The Seven Shades

By Ravi Ranjan Goswami

Short stories

eBook

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346
2 mins

Aghast

He was a middle-aged man, talking with the Panwala. The Panwala, a betel leaf vendor, appeared to be acquainted with him. My attention was drawn to him for the secretive way he talked to the Panwala and the queer way he looked toward me while talking. There was a look of fear in his eyes. I was standing there at a bus stop. I was in Delhi in for a job interview. After appearing for the interview in an office nearby, I was waiting for a bus to go to the New Delhi railway station.
Perhaps it was not prudent to take an interest in a stranger in an unknown place but I could not help it. I continued to watch him.
Suddenly we made an eye contact. He came a bit closer to me and started talking.
He said, “Brother, I am too much afraid."
Before I could respond, he spoke further, “What will happen next?”
I was pretty surprised by that.
"What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of death?" I asked him in a joking manner.
“Better if I die," he said. "I think too much, but cannot find an answer. What will happen to my life?”
Having said that, he became pensive and remained silent for a while. Then suddenly he spoke again.
“Sir, can you help me?”
I became cautious and apprehensive that he wanted to exact some money from me. I doubted his intentions, but my curiosity about him increased. By his appearance, neither was he looking insane nor a crook.
“How can I help you?”I asked.
“Will you come with me to my house?”
I asked him, “Why do you want me to come to your house?"
“My soul is telling me that you can help me,” he replied.
I considered this: I had feelings of curiosity, apprehension, fear, and compassion. Finally, as has happened too often in my life, my curiosity won me over. I decided to follow him.
On the way to his residence, I talked to him and gathered some information about him. His name was Harendar. He was working as a clerk in a state government department. He had one daughter named Pummy and three sons: Bunty, Chhotu and Monu.
While walking along with him I was cogitating about the situation which I might be facing upon reaching his home. How was I going to be received there?
I did not have much time to think about it; his house was not really far. We reached it in about five minutes.
We found the doors open. For a moment, I hesitated to enter his house. He first went inside and asked me:
"Please come in."
I entered his drawing room. Three boys were sitting there watching the television, which was placed in a corner. They were close to about fifteen, ten and seven years of age. Upon seeing me, they said, “Namaste," with folded hands. I responded in the same way. The two younger boys went inside. The eldest went on watching TV.
Harendar persuaded me to sit in a chair away from the TV and dragged a chair to sit opposite me. I looked around. The room was small, but neat and comfortable. The walls were adorned with the calendars and photos of various gods, goddesses and hermits. There were two windows opening toward the road in front of the house. There were no curtains at the front door and windows. There was a door backside opening into the inner portion of the house. This door had a curtain. Above this door there hung a pendulum wall clock.
He was sitting quietly. His head down and looking at his palms.
Suddenly he jumped off his chair. Looking at the wall clock he asked his son “Has Pummy come?”
"No,"His son replied.
He looked very concerned and worried. He said, “She should have come by now."
He went to the door, looked outside and came back to the chair.
I was feeling awkward. I was unable to justify my being there in his house for whatever cause. There was no strong reason of my being there except that the long period of my unemployment had given me a sense of being in a state of permanent leisure. I had nothing urgent to do and nowhere to go. I was a free man. He produced suspense by his unusual demeanor and talk, and I accompanied him there to know the reality behind his personality.
Out of the blue he said, “What do you think? Can the government catch the terrorists?”
Before I could say anything, he continued speaking:” Nothing can be done sir. They come like apparitions, put bombs anywhere and escape. They appear from nowhere, shower bullets and disappear. I have witnessed with my own eyes the charred dead bodies of two young children following a bomb explosion at a nearby bus stop.”He paused,...



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