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The Dateless Diary of An Unknown Person

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Author of the Novel

Advocate Gurdip Singh Saini

Preface

When the author Advocate Gurdip Singh Saini asked me to write preface to his this novel, I hesitated for long before agreeing to it. It is difficult to write anything about any work of Advocate Gurdip Singh Saini. It becomes a more difficult task to write anything about his this novel which is a very interesting and delightful but at the same time a very complex novel also. Fortunately, I find myself more qualified and well equipped to do this very hard job. Firstly, I happen to have a very deep look into the mind of the author, on account of my long standing friendship and association with him. Secondly, I am one of those very few lucky persons, who have the privilege to read much of the writings of Mr. Gurdip singh Saini.

All of his works, whether short stories or novels or satires, have a stamp of his sheer intelligence and unparalleled skill and excellence on them. It is an indescribable experience to go through any of his works, though at times very painful also.

He started writing many years ago, when he was only twenty years old, which could not continue for long due to adverse circumstances of his life. Though period of his creativity has not been so big, yet the canvas of his creations has been very huge and vast. He has written on almost all topics and aspects of life and has created many powerful and unforgettable characters belonging to every field and every walk of life. As per his own saying, every person is defeated, broken and scattered in his life at one or the other time. He has written much about this scattering and disintegration of one’s own self in life. He has written about the persons who have become broken, defeated and scattered by becoming victims of their circumstances. He has written about those persons also, who have come out as victorious in their struggle against those circumstances. He has written about the sorrows and joys of life and about the alienations, failures, frustrations, defeats and victories of life. But, about whatever he has written, he has done so with great excellence and perfection and with great authority.

The main period of his creativity had been from 1976 to 1984. It was during that period, he wrote more than 200 short stories and his novels like “Tom, Dick and Harry”, “The Portrait of An Idiot, As a Youngman” and “No Man’s Land”, “Dateless Diary of An Unknown person” and “Gulliver’s Travel to Indiput, the Land of Jantoos”, “The Lion in a Bird’s cage”.

Infact, the period from 1976 to 1984 was the most creative period of his life, in which he had touched the greatest heights as a writer. But, his creative life nearly came to an end after the year 1984. In the meanwhile, in the year 1983 after obtaining a degree in laws, he started his career as a lawyer. His entry into this profession proved to be a very frustrating and horrible experience for him. His very sensitive nature played havoc with him in the legal profession. He considers his joining in this profession as the biggest tragedy in his life. The atmosphere in the profession was very dry and was full of flattery and intrigues and there was no place for self respect in the profession. It hit very hard his sensibilities and artistic tastes. In addition to it, he had to face a very stiff opposition and unending conspiracies of a group of four-five lawyers, who were predominating this profession at the Garhshankar courts. Soon, he realized that he was totally misfit in this profession and was unable to adjust himself in the corrupt and suffocating atmosphere of the system. But, the irony of the fate is that despite his all hatred for the legal profession, he had to stay in it due to economic compulsions. A very poor family background left him with no other choice and he had to continue in the profession.

It was in such a frustrating state of mind that on 16th june 1984, he burned all what he had written upto that time. It was a great loss to him as well as to the world of letters. All of his works were unpublished upto that time, as he have never bothered to get any of his writings published. The loss was, indeed, immense and irreparable.

His pen became silent after the year 1984. But, a writer cannot remain aloof forever from whatever is happening around him. The rise of the terrorism and the rise in the excesses committed by the law enforcing agencies prompted him to write an anti-establishment novel “The Terror”, to depict the fate of the people of Punjab, facing blows from both sides. He got it published also, in the year 1989, but the copies of the book were confiscated by the police from the printing press. Thereafter, he did not bother about that novel also.

Thereafter, he again went into a slumber. He broke his slumber only in the year 1994, when he rewrote “Gulliver’s Travel to Indiput, the Land of Jantoos”, though in an abridged form. In spite of it being a very harsh and bitter satire, the novel is the greatest satirical novel of the second half of the 20th century. This book is perhaps one of the best examples of a perfect satire and provides a very good model to the writers who want to learn the art of satire writing. He has used all of the weapons of a satirist such as irony, ridicule, banter, symbolism, metaphors, similes, comparisons, taunting, punning on the words, mock epic style and what not, with much command and excellence. The narrator of the story Gulliver Singh, the Indian version of Gulliver, is lost in the jungle and is saved by Gulliver and both of them travel through a very strange land of Jantoos called Indiput. Outwardly, they are two characters, but in reality both of them are only one character, the character of the unbeatable, unshakeable, unmitigated eternal man, who transcends all the boundaries of time and place. After that satirical novel, he wrote a short story book “The defeated person”, in the year 2004 and again became silent thereafter.

It is a matter of great pleasure that he broke his silence after a gap of 9 years, ultimately in the month of December 2013 and started rewriting the present novel, which was also originally written in the period of 1976 to 1984. Though there are many changes in the story of the rewritten novel, yet the basic structure and the theme of the novel has remained same. This novel also bears the stamp of his extraordinary creative skill and his superb craftsmanship and he has again touched the greatest heights in this novel also. He is a very enormous story teller, a story teller par excellence. He has mastered the magic of creating interest in all whatever he writes. If one starts reading any of his novels or stories, it becomes difficult for him to leave it unfinished. He is a master narrator. While reading his works, it appears to the reader as if he is telling the stories himself. This is true about the present novel also. As I have stated earlier his works are very simple but, at the same time, very complex also. This novel is also written in a very simple style of narration, but at the same time, it is also one of the most complex and difficult works of the author. It depicts the struggle of a person against the absurdity and worthlessness of life and his struggle to keep his existence intact. As in his others words, he has used the philosophy of the theory of existentialism in this novel also, though in a very hidden and subtle manner. He has further used his theory of scatterism in this novel also. In his most of works, he had developed and adopted a theory of scatterism, the theory of disintegration of the self and the existence of a person under the pressure of the circumstances of life. But, he has always used his this theory also in his works in a very hidden and subtle manner. This is the beauty of his style of writing. He never allows his stories to turn into essays on the philosophies of existentialism and scatterism. The main character of the novel and the unknown author of the dateless diary, both have to pass through the Kafkaesque world of alienation, parent-child conflict and psychological brutality of this world. The story further advances and the quest for the realization of the true self begins and the search for the peacock tribe people starts. The reading of the novel provides a very unique experience to the reader. It is a book for all types of readers. Whether the common or the extraordinary, all type of readers will enjoy the reading of this book.

Dated: 20/06/2014

Prof. A. Bajaj

Dateless Diary of an Unknown Person

A Novel

By

Ad. G.S. Saini

 

I had gone to Ropar to meet my sister. My sister and her family were to go to Canada permanently after two days. When I entered the house of my sister, my nieces and nephews were playing in the courtyard. On seeing me, they started jumping with joy and started running towards me, while saying “Look Mom, its uncle” and they clung to me. I was just meeting them, when my eyes fell a upon four or five years old very beautiful doll like but very skinny and weak little girl, who was staring at me very surprisingly. On seeing that I was looking at her, my eldest nephew told me, “Uncle, she is Sumna.” After introducing her to me, my nephew tried to push her towards me. But she did not come closer to me.

I also tried to call that girl close to me, but she remained staying away from me and remained looking at me with a surprise. By then, my sister also came into the courtyard.

It was the month of January and winter was at its peak. But, it was noon and there was sunshine in the courtyard. My sister fetched a chair for me in the courtyard and I sat on the chair.

After a little while, my sister brought a cup of tea for me and sat near me on a cot lying in the courtyard. I started sipping tea from the cup, and then all of a sudden I asked from my sister, “Sister, who is this girl? I have not seen her earlier.”

“ Brother Manjit, she is granddaughter of your brother in law’s uncle of Kurali Town.” After a little while, after finishing tea and after putting the cup on the floor, my sister said, “Manjit, this girl is very unfortunate. She was only few months old, when she lost her both parents. Her grandparents are very old one. They have no say in the house. The elder brother of her father and his wife are all -in- all, at home. They do not behave properly with her. The poor child has become an orphan and is living in very bad conditions with her uncle and aunt. She is telling that her aunt gives her beatings over trifles and gives very little to her to eat with much difficulty. Her own children are much older than Sumna and they also remain giving beatings to her.”

I was shocked to hear all that. The girl was looking at me with her frightened eyes.

After a little pause, my sister further told me, “Three or four days back, we all went to village Kurali to see uncle of your brother–in–law and we met Sumna there for the first time. We had heard earlier that younger son and daughter-in-law of uncle had died and had left a girl behind them. But we had no opportunity to see her earlier.”

I remained listening to my sister quietly. My sister remained silent for a while and again said “We met Sumna there in a very frightened and pitiable condition. Her aunt and uncle were keeping her in worse conditions. She was bare foot and was wearing old wornout clothes. When we showed some love to her, she clung to us. She was hungry for love. She came along with us to Ropar, when we came from Kurali. Uncle himself asked us to take Sumna to Ropar for three four days, so that she remains away from the clutches of her cruel uncle and aunt. She is very happy here since the day we brought her here. She talks very sweetly and does very sweet things.”

The voice of my sister was choked and she said after a while, “Manjit she says “Aunty don’t send me back to my uncle and aunt. They beat me much. Aunty please let me stay here. I will not give any trouble to you. I will clean my dirty utensils and will wash my clothes myself”. After hearing all these words from her mouth, we wish not to send her back to Kurali. But, what can we do? We ourselves have to go to Canada after two days. We will have to take her back to Kurali. Tomorrow evening, I and your brother-in-law will take her to Kurali to leave her there.”

At night, my nieces and nephews lay down with me on my bed and remained talking to me very long. I remained telling stories to them. Slowly, Sumna came closer to me and put her hand around my neck and went to sleep, after some time while listening to our talk. When I got up in the next morning, the day had already advanced much, Sumna was not on my bed, and she had awoken before me.

I got up from the bed and came out of the room. Sumna was cleaning her cup after taking tea, at the water tap in the courtyard.

“She did not agree and started cleaning her used utensils herself. I have heard her aunt gets all the utensils used by the whole family cleaned by her. We do not want to leave her at Kurali. But, we are helpless. We will leave for Canada tomorrow. So, we will have to carry her today to kurali. What she will feel and what will be her condition? I feel my heart sinking down on the very thought of this thing.” My sister said to me. Her eyes were full of pain at that time.

After taking breakfast, I started back to my home. Before I started, my sister gave a spare bunch of keys to me and directed me to visit their home after every two or three months and to open the doors so that the fresh air might pass through the rooms. My sister and my brother-in-law were to go to Kurali in the evening to drop Sumna there. I did not want to be there at that time. So, I deliberately returned earlier from Ropar to go back to my village.

———-

 

I had gone to Ropar on my motorcycle. So, I reached my village Rampur from Ropar within an hour. Thoughts of Sumna went across my mind twice or thrice on the way, but then I became absorbed in my journey and my attention was diverted towards my father. My relations with my father were distorted and troubled one for the last many years. His whole of love was for his elder son and he always used to consider me as useless person and something extra in the family. As far as possible, I used to avoid him and never wanted to be face to face with him. On that day, when I reached my house, my father was not there and he had gone to Garhshankar for some work. I took a sigh of relief for that and after taking lunch, I picked up my baggage and left for Chandigarh.

Two days later, my sister and her family went to Canada. I could not go to Ropar thereafter. That was the final year of my L.L.B degree and I became thoroughly involved in my studies. I was left with no time to go to Ropar. In the last of the month of May, I appeared for the last paper of my L.L.B final year and became free. I had no reason or excuse to live in the hostel of University, after my exams were over and I had to go back to my house. It was very difficult for me to live in a very suffocating atmosphere of my house and I wanted to go somewhere, away from my house. After residing for a week there, all of a sudden the house of my sister flashed through my mind and I went to Ropar on my motorcycle, after telling my mother that I was going there to take care of my sister’s house.

I opened the doors and windows of the house of my sister, for the flow of fresh air through them. The cleaning of the house took the whole of the day. By the evening, I had finished the cleaning and dusting of the house of my sister. After becoming free, I went out of the house to go to market to get something to eat. I had hardly taken a few steps in the street, when I met Mrs. Saroj a neighbour of my sister. I knew Mrs. Saroj since my childhood. She was a fast friend of my sister. I used to treat her as my own elder sister.

Despite my refusal, she took me to her house for the meals. After I had taken the meals, she remained asking questions to me about the wellbeing of my sister and about my studies. We remained engaged in talking with each other over matters of here and there for a long time. I had met her after a very long time.

While talking so, suddenly she said to me, “Manjit, have you heard something about that little girl Sumna? Do you know anything about her?”

After hearing the name of Sumna, my attention at once became drawn towards that little girl.

“No sister, I have not heard anything about her, what has happened?” I asked Saroj with curiosity.

“Sumna was not willing to go back from your sister’s house. Your sister and her husband took the weeping and crying poor little girl forcibly to Kurali. On the next day they went to Canada.” After saying so, Mrs. Saroj became silent.

She again started speaking after a little pause, “A few days after their departure, in the evening, Sumna came alone here and remained knocking at the main gate of the house of your sister. When nobody opened the door she started crying while standing in front of the closed gate. People passing through the lane remained looking at the weeping Sumna, but nobody cared about her and nobody tried to talk to her to calm down her. While weeping and sobbing, she lay down on the floor in front of the gate and fell asleep there. After some time she woke up and went away from there. I was not at my house on that day, as I had gone to some other place. When I came back here next day I came to know about Sumna.”

After remaining quite for some time, Mrs. Saroj again said with a choked throat, “A few days thereafter, an old man came here in search of Sumna, He was grandfather of Sumna. He told us that your sister and her husband could leave Sumna at village Kurali with much difficulty. Thereafter, she remained weeping very bitterly for two-three days. Upon that, she was beaten very harshly by her aunt and uncle. Next day, Sumna left the house and went away somewhere. Her grandfather remained searching for her here and there in Kurali and in the surrounding villages, but, he could not find her anywhere. Then he came here to Ropar in search of her. People told him here that Sumna had come here and had remained standing crying in front of the gate of your sister’s house and then had gone from there and nobody had seen her thereafter. After knowing that about her, her grandfather remained searching for her in the streets of Ropar, but nothing could be known about her. Her grandfather went back to Kurali, while weeping and crying. Before leaving, he gave his address to me and said to me to inform him about Sumna, if anything is known about her. But, nobody has seen Sumna after the day she had come to the locked house of your sister. Nobody has heard anything about her since then. Her grandfather also never came to Ropar thereafter. You also did not come to Ropar for such a long time. I thought you might have come to know something about Sumna. She was found or not.” Her eyes overflowed with water.

After I had heard that story about Sumna from Mrs. Saroj, I became very disturbed and it became very difficult for me to remain sitting there. After a while, I got the address of grandfather of Sumna from Mrs. Saroj and came back to the house of my sister. The night had already fallen by that time. I lay down on a bed in a room of my sister’s house. But, I could not get to sleep on that night, even for a moment, due to disturbance in my mind. Kurali was at a distance of more than 15 km from Ropar. How that little girl had managed to come from Kurali to Ropar. Had she come to Ropar by bus or had she come to Ropar by foot? Where had she vanished from Ropar, thereafter? Did she go back to Kurali or not? Had her grandfather found her again? All those questions remained passing through my mind whole of the night. But, I was having no answer to any such questions. Whole of the night, the picture of Sumna standing and weeping in front of the gate of my sister’s house remained flashing before my eyes. I passed that night very restlessly. Next day, after the day had advanced a little, I went to Kurali. I found the house of the grandfather of Sumna within few minutes. After reaching there, I knocked at the front door of house. After a few seconds, a 30-35 years old lady opened the door. Finding some unknown person standing in front of her house, she looked at me with a question mark in her eyes.

“Madam, I have come here to meet Mr. Dalip Singh,” I asked her. Dalip Singh was the name of grandfather of Sumna.

“He is not alive, now.” She said to me.

It was again a matter of big shock to me.

Before I could ask something to her, she herself told me that about five months ago, the granddaughter of Dalip singh was lost and she could not be found thereafter and Dalip Singh could not bear that shock and passed away within a month. She further told me that some time thereafter, the aunt and uncle of Sumna sold their house to them and went away to live in some other city and that since then they were residing in that house.

“Was anything heard about Sumna thereafter?” I asked her without any hope.

“No, nobody has heard anything about her. God knows, what has happened to the poor child.” She replied.

After that, it was purposeless for me to stay there. I thanked that lady and started back towards Ropar. On the way, I remained stopping my motorcycle at the roadside villages and remained asking there about Sumna from the people. But, nobody knew anything about Sumna. After reaching Ropar, I did not proceed further to my village. I remained enquiring from people at bus stop and in the lanes of Ropar about Sumna. I asked about Sumna in the villages adjoining to Ropar. But, I did not get any clue about Sumna anywhere.

Finally, after feeling tired and disappointed, after three-four days, I started from my sister’s house for going back to my village. I was going back with a very heavy heart. The innocent face of Sumna remained moving before my eyes continuously.

It was only 10’O clock in the morning, when I had started from the house of my sister. But, my mind was not ready to go so early to my village. My father must be at home at that time. The thought of my father’s being in the house, filled my heart with fear. So, when I came out of the populated area of Ropar city and reached near the bridge over the river Satluj, I took my motorcycle off the main road and turned it on the small path along the bank of the river Satluj, towards eastern side. A very beautiful grassy park was situated a few yards ahead. I stopped my motorcycle in a corner of the park and sat down on parapet constructed on the bank of the river. It reminded me of the old days when I was studying in the Government College at Ropar. I had studied in that college up to my graduation. I had made many friends at Ropar. In the evening, I and some of my friends used to move out of our homes for the evening walk and used to come to the embankment of river Satluj and used to sit in the same park. We would talk there about our future and many other things for hours together and would remain dreaming about our future. After finishing our exams, we would sit on the same parapet, on the bank of the river. We would write the words “Pass” and “Fail” on both sides of a small piece of paper and would throw the same on the waters of the river. If the paper will fall on the water with the word “Pass” on its upper side, we would consider ourselves successful in the exams and if the word “Fail” would be on the upper side we would take it as a result of some mistake and would again throw a new piece of paper on the water. We would remain doing so till we would get the right word on the upper side of the paper. How innocent and colorful days those were! I was thus lost in my old memories, when some children came there and started shouting and playing in the park. All of a sudden, I thought lest Sumna might have come to that side and might have fallen in the waters of river Satluj. I became very upset on the very thought of any such mishappening. In the mean time, some vendors had also reached there and had positioned there food carts in one corner of the park. I got up and went to them and asked them if about four month ago some little girl had come there alone and if some of them might be knowing anything about her. My heart started palpitating very quickly with anxiety. But, none of them knew anything about any such little girl and they had not seen any such little girl there. I went back to another corner of the park and lay down on the grass and remained pondering about Sumna. Where had she gone? What had happened to her? I remained sitting there busy in the thoughts of Sumna for quite long. At about 4 PM, I kick started my motorcycle and started riding towards Garhshankar, to my village. When my motorcycle was moving on the road, the wind was striking with my ears very forcibly and was screaming and was asking from me, “Where Sumna has gone?” “Where Sumna has gone?” I had no answer to that Question.

——-

 

I reached my village at about 5 PM. The main gate of my house was open. The thing which was scaring me most had happened. My father was sitting in a chair in front of a table in the courtyard and was drinking tea from a cup. My mother was sitting in a corner of the courtyard, near the fireplace and was chopping vegetables for preparing dinner. I silently parked my motorcycle in other corner of the courtyard and moved ahead to climb the stairs to go to my room situated at the first floor of the house. When, I was just going to start climbing the stairs, my father called me. I went closer to him with my head hanging downwards, expecting him to rebuke and abuse me. But to my surprise, nothing happened like that. Rather, my father talked with me in a very light and jolly mood and asked me to sit near him. I dragged one chair near to his table and sat on it. My father poured tea from the kettle in a cup and pushed the cup toward me on the table and asked me in a very cheerful mood, “Alright, then you had come back. Have you got your sister’s house cleaned thoroughly?”

“Yes father.” I gave a very short reply and spoke nothing more and started drinking tea from my cup. I was very much surprised in my heart at that type of unexpected behavior of my father.

I finished the tea and got up from the chair and again moved towards the stairs to go up to my room.

“Hey you! Where are you going?” My father tossed up a question towards me from my back.

I became stunned on hearing his question and stopped, almost in the middle of the courtyard.

“Father, I am going upstairs to my room.” I replied with great effort.

“For what?” My father threw another question at me.

I could not say anything in reply and tried to understand the meaning of his question vainly.

“You are clung to us like a tumour of cancer. We were not in need of you at all. You were born to us to become a burden upon us. We had already a son, your elder brother. You were unwantedly born in my house to get the share of your elder brother divided. Otherwise, he was the sole heir to my property. But, he is getting pulls and pushes in America because of your birth in my house. If you had not born to us, I would not have sent him abroad. I hate you from the core of my heart. I had already done for you, what I could do. I had got you educated so much, as I could. Now, there is no place for you in my house. Be off from my house and do not come back here again. I do not want to see your face again in my life. From today onwards you are dead for me and I am dead for you.” My father announced his last and final verdict against me.

After hearing those words from the mouth of my father, it appeared to me as if I had been struck with a bolt from the blue. I looked at my mother very desperately with a hope that she might say something in my support, but she remained busy in chopping vegetables in a manner as if she had not heard anything.

I knew it from the very beginning that my parents had great love and affection for their elder son and that they wanted to give their whole property to him. It was also known to me that my parents had no love and affection with me. I had come to this world unwantedly so many years after the birth of my elder brother. But, there was no fault of mine in that. My brother had gone to America many years ago, but it was his attraction towards the wealth and luxury of America, which took him there. He had himself chosen to go there. There was no fault of mine in that also. But, my parents considered me guilty for that also. My parents were, no doubt, always missing their elder son very vehemently. But, they would give me such punishment for that, I had never imagined so.

I silently climbed up the stairs and went into my room. I put up my bag of clothes on a table and fell down on the bed very desperately. My father used to hate me bitterly, I knew it. But, I had never thought that one day he would disown me and would throw me out of his house in that manner all of a sudden. I had spent many years of my life in the loneliness of that room, since my childhood. But, then at that time, that room had become stranger to me within a few moments and I was left with no right in that room. I had realized that I had then to leave that room, that house and that village. Where would I go and what would I do, after leaving that house? I remained brooding that for a long time, while lying on the bed. Then, suddenly I heard the sound of opening and closing of the main gate of the house from below. My father might have gone to the fields on his usual daily round. Suddenly, a feeling of hatred arose for my father in my mind also. If he did not want to see me again in his life, I also did not want to see him in my life again. After thinking so, I made up my mind to leave the house of my father at that very moment. I did not want to stay there any more, even for spending night. I looked outside the room through the door. Evening had already started falling down and the day had already started fading. I got up from the bed at once. My extra clothes were already lying packed in the bag. I had not taken out those clothes from my bag. I lifted the bag from the table and looked at my room for the last time and then got out of the room. After getting down the stairs, I went to my motorcycle and started tying my bag on the back seat of motorcycle with a string. Suddenly, a thought came into my mind that the motorcycle was also purchased with the money of my father. I did not want to carry with me anything belonging to that person. I took off the bag from the motorcycle and put it on the carrier of the bicycle which was standing in the verandah of the house. That cycle was purchased with the money which I had won in a competition in my high school days. I was having only rupees 200/- with me at that time and I was not in a position to travel by bus. So, I took my cycle off its stand and prepared to leave that house. Before going out of the house, I looked at my mother for the last time. She was still sitting in the courtyard and cooking vegetables at the fireplace. Her face was towards other side, I knew that it was their both’s planning, but still I had a ray of hope in my mind that my mother might stop me from leaving the house and my feet came to a sudden halt in the middle of the gate of the house. But, my mother did not say anything and remained sitting in front of the fireplace with her back towards me and remained busy in the cooking. After stopping there for a while, I moved out of the gate of the house. Then, my bonds with my parents and with that house were broken forever.

After passing through a village street, I reached at the main Garhshankar-Ropar road. Before proceeding further on the road, I looked around myself. My village, the surrounding fields, the trees, the birds and the people moving around, all had become strangers to me. In fact, the whole of the world had become stranger to me within the passing of only few hours. I was feeling all alone and a solitary person in the whole the world.

I thought of going towards north side to Garhshankar, which was situated at a distance of only two kilometers from my village. But, then on my own, I turned my cycle towards Ropar and rode on my cycle and started on an unknown journey.

It was already twilight by that time and darkness has started descending around. The village Balachaur was situated at a distance of about 30 kilometers from my village. It took me more than two hours to reach there. When I reached Balachaur, it was complete dark and nothing could be seen on the road. It became very difficult for me to travel on the road. Suddenly, it came into my mind that it was the village of my classmate Balwant. We had studied together in the 10th standard. I had been once to his house also. I thought of passing night at his house and moved towards his house. The main gate of the house of Balwant was open. There was an atmosphere of festivity in his house. Many guests seemed to be present in the house. I hesitated to enter his house and remained standing in the street in front of the gate of his house. Balwant was moving around in the courtyard from here to there. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon me and he recognized me within no time. He came to the gate and said to me, “Is it you Manjit. What a pleasant surprise! From where are you coming on cycle at this time?”

With a quite hesitation I told a lie to him, “I have come from the house of my elder sister from Ropar. Family of my sister has gone to America. This cycle was lying there unused. I thought, I might take it to my village, lest it might get damaged and rusted. It became dark, when I was a few kilometers away from here I thought it would be better to stay here in your house at night and to go to my village in the morning.”

“Come in my dear. You had come at a very auspicious occasion. My elder brother has been blessed with a son, a few days ago. Today, we are celebrating the birth of the child. Some guests have also come to participate. We had arranged a party with many things to eat and drink. But, so far as I remember you don’t take wine. Still then nothing to worry. We have many types of eatables. Please come in and join us in our enjoyment.” Balwant said many things to me in a single breath.

I followed him into the courtyard of the house and parked my cycle in a corner of the house. By that time, the mother of Balwant also came there and she also recognized me at once, though she was seeing me after a very long time.

“Son, seeing you after such a long time. But, you have come here at a very good time. Be with us in the celebrations.” She said to me.

I gave congratulations to her on the birth of her grandson. On that, she took me in her embrace with great love and asked Balwant, “Balwant make him sit comfortably among the guests. I will serve food after some time.”

I looked around in the courtyard. Guests were sitting on some cots in the middle of the courtyard. Bottles of liquor were lying on the tables placed in front of the cots. It looked that they had already taken a lot of liquor; they were fully intoxicated and were talking meaninglessly. Balwant knew that I was a teetotaler. So, he made me sit on a vacant cot, which was lying at a distance from other cots.

I sat silently on the cot and remained watching the guests drinking wine and making noise. After about half an hour, the ladies served food to the guests. I was not hungry to the least. I could eat only one flatbread with vegetable. After finishing their meals, the guests started making merriment and dancing in the courtyard. My mood was very depressed and sullen. It was all looking very tasteless and absurd to me.

After some time, a group of gypsies came into their house. There were two women and a young in the group. One of the women was about 40 years old and the other was looking around 15/16 years of age. The young man was of my age and was having a small twofaced drum hanging down from his neck with a string. The women were wearing very cheap but very colorful dresses and were having very cheap makeup done on their faces. They were the women who used to sing and dance in the houses of others on happy occasions. After giving congratulations to the house owners, they became ready to start their programme in the middle of the courtyard, where some space was made for them. The young man sat on the ground and put his drum in front of him and started beating it with his both hands. The both women started singing and dancing on the beat of the drum in a very plain manner. The young man was playing upon the drums with his head bent downwards. But, I felt as if he was looking at me off and on very stealthily. He was looking very familiar to me but I could not recollect who he was.

The guests and the family members of Balwant were sitting on cots at a distance from them and were enjoying the show of the gypsy women. Suddenly, one of the guests asked the gypsy women, “Hey you ladies, do you know the Punjabi song of Jaspinder Naroola, “ LET THE GOD DO, THE DAY SHOULD NOT RISE.”

The young man changed rhythm of the drum without looking upwards, without saying anything and the women started singing the song, “TODAY WE WILL PASS THE NIGHT TOGETHER, LET THE GOD DO, THE DAY SHOULD NOT RISE” and started dancing on the beat of the drum. After few seconds, two heavily drunkard guests got up and also started dancing with the women. While dancing, they remained trying to get hold of the arms of the dancers and to touch their body parts. They were looking at the women with very lustful eyes. The women remained singing and dancing, while trying to save themselves from the mischievous moves of those two guests. The young man remained playing upon the drum with his head hanging downwards, as if he was unaware about what was happening around him.

Suddenly, I remembered and recognized him. He was Mohani. After passing my 5th class from the village primary school, I had got admission in the 6th class in the Hans Raj Ariya High School at Garhshankar. Mohani had also got admission in the same class in the same school. I was from a rural background. I have lived in the villages since the time of my birth till then. So, I was very much frightened and was under complex and used to sit on the last benches of my class. Mohani was from a very poor family and also used to sit beside me. Gradually, a bond of friendship developed between us. He was from a gypsy family. He was residing with his family in a hut behind the bus stop at Garhshankar. His father and mother used to sing and dance in the houses of others on marriages and other happy occasions and they were pulling on their lives in that manner. Whenever his father used to go, a small twofaced drum used to hang in front of his stomach from his neck, with the support of a string. In the houses of others, he used to sit on the ground and used to beat the drum in a rhythm with his hands. His mother used to sing and dance on the beat of drum. Feeling pleased with their singing and dancing, the people used to give them some money and some food. Mohani used to tell me that his father wanted to educate him so that he might get some good job one day and that they might be able to give up their that work. Mohani also used to dislike that work. On holidays, he used to accompany his parents. He used to tell me that when his mother used to sing and dance, the men of those houses used to make very immoral and licentious gestures to her and some of them even used to touch her body and that she used to save herself by moving to one side or the other and that his father used to continue to play upon the drum with his head bent downwards, as if he had not seen anything. But, in his mind his father used to feel very much pained and ashamed. But, they had no other source of livelihood to keep up their existence. Mohani was doing much labour in his studies and he was very intelligent also. He used to say that after completion of his education, he would get some job and then, first of all, he would make his mother stop singing and dancing and that he would not let his younger sister to walk on the same path. Towards the end of the year, Mohani proved to be the topmost intelligent student in the class. But, the fate was having something else in store for him. His father expired all of a sudden, even before the final exams and he stopped coming to school and left his studies in the middle. Thereafter, I could know nothing about him. On that day, after so many years, I had found him all of a sudden in the house of Balwant doing the same thing he hated most. He could not complete his education and could not become a special person in his life. He could become only a drummer like his father. He could get only a drum in inheritance from his father. The circumstances had put on the drum in his neck, perhaps, at a very younger age. I looked at him. He was playing upon the drum with his both hands, while sitting on the ground like his father, with his head bent downwards, posing as he was unaware about what was happening around him. I remained looking at the cruelty of life, with a great surprise.

By then, all the men present in the house had become fully intoxicated and had started dancing with the women. That merrymaking continued for quite a long time. Finally, Mother of Balwant forcibly stopped the drunkards from dancing and sent back Mohani and women after giving them some money and some food. They prayed to the God for the long life of the newly born and started moving toward the gate of the house. I remained seeing them going with a very heavy heart. Before going out of the gate, Mohani suddenly looked behind at me for few seconds. I felt at once, he had also recognized me. But, he spoke nothing and turned away his face and along with his mother and sister went out of the gate. Soon, they were lost outside in the dark.

After their departure, the mother of Balwant made beds for the guests in the courtyard itself. But, for me and Balwant, the beds were laid on the terrace. We both went upstairs and lay down on our beds. While lying so on my bed, I remained looking at the stars in the sky and remained thinking what was written on the stars about my coming life.

Balwant had also taken some liquor that day. He was muttering some unclear words from his mouth under intoxication. All of a sudden he asked me, “Manjit, tell me one thing truly. You are looking so depressed. What’s the matter? From where you have come at this time, in the dark”

I was surprised to hear that question from him. He had realized it that I was under depression, even during such atmosphere of festivity. I started thinking, what I should say to him. But, I had not to say anything to him. Immediately after asking that question to me, he had fallen asleep. But, I was finding it very hard to get the sleep that night. I remained thinking about my days to come. I was unable to perceive anything. I was to make a new start in my life. But, what could be that new start and from where I could make the new start? There was no answer to those questions. During thoughts about my own life, the thoughts regarding Mohani also remained entering into my mind again and again. The cruelty of destiny had shattered his dreams in his very childhood and had put that drum in his small hands. I was thinking about the newly established social system and patterns of Indian society, after the Independence of India. There, a minister’s son could become a minister, an M.P’s son could become an M.P. an officer’s son could become an officer. The son of a drum player also could become a drum player only. The daughter of a dancer could also become only a dancer. It had become very difficult to break down the brackets. It had become the cruelty of newly evolved system of India. I remained thinking about such things, till very late. I could go to sleep only after midnight.

I woke up next morning very early it was the time before the dawn. The darkness had just started thinning up. Some cattle were tied up in one corner in the courtyard bellow. Mother of Balwant was putting fodder in the mangers of the cattle. The clattering sound of that thing had awoken me. Balwant was still lying fast asleep on his cot. I came down the stairs silently and picked up my cycle and got ready to start on my next journey. Balwant’s mother saw me. She came to me and spoke to me in a very low voice, “Manjit, why are you leaving so early? Go after day break, after taking the breakfast. Your village is not so far. You will reach there within an hour.”

I put my cycle again on its stand and silently made myself sit on a cot, lying in one side of the courtyard. What could I tell to Balwant’s mother? My village had not remained my village by then.

In a very short time, Balwant’s mother brought a cup of tea for me. After taking tea, to take leave of her, I said to her, “Aunty my village is so near from here. I will reach there within an hour. I will take the breakfast after reaching my home. My parents must be waiting for me.” But, I knew it in my heart that I was having no home in the village and my parents were not waiting for me. Soon thereafter, I took leave of the Balwant’s mother and came out of their house. It was daybreak already. Some people had already come out of their houses and they were moving to and fro for doing their daily work. The majority were still lying asleep in their houses.

After coming out of the house of Balwant, I reached the main road and started paddling my cycle on the road towards Ropar, in search of my some new unknown destination.

It was looking to be a slow and lazy beginning of the day. The road was lying empty up to a long distance and was giving a very desolate look. The movement of the traffic had not yet started on the road. The birds sleeping on the trees were just awakening and were raising a very high clamour. I was an early riser in my life and I used to go on a morning walk daily and I always used to be bewitched by the beauty and the sounds of the nature. But on that day, everything was looking to me so meaningless and worthless. I remained paddling my cycle and reached Ropar at about 9 AM.

After crossing the bridge of river Satluj, I reached same park at the bank of the river. I parked my cycle in one corner of the park and sat down on the grass. Nobody was present in the park at that time and the park was lying fully vacant. I had remained sitting in the same park only a day ago. But, my life had changed completely over a night. Though, I was not of the liking of my parents, yet I was having a home just a day ago. So, I had a reason to go to my village. But, I had become homeless over a night and then I was left with no abode for me in the whole of the world. Then, I was to go ahead of Ropar in search of some place for me in the world. I remained sitting there for a very long time and remained making program for me for going further from Ropar. I wanted to go far away from my village, which had ceased to be as my village. I made up a program in my mind to go to Delhi or even to go further from Delhi. More than two hours had passed during my that dilemma and it was already few minutes past 11 AM. I could not realize how two hours had passed in no time. By then, some vendors had reached there with their food carts. I had also become hungry by that time. I took my wallet out of the hip-pocket of my pant and looked into that. There were only 200/- Rupees in it. I was to pass many coming days with that much amount. When I was going to close my wallet, my eyes caught a glimpse of the photograph of the daughter of my elder brother which was lying in my wallet. She was only three years old, when she came to India along with her parents. I was very much delighted and exited on the coming of my niece. During her stay in India, she remained clung to me. I started loving her very much. But, my love for my niece also failed to change the attitude of my parents and my brother towards me. She went back to America along with her parents, after three months. She never came again to India thereafter. I always loved and missed her very much. I had got prepared a photograph of my niece, a few days before her departure from India. I had always kept that photograph of my niece in my wallet. For a moment, I thought of throwing out that photograph from my wallet, but then I let the photograph lying in my wallet and closed my wallet and put it back in my pocket. Then, I went to one of the food carts. The vendor was selling one sandwich for one Rupee. I purchased only one sandwich from him and paid one Rupee to him. Then I ate the sandwich with a glass of water. After finishing the sandwich, I again went back to my earlier place of sitting. Then, I was left with Rupees 199/- only. One rupee had gone out of my pocket. There onwards, I was to carry on my life with the remaining amount, by spending it very carefully and judiciously. But, in my heart I knew, such a small amount was sufficient only to support me for 20-25 days.

I thought my money might be finished even before I would reach Delhi on my cycle. I was lost in such thoughts, when suddenly the thoughts about my maternal grandfather came into my mind. Behrampur was the village of my maternal grandfather. It was situated towards one side of Ropar, at a distance of 10/11km. My maternal grandfather was a very rich person. He was a money lender and a big trader and was having huge money with him. I thought of begging some money from him, though I was not much hopeful about that. My maternal grandparents were having more love and affection with my elder brother and with the sons of their other daughter Meena. They were having no love and affection with me. I had never been willing to go to their house. But on that day, I made up my mind to go to their village. My maternal grandfather had always remained giving much money to my elder brother and my cousins. It is another matter that he had never given even a single penny to me in whole of my life. But that day, I was some hopeful and thought that he might help me also with some money.

————

It was a very hot day. The sunshine was very sharp. After some decline in the heat of the day, at about 3 PM, I started on the very narrow road leading from Ropar to Behrampur. I had covered just only 2 or 3 Kilometers, when a sudden change in the climate starting taking place. There was a range of Shivalik Mountains on the other side of Ropar. The sky over the said range suddenly became overcast with clouds. Some rainy season rivulets were coming out from the Shivalik Mountains, which most of the year used to remain dry. But, those used to be over-flooded sometimes suddenly, without any warning, when there used to be any rains in the catchment area of the rivulets. On the road to Behrampur, there fell the bed of such a dry rivulet near village Chaunta. There was no bridge over that rivulet. One had to pass through the sandy bed of that rivulet. On seeing the clouds, I started paddling my cycle very fast. I wanted to cross the rivulet, before it could be over flooded. Within a few minutes, I reached near the rivulet and started crossing it. It had already started raining a little bit by then. The bed of rivulet was filled with sand, so it was not possible to ride on cycle through the same. So, I got off the cycle and started crossing the bed of the rivulet on foot. I was holding my cycle in my hands and the cycle was passing through the sandy path very slowly, with great difficulty. When I had reached in the middle of the rivulet, I heard a very high roar of the of the sound of the flow of coming water. The flood water was coming in the rivulet. I tried my best to cross the rivulet quickly, but the cycle could be pulled through the sand very slowly. Within minutes the flood reached there. The tides of the flood were not more then 4 or 5 feet in height. But, the flood water was flowing at a very high speed, with a great force. Within no time, the cycle slipped away from my hands and flowed somewhere with the water. My bag of clothes was on the carrier of my cycle. It also drowned with the cycle. I tried very hard to keep myself firm and erect in the water, but within few seconds the buoyancy and force of water lifted my feet from the bottom of the rivulet and I also started drowning in the water. I did not know how to swim. I moved my hands and feet to and fro very desperately to save myself. But, I could not succeed in my efforts and became submerged in the water and the water started filling into my lungs and I became unconscious within few seconds.

When I regained my consciousness, I found myself lying on a bed in the room of some unknown house. I looked around me. An old man was sitting in a chair near my bed. He told me that I was flowing in the flood in the rivulet in an unconscious state and that I was spotted by some residents of his village Chaunta and that I was drawn by them out of the flooded water with much labour and that they put me on the ground at the bank of the rivulet and got the water pushed out of my lungs, by pressing upon my chest. He further told me that they could not bring me to senses despite their best efforts and so they brought me to the village in the unconscious state and that they handed over me to the headman of their village. I realized soon that at that time, I was lying in a room in the house of the headman and that that old man was the headman of the village.

After telling the above said story to me, the old man raised his hands upwards and said, “Thank God, you are saved. Boy you have got a second life by the grace of God. Otherwise, if anybody is once caught in the flood, it becomes very difficult to save him from the fury of the currents. The men of my village could draw you out of the water, so you are very lucky.”

I was feeling myself very weak and could not say anything. So, I folded my both hand to thank him, while remaining lying on the bed.

The old man again said to me, “When, it is raining in the hills, nobody here from our villages dares to enter into the rivulet. The rivulet is over flooded suddenly. You do not seem to be from our area. To which area do you belong? What is the name of your village?”

“Sir, I had come from Garhshankar. I have seen the clouds over the hills, but I thought I would cross the rivulet before the flood would reach there. I could not perceive that I would be caught in the middle of the flood.” I replied to him.

“Here, to which village you are to go?” The old man again asked to me.

“Sir, I am to go to village Behrampur. I am grandson of money lender Karam Singh.” I replied to the old man.

“Oh! What a surprise. You are the grandson of Karam Singh money lender. I have very good relations with him. Both of us know each other very well. It is good that you had been saved by men of my village and nothing bad had happened to you. Your grandfather’s village is situated at a bare distance of 4 or 5 Kilometers from here. But, it is still raining very heavily. When it will stop raining then you may proceed to your grandfather’s village. Eat something till then. You will get back your strength and stamina.” The old man said to me.

I looked outside the window of the room. It was raining very heavily outside. After a little while, the granddaughter of the head man brought some food and some hot milk for me. Till then, on that day, I had taken only one cup of tea at the house of Balwant and then one sandwich at Ropar. I was really feeling very hungry at that time. I regained my strength and my stamina after eating the food and after drinking the hot milk. At that time, I suddenly realized that I was not wearing my own clothes.

On seeing my surprise, the old man said to me, “Son, your clothes had become wet and dirty in the flood water. We took those clothes off you and put dry clothes of my grandson on you. My granddaughter had wrapped one more dress of my grandson in a polythene bag for you. You may not get new dresses so soon. So, take these dresses with you. Keep these dresses of my grandson with you, till you get the new one. Don’t feel shy about it.”

Suddenly, the old man remembered something and took out some currency notes from his pocket and handed over the same to me, while saying, “Son, here is your money. It was lying in your pocket in a wallet and had become wet in the water. My grandson had dried it up.”

Suddenly, I remembered about my cycle and my bag. I asked the old man, “Sir, my cycle was also drowned in the flood. There was my bag on the carrier of my cycle. My clothes were in the bag. Have your men found my cycle and bag also?”

“Son, how could your cycle and the bag be found in the flood water? Nobody can tell to which place they might have flown in the water. Moreover, if anybody happens to find both things, he will not return same to you.” The old man tried to console me.

My cycle, my bag and my clothes were my last link with the house of my father. Those were also lost and my last link with the house of my father was broken. From thereafter, I was to continue my journey on my foot. The rain had stopped by the evening. I thanked the old man and his family members for their kindness and started walking further towards the village of my maternal grandfather.

When I reached the house of my maternal grandfather, the night was about to fall. I had not gone to his house during the last many years. He was not expecting me to be in his house. On seeing me reaching his house at that time, he asked me with great astonishment, “Why have you come here at this time? What work with me has brought you here?”

He had put those questions to me, immediately after seeing me. I was not ready to face those questions so immediately. In reply to those sudden questions of my grandfather, I had to tell him everything truly, whatever had happened to me till then.

After telling him the whole story I said to him, “Grandfather, now, I will not go back to my village. I am thinking of going to Delhi. There I may get some job and I may be able to pull on my life. I am in need of 200-300/- Rupees for going there. If you could pay me that amount. I will return it to you, after getting settled there.”

On hearing my those words, my grandfather became totally mum and started thinking something. Perhaps, he was thinking about some excuse to refuse the payment of that amount to me. After keeping mum for a while, he spoke in a very low tone, “Boy, my crops have been damaged very badly this year. I have not earned anything. I have no money with me. From where I could pay money to you.”

I knew my grandfather was telling a white lie. The front pocket of his shirt was puffed up with currency notes. But, he was not willing to pay anything to me. I understood immediately what he wanted to convey to me. So, without saying anything further, I came out of his house. It was complete dark outside. I could not walk back to Ropar at that time. “BASTARD, THE SON OF A BITCH” I abused my grandfather in my mind and started walking towards the small bus stop of the village. The bus stop was totally empty at that time. The last bus from Behrampur to Ropar had already left the bus stop. The last bus to Chandigarh had also gone much time ago. I had no other option but to stay at village Behrampur to spend the night. But, I was having no place at village Behrampur to stay at night. Just near to the bus stop, there was a small vegetable wholesale market of the village, from where different vegetables and potatos were daily sent to other cities through trucks. I went to the vegetable market. It was lying desolate at that time. All the shops of the market were already closed. Some persons were sleeping on some empty jute bags on the floor in the verandahs of some shops. I also lay down on the bare floor of the verandah of a shop, at some distance from them. One of said persons was awaked at that time. On seeing me lying on the bare floor, he pushed a jute bag towards me and said, “Boy, spread it on the floor. Otherwise, you will not get any sleep on the bare floor.”

I silently picked up the jute bag and spread it over the floor and lay down upon it. I was very hungry at that time. There was nothing to eat at that place. I started trying to fall asleep with the empty stomach. But, I was not getting any sleep. While lying so, I started thinking about my coming days. I had realized that in future I would have to face hunger many a times and I would have to sleep on the ground many a times. While thinking about my such coming circumstances, finally I got the sleep.

In the early morning, at about 4 AM a loud sound of some vehicle awoke me from my sleep. Soon, a truck came there and stopped in the middle of the market in front of some shops. The persons sleeping in the nearby verandah at once got up. Some bags of potatoes were lying piled up in one corner of the market. Those persons started loading the potato bags in the truck. They loaded the truck within an hour and the truck became ready to leave the market. After hesitating for a while, I asked the driver as to where the truck was heading for. He told me that the truck was to go to Chandigarh. After getting his permission I also boarded on the truck. Within few minutes, the truck moved out of the market and started heading for Chandigarh.

The truck reached the 47 sector vegetable market of Chandigarh within an hour. There was a great rush in the market. The vendors had already reached there to purchase their day’s stock and they were purchasing the vegetables from the various wholesale vegetable stalls. The tea makers had also already reached there and had started making tea at their tea stalls. I bought and drank a cup of tea and thereafter moved out of the vegetable market of sector 47, which was situated on the outskirts of Chandigarh city. At that time, the market of sector 17 was the focal point of Chandigarh. I wanted to save money, so I started moving towards sector 17 on foot. I reached the main market of sector 17 at about 10 AM. Sector 17 was over flooded with the people. They were moving towards their offices in a hurry. I felt very lonely in the crowd of unknown persons. So, I went towards the famous fountain of sector 17 which was built in the middle of the main market. After reaching there, I sat down on a concrete bench near the fountain. When I was studying in the law department of Punjab University Chandigarh, I along with my friends used to visit 17 sector main market once or twice a week and we used to sit on the same benches and used to chat there for hours. It always used to give me a very splendid feeling, when I used to sit near the fountain. I would remain seeing the great hustle and bustle there and would remain seeing the rising of the water of the fountain to great heights in the sky and would remain seeing the change of colors in the water of the fountain for hours all together. On that day, the fountain, the colors coming out of the fountain and the people moving around, all were looking so prosaic, so colorless and so meaningless to me. My earlier days of gaiety and happiness were left behind, somewhere in my village. I would have to struggle very hard, then onwards, to keep up my existence. At about 11 AM, I got up from the bench and went to the market under the overbridge passing through the middle of the sector 17. There were some cheap food shops under the bridge. I bought a sandwich from a shop and paid rupees two to the shop keeper and came out of the overbridge market. My money had started decreasing day by day. I again occupied that very bench and started eating the sandwich and remained thinking about my next planning. The sector 17 market was the heart of Chandigarh and hundreds of shops were built therein. I thought, I might succeed in getting some job at some or the other shop. After making that planning in my mind, I started wandering in the market with a hope that I might get a job in some shop. But, nobody became ready to give any job to me in his shop. Most of the shop keepers were already having more than required number of employees. Those, who were in a need of men for their shops, were not ready to keep an unknown person in their shops as an employee. No familiar person of mine was there to stand surety for me for getting employment in some needy shop. I remained wandering from one shop to other, whole of the day, till it was evening. I got disappointment everywhere. After feeling tired, I again went back to the fountain and again sat on the same bench, where I was sitting in the morning. I looked around me. The people were wandering there from here to there, with great happiness and pleasure and were enjoying the rising of the water of the fountain with great joy. But, I was not pleased even a little to see all that. My heart was filled with feelings of displeasure and frustration.

A few hours thereafter, the darkness descended upon all around. The market of sector 17 became empty and desolate. The shopkeepers also shut their shops and went back to their houses. I was feeling very hungry. But, I was having very little money with me, which I did not want to spend so soon. So, I did not buy anything to eat and drank only water from the public tap to fill my stomach and lay down back on the same bench. I was just trying to fall asleep by closing my eyes, when I felt a prick in my ribs.

One policeman was pricking his stick into my ribs and was saying to me, “Hey you, how are you lying here. Get up from here and go to some other place.”

I got up from the bench and walked towards the vacant space under the overbridge. Many men and women were already sleeping there on the ground on ragged pieces of clothes or mats. I also lay down on the ground at a place just near them. Only a few minutes had passed after my lying down there when the same policeman came there also and kicked my ribs with his boot and shouted at me, “You bastard, now you have come to lie down here. Go away from here.”

“But, sir many other persons are also lying here. I have no other place to go. Please let me stay and sleep here.” I requested to him.

“Hey, you bastard. How can I allow you to sleep here?” He said to me and then started pulling me by one of my legs.

“Why are you making so much clamour? Why don’t you let us sleep? Hey man, if you want to sleep here pay 5 rupees to the constable.” one person said to us, feeling irritating at our noise.

I caught his hint at once and paid rupees 5 to the policeman. After getting the money, the policeman went away while waving his stick in his hand in a very leisurely manner. After his departure, I also lay down at the same place. I was dead tired. So, I fell asleep very soon. In the morning, all persons lying there got up well before dawn. I also woke up on hearing their noise. Soon, movement of people started there. Three days had passed since I took the bath last time. I went to the bathroom, built in the basement of the market, below the overbridge. I took the bath and came out after becoming ready. I took a cup of tea and again moved on in search of some job. But, I did not get any job on that day also. I remained wandering in the sector 17 market and even in the nearby markets for 4-5 days for finding some job in a shop. But, my all efforts went in vain. At night, I would again go to the vacant space under the overbridge and would pay rupees 5 to the policeman on duty for sleeping there. All persons used to pay rupees 5 to the constable and the constable used to allow them to sleep under the overbridge. I had earlier heard about the deterioration in the system of newly freed India, but I was confronting with that system for the first time.

At some distance from the place, where I used to sleep at night under the overbridge, there used to sleep a group of beggars also. During the day time, they would wander in the market of sector 17 from here to there and would beg alms from others. In the late evening, they would come back to the place under the overbridge and would count their day’s earnings. The policemen on duty in the market would come there and would get their share from the alms of the beggars and would go back. Then the beggars would take wine and food and thereafter, they would spread their cloth sheets on the floor and would fall asleep. In the next morning, after 9 AM, when sector 17 was filled with crowd, they would resume their job of begging. In two-three days, I developed good acquaintance with them. They would often suggest me to join them in their job of begging. In the past, I used to hate beggars very much. But, I realized that they were more successful and were doing better than me at that period of my life. My condition had become even worse than their’s. But, I was not ready to become a beggar like them and remained trying to get some job.

After wandering in the market for 9-10 days, I became very frustrated and very tired physically as well as mentally. I could not get work anywhere and I lost all my hope to get work in some shop or anywhere else. Finally, feeling very much frustrated and tired, I went to the space under the overbridge and sat down there in a corner. People were going from one side to other in front of me. But, I was feeling no concern for them. I was sitting silently and was thinking about my that pitiable condition. It seemed to me that all sides were closed for me in the world. I thought, if my money would be finished, the policeman would not even allow me to sleep under the overbridge and I would not be able to get anything to eat. On thinking about food, I started feeling very hungry. I had not taken anything since morning. I wanted to save the little money which was left with me, so that I might be able to carry on for some more days. But, the money left with me was not going to last for more than two weeks. A sudden thought came into my mind that why should not I go back to my house. But, it was not possible then. The doors of said house were closed for me forever and my father was not ready to see me again. I also did not want to see him again. But, the circumstances were pushing me back and I was becoming weaker in my mind. In order to strengthen my mind, I tried to increase my will power by thinking that I would not feel defeated at all and I would struggle very hard to keep up my existence intact. I was busy in such thoughts when I heard a voice, “Hello, have you succeeded in getting some work or not?” I was unaware that one of the beggars had come there and had sat down near me. I did not say anything to him, but nodded my head in the negative.

“How could you get any job here? Someone must be there to recommend and introduce you to the owners of the shops. They demand surety also from the job seekers. I feel that nobody knows you here. You seem to be an outsider. From which place you have come.”He asked to me with many questions in his eyes. I did not give any reply to him.

After some time, he again said to me, “Your face is very much withered. It seems you have not eaten anything since morning. I had brought some flat bread pieces and vegetables with me. There is a restaurant at some distance on the other side of the bridge. A great deal of food is left out by its customers. They throw out the left overs of the flat bread, vegetables and other eatables on the back side of their restaurant. I have picked up some good pieces of it. Come on, take some pieces.”

After saying so, he took out some flat bread pieces and vegetables from a polythene bag. I was not ready to eat those remainings of food. But, my powers to fight with the adverse circumstances were fast decreasing and the desire to live was overpowering my mind. So, after hesitating a little, I took those left outs of the food articles from him and started eating those. The compulsions of the circumstances had pushed me even below the level of a street dog. I had felt the power of the hunger. It was the power of the hunger that had made me to do that. After eating that food, I drank water from the public tap and again went back to my old place and again sat down there. After some time the beggar also went away to resume his work of begging.

After eating the thrown out food, instead of feeling satisfied, I became more unsatisfied and more disturbed. Once my father had taunted me by saying, “Hey you! You are a good for nothing fellow. You will not do anything in your life. You will become a beggar one day.” I remembered the words of my father. Would I really become a beggar in my life and would my father’s prophecy come true, I thought with wonder. I would not become a beggar, my mind started reacting against the prophetic curse of my father and my will power started becoming more and more strong. I started thinking about some future plan to do something to make my existence stay. But, I was unable to understand what to do. Suddenly, I remembered, on the other side of the overbridge, a market of labourers and masons used to be held every morning there in an open space. The needy people used to come there to hire labourers and masons on daily wages for doing their construction work and their other works. But, what I would do there, I wondered. I have never done any labour work earlier and I was not even a skilled mason or carpenter. Moreover, after being so much educated, I was not willing to do labour. But, I was having no other option and I made up my mind to go there to find some labour work for me. So, in the next morning, though I was hesitating a lot, walking at a very slow pace, I went to the labour market. After reaching there, I joined crowd of labourers and started waiting for someone to come to hire me, while standing among the other labourers.

At about 7 AM, the needy people started coming to the labour market and started choosing labourers as per their needs. Soon, I realized that it was not an easy task to get work there also. The masons had their own groups of labourers and they were taking the labourers of their own groups with them. I was not acquainted with any mason, so I was not having any group with any mason. So, nobody hired me and I remained standing there. Up to 8 AM, only half of the labourers could get work. The remaining labourers remained waiting for someone to hire them, with a feeling of sadness on their faces. I also remained waiting for someone to come and to hire me. But, nobody came there. Thereafter at 9 AM, one of the labourers said in a very frustrated voice, “Let’s go back brothers, nobody will now come here to hire us for today. Let us wait for tomorrow.”

“Friend, I have not got any work today also. I am returning empty handed like this for the last many days. Now, we are left with nothing to eat in our house. Children are crying for food. Well, what can we do? It may be the will of the Lord.”A labourer standing near me said to another labourer standing near him. They both were on the verge of crying.

Most of the labourers had come there from the nearby villages. In a short time, all of the labourers, who could not get work, left that place and went back again to their villages. Within few minutes, I was left behind all alone there. So, I also moved from there and came back to my old place under the bridge. That day, I did not feel like going anywhere. So, I remained sitting there whole of the day. At noon, that very beggar again brought the thrown half eaten flat bread pieces from the back side of the restaurant. Though very unwillingly, I took that food on that day also. The next morning, I again went to the labour market. I was lucky to get work on that day. A man had come to hire two labourers for removing articles of shuttering from the underneath of the newly laid settled lintel of his newly constructed house. Nobody came forward to do that work. Seeing it as an opportunity to get some work, I became ready for that task. Another middle aged labourer also agreed for the same.

That person took us both with him to his under construction house. When we started removing the wooden planks from the inner side of the lintel, I realized soon as to why the other labourers were not willing to do that task. With the removal of shuttering articles, sand was falling down from the lower side of the lintel into our eyes and it was causing much irritation in our eyes. It was really a very difficult job. But, we had to do that work. Whole of my life, till then, had passed in studies. I had never done that type of hard work upto that time. So, by noon my condition became very miserable and I became very tired. At noon it was finally the lunch break for an hour. I felt very much relieved. I came out of the house and sat under the shade of a nearby tree. The other labourer also came there and sat down under the shade and started eating food from his tiffin. While eating the flat bread, he asked me, “Boy, have not you brought your lunch? You may also be feeling hungry.”

I was really feeling hungry. But, I had nothing with me to eat. I could not say anything to him. He picked up that matter very quickly, though I had remained silent.

He took out two flat breads from his tiffin and extended his hand towards me, while saying, “Boy, take these breads. We would share the meals half wise. Our work was requiring a lot of energy. One is tired to the hilt even up to noon. If nothing is taken in the lunch break, one will not be able to do work in the after-noon.”

I caught the flat breads silently and started eating the same. I had done labour work for the first time in my life. My arms and legs were aching very badly and were trembling with weakness. After taking meals, I really felt rejuvenated.

After taking rest for some time, we both resumed our work. Till evening, we had removed shuttering articles from a sufficient part of the lintel. Despite that, 4 or 5 days’ work was still left to be done. After end of the day’s work, the owner of the house paid Rupees 25 to me as my wages for that day. I was very happy on getting that amount. It was my first earning in my life and I was in much need of that amount. Moreover, it has falsified my father’s prediction about me also. I had not become a beggar and it was my hard labour earning.

After receiving my wages, I walked back to sector 17, to my night’s lodging below the overbridge. The other labourer, whose name was Sucha Singh, had also gone back to his village on his cycle. He was a resident of village Badheri, which was situated at a distance of about 5 kilometers from the outskirts of Chandigarh. The next day I went to the sight of our work directly, even before 8 AM. A few minutes later Sucha Singh also reached there on his cycle.

Soon, we started doing our work. I was finding it very difficult to do work on that day. I was not used to do that type of manual labour. Blisters had appeared on my hands, during the last night, due to first day’s work. On seeing my condition, Sucha Singh gave me light work and he himself started doing hard work. While removing shuttering articles from the lower side of the roof, he said to me, “Youngman, it seems that you belong to some well to do family and you have not done such type of labour work earlier.”

“Yes uncle, I have not done such type of work earlier. But, now I will have to do such work for earning bread and butter for me.” I gave a very short reply.

He remained enquiring from me time and again about my parents and about my address. But, I did not give any reply to any of his such questions and kept myself busy in my own work. After some time, Sucha Singh realized that I was not ready to talk about my parents and my house. So, he stopped asking me such questions and also became busy in his work.

In the lunch break, we again went to sit under the shade of the same old tree. On that day, he had brought extra flat breads and vegetables, packed up in his tiffin from his wife for me also. I ate flat breads to the full of my stomach after so many days. After finishing our lunch, we both lay down under the tree for taking rest for a while. While lying under the tree, he asked to me, “Young man, where are you staying here at Chandigarh? I don’t feel that you have any relation here.”

“Yes uncle, I have no relation here. For the last 10-12 days I am sleeping at night under the overbridge in sector 17, that too, after paying rupees 5 daily to the policemen, as I have no other place to stay at night here. Besides, there are public toilets and public bathrooms also in the basement of sector 17 market near the overbridge. After receiving one rupee coin from me, the sweeper there allows one to answer nature’s call and to take the shower. In this manner, the life is going on somehow or the other.”

On the completion of second day’s work, I again went back to sector 17 to spend the night. On the third day Sucha Singh had again brought lunch for me. In the lunch break, when we were taking our lunch together, Sucha Singh said to me, “I have talked about you to my wife. She had agreed to allow you to live with us in our house. We both are residing alone in our ancestral house in our village. We are issueless. If you will come with me we shall be having hustle and bustle in our house.” Sucha Singh started persuading me.

I could not decide anything about his repeated proposal. So, I could not give any reply to him.

In the evening, after we had finished our that day’s work, Sucha Singh forcibly took me to his house. Despite my repeated requests, Sucha Singh paddled his cycle himself and took me to his village on the carrier of his cycle.

We reached his village within an hour. The house of Sucha Singh was located in one corner of the village, in which he was residing with his middle aged wife. It was a very small house. It consisted of only one room, one verandah and one kitchen. There was a small courtyard in front of the verandah of the house. There was a roofless bathroom in one corner of the courtyard. The name of his wife was Banti, who became very happy to see me. Sucha Singh had already told her about me.

She caressed with her hands on my head very gently, with very motherly love and affection and said to me, “Son, your uncle has told me everything about you. He has told me that you belong to some well to do family. God might be knowing, under what compulsion you have come to Chandigarh to do labour. When your uncle told me that you were having no place to stay at night, I compelled him to bring you here. From now onwards, you will be staying with us. It will end our loneliness also.”

I was overwhelmed with the motherly love Banti showered upon me. At once, the thought of my mother came to my mind. She had never uttered even a single word of love to me. Banti was stranger to me, but her heart was full of motherhood, love and affection for me.

On that day, I had taken dinner also and had slept on a cot also, after passing of so many days. On the next morning, I and Sucha Singh both got ready in the early morning and went together to Chandigarh to complete our work in hand. Thereafter, I never allowed Sucha Singh to paddle the cycle. I myself started paddling the cycle to Chandigarh, with Sucha Singh sitting on its carrier. In the evening, we would go back to the village in the same manner.

In a few days, a bond of very close relationship developed between us. I started loving Sucha Singh and his wife like my own father and mother. They also started loving me like their own son. I wanted to call them father and mother, but I was very much scared of the words “father & mother.” So, I remained calling them as uncle and aunty.

We remained going to Chandigarh in the same manner. We would stand in the sector 17 labour market waiting for someone to hire us. Sometimes we would get some work and sometimes we would go back to our village empty handed. It became our daily routine. In a few days, I became used to labour work and became fully fit to do any type of labour.

A few days later, I came to know from Sucha Singh that, in reality, he used to work as a cleaner on a truck in the Chandigarh truck union. When the business of transport used to become dull, then the truck of his owner used to become inoperative and he used to become unemployed. During those days, he would go to labour market and would do labour. When again the good season of trucks used to come, Sucha Singh used to resume his job as cleaner of the truck again. At that time, the good season of the trucks was about to come soon.

One day, when I and Sucha Singh came back after doing our day’s labour work, the wife of Sucha Singh told him that the owner of his truck had come to their house that day and had asked her to tell Sucha Singh to come back again to work on his truck. On hearing that, Sucha Singh became very happy, “Well son, now the fruit transportation season has started and it will continue for 4 or 5 months. Now, our good time has come. We will be free from labour work till then. I will take you also along with me to the truck union tomorrow and you will also get cleaners’ job on one truck or the other.” Sucha Singh was really very exhilarated. He also wanted to avoid doing strenuous labour at that age.

On the next day at about 7 AM, we reached the Chandigarh truck operators’ union. Hundreds of trucks were standing in rows in the truck union. The cleaners of the trucks were cleaning their trucks with wet clothes. Some of them were washing the wind shields of their trucks with water. Some truck drivers were abusing their cleaners and were asking them to clean the trucks more keenly. In fact, everyone there was calling the other by using the abuses of very nasty nature. There was a very strange atmosphere in the truck union. It was entirely a new world in itself.

Sucha Singh cleaned his truck very quickly and left me near his truck and took a very quick round of the truck union to find out if any truck owner was in need of a cleaner. Soon he found out one such truck owner. He came back and took me near to a truck. The owner and the driver of the truck were standing near it. As per the asking of Sucha Singh, I said good morning to them, with my both hands folded. Without giving any reply to my greetings, the truck owner and its driver looked at me from my feet to head very attentively. After staring at me in that manner for a minute, the truck owner said to Sucha Singh, “Sucha Singh, this boy seems to be a newcomer in our line. I have never seen him here earlier. It seems he had never worked on a truck as cleaner earlier.”

In a flattering tone, Sucha Singh spoke to them with his folded hands, “Sir, he is our own child. He is the nephew of my wife. He has come from his village only two days ago. The boy is very labourious and intelligent also. If you will take him in your employment, he will not disappoint you. He will work very hard with full dedication. I will teach him all the tactics of the cleaner’s job within few days. Besides, the boy is well educated. Please give him a chance.”

The truck owner and the driver took a few steps and went aside to make consultation with each other. In the mean time, Sucha Singh started telling me in a whisper that I should tell them that I was 10th pass. He did not know that I was a law graduate.

After talking with each other for a minute, the owner and the driver of the truck came back to us. The owner said to Sucha Singh, “Sucha Singh, the boy is totally a raw hand in our line. But, you are a very old member of our truck union. We have full faith in you. So, on your recommendation, we are ready to take him as our cleaner. In the beginning, I will pay rupees three hundred per month to him. When he will learn the skills of the trade, I will enhance his wages to rupees five hundred per month. But, he should work sincerely.”

I liked their offer very much and accepted the same immediately. But, I was feeling very nervous and uneasy in my heart. I knew nothing about truck cleaner’s job.

Sucha Singh was very much pleased to hear that. With his folded hands, he said to the owner of the truck, “Sir, I am very thankful to you for your this favour. The boy is really in need of work. He will work with full sincerity and dedication. I take his responsibility.” Then he turned his face towards me and said, “Come on boy, let me teach you the duties of the cleaner and how to clean and look after your truck properly.”

Thereafter, Sucha Singh took me to the truck and started telling me about the ways to clean the truck properly. He got the truck cleaned from me under his supervision by giving me tips here and there. He told me about the other duties of the cleaners in detail. It was to be my first duty in the morning to check the air in the tyres of the trucks and then to clean the truck thoroughly. My other duty was to supervise the loading and unloading of the truck. When the truck was to be on move, I was to sit on the conductor’s seat and to give the information to the driver regarding the traffic on my side. I understood and memorized all the duties and works of the cleaner’s job. During those days, the fruit from Himachal Pradesh had started reaching the fruit market of Chandigarh. It was to be transported further to different parts of India through the trucks. Soon, our truck got the booking for transporting fruit to Nagpur.

I was going to travel by truck for such a long distance for the first time in my life. I was very much excited about it. After loading the fruit in our truck, we moved on our journey. We used to travel mostly at night. In the morning, we would stop at some way side truckers’ hotel. We would sleep there on the cots lying in the open space before the hotel, during the day time. In the evening, we would again start our journey on the wheels. It was very wonderful experience of my life. The lives of truck drivers and cleaners were very different from the lives of other people. Their lives were always on move. I liked the life on wheels very much. I was having opportunity to see the new things, the new people and the new places. But, all those things had no effect on the driver, who looked totally indifferent to all those things, which were looking so amazing to me. He remained driving the truck in a routine manner. It seemed to me that one day that life might start looking very monotonous and uncharming to me also. But, at that time, I was enjoying that life very much. I was wishing that my that type of life should continue forever. We reached Nagpur within a week. After making the delivery of the fruit at Nagpur, we got goods for Chandigarh. We got goods loaded in our truck and again started moving back towards Chandigarh.

We reached Chandigarh again after a week’s travel. After unloading our goods at our destination, we went back to the truck union, where we were required to stay till we were to get the next turn. Sucha Singh’s truck had already arrived there a day earlier. It was his off day. But, he knew about the day of my return and he had come to the truck union on that day also to receive me and to take me to his village. I was also to have two days’ leave. So, we both went back to village in the evening.

Sucha Singh’s wife was standing at the door of her house and was talking to a lady from the neighborhood. She became very happy on seeing me and said to me in a very glad mood, “Look, my son had come back from his work. You must be hungry son. Come in, I had already prepared meals for you.”

While eating food, I remained narrating experiences of my first travel to her and she remained listening to my stories very happily. Suddenly, I remembered my mother had never been ready to listen to me and had never been happy on hearing my talk. On the other hand, the two persons, with whom I was having no blood relation, were very much excited on hearing my stories.

After two days’ stay, we both again started on our next travels on our respective trucks. Thereafter, it became our routine. Sometimes we would return after a week and sometimes after two weeks. On return, we would get one or two days leave and we would go to the house of Sucha Singh and would stay there for a day or two. Sometimes, Sucha Singh would return with me on the same day and sometimes he would before or after me. We could be together very seldom. We would stay in the house with Banti for a day or two and then would go back on our journey. After our departure, she would become lonely and would remain waiting for us. Five months passed in the same manner. After the fruit season was over, the season of potatoes started. Then, came the month of December. With the starting of the month of December, the weather started becoming colder day by day and the transport business started decreasing day by day. The transport business was to come to a complete halt in the middle of December. It was to remain on complete stand still for three months. We were also to become jobless for that period.

In addition to that, another problem crept in for me. The owner of my truck had four more trucks. He had decided to sell two of his trucks, one of which was mine one. After sale of that truck, I was to become jobless. Mine truck was to go to Shimla on its last journey in the middle of month of December. Earlier, when I was studying at Punjab University Chandigarh, once I got an opportunity to go to Shimla for two days and the beauty of Shimla had bewitched my heart.

Then, I was going to Shimla for the second time in my life. We started in our truck from Chandigarh at noon and reached Shimla at about 7 PM. We were to deliver the goods at a ware house, which was located just in the outskirts of the Shimla city. We were to spend the night in the truck there and the goods were to be unloaded in the morning. It was much colder at Shimla in comparison to Chandigarh. Till then, I had earned some amount by way of my wages and had purchased a woolen blanket and some winter wears for me. I had purchased a bag also for carrying my clothes and other belongings. I wrapped well myself in the blanket and sat on the conductor’s seat of the truck and looked outside the window at the city of Shimla. Our truck was parked at the foot of the hill, on the upper side of which Shimla city was situated. The lights of Shimla town were twinkling like the glow worms. A little mist had started wrapping down Shimla in it. The Shimla town with twinkling lights looked very beautiful and charming to me. I do not know, why it was seeming to me that Shimla was calling me towards it time and again. Slowly, I fell asleep while looking at Shimla, while reclining on the window of the truck.

Next day, at about 9 AM, when after unloading the truck we became ready to go back, suddenly my heart started feeling like staying at Shimla. My mind was not becoming ready to go back to Chandigarh. I asked the driver to stop the truck and then picked up my bag and clothes and got down off the truck. Truck driver was looking at me with a great surprise. He could not understand, why I had got down from the truck.

After taking a round of the truck, I went to the other side of the truck, near the driver’s seat and spoke to him, “Well uncle, I will now stay here at Shimla. Please convey my regards to Sucha Singh.”

The driver became very much stunned on hearing my those words and remained looking at me with astonishment.

After some time, he came out of the shock and said to me, “What will you do here? You will not get any work here. Come with me to Chandigarh. The truck business will again gain momentum after two-three months. I will get you settled in some other truck.”

“No uncle, I will not, now, go back to Chandigarh. My destiny is calling me from the city of Shimla. I will manage to get some work here.” I replied to him.

“But boy, where will you stay here? It is a hilly area and it will be the peak of the winter season soon. It will be extremely chilly here. Cold winds will freeze you. If you have any relation here, then it’s ok. Otherwise, where will you stay at night here in the ice cold weather? You will freeze in the snow. Come on, sit in truck. We will go back to Chandigarh.” The truck driver tried to persuade me.

I was not willing to go back to Chandigarh. I wanted to stay far away from my house, somewhere outside the Punjab. So, Shimla was looking to me to be the right place.

In order to pacify him I told a lie to him, “Uncle, do not worry about me. A sister of my mother resides here at Shimla. I have not met her since long. She loves me very much and she had been asking me to stay here with her. I will stay in her house. If I will not get any job here, then I will come back to Chandigarh.”

But, I had no intention to go back to Chandigarh. The driver remained trying to persuade me for a while. When he found that I was very adamant for staying at Shimla, he gave up and drove back the truck to Chandigarh after saying farewell to me.

I remained looking at the moving truck. It was moving on the road while emitting a cloud of smoke. After going straight for some distance, the truck took a turn and went out of my sight.

———-

After departure of the truck, I felt I was again standing alone in an unknown city. Nobody knew me in that city I had been to Shimla earlier only once about two years ago, when my friend Paramjit had come to Shimla in a try to get admission in P.H.D. I had accompanied him. But, my friend could not get the admission here. I had never visited Shimla thereafter. We had come to Shimla by bus at that time. From the bus stop of Shimla we had gone to Shimla University by foot. I did not know any other place in Shimla except the bus stop. I had forgotten even the passage to the University by that time.

While standing on one side of the road, I remained thinking for sometime, where should I go? Finally, I decided to begin my life in that city from the bus stand. On the name of luggage, I was having only one bag and one blanket with me. I put my bag on my shoulder and wrapped my blanket well around me. On that day, a very chilly winter wind had started blowing in Shimla from the very morning, which had increased the coldness in the atmosphere. I was standing on the very foot of the hill, on which Shimla was inhabited. I had to go to the bus stand located somewhere in Shimla. I was not aware of its exact location and I did not know anything about the passage to bus stand.

I looked around myself to enquire about the passage to the bus stand from someone. I did not know to speak Hindi properly. I was looking for someone knowing Punjabi to ask about the way from him. In the mean time, I saw one Sikh gentleman on the other side of the road. I became very happy to see him. I went to him and after saying good day to him, I asked from him about the passage to the bus stand.

The Sikh gentleman replied to my greetings and said to me while raising his hand upwards towards Shimla, “Young man, the bus stand is situated on upper side of the hill, at a quite long distance. There are two ways to the bus stand. First one is quite easy but is very long one. It is through this very road. But, this road goes upwards to bus stand after taking so many turns and rounds. It is five-six kilometers away from here through this road and you will reach there in two hours. The second passage is straight one and is very short one, only one kilometer long. But, the ascent of this way is very steep. People here are used to climbing on it. But, you seem to be an outsider. You will not be able to climb this way. It will be easier for you to go through the road, though it will take more time.”

After telling me about the way to the bus stop, the Sikh gentleman started climbing on the shorter passage very easily. He seemed to be in the mid fifties, but he was climbing like a young man and went out of the sight within no time.

Then, I also started walking on the road. The road was going upwards very slowly. The ascent of the road was very lesser one. Still, I was finding it very difficult to walk on the road. Till then, I had lived in the planes of Punjab. I was not used to walk on such hilly roads. I was walking on the road with much effort. Though, it was a cold weather yet perspiration had appeared on my forehead. But, I was enjoying also my walk. There were rows of pine trees on both sides of the road. The wind passing through pointed leaves of the trees was producing an echo of its own kind, which I was listening to for the first time in my life. It made me forget about my tiredness. It took me more than two hours to reach the bus stand. Many busses bound for Chandigarh and Punjab were standing in the queues at the bus stand. On seeing those busses, a thought came into my mind to go back to Chandigarh. But, the next moment the attraction towards Shimla in my mind again increased and suppressed my idea to catch a bus to Chandigarh very quickly.

By that time, I had become very hungry. By then, I had saved sufficient amount with me, as I had earned some good amount by working as a cleaner on the truck. So, I looked around me. There was a small hotel on the opposite side of the bus stand, across the road. The words, “Punjabi Hotel” was written on its old looking signboard. So, I started moving towards that hotel for eating something. When I entered the hotel, I found the same Sikh gentleman who told me about the passage, sitting there at the counter, behind the fireplace. He recognized me at once. With a smile on his face he said to me, “So, young man you have reached here. Have you recognized me? It was me who told you there below about the way to come here.”

“Yes uncle, you seemed to have reached here much earlier to me. I reached here with much difficulty, that too, by the easier passage. I am still very much tired. Had I come through the steepy passage, then what could have happened to me?” I said to him. I sat down on a chair near the counter and asked him, “Uncle, is this hotel yours.”

“Yes my boy. I am all in all of this hotel. I am its owner. I am its cook and its cashier. Apart for me there is only a little boy to pickup and clean the used utensils and to clean the chairs and tables of the hotel. His name is Chhotu. Both of us run this hotel. Otherwise also, we have very few customers, who visit our hotel. But still we are pulling on our lives in a well manner.” Sikh gentleman told me in reply.

After a little pause, the Sikh gentleman, whose name later on came out to be Puran Singh, again said to me, “Boy, the meals are not ready yet. I have just now placed the cooking pot on the fireplace for cooking the vegetables. It will take an hour to prepare the food. You seem to be very hungry. I will make a cup of tea and some sandwiches for you.” After saying so, he started preparing tea and sandwiches for me. I looked around me in the hotel. There were only two rooms in the hotel. One big room on the front side and the other small room at the back side. Puran Singh was running the hotel in the bigger front room. There were three fireplaces constructed in one corner of the room. Some pots were lying on the fireplaces. A counter was lying behind those fireplaces. Three sets of old wooden dining tables and chairs were lying in the middle of the room. In the other corner of the room, there was a small platform for washing utensils there. A water tap was installed in that platform. A very little boy was cleaning the utensils with water thereon. I looked at him attentively. He was only four-five years old and was wearing very less clothes even in such cold weather and was cleaning the dishes with cold water. I was shocked to see him doing all that. What could be his compulsion for doing such hard labour at such a tender age? I remained thinking about his compulsion. After cleaning the utensils that kid Chhotu started cleaning the chairs and tables with a cloth. I remained watching him cleaning table and chairs with his very little hands.

After some time, Puran Singh brought a cup of tea and a plate of sandwiches for me and put those on my table. Thereafter, he sat down on a chair near to me.

I started taking sips of the tea and asked to him, “Uncle, were you coming from below from your house, when you met me in the morning?”

“No, I have no separate residence. This hotel is my residence also. I live in the backside room. Otherwise, I belong to Jalandhar city of Punjab. My both parents died when I was just a kid. My brothers and their wives turned me out of my parent’s house, when I was only fifteen years old. After wandering from one place to other for few years, I came to Shimla and finally settled here and slowly became owner of this hotel. Life is going on somehow or the other. Now, tell me something about you. Have you come here to meet someone in the lower Shimla?” The Sikh gentleman asked from me after telling about himself.

“No Uncle, I had come here on a truck from Chandigarh. I was working as a cleaner on that truck. The owner of my truck had struck a deal with some person to sell the truck. It was the last trip of our truck. After unloading of the truck, I got down from the truck and did not go back. I thought I might get cleaner’s job at some truck here.” I replied to the Puran Singh.

“Young man, it will be very difficult for you to get cleaner’s job here. There are only very few trucks here at Shimla. Here, goods are transported by the trucks of Punjab and Chandigarh. After unloading their goods, they carry the goods from here also. In fact, it is very difficult to get any type of job here.” He told me.

After I had finished my tea, that little kid Chhotu came and picked up the dirty utensils from the table. When he was picking the utensils, I saw, there was a strange feeling of sadness and helplessness on his face. But, at that time I was more preoccupied about my own problems, so I could not give much attention to him.

I asked from the Puran Singh, “Uncle, Where is the truck union here? I will go there and try. I may get cleaner’s job there.”

Puran Singh moved his head in the negative and said, “There is no truck union here at Shimla like Punjab. There are very few transport companies here. They have their own offices and warehouses here, down the hill where you met me in the morning. You will have to go back down there.”

I felt like losing my senses on hearing that. I said, “Uncle, will I have to go down again? It is a very difficult task. Had I come to know about it earlier, I would not have come above to this place and I would have tried to get the job in the transport offices below there. Now, I will have to go down there again. Uncle, may I leave my luggage in your hotel. If I will get some job there, I will come back and take away my luggage.”

I do not know why that Puran Singh had become so sympathetic towards me. He agreed to keep my luggage in his hotel very promptly.

I went down through the shortcut passage. As I had imagined, it proved to be a very difficult task for me. It was a very steep descent. My legs started trembling and aching when I was going down. In half an hour, I reached the place from where I had started in the morning.

There were only nine or ten transport companies in Shimla at that time. The offices of all those companies were situated on that very road. I remained begging for cleaner’s job by visiting office of each company, till evening. But, I could not get truck cleaner’s job in any transport company there. Each of the companies was having only one or two trucks with it and they had already their own cleaner’s for each truck. Then, I tried to get some other job in their offices, but I could not get any other type of job also there. After becoming very frustrated, ultimately in the evening I again reached the bus-stand through that very shortcut passage. When I reached the bus-stand it had already become dark around. The rush at the bus-stop had very much decreased than the day time and only two or three busses were standing in the bus-stand. While dragging my legs somehow or the other, I went into the hotel with much difficulty. Only very few customers were eating food in the hotel at time. I sat down on a vacant chair. Chhotu was not present in the hotel at that time. Perhaps, he had gone back to his house by then. Soon, those customers finished their food and left the hotel after paying their bills to Puran Singh. After they had gone out of the hotel, Puran Singh picked up the dirty utensils and washed up those at the water tap. Thereafter, he came and sat down on a chair near me.

“Yes my boy, it seems you could not get the truck cleaner’s job.” He said to me.

“Uncle, not to talk about that job, I could not get even a sweeper’s job there. Finally, after feeling like a looser, I came back here.” I replied to him in a very low mood.

“My boy, it is very difficult to find any work here. Rather, the people from here go to other parts of India, in search of work. You have come here from Punjab. You better go back there. It is very difficult to settle here. I had come here in search of work many years ago, when I was even younger than you. I had to do many low jobs here to keep up my survival. Finally, I could become only a cook and then I remained working as a cook in many hotels. Ultimately, I could become owner of such a small hotel, which is very old one and can fall at any time. This is the only achievement of my life in Shimla. The whole of my life had become wasted away one here.” Puran Singh became silent after saying so.

“Uncle, I am not going back to Punjab. I will get some or the other job here one day. I feel whole of my remaining life is to be passed here. It seems to be my destiny to stay here in Shimla.” I replied.

“Well boy, let me cook some flat bread for you. You must be feeling hungry as I do.” After saying so, Puran Singh got up and started cooking flat bread for both of us.

After preparing the food, he put the food in two plates and placed those plates on the table for both of us. Thereafter, we both started taking food. Puran Singh did not charge anything from me despite my so much persuasion.

After finishing my supper I asked him, “Uncle, is there any inn here? I want to spend my night there.”

“Boy, there are no inns here. There are only very large and luxurious hotels here, which are meant for rich tourists. These are very expensive hotels. The charges of one day’s stay there will be more than your one month’s expenses. Stay in my hotel and sleep here.” Puran Singh told me.

“No Uncle, I do not want to trouble you anymore. I will spend my night under the sheds of the bus-stand.” I became ready to get up and to go to bus-stand.

“What trouble is it? I live here all alone. I sleep in the back room. You may sleep in this room. Shimla is inhabited at a very high altitude. The nights are very cold here and very chilly winds blow here at night. You will freeze like an ice cube under the shed. The warm clothes you have with you, are very insufficient for here.” Puran Singh said to me while trying to stop me from going outside.

At last, I had to concede to Puran Singh. I was having no other option also.

Puran Singh picked up the chairs and the tables and placed them in a corner of the room. Thereafter, he prepared the bedding for me on the floor in the middle of the room and brought a quilt for me from the back room.

“Boy, I have only one cot. So, I had to spread the bedding for you on the floor. The room remains here warm due to fireplaces in it. You will not feel chilly here and will have a sound sleep.” After saying so he switched off the light and went to his room.

After he had gone to his room, I also lay down on the bedding. While lying so on the bedding, I thought the life was a very hard thing. How difficult it was to keep one’s existence intact here. I was dead tired. So, I fell asleep very soon.

When I awoke in the next morning, I found that Puran Singh had already become ready. After my arising from the bedding, he wrapped up my bedding and took that into the back room. Thereafter, he again put the chairs and the tables in order, in the middle of the room. After that Puran Singh went away to the Vegetable market to buy vegetables for the hotel.

After an hour, Puran Singh came back to the hotel, after purchasing vegetables. By then, I had also become ready after taking bath. That little kid Chhotu had also come to the hotel. He was cleaning the chairs and the tables with a cloth.

After coming back from the market, Puran Singh prepared tea and sandwiches for me, himself and Chhotu. After we had taken the breakfast, Puran Singh asked me, “So boy, what is your next program?”

“Uncle, Shimla is a big city and capital of Himachal Pradesh. There must be having many shops here. I will search for work in the shops. I may get some work in some or the other shop.” I replied to him.

“If you want to look for some work in some shop, then go to the Mall Road. It is a very posh locality of Shimla. There are hundreds of shops there. Many of those shops are of Punjabi People. Try there. You seem to be an educated person. You may get some work there.” After saying so, Puran Singh started telling me the way to Mall Road.

After understanding the way to Mall Road from Puran Singh, I came out of the hotel. By then, it was already 9 AM. But, it was still very chilly outside. Despite such a cold weather, there was great rush on the roads of Shimla. I also mixed up in the crowd and started heading towards Mall Road.

I reached Mall Road in one and a half hour. Shimla being a hilly town, the passages there were very narrow. But, Mall Road was a very wide road and it was presenting a very beautiful view. The road was overcrowded with the tourists, who were moving to and fro, dressed in very colorful clothes. It was a very captivating sight. I had heard once from someone that Mall Road is the heart and soul of Shimla and really it was.

There were many big showrooms on the both sides of the Mall Road, most of which were having readymade garment stores in them. Many of those stores were owned by Punjabi People. I became very hopeful to get some work there. I started the search for some job there with great zeal and zest. But, the Punjabi people there were very callous and indifferent types of persons. They did not become ready to take me in their service. In addition to their shops, I visited the shops of other people also. But, they were not in need of any extra worker. They were already having sufficient workers at their shops and were having no vacancies. Only two or three readymade garment shops were in need of salesmen. But, they were not ready to take in any inexperienced person. I was having no experience in the business of readymade garments. So, none of them became ready to give me any job in their stores. Till evening, I remained wandering from one shop to other on the Mall Road, but I could not get any work anywhere. In the evening, feeling totally exhausted, I went back to the hotel of Puran Singh.

When I reached the hotel of Puran Singh it was already a few minutes past 8 PM and it had already become dark. Some last customers of Puran Singh were eating their night meals in the hotel. But, that little kid was not there and he was already gone.

After becoming free from his customers, Puran Singh cooked food for me and himself and we both started eating our meals. While eating, Puran Singh asked to me, “Well boy, could you make it out or not?”

“No. Uncle, I could not make it out. Nobody is ready to give me any job. Moreover, I do not have any skills regarding any business.” I replied in a very disappointing tone.

Suddenly, an idea came across my mind. I requested Puran Singh while saying, “Uncle, you are residing here for the last many years. Many shop owners must be knowing you. Please, get me employed at some shop.”

“I am not any influential person. I could become owner of only this small hotel, that too, only four or five years ago. Only very ordinary and poor people come to my hotel. They all belong to labour class. I have no links with any rich or influential person. How can I help you in getting a job? You will have to try for that on your own. Till you get any job, you may stay here with me.” Puran Singh replied to me.

We did not speak thereafter and remained eating our meals silently. When we have finished our meals, Puran Singh came forward to pick up the dirty utensils, but I did not allow him to do so. Though Puran Singh tried to prevent me from doing so, I picked up the defiled utensils and washed those under tap.

Thereafter, we both made our own beds respectively at our own places and fell asleep. Next day, I again went out in search of some work. On that day, I remained wandering from one market to other market of Shimla, in search of some work. But, I could not get any work anywhere. In the evening, I again went back to the hotel of Puran Singh. Many days passed like that. I would go outside in search of work and would return to the hotel in the evening unsuccessful. I had become a burden on Puran Singh. I was feeling very much ashamed. But, I had no other option as well.

—————-

One day, I was wandering in a market of Shimla, when the name of village Shapur struck into my ears. I was at once reminded of something on hearing that name. When I was studying in the L.L.B 1st years in the university, I got a room in the hostel no.1. A young man from the hills was working in the canteen of my hostel. His name was Brij Mohan. My room’s service was entrusted to him. The hostel was full of boys belonging to very high class families, who used to treat their room servants very badly. But, I had come from a rural lower middle class family background. I myself was very much scared in the atmosphere of the hostel. I myself used to talk with other inmates of the hostel with a tinge of fear. I had never talked with that young man from the hills with roughness and arrogance. Perhaps, he had liked my nature. Slowly, he got very close to me. Once, he had told me that he was from Himachal Pradesh and that his village Shapur was situated near Shimla and that many youth of his village and the area used to work in canteens in Punjab and at many other places in India. He had told me that his parents were living all alone in the village and that he was the only child of his parents and that he used to visit his parents during holidays.

After my 1st year’s exams were over, the hostel became empty. We the all students had gone back to our houses. The next session was to start after three months. So, all the canteen boys and other persons working there had also gone back to their houses. When the next session started, I came back to my hostel. The canteen of my hostel had already started working. But, Brij Mohan had not come back. I thought that he might have gone to join some other canteen. I forgot about him soon thereafter. But, on that day, his thought suddenly came into my mind after hearing the name of his village Shapur. He had once told me that four or five kilometer ahead of his village, many stone crushers were installed in the dry bed of a seasonal river. Those crushers were used for crushing the stones into the gravel. He had told me that it was very easy to get work there, but their atmosphere was very unhealthy and crushers’ owners used to pay very little. I thought that I should go to his village and should try to get some work at crushers. I further thought that possibly I might come to know from his parents about the place where Brij Mohan could be working and that I might also go there and might get some work with the help of Brij Mohan.

After taking my dinner, I asked from Puran Singh, “Do you know where the village Shapur is? I want to go there.”

“That village is situated to the east, at a distance of ten-twelve kilometers from here, down the hills, in the valley. Why do you want to go there?” He asked me.

“It is the village of one of my friends. We used to live at Chandigarh together. I have not got any work so far. I am free yet. So, I have made up my mind to go to his village to meet him in the meanwhile.” I told Puran Singh.

Without saying anything further, Puran Singh explained to me the passage to village Shapur.

The next day after taking leave of Puran Singh at about 9 AM, I started to go to village Shapur. On the eastern side of Shimla, after a distance of about one kilometer, a small path was descending down to the village Shapur. I started descending on that path. That was an unmetalled path, full of small stones, which was making it very uneasy to walk on it. I could walk on it with much difficulty. I could cover only seven or eight kilometer only on the path, up to noon. There was no sign of village Shapur anywhere up to that time. Then, I found one big stone on one side of the path. I sat down on the stone to take rest for a while. I was extremely tired by then. Despite the very chilly climate, I was feeling very thirsty. But, I was having no water with me. I looked around me in search of water. But, I could not find it anywhere. I again looked around so that I might find some person there and might ask from him about some source of water. But, I could not find anyone also there from whom I could ask about water. I had met only one person on the passage, just in the beginning of my downward journey, who was going upward on the passage to Shimla. It was hilly forest area and was full of wild animals. Suddenly, I realized that I was all alone on a very desolate passage and I became full of fear. I suppressed my desire for water and got up from the stone and hurriedly started walking down on the passage. I could reach village Shapur in the late evening. I found that, it was situated at a distance of at least twenty kilometers from Shimla. It was situated in a very small valley, which was surrounded by high hills on all sides. I had seen the village from a distance of about one kilometer from above. Soon, I reached the village. It was a very small village. It might be consisting of only 40 or 50 houses. I came to know about the house of Brij Mohan within no time. When, I met his middle aged parents, I told them that I was a friend of Brij Mohan. On hearing that, they at once took me into their embrace with love and took me into their house. By then I was about to die of thirst. Brij Mohan’s mother brought a glass of water for me. When I drank the water, I realized that it had a very strange taste. Later on, I came to know that there was no well or water supply system in the village. A fountain was flowing by the side of the village. The women of the village used to bring the water from that fountain for drinking and other purposes. The water was very unclear and tasteless. I drank the whole glass of water without saying anything.

Thereafter, Brij Mohan’s mother brought a cup of tea for me. When I had finished the tea, she asked me, “Son, from which place you have come. How do you know my son?”

While telling a lie, I told her, “Aunty, about three years ago, I and Brij Mohan worked together in the university canteen at Chandigarh. There we became fast friends. He used to talk much about you both. Then, during holidays, I went to my house in Punjab. When I came back to the canteen, I found that he had not returned. I thought he might have made up his mind to stay with you or he might have gone to the canteen of some other city. I have started living at Shimla for the past few days. I have come to meet you to get information about Brij Mohan.”

On hearing that from me, a feeling of deep anguish appeared on their faces. Brij Mohan’s father replied to me with much effort, “Brij Mohan had gone from the village three years ago. Thereafter, he had not returned to the village. He was to come back to meet us, after the closure of the canteen. But, he did not come back after the closing of the canteen. We remained waiting for him for long. Then, I went to Chandigarh to know about him. I came to know there from a worker of the canteen that he had gone from Chandigarh to Bombay with some friends. I came to know nothing more than that about him. We are waiting for him. But, we have not heard anything about him till now. When you came, a hope arose in my mind that you would tell something about Brij Mohan to us. But, it seems you yourself know nothing about him.” He became silent after saying those words.

After some time, after recomposing himself, he said to me, “Son, what do you do at Shimla?”

“Uncle, I have not found any work till now. I have been trying to find some work at Shimla for the last many days, but I could not succeed. Then I remembered, Brij Mohan used to tell that there are stone crushers near his village. I thought, I might get some work there.” I replied to him.

“Son, those crushers are situated at a distance of five kilometers from here, on the other side of the eastern hill. It is a three to four hours journey. It will be dark soon. One cannot walk through such passage at night. Sometimes the area is covered with a very dense sheet of fog at night. Besides, there is danger of wild animals. Stay with us tonight. You may go to crushers in the tomorrow morning. But, it is very difficult to work there.” Brij Mohan’s father told me.

I became ready to stay there for night. They had two small rooms in their house. One was their living room and the other was their cattle’s room, in which they used to tether cattle at night.

The whole of the village was covered with a sheet of darkness. People were doing their house hold work in the light of kerosene lamps. There was no electricity in the village. So, there was no sound of any radio or speaker there. A complete silence prevailed over the village. It appeared to me; as if I had travelled back to some village of the pre-independence era.

After serving supper to me, Brij Mohan’s father put a cot for me in the cattle’s room. It was very stinky there. The excreta of sheep was emitting a very foul smell. In addition to it, the room was very small and the sheep were shaking my cot after every few minutes. It was very difficult for me to breathe in, in that room and to pass night there. Ultimately, just before midnight, when it became very difficult for me to stay in the room, I came out of the room to take breath in the fresh air. When I came outside the room, I was astonished to see the sheer beauty of the area. A thin layer of mist was spread over the whole of the valley. It was a full-moon night. The moonlight was coming sieved through the mist. It was presenting a very wonderful sight. The hills surrounding the village were looking very beautiful in the sieved moonlight. Shapur village was looking like a silver clod lying in a silver bowl. But, I could not enjoy that wonderful scene for long, as it was very cold outside. I again went into the cattle’s room and started trying to go to sleep. I could go to sleep only after midnight.

I was tired very much. So, I got a very profound sleep and I could not awake even when Brij Mohan’s mother milked the cow. When, she awoke me for taking tea, it was already half past 9 AM. But, the mist had more intensified by then and nothing was visible even from a short distance. So, I had to stay there till noon. The mist had disappeared by noon. Brij Mohan’s father went outside the village with me and indicated to me the passage leading to the crushers. I took leave of him and started walking on that path, which was a hilly path and was going upwards. I faced much difficulty in climbing the hill. Across the hill, the passage was again going down. But, the descent was more difficult than the ascent. Somehow or the other, I reached the area of crushers by the evening. The crushers were situated on the stony bank of a small river through which a very thin stream of water was flowing at that time. The stone crushers were total seven in numbers. That area was fully electrified from the other side of the river. All the crushers were working at that time. The whole area was covered with a layer of stone dust, which was being produced in the process of crushing of stones into very fine gravel. About twenty to twenty five persons were working on each of the crushers. Most of the workers were busy in bringing stones from the dry part of the bed of the river in small baskets and were putting the same in the crusher. Some others were lifting the gravel from the crusher and were putting the same in the big heaps at a distance from the crushers. Some were loading the gravel in trucks, which had been brought there to carry it to other places. I immediately got a job at one of the crushers. My job was very easy also. The person who was keeping accounts at that crusher had left the job a day ago and the rest of the workers were illiterate persons. When I told the in-charge of the crusher that I was 10th pass, he at once employed me at his crusher. My duty was to watch the loading of the trucks and to keep the record of the numbers of the trucks. Though my work was very easy one, yet I found it very difficult to work in such a dusty atmosphere. The crushers were switched off after sometime and the dust settled down in few minutes. I heaved a sigh of relief. The workers of the crusher cook the food jointly at night and we all took our dinner together. There were some tents installed at some distance from the crushers. After taking my supper, I also got some space in a tent along with four other workers. A layer of dry weeds was spread on the ground of the tents. Empty jute bags were laid on that layer of dry weeds. The other workers lay down on the jute bags and covered themselves with their quilts. I was not having any quilt with me. I was having only a blanket. I took the blanket upon me and tried to sleep. But, with the advancing of night, the coldness increased there and I started shivering with cold. On seeing my condition, one of the labourers went out and brought a quilt with him from some other tent, which had been left there by some labourer. The quilt was very old one and was very badly worn out. But, at that time, it appeared to me like a very extraordinary quilt. I wrapped myself in that quilt very well. It gave me warmth within no time and I fell asleep soon.

The next day, the other labourers got up very early. They were to prepare their food themselves and the crushers were to start working at 8 AM. They got ready in a very short time and prepared their breakfast very quickly and then they ate their breakfast also very quickly. The crushers started working at their exact time. With the starting of the crushers, the stone dust spread in the atmosphere completely within a period of just five-six minutes. The labourers had tied clothes around their mouths and noses for taking breath in the dusty air. I also did the same thing. But, I was facing much problem in taking breath even through cloth, as the atmosphere was very dusty. The crusher remained working till the evening. There was only 15 minute’s break for lunch. We all worked like machines. Though, luckily I had got a very light job, yet I was very badly tired till end of the day. But, despite that I was feeling very happy. After a long struggle, I had succeeded in getting a job. The feeling of happiness and satisfaction was inspiring me to do hard work.

I remained working there in the same manner and the days started passing one by one. But, my link with the outer world was totally cut off. Whatever link I was having with the outer world it was through the truck drivers and cleaners who used to come to lift crusher from there. Those trucks used to come through a stony unmetalled road from the other side of the river and the drivers and the cleaners of those trucks used to give some information of the outer world to me. After passing of ten days, the stone dust started telling upon my health and I started suffering from cough. No medicine was available there. So, my cough started worsening day by day. With the end of a week, I had a very worse type of cough and I started feeling difficulty while breathing. On seeing my condition, the incharge of the crusher said to me, “Youngman, your health is deteriorating day by day. You will not be able to stay here and to do work any further. I will settle your account. After getting your wages go back to village Shapur.” I had told him that before coming there, I was residing at village Shapur in the house of one of my relatives.

I had started feeling myself also that I would not be able to stay there any further, in such a dusty atmosphere. I had never suffered from such a severe cough and had not fallen so sick earlier in my life. So, I agreed with him and after receiving my due payment, I started back to village Shapur. I started climbing on the same passage to cross the hill to go to village Shapur. But that time, I could reach the top of the hill with much difficulty. I was panting very heavily and was breathing with much difficulty. I was stopping and taking rest for some time, after every few steps. Was it an asthmatic attack, I thought. My father was patient of asthma. Had I inherited asthma from him? Could it be the beginning of asthma in my life? I was very much worried. I felt much difficulty in getting down the hill also. By then, my condition had worsened more and more and I was having a very shallow and laboured breathing. The night was about to fall in when I reached near the village. I was just a hundred yards away from the village, when I fell on the ground and became unconscious. When I started regaining my senses, I felt as if I was sleeping on a bed in my own house and my mother was trying to awaken me. In a short time, I became fully conscious and found that it was not my house and that was not my mother. I was lying on a bed in the house of Brij Mohan and his mother was crying and was shaking me to bring me back to my senses. Some women of the village were also standing behind her. On seeing me regaining my senses, all of them heaved a sigh of relief and thanked the God. On seeing me return, Brij Mohan’s mother took me in her arms with love and became overwhelmed and started sobbing. I was also overwhelmed at her motherly affection and tried to console her by saying that I was fine. After some time, she recomposed herself and told me that some residents of village had seen me lying unconscious outside the village and had brought me to their house and that I remained unconscious throughout the night and that I was suffering from high fever. But, no treatment could be given to me at that time. There was no doctor or even indigenous medicine man in the village. Brij Mohan’s mother remained sitting beside my bed for whole of the night and remained praying to the God for my recovery. In the morning, Brij Mohan’s father had gone to bring one indigenous medicine man from some nearby village. I had regained my senses after his departure. After about an hour, he came back with a medicine man. After hearing my story, he asked me, “Son, you are having difficulty breathing. Have you ever suffered such attack earlier?”

“My father is an asthmatic. But, I had never suffered any such attack earlier. My condition had never been like such.” I told him.

“Thank God, then you are lucky. It might be possible that your condition had become such due to working in the stone dust at crushers. I am giving you some medicine. Your temperature will come down and your cough will subside soon.” After saying so, he took out some indigenous medicines from his cloth bag and handed over the same to Brij Mohan’s father and directed him to give me the medicine four times a day regularly and then went away after taking his fees.

I had no relations with Brij Mohan’s parents. But, they looked after me very well. With their care and with the medicine, my temperature became normal within two-three days and my cough also became subsided. In the mean time, medicine man had again visited and checked me and had given more medicine to me. I recovered fully within a week. But, I had become very weak. I could move up to only few steps with great difficulty. So, though I did not want to trouble Brij Mohan’s parents anymore, yet I had to stay with them for one more week. During that period, I could see and watch the circumstances of that village very closely. There was no school there or even in the whole of the area to provide even elementary education to children. The children used to wander for the whole of the day from here to there purposelessly. There was no shop also in the village. Some shopkeepers used to behold a monthly temporary market in some village in their area. The people of the village used to buy their necessary goods from that market. The residents of that village were having very small holdings of land. There was no other work. The youth of the village used to go to other cities for getting work. Most of them were working as canteen boys in hostels or as waiters in hotels in other cities. Only children, women and the old people were left in the village. The youth working outside used to send money to their families to pull on their lives. Brij Mohan had not come back to his village for the last three years and had not sent any money to his parents. God knows, how they were maintaining themselves. In addition, I had also become a burden upon them. They themselves were without any support, but they were still giving support to me. So, I was feeling embarrassed very much in my mind. But, I was having no other option also. I was not in a position to go back to Shimla yet. So, I had to stay with them for one more week, after which I regained my strength and started feeling that I would be able to travel back to Shimla. But, I felt it as if Brij Mohan’s parents were not willing to let me go. But, I was to go from there one or the other day. So, one evening I said to Brij Mohan’s mother, “Aunt, I am now better. Tomorrow I will go back to Shimla.”

I knew that the curse of loneliness was very fearsome. But, I was not to stay there forever. Next day, after taking breakfast I became ready to go. By then, I had become acquainted with all residents of the village. They all gathered to give farewell to me. Before my departure, Brij Mohan’s father said to me, “Son, we feel our own son had left us forever. You look to us just like our own son. We do not want to send you back, but we cannot keep you here either for long. Your own parents must be waiting for you. Do not forget about us after going from here. Do visit in future to meet us.”

I wanted to tell him that my parents were not waiting for me. But I did not give any reply to him and got ready to leave. At that time, my own mood became very gloomy. But, I was to continue with my journey to my future and to struggle to keep my existence intact and to struggle for realization of my true self. I promised them to visit and meet them in future and then started walking back to Shimla on the same way.

The whole of the path to Shimla was in the shape of a very sharp ascent. I was feeling much difficulty in climbing on the passage. I had not become fully strong by then. By the evening, I had reached Shimla. It was just the beginning of the month of February. The weather of Shimla had become very arduous at that time and a very heavy snow fall was taking place there. I had no other place to stay there other than the hotel of Puran Singh. So, after reaching Shimla, I started walking towards the hotel of Puran Singh.

————

When I reached there, the night had already set in. There was no customer in the hotel at that time. That little boy Chhotu had already gone from there. Puran Singh was sitting alone in the hotel. With a surprise in his eyes, he said to me, “Son, you had come back after so many days. I thought you might have gone back to Punjab or might have got some job there at crushers. How have you come here all of a sudden?”

“Uncle, I did get a job at a crusher. But, I became very sick there in the dusty climate. I had to come to village Shapur in a very sick condition.” I replied to him and thereafter narrated the whole story to him of what had happened to me at crushers and at village Shapur. We remained talking with each other for half an hour and then we started taking our supper. After that we together prepared bedding for me in the middle of the room like earlier. I fell asleep soon, as I was tired very much.

When I awoke in the morning, Puran Singh had already brought vegetables from the market and he was chopping the vegetables while sitting on one side. After some time, Chhotu also arrived there. I picked up the bedding and rearranged the tables and the chairs in the room. Chhotu started doing his cleaning work as usual. After chopping the vegetables Puran Singh put them in a vessel. After that Puran Singh said to me, “So my boy, now what is your further program. To return back to Punjab or to stay here.”

“Uncle I have no place to live in Punjab. I am a homeless person. I am wandering from here to there to find some place in life. But, I will not go back to Punjab and will stay here.”I replied to him.

“You remind me of my youthful days, when I was also homeless and was wandering from one place to other in search of a roof over my head. Ultimately, by God’s grace I had succeeded in getting the roof over me.” Puran Singh raised his both hands upwards to thank God. I silently remained listening to him.

“Now, what will you do further?” Puran Singh asked me after a little while.

“Uncle, what I can do. Nobody here is ready to give me any job. I had already tried very hard. I do not know what to do.” I replied to him.

After hearing me, Puran Singh did not say anything and became busy in his work.

I remained thinking about my coming days silently. I was unable to understand what to do or what not to do. Suddenly, an idea flashed through my mind. While looking towards Puran Singh I said to him, “Uncle, I want to say something to you. Give me some work here in your hotel. I am ready to do any work. I am already getting food free of cost from you. In addition to it, give me some money as wages, whatever you may find suitable. Otherwise also, I am in need of only a little money as I have minimum requirements.”

“Son, I had also thought of it earlier. But, I could not say it you. I am ready to keep you here in my hotel. I have nobody of my own. You looked to me just like my own son. But, then I thought you might not like it. So, I remained hesitating to say it to you. But, now you yourself have become ready to work here. It’s okay. You may start working with me from today. Gradually, you will learn all the ways of the trade. I will teach you even how to cook food.” Puran Singh Said to me.

Though I was not much hopeful about that, yet Puran Singh had agreed to keep me in his hotel on work. So, I became over excited with happiness. Suddenly, my eyes fell upon the little kid. He was standing silently and was listening to our talk. There were signs of much disturbance on his little face. But, at that time I did not pay any attention to him and whole of my attention was drawn towards my new job in the hotel.

In the afternoon, the hotel became totally empty. Only I, Puran Singh and the little kid Chhotu were left alone there. I drew a chair and sat on the same. The little kid Chhotu while taking his small steps very slowly, came to stand near me. I looked at that kid very attentively for the first time. He was wearing very ordinary slippers in his feet and was wearing very little clothes even in such a cold weather. While standing in front of me, in a weeping like tone in his voice he asked to me, “Uncle, now you will work here. Will Puran Uncle turn me out of the hotel? We will die of hunger.”

I was shocked to hear those words from the mouth of such a little kid. I could not speak even a word. Puran Singh had also heard his talk. He got up and came to us and rubbed his hand on the head of that little kid with great love and said to him, “No son, I will never turn you out from my hotel. You are a very little boy. You do all this work alone with much difficulty. I have kept this young man to do work with you, so that you may not have to do all work alone.”

On hearing those words from the mouth of Puran Singh, the little kid Chhotu became satisfied and started washing the dirty utensils at the water tap. But, the question of that child had shaken my mind very badly. I had seen him with so much attention for the first time. He was of a very little and tender age. His age was to play with toys and to make merriment like other children. But, what was his compulsion for which he was washing utensils at the water tap at such a little age. I became very disturbed and perturbed. It reminded me of the little girl Sumna washing dirty utensils at the water tap in the house of my sister at Ropar, who was lost somewhere in the big crowd of this world, God knows where. My mind became more disturbed.

Though, during the remaining hours of that day, I remained attending to the customers and remained serving food to them, yet my mind remained very sad and disturbed. Perhaps, Puran Singh had noticed my sadness and disturbance.

When we got ready to sleep at night, Puran Singh came and sat near my bedding, “Son, today your mood seems to be very gloomy. What is the matter?” He asked me.

“Uncle, I have become very much disturbed on hearing Chhotu’s talk. What is the matter? He is working in your hotel at such a little age. His parents must be very cruel people who have not thought even a little before sending him to work.” I asked so many things to him in a single breath.

Puran Singh took a very deep sigh and said to me, “Son, what should I tell you? The story of this little boy is very sad and painful. His father Ramakant was working in my hotel and was residing with his wife and his son Chhotu in a rented house in the lower region of Shimla. At that time my business was also fairly good and I used to give a very good amount to him.” After saying so he became silent.

After some time he again said, “Son, man is always an enemy of man. But sometimes, the God is even bigger enemy of man than the human beings. A year ago, the mother of this kid started remaining ill. On seeing that she was not recovering back, the father of Chhotu eloped with a married woman to some other place. The mother and the son were left behind. The mother of this boy was not having so much money with her, even sufficient to pay the rent to the owner of the house. Upon that the owner of the house turned them out of the house. Both had to start living in the slum, which is situated even below the lower inhabited region of Shimla city. His mother constructed a hut there with the wooden sticks and sack clothes. But, they were having no source of their livelihood. So, a few months ago she brought this kid to my hotel with a request that I should keep him in the hotel as a worker. She told me that he would do the cleaning work and would wash the dirty utensils and that in return I should give food to him. I thought, the boy would have to stand on his own legs even from that tender age. So, I agreed to take him in my hotel as a worker. He does the cleaning work and does the washing of utensils. Slowly, I will teach him the whole of the hotel work. I do not feel good at having him employed at my hotel at such a little age, but he will have to struggle very hard from this very age to keep himself alive. I provide him three times’ food and when he goes back down to his hut in the evening. I gave him food for his mother also. Poor boy has to walk daily from his hut to hotel in the morning and then from hotel to his hut in the evening. Though my business is not doing well now-a-days, yet I remain giving some money to him regularly for buying medicine for his mother and for pulling on their lives.”

After keeping mum for some time Puran Singh again said to me, “I have no one of my own. I will always keep this boy with me till my lifetime. Now you have also joined with me. After me, this hotel will belong to you both. Always take care of him.”

After sitting for some more time, Puran Singh went into his back room to sleep. I also lay down upon my bedding, but the sleep was looking miles away from me. I remained thinking about the life of that little boy. What type of life he was compelled to lead at that little age. He was only four-five years old. He had to cover a very long ascending and descending path daily with his little feet. Our religious preachers and philosophers had stated that ‘Life Was An Illusion’. But, to me it was not an illusion and existence of human beings in this world was a truth. The existence of that little boy was a truth. The hunger in this word was a truth. The poverty in this world was a truth. I remained thinking sometimes about the little girl Sumna and sometimes about the little boy Chhotu. I could not get the sleep that night. Puran Singh also got up very early in the morning. His eyes were telling that he had also not slept during the whole night. We both went to vegetable market together to buy the vegetables very early. When we returned from the market, Chhotu had also reached the hotel very early and he was doing his usual work to clean the chairs and the tables with the cloth. But, there was a feeling of satisfaction and confidence on his face. Puran Singh put the bag of vegetables which he was holding in his hand, in a corner of the hotel and went to the child and again put his hand on the head of the little boy and took him in his embrace with great love and affection. How soft and kind was the heart of Puran Singh, I thought. My heart was filled with great respect for him.

I had also started loving Chhotu very much after hearing about his story. I used to treat him with much love and much softness and used to try to make him do lesser work. Slowly, Chhotu also became confident about me and became very open with. We both used to work together and I also remain extending him a helping hand. I always used to keep talking with him and would always remain trying to keep him happy. The life started passing well in that manner.

It was the middle of the month of the February. The weather was still very cold as there had been a very heavy snow falls in Shimla. The tourists had flooded into Shimla to see the snow fall. They were very rich people, who used to take food in very big hotels. But, the people from the surroundings villages had also arrived at Shimla to provide labour to the tourists and many out of them used to take food in our hotel. It has increased the load of work in our hotel also. I became so busy in the work of the hotel that I could not pay attention to Chhotu. One day, after the lunch time was over, Chhotu lay down on the floor, in a corner of the room of the hotel, fully exhausted. On seeing that I went to him and touched him. His body was very hot. He was suffering from very high fever. Perhaps, he had caught cold. I told Puran Singh about that. He also became very anxious on seeing the condition of Chhotu and said to me, “Son, we remained so busy in our work that we could not pay any attention to him. It has become so cold. Poor chap was not having sufficient clothes. He had caught cold. Take him with you and show him to some doctor and get medicine for him and take him down to his mother and do not forget to buy some warm clothes for him.” Puran Singh was also feeling guilty like me.

After saying the above said words, Puran Singh gave some money to me. I tried to lift Chhottu in my arms, but he did not agree for the lift, despite my asking and started walking with me with his trembling legs. Perhaps, he did not want to put burden upon me. Chhotu had learnt so many things in much advance, even at his tender age, due to his circumstances. But, Chhotu could not walk further after taking few steps. So, I lifted him in my arms and carried him to the clinic of a doctor. I got him checked from the doctor and purchased medicine for him and then I purchased some warm clothes also for him and got those put on him. Then, I took him down to the slum while carrying him in my arms. I did not feel any difficulty in carrying him down. I had become used to the hilly ways of Shimla by then and moreover Chhotu was very light weight. The slum was situated below at a distance of three kilometers from the hotel of Puran Singh. A big drain was flowing through the slum. The dirty water of whole of Shimla city was falling in the said drain and the drain was emitting a very foul smell. Chhotu and his mother were residing in one of the huts in that slum.

I had seen the mother of Chhotu for the first time on that day. She was looking very weak and very ill even from her appearance. She became very perturbed on seeing Chhotu ill. I carried Chhotu inside the hut. A few pieces of jute cloth were lying on the earthen floor of the hut. I put Chhotu on the said jute cloth pieces. His mother covered him with a very old worn-out quilt. I briefed Chhotu’s mother about the timings of the medicine and came back to the hotel after giving consolation to her.

The next day, Puran Singh sent me to see Chhotu even in the morning time and sent milk for Chhotu and flat bread and vegetables for his mother. The temperature of Chhotu had not become normal, though it had fallen down somewhat. The doctor had already given medicine to him for five days. I gave milk and other food to Chhotu’s mother and came back. Likewise, Puran Singh remained sending me below to see Chhotu and to give them milk and other food articles. On the fourth day I found that the temperature of Chhotu had come down to normal and he became very happy on seeing me. Chhotu’s mother thanked me with her folded hands and said, “Brother, I do not know how to thank you and uncle Puran. He has given support to us, the supportless people. Otherwise, I do not know what could have happened to us. Even thinking of the same makes me scared.” She started weeping after saying so.

I could not say anything to her. I myself had become overwhelmed with emotions.

She recomposed herself after some time and said, “Brother, my condition has already become very critical. I may not survive long. If anything happens to me, keep Chhotu with you. Please, do not let him stray. He is so small.” She again started crying after saying so.

I tried to pacify her by saying, “Sister, do not worry. God cares for all. Have trust in Him. Nothing bad will happen to you. God may forbid, if anything happens to you, I promise you, I will not let Chhotu to stray in life. I will bring up him as my own child. Moreover, Puran Singh also loves him like his own child.”

After giving encouragement to her, I came back to the hotel. I remained carrying milk and food to Chhotu and his mother likewise regularly. In few days, Chhotu fully recovered from illness, though he had become very weak. In next ten-fifteen days Chhotu’s weakness was also cured and he started coming to the hotel again.

Our life in the hotel came back on the old track. Then came the middle of the month of March. The cold started decreasing and the coming of tourists to Shimla also came to a halt. It affected our work also. The decrease in the work resulted in enough time for us every day.

One day, we were sitting idle in the hotel after the lunch time. We were just doing chit-chat with each other. Chhotu was also sitting beside us. Suddenly, an idea came into my mind to clean the hotel thoroughly and I said to Puran Singh, “Uncle, we are having very less work in these days. Why don’t we remove all of the furniture and all other things from the room of the hotel and clean it thoroughly?”

Puran Singh accepted my proposal and said to me, “Well, you are very right. Though we clean the room daily, yet it is not cleaned thoroughly. Let us clean it after vacating it. It will be better. We will close the hotel next Sunday and will do the cleaning work. I have never cleaned the hotel properly since the day I purchased it.”

After three days, it was Sunday. We closed our business on that day. Till 10’o clock, I had taken out the whole of the furniture and other goods from the room of the hotel and had placed those in the vacant space in front of the hotel. First of all, we washed and cleaned the furniture and utensils thoroughly with water. Then came the turn of the room itself. When I was dusting the room with a broom, my eyes suddenly fell upon a locked wooden box, which was lying in a corner of the room. It was covered with a thick layer of dust. Its lock was very rusty and was also full of dust. The box was lying hidden behind one half broken table in that corner. So, I could not see it before. It had come into my sight, after I had removed the broken table from that corner of the room. It was appearing from the condition of the box that it had not been touched by anybody for years. It seemed to be lying closed and locked for the past many years. I picked up the box from that corner and carried it out of the room and placed it on a table. I cleaned the box and its lock also with a piece of cloth and removed the thick layer of the dust from the box and the lock. Then, I cleaned the walls and ceiling of the room with a duster and removed the cobwebs from the walls and the roof. Then, I again took the furniture and all other things back into the room and placed them at their old places. I placed the said box also at its old place, in the same corner of the room. Chhotu had also helped me in the cleaning of the hotel so much as he could do.

After the cleaning work was over, we both, I and Chhotu, sat on the floor of the room to take rest. We both were badly tired. Puran Singh also came to sit near us. The room of the hotel was looking very neat and clean.

On seeing the condition of the hotel Puran Singh said, “Son, you have changed the shape of the hotel. I had remained working here for the last ten years. Five years have passed since I became its owner. But, we have never done its cleaning in such excellent manner. Today, the room of the hotel and its all articles are shining very nicely.”

I pointed towards the corner of the room and said to Puran Singh, “Uncle, I have cleaned that wooden box lying in that corner also. It was appearing to be lying there since very long. It appears to me that it has not been cleaned for the last many years. You seem to have forgotten about it, after placing it there.”

Puran Singh looked at the box for a while and then said to me, “No son, it’s not mine.”

“Then, who had placed it there?” I asked Puran Singh surprisingly.

“I do not know whose box this is. When I started working in this hotel as a cook ten years ago, it was already lying in that corner of the room. Nobody came here to claim the box. I had become inattentive towards it and had nearly forgotten about it. It remained lying unnoticed in the same corner of the room during all these years. I have remembered about it today, after so many years, after you have talked about it. Nobody knows who had placed it there and when he had placed it. If its owner will feel needy about it, he will come here and will take it away.” Puran Singh replied.

I was astonished to hear all that from the mouth of Puran Singh. I remained thinking who was the owner of the box and where he had gone after leaving the box there in the hotel. It was a very surprising matter.

“Uncle, what could be in this box? Let us open it and see.” my curiosity about the box was going on increasing.

“I do not know what is lying in it. I have never opened its lock and have never seen inside it. Otherwise also, it is someone other’s property. We should not open it. Whatever is lying in it, it will remain lying in it till its owner returns. We have no concern with the articles lying in it.” Puran Singh replied to me.

Thereafter, we remained chatting about the one thing or the other for a very long time. We enjoyed the remaining part of the day as a holiday. In the evening, Puran Singh cooked the food for us. Chhotu took the meals for himself and for his mother and went down to his hut in the slum. We took our meals very late and after finishing it we went into our beddings and soon fell asleep.

From the next morning, our hotel’s work again started on the same routine. By then, I had already forgotten about the box.

My life remained passing in the same old manner. We would get-up early in the morning and would resume the hotel’s work. At night we would finish our work and would go to sleep. That routine was continuing. I had never imagined about that type of life. I would remain thinking about the meaninglessness and absurdity of the life with a surprise. But, to remain alive it was very essential to keep struggling against the absurdity and worthlessness of life and I was doing the struggle to keep my existence intact. Once I thought that I should bring my L.L.B degree from the Punjab University and should start practicing as a lawyer, to have a new beginning in my life, to find out new meanings and new contexts in life. But, my heart did not agree for the same. Law degree had also been obtained by me with the money of that person who had disowned me. I have started hating that degree also. I did not want to save my existence in this word with the support of that degree. So, I threw the idea of collecting that degree out of my mind at that very moment. So, I got myself absorbed in the work of the hotel, though some time, I would feel that like Puran Singh, my life would also remain imprisoned in the four walls of that hotel forever. Like Puran Singh, it was also going to be my destiny.

But, something else was waiting for me in my fate. One day, I was sweeping the room with a broom. Suddenly, my broom struck against the lock of that box with a force. The lock had perhaps become weakened due to rust. So, due to striking of the broom, the lock of the box at once broke opened and fell down on the floor. On seeing that, a curiosity got aroused in my mind. I wanted to know what articles of that unknown person were lying in the box. I tried very hard to stop myself from opening the box. But, I could not control myself and finely opened it. When I opened the box, I found that there were only few books and one old diary in it. There were no other goods in the box. I took the books out of the box and saw them. Those were few novels and short story books of ‘Franz Kafka’. Up to that time, no doubt, I had heard about the name of Franz Kafka, but, I had never read any of his books. Those books and the diary were looking very old one and were also covered with a sheath of dust. I cleaned those books and diary and then again put them back in that very wooden box. But, those books had captured my mind very deeply. Those books remained drawing my mind towards them time and again. I wanted to read those books. Otherwise also there was nothing readable in the hotel of Puran Singh. He was not in the habit of buying even a Newspaper. So, I started reading stories of Franz Kafka, whenever I would get the time to do so. But, I used to have a very little spare time, so I could read only a very few stories of Kafka. But, even a little reading of Franz Kafka was to undergo a very deep, intense and unparalleled experience. To read Kafka was to pass through the Kafkaesque world of pain, sorrow and neglect. But, at the same time, his philosophy of life was the philosophy to pass through that world of pain, misery and failures, successfully by struggling against the absurdity and worthlessness of life to keep one’s existence intact. Perhaps to bear the pain and misery of father and son’s troubled relationship was the fate of his own life, which he had inscribed on the papers in some of his stories with an unparalleled skill. What a strange co-incidence it was! I, myself had borne the sting of the very harmful troubled relationship between the father and the son in my own life.

One day, when I was free for some time, I took out the books of Franz Kafka and started looking at them randomly. I wanted to read some stories of Kafka. Suddenly, it came into my mind that the name and address of the unknown owner of the wooden box might be written in any of his books. I took all the books out of the box and went through their pages very carefully. But, the name of that unknown person was not written anywhere. Then, my attention was drawn towards the diary, which was also lying in the box. Perhaps, the name and address of that person might be written in that diary, I thought. So, I took out that diary also from the box and opened it and started seeing its pages. It was an old dateless diary, in which something was written on some of its pages and rest had been left blank. There was no description of any month or any year also in the same. I tried to see the pages of the diary very carefully, but nobody’s name was written on the same. I was having a dateless diary of an unknown person in my hands.

I could not read that diary on that day and put back the diary in the box. But, later on my mind started diverting towards that dateless diary of some unknown person day by day and I started becoming more and more curious about that.

Finally, one day I took the diary out of the box and started reading it. After leaving two pages of the diary blank, it was written in the diary from its third page onwards:-

“Two days have passed, since we came to Dehradun on a pleasure trip. My friends Chandar Mohan and Inderjeet Singh are also with me. After finishing our LL.B first year’s exams, we became free a few days ago. After exams, our law college is to open again after two months. Till then, all students had to go back from the hostel to their houses. But, I was not willing to go back to my house. My relations with my father had never been normal and comfortable. Our relations had become much disturbed many years ago. My father was having more attachment and love with my elder sister from the very beginning, who is now married at Ludhiana for the last three-four years. My father has always remained playing in her hands from the very beginning and has always remained ready to do whatever she asks him to do. I was just a fifth standard student, when my father left his job from the Police Department under some compulsion. Since then, he is residing in the village. We were residing in the village with our mother even prior to that. My father used to visit the village only during his holidays. He used to stay there for a day or two and then used to go back to his place of posting. Even during those days of his short stays, his behavior towards me used to be very rude and discordial. He was not tolerant of me even at my that age. Though, it is a separate matter that he was having more love and affection with my sister, who was elder to me by five years. When my father started living in the village permanently, I realized that his nature was very bitter and very harsh one. He always wanted to suppress my existence and my innerself. He would remain abusing and rebuking me after every two-three minutes, whenever I would try to sit and talk with him. So, I was not willing to go back to my house during vacation. My friends Chander Mohan and Inderjeet are very fond of excursion trips. They had made-up their program to go to Dehradun even when our exams were not over yet. They wanted to take me also along with them. But, I was not having money for the tour. They both belong to very rich families. They became ready to bear my expenses also. So, two days ago, we had reached Dehradun. While we are touring around in Dehradun, I am still feeling a burden on some corner of my mind. God knows, what my father will do with me after my return to my village. Well, I will see when the time will come.

Tomorrow, we will go to see Sahasardhara Falls which are few kilometers away from the city of Dehradun. So, we are to go to sleep early. So, I stop writing this diary today right now.”

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After reading first page of the diary, I thought what a strange co-incidence it was. Franz Kafka, I and the unknown writer of the diary, all we had been law students and had become victims of our respective father’s indifference and hatred. I started reading the next page of diary:-

“Today, the sky was overcast with the clouds from the very early morning. The weather was very delightful. We three had started going to Sahastradhara Falls by foot. We were just one kilometer behind the Sahastradhara Falls, when it started raining very heavily. We looked around for some shelter to save ourselves from becoming wet. There was a tea shop just a few yards ahead of us, on the other side of the road. We ran towards that shop and took shelter therein. The owner of the shop was about fifty years old person, who was having very fair pinkish complexion. He was having very sharp features and was having very beautiful and elongated eyes like almond kernels.

“Come in Babu Ji. Here nobody can tell when rain will start falling and when it will stop. The mood of weather is very unpredictable here. Benches are lying inside the shop, be seated there comfortably.” Shop owner spoke on seeing us.

We went inside the shop and sat down on the benches lying there. We were not feeling it right to sit in his shop idly. So, Inderjeet asked him to prepare tea for us. On Inderjeet’s asking, he started preparing tea for us. During that, I looked around in the shop. There was a further door in the back wall of the shop, which was opening into another room. Perhaps, it was his living room. A pair of peacocks was painted on the back wall above the door of the back room. The faces of the peacocks were towards each other.

Within few minutes, the owner of the tea shop brought and placed the cups of tea on a table in front of us and said, “Babu Ji, you seem to have come from Punjab.”

I shook my head in the affirmative.

He again said, “Punjab is the land of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji. I love and respect all persons who come from Punjab. I salute all Punjabis coming from the land of Gurus again and again.”

We picked up the cups in our hands and started sipping tea. The view of Sahastradhara falls was very clearly visible from the place where we were sitting. The sound of the water falling from the hills was very musical and was producing a very beautiful echo by mixing up with the sound of the rain. It was a very beautiful sight to look at.

We remained talking at random while sipping tea from our cups and remained waiting for the stopping of the rain. In the mean time, a random wanderer type of very old aged saint with long hair and long beard came there and started talking with the shop owner, while standing near the fire place of the shop. By then, the shop owner had already put a stew pan on the fire place, with mustard oil in it to fry Samosas. The oil was fully boiling at that time. Suddenly, that Saint put his both hands in the boiling oil and started massaging his hand by taking out the boiling oil in his palms from the stew pan. He did like that for 2-3 minutes and thereafter went out of the shop and walked away towards one side. We all three were left wonderstruck by the feat of the saint. His hands did not burn even a bit in the boiling oil. I am totally an atheist person and do not believe in miracles. So, I started finding out some scientific basis for his action. Chander Mohan was also a person of my thinking. He was also having no faith in the existence of God like me. But contrary to that, Inderjeet was a very religious minded person. He became stunned with that action of the saint. A few seconds after the saint had left the shop, Inderjeet suddenly got up and went outside the shop, even though it was still raining heavily. He came back after some time totally drenched with water.

“What had happened to you? Where had you gone like that all of a sudden?” I asked him.

“Brother, I had gone to see that saint, but I could not find him anywhere. Only God knows where he had disappeared within seconds. I wanted to talk with him. Such a miraculous Saint is found very rarely, that too, with great luck.” Inderjeet replied with a feeling of great disappointment in his voice.

“Babu Ji, this area is full such miraculous Saints, who live away from localities, in solitary caves at the high hills. They sometimes come down here and go back after doing such types of miracles.” The shop owner, who was sitting silent till then, said to Inderjeet.

“I certainly want to meet this Saint and want to take his blessings. Where can I meet him? I will go to his place of abode and will meet him there.” Inderjeet asked from the shop owner. He was looking to be very impressed with that Saint.

“You will not be able to find out this saint now. Nobody knows about the abodes of such Saints. Besides, they do not stay long at one place. They remain wandering from one place to other in the Himalayas and no one can predict where they will show up themselves next time. This Saint has shown up himself here after many years. Now, nobody can say when and where he will show up himself again.” The shop owner tried to pacify Inderjeet.

On seeing Inderjeet in such a gloomy mood, Chander Mohan patted on his back and said, “Friend, you have become depressed without any reason. What was so miraculous in that thing? It is a matter of practice. The saints like him learn the tricks to do such type of things. They befool the people with such tricks and make the people to follow them. You seem to have been taken in by his trick.”

The shop owner was again listening to our talk silently. With a smile on his face he said to me and Chander Mohan, “Babu Ji, you both seem to be atheists, who do not believe in God.”

“Yes, we do not believe in the existence of God.” I and Chander Mohan replied together at the same time.

“If God does not exist, then who is running this world?” The shop owner threw a question upon us.

We were very well experts in such matters and used to make believers of God to cry and accept defeat.

“This world is running by-chance on the basis of principle of science. If not, then tell us who is running the world and how is he running it?” We asked him while coming into a mood to argue.

But, the shop owner did not speak anything in reply and remained only smiling at us. After some time, he again spoke to us, “Babu Ji, there are many thing in this world which are shrouded in mystery and are beyond the perception of eyes and thinking of the human beings and are beyond the principle of science. Day after tomorrow it will be Sunday. If you will have some spare time on that day, then come to my shop at 7 AM. It maybe that you may get some answers to some of your questions.”

A little thereafter, it stopped raining and we went out of the shop and went to the Sahastradhara Falls. For whole of the remaining day, we remained wandering there at the Sahastradhara and enjoyed a lot. In the evening we have come back to Dehradun, to the inn where we are staying. After taking our dinner, we have remained discussing with each other for a long time as to for what purpose the shop owner has called us on Sunday. Should we go there or not? This is the question. Finally, we have made up our mind to go to his shop on Sunday.”

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After that page, two pages of the diary were left blank and then it was again written on the next page of the diary:-

  “Ultimately, the day of Sunday had come today. We got up very early in the morning and started from the inn to go to that shop situated near Sahastradhara Falls very early. We had reached that shop few minutes before 7 AM. The shop owner was waiting for us. After serving tea to us he took us into the back side room. It was his living room. There was another small room behind the living room. The shop owner took us into that further room. It was perhaps his room for worshiping. A two feet high concrete platform was built along the back wall of that room. A further wooden platform was placed on that platform. A statue of peacock was installed on that wooden platform. In front of the statue, a row of burning candles was placed on the platform, in the shape of half moon circle. In the dim light of candles, it was really looking very mysterious. A carpet was spread on the floor in front of the statue of the peacock. The shop owner asked us to sit down on the back portion of the carpet and he himself sat down on a cushion seat lying on the floor in front of the peacock statue. Then, he lit incense sticks in front of the statue and started reciting some holy rhymes in some unknown language. He remained reciting those holy rhymes for quite a long time and we started feeling bored. Finally, after finishing his recitals, he bowed down before the statue and then called me near to him by waving his hand. I got up from my place at his signal and sat down on the carpet near to him, just in front of peacock statue. He again recited some hymns for two-three minutes and then picked up a peacock feather lying in front of the statue and touched my forehead with that feather. As soon as he touched my forehead with that feather my eyes became closed automatically and I passed into a state of selflessness and stupor. I started feeling as if I had become weightless and as if I was floating in the air across the sky. It appeared to me as if my body was expanding very hugely in the whole of the universe. In addition to it, a very loud and high pitched sound of the voice of peacocks started echoing in my ears and mind. It appeared to me as if billions of peacocks were shrieking together and as if the whole of the universe was filled with that sound. It was really a very unique but a very mysterious experience for me in itself. After some time, everything became normal and the sound of the voice of peacocks stopped and my eyes became opened and I came out of the stupor. The shop owner then asked me to go back to my place and called Chander Mohan near to him and made him to sit in front of the statue. He again recited the holy hymn and touched the forehead of Chander Mohan with the peacock feather. The eyes of Chander Mohan became closed and he also passed into a state of listlessness and stupor. But, at that time I did not hear any sound of the voice of peacocks. After some time, the shop owner gave a pass on the forehead of Chander Mohan with the thumb of his right hand and the spell came to an end and Chander Mohan came out of the stupor. Thereafter, the shop owner repeated the same thing with Inderjeet also and Inderjeet also passed into a stage of stupor. That time also, I did not hear the sound of the voice of peacocks. After his spell was over, Inderjeet also came back and sat near us. We all three friends had gone through the same experience and we were looking at each-other with astonishment.

The shop owner remained reciting some religious rhymes for some more time and then again bowed before the statue and thereafter came to sit near us. His worship was over.

“Well, boys what do you feel now? Have you experienced something or not?” He asked from us with a smile on his face.

We were so wonderstruck that we could not give any answer to him.

While pointing towards Inderjeet, the shop owner said, “This boy is already a very religious person and does believe in such things. But, you both do not believe in God and such things. Now tell, what you are to say.”

I could speak with him with much difficulty, “You have got us passed through a very unique metaphysical and a parapsychic experience. It has falsified our all concepts of life, which we were carrying on up to this time. What is this?”

“Boys, I have got you passed through first circle of peacock tantra (rituals) of our tribe. You have become dumbfounded even with it. What will happen to you if you will happen to experience the remaining two circles of peacock tantra?” The shop owner had told us with a smile on his face. Thereafter, he told us that he was from the peacock tribe and that their tribe was living in a secret place in the mountains of Vindhya Chal in Madhya Pradesh and that they all were worshippers of peacock god and that it was their concept that the whole of the world had come into existence from a sound, which is the sound of the voice of peacock and that their peacock tantra had three circles and that we had just experienced its first circle there and that in the second circle the ways to the other world were to be opened and one was to become able to meet the souls, which had passed to the other world. He further told us that the second circle could connect one with the continuous stream of time also, in which all the three times i.e. the past, the present and the future were present at one and the same time and that one could see one’s past, one’s present and one’s future in the second circle of the peacock tantra. The third circle was the final circle of the peacock tantra, which could unite one with the Ultimate Universal Consciousness, which they were worshiping in the form of peacock. We requested him to get us passed through the second and the third circles of the peacock tantra, but he refused to do so and told us that the peacock people were prohibited from telling the secrets of the rituals and customs of their tribe to the outsiders and that despite that taboo he had got us passed through the first circle of the peacock tantra. Moreover, in addition to it, one “Moranrakhi” was also required to pass through the second and third circles, which was not available with him and it could be found in the temple of peacock tribe in the Vindhya Chal Mountains only. He told us that only the chief priest of the temple was allowed to invoke the third circle of the peacock tantra. He further told us that the secrets for invoking the second and third circles were told only to a few selected one, who were chosen by the chief priest himself. When we asked him as to what was that “Moranrakhi”, he said that he did not know about it. We remained listening to him very attentively. But, it appeared to me that he knew about “Moranrakhi” and that he was capable to invoke at least the second circle of the peacock ritual and that he was telling a lie to us.

After some time, we came back to Dehradun to our inn. Tomorrow we are to go to the hill station of Mussoorie on further excursion for two days. But, I am not feeling like going there. I have some unsolved questions. For knowing answers to those questions, I want to go to meet that shop owner of the peacock tribe. So, I have made up my mind to not to go with Chander Mohan and Inderjeet to Mussoorie.”

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  Thereafter, a page in the diary was left blank. Perhaps, the writer of the diary used to leave those pages blank, so as to denote gap of the days. After the blank paper it was again written on the diary:-

“Yesterday, Chander Mohan and Inderjeet had gone to Mussoorie. I had not gone with them by making excuse of illness. They will come back after few days. I had again gone to Sahastradhara Falls to meet that shop owner of peacock tribe. I wanted to know about the remaining two circles of peacock tantra. I requested him again and again to make me pass through the second circle of the peacock tantra. I wanted to know why my relations with my father had remained so troubled. What was its reason? Was it written in my fate to be so? Besides, I wanted to know about my future also. But, that Peacock tribe man did not agree to invoke that second circle for me. He told me that the first circle which he had shown to us was also against the principles and traditions of his tribe. He had shown us that circle by breaking the rules and taboos of his tribe to show us the existence of metaphysical and of something beyond the human perception. Finally, he admitted that he knew how to invoke the second circle of the peacock ritual. But, he was totally prohibited from doing so in the presence of outsiders and that “Moranrakhi” was not available with him at that time, which was required for invoking the second circle of the ritual. I tried very hard to know what “Moranrakhi” could be. Could it be a tied cluster of peacock feathers or could it be some religious instrument. But, he did not utter even a single word about that, though he told many things about his peacock tribe to me. His tribe was residing in the Vindhya Chal Mountains in Madhya Pradesh from the times immemorial. The persons of his tribe never used to go outside from their land and nobody from outside was ever allowed to enter their land. If anybody by chance happened to enter their land, they used to conceal their centuries old traditions and the mysterious peacock rituals from him, and nobody from the outer world was ever allowed to enter their holy temple and to take part in their religious rituals. Gradually, their interaction with the outer world started and their needs started increasing, due to which they started going outside their land and that more than 50 years had passed since then. Like many others he also came out and started doing teashop at Sahastradhara falls by leaving his family behind in his land, so that he might be able to earn some money for them. He further told me that only a few of them could do shops like him and that most of them were doing labour work at brick kilns and some of them were working as brick moulders and some others were fire givers, who would ignite fire in the furnace of brick kilns for baking the earthen bricks. I was surprised to know that most of the labourers working in the brick kilns in Punjab and Himachal were the peacock tribe people and that they used to keep their identity and their rituals totally secret from others. After coming back from Sahastradhara Falls, I have remained thinking that this world is full of so many mysteries and so many strange things. It is already late night. So, I stop writing diary today. Perhaps, Chander Mohan and Inderjeet may also return tomorrow.”

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After leaving some pages of diary as blank, it was further written on the next page :-

“We had stayed in Dehradun for twenty days and thereafter we had again come back to Punjab. Chander Mohan and Inderjeet had gone to their houses. I had also come back to my village. On reaching my village, it appeared to me as if everything had changed there. I met many persons on the way to my house. They looked at me with a very strange feeling in their eyes, but they did not speak to me. My childhood friend Karamjeet met me in the street few yards ahead of my house. He stopped at once on seeing me. There was a look of sadness and anguish on his face and he said to me, “Where had you gone? Your mother had died about twelve-thirteen days ago. I went to your college to bring you. But, nobody was there. All students had gone back to their houses many days ago. But, you had not reached the village. You were not present even in your hostel. I made intensive search for you there, but I could not know anything about you. Ultimately, after remaining unsuccessful to find you, I came back. Your mother had to be cremated in your absence. Your elder sister had come from Ludhiana two days before the death of your mother. Your mother had become very serious. She remained remembering you very much, but you did not reach in time. Your father is very much annoyed with you. He was abusing you very much even in front of the dead body of your mother. But, you have still reached in time today. Your father is going along with your sister to Ludhiana today. He has already given his agricultural land on rent. He is going to Ludhiana to reside permanently with your sister.”

I was very much shocked to know about my mother’s death and all that. My mother was having much love with me. My father and my sister are having no attachment with me from the very beginning. My mother had remained ill for the last many years. She had some problem in her heart. Still, she would remain doing all the house hold work, while bearing rebukes and chidings of my father. Karamjeet told me that she started suffering from high fever also four-five days before her death. My mother had led a much suppressed life under the fear of my father and had always borne her husband’s cop’s arrogance and haughtiness throughout her life. My mother had gone in my absence. I could not help crying. My friend tried to console me, but I was unable to control myself. I entered my house while weeping bitterly. Karamjeet had also come along with me. My father was sitting on a cot in the courtyard. His luggage was lying packed near his cot. My sister was putting locks on the doors of the inner rooms of the house. On seeing me, my father at once became filled up with a mad rage and started abusing me, “You bastard, you had come back after doing vagary, after killing your mother. You are a sucker of our blood. Your mother had died due to you. Why you have come here now. I do not need you. Be off from here. Do not show your face again to me in my life.”

In addition to abusing me, my father started pushing me out of the house. When Karamjeet tried to intervene, my father abused and pushed aside him also. Then, my father pushed me out of the gate of the house and threw me into the street with a kick and I fell down on the ground of the street. Many men and women from the nearby houses were standing in the street. I looked at them for help. But, none of them came forward to help me. In the mean time, a tonga man arrived there with his tonga. My father came out of the house and again kicked in my stomach and got into the tonga. My sister put lock on the outer door of the house and both of them went away in the tonga to go to Ludhana.

My mother was the only sympathizer of me in the house and she had gone forever and the doors of the house of my father had become closed for me forever. I got up from the street, after departure of the tonga. One of my neighbours asked me to break open the locks of the door and to occupy the house. But, I did not agree to do that. My relations with that house were broken forever. So, what I was to do in that house. My friend Karamjeet took me to his house. Before her death my mother had secretly handed over some money to Karamjeet for me. He has given that money to me. My friend and his parents are ready to keep me in their house. But, I am not ready to live with them. When my own father has abandoned me, what I will do by residing in this village. For me, the meanings of contexts of life are completely changed now. I will have to go out in search for finding the true meanings of the contexts of my life myself. I have prepared myself for this journey of my life. I will stay in the house of my friend only for this night. Tomorrow, I will leave this village forever and will never return to it.”

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  Many next pages of the diary were left blank and it was written thereafter, in the diary:-

Today many days have passed since when I have remained wandering aimlessly from one place to other. The memories of my mother have remained haunting me time and again. I could not even see her before she breathed her last. I am feeling very guilty about that and it has remained disturbing me very much. I wish, I could meet her before her death. I do not know what she wanted to talk with me before her death. A very strange idea has started coming into my mind time and again, if I could talk with the soul of my mother once. Her soul may be still longing for me very keenly. Suddenly, the thoughts of second circle of the peacock tantra of the peacock people have come into my mind. It has the capability to open the doors of the world beyond and to bring the departed souls into this world to meet with the inhabitants of this world. I have made up my mind to go to Sahastradhara Falls to meet that tea shop owner of the peacock tribe. He must be possessing the capability to invoke the second circle of the peacock tantra. He must be possessing that mysterious thing called “Moranrakhi”. I will request him to invoke the second circle. I will definitely meet the soul of my mother and both of us may get the peace.”

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After few blank pages, it was further written on next page of the diary:-

“Yesterday, I have again come to the same inn at Dehradun. Today, I have gone to Sahastradhara Falls early in the morning, to meet that tea shop owner of the peacock tribe. But, his shop was shut and the lock was put on the door of the shop. I came to know from a nearby shop keeper that the father of the tea shop owner had died a month ago and that he had gone back to his village, after selling his shop to someone. I inquired from him about the name and address of peacock tribe shop owner, but he knew nothing about it. I have come from that place empty handed. I am remembering time and again one thing told by him that the people of his tribe had gained skills in the making and baking of bricks and that they were working at some of the brick kilns in Punjab. Though it will be very difficult to find peacock people in such a big Punjab, yet I have made up my mind to look out for them. Someone among them may be knowing how to invoke the second circle of peacock tantra and he may make me go through that circle.”

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  Some pages were again blank in the diary and it was written thereafter in the diary:-

  “Today many weeks have passed since when I am visiting the brick kilns in Punjab in search of peacock people. I visit at least four or five brick kilns by foot. But, I have not found them anywhere. Some people at some brick kilns become suspicious and start asking questions to me. It is very difficult for me to make them understand that I am looking for peacock tribe men from the Vindhya Chal Mountains. To some of them I tell that I am looking for a friend of mine, who has left his house after quarreling with his parents. To others, I tell that I am wandering in search of work for me. My search for peacock people is becoming more and more difficult day by day. But, my desire to meet them is increasing in the same ratio. One or the other day my search may reach its destination.”

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  After few more blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

  “Today, only a few days have passed since when I am working in a brick kiln near the Barnala city of Punjab. The money which my mother had saved for me secretly, had been spent all. It is impossible to exist in this world without money. So, when I came to this brick kiln to find peacock tribe people, I could not meet them here, but I could get a job here. The incharge of the brick kiln had become aged. He was facing difficulty in counting the bricks and in keeping the accounts. He was in a need of some assistant. I told him that I was matriculate. So, he kept me on work as his assistant. My search for peacock people seems to have come to a halt here, at this brick kiln. But, money is very much needed to remain alive.”

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After some blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“Four months have passed since when I am working at this brick kiln. But, I did not get any time and opportunity to write anything in my diary. Moreover, there was nothing in my day to day life at the brick kiln worth writing in the diary. But today, it has become very necessary for me to write something in this diary. I have learnt the working of the assistant incharge of the brick kiln very well during the last four months. I had started liking this work. But, my fate was having something else in store for me. A theft of money had taken place at the brick kiln three days ago. Nobody knew anything about the thief. On seeing that, the owner of the brick kiln had called the police. A very fatty inspector remained inspecting the spot by moving around. Thereafter, he called the whole of the labour before him and started abusing, rebuking and asking questions to them. After interrogation of labourers, he allowed them to go to work. They all were very old workers. But, I was a new worker at the brick kiln and the inspector started putting questions to me. When he asked about my name and address from me, I became very nervous because I have not told my real name and address to anybody at the brick kiln. The owner and the incharge of the brick kiln also became suspicious about me. The policemen took me to the police station under the charge of theft while abusing and beating me bitterly. In the police station, they put me in the lockup. At night the policemen took me out of the lock room and took me to the room of the inspector. The inspector waved the cane stick which he was holding in his hand very dangerously and asked me in a threatening tone, “Boy, will you put your signatures on the papers of confession by yourself or shall we show our hospitality to you?”

I had become very much scared, still I gathered some courage and requested to him, “Inspector Sahib let me go, I have not committed any theft.”

The inspector gave a cane blow on my legs and said to me, “You bastard, you have committed the theft or not, we are not concerned with it. The only concern we have is to charge you with the offence of theft. The brick kiln owner is a personal friend of local M.L.A. We are under pressure. Be wise and sign the papers.”

In the mean time, one other policeman suggested, “Sir, let us get his signatures on four-five more blank papers also. Some theft cases are lying untraced. We will make his confessional statements and will plant those cases also on him. We will get the publicity in the newspapers that the Barnala Police has caught a very hard core thief.”

But, I did not agree for signing the papers. Upon that policemen threw me on the ground and started beating me mercilessly with canes. I started crying with pain. It appeared to me that I would swoon with pain.

But, the nature was not against me completely. It was somewhat kind to me also. When the policemen were beating me like a dog, the incharge of the brick kiln arrived there. The thief who stole the money had been found to be some other person. He was working as a lobourer at the brick kiln.

Even after coming to know about the thief, the policemen were not ready to let me go free. They still wanted to plant the remaining untraced cases of theft upon me. Seeing no other option, I had to tell the inspector that my father had also retired from the police department. I had always lived under the policemen’s arrogance and haughtiness of my father and ultimately he had turned me out of his house. But, on that day, I had to use his name despite my so much hatred for him. By good luck, that inspector knew my father and they had worked together in some police station. Inspector became ready to leave me. But, the other policemen did not become ready to let me go without money.

One of the policemen said to the incharge of the brick kiln, “How we should allow him to go in this manner, now. We have to do so much labour. He has taken our so much time. We had become overtired by interrogating him for such a long time. If you want to take him with you, give us wages for our so much labour. Otherwise, we will not let him go. We will entangle him in untraced cases.”

Till then, I had got up from the floor. The policeman had beaten me with so much brutality and very mercilessly. The beating of the policemen had caused so much wounds and injuries on many parts of my body and had left marks of the sticks on my body. The policemen were calling that beating to be their labour and they were demanding compensation for that even.

My much money was lying with the incharge of the brick kiln as arrears of my wages for the last many months. I had taken very little money from the incharge out of my wages till then. So, the incharge took out some money from his pocket and gave it to the policemen and they allowed me to go out of the police station.

The incharge of the brick kiln had come to the police station on his bicycle. So, he went back on his cycle, after I was released from the police station. I also started moving towards brick kiln on foot.

The soles of my feet were aching very badly. I walked back to the brick kiln with much difficulty. The incharge of the kiln was waiting for me. He felt very sorry for what had happened with me and assured me that nothing like that would again happen to me in future. But, I have made up my mind not to stay there anymore. That incident has left a great mark of pain and anguish on my mind. I had remained reading and hearing that after the independence the face of the nation was changing very fast. I am thinking if the face of the nation is changing in the likewise manner, then the time will not be so far away, when our nation will plunge into a blind deep well of darkness. Anyhow, I have made up my mind. After my recovery I will leave the brick kiln.”

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After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“After leaving the brick kiln, I remained wandering in Punjab from here to there for many days. Once my father had cursed me to lead a life of vagrancy. Perhaps, that curse had become true in my life. To stay and settle at one place is not in my fate. Vagrancy had become my destiny. Wandering in the same manner, I had reached the locality called Kaulan wala Tobha near the city of Patiala. It is situated at a little distance from Patiala. I have got a Job in a printing press here. This printing press is owned by a person called the Wrestler and is known by the name Wrestler’s Printing Press. The actual name of its owner is something else, but he is known as the Wrestler because of his size and shape of his body like that of a wrestler. He had remained a freedom fighter before independence of India and had gone to Jail several times during the fight for freedom of India. After independence of India, he constructed his house near Kaulan Wala Tobha and had constructed a shop near his residence for running printing press in it. He knew the work of printing press beforehand. He had remained printing pamphlets against British Rule at some secret place and had remained distributing the pamphlets among the people. Like many persons of his genre, he had lost utility and relevancy after India’s freedom. He had become very much frustrated after the freedom, because the unprincipled, the selfish and the dishonest people had started coming on the frontline after the independence. But, he is very happy with me as I have learnt the skills and the mechanism of printing within a very short period. He had enquired from me about the extent of my education also. I have told him also that I am matriculate. I have concealed the fact from him that I have studied up to L.L.B. 1st year.”

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A few blank pages after the above said page, it was further written in the diary:-

“It is Sunday today. The printing press is closed for today, as it is holiday in the press. On Sundays, I usually go to the bank of a small canal which is situated to the east at a distance of two-three miles from the Kaulan Wala Tobha. The flow of water in the canal, while passing through its many banks continues on its journey to the final goal. The life also goes on moving on its journey, by leaving its good or the bad stages behind, till it reaches its final end. While sitting on the banks of the canal, the memories of my mother often come to my mind, whom I had left somewhere behind in my life. At the same time, the thoughts of peacock tribe people also come to my mind through whom I want to meet the soul of my mother and want to get out of my remorse for not meeting her before her death. But, despite my so many tries, I could not know anything about their abode in Punjab. I have no knowledge about their abode in the Vindhya Chal Mountains also. It seems, it is not written in my destiny to meet them and to meet the soul of my mother. Perhaps, it is written in my destiny to remain disturbed in my life with the memories of my mother in my mind.”

————

On the very next page it was written in the diary:-

“Today, I have got leave from the Wrestler and have come to sit on the bank of the canal. The banks of the canal give me the feeling of stability of the mind, through which the water continues to flow constantly like flow of life through the mind and body of the human beings. I want to become calm and steady like the banks of the canal but, perhaps this stability and steadiness is not in my fate. The Wrestler has two daughters. The elder out of them, is already married. The younger daughter is unmarried one and lives with the Wrestler. It is she who cooks food in the house. I eat food in the house of the Wrestler. Whenever, I go to his house for food, it is she who serves food to me. While serving food to me, she sometimes smiles with a mischief and sometimes throws water upon me with mischief. I do not like it and feign to be ignorant about all this. Perhaps, the Wrestler also knows about it. It seems that he has also started liking me. In the today morning, when I went to his house to take breakfast, the Wrestler was also present in the house. We sat together to take breakfast. While eating food, the Wrestler said to me, “Boy, only a few months have passed since you came here. But, you have mixed up with us so much within such a short time. I do not know anything about your background but, I still like you very much. You seem to be from some good family. Pushpa and her mother also like you very much. I wish to marry her with you, if you agree. You know I have no son. After the marriage, you will stay here with us. Our wish for a son will be fulfilled. Besides, you have learnt the printing work with efficiency. You will take over my business of printing in a good manner. But, I don’t want to pressurize you in this regard. Tell me after thinking about it thoroughly. If you will find it agreeable, I will marry my daughter with you. If you will not feel like that, even then tell me frankly. I will not mind it. You can continue to work with me as earlier.”

I was astonished to hear the talk of the Wrestler. I have never thought about it. Actually, I have not thought anything about my marriage up to this time. I am in a dilemma after hearing all this from the Wrestler. Hence, after taking leave of the Wrestler, I have come to sit on the lonely banks of the canal. I have got an opportunity to stabilize in my life. I may stay here forever, after doing marriage with Pushpa. But, my mind is not ready to do so. I cannot stay here forever. It is not my destination. It is not my nature even. Perhaps, it’s my fate to remain moving like water. I am a person, who has moved out in search of the real meaning of the life and its existence. Until I understand the real meaning of my life and its existence, I cannot stop anywhere. A sympathy is arising in my mind for the Wrestler and his daughter. They have become ready to own an unknown person like me. But, I am not ready for this. I know my refusal will cause much pain to the Wrestler and more than him to his daughter. But, I am helpless at my own place. I will have to say no to them. I do know it, I will not be able to stay here anymore, after saying no to the Wrestler. It appears to me, I will now have to leave Patiala city and will have to go to some other place.”

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After many blank pages, it was written in the diary:-

“I am writing in my diary after many days, rather to be more correct after many months. I had moved to Sangrur, after leaving Patiala. Four months have passed, since I shifted to this city. I could not get any job here. So, compelled by my circumstances, I have hired a rickshaw and had started running it. I usually park my rickshaw in the rickshaw stand in front of the Government College for boys and girls. Many a times a girl sits in my rickshaw and goes from the college to her house. Yesterday as usual, she came out of her college in the afternoon and came to the rickshaw stand. When she was about to board in my rickshaw, one of her friends came there and both of them started talking with each other. During her conversation, she became careless and one of her books fell down on the ground. She did not realize it. I picked up that book. It was Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”. By then, the friend of the girl said, “Bye, Bye” to her and went away. While handing over that book to her, instinctively I said to her, “Sister, here is you Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”.” She thanked me and took the book from me. But, a few moments thereafter she became startled and started looking at me with great surprise. After rickshaw had covered some distance, she asked to me, “Brother, you seem to be an educated person. Up to which class you have studied.”

Though I did not want to tell her the reality, yet I could not help her telling the truth that I had studied up to L.L.B. 1st year. She was then more surprised to hear it from me. She asked to me, “Then, why you have not completed you law degree and why are you pulling this rickshaw?”

“Sister, the circumstances at my home became very bad and I had to drop my studies in the middle and had to pull the rickshaw to pull on my life.” I replied to her.

She was becoming more and more surprised on hearing that from me.

I also became very perturbed after telling that to her. I did not want to tell that to her, but I could not hold it and had told her spontaneously about my studies. On the remaining way, I remained persuading her not to tell anybody about my education, for which she had agreed after my much persuasions.

By then, we had reached her house. After alighting from the rickshaw she had asked me to come to her house next day. During the whole of the remaining day, my mind had remained in conflict, thinking should I go to her house or not. Her father is a very big leader of a political party. He belongs to the generation of leaders which has come into existence in the post independence era. He is a very influential person. Perhaps, that girl wants to make me meet with her father. I might get some better job with her help. Finally, after thinking so I had made up my mind to meet him. So, today morning at about 10’O clock, I had gone to their house. There was a great hustle and bustle in their house. Many members and workers of his party were coming to and going from their house. I came to know from their talk that in the next coming elections he was likely to get ticket for contesting M.L.A’s post from Sangrur. He became free by noon. That girl, whose name came out to be Sarla later on, introduced me to his father. After talking with me for some time, her father became very much impressed with me and became ready to give me work in his own house. I have been entrusted with a duty to welcome the visitors to his house and to make arrangements for their sitting and to serve tea to them. I have very happily agreed to do this work. I will join my duty from the tomorrow morning.”

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After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“Many days have passed since I am doing work in the house of that leader. The election atmosphere in his house is becoming more and more surcharged. The party high command has granted ticket to him for M.L.A.’s election, as the voters of the caste and the religion of the leader are in abundance in this area. The leader is fully confident to get the votes of the people belonging to his own cast and religion. I am thinking on which direction our country has started moving after getting independence. The leaders have started dividing people on the basis of caste, religion, area and the language.”

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After a few blank pages, it was written in the diary:-

“My master has won the election. Now, we all will soon move to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab State. The rumours have started spreading that my master will get a berth in the cabinet of the ministers in the Punjab Government.”

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After few blank pages it was again written in the diary:-

“My master has become a minister in the Punjab Government Cabinet. Now, people start coming to the residence of my master even from the early morning. It is my duty to note down their names and addresses. All visitors are made to sit in chairs in the lawn of the residence of the minister. My master has stopped offering tea to visitors, after becoming Minster. Now, tea is offered only to very important persons and special guests. There was a time, when my master used to meet all people with great love and respect, when he was residing at Sangrur and had not become an M.L.A. Now, all those people have become Lilliputians before him. Now, when people meet my master, they touch his feet and try to flatter him in all possible manners. My master is a minister in the government, but I am only a very humble servant of him and I am having no status in my life. But, people even try to flatter me in all possible manners and remain requesting me to make them meet with the minister. They even try to pay money to me. I am very much surprised to see all this. Besides common people, even government officers remain standing in queue in the house of minister. They are otherwise, full of arrogance and egoism and treat the common people with hatred and speak with the common people in a very insulting tone. But, before my master they become very humble and servile. Common people come to the minister only for very petty matters of their requirement, but officers do not come for such matters of personal necessity. They come to meet him for their transfers and promotions. They indulge in much flattery of minister and even bring various gifts for him. In lieu of this, the minister let them loose to plunder the common man and the country. India is getting divided between two kinds of people. One very few of them who rule the others and the others who become the ruled one and pass their lives in doing flattery of the very few class one citizens of India. It reminds me of the great works of Thomas Carlyle, who had defined and described the weakness of the phenomenon of the hero and the hero worship in a very pungent but in a very wonderful style. India is going to be doomed one day, due to this weakness of the common people. The common people with their hero-worshipping tendencies would turn the government officers and the politicians into new gods of independent India and would turn the Indian democracy into a worst type of autocracy.”

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After some blank pages, it was written in the diary:-

“Many days, rather to be more correct many weeks have passed when I wrote down in my diary last. My status has again fallen down to that of a domestic servant. The government has provided a very high officer to the minister to act as his personal secretary. Now, it is only him who settles and finalizes the activities and programs of the minister. It is him, who now allows the visitors to meet the minister. He may or may not allow any visitor to meet the minister. He is considered as a very crafty and clever officer in the government circles. He does not allow anybody to meet the minister, without taking money. If anybody wants to get a license or permit from the minister, it is him who settles the price of the same on behalf of the honourable minister. The minister does not issue any license or permit without his consent. The minister likes him very much. He has proved to be a master player of the game. I am thinking that only a few years have passed since India obtained freedom, but the country is falling in the claws of the government officers very rapidly. The politicians have also started playing in their hands and they have no other object except than to earn money by hook or crook. The power which has come into the hands of government officers and leaders after independence, has started making them uncontrollable, corrupt, dishonest, very egoistic and very cruel. If it is allowed to continue, the India will one day plunge into a deep dark pit of corruption and there will be no coming back.”

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After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“I am writing my diary after many days. There is an array of servants in the house of minister. Though my position is somewhat higher than the other servants, yet I do not feel happy there in the house of minister. I am the only servant who has come with the minister from Sangrur. The other servants are all government employees, who are employed in the houses of the ministers by rotation, and they all very shrewd persons and are well versed with the games being played there.

How the money and the power spoil the mind of a person, I have seen it here in the house of minister. With my own eyes, I have seen the coming of change in the nature of the minister and his family members. It was very sweet courteous family, when it was residing at Sangrur and my master had not become an M.L.A. But, now all of them have become very rude and arrogant persons. In the family of the minister, Sarla was the only such girl, who had not changed even a little bit and she used to talk with everybody with politeness and humbleness. But, she had gone to her in-laws house after her marriage. The wife, two sons and the younger daughter of minister all speak with others in a very rude and insulting manner. The newly acquired richness and the power have pushed them all into a very voluptuous life style. The boys and the younger daughter of the minister have started remaining away from the house during the nights, to attend late dance parties. The minister has started remaining busy in his own wine parties, sometimes in his house and sometimes outside the house. Big businessmen, officers, leaders, judges and lawyers take part in his wine parties and the deals are struck there along with the pegs of wine. The statements of the leaders daily appear in the newspaper that India is passing through a period of change after the Independence. But, what type of period of change it is for India, I remain pondering for hours all together.”

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After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“The father of the minister had died a few days ago. He had been very ill for a very long period and he had remained confined to bed. During the last phase of his life, he became a victim of indifference and negligence of the family of the minister. After shifting to the residence of the minister at Chandigarh, a bed was laid for his father in the last room of the house. Thereafter, the whole of the family except Sarla forgot about him. It was only Sarla in the family, who used to take care of her grandfather and used to sit for hours all together by the side of his bed. But, after Sarla had gone to her in-laws house, he was left all alone. Seeing the apathy of minister’s family, the servants of the house also have started neglecting him. They seldom go to his room. They all remain busy in doing flattery to the minister and his family. They have observed very quickly that the whole of the family of the minister was not bothering about the old man. They have followed the family of the minister at once and have stopped caring about the sick person. Perhaps, Sarla was understanding this thing completely. So, before her departure after her marriage, she had told me to look after her grandfather and to take care of him. I had promised her to do so. Always remembering my promise made to her, I tried my best to take care of her grandfather. There was my selfishness also in that. I could not meet and serve my mother before her death. By serving Sarla’s grandfather, I was trying to do my repentance. I would make him eat food with much love and would clean him with a wet towel and would change his dress and would sit by his bed during my spare time. He was unable to speak. He had become speechless long time ago, after suffering an attack of paralyses. Only his left side could move a little. He would move his left hand and would caught and hold my hand in his withered hand and would remain looking at me. Sometimes, the drops of water would start coming out from his eyes. I could feel his agony very well, but I was unable to do anything. Two days before his death, his condition became very critical. Despite his very bad condition, the minister and his family went out on an excursion tour to Kashmir. I tried my best to stop them, but without any success. The death of the old man had spoiled their entire program. They had to come back on the next day after the death of old man. They were not pained at his death, but they were very much pained at the spoiling of their tour. Thereafter, a big drama began in the house. People started coming to pay their condolence. The wife of the minister, who never used to talk with the old man, would weep very bitterly in the presence of the visitors. That drama continued till cremation of the old man. Thereafter, when all visitors had gone back, the family members of minister started speaking ill about the old person and started saying that could the old man not die after some more days? I was surprised to see the double-facedness and diplomacy of people. If anyone was actually distressed at the death of old man, she was Sarla. She was actually weeping very bitterly. She had come to know that I had served her grandfather very well. She was very thankful to me for that. She remained asking me time and again about the last days and the last time of her grandfather and remained weeping after listening to that. The last day of the mourning came on 13th day after the death of the old man. The chief minister and other leaders also arrived on that day. After the last religious rituals regarding the mourning of the death of the old man were over, the very important persons and many other speakers started paying homage to the departed soul. They were all telling lies. They were all doing false praise of the minister and his family members by saying that they had served the old man very much. All that caused much pain and sorrow to me. In fact, I was seeing the beginning of a very insensitive type of V.I.P. culture, which would engulf the whole of India one day. After the 13th day of the mourning, Sarla went back to her in-laws house. The minister and his family members were not feeling grieved even a little bit on the death of the old man. They have again started moving on their earlier track. This conduct of the minister and his family members has hurt my feelings very much. I have started thinking of leaving their house and to go to some other place. Moreover, I do feel sometimes that I had come out of my house to find out the peacock tribe men. But, I have stayed in the house of minister by dropping my quest for the peacock tribe people, in the midway in this manner. I find myself caught in the middle of the dilemma and remain thinking to go or not to go.”

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After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“Perhaps, it has become my destiny to always remain disturbed and always to live in difficulties. Hardly a month had passed after the death of the father of the minister. I could not forget the memories of the old man and could not forget the apathy of the family of the minister towards the old man. But, the minister and his family members had forgotten all that in the time of the winking of the eye. I have started making my mind to leave the house of the minister and to go in search of the peacock tribe people. But, something more yet was to happen with me in the house of the minister, which was to give a very big shock to me, as I was to become a victim of that thing. The wife of the minister had remained accusing and cursing the old man that they had gone to Kashmir for the first time and that too, after becoming a V.I.P. and the old man had spoiled their whole of the program. They have all again started making up their program to go to Kashmir, that too, on the government expenses. The personal secretary of the minister had made up this program by manipulating changes in the government program. A delegation of businessmen was coming to Chandigarh to meet the minister. The personal secretary had got the venue of meeting changed from Chandigarh to Kashmir. By doing so, he had made arrangement for fun making and for enjoyment of the family of the minister and as well as of his own family on the public money. But, this time the younger daughter of the minister had not gone with them. In the absence of his family members, she had asked all servants to carry food to her room and had given me the duty to carry food to her room. On her casting that duty upon me, all the servants of the house started looking at me with a smile on their faces. But, I could not perceive anything from their conduct. After that, on next day when I took the food to her room, she remained looking and smiling at me. I felt somewhat embarrassed on seeing her smile. One day passed in the same manner. On the second day, when I went to her room with her breakfast, she bolted the room from inside. I had understood her intentions, so I became very perplexed and scared. I tried very hard to persuade her, but she did not desist and I had to surrender before her adamancy. When I came out of her room, my mind was filled with self-remorse. I was unable to look at the faces and eyes of other servants. But, I realized after sometime that they were treating me in a manner as if nothing had happened with me. But, on the other hand thunderstorm was going on inside me and I was feeling very much ashamed inside me. Thereafter, on that day, inspite of persuasions of other servants, I did not go to her room to deliver the lunch and the dinner to her. So, the head cook had to carry the food to her room. He told me that the madam was very much annoyed with me for not carrying food to her room. But, despite that I did not go to her room again. I remained confined to my room. I was sharing the servant room with the head cook, who was about sixty years old person. After finishing his work, at night when he came to our room, I was lying in my bed listlessly and was thinking about the strange incident, which had happened with me. Instead of going to his own bed, the head cook came to sit on my bed and said to me, “Boy, it seems you are not getting the sleep.” I remained silent even after hearing his words. Then, what he told me to pacify me was even more surprising and more shocking. He told me that what had happened with me, that was not the first incident of that type. Such type of incidents remain happening with them during their jobs in such houses and that the ladies and even the male members of such big families do not bother about such things and he advised me to forget about that incident. But, this thing had become a very big burden on my conscience and I had become full of remorse and guilt for that incident. I did not come out of my room for two-three days. A few days thereafter, the family of the minister came back from Kashmir after its pleasant trip and they all were very happy. They were telling the stories of their excursion trip to their younger daughter, who had stayed behind. She was also listening to their stories with great interest. It was appearing from her expressions, as if nothing had happened during absence of her family members from the house. Her attitude gave me some consolation, because I did not want to fall down in the eyes of Sarla. Within three-four days after their return, the whole of the family of minister again caught up with its old routine. The younger daughter of the minister remained behaving with me in such a manner as if nothing had happened between her and me. But, I have failed to become normal even after passage of so many days since then and it seems as if something has started eating me from within. I am feeling a big burden on my soul. Earlier death of the father of the minister and then that incident with his younger daughter have disturbed me very much and the hypocrisy of the family of the minister has made it very difficult for me to stay in his house any further. The head cook is trying again and again to persuade me to take this incident normally and is telling me that such type of things are very common in such high big houses. But, I am unable to forget about this and unable to come out of my guilty conscience. I am suffering for a crime, which I have not done. But I am helpless in this regard. So I have decided to leave the house of the minister and to go in search of my quest of the peacock tribe people. I have told my master about my decision to leave his job and his house. He has taken this thing very casually. I am not important or special to him. He has settled my account and has paid my due wages to me without saying anything. I will leave this house tomorrow.”

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After few blank pages, there was again written in the diary:-

“Since when I had left Chandigarh, I did not feel like writing anything in my diary. Today, after many days I am writing in my diary. After taking my luggage from the house of minister, I reached at Chandigarh railway station. I wanted to catch a train to Delhi. I had heard somewhere that many new big industries were getting established in Delhi every day, in which many kinds of labourers were required. I thought, I would be able to get some work there and if I would not get any job in Delhi, then I would further go to Bombay. It was said that even more factories and industries were opening up in Bombay and were providing more opportunities there. While thinking so, I reached the railway station. But, when I made enquiry at the railway station, I came to know that the train to Delhi had left the station five minutes before I reached there. The next train was to go at 8 PM. But, at that time a train was just to leave for Shimla. On hearing the name of Shimla, I remembered that I had visited many brick kilns in Punjab in search of peacock tribe people, but I had not visited any brick kiln in Himachal Pradesh. That shopkeeper at Sahsardhara Falls had told us that people of peacock tribe were working at brick kilns in Punjab as well as in Himachal Pradesh. I had not met them in Punjab. But, I might find them in Himachal Pradesh and my search for the second circle of peacock tantra might be completed. After thinking so, I purchased the railway ticket to Shimla and boarded the train. As soon as I took a seat in the train, it started moving. I felt as if it was just waiting for me. The train was moving on a small gauge track, as it was a hilly train. It was my first journey to Himachal Pradesh in my life, that too, by railway. It was a unique experience to travel by a train moving through very beautiful surrounding hills. But, my mind was full of questions regarding my future, so I could not enjoy the journey. We reached Shimla at about 8 PM. The night had already started descending upon. The Shimla railway station was situated away from the inhabitation of Shimla, at a distance of four or five miles. So, it was very difficult to go to Shimla on foot at that time. So, I decided to spend that night at the railway station and lay down in a corner of the railway platform. After sometime, a middle aged porter also came there and lay down on the floor just near to me. Finding me awoke, he asked from me, from where I had come there and for what purpose I had come to Shimla. I told him that I had come from Punjab to Shimla in search of work and that I had knowledge about the working of the brick kilns and that I had come to Shimla in a hope to find some work at some brick kiln. On hearing that he told me that the number of brick kilns in Himachal Pradesh was very less, because most of the houses there were built with chiseled stones. After thinking for a while, he told me that I might find some brick kilns towards east of Shimla, at a distance of five or six miles. On next day, I went to those brick kilns situated outside Shimla, but I did not find any peacock tribe men there. They were having their own local labourers, who were working at their brick kilns for the past many years. I could not get any work also there. So, after wandering there for the whole day, I again came back to railway station. There, the same porter again met me. With his help, the porters’ union gave me permission to work as a porter at the railway station. Now, many weeks have passed since the day I started working as a porter at the railways station. After working for the whole day, I get space under the sheds to sleep at night. I take leave after every four or five days of working and go to some nearby or far off brick kiln in search of peacock people, but I have failed to get any clue about them so far. I do not know why, I still feel that one or the other day I may reach my destination.”

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After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“I fell ill twice, while working as a porter at the railway station. The middle aged porter took me to a doctor for my treatment. That doctor was also from Punjab. I became well acquainted with that doctor. A compounder was working in his clinic as his assistant, who suddenly left his job with the doctor. After his leaving, I once got an opportunity to go to his clinic and then I came to know about that. Doctor was thinking that I was a matriculate. So, he talked with me to employ me as a compounder in his clinic. I accepted his offer. Now, three months have passed since I started working at his clinic. Doctor has taught me to do the dressing and to give the injections. I have got one place to live in also. In the mean time, my search for peacock people has also come to a halt. I had already visited all the nearby brick kilns. But, I did not meet them anywhere. Perhaps, they might never have worked at those brick kilns or they might have worked there many years ago and might have left those brick kilns many years ago. Whatever could have been the matter, the reality is that my search for peacock people has become unsuccessful and I have not found them anywhere. I feel very sad for that. I have not entered into the second circle of the peacock tantra and have not met with the soul of my mother and have not succeeded in the search of realization of my true self. Now, I want to have a new beginning in my life. I have learnt the skills of a compounder very well and I have started liking it also. Perhaps, it was the final destination in my life. I have also taken final decision to live here permanently. Perhaps, this is the purpose of my life, for which my destiny has brought me to Shimla.”

——-

After few blank pages, it was again written in the diary:-

“To come to Shimla to work in the clinic of the doctor was not the final destination of my life, I had realized it only a few days ago. A person was brought to our clinic, who was working as a fire person in some brick kiln and had fallen in the fire in the furnace of the brick kiln and had suffered burn injuries. It was the kindness of the God that he was not burnt badly as the firewood in the furnace had not caught fire completely. When I was dressing his wounds, suddenly the thoughts of the peacock tribe people came into my mind and I asked him if he had ever seen peacock people at some brick kiln, who had very sharp features, fair color and almond like elongated eyes and who were worshipers of the peacock. On hearing my talk, he started thinking for a while and then told me that he was remembering a little that he had seen such persons many years ago at a brick kiln at village Shaamli near Santokhgarh town. He told me that he did not know if they belonged to peacock tribe or not. But he was remembering that they were having pictures of peacock painted on the front walls of their huts. On hearing that I got goosebumps with utmost surprise. My search for the peacock people seems to have reached near its final destination. I have made up my mind to go to Santokhgarh to meet the peacock people there. I have informed the doctor and have taken his leave by telling him that I am to go to Punjab for some urgent work. I will leave Shimla tomorrow for going to that brick kiln.”

——-

After that, next pages of the diary were totally blank and nothing was written there on. I was very much surprised after reading the dateless diary of that unknown person. The diary was appearing to have been written within the limits of some specific period of time, that too, sometime after the gap of many days and sometime even after gap of weeks or even months. But, it was sufficient for giving a very good glimpse into the life and various states of mind and psyche of that unknown person. I tried very hard to find the name and address of that person in the diary but could not succeed. I tried it by turning over each and every page of the diary and tried to know the year or period in which the diary was written, but there also I failed. No date, month or year was written anywhere in the diary. After reading diary, I could only guess that the diary was written sometime after the independence of India. It might have been written five or ten or even more years thereafter. In addition to it, I could know only that the unknown author of the diary was resident of Punjab and he had come to reside at Shimla like me. I could know nothing about him more than that. After reading his diary, I remained thinking about him and his life. What a strange thing it was? There were many similarities between my life and the life of that unknown author of the diary. His relations with his father had remained very disturbed like mine one. His father had also turned him out of his house like me. After having been disowned by our fathers, we both had to pass through a Kafkaesque world of pain, agony and alienation and we both had to struggle against the absurdity and discrepancies of life for keeping our existence intact. We both have remained the students of law. The only difference was that he had studied law only up to first year and had left the study of law in the middle, while I had left the law after completing my degree. His life was full of much strangeness. Gradually, I became obsessive with my thoughts about the life of unknown author of the diary. What did happen to him? Had he left Shimla or not, after writing the last page in his diary? Could he meet with the people of peacock tribe or not? Could he go through the second and third circles of peacock tantra or not? Why did not he come back? Such type of questions always started passing through my mind and started disturbing me. The most important question was whether he was still alive or not. Slowly, my wish to know what happened to him thereafter, started becoming more and more strong. A very strange thought started coming into my mind that my life up to that time had been very similar to that of his. Would there be any similarity between my remaining life with his remaining life? I had become very curious to know about that. I wanted to start my remaining life from that very point, where the unknown author of the diary had left it after writing on the last page in his diary. In addition to it, my desire to see the people of peacock tribe and to go through their peacock tantra started increasing day by day. I wanted to go through the second circle of peacock tantra to know what had happened to Sumna after she was lost. I wanted to know through that tantra why my parents were having so much distorted relations with me. Above all, I wanted to see the peacock tantra in a bid to know about my real self. It was going to be a journey in search of my true self. Finally, I made up my mind to go to that brick kiln near Santokhgarh to look for peacock tribe people and to know about the author of the dateless diary. I had not told anything to Puran Singh about that and had concealed all that from him. I had only told him that I wanted to go to my house in Punjab for some time to attend to some urgent piece of work. On hearing that, the face of Puran Singh became very sad, but he said nothing to me and said yes to me. Thereafter, the most difficult task was to tell Chhotu about my program to go. By then, he had started loving me very much and had started depending upon me for his emotional stability. When I told him that I was to go from Shimla for some time, he clung to my legs and started weeping and requesting me not to go and said to me, “Uncle, do not go and do not leave me here. If my mother dies what will I do?”

I knew that his mother had started remaining sick more than before. I tried to encourage him by saying, “Chhotu, do not worry. Nothing will happen to your mother. Moreover, Uncle Puran Singh is also here. I will come back within a few days. I will not let anything bad happen to you.”

After hearing his talk my heart had also become overwhelmed. But, then to search for the unknown author of the diary and for the peacock tribe had become my destiny. So, I was to go from there. That day when Chhotu went back from the hotel to his mother’s hut, his face was very sad. After his going down, my mood also became very sad. But, I was definitely to go in my search. So, I had made up the program to go from there in the next morning, before arrival of Chhotu there.

————

Next day, at about 7 AM, I boarded a bus from Shimla to Chandigarh. I had taken few clothes and that diary with me. Moving slowly through the hilly road the bus reached Chandigarh at about 1 PM. There were two routes for going to Santokhgarh from Chandigarh. One route was going through Garhshankar, my own city and the second one was through Nangal. I did not want to go through Garhshankar, so I boarded a bus going directly to Nangal from Chandigarh bus stop. I had reached Nangal by 3 PM. The bus from Nangal to Santokhgarh was to go very late. So, I had to reach Santokhgarh by a tonga. The tonga made me reach Santokhgarh at 4 PM. After reaching Santokhgarh, I enquired about the passage to village Shaamli. I got the information that village Shaamli was situated at a distance of six or seven kilometers towards west of the town of Mehatpur, at the Santokhgarh-Una road. I got into the bus which was to go from Santokhgarh to Una. It was already evening time. The bus started very late and it moved slowly on a very small hilly road. It could cover fifteen-sixteen kilometers only in an hour and reached village Mehatpur in the very late evening. After alighting from the bus, I enquired about the passage to village Shaamli from a passerby. A very small hilly track was going from Mehatpur bus stop towards western side. The passerby pointed towards that passage. At that time only twenty five or thirty minutes were left in the fall of the night. I was to go by foot. So, I hurriedly started moving on that passage. After moving for twenty or twenty five minutes, I reached a point, where that passage was bifurcating into two tracks. One track was going downward along the hill and the other passage was going upward along with the hill. I could not decide which one of the passages was leading to village Shaamli. I looked around me to enquire from some person about the passage to village Shaamli. But, there was no person visible around me. I stood there very confused, waiting for someone to reach there and to tell me about the right passage. I was standing there non-plused, when an eighteen-nineteen years old girl reached there from behind me. On seeing me standing there, she stopped and while looking at me very attentively, asked to me, “Babu, I have not seen you around here earlier. You seem to have come from some other place. Where you are to go?”

I was hesitating to talk with an unknown young girl. So, while looking downward, I replied to her, “Yes, I have come here for the first time. I am to go to village Shaamli. I do not know which one of these passages leads to village Shaamli.”

Pointing towards the passage going downward, she said to me, “That one.” After telling so to me, that girl laughed a little and started going on the other passage going upward. Her laughter looked to me as if the bells were ringing in some temple. Her voice and laughter were very sweet and I could not help myself from being impressed by her. The night was about to fall. So, I also quickly started on the other passage going downward. The upper passage remained going for some distance parallel to the lower passage and after a distance of fifteen-twenty feet went upwards on the hill and that girl, while looking at me by turning her face backward vanished behind the bushes. After some distance that upper passage again came down very close to lower passage. That girl was standing there and was looking at me. When, I reached there parallel to her, she again laughed boisterously and walked away on that passage very briskly. After that point that upper passage went upwards steeply towards the top of the hill and became invisible soon. That girl also became invisible after covering few yards on that passage and did not come into my view again. After covering some distance, mine passage also started moving downwards towards bottom of the hill. On the way, I was feeling very much astonished by thinking about that girl. Who was that girl? I did not know that. I could not see even her face clearly. Actually she being a girl, I did not look at her face attentively. Otherwise also, it had already become half dark at that time and I could not see her face clearly. Why she had laughed twice on seeing me? I remained thinking about that. But, like always, I had no answer to that question.

It became very dark when I was still going on that passage. Village Shaamli was situated in a plain exactly at the bottom of the hill. After reaching there, I inquired from a person about the passage to brick kiln.

He replied to me, “The brick kiln is situated at a distance of four or five kilometers from here, on the top of the hill. A passage from the back side of the village directly leads upwards to the brick kiln. But, it is very difficult and dangerous also to go on that passage at night time. You will have to stay here at night.”

I was perturbed to hear his reply. It was clear from his talk that it was very difficult and unsafe to go on that passage at night. Otherwise also, it was night time and I was stranger regarding that passage and there was danger of wild animals also. I was very much tired also due to day long journey. It was beyond my limits to climb on the hill for two or three hours more.

“Is there any inn here to stay at night?” I asked him.

On hearing my question, he laughed very loudly and said to me, “Babu, it is a very small village. How an inn could be here. I would have taken you to my house. But, we have very little space in our house. I will take you to the house of the headman of the village. He has the biggest house in the village.”

After saying so, he started escorting me towards one side of the village. I started following him.

While walking on the way, he suddenly asked me, “Babu, from which side you have come to our village.”

“From the side of Santokhgarh-Una road. I have come through the passage which comes from Mehatpur to this side.” I replied to him.

“Then where the passage bifurcates into two passages, you were to follow the passage which goes upwards. That passage leads to the brick kiln directly. You have come to this side by wrongly.” He said to me while shaking his head in regret.

On hearing that from his mouth, I felt very much annoyed at myself. I had come to a wrong place by following a wrong passage. But, I was annoyed more with that girl, who had sent me on the wrong passage. In the mean time, we reached the house of the headman of the village. His house was bigger than the house of others. There were two living rooms in his house, in addition to two cattle’s rooms. He became ready to keep me in his house, that too, without asking me any question. He had only asked me from where I had come and where I was to go.

Though he had become ready to keep me in his house, but, he was also having shortage of accommodation. His both living rooms were occupied by his family members. So, after serving food to me, he put up me in one of his cattle’s rooms. After lying in the said room, I suddenly became reminded of Brij Mohan’s parents, in whose house also I had spent my first night in the cattle’s room. The middle aged couple had showered great love and affection upon me and had served me so much after I became sick there. I did not go again to their village to inquire about their wellbeing. Both of them were carrying the burden of loneliness in their lives. My going to their house, though for a very short time, would have given great happiness to them. I thought, after going back to Shimla, I would definitely go to their village some time or the other to meet them. While thinking so, I fell asleep.

In the next morning, after taking breakfast in the house of the headman, I started climbing on the passage which was situated at the backside of the village, to go to the brick kiln. That was a very narrow passage and was filled with bushes and weeds and was passing through woods, through a desolate area. It was appearing that, that passage was used by people very rarely. Really, it was very difficult to move on that passage. The ascent of the passage was very steep. Till then, I have gained much experience by moving on such passages. Still, it took me three hours to cover that four-five kilometers’ journey and I could reach the brick kiln just sometime before the lunch.

The brick kiln was existing at the top of the hill. The passage was ending up after going at the top of the hill, just near one side of the brick kiln. When I reached the brick kiln, some labourers were bringing baked bricks out of one part of the furnace of the brick kiln, while some others were putting firewood and coal through the small holes made on the upper surface of the remaining part of the furnace of the brick kiln, to burn and bake the earthen bricks. I went closer to see them. They all were having fair complexions and were having very beautiful elongated and almond like eyes. Their features were absolutely matching with the description given in the diary regarding the peacock tribe men. My heart started jumping very quickly with happiness and excitement. I had found the people of the peacock tribe. I had found them at the same brick kiln which was mentioned in the dateless diary of that unknown person. It meant perhaps, that unknown author of the diary also might have come from Shimla to that brick kiln. Had he reached there? Could he be alive and still be living at that brick kiln? Many questions at once arose in my mind, after seeing the mysterious people of the mysterious peacock tribe. I wanted to put those questions to them at once. But, I suppressed my anxiety and curiosity with much effort. I did not want to make them suspicious by asking those type of questions to them so soon. After controlling myself, I only asked from them, “Where is your incharge? I want to see him.”

While looking at me very attentively, one of them replied, “He is counting the bricks of the stacks placed on the other side of the brick kiln.”

On hearing that from him, I went to the other side of the brick kiln. One person was counting the bricks of the stacks piled up there.

On seeing me coming there, he turned his face to look at me. He was looking around fifty or fifty five years old. The grey hair and the grey beard on his face were looking very impressive and charming. But, his features were not matching with the peacock tribe people. Contrary to that, his features were like those of the residents of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Was he the unknown author of that dateless diary? As per my estimation, the age of that unknown writer of the diary could also be around fifty or fifty five years at that time.

A thought came across my mind very promptly that I might ask from him if he was the author of that dateless diary. But, I knew it could not be appropriate to ask that question to him at that very time. So, I suppressed that question also in my mind immediately.

On finding me looking towards his face, he asked me, “Yes Youngman, have you come to buy bricks?”

“No” While concealing my real purpose of coming there, I said to him, “Babu ji, I have come to find some job here. If I could get any.”

On hearing my talk he said to me, “Youngman, then wait for some time. Let me count the bricks. New bricks have been brought out of the kiln and had been piled up in stacks just some time ago. I will talk to you after completing the counting.”

After saying so, he again started counting bricks. I started looking around the brick kiln by moving around. The top of the hill on which the brick kiln was installed, was looking to be about half square kilometer in area. On the other side of the brick kiln, another passage was going down the hill. Some persons were going down on that passage by carrying baked bricks from the brick kiln on the back of some donkeys.

I went to that side of the brick kiln and looked downward the hill. One village was inhabited about half kilometer below the top of the hill. The passage descending from that side of the hill was passing through the said village and was then going further to some area not known to me. A pond of water was situated just near to that village. At some distance from that pond some men and women were digging earth from a mound of earth and were making dug earth wet with water and were making bricks from the wet clay. At some distance from them, the newly made wet clay bricks were piled up for drying. I could only see that much from the above.

After taking a round of that side, I went towards the back side of the brick kiln. A very narrow track was going down from that side also. On looking downward, I noticed that on that side of the hill, the ruins of a small hilly fortress were existing about half kilometer below, on the slope of the hill. Only few walls of the fortress were standing there. Rest of the structure of the fortress was appearing to have fallen years ago. There was a very deep ditch on the other side of the remains of the fortress. In the past, long years ago, some feudal lord might have resided in that fortress. But, at that time it was giving a very desolate and empty look. Then, I turned back from that side and walked towards the front side of the brick kiln. There were existing three permanent rooms with a Verandah in front of them, on one side of the brick kiln. Those rooms appeared to me as the rooms of the incharge of the brick kiln.

On the other side, at a distance of few yards from the said rooms, there were two rows of small hut type quarters. The walls of those quarters were plastered with mud mortar. There was open space for door in front of the wall of the each of the quarter, but no wooden door was fitted therein and only a jute cloth curtain was hanging in front of that space, in front of each quarter. The walls of those quarters were painted with white wash. A picture of two peacocks with their faces towards each other was painted with a red color on the space above the open door of every quarter. Only few children were playing in the vacant space in front of the quarters at that time. Apart from them only one old person was sitting on a cot in front of a quarter. Perhaps, all other men and women were engaged in the work of brick kiln at that time.

My mind was overjoyed with happiness at that time. I had found the peacock tribe people. Perhaps, the author of the dateless diary had also found them many years ago. But, who was he? Perhaps, the incharge of the brick kiln could be that person or it might be possible that he had gone back from that place afterwards and that incharge of the brick kiln might be some other person. Many such type of questions were passing through my mind quickly. In order to know the answers to those questions and to see the circles of the peacock rituals, I made up my mind to stay there among those people.

After some time, after counting the bricks, the incharge also came there and took me into one of the rooms. A table was lying in the middle of the room. Some chairs were lying on the front and on the back side of that table. In addition to that only a wooden almirah was kept placed in that room. He signaled me to settle down on a chair and he himself also sat down on the chair behind the table.

“Yes Youngman, from where you had come. You seem to have come from Punjab.” He asked me.

“Babu ji, I have come from Punjab. I am Matriculate. If you could give me some job.” I requested to him while concealing my actual qualification.

He further asked me, “To which area in Punjab do you belong?”

“Babu ji, my village is situated near Ludhiana city. I have come from there.” I again concealed the actual name of my native village.

“For what purpose you have come from such a long distance, from Ludhiana. People go to Ludhiana from here in search of work there. Have you come from Punjab to hide yourself here after doing some fight or some other crime there?” He said to me while looking at me very carefully.

“No Babu ji, I have not come from Punjab after doing any fight or after committing any crime. I am not a fugitive. There had been some differences between myself and my father and I had left the house of my father for that reason and have come here.” I had to tell the truth to him.

“Youngman, many things can happen in families, one should not be so annoyed as to leave one’s house. Go back to you house.” He tried to persuade me.

But, what could I tell to him. I had not come out of my house myself, but my father had turned me out of his house forever and I could never go back to his house. After my many requests, finally he agreed to keep me at his brick kiln as his assistant. He was actually in need of some assistant. He told me that from the next day onward he would start teaching me how to supervise and control the work at the brick kiln. Thereafter, he became busy in maintaining his record and accounts. I was yet free on that day thereafter. I came out of the room. It was noon by then and some women of the peacock tribe had come back to cook food for the lunch. At that time, suddenly my eyes fell upon one girl, who was also looking at me very attentively. After seeing me looking at her, she laughed. I at once recognized the jingling sound of her laughter. She was the same girl, whom I had met on the passage previous night. I looked at her face attentively. Her fair complexion, sharp features and almond like eyes were witnessing that she was also a girl of the peacock tribe. I had not seen her carefully in the last evening. On remembering the incidence of the previous evening, I said to her while getting annoyed with her, “You indicated the wrong passage to me yesterday. Instead of brick kiln I reached the village.”

She again laughed whole heartedly in her Jingling sound and said to me, “You yourself had inquired from me about the passage to village. You did not tell me that you were to come to brick kiln.”

I became very much ashamed on hearing her talk. No doubt I had not asked from her about the passage to brick kiln. But, one question again remained coming into my mind time and again, why she was laughing so much, since the previous day on seeing me. I was feeling disturbed on seeing her laughing again and again.

Suddenly a woman, who was cooking flat bread on the griddle, asked to her, “Kamal go and deliver food to Babu.” So, I thought everybody at the brick kiln was calling the incharge as Babu.

“Mother, I am just coming.” After saying so she went to her mother and brought flat bread and vegetable in a metallic plate for the incharge of the brick kiln and went into his room. After some time, she came out of the room and said to me, “Babu, then you are the new deputy Babu of our brick kiln. Babu is calling you inside. I am just bringing food for you also.”

I went into the room of Babu, who was eating food from the plate. Within a few minutes, that girl Kamal brought flat bread for me also. I had realized that I would be getting food daily from those people.

In the evening, all of the women and men labourers came back to their quarters. Babu adjusted me in one of his rooms. The brick kiln was situated at a high altitude, so the climate at night became very pleasant. Till late night, the sound of songs being sung in some very different unknown language remained coming from the side of the quarters of peacock people. Though, I could not understand the language of the songs yet, the rhythm and the melody of the songs attracted me much. Soon, I became asleep.

————

Next day, I remained sleeping till very late. I was tired for the past two-three days very much. When I got up, the day had already advanced enough. On seeing me awoken, that girl Kamal brought a cup of tea for me. After taking tea, I became ready within a short time. Babu had already taken his breakfast and had gone out to supervise the working of the brick kiln. At that time, Babu was standing on the roof of the furnace of the kiln and was watching the work of the fire people. I also went there and made myself stood by his side. That day, Babu remained telling me about the working of the brick kiln till noon, very thoroughly. Then, we went to the place where the labourers were moulding the bricks from the wet clay. About 25-30 persons were working there. Out of them 10-15 persons were of the peacock tribe and the rest were the persons from the local surrounding area. Four workers out of them were digging earth from one mound and the others were putting water in it and were kneeding the earth to turn it into fine wet clay. The remaining others were making bricks by putting the wet clay in moulders and were placing the so moulded bricks in lines in an open place in the sun to dry. Babu told me how to count the moulded bricks and how to keep their account. Soon, after the noon, that girl alongwith some other girls came there with food for their family members. On seeing us she said, “Babu I have prepared food for you also and have put it in my quarter. Go and eat it, otherwise it will become cold.”

After her talk, I and Babu again came back to the brick kiln. Soon, Kamal also reached there and brought food for us in the office room of Babu.

While eating, Babu told me that from the very beginning, the peacock people had been cooking food for him and he had never felt any need to cook his own food himself. On seeing that as an opportunity, I asked Babu, “Babu, these people do not appear to me as locals and they seem to have come from some other area. Their features and complexion are quite different from ours.”

“Yes Youngman, they are from some area of Madhya Pradesh. They are working here at this brick kiln even before the time when I started working here. They are very gentle and friendly people. But, they have their own customs and traditions and their own religious beliefs and rituals. They are very particular about those all things. Be careful about one thing, they have their own temple in a room behind their quarters. They do not allow any stranger or outsider to go there. The old Madhav is the priest of that temple. They gather inside the temple on the night of full moon and do the worship and perform their rituals. You should not go there definitely on that night.” Babu said to me, while telling about their rituals and traditions.

I became very much excited on hearing all that from him. I thought, they might be performing there peacock tantra in their temple. I had reached there to experience the second circle of the peacock tantra and to search for that unknown author of the dateless diary. But, Babu had already cautioned me. To participate in their worshiping and rituals was looking very difficult to me. I made up my mind to keep patience in that regard, because to talk with them about their rituals and peacock tantra so soon was to annoy them and to make them suspicious and cautious. So, I decided to concentrate myself, in the meantime, on the search for unknown author of the dateless diary. But, it was also not an easy task. I was becoming very suspicious that Babu could be that person. But, it was also very difficult to ask him about that thing directly. But, I wanted to know about that also. So, I made up my mind to know as to if he was that unknown author of the diary or not, by asking indirect questions to him. If he was not that unknown author, then who could be that unknown author of the diary and where he could be and what could have happened to him? To know answers to all those questions, it was essential to let some days pass and wait till Babu would become mixed up with me. But, I could not wait so long and after remaining in that dilemma for two-three days and finally I asked from him, “Babu, you also seem to me from Punjab. To which area of Punjab you belong.”

He flatly refused on hearing my that question and said to me, “I am not from Punjab, I belong to this very area.”

While listening to his that reply I tried to watch his face to know whether he was speaking the truth or was telling a lie. But, his face was totally expressionless and I could not judge anything from his face reading. I got a jolt on hearing his that reply. Then, he was not the unknown author of that diary. But, I could not decide anything with surety from his reply. Moreover, my object to come there was not only to make search for that unknown author of the diary. But, it was also my object to see the second circle of the peacock tantra. So, from then onwards, I started intermingling with those labourers of the peacock tribe. Otherwise also, there was nobody else to meet with. Apart from me and Babu, only those people of peacock tribe were left there to talk with. The remaining labourers of the local area used to come there only in the day time and used to go back to their villages in the evening. The purchasers of the bricks also used to come at the brick kiln for a very short time. With the advent of the evening, the work at the brick kiln used to come to a standstill and all the peacock tribe people used to sit in front of their quarters and used to indulge in general gossip. I also started sitting with them and started listening to their talk. Gradually, they started coming closer to me. Otherwise also, they used to respect me for my being the assistant incharge of the brick kiln. So, I started thinking that they might allow me to enter into their temple one day and I might be able to see their mystical rituals. I started waiting for any such opportunity very eagerly.

A few days before the end of the month, the full moon night arrived. The full moon night was the night to perform their worship in their temple. With the fall of the night, all of the peacock people went behind their quarters into their temple room. I became anxious to see their religious rituals. I also wanted to go into their temple to see those rituals. Babu judged my curiosity and anxiety and stopped me from going into their temple completely. He had already told me that they did not allow any outsider into their temple and that full moon night was even more special for them and was a time for the performance of their mysterious secret religious rituals. It could be the peacock tantra rituals. I was wondering and was wanting to know about it somehow or the other. But, at that night, Babu bolted the door of his outer room from inside and enclosed himself and myself in the room.

The days remained passing one by one. Many days had passed since I had reached there. In the meantime, my closeness with Kamal increased more than with others. She would always cook food for me. She would even wash my clothes also. I tried to pay some money to her parents in lieu of the food they were providing to me, but Kamal and her parents did not agree to that. I observed Kamal was a very good natured innocent type of simple girl, who would always remain running like a she deer all the day from here to there and would always come to me, whenever I would be free and she would always remain talking with me for hours. Besides Kamal, one of her cousins namely Govind also became very much mixed up with me. I thought, I could know about peacock rituals and about the unknown author of the diary from them. But, for that also I had to wait for some time and had to look out for some appropriate opportunity.

I got that opportunity also very soon. After completion of the month, the incharge of the brick kiln had gone to Nala Garh to give detail of accounts to the owners of the brick kiln. During his absence, I was the full incharge of the brick kiln. In the late evening, after becoming free I sat in the office room of the brick kiln. On my asking Kamal and Govind also came there to sit with me in the office room.

After talking about here and there for some time, I started talking about peacock tantra. On hearing my talk about peacock tantra, both of them became stunned for a while. After some time, they regained themselves and told me only that peacock tantra was some part of their religious rituals and that knew nothing more than that about peacock tantra. They told me that they both were born at the same brick kiln and they have gone to their native land only once or twice. I could not judge them also to know if they were speaking the truth or were telling a lie. I was feeling that I had still remained so away, even after reaching so near my destination. But, I could not do anything regarding that. I remained thinking about that while lying in my bed till mid night.

I could not get any information from Kamal and Govind about peacock tantra rituals. But, I was still hopeful that one day or the other, I might get information from some peacock tribe person about the peacock rituals. One day suddenly, I thought about the old priest of the temple at the brick kiln. He was the same person whom I had seen sitting on the cot in front of a quarter on the first day of my arrival. He was Madhav. I had become acquainted with him also till then. Perhaps, he might be knowing something about the peacock rituals, I thought. On the next day, in the evening, I went to sit near the old man Madhav. After talking at random with him for some time, I asked to him, “Old man, I had heard somewhere about the three circles of peacock rituals of you tribe. What are those? You must be knowing about those.”

On hearing that, he seemed to have suffered a big shock. Instead of giving any answer to me, he angrily asked from me, “Who had told you about the peacock rituals. Outsiders are not allowed to talk about our secret rituals. Never talk to me regarding this again.”

It was then my turn to become stunned on seeing his rage. In the same fit of fury, he got up from the cot and went inside his quarter. He became very annoyed with me from that day onwards and never spoke to me again. My search for the peacock tantra was seeming to have failed even after meeting with the peacock tribe people. I could not come to know what had happened with little girl Sumna. In addition to that, I wanted to get answers to many questions about my past, present and future. But, still I was having some hope that one day I might come to know about peacock tantra from those people and might go into the second circle of that tantra one day and might get answers to my those questions.

Two-three days thereafter, Babu came back from Nalagarh to brick kiln and life started moving on the same pattern. I was in search of answer to my second question also. At least, I wanted to know who the unknown author of that dateless diary was. During my general conversations, I tried very hard many a times to ask Babu about his parents and about his past life and even about his education, but he always remained putting off my questions by talking about one thing or the other. From his that attitude, sometimes I would start believing that he was the actual author of the dateless diary and that he was concealing his real identity intentionally. But, sometimes I would feel that he was not that person. I tried to identify his writing also, but Babu used to write his accounts of the brick kiln in Hindi language, whereas the dateless diary was written in Punjabi. So, I could not reach at any conclusion.

The life remained continuing in the same manner, till the month of July came and the rainy season started. The work of making of new bricks came to a halt and brick kiln became closed for three months and the peacock tribe people became idle. Only some previously baked bricks were lying in stacks at the brick kiln and only a very rarely some buyer would come to brick kiln for buying bricks. So, I had also become totally free. I would go and sit with those people of the peacock tribe and would remain talking with them for hours all together. I tried many a times to talk with the old priest Madhav also, but he did not talk with me ever again. On my calling him, he would get up and would go into his quarter and would not come out. I was unable to find anything about the peacock rituals of peacock people and on the other side I could not know anything even about the unknown author of the dateless diary also. I had tried very hard by asking many type of questions to Babu, but I could not make out anything out of his answers to my questions and could not decide if he was the unknown author of the diary or not.

It had become very difficult to pass time at brick kiln during rainy season. The atmosphere at the brick kiln had become very deserted and devastated. During rains, the peacock people would remain confined in their quarters. Babu and I would also remain confined in our office room or in the rooms behind. There was no movement of outside people also there. The life was moving at a very slow pace. There was no newspaper or any other material to read. Nobody was having even any transistor or any radio there. I would remain sitting idly there. It was a very boring time. In those moments of idleness sometimes the thoughts of uncle Puran Singh and Chhotu would come into my mind and I would start thinking of going back to Shimla. But, then the second moment, I would feel like staying there for some more time to try to know about the secrets of the mysterious rituals of the people of the peacock tribe and to try to unfold the mystery of the unknown author of the diary. But, in that manner my days at brick kiln were passing very slowly and I was feeling like cut off from the rest of the world. During those days of idleness, Kamal and Govind would come and sit with me and we would remain chatting about here and there for hours and would try to pass our time. I had a feeling during all that period that both Kamal and Govind were knowing the truth about the peacock trantra and that they had intentionally tried to conceal it from me. So, one day while talking with them, in order to dig out the truth, I again started talking about the peacock tantra. Both of them became very much perturbed on hearing the name of the peacock tantra again from my mouth. They looked at each there silently for few seconds and then Govind said to me, “Babu, it is true that both, I and Kamal know about the peacock tantra though only to some extent. I have told a lie to you earlier, when you asked about it from us. I don’t know why you are asking about it from us time and again. The peacock tantra is a very sacred ritual of our tribe and is kept concealed in our tribe from outsiders. To talk regarding this tantra with outsiders is completely forbidden in our tribe.”

I tried my best to talk more about it with them, but both of them did not speak even a single word regarding that tantra with me, thereafter. On seeing that, I also changed the topic and started talking with them about Babu and asked them, “You must be knowing Babu for the last many years. It seems to me that he is working here for the last many years.”

“Yes Babu, he is working here for the last many-many years, even from the time prior to the time of our birth. He is a very honest person. We have heard that the queen of the estate of Nalagarh is owner of this brick kiln. She is having a very vast landed property here. Previously, the surrounding villagers were also falling in her dominion. But, the government of India abolished the states of erstwhile queens and kings of India, after the independence. Those villages had gone out of the control of the queen of Nalagarh. But, still she is having a very big property here. That is why this brick kiln is still working here for the last many-many years. Babu is looking after the brick kiln very well and is keeping the accounts very correctly and he goes to Nalagarh after every two-three months to give accounts to the queen.” Govind said, while telling so many things to me in a single breath.

I was astonished to hear that the brick kiln was owned by the queen of Nalagarh. Perhaps, it was for that reason that the brick kiln had electricity and water supply there, even from some far off places. Suddenly, I remembered that the son of the queen of Nalagarh namely Ranjit Kanwar was doing law with me at Chandigarh university. He was from an aristocratic family and was a very egoistic spoiled child of a royal family, who used to get pleasure in taunting and humiliating others. I was from a low middle class family. He used to insult and taunt me most. It was the irony of the fate that I had become an employee at his brick kiln. If he would happen to come there, I thought, he would insult and humiliate me even more than before. I did not want to meet him there as an employee of his mother.

I asked Govind, “The queen or her son might be coming to visit brick kiln at some time or the other. After how much interval they come?”

Govind told me, “No, they never come here. They have full faith in Babu. Otherwise also they are very busy people and have no time to come to this brick kiln, which is a very small part of their property.”

The reply of Govind pacified me. Suddenly, it came into my mind that Kamal and Govind might be knowing something about the coming of unknown author of the diary to the brick kiln and they might be knowing whether Babu was that person or someone else was that person.

As soon as that thought came into my mind, I asked Govind, “Govind, you both are residing at this brick kiln from the time of your birth. Your parents are also residing here for the last many years. Have you heard about any such person who came here 25-30 years ago to know about the peacock tantra.”

Both of them became very much surprised on hearing my question. But, both of them told me that they did not know anything about any such person. Govind asked me, “Babu, has you come here in search of any such person? Was that person related to you about whom you want to know?”

Govind was a very intelligent person, who had sensed something about my motive to come there.

While denying it to him I said, “No, there is nothing like that. Once, one of my friends had told me that one of his relatives wanted to know about the peacock tantra of the peacock tribe men and had left his house to make search for them. Later on, nothing could be heard about him. His story came into my mind suddenly and I asked about him from you without any purpose.” I said so in order to put off the matter and to avoid his question. I had realized that they both would not be of any help to me in my search of that unknown author of the dateless diary also.

A few days thereafter, the day came for the holding of temporary market in the village below the brick kiln. I came to know from Kamal that that market was held in that village for a week, after every two or three months and that they used to buy the things of their necessities from there. Otherwise, they had to walk down for seven kilometer for going to Mehatpur town for buying the things of their necessity. The next day, I had also gone down to that market, which was being held in tent shops, to buy some things for me. Kamal had accompanied me to the market. After buying soap, oil and some other things for me, we started back to the brick kiln. On the way she remained laughing while talking about the temporary shops of the market.

On hearing her laughter, I was reminded of her laughing when she had met me on the way for the first time. I asked her, “Kamal why did you laugh, when you met me for the first time, when I was coming from Mehatpur.”

She became speechless for a while and then spoke after remaining silent for some time, “Shall I tell you the truth? When I saw you there on that day for the first time, I started loving you at the first sight and I laughed at my that foolishness.”

I became stupefied and perplexed on hearing her that reply and started thinking that she was playing some joke with me.

Perhaps, she understood what was going on in my mind. So, she said again, “Babu, I am not telling a lie. Even I am not joking with you. Really, I have fallen in love with you.”

I was unable to give any reply to her for her that sudden disclosure. In the meanwhile, some people coming from behind caught up with us and thereafter, we did not talk with each other on that topic.

I remained thinking about her that talk for the next many days thereafter. In the meantime, whenever she would come closer to me or would pass by me, she would give me a very mysterious smile. Slowly, I also started feeling that some kind of attraction for her had also started arising in my mind, though I remained trying to suppress it very hard in my mind.

Gradually, then came the month of September. The rainy season was about to go. The weather had remained very fine for the past two days. While wandering at random, I went to the backside of the brick kiln, from where the ruins of that hilly small fortress, which was situated below on the slope of the hill, came into my sight. I was looking at that fortress and was thinking that sometimes in the past, there would have been great hustle and bustle there. But, it was standing in solitude and destitution at that time. In the meanwhile seeing me standing there, Kamal also came there and said to me, “Babu, I have been going to that fortress many a times since my childhood. If you want to see the fortress, I will take you there.”

I was also desirous of seeing that half fallen fortress. So, I agreed to go along with her down to that fortress. She took me to the ruins of the fortress through the small track going down there. The ruins of the fortress were having a very deserted look. Kamal remained running from one place to other in the ruins of the fortress like a child and then climbed on the outer half fallen wall of the fortress and started walking on it. There was a very deep ditch on the other side of that wall. On seeing that, I became very scared and started asking her to come down of the wall.

“Babu, you have become scared without any reason. I have remained running and playing on this wall from my very early childhood. I have never fallen from the wall. I am not scared while walking or playing on this wall. But, if you say so I will come down from it.” After saying so, she at once jumped down from the wall. I held her in my arms to save her from falling below. She remained standing clung to me silently for some time and then moved back a little and said to me, “ Babu, do you know why I have brought you here. I want to say one thing to you. I want to marry with you. I want to live with you for the whole of my life.”

I became listless on hearing that thing from her mouth. That was very much unexpected for me. I was not ready for that thing till then. Moreover, I was aware about that thing that the women of that tribe were not allowed to marry with outsiders. She again spoke, Before I could say anything to her, “I know it. Marriage with outsiders is totally forbidden in our tribe. But, I will make my parents agree to this. I have already talked with Govind in this regard. He is my elder brother and a confident friend of mine also. He has also agreed to this. Otherwise, one woman of our tribe had also performed marriage with an outsider earlier many years ago, by breaking all the traditions and taboos of our tribe. Say your yes. I am to marry with you only. Otherwise, I will remain unmarried throughout my life.”

On hearing that thing from her, I became very much confused. I was finding it very hard to give any reply to her. Suddenly, a thought came into my mind. Had some woman of peacock tribe married with some outsider, could Babu be that outsider? I remembered the picture of one peacock, painted on front wall of the inner room of Babu. Was the wife of Babu from the peacock tribe? Was one peacock the symbol of that thing that only she was from the peacock tribe? But, where was she then at that time. That question arose in my mind and I asked Kamal, “Where is now that woman of your tribe.”

It started appearing to me that I had started getting closer to the answers to my search for the unknown author of the diary atleast. But, my that hope came to an end soon. While replying to my question Kamal told me, “Babu, there is a curse on our tribe. If any woman from our tribe marries with some outsider, she and her child both die at the time of giving birth to baby. They say, it happened with that woman also at the time of giving birth to baby. Both of them died.”

After a while she again said to me, “Babu, God might be knowing, I may also die at the time of giving birth to your child. But, I am to marry with you definitely. Tell me about that after thinking thoroughly.”

I remained listening to her silently. After sometime, we started going upward towards the brick kiln. She was going ahead of me. While climbing on the track, she suddenly turned her face toward me and said, “Babu, if I will die while giving birth to your child or if I will ever die otherwise also, I will take birth in your house as your daughter. I will not leave you.” After saying so, she again laughed in her jingling sound and ran away towards upside.

Her that talk had put my mind in a strife. I knew that much only that the girl was in love with me, but I did not know that she had gone so ahead in her love for me and she had become ready to perform marriage with me and to live with me for the whole of her life. She knew the customs and traditions of her tribe, but she was ready to revolt against all those customs and traditions for me. She had told me the talk of her heart with so much simplicity and easiness. But, that was not so much easy for me. I had come there from Shimla in search of a special quest. I had not come there to stay there permanently and had never thought of getting married there. I remained thinking about that matter for many days. To be or not to be, that was the question which remained teasing me for many days. I was unable to find answer to that question. Sometimes, I would think that I should marry with that very innocent and simple girl and should stay there forever. It seemed to me that the love of that girl might heel up wounds of my life and might fill up my life with joys. It would also come into my mind that after my marriage with her, the people of peacock tribe might take me into their tribe and might allow me to enter into the secret circles of their peacock tantra and I might get answers to many of my questions. But, the second moment I would think my marriage with that girl could be very meaningless and even could be disasterous. It was correct that a feeling of love for her had started germinating in my heart also, but still there was a great difference between the culture, traditions and mental levels of both of us. We both were from very different worlds and the union of both of us could be very fruitless and a complete failure. Besides, I could not make myself ready to stay there forever. The thoughts of uncle Puran singh and Chhotu would also remain moving across my mind, whom I had left behind at Shimla with a promise to go back there. I was not reaching at any decision. On the other hand, a very big change took place in the life of that girl Kamal after her that conversation with me. She had not remained the same earlier girl, who would always remain smiling and laughing. The ever present laughter from her face had vanished somewhere. It had been replaced by a feeling of worry and sadness on her face. Whenever she would come in front of me, she would look at me with a question in her eyes and I would turn my face towards some other side in order to avoid her that question. The rainy season came to an end during my all that indecision and double mindedness. With the coming of the month of October, the working at the brick kiln was resumed and I became very busy in the work of the brick kiln. During my busyness, Kamal would sometimes pass in front of me and I would again become disturbed. Sometimes, I would think that I had come there with a special purpose, but I had failed in my mission. I had failed to see the second circle of the peacock tantra. In addition to that I had come there in search of unknown author of the dateless diary also, I had failed in my that search also, though I would sometime feel that Babu was that unknown author of the diary or sometimes I would feel he was not.

One day a very unique idea came into my mind to ascertain if Babu was the unknown author of that diary or not. At that time, Babu was not in his office and was supervising the working of the kiln. I took out that diary from my bag and put that on the table of the Babu. I wanted to see what type of reaction would come on his face, on seeing that diary. After sometime, he came into the office and started seeing the diary by turning it upside down. After that, he opened the diary and looked into it for some time and then closed it and put it back on the table. His face remained expressionless and reactionless during all that time. My that try had also gone in vain. I could not judge whether he was author of the diary or not. Thereafter, I asked a very direct question to him that whether 20-25 years ago a person from Shimla had come there to meet peacock tribe men or not. In reply to that question also he remained expressionless and very plainly stated that he did not know anything about any such person. With his that answer my quest to know about the unknown author of the diary came to an end. But, even then my mind was still in a dilemma. Sometimes my mind would wish to stay there forever with Kamal and sometimes I would think of going back to Shimla. In my life, I had lost that little girl Sumna already and I did not want to further lose that innocent little kid Chhotu. Two more months passed in that double mindedness. Then came the month of december. By the middle of december, the weather became very cold at the brick kiln, as it was situated in a hilly area. My health started deteriorating due to cold weather and one day I got an attack of asthma after lapse of one year. Upon that, Kamal became very disturbed and remained rubbing a hot water bottle on my chest. But, it could not control my asthma. I was needing medicine to control my asthmatic attack, but, there was no such medicine at the brick kiln. By the evening, my condition became very critical. I was in need of immediate medical aid. But, the doctors were available only at Mehatpur, seven kilometers away from brick kiln. I was not in a condition to go there, because I was not able to walk during attack of asthma. In that state of affairs, someone from the brick kiln was required to go to Mehatpur to bring medicine for me, otherwise I could pass away at night due to asthmatic attack. But, nobody from the brick kiln was ready to go to Mehatpur at that time, because it would had been very dark till the time of return and there were rumours that some man-eater beast was present in the area. But, despite the rumours about the beast Kamal became ready to go to Mehatpur. His family members tried their best to stop her, but she did not desist and went to Mehatpur. We all remained praying to the God for her safe return and remained waiting for her.

Kamal came back very late that night. When she came back, her clothes were torn and there were marks of abrasions and injuries on her body. She told that when she was returning from Mehatpur to brick kiln, she was attacked by the beast on the way and to save herself from the beast she stepped into thick bushes and that she came back by hiding herself behind the bushes from the beast with much difficulty. But, she had finally brought tablets and inhalers to control my asthmatic attack. I had got the medicine for asthma at the right time and with those medicines my asthmatic attack became controlled to a large extent and my life could be saved. To save my life Kamal had put her own life in danger. My life had become indebted to her from that day onwards. After taking medicine for some days, my asthma came fully under control, but it could not be cured permanently. I was required to take anti-asthmatic drugs regularly. I had realized that I had become a permanent patient of asthma and had inherited that disease from my father. I had become very weak after that severe attack of asthma and I took many days to recover. During that period, Kamal served me much and remained very careful in giving medicines to me at regular time and in giving food to me. She remained too busy in taking care of me.

But, I felt it that after that incident, the face of Kamal had started remaining very sad and gloomy and she had started becoming weaker day by day as if something was eating her from inside. But, I had become indebted to her. In my heart, I had become ready to marry her in lieu of her that obligation. But, I was finding it very difficult to stay any further at the brick kiln. My condition could deteriorate any time again due to very cold weather there and I could suffer very severe attack of asthma and there was no prompt medical aid at the brick kiln. So one day, I would have to leave brick kiln and had to go to some other place. So, I decided in my mind that if Kamal was still ready to marry me despite the fact that I had become a patient of asthma, I would take her to Shimla with me, after the marriage. Although it was very cold at Shimla also, but medical help was available there twenty four hours a day. One day, I asked Kamal whether she was still ready to marry me and was ready to go to Shimla with me after the marriage. She did not give any reply to my question and remained looking at me with an empty look in her eyes and after some time she got up and went away from there.

Thereafter, whenever Kamal would meet me, I would ask her to give answer to my that question, but every time she would not say anything. 20-25 days passed in the same way and only two-three days’ medicine was left with me. The medicine was to be brought from Mehatpur again. Kamal became ready to bring medicine from Mehatpur that time also. But, I was not ready to send her alone again to Mehatpur. But no other person from the brick kiln became ready to go with her to Mehatpur to bring medicine for me. Finally, I made up my mind to go to Mehatpur myself to bring the medicine. I had recovered almost fully up to that time. Otherwise also, I could walk freely and effortlessly after taking puffs of the inhaler. So, despite Kamal’s persuasions I went to Mehatpur alone.

When I came out of the clinic of the doctor, after collecting my medicine, it was already sometime past the noon. I felt like taking tea before starting on my journey back to the brick kiln. So, in order to take a cup of tea, I went into a tea shop and took a seat there. The tea maker prepared a cup of tea for me within some time and handed it over to me. When, I was taking sips of tea from my cup, I heard a voice. Someone was calling me from a nearby table. I looked in that direction. The headman of my village was sitting on that table and was calling me by my name. He got up and came to my table and said, “Manjit, is it you. It has become very difficult to recognize you. You have grown your beard and mustaches. How have you come here? I had heard that your father had turned you out from his house, about a year ago. Nothing could be heard about you thereafter.”

After talking at random with me, for some time, very hesitatingly he said to me, “Manjit, you might not be knowing. Your father had expired about two months ago. Your mother has become confined to bed due to that shock. Your brother had come from America. After performing the last rights and rituals regarding death of your father, he went back very soon. Before going back, he had asked a village lady to look after your mother and to provide food to her.”

I received a big shock on hearing about the death of my father. My relations with my father had always remained very much distorted and disturbed, but still he was my father and there was a relationship of flesh and blood between us. I could control myself from crying with much effort.

The headman continued to tell me further, “Manjit, whatever had happened with you, it was very bad. But now, forget about this. Your mother is alone in the house. The village woman gives her food twice a day and bolts the room of your mother from outside and goes back to her own house. Your mother remains lying in the bed all the time all alone. She is not in a position to even pickup a glass of water from the table for herself. Come back to village and take care of your mother.”

After hearing about my mother, I became sadder and more disturbed. I could say only so much to him, “Uncle, I will not let my mother languish in this manner. I am working here at a nearby brick kiln. After picking up my luggage from the brick kiln, I will go back to my village in the next morning.”

I became very sad after meeting that person. While walking back to brick kiln, I remained remembering my parents throughout my journey. At the time of turning me out, my father had said to me that I had died for him and he had died for me. From then onwards, he hated me most and I had also started hating him in return. He did not want to see my face again during his life time and I also did not want to show my face again to him during my life time and it had actually happened. My village was situated at a distance of only 40-50 Kilometers from the brick kiln, at a distance of only two hours’ journey from the brick kiln. But, I could not meet him while he was alive and I was going back to my village only after his death. I was feeling a very heavy burden of that thing on my mind.

When, I reached back at the brick kiln, the night was about to fall in. Kamal and Babu were very upset for my being so late and were waiting for me very eagerly. On seeing my condition, Babu at once realized that something wrong had happened with me. He asked me, “Manjit, What is the matter? You are on the verge of shedding tears. Are you alright?”

On hearing his question I could not help crying loudly, at which Kamal and Babu became very disturbed. Babu started asking me repeatedly as to what had happened with me.

I could stop my tears with much difficulty. After controlling myself a little bit, I said to him, “Babu, today the headman of our village met me at Mehatpur. He told me that my father had expired some time ago and that my mother is also very ill and is residing alone in the village.”

Babu was also shocked to hear that news from me. But, he started trying to console me and said, “Manjit, be courageous. The father and the mother are not to live forever. They are to go one day. You should, now, strengthen yourself and try to forget what has happened. Go back to your house to take care of your mother. This is only what you can do now.”

But, I was not in a position to control myself. Within a short time the news spread among all the workers of the brick kiln and they gathered around me and started trying to console me. In the meanwhile, by chance my eyes fell upon Kamal. She was standing aloof, away from all other people. There was a look of very strange emptiness and dullness on her face. But, I could not pay much attention to her at that time, as I was myself very deeply hurt and was plunged in a deep sea of pain and sorrow.

After consoling me for some time, all the workers of the brick kiln went back to their quarters. Only Babu and Kamal were left with me. I could not fall asleep on that night. Babu remained sitting with me for long and remained trying to make me bear that shock and also went to sleep sometime before the midnight. After him, myself and Kamal were left alone in my room. She remained sitting on the floor of the room, by taking support of a wall and remained looking at me with stony eyes silently. She did not speak even a single word to me. Finally, when it was midnight, I compelled her to go to her quarter. I remained awoke through all the night, after going of Kamal. I remained repenting why I could not meet my father when he was alive and I could not even see his face, for the last time, when he was dead. My mind was filled with a feeling of guilt and remorse. On the next morning, I took leave of Babu and the workers of the brick kiln and started walking to Mehatpur. Despite my much persuasion, Kamal also started walking with me in order to give farewell to me. I had walked on that way eight-nine months ago when I was coming to the brick kiln for the first time. That girl had walked with me on that passage on that day also. Now, I was again walking on that very passage to go back from the brick kiln. That girl was again walking with me on that very passage on that day also. But, there had been a great change in the girl whom I met on the way for the first time and the girl who was going with me on that day. When I met her on that very way for the first time, she was a very mirthful and carefree girl and the girl who was going with me then to give farewell to me, was a very sad girl and was looking like as if she had become broken from within. She remained walking silently with me on the way. I was also not in a condition to say anything.

In an hour, we reached at the same point, where both ways from the village Shaamli and from the brick kiln were meeting together. What a strange thing it was! While coming from those sides both the ways were merging to become one passage and while coming from Mehatpur side, the single passage was bifurcating into two passages at that point. It was the same point where Kamal had pointed out the passage to village Shaamli to me. She stopped after reaching at that point. On seeing her stopping there, I also stopped. She took my both hands in her hands for the first time and spoke with a choked throat to me, “Babu, I am ready to go and live with you, where ever you will take me. Do not forget me. Come back soon to take me along with you. I will wait for you.” While saying so, two drops of water rolled out of her eyes and fell on the ground. After saying so, she left my hands and at once returned and started walking back on that passage. While going back, she did not look back at me even for a once. I remained standing there and remained seeing her going back. After going on the passage for some distance, she went out of my sight. I took a very long sigh and started walking on the passage to Mehatpur.

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I reached Mehatpur at about 9 AM. Soon, I got a bus from there for going to Santokhgarh. From Santokhgarh, I boarded a bus to Garhshankar. From Garhshankar bus stop, I started walking to my village on foot. My village was situated at a distance of two-three kilometers from Garhshankar. I reached my village a few minutes before noon and went straight to my house. The main gate of my house was shut, but it was not bolted from inside. It opened very easily when I pushed it a little. I went inside my house. In the front room of the house, my mother was lying on a cot covered with a quilt. The village lady had gone back to her house, after giving food to her. My mother was lying alone in the house at that time, in the bed with her both eyes closed. I sat down on that very cot near my mother and took her hand in my both hands. My mother opened her eyes and looked at me and on seeing me said, “Son, you have come. But, you have come very late. Your father had gone after remaining waiting for you so long.”

On hearing those words of my mother, I started crying very loudly and bitterly. In the meantime my co-villagers had come to know about my coming back to my house and many men and women of the village had gathered in our house to see me. They all were very happy on my return to my house, but they were sad also that I could not reach there earlier, before the death of my father. On hearing about my coming back, one old lady of the village namely Jamuna also came there. She rubbed her hand on my head with love and said to me, “Son, it is very good that you have come. You could not see your father at his last time. But, you can take care of your mother now. Nobody else cares. Nobody can have any sympathy for others. Your brother had gone after giving money to Bimla, but she cares a very little about your mother. She comes twice in a day and gives little food to your mother and does a little cleaning work in the house and goes back. Rest of the time, your mother remains all alone here. The poor fellow cannot get up from the bed herself. She is dependent upon others even for a drop of water. One needs water after every two three hours. Now, you will take care of her yourself.”

Jamuna was very right. Bimla had not looked after my mother properly, even after taking a very huge amount from my brother. The clothes of my mother were very dirty and uncleaned and there was dust everywhere in the house. When Jamuna said so, Bimla was already in the house and was standing aside from others. She was feeling very much ashamed and embarrassed on hearing talks of other people and on seeing me. I also felt like asking her about her carelessness, but then I remained silent.

After leaving of the people, I got the house cleaned thoroughly from Bimla and then got dirty clothes of my mother changed and washed from her. After that, the atmosphere in the house started looking somewhat better. After my arrival, Bimla started doing our household work properly. She would come to our house in time to cook our meals and to look after my mother. My friend Ashok had also come to know about my coming back to my village. He also started coming to my house almost daily. After ten-fifteen days thereafter, Ashok said to me, “Manjit, you should, now, get married. When you will be married, both you and your wife will be able to look after your mother more properly and your wife will look after the household affairs also in a better manner. How long you will continue to look after your house alone? Besides, after coming of your wife, you will be able to go anywhere. Then, you will be able to go to Chandigarh to collect your law degree also.”

The advice of Ashok seemed very right and proper to me I was finding it very difficult to control my household affairs properly. On thinking about my marriage, the thoughts of Kamal at once came into my mind. For a moment, I thought of marrying her. But, she was from a different cultural back ground. Her customs, traditions and behaviour patterns were different from mine. I felt that the union between her and me could never be even and balanced ones. So, the next moment I dropped the idea of my marriage with her from my mind. I told my friends and relations to look out for some good girl for my marriage from some mine like family and cultural background. I got a good offer soon and I was married within a month with a girl from the background like mine.

After marriage, the atmosphere of our house was completely changed. My wife proved to be a very nice and good natured lady. She had come to know that before our marriage, I was turned out by my father from the house. But, despite knowledge of that fact, she looked after my mother with great love and whole heartedness. A few days after my marriage I told her about all that what had happened with me after I was turned out by my father from the house, except the story regarding Kamal. I told her about my going to Shimla and then residing in the hotel of uncle Puran Singh. I told her about the little kid Chhotu also, who was serving in the hotel of uncle Puran singh. She was very much moved to listen about the story of Chhotu. I further told her that I was very much wishing to go to Shimla and to meet with Puran singh and Chhotu there. I told her further that on my return from Shimla, I would collect my law degree also from Chandigarh. She agreed to that.

Two-three days thereafter, I went to Shimla. I had started by bus from my village to Shimla very early in the morning. So, I reached Shimla at 1 PM, in the afternoon. I had started from my village with a program to stay at night in the hotel of Puran Singh. When I reached the place of the hotel, I lost my wits all of a sudden. The hotel of Puran Singh was not at its place and a road was existing at the place, where the hotel of Puran Singh used to exist. Some other shops which used to exist near the hotel of Puran Singh, had also been demolished from there and a road had been constructed over the sites of those shops also. I could not understand anything. There used to be a general store a few yards away from the hotel of Puran Singh. That shopkeeper was well known to me. So, I went to his shop and inquired from him about the hotel of Puran Singh. He recognized me at once. I came to know from him that two-three months after my departure from there, the Shimla High Court had ordered the demolition of the hotel of Puran Singh and some other adjoining shops, to beautify the area and to widen the road. Those all were the private properties of those shopkeepers. Puran Singh and those shopkeepers remained moving from one place to other in the government offices and from one officer to other, but nobody listened to them. The High Court, the Government and the officers all had joined hands with each other regarding that matter. Then, the hotel of Puran singh and the adjoining shops were demolished by the Government about four months ago. Puran Singh tried hard to stop them and went into his hotel and sat there inside the hotel. The officers ordered the labourers to forcibly demolish the hotel of Puran Singh. The labourers demolished the hotel of Puran Singh, though he was sitting inside the hotel. The debris of the demolished roof of the hotel fell down upon Puran Singh and due to hitting of a brick on his head, Puran Singh died at the spot. I was very much pained on hearing the news of the death of Puran Singh. But then suddenly, I remembered about Chhotu and I asked him, “One little Kid Chhotu was working in the hotel of Puran singh, Where is he?”

The shopkeeper told me, “Very bad thing had happened with Chhotu. A few days after your departure his mother expired. After his mother’s death, Puran Singh brought Chhotu into his hotel. After death of Puran Singh, he became totally an orphan, with nobody to support him. After death of Puran Singh, I remained seeing Chhotu for two-three days. He was wandering from here to there helplessly while crying very bitterly. Thereafter, he was not seen here and I forgot about him.”

I was deeply hurt after listening to the story of Chhotu. The shopkeeper remained asking me to take tea, but it had become very difficult for me to stay there any longer. I had lost once that little girl Sumna. I was not ready to lose Chhotu also forever like her.

From there, I directly went down to the slum area, inhabited on the embankment of the drain, outside the outskirts of Shimla. But, that slum had also been uprooted from there and there was no sign of any hut there. I met a person near that place and I asked from him as to what had happened to those huts. He told me that a few months ago the government officers had got demolished the slum from that area and the people residing there in had gone to other places. But, where they had gone he could not tell.

I again climbed back above to Shimla from there. I remained searching for Chhotu by wandering from one place to other. But, I could not find him anywhere. Finally, I gave up my hope to find out Chhotu and started moving towards the bus stand by passing through the Mall Road. After crossing Mall Road when I went a little ahead on the road, I saw a heap of rubbish on one side of the road. Some children wearing torn and dirty clothes were picking up empty plastic bottles and other broken articles from that heap of waste. When the eyes of one child out of them fell upon me he shouted “Uncle” and at once started running towards me. After coming to me, he clung to my legs and started weeping bitterly. I recognized him at once. He was Chhotu. I had found Chhotu, who had become very weak by that time. He was wearing very dirty, torn rags and was bare footed. There were many wounds on his feet and he had wrapped pieces of very filthy cloth on those wounds. He was looking very dirty and unclean and it was appearing that he had not taken a bath for the last many months. While weeping bitterly, he told me that after death of Puran Singh he had gone back to his previous hut in the slum, which was lying vacant since the time of death of his mother. The persons living in the surrounding huts used to give something to him to eat. At night, he would sleep alone in the hut. He told me that he used to be very much frightened when sleeping alone in the hut. Then, after sometime the policemen and many other persons reached there and demolished the huts and chased away the persons residing in those huts, by beating them with sticks. From there he again came above to the city of Shimla. There he started picking up plastic bottles and other things from the heaps of the waste like many other children and started selling the collected things to the scrap dealers and by that he used to earn a very little amount and would eat something with that money and at night would sleep in the yard of the railway station. He further told me that the policemen even used to chase away them from the railway yards also by hitting them with their sticks and then they used to lay down under the bridge of some road.

While sobbing heavily he said to me, “Uncle, my mother had died. The uncle of the hotel had also died. I have been left alone. Uncle, do not leave me alone now, here.”

Tears started dropping from my eyes on hearing his story. I took him in my embrace very tightly and said to him, “Chhotu, I will not leave you here. I have come to take you with me to my house.”

Thereafter, I purchased new clothes for Chhotu and took him to a hotel and booked a room there and got him took a bath and got him put on new clothes and got his haircut done from a barber’s shop. When he used to pickup goods from the heap of waste, the nails and other sharp things had caused many wounds on his feet. So, I took him to a doctor and got his wounds dressed up.

By then, the night had already set in. So, I along with Chhotu got back to the hotel to spend night there. On the bed, he put his hands around my neck very tightly and fell asleep, so soundly as if he had not taken a nap for the last many months. I was still very much perturbed regarding what had happened to him in my absence. But, there was a consolation also. I had saved Chhotu from devastation. After sometime, I also fell asleep. In the Morning, I took Chhotu with me and we both started back from Shimla by bus.

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I had not stopped at Chandigarh on my way back to obtain my law degree and had directly gone to my village along with Chhotu. I was worried during my journey whether my wife would be ready to accept Chhotu and to keep him in our house. After reaching village, I told everything about Chhotu to her. On hearing his story, my wife became very emotional and her eyes became brimmed with water. She held Chhotu in her arms with great love and accepted him as our own son. When my wife had accepted Chhotu, a very heavy burden got dismounted from my heart. I became very happy. I told my villagers that Chhotu was the son of one of my friends and both of his parents had died and he was left with nobody of his own and so I had brought him with me. My villagers had accepted my story instinctively.

After few days, I went to Chandigarh and obtained my law degree from the law department. But, I could not start practicing as an advocate as the health of my mother was falling down very fast, day by day and she was becoming weaker day by day. Her illness had also started increasing day by day. One out of my wife and myself had always to remain by the side of my mother. I could not serve my father, the burden of which had always remained hanging on my soul. Therefore, I wanted to serve my mother to the maximum. But, I was feeling that my mother was not happy with my services and her mind always remained drawn towards her elder son Balbir Singh and his family. She never used to talk with me happily and freely. Whenever she would talk, she would talk about her elder son only.

The days remained passing in the same manner. Chhotu had proved to be a very loving and obedient child. He would sometime go to the bed of my mother and would try to speak to her. But, on seeing him, my mother would close her eyes and would not speak to him. In fact, my mother was disliking me very much and was disliking everybody, whosoever was having any relation with me. My wife used to serve her with her soul and heart, but my mother was never happy with her also.

A year passed like that and the month of November came in. By the end of the month of November, the health of my mother became very critical and the doctors had also shown their inability to treat her. My mother was longing very much to see her elder son for the last time. So, I told my brother on the telephone about the serious condition of our mother and asked him to come to India to see our mother for the last time. But, he did not become ready to come to India and remained busy in his family affairs in America. Due to not coming of her favorite son to India, my mother became very depressed and frustrated. I tried my best to make her happy by talking to her, but she never became happy. Towards the end of November, I started feeling that she was a few days’ guest in this world. So, I told my brother again on telephone that if he wanted to meet our mother for the last time, he should come to India immediately, otherwise he would be late. On hearing that, he became ready to come to India. When I told my mother that brother was ready to come to India soon, a feeling of comfort and happiness came on her face and she at once withdrew her hand from my hand and said to me, “Had my son Balbir come earlier, I would not have allowed you to even touch my body.” That dialogue of my mother caused a very deep pain in my mind. The matter was standing at the same point, at which I had left the house two years ago. But even then, I did not allow to come even a small decrease in the performance of my duty towards her and remained serving her to best of my capabilities. My mother started waiting for her elder son to come to India very eagerly. Two-three days thereafter my brother arrived in India. But, after coming to India instead of coming directly to our village, he went to Phagwara town to the house of his in-laws first. That thing caused a very deep hurt in the heart of my mother. She could not bear that grief and the betrayal by his elder son and her tongue became dumb and she became incapable to speak. But, it was clear from her eyes that she was still waiting for him. Two-three days later my brother came to village from Phagwara. When he entered the house, our mother was lying in her bed with her eyes closed. Balbir sat in the chair near her bed and caught her hand in his hand and said to her, “Mother, I have come.”

On hearing his voice, mother opened her eyes at once and looked at him and tears started falling down from her eyes on the bed, but she could not say anything. After seeing Balbir for few seconds, mother again closed her eyes. My mother passed away from this world on that very night, while she was in her sleep.

After fifteen-twenty days, after completion of last rites of our mother, my brother sold the property of his share and went back to America and never came again to India.

A few months after the death of my mother, I also shifted from my village to Garhshankar town and started practicing as an advocate in the Courts at Garhshankar. After shifting to Garhshankar, I got Chhotu admitted in a good school at Garhshankar and gave a new name Satbir Singh to him. I got my name entered in the admission register of the school in place of the name of the father of Chhotu. At Garhshankar, all people were considering Chhotu as my real son. After shifting to Garhshankar a son was born to me. Two years later a daughter was also born to me. After she grew up, a few years later, it was found that she was a simpleton and a retarded child. I was having much love with her and she was also having great love with me. She would always remain following me with her small feet, whenever I happened to be in my house. I could leave her at home with much difficulty, whenever I would go to the courts to attend to my work. In the evening, she would remain sitting on the floor in front of the main gate of my house and would remain waiting for me. If by chance, I would be late, she would start crying there and when I would reach there she would cling to my legs and would remain sobbing for a very long time. It would be very difficult to pacify her.

On the other hand, the circumstances in the Courts were also very adverse to me. A group of lawyers was heavy on other lawyers, since before the time I joined the bar as a member advocate. I had to face a very stiff opposition and very crooked and treacherous moves of that group. The judicial officers were always under their control. I had to work in a very suffocating atmosphere in the courts. I had no other source of income except than practicing as an advocate to bring up my family. Slowly after some time, I started getting some work, though I was no match to the manipulations of that group of lawyers. So, I started pulling on myself and my family somehow or the other. With the passage of time, I went on becoming more and more engaged in my profession. But in those days of busyness, I would sometime remember my days passed at the brick kiln and the memories of the peacock tribe people, Babu and Kamal would come into my mind and I would start feeling like to go there to meet them. But, I was not having the enough courage to face Kamal. So, I would suppress my wish to go to brick kiln, at that very time. But, the memories of old days would remain circulating in my mind at sometime or the other. The days remained passing in the likewise manner. Two-three years later, in connection with some work I had to go to Chandigarh. Then suddenly, I came to remember the days passed by me in the house of Sucha Singh after my exile from my village. So, I went to their house. During those two-three years, the circumstances in their house had become very bad. Sucha Singh had started remaining ill and had stopped going to work. They were very short of money. His wife was pulling on their lives by cleaning dirty utensils in the houses of others. I became very much perturbed on seeing the circumstances of their house. At one time, I had become homeless and they both had given me shelter in their house and had provided food to me. I could never forget their favours done to me. I thought of taking them to my house, but they did not agree. I came back after giving some money to them, which they accepted after much hesitation. Thereafter, I would go to see them and to give some money to them every month. But, a few months later, Sucha Singh passed away and his wife was left alone in the world. I again tried my best to bring her to Garhshankar, but she was not ready to leave the house of her husband. Thereafter, I could not go to her village for three months altogether. When thereafter, I could go to her village, the wife of Sucha Singh had already gone from this world and their neighbours had forcibly taken possession of their house. I felt very sad on the death of both of them. They had borne the curse of loneliness throughout their lives and had carried on that curse up to their last moments. I could do nothing in that regard. To suffer in their lives was their fate and they had endured it.

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After my return from Chandigarh to my house, my mood remained very gloomy for many days. But, after some days I again became busy in the affairs of my family. I had failed to make any place for myself in my profession. Neither I could make any place for me in the society. I had no political ambitions and had no links with any of the powerful Indian Politicians. I was leading a very low level life in all respects. But, one very unexpected thing had happened in my life. I had to go to the village of our local M.L.A. in connection with a case of his cousin and so he became acquainted with me. A friend of mine came to know about my acquaintance with M.L.A. His younger brother was posted as a teacher in a very far off school of Punjab, away from their house and they were wanting to get him transferred to some school near Garhshankar. So, he asked me to go with him to the M.L.A. I agreed to that.

It was a Sunday, and so it was a holiday on that day. I and my friend started for the village of M.L.A. on my motorcycle. It was the month of the November and the wind has started becoming colder. When we reached the house of M.L.A. he was sitting in the lawn of his very spacious bungalow in a very big chair and was listening to the complaints and requests of the public. At some distance from him, a few chairs were placed in one corner of the lawn and people were sitting in those chairs and were waiting for their turn to meet the M.L.A. We also occupied two vacant chairs there and started waiting for our turn to come. At that time, a twenty five or a twenty six years old thin girl was standing in front of the M.L.A. and was saying something to him. Soon, her talk with the M.L.A. ended and she came back and passed by us, while looking at me attentively and went out of the bungalow of the M.L.A. About fifteen minutes thereafter, our turn came and we went to the M.L.A. and sat in the chairs lying in front of his table. He listened to our problem with much sympathy and got the name of the brother of my friend noted down in the diary of his Personal Secretary Makhan and assured us that he would get the brother of my friend transferred to some nearby school. I and my friend, both became very hopeful about the transfer of the brother of my friend. We paid our respects to the M.L.A. and came out of his residence. My motorcycle was parked on one side of the road at some distance from the bungalow of the M.L.A. That thin girl was standing on one side of the road at some distance from my motorcycle. When we reached near our motorcycle, she came to us and said to me, “Brother it seems you have not recognized me.” On hearing that from her, I looked at that girl very attentively, but could not remember who she was.

Seeing that I was unable to recognize her, she said to me, “Brother, I am Bholi, daughter of Arjun Singh of village Jiwanpur.”

On hearing that I came to remember about her at once. When I was ten years old, I resided in the house of sister of my father at village Jiwanpur. I was studying in 5th standard at that time. Guddi was the daughter of my aunty and was six years old at that time. Bholi was classmate of Guddi and both were fast friends. The house of Bholi’s father Arjun Singh was situated very close to the house of my aunty. Bholi was the only child of her parents, who loved her very much. After coming from school they both would sit in the house of my aunty and would do the home work together and after completion of their home work, they would play there together. After finishing my home work, I would also join them and we would make much noise together. The daughter of my aunty was a very ordinary looking girl, whereas Bholi was a very beautiful girl, with a very fair complexion and very sharp features. She used to look like a doll.

After a year, my aunty and his family got visa for Canada and after their departure to Canada, I also came back to my village. Thereafter, I never went to village Jiwanpur. So many years thereafter, Bholi had met me there on that day.

“Yes Bholi, I have recognized you now. How are you?” I asked Bholi after recognizing her.

“Brother, I am alright.” She gave a very short reply to me.

But, she was not looking alright to me at all. The marks of sadness and disturbance were very clearly visible on her face.

“Bholi, how you have come here today? Do you have some work with M.L.A. You are looking very disturbed to me.” I asked to her.

She took a long sigh and said to me, “Brother, What I should tell you. Someone had cast his evil eyes on our happiness. A few years after you had left our village, my mother expired. I was only ten years old at that time. After her, it was only my father who brought up me. About four years ago, my father forcibly got me married. I was not ready to get married. My father had become a patient of asthma many years ago. I was not willing to leave him alone. But, he did not concede.” She became silent after saying so.

In the meantime a chilly wind had started blowing. The rustling sound of the wind was increasing its chill more.

After a few minutes gap, Bholi again spoke further, “Brother, I was having a very bad luck. After my marriage, I could not give birth to any child. Three years after my marriage, my in-laws turned me out of their house and since then, for the last one year, I am residing with my father. My uncle and his sons have forcibly occupied our land many years ago. They are paying us a very little amount. We are unable to pull on our lives with such a meager amount. In addition, we are required to buy medicines also for my father. Brother, I am high school pass. I thought if I could get any job, then I would be able to buy medicines for my father and to pull on our lives. But, I could not get any work anywhere. I had met M.L.A. three-four times in this regard. But, every time he gives me assurance to make arrangement for some job for me and gets it noted down from his Personal Secretary Makhan in his diary. But, he does nothing thereafter. Brother, People tell that M.L.A does the work of only those people, who give money to him. I am not having any money with me. He puts me off likewise every time, after making a false promise.”

I was very much pained to hear her story, but I could not say anything to her. After sometime, she again said to me, “Brother, I have come to know that you have become a lawyer at Garhshankar. You must be knowing many people. Please ask any of your known person to give any job to me. I am ready to do even any humble job also. Brother, I will be very much obliged.”

I made a promise to her to make try in that regard and thereafter I and my friend came back from there.

Thereafter, I and my friend again went to the house of the M.L.A. thrice in connection with the transfer of brother of my friend. But every time, he remained making false promises and did not get the brother of my friend transferred. That person had become M.L.A. for the first time only two years ago, but had learnt all the tricks of the trade very quickly, within such a short time and had become a very crafty politician. Ultimately, my friend gave a very thick bundle of notes to the P.A. of M.L.A. and the M.L.A. got the brother of my friend transferred to a nearby school, within two-three days.

In the meantime, a thought came into my mind twice or thrice to ask someone to give some job to Bholi, but I remained very busy in the affairs of my own life and could not talk to anybody regarding job of Bholi. Likewise, five-six months passed after I had met Bholi. It was again a Sunday and I was sitting in my office room in my house, when Bholi reached there all of a sudden. I had already talked with my wife regarding Bholi. So, I took her to my drawing room to make her meet with my wife. My wife prepared a cup of tea for her. While taking tea Bholi asked to me, “Brother, I have not seen your children. How many children you have?”

I replied to her, “I have three children, two sons and a daughter. All are watching television in the next room. I call them just now.” After saying so, I called my children. On hearing my call both of my sons came into the drawing room. My daughter also followed them. I introduced all my children to Bholi.

“Brother, your children are so sweet. In which class they read.” Bholi asked me while fondling my sons.

All were considering Chhotu to be my son. Bholi also took him to be as my real son. I replied to her, “My elder son is studying in the 5th standard and the younger one is studying in kindergarten. My daughter is weak in her mind. I am getting her treated. When she will be cured, I will put her also in some school.”

Bholi had already realized about the retarded mental condition of my daughter. She took my daughter in her lap and said, “God may get her treated and cured soon.”

After that we remained talking about hither and thither. But, I knew about the purpose of her visit to my house and I was feeling very much ashamed in my heart. Finally, after talking with me at random for sometime Bholi asked to me, “Brother, Have you talked to any person for getting job for me.”

I replied to her, while telling a lie, “Yes, I had made contact with many persons, but could not make out anywhere. But, you need not worry. I will get you adjusted at one or the other place.”

Sometime thereafter, she got up and went away after requesting me again to find some job for her.

After she had left, I thought of one of my friends to arrange a job for her. He was running his own private school at village Mahilpur, a few kilometers away from Garhshankar. He could give some or the other job to her in his school. But, I could not go to Mahilpur and could not meet my that friend and remained only thinking about that. After that Bholi came to my chamber in the Court Complex two times to inquire about her job. I remained making assurance to her every time. But, I would forget about her job every time, after her going back from my chamber. Bholi did not come to inquire about her job thereafter. I also forgot about her gradually and became lost in my own struggle for life.

The time remained passing slowly. My both sons came out to be very intelligent boys and they were doing well in their studies. But, my daughter Poonam could not be cured despite much treatment and remained to be a simpleton and mentally retarded child. I always remained very much worried about her. After doing M.A. Chhotu became a Lecturer in Government College at Ludhiana, regarding which I always felt very satisfied that I could do something for him. He remembered everything of his childhood and was very thankful to me and my wife and he loved all of us very much, especially he loved Poonam most. I had full belief in my mind that if anything would ever happen to me and my wife, he would take full care of Poonam and my other son.

More than two years had passed since Chhotu had joined service at Ludhiana. Two months had passed since he last came to Garhshankar. I was missing him very much. So, I went to Ludhiana to meet him. After meeting him, sometime after the noon, I started back to Garhshankar on my motorcycle. I was yet a few kilometers behind Philaur, when it started raining very heavily. I looked around to take shelter somewhere to save myself from becoming wet. A few yards ahead a small road side hotel came into my sight. To save myself from becoming drenched, I went into that hotel. It was a very small hotel, in backside of which there was a room. In front of that room, there existed one tin shed. In one corner of the shed, a few furnaces were built for cooking food. Some tables and chairs were lying in the middle of the shed. Towards other corner of the tin shed, there was a small platform for washing dirty utensils. One blackish, much withered lady was cleaning utensils there. The owner of the hotel was standing behind the furnaces and was cooking some vegetables on the furnaces. It reminded me of the hotel of Puran Singh and my mood became very sad.

In order to cheer up my mood again, I ordered the owner of the hotel to prepare a cup of tea for me. He prepared the cup of tea and put it on my table within a very short time. I started sipping the tea very slowly to pass away the time. Suddenly I realized that the woman cleaning the utensils was looking at me very attentively time and again, as if she was trying to recognize me. I also tried to recognize her, but could not. When I had finished my tea, she came near me and said to me, “Brother, it seems you have not recognized me this time again. I am Bholi of Village Jiwanpur.”

I was startled suddenly, on hearing her name. “Bholi, is it you! I have not really recognized you. What has happened to you? How your condition has become so pitiable?” I asked her.

“Brother, when I met you at the house of M.L.A., at that time I was in search of some job. But, I could not get any job anywhere. Two-three years thereafter, the health of my father became very critical and after remaining confined to bed for a year, he passed away. He died of a severe attack of asthma. I could not get him treated due to shortage of money. Brother, my cousins prepared a forged will of my father in their names and got all the land of my father mutated in their names in the government papers. I remained making objections before the sub-divisional magistrate and remained requesting him again and again. But, my cousins had given a very huge bribe to him and he entered the land of my father in their names.” While saying so, her eyes over flowed with tears, which she cleaned with the corner of her head cloth and became silent.

I was very much pained to hear her story. “Why you had not filed case in the court of civil judge against the order of sub-divisional magistrate.” I asked her with resentment.

“Brother, I could have filed case in the court of civil judge. But, I was having no money to fight the case. I was not in a position to pay fees to lawyers. Moreover, my cousins would have given money to judge also.” She replied to me in a very sad tone.

“But, how you have reached here?” I asked from her.

While replying to my question, she said, “After the land of my father was entered in their names in the government record, our land and house became property of my cousins. For public display, they allowed me to reside in our own house. I would remain working in their house whole of the day like a maid and they would give the left outs of their food to me to eat. After three or four years, they turned me out of our own house also. After having been thrown out from my own house, I remained bearing kicks of world and remained wandering from one place to other and then ultimately came to this place. After hearing my story, the owner of this hotel adjusted me here. Now, for the last many years, I am working at this hotel and wash the utensils and do the cleaning work here. In return, he provides food to me and allows me to sleep under the shed of the hotel. Thus, the life is going on in this way. Brother, I am crying out about my own miseries only. I have not asked anything from you about your well being. You have not told me anything about your family. How are your Children?”

I had become totally stunned on hearing her story. I could tell her with much difficulty, “My elder son had become a lecturer in Government College at Ludhiana, after doing his M.A. two years ago. The younger one is doing L.L.B. But, my daughter has remained the same as she was when you saw her at my house.”

“Brother, do not loosen you heart about your daughter. It is all God’s wish. One has to remain in the same manner, as He wishes. Okay brother, my master is looking at me continuously. Let me go and wash the utensils. Otherwise, he will be annoyed with me.” After saying so, she went to the platform and again started cleaning and washing the dirty utensils. I looked at her. She was also looking at me with a complaint in her eyes, as if she was saying to me, brother why you had not helped me at that time? If you had arranged some job for me, then so much would not have happened with me and my condition would not have been like that. I could not face her eyes and turned my back towards her and started looking outside towards the road. I was repenting in my mind very much. I could have arranged some job for her at some place or the other with a very little effort. But, I did not bother about her and did nothing for her. I was responsible for her that condition. A very dim voice of the song of singer Chitra Singh was coming from some far off place. In her very pathetic voice, she was singing the song of great Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, “The Lake of ages, the sighs of water, Oh song take the beakful.” It became very difficult for me to stay there anymore. I came out of the hotel even though it was still raining. I started my motor cycle and started moving towards Garhshankar.

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I remained very disturbed for many days, after returning from Ludhiana. Time and again, the thoughts of Bholi remained coming into my mind, whose help I could have done and could have saved her life from being so ruined. But, I did not pay any attention towards her and did nothing for her and her life was so destroyed. I tried my best to console myself by telling myself that it was written in her fate and it was to happen like that with her. But, I could not console myself. I was guilty in her case and my mind was feeling overburdened with that guilt.

I tried to make myself busy in my work. But by that time, my work had already decreased very much. I could not keep pace with the time and I was lagging behind very fast. The reality was that I was lagging behind from the other lawyers, from the very beginning. I had always remained unfit in my profession. The atmosphere in the courts was full of flattery and conspiracies from the very beginning. In addition to that, the judicial system was also as corrupt as all other government systems were. Sometimes, I would remember the things which the unknown author of the dateless diary had written in his diary. He had observed many years ago that India had started moving on a passage to fall down and that it was going to fall in a very deep ditch of corruption and dishonesty one day. How right he was! By our times, India had actually fallen down very deep into a dark deep well of corruption and dishonesty. There could not be any coming out. From the peon to the minister all had become fallen ones. I could not adjust myself in that atmosphere. But, I could do nothing in that regard. I had become fifty three years old by then. I could not make a new start at that time.

Two or three more years passed in that very manner. The winter season had started to set in and the days had become very short. I was sitting in my office in the court complex as usual. That day had passed like any other day. The evening had already settled in and it was time for me to go to my home. I was seeing the case files of the next day. By then a person came to stand in front of the door of my office and in a very hesitating tone said to me, “Advocate sir, I want to meet you. May I come in?”

I thought some person might have come to consult me in respect of some legal problem. I called him inside my office. After coming inside, he made himself sit in a chair in front of my table. I looked at him attentively. He was a near about fifty year’s old person, who was wearing a very colorful floriated turban on his head. He was having a grey beard and grey mustaches on his face. He was looking at me through his almond like brown eyes. I recognized him at once from his features. He was a peacock tribe person. But, who was he, I could not recognize him. Perhaps, he had realized about my dilemma. So, he spoke to me, “Advocate sir, it seems you have not recognized me. I am Govind.”

On hearing his name from him, I at once recognized him. He was really Govind, the cousin of Kamal. But, I was seeing him after a gap of about 27 years. When I had come from the brick kiln, he was young man of twenty three years age. But, now, he was a fifty years old middle aged person. I was astonished to see him coming so all of a sudden.

After some time, he again said to me, “Advocate sir, once you left the brick kiln like that, you did not come back there again. We remained waiting for you. Two years after you left the brick kiln, the Babu started remaining ill and died sometime thereafter. Advocate sir, before his death he had written a letter for you and had put it in an envelope and had handed over the envelope to me with a direction to give it to you. It is lying with me since then. Sir, we knew nothing about your address. So, I could not deliver it to you. After death of Babu, the owners sent another person as the new incharge of the brick kiln. He was a very arrogant and rude person. We remained passing time in one or the other manner. A few months ago, the old owner of the brick kiln died. Her son decided to shut the brick kiln, as it was not yielding any good profits for the last many years. Many of us migrated to other brick kilns. But, I have made up my mind to go back to my native land along with my wife and children. Three-four days ago, I went to Ludhiana for booking train tickets for us. The passage from our brick kiln to Ludhiana passes through Garhshankar. When after booking the tickets, I was coming back from Ludhiana, my bus stopped at Garhshankar bus stop. At that very time, you were going on your motor cycle from there. You are having the same look even after passing of so many years. So, I recognized you at once. I immediately came down from the bus to stop you. But, by then you had crossed that place. I came to know from one shopkeeper at the bus stop that you are an advocate and are practicing in the Garhshankar courts. Sir, during all these years, you were so close yet so away from us. Our tickets are booked for tonight’s train. So, we started from brick kiln in the afternoon today for going to Ludhiana. I have got my family boarded in a bus bound for Ludhiana and I have come to see you. Sir, I have brought the letter of Babu for you. It was lying entrusted to me for the last so many years.”

After saying so, he took out an envelope from the side pocket of his shirt and placed it on the table in front of me.

I became very much excited on seeing that envelope. What had been written by Babu in that letter? Was he the unknown author of the dateless diary and had he admitted that in his letter? That question came into my mind again after so many years. I had become very curious and anxious to know about the answer to my that question. So, I picked up the envelope. It was looking very old one and had dried marks of wetness on it. The envelope was open on one side. I saw inside the envelope. There was a folded paper in it. I took that paper out of the envelope. The letter was also very old one and was also having the dried marks of wetness on it. I saw the letter, after unfolding it. There was no writing on the letter. Whatever was written on it had been washed away with water, perhaps many years ago. Only a few dried marks of spreaded ink were visible on the paper. I had reached very close to the unfolding of the mystery and that mystery had again remained unsolved.

I got fetched a cup of tea for Govind from my clerk. While drinking tea, he was looking at me in a manner as if he wanted to tell me something, but was finding it difficult to tell that to me. I also wanted to know about Kamal from him, but I was not gathering my nerves to ask so from him. Finally, after gathering some courage I asked from him about Kamal. On hearing my question about Kamal, a feeling of anguish appeared in his eyes and after taking a long breath he replied to me, “Sir, after you had gone from the brick kiln, she remained waiting for you, but you did not come back. Her desire to take food remained diminishing and she started becoming very weak day by day and ultimately became reduced to a skeleton. She would very often go down to the ruins of the fortress and would remain wandering there alone. She would often remain wandering on the half broken walls of the fortress. One day, her dead body was found from the deep ditch below the fortress. All thought, she had fallen in the ditch from the walls of the fortress.”

I was very much shocked to hear about the news of the death of Kamal. But, a more severe shock was further waiting for me.

After sometime Govind again spoke, “Sir, Kamal had remained wandering and running on those walls since her childhood. She could never fall down from those walls. Sir, you might be remembering when once you had fallen ill, she went to bring medicine for you. She was not attacked by any man-eater animal at that time. When she was coming back from Mehatpur after taking the medicine for you, she was followed by two persons from there. They raped her on the way. She disclosed about that incident only to me. That incident had caused a big wound on her heart. Then, you also left her and went away. It hit her heart very deeply. She could not bear those ruthlessnesses and cruelties of life and jumped from the wall of the fortress and ended her life.”

It was the biggest shock of my life, which I had received after hearing that about Kamal. When she had gone to bring medicine for me, then she was not attacked by any animal beast, she was attacked by human beasts. A bigger betrayal than that had been done by me to her. She had sacrificed her life for me. She had saved my life but herself had lost her life.

“Sir, my family might have reached the Ludhiana Railway Station by now. They must be waiting for me. We are to catch the train in the early morning. Okay sir, I take your leave.” After saying so, he got up and went out of the door of my office and went away.

I remained thinking about Kamal, even after Govind had left my office. I had already been carrying three burdens on my soul throughout my life. First burden was about that little girl Sumna, who was lost in the crowd of the world forever and I could not find her thereafter. The second burden was about my father, whom I could not meet again in his lifetime. The third burden was of Bholi, for whom I could not do anything, though I was fully capable to do something for her. Then, the fourth burden of the death of Kamal had also fallen upon my soul. I was responsible for her death. Then onwards, I would have to carry four burdens on my soul throughout my remaining life. I would have to live with a guilty conscience thereafter throughout my remaining life and I will have to carry four guilts on my soul forever, till I would live in this world.

“Advocate sir, it would be dark soon. Let us go now. Your daughter Poonam must be waiting for you.” My clerk was saying to me.

On hearing his words, I remembered that Poonam must be sitting on the floor in front of the main gate of my house and must be waiting for me and must be crying very bitterly. I got up from my chair and came out of my office and took my motor cycle off its stand. Suddenly, one thing came into my mind. Once Kamal had said to me, “Babu, if I would ever die, I would be reborn to you as your daughter.” Had Kamal taken rebirth in my house as my daughter, I wondered.

I kick started my motor cycle and started moving towards my house.

THE END

Illustrations

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p<>{color:#000;}. Indian Brick Kiln

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p<>{color:#000;}. A Typical Peacock Tribe Man

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p<>{color:#000;}. Painting of Peacock on the walls of huts of peacock tribe men

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p<>{color:#000;}. A Kid Picking up Plastic Bottles etc. From the Heap of Waste

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p<>{color:#000;}. A Roadside Indian Hotel (Dhaba)

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p<>{color:#000;}. Sector-17 Chandigarh Overbridge

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p<>{color:#000;}. Sahastradhara Falls near Dehradun

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p<>{color:#000;}. A Slum

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p<>{color:#000;}. An Indian Truck Union


The Dateless Diary of An Unknown Person

One of the most powerful, absorbing and greatest novels of all times. A law graduate, disowned and turned out by his father, while living in a Kafkaesque world of Franz Kafka, struggles against absurdity and worthlessness of life and comes across a dateless diary of an unknown person and comes to know about the quest of that unknown author of the diary for the peacock tribe people and their mysterious peacock tantra (rituals). After reading the dateless diary, he becomes obsessive with the thoughts to search for the peacock tribe people and to search for the unknown author of the dateless diary. A novel which illustrates the harsh realities of existence in the life. A novel based on implied use of the philosophy of the theory of existentialism and scatterism. The novel gives a glimpse into the fast deteriorating social and political system of the post independence era of India, also. A novel written at many levels.

  • ISBN: 9781310837166
  • Author: Gurdip Singh Saini
  • Published: 2016-06-08 14:20:14
  • Words: 67226
The Dateless Diary of An Unknown Person The Dateless Diary of An Unknown Person