Monday, March 2, 2009

Khooni Rakshak

I shall dedicate this page to Khooni Rakshak.
That’s how I refer to him. In a bit I shall tell you why.

We are in Manimajra. Raju and I. I have brought along Raju's wheelchair, a basket of food, and my laptop.

Weekending. Good fun.

First let me introduce you to him – Khooni Rakshak is Raju’s new night attendant. He has been working for me / us for almost two months now. I had to hire him (in addition to Krish who looks after Raju during the day) as my back started protesting even more and I could no longer hoist Raju when needed. For some time I kept struggling with bad back, but then I decided to give in and hire help for night duties, too. Plus Raju would stay awake all night sometimes. I would keep awake with him and it would affect my work the next day—so many reasons, all related. Anyway, to cut a long story short, this boy, quite inexperienced as household help, was looking around for a job. Seeing him sturdy and willing to work, I asked him to step in and he did.

He seemed to be about 16 or 17 years old, a ‘bhaiyya’ from UP/Bihar, crude in his ways but with an open, endearing look about his face, and an ever-ready smile. That’s what made hire him – a cheerful young man to do night duties with Raju. Finally I would get decent sleep at night! From that day on I took my pillow and razai to the upstairs bedroom every night and left Raju downstairs in the living room with his attendant.

They seemed to be doing well.

“Check his background,” my friends advised him.

I don’t know how to, I told them. I just know his uncle who is the caretaker of our Manimajra house. That’s it. (-- Our suburban villa, you know. Ahem, we go there for a holiday occasionally!)

No, but it isn’t safe! I was warned.

I sighed as I told them – “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant taste of death but once. Let me think I am being valiant.”

And all was hunky dory.

Until the other evening. Let me re-live the scene --

We are in the living room. I am having a late cup of tea. The boy sits in the living room on a chair opposite the TV. His eyes are glued to the screen. Cricket seems to be his passion. From time to time he claps his hands and jump up in delight. When Sachin missed a catch he is livid.

Next to him, in another chair, sits Raju, propped up by pillows. He is not as restless as he usually is. His knees are drawn up so that his feet rest on the seat. With one hand he clutches his sweater, as though hanging on to it. With the other he holds the Boy’s sleeve. His sightless eyes are not turned in the direction of the TV but his head is tilted at an angle as though he is concentrating on something. A smile hovers on his lips.

When I catch the boy's attention for a minute I continue my tirade – I am admonishing him for breaking traffic rules.

“If the traffic police gets you they will put you behind bars,” I try to frighten him.

He shrugs nonchalantly: “Never mind, Aunty, then can’t keep me for long.”

“Why?” I am puzzled.

“They can’t keep me for more than a week. Even if the police catches me, they cannot hold me in prison for more than one week. It is against the law.” He has a broad grin on his face.

That rings an alarm bell.

“O, my God,” I gasp, “How do you know?”

“Because I have been in prison, Aunty.”

"You mean you have been arrested?”

“Yes,” he says casually

I gape in disbelief.

“Seven years,” he continues, without batting an eye.

“What did you do? Robbery? Cheating? And why did they give you seven years.”

“For khoon, aunty, I did not rob or steal or cheat. I don’t do such lowdown things. I killed a man.”

Gulp! I almost choke over my biscuit. The tea I have sipped comes out in a splutter.

“O my god! You are joking. Who was this? Why did you kill him?”

“My mother’s marad.” He says nonchalantly.

Marad – man, lover I presume.

I do not know what to say. He continues –

“He was cruel to me. Used to beat me. So I just did him in.”

I have to look at him again. I had thought he was just 16 oir 17 years old. But if he has already spent 7 years in jail then he must be older.

“How old were you then?”

“Eleven,” says he.

That should make him about twenty now, I guess.

So this is the boy I have hired for Raju. This boy with the endearing smile, the honest look, the friendly face, who has spent seven long years in juvenile prison for killing a man.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is a sturdy young man who can hoist Raju, put him on his chair, wheel him around. I can’t.

He wakes up nights attending on Raju when he cries, changes him when he soils his clothes. Allows me to have an undisturbed sleep so that I can function normally the next morning.

Raju is happy with him. Laughs when he sits with him. Misses him and cries the nights that he doesn’t turn up.

He is Raju’s attendant. His Rakshak.
So what if he is Khooni, too?

Khooni Rakshak has made life somewhat easy for me, too. For which I am grateful.

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