It was a usual ride for me. I was going to a nearby village in connection with some official work. I was quite satisfied with this job. The only thing that sometimes made me worried is these long motorcycle rides, especially in the rainy season. I did not mind because these trips were chances for me to make some extra money.
I was about to reach my destination, village Mahipur. In the morning, the weather was quite pleasant and so I didn’t want to increase the weight of my bag by carrying the rain coat. But now the sky was full of dark clouds. I was worried a bit. In my previous trip also I got wet and I was still suffering from cold. I did not want to get wet again.
I was working as an Assistant Engineer under a government contractor. I had to go to the rural areas very often to observe the progress of different works. It is quite natural that most of those works do not progress in a satisfactory manner. But the sanction of money for the works at different stages required my approval. The sub-contractors at different levels usually offered me a little commission for that. Personally I am not a supporter of corruption. But it was my greed or something else I don’t know exactly, that always influenced me to accept that commission. In fact it was the only thing that motivated me to go to these backward, faraway places even on weather like this.
Soon, it really started drizzling and in a short time the drizzle turned into a heavy rain. The wind was also becoming stronger. It no longer remained possible for me to continue with my journey. I saw a bus-stoppage with a small rest-house. I stopped my bike and entered the rest-house. I decided to wait for the rain to stop. I looked at the sky. It was full of black cloud. It seemed that the rain was never going to stop.
I saw a bus coming from the town. The bus stopped. A woman in white sari got off. She ran to the rest-house to protect herself from getting wet. By observing her dress I could understand that she was a Hindu widow. She was a young woman. I felt sorry for her. Most girls don’t even get married at her age and now she was a widow. She sat in a corner of the bus stoppage. She was wet. She rubbed her head with an end of her sari. Being a little modest by nature, I was not very comfortable sitting alone in a small rest-house with an unknown woman. It seemed that she was also not very comfortable. Both of us were silent.
“I don’t think the rain is going to stop in less than half an hour,” I said breaking the silence. She didn’t reply. She just looked at me. I looked at her eyes. She looked very calm and helpless.
“Are you coming from the town”, I asked her. She bowed her head in response.
“I am also coming from the town. I have to reach village Mahipur early but God knows when this rain will stop,” I said expressing my annoyance. She didn’t reply anything.
“Anyways, do you work in the town?” I asked her.
“No, I don’t work in the town. I went to the court.” She said in a mild voice.
Suddenly an aged man reached the place. He had an umbrella with him.
“Your mother-in-law has sent this umbrella for you. Take this and go home,” said the man looking at the woman.
The woman took the umbrella and left the place. The man entered the rest house.
“Are you not the engineer?” the man asked me.
“Yes. How do you know me?” I asked.
“I saw you in the village Mahipur. A mason working there is my nephew. I went there last week.” The man replied and asked “Are you going to Mahipur?”
“Yes. I am going to visit some work at Mahipur. But God knows when this rain is going to stop.” I replied.
“Yes. I also have many works left in my field. If the rain doesn’t stop it will be a problem,” the man replied.
“By the way, who is this woman?” I asked him.
“She is a very unfortunate girl. It was not even a month since her marriage, her husband passed away,” the man said.
“But how?” I asked.
“Her husband was a labourer. He was working in the site where a bridge is being made in the nearby village. Suddenly a wall collapsed on him and he died,” the man replied.
“Where did she go?” I asked.
“In this country there is no one to think for anyone. It is a government project. So she deserves some compensation from the government. It is her right. But she has not yet received it. She goes to the town to the DC office or the court every week. But who will help a poor woman like her? All wants bundles of notes and nothing else,” said the man.
I could not utter a single word. I understood that the incident took place only because of the poor quality of work which engineers like me approve for a small amount of commission. My entire body and soul were trembling with a feel of guilt. The rain stopped. The man went away to work in his field. I was left alone in the small rest-house in the bus stoppage.
I am not brave enough to go to her home and tell her that I will give her justice. Nor I am strong enough to declare a fight against the system which is fully dipped in the mud of corruption. I just made a silent promise to my conscience and that poor woman, “From now onwards, I will never incorporate corruption, of any kind, into my work. I will be honest to my work.”