The curious case of the lost village — part 2



The curious case of the lost village? What were these pages? A manuscript? But they were hardly a few pages, maybe 20 or so. And what were they doing on her desk? She glanced through the first couple of pages looking for the author’s name and contact details. The sheets were bound by a single staple pin and soiled in patches like someone had dropped tea or some beverage on them. But she found no details, it looked like whoever sent these pages did so anonymously and didn’t want to be contacted.


The curious case of the lost village? Could it have any connection to what was happening today? Was it left behind for her to decipher some hidden clues or something of that sort. She was a huge fan of anything that involved the word detective. But this was not the time to play Poirot besides she had no bodies or suspects to investigate. She should head to the police station.


And when you thought about it, this wasn’t a village, far from it. Away from the maddening pace of Mumbai yet wonderfully connected to the city of dreams, it was the kind of place you settled into after the adrenaline rush seeped away. But something told her she needed to read these pages, she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. It was the same thing that told you to choose a job or not, to trust a friend or not, to fall for a guy or not.


She put the papers in her bag and made her way home.


***************



She had no idea how she got home. It was only when she reached the house door did she stop. Her feet had automatically carried her over the familiar roads even as her eyes saw nothing in particular owing to many thoughts running in her head. Now she opened the door and sat down on her bed with the pages in her hand.


The Curious Case of the Lost Village


This is a recollection of what happened on that ill-fated day and life afterwards. The story is entirely as per my perspective as there is no one else left who can recount or explain why a small village was lost forever. It is not an fictional account just an attempt to honour the place and the people that were once as real as you and me.

Kasba was a small village near the outskirts of Nagpur. Around 2,000 people stayed there, simple folks with simple lives. The village didn’t offer many job opportunities and so the men took to the seas. Some got jobs in cities while others, very few, stayed behind with their families. While the men were away to earn money, the women looked after all the daily chores even bills, repairs and any home construction work. They filled water from the government taps when it came and made do when it didn’t. The children went to a local school choosing from a pick of English, Hindi and Marathi medium schools. In the evenings, they would play cricket with their friends or chase the cycle tyre with a stick while the women gathered outside to discuss local gossip.


It wasn’t a really developed place. The electricity went off for hours, the roads were narrow and uneven, no one had bothered to level them, buses were the preferred mode of transport barring a few autos which were run by locals. Nevertheless, it was good life. The air was fresh, mountains covered the village from all sides so that there was green wherever you looked, birds of all kinds flocked to the place, the camaraderie among the people was infectious and the huge houses provided ample privacy if one chose it. This was why I had chosen to move to my village for the second novel.


As a kid, I had loved spending time in the village but as I grew up the incessant prying of my relatives alienated me to the place. I had stopped going there altogether unless some special event warranted it. A month ago, though, I was badly stuck on my novel and had moved here thinking the fresh air would do me good. And it had until that day.


Till date I don’t know what happened to my village. It was wiped out not by a flood, famine, earthquake or tsunami but out of every living memory. The day was 19-4-1990. Everything is as clear and as hazy as it was that day. I got up that morning and I was the only person in the village only I didn’t realise that till later. My family and my relatives had disappeared without a trace, without any bodies, without any parting words. The men working in cities, ships and abroad were all gone — no one could recall any of them working in any companies in some cases even after 20 years of service. Kasba and its dwellers had vanished from the minds and the maps. And no one except me even believes it ever existed.


She tore her eyes off the page. It was fantastic what she was reading. She opened her laptop and typed in various combinations of Kasba Nagpur in different search engines. There wasn’t a Kasba in Nagpur although there were many elsewhere, it was a common name. But that didn’t prove anything. Maybe the village was remote and has no access to internet. Maybe it was indeed a fictional account no matter what was written at the start. She was just attaching to much weight to the words because…because she was caught right in the middle of it. And her world caught up to her again as everything from earlier came into focus. No one had returned her calls till now. It simply seemed like they had vanished into thin air.


She couldn’t deny what had happened even though she desperately hoped it was all a dream and she would wake up any instant now. She was not equipped to handle all this…the disappearances. It all sounded like the story she was reading. There were so many thoughts swirling in her mind that she felt her head would burst open. The manuscript couldn’t be a coincidence. There was no reason why it should have been on her desk but it was. She needed to find the reason and more importantly she needed to find the anonymous writer. He might be able to help her figure it out.


She took the manuscript in her hands and began reading where she had left off.


********************

To be continued…..

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