It was a hectic day, I reminisced as I walked down the narrow, deserted lane. Tired, I dragged myself to the main road; connecting the hospital. All the activities of the past few days were flooding my mind when I heard hurried footsteps, my thought process was interrupted. I assessed my surrounding and was stunned to find policemen marching around and people scurrying towards the nearest destination. I asked the street vendor; who was shutting down his shack. He informed me, that there was an indefinite curfew imposed in the city with immediate effect.
I was dumb struck, as if the existing agony was not enough for me to handle that I had landed in this crisis. Immediately I checked my mobile phone and found innumerable missed calls from home. Instead of calling mom, I called my friend, Sumit, who lives nearby in a hostel. He advised me not to take any risk due to the current grave situation, and provided me an address instead and asked me to give his reference; and stay at that place tonight.
I walked two blocks and located the place, but before ringing the door bell, I assured my mother that I was safe at a friend’s place, and also informed her that my phone’s battery was about to die. A man opened the door and greeted me. I was hesitant, but he assured me to feel at ease and introduced himself as Aloke. He was lean and maybe in his late thirties but looked older than his age with wrinkles on his forehead and dark circles around his eyes. I felt quite uncomfortable sharing an apartment with this unknown man. To add to the misery; there was no power; and Aloke disappeared now and then, and again stealthily reappeared in the living area. I was exhausted, and after the initial conversation, he showed me the room next door to freshen up. In the faint battery light, I looked around and felt it was his room which he hurriedly tried to rearrange for me. I was startled when he knocked the door, and gave me a new suit to wear. He kept the sandwiches and milk on the table and apologized for not offering a better dinner. In return I thanked him for his help on this fateful night.
I hit the bed and was fast asleep in no time. There was a loud bang and a shriek which stirred me from my deep slumber. My tired soul and body were unable to comprehend the situation, it was like a nightmare. I forced myself to check the time in my phone, it was 3:15 am in the morning, the battery of the phone was almost dead. I scanned my surrounding, but was scared to get up and check out. The commotion continued intermittently with a shrill cry and a muffled voice, I lay down and prayed for my safety, waiting for the night to pass and the morning light.
Next morning, I was preparing to leave when Aloke greeted me. I exchanged pleasantries when he informed me, ” Where are you going? The curfew is not yet over.” The news struck me like a bolt of thunder. He could sense my agony and desperation from my facial expression and calmly said, “I’ve called up Sumit in the morning to inform at your place, let’s have tea now, I was waiting for you. The power has not been restored, I’ve a battery backup charger for the mobile phone, if you would like to make a call”.
My mind was racing against time, I was overwhelmed with frustration and anger. Aloke was talking, while we were sipping tea. My inert fear was due to Aloke’s peculiar behavior and looks accompanied with suspicious activities in this house. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a strange woman standing at the far corner of the dining area, before I could say or react; she darted towards me with a vengeance in her eyes. I was numb and could only see the actions taking place. Aloke plunged towards the woman and grabbed her before she could strike me,another elderly lady in a wheel chair nearby was blabbering and crying. I was baffled and shocked with this entire event and sat motionless.
Aloke slowly came over, after locking the lady in the room, and sat on the chair opposite to me. He bent his head and said, “You’re the only guest we had in our house in a long time. My sister is mentally unstable and schizophrenic in nature, which only very few people are aware of, my mother is wheel chair bound, hence I’m the only one who takes care of both of them. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience caused to you”. Aloke’s mother was silently listening to him when she suddenly intervened,” Don’t mind my daughter’s actions, you’re also like a daughter to me”. Tears welled up in my eyes, words stuck in my throat, I was overwhelmed with emotions.
Time is the best healer, and in due course, three of us were chatting and talking like kith and kin. I spoke to mom and reassured her, then spoke to dad, who was admitted in the hospital for a biopsy. I volunteered that I’ll cook, as the maids were unable to come over today to their house.
Time flies, we watched the television at night, the curfew was being lifted the next day. I left their house, next day in the evening, promising to catch up soon. As I walked towards the hospital, I felt a sense of guilt overcoming me. Many lessons learnt in these 48 hours – Trust, selfless love and service to all mankind are qualities which make us humane. Everyone has their share of grief and pain, it is how we handle and overcome it with a smiling face is all that matters. With this positive thought I entered the hospital to meet my Dad.