Twinkling Twelve and Charles Sobhraj – Part 1

Sachin and Satish loved to read detective fiction . They were devout followers of Enid Blyton and were truly inspired by the Secret Seven and Famous Five series .

“You know , what . We can do this ourselves ” , said Sachin one day after what seemed like a  long contemplative pause

Satish was busy admiring Gita’s ankles ,since the skirt seemed to cover everything else and had been dying to catch a glimpse of some knee at some point  . Sachin’s comment broke through his reverie and he glanced at his friend and rival concernedly.

“What can we do ourselves” , asked Satish unable to take his eyes off Gita

“Form our own club, of course. What else did you think  , numbskull?”

Satish’s curiosity was too piqued by now to take offence at the insult . “What kind of club?”

“Secret club!! like Secret Seven or Famous Five. That was we can solve some mysteries and help the police”

Their idea of the police was the school chowkidaar who unable to reconcile himself to his present circumstance like to regale them with colorful stories of his past where he was a havaldaar .

“What about the food? ” . Having reading the luscious descriptions of ham sandwiches and ginger ale which Satish had imagined to be some decadent delicacy that the English ate , he was in no small hurry to try those delicacies.

Sachin scornfully remarked “We need to be spending time solving mysteries , not eating ”

The scorn scorched a hole in Satish’s heart and hot blood rushed to his head but he was embarassed about what he perceived as his weakness .

“So what will our club be called ” , asked Satish , eager to switch the topic.

“How about twinkling Two?”

“Sounds great!! Should we invite Yogesh?” asked Satish . Yogesh was his cricket buddy . Sachin was not the outdoorsy type , unbeknownst to Satish , Sachin’s mother was very proud of her son’s fair complexion and was determined to keep it that way so Sachin was forbidden to play outside for any longer  than a hour and that too only after sunset.

“No , Did I say twinkling three ?? Twinkling Two , it is!!! ” , said Sachin in a peremptory tone which forbade any further discussion on the topic. Satish came from a poor family and society had already programmed into him a obsequiousness to authority (or in this case a pretence at authority).

“Saaacchin ” , came the lyrical scream that signified the end of Sachin’s sojourn into the world of boys and play for the day. His mother wanted him back in the house. So he left and Satish was left with his own thoughts .Unlike Sachin , Satish thrived on social proof and for him, the indisputable logic of the more the merrier was like the rock of Gibraltar . Not much could assail that belief. He loved the idea of a secret club but he wanted the secret club to be as large as possible , say about a 100 boys and maybe even a few girls . He had always admired Rita and would have happily made her part of the club so he could have an excuse to hang out with her and thereby try to get into Gita’s good graces. But the thought of Sachin’s dour face was  a bucket of ice water thrown at his beautiful plans. Annoyed he reminded himself that he needed to convince his partner to be as open minded . Pensively he decided to think about this wonderful opportunity and how to exploit it so as to get closer to Rita and Gita. The sun seemed just as pensive and going away as well so Satish headed home.

The next morning Satish encountered Sachin again and this time Sachin could hardly contain his excitement , “Our first assignment”  . Satish looked blank . But Sachin was too engrossed in his own excitement to notice it and kept going , “Did you hear that Charles Sobhraj escaped from Tihar Jail”

“Who is Charles Sobhraj?” inquired Satish .

Sachin glared at the dim witted moron in front of him and wondered if it was a mistake in the first place to include him in such a glorious undertaking . He decided that he needed to revisit that decision soon.

“Charles Sobhraj is a wanted killer, rapist . he is an international criminal” Sachin spat out in disgust . This was not lost on Satish so though he was dying to know where Tihar Jail was, he decided that he should not mention it right now . Survival instincts told him that if he mentioned it right now, he might find himself ousted from Twinkling two , the thought of somebody else capturing the unknown glory was too painful to contemplate. So Satish queried in trembling undertones “Don’t you think we need more than just the two of us to capture an international criminal?”  . That did give Sachin some pause , though he was extremely annoyed with Satish’s ignorance , he reflected that whatever limitations Satish might have, he certainly made up for it with sound practical sense.

“Perhaps we should see if any of the other boys are interested. ”

That was music to Satish’s ears . “How about Yogesh?”

“That moron!!! He barely passed 5th grade . All he can do is play cricket”

“yes but he has a cricket bat and we do need weapons ”

Again the soundness of the argument stilled Sachin and he wondered if he had any weapons that he could use. Perhaps his father’s flat blade screw driver or his mother’s steel ladle . On second thoughts , the flat blade screw driver

“Ok , but we do need to keep this a complete secret , make sure that Yogesh keeps his mouth shut. Twinkling three still sounds good”

Class started but Satish was lost in reveries of yet to be achieved glory that was soon to be his achieved glory. He saw himself being congratulated by his peers , maybe even the chief minister and perhaps even prime minister would come to see him, give him enough money so that his family would be on easy street . Twice he got questioned by his teachers because they could sense that he was distracted and twice , he hung his head shamefacedly swearing to himself that once he  had finished capturing Charles Sobhraj, he would never attend school again. His chemistry teacher decided that perhaps he needed to kneel down in front of the staff room and after that unbearable humiliation , he wondered, perhaps he could convince Sobhraj to kill her before he returned him to jail.

Sachin had another brainwave during the day . he had decided that they needed a code language and upon reflection hit upon the brilliant idea of adding “ed” to every word thereby rendering themselves unitelligible to common folk.

Alas for the plans of mice and men and Sachin , before the day was out ,Yogesh the blabbermouth unable to keep his excitement at winning the government reward  had managed to ingratiate himself with a dozen detective wanna bees who had all heard the news of the secret group being flouted by Sachin and the imminent capture of Charles Sobhraj .

Sachin being picked up by his father after school was not privy to this dastardly act of betrayal by Yogesh however Satish walking back with Yogesh suddenly found himself surrounded by Amit, Ajit , Saroj, Vineet and Thapar  clamoring for details . Satish was convinced that once Sachin found out about the leaking venture,  his one sole act of benevolence towards Yogesh was going to cost him his fame and fortune. He would have loved to punch Yogesh in the mouth , stupid stupid idiot!!! How could he do this to me ? After everything that I have done for him , risking my neck and what do I get? just toil and trouble . Stupid idiot!!!

The “Stupid idiot” oblivious of his “dastardly act of betrayal” was loving the limelight .

“Where should we meet ?” piped Ajit

“How about Anurag’s house?” – squeaked Amit

The thought of adding yet another member to the hitherto “Twinkling three” sounded like yet another death knell to Satish and morever he envied Anurag , if anything , he wanted to have this fame and riches so he could show Anurag down. Anurag lived across the house from Satish but unlike Satish who lived in a rented house , Anurag lived on ancestral property , he seemed to have a never ending supply of games , books , comics thanks to parents who encouraged their son to read. Satish was plagued by the green eyes monster of envy every time he went to Anurag’s house . As is typical in all these cases, Anurag was blissfully unaware  of his “friend”‘s machinations and probably could care less whether he was made a part of this group or that while Satish was working away on his hamster wheel trying to one up Anurag . Satish tried to quelch this idea , “No , Anurag talks too much, he cannot keep a secret. ”

“No way . Last week I went away from school for an entire period and though Anurag saw me leave, he never mentioned to anybody ” – squeaked Amit excitedly

“Besides , I really like that dark staircase that he has , it is dark and nobody can see once you are inside”

The dark staircase worked its magic onto the rest of the entourage . The irony was the staircase was only dark when the entrance was shut off and the lights switched off . The enveloping comfort of the dark embrace was a welcome relief to anybody  who had sought refuge in its enveloping embrace from the tyranny of parental authority who never seemed to tire of this cruel and unusual punishment called homework .

That evening Sachin came out in quest of Satish to talk further about the group and he was surprised to see Satish in the midst of the clamor . They must have been 9 or 10 boys . That was a baffling development  , not many people liked Satish . That was one of the reasons why Sachin let him hang around , he was so grateful and it made Sachin feel magnanimous .

Sachin tried to be figure out the sudden reason for Satish’s popularity and tried as he might,  he was perplexed. The thought that his precious secret club was at the root of Satish’s popularity was the furthest thing from his mind

Continued in Part 2

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