Posts tagged ‘novel’

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 39

The press photographers representing various newspapers were vying with each other to get a complete coverage of the event for their readers. They had been requesting Ranjit Sehgal and his newly wed to pose for photographs so that they could get a wider coverage in the evening issue. Howsoever hard he tried he could not avoid being clicked by almost all of the photojournalists present on such a grand occasion. Ranjit wanted to get away from the venue where his marriage was organized. He was afraid of not only his past activities but he was also anxious that his relationship with the great priest Rajamantran will be give him an unwanted  exposure in the eyes of the police and other investigating agencies. He was apprehensive that the sleuths of the investigation bureau will begin smelling through their many noses around. His basic strength so far has been to remain as unassuming as possible and here too he wanted to perform the role of a commoner so that his freedom to movement was not hampered. He was never in favor of solemnizing his marriage in the public eye. It was great Priest’s habitual practice to rather give a widest possible publicity to all his activities in order to attract not only the common village folks but also the politicians and the bureaucrats of all kinds. He considered them as prize trophies to be displayed on all occasions. It was General Durjan who explained to him, “You must not behave like a touch me not in front of the press and the politicians. They are all here every year.  These functions have been organized during this part of the year for past many centuries. There are no ways that any one tying the matrimonial knot under the auspices of the shrine can be associated with the political aspects of the shrine. The act of getting the young couples married is a mere social and philanthropic act of the great priest.  However if you act like as if you are trying to hide something that may give the press as well as the police a reason to look for meanings where there none exists so far. In case you are worried about your family coming forward to claim their relationship with you and giving out your real identity to your bride rest assured they have already donated you to the cause of the shrine. Your parents have accordingly been informed of your decision to spare them the pain and humiliation of falling into the hands of investigating agencies; should you get caught any time in life. In the records of their life no son ever existed by your name. They will simply disown you in the event of any one asking them about their first born son. You must be and remain the persona you have created for yourself i.e. Mr. Ranjit Sehgal from England whose dear mother breathed her last waiting for her wayward son to return home along with his newly wed bride”.

“But I always thought there was glory and fame attached to people who have led their nation to the path of victory. Why would then my original parents be ashamed of their association with me. In fact I am afraid they will be too keen to come forward and claim all kinds of relation with any one who serves the seer and his mission. And that is what I am afraid and apprehensive of; as I do not want the fact known to the world that a father who works for the police establishment has a progeny who have crossed line to a point of no return, that he is a declared ultra fighting against the same establishment”.

“These are simply your misgivings. You better get rid of such thoughts at the earliest and start accepting the fact that you and only you will be the next in line to the legacy of the great Priest. He does not have any one in his lineage to carry on the work started by him. The sweet nectar of fame, power, political heritage and the wealth of large fortune awaits you in the very four walls of sanctum sanctorum. It is the time to rejoice and celebrate. I will see  that  you and your family are driven down to your new home immediately but do not forget to seek blessings of pontiff before you leave for your honeymoon”, General Durjan winked at him mischievously.

Ranjit saw his mother in law walking towards them; she was accompanied by her husband and a few other friends, “young man in case we do not have some other ceremonies to attend   to we can go home. You and your wife will also need rest as you must have been exhausted after a long day. You can see Koena is not able to walk even; she has been on fast for the entire day and insists she will have some thing to eat only after saying her prayers at her new home. Since the great pontiff is busy with his other political guests. It is time to make our move; if we walk out quietly no one will even notice our departure”.

Ranjit felt General’s hand on his shoulder, he was pointing towards pontiff  coming out of his chambers, stooping low and brows held high as if he was in great rage but smiled returned on his celestial face as soon as he saw Ranjit’s “you are still around my children,  your  family members are waiting  anxiously to take you home . Go my child go, the world of heavenly pleasures welcome you because every thing else in this world is temporary except the fact of procreation. The family life must be started by you on the auspicious note. May you and your beautiful wife produce as many soldiers for saving the honor of our nation? Go and lead a blissful married life but do not forget you also have a duty towards the religion and the community which must be honored when the time demands”, the pontiff moved on towards other couples to bless them.

Ranjit’s mother in law bent low, she folded her both hands and requested the pontiff, “I shall be too thankful to your lordship for giving us the honor of retrieving the trust of the community. Ever since my wedding I used to worry whether my children will ever be accepted back by the members or will it is that they too like me have to be married outside our marshal community. I am willing to work for the shrine at any time. Please do let us know if I or my progeny could be of some service to the faith”.

Ranjit felt quite amused, he knew the old lady’s quest for money will lead her too ultimately to become a part of the movement led by the shrine. . There has often been discussion for forming a women’s wing that could bring about the revolution amongst the fairer sex. He however wondered if his father in law was aware of the seeds that were being planted in his wife’s mind. She was virtually falling into the same trap of money and political power that had lured Ranjit into it.

He opened the door to the rear seat to the plush luxury car, presented to him by the shrine on his wedding day. The gift wrap and the ribbons from front fender to the bumpers at back were still intact; he asked Koena to cut ribbons barring entry to the rear seat and slid himself next to her after she had settled down on the extreme left corner. He prevented his mother in law to get inside the car and requested her to join them in the vehicle that was following them. He did not want any one else to sit near to his bride, “no one except me will sit next to her. All of you can come in the other cars”, he had to tell his brother in law and father in law. Though Munna insisted for a while to sit near to his sister but was told in hushed tones by Koena to listen to what he was being told. She nudged Ranjit on his rib cage when he sat next to her “you are   being over possessive. I will not say that I do not like it; I am being flattered”. “Yes I am being jealous of the beauty, a beauty that no other woman possesses. You look like a fairy to me and I do not want any other human being near you except me”:  Koena kind of lost her consciousness for a minute when he spoke these words passionately into her ears. The words were spoken so softly that the driver in the front could not hear any thing; otherwise also he too was lost in looking at the out of this world beauty of celestial nature. Ranjit jokingly asked him to turn the rear view mirror to the other side “you can stare at your own bride when you reach your home. This one strictly belongs to me”.  Koena hid her face behind her henna colored hands in sheer embarrassment. Ranjit kissed her hands and realized he was getting excited. The sweet smell of her youth mixed with the fragrance of the perfume she was wearing gave him the feeling of possessiveness he had never felt before. His heart and mind started to pound and the throb of hardness between his loins reminded him, “He will finally have her all to himself tonight and for the rest of their lives”.  The thought started massaging his ego as well. There will be  no fear of any Arabian sheikh or the cigar smoking boss playing at back of his mind when he finally gets down to business of celebrating union of his manhood with the woman of his dreams. He felt stronger today, stronger than any other male of the species.  He wondered how the journey of life progresses; from a vagabond to drug courier to a gun carrier, to a mercenary, to the savior of the nation; the supersonic fast progression was beyond his comprehension.

Last words spoken by General were still echoed in his ears, “you are the natural heir to the throne. He is preparing you to take on should any thing happen to him”. He could visualize a sea of humanity lying prostrate at his feet, till he was woken up by the sound of music being played out side his own house. His friends from shrine had decorated his house to accord a grand welcome to him and his lovely bride. He extended his hand to help her alight from car. She was almost as tall as him, he noticed for the first time, as she took her soft steps into her new world.

Koena saw bevy of flowers arranged into bedroom to which she was led by the boys dancing to the tunes of love lyrics played by the orchestra downstairs. She noticed the soft psychedelic lights playing in the room and sweet smell of perfume pervading all over the place, she asked her mother, “are you enacting the part of my groom’s mother as well tonight by arranging my marital bed and the décor?” “Not me, these are possibly his friends from the shrine. The great priest Rajamantran must have sent them to give a memorable night to his favored nephew. Did you see the luxury car that brought you here? How lucky you are my dear! Let no evil eye be cast on you my child. I want both of you to remain happy and content forever in life”.

“I know mom I shall never forget the stance you took against dad. But his apprehensions were also not uncalled for; we have been reading about the great priest Rajamantran and his boys in the newspaper often. He has virtually become a threat to the communal harmony and peace in the country. I sincerely hope Ranjit has nothing to do with the political heritage of his uncle”.

“These are simply your misgivings dear, how can a man handling a multi millionaire worth of business afford to even indulge in such pastime. In any case both of you will be moving out of this country soon and then god willing we will also join you there”.  Koena crossed her fingers but she still had a fear gnawing at her heart, “what if she had taken a wrong decision, what if her love could be blind thus preventing her to see the actuality? She jerked her head “let me not think of any negatives. Ranjit can never have betrayed me, but if it so happens,” she decided, “that will be the end of their relationship”.

“Do you intend staying here in the same room overnight mother in law”, Ranjit amusingly winked at her “in that case I better go back to the shrine to please gods so that they could help me possess my bride from her mother even after I have been legally wedded to her”. Koena knew these words were said in pure innocence and her husband meant no offence to her mother, still in order to bring down the impact of any unintentional insult if at all felt by her mother she took cudgels against him, “sir you dare not touch me till the final permission is sought by you by promising my mother that you will never ever be the cause of any tears in her daughter’s eyes”. Ranjit pinched at his throat “I swear by all my love for your daughter madam, you will never find me ever the reason for any misfortune or misbehavior to your beloved child. But I can also assure you I will give her so much love tonight, if only you will leave us alone for the night”.

“This man is all in a mood to make it special for his wife tonight. He does not recognize any relationship or friends.  Let us leave him alone with his bride madam”, one of the boys who had brought Koena into the room led her mother away to the other portion of the house.

Ranjit held his wife back by the hand as she got up from the bed to make some space for him, “come my dear you do not have to accompany your mother to the door.  I am sure my boys will take care of all her necessities. We have lot of things to discuss tonight”, he pulled her close towards him and looked meaningfully into her eyes. She could not avoid the intoxicating stare and was lost into the love filled depth of his eyes. “Will you please permit me to close the door”, she wanted to tell him but was stopped from speaking any words. He put his hot lips onto her soft petals, pulled her towards him with his right hand and bolted the door with the left hand. He lifted her off the ground and took her to the bed with their lips sealed till she found it difficult to   breathe and virtually forced him to take his lips away by pinching his nostrils by her two fingers. “Easy be the Youngman I am your law fully wedded wife now.  No one is going to take me away from you”.

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Maddening Corridors of Intrigues -37

The great priest Rajamantran and General Durjan watched the press conference as it was being addressed by the big man Aaham on television. He was exhibiting to the press reporters the letter signed by the state governor.

 “The disciplined and loyal officer of the Indian army could no longer remain mute spectator to the deteriorating law and order situation in the most progressive state of our country”, he writes, “It has been a great honor to serve this country as a member of the armed forces and as a result of my dedication to the nation you appointed me a guardian of the state.  But as a humble representative of the President of the country I find it difficult to serve any longer should the ministry headed by Pratap continue to rule. They have not been able to contain the wide spread terror and violence.  The thugs and the terrorists have made their home every where in the state. The common man is always living under the fear of death .There has been a complete failure of the state administrative and police machinery. Under such circumstances I have no other alternative but to recommend the dissolution of the assembly and dismissal of the existing ministry. I also recommend the imposition of the president’s rule in the state, till the fresh elections are held”. He saw the press scribes furiously jotting down every single word spoken by the home minister Aaham.

He continued “fourth estate had expressed apprehensions on the eve of last elections, that our party might rig the elections; which was proved to the contrary. We have always been a supporter of good democratic traditions. You saw it for yourself the election was held in a very conducive and peaceful atmosphere. Again; there were misgivings that we may not hand over the power to the people’s party.  We withdrew ourselves gracefully and bowed to the decision of the electorate. We decided to provide a responsible opposition, an alter ego of the common man of this country.  But it is the safety and security of the life and property of the common folks that has been put to threat by the ministry headed by our friend Pratap.   The state administration’s failure to ensure the free and secure life to the common man in the event of recent spate of killings has forced, even an ardent patriot like Colonel Bangru to ask for the dissolution of the state assembly”.

 One of the scribes raised his hands to draw the attention of the home minister Aaham.  Colonel Bangru who was sitting on the head chair along with the speaker of the day  motioned the journalist to remain silent, “the press of our democratic country has always been quite conscious of its duty towards the society and we shall answer all your doubts and queries. We shall also request you to educate the people and the electorate of the state as to why we have been virtually cornered to take such an extreme step”, the home minister Aaham carried on. “I am personally here to ensure the reassignment of peace in the state through fresh polling.  The schedule for which will be made public soon after consultation with the election commission”.

The press correspondent got up from his seat and raised his hand again “if you will permit me sir!”

The home minister Aaham covered the mike he was holding with his hand. He spoke a few words on the side to Colonel Bangru and came back to the member of the press, “you can ask me any thing friend”.

“Is it not true sir that you are here to bless the weddings of some of the extremists and terrorists supported by the shrine? Does that mean the central government has had a truce with the activists of the shrine? It is alleged that some of these extremists are behind the spread of current violence in the state”.

 “Of course I am here to attend the social cause supported by the sage Rajamantran. He has every year married off couples from poor families. Young ones from the poor and downtrodden families gather every year on a particular day to enter marital bliss. All such marriages are organized under his blessings. In fact we must reserve all praise for such a great social act performed by the shrine.  It will be wrong on our part to dub a pious and a religious man as an extremist. He had simply shown his anguish at the failing of the state machinery in protecting minorities’ interests. We shall soon find out the hands behind killings. But I do not agree that our priest Rajamantran has any thing to do with this”.

 The great priest Rajamantran who had been watching all this on television was not too amused by the announcement for new election schedule made by the home minister Aaham.   The home minister Aaham knew the fact very well that their mutual understanding did not include another farcical election called upon them by the usurpers of authority. The home minister Aaham and his cohort of a governor had dismissed an authority that had been given to the common man by the very constitution which they were objecting to. Now that he has been able to get rid of his rival Pratap and his ministry; he is talking of going to polls again. The great priest Rajamantran felt used by the home minister Aaham. He looked at facial expressions of General Durjan. He could see the pain and anguish being reflected on his face. He thought, “This is a complete turn around by the home minister Aaham. The politician will always remain a scoundrel.  This one proved that he was no exception. He was completely ignoring the aspirations of the nation to come into a glorious limelight that it once enjoyed. The great shrine’s contribution and the sacrifices of some of his boys will not be allowed to go waste at the ambitious alter of merely winning or losing of the election by the wily plotter”.

 As if General Durjan could read the mind of his mentor, “We have not created the army of dedicated young men and women to be discarded by the rascal of a schemer politician in such an unceremonial fashion. We have given the promises of a glorified self rule to the trusting masses. What do we explain to them? The new election agenda proposed by this traitor will spell out our moving out of the sanctum sanctorum .we will once again be relegated to the ignominious living through the begging bowls once again. This man has been corrupted by the taste of the uninterrupted political power for so many years. That is what it seems to me”.

“If you permit me sir; we can show him the mighty power of the creed. We will not allow his plan of fresh elections to be implemented. The perpetuators of faith will snatch the power from the denizens of politics. We will make the faith stronger than the dreams these brokers of a few seats in the corridors of power are able to sell. We have to tell this man that a point of no return means going ahead with our plans even if a few heads fall on the way”.

The great priest Rajamantran contemplated for a while and spoke, “Yes but I do not want to eliminate him at this stage. His presence in the echelons of ruling corridors will be useful when it comes to controlling the different factions of our own community.  I have always believed that the flag pole should not be removed till the final race is won. We will use him as a flag pole to remind us of the miles to be covered by us”. “You should ask Hassan to send four of the boys to deal with him and no killing please”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues -36

He looked at Koena who was leading him in the front. They had been walking around the holy fire for the last round of marriage circles.  The other couples too had completed their seven rounds along with them on their respective holy fire pots set up for each couple who was getting married on that day, separately. The great priest Rajamantran was explaining to them the meaning of the husbands leading their wives into the matrimonial bliss. “You will take care of your wife through all walks of life. Even when she is not well you will look after her. It will be your pious duty to provide for her and her children etc”. He will ask them to stop in between the circles and explain to them the meaning of each round taken till they completed the seventh round. “We declare all of you husband and wife respectively. All of the newly married couples should seek the blessings of your elders”.

The great priest Rajamantran personally introduced all the couples to the gentry of the highly placed people of the society of the town present on the stage. Ranjit and Koena were being led to the home minister Aaham when a commotion was noticed outside the marriage pandal.  The guards deployed by the shrine were preventing two men from entering the marriage pandal, “you may be the officers from any big department. We will not permit you to enter here. Our great priest will be free in a couple of hours.   Then only we will permit you to come inside the pandal. Or otherwise you can go and meet the home minister Aaham at the state guest house. We have orders from our great Priest that no one other than the specific invitees will be permitted to enter the marriage venue”.

The home minister Aaham beckoned his secretary to go and enquire into the matter. The secretary listened to the visitors and came rushing to the home minister Aaham and whispered a few words into the ears of the politician.  Ranjit and his newly wed were standing next to the minister. They  overheard the following remarks, “warrants being issued, murder of bus passengers and the killing of the police deputy chief”.  He covered his face with the flower mask worn by the bridegroom, it had become apparent they were talking of the blood chilling murder of Tanwar committed by him, but he was still not sure they were actually looking for him; unless someone from the shrine has sung a song to the police.  It was impossible to link him to the crime. Then someone mentioned the name Parma, cops were looking for Parma and they have information he should have come to wedding ; hence the plain clothes men from the investigation cell had discretely come to the function to inform home minister Aaham about the search warrants issued by the local  police after they had obtained permission of the chief minister. They wanted to come inside and without disturbing the wedding function wanted to give advance intimation to the Home minister Aaham who otherwise would be embarrassed if the fugitive was found and apprehended here in his presence.

” Has your chief minister gone out of his mind? Does he think that we shall be attending a function where criminals abound? This is a place of God. Our dear children are being married off by the blessings of the great priest Rajamantran of our community. We do not ascribe to the view that the person by the name you suggested can be even allowed to come any where near to the holy men. Go back and tell your bosses that I have ordered them to stop all the nonsense of this search etc at once. In case they do not, we shall see to it that the government that has signed such a non sensical orders should fall.  Your chief minister then my dear friend will have to give lots of explanation to the new administration”.

“Sir we are simply obeying orders that have been issued from the top and in no case we shall be undertaking any step that could be against the ethics of decency. We have worked under you when you were at the helm of the affairs of the state.  In fact I was directly attached to the security wing at your residence; so how do you expect my lord that I will allow any of the warrants to be operated against any one even distantly associated with you”.  The home minister Aaham closely looked at the balding man whose smile appeared familiar and then he placed him, “I see you are Ralla Ram who used to accompany me to the morning walks.  Thank god it is you.  I am sure you will not permit your subordinates to create nuisance here”.

“No question of creating any unpleasantness here sir.  We will rather prefer that you come back to the state.  This new government is of no use. They are neither allowing us to do our duty, nor do they allow the antisocial elements to do their work. How do you expect we all can survive? I am sure one day we all will perish if we do not get from the law breakers what is rightfully due to us”. The home minister Aaham and the great Priest; laughed out aloud on the joke thrown by the petty police officer. He ordered two chairs to be placed for the investigators and told his men meaning fully to look after them well.

Ranjit heaved a sigh of relief once he heard the name of another person being mentioned but it had become apparent the local police was still investigating into the murder case that happened inside the shrine. Unless the current administration changes and the forces closer to the sage come to the thrown; he will always have a Damocles’ sword hanging on his head.  He will not be able to function the way the great priest Rajamantran wanted him to. He was feeling scared.  He felt that the law will some day catch on with him.

A large number of people who had come to attend the mass marriage function were getting restless. The sage addressed them in his most endearing tone “it is nothing my children. It is only a small disturbance from the local administration. We have already taken care of the same. The food for every one is being served at the community kitchen. It is my earnest desire we all sit together and partake what the lord has kind fully sent for us along with his heavenly bliss”. He   personally went around to the newly weds and led them towards the inner courtyard of the temple shrine.

Koena who had been worried about her father’s state of mind wished to reassure her self that Ranjit is not involved in any of such nefarious activities the shrine was suspect fully  being associated with.

“I sincerely hope you will keep your self away from the activities of the sage and his men”.

“Believe me dear I have my personal business to attend to which has been started recently by me. Once we are finished with our job of getting married, we may migrate abroad as the business of hardware exports and imports can be handled from there too”, he deliberately spoke in the louder tone to make sure her father had overheard whatever they were discussing. He went and sat next to his mother in law. He beckoned Koena also to do the same. He spoke to the family as one of their family member “I think the time has come to put a morsel and two in mouth and believe me I am absolutely famished. I can eat plenty of food. This exercise of going round the fire for such a long rounds, really tires you out”.

“Yes dear but it is only the beginning.  You will have to do this running around all through your life since you are a married man now. This wife of yours used to make me dance to her tunes all my life. We are sure now she will have you responding to her finger’s movements”, Munna spoke in a very serious tone.  Every one burst out laughing. Ranjit knew he had to make extra effort to remove any doubt lurking in the family’s mind about his association with the great priest Rajamantran and his men.  He did not want his marital life to start on a sore note “all of us shall be hence forth living all together in my house. I want you dear dad to leave your job to help me in my business and guide us with your wisdom”.

“But that is impossible I have never handled any kind of commercial business in my life. It is however reassuring to note that you are serious about your business. I pray that you will remain away from the dirty politics of your uncle. It is not meant for simpletons like us. We are better off in our small little world of family pleasures”,   this was the first advice given to him by his bride’s father.

The great priest Rajamantran who had been controlling himself during the public function; flew off his handle once he found the home minister Aaham alone with him, and in his uncontrolled rage gave a warning note to the big man, “if the state government does not stop prying into the affairs of shrine, lots of skeletons will fly out of different cupboards.  Your name could also be dragged into whatever has been happening into the public life. I will tell you either you dismiss this chief minister or we know how to take care of the enemies of the shrine. You must speak to the governor of the state here in our presence and like you had promised; carry out the agreement of imposing the central rule on this state. The agreement of handing over the powers to one of our nominees must be honored by you. We on our part have created situation where the common man today is scared and terrorized of stepping out of his abode without a threat to his life and liberty. If you still believe we have not done enough; the violence in common man’s life can be escalated to unprecedented levels. But we are afraid then our boys will have reached a point of no return.  The state will have to pay a very high price to yours and our ambitions”. The great priest Rajamantran lifted the telephone receiver and handed it over to the home minister Aaham, “please you may dial the telephone number of the governor’s house. You may tell him that the administrative powers of the state ministry must be withdrawn immediately.  You will tell the governor to issue orders forthwith, lest the state police apprehend any of our men”.

“I will have to consult the prime minister and it is not desirable from the public propriety point of view that such a step is initiated at the times when I am enjoying your hospitality. The press could kill my political career.  In any case it is time to declare fresh elections to the state assembly.  I will ask the prime minister to hasten up the process of dismissing the state assembly”, the home minister Aaham wanted to gain some time to talk to his mentors.  Besides he did not like the manner in which the sage was ordering him to do things. He wished he could tell this preacher of no importance to behave himself. “Howsoever big and mighty this sage might have become he has been the creation of my diabolical mind and the creation can seldom be bigger than the creator”.

“You can not declare election to the state assembly even if you dismiss the incumbent ministry. General Durjan public does not want to vote under the existing franchise and the constitution. We have all along been asking for an independent state.  I strongly believe you will support us the way we have been doing all kinds of favor for you and your party. We must have a separate identity as an independent country. Since you have been the foremost propagator of an agitation against the existing government; we sincerely will provide you with the highest office in our independent country. You can be the president of a new nation, a nation which will be based on the purity of caste, creed and community, where you and I will get enough authority to promote our own culture, and heritage”, the great priest Rajamantran thundered in front of the home minister Aaham.

“I do understand your concern for the nation and the religion but believe me we had never thought of severing you and your people from the main stream.  It has never been the ideology to separate your community from the national reckoning. You have always been the front runners in this country and you will remain so for centuries to come. My party and the high command would hate to be associated with any separatist demand that creates a gulf between the existing constitutional system and its provisions of accommodating different flavors of minorities in this vast country. You have always been given a fair deal by the successive governments that have been at the helm of affairs in the central government. May be it is the state units who have acted discriminatingly whenever they have had a mandate for the party other than ours .This time too the people of this state made a blunder of voting for a party that had its roots in two different ideologies. This marriage of political convenience could prove very dangerous for such a large democracy in the world.  The political parties of different ideologies had   come together for the sake of defeating the oldest representatives of the people. We are the born aristocrats and rulers of this country. We have always supported a strong opposition given to us by the people so that our successive governments over the years are never mistaken for one party rule by the supporters of democratic traditions. The opposition has always been our guiding torch for devising the pro people schemes. Now that we have been virtually forced to move to the left, the opposition will cease to exist. That is why we want to give one more chance to    people of the state to use their franchise again.  We will let them help the opposition sit in their proper seats in the state assembly.   I must say that your boys have done their job fairly well but it is time they went back to the shrine. It is high time they  concentrated on the study of theology and religious sermons. Your services rendered will be well rewarded.  The police cases pending against you and your boys will be taken care of once we regain control of the state after removing our arch rivals, which will be done immediately. I shall be personally meeting the prime minister and sending the communiqué to the governor to recommend the end to the state assembly on the grounds of deteriorating law and order in the state”.

“Do you expect the enemy to wait till the fall of the ministry? I am surprised to see the naivety being shown by you. My boys are getting desperate ever since two of their companions have been picked up by the chief of the state   police and his henchmen. The public frenzy can not be built time and again to support any move that creates havoc with their daily living. There may not be enough public support should the police come up with the charges against my men. Why they may even nab me for engineering a murder of the police officer; though it may not hold in the court of law.  But I will hate to be hauled up and put under any kind of forced captivity. You and your party may not come to our rescue should that happen,” the seer was visibly upset and apprehensive.

The home minister Aaham hated the day he had gone to the small time preacher for help; it was getting out of his hands now. He knew that unless he takes control of the situation in the state immediately he may regret it all his life later.

“You have a complete control over the Sanctro sanctorum. None dare touch you here so long as we do not permit any one to enter.  Believe you me the common folks will protect you at any cost as long as you maintain the facade of being their religious savior and protector of their ethnic identity. We are not asking you to play down the role so devised by the circumstances. In fact this garb of religiosity will fetch us the record numbers of votes in the ensuing elections. We will offer you the seats in the constituencies falling within the jurisdictions of your shrine. That will enable you to maintain your grip on the masses of your flocks. You have a complete control over the finance of the Sanctro sanctorum. We will ensure you win hands down in the next managing committee’s election. Let the new elections be completed without any kind of disturbances.  You will hold your boys till the final day of the mandate. The boys will move back to the shrine in case we win.  Otherwise we will let leash the arsenal you have been secretly getting into the country. I hope by now you must have fortified your self against even the mightiest attack”.

The religious preacher, the spokesperson for the souls of his parishioners, the king’s soul keeper had very amusingly been listening to the proposal of the politician par excellence.   He was amazed that this person has been playing dirty politics not only with the state subjects but also with the likes of the pontiff himself. But he said to himself, “this is not the right time to react and antagonize this python in the garb of a   chameleon.  We will have to toe the line drawn by him, till we get the current state government removed from the position of power. As soon as we are able to achieve this we will strike back against this so called big man and his manipulating godfathers in the central government”.

The sage put on his most endearing smile and in sugar coated words asked the home minister Aaham from the central government “sir I do understand your concern in getting back the powers to the state assembly and as guided by you we have created enough havoc already for the electorate.  The common man has been cursing the state chief minister and his protégés for their failure to control the every day macabre incidents. They will be very happy in case you are able to do away with this state administration. Accordingly I have been requesting that this must be done when you are on a visit to the state. You have assessed the failure of the state machinery to prevent attacks on poor public hence on the recommendations of the state governor please have the assembly dissolved. Thus you will be   paving way for fresh elections”.  The great priest Rajamantran continued in his honey dipped words “I am sure the prime minister will understand that it is required to give a sense of confidence back to the voter. Nothing can be more important for any political party than to regain its trust, faith and   face with the electorate. Should you want me to speak to the common public on the dismissal of their elected representatives I shall be too happy to do so. Just remember we were partners in turmoil’s and will remain so even in reconstruction and rebuilding exercise too”.

The home minister Aaham who had been on the look out to rebuild the burnt bridges with the state subjects could see a silver lining in the clouds that had appeared on the political horizon of the state, “you should understand that in this entire political game plan we may have to at times condemn the activities under taken by your shrine.  Will you be prepared to face that kind of flack and take it in the right spirits? Of course we will also find a route to the main stream for all your boys by offering them the prized positions in the party, government and public life. The hype their surrender will create will add a new chapter to the political maneuverings managed by me. Let me speak to the governor and arrange a fax on the deteriorated administrative situation, to the prime minister. I will immediately thereafter speak to him for getting the necessary presidential orders signed. Who knows I may give you an invaluable gift before I leave this state. You and your buddies will always be thankful to me for getting them into such a prominence though”.

The home minister Aaham undertook the journey to the governor’s house immediately thereafter. The oncoming darkness of the times when both ends of day meet i.e. when the sun has just set in and the stars and the moon have still not found their way high enough in sky to provide a little light to the weary traveler was making it difficult for the home minister Aaham’s driver to find his way through “you can slow down a bit, I know with growing age it is difficult to see in the darkness of the ensuing dusk. The headlights of the oncoming vehicles simply throw flash of their head lights in your eyes. These flashes are virtually blinding you”, he told his driver.

“The high speed at this age is bad for health in any way. I wish I could say the same about your public life. You should also slow down a minute and pause to redirect your way through. Let the things mature and may be then you can find better grip of the situation”, the driver who had seen his master go through ups and downs of political life for past thirty years, and had been with him through all kinds of conditions could afford to speak so.

“Oh shut up you are still a novice to the world of royal intrigues. What do you know how kingdoms are won? Your only job is to steer the car through traffic snarls. hence pay full attention to your job only. I have seen of late you have been poking your nose around too much”, the politician got irritated on the advice rendered by his chauffer, “when I need your advice I will ask for it.  Do not just sit morose on the wheel. Pick up some speed too”, the driver knew such minor clashes between him and his master were quite frequent during the day.  He just laughed it out and shrugged his shoulders as if he was saying “what is it to me”.

The secretary to the governor of the state was waiting for him in the front security office. The official ran up to car of the important visitor. He opened the front door, hopped into seat next to the driver and directed the chauffer to drive down for the meeting at square room. The square room was a small hall whose four walls ran parallel to each other. It had been named so by one of the last British residents and ever since the name stuck on to the room.

The home minister Aaham noticed the military discipline visible in the governor house managed by the state administration. It has so been because most of the occupants who lived here have come to this position after they retire from the active service of the armed forces or even the civil services. The current incumbent Colonel Bangru belonged to the supply corps of the armed forces where he had helped many of his politician friends dig gold through supply contracts to the armed forces. One such tender in which the home minister Aaham’s relatives had shown interest brought him closer to the politicians. Aaham   have always preferred non-active politicians to be placed on the gubernatorial positions. He always felt that the non partisan approach of the representative could not be maintained. Besides the politicians will willy-nilly ask for certain favors off the civil and military officials which definitely had to be paid back in terms of such prized positions to them when they retired. Such carrots were necessary to be dangled in front of the adamant and “stick to the file policy” civil and military servants. The British who ruled this country for a long time were quite wise in devising such plum postings in almost all the colonies they ruled over. The availability of such plum positions after retirement ensured a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood prevailed amongst the officers posted within the colonized countries.

Aaham was happy to see that “the governor had the necessary courtesy to meet him at the entrance to the square room.  Otherwise some of the latest lots appointed to these posts were always behaving in their own peculiar and idiosyncratic ways. They carried with them the burdens of their earlier lifestyles. They still were loaded with disdain for public representatives even though they knew the term of governorship depended on the politicians”. He remembered the constitutional crisis they had to face in one of the large lingual state where the governor simply refused to tender the resignation demanded by the central government. Eventually the home ministry had to dig out the pending cases of criminal corruption against the bureaucrat turned governor to force him to step down. Thereafter the prime minister had taken charge of all confidential dossiers of such appointments. Colonel Bangru the man waiting for him, spread both his arms for the home minister Aaham for a warm and friendly hug. He has been anticipating his visit ever since he came to know that the big man has come to attend the marriage fair organized by the great Priest, “it is good to see you back in your home state after such a long time Mr. Home minister. I am sure your visit will bring some sanity back to the life of common man otherwise the entire state has been turned into a slaughter house by the extremists”.

The home minister Aaham extricated himself from the bear hug. He selected a prominent seat on the sofa laid in the square room from where he could have a commanding position in the conclave with this ex- military officer and parked himself therein. He mentioned the governor to sit too, “Yes but as administrative and constitutional head of the state it is equinamally your responsibility to keep the central government informed of the law and order situation in your state. We have to yet receive a formal report from your end. Surely you can not be the silent spectator to the inefficient and ineffective state administration. The prime minister has been quite upset on the recent spate of killings in the state. You can not have one community being subjected to all kind of annihilation by the criminals running their murderous gangs. The prime minister has asked me to convey a note of serious concern. The state administration, who has been fiddling like Nero when Rome burnt, has lost all moral grounds to remain in power. We will like to have your recommendation for dismissing chief minister Pratap’s ministry and dissolve the state assembly. This state must have a fresh election to find another legitimate ruler. I am sure you will not mind mounting the horse of administration and get into active life once again”.

“But Pratap’s ministry has been elected a short while ago only. He needs sufficient time to prove himself to the common publics who have elected him. Whatever violence and reaction we get is a spillover from the poll setbacks to selfish factions of the religious body. I am sure this will ultimately die a natural death. Soon we will have peace once again”. Colonel Bangru’s statement angered him but the home minister Aaham kept his cool, “I did not know you are still such a novice in the art of politics. Can you not see that if that happens and this ministry runs its full term , people of the state will by then get used to be ruled by the likes of Pratap who bring with them the reconciliatory policy of having trucks with the fundamentalists. There exists in this country an unwritten code of keeping fundamentalists out of power. However by the coming together of two different religious thoughts they will form a strong awakening amongst the masses that the administration can survive on two different legs too. That might spell a doomed future for a secular party of our standing. You must understand it is dangerous to have that kind of rising amongst the masses.  Hence the government must go”.

“I beg your pardon sir but I do not subscribe to the views expressed by you. On the contrary these fundamentalists have always been closer to your regime. There have been instances when their powers were enhanced by you which should have been instead curtailed. The shrine that is purported to be behind all the violent activities has not come up all of a sudden.  The successive governments much prior to the current administration have always stood behind these religious exploiters of mass mentality. Once you pull back your support to these leaches and suckers of the society’s blood they will automatically stop acting like parasites of common good. I do not have the moral courage to ask Pratap to step down.  His mass support base will catapult the state into a riot of no return. At least at this fag end of my carrier I do not want to carry the burden of having put the state on fire”, Colonel Bangru did not know how he was able to utter the words just spoken by him. He had no intentions to spoil his relations with such a big man yet he could not help himself.

“Mr. Governor I have all respects for the moral pangs you are suffering from. But what about my conscious, it too is burdened with many moral thoughts; for example your daughter’s industrial empire which has come up on the funds siphoned off from the state exchequer, your sons’ visits to foreign countries when you were heading the state public commission to stash the illegal funds collected by you by doling out the appointment to state executive positions.  It is difficult for me to contain within my pure conscience all these moral pricks.  Plus you also must remember the court marshal held in abeyance when you were a serving soldier. All of your misdoings hang heavy on my mind and heart too. I think you will not like me to unburden myself by spilling out every thing to the press and public. The impeachment could rather be expensive for your entire family. You could all be doomed to stay behind bars for many years. I suggest you weigh the outcome as against the signing of a simple law and order report”, the home minister Aaham knew he had hit the right cord with the governor.

He called the secretary to the governor on the intercom, (each official of the state was known to the politician by first name) “Ramkishore your boss has some thing stuck up in his throat.  He may not be in a position to dictate the correct vocabulary. Since I am not very familiar with the English language I will tell you in short to address a letter to the President of the country asking for the dismissal of the present state government. I do not have to spell the grounds of dismissal to you.  I am sure you are literate enough to use your discretion”.

He thrust the letter under the governor’s nose for his signatures “do not raise your blood pressure.  We will not prefer losing a friend of your stature. However you could instead ask either your son or daughter to apply for an election ticket to the forth coming state assembly.  We will reserve one seat for one of your family members”.

“Mind you sir! You have forced me to sign a letter which will prove very expensive to the nation. It is not the dismissal of Pratap’s ministry.  It is possibly the death knell for the century old communal harmony and the brotherhood of different minority groups living in this country. One day the great priest Rajamantran will bite the hand that has fed him the poisonous milk”, Colonel Bangru’s emotional outburst was dismissed with a shrug of both the shoulders by the home minister Aaham. “You will have to accompany me to the press meet”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 32

Mr. Kumar reached his office like any other day.  Today also he had wished every one on the way like he had done on any other normal day. He parked his scooter and took the stairs to the second floor of the building. He put down a bundle of files he was carrying. He shoved the Tiffin box into the side table and pressed the calling ring for the office boy. There was nothing new in this routine. He has been following this routine for last many years. Except that today he was surprised to see the director of the office he worked for, waiting for him. The director had been occupying the chair meant for the visitor placed in front of Kumar’s work desk. Kumar in his eagerness to start the day’s job of the day had not noticed the visitor waiting for him.

“Good morning Mr. Kumar”, the director wished him before Kumar could so, “I sincerely apologize for not having noticed your presence in my office. It is an honor to have some one close to the great priest Rajamantran of the great shrine working for us. You never even mentioned it once that you are related to the sage”.

The office boy had brought two cups of coffee on Kumar’s table and asked the director if he wanted it to be served there. “You take it to my cabin. Mr. Kumar I hope you will not mind joining me for a cup of coffee in my office. I have personally come to make this request to you”.

Mr. Kumar’s working in the office has always been unassuming, quite and strictly adhering to the rules. He was somewhat taken aback to find the director pleading for his company for a cup of coffee. He wondered if “the director has lost his balance of mind. May be he is annoyed at him for some reason. The director is taking it out on him in this fashion”.

“I am sorry sir! But I do not want to have coffee such early in the morning. And by the way you mentioned something about being related to some great Priest. I am sure there must be some kind of mistaken identity.  I do not know any great Priest.”

“Oh come on Mr. Kumar I am impressed by your modesty and humility. If you do not mind can we discuss this in my room”? He held Kumar from his elbow and led him towards his room. He offered a chair to Kumar and moved on to the other side of the table to sit into his own chair.

“Look here Mr. Kumar, I have been instructed by the pontiff of the great shrine to provide my personal car to you to visit the Sanctro sanctorum. He wants our Mr. Kumar to have an audience with the pontiff. He wants to meet you. He has sent two of his emissaries to escort you to the holy shrine. The sage had also informed me that you will also be escorted back by the evening. He was very particular that full honor should be accorded to you henceforth. That he will soon visit this office too to see all of us in person”.

“I am sure it must be a prank played by some one.  I do not know any sage. I do not want to go. You can check up if there is some other Kumar working in various branches.  It must be for him”.

The two emissaries from the shrine who were sitting in the adjoining room walked into the office on hearing the discussion between them.

“Please accept our Greetings Mr. Kumar. Our great Priest has sent for you only. He has requested that he will feel honored if you could give him an audience this afternoon. It is some thing very personal. He will like to discuss with you only. And we have double checked it sir he is referring to you and you only in particular.  So please do us the favor of accompanying us to the shrine. We will be back by the evening before your office gets over. We will make sure that you are not unnecessary put to inconvenience”.

Kumar looked askance at his boss.  He felt as if he was being kidnapped, “but me”.

The visitors did not let him complete his sentence, “you will have to believe us sir. There is nothing to fear about.  We shall get you back by the evening”.

Kumar who did not seem to have any other choice left shrugged his shoulders as if he resigning to his fate “it is all right. But you make sure we come back before my office closes for the day”, he told them.

Once at the shrine he was led to the public relation officer’s room which was just outside the main shrine. “The seer will shortly be seeing you sir” the emissaries told him. “In the mean while we will arrange some food for you”.  They left him alone in the office to wonder again as to why he has been called.

“How nice it is to see you here”. Mr. Kumar looked back towards the direction of the voice.  This was a stranger’s face. He was certainly not the great Priest. Kumar had often seen the sage on local television. “I am sorry! But have we met before?” he asked the new comer.

“How silly of me but of course I should have introduced myself. You can just call me General”.  General Durjan extended his hand towards Kumar which was accepted hesitatingly. “The great priest Rajamantran is ready to see you now.  You will come with me to this side please. We are sorry to have put you through this inconvenience. In fact you must be aware of the security hassles that can be created for the great Priest’s safety if he has to go outside this place. Hence he has asked us to fetch you here. Otherwise you must believe me we would have personally come to see you”.  Mr. Kumar felt as if the humility and the courtesy was the hall mark of people associated with the great Priest.

The great priest Rajamantran extended both the arms when he saw Kumar coming into his room. He was accompanied by General Durjan.  He had not seen Kumar any time earlier in his life.  He behaved as if he had known him all his life.

“How happy we are that you decided to come.  Brother Come you will sit near me.” The great priest Rajamantran was squatting on the floor with both of his feet spread out in front of him. He picked up a round cushion and set it on the floor next to him. He beckoned Kumar to come and sit into the cushion on the floor.

“Can we have something to eat and drink for Kumar”, the great priest Rajamantran clapped with both his hands summoning some one from the wings.

While Kumar was being served his food and the soft drinks, the great priest Rajamantran started his address to him in direct tone,  “Mr. Kumar I understand that you are fortunate enough to have a daughter and a son.  I know it is very difficult to rear up children in the hard times today. The society of our times has been losing its grip on the moral and ethical system of living. We should all be held responsible for the moral degradation.  The weak character of the modern youth has been eating into the very social and righteous   thread of this generation. The youngsters want to be left alone. They want to become the arbiters of their own decisions in their life. Come you must start eating”, the great priest Rajamantran pointed towards the food tray placed in front of Kumar.

“While we are talking you can continue eating simultaneously”, he told him.

“Thank you sir”, Kumar took a bite. “Why is he discussing this with me? Has he called me here to give me a sermon on the morality of the society”, Kumar thought aloud.

The great priest Rajamantran continued “it is still acceptable if the child happens to be a boy. The society is little more tolerant towards the waywardness of the male of the progeny. But heavens forbid. Ones existence in social circles becomes all the more difficult if a daughter has to be brought up in the modern scenario. Our society expects the girls and the female of the species to be nice and good all the while. It wants the parents to act as a watch dog for whatever their kids do in their free times”.

Kumar who was listening to great Priest in rapt attention interrupted, “yes sir but my kids are quite well behaved”.

“I know. I know Mr. Kumar that is the reason we have summoned for you here. We appreciate the fact that you and your wife have brought the children as they ought to be. I understand your daughter is very intelligent. She is very well behaved. She is quite civilized and is a simpleton”.

The great priest Rajamantran was praising his daughter which made Kumar feel proud and at the same time he was feeling little ill at ease too while listening to all the praise of his children from a man he had never met in his life before .

“I think it is your daughter’s decency that has besotted our young man. He has fallen head over heals in love with your daughter”.

“I beg your pardon sir”, the glass of cold drink slipped out of his hands, the liquid spilled over Kumar’s clothes.  The great priest Rajamantran handed over his scarf to him.

“Never mind Mr. Kumar we will get you another drink.  I was referring to one of my nephews who have been smitten by the charms of your beautiful daughter. He obviously has been bitten by the cupid and seeks your permission to marry your daughter. I am sure you will also like the young lady to settle down well in life and the sooner it is done better it will be”.

“My daughter is yet to complete her education.  Besides we are not prepared for such a decision. It is little too early to decide. She is quite young yet”. Kumar got up from the cushion he was sitting on. He was apparently quite agitated with the ridiculous demand made by the great Priest, “If that is what you had fetched me here for, please excuse me. The proposal is absolutely untimed besides its being totally absurd. I will like to go back at once”, Kumar retorted as he was walking out of the room.

General Durjan, who has never interfered while the great priest Rajamantran spoke, physically forced Kumar back on the cushion, “please do sit down. Do not get worked up.  You must listen to the great priest Rajamantran. Do not interrupt till he has finished speaking. Your insolence towards him is uncalled for”.

The great priest Rajamantran lifted his right hand to hold back General Durjan.

“Easy, please do not be harsh on our dear brother Mr. Kumar. His reaction is reasonable. It is expected. It is not uncalled for. Any of the parents will react in the similar fashion.  But Mr. Kumar you have not listened to our proposal completely. Once I finish explaining the entire situation to you, this matter will become logical to you. Can we get another drink for him?” he looked up towards the passage where his body guards were waiting upon him. “Mr. Kumar, the young man I am discussing about, is a college mate of your daughter. It is a plain truth. They are well known to each other. We are sure their love for each other could be mutual and this attraction exists both ways”.

Kumar wanted to speak.

“Do not be in haste my dear brother.  Such matters need to be handled tactfully. You might tell me that your daughter is unlike this.  I agree with you we are not casting any aspersions on the moral character of the young lady. All we are suggesting is the arrangement of marriage between the couple with your blessings. If you agree to this proposal it is very magnanimous of you. Well otherwise we are afraid their marriage ceremony will be arranged without your blessings too. This young man happens to be my nephew. You would have heard of the kidnap marriages in certain parts of this country”. The menace and the threat in the voice of the great priest Rajamantran were quite apparent. “I do understand you will like your young son to grow up and give you a helping hand in your old age”.

Kumar shuddered at such a naked warning, being given to him “Munna his son was too young to be referred to in a discussion of this kind. He has hardly seen any of the life so far”.

Kumar covered his face with both his hands. He  started crying and with tears in his eyes he looked up at the priest  , “ your lordship I do not know what kind of crime me or my family have committed that you are subjecting all of us to this punishment. Please forgive us if you are annoyed at some of our mistakes. But we are wiling to atone for the sins. I will request you to spare me and my family from the pains we are being subjected to”, he fell on the feet of the great Priest.

General Durjan told him, “Will you stop this melodrama at once. Pay heed to what we tell you. First of all the marriage proposal will be taken by you personally to the boy at this address. He should be waiting for your visit. You will take care of any objection raised by your spouse or any other family member. Your daughter as we said earlier is not to be blamed for this. In fact you must encourage her to take decision for an early marriage, which in any case will be held under the aegis of this shrine. We have a few community marriages scheduled for next week.  This couple will also be blessed on the same day. Your daughter is very fortunate to have found a young man who is completely committed to the religion. You must trust me. One day this boy will become an icon and a celebrity of our great nation. I can assure you, we have your welfare at our heart. We will not force you to do any such act that is not in favor of the young lady”.  The great priest Rajamantran helped him get up.

He handed over a small book bound in red cardboard. “Here you can take this book full of verses eulogizing the goddess. This will keep your mind in peace”. He clapped his hands loudly, “will some one take our brother Mr. Kumar back to his abode”.

The young men who had fetched Mr. Kumar in the morning from his office appeared from the wings in the corridor adjoining the room the sage was occupying.

“Go Mr. Kumar go with them. They will reach you home safely. You must keep in mind that we have a date next week. You must attend the wedding of the young couple, along with your family”.

Mr. Kumar wondered how he will break the news to his wife, and Koena. “The sinless angel that his daughter was has never ever kept a secret from them”. He in his heart of hearts refused to believe that she could have fallen in love. “She had not told her mother about this. It will be absolutely derogatory to confront her and find out the truth, but it has to be done”. The threat made out to him by the great priest Rajamantran and his henchman hanged. His mind was filled with hatred and loathe for the great priest Rajamantran.  But he fully well knew his helplessness to escape the situation. It would be easy for them to pick up the small boy any time. Then they can and hold the entire family to ransom.

“Do not overburden your mind with unnecessary fear old man. The great sage Rajamantran will not suggest any suitor unworthy of your daughter. You have to have a look at the hero of the story.   Only Then it will be appropriate for you to form an opinion about him. Everyone says he is the right hand man of the pontiff. He is loaded with money. He keeps his dollars and pounds stashed abroad.  The young lady will lead a blessed marital life. I wish I could be like him.  It is a very rare fortune to get a son in law of the kind that this young boy is. In any case, this marriage is bound to take place, whether you agree or not. Now that it has been ordained by the shrine, it will have to be done accordingly. It is better you also accept this as your fait accompli” the boy who had been driving the car spoke to him.

They dropped Mr. Kumar outside his office as they had promised him safe and sound. But his visit to shrine had created a turmoil boiling and seething within him. He did not acknowledge the greetings extended to him by one of his colleagues on the staircases of his office. He continued sitting on his office chair long after every one had left.

“If you want to sit any further you can take this bunch of keys to lock the main door later when you are ready to leave”, it was the office peon. He wanted to finally lock the office. He brought him back to his senses. “In case you have some of the office work left over I can help you carry the files to your home”. He had many a times earlier too carried office home hence the suggestion.

Mr. Kumar, “no thank you Dhani Ram one must be capable of carrying his own burden on his shoulders”. He hurriedly collected his Tiffin box and walked out of the office. But he made a decision on the way.

“I must confront the girl and if it is her choice so be it. Each one of us has to live the life earned by us. If she is destined to, so be it. I must give her a fair chance to explain”.

The road to his house appeared to be much crowded today. It took him long to cover the distance between his office and his home.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – 28

Pratap looked through his tearful eyes at the flames of fire which were leaping up to take the dead body of DIG Tanwar into its arms. The dead body of the slain police officer was   covered with the wreaths of flowers placed by him and his cabinet colleagues. The entire police department was present there. Each officer of the police had saluted the last remains of their dear departed colleague who it appeared was equally popular amongst the rank and file. Pratap saw some kind of resentment shown by the young officers towards the representative of the shrine who had come to the funeral to place a wreath on behalf of the great Priest.  He could identify the last circular wreath visible on that funeral pyre which had come from the shrine the HOUSE OF GOD. He smiled wryly at the irony of fate; the same people who had taken away the life of the young promising police officer were applying a soothing balm on Tanwar. He had gone miles away from any kind of fragrant or foul smells of the evil deeds of the society of wrong doers. “This is certainly the great sacrifice of an upright officer in the path of truth and duty towards the nation. The bullet could have hit me directly had he not stood like a shield between the killer and me”, he had told the journalists later.

Nirbhaya too had wept bitterly when Pratap broke the news to him on wireless. Though the protocol demanded the presence of police head at any official function attended by the chief minister, Pratap himself had advised him to abstain from this visit. He had instead deputed Tanwar who was his deputy. Chief Minister Pratap had felt that it was a personal visit to pay obeisance to God and seek his forgiveness for the misdeeds of the murderers of Bus passengers. Nirbhaya was asked by him to take care of the families of those killed in the bus, when they were going to offer the last remains of the dead to the holy river. The presence of a higher authority from the state government will at least be able to keep the opposition silent who were out to grab the neck of the state ministry. The opposition had been making the breakdown   of law and order a major issue.  “Little did anyone know of the plans of the enemies to get the chief minister killed in the holiest of holy places?”  He looked at the poor widow left behind by Tanwar. She was consoling her young children. She had been forbidding them to weep at their father’s funeral, “your father was a very brave officer. He has laid his life honorably. He preferred sacrificing his life to save our chief minister.  It is the most honorable exit for any soldier. We should not defile his great sacrifice with our tears”, she was telling the old mother of Tanwar.

Pratap silently saluted such a brave lady from the inner core of his heart, “we will continue to provide full salary benefits to the family till the age when Tanwar would have attained retirement from the active service. His family will carry on getting the same benefits meant for an active serving officer. In addition the police department will arrange an executive job for the widow of slain officer.  I have signed the orders to the effect” he declared to the mourners gathered for last rites. “I have brought the letter mentioning all these facilities as a small token of our tribute to the glorious sacrifice rendered by the brave officer. May I request the lady on your behalf, if she will be kind enough to accept the same”? Mrs. Tanwar led the old mother of her husband to accept the role of honor issued by the government of the state, along with other papers from the hands of the chief minister.

Pratap left the funeral place immediately thereafter. He wondered how many more such functions he will have to attend and hand over such letters if he continued to hold this office. “Shall I hand over the letter laying down my office, to the forces opposing my elections? but that will tantamount to surrendering in front of the negative forces and allowing them to play havoc with the democratic sentiment. It shall also set bad precedent for future that the writ of such evil forces can prevail through terrorist activities. I have joined the public life not to be brow beaten by the enemies of common will. Let the common determination prevail.  If the public is with us we will fight the battle with them till the last. I am not to be cowed down by any such future attacks. We are taking necessary steps to provide adequate security to the common man on the streets. We are also strengthening our security forces by providing them the essential moral and financial strength”, he mentioned it to the press who had accompanied him on his way back to the office. “We shall be upgrading our police weapons to give befitting replies to the traitors who are out to thwart the path of peace and progress”.  “ I shall be taking up once again with the central government to provide additional finance through central aid though we do believe such request may not be acceded to due to certain interests opposing any such move of the state administration “.

His statement was quoted by the press verbatim, in all their leading papers. The Daily News carried this news on their front page under the heading “State To Fight It Out With Befitting Modern Weaponry”, another vernacular carried it in the editorial under the title “Selfish Interests In Centre Fuel The State Fire”, and the editor ascribed the source to Pratap when he raised the pointing finger at the big man in the central government.

Pratap was met by his cabinet colleagues in the corridor leading to his office, as soon as he reached there. He felt as if they have been waiting there for his arrival to discuss the newspaper reports. Both Dwij and Dhanwan were carrying the copies of morning news paper in their hands. He saw Brahma too coming towards his office, “chief I believe we have touched the hornet’s nest with this statement. Where are we going to get the kind of finance required to fight out the menace of terrorism spreading its tentacles in the entire state. The modernization of the security forces will mean sparing huge funds and cutting down on other allocations”, it was Dwij who spoke up while walking along with him to the office. The firm hand shakes offered by his other two senior colleagues made it clear to him that they were there to extend to him their whole hearted support.  He wanted them to open up their view points in front of Dwij. So that he could stop the further rising of any kind of upheaval.

“I think it is for the finance minister of our state to find a way out.  I am as curious to know his views as you are. I suggest we get into my office .We will look at all possibilities while we have a discussion over a cup of tea. If you do not mind gentlemen”, Pratap lead all of them into his office.  He winked at Dhanwan to play down the seriousness shown by Dwij. Dwij had often worried his head over matters that did not concern his ministry .He had always appeared overburdened. He was always carrying everyone’s worries on his shoulders; even though handling of his own portfolio left a lot to be desired.

“I think you have hit the nail already on the head, when you mentioned about getting additional funds and forces from the central government. You have literally taken two pot shots at the central government with one statement. Our dear friend ‘the big man’ will have to spell out his stand on his support to extra territorial demands of the great priest Rajamantran on one hand and at the same time arrange forces to fight out the allies he had indirectly been favoring against the state government. He will find it difficult since he is the boss of the home department for the union government”, Brahma had remarked, with a glint of brother hood in his eyes.

He and the political party he represented had always remained at the receiving end from the big man when he was the head of the state prior to his losing this election and moving to the union government.

“The big man Aaham would not have made it to the position of a minister in the central government if he were to fight direct elections to the upper house.  The routes to indirect entries were encouraged by all political parties to accommodate their aging members. This also opened a route for those members whose credentials ran out of public demand”, Brahma had often held this view.

“The direct hit by you chief will definitely antagonize the big man Aaham and his mentee. He can react negatively by asking the pontiff to speed up the violent incidents further.  He could try to maneuver your ouster by referring the law and order situation to the Governor of our state.  After all this governor too belongs to his party”.

“Yes there is a very remote possibility of dismissing our ministry at this stage. However we believe things have still not gone out of control to satisfy the electorate on our dismissal. I will however agree to your second statement. The big man Aaham will be forced to ask the ultras to step up their violence.  At the same time he may agree politically to send the central forces to the state as a face saving devise”, Dhanwan had summarized the entire scene. He waited for Pratap’s reaction to the dialogue.

“It is better to adopt a policy of wait and watch.  But I am afraid we hardly have much time at our disposal.  It was one police officer saving my life at the cost of his own.  But how many times can that be possible.  We will have to fight out the battle in their court. For that I need funds to modernize the outfit. The outdated guns and the low morale of lower ranks within the police force is hardly a match to defend the attacks of highly motivated mercenaries with their sophisticated weaponry”.

“Yes but where is the money for this kind of expense. You had agreed to allocate more budgets for the development of my constituency. That allocation has also been curtailed by the finance department for the balance period of the year.  Now this statement of yours may take away the salaries of my department”.

“Dwij is really worried about his salary boss.  You will have to ensure no pay cuts will be introduced by you if we buy some guns for the boys of your police”, Dhanwan had spoken to Pratap with a real worried expression on his face.

Dhanwan looked for some kind of assurance for his cabinet colleague.

Pratap knew that until he gave that kind of surety to Dwij he will not let them work in peace, “you have my word that henceforth no amount will be curtailed from your constituency development funds.  Nor will any one’s salary be stopped in the entire state. As for getting money for the modernization of our security force you may leave that matter for us to think of”.

Dwij shook hands with Dhanwan. He had extended the other elbow to Brahma “see I told both of you, I will get the funds for my assembly area reinstated”. He left the room while thanking the chief minister with folded hands “I knew you will help me out chief”.

“Politics is a strange field. It brings up many a tycoon from public life. At the same time it throws up enough opportunities to buffoons too”, remarked Pratap, “this fellow Dwij used to be a mimic and a comedian in vernacular films. He had been engaged to woo the voters during different campaigns by the party.  His contract included a ticket to such a constituency where we had least expected to win. Yet he won over the public by his buffooneries. He was returned to the assembly by the maximum ever margin over his nearest rival. He had virtually snatched this seat from the sitting candidate of the rival party for the first time after independence. This also earned him a right to get a berth in the cabinet. His winning majority was too big to be ignored.  It is another matter that his contribution in all cabinet meetings is nothing more than bringing a smile on the faces of his colleagues even in the most serious discussions.”

“Any how gentlemen I stand by my statement I have given to the press.  You have to find a way out of the political and moral crossroads, we are facing today. We have to lead the nation back to the road to development. We have had the warning signals from the police and intelligence agencies.  If Only we had the sagacity to pay heed to the apprehensions shown in their reports, things would have been under our control much earlier. Possibly we would not have reached the stage of impasse that we are facing now”.

Pratap stood up from the chair he was sitting in. He walked across to the door leading to the outer balcony of his second floor office. He unbolted the door and came out of his room.  He stretched out on the iron railing of the balcony. He had done that for the first time in ever since he occupied the office of the chief minister. The police guards standing on duty on the ground floor became alert. The guards came to attention position.  Pratap ignored them.  He was staring at the spot on which the seer and his boys had parked themselves. They had been making a mockery of the entire law and order machinery of the state administration. Brahma and Dhanwan too joined him there.

“I wish we had the courage of conviction to act decisively on the day when it all started. We mortals are basically cowards. We are afraid of losing so many things in our life. Our fears of our losses begin with by starting with the life of our own self and the lives of other near and dears.  We are afraid of losing our wealth, status, position in life, in our society, and in not so well known World all over. We live with our own insecurities all our life, whatever the ladder. In fact higher the status an individual has greater is his levels of insecurities. We were afraid of losing our face in public by arresting the pontiff. We allowed him go scot free. We are again scared because they have had the audacity to hit back. They killed one of our key officers. We apprehend further violence at their hands. We are also afraid of losing our official chairs in case our good friend in the central government is able to prevail upon the governor to suspend the assembly. He can order the dissolution of our ministry. Again we are worried about the violation of peace and security of the common man.  Some times I really wonder if it is all worth it.  You should look at the birds perched on all the floors of this building.  They are also the denizens of this fort of politics where we all run our regimes, yet they are not afraid of anything or any one. They frequently fly in and out of the fortress we claim to be our seat of power. I wish I had the freedom enjoyed by these winged creatures”, Pratap absent-mindedly remarked to his friends and colleagues.

He looked up from the terrace where he was standing and counted the floors. It was a massive, and an eleven stories high structure built of concrete and steel to withstand the onslaught and vagaries of natural forces for centuries to come. “Yet it is an irony of fate that many a times so called powerful people like me have felt so much powerless within its confines. They were not able to last even full tenure of their office”.

Pratap looked up again and looked down to fathom the height they were standing at.  He felt dizzy with the whole exercise. It seemed to him he was getting struck in the middle of both the height and depth. It was a never ending abyss that was pulling every one lower and lower. He could not stand there any further. He put his weight on his colleagues’ shoulder. He requested Dhanwan to close the door leading to the balcony and the free world outside.

He found Nirbhaya waiting for his return from the balcony into the office. He wanted to console the police force, “It is time to face the onslaught with courage and fortitude. We all know it is tough for our police force to fill up the void left by a young and promising officer.  Yet he has also prepared our boys for the tougher days ahead. His sacrifice will not go waste.  Each one of you will have a resolution of steel to erase the menace of terrorism raising its head in our peaceful state. We do believe this is a self-inflicted and self invited disease, by some antisocial and anti national elements present in our midst. But like we have to go for an operation to get the damning portion of a diseased body removed. This ailment too needs to be treated in the same way. The police force will hence forth be given wider powers to get into some of the out of bound precincts to look for what is actually happening in such places. We respect the religious sentiments of all communities. We also have due regards for every citizen of our state. Yet you cannot subject any privately run shrines to search operations without offending any one’s sensibilities. You may find it difficult, to explain to the public and the moral law enforcers the motives behind your actions, even if they are hiding any criminal elements within their four walls. In case of any kind of suspicion, you do not today have the authority to pick up people for investigation.  Of course this will take place, if we amend the state constitution.  But as per the procedure established by the law of the land it is a very cumbersome process.  No high handedness will be permitted to you by almost half of the government machinery who still owes their allegiance to the earlier regime. In such a situation only a special ordinance from the governor can authorize you to enter some of the religious places for search and investigation operations. But I still feel if you are able to get a break through in the bus massacre incident, which may take you closer to the murderers of our DIG Tanwar.  You might just stumble upon the life time opportunity to get our biggest foe in the dragnet.  I want you to personally handle the entire investigation under a close blanket of your most trusted officers.  You may have to send them over to the other side of the law to may be joining some unit of the offenders. That should help you to get any kind of clue or a lead. The boys who committed the most heinous crime against the innocents should not be allowed to remain on the large for long. They can inflict further damage any where”.  Pratap felt he was almost embarrassing his chief of the state police by elucidating the investigation procedure to be adopted by him. He added a mild dose of friendly touch to the entire discussion, “it is not an official order but many a times an opinion from the outside agency can help you look at the total picture from an entirely different angle, which even if you thought of earlier, would have been dropped or rejected by you as not very important”.

“Oh!  My god! It was Tanwar who was handling the entire case of the bus massacre and he wanted me to have a look at the footage of the film shot at the shrine which he was supposed to show to me on his return from the Sanctro sanctorum.  If you will excuse me”, Nirbhaya got up “I will have to rush, the film must still be in his office”.

He noticed the lift to the chief minister’s office had still not returned to the floor on which his chamber was situated.  It was possible some the ministers had forgotten to close the channel doors after they alighted on their floor. He made a mental note of issuing instructions to security for keeping one lift set exclusively reserved for the chief minister. He will also ask them to make   the door operations automatic and install jammers for all kinds of firearms in that lift. It was no time to take any kind of security risk any further. The lift was taking too long to return.  He took the stairs to the ground floor. He was jumping three steps in each fall. The security men at the main entrance to the secretariat came alert as they saw the chief of the state police Nirbhaya running towards his car. Their mandatory drill required that any kind of commotion would necessary call for the danger siren to be blown at once by the guard on duty. However, the guard on duty was in a double frame of mind. The senior police officer must have had a valid reason to run towards his car. The security guard too started following Nirbhaya on the double.  He heard the sound of the military boots following him. The chief cop slowed down.

“Could you please page for my car”, he told the guard following him.

“Oh sure sir, but the officers from your personal security staff are still in side the building. Shall I fetch them too?’

“Never mind the car is enough, I will not need the security. They can reach office directly”. He took to the wheel himself after pushing the driver to the left and shot off on the double speed towards his office.

Tanwar’s personal secretary a timid looking man with spectacles falling out of their place met him in the corridor downstairs. Nirbhaya had instructed him to meet him at the entrance itself.

“Just tell me if any one has been to the office, either just before Mr. Tanwar left this place or after he had gone to the Sanctro sanctorum.  Did he speak to any one on the phone, or wireless”?

“No sir he spoke to you only.  He had specially instructed me to not to allow any one inside while he was watching the recordings of the function at the shrine”.

“How do you know he was watching the cassette of the recordings?” Nirbhaya wanted to make sure Tanwar’s killing was in no any way associated with this film. There was a remote probability that Tanwar might have identified the killers and spoken to some one. The police chief wanted to rule out all such possibilities. “Sir I had got the film cassette issued from the record room.  The entries in the official register there do not mention the name of Mr. Tanwar. These were procured by me to get another copy duplicated.  The original had been placed back by me in the store room. Should you however want me to find out if any one else too knew about the issuance of the material cassette, I can, because the staff at the departmental record room   is well known to me. They will go out of their way to do any thing to nab the criminals who killed my boss”.

Nirbhaya felt the personal secretary will not be able to contain his emotions if questioned any further, “forget it, I just wanted to make sure no one else had the privy to the information your boss wanted to convey to me “.

Nirbhaya had seen the film cassette umpteenth times. He was still not able to make head or tail of whatever Tanwar wanted to highlight, nor had he left any markings or any kind of clue to the kind of discussions he wished to have with. In fact after he had gone through the cassette and its contents he was fully convinced that Tanwar’s discussions did not relate to this recording. May be he had another piece of recordings and only Meena could throw light on that.

His wife had called him to come down from the study and take some rest before the break of the dawn. That means he had been sitting almost all through the night. If he calls up Meena now he can come for his morning jog .That will not be unnecessary calling attention of the people who have killed Tanwar. And if as per his suspicions Tanwar was the real target of the killers and not the chief minister, then Meena and his own life was in danger too. The killers will not spare them given even half a chance. Meena’s house was only a few lanes away from the residence of the chief of the state police. He did not have to go out of the safe police campus. It was unlikely the killers will dare touch any one within the police lines.

“Can you come over for a morning tea in your joggers”, he had emphatically told him. Meena did not take long to understand why he has been called.  He expected this call. Tanwar did discuss with him the suspicions formed on the basis of certain mistrustful looking characters and activities he had been able to pinpoint in the function held at the shrine. Every one in the police department knew their closeness to each other.  Yet they themselves never discussed about it to the third person, not even with their chief. Although the chief knew that each day these two officers will speak to each other on the cases they were handling ever since they have been room mates at the police academy. As luck will have it they both had opted for the same state cadre and were posted for their initial training under the police chief Nirbhaya. Their careers had progressed all through the years at the equal pace. They were both commissioned in the police department the same day. Many a difficult cases and situations have been solved and handled by them with each other’s help. Their chief Nirbhaya was certain that they must have spoken to each other on this case as well.

“I wonder if you could help me identify some of the points your friend Tanwar wanted to discuss with me from this cassette. I have seen this tape for the umpteenth times.  It is definitely very provocative speech and sermon delivered by the great Priest, for which I do not hold the religious fanaticism responsible. I would rather attribute the entire thing stage managed by the politicians, through the religious overambitious overtones of the once forgotten small time shrine who wants to come back and hold reins to the large coffers of money and power. The combination of religion and politics provide in all societies of the world. Such a situation has been witnessed historically by almost all religions and societies of the mankind.  The Satan and God have always been on loggerheads in all ages . I believe our times are also fallen prey to the devilish aspirations of the princes of Hell. We will perforce have to submit to the schemes of the devils for a short duration.  The will of God will ultimately prevail. The Satan’s will be thrown into the burning fires of deep hole”.

Meena felt that his chief was being too philosophical.  He was aware of his fondness for Tanwar. Tanwar’s demise was more of a personal loss for the entire force. He too had felt a pain of having lost the closest friend. But this was not the time for getting philosophical. A quick action was called for immediately to get the falling image of the police department ameliorated to some extent. The denizens of the Press and politicians of all hues were tearing the police apathy and inaction apart. Every morning editorials were seeking blood of the killers who had killed the senior police officer that too in the holy premises of the most sacred of all places.

“Morale of the police force will further touch its lowest nadir if we fail to nab the killers of the innocent bus passengers Tanwar had last spoken to me.  He strongly believed it was somehow connected to great Priest and his men.  But he was not able to exactly pinpoint the people involved and used by the pontiff. If we are able to identify any of the boys, that can help us make breakthrough in both the cases”, Meena was informing the police chief. “He spoke to me last on the day he was to accompany the chief minister to the Sanctro Sanctorum. He told me “I am disturbed to see some of the young boys giving a gift of sugar cane sticks to the great Priest, on a large public gathering. That too at a place where the pontiff is virtually sitting in the middle of the sugar cane farms. If you notice the saint’s own farms are replete with the sugar cane crops. In fact right behind the dais from where the pontiff had delivered the sermon, (on the day bus passengers were butchered), a vast tract of sugarcane fields owned by the religious preacher can be seen. So why bring something as a gift that is already available in plenty and in abundance.  There is every possibility that these boys were also bringing in some other things hidden in those bundles of sugar canes. Tanwar wanted to develop the profiles of the young men to be shown to the survivors of the bus tragedy. He felt the sketches of the suspected murderers drawn by the police artists and given to the press have failed to bring in response. These sketches were too incoherent due to the mental disturbance of those affected by the tragedy. We must take up the case further from there only. Please allow me to have a look at the film”.

“That is why I have called you here so  early morning. Come we will have to analyze this film once again”, Nirbhaya was taken aback by what he saw on the film. A close and enlarged portrait of the gifts presented by the boys to the priest on the public function held by him on the same day when bus passengers had been massacred , clearly distinguished the metal tubes of the guns hidden in the  lot of the sugar canes they were carrying. “So this is what they want to fight the might of the state with and win over the War of the Satan and   Gods. I wonder how long can they hold on against the power of the state. But we should not underestimate them. All this could only be the beginning of the full scale warfare to follow”.

“We will have to discreetly pick up one or two of the boys seen in this film”, Meena brought the faces seen on the screen to a pause and enlarged them one by one, “do you want to publicize these faces. In that case we may not get the chance to find out their real game plan. I advise no one should come to know that we have identified them.  By doing this you will invite them to come out again. That is the time we pick them up for interrogation”, Nirbhaya was confident that Meena could handle the murderers who had killed one of his closest friends.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – Chapter 21

The much-anticipated invitation to Ranjit for a meeting with the seer Rajamantran came late in the evening. Ranjit had taken his dinner at the common feast organized at the community kitchen. He was impatiently waiting for the summons

from the pontiff since he had sent a message across that he should wait for his call.

 “You can not leave until the saint orders you to do so. He wants you to have your dinner at the common feast. You must wait for an audience with him” the boy had told him.

Ranjit was led to a room upstairs for the interview. The saint Rajamantran was sitting on the floor with both of his legs spread in front of him. The gun brought by Ranjit was lying on the right of seer. Two boys standing behind the seer looked quite ferocious. They had their fingers on the triggers. Ranjit knew the volley of fire could kill many people if boys put little more pressure on those fingers. He was trembling.  His fear had engulfed all other persons sitting in room. Ranjit touched the feet of Rajamantran. He stood with head bowed and hands folded. Ranjit had been expecting some kind of reprimand and admonishment from him.

Instead the pontiff spoke to him in most endearing tone, “you should relax young man. I know you are the son of this soil. Every son of the  soil has to pay a price for having been born in the toughest of times. You’re taking to drugs smuggling initially. Thereafter you have been betraying the young women around every where. Finally you have been employed in the act of bringing in arms from across borders and beyond seven seas at the cost of your life and freedom. It points to only one fact that the country has not been administered in right manner. The young ones of this country cannot find their bearings.  They do not quite know how to live a pious life.  They do not quite know what is right or what is wrong. They are desperately searching in the dark for all the answers…. The politicians have not been able to ameliorate the masses from the shackles of poverty.   Their filthy greed and hunger for the lucre has brought in them their overwhelming sense of servitude towards the capitalist countries of the west. Even today they want to remain the stooges of foreign powers through the pawning of the agriculturist, the industrialist, the educationist, the banker and so much so the common citizen to the alien powers by the economic policies dictated by big financial muscles of awful domination. I believe the time has now come to turn the tide. Our religion teaches us tolerance but not at the cost of subservience. Our self-respect, our human self-esteem and above all our right to independent thinking must not be subject to any cause. I beseech all rightful thinking people esp., young blood in the countryside to come and join our movement.  That will take our nation to new heights of independent edict. As for you young man we are not sure of your intentions. You are free to go back to the life of making a few dollars cuts from the contrabands. One-day you will fall into the net of the lawmakers.  That will be your sure ultimate end. On the other hand should you desire to join our fight for survival of faith which I believe you are; you have to prove your allegiance to the faith.”

“And how do I do that my lord!” he heard his voice getting hoarse due to excitement. Rajamantran the seer beckoned to one of the boys to bring forward the small urn kept in one corner of the room. The urn was decorated with fresh flowers. Ranjit remembered having seen this pitcher at the shrine where he had gone along with his mother to pay obeisance to the seer on his grandmother’s last rites. “Do not worry your mother has reached home “, he told him.

Ranjit looked at the pot, and wondered if “it contained some one’s ashes and saint wanted him to immerse them some where.  May be he wants him to make some monetary contribution in the decorated vessel for the faith”.  He did not count how much money he had in his wallet, when he left home along with his mother, besides he had to pay for the tickets on the way.  There will hardly be any amount left. But a pontiff of his status, who can bring the entire state machinery to its knees, will hardly be looking forward for an offering from a small time courier. The young boy kept the urn at the feet of the seer.  He addressed one of the elderly gentlemen, “General will you do us this favor please”?  The Gentle man named General Durjan got up from his seat, picked up the pot and brought it to Ranjit “you will take out one slip out of the many slips available in this container pot. The mission wants you to prove your loyalty, pledge your willingness to join the faith by punishing the person whose name appears on the slip, within seven days from today. And in case you fail to do so within stipulated time our boys will take your life. So before you really take one slip out you better make up your mind; because once you have seen the name written on this piece of paper, you either eliminate the man whose name is scribbled or you pay with your life in return”.

“But why should I kill any innocent human being “, Ranjit asked General Durjan and wondered if the pontiff knew about grandmother as well.  “We can assure you their names in this warrant list are added only after we are fully convinced that these people are not innocents. They are the enemies of our faith, the nation and the community. Any one who opposes the system of belief of our society does not have a right to live. Let me tell you further that in case you are successful in this mission the riches will be yours for the asking. We plan assigning you the task of organizing arms procurement for the mission on such a large scale that you could take home sacks full of dollars “.

There was a pin drop silence in the room. Ranjit had put his left hand in the urn and took out a slip that contained death warrants for some one. Ranjit handed over the piece of paper to pontiff. He asked General Durjan, “Let the boy read aloud the name.  Let the august audience gathered here realize that we do not forgive the betrayers of faith, nor do we kill innocents”.

The name announced threw a pall of fear on some present but it also made some of them ecstatic. If this could be achieved, their mission will become a force to reckon with in this country.

General Durjan took Ranjit away,” come young man, let us initiate your baptism and training thereafter”. The initiation took place by sprinkling holy water and tying a new bandana on him. “You can select any of the guns from the lot available and accordingly we will train you in the use of fire arm. Though I feel as a courier you must have had the opportunity to play with a few of these. I will suggest you need to get familiar with these two main weapons initially”. He picked up a long-range rifle with binoculars and the other was a smaller gun similar to the one that had been brought by Ranjit. Ranjit wondered how many couriers were operative in the country. He was looking at the number of arsenal displayed there.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – chapter 16

16

 

The great priest Rajamantran had finished his practicing of the last asana of yoga. He opened the small window opening of his room and looked outside into the large compound spread into many acres. He noticed the mammoth crowds were beginning to gather outside in the big lawns. The disciples and other volunteers from the shrine were making sitting arrangements for people. They had been requesting people to take their seats in the separate queues meant for men and women. The people attending the ritual of annual worship were coming into the enclosure. They will bow in front of the Holy Scripture. They will also pay their respects to others present in the audience. And finally they were proceeding to take their respective seats in the arena meant for them.

The office of the great priest Rajamantran had sent invitation to all and sundry through the public address systems fitted in all the shrines located in the area. The shrines in surrounding villages too had made public announcements on their public address systems in very loud tones, “Dear brothers and sisters, the great priest Rajamantran of our parish will be addressing all of us on the important religious, social and political issues that concern all of us. The congregation will take place on the Holy day. You must reach the shrine one and all and make the religious gathering a grand success. The right time has arrived to contribute your might to the protection of your religious, cultural and ethnic heritage. The sect needs your services. Please, do make all efforts to come one and all. You must come to listen to the preaching of the great preacher and great Priest. You must imbibe his golden saying in your life, and adopt them to lead a better life. Teach it to your young ones. Bring them along to the grand occasion; so that they can be baptized in the great traditions every single one of us have followed all our life. Remember ultimately it is the religion commemorated by our great Priest that will outlast all of living beings. We owe it to our future generations to perpetuate the greatness of our mighty faith, so that they live with their heads held high in the times to come”.

The villagers came; the ladies and women came with the kids in their arms and toe. The townsmen arrived in groups. They came in Lorries, trucks, tractors and animal driven vehicles. Some came on foot walking many miles overnight in groups, singing their prayers and hymns on the way. After all this occasion comes once and twice a year and such ostentatious festivity should be shown to the children too. Their caravans were coming in from all directions dressed in their festive best.

The great priest Rajamantran looked through the small opening in the door and saw faces all around. He saw human frames everywhere, waiting patiently yet expectantly to listen to his sermon. “Now is the time to make my imposing entrance”, he thought to himself.

He beckoned to the first contingent of armed guards to lead him, two of the armed guards will walk in the front, two on the side on to his left and the other two on his right, six of them will follow him in the rear. They will walk with their guns pointed towards the sky and no sooner he reaches the Dais, the guns numbering eleven will fire their guns salute to him.

The speaker on the public address system using numbers of loud speaker fitted into the congregation premises on the poles erected all over was making the ostentatious announcement. He began the minute he saw the great priest Rajamantran coming out of his room. “The savior of the mankind, the reincarnation of all gods, the Almighty personified, the leader of all the leaders, the brave of the braves, and the greatest Priest of the great Priests is here to give you his blessings. Bow before him the big and the mighty, bow before him the young and the elders, bow before him the rich and not so rich He is here to lift you all from your daily grinds of life. Make sure no one turns his back towards him; one momentary look of the great will charge your entire existence. Savor his Presence and get the heavenly bliss showered upon your near and dear ones”.

The entire assembly like the regimented march past of the soldiers of a well-disciplined army turned their faces towards the door from where the great pontiff made his entry. They all bowed before him, some were lying prostrate on the floor to seek his blessings. He raised both his hands in sanction to bless all of them. Contingent of the gunmen prevented people from going near him; the entire public was overawed by his majestic presence. He walked on to the left of the crowd. People turned their heads in the direction in which he moved; like the shadow of the Sundial. He reached the end of the congregation; crowd had also turned half circle by then. People had gone hysterical and they were raising slogans “Long live the great Priest, long live the god”.  They were chanting the hymns composed by him. By now he had reached the right side of the pandal, the worshippers moved their faces in the same direction. He picked up a bunch of flowers from the baskets being carried by the devotees, and threw them back at the crowd, who had become delirious by now “God bless our soul. We are lucky to have witnessed his holy presence”, some of the old ladies were singing. He stopped midway, lifted a small child from a woman’s arms and kissed him on the forehead “Have you given a   name to this child of god?”

“I am here at your feet your lordship to seek a blessed name for him, me poor human being can not decide. Please bless him and baptize him”.

“In that case let him be known as the unvanquished. I name him Ajay”. The woman took the child back from him and lay face down on his feet. The gunman picked her up and moved her to aside “Let the great priest Rajamantran move, make way for him” they told parishioners.

The great priest Rajamantran took the left turn again reaching near the podium.  The people in the audience had taken three hundred sixty degree turn by now, as they considered it sacrilegious to show their back to the messenger of god. He climbed three steps to reach the stage. The entire gathering of people present there had put their foreheads on the floor. They were worshipping him. They lay down there completely prostrate on the ground with both their hands folded in the form of greetings while they were paying their deference to him.  The great priest Rajamantran enjoyed the sight. He absorbed the entire scene of people lying on the ground to worship him (for a few seconds) and thus he began their discourse “Rise my children, rise from the depths of   abyss. You all must rise to the new awakening, grow to the new dawn. The novel Sun of spiritual knowledge beckons you to keep the blindfolds of ignorance away that you have been wearing for centuries”. The multitude rose from the floor and stood in reverence. He mentioned them to sit.

A few musicians on the stage started playing their musical instruments of harmonium and tabla.  The young girls who accompanied these choirs sang the ode to the Goddess of Power, “Oh mother, and Dear mother! Bless us; bless us to face the good deeds of life. Bless us to lay down our lives for the resurgence of our great nation. Empower us to sacrifice our life for the good of our religion. Bless us to give up our all worldly possessions for the common cause of society. Oh Mother! We are but the mortal souls.  We beseech you to bless us with immortality so that we depart this life for the greater cause and live a pious living for ages thereafter. Bless us to drink the nectar of your eternal power to make us become fearless, courageous and truthful”. The group recited the hymn resonantly.  All the people present at the congregation joined in and sang. The great priest Rajamantran lent his voice in between to lead the chorus.

He asked the microphone to be brought to him once all the singing groups had paid their ode to the goddess.

“ Bang”,  the first gun fired the salute,’ Bang’, ‘Bang’; ‘Bang’ the third, the fourth, the fifth and finally the eleventh gun fired the salute from their guns  towards the skies . Having emptied their cartridges the gunmen moved behind the stage to take their positions. The participants of this serious gathering looked at their great priest very reverentially. There was an apprehensive   pin drop silence in the jamboree of men, women and children.

The cleric cleared his throat and started speaking, “Dear Children of God! The Society of the wisest, May the wiser counsel prevail amongst this noble audience? We all are gathered here today to commit to our memory the sacrifices made by our great forefathers to perpetuate the faith that we live with today. This faith has been the bane of our lives through many ages. This faith has kept the bonds of our society strong. This faith that has seen the survival of our religion through the atrocities the Mughal and the British committed on our people. The strong bonds of our community kept our trust alive in the tenets of our religion during the worst of trying times. I pay my tributes to the tenacity and faithfulness of a great nation of braves”, the great priest Rajamantran bent downwards and rubbed his forehead against the floor of the platform, as if he was paying homage to the unknown and unsung braves of the faith. People echoed in a single chorus, “You are the greatest of all, may you live long to lead us to the glory of our religion always”.

The great priest Rajamantran raised him to the level of the microphone again and continued his sermon,” However we find a weakening of the centuries old faith today amongst our younger age group. Our youngsters are being misled by the flawed social norms of modern society. Our very organism of heritage and culture of century’s old richness is getting vitiated by the misleading propaganda propagated by the enemies of our faith. There are many instances that have of late been the main cause of consternation to our mental peace.

The education policy adopted by the governments successively both in the state and the centers have been the cause of our children getting astray. They have today been moved away from us by this ill equipped education system. Those nincompoops and frauds who devised the new and modern education syllabi and study schemes have a scant knowledge of our rich traditions and culture, or our vast inheritance. We are being herded like the sheep of the same flock with other communities. Some of our brethren were wise enough to ask for and insist on a separate native soil for themselves after moving away from the British. They fought for a place of their own; they stood their ground and won it. Their leaders had the foresight to see that if they do not get a separate homeland, there community may not retain their distinct political identity and will get submerged into the vast ocean of other cultures. They maintain their independent nation today based on their religion, their scriptures, their faith and their way of living.

Look at yourself! Can you say that the enriching, social, and ethnic individuality of your families’’ has been preserved by you. Has it been allowed to flourish by the regime that we got for ourselves? Our learning institutes, religious shrines and so much so our means of living are all being subject to the rules and regulations adopted by the voice of vote.  That obviously will always be in favor of the majority community. They did not relish our landed assets hence they had cut the arms of our peasant community by introducing the draconian laws related to the land holdings. They cut short the size of our fields by the mandate in the name of distributing excess territory to the landless. In this process they diluted the very social and cultural milieu of our society. We have become losers today in our own homes, because the political set up have been devised to benefit the numerous. The religion has moved from our hands to the politicians of questionable allegiance. They owe their loyalty to vote banks and not to the great preaching enshrined in our holy scriptures. Do you really want to be a part of such an immoral society?  Please answer me” he exhorted the audience to build up a sense of frenzy amongst them.

“I want your feedback to the conditions and atmosphere in which our agriculturists are laboring. What do they get out of their toil? They cannot arrange proper food, shelter and clothing for their wards. The free trade is curbed by the lollypops of governmental procurement systems and crutches of support price. Our farmers’ brothers cannot decide the price of their own produce. Our brethren are forced to sell their produce from their farmlands to the government agencies and brokers patronized by these agencies.  You will all bear with me that the poor tiller was much better off during the Mughal regime, even after paying the jajia (revenue on land holdings imposed by some of the Mughal kings)   on land. What have our fate come unto?  I want you to be aware of your own worth. Self sufficiency of the economy can be attained if we have our own separate nation, our own separate laws, social traditions, and our very own religious and ethnic culture not polluted by the ills of the other communities. We are a race of the wisest; a race of the purest. Raise my children, rise from the ashes of oblivion, and throw away the curtains of slavery that are blinding you. It is your own motherland that seeks a separate state, a homeland of your own. Defy the draconian police rule; defy the laws that do not permit you to maintain an exclusive identity”.

He helped himself to a few sips of water offered to him by one of his bodyguards. He surveyed all around him. The gathering of the people were sitting with their hands folded in reverence to him, he carried on with his communication, and “In the institution of marriage ceremony too we have been clubbed with the jurisprudence of the community that enjoys their numerical majority.  We refuse to admit this kind of treatment at anyone’s behest. From today onwards our ethnic community   will devise our own laws. We will have our own social code of conduct to govern our institutions of social living.  We will have our own trading and commerce agencies that will lay down the norms for all our business activities. We will have our own jurisprudence.   We will have our own security agencies. We have always sent the highest numbers of our boys to the defense agencies of this country. What for? Does the government want them to use and direct their guns on us only? We will not provide any more hands to hold these guns”.

He looked through the corner of his eyes; three young peasants carrying the bundles of the sugarcanes on their heads were approaching towards the stage. He knew in these bundles they were carrying the guns used to eliminate and massacre innocent bus passengers. He told one of the armed guards to let the boys come in. They put their bundles of sugarcane they were carrying on their heads down on the earth.  They climbed on the dais to touch his feet and seek his blessing thereof.  He knew his boys have dug the first nail in the coffin of the ministry lead by Pratap. He blessed them by raising both his hands and continued with the delivery of his sermon “Let us declare this day as the day of an absolute freedom. I want you all to raise your fists and repeat with me ‘death to the traitors of truth and religion! Let the true values of our community rule! Let there be new awakening amongst all sections of our pious society!”  The crowd that had been enraptured by his utterances suddenly woke up like a giant. They repeated three times, “death to the traitors of truth and religion! Let the true values of our community rule! Let there be new awakening amongst all of us!”

The armed guards who had refilled the cartridges of their guns by now once again raised their guns heavenwards and fired constantly till the last bullet had been spent. The great priest Rajamantran got up from his royal throne. He came to the front of the podium and affirmed “The sound of these guns herald the onset of our freedom. We declare our own rule; the representatives of the draconian rulers can go and report to their lords.  They can come and join us. It is ultimately their choice. We will praise the God again”. He witnessed the crowd rising on their on their feet and he shouted loudly “long live the faith”; all the people echoed in one breath “long live the faith”.

The great priest Rajamantran climbed down the stairs. A surge of humanity was wailing “Long lives our great Priest, long live our savior and long live the savior of our nation.” Armed guards had moved forward to cover him from all sides. None could reach him. He moved towards the door from which he had emerged in the morning. The crowd did finish anti clock movement of their heads once again.

The young boys who had brought in the sugarcane bundles as offerings were lost in the huge assembly. The offerings of the canes along with other presents and gifts were sent inside the shrine.