People had crowded in front of a house. While going towards it Ganesh asked a villager who was walking along with him.
“Who knows… they say something has happened to Bhikya…”
Wasn’t Bhikya the provider of tents? …
No, it would not be him because the house belongs to someone else…
Tracing hurried steps Ganesh reached the house. Making his way through the crowd he entered it. Sitting on the platform in the front, Bhikya was screaming and shouting. His two hefty brothers were holding him from behind by his waist. But both were unable to control him. Ganesh asked a person who was standing nearby, “What happened?”
“Who knows… He is behaving like this right from the time he woke up in the morning… as if he has gone mad… if someone takes water to him he turns more wild…”
“This indicates that he is scared of water… means a mad dog must have bit him..” another one suggested.
Just then someone came carrying the Doctor’s bag. The Doctor followed him.
“Hey, move aside.. the Doctor has arrived, let him come in..” someone said making a way through the crowd. Doctor came in and stood beside Bhikya. He asked a few questions to his brothers and some other family members. Poor Bhikya’s wife and her five year old daughter seemed scared stiff. They had never seen Bhikya in such a state. His wife was wiping the saliva that drooled from her husband’s mouth with her pullo and the little daughter was crying saying” Baa… Baa”.
Just then the Sarpanch came in. He first sent out all those who were crowding in the house and making noise. Every word of the Sarpanch was highly respected. When others were trying to push and drive people out they were not caring for them. But just a word from Sarpanch and all quickly went out.
Now Patil also hurriedly came in. Even Patil sent some people here and some there. The Doctor took the eldest brother of Bhikya, the Sarpanch and the Patil aside. The Doctor also signalled Ganesh to come near.
This is the case of a mad dog’s bite…we call it hydrophobia” the Doctor said in a serious tone.
“When did a dog bite him?” Sarpanch asked Bhikya’s brother.
“Whose dog was it..” Patil asked Bhikya’s brother as if he would take care of whosoever the dog belonged to.
“No, the dog did not bite him… In the night, because of heat, he laid his cot on the road and slept… when a hoard of dogs quarrelled among themselves. When four or five dogs jumped over him, one dog’s nail scratched him” Bhikya’s brother told.
How are you sure that it was a nail that scratched him? It could also be his tooth”.
The brother did not say anything.
“What now?.... Fool, shouldn’t he take an injection right then” a respectable villager bemoaned.
“I told him… but he did not listen…”
All became serious and began to look into each other’s faces.
“Why don’t you give him the injection now?”
“Now, the time is gone…It would be of no use now” the Doctor said patting his shoulder and trying to console him.
“How do you say this, Doctor. Let us take him to the taluka,” his brother insisted.”
“If that is to be done…of what use is our jeep… Hey Kisna..go.. ask our driver to bring the jeep,” Patil said interrupting them.
“It would be of no use,” the Doctor said giving up hopes.
His brother was about to burst into crying.
“You are the eldest in the family…pull yourself,” Sarpanch kept his hand on his shoulder and said.
Hiding his tears he quickly went inside the house.
Seeing the hapless condition of his wife and child Ganesh felt sad. The Doctor kept his bag in a corner and waited patiently.. for Bhikya to die. What else could he do… Sarpanch asked one of the women to take away Bhikya’s wife and child. But they were not prepared to move away from the place. Then Sarpanch asked Bhikya’s wife to at least take the child away from the scene.
Just then Bhikya’s brother, who had gone in, came out hurriedly. Wiping his eyes he asked, “How much time does he have?”
“Not much” the Doctor said.
Suddenly the brother thought something and he began to hurriedly to go out of the house.
“Where are you going,” Sarpanch asked.
“I’ll come..I’ll just go and come,” he said and walked out of the house.
Again some villagers entered the house making it crowded. Patil made them get out. Bhikya’s mother had succeeded in removing Bhikya’s child from the scene. But his wife was not prepared to leave her husband’s side.
Ganesh was discussing something with the Doctor when suddenly loud wails and cries arose. Ganesh turned and looked at Bhikya. His neck had fallen to one side in his wife’s embrace. His soul had passed away.
Now the crowd, without caring for anyone, began to rush into the house. To give people a chance to have a last look at Bhikya, the Doctor and Ganesh began to come out. On the way they saw Bhikya’s brother. With a tearful face he was hurrying home. Along with him was the village doctor Vaidu. Perhaps he had tried to glimpse his last ray of hope in the form of Vaidu.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote