Inner Voice

Purnai was visibly excited. It was a day, somewhere in the late eighties; the eight year old lad would accompany his father to Shillong. They lived in a small village near Nongpoh, about 50 kms from Shillong. Every week, on this particular day, his father would carry the produce from his farm and took them to Burabazar in Shillong for selling them. He generally made some profit from his effort. The wholesale dealer who bought his items usually gave him a good price that made him happy.

It was around 11am when they set off for their weekly journey. They hopped onto the trailer of a truck with their jute sack containing items to be sold to the regular buyer. Purnai was enjoying the journey and the rich flora of the region on both sides of the road engaged his attention. Small rivulets meandering along the serpentine roads besides thick bamboo forests really held an appeal for this young boy. An hour passed by, and soon they found themselves near Barapani.

Crossing Barapani, as they were approaching Shillong, about 10 kms away from it, they met with a traffic jam, and it seemed all traffic had come to a standstill.

“The loaded goods carriages are generally responsible for this gridlock. They drive irresponsibly and often cause accident,” one of the co-passengers said.

The jam took around 4 hours to clear.  Purnai felt that time stood still. He could see that a lot of people caught in the jam were engaged in heated conversation blaming all and sundry for their plight.

It was around 4 pm when Purnai and his dad Rudy finally reached Burabazar. It was getting dark on this wintry day. Rudy scurried towards the buyer’s shop. He quickly navigated himself amidst the swelling crowd and headed towards his destination. In a trice, he found himself at the shop of the wholesaler. He heaved a sigh of relief after placing the sack down, and turned back to look at his son.

“But where is Purnai?”

He wasn’t visible anywhere around. Rudy retraced his steps a bit in the hope of seeing his laggard son, but he seems to have vanished into thin air. A frantic search ensued for the next fifteen minutes, but still Purnai remained untraceable.

By now it was getting dark. Rudy began sobbing, wondering about the adversity that may have befallen upon his young son. He was doubly concerned, because the last bus bound for Nongpoh would leave very soon, and returning home would become very difficult. But firstly, he must find his son.

“What will I tell my wife? How would I face her if I can’t find Purnai?”

Some people who knew Rudy suggested taking the help of the Police. When his search came to naught, Rudy went to the Police station.

Purnai looked around; but couldn’t see his father amidst this sea of humanity. Fear gripped him, and he began crying.  A kind gentleman nearby finding the child in distress asked him the reason. When Purnai told him about his inability to find his father, and his ignorance about the way to the wholesaler’s shop, the man comforted him by saying that he will help Purnai find his father. They looked around in the adjacent lanes and by lanes, but Rudy was nowhere to be found.

Finding no other option, the gentleman decided to take the help of the Police.

A pleasant surprise greeted Rudy at the Police Station. He found his missing son sitting on a chair next to a policeman.

“Daddy,” Purnai jumped from his chair and run towards Rudy and hugged him.

“My son, where were you?”  Rudy could barely mutter these words as tears rolled down his cheek.

Purnai told his father what transpired in the aftermath of losing sight of him at the market.

“Inspector, can I use the phone to call my folks at the village?”

“Please go ahead.”

The whole village spent a sleepless night. Late at night they lodged a missing diary at the local Police Station.

It seemed Rudy had more adversity in store. The two landline numbers of his neighbours were both non functional, and so no one could be contacted to convey the news that they were safe, but wouldn’t be able to return to the village that night.

That night, Purnai and Rudy stayed at the Police Station. Early the following morning, they would take a bus for Nongpoh.

Purnai’s mother, Wanda, couldn’t sleep that night. Quite naturally, she felt disturbed. Some unknown fear kept lurking on her mind…

Early morning the following day, the local cops informed Wanda and her folks that Rudy & Purnai are safe in Shillong. Yet, Wanda took her eldest son with her, and both left for Shillong. The folks back at the village were left wondering about this action of Wanda, when her husband and son were expected to return home that very morning.

Purnai felt sick in the morning, and was running a high temperature. In this state, Rudy can’t take his son back.  The situation worsened with every passing minute, and Rudy had to hospitalize his son.

Wanda reached Burabazar, and started making enquires at hospitals in the vicinity. Luck was on her side, and he found Rudy and Purnai.

Doctors informed that Purnai is suffering from Jaundice, and would require good care for the next two weeks. Wanda knew that medical care in Shillong would be much better than which exists in her village which is in a pathetic state.

The entire family managed to somehow stay with Purnai, subsisting on meager meals and sleeping on the hospital benches during the cold nights, and nursed him back to health.

All of them returned to their home hale and hearty. They were happy to be back in the village after spending a fortnight in hardship.


More by :  Subhajit Ghosh

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