There was an unusual gleam in his eyes. He stared back at the dark,never ending gully that splits into many ,once you get into the maze. The dilapidated park, close to the slum, has been taken over by skeleton-like children, who are oblivious to the evil, derogatory stares of the society.
He watched them,sitting on one of the park benches, searching for food in the dustbins and assured himself that he was still in a better condition.He was in an unknown place.He had gone into slumber in the bus, while returning home. It had been a restless day for him-looking for news across the city that could make him money. All in vain.
He found his way back into the slum lanes.After few minutes of walking, he stopped dead in his tracks as he noticed the bruised hand, belonging to the raped, mutilated body of a woman, left alone in a corner. Recovering himself,he took out his phone to take a picture of the victim, as evidence, and to report the crime at his news office.
Just as he was about to click the button, he heard a cold voice from behind. "What are you doing with my mother?" Rakesh turned around to find a boy, not more than twelve or thirteen, staring hard at him. He had cut marks on his face and limbs. The boy looked at his mother for once and ran back into his small hut. Rakesh, waking from a nightmare, followed the boy in.
"Why did you do this to my mother?" "I didn't" he stammered. "If you saw everything, why didn't you call for help?" Silence. "Come with me. I'll take you to my home. Your responsibility is mine." These words came out of his mouth like an antidote to the virus that had been inside him till then. "Come."
After few minutes, the boy simply muttered, "I want education." Rakesh extended his hand. Without taking it, the boy walked out. They went to the nearest police station, instead of the news office, and reported of the crime. They assisted the police for the next couple of hours.
By the time they were relieved, it was one in the morning. As the boy crossed the dilapidated park, moving out of slum life, he glanced back once.His face reflected a motive Rakesh was unaware of. Rakesh's parents had called multiple times. When he finally called back, one look at the boy made him blurt out,"I am not coming back home tonight."
His parents had forced him into journalism ignoring his passion for photography. He knew he had to work harder now to afford the boy. "Hungry?I will get you some food." Rakesh bought the boy dal roti from the nearest "dhaba". They sat by the river, in silence, staring at the placid, moon blanched, flowing river. "I am sorry,"said Rakesh,after sometime.
"Hurry up Aarush!" Rakesh shouted. It has been six years since that night. Aarush has won the first prize in the inter-college painting competition. Rakesh has adopted the boy. "Aarush!" They live in a flat. His parents did not allow the dark-skinned, not-of-their-class boy to live in their house.
Aarush finally comes out of his room. "I wont let you go in such ordinary clothes,Aarush." "Well, my painting is more significant than my attire I guess." He hugs his father and whispers "thanks" in his ears. The smile on his face does not let his father know that his pillow cover was soaked in tears a few moments back....
"And the first prize goes to Aarush Dubey!!!!" As the audience erupts in applause, Aarush walks up to the stage and recieves the prize. Rakesh is proud and exuberant for his son's success. He's been able to make up for the loss, somewhat. His painting is a bit controversial but "considering his past", the judges paid no heed to others' objections.
It shows the bruised,bleeding body of a naked woman,gasping for breath while being pushed towards death.Some of the men,present in the auditorium, cannot help but stare at her,getting turned on. Some of the women whisper among each other,"He should have blurred the intimate parts."
The woman lies on the same street, same corner, where Rakesh had witnessed the crime.Instead of the painter's signature, it bore the writing-"He was there".
If a DNA test was conducted to test him, the world could know that he was indeed there. On that night, he had ended up in one of the most gloomiest parts of the city by chance but by luck. Urged by his passion for photography,he lingered around in search of good material to capture.As he moved deeper into the maze of straw huts and garbage, the place became more isolated.
Suddenly, he heard a woman screaming and ran towards the source of the sound.From a distance, he could see the beasts raping her. He stood. Stood. Stood. For news to develop. To feed his stomach. He let her die. He did not rape. But he RAPED. What he did not notice was a boy, lying a distance away from them, CONSCIOUS.
Rakesh is brought back to reality by congratulatory voices around him. His legs shake as he walks up to the painting and looks carefully into it. He sees a black, unrecognizable figure of man coming into shape,in the distant dark. The figure is staring at the woman. No! He is staring at himself, from the painting.
"Mr.Dubey? Mr.Dubey?Are you okay?" "Where is Aarush?"he asked in a low,shaky voice. "That's my question! I thought he went back to you after receiving the prize."