AQAAB - 7 in English Detective stories by Prabodh Kumar Govil books and stories PDF | AQAAB - 7

AQAAB - 7

AQAAB

Seven

Altamash had seen three places overall.

One was near Beirut in Lebanon. There was a small hotel on an island. Just outside the hotel, there were many small stones placed inside the water. People belonging to different countries and races could have been made to sit on the stones to create a grand stage on the hotel’s balcony for Selina.

The second one was in Goa in India. A cruise full of the audience could be filmed there.

The third one was in the U.S.. This was a cavelike structure below the ground where many canals flowed forming a maze. Here, the audience could have been filmed in various boats, with Selina amid the stone caves. This place, known as Howe Caverns, was a bit away from the crowd. If hurried, this was only a day’s work but experienced Altamash had booked Selina for two days, without caring for the money.

Altamash wanted Selina to take some time out to see these places personally and select the best one. But this was not so easy for her. Still, Altamash had given some time to Selina to give it a thought. The album’s dubbing had to take place in John Altamash’s studio at Dublin. Seeing this extensive arrangement and preparation, Selina had almost started believing that Altamash did not like the work that they had done together until now and he was working with such intensity to change it all. Probably this was the reason because of which Altamash had kept postponing the album’s release since last few months. He was not able to tell her clearly that he was not completely satisfied with the work but wanted to take some time before continuing it.

John Altamash knew very well about India and Pakistan. He knew that the atmosphere of developing countries like India and Pakistan is completely different. If an artist from these countries goes out and becomes successful, then the others from the same profession become jealous of him/her and keep pointing towards their mistakes to undermine them. But the common people have the opposite mindset as they start perceiving such people as great personalities because of their success outside of their home country.

That was the reason because of which John Altamash had said nothing about the delay in the release of Selina’s album.

But now everything had finalized and John had planned everything about the completion and launching of this project.

Meanwhile, Selina was in talks for some Hollywood projects. She gave priority to the local projects of her country and finished them.

After Altamash’s call, Selina’s manager had marked two unforeseen holidays in her diary. Selina herself had picked Goa as the last choice and she wanted to go to Beirut or Boston at first opportunity. She had heard about that hotel in Beirut and visiting it was her priority.

Selina had learned about the hotel and had given the task of researching the impact of Hindu-Muslim or other Asian cultures on the location to a friend of hers. This was a serious issue which could only be comprehended by an experienced producer like Altamash. Any kind of music is described by its listeners’ status, nature and eligibility and if the audience can be convinced that whatever that is being said is also being heard and comprehended, then the presentation is successful. Otherwise, the audience rejects it.

Pakistan’s famous poet Danish Jannisar had sent a song lately to Altamash and its lyrics had touched his heart-

Water in the hope of the river of sand

Water in the bodice of rain

Water in the sack of cloud

Water in every breath of water

But Altamash had not liked its music. He wanted to work on it himself. It was Altamash’s habit that whenever he went out on a trip for some time to get a break from work then he did not think even a bit about the work. It was the same kind of trip, fun and fun only...solitude which he had chosen for himself.

A common man would have been struck with awe, seeing that huge ship under the water. The large utensils of its kitchens looked like small boats themselves. Once 7 tonnes of meat used to cook in them daily. This was a world of its own which belonged to the sea, away from the shore. This huge ship was probably used in a World War years ago but now Altamash was praising its magnitude silently. Fighter planes ran and flew from its huge chest. Looking like a large playground, that ship now stood as an old man retired from the world. Now it did not arouse fear even in a female sleeping beside it, let alone in the enemies. But once the same ship had protected the skies above the countries. Altamash roamed the world under the water. As if inside the submarine and in between the sea waves, he had moulded himself in the mentality of a huge fish.

Perhaps the great artists and great personalities of every field like to retire for some time from the world in this fashion.

John Altamash was not happy when he was going back after spending some time at a small island near South Africa. Actually, he was going back with a feeling of void filled with despair. Usually, he did not feel such despair after a vacation. He used to come back feeling refreshed only to get back to his work. But this time, there were two reasons for not feeling satisfaction or freshness even after a vacation. The first one was the girl whom he took along with him only to get disappointed. She was greedy and calculative. She was like that magician who ends his show and when the audience is clapping, he starts picking up the coins that they had thrown towards him. This makes the public realize that the magician did not want to entertain them but he was there only to earn. This makes the magician’s act doubtful. The audience doesn’t feel delighted anymore.

That short dark-skinned girl wanted to encash every second of satisfaction and enjoyment. She showed Altamash a picture of her child on the bed before he could put his underwear on after ejaculating and said that she wanted him to study in a nice boarding school but it was very expensive. Altamash felt such disgust that if she had done that five minutes ago then John would have lost his arousal even before he could ejaculate. He immediately decided not to bring that girl again along with himself. He especially decided to cut her name off from the list of his night partners. The pearls of satisfaction that he got from the body of such a greedy woman felt meaningless to him.

He found one more reason behind his strange mood and the failure of this trip in earning happiness through others. Actually while going back in the afternoon, he saw that the hotel at which he had stayed, was getting ready for a huge event because of which he felt that he should have come there that night rather than the previous one.

The waiter, whom Altamash had called to his room giving a hefty tip, had told him that a huge party was scheduled that evening in the hotel. He told him that all the rooms of the North Wing of the hotel were kept emptied and the acclaimed guests were staying only in the South Wing.

A round of a world-famous beauty pageant was to be held here and the contestants stayed here only. Discussions and preparations were going on in Mauritius for this round. It’s amazing that the tourists wandering on the beach see a girl sunbathing and get to know that she is the most beautiful woman in her country. You hear about a girl who is shopping for sandals at a departmental store that she has come here as the most beautiful woman in a large country. The newspapers tell you that the girl who walked past you in a crowded market wearing a sombrero and black sunglasses is flaunting herself here after competing with thousands of women in a country. Bizzare and amazing.

But everybody is not impressed by everybody. The people of those countries where women are tall, are not impressed even with the greatest beauty of such a country where the average height of people is not that much. How can a black woman be liked by those who have spent their lives watching advertisements for Fair & Lovely? But maybe it is considered an illness to have fair skin in the country of that black woman. In any case, how can there be some universal measurements for beauty? What can be termed as unanimous beauty?

...so the bodies chosen by some measurements and colour of the skin can only be one aspect of a personality, then how can their title or crown be given a universal name? How can someone be termed as the most beautiful female of the universe? When there are questions still unanswered about the universe itself.

Such things were written on those posters and banners which were put up by the organizations opposing such competitions. Other than a few intellectuals, no one was interested in them. Now the communication had become so strident that through slogans, phrases and names, a group of foolish people could defeat intelligentsia. If one could be called an intellectual then another could be called a dunce.

Altamash had to return because of his prior engagements. He knew that his long absence leads to the loss of his business.

Nobody knows where and how will he live the first and last days of his life but it is an instinct that everybody wants to return to his home. Though how much respect do the situations give to such wishes, is a different matter altogether.

Selina used to come to India some times during her breaks from work. She knew very well that body, mind and wishes will not remain the same always in life and one phase will come when she would like living in one place.

Selina had purchased a piece of land near a large Indian city so that as her life's purpose, she could build some project there. The procedure to buy the land was complete. Now it was being said that after Selina’s purchase, the prices of the land had risen exorbitantly in that region. In a developing country like India, every activity was linked to employment, income, commotion, etc.

Selina had decided to build a huge building here, a part of which was in construction now. Many people in the city knew that the land belonged to a star and so there were guesses all around about the activities that were to be performed there. But only a select few knew about Selina Nanda’s project that she wanted to build a shelter home for the disabled and ill. She was using a large chunk of her income for this. Some trusts of the city which worked for the disabled, ill and old were associated with this project. The management of a famous psychiatric medical centre was very much interested in this. The patients who were brought to the psychiatric medical centre faced the problem of their families getting detached from them over the long course of treatment. People would get their relatives admitted there only to forget them. Very few people expected their mentally ill relatives to become healthy and live with them again. That’s why the organization had become responsible for lifelong care and responsibility of the seriously ill patients who arrived there. So this shelter home had become a beacon of hope for many and people were getting associated with it in large numbers.

Sometimes it happens that people choose a place for a noble cause but they get so busy in their job or business that it takes a long time for the cause to start operating. The same was the reason that many pieces of land were scattered around the city on whom the boards announcing the projects had been installed but the actual projects were yet to start. Anyway, good deeds are performed only after the arrival of bad days. Until one does not suffer pain, he cannot understand the pain of others.

People knew very well that corruption in such projects is prevalent. Many times something else is shown but actually, it is something else altogether. Because of all these reasons, hopes and expectations from Selina Nanda’s land were very high as people knew that this famous actress and celebrity had talked about her life’s purpose in public many times. The media had covered this topic extensively.

After a few days, many large hoardings and banners were put up in the city of Jaipur in which it was told that Selina’s company was about to start operating the shelter home. Large advertisements were published in the city’s newspapers and the hiring of workers started on a large scale. People of every kind were being hired.

A small seminar was organized to hire some local officers for the project by the officials of this company in Rambagh Palace, a hotel in the city. High ranking officials of Selina’s company reached there. People from some local hotels and other organizations were invited to this seminar for discussion.

A partner on the Naila Bagh Palace, Mr George said in this seminar, "There are some cities which have prospered but the work culture is still stagnant there." The Managing Director of Clarks hotel, Ms Kukreja warned the officials that the people who were being hired for the job had to be of a particular kind. They must have an objective for life, dedication for the goal. They must have a desire for success and must have the capacity to work in long shifts. She said that those people had to be avoided who took their work lightly or wanted authority rather than the responsibilities. She told them by giving an example that she had to always face problems regarding the workforce. People like to meet each other even in little sickness or small difficulties. For these, they leave their organization’s work as if it’s secondary and their primary duty is to meet each other. Whereas this work is their livelihood. They become habitual of leaving their work altogether on festivals. They become accustomed to feeling joy and despair in everything, leaving their work behind. Anybody’s death, however distant relative he might be, completely disturbs their work. They are unable to understand that death is an essential end for everybody. Even when an acquaintance dies, they mourn many hours, many days and many months in many ways and their financial and social activities take a hit. They forget that even after one person’s death, hundreds of others have to live and for that, “the show must go on”. Life cannot stop.

Selina did not come in this event herself but the company’s work had started with a grand commotion. A university from Neemrana had got the job of human resource development for this company. This seminar was chaired by a retired female judge who had reached this position after studying in Britain and was now associated with a reputed university’s management. It was also broadly discussed in the seminar that in those societies which had been under the grasp of feudalism, work becomes unjust. Corruption gets entry naturally. The kind of society that develops there, does not respect talent but gives preference to nepotism and is unable to provide favourable conditions to the talented. Sycophancy, flattery, imprudence and guile rule there. The speakers had also advised staying away from all these for a great cause.

The media had covered the seminar extensively. But only after two or three days, the public saw a huge press release in the local newspapers which was issued by a religious sect of the city. It was an appeal to the city dwellers to participate in all the festivals and rituals of births, deaths and weddings wholeheartedly. People were warned that they must be aware of any beguilement regarding ignorance of death rituals and must not listen to those who were insinuating their lifestyle and calling it useless. Through the accounts of eternal Indian life values and traditions, it was reiterated that people must be aware of any kind of beguilement by foreign powers.

On the next day, there were reports of destruction of work that was ongoing on the shelter home's land. Its grand main door had been destroyed by some people and the boundary wall that encompassed the premises had also suffered the damage. The material that was brought for the construction of buildings was also damaged. The hoardings and banners in the city were either torn apart or were blackened.

One sect had threatened that the shelter home must be removed and had also requested the government to take the land under its control. A huge strike was announced near the Legislative Assembly if the demands were not met. The guards on the premises were beaten and many of the company’s employees had suddenly gone underground.

The next day a huge appeal from the company was published in all the top newspapers in which the facts were presented in sequence. The company also revealed in polite words that some of those firms which could not get tenders for different jobs from it, were involved in asking such questions and provoking the public.

Then this chain continued. The news and advertisements of rebuttals and confirmations kept coming for a few days.

Along with the allegations on some newspapers regarding their association with the authorities, such news came that the government was earning crores of rupees from these press releases, paid news and advertisements and the people were made scapegoats through various traditions of the society. The local news channels kept the people entangled in this incident for days. The rest of the news from around the world was ignored for many days. Some of the organizations from the city started coming forward to mediate. The ongoing interviews for the company were stopped and the people who had come for a job from faraway parts of the country went back to their towns. Some of the tenders for the construction work had to be cancelled while some of the firms had to change their working plans.

Meanwhile, closeups and full-page photos of Selina Nanda kept publishing in reputed magazines of the country. Some trusted magazine associated Jaipur’s incidents with them and a few gave preference to her pictures without mentioning the incidents. Her publicity team got rest of a few days when they had the matter to show her everyday without doing anything.

This local news from Indian news channels and newspapers was picked up by some Pakistani newspapers. Through some of the wellwishers of John Altamash and his relatives living in Pakistan, the news reached him as well. John tried to call Selina two or three times but couldn’t talk to her. John told his office to congratulate Selina on his behalf.

“This miracle by media is not a new thing, the media has been playing this role since ages. Despite potential circumstances like king’s premature death in Ayodhya, demand of another’s coronation by his mother, one prince leaving his wife in Ayodhya itself, Tulsi’s camera did not stay in Ayodhya but wandered in foreign lands and made those events sensational for the public which were taking place far away from Ayodhya…” people read such ‘editorials’ in Jaipur’s newspapers.

Mumbai’s film industry reacted on it as well. Usually, the industry does not comment on businesses and commercial works of the stars but the information about an international star did not remain hidden. People interpreted it in their ways and reacted in their ways as well. After many years, people could see investigations going on about those members of the film world who had been active on the international level.

People recalled the actresses who had graced the award ceremonies of film festivals with their clothes and the model who had shaved her head for a Hollywood movie. Though in a country like India with such diverse cultures, the incidents of women shaving their heads had now been associated with actresses, players and politicians and there was no novelty left in them but the country had always liked the taste of old wine in a new bottle. This fact was the life force of the news world.

In many cities, the guides at the tourist spots had started telling the foreigners about big riots between people belonging to different religions that had occurred in India. But these guides who were in awe of the Indian kindness and generosity, also praised the country’s ability to forget its biggest quarrels amongst the foreigners. Those foreigners used to be overwhelmed with the coordination skills of these guides and believed whatever the guides told them, at least till the time they remained here.

Now John Altamash had started thinking about the launch of Selina Nanda’s album with even more restlessness and he was now waiting for the location to get finalized.

Meanwhile, another big-budget Hollywood movie was announced with Selina Nanda. Two producers, one of whom was from Russia, were remaking a movie from the 1970s which was released successfully in many countries of the world, including India. Its schedule was almost finalized and much of its shooting was to happen in Uzbekistan. The original film was shot in Uzbekistan as well but it was a long time ago. Since then, the world had seen many changes.

When this original film was released, the Soviet Union was still intact. This largest country of Asia had a strong influence on the world and it was considered a parallel power to the U.S. China did not have such influence in Asia as it has today because of the united Russia. The world had not seen China’s business alacrity. The Soviet Union had been secretive about its policies and programmes behind the iron curtain.

But during the liberal President Gorbachev’s tenure, the Soviet Union was freed from these shackles and thirteen countries scattered in separate units, just like the stuff in a large sack that scatters after it is opened. Russia had a limited power now and its influence waned not only in politics but in sports, literature, education, trade, culture, technique and science as well as agriculture. Now Russia did not wield such power as earlier on the world map.

And Uzbekistan was also not the same now. But as the film’s story was associated with it, both of the producers decided to shoot it there only just like the original film. But..no country goes back to the previous state easily...not even today’s Uzbekistan. Many beautiful and modern locations were there which opened up various possibilities. Grand preparations for the film’s shooting were underway. Selina had an attractive role in it.

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