– Sumangal Haldar
It was six in the evening and as usual a day that kept me on my toes. As I entered my home, the only thing that I could visualize was my bed, I didn’t care what was there for supper, what I cared for was a nice power nap on my bed. As I entered, there was lot of hullabaloo. My kids got busy scanning my office bag, areas they knew would carry something if at all it did; and my better half getting worried of all what I have done that kept me busy throughout the day and what would I prefer post my evening wash- a tea or a coffee. All this seemed out of place for me and I made myself out of place for them, hurrying to free myself from the official garb and eager to place myself on the height of my visualization- my bed. And so I did. It was turning dark, I remember, and the noise of my elder son arguing with his siblings started to dim in the background. There was little trace of my better half as I knew she would be by now completely engrossed in the kitchen. I was engulfed by slumber. A little while, I assume, I might have been in that steady state of sleep when somebody patted on one of my hand asking me to wake up: my better half or my son? I know not. It was ordained that someone was waiting to see me.
Reluctantly and as if in a dream, I started my journey towards the door where, as I presumed, I would find my atithi (I have purposefully used this word in place of ‘guest’ because it fits my intention of address for him he was totally a person who would arrive without citing a time for his arrival). Seeing him I thought “I don’t know him”, but his way of interaction made me realize that whether I know him or not he knows me well. I was hesitant to ask him his name. He invited me for a walk, which was out of question for me, but something in him made me follow his instruction or can say accept his invite. I don’t know why at this point of time no one from my family intervened to where I was going. It seemed as if everyone knew of it and I didn’t inform anyone either. His way of talking was very engaging. He talked for long, though I don’t remember what; but we walked some distance to a place I consider I have never been to.
Finally, he stopped me, and asked me “Did you see that?” My immediate response to his question was “What exactly?” For the first time he took my name, “Suresh, don’t react just watch”. I turned my face towards the direction to which he was pointing. The scene zoomed in front of my eyes clearing all the blur in the background and focusing on certain aspects which were highlighted distinctly. I could see a man banging on the entry door of some building… Wait! I could see that it was a hospital gate…an emergency door. The door was closed, the man was banging relentlessly, shouting, pleading to someone to open the door. Wait…I could see someone else too, somebody was lying on the floor- an aged lady, as still as a dead body. The man beside me said, “She is alive but will die.” I turned to him, but before I could say anything he carried on building his narrative. He added: “Suresh there is something more I want you to see. Turn your face, over there”. I turned and saw another man trying to film this whole act with his mobile phone. Words failed me, emotions went topsy-turvy, and before I could give words to my expressions of shock and disgust, the atithi held my hand and commanded me to move. As a man bound in chains I followed him. By now fear had taken over me, but at the same time, although it’s hard for me to express, I had no fear in walking with him.
This time he took me to a highway. Underneath a tree I saw an old man begging for food. A passer-by lady looked intently at the old man, had a small chat with him and went away. I asked the atithi “What exactly do you intend to focus my attention on?” He asked me to just wait and watch. Some moments elapsed and this lady came back with some packed meal, a fruit drink and a bottle of water. I was happy at the sight, thinking that maybe humanity arose in that lady and she could empathize with the gruesome conditions the old beggar was living with. However, my initial thoughts of happiness and consoling my mind were nipped in the bud when the athithi said, ‘Suresh, look that side.’ I turned my face to find another young lady filming this act on her mobile phone. By the time I could utter anything, he again, gently held me by my hand and took me away.
“Suresh! Suresh! Wake up its time for dinner”. Voices like these brought me back into regaining consciousness from the state of slumber into which I had transcended. I woke. I ate. And once again I slept, to unfold the life drama once again, the coming day. What can I learn, what can I say? It is better not to say. It might be so that my day-to-day interactions and exposure to the outside world have brought to fore-front a trench, devoid of humanity but ripe with plastic emotions of gimmickry. And this state had been revoked in my sub-conscious state of slumber- which prioritized to pick such instances which take a back-seat in otherwise situations. In the contemporary world of likes, show-induced charity and other tactics to build one’s prominence- human emotion might be dime a dozen, but humanity seems missing!
The author is an educationist and trainer involved at various levels of teaching and educating students.