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  • Sahjahan Ali Ahmed

The homeless man

The sun was setting in the western horizon .

Birds were flocking back to their nests.

At some distance , a boat was seen sailing across the river ; perhaps it was carrying passengers to the other bank of the river. I sat on the bank, enjoying the beauty of the nature.

Suddenly, I noticed an old man in tattered clothes approaching the river . Perhaps he was a beggar. After begging the whole day he arrived there . He had hardly any belongings with him . He collected some dry grass , flattened them on the ground and put a sheet of old cloth over them . He then brought out a soiled old blanked from his bag and covering his body sat there starring at the fast flowing river. A cool breeze was blowing .

Suddenly I felt pity for the man . My inquisitive mind wanted to know more about him . So silently I approached him and sat beside him . He hardly noticed . His face was covered with beard . Eyes sunk as if in pits. His whole body looked like a bundle of skeletons .

" Uncle " with utmost compassionate voice I asked ," What are you doing here ? The sun is setting , won't you go home ?"

"Home ?" he questioned me back .

"Yes" I reiterated .

"I have no home " he simply replied .

I grew more interested to know about him and persuaded him to tell if he really had no home and then where did he stay.

After long silence, he began to say pointing to the middle of the river , " There , there in the middle of this river we had our green village with everything we needed - paddy fields , temple, school and many other rich heritages. I had my home there. With my wife and only daughter we lived there happily. I also had three acres of firtle land . We hardly needed to buy food grains from market . But it seemed as if god grew jealous of our too much happiness . Unfortunately this fast flowing river turned violent and began to erode its bank .

Within a few months the whole village was eroded , its temple , school and all other age old institutions were shifted . All the villagers dispersed . With them ,we also shifted to the nearby reserved forest . But forest officials too were merciless . Hardly our lives began to limp back to normalcy , when they came one day and evicted our thatched huts . They branded us as land grabbers.

This time we had no where to go. Our best efforts failed to convince the govt . to get allotment of land anywhere. We wandered here and there for some days . Soon my daughter fell sick . I couldn't take her to town hospital. Her health deteriorated and soon she passed away." The man began to sob now.

He rubbed his eyes and continued. " The death of my daughter was a bolt from the blue for us . Her death completely broke down my wife . Soon she too fell sick and succumbed to death." Tears rolled down his cheeks like two rivulets . Something choked his throat. I was bewildered and could hardly believe my ears.

Somehow he controlled himself and ended his story saying , " I lost charm of living. Since then I loiter here and there begging and in the evening come here and stay on the bank of this merciless river that swallowed my home many years ago."

By the time he finished his poignant story, it was completely dark. His story pierced my heart. My eyes moistened with tears. I lost words to console him.

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