Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The fire...

Kaya tried to move closer to the hotel, but her progress was hampered by the enormous crowd. Every inch that she moved closer to the burning building, her feeling of dread deepened. There was chaos all around her. Finally, she managed to reach the edge of the crowd, and was as close to the building as the fire fighters allowed. A frantic activity was in progress. The fire fighters had managed to bring the fire under some control, but it still threatened to engulf the adjacent building. The residential building had been evacuated by the police, and all the residents stood by, helplessly watching the raging battle before them, hoping that the fire loses, and their homes and belongings remain safe. But the glowing beast had no intentions of losing. Slowly, but steadily, it began approaching the residential building, and before the eyes of the entire crowd, the top storey caught fire. Suddenly, a piercing wail shot through the night, audible above the noise and chaos, and it caught the attention of the crowd as well as the firefighters. The crowd because of the extreme anguish in it, and the fire fighters because of the originator. Apparently, a young woman had sneaked past the authorities and had entered gotten too close to the entrance of the building. A burning block had landed on her foot and he resulting scream had everyone’s attention. She was whisked away from the scene and the police suddenly put up ropes barricading the area. Every one of the by-standers was being driven away by the policemen, and Kaya had no choice but to leave.

Kaya moved in the general direction the crowd seemed to be moving, with her mind in a daze, she moved on and on, until she suddenly realized that the crowd surrounding her had dwindled a great deal. She looked around her, trying to guess where she was, trying to fathom her next move. She had no money, no credit cards, and no papers with her at the moment, for her purse had been taken to the hotel by Kajri. A while later she saw a dharamshala, a small neat looking structure, and a small crowd outside its door. As Kaya moved towards it, she heard the quiet murmurs and the soft sobs that came from the crowd. They all stood facing an aristocratic looking man, who somehow seemed familiar to Kaya. He stood listening to them with a sympathetic look on his face and as Kaya neared the group, he turned to talk to the man standing next to him. The man next to Kaya said,
“Balwant Babu is so generous. He has opened the doors of his dharamshala for all the people affected by the fire today”
“Yes, at least our families have a place to spend the night. We don’t have to worry about that.”
Kaya knew she should’ve felt relieved at that, but somehow she didn’t.