The last laugh : A short-story in two parts.
Gopal had been with wolf since his childhood. Where from he had come, neither he nor anyone in the village knew. He was the most trusted person to wolf. He knew most of the secrets of wolf but never appeared to bother about them. He was a simple young man who worked always very hard. Most of the time he worked in the fields and only occasionally he was seen in wolf’s house. He looked very strong, healthy and with sweat shining all over his body always.
Whenever they confronted each other, Gopal looked at Ganga with no passion as he always looked at others. He never thought of anything about her except that she was his master’s wife and he had to serve her too. She looked at him with dismay as she could not understand how he could be so dispassionate about persons, things and happenings around.
A few months latter, on one day, when she asked him to take her away from the house to anywhere in this world, he said to her in the most convincing way possible that it would be very difficult and in fact very dangerous since his master was a very dangerous man and he would do anything to regain her. She did not heed this advice and again begged him to take her away and make his own so that they both could live a happy life. He did not say anything to this and went away.
A few days latter, Ganga again reminded him about her wish and beseeched him to take her away from the house and make his own. She told him that it would be manly to save a beautiful woman like her from the hands of a rogue and make her his own. She imagined for him how happy it would be with both of them away from the village and in a small house of their choice spending peaceful days and passionate nights. She did this a few more times whenever they found themselves alone.
At last, he heeded and they both eloped. He brought her, kept her in the hut and went away after telling to her that he would come back and take her away. He told her that it would take a day’s time for him to come back since he had to go a long distance changing two buses in between and asked her to be in the house and not to go out, since his master would have already sent his men in all directions in search of them. He told her not to fear, that he would come back after making all arrangements for their escape to the town and requested her to take care of herself in the meantime and left.
*** **** ***
It was nearing midnight and it was still raining. There was no sight of him still. She started feeling anxious and it appeared to her that the rain, the night and the lonely hut…all these put together were perhaps leading her to an unusual destiny.
A lightning shone and a thunder broke. As if she thought unknowingly and by intuition that something unpleasant would happen, she saw a shadowy thing approaching the hut from a distance and realized quickly that it was Gopal who appeared in the lightning, struggling hard to walk, swaying from side to side, losing and gaining his balance at the same time. She ran to him in the rain, held him in both her arms and brought him slowly inside the hut.
She now realized that he was beaten very badly and bleeding profusely from the wounds. She yelled in great pain, in the unbearable pain of seeing him in such a pitiable condition.
The wolf and his men, who stealthily followed Gopal and were waiting, hiding themselves behind the bushes a little distance away from the hut, heard the yell to their delight and realized that she was there in the hut.
In her arms, Gopal was gasping and struggling for his breath. With great difficulty, he told to Ganga, who held him close to her chest and silently wept, all that happened until then. He told her that they found him and caught hold of him in the evening before it started raining, that he was already there this side of the river by then and that, had it been a little early he would have made it to the hut and they both would have escaped unnoticed. He told her that they beat him since evening and asked him where he hid her for which he replied promptly that he would never tell. For every such reply, they dealt on him a heavy blow. They asked it hundred times for which he replied in the same manner and thus the ordeal continued. He was almost dead at one stage. They too were vexed with him; they waited for some time, they thought him dead and so left. Now he told her that he felt as if he was only one blow away from death. He would not live any more. He was, however, happy that he did not reveal to them where she was. For him it was all over now, nothing remained; it was for her to take care of herself and he felt utterly sorry that he could not keep his word and leaving her alone in this world.
Listening him say these words, she repeatedly hugged him to her chest and wept. He appeared loosing breath and started to moan. She kissed him on his head and said to herself that she shouldn’t have done this at all for him and she felt miserably sorry now. As he said a few moments before, that he felt only a blow away from death, to her utter dismay and horror, the final blow was dealt on his head with such a calculated precision that he died instantaneously in her arms. She screamed and looked up. Standing before her, she found wolf with a heavy club in his hand, gazing at her with a cruel smile on his lips and a satisfied look in his eyes.
*** *** ***
It was an hour past midnight and it was still raining. As she was not at all listening to their words and willing to go with him, the wolf’s men, on his order, tied her hands and feet and shifted her into a boat. They were crossing the river to the other side. The river was flowing furiously. The boatmen were, however, very experienced, they were rowing the boat with great efficiency and the boat was moving very fast.
None in the boat could have imagined that, with both hands and feet tied up she could jump into the river from the boat. But to their utter amazement, she jumped like a fish into the river. It was full darkness, it was raining and only in a fraction of a moment, it all happened. For a few moments thereafter, it was all confusion in the boat, the wolf started shouting at the highest pitch of his hoarse voice. He shouted at his men for being so careless and not at all observing her. He beseeched them to save her as he could not afford to lose her and he could not live without her. The river was flowing with great speed, his men could not dare to jump into the river and make a try even. The boatmen, however, clarified to them that it was useless to try to save her since she would have drifted miles away down the river flowing with the speeding water by then.
To the amazement of the boatmen and his men, the wolf started crying at that moment, looking into the sky and beating his chest with both his hands violently. He cried uttering the words in a weeping tone that he could never dream of having such a beautiful wife in his next hundred births. He cried aloud without any shame, held his head in both his hands and roared like a beast. He roared not once, but four or five times continuously and unable to control himself, he too jumped into the river and killed himself as the men in the boat looked on, in total disbelief.
Elders in the village say that this story had happened long ago and that from that night onwards, there occurred a heavy rain on a particular day in each year. During such rainy nights, amidst heavy lightning and ear-breaking thundering, the men and women in the village heard the hearty laughter of a woman and miserable sobs of a man. They also say that they always believed that the laughter was Ganga’s. As regards to the miserable sounds of sobbing of a man, there has been always a difference of opinion amongst the men and women of the village since some believed that the sobs were Gopal’s, some believed that they were wolf’s. However, one thing that every man and woman in the village, without any further argument, believed was, either love or hate it is always the woman who has the last laugh, and that no man could ever dream of finding a woman who would not like to perform that last laugh on the man whom she loved or hated, as the case may be, till now.