The Dead Man's Eyes - Chapter 7
by Geetashree Chatterjee
Back to Chapter 6
The boy returned as he had promised. His thirst for knowledge sated for the time being. Someshwar was proud of him. He looked tall, a little thin, gaunt in the face, with a mop of jet black hair which fell clumsily on his forehead. But the highlight of the face was the pair of piercing blue eyes behind the spectacles which glowed with a light almost ethereal. His complexion was deeply tanned which somehow suited him.
But the changes were deeper within. He was more contemplative, more serious and more watchful too. Someshwar did not want to acknowledge that he was meeting a complete stranger. He shrugged off the unpleasant, premonitory feelings and hugged the boy close. He gladly noted that the response was not lukewarm as he had dreaded.
However, in spite of the physical deceptions, the lost, woebegone look still hovered. The boyish charm still persisted. The endearing shyness and softness of speech still soothed the ears. Despite his gaining age, therefore, he still looked like the boy Someshwar had parted with years back. So we shall still refer to him as the boy.
Someshwar got busy in settling the boy down. He proposed to set up a clinic for him. The boy refused. He wanted to join one of the Government Hospitals to gain more experience and visit the nearby villages once in a week. Someshwar did not understand him but he refrained from arguing. The boy had returned after so long. He did not want to lose him again.
Gradually, the boy settled down to his choice routine. Soon he came to be known as “chhoto daktaarbabu” (the Young Doctor) and worshiped by the underdogs. The boy was not left with much leisure as he immersed himself in work and social service. Life had taken a peaceful course for Someshwar. He felt relieved. One evening he called the boy and handed over his succession to the kingdom. The boy took the papers dispassionately and then said slowly, “Dadu! I don’t have time to look after the business now!” “Never mind my boy!” Said Someshwar,”I will continue to look after the work as long as I can but thereafter you shall have to be prepared to take charge.” “But I don’t know how I will be able to manage my work with business.” The boy replied absentmindedly. Someshwar said enthusiastically, “We’ll chalk out a plan, my boy, we will.” The boy nodded slowly and left the room.
It was a late Sunday. Strolling in the garden he looked up to see dark clouds hovering in the horizon. The silhouette of the mansion loomed large against the darkened sky. Undecipherable mystery held their breath in every brick and mortar of the grand columns, regal sweep of the surrounding verandas, the tall French windows, the arched doors, the marbled floors, the sprawling halls and the high ceiling rooms . Suddenly the clouds drifted a little and the weak light of the sun played a peek-a-boo, rays of light streaming through the opening and illuminating the building in splendid shades, dark and light. The boy followed the light till his eyes rested on the terrace. On the other end of the terrace was the
attic. On an impulse he changed his course and moved towards the house. It’s a long, long, time that he had visited the attic. He felt a magnetic pull towards it now.
The stair were unused for long, mostly uneven where the steps had either cracked or broken. But the boy threaded his way up carefully but confidently. He knew this part of the house well. He reached the terrace and pushed open the door, which, creaked and groaned under foreign touch. It’s been ages that somebody had trodden this section of the house. It was late afternoon. The sun’s rays were receding quietly. He strode towards the other end of the terrace to reach his destination. The attic in the approaching twilight looked all the more forlorn. Before unlatching the door he pressed his hand against it lightly to feel the chipped wood, in parts swollen where rains had savagely lashed for year. He moved his hand across. Its corroded hinges ached. The door was unlocked. The boy knew that the room was now being used as a dump yard. He at last put pressure and the door shuddered before admitting the boy into the poorly lit hollow beyond.
The room stank of musty odd assortments. There was hardly any space to place foot. The boy navigated slowly through the shabby boxes, half torn cartons, old, rusted furniture, unhinged shelves, scattered chests etc. Far beyond on the wall opposite rested a cupboard which he recognized instantly. He had once hidden inside it and it had taken his mother quite some time to find him. She was almost on the verge of tears when the slightly parted swinging doors of the cupboard had given the hidden lad away. She had scolded him for hiding in such a ‘dangerous’ place. Had she not found him and some servant had locked him in. What would have happened then? He remembered each and every word that she had uttered in a rush of anger mixed with uncontrolled motherly love.
He approached the cupboard and traced a finger on its dusty boards. He then tried to open it. The cupboard swung back and forth but did not open. He then pressed his left hand on the left door and tried to pull open the right one with the right hand. The doors screeched a protest and reluctantly parted. The insides were dark, dust and stench filled. Bundles of old papers, files, diaries were haphazardly stashed inside. Now there was no room left to hide.
The boy turned away and as he did so something caught his sleeves and fell down. A bundle of papers tied with a red ribbon. He knelt down, picked it up and was about to keep it back when something struck him. There was something odd about this stack. He stared for a while at the sheaf of papers bundled in his hand. And then he knew. These were not as old as the others that were stacked inside. He unhurriedly untied the pack and opened the documents. There were quite a few. He read and then re-read. There were xeroxed as well as original copies. Neatly typed, sealed and signed.
.............To be continued Back to Chapter 1