It was raining heavily. Thunder and wild rain seemed frightening for everyone; for everything. The view was hazy from the glass window but the sound of splash as the rain lashed on to the glass window was imperturbable. The atmosphere within was rather languid than the climate outside; the compartment was relaxing in peace. She was resting her head at the window with eyes closed. Her face calm but some lines of thought were perceptibly etched on her forehead. The Train was whistling, bustling and speeding towards the last resort. The forward journey of train was pulling her backward. A nostalgic drive rehearsed within her. The rest was a rest in past.
Everyone was on the street just perpendicular to the primary school of the village. Men, women, children – all were whistling, dancing and were setting off fire-works. They were drunk in their celebration. Most of the children, whose ribs one could count were naked and all men in their lungis were looking half naked. The thatched huts of mud, famine stricken paddy fields and stinking water bodies added to the ambience – ambience of a rare gala.
Sara was garlanded and everyone was offering sweets to her; after all she was the reason for this festivity. Sara was the first to pass matriculation exam in her village. It was history not only because
someone has passed it for the first time but she made history because of her gender too. She was a source of pride, a symbol of excellence and an icon worth inspiring in her village and in villages nearby. She was the admirable Crichton for all the tribal girls. Her performance was as different as her appearance. She was an unlikely tribal girl. Her eyes were illuminant and spoke for her intelligence. She had deep brown eyes, striking, worth dying for, the symbols of her calmness and self containment. Sara was fair and tall. She had been studious ever since books and teachers entered her small world.
Boys were singing and dancing in the front row of the small caravan, the men following them in row were beating drum; the sound of drum beating was loud and constant. This happy caravan approached every home of the village and every villager contributed in the noble cause of educating Sara as if their daughter was going to study. Enough funds were raised to admit Sara in a college for her further studies. Sara turned cheerless when she had to leave the village. The orphan Sara looked at her empty hut with hope and hopelessness for one last time. She loaded her luggage in the rickshaw and boarded the bus – the villagers had booked a bus ticket for her. She was sad on leaving her village and nervous about joining a college in city.
Sara made herself comfortable in City College very quickly. Her love for books and hunger for knowledge quadrupled in the new learning environment. One day while studying in the library, he came closer to her and asked, “Do we know each other” and he laughed, laughed as abderian. She gazed at him very keenly and said, “No. No I guess not”. The boy reacted suddenly as if he was ready for it, “then we must know each other, mustn’t we?” “Yes. We can.” Sara nodded her head with both acknowledgment and suspicion. “Do you know we are in same class?” the boy interrupted Sara’s reading again. “Oh really, then we are friends from now.” “I’m Sara” she said. “I know” He replied, “I am Raj”. She laughed for the first time after this friendship deal.
Sara visited her village after a year. It was more pathetic now. Sara noticed while coming to the village from the city that the neighbouring was empty and silent. Sara was worried about the village conditions. In the moon light she walked to the sarpanch's home, who was relaxing on his bed outside the hut with a beedi in one hand. “Oh Sara,” he got up from his bed and greeted Sara. “Come. Sit Here”. Sara gave him a half
hearted smile and asked him, “Why is the nearby village deadly calm, and why does our village look more pathetic now?” It was more pathetic for Sara after coming from the city, earlier she had never noticed that ‘patheticness’. The sarpanch felt uncomfortable and muttered indistinctly. Then after taking a deep breath he said, “Daughter, the situation here is worsening. Some big company has acquired that village, and they are asking for our land too.” The tension and distress was visible on his face. Sara
felt the anxiety. Sarpanch, after making himself little relaxed said, “You don’t worry my daughter. We are fighting against it. You just focus on your studies”
During her journey back to the city she felt the pain for her village entrenched in her mind. She tried, in vain, to get rid of her village memory but it was not possible. Sitting in the college canteen alone she was brooding. The weather outside was pleasant and suddenly Raj came in. “You are here. I was looking for you in library”. Sara smiled. Looking into the deep eyes of Sara, Raj started expressing his self in poetic strains. “Do you know Sara, your eyes are magnetic?” Sara felt little uncomfortable and just smiled. Encouraged, Raj uttered a couplet for Sara
Although your fine, young body gave rise to sighs
I was held captive by your tribal eyes
Sara laughed. “Tribal eyes??” she said and continued laughing. “Raj. You are amazing.” Poetic Raj was all ready to impress Sara. “Sara,” he said and took a deep breath. “Sara. I like you.” Sara was not shattered, nor was it exactly unexpected for her. Raj conjured up his literary tools and started singing
Sara smiled and her deep brown eyes started spilling the warmth which Raj wanted to see in her eyes for a long time. Raj keeps on continuing “Sara you are my nightingale”. “Marry me” said Raj finally. Sara promised to marry him but after graduating next year and after seeking permission with her Uncle.
This was the day of Raj’s excitement. All students were in festive mood. The graduation party was at its full swing. Raj asked Sara, “When you are going to the village?” Sara replied, “Tomorrow”. “And when you are coming back?” asked Raj. Wondering Sara asked Raj “When do you want me to come?” “On 1st of September,” Sara thought for a moment in her typical way of rolling her eyes left and right, and said, “Ok. We will meet on the 1st.” Raj handed the rose to Sara with a great hope.
It was the Ticket Checker who broke the silence of the compartment. “Ticket please,” he shouted. “Madam, please, can I see your ticket?” She opened her eyes for the first time, rolled it left and right. “Yes. One minute please”. Some more passengers had boarded the train. It was no more the place for nostalgic journey. But she tried it again, resting her head on the window once her ticket was checked. She realized a moment later that someone was staring at her, trying to read those lines on forehead and waiting for her to open her eyes. She opened her eyes; a man was sitting just opposite to her.
“Do we know each other?” the stranger asked her and laughed. This was the same abderian which she had heard long ago in her life. Then both of them laughed, laughed in their own way, at their own meaning. “Sara!” exclaimed the man. “Raj,” said Sara. Sara felt that tingling calmness again, as a deadly silence descended between them. Everything seemed still. Raj looked into those hazel pools of her eyes and tried to read them again. “Don’t! Don't look at me like that again! It’s no more the same. It’s not yours anymore,” blinked those brown eyes in return for the searing and searching glance that Raj gave.
A hawker entered the train and startled every passenger. “Chae, sir, chae.” “Do you want some tea?” asked the gentleman to Sara. "Yes Raj," she said without any emotion. Holding the tea cup with both hands, it was apparent that she wanted to avoid Raj. He asked, “Why Sara? Why?” “Why is as irrelevant for me as is the motion of this train,” she replied. Her eye was full of angst and anxiety; there was nothing so deep about it now, nothing. All this while tides changed on Raj’s complexion. His gesture was of a man who was about to die for some unknown reason. He tried to probe again. “Where are you going?” “Are you married?” asked Sara in reply. Unprepared Raj kept the cup back and said, “Yes and you?” he enquired. She smiled and pressed her lips with teeth and replied discretely, “It’s not for me. Not anymore.”
Adding her melodious voice to the atmosphere along with the unpleasant sound of train she said, “Do you know what Seamus Heaney says?” “No” replied Raj. She said “he says,
History says, don’t Hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed – for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.”
“He is right, I guess,” claimed Raj. “Do you know I like these lines of Tennyson?
This truth within thy mind rehearse
That in a boundless universe
Is boundless better, boundless worse”
“Boundless worse, yes, there is boundless worse,” said Sara crossing her legs. Train was now moving constantly. Both of them started staring outside. There was no thunder. No rain. Moon light appeared. The moon had its own story to tell.
“It was this same weather that day when I was talking to you on my mirror,” again breaking the silence said Sara. “They finally raided our village as the resistance was not allowing them to acquire our land,” tears had left runnels down her cheek. Resting her head on the glass window she started speaking distinctly and discretely, “We are landless. We are dispossessed. Our women were raped; men were shot at point blank.” The Train was slowing down and so was her pace of speaking. In her broken voice she said, “I was raped, raped thrice that night.”
The Train stopped. She gathered her luggage and tried to escape. Raj followed her. “Sara, don’t go… Wait … Tell me. Who did this to you?!”
The Train halted. Sara stepped down. Raj followed her. A battalion of CRPF was loitering about, cracking jokes and laughing. Sara came back to Raj who was standing on the threshold of the train, holding the rod to overcome his nerves, she whispered, “Men in khaki.”
Train started moving. Moon hid under the cloud. Now it’s been years and years. She is dead. She was assassinated
Now she’s been dead nearly as many years
as that girl had lived. And of this circumstance
there is nothing to say at all.
Its silence silences.