“Sir, my team has given away all our tents to the survivors and are now sleeping on wet mud since the past three days. Our supplies are running out now. I request you to arrange for sending more medicines and food.” Brigadier Parthiban was almost pleading now.
On the other side, Major General Prabhakaran replied, “All right, over and out.” He picked up another phone to his naval counterpart with a request to send more supplies.
One week had passed since he and his team had camped at Tarangambadi, which had been badly affected by the tsunami. Many had lost their boats, houses and livelihood. He and his team were somehow tending to the survivors. Suddenly, he was aroused from his thoughts by a cry from Cap. Gowtham. “Sir, please come quickly. We have a survivor.”
“So? What are you waiting for?” he asked.
“Sir,” Cap Gowtham replied, “He wants us to shoot him!”
When they reached the spot, Brig. Parthiban was aghast. The man was stuck amongst a thick shrub of thorny bushes, which had pierced him from all sides. Any movement and the thorns would go deeper into his flesh.
“Any trace of his family?” he asked.
“They are here, Sir.” Cap. Gowtham beckoned to someone in the crowd. “Hanif! Come here.”
Hanif came forward with his wife, two sons and his mother.
Brig. Parthiban put his arm around Hanif, “did you speak to your father? We can try to save him, you know.”
“Sir, I talk to Abba. He want to die, kill him. His body no more take pain.” Hanif replied in broken English.
Brig. Parthiban stared at Hanif. Then, he went up to the trapped man. It was a hopeless situation. “Kill me!!” He screamed. “Give compensation to my family, they will survive.” One week of being stuck among the thorns, he just wanted to end it.
Brig. Parthiban asked for a maulvi who came and gave consent to the deed. He then turned to Hanif. “Your father will be buried here. We will construct a memorial for him. I will personally ensure that you get a proper compensation. Ok?”
But Hanif’s face showed no emotion. “Just end it Saab” was all he replied.
Brig. Parthiban then pulled out his revolver and put the man out of his misery. As the locals started filling the body with mud, Hanif consoled his family while the maulvi recited verses from the holy Quran.
A memorial stands at the very spot as a grim reminder of that fateful day. Hanif now runs a pakora stall for tourists outside the old Danish fort which also houses a museum. His sons are now studying in a reputed college in Chennai, thanks to the compensation received from the Government. Brig. Parthiban was promoted to Major-General for his efforts in rescue operations. But he would never forget the day when he too stood at the crossroads.
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