Friday, February 19, 2010

The Death of Raman

Go sometime to the southern parts of Chhattisgarh to spend a month in the tribal villages and memories of ancient existence. It’s a place kept from rest of the world with its heritage, its culture and its way of living, intact. Not intruded with technology, not intruded with education, and not revolutionised by the hype of Shining India, deep in the jungles of Bastar you will get to hear stories that sound mysterious and sometimes terrifying. Some traditions and rituals of this world are still dark and incomprehensible. This story is about a police officer who was well educated, rational and denied the existence of witch doctor of Fountainhead but his fate told him otherwise.

It was the night of winters and colonies in Kanker did not have any street lights. Far as you can see, it was all dark and grim with noise resembling the hollowness and disturbing sound of wild forest after it had rained at night. Raman was returning to his government quarter. Dealing with naxalite problems, kidnapping, mass uprising and political conflicts...it was just another day for him to retire and forget about all the worries and hope that tomorrow will be somewhat better. Thinking of all sorts of things he walked past a farmland where a he saw something burning in the middle of trees and a women sitting by the fire. Often he had heard the incidents of black magic in the area but he didn’t believe in it. He looked to towards it again but then moved on.

He reached his quarter, of which the ceiling was very high and even a little sound would echo like in a giant empty hall. Even today in Chhattisgarh you can find houses with big windows, high roof and fans having a wingspan of a mini-helicopter, hanging from the girders. Raman went to his bed room to change and prepare for dinner. From the window he saw the flames flickering in the distance illuminating the face of the women surrounded by the trees like a hovel. Something intrigued him but ignoring the unknown was the best thing to do at a place like this.
Kamla Bai, the maid, knocked on the door at 9 pm to prepare the dinner and brought fresh vegetables and fruits. Raman was unmarried and so he had hired the maid to do all the groceries, laundry, cooking etc. She would come twice a day to work and often talk about the local problems, incidents and mindset of people in the area. It helped Raman to understand the place and carry out his operations accordingly when tackling a problem. At 10 pm Kamla Bai left and Raman was left alone with a black and white television broadcasting DD Madhya Pradesh. Back then Chhattisgarh was a part of the parent state. After spending an hour on the tv serials Raman switched off the lights left to bed but as he reached there the view from the window baffled him! He saw the flames rising high up in the air and the women moving around the fire doing something with the colors in her hand.

Superstitions are widespread in Chhattisgarh and sometimes the customs are so eccentric, it would be hard to believe that its 21st century. Raman had seen such things happen around since he came here two years back but didn’t interfere. Today he felt strange and angry about the ignorance of the people. He decided to teach this women a lesson. He took his lathi and torch and walked up to the place. The women with long open hair was sitting by the flames refraining in some language and concentrating on the fire and then on the sky. Raman kept watching for a few minutes, the women had noticed his presence but did not react. This made him even more angry and started to yell on her, came to her and threw away all the wood, colors and clothes she had kept and was burning. But she did not react. In rage Raman pushed her away and extinguished the fire and suddenly it turned all dark. Raman switched the torch on and saw the women staring on him. In a loud, wild sound she asked him to leave her then and there.
On listening to her, Raman sensed the place had something grave and now he felt a little scared when he saw the look on the woman’s face and realized he was all alone. But he didn’t show his fear, and warned the women to never come again and returned.

For hours into the mid-night he couldn’t sleep. He was afraid that something might happen tonight. He was surrounded in the land full of haunting stories of black magic. What if they are all true? The night turned a nightmare for him. He thought he should not have gone there or at least should have called his neighbours with him. They have been living here for quite a while and would have stopped him. Frightened and panicked in his big quarter, alone, he kept thinking on and on...
It was 3 am. Raman was asleep but moving restlessly on his bed. Probably a dream. He started feeling his lungs suffocated. The chest was not expanding to let them take in any air. It felt like one has been locked in a small box with no windows. He started sweating, gasping and puffing for breaths. Suddenly he felt like a monolithic rock has been put up on his chest. As he opened his eyes he screamed in shock! The old women was sitting on him looking into his eyes. His body was stiff like a sculpture and not a thing would move. He kept screeching and screaming but no one would listen. Abruptly the women stood up and ran out of the door.
Afraid, Raman ran to the next door neighbour Ashish but couldn’t speak. He was still trying to breathe. Soon, the whole colony gathered listening to the screams at night. Raman was running after one person to another but no one could help him. They tried to pump his chest, they tried to breathe him through mouth but nothing would work and helpless Raman would look into the blank eyes begging for help. For ten minutes he continued to suffer in pain and smothering and suddenly he stood still and if hanging from strings. In seconds he suffered a massive heart attack and died on spot!

Nobody knows what actually had happened on the last night of Ramans life. But people had seen him go to the women and the women escaping from his room. For years such incidents had happened, people had seen their neighbours die like Raman. For them it was not new but still, the last night of every life that was taken in front of their eyes kept revealing the darkest secrets of the place. The black still exists wide and deep in the thoughts it makes one shiver.


P.S. I have lived in Chhattisgarh for 6 years and experiences there form my childhood memories.


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