Murder on my Mind
And finally it was the mosquito that killed him. Just one bite and his fate was sealed. They tried their best at the hospital to save his rapidly falling platelet count, even injecting him with donor platelets, but his blood capillaries bled all over inside his body leading to hemorrhage that appeared inevitable. They called the infestation as Dengue. The shock of it was beyond his holding. His body temperature rose above 40 degrees Celsius and swelling appeared all over his frail frame. His eyes closed shut as his last breath escaped his lungs with a whoosh. He was just 58 and by all standards a young and healthy man. He had no disease that was expected to cut his life short this soon. Now it was clear that the mosquito was the stronger enemy. It feels strange, though, that a small mosquito can take down a man. But for that matter it is known that a jungle mosquito can take down an elephant when it enters its ear canal as the animal thrashes around banging its head in agony. That is why the maker has given elephants long and broad ears to guard itself while as humans are bestowed with wisdom to protect themselves.
Not that he had no enemies other than the Aedes mosquito that killed him, a female one at that. No doubt during his lifetime he had made many friends but it equaled the number of enemies he made simultaneously. He was after all a lawyer. Those whom he defended in the courts and got exonerated were as many as got punished with his pleadings in a court of law and his balance of credits and debits remained equalized. Those whom he saved from a sentence would remain obliged but those that got convicted would keep a grudge. Someone was bound to catch up with him one day, particularly the one who got convicted wrongly. And it is here that I make an entry in his life.
It all began in the year 1990 when Prem was at the top list of successful attorneys that held sway in the capital city of Delhi. And he was young, just touching 50. There was a huge list of people who wanted their cases defended by him in the courts and just as naturally he got an option to hike his legal fees. It was a different matter that he never issued any receipts for what he charged from his clients. His specialty was taking up civil defense cases involving property disputes which appeared in any family as a routine matter but just as naturally he also took up criminal cases for defense when he found that he could easily win it in a court of law. He did not want his name sullied for losing a case. He never lost one. And when a murder case was referred to him this time that required an ingenuity of argument he took quite some time to agree to defend the plaintiff. He agreed. The man after all was a political entity. It would be just as good to nurture someone from the political lobby who may be helpful sometime later.
I was charged for murder. Yes Sir, a second degree murder. I had knocked down a man dead with my car and it was an old man who turned out to be the father of a politician. The problem was that the man had suddenly appeared before my car as I was driving peacefully on a busy road full of traffic that would never allow me a speedy drive. There was a busy market just opposite the crossing ahead. And I did not run over him. It was just a knock the old man received as he all of a sudden ventured on the main carriageway in a state of mind that perhaps meant he owned the road because his son was a politician. Or maybe he was genuinely disoriented and did not look where he was going. He had in fact moved in from my blind side. There were a few more people standing there to cross the road but they waited patiently even though this was not a marked pedestrian crossing. May be I should not blame the dead man after all for he was in his mid-80’s and should have been accompanied by someone at that place. My pleadings with the police had no effect even after I took the man to the nearby hospital in my very own car and I was promptly arrested and charged when the Doctor on duty declared him brought dead on arrival. I was given a Breathalyzer test that I passed and such fact recorded in the police diary but their handling me was rough.
I arranged bail on the same day and did not have to spend time in jail, but my car was impounded since it had become the evidence. The case dragged on for quite some years before the honorable court concluded that I was clean and all charges against me dropped forthwith. What left me frothing at the mouth was the way the lawyer tried to sully my name during the entire duration of the case as it was being debated in court. And to add insult to my injury was the fact that I lost a beautiful car in working condition to a scrap that was handed over to me at the end of the trial. False witnesses were paraded before me and I had none for myself as I did not know where to find one. I had my own lawyer who was not as aggressive as Prem but he sure was intelligent and made his point clean at all proceedings and proved the falsity of the witnesses produced. At the end of a long six year battle in the courts, I was left with a mute desire to take revenge. I tried my best to restrain my thoughts and take recourse to meditation to avoid being caught in a frenzy of retribution. I admit I failed. My mind silently planned and looked out for possible ways to hit back at the man who misbehaved with my tolerance in the courts all through the years the case was under consideration. He was riding on my conscience and I wanted him dead, even if I had to do that myself. I would tolerate to feel the remorse later.
Well I could not just walk over to him and shoot him dead. And where would I get a gun to do that? I was no criminal and I had no links with any gang that would procure me a gun. I was not sure I could arrange somebody to do this for me for a fee. I had no money of that kind and I had no contact with contract killers. May be I could hit the guy with my car. Well that certainly would prove my guilt and this time around I would possibly be tried for a double murder, with the old case reopening at the same time. I had no desire to spend time in a jail. I had my family to look after. But my mind was never at rest and all this while I kept looking out for avenues to hit back at the man who made my life miserable. It is kind of strange that I should nurture a grudge against the lawyer. He was after all doing his job. It was the complainant that was basically responsible for all this. The man should have recognized that the fault lay in his own dear dead father. But he was a politician and he wanted results. He just pushed the lawyer very hard. And the lawyer, in his enthusiasm, pushed a bit too much, I suppose. The complainant never came to the court in person and I never saw his face. That is why the lawyer was my enemy.
It was on a day not long after that I happened to see an obituary in the newspaper about the sad demise of Prem. When I spoke to his agent, whom I knew well by now, I learnt about the illness that took him. I suddenly felt sad, very sad. I just thought to myself that I did this to him and I felt responsible for his death. It was his murder on my mind that killed him. Now I know how painful death can be and wishing it for somebody is just cruel. Deep in my conscience I accepted I was the man who was at fault. Although no one would charge me for it, God would not spare me for even wishing it happen. But I knew it was time for the lawyer to present himself before the judge of all beings and plead his case of having lived a sincere life. He has the capability for at least pleading before God after having pleaded for so many during his lifetime. And his experience would save him from all sorts of cross examinations that he would be subjected to. On the other hand I know I may live a life of guilt for the rest of my life.
Peace be to the soul. Amen.
Shri B.L. Dhar was born, brought up and educated at Srinagar. After getting his postgraduate degree in Mathematics, he decided to venture out of the state and seek an avocation more suitable to his taste. He joined the Civil Aviation sector as a Gazetted officer and finally retired as General Manager from the Airports Authority of India. He now lives in Delhi. He is an avid reader and has interest in writing. He has been writing for Shehjar for many years now.