Thursday, 17 April 2014

Convicted

This is the story of Amar, who knew, when he was just 7, the irony of his name. Like most rural Indians, sadly, he learned it the harder way.

Amar in Hindi meant 'immortal'. But on that August evening, when his mother was wailing in evident pain emanating from what he later found out to be a lethal tumor, he saw his father drinking poison and vomiting blood. Two uncomfortable understandings of life would dawn upon Amar's intellect:
1. People are born to find ways to die
2. What the GOD in the attic could do was smile like he always did!

Practically one wouldn't count Amar to be talked about in third person, left aside him being the theme of a story. But as you can plainly see, what happened was quite the contrary. Amar never fared well in studies, after the death of his father he needed to run the house chores while at the same time tending to his ill mother, who became more fragile each passing day.

He used to say that at times he needed to handle her like a water-drop, carefully and with utmost devotion. He remembers that day, when his mother would have begun seeing the credits rolling up on the screen which portrayed her life, when he left her in her bed in the morning while he went to work and on coming back in the evening found a stray dog almost eating her up alive. Amar knew quite a many people who became food to dogs in his slum, in fact the person next door died after a group of scandalous dogs tried to loot him out of his dinner. But for his mother another climax was written. On a day when even the weather became sombre, probably to pay homage, his mother wailed for the final time in her life. And for the first time death brought a sigh of relief to Amar, a relief that could only be understood if you heard how his mother would cry in pain.

Death of his mother gave a certain freedom to Amar, a freedom you would feel when you have been caged your whole life and got suddenly released. This freedom introduced Amar to the darker worlds both within and outside. His persistent struggle to attain wealth found himself mixed in all sorts of physical and mental conflicts, the outcome of which destroyed all sympathy and innocence that life had bestowed upon him.

At 23, Amar was the most sought after criminal in his city and had incredulous stories of organized crimes and barbarous killings, which included the killing of a pregnant lady to loot what was her 5 gram necklace. The secret to his still not serving a term for any of the crimes he committed were the powerful influences he had both inside the judiciary and the police. Almost during the same time he would learn two more enlightening thoughts on life:
1. Money gives a man identity
2. Power gives a man courage

Even after being generally considered as a merciless criminal Amar still thought he had a sane nature inside him. He heard his mother's wails each night and found his father's bottle of poison still standing proudly atop his desk. Every night he would resign himself into the seclusion, amidst his mother's wails and father's blood, he would draft the plans of tomorrow's burglaries. This brought a sort of satisfaction, because when he planned, the wails subdued and the bottle of poison became powerless.

It was his general motto in life to be successful. On the day we first met, Amar said to me, 'Whatever I am, whatever I am reduced to, was born out of my desires'. I believed this man. I believed that whatever he was scrutinized for, there was still something that stood out, like an exasperated sentiment!

Even when he was arrested for the first time in his life, all he did was smile. When undergoing trial in court he glanced around the court room and found the face he was looking for and murmured the words that he wanted to say to her, 'FUCK YOU!'. He never bothered to have a lawyer. He had this imaginative parallel world, inside which no force could harm him. But when that world was shattered with the judge beating his hammer, Amar knew that his life suddenly seemed worthless. In that courtroom facing the judge giving him capital punishment he understood two more things about life:
1. Money, power and all other physical prowess were momentary
2. When you see death in front of your eyes, you lose all sustained pride

'Don't try to help me', Amar said to me when I paid him a visit at his jail. He would need to spend 16 years in prison before he would walk onto the rope. He never stuttered as he spoke, 'Make sure you use the money to do what I say'. Yes, he left behind a fortune! The good thing with India is that even when a man is prosecuted for crime and is sentenced to punishment, his history of thefts are not recorded and the money is never retrieved. What Amar asked me to do with this money was to give it back to some 27 people from whom he either stole it or forced it out.

I went to the bank and withdrew all of what was left in the account. It amounted to some 67 lacs. At first the money made my vision grow hazy. I felt a force, a strange attraction that Amar might have also felt towards these paper strips. But then my sense of duty overpowered the attraction and the money was returned.

Almost 14 years later, I met Amar for the final time. He had grown old, older than me, haunted by prison life and the melancholy memories of his past. It was then he shared with me two final statements on life:
1. We spend all our life living and we don't even know why
2. The answer ironically could be understood only after we die

I thought a lot about what he said. Though, I never quite understood what he might have meant. On my way back I got a call from the prison saying Amar had died vomiting blood. I went back immediately. There I saw his lifeless body and the image of his soul migrating to a better place. I didn't spill a tear, this guy was a shrewd killer, one who would have slaughtered me if it pleased him. But quite simultaneously I remembered what he said to me that morning and thought about the destiny that made him walk through the path, the path of understandings, the path of depressive and unwelcome moments, the path of ceaseless struggle, the path which suddenly turned towards felonious extremes, the path which brought him to prison, the path which made him meet me.

'Sir, what shall we do with him?', the constable asked me. I couldn't give him an apt reply but continued my thoughts. 'He deserves a cremation', I replied coldly.

After his cremation I found Amar's diary inside his cell. I read his final entry in which he had written, 'If death levels the scores, then let my pains wash away my sins!', and then I found my tears spreading his ink, and my mind searching for essence behind all his artless words.

No comments:

Post a Comment