Behind The Moon

Entry by: daddy

27th March 2015

Joseph had come home late that night, there was no reason apart from the fact that the eastern express highway was jammed and vehicles crept along at speeds that would have delighted snails. Not that one could see snails on the roadsides at this time of the year. Joseph worked as a mini truck driver for a company that delivered eggs all over the city of Mumbai. He stayed in a tiny room at Virar, a suburb of Mumbai. The room was just 6ft by 8ft with a small window overlooking an alley. There was a shared toilet but no kitchen and residents had food offered by the roadside fast food vendor. He just came to sleep there and the rent did not pinch his pockets.
Joseph awoke with a thunder in his ears, someone had been hammering the door. He opened the door to find the local beat policeman asking him if he knew of Rabinder, he blurted that he did. The policeman told him to accompany him to St George hospital Rabinder was unwell or in an accident, the policeman was not sure himself.
Rabinder was a simpleton on the edge of being classified as a retard. He used to assist Joseph as a cleaner cum handy boy. He had no bad habits apart from eating crabs, every other day at the Vikas Cook House near Victoria Terminus station. Since Tuesday was a lean day for egg delivery when majority of the people did not eat non -vegetarian food , Rabinder had the liberty to come at 0630am instead of the daily 0500am routine.
Joseph was guided through the old and musty corridors of the hospital to the secluded corner which housed the morgue. The room was lit dimly with a solitary bulb hanging over a stone table in the center of the room near a washbasin. The window allowed a bit of tired moonlight to seep through the broken grills and cry on the floor.
He recognized Rabinder on the ramshackle stretcher and vomited at the same time. Rabinder's face was contorted in pain, broad tire marks were imprinted across his stomach and pelvic area which appeared to have been crushed to pulp. As he wretched he thought that he had seen a miserable painting or that he was still asleep, only when the ward sweeper gave him the mop and nudged him to clean up did the reality strike him. He must finish here fast to enable egg delivery on time!
A very strange odor permeated the area, the odor of sanitized death. The morgue clock echoed 0330am Since Rabinder was from faraway Bihar and had no relatives in Mumbai, the body was shifted to the overflowing mortuary for his relatives to come and claim it. Mumbai had a rich haul of unknown people dying on its roads or train tracks every night. Joseph called his employer and got the police to talk to him, as he had no money to pay even the paltry fee required for keeping the body. By the time his employer came, they had finished the essential paper work and tagged the body in the ankle as well as round the neck. The morgue photographer took pictures of the body and that of the people in the room for record. The people in the morgue and the associated policeman were as expressionless as the slab stones in the place.
By the time they left for the mortuary, the shards of moonlight had also moved out of the morgue to shed dry tears in some other corridor.
Joseph kept on crying and wiping his tears on his way back since he and Rabinder got along well. Rabinder always listened to his ramblings about the tough life in the mega city and refrained from adding his bits of rustic nuggets to the monologues. Rabinder had protested last week about the plywood plank on which he used to sit in the ramshackle delivery van. He had requested for a new plank as it pinched his bottom every time the van crossed a speed breaker or a pothole, of which there were plenty on their route. He had bandaged the plank with tape instead. This filled him with remorse and he shed a lot of tears about not replacing the plank but how could he have known…and then some more tears, copious this time as Rabinder’s midriff came in his minds viewfinder.
His employer tasked Joseph to visit the morgue everyday until Rabinder’s relatives come and collected the remains. He guessed that he would have to do the painful task at least until the coming Sunday. On his first visit on Wednesday, the sweeper gave him the key to the first room in the mortuary and advised him in his drunken slur not to disturb the sleeping beauties. He opened the door to find a dark cool room with drawers in which the bodies were kept, he was able to identify Rabinder and retreated before he could vomit in the room. On recollection, he thought seeing a couple of bodies piled up on the open shelves, meant for identification.
As Sunday approached Joseph, found he was able to tolerate the visit, though on Saturday he had to navigate over and around dead bodies in the mortuary room, the drunken sweeper attributed larger number of cadavers to Friday being the Lord’s collection day for sins committed during the week. His cackle left Joseph with goose bumps as tough as nails.
A virus attacked him on Saturday afternoon, he was bedridden for the next two days, dreams of himself being in the morgue, and living with the dead in the confines of the closed room mortified him no end. The cool thought of the body being collected by his relatives was the silver lining till the door of his room was hammered again on late Monday night. A shiver electrified his spine as he crawled to open the door, his employer along with two other persons stood in the alley and asked him about the whereabouts of Rabinder’s body.
The relatives had arrived by afternoon of Monday and could not locate Rabinder’s body in the mortuary. Joseph’s body was drenched in sheets of cold sweat and his viral fever retreated through the crevices in the door. He put on some clothes and went with them to claim the body or cadaver as he called it now. It was past midnight when they reached and found many bodies laid out in the open courtyard. The stench was overpowering in the still wind. The drunken sweeper cackled that the air-conditioning plant had failed on Saturday night and some bodies had to be dragged outside in the open and had rotted faster with their juices flowing across the place. The bodies looked so peaceful in their different states of rot as the moonlight danced with the shadows from the large banyan tree in the courtyard. Joseph remembered the tag on Rabinder and set about his search with a torch light. After half an hour and three rounds of the courtyard, he realized that Rabinder was missing! How could that happen? It could, the sweeper cackled again, people claim wrong bodies some times, why not take some other body and cremate it what difference it would make? Seeing they are all dead anyway? However, Rabinder could still be inside the room, as he had not yet completed taking out the bodies. Joseph’s employer was furious, he took out his helpless anger on Joseph and ordered him to go into the room and carry out a thorough search.
As he got the room opened, he was slapped with the worst possible odor he had ever sensed through his nostrils, odor which immediately pasted itself on his body. He stepped in to a pool of liquid full of maggots, the floor was filled with fluids from the decomposed bodies lying all over the room, piled one above the other in a display of solidarity. Solidarity in naked death, cast, creed , sex, religion, age no bar. Joseph slipped as he vomited, his clothes soaked up to his neck in intermingled fluids, bracing himself he located Rabinder’s locker and pulled out the drawer, there he was or was he? This bloated cadaver of splitting skin and bald face as big as a football could not be Rabinder! He asked the sweeper to bring the body out, sweeper wanted help in lifting it, and so Joseph was helpless, as he could not deny Rabinder this last bit before cremation.
The relatives looked at the cadaver and declared it could not be their Rabinder, the decomposition and the subsequent pulling out of the body had dislodged the tags and there was no way to identify the body lying in the dancing moonlight as Rabinder’s.
Photographer appeared sensing a story but left soon muttering ‘nothing new’. Sweeper gave a sarcastic sneer, told that authorities would dispose of all the unclaimed cadavers tomorrow and that they should witness the mass cremation, and pay their last respects.
It was said that a disheveled man in wet under garments was seen prowling the streets near Virar and later found unconscious in an alley.

Who am I and how do I know all this? I am the quanta of moonlight assigned to shed a few tears for those who die unnatural deaths. I have seen so much that I have become like the morgue sweeper or the photographer who have become immune to death in its many forms.
I myself die a million deaths when I leave the moon….. behind..