Saturday, 30 November 2013

Room Number Twenty ( 21/3/ 1976 )

Raman turned the pages of the magazine restlessly.He felt hot & stuffy in the room.He got up impatiently and pushed the windows wide open Then returned to his position on the bed.There was nothing but darkness outside.The darkness only succeeded in making him more restless.He went back to close & bolt the windows .The wrist watch showed the time to be 11.30 in the night..But he just could not sleep.Not after what he had heard that evening.he cursed the bloody room boy for not choosing the day time for such talk.But he could not remain like that the whole night.He had to get some sleep.The next day he was to make another tiring journey by train.His job demanded such horrible trips every now & then.At first it had been fun.But now the strain had begun to tell on his health.

His case was similar to that wicked room boy.But he had never dreamt of harming his organization. Moreover he was stuck with the company.he had no hope of getting a new job were he to get on the wrong side of his employers.He switched off the light and returned to the bed, his feet shaking all the while.He lay on the bed without breathing when his eyes caught sight of the ceiling fan which was performing its duty efficiently.He stared at the object for a few seconds and then turned away quickly to face the wall , a shiver running down his back.He closed his eyes tightly but he simply could not conquer sleep.He got off the bed and almost ran towards the switch board  to switch on the light. 

The next morning the person behind the counter was surprised to see Raman with his luggage all set to leave at six in the morning.He said"sir, you are leaving now? But you said you were catching the 11.15 train."
"No, no I have changed my mind,there are one or two persons I want to meet." said Raman hastily.
He immediately settled his accounts and made arrangements to get to the railway station. Raman felt pity for himself.If he had known a single person in the city, he would not have had to waste or rather suffer through five dragging hours. There was no question of spending one minute more in that room.therefore Raman sat gloomily with his luggage on a bench of the railway platform.

 As he sat there his mind went back to the occurrences of the previous day. Raman had checked in at the Star Hotel at about 3 in the afternoon.He had taken a bath & had dozed off for a while.At 6 PM with tea in hand, he was reading the evening news paper when that wretched room boy entered.
He said"You have chosen the wrong lodge sir.Do you know you have been cheated!" Raman looked at him completely taken aback and surprised.On seeing the expression on his face the boy, or rather young man, said "I would not have spoken like this two weeks back sir.But now,I am fed up! I am quitting this junk.They do not treat me well. They do not know my real worth.Do you know sir, that a fellow committed suicide in this very room? Hanged himself on this fan here.oh God what an odour was there!But I suffered through all that.Served these people for years & what do I get? Bad treatment-treatment one would not give a dog sir!I have worked here sincerely for years and yet I remain a room boy even after 10-15 years of service.You know sir? they gave an accountant's post to a fellow who came yesterday.He had no better qualification than me academically.His chief qualification was that he was related to the manager.They set aside a person like me with years of experience for an inexperienced scoundrel.And what did they get? They got what they deserved sir!The fellow left with about ten thousand Rupees and bought himself a respectable plot in some village.I can bear anything but not mistrust.Imagine sir,I have laboured for this firm for years and the proprietor does not trust me.I gave hints several times that the firm is being looted.But he simply refused to believe me..You know sir,a fellow drawing a meagre salary was equipping himself with foreign transistors! double knit pants and terelene shirts!Any fool would not have needed a better indication as to the honesty of the scoundrel.Finally,I personally showed the proprietor the fellow and his friends,lying heavily drunk in his room.It was only after this that the fellow was dismissed; but by then he had made enough.I have had enough of this junk house.I am quitting alright!, you bet I am quitting.There are people in this city who will pay me highly for my experience"

The fellow had then gone on to speak exhaustively of the suicide.He said that the person who committed suicide had been  from a small village in Andhra. He had been a very hefty & well built young man.In fact it had taken about five people to carry the dead body.The police officer who had come at about 10 in the night was not interested in working late.He preferred to lock the room & return in the morning.     By morning, a horrible odour had spread all over the place.It had been quite a job to get rid of the foul smell.The deceased had been a very strong man. He had at first taken an overdose of sleeping pills but it had no effect on him.Then he had consumed a bottle of  Tik 20(rat poison). This also did  nothing to the powerful body.He then self injected Tik 20 in to his body but it had also proved ineffective.It was as a last resort that he had hanged himself on the fan.The hanging body had been quite a sight.The toes of the deceased was almost touching the floor.

After relating all this, the room boy had got out of the room with a smile.While going down the steps, he thought that it would be nice to pay a visit to room number 4 also.When his conscience tried to protest, he said to himself "After all, these are not lies.Being a true Hindu I have always abided by the truth.I am only telling a fact.It is not as if I am committing a big crime."

An year later Raman got down at the Central railway station.He was feeling extremely tired.Automatically he asked to be taken to the "star hotel." In spite of that dreadful experience he had a soft corner for that place.The staff there could speak Hindi and make him feel at home. Of course he would avoid room no 20 like the plague.As he got down at the entrance, he was surprised to see the 'wretched'room boy running hastily towards him.In spite of his tall talk, he was very much there. He said "Sir, please do not tell anyone of our talk on that day.Not a word to other customers.We will lose our business.I spoke on that day more out of emotion than reason sir.I hope you will not cause me any harm..... by the way,I am now the bill writer here sir.I have been promoted on my good work."
Raman smiled lightly and walked over to the counter.He was informed that the only room available was room no 4.He accepted it immediately and followed the room boy with the baggage.So tired was he that he did not notice the bill writer trying to hide a grin that blossomed at the corners of his mouth. 

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