It seemed as if the whole city
had become mad, inebriated with hemp. No one ate rice anymore,
but only hemp. The man coming to this new city carried in his
suitcase hemp instead of clothes and papers. The man going out
of this city also secretly kept some hemp in his suitcase along
with his brush, toothpaste, safety razor and other things.
That is not all. Instead of growing cabbage, peas, spinach or flower
plants like rose or dahlia in the garden, people are busy growing
marijuana plants. College going guys are taking pen and pipe together
to college. While going to the market with vegetables, rice, egg,
bread or milk in the morning, vendors drop by at the Hanuman temple
to seek blessings. A bearded old man distributes prasad of sugar
candy from the plate, and from under it marijuana.
May be women and children have been spared from the impact of hemp.
Not that no woman had ever been arrested. A few were accused of
supplying hemp under burqa. While investigating a theft case, the
police would discover the reason: not money or riches, but hemp.
If there was a murder in the city, the police would claim to the
media that the cause behind the murder was hemp; and they were
trying to crack the racket soon.
Once, a sensational news spread from market place to nooks and
corners of every house. Some politician or a reporter spread the
rumour that a hemp plant of a man’s height was there in the
bungalow of the Collector himself. The police kept calling the
bungalow to know the truth. Reporters of dailies and weeklies,
vigilance officers, some tout politicians, and a few NGOs rushed
to the spot to verify the incident, but found a cement platform
instead of hemp plant. The matter did not end there. A rustic reporter
came panting on his cycle and reported that a hemp sapling had
sprouted on the highway where, for about two kilometers, there
was absolutely nothing earlier except for grass.
All this was a matter for police records and newspapers. Going
through police records or newspapers will never create a good impression
about a city. But a variety of news items about this city used
to be published in the newspapers before a year or two. Police
did not only record theft, criminal or looting cases; they sometimes
nabbed an absconding lover and tied him in matrimony to his deserted
beloved, in the premises of the police station itself. The papers
also published items like a woman giving birth to three girls at
a time; or the demand of the farmers before the Chief Minister
for declaration of ‘drought affected areas.’ But no
one really knows when and how this marijuana stealthily made its
way into this city.
Life seemed utterly insecure. There was fear if one had to go to
station to catch a mid-night train. If the patrolling police stopped
someone in suspicion, it would be impossible to catch the train.
There was also a fear to stop by at a betel shop for an hour or
so to read newspaper as the police night suspect; fear of going
to second show cinema; fear of spending more time at a friend’s
house. Such fears had made life of townspeople intolerable.
Suppose there is no other such city in the world… and this
one is only a fictitious city. In the court of the SDJM of this
fictitious city, the trial of a case about a hawker was going on.
When the entire city was hazy with the smoke of marijuana, what
else could the case be in the court except that of marijuana? The
case could have been settled much earlier, but it could not because
of only one person. The man was very head-strong, obstinate and
self-oblivious. The name of that oblivious man was Anurag Kumar,
Village – Hakimpur; District – Munger; and State – Bihar.
By profession he was a doctor. His obsession was reading newspaper
from first to the last page. His dislike was conjugal household.
His belief: good times will someday come. His sorrow was that no
one understood him. And his dreams? Perhaps he never had one. Our
story is about this self–oblivious man..
As Anurag reached the court, the government lawyer took him to
a corner and persuaded him, “Do you remember, doctor; what
you have to say in the court? You’ll say that the hawker
was already intoxicated with marijuana when he was brought to the
hospital. Then you can speak all that you know about the injury.”
Anurag remained silent for a while. He was thinking about the white
dress of the advocate, and the black over-court that the man had
put on, like a cover on a book. He thought, the man who had selected
such a uniform for the judiciary must have done so with noble intentions.
Black symbolizes all evils like rape, murder, theft, abduction,
cheating, injustice; and white - dazzling truth that had to be
elicited from all this. But this government lawyer perhaps doesn’t
know anything about this. He had taken it for granted that he would
look like a lawyer in white shirt and black coat; and has unhesitatingly
been making Anurag mouth a lie.
Anurag protested, “No, as far as I remember, the man was
never intoxicated. Why should I tell a lie?”
What did you have for lunch yesterday,” questioned the advocate
Whatever the cook of the Guest House had served.”
Yes, of course; but what did you eat?”
But what relation does that have with this case?” Anurag
countered with an obvious annoyance in his voice. “I don’t
That’s it!” The advocate beamed as if he had found
the key to his problem. “I want to say the same thing; you
cannot remember what you had taken for lunch yesterday, so how
can you remember an incident of a year ago, that you say so emphatically
that the man had not taken marijuana? Whether he took it or not
is not the matter; if you speak so, where is the problem?”
The two fell into an argument regarding that incident. And then,
the irritated lawyer said, “Ok, speak whatever you like.”
When Anurag knew a few days earlier that the hearing-date was approaching,
he had once again looked through the file of this medico-legal
Road–side injury patient
Name: Purna Chandra Mallick
Father’s Name – Maheswar Mallick
Matia Sahi, Adarsh Nagar,
Dist – Panagarh.
Injury: Below the left ear – left side temple – right-hand
Weapon: Blunt Weapon, came with the police at 6.40 in the evening.
Anurag would be happy whenever there was a hearing at the court,
because it meant that he wouldn’t have to sit in the outpatient
that day, and was free from a routine life. As it is, there was
such a heavy rush of patients in the outpatient in the rainy season
that one hardly found time even to go for a cup of tea. One had
to bear the pallid complexion of the patients, their howling in
pain, their apprehension of some incurable disease, and strange
and hyperbolic description of the symptoms of their disease. Sometimes
Anurag felt amused when patients could not feel or tell where the
pain was – whether in the feet or in the knees, in the belly
or in the chest. Some female patients came so heavily dressed up
that Anurag would wonder whether they had come to a hospital or
a cinema hall. From bangles to nail polish – everything would
be matching; with deep coloured lipstick, shampooed hair, glamour
in the eyes, they spread such a smile as if they were some old
acquaintance. Anurag suspected that freedom for these poor ladies
was only to this extent! Hospital was such a place that nobody
would forbid them from visiting it, and they could enjoy their
freedom to the core of their heart. Miss Kuisku, the schizophrenic
lady doctor sitting by Anurag mostly dozed off in the chair under
the influence of sleeping pills. And, Anurag had to face these
beautiful women; when asked about their problem, one would say
sweet pain in the bosom, and another would complain of lack of
sound sleep at night.
Pain, after all, is pain; but what is this sweet pain? No such
pain is known in medical terminology! Mostly Anurag would refer
such patients to Dr. Purhohit. But when in mood, he would joke
with them and prescribe some gelusil antacid tablets.
Each day was the same; jugglery with names of same medicines, like
playing with coins on a carom board. You had to move through Sinarest,
Paracetamol, Dysmen, Digene, or Chloroquin. It appeared that Butia,
the quack, was happier than him. Atleast, he could provide some
solace to people in exchange for their money. People say his is
a very good hand; he can cure all diseases, from TB to Cancer.
Some people even went away from Anurag to the quack, Dr. Butia.
But he never felt sorry or humiliated. His sorrow was somewhere
else. Who cares for MBBS these days? He wants to soar higher and
higher; and therefore reads The Times of India in great detail;
underlines some vital points. Sometimes, applies to go away to
some very distant place. But in these seven years he had not been
able to rise beyond those Chloroquin and Paracetamols. Atleast,
a court hearing gave him his much sought after freedom from this
killing monotony and disgust.
Anurag had already decided that on his way back from the court
he would pause at the L’Oreal Bar. It had been a long time
since he visited the Bar; since Paritosh Majumdar left for kolkata.
He always returned home straight from hospital. Couching on the
bed of that bare room he again read the stale newspapers. Switching
over to different channels he heard the same news from different
newsreaders. Sometimes visiting his neighbours, he either got bored
or in turn bored them. Because, the concept of happiness and misery
for those family people was different. The routine of their lives
was altogether different. Who had the leisure to sit in the drawing
room for hours, and bear such a fellow like Anurag?
Anurag had also sometime tried to set his household; bought utensils,
rice, dal, turmeric, ghee and shelfed them in the kitchen. Of course,
he used to take his meals in the Guest House, but he had to cook
something for that boy. Anurag didn’t know cooking. So he
would boil rice, dal and vegetables all together, and then pouring
some ghee over it he would keep it for the boy, and caution him
to go to school on time. Anurag had to go to hospital at 8 in the
morning and the boy to school at 10. The only work the boy had
to do was sweep the house twice daily. He would often wash clothes
for Anurag, and buy him betel from a particular shop twice a day.
But the boy couldn’t do even this much properly. At first,
Anurag freed him from washing clothes. He did not know whether
the boy swept the house or not; he was not bothered about it either.
He only wanted the boy to read; at least sit with the books. But
in a few months, the boy kicked away the domesticity of Anurag
Anurag had searched for the boy for sometime but couldn’t
find him. Once the police officer had came to the hospital regarding
a medico-legal case. In the course of conversation Anurag spoke
about the boy. The police officer was quite an experienced man;
and asked, “Where had you brought the boy from?”
Where would I? Dying of hunger the boy had run away from Ganjam
area to a relative uncle of his. His uncle couldn’t provide
him a square meal. The cook of the Guest House had brought the
boy to me. But there is no work to be done in my house; and as
such the boy did not know anything. I got him admitted in the sixth
class in a school.” The police officer smiled at Anurag.
didn’t the boy steal away anything?”
No, everything is OK. Besides, what is there in my house worth
At least, the boy could get something to eat; what problem was
there that he ran away? Did you beat him?”
Yes, I had slapped him. I was furious with him that day. I had
come home early, canceling all other programmes to teach him English;
but found him listening to walkman. When I asked how he got it,
I discovered that he had so far been cheating me! I always buy
costly betel from Shiva’s shop; but he buys me cheaper ones
from another shop and keeps the rest money for himself. And from
this – the walkman. He had been listening to walkman in my
absence instead of reading; and he had also cheated me! I became
furious and boxed the boy’s ears heavily. But I did not know
the boy would run away because of this”.
The police officer gave out a laugh at his words; and said, “Don’t
worry; he wouldn’t have committed suicide. Such children
do not commit suicide. That scoundrel would have reached somebody
else’s house. If you lodge an F.I.R., you’ll be trapped
in a child-labour-case. Leave it. Forget all about that.”
That police officer had left this place since long. Here is now
a new officer. Anurag is not that much acquainted with this man.
The incident regarding the hawker happened during the period of
this new officer. Anurag had completely forgotten the face of the
hawker whom he had treated a year ago. But he could now recall
as he saw him in the court; and could recognize him. Bright, dream–laden
The government lawyer interrogated Anurag in front of the judge
as to when he had seen this lanky, moderately high, dark skinned
young man. Anurag answered that he was on emergency duty that day.
After the OPD had been closed the police brought this youngman
in the evening.
Can you tell the exact time?”
About 6.45 PM.”
What did you see?”
The young man had injuries below his left ear and on the left temple;
and his right hand wrist had some scratches. Someone might have
hit him with stick; not with knife. The injury was no so deep,
Was the youngman intoxicated when he came to the hospital?”
No, not at all.”
But the police record says that he had taken marijuana.”
No, He was not intoxicated at all.”
How did you know that?”
I am a doctor. Can’t I know if a man is intoxicated or not?” Anurag
was a little irritated; and then resumed. “His activities
were not a bit abnormal. No smell emanated from his mouth either.
Besides his eyeballs were also quite normal.”
How can you speak that with so much confidence? Do you have any
record about it?”
Yes, it may be there in the register of the hospital. I don’t
have one with me right now.”
The lawyer expressed annoyance. He already had apprehensions that
all his persuasion might go in vain! Perhaps he did not want to
drag the case any further. Perhaps the hawker would have been proved
guilty with Anurag’s statement and his punishment would have
been pronounced the same day or within a few days; but that couldn’t
happen. The judge adjourned the trail till; a later date and ordered
to bring the register the next time.
Anurag was looking for a rickshaw outside the court premises; a
middle-aged man came and bowed to him. Anurag learnt that he was
the elder brother of that hawker. He had brought his unemployed,
graduate brother from village to this city to enable him eke out
a living, arranged ten thousand rupees for him to invest in a business.
And then purchasing attractive stationary items in Raipur, this
young man would move from door to door to sell them. He could mesmerize
the ladies with his pleasing manners; and was beginning to earn
handsomely. He said, he had plans to open a shop in a year or two.
But where did he borrow again for his business that all this uproar
and attack regarding collection of money!
After narrating everything in details the elder brother pleaded
quite helplessly with Anurag for mercy. “Please, save my
brother, sir, you can save him if you please. I am a poor man.
How much do I earn from working in the shop of Mani Seth, that
I’ll manage my family, and give a lawyer?”
Don’t worry; I’ll see to it,” Anurag consoled
and got into the rickshaw. He had been feeling acute headache for
quite sometime. The L’oreal Bar passed before his eyes, but
he didn’t feel a desire to pause there. When will that Paritosh
Majumdar return from Kolkata? He had thought of spending the day
in luxury, but nothing of that sort happened. He returned home
And a tussle had started in his ignorance since that day. The police
had not taken the case as lightly as Anurag had expected. An elderly
man told Anurag that this was nothing; the police had filed the
case capriciously only to meet its target. They have to give explanations
to their authority if they could not reach the target set.
The police officer sent for Anurag in the evening. He was then
going for a drink, but with the call from the officer, kept the
bottle aside and went out. The officer smiled at him and welcomed, “Please
come, doctor. You look too exhausted,” and ordered the peon
to bring tea; and it came immediately as if it was there, prepared.
Then the officer resumed, “Please don’t think that
I have sent for you in connection with any official matter. Mm… you
cannot imagine how complicated the time is now. I wish to leave
this job and go away, but cannot; because my living depends on
it. Whether day or night, you have always to be alert. God has
given only two eyes; but you have to work with ten eyes. Yet none
understands our problem. Just look at our locality. People say
the place was quite peaceful. But I have observed many things go
on here secretively although everything seems placid on the surface.
You will be surprised to know that the whole city has become a
haven for marijuana. It’s not easy to discern one’s
motive. Remember that report? – in the newspapers a few days
ago about the murder of a U.P. school teacher in a cashew plantation;
do you know the reason? He was a master marijuana supplier. I’m
telling you about the report of a week ago; you have not gone through
No, I haven’t; I don’t know Oriya,” replied Anurag.
Oh yes, I had forgotten it. But don’t take that hawker so
lightly. You may be feeling pity at his innocent appearance. You
are too young; therefore have an excess of emotionality. Besides;
young blood – it must be amusing you to be arguing with the
Anurag could not understand whether the police officer was trying
to persuade him or was ridiculing him. Too young? He was now thirty
four years and nine months; already halfway through his life on
Oh, your tea is getting cold, please take it,” said the police
Sorry, I don’t take tea.”
The police officer did not say anything more. Nor did Anurag. They
both sat silently. Before Anurag rose to go in a while, he asked
the officer if he had anything more to say. “No, no, nothing,
absolutely,” said the officer. “Perhaps the next hearing
date is the day after; if you come here we’ll go together.
What do you say?”
I’ll try,” Anurag said non-commitedly as he came out.
He went straight to the Guest House instead of his quarters. It
has been a long time since Paritosh Majumdar went to Kolkata; when
will he return?
When Anurag was busy among some patients the next day, his higher
officer called him to his chamber. “General Manager has sent
for you. I know not for what. Perhaps his driver has come with
the jeep. Or else you can take the ambulance.”
Anurag thought for a moment, was it an order or a request? An unpleasant
situation involving him had already happened earlier. That had
become a subject of discussion among his staff. The incident had
happened only a month ago. When he was absorbed among patients
one day, the driver of the General Manager had come and asked him
to come along.
“ Memsaab is ill; just see her.”
What had happened to Anurag? Without caring for the driver he continued to examine
patient after patient.
The driver became impatient and said, “Please come along.”
I cannot leave the OPD now. Go and tell your memsaab that if she is ill, she
may come here.”
God knows how much colour the driver had added while reporting this to the GM
that he immediately threatened the higher officer. And the higher officer’s
threat to Anurag proved futile. A stubbornness took over Anurag. He raged before
his authority, “You need promotion, posting in favourable places, need
money from training and purchase - so you may fawn him but I need none of these.
I am prepared to go anywhere I am sent. Am I in luxury here that I may lose elsewhere?
You may not sanction my leave, if you don’t want to.”
Why has the GM sent for him again now? Hasn’t he forgotten the incident?
Ok, let’s see – with such an attitude Anurag came out of the crowd
of patients. The patients stared at each other seeing the doctor go away.
While coming out of the GM’s office, Anurag was frowning. The GM was an
aged man. His hair had turned white with experience. He tried to persuade Anurag – “that
hawker is no relation of yours. It should matter nothing to you whether he is
punished or not. Why do you unnecessarily get into this imbroglio? Think of your
career. What will you get from such childishness?”
Anurag felt much irritated but tried to control his emotions as he began to speak. “Everything
can’t be assessed in terms of gain or loss, sir. Besides, that hawker is
not an industry that his life should be looked upon with a concern for gain or
loss. Will it be all right if all of us turn traders?”
That’s not the point.” The tone of the GM was getting harsh, as the
tone of a maser. But what was it in the attitude of Anurag, that made GM soft
in his words when his eyes met Anurag’s?
Look, it is not wise to bear enmity with crocodile while residing in water. We
have always to deal with the police. There are several problems in the company
at different times. If we do not cooperate with the police to day, they will
not help us at times of our need. The SP had telephoned today. I have almost
assured him… …” Then the GM gave a few instances from his experience
to show that one gets crushed to pieces like glass unless one adopts himself
to changing circumstances.
Anurag could not understand why so many people were so much worried about such
a trivial a matter. As if the hawker was a Abhimanyu besieged by a hostile army
and had no way to escape!
Anurag reached the court for the next hearing. He had borne these two-three days
in much pain. He could not sleep; could not reach the Guest House in time for
his meals. The most surprising thing was that he didn’t betray any emotion
at the sight of Nikita. As if there had never been any episode with that girl.
No sorrow, no regret; neither hatred nor love. He experienced nothing. Nikita’s
frame spoke of happiness now. She was coming with her husband. As she caught
sight of Anurag, she bowed. Does a beloved bow to her lover? Did he love that
girl? The girl would visit his house with a variety of food items for him; their
houses faced each other. People thought that there was an affair between the
two. Nikita was a Brahmin and he was a Harijan. But he himself did not know if
he had any love for the girl. Paritosh Majumdar had once smiled very mysteriously,
and asked, “how is it going?” People would concoct every foul story
about them. Once Anurag noticed a big lock hanging on her door. It remained locked
for almost fifteen days. And when the house opened, he learnt that the girl had
already married a computer engineer working in the Middle East. He felt a vacuity
in his bosom. Sometimes the vacuity grew, and then diminished. And one day, he
could no more feel the vacuity. Is this vacuity love?
Many think that Anurag lives a haphazard life only because he has been jilted
in love. He considers everything in an eccentric manner; never practical. And
perhaps, he did not marry because of this. Waiting for him, his younger brother
got married in the end. And that girl, who people believe had inflicted an insufferably
deep wound on Anurag, asked him, “I heard, you have been trapped in some
complication? Papa was mentioning it to Joshi Uncle……”
Anurag only smiled in reply – he has, then, become such a marked personality
in the meantime! But why doesn’t anyone think about that man who had borrowed
money for the business of his brother? And that youngman – the dreamer – to
rise to become an industrialist from a hawker?
The Government lawyer looked beaming in the court as if he had traced out a service
error in the register. “Please tell me one thing doctor. How come that
the name, address, age and sex of this particular person has been recorded in
the register, when no such details about any other patient is mentioned?”
Normally, detailed information about patients coming to OPD is not mentioned
in the register.
But since this is a medico–legal case, the information
had to be recorded.”
But there are two different handwritings in the register? While the names of
all other patients are in one handwriting, the particulars of this man, it is
clear, had been written by another,”
I’ve said from the beginning that the case was brought after OPD had closed
for the day. So someone else might have written it at that time.”
But is there any proof that you haven’t written it?”
What a strange thing! Would I be benefited by doing so?”
Anurag was quite irritated.
That you only would know. But there are two different handwritings in the register – you
cannot refute that.”
There are two clerks to handle OPD records. They will be in a better position
to tell about that”.
The case remained unresolved there that day. Life seemed embarrassing to Anurag.
He had never been to a court earlier in matters relating to his paternal property,
or any youthful hassle, or for any personal reason; but he had now been so entrapped
in a maze that he could not find his way out. He was very tired; thought of returning
home and sleeping the whole night undisturbed. But when he returned he saw the
motorcycle of Paritosh Majumdar in front of his house. As if a surge of delight
ran through his spine. Paritosh has, then, returned from Kolkata? Paritosh did
not ask him anything about the matter. They just kick started the motorcycle
By the time of the next court hearing Anurag had learnt the rest of the story
from the OPD clerks. The clerk who had mentioned the particulars about the hawker
in the register had become so entangled in the interrogation by the lawyer that
he had no other way than to succumb to defeat.
The lawyer had asked, “Is this different hand-writing yours?”
Then you had not left the OPD even after it was closed?”
No. I just reached there at that time.”
Where were you the whole day? Why isn’t the name of any other patient of
that day written in your handwriting?”
I was on leave that day. As I was ill I had come in the evening to take an injection;
and that case was brought at that time. Since the other clerk had already left,
someone asked me to write his particulars in the register.”
You say that you were on leave. But how did you work when you were on leave?”
How could the clerk answer anymore? The lawyer convinced the judge that the particulars
have been written later deliberately to save the hawker. And not only the hawker,
but many other people might be involved in this business of marijuana.
Anurag’s turn had come the next day of this incident. As soon as Anurag
reached the court, the lawyer took him to a corner and tried to persuade him. “Why
are you so obstinate, doctor? This is surely not the only case in your life;
hundreds of cases would have come, and will be coming too. Who will you fight
for? When the police want that the hawker be punished, he should be punished.
Do you know, you have now become a party too? The police may, at any moment,
file a case against you, implicating you in the trading of marijuana. What will
you do then? You would have no way.”
As he approached the witness box, Anurag felt that all this was meaningless;
meaningless was all the chatter of these people in black coats; meaningless was
any hope of justice that had been lost in the rush of dates; meaningless was
all his efforts. A book wrapped in a piece of red cloth was put before him. He
did not know whether there was The Gita beneath the piece of cloth on not. Still
he took an oath mechanically, to speak the truth. But he felt that the oath too
was completely meaningless. Everything seemed meaningless to him – The
Gita, his oath, and the farce of searching for truth.
Why have we come here, my lord?” He wanted to speak aloud; but words would
not come out of this throat. “Why such a farce with life, society and civilization?
We are all in a jungle, my lord; from the beginning of the Universe till doom.
From the first day of sunrise to the last sunset – we are all in the darkness
of the jungle. Where is the light, My Lord?”
He wanted to speak but could not. Then he cast a look at the accused standing
before him. Is this the man the police had brought a year ago? Whom had the police
really brought then? Did anything really happen a year ago? Suddenly, he began
to mistrust himself. How is his memory getting so weak now?
It seemed to Anurag that the entire place around him had been suffused with smoke;
smoke of sweet fragrance. Suddenly he felt that he recognized the fragrance.
As if, he had somewhere some familiarity with this fragrance. But where did so
much smoke come from? Not of incense, but of a different fragrance. “What
is the name of this fragrance, My Lord?” he wanted to ask aloud; but no
A misty figure emerged out of the smoke and asked him humbly: “Your name?
Your father’s name? Your occupation?” Why a word can’t come
out of Anurag’s throat? As if this smoke suffocates him! He tried to speak.
But cough would come out instead of words. He was asked, “Do you recognize
the man in that witness box?” Smoke was spreading everywhere around. Where
is the lawyer; where is the accused; where is the judge amid this smoke? Where
are you, Paritosh? Words this time emanated from his throat with much difficulty: “I
can’t recall anything, my lord. So many people come to the hospital. Can
one remember a matter of a year ago?”
The entire room had been suffused with smoke; smoke of a pleasant fragrance.
Emerging out of that smoke someone patted his back, and said: “Bravo! Well
Abhimanyu: Son of Subhadra and Arjuna, deceitfully killed by Kaurava warriors
in the Mahabharat war.