Thursday, November 20, 2008

Death of a hero

I had friendship with a person. The man would come to Sitarampur railway station everyday to catch the first train for his destination –Nilganj, a town, thirty miles from Sitarampur. Unlike Sitarampur –it was a developed township. Rajen –my friend worked there in a big grocery shop. His duty hours were from 10 am to 6 pm. It was not much rewarding to work there by commuting everyday so far as payment was concerned. The salary just helped his family to exist. There was very little opportunity to earn in Sitarampur. He would return to Sitarampur at 8 pm. Rajen i.e. Rajendra Kumar Jha lived in Sitarampur with his family. We were friends not because of living in the same place of Sitarampur but for our daily visit to the station though for different purposes. The station was for me a place for relaxation but for Rajen –his struggle for life started from this place. He had to catch the train somehow unless there was no way to reach Nilganj.
Rajen had had an ambition and he told me many times that he liked to be an officer in a merchant bank in Patna or any big city. But he could not continue his studies after passing Matriculation exam for untimely death of his father when the whole responsibility of running the family had fallen on him. So he had to forsake his ambition and had started working in the grocery shop.
That was many years ago. Rajen was accustomed to his fate like everyone of this world. But the mind of Rajen –the man who once had loved of dreaming for an enviable position in life remained the same. But I never heard Rajen grumbling for his unfulfilled ambition and living a humble life in a village where people even were unaware of other modes of life full of comfort, convenience and with enlightened atmosphere. Perhaps Rajen was very practical and a down to earth person who knew it was foolish to remain in unfulfilled dreams. So his aspiring nature meandered through the incidents and happenings of various other lives where he took sides for his favourites and sought fulfilment in their success. He was a supporter of Mohanbagan Football Club and sometime it appeared that meaning of his existence depended on the Club’s winning the league. Rajen was an admirer of the author Sarat Chatterjee like many people. Rajen read Sarat Chatterjee in Hindi translation and bore a strong opinion that the author should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. He took it personally for this wrong and considered it as an unfortunate reality of his life. Rajen read newspaper regularly. He bought it in Nilganj as the newspapers were not available in Sitarampur in a regular manner. It was considered a luxury to buy newspaper for reading –as nobody with the same financial position as Rajen’s could think of spending the hard-earned money on such fashion as buying newspapers. It was unnecessary for existence –as necessity was defined in Sitarampur. But Rajen did not live merely in his small family and in a rustic township-Sitarampur. He wanted to belong to a different milieu his failure to getting a handsome urban job notwithstanding. Or perhaps more for that?
One day Rajen told me an incident which he read in a newspaper. The incident was hotly discussed in cities all over India and it was an interesting event in legal circle. I knew it from Rajen- that the mica mines once owned by the British were now under the proprietorship of a big industrialist Anil Patel. There were other brothers of Anil Patel in the business. The Patel family had many industries in different states of India owned jointly by the members of Patel family including the eldest Anil Patel. But the mica mines was exclusively owned by Anil and the other brothers had no share in this mica business. After the sudden and untimely death of Anil, the business fell in the hands of Ratnavali Devi –the widow of Anil Patel. Ratnavali was an educated person. She had been graduated from the Cambridge University and very much informed one in all modern matters of the world including the complexities of business administration. She had actively helped her husband in his business. After the death of her husband she became the main shareholder of the Patel industries. But the mica mines fell exclusively under her personal ownership. Jayant Mehta was a chartered accountant and had assisted Anil as his chief secretary. Jayant was a very efficient person and his personal integrity was beyond question. So after the death of Anil –Ratnavali depended much on Jayant in managing her business. Actually Jayant had been considered as one of the family of Anil Patel although officially he was mere a paid secretary. After Anil’s death his involvement in the family grew as Ratnavali gradually inclined to see him as a son. The couple was childless. So perhaps it was natural that Jayant won the motherly affection of Ratnavali after Anil’s death.
Ratnavali managed her portion of the family business efficiently including her own –the mica mines-for which she depended much on Jayant. After a decade of Anil’s death Ratnavali followed her husband at the age of seventy. When the religious rituals associated with death were over-Jayant declared to the shock and surprise of everyone of the Patel family-that Ratnavali had left a will in which she gifted the mica mines to Jayant unconditionally.
Here began the drama that stirred all the business houses and the legal circle. Jayant applied to the court for the probate of the will of Ratnavali. The whole Patel family opposed the will going its easy course in favour of Jayant. The probate application was contested by the other Patels.
Rajen would read in the newspaper the course of this event with keen interest. Everyday when he returned from Nilganj he narrated the recent developments of the court case that he had read in that day’s newspaper. He was visibly happy for the turn of fate of Jayant. As he narrated the proceedings –he became exited. Even he became well-informed in the intricacies of legal matters-of which he had had the least knowledge two months ago. Jayant appeared to be his own client and so he felt restless on the dates of hearings of this case. He got so tensed that if he were the judge he would have given the judgement in a month’s time –and definitely in favour of Jayant! On a day when he got down from the train in Sitarampur I asked him “What happened –you look so disgusted?” He told me “The court will hear the case after summer holidays. The court-people in India should not enjoy holidays like the school teachers when thousands of cases are pending for years. The Patel-Jayant case will be heard when the court opens in July.” I felt for him. It was as if Rajen who fought the Patels in the court! One day I asked –“Who do you think have the chance of winning the case?” He instantly retorted “Jayant has every moral and legal reason in favour of him by virtue of the will of Ratnavali. Patels have money power to influence the course in their favour. Jayant is a small fry-compared to them. It all depends on the witnesses in the will now. Patels may try to purchase them. But let us see the will of the God.”
Jayant won a major battle when the court rejected in July - the objection of the Patels against registering the will for probate hearing. Rajen –burst with a winning glee while breaking the news in the evening. The date of the next hearing was fixed after fifteen days. He told “The major battle is over. Now it will be a cake-walk for Jayant. All the vakils of the Nilganj court are of the opinion that Jayant has overcome the major ditch.” I have never seen Rajen so happy in the past. He offered me a cigarette. I was surprised as he was not a smoker. “Have you started smoking?” I asked. “No, no –I have bought the two only. Let us celebrate! It’s your brand,-have it. It’s really an occasion-isn’t it? Think of Jayant-he will be a millionaire-which he could not think of in his wildest dream! Fate of a man can never be sealed forever!”
After five days when I went to the station in the evening I found Rajen sitting on the platform bench. I was surprised to see him at that time. “When have you come?” I asked. “In the noon-I took leave from the shop. Jayant died in the last night after a massive heart attack. Oh! He should not have gone! I was waiting for his final victory. But he has not given me the opportunity. He has gone! Life is fun-the battle has comes to its end-without a solution.” He looked dejected. “But –the wife and sons of Jayant are there to continue the case” I said to Rajen. He remained silent for a moment and then said “What’s the use? The fate of Jayant has gone with him unchanged. I have no concern for his family.”
The 2115 UP arrived and was gone meanwhile. In the dim light of the platform I looked at Rajen-a man –none has tasted defeat like him in this world. He got the opportunity of waging a battle against a fait accompli through Jayant –but he lost it.

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