He closed his eyes with the last word of the letter. He could see time. Plain as the green fields of his village, Running in all directions as the streams of run-off water. He could move around in it. Run his hands through the bristles of possibilities that each strand of his action presented. He could see the consequences of every step.
The future looked like a mesh of interconnected probabilities and that thinking about them made his head hurt. He turned around. The past was a thick, solid tar road. Certain, decisive. Only one road that led him to this juncture. He could see in the distance, the faint outlines of what could have been. The dusky, dirt roads of unfulfilled past were haunted by the actions that weren’t taken. Had he not gone to the Bagh that day, would he be here? He could see thin outlines of the person he would have been standing next to him with a letter in his hand. Had he not become disillusioned with the government at that tender an age, would he be here? That version of him too was standing next to him, with a letter in his hand.
He soon figured out that each and every iteration of the past that could have been, sooner or later, would end up at this juncture with that letter in his hand. He felt tired. Weak. He felt the burden of the whole nation on his eighteen-year-old shoulders. He sat down at the crossroads, beneath the peepal tree and turned his gaze upwards. The overhanging roots of his country’s time were dangling freely. The roots, he could see, were laced with gold at the top and singed brown towards the end and they continued growing, into the future where they frayed, strands going in multiple directions. At the knot of each fray, he could see himself at this very moment, where he stood in the real world at his parents’ bedside.
He turned his attention towards the green fields of possibilities & running streams of the future. Every action he could take and would take, displayed in vivid awareness. He could see his would-be bride, their kids. He could see his office cabin, stamping on the Babu’s letters. He could see the big house, the motor cars. But somehow, somewhere, the streams converge, forming a river, cutting through the fields and ending up at the hangman’s podium, where his story ended. The noose did not scare him, though the thoughts of leaving his parents did. But this is something that should be done, that must be done. He got up and looked around to see his parallel selves mirroring his actions. He opened his eyes.
He signed off the letter, “Aapka Beta, Bhagat Singh” (Your son, Bhagat Singh), folded it and placed it under his father’s pillow. He had seen his future. He had seen India’s future. This is the only path to freedom.