It was a night of questions. There was not a single soul who knew answers. Shukla was the reason for these questions. A man with a sensitive tooth, Shukla was the cleverest of the lot. Bhanu Bhai thought that the cleverest should be used in a better way. And so, he became an ‘insider’. And now, the cleverest chose to use his cleverness in a different way. It was getting dangerous.
There had been trouble before. And there was trouble now. A trouble that needed to be solved without a trace. Inspector Sinha got his holiday in Malaysia for dropping off this piece of information on Shukla. The night posed just one question. How to ‘out’ the ‘insider’? Bhai was sitting on his Diwan, his eyes closed. Bhanupratap could tell that he was deeply troubled. Someone began the talk. It was slow. But it was a beginning.
Water, leaking somewhere- nearby. Drop by drop. As each drop fell, Bhanupratap saw a new bead of sweat on Bhai’s forehead. The heat inside, desperately trying to cool-off the ‘heat’ outside. Water- the universal solvent. Everything is in it. The good and the bad. A life in distress, plotting the end of another. How was that possible? Suddenly, he seemed to know answers. Why him? He wondered. It would be wrong for him to know answers for the questions being asked here. But he knew. It needed to come out.
When he spoke- they all listened. No one thought of stopping him. No one bothered to call him, Panditji. They knew that he knew. They knew that he was right. The beads of sweat on Bhai’s forehead had vanished.
Poison deposits in the cavities. Shukla’s toothpaste had contained traces of Thallium poisoning. Bhai could not be charged on murder, since he was in jail, according to Sinha’s records. Panditji had said his mantra well. Bhai, had his plans…
It was raining when Bhai called Bhanupratap to the terrace. There was no one else on the terrace, except Bhai. He was standing at the edge of the terrace, looking at the plains stretching towards the horizon. Bhanupratap saw something extraordinary in him. Power, perhaps. This man could have been anything else. Bhai, Bhanupratap thought, could do anything! Why did he choose to be this?
When young, all children are taught about the good and bad. Why was ‘the bad’ so glamorous? Why was it that his mother never tried to make him go back to her? He stood behind Bhai, looking at him. Why was he being called?
“You did well, Panditji…”, said Bhai.
“I didn’t mean to”, replied Bhanupratap.
Bhai turned around to face Bhanupratap. Bhai was an element of time. His face was the past, present and the future. Something about him, made Bhanupratap to stop thinking about anything else and just listen to Bhai.
“You want to know the reasons, do you”? asked Bhai.
“Well…”, began Bhanupratap.
“You pull the nerve. You pull the life…”, began Bhai.
(..To be continued., Part 9: “The Pandit’s Obsequy”…)