Ranadeb stood with stoic patience at the ghat. The ferry was due any moment now. The consignment was supposed to be special, the gora sahib Mr. Robert had paid 100 rupees to Ranadeb and told him that the captive had to be killed and his body to be dumped in the Hooghly river. Ranadeb prayed to Maa Kali and awaited the ferry. The shadows deepened and the stillness of the night was broken once in a while by the barking of dogs in the distance. Ranadeb wondered why a gora sahib would have chosen him and felt a bit suspicious initially, but the lure of money was too much to resist.
At precisely 11:45 PM the ferry came in slowly, as instructed, Ranadeb flashed his torch. The pattern was repeated by the occupants of the ferry. The ferry docked at the ghat. Two men who had covered their faces in layers of cloth, held a well built man who was in handcuffs, and whose face was covered by a crudely tied sack cloth. Additional care had been taken to gag his mouth as well. Ranadeb wondered about the identity of the poor soul who would meet his death. Maa Kali would be have been pleased with his previous offering that could be the only reason why he had received such a big bounty for killing this man.
Ranadeb instructed the two men guarding the prisoner to help guide the prisoner to his small boat. They complied, it was then that Ranadeb noted the shoes, they were standard police-issue black boots that the Calcutta Police favoured. Ranadeb tightened the grip around his dagger. “Could this be a trap?” he wondered.
His doubts were put to rest as the policemen left after the prisoner was made to sit in Ranadeb’s boat. The ferry left in the darkness of the night. Ranadeb stared at the prisoner as he started the old kerosene-powered outboard motor and the boat gently chugged across the river. Ranadeb wondered at the stoic calm of his prisoner. The man sat erect with a commanding poise. This was no ordinary thief or murderer. Ranadeb’s curiosity was piqued. He removed the crude sack and flashed the torch on the prisoner’s face!
The sight stunned him as he fell back onto the boat and muttered “Dada, dada” and rushed to remove the cloth that gagged the man’s mouth. He faced the man himself – Commander Subhash Chandra Bose, the nation lovingly called him Nethaji. He had been reported dead/missing for quite some time now, as the war continued across Europe, and India’s struggle towards independence was gaining momentum.
Ranadeb took out the pitcher that stored water and offered it to Nethaji. He smiled at Ranadeb and drank some water. As the boat continued into the darkness, far away from the city, Ranadeb listened in rapt admiration as Nethhaji narrated the treachery of the people in power and the British overlords. Nethaji asked gently – “Bondhu onek kichu koraar aachey, bolo tumi ki korbey! Desh air joney ki korbey tumi?” – “Friend, a lot has to be done. Tell me what will you do for the country?”
Ranadeb was in a trance as Nethaji formulated a plan. Nethaji asked Ranadeb to steer the boat across to the coastal village of Kashipur. From there he would proceed to safety. Ranadeb did as instructed. Nethaji cut his little finger, a tuft of his hair, and gave it to Ranadeb. This would serve as evidence of his killing.
The plan was simple, effective and it worked! The rest as they say is a history of convoluted lies, betrayal and treachery! Comrade Bose lives forever in our hearts!