|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|THEME||And He/She Changed Forever|
“Dr. Alex!! Dr. Alex!! Open the door”. Alex heard someone shouting at the door. Perplexed, he opened his eyes and looked at his alarm clock. The arms had just struck 5 in the morning. By the time he could find his slippers, the person on the door started banging the door.
“Must be something really urgent. Who would come to this end of forest at this hour?” He wondered and quickly got up from the bed.
“Malinga!!” he was surprised as he recognized the dark figure standing at his door.
Malinga didn’t waited for an invitation and quickly entered the room. Pushing him aside, he locked the door behind them and started taking deep breathes. Droplets of sweat were rolling out from all the pours of his body, as if he had come all the way running from his hut in the village. Alex quickly offered him a glass of water and asked him to sit. But he denied following the age old custom prevalent in his tribe. A lower class person cant sit anywhere in the premises of the higher class.
“What happened Malinga? Why do you look so scared??” he asked.
“Sir!..Sir !..” his breathing was still heavy and his body was shaking.
“Calm down Malinga. Tell me what happened?”
“Sir! Pack the most important stuff of yours and run. They are coming.” He somehow managed to complete the sentence.
“What?? What are you saying??”
“You don’t have much time sir. Just pack your stuff and leave before they reach your place. They can be here any minute.” He face was pale with terror as if he had seen a ghost. But the seriousness and urgency in his voice clearly indicated that it was not a joke.
“Why are you saying this? Who is coming?? Tell me everything.”
“Kacho and his slaves are coming. They’ll kill you Doc. Run for your life.” He declared.
“Kacho, the king of your tribe. But why does he wanna kill me?” Alex was simply bewildered.
“Because his wife…..his wife….” Malinga paused.
“What? His wife what??”
“His wife has given birth to …to a…” he again paused. As if, the last words coming out of his mouth would strangulate him to death.
“to what Malinga?” still dumbfounded, Alex urged him to tell everything.
“To a White child!!!” Malinga declared.
“What??” Alex shouted.
For a moment, he couldn’t understand anything. But with the dead silence in his room, scared to death looks on Malinga’s face, came the realization. He could feel the Goosebumps on his skin. Instantly he ran for his cupboard and started searching for his passport.
Two years back when Alex was stationed by the US government at a small tribal village in Somalia, he had never fathomed of such a thing to happen in his life. His research had helped the US medical council to develop a wonder drug which could cure Tuberculosis in a faster and cheaper way. The abundance of the chemical compounds required to make this drug in the leaves of the plants growing in the forests of Somalia was the reason he had opted this place for his research. But destiny has its own ways.
“But how is it possible?? I mean…” he dared not to complete the sentence.
“I know Doc. But this is no time for any explanation or justification. Nobody is gonna trust you.”
“But, atleast his wife can testify.”
“That is the worst part. Kachi, the queen died just after the delivery.”
“What??” He couldn’t believe his ears.
He now completely realized his state. In a tribe full of dark slaves and their king, the Kacho, where never ever in the entire history a white child had born. Delivery of a white child by Kachi, the queen herself was something beyond imagination for the ignorant and illiterate people of the tribe. There was one and only one reason for this unprecedented event of which anyone could think off. His body shuddered even at the thought of it. And to make it worse, Kachi was dead. Now there was no one to testify his innocence.
Suddenly, they heard the sound of drums approaching them. They also heard a huge crowd shouting something in chorus.
“Oh god!! They are coming. Fast Doc. Fast!!” Malinga held his hand.
He quickly wrapped his passport, his research reports and his wallet and put it into his bag. And pulled on his shoes and searched for his helmet.
“What are they shouting??” he asked.
“You wont wanna hear that. Just run.” He declared and opened the back door of the room which lead to the deep woods.
“Tell me Malinga. I wanna know it.” Alex urged.
“They have declared …a Kaziranga!!!” Malinga replied.
“Kazi…what??” Alex asked as he stepped out of the room.
“Its Kaziranga Doc…Its Kaziranga….They gonna burn you alive, if they catch you. Run for your life.”
Suddenly it clicked his mind. Kaziranga- was the cruelest form of punishment prevalent in the tribe. Heinous criminals were hanged upside down on the tree to be burnt alive by the fire set below. People will keep adding wooden logs, dung cakes till the flames reach criminal’s toes, though he passes away long before that point. An old villager had told him this story when Alex was working on his research in the forest.
“Take off your jacket.” Malinga said while removing his apron made of leaves and bones.
He wore Alex’s jacket and handed over his apron to him. He also gave him a scarf made of animal skin to cover his face.
“Thank you Malinga. I don’t know how to….” Before Alex could complete his sentence, Malinga interrupted.
“You saved my life once. Now I’m paying back. I know it’s not your fault.” He said and gave a tight hug to Alex. Tears of gratitude rolled from Alex’s eyes. He felt as if he was dreaming.
“Shoju will take you far off from here.” He said pointing towards his horse.
“But I don’t know, how to ride.” Alex said.
“Don’t worry. He will take care of that.” He blowed a whistle and the horse replied by waving his two legs into the air.
He helped Alex to climb up Shoju and then whispered something in horse’s ear.
“I’ll try to lead them in a wrong direction till the time you reach city. After that you are on your own. Good Luck Doc.” He said and started running into the woods in the direction from where the noise was coming.
Short of words, Alex just managed to wave his hand in the air. Shoju ran with lightening speed, but his heart beating even at a faster rate. He prayed to god to save him from the hands of Kacho. He also prayed to help Malinga, his savior who had put his own life on stake just to save his life.
“How is it possible?” the question kept boiling in his mind as Shoju was running through the deep forest towards the city.
He stressed on his mind finding any kind of relation between his presence in this area and suddenly the queen delivering a white child. He was loyal to his wife and had a cute little daughter. There was no reason; he could have done anything like that, which the Kacho and his slaves accused him off. But then suddenly something struck his brain.
“No way… Even that is also not possible.” He denied the possible reason which had cropped up in his mind.
“But then, there is no other way it could happen.” This time the brain recoiled putting more stress on the validity of the thought.
He had met the queen only once during his stay at Antolia. It was around a year back, when the queen had fallen ill. She was losing weight exponentially and suffered from incessant cough problems. The king had summoned for him, when the local doctors of the tribe had given up in finding the right cure for the problem. Alex, also was not sure about the problem, but he suspected that these could be the symptoms of Tuberculosis. He had suggested to the king that an injection of the drug he had been researching on might help the queen. With Kacho’s permission he had given the vaccine to Kachi and had left the place. After that he had never seen her.
“But my research had shown no side effects. I myself have tested it so many times.” He recalled the statistics of his research, which showed no considerable side effects of the drug.
“But there is no other way, it could happen.” Now he was also convinced.
Just then he heard the sounds approaching in his direction. The Kacho’s slaves had caught hold off Malinga. He couldn’t manage to deceive them for too long.
Shoju increased his speed, but he could sense the sounds coming closer to him. He could feel his heart jumping inside his chest. He could spot the fine line of city buildings appearing at the horizon. He wished to reach there as soon as possible. But then suddenly, he heard a rustling sound in the air. Before he could realize, a spear went just inches away from his right ear and hit the tree ahead of them. Shoju, hesitated for a moment and then again started running with full speed. Alex turned around and spotted a whole army of slaves carrying lanterns, following him. Then he saw an arrow heading straight towards him and before he could warn Shoju, it hit the poor animal. Shoju’s leg started bleeding, but it didn’t stopped and kept running. But just miles away from the city, Shoju gave up and fell on the ground. Alex’s bag went flying into the air and landed into the marshland. He quickly got onto his feet and grabbed his bag. His eyes got wet at the sight of Shoju taking his last breathes.
After paying his tribute to the poor animal, he started running towards the city. The burden of the bag, made it hard for running fast. So he took out the passport and threw the bag away.
“All I need is to get away from this place.” He thought.
He kept running until he reached the main gate of the US Embassy. But to his utmost astonishment, the guards didn’t allow him to enter the premises. Then he realized that, it was because of the tribal apron he was wearing. He quickly tore it off and also removed the scarf from his face. But the guards were still skeptical.
“You got an ID sir??” asked one of them.
“Yeah, here is my passport.” He said handing over the passport to him.
The guard checked the passport and his eyes widened. He showed the passport to his mate and they both kept staring at it. Alex noticed suspicion in their eyes. He wondered what was wrong with his passport.
“I’m Sorry sir, the picture is washed away. We cant let you in.” declared one of them and handed back the passport.
“What? “ he checked the passport and found that his picture was really washed away. He then recalled where it happened, it was the marshland.
“But it is mine, the other details are still there. Please check…” But before he could complete his sentence, the two guards held him from his arms and started taking him to a different direction.
“You owe an explanation sir. Our Officer would like to ask you some questions” the guards said as they pushed him inside a sealed space, which looked like an interrogation room.
“C’mon dad. Get up. We are supposed to go for picnic today.” Alex heard his daughter shouting. She was pulling his hand trying to wake him up.
Alex opened his eyes. He had been dreaming. He was slated to join his new project at Antolia, a tribal village in Somalia. He had been discussing this with his wife, who didn’t approve off his stay at Antolia. They had fought many times on this topic. He had been at a cross roads, one path leading to his aspirations, and the another to his family. But today, he knew the answer. He was not going. This nightmare had shaken his soul. He cant be running blind behind his ambitions. He had a family to take care off. He told his wife about his decision. She was glad to see her prayers were answered. He had changed forever.