A Murder in India
By Lana Rosenbaum
We had been travelling in India for already a week, and this was our first flight within the country. We were woken at 4:30am, and exhausted, made our way to the airport in order to catch a 7am flight to Udaipur, a city south of Rajasthan. The flight was only an hour; we stepped off the plane in a haze of both fatigue and excitement, eagerly anticipating the next few days.
Carrying the least hand luggage, I descended the portable stairway first and waited on the tarmac for dad and his girlfriend, Tanya, to emerge. As I stood there with a few other tourists, I noticed 30 metres away a bulldozer driving in circles in a field of yellow grass. At first I thought it was a game, the workmen fooling around on a break, and so I looked back at the stairway, waiting. As they appeared, however, they too were instantly drawn to the bulldozer, watching with wide, horrified eyes. I looked back and knew it was not a game.
There was a man on the ground besides the bulldozer, and the other dozen men in the field were running the other way. I recall hearing the sudden screams and gasps of other tourists, and then only an engine; I stood mesmerized in utter shock and terror while the bulldozer ran over the man a second time. The wheels drove over the right side of his body, and continued to drive past him in circles. The man rolled lifelessly towards us, and I remember vividly as a red patch materialised on his white shirt. The bulldozer then chased the other men on the field. All the while, a gang of policemen stood at the side of the field holding their guns, just watching.
Suddenly, the bulldozer turned and started driving in our direction.
Tanya and the other tourists started running, but dad and I stood frozen. I was too shocked at the situation to move, and dad, a doctor, thought he could help the injured man. Fortunately, the bulldozer stopped, and the police slowly, cautiously, approached it. It was a good two minutes before they attended to the injured man; a stretcher was brought to him, but we never heard the sirens of an ambulance.
Throughout the ordeal, the plane had closed the doors, and those of us who were already on the tarmac made our way into the airport with sickened eyes, clutching our chests and breathing heavily. We entered the airport and were surrounded by a cheerful crowd, all of whom were oblivious to what we had just seen.
Though dad, Tanya and I stood next to each other, we all remember different things about the incident, each having our own perceptions. Dad recalls the man sitting on a chair and being attacked from behind, first by the front wheels, and then by the back wheels. Tanya remembers the bucket being lifted, but no man in it, and later, the driver stepping out of the bulldozer with his hands up.
The murder replayed itself in my head the entire day, and the image of the man on the ground with a bloodied shirt was never too far from my thoughts. Traumatised, we spent the night contemplating the motive of the murderer. There had been a Muslim festival the previous day; hence the murder could have been in religious defence. Tanya thought it was an act of rage, or that the driver had had a stroke or a fit and lost control. Dad thought it might have been a drunken accident.
We were not left in suspense for too long, however; the story made the front page of the local Hindi newspaper. Our guide translated the article, explaining that the murderer was being underpaid 1500 rupees a month (forty-five Australian dollars), and in a fit of rage, murdered his 72-year-old project supervisor. He then chased the other men on the field hoping to hit his project supervisors relative. The newspaper account, however, does not match our recollections. It states that the murderer lifted the deceased 12 feet high in the bucket of his machine, "pressed a button to turn the bucket over to hurl Tandon (the deceased) to the ground". It proceeds to say that he used the bucket to "crush the head of the victim," before reversing over his body four times. "It was as if he was possessed."
The Hindi newspaper also provided a cartoon of the incident, portraying the newspapers version.
The incident left me hesitant and resistant; I no longer felt safe in the country and the thought of staying six more days made my heart beat a little faster.
We had to return to the airport the following day, and as we walked across the tarmac to the plane, we noticed we were only metres from where the incident had occurred the day before. The three of us stood there and stared in silence towards the field. It was empty. The bulldozer was gone and there were no longer men or chairs.
We got on the plane, and I found myself subconsciously looking out the window for a bulldozer. It has been over a month since the incident now, but I still feel nervous on a plane and can't help but frantically scan the area for yellow bulldozers.