The loss of innocent life

They say time heals every wound, even the biggest of them but for me and my family, time seemed to be very cruel, bringing back the memories and leaving a trail of hope everytime. More than 20 years have passed but still the memories haunt us every day. All these years every day seemed to bring new hopes with the rising sun, but the rise of dusk made the ray of hope fainter. Even today I regret letting Arnish sneak out of the house that ill-fated day.

It was during late 1980s, the uprising against the Panchayat system of government was at its peak. We lived in the streets of Mahaboudha, in the small white painted house adjacent to the street through Bir Hospital that led to the other side of Sainik Manch. The protest started from Ratnapark went around the city and as they reached near Mahankal temple the police shot gun in air several times and few rounds of teargas to disperse the crowd. Arnish and I often peeked through the window hole and watched the protesters running towards Mahaboudha gulli from the Bir Hospital. Those days we used to stay indoors most of the times. Since the demonstration against the system was going strong, our schools were shut down for indefinite time and we had much of free works. Arnish loved painting and we used to spend hours of days sketching and playing with colours. Morning used to be a peaceful one while during the daytime and evening we could hear the loud shouting of protesters. Once in a while, when the police opened fire in air, the mass scattered. While some manage to escape, others faced wounds. Though the police were just following the orders, they behaved brutally with the people. They didn’t even spare women, old and children.
Everyday saw a death of an innocent. Maa too used to stay indoors except for a little grocery shopping in the mornings. Buwa being a health assistant had duty at the Bir Hospital. The fierce rebellion did not stop Buwa from performing his duty. Sometimes when the protest was really on hype, Maa and Buwa, both used to help the injured protesters from behind the closed doors. I and Arnish used to stand behind them watching them giving the injured ones first aid. But day by day the situation worsen. Government didn’t seem to listen to the mass and more people lost their lives while many were injured.
Arnish, my younger brother was the youngest in the family, and he was the most loved child. On above, he was very cute and adorable. He was an apple of everyone’s eye. Maa in particular was very possessive about him. Though she never treated us indifferent, I could see that Maa was more attached to him and sometimes this pinched me. However Arnish and I were the best friends, the best sibling and also partner in crimes.

“Do not go out today”, Maa had warned Arnish that day. But Arnish being a playful child did not listen to Maa and went out to play with his friends. With a big mischievous grin on his face and holding a toy car in his hand, he winked at me and slowly sneaked out of the gate gesturing me that he will be home within a couple of hours.

It was Arnish’s birthday a day before and had received a big toy car from uncle which he wanted to show to his friends. He had always been a boaster and getting a toy car was something he always wanted to show off to other boys in the neighborhood. So despite of Maa’s warning he sneaked out of the house to meet his friends. I looked out of the window to check on him and saw him playing with his toy car along with other boys in the courtyard. Since he was not gone too far from the house I thought it was not much of a problem to let him go out. Then I got busy with Maa in the kitchen. After a while Maa called out Arnish for lunch but he was nowhere. I knew he was playing in the courtyard so hurriedly went downstairs to call him but he wasn’t there. Suddenly I heard a big gunshot and that scared me. I called out Maa and told her that I cannot find Arnish anywhere. Maa was in terror. She asked Buwa to go out and look for Arnish. I stayed home while Maa and Buwa both went out in search of him.

The day fell and the twilight rose, there was no light at home or anywhere due to power blackout and people were out for masaal julush. With every passing second I was full of anxiety and fear. Late at night I was almost asleep at the door when I heard the door creaking. Buwa and Maa both were here but no sign of Arnish around them. This scared me. I still remember my Maa’s face. She was continuously staring and didn’t even blink. Lines of tears on Maa and Buwa’s face said everything. Maa was half conscious, more like a statue. Buwa held her tight but inside he too was broken and too fragile. I still have no words to describe the situation that day.

Days went on, but everyday Maa stares out of the window waiting to see his son returning home while Buwa makes round of police station just with a faint hope of getting some information about Arnish. They said that they found the crushed toy car at Ratnapark where the police opened fire at the protesters, the same toy casr which Arnish was playing with the last time I saw him,

It has been two decades and even today we haven’t got any answer of where he is. Is he still out somewhere, trying to return home or was there the loss of one more innocent life.


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