Monday, November 17, 2008

Accident.....

Year.....1980-81, month....December, Date...Second or Third... It was after mid-night and night was too dark and too cold for anybody to venture out on any kind of expedition for whatever cause it might be... Yet in that evil hour........

An ambassador car was speeding from Bangalore to Kunigal. There were four persons in the car including the driver. No conversation among them for a long time since they left Bangalore a few hours ago. All the four of them were awake but with unwanted and miserable silence.They were preoccupied with repeated thoughts kept disturbing like the waves of the ocean. The two teachers were very anxious even to think of the unpleasant and unavoidable forthcoming meeting with the person whom they are searching in that middle of the night have come from jog falls to Bangalore just few hours ago in K.S.R.T.C.bus and now again they are on the move to catch the person, who had left for his native village in kuningal taluk. The other two were brothers of Kariyappa and knew the where abouts of their brother in that rural locality. Suddenly one of the four persons yelled at the driver to take right turn which later lead to a dusty road towards an unknown destination. After driving for another half an hour they came to a village. The sound of the car disturbed the the cattle lying on the village yard and awkwardly they stood up and stretched their neck still menacingly and their green eyes were flashing in the head lights of the car.

The car stopped in front of a old house and one of the brothers got down from the car and disappeared in the darkness into the house. He came back and told the driver that he had already left the place and he has come to know about his sons tragedy. There was a short discussion among the four about their further programme. The two brothers were of the opinion that they should go back to Bangalore and wait there near his house. But the two teachers wanted to go in search of the father and then take him back with them. There was a sigh of relief from both the teachers when they came to know the news of death is already delivered to the concerned person. And they were little relieved and relaxed as it was unimaginably difficult for anybody to disclose the terrible news of death of a son to his father.

The car turned back to the main road. But the relief of the teachers was short lived as again the anxiety of meeting the grieving father became imminent shortly within few hours.They were not knowing how they are going to console a man who has lost his one and only son.
The driver took another deviation to a mud road while they were on the high way towards Bangalore. It was decided that they should try for the person in another village even though they were not sure of finding him there, but at least they could tell him later that they did try to find him every where and that would establish their dutiful concern for the dead boy and the lamenting father... Once again they groped their way into the unheard village almost early hours of the morning and could not find him there also. Turning back towards Bangalore Mr MVS was recollecting everything that happened since they had left their excursion party.

Mr M.V.S was smoking cigarettes after cigarettes as restless as a caged tiger. He was terribly shaken and frightened of the whole incident that occurred in Jog-falls. Again and again he was cursing himself if he had been little alert and if he had accompanied the boys to the balanced reservoir, forgetting his recently operated ankle for painful corn that very episode would not have happened and the boy would have been saved. First of all he should not have joined the excursion party as his foot was operated for corn recently and the bandage was still on. But the students insisted and the parents also..... In fact he was forced to accompany the students as he was known to be a very strict teacher and parents strong belief was that the children would only listen to him and his presence would guarantee their children's safety. Reluctantly he had accepted to join the trip troupe and now this horrifying tragedy had struck. Where would, all this mess would lead to, he didn't know.

Again and again the adamant and arrogant attitude face of the boy Keerthi, whom he saw for the last time used to haunt M.V.S.

The excursion party landed in jog near the hostel in front of the deceptive balanced reservoir almost at 3 in the after-noon. Nobody gave a serious thought to the reservoir. Because all the boys and staff members were too tired to observe with usual curious attitude and secondly the reservoir was neither too catchy nor very ferociously disturbing. Nobody could even think of that latent speedy undercurrent of water that was flowing at a speed of 25-30 miles per hour below the placid calm water surface which was almost stagnant. No surface turbulence of any kind. It looked as an ordinary tank for irrigation in any rural area that you can see in any village in any part of India.

Their arrival to Jog was already late due to unexpected breaks for minor repairs in Bhadravathi. It was 3 o clock in the afternoon and yet they had not been served lunch so far. Everyone was tired and hungry and worn out. All the boys got down the bus and scattered into their allotted rooms as instructed by MVS. Shortly, a few minutes later, they came back in their swimming dress with their towel, under wears and soap box in their hand. All the forty odd student s were boys of age group between 14-16. Getting refreshed was really, really needed, as they have been travelling since 7 A.M. in the morning when near Bangalore they had their breakfast. Even the teachers were too exhausted to be strict and could not compete with the super enthusiasm of the boys. vigilance was loose but not noticeable. Several groups went near the so called reservoir and scattered here and there.

The teachers as usual, instructed the children to be extra careful and not venture into the water too far and they should in their respective groups with their designated teachers . MVS normally used to go with the children wherever they went but because of this present state of his bandaged leg he took a seat in front of the hostel to have a proper watchful look the activities.

Sitting near the hostel on an elevated spot from where he could clearly see three to four groups of boys with their teachers and lady teachers with their kids were busy near the muddy bank of the tank. As the boys were moving with their groups MVS noticed this unfortunate boy and asked whether he knows swimming. But he was in no mood to answer such silly questions at this time of his high spirits. And in a way he did not like this teacher who almost had made his participation in the trip doubtful and who did not allow the boys any kind of freedom anywhere. In fact this boy had a special dislike to this extra-ordinary strict and sometimes, even one can conveniently brand him as a cruel teacher. The look of arrogance on the boys face had another angle of reason for it. In fact this was the teacher who had very strongly opposed this boys inclusion in the excursion party. The boy was one of the institutions menial staff members son and persisted and unending forced the kind hearted head mistress to accept his request. But Mr MVS's argument was that his Friends might tease him or even insult him of enjoying the trip on their cost. Hence he wanted to stop the aftermath of the event before it really happened in the best interest of the student. But the boys dad was too decided to heed and in the end Mr MVS conceded though unwillingly.

It may not be a look of arrogance or indifference on boys face. May be the pre-occupied and prejudiced mind set of the teacher might have made him feel so? But clearly there was a visible discomfort between both of them. Yet Mr MVS warned the boy not to swim, but Without answering the teacher, hurriedly he went along with his usual friends to freshen up or swim in the water.

Mr MVS sitting in the same place for sometime and observing all the boys at different points could not see any thing disturbing and that needed no attention. Few moments later three boys came running to MVS. There was look of fear and shock in their face and started to tell


'Sir Keerthi was playing with us 'hide and seek' but he is not to be seen now. It is too long for anybody to be in water for such a long time' revealed weeping Manjunath....
'Sir he told that he would swim to the other side of the tank which is bordered by forest. So he may come back Sir...' told James.

Mr MVS was shell shocked. Innumerable thoughts blazing and flashing through his mind, he wished for it to be a joke by the students. He stood up and started limping towards the reservoir where the boys had told him that keerthi had dived. Thinking helplessly he was looking at the forest and hoping that Keerthi would swim back to this side of reservoir and soon would be with them........ Seconds passed...... Minutes went by..... But no trace of the boy. Then Mr MVS alerted the head Mistress and other teachers who were nearby. The teachers were frightened, so also the students. MVS was like small boy hoping against hope that it must be a joke and he might not even got into the water and might have gone somewhere and would come back laughing form somewhere. But it was not to be so... Mr HAR then told about the cunning reservoir!!

Till then nobody knew that the water was flowing and there was a under current of water. The speed of the current would increase whenever the gates of Linganamakke dam built across the river Sharavathi are opened. So the flow and the speed of the water used to vary often and confuse the tourists. With the help of a rope tied around his waist, HAR tried to get into the water but to everybody' surprise the water current pushed the well built body of HAR who was tossed up like a spring doll from the water. He could not even immerse his half of the body with great effort. Very soon all the students and the teachers gathered near the spot where Keerthi had tried to dive from.

Slowly the shock took over fear, suspicion overtook anxiety. There was a unbearable silence that has engulfed the entire group. It became very very clear to Mr MVS that the boys had told him a blatant lie because of fear. They must be knowing what happened he thought. But further probing and questioning would lead them nowhere he thought. So he consoled himself telling loudly to everyone what should not have occured, has happened and now they should concentrate on what is to be done. One thing for sure they were in serious trouble. But one has to face it. come what may decided the limping man turning back towards the hostel.

Slowly the local people joined the shocked excursion party and started narrating many incidents of death in the recent past. Slowly everyone including the H.M. came to terms and reality was quite obvious that they had lost a boy.... The boy is dead. He has drowned in the Balanced reservoir near Jog falls. They have to get the body......!!!! The boy who was bubbling with life a few minutes ago has become a common noun BODY from proper noun Keerthi. They wanted to search the bottom of the reservoir when local people advised them not to entertain such foolish idea and it was impossible to search the body in that deadly mysterious bottom of the canal where the under current would drag the body to the filter gates at which everything that carried through the water within 2 or 3 days would be filtered or stopped. From there four massive pipes were lowered into the falls which directly would force the jet speed water over the turbine with great hydraulic power to produce electricity. No experienced swimmer of the local area would even think of trying to search for the body as they knew very well that the body is somewhere stuck in the cliffs bordering the canal which later came to the notice of Mr MVS.

The placid and calm reservoir in front of the hostel, gradually narrowed to become a canal of about 30-40 feet wide and ran about 250 meters further near the falls before the filter gates. He was told that the body of missing cattle's usually or any other stray animals would be traced with their bloated bodies near that filter gates after 3-4 days. That means they should wait to receive the body of the boy whenever it is traced near the gates of the falls. Sometimes, some of the bodies have been surfaced with in a day. If the body is not stuck at the bottom of the canal in Rocky crevices then the chances of the body ballooning was more. And sometimes when in the present case where a boy has drowned the authorities in Linganamakki dam may open the flood gates in order to flush out the body through the increased speed of water.

There was not much options left for the party except to wait till the body would float on its own due to buoyancy. They were desperate and yet to come to terms with the reality that was slowly unfolding. The people started gathering near the accident spot where the excursion party stood silently. Locals started narrating the many stories of death of especially students near the same spot. For them it was almost another incident. Police were informed of the accident and they also advised the teachers to wait till the body gets surfaced or traced and strictly instructed that somebody should stay back and rest of the party could go back to Bangalore. Police wanted one of the boys parents should be present and give the statement. After all it is a matter of death and might create all kind of suspicions. Parents statement was very important and the police case will be closed as an accident only when diseased parents accept it and give a written statement to that effect. Mr HAR suggested that they should immediately inform the director in Bangalore of the mishap and then take the required action. So the director of the school was informed through telephone from the KEB office as they could not get the line for a long time in the post office. But the reaction was not encouraging. He washed his hands saying they should do what is needed and he was even reluctant to accept the responsibility of informing the parents, but assured that the concerned people would be informed. The first thing was the excursion was abandoned which was programmed for four days to Gokarna, Karwar and Goa. It was decided that all the students and most of the teachers were to return back to Bangalore next day morning. Two teachers were dispatched to Bangalore to bring one Mr.BRS from Bangalore who would guide and face the consequences. That was easy to communicate to and bring him to jog till the case gets closed. But it was now a big challenge to deliver the news of the death to the boys parents. Nobody was wiling to even to meet the father who was very very trade union or labour leader like and very very ill tempered man who had fought against the authority of the management recently and was punished also for that. But he remained the same person to be blunt, rude and indignantly adamant. who would meet such a person and break the most unpleasant and heart breaking news that too to a quarrelsome father? Somebody has to take up the responsibility and that went to the limping, and supposed to be very bold teacher who was exactly as fighting cock as boys father. Mr MGR offered his company to Mr MVS and both of them left Jog falls next morning to Bangalore. Teachers Mr HAR, KVR, HNS Mrs. JSD along with few selected students and Head Mistress were to stay back in Jog and wait for their dead student to float on the surface of the water.

The two teachers HVN and HSR who reached Bangalore first they informed the people in jog that death news had already reached the family people except the father.......!!!! And of course the situation and the mood could be well imagined. The family people of the diseased were furious because the director of the institution behaved with them in a clumsy way instead of consoling them at least with concern kind words when he was approached for details and confirmation about the paper news.

It was late in the evening when both the teachers from jog falls arrived in Bangalore. Both of them were aware and extremely anxious of meeting parents in their house in that locality. They were frightened so much that hardly they spoke to one another through out their journey for almost about 10 hours. And whenever they did try to talk, they ended up in consoling each other and invariably the the conversation used to end up abruptly with 'ifs' and 'buts'. At last they reached the destination of utmost uncertainties and they came face to face with boys uncles and relatives as soon as they got down from the auto. There was a large crowd gathered near the house and they were silent and restless. Somebody in the crowd muttered that "he" had come. Suddenly there were angry shouts and the crowd advanced towards the two teachers in the middle of the road. The people caught hold of the collar of the limping teacher and started cursing and thrashing him. The limping teacher had anticipated this inevitable consequence and there was hardly any kind of protest or any act of self defence. He allowed himself to their mercy. But in the crowd somebody shouted and came pushing the crowd towards the helpless teachers. He told them that it was not him of whom they had mistaken.

He said " No it is not the director.... it is our teacher MVS... Don't do this, it is not his mistake.... See he has come by himself.... please leave him, let him say"

There was a sudden hush among the crowd and they started backing up murmuring something which the teacher could never comprehend. The boy who saved them from that explosive ordeal was an old student called Adishesha who was a neighbour of the diseased boy.

After sometime both the teachers ventured in to the house along with the boy Adishesha who had saved them from the fury of the mob. The sobbing and screaming of the mother, children and other ladies mourners who had gathered to console the family suddenly rose to a high pitch. The teachers stood there helplessly as they knew very well no soft word in the world would compensate their grief. At last gathering the courage the limping teacher gently asked about the father and came to know that he had left the house two days back and has not returned yet. His soul was tortured again and he thought that his testing of the critical moment is again postponed and his inexplicable agony would continue till he meets the dreaded father. He sat down on the foot path pavement in front of the house. He thought it would be better if they go in search of the father instead of just sitting over there on the road and being glared and gazed by so many unkind eyes around them. Mr MVS discussed his thought with Mr MGR and both of them agreed. Even his brothers accepted to accompany them as they knew the places where their brother might have gone.

A taxi was arranged to go to Kunigal and to nearby two or three villages where he would normally go to meet his people in his native land. It was already nearing 11.pm. in the night. Both the teachers ate bananas in a shop and started their search with other two men in the car.........

Now they are back on their way back to Bangalore without meeting the person for whom they had taken that night mare trip.

The driver stopped the car unexpectedly without any four passengers request. Except Mr MVS other three men were falling asleep due to fatigue. So he asked the driver looking out at another car which was parked on the extreeme left side of the road and it was little tilted towards the paddy field. The driver got down and so also MVS and other three persons and saw the driver of that broken and tilted car signalling for help. Mechanically they moved in that direction crossing the road in that cold night. They were surprised to see a young girl of may be twenty five years or so and another middle aged man in that gloomy night. The driver of the car pleaded to help him to pull a well tied bundle which was looking like a tightly packed gunny bag and had slipped into the pit by the roadside. The rear left side door was kept opened. And those three people were trying desperateley to put the bundle back in to the dicky or may be in the rear seat. The five passengers who got down by the car approached the scene of rescue slowly and saw the white coloured bundle allmost like a dead body wapped up neatly in a white linin cloth. The driver approaching the other side of the car asked what was that bundle and what was their problem. The middle aged man said promtly it was the dead body of his brother and was being taken to Mangalore for cremation.!!
While comming from Banglaore as the rear door was not locked properly or may not be functional at all, had opened suddenly and the body had been thrown out of the car in to the pit by roadside and these three people, the driver, the uncle of the girl and the young girl herself had been trying to put back the body in the dicky. But unfortunately they could not succeed. Mr MVS and his companions were so shocked that they could not even utter a word. They just stood like statues for a few secconds and MrMVS was about to fall but was held by his collegue. Then the driver and other two persons advanced slowly and circled around that dead body. The girl moved back. All the men of both the cars started to manover the body to the dicky except Mr.MGR and the limping teacher. They were terribly upset and frightened about this unknown dead body of a totally an unknown person in an unexpected time on that road and at that hour of night. They themselves are on an expedition in connection with a dead body which was yet to be traced in Jog and its father!!!!!

The two men looked at each other perplexed and did not talk and practically ran back to the car and sat silently without a word. Both were trembling... Death was around them and it seemed everywhere. Soon they were joined by the other two men and driver. Later they were told that even all the five people with their effort could not lift the dead man into the car. Mr. MVS was little astonished at his own reflex behaviour when he came to know about the dead body . He practically lost his balance and was about to fall but the companions held him in time. He was wondering about himself. why did he step back? Was he so much scared about death or dead body? What was the logical reason for his most unexpected behaviour? Was it natural reaction due to the circumstances through which he was going through presently. He could not find a satisfying answer. He consoled himself saying that it was the exhausted body and disturbed mind. Almost it was 36 hours he had, had his normal rest or timely proper food except contineous habitual smoking. He had little head ache also. Slowly he drifted into deep snoring slumber along with his other companions.

He was woken up by drivers call. They have reached Bangalore.....the driver told. And the third day ordeal has begun! Mr MVS thought philosophically. He made his companions to get back to their conciousness, and told MGR that they should be ready for the most dreaded moment of their life and face it squarely. The limping hero thought that the worst was over as the previous day itself they were attacked and beaten by the angry crowd. And nothing worse than that could happen now. But he could not realize that the worst situation is yet to come..........

It was almost 7 o clock in the morning. Though the december cold was biting his bones the fog was not much and the visibility was quite normal. He told the driver to drop them near the house but not exactly in front of the house. They got down and walked towards the house. With their pounding heart they walked slowly towards the house to face the father. But...... there was no sign of Kariyappa instead the family people were surprised and shocked not to see him with the search party. The taxi had come without bringing the needed man of the hour. Desperation of the teachers was beyond words. They just slumped down where they stood and there were tears of helplessness, grief and pain in their eyes. Now it was the family people who started consoling them. But he controlled his agony with great difficulty. Without a word they came out of the place and sat on the stone pavement of the road drooping their heads in between half folded legs like a brooding pegions. And Mr MVS lit a cigerette looking in the emptiness of the road and expecting the long awaited person any moment. He could not do anything more than this to reach this elusive personlity. Just wait...!!!!

It was about 8.30 am when he could see the man whom he was searching for so long was walking slowly down the road with his head bent down and arms locked behind with little hunch back. It was unbelievable to see such a total transformation of a indifferent and egoistc man to a completely shattered submissive and timid man. He has grown old over night. Both the teachers automatically got up to their feet to meet the person of the hour........ and the eyes did meet, but looked as if they are unknown and there was strange lonliness that was being reflected through that sunken yet staring eyes. Before Mr MVS could open his mouth suddenly Mr. Kariyappa advanced towards him and started sobbing uncontrolablly and uttering some ununderstandable words....

" I killed my son,..... I forced him to die even when you told me not to send my son...with you.. I forced you to take...you cursed me Sir? Are nt you?.

He collapsed on his knees. The teacher did'nt know how to console that man, some worthless words were pouring out of his mouth neither he could hear what was he saying nor the people who sorrounded them could understand a single sillabi of it. He held the collapsed person and embraced him tightly and started patting his back which slowly turned to soft rubbing. The tears rolled down the cheeks contineously and gradually the sobbing became a moaning. He too was worn out. It seems the father was too weak to even to cry further as he had been wandering aimlessly like a mad man as soon as he had come to know about the death of his only son. For two days where was he? What was he doing? Where did he go to? Whom did he meet? Nobody knew and no one even dared to ask that poor soul.

For a long time deafening silince prevailed. One of his brothers who had accompanied the search party the previous night came from inside and took his elder brother inside the house, when once again the silence was broken with the screaming and sobbing of the family members.

Mr MGR at last hisitantly told MVS that he would leave him and go to his house as his assingned mission was over at last. Mechanically he nodded his yes. The limping man was alone now outside the mourning house. He too wanted to refresh but ruled out because the task has just begun. The father has to be persuaded to go with him to jog that day only as soon as possible to receive the body and complete the police formalities. There were too many people around him to advise or misguide him even in the such hour of crisis. The teacher was sure that he might be forced to play or act fishy in order to exploit the situation. One of the brothers of Kariyappa was telling, it was the responsiblility of the staff members who had taken them to the trip and they have to pay for it. They would complain not only to police but also to the Education Department and claim for the compensation from the management or from the person or department concerned. Teachers would loose their jobs if they dont co-0perate or take suitable action...... These over heard talks were very clear indication of an imminent danger. And of course there was a big question which has to be answered by the teachers on their part for their lapse. How could teachers be so callous and careless so as to loose a child in their own presence??

These thoughts were replaced by somebody who was calling Mr MVS to get in to the house. The limping man snubbed the cigerette but and walked inside. After a brief consoling conversation the teacher told everything in detail untill then the exact events of the incident was not discussed with any one. The father listened silently and then told

"O.K Sir, First of all I dont how and why this kind of death would happen when you are there? And you remember Sir even before he got into the bus I had given my son to your care. But it has happened. My son is dead.... Can you believe this? I dont hold you responsible but what is the use?....who will take the responsibilty and who will bring back my only son? Who will look after me in my oldage.... we will discuss with police in Jog.... you say it was my son's fault.... alright. O.K.... but let us see... some of his friends might have......"

There was no sense in his talk. He was totally shaken and he himself was not knowing waht he was uttering. He was vague and rarely he talked. His gaze was blank and very very unspecific.
So Mr MVS decided not to defend anybody, and also wanted him to pour out his heart in manner he wanted which would help him to overcome the burden of his hidden sorrow.

The teacher fell silent for a while and then he thought that he would better go home and have bath and meet his family members who were equally worried since they came to know about the death of the student in jog falls. He asked Kariyappa and his brothers to be ready with in half an hour to go to Bus Stand and he would bring an auto while coming back from his house to which the grieving father accepted and felt sorry for this teacher who has been on run for the past 3 days.
Later Mir MVS came back to pick up the persons who were to accompany him to jog falls and found them waiting for him. He apalogised profusely for his delay. He was also little puzzled to find nothing with them worth to be called luggage and asked them to take at least some rug, shawl and towel. Indifferently he said yes and went in and came with just a wire basket….
The journey started….which was the most embarrassing moment and to spend such a long time and constantly comforting them. He himself was completely squeezed out with a horrifying time. And he is alone as MGR did not join him in his return expedition. He was just smoking without stop. Very restless, some times irritated and sometimes he was frustrated to be in this strange company. But he had to endure it all. He again and again recollected the chain of events that has been following since the death in Jog. His companions were also smoking beedis and they politely rejected the teachers offer of cigerette. The 8 -10 hours journey was very daunting and quiet laborious and awfully silent. Unavoidable dialogue were exchanged that too when they got down at two places for coffee and meals. Otherwise it was a silent mourning journey. ……
It was 8.30 pm when they reached Jog falls.
The head mistress, the teachers and four students were all there in the bus stand to receive them. It was too cold outside.

All of them were in their colourful winter clothings. The expression on their face could not be seen in that darkness. But these 3 passengers from Bangalore had their usual formal dress and started feeling the severe cold. Mr. Kariyappa tied a muffler around his neck which also fully covered his chin and upper part of the nose. Luckily Mr. MVS had changed his attire to his original dress of Jeans pant and Handloom Kurtha. Cold receptors in his skin were not functioning properly so he did not respond to the cold as he should have responded. Might be he had lost the sense of sensing!!!!

The three passengers got down from the bus and were met by Mr HAR, who was considered to be practical and a man with presence of mind. He looked at Kariyappa and then he turned his attention to his limping collegue and told the body was not yet traced, that night for sure it would surface near the filter gates. Kariyappa looked away and seems he was searching somebody in that darkness!! He was trying to meet desperately the Head Mistress who was very kind and understanding person and all the staff members respected the lady who though looked very soft but very bold, confient, organized, fearless and compassionate. That is why she could manage the entire flock of her office so well. She was popular and highly respected person among students, teachers and all other staff members of different branches of that institution. She was waiting on the other side of the road under a tree with other lady teachers. Kariyappa traced her and ran to her like small child and fell infront of her and he was bitterly crying.

He told her " Why did you kill my son? Why did you accept my request to take him with You. If you had not been so kind he would be alive now"

The kind lady was silently crying, tears rolling down her cheecks and she was trying to pacify him. Very tenderly she spoke to him in a soothing voice and softly in half English and half kannada. "No Kariyappa you should not say like this.... You are such a bold man"..... It was not that the words were understood or felt but the very motherly face and a geniuine human concern that touched everyone. He stopped crying.....and continued to blabber

"All right I will not cry if you say so......But...Why? the God is so unkind to me? did I do anything
wrong? Where is my son..? I want to see him at least show me his body....Oh Keerthi....My son where are you? Everyone present there were moved to tears. He turned to the Head Mistress and lamented.

"What you can do? Why? Nobody could do anything against the will of God? Imagine Keerthi escaping from Sir's (MVS) attention? What anyone can do? It is my fate to loose my son at this age..."

Mrs JSD told "Madam we wil go to the hostel. Kariyappa and MVS must be too tired to stand, and how long are we going to stand like this?. It is already nearing 10Pm"

Without a word the whole crowd followd Mr HAR who was leading in front with a torch in his hand. Luckily because of the foresight of the head mistress the cooks with their cookware and ration were retained back as they were not knowing exactly how long they supposed to stay till everything gets over. So tired people from Bangalore and the other members of the troop were served with hot rice and saambaar which tasted extraordinarily special for Mr MVS who had not eaten a real meal so far...

Mr MVS now little relived, heaved a sigh of relif and consciously enjoyed his smoking outside with his Nonsmokers company of BRS (He had joined the group just previous day) ,HVN,HAR and KVR. Of course HNS was inside and infront of him Mr MVS would not smoke. Kariyappa and his brother went to sleep as they were too strained and to talk to anyone.
Hearts of heart all of them were praying silently for their students body to be traced as early as possible and they would be free from this traumatic experience.Inexplicable doubts and fears were creeping through everyones mind, but nobody wanted to express. But now after the arrival of Mr Kariyappa the father of the diseased boy, the atmosphere was changing, especially when they witnessed the meeting between HM and the father. Teachers were really thought that he would be very rude and rough and might not give any scope for teachers taking him for granted as a subordinate staff member. But to their surprise he was too humble even at this time of irrepairable loss. He was, no doubt little unclear in his talk but never looked threatening. He did not even complain anybody for their negligence. But MVS knew very well that he was too unstable emotionally to be judged for sure. He looked and sounded harmless but tenacious….. The thought. At last he could not keep quiet silently suffering by himself. He wanted to talk and discuss. So he started…..
"Mr.Achaar(HAR)....what do you feel Kariyappa would do? Will he accept his sons death as an accident or will he suspect someone or something? Our mental peace depends now completely on his statement".
BRS interrupted to say he is cent percent sure that he would not accept anything so easily. Now he has a golden opportunity to exploit the situation against the Director, and moreover he has last his son and at least to satisfy his emotional loss he might create some obstacle deliberately. Though he knows very well that it was an accident of which he has been clearly told by everyone except his brother.

"…But…. He will not do anything like that… Even though he might have grudge against management but he would never do such a thing to put Amma (HM was called so by everyone )into any kind of trouble and that way we are safe…". HVN intervened in the conversation,
"No…the entire blame doesn’t come on her as we are all part of it, If there is any departmental enquiry we are all in trouble" MVS argued.
"No…Department cannot penalize us. Because we have taken required permission from the department and permission from the parents also…. that way we are very very safe…" HVN continued his words,
"No….I am not worried about it. If the Department feels that we are at fault, We are ready to face the music. That need not be a concern. And in a sense we all know somewhere we also morally responsible for his death". MVS said
HAR was furious and totally disagreed with MVS," How can you say that? we are morally responsible. No…..We are not, because it was on his personal request to HM, he was allowed to join us…And here like a hero opposing you he has chosen his own death… Didn’t you tell not to go near the water with Manjunath. Did he listen to you?
But MVS persisted "even then somehow I feel very bad for the boy and more for the father. But my worry is not that… about Mariyappa or morality or our responsibility…. I am worried about the statement he is going to give before the police tomorrow when we get the body and after the postmortem.
There was silence for a moment in the group.
"Postmortem? Well, the report will be very clear, that "death is due to asphyxia"… a clear case of drowning…What else it can be?" Achaar persisted.
BRS said " No… I don’t think any other reason for Kariyappa to do anything irrationally or intentionally, If does, then he would be a fool. He would be a looser. I tell you"
Let us wait and see"…
"Hope for the best" finished KVR, who was keeping silent for a long time.
"The problem and fear are not that we are going to be caught. That is ridiculous, but if he doesn’t accept it as an accident then everyone will be dragged in and questioned…. Even the students may be made to be involved… and that is unthinkable… think about the time and visitng the court very often. The trip from Bangalore to Jog may become a regular piligrimage. And that is the cause of concern.

"Don’t worry…That wont happen… Some how my intuition says that everything will be O.K." replied BRS.
"That is a wishful thinking on your part…Anyway let us face it….First we hope and pray to get the body as soon as possible...... I think we are becoming more inhuman in adopting ourselves to be inhumanly realistic and to be practically selfish?" continued MrMVS, who was really feeling himself guilty of overlooking the seriousness of the tragedy.
"You need't feel that way… We too feel very bad... Nothing has happened intentionally. We have been practically suffering mentally and physically. Do you know that? You, at least were away from this place…. But we have been here, in the same suffocating atmosphere for almost 4 days... Nothing else in the world to talk except the repeatedly haunting experience." Answered HAR irritatingly.
"All right…Let us go and have some sleep till we get the news about the body…."
The watch man of the hostel came running and declared that the body was traced. It was almost 1.30pm. The sleep disappeared from the drowsy tired men and women immediately.
Now other questions started worrying MVS especially about the body which has surfaced just then…. Is it intact? Because the body which was in water for four days not only bloats but gets disfigured beyond recognition due to carnivorous fishes that inhabit the reservoir. Though the entire excursion party members who had stayed back were relieved and anxious to go and see the body then only. But there were no flood lights near the filter gates to see. It was too painful to think the body of their student would be lying there unattended by anyone. Mind also plays wonderful tricks. Nobody even thought about the body when it was hidden somewhere in the cliff of the canal safely!!!!!
But now the dead body all alone near that gate and with its close people nearby yet in death furlon……
Some how, from some where the news of the body started pouring in at that evil hour of the night!! The body has been feasted by aquatic animals and the organs falling apart….
The feeling of grief, the concern for themselves, the unknown complications of tomorrow and the inevitable have completely replaced by an unknown fear. The fear of seeing the dead body. An inexplicable and mysterious fear tortured everyone. Nobody could sleep…………
Yet the night gave promptly its place to the day and it was another day and the dutiful sun was at his duty for the morning shift…. At last… A day that they found the missing and constantly eluding treasure. The treasure that is traced just then was too fearsome, too ugly, to face… But they should and they will.......

Everyone was awake and wanted to go to the spot to see the body. But only two teachers and the head mistress decided to go to the filter gate. A spcialized man was hired to bring the body from the gates to the strecher on the bank and in ambulance the body would be taken to the hospital
for postmortem. The police were there along with Kariyappa and his brother. It was already 8.am in the morning and it was very difficult ot get a person to get the disfigured, decomposed awfully smelling body from that evil spot!! That is why the short man who had accepted to take out the body from the grilled gates was heavily drunk, and the reason was quite obvious. Nobody could bear that rotten dirty smell.

It was nauseating. Even the people who had gathered there were quite aware of that dreadful sight and nauseating smell of the body. The body could hardly be recognized as it had bloated so much almost it was double the original size of the boy. Near the guard room, stood the teachers along with Kariyappa who was already sobbing his heart out. It was very loud…Keerthi….My son…why did you come to this? Words could not be comprehended by any one. He was crying bitterly. Even the Head Mistress and other lady teachers were weeping silently. Kariyappa was tightly held by Mr. MVS, as he wanted to run and embrace the dead body. But it was decided early that he should not be allowed to such kind of expression like embracing the bloated body in that condition. The limping teacher was struggling hard to hold him back….. The weeping father almost escaped from the clutches of teacher and the police when body was being taken to the Ambulance in front of this poor father near the guard's room. Mr. MVS turned away his face when the stretcher passed in front of them. He could not just muster enough courage to take a proper and last look at his student… It was too much for him. Never has he encountered such a situation in his life so far.
The body was taken in the Ambulance to the hospital which was nearby. The people who had come there to witness that ghastly sight then started towards the hospital through a short cut road.
The crowd had gathered near the hospital. The school staff members were sitting quietly in the lawn in front of the hospital. There was a visible anxiety on the faces of the Head Mistress and all her staff members and the students. They were not sure about the statement of Kariyappa. He was very fickle in his expression.
The police were very sympathetic towards the teachers and had told that if Kariyappa states that the death of his son was a mere accident and he doesn’t suspect anyone or anything foul, then it was not going to be complicated and the chapter would be closed with father's statement. But, is he going to sing the post mortem report blindly? That was a million dolor questions which nobody could answer except Kariyappa…
So they waited with their hearts pounding and constant prayers on their lips.
The report came out……… and Kariyappa signed it without uttering a single word after hearing the content of the report. He sat there silently. And all the teachers were relieved of their burden. There was a look of gratitude on the faces of all the excursion party members. Nobody spoke for a long time….. They were so much relieved that they were reluctant to rejoice. They were completely blank. Were they happy? No.....'Happy' is not the correct word. It was a mental vaccum which cannot be filled with anything for a long time. Everything looked irrelavent and meaningless. It seems for a few minutes they were dumb and had forgotten about the body inside the hospital. The Head Mistress was the first person to act. She signed to Mr MVS to talk to Kariyappa. She came forward and gently told Kariyappa what he wanted to do next regarding the body.If he wanted to take the body to Bangalore, they would arrange a taxi. But Kariyappa told that there was no such need as nobody would recognize his son, and he did'nt want his people to remember his son as Keerthi, a living young boy and not as dead body in that state. He also did'nt want his son to be tortured anymore as his body had already suffered a great deal in the trecherous waters of river Sharavathi. So he wanted him to be creamated in Jog itself……

This was quite ucexpected.
They had already planned to take the body in a taxi to Bangalore as they expected that Mr. Kariyappa would demand to take his sons body to his native place in Kunigal. But now they have to arrange the funeral in that unknown place where they knew no one and even the burial ground was not known. So to prepare a funeral, they have to struggle right from the logs for the pyre and the priest for the religious formalities!! Where would they search for all those things?
But the people of jog were so kind hearted and broad minded that they arranged everything when they came to know. The employees of KEB were so generous, that they gave the truck to collect the logs required for the pyre. As it was untimely death of a young boy, someone offered pure ghee and oil and somebody even offered sandal wood for the pyre which was considered as very sacred and pious. And there was no need of a priest for the funeral as all the teachers were Brahmins who would light the pyre!!
It was about 3.PM in the afternoon when Keerthi's final worldly journey began in the small village of jog falls to the burial grounds. The body was carried in KEB truck to the spot which was decided earlier by the locals of that wonderful village.
The head mistress, the teachers, the students, Kariyappa and his brother and few local people, police were there at the time of the final farewell to the young boy Keerthi.
Mr. HNS who was the senior most teacher and eldest among men staff took the responsibility of the rituals. He went round the pyre and other teachers also followed him silently except the limping MVS.

HNS was chanting some hymns and Shloka from Bhagavadgeetha…
"Naynam chindhanthi shasthraani,Naynam dahathi paavakah.
Na chainam kledhayanthyapoo na shoshayathi maaruthaah"…..

And after completing the last round HNS lit the pyre….
And there it was....
the body of the boy was engulfed completely by smoke and flames….sometime later the fire was wild yellow dancing flames of death. the smell of the sandal… the burning smell of ghee and the tearful eyes of the teachers, and it was December month's late afternoon sunlight…..
Away from the flame Kariyappa was weeping silently. The tears rolled down continuously and joined the river Sharavathi. Mr. MVS felt a strange feeling of emptiness, loneliness…. The atmosphere was a rare unwanted and unforgettable experience. He embraced the shattered father and held him tightly. The teacher himself started crying…He never knew that he would weep so helplessly.
Kariyappa consoled the teacher…
"Sir…. Don’t cry…. My son...Murthy is lucky…. look at his luck… so many Brahmins are performing his funeral rites…. A rare funeral for my boy. How many would get such a wonderful funeral?"
Mr. MVS was shocked beyond words by such a rare religious heartless feelings and irrational sentiments. He thought may be that was his way of consoling himself or to lessen his burden of agony. What a way of taking pride even in the death of his own son?. Death decorated with unflinching religious sentiment and a pride of an utterly, untimely, unwanted, unexpected and unseen superior devinity of his son as he was the most favoured son of God!!!

Mr.MVS simply failed to understand the depth of the religious faith of the father even in that hour of unimaginable loss. A father taking pride in the way the funeral of his young son was carried and on the top of it, really feeling a sense of satisfaction or contenment about it was simply beyond comprehension.
Mr. MVS was shocked beyond words by such a rare religious feelings. He thought may be that was his way of consoling himself or to lessen his burden of agony. What a way of taking pride even in the death of his own son?
All the staff members were totally blank….
Man, invariably tries to find some way or the other to console himself in any kind of tragedy through various means. Is it, just a diversion of mind from the reality? Or cheating one? Or escaping??? He tries to find solace in anything that passes through him.
All the members of the excursion party reached the hostel at about 5.30 PM. There was nothing left for them to do except waiting till the bus at 11 pm leaves Jog.
Untill then (before the cremation), they had their mind fully occupied with innumerable questions and anxiety played tricks with them. They were really alive second by second when they were anxious. There was a type of unexplained excitement in their fear, in their sorrow, in their unpredictability of life injogfalls for the past four days, but after the cremation, it seemed everything got over very swiftly.....now there was nothing in front of them except the nothingness, everything disappeared in the emptiness. The heart had nothing except the rhythmic beating. The souls felt absolutely lonely….The limping man was struggling with his confused state of mind….
Between 5.30 pm to 10.30pm, that is about 5 hours were spent. The world did not stop.. Organisms were breathing, river was flowing, plant community were silent in their fanning breeze, local people ate and went to bed. The excursion people were lively in their different activities though mechanically. For some, a type of excitement was building up as they were reaching their homes and their familiar family environment next day a few hours from then…..

At last they left the room at 10.30 in the night towards the bus- stand with little luggage that they had kept back.

They had their dinner at 9.PM, last supper in Jog!!
The four boys who had stayed back in Jog with the teachers were now enthusiastic to go back to their homes. Their parents were equally worried. But all of them had already communicated to either their parents or their kith and kin's about their safety and purpose of staying back in Jog with the teachers. They were of immense help and a type of moral courage to the staff members. They had given such a wonderful company in such time of distress through their innocence and their uncorrupted behavior which was without any inhibitions what so ever. Now they are about leave the place they could possibly never forget in their life. They behaved in most sympathetic, concerned and matured way with the Murty's father. Even the man who had lost his own son could not help liking them.
Though initially he had some reservations about the boys, but he too realized and accepted the fact that nobody could bring back his son. And no sense in grudging anyone for his eternal loss.
They thanked heartily everyone in Jog who really came out and extended their co-operation. At last they left. The minimum baggages were carried by the students to the Bus-Stand. As the bus was starting from jog there was no difficulty in loading their luggage into the bus. There was no hurry. In that stay of four days even the bus driver and conductors knew everything of these teachers and the accident and they were quite sympathetic. The passengers of that night's trip practically consisted only the members of the excursion party from jog. It was extremely a cold night. Lucklily as there was no rush all of them could sleep comfortably in whichever seat they wanted.
The limping teacher was the last person to get on to the bus. He bought two packets of cigarette from the shop. The bondage that had developed in jog in a matter of four days and the chain of events that followed were really surprising. Really the entire group felt a sense of loss while they left that place. The loss was not only of their own boy but their heart filled to the brim with mixed emotions for the glorious human expression of the people of Jog….

Mr.MVS was too tired and he thought that he would now can go to sleep. It was almost four nights since he had a normal sleep. He wanted to sleep desperately. As soon as he got on to the bus, he selected a middle three seater seat and and collapsed on the hard cushion.

The bus started peirecing through the darkness and the journey towards Bangalore started......

For the last time the the limping teacher looked outside to take a look at the reservoir which had given an unpleasent but unforgetable experience of his life. But he could not see any thing except the shading trees which were moving in the opposite direction of the road in the confusing dim light of the head light. He was confused, his head was whirling and spinning due to terrible weakness. He slumped down on the seat closing the glass window. He covered his body with a shawl but he still shivered. He wanted to lie down and sleep. He wanted to forget everything for the time being.... But...

The memories kept torturing him one after the other...... The arrogant face of the boy..... the wriggling body of the boy in the canal... The bloated and decomposed figure of his student started unfolding one after the other... the night.... the road.....Kunigal villages.... the dead body and the taxi and the young girl in the night.... the agitated crowd beating him.... heart broken father..... his frighten and saddened collegues... jounery back to jog and all that and even the scent of the burning snadol wood.... the pyre.... the white smoke slowly rising upwards from the pyre and diffused in to the backdrop of the december sky.......
The limping man wanted to stand and look up at the black sky, but could'nt. The eye lids were forcing to drop over. The pain in the leg has returned and he was moaning.........The iregular moaning turned into rythemic heavy snoring slowly............The bus was moving in the cold night towards Bangalore......and the journey continued to continue.......!

3 comments:

sahana said...

One can imagine what you must have gone through in those five days amidst your leg injury. I know how difficult it is to tell a parent about his son's death, I have gone through the same when I had to break the news to my father about his father's demise. It's not easy to tel someone that their beloved is no more. But you had to face a different situation. The anger and agony of the boy's relatives.

This shows the courage of a person and the way you have handled the situation shows your valorousness. Hats Off for your assertiveness dad.

meena said...

In tone with the story your writing tends to contain a disturbing turn. The ands, buts, agains although in our local language is poetic and give a sense of melody, in english language short story writing the words bear a negative approach. All in all a must read imminent, brutal experience of a dedicated teacher.

Prashanth said...

I can understand what it takes for a person especially a teacher to convey the message of death of a student to his family since teachers will always be held responsible for a student's life within school time.
My father had also told me this story of reality before, but after reading the same in your blog, my eyes became wet as if i was seeing it in reality.
I know the kind of character you have got in you as i was your student for a year. It could have been none other than you accompanying my dad who could set off to convey the message to his family.
My father sometimes recollects his journey with you from jog to bangalore and all those unexpected events that took place on your journey.
It was really sad that the excursion party turned into a mourning mishap.I believe that it was a journey of your life with complete fear, sadness, worries etc that let to an unstable mind.
This is a must read reality story on the blog which reflects the immense courage displayed by the teachers in such a situation.

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