River Bank: A Story by Lalita Vaitheeswaran

Sanjeev Thakur, the newly appointed police officer was spending sleepless nights. There had been a spike in cases of drowning in the river Mayurakshi in Bengal. There were rumours about the river bed receding to over thirty feet and also of pits in the river. The villagers gathered to do pooja and rituals to please the water God, ‘Varuna’ to save them from such calamities. Everyday there were ‘yagnas’ conducted by local pundits and a red thread of protection given to all those who ventured into the river.

“There must be a devil or some ghost who creates these death traps in the river” said Bhuban, who swore by God that in these 30 years of his life he had never ever faced such water fury. People were strictly prohibited to go near the river after eight at night.  A  rope had been used as a barricade to keep people at bay to protect them in case they are devoured by the “river ghost”

Officer Sanjeev was a man who couldn’t be pacified by these rumors. His inquisitive police mind was thinking and calculating many other things. He was sure that there is some mischief which either he is not able to see or it is being done under cover.

It was a cold December night. Officer Sanjeev had just come home from office and was sipping hot tea when he got a phone call about some fight between two gangs and was called to the police station immediately.
“Seema” he called his wife…..”I’m leaving for the police station and may be late. I’ll lock the door from outside as I wouldn’t like to bother you.”

He locked the house from outside and started his Enfield with a vroom. The robust thumping sound of his “bullet” gave him that majestic pride of being a police officer who rode his royal bike with elan.

He had a tough time dealing with the warring gangs in the police station as he asked his subordinate to note down the FIR. The formalities, making a chargesheet and putting the respective IPC had been so programmed that he knew most of the law by heart.

It was well past midnight and after finishing the procedures, Sanjeev mounted his bike and prepared to return home. His route was parallel to the river Mayurakshi but quite distant from it. Sanjeev was lost in his thoughts when suddenly he was awakened by a loud horn of some vehicle. No it wasn’t one….there was a chain of vehicles alongside the river bank. What’s that? Wondered Sanjeev and within minutes he was trembling to the thought of the fear he had. They were trucks loading sand from river banks.  The illegal mining had been causing those pits and receding river beds. Many who had confronted these mafia had been killed and this he had read in Bihar where he was posted earlier.
Sanjeev smiled,  as he rode safely home. His “hafta” would be ready from tomorrow.