PART 5: THE BIRTH
Sinha looked at him- smiling to himself as he said, “For a few months from now on, you will not be Shravan. Your name would be Bhanupratap. And you will remain here, in the lock-up”… (PART 4)
Ganges was flowing all over his mind and body. There can be no place where he would stay forever. He would go on. On. Not knowing where it would lead him to. The flow was not a path he chose. It was there. He would only flow along. The choice was not his. There was no choice. The destination was not his. The Ganges- would lead his way…
Sinha continued, “No one would question you. You can remain anywhere within this prison. But you would not go out of this place. Understood”?
His mother would lead him. “Yes saab”, replied Shravan.
Sinha looked satisfied. He said, “Good. I’ll get you `1000 by the end of four months”.
“Yes saab”. And that was their contract.
The Gangotri sees her in a form so different. The child about to enter into a new world- a world that would worship her. A world that would depend on her to wash away its blackness. No more the soft infant touch- but the rough wrath over the ever mounting human sins! That was how she was- washing away the sins of sinners. Only- the prison was no holy Kashi! He was in his mother’s lap- but there were other prisoners- foster children of his mother.
It took him a while to get used to his new identity. Bhanupratap. He was now, officially, a criminal. But what crime? He wouldn’t know, would he? Sinha checked on – every day. Was he friendly? May be. But the new Bhanupratap understood that “food never comes free”. Sometimes- there were small packets of white powder to be given to a certain Motilal. Brown covers- heavy at times, to be given to Sinha. Powder- Motilal’s food. And food- never comes free. Bhanupratap was learning…
Soon, the sinners within the walls became people with names. And everyone knew him as Bhanupratap. There were thieves, rapists, fraudulent geniuses, may be a few murderers even. But they were the ones who could not afford a `1000 every four months!
And slowly, the people with names were people with stories. Husbands who murdered wives who had made a cuckold out of them. Or young boys- who had been offensive about rich girls. There was a certain 496 that was most common. These numbers became more familiar to him than their names. He made friends with 446s, 489Cs, 463-464s. He was often asked what his number was? He might have mentioned it to Sinha once. He had replied-
“Bhanupratapji, tell them that you are the King of all that. Tell them- you are Government”! And shooed him away- laughing to himself…
Four months- and he was almost Bhanupratap. A man with just a name. No birth. No life. No death. Somewhere amidst everywhere. Sinha called him that night. He held a `1000 in hand. Smiling as he spoke, “Would you like to earn more, Bhanupratapji”?
(..To be continued., Part 6: “He and I…”)