AQAAB - 9 in English Detective stories by Prabodh Kumar Govil books and stories PDF | AQAAB - 9

AQAAB - 9

AQAAB

Nine

Though Tanishk was engulfed in the city crowd after Masru Uncle’s death, he had become alone from the inside. Though he had earned money, fame and his customers' satisfaction from his salon on 56th Street, now he had become disinterested in this. Whenever he had time, he would go, with the utmost respect, to one of the memory pools near the World Trade Centre, on whose walls Masru Uncle’s name was engraved forever along with hundreds of others. He would then place a yellow rose on his name.

But now Tanishk was loathing this solitude. Now his mind would not get busy with the Sheikh’s talks as he used to travel a lot to expand his business.

When a plant’s roots start squirming in the soil, it means that the plant’s days are numbered there. Tanishk started trying to get back to his home country, Japan. The biggest question that he faced was that where would he go in Japan. Other than his country’s scent and memory, there was nothing which could call him back to his village there.

One day, Tanishk decided that he would leave New York. He would leave the U.S. When he talked to the Sheikh about his decision one evening, the Sheikh did not say anything to him other than watching him with deep eyes. Tanishk also went silent and kept doing his work, putting the Sheikh’s feet in his lap.

But in a few minutes, the Sheikh’s mind changed. It looked as if he had thought something about Tanishk. He came close to him and asked, "Do you have to go to Japan only?"

"Then where else?" Tanishk replied innocently.

"Will you go to Pakistan?" The Sheikh asked.

"Pakistan? Who’s there...I mean what is there, why there?" Tanishk asked with a little excitement.

"If there is nobody at your home in Japan, there is no home then you go to Pakistan, I want to start something there as well."

"Then do that in India rather than Pakistan..." Tanishk said hesitantly.

"Yes, yes it’s the same thing...we will go to Kashmir," the Sheikh disclosed.

"What have you thought to do there?" Tanishk, who was the Sheikh’s favourite, asked straight away.

"I have a friend there. He has become a political leader. He says that all the businesses of Kashmir have slumped. By providing jobs, the government wants to settle the people there and also wants to call those people back who have gone abroad. Place and money, both will be there. We can start our work there as well. "

Tanishk’s eyes sparkled when the Sheikh stopped talking. The thought of going to Asia and getting close to his country gave him relief. And with the Sheikh giving him a job, it was as if his dream had come true. With the kind of warmth that he held the Sheikh’s hand, he understood that Tanishk had liked his offer. For him, it was only one more addition of a place in his business expansion but for Tanishk, it was an opportunity for a big change in life.

When Tanishk lay down in his room at night, he was lost in his thoughts. He remembered that the Buddhist Lama whom he met in his village, had come from Kashmir only. He had a warm and tender memory of Lama. He had said that if a girl grabs a boy’s penis over a pyjama, a family is made with her. Tanishk started smiling in his mind.

Here, many times his penis was grabbed and many times he had grabbed breasts but he could not make a family. He could not settle down. He started thinking about Kashmir like a saffron field. Though he had never been to Kashmir, he had met a Lama from Kashmir. He had even heard a story from him.

He had also heard that people of Kashmir are very innocent, that’s why others pull them from all sides. Lama had said that from one side, China pulls them, from the second side, Pakistan and the third side, Tibet pulls them...but the real way of Kashmir goes to the fourth side with greater intensity, from where India pulls it, India...of which it is an integral part. The people of Kashmir are innocent and also, beautiful. The girls are like angels with beautiful bodies. They don’t walk with their legs exposed, they don’t invite birds to sit on their breasts. They spread filtered fragrance from their burka by concealing a perfume bottle. Pink body, black-golden hair, naturally red lips and eyes like innocent fish. Tanishk would grab someone’s breasts there and will make them utensils for his child’s milk. If a girl does not grab his penis by hand then she can grab it with her eyes...thinking all this, Tanishk dozed off and slept very well. He kept sleeping till late in the day.

Now his behaviour in the salon had started changing. Now he did not treat his customers with that promptness as before. His customers would realize his professional eyes and started alienating from him with neutral behaviour towards him. Now, most of the customers did not stress to work with him. The number of people who asked for him from their hotels or homes also started decreasing. But he did not care about it as all of this was happening because of his decisions and changes in behaviour. He did not need money. He had received too much of it from the salon and its special customers. He had also received heavy compensation because of Masru Osse’s death in the World Trade Center attacks. He was the sole successor of his uncle. There was no message or search for Masru from anywhere. Uncle was only his and he was Uncle’s. He had the utmost respect for him. He remembers that sometimes when Uncle would come home tired after working for long hours, then he would offer to massage his legs or do any other service out of compassion, but Uncle would pat his cheeks lovingly and avert the topic. He would never let him serve even after being tired and would perform household chores all alone. He always took care of him as if he was his son.

He gave Tanishk a life full of love. Tanishk always kept his photograph along with him. Tanishk used to think that when he would make a family and his kids will be born, then he would introduce Uncle as their grandfather, i.e. as his father. He did not even remember the face of his biological father who had left him in childhood to go to Taiwan. Though he still loved his mother and had not forgotten her. He knew that his mother Asanika had alienated from him not because of her choice but because of a strange’s talks. For this, he had never found his mother guilty. Tanishk couldn’t have given what her mother needed. She found safety in a stranger. She found support.

Anyway, all of this was in the past now. Now Tanishk’s shoulder wanted to give support to someone. Tanishk’s eyes would shine to open doors of a home. Only if he finds a good door...and he puts the key in the lock to open the door of his life and settle his colony.

Tanishk was not an educated person. But he knew that in the U.S., banks did not pay any interest on the money that you put there. He also knew that it was not safe to keep money in the form of gold or silver because of the tight security one faced on the borders while going from one country to the other and one had to be responsible for all the belongings during the security check. In this matter, he had full faith in the Sheikh. He knew that his money would remain safe with the Sheikh and he would never cheat him. After all, what interest would a reputable man take in his wealth, who never hid anything from Tanishk.

And one day, Tanishk arrived in India. He first landed in New Delhi and after spending five hours at the mammoth Indira Gandhi Airport, he boarded the plane to Srinagar.

When Tanishk looked outside while drinking coffee in a hotel situated in front of the Dal Lake, he felt relief but also found a bit restlessness inside. It looked like a backward region in comparison to the U.S. It felt as if he had come to a village or a small town, leaving behind a shiny metropolis. It wasn’t that Tanishk had not seen any villages, but he felt that the environment here was haphazard, uprooted and unsafe.

When he calmed down and went outside to roam around after locking his hotel room, he met a boy named Saanjha who was in search of a tourist on the banks of the Dal Lake with his small houseboat. To escape his solitude, Tanishk booked Sanjha’s houseboat for four-five hours and waves started forming in the silent Dal by Saanjha’s oars. He kept telling Tanishk constantly about Kashmir while rowing. How Kashmir used to be, what it had become, how the scenario changed, how fear hovered around and how this place which was once called the heaven on earth, made its residents feel like they could be on the way to heaven anytime soon.

Tanishk was now a rich foreign merchant who kept listening to all this with his eyes closed. Whenever a boat passed them, Saanjha told Tanishk that these small merchants find tourists this way and sell them various things to make a living. Many times Saanjha gestured commodities filled boats to stop and Tanishk negotiated to not to disappoint him. But he felt discomfort to see that the prices there were very low and things were sold haphazardly and poorly. He just asked the prices and the boats moved ahead.

Tanishk was also disappointed to see the eatables that were being sold there. They were not sold in nice and clean packaging. The prices were not constant as well. Tanishk found those deals neither fair nor hygienic. He was habitual of seeing and getting everything in an organized and clean way in the country and the city that he was from. Sometimes he felt as if he had made a mistake by coming here.

But when he remembered the stories that the Lama told him, he would calm down and felt that in time, he will find solace here. Here, the time was driven by the man and not the other way round. For Tanishk, who wanted to take a break in life, this was a huge thing.

He spent hours roaming in the streets. Sometimes he swam in the Dal Lake. He used to sit on the roof of the hotel, watching the nearby commotion and view. Srinagar was surrounded by mountains from all sides. He used to go on long walks in the morning. In a few days, he had seen Srinagar. Till now he was staying in a hotel but now he had talked to someone for a house which was about to get emptied for him.

Tanishk had bought the kind of clothes that the locales wore and had started wearing Pathani suits, kurta-pyjama or shirt-trouser sometimes. His fair Japanese face used to make him a topic of attraction among the locales but he had started mingling with them.

Meanwhile, he regularly talked to the Sheikh. He used to advise him. Tanishk was in search of a place for work. He now wanted to try some other kind of work. He found life to be easy here. He felt that any kind of work could be done with ease here. The expenses were limited as well. The city was a very small one.

One day, Tanishk was sitting in the hotel lobby glancing through the newspapers with a television turned on. The newspapers were in Hindi, Urdu and English. Tanishk could not read any of these languages fluently so he was just looking at the images. Sometimes he did understand a word.

Suddenly Tanishk got excited seeing a page in one of the newspapers. It had a large coloured image of Selina Nanda. Tanishk could recognise this image even with his eyes closed. He felt waves forming in his limbs. He could not understand what to do and whom to tell that he knew this girl. He did not only know her but also every part of her body. In his excitement, he requested that page from the hotel manager who was sitting at the counter in front of him, and immediately went towards his room while taking care of that page. Before that, he did not forget to tell the manager that he knew the lady in that image. The manager looked at him with surprise and then said coldly, "Everyone knows her sir, not just you."

Tanishk did not pay attention to him and while on the way to his room, he met a waiter and told him, "Look, look, this lady, I know her." The waiter saw him with astonishment and went away.

Tanishk again looked at the image in his room. Sitting on a chair, he looked at it many times. She was her. How could Tanishk forget her?

But he was unable to tell anybody how did he know her. Where had he seen her, why did he know her?

Tanishk did not want to tell anyone how he had met that girl, where he had met her. But nobody would take seriously without telling this. When he saw another young waiter, he also told Tanishk carelessly, "Everyone knows her, she is a famous actress...when her movies are released, her posters are all over the city."

How could Tanishk tell him that he doesn’t know her like others but he knows her closely...but could not say anything to anyone. He kept the image in his bag.

After that day, whenever Tanishk saw a newspaper, he did glance through it. He also started watching the images closely. Only after coming here, he had found out that Selina Nanda is a big actress and she is from this country. Tanishk could not let anyone see this certificate of pride but he found it to be a joyful thing that he knew that girl. It was certain that if he came in front of her, she would recognise him. But how could he meet her, why would he meet her...and why would she meet him...all this was beyond imagination. Now sometimes Tanishk watched movies on the television closely to find her somewhere.

By this, he was gradually feeling connected to the local television and newspapers. Tanishk had also once met the person whose address was given to him by the Sheikh in the U.S. He had asked Tanishk about the Sheikh’s business heartily but after that, he had not taken much interest. He had formally told Tanishk to meet him every once in a while. Tanishk never felt like going to him again. He also did not find any reason to believe that he had close relations with the Sheikh.

Now Tanishk had shifted in a small house in the city. Though the landlord did not live there, some people in the nearby market knew him. After finding a house, Tanishk started trying to gradually make a place for him in the market. Now Tanishk had become disinterested from his earlier job. He was not hopeful of getting any kind of help from the Sheikh. The man whose contact he had given to him, did not seem reliable to Tanishk.

Again, he was determined to do something on his own and in some time, he was successful in getting a shop at the market. Tanishk liked the business of handicrafts and clothes and other stuff adorned with the local workmanship of Kashmir and one day, a board with the name of “Masru Handicraft Emporium” hung in the market.

With his home and shop near each other, the life of Tanishk had straightened out. Though he was alone, soon he managed to create a niche for himself in the local market. He hired two boys to work at the emporium and one of them even started living with him at his house. The boys were local and he had met them through that friend of the Sheikh. They were hardworking and trustworthy. Soon they became good associates of him and this new business of Tanishk took off.

Tanishk had never been averse to travel. Seeing new places and meeting new people to befriend them was in his nature. Now he started going out in search of new products and shopped from various places if the need arose, leaving his shop in the care of those boys. Mostly it was the tourists who came in this market and Tanishk was desperate to make unique things available to them which they would like. He travelled in different parts of the country to grow his business. In the local attire, Tanishk looked like a Kashmiri in the first glance and soon he had good command over Hindi and Urdu.

Rubaid and Hasan, the workers at his shop, thought that Mr Masru was Tanishk’s father and they regularly put flowers on his photograph. Tanishk had never told them anything about Masru Uncle. Sometimes Tanishk recalled the old days at his shop.

In the morning, when Hasan put flowers on Mr Masru’s photograph and lightened the incense stick, Tanishk was shocked. The small spark which lightened between the flame of matchstick and incense stick, caused him to remember that day when he had met Mr Masru for the first time. Mr Masru, who was welding then, flew a spark which lightened up Tanishk’s life. Tanishk used to remember Masru Uncle and then he would get immersed in his customers’ wishes.

After getting ready one afternoon, when Tanishk reached his emporium, he was a little surprised. Though it was not a big deal, he was surprised because he had never seen anything like this at his shop.

There was a woman who was sitting at a chair near the counter with a bag in his hands and near her, a girl was drinking coffee silently from a cup in her hands. Rubaid and Hasan were standing at the other side of the counter respectfully. There were no other customers at the shop.

As Tanishk came inside, both of the boys became uneasy and after greeting him, they stood as they were. The woman and the girl remained seated. Tanishk looked at them with curiosity but none of them spoke. The woman was wearing a large hat and also had a pair of large black goggles on her face. Seeing that wrinkled dark face, Tanishk was surprised. She was looking Japanese. She could have been from China or Tibet but the girl undoubtedly looked Japanese. How could Tanishk not recognise her? She was fair-skinned and aged around twenty-five years. The woman was around the age of sixty and comparatively darker. Now Tanishk was curious to know about them. Until now he was under the impression that these women were acquaintances of Hasan and Rubaid and that’s why they had offered them coffee and had welcomed them. But how could have they known these Japanese ladies?

The woman watched Tanishk keenly and understood that this white Pathani suit-wearing young man was a Japanese. She greeted him lightly. Foreign tourists visited this market and it was not uncommon for a tourist from China, Tibet or Japan to come there. But Tanishk wanted to know why Hasan and Rubaid were taking such good care of them and what did they know about them. He just wanted to know if they had said something or had given a reference.

The girl who had come with the woman was completely silent and sat as if she knew nothing and she had nothing to do with anything. She even took the cup of coffee because these two serious-looking boys had offered it to her.

But the woman showed lots of expressions. Thoughts were coming and going. She could not speak anything but it looked as if there were lots of words in her closed packet...when she would speak, she would run out of time, the world of those standing in front of her will shake and her world will wamble. Now the girl sometimes looked towards the woman and then towards Tanishk...her lips with red lipstick mumbling, as if asking that if something is there, then why is it not coming out.

Both of the boys were perhaps standing silently in the hope that the other must speak first. Or probably they were hesitant to tell Tanishk about these ladies in front of them.

Rubaid addressed Tanishk as sir but as Hasan lived with Tanishk and was a little bit more open with him, he addressed him as 'brother'. Sometimes 'bhaijaan' as well. He took the initiative. He said in a low voice, "'Bhaijaan' they...they were asking about your Abbu."

"About Abbu?" Tanishk couldn’t understand. He looked at the woman. As if he wanted to know from them that who they were and what did they want to know.

The girl suddenly put her emptied cup down and stood up. As if she was uncomfortable with this slow conversation. The girl did not like that everybody was standing close to each other and nobody was speaking anything.

The woman also got up suddenly and coming near the photo of Masru Uncle hanging on the wall, she spoke hastily, "My husband…husband."

Stumbling, Tanishk went near the counter and meanwhile, the woman started crying loudly. Nobody knew what to do now...the girl extended her handkerchief towards the woman and Tanishk extended both of her hands...as if he wanted to hold her.

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