one may call it was my biggest error.  But I don’t make such judgments now. It was meant to be that way.
The police had been silent but it was deceptive - they were quietly trying to figure out how to make maximum money from this situation.  And I had been lulled into believing the calm. My mind wanted peace and it looked away from the last week's events, believing that now everything would be fine.
But how could it be?  There were two murders that were to be explained to the police and courts, then there were unexplained dangers still lurking outside, and I had an additional responsibility I had promised to Tulsi.
Life had taken a blind turn. My strength was weak and hope strong, so I was avoiding to acknowledge the turn as one.
Finally, Sooraj was out on bail after eight days in jail. Another big payment had been made to the lawyer. After visiting a temple, and taking a few hours at home, he came to visit me.
I asked him how it had been. He smiled and said, “It was better inside (in custody). The other inmates thought I was a big goon - so there was respect everywhere. At home it’s alright but in my colony, everyone is having their own stories.”
I asked, “Who arranged your bail?” I had completely forgotten about this aspect but I knew a bond of Fifty thousand rupees had to be provided as bail security.
Sooraj said, “It was arranged by Tilak. For an annual charge of fifteen thousand, lots of slum pattas are available to be pledged.”  While it was a common practice everywhere, it was new to me - another thirty percent business model as most poor accused could not have given a bail security otherwise.
Sooraj was worried that my statements were not yet taken by the police. They were supposed to come the moment I was in a condition to state. It was strange.  The moment I realized why he was worried, I got worried too. I was the sole witness supporting his case.
Further, had I died, his economic and social status and the corrupt system didn't give him much hope. Put together, my elimination would have meant that even the sponsor's of the assault could have easily used their influence to close the case at him.  Even now, with my statement not being taken and recorded for future evidence, this was a chance. The question was why and how had police slept on this step.
My life was his hope. And some things were not in order.  As I thought and looked at him, we had not spoken a word. But both had arrived at that conclusion, and worried looks said it.
As I am writing this, a lot of water has flown. Some things never happened but anyways played out in our minds, and shaped many actions we took.

Hyenas are interesting animals. It is important to understand them in this part of the world. They are strong built, yet they feast on old, decaying creatures or dead ones. They are ferocious and merciless in a group and cowardly alone. They have a strong sense to figure out who is dying or weak, and there is no doubt about morality of what they do. But the natural hyenas multiply naturally using the mechanism created by God and served an important purpose for nature; while human hyenas multiplied like insects and only served themselves and their masters.
In corrupt and poor societies, they form an important part of the ecosystem. Without them, there would be far more voices of reason, a risk their wealthy masters and hence the system can ill afford.
They are usually found in and around hospitals, courts, police stations and jewelers or other such money lenders – the places where one is more likely to meet worried folks. Then gradually, they would convert the victim’s state to utter distress.  From being outsider to such institutions, they had become an internal part in our times. Recent years had been good for their growth as all they needed was an environment of increasing corruption and disparity.
One such agent’s boys worked in the hospital as a guard staff and he was my father’s first friend there, and had decent weekly earnings from him. The problem that was as the word spread that my father could share more, the weekly amount was going up steadily to more folks.
And as the business of creating business works, the human hyenas also brought solution with them –they introduced my father to a money lender or the agent, who was a generous man.  That evening, while I was sitting with Sooraj, my father walked in with Mr.Agarwal. My father introduced him as a big businessman and financier. Mr.Agarwal was very glad to meet me and said that young and educated folks are the future. He was vague about his work but mentioned he owned many buildings and has partnerships in many local engineering colleges. He asked me not to worry about anything and that my father was like his elder brother. Should anyone trouble me, he will be there.
Fortunately, Sooraj, being poor, knew all such folks and warned me to keep distance. Mr.Lal also immediately got angry when he heard the name, “Why are you meeting such people?”
I said, “I am not. God knows where he met my father and then even came to meet me.”
He said, “Agarwal is showing to your parents that he cares about their son. He has broken their defenses. All his friends are bankrupt.”
It was the first and last time I lost cool on my cousin and let myself utter my mind, “See Brother, you are a police officer and you just give orders on phone. When those people chased me, you couldn’t do much. When such people come in, you can’t do anything. When I was stuck in a remote hospital, you sat citing that procedure must be followed. When my witness account is not taken till now, you will cite some more technical issues. On phone, you will shout that such folks shouldn’t be around, but in person you will not have the courage to utter one word to them – you know their political reach. My parents have lost their senses, but they are here and now.”
I didn’t say more, the remaining was understood. But I knew my cousin was right and so was I.  Now, my problem priorities changed. We had to do something urgently about my safety, the police statement and this money lender.
Given a few days, Agarwal would become the ray of hope to my parents and get everything they can give. So we had to move fast.  Ironically, what I did not figure out in the equation was that as long as the Agarwal had a hope that he will get a pledge on my home, I was safe. If anything happened to me, my parents won’t have any more reason to pledge their home. He won’t let anyone mess with me till his stakes are served. He had taken care of it.
If I have had more time to think, I would figure it out well. But it didn’t matter, as things turned out.
My father approached a few public banks with his home property but they refused citing his old age. Over next two days, my father went and pledged the house to Mr.Agarwal, in return for a credit line of Rupees thirty lacs, at 36% per annum. He intended to use just a fraction of the amount and then quickly clear it off and take the home documents back. Mr.Agarwal intended to give just a fraction and never return the home.
Mr.Agarwal would have to ‘invest’ a few lacs to make sure it happens. He would get extra demand created for cash required by me, give it willingly, and recycle it back after sharing a decent percentage with demanding folks. That was his business model. He was very unhappy if he made less than 4 times on his money in a short span. Normally he used to get a lot of small folks – sub 1 lac ones. This time he had got a decent account – one month worth work done in two days!
Even shrewd businessman gets overtaken by greed. There is something called core competency. He was very competent in dealing with and trashing uneducated, unaware folks. My type of person was not his terrain of operation. Howsoever bad my situation was, my ability to think it over and solve it was far more than that of folks he was used to. The day would come soon.
Meanwhile, my other problem – that of the recording my statement to add to the incident report, was getting solved. Mr.Lal, my cousin, after hearing a mouthful, had again become active. He did not have a conversation with me. But he did get Mr.Thakur to act. He had openly spoken to the Superintendent Mr.Thakur, about this concern. Mr.Thakur hadn’t given it much importance as it was a routine matter to him. Earlier he had authorized an officer to take my statements. 
Mr.Thakur was going to look into it quickly. Mr.Thakur called up to confirm if my statement had been taken and I denied. He was surprised; now he planned to himself come over and record it again. But I was more surprised on how lax their processes and checks were.
Who had given the statement on my behalf? -  I had no clue. I no longer had any more doubt about my state. There were far too many moving pieces outside. First I had to think of safety. The one policeman attached to the hospital for general purpose was useless.
Sooraj came up with a suggestion- he thought that two of his friends – Tilak and Shafiq, who had shared his poverty and gas tragedy, will be a good option as trusted guards. The only problem was both these fellows had no attachment to anyone except to each other, and no permanency. They would stay as long as they pleased, then announce they are going and will go. Further, they would stay here in hospital if it clicked in their mind.
Sooraj said he can bring them here and let me talk to them. Even if they stay for a few days, it will be a relief. He cautioned me that they will disagree and blame each other for various things, but never work alone. He assured me that they did not cheat. But they were very abrasive.
I was not ruling out any option right now. I asked him to call them.  Sooraj sent a message to Tilak. The two were going to be here by night.  Sooraj used to do small works for them that required some reading and writing, like paying electricity bills, filling up railway ticket forms etc. So they felt obliged to come. 
I was very tired. I used to sleep after every couple of hours. Before I dozed off again, I asked Sooraj if a contact can be made with Nagbaba- probably he can help guess what is going on. He would anyways be aware of Tulsi’s death.  Sooraj was able to send someone to the remote village. Nagbaba got the message and he planned to visit us in next couple of days.  He was coming out of forest after years.
When I woke up that evening, I wanted to go to the balcony to feel fresh air. A wheelchair was arranged. I had not shaven for many days now. The hair had grown with my worries, and I decided to clean it up.

As I sat out, there was a strange calm. I had accepted what had happened. Everything in life would depend upon how good my answers to these situations would be, and it was not a familiar terrain. 


These posts are fiction. Good fiction cannot exist without real experiences. Also, fiction is easier to relate to.

Any similarity to a person or an event is unintentional and purely coincidental.

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