Every time Sachin tried to tell the adults in his village that he was in fact Kanti, a domestic servant from the nearby Dhanaura village whose master had murdered him, the villagers would laugh. His family also thought the child’s imagination was running wild.
“We thought it was a game of make-belief,” says his elder sister Poonam. But Sachin, a Class III student at the village primary school, seldom spoke, behaved or conducted himself like the 12-year-old he was. “He was always so grownup, talking about development and other social issues,” says Imran, Sachin’s playmate. The boy soon earned the title of ‘Netaji’.
“The child was different from others his age and always had an edge over his classmates,” says his teacher Trilokchand. His classmate Rajeev recalls how they would laugh when he would say he had two sons.
Then one day, a local newspaper picked up his story and overnight, Sachin became popular. Soon, residents of Dhanaura — the village where Sachin said he had been murdered — turned up to verify his claims. “He said he was Kanti, our relative who had died almost 13 years ago,” says Leelu. Recalling his first meeting with the mysterious child, another of Kanti’s relatives, Kunta says Sachin recognised Kanti’s wife Kalawati in the crowd of women and caught her hand. He told them she was blind in one eye and also remembered the names of ‘his’ son and daughter.
Sachin said in his last birth his master hired two people to kill him and dumped his body in a well. He said they did so following a false complaint by the master’s daughter. Several residents of Dhanaura recall Kanti’s body being fished out of the well.
But while they try to explain the location of the well where Kanti’s body was dumped, none is willing to go there for fear of the dominating community. Kanti’s master, they say, belongs to this community. The matter, it seems, has come to a close.
Today, Sachin lives with his mother, two sisters and a brother in a single-room accommodation. His father is no more. His past is also a closed chapter.