Act of God

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The school bell-ringer announced nine o’clock morning like any other day by hitting
the metal disc bell -bong-bong with his heavy gavel. Before the ding completely attenuated in the
air, a brick laden truck collided with a bus at the tri-junction just in front of the school gate and banged against the school boundary wall  with an ear-splitting sound, rendering all activities to a halt.  

People from all around scrambled, leaving their works. Pitiful wails and grief
filled the air. Everybody joined hand to rescue the injured and evacuating them to the hospitals.

Aalok, a student of class nine of that school died on his way to the hospital. Omar,
under aged learner driver of the killer truck also got badly injured and his life was
saved by severing his two legs from beneath his knees.
Omar wouldn’t have been caught, had he not lost his legs. Because he has heard
a lot of stories from his master driver where the latter escaped after such accident. He had a bad stroke of luck; firstly, he lost his legs and secondly, he is
produced in the court for man slaughtering.
His poor widow mother begged, lamented and somehow managed to hire a lawyer
with the assistance from Amnesty International to plead for his only son.

Middle aged Joy is the driver of the victim bus. That was the first return trip
of that day. He commutes his vintage bus between the district and sub-district town
of about twenty km distance. He starts at seven in the morning from district town and
reach sub-district town by half an hour. Having halted for another half hour he starts back
for district town at eight o’clock and reach back to district town by eight thirty.
He runs four round trips in the whole day.

Aalok lives about five km from the city by the side of road connecting district with the sub-district town. His school starts at nine o’clock in the morning and he
normally goes to the school by that bus and reach his school roughly around eight
thirty, i.e. well before the school time.
That day Aalok was following the same routine, so was the bus. But bad luck that a
tire got punctured just before entering the city. Driver, conductor and the helper all
started working hard to change the tire.
A sense of annoyance overtook Aalok but he sat helpless having no other
alternative.
-That was almost eight thirty and he was supposed to be in his school by that time.
Others must have reached. He thought. But he was totally undone. Normally most of
the days, he gossiped away the time with his friends but that day he had some home work
to be done. He could not reconcile a simplification math and thought of doing that in
consultation with his friends before class starts.
-Though his bus halted for a justified reason but clock is ticking regardless. Aalok
thought.

Around the same time, Omar, same age of Aalok, learner driver of the killer truck was
waiting with brick loaded truck for his master driver to come. He was also overtaken
by annoyance for a long and unwarranted delay of his driver.
Early in the morning, the master driver parked the truck inside the brick field for loading 
as per delivery schedule and left with a promise to come back in half an hour.
Loading was done much before but driver did not turn up yet.
Brick Field is located on the outskirt of the district town. Truck belongs to the owner
of the Brick Field and used for delivering the bricks to the customer on specified site
as per delivery order.
That was almost eight thirty and time for second trip was almost due. But no trace of
driver.
Omar knows little bit of driving. He does the petty driving chores like turning or
placing the truck inside the Brick Field. In few occasions he drove the
truck inside the city while master driver sat beside him.

-You have to have guts and take little bit of risk to become a full driver, Omar. You
drive pretty well while I sit beside you. When you are able to drive alone only then
you can be called a driver. Master driver used to tell such encouraging words to
Omar.
-Then, taking advantage of good mood of our proprietor, I’ll broach the subject and
get you a driving license. It’s just matter of few years that I go for inter district
driving, leaving this truck to you. Master driver patted Omar while talking like this.
Omar smirks as the driver tells such encouraging words. He dreams of becoming a
good driver one day. Then he would also drive truck on inter district roads.

Omar was thinking while awaiting the arrival of his master driver.
It’s pretty late and driver did not turn up. Brick Field labors also started goading him
for such delay. Manager came and informed that the client rang a number of times to
know the reason for such delay. He wanted to know as to what excuse he would
give to the client.
They run five to six trip per day to deliver bricks to a govt. hospital project. The site
is not that far, about half an hour drive. Omar has known the route by that time.
Omar was thinking- what to do now.
-Won’t you be able drive the trip Omar?
Omar looked at Manager as he asked him to do the job. He saw Manager was
smiling.
-Perhaps Omar does not know how to drive or he is timid. Manager must be
thinking like this. Omar thought looking at Manager.
Omar hesitated a bit.

-Why not, I drove many a times earlier. Omar gulped and said with an effort of
showing off his mettle.
-But what I’m thinking …. Omar hesitated.
– I understand, you don’t have license. Manager smirked.
-It’s a drive for fifteen minutes barely, is license very important or you don’t dare.
Manager smirked again.
-It’s okay then, I rather tell our proprietor about the absence of the driver.

-If Manager gives the report, the proprietor would definitely be unhappy on the
driver, that’s not he wants. If he takes some risk to drive the trip then his boss i.e.
master driver would be safe and definitely he would be happy on Omar. He was
thinking as the Manager was about to leave.
-Okay Sir, I’ll drive, no problem.
Manager turned back and smiled.
-You would be a full driver soon, you are a brave guy, I assure. Manager applauded
his guts.

Omar started the truck as the labors boarded on.
As he went near the exit gate, he felt repeated slaps on driver’s door by some of the
on truck labor. He was asked to halt. Omar stopped the truck. He was informed that
the master driver rang office telephone and waiting on line to talk to Omar.
Omar switched off and went to gate office to receive the call of Driver.

Daughter of driver is very sick and she had to be taken to the hospital on emergency
basis. Driver also informed that he would drop his daughter home and then report as
soon as possible. Driver was very happy learning that Omar started with the
delivery.
-You would be a good driver soon, son. You know the route, just be a bit careful at
the tri-junction in front of the school. Driver advised him.

Omar started the truck seeking blessing from God. The route is not that busy less the
tri-junction. Traffic light is there, he has to drive slow and remain cautious. He
assured himself.
Omar saw the traffic light from a safe distance. Blue light was glowing. He thought
himself lucky.
He increased the speed a bit to get across the junction in blue light. But the light
turned yellow as he was about ten yards from the crossing. He got in a fix and could
neither applied brake hard nor increased the speed further as the truck was old and
loaded.
His loaded truck banged on belly of the school bus as it started crossing the junction.
The truck pushed the bus and dashed against the school wall.

-My Lord! The killer driver has lost both of his legs, those had to be amputated
from below his knees. He is a poor boy who can only survive through physical labor and
now he is physically handicapped totally. He is the only hope of his widow
mother. His mother runs their family of three children with the meagre income that
she earns from doing household chores and very nominal income of Omar.
-My Lord, in true sense they can’t afford their bare minimum expenses. But they
used to dream that their travails would come to an end once Omar becomes a full
driver. When her two under aged children does not sleep with hungry body their
mother use to lull them to sleep with the bright prospect of their brother becoming
an earning member. Omar was preparing himself to take the burden of the whole
family and now Omar is unable to stand on his feet. What a mockery fate is playing
with them, My Lord.
-My Lord, even if Omar is spared from your punishment even then his widow
mother does not really know, how she would run her family?

A subtle rumbling was heard in the court room. Judge banged the table with his
gavel and silenced them.
-My Lord, Aalok is dead and the air over his family is still heavy with the wailing.
-Bus driver Joy and few of his friends mortgaged all their properties and bought the
old bus and used to dream of a bright future for their family. Joy somehow saved
himself but he failed to save his bus. They also don’t have the financial capability to
repair the bus and put it back to business. They don’t have any financial capacity to
restart the business and they even don’t know how they will repay their loan.

Veteran lawyer with gray beard and hair in his black gown paused. Silence reigned
over the court room.

-My Lord, I have finished pleading for my client. I am a paid lawyer but today I
talked my conscience. Whatever verdict your honor gives as per existing law
they will accept without any reservation. They don’t have any more ability to appeal
in the higher court.

The lawyer went back to his designated place, put off his black gown and strolled to
Omar sitting in the dock. He looked totally helpless and took a close look at Omar.
Then he turned towards the Judge with his hands pressed together with palms touching and slight bow. Tears rolled down his
cheeks. He looked puzzled and exhausted totally a foil over the confident pleading
lawyer which he appeared few minutes back.

-My Lord, I could not find out answer of few questions which came up in my mind
during investigating the case. If you permit I can broach those standing here.
Judge was a bit surprised of such informal behavior of a lawyer.
Lawyer started his submission taking reticence of judge to be his consent.

-My Lord, accident took place at nine in the morning. Every day the bus reach the
city well before nine. But tire got puncture on that day!
-My Lord, daughter of the original driver of the killer truck fell sick on that fateful
date!
Lawyer paused a bit.
-My Lord, the driver called Omar at the very time he was crossing the brick field
gate and caused some delay!
-My Lord, both the vehicles involved in the accident reached the spot of accident
well after their schedule as against their will. The fine tuning of reaching both the
vehicles at that particular spot was done by none of the drivers. Is it possible to fine
tune such a coincidence on the part of Omar or Joy?

Pin drop silence took over the court room.
-Then who did such a meticulous fine tuning? My Lord. Whose act is this?
Lawyer took off his powerful lensed glass, rubbed with the corner of his gown, put
it on again and looked at the eyes of the judge.
-My Lord, Omar is criminal in the eyes of law. He lost both of his legs for ever.
Dream of his widow mother has been shattered into pieces. Dream has also been
shattered for bus driver. Aalok, a promising boy is wasted for nothing.

-My Lord, are these punishment or something else?
Uninterrupted silence reigned over the court.

Category: English, Short Story

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