NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 31 in English Social Stories by Anjali Deshpande books and stories Free | NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 31

NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 31

NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE

Anjali Deshpande

31

Early in the morning Bharat had called. Today it is difficult to go so far. He has to meet Grover too in the afternoon. The money has been arranged. The full amount of 25 thousand. Bapu has given him ten thousand rupees. Who know why he had saved up so much money. Pushpa got 15 grand. Her bank too must be empty. He had borrowed unnecessarily from Nitesh. But Pushpa is right, who knows, she said, there could be other expenses. Best to have some money in the pocket.

Bharat told him that Parduman had come that night. He has heard in the village. He had been seen by four five people. He thought he should tell Nitesh. Then he thought it was his case, let him do the legwork. How was he bothered? He wouldn’t get any reward for apprehending the accused. Then he recalled the honest open face of Bharat. He is an outsider. He could get into trouble. He gave Varun ten rupees to go get himself a chocolate. “Eat what you want to, beta,” he said. He saw a flash of happiness on Varun ‘s face but it did not look as if the child thought he had suddenly become a millionaire and can actually buy anything he wanted in that amount. He knows the value, or more accurately the devaluation, of the ten rupee note better than his dad.

He would have to hurry. At night the family talk had only been about the daily routine, nothing serious, the tension had relaxed but not over. Involuntarily his mind repeated the trite sentence of the police spokesman, the situation is tense but under control and he laughed. Under control. Won’t take much to get out of control.

The moment he saw him Bharat said, “You will jump with joy when you hear this. Pardhan and his ex sarpanch friend, they had both seen Parduman. But forget them, the real witnesses are from another village.”

“Oh, ok. What news man! You truned out to be a real detective! I say forget this property business and come join the force.”

Bharat nearly swooned with joy. “You haven’t heard it all. Come let me show you something.”

Getting him to park his motorcycle at the station Bharat got off and said, “Come”.

Adhirath saw the bench on the platform. It was here that Ramwati had told him the story of her wayward daughter. How many people she served poor thing, gave pleasure to so many people but she got nothing but curses from even the mother who gave her birth. She wanted to get out of the suffocating atmosphere of the village, and look where she died, amid the villagers, hearing their abuses, being exploited by them. Bharat was striding ahead on the platform. Adhirath began to follow him. Getting down from the platform at one end Bharat began to cross the rail line. Behind the rail line was a dusty piece of land. At one end of this field, where a broad footpath came down from the manned railway crossing, was a cluster of four tall trees. The footpath went round these trees towards the village. The village was a little distance away. On the other side of the station and so far that the station was not visible from the village. From the station you could only see a few old bushes of jhund and pieces of bricks and rocks strewn around in the field. Bharat stopped near the cluster of trees.

“Here he had parked the car,” said Bharat. “There was nobody here. The man who operated the boomer at the railway crossing must have gone to sleep. No villager was here. That is what he must have thought. But you remember what I said? Nothing remains hidden in a village. Three people had seen him.”

Adhirath’s hands reached Bharat’s back involuntarily and he patted it with gusto.

“Great job, boss, great job,” he said.

“Agree, don’t you? Now I will tell you how I got to know this.”

Bharat told him that yesterday in the afternoon Cheti ahd come to him. After the evening party Bharat had told him to come and spend time with him once in a while. Poor thing is lonely. The other workers are far away. He is the only one close to his farm. His shop of property dealer is barely two furlongs away from the gate of the Bindal farm. Cheti was smoking a beedi and telling him his sob story. he had many problems. And nobody to consult. The mustard had been harvested and he did not know whether he was expected to sell it or get it pressed for oil. He had bought some seeds of gourds and had planted them in a bed. At least he would get some vegetables for himself. Nobody told him what to do with the farmland. Did they want to let it lie fallow or were they planning to plant something? Poor thing is very scared. He says a ghost jumps from the mulberry tree at night. It must be her ghost. He can hear someone walking there. Sometimes he can hear pots and pans too as if someone is using them. Once he thought he had seen the lights come on in the empty and locked house but it went off pretty soon. He kept asking me if the girl had been properly cremated. If she wasn’t, she must have become a ghost and must be haunting the place. He wants to quit his job. He asked me to find some work for him so that he can go away. They were talking about this when some Jhandapuriyas arrived. They began asking Cheti about Parduman. Cheti told them he had not been to the farm in a long while.

“Do you know, one among them said, ‘where will he go if he lies to us?’ so I asked him ‘why, zamidar man, are you about to buy a new car? Is that why you are missing the driver? Why are you threatening this poor chap, he is already shit scared as it is. He has begun to see ghosts here.”

“He is truly very frightened, the coward,” said Adhirath.

“you have to be afraid of the locals. Who is there to support these poor outsiders? I said if you want Parduman’s number I can give it to you, why are you harassing this chap? The man is half dead because he has seen the ghost of the girl. All of them poked a lot of fun at Cheti.

“Since they were there they sat down. They have nothing to do. Wear their shirts and pants and walk up and down the village road here in the market. Up and down. I said who knows that Parduman may have come on the day of Holi, Cheti wasn’t around so there was nobody to open the gate for him. Must have had to park the car outside and all his arrogance must have taken a beating. It is a fakat. That driver thought he owned the place. Menager also left because of him. They were smirking. And then the truth, it slipped out of one of them. He said that he had parked the car under the chaukhamba, ‘the black one that used to come here. he ran towards the farm like he was thief. We knew form the way he walked that he was Parduman.’ The other two began to stare at him and then they suddenly tried to give another turn to the conversation, trying to cover up for their friend’s gaffe. They said, it is not necessary that it was Parduman, the car to could have been some other car. I let it go, did not press for more. Why? You know it is not good to ask too many questions. Did I do good?”

Adhirath said that only trained and experienced CID people worked like this, so well and professionally.

“When they began to leave I followed them. I said, ‘why zamidarji, I also suspect that Parduman had come but the question is was that fair malik of his with him or was he alone? The boys, they may have made a mistake but they are very clever. Said, ‘how do we know? We just saw a car under the chaukhamba. What says you to this piece f detective work? Agree I am good, don’t you?”

Adhirath felt a little disappointed. It felt like he had got hold of a clue and it slipped through his fingers.

“what is this chaukhamba?”

“This here, where we are standing. These four trees of ullu neem, they are called chaukhamba here. just a term to mark the place.”

Ullu neem. Adhirath looked at the trees. Their leaves did look like that of the neem, with serrated edges, but they were much longer and they drooped from branches and covered the stem.

Owls sit on these trees, that is why they are called ullu neem,” Bharat was saying.

“So we know now that a car was here, it was parked here. that is good. But Bharat bhai, this is no evidence that Parduman had come here. the car could belong to anyone. Will have to investigate.”

Both began to retrace their steps. Adhirath noticed that Bharat looked crestfallen.

“Man, you have truly done something wonderful. Now all we have to find out is whether it was Parduman or someone else…”Adhirath said to buck him up. They crossed the rail line and came to the market. Now Adhirath had begun to be recognized in the bazaar and people called out to greet him with a Namaste and asked how he was. They sat down to have a cup of tea.

“Let us call Parduman. We will say we have seen his car. Had seen him too. And we shall ask for some money to keep quiet,” Adhirath said. “You call him. Not from your phone. There should be a public call booth here.”

There were four phones in Jahndapur bazaar from which calls could be made if you paid for them. But to use one of them was like announcing their plans on a loudspeaker. The shopkeeper would of course listen in and a few others would gather around to find out what was going on. Both got onto the motorcycle and drove towards Chatarpur. From a phone in one of the shops there Adhirath dialed Parduman’s number because Bharat said that Parduman would recognize his voice. Bharat began to chat with the shopkeeper to keep him from eavesdropping.

When Parduman picked up the phone Adhirath said, “You are coming to the faram tomorrow? Get ten thousand.”

“Who is it?” asked Parduman. His voice sounded anxious.

“Your dad. The car was near the chaukhamba and you leapt across the line. I saw. That girl also got out of the car soon afterwards. Should I tell the police?”

There was no response.

“Understood?” Adhirath asked.

“Tell me your name. or whom will I pay?” Now Parduman’s sounded rattled. Was he trying to be clever or did he really want to know to pay? Those Jhandapuri youth may have already touched him for money. Was ten thousand too little? Should he have asked for more?

“Many saw you. Those three lads too. That is why I am asking for only ten now. Bring it tomorrow, I will tell you my name and address and everything else. Come by 12 noon,” said Adhirath disconnecting the phone. To keep his conversation a secret he had cupped the receiver in his palm and thrust his lips inside the cupped palm fairly growling into the piece. He had enjoyed it thoroughly. Such an amateur stunt for a trained cop! He could have been a good actor, he thought, he had unnecessarily joined the uniformed job. They came back to Jhandapur and had another round of tea. Bharat made a gesture with his fingers to indicate beer and said, “Shall we?”

“I have to go somewhere today,” Adhirath said. “Tomorrow. We shall drink tomorrow. Just keep your eyes peeled. For all you know someone may be hiding in the farmhouse. Is it Parduman?”

“The house is locked. If he is there he will need food, will have to come to the market. All this report of noises is just the hyperactive imagination of Cheti.”

Adhir got Sunny Hair Ishtylist to give him a haircut. A crew cut. At the enquiry committee he would have to present himself with hair cropped close like that of a policeman. Sunny gave him a good massage sprinkling some water on his freshly cut hair playing a drum on his forehead above the ears. He dozed. And all this for only ten rupees. He wished to have a beer. But he had no time, he had to go lose twenty five thousand rupees.

email: anjalides@gmail.com

*****