Sunday, March 22, 2020


It was about the daring abduction of a young woman that took place in broad day light in the morning as she stepped out of the gates of her bungalow. It seems she set out for a stroll in the beach as she was wont to, when a Maruti van screeched to a halt by her side close to the platform where she was slowly jogging. The door opened and in a trice she was pulled in and the vehicle sped. away. There was no time possibly for her to resist or scream as it was abrupt and sudden. The few eye witnesses were not sure how many were there in the vehicle besides the driver but were sure there were at least two men. One of them slightly limped as he came out from other side to sit beside her was the additional detail given by a witness. It sent shockwaves across the city as it had not witnessed such daring incident in the recent years.
The nosy reporters quickly gathered some details according to the TV channel that the charming lady, a post graduate was just 23, working in a foreign bank and happened to be the daughter of a prominent personality. Within a few hours the home secretary spoke to the police commissioner personally to direct that the best sleuth be put in charge of the case. He was insistent that the lady be rescued before any harm came to her. The entire investigating machinery was set in motion to rescue the lady and nab the culprits within hours.
Her parents were seen distraught when Inspector Thangaraj met them around 11 am. Assuring them of quick action, he asked, “Do you have any information besides her personal details you have given already?”
“No, I came to know about her being taken away from the security of my bungalow who was alerted by the people on the road. I tried to contact her but her phone was switched off. When she did not return even after two hours, I spoke to my friend in the government. Within 30 minutes, the commissioner spoke to me assuring very quick action and collected her details including her mobile number,” replied her father Sivaprakasam.
“Any call from others asking for money? Was there any threatening call asking you not to get in touch with police? “
“No, so far I have received none,” he replied
“OK, we are already monitoring her phone and both phones of yours and your wife’s. If someone calls, please keep talking without disconnecting. Can I have her photo?”
After taking the photo, Thangaraj asked, “Does she have any boyfriend or in love with someone?”
“No, she does not have as far as I know. She has not spoken about anyone too,” replied Sivaprakasam with certain pride.
“Thank you Sir, we have already located the likely area through her mobile when it was switched on possibly by the abductors to get in touch with you. I will let you know the developments at the earliest. In case you get any call from her or her abductors, please inform me immediately.”
Thangaraj in blue jeans and T shirt asked his driver to park the police vehicle three buildings away from the pink building that he expected to unravel the mystery. They waited in the car for 15 minutes to give the impression that police vehicle had come for some other building. He asked his sub inspector to follow him at a distance and strode fast to the pink building. There was a durwan in khaki uniform at the gate. It was around 11 am and there were not many people on the road or outside the complex. He saw a small tea shop on the opposite side of road with a couple of men sitting there.
On seeing Thangaraj coming towards the building, the durwan came out of the bunk. towards him. Thangaraj told him, “Do not panic. I am from police. I want some information. Did any red Maruti van come to this block early in the morning between 6.30 and 7 am?” 
The durwan without looking at Thangaraj said softly, “Yes, one red Maruti van came around 7 am. Please do not tell anyone that I gave the information. I am not supposed to talk about the residents.”
“Surely, be quick.”
“Three men and one young woman arrived. They went to apartment 4C on the Eastern side. “
“Did she seem unwilling to go with them and dragged by them? Are the guys bad ones? Was there anyone limping?” asked Thangaraj.
“I do not know, ayya, but one man was holding her hand firmly. Their heads were lowered and they seemed in a hurry to enter the building, I do not remember anyone limping. They are all still there” he said
“Ok, keep a watch, I may recommend a reward for you if I succeed in nabbing them,” Thangaraj said and signaled his colleague to accompany him. 
The two of them fully armed with revolvers went inside the complex. While Thangaraj took the lift, the other policeman took the stairs. Holding the revolver across his chest with his colleague in tow, Thangaraj rang the bell. The door was not closed fully. There was loud noise coming from inside of several people talking amid chanting of mantras. 
Thangaraj pushed his way inside abruptly with the revolver in hand. What he saw baffled him totally. There were lot of people including some women dressed in their finest robes seated in the hall. There were colorful festoons and balloons. The fragrance of sandal wood and jasmine filled the hall. A purohit was seen seated in the adjacent hall on the floor before a homa kund chanting mantras.
One young man in new dhoti with zari borders of red and green and a young woman in new Kanchipuram silk sari with heavy zari border with several gold bangles on her hands and garlands on their necks were seated side by side on the sofa with a large smile. 
An elderly person approached Thangaraj and said,” Welcome Sir. I am celebrating our daughter-in-law’s Seemantham (7th month function during pregnancy). Are you looking for anyone in particular?” Meanwhile a few others crowded around them.
Highly embarrassed at his faux-pas, Thangaraj said, “My sincere apologies. We came by mistake to a wrong apartment. Please carry on,” and ran down the stairs towards the gate.
The durwan was not to be seen at the gate. On approaching the bunk, he found a man lying in under garments on the floor with his limbs tied and mouth gagged. The man when freed lamented,” I am the durwan. Someone from the tea shop came around 11am and hit me unconscious, bundled me and took away my uniform.”
On further questioning he said,” A red Maruti came around 7 am and the occupants went into apartment 2A..I felt the three men were rough with a young woman who was with them. They were new to him and one of them limped. When I asked them which apartment they were going into, they did not answer but I saw them enter 2A..They looked wicked with scars on face and other places.”
While sub inspector ran to apartment 2A to find it deserted,Thangaraj ran to the tea shop owner to learn that one red Maruti van had sped away just about 15 minutes back. As the doors of vehicle were dark with tainted glasses, the tea shop man could not see inside but heard a muffled sound of someone crying. Thangaraj thanked god for his barricading the road on both ends and strategically posting his men without uniforms beforehand.He recollected then that the fake durwan dragged his feet slightly when he approached him initially  and regretted how he was misled by his khaki uniform as durwan.
There was a ring from Sivaprakasam that there was a call from one of the abductors instructing him to be ready with Rs. 50 Lakhs in 2000 rupee notes and await further instructions. Thangaraj assured him that he would call him back.
It was then his mobile came alive and Thangaraj’s face brightened as he was listening and told the party at the other end, “Good job done in handcuffing them. I am happy barricading proved beneficial and you could nab them. I hope you have taken away any possible weapon they may have. Treat the lady respectfully and get her seated in another car. Get her some soft drink. I will be there in a minute.”
The commissioner and the Home Secretary personally congratulated him. Sivaprakasam was overjoyed.
TV channels blared again,
Thanks to Inspector Thangaraj’s presence of mind and planning

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Romance at Darjeeling

“My God, what a clumsy person you are? You have spilled the entire cup of tea on me,” shouted Sooraj at the trembling young woman before him.
The caretaker of the guest house came rushing with profuse apologies and started cleaning the table. “Sorry for the unfortunate incident on your first visit. Sahib. The cook is expected shortly and the two boys who do the errands have gone to market. I requested my daughter to make tea for you. Otherwise she doesn’t do these jobs. She lost her mother in young age. Please change the dress before she brings fresh tea.”
Turning to her, he told her, “Rupna, fetch him fresh tea along with biscuits quickly and then be off to your studies.”
Regretting his impatience with the young woman who had made tea specially for him amid her busy schedule, he softened and said, “I am sorry to hear about her mother. It is perfectly fine as such things happen to all. I was not aware she is your daughter. Even otherwise I should have been calm. Sorry for my outburst. What is she studying?”
“Post-Graduation in economics. I am meeting you for the first time here. Is it your first visit?”
“No, I have come several times but this is the first time I have opted for a guest house. I do not like the mechanical and artificial ways of a hotel and their food. I work for an export company at Mumbai and visit here to procure the famous Darjeeling tea’ “Sooraj explained.
“Call me Ramchander.You will have no regrets for having chosen this place. Rupna’s examinations would be over in two days. She can guide you thereafter about the town and its fabulous surroundings though you might have known them already,” said
Meanwhile Rupna came with tea and biscuits in attractive tray and laid it gingerly on the centre table. Sooraj did not fail to notice that she had changed into a bright coloured Salwar suit and her face done up with a quick make up.
Sooraj laughed and said, “You don’t have to be extra careful. I have broken many cups and vases. It happens. Sorry, I was a bit harsh on you.”
Ramchander excused himself and left the room.
Sipping the tea, he said, “I like the flavour. Rupna is a beautiful name.” Keeping the cup on the table, he added,” I learn you are studying economics that was my favourite too.”
 “I am told you have examinations for two days. I will not detain you now but may need your help in visiting places in this city. I expect to be here for a week but we will have lot of time to talk to and know each other well,” he said with a smile and added as an afterthought, “Sorry, I forgot to tell you, I am Sooraj and working for a well-known tea trading company at Mumbai. I come here frequently.”
As he lay on the bed after she left, Rupna’s beautiful face fully occupied his mind. What struck him most was her shapely figure, her kohl-black long hair, her brown eyes under pencil line eye brows, and the faint smile at the corners of her eyes. It was a case of love at first sight and the wave of her dainty fingers as she left the room set his heart thumping fast. He wished to possess her as his own early.
Wanting to meet her again, he peeped into the kitchen to find a Nepali boy cutting vegetables and turned back silently to his room. He was surprised when she came rushing immediately into his room, and asked, “Did you want something? I saw your shadow as you went towards kitchen.”
“Please do not get distracted from your studies. I just wanted to tell the cook that I would have lunch here as I have no work to go out today,” he told her though he was inwardly happy she was watching his movements.
“You can always call me on number 12 in the intercom whenever you wish. Please see the card in the side table.
Sooraj liked the quiet ambiance of the guest house in the middle of a well laid out beautiful garden on the central area of Darjeeling. There were only a couple of guests in the first floor above his spacious room. Rupna’s room was adjacent to his on the other side of a passage and he loved being near her. He had a feeling that she was also attracted to him and decided to befriend her and get intimate.
As he was getting ready to go out for a stroll around 5pm, he was greatly surprised to see Rupna entering. “I hope the lunch was good. Tell me if you want anything special to eat, I will tell the cook to prepare. Are going out.”
“I wished to buy some toiletries from nearby shop and may be a small stroll.”
“I will show you a departmental store nearby and I will also take you to a cute little park very near. It is not crowded,” she gave the information gratuitously.
Soon they were seated in a secluded corner of the park where a few children were playing on slides and swings.” Did not wish to disturb you as you were busy with study. Glad you could make it. I look forward to spending more time with you daily after the exams.” Sooraj said.
“Me too,” she replied but bit her lips for her inadvertent display of her eagerness.
He laughed and said,” Thanks, we now know each other better. But I have a doubt. Does your dad offer to send you along with others as he did to me this morning?”
She stood up with her face getting red in anger and asked, “What do you think of me, a cheap slut, is it? My dad felt bad after I poured the tea on you in the morning. You also looked decent. That was why he offered to send me with you to show places. Be careful before you make any insinuation,” she said furiously and started walking towards the gate.
Sooraj ran behind her mollifying her anger profusely apologizing and returned to the bench holding her hand. They both sat close to each other talking sweet nothings. What started with a spilt tea in the morning and a tiff in the evening soon turned out to be a romance straight out of Mills & Boons stories. It was clear that Rupna also fell for the handsome, tall and dusky personality of Sooraj They daily spent together most of the time outside at some place or other.
One day when they were alone in his room with her father away somewhere, he asked her casually, “Does your father know our romantic interest in each other and approve of your spending whole day with me?”
“I think he knows. I mentioned about our love. Being a motherless daughter, he has always been extremely affectionate and would readily agree to my slightest wish. He also knows I am a sensible woman and know my boundaries,” and added, “He just wished to know whether you have a flat in Mumbai to live and your income would be adequate to run a small family. I would of course chip in from whatever job I get,” she expressed her anxiety.
“Do not worry. I have a well-paid job and the employers have provided the accommodation. Further we too are qualified,” he assured her.
“Are you sure your parents would approve of our marriage as I am a Bengali?”
“I am their only son and normally they should go by what I desire. But my dad is status conscious and my mother has reservations about marrying outside community. I am pressurizing them to relent and I hope before long,” he said. He dragged her close, hugged her long in tight embrace and smothered her with kisses. She in turn responded with equal fervor. Abruptly she withdrew with a sense of guilt and said, “No more please till we get married.”
“Ok agreed. Listen, Rupna, I wish to go to Kalimpong for two days with you to see the monasteries, flowers and enjoy para gliding. We will spend one night there and return next day,” he suggested.
“I do not think my dad will permit me to go with you. In fact, he was asking me to keep a distance from you,” she said with a sigh.
In the evening, she came to his room and said, “I do not know why, but my dad strictly warned me a while ago not to meet you anymore until we are married. He said if he wants to take you out, let him first marry you officially and then do what pleases him.”
With a touch of disappointment, he said, “I understand his concern. Give me one night, let me think and come back to you with a solution.”
The next day Sooraj came to dining hall and finding Ramchander alone there told him, “My intention to marry Rupna is certain and since you have some reservations, if you agree, I will arrange for a registered marriage here tomorrow with official witnesses of my vendors. You can also bring your friends as witnesses. I will buy new dresses for all. It is my parents’ choice to accept or not but Rupna will be my wife. Shall I go ahead?”
Ramchander looked at Rupna giving Sooraj a high five animatedly and then said, I agree,” with a broad smile.
As the plane carrying Mr. and Mrs. Sooraj and Ramchander decked in fine clothes was about to land at Mumbai airport, Rupna whispered to her husband, “I am afraid how your parents would react? If they refuse to accept me, would you ditch me?”
“Have total trust in me. I will never let you down even if the whole world turns against us, be assured. Wipe your face and look cheerful. We will face things as they develop, “he patted her.
Though not Corana days, the arrival lounge was empty stoking Rupna’s fears more. When they came out of arrival gate, they found it was jam packed with visitors holding garlands, bouquets for their relatives presumably. Suddenly an elderly man and his wife dressed in rich fineries approached them with garlands in hand calling, “beta, warm welcome to both of you. “The lady with a bouquet in hand and a large smile on her face exclaimed in joy,” Rupna, how bewitchingly pretty you are. I know Sooraj always chooses the best.”
Startled at the turn of events, she turned to look at Sooraj only to see him winking at her. The band outside exploded into loud music and all the friends and relatives lined up to greet the couple with bouquets. A convoy of cars big and small drove towards their bungalow where a formal Sagaee (betrothal)has been arranged.
Sooraj with Rupna alone in one of the cars, turned to her and said.” Rupna, forgive me for the small deception played. My parents whole heartedly support us. I am no employee of the company, am rather the owner. Your dad knew it before the registered marriage.”
All of a sudden, Rupna tightly hugged Sooraj unmindful of the amused look of driver.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Savitri's plight

It was a small town in Northern India. It was getting dark and there was a mild drizzle. Savitri with her two-year-old girl on her arms knocked the door of a nondescript house twice. She was around twenty-seven and looked younger for her age. There was no response. She knocked again a little forcefully. She worried that this not going to be as smooth as she expected. It took long time for the door to open. She saw the tall figure of the man with an unshaven face and drooping muschtache looking at her quizzically as if wondering why she was there.
“What do you want? Why have you come here?” he asked in a voice bereft of emotion. There was no trace of warmth in his tone or any smile on his face. It was wooden.
“I have your pothi (granddaughter) with me here. I have no place to go.”
“Yes, I heard that Manoj had been killed in the skirmish at the border. The Sarkar should have given you enough money. Go to your folks. Why do you come here when you have not cared to visit us all these four years?”
“It is not my fault that Manoj kept away from you people for his own grouse, “she replied. "I have no one on my side. She is your granddaughter after all.”
He looked straight in her eyes and said in measured and icy tone that cut her heart rapier like,” You are not wanted here. He married you against our wishes and from that day we had washed our hands off him. The girl in your arm is nobody to us. You say she is my pothi (granddaughter). Who knows the veracity of your word?”
She was shocked to see Manoj’s mother keeping mum at this blasphemous and veiled accusation. She hung her head in shame and cried inconsolably even as the little girl tried to wipe the tears of her cheeks. She became numb at this cruel barb searching for words to answer. She knew that her father-in-law will neither understand nor accept if she had said that she was always advising Manoj to patch up with his parents and forgive their anger in throwing him out. He would not listen and swear in response that he would have no truck with them. He always said that he loved only one in that family and it was his younger brother.
“I have no place to go. I am young and cannot stay alone without harm coming to me. I have this girl who is your granddaughter. I swear upon that. Please allow me to stay here. I will be a slave in this house. Please; I beg you, not to throw me out. I will contribute a portion of my pension to the family. Kindly permit me to reside here. I want my child to grow in the comfort and security of a home.”
“No,” he bellowed. “You have no place here. Get out before I throw you out of the compound. I don’t care what happens to you or your ill- gotten child.” The woman by his side with a stony face did not budge her little finger.
“Stop this nonsense. I have been hearing all your blabber all this time to see to what extent you two are depraved. I will not let down my bhabi and the child. I know Manoj meant no ill will for you both till you treated him shabbily. What he did was right and I would have done the same” roared Neeraj her devar , the younger brother of Manoj
The shocked old man shouted back” Will you dare go against our wishes. I will throw you also out without a penny. Do remember that.”
“To hell with your money. If bhabi is willing I will marry her as is our custom, and take care of both for life. We are walking out of this wretched place this moment once and for all,” he said with a finality.
Dazed as she was, Savitri clasped the extended hand of Neeraj and moved towards the gate even as the old couple were rendered speechless at the sudden turn of events.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The small world of Sita

“Sita madam, it is nearing 1pm. Won't you have your lunch?” asked the nursing attendant.
Sita continued to stare at the roof without reacting to the question. When the female attendant gently touched her shoulder, Sita shrugged her hand away. The attendant quietly went to the kitchen to bring some food in a bowl to feed her. She normally ate what was given in her hand.
Sita was nearing sixty and was born mentally retarded in a rich family. She was otherwise quiet and mostly silent. She never talked to any of the inmates of the destitute home and mumbled to herself occasionally. There were no tantrums thrown. She was trained since young age to go to bath room by herself. For all other things she needed to be told and helped.
It was a destitute home for girls and women who were sick incapable of taking care of themselves or old women afflicted with dementia or other serious ailments with none to look after. The home accepted whatever they could pay.
A brief note about Sita, the main character in the story, may not be out of place. She was born to a lawyer who commanded a lucrative practice. The couple were devastated when they realized their daughter was not a normal child. They left no stone unturned in prayers and pilgrimages to make her normal when doctors could do little. Her sad but disciplined mother patiently trained her to attend to her basic chores.
The couple had a normal son three years later who turned out to be bright and compassionate. He would not go out to play as a young boy but spent time after school hours with his sister making her smile with his pranks. He shared with her what all he got though she was in no position to use them. He took her out carefully to the temple close by unmindful of the stares of others.
In due course, Chellappa, as the boy was called, completed his IIT and IIM went to US and in a few years started a startup and became extremely rich. He fell in love with an Assamese girl who worked with him and married her. But he never failed to visit his parents and his sister every year. She had grown tall and charming to look.
As years passed by, his father passed away and his mom took care of Sita with assistance from domestic helps. They lived in a large house in the heart of the city. In five years his mother too followed his father after she accidentally slipped in bathroom and hurt her head.
Chellappa had Sita admitted in the destitute home and requested the NGO who ran it to move the home that was in the outskirts of the city to his spacious home. Before relocating, he had the home renovated and remodified to suit the requirements of a destitute home by providing for several rooms with a large common hall and dining hall and a spacious kitchen.
Sita was given a large room to be shared with another woman of normal faculties with Parkinson’s disease, while other rooms had three or four inmates depending on size. More inmates in the waiting list were admitted in the commodious home. Chellappa supplemented the income of the home with periodical remittances. They also received donations from philanthropists.
Lakshmi, the Secretary of the home, was a kind hearted lady who sincerely ran it with efficiency and  with great care. Chellappa donated a van and a car to the home for its use. He came once in two years or even earlier to spend time with his sister Sita. He would sit by her side and ask her who he was.
All she could do was to call him ‘Chellappa’ and rub his hands, feel his head and keep staring at him. She did not remember much about her mom except repeat parrot like ‘Amma’ and giggle when Chellappa spoke about her. It was a pathetic sight for Chellappa as tears would flow from his eyes.
With great concern, she will wipe his eyes with her pallav and remark, “Why crying like baby?” She would put her hand around his shoulders and mumble something incoherently. When he got up to leave, she would hold his hands and refuse to let him go. It was unwillingly and with great difficulty, he would wrench himself from her as she broke into crying. This was a routine each time he visited her.
A few months back, Chellappa got a mail from the Secretary of the home expressing her concern at Sita falling sick repeatedly with respiratory problem and doctor’s prognosis that her heart was very weak and she may not live long.
When he spoke to the Lakshmi, she told him, “You know Sita is not well.I am told and have also personally seen her often mumbling ‘Chellappa, Chellappa’ even when her eyes are closed. I personally feel you must visit her as early as convenient. I am sure it would bolster her sagging spirit.”
“Thank you for suggesting. I will surely come this week itself. She was born on Tamil New Year’s day and she would be completing 65 years in less than ten days. I will surely be there. Money is no concern. Give her the best treatment,” said Chellappa
As ill luck would have it, she died two days later. Chellappa was there with his wife in time for her last rites.
After a fortnight, it was the day of their departure and flight was late night. He was at the destitute home talking to the Secretary and the other office bearers thanking them profusely for taking care of Sita.
Lakshmi, a dignified lady with kind heart, with lot of hesitation started saying,” Sir, we are beholden to you for the invaluable help you had rendered all these long years. Now that our dear Sita is no more, it may not be proper on our part to expect to continue here. This place would be worth several crores. My humble request to you would be to give us three months to look for an alternate accommodation in the outskirts of the city. Kindly agree.”
Chellappa instead of replying her request stood up abruptly and said,, “Excuse me. Let me go round this home and have a look before I leave,” and walked out of the office room.
The bewildered Lakshmi followed to watch him entering each room greeting with smile and folded arms every inmate and bending to touch the feet of older people. He was seen wiping his tears repeatedly and telling them “You are all my sisters like Sita. You gave her good company that I could not except make a fleeting visit once a year. I am not sure how I can repay the debt of gratitude to you all except assuring  that you will continue to have my full support till my last breath.”
Taking leave of them, he came to the room hurriedly along with the Secretary. Turning towards Lakshmi, he spoke,” You need have no cause for worry about new accommodation. I have already transferred the title to this place to your organization, specifically for use of this place as a destitute home. The lawyer would hand over the registered documents in two days. Here is his card. I will continue to support the home as before and would always be available on mail or phone. I have one small request. Is it possible to name one block of this home after my sister’s name?”
All those present were seen nodding their heads and sobbing touched by his caring and benevolent nature.