by Avishek Gupta
It's late evening and the August rain had moistened the asphalt. The trees, with wet leaves, stood in silence and anticipation. As I strode past the dark gloomy corridors of the southern tip of the city, I suddenly felt eerie. It was like walking beside a crowd of zombies. Men, women, children of all ages beat a hasty retreat to evacuate, of what was left of Kolkata. The city had submerged in an abysmal gloom. Downtown a young Chinese man was burnt alive. A 78 year old Armenian had his head chopped off. There was fire in the streets of Rajabajar, Chitpur, and Topsia. Blood flowed in the canals and drains of Watgunj and Khidderpur dock area. Dark shadowy buildings stood berserk in front of my eyes. The only smell lurking was a disturbing mix of corpses and burnt tyres. An eerie wind blew to give cold shivers. Nobody knows why it begun. Some opined the same - communal riot; some managed to find a political color, while some suspected terrorist attacks. Not that I am sure of it. The only thing obvious was it was a riot that had affected the Kolkatans irrespective of their communities, castes, social, and economic background. Kolkata was reduced to nothing but a Necropolis.
"In terms of law and order, this city is still an oasis," remarked the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
The torn front page of a leading daily flew in the air and landed on my face. I held it and read the headlines. The paper was weeks old and so were the confident postings. I dumped it in a drain.
Growing tired of following the morbid crowd, I quietly slipped off to a darker lane. I went a few steps and came across a turn. "No, no, please no"--- she yelled as six of them groped her and carried her to a corner. I took the turn hastily and reached the main road crossing. She was still struggling in vain.
Shahrukh Khan smiled down at me from the nearest billboard. "Sorry Dude, this is real life; it isn't a cheap Bollywood flick." As the shrieks grew louder I managed to run, cleverly evading the situation. I ran and ran, sweat all over my body. The salty drops flowed to the open wound on my left chest. I stumbled over something. It was but a corpse. Hey! I knew this man. He was a beggar, a permanent pavement dweller. The riot has not only stolen his belongings but also rewarded him with a macabre end. What else am I left to see now? A beggar been robbed and killed! I was left with no more strength.
"Who killed you, Kolkata? Everything before my eyes is but surreal."
The Indian Army Officer recovered a diary from a nearby garbage bin. The once lively city resembled a dustbin in itself. As he opened the last page he read inquisitively -
"I am putting this in letters just to state that I am not a victim of the riot. I'm a man at an utmost loss. In all my senses I state here that I am going to kill myself shortly as I cannot bear the pain anymore. I can't see this city dead, I just can't."
The Officer put the diary in his pocket and rushed hastily to the other side of the road. A lot of things needed to be put in place, a lot indeed!