A Blind Man's Misery
By Avantika Bhardwaj
One morning in front of the mirror, Raman was looking at himself with confidence. Adjusting his tie he said, “First impression is your last impression and today is your first day. Keep the JOSH high, Raman.”. “Oh! My son, you are looking just like your father. Grey colour really suits you.” his mother said while entering the room with a bowl of curd mixed with sugar. She fed him with a spoon of sweet curd and thanked god for his achievement. Before leaving for the office, Raman touched her feet. “May God bless you and protect you from the evil eye.” she prayed and wished him luck.
While he was walking towards the bus stop, he saw a blind man in his sixties or early seventies begging for money. He stopped for a while to observe whether he was blind or just acting because it had been a trick used by the false beggars. After being satisfied by his observation, he gave him a hundred rupees note and moved forward. He took just a few steps when he heard something from behind.
A small teenage boy in a t-shirt larger than his size and short pants with opened zip came to the blind man. He said,” Good morning, John uncle, Sahib told me to give it to you.” as he handed him a bag. The blind man took the bag and laughed at the boy saying “Zip off your pant, boy.” Raman heard John’s words and he was astounded. He turned back to him and asked,” What did you just say?” John was flabbergasted and he knew he was in trouble so he tried to run away but Raman had held his collar so tightly that he failed. “Why did you lie to me? I will take to you to the police.” Raman shouted in anger. The boy helped John to escape from Raman’s hold. “Suru save me! Suru save me!” John asked the boy. Suru pushed Raman away with all his energy that he could impose and said “Run away, John uncle, run away.” However, he managed to help John. When John got disappeared, both sat down on their knees breathing heavily.
Suddenly a loud horn of the bus reminded Raman of his interview. He stood up and cleaned his clothes with his hands. He told Suru that he would not spare both of them and got on the bus leaving Suru alone on the pavement.
One other day it was five in the evening when Raman was returning from shopping with her mother and he spotted John in the same clothes. He booked an auto for his mother and told her that he would be at home before dinner. After his mother had left, he followed John without being noticed by him. It took him around twenty minutes to reach a place that was very dark and dull. Nothing could be seen clearly. It was John’s house which seemed to be built at least seventy decades ago. Raman saw the doors were ajar and an old-fashioned lamp was kept lit with very low intensity. As Raman could see through the gap between the doors, It had one room and a kitchen without a door and the roof was almost about to fall off. There were some framed pictures hanging on the front wall.
An old lady’s voice broke the silence and brought Raman’s consciousness back to the moment. She was in her sixties and seemed very miserable. She was wearing a brown collar knit snapback dress and mumbling something in a shallow voice. Raman tried hard to overhear what she was saying but it was out of his earshot. He was thoroughly observing all the pictures one by one and he stopped at one particular picture in which a boy of seven or eight was dressed in a Charlie Chaplin costume. Raman felt that he had seen this young boy somewhere in his past. Raman was constantly thinking about this young boy then suddenly a dog started barking. John came towards the door and moved in the direction of the dog’s bark and he became aware of someone’s presence. He doubtfully shouted, “Who is there?” Raman confronted him. He came out and asked him, “Who are you and why did you lie to me?” raising his eyebrows in anger. John was scared and said, “Please, don’t call the police. I will return your money back.”
“Who is she?”
“She is my wife, Reeta. She is suffering from partial memory loss.”
“What? You are lying to me again. Aren’t you?”
“No sir. We don’t have anything else to lie about. I have lost everything I had. EVERYTHING.”
“John, who are you to talking to?” The old lady asked in her soft voice from inside. John turned towards her wife and told her that an electrician had come to repair the radio.
Raman asked john about the young boy in the picture. John told him that it was his younger son, Roshan, who died in an accident. When Raman heard the name Roshan, he remembered a boy from his school with the same name when he used to live in Jaipur. He thought that having the same name might be a coincidence. “And who is he?” Raman asked John pointing towards another picture in which a young handsome man was posing with his degree. John started sobbing.
“He is my elder son, Abish.”
“Where is he?”
“Very far from us. They killed him. What would have happened to him? Only god knows. Please leave us alone, sir. I will return your money back once I have it.”
Raman was aghast. He came home late so his mother asked him, “Where have you been, my son? I told you to come soon, no? Oh! You look upset. What happened? Is everything alright?” Raman assured her mother that he was fine. They both sat down for the dinner.
“Look, what I have made for you? Your favorite dal makhni, naan, and moong dal ka halwa.”
“Yes, mom. Thank you. I love you so much. You are the BEST mother in the world.”
“But you have not answered my question yet?”
Then he explained everything about the whole incident to her mother. When she heard about his son, she suggested he ask that boy, Suru. She guessed that Suru must have known something about John and his family. Raman agreed with her mother.
It was Sunday the next day, so Raman decided to meet Suru in the morning. Suru was working as a part-time helper in a garment shop nearby. He was studying in the eighth standard in a government school. Raman was waiting for Suru outside the garment shop which was not opened yet. After ten minutes Raman saw him coming on a bicycle. He had a bag on his shoulder in which he may have had his lunch and other stuff. Suru stopped and parked his bicycle on one side of the road and locked it. He checked the lock two times and started walking towards the shop. Suddenly he noticed that someone was already there. When he looked at Raman, he got shocked in fear and started saying,” Mene Kuch Nahi Kiya Saab, mene Kuch Nahi Kiya. Mujhe police station nahi Jana.”
“Calm down. I am not going to take you to the police only if you tell me about John whatever you know. Will you tell me or should I call the police?”
“No, sir. Please don’t call the police. I will tell you everything. Come with me.”
They went to the park near the shop so that they could talk and there he told him about John. He said,” John's uncle came to this city two years ago. He used to live in Jaipur before he came here to Pune. He was a retired professor. His elder son was working in America.”
“Why did he come to Pune?”
“His younger son, Roshan had joined NDA in the same year Abish had died. Instead of living alone they, John's uncle, and his wife decided to move in here.”
“What had happened to Roshan?”
“Last year in April, he was in his fourth term when he died. He collapsed short of the finishing point during a routine night navigation training exercise.”
“What about his elder brother?”
“He never talked anything about him.”
“How did you meet him?”
“My father was a drunkard, philanderer, and also an unemployed person. He left me and my mother three years ago to marry another woman. He used to beat us and did not want me to study. It was when my mother decided to leave our house in Ambegoan because she wanted to see me as a good successful person. John's uncle was our neighbor. We live in the street in Katraj.”
Raman thanked him for sharing all the details about John and also wished him luck for his future. But he was still left with some questions unanswered about John’s elder son, Abish.
What could have happened to Abish? What kind of work was he doing in America? And many other questions kept running through Raman’s mind. He desperately wanted to find answers so he made up his mind to meet John and ask him.
Raman went to John’s house but he was not present there. He introduced himself to Reeta by telling her that he is John’s friend. After waiting for about fifteen minutes, when John came he was surprised to see Raman at his home.
“Hey, John! Here you are! I wanted to talk to you about—”
“Yes sure please come with me.”
“When they both get out of the house John told Raman to give him some more time.”
“No you are taking me wrong I am not here for the money.”
“Please tell me about your elder sun Abish. What had happened to him? I asked Suru about you. And I am sorry for the loss of your son.”
“You must have heard about the 9/11 attacks on World Trade Centre in America. Abish used to work there. He was an insurance broker in a company which was a tenant company of North Tower on its ninety-ninth floor of the World Trade Centre. He couldn't survive it. He was only twenty-four when he joined in the year 2001. We never met him since he left India. We were planning to meet him and that is why we had applied for passports and visas. He was talking to her mother as usual in the morning at around 8:30 a.m. on that day he was in his cabin. He was explaining the view from his cabin. He said it was so high that I can watch an airplane very closely. It was only when I kept the phone on speaker, we heard him say wait it is indeed very very close. Mum, it is getting closer. Oh my god! Oh no! Mom, Dad... And the call was hung up. We were not even able to look at our son for the last time. I switched on the television and put on the news channel. When Rita had watched the visuals of the attack she fainted I took her to the hospital where doctors told her that she had gone into a coma due to emotional shock. I was running out of money. My friends had abundant me. No one would come to see us. It was getting worse and worse for us to live in Jaipur. So we decided to leave that city and come to Pune as we would be able to meet our son Roshan frequently. I worked as a teacher in a local primary school for some time but I had to leave that too to take care of my wife.” After hearing about that man Raman helped him to get a job in a hostel where he could live with his wife and lead a peaceful life.
By Avantika Bhardwaj