Tuesday, May 31, 2005

My poster brother

Praful, yes, that was his name.

In little towns, it's not the obvious that you think of, when you see the opposite gender. There are other relationships that get forged between strangers. Uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Without the familiarity of blood, without the common blood of family.

To Praful, I was his little sister. I remember meeting him when we waited by a dusty road for a bus to take us to a little village, where not many buses go. I was tired, hungry and put all my weight on one foot as I clung to mom's hand. I looked at mom and she knew I wouldn't stand much longer. As she looked around helplessly, Praful appeared before us and smiled. "Hi, you remember me?"

Mom says "Not really."

"I was at your place last month. Sir helped me out of jail."

Dad's a lawyer and in insurgency laden Assam, it was a matter of pride for young men to have been to jail. Dad would bail these guys out before they were tortured beyond recognition. At any given time, the house was filled with hungry and hurt boys, who mom fed and dad sent home.

And Praful was one of them.

That day at the bus stop, he took one look at me and smiled. The next moment, a car appeared and I was bundled in with mom. We reached the village, safe and sound. And after that, I began to recognize Praful as he appeared miraculously on dusty roads and rescued us. And sometimes, dead in the night, when he came to ask dad to bail out more of his friends before the night got over. A night in jail was not good news. The frustrated army pummeled the poor boys out of shape.

Praful was especially fond of me. One day, he told mom about his little sister who died. She was a mirror image of me. And thereafter I rode on the sentiments and memories of a brother's love for his dead sister. When I went to college, Praful often landed up at the hostel to take me and friends out for lunch, unexpected but well appreciated. I particularly remember the little strawberry shaped sweets he left for me at the hostel. All of us gazed and wondered if they were real. (We had not seen strawberries before.) We licked the colour off before sucking on them. They were delicious.

Sometimes there were long gaps in between his visits. I mentioned to mom before my exams, that I hadn't seen Praful in a long time. Mom said he was missing. "Okay, tell him to come see me."

I got off the bus after a 10 hour journey. Stretched. Glad to be home after my exams. As I rode home, I was hit by posters all over town screaming, "WHERE IS PRAFUL?" I looked at his smiling face on the poster and my heart stopped. At home, I sprinted up, breathless and yelled at mom, "What are these posters? Where is Praful-da?"

"Sit, you must be tired. I'll get you something to eat."

"No. Tell me first!"

"Praful was picked up and before anyone could go after him, they killed him secretly."

"What do you mean 'killed him'? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME BEFORE?"

"You were giving your exams. And what could you have done, anyways."

"So why the posters? They kill so many everyday!"

"They didn't intend to kill Praful. He was tortured inhumanly and he died."


"Then they denied having ever taken him and to destroy evidence, cut up his tortured body into pieces and burnt it in the jungle."

"And how do we know all this?"

"The guy captured with Praful was alive and made to witness everything as a lesson. Three week later he escaped when a drunk guard was on duty. Now, the truth is out and the people want the government to answer 'where is Praful?'"

I thought of his sad brown eyes and his curly mop over his forehead. He was smiling at me from the posters.

Over 13 years have passed. They have stopped asking "where is Praful?" I haven't.

Come home, Praful...


Blogger AmitKen said...

thats so touching...

4:07 PM  
Blogger shub said...

the post started off on such a cute note was nice until I got to the end. :(
gory :(

4:14 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

amitken: I still remember his face on the posters.

shub: That's the way it happened. A gory end.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Kahini said...

Don't know what to say. Just CAN'T imagine this.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Somu said...

That was moving. It takes us years to build a relationship as prestine as this, and it just takes a seocond for few ppl to mar it. Phew !

4:47 PM  
Blogger None said...

so touching. well rendered.
am watching this space still!

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Ash said...

Beautifully expressed.


10:55 PM  
Blogger Akruti said...

God bless his soul,wish tears had answers too,hugs to u girl,Have no words.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anumita, read this, eyes filled up. heartache. nothing more to say.


4:05 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

kahini: I know. The atrocities that happened are unimaginable.

somu: I would gladly give up the relationship for his life.

none: Thank you. Do come whenever you want.

ash: Thanks Ash! I can see you are having a great time.

akruti: Thanks Neels. Hug feels good.

Parna: Welcome. Sorry for having you read such a sad piece on your first visit.

9:30 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

that touched a chord indeed. my heart goes out to you.

9:31 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

gratis: Thanks, gratis. Glad to see you back.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Somu said...

Anumita, that's a nice thought. If only we knew, and if only our actions can influence those who did all this to your friend, life would have been a lot easier !!!

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have read you before btw :)


think you will know me :)


12:09 PM  
Blogger Nupur said...


The times we live in........

12:53 PM  
Blogger Gangadhar said...

First time on your blog...nice post...

1:09 PM  
Blogger sanguine said...


1:32 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

somu: I guess there's nothing much we can do about the past. But the future is yet to come...

parna: Of course, I know you!!! And perhaps the last one to know, now I realise!

nupur: It's changing every day.

gangadhar: Thanks for dropping by.

1:44 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

sanguine: Thanks. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Can I call you somewhere? I don't have a number yet.

1:46 PM  
Blogger raxterize said...

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
- Bob Dylan

Anumita - I feel you. This is how I express it.
Yes, I am a DJ.

1:48 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

raxterize: Thank you for the beautiful song. It's one of my favourites. Thanks for feeling.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Ah, that was really touching. Reminded me of all the Naxal movements and revolutionaries, of Tinnamen square and all that. I was really touched...

4:38 PM  
Blogger Pallavi said...

hmm sounds familiar :( lost many acquaintances like that.. have something which is very close to the family.. :(

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Priya said...

Beautifully expressed. So many of us tiptoe around our shadows - you seem to run after yours like they were butterflies.
I will come back to read more.

5:09 PM  
Blogger gulnaz said...

God anumita that made me cry!!!
damn those inhuman monsters who did those things!!!
your parents are special ppl.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Kush said...

Extremely touching...God bless his soul.

9:54 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

sudipta: Yes, too many memories of too much atrocities. At an age when it wasn't very right.

pallavi: I am sure we have all memories of those days when we all lost people we knew regularly.

priya: Welcome. I love the way you put it. So beautifully.

gulnaz: They are. I realize it more so now when my folks are far away.

master: Thanks.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Chakra Sampath said...

Anumita - that was so touching.. very hard.. yet another cruel face of insurgency.

1:31 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

Chakra: So you are back! Yes, another leaf from my past.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Rabin said...

To think this happened in my country is a shame. I just have this catch on my throat that won't leave..

9:47 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

r: Thanks for dropping in. This and a lot of other atrocities happen in our country. Let's be fair and think of the good things too the country is filled with.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous alpha said...

man! the unfairness of it all..in the end a lil girl suffers the most. I'm sorry anumita. I really wish Praful da could have seen his sister now.

5:51 AM  
Blogger venkat said...

Anumita, It is a wonderful and very touching post.Some of the guys that do not have sisters understand Praful and his feelings for you verywell.Political side of the story is more complex.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Unmana said...

This was so touching, so sad. Brings back childhood memories of long bus rides across bumpy roads, and smiling young boys calling me 'bhonti'. When will violence leave Assam, I wonder? The recent bomb blasts leave me trembling in fear for friends and family there...

4:47 PM  

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