The solitary hut was in the outskirts of the village.
“Open the door” shouted constable Manickam. He had come walking across the rugged fields.
The door of the hut remained closed and there was no response but could see a dim glow of chimney lamp inside.
“Is Kannabiran inside? I have come from the police station. Be quick to open the door”
This was met with silence. Manickam kept his head on the door to hear some whispers inside.
“I can hear your voices. I will give you three minutes. If you do not open the door, I will break it” he said and waited patiently.
The Sub Inspector was coerced by local political functionary to arrest the poor chap even without a written complaint. Manickam did not know why the politician was angry with the man. The verbal complaint was Kannbiran hurled a stone at the politician without any provocation and he had half dozen witnesses to corroborate it. The SI was a meek man and never rubbed the politician on the wrong side. Manickam loathed the wicked leader.
“Your time is up. If you do not open the door instantly, I am kicking it open” shouted Manickam.
The door slightly opened and a face of a young woman appeared through the opening.”He is not at home. He has not come home for two days” she said.
“Let me in” he said and when she did not yield he pushed open the door and entered.
The room was dimly lit. She had a six month old baby in her arm, a two year old boy was seen clutching at her leg and a three year old girl sitting near the chimney lamp. A small 10x10 space it was practically empty except for a trunk box at the corner and some bundles wrapped in old clothes partly hidden by a bed sheet hung on a rope. Poverty was writ large and the boy was crying evidently in hunger.
“Why is the boy crying? Has he not eaten? Brighten the lamp by raising the wick”
“They are both very hungry. There is nothing to give except some old gruel. They refuse to drink as it has become stale. I haven’t eaten also” she started crying.
“I am sorry. When he comes home, will you ask him to see me immediately?”
“Surely. What for you are searching my husband?”
“I was told he threw a stone at local leader and he has lodged a complaint.SI is very angry. Let him come and apologize.”
“You are like my brother. Please save us from him. He wanted my husband to take away some child and hide here for a few days .Is it not wrong? How will I feed the child when we are hungry ourselves? My husband being a father himself refused and the leader is making false accusation” she said
Manickam then saw some movement of the bed sheet and when he saw intently he could see a pair of feet underneath. He pretended not to have noticed.
“Anna (brother), please help us. Upon God and my children I swear he had not done anything wrong. His refusal to do illegal thing has angered the leader”
“I do not know all that. I will come tomorrow again. Your husband is not safe here as the leader is angry with him. Do you understand?”
“Can we run away to my mom’s village?”
“Do not tell me anything. Have these 100 rupees. Buy some food for all of you.Beware, I will come looking for him again tomorrow may be with SI.”
“Thank you anna.God bless you”
“It is ok .Remember you people are not safe here. Do you understand?” he repeated.
When she nodded her head slightly, he wrote in his notebook “Accused not at home” and briskly walked away.