His eyes wandered to the crack in the old solid wooden desk before him. The crack was filled up with dirt, grime, tea, food and ink falling into it over the years. It was a curious shade of ochre today and he was sure it would be richer a few years ahead with more of the same piling in it. The desk was not his or this office. The paint was peeling off the walls due to moisture seeping in from the heavy rains the city suffered. This was not monsoon hence the drying marks had created a pattern all their own. It may have been totally depressing had it not been for the photo frames hanging there as are typical in most sarkari (government owned) offices. Subhash Chandra Bose stared at him from one of them. He was glad to meet the eyes of a fellow Bengali, so what if he was long gone and was just a poor photograph.From behind Subhash Babus photograph a fat gecko (lizard) speedily slithered out and gobbled up the fly sitting on a wooden cabinet and made swallowing/chewing motions. He too felt the pangs of hunger as he looked at the watch. It was 1.20pm. He had been waiting his turn on the long wooden bench. It was a police station. ‘Next’ came a voice and a young boy sitting beside nudged him in the ribs with his elbow. Sir, it’s you.
“Name?” Satyesu Tathagat Basu, said he in a clear voice. Police Constable Vishwas Ghorpade looked him up and asked and what position do you work for in this firm? I am the Chief Accountant and Internal Auditor, sir. PC Ghorpade saw a nondescript man sitting wearing non-descript clothes and had he met him anywhere apart from across his desk, he would have missed him. The fact that he was sitting for nearly two and half hours in his office had not even registered. The rest of the questions were a blur…Noting the complaint PC Ghorpade tore off a copy and handed it over. Satyesu Babu rose and the PC looking at him again barely noticed him as he left.
Such was the magnificence of Satyesu Babu’s personality it was characterized by its absence. Even at home his wife and children barely noticed his presence till it was the first of every month, when he handed down a portion of his salary for household upkeep and paying the school fees and rent. But behind this freak of a nature of Satyesu Babu’s invisible personality resided a wishful pride. It was a pride at being not just good but truly great at his job. Not an adventurer escaped his eyes when it came to misappropriation of numbers and no sales fellows could fudge their vouchers in his domain. He lived by the book and smelled chicanery from a distance. Like his name which his maashi ma (mother’s sister) reminded him often, he was a seeker of the truth. His training in the craft of accounting made his approach precise and logical; but he had a very imaginative mind totally creative and free flowing. In its realms he fancied himself to be a detective. His idols were Byomkesh Bakshi and Feluda and he had read each and every one of their detective stories many times over. He didn’t fancy Poirot or Sherlock Holmes much not because they were foreigners and non-Indians but because they were not Bengali.
Now why was Satyesu Babu sitting in a police station in the first place?
It all began with somebody mentioning classified advertisements and it rang a bell. He remembered Feluda his investigator idol tell his cousin and assistant Topshe in Jai Baba Felunath “Read the classified advertisements. They are always more interesting than the news articles in the paper.” Satyesu Babu had done the same thing in his expense register and found out that over the last 6 months their company had released 48 classified advertisements. This was pretty interesting he thought and asked Vinayak his assistant to get the cash vouchers for all the expenses. This was not a mission that he wanted to tell anybody so he just collected the files and piled them on his desk for later. After office hours he sat and studied them to find that all advertisements released have been towards loss of C-forms. Expenses towards each advertisement averaged around Rs.1300 to Rs.2200. The total money spent by the company of recovery of C-forms had been about Rs.78000 and this over a six month period. The value on the C-forms had been in Millions of rupees hence this expense had been overlooked and attended to.
The procedure for obtaining a duplicate was to lodge a police complaint and then release an advertisement in a local newspaper. It is a simple procedure obtaining a duplicate however not doing it would put the company in trouble. One of the office boys would go and do it normally as a matter of course. But Satyesu Babu had smelt a rat and like a bull terrier on a chase he traced back the course with the next form loss. He had come to make the police complaint himself and the havaldar noting down his FIR said conversationally, I will now have to raise the charge to note down your complaint. How much you make me write in a month? This time I will take 100 and not my regular 50. Without saying a word Satyesu Babu paid up. Taking the complaint he went made a photocopy and took the same to the agency that released ads for them as per the bills. Oh you are from Agarwala & Co said the attendant, one more C-Form lost? We have your standard draft saved up. All we do is change the number and release your advertisement. How much Satyesu Babu asked? Rs.200 sir. Same as always why? Is Rameshwar Pandey on leave today? He is the one who normally comes for this. The clerk tore a receipt writing the figure Rs. 200 without writing it in words and gave it back.
Satyesu Babu preened to himself. Quite like his idols he had successfully identified the Modus Operandi. Now he also had the perpetrator; Pandey the peon. A clean Rs.1000- Rs.2000 per transaction made and an average of Rs. 10000/ month skimmed off over the last six months. He needed to know the reason as Pandey had been with the company for 22 years and never had a late mark or a misdemeanor to his name. Reaching back he had studied to see whether Pandey had made any requests to the company and found out that he had asked the company for a loan of Rs.50000/- and it had been turned down by his predecessor on flimsy grounds. Satyesu Babu called Pandey to his cabin. Asking him to sit he closed the door and laid the advertisement agency’s receipt in front of Pandey without saying a word. Pandey’s face paled and he started to cry. Sobbing he said I had not wanted to do this but I needed the money for my daughters marriage. She has good in-laws who did not ask for a dowry but the wedding expenses itself were beyond me. I borrowed from a lender then and paid him back this way. Please don’t report it to the management as I will lose my job, my respect, everything, I have done wrong and want to make amends.
Satyesu Babu told him that it will be done on one condition that he returns the money back to the company. On the accounting front, I will accept your request for a loan and sanction it as advanced to you. From your Salary a portion shall be deducted till you cover it.
I will still have to do some jugglery to take the money in but that will be my problem. We shall not speak of this matter again and this is given the fact of your earlier service that has been blemish free. No more C-forms should be lost. Pandey dumbly nodded and folded his hands and walked out.
Satyesu Babu felt good that the case of the C-form and classifieds had been solved and justice done. He reached for the tiffin box & to his delight found that his wife had packed rosgolla’s for him today. Smiling he picked one up, squeezed the syrup out and popped it whole into his mouth chewing contentedly with eyes closed. At this moment one seeing Satyesu Babu’s expression while chewing may be forgiven should they be reminded of the gecko from the police station.