TORMENTOR “Why is God so unkind to me Amma” Surya asked his Mother Sulo as he lay on her lap in the verandah of the chawl. Sulo smiled and ran her fingers through his hairs. Surya was the only son of Sulo who was separated from her husband Mali. They lived in a small chawl in the suburbs of Mumbai. Sulo was lost in thoughts and was full of concern for future of Surya. Surya had grown big, but life could have been kind to him, she thought. She wanted him to grow faster and bolder. She knew her son was having a very turbulent childhood. Like other children, Surya did not get the protective care of his parents as she and his father had a very estranged relationship and Surya was witness to her verbal and physical abuse. She came back to senses when she saw Surya tapping Sulo on her cheeks. Sulo smiled at Surya. “You are the chosen one, my Son. God always gives troubles to his chosen ones. Keep faith, Happier times always come after sad times.” Sulo knew deep within herself that these were hollow words and even she was not sure of the future that held for them. Sulo narrated the tale of Karna, who was the most accomplished warrior and generous soul but was discriminated as he was raised by a family of a charioteer but that never diminished the glory of Karna. She would often narrate tales to comfort Surya and Surya would just fall asleep listening to her tales. Sulo felt contented that the dreadful days with her husband has become a matter of past. She felt guilty that Surya never enjoyed his childhood. He witnessed continuous abuse and fights between his mother and father at his tender age. Her life was becoming a drudgery. She could no longer let go of her husband Mali but keep enduring his torture. Divorce was something for the affordable class. Surya too did not love his father. Their ordeal ended when Mali just left their house one day and did not ever return till that day. Sulo did keep anticipating Mali’s return. Such was her life. She was abused by Mali so often but she still wanted his presence. Money was needed to run the household. She worked as a maid in various houses to sustain their lives. Surya grew up to be a very timid schoolboy and was neither good in studies nor in outdoor activities. His classmates often mocked him and teased him. Even teachers ridiculed him and abused him for his poor studies. He was always left standing aloof at the school ground as the other boys just won’t take him along in their games. Surya was getting used to this and did not mind all these but for Raju. Raju was his classmate and lived in his neighborhood too. He would often mock Surya and make him the butt of jokes among the boys around him. Even the girls used to join and tease Surya. Surya would often complain to his mother Sulo about Raju. Sulo would gently advise him to ignore Raju and that these things will pass. Surya kept ignoring the taunts of Raju but Raju kept on inciting him. Things went very bad one day that Raju made some lewd comments on Surya’s mother. Surya could no longer keep silent and pushed Raju. They both tumbled over each other with other boys and girls around whistling and watching their fight with glee. Hearing the commotion around, the school watchman separated Surya and Raju and admonished Surya for his act. Surya felt very bad and scared too. His shirt and trousers had become very dirty with mud all around. How was he to face his mother? Sulo did not utter a word on his return to home and did not speak to him for a day. Surya was in tears. He would have felt better had his mother scolded him or beat him up. Sulo kept a safe distance from everyone in the colony but was getting worried about Surya. She felt bad for him. She had to work around for money and could not give much attention to Surya. She feared that Surya will pick up bad habits and might lose direction. He was the only hope and was the world around whom she lived. Surya got increasingly aloof and avoided going out in the evenings for stroll. He just did not like to come across Raju. One day Surya just felt tired and bored. He also felt very hungry. His mother always came late evenings and he wanted to eat something. He came out for a stroll and proceeded to the nearby pakoda seller. His mother always kept some money for him in case of need. His mind was at peace as he relished the tasty pakodas. Raju was roaming around alongwith his friends and caught sight of Surya. Surya tried hard to not look at his way but Raju came near him and snatched some pakodas from his hands. Raju’s friend circle laughed and mocked. Surya got incensed and charged at Raju. Raju and his friends ran away laughing around. Surya cursed himself and silently got back home. It was the month of January and as the festival of Sankrant was approaching, the nearby shops were full of kites on display. Many were seen flying kites from nearby building terraces and the sky was lit like a rainbow with colorful kites criss crossing each other. Surya loved watching kites though he could not fly a kite himelf. The next day, Surya roamed around in the busy market street. He loved crowded markets as that was the only place where he would often remain unnoticed submerged in a sea of people. By now, there was some commotion around. The crowd had assembled around a building. Surya tried to ignore the commotion and asked for pakodas from the nearby pakoda seller. The Pakoda seller was more interested in knowing about the crowd that gathered around. He hurriedly was placing the pakodas in the plates and was simultaneously inquiring passersby around. Surya was eating the pakodas busily as he kept hearing about the event. Some boy seemed to have fell from that building and was lying dead, someone murmured. The building was just near to the chawl in which Surya lived and Surya knew the residents of the building well. Everyone was speaking around with shocked voices and the festive fervor was dimmed by this sudden tragic event. The boy who had fallen down to death was none other than Raju. Surya’s face beamed with joy. He searched around his pocket and with some more money around ordered for another pocket of pakodas. His stomach was full and deep within he realized that he would not be able to eat the dinner prepared by his mother and that may upset her. Surya did not mind that. His bete noire Raju had met with divine punishment. He quietly moved inside the crowd and watched the motionless body of Raju. He could see blood trickling around and felt a deep sense of contentment. He walked back home. His mother Sulo had already reached home and was by now worried about him. Seeing him, she scolded him for coming late back to home. Surya quickly took a bath and did not mind his mother shouting at him. He could notice his mother looking sad within. He quietly apologised to his mother and asked her, “What is the matter Amma? You look tired.” Sulo held him closely to her chest and said, “Do you know, that poor boy Raju met a sad death. He seemed to be running behind some kite and fell off the building. You please be careful, dear! If anything happens to you…. I don’t even want to think about it.” Surya smiled back at Sulo. Sulo kissed him on his forehead and was in tears. Surya wiped away the tears from her eyes. “Don’t worry Amma. What happened is for good? God punished Raju!” Sulo shut the mouth of Surya with her hands. “Do not ever speak like that my dear son. Let his soul rest in peace.” Surya could not understand his mother. He felt very relieved and happy from inside. The bitterness within him for Raju was so intense that he was in ecstasy as he realized that Raju won't be around to trouble him anymore. He knew his mother did not like his feelings and hence celebrated silently in her absence in his own way. He could notice Raju’s gang of friends fallen silent. School exams were mounting round the corner. It struck Surya all of a sudden that he did not even pay attention to his studies. Sulo kept a glass of milk for Surya and food for him neatly packed at home as always as she proceeded for work in other houses. Surya took out his book for some last-minute cramming for the exams. For a long time, Surya had tried to memorize but his mind was certainly not upto it. He turned back to change his position and was startled to saw something sitting in a hunched position on the chair adjoining the messed-up bed. Surya panicked and turned his head away. He turned slowly in the direction of the sofa and looked at it from the corner of his eye. It was Raju sitting there and Surya got really scared. Raju’s eyes rotated as he pierced the ceiling and vanished. Late evening, Sulo was back to the home as usual and was surprised to see the door slightly open. She went inside but Surya was not in. Sulo got scared and moved around the house only to see Surya sitting dazed at the backside of the house below the tree. She pushed him trying to bring him back to senses. Surya did not speak anything but held Sulo’s hands as she guided him back to home. Something was wrong with Surya, Sulo felt. She served food to him and made him sleep. Luckily she had got some bonus payment from one nearby resident in view of the festive season. Sulo decided to take Surya to the Doctor if he was not alright the next day. Next day morning, Surya woke up with high fever. Sulo took him to the family doctor. As the Doctor kept diagnosing surya, he got convulsions. He was immediately rushed to nearby Government hospital and was admitted. Tests revealed that Surya suffered from depressive psychosis and will take time to recover. Sulo felt very scared for her son. She could not even go out for her daily chores and prayed to God for quick recovery of Surya. Over a fortnight passed away and Sulo was worried about the future. Whatever money she had kept saved was not enough and she feared of losing job and money. She could not leave Surya alone at home too. There was no one to take care of him. She prayed at home, kept fasts but to no avail. She sat beside Surya and cried a lot. Surya was in tears. “What happened, my Dear Son. Don’t cry” Sulo comforted his son. “Sorry Amma” Surya said. Sulo took him close to her chest and patted his back. “I want to say something Amma, but…” Surya paused. “Tell me dear whatever. I am feeling happy that you are looking good today” “No Amma, I am not ok. I have to say something.” Sulo kissed Surya on his forehead. “Tell me Surya, what you want to say.” “I….I saw Raju again after his death.” muttered Surya “No, Amma. Do you know, I saw Raju again after his death” said Surya “What!!!” exclaimed Sulo. “Amma!” “Speak up dear, you must have visualized something. No one can be seen after death. There is nothing called Ghosts” Sulo rushed near the small temple kept at the corner of the house and took out some ash from the small box nearby and put it on his forehead. “Amma!” “Tell, dear son” “That day…. I was feeling bored and decided to have a stroll outside. I saw Raju running towards the terrace chasing a kite and followed him. I hated Raju and wanted to teach him a lesson. I saw him stand on the edge of the terrace watching out some kite falling. I rushed near him and pulled his leg. Raju felt very scared. I loved the fear in his eyes. I just wanted to scare him. But he lost balance and before I could sense anything, he fell. I felt very nervous and scared. I rushed down and mingled myself in a busy market street. The crowded markets gave me a sense of comfort. I walked directionless till my legs pained. The fear in me had subsided and I was feeling satisfied deep within of having eliminated Raju from my life.” Surya kept pouring his words with jet speed. Sulo was in total shock and did not know what to say. Surya gathered himself and continued “I thought I would be happy. But I saw Raju’s ghost one night and what happened after that was so scary. Please protect me from Raju, Amma”. Surya buried his head inside Sulo’s saree as he narrated his traumatic experience Sulo could not believe what she heard. She took Surya, held his hand gently and made him stand before the idol of Lord Krishna. “Pray to God for forgiveness, Surya.” She told Surya. Surya kept his eyes closed as he prayed before God. Sulo looked at Surya and kissed him. “Look, forget whatever happened. Have faith in God. Do only good to others.” Surya innocently nodded his head. “Surya, don’t ever tell anyone about this incident. You have committed a mistake that can never be rectified.” Surya was in tears and hugged Sulo. “I am alright Amma. I feel much better now. You go to work Amma. I will never do anything that will upset you.” Surya promised Sulo. Sulo felt relieved that Surya was getting better. She got back to her work from the next day. Surya did suffer from bouts of depression but was getting better and responsible too. The villainous torment of Raju was slowly fading away from his memories.