The Man

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Raja Chakraborty

It was a hot day. Stiflingly so. An unforgiving midsummer sun blazed from the cloudless sky, burning everything in its wake. Few blades of grass, brave enough to struggle still, was slowly turning to brown from a dull yellow.

Cracks opened up in the parched earth, like dried wounds of the man, caked blood lining the rough cut edges. His chest a gaping hole, awestruck in amazement. A lone bumble bee hovered around in unending circles, lost in a trance.

The man lied on his back, eyes half open, looking up, searching for that single drop to fall from the merciless skies. There was none. Time stood still, in an eternal pause. A grey haze, like the black hand of devil, stood heavy on the horizon. The man has not moved, eyes locked and focussed, lips slightly parted, in a silent prayer to the rain gods. He was drying up from inside. He knew that. Like the hollow tree trunk, behind their cottage. The thought shook him. He used to hide in there, from the shadows. Shadows of greed and guilt he so tried to run away from.

Images came to him in a kaleidoscopic fury, his brothers labouring in open fields, his father by the well, old muscles straining to lift the filled bucket, smells of their kitchen, his mother cooking. His eatery by the roadside. Money changing hands, hidden from everyday world. Those men from faraway lands they called a city. The shining blade. And the rains.

He remembered his grandfather, head hung between hunched knees, had told him how rains come to wipe away our sins, to cleanse our souls. When we have sinned enough to tilt the scale, clouds form. Dark, angry rain clouds. The man believed it now, in that instant, lying still, stiff in the dead heat, oblivious to his agony.

The bumble bee droned in monotony, making invisible circles in the air, counting hours. Then it came. Scattered drops, drawing vapour from the simmering earth. Gathering force, turning into a torrent it lashed down on him, crimson rivulets of rage.

The man felt nothing. He tried to catch the droplets but his fingers won’t move. Little puddles formed at the corner of his mouth and slid down. He craved for one drop to soothe his burning throat, but he could not swallow. His tongue remained motionless, as if it was not his anymore.

Lying in a pool of rain and his own blood the man wondered why. And then with a start it dawned on him … the dead are not supposed to feel, they don’t feel anything, anymore.

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Born in Kolkata, Raja Chakraborty did his Masters in English literature from Calcutta Universtiy. He is presently working in a very senior capacity in West Bengal Revenue Service. Having published three acclaimed books of Bengali rhymes, Chakraborty is now venturing into the domain of storytelling in the English language.

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