Lonely road, cutting through a dense forest. Every small noise that different parts of this vehicle is making can be easily heard. The only other sound audible is the chirping of birds. Trees on both side of the road are looking down towards this vehicle as if they are annoyed by the sound that the car engine is making. Monkeys sitting on road side are busy in their family matters. They just gave a glance to the car and again continued being busy with their skin treatment and making faces at each other. Two people sitting in this car including the awake but bored driver. It is since last 5 hours they are in the car and they have not talked even five words with each other. Nikhil busy enjoying his loneliness after long time. Driver had stopped the car twice so far, to take tea breaks, but Nikhil did not get down. He had switched off his mobile phone as well.
Once they crossed the hilly road and reached a small village, driver stopped the car again near a tea shop. He asked Nikhil, “Sir, would you like some chai? Here masala chai is very good.”. Nikhil came out of his thought mode as if he just woke up, and responded “Yes”. Then the driver told him, “I will get the tea for you”. “No, I will come there.” Nikhil said and came out of the car. He stretched his arms and legs, yawned and then slowly walked towards the tea shop.It was a small hut with two set of bench and table kept outside the hut. Driver was sitting on one bench and talking to somebody in his language. Nikhil went and sat on the other bench. Old lady, who was the shopkeeper, was closely observing the boiling tea. At a certain point when she thought it is now ready to be served, took little tea in a spoon and poured on her right palm and tasted. Her eyes announced that tea is perfect. She stopped the gas stove and served the tea on three glasses. One she made for herself. “Take your tea” she said and continued enjoying her tea. Driver immediately went and brought the two glasses of tea. One she kept on Nikhil’s table and other he took and started sipping. Nikhil, looked at the driver and said “Thank you” and started sipping his tea. Then the old lady asked “Where are you going?”. Nikhil did not bother to answer but the driver promptly responded “Srirampur”. Old lady asked “Srirampur? That’s a tribal village, why you are going there?”. This was a out of syllabus question for driver so all four eyes were looking at Nikhil and expecting him to answer. Nikhil maintained silence for almost 2 minutes and both driver and the old lady gave up the hope to get one answer. “I want to spent some peaceful days there in that village where there will be no expectation from me”. Nobody understood and they kept quiet. Once the tea was over, they both continued their journey to Srirampur. That old lady continued her wait for the next customer.
Once they reached Srirampur, Nikhil went inside the house and driver went back to his place. This was his Gita aunt’s home which was vacant since last one year. That is since his aunt’s death. Nikhil got the key from his cousin who is aunt’s only son, who stays in the same town where Nikhil lives, and Nikhil had several times requested his cousin not to disclose where he is going, to anybody. Although, this house was vacant since last one year but one old man, who used to take care of Gita aunt when she was in her last days, takes care of this house. So house was tidy, clean and dinner was ready at the dining table. Nikhil, took bath, came and sat on the dining hall and finished his dinner, then went to sleep.
Lying on the bed he was trying to find the difference between previous nights and this night. Television sound, people talking over mobile phone, kids jumping on the bed and asking him to play, lights going on and off and wife asking some difficult questions about money matters were missing in this night. He was waiting for this night since last several years. A night where he can sleep peacefully without a single disturbance. He switched off the bed light and closed his eyes. As if entire world has been switched off. The only thought bothered him was the lie that he told to his wife to escape from all these. He lied them that he is going for office work and will be busy in several odd hour meetings. He should not e disturbed at all and he will not call anybody. So, until his return, everybody should handle their problems themselves. He is absolutely not available, he had emphasized. Now if anybody from office comes home and tells his wife or father that he is on leave then it will be extremely difficult for him to handle. Then he thought, if his kids or parents fall sick and they need any help what would they do. His phone was still switched off, so they can’t inform him as well. He immediately got up, switched on the light and opened his bag to find his mobile phone. Switched it on and kept it below his pillow and again switched off the light and closed his eyes. He slept that night after handling some more disturbing thoughts. He got up very early and went outside to take a walk. He found that village very beautiful. There is a beautiful spring where kids are taking bath and a small pond is there as well. Peacocks, Deer, rabbits and squirrels are everywhere. Big trees all around. He took some deep breaths to enjoy the fresh air. He thought, how his kids would have enjoyed if they would have seen these animals and they would have taken bath in this spring as well. His wife and parents would have become very happy by seeing these as well.
He saw one young married lady carrying lots of wood on her head walking on the road. She was ahead of him. Just after walking few meters, she entered into one small hut. That was her hut. Then suddenly he saw one man came out shouting, “I work all day, you can’t even give me a good cup of tea in the morning.”. He came and sat on a cot kept outside the hut and started lighting a beedi. Nikhil thought “How cruel this man is? His wife went to the forest to cut and get all woods to cook for them. She carried so heavy stuff on her head and walked so long. Nobody is there to even give her a glass of water and on top of that this idiot is scolding her”.
While walking he could somehow relate this lady’s situation to her wife’s state. Since they had kids, almost 8 years, she is busy taking care of the kids, parents, me and the house. Everybody demanded and commanded but nobody thought of giving some time off to her. He used to comeback from office and demand peace and cleanliness at home. He used to think, he is working so hard everyday to earn money fro the family and he expects absolute rest at home. But, he takes at least 5 to 6 tea breaks and many a times his meetings used to be like chatting times. He had never worked as hard as he portrayed to others. He got time to read his Facebook status updates, Review Twitter timelines and his personal emails while in office but his wife didn’t even get a chance to watch TV for 15 minutes because kids did not allow her to do so. Cooking, feeding kids, taking care of them and in-laws and maintaining house all these she did throughout the day since last 8 to 9 years and had hardly taken any break. He found, he is no different that this man.
He returned back to Gita aunt’s house from walk and his breakfast was ready and served on the table. The old man, care taker was sitting on the floor. While taking breakfast he talked to this old man. he got to know that, he is from neighboring village. He lives with his elder son and their family. His son and daughter in law do not like him doing anything at home. He has no right to speak anything to his son. If he advices his son something, his son and daughter in law will respond not to advice as they can take care of themselves. If he does any household work like repairing anything, gardening etc., then they will find some or other fault in that and blame him. So, he felt as if he is not needed in that house so took this job to keep himself busy and happy. He was a postmaster earlier and had saved lots of money but as his son’s separated, he gave half money to elder son and half to younger. Now he has very little money with him. He also explained how respectable person he used to be in his as well as nearby villages.Nikhil felt bad for him and his state. He thought, why did he spent all his life and money on these kids who can’t even let him live his life peacefully.
After breakfast, when the caretaker was busy cleaning the dishes and preparing for lunch, he thought, how good son I am? He realized, he even does not know what his parents like. He could not remember when last time he had sat and talked to his parents. He never took them out anywhere. Many a times when his parents gave him some advice on money matters or household matters, he has not behaved very well there as well. He tried to prove in several occasions, how knowledgeable he is and his parents hardly know anything. He could not think this anymore. he was feeling very guilty about this.
He realized that he was trying to run out of his problems to get peace thinking he is the unfortunate, stressed out person. He was actually not doing his duties and was keen on searching time for himself. In this search, he not only ignored his family but also a great amount of time. He may not get back the years that he spent thinking life is for his own entertainment. He realized how selfish he is and immediately called the driver to come and pick him up.He packed his bags and waited for the driver to come. As soon as the driver came, he gave some money to the caretaker and left for home. It was again another 5 and 1/2 hours journey which took him back to home. On his way he had thought of calling everybody in one room and confessing his mistake. He also thought of a great family outing next month. He got down from the car and turned back to thank drive,r but driver had left by then. He could not understand how he vanished so soon. Then he heard noise from inside his house. He went running.
(To be continued)
– Stray Dog
2 thoughts on “Agnyatabasa – Staying in Disguise”
Sakti, the story was enjoyable but also liked its message. I so appreciated your candid self-examination. Guess, we find it easier to point the finger at others’ weaknesses instead of looking at our own failings.
Also, can’t wait for the continuation of this story.