Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rest in Peace

Sleep eluded him even tonight.

It had been twelve days but the picture of that girl was clear in his mind. She would have been only seventeen or eighteen, and had piercing eyes. She was not beautiful but there was something strange in her face. It was without any facial expressions but she looked sad.  

Death came to her by hanging. She was found dead in her bedroom and her husband who reported it first. All this was mentioned in the post-mortem report. It was there he had seen her picture for the first time.

He had seen her dead body too, but he hardly recalled that. Faces change after suicide, and moreover before he entered the morgue, he got himself fully drunk. How else can one withstand the disfigured dead bodies and then tear them to do this work? People think post-mortem is done by some forensic expert, but they hardly give five minutes to this job; it is actually done by Doms of the morgue.  

He had never imagined that some obscure little girl could disturb his peace. He had doubled his alcohol, but it hardly helped. Initially he lost his sleep but now there were hallucinations too. At times this girl came in the morning and accompanied him to the morgue. She was always quiet and sad but she never looked at his face.  Whenever he tried to ask reason for that, she was gone. There were voices too, but he hardly listened to those.

‘It must be that ring.’ He thought to himself.

 The girl was wearing a diamond ring when her body was brought to the morgue and he had quietly slipped it into his pocket. Her finger was stiff as stone and he had to struggle hard to take that out. What use would that ring be in the grave?

‘I should have sold it that day itself. She might have been fond of this ring and that is why she is bothering me.’ He murmured.

He never believed in ghosts. A person who spends more time with dead bodies than with living beings has hardly any fear left. These dead bodies had taught him that living beings that sent these bodies to the morgue were more dangerous than souls. This time also it was not fear, but a poignant feeling; something told him that the soul of this girl was not at peace.

She was not going to leave him like that. Today was thirteenth day after her death and he decided to settle the matter. He quietly left the house and started for the graveyard. The night was darker than soot but he had no trouble in finding his way. For him graveyard was like some deserted old city. It had concrete structures which were never repaired, there were trees growing all over the place and all this followed no pattern. He found it inviting in a way.

No one noticed him as he entered the graveyard. He had to struggle hard not to step his feet on any of the graves. He did not care while he tore through dead bodies, but that was his work; he could not insult those who lay here in eternal sleep. There was an eerie silence and the only sound he could hear was his feet crushing dead leaves.

 ‘Why should a soul be so concerned about a ring?’ He thought to himself. He had stolen things from dead bodies before, and no soul had bothered him.

‘Here you greedy woman, take this ring, and leave me alone.’ He would reach her grave and tell her to settle the matter straight. He practised in his mind all what he would say.

Suddenly he noticed that she was walking with him.  Silently, she accompanied him to her grave. A large marble tombstone had been placed there. The epitaph read:

Here lies our beloved Mehrunnisa; a lovable wife, dutiful daughter-in-law and a perfect human being. She left us for her heavenly abode but her memories remain with us to cherish for all our lives.
May her soul rest in peace.

‘Your family really loved you. I saw that your husband was inconsolable after your death. ’ He squatted next to her grave and initiated the discussion. For the first time her expressions changed.  He took it as a sign to continue.

‘After your dead body was taken from morgue, I went to your place. I somehow felt that it was my duty to participate. Everyone was sad. You must have been really lucky to find in-laws like that. You had everything in this world. How could a girl like you commit suicide?’ His last question was more a statement of fact. Tears started rolling from his eyes.

‘You know my wife gave birth to dead baby girl. I have always felt that vacuum in my life. She would have been your age.’ He started sobbing. After sometime he started again.

‘I went to meet your mother too. She was in a pathetic state. That woman never cried after your death. She silently sat for hours staring at blank and then suddenly spoke at length. She told me strange things. Once she said that she was extremely happy when you were married four months back. You know she even showed me your wedding robe.’ He took a deep breath as if to recollect what all had to be said.

‘Then she started crying and said that it was her fault she did that. She probably lost her mind. She kept on saying that you were killed. Poor lady, what would she know?’ He said as if explaining it to himself.

A cool wind blew and he shivered in his torn coat. This was his first sense of bodily discomfort after a long time and he felt relieved at that.   

‘No, I did not talk about your pregnancy. It would have increased her woes. There are some secrets which should go in the grave. ’

After this he took a long pause. What was he trying to explain? He had not done anything wrong. Yes, he had stolen a ring but why should it matter. There were people who committed greater sins and no soul bothered them. He had an urge to walk away from the graveyard but her eyes told that she expected something more.

‘Why do you want to know; Yes, I have seen your post-mortem report, you committed suicide. I am not saying this; I only mentioned what was written in that report.’ He felt that she was not convinced.

‘Yes, I had seen injury marks on your body. You might have fallen somewhere and developed those. I know one does not develop cigarette burns by falling but we are not required to go into the details; we only establish the cause of death. I showed them to the Coroner but he confirmed you hanged yourself to death?’ He turned his face to avoid her eyes. He was feeling suffocated there and took a deep breath.

‘Here, take this ring and leave me alone.’  Although it was dark, the diamond sparkled at her grave. He buried his face in his palms and started crying. When his tears dried, he started in an accusatory tone.

‘That day when you were buried, I overheard your neighbours. No, I was not interested; everyone was talking about it. There were hushed voices that you killed yourself because there was something you were ashamed of; really ashamed. Is it necessary that I should say that? Only if you insist; they said you were carrying someone else’s child. They had tears in their eyes but they mischievously smiled when they said that. They even said that you were pregnant when you got married four months back. …….. I am not blaming you, it was what people said.’ When he lifted his head, she was gone.

He waited there expecting she would come back. The girl would have been hurt but there was no reason why he should not have told her. It was she who had started bothering him. The voices in his head told many tales but only he had the right to decide what he spoke.  

When she did not come back, he started feeling a pain. It started as a small tinge but soon he had a heavy load on his heart. He desperately tried to look for her in the graveyard and even tried to dig her grave. The first rays of dawn pierced through the night and it appeared that everything was coming to an end. He felt that he would go mad and he started screaming her name.

‘Mehrunnissa please forgive me; you cannot go without relieving me of this load. I was the one who took your husband to the Coroner. I am a poor man and I do not know what happened next. I was drunk. It was your husband who gave a lot of money to the Coroner. I took only a pittance.’

 ‘Mehrunnisa I would not have done that had I known. I had a feeling that there was foul play in your death. I even told the Coroner that age of foetus was not more than three months. It was he who wrote your cause of death. It was he who wrote that your foetus was six months old. Mehrunnisa……… please………. relieve me of this load.’

1 comment:

Praveen said...

How does he get to sleep peacefully? Will she excuse him ever?