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Apurba Kumar Saikia
Date of Publish: 2017-09-02



I do still remember a question- a quiz master asked when I was a child: “Why a rifle is called a rifle?” To me the question was baffling as I had never thought it to be worthy a question. Having not been answered by any of our groups the question was passed on to the enthuiastic audience and came the reply from a stout and short haired person. When a bullet coming out from the gun accelerates makin it revolve it acquires high speed and momentum with immense penetrating capability and it is all due to the rifling present inside the barrel of the gun. A bullet made of lead aims at a living being always and its sole objective is take life. I think the question we were made to answer was itself a clumsy question as we were a bunch of humble students of the tenth standard in a vernacular medium school and we did not have the access to a gun or its strucutre. Sons of farmers we oiled our hair with mustard oil and having bathed with detergent soap we used to go to our school on foot. While returning from school we used to taste everything palatable coming our way by the side of the road. It was none of our business to recognise a gun nor was it a necessity; but the quiz master was probaby a person with an eye to the future. He could probably gauge the importance to be attached to a gun after a decade or so in this state. the person from the audience who answered correctly was indeed a police personnel. He was an inspector of police of the state police force.

Now, the situation is so grim that a gun is easily available everywhere. you need not be in the police force to possess a gun. Sometimes I find my revolver to be very relevant thinking about the people around who only understand the language of money with an unsatiable greed for money, power and sex. I consider it to be a symbol of immense power. These people, creating chaos everywhere, collecting money, the amount which three generations of them are unable to digest, are very meek person at heart. At the very turn of the barrel head they are ready to surrender all of their wealth at our feet. The purchasable luxury has made them some consumerist ‘Carvaka’s.

How has this revolver come to my hand? It has got a long story to tell. I think a revolver could never grace your hand had your hand been holding a pen hard. May be for a number of reasons my hand accommodated a gun instead in some weaker moments. But it was not applicable to everybody. It was Hemen’s poverty, Mohan’s ill-understood ideology, Haren’s inherent cruelty, Mahen’s antipathy for life due to his father's ill-gotten wealth, Hari’s failure in love, Badan’s apathy for life without valid reason that drove them to take solace in a gun. We endowed with good name to whatever we did and whatever we asigned to do and that halo of a good name drew some new Hemens and Badans to what we called a revolution, like the moths drawn to a burning flame. Some of us understood nothing but we understood the power of a gun well.

I was like an emdodiment of gun power myself for Meena, the village belle. A symbol of power and security! In fact I dread the thought of becoming a living revolver myself expressing my thoughts and emotions with the language of sound and smoke. This kind of fear was aroused in me by Meena. She felt, it was a matter of time only that the small firearm would take over me completely by imparting false sense of confidence and only a fool would believe that the barrel of the gun would always point towards the opposite direction of the possessor.

Meena was more or less happy with me – as she had no serious complaints against me. This state of the absence of allegations and counter allegations had helped both of us together. I met Meena for the first time, while I was running away from the police in course of what we called armed revolution. I came across with her in Padram Kalita’s home, who was the headmaster of the village primary school. I took refuge in his home as I was sufered from infective hepatitis. Meena was his only daughter. She got me cured of my ailment with her selfless round the clock nursing care and it took about a month for my complete recovery. Though I felt grateful to her, she ignored it saying that she thought it to be her duty only.

I started to forget the language of a gun for a while but I was back again within a short time. This tendency to retract back to the starting point might probably mean my not becoming a bullet but my family members did not think this way. They behaved like strangers with me whenever after a long time, I came to them. They expected me still to be a little boy chasing a “Dohikotora” bird with two mongoloid eyes, who was long lost, and then got depressed. I can’t make them understand that if we can't get the same Brahmaputra river of the morning after a few hours here in Guwahati how come they expect a little boy with running nose out of me now after a decade or so? May be its a matter of expecting an atavism. By this process of retrospection and re-assembling of the past they try to familiarise with me but it is when the time is up for me to take leave for the day.

And again I get back to my fire arm. Intentionally I keep myself short-sighted like a myopic patient and it does not hamper my going ahead. Rocking and craddling the present in my arms and moving ahead is the binding rule indeed.

“Do you know what ‘Larang” is ? Its a sharp pointed bent instrument to push thorugh the ribs inside and to puncture the spleen. There would be severe internal haemorrhage with no outward manifestation of the same. The person would die instantly, understand?” The leader of my group told me once. This was one of the ways we were taught how to take lives.

These were the ways and means to destroy the enemies of our motherland. More and more people would have to die at the cost of less and less bullets and bombs. A few productive people would be spared to live and proliferate here. No one would be supplied their bread without physical or mental labour. It might require blood-shed and largescale destruction, and yes, blood baths without any reason too!

On this very point Meena would oppose me sometimes. She would deny the necessity of blood-shed in the name of revolution. She believes in evolution only. She believes that nothing constructive is possible through so much of blood letting.

But she is also puzzled. She doesn't deny the necessity of a fire arm at the time when she would denounce blood shed. She might be maintaining double standards for some unknown reason. May be the unfathomable love for me is the only truth with her. Flirting and cajoling with my Robinhood image from a time unremembered she has reached a state of no return. Now she seriously felt the need to put an end to put my honeymooning with the fire arms , because a wife, a fire arm and a revolution cannot be accommodated in the same bed.

I have landed in trouble trying to accommodate all three in a single bed. And the innevitable happened. It does happen when two grown up adults come so near physically. Hostile circumstances brought both of us to such a bodily proximity and no one could be held responsible for the eventuality but then again it would lie justifying a crime. I would have been slapped in a show cause notice by the higher authority for my misdeed.

Meena came to my rescue and prevented the matter from going too far. I doubt Meena had intentionally got it to happen to prove the futility of a bloody war waged against some imaginary enemies. She had put a full stop to the process of my growing inside her womb. Her pragnancy was terminated in a very crude way. She has experienced severe haemorrhage and so there was nothing constructive.

On her way to recovery she caught hold of my hand one day and murmured, “ I know you cannot deceive me as you are yet to become a bullet and I wouldn’t apprehend your being so. I like to compare your war to this accident of mine. Though your aims and objectives sound good you’ve faltered in identifying your real enemies and you resort to too much of blood-shed. This will place you nowhere in future and you should have the guts to admit this truth" !

As she kept on smiling I felt nervous at her demeanour. “That means you dare to tell there is no role of haemorrhage in the birth process of a healthy baby?”- I asked.

“Yes, there is” , she kept on saying sarcastically, “it is a matter of time only. Untimely haemorrhage cannot give birth to a healthy baby. It is her disease when an expectant mother bleeds before her delivery of the baby and it is all normal to have some haemorrhage after the delivery, you see. This little amount of post delivery haemorrhage is rather beneficial!” and she concluded “ I hope you would think over the whole issue again!”


(Translated by the author from the original Assamese which appeared in the Assamese fortnightly “Prantik”)


About the author


Apurba Kumar Saikia is a leading Assamese short story writer. His short stories have been translated into eight different Indian languages. His literary works include Byartha Nayak, Bisoy – Premor Sonbidhan, Maati Akhora, Bojarot Edin, Linga Mukta Prithivir Eta Sadhu, Asomiya Manuhor Jeen, and Bengsota. He is currently serving as Chief Medical Officer, Labour and Employment Department, Government of India. He can be reached at - drapurbakrsaikia@gmail.com.





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