Previous Episode: A Letter To My Grandpa
We had a zamindari system in India where the aristocrats held enormous tracts of the land and held control over peasant. They were considered to be equivalent to lords and barons. Over time, they took royal titles such as Naidu in our locality. There was no clear distinction between royal zamindars and merely aristocratic zamindars. Many kings were former zamindars, conversely many new zamindars were old kings. In short, there was always a debate about who is a king and who is a zamindar. As years passed, all these royal bodies further divided into small independent families though they lost all the royal benefits due to the government’s act against the royal ruling. However, they continued their royal lifestyle. Some of these royal families maintained their fame irrespective to their importance, and the rest faded with the time. Our village’s zamindar belongs to one of those royal zamindari families category who managed to lead a successful life financially.
He was a tall, well-built, middle-aged and attractive man. He was very particular about his appearance and wanted to look his best. This was characterised by things such as mafia hair style, wearing white or creamy linen clothes, a thick gold chain with a royal locket on his neck, multiple rings on his fingers chipped with valuable stones, wearing a golden bracelet on one wrist and an expensive watch on another to name just a few. He would wear a perfume that would leave the fragrance in the streets as a sign of his visit. The villagers provided a lot of door delivery services to his family such as – farmers would bring the vegetables and get their payments done right there at their home, the tailor would visit to take measurements and deliver the clothes once they were ready. He was the only person who owned a scooter and a Premier Padmini car in the surrounding villages. It took me by surprise when I learnt about his interests. For example, on one hand he took pleasure in having the meat of wild boar, monitor lizard and various birds. The hunters from our nearby villages would visit him expecting a good deal for their catch. On the other hand he showed his love towards the animals by petting rabbits and keeping peacocks in his home garden. To support his lifestyle he had to use three servants to work in his home though his family was small.
Villagers respected and obeyed him not only for his richness but also for his kindness. There were stories of his generosity. A major donation he made was an allotment of most valuable land within the village for a school which went up to tenth grade with a huge play ground. In addition, villagers would approach him out of respect to resolve the issues they had when the panchayat committee failed in solving. There were no such instances where the cases went beyond his judgement. The other rich families within the village were jealous of his popularity.
He would go for a drive frequently and return in a couple of days. As a practice he went out in his car but he returned walking after a week in an early morning. On that occasion, the onlookers described that he appeared to be in hurry and walked at steady pace that seemed in contrast to his royal style. His clothes were stained with blood which grabbed the attention of farmers who were on their way to fields. The crowd stared at him while he walked to his home without making eye contact. In a few hours the gossip spread in the locality about his involvement in a crime though no one knew what went wrong. As a consequence, he didn’t come out from his home for the next few days. After a couple of days an unidentified woman in her thirties was found in the canal brutally stabbed to death. A major daily published that horrific murder news in the local edition. The villagers closely followed the further developments with the case as they hadn’t seen such killing in recent years. Aligned with this, cops visited our neighbourhood. They went straight to his home without any enquiries. The villagers feared his involvement in the crime as they witnessed him on the other day but didn’t dare to see or talk to cops in person.
Once a quiet and peaceful locality the village had to face multiple visits of police and other law enforcement professionals in the subsequent months. It appears he was guilty but managed to avoid a jail sentence. On the whole, he continued his habitual drives in his blue luxurious car which got serviced and delivered to him after the suspicious event. It shined as if it was newly bought while he drove off from his sumptuous home.
That incident made me to change my perception of beauty and I learnt there is nothing to admire in outer appearance. After all name and fame lasts until a day one’s true self is revealed. But to my surprise people forgot the stuff. Strangely enough they continued to bow and greet him in a traditional way whenever he visited the streets as if nothing was happened. Apart from this, the cause of the woman’s death remained as a mystery to many and they told stories about what they believed. To be more precise, that one incident wiped off the reputation he got through the charity he did for the village’s welfare. Each time I saw him passing by I would feel a cold wave that made me feel chills. I felt it was unfair to let him remain unpunished that it was an arguable injustice to that woman.
Next Episode: And The Winner Is..