कष्टं च खलु मूर्खत्वं कष्टं च खलु यव्वनं
कष्टात कष्टतरं चैव परगेहे निवासिनं ||
[People face many difficulties due to their stupidity and also face so many difficulties due to some arrogant acts done during one’s youth, but the most difficult of all the difficulties in this world is being forced to live in another’s house having no livelihood of their own. ]
———– Chanakya Neethi ———–
This time I am really worried, worried not for my life but for the person who is driving our vehicle, as he is fully loaded with alcohol. He was drinking since the evening, paying no heed to my scolding. He is a very good friend of mine, has a good family consisting of a wife, two children, old parents, an un-married sister to support. If anything happens to him all their lives will be in jeopardy. I am a bachelor and alone in this world, nobody is there to shed a tear even if I die suddenly. Due to shortage of personnel on that day, I had been forced to accept this fellow. It was pitch dark, the only available light is from the moon and the stars and we are on border patrol duty, assigned by the Commander of the fifth battalion attached to the second regiment at the base camp. We already advanced into the deep jungle having missed our usual route somewhere. Though, I am looking very intensively to all sides and keeping constant vigil to notice any enemy activity with a fully loaded weapon in my hand, my attention is constantly being distracted by his horrible driving on that horrible road.
And finally, he has done what I am expecting and afraid of. He successfully managed to steer the vehicle into a ditch about 15′ deep below the road. While crashing into the ditch, the vehicle turned over once or twice. It seems that I lost consciousness for some time and when I opened my eyes, I found myself deep in mud up to my ankles and my friend totally unconscious jammed in the vehicle. I managed to stand up myself and extract my friend from the vehicle and with much difficulty I somehow managed to carry him on my shoulders to reach on the road. I lost the weapon which was in my hand and also all the spare weapons kept in the vehicle. In that total darkness there is no way to search for the lost items among the bushes. My whole body shivered when it dawned upon me that at any time either the enemy or any wild animal might attack and I have no means of retaliation. I hid my unconscious friend behind a big peepal (Bo-tree) tree and I stood there helpless to do anything under such circumstances but wait for the dawn……………
After a few minutes, I heard a familiar sound and I immediately recognized what it was. It was the sound of a vehicle coming slowly and without headlights, coming from our side. Initially I felt relieved, but as observed the movement of the vehicle, I got suspicious and I remained hidden behind the big tree. The vehicle slowly passed the place where I was hiding and after going a few paces suddenly stopped. Two persons holding weapons got down from the front side apart from the driver. The back side is totally closed and it was not clear whether if somebody were sitting in it or not. The driver started arguing with the other two persons, about something in some language which I could not understand. Slowly the argument turned into somewhat a type of quarrel and for some time they continued their feud, after which one of the two persons rushed angrily to the backside of the vehicle, opened the door and ordered somebody sitting inside to get down. Three ladies came down and though I could not see clearly their faces, but from the view available in that small lighting, I could say they are all young girls. Their hands were tied behind their backs and their mouths were also gagged. As soon as the girls got down, the driver immediately reversed the vehicle and went away. One of the two persons withdrew a torch from his pocket and started flashing for a few seconds.
Now I clearly understood what is happening. They belong to a gang who bring young girls to handover to terrorists across the border. It seems there was some confusion among them and the other persons didn’t turn up at the previously agreed time and place. I felt very sad and worried about the girls, as I know what would be their fate after they have been handed over to those demons. At present, as there were only two persons, I decided to find a way to save the girls. Luckily, there is no response coming from the other side for their signals. Suddenly, one of the two persons, went a few yards forward climbed a small tree and started again giving signals. And, I decided that was the right movement to act, as their total concentration was on the response from the other side. I took a hard stone in my hand and slowly and silently reached behind the person left with the girls. Synchronizing all my movements into a swift action, I landed the stone on the backside of the head of that person with all the force I could command, snatched the weapon in his hand and opened fire on the other person on the tree. It took probably less than a minute for the whole operation and both the persons permanently left this world.
I approached the girls, removed the ropes that were binding their hands and removed the tapes on their mouths. At once all three girls clasped and clinging me tightly they started to weep uncontrollably. It took me a lot of time to console them and bring them to a normal state. Though, now I am in possession of two good weapons, the chances of defending any attack from the enemy are very meager. By God’s grace, meanwhile our search party arrived and we all have been taken to our camp barracks. There, one by one they started to tell their stories. Out of the three, two girls are Punjabi girls. They are studying in Bombay (now Mumbai) and while they were returning from a late class, both of them were abducted, took them away in a car and were thrown into a dark room. Hands were tied, blind folded and gagged. Till this time they don’t know what happened and where they were being taken away. But, the third girl, name Miss Saroja who is from my home state and speaks my mother tongue, told a different story……………
I am the daughter of a high school teacher and our family i..e. myself, my brother, my mother and father, all of us used to live in a small house in our home town. My brother, two years older than me, always was adamant in nature and father never liked him. My father used to love me very much since my childhood and always treated me very specially. Whatever things, toys, dresses, eatables etc., I used to demand, he managed to arrange in spite of his meager income. I used to shine very much in studies than my brother and he could not complete even the school final certificate course. He used to roam all the streets of the city like a vagabond. Father managed to caught hold of some influential people to arrange a small job for my brother, temporarily in a govt. company and later he again saw that the same was made permanent. I continued to study well and entered the third year of degree course.
Meanwhile my father accepted a marriage alliance which one of our relative suggested and my brother has been married to that girl. Unfortunately, my sister-in-law turned out to be a bad woman. Within a few days after she came to our house, differences began to appear between my mother and my sister-in-law. Gradually they grew into big quarrels and on one fine day my brother and his wife left our house and began to live separately. And; when my final exams are about to be completed within three months, the greatest tragedy in my life happened, my father died due to heart attack. All of a sudden everything changed. Brother left, father died and there is no wage earner in the house. I have not yet completed the degree. A few savings and the amount we received towards the dues of my late father from the school, were barely sufficient to clear the loans. Now there is no money, no job and no source of income. I tried my level best and moved heaven and earth to obtain a small job or any job that could provide two meals for us. But in these days, for a person who don’t have at least a degree certificate who will give a job. I approached all the persons who knew my father. Nothing happened and ultimately as there is no other way, we had to move to my brother’s house for our living. Since then the real troubles started for both of us.
Since the very first day, we set our feet in that house, my sister-in-law started to dictate terms to us. She used to dominate even my mother without giving any respect if not as a mother-in-law but not even as an elder woman. She never afraid at all, to use any foul language whatever that comes to her mind, and the sentences would be full of vitriol words. She finds fault in any thing we do. If we sit for a while, she rebukes; if we stand in the veranda she taunts whom for you are waiting. She would not talk with us without using some insinuation meaning. Her words used to pierce my heart as if somebody piercing my heart with a very sharp knife. She stopped altogether taking up any household activity. All work of the house was left totally to us; washing the clothes of all the members including the children, cooking, sweeping, moping, cleaning of utensils etc.,.
Invariably my mother has to obtain her permission before cooking the lunch, dinner or breakfast. What vegetable would be for the day, how much quantity is to be prepared and in what type of particular way the curries are to be cooked. If anything was not done according to her instructions, she would start to shout using vituperative language which hurts our hearts very badly. Our small house in the city has been given on lease to some tenants and she used to pocket the rent. And above all my brother totally kept mum and never interfered or objected to her words or deeds. We used to experience practically the hell in that house. I could not sleep during many nights and wept silently for my fate, remembering the days when father was alive how happily, joyfully and without any tension for the future, I spent my days. She adamantly refused to help in arranging funds for my marriage even a singly rupee nor she agreed to sell the house in which we both too have a legal right. I lost all hope for the future and unable to digest the harassment specially my mother being subjected to, I, many times, considered to attempt suicide also. But one day……..
A nicely looking elderly gentleman well dressed in neatly pressed white dhoti and kurta etc. with a convincing smile on his face came to my brother’s house. Introduced himself as our distant relative, the chain of relation which he narrated, even my mother could not recollect for a long time initially. Then she remembered vaguely about the gentleman. He told us that he heard about the death of my father and came to express condolences. He enquired about me and asked what I was doing. When we said that we are on the search of a suitable job, he said that he came only for the purpose of helping us as he was indebted to my father previously. He wanted to express his gratitude by arranging a nice job to me. A clerical job is readily waiting for me at Hyderabad where he resides and also he said that he can arrange accommodation for me in a working ladies hostel. Sir, you may not believe me, but the words began to cling to my years as if I am hearing a beautiful music. Without thinking anything I immediately expressed my acceptance, as my first priority is to get out of the house as early as possible and once I settle I would shift my mother also from that hell. My mother initially apprehensive about him, but when he gave a lot of references of well known persons, whom we too knew very closely, she also at last conceded her approval. My sister-in-law was in the mood of throwing me out with him then and there, but he said as we would be going by road and he has some important jobs to attend, he would come in the evening to take me along with him and we would reach the destination by dinner time and he promised that there would not be any problem.
Exactly as promised he came in a car, some other person was driving the car, and I left with him, leaving my mother who was shedding tears uncontrollably and there were no body left to console her. We travelled for some time and the night started to progress. Somewhere on the way they stopped the vehicle and said we will have some tea. I could not find a tea shop anywhere nearby. The driver opened a flask and took three cups from the dash board and poured the tea in the cups. One cup was handed over to me and I drank the tea which was a little bit sweet to my taste. There after I never remembered when I handed over the cup back to them, I fell totally un-conscious. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a dark room along with two other girls, hands tied behind my back and my mouth gagged. Both the other two girls were also in the same condition. I found they were also weeping constantly. After sometime a vehicle came the backside of which was totally closed and all of us were forced to board the vehicle in the backside. They closed the doors and we could not see anything where we are going. After a long journey and I don’t know for how many hours, they brought us here and you appeared as a God to save us.
I could not find any suitable words to react to her story, I was totally so absorbed that I could not even think whether human beings like her sister-in-law are really exists in this world. Miss Saroja, not only aroused my sympathy towards her, but also stole my heart as she was beautiful and very good looking. After some time, I offered my hand which she accepted very happily. We got married in presence of my friends; and my Commander, using his influence arranged a family quarter for me and we started our family life. Later we brought her mother who lived happily with us thereafter.
कष्टात कष्टतरं चैव परगेहे निवासिनं ||
~ Syam Prasad Gundavarapu, Retd., Senior Manager (Finance), Coal India Ltd.