(Mill siren rings to the fullest volume)
“What happen baba?”Gunja asks her father curiously.
“I don’t know beta. Wait I will ask supervisor”
“Are kaka....This siren is for emergency. Kindly reach at assembly point”
“Assembly point....kaha hai saheb?”
“Kaka don’t give me more trouble just follow this crowd”
“Gunja beta...Gunja… Saheb bol rahe hai ki hame assembly point pe ekatha hona hai” (Gunja beta...Gunja. Sir has asked us to meet at the assembly point)
Hundreds of employee of the mill at the siren noise reached the assembly point. Each one standing there was confused and worried. They had no idea about the said emergency. Everyone had questions about this urgent meeting? There was whispering and chattering among the employees. Everyone had their own flowery ideas like bonus, increments, sick leaves and holidays.
“This bloody Mill maliks will never understand our feelings”
“No man, it must be for new machines”
“New machines? Kya chizka?”
“Areee...I heard two days ago our supervisors are talking about new machines vo kya bolte hai usse? ‘Rubut’ ”
“Rubut”? vo kya chiz hota hai? (Rubut? what kind of thing is this?)
“Are vahi jo apane aap sab kaam kar leta hai....uske ane ke baad ye mill maliko ko hamari jaroorat nahi padne vali” (It’s a machine which basically works on automated stage and does not require humans)
Suddenly crowd goes silent. Mill malik and his management team comes on stage for announcement. Their frightened faces were showing that the matter was serious. Mill HR takes the charge and starts addressing the mill staff.
“Bhaiyo or behno, this urgent meeting is held for one important announcement. Our entire world is catch up by corona virus and now it has started in India too. There is no cure, no medications and no vaccination against this virus. Those who don’t know about corona virus I tell you it is very dangerous virus which is contagious and is air borne too. It had been first reported in Wuhan, China and now has made its way to all the countries of the world. Our government has taken some preventive measures to be free and prevented from this pandemic. I will share the instructions to you all so that you can keep your family safe too. First of all you have to wash your hand frequently, it helps in keeping you safe from the infection. Government has given the permission to arrest any gatherings more than 4 people (Section 144). Government wants us to follow the principle of Social Distancing. Yesterday evening there was an announcement which we all know that PM Modi has announced complete Lockdown for 21 days for our entire nation which means you cannot go anywhere you have to stay at your home apart from essential workers. So, we will have to follow the government and will have to shut down our mill for the next 21 days. It brings me immense grief to convey this news to you all but it is a pandemic and we will have to join hands together to save our nation. Now you all can leave”
It was like bodies without soul. Within fraction of seconds all of them felt as if the world has ended. Those people on daily wages started thinking about the worst. What? How? How is this possible? Mill malik and their management team start waking from the stage. Some of the worker start screaming. Sahib....saheb ....malik .....maherbani karke hamari baat sun lijiye (sahib....saheb....Malik....please listen us) but nobody listened as they had their own hands tied up.
One of them hold Mil malik’s hand and start crying sahib aesa mat karo ham kaha jayege? Paise kaha se ayega? Apane bacho ko khana kese khilayege?(Saheb please don’t do this. Where we do go now? How can we arrange money? How can we give food to our kids?)
Meri bhi Majboori hai, mill bandh karne me hi aap sab ki bhalai hai
“Baba, ab hum kya karege?” (What can we do now?)
“Ab to upar vala jane kya hoga?”(Everything is according to God’s Will)
“Sab to bol rahe hai ke gav chale jaye”(Everyone is telling to go back to our hometown)
“Thik hai tu saman bandh lo hum log kal subha chale jayege or haa chutki ko bhi taiyar kardena” (okay,You pack our bags. We will leave tomorrow morning and hep chutki to get ready too.)
Baba, Gunja and Chutki reached at railways stations. Railway station is empty. Hardly 15 to 20 people are there majority of them are railway staff. Gunja reached at enquiry booth where she get news all trains and buses are cancelled for 21 days due to lockdown. Her 6 years old nephew chutki looked at Gunja.
“Masi ab hum log gauv kese pohchege?” (Aunty, how will we reach our hometown now?)
“Chinta mat karo beta hum koi rasta jaroor nikallenge” (Don’t worry dear we will do something)
Gunja stood at the middle of the platform and was trying to think about the ways they could reach to their home town. She over hears the conversation of some people sailing in the same boat the station. The heard was thinking to start walking towards their home town, it will take time they said but we can be in hometown they ended. Gunja come to her baba, informed him about the scenario of the public transport and also told him about the conversation she had overheard.
“Gunja beta, tum janti ho me ye nai kar pavuga, or muj me vo takat bhi nai rahi tum ek kam karo tum or chutki chalna suru karo me yahi ruktahu” (Gunja beta, you are aware of my age and energy levels. I won’t make it through. Do you one thing. You can Chutki go with the crowd I will stay in here.)
“Nahi baba me apko iss halat me chhod ke nai jaasakti” (No Baba I can’t leave you alone in this condition)
“Tume jana hoga meri to vese bhi umarho chuki hai me ab or kitne din jinda rahuga. Lekin tum log yaha rahoge to kahi virus ka sikar naho javo” (You will have to go, don’t worry about me anyway I am old now. You have to be safe. So go to our home town)
“Par baba”(but baba)
“Or koi saval nai tumlog nikalo” (No more questions please you must leave)
Gunja and Chutki take blessing of her baba. Baba hug them tightly with tears in his eye. Gunja and Chutki join crowd and start walking.The cool air of the morning sun has now become hotter and feels like fire burning. Roads seemed longer and deader with all the closed shops and no humans around.
“Masi, muje bahot pyaas lagi hai me or ek kadam nai chal sakti” (Aunty, I am thirsty and tired of walking any further)
“But beta hamare pass na to pine ka pani hai or nato khane kuch saman abhi age kuch dikhta hai to hum le lege, aesa ho to hum thodi der keliye yahi par aram kar lete hai” (Dear we neither have water nor do we have food to eat. If there is something I will buy it for you. If you want we can rest here for some time.)
“Kya bat hai beta? Tume pyaas lagi hai? Lo iss bottle mese pani pee lo” (What happened beta? Are you thirsty? Drink it from my bottle)
Gunja is looking at that man who offering his water bottle to Chutki. His appearance made him look a homeless guy. He was standing with help of crutch, where Gunja notices that he had only one leg.
“Nai nai...fir aap kya karoge?” (No no ....than what will you do)
“Koi bat nai muje abhi pyaas nahi lagi hai or age mil jayega”( don’t worry I am not thirsty now and it will find water source on our way). The bearded man and Gunja stared with satisfaction at Chutki till she had quenched her thirst and finished half the bottle. They started laughing the way Chutki finished the water speedily.
“Aapka bahot bahot thaniyawad”(Thank you so much) Gunja said to that man to giving him his bottle.
“Aap log kaha jaa rahe ho?” (Where are you going?) That man asked Gunja.
“Hum log apne gauv jaa rahe hai or aap? (We are going to our hometown and what about you?)
“Vese to mera koi gauv nahi hai bus logo ne bola key aha rehna sahi nahi hai to me bhi is bhid ke sath age nikal pada dekho abhi takdir kahaleke jati hai?” (I don’t have my own home town but everyone told me that this place is not safe now so I started walking with them, let’s see where will my destiny land me). Chutki stand up and said to her Gunja, “Masi now I am ready to walk” Gunja give her big smile take their luggage and again start waking. Their small steps passed hundreds of miles. Looking their hardship sun has calmed itself.
“Aap ne apana naam nai bataya?” (You didn’t tell your name?)
“Jee mera nam Shankar hai” (My name is Shankar) “Aapka? (Yours?)
“Mera naam Gunja hai or” (my name is Gunja) Gunja was interrupted by Chutki’s excitement to answer that man.
“Mera naam chutki hai chutki” (my name is Chutki). Chutki hurriedly answered.
“Tumara naam to bahot hi pyaar hai kisne rakha maa ne ke papa ne?”(You have such a lovely name. Who has chosen this name for you, mom or dad?) Bearded man asked Chutki.
“Jeevo bat aesa hai ki chutki ke maa baap nahi hai bus me hu uski masi or hamare Baba hai”(Actually Chutki is orphan & I am her only aunt and my Baba) Gunja said slowly.
“Maaf kijiyega muje pata nahi tha” (My Apologize, I did not know)
“Are isme mafi mangane ki jaroorat nahi” (No need to be sorry)
“Vese aap ka gauv yaha se kitana dur hai”(How far is your hometown from here.)
“Kuch 250 se 270 km tak hona chahiye”(It should be arounf 250 to 270 kms from here) Gunja said to looking at road.
“Matlab aap logo ko pohachne me 2 din lag jayega” (Means it will take you another two days to reach home). Moon shines in its glory. Roads got darker and walking towards hometown got a little more scarier.
“Muje lagta hai hame rat yahi talab ke pass hi guzarleni chahiye, rat bahot ho chiki hai or chutki bhi thak chuki hai”(I think it would be better if we spare the rest of the night near this lake, Chutki is also very tired)
“Aap sahi keh rahi ho. Me jake thodi lakdiya leata hu or sayad kuch khane ko bhi mil jaye to uska bhi intezam karta hu” (Yes, you are right. You rest here. I will arrange things for the bonfire and check if I can find something to eat)
After half an hour, Shankar came with wooden sticks on his head and a plastic bag with sane food in it.
“Shankarji aapko ye khana kaha se mila?”(Shankar ji, where did you get all these food?)Gunja asking Shankar to take plastic bag from him.
“Vo yaha se thodi duri par ek ghar tha, mene unko hamari halat kahi to unhone muje khana diya”(There is one home which is little far from here, I told them about our situation and they spared me some food. God bless them). Gunja arranged all wooden sticks for bonfire. Shankar helped her to lit the fire. Shankar, Gunja and Chutki enjoyed their dinner irrespective of the situation under the moon. Chutki slept as soon as they finished dinner in Gunja’s lap.
“Bahot hi himmat vali bachhi hai, kese itna lamba safar bina kisi fariyad ke nikal diya bhagwan kare isse kisi ki burin ajar nalage”(so strong girl she is, how she walk such long way without single complain), Shankar look at Chutki’s innocent face
“Burana mano to aapse ek bat puchh sakti hu Shankar ji?” (If you don’t mind, Can I ask you something?)
“Haa, kyu nahi” (Yes, you can)
“Aapke pair ko kya hua tha?” (what happened with your leg?)
“Ye ek lambi kahani hai, bus aesa samaj loki meri pappo ki saja muje mili hai” (it’s a long story you can say that karma has played its role)
Shankar added some more wooden sticks on fire and sat opposite Gunja.
“Me aaj jesa dikh raha hu aaj se 6 saal pahe le me vesa nahi huva karta tha. Meri life bahot hi lofar kisam ki or aiyashi vali huava karti thi, roj rat ko daru peena fir logo kesath marpit karna mere liye bahot hi aam baat thi pata nahi kitne hi nirdost logo komene sataya hoga. Lekin vo kehte haina ki, ke uparwale ki maar me avaz nai hoti lekin dard bahot hota hai bus ek din mere sath bhi vahi hua. Meri daru pine ki adat ki vajese company me mera pair ek machine ke niche aa gaya or vo puri tarah se khatam hogaya. Muje hospital le jayagaya par meri ayashi vali jindagi ke bajese paisa na hone kekaran hospital se bhi muje nikal diya gaya. Meri iss halat ke vajese me apane bimar budhe maa baap ko bhi bacha nahi paya. Or logo ke tane or galiya suntan raha. Aaj mere pass nato paise hai na kaam or nahi mere maa baap. Bus hai to ye adha kata huva sarir”
(6 years ago I was totally different. I used to drink a lot and I used to be like a loafer fighting with everyone. With this habit of mine, I had given trouble to many innocent people. Karma played its role and my leg was damaged in the machine that I used to work. I had lost my leg. I was not able to help my aged father. People around me started cursing me. Now as of today neither do I have money nor parents and not a job to earn my livelihood. I am left only with this half body which keeps reminding me of my past)
Gunja listened his story very carefully. After that she asked him question, she questioned if he still felt guilty about entire situation. Her question was answered with Shankar’s tearful eyes.
“Chutki ke maa baap ko kya hua tha? Mera matlab hai chutki kese...”(What happen with Chutki’s parents?) Shankar asked Gunja
“Tab me chhoti thi meri badi bahan matlab ki Chutki ki maa or mera baba ek hi jagah par kaam karne jaya karte the or tab me chhoti hone ke karan ghar parhi raha karti thi. Achanak ek din baba ki tabiyat thik nahi thi to vo jaldi se ghar aa gaye or didi uska kaam karke der rat ko ghar lot rahi thi ki achanak ek daru piya huva ladke ne uska pichha karna suru kiya. Vo darke mare bhagne lagi par us ladke ne us ko pichhe se pakad ke pehle to us ko bahot mara fir us pe vo bhukhe bhediye ki taraha usko noch dala. Der rat ho chuki thi uski avaj sunne vala koi nai tha jo use bacha sake, vo chikhti rahi us admi se apani ijjat ki bhikh mangti rahi. Vo subha tak vahi raste pe padi rahi tadfte huae. Subha jab hame patachala me or baba vaha par poche to koi use uthake hospital le jane ke liye taiyar nahi tha. Me or baba ne use leke jab hospital pohche to koi hamari bat sunne ke liye taiyar nai tha police ke pas jab fariyad likhvane ke liye gaye to hamri garibi ke karan kisi ne FRI likhne se bhi mana kar diya. Jab chutki huvi tab logo ke tane sun-sun kar didi ne ek din apani jaan leli. Chutki ne to kabhi apani maa ka muh bhi nahi dekha. Pichle 6 saal me bus ek ye locket ka aadha tukada leke ghum rahi hu jo us jalimki nisani hai”
(Long back, My father and Chutki’s mom – my sister used to work together. I was young at that time. One day, my father had to return home early from work as he was not well and my sister worked there double shift. It was late night when she was returning from work. On her way back a loafer dunked raped my sister and left her on the road till next morning. She was lying there soulless when I and my father went there as soon as we got to know. We took her to the hospital, but no one listened to her sufferings. None of the policemen helped us out with our situation. Chutki was born and after her birth my sister had committed suicide as she could not bear the burden of the society. Since past 6 years there is only this half locket – a sign of that loafer which I am carry everywhere with me). Gunja show him that half broken locket. Shankar picks up that locket
“Muje lagta hai hame so jana chahi ye bahot rat ho chuki hai. Kal gauv bhi pohchna hai” (I think we should sleep now. We have to reach our hometown tomorrow). Gunja sleeps at ease.
In next Morning there is a loud screaming “las....las.. ”
Loud screaming break Gunja’s sleep. When she wake up some villagers were taking out dead body from lake. She could not believe that the body was of Shankar’s. Chutki came to Gunja and hugged her tightly. When she looked at the Chutki’s neck, she found the other part of the locker in her neck..
Meri duao me itna asarho,
Thokar mere pair me lage,
Or ashu mere khuda ki akho me aye.