The lonely street made the chances of survival for a man lying there minimal.
Hours passed by yet nothing happened. The trees were violently moving to the strong gust of wind and the moon shone bright. The gravel of the road reflected the moon’s beam. The clouds would occasionally roar and the sound would echo all around the place. At times, the sounds would be accompanied with heavy electric lightnings too. Honking and shaking of metal would be heard at a distance, every now and then as a train would pass by. The shuffling of people was seldom heard. It was a street that not many people used at this hour.
He had struggled to keep his eyelids open, he had struggled to walk a few more steps, he had struggled to gain a little strength in his hands, legs and body. He had struggled, yet hadn’t succeeded. His struggle seemed worthless as he started losing his vision. It seemed as though he hadn’t had any food for ages and was not fit enough to continue with his journey.The light seemed to be flickering in front of him until it completely vanished. It was dark. His eyes were in a state of darkness and so was the scene around him. The flickering street light made a screeching sound and stopped. That was the last sound he heard, until his head hit the ground hard, and yet he didn’t feel anything. Immediately, his head started bleeding, his hands got wounded and so were his legs.
There was a strong gush of wind, and the stench of blood spread all over the place. The man was surrounded in a puddle of his own blood. The clouds and the trees, didn’t care about the fallen man, they continued howling to the wind. It was two hours past midnight and nothing seemed to be happening except for nature, becoming more violent than ever.
Any passer-by would consider the man devoid of life.
“We can go past the forest, and use the rough road towards the station” said Aditya, as he adjusted the heavy bag of clothes in his hand.
“As risky as it is, that is the only possible way to reach back home early and make mother worry less” replied Shrey, regretting their decision about taking the last bus to the village.
Fear hovering above their mind and worry forcing them to walk, they continued the journey. As the weather worsened, so did their mental state. The woman back home, was alone
and didn’t have anyone to rely on but them. If they died in this weather, their mother would die too, of hunger and loss.
She stood up from her regular chair and looked out of the window. As she saw the weather worsen, her heart trembled with fear. She remembered the last day she saw her husband. Her sons were her only hope to live. The clouds roared, and that was it. She absent-mindedly sat back on her chair and started weeping. She had assumed that her sons would die. They wouldn’t be able to survive such a strong storm at this hour, with practically no resources. They had said they would be returning from the city by eleven o’clock, it was past midnight and yet there was no sign of them. She pictured her children dead on the lonely and isolated street.
The weather was worsening. The clouds were roaring like beasts and showering their waters heavily. The wind was gushing at a high speed. The water hit the ground like stones. The fallen man seemed to be shivering because of the heavy rain.
Shrey and Aditya continued their cumbersome journey. The load they carried and the heavy storm made their journey slower than usual. As they neared the rough street, they wanted to move faster. As they turned right to go ahead with their journey, a loud thunder made them cease their steps. They looked at each other to make sure if the other is willing to go ahead with the journey. Aditya stared back into frightened yet determined eyes, and Shrey saw the light in Aditya’s eyes that reflected the worry for mother back home. Looking at each other and nodding back, they continued with their journey. Their feet were trembling and their hands were numb yet alive. Aditya checked his watch to see the time.
“Shrey, it’s 2.53 and mother would be worrying a lot back home. Now I am more tensed than ever. The weather is showing no signs of improving. I think we should take a break.”
“I know. Presently, all we can do is keep moving. There is no place around here where we can stop by and rest. Moreover, mother is at home. Let us keep moving as fast as we can. This street will not find us any help.” Shrey gave him hope, the best he could.
They continued moving ahead. As they neared the lonely street, they heard the rattling of metal and a long shrill horn, indicating the passing of a train at the railway station. They looked around and saw the railway station. The lights of the train were the only lights that could be seen.
“Want to take a hold? Maybe we can call up mother from the station, if there is signal there.” Aditya asked.
“We could. But we do not know how long that would take Aditya. I suggest we keep moving and reach home as soon as possible. I am getting more and more worried about mother.” Shrey replied.
“Yes. You are perhaps right..." a thunder struck and Shrey couldn’t make out what Aditya said next.
As they walked, they saw an unusual bump in the road. They looked at each other, confused.
As they neared the bump, they realized that it was not a bump. It had a face, hands, legs and a body, very much like theirs. They looked closer and saw a man, almost dead. As they looked at the man, he looked familiar to them.
“I know him. I think he was travelling with us in the bus towards the village and dropped off at an earlier stop.” Shrey said.
“Perhaps. I think we should help him. He might be someone new in the locality.” Said Aditya.
As the lightning struck one more time, the two of them looked at each other to confirm if they are doing the right thing. They both looked into eyes that said “Yes. We are.”
They neared the man, and checked his pulse. He was alive, yet cold and numb. He was surrounded in his own blood that had flowed like a river because of the rain. The light flickered again, making a screeching sound and stopped. They slowly lifted the man by his lifeless- blood stained hands and efficiently frozen, legs.
“Let us take him to the railway station” Shrey said.
Aditya started walking in the direction of the station. They were both carrying a lot of load. It was tough to get the man to the railway station and provide any aid to him. However slow, they walked towards the railways station. As they neared the place, and took their first step into the railway station, the rain slowed. The wind slowed down. This gave them hope. Hope to reach home.
They put down the man on the bare railway platform. Shrey tried to rub his palms and give him some warmth. Aditya left to look around for some help. They both saw the clock at the station to read 3:49. As they looked at each other, worry reflected their faces. They continued trying to keep the man warm. Rattling metal was heard with a loud horn and another train quickly passed by, shaking the platform a little.
The woman back home, still sat by the window on the chair. She had fallen asleep with tear stains on her face. She breathed heavily, and woke up. As she looked out of the window, she saw the rainy showers to have subsided and thought of her sons. She wondered what if she would never see them again. She also remembered that, it was on this day that she had lost her husband 25 years back. Would she lose her sons too? As strong as she tried to be, tears left her eye.
The boys continued to help the man warm up a little. They took clothes from their bags, tied it around the man’s head and helped the bleeding stop. They wrapped clothes around him, to bring some life into him. They blew air into his mouth, to give him some hope to breathe. And just then, the man moved his hand. Shrey and Aditya looked at each other, delighted. The man could be brought back to life. Aditya looked in the man’s pockets, to see if there was anything left that could give him a clue about who this man was. Where did he live? Why did he drop off at an early stop if he had to come this way?
As Aditya looked through his pockets and Shrey helped him get back to consciousness, a tubelight flickered in the railway station, and was turned on. Aditya and Shrey looked around to see that the rain had almost subsided and the wind had restored its usual speed. They could smell the wet soil, just after the rains. However, as they looked at each other with smiles on their face, they were still worried about the man that lay there. They seemed to have forgotten about their mother back home. Aditya continued looking through the man’s pockets and found a torn, ragged, old leather purse.
“Shrey should I check it?”
“Yes. It is probably the only clue as to who this man might be.”
As Shrey replied, the man tried to open his eyes. Shrey rubbed the man’s palm. This made the man slowly open his eyes.
“Shrey?!” Aditya called, with a dumbstruck expression on his face.
Shrey handed the man a bottle of water and went nearer to Aditya.
As he looked at what Aditya was staring at, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Wh…what? Ho..how?...” stammered Shrey.
Aditya had nothing to say. They then looked at the man. “Of course he is familiar” they both said in unison.
The man having gained a little bit of energy from the fall, motioned the boys towards him. As the boys went to him, they sat around him and helped him get up. The man, with a lot of difficulty, muttered something. They couldn’t make out what he said. However, the man started looking for his purse in his pockets.
“Are you looking for this?” Aditya asked.
He quickly snatched it from the boy.
“Who is she?” asked Shrey.
“Who are you?” the man mumbled with a lot of difficulty. “…wife” he said then.
The safely kept, laminated picture of his smiling wife had forced Aditya and Shrey to worry about their mother back home.
“We are your sons, Father.”
As they said this, the man looked at both of them and scrutinised their appearance.
“Shrey…” he said with a lot of difficulty, as he brought his hand up to touch his face. “Aditya…” he said, repeating his actions.
The two sons looked at their father with tears gleaming in their eyes. They gently hugged their injured father and he hugged them back.
“Have been trying to lo..ook for you for years… city, other village, all places ” the father stammered. “Was trying same today…. Lost all of you today…” said the father, with a lot of difficulty.
Shrey and Aditya were speechless. The smile and glow on their face reflected their happiness.
They understandably, decided to ask him more questions after he had got some rest and recovered from the shock.
The lady back home, didn’t know a surprise awaited her.
The united family members, continued their journey as the clock chimed to 4:45. The weather conditions had bettered a great deal, and now was quite a safe time to continue with the journey.
They were happy to have found someone back in their life, whom they had thought to be dead for 25 years. The man had succeeded in his attempt to reunite with his family. As they helped their father walk, they found the love that they lacked since all these years. All of them, secretly thanked God for giving them the part of theirs that they lacked.
They had found a family. All of them. They were now complete.
The disappearance of their father, a mystery and reappearance, a miracle.
11. 09. 2020