The man may have been in his late thirties or early forties. He lay stretched on the road, his arms spread out; his head tilted sideways, covered in a pool of blood. He wore a light blue shirt and black trousers and boots. The sling leather bag which he was carrying was flung a few foot away from his body. A huge crowd gathered around the site and the police were trying to barricade the body till an ambulance arrived.
Wilfred Gomes sat on the backseat of his silver Maruti Esteem car peering at the site from the window. Agitated discussions from the crowd which gathered around the spot came to his ears.
“I saw the whole incident. It’s so pathetic and gruesome. A speeding lorry hit him and fled away without stopping,” said one man.
“The driver must have been drunk,” speculated another.
Wilfred felt a chill run through his body. He thought the poor guy must have been married with children and a family. Who knows what his financial condition was? Maybe, he was the only earning member of his family and they were eagerly waiting at home for him to return. How pathetic and heart wrenching! Their world would be shattered and shaken by his untimely death. The faces of his ten year old son, Justin; four year old daughter Wendy; his wife Rachel and his father William appeared before his eyes. He felt a sense of relief and was thankful that he was fortunate enough to be alive and able to attend to his commitments towards his family and the world. He was well off and privileged. But he was troubled by macabre thoughts. The young man lying there on the street was insignificant he contemplated. With his departure nothing mattered much. He relieved the world, a little from its ever growing population. The death rate should exceed the birth rate to save the world from an imminent catastrophe, an annihilation of the human race. In fact it was essential that such accidents and natural calamities like cyclones, floods and earthquakes occur. Wars and terrorism are a blessing in disguise. He felt elated to think that he had contributed a new doctrine in saving the ultimate future of the world.
On his way back home Wilfred purchased toys and chocolates for his children, a new dress for his wife and a pair of shoes for his father. After reaching home he announced joyously that they should all get ready by nine o’clock in the evening since they were going to dine out in a well-known restaurant. Everyone was surprised and pleased. Justin and Wendy thrilled with their gifts ran around the house merrily playing with their toys and munching on chocolates. Rachel looked at her husband perplexed, but was too happy to spoil the moment with unnecessary queries. After thoroughly enjoying a sumptuous meal with his family, Wilfred returned home contented. He slept very peacefully and deeply that night.
Next morning, he woke up as usual, went for his morning walk, bathed, had his breakfast while flipping through the daily newspaper and then got ready for office and left home. On his way to the office he looked around to see if any untoward incident had taken place. Finding nothing he felt annoyed. There was a board meeting to attend to today and pondering over such things would thwart his plans for the day. So switching his mind to more important things he reached office.
He held an important position in the Board of Directors and had for a few days painstakingly prepared lectures and presentations to put before all . It went off well and everyone congratulated him after his speech. Wilfred loved this attention and the accolades that followed.
Arijit Basak joined his organization a couple of years back as a junior executive was married and had a three year old son. He recently applied for a lump sum amount of money as loan and approached Wilfred with the hope of getting it approved.
“Sir,” he pleaded, “I request you to help me out. I am in debt and my house has been mortgaged. My son has to undergo an ear surgery by this year otherwise it would be too late the doctors said. I have come to you with hope and great expectations, knowing you won’t dishearten me. You have to arrange for this loan to be sanctioned, please Sir,” he beseeched.
Wilfred stared at his anxious face.
“Relax, don’t worry,” he said. “It’s a huge amount of money you have asked for and only in special cases does the organization grant such huge loans. I will do my best to see that it is passed.” he added.
“If you put in your recommendations, Sir, I know it will be granted,” retorted Arijit. Within a week’s time, Arijit’s loan got sanctioned.
A few months passed by busily. Morbid thoughts didn’t afflict Wilfred’s mind and life was normal. A major portion of the country was hit by a terrible cyclone and floods. Many villages were destroyed and lives lost. The media covered the whole mayhem that occurred in details. Many individuals and organizations came out with helping hands and Wilfred’s company also did their bit of charity. One thousand rupees was deducted from senior level officer’s salary while five hundred rupees was subtracted from middle level executives and one hundred rupees from the general staff on account of donations to be handed over to the government funds.
Wilfred watched avidly the televised coverage of the devastation. They flashed pictures of corpses floating on the water and reported thousands of deaths and lacs of people who were affected and left homeless in the aftermath. He felt a surge of pity but at the same time felt pleased that Mother Nature was doing her job to preserve the ecological balance. But he doubted whether She would be able to carry on the job alone. Human efforts in different directions were needed to control the ever growing population. Sanjay Gandhi had tried during the Emergency but had failed because of strong opposition from all quarters. Popular voices aren’t always right and helpful. He felt, he should take an active role in the matter.
They kept different newspapers in his office. As soon as Wilfred entered office he summoned his attendants to bring them to him. He went through all detailed reports on floods and felt it necessary to keep an account of all the death tolls. Day by day his mania grew and he scanned the newspapers for further reports of deaths and with great interest jotted them down in his dairy. During his morning walks he started visiting different cemeteries, burning ghats and burials to find out about the number of deaths that occurred every day. Gradually this extended to various hospitals and morgues. He kept their phone numbers and a frequent tag on them. It gave him the pleasure of discovery and research work and subconsciously he felt he was carrying out a great service towards preservation of the world and its environmental balance for a brighter future.
It had been a few weeks that Rachel had noticed Wilfred’s abnormality. He was absent minded, disinterested in everyday affairs of the family and restless. It worried her that he was hiding something. One evening when Wilfred was relaxing at home after office she asked him:
“Is anything bothering you?”
“No, why? Not at all. It’s just that there is a lot of pressure at office. I’m overworked,” he said dismissively.
Rachel looked at him concerned for a moment but thought it better not to burden him further with her inquisitiveness. A disquietude gripped his soul; he felt uneasy. Wilfred could hardly sleep at night and he tossed about in bed. He went to the kitchen to have a glass of water but nothing could soothe his frenzied mind. He loitered about in the drawing room aimlessly and then picked up a sheet of paper and made a detailed list of measures which should be implemented by the government to control the growing population and also means of reducing the present one to a greater extent. To reach this goal the government should cut down on its Health and Welfare budgets, stop providing subsidies on food and other essential items; levy heavy taxes and punish those who would have more than one child henceforth. It passed through his mind that these measures wouldn’t affect his family because they had a good house and enough bank balance as security. And in the future there was no chance of him having another issue to solicit any criminal offense or trouble. His ideas were selfish but he banished the thought recalling Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest.
Carrying a gift wrapped box which had an expensive curio inside, Arijit walked into Wilfred’s chamber cheerfully and greeted him.
“What’s up, Arijit?” Wilfred asked. “How’s everything going for you?”
“Oh good, Sir,” said Arijit. “I’m grateful to you for helping me acquire the loan. I have been relieved from my tension, paid my mortgage money and now my son has been admitted to a renowned school in Calcutta. It’s all because of your kind support and co-operation, Sir. Please accept this small token of gratitude from our family,” he said handing him the gift.
While dusting the furniture, Rachel came upon the sheet of paper which documented Wilfred’s peculiar proposals regarding controlling the ever growing population in our country. She went over his scribblings and was left baffled and shaken by its contents. Her husband wasn’t definitely in his proper frame of mind and was sick, since no sane person can write this, she ruminated. All day she waited anxiously for him to return home. She would today question him and, if required, take him to a psychiatrist for counselling. After Wilfred returned home, freshened up and lounged leisurely with his cup of tea and snacks Rachel encroached the subject.
“Tell me what is wrong with you, Wilfred. Don’t you feel well? You should pay more attention to your health and not overwork and stress yourself,” said a concerned Rachel.
“Why Rachel I am fine. Why do you say so?” he asked.
Rachel produced his hand written document in front of him and said,
“I found this lying on the side table today while dusting. What are all these nonsense you have written?”
Wilfred snatched the paper from her and said irritably,
“These are certain thesis for a project I am preparing. You aren’t adequately educated to understand what I have written, lady. Please don’t probe into my matters. This neither affects you nor the family.”
Rachel looked dismayed. To divert attention from the topic and liven up the gloominess that prevailed Wilfred mentioned that he intended to take leave next week and go on a trip with the family. Rachel eased at the suggestion and reflected that this change would be beneficial for his husband to de-stress and become normal again. Maybe all her anxieties were works of her over imaginative mind.
Wilfred returned from his vacation with his family, fresh, energetic and a relaxed man. His peculiar fixation seemed to have taken a back seat and life went on smoothly.
The nation was shocked at the news of terroristic attacks in Mumbai on 26/11 at premier five stars hotels and other sporadic encounters that followed in different places. Many people lost their lives and families. Terror and fear spread like fire among every citizen and the nation was set on red alert. The media in details covered the event and the turmoil that rocked the country. Hundreds of reporters and cameras located themselves in front of the hotels as commandoes entered the troubled spot trying to kill or capture the terrorists while they countered back at them and assassinated hundreds of innocent lives captivated inside the hotel premises. Everyone was glued to their television sets to catch a glimpse of what was taking place and scavenging the newspapers to get every detailed news regarding the attacks. Wilfred was no exception. He took great interest in following all the actions that took place. Soon his mind started to react differently to the occurrences as it fleeted and pondered absurdly giving rise to rather ridiculous and hideous thoughts.
It was evident that the terrorists were doing their bit subconsciously in controlling the growing population by eradicating lives he introspected. During the 9/11 attacks in the United States of America we saw two prominent buildings of New York City , the commercial trade centers being gutted down by the terrorists ruthlessly who had hijacked two airliners full of innocent passengers . Here, we saw the same kind of preplanned destruction. Before that we saw thousands of lives being eliminated in the war between Iraq and Iran; and back home in Kargil, in the on-going internal disputes in Kashmir , in sporadic bomb blasts in Mumbai, in the communal violence in Gujarat . Most were politically motivated but their end results was mass eradication of human lives. Although the world faced some economic stress related issues for a period of time but soon it regained normalcy and life went on undeterred. A new set of people got jobs in this fight for the survival of the fittest. It passed through his mind that wars usually took away a huge portion of the youth population and we were left with some elderly men who would eventually give away their places for the younger generation to follow. Wilfred became a bit agitated. He needed to contribute to this greater cause through a structured non-violent method of elimination. The government would surely accept his unique concepts and reward him. He felt he was wasting his time on this planet.
He lost interest in performing official duties. All his effort turned to formulating his theories on controlling population and retaining the ecological balance of the world. He lent books from various libraries and brought some on the subject. He gathered statistics and accounts of deaths per day, per month and per annum. Attending office only wasted his valuable time that he could devout to this greater cause he felt and so applied for a long leave fawning ill -health. His strange and dismantled behavior didn’t go noticed nor aroused suspicion in his office.
No one in Wilfred’s house knew that he had taken leave. He dressed up for office as usual but visited various places for carrying out his research work. At home he stayed silent and reclusive. One evening when Wilfred didn’t return home his family became worried and started searching everywhere for his whereabouts. It was then that Rachel got to know that he had taken a long leave from office. While ransacking his study for any clue she came across a handwritten note by him. It said,
“I am on a mission, adieu…”