Saturday, October 8, 2016


Read Part 1 here

Stephen sipped his cup of tea gingerly as he shifted glances between Ghanshyam and Meera. “I wanted to talk to you about your son Neeraj.”

“I don’t want to talk anything about that devil.” Ghanshyam walked out, his face red in fury.

Meera lowered her head in anguish. “What is there to talk? You probably would have heard everything from the inspector.”

Stephen gave her a blank look. “Not much. He said your son was involved in the riots. I talked to Mustafa and he says you are like family to him. I want to know why Neeraj killed his best friend.”

Tears poured down her cheeks as she buried her face between her hands and continued sobbing copiously. “I don’t know. I don’t understand. I never will. They were inseparable. They didn’t have any other friends. They didn’t need any. They had each other. They played cricket the day before. It was Ilyas’ birthday that week. We all ate biryani at his place. I don’t want to know. Satan’s shadow loomed over all of us that day.”

Stephen looked her straight in the eye. “Mustafa doesn’t know this?”

There was nothing but pain there. “No, the inspector never told anyone. He said it would serve no purpose. Lots of lives were lost that day and lots more shattered beyond repair. He said that was enough damage for one lifetime and more.”

Stephen’s next question stung. “Do you think he might still be alive somewhere?”

But Meera had made her peace as well. “I hope not. For his own sake!”


Stephen looked at Inspector Ravikant in a different light this time. “You are a good man.”

“No one is. Some try. Some fake it. Others don’t know what that means. I live two blocks away from them. Every day I cross their houses on the way to the station. Ilyas and Neeraj will always be playing cricket on the street, day and night. On my way back in the evening, I will play with them for half an hour every day. They were such happy kids. They were full of love. But hate turned to be so much more powerful and vicious. A part of me died that day. It was not death that shook me. It was the abuse of life! It was the brutality and the callousness with which people were killed, abused, raped, burnt, tortured and mangled that day that convinced of the pure evil that is dormant inside all of us. Religion is just one avenue that lets the inner devil out.” Ravikant’s agony made Stephen’s pale in comparison.

 “I think Neeraj is still alive. And I believe you know where he is.” Stephen’s words shook Ravikant.

“I don’t know if Neeraj is still alive or not. But he had always wanted to go away from here, as far as he could go. As far as the road would take him! To the farthest point he could ever reach! Where all the seas merged into one! He had told me that when he could go no more, he would sit and stare at infinity forever.”

Stephen thanked Ravikant who stopped him on his tracks. “Don’t try to find him. For your own sake! What will you get out of it?”

Stephen smiled. “I want to know why!”

Ravikant shook his head. “And then?”

Stephen shrugged his shoulders as he walked out. “You are a good man, Ravikant.” He meant it more than ever.


Stephen knew where he had to go. He had to go on until he could go no more. A place where the land ends and water begins to spread around its wings into eternity! A place where the water meets the horizon to host the sun in all its glory! A place where the three seas merge into one: Kanyakumari! He immediately set off to the southernmost part of India in search of Neeraj. He initially wondered how he was going to look for a boy in a huge town like that. But it wasn’t as difficult as he thought! After all, he knew where to look for. After one month of wandering around, on one glorious evening when the sky was lit up by the sun going to bed and the moon waking up by its side, Stephen finally saw Neeraj in the twilight. He was selling groundnuts in the beach. He followed the unsuspecting boy home.

Neeraj sat on the floor in his small hut whereas Stephen sat on the only chair that looked like it would fall apart any time. The squeaking of the chair was the only sound amidst the grave silence. Even the air in between them was still. No words were spoken. A few glares were exchanged.

Stephen did not take his eye off Neeraj who was intently staring at the floor. His eyes had no fear, no anger, no pain, no remorse! He was happy! There was a stoic calm in his demeanor that infuriated Stephen. How could one be so cold blooded?

When he finally spoke, his words reverberated thunderously across the sand walls. “Looks like you are living quite a life here. Especially after what you did in Deogarh!”

The mention of Deogarh stirred Neeraj a bit. He looked at Stephen for a moment but then turned his gaze away to the door.

Stephen spoke with rage. “Don’t you have any heart? How could there be so much vengeance in such a young mind?”

His wrath had no effect on Neeraj who had fixated his gaze on the door. It was not sure if he was waiting for someone to come and relieve him of the misery or signaling Stephen to leave. Stephen was going nowhere without an answer. “Speak up. Why did you kill the boy who loved you unconditionally? Why did you abandon your parents who adored you? And how can you lead an escapist life like this so peacefully?” He did not get one.

Stephen’s blood was boiling. He had not seen anyone more cruel or inhuman. He was so mad that he did not know what to do. He got up with ferocity and rushed towards Neeraj to confront him when he heard a sound at the door.

“Neeraj….. I am home my friend. Look what I made for you today. Pineapple Kulfi. Your favorite!” 

It was Ilyas. Stephen’s heart stopped for a second.


Ravikant saw a letter lying on his desk. It was from Stephen Dayashankar. He quickly ripped it open with trepidation. He was not ready for what came next.

“Ravi… You will not admit it. But I am sure you have been waiting for my letter every single day. And I have been dying to write you this letter. I found Neeraj. Yes I did. He is in Kanyakumari. But you won’t believe what else I saw. I saw Ilyas. Yes, you read it correct. Ilyas is still alive. He is alive! The two little devils are together. Both of them live in a small hut by the sea. Neeraj sells groundnuts in the beach whereas Ilyas has a small kulfi shop. They sent you their regards. They both are so happy. I had tears in my eyes. There is still humanity left in this world. 

Ilyas, Neeraj, Ghanshyam, Meera and Mustafa have all found the worlds they want to inhabit and the lives they want to live. They have all made their peace with nature and God. I think we have got our closure too. I guess it is good bye from me my friend.” 

Tears rolled down Ravikant’s cheeks as he smiled from the heart after a very long  time.


                                                                                                                   - A SHORT STORY BY RAJ

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