I looked at her sitting there anxiously, her eyes filled with hope and mouthing prayers. I cursed all my superiors for having given me the responsibility to break the dreaded news to her.
The silence in the scarcely lit hallway was broken as the sound of my boots echoed. The news hasn’t been out yet. Not long before the press bombard this hospital with their insensitive questions and their demonic thirst for capturing the most out of this mother’s grief like a pack of wolves waiting to rip apart the helpless prey.
As soon as I neared her she jumped on her feet. I don’t know if it was the expression on my face or was it because I had my cap in my hand, she read the unfortunate news I was there to deliver, even without me having to utter a single word. She dropped the phone and pair of spectacles that she had clutched onto until that moment. She fell onto the chair sending a loud noise across the hallway. All I could do was place my arms around her as I would have done to my mother if she was under such pain ( I pray with all my might that my mother never comes across such pain). I could not find words that would even suffice as mere consolation.
As a son of an average factory foreman I have never had big dreams unlike my father. He dreamt a lot about me, but that dream did not have luxury cars or a glass cabin office or I in a high end suit, all it had was me in Indian Army uniform. It was on my 4th birthday my father announces that we were leaving for Sri Lanka soon. My father’s factory was opening a new factory there and he was required to go there. Like any other middle class Indian family, the family follows where the father goes. We stayed in Sri Lanka until my father retired. I had just completed my graduation when I returned to India. A young man filled with determination to turn out to be something in life. But in a desperate attempt to be a good son to my father, even though I had to overcome all the facts and numbers and reasons my heart had placed in front of me and my mother’s tears, I signed up for the army selection
Fortunately or unfortunately owing to some eyesight complications the Indian Army declared that I was physically unfit to join. My father was shattered. I remember the disappointment in my father’s eyes. And he knew it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing we could do about it. Until that day all I wanted was to do something for myself and my family. But that day changed me, that day I decided to devote my life to my society. The next few months was rigorous mental and physical training to crack the Sub-inspector of Police test. The results were out and all my hard work was fruitful.
Within couple of hours police forces were summoned to control the public and media gathering outside the hospital. Reporters were already there with their paraphernalia like Queen’s noble knights up for a merciless battle. They were on their toes leaning against the barricade with their tags around their necks waving bunch of papers screaming at everyone on the other side. Following the reporters came my superiors, Superintendent of Police, Director General of Police and list goes on. On the first signs of dawn the leaders started pouring in, both the ruling and the opposition. I was out helping my force maintain the cordon. It was then I was called up by the opposition leader. Although as per the protocol it was not necessary for a civil servant to present himself before the leader of the opposition when summoned but I decided to show up respecting his age and experience. He was seated in a special guest room. He sat in a cushioned seat surrounded by few of my superiors and many of his followers. There were vague murmurs until I stepped in. I grabbed everyone’s attention quite soon. Among all those stares I caught the leader’s stare. My stomach turned, my lungs felt heavy, there was a lump in my throat and sweat beads rolled down by my eyebrow. I struggled to maintain my composure. I stood upright and asked him if there was something that I could do.“Yes, you could have. You could have saved that life!” he said rather dramatically pointing at the ICU where the body was still kept. Nothing in me except the rolling beads of sweat moved. “How do you explain this Mr. Inspector?” I badly wanted to let him know that he did not have the authority to talk to me in that tone but I kept my manners intact. “Sir, it occurred at late night in a deserted area. We reached the spot as soon as we got the information and took the necessary steps to get her adequate medical attention. We have also taken a case…” before I could finish a young leader shot at me “Against whom?”. His voice roared and everyone for a moment looked a little shocked but came back to normalcy when they figured that their leader was fine with the youth’s action. “Sir, the investigation is ongoing. We have already passed the information to all nearby police stations. We are also questioning the nearby residents for any sort of witnesses.”
“Same old song huh Sub-inspector?” the leader spat with complete disgust.
Soon like an angel, a man entered the room and whispered something into the leader’s ears. He shook his head in complete inference. He slowly got up and everyone in the room followed him. He stopped in front of me, looked right into my eyes and in his deep hoarse voice he said “I shall take your case some other day.” The entire opposition squad left and I still stood there frozen.
It was Christmas for the Media. News cable networks conducted debates, open discussions with an expert panel of sociologists and psychologists. Newspapers printed whole two sheets for this wretched incident. The entire nation fumed in anger, soon protests were staged. Political parties, their youth wings, non-political organizations, neighborhood organizations who ever wanted to be famous came out on the streets with placards and banners. I just couldn’t digest the fact that all this commotion due to something that happened in my jurisdiction. Some place people didn’t even know that existed few weeks ago.
As the media and opposition joined hands in putting immense pressure on the government, we were the ones who bore the brunt of it.
Me and my superiors were constantly summoned and harassed by the concerned authorities and elected representatives for the next few weeks. In one entire month that I have been in service in this station never have I ever thought for once that I would have to deal with such a heinous crime. Yes, it is my shortcoming that I couldn’t stop it from happening but with 5 police officials and one rusty decades old Police vehicle there was only little that I could have done.