AQAAB - 3 in English Detective stories by Prabodh Kumar Govil books and stories PDF | AQAAB - 3

AQAAB - 3

AQAAB

Three

Tanishk’s mother used to call him Ten. Once a Lama came in their village, a Buddhist monk named Gomang. He lived there for three-four days. He gave a proper name to Ten. He said, "Name him Tanishk. He is very sharp. He will see the world, he will not keep sitting here." Gomang was the guest of those people in whose farmhouse Ten’s parents worked. He was with them for two-three days and then he left. Ten or Tanishk was very young then. One day, when Gomang told his life story to his parents then Tanishk heard it too. But little Tanishk understood some things and some he did not.

Gomang used to live in a village near Leh. His story was full of highs and lows. He lived in a very small village. It was not even a village but a cluster of five to seven homes. All the residents of this village belonged to a very backward community, a tribal one. Once one or two people lived together and in time their family grew up to become a cluster of these five to seven homes. All of them lived in a forest. They lived on grass and hay and had domesticated some animals for their support. Grass and hay only were their clothes. When Gomang was born in this village, he was different from all the others. He did not like grazing sheep and goat, eating grass and hay and wandering all day. He used to go out without telling his family and one day he found a small government school at a distance of twelve kilometres. He started going there everyday. Sometimes a classmate would give him a book or a notebook and sometimes boys from well off families would even give him a shirt or a trouser. He kept studying hard. And soon, he passed the tenth standard.

One day, one of his classmates invited him to his home. The friend’s mother gave Gomang an orange to eat. Gomang picked it up and chewed it. The mother laughed hard and then taught him the proper way to eat an orange. Actually, Gomang had never seen an orange. In that small village of Kashmir, he had only seen trees of apples. He only knew how to eat an apple. Even that they got rarely and that too unripe. He became the first boy from his village to eat an orange and wear a trouser.

His friend’s family took pity on him and gave him a place in their home. There he kept studying with his friend and one day, he passed B.A. Not only this, he even got a job as a teacher in the village school. He became one with the villagers and forgot his small village of five to seven homes. Later on, someone told him that the Indus river had flooded and all the homes of that village were washed away and all the people had died. He was sad.

He taught students in the morning, lived in the school and went to graze the villagers’ goats in the afternoon. One day while grazing them, he met a girl. He was talking to her and telling his story when the girl came near him and grabbed his penis over his trousers. When he tried to release it from her grasp, the girl said, "Take care of it, it will build you a family again." When he would go to the river to take a bath, he would look at it closely.

Both of them became friends and they would talk everyday while grazing goats. One day while talking, he grabbed one of her breasts. The girl said, "Leave it, it’s not for you."

"Then it’s for whom?" He asked.

"It will produce milk for your child."

He looked at her, perplexed. And indeed, his penis put a baby in her womb. Both of them would meet everyday and wait for the child that when, from where and how will it come. Then one day, a baby girl came from her womb. The villagers told them that they must live together now as they were a family. People gave them clothes and other stuff.

And one day they also gave them a room to live near the school. Gomang passed M.A. They started living in Ladakh and one day their daughter started going to school. Soon, twenty-five years passed. The daughter became a 'vaidya'. She learnt about the medicines and also had a degree from college. And Gomang would think that her daughter must also have a family of her own. He was shy of talking about it to her but when he would see a nice boy whom he had taught, he would send her to him by some excuse. He was hopeful that his daughter would…

"But one day..." Gomang stopped in between.

"One day what?" Tanishk asked.

"One day a car hit my daughter and wife on a roadside and both of them died."

"Then?"

"Then what, I became a Lama and started living at a monastery."

Little Tanishk had listened to him carefully. He said, "Why didn’t you build yourself a family again?"

"Not again. Now you will," Lama said.

As he said that, Tanishk’s parents resumed their work at the farmhouse and Gomang left that place after greeting everybody.

Little Tanishk watched him go. Lama was gone. But only after a few months, little Tanishk suffered his father’s separation. The woman named Tasi, who used to come with her dog at the farmhouse took his father with her. She came from Taiwan and that’s where she took him.

Tanishk became sad. Though he did not come to know that whether Tasi grabbed his father’s penis or his father grabbed her breasts, but little Tanishk understood this very well that his family had broken. If his mother would have told him even once that his father will come back, he would have had some hope but the mother told him just this every time, "He is gone." Tanishk found no place for hope.

When Tanishk went to the river to take a bath, he would look at his penis closely, but he used to think that it would not build him a family. It was not like those horses of the farmhouse. Not even close to that of the black horse.

After his father had gone, a new chapter of fear and apprehension opened up in Tanishk’s world. His mother Asanika had become irritable and disconnected. Tanishk would understand that his family had broken but he would not understand that how would it get mend, will his mother also leave to live in a monastery?

And in those days Tanishk saw that a stranger talks to his mother whenever they went outside. Tanishk would get frustrated and start moving ahead so that the stranger understands that they were getting late and leaves them. But this would not happen. The stranger was talkative, he would keep talking and keep his mother busy. Tanishk would get angry but couldn’t do anything because his mother as well would keep talking to the stranger. Perhaps his mother wanted the stranger to talk. Tanishk would get dispirited. After reaching home, he would express his anger in many ways such as if his mother would give him hot rice in a platter, he would say, "Wait, first I will take a bath." She would give him milk in a clay utensil and he would curtly reply, "My stomach isn’t all right, you drink it." But the problem was that now his mother wouldn’t get angry and instead she would laugh and accept all his demands. This would create fear in Tanishk’s mind. He would unreasonably think that it’s not right. His heart would sink. But he could not understand what was wrong in this.

When the stranger would meet them outside and stop his mother for long talks, Tanishk would move ahead with ignorance but only to stand behind a tree or a bush to look at them as he was afraid that his mother would grab the tall unsettled stranger’s penis. Sometimes he would fear that the stranger will grab his mother’s breasts.

Tanishk’s fear was not baseless, as this would build a family of their own but Tanishk’s world would get ruined. Everything would be lost. His mother’s breasts would produce milk for the stranger’s child.

There was only one way to divert his attention from all this and it involved Tanishk running away from home. But he did not even know that what is the world like after running away. What happens when the mother is not around? Who wakes you up in the morning, how do you get food after coming home at night? Tanishk was not able to run away in this dilemma. Next day, he would walk to the farmhouse with his mother again where she would work. And he would help her.

One day, the stranger came to the farmhouse. He would say that he had found some work there only. He had brought some mulberries in a leaf and asked his mother to make Tanishk eat them.

Tanishk became angry and went outside after tying the calf on the stake near the cow. Neither the mother asked where he was going, nor the stranger said anything. Even the calf stood silently as if it had no interest in anything.

Tanishk went a bit far while walking. Here, for the first time, he found that ‘Uncle’ who was welding a large gate of another farmhouse. Tanishk kept watching him silently as he was working. Uncle too glanced at him and got busy in his work. When he found Tanishk standing there watching the process of welding, he said, "Hey boy, fill me a mug of water from the hand pump there." Though Tanishk didn’t like being called “hey boy”, but he picked up a mug and filled it.

But when he gave him that mug filled with water, he loved when Uncle said “well done”. He stood there attentively as if he was waiting for another order.

And so, a small window opened up in Tanishk’s life from where the air came inside and touched him lightly.

He started meeting Uncle everyday. He started going wherever he would be working. Sometimes he would only watch him work while talking in between and sometimes he would do some chores when asked. His mother had no objection. Uncle was not alone, though. He had a family but he wasn’t attached to it. He would dream of leaving his country to go somewhere else. Tanishk would find his talks similar to stories and perhaps he found Tanishk to be a perfect assistant during his flight of dreams. From Tanishk’s talks, he assumed that there was no restriction of any kind on him and that he would prove to be a reliable partner in seeing the world and helping him in everything. That kid was very soon made up a grown-up in the world. Some people’s nature pushes them to be one of the birds flying high in the sky. For them, neither their home nor any kind of love or affection proves to be a hurdle in living free.

Uncle managed Tanishk’s expenses, process and everything else that was required for the journey and one day, he came to the U.S. with him. He had no idea that what relation Uncle had formed with him for his arrival here - servant, son, relative or associate...but this was true that he had come to New York thinking that Uncle was everything he had got. Though he faced some problem in talking to people here as he wasn’t well educated but what could have anyone talked to a kid about, except work? He only knew this much that Uncle had come here working for a travel company and he was trying to make him learn some skills as well.

In midst of Uncle’s changing works and jobs, one thing that Tanishk liked the most was when Uncle started working as a driver on the ferry between New York and New Jersey. A helper of a vehicle’s driver wouldn’t have received such respect in a small village of Japan that he was getting here with Uncle on this colourful motorboat. That young boy not only sold tickets near the Port Authority and helped passengers in carrying their luggage but also enjoyed the trips the whole day. When the boat moved ahead cutting the clear blue water in the shadows of skyscrapers to connect the two large cities, Tanishk felt full of joy.

When Tanishk would get a leave due to Uncle’s day off, he spent that day on the banks of the river Hudson cleaning the boat. All the different types and colours of ships and boats that passed from there all day long attracted him. On some ship, many tourists would keep looking at the city through their binoculars and cameras and on the other one, a group of youngsters would be dancing on fast music. On one ship there would be a joyful atmosphere and the other would be busy competing with the others to reach the destination faster. All these small and big building-like ships on the water made it look like a sea coast.

It used to take them hours to catch the metro at the subway in the morning, coming from where Tanishk lived with Uncle. Uncle’s duty was till late hours at night. Sometimes Tanishk would remain with him till the evening and sometimes in the afternoon he would come back. He had befriended and made acquaintances with some Asians who lived nearby. Someone worked in a restaurant, somebody on shops and carts of fruits and eatables and some other on a salon or a general store.

Once Uncle had to go to Boston for two days because of some work. Uncle had to buy some parts for his company there while repairing one of the boats. It never happened that Tanishk had to live alone as Uncle always took him along with himself wherever he went. But as there were other people as well in the car while going to Boston, this time Tanishk had to live alone for two days.

After having his meal he was sitting on a bench near the Port Authority’s office on Hudson’s bank in the evening when he saw a running child who had a football in his hands. Along with him was a large brown coloured dog. Sometimes the boy took the lead and sometimes the dog ran ahead of him. At times when the boy threw his football up in the air and couldn’t catch it, the dog tried to catch it by running after it.

In this game, once the football bounced hard and landed in the fast-flowing water. "O..." the boy shrieked and stopped in his tracks, his dog barked and tried to jump on the iron railing on Hudson’s bank but couldn’t climb it because of its height and kept watching the floating ball. The boy and the dog stood there helplessly.

Tanishk, who was sitting nearby, thought of something and jumped into the river. He had become skilled in swimming in his village in Japan. He swam fast and caught the ball. The boy and the dog were watching this drama keenly. The boy shrieked happily and kept watching Tanishk as he was bringing the ball back. The dog seemed happy as well, wagging its tail.

Tanishk threw the ball strongly towards that boy from within the water. The boy ran after the wet ball where it went bouncing towards the lawn.

But suddenly an accident was averted. In the enthusiasm of throwing the ball, Tanishk, who was jumping up and down, did not pay attention to the motorboat near him which was moving very fast. Cutting the water, it came behind his back at a very fast pace. Because of the rising waves, Tanishk could not see it and suddenly darkness covered his eyes. As the luxurious home-like boat passed by, something caused a loud noise. Perhaps Tanishk’s head or a limb had hit the boat’s corner very hard.

The boat moved ahead and the wave behind it caused Tanishk’s body to move aside. But then an old man on the boat picked up Tanishk in his arms with a cheetah’s alacrity, who was floating aside. That old man pulled Tanishk’s body in the same way someone picks up his luggage from the conveyor belt at an airport. Tanishk was now on the boat’s deck. When that old man pulled his body and made him sit on a bench safely, he felt relieved by seeing that Tanishk had suffered no injuries. That noise was perhaps caused by one of Tanishk’s shoes hitting a corner of the boat. But Tanishk was safe and sound. The old man made a cross on his chest and thanked God.

Though Tanishk could not speak anything, the timidity in his eyes gestured that he wanted to get off the boat. The old man understood this but was successful in telling Tanishk in his broken language and signs that they were roaming around and would be coming back from the same route after two to three hours and then they would drop him at the same place.

Knowing this, Tanishk felt content. As he was not injured at all, the old man and Tabishk were happy and were normal now. Sitting in his wet clothes, Tanishk asked the old man in signs that if he was travelling alone on the boat.

The old man gave him a towel and told him that he was not alone and he was only the caretaker, a rich tourist was inside the boat who had come on an excursion.

As soon as he came to know that the old man was only a caretaker, Tanishk felt relaxed and lost his hesitation. Now Tanishk took off his shoes and tossed them aside and was now taking off his completely wet clothes. He put the towel on his shoulder and spread his pant on one of the boat’s benches. He took off his shirt as well. Now he was in a small brief only and was rubbing his head with the towel. The old man gave him hot coffee from a thermos flask which he took immediately but then the old man gave him a very loose pyjamalike pant from a bag which he declined by a gesture. He wrapped the towel on his legs and started drinking the hot coffee which he liked very much. He did not even remember to ask the old man to drink coffee. He kept drinking it relaxedly.

Tanishk had just put his mug on the bench after finishing his coffee when the inside cabin of the boat was lit up. Inside this exquisite cabin was an Arab Sheikh half lying down on a magnificent velvet sofa. On a large LED screen in the front, some show was airing with subtitles in Urdu or Persian. Tanishk neither understood that script nor the faint voices coming from inside, but he understood that the tourist on the motorboat was a very rich person as the cabin’s interior resembled that of a palace which Tanishk had seen only on TV or in movies.

As the light of the cabin brightened up and the rich tourist sat up, the old man immediately went inside the cabin and started keeping some things in a tray there. He was also talking to the Emir hastily and was telling him something in an excited manner. Tanishk understood that they were talking about him only as the Emir was looking towards him sometimes. Tanishk stood there hesitantly because he was almost naked with a towel wrapped around him and also because he was unable to understand anything that they were speaking. Tanishk could not even decide that how must he greet such an elite person from so far!

After some time, the old man came out of the cabin. He had kept some things inside and had brought back some utensils and empty cans, a bottle, etc. in a tray. The old man was silent and so was Tanishk. At this point, the Emir gestured Tanishk to come inside. Tanishk hesitated at first but then went inside slowly. When the Emir gestured him to sit, Tanishk sat on a stool kept in front of the sofa. Neither the Emir was able to say something, nor Tanishk. Tanishk had seen such Sheikhs from far away, at the airport and markets as well as the tourist spots. But he had never come face to face with one. They used to cover themselves in pure white clothes from head to toe. They also wore a cloth on the head which covered them up to the neck. So Tanishk who had just a towel wrapped around him, was feeling awkward.

Perhaps the Sheikh was also in a dilemma that what must he say to this young boy sitting in front of him without clothes and Tanishk also could not comprehend that what he must say. He was looking at the TV screen silently which the Sheikh’s eyes also followed sometimes.

Outside the cabin, the old man was walking slowly, sometimes watching the sky and sometimes the river...it was time to go back.

***

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