At the cross road of Bazaar as Kadamsingh happened to come across Satbeer, he accosted him and asked, “Hey! Buddy how are you doing today?” in a retorted insulting tone he taunted, “Oh! I am far better than you on all the counts.” Before even Kadamsingh could absorb the unexpected jolt and could react to it, Satbeer raked a fiery grilling, “Hey! What’s your status and what’s your class and repute, so you could dare ask me as to how may I?” At this unprecedented stance of Satbeer’s arrogance and egotism Kadamsingh was taken aback and kept quietly gazed at him in humility; for a moment his patient thinking was churning to ask in modesty the reason for Satbeer’s such behavior, but in a spur of moment fire flared up in his mind and anger possessed him and threw aside his logical conscience; he fired a question at him, “Ok! Then you tell me what class or status you hold —– you son of a bitch! I have simply asked your welfare and not that I fired a gun at you.”
“Hey! You bastard! I could have fired it in your house yesterday itself.”
—Oh! Is it? You could have fired a gun in my house? Then why the hell you did not do that; oh! May be you used your prudence, knowing the strength of the opponent or may be with a fear you realized that your entire family might get wiped off.
“Hey! You are crossing the limits now; stop this nonsense babbling.”
—“Do you think that we are buffoons or dumb-cattle that you could have entered and fired indiscriminately in my house; you dud! I may forewarning you, be not under a wrong impression; I might dig your grave and burry you alive.”
God alone knows where the origin lies and what the root cause of this scuffle was, but the hot war of words with rebukes and insolent slangs with filthy abuses began with loud and yet louder raising voices to the extent that skirmish took a violent turn. The passersby began gathering around them to curiously enjoy the ongoing funny encounter. The brawl reached a stage of challenging each other; both were trying to overpower each other changing stances and trying several tricks; while it seemed that they might devour raw like wolf. The shopkeepers, hawkers rushed to see the funny fray with curiosity leaving their trade.
The shouts were heard, “That’s it”, screamed Kadamsingh, “You bastard! I will kill you. You would not remain alive; call all your mourners now. I shall walk across on your corpse.” With this both rushed in furry to the blacksmith’s shop to pick up their weapons for the war. One picked up an axe and the other a crowbar. As they advanced to strike on each other, bystanders intervened and held them apart to save untoward happening. The uproars of challenges, bad-words, and abuses and counter abuses from both the fighters were heard as they were frisking fiercely trying to attack, while the bystanders were pleading and persuading them to give up the fracas by saying, “Hey! Take it easy Satbeer pundit; be calm and compose. — You Kadamsingh prudentially try to understand the consequences; come on give away the tools; in the misgiving foolishly you might commit an act now and you will have to suffer and repent for lifelong. With great struggle the bystanders could contain and control them. The blacksmith gave a sigh of relief; hastily with heavy breath he took away his tools and ran to his shop, threw them there and pulled the shutter. Now he stood calm and composed resting against the shutter saying, “Look! Had something untoward would have happened, I would have been in the soup for the police would have put in the jail under a pretext that this idiot blacksmith supplied weapons to them.”
As the matter was cooling down under the babblings and drivels, some prudent men form the crowd fulfilling their responsibility of assumed knighthood began enquiry session and the crowded bazaar turned into a court of law. One Lalaji (moneyed businessman) initiated and asked, “Hey! Kadamsingh what’s the matter all about? What happened?”
Well! You see, I am not aware; you ask this fighter-cock. I simply accosted him and asked his welfare; to which he ridiculed me saying as to what status I hold to dare ask him his welfare and further said that yesterday he was to open firing in my house; now you tell me.
Amongst this crowed enquiry session, where passage of arms were heating up, the chief headman (viscount), Jilhesingh, also called as Thakur of the village was making his passage through. The villagers made a way for him to reach the epicenter of this frisk. On his arrival on the scene he asked in the authoritative tone of a magistrate, “Hey! Panduit Satbeer what happened?”
-Oh! Just let me end the matter today by terminating him.
-Hey! There must be some very serious issue since you are insisting on taking such an ultimate step of termination; look there has to be some issue, else nobody unnecessarily raises it.
When the same remarks were heard from the crowd from all and sundry, Satbeer went in a composed stance for a while and then began his narration — It is in a way a serious issue, but that ways not an issue at all — Yesterday while the boys were playing his son Gaddu shove my son Sonu and he fell in the middle of the street. Just imagine had a truck, car or tractor had ramped over my son, what would have happened? He would not have lost anything, but I would have lost my only son, my rays’ of hopes and my only succor of my old age. There upon my wife went to his wife at his house to complain about it, that queen retorted saying, “When it comes, who can elope irony of fate.” Instead of having head over the shoulder in giving realization to her son, his wife kept repeating the same thing again and again and this bloody dumb, stupid fellow was sitting inside the house quietly kept listening to it. Now tell me what if my only child would have had a fatal end?
The chief headman went into a trance of a great thinker and began scratching his head in finding solution and utter with utmost spur, “Look, what Kadamsingh’s wife said is factually correct——but—–see the thing is like—before the chief headman could complete his sentence, Satbeer lost his cool and snapped, “Oh! His wife is correct or what? Hey! You headman! it sounds as if police chief is a brother of a thief. Oh! Why should you not take up the cudgels for him, it is a matter of castes and racism?
At this remark of racism, eyebrows were knit of the chief headman and his supporters and they frowned at Satbeer. The chief headman said in fuming tone, “Hey! Satbeer what the hell rubbish you are talking about; be ashamed of your utterance.” Listening to the comments from the chief headman Satbeer lost his head and in the fierce voice he riposted, “This chief headman should be ashamed for all his misdeeds. What vices, villainy and sins has he spared? Tell me if I am wrong, the headman kidnapped young girls, illegally he seized the lands of poor, he duped people for money and he gobbled public money meant for roads and bridge construction. Now such a person is trying to teach me.
To support and to take side of the chief headman, Bramhpal made his way through the crowd and came on the scene and said, “Look here pundit, you have crossed all the limits; you said enough, listen! we shall not tolerate insult of our respected chief headman; do you understand?
Gathering his emotional commotion, the chief headman gave a severe reaction in his usual authoritative voice and roared, “Let him say anything — As a chief headman, I too have not played with the earthen marbles — ok! Let him file legal suits over suits on me, who stops him. — Anyway, ask him this thing — Why his father with his second wife Dharamveera separated away from his house? — Well because of his ill conduct with her; his loose character is very well known to the world, I need not elaborate — He should be greatly embarrassed as a matter of fact he should drown himself in a handful of water with shame. When this matter came up for hearing before Panchayat (Village Governing Body), his mother fell on my feet requesting and pleading me to withdraw the case to save the family from further botch and embarrassment.”
Hand over hands Satbeer in rage sprang up & tried to lay hands on the chief headman, but bystanders held him back. The chief headman fumed in fury — Hey! You Pundit dare lay hands on me — I need not call the police to intervene, I shall settle his issue here today itself, right now.
This decree of Thakur Jilhesingh challenging the opponent turned into a fierce battle. With the flash of the current tense situation cell phones began ringing all over the village. The crowd got divided in groups and caucus of supports for each party and the furious exchanges of abuses and bad words began in full force. In a short time the relatives, kinfolks and clans from both the sides poured on the street like warriors and it appeared as if these parties were waiting for such an opportunity of challenging the strength and power of one another since long. The preparation for the war is at sight, but the ceasefire is in force due to intervention of some mediators who are trying to negotiate. In the middle of the eager pursuits of bargain, once again pandemonium in the groups began and it brought the situation back to square one.
Prakash Mesi, a factory worker, who somehow was managing to drag his bicycle through this densely crowded gathering on the village streets and halted near where this public law-court was in secession; he got trapped in the congestion. He was returning from the factory completely weary and exhausted after working for double shifts. While making his way through, he had heard details of the ongoing smeared fracas. In a casual depressed weary tone he murmured to himself, “Oh! These small issues should have been settled peacefully at home, what was the need for collecting such a crowd on the streets.” Just as he finished his muttered soliloquy, a supporter of Satbeer heeded and reprimanded him, “Hey! You bloody son of a magistrate, did anyone demand your opinion here?”
Before Prakash Mesi could even react, some more people gathered around him and began questioning him, “Hey! What’s the matter? What is that bothering you?” The first man began reiterating in a very serious tone, “This fellow of a lower cast is saying that what was the need of crowding the streets and fight out such a simple issue, which could have been settled at home.” Listening to this people from both the sides began buzzing around like bees when the beehive is disturbed. — Hey! Do you think that we all are fools here; beware! All your prudence will go to hell — Understand!
Annoyed with the disturbance and an interruption in ongoing discussions and furor, a loud voice was heard from the street-court, “Who the hell is he, who is beating the air and poking the nose here? There came an answer—-Hey! Thakur sahib, this is Setu Mesi from the parish of dacoits and he is the same who changed the religion denouncing and belittling ours’.
Hearing all this Prakash Mesi pulled his bike on the stands right there in the crowd and came up to the people from where the hubbub was heard and stood straight in front of them boldly — Look! You people have abused me; you called me breed of a lower cast, and you even labeled my parish as a parish of dacoits; changing religion is totally a individuals’ personal matter, still you have called me a sinner, but if I may say so – Maximum number of cases of banditries and murders from your village are pending before court of law and in the number of cases of rapes, robberies and loots, your village has out beaten other villages. Tell me! if I am stating any thing wrong, if you so please, you might as well check the police records.
In a split of a second a man from the crowd rushed fiercely at Mesi, collared him while calling him low-caste-man. In reply Mesi releasing his collar with a forceful jerk shoved the man, thrashed and beat him generously –Oh! I am low-cast, low-breed-born all that is smothered in the history; now I am just a human —Do you get me?—if you hit me once I shall hit you twice—do you want to try? Come on!–Let us go ahead.
It appears at this juncture the two sided groups from the crowd are slowly forgetting the main contentions of real conflict between them for which they all gathered and now it seems they have began slowly getting centered at somewhere else. Mesis’ this statement was taken up by the crowd as a challenge and began reacting in rage against him; Fire of anger flared up in the crowd; it appeared that both the groups burring their hatchets began showing their teeth on Mesi by showering blows after blows on him now. Walloping him they began shouting — Thrash this bastard — let him not escape –This idiot insulted Hindu religion — Days of such defectors and such bloody traitors are numbered — Burn this bastard alive — Irreligious son of a bitch — assault and batter this enemy of our religion.
Some humane people from the crowd intervened to save him from this inhuman assault, especially a singled out prey of angry crowd, but unable to contain the mob fury, soon they withdrew and ran away from the scene to save their skins. In the middle of this muddle sporadic slogans were heard, “Be proud to call ourselves Hindu”
Mesi is receiving blows, kicks, but he too kept on giving them back, facing the opponents with courage. Now he got encircled by the crowd from all the sides like a prey gets entangled in hunters’ net. Blows after blows, kicks and even stones were pelted at Mesi; blood began oozing from his nose and mouth; His heart sank into his boots, still he took the bull by the horns and lifted up his bicycle and hurled it with a force on the attackers; two-three persons had fallen victim of this act and fell on the ground. Meanwhile some people got sticks and iron-bars from the Jeep and charged him fiercely; he was in great pains; as he used to try getting up, he used to get more blows from all the quarters; now profuse blood was streaming out from his head, nose, mouth, and even from his eyes; while with a grate difficulty he plucked up courage and lifted a big stone, then only he received a massy blow of stick on his head and he fell on the ground heavily, almost unconscious.
Seeing the fall of Mesi in his blood pool, shopkeepers began pulling down shutters and started deserting the place by running hither and thither. Onlookers who stood in the galleries and the terraces began receding inside their houses. In that confusion and chaos sentinels of religion are seen whirling and tingling round on the scene looking out for their slippers, cell-phones, and other personal belongings, so as not to leave any piece of evidence on the scene of crime.
Mesi was fully soaked in his blood, trying to get up on his feet with great efforts and groaning in excruciating pain, but he was tottering and falling on the ground floundering; while the attackers were running towards the Jeep, they realized that Mesi is still alive; they began discussing —Hey! He is still alive – we must kill him, let us pull him in the Jeep and we should throw him in the river — other fellow uttered —there is no time and if police arrives then, then what? —Other retorted in a jeer — Oh! Is he a VIP that police would come in action immediately? I am telling you, there is no body here let us squash the bastard, else we all would fall in a deep soup if he gives his statement to police — let us kill him – no spark so no fire.
They all turned back and like beast of prey began mercilessly hammering Mesi with sticks and iron-rods. Mesi, even in this precarious condition never demanded mercy nor whined before them; instead he tried to lift an iron-bar in the protest, but as wiggling Mesi advanced, the assailants began hitting him again indiscriminately and then ran away towards the Jeep leaving him in that death-defying condition.
How alone was Mesi fighting through his last breath to uphold the dignity of humanity, when he was about to pass into the eternity? Suddenly two school boys after the school playfully were passing by; they were taken aback seeing Mesi in that groaning painful condition, lying there in the blood pool, writhing in agony. —Hey! Look! It seems the poor fellow might have met with an accident — Sonu said in a fearful low voice – I am afraid, come! Let us run. Guddu began thinking nervously and frightfully and took out a water bottle in hurry from his satchel and began opening it — Oh! He is badly wounded — I remembered to have seen one day on TV – They say you should help the victim and if water is served to a fainted victim, he comes alive. Saying this he approached close to Mesi — Dampen dull words poured through Mesis’ mouth —Ra—Ra-j-ju….
No! No! Uncle my name is Guddu and his name is Sonu — Uncle Lots of blood is flowing out —Please drink this water and you should be alright –take this please. As Guddu began pouring water in Mesis’ mouth, Mesi began panting and he breathed his last. Boys kept call out at him — Uncle! Uncle — Guddu uttered, “it seems he has fallen unconscious – Come on Sonu, hurry up — since no body is seen here around, let us go to village and inform the incident; my father would take him to hospital in car — while they began running towards village, they saw a speeding car, they tried to stop the car, but it did not halt for their help.
While Mesis’ life camera was rolling his run out reel, it flashed an image of his son, “Raju” to whom he brings back home from the school everyday at the same time– Mesi in his last moments could feel as if he heard his son in his stuttering speech saying, “Papa when shall you come, it is too late.” —-Raju is seen still standing at school gate awaiting his Papa.
(This Story is Published in Kadambini. Nai Dunia, Amar Ujala, Dainik Tribune and Shivam.)