The Martyrs

Kirti Prabha’s eldest son was also her favourite and the most obedient one: Mozart Kumar Singh. Yes, you heard the name right. His father, a violinist and a classical singer himself, had chosen that name for his first born with a wish in his heart. He had lived long enough to see that son of his become one of the first martyrs of the Quit India Movement from Jabalpur. They used to live near Badi Omti Mosque. Mozart was admitted in Jabalpur Hospital, two kilometres away. His mother had run the whole distance bare feet on hearing that her son was serious, and had reached there only to see her son being taken to the postmortem theatre. She would go to the same hospital, around the same theatre, the second and last time on 9 February 1961.

That time round she had come in a police jeep and it was for another martyr from her family: her husband. His martyrdom was personal. He had died saving his sons Som Nath and Chandra Bhaal from an angry mob wielding spears and swords. Bhaal’s mother had left the city for Varanasi with what remained of her family on thirteenth of the same month. A semi-open, rattling truck took their belongings and them from Jabalpur to Varanasi via Katni, Maihar, Rewa, and strangely, Mughalsarai. They had crossed the river at Raj Ghat.

Varanasi Map

She was from Kedar Ghat. Her brothers used to live there in their small family house near Kedareshwar Temple. Her eldest brother was a clerk in the Faculty of Law, Banaras Hindu University, and the one younger to him but elder to her was a priest. She was the youngest amongst her siblings and her brothers had never liked her much. To them, her return had brought a potential claimant of the only property their father had left: the dilapidated, ancient house at Lali Ghat. They had never been rich even in their father’s time, but had become poorer after his demise. Their father was an employee of the university and Kirti’s brother Niranjan could get a permanent job there because their father had died before his retirement. Nilanjan, the younger one, had never been lucky. He continued with his priesthood of their small temple near Laali Ghat, giving home tuition the rest of the time. Both her brothers were bachelors and older than her fifty years.

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