10

 Masood Azar was in his early forties. He looked quite, suave, well-dressed and good to look at. He carried a small leather pouch in his hands all the times.  Every few minutes he will open the pouch select a few beetle nuts and put them into his mouth.  Now and then he will take out another small tin of scented tobacco and help himself with a small pinch. The flavor of scented tobacco filled the room with a sweet fragrance. There were two other gentlemen sitting besides him in the room. Ranjit and his bride were introduced to them. The gentleman in black suit named Abdul hailed from Pakistan and the other person had an Arabic name Ranjit found it difficult to pronounce.

“Here comes the hero and his heroine. Come gentlemen let us give them a warm welcome” the Arabic gentleman spoke. ‘She is such a lovely girl; my dear Abdul! Your man is a genius. He understands our taste. He is always picking up the best of roses from India. She will add to my bevy of beauties from across the world. I have French, Japanese, and a Nepalese and now an Indian I am sure some of my Arabian clients who happen to be very rich sheikhs will go crazy for her beauty”.

The face of the girl went ashen. She looked at Ranjit for some kind of protest reaction. “How can he listen to all such shit about his wife”?

But he avoided looking at her pleading and burning glare and addressed instead Masood Azar, “I request all this must not be done in my presence”.

“Why should I not do that sir? I am paying for her. Abdul, can I take her away right now? I cannot wait to lay my hands on her”.

Arabic got up and put her arms around the girl’s waist. He pulled her harshly towards him. The girl would have slapped him had Abdul not caught hold of her hands.

Gently pushing her hands backwards he said to her “This young man is   no more your husband and do not be a fool trying to do something funny. You are brought here to perform a specific job for which he has already been paid a huge amount as your bride price. As for you, rest assured the sheikh here is rich enough to cater to your needs. If you dare raise your voice, no one will listen to you. We will make sure you are deprived of all womanly parts and thrown into the seas” Abdul said menacingly. His behavior was so brutish that even Ranjit started trembling after listening to his bulldog like snarl. He had heard of the tribal wrath of men from the frontiers of Pakistan. Ranjit was fully certain that the man will not hesitate in carrying out the threat spelt out by him. The girl could hardly cry a small sob.

Masood Azar dismissed them and he beckoned his driver to take the girl away. She was led to the other room and Abdul followed her. Ranjit started towards the door when Abdul stopped him.

“Ranjit we have business to discuss and forget whatever has happened in this room”. Masood Azar shrugged his shoulders, “sometimes one has to take a lot in stride. Abdul is a tribal from Pakhtunistan hence the brutal frankness. You do not worry about the girl a bit. He will take care of her needs. She will come around in no time. But sheikh here was quite honest she is a real beauty, a nice piece of flesh. How do you manage such things? However you are here for a different works if you will take your seat may be we can discuss the business further” Masood Azar mentioned him to sit beside him on the sofa.

Ranjit noticed a large number of trays had been displayed by his hosts on the tables, in the room. All the   trays were covered with cloth napkins.

Ranjit could count four trays placed on the side table and more were being brought in.  Masood Azar waited till the waiters had placed all the trays on the tables kept in the middle of the room.

“I think your fortune is going to take a turn for the better from now onwards. The trading in female yields a good return but not as much as we will offer now. It is up to you to decide. If you really want to join the big times?” saying this he lifted the napkin from one of the trays.

Ranjit’s eyes got wide opened.  He could see gold bars flashing in the tray. He could count only the first 10 – 15 gold bars in numbers that were lying on the top layer. It was not possible for him to make an estimate of the entire lot of gold displayed in the room. The shining glare of the gold was too much for him to bear; he took his eyes off the table and looked questioningly at the speaker.

“So they want me to smuggle gold” thought Ranjit. “But why do they want to smuggle gold? The duty on gold has been reduced recently by the government. It does not offer any better price to them in the Indian market. Besides how much a courier can carry with him”.

Masood Azar smiled menacingly at him through the thick clouds formed by smoke of cigarette he had been smoking. He was trying to read Ranjit’s mind. The beetle pouch contained cigarettes on the other side. He opened the holder and offered one to Ranjit who declined when he noticed that it was not his choice of brand.  He took out his own packet of Charminars from his pocket and lit one for himself. Dragging a deep pull, he flicked the ash into the ashtray and waited for Masood Azar to speak. The sentiment in the room was getting tense.

Putting him at ease thus spoke the man.

“This can all be yours. You want to carry it with you or do you want us to deliver this for you in your country just let us know? Better still you can safely keep this in the bank here provided you —–”, Masood Azar had deliberately left his sentence incomplete.

“The gold bars were not being offered to him for bringing in a mere girl from India”, he knew that.

He asked impatiently “Provided what? What is it that you want me to do to earn so much gold”?

He started calculating the value of the gold shown to him. “Could this be worth one hundred thousand, two hundred thousands, no, it could be worth many millions. The gold displayed here can take care of my life for a long time. I can buy that fancy car in which I traveled to this hotel today. I can buy a house and get married to a girl of my choice”.

“Please tell me provided what. What am I supposed to do to earn this much of gold”?

Masood Azar lifted the covers from the other trays one by one. Ranjit had not seen such guns before. He had often fiddled with his father’s service revolver at home many times.  He had sometimes even fired a few bullets from a .303 police rifle at the local police range where some of his father’s juniors had taught him how to fire a gun.  But these guns appeared different. These were automatics.  The bullet case attached to the bottom of the gun could have contained hundred of bullets.

Masood Azar picked up one of the guns. He offered it to him to hold it in his hands.

“We want you to carry some of them with you when you go back. These will simply be the sample, only a few specimens as advance display. Otherwise also the hand baggage will not offer much space. The balance consignment will be sent through you separately. You will get instructions to pick up and deliver at the appropriate time and place. Our agent in India urgently orders the consignment that you will carry. You will be given the address to which these guns will be delivered by you. We understand from our agent in India that soon there will be greater demand for these guns in India. We want you to take over the management of the delivery of the consignments there. We already have the sales agent based there. He will arrange the orders. The safe deliverance will be your responsibility”.

“That’s fine but how do I carry these with me through customs at the airports. I may not be able to cross the Sharjah airport forget about National capital town of New Delhi”.

“You shall be flying from Dubai and not from Sharjah. There is a delegation of trade council representatives traveling from London to National capital town of New Delhi. It is a hopping flight and will touch Dubai on the way. The delegation comprises of a few NRIs and some of the other high profile businessmen from the entire Europe and Middle East. The trade representatives will enjoy diplomatic immunity. Their baggage will not be frisked at any airport in India and Dubai. You will form a part of the delegation as a respectful businessman. However at the International Airport in National capital town of New Delhi you simply walk out of the green channel at the terminal building into the waiting car along with the hand baggage you would be carrying.  your  checked in baggage ticket will be handed over by you to the air lines staff standing at the exit door, as you alight from the flight”.

“The guns will be in the checked in baggage”, asked Ranjit.

“No I told you, you will carry some of them as hand baggage and the balance will be checked in by our man on your behalf. However there will be some one at the airport to help you clear all the baggage from the law”.

The suitcase was handed over to him at Dubai airport. He went to the check in counter and was instantly cleared. So was he at the security checks too, where nothing was checked or frisked.

The flight took off from Dubai airport and he could heave a sigh of relief. However he was still apprehensive of the arrangements at National capital town of New Delhi and wondered “if the entire plane carried guns and the trade delegates were all couriers on the payroll of Masood Azar”.

“Sir please fasten your seat belt”, he woke up with a jolt. The air hostess was gently nudging him to wake up. “We shall be landing at National capital town of New Delhi Airport”.

He had dozed off after downing a few cans of beer. He enjoyed the sumptuous meals offered on the flight, as if he had been ravenous for a long time. The touch down of the aircraft brought him back to his waking position in no time. He did not want any one else to lay a hand on his suitcase lest the weight of the bag therein gave rise to any kind of suspicion. He was on his feet as soon as the pilot applied brakes after the touch down and the aircraft came to a halt. He opened the latch of the loft on top of his seat. He picked up his baggage and was the first one to move into the vestibule attached to the aircraft. He handed over the baggage tickets to an airline staffer that had been in the wait for his visit at the exit. He had possibly received a briefing of Ranjit’s identification. The staffer had approached him as soon as the airhostess from inside the aircraft had opened its doors and the vestibule had been attached to the front exit.

Ranjit was led to vehicle parked outside the airport by the airline staff. “I hope you do not mind finishing this cold drink. We will load the baggage in the rear of the vehicle in no time. It does not take long on the conveyor belt at the international airport”.

Ranjit saw two Labradors smelling each and every package on the conveyor belt. He wondered if the canines will point out his checked in luggage. He had decided to simply give in himself to the authorities in case of his getting caught by the canines. He would claim ignorance about the source of these guns. He had decided in his mind to run away and leave the checked in baggage to its own fate but then he saw two laborers bringing out the trolley loaded with the suitcases brought by him from abroad. It was impossible, “these guys have their men spread every where.  How could canines miss his bags?  They would have surely pointed out the presence of arsenal in his bag. That means his personal belongings were not allowed to reach the conveyor belt but were whisked away from behind the curtain that separated the passenger portion from the loading section of the airport”.

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