The Stranger stood there, leaning against the tree as he watched a man standing by the door of a small house. He was surrounded by around 50 young guys listening to whatever it was that he was saying.
The man must have been in his 60s, at the most. He made a rather impressive figure, dressed in crisp white clothes, as he addressed the assembled guys, who were in obvious awe of him.
“Must be some sort of a Community Leader”, the Stranger thought, trying to guess.
Just as The Stranger approached the crowd to hear what was being said, the man stopped speaking and disappeared through the door, closing it gently behind him as he went.
There was a woman sitting by the side of the door, a blank empty expression on her face. Looking at the line of young men and yet, as if, not seeing anything.
The young guys started getting into a line outside the door.
Curiousity piqued, The Stranger got into the line too, at the very end, behind all the other young guys.
He noticed that the atmosphere had suddenly changed. The young guys who were quite eager to hear the words of the man, were suddenly subdued and almost unwilling to go through the door which faced them.
Yet, they went in, one after the other, and came out after a few minutes, totally crestfallen, some having a look of almost anguish on their faces and some visibly in tears.
As The Stranger came closer to the door, he could hear some noises from inside.
A loud thud and a muffled cry of pain.
This just got The Stranger more curious about what was going on behind the closed door, albeit a bit scared, as it was his turn to go in now.
He slowly opened the door and entered a darkened room with one bare bulb hanging in the middle of it.
He looked down to see the impressive man sitting on the floor of the dark damp room. His face contorted in pain. His right hand outstretched on a slab of bricks in the front of him. His left hand held a flat piece of stone in his hand. His right hand was bleeding profusely and looked in a rather damaged condition.
The Stranger couldnt make out what was happening and bursted out, “Sir, what is going on here. You are bleeding. You need help. Are you actually hitting yourself with a stone?”
The Man looked up through his tear filled eyes, “Oh, you are not from this area, are you?”, he asked.
“No, I am not from this area. I just stopped to watch you give your speech and then got in line like everyone else. But right now I dont understand what is happening. And your hand….. your hand….”, The Stranger muttered.
“Dont worry, Beta, I will tell you what is happening. You see that rope behind me?”, The man said.
The Stranger looked around the room for the first time since he had entered and saw a rope hanging towards one end of the wall.
They were Mens clothes, a shirt and a trouser, but they were worn out as if they had been hanging there since a long time. The shirt appeared to be stained with some dark marks, as he could make out in the insufficient light of the bulb.
Next to the shirt hung a sword, crudely tied by a string, so that it hung with its tip towards the ground. The sword was covered with stain marks too. Dark …. almost black stains, which looked quite like blood which hadnt been washed off since ages.
The Stranger looked at the man on the floor, “What is this?”, he asked.
The Man calmly continued, “15 years ago, we were a very happy family. Me, my wife and my son. I had a shop in the neighboring basti where me and my 17 year old son used to work to earn our daily bread”
“Then that day came when everything went wrong. That day, we heard the news that riots had started close to our home. We quickly downed the shutters of the shop and rushed home. There was chaos everywhere. People running aimlessly, vechiles being torched, bodies lying strewn on the sides of the street.”
“It only got worse as we came closer to our home. Screams all around us. We entered our home, both me and my son and saw my wife, his mother, was lying on the floor of the house. Blood all over the floor, her stomach ripped open”
The man choked as if unable to continue, but the reassuring hand of The Stranger on his shoulder made him go on.
“I fell down on the floor besides my wife, trying to gather my wits. I was besieged with both rage and grief at the same time. My son was dumbstruck, he just kept looking at his Mother.”
“And just then around 20 young guys came at the door of my home. They were my Son’s friends. They all had swords and choppers in their hands. Never before that day had I seen such anger and hatred in my Son’s eyes. Never before that day had I felt the same anger and hatred in my mind. My Son’s friends were calling out to him, to go and avenge the deaths of their own.”
“I went to the closet and pulled out a sword. I handed it to my Son and told him “Go !!! Kill those bastards !! And dont you dare return before you have avenged your Mother…….”
“He never came back”, the man said, clearing his throat.
“A few days later we were called to identify his body. Those clothes that you see hanging on the rope….thats what he was wearing that day. That sword …. thats the one I handed to him that day…. and this hand…”, he said pointing to his right hand as he brought down the stone held in his left hand sharply on it, with a loud thud, “this was the hand that I used to give him the sword”, he cried through his freshly brought about agony, but not before he let out a horrific scream.
“Today, is his birthday. Every year on this day, I call all the young men in our locality and treat them to lunch. And then I invite them into this room. I show them my Son’s clothes, his sword and try to tell them what happens when we let our anger cloud our mind. Every year I slam my hand with this stone, as they watch me, till the hand bleeds and breaks. My hand heals in due course of time …. but my son….. my son isnt going to come back, is he?”, The Man asked The Stranger, as if he wished the Stranger would say yes and somehow miraculously his son would come back.
The Stranger stood there, with a lump in his throat, words failing him at the unimaginable grief that the man must have been going through. He helped the Man stand up to his feet and slowly walked him to the door.
The two men walked out of the door and The Stranger’s gaze fell upon the woman sitting by the door.
The Man noticed The Stranger’s look and giving him a wry smile, said, “She is my wife …. his Mother…. she survived”….. even as the Woman continued to stare into distance, looking at the road coming towards their house, as if the familiar figure would come walking towards them at any point of time …. and yet seeing nothing.
Disclaimer: Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but I have yet to see a problem which has been solved by Hate.