19 May, 2012

Open & Shut Case : (Part One ) The Journey

The crow swooped down on the ghee soaked ball of rice and pecked hungrily. Very soon others had joined him and the rice was finished in no time.  The people around at the crematorium beamed at each other with relief. All the dead man’s wishes from this life had been satisfied, was the general belief, when the crows did that.

My ticket to the other world was now confirmed. The heart had just stopped beating on a lark at 92 years, six months and three days since my birth; not unlike the engine of an antique car, one that is assumed to run forever, giving up one day without any warning breaking down & after a cursory check by the mechanic is relegated to the junkyard.

 That frail aged body had restricted a lot of my motor movements when alive and in an instant now, I tasted freedom again. I conducted a world tour but it finished in a mere two hours, the same tour that had taken Phileas Fogg 80 days. 

Having seen it all now, the other geographies of the world held no charm for me as much as being around my own people and spooking them. Yes, there were a lot of people to spook. I had a rip roaring time scaring the daylights of the neighborhood children, those who had deliberately kept  playing on in the afternoons noisily ( despite requests and then warnings ) during my siesta times. Hence now when they played cricket, I kept floating their ball out of reach in the air till it freaked them out completely. Next on my list was the mean green grocer Dayanand, who refused to look at me and insisted on  speaking to my daughter-in-law only because she was the one who paid his bill. I whistled past and made him drop the vegetables on the staircase. Later also blew his dhoti exposing a dark posterior in the middle of the busy market. I visited the old crime beat and the police station. It was huge fun to rock the chairs of the few officers who enjoyed refusing sanctioning leaves, then after I scared a few fellows while they counted the collected graft. 

Soon I got bored with all this and couldn’t wait for my journey to begin.

The 13th day dawned and no sooner had the priest started uttering his chants I felt a sensation of an upward pull. In my childhood I had sat on a roller coaster at a fun-n-fair, this was similar. With each sonorously chanted mantra I rose up at a tremendous speed cleaving the clouds. It was a terrific rush. The motion stopped no sooner had it begun. I seemed to have arrived at my final destination which turned out to be a fairly curious building. An immense fortress of clouds, no other description could fit.

It had many gates. Each of the gates had a nameplate on it. Wonder of wonders, every one of them seemed to be manned by the same person wearing a different uniform. The gatekeepers had small nameplates pinned at chest level on their flowing white robes. The closest door read “Pearly Gates” and the name plate on the person standing outside read “St. Peter”, On the next gate where it read “Jannat” the keeper was “Aadam”, I was rushed off towards the third one that read “Swarg “and again it was the same face with “Chitragupta” as his tag who asked me to wait inside in the reception.

The Reception turned out to be a large hall with hundreds of chairs laid out. Some were occupied. At the end of the room was a long wall with many doors. Everyone here seemed to be gliding about in a smooth motion like the ice skaters of the winter Olympics. 

This did resemble the inside of the new Consulate in Bombay at Bandra Kurla, the one that issued American visa’s. A name would flash on a door and an occupant of a chair would get up, glide over to vanish inside. No one came out. After a brief wait while a few more of the chairs emptied, felt a tug and saw that it was my name “ACP Mahadev Ramchandra Pinge” flashing. I too found myself gliding over to the door & go through it. 

Beyond the door was a small cubicle that had a working table and two chairs. “Chitragupta” was sitting in one & he gestured for me to take the other. Looking around curiously & studying the place, I saw on the walls a picture of a red eyed man with an extremely dark complexion. He had fierce moustaches, was holding a mace on one shoulder and a noose loosely coiled in his left hand like a cowboy. Only instead of a horse, he was astride a tall strong but benign looking water buffalo. Chitragupta, who was watching me with a smile said that’s our Co-Founder and CEO Mr.Y. My curiosity was further aroused with his answer. Only a co-founder, does that mean there are others involved in this enterprise? He nodded. This particular section, he said was the most chaotic amongst all. There are 330 million founders in all. Mr.Y was the CEO and took all the decisions. The other founders rarely interfered with this section & being alone it had become Mr. Y’s fiefdom.

What am I doing here? I asked him. He told me that there are a few formalities to be completed before I can be assigned. I raised my eyebrows as he removed a ledger book which seemed more like an accountant’s balance sheet. It had a debit and a credit side. He looked up from it and said that I am impressed, that even after being a policeman all your working life, you have remained relatively clean, which in itself is a major positive factor in your favour. Nodding, told him that I had only one interest, that was to do a job well, close all the cases to satisfaction & I have done just that. 

At that he looked up & asked me “Are you very sure?” because that’s the reason we are sitting here. I looked down and saw all entries on the page that had balanced out had vanished, only one remained, blinking furiously. The words were an amber red. It was the same one that had bothered me when I had officially closed it. But now here it was winking mischievously to haunt me even after my death. 

The high profile case of Nirmalendu Chakraborty….it had become famous as the “Open & Shut” case...it was back…I stared at the blinking red lettering on the ledger & was transported to the venue back in time…60 years ago

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