A RARE GES­TURE

It left all dumb­struck.

Woman's Era - - News - PVV Satya­narayana

But, as fate would have it, the brakes failed with the re­sult that the ve­hi­cle hit the girl, bring­ing her un­der the wheels. It all hap­pened in a frac­tion of a sec­ond, stun­ning ev­ery­one around. Lit­tle Nan­dini died on the spot due to se­ri­ous head in­juries. Lalitha was shell-shocked.

The win­ter morn­ing was chill­ing. Peo­ple stirred lazily un­der the blan­kets. Ak­bar woke up with the azan from the lo­cal mosque as usual. He fin­ished his morn­ing rou­tine quickly. As he was putting on his khaki dress, his wife, Noorun­nisa Begum, brought him tea.

Even as he was sip­ping the tea, she told him slowly, “Am­mi­jan’s medicines ex­hausted two days ago. She has been suf­fer­ing a lot with con­stant bouts of cough­ing and breath­less­ness. The fre­quency in­creased in the ab­sence of the medicines. I feel pity for her. I also feel guilty at not be­ing able to pro­vide her with the medicines. I am afraid she may not be able to with­stand it any longer, es­pe­cially due to the se­vere win­ter this year, un­less she takes the medicines reg­u­larly. Please try to get the medicines at least to­day… some­how.”

The taste of the tea turned bit­ter in Ak­bar’s mouth. He meekly nod­ded.

Am­mi­jan was his mother. She was well over 60. She had been suf­fer­ing from acute asthma for long. Ear­lier, she was fre­quently vis­it­ing the gov­ern­ment hospi­tal for treat­ment with no re­lief. Un­able to bear the sight of his mother’s suf­fer­ing, Ak­bar took her to a ho­moeopath a few months ago. The old woman ap­peared to feel bet­ter af­ter tak­ing the medicines pre­scribed by him. So, she had been con­tin­u­ing the same since then.

Ak­bar’s fa­ther was a pave­ment-seller of petty things. He died 10 years ago.

Ak­bar, who was 35, was an au­torick­shaw driver. He got the ve­hi­cle on ren­tal ba­sis from its owner. Even though he worked hard from early morn­ing to late night, his earn­ings were hardly suf­fi­cient even to pay the ren­tal.

Noorun­nisa Begum was five years younger than her hus­band. The cou­ple was mar­ried for 10 years now and had four chil­dren. The first two off­spring were girls, aged eight and six, and the third one was a boy of four years. The fourth child that was born a year ago was again a girl.

Noorun­nisa Begum wanted to un­dergo the

Ak­bar won­dered how five peo­ple could sit in the auto. But, two po­lice­men squeezed them­selves along with the prison­ers in the back seat – po­si­tion­ing them­selves on ei­ther side, while the third one ad­justed him­self in the front be­side Ak­bar on the driver’s seat.

fam­ily plan­ning op­er­a­tion af­ter the sec­ond child was born, but her mother-in­law did not al­low it. Same was the case even af­ter the birth of the boy. The old lady dis­ap­proved fam­ily plan­ning, say­ing that it was against Is­lam. How­ever, af­ter the birth of the fourth child, Noorun­nisa Begum un­der­went the tubec­tomy op­er­a­tion – se­cretly, of course – with the con­sent of her hus­band.

It had be­come dif­fi­cult for Ak­bar to main­tain his large fam­ily with mea­gre earn­ings. The owner of the auto raised the rentals ev­ery year, be­sides the con­stant rise in petrol prices. The op­er­a­tional costs too in­creased while find­ing pas­sen­gers be­came dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially with the ad­vent of the MMTS train ser­vices and ply­ing of the shared au­tos ev­ery­where in the city. He too tried to get into the mode of ‘shared au­tos’ with­out suc­cess. For it was lit­er­ally con­trolled by cer­tain vested in­ter­ests as­sum­ing the pro­por­tions of a mafia.

The auto ren­tal was to be paid ev­ery day to its owner. Oth­er­wise, he would abuse Ak­bar in filthy lan­guage and seize the ve­hi­cle, even if one ru­pee was found short.

The only sil­ver lin­ing in the life of Ak­bar was Noorun­nisa Begum. It was his luck to have such an un­der­stand­ing and co­op­er­a­tive wife, who man­aged the fam­ily as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble within their means. Ak­bar was aware of that, but for her, his life would have been more mis­er­able.

“The rice and wheat too are ex­hausted. I could man­age yes­ter­day with the small quan­tity of bro­ken rice by mak­ing ganji and giv­ing it to Am­mi­jan and the chil­dren. If she does not eat cha­p­atti, Am­mi­jan would not get the stamina to with­stand her asth­matic at­tacks,” said Noorun­nisa Begum, tak­ing the empty tea mug from her hus­band. She felt sorry that she had to bother him with the house­hold prob­lems early in the morn­ing when he was ven­tur­ing out for the day, up­set­ting him. All the same, she could not help it. For the sake of her old, sick mother-in-law and the small kids.

Ak­bar looked at his wife thought­fully… very fair, slim and tall, Noorun­nisa Begum was a beau­ti­ful woman. He fell for her beauty in­stantly, and it was love at first sight for him, when he saw her at a func­tion at some rel­a­tive’s house. He told his par­ents about his in­ter­est in her, and in turn, they spoke to her par­ents.

Her fa­ther was a tai­lor and Noorun­nisa Begum was the el­dest of six chil­dren – four of them be­ing girls. The fam­ily had a hand-to-mouth ex­is­tence like that of Ak­bar’s fam­ily.

Ak­bar, though not very hand­some, was known to be a good boy, and was learn­ing driv­ing at that time. More­over, all the three elder sis­ters of Ak­bar were al­ready mar­ried and liv­ing their own lives. So, Noorun­nisa Begum’s par­ents had no qualms about the pro­posal and read­ily agreed to the match. Ak­bar was on cloud on get­ting a beau­ti­ful wife, to the envy of his friends and rel­a­tives.

Now, af­ter a decade of their mar­riage and with four close preg­nan­cies and the poverty, all her beauty had got eclipsed. Even her at­trac­tive physique had be­come scraggy. The twin­kle in her eyes too paled. She be­came weak. Yet, the en­tic­ing smile on her lips never faded. It was that very smile that had been en­thus­ing Ak­bar to move on, amidst the odds. At times he would feel sorry for her.

“I shall try to get the pro­vi­sions for cook­ing lunch,” said Ak­bar as he walked out.

“And do not for­get the medicines,” she re­minded him.

He nod­ded and prayed inside, ‘I wish I could get enough savaaris to­day.’

Noorun­nisa Begum stood on the thresh­old watch­ing her hus­band start­ing the auto and speed­ing away. She waited there till he was out of sight. There­after she heaved a faint sigh and went inside.

The ladies of the Mayuri Res­i­den­tial Com­plex had formed a Ladies’ Club of their own. They would or­gan­ise monthly chit funds, kitty par­ties, pe­ri­odic fetes, cul­tural func­tions on oc­ca­sions, and pu­jas on fes­tive days. They would meet once a month at one of the mem­bers’ res­i­dence, over a high tea. The mem­ber con­cerned would bear the ex­penses.

The meet would start at 11 in the morn­ing and go on till 3 in the af­ter­noon. They would play tam­bola, sing and dance and play card games. News and views on var­i­ous mat­ters would be shared by the mem­bers. At the end, the monthly chit would be auc­tioned, and the suc­cess­ful bid­der an­nounced. It would be the turn of that mem­ber to host the kitty party the fol­low­ing month.

This month it was the turn of Lalitha to host the kitty party. The party was or­gan­ised that day.

Lalitha’s four-year-old daugh­ter, Nan­dini, was study­ing in UKG in the Lit­tle An­gels Pub­lic School. Her classes would start at 8 in the morn­ing. She would go by the school bus, board­ing it on the main road al­most a kilo­me­tre from her res­i­dence. In the morn­ings, Lalitha’s hus­band, Yada­giri, dropped the child at the school bus stop, and in the af­ter­noons Lalitha would walk up to the stop to col­lect her daugh­ter.

This was be­cause the Mayuri Res­i­den­tial Com­plex was inside an ex­ten­sion area, which was in­ac­ces­si­ble to the school bus as it could not ne­go­ti­ate the nar­row by­lanes to reach the place.

In view of the kitty party

His mind was at home think­ing of his starv­ing fam­ily and the suf­fer­ing mother. As he emerged from the bus sta­tion, he could read­ily get a savari. As the des­ti­na­tion was a lit­tle far- off, he hoped to get sub­stan­tial fare for it. He pressed the ac­cel­er­a­tor with re­newed en­thu­si­asm.

at her house that day, Lalitha had re­quested her hus­band to pick up their daugh­ter from the school bus in the af­ter­noon. He had agreed to do so.

It was party time and the party was pro­gress­ing well and quite en­ter­tain­ing. There was ex­cite­ment in the air, and the mem­bers joked and laughed.

Even as the high tea was be­ing served to the mem­bers, Lalitha looked at the wall clock in the draw­ing room ca­su­ally. It was half past one. It had sud­denly dawned on her that her daugh­ter was not yet home. The kinder­garten sec­tion of the school closed at 12.30 pm daily, and the school bus would reach the main road stop by 12.45 pm. It was now 45 min­utes since the school bus would have reached the alight­ing point on the main road, and her daugh­ter had not re­turned as yet.

A lit­tle ner­vous, Lalitha rang up her hus­band on his cell­phone. He an­swered the call af­ter a long time. Lalitha en­quired whether he had picked up Nan­dini.

It was then that Yada­giri re­mem­bered about Nan­dini. He con­fessed that he was aw­fully busy since morn­ing with his busi­ness af­fairs, and that he had com­pletely for­got­ten about pick­ing up Nan­dini from the school bus. He also said that he was presently at a far-off place, and asked her to fetch the child her­self.

Lalitha was al­most in tears. It was nearly an hour now since the school bus would have ar­rived at the alight­ing point on the main road. The child must be stranded there, all alone. Or, whether the crew of the school bus had taken her back to the school, as was done some­times when the par­ents did not turn up to re­ceive their wards – if only they cared to find out. She could not haz­ard a guess. She was a wor­ried mother now. Nev­er­the­less, she tried to com­pose her­self.

She ap­prised the guests of the sit­u­a­tion, and ex­cused her­self for a few min­utes. Urg­ing them to carry on, she left hur­riedly.

Ak­bar had to wait for three long hours be­fore he could get longdis­tance pas­sen­gers. Though he could man­age to get a cou­ple of savaris in the mean­while, the amount fetched from them was very small. Hav­ing failed to muster pas­sen­gers at the auto stands, he moved to the gen­eral bus sta­tion, where the buses from the dis­tricts would ar­rive. Even there he had to wait for a long time to get pas­sen­gers since more ag­gres­sive ones would snatch them away.

It was al­ready 10.50. Slowly his hopes of get­ting savaris and buy­ing ra­tions for home and medicines for his mother started fad­ing away.

It was then that a po­lice­man waved to Ak­bar. A long-dis­tance bus ar­rived there a short while ago, and three po­lice­men in their uni­forms alighted from it, with the guns dan­gling from their shoul­ders. Fol­low­ing them were two prison­ers, hand­cuffed to each other’s hands. The po­lice­men were ap­par­ently es­cort­ing them.

Af­ter get­ting down from the bus, they pro­ceeded to a nearby tea stall and all of them had tea. There­after, while look­ing for an auto, the po­lice­men no­ticed Ak­bar’s auto wait­ing at a dis­tance and sum­moned it.

Ak­bar won­dered how five peo­ple could sit in the auto. But, two po­lice­men squeezed them­selves along with the prison­ers in the back seat – po­si­tion­ing them­selves on ei­ther side, while the third one ad­justed him­self in the front be­side Ak­bar on the driver’s seat.

Ak­bar had a mind to veto it, but changed his mind. He did not want to have a tiff with the po­lice­men. Mut­ter­ing to him­self he started the ve­hi­cle for the des­ti­na­tion told by them.

The po­lice party went straight to the ses­sions court in the city. They were to pro­duce the re­mand prison­ers be­fore the judge for hear­ing in the crim­i­nal case(s) they were in­volved in. Af­ter alight­ing from the auto, the po­lice­men asked Ak­bar to wait for them, and en­tered the court premises along with the prison­ers. They dis­ap­peared even be­fore Ak­bar could tell them of his in­abil­ity to wait. He knew that pro­duc­ing prison­ers in the court was time-con­sum­ing, as no one was sure as to when the case would come up be­fore the judge. That meant that he would have to wait there in­def­i­nitely.

Park­ing the auto a lit­tle away from the park­ing stand, Ak­bar en­tered the court premises in search of the po­lice party. He wanted to ex­plain his prob­lem to them, take the fare, and go away. He peeped into the court hall which was over crowded with the lawyers, po­lice­men and peo­ple. He could not lo­cate the po­lice party which had trav­elled in his ve­hi­cle, in the crowd. He could not muster the courage to en­ter the hall. Dis­ap­pointed, he re­turned to his ve­hi­cle and sat in it, help­less.

It took at least two hours for the po­lice party to emerge from the court. It was now half past one, and Ak­bar was un­happy that he could not buy the ra­tions and the medicines. He knew his wife would be ea­gerly wait­ing for him, to pre­pare lunch.

The case con­cerned hav­ing been ad­journed to a later date by the court, the prison­ers were to be taken back to the sub-jail where they were re­manded in ju­di­cial cus­tody. As the next bus to their town would be leav­ing only at 3 pm, there was plenty of time. So, the po­lice­men wanted to have their lunch at a ho­tel and then pro­ceed to the bus sta­tion.

The po­lice­men boarded the auto and asked Ak­bar to take them to a par­tic­u­lar

ho­tel, which was 2 km away.

Ak­bar waited out­side the ho­tel, as he had no choice, even as the po­lice­men and the prison­ers leisurely took their meals inside. He tried to re­quest the po­lice­men to re­lieve him, with­out suc­cess.

The five men came out af­ter half an hour. Then, they again boarded the ve­hi­cle and asked to be taken to the bus sta­tion.

At last Ak­bar could drop the po­lice party back at the point from where they were picked up ear­lier. By that time, it was al­ready 1.45.

Ak­bar looked puz­zled as the po­lice­men handed him a ` 100 note as the fare for the auto, for the me­ter showed at least 3 times more than that. And added to that would be the wait­ing charges.

He told them about the ac­tual fare, show­ing the me­ter read­ing, and also of the wait­ing charges. He urged them to pay the full amount.

But the po­lice­men were adamant, and re­fused to pay be­yond what was given to him. As Ak­bar tried to protest the in­jus­tice be­ing meted out to him, they threat­ened to foist a false case and ar­rest him. One of them said that the me­ter read­ing was wrong and accused Ak­bar of ma­nip­u­lat­ing it. The lat­ter showed them the seal of the RTO which was in­tact, and sought to counter their claim. An­other po­lice­man even went a step fur­ther say­ing that they found Ak­bar trans­port­ing ganja in his ve­hi­cle, and threat­ened to seize the auto.

Ak­bar knew that the po­lice­men would get TA and DA from the depart­ment for tak­ing the prison­ers to the courts of law sit­u­ated out of the tour. Yet, th­ese men were mean and chose to rob him of his law­ful, hard-earned in­come. He did not know what to do, for, they were pow­er­ful and in a po­si­tion to im­pli­cate him in false cases and put him be­hind bars – if he made it an is­sue. He meekly ac­cepted the amount and left curs­ing them bit­terly inside.

His mind was at home think­ing of his starv­ing fam­ily and the suf­fer­ing mother. As he emerged from the bus sta­tion, he could read­ily get a savari. As the des­ti­na­tion was a lit­tle far-off, he hoped to get sub­stan­tial fare for it. He pressed the ac­cel­er­a­tor with re­newed en­thu­si­asm, even though the mean­ness of the po­lice­men was prick­ing him and he could not help curs­ing them for so bla­tantly cheat­ing him.

It was ex­actly 12.45 in the af­ter­noon that the school bus of the Lit­tle An­gels Pub­lic School stopped by the side of the busy main road car­ry­ing the stu­dents of the kinder­garten. Par­ents, who were wait­ing there for the school bus to ar­rive, started col­lect­ing their wards even as they alighted from the bus. The tiny tots’ faces lit up on see­ing their par­ents and they ran to­wards them.

Nan­dini got down from the bus and looked for her mother. She was per­plexed at not find­ing her there. Not know­ing why her mother was not al­ready there, she looked around, even as her friends waived her ‘bye’ and started leav­ing with their par­ents. She had waited for a long time – she did not know how long – look­ing for her mother, who was usu­ally there.

When Lalitha reached the place, it was 2 o’clock, she could see her daugh­ter stand­ing alone on the other side of the road in the hot sun, with the school bag dan­gling on her back. She was greatly re­lieved, though felt pity for the child, and cursed her­self for as­sign­ing the duty to her oth­er­wise busy hus­band. She in­creased her pace.

Sud­denly, Nan­dini too saw her mother com­ing. Her face lit up. She called out, “Mummy!” ex­cit­edly and ran to­wards her, across the road, un­mind­ful of the traf­fic.

Be­wil­dered, Lalitha shouted at her daugh­ter not to come and to stay where she was. But the girl did not stop.

As the lit­tle girl started run­ning sud­denly across the road, ve­hi­cles from both the sides screeched to a halt. Ak­bar was go­ing that way with the pas­sen­gers in his auto. He too saw the lit­tle one run­ning across. He tried to ap­ply the brake to avoid her. But, as fate would have it, the brakes failed with the re­sult that the ve­hi­cle hit the girl, bring­ing her un­der the wheels. It all hap­pened in a frac­tion of a sec­ond, stun­ning ev­ery­one around.

Lit­tle Nan­dini died on the spot due to se­ri­ous head in­juries.

Lalitha was shell­shocked at the sight and fainted.

Yada­giri was a small­time realtor. Lalitha was a house­wife. Nani­dini, their only child, was born af­ter 10 years of their mar­riage. She was a fair, cute girl. The cou­ple treated her with great love and af­fec­tion. They wanted to pro­vide her with a good ed­u­ca­tion and dreamt of mak­ing her a med­i­cal doc­tor.

Now, their dreams were shat­tered. The death was so sud­den. Lalitha could not for­get the sight of her dear daugh­ter dy­ing be­fore her very eyes in such a ghastly man­ner. No one could con­sole her. Yada­giri was, how­ever, try­ing his best to main­tain his com­po­sure. The cou­ple was un­able to be­lieve that their beloved daugh­ter was no more. It was too much for them to bear the ir­repara­ble loss.

Ak­bar would usu­ally go home for lunch around mid­day, un­less of course, he went to a far-off place tak­ing a savaari.

Noorun­nisa Begum was wait­ing for her hus­band since 9 o’clock in the morn­ing. She ex­pected him to bring some wheat or rice and pro­vi­sions for cook­ing lunch. But he did not turn up even by 2 pm

Ei­ther he could not earn money or he had taken a savaari to a dis­tant place, Noorun­nisa Begum thought. So she had been wait­ing for him pa­tiently, hop­ing she would be able to cook some­thing to feed the hun­gry mouths. The old woman and the chil­dren too ea­gerly awaited Ak­bar.

It was then that the news reached the fam­ily. The news of the ac­ci­dent… of the death of a lit­tle girl un­der the wheels of Ak­bar’s ve­hi­cle… and of the con­se­quent ar­rest of Ak­bar.

Lalitha stopped for a mo­ment seem­ingly try­ing to com­pose her­self and con­tin­ued, “Your hon­our, I do not want an in­no­cent per­son to be pun­ished. That is why I have ven­tured to come be­fore you to humbly sub­mit the facts.” Even be­fore Ak­bar could clear his throat, Lalitha stood up sud­denly and urged the judge to al­low her to speak first. Learn­ing that she was the grief­stricken mother of the vic­tim of the ac­ci­dent, the judge obliged her, as a spe­cial case, and per­mit­ted her to go to the wit­ness box and to make her sub­mis­sions.

Noorun­nisaa Begum col­lapsed even as the old woman started wail­ing. The chil­dren got fright­ened, and they too started cry­ing.

It was com­mon for the driver of the ve­hi­cle that caused the ac­ci­dent to flee from the spot in­stantly – to es­cape the wrath of the peo­ple around. But Ak­bar did not run away. He was shell-shocked at the un­ex­pected mishap, and tried to re­vive the child with first aid. How­ever, peo­ple caught hold of him and thrashed him thor­oughly be­fore hand­ing him over to the po­lice.

Noorun­nisa Begum vis­ited her hus­band at the po­lice lock-up. She was heart­bro­ken at the sight of her se­verely-bruised hus­band. “Hey, Al­lah! What have you done to him? Does he de­serve this? How could peo­ple be so cruel and mer­ci­less?” she cried.

Ak­bar tried to con­sole her. “You are see­ing only my ex­ter­nal wounds, Noor. But my heart bleeds at the thought of a lit­tle girl dy­ing un­der the wheels of my ve­hi­cle,” he said with a trem­bling and chok­ing voice. The very thought dis­turbed him enor­mously. The pain was writ large on his face.

Ak­bar was charged by the po­lice un­der sec­tion 304 (A) IPC – cul­pa­ble homi­cide not amount­ing to mur­der – caus­ing death due to neg­li­gence by rash driv­ing. His case came up for hear­ing be­fore the court of law.

Noorun­nisa Begum could not en­gage a lawyer to bail out her hus­band. She went to the court tak­ing her mother-in-law and the kids, with an ag­i­tated mind, on the day of the hear­ing.

Yada­giri and his wife, Lalitha, too ar­rived at the court. While en­ter­ing the court hall, the distraught cou­ple looked at Ak­bar’s fam­ily, as some­one pointed them out. The fam­ily pre­sented a pa­thetic pic­ture of grief and hunger. Worry writ large on the faces of Noorun­nisa Begum and her mother-in-law. Pricked by the thought that it was the fam­ily of the per­son who was re­spon­si­ble for the death of their beloved daugh­ter, Yada­giri and Lalitha glared at the women.

The din in the court hall died down as the judge ar­rived and took his seat.

A weak and di­shev­elled Ak­bar was pre­sented be­fore the judge, and put in the dock.

Noorun­nisa Begum hud­dled her­self in a cor­ner of the hall with the other mem­bers of her fam­ily. Un­able to bear the painful sight of her hus­band, she wept silently. The chil­dren saw their fa­ther and tried to call out, “Ab­ba­jan…” with ex­cite­ment. But the mother sup­pressed their voices by cov­er­ing their mouths with both hands. The puz­zled and fright­ened kids em­braced her tightly.

At the in­stance of the judge, the as­sis­tant pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor (APP) pre­sented the case against the accused in de­tail. The judge as also the au­di­ence in the hall heard him in rapt si­lence. The judge made notes ev­ery now and then. At the end, con­clud­ing the pros­e­cu­tion’s case, the APP em­pha­sised that it was due to the de­lib­er­ately rash and neg­li­gent driv­ing by the accused, that the life of a tiny tot – a bud­ding flower – who was the only child of her par­ents, born af­ter 10 years of their mar­riage, was snuffed out so abruptly and cru­elly… and prayed to the court to award sever­est of the pun­ish­ments to the accused, un­der sec­tion 304 (A), 279, 336 and 337 of the IPC, so that it served as a de­ter­rent to the likes of him.

Hear­ing that, the shaken, old woman – Ak­bar’s mother – cried out loudly, “Please do not pu­n­ish my son, huzur! He is a good man. Th­ese small kids will be­come or­phans if my son is sent to jail. We will all die of hunger as he is the sole bread­win­ner of the fam­ily.”

“Or­der! Or­der!” cau­tioned the judge, hit­ting the ham­mer on the ta­ble, and or­dered the old woman to be sent out of the court hall.

Af­ter Ak­bar’s mother was taken out, the judge asked the accused if he had any­thing to sub­mit in the mat­ter.

Even be­fore Ak­bar could clear his throat, Lalitha stood up sud­denly and urged the judge to al­low her to speak first.

Learn­ing that she was the grief-stricken mother of the vic­tim of the ac­ci­dent, the judge obliged her, as a spe­cial case, and per­mit­ted her to go to the wit­ness box and to make her sub­mis­sions.

Lalitha walked to the wit­ness box slowly and said with a quiet voice, “Thank you, your hon­our. The accused was not re­spon­si­ble for the death of my lit­tle daugh­ter, as the pros­e­cu­tion has al­leged.”

There was ab­so­lute si­lence in the hall as ev­ery­one in­clud­ing the judge and the APP were taken aback at her state­ment. Even her hus­band, Yada­giri, was per­plexed at his wife’s un­ex­pected stance, with his mouth agape with awe.

“Could you elab­o­rate your state­ment, lady?” the judge asked Lalitha.

“Yes, your hon­our. On that fate­ful day, I was late to pick up my daugh­ter from the school bus at the place of oc­cur­rence. On see­ing me com­ing on the other side of the road, my daugh­ter ran across the road through the busy traf­fic. I tried to stop her in vain. She sud­denly ran across the road un­mind­ful of the ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic on both sides. On see­ing the child, ve­hi­cles on both sides stopped abruptly. The accused too ap­plied sud­den brake to his ve­hi­cle on notic­ing the child. Un­for­tu­nately the brakes failed. He tried to swerve the ve­hi­cle to avoid hit­ting the girl. But, as fate would have it, my daugh­ter her­self went and dashed against his au­torick­shaw, and came un­der its wheels. As a re­sult she was griev­ously in­jured and died on the spot,” nar­rated Lalitha dis­pas­sion­ately, to the stunned au­di­ence.

“There­fore, your hon­our, it was not the fault of the accused, and surely, he was not re­spon­si­ble for the death of my daugh­ter. That was the rea­son why he did not flee from the scene, as is the case usu­ally with those caus­ing ac­ci­dents. On the other hand, he showed a lot of con­cern for the in­jured child and tried to save her.”

Lalitha stopped for a mo­ment seem­ingly try­ing to com­pose her­self and con­tin­ued, “Your hon­our, I do not want an in­no­cent per­son to be pun­ished. That is why I have ven­tured to come be­fore you to humbly sub­mit the facts.”

The APP was quite stunned at the turn of the case. Not will­ing to lose it, he sought the per­mis­sion of the court to cross-ex­am­ine Lalitha. The judge ac­corded per­mis­sion.

Lalitha could bravely with­stand the ag­gres­sive cros­sex­am­i­na­tion by the APP, and an­swered all his queries calmly and to the sat­is­fac­tion of the judge.

Since the prin­ci­pal, di­rect wit­ness of the case – the vic­tim’s mother her­self – had ab­solved the accused of the guilt, the judge had no op­tion but to dis­miss the crim­i­nal case against Ak­bar, and or­der to set him free un­con­di­tion­ally.

As Lalitha walked out of the court hall, amidst the com­mo­tion, Noorun­nisa Begum ap­proached her with her chil­dren, and ex­pressed her grat­i­tude with folded hands and tears… Lalitha eyed her for a mo­ment, pressed her hand gen­tly and re­as­sur­ingly, and moved away. She could hear the bless­ings mum­bled by the old woman from be­hind.

The cou­ple walked silently to their car. Once they were inside the ve­hi­cle, Yada­giri con­fronted his wife in an ex­as­per­ated state of mind. “I fail to un­der­stand, Lalitha, how you could bail out that bloody fel­low who had killed our only child.”

Lalitha an­swered him calmly, “Sure, we have lost our beloved child. But can we get her back by pun­ish­ing the poor man? Or, will we be able to over­come our grief by send­ing him to jail? On the other hand, his fam­ily would be in the streets if he goes to jail. I could not with­stand the sight of the fam­ily – with his mother, wife and the small kids en­gulfed by worry, hunger, and fright be­sides in­se­cu­rity writ large on their faces. Fail­ure of the brakes of the ve­hi­cle due to sud­den ap­pli­ca­tion was cer­tainly not the fault of the man, who tried his best to avert the ac­ci­dent. If Nan­dini died, it was noth­ing but des­tiny. Our beloved’s death should not be a cause of the ru­in­ing of a poor fam­ily… That is why I gave that state­ment to the court.” She broke down.

Yada­giri was non­plussed. He could see the logic and sen­ti­ment in his wife’s think­ing. Whether it was right or wrong, a poor fam­ily with small kids should not be­come des­ti­tute on ac­count of Nan­dini.

He heaved a sigh. “I think you are right, Lalitha. It did not oc­cur to me at all. Hats off to your noble heart.” He said wip­ing her tears off, and em­braced her af­fec­tion­ately. We

As one grows older, one be­comes wiser and more fool­ish.

Ak­bar looked at his wife thought­fully… very fair, slim and tall, Noorun­nisa Begum was a beau­ti­ful woman. He fell for her beauty in­stantly, and it was love at first sight for him, when he saw her at a func­tion at some rel­a­tive’s house.

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