Tuesday, October 28, 2008


At the fold of nineteenth century when a tired post-impressionism was dying, a raucous movement led by Henry Matisse, known as Fauvism (Fauve, pronounced Fa-O in French, means wild beast) characterized by bold distortion of form and use of dazzling pure colors shocked public’s sensibility. Not satisfied Marcel Duchamp moved one step ahead with Dadaism which completely outraged public's perception of art. These artists would put up things like skewed shit-pot against pristine white wall and present it as piece of sculpture. But, thankfully public's capacity to absorb shock is very brittle therefore soon fatigue set in and these movements quickly petered off. One positive spin off of this shock and awe was to energize moribund artists and goaded them to think more innovatively. Soon more sedate cubism, abstract art forms of expressionism appeared and also mystic dream like fantasy of Surrealism swept Europe.

Surrealism is about mystery, stillness of time and a dream like fantasy, something akin to Sufism in spiritual realm. The magic of surrealism never seems to fade because it is our nature. The most representative painting of Surrealism is Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory, you can find surrealism in literature and Photographs too. Just look for these elements; Mystery, fantasy and complete stillness!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The smudgy strokes of molten gold are as rare as the gold itself and the azure overpowers it easily. The morning stillness hangs in balance and the only boatman ploughs his boat cautiously lest it disturb still water. Attempt of mild mist to obscure distant mountains fails tamely. In all this stillness, the sun is reduced to a mere speck.

This Claude Monet painting is representative of path breaking movement in European art the Impressionism। The name itself derives from the title of the work Impression: Soleil Levant.

Friday, October 10, 2008


[Legend has it that when Humayun was down on deathbed, Babar circled his bed three times and prayed to Allah to spares his son's life in exchange for his own. Soon Humayun recovered but Babar inexplicably fell sick and died ]

Now extremely frail, just a bundle of bones wrapped in thin dry wrinkled skin, Humayun was fast slipping irrevocably towards the end. One by one ace medicine men of Babar began to beg excuse of emperor at the same time advising him to invoke mercy of Almighty Allah. That seemed to be only hope for them to revive terminally ill Humayun. At first Babar felt anger at their utter incompetence and threw them into the gallows, yet they would come and seek his excuse oblivious to their fate for they could see the writing on the wall. Soon, however, Babar too reconciled to inevitable his anger giving way to frustration. This was a completely new situation for him, baffling and confusing, for he had always been in control of his life in good times or bad times. He was truly self-made. He had arrived at his position through deft use of his uncanny sense of timing and the power of the blade of his sword. Successes and victories to him were merely logical conclusions of his efforts therefore did not make him euphoric, just as setbacks and reverses were rationalized as errors of judgement and did not cause any depression in him as there was always another time to make amends. He was brave and persistent and his, this ability had brought him to his present position of power, without ever looking at anyone for support. This had instilled in him super confidence at his ability to get what he wanted therefore he had never known to beg for anything from anyone not even Allah. Never in his life he had felt helpless but now with every painful sigh of his son he began to cringe at the thought of loosing his only son. This being absolutely new experience, he did not know how to respond. Initially he threw his medicine men to the gallows but soon realized utter futility of his action. Not knowing what to do, he followed the only thing that was there to do., pray to Allah for his son's life. Now completely drained, his sharp practical mind fogged and in a state of delirium he began to circle his son's bed softly uttering,
"Lord Almighty, spare my son, take my life instead," the deal maker aspect of his persona still active in his subconscious.

Soon he collapsed and blacked out. Then he heard a voice in his head,
"You don't think Allah has anything to with your son's illness? Do you! Why do you make it so complicated, won't random occurrence of events much simpler to explain."
Surprised at this, words came out of his mouth involuntarily,
"O Lord, All mighty Allah, you run this universe, all that happens in his qayanat has your sanction. Random occurrence of events without objective boggles our mind and makes the world senseless "
"That’s a sweeping statement, however later on that, but wouldn't In that case there must be valid reason for his sickness. After all there must be order in this disorder, Allah couldn't be whimsical."
"Who am I to question your wisdom Lord, there must be valid reason for all your actions. You are merciful and have the ability to make anything happen."
"And what happens to the reason for which Humayun is sick if He concedes your request?"
"Surely the reason stands, some one has to come forward and take it upon himself to bring it to logical conclusion. Since the cause is not known to this creature but the affect is obviously illness of Humayun leading to his death, I submit myself to carry out the effect."
"You make it as if the actions are transferable besides even if it is transferable, won't it be an unequal exchange?"
"Unequal! Why O Lord?"
"You are much older than your son, aren’t you? So your remaining life is much shorter than your son's, besides the quality of life is substantially different. You offer a shorter and a weak old man's life in exchange for a longer and a young man's life."
"That's true Lord, but you could make my death that much painful to even out the anomaly."
"That's very interesting. Why should pain compensate for length of life and its quality? Human suffering is creation of humans only, pain on the other hand is merely a message for your body. You make it, as if, Allah is not Allah but a sadistic lowly satrap, who derives pleasure out of seeing humans degrading themselves. Strangely you assign noble attributes to God and go on to treat Him in just the opposite way."
"Mercy my Lord! Never thought it that way. In spiritual world material things don't count yet when we part with them for an exchange in mundane world it leads to subtle suffering. I was merely drawing a parallel from physical to spiritual world. Since suffering and satisfaction is common feature of exchange I was expect that the satisfaction of seeing my son survive could be compensated with my suffering"
"This is ridiculous. Mundane exchanges involve tangibles with differing perception of values. Each of the party perceives value of other party's item more than the value of his own item that is why exchange takes place. The same principle applies to intangibles too. Why should anyone see any value in pain and suffering at all?"
"I don't seem to have logic to contest you Lord Almighty, but we humans are immotional people and often do things impulsively. Logic in any case wins arguments on relative basis depending on the skill and knowledge of individual. How can I compete with you? To us suffering and pain is symbolic of sacrifice. I give what I have and I do so impulsively therefore O Lord of the Universe accept it."

"You have dug your own grave. Humans are strange, aren’t they! If you make them happy they wouldn't believe, it is real. They perceive reality from suffering and pain. They make simple explanations complicated to enhance their own importance in the universe. "
"Oh merciful Allah, I seek death in exchange for my son's life not because I have death-wish."
"Don't call me Allah. I am not Allah. "
"What should I call you Lord?"
" Why don't you understand, I am not Allah or God or anything supernatural. I am your own image, your sub-conscious self. I am your ego, your free spirit, your eternal soul. Your son could yet be cured on his own, but if you will not recognize me and continue to confuse me with Allah, you will die irrespective of whether Humayun survives or not."

Strange thing happened. It wasn't miracle but just a random occurrence, Humayun, developed required antibodies against the decease. Once that happened his recovery was very quick and startling. At the same time Babar began to wither. Believing firmly in God's interference he expected to die in exchange for his son's life. This firm belief autosuggested his brain to send terminate signals all over. One by one his organs began to fail eventually he too succumbed to his own will.

* * * *

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Nemesis

This was a lazy afternoon, a hot uncomfortably warm April afternoon. Weary and bored E.Babu stretched his arms, took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, releasing with the breath the creeping lethargy he felt in the office doing nothing. He stood up and walked over to the window. Peering down the window from his fourth floor office, he could see to his left, Mohammed Ali road leading up to Bhendi Bazaar and to his right as far as the Byculla Bridge, if he craned his neck far enough. Mohammed Ali road ran parallel along the length of his office block though right below his office he could see only the far side of the road due to projection over the Windows of lower floors. The traffic below now was much less chaotic than in the mad morning rush of people trying to reach office in time. There were no unnecessary honking of horns or pushing and jostling to get ahead. The afternoon traffic was much more disciplined, leaner and quieter. As E.Babu was scanning the traffic casually, he saw a funeral procession silently moving up in his direction far in distance near the Bhendi Bazaar. The men looked pensive and grim in their white kurta-pyjama and round white caps. They were carrying the body covered in a green and red fabric decorated with glistening foils, tinsels and real flowers. There were six men carrying the fully draped body placed on a bamboo frame wedged over their shoulders. The entire procession seemed noiselessly floating towards him rather than walking as if a light paper boat gently pushed in quite still water moving out of force of its inertia. By appearance and the attire of the men, it was a Muslim funeral procession. Soon they were near enough for E.Babu to have a clearer view of the body. Now he could see the profile of a human form under the heavily flower laden cover. Something appeared to him bizarre about the body. He saw it simmering like images you see over burning hot roads in summers. It wasn’t such a hot afternoon, perhaps a little uncomfortable. He looked at the body curiously, which was now a lot closer to him. It was a bizarre sight indeed. He saw a strange quivering simmering vision. Just a few inches above the body, there were two human figures arguing and occasionally pushing each other while a crouching man with snow-white beard at the head of corpse looked at them amusedly. The man turned his head and looked straight at him. Involuntarily he hid his face behind the wall. Immediately realizing his folly, he again looked at the corpse sheepishly, which was now quite close at the road below him. He chided himself for the act and looked at the scene down below with a lot more positive aggression expecting to see a perfectly normal funeral procession passing by. He was surprised to see the same simmering transparent animated images suspended above the body of dead person. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, peeled them wide to have a clearer view, it made no difference. The images were very real. He felt a wave of fear surge through his whole body. All this while the crouching bearded man seemed to be looking at him intently. He felt a momentary blackout and then heard someone talking to him inside his head without any audible sounds.

“What do you think?”

Surprised he looked curiously around him and then at the bearded man, who nodded his head in acknowledgement. He kept quite.

“What do you think, E.Babu?"
“What do you mean? What is going on out there?” E.Babu called out.

“Well, this person lying dead under the ornate cover is Jamal Ahmed. Apparently he led a boring average life, therefore sum total of his sins against his good acts end up in a dead heat except a rare incident, which is the cause of argument between these blokes you see at the base of the corpse. The fellow with tiny horns on his head is from hell while the fellow with wings and a shining ring above his head is from heaven. They both agree about extremely dull existence of Jamal, what they are unable to agree on is whether his one act of aberration was morally good or bad.”

“Isn’t an average person regarded as sinner?”
“So, what happens to him?”
“I don’t know. All the sacred books say that if you sin you go to hell and if you do good you go to heaven. None tells about a guy’s fate who is exactly in the middle, zero balance person.”
“What is the dispute?”
“Well, Jamal once gambled and won some cash, he did not keep the cash though. He gave it all to a charity. These two gentlemen are unable to agree on totality of action if in its entirety it was morally correct or wrong.”
“Isn’t this a farce?”

“ I mean the whole concept of stick and carrot, reward and punishment and hell and heaven does not make any sense.”
“It makes sense to me.”

“I mean the basis of reward and punishment is very brittle and stands on our sense of feeling pain and pleasure. But pain and pleasure are only relative to our physical existence in this world. Therefore if a hell or a heaven exists it has to exist in this world only. Parameters of existence beyond death, if there is any, are bound to be qualitatively different, otherwise death, as an interface to such existences has no meaning. Without a physical body the kind we have in this world, there is no way one can feel the pain or the pleasure, besides both feeling of pain and pleasure evolved as necessary tools for our survival. That pain and pleasure are used as tools of retribution and reward is merely a by-product of cultural evolution and not the needs of our survival kit”, said E.Babu.

“Assuming that pain and pleasure can be experienced only with a physical body and also granting that after life necessarily have different sets of parameters, still something akin to pain and pleasure will replace them. After all, thread of continuity has to link the two lives to make adjustments and corrections. Agreed though, hell and heaven have clear stamp of human imagination but something similar has to exist.”

“Not just human imagination, but the very concept is not tenable on other arguments too. For example our morality, on which the foundation of good and evil are laid, itself is transient Therefore what is regarded as good today may not be good some time later and similarly sins of today may not necessarily be sins some time in future. As we know sati was once an act of high morality just as child marriage a socially accepted virtue. By the way, who are you? Jamal Ahmed!”
“I am Maya”
“Maya! You know the illusion.”
“Oh, I always thought Maya to be a woman.”
“Funny, you thought so, illusion to be either man or woman.”

E.Babu felt yet another momentary blackout. This time when he came to sense he found himself peering down the window at Mohammed Ali road. He said aloud, “What a vision in the middle of an afternoon. Maya, indeed Maya.” He chuckled. As he turned away from the window, he felt a sharp pain in his chest and collapsed.

He felt very light, in fact completely weightless and floating above the floor. He saw from high above grim and anxious faces of his colleagues carrying his body on a stretcher. There at the back of the stretcher he saw the quivering transparent images of the two fellows floating and trailing the body arguing over his fate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Crimson Haze

CP had slowed down considerable, all his senses on hyper alert looking for any signs of approaching faint lights or sounds to avoid any contact with anything moving. The thick white fog, which had descended rather suddenly, was quite unusual. Normally wet weather is not conducive to formation of fog but climate is specific to a region and frankly he was not familiar with this part of the world. He could still see damp slushy maroon earth on both the sides of narrow raised road half a meter above the stretched paddy fields on either side. The soft music playing on his car stereo made no difference to the all round gloom. Soon it will be dark, CP became apprehensive that at the rate he was moving, there was no way he could make it to Bareilli before nightfall. He looked at his watch, it showed half past five, but that was no consolation in this weather. His eyes drifted towards the glove compartment on the dashboard, was instantly annoyed at seeing bold ‘CP’ printed at the compartment lid. He had never liked his name, CP was merely an acceptable compromise which he encouraged but only as a compromise to more loathsome Chandar or Chandar Prakash. He wished he had a perkier name like his spiritual guru E.Caulla, whom he was on way to see. ‘Chandar Prakash’ sounded juvenile, lacked luster even though it meant moonlight and certainly did not reflect his cautious and slow analytical personality but then it was not in his hand to alter his name. All this while he was alert as always even though his thoughts were on a rather annoying subject. Suddenly he saw some thing, which drew his attention, something sprawled on the ground on his side of the road. If this was clear weather and he was speeding down the road he might have completely missed the strange object on the road but he was driving very slowly and his senses were on hyper alert.. He immediately brought his car to stop and slowly backed off to the place he had seen the curious object. He parked the car on the side as far off the road as he could and then took his flashlight out of the glove compartment and began walking towards the strange object sprawled on the wet paddy field near the road. There was still sufficient light so flashlight was not really needed nevertheless, he did it on reflex. He jumped off the high road to the wet paddy field below and approached the murky body, which looked like an adult unconscious person sprawled on the ground face down. When he went near the body he realized that the man was beyond any help. His head sheared, lying next to his dead torso. There were streams coagulated blood which had slowly diffused in the soil before hardening. The man must have been dead for quite some time now. CP looked at his watch, few minute to hit the six o’clock so he decided to leave the corpse as it is and call the police from nearest telephone.

Now there was some urgency in his driving but not the casualness. His senses were as alert as they were earlier. Soon enough he reached a muddy road branching off presumably to a nearby village. He turned the car on the branch road unmindful of damage it may cause to his car. A quarter mile up the dirt road he saw first signs of habitation. A silhouette of well-structured cottage surrounded by a high wall was the first dwelling he saw at the outskirts of what seemed to be a well off village. He stopped the car at the gate of the cottage and looked at the nameplate, it said “Judge Sahay”. This is queer, he mumbled. Is this a name or title and name! As the light was falling, he hastily pressed the bell. There was no activity, as he waited impatiently. He pressed the buzzer again, longer this time. Soon he heard some one shouting in annoyance, “Come in Saxena, the door is open.”
Bewildered, CP opened the gate, walked up the drive and gently knocked at the door. Again there was no sound, but a gently nudge revealed the door was open. He entered the room and announced mildly, “Hello! Anybody home.”
This time he heard footfalls approaching the living room. Soon a graying but robust man radiating authority walked in. He seemed surprised at seeing a stranger, apparently he was expecting someone. He said mildly, ”Well, who are you?”
CP said, “Sir, I am a police officer. Could I use your telephone, there is an emergency.”
A wry smile materialized on the man’s face, “Phone’s don’t work in this part of the world, gentleman. I am Judge Sahay. What is the emergency, I may help perhaps.”

“Look at our feet, stranger, “ barked Judge Sahay, noticing CP’s mud splattered shoes.
“Sorry!’ whispered CP realizing his folly, he backed off immediately. Out side the room, he vigorously rubbed his shoes on the doormat and then re-entered the room looking sheepish, he said,
“What a pity, I had to report a dead body, Justice Sahay.”
“A dead body! That’s not an emergency, officer.”
“A body with its head sheared off on the high way. A murder, Justice Sahay.”
“Oh! A murder! On the highway! Now this is becoming rather monotonous I am afraid. Is the dead man wearing a scarlet windcheater? By the way, call me Judge Sahay, everybody does the same here.
“Yes, indeed. The fiery red windcheater had actually attracted my attention even in this thick fog,” said CP completely taken by surprise.
“You have not encountered a murder but a serial murder. And officer, do you have a name!”
“Er, well! Sir, I am CP”, he paused and then continued, ”Chandar Prakash to be precise Judge Sahay.”
“I guess your friends call you CP, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right Judge Sahay.” CP, meanwhile noticed a dinning table set up with an array of neat glasses placed upside down with a sealed bottle of whisky and a couple of other assorted bottles of liqueurs in preparation of what appeared to be a small get-together. He continued,” I see that I have intruded into a planned celebration, Judge Sahay?”
“You have indeed, CP, but you are welcome to join. You will here some very interesting things from my guests about the serial murders I am talking about. Meanwhile I see there is nothing you can do about that emergency of yours in this inclement weather. Anyway, this fog will not disappear until the morning therefore you may as well be my guest for the night. It is early yet, the other guests will not be here till 9 PM, so you can make yourself comfortable. If you are cold, help yourself to a stiff Brandy.” The Judge disappeared in to the kitchen.
CP made himself a stiff whisky and gulped it down. He then ran down the drive, opened the gates wide and brought in his car. And again closed the gate. He was temporarily satisfied with the arrangement. There was no way he could drive in this weather and Judge Sahay’s placed looked most promising to spend the night. Yet something was strange and eerie around here, may be because of gloomy weather, he thought but was not quite satisfied with his own reasoning. Fear, the word crossed his mind, he shook his head in surprise.

. First to arrive was a scowling aging lanky and tall individual walking with a pointed cane seemingly at war with the world. Immediately on arrival he yelled,” Banwari!”, baring his past high ranking government status, the type having ”Koii hai” kind of mentality. He took instant dislike to CP, his scowl getting even more pronounced. He made no effort to camouflage his feeling, said loudly in a mocking voice,” Well, well, we have a visitor .and an extremely dirty door mat” The racket caused by the man brought Judge Sahay to the living room.
“Eh, Saxena, why this gentleman is a stranded police officer. I am afraid you will have to make do without Banwari. He is off to his village for a couple of days. Help yourself, I will be with you in a while.” He disappeared into the house.

Saxena made a stiff whisky for himself and took seat directly opposite CP. CP decided to reciprocate antagonism with even more hostility, after all he was a police officer not many take him so lightly. They both sat facing each other in awkward silence peering intently in their respective drinks. After some ten minutes another visitor arrived. He was quite the opposite of Saxena in manner and temperament. He was short and round, wore kurta and dhoti, had applied large tilak on his forehead. He cheerfully acknowledged CP’s presence,
“Ah! We have a visitor today, how nice. This will make the evening interesting.”
“Acharyaji, you are late today. Did you notice the mud at the door mat,” said Saxena.
“Indeed Sir Prabhakar, guess this rain has loosened the soil. Looks like Banwari is not attending to his chores properly. Where is the good Doctor?” Then turning to CP he said,
“I am Sharma,” then added for effect” Shubhakar.” He took seat next to him. CP was puzzled, Judge Sahay called the pugnacious man Saxena while this amiable man whom Saxena called Acharyaji, calls him Sir Prabhakar. He briefly informed Sharma reason for his presence there. Soon Judge Sahay joined them.
“Acharyaji, I will need your help in kitchen. As regards Saxena and Doctor the less said the better,” he said helping himself to a soda and scotch. He then cleared his throat and said in a deep baritone,
“CP here “ pointing towards CP,” has found yet another body with severed head. Obviously severing of head is amateurish attempt on the part of assassin to derail the investigation but few minutes at the post-mortem investigation will reveal Vader died of poisoning. Yes, He is Shashi Vader, the officer will vouch for that.” He looked in CP’s direction.
“If you allude to scarlet windcheater, then yes the corpse had a red windcheater on”
At this moment they heard mild knock at the door then a dark bearded gentleman entered.
“Dr. Bhaskar, you are beyond redemption. I give up,” said Judge Sahay.

Dr.Bhaskar was a dark, bearded and studious fellow having an easy laid back life style. He was a person of few words not used to raising his voice but very persuasive. He wasn’t a physician but a retired professor of psychology from the famous Berrieli Collage and that partly explained his quiet persuasiveness. He was a mild drinker but smoked heavily. He set for himself soda and gin, greeted everybody with a smile briefly glancing at CP interestedly then settled down next to Judge Sahay. Acharyaji spoke first after the interruption caused by arrival of Dr.Bhaskar,
“The fellow had it coming. I say these young yuppie types have no regard for their own glorious cultural heritage. They are the kind, who bring disgrace to society. I do not think he was poisoned. I strongly believe he was strangled.”
Dr.Bhaskar cleared his throat, sending signal to be filled in on the subject of discussion. Judge Sahay repeated the whole incident briefly then threw the question,
“Who could have killed the fellow?”
“Every man is a potential killer,” instead of replying, Dr.Bhaskar made that enigmatic statement puffing on his cigar. Dr.Bhaskar’s replies were crisp and terse often of general nature rather than specific. CP began to assemble a discernable picture from the bits of conversation around him. This coterie of queer individuals often met at Judge Sahay’s house. The common feature of their interest was crime and deliverance of justice. This Vader fellow was here a few days when they had a similar conclave. From there conversation he could now vaguely draw caricature of Vader. Apparently Vader was a ruthless FMCG salesman with focus on rural marketing. He stomped the villages around here in his motorbike selling sundry commodities. Seems he had a pathological fixation on guarding his turf. His motorbike breakdown near Judge Sahay’s house so like him he too sought help from Judge Sahay and was invited join their gathering just like happened with him. Eventually these four men had systematically peeled every layer of his personas and what emerged was quite grotesque. Vader had a turbulent childhood. He was diminutive and frail that made him prime target of young bullies. One particular kid who was a relentless bullying died in tragic circumstances that left deep scars on his psyche. This bully died in a bizarre accident in which Vader fatally injured him with an arrow. Dr.Bhaskar later ripped apart Vader defenses to make him concede that he had practiced shooting of arrows prior to this incident but Vader had remained adamant that the incident had been purely an accident. When they had left him last he was shaken and doubtful. His thought train was broken by Dr.Bhaskar’s rare monologue,
“Vader was adept at persistently suppressing and blacking out unpleasant facts which did not meld with his conscious persona, that caused innumerable subconscious conflicts in mind. There is always a possibility of suicide …..”

Instinctively CP began to discern a dangerous pattern in Dr.Bhaskar’s technique of autosuggestion. Suddenly he felt that all four of them were playing a kind of macabre game. May be one of them is a pathological killer. He looked around him and decided Sir Prabhakar is unlikely to be subtle murderer, on the other hand Acharyaji wouldn’t kill any one himself. He was most likely to find a faithful zombie to carry out his mission. Judge Sahay and Dr.Bhaskar are most dangerous to pin down. He felt his own life is in serious danger and then realized that there was complete silence in the room. They were all eagerly looking at him. As looked at them bewildered Judge Sahay repeated helpfully,
“We were saying CP, you too might have killed people in course of your duty perhaps. After all you are in the police.”
CP decided to be very very careful with this criminal lot. He said presently,
“I have an investigative job therefore I have been assaulted several times.”
Judge Sahay said soothingly,
“You mistake CP, no offence of course. What we meant was if you had killed someone in self-defense. We, of course, did not have murder in our mind.”
“No, never,” said CP dryly. He had no wish to become subject of their discussion. But they persisted.
“Of course, of course,” said Acharyaji then added slyly,” Have you come across unnatural death at any time in life!’

“Depends what you consider unnatural death. I have been to city morgue several times in connection with my investigation,” said CP unhelpfully yet he wasn’t ready to annoy them and provoke into something. He was by now veering towards an opinion about seedy character of this gathering but not quite convinced though. He was intrigued by the swings in their approach sometimes soft some times brutally candid.
Dr.Bhaskar said.
“What is your most profound recollection, something very poignant like untimely death of a very dear person?”
“I have no such recollection, no tormenting memories if that is what you mean, “ said CP adding,” fortunately!”
“Eh! Yes, yes of course. Your parents, aren’t they alive?”
“Yes they are, very much so,” said CP showing traces of annoyance.
“And your grand parents? As a child you were very fond of them, weren’t you?”
“ I was indeed. Unfortunately they died a long time ago.”
“As a child it must have shocked you as it should indeed you being fond of them.”
“Grandma died in village far away I have no recollection of that. Grandpa died from a heart attack, I guess that rattled me,” CP was surprised saying that.
“He lived with for a while for you to remember all this. A long time back I guess,” said Judge Sahay.
“ And he would send you on minor errands, “ Dr.Bhaskar added.
“Yes indeed, now that you describe this so graphically. He used to give me ten paise to fetch a packet of beeri and two sticks of Panama cigarettes from nearby pan shop,” said CP lost in reminiscence.
“And sometimes it would irritate you, naturally!”

“Yes, always two Panama sticks and bundle of beeri. He wouldn’t deviate on that ever even if I had to go out many times. I didn’t like that,” said CP enthusiastically. But the trap was began to tighten without his realizing. Now they were making very helping suggestion as if hypnotizing him.
“You say your grand father was frail and weak, did your parents discourage him to walk up the stairs, may be in regard to his weak heart, “ suggested Judge Sahay.
“Yes you are right. Now I remember we had small room on the first floor we called it Barsati. Those days houses had high ceilings therefore the stairs up to ceiling were tiresome for Grandpa. The Doctor had strictly forbidden him to climb stairs. He was not allowed to climb up to Barsati. I would often run up the stairs to avoid his frequent errands. “

By now it was very late. There was complete stillness about the house some kind of disturbing eerie silence apart from the conspiratorial whispers of those old men. CP seemed to be in some kind of trance flowing along the suggestive path led by the men. Sir Prabhakar, who was quite silent all this while took over from Judge Sahay, said in a surprisingly different tone, his voice quivering,

“Grandpa died in Barsati. It was a cold winter day. He had sent you to the shop, I guess at least twice to get those cigarettes and beeri. You didn’t like that one bit and were very unhappy. I think it was afternoon. There was no one in the house save young CP. Grandpa was talking to neighbor said goodbye to him and knocked at the door. Sulking CP didn’t open the door. As I said it was cold outside, so Grandpa had no option but to climb up the stairs. He was found dead much later. Of course nobody was blamed.” After a brief silence Sir Prabhakar continued rising from his seat,
“It is now getting late. I guess time to call it a day now.”
Ashen faced CP looked completely lost in thought. One by one they all began to rise. Abruptly CP said,
“Wasn’t winter. It was a very hot day in summer.”
“Of course of course!” they chorused in sympathy.

When a morose, shaken and completely deflated CP saw Dr.Bhaskar heading for toilet, he followed him stealthily. When away from the eyesight of others he confronted him with the question,
“Is Sir Prabhakar a schizophrenic?”

This startled Dr.Bhaskar. CP saw first sign of crack developing in enamel like fa├žade of Dr.Bhaskar. Showing first sign of anxiety Dr.Bhaskar said anxiously,
“But they all are schizophrenic! Look if they saw me talking to you in the dark, I am dead meat.” Then emphatically gesturing him to use the toilet first he retreated to the living room.
Later CP saw them huddled together in an animated discussion.

Avaricious Atiputi Cerma couldn’t stop gloating over the windfall. He was assigned a thoroughly dull and tedious audit of IT department when suddenly this message to audit UP Nal Koop Nigam (UP Tube Well Corp.) came his way. Now anybody who has any knowledge of audit knows what a gold mine it was to audit most corrupt of the state’s undertaking. So first thing the next day he firmed up the tour lest authority changed his mind. Now he was heading towards Bareilli in the corporation’s van. As they were nearing the destination the van was blocked by smashed a red Maruti 800 lying in the middle of the road. Some shepherd kids were vigorously gesticulating towards the treetop of a nearby Peepul tree. Atiputi Cerma came out of the van and looked in the direction of the tree. He was shocked to see a bloodied man with multiple stab wounds was hanging from the tree. Shaken he looked inside the smashed car, he could still see bold CP embossed on the dashboard. He immediately returned to his van barked swift instruction to driver to maneuver the van from the side of the car and speed off from this site.

* * * * *

For away, Sir Prabhakar watching the preceding through a powerful binoculars said resignedly,
“I told you, this rascal can only be trapped by monetary inducement. He speeding away from the scene as if Huns are after him.”