22 February, 2008

Angels of God

“Rajaram, we couldn’t save your son. He had 80 percent burns. He couldn’t survive.” The father of the dead child stood still, looking at the charred body of his only son. His eyes were hardened. He couldn’t believe that his child was no more.

Rajaram owned a small time printing press. It was good enough to make ends meet. He used to print visiting cards, invitations, pamphlets and wedding cards. He owned a big room in a chawl. One corner had his old fashioned, manual printing machine and equipments and other corner had a bed and a few kitchen articles. There was one almirah of rotten iron, which was occupying a little space in that room. The walls and the ceiling were full of soot and ink. But still, his life was complacent even if he had business or not. He knew that when he will be in dire need, God would send his angel to help him out of his trouble. God’s angel was no other than his customer who brought business to him. It had happened many a times.

Razia bibi was Rajaram’s second wife. People of his community had debarred him as he had married an outcast. She was not beautiful but a woman with a lot of compassion. She had accepted Rajaram’s children from his previous marriage without any hassle and considered them of her own. She helped her husband with his business. With her hard work and care, she had carved a special place in the hearts of her family members. Rajaram’s son and daughter were very fond of her. They used to call her ‘Razia ma’. All of them were very close to each other. Laxman’s death had made her very quiet. She used to call Laxman her own son. Laxman used to work in a matchbox factory in the suburbs of Mumbai. He was 13 but very active. He never did well in school so decided to take up a job very early in life. He wanted to help his family. But as government’s rule of not employing anyone below 15 posed a hindrance in his pursuit, he asked his father to make a fraud birth certificate stating that he is already 15. Rajaram could go to any extent to help his son. Moreover, he used to help many of his clients in these ways. He had forged birth certificates, mark-sheets, tax papers and many other things. It also got him some booty. The angels of God would come now and then and take his help in such things, and help him out with some money.

Rajaram’s daughter was too young to realize the hard facts of life. She was a good student and kept herself busy with her studies. Gauri said, “Baba, I want to become a doctor when I grow up”. Rajaram felt proud at his daughter’s ambition. Razia bibi told that she is bright and can do well in her life. Rajaram wanted to give the best to his family, but his meagre income was insufficient to fulfill their dreams. He thought, if God could send a few more angels then he could save something for his daughter and their future.

The fateful day, Laxman stepped out of his house and announced that he will get his salary soon. Rajaram was thrilled to hear that his young son would get his first salary. He felt elated to have his son as an earning member of the family. Laxman left for work. Razia bibi said that she will be back shortly after leaving Gauri to school. Rajaram resumed with his work. He had to meet his deadline of printing 350 wedding cards for Pundit Bhujang Prasad’s son. He was the only man from his community who used to treat him well and give him business. He became engrossed with his work. After a while, he realized that three hours had passed by since his wife and children had left. He thought, “Where is Razia bibi? Why hasn’t she come back? Did she go to see her mother? But she could have told me? “ All negative thoughts filled his mind. He felt deeply concerned about her. He came out and saw that there was a lot of hustle and bustle around his chawl. People were talking about bomb explosions that took place a couple of hours ago. He became anxious. “Not again”, he thought to himself. Mumbai had been targeted in the past for bomb explosions. He knew that in a matter of few days everything will settle down and people will resume back to normal self. But why is the city of dreams always targeted for shattering and exploding? He knew that he had to find out about his family soon rather than keep on waiting and thinking. Just as he was about to step out of his house to search for his family members, he saw Pundit Bhujang Prasad coming along with Razia bibi and Gauri. He felt a sudden rush of emotions, which he couldn’t express. Gauri said, “Baba, I heard a big bang at the station, boom boom. People started running helter-skelter. I heard them scream and cry. Pundit uncle saw us and asked us to hide. Razia ma pulled my hand and took me to her friend’s place. We ran from there and Pundit uncle helped us to get to Rukhsana aunty’s place. We sat there for long. She said not to go to school today. What happened? I do not like to sit at home. I want to go to school.”

Razia bibi was shivering with fear. She looked at her husband and said,” We narrowly escaped.” Rajaram embraced them hard as if he had got back his priceless possession. “ I am happy to see you both”, he said and thought that God had sent an angel to help his family. He thanked Pundit Bhujang Prasad and said that he will finish of his work as soon as possible. Suddenly he remembered that Laxman went to the station around same time to catch local train, which helped him to commute to his place of work. He became restless again. He wanted to trace his son. He ran out to the nearby phone booth to make a call to his son’s factory. He tried the number like a mad man but couldn’t get through. After a while he came back disheartened. The phone lines were jammed because of this event. He couldn’t do much but to wait for any news about his son. He wanted to go out to search his son but Razia bibi stopped him and said that it wasn’t safe to go out, moreover any news about Laxman would be sent to his home. Rajaram waited with a baited breath only to hear after few hours that his son is struggling for his life in the government hospital.

After Laxman’s death, a few months passed by before the culprits of the Mumbai train blast were caught. Rajaram saw their picture in the newspaper and was shocked. They were the same angels of God who had come to forge passport documents a couple of months back. Rajaram could do nothing but to curse himself.

Parimita Chakravorty

No comments: