What he felt when he became the only force on earth...
|The Morning After
Boom… Thump…Thwack.. aah…oh… urrgh…..hel..l..l..l..p..
Screams and Moans, desperate calls for help, deafening noise of buildings crashing all around and shaking of earth rose to a crescendo before slowly subsiding to a lull. He realized despite his stupor that those were the sounds of building collapsing but he had always maintained that his residence would not collapse for any reason. After all, his father despite being a poorly paid school teacher had ordered construction with generous proportions of cement concrete and had ensured good curing by soaking all the cement structures personally. His engineer brothers had designed the beams, columns and slab personally with a factor of safety twice the normal. His father hated to call it a house, the bungalow was the term which his father described the house with . The old man though had rotted his entire age in tenements, after his retirement, went crazy about constructing a bungalow of his own. The old man resorted to emotionally pressurizing his sons to the extent that whenever he fell ill, he was handed over medicine personally by his sons because they suspected that if old man was given cash, he would buy construction material rather than medicines. Despite all this his brothers couldn’t help father’s craze and the old man kept on buying paint with the money his elder son gave him to buy milk with. Though, the paint was not sufficient to paint even a toilet. Eventually, the old man did succeed in constructing a bungalow that could challenge dynamite, at the cost of his own health and peace of his sons’ households.
“The house can’t crash and the earth always shakes after a kick of marijuana.”
He thought in his slumber. He was Rupesh, an educated, unemployed and ambitious guy. Though unemployment was his problem as well but less than his father. Both of his brothers were highly successful, he only was an exception. It wasn’t that he had a feebler brain than his brothers or for that matter any one in the town. He, in fact, lacked only what his father cherished. He wanted to compose, he wanted to write stories, he wanted to play cricket but the old man was hell-bent him being an Engineer. As a result, he could never become an engineer much less a poet and least a cricketer. He never came to terms with reality because he had two elders who were successful engineers. He was unemployed and had devised a few tricks to keep his father unconcerned. He used to while away the day light and used to return home well past midnight. Ma used to lay a cot in the yard, the food wrapped in a cloth used to be hung on a nail meant for drying cloths. He used to take the food and go to sleep. His father, partially deaf, never knew what time he arrived. That’s how he had spent most of his last four years which were shared all the way by his penniless friend Devesh, who despite of his poverty could arrange country liquor for him at least 10 days out of 30 and when ever he could not arrange liquor he did arrange flavored marijuana paste worth a couple of rupees, which they shared, consumed, enjoyed and finally fall asleep.
Even that evening, in fact, he had gone to bed after having the sweet cocktail of milk and marijuana. The blare of collisions crashes and thuds of the stones falling around him woke him to reality
.Ma….a..a..a..a !!! da..a..a..a..d!!
But there was no answer. Nothing was visible beyond that messy rubble. He called out loud for his next door neighbor, the lawyer, Sanjay! Wakil sahib !He heard nothing except his own shout echo in the wilderness. He limped his way to the street through the heap of the rubble that used to be his house. He called out for every one he was acquainted to in the neighborhood but no one answered. He felt his legs tremble and he involuntarily sat down on a large piece of rubble
‘This means the whole neighborhood is wiped out.‘ He questioned himself.
“Or the entire town or the whole country or possibly the world? But how come?”‘ We have tensions with Pakistan alright, could that be an atom bomb?”
That was ruled out, simply because atom bomb would not have spared him also. That had to be something else. A bunch of stray dogs went howling past him, looking for signs of life perhaps
.’ Thank god, the life is not completely wiped out; there could be others alive like me.” He thought.
He looked at the rubble of what used to his home and that reminded him of his mother. How lovely had she been? He did not loose his sanity during his joblessness was largely thanks to her and Devesh. His father always called him names like Nawab, the parasite, the guest, the lazy bones etc. etc. He, in fact, harbored no ill will; He just wanted his son to make it big, to full fill his own unfulfilled dreams. Ma was the loveliest person he knew. She liked him the most out of her three sons. Whenever the old man tried to chastise him, she intervened to face a flurry of choicest curses. She made sure old man vented himself out on her while the son slipped away.
He??? He always behaved like a spoilt brat with Ma. She always sat in front of him at the meals with the bread basket so that she could replenish his plate. She would replenish the plate with a guilty expression on her face and he would roar.
“You think I am a glutton or something “
“Oh no sonny, you must eat some more, who knows when you will be back,”
He cursed himself, “I had really been nasty to her, only if I had a chance”
He burst aloud into tears. The dogs joined him sympathetically making it an awkward chorus. He aimed a stone at them.
“Quiet, bastards “
The dogs got scattered and so did his emotional trauma. He tried making it out rationally. He thought He would get to know what the hell has happened, perhaps, once the relief and rescue teams arrive. His brothers would certainly come looking for him but what if they have met the same fate?
“No this is impossible. But why? This is jolly well possible. This may well be the doomsday.
This looks exactly like that” he rushed in to frantic thinking. Noah was the only man who survived the last deluge. He could well be the only human alive which meant he was the second Noah. Why second? Why not the one and only, Now that the civilization had to start afresh, who would know there was a Noah-one? Now he was the Noah, he was the Adam, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Ram, Mahavir. The history, culture, traditions and the ethics of the world were now all subservient to him. Now he was the only force on earth. The earth, to control which Soviets and Americans fought like rabid dogs was now his empire. But what use was this empire? He asked himself. Who were his subjects? Those couple of stray dogs! Well! These Soviets and Americans had been bloody idiots.
‘Oh, hell, this must be marijuana making me think all this shit, Adam, Noah, Soviets and Americans’. He told himself.
‘Let me find whether there are any survivors in the town. Must be two ’O’clock in the morning and there is the police station on the way, they would sure ask some funny question at this hour’.
But then he realized there may be no survivors there.
‘Who is scared of dead even if they are Indian police?’
He consoled himself. It was complete destruction all around. There were no humans as far he could see. Howling dogs, ruins, mingled steel and the wilderness were his companions on the way to the town. Here used to be Pandit Pan Walla shop, He remembered. His fingers touched his forehead in a salute habitually. Whenever he passed here, Pandit used to shout his greetings from a distance, ”Rupesh Bhaiya Ram –Ram” and he always answered with a salute.A little ahead, the khaki colored debris and the SATYAMEV JAYATE board indicated the past existence of a police station. It used to be very risky to go past the police station especially during nights. You had to bear with at least a dozen abuses. Ever since he was cursed by the burly constable, he looked for sweet revenge. How he wished to catch that constable unaware in the dark, hit him and runaway.
” Any one there?” He called out loudly.
There was no reply, No burly constable. He peed revengefully on the debris using all the strength his pelvis could muster. He went past the college, the railway crossing to reach the heart of the city, the city center; some people called it the Connaught Place of the town. The place used to be over crowded by women, specially the school and college girls and those shopping clothes and cosmetics. Though he was not quite a road-Romeo but if he saw a beautiful girl, he would candidly remark:
”How beautiful this town is”
He received almost identical response each time, “ stupid” , He used to smile sheepishly and move on. How he pined to hear a sweet ‘ stupid’ but there was no crowd, no college, no shops , no Girls. He moved along the cracked road to clock-tower, which used to be the most congested place in the town. Occasionally a child would come in the way of his bike and he would curse the rising population-
” They produce only children that are the main crop in this country”
But today he would love to embrace any child that ran in to him. Alas! There were no kids around. The hands of the clock-tower were stuck at one thirty which meant that the doomsday or whatever that was occurred at one thirty. But this was a useless data because time now stood still, losing all its meaning. He moved ahead, The fodder market, Chaube’s tea joint used to be the place where he would meet his chum Devesh. Devesh would order tea for Rupesh as soon as he noticed him from a distance, tease him by sipping it as he approached. He with a smile would snatch the cup from Devesh and would finish the tea. The left over tea tasted the sweetest. He reached the heap of rubble which used to be Devesh’s residence.
He called “Deve..e..e sh”
There was no reply here too. So Devesh also!!! He headed towards the old town, the locality of the poor, where he had lived with his family as a tenant nearly for two decades. Here he had old playmates, affairs of adolescence and memories attached to every nook and corner.Here used to be one room dwelling of his family, next used to be Ballomal’s. Bllomal’s naughty daughters had made the boys of the locality dance to their tunes. They did not believe in dropping their lovers every day, they triple dated and managed it flawlessly. Rupesh never liked them. Next house belonged to Babu the bearded. Babu and him mutually hated each other because he would tease Babu by throwing mud on his house on Holi or by exploding fire crackers near his shop on Diwali. Babu reciprocated the gesture by playing devotional songs on his loudspeaker during their final school examinations. Ballomal and his daughters, Babu and his loudspeaker all had disappeared without a trace. Shobha’s residence was near the electric pole. He had an affair with her for a couple of years till last summer. He remembered how he used to whisper near the window and how the back door of her house used to open without a sound. He went and whispered near the pole which was now lying across the width of the street.
Then he smiled at his foolishness. There was no need to whisper.
He shouted at top of his lungs. There was no reply. So Shobha also? Ma, Dad, Brothers, Sister, Shobha,Devesh all gone. Pandit , Chaube, The burly Constable, Ballomal and his daughters, Babu, the sweet girls, the surplus kids ??? What was his world???He did not require a job any more. He did not have to face the job interviews. He did not have to deal with his depression of being a jobless by hitting the bottle or a puff of marijuana. Pakistani atom bomb worried him no more. Trees laden with fruits, ripe crops in the fields, rivers jammed with fish, the hills with their glorious snow and the sky with the mysterious blue all belonged to him. The world was now his empire. He had achieved what Darius, Alexander, Napoleon, and Genghis failed to. He wanted to laugh but his throat had choked. He began to cry
.“ Come least one of you Mom….Dad….Devesh….Sister…brother….Shobha , Well you all wont, Pandit…girls …kids…Ballomal…..Babu… the Burly constable…..come… come.. at least one of you, Come and hate me if you have to, come and argue , come and curse me but come please, some one come please.”
He raised his hand toward the sky and yelled, “ I don’t want to be a Noah. I want to be myself again.”
“ You certainly had a bad dream son , didn’t you?” It was Ma
He sprang with joy “Ma”“
Yes , my dear” She fondled his head with affection.
He peeped out. It was a sunny morning
“ Oh my kid, you look drained .Must have been some evil spirit in your dreams”
She muttered something, spat on her wooden sandal and hit the ground a couple of time. This was an ages old custom of warding off the evil spirits. Rupesh realized it was a nightmare and it was over but he was still brooding over its meaning.He sat down to have a brunch. Ma generously replenished the plate as usual and he did not shout as usual .Ma was emboldened and asked him
“ I want to tell you something , if that will not upset you”
“ Yes sure Ma” He said smiling.
“ I am old bones now. A daughter in law would be a great help ”
“ But Ma I need a job”
“ To hell with the job. I went through labour thrice for three of you, don’t I deserve one of my son living with me. Start some business near here.” She commanded“But money for business?’
“ Your able brother s never denied your dad’s never ending demand, Will they ever deny me. If I ask on your behalf?” She was beaming with confidence
.“ Your wish is my command. I am already late” He fondled her wrinkled cheeks.
He set of towards the town. He greeted Pandit panwalla
“Panditji Ram Ram”
“Ram Ram Rupesh Bhaiya” Pandit hailed at the top of his voice
He rode ahead with a smile. He tried to locate the spot near the Satyamev Jayate board where he had peed, the burly constable was right there. He greeted him with a smile
“ Ram Ram Diwanji”
The constable waived cheerfully.
“To forgive and forget is the easiest way’ He thought
.He remarked as he went past a cute girl near city center
.“How beautiful this town is”
“and How stupid the boys are” the witty girl replied with a smile
“ A peach of a punch” He laughed and moved ahead.
He reached near clock-tower. A little boy had stumbled on the side walk, not quite in his way. He stopped, helped the kid to his feet and kissed him on the cheeks.Devesh was waiting for him as usual at Chaube’s tea joint. Devesh teased him with a long sip.
“Come on dude , you wont finish it off’ He snatched the cup
“ Tastes better” He told Devesh
“Well , I felt no difference”
“ Perhaps, But I feel different today, The world is different today therefore this tea is different”
“This is Greek to me” Devesh said with a quizzical expression
.“I will let you know, but I must go see Shobha and her parents now”
“Shobha ? But wasn’t it all over last summer” Devesh was perplexed
“ It was, but started afresh last night”
“ but you were with me till well past mid night”
“Relax dear, I will be back” He put the empty cup on the table and headed towards Shobha’s place