I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered. As I sat at the police station, my thoughts took down the memory lane.
Life takes different turns and directions to end at the very place it started. It has been one such roller coaster ride for the last few years. The friendship that I shared with Amudhan will easily make a standard example for coming of age relationships. Right from the careless days of bunking college to standing shoulder to shoulder during hard times, we have evolved as individuals and friends. He was there for me through all my hardships, but I couldn’t replicate the same even when he needed me the most. If I could have been at the least half the friend he was, he would have been alive today. He joined my college during my second year of engineering. Anyone would have easily guessed him to be a diploma graduate because of his direct entry into second year. But, he wasn’t. For the first few days, he seemed the most strange person I have seen who keeps very much to himself in a class that is branded the most restless across the college by students and staffs alike. Owing to his reserved yet serious demeanour, none from our class bothered to talk to him except for the occasional greetings.
Amudhan was six feet tall and athletic. It was during the inter-zonal sports meet of the very same year did we notice him turn from a serious reserved teen to the most vibrant person of the batch. True to his physical stature he was good at volleyball, and easily earned his place in to the college team which was usually dominated by final and pre final year students. Coincidentally, I was part of the organising committee for zonal volleyball competitions. The one week of zonal competition very much brought us together as friends. Amudhan didn’t make to the playing squad for most part of the group stages. It was during the quarter final did he get his breakthrough as a front line player and played a pivotal role in our college team defending the title for third year in a row. This made him the headlines all around the college for the next few weeks. Over the course of next two years he almost became favourite among the whole batch. We grew closer with each passing day. We were more than friends at college. We were also roommates at college hostel. For the next two years, we were almost like twin brothers with contrasting characters. Amudhan being calm, assertive and myself being impulsive, restless. He was the one to the rescue during each and every occasion of me running into trouble. One such instance was when a conflict turned fight with a fellow batch mate evolved into a street brawl and finally made me end up in police custody, Amudhan got me out of the scenario with his calm assertion with which he convinced the police. If not for him, I could have easily been dismissed from college following the brawl.
Rest of college life went almost in a flash. Of all, I believed Amudhan to definitely get placed in an MNC through campus recruitment drive during our final year of college. But as life always has its own way of diction, we both were left jobless. Days after college which started as happy vacation for us slowly transformed into a desperate nightmare. Running a race that you don’t want to can be daunting than the wildest of human imaginations. Being unemployed and desperately trying to get into a job just for economical support, to prove to the world that you are smart and responsible is one such race that we were put into. For few months, we stayed at our homes applied for jobs that matched our educational degree through mails and waited for an interview call, which never came.
The moral abuse from family and society started increasing with every passing day. I made the decision to move out of house in search of any job that suffices at the least the basic financial support as a result of pure desperation. I called Amudhan,
“I have decided to move out in search of job” I announced over the call.
“To?” was the response.
“Anywhere that gets rid of all these abuse and get me to self-sustain. I feel like moving out without even informing anyone.”
“Stop this nonsense and stop this endless complaining”
“It is all easy for you to say. Your parents never seem to be providing the slightest of pressure that my parents are presenting me with”
“Moving out in search of a job is good, speaking as if everything is lost doesn’t make any sense”
“Huh, let us swap spaces, you will know what it feels to live in my house”
“Forget about swapping, as a start to moving to Chennai or Bengaluru in search of job, I shall visit your place for some days. Then we can start job hunt together”
“I am not in for job search in Chennai or Bengaluru” replied Amudhan after a moment of pause.
“At the least you can invite me to your house.”
Again after a brief pause Amudhan continued reluctantly, “I wonder if you would be fine staying in my native”
“I am not living in a village, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen one. Don’t try to act like my big brother all the time. I will be there coming Monday. Text me your address.” I hung up the call.
I started off to Coimbatore with all the enthusiasm in the world after convincing my parents on my job hunt plans. I took a local bus transit from Coimbatore to Amudhan’s native, 20 odd kilometres from the city. True to its word, Coimbatore has a pleasant atmosphere attached to it. The environment, the people, the dialect and everything possible filled with affection and calmness. For a moment I couldn’t stop mapping the calm temperament of both Amudhan and Priya with the very nature of the city, the two people I look up to in my life. As I got down at the village, I found Amudhan leaning to a wrecked structure which denoted the bus stop. He looked lot more different than at college. He looked to have grown more serious by looks in the last few months. After the usual pleasantries, he took one of my bags and led me through the way towards his house. For first time, he looked concerned to me for some reason. After twenty minutes of walking filled with an unusual silence through a group of houses, a temple, and a narrow path lined with coconut plantations on either side, we reached a small house with walls made of limestone and ceiling made of brick sheets amidst few other house of similar structure. The house was of the size of one full room of any modern housing. It took a moment for me to sync into the reality that the small house was Amudhan’s. For the three years we have been together, I never imagined Amudhan to be from an economically challenged background. Truth be told, he neither made us feel that way nor did he mention about his native or family. He always made himself look like a careless guy, not interested in monetary wishes or anything that directly or indirectly relates to. Every now and then when the topic of visiting each other’s house popped up, he would easily divert it which I never took it seriously. For the whole three years of college life together, we have almost visited everyone in our circle of friends but not Amudhan’s. I was almost speechless for a brief moment, not having anticipated this humble a background.
He introduced me to his father, mother and sister. His father had the same athletic looks of Amudhan except for the even darker, wrinkled skin texture hinting at the years of toiling hard as a daily wager in farms and then as a porter in Coimbatore market and was very silent by composure relating it to the very nature Amudhan possessed. His mother and sister were very affectionate and engaged me with all sorts of small talks and pleasantries to make me feel at home. For, all the while Amudhan sat silently over a wire cot which lay by the front yard. Even though, the house was small, it had a corner full of books ranging from poetry to politics. As I looked through the house, I found a garlanded photo near the books.
I came out with lot of thoughts running through my mind, called Amudhan to go for a walk. As we walked through the infiniteness Amudhan started the conversation after yet another unusual silence between us.
“So, should I book your tickets to Chennai?” Asked Amudhan.
“What is it with my tickets? We both are going, remember?” I retorted.
“I am not leaving my house. You can stay with me if you wish to.”
“What kind of a question is that? Of course I would. I know how to handle things. You needn’t be correct all the time”
“Fine. I am going to the village administration office in the next village. You can rest until I come back”
“Am fine, I will come with you”
I had hundreds of thousands of questions to ask Amudhan running through my mind. But there are times when emotions easily override words to form a deadlock. We reached the village administration office in the next 20 minutes by an old Splendour. As we reached, Amudhan was greeted by a group of people who might have been his friends, reminding me of the same charm and following he had back in college. He gave his friends an introduction of who I was and asked me to stay with them, as he went inside the office.
“How was Amudhan at college?” One of his friends started a conversation.
“He was a favourite among students and staffs alike” I replied. There were happy noises from the group.
“Amudhan has said a lot about you and your college. He really enjoyed being in the college” said another.
“Yes, we indeed had everything in our college life. But he never said much about his family and life back here”
“Amudhan is always a façade”
“Who is the person in the garlanded photo at Amudhan’s house?”
“Raja, Amudhan’s brother. He passed away four years back”
As the conversation built slowly, I came to know of Amudhan’s brother, he was a law college student and an activist in the locality fighting against caste based discriminations and honour killings. I learned that he was brutally murdered four years back in the very name of caste honour and discrimination that he fought against. The family went through a great turmoil post Raja’s demise and Amudhan had to take an year long break in education. I also learned that Amudhan’s father was prohibited from working in the surrounding farms, and hence his father had to become a daily wager outside the village to run the family. After the completion of college, Amudhan had very much taken into the shoes of his brother, now fighting for the rehabilitation of affected people and bringing the murderers to justice. I was overwhelmed by the sudden rush of information that I least expected. I was too clogged with thoughts to even say a word. I sat their silently staring vaguely into the path that led to the administration office.
In the next one hour, Amudhan reappeared and cited at returning back home. I sat silently in the pillion for first few minutes before striking a conversation.
“Given all these, why don’t you try coming to Chennai with me to find a job that shall help you fulfil economic requirements and give a peaceful life for your parents and sister? Why do you want to stay here and prolong the stress and fight?”
“You will never understand the pain that we went and continue to go through. Raja was easily the well learnt, the hope that the whole village looked up to. It was all brought to ashes in a matter of time as a feed for peoples hunger for pride and prejudice”
“If not fully, I do understand your loss. But it is important for you to move on and take your family out of the loss.”
“I am not here to beg for a living or run away as a coward, but fight my way through it. Though am not as knowledgeable and bold as Raja was, still I have the fighting spirit in me to stay and fight for justice for all those affected.”
I tried to convince him to move out of the village in vain, for I was literally terrified and shaken by the facts of violence and murder. Rest of the journey back to Amudhan’s home passed by as silent as a night.
With spring summer thoughts coming to an end, my ride on the memory lane was interrupted by the police constable who called us for signing the declaration of death. I was completely lost to the present reality, my body trembling from head to toe. But I held myself together until Amudhan’s father signed the declaration. I excused myself from Amudhan’s family and friends in search of a place alone to burst out into tears, which I eventually did along with all the fury of memories that pierced me from every single direction.
Days and nights passed, with the pleasant natural environment of the locality and the fear built over the inner turmoil working in tandem. I constantly tried to persuade Amudhan to move out of the village to avoid any more struggle without understanding the pain of deserting that he had to go through. Within the days of my stay, I accompanied Amudhan to offices, courts and meetings. Each and every day added an extra pace to the rate of my heart beat. One such evening, we were returning back after a heated meeting with a group of people whom Amudhan was legally fighting in Raja’s murder case. Dusk was paving its way for twilight as we rode along one of the many narrow paths surrounded by coconut plantations. All of a sudden, a bunch people blocked the road and forced us to get down from the bike. Adrenaline rushed all through my body. I noticed Amudhan standing before me with the same assertive stern face. He looked ready to handle anything and everything with no visible hint of fear. I have always considered myself to be impulsive, but reality had proven me wrong when it mattered. My whole body went numb. The bunch of people surrounded us with all sorts of abuses one can imagine. One of the guys, hit me in the head which was retorted by Amudhan with heavy blow of punches on few of the guys surrounding us. I tried fighting back along with Amudhan, the numbness and adrenaline had me tied to the ground. I fell to the ground following an unexpected blow to my stomach. I watched the scenes which I feared for days unfold in front of my eyes. Amudhan was outnumbered at the least one to seven. He had no chance. Still he was not ready to run, to plead. He fought back. He grounded two of them with nasty blows, one to the face and another to the rib. In the course of action, I saw a person striking Amudhan in the back of the head with a coconut sapling. Amudhan fell to his knees. In moments that followed, everything fell into an uncontrollable darkness.
I woke up to see Amudhan and his friends around me. From the look of it, it looked like we were admitted to a hospital. I couldn’t guess how long we were there. Friends informed me that it was a warning ambush to back down. And we learned that the court was compromised. The fear kept creeping inside me. I urged Amudhan to leave aside all these struggle and come with me. He refused. He was assertive as always. He was silent and furious at the same time. “We will fight with all we have. For Raja, worked for all the people. People will stand with us. We will gather them.”
As all others left, we had a very heated argument within us. I was trying to be the neutral, persuading him to flee. He refused once again. With utter frustration, I started off to Chennai the very evening.
Since then, I rarely spoke with Amudhan. I was very much pre occupied with my thoughts to even understand the pain and justness that Amudhan had in his thoughts. Weeks rolled in and out as my job hunt continued until one evening when everything froze as I was going through the evening news paper at the regular tea joint which read
“Amudhan, an engineering graduate was found dead in a railway crossing of alleged suicide due to love failure.”
Everything turned pale. I could say with all my heart, Amudhan would never have given into suicide. I knew it was a murder, but I had nothing to prove my claim. I was helpless. I rushed as fast as I could to Coimbatore.
Here I am now, still feeling helpless right before the lifeless body of the person who stood for me every single time. I failed him with my pre occupied mind of escaping a problem rather than fighting for justice. Life gives us lessons in lot of ways. Staying silent, when it needs your voice and action is worse than being the culprit. This chapter would stay my life’s permanent scar and guilt for the days to come. Tears rolled out blazing hot amidst the chaos that surrounded.
Disclaimer : True to my consciousness, the write up is an imaginary plot.