1. Life

Once upon a time there lived a man called Manobhaav Pandey, in a remote village in Eastern India. He was all alone as his wife had been dead for five years and his three sons had abandoned him to live with their families in Mumbai. He was a 60 year old farmer who had worked hard day and night, to provide the best possible education to his sons. The least he had expected was a little bit of love and companionship in his old age. He kept writing letters but they rarely replied. However, they did send him a meager amount every month and boasted about it to everyone under the sun. It had been two whole years since they had bothered to pay him a visit.

One hot summer day, in the month of May, Manobhaav was sitting alone on a cot outside his dilapidated hut and a child appeared. His face looked divine, was around 8 years old, very well dressed, wavy hair and appeared to be very wealthy. The boy said, “Kaka, will you tell me a story? I’m feeling bored. I’m Amit Thakur, the grandson of Major Raj Pratap Thakur, who lives in the huge white bungalow down the road. I have come from Delhi to spend my summer vacation here. My grand parents are always busy with their poultry business, to spend time with me”. Manobhaav had heard a lot about the retired Major’s wealth and generosity. Yearning for company, he willingly narrated a folk tale and the boy loved it. He then took him to the nearest bazaar and bought him some goodies with the little money he had saved. In the evening the boy returned to his grand mansion. This was the first time since his wife’s death, that Manobhaav had felt truly happy. The boy had promised to return the following day and he did. They kept meeting every day, throughout the month. Amit’s grand parents were relieved to have him out of the house. They became good friends and the old man’s health improved and his spirits rose. He now wanted to live. The boy’s love and affection had changed his life. However he knew that Amit’s summer holidays would not last forever. He wanted the child to live with him forever but he knew that he would not be able to provide him with the comforts and luxuries that he needed in order to be truly happy. He accepted this situation as he had accepted every other tragedy in his life. He tried to enjoy every moment that the boy spent with him. Amit had promised Manobhaav that he would meet him everyday without fail. One day he did not come. There were still 12 days for him to go. He kept waiting for him, but he didn’t come. The following day, Manobhaav went to Amit’s bungalow and found the gates open. He went inside and realized that all the doors were also open. He entered and found Major Pratap Singh Thakur engrossed in a romantic conversation with a beautiful lady, much younger to him in years. He tried to come out unnoticed but the Major saw him and yelled. Manobhaav ran as fast as he could.

After about ten minutes, four hefty looking men came to Manobhaav’s hut and started beating him with sticks. They claimed that he had stolen a sum of Rs. 1 lakh from Major Saheb’s home and many people had seen him sneaking into and running out of the retired Major’s house. A crowd had gathered but no one spoke in the defense of the man who had lived in that village for more than 50 years and was known for his goodness. He tried to explain but who would care to listen to a poor man? Finally, when they were tired of beating him, they took him to the police station. The police also beat him but they gave him an opportunity to speak. Manobhaav told them about Amit who was called immediately. The boy callously, refused to recognize him. Manobhaav was thrown into prison. Trials are not meant for poor people in this country. He was released after three months simply because the prison was over crowded and there was no place for a petty thief like him. Later he found out that the respectable Major’s family had moved out of the village, the previous week.

When Manobhaav came out of prison, he was a changed man. The villagers called him Chor Manobhaav. He had lost his faith in humanity. Everyone had deceived him. He realized that there was no point in being a good man in a bad world. He killed himself within a month of being released from prison. Every day, in India, lots of Manobhaavs are forced to accept injustice because the law in this land favours the rich and the powerful. While our hapless man killed himself, there are others who device ways of avenging themselves. Our inefficient and corrupt judiciary creates criminals, every day. After all they also need work to do !

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