ByÂ Smriti Mahale:
The markets of Jaipur have their very own charm during the festival of lights. Every shop adorned with the festive paraphernalia looks like a piece of Eden. On one such morning of festivity I am looking at the happy faces of families shopping for the occasion. Young couples secretly exchange glances while buying lamps to light up their new world. Children pull their fathers in and out of a dozen shops in confusion about which crackers to buy. Women clad in red and green bargain with the vendors for a string of fresh jasmines. The milieu is filled with the aroma of delicious sweets and red roses. It’s a moment of sheer joy and pleasure for every person on the busy streets. A smile on every face, a known anticipation to get back home to a waiting family, a hustle that is very much enjoyed.
I stand at a tea shop looking at this panorama of bonding. I am a chemical engineer by profession and a brilliant one too. The ‘sweets’ that will be savored by the people in a few minutes from now are a proof for the same. My company pays me seventy grand a month for my genius. But that is not enough for an ordinary man like me who has risen from the clutches of poverty. My other ‘company’ takes care of my greed and need.
As a child, I sacrificed simple joys of life to save a paisa for my family. The festival was just another day for me. While other children of my locality feasted to sweets, they simply reminded of the bitterness of the financial crisis my family was a prey to. The noise of the crackers seemed to echo the rich state of a family supported by a father who earned a meager income for a living. My family would not be a subject to the same.
I look like an ordinary man to this ordinary crowd. They are unaware of my religion or the mask I wear. I simply walk past them, enter a shop selling apparel. I fiddle with a few kurtas and chunris, I fake an argument with the shop keeper and finally settle for a priceless piece of ethnic wear. The Maarwaari seems pleased with the fat bundle of crisp notes I pay. Maybe he is dreaming of a much more grand evening than he had planned. In the happiness he fails to notice that I silently place the bag containing the ‘sweet’ fruits of my labour. I quickly walk away to another market of the city to do my real shopping for the festival.
I hear a blast. People around me are happier now they think the first signs of the festival have seemed to appear. There is smoke, there is chaos, there is blood, there is a home I walk back to..
I see blood all over my daughter’s face. A black car hit her and sped away while she was enjoying the festival. My wife and I immediately rushed her to the hospital. From two nights my wife has been bowing her head before every divine structure and asking Him what wrong have we done for this fate. She does not know. The blue sky is sprawled with red stars from a rocket. I see only blood. Blood I have shed. Tears that have been my gift. Sorrow that I had brew.
I feel the pain of the father who lost his child, the poignancy of the fate of a wife whose flame of happiness was extinguished by me, the curse of a mother for her shattered home, the shout of a son for his departed parents.
Dear Lord, I am a new person now. I won’t surrender to the police. They will keep me a prisoner, rather like an item of cheap advertising. There is no forgiveness for what I have done, I can never unwind that. I shall make the remaining of my life fruitful in service to many. I shall find every opportunity to help, to serve, to surrender, to ease pain, to do what I should have done. I shall kneel before every Allah, every Christ, every Shiva to bless the world. I shall make money for the strangers who are your creations. I shall do some good, I shall not unmask my selves for the greater good. My daughter is your amenity now. I surrender only to you.
– No longer a terrorist
Karan Asmal Singh Anthony Baweja
(The article is a fictional piece of work)