Garland of Guilt

Continued from “Baring the soul”

Chapter 18, Book One, Artha and Kama, Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life

Soon, under the shadows of Sneha’s death, Suresh’s trial was on course at the Tees-Hazari. At the behest of the defense, the hearing recommenced in camera to avoid further damage to the dead woman’s image. Sneha’s suicide note and Dr. Gupta’s testimony insensibly tilted the needle of sympathy in Suresh’s favor. Paranjape too felt it would be heartless to press for the exemplary punishment. Arguments over, Justice Sumitra reserved her judgment and adjourned the court.

‘What was the trial all about?’ Sumitra found herself contemplating that night. ‘Are rapes and murder the only issues on trial in this singular case? Was not Suresh the violator as well as a victim at the same time? What about those who blackened their faces in this sordid drama of human depravity? Are they any innocent? Well, it was as if the parents insensibly combined to collectively jeopardize their son’s life. Gautam surely was guilty of prostituting his wife. Was it not the beginning of the end of them all? How it would have pained as well as shamed him! Is not Vivek free though it was he who sowed the seeds of this crime? Could the law have reprimanded Sneha, the eye of the storm? How she affected her son’s psyche! Through the impediment of her past, didn’t she clear the way to his fall! But, didn’t Manian, the villain of the piece go scot-free?'

‘Oh how callously Shanti’s parents colluded with the defense!’ she thought, turning her searchlight on the darker side of the prosecution. ‘And the way they tried to bail out their daughter’s murderer at that! If the rope were to answer Suresh’s crime, what should be done to book Shanti’s people for their calumny? Well, to appease his lust for fame, how routinely Mehrotra subjects justice to multiple rapes! Why, won’t the police deliberately fail the prosecution for a price? How the politicians are wont to pull the strings to extricate the culprits of their class? Whither the public morality! The society seems hooked to Mammon, doesn’t it? How life itself has become a punishment to the decent! Oh, what life has come to be, but yet it goes on and that’s life.'

‘What justice, or whatever is left of it, would serve the ends of justice in this multifaceted crime,’ she thought as she reached for the pad to write the judgment. ‘After all, wasn’t Suresh’s criminality more a product of his perverse psyche than that of his innate nature? If he were to be given the rope, how would he ever have the chance to discover his true self? Is it the spirit of life that one should die in a state that is not his true self! If, the meaning of life is fruition of the soul, the ultimate penalty seems contrary to the rationale of life and the wisdom of the Creator. How am I to know what role God had ordained for Suresh in his latter-day life? After all, he is so young and thus changeable. So, it seems fair that he survives the noose and serves out the sentence.’

When Gautam heard the judgment, he heaved a sigh of relief, and thanked God for saving his son’s life. Reconciled as Suresh was to the noose, the reprieve seemed to have infused in him a sense of purpose of its own. Seeing the impact of her verdict on the father and the son, Justice Sumitra felt vindicated about her belief in the glory of life. But, Mehrotra took it as another feather in his cap.

The judgment day of his son turned out to be a day of reckoning for Gautam.

‘Oh God, what a hell it has been!’ he thought in perplexity. ‘How scared I was for Suresh’s life! Now that he will live, what can life mean to me anymore! It means precious little, so it seems. Why, hasn’t it become burdensome already? Though vacuous, life was still a make-believe in the past. How the aura of success camouflaged my jewel-less crown from public view! Who knew what a burden that was on my guilty head? And Sneha chose to damn me further with a garland of guilt. At least, Justice Sumitra spared my conscience from further burden. That’s the only saving grace of my sordid life. May God bless her for that! Wouldn’t have I dropped dead much before Suresh was put on the death row? And what’s the point in my living anymore? Why not I join Sneha in death, to make a fresh beginning?

‘But, who had seen life after death?’ he thought as he turned skeptic. ‘What’s heaven but hearsay? Won’t the benedictions therein seem make-believe? The Hindu swarga, the Christian salvation and the Islamic hereafter, are they really real? Had anyone called back to earth from those summits of faith? And without a body how does the soul enjoy the earthly pleasures of the religious heavens? How naive is man in envisioning heaven! If the swarga is not make-believe, won’t Sneha join the company of the pativratas, in wait for their husbands they had left behind? But, having sinned so much here, would I gain admission there? Well, if hell were to be my destiny, why not make the best of the rest of my life here itself? It looks sensible.’

The thought of hell made him wonder about the reality of the religions.

‘The theme of faith is the hope of man, and its hold on him is the fear of his,’ he began dwelling into the working of the religions. ‘Is there no God then? Oh, for all that, there could be One, but may not be as the faiths portray Him. What are the religions, if not the perceptions of their founders preached in divine terms? Did God ever introduce someone as His son and another as His messenger to His people? Won’t some of the religious precepts sound so absurd! Oh, how religions deprive man of his reason and make fools out of the followers!’

‘Am I not better off, not being a believer, after all?’ he seemed to even feel relieved. ‘If not, I would have been a fool twice over, bending before Mammon and God as well. Now, wisdom lies in starting life afresh. Why not I give up all and embrace sanyas? Maybe that would bring solace to my soul. Won’t I need the guidance of a guru and the precincts of an ashram for that? What about setting aside something sufficient for Suresh and donate the rest to that ashram? It’s well that I go back to my roots. And sooner than later, someone would take my role on the grand stage of Delhi. Hopefully, my garland of guilt too might wither away in the warmer climes of the South.’

Continued to “Bliss of Being”


More by :  BS Murthy

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