Twinkling Twelve and Charles Sobhraj – Part 3

Continued from Part 2

“Well how about we start by making a trip to the police station and tell them that we will be helping them. We know how the mama (police) just botch everything up” , Anurag stated authoritatively

Ed – I have no idea about the etymology of the term mama being used for police . Mama in Marathi means maternal uncle . But usually the term when used for cops has a derogatory sound about it that has always been inexplicable to me.

Sachin looked dubious , “Are you suggesting that we go to the police station and tell them that they need to stop investigating this case?”

“Exactly , we will also tell them where we will be searching so they can be spared the trouble of having to look in those places ” , exclaimed Anurag triumphantly . Like most sheltered children who are pampered and told repeatedly by their parents as to how special they are , Anurag had developed a strong sense of contempt for the general mass of humanity . With Anurag , one was guilty of stupidity unless proven otherwise.

Satish looked around puzzled , having always been obsequious in life tends to leave one tremulous of authority and the thought of walking into the police station and informing the guard that we will be taking over was more alien to him than say the thought of landing on the moon. He wondered if his idiot friends would actually go along with this foolishness.

The rest were happy to go along with Anurag’s suggestions and the dirty dozen walked over to the nearest police chowkey(station) . The picture of the paunchy  constable chewing his betel leaf contentedly with the red juice staining the lower echelons of his majestic mustache formed a sight that is familiar to most if not all . He looked petulantly at the young impetuous horde that seemed to advance towards him. He had children of his own and disliked them with a passion . They were usually good for nothing and demanding .

This crowd looked no better , especially the vanguard who looked like entitled spoilt brats . His instinct was justified when the brat started to talk “Hey you havaldar(constable) , we wanted to tell you that we are going to capture Charles Sobhraj and we dont want you meddling around ”

“What !!” , constable Ganpatrao was dumbfounded but as the words permeated through the layer of confusion and astonishment and understanding floated to the surface , his eyes blazed . The little bastards always bought out the worst in him

As Anurag patiently started to reiterate their position , unwary of the mottled rage in his adversary’s eyes “Weeee arrrre gooooinnng toooo caaaptuuurrrre Chhharrrrles Ssssobhhhhrrrraaaj and weeee donnnnt wannnntttt you medddddling arrrrounnnnd ”

” Piss off , you little bastards ” , screamed constable Ganpatrao and brandished his staff with the strongest intention of knocking off the little brat’s block whilst spewing profanities directed at mothers , fathers and general family ancestry in chaste Marathi . The dirty dozen beat a hasty retreat with Anurag still in the vanguard .They did not stop until they were out of breath and well out of reach of the fat constable who looked like a bloodthirsty savage as he ran after them with all the effort that he could muster

Now after they had regrouped , Anurag looked around and counted 12 for 12 .He was disgusted that nobody had bothered to put up a stand with the fat constable. He wondered if they needed some inspirational lessons in courage but he decided that perhaps inspiration could be better utilized at another time especially since some uncouth idiot might point out that he was in the vanguard while fleeing .It would be impossible to explain to these idiots that since he was the smartest, he had to ensure his protection for the betterment of the group . He looked thoughtfully around him .The stupidity of the police as personified in the fat constable who could not see the voice of reason and intelligence made it evident to him that they would have to go higher . Perhaps the Inspector or Sub Inspector in the station , that would mean having to sneak around the constable. It was also evident to him that he would have to be the one who would have to talk to the sub inspector because these idiots seemed to lack the backbone requisite for such a foolhardy task. His contempt at his comrades who seemed to have fled without making a bold stand was rising in a dangerous crescendo.

Ed – Well , dangerous for Anurag anyway, had he proceeded to voice his contempt at them , Sachin and Satish may well  join the others in a new punching game 

Fortunately he did have a brilliant brainwave

“I have an idea ” , Anurag exclaimed

Satish looked tired , these audacious trysts with authority were beginning to sap his strength and test his belief that bringing Anurag was a good idea to begin with.

“Ajit and Yogesh should bait the fat constable so that when he was busy chasing them and away from the door , the rest of the gang could go inside the police station and talk sense with sensible authorities. ” , Anurag looked at them proudly expecting an applause . Two silent minutes later, he silently told himself that he needed to find an audience intelligent enough to appreciate his brilliance

“Why should we risk our necks” , bleated Ajit .

“yes , you should go “, ventured Yogesh  timidly looking at Anurag.

Anurag wanted to launch a blistering attack on the stupidity of the general public who were utterly unwilling to sacrifice themselves for the larger cause but rescue came galloping from an unexpected quarter .

“You guys are the fastest runners that we have, Anurag is too slow and he could get caught” Sachin said slowly

Anurag was deeply offended by that comment and wanted to correct him that he had been in the vanguard whilst running away from the policeman . Before he had a chance to defend his running prowess , Yogesh agreed and Ajit reluctantly followed him .Flattery or perhaps logic had won the day.

As Ajit and Yogesh started walking towards the police station . Sachin rallied everybody this time “We need to get in position before the fat constable is led away from the door”

As so everybody decided to take up their respective vantage points where they could see Ajit and Yogesh approach the fat constable .

Ganpatrao viewed tea as one of the rare luxuries nay necessity that was permitted in a thankless spartan government job and he took it very seriously . The neighbourhood tea boy who was a whole 8 years old , knew exactly how he liked his tea . The black tea leaves needed to be blanched in boiling water and 3 paper thin slice of ginger added , after which a pinch of powdered cardomom and cloves were added to the mixture followed by 2 spoons of sugar. After the decoction was deemed suitably aromatic, whole fat buffalo milk was to be added in an exacting proportion of 1.125:1  for milk and the tea decoction. On occasional days , he would permit himself the luxury of a biscuit with his tea.  Ganpatrao viewed the general public as a nuisance that had to be tolerated , personally he would love to lock the lot of them up and throw away the key , unfortunately prison space was a big consideration these days. But his distaste of the general public  might almost seem like love if one was to realize his loathing for the public’s children had grown by leaps and bounds in the last hour . The bastards had led him on a merry chase for a full 10 minutes . It had taken him almost 20 minutes to come back to his post where his boss , the sub inspector demanded to know where he had been goofing off and given him a good ticking. Not a good day at all . The ordeal today was certainly one of those days where he needed a stiff cup of tea with a extra spoonful of sugar and a couple of biscuits to fortify himself for the rest of the shift . As he took up his post again , he looked around for the tea boy who was nowhere to be found. Story of his life, the runt was always hanging around when he was not needed and right now when he desperately needed a tea, the little vagrant had pulled one of his disappearing acts . He wondered if he could arrest him , a definite benefit would be that he could always get tea when he needed it. Deprived of the life resurrecting benefits of tea, he had to content himself with a betel leaf (paan) . Fortunately he had the foresight to buy an extra paan after lunch and he pulled it out of the recesses of his uniform but realized that the earlier exertion of running after those rascals earlier had managed to drench the paper packet in sweat . He slowly unwrapped the wet paper which had the annoying tendency to tear off and stick to the betel leaf and meticulously cleaned it . The sweat on the betel leaf made him queasy , the thought of putting that in his mouth was nauseating but so was the thought of throwing away a perfectly good paan. He hit upon a compromise , he decided to wipe the sweat off on his uniform before eating it.   So focused was he at the task at hand that he failed to notice Yogesh and Ajit on the steps of the police station looking curiously at him. The sudden sight of these two squirts that he did not recognize startled him thereby dropping the precious paan and in a moment of rare adroitness , he swung his hand and managed to clasp the precious cargo between the palm of his hand and his thigh. It is rare that one has moments of such joy followed by such depths of consternation. It was as though somebody sky diving from a mile above in the sky manages to plumb the depths of the Mariana trench in the next moment. The pride and joy at having secured the paan safely was followed by an acute consternation at the sensation of wet betel leaf goop on his hand . He withdrew his palm looking on in horror at the slowly spreading red stain on his trousers . If one had a view of the thoughts inside constable Ganpatrao’s mind , one would have witnessed Dante’s inferno in all its volcanic frenzy.  He looked up at the two miserable wretches who had caused this mayhem and his fury knew no bounds . In a act of agility that would have defeated most Olympic athletes , he leapt up to grasp them . Fortunately for both of them, they had retreated couple of steps while they had watched him during the whole paan exercise and they fled as hard as they could with the constable in hot pursuit . This time the constable aided with various emotions that had eluded him during his prior pursuit seemed to be gaining ground .  The fat constable gaining ground on Ajit and Yogesh mesmerized Satish into paralysis, while Anurag and Sachin came out of their vantage points and hurriedly looked for the others . Seeing nobody else come out of their vantage points, they decided to go inside the station alone before the fat constable came back.

Entering the police station , they found a small vestibule that had a table with crumbs of stale food and stains of tea. Entering a swinging wooded door , they were confronted by a officious looking man in a police uniform with his legs stretched on the table and head hanging on his chest. The man appeared to be asleep . Anurag looked at Sachin and grinned and whispered “You see why we dont want these idiots around”

Sachin looked exasperated . It is unclear to us whether his source of exasperation is his all knowing companion or the police who seemed determined to make an ill impression on the young minds but notwithstanding  the source , he rapped the table  . The sleeping figure did not budge . Anurag watched the reclining figure , could it be possible that somebody had committed a murder in the police station and left the body dressed up as a cop . Before he could convey his theory to Sachin , Sachin rapped the table again , harder with greater urgency. The sleeping cop woke up with a start . He looked at the two kids with bleary eyes . He had a new born at home that kept him up at night and his hopes of getting some rest at the office was dashed by these impertinent brats.

“What do you want?” , snapped Inspector Vithal Pant .

As Anurag started to talk, Sachin interrupted him . “Sir, please we would like to help the police catch Charles Sobhraj . If you could tell us what we can do to help , we will be thrilled to help”

Vithal Pant looked at the kids . Unlike Ganpatrao, he did not view them with a jaundiced eye. Perhaps the sweet taste of fatherhood had inculcated some tender feelings towards children, unlike Ganpatrao who had to provide for a big brood, this was his first child. Perhaps Sachin’s demeanour of humility was the clinching factor, we will never know . He smiled at the boys .

“I actually have a bigger task for you guys before we set out to catch Charles Sobhraj. ”

The boys looked agog with excitement

(To be Cont)

 

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Travelling fantasies

I had known Virendra since first grade . He was extremely fair skinned , had light green eyes and was a Brahmin from the Konkan region of Maharashtra. There is a peculiar affliction that seems to be found only among Indians and that seems to the servile fawning attitudes towards fair skin, I imagine it is some form of Anglophilia, a sycophancy that probably derives its roots from the colonization over the past few centuries .

While most of you would be puzzled and ask me if the fawning tendencies for fairer skin are not true the world around . Women are considered the fairer sex and we all fawn over them. Even the great Benjamin Franklin makes a case for fair skin (in his days they considered Germans to be dark skinned , go figure!!!!) and he makes a case for pursuing English or French women only. But modern day Indians take that sentiment to heart. The concept of tanning inside a tanning booth would probably get you admitted to a lunatic asylum in India . Indians do everything to ensure that fair skin is kept as pristine and fair as possible , some mothers will even prevent their children from playing too long in the sun where they might run into the virulent danger of  losing their pristine natural advantage. But coming back to Virendra , being blessed with natural advantages had certainly made him cocky and arrogant. The longer we knew him, the more we all fawned on him , around 3rd grade he let us on to a secret . The coming summer, he was headed to America to visit Disneyland. We were flabbergasted , Disneyland!!! Actually going to see Mickey mouse , Donald Duck , Goofy !!! We were insanely jealous of his good fortune . How does one get to be so damned lucky?? Envy was probably writ large on every single face .

So fourth grade was all about Disney characters , we had to hear stories of Disneyland and the long plane ride and the stop over in England , the beautiful princesses in Disneyland, the hot dog and ice cream vendors . He had even introduced certain Americanisms into his speech such as “Gotcha” and “Gonna” By the end of the year , we had gotten tired of his silly Americanisms ,Disneyland , London , the beautiful princesses and the Disney characters and heartily wished that Mr Disney had found himself another career, envy notwithstanding.

If fourth grade was awesome, few things could compare to a fifth grader’s dream vacation as his vacation actually turned out to be . It was a month in Kenya and then an African Safari through the Congo. He regaled us with tales of seeing Lion cubs in the wild , uncut precious stones lying unclaimed , the heart wrenching but utterly graceful hunts of the gazelle by the cheetah. We found ourselves cheering in turn for the cheetah and the gazelle in turn.We then heard stories of his house in Mombasa where they housed a small zoo , we were regaled of stories of how he would feed pygmy pigs to his pet python, the garden that housed peacocks , the leopard cubs that had been rescued by Zulu, the son of his Kenyan nanny, Elinah . He even showed us a peacock feather that he assured us was the real deal from one of his pet peacocks. We were fed an inveterate diet of all things Kenyan , Kenyan customs , Kenyan culture , Kenyan diet . Needless to say . we were  envious at his astonishing good fortune and by the end of the year , completely fed up with Kenya and all things Kenyan.

One day my curiosity and envy could stand it no longer and so I asked him how did he manage it , to which he proudly replied that his father was a pilot and they could take free trips anywhere around the world anytime they pleased and since the pilots get paid so handsomely , they had over a dozen houses in different exotic locales. Lucky Bastard!!! He won the ovarian lottery!!! I wished my dad would do something as cool so that I could do all those wonderful things . I wanted to see the Savannah , I wanted to see the animals in the wild, do a safari , go prospecting for gemstones in the rough and a million other things . I had no idea what a bucket list was but I already had a lengthy bucket list thanks to Virendra’s travels.

As the years passed , it became normal for us to expect him to regale us with stories as the school year started . It was always an exotic vacation;  skiing in the Alps while in Europe , going diving in the great barrier reef with sharks, snorkeling with amazing wildlife in Hawaii , even going diving in the dreaded Bermuda triangle, glacier watching in Greenland , and a trip through world war II museums and locations in Germany ,Austria and Poland that impressed even our history teacher in 10th grade and turned us all greener with envy. We just hated the bastard but we were falling over each other to hear more of his exploits , stories of his travels were common place even amongst the girls and several apparently had already vied for the enviable epithet of being his girlfriend. Which just made things that much worse for all of us , even Renu a girl that I had a soft corner for , seemed to be smitten with him , seemed to go out of her way to talk to him where as I barely existed . Oh how the green eyed monster of jealousy inflamed me!!!

After passing out of high school, we went our separate ways . I was destined to be an engineer , if I was not destined to be, my father made sure that I developed proclivities that were suited for engineering . His parents were more lackadaisical and allowed him to go to culinary school which I thought was to be expected , his parents had money, they could afford to let him indulge whereas I had to provide for my family. Moreover I was also envious because I had always heard about the loose women that ended up in culinary schools , I am sure that with his god given good looks, he would be busy sowing wild oats galore . By the time we ended up in college , I had lost touch with him .But my bucket list still housed a ton of places to see and travel , that list owed more to him than to the travel channel and my envy at his good fortune was probably intact but dormant . I eventually gave up any hopes of meeting him , assumed that he would move abroad to one of his dozen houses that his family owned around the world and move on to better things .

I finished my graduation with flying colors and it was imposed upon me that I had to get my masters . When I was trying to get admission for my Masters , I had to run pillar to post and I was in Modern college and whom do I see but my old pal , Virendra in the finance dept . I started in surprise . He had not seen me yet , I snuck towards him unseen and hurried in delight to meet him and I heard the words from his mouth “I will see you later dad”. I stopped and stared in startled disbelief . The man that was being addressed looked just like Virendra , older , fair skin , green eyes so I had little doubt that he was indeed Virendra’s dad . A pilot who has houses in the US , Switzerland , Kenya and a dozen other exotic locales does not need to work in the accounting department of Modern college . I looked at the man slowly , scrutinizing him carefully , head to toe.The thread bare sweater and the faded pants and the worn out chappals painted a picture that was slowly coming into focus for me . The face wore the withdrawn look of a man who had cherished dreams and hopes and watched life batter away at them like a gale against a flimsy raft , it was certainly not the face of a man who was used to getting his way .  As I stared , comprehension slowly dawned on me . Comprehension is a funny beast ,this sudden insight had the unexpected effect of tying seemingly disparate pieces of information together into a consummate whole.  A realization hitherto safely hidden from view, floated up into my consciousness . I had been a ‘close friend’ for over 15 years and in those 15 years, I have never been to his house .Anger crept in when I realized that I had been fooled , for the better part of 15 years. All that envy and  misery over the years, jealousy at his good fortune suddenly seemed like an utter waste of my life and  the feeling of sour and bitter humiliation slowly made its way and I wanted to throw up, I could imagine him chuckling at all of us  being fooled by his imaginative stories . He must think we are all idiots.  The anger and fury gave way to an overwhelming desire to humiliate him , sweet humiliating retribution in front of his father for making me and all our friends look like idiots. But fortunately before my vicious ploy could be put to work , providence bailed me out. The department was crowded with students trying to pay fees so he never saw me as he turned and left. And my father came by and took me away to the meeting that was scheduled; we had to focus on more important issues.

But as time passed , the need for providing a dramatic expose , weighed on me , sucking up useful energy and time . I should have instead spent time figuring out how to tell my dad how grateful I was for his upbringing, I did not have great vacations but I was sufficiently comfortable in my skin that I did not have to create elaborate fantasies to hide who I was and for that I had only my father to thank for but these valuable lessons are learnt by the truly wise ones amongst us, most of us focus on petty issues and I was no exception , I focused on silly plans to satiate petty desires , one of which included formulating a plan for a dramatic expose . In retrospect I should have been more respectful of Old Man Time because he has taken great pains to teach me some very hard and painful lessons ; tell your parents how much you love and appreciate them because death does not always warn before it comes knocking , tell the woman you love how much she means to you because once you lose her, you may never get an opportunity to get her back, indulge your children because once they grow up, they move on with their own lives and don’t have time for your regrets.

My dad passed away quite suddenly due a heart attack . Doctors assured me that smoking was responsible , that did not do anything to inspire me to quit my smoking habit however my dad’s death did change my perspectives in relation to a number of issues , including my seemingly insatiable need for exposing Virendra . Overnight I failed to see the point of the exercise .I was looking at this from a different vantage point , a vantage point where I would give anything to tell my dad how proud I was of him and everything that he did for us . This vantage point  made me thank providence that Virendra had not seen me that crowded day in the Modern College Accounting dept and let my silly ploy come to fruition. I would have been guilty of poisoning the relationship of a father to his son, perhaps even inspire the worst question that a parent can ask of themselves  “Is my child ashamed of me?”

I did not see Virendra for another 20 years . I finally tracked him down on Facebook and was happy to see that he was doing well for himself . We got in contact and started setting up meetings in places where our travels intersected ; Toronto , Shanghai ,  San Francisco, London ,Tokyo , Paris , Sydney , Johannesburg, Buenos Aires etc .  At our meeting in Tokyo we decided to meet at the world famous Tsukiji fish market and have sushi and sake. After several hours of pounding cold sake and eating delicious blue fin tuna sushi , I finally mustered up the courage to ask him about his childhood adventures and he unabashedly answered “National Geographic” . I burst out laughing and he smiled and we raised another toast , to his inventive mind but I also raised a silent toast to the friendship where he felt comfortable telling the truth and to providence that had saved me from destroying it . The confession was an admission of the strength of our friendship but everything that was left unsaid was a far greater testament to the durability of this relationship, the silent confidence that everything was understood, nothing need to be said or explained or apologized for

Perhaps it is only befitting that these two restless souls , one so highly imaginative that he imagined entire travels of exotic locales from the cozy comfort of his humble home and the other who was so entranced by his friend’s journeys that he was inspired to see places that he otherwise might never have, should meet in faraway lands , in any place but what they both had once considered home.

8th Grade and The Three Musketeers

Sampat

I was excited about going to 8th grade, I was finally moving back to morning shift after 3 painful years in the afternoon shift. I hated afternoon shifts, because I wasted all morning doing either homework or worrying about teachers spanking me for two reasons

1) Things I did not do

2) Things I did do.

I loved the morning shift because I  could get out before 1.00 PM and then I could play outside until dad got home. Why only until dad got home? Because dad believed that pressure creates diamonds . No no , not out of coal but out of young malleable minds who should be pressured to better their minds rather than waste valuable time in idle horseplay.I once recited  “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, he flew into a rage and finally after calming down , he informed me that  it was an English conspiracy to keep the Indian proletariat under their thumbs.

For my first day , I was excitedly awaiting the class teacher , the teacher came in into the class and I saw with great pleasure that it was Mrs. Mascarenhas, the elderly lady who was extremely affectionate towards all the kids. However I learnt to my utter dismay that it was not her who would be the class teacher but Mrs. Sudha, Mrs. Sudha had a reputation for toughness, today they would probably lock her up and throw away the key . There was a rumor among the students that in one of her fits of rage she had pulled an arm out of a socket permanently, the dude apparently walked around with one hand swinging to the ground. Mrs. S’s entrance was followed by a pin drop silence, Mrs. Sudha wore the look of a satisfied tigress who had just devoured a full cow and she announced her plan for helping the repeaters in the class. “I have decided that all the boys who have been in the 8th grade for the last few years need to make a attempt to pass this year, these boys need a role model to emulate and so we are going to have these boys sit with the smart new boys of 8th grade. Srikanth will sit with Sachin, Vineet will sit with Deepak, Sanjay will sit with Virendra and Johnson will sit with Sampat….”. I stopped listening and looked around in trepidation trying to see who Johnson was but I saw so many new faces that I was completely at a loss. Apparently Mrs. Sudha was preoccupied with bigger priorities and she busied herself with the schedules and soon afterwards it was time to go home. I was thrilled when it was time to go home, I was looking forward to playing with my friend Somu  . I really liked Somu and considered him a good natured gentle soul

(Narr – Somu was one of those boys who was scraping by the skin of his teeth each year and his parents had convinced him to hang around boys who were more academically gifted so that intellectual osmosis could succeed where they had failed.)

Our favorite activity was cricket . The baffled reader might query “Cricket with 2 players!!!” ,  let me respond to that with a quote “Necessity is the mother of invention”. The rules of modified cricket were more complex than straight cricket and even a professional player would have been befuddled by the rules but we enjoyed themselves hugely until Somu’s mother came over and screamed at Somu “Arre melya(wastrel), when are you going to read your textbooks? Sampat is a smart boy he can pass without studying, you need to study and work hard. Sampat, you need to let Somu study so he can pass with good marks too” .I smiled a sheepish grin and made off wistfully towards my house and worse it was just 5.00 PM . I chanced upon Amrita , my neighbour as I was walking back home, she was growing up to be a beautiful girl .  Alas , it is one of tragedies of my life that the poetry that flows in  my heart cannot make it way to my tongue so I walked on, tongue tied , trying hard to think of something clever , something impressive , anything but myself but before I could succeed in my brilliant plan, she passed me oblivious to my pain , more concerned about the state of her makeup . Probably getting ready to meet her boyfriend Pramod who liked to brag about her .

As I morosely entered the house, the gloom pervaded and I wondered gloomily about homework.  I hated homework with a passion. The school bag held no attraction so decided instead to re read the latest issue of Chandamama . I loved the story of Vikram and the Vampire and the story involved a beautiful princess trapped by a wizard and a handsome prince rescuing her and the Chandamama artist had done a great job of depicting the beauty of the princess on paper along with dressing her suitably to arouse a normal full blooded male’s passion. I stared at the princess long enough to get uncomfortably aroused, when my uncle happened to spy upon me and he snapped ,”You better stop that or else you will go blind”.

Fortunately for me , my evening turned out to be entirely uneventful with the only piece of conversation between me and my dad being a gruff inquiry about my first day at school , after I started my unintelligible mumble about him being unhappy about Mrs. S being the class teacher, dad said “well done , you have to make us proud in SSC”.  Mom is usually more sympathetic but she seemed disinterested in my woes today . I wondered morosely at the purpose of academics and the futility of it all . At that fateful moment of self-pity and inner contemplation, I ‘realized’ that my wife would be that person . She had to be!!! after all everybody knew that the quality of the procured wife was directly proportional to my grades. After more deep contemplation on those lines, I decided to try my textbooks again , but the ungainly sight of that wretched school bag undid all my efforts and add to the distraction when dad had turned on the Television for his news so I picked up my Chandamama for the umpteenth time and opened up the page which showed the beautiful well endowed princess.

The next day turned out to be a nightmare . Johnson was a bully who looked old enough to have a child as old as me, he looked at him in contempt and spat out “So you are Sampat huh, ” It was followed by a long list of profanities in chaste Marathi directed at my mother , my father and general ancestry.  “The smart mother f*&$#r who is supposed to help me pass this year”. went on Johnson.  I was extremely offended by the choice of his language but wisdom honed by centuries of survival instincts dictated that I dare not air my annoyance . So I smiled as pleasantly as I could and spat out “That stupid Sudha, she is brainless” to which Johnson laughed and  I seemed to create a spirit of bon homie in him by inventing a common foe. “You are a smart sisterf#@$r, I like you. Just know one thing, mind your own business and don’t tell me what to do and you can sit here peacefully else I will f$@% you up . This here is Sanjay and Srikanth, you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us . Got that , Shorty?? ” I had no clue what ‘f$@%’ meant but I understood enough not to ever raise Johnson’s ire or Srikanth’s or Sanjay’s. Some might call them the unholy trinity of our school but having just read Alexander Dumas’ three Musketeers , I knew what I was about to christen them.

So I patiently bore Johnson’s annoying habit of spluttering saliva all over the person nearest to him , or his odious habit of chewing tobacco or his awful  body odor.

One day however the three musketeers did not come to school which was a big relief ,I decided to move and sit next to my oldest pal Virendra , who has been with me since 1st grade. The teacher discussed the Aryan invasion of India about 5000 years ago and mentioned that Aryans were fair and tall whereas Dravidians were short and ugly and the Dravidians had lost to the Aryans. Dhani and Virendra decided they were Aryans since they were fair skinned decided to gang up on me.  I was told that I was a dravidian because I was short and dark and from South India . Some pals, right??  I was annoyed with my ‘ancestors’ for having lost the war to the stupid Aryans and putting me in this position today. I went home brooding and wondered what made my stupid ancestors lose and decided to ask my father in the evening , but he was not the least interested which made me feel even worse and I invariably dreaded the next morning.

However the next day Johnson returned and I lovingly toyed with the idea of letting Johnson know what Virendra and Dhani thought of dark short people since Johnson was just a touch lighter than coal but then I did not like the thought of being labelled a ‘chamcha’ (squealer) for the rest of the term.

Johnson was singing a song in the same tune as V Shantaram’s immortal classic “Eh Maalik tere Bande hum” in terrible Hindi.

oh darling, I am in your homestead

admiring your wondrous bedstead

your softness beckons

my manhood hardens

The original lyrics in a vulgar dialect of Hindi was in a language so colorful that it would make a sailor blush and sure to offend the refined senses of my readers so I will forego that.

The actual translation took several years for me to fully comprehend .At the time it sounded like some vulgar gibberish. Johnson looked extremely happy so out of courtesy I asked him why he was so happy to which he replied, “Ooooh , I saw my whore yesterday”. I had always heard the term whore in a derogatory manner and yet Johnson seemed to say that with real affection and of course I had no idea what ‘saw’ meant so I decided I would rather not play too stupid in case Johnson got mad. So I ventured casually “Where did you see your whore?” to which Johnson bemusedly replied “In the whorehouse , of course?” , it was follow by a guffaw from Srikanth who was listening in. He asked me with a conspiratorial chuckle , “Do you know what we do with a whore?”

I was too dumbstricken to answer. I was not aware of the quote “Deer in the headlights” but I imagine that was probably me , Deer with a 18 wheeler barreling towards me at 100 miles an hour.

“You just have to go there and pick yourself whoever you think you like the most and then you take her into her room and take her clothes off and make love to her” Johnson replied as if that was the most natural thing in the world for a 14 year old to know.My eyes glazed over “make what??????” . Johnson looked at me affectionately in that manner which a venerable wise man looks at a eager student who is desirous of all the knowledge in the world. “Tell you what, get 15 rupees next month and I will take you with me to meet my whore and you can kiss her  too” and he winked. My joy knew no bounds and the excitement made my head pound. Starting that day,  the sole purpose of my existence was to collect 15 rupees.

I walked home with a spring in my step feeling somewhat powerful and the delicious feeling of stealth that comes over when you know you have a secret from the whole wide world. I felt a feeling almost bordering on contempt as I saw people that I interacted with daily. I then started worrying about procuring 15 rupees from my mother without her finding out what I was planning to do with it. I decided maybe I would try to run more grocery errands for her, that way I would sneak out a few rupees and hopefully have the magical amount by the end of the month. Now much as I thought I could not conjure up the magical amount by the month end cos my mother was just too sharp so my last resort was hoodwinking my uncle into letting me run errands around the house . But try as I may , I could not think of anything useful that I could do which would enable the magic amount to change hands .

The magic number 15 etched itself in my mind , my soul . Johnson however seemed to have all but forgotten his promise and seemed disinterested in me. The next couple of weeks seemed like eternity stretched out and no solution or end in sight .One of those days, our biology teacher was teaching us all about the mating habits of frogs.  After all the gory details were laid out , Johnson , Srikanth and Sanjay chuckled and Johnson said in a low tone “wonder if he has to give Rs 15 too”, it was a sneaky chuckle . I was baffled now , I failed to see the connection between the mating habits of frogs and the magical amount of Rs 15. I imagined that I had somehow missed a critical part of the frog commerce due to my own affliction with the number 15 .  After school , I saw the three musketeers at a Kulfi (Indian icecream) stand , the science of making kulfi is honed into a fine art by these kulfi artists.  The sweetened cream spiced with cardamom is dropped into thin metal pyramidal moulds and a bamboo stick is inserted into the center and stuck inside an ice box . There are 3 sizes to choose from , the thin one which lasted maybe a dozen licks was 25p , the one bigger than that was 50p and then you had the giant for Rs 1. Magically the kulfi vendor knows which one is frozen solid and which ones to leave in longer . When you give him the money, he will whip out a mould and dip it in a water canister that he keeps nearby and viola the ice cream stick slides out like butter. It would take two more years before I found out that it was actually salt water and why it slid out so easily but at the time, it seemed like magic . I could never get the ice cubes out of trays by merely dipping them in water .

But coming back the three musketeers had each bought the 25p one and gawking at the girls coming out  so I ventured to ask Johnson if he would still take me with him at month end if I did not have the money  . He told me to “f@#^ off” in no uncertain terms and also picked up a few pebbles and threw them at me just to reinforce his decision .

Come the month end and I was all antsy , I was in school but my mind was not in school.I was still too busy trying to figure out how to get that magic amount and convince Johnson to take me along . I could visualize myself with this extremely gorgeous woman who looked like the personification of the princess in my Chandamama . I imagined that she would be pleased to do the slightest bidding when I handed her the magical amount of Rs 15 . I was lost in my own private melodrama when I heard something akin to a thunderous roar , I jumped up and realized that Mrs Vasantha was upon me. I looked up petrified at her

“Sorry , maam ”

She roared this time “when do frogs mate??”

I have not the slightest clue but Johnson’s comment came to mind and I decided to venture an answer  “When the frog gets 15 Rs” .

I will never forget the expression on Mrs. Vasantha’s face ,nor will I ever forget the laughter that arose from the class . I looked around and saw Johnson glare at me.  Needless to say that was warning enough for me not to rat him out . I realized I was in trouble, but little idea as to how deep I was in, I was made to kneel down before the principals office for the whole day but before that I got a humiliating whacking from Mrs. Vasantha in front of the class and then from Mrs. Shanthi the principal. My parents were summoned the next day, I will never forget the heart wrenching panic I felt. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for the parent teacher meeting. Luckily for me , my father did not come along. When my mother came out , she came out in a daze, I guess it never crossed her mind that her dear son had actually grown up and lost at least part of his innocence, though in all honesty looking back I have to say that I had lost none of that innocence yet but somehow I was guilty . Her face made a terrible impression on me , one that I never forgot . It was one of anguish and confusion, for the life of me I could not understand why I had hurt her so badly , her look which seemed to convey disappointment and shame , all in one glance . It seemed too terrible a punishment . But she pulled herself together very quickly , not before I swore to myself , never ever again would I ever do something that would hurt her so terribly.

We stopped outside the school at a guava vendor and she asked him to cut up a guava for us and spice it up with that special mixture of salt and chili powder . She took one slice and gave me the rest started walking home . She started talking about the spice mixture and how it never seems to taste that way when she made at home .I could care less about the spice mixture and dreaded the moment my father found out, if my mother seemed so shook up, I shuddered to think what my dad would say and do.   I was silent on the way home dreading the inevitable. Finally the terror of having to explain this to my father got the better of me, I turned around and asked her “Can you please not tell dad about this?”

She looked at me silently ,”I wont but I need to know where you found out about this” . Shamefacedly I told her about Johnson and also imploring her not to complain because a Chamcha (squealer) gets ostracized and beaten up at school.

She smiled at me and told me not to worry . She kept her word , my dad queried as to why she needed to go to school , she fobbed him off with some answer that seemed to satisfy him.

The next day at school seemed as though nothing had changed , Johnson sat next to me and leered at me and said “Whats up , Rs 15?” . I politely smiled and said nothing. After that point I tried my damnedest to ignore him and focus. The week passed by uneventfully but I had a big surprise on Monday when I came back .The three musketeers were missing , I figured they had pulled another disappearing act but Mrs Sudha announced that Johnson , Srikanth and Sanjay had been transferred to a different division . To say that I was relieved would be an understatement.

That afternoon after returning home , I told mom the news . She acted surprised and happy but I knew her well enough to know that she was not truly surprised. She had managed to somehow pull strings  or make calls to make this happen. All my years in that school, I had never seen that happen before or happen since .  I looked at her with gratitude and pride , my mother was not one who was about to let anybody harm her cubs . She caught my look and smiled benevolently and went back to the kitchen .

Twinkling Twelve and Charles Sobhraj – Part 2

(Continued from Part 1 )

As he walked towards Satish , the others seemed to form a protective wall around him almost seeming to push Sachin away , Sachin was anxious to get to Satish and start working . He had read that the government had put up a special task force to capture Sobhraj and the last thing he wanted is more competition especially from professionals who stood a chance of subverting his dreams of glory.

Sachin saw Satish and tried to catch his eye but no luck so he decided to wait but the others would not let up . At some point he heard his name spoken by Satish and he looked at Satish but there was no sign that Satish had seen him . Ajit yelled “Sachin is here ” . Satish looked in his direction mournfully , trepidation clearly marked on his face .

“Hey Sachin , man of the hour ” blurted Satish nervously

Sachin was puzzled at the sudden onslaught of recognition and attention that seemed directed at him . He slowly trudged towards the group uncertain as to what this could be about. When he was younger, he avoided groups like this because that was a certainty that he would get beaten up . But this group looked beckoning and even he could recognize the adulation in the eyes of his onlookers. He was still oblivious as to the reason for his sudden popularity when Ajit piped in , “Do you know that the government has offered Rs 50000 for his capture ”

Sachin paled and nervously asked with a gulp “What capture”

Ajit was happy to clear the air ,”Charles Sobhraj , of course , now with twinkling twelve , we can capture him and split the money 12 ways”

Sachin’s annoyance showed on his fair skin and a vein bulged but he also caught sight of Balaji among his thronged admirers, Balaji who liked to bully him and beat him when opportunity availed . Perhaps it was the hint of admiration in Balaji’s eyes , or perhaps it was the painful memory of the last wallop but something  aborted the course of resistance before it could even draw breath in this world.

“Twinkling Twelve”  , he slowly muttered . Yesterday he was reluctant to even entertain the thought of  “Twinkling Three” , today he was being forced into “Twinkling Twelve”

He slowly counted and saw only 10 excluding himself and wondered aloud , “who would the 12th member be?”

Satish was happy to clear that up . “We decided to ask Anurag because he has the perfect meeting spot ,the dark staircase that leads upstairs to his house . Nobody uses that and we could stay locked in there for days and nobody could find us. We also figured that is where we would lock up Charles Sobhraj until the Police get here”

Sachin was almost tearful by this time . He was thinking , will the hits never stop. His brilliant brainwave , not only muddied by these idiots now he would have to add Anurag to the mix , he despised Anurag and his haughty ways , his ease at school , the rest of the kids had to struggle whereas Anurag just sailed through . He was a natural and he knew it and moreover he made every attempt to ensure that you knew it too. Anurag was probably the only person to get bullied more than Sachin but that did not arouse any sympathy for him . Anurag was insufferable and a know it all .

They decided to walk over to Anurag’s house who lived just a block away from Sachin and Satish.

Pleasantries were exchanged which seemed to arouse no dearth of suspicions in Anurag. The last time people had been so cordial to him, they had taken him out for a game of cricket and instead it turned out to be a boxing match where he was the designated punching bag. But he knew better than to expect that kind of behavior from Sachin ,  Satish or even Yogesh whom he condescended to play with from time to time.

Finally Satish came to the point and exclaimed the whole plot to a doubting Anurag who seemed ready to scamper back into his house .

Anurag seemed scornful . Do you guys really believe that you can catch Charles Sobhraj without any weapons ?

Sachin angrily piped up “We do have a screw driver” and besides no matter how strong, he is not going to be able to deal with 12 kids at once

Anurag still looked doubtful , but where do we start searching . This time Satish had a brainwave “Well Pune , of course , after Tihar jail , Yerawada jail is the largest in the country”

That simple statement of authority satisfied everybody’s curiosity. Nobody felt the need to ascertain the facts after this suitably deft display of confidence . To my curious reader , if you are wondering , this statement is about as far from the truth as the Sun is from the Earth. And as to the wisdom of absconding criminals preferring  to hang around prisons, I do suppose home as a concept for young minds is an anchor

Finally Sachin spoke up acerbically with the wisdom of the ages which has taught us that we do what is convenient , not what is right .  “Well , we have to do whatever is easiest for us . We dont care that Charles Sobhraj did escape from Tihar jail which is is Delhi ,a 1000 miles away, we live in Pune and that is where we will search for him . If he wants to be captured by us , he best be getting to Pune otherwise he is going to be denied the glory of being captured by the Twinkling twelve”

Ajit was the first to notice the problem in the circular logic , “But we will get famous only after we capture Sobhraj, right”

“Right “, barked Sachin , getting more and more annoyed by the dim wits around him.

“So why should he worry about getting to Pune and being captured by us now, when we are not famous yet” murmured Ajit again

This sacrilegious statement did have the intended effect of getting everybody to think about the problem of luring Sobhraj to Pune to capture him.

Yogesh had a brainwave , “We could write to him and tell him that we will split the reward with him”

Satish queried “What is the reward?”

Sachin lost his train of thought , he meant to object to the original idea that nobody knew where Sobhraj was and therefore nobody was writing to him but instead he answered “At least 50,000 Rs”

Satish started “50,000 divided by 13 is approximately 4000”

Ajit started “That is chump change for an international gangster, he wont agree for it. We should try 50-50 so we give 25000. Sweeten the deal”

Vineet looked up “So how much does that leave us with?”

Satish started again “25000 divided by 12, approximately 2000”

Vineet looked annoyed “I dont get it, we do all the hard work and he gets to keep the lion’s share”

Ajit responded this time “We have to be practical, think of the glory after this. We will get to make more money after we get famous”

Everybody seemed to nod happily and if one could see the dreams that start floating , one would have seen more dreams of shopping and gadgets and travel than one could hope to accomplish in one lifetime.

Anurag looked around . “Ok you idiots , you are going to split the reward that you get for capturing Sobhraj with Sobhraj. Do you seriously believe that anybody would be stupid enough actually go through this? ”

Ajit piped up “It is fairly common . Dont you remember in Sholay how Amitabh and Dharmendra team up with Soorma Bhopali to get caught and split the reward for their capture”

Anurag was ready to blow at this when he was interrupted by Sachin, who was annoyed with Anurag stealing the thunder and also implying that he was an idiot along with the rest of these idiots . “That only happens in movies . Also the idea to send mail to somebody who is absconding is the stupidest idea that one can imagine”

Yogesh wanted the earth to open up and swallow him , Sita style but no such luck . The hard tiles showed him no sympathy or way to escape , no more than he was getting from his comrades .

Continued in Part 3

The lame and the hurt

I was all of 10 years old when I first saw Rajesh More . He was much shorter than me , swarthy in complexion , had a pock marked face,  sat on the first bench and trying hard to fit in though I did not comprehend the effort at that point in life . I was too engrossed in my own life and the myriad complexities in the life of a 10 year old .

At lunch time, as was customary in those days  we started playing games of a physical nature which was so prevalent in the days of yore when video games and cell phones had not made their intrusive persistent appearance into children’s lives . The popular games were Thief-Police where one of the kids would be elected Police and he would have to chase and catch every one of the other kids , another popular game was langdi , this was a game very similar to the previous one except the domain was limited and the person in charge of catching was to limp with one leg . It was at this time that I got a closer look at Rajesh More , he had one leg that look shriveled . I had no idea what it meant and I assumed that it was a birth defect at the time. My parents had been very persistent in their endeavors to teach me to be sensitive to all persons of lesser fortune. And so I ignored my class mates nickname for him , “Langdya” (a term for somebody who is lame, almost always used in a pejorative sense) . For reasons that become obvious to anybody who has read Lord of the Flies , Rajesh became the perenial favorite at Langdi, he was always elected to catch the rest of the guys .I overheard a conversation between two boys who were instrumental in getting him that vied after post. “He has a natural advantage over all of us , the bum leg is not as  heavy as our regular legs” He was happy to fit in and was accommodating, never complained about being picked on for the same role every single time. Ironically I also noticed that as time passed , he reacted sooner to Langdya than he did to Rajesh .

In sixth grade ,we learnt about Infectious and contagious diseases and that was our first introduction to Polio . The teacher Mrs Raman asked Rajesh to step in front of the class so that we could get a closer look at his withered leg “This is what Polio does to your legs when it is not treated in time . Rajesh , how old were you ? ”

Rajesh mutely shook his head , we took it to mean that he did not know . Some smart alecks gossiped among themselves and debated how dumb could one be, if one could not remember a life altering disease . I found myself nodding in agreement , I had been a victim of chicken pox and that had left a deep impression on me . In case , I forgot the memory, I had the scars some of which were painful when touched that would certainly jog my memory. The same smart alecks started asking if we could possibly get infected with Polio . This started a fresh wave of ostracism and overnight our pattern of games had changed and Rajesh was no longer a needed part of the lunch time entertainment . Did he feel that loss acutely ? He had belonged to a clique and now that sense of belonging had been wrenched away from him . Was it perhaps due to the teacher’s well meaning gesture that had sought to educate us that had served to sever the social ties that are so essential to a young boy .

It finally dawned on Mrs Raman after seeing a lonely crying boy alone during the lunch hour that her gesture of goodwill had turned out to be a complete disaster . She had tried to alleviate the effects by first educating us that Polio after being cured was no longer a threat to society but fear had taken root and the same education which had caused the fear in the first place was powerless to dislodge it . Next she tried to force the kids to play together with him , this had the opposite effect on the children who became abusive at him and when the threat of authority was no longer around, then his ostracism was increased ten fold .He became abusive and even people who had tolerated him , no longer wished to associate with him thereby isolating him further. The term Langdya transcended from being a mere adjective to being an pejorative insult.

I had a few fracas with him over the years but I was never close to him so staying away was an easy option .

When 8th grade rolled around , the familiar spot that he liked to sit in was empty . Some said that he had failed seventh grade and his parents had decided to end his education . I was not sorry to hear that given his vituperic fits .

Several years passed and I moved to college and one day as I was walking by the railway station , I saw a familiar limp in front of me . Memory being what it is, I was happy to see him and maybe even reminisce about our younger days . I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around and I could see the joy of recognition light up on his face . At that moment , all was forgotten . I asked him what he was up to . He informed me that he worked at the Raja Bahadur mills as an operator , he asked me what I was doing , I remarked that I was in college and I could see a twinge in his eyes that I put down to contempt. It seemed cruel to me that I was going to college while he was already putting food on the table . Mind you , in case you did not grasp what I am getting at , I was jealous of him that he was actually earning money while I had to go through the monotonous meaningless motions of memorization of meaningless facts and structures and relationships. After bidding adieu , I went on with my college and my life .

Several years later , one of my friends contacted me for a get together at school . Having passed out of school barely 5 years earlier , I was luke warm but decided to go in anyway. It was an interesting evening of meeting old school acquaintances and the boys and the girls seemed to maintain the same safe distance as was customary while growing up . I was getting bored and looking around , I started chatting up with one of my friends Mukund and told him about running into various acquaintances over the years and when I happened to mention Rajesh More , he excitedly interrupted me “Do you know he is dead?”

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. I started agog , not quite comprehending, “Dead??”

“Yes , his family moved from Somwar Peth to Vadgaon Sheri . He was trying to catch a bus and his bum leg finally betrayed him as he slipped and was crushed underneath . ” Mukund excitably told me.

That bum leg had been the demon in his life , first reprehensibly wrenching away the joys of a normal childhood then it proved to be the instrument of his oppression as he became a child and finally as he was taking his first responsible steps towards adulthood , it had betrayed him to his death.

I was crushed with a sense of grief and I ran over the few times that I had fracas with him and the one incident that I did have where I was silently in envy of his money making abilities and felt a sense of desolation surge through me . My complete and abject failure to provide compassion to a poor lonely boy suddenly cut through me like a scythe and I wondered at the meaningless of it all.

I could not help wonder about the prisons that we all build for ourselves , prisons of belief , prisons of self imposition and whilst we are powerless in face of intolerable cruelty that these prisons make us endure , people like Rajesh are trapped in a real prison, one that they try to escape but rarely succeeding . Perhaps it is time for us to help somebody overcome these physical prisons and they might show us the way to overcome our own.

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

1984

I presume the title guides the reader towards thinking this is a eulogy to George Orwell. Actually 1984 started the decline of statism and socialist tendencies for India, it ended the authoritarian tyranny of Indira Gandhi. It started off mildly for me though, too young to actually start lusting for girls but too old to be contemptuous of them, it was that peculiar transition period for me when girls seemed attractive but I had little or no idea why. Our annual exams are held in early April and then the kids are let off for two months till mid-June, in India the hottest months are April and May, June signals the beginning of monsoon. My grades as usual were above average, good but not enough to warrant anything spectacular, just enough that my parents would not be embarrassed and proceed to make things difficult . A nonchalant lazy summer passed by, and two months of my life disappeared without a trace, I had discovered the pleasures of reading books from a library. My father was a conventional man who could not believe that a book was useful if you had to return it. He once told me that his attitude to books was the same as a child’s to sugarcane, you can never understand a book completely by reading it the first time just like the child can never rejoice in the sweet taste of a sugar cane merely by licking it, to truly assimilate it you have to read it again and again just like the child can enjoy his cane if he chews and chews and chews. So in short, my library application goes the way of the dustbin. But fortunately my dear friend, Supranoy had a more understanding parent and he was allowed to join Sai library, which had a huge collection of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. My summer was spent exclusively in the company of Mr. Poirot , Mr. Wooster, Mr. Psmith, Uncle Fred , Lord Elmsworth and Mr. Galahad. I spent more time in phantasmagoria involving the Orient Express, the English countryside, rescuing and wooing damsels in distress, chasing criminals the world over but the average person saw me lounging on a couch with a book all day long with the exception when I was eating, I would eat with a open book next to me. My mother never tired of telling me that if I did eat without looking at the food, then all the food would go to the ground, I presumed she meant it would be wasted. I grinned and reminded her a couple of times that food does go to the ground when I went to the lavatory, she would be aghast and threaten to starve me. I could do that with my mother, she understood my love for books though it annoyed her when I did not utter the smallest compliment to her delicious food. She would needle me first, then ask if the food needed salt, or pepper or garam masala that was my cue to tell her that the food was wonderful and watch her face light up in delight After that she would leave me in peace. She understood my needs for flights of imagination and she was more relaxed than my dad. My dad was the strict one so I always watched my mouth with my dad, never daring to cross him.

The beginning of school was uneventful except for my discovery of not so logical negative numbers, for the life of me I could not understand how 6 subtracted from –6 is equal to –12. My dear friend Vikrant had a brilliant theory after the teacher taught us about Archimedes and his famous discovery, he turned to me as said “Don’t you wish we were born before Archimedes so we could claim to be the discoverers?” It sounded like an excellent idea to me. I would be the man who discovered gold and diamonds and soon I was in Fantasyland making discoveries and inventions and having kings and emperors bestow praise and rewards on me when a thought struck me. After thinking about it for a week, I pulled up my courage and asked him for Vikrant was reputed for his acerbic tongue and acid wit. “Arre Vicky, how will you be the first discoverer of the water displacement rules?” he looked at me with a look that suggested his disgust at my stupidity “Arre stupid, we have this textbook no?” . Suitably humbled at this display of wisdom and brilliant ease with which he had solved what seemed like an insurmountable problem to me, I decided not to open my mouth again till I could prove that I was not being stupid, took me two weeks to find out that the textbook was printed in 1976 and feeling confident of myself I decided to approach him again, this time Sachin was around and Vikrant had forgotten all about Archimedes. When I nervously broached the topic to my peril, Sachin laughed and said “What an idiot!! Have you never heard of the Time Machine? They have it in America. See that movie ‘Planet of the Apes’, you will understand.” and Vikrant put in his two cents, “Ignore him yaar, he is just a gawti (village bumpkin). What will he know of English movies?“ I had never heard of the time machine but I was acutely bothered by the thought of plagiarizing Archimedes’s ideas and I hoped dearly that these two who came up with such wicked ideas of stealing would never get their hands on a time machine. Growing up I was the very epitome of gullibility and stupidity nowadays I have learned to pretend to be wise.

My distractions were also exacerbated by twins that we had in school with us, Nasir and Bashir. With moustache and signs of shaving regularly Both of them looked old enough to have fathered a child but they were still in sixth grade, they liked to leer at the girls and took it upon themselves to educate the younger populace on the important matters of sex and playing truant from school. They taught us to look at breasts, which they called ‘Choochi’. One of their favorite activities during recess was standing at the bottom of the stairs and looking up and then informing the class the colors of panties of some of the most stunning beauties. Nasir had a nasty habit of grabbing the genitalia of his class mates which along with being awkward could feel like your balls had been pushed up your throat, after being tricked a few times, I stayed away from him as much as possible. But the forbidden joys of discovering the opposite sex won over circumspectness, the twins invented a contest “Panty of the day”, the contest was to determine which one was the most popular panty of the day and invariably day after day the most popular panty of the day always went to tall Shalini Vaidya, a green eyed fair skinned damsel. I was always filled with a vague distress at the combination of joy and guilt that I seemed to fill. Knowing the color of her panty somehow seemed to defile her and yet the joy of forbidden knowledge knew no bounds.

I took this newfound knowledge of hidden pleasures and tried to apply it to my neighbors. Most of my neighbors had children my age so either the women were too old for me or the children were too young for me until I chanced upon Manpreet Kaur, she was the only daughter of the oldest son who lived in that house. A Sikh gentleman bought the house in 1946, he had fought World War II and had lost a leg, and he came over with a young wife and a son. He started a liquor business in the cantonment area and pretty soon had a roaring business from sympathetic friendly army officers who preferred to give their business to one of their own. Over the course of time he had three more sons all of whom married delectable Sikh women with the exception of the youngest who married their untouchable neighbor’s daughter causing a rift between neighbors as well as raising a stink in the area for a little while. She was a beautiful woman who would have passed for Miss India any day. To the credit of the other wives, they treated her like one of their own. I can never see something like that happening in my house with the prejudices that my family members harbor for people of lower caste. The old man died in 1981, a stalwart of society and a prominent social worker working for upliftment of the poor in the slums of Kasarwadi. His youngest two sons emigrated to the England and Canada respectively. His older two sons had expanded into other areas like shoes; garments, luxury items and the family on the whole were very reputed. But alas, coming from a good family does not guarantee freedom from the ghastly whistles and lewd comments of the street urchins, which Rasta Peth abounds in. That was how I laid eyes on Manpreet, tall beautiful dignified Manpreet with her fair skin and blue-green eyes that seem to hint of a distant European ancestry, as I was walking to school lost in thoughts of colored panties, I heard a wolf whistle and a loud “Yeti ka?” (a vulgar blatant invitation for indulging in forbidden pleasures) Turning around I felt weak in my knees, my eyes seem to glaze and I felt short of breath. Was this an Apsara from heaven? was I imagining her? I wanted to touch her to see if she was real though even in that state I had enough wisdom not to dare. Manpreet coolly ignored both the lewd caller and her dumbstruck admirer and walked past. The whiff of a delicate perfume intoxicated my already lightening struck frame and I knew that I had died and gone to heaven.

I was struck by the lovebug, I had not a clue what love was but countless songs and poems had described to me the heartaches and numerous other heart wrenching ailments that seem to befall you in the absence of your beloved and I knew that was it, I wanted to marry her, wanted to be with her, make her mine without the faintest care. But again I had enough sense not to rush things; my mother would pull my drawers down and beat my hind off if I dared as much tell her. I saw a Bacchan movie called Nastik and I remember one scene very distinctly; Hema Malini is among mannequins pretending to be one, the men pick her up and put her down , I have appalled at the stupidity of the mannequin handlers who did not seem to realize the difference between humans and hard mannequins, for years that bothered me but the most immediate effect of undressing the mannequins made my imagination run riot which is presumably what the director was looking for, tantalize the imagination. However I did not imagine Hema Malini, I imagined Manpreet and the thoughts of Manpreet, her delicate lips, her perfume dazed me and that was when I became aware of an uncomfortable situation in my pants, I had never had an erection before and my first reaction was one of fear, what would my mother do if we walked out of the movie theater with the bulge in my shorts. Strangely the fear seemed to dissolve my imagined problem, oh great relief!

After that day, that was my favorite sport, fantasizing about Manpreet, imagining her in my hands, her lips on mine. One could tell I had been reading too many Mills and Boon novels; it gave me great pleasure to imagine me and her as the hero and heroine of every book that I was reading. I had memorized the times when she got back from College and I would wait in eager anticipation, till I could get an invigorating glimpse of her. I also made it a point to be outside the house, in retrospect I cannot imagine the impression that I would have made on her with my tight shorts, my dusty shirt, worn out chappals, legs that looked positively scabby. She never once acknowledged me but I was patient, I knew my time would come. I waited in joyous hope for the day when I would be old enough to ask her to marry me.

Alas!! The greatest villain in my saga of love turned out to be time, time that did not allow me to be old or brave enough to rescue my beloved, time that betrayed my beloved and snatched away the promise of a lifetime, time that turned hooligans into murderers, time that blinded the eyes of a country, time that created a savage collaboration of law makers and law breakers to wreck vengeance on a hapless community, time that would assassinate an old woman using her own trusted security guards. The assassination of Indira Gandhi shook us to the depth of our hearts. In fact the thought of her dying was so alien to me that when I first heard that she was ‘fired’, I asked with great curiosity if she had been fired from her job and who could possibly fire her. For a young child, the concept of death is a bizarre one and you just know that you are going to live forever and so is everybody else. The assassination betrayed that feeling of security; the old woman who rallied crowds with her fiery speeches was in my view the only person who ran the country, that belief would be vindicated later on in life when I started reading about her. I never thought it could be otherwise. I was bewildered and lost, wondering what would happen to my country now that Indira Gandhi was dead. Little was I to know that the best minds in the country were ill equipped to deal with that question at that point. Truly puzzling for me was the fact that except for her Congress I cronies, there was no massive outpouring of grief by the Indian masses. It seemed like people were almost relieved to be able to close shops and go home. The goals she had pursued left deep scars in the country’s communal, regional and political framework. She had liked to impose her power. One reason why people thought she was indispensable was because she had created problems, which she claimed nobody could solve except her, but time showed she was just as incapable. The Sikh problem finally ended up consuming her. She had created a cabinet of men so dependent on her that all they did was sob, cry, wring their hands helplessly and curse the Sikh community for placing them in this quandary. The worthless cabinet instead of steadying the administration sowed seeds for a genocide that would horrify and mutilate a nation forever. My country surpassed itself in brutality. The concept of riots was not a new one to me, several times in my childhood, our maid who took us to school would hurry us home saying we need to get home before the ‘dangal’ started. I was told that ‘Dangal’ is when Hindus and Muslims fight, I had little clue why they fought and what they fought for, my sole concern was to get home as quickly as possible. My father would bring home literature from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which would parody the fiction of Muslims reproducing faster than Hindus one of their popular cartoons was one which depicted a Hindu Brahmin family, a couple with two children with the slogan “Hum Do Humare Do” (we two, our two) followed by a Muslim family one man with his four wives and 24 children with “Hum paanch Humare Pacchees” (We 5, our 25). My father likes to say that pretty soon the Muslim population would overrun us and they would convert this country into another Pakistan, to my mother’s credit she scoffed at his beliefs and taught me religious diversity was important for a country to grow. Riots seemed like a perfectly normal thing while growing up, what I was not prepared for was genocide.

November 2, 1984 started off normally and then we started hearing news of Sikhs being butchered in the streets of Delhi, I could not imagine Pune being a part to this nonsense, I had always prided myself on being in the most sensible part of the country, according to the usual separatist nonsense that was preached by my elders, north Indians were barbarians. But I was in a for a rude awakening, my winter vacation had set in and I was reading my copy of the latest Chandamama and a romantic story of a handsome prince marrying his beautiful princess after rescuing her from the demon captor transported me into a magical land where I rescued Manpreet and she fell hopelessly in love with me and acquiesced to my desires and we lived happily ever after. On hearing women screaming outside, I ran outside and I was horrified, terrified, scarred for life by what I saw outside. I saw my darling, my beautiful Manpreet, a great part of her salwar torn thus exposing a part of her brassiere and her midriff, wailing piteously trying to run away from a crowd of crazed young men. I was rooted to the ground, watching helplessly as the monsters surrounded her, till I could not see anybody or anything. I could not quite understand what they were doing to her but her terrible screams brought tears to my eyes. My Muslim neighbor was probably the only one who saw my tears and he took me by my shoulder and led me into his house and gave me some water, the water stuck in my throat. I wanted to kill those bastards for hurting my love; I wanted to slaughter them all. I walked outside in a daze after what seemed like an eternity. The men had dispersed, they had their fill of entertainment for the day.I saw blood on the road and I hoped they had not killed her, I prayed silently and hard to God to keep her alive for me, I promised god I would take good care of her, I would take her away from here, I did not know where except that I wanted to get her away from here. I was filled with a terrible illogical anger at all existence and hoped God would destroy this whole damned planet, how could men perpetrate such horrors on one another? I looked at her house and saw her mother in the window. She had a resigned look on her face. I was to learn later what that look had signified .The fact that I had been the last one to see her would fill me with a terrible guilt at my inability to prevent the tragedy that was to take place.

I was to learn new words that day; rape, zabardasti, balaatkaar . The elderly Muslim gentleman had mentioned to his wife in a sorrowful voice “They did zabardasti on that poor helpless girl and her mother”. The maid who worked at our house and Manpreet’s informed my mother, “The crowd did balaatkaar over Manpreet and Simran bai. Manpreet’s father and uncle had taken their ailing mother to America the previous week for open-heart surgery. Kabirji’s wife and kids were visiting their grandparents in Nanded. So Simran bai and Manpreet were alone in the house when the crowd broke the door down.” Later on in the day my mother would inform my father “The crowd raped the poor girl on the road”. My Hindi was reasonable enough to understand that zabardasti meant forcibly whereas I had no idea what balaatkaar meant and certainly no idea what rape meant. I looked up rape in the Websters Universal College dictionary and it informed in black on white in cold precise language that it was “The unlawful act of forcing a female to have sexual intercourse”. Big words for a 11 year old, till that point of time sex was a dirty word which would get my hind beaten off if my mother realized that I had heard it let alone utter it. If sex was something that terrible as was inflicted on Manpreet then maybe my mother was justified in keeping me away from it. I looked up Sexual Intercourse and it said it was “Genital contact or coupling between individuals especially one involving the penetration of the Penis into the Vagina”. Looking up penis told me that it was the male organ of copulation and vagina was the female organ of copulation. Looking up copulation told me that it was sexual intercourse. In frustration I dropped the dictionary and decided to be brave enough and asked my mother what rape meant. She was horrified, but she stuttered and told me that it was something bad men did to women. Then I asked her if it hurts the woman terribly, she looked at me silently and after a long pause nodded sadly. I had seen faces that I recognized in that gruesome collection of monsters that had surrounded my Manpreet and had known that some of them had been the ones who would whistle at her and pass lewd comments. I could not help wondering at the futility of the whole episode. Manpreet had not killed Indira Gandhi, why did they have to do this to her? Had her family been involved in this? Somebody in the crowd had yelled “Is chootni ke chacha videsh mein rehte hai. Bhainchut log, Amricca aur Lundun mein jaake yeha paisa bhijwake aatank failate hain. ”(This bitch’s uncles live in America. Sisterfuckers, They go to America and London and send money to sponsor terrorism here.). Did her uncles sponsor terrorism? I had seen both of them and they were happy go lucky people. I cannot imagine these people sponsoring terrorism. Love makes one go blind. I refused to accept any of these allegations and deep down I realized that my Manpreet had been exploited, I did not know why then but I would realize it later on in life.

Late at night I went to our backyard where I could see her backyard and hoped she would come out and I would tell her that I love her and will marry her and treat her good and never ever ‘rape’ her. I waited for a long time but nobody came out. After what seemed like an eternity of contemplation, I saw a flickering red light in one of the windows and then I heard screams. A terrifying fear gripped me and I rushed inside and screamed at my dad to look at what was happening at Manpreet’s house. My dad came along and one look told him that something terrible was happening and I knew something was wrong because I have never seen such a look on my dad’s face, he rushed out of the house and ran over and into Manpreet’s house, I followed him. No matter how gruesome the morning had been, it had not prepared me for what I was to see, I saw my Manpreet hanging from the ceiling fan. Her mother was on fire and the light from her flaming body cast ominous shadows of Manpreet’s lifeless body on the wall yonder. I could see her dead eyes staring at me, in reproach for not having saved her, for having abandoned her. My father rushed into one of the bedrooms and got hold of a blanket and he gripped Simran tightly in that blanket, by this time my mother had followed us and she helped my father subdue her and put out the fire. After putting out the fire my mother rushed to the Marwaris businessmen who had the only phone on the street and called the ambulance. During all this pell mell, I stood staring at my dead beloved. Her eyes carved themselves into my soul and I never did hear the ambulance, I hit the ground before that. So the ambulance carried two people back to the hospital. I went into shock and did not recover till late December. My mother said those days were terrible days, I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming for Manpreet, screaming vengeance , swearing the filthiest of abuses.

Before I ever recovered, Ajit Singh came back to India, consigned his daughter to flames and got his hapless wife discharged, thanked my parents for saving his wife’s life and informed them that he was leaving Pune for good. He had decided to go back to Chandigarh. My mother told me that he spent some time hovering over my bed and walked away with tears in his eyes. Shortly later Kabir Singh, Ajit Singh’s younger brother sold the house to a land developer and left with his family for Chandigarh.

I am an Indian before anything else. I was raised a Hindu but though my father liked to oppress me with his religious beliefs, he was open minded enough and took me to mosques, durgahs(shrines for Muslim saints), churches, gurudwaras so I was very fascinated with the freedom that Hinduism allowed me, I read the Gita , the Bible , the story of Mohammad , the story of Zoraster, Nanak in comic books early on and I was proud of being a Hindu . My religious freedom was the reason why I would burst with pride when I heard “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain” (Say you are a Hindu with pride). Our street was called Jews Street, my neighbors were Muslim on one side and Christians on the other, next to the Muslim neighbors was the Church of Holy Angels, a block beyond the church were two Muslim mosques. On the side of the Christians was a Synagogue; a block away was a Hanuman temple and a Ganesha temple beyond that. To the left of the Hanuman temple was a Parsi Fire temple. This was the religious diversity that for me was possible only in India , till that day I just knew with the confidence of a 11 year old know it all that only in a Hindu setting could so many other religions prosper peacefully. The vision of that marauding mob and their shameful behavior dissipated my pride, which was to be replaced with an apologetic sense of regret for my religious identity eventually to be replaced with a terrible hatred for all religions and any form of segregation.

1984 scarred me permanently; the first love of my love was snatched away from me so tragically. 30 years later, I still cannot forget Manpreet; she lives on with me in my heart, in my mind, in my soul. Her eyes seem to me as if they are watching me, extorting me to fulfill the promise of human life that was so coldly denied to her, the promise of life snuffed out by a petty vindictive society who wanted to satisfy the primitive urge for sacrificial blood is a thought too terrible to contemplate even today. I have become a propounder of the death penalty for rape. Though I was too young to understand what rape meant, I did realize that it was rape that destroyed my first love. I have learnt since then that Indian law does prosecute rapists, but I have never seen policemen take away any of the bastards who forced themselves on an innocent defenseless girl on that fateful day.

Today , I am in Mumbai visiting India after a long time. I have moved to a small German city called Berchtesgaden where I have managed to fall into the good graces of Andrei Makarov who is supposedly no relation to the famous gun manufacturer . Andrei has a lot of friends in Mumbai , powerful friends . He is doing this favor for me today , he did recommend that I should stay away but I have to see this , this is justice on my terms , engineered by me . I am at a Shiv Sena rally , the main speaker is Vinayak Rangade . 30 years ago he was a congress I hoodlum who instigated that mob on that fateful day . The court cases have been dropped and I have watched in silent fury as he went from strength to strength . He has recently managed to acquire for himself another trophy wife who is 30 years younger, the erstwhile husband conveniently fell down an open elevator shaft and Rangades’ wife committed suicide by shooting herself in the right temple . She has never been known to handle guns and she was a south paw . My original request to Andrei to kidnap Rangade and transfer him to a secluded warehouse was deemed as too dangerous given his security detail . I had planned to work on him with a special set of tools that I had acquired from former SS and Gestapo men over Ebay.  Instead what I would get is an marksman with an exploding bullet that was targeted to torture without killing . I had insisted that the shot not be a kill wound. I want this man to suffer . I look around impatiently as Rangade starts his speech “My hindu brothers and sisters ,…..”