Its 10 mins past midnight and he is still awake. Not unusual for a single man, at the age of 25 and into his first few days of his career.
He is popularly known as the Gen Y and he often ask himself, But WHY? He is young, just out of grad school and recently broke off from a relationship. He hates his boss, his work and his life. It’s so mean of God to end the fun he had in college, so abruptly – he swore. He doesn’t have much to look ahead, other than a promotion (no substantial salary hike though) and a new set of alloy wheels for his dad’s gift, an old car.
A cigarette lit the dark and his room-mate whined, “the chimney strikes again”. He so wants to escape his room-mate, have a room all by himself, but then his wallet speaks Greek and he skips that thought.
Delhi, the dream city, is where the riches are. So they say at least. He isn’t sure whether they meant rich people or the treasures which he longs to discover. He looked at the corner where his laundry bag is tilted at 60 degrees, he needs to buy a washing machine soon. But then, he also needs to buy a netbook to start blogging and a blackberry to chat with his latest crush. Damn! – why are all the money stashed with just 5% of the worlds’ population? Why? – he asked.
The only thing he could afford now is the cigarette and he intended to enjoy it to the core. When the last drag of smoke was sucked into his shrinking lungs, he pressed the cigarette butt against the ashtray. Making rings out of the last lot of smoke he could exhale, he slept.
Morning, the worst part of his day, came by as fast as it could – he cried out loud “damn, i just closed my eyes”.
Looking at his broken cell phone screen, he realised that he is late only by an hour. His HR managers face and the long discussions over his consistency in late arrivals, that’s all the boost he needed to rise and rush. “Damn, no cigarettes”.
Rushing out of the bathroom, he realized that he will have to use his car instead of the AC metro, today. He never liked travelling on public conveyance, call him lazy or spendthrift, he always managed to get late and use his car – till his credit card couldn’t bear another Rs.300/- for petrol, e v e r y d a y. It’s very expensive compared to the 30 bucks he need in the Delhi metro, but yes, car is a car.
All kinds of sounds from the axle and the glove box and the doors and the boot and…..reminds him of the heavy maintenance his car needs. But then, it always needs money and he never had them. “Time for a cigarette” – he spoke out loud. He decided to light one just after the turning.
As he turned his wheel to the right, he honked and sang a Pearl Jam track: “Where oh where could my ba_”. Damn, there was a cycle standing right in the middle of the road, seems like the middle-aged cyclist is unable to decide on whether he should cross the road or not. A second later, he realised that sound he just heard was his car rushing over the cycle and not the axle nor the glove box. “the screaming tires, the busting glass, the painful scream that I heard last..” – he was mumbling as he stopped his car and looked back. The man was shivering violently. He ran out of his car towards the cyclist; every step he took, the man became less active. He reached the spot with two other people, they bent down next to the man. One among them, nodded at him “Beta, i think he is dead”. Someone called for an ambulance as things started slowing down around him.
He looked around, there were few cars and a small crowd. Some gave him a disgusting look, while some were busy explaining the accident to others. One man, the person who checked the pulse, was calling for an ambulance or a doctor or…..he didn’t understand. He turned around to run, but a glance on the mans dead face stopped him. He was almost his age, maybe exactly his age, maybe they both shared the same birth day, maybe the same dreams, maybe……he didn’t notice, but tears flowed down his cheek. He couldn’t understand a thing, things blurred around him and he felt earth moving away from his feet.
A pair of strong hands was holding him, and the white over coat in front of him confirmed that he was with a doctor. You alright? – the doctor asked. He mumbled something and they understood. He closed his eyes again – its just a dream, he told himself. A real bad dream!
Later, his parents told him that he fell unconscious on the road and the gentleman who called for an ambulance was also a cop. They said that he is safe, the cop would vouch that he was driving safe and its the cyclists’ mistake. What everyone forgot to mention is that his car didn’t have a valid insurance and he will have to face a court.
It was one of those awkward moment – his dad was trying to speak to him. He usually doesn’t speak to him. For his dad, he is a complete failure – didn’t make it through those many entrance exams nor through a good college nor does he earn like his fathers’ friends’ daughter. So he is a failure!
“You alright?” – he asked. “Mmm”. “Don’t worry, our lawyer has assured an out of the court settlement, we will pay his wife and kid some money and everything will be alright” – dad said. “Wife and Kid?!” he echoed. “Yes he was married and have a small kid”, that’s it, he could feel the tiles underneath him moving again. He ran away from the room, didn’t even notice his family’s surprised looks .
Tears cannot take you back through time, but they can definitely carry some burden off your mind – he thought of all his dreams, then of all the dreams that his victim would have had – definitely more humble and realistic than his. Maybe they were all about his kids future, all the dreams that he stole in a moment. He didn’t even realise, he was sobbing! Such a weak person at heart, he is, my righteous man.
Court room, it is not like those in Sunny Deol movie scenes. They were harsh and told sad stories. He could see impressions of nail on the railings and the red gutka stains on the corners. It reminded him of the convulsions of a man he met for few seconds, alive. He turned to his right and saw a woman with a small kid – he guessed them right.
She stood up as the court read her name. Prosecutor asked her name, he never heard it, and her kids name, “Nanna” – she said. He looked at the kid who was playing with a headless barbie doll. He remembered how his dad would buy him a new toy when his old one worn out, or was few weeks old. Am I a spoiled brat? – he asked.
Proceedings went on and on, his lawyer always turned and smiled at him, even when the lady cried in the witness-box. He wondered, “can i ever get used to a woman’s cry like him?” – his questions now hanged like a Damascus sword.
His lawyer told his dad – “The case is ours, we will settle for 3 lakhs. He was lucky to have the policeman see the accident, he was a favourable witness. If he had the insurance in place, it wouldn’t have cost us a penny” – so 3 lakh Indian Rupees it is; a mans life is worth. Sigh.
He was called for and he promptly went ahead; the judge spoke – “The court has heard both your sides, and has reached on a decision, yet i would like to hear you if you have anything to say”. People in there were a little surprised, for this was unheard off. Everyone stared at him, and he stared at ‘Nanna”’.
These words are of a righteous man, which dwells in you and me.
Which is always subdued by greed and fear.
Which, has the power of the most powerful weapon ever seen,
Yet it doesn’t hurt your arms nor they make you bleed.
Listen and think for it deserves to be:
“Sir, I don’t have much to say. I cannot even apologize when I think of that kid. You might have decided to punish me – with a hefty fine or with imprisonment or even hang me for stealing that kid’s father. Maybe or most possibly, you might have decided in my favour. And I wont justify nor judge on what I did; because I can never be unbiased on me. But the fact is, I dreamed and whined for what God didn’t give me all my life. And today I see a kid who doesn’t know about the terrible thing that has happened to his future. I wish I am him for a moment. I haven’t slept since the accident” he sobbed like a kid, “- I don’t think anything – any amount of compensation nor any number of years in prison can replace the love which those two people lost. Sir, I ask you to punish me. Yes, punish me for not being content with life, for being the reason for a dead father and a dead husband. Maybe i could get some rest then”
So how do i punish you young man because i didn’t intend to – the judge asked – you might want to help me here. His lawyer sprang on his feet and said “Sir, the kid is in a trauma after the incident as you can see, please ignore his remarks”. The judge smiled, first time in his career as a judge, he smiled at a lawyer; “I think somebody is speaking senses after so long in this court room, without any fear or any hidden agenda, so i will hear him speak and so shall you all”. “So son, tell me, what do you suggest?”
He wiped his tears – “Sir, I will take care of them; their food, shelter and safety; his (Nanna’s) education and future. Maybe that will bring me peace. The dead man cannot be responsible for his action, but the living ones should. I take this responsibility and anything else this court asks me to do”
“Son, you are a righteous one. So shall be it. This court exists to bring peace between people and not to impose fear or sorrow. I agree to what you said and hope that this judgement will throw a new light for tomorrow, where mistakes are not resolved by another mistake but realisation and repentance.”
He walked back to his seat, “I am proud of you son” – his father hugged; then, for the first time he looked at the lady. She was surprised and she smiled! Today, in some 20 years he can remember, he has a goal, one that he will live for. Amen.