As soon as I entered Janaut village, which contains only one caste of people – Janaut, the elected head of the village warned me that I was not to talk or communicate in any manner with Jaldev Janaut or his family else I would be banned from entering the village. I had always thought that I lived in a free country till I reached there. I was permitted to live in the village only because I am also a Janaut. I was to stay there for a year heading the irrigation project. None of the employees who were working under me was a Janaut but not a single villager was concerned about them, they were only concerned about the head.
Jaldev Janaut was a man in his mid forties who had a wife, a daughter and a son at home. As he walked past my quarter, I could feel the sadness in his gait. There was something different with his gait, it was not that abnormal but not normal at all. The gloomy gait tried to draw me towards him every evening as he passed by. But there was the prohibition followed by each and every villagers strictly. Jaldev Janaut met with utter indifference from his friends he knew since childhood and with deriding looks from rest of the villagers. He even wished the villagers to come and attack him but they did not. Any villager found speaking even a word with him or his family was to be fined fifty thousand rupees. Even to buy a kilogram of salt, he had to walk about ten kilometers from his home.
As my cook told me, he and his family even thought of moving to another place but no one was willing to buy his land and cattle. The villagers observed all the Hindu festivals collectively with great enthusiasm with strict exclusion of Jaldev Janaut and his family from any of the events. His in-laws also prohibited his entrance to their homes. He and his family could move to another place leaving everything behind, but at what cost? They did not have enough courage to move and start anew; Jaldev Janaut was too old for this.
One morning, after about six months of my stay my cook told me that Jaldev Janaut was very ill, that his body had swollen up. The masses of human hearts can turn so cold, I realized that day. Not a single person moved an inch towards his home even after hearing the heartrending wails of his wife and children. I could not resist and started my motorcycle and rode to his home. With the help of his beautiful daughter and wife, I carried him to my motorcycle and tied his body to mine with a towel and rode him to the district hospital. He died next day.
I reserved an ambulance and took his body, all puffed up and cold to his home. I regretted for not speaking to him. I and the ambulance driver took out his body and laid it on the veranda. As soon as his family saw his cold body, they resorted to the heartrending wails again to mitigate their sorrows. I stood there watching them cry and Jaldev Janaut’s dead body lie as helpless as them. Not a single villager came to his yard. With the help of my colleagues in the evening, his body was cremated.
Next day, my quarter and office was surrounded by hundreds of villagers. I could hear one of them near my window screaming, ‘Do you want your sister to marry a Muslim too?’ The other one was yelling from near the door, ‘You have sinned mister by helping the ones who let their daughter get married to a Muslim. You will be punished mister. Just let us in.’ Jaldev Janaut’s daughter had fled with a Muslim man about four years ago but after the man’s family and village kidnapped him and threatened her to kill her, she ran back to her home. The villagers grew furious at this. How could a man embrace his own abandoned daughter who married with a Muslim man? The villagers had decided to be indifferent to him and his family forever and by breaking their law, I had wronged in their eyes.
I could hear the head of the village, ‘Mister, if you want to save your life open this door and talk to me.’ With a great fear in my heart I opened the door. Only he entered and locked the room from inside.
The very next day, I had to leave the village. All of my colleagues were transferred to different places. I am not allowed to enter the village again. I am trying to get information about his family but I have not made any progress yet. Whether they have made it difficult for the outsiders to contact his family or it is something else, I know not.