RISING FROM ASHES
By Upagupt Mohanty
As I r e g a i n e d consciousness after the ‘Narco analysis test’, I realised that I was being pushed into a court van. My hands were cuffed. Media personnel hounded me with a barrage of rapid questions, as they usually do with celebrities, except that they had rage written all over their faces! Suddenly a girl from the media, standing on my left, quizzed me, “What were your intentions behind such cold blooded mayhem?” “Couldn’t you feel the pain of the victims and their families while inflicting such pain?” Standing on my extreme right, a grey haired man questioned me, “Your looks are so deceptive, what is the difference between you and a terrorist in disguise, the nation wants to know?”. I got baffled with the shower of innuendoes. As I sat on the cold metal bench of the court van, I could see faintly, my friend standing next to an OB (outside broadcasting) van at a distance, with a ‘Brutus’ smile . The echoes of abuses and nature of treatment meted out to me, made me believe that I was a serial killer who was being forwarded to the court to be sentenced. Charges were framed and then the trial began.As I was standing motionless in the custody box, I could feel ‘Marbur’ had taken a strong hold over my body and seemed determined not to allow me to win any fight, be it against itself or the prevailing injustice. Fatigue and cough persistently continued. The prosecutor presented the case before the court, cross-examined me and pleaded for death penalty.
“Do you have anything to say in your defense for perpetrating such heinous crimes?” The matured judge asked me, glancing over his reading glasses. Yes! I replied stoically. The abuzz courtroom suddenly fell silent. I didn’t want to accept that Iwas a victim of circumstances, so I took the oath and replied “ Sir, with due respect I beg to state that I am a dead man as per our government records. It can be checked up at the Tehsildar’s anyone?” With such a revelation f rom a monst rous convict , there were many expressions in display at the courtroom.
How can I be considered
as dead when I m alive?
In my own defense, I stated. “Sir, I was in special forces which had one motto: Where there is a crime, we were its only cure. After retirement from service, I moved to my semi urban town. The place had undergone a lot of transformations since I had left. Everything had progressed from kuccha to pucca houses, roads, dispensaries etc. Houses which appeared like random concrete blocks were replaced by buildings with techno-centric appearance In the evening hours, when I reached the lane that leads to my home, I hoped to listen to the chanting of evening prayers in the neighbourhood. But that day, the air reverberated with painful cries.
It sent a chill down my spine and made my heart quiver. “Did you see Mzar anywhere?” a passerby asked me hastily. I replied, “No”. “It has infected half the town, save yourself”, he shrieked. The words didn’t scare me but people seemed to get scared with Mzar as no one knew how, when, where it would appear and attack. Mzar was a strange creature. The species got life from a genetic experiment that went wrong at InveCare Inc, some 90 km towards east from my town. It was believed that it had power of replicating in water. The town was gripped by a viral disease – Marbur being spread on contact with crude green saliva spit from the Mzar. “I will” I shouted back and moved on. Cutting across a few blocks, I came across Bulu Dada, my dad’s younger brother. Pranam, I said instantly on meeting him. But, my dada gave me a cold look and crossed me as if I didn’t exist. Hurt and shocked, I opened my hip flask, took a swig and went home after ages. Oh gosh!! My house has been occupied. Dada’s family had taken full control of my house. I asked my cousin in an affirmative tone “Banke, how long have you been staying here?” He manhandled me at the very instant and yelled back at me “Who the hell are you… how dare you ask me such a question, standing in my house?” For a moment the words “my house” made me agitated. I got involved in a scuffle with my relatives as they simply refused to acknowledge me. Banke literally threw me out of the house. To me, they had turned to be more injurious than the liquor in my flask. How pathetic, a man with a home, was just rendered homeless. I was alone and felt like Julius Caesar in the last act. I put up in a hotel that night and guzzled a bottle of alcohol to soothe my aching heart. Sadly, the waiter had to bear testimony as I vented out my anger.
With passage of time, I took up a house on rent. I felt as if I have lost faith in life. I was lifeless. So, without sharing my inner turmoil, I joined a part time work and led a life at ease but the question of getting back my own property kept stinging me. While on service, I had applied for a home refurbishment loan against my property but it had been rejected. To verify the grounds of rejection, I went to the Tahsildar’s office . “Oh man! Don’t pester me. As per every record it suggests, that Mritak Singh is a dead man. Accept what I am saying or simply bugger off.” said the grumpy, obese, pan chewing official in the Tehsil office. I was speechless and dumbfounded as I couldn’t accept the fact that my loving cousins could steep so low to usurp my property. Shattered and dejected, I came back walking.
Few months passed away. The emotional turbulence pinched me every second of my life. The rage of revenge or retaliation of being disinherited and being declared dead had turned the strong exservice man into a mad monster. I never ever thought that I would get stung and become a victim. Marbur disease had taken a toll on the town. Though I did first aid treatment, weight loss, fatigue and dry cough started setting in as after effects. I went to hospital for its prevention. “Do you smoke?” the specialist asked me. “No” I replied affirmatively. Everything appeared to be normal but he asked me to do a complete patho test and show him the results, handing me over the prescription. The reports from the test showed everything was normal except the ESR count. The count was high which meantthat the body was fighting against a deadly enemy. The slow poison from the bug was cunning as it lay latent. These parameters of Marbur victims had surprised the medical authorities and they were struggling to find a cure. Writhing in pain both mentally and physically, words like mercy and forgiveness had vanished from the dictionary of my life. The aggressive nature within a wild beast had shown its signs inside me. It was difficult to kill yet my previous working experience made it easy. With one swing from my baseball bat, the weaker ones dropped dead while the stronger ones struggled a little longer. On their death, those bodies were picked up and stocked carefully. Those were named too. Ajit Singh (first on my list). I packed the dead bodies carefully in a huge carton with camphor and slipped it underneath my sleeping cot. The carton was placed and disguised in such a manner that no one could really notice it at a glance. My trophy list, was on a white paper pasted on the wall and gave it a weird title “Mr Murder”. This episode continued for a month and at the end I realised that I had become a blood thirsty monster. My bloodlust knew no bounds. One day Arnab dropped at my place. “Hey man! How you doing? You don’t know how I am feeling on meeting you afterdecades! Anyways, how’s life? What are you doing these days?” he said hugging me in excitement. I replied in an unassuming, cold demeanor “I am doing fine, thank you. Currently, working as manager in a restaurant. How about you?” He dodged the question and said “Leave about my work, lets enjoy the reunion”. I changed the topic and asked him to freshen up. My friend proceeded towards the washroom but suddenly froze up like a statue before the white paper on the wall. “Who are these people?” He asked. Looking at him, I simply smiled with sweat glistening on my forehead and replied “freshen up first, bud”, fighting with self, trying fastidiously not to reveal the wild beast within me. By the time he got back, I had prepared his favourite drink and handed it over to him and said “cheers to the reunion.”
Shots after shots the sensation of being high put me in a deep sleep. I faintly heard exchange of words in whispering tone in the room, which raised me from my sleep. As I rolled up my eye, the clock said its 2 in the night. I ignored it and went back to sleep. Perhaps! The last peg had turned into a sedative. I woke up to repeated knocking at my door. My head reeling with pain, I went to open the door. To my surprise I saw a team of khakhi men at my entrance. They ransacked the house, handcuffed me and took me to the police station. I went on asking them the reason of my arrest but they didn’t reply. On reaching police station, the incharge said “We have found a blood stained baseball bat from your house during the search operation”. As everything moved at a fast pace. I was silent but not calm. My head and heart raced beyond existing timelines back and forth trying to analyze the situation. Suddenly my mouth was gagged and khaki men got busy with consistent merciless act of bloodying me up with countless strikes. Writhing in pain, with blood splashed all over, I spent the night in the damp, urine smelling, insect & rat infested cell. “Enough of drama” said the prosecutor in a loud tone. “The forensic report states about two human blood stains on the bat” the prosecutor cross questioned. “Sir, the bat which the police took as proof had stains of my own blood due to an accidental cut of my arm while protecting Mr. Iyer, my neighbour, from Mzar. I had forgotten to clean it up. My neighbor is no more, or else he would have corroborated this fact.” “How would the court be assured that you haven’t murdered your neighbor?” The prosecutor questioned further. “Sir, if I would have murdered him, the family of the neighbor would have filed a murder case against me, isn’t it?” I replied. The audienc e in cour t murmured making the room noisy. Order! Order! words rolled from the seasoned judge. I continued “Sir, each evening, I kept on killing Mzars and named them after the names of my family members who betrayed me in the first place and mentioned it on my ‘Mr Murder’ list. Eventually I killed more Mzars than number of my family members. So I had picked few names that were brutally killed or gone missing aired in the daily news. Killing Mzars gave me the pleasure of avenging their poor souls. Mr Murder reflects my way of defining Mzar Murders. Moreover, I believe, there is no such law which states that a dead man is punishable for killing Mzars”. Loud laughter echoed all across the room. Hearing my story, judge adjourned the case till next day and the police was directed to collect all related information.
The next day, the police presented the facts and I was relieved with due respect from the honourable court. Bulu Dada apologized and accepted me back into the family. My home loan got approved. I regained my honour. It was a feeling as if I have risen from the ashes. I started my life with a new resolution to wipe out the existence of these vile creatures who threaten these lands and the existence of life on planet earth. Let’s kill some Mzar hahahahaha