The whole city was covered with thick, impenetrable white fog. Those who opened their eyes in that early hour thought as if they were still in some heavenly dream, incapable of discerning what it was and after several rounds of this precarious uneasiness they felt as if they were caught in some vicious trap which they can’t seem to escape.
Finally, with a certain resolve, they woke up to see that it was the same vicious heavenly dream they were having just now, nothing had altered except that they were now in their senses, wide awake gaping at the vision which had just befallen them. Nobody knew what had happened and utmost perplexity lingered around the town; as a consequence some said that it was their end and all that they had gathered hitherto with their diligence would perish away all in a moment without even being their knowing it.
Why, the last night was the very same as it has been for so many nights; people went about jauntily to the bars, some drunkards flounced along the pathways singing merrily the songs they had learnt by their heart. The bourgeois, after their laborious and cumbersome work, were out eating at places with their families. Everything had been as it used to be, always, except, yes, there was a gathering in the city park for all the residents of the city who wished to come according to their will.
Nobody, at first, knew what this surprise gathering was for and then moments later their speculation was confirmed and rolled over by city mayor who as thought by others was a man of virtue. He rose up to the stage, the one with the wooden platform, and said “people of the town…you would be thinking as to why we have gathered here unceremoniously…well yes… i take the utmost pleasure and honor in announcing that our city has been acknowledged best amongst the state. You people being adroit have prevailed over the other cities”.
There was truth in his speech. Majority of the population was of efficient proletarians who worked incessantly without any failures like machines, even machines failed but they didn’t. With the news came an aura of complete wildness, people went berserk, readying themselves for some big explosion.
“We are true humans” said one of them vociferously.
“yes…yes… we are..we are.. that’s why we have succeeded” said another man.
and then there followed a session in which everyone blatantly spoke about their role in the success with such an exaggerated cascade of remarks that it seemed that it was their lonesome effort which contributed to the success, and then another announcement was made by the somber looking emaciated deputy of the town.
“You can all eat and drink to our success…. as much as you want….. it’s from our benevolent and humble mayor. He has also announced tomorrow as the resting day, so the whole town would be closed for any official work”. The bursting sound from the crowd was the clear indication of their appreciation for the announcement.
Besides all this animated jubilation stood a man, far from the madding crowd, in one corner near the entrance gate. He was a stout looking man with rather vivid features and profoundly grave eyes which told the story of his great affliction. He came from the nearby city X. The city X wasn’t as prosperous as this one but there was enough for the people to be content. Recently a calamity had hit the city with such malevolence that every human existence was shattered there. The survivors had to flee off to places to find a new living.
so while no one noticed, the man moved from the corner towards the place where the drinks and eateries were being served. He was famished; he hadn’t had any food since the calamity had hit the place and the constant wandering had completely exhausted him and left him almost lifeless. Making his way through the crowd he reached the food stall, paced up his plate with whatever food he could get hold of and moved aside looking for a solitary place to eat. He found one behind the shades of the stall. As he was about to eat a voice broke out “this is not a time to be in solitude my friend….. we all need to celebrate this occasion together”.
A fat shabby figure with timid looking eyes holding a glass of wine in his hand moved towards him.
“you ought not stand alone… afar from the crowd, is it that you look so tired and exhausted that you stand away not feeling so cheerful? Whatever may be your worry just renounce it all and be merry”.
The man moved up to him and came close enough to discern his features and within a glance he was assured of his despicable condition. Suddenly the ingenuity which was there in his voice lost its essence and with subtle harshness he said “you don’t seem to be from this city? You look so wretched”.
until now he hadn’t spoken a word because of apprehension that he might get caught, might be recognized but the last remark had left him completely exposed. It made him shudder. He knew there was no escape now so with a certain resolve he decided to speak the truth, after all, he thought the man might sympathize with him out of humbleness after listening to his story.
” ah….. yes mister you are right i came from the nearby city. i was just passing by when i heard the mayor’s announcement and thought that i might be a part of it too”.
“part? what part? you don’t belong to this city… how can you be a part of it? which city you said you came from?”. He spoke these words in an exasperated tone.
“sir, the nearby city x. just recently we were victimized by the nature’s fury and sir to save my life i came to this city. The people there are……
“what? the city x! oh you miserable creature, you have come to spread your filth to this place, i know nature’s taking the right action to eradicate you from the face of this earth. You see nature removes all the waste from the earth”. The anguish of his feeling was clearly expressed in his raising voice.
“no my dear sir, i can do you no harm. i m just a survivor, a misfortune struck, luckless fellow who came in need of help. Just ruins remains of the place i live, with no food and shelter our hopes are staggering on the edge of defeat. If you forsake me i’ll be left with nowhere to go”.
He hoped his poignant story might affect hitherto the callous man but all his hopes were squelched when the man shouted at top of his voice
“Look at this invalid, on this day of our success he wants to blemish our celebrations”.
The remark should’ve been lost in the ambient noises which were as loud but the brutality with which it was spoken couldn’t escape the gathering’s ear. The effect of the remark was such that people gathered around the two men with such alacrity as if the remark was supposed to be an order for them to assemble. The man told the whole episode in a pompous tone and as soon as he narrated the incident the general opinion of the people was with him.
“people…. if we help this invalid then he’ll bring same misfortune to us as he has brought it on himself, so i say we should get rid of him as quickly as we can”. There was some authority in his voice now. The people almost agreed in unison.
so now it was decided; he wouldn’t be allowed to stay in that place, not even for the night. He stood there amidst the crowd waiting for the fate to give its final blow when suddenly an unexpected event occurred.
A well spruced up man with almost immaculate personality moved up shoving away the crowd and retorting angry glances to the persons with whom his eyes met. Finally he came up and said “you can’t take your own decision, it’s up to our bountiful mayor to decide the fellow’s fate. He might take pity on him and grant him his wish to stay”.
Though the fat man resented the idea but the respect for the mayor made him agree to what was said. So now the fellow was to be taken to the mayor whose words would be final. The mayor was about to leave the place when the word reached him and so he decided to look over the case. All assembled near the wooden platform where the mayor had made the announcement.
The night was getting colder and colder but no one wanted to leave the fellow’s fate unheard.
It started with the arrival of the mayor. The fat man and the defendant stood on the either side of the accused. He who had wanted to remain hidden and unknown was now the conspicuous feature of the night. Totally dismayed and delusional he had resigned himself to his fate which he thought would engulf him in its fire but the unexpected event had given him some new hope. The mayor who had been frisky the whole night had now gained the expression of grave concern, he still wasn’t sure what the case was but the insinuations had made it clear to him that the matter was something to ponder about. Although he had many times been asked to decide but this particular case asked for his judgement and so a little delirium had taken over his mind because he knew any misjudgment would consequently result in him being misjudged.
So, intrigued, he asked the men to begin and again the fat man started the whole story, this time with more raucousness towards the visitor from the city x. at the end of his story he said “mayor sir, how can we let this invalid be with us on a day of such great celebration?”.
Listening to the fat man the mayor envisaged over something and then looked up and waited to hear the other side of the story. The savior of the victim (he being called the savior for being putting the case in abeyance which otherwise would have had sudden and dreary consequence on the victim) took a step forward and said
“mr mayor, the stories of your generosity are far reached. People in need of help always come to you willingly and you always being besieged with their sorrows leave them happy and content. Helping this unfortunate fellow would only be a paltry effort on your humble part and though this man is from nearby city X it is still our duty to help him”.
Again the mayor kept silent.
He pretended to be in a very deep and serious thought but in his far vision of his deep thought he took a glance at the people to quickly discern which motion they favored, to his disappointment the few faces he could look at all seemed to be confused.
And then to mayor’s relief fat man came up and said
“Mister Mayor, this man is a devil, a devil who has masked himself as an afflicted helpless and who will leave no opportunity to spread his malignance to the innocents of this city. As to why should he come on such a ceremonious day?
‘It is merely a coincidence that he arrived on this day. The devastation caused to his city was a sudden one. It came with utmost unpredictability. It might so happen to us tomorrow’
‘I am amazed at your generosity, mister. For such a long time we have seen city X degrading, unable to meet its own end, surviving merely on dependence. This act of fury seems an obligatory one. If we save this man then we might go against the nature’s course and bring on the misfortune as you suggested.’
‘Your aversion to help an invalid is remarkable. Although city X has struggled for survival for years but they have hardly bothered us. You are prejudiced against the outsiders. Mister Mayor, it is our duty to offer help this invalid and…..
‘…… and if more of these invalids come seeing our generosity we might as well change into city X and wait to get perished away. You see, our best comes from our understanding but with the outsiders there is none and lack of this understanding will lead to our own degradation. For our own good we must ignore him. It does sound cruel but it is the truth. Tell me Mr Mayor is it correct to put our self to peril for sake of one individual?’
Everyone wanted to say something; some murmured, some shouted and some prayed but he stood watching all, silently with a subtle smile on his face. He seemed happy now, all his fears were gone, and he had accepted his fate. Those grave eyes of pain were now filled with a new hope.
His eyes met with the man who had come to defend him and in the brief moment of their interaction he thanked him. Mayor looked at the defendant and then waited for the man advocating his case to speak something.
‘It is not the lack but limited understanding that will lead us to a disaster’ mumbled the man to himself without an intention of continuing the argument.
Everyone still waited for a reply and after a moment his silence was taken to be the final.
Finally the mayor rose up and said “as you see this person has suffered a lot out his miseries and misfortune but it’s my duty to protect my people first. Our neighboring city is in need of help and we will help them but by accepting this fellow i can’t put you to danger of something unexpected. So i, with grief in my heart have to get this fellow out of city as soon as possible, for your prosperity is my priority”.
At the completions of the words only once voice broke out loud but was very easily subdued by other voices in unison. Their abomination and indignation for the fellow was too loud for a single voice to hold. He was still quiet and calm. He looked at all of them and his vision gave him an inner satisfaction…So he walked up from the place on to the city road which lay forlorn. He knew it would take him out of this city and he was happy.
Just before the break of the dawn he died…. and a new day had begun with mist all around.