Mrs Barnali Sen did not lament the death for too long. She got busy with the work for her orphanage and the tongues in the society wagged. She did not care, neither had time. She and her husband were in the midst of legal proceedings in order to convert her property into an orphanage as soon as possible.
Mrs Sen had a happy family of three. She and her husband Mr Neelkamal Sen, a professor of Physics, began their journey together forty years ago. They were not a very wealthy family to begin with. Many humoured her father-in-law for coming under the barbed wire on a dark night of 1971 with his wife. Neelkamal was about 15years old then. He finished his studies from Calcutta University while his father slogged and withered away in one of the jute mills. Neelkamal’s mother passed away soon after and he was left alone. However, his then neighbour Mrs Preetilata Burman, a poor childless widow, took him in as her own and provided for him. Neelkamal treated her as his second mother but soon lost her to some unknown disease. He was in college then. This is when he met Barnali and their souls connected. Barnali was a year senior to him so they knew that her family would be dead against this union. After getting a job of an assistant professor, Neelkamal asked for Barnali’s hand in marriage from her father. It was rejected without another word and he was threatened in direct words of dire consequences if they were seen together ever again. Barnali stood up for him and left her parents’ house that very day. They got married in Dakhineshwar Temple the next day and Barnali has not seen anyone from her family since then.
Their family grew in size, adding the youngest Mr Sen to the lot. They lived happily. However, they had trouble in making their ends meet. Barnali started giving some tutions in order to provide for the schooling of their son. Staying in a one room house was also becoming difficult as their son was growing up and he needed a separate room. Their son, Indranil, loved posto a lot. Every meal he had to have the paste of the poppy seed in some form or the other else his tantrums would begin. Barnali, even though skipping lunch half the days in order to save some food for dinner, always made sure to keep her stock of posto full. Indra too was a loving and respecting son that any mother would be proud of. Finally, God seemed to hear their prayers. The pay scale revision changed their lives. They shifted to a bigger house, though on rent, but to a better locality. After few years, Indranil went to a good college in a different State of the country and was in his third year of engineering. Neelkamal and Barnali had purchased a house and prayed for their son’s campus interviews that were just round the corner. Suddenly everything came to a standstill with the ringing of the doorbell one winter night!
Neelkamal looked through the eye hole and was surprised to see their son at the door. He opened the door and his son rushed in. He looked terrified and inebriated. Barnali took hold of his shoulder and asked what had happened. However, their loving, doting son was looking ill, very ill. Neelkamal and Barnali took their son to his room and made him lie down. Soon Indranil was in a deep slumber.
The Sen couple had a sleepless and troubled night after many years. They waited for their son to wake up and put an end to their misery. Finally, at 11am the next day, Indranil woke up. Barnali asked him to freshen up and brought him a piping hot cup of tea soon after. There was a stark difference between the one who came in last night and the one sipping tea in front of them, thought Barnali.
After few silent moments, Neelkamal cleared his throat and said, “Is there anything you want to tell us, Indra?”
Indranil looked surprised. He said, “Can’t I come back to my home unannounced? I thought to surprise you. Are you not happy?”
Barnali knew Indra was hiding something. However, she let it pass. Neelkamal again started, “We were surprised but the state you were in last night was very disturbing for both of us. How did you come? Where is your bag?”
The mere mention of the word “bag” brought back the same fear in Indranil’s eyes that they had seen the day before. He got off his bed and quickly left the house saying he will be back soon.
Neelkamal and Barnali were left dumbfounded. They could not make anything out of this weird behaviour of their son. However, they could do nothing except wait.
It took exactly three hours to end their wait. The phone call came at 2:15pm. They rushed to the Anandmayee Hospital which was near the airport and at the far end of the city. Barnali, who had received the call from the police station, could not process all the information at one go. She told nothing to her husband. They hired a cab and reached the hospital within one hour.
There were two policemen waiting in the reception. As soon as they introduced themselves, they were rushed to the second floor. There sat a woman and a man, both crying and talking to the doctor. The policeman said, “They are the parents of the victim.”
Neelkamal asked, “What victim? What are you saying?”
“What have you come to see here? Who gave you the permission to be here?” screamed the woman.
The policeman said, “We had called them Madam. Please control yourself. We are trying to help you”.
“Help? What will you do now? Can you bring back my daughter? Look what your son has done to my daughter!” saying this she fainted. A nurse, with the help of her husband helped her to a stretcher. She was wheeled away with her husband rushing along.
“Madam, the girl lying on that bed is fighting for her life. She was gangraped by your son and his friends. We have caught two of them but your son is absconding. Do you know where he is?”
Neelkamal’s legs gave way and he stumbled onto a bench nearby as if he was punched in his stomach. Barnali face was expressionless. She looked through the glass opening. A girl of hardly thirteen or fourteen years old was lying on the bed showing no movement whatsoever. She too received an invisible blow and did not know what to say or do.
“Madam, the girl, Kavita was celebrating her birthday in a hotel with her friends. These boys came there and got drunk. Then they tried to join the party uninvited. When they were refused, they got angry and started using foul language. The girls complained to the hotel authority and they were removed from that area and was given a separate room to continue their fun. They must have planned to take revenge and somehow got hold of Kavita and took her to their room. The five of them then brutally raped her and left her to die. Your son seemed to have arrived yesterday night and met his friends before going home. We found his belongings and so called you to see if he was there.”
Barnali steeled herself. She said in a very low but strong voice that she will call the authorities if her son comes back.
Neelkamal seemed to be lost in despair. He was helped to his feet by Barnali and then they returned home. Barnali got flashes of the bruised face of the little girl. She could hear the screams of the mother in the hospital.
Later that night, the doorbell brought them back to their senses. Neelkamal was in no position to walk up to the door. Barnali opened the door and let her son in. Indranil was constantly looking behind as if to see if someone was following him.
“Ma, I will leave right away. One if my professors called. I have an interview tomorrow. I am taking a late-night flight back. I have only one request to make. If someone asks you whether I came here, please say I never came.” Saying this he rushed inside.
Barnali knew what had to be done. She quietly reached the phone and dialled the number that the officer had given her in the hospital. Soon enough her son was ready to leave. Barnali stood at the door. Indranil was astonished. One look into his mother’s eyes and he understood that Barnali knew everything.
“Did you call the police?” he asked.
“Yes, I did and I will personally see to it that you get a death sentence for what you have done!” screamed Barnali with tears of anger, disgust and agony rolling down her cheeks.
“I am your only son Ma. Yes, I made a mistake but you can forgive me. Please save me. Please Ma,” pleaded Indra.
“Do not call me Ma anymore Indranil. I am no mother to a rapist! I am a woman first and I am sure every woman will do the same”, said Barnali strongly.
Indranil knew he had no escape. In his final attempt, he pushed his mother out of the way and rushed out. Barnali could hear a lot of commotion outside. There were many raised voices, running footsteps, and then two loud booms!!
She woke up in a hospital bed and screamed her son’s name for the last time.
After few days…
Barnali and Neelkamal had decided to give up everything and build an orphanage. Indranil was never mentioned ever. They knew he deserved to meet the end the way he did. He tried to escape by shooting one of the policemen and in return firing he was fatally wounded. He died the next day in the same hospital where his mother was admitted.
Barnali and Neelkamal never lamented his death.