The Unfortunate

He was very stubborn for a 24 years old. Childish as he hen-pecked everyone for everything. Overreacting to every instance of spoon-feeding, rounds of injections, and heavy doses of strong medicines. I had not witnessed before such a weather-caused behavioral syndrome in humans and couldn’t believe it could be him.

I had been called-in to fill for my colleague to do routine checkup on him two or three times before. He would be very calm all the time, answering very nicely to every question, nodding as if he understood what’s happening to him. Special he felt, as he was. His room was neatly kept by his mother. His mother, a very pleasant lady, full of grace & love for all, would remind me of my mother. Her deep eyes spoke of her life struggles… her sacrifices… her not-so-good marriage… her unfortunate son who meant the world to her.

Back to his stubbornness. All of us at this small nursing home in a village at the border of Sundarbans, were going crazy keeping him calm. He wouldn’t even listen to his mother anymore. It was a beautiful morning when someone knocked at my door. I had just gotten up from a bed-ridden sleep after bone-breaking night shift. It was his mother at the door… trembling, falling unconscious as she told me that he ran away.

The news was very disturbing, especially considering the recent accidents in the neighborhood forests of Sundarbans. Man-eaters lurked even in daylight for their prey. Everyday newspapers were filled with stories of villagers being mauled & killed. But more than the animals, the fear was from the ill-rumored ferocious tribes that have lived in various parts of that sanctuary for thousands of years and were still way behind civilization. Their scary folktales were a way of evening pastime around campfires.

I had almost forgotten about him in the past 5 months. There was no news of him. His mother still visited the nursing home sometimes hoping he would show up. I had also heard rumors about him being seen with those savages, but just like other folktales it was a mere amusement for locals so I never paid heed.

It was the fall of summer. Monsoons were about to hit. But the entire sky had darkened already. No it wasn’t the clouds. It was the rain of black ash covered in dark smoke. The rarest & biggest wildfire till date in Sundarbans. Forest jeeps were patrolling everywhere in a futile effort to create a barricade to impede the advance of fire in residential zones & limit the calamity as much as possible. But they were ill-equipped. The only hopes were the deltas formed by Ganges River & the wind direction which was in favor at that moment. The cries of animals were coming intermittently from deep forest, leaving a shiver and feeling of unrest in the hearts.

When I reached the nursing home, I was shocked to see the chaos it was in. The staff was shouting, running to attend to what looked like many casualties of the wildfire. They were tribesmen brought to nursing home in patrolling vans by forest guards. There was no place left in that one hall nursing home therefore the outside compound was used to spreads cots brought from the village. I ran to extend help to one of the nurses who was finding it difficult to hold an injured while tending to his wounds. That’s when my eyes got fixated on that breathtaking & distressing sight.

Almost burnt, yet alive… moving his head from one side to the other. Bleeding slowly from everywhere, still. Fingers, palms & feet had melted away. Lips had sealed together. Eyes had melted leaving holes behind. All that was left seemed as if fire itself had made home in his flesh, like a large piece of aflame lava. I don’t know why he was not kept in the cot or was not being tended to. He was kept on a thick hot iron platform above the burning coal. Was it to keep his current body condition the same? Was it helping him or killing him? Wasn’t it defying the laws of anatomy? There were tribesmen & women standing behind the fences and were chanting & crying while spreading their hands towards him. Why were they so sad about him? Who was he for them? Baffled as I was, I couldn’t resist but gaze at his completely burnt face. My eyes widened in shock. It was Him.

Nobody could survive this. How he was alive was beyond my comprehension. I couldn’t stare & moved away feeling helpless in making his condition any better. But still his burnt, moving head in agony was stuck in my conscious. Why his soul wouldn’t give up yet, I asked myself. Why is it that his soul is making him suffer so much? Why so stubborn? Why? To release frustration, I went behind one of the patrolling vans and lit a cigarette. The forest guard came up to me and asked if I could lend him a smoke. I gave him one and went back to demystifying my bewildered thoughts. The guard drew my attention by blabbering what had happened to that unfortunate soul in the recent past. I couldn’t believe a word of what he said.

He was rescued from the jaws of a Bengal Tigress by those aborigine savages and was taken to their unknown habitat. They had an exorcist who had predicted that their God will appear to save them one day which led them to believe that he was their long-awaited God. Since that incident, this ferocious tribe started to stay rather calm. Earlier, not even once someone had passed through their territory alive. And now, the guard said, they were the most helping tribe in the region for the forest rangers. During the wildfire the so-called God of that tribe got burnt while saving those savages. And that’s why they were crying now for their incinerated God who really saved their lives. If it wasn’t for him, almost all of them would’ve been burnt alive back in the forest.

I saw his mother running towards me. I felt a heavy burden on my chest, as if something was drowning in me. My eyes were full. Despite having no relation, I was grimly drowning with emotions. Questions in her eyes rendered me speechless and I just pointed in the direction where her Unfortunate son was lying, still undead. She cast a last look at me hopelessly and ran in that direction. I couldn’t chase, I couldn’t move. I sat down there itself, next to an inverted iron tripod kept within fire to use against wild beasts. In helplessness, I grabbed that burning rod in my hand & my fists clenched as I closed my eyes with pain & cry.

I looked up and saw her standing next to him. His body shivered in agony as if pleading his soul to quit its stubbornness & set him free. The mother recognized her son – the unfortunate god. I saw her spreading her hands to touch her son’s burning forehead. But how could she bear the pain of seeing her son begging for his death? Her heart broke out with ghastly shrieks, giving way to her soul to help out her son. She fell dead next to him. And with that the body of the Unfortunate God turned cold & still…

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