A Dark Night - II

Read The Dark Night I (first part) 
The pristine rays of dawn reflected from the old man’s rugged face. Enormous radiant eyes shone from within a frame of bones. Those luminous eyes seemed familiar. The old man grinned at him, just like he had done years ago. He was limping. There was something awry with his left foot. The queer gait, the versant eyes and the evil grin, he could never escape him. This was no mistake. His heart pounded faster and blood whizzed through his veins as he watched the feeble old man’s advent.
It had all ensued on an identical overcast and stormy night, eight years ago. His mother was away for a festival. He had stayed back to take part in a school play. It was almost nine in the evening. His father had put him to bed and settled in his study to go through some papers. He could not sleep. He tossed and turned in his bed. He overheard his father talking to someone in his study next door. He crept out of his bed and sneaked into the study. He hid behind the window to catch some action. He saw a man, about the same age as his father, with tattered clothes and unkempt hair, sitting right across his father. His father had his back to him. They were discussing something in loud raucous voices which he couldn’t assimilate. He was only eight, barely capable of comprehending the intricacies of life.
Suddenly the man seated across his father rose to his feet and his voice boomed. He had a harsh and harrowing voice. He had never seen anyone talk to his father like that. He shivered with fright. His father was trying to hush him. He pulled out a shotgun from under his ragged shirt instead, and shot his father twice in the heart. His father let out a shriek of pain and a pool of red spread all around his collapsed body. He felt giddy and as the sick stench of the claret strewed he passed out. His last memories were that of a pair of monstrous eyes gleaming with the bliss of gratification. He was sneering like a ferocious beast. There was a shadow of heinous resentment on his face. Slowly he had limped out of the house. In his subconscious mind, he was puzzled. What reason could have made such a beast out a man, lead him to slay another man and draw bliss and serenity out of it. His innocent apperception was unable to decipher the paradoxes of the human mind.
When he opened his eyes, his mother sat beside him, holding his hand. It was exceptionally silent. It had been two days after ‘the dark night’. He was treated with sedatives to calm down his nerves. He immediately asked, “Maa, where is father? Is he okay?”
“No son, he is dead.” She had replied in a nonchalant yet afflicted tone. “He was murdered by someone two days ago. We will never get to see him again.”
It was not the obvious misfortune but the oblivious apathetic timbre in his mother’s voice which had agonized him. His mother was a strong and vehement woman. She might have been docile but she had great perseverance, fortitude and virtue.
When he had divulged the truth of ‘the dark night’ to his mother, she had calmly put her fingers to his lips and said,
“Son let go of the past. The dead cannot be brought back. It will only cause you more distress and desolation.”
Just like always, he heeded her words and buried the truth in his heart. But there was discord and cacophony in his mind. He could not fathom why his mother lacked the hankering to identify the assassin. The demise of his father had stirred up the hornet’s nest. Every new day brought a group of insatiable debtors and grudging accomplices to their doorstep, squalling for money. She dealt with such daily predicaments with exceptional bravura. The grief and despair reflected in her eyes, but she maintained her poise.
She had renounced all hues and glimmer in her life. She now dressed up in crisp white Sarees. In her halcyon white attire she looked even more divine and pristine. She had followed the path of piousness She had walked the path of piousness and sanctity. She had always said “To seek revenge is a facade of the coward, but to forgive is a virtue of the bold.” He wanted to pursue in her trail. He wished to forgive, but he could neither forgive nor forget. Those ghastly and cadaverous eyes, that baleful smirk and that eerie gait kept bringing back the execrable flashback from the grave. They had been haunting him since ‘the dark night’.
For several years, he had woken up to gun shots. His mother would calm him down and put him back to sleep. Their lives were veered forever. He despised that man from the core of his heart. The mere thought incited overwhelming emotions. He wanted to hunt him down and strangle him. He had scorned that devil which had filched the peace and affluence of his family and shoved his mother into eternal suffering and agony. A widow is treated no better than filth by the society. She is looked down upon by even the lowest elements of the society. People who had pleaded before her with folded hands, now maltreated and taunted her. He could not bear such derision and disgrace of his mother. But she endured everything honourably. He loathed that man not for his deeds but for the consequences of his actions.
As he became older, he had unveiled many secrets about his father and the reasons behind his mother’s indifference towards his father. His father had not been the most righteous man. Although the proud owner of acres of fertile land, a successful steel plant and property worth many crores, he was a miser at heart. He was highly narcissistic and parsimonious. He was responsible for several immoral and nefarious deeds. The ferocious accident which had claimed several people’s life and health, was also the repercussion of his depraved actions. His mother had reckoned that whatever happened was the price that fate had made him pay for his unethical deeds. But these revelations could not dwindle his abhor for the beast.
As he watched the old man approach, those arduous memories were refreshed. The monstrous gleaming eyes were now encompassed by a skinny and eroding skull. But time could not camouflage his identity. That smirk on his face, years ago, was carved in his memory. Even after so many years, he could recognize this man in a crowd. His face was blank and his mind was crowded with emotions as he saw that man approaching him. He felt a stronger hatred for himself now than he had felt for the killer then. How could he have loved this man’s daughter all his life? She had her father’s eyes. The striking similarity was obvious now. How could he have never noticed? Worse.. even after knowing this truth, he could not love her any less. He was filled with contempt and despise for himself. He felt a burning heat on his face. He could not comprehend whether it was rage or shame.
All his life he had desired vengeance from this man. And today when he was standing less than an arm away, he peered at him palsied in laconism. The old man looked at him intensely with a scowl on his face, like he was saying something with his eyes. He turned to his daughter and asked her something with signs and groaning noises. Perhaps the disease had mutilated his voice. The voice which had reviled and slandered his father in his last minutes. He looked back at him. As he stared into his eyes, he realized, it was not the same. Instead of the satisfaction, it reflected suffering. Instead of happiness, there was redemption. He wasn’t grinning, instead his lips were drooping and cracked. At that moment realization struck, now he could speculate what had made a demon out of this man. The loss of his family and being downtrodden into poverty because of one man’s never-ending avarices was enough to arouse the beast in any man, to seek revenge. He had also been living with a desire for retribution for his miseries from a man who had done the same. He saw this man coughing, coughing until he choked.
Rage had given way to pity. Pity shone in his eyes for a man who he had condemned all his life. How this one moment has changed what he had believed in and lived for his entire life. How it had turned a man he had demonized lifelong into a feeble destitute mortal. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He saw his mother articulating the same words she had repeated so many times during her lifetime. But he had never believed those words. His mother believed in them but he considered them only as words of virtue out of religious books.
“Things happen for a reason. There is God’s will in every good or bad thing that happens to us. Therefore we should accept it with dignity and do our deeds righteously.”
“Every man pays for his own actions during his lifetime. God lets no sin go unpunished.” Now he discerned the authenticity of those words. Was God punishing this man for his sins? Is he going to meet a similar fate for treating this man as a demagogue?
A long whistle sounded! The train rumbled in and halted right in front of them. He stole a glance at her. She was engrossed talking to her father. But the old man refused to heed her. He could no longer bear the pain in his heart and the turmoil of emotions in his mind. His mother’s words were pounding on his ears. He was perplexed how his despise had transformed into pity and shame. A ray of hope for getting his love back into his life which had came into being today was eclipsed forever. He stepped into the train. The doors closed. As the train whistled again, she turned to look at him. She was stupefied. How could he leave without saying a word, without promising to meet again? The train started rumbling ..
“Aadi... Aadi..” she hollered at the top of her voice and scampered along the rumbling train. Their eyes locked for a brief second. They both got the message. They will never see each other again. He looked away, into the twilight. The train caught speed and rumbled off. He had to live with the pain. It was his redemption. This dark night had upturned his life once again. It had snatched away his love as well as his hate.

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