Mr. Chowdhary was still in shock. The last-moment-shriek of the poor girl was still all over his ears; the girl who had just been run over by a truck in front of Mr. Chowdhary's very eyes. She was young, around 18, lying on the road covered with blood and nearing her death very fast. It was pouring cats and dogs in the deserted street-corner of Kolkata. The cloudy sky of dusk, the blinding rain and lightning, along with the cold wind from the nearby Ganga river made sure that nobody was out on the streets. What the hell was she doing out here in the cold and dark, thought Mr. Chowdhary, as he looked left and right, as far as his 42-year old eyes would allow him. The place was deserted. He was at the end of his wit.
It was the year of 2097. The third world war had just ended a dozen years ago, reducing the population of the world by more than 70%. During the war, Mr. Chowdhary, a professional surgeon and one of the very best in his area, had protected his family with great caution, presence of mind and in a number of occasions, by sheer luck. When the war ended, he was somehow able to get a job with the new government; a single government which now ruled the entire world, sub-divided into different regions but not countries. Post-war, it was celebrated by a large number of people united by common grief and loss to be ruled under a centralized government. They were perceived to unify the entire human race once again in all its glory. And the government was doing an arguably good job too, although things have not been easy. Among other challenges, there was a severe need for cleaning the debris of war and building new materials out of the necropolis. These required a huge workforce – a resource which proved to be difficult thanks to the giant recent reduction in human population. The government had to take steps such as making it mandatory to have more than three children per married couple. It was theorized that it would result in a 10% increase in the population rate compared to the current one. But even with that, it would have taken roughly a hundred and fifty years to take human civilization to the state it was before the war. As a fast-track way to increase population overnight, three years ago the new government had passed a worldwide law banning homosexuality. New rulings were made ordering anyone who claims and/or proves to be homosexual, has to go through a six-month recovery program, which claims to induce heterosexuality to anyone who goes through it. Nobody knew exactly how they achieved this but there were rumours; rumours which made Mr. Chowdhary to hope to be untrue, especially since this morning.
The father of two children, Mr. Chowdhary was successfully able to protect his family during the war until now, but it seemed that was not possible anymore…not for long at least. Though he had suspected this for a long time, only this morning he had come to know for sure that his elder daughter Nandita was a lesbian. As she knelt beside him and explained all about it to her father, Mr. Chowdhary knew that very moment that it was over for her. As much caution as he could take, the police of the new regime was sure to find the secret out and take her daughter away from him…to the so-called recovery program. There was no way to hide her. Over the world homosexuals were being rounded up like some fierce animals. The ruling, supported by some prejudiced religious groups, made it impossible for homosexuals to keep their sexual identity a secret even on a social level. Besides, the new government kept extremely detailed record of the families and it was well documented that he had two daughters. And even if he could somehow hide Nandita’s sexuality from the world at large, the new law also demanded any female over 18 is to be either married to a male or to be proved pregnant within a year of turning 18. Having turned 18 only last month, it was only a matter of time for her. The news and the conclusion had upset Mr. Chowdhary so much that he came out for a walk in the evening, alone by the river, smoking his favourite pipe. When it had started to rain and he thought of returning home, he suddenly heard angry honking of a truck, a sudden screeching noise of the tyres, some high pitched girly shriek and before he knew it, he was kneeling beside a dying young lady and the truck was vanishing into nothing over a distance.
Mr. Chowdhary knew he should hurry the girl to the nearest hospital and to call her parents if possible and then maybe wait for them at the hospital to arrive. But he did none of those things. He was fighting an idea that was born inside his very head, an idea that came to him almost as soon as he knelt beside the dying girl. He couldn’t get rid of it, although he knew in his heart that it was terrible even to think about it.
It won’t be right, he thought to himself as the girl kept travelling an inch away from life with every passing second, I can't do it. I'm a doctor for god's sake. She tried to raise her right hand and to turn her blood-covered face towards his. But she couldn’t. ‘This is the only solution and you know it’, someone told him from the back of his head, over the sound of the thunder and rain, 'Look at the bright side. The girl is going to be dead anyway. And once she is, we can curve the face to make it unrecognizable so that you can declare her to be your dead daughter, causing them to delete every official record of her. And you and your daughter would live a happy life'. Mr. Chowdhary kept silent, lost in his own thought, as he ran his palm through the little girl’s hair; consoling her. He wanted to tell her not to worry and that everything would be fine, that he would take her to the hospital but he couldn't bring himself to say those things. ‘You don’t have to do anything wrong, just don’t do anything at all’, said the voice again, ‘just wait a little more and it’ll soon be over. Then you can do what we decided’. Mr. Chowdhary kept mum even now, clutching his smoking pipe firmly in his right palm. He looked up at the pouring sky and thought of whatever the voice was telling him. He had heard this voice before. He didn’t like it. He hated that it always seemed to be right. He turned his glance at the girl again. It was almost over for her, unless she gets medical attention right now. He didn't even have to be a doctor to say this; anyone would understand that merely by her eyes, which were losing the light fast and steady. She seemed to be having trouble breathing now. She inhaled hard one last time, blinked over the falling raindrops on her eyelids, tried to move her lips, a silent cough came out. No sound followed. She was having a respiratory arrest.
Mr. Chowdhary tried to gather every amount of courage and strength he ever possessed. Not much time left now. He tried hard not to think about the parents of this poor soul. I'll just be taking advantage of a corpse to help save my living daughter’s life, he consoled himself as he slowly put his hand in this pocket and pulled out the old knife he had been carrying for the past twenty years. We are nearly there, he thought. He never had to use this knife before, until today. He looked at her rain-soaked innocent face for a second. He was reminded of Nandita. A lightning sounded very nearby, causing a flash of light across the darkly illuminated skyline. Suddenly he was sure. He knew exactly what he had to do. Slowly, he said his prayers as he stole a quick glance around. Then he leaned over the poor girl.
Having made up his mind once, the rest of the work took about five minutes in the hands of an expert surgeon that Mr. Chowdhary always had been. He quickly cleaned the smoking pipe in his hand with the splashing rain water, he tried to dry and clean it with his cloths as best as he could. He also lit up a match and put the knife to the fire, trying to sterilize it. Then slowly, with artistic genius, he made an incision with his knife in the poor girl's throat, placed the pipe with great caution so that the girl could get a direct airway through her trachea. When he completed the procedure, he placed both his hands on the girl’s chest and started CPR.
He knew that the instruments were not sterilized; there were great chances of infection, but he had done the best he could. 'And as for Nandita', he thought, 'I will fight the world before I let anyone touch her. She will stay where she belongs, being who she really is'. Slowly the girl started showing response; her breathing was becoming easier. A smile broke into Mr. Chowdhary's lips as he picked the girl in his arms and started running towards the hospital by the river, through the muddy wet ground, as fast as he could. He was breathing heavily.
But he felt peaceful.