A Mysterious Death In The Village

Rahul sat restless besides his mother. He could not understand why she would not allow him to go out and celebrate with his friends. He missed watching the final match on tv and did not see how the game was won. The whole country was gripped by cricket fever yet their village was silent as a tomb. Comparing it to a tomb he thought was appropriate since someone had died. Someone important. An old man who was look upon as a benign leader of the community. His death was gruesome and kind of strange. Leaving the villagers mystified and puzzled. But Rahul did not really know him and he found it hard to mourn for a man he have not even met. And that it happened in the most inconvenient time. The fireworks from other villages lighting the sky every now and then were an irritating reminder of what he was missing.

” The bull was there watching from outside the hospital when babaji was taken there. As if making sure he was dead.” One of the old ladies whispered through her ghunghat. The women sitting with her including his mother clucked their tongues in horror and amazement. ” And again the bull appeared in the crematorium when they were burning his body.” The women shuddered. “Eh bagwan!” (Oh my god). One of them muttered. Rahul stood up feeling impatient with the women’s superstitious tales. He wanted to know what was happening in the rest of the country. He could only imagine that everyone’s heart like him was filled with pride for his nation’s cricket team. It took after all a very very long time before they could take home the World Cup trophy again.

” I ‘m going to look for papa.” He told his mother who lifted her veil and gave him a warning look. Rahul did not look back and walked hurriedly towards the group of men in front of the house. He could not see his father there. But he saw more women in mourning suits spilling out from the large truck that had just arrived. Everyone from the village and the old man’s relatives from other cities have been coming since the morning. The compound was filled with people. Before going inside the house this group of women gathered in a corner in the front yard and formed a large circle and sat on the ground.They wailed and cried and chanted. While they were singing lament songs one woman was passing a jar of water and all of the women dropped coins in it. There was silence as they prayed. After a few minutes they stood up and joined the other women inside the house.

Rahul walked on towards the street, hoping one of his neighbor’s TV was on and he could catch the replay of the game. The houses were closed. Even the windows. All the residents were at the old man’s house. Walking further he saw two of his male cousins hiding behind an SUV smoking cigarettes.

” What are you two doing? I am going to tell Auntie.” He shouted and ran.

” Be quiet you brat or you will get a beating!”

Rahul ran as fast as he could towards his house, feeling exhilarated. He felt very bold now and thought of watching television at home even if he will get a sound beating afterwards. It would be worth it.

Rahul opened the door at the back of their house very very gently. The house was totally still. Confident that no one was in the house he climbed towards his father’s bedroom where the television was. He was taken a back when he heard whispering behind the half closed door. The TV was on but it was on mute. On it he could see people from all over the country in split screens pouring out on the streets either on foot or in their cars forming a spontaneous parade, holding flags and waving it proudly.

” Nobody really knew how the fight with babaji and the bull started. One day one of the neighbors saw him chasing the bull with a stick.” Rahul heard his father’s voice. He felt instantly afraid and was about to bolt down the stairs when he heard a woman’s muffled voice replying. But he could not make out what she said. He stood riveted to the spot.

His father continued. “So the next morning the bull came back to the house and charged at babaji. We got him in the hospital just in time. When he was well enough, he returned home and who came the next day walking past his house. Babaji was so enraged that he grabbed the pot of water he was heating and threw it on the poor animal. The bull ran away in mortal terror. We thought it was the last time we will be seeing of the bull. But when my brother went to babaji’s house early morning day after he was horrified to see bababji lying lifeless on the ground in front of his house. The bull was standing over him. His horns filled with blood. My brother was so shocked he could not do anything. The bull ran away when neighbors came.”

Rahul had not heard all the details of the old man’s death before. He was not really paying attention to what the women were saying since all he could think about was the World Cup championship. He also thought the old woman was just grossly exaggerating as what they do when they were gossiping. But hearing the story narrated by his father’s deep baritone voice he was filled terror. He shivered uncontrollably. He went down the stairs as quietly as possible. Several emotions were wretching his heart. Among them was an intense rage towards his father. For his hypocrisy of pretending to mourn for the old man but he was watching the game all that while. He remembered his mother pinching his ear when he tried to open the tv in the morning. He snorted. From now on he thought he would stop following her rules since his father clearly do not care to follow any. Then he thought he could not even understand what was happening in his father’s room and who was that woman in there. He can only sense that something was very wrong. Obscene thoughts crept inside his mind. And his blood boiled anew.

Rahul walked back on the streets towards the old man’s house gloomily. It was getting dark and he was terrified of meeting the vengeful bull on the way. He thought how this important day was ruined for him. How in the future when someone will mention this event or when studying history he would be reminded of the day he lost his respect for his father. It filled him with bitterness. A sudden realization of why the bull acted the way it did hit him. He found himself admiring the bull. The one who fought back. Forgiving indeed is a very difficult thing to do. He did not even know if he was capable of it.

©JMKhapra

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