It was quite hot and sultry that Sunday afternoon and there were only speeding cars and trucks on the highway. Jagan was proceeding to Chengalpattu to meet Jampa at 4pm at her home at the behest of his parents who have shortlisted her. It was past 3pm and he looked out to see the SRM campus at Kattangulatthur.He relaxed at the comforting thought he had enough time to reach the destination. The song Rangapura Vihara from the YouTube by Harish Shivaramakrishnan in his sonorous voice with guitar and keys as accompaniments was mesmerizing. He slightly adjusted the temperature as he felt cold.
It was then he saw a young woman, in the barren stretch of the road that had no trees, frantically signaling him for a lift. Dressed in a dark pant and maroon top she was slim and around 25. He stopped the car and slightly lowered the window pane.
“Sorry to trouble you. Can you kindly drop me near Singaperumal koil? It is very hot here and possibly this is no bus stop,” she spoke in impeccable English with a convent drawl.
Chivalrous by nature, he readily opened the front door. There was a gentle fragrance of Chanel No5 as she took her seat. While driving he glanced sideways at her when she was searching something from her handbag. She looked attractive with high cheek bone and long eyelashes. She turned to see him looking at her surreptitiously and smiled at him.
“I am am meeting a friend and have been delayed quite a bit waiting for the bus. You really saved the day. Let me call her to tell her I am on my way. She will be relieved,” she said softly. The proximity of a beautiful woman, the sweet scent and the pleasing music was a heady combo.
Jagan was silent presumably lost in thoughts how Jampa would look like and whether she would be as charming as the one sitting by his side. The woman was chattering nonstop on her mobile. After a few minutes of driving in silence, he stopped the car
“We have reached Singaperumal koil,” Jagan said.
She got down from the car and after thanking him, she left in a hurry saying she was terribly late without telling even her name. Selfish woman, he thought as he drove speedily towards Chengalpattu.
Hardly after a couple of kilometres from Singaperumal koil, he saw two policemen by the side of a blue jeep waving their hands at him to stop the car. They came near the car and one of them a portly figure gruffly told him. “Can I see your license?”. He turned the pages of the license for a couple of minutes
“We got information from a source that some drugs are being taken in this car. Please step down while we check inside the vehicle. Give me your mobile and the keys,” he said. Turning to other guy he said,” Palani, go through the car like a sieve quickly. It could be ganja, cocaine or whatever.”
The luggage compartment was opened and checked what seemed thoroughly and finding none he started searching inside the car at the rear seats and finally at the glove compartments and beneath the door mats. He drew blank. The stout man shouted at Palani,” It must be there planted in some corner. Check again carefully.” Palani opened the left door where the lady was sitting and gave a shriek. “It is here, Sir and handed over a small bundle concealed in a Venkateswara sweet stall bag. The bundle revealed some whitish substance.
Jagan was stunned at the discovery and pleaded total ignorance of how it could be there. “I am a senior IT engineer in a big IT company and proceeding to see a lady for matrimony at Chengalpattu at 4pm. I promise, sir, I am totally innocent. The only mistake I did was to give a lift to a young woman of about 25 years up to Singaperumal koil. She seemed decent and educated. I do not have any information about her including her name.”
“Don't lie. I am accustomed to hear such sob stories when they get caught. Palani, close the car and keep the keys. We will take him in the jeep to the police station and let him talk to the Inspector. My bladder is full. I will relieve myself and come,” he said with some finality.
When Jagan looked pathetically at Palani, he signaled him to come near. “Do you have any cash? If you can pay 10k to him, I can try to get you out of this mess because you are going to see a girl.”
Jagan quickly thought over the sequence of events like his giving a lift to unknown woman, getting caught with drugs, and not knowing even basic details of the woman. He had no credible answer except repeated denial. This would surely shock his parents and Jampa’s family. After some haggling, Palani agreed upon 7k and whispered to the stout man. They took the money, retained the packet and allowed him to leave after admonition that he would be jailed if caught next time.
He reached Jampa’s place at 4.30pm and they were intrigued to see him in a sweaty shirt and disheveled state. He initially said he was held up due to breakdown of car for the delay and his untidy condition. When he came to know that Jampa’s dad was a DSP in police, he made a clean breast of the happening.
“I appreciate your frankness. I am aware of such a racket going on. What is planted as a white powder is no drug but used for rangoli. I have already put some decoys to catch them. Let us now turn to Jampa who is waiting eagerly to meet you,” he said.
He called “Jampa, take him first to your room for a wash. He needs to be presentable before the girl whom he has come to meet,” amid peals of laughter from others present.
That Jagan found Jampa far more bewitching than the crook who wangled a lift, is a happy titbit.