Satish was in his study room with his laptop and was trying to write a story involving a person without any money in his pocket. His protagonist, Prem Nath lost his family and his complete property in the floods that swept the entire village. The only survivor from the village, Prem Nath got some help from the government. But Prem had a setback not only on the financial side but on the emotional front also. After pulling on for the last four years, now Prem was completely broke. His unstable mind had deprived him of any job.
Satish wanted to describe the pathetic condition and emotional loneliness of Prem. He started typing. But his thought process was not progressing. He was not able to imagine the mental, emotional condition of a lonely person without a rupee in his pocket. Satish stretched his mind but nothing was working. He postponed his writing. After a couple of days, Satish tried again but without any luck. He was opening his laptop and closing it down without writing a single word. In such a state 15 days had passed. His future novel was stuck up at the initial characterization. He discussed with his wife Vidya. But he could not progress.
Very upset, Satish was scratching his brain. But ideas were not coming to his mind. All of a sudden, with a smile on his face, he called Vidya.
“I got an idea on how I would go through the actual experience of Prem Nath.”
“I will leave our house with just 100 rupees in my pocket. I will not take up any job pretending to be incapable of doing any work. That will let me enter the exact situation of Prem Nath’s, and will give me the idea of the state of my protagonist’s mind, to write something very realistic far away from imaginative ideas. I will be away in such a situation for 100 days. After 100 days, I will return. But till then I will not have any contact with you. I will not carry even my cell phone with me.”
“What nonsense! This appears very impractical to me.” Vidya protested.
“See, after my first novel, which has taken the literary world by storm, readers’ expectations about my next novel are very high. If it appears even slightly unrealistic, it will be rejected and my entire reputation will go to dust.”
“But what if you cannot tolerate this hardship? If you can not bear the situation? Do you promise, you will come back? Will you keep in touch with me daily and let me know your position?”
“How can I contact you? If I do, that means I am in a safe situation. Then the thought process will not be realistic.” Satish explained.
“I can understand your line of thinking. But I am very tense.” Vidya.
“See Vidya, for our next novel to be better than the earlier one, I cannot compromise on anything.”
“I agree. But..”
“Don’t worry. Let me jump into the well of experience. I will certainly come back as the winner. But the treasure I will bring back will be of enormous value.”
“Where will you go?” Vidya.
“I don’t know.”
“How will you write down your experience?”
“That will be such an experience that all my feelings, state of emotions will be stored permanently in my memory. After my return, I will put it down on the laptop.
But Vidya, no one else should know about my plan.
I will leave the house on 1st February and will be back on 12th May. “
On 1st February, Satish left the house with just 100 rupees in his pocket.
Vidya with a heavy heart bid him bye and wished him the best.
As the days were passing, Vidya was getting tenser and tenser. She used to stare at Satish’s mobile lying on the table. Whenever his friends called, Vidya used to pick up the call and answer it with a fake statement that ‘ he has gone on work and forgot his mobile in the house only’.
On 12th May morning, Vidya heard a knock on the door. She opened the door. She found Satish with wildly grown hair and beard, standing in the door. With utmost pleasure, she let out a shriek,” Satish…..”.
Satish entered. Vidya made tea for him immediately. She arranged for cleaning up help, a shaving set, bathing material, and a clean set of clothes. Very quickly Satish turned himself into a civilized man.
While having lunch, Satish shared all his experiences with Vidya. After relaxing for some time, Satish said, “Vidya, now my next mission starts. I will get myself locked into my study room. I will start writing my story. Please see to it that I do not get disturbed for 8-10 days.”
Satish entered the study room and opened up the laptop. His hands started typing out the story that was streaming from the treasure of a collection of experiences during the last 100 days.
Week after another week, passed in writing, rewriting and editing the story. Finally, when Satish was happy with the outcome, the story was submitted to the publisher. After all the necessary editing, it was published.
And the response from the readers was ineffable. Some 1000 copies were sold in just 15 days. The reprints were also in demand. Satish had reached the top of popularity.
Elated Satish was chased by publishers all over the world for yet another novel.
Satish’s thought engine started running rapidly. After a couple of months, another idea struck his mind.
He told Vidya, “I have really, got a fantastic idea. But I am not sure whether it would receive acceptance from my readers. I want to write about prisoners. Some of them committed minor crimes but they get jailed with seasoned criminals. Some have punishment for a few weeks whereas some are jailed for 5-10 years. I want to picturise the emotional conflict they get into.”
“Yes. That is very nice.”
“Let me start imagining the feelings of a minor criminal. Since here the offense and the punishment both are soft, my imagination can reach very close to reality. Let me start writing.”
Satish got absorbed into the new story of his new novel. He was writing tirelessly and reading it repeatedly, to judge the impact of the story. But even after 3 months, it did not come to Satish’s satisfaction. He was writing and rewriting. But the impact of the story was not coming as expected. He was getting upset.
Satish said,” Vidya, the story is okay but it does not have the necessary bite. It is not getting riveting.”
“Do you think so?” Vidya exclaimed.
” I am not at all happy with the main plot. It appears very thin.” said Satish.
“Can I suggest something? Consider the emotional state of a convict with a punishment of hanging till death. The day before the execution, his emotional state would be sensational. That can generate a lot of drama and extreme feelings. You can think over this subject.” Vidya said.
Satish jumped out of his seat. “Yes. That is fantastic. I could not agree with you more. Thank you, darling. I am thrilled.”
And Satish turned his focus on the new topic and started writing. Few weeks passed. He wrote many pages. But now he reached an unforeseen hurdle. The actual state of the criminal’s mind before the execution of the punishment could not be imagined. Satish was falling short of reaching the depth of emotional conflict between sentiments about his loved ones and the feelings of the family of the person who was murdered by him.
Satish wanted to experience the emotional turbulence in the mind of a convict who would be hanged the next day. Yes. He was very much convinced that for the novel to be very realistic, the author had to genuinely undergo through the situation. And that was how his previous novel “PENNILESS” touched the heart of the readers and it became a thundering success. Now also, to capture the interest of the readers, the words would flow out if and only if he experienced such a state. But how could it happen?
He discussed this matter with his wife Vidya.
“Oh! That does not seem to be that difficult. You know my schoolmate, Shashank, who is the jailor in the Shanti Nagar jail. We can talk to him about this.” Said Vidya.
“Great. Today only, you talk to him and fix a convenient time for meeting him as early as possible.” Satish was impatient about the meeting.
On the decided day, Satish and Vidya reached the jail. The security of the jail guided them to his house. A nice bungalow nearby the stone-walled jail was a paradoxical picture.
As soon as they entered, Shashank with his loud and clear voice welcomed them.
“What a great pleasure to see you both! Tell me what brings you here? ”
“Shashank, you know Satish is a writer.”
“Yes, of course! I have read his recent novel ‘PENNILESS’. That was wonderful”
“Now his new novel revolves around a convict who is sentenced to death. He needs your help in this regard.”
“Oh my God! But how a stone-hearted person like me, can help you in writing matters?”
“Shashank, jokes apart, Satish needs your help in to be in touch with a convict who is sentenced to death. He wants to know the exact state of mind of such a convict.”
“I can always do that. These days the punishment of hanging till death is very rare. But one or two of the jailed convicts do get hanged. The murder has to be cold-blooded. Then only they get such an extreme punishment. I will introduce one or two of the convicts to you. You talk to them and collect whatever information you want to pick up.”
“No, Shashank. By an interview, I will not get the true picture of his feelings. I want to be with the person for at least a few days, be friends with him and then I will get a chance to peep into his heart to feel the actual state of his mind.” Satish said.
“How is it possible?”
“Shashank, you are our best friend and you have the necessary authority. You can think of some solution. And as Vidya said, only you can help us out.” Satish pleaded.
“Okay. I will think over whether I can offer you any solution. Give me a week. I will check out all the possibilities within the framework of the law. We will meet this coming week.
Now let us talk about something else. Tell me how is your daughter, Archana? Is she in Texas or Boston?”
“Archana is fine. She is in Boston. Her daughter is growing up fast.”
“How old is the daughter now? Last year we had attended the birthday party when the family was in India. Six or Seven?”
“Yes. She is seven years now. Just yesterday we talked. I told her we will be meeting Jailor uncle soon. But she remembers you and Sunita very much. Sunita had prepared such a lovely pineapple cake for the birthday.
When is Sunita coming back from Puri? Is her brother’s marriage over?”
“No. The marriage is the day after tomorrow. I am flying tomorrow morning and will return a day after the marriage. Sunita will be there for one more week.”
“Ok. Shashank what would you have Vodka or whisky?”
“Nothing. I have to drive back.”
“A small ‘drink’ before the meal is always welcome is what you always say. Dinner will be served soon. So, a quick one.” Satish prepared the glasses.
After a nice dinner planned by the cook, and a very jovial evening, Satish and Vidya returned home.
“If Shashank can manage something and I get to be in touch with my protagonist, that will be great,” Satish said.
After four days, Satish received a call from Shashank. He had found some solution. He was coming to dinner that evening and would discuss the matter in detail.
The bell rang and Satish opened the door. Shashank was in, at the decided time. Vidya had readied the dinner.
With a glass of whisky in hand, Shashank took a position in front of Satish and Vidya.
Shashank started. “I had to think a lot about the situation. And this is the solution I have come out with.
Well Satish, you will be charged with a double murder and will be sentenced to hanging till death. You will be lodged in the same room where an actual convict is counting his last days. The date of your hanging will be a week after that of the convict. Do you agree with this idea?
After the hanging of the actual convict, 5-6 days later we will receive an acceptance of the pardon from higher authorities and you will be released. Is it okay?
Most importantly, this plan should not leak out to any other person. Only three of us should know about this scheme.
And I am sure, Satish will get an experience of life. And a more thrilling novel will come into existence.”
By this time they had finished the quota of their drink. After the sumptuous dinner, Shashank called his driver and left the house.
“Looks like a fantastic idea.” Satish was very happy.
“But I am scared. We are taking a big risk.” Vidya.
“What risk? Inside the jail, the convicts are not tortured. They get food and all the essentials. Don’t worry at all. I am thrilled.” Satish.
“But I am worried. If anything misfires?” Vidya.
“What can misfire? There is no chance that anything will go wrong.” Satish was excited about the plan.
The execution of the real convict was fixed one month away. Shashank asked Satish to go to him in two-three days. And the following day he would be put into the cell of the convict.
The day arrived. Satish bid bye to Vidya only to see her after a month.
Satish reached Shashank’s house. When he was taken to the cell, he was stripped of all the things on him. Even his mobile phone was taken away.
He was given the dress of the convict. Satish looked at himself. He had goosebumps. He was happy that Vidya did not see him in this dress.
While entering the cell, he was read out the charge sheet. “Mr. Satish committed cold-blooded double murder of a man and his wife. The court has given him the sentence of hanging till death which will be executed on 7th May 2001.”
Satish with a feeling of guilt of killing a person entered the cell. Poornaji Rao, the convict was there sitting on a stool. Satish was also given a small stool. The door to the unit was then locked.
“You come out to the mess at 12 when the bell rings for lunch. You will be given a chatai to sleep for the night. A bowl and a glass to drink water will be given to you along with a plate for your meal. Your plate will be cleaned by yourself after every meal. You will take a bath every day before 8 in the morning after which you will get breakfast. Any question?”
Without waiting for Satish to ask any question, the attendant left.
10-12 minutes nobody talked. After some time the other person opened his mouth. “I am Poorna Rao. What is your name?”
In a grim voice, Satish answered, “Satish.”
“What is your sentence?”
“On 7th May, direct up.” Saying this he waved his head indicating upwards.
“They are sending me up on 27th April.” Poorna Rao said.
“Double Murder. Two brothers were after me for my piece of land. For two years I tolerated it. But then I could not bear it any longer. They had come to my house to pressurise me to sell my land to them. I once again refused. They started quarreling with me. They were threatening me to quit the place or face the consequences. I got upset. Somebody threatening me, Poorna Rao. I picked up the sickle which was near to me. I charged up and straightway cut his throat. His brother picked up the sickle and charged towards me. I held his hand and twisted it. He dropped the sickle. I grabbed it and put straight onto his neck. He moved and blood oozed out. His throat was cut. He also died instantly. I did not run away from my house. After an hour, police came and arrested me. My wife and children were crying uncontrolled. I openly admitted my crime in front of the judge. The judge did not hesitate to hand over to me, my death sentence.”
“Are you feeling bad now? “ Satish asked.
“Yes. When I think of my family, parents I am. They are left without any support. I do not regret killing the brothers. But I feel irresponsible that I left my family on their own. I do not know how they will take care of themselves.”
Satish saw tears in Poorna Rao’s eyes.
Poorna Rao asked Satish about his crime.
“I am an Engineer. I was living happily with my two children and wife.
I murdered my neighbor who was also educated. But he was in the bad company of friends. He had taken a lot of, about a lakh of rupees loan from me. His wife used to complain about his ill-treatment to her. He had stolen all her jewelry and lost everything in gambling. Once his wife told my wife that her husband had threatened her if she did not hand over her mangalsutra, he would slit her throat and take it. My wife pleaded to me to prevent this atrocity. I went to their house. Her husband had a knife in his hand and he was charging towards her to get the last of her jewelry, the mangalsutra, which is the very holy ornament for ladies. I shouted at the person. He was in a horrible mood. He charged towards me saying this was their personal matter and I should go away. I refused to budge. I insisted he drop the knife. He shouted, “why are you interested in her? “
He looked at his wife and yelled, “ You prostitute. You must have had an affair with this man.” He stabbed his wife twice. She collapsed in a puddle of blood. He then turned over to me and attacked me with the knife. I was swift in ducking that but he fell in such a way that the open knife pierced his stomach and he died instantly. Two murders. And I was the only witness.
I informed the police. My wife was baffled. She was shocked.
In court, I was charged with a double murder, killing both husband and
wife. My pleading innocent did not have any proof. The judge sentenced me to death.”
With a grave face, Satish added,” They have booked me on 7th May”
Satish noticed that Poorna Rao had total sympathy with him, despite his own precarious position.
The bell rang and they had to go to the mess with their plate and bowl to have lunch.
Slowly, Satish realized Poorna Rao was not a hard-core culprit. Superficially, he was showing up to the world that he was a hardcore criminal and did not regret his action of killing. But from within, he was very soft and repenting his action of killing though the murdered persons deserved it.
They became good friends. Poorna Rao once said, “ Even though you are educated, you had to go through this ordeal. I am a born farmer. We put our sweat and blood to produce the paddy and some grains and we are happy. That is the way we farmers live. But any injustice or atrocity we can not tolerate. “
Slowly Satish and Poorna Rao became thick friends. Satish was getting exactly what he was searching for. Poorna Rao had let Satish enter his deeper feelings.
27th April was approaching very fast. Poorna Rao was getting upset thinking about the problems his family would have to face.
On 25th April news came that Shashank sir had gone on emergency leave as his father-in-law had expired. Manoj Dighe had taken over his place. But Satish was so much entangled with Poorna Rao, that this news did not mean anything to him.
On the 27th, Poorna Rao was woken up early. He was asked to finish his morning duties. After the bath, he was given fresh clothes to wear. At around 6 he was escorted to the hanging pole. Satish was very sad. His very close friend was being taken away from him. He had a very emotional hug and he could not control his sob.
Poorna Rao said, ” Don’t worry my friend. I will go up and book a place in heaven for you where we can share our feelings. Just a matter of few days.
We will meet soon.”
Heavy-heartedly, he departed.
Poorna Rao left this world. Satish was grieved.
“Take courage, Mr.Satish. Eight days more and you will also have to follow the same procedure. After all, you people are heartless. When you killed someone, your sensitivity had gone for a walk, Now when your turn comes, you are feeling sorry.” Manoj Dighe, the jailor remarked.
Before leaving, Manoj Dighe said,” Mr. Satish, 7th May is also very near. You also get ready for the departure.”
Satish was shocked to hear his statement. “ Sir, When is Shashank Sir coming back?”
“Why, is he going to free you? Mr. Satish, Shashank is out of the country. And he won’t be back for six months. So, forget about him. You won’t see him in this life.”
“Are you serious, sir?”
“Yes, of course. But look at destiny. An uneducated Poorna Rao got hung with the rope which will be used for an educated person like you. Education or no education. The animal instinct is the same in every person and they kill the other person. “
“Sir, can I speak to my wife?”
“Yes, why not. The last desire of the person who is going to leave this world is always fulfilled.”
“Can I give her a message? I want to see her urgently.”
“Satish, I will give her your message that you want to see her urgently.
But I find this word urgently, funny. Arrey, you are left with only a few days. Everything is very urgent. Only a few days. So, I will contact her immediately and give her your message. Okay?”
Satish was alarmed. This new jailor did not know the plan they had executed for his next novel to be realistic. Satish decided to tell Vidya to come here immediately. She would make the situation clear to Mr.Dighe.
In the evening, Dighe came for the visit. Satish was anxious about the status of the message. When Dighe came to his cell, Satish looked at him expectantly. Dighe said, “Satish, we could not get the line despite our trying several times. Don’t worry. Tomorrow, I will send the messenger with the message to Mrs. Satish. He will bring her along by evening.”
Dighe left the cell and asked the attendant to see if Satish wanted anything.
Satish was getting tense now. Why did Shashank have to leave the country now?
The next day, Dighe took a round in the jail only in the evening. When he came to Satish’s cell, he talked to the guard on duty and started leaving. Satish was annoyed that the word given by Dighe yesterday, did not bear any value. When he had promised that his man would bring Vidya, along with him, there is no information about it. He called out to Dighe sir.
“Sir, what happened? My wife did not come?”
Dighe turned back and came close to Satish’s cell. Slowly, he whispered, “ She is very busy these days. When she gets time, she said, she will try to see you.”
Satish was shocked. What would Vidya be busy with? What is more important than my life? Has she lost interest in me?”
Satish’s mind was getting occupied with some uneasy thoughts.
In the night, sleeping on the chatai, Satish’s mind was wandering covering some unwelcome thoughts.
“I am shocked with Vidya’s message that she would visit this place whenever she gets time. What must have happened? Her friend Shashank is also not to be seen. Could there be any link between these two happenings? Also, Dighe seems not to know our plan? Will he really hang me on 7th May? He is always referring to the last desires of the dying person. Am I really in the last days of my life?
Could that be the ploy between Shashank and Vidya, to get rid of me with this plan? Oh my God! Where am I stuck? In the morning I must try and tell Dighe sir about this plan. Deciding this course of action for the next day, Satish slept.
In the morning, the guard enquired whether Satish wanted any specific thing to be done? Any unfulfilled desire he was holding? In that case, the jail would try to satisfy those things.
Every staff passing by this cell had a very sympathetic look at Satish. Satish was getting disturbed by their pitying looks.
In the night, the watchman said, ”Don’t worry saheb. Everything will be alright.
You are so much educated. But still, you committed a murder. Everyone of the staff is perturbed that an educated, highly cultured person could murder, which has such an ultimate punishment. One wonders if God is there. Now sleep well saheb. Last few nights in this life.
Okay, Saheb. Sleep peacefully.”
Satish was getting upset with such remarks.
“So, this is the last period of my life. I should have spent my life a little differently. I should not have taken risks such as this. And this has brought the end of my life.”
Satish lost in such thoughts, went off to sleep.
The next day morning during his visit, Dighe came to Satish’s cell.
He tried his last effort. “Dighe Sir, I want to tell you something. With Shashank Sir, I had a plan to stay with a convict who would be hung soon. I wanted to feel the sentiments of the person who would leave this world just the next day. I wanted to know the state of their mind. So, Shashank sir created a false report and put me in jail. But unfortunately, he had to go on leave. And here I am stuck. So please believe me. I have not committed any murder. I wanted to write a story on the mental state of the person to be hanged.
Please, do not arrange to hang me.”
“But where is your wife? She also did not care about you.
I am sorry. But I have to follow instructions from the higher authorities. Be ready to leave this world the day after tomorrow.”
The next day Satish was given a sumptuous meal. But he was extremely disheartened. He recollected all his plans. They all are were doomed. His love for his wife was proved to be disastrous. One after another negative thoughts were taking charge of his mind.
‘How much I loved Vidya. Even if she was away for just a day, I would miss her so much. Every matter, we used to discuss. It was not that we used to agree on every point. But we saw to it that the other person was convinced. When I got a big cheque from the publisher, the first thing I did was that I bought gold bangles for her. Whenever my story was getting rejected, we both used to feel extremely sad. When I was ill and admitted to the hospital, she took care of me during my stay in the hospital, and after I returned home, for the following couple of months. We laughed together. We cried together. She was my better half, in a real sense.
But now, she has planned to get rid of me! Still, I will miss her in heaven.
And my daughter, Archana. How much I loved her. I wanted to dedicate my next novel to her, for her inspiration. That desire remained unfulfilled. And the son in law, and the sweet little granddaughter. I loved them too.
But all of them will now hate me for committing a murder. All the love and respect they had for me, will be reduced to nothing.
The entire society will look at me as a murderer. I will be condemned by everyone. I will be the topic of gossips. All relatives and my fast friends will distance themselves from me
No one, not even my loved ones will understand me. They will consider me as a murderer and will try to forget me completely. I am finished. Totally finished.’
In the morning, he was woken up early. After the bath, he was given new clothes. At 5:30 he was escorted to the place where he would be hanged. A black mask was put around his head. He could not see anything. He was then taken to the spot. The rope was tied around his neck. Satish was told to remember his most loved person. Satish heard some quick movement of people. Everything was dark. Countdown started. Three, Two. One.
And ….and … instead of rope around his neck getting tighter, the mask was taken off. And Satish saw Vidya, Shashank, Dighe and some other persons were in front of him.
Shashank came forward and said, ”Satish, this was a real-life experience for you. Now we want a wonderful novel from you which would be remembered and appreciated for a very long time.”
Satish, shocked and delighted, came down supported by Vidya.
After reaching home, Satish started writing the novel on the mental state of the convict.