Monday, March 23, 2015

The Station House Officer

He got up and walked to the matki in the corner. Two constables standing by the door shifted uneasily and watched him gulping down two glasses of water half of which spilled down his uniform painting an odd pattern.

This was the fifth in the month. But this one was different from last two men that soldiers had brought who were alive for a few hours.

Holding the empty stained glass in his hands, he stared into the darkness outside. It was a windless summer night. Snores of dead man’s relatives huddled outside mixed with the shrill chirping of the crickets. He returned to make a final check of its pulse. Holding its wispy arm, he felt the queasy cold that had soaked up the body and realised the futility of checking for anything. He wondered how it became so cold in the warm stuffy air all around.

Soldiers carrying it inside had apologised in hushed tones for the delay, nervously glancing at the cowered relatives slumbering outside and had hastily left.

For a moment, its dark wrinkled skin reminded him of a sun-dried mango peel. This person could be anything between 50 to 80 years, he thought. A fresh greyish scar ran from it’s naval to the neck which he guessed to be from work at the camp. Some mysterious new technique, he assumed. He annoyingly wished that the soldiers would deal with the bodies themselves.

It was an unusually busy time of the year. The phone kept ringing, and soldiers came down often with bodies or poorly faxed sheets with names and addresses. Trucks were moving in and out from the mines after the lull. Villagers stood near the gate occasionally craning to take a peek at the happenings inside, some occasionally trembling their way in asking for their missing relatives.

Sighing, he signed the constables, who hurriedly stripped the dead man of his dhoti and rolled the body into a convenient bundle. Their work was pointlessly perfect, and he suddenly felt at ease and grinned. In another minute, they quietly carried it into the darkness outside. Never discussing the whereabouts, he simply hoped that they would use some creativity in their disposal method this time. Their last work was far from good with the bruised body hung on a tree not far way to make it look like a suicide. The sight of its slender silhouette swaying gently in the morning breeze had given him a nasty scare on his walk home.

One of the dead man’s relatives sleeping outside got into a fit of coughing, silencing the crickets for a while.

Resting his legs on the table, he slowly slipped into a restless sleep and dreamt of dried mango peels swaying in the wind. 

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