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Blood money: Balachandran’s long road to freedom

Balachandran couldn’t believe what had just happened. After an exceptionally hard day at work, he was returning home in his Toyota car. He tried his best to stay awake and even had a cup of coffee on the way, but fate had other plans. His attention wavered for a minute and the car that he was driving ran over a young Sudanese boy. “Holy shit,” he cried out before speeding away. He was overwhelmed by guilt and shame but he kept driving. He felt that if he had stopped, there was no way the police would listen to his story. He had committed a crime and the only option left was to run.

What would he tell his family? How will his four-year-old son Varun survive? As a driver, he didn’t have a lot of savings and his wife wasn’t skilled enough to find a job that would take care of Varun in a city like Dubai. He felt that if he fled the city and disappeared for a long time, the cops would forget about him. He could contact his wife through someone else’s phone and they could flee Dubai somehow and return to Kerala. He would keep a low profile for the rest of his life and take each day as it comes.

In between these thoughts, he heard a police van chasing his car. There was no point. CCTV footage would have captured his car and his identity. He had to surrender in order to live.

At the police station, he tried to explain his point of view. He said that he had been driving for 14 hours straight due to work pressure. “I swear I didn’t do it intentionally. The kid just came in front of my car. Why would I kill a boy my son’s age?” he said. “Well, let’s just let the law take its course,” the police officer told him and locked him up in a cell.

When the hearing happened, the jury decided that he was guilty. CCTV footage revealed that the child didn’t jump in front of the car. Instead, Balachandran had been driving rashly and blindly. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder. Kalpana, his wife, met him after the sentence in tears. “Please marry someone else. I failed to keep my promise of always being there for you,” Balachandran told her. “No, you’ll get through it. Please stay calm for some time. I’ll get you out of this,” Kalpana said. “There’s no point trying. My life is over, your life isn’t. Think about Varun. Please take care of him for me,” Balachandran said.

When they parted away for the last time, they both couldn’t stop their tears. Life had not been easy but they were grateful to be in Dubai. Money wasn’t bad and they could afford good food, fancy clothes and a decent house. It was all that they wanted. The dream was over for now and there seemed no way out. Kalpana didn’t give up though. She was a firm believer in God and knew that there had to be a way out. All her prayers couldn’t go in vain.

Meanwhile, Balachandran found it hard to accept his life in prison. He hated the food, he hated the way his room smelt and he hated not being able to talk to his wife. Years passed by and he had no idea about the outer world. Every day, he saw someone getting beaten up badly. He too had wounds that covered his legs and back almost all the time. On a terrible day, he would see a prisoner get shot to death. The experience shook him to his core and he was beginning to lose control over his mind.

“Someone’s come to meet you,” an officer told him after he had spent almost nine years in prison. Balachandran was surprised because people convicted with murder weren’t allowed visitors. It was the first time this was happening to him. After stepping out, he saw Kalpana in tears again. Only this time, they were tears of happiness, relief and hope. “You’re getting out. We spoke to a businessman – Mr. Khaled, who has agreed to pay a sum of 50,000 dirhams to the Sudanese boy’s family. They will withdraw your case and you should be released very soon,” she told him.

“Why would someone pay 50,000 dirhams for me?” he asked her.

“Mr. Khaled is a great philanthropist. After you were in prison, we spoke to him and requested him to pay blood money to the boy’s family. Initially, they refused but Mr. Khaled managed to convince them. He said that we should all take a route that makes everyone happy in the future and there was no point living in the past,” Kalpana said. After getting out,

Balachandran’s story was covered by various media houses back home in India. He told them that he was happy to get a second life and thanked Mr. Khaled for his generosity. He planned to quit driving and set up a food stall in his hometown – Thrissur. He decided to sell dosas and hoped that life would be wonderful again.

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction based on true events. Some facts have been changed for dramatic purposes.

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