I am leaving CET in a week. This is something I wanted to post around 8 months ago…
This is a post that has been pending for sometime. Many a time I started typing the words that I hoped would in some measure put my feelings into words. But, everytime, I failed. This is an attempt, futile maybe, to bring closure.
Death is something that happens in everyone’s life. Whether it is the end or beginning of something is debatable.
But, murder…. Murder is different. Murder is despicable… Murder is also something that shouldn’t happen to someone you know.
On 13th October, 2005, my classmate went missing. It was around the holidays and nobody really knew about it. The next day, we had our seminars, and all of the seventh semester, Applied Electronics were busy in eking out just those extra five marks from their talks.
Maybe we were too engrossed in our own lives to notice the absence of someone we took for granted in our class, maybe we were guilty of paying too less attention. Maybe, we were just too human….
The next week, it casually dropped into conversation.
“Did you know Shyamal is missing?”
That’s when I remembered he hadn’t been coming for the labs. We were trying to figure out where he could have gone and when he’d gone missing. Conflicting stories came up. Some thought it was Friday and some were sure they’d seen him on Thursday. The girls were anxious, and the boys tried to reassure us.
“He’ll be back, he always is.”
The story found itself on Page 3 of Hindu everyday. The police had no idea. The police suspected extortion. The police were in Madras. The police were questioning students. Always the headline read, “Missing Engineering College student”.
Everyday, unwillingly, I pulled myself to read the newspaper, praying hard and wishing that one day the headline would read “Missing Engineering College Student found.”
This is when students come together.
We started discussing about what could be wrong. Where he could have gone. What could have happened. Hundreds of questions and hundreds of plausible answers and just an unspoken question in our minds, under the surface, “Are you as afraid as I am for him?”
Everyone was afraid and unable to voice what we actually felt.
Days passed in this fashion.
Everyday, I picked the newspaper. The media was sensationalising everything, and I hated myself for relying on what the papers were saying. I ought to have known him better. I ought to have taken the time…
So many maybes… so many what ifs….
When, suddenly, that was it.
I took the paper one day and turned automatically to the third page. There was a terse report of an unidentified body found near the By-Pass. I turned panicky. On reading, it said it was that of a 30 year old man. My mind quietened down and my prayers became more vehement.
That afternoon, I got a phone call.
“There’s bad news. Shyamal’s body has been found. He’s been murdered.”
I sat down. There was a knot in my stomach. I forced myself to read the report again, reading between the lines.
I remembered the shirt he was wearing that day, according to the report.
Unbidden thoughts flooded into my head.
All of us in workshop garb, doing carpentry, and sir asking if everyone understood Malayalam. Whereupon, everyone pointed to Shyamal, saying he was from the Andamans. The sir had to spend three weeks explaining everything in two languages.
Shyamal sitting down on the verandah, outside our Power Electronics lab, playing with his mobile phone.
All the boys bugging him to know what the hindi word for ‘cockroach’ was. The MHites asking him to fan them as they “so”ed (slept).
His quirky humour and his funny way of talking.
The way he (and all my other lab partners) filched my lab record and rough record to do their experiments.
Three years of opportunities when we could know him and couldn’t. Three years ago, his parents had sent him to our college to get a B.Tech degree. Never again would they see him. Never again would there be a chance for us to know him properly.
My prayers turned. I hoped he hadn’t suffered much in his passing and I prayed for the peace of his family.
I felt for those of my friends (and his) who had to go and identify one of our own.
I found I couldn’t bear to be alone. I got online and I stayed online for 3 days, talking nonsense.
Many times, I took up blogger’s home page to write an eulogy. But what could I say, other than:-
“He was my classmate, a gentle soul who never harmed a fly. This ought not have happened to him. We didn’t really know him. We wish we did.”
Then, we began hating the media. The truth of “news” and invasion of privacy had caught up with us.
Initially, it was in the turn of phrase, the slightly sarcastic way of saying “disappearance”, quotes included. Then it escalated, the front pages were splashed with his picture and those of his grieving parents. “Leads” were being followed. And everywhere we went, murmurs followed..
“Oh, so you are in CET. That boy…”
“He was my classmate…”
“Oh….” A long pause invariably followed. “What kind of boy was he?”
We hated the question and the answer equally. “We didn’t know him all that well.”
I gave up reading the paper for the next week. When we went back to college for our sessional exams, his pictures were put up on every wall, and I couldn’t bear to look at it without remembering him with the half smile on his face, which he invariably had.
He had been one of us. All of 21 years of age. His life was nipped in the bud. Murdered for no fault of his own. Senseless, violent murder for no reason at all.
In his life, an average engineering student, having fun in his own way. One of the faceless, nameless thousands who pass out of such colleges everyday. In death, he became a political statement and a media frenzy. And like all political statements, short-lived. For some days, there were placards around the Secretariat that said “Bring the perpetrators of the Shyamal murder to justice.” Those eventually disappeared too.
The Shyamal murder… Shyamal was a person to us, he wasn’t a statement. These two words are something none of us can reconcile with each other, try as we might.
This is my prayer, dear god, give his family the peace of mind they need and the strength to face the tempest ahead.