A seemingly melodramatic ending of a life ushered in a variety of opinions and interpretations as to what might have led to a girl’s unexpected suicide. The industrial but sleepy town of Digboi had suddenly jerked awake, opening its eyes wide to witness the death of a seventeen year old girl in some remote corner of the town in a gloomy morose by-lane which displayed a crowd of dilapidated, ramshackle houses, each frail one held painstakingly together with bits and pieces of rotten bamboo sticks. Every shower left behind a mark in the disguise of dirt and mud sticking to your shoes if you ever visited the lane.
The evening of 14th January, 2012 set off a babble of tongues once the neighbours got to know about the suicide and embarked upon the idea of spreading the news far and wide, thus fuelling creative minds to fire their imagination further and spin yarns of numerous colours.
“Oh! Didn’t you know, the girl always disliked her father!” said one while someone else opined, “Probably she was mentally ill. Like I care, you know!! But I knew this would happen someday.”
My dear, this is the contrast between things – one, when death comes on its own and two, when you call death to yourself. A natural death turns into a cause for sorrow and mourning and a death as hers invites suspicions and stories. Little do the onlookers care that death in any form is simply death, a stage which every mortal has to embrace one day, death, which is inevitable, death, which wipes you off the face of the earth as though you were no more significant than rats burrowing in the floor!
The eerie stench coming from the dark room that housed the stupendous feat slowly mingled with the foul air outside in a sombre harmony with the dark ambient night and cast a gloom over the dirt-filled lane.
Around fifty people had gathered just outside the house of Soumen Roy, the unfortunate father of seventeen-year old Mouli. As if the news of Mouli’s death was not enough for them to brood over, most of the people tried a sneak peek through the bamboo hut to catch a fleeting glimpse of the salwar-clad body of the girl hanging by her dupatta from the ceiling. It was a gruesome sight for the soft-hearted. But for the rest, yet another tale was taking shape.
Of all the people who had heard or witnessed yet another unnatural death, there was not one who could feel or even so much as understand the pangs of a father whose tears washed away the silent hopes and dreams he had harboured for his only daughter.
Day in and day out he had vendored in the fierce rays of the burning sun, selling articles of daily use, with a bicycle to give him silent company. But it was always so heavily loaded with the stuff that he could hardly ever ride it. Slogging alongside the two-wheeler, he was no better than the beast of burden, clothed in a pair of dusty, worn-out pants, a shirt that showed signs of ageing and shoes that needed some immediate mending.
He worked harder than can be imagined for the love of his daughter around whom revolved his lonely world. He strove to bring a smile to her pale lips, if only she would for once flash a smile that reached her eyes! The poor girl’s fate was skillfully shaped during her childhood by her mother when the wretched woman performed an unmotherly act by stealing her daughter’s pair of gold earrings and slipping away before dawn broke. The next morning the father and the daughter woke up to find the woman gone. A frantic but futile search followed. At last the poor child was rendered motherless with only a shattered father nursing her and concealing his own tears so as not to let his daughter break down further.
Through her growing years, her father provided her all that she had desired for or at least wished for. It was painfully difficult for the part of a vendor as such to fulfil every wish of his beloved daughter, but everyday he struggled for that extra little which could help him save enough by the time Dusshera arrived, to buy a dress for the girl and do a little further than making ends meet. His profound love for the apple of his eyes was further manifested in his tremendous desire to get her to study in a school.
But now, sitting beside the lifeless remains, he felt all his dreams leave him like a garment stripped off a body. The girl had proved him wrong in his calculations. Years of toil and wishful hard work had resulted in the sudden collapse of faith, trust and dream that was ostensibly reachable. Battered and shamed by the clattering of curious tongues and harrowed by rumours popping up their ugly heads, the poor man strove to get an autopsy done. Cradling his child, he led her to the crematorium, helped by four other men, unwilling and yet showing signs of apathetic sympathy towards the duo.
Silently, the father watched the cruel flames gobble up his daughter’s body, which had already started to decompose because of the delay in the autopsy. The fire gulped down with it, not just the corpse but the father’s aching heart which had once been home to a small dream in some corner of it…