15

    The sleepy little town of Baikunthpur was opening its eyes to the first ray of sunlight. The tea stall vendor at the state roadways bus station woke up to begin his business of the long stretched day ahead of him. He set up the water filled kettle on an earthen stove and started showing fire to   light up the dry woods underneath. “The fog  that appears during the winters has started setting in”, he thought, “ the woods are little wet on the outside, a few drops of kerosene oil will overtake the moisture and the glow of fire will soon engulf mettle kettle from all sides bringing the water to boiling temperature ”.

The staff for first state roadways bus to leave out of the bus station should be here any minute, along with the commuters traveling to the capital town. Generally college students, employees of the state government offices, and a few traders who had some shopping to do in the capital town board the first bus in the morning. The same bus will return late evening from there carrying most of its commuters back, unless of course it carried guests for someone in the town or any one decided to stay back. He could hear self-starter of the bus making a big racket; it seemed the driver would call him out to push the bus from behind for the initial start up. After a few rattling noises it picked up the fuel spark and the engine started roaring. The bus driver Dhanna called him “Chhotte (my little brother) prepare a strong cup of tea with two hundred grams of milk. It should give a speed of seventy kilo meters per hour”, which meant he wanted lots of tea leaves, little water and two hundred grams of milk boiled to the extent that the color of the milk will be fully tanned to blackish red, “And do not forget to add sugar to the tea you  will be serving me .  I need lots of it. Do not be miserly”. Dhanna called out “Yes I know your taste buds are fond of too much of sweet. You do not have to remind me every morning about it though”. He woke up one of the servants from behind the shop and ordered him to carry the pot full of tea to serve it to Dhanna in the bus.

A stranger came to shop with his face wearing half a veil of a blanket and ordered the tea stall owner to give him a cup of tea. The tea stall owner looked at him strangely; it was not cold enough yet to cover face like this.” May be he was still sleepy or may be he suffers from the cold and fever. What do I have to do”, thought the tea stall owner.

He saw another young man coming to his stall, soon after. The stranger ordered him to make one more cup. “You are new here “, he wanted to ask them but the rush of a few more passengers made him busy tending to their orders. “ It seems our town is growing big. We see new faces here every now and then’, he remarked to one of the old regular customers.

The bus conductor was yelling from the rear door of the bus” Capital Town! This bus leaves for Capital Town!” The bus was overflowing with passengers in no time. The driver looked back and asked the conductor if he could send the bus rolling. The conductor blew a long whistle indicating the driver to move. The bus starting stirring, just then the two strangers got up and ran towards the bus; one boarded it from the rear the other had jumped in into the front gate.

The one who was in the front sat on a seat near the driver. The other one occupied a seat next to the rear gate.” Some seats are still vacant.  You can check if we pick up passengers from near the railway crossing and we will go non stop thereafter” the conductor had shouted at the driver,” We will not stop anywhere halfway. If there is anyone going short of capital town please get off as the bus will not stop middle way”, he called out to the passengers. “Let us move”, he indicated to the driver.

Two passengers came into the bus from the railway crossing and moved into the center of the bus. They surveyed the vacant seats and one of them selected the seat near to the front exit. He requested the old lady to move to the central portion of the bus., “Old mother can you shift to the vacant seat in the middle I am not feeling well”. The old lady smirked a little, but realizing the young man may actually be sick gave up her seat. After all he had wrapped a blanket even when there was a moderate cold. The bus began its journey towards its destination.

The driver took the right turn from the next crossing, a passenger requested him “Dhanna dear friend can we hear some devotional music.  I am sure people will enjoy it’. The person sitting next to the driver asked him,” Could you increase the volume of the music system? These devotional songs are too appealing. I am a great fan of this singer”. Dhanna the bus driver looked back and smiled “It is good to follow the scriptures, but at your young age people hardly ever listen to these songs. They are keener to listen to film songs though”. The music system was blaring, “We are born to one father, we are the people of one God, and we are the sons of one father. Each has been blessed with one light; no one is good or bad”. The driver was singing along with the singer somewhat at the top of his voice. He did not hear the loud horn being blown by the truck driver who wanted him to get on to one side of the road so that his truck could move ahead after overtaking the bus. The truck driver kept pressing the horn till the young man tapped at the bus driver’s shoulders” Let him pass; he seems to be in a hurry”. “These half trained truck drivers are always in a hurry. The fellow who issued the license for driving to truck drivers must not have known the art of driving a vehicle himself”. The truck over took the bus from very close quarters.

The bus driver looked outside the window of his bus   and called names to the man driving the truck” Can you not see? You mother…”

The young man who had been sitting near the front exit made sure the door was locked fully. He double-checked the latch on the door. He got up from the seat and stretched his body to the full.

Watching this man near the rear gate sitting on the stairs; the bus conductor also got up from his seat and sat on the stairs next to him. “Brother you can sit comfortably, there is enough space here”, said the conductor, pointing towards the seat vacated by him.

“Thank you I have not had my morning work out. I prefer standing here for a while”. He too checked the bolt at the rear door and firmly bolted it when he noticed it was unlock.

The driver in the front was lost yelling in his not so sonorous voice singing the devotional song when he felt some thing hard and cold mettle on his neck.

The young man sitting next to him told him in a very vicious tone, “You will take a right turn from here. The bus will not go to the capital town”. The driver Dhanna “Yes but this road goes to the deep forest. Why should I take to this direction? We will get lost on the way”?

“Do as you are told otherwise I will kill you”? Dhanna felt the cold steel pressing into his neck and took the sharp turn to the right immediately, screeching tires on the left virtually got lifted from the ground. Some people who were dozing off in the early morning warmth swore names to the driver.

An old man who looked like a retired military officer shouted at the driver “What is this way of driving? You want to kill all of us”.

“No   not him but we want to kill some of you”, the man sitting in the middle of the bus stood up. He removed the blanket and brandished another gun, “No one will get up; this bus is under our control. We are the harbingers of freedom to you all; if any one dare look up I will shoot. Killing is my job”. He hit the man who was sitting in seat ahead of him in the head “You mother… close that windowpane”. Blood started oozing from the man’s head; he without losing a split second shut the windowpane.

The old lady sitting next to him started shouting “Oh God! Oh God! “Shut up you old fart”, the man from the front door called out. He too removed his blanket and pointed the gun at the old lady.  “Listen you jerk,” the Youngman in the middle had come to the aisle, “We are the messengers of God. We are the saviors of the nation. We will not harm any one who is the follower of our belief; but we will also not spare the perpetrators of atrocities on us. This government of atheists belongs to the nonbelievers. They must be driven out of our land; the land that belongs to us. The nonbelievers have exploited this land for ages. They have played havoc with our religion and social beliefs. They have desecrated our places of worship. They kill our brethrens all over the country. They have no right to live and must be done away with immediately”.

No one spoke to him; no one even dared to look at him. The bus had by now reached somewhere in the middle of the thick forest. He ordered the driver to turn the bus on a narrow muddy road going into the forest track. Dhanna the bus driver who belonged to the same community as the four men were pleaded, “For God sake I implore you.  Please do not kill the innocents. They are also our brothers. Why do you want to invite the wrath of all the gods on you? Please let us go back to the main road.” He applied the brakes all of a sudden. The gun slipped out of the hands of the young man and fell on the floor. He quickly picked it up. The driver’s behavior infuriated him and he banged the gun against his head again and again; calling him names “You son of a bitch, you also go with them”. Dhanna tried to ward off the heavy blows initially but the young man’s hands were too quick. Dhanna’s official felt cap that he had been wearing fell on the floor of the bus. He pushed open the side door and jumped on the ground outside the bus below. He ran towards the direction from which the bus had come. “Please save us, will someone save us” he simultaneously shouted. The bullets hit him from behind. He jumped up a few feet and fell on the ground with face turned towards the bus. The young man with gun in his hand was staring out of the window.

“All of you get off the bus one by one and put your two hands on your heads. I am sure no one will dare do any thing, other wise he meets the same fate as the bus driver has met”, the youngster in the rear  of the automobile opened the door and ordered every one to come out of the bus. They were all told to form a queue each for men and women separately. “The people I point out will step aside”, he ordered. A few ladies started wailing loudly. The children too joined them in crying hoarse.

A total of five boarders pointed out by the young man were asked to step aside from the main group. A lad of around twelve years also moved aside with them. “Hey you! You cannot come with them. You are too young to decide what is happening in the society and we do not kill any one for no reason. You will fall back into the group of the other passengers who are being left behind” the leader of the four men told the boy and others to board the bus back.

He virtually herded the five separated, towards the jungle. Other people who watched mutely from inside the bus were too stunned to utter a word. The old lady was praying loud “Oh God! Please be merciful! Please be merciful!” The man who had been left behind to keep an eye on them assured her, “Do not worry you old woman nothing will happen to you. You will die your natural death”.

The gunshots reverberated through the silence of the forest loud and clear. One could distinguish two different guns blaring. The sudden silence brought in the first rays of the jungle morning. The sun gradually rising from behind the tall trees gave a red hue to the atmosphere.

Advertisements