One morning we woke up to a cacophony of bashing willow-sticks. A group of captains and senior students had gathered at the site. It wasn’t a good sight either. Right beneath our dormitory’s wooden ladder, someone had conveniently relieved himself the previous night. And furious captains would not leave without solving this issue; either they needed to find the culprit or let all inmates clean it.
“How could anyone do that?” expression was writ bold on everyone’s face. No one dared admit. In fact no one knew. I was shivering on that morning not so much from cold but from fear of captains, to whom it seemed thrashing us all, was of immense satisfaction.
“What does it smell?” they questioned us all, willow sticks touching our noses.
We felt like shouting “Jada you stupid … what would a willow smell of?”
In the end, those devils commanded that it was our collective responsibility and that because no one was ‘cooperating’ with them, all of us should take part in cleaning the mess. Just because of someone we were to face the biggest embarrassment of our life. As we lined up with gho-sleeves covering our noses, to take our turns, our girls enjoyed the sight from their hostel. A collective responsibility, a collective blame, a collective shame!
We appeared like new army recruits lined up ready for the first command. We had to clean the mess with our fingers. Those who braved to go fast received it fresh and soft. Only scattered remains were left for the seniors who were at the other end of the queue. As I stooped to dip my index finger, the heap was half way through.
All cursed the culprit amongst us that morning like a devout chanting baza guri nonstop. Everyone saw culprit on everyone’s face.
I think it was only me who had seen the real culprit. And for the next few days, I was fortunate to be able to observe the boy’s guilt ridden face, if he had any at all. Even to this day, I am haunted by that incident. Maybe I should have told captains. Maybe I did the right thing.
I saved a man from being ridiculed yet I could not stop accusations being thrown at an innocent crowd.