It was not more than a month since Sheel had taken up tenement here in Okhla Vihar. Every thing seemed so fresh and new- The dhabas, the tea shop, the grocers, the provision stores, the neighbors, the streets and above all his room as fresh and pleasant as the world is to a child – a little world just born. All the business men here were businesslike- no unusual, abnormal, despicable biased behaviors, h e soon began to make friends in the tea shops with other regular customers whose time of visit coincided with that of his own.- 9-10 in the evening. his circle of acquaintances began to to grow as never before. When ever the land lady or any of their family members would chance upon him they would issue “Alslamoalsikum” . Sheel was always beaten at it. Sheel was happy that he had the chance to have his share of peace at last. ” You mind your business and I mind mine.”Was a sort of person was he – the introvert, individualist lover of solitude and books. The subjects and topics that interested him was endlessly varied and long. No sooner he was finished with one another was ready to take its place with renewed freshness and pleasantness of a new born and to pin him down with occupation though he may have been returning to the book after a month, a year or a decade.His own subject – LAW running parallel to the the interchangeable.
Creature Peace has always been to him as precious and scarce as a decent and steady income – the peace that results from being left alone, the absence of man made deliberate biased and sadist disturbances and unwarranted pains, the freedom from unprovoked dishonor and sense of immediate insecurity:immediate. threat to his dear life and limb and property.
He knew only four persons living in the population of 20 lakhs in Jamianagar who hailed from his native place. But he could never count on them for reassurance and sort of emotional support and solace because they were living their lives as fearfully as a rabbit or as cowardly fugitives among the fellow faithfuls. Jamshed the wiser one was leaving the city bag and baggage along with his family, demoralized, depressed and dejected in spite of all the opportunities Delhi The crown and capital of India holds for everybody even the illegal aliens.
“How things are going in your new place?”
asked Peter his only acquaintance in common room , his only colleague in profession in whose company he found a semblance of solace and re-assurance and in whom he saw his fulfillment of his final hope that is escape. At least he would help him in conversion and help him escape from the bog of relentless uncertainty of existence and life of fear when climax to all this that has been going on became imminent. “Fine. its different” “After a long time I finally have got respite.” Sheel said.
He never knew that the Bihari fear was soon going to return after a lapse of three year and join the newer ones that had been haunting him since these years and haunting was to begin from expected an unexpected quarters.
The first shadow of cloud arrived with the prelude of predictable events in the form of some nagging thoughts he found himself unable to shake off.
Dany had found him this room and took a vow from him that he would not contradict to what he had said to the land-lord and his new neighbors.
Dany hails from the District Badiyun U.P and had told the land-lord who hailed from the neighboring district of Farukhabad in the State of Uttar Pradesh and the neighbors that Sheel was his paternal uncle and he works in office and he hails from Badiyun.
“What if land-lord and neighbors discovered the truth and the lie. All the signs of normalcy was in fact a sham. It stood on the quick sand of lie in one place and ignorance in others.
The city was being spruced up for 19th Common Wealth Games. Security measures were being tightened by the day. Tenant verification was on full swing. That was the end of it all. The police officials from Jamianagar Police Station had warned the land-lords in the morning. to get tenants verified else they would have to face penal action.
Sheel sat listlessly staring into the form on his bed. “Arey bhaiya bharo isey jaldi”: “fill it quickly. What are you looking at” her voice getting harsher and shriller”” And also attach proof of residence of your home town and one photo.”
Sheel found his logic and decided to become thick skin;”It was all to a good purpose- for security- a lie meant to plug mischief is better than the truth otherwise” ” What crime I have done to be afraid like that?” Let me put me into dock at least I will have my chance to say to the world about their malevolence.” All the pepped up courage soon gave way to damn depressing reminiscences of days that continued till a month back – the ghoulish nightmares – that has rubbished all his ideas about life, people, about himself – his defeat after defeat- utter helplessness and haplessness on the face of complication of problems – one giving birth to another unexpected ones from un-expected quarters.
His breath became heavy, his head begun to ache with tension: Character assassination, tripping, beatings, slapping, grave provocations with reference to mothers and sisters,uprooting after uprooting, public dishonor, being made curios, whisper campaigns, of betrayal if specious sympathizers in the critical moments, Economic blockade, barring of access to toilets – crass faces and cold faces overlapping raced in his head switching on the painful emotions associated with it in one go.
His breath grew deeper . He lost control of the pandemoneum going on in his head – hollowness in the stomach- heaviness in chest began to grow .” Arey likha nahi jaraha hai”: ” Are’nt you able to write.” The shrill voice of land-lady raised to a crescendo.
He felt a queer coldness in his hands and feet and heat on his face. beads of perspiration reflecting the sepia color of setting sun appeared on his forehead.
His hands began to move: “Name- Father name – brothers name – sisters name I card details………”
After filling up the form he returned to correct spelling mistakes – ” smudge- illegible” he drew arrows and then blocked them all and re-wrote them all.
“Had ho gayee ” : “Enough of it” The land-lady shouted A couple of male voice- her brother and his husband emanated from below” ” what happened?” writing for so long do not know how to write call himself educated -a lawyer”.
” You know how to make a man untouchable?” once Irshad had confided in him in a lighter and un-guarded moment. He had told him” you just make your man a curios. Start a whispering campaign against your man. You just malign him as a patient of T.B or AIDS or a thief and pick pocket.” True when truth has just pulled up it socks,. Lie has made a round of the world. Our late ex-vice president of India mr. Shankar Dayal Sharma had called Delhi has city of rumors reacting to rumor of his demise. Former Defense Minister Mr George Fernandez had said nothing travels faster in India than rumor.
“Says one, says two, says all” goes the proverb. The Bihari Muslim Guys of the locality were being coordinated by their dirty association. The Bihari Guys heel knew and Bihari guys who were complete stranger to him would tail him up to the bus stop from where Sheel boarded his bus for the court and say to commuters in hush tones identifying Sheel that he was a pick-pocket. They would take position in crowded places and do the same thing.
The other day the chemists near Escort Hospital when he went there to buy some tablets, mis-behaved and roughed him up for no apparent reason it was indeed the fall-out of rumors- lies were taking their toll – Sheel was suffering from high fever at the time. When Sheel protested The shopkeeper pushed him hard. Sheel tripped and fell on the side walk in front of the shop receiving bruises in his hands and knees. His trousers also got torn at knees.
Identical events and of course more loaded with malevolence and fine tuned and by identical characters were being rehashed- the subtle and the furtive and the crass and brazen, demeaning malevolence driven buy blind uncontrollable herd instinct and inexplicable single minded persistence and devotion.
Things take virulent forms if there is somebody to drive and sustian them for some time then it takes hard for it to die.
It was couple of hours Sheel lay brooding when he was jolted out by constant ringing of his mobile phone.
The other day Sheel was descending the stairs of Kehkashan mosque when a group of Bihari youngsters called our “sandal thief.’ On another occaison in the same mosque when Sheel was in his final posture a mobile came sliding and came to rest before him. Some youngsters at the end of the same row towards north began to raise a hue and cry “mobile mobile”. Sheel hurried out of the mosque. After some gap When Sheel went to another, near by mosque at Johri Farm, for Friday prayer, the faithfuls over there started giving Sheel hard and suspicious looks. Sheel returned without offering prayers. Sheel altogether became vowed never to visit any mosque again.
Sheel one day narrated his story and of other victims he knew about to one of the certified maulana based in Nizamuddin Delhi;”You and people like you are under divine retribution, supplicate and weep and ask pardon from your lord. And if you keep on narrating these talks you would be consigned to hell by Allah and those who listen to your tales would also incur Allah”wrath”
Year 2010 Sheel lay groaning, his ankle stuck between two iron shafts of the rickshaw and the overturned rickshaw lay over him in front of Kehkashan mosque. Rescued his ankle was swollen badly. It appeared that his socks had been stuffed with cotton wool and the socks ready to burst. The crowd wont let him note down the number of the car which got stuck in a jam for a while ahead. The note book in which Sheel had some how managed to note down the number mysteriously disappeared from his room. Sheel was almost on the verge of starvation then one day he forced himself to venture out to earn his bread. On every step he felt as if his ankle was being amputated. The worst came when he had to commute in buses.
Sheel was still recuperating and injuries were still sore and painful. Sheel was returning from work. it was 9pm in the night. As soon as Sheel passed the Shia mosque situated at a rather desolate stretch a stranger in dirty over sized shirt and lungi and gamcha in all respect a laborer accosted and grappled with him, grabbing him by his collar made a bid to pull down Sheel in the logged sewage in full view of people nestling there. No body came to his rescue. The ruffian won’t let Sheel go. It was aimed more to humiliate and dishonor rather than to hurt. Some passer byes intervened and rescued Sheel from the clutches of the ruffian.
The next door Bihari neighbors one of them a driver and the rest worked in neighborhood shops as helpers started raising the bogey of theft and started maligning Sheel as culprit. His honor and reputation was in smithereens and was met with suspicious looks where ever he went in the neighborhood.
Refrain from the few so called sensible people has been the same. “If you are such a good person why are you living among bad people? Why don’t you go elsewhere? After all you don’t belong to this place.”
The world has become too small. There is no place to hide in this big city for him. You will be automatically discovered in a month or two. All that is required to ignite is a word among your contacts, of your herd. Conflagration would take care of itself. Rumors have its own dynamics. No need to trace the root to it.: repeat it, bandy it oft times and for the rest it becomes the gospel of truth , for one had heard it from many seen and un-seen mouths, Why take pains? Why take chances in any case.
Another year has crawled by, with his mind and being sucked, laid waste, tempo of life and all that are necessary to sustain the steep climb in this break neck competitive profession.
Like those drops of water which punctures the toughest rock.
Sheel is crossing 50. In the court also Sheel had been terrorize and perpetually harassed, economically sabotaged, and pursued endlessly by their brothers in arms united in their pursuit by herd instinct, meanness, small thinking, common cause, so much that his movement is severally constricted and restrained. He has no chamber, no seat, and no foot hold. He has only small overly stuffed locker. It is impossible for him to be in any place for any length of time for fear that one or some of them might try to pick quarrel with him. As soon as one of them would chance upon Sheel, spurs would start jingling at their feet.
He passes his day amidst perpetual fear of public dishonor under false pretexts, weird accusation and their scurrilous words and acts. His worst fears are , 6o year old Mehdi hasan , the Supreme Court lawyer, the compulsive obsessive liar, loquacious, given to creating scenes, throwing tantrums, the youngest bald headed hurly burly, un- scrupulous, a wrestler of a man, the bearded mullah Zahid another hurly burly dark ,tall stout dirty skinned vagrant Zahid hailing from Siwan Bihar to name a few.
Un-avoidable. He had shifted to Tis hazari Courts and managed to buy a seat of his own 8 years back but had to abandon it. Then he shifted to Dwarka the farthest court, after three months or so things started up again there and then he came back to Pataila house courts, his almamater from where he had started his practice, passed his youth and started graying and still rotting there.
His breath was shallow, his head empty, a waiting impatiently, confused and ruffled for call backs from few of his acquaintances. He had mad frantic call to find him a sasta ie cheap room. It is week now. His next door Bihari Tenants 5 of them in tandem with those spread far and wide outside have became more menacing and brazen in their provocations. Their words, which a kind of self respecting man like him can’t divulge to anybody however close.
This was the forth time he retraced his eyes back to the beginning, the Supreme Court Judgment, the photo copy of which he brought day before yesterday.
Sixth time he threw away the judgment in disgust and agonized by his listless mind. His heart began to beat faster with a train of footsteps which passed by his room. His eyes scoured the extra large pane-less window that opened on the balcony overseeing the lane, which was separated by a thin white bed sheet used as curtain, the cracks and gaps and holes in the doors, large concrete lattices, the same vulnerability on the opposite side. Sheel had to remove a sizable portion of plastic sheet with which he had covered the window to block away the sounds and shadows of his tormentors. H e had to remove it at the instruction of land lords and land ladies of the house and when they started making an issue out of inventing all sorts or weird ignoble reasons for which sheel was trying to make himself furtive.
” Why the situation should be different in new place whatsoever. The world has become so small and so do the cohesion and networking of evil ones have become intense. “Sheel brooded