Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fort Vengeance Part 3

                    Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

                  Sardesai tossed and turned  on his bed. He had been unable to sleep ever since the killings at the fort. The case had made him impatient. It wasn't that often that a case like that happened in Raiji. In his career he had never seen a crime like this. The weapon did not match any of the conservative weapons used. Who was this mastermind? How did a simple town like Raiji give birth to such a criminal?

                   He felt his wife's hand over his chest. She caressed him lightly. He turned towards Sadhna, his wife. 
                   "What is it that keeps you occupied these days?"
                   "Nothing" he lied to his wife as he ran his hand into her long hair.
                   "I heard about the fort."
                   "From whom?" he asked her, at once alarmed.
                   "I have my sources too" she giggled.
                   "Sadhna, please tell me, who told you?" His tone scared her. 
                   "Dilip, the locals know all about it. They talk in hushed tones about the murders because no one knows for sure. There are rumors that there is a ghost in the fort."
                   "What rubbish" Sardesai dismissed his wife's news. But it bothered him that the news was out in the public. Did that mean that there was someone who was letting out the secret? His investigation had not progressed much but whatever he had come across in the last 2 days had been shocking. If given a free hand, he could have openly investigated the matter but Patil had tied his hands. He now knew only too well what happened to people who went against Patil. 

                   "When we were young, Prabhakar Kaka would sometimes visit us and tell us about the history of the fort. He loved to teach us. He took us to each and every corner of the fort. Did you know there is a hidden passage in the fort?" Sadhna mumbled, staring at the ceiling. 
                   "What did you just say? A hidden passage?" Sardesai sat up. 
                    Sadhna raised herself and leaned against the pillows. 
                   "Sadhna you never told anything about Prabhakar Kaka. How was he related to you?"
                   "There isn't much that I know of Prabhakar Kaka. We were only kids that time. He was my father's cousin. He used to visit us in Nagpur once in a year or two. It was only after I shifted to Raiji for studies that I came to know how popular he was."
                    "What do you know about the secret passage?" he interrogated. 
                     "I have never seen it. He never showed us the passage. He said it was the best kept secret of the fort. I doubt if even he knew where it was. But he did tell that one cannot stumble upon it if one looked too hard for it. It always intrigued me, the secret passage."

                     She sang about the winter nights. About the fire. About the love that keeps the heart warm. About the ice daggers that cuts the soul. When she sang, her melody carried pain. Her eyes closed, she was lost in her past. A past that had so much happiness and so much deceit. 

                     It numbed him every time she sat like that. He had goosebumps all over. For him, she was his world. He could do anything to make her happy. Yet, on days when tears rolled down her cheeks, he watched helplessly. He never interrupted her. He knew it was her only release. Her history made his blood boil. With a strengthened resolve, he set on his task.  
                    Mukta was nervous about her father's visit. Her father had never expressed any love for her or her brother. She was always conscious in his presence. As a child, she always hid in her room when her father was in the house. He too never bothered to interact with her. The only time he had been proud of her was when she had topped her class 10 exams. He had kept a grand party at their bungalow and distributed sweets in his constituency. It was the only time when she had felt like his daughter. She had thought that this would change her relationship with her father. She had been brave enough to tell her father that she aspired to be a doctor. Her father had been indifferent. The very next day, Dinkar kaka had told her that her father was sending her to Raiji to pursue an Arts degree. Mukta was heartbroken. She had not even been consulted on this major decision of her life. She was sure that her father had no plans of investing on her future and would find an alliance for her that would benefit his political career. He was the most selfish man she knew. She began hating her father with a new vigor. The only good thing about Raiji was that her brother was already there. Sharad had met a similar fate when he had desired to be a writer. He was promptly packed to Raiji and enrolled in commerce. Patil wanted him to complete a management degree so he could carry on his businesses under Sharad's name. 

                 She had told Samarth that her father had ways of knowing her activities and if he found out about campusdiaries he would expel Samarth. Samarth had simply laughed off her worries. She remembered Sharad's words. No, she would not be careless. She had messaged Samarth that she won't be coming online. He had simply said ok. Just ok? Why did she have to tell that to him? Unlike her, he had other people to chat to. Why would it matter she was online or not? Her father would reach late at night. She could have still chatted with him. Now she regretted tell him she won't come online. She was already missing him. Was she falling in love with him? Did she have the right to?
                  Early in the morning, Sardesai decided to meet Dr Raghuvanshi. He was a 90 year old man who had lived in Raiji all his life. He was a historian. Sardesai's mind had been racing ever since he came to know about the secret passage. After talking to Sadhna, he was sure that there was something about the fort that he needed to know to solve this murder mystery. 

                 Dr Raghuvanshi lived in his old ancestral house. The house had been renovated but had maintained its old world charm. They called it wada in Marathi. A very few houses in Raiji had remained in the wada structure. It was a single storied wada with rooms arranged around a courtyard. Dr Raghuvanshi often entertained people in his courtyard which had huge swing and small seatings surrounding it. 
                A maid opened the door. Dr Raghuvanshi did not keep too well and seldom went out. Age was taking a toll on him. The old man hunched. He walked slowly into the courtyard and directed Sardesai to take a seat on the swing. The maid helped Dr Raghuvanshi on the swing and went about doing her daily chores. Dr. Raghuvashi coughed repeatedly as Sardesai introduced himself. Sardesai wondered if the nanogenarian could be of any help. 

               Dr Raghuvanshi adjusted his spectacles and spoke, "I have never seen a policeman at my doorstep. Researchers and students often come to me for guidance. This is the first time a policeman is seeking my help. I am flattered!"
               Sardesai was getting impatient. 
               "Is it true that there is a secret passage in the fort?" he asked straightaway
               "Only a secret keeper would know" Dr Raghuvanshi smiled. 

To be continued

Friday, August 21, 2015

Airtel 4G- For the fast and curious

              It has been almost 10 years since I first got on the internet. Yes, I distinctly remember the year 2005 because it brought into my life someone who is now my husband and my affair with the internet started that very year. Back then, computers were just making their way into the middle class house. Mobile phones were just getting their color. Having a phone with a camera was considered as a wastage. What could one do anyway with those low resolution pictures? Our Orkut profile pictures mostly featured some prominent actor or actress. We didn’t mind waiting for the e-mail to load, we still depended on video parlors to watch a movie because downloading one was unthinkable. Shopping happened in the known shops of the crowded lanes. Having food in select restaurants was reserved for special occasions.

             The world has changed in the past decade. We are the generation that has seen it all. From black and white TVs to flat LED screens, from the huge old computer to the sleek new laptop, from the good old landline phone with a turning dial to the latest touch screen models. The revolution that has brought about this drastic change in the lifestyle is the internet. The internet has made it possible to sit in one corner of the world and go around the globe in a matter of minutes. The world is at your fingertips.

             I remember the days when I used to struggle with the internet speed of snail’s pace. Video chatting was the test of all patience. It definitely ensued a fight between me and the guy because it took forever for the video to stream and another lifetime for the audio to reach the other end. It was frustrating to say the least. How easy life is now!

             During my college years, internet was slowly making its way into mobile phones. Remember the GPRS that we tried out of curiosity and then paid a heavy bill for? Airtel live was a thrill in itself because through phone we could select ring tones, match our astrology, read a line or two of news. The mere fact that it can be done on your mobile phone was enough to make us excited. It is another story that we only came to know of the charges later.

            Then came the 2G. The only app I used with 2G was WhatsApp. Nothing else was worth the wait. We could do everything else on our computer. Then came 3G and android had uses such as Facebook, twitter and Instagram. Life was never the same again. Mobile phones quickly became the center of our universe. It was everything packed into one!

            I hardly used airtel 3G except for WhatsApp and Facebook. My earlier office prohibited mobile phones and after getting back home, I had the LAN connection. I started using my mobile internet only after joining the new job. At home the Wi-Fi connectivity is unbelievable fast. Since I spent more than 3 hours per day travelling to and fro work, most of my social networking happens through mobile phone. I am a lazy person to keep hoping shops and trying clothes. I prefer online shopping for everything. No wonder my mobile has flipkart, jabong, myntra and I surf through them while travelling. Since I am new to Bangalore, I also use zomato each time I plan to go to a restaurant. My new found love for random tags and photographs has made Instagram all the more enjoyable. The only huddle is the slow connectivity with 3G. Yes, the internet speed is decent enough but the things that we do with it has made it imperative for it be faster and more efficient. With Airtel 4G being launched, my troubles have found solution!

           Since I am actively back to blogging, I have been trying to log in through my phone into blogger but I am always scared of the slow speed and connection issues. Recently I was so impressed by a blog post that I wrote full 3 paragraphs of comment on the post but the comment took so long to publish that I had already entered a no network zone. I wished the connection was faster! I am waiting for my Airtel 4G connection so that I could blog in peace and comment to my heart’s content!

          I have the habit of going to google search to learn more about anything I come across. A faster connection will make it easier to feed the curious cat within me. From movie plots, to scandals, to history, to random questions, I keep surfing the net till I get my answers. I can do it all while on the move!

          As for my craze for online shopping, it takes me at least 2 days to zero in on an outfit I want to buy. The collection is huge and the time to surf through the apps is more. Often when I feel I should go back and buy the outfit that I first liked, it is out of stock. A faster connection would make sure I get what I want.

          The book reader in me is dying a slow death due to lack of time. The blog reading and online story reading keeps me going through the day. Since that too has now become a luxury that is confined to my travelling and free hours on weekend. I cannot keep a story down and restrict myself to short stories that I can read online in less time. Of course finding a story would be easier and save a lot of time with a faster connection.

         Until my marriage, I had widely used public transport for travelling. Out station journeys were meticulously planned and train tickets booked in advance. Post marriage, lot of our outings have been spontaneously planned and we have hit the road in wee hours of the morning with only the GPS as our guide. On one such trip, we were on a very confusing road and since the map showed our point at the right road we kept moving ahead. 5 minutes into that way, we knew something was wrong. The map ridiculously showed us way off the road! All due to slow internet connectivity; we wasted around an hour going around that road as there was no turning back. 4G would be a real help on our road trips.

         I am wary of booking tickets through my mobile. Many times the internet gives away making it a payment failure or transaction gets cancelled due to the process taking longer than required time. I am hoping a faster connection would make it convenient to make online bookings.

        The world is moving at a fast pace and the internet needs to be faster to keep track of these changes. In a competitive environment it is a need to be constantly updated and curious about your field. You need to be fast and curious and a fast internet connection is an aid that is indispensable. Now you can have all that you need just by a click at the right place. A faster connection will help you achieve a lot in no time! Thanks to Airtel 4G we can now hope to have it all! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Choosing a sweeter, healthier life

 It's that time of the year when realization dawns. The winter festivities have made sure that the calories we hogged on to are showing in all the wrong places. The summer indulgences of sundaes and family packs of Amul are piling up with all their love. Welcome to the alien world of your own wardrobe. The dress that fit like a dream only last season, now refuses to pull down the love handles. The tops, that you spent so much on, hold your arms in a clingy way to give you abnormal curves. You stare at the image with disdain and remember the famous dialogue, "Ye admi adrak ho chuka hai, kahise bhi badh raha hai". But instead of clapping, tears well up at the sad plight! 

 Amidst this sudden body crisis, comes the call of relatives near and far, informing of yet another season of celebrations! A cousin getting married, another getting engaged, anniversary party, its a downpour of invitations. To anyone who has had weight issues, this is the call of action unless you like complete strangers commenting, "You have put on weight, you were slim the last time". You alone know that the last time was ages ago! 

Post marriage (Did I mention I got married last December? No?) I have had little time to think of what I eat. It is quite an irony, given that most my thoughts are about food. Months of diligently working to come at a reasonably fair weight for the wedding just went down the drain post the big day. For nearly 6 months, every Sunday was a gluttonous one. The husband's relatives refused to let go without making sure that every meal cost me a kilogram at least. The dinner and lunch invitations had the better of me. As it is I was never good at holding myself when it came to food. Added to it, the lonely months of being away from Mumbai, woke up the comfort eater in me. 

Now that the alarm bells are ringing, I have to get my act together. It is tough to get on a balanced diet when you are the one cooking it. On days you have too much work on hand, cooking simple dal and rice becomes a herculean task. I just wonder how Mom managed to cook a well-balanced nutritious meal every single day. Gone are the days when I used to complain that my tiffin is always the same and boring. It would take me forever to cook all the things that they recommend in diet books. What option do I have? A crash diet?

I have never been the one to go on crash diets. I just do not have it in me to survive on the calorie intake of an ant. But I won't say I haven't been tempted to! One of my classmates had managed to survive on just water and pulses for months on end. The results are worth envy. She has lost oodles of weight and carries of any kind of clothes well. Every time I look at her pictures, I feel the urge to go on a diet like that. Only, I cannot sit hours with a hunger pang. I cannot pass through restaurants and drool like a penniless person. I cannot deal with my hair going all dry and brittle. I cannot feel nauseous and weak all the time. I cannot see my eyes buried inside my sockets. I cannot see my teeth almost protruding because my cheeks have sunk in. Yes, that is the cost that she pays every day for that figure. 

The harms of a crash diet are more than the benefits. A crash diet is impossible to sustain in the first place. Anyone who sustains is bound to die of malnutrition. Giving up on the crash diet only invites more weight. It is a vicious circle. One that is dangerous to life.

Crash diet is nothing but a shock to your body. It deprives your body of essential nutrients. Most crash diets just concentrate on reducing the calorie intake so much that it does not even spare enough energy to carry on day to day activity. If you are working or studying, be prepared to faint somewhere. Off late there is a growing business of diet food and diet drinks. Some even claim only the drink is enough to manage the nutrient requirement of the whole day. XYZ doctors and crooks claim to give the perfect weight loss diets with recommendation to walk 45 minutes per day. The energy deprived person often falls prey to knees problems and hair loss. Funnily enough, these same clinics offer hair regeneration and knee therapy. Good business?

Crash diets are an unhealthy option to lose weight. Often it results it sagging skin, wrinkles and speeds up the ageing. Beats the whole purpose right? Most diets only aim to reduce body water and not fat, thereby creating an imbalance in the body. Fatigue, weakness, constipation are the end products.

Protein fads are another thing that many take up to lose weight. Cut down all carbohydrates, discard the fats. The brain cannot use energy from proteins, it needs carbohydrates to function normally. But who needs brains these days? Say no to fats and let the bile secretion in body go to hell. We absolutely love to call PCODS and hypothyroidism on ourselves.

Crash diets end up in nothing but future illness. A good measure with the tape and a drawer full of tablets is what we are looking at. 


Perhaps it is time to revisit school. Remember this pyramid that we so studiously learnt and repeated at every exam? Yes, this very pyramid was one of the few things that was not supposed to be mugged and vomited. It was to be carried all life. The right amount of the nutrients that lead to a healthy life represented the solution to all health issues. Sadly, we don’t tend to include this mantra in our life. We swear by diet fixes, baked stuff, and low cholesterol snacks but forget to acknowledge the goodness of fruits and vegetables. We like it all ready to make.

I wouldn’t say I have followed a healthy and well balanced diet. I have messed up my eating many times. Diwali is just 4 months away and the dreaded wedding season just 5 months to go. I have panicked. I have looked at quick fixes. Tried to purchase unnecessary health drinks. But I am proud to say I haven’t done any of it. Out of sheer laziness. Then I came upon something that I could follow.

Just when I was looking at a diet book that many people recommended on flipkart, a mail came to me. I went to see what it was all about. A honey advertisement. Then I looked at what it had to offer.  Voila! I think I found the answer at daburhoney

I swear by the goodness of honey when it comes to my sore throat. For years I have pumped myself with antibiotics for throat infection. Then one day, late in the night, my throat hurt. Not knowing what to do to avoid having a throat infection, I drank hot milk with honey. I added one spoon of turmeric to it to enhance the effect. Since that day, at the slightest hint of a throat infection, I try this remedy and it never fails me. 

This page made me aware of so many other properties of honey which I had always known but never tried. One that offers to help weight management, to get beautiful skin and aids digestion, honey diet is just what I looked for.

I took the 3 click diet planner and voila! I had the diet plan ready. It takes into consideration the gender, lifestyle and BMI. Also it is no big deal to stick to this plan. Also it is easy to cook. Working in a shift makes it very difficult for a lazy person like me to exercise. This page also offered some basic and realistic exercises to lose weight. The page also offers various health tips.  I have already started using the stair. I plan to start skipping now. Today is day one of my honey diet.  I feel energetic and that is a positive sign of a healthy diet.

I don’t plan to get a makeover with this diet. I know any good diet should work gradually and not just aim at losing weight. It should achieve an overall sense of wellness. It should make the skin glow.  It should not make the hair lose its luster. It should make the eyes bright. It should keep the energy levels high. Only then it can claim to be a well-balanced diet. There are no quick fixes. I am giving myself 5 months. I know it is difficult for me to lose weight because of thyroid issues and my love for eating. I have a realistic expectation and body image. Because my weight does not define me. Do it because you need to be healthy not skinny. Don’t do anything that doesn’t agree with your body. Your body is not to be abused with food that doesn’t suit you. Remember, the body only accepts what the mind wants to. So set your mind to it and make way for a sweeter, healthier life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My mother, my expert

              I was a young girl awestruck by glamour. Spending hours in front of the idiot box had influenced me in a big way. I knew who was dating whom and what celebrities did to while away their time. On  a usual Sunday morning, while I was glued to a music video, my mother switched the TV off. She was getting wary of my vain interests. She told me to go read the newspaper. I obeyed her and went straight to the page 3. Unable to keep the gossip to myself, I read it aloud to her. It annoyed her no end! The very next day she brought home a Tinkle book.

              I had hardly read any book till then. Slowly I began enjoying reading the tales of Shikari Shambu, the craziness of Supandi and this was just the beginning of a lifetime hobby. A few books later, I took to writing. I don't know when and how it came to me, but I began penning poems, essays all by myself. It gave me a new sense of accomplishment. I was doing what no one else was doing in my class. My essays came into the notice of my teachers and they praised me for it, encouraging it even more. I had decided right then that I wanted nothing more to do with academics, I just wanted to write. I voiced this idea to my mother and like always, she gave me a reality check.
              My mother explained to me why it was not a great idea to ignore education. She told me about authors who write just medical stories, some who write just dreamy romance, some who write books only for a mature audience. I needed to learn more, see more and be more to write something that people would read. She began asking me if  I knew the Mahabharata. I had a rough idea from what I had seen on SONY TV. She narrated the first chapter of Mahabharata and next day I had a children's Mahabharata to read. The story was engaging and the plots and characters kept me at the edge until I finished the whole book. It was then that I learnt the greatness of this story. It applies to every generation, every family and every person. To write a tale like that was a genius! I realised I knew hardly anything to write! From then on, I have read and read and hungrily lived on a staple of books. That is the best gift my mother has given me. The gift of a hobby that will last me a lifetime. That will never keep me lonely. That will never let me be at loss for words or ideas. That has given me a passion to write. My mother used her expertise to channel my talent in the right direction. She knew it before me that it was the people and stories that kept me amused and she found the right medium to tap that interest.
collection that keeps growing

             My mother has always been the inducer to my interests. Like the first time I had to draw an elephant, my mother held my hand and traced the outline of the elephant. She taught me how to draw the head first and continue all the way to tusk and then carry the same forward to outline the legs of the elephant. I practiced it so many times that in the end, I could draw a perfect elephant, much to the delight of my drawing teacher.
                                              image courtesy-

            My mother taught me how to draw a proper seven dotted rangoli while I was struggling with the rangoli colors. I had drawn a huge lotus that I was having a hard time filling with colors. Exhausted, I had swept the whole thing off and sat in disappointment. I was very young and she had told me that little girls don't draw rangoli, but I had been adamant and made her purchase the colors anyway. She had sat by my side and helped me make a neat rangoli. Year by year, I grew better at it and could make a full rangoli with vibrant colors and she would be mighty proud of it!
what I can draw now

           Being a working mother is no easy task and yet she was always there for me. Be it teaching me to make a round chapati or how to stitch, she taught me all that would make me self reliant. If I ever came down with the slightest of fever, she would check my temperature multiple times through the night. She did not think twice before taking a leave if I was not keeping well but slogged anyway even when she was not in the fittest form. She knows the treatment to every ailment that I go through. Be it a cold that will never go away without antibiotics or plain moodiness that goes away with good food. Be it my stubbornness that she would melt away with reason and shopping or pampering me with foot wear. She knows how I work.

          Growing up, I never really bought any cosmetics. My mother always made it a point replenish the lipsticks, the nail paints, the perfumes. She got me a purple kajal when it came in fashion, a green nailpaint because its the "in" thing, neck piece that she felt would go very well with my dress. I never really had to think about any of this stuff. She is an expert when it comes to what I should wear.

         She surprised me with the large teddy bear on my birthday. It was never around when I was a kid but when I saw it at a shop, I kept eyeing it. I was 21 at that time and yet she thought of gifting it to me just because I never had it! Mothers and their perpetual need to fulfill our wishes!

         When I decided on the man I want to marry, she was the one who supported me. Knowing fully well how temperamental I am, she still trusted my decision. When the time came, she took the lead in all preparations. I am so proud to be a daughter to such wonderful parents who gave me the wedding of my dreams. It was her goodwill that made it all possible.

         Every Saturday and Sunday of the 4 months before the wedding, she ran around with me, shopping and arranging. From the kind of dresses, to the silk sarees, to the lighter sarees for casual events, to the lehenga, to the footwear for all occasions, her list was ever growing. At times, I would be overwhelmed with her desire to give me everything that I ever wanted. She left no thing that I would want and not get. Selecting the right kind of jewellery was never my thing, it was she who made sure I had all that was needed. She came up with innovative ideas to deck me up for the big day. The parlor treatments, the make up, she had a plan for everything. The kind of expertise that a girl needs on her wedding can be provided by no one but her mother. A woman truly understands the importance of her  mother at the time of her wedding. No time before that I had felt such an acute need of my mother and no other time had I cried so hard than the time I was leaving her back.

        Every other day, I call her up to ask her for a recipe or what to do with something I have no idea about. I tell her I got drenched or I have a bad stomach, and she keeps talking at length on how I am careless and I don't listen about not doing things the way I do and later keeps checking on how I am doing, suggesting medicines. Recently I met my mother at my native place. It was not pre planned and last minute we decided to be there. On the way I thought if I had known before I could have asked her to get the thin, sharp knife that we got in our neighborhood. I met her and voila! She had brought the knife even at the last minute although it had been months since I had said I needed it. The best part about our relation is that, it works on Telepathy! I have seldom had to ask for anything from her. She has always known what I need. In that way, I have always depended on her to know what I need.  Yes, I am still reliant on her because she taught me everything but to live without her expertise!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fort Vengeance 2

            Samarth is now online

            Mukta's heart leaped. She waited for this notification all day. She knew it by now that Samarth came online only at night, yet she kept checking the site just to make sure she didn't miss his appearance any other time. It had been just a week since she had joined this site and it was crazy how addicted she had become to it.
            "Hi.." she typed in anticipation.
             There was no reply. Mukta paced about in room, wondering why he took so much time. Wasn't he interested in chatting with her? He was the only male friend she had in campus.

             "Sorry Mukta, I am a little busy. There are a few complaints I am looking into." he typed some time later.

              Campusdiaries was a site that Samarth had opened. It served an all around purpose of networking, chatting, complaints and confessions. Students had taken to it very quickly and its popularity spread like wildfire. Samarth had a huge following. A lot of people confided in him. Mukta felt insecure sometimes. Maybe he had too many female friends as well.Annoyed, she reached to shut down the laptop. Just in time the chat box flashed. Samarth began chatting with her. Late into the night, huddled under the blankets, she smiled at the screen, typing away her emotions.

             Sharad took large strides tpwards the girls hostel. Mukta had been fast asleep when he had called her. But the news he had couldn't wait. He dug his fist into the pockets of his jacket, taking a deep breath as he reached the gate. He saw Mukta heading towards him. She rubbed her hands together to keep the cold off. Sharad noticed dark circles around her eyes. Something about Mukta had changed. She was staying up late at night, she seemed obsessed with staying in her room, she interacted little with anyone else and most importantly, she seemed to need less of Sharad. He didn't want to bug her with questions but it bothered him that Mukta was keeping something from him.

            "Dada, so early in the morning! It is so cold here!" Mukta shivered as she spoke.
             It always melted his heart away, the way his sister acted like a small baby.

             "Mukta,  Dinkar Kaka had called. Baba is planning to come tomorrow to Raiji."
             "But why? The elections are a month away!" Mukta questioned.
             "Kaka said it was something confidential. He called us keep us informed. Baba had no plans to let us know about his arrival."
              "Dada do you think it has anything to do with us?" Mukta asked, worried.
              "If that was the case, Dinkar Kaka would have told. He has been protecting us from Baba's ire for years. I believe it is something to do with his personal gains. Anyway, you keep a watch. Don't get into any trouble."
               She saw him walking away, her only confidante and friend in all those years. He was not just her elder brother, he was her whole family. She felt guilty for keeping him out of her secret. She wasn't sure if he would appreciate what Samarth was doing. For now, she had to keep it to herself.

               Dinkar sat uneasily in the backseat with his boss. It was not unusual for him to travel with his boss everywhere. For years he had been the right hand man for Patil. He did as he was asked. Although it wouldn't true if he said he never held a gun, the last couple of decades had made him abhor violence. It was his gut feel that this trip to Raiji would indeed be a blood war.
              It was, of course, unrealistic to hope for a nonviolent life, being with Patil 24x7. Patil yielded the gun to rule. Patil used force to conquer everything he desired. Patil fed fear in the minds of those he loved. He hoped to gain everything from terror. It was indeed a rare feat that Dinkar had achieved, to have never been shouted or yelled at by Patil. Everyone felt that Dinkar had a calming effect on Patil and it was because of this fact, everyone tried to reach to Patil through Dinkar. Only Dinkar knew the truth. Patil owed him his life. It was this very reason that made Patil keep Dinkar close. If anyone could be remotely called as a friend to Patil, it was Dinkar. For Patil never made friends.

              The playground was full of children, shouting, laughing, running. The  younger ones played in the small garden adjacent to the ground, waiting for rounds on the swing, sliding down the lone slide. She made it a point to sprinkle some water in the garden, making sure that the dust was settled as the kids played. The older ones usually played football or cricket. She always kept an eye on them for someone was always scrapping a knee or getting an arm twisted. She rested on the arm chair and rocked herself.
              "Mother, Patil is coming."
              A slow smile came to her. The moment had arrived. The Fort shall seek its Vengeance.

To be continued




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fort Vengeance

          The campus wore a deserted look. The tall shady trees stood in silence all around the large ground on which Ramnath was running. He stopped briefly, panting. Despite it being a cold morning, he was sweating profusely. He was the oldest watchman of the college, who also doubled up as a personal peon to the Principal. He started sprinting as fast as his tired legs could take him. The Principal would be sleeping at this hour. Ramnath hated being the bearer of bad news, specially this one. In the past one month this was the third time.

           Ravi Gokhale had had a rough night. It was one thing to manage a college and another to look over a criminal case. As if that was not enough, his wife had raised a storm over his negligence. He no longer had time to look after any of the house matters and she had persistently asked to be taken to her maiden home. It had infuriated Gokhale but he could do little to shut his wife up. She was ,after all,  the sister of a powerful politician, to whom he owed his position. He had resorted to alcohol and surrendered to sleep. The banging on the door got louder. Gokhale forced his eyes open, praying that it wasn't Ramnath.

           '"Sir, there is another case." Ramnath said, letting out a huge sigh.
           "What! This can't be! Where?" Gokhale asked, at once all alert.
           "Near the old fort." Ramnath answered, shaking his head.
           "How is it possible? The guards are everywhere!"
            Sardesai had been on a night shift the day before. He was returning home after long hours of duty. His 6 yr old daughter stood at the gate of their house, dressed for school. She came running into his arms.
            "Baba, drop me to school. You are wearing uniform, I want my friends to see!"she exclaimed.
             His wife came out, packing his daughter's tiffin into the satchel.
            "Baba is tired. Some other day, today I am dropping you."
             His daughter looked at him with hopes. He was about to give in to her request when  the call came.
             His daughter was crest fallen and it broke his heart to disappoint her, but duty came first.

             Gokale stood at a distance, covering his nose with a handkerchief. He had retched at the sight inside. Ramnath and a few other guards looked around the old fort. A police jeep was approaching. Gokhale heaved a sigh of relief. Sardesai would know what to do.

            The fort stood strong even after centuries of its inception. It was built by a Maratha ruler to safeguard his kingdom from the sea enemies. Much of its fine structure was dilapidated as it was never maintained after the reigning kingdom lost its heir. The fort was at the north end of the campus. Beyond it was the sea. The only way to reach the fort was through the campus. The small town of Raiji was once a stronghold of  Maratha kings. Its past glory was forgotten in the years to come until this huge sprawling campus drove in students from all over Maharashtra. Raiji was famous for one more reason. It was the constituency from where Patil won the elections.


                                                               Image source
           Sardesai had  a look at the fort. When he was a college student, he had come to the fort with this friends so many times. It was here that he had brought his wife, then girlfriend, on their first date. It was a heaven for young couples back then. On lazy afternoons, one could see couples in nooks and corners of the old fort, in the comfort of embraces or enjoying the sea breeze. The fort also had little rooms where soldiers were stationed in olden times. Most rooms were closed now. The rooms were nothing more than spaces to sit. A few rooms were open where people often stood for photographs as it faced the sea.

          Sardesai had handpicked his team of 5 members. Vishal was the youngest recruit in the force and was taken in for his sharp wit. Arjun was a boxer and had the strength of a bull. Yogendar was transferred as a reward for his bravery against North Indian top brass. Rajat and Vikas were his most trusted men from the force. He had called them at the crime scene on his way.

         Unlike the previous two cases, this time the murderer had made no attempt to hide the body. It was kept lying on the stairs of the fort.  Like the earlier murders, this too was done by smashing the head with a heavy, blunt object. It was man whose face was beyond recognition. From his clothes, they found out his identity.

        "Vinod Vichare?" Sardesai raised an eyebrow.
        "No idea", Gokhale shook his head.
        "Check the records."

        Sardesai had a  gut feel that Vinod Vichare was a past student, just like the previous two, Rangnath Kamath and Abhinav Patole.
        Bhimraj Patil was busy skimming through the papers. These days, he made it a point to check all the local papers of Raiji. With the elections close by, he was in turmoil. For over 15 years, the college functioned smoothly under his brother-in-law, Gokhale. The revenue was growing, the publicity was good. The land acquisition went as per plan and the acres of campus had every amenity that a city college could boast of. Raiji had students swarming in from various corners. Hostel was built, PG accomodations cropped up. The locals did a good business. He was  God sent for people of Raiji. Without doubt, they made him win every time.

        "Sardesai, I trusted you to handle this case." Patil shouted at the other end.
         But Sir, this situation is serious. Three murders in 15 days and no clue. You have to let us operate openly. We have to close the campus for a few days."
         "Are you out of your mind? Between semester if we close the campus, everyone will come to know there is something wrong. Besides, the students there are the biggest source of leak that can happen.  Get your act up. I don't want an issue when I come for campaign next month."

           It's a pity he didn't even ask who was murdered. Given that his own kids studied at the campus, he was least bothered about their safety! Sardesai had a long day ahead. He could do with a large cup of coffee.

          The campus was slowly getting filled with students. It could be any one of them. The nerd with big glasses and straight oiled hair, the reckless boy on the bike, the uninterested boy sitting with a guitar or could it be one of those scurrying around in a white apron?

         Bhimraj Patil College of Science, Commerce and Arts was just one part of the campus. The other had  a medical college and an engineering college. A total of 8000 students. Around 500 in hostel and rest day scholars. It could be any one of them. Or could it be a local who knew of ways to get in?

         What were Abhinav, Rangnath and Vinod killed for? Was it just plain robbery or something more than that? Did Patil know something that he was evading?
         Rangnath found murdered at the south end of the college, body hidden under plastic sheets. Found by a rag picker who came to collect campus garbage.
        Abhinav found murdered at the east end of the college, body hidden in gunny bag, found by Ramnath.

        Vinod found murdered at the north end of the campus, fort stairs, body in open. Found by one of the guards Keshav.

        Sardesai and his team got to their work.

To be continued