I LIVE IN A STREET where dogs hardly bark at the residents, not even during nighttime. It is because they have never seen a new face that can be identified as a suspected thief.
The knowledge of these dogs about the community of thieves is so poor. But the reason for their ignorance is simple: most of the thieves of the city live in our area.
These dogs sometimes bark so high that the wealthy people living around lose their sleep.
They shout and scream at the dogs and us, believing that the dogs and we people are equally responsible for the loss of their good sleep. We—the hawkers, the labourers, and the drunkards—have never complained about the dogs’ barking exercises. The hutment dwellers and the dogs live in almost similar conditions.
But at this point of time I am not in my street, nor I am in my house that is made of assemblage of bamboos and grass. Only one plastic shield is put on it, just to protect it from mild rain. Heavy rain is welcome from every nook and corner.
At this moment I am not in my area, too. I am on the floor, the insensible floor of a government run hospital. Here the doctors and nurses treat every patient equally, whether the patient is dead or alive.
But I do not know why I am here, in this hospital, on this floor. I have not been ill since years; despite the clouds of efficient mosquitoes daily visit our area. They, the two men sitting on the chairs, talk that now I should be handed over to my family members. Till this moment they were doing several things upon me. Now they look uninterested in me. Why? Because I am dead. I am a dead body.
They have not attended me until I was alive; they have no reason to care for me, as my breathing is stopped now.
I do not know why I am dead.
I WAS JUST DOING my work, pulling my hand-lorry on the tenth street of main road. I do not remember the incidence of my dying, as these people discuss—these nurses and a peon. The peon chews beetle nuts. He picks into the corner that is just near my head. Doctors have gone home after tagging me as ‘dead body No 12’.
I just recall one thing. There was a huge procession of people, passing on the main road. It is a recurring disease of our city. But suddenly there sprouted out thunderous noises. People started running. The screaming of women deafened ears. Then the policemen started thrashing men, women and children with their canes, as if they were waiting for that.
The other group of policemen carrying loaded guns in their hands felt insulted, perhaps, when they saw their coparceners using canes and proving themselves more powerful. No sooner they, the gunmen in uniform, started firing their gadgets declaring that they were second to none.
I had no chance to run away. I was with my hand lorry, full of weight. At that moment, I felt something being pierced into my back, something like a pointed iron rod. I do not remember what they did with me until I was declared dead, until I was numbered as a dead body.
The floor is stinking with chloroform. There I see a man with camera, standing near my feet. I think he would take my photograph and give it to my wife. And my wife, keeping our one-year old daughter in her arms, would run in here, and get me out of this foul-smelling passage. But the gentleman with camera is less interested in me. He looks eager only to know the total figure of those like me, the dead bodies.
I, THE DEAD BODY, am still lying on the cold floor. Air has become too cold in this late December night.
“We will have to do post mortem of all these,” the men in long white coat speaks. He looks at all of us as if we are the blocks of dead wood.
“Sir, there are twelve bodies in all. It would ruin our whole night, sir.” One sweet voiced lady doctor is just beside him.
“We need their hearts, their kidneys, and the lungs for our colleges.”
So, along with my eleven colleagues, they transport me into a room that has no windows. The cell is so foggy that I am unable to know what they are doing with all of us.
WE ALL ARE THROWN on the same floor again, and it is early morning. We all are packed in grimy yellow gunny bags. I have a line of stitches form my throat to the navel. No blood, no pain.
Now I realise that my weight is reduced. I have no heart, no kidneys and no lungs. I do not know for what purpose I owned kidneys and lungs. But what about the heart? I need it. I need it everyday. Without it how would I love my wife and the daughter? My little daughter has just learnt to speak ‘mama’ and ‘papa’. The doctors should have spared my heart at least.
You may be thinking why I am telling you all this. I know it is quite a routine subject for you: you read such things everyday in papers. But I think I must tell you how I feel going through this experience, the experience of being a dead man.
We belong to two different types of identities: myself being a dead man and you are still a living person, perhaps. The communication between you and me is necessary. We, you and I, live on two opposite banks of a river. I want to become a bridge.
I AM STILL ON THE same unattended floor, and it is second day morning. Perhaps the doctors have issued all of us to be sent out. They have left nothing useful with us, within us.
Since twenty-four hours, the air is deadly silent. But suddenly the whole earth wobbles. I hear the incessant screaming. My wife is at the gate, beating her chest, praying the gateman to let her come inside.
“Bring some proof that he was your husband,” one doctor says to her.
Her ‘Mangal Sutra’ proves to be insufficient proof of her being my wife. She goes back, crying, beating her chest and forehead; but no one allows me to talk with her. I want to shout; I want to run at her. I ask for some help from all the fellow bodies wrapped in gunny-bags. But no one of them seems hearing me. They all are dead, completely dead.
MY WIFE DOES NOT RETURN. I am unable to wait, as it is becoming unbearable. I decide to do something on my own. I gather some courage. I try to stand up. I take help of the nearby wall. I know I need going out. I need talking with others who are still alive. To my surprise, I am now on my own feet, walking slowly on the road.
The road is bare, bare like the forehead of a widow. Rows of houses are gloomy and silent as mourners. No one is visible on the main road, too. Only some shops are burning their closing stocks. It is not dark yet. Entire city looks wearing the clothes of deadly silent curfew.
There start sudden noises. A big crowd shouting dangerous slogans runs on the road. And behind the crowd I see some trucks. I see all of my eleven fellow dead bodies sleeping on the trucks. Each dead body was decorated as the bodies of heroes. People are shouting their names calling them martyrs. I feel myself insulted, as I am deprived of such an honour.
People around me talk that they have paraded these dead bodies on all the roads and in different localities—Hindu dead bodies in Hindu localities, and the Muslims in Muslim localities. Then within hours the dead bodies start swelling. They grow in numbers; they grow in size; they swell up to the last hutment of the city.
The policemen are again out with those controlling canes. People have sparkling draggers and iron rods in their hand. But I do not fear now. The gunmen in uniform again start their preferred tasks, converting the people like you into dead bodies like me.
I am now near a cemetery. I just open its iron gate, rusted by non-use. It quakes like a bone of a dead man. Going inside I feel myself comfortable. There would be a grave for me, I think hopefully. There must be a place where I can sleep without encountering further difficulties.
I find out an open, recently dug grave. On the bank of the grave, there lays a corpse, too. The corpse is well covered in costly cloth, perhaps a man from a wealthy quarter. Perhaps those who have come to bury the corpse have run away.
I do not think further. I have no options left. I want just to lay myself into the grave. I know I am doing a right thing, a prudent act. I am doing the very thing the wise men of world do when they are required to act decisively. I am doing the same thing the philosophers do when people need their active participation.
I hurry to catch hold of the grave. I know it is the most safe and peaceful place available on the earth. I know it is going to be crowded within a short period. If I do not get hold of the grave just now, I may not get it again. There will be shortage of the graves, too. I simply slip into the grave.
The gunmen are still engaged in their job. [ Image courtesy Joe Mabel [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons ]