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The beads of sweat dripping down his forehead were clearly visible. His heart was pounding faster at a speed even a Formula1 car racer will be shy of. The mobile slipped off his rough hands and he fumbled to control it.
Hello! Hello! – The voice at the other end was loud enough. The person at the other end kept yelling. After few minutes, with no response from the other side, the voice got faint, fainter and finally stopped.
But Aman’s mind was still racing down the memory lane.
It all started exactly twenty years before, when he was just a 5 year old innocent boy aspiring to become a postman. Yes, you heard it right – “A Postman”
Rampur was a backward village in a remote naxalite area. There was no medium of communication there other than the old postman who used to come every Friday to deliver the letters and also read it. Whenever his bicycle used to enter the village’s boundaries, villagers flocked around to listen to the latest happenings across the city and the state from him. The postman though barely knowing anything about the recent news took pride in it and always felt himself as the most knowledgeable one within those innocent, illiterate people.
Aman grew up seeing the postman and his importance, and always thought of becoming one like him. In pursuit of becoming like him, he often used to sketch his mustaches dark and bushy exactly like the one the old postman had.
He still remembered that day when he burnt his father’s shirt just to use the burnt ashes to make artificial mustaches.
“Stop, You scoundrel!” his father screamed and ran after him in the rage of anger, with his stick waving
Aman was running as fast as he could. Finally with no scope to escape, he gave up. And then he felt sliding down. He opened his eyes slowly only to find a small boy signaling him not to shout.
“Who are you? And where I am?” Aman whispered.
“Shhh…That monster could still find you” the boy replied.
“Excuse me! He is my father. Who are you?” He gazed at the boy’s face. Big, round, vibrant eyes and a thin body – vivacity was radiating from his entire body
“How selfish you are. You should thank me that I saved you”, the boy slowly lifted his head to see whether anyone is still there.
“It’s safe”, he announced after confirming no one is there
“By the way, I am Khurshid and You?”
“Thanks. I am Aman. I haven’t seen you before. Are you new to this place?” Aman asked
“Yes. I was staying with my maternal aunt after my mother’s death. Came here yesterday to assist my father in fields”, he said in a measured voice
“Don’t be sad” Aman extended his small arms for a handshake
Nineteen years passed. In these years their friendship only grew stronger and was a hallmark not only in the entire Rampur but also in the surrounding villages.
One chilly night, both were sitting outside Aman’s house in front of the fireplace.
“How is your father’s health now? Heard he vomited blood last night?” Aman asked with a concerned tone.
“He is fine as now, but needs proper medication. That will require a lot of money” Khurshid’s voice was broken
“Hmm… I am thinking we should go to the city. I have seen that rowdy Gangu who went to the city last year and see, now he has his house cemented. He is even planning to have a hand pump in front of his house.” Aman patted on his shoulders and said.
Next morning both were on the roof of the jam-packed bus on their way to the city
It was six months since they have come here and they were barely able to save 1000 rupees each
“Khurshid! I don’t think we will be able to save enough for your dad’s treatment very soon. I need to meet Gangu now” Aman said counting the notes and the coins
Next day Aman went to Gangu’s basti. He pushed the door open and saw few strange men sitting inside.
“Aman! Wait, I am coming outside” he said irritated
“Can’t you knock the door before entering inside?” Gangu was furious
“Gangu! Who are these people? You stay away from them. By the way, I came to ask how come you save a lot of money while I am barely able to save 1000 rupees in last six months. The rent, food, hafta, mobile bill, all this hardly leaves a scope for me to save” Aman said
“My friend’s dad is dying and we need enough money to save his life. Please help us” he pleaded
“See Aman, if you want to earn quick money I will show you the way. But promise me that you will not disclose this to any one else.” Gangu grinned and his paan soaked teeth sparkled.
He continued – “See on August 12 there is a huge celebration in Ramleela ground, on the occasion of Firensheep Day”
“Firensheep Day! What’s that?” Aman was curious
“On this day friends show their love and affection for each other” Gangu said
“But, do we need a special day to show that?” Aman asked still trying to comprehend what Gangu said
“I don’t know much about it. By the way I am saying that there will be more than 10,000 people in the ground that day. All you have to do is to place a bomb when we will tell you” Gangu peeled the beetle pieces off his teeth
“What! Bomb? Are you crazy?” Aman was shivering out of fear
“Yes bomb. What do you think, earning quick money is easy? This is the only way to earn quick money. You decide what you want – Khurshid’s father’s life or the lives of those 10,000 unknown people?” Gangu asked him
It did not take much time for Aman to decide.
“I will also show my love for my friend on this Firensheep Day. Tell me what I have to do?” Aman’s voice was affirmative and conclusive.
Gangu took him inside and explained the entire plan. Soon Aman was on his way back home with a hope to see his friend’s ailing father getting best treatment soon
12 August, Ramleela Ground – Aman quickly placed the bag in the middle and briskly walked out of the ground. His heart was pounding faster all the while. Suddenly he heard a loud thud behind. All he could see in the ground was heavy smoke and strewn bodies lying across. He paused for a while, and then quickly ran to Gangu’s house to collect his money.
“Now I will be able to save my friend’s father. Khurshid, my friend! Now is the time to repay all your favors” He was speaking to himself while passing through the narrow streets of Gangu’s basti.
“Well done Aman! Excellent work! Here is your money. Never tell anyone about this” He handed him 10,000 rupees
Aman was about to enter his basti when his mobile rang.
“Hi Aman. I am Dr. Khanna from JJ Hospital. From the Ramleela ground blasts, we received an unidentified dead body of a young boy wearing a red shirt. In his pocket there was a chit with your name and the number” We will request you to come here and identify the body
He came back to his senses, with the biggest friendship day gift for him
The sun was gradually fading. He kept walking frantically, occasionally wiping out his tears coming out from the core of his eyes, until his shadow finally got vanished in the darkness