Curfew has been lifted from the city and everyone was returning to his daily routine, but these mother-son duos were still walking like threatened. How can they forget the date 6th December 1992; the day when the season of terror had started. Mother woke up early in the morning on that day; prepare her son ready and were moving to drop him at school. Her son had first paper of half yearly examination on that day, but fate had some different plans of exam for them. On the way to school, duo was interrupted by regional riots; two groups of different community were attacking each other, both groups were loaded with arms like stick, stones, knives and even few folks had guns and swords too. Mob had burned few houses in the locality that fired people in the home alive, they were also killing innocent people moving from there, and now this duo was trapped among them.
It was the fortune of duo that police arrived at exact time, when one of man in mob was about to attack them. The duo took the shelter of an under construction building in the corner, and hide behind the boundary wall of compound. Mother glued her son with chest and covered him completely by her sari. Son also encircled his arms tightly around mother and closed eyes like he had burned if he looks at the sight for few more minutes.
Roars of shouting, screaming, crying and abusing people continuously feared their feet that anything can be happened to them too. Their hearts started beating at its full speed to fill the air of fear inside; and each time they inhale in that violent environment, their body trembled with dread. Fear and tear made their eyes moist and face tensed with anxiety and untoward. Their words chocked in the throat by shock, but inner soul was continuously calling God for grace. Initially, Mother was peeped couple of times from the boundary wall to look a chance for escaping from there, but her eyes found monsters thirsty for blood everywhere around; at the last, she pull a metallic sheet from nearby and put it over them, so that no one was able to see them between boundary wall and metallic sheet. Police was trying to control the situation, but bloody wild mob forget the words like humanity and started throwing stones and adobe to Police cops. They even hurt few police cop by edged weapon and burner their jeeps. This all made a hard tangle between police and mob; and on the way to control the situation, police crossed all their level one by one from threating, hurting, caning, air – fire and even tear gas. Police also hurt few people by shooting over their leg to stop them.
After around an hour, police controlled the situation completely, but still the duo was reluctant to move away from boundary wall. Finally few police cops soothed and made them believe that it’s safe outside, then only mother became ready to step away from there. Police cops gave some water to their dread throat and dropped them at home too. After that incident, curfew was imposed in the entire city and it continued for next fifteen days. Mother and son never faced the incident like that day again, but horrified sight of that accident threatened them even in thought; especially five year boy Nityam felt feared in going out to any public place after so many days of that incident.
It was the year 1987, Nityam born in a former family at small village Palna in the India. During initial years, this child knew only about his parents and few other villagers around him. For Nityam, the whole world resides in this small village only. Palna was an ideal village; its population was just 300 but these three hundred folks live happily with maintaining brotherhood and peace. Life style of villagers was also simple; they usually wake-up early in the morning at six, do work for entire day at farms and sleep early in the night. Till nine in evening, almost every one slept and village got shut down. It was only few regional festivals and some occasions like marriage, when there was some movement and shine can be seen in the lanes of village, otherwise place was mostly calm and quite. Nityam was growing in the environment full of fresh air, green forms and jungles; also he was surrounded by simple, innocent and hardworking people of village. He never saw riots, fight even such abusing between people. Life looked very easy and beautiful to him till he crossed 5 years of age.
It was the year 1992, when his parents thought about his education. There was no school available in the village. So they rented a house in city and started living there. Nityam got admission in a good school of the city. He mostly lives with his mother there, because his father went village early morning for farming work and returned late in the evening. Many times his father was not managed to return home in evening due to work load, and this make Nityam and his mother to live without father.
Children may get emotionally connected with mother more, but they always feel secure when their father is around. The security can be physical or financial, but children generally behave boldly when find father around them. Father is an ordinary species in the earth, but children always find superman within him. Nityam was no more different from normal children; he felt very free when his father is around. But adverse effect of it, he felt a bit scared inside when his father was not with them in the city full of unknowns. Especially in night, he always sensed a fear of unknown untoward when his father was not managed to return. Well…Situations teach people to live with their fears, and somehow Nityam had also learnt to live with this fact.
Initially Nityam didn’t like city’s atmosphere. He spent his earlier life in the open and fresh environment of the village so he felt like suffocation in the polluted air, congested traffic, crowdy places and narrow lanes of the city. He noticed children of his age, playing marble and cricket in the narrow lane. They were using abusive language while playing. He also saw two and four wheeler vehicles running everywhere on the roads. Noise of the traffic and black smoke ejected by vehicles were unbearable for this little newcomer in the city.
One important thing he learnt from the city is the religion and caste. He knew his caste and religion now. But he didn’t think about caste and religion system much at that time. For him, his mother was all his god, religion and caste in this city of strangers. He never thought about religion and caste system in such early age, if he didn’t saw such riots on that particular day.
Just one day ago that incident, his father went to village and told them that he will not be able to return in evening as he had to irrigate farms in the night. Though Nityam learnt to sleep without father, a thought of being alone popped out in the mind and scared him just for a little while, before he actually slept down. That day also he felt same fear of being alone in the night, however became quite normal in the morning. But on the way to school, he finally saw his fear came true in the face of communal riots in the city.
Policeman dropped them at home, but fear of what they saw just few minutes ago, threatened these two alone bodies even inside a closed house, as neither mother nor Nityam knew what exactly going on outside; why people turned to monsters and attacking each other. Police man instructed them to stay inside home until further instructions come out and it closed outside doors for them. Duo was such scared that they did not talk with anyone for two days. After two days, mother contacted to neighbour from side window and asked what’s going on in the city. Neighbour told them about Babri mosque demolition and violence spread out due to it. He also instructed the same that don’t go outside home, it would be dangerous; Police cops and military men were patrolling and they beat any civilian see outside the home.
khat - wooden bed, generally used in Indian villages
Nityam and her mother spent next fifteen days like this, closed in home all alone. There was no source of vegetables and milk supply in curfew so duo spent days by just eating dal-roti*. But unfortunately, dal stock has finished in just four days, and on the top of it LPG cylinder was also got emptied. Mother got worried what to do in such situation, no sufficient ration, no LPG, how to feed her son now.
Wish of life shows the doors of survivals. Mother used brain and broke-down an old khat *(khat – wooden bed, generally used in Indian villages), that they took from village. She cut khat in some small wooden pieces and used those wooden pieces to get fire and cook food. There was nothing in monthly ration except few kg of wheat flour. Mother backed batis* at the wooden fire and they spent days by just eating batis. (Bati – a dish prepared by backing big round pieces of wet wheat flour at burning coal; generally served with dal in western India) By learning from experience, mother was using wheat flour and wooden block very intelligently so that it provides survival for longer period. She backed six bati every day; both ate two bati each in morning and kept rest of batis for evening. In night, mother gave both remaining batis to son and she slept just drinking lots of water.
Bati – a dish prepared by backing big round pieces of wet wheat flour at burning coal; generally served with dal in western India
State of all alone and workless gives birth to unknown unwanted thoughts and fears. Sometime Nityam became very apprehensive about his father; whether he is safe or not. Though mother was also very much worried about her husband, but she gave hope to son that his father would be safe as he is at village and riots happened only in the city. There are several ways to cajole the heart but you can’t stop it thinking, specially the time when you are alone and there is no task to do. This hope may cool down them for a moment, but memories of riots sight, worries of father and concerns of any upcoming untoward were pricking their empty days by several sharp edged needles from various angles.
One day duo was about to sleep and mother was switching off the light.
“Keep it on mom, darkness horrified me” Nityam told to mother.
“Don’t worry son. Everything will be fine in just few days” Nityam said that he was horrified by darkness but mother got that he was afraid due to riots and troubles, not darkness.
“Is father okay? Was that bloody mob not reached to him?” Nityam asked with moist eyes and tensed face.
“Yeah…he would be fine; there are no riots in our village…these days will be passed soon and we will meet him surely” Mother tried to calm him but she herself not very confident about it.
This hope was not helping anyone…not Nityam, nor mother…the only difference was…Nityam was expressing his fear to mother…but mother was trying to hide her worry from him.
Nityam touched her mother’s cheek with his wet palms and said by looking into her eyes – “I felt very scared these days… whether that mob will catch us again someday… whether father got trapped in such riots …whether we will be able to eat other than bati someday…”
When knots of troubled heart are shared with loved ones, a moment comes when words got chocked and tears outburst to say the entire remaining story. Nityam lost his words after bati and started crying loudly. Mother wiped out his palms from her chick, took into hands and encircled around her neck. This gesture gave some more courage Nityam to express; he hugged mother tightly and started blubbering like he was dying to hug and cry from so many years.
“…We will return to village after these riots and will never come again…” Nityam told mother while hugging tightly and crying loudly.
“I don’t want to go school, don’t want to learn anything here…please tell this thing directly to papa…I want to go back at village…” poor Nityam was not able to speak clearly due to cry, but he was continuously repeating the same sentence.
Mother was also horrified like Nityam but she was pretending normal to keep her son free from worries but this outburst of Nityam broke all the barriers of pretend for both. Mother and son both started crying loudly that moment; and they were giving sympathy to each other like one survival cleansing the tears of other survival.
“We will go to nani’s village…there they have a good school…I will take admission there…but we will not live here anymore…” Every word of Nityam flooded into his mother’s eyes now…Nityam’s tears stream slowed down a bit, but now mother started crying like she was waiting for this moment from years.
“Yeah, sure son!” mother was repeating on every statement of Nityam while continuously stroking his head and back by her hands. She glued Nityam again at her chest and hided him in her sari like the day at riot sight. Nityam and his mother both closed eyes while crying, and prayed god to bring a day that ends their survival period. No one knows who was giving consolation to whom that day…son was getting relief from his worries by crying in the arms of mother…or alone mother in troubled city was getting courage by hugging her six year old son…the only fact was that both felt lighter after so many days.
That night was really the last day of their struggle as next day curfew has been lifted from the city for day time. In just one hour after this good news, Nityam saw his father came from village. He hugged tightly his father and the moment gave a chance for deep breadth to mother too. Nityam told father to bring them in village. His father instructed mother to pack the bag. Within an hour, they put the lock at door and moved towards the village.
Incidents happen but life never stopped for anything. In just two-three days, city came back to normal routine and father informed family to be ready for going to city. Nityam was reluctant to move from village, but his father explained him that it was just an accident and it had gone now. We should be tough to live with these things. Accidents can be happened anywhere…at village too…may not be riots…but may be any kind of natural tragedy…who knows what will happen next…all these are part of life and we should be tough enough to live with this…we can’t just sit idle at home due to these…we have to do our Karma…your karma is study…my karma is farming…we all came on the earth for purpose. Innocent heart of just six year old boy was listening about karma…but all his mind reminding him was about those troubled days in riots. With heavy heart, he moved towards the city again.
Father ensured that he would get back to home in the night for few days. One week went on and Nityam and her mother were moving back to their normal routine; they were getting busy in daily work and picture of riots sight was started fading from their eyes. One day father told that he will not be able to return in evening as he had to irrigate plants in night; it made scared for a moment to mother and son both, but some day they have to face this. Father gave important instruction to both of them before leaving and also ensured them that nothing will happen now.
That night mother prepared dinner early…Nityam and her mother had the dinner and slept little early from their usual timings. Nityam was feeling the fear of being alone after a long time, but his father’s words of being tough was encouraging him to face the fear. Soon they got into deep sleep but after couple of hours, voice of something interrupted mother. At first time, she ignored it; she thought it may be due to some accident or something at road. But soon she heard the same voice sound and this time she was sure that it is the sound of blast somewhere; she started shivering as cracking sound raised red alarm of riots sight to her mind. She woke up and sit at the bed in tensed mood. Within span of fifteen minutes, she heard sound of many blasts continuously one after another, and soon noise of people also joined blast sounds. She got that its trouble in the city again and this time people were throwing bomb rather than burning houses.
Her body was started trembling and mind horrified again that any bomb can be dropped over their home too. Every blast was generating screaming of hundreds of people; and she didn’t know which blast accompanied to her family’s mourn…whatever she had to do…do it quickly. She again found herself alone in the situation but ready to do anything for her son’s survival.
When body is shocked, senses work in shocking manner; mother thought that if someone throw bomb from front, it will destroy their hall at front and if someone throw bomb from backside, it will destroy bedroom at the last. Their house was built like railway coach, one after another; first a big hall followed by kitchen and a bedroom at last. Mother found kitchen at middle as safest place because if bomb was thrown from either side front or back, probability of it to harm kitchen at middle are less as compare to bedroom and hall. Poor villager woman never saw war scene where bombs were thrown by aircrafts otherwise she would not find kitchen also safe place. Anyway, she spread mattress at kitchen floor, brought Nityam there and lay down over it.
Sound of bomb blast still terrified them and soon mother thought that kitchen would also not keep them safe for a long time. Feared mind again started thinking about new weapon for survival. She found a palang-peti* in kitchen this time. (Palang-peti is a big metalling box that serves two purposes – box and bed; we can put things inside the box and it also served as bed after closing box door and putting mattress over it.)Mother opened palang-peti and drag out all things from inside. She brought Nityam inside that box and sleep over him so that any bomb dropped to her first. She also put some blankets and mattress over her, and closed the door of palang-peti. She interrupted the door of palang-peti to close completely by a stick so that air can be passed inside. Terrified mother covered Nityam with three layers of protection from bomb; first hard metallic door of palang-peti, second soft silky blankets and at last her own body. A small capacity bomb is also sufficient to destroy all three layers, but this is all a poor mother can do for survival of her child at that moment; she again glued her son with chest just like the way she did few days ago at riot site, closed her eyes and prayed god to save their life that day.
Sound of bomb blast and screaming of people was continuous for one hour. Nityam and mother were inside the palang-peti, surviving with the city under threats of bomb-blasts. No bomb was thrown over their house yet, but sound of each blast stirred them with thrill and terror. It was the chilling cold day of December month, temperature almost dipped to four or five degree in night, but this mother-son was feeling the hotness of a thrilling dread. They both became completely wet by sweat, but still reluctant to move even an inch from their position at palang-peti. Feared mother made thousands of prayer to god for survival of them, offered votive of fast, money, hard promises, even her own life for leaving his son’s life that bloody night. Innocent mind of Nityam was hoping for a miracle that god has given flying power to his fathers and he flew and took them away from city.
Soon frequency of bomb blast got down and in next one hour, bomb blasts had stopped completely; it may gave relief to heart a bit but still eyes were not ready to take rest, as repose was completely washed off by fear. At around five in the morning they felt like sleepy a bit, but soon morning rays called it off to mother. She had not heard bomb blast sound from last five hours; she thought might be police had arrived everywhere and controlled the situation just like that day. Peaceful environment of morning gave confidence to her and she moved out from palang-peti. She opened the front window of home a little and peeped to take a look at outside environment. Few milkmen and news paperboys were moving at road, accomplishing their morning duty. Soon she noticed few senior citizens returning from morning walk and children going school. She hadn’t found outside environment as she supposed to be; it surprized her and also derived some doubt on her. Were the bomb blasts real…or just the imagination of a terrified woman who had seen such violent sight just few days ago; was she mentally sick due to those riots days, and this fear manic gave birth to the thoughts of bomb-blast site, as her husband was not with her in night after a long time.
She opened the door and went outside to know the truth. She stopped a school going girl and asked “Why are you going to school…did you not hear the sound of bomb blast in city”?
“Are you mad…no…there is no bomb blast” Girl replied with a lot of amazement.
“No…there were bomb blasts in the city… at midnight…” Mother again repeated her notion.
“oh…that in midnight…hahaha…that was not bomb blast…it was the last day of year…so people were celebrating the new year…at midnight twelve o’clock…year has changed…people were welcomed new year with fire-crackers and parties.” Little girl couldn’t stop laughing on the stupidity of villager woman while saying this.
“Are you sure…people bought such pyrotechnics every year” Mother had no prior knowledge of such celebration so she wanted to be sure before making any false assumption.
“Yeah…its tradition in the city…” Girl was smiling with surprize as she never meet to a person who doesn’t know about New Year celebration before.
“oh!…so it’s safe everywhere…” Mother again confirmed with girl.
“Yes its safe…my school bus has arrived…I am leaving…bye and happy New Year aunty” Girl replied and wished mother for New Year.
Mother didn’t know what to reply at such wishes. She came back in the home, asked Nityam to move away and started preparing him for the school. She was feeling a morning such peaceful first time in life; she laughed at herself and also at the tradition of city – “How strange are the traditions of city…day starts with the first ray of sun…people celebrated and welcomed for the day… but slept before the first ray of day arrived?” Mother thought while preparing breakfast for Nityam.