Hocus Pocus: an Indian Murder Mystery
This is a work of fiction. Any allusions here to persons, places or things, bearing resemblance to any persons, places, or things, dead or alive, here is purely a matter of coincidence.
“I have in my pocket a manuscript,” said Dr. James Mortimer. “It is an old manuscript.”
“I observed it as you entered the room,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It must be early eighteenth century, unless it is a forgery.”
“How can you say that, sir?”
(Doyle, A.C.2006. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Jaico Publishing House. Delhi. Pp. 21.)
Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar had a tough night ahead. He was chewing madly on his cigar as channels were jammed with details of four dead bodies found in Khatampur on the same day and the media offered nary a clue. This does not happen very often in Khatampur he thought, as he knocked back the remainder of his latest glass of milk. And before tucking in at his humble lodgings the thought did cross his mind that the morning’s papers may provide what was lacking in the evening’s news. He slept very fitfully.
True to their calling, the next morning, the two main newspapers of Khatampur, the Khatampur Times and Khatampur Herald, were blaring huge 25 point Calibri headlines announcing these ghastly murders. The first victim in terms of the respective time of the murders, at 7:50 P.M., was Sarla Jhingorani. Her published details were Female, 52, owner of the Sarla Apartments, in the upmarket Naubatpur locality of Khatampur. Cause of death, and very startlingly, an enormous 5 carat blue diamond stuck in her windpipe. Murder weapon, none, other evidence, none. The body and the diamond were both now in police custody and the official postmortem report to be issued by Khatampur Civil Surgeon was still awaited. Having read this much and deciding that this was enough to chew upon Indrajeet Talwadekar put the papers down on his breakfast table, and left for his morning constitutional, having decided to read the rest of the papers upon his return from his walk. His dog, Crawford, a Golden Retriever, accompanied him as usual, wagging its happy tail. The maid wouldn’t be in until 8:00 A.M, and, as it was only 6:00 A.M. in the morning, he and Crawford had plenty of time.
As he returned from his constitutional and was unlocking his doors, he heard his phones ringing ever so loudly. At a pinch, he quickly tied Crawford to a hook outside the house, and rushed in to attend to the phone, assuming it was a call from a client. And a client it was. None less than Mr. Jhingorani, The husband of the now deceased Sarla Jhingorani.
“Mr. Talwadekar,” barked Mr. Jhingorani, “Where indeed have you been? I have kept your phones ringing for the past half-hour or so. Something really terrible has happened.”
“Oh. Kacharu. Is that you? What’s happened? I was away walking.”
“Hell’s Bells, Man. Somebody killed Sarla.”
“What? Is that true?”
“Yeah, Man. The brute even thrust a 50 carat blue diamond down her throat. She asphyxiated.”
“So. What would you like me to do?”
“Well, you don’t read palms do you? I want you to look into this.” barked Kacharu.
“Pay my fee?”
“Okay. You’re on.”
Ruminating over this sudden call from his associate and friend Kacharu Jhingorani, himself an eminent lawyer, but happy at the thought of some money in the bank, Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar went outside his house again to untie his dog Crawford. A part of his morning ritual, he fed Crawford some cold milk and pedigree, and let him prance around afterwards, as he settled down again with the morning’s newspapers. His eyes moved down the front-page and the second victim’s name had also been announced – Phokat Lall Billgrammy, Male, 54, Trader of Chewing Betel ingredient Zarda, details, very rich, residence, Chaupatpur-Lehasiasarai locality of Khatampur City, cause of death an insufferable amount of Zarda in his lungs, throat, mouth and some parts of his face, murder weapon, none, cause of death unknown, this body too was in police custody and the cause of death was still to be confirmed through postmortem by the city’s Civil Surgeon. Time of death, 8:00 P.M.
As he popped a couple of slices of bread into his toaster he glanced at the details of the remaining victims of this night’s ghastly murders. Nalpat Mulchandani and Ravishankar Parsai. The details were respectively as follows, now he began jotting rapidly in his little diary:
Nalpat Mulchandani: repairer of radios, assets, owner of a road-side kiosk, financial value – negligible, assets displayed – some small pencil cells, small torches, key-rings, fiber-optics cheap goods, and nail- cutters. Cause of death, unknown, reason of death, two hundred dry-cells thrust down his throat; location of the body, next to his kiosk, time of death, 11:50 pm. Body, Civil Surgeon, post-mortem, results awaited!
Ravishankar Parsai: Musician, assets, two sets of Tablas, some cheap awards, 5 sets of Dhotis, Lungi 1, Pajama 1, Ganji 1, Cause of Death – a Gamcha stuffed into his windpipe, time of death 12:00 p.m.
Then Talwadekar moved to crunch his toast plastered copiously with marmalade, and dug into a four-egg Omlette, done with anchovies, olives, mint-leaves, green chillies, and a nice coating of pepper, lathered with generous layers of Kissan Tomato Sauce. Then, very naturally, followed a Litre-tumbler of pure cold white milk. The breakfast done he moved to his living rooms to adorn his attire for this morning.
Crisp starched clothes, cufflinks, tie, and a blue-striped suit, for he had a long-day ahead with officials, relatives, and in the case of the final two murders, with the Riff-Raff. Just the slightest thought occurred before he revved his car engine before leaving his humble abode – Please, God, Please, Don’t, Please – this time don’t make me play Sir Charles Laughton even if he produced the Lovely Marry Golds. And as he backed his Chevy out of the garage and the gates to his humble-abode, he recollected that Sir Charles Laughton…well, it didn’t bear mentioning.
Indrajeet Talwadekar’s next stop was the offices of the Editor of Khatampur Times. A nice spacious bungalow, painted in pink, the name emblazoned boldly, and next, a digital display of 1, 00,000 million copies sold on this day, Friday the 12th of September, ticking, as this notable newspaper was claiming further victims…or so he thought. He noted the time of his visit or rather the time of parking his vehicle in the Time’s Parking Lot…11:00 a.m.
Faluda Mistry, an enormously Anglicized Editor of the Khatampur Times, was also given to drinking milk, in great proportions, and greatly…especially, before a breaking news. His milk was by custom, which his employees of Khatampur Times, well-understood, had to be necessarily served in a Red Tumbler! As Talwadekar entered his offices, Mistry Ji had his legs crossed on top of a heap of very important correspondence upon his work table and was in the middle of a huge gulp of his daily dose of milk. he stopped quite abruptly as he saw Indrajeet enter his offices and even managed to spill some of his half-toned milk. So great was his surprise, “what brings you here, old boy?”
“Murder…” said Indrajeet.
“What? Attendant. Attendant.” Faluda started banging his desk-bell, shaking like a twig in a violent storm.
“Heck’s sake, Man. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. Calm down. I mean the Khatampur murders of yesterday.”
“Holy Smoke. Give my glass of milk, will you. Old Boy. I thought you were talking about doing me in.”
“Here you Are!” said Indrajeet, extending a well-muscled arm, with sinews rippling and conspicuous like very expensive price-tags. He extended his old associate his red-glass of milk, as a sly grin twisted his lips.
Faluda and Indrajeet’s stories went a long-long way back. They were once at college together. However, here on this fateful meeting was some twenty years later… that they were meeting for the first time.
“So”, said Faluda, “what exactly brings you here after twenty years, old chap?”
“The selfsame four murders of Khatampur of yesterday, old chap…And I am here to quiz you a bit”
“Quiz, me? What on earth for? How am I to know anything about that subject?” heaved Mr. Mistry, wiping some beads of sweat which had started to appear on his forehead.
“Hold your horses, pal” said Indrajeet. “You haven’t changed a bit…in the last twenty years, have you?”
“So what if I haven’t? This is a free country, mate”
“Of course it is. Yet, we are not here debating the level of the democratization of the country? Are we, Mate?”
Faluda Mistry, here take a swipe off his red tumbler of milk…and looks Indrajeet eyeball to eyeball, in pure puzzlement. Saab Faltu Hai, he thinks, and says, “No, Sir. Indeed, We Are Not? And, you have a point there, mate? Go on, ask me your questions”
Indrajeet Talwadekar leaned back in the leather upholstered furniture that was provided in Mistry’s chamber, loosened his tie; letting his sinews relax a bit, as the hum of the air-conditioners and their chill began to bite deep into him. These newspapers chaps have it good, don’t they, thought he, as he fished-out his little note book and a very sharp and short 2HB Nataraja Lead Black Pencil, and started writing swiftly.
“O.K., Dear Falu. Where were you around 7:50 p.m. last night?”
“Heh. heh. Right here in this chair, Old Chap.”
“What exactly, were you doing?”
“Making news, for the likes of you.”
“Oh. This and that…”
“Brother, For such purposes as supposed by your query we have such things as crime-beat reporters...Shall I call Shri Magal Singh…?”
“”I am sure, Dear Falu, you mean Mangal Singh, if you hadn’t so much cream of the milk choking your throat!”
“Okay, Tal, so it is Mangal….”
“Heck. Don’t get worked up, just call him…Mugger Singh?”
Falu was now nearly as heated-up as he could be hence he chimed his bell as he would, in short sharp peals, very soon, an attendant showed-up, and gave a very obsequious look like a cat that just had had a go at the milk and had in the hurry forgotten to quite lick its whiskers clean.
“…Heh, Heh…Jee Huzoor…”
Falu spluttered, choked a bit, at mustachioed insouciance, but maintained his poise as best he could.
Falu said, “What were you doing? I was ringing the bell, for so long. Drinking Milk? Just go and Call Ma, Mu, Ma, Magal Singh?”
Harischandra Purohit, “Sahib Ji..heh..heh..heh…surely you mean that I should call Shri Mugger Singh Ji, Sub-Editor, from the sixth-floor, room number 605? Heh… heh…heh?”
Falu, “Hari, just hurry”
In just the meanest of whiles, as they sat taking-in the hum of the air-conditioner their eardrums perceived just the slightest hint of a nimble footfall. A slightly balding, slight-set, man wearing a Hawaii-Shirt and flannel pants, and quite weathered ordinary chappals entered Faluda Mistry’s chamber without knocking. He courtesied Faluda with just the slightest shake of his very well-rounded cranium and then again quite without asking he located a comfortable chair and eased himself into it. He fished-out a little note book from his shirt-pocket and a very sharp short 3HB Natraj Lead Black Pencil. Just as casually as he had entered this room, he looked at Mr. Mistry for a short, sharp while, then swiveled his head toward Indrajeet, and took a look at him, for an equal duration and then quickly turning back to Mistry he said
Faluda Mistry, “Mugger Sigh. Here is Indrajeet Talwadekar. A Private Detective. He would like to ask you some questions…dig?”
Indrajeet, “Mr. Singh. I hear that you do the crime-beat reporting for the Khatampur Times. Is that true?”
“And, Sir, in that case, I have a few questions for you?”
“Did you hear any tell of the Khatampur murders of yesterday?”
“Sir? How do you mean, Sir?”
“May I have an answer, or is this an army-drill?”
Here, quite exasperated with the talents of Mangal Singh, Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar turns to Faluda Mistry, his very old associate, and gives him a very long look.
“Well Falu. With that sort of testimony indeed my inquiry will indeed go a very long way, wont’ it?”
A wee bit crest-fallen Mistry replies
“Well Indu. Take it a step at a time. We are journalists and are used to asking questions of others and not exactly have others doing the same to us? Try a softer approach.”
Indrajeet does a quick think, as he slyly glances at his watch, the thought of a very hungry Crawford flashes by in his mind, as he adjusts himself to the time remaining in the light of his old associates caveats about his approach.
“Well, Son. Look at it this way. Do you actually cover the streets, very typically at nights, with your cameras, and informants’ tips, as to where the next piece of action is being staged? Action. Action!!! You know what I mean, heh? heh?”
“Yes, Sir. heh, heh, heh. That’s exactly how I do it. How did you know, Sir?”"
“That’s much, better. O.K. Let’s take that again…on the night of Friday the 12th of September, were you on your beat?”
“Yes, Sir. Indeed I was. How indeed did you guess? Heh. heh.”
“Very good. Was there any action that night? Heh?”
“heh. Yes, indeed there was. How did you know, Sir? heh.”
“Well since you ask, I have no problems at all, in revealing to you, that it is indeed from the television that I first learnt about it?”
“Heh. And what exactly did you learn there from, Sir?”
“The same as you did Mr. Mangal Singh, Hah!”
“You mean that there were no less than four murders in Khatampur in a single night, the night of 12th September?”
“Yes. I did not know that there were any more…though.”
“So what exactly are we discussing?’
“Exactly, the four murders.”
“Ah. I get it now. You would like to know from me what I know of those murders. Right?”
“Right. Exactly Right. Heh? However, Dear Mangal, I have to be scooting now to another quick interview with another respondent, and, then homewards, and then, I think I shall have just a slice of time to return here tomorrow to talk to you just a bit more. Heh, heh?”
Indrajeet walked out of the Khatampur Times Office, and into their parking lot. He seated himself into the very comfortable and very spacious driving seat of his Chevy, started its engine, gave the clutch a downward press, eased the gears into the right place and gently, very gently, cruised-out of the parking lot.
Indrajeet’s car almost as if on auto-pilot cruised past the Gullies and by-lanes of Khatampur and quite into Ballan’s Lot or Laat where the deceased and quite erstwhile family of Mr. Parsai resided. Indrajeet then parked his rather new motor, double-locked it, and then proceeded toward a house from which it could be heard that a lot of musicians of the Hindustani Tradition were busy. Tanpuras twanging their monotonic, but rhythmic, notes, Tablas, what have you.
But the wailing, the cries of mourning, predominated the music. papa. papa. papa…papa. Indrajeet being a Private Detective and a seasoned-one at that could well surmise from the ranting and raving that the Papa in question had had the very good fortune to have reached a very ripe old age before this heinous atrocity was committed on the night of the 12th September at 12:00 p.m. He was offered a modest chair to sit down by one of the many Kurta-Pyjama-ed men in the house, as a woman wiping her scanty tears approached him and in a sobbing voice inquired if he would like a glass of milk. Indrajeet accepted the proffered glass of milk with due deference. One of the pajama-clad individuals then approached him to enquire after the purpose of his visit; he was apparently the son of Ravishankar Parsai, now deceased, a victim of a very ghastly deed. Manishankar, he introduced himself as, and found himself a chair next to Indrajeet after learning about who he was and what indeed was the purpose of his visit. That is, further to imbibing that full glass of full-cream milk.
Manishankar, “Na Dhin Dhin Na, Na Dhin Dhin Na, Na Tin Tin Na, Na Dhin Dhina Na, na.”
Indrajeet, “That is Teen Taal my friend.”
Manishankar, who is suffering from a sort of cough, which, as Private Detective Talwadekar well-understands, comes from persistent Bidi-smoking. Mani pushes ahead, nevertheless.
“Sir that was the Mandra. The Madhya, and the Drut Taals, still await your indulgence; if I may only get my voice alright…”
Indrajeet, “Yes. Yes. Sir. I am waiting….just do it.”
Manishankar, “Na, dhindhinna, Na, dhindhinna, Na tintinna, Na, dhindhinna, Na.”
Indrajeet, “Mani. I do have other ways to resolving the mandra, madhya and drut layas of the teen taal Tabla. However, here I am here, presently, for another purpose.”
Manishankar,”Sir. Yes, Yes. Would you like another glass of milk, before we start? Are a Vsudha? Tanik ek gilas garam dudh le aihah ta!”
And as Manishankar’s voice travels inwards into Ravishankar Parsai’s modest lodgings:
Indrajeet,”Aha. Milk. Mani, this is very funny.”
Manishankar, “Aha. Very Funny, I say? Then, Sir, have kindly two glasses of it…”
Presently a steaming glass of fresh milk arrives and Indrajeet quaffs it quickly so that the matter at hand would be quickly and very precisely discussed.
“What exactly did your deceased Father Do?”
“Oh. He played the Tabla.”
“I see. Did he do just that?”
“No. No exactly “just that”. Indeed, he tutored many students as well in this Art.”
“Okay, Sir. I may, I mean if I may have that second glass of milk that was proffered right now?”
“Are a Vasudha…tanik ek gilas garam doodh aur le aihah ta.”
Indrajeet Talwadekar drinks this glass of milk, a sip at a time, mulling somewhat, over the very profound revelations concerning this very strange case. Then as a matter of deductive reflex action he reaches into his fly-shirt pocket and pulls out his little diary into which he had made his notes on the fateful night, the night before. As per 2HB Nataraja black lead-pencil, one item caught his notice – 1 Ganjee, 1 Pajama….as was entered in his very-small notebook, on that fateful-night, the T.V. channels of Khatampur, had very first announced the very ghastly four murders, of this Khatampur City.
Good heavens! He thought. Good heavens. It’s all so simple. Why didn’t I think of it before? Then as a twisted grin-spread across his face, Mani smile till then wide and radiant watching this most famous, even legendary, of private detectives of Khatampur City drink not one but more than one glasses of milk, shrank by the same quantum, that Indrajeet Talwadekar’s had expanded. Both in perfect ratio and proportion.
Then, Indrajeet, after this very thoughtful hiatus eventually spoke:
“Did your father own a clothes store too?”
“Yes. Yes. Indeed he did…”
“And do you write?”
“Yes. Yes. But, write what?”
“Stories, very, obviously!!!”
“Yes. Yes. I am working on one now…”
“The Premature Inoculators.”
“Hah. And what’s the story of it?”
“Well if you so put it. You see, in my novel the protagonist is a guy who communicates with the dead.”
“Yeah. Quite just like everyone, nearly just everyone in Khatampur does. Why does that surprise you Mr. Talwadekar Sahab? Haven’t Indian Peoples forever and ever communicated with their ancestral spirits, and quite eloquently too, and made offerings to them to placate them get oracles and such like? Do you, Sir, find that extraordinary in any way?”
“No. Not at all. Do go on.”
“But this guy, he, and I refuse to reveal his name until my novel is published, he speaks to the dead of unknown peoples.”
“What rubbish. If the people themselves are not known then how their dead may be known or even spoken to or with? Hanh?”
“Heh, heh, Talwadekar Sahab. That is a good question. Mercifully, everything, every act of imagination, every literary work in this world is with a very good reason.”
“Reason. Now what do you know about reason. You invoke such a very high principle of human rational thought for an absolutely phantasmagorical tale?”
“Behold there are worlds within worlds and all types of logic too, Talwadekar Sahab! And, I haven’t even started on my story, even minimally. Have you, Sir, any very important errands to run, for the moment. And, if that is the case….”
“Certainly, Manishankar Ji. I must rush. My dog has been hungry and waiting for me for the past five or so hours.”
“Sir. Then, at the moment. that is indeed your fate, I mean…heh…heh…your calling!”
Indrajeet Talwadekar arrived at his modest lodgings just in time to stop Crawford from chewing-up, among other things, his case-diary. He retrieved Crawford from the Aangan of his house where he was usually left open to protect the only exposed part of this house. He was given a more than usual supply of fresh warm milk, plenty of pedigree, and that most unusual and infrequent of treats two of the best of fresh Khatampur Rosogullas.
Indrajeet woke up, very fitfully, at 5:00 a.m. to the Cuckoo-bird’s call. Staccato. In staccato bursts. Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Like so many shots from a repeater-rifle. There was cold-sweat, breaking, already, from his meaty shoulders, which were twined-up in the meanest of coils. A raw reflex. He reached for his handy flashlight. Full-shot, its beam onto a nearby alarm-clock, which functioned only seldom, to read the time. 3:00 a.m. Hells Bells. What does this forebode? Where have I been? And, thus his thoughts meandered very ultimately, as very early morning Indian thought, go after long-chases Indian for answers to complex problems of the worst sort – especially, on cold winter’s mornings – who the hell, am I? And, a corollary, what in the heaven’s name am I up to?
The sound of local Tomtom drums going full-beat, the temple-bells clanging, the holy chants of the Khatampur Religion Industry going full-blast wafted-in, to remind him very squarely that whatever he may have dreamt or sort of dreamt that this was still Khatampur where he was parked and that perchance this is where he would be parked…till kingdom come.
Of such great thoughts are composed a normal night of a Khatampur Private Detective. Hence, and therefore, Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar extended a sinewy arm and reached for his tumbler of the early morning drink of milk…a full liter of it. He downed it in a flash. Wiped his whiskers clean, and threw-off the blankets. Phokat Lall Billgrammy and Nalpat Mulchnadani, he thought, I have to do them both today, but then how do you do people who have in a manner of speaking already been done-away with? O.K. Done. Done. I’ll do them both quickly and then be back in time to give Crawford his dinner a mite earlier than yesterday. As in any other murder investigation there is absolutely no telling how and for how long might the respondents’ narrative unfold. And then, after-all, this was the famous city of Khatampur, where each man and woman has a unique narratology at their marshal.
Crawford who always slept by his bedside was already awake, and, wagging his tail, ready for this morning’s walk.
Talwadekar donned his track-suit, walking shoes and a balaclava, and some gloves, as it was still cold, then he caught Crawford by the leash, and, after locking firmly the doors to his humble-abode…he sallied forth into the dimly-lit night, which was, indeed the, early Khatampur morning.
Back from his morning constitutional he flipped the morning’s papers and caught sight of two names in particular, the Vocal Cord, and, The Names and Numbers. Two of the very famous restaurants on Khatampur and indeed his very own favorites. Nothing much on sports and politics, a few scamsters and scalawags behind the bars, another landing on the moon, oil prices falling-down, a new species of mud-nest building bird has been discovered by the university of Timbuktu which really proves that we humans should start learning from nature and that such birds are not individuals of any sort.
Phokat Lall Billgrammy lived by the riverside. Zarde Walon Ki Galli. The very famous mohalla of the equally famous Zarda wallas of Khatampur. Talwadekar parked his Chevvy way away from this Galli alongside the main road letting a few wayside shop owners know that it was his car and to keep an eye on it. He would be in and out of the Galli from Phokat’s residence. The shop-owners asked for his introduction. That done and the shop owners satisfied that he would actually be looking into the Phokat residence, they gave him that sort of Khatampur look which says…okay, okay…..all that’ll happen to your very British car is that a few curs would piss copiously but randomly on its tyres after sniffing them profusely….a few urchins would write the worst of abuses moving their fingers on the dust of the windscreens…and the local juveniles would leave long and wavy scratches on his car using their keys. But otherwise all else would be fine. That done, in a matter of minutes, Indrajeet loped-away toward and through the Galli asking this one and that the way to the Lall’s residence.
The Lall residence was a very imposing multi-storied affair speaking of untold wealth of the Lall’s. No doubt therefore, Indrajeet quickly concluded that this family must have been in the Zarda Trade for a few generations at least. The building did have a sort of worn-out look having seen many seasons. Indrajeet approached the chime at the gate intrepidly and gave it a few pushes of his thumb.
Soon a very servant-y looking head popped-out of the house and took awhile eyeing him through the grills from a distance of some hundred yards.
Indrajeet, “Are Suno Bhai. Yeh kiska ghar hai?’
Servant, “Apko kon mangta?’
Indrajeet, “Are koi hai?”
Servant, “Hum Hai Na? Pheen bolta apko kon mangta?”
Indrajeet, “Phokat Sahab Ka Yeh Residence hai ki nahi?”
Servant, “Hanh Hanh, Sahab, hai na. Aap kisko mangta?”
Indrajeet, “Hum suna hai ki Phokat Lall Ji parlok sidhar gaya. Ye theek hai?”
Servant, “Han Han Sahab, Bilkul Theek Hai.”
Indrajeet, “To Hum Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar hai. Isi Khatampur City Ka.”
Servant, “Oho. Heh heh. Aaiyee Aaiyee.”
Thus speaking Rajbahadur Gosain opened the mighty gates of the Lall residence. Amidst the entire questions flooding his mind and he thinking this one and that one very randomly Private Detective Talwadekar registered very slightly the sudden and very wailing sort of creak sound the gate gave as Rajbahadur Gosain closed the gates to the Lall’s residence. Then led by him Indrajeet was taken through the very ample Mahogany Doors, the entrance to the Lall Residence per se. And then shown into a study which would put to shame a Maharaja’s. Gosain beckoned toward a Nizam of Hyderabad sort of chair for him to recline-on, and gave a sign that he would soon summon somebody suitable to talk to him.
Very soon a very middle-aged but also a very urbane pepper-haired gent strolled into the very plush study filled with very antique and, thought Indrajeet, very very elegant and very comfortable furniture. He seated himself at a distance from Indrajeet. And then, having been suitably briefed by his servant, Rajbahadur Gosain, before he made this entry into his study, about the guest of the morning, this gent fished-out his Blackberry Phone, and tapped its key-pad gently with one of his very long and nimble fingers to resume what was very obviously a call put on the hold, in the light of Indrajeet Talwadekar’s sudden arrival.
“Yes Paramjeet. See Mr. Pukhraj, you have to work on your attitude. This winning all the time sort of thing doesn’t really work in Khatampur. Your colleagues are all very mediocre, I shall concede that. But we are making a profit nevertheless. So that works. Now, if you really think about it closely then you would see that your constantly upbeat attitude is actually demoralizing our workers who are actually very good at what they do….What? I see. What? What? I see, Hmmmm, you will try to change yourself! Good. That is the sort of thing we are looking for. Adaptability, my boy, I mean Mr. Paramjeet Pukhraj…O.K. That’s sorted-out then. Let’s call it a day. Thanks. Talk to you later. Ciao.”
Leaving the assistance of his peripheral vision aside this gent very obviously a member of the Lall Family then turned his gaze squarely upon the guest.
“Yes. Mr. Indrajeet Talwadekar Ji. How very nice of you to drop-by. I think we had dinner together, at the Khatampur Club. Why, that must have been years ago. How time passes!”
“So what exactly brings you here, Sir?”
“The mysterious death of Phokat Sahab, very obviously. I understand that the Khatampur Police is already apprised of this matter. However, a lot of people prefer my services to find the culprits of various misdeeds, including murders such as this, for I have on offer a large array of client-services and perks and incentives to have the investigation done by my team.”
“Exactly what sort of perks and services, Sir, do you have on offer for your clients? May I ask? If you don’t mind, that is…?”
“Sir. Well. Well. Well…Just since you asked….and given my profession, I wouldn’t at all be offering chocolate-chips would I? Now, let’s see what sort of a package I would offer you, Sir? You may not get shot accidentally by a .303 bullet, which to tell you the truth, is a lot more painful than a shot from my very own PPK Walther. You will not get kidnapped in the middle of this investigation. I have a team of highly trained bodyguards. And, most importantly, Sir, you will not die any sort of accidental death, poison included. This is all, assuming that you are, Sir, in some way, related with the departed soul. God bless. Here take a look.”
So saying Indrajeet, slipped his right arm under the left-lapel of his coat and pulled-out a shining and very silvery and a mean looking handgun. It had a black palm-grip. He proffered it to until the unknown Lall, holding the barrel of the gun, so that it faced himself, rather than his prospective client.
As the gun changed hands, and still was almost in mid-air transfer, Rajbahadur Gosain walked in, bearing a large silvery-tray, with two tall glasses of what looked like Cold Coffee. He stopped dead in his tracks.
Indrajeet, sotto voce,” Rajbahadur. idhar aao.”
Rajbahadur, “Yes, Sir.”
Indrajeet Talwadekar palmed the very inviting tall glass of cold coffee, and then, very sotto voce:
Indrajeet, “Tumhara saheb ka naam kya hai?”
Rajbahadur, “Hanh Sir.”
Rajbahadur, “Kya, Sir?”
Indrajeet, “Kya? Kya Sir matlab, Kya?”
Rajbahadur Goasin, very sotto voce, “Han Jee Sir. Shto Shaab ka naam. Matlab Hunka Naam Hanji Lall Billgrammy Hai.”
Indrajeet Talwadekar, “Voh Tumara Sahab Ka Kya Lagta Hai…”
“Shota Bhai, Sahab”
“Shota ya Chhota?”
“Hanji Shir. Ch…ch…ch…chota bhai, sahab. Aaaaaaa, Shab Ji.”
“Chota Bhai, Sahab?”
“Bilkool, Shar Zee.”
Indrajeet now well-supplied with some personal information on the gent before him, now turned his gaze upon Hanji Lall Billgrammy, who was yet on another phone call. Even as he did this the image of a very restive Crawford kept leapt into his mind, as it was nearly time for Crawford’s Lunch. Like all big pets Crawford would be very furiously hungry for the time it had taken Private Detective Talwadekar to have reached the Lalls’ residence and for the time Indrajeet had already spent over there, with no clear line of enquiry showing its barest of tracks. He didn’t at all wish that Crawford should make mince of his case diaries and files.
“So Hanji Lall Ji, if you have finished with my gun may I please have it back. Not something to be held all as casually as you have. Even if the safety is on.”
Hanji Lall was quick to murmur very inaudibly something into his Blackberry Phone which promptly terminated that call. Then he took a final contemplative look at the piece and stretched his longish arms to hand the gun back.
Indrajeet, “So. Where were you on the night that Shri Phokat Lall met with this dastardly, shall we say accident?”
Hanji Lall, “That was almost two days ago, wasn’t it. My wife Mrinalini, son and daughter Vitamin and Quramin, and my servant Rajbahadur, we were all away attending a charity-event at the Khatampur Club. We had dinner there. Then we returned here. It must have been close to midnight. Bhai Sahab was all by himself, all evening. When we entered our house we did not expect anything at all to have happened. Then gradually as Mrinalini started warming up dinner for Bhai Sahab. Then went on to call him. There was a sudden shriek. That was Mrinalini upon seeing Bhai Sahab lying in his bed. Very dead. That’s when I called the Police.”
“Well Done. Hanji Lall Ji. Sir. I would like to meet your wife for a bit, er, I mean if you do not mind, I would like to ask her a few questions as she and not you, shall we say encountered the body first. Her account of the events as they unfolded that night, all the way from the Khatampur City Club until she entered this house and then via the kitchen…”
“Okay, okay, Sir. I catch your drift.”
So saying Hanji Lall Ji whipped-up his Blackberry and swiftly dialed a number, presumably his wife Mrinalini’s and very politely asked her to join them in the study. However, even before his Blackberry had hit the sofa-set on which it had been resting previously Indrajeet spoke.
Indrajeet, “Sir. I shall not tarry around here for long. My questions of you are nearly over. I do not propose to ask any question whatsoever of your wife. There is something, however, that she must do for me. This is imperative to my investigation.”
Hanji Lall, “Something she must do for you? Imperative? What indeed is this imperative thing that you wish of her?”
Indrajeet, “The Scream. That night’s scream. I want to hear it.”
And just as the men are talking in low notes Mrinalini makes her entry. Hair disheveled and a brow which is sweaty evidently from kitchen-duty and she is still wearing her cooking-apron. Some flour is smeared upon her forehead. She walks in through the curtains gives both the men a long-look and then walks up to her husband and stands beside him with a quizzed look writ large upon her very elegant countenance.
“Han. Mujhe kyun bulaya. Abhi raat ka sara khana banana bakee hai...aur abhi to breakfast ya lunch bhi taiyaar nahin hua hai.”
Hanji Lall, ‘Mrinalini. Jara baith jao.”
Mrinalini sits herself by her husband very demurely.
Hanji Lall, ‘Yeh Private Detective Indrajeet talwadekar sahab hain. Dadu ki maut ke investigation main hame help karne ke liye aye hain.”
Mrinalini Lall, “Hain, Bhai Sahab. Puchiye. Agar koi swal ho to?”
Indrajeet, “Han, Behen Ji. Swaal to nahin hai…lekin…”
Indrajeet Talwadekar, “Heh. heh.”
Mrinalini, “yeh, kaisa swal hai?”
Indrajeet Talwadekar, ‘Zara mujhe zor se chilla ke bataiye.”
Mrinalini Lall, “Chilla ke kya bataun?”
Indrajeet Talwadekar, ‘Naheen, naheen. Mera matlab hai ki apko sirf khub zor se chillana hai.”
Indrajeet, ‘Isliye ki hum sunana chahaten hain?”
Mrinalini Lall, ‘Kyun?”
Indrajeet Talwadekar, ‘vahi To. Ye hamare Investigation Ka Part hai.”
Mrinalini, ‘lekin Bhai Sahab Chillahat to kai prakar ki hoti hai”
Hanji Lall, “Are nahin, Saubhagyavati. Us raat Ki Baat yaad karo.”
Mrinaline, “Kis Raat Ki?”
Indrajeet, ‘Jis raat aap…aap….”
Hanji Lall, “jjjjjis rrrrrat daaaaa…”
Indrajeet, “Ki Maut Hui Thi.”
Mrinalini, “Kya. Nahiiiiiiiiiin!”
She was at once at shambles weeping hysterically, clawing her hair, wiping her tears, and casting reproachful glances at the two men. There were even moments when she shifted from hysterical crying to sudden bursts of laughter.
The two men looked at each other in a way which surmised that there was nothing out of the ordinary here. Indeed, this was a most ordinary sort of wailing practice amongst Indian Women.
That performance over Indrajeet in his mind’s eye at once beheld the image of a very hungry and ill-tempered Crawford prancing about in his house. He bade farewell to the Lalls and at once headed for his Chevy. Rajbahadur held the gates firmly open and gave him a very smart salute.
Indrajeet Talwadekar made an exception to his daily routine. The following morning, after his morning constitutional with Crawford firmly on his leash, he made a breakfast of six eggs, no less. Crawford also got a double serve of pedigree and two quarts of cold milk. For the previous day had been a very taxing one. For the both of them. Then, as was practice, he settled-down with the morning’s newspapers, on garden chairs by the front, and Crawford was nearby now very tamely tied down by his leash, barking randomly at what seemed to him suspicious passer-byes.
And then very suddenly a smallish news item tucked away very unwisely, thought Indrajeet Talwadekar, by Mr. Faluda Mistry the illustrious editor of the Khatampur Times, between Mega-Mega Ads of Luxury Sedans from Birmingham and Microwave-ovens from Saskatchewan caught his interest full-force. It was an advertisement in Calibri Size 11 font requesting applications from prospective housekeepers. For Khatampur there was nothing at all unusual about this very small ad. But Indrajeet heard certain bells of alarm ringing. It was yet early for the maid to come in. However, not too early to give a wake-up call to his old friend, the editor, to query him more closely for who it was that had put this ad in the newspaper and why.
It was about time for Police Inspector of Khatampur City, Shri Baburao Chowgule, to also to be waking-up. He twisted and turned his swarthy and very bulky and muscled frame in his bunk-bed, and then slowly raised his bulk to a standing position beside his bed. Another day. He thought. And this blasted Quadruple-Murder-Mystery yet to be solved. He did not at all look forward to the day. Yet, as they say in India: duty is duty!
That thought alone drove him quite effortlessly through his morning ablutions, followed by his morning’s prayer session, that done, he showered, and dressed in his office Khaki, smart leather shoes from Bata Company, donned his epaulettes and a weighty buckled belt, and then strapped on his service revolver. He was now ready to walk into his sizable study where he kept his case files to look at the reports of the beat constables posted at the houses of the four victims from the day the murders had come to light; the Civil Surgeon’s post-mortem reports of the victims which had now arrived, the forensic reports from experts who had checked the site of the murders for any traces of fingerprints and such extraneous clues which might comprise tell-tale evidence or clues to tracking down the culprit. It was his habit to partake of his morning meal only after an hour or two devoted to work in his study. His home-work so to speak.
Inspector Baburao Chowgule believed in the easiest first principle and so he reached for the forensics file. The diamond from Sarla Jhingorani’s throat had some fingerprints but the dermatoglyphics would take the forensic department some further time to ascertain as they had been washed down somewhat by her saliva. The Gamcha and the dry cells were also bearing some fingerprints and in this case too the dermatoglyphics would take some further time. The Zarda in Phokat Lall’s throat was however another matter. It has been sourced by the forensics very successfully to a major Zarda Manufacturing Concern in Khatampur City.
A nearby loudspeaker in the lane in which Inspector Chowgule lived suddenly burst into life with this old number. “Voh Jhutha Hai Vote Na Usko Dena, Note Bhi De To Vote Na Usko Dena, Hum Karte Hain Seva, Voh Khata Hai Mewa, Toba Naam Na Uska Lena…” As a matter of fact such early morning rants and raves of the local loudspeakers didn’t bother him much at all for he had since his very childhood got grown up in such a midst and therefore was entirely accustomed to such glorious inputs to his thought process. He was only grateful that it wasn’t that other number which always had him in splits whenever he would hear it “Phulauri Bina Chatnee Kaise Banee…”
Now that he had the current file on forensics as a police man’s thought process should move, Baburao’s next thought was about the motive behind these murders. In other words, what is in common between a diamond, a Gamcha, some dry cells and a lot of Zarda?
His days of training and re-training at the Police Academy had ingrained in him very thoroughly a sense of deductive logic: here was a sample of the material recovered from the throats of all the victims of these ghastly murders, ipso facto they then constituted the murder-materials. No murder-weapon, strictly speaking, however if these objects were the instruments with which this ghastliest of crimes had been perpetrated, whether by single-person, and which contingency or possibility would lead to the situation of an infinite regress insofar as the issue of murder-motive was concerned, Baburao was then certainly constrained to considering how he should be classifying these objects recovered in situ from the victims’ bodies, and treating them as a common-set to be classified as the murder-materials, seems to him, at this early hour of this fateful-morning, was the best recourse! The other deductions, right or wrong, would follow from this most fundamental of his premises.
Before proceeding to his breakfast of ample Dal and Rice with lots of vegetables of three different kinds and a large tumbler of full-tone milk, he left his study where the conclusion at the end of an hour of perusing the case-files was by itself a shaky one: Murder Materials? From whence did this absolutely strange classificatory term pop up? I shall have to think that category further mulled Baburao as he switched-off the lights and the fan of his rather spacious study.
Indrajeet, “O.K. Falu. Let’s start again from where we left-off? Shall we?”
Faluda Mistry, “My pleasure. Old Chap. Fire away.”
Indrajeet, “Have you been in touch with a Police Inspector by the name Baburao Chowgule?”
Faluda, “My Dear Indu. The Editor of the Khatampur Times never ever meets any Police Officers of any type or description. Just protocol. My reporter Mr. Mangal Singh is presently entrusted with such duties when the contingency arises. Next question?”
Indrajeet, “Where is Mangal Singh?”
A considerably perked Editor of the Khatampur Times then leaned forward and reached for the red tumbler with his milk even as he gave his old friend Indrajeet Talwadekar a look that said that at last he Falu, or Falu the Great, as he often called himself when no one was around and he could speak to himself as loudly as he could, had socked this private detective a sweet punch on his chin. That was a matter of some great satisfaction for a much belaboured Editor who had to face numerous curious customers asking all sorts of weird questions in the course of a working day every day.
Faluda Mistry, ‘My Boy Indrajeet. Mangal Singh or no Mangal Singh, it is my firmest of hunches that you are going to lose this investigation.”
Indrajeet, “Indeed I am. And, how My Boy can you predict such a thing?”
Faluda, ‘For one, I have taken Mangal off the beat. He is to proceed no further in this regard.”
Indrajeet, ‘That is inconsequential.”
Faluda, ‘Secondly, Baburao Chowgule, is hot on the heels of an Austrian Scientist, who it is reported has been in this city for the past week, and who may have had a hand in these murders.”
Indrajeet, “that is just say-so.”
Faluda, ‘that indeed it is.”
And then, the Editor of the Khatampur Times, still holding the glass of milk, leaned back in his chair with a self-contented smile. Indrajeet Talwadekar, who had also cracked some very hard nuts in his career as a private detective, stretched himself in the posh chairs in this air-conditioned room thinking about his next move. He clenched his fists a little and said to himself that for sure he would make this meeting the longest one he had ever had with Old Falu. With that resolve he launched towards Faluda Mistry his latest query.
“Dear Falu. Are you sure you really understand the purpose and the ways and means of crime detection? Eh? Old Boy!”
Faluda Mistry was quick on the uptake and with his reply, “Well. It does involve forensics. I may swear by that much knowledge which it may be said is what I minimally possess about your most eminent profession.”
Indrajeet, “Forensics. Ah. So you know about forensics. Well. Now let’s see. How exactly, Dear Falu, do you figure that forensics plays an important role in my most eminent profession?”
Faluda Mistry, ‘On the face of it. if Baburao has used this arcane system of inference of yours to better you by getting after the Austrian visitor to Khatampur…”
Indrajeet, ‘Hold your Hosses, Boss. Care to tell me who this gentleman is and where he may be found?”
Faluda, “Now, then. Wouldn’t Police Inspector Baburao Chowgule be the right person for you to be putting that question to, Old Chap?”
Indrajeet, ‘Righty, right. I’m off for the day, that is. See Ya Later!”
And then Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar was out of Faluda Mistry’s editorial office like a bullet. Just out of his door, waiting a minute for its very impressive Mahogany doors to swing-shut completely. He fished out his very sleek mobile phone, scrolled the directory to where Police Inspector Baburao Chowgule’s number was listed and then gave the brightly glowing green switch a gentle but quick press.
Baburao Chowgule was well supplied with good humour.
“Hello. Hello. Hello. Is that Indy? Hello.”
“Yes, indeed, Baby. How are you?”
“Well, well. Aren’t you asking telling questions now? I suppose it is just as should be. Now then. Why indeed did you call?”
“About the four murders of Khatampur, naturally, Dear Boy!”
“Aha. So you are in need of a lead, Sir? Am I right?”
“Well. Let me put it to you as a puzzle, the way you like it. A hotel owner called me last night that one of his residents, an Austrian Gent, wishes to file a First Information Report to the effect that somebody stole his time.”
“Did I hear that properly? Stole his time?”
“Yes. Indeed that is what the Hotel Owner told me. And he is very distressed too about it. This is why I am on my way to take his statement. Would you like to come along and sit and listen to him as I take his statement?”
“Yes, indeed. Thank God for Small Mercies!”
Without any further ado Indrajeet Talwadekar said a hasty thank you and a good-bye to his old friend Faluda Mistry for this new and most interesting lead and then walked-ran the several flights of steps and the numerous mezzanines within the Khatampur Times Building to emerge from this building into its parking-lot. He got into his Chevy fast enough, keyed the engines to a start, and then gunned his vehicle to this new rendezvous.
Hotel Dronacharya International. Very upmarket, was abuzz with visitors checking in and out, the pavement facing it, opposite which Indrajeet Talwadekar parked his vehicle was greatly alive with street vendors. Most of them selling Made in China goods, from very familiar Ganapati Idols, Firecrackers, radios to fiber-glass show-pieces which were made luminescent from an undetectable battery.
Inspector Baburao Chowgule true to his promise had been waiting on the side-walk for a few minutes that it took Indrajeet to make his way to the Hotel Dronacharya, and through the very congested streets leading up to the rather broader street in front of it.
“Hello, Indy. Let’s move.’
“Baby, just show the way.”
Both of them walked into the hotel’s foyer and then walked-up to the reception. The receptionist, an man of some years, understood a cop when he saw one whichever guise he may have been in, bowed very politely and gave Indrajeet Talwadekar a mischievous smile, which really only implied that he, that is the receptionist did think Mr. Talwadekar to be nearly a cop but not really so!
“Yes, Inspector Chowgule Ji. How may I help you, Sir?”
“Ïs there a foreign gentleman, an Austrian by nationality, staying at your Hotel?”
“Your lucky day, Inspector Sahib. Indeed, there is one such guest.”
“What name does he go by?”
“Well, Sir. Now, Let’s See. He is actually signed in as Mon. H.U. Laut. I believe that he pronounced it as Monsieur Herr Umlaut. Or it could be Monsieur Herr Um Laut. Is that alright?”
“Alright?, “, said Private Detective Talwadekar, “Man. You have no idea what you have been saying! Absolutely a Jackpot!”
“Thank you. Thank you, Sirs! At the Dronacharya International our motto is that We Aim to Please, Sir!”
“Good for you. Let me know when you need another favour. Now quickly let us know his room number, then call him and let him know that Police Inspector Baburao Chowgule, assisted by a Private Detective of very high repute Mr. Indrajeet Talwadekar, are here to see him, in connection with the statement he wishes to make regarding the theft of his time. And just in case you were wondering what this was all about, that should also explain to you, the gravity of this situation. Call him right-away, will you?” said Inspector Chowgule.
“Right-away, Sir”, said the night-clerk, and punched a few numbers on the desk phone, and then lifted the receiver.
“Room 507? Is that you Sir? Mr. Umlaut, Sir?”
“Yes. That is correct” said a faintly discernible voice.
“Okay. Sir, the Police Inspector and a Private Detective are here to register your complaint.”
“Zehr Gut! I mean Danke!”
“Sir, would you like to receive the in your room or prefer to come down to the reception?”
“Ach so. Let me think. Actually, do send them up, will you, if that is no trouble. Also, I would like you to let the Room-Service know that they should serve all of us some fresh Brazilian Coffee, if you have any?”
“Yes sir! We can do that. I shall send them up to your rooms right-away, Sir.”
The receptionist then wiped a bead of sweat from his massive forehead, put down the receiver on its hook, and then after catching his breath, he turned to face the duo.
“Sir” he said, after a gap of a few minutes to catch his breath, “You may kindly go up to Room 507 where Herr Umlaut is waiting for the two of you.” The rest of the conversation had been heard by the two sleuths so they did not tarry.
Once inside the lift, Indrajeet Talwadekar took the lead and pressed the glowing button for the fifth floor and then asked Inspector Baburao Chowgule sotto voce, ‘hey man? Are you carrying your piece?’
At this juncture and with the lift still on the ascent, up to the relevant floor, both the sleuths quickly pulled-out their automatics, and double checked its clip of bullets, their supplementary clips, and then put their PPK Walthers, back on the safety. There were still a few minutes remaining to the rendezvous on the fifth floor.
In the meanwhile, and the preparation to welcome his guests, Mr. M.H. Umlaut was busy making some swift changes to the order of things in his room in Hotel Dronacharya. He was very quickly re-arranging the very many paintings displayed on the walls.
And just as he was nearly finished, the door-bell rang on a very jarring-note.
Indrajeet and Chowgule had by then already holstered their revolvers in discretely disguised holsters under their coat-lapels, and wore a very amiable grin, as Mr. Umlaut opened the Mahogany doors to his very comfortable and very spacious rooms at the Hotel Dronacharya International.
“Guten Morgen! Meine Herren.”, He said equally amiably to Talwadekar and Chowgule.
Talwadekar and Chowgule, “Guten Morgen, Herr Umlaut. And how are we this morning?”
Umlaut, “Very well. Very well indeed. Meet my wife Christine Onassis.”
Looking inside of Herr Umlaut’s suite Indrajeet Talwadekar and Inspector Baburao Chowgule are both very quick to courtesy, as soon as they beheld a very fine looking, and tall and stately European Lady who Mr. Umlaut presently introduced to them as his wife Mrs. Onassis.
Umlaut,” Christine Dear. Meet The Police Inspector and the Private Detective who shall be taking our statements. Sirs she is a musician, mostly of western classical music but she has also a great interest in ziss oriental music…how do you say the Sitar, Veena and the Tabla. I am a painter by profession. Now, Zehr Gut Zehr Gut, Meine Herren. Please do take some seats.”
With that round of quick introductions Mr. Umlaut extended his arms and threw a grand flourish around this super-deluxe-luxury suite of his. And presently all of them found different places around the room and sat themselves down.
Mr. Umlaut, “Dear Sirs. I have taken the liberty of ordering some very nice coffee, as we speak. Is that alright?”
Indrajeet, “Yes. That is wonderful.”
Baburao, “Now then, Sir. What exactly of yours was stolen?”
Mrs. Umlaut confirmed his husband’s story, “Yes Dear Sir it was his time which was stolen.”
Baburao, “Madam. That makes it a matter for Cognitive Psychologists, I would think, and not the Police, doesn’t it?”
Indrajeet, “Yes. And indeed such a sort of theft is indeed covered under Indian Jurisprudence.”
Presently the coffee arrived. And, over their pleasantries exchanged over very tasty and most aromatic Brazilian Coffee served with some creamy-munch-crunchy biscuits of seven different kinds and while the statement was recorded by Police Inspector Baburao Chowgule and heard most intently by Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar, the proposition emerged from Detective Talwadekar that they would be taking action in due course, mainly through seeking legal advice and then inviting the couple on a day suitable to both to the local Khatampur Central University’s Department of Cognitive Psychology to meet with Professor Govindan, also known as B.G.B. Govindan, The Head of this Department, to engage the couple in a casual conversation about this most traumatic experience of theirs. Inspector Chowgule added that such an encounter would also help them overcome their trauma of having had their time stolen.
This done, the two detectives, one of the Indian Police Force and the other an entirely private one, took leave of the couple. Each then headed for their next assignment. However, Indrajeet Talwadekar most certainly headed to his house to feed his dog Crawford who was surely very hungry by now. He arrived there late into the evening when it was already dark and to find that indeed Crawford his most fond pet had done justice of sorts by chewing-up and destroying entirely at least some of his most important case-diaries. he was quick to feed him. To have his own dinner and then to tuck in for that night.
Professor B.G.B. Govindan was in the middle of a class:
“…thus, and therefore, Heh Heh…when I say that to understand contemporary cognition amongst human beings that we must first try to follow what went inside the minds of our prehistoric ancestors, that whatever that was, how it should have been at least very qualitatively different from ours, then and only then, Dear Students, would we be on some sort of a firm ground, to understanding the stuff of contemporary human cognitive parameters, and it’s nature and it’s processes, it’s capabilities on date, and it’s possibility for future cognitive evolution. However, Dear Students, I must here be very quick to remind you all, that the mind of our prehistoric ancestors is itself a great puzzle. It is a puzzle because we have to use the parameters of contemporary cognitive approaches to dig-out what may have been an altogether a different set of parameters of cognition. But we have to start somewhere…this is where Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development among contemporary humans derived largely from his studies of contemporary children and their cognitive development comes-in…However, I did recently read the journal Daedalus and it carried a very interesting article on how our brains work like a neural network. This theory, in my most limited view, may well upstage the older theories regarding the human brain as comprised of distinct areas, entities, or components having discrete functions.”
It was at this point of his lecture when Professor B.G.B. Govindan was about to conclude his lecture for the day that there was a most gentle knock on the door and when he looked to see who it was that had knocked in the middle of his lecture that he could cognize very quickly the ever so familiar and chubby and most cheerful face of the secretary of office of the department of cognitive psychology., Mr. Chandrabhushan Singhania, looking and smiling in quite his direction.
“Yes, Chandu? What is it?”
“Sir. Sorry to interrupt your lecture. However there is actually a pressing matter which needs your attention, Sir.”
“Nothing is so pressing, Dear Chandu, than teaching. I feel sure whatever this pressing matter is it may wait there for another fifteen minutes. However do show it the waiting parlour to my office. I shall be right over.”
Of course it was M.H. Umlaut and his wife, Christine Umlaut who had been shown into Professor B.G.B. Govindan’s waiting parlour by the cheerful secretary Chandu. And, the most eminent Professor of Cognitive Psychology used just his peripheral vision to surmise the barest outlines of the pressing-matter as he breezed past them into the anterior-chamber which was his office.
He spoke rapidly on his direct line with his secretary Chandu that he had just a few seconds to go through his morning’s correspondence which Chandu should bring to him right-away, Chandu should thereafter re-assure the guests that they would be dealt-with in just a few seconds and that Chandu should supply them with hot piping tea and the best of Khatampur Biscuits, meanwhile.
Presently, the Umlauts were shown into his office and Professor B.G.B. Govindan gesticulated towards some sofa-sets in his chambers for them to seat themselves. Then he leaned back in his chair and took a very long-look at the very dapper couple in front of him. Then he smiled very politely.
Govindan, ‘Meine Herren Und Frauleine. Welkom, Welkom. Guten Morgen, Guten Morgen! And how are we this morning?”
Christine, ‘Zehr Gut. Guten Abend Shri Govindan.”
H.M. Umlaut, “Zehr Gut. Guten Abend Herr Professor B.G.B. Govindan Sahab. I wanted also to say…”
Govindan, “Hold it, Monsieur. I have very little time before my next lecture! So pardon me my interrupting you. My good friend Police Inspector Baburao Chowgule Ji had called me about your most traumatic experience. Baburao and I, we have been friends for a long time indeed and it is practice for him to call upon me in cases of this type, which are, very frankly speaking, most frequent in this city of ours. So I do hope that you would cooperate with me to the fullest as I propose to ask you just a few questions in the direction of assuaging your and your wife’s trauma. Gut? I mean would that be alright?”
Christine, “Oui Monsieur. That would be Zehr Gut!”
H.M. Umlaut, “Gut?”
Govindan, “Thus, and therefore, now that our niceties are over let us get down to the brass-tacks. Now what I do propose to do, being entirely aware of the nature of the mental disorder or shall we say a slight mental imbalance which you both are currently suffering from…a sort of Phantom-Time-Experience…I shall just have to ask a few questions of you both, or rather the both of you, in order to understand your personalities better, and the precise nature of your trauma. Is that all-right?”
Christine, “Yes Doctor. That would be wonderful!”
H.M. Umlaut, “Sure. Just a minute. Which is the way to the conveniences? I shall be right-back!”
Then Professor B.G.B. Govindan put down upon his office desk his books, a blue coloured whiteboard marker and the keys to his car. Soon Mr. H.M. Umlaut was back and then this discussion resumed in the Professor’s study.
Govindan, “Welcome Monsieur. I believe that you are a painter of landscapes? Is that true?”
M.H. Umlaut, “Ach So!”
“Who is your favorite painter, Sir?”
“Oh. Salvador Dali.”
“Yes, indeed it is.”
“Good. About landscapes then.”
“What about Dali’s Landscapes? Is that what you like best about his paintings? Sir?”
“That’s a strange question Herr Professor. Are you asking a question or putting a suggestion to me?”
“Well, let’s see now. Hmm. First off…well…um…I would think. Well, yes, I think I have it! Well all questions are suggestions of a kind, wouldn't you say, Herr Umlaut?”
And even as this conservation was in progress, Mr. Indrajeet Talwadekar received a phone-call which jarred him to full wakefulness.
"Indy, Were you asleep?" Inspector Baburao Chowgule rasped in his unmistakable guttural accent on the phone.
"Yes, Baby. Sleep. The divine sleep. The best of all things god ever made.Tell me, what wakes you?"
"Actually, it's that 5 Carat Diamond from Sarla Jhingorani's gullet. The forensics had run a few tests on it and have sourced it to Hong Kong."
"Hong Kong?. Did you say Hong Kong."
"Hong Kong it is Guvnor."
"No you don't."
"Let me have the juice..."
"It's a blood-diamond, kid."
"I see. From Africa, Eh?"
"Not necessarily, Indy, in this day and age...!"
"I see Mr. Chowgule. Prithee, then what else might be the case?"
"You see, isn't it, Indy, in the absence of better light which we may throw upon this issue, the Crime Branch suggests that we have both to travel together to the dhis Hong Kong...Comprende Senor?"
"Si Senor, Muchas Gracias."
"Then kindly pack your essentials, which is really to say pack your bags..."
"Why, may I ask?"
"Well...well...now that is asking, isn't it? Silly Fool, the Crime Branch has already approved and booked our tickets for the flights, booked us into the famous Sunderland Patton Estate International Hotel, where they shall be picking the tabs of all our expenditures, that Sir, is why you pack your bags, Pronto. Dig?"
"Dig, you Moron, Dig! Send me your vehicle to the airport within an hour so so. I haven't even had my customary breakfast as yet! You see, Sir, our maid, she has deserted us without any sort of notice!", said Indrajeet emphatically.
Police Inspector Baburao Chowgule and Private Detective Indrajeet Talwadekar were soon aboard their Quantas Airline flight to Hong Kong, scheduled to arrive early evening the following day. The flight was most ordinary and both of them busied themselves variously with various nondescript in-flight magazines, newspapers and various aerated drinks until they touched down safely at Hong Kong's premiere Airport.
At the airport thy made their own way to the Taxi-stand and with pre-paid billets in hand they soon boarded a class Mercedes-Benz taxi and told the local driver their destination.
"Ha. You must be well-paid in your jobs at India, Monseurs to be staying at the last Governor's private residence. It is really a Late Victorian Gothic Palace. Very difficult to photograph, you know?"
Inspector Chowgule, "Difficult to photograph? Why is that?"
Fu Chien, "Difficult because photography hadn't really got going at that time in this part of the the world so the architect Parry Billingsgate didn't really take that into account while designing that building. It is all minarets, turrets, stairways and full of what would then have been regarded as very secret passage-ways. It is just impossible to totally capture the totality of this building even if you were shooting in it for a year!"
Detective Talwadekar, "Drive on Old Chap! We aren't really here to be taking photographs, although it is odd that you should be guessing as to why we are here in the first place, Huh?"
Fu Chien, "Huzoors. Fu Chien an Old Man. Long Time Taxi Drive. Know Detectives and Police Officers from the fact that they never wear Cologne. Ha Hah Ha Ha...There, Sirs, do you see the lights on top of that hill, that be the Sunderland Patton Hotel. We shall be there in the next five minutes or so."
(Contd. See Above)