When the sun set
By Manju chaudhuri
Making up my mind about my last summer holiday destination in India was a difficult one. When I was still undecided about it my thirteen year old daughter Keya said, ‘Mum, can we go to somewhere nice and cool in India? It’s too hot in Kolkata at this time of the year!’
‘Oh darling, you saved my life, what a relief!’ I grabbed her idea immediately.
We’ll go to Nainital, a north Indian hilly town on the Himalayas. It’s beautiful and the weather is always pleasant.’ I said.
‘Have you been there before?’ Keya asked.
‘No, but I heard from people who’d been.’
Keya was over excited. We started to get ready, two weeks later we flew off first to Kolkata. A week later we made our journey to Nainital by train. My newly married niece Bela and her husband Dilip also joined us.
After one and a half day’s journey I really felt exhausted. So next day when my niece and her husband went out with Keya to explore around I decided to stay in bed as long as I wished. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was nearly five o’ clock, it was foggy, cold and very dark outside. When I realised that they’re not back yet I felt a bit apprehensive. So I decided to go out and look for them.
I couldn't’t see them nearby the hotel, so I walked towards a narrow lane leading to the hill. As darkness and fog were covering the surrounding I hurried along as quick as I could in the dark. On both sides of that narrow road were dense woods, I suddenly found myself alone in the middle of the hill. There was nobody that I could ask about them. All bad things that might happen to them started to emerge in my mind. I became restless. It was not only dark and foggy but also extremely quiet. I could only hear some birds flying over my head. Occasionally I could hear some creaky noise nearby. I started to sweat, my throat became dry. I needed a drink that moment. But where could I get a drink? That silence around me and everywhere on the hill was as if suffocating me. I walked a little further to my left and discovered another road going to the right. I decided to go along that road but only to find myself lost on the hill in darkness. I felt crying that moment.
‘What can I do now? How can I go back to the hotel? A bad omen started to work on me.’ I thought. I was sure of that that very moment. I walked straight slowly until I came to a spot where I could see a bit of sky above from. Suddenly something much unexpected at that time and the place drew my attention. I was walking up the hill when I saw a figure standing at the edge of the cliff. I couldn't’t see him clearly from where I was, it was then dark as pitch black where the woods were thick. so I walked closer towards him. The spot where I was standing on that moment was an open place, and by then the stars gave a little light so I could see clearly. A young white man in his thirties wearing his casual clothes is standing there. I couldn't’t believe my eyes. What a scene am I witnessing!
‘What is he doing here? He doesn’t look like an explorer to me, especially at this time of night and at that deadly point of the cliff?’ I murmured to myself.
A strange feeling engulfed my whole existence. ‘Is he thinking of committing suicide?’ As soon as I thought about it I felt numb.
No, no, it can’t be. I tried to reassure myself, but in vain.
An unbroken stillness lay over the surrounding, a silence so intense that I could hear my heart pounding, my palms began to sweat even it was cold; I felt my scalp prickled, and I could see my hair on my both arms stood straight up. I wanted to rush to him, but my feet were as if glued onto the ground. I couldn't’t move. I stopped where I stood and stood still, staring at him. He didn’t move. There he stood, just looking at me.
I understood it wouldn’t be wise to try to go around him. He’d probably do that terrible thing I dreaded earlier. So I decided to speak to him instead.
‘Excuse me, can you hear me?’ I said in a soft voice.
He just stared at me without a word. His eyes seemed to me just blank, without any expression. He was motionless.
‘Can he hear me, or is he pretending to be not hearing?’ I wondered.
I tried to move a bit closer to him. So I said, ‘Don’t be afraid of me, I’m only a friend, you see. I would only like to help you.’
I was by then more closer to him while speaking. Now I could see him very clearly. I looked at him; he was bleeding from his forehead. I noticed his shirt as soaked with blood.
‘How did it happen? Has anyone hurt you? I asked him eagerly.
His eyes were wide open with no expression, no emotion. A strange sound came out of his mouth which didn’t give me enough clues to figure out about the reason. He was still staring at me.
‘Does he want to say something but can’t? I felt so overwhelmed by the situation!
‘Hello, don’t go so near to the edge, it’s dangerous, come on here, please. I pleaded.
He looked at me; a little smile appeared at the corner of his lips for a moment and then disappeared quickly. Before I realised anything that unexpected event has already taken its course. I just heard a thumping sound and he was no longer there at the scene. I looked down; he lay at the bottom of the cliff motionless. I stood there still and speechless at the same time.
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