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Humanity found

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

By Aparna Bandyopadhyay

Contributory Author for Spark Igniting Minds

The crying started since late last night. From time to time the wailing would start and stop after an interval. It was a cry of desperation but there was hardly any listener around.

The milkman stopped delivering milk to the one room kitchen flat in the third floor, as the rasping cough of Sarita became intense. She was working as a maid in a few of the houses in some flats around her place.

With this dreaded disease sweeping across town, a person coughing hoarsely became an instant pariah with everyone in the neighborhood. She then lost her means of earning as she took ill. The milkman informed the landlord in the ground floor, who did not want to contact the authorities. His business as a medical raw material supplier would have taken a hit if his house would have been sealed. He didn't have a license and was doing it illegally during these trying times.

As Rajesh climbed up the spiral metal staircase to his fourth floor room, which he had rented in the terrace for a paltry sum of Rs. 500, he could not hear the singing of the young mother to her one year old boy today. That singing had become feeble in the past two days.

He went up to his room, rested for some time and made himself some food. He then went down again to his workplace in a pharmacy on the other side of town, cycling across the empty streets. A nagging worry kept clawing at his consciousness.

At night, bone weary from work as he was dragging himself to his home, he paused for a moment outside the third floor door, there was no sound. With his handkerchief tied to his hand he knocked once on the door. With no acknowledgement he knocked harder. Rajesh had a premonition then and started banging on the door. There was a childish whimper from inside, but no one else acknowledged his knock. Pausing for a few moments he continued banging on the third floor door. The whimper stopped after some time.

Doors below burst open with the racket on the third floor. The house owner came out and asked Rajesh to refrain from creating a disturbance at that time of the night. But Rajesh pleaded from above asking for help. No one came forward to aid in his effort to reach out to Sarita who might have been in serious trouble.

Rajesh was gradually losing hope. He then ran down and rushed to the municipality office which was just a single room set up during the pandemic. There, a lone employee was fast asleep on a cot outside. Rajesh implored to him stating that there perhaps was a case in his building. The tired employee followed Rajesh and together they broke open the door. They found the stiff body of Sarita on the floor and the baby lying beside her, still breathing but too tired to react to the two strangers who came to him.

Rajesh helped with the body of Sarita to be taken away in a van sent from the Center, after ascertaining that there was no pulse or blood pressure. He was the only one to care for a human being as she was taken on her last journey to another official center for all formalities. Rajesh came forward without fear, with all the required precautions, despite it being a time when people were steering clear of any death due to unknown reasons. Too many family members have left their dear ones during these horrific times. The baby was taken away by officials to Mangal Chhaya an orphanage.

The next day the house owner asked Rajesh to leave the terrace room and look for a place elsewhere.

The baby survived the cruel fate of the loss of a mother and along with him survived 'humanity' as there are countless Rajeshs in our country whose stories are yet to be told.

About the Author

Ms. Aparna Bandyopadhyay

Aparna has been a physics teacher in various Air Force Stations and Private schools in civilian areas, whenever stationed at a place. She has written articles and poems in Air Force magazines and regional publications.

She is now focusing on methods to make the environment green and safe. Her motto is to keep learning from young and old alike, there being no end date to learning.


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