The Guest

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This story reflects the negative side of industrialisation and the introduction of machinery.

A loud knock was heard on the door. It continued for a long time, since no one was opening it. Mr. Roy Ganguly knocked on the door a few more times before stopping. He was perplexed. He started looking here and there only to find that there was nobody else in the corridor. He was beginning to wonder what to do. He could get on the elevator, go down and leave but the weather outside had stopped him from doing so.

There was lightning along with heavy spells of rain. The sky above was as dark as the night. Surely, a storm was on its way. Roy had no umbrella. He didn’t want to get wet; after all, he had to go to the court tomorrow. He was the defense lawyer for an important case where a man was fired from his job without any good reason. A mini-recession in Kolkata was taking place. Machines were taking place of men. Other than this, the economy was badly hit.

Roy was not fond of technology.  He believed that it made people stupid. He even considered his mobile as a source of distraction and preferred to keep it away from him unless something very important came up. He didn’t bring his phone today when he actually needed it. He wondered how long Deb was going to be out.

Deb was his friend. He was a simple man of forty two with a wife and kid. Roy first met Deb seven years back when Roy had represented his company for a trial. They became friends very soon. They met often on dinner or lunch. What Roy loved about Deb was his simplicity and his straight forwardness. Roy wasn’t married but he loved Riya, Deb’s twelve year old daughter, as his own daughter. But they hadn’t met for almost seven months as Roy was very busy. He had gone to Seattle for a very important trial.

A sound startled him. The elevator door opened and there was Deb, dressed it a white khadi kurta and white pajamas. Deb stopped on his way seeing Roy.

“Roy babu, what are you doing here?” asked Deb with a tone of surprise.

“I came to meet you but you weren’t here” said Roy.

Deb nodded. He opened the door and led Roy in. Roy was surprised on entering the apartment. He had been here a couple of times but today it looked completely different.

“Sorry Roy, to keep you waiting. I went to the market to get something very important” said Deb and kept a bottle of rat poison on the table, “You see, some miscreants are disturbing me a lot.”

“That is fine Deb, but what happened to your house? Why is it so messed up?” asked Roy.

The living room was a mess. There were clothes all over. Food packets were lying on the floor. Some papers were lying there. It seemed like no one cleaned the house for over a month or so.

“I know, I know. But it hasn’t been cleaned for a very long time” replied Deb. “But Roy babu, what brings you over to my place?”

“Ummm…. I came to meet you. It has been six months since we last met. Where is Ashima boudi and my little Riya?” asked Roy.

“They don’t live here anymore” said Deb with a tone of bitterness in his voice.

“What happened Deb?” asked Roy, confused.

“First sit down Roy babu.” said Deb as he finally managed to clean the sofa.                       

 Roy sat down. He was getting an unpleasant feeling. Deb dragged a chair and sat down facing Roy.

“Would you like something to drink? I can’t make good tea like your boudi but I can try” Deb managed a smile.

“No Deb. Please tell me what happened.” pleaded Deb with an unhealthy anticipation.

“I will be very precise Roy babu. I lost my job and spent all my savings. When nothing else could be done, I took up alcohol. Now I am an alcoholic with no work at all. That’s why Ashima left me. She took Riya with her too” said Roy with an unflinching expression.

Roy couldn’t help but gape at Deb for some time. Wasn’t he the same person who used to be disgusted with the name of alcohol?

“Why did you lose your job?” asked Roy.

“That doesn’t really matter. Anyways the reason wasn’t good enough.” said Deb.

 “What? You could’ve come to me. I would have helped you. Deb we could have sued the company itself.” said Roy.

“Roy babu, who on earth wants to fight a case. You know very well how long it lasts.” said Deb.

“But you cannot sit like this. This is injustice.” said Roy.

 Deb laughed. He got up and went to the kitchen and within two minutes he emerged with a glass of wine in his hands. Roy was surprised. He never imagined Deb like this.

“Who cares about justice? After all I am an insignificant man living in a world that has billions of people. Even if I’d try to sue the company what would I get? Those people are millionaires and I am just a poor man. I wouldn’t have won it. The case would have gone on and on. I’m destined to live with injustice.” said Deb,

“You make it sound so depressing” said Roy.

“This is reality, my friend. We can never run from it” said Deb and coughed.

“It is all because of technology. Machines replacing man, nonsense! Isn’t it supposed to help us but I really don’t think it is. Instead it is killing us. With men depending on machines, people trust machines more than men. The truth is that we are becoming servants to technology even if we created it” said Roy.

Deb laughed again. He had already finished his glass and went to get one more.

“Deb, didn’t you persuade Ashima to come back?” asked Roy.

“No, why should I? Roy babu, I have nothing. Why should I drag them into this? They deserve a better life. Ashima’s father is paying for all their expense now. I heard Ashima got a job. I hope everything will be fine now. As soon as possible, father-in-law will get Ashima married” said Deb.

Roy couldn’t help but feel extremely angry. He didn’t know who it was meant for, but he felt intense pain. He tried to fight back tears. He was angry on himself too. He couldn’t help when he needed him the most. He had known Deb for seven years now. He was a very good man. He wondered why it happened to Deb out of all the people.

“Deb if you need any help…” Roy started but Deb interrupted him.

“I don’t. I’m absolutely fine. But if you really want to help…” Deb took out an envelope from his pocket and handed it to Roy, “give this to Ashima. She lives at her father’s place. I wanted to give this to her myself but couldn’t. It has a cheque; I obtained from selling this house and a letter.”

Deb started coughing badly. Roy felt suffocated. He had to leave right now. He got up.

“Deb, I must take your leave. The weather has cleared and I have a very important case tomorrow. I’ll give the envelope to Ashima” said Roy.

Deb got up and hugged Roy tightly. He escorted him to the door.

“Bye Roy babu. Take care and don’t forget me” said Deb.

Roy nodded and went in the elevator. He was suddenly feeling claustrophobic. He was disgusted. Everything suddenly seemed unimportant. He wanted to shut himself in a room and never come out. He reached the ground floor and stepped out of the elevated. He took a deep breath.

He suddenly realized that he forgot his wallet upstairs. He sighed. He quickly got on the same elevator and went up to the fifth floor. He knocked on the door but this time, the door was already open. He got an eerie feeling.

“Deb!” Roy called out but there was no reply.

He called out a few more times but there was no reply. Roy went towards the bedroom and opened the door. Deb was lying on the floor with the glass of wine in his hand. In the other hand, he held a picture of Ashima and Riya. Deb had mixed rat poison with his drink and was lying dead now. Roy couldn’t fight back his tears any more. His loud wails could be heard all over the house.

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