Posts tagged ‘romance’

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”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 33

Mr. Kumar did not want to unload the burden he carried on the serene atmosphere of his home. But at the same time he could ill afford to forget the threat hanging on the neck of his family. It was a choice between the fire and the frying pan. He dare not ignore the dictate of the shrine.

“Shall he go to the law”? “Will it help?’ he recalled the drama that took place outside the shrine on the holy day. The great priest Rajamantran is a law unto his own self. The law of the land had crumbled in front of the so called religious center and its occupant. He witnessed it on television.  Does his daughter know the boy she has befriended belongs to the same shrine? He was sure the innocent girl had been duped by the cunning impostor. At the next instant another thought came to his mind, “what if he is genuine? He is still a student. He could only be distantly related to the pontiff. Only time itself could resolve the riddle they all have got into.

He found his wife quite worried about him when he reached home.

“Where have you been dear?  We have been waiting for you on evening tea”?

She looked at his ashen face and swollen eyes. She showed her concern.

“What’s the matter dear? You do not look well. Do you have a headache?” She called out to her daughter, “Koena fetch a glass of water for your father and put the kettle on the stove to prepare some hot tea”, and again she came back to her husband.

“Come let me keep your Tiffin box and files away. Oh my god you have not had your meals too. The food is left untouched. If you were so unwell you should have come home earlier. Why do you bring the entire office work to home with you? I will not allow you to work here”. She put the files away from him and addressed her daughter.

“Koena you bring the tea to bedroom”. She was handing over a glass of water to her father Mr. Kumar. Kumar was led into the sleeping room by his wife.

Koena saw her father’s deteriorating health and got worried, “you should take a few days off from your job father. Look at yourself. The hard work and no rest are definitely telling on your body”.

Mr. Kumar who avoided looking at his daughter closed his eyes and thought “how could such a prodigal, docile and innocent girl be wed away like a cow tied to the hook, simply because some great Priest wants it”. He thought of fighting it out and saying no to him and facing the consequence thereof.

“Where is Munna?” he asked his wife who caught the immediacy in his voice.

“Don’t you spare a worry about him?  He must be playing outside with other brats. I shall soon call him back. You should finish this tea.  Just lie down and close your eyes. Soon you will go to sleep. We shall wake you up when it is supper time”.

He started snoring in no time. No one woke him up for supper. His wife looked into the room two three times and found him in deep slumber. She decided not to disturb him.

“The poor chap must have been tired. He had a lot of work in office to do. He could not find time to have a morsel of food too”.

“Both of us are not going to our works today”, she declared as she handed over the morning cup of tea to him the next morning. She kissed him lightly on his lips.

“The kids have already left for their school and college. You had a sound and long sleep. We intentionally did not wake you up for dinner last night. I hope you are not tired anymore. We shall have a hearty breakfast. I have planned a special menu for this. We will have stuffed omelets, porridge and sandwiches. I am sick of fried stuff that we have to gobble every morning in a hurry. I have kept the bath room ready for you. Will you please freshen up and come to   kitchen. In the mean while let us get some fresh air into this room”. She was quite chirpy. She withdrew curtains, and opened the window panes.

“By the way I found this book in your office files. It is a book of hymns in praise of goddess. Since when have you become so devoted?  I have never found you reading such religious stuff earlier.  You must be getting old”.

“I had gone to the sanctum sanctorum yesterday”, he solemnly told her. “I had been summoned by the great Priest”.

“What were you called for? Why should he summon you from your office? Did I hear you say the great Priest Rajamantran?  His shrine is so far away. How could you have made it and come back well in office time?”

“Some of his boys drove me in his car to the shrine”. He wanted to get it off his chest.

“The great priest Rajamantran has recommended a boy for our daughter”. Mr. Kumar did not use the word ‘forced’. He waited to look for his wife’s expressions and reaction to the statement “he has sought our daughter’s hand for his nephew, who happens to be her class mate”.

“I am not surprised. Our daughter is quite beautiful. The young man must have been besotted by her charms. But if the young man is still a student, we will have to wait till he settles down. Is he capable of earning bread for his wife as well? I know Koena, she will also like to complete her education”, his wife casually told him.

“Just forget about the entire thing. I hope you have told the great sage we are not interested”.

“He wants us to marry her off within this week”, he again told her “other wise our son will be kidnapped by the goons of the sage, should we fail to do so”.

“He must be playing a prank on you. A pontiff of his stature can not indulge into bullying his own followers. He is quite a pious man. I have been visiting local worship hall, where cassettes of sermons delivered by him are played for benefit of all devotees present. Yes he does advocate piety and purity of the faith. But so have all religions of the world been doing it for ages. They have all been propagating their own trumpets. Look how Mughal fundamentalists during Mughal rule had subjugated us for centuries. They even went to the extent of forcible conversions. If any one did not agree to their religious overtures they had simply beheaded the opponents. The Christianity that supports charity of all kinds wants to bring the members of other communities into its fold by offering financial, educational and other vocational incentives of all kinds. Why should they do it? I believe they do it because they want their race creed and community to expand and become a major force in numbers. If our preacher is preaching a separate identity he must be having similar thoughts of ensuring the survival of our race for many generations which otherwise in the modern life style is being merged into other majority society. It may so happen those centuries later some one will find a specimen and mention of our existence only in museums and history books”.

Mr. Kumar was losing his nerves listening to her ideas and thoughts on the pontiff and his philosophy.

“Are you regretting that you had married some one outside your community”, he asked his wife. She belonged to the same creed as that of the seer. While Mr. Kumar himself hailed from a different section of society.

“No I am not. Please do not make it a personal affront. I am not the only one from our family who has gone into an inter caste and intercommunity marriage. There are millions others like me who have done it prior to us.  There will still be many couples doing it centuries later. Marrying some one within or outside one’s faith is a personal decision. I have never even pondered over my decision; because we have been quite neutral over our ways of following a belief. All these years I have been following my faith religiously. You have not ever forced the thoughts, rituals and the preaching of your ancestors on our family life. Our children have learnt good or bad, merits or demerits of both our ways of worshipping the creator. And I am sure they are capable of deciding for themselves when it comes to adopting a particular sect for appeasement of their souls. But some where I do feel and believe that our pontiff is leading us to the correct destination, even though I do not agree to the means adopted by him. He has been able to bring a sense of pride amongst our nation after many ages”.

Mr. Kumar, “my dear wife we are not holding a debate on the political thoughts, philosophy and isms of the world. The painful dilemma that we are faced with is a question of our daughter’s life. Do you want me to go down on my knees and with folded hands tell the great priest Rajamantran that we have agreed to his proposal”?

“No I do not want you to do that. If our daughter has been a friend of this boy then I will prefer that she takes a decision about her future life herself. We will anyhow speak to him, meet his family, analyze and examine if he is capable enough to earn his bread for a decent living. We must leave the decision to be taken between them to themselves alone”.

Mr. Kumar did not believe this catch-22 situation of their life time could have been solved so easily but then his wife is a strong woman.  Her decision making capability had amazed him many a times earlier too. She had always been proved correct over any of his doubting

Thomas’s.

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-22

General Durjan took him to a street leading out of the main town in a jeep and he himself drove the vehicle to a farmhouse, a few kilometers away from the last octroi post. Ranjit sat in the front seat along with General Durjan. As soon as the vehicle took off two boys came running towards the open jeep and jumped into the rear seat. They too were carrying similar weapons, “may be, they are also on the familiarization and shooting trip”, thought Ranjit.

A cut out of the targeted person had been placed before each firing stand and the instructor will exhort each one of the shooters while practicing target shooting, “you warriors you have to remember that it is either you or the target that will come out of this mission alive. If you miss, then it is you who will die. You are not looking at the card boxes but the traitors and the exploiters of society. They are your enemies.  They are not the dummies. Look at them as real faces and then fire”. If some one hit the flag, he would personally go to him and congratulate.

The training in the art of escape from the place of attack made it clear to him, “we value your life; so long as you do not get caught; hence you must try to come out alive from the enemy’s fort. Should you fail to come out bite the chocolate tied to a thread on your neck; this will give you instant relief, which will save you from the torture, pain, and humiliation at the hands of the enemies. Each on of you will have a cover up following you; to ensure he kills the one who gets captured. The cover up process is adopted as a back up exercise to ensure elimination of either the target or the missionary who fails to achieve the mission assigned. The mission is supreme to all of us. You know the reward after accomplishment will take care of you and your family for generations to come at the same time though the family will be taken care of even after failure but you may not be there to share the booty with them”.

General Durjan himself who elaborated on the great sacrifices of their predecessors and preachers handled the period in theology. The perpetrators of the atrocities on the believers of faith and the trials and tribulations of the faithful to religion; had to undergo; taught them about defiant and relentless fight carried by the braves in all ages. “This training is only an introduction to the intense and the deeper training to be followed at the other side of the frontiers which will make a complete, fiercer and stronger warrior out of you as compared to the ones created by the armed forces of any country”, General Durjan would often tell them.

He briefed them about the intended target’s movements, his location advantages, and disadvantages, possible proximity they could attain to the target or the improbability of achieving the given task were all explained to them at the intensive training schedules. “Remember the task will have to be finished at the first go. There will never be a second chance. In case you are not confident of cent percent success, you must have the patience to wait for precise moment.  You should always remember that it is you have who have decided the hour and the minute of death of your target when he is put on the list of defaulters. This minute of his death will definitely come. Your courage from within will give you desired results”, General Durjan maintained.

“The minutes for accomplishing the task should come to me sooner than expected”, thought Ranjit. Two boys were assigned the job of keeping surveillance on his movements all the while lest he wanted to give it all up and run away. He had resolved to give it a try to lead his life as suggested by the seer.  Yet many a times he wondered if the promised wads of foreign currency will ever be used by him.  “What if he fails to get at the target? What if the return fire of security forces kills him?  Even the boys from the shrine who had been deployed to keep an eye at him can finish him to remove all traces of his connections back to the pontiff. At least his family will be able to come out of the rigmaroles of day-to-day pangs of wants and shortages in their life, he thought to himself. This will also tell his father that he was not a worthless son after all”.

“If he comes out of the task successful he will be able to get married to the girl of his choice. How can the parents of the girl refuse if the shrine puts pressure on them?  Otherwise also till date they have all fallen to his charms.  This girl will be no exception”. He could feel the closeness of her warmth even today. He remembered the day she agreed to accompany him to a walk through the lawns of the university gardens. She was coming out of the classroom when he accidentally met her on the way. He was in no mood to go to the university but a sense of idleness was eating into him and out of sheer boredom he drove to the building that housed her classroom. He did not expect she will agree to accompany him but still he took the chance to ask her out for a cup of coffee.

“No I do not relish it much “, she had told him.

“In that case if you have some time, can we walk through the lawns? I am sure a walk in this nice weather will do well to both our moods. I am not able to sit through the class out of sheer boredom”, he told her.

During walk through the botanical gardens he tried holding her softly on her lower waist. She trembled at the first touch. He let it go after a while. But a few minutes later had put his hand again on her waist and finding no resistance continued placing it there all through the walk. He desperately wanted to hold her still closer and give her a big hug. The scent of her body was having a strong aphrodisiacal effect on his mind and heart. He knew that she was equally affected the way he had been. A few more seconds of this heavenly togetherness could have made them forget about the worlds around them. But They had hardly walked through for an hour or so when a group of boys and girls from her class appeared on the scene. She had to go with them to attend the next class. A little of her company was enough to convey to him that she too was interested to make friends with him, but the fear of betraying her parents’ confidence in her was holding her back.

“They have sent me to complete my higher education with so many expectations. I will never ever be able to let them down”, she told him.

He felt her priorities were completely different from other girls he came across earlier. Those girls were always too eager to find out if he will marry them and take them abroad with them.  She had always refused to keep the small gifts brought by him for her.

She will say “I do not use any kind of cosmetics or perfumes hence they will be of no use to me “. He was always at his wits end to understand as to what could impress her till one day she herself suggested, “I am too fond of reading. Please see if you can come across some old fiction and novels.  I shall of course pay for the same. He had not read any such book in his life and had to seek the help of the shopkeeper to select a few books on English fiction for her.

“I hope you have already gone through these “. Her question had put him in a little discomfort him but he felt relaxed when she said, “now do not tell me the stories, I will not be able to read if you unravel the whole thing in advance. I always like the eagerness to find out what happens next. Yes I do not have the money right now and will pay it to you when I get my pocket money next month”. It was her simplicity and honesty that was getting to him besides of course her untouched and unexplored beauty.

“She carried a whiff of heavenly fragrance around her, like the first shower of the monsoon. She was like the only rose bud that raises its head when the spring breaks after a long autumn season” he told himself. She is meant for me only and I will never ever tell the boss about her, what if the gang ever comes to know about her and want me to do the same to her that I have done to other girls, “I will tell them she is my actual wife and not the pretended one like all others were”, he convinced himself.

Once or twice it did occur to him to talk it out with the boss, and settle once for all that she was meant for him and only him. “I shall do that when the necessity arises”, he had always thought.  “And now with the support of the seer, no boss ever will be able to touch what is rightfully my own”, he removed the fear on his mind.  He dreamt of the luxurious life he would be able to lead staying abroad with the love of his life Koena.

The little doubt still persisted, “what if her parents will not agree to their matrimony, have not the parents of other girls agreed to, whenever he proposed”. He had by now lost the count of the number of marriages he had embarked on. He started counting and recalling the names of the girls he had dumped in different countries. After a few of the names he lost count and gave up the effort.

“Koena was different; she will remain as my wife and bear our children. She will stay with me all my life. I will not travel to the places where I have taken the other girls”.

 

 

 

 

 

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues — Chapter 15

15

    The sleepy little town of Baikunthpur was opening its eyes to the first ray of sunlight. The tea stall vendor at the state roadways bus station woke up to begin his business of the long stretched day ahead of him. He set up the water filled kettle on an earthen stove and started showing fire to   light up the dry woods underneath. “The fog  that appears during the winters has started setting in”, he thought, “ the woods are little wet on the outside, a few drops of kerosene oil will overtake the moisture and the glow of fire will soon engulf mettle kettle from all sides bringing the water to boiling temperature ”.

The staff for first state roadways bus to leave out of the bus station should be here any minute, along with the commuters traveling to the capital town. Generally college students, employees of the state government offices, and a few traders who had some shopping to do in the capital town board the first bus in the morning. The same bus will return late evening from there carrying most of its commuters back, unless of course it carried guests for someone in the town or any one decided to stay back. He could hear self-starter of the bus making a big racket; it seemed the driver would call him out to push the bus from behind for the initial start up. After a few rattling noises it picked up the fuel spark and the engine started roaring. The bus driver Dhanna called him “Chhotte (my little brother) prepare a strong cup of tea with two hundred grams of milk. It should give a speed of seventy kilo meters per hour”, which meant he wanted lots of tea leaves, little water and two hundred grams of milk boiled to the extent that the color of the milk will be fully tanned to blackish red, “And do not forget to add sugar to the tea you  will be serving me .  I need lots of it. Do not be miserly”. Dhanna called out “Yes I know your taste buds are fond of too much of sweet. You do not have to remind me every morning about it though”. He woke up one of the servants from behind the shop and ordered him to carry the pot full of tea to serve it to Dhanna in the bus.

A stranger came to shop with his face wearing half a veil of a blanket and ordered the tea stall owner to give him a cup of tea. The tea stall owner looked at him strangely; it was not cold enough yet to cover face like this.” May be he was still sleepy or may be he suffers from the cold and fever. What do I have to do”, thought the tea stall owner.

He saw another young man coming to his stall, soon after. The stranger ordered him to make one more cup. “You are new here “, he wanted to ask them but the rush of a few more passengers made him busy tending to their orders. “ It seems our town is growing big. We see new faces here every now and then’, he remarked to one of the old regular customers.

The bus conductor was yelling from the rear door of the bus” Capital Town! This bus leaves for Capital Town!” The bus was overflowing with passengers in no time. The driver looked back and asked the conductor if he could send the bus rolling. The conductor blew a long whistle indicating the driver to move. The bus starting stirring, just then the two strangers got up and ran towards the bus; one boarded it from the rear the other had jumped in into the front gate.

The one who was in the front sat on a seat near the driver. The other one occupied a seat next to the rear gate.” Some seats are still vacant.  You can check if we pick up passengers from near the railway crossing and we will go non stop thereafter” the conductor had shouted at the driver,” We will not stop anywhere halfway. If there is anyone going short of capital town please get off as the bus will not stop middle way”, he called out to the passengers. “Let us move”, he indicated to the driver.

Two passengers came into the bus from the railway crossing and moved into the center of the bus. They surveyed the vacant seats and one of them selected the seat near to the front exit. He requested the old lady to move to the central portion of the bus., “Old mother can you shift to the vacant seat in the middle I am not feeling well”. The old lady smirked a little, but realizing the young man may actually be sick gave up her seat. After all he had wrapped a blanket even when there was a moderate cold. The bus began its journey towards its destination.

The driver took the right turn from the next crossing, a passenger requested him “Dhanna dear friend can we hear some devotional music.  I am sure people will enjoy it’. The person sitting next to the driver asked him,” Could you increase the volume of the music system? These devotional songs are too appealing. I am a great fan of this singer”. Dhanna the bus driver looked back and smiled “It is good to follow the scriptures, but at your young age people hardly ever listen to these songs. They are keener to listen to film songs though”. The music system was blaring, “We are born to one father, we are the people of one God, and we are the sons of one father. Each has been blessed with one light; no one is good or bad”. The driver was singing along with the singer somewhat at the top of his voice. He did not hear the loud horn being blown by the truck driver who wanted him to get on to one side of the road so that his truck could move ahead after overtaking the bus. The truck driver kept pressing the horn till the young man tapped at the bus driver’s shoulders” Let him pass; he seems to be in a hurry”. “These half trained truck drivers are always in a hurry. The fellow who issued the license for driving to truck drivers must not have known the art of driving a vehicle himself”. The truck over took the bus from very close quarters.

The bus driver looked outside the window of his bus   and called names to the man driving the truck” Can you not see? You mother…”

The young man who had been sitting near the front exit made sure the door was locked fully. He double-checked the latch on the door. He got up from the seat and stretched his body to the full.

Watching this man near the rear gate sitting on the stairs; the bus conductor also got up from his seat and sat on the stairs next to him. “Brother you can sit comfortably, there is enough space here”, said the conductor, pointing towards the seat vacated by him.

“Thank you I have not had my morning work out. I prefer standing here for a while”. He too checked the bolt at the rear door and firmly bolted it when he noticed it was unlock.

The driver in the front was lost yelling in his not so sonorous voice singing the devotional song when he felt some thing hard and cold mettle on his neck.

The young man sitting next to him told him in a very vicious tone, “You will take a right turn from here. The bus will not go to the capital town”. The driver Dhanna “Yes but this road goes to the deep forest. Why should I take to this direction? We will get lost on the way”?

“Do as you are told otherwise I will kill you”? Dhanna felt the cold steel pressing into his neck and took the sharp turn to the right immediately, screeching tires on the left virtually got lifted from the ground. Some people who were dozing off in the early morning warmth swore names to the driver.

An old man who looked like a retired military officer shouted at the driver “What is this way of driving? You want to kill all of us”.

“No   not him but we want to kill some of you”, the man sitting in the middle of the bus stood up. He removed the blanket and brandished another gun, “No one will get up; this bus is under our control. We are the harbingers of freedom to you all; if any one dare look up I will shoot. Killing is my job”. He hit the man who was sitting in seat ahead of him in the head “You mother… close that windowpane”. Blood started oozing from the man’s head; he without losing a split second shut the windowpane.

The old lady sitting next to him started shouting “Oh God! Oh God! “Shut up you old fart”, the man from the front door called out. He too removed his blanket and pointed the gun at the old lady.  “Listen you jerk,” the Youngman in the middle had come to the aisle, “We are the messengers of God. We are the saviors of the nation. We will not harm any one who is the follower of our belief; but we will also not spare the perpetrators of atrocities on us. This government of atheists belongs to the nonbelievers. They must be driven out of our land; the land that belongs to us. The nonbelievers have exploited this land for ages. They have played havoc with our religion and social beliefs. They have desecrated our places of worship. They kill our brethrens all over the country. They have no right to live and must be done away with immediately”.

No one spoke to him; no one even dared to look at him. The bus had by now reached somewhere in the middle of the thick forest. He ordered the driver to turn the bus on a narrow muddy road going into the forest track. Dhanna the bus driver who belonged to the same community as the four men were pleaded, “For God sake I implore you.  Please do not kill the innocents. They are also our brothers. Why do you want to invite the wrath of all the gods on you? Please let us go back to the main road.” He applied the brakes all of a sudden. The gun slipped out of the hands of the young man and fell on the floor. He quickly picked it up. The driver’s behavior infuriated him and he banged the gun against his head again and again; calling him names “You son of a bitch, you also go with them”. Dhanna tried to ward off the heavy blows initially but the young man’s hands were too quick. Dhanna’s official felt cap that he had been wearing fell on the floor of the bus. He pushed open the side door and jumped on the ground outside the bus below. He ran towards the direction from which the bus had come. “Please save us, will someone save us” he simultaneously shouted. The bullets hit him from behind. He jumped up a few feet and fell on the ground with face turned towards the bus. The young man with gun in his hand was staring out of the window.

“All of you get off the bus one by one and put your two hands on your heads. I am sure no one will dare do any thing, other wise he meets the same fate as the bus driver has met”, the youngster in the rear  of the automobile opened the door and ordered every one to come out of the bus. They were all told to form a queue each for men and women separately. “The people I point out will step aside”, he ordered. A few ladies started wailing loudly. The children too joined them in crying hoarse.

A total of five boarders pointed out by the young man were asked to step aside from the main group. A lad of around twelve years also moved aside with them. “Hey you! You cannot come with them. You are too young to decide what is happening in the society and we do not kill any one for no reason. You will fall back into the group of the other passengers who are being left behind” the leader of the four men told the boy and others to board the bus back.

He virtually herded the five separated, towards the jungle. Other people who watched mutely from inside the bus were too stunned to utter a word. The old lady was praying loud “Oh God! Please be merciful! Please be merciful!” The man who had been left behind to keep an eye on them assured her, “Do not worry you old woman nothing will happen to you. You will die your natural death”.

The gunshots reverberated through the silence of the forest loud and clear. One could distinguish two different guns blaring. The sudden silence brought in the first rays of the jungle morning. The sun gradually rising from behind the tall trees gave a red hue to the atmosphere.