Monday, January 27, 2014

The Last Call

When the door-bell rang, Mr. Vijay was getting ready for office, his fourteen year old daughter was having breakfast and Mrs. Vijay was packing the lunch-boxes.
Mr. Vijay went to the door, his shirt half tucked in, hair uncombed. He looked out through a window. He saw two policemen near the door, and a few others standing near the lift and the staircase. None of the neighbors were outside. It was about half past seven. He opened the door.
‘Mr. Vijay?’ a policeman asked.
‘Yes…?’ he said.
‘We are from the local police station.’ The two policemen entered the house without waiting for an invitation. Mr. Vijay stepped aside for them. Mrs. Vijay stood by the kitchen door of their two-bedroom flat. Their daughter turned around to face the policemen. Her mother moved to the kid’s side and laid her hands on her daughter’s shoulders.
The policeman who had spoken earlier said, ‘Mr. Vijay, we would like you to come with us to the police station. Can you please get ready?’
‘What for…?’ Mr. Vijay asked.
‘There’s been a crime and you might be able to help us.’
‘What crime…?’
The policeman ignored his query and continued as if he had not interrupted, ‘Sir, do you have your mobile phone with you?’
‘Yes… why?’
‘Where is it?’
Mr. Vijay looked around the drawing room. He looked at his wife. She stared back blankly, refusing to budge from her position.
‘It is here somewhere,’ Mr. Vijay said, ‘I keep misplacing it.’
‘Let us help you, sir.’ The policeman took out his mobile and dialed a number. The ringing of a phone could be heard from the bedroom. Mr. Vijay went to retrieve the mobile.
He came back, looking flustered. He asked, ‘How do you know my number?’
The policeman who had not spoken so far stepped forward, took the mobile from Mr. Vijay’s hand and slipped it into a plastic cover.
Mr. Vijay protested weakly, ‘Hey, what is going on?’
The policeman who did the talking asked, ‘Do you know Sreedevi Rajan, sir? A girl in your daughter’s school…?’
Mr. Vijay started to say, ‘No, I…’
His daughter interrupted, ‘Sreedevi Rajan… our school leader? Appa, we gave her a lift home last month…’
Her mother pressed the girl’s shoulder and the girl stopped, looking at her mother, and then at her father, confused.
Mrs. Vijay asked, ‘What has happened to her?’
The policeman looked at her, paused for a while, and replied, ‘She committed suicide last night.’
‘How…?’ Mrs. Vijay asked. Then, she shook her head as if to indicate that the question was irrelevant.
The policemen remained silent.
Mrs. Vijay leaned towards her daughter as if she was about to faint. Her daughter looked shocked, and held a hand to her mouth, to smother a cry or to stifle an urge to retch.
The policeman turned to Mr. Vijay and asked, ‘Where were you last night at half past seven?’
‘I was in office. My son was with me. I dropped him at the Inter-state terminal at eight before returning home. He was going back to college after a short break. So, I thought of completing some work in office.’ Mr. Vijay stopped abruptly. He was not the only one in the room who wondered why he gave such a detailed and incoherent answer.
‘Were there others in office at that time?’
‘Yes, a few… half a dozen or so in my department.’
‘Did you have your mobile with you?’
‘Yes.’ Mr. Vijay thought for a while before continuing, ‘I mean, it was with me in office… but I keep leaving it on my table while attending to work elsewhere. I misplace it all the time. I should get a pouch.’ Again, he wondered if his answers seemed elaborate.
‘Why are you interested in my mobile?’ Mr. Vijay asked.
‘Sreedevi received a call from your number at quarter to eight. It was the last call she received. We have been able to trace that call to a tower near your office. Did you call her, Mr. Vijay?
‘No, of course not…’ Mr. Vijay looked at his wife. She kept her head down. He saw his daughter looking at him. Was it shame or anger in her eyes, he could not be sure.
‘Did your son use your phone?’
‘Maybe…’ he saw his wife look up, ‘No, why should he? Maybe, one of my colleagues used the phone…’
‘We will check, Mr. Vijay. Now, please get ready and come with us, sir.’
The policeman who had remained silent till then said, ‘She was pregnant, you know. We will check that, too.’ He stared at Mr. Vijay for a long while, unblinking, as if he was waiting for his words to permeate within.    
Mr. Vijay opened his mouth, to protest or explain, but no sound came from him. He looked at his wife and daughter, at the lowered heads. They did not budge even when he followed the policemen. There were a few curious neighbors outside then. Mr. Vijay did not look back at his wife and daughter.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I was sixteen when it was found out and now – after twenty five years of protests, soul-searching, investigation and reasoning – it has been accepted.
Its discovery involved serendipity or, since that has a pleasant connotation, is it better to say that it was a result of the macabre haphazard?
In a town, mid-State and near the Western Ghats, a couple had a minor tiff about their son’s poor performance in school. The husband (a man named Raj) joked, ‘Yedi, he is definitely your child. Are you sure he is mine?’ Under normal circumstances, that would have got a sharp but amused retort. The wife (Sabina) had been suffering from excessive menstrual bleeding for more than a week. That week, she had also found her ten year old son secretly salvaging the last puff of his father’s discarded cigarette. It was probably that distress rather than the jibe which made Sabina leave the house with her son. She could not go to her parents’ place knowing that they would chase her back to her husband. She went to the nearby city, to stay with her cousin. She told the cousin and the cousin’s husband that Raj had accused her of infidelity. She left out the context. The cousin’s husband, out of chivalry or attachment, told Sabina that he would handle the matter. He informed Raj that Sabina would return to him only after a paternity test. Raj responded with, ‘Tell her to go to hell.’ But, after a week, he went to the city. The paternity test was done and that revealed that Raj was not the father of their son. You can imagine the scenes thereafter – the shock, the accusations and the breakdown. If that was depressing, what came two weeks later when the case hit the papers made the situation a lot worse, though intriguing.
The laboratory that conducted the test also discovered that Sabina was not the biological mother of their son. She tried to protest, ‘Who carried him for nine months?’ but she had to accept the fact that she had been, at best, a surrogate mother.
If only we were the religious sort and could accept some type of divine intervention. For a week or two, there was excitement about this mysterious situation, or freak show as the media called it. Then there was a lull that stretched for a month or so, and with that came a liberal dose of doubt and unhealthy curiosity. All over the state, there was a rush for such tests. Imagine the pandemonium that resulted when the tests revealed the same each time!
We dominated the airwaves, researchers came to our state and we entertained all, as celebrities or guinea pigs. There was a heated discussion about the future, if the sacrosanct family would die, whether this was the beginning of the end. We were called mutants or freaks. They expected us to have sex like rabbits, free of all constraints. Outsiders wanted us placed in quarantine. We were confused, angry, defiant and defeated. It is not as if dark parents were producing babies with blond hair and blue eyes. We were just our bloody brown selves, various shades of course, with kinky or straight hair, light or dark eyes, sharp or blunt features, tall or short, just average Joe and Jane, and we always had someone in the ‘family’ to connect such traits, and if push came to shove, we could still recognize old familial resemblances.
One of the first group of researchers discovered that even erstwhile siblings had nothing in common. Another group studied DNA across the state and came to a startling but troubling conclusion. Mind you, it took time, more than ten years. They found that we do share a history in a weird way, even though we had little in common with siblings or parents.
My friend Rajappan, the tall fair chap from the coastal area, was described as a direct Aryan descendant, possibly of one of those Hindu groups from the north that conquered and changed our Buddhist ways. My wife is supposed to be an unadulterated Indus Valley type, chased southwards and settled here. My sister is out of Africa, a Bedouin with a nomadic inclination who landed on these shores for trade, or just by mistake. My son is some guy from the East, and going by his behavior I would say he belonged to Chenghis Khan’s marauding hordes, a discard that drifted to warmer clime. I cannot boast of being anything special, always been a thoroughly screwed up blend, it seems.  The weird part is that we seem to have been born straight from some historical age of our land into the current times, skipping centuries of raping, breeding and mixing genes. It is as if that life of some yesterday, after death, decided to wander no more and chose to park its soul or DNA or whatever, here, in us. Inconvenient perhaps but not an unreasonable decision, one has to admit.
You must be wondering how we carried on after this finding. Men and women still got married. Those who remained single chose to be so uninfluenced by recent developments. Parents, if one could call them that, still looked at ‘their’ babies with wonder, or disgust, depending on the mood and that was nothing new. They took care of the kids. Those who knew how to love still loved, and those who wanted to hate or abuse did so.
What changed? Minor stuff like surnames, of course, and some grand-daddy’s tales of ancestral glory and heritage lost meaning. God survived, after all someone had to take credit or blame for the sublime or the cruel moments of chance. Religion is being reinvented around the basics, but castes and sects had to go. We are attached to our land and we would still defend it. But the boundaries are vague. The laws that sound sensible to us still apply.
We might be freaks. That’s a matter of perspective. Who is within or without the cage?

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Inequality Between Equals

On the morning after their wedding, the newly-appointed Mrs. Bhaskar woke up to the aroma of freshly ground coffee, that waft of delicious smell entering the bedroom replacing the musky odour of animal spirits, perspiration, inspiration and juvenile application. She donned a ragged housecoat and proceeded to the source of olfactory pleasure, ready to bestow her undying gratitude and loyalty to her knight in armour for a freshly-brewed cuppa.
Those new to an office usually confront revelations as soon as the auspicious right leg steps in, heady stuff that shake one’s belief in the new endeavour. Here too, Mrs. Bhaskar stopped at the kitchen door, her right leg bravely in, but with the left weakening and refusing to follow.  
The aforementioned knight seemed to have a few chinks in his armour. Though Mrs. Bhaskar enjoyed her comic strips and cartoon shows like most, she failed to appreciate it on the body of her lover. Maybe, as tattoo she would have marveled at the machismo. But a multi-coloured pyjama set with Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Garfield, Charlie Brown, Asterix and all the other popular ones on show from neck to bottoms and further to the toes had her worried, and deeply so. And that was just the tail-end of the matter. The multi-hued knight turned to face her and in his arms, she found a stuffed teddy. And she was quite sure her new Mr. Bhaskar had been talking and cooing to that.
As expected, her immediate reaction was guilt, ‘Did I have sex with him last night?’
That ‘him’ moved past her, with a faraway look in his eyes, with the teddy held tightly against his heart and a mug of steaming fragrant coffee in his right hand.
‘Good morning,’ Mrs. Bhaskar greeted him.
Mrs. Bhaskar inspected the coffee machine. She asked worriedly, ‘Isn’t there coffee for me?’
The perceptive Mrs. Bhaskar got the message. She made her own breakfast. Then, they got ready for office and departed to their respective retreats without much ado.
That night, they met again in the kitchen. Mrs. Bhaskar was glad to find her husband’s nocturnal avatar to be quite jolly, reasonably communicative, in a sober outfit and without comforting props.
Mr. Bhaskar inspected her chapathis, ‘Funny shapes…’
‘Round seemed so boring,’ she explained.
‘What’s on the stove?’ he asked.
‘Five-treasure vegetable curry,’ she replied. ‘Five vegetables in one, saves a lot of trouble and cooking gas, too.’
‘I see…’ the cautious reply. There was a pause, ‘What’s that green and black stuff?’
‘That? Hmm… must be brinjal, I guess.’
‘Why was it crawling?’ he asked.
‘It wasn’t…,’ a pause, ‘…is it?’
‘And that red one…?’
‘What red stuff? Oh that… that’s pink. Now, which vegetable was pink?’ she wondered.
Mr. Bhaskar shifted from his wife’s side. He rummaged in the fridge and, in a jiffy, prepared sandwiches. On golden toasts, he placed layers of ham, egg, lettuce, sausages, sauce, mayonnaise, cheese, crispy French fries, thin slices of tomatoes, cucumber and capsicum. The two sides of the kitchen was a contrast in style. And that later extended to the dining table too.
They sat at opposite ends, she with her oddly shaped chapathis and dubious curry, and he with a gastronomical orgy of sin and pleasure worth salivating over.
‘Bon appétit,’ he said.
‘Bah…’ she replied.
He kept his head down and took his first bite. She watched him, with a dangerous gleam in her eyes.
She let her ragged housecoat sag open. He continued with his task unperturbed. She loosened the belt, dared and bared more of a new négligée so negligent of mores.
He looked up, raised an eyebrow, and then both, clearly expressing, ‘Ah, finally you get to the point without beating around the bush.’
‘Darling, would you like some of this sandwich?’ he offered. And she hopped over to his side of the table.
As soon as the meal was over, he remarked, ‘It’s been a tiring day, no? Let’s leave the washing for the morrow…’
‘Oh yes, let’s retire,’ she said, ‘I have a blinding headache.’
‘Oh no, you don’t.’
The august audience of this note must surely not be interested in what transpired later.
It suffices to say that Mr. & Mrs. Bhaskar quickly learned the tricks of the trade. What might seem as distasteful barter was merely a coy exchange towards mutual satisfaction, always in good spirit and great cheer; well, at least, most often. Mr. Bhaskar decided that the kitchen was better off with him in charge and without his better half’s half-hearted attempts. She took over the washing of clothes. He tried to study the correct order and application of bleach, washing powder and conditioners, and the amount of scrubbing after each, but found it too complex and decided to leave that to her. His underclothes lost their brownish-yellowing wilted look and sprang to life. And he truly appreciated her ironing too. She could put in a mean crease on his toughest cotton shirts. He cleaned the house and appliances, in return. The division of labour was roughly equal. He was allowed his teddy. Once in a while, she fought for that company.
As for their professional lives, they kept it to themselves. Mild curiosity and irrelevant details were entertained. They were careful not to advise, interfere, compare or pontificate on relative comforts and merits of their respective jobs. They kept track of any absence without leave from home on either side, cautioned against neglect of home affairs, and tried hard to be together.
In the early days together, it seemed fashionable to adopt the stereotypical dislike or discomfort towards in-laws. But they dropped that act as soon as it was apparent to them that they needed their parents more than their parents needed them, especially when they started to think of having kids in the near future.
To summarize, they were equal partners in their venture.
Well, almost.
Outside, he had to be her knight. He had to suck in his belly, tighten the belt two holes too tight risking the imminent dangers of burps or farts, push out his chest, walk like a gorilla and do the full testosterone-act to display more than his fair share of balls. He protected her, and appeared always ready to lay down his life in the line of duty. And, as gratitude for that service, she walked around with an arm in his and his alone.
He was ready to display the same nature at her place of work too. Fortunately, he did not have to break any straying hands or snarl expletives along with well-placed jabs at mouths that uttered unmentionables to his wife. Her boss was a man of gentle and decent nature, so much so that his wife left him for a more challenging association. Mrs. Bhaskar’s other colleagues too displayed little interest in teasing or challenging the norms.
On the other hand, Mr. Bhaskar’s boss was the opposite of hers – a demanding, volatile and dangerous character.   
A few months into their reasonably well-settled marriage with equal opportunities, Mr. & Mrs. Bhaskar attended a party at his office.
Mr. Bhaskar’s boss managed and led the show.  Booze flowed freely and the evening was still young when his boss invited all her underlings to put up a grand show of their virility and vitality.
The exhibition began with the Wine-bottle dance’ from ‘Fiddler on the Roof. That went off, miraculously, without a scrape except for an enthusiastic mix-up of scenes which had them crying hoarsely ‘tradition… tra dee shon’ while dancing and balancing the bottle on their head. Then, Mr. Bhaskar and his boss, taking center stage, performed the passionate ‘Time of my life’ from‘Dirty Dancing’, including the flying tackle at the end. Since his boss’s vital statistics had a few inches, in mean and standard deviation, more than the petite actress in the movie, that pièce de résistance ended in a dreadful mess with them on the floor, him suffering a near-concussion. But she was back on her feet at once, still clearly expecting a lot out of him and she would not let such a trifling mishap spoil her plans. The final act of their team was ‘1234 Get onthe dance floor’ from ‘ChennaiExpress’.
After that show, Mr. Bhaskar and the other underlings slinked away to a corner avoiding the less than benevolent eyes of their spouses. Finding his shoelaces undone, he raised his leg onto a nearby step and bent over. His boss, still in great spirits, appeared in that corner with a tray of drinks for her team.
She approached Mr. Bhaskar’s bent-over figure, remarked loudly, ‘Now, isn’t that a rump worth a hiding?’ And, she spanked his bottoms, just once but loud and visible to all gathered there.
He stood to attention. Mrs. Bhaskar’s round eyes got rounder, fury nearly brimming over. The other females kept their head lowered, clearly relieved that their mate’s behind was not involved. The men were divided. Most had an expectant look towards the amused boss, evidently begging, ‘Please, me too!’ The rest, the conventional straight-laced lot, proudly turned nationalist and decided to resist a custom borrowed from a colonial past. Nothing else happened there that’s worth noting. The party continued till midnight.
On their way back home, Mrs. Bhaskar tried to console a sheepish-looking Mr. Bhaskar, ‘Oh love, how you must feel! Please do not be hard on yourself. It is not your fault.’
She continued, giving vent to anger, ‘She, that boss of yours, should be stretched on the rack, tortured with thumb screws and left to scream within an iron maiden.’
Mr. Bhaskar wondered if this was a case that illustrated hell hath no fury like a woman whatever. He remained silent. He wondered if a heart-to-heart talk was the need of the hour. He considered, should he tell his wife that it is fine for a woman to slap a man’s behind, and probably a fellow-woman’s too, even though it is deemed inappropriate for a man to do so to a man or a woman. He decided to proclaim that, in such matters, it is impossible to be equals.
Alarm bells rang within, stirring his heart, soul and lesser parts: will that tilt the balance at home?
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bhaskar had continued with her oration, and nearly reached the conclusion, ‘…you have to complain. It was clearly sexual harassment. And that too, so blatant…’
Who will believe that I was sexually harassed, Mr. Bhaskar meditated.
He responded to his wife, ‘Duh…’


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Murder Scrapbook

Woman murdered in city apartment
October 9, 2013. A woman was found murdered at the posh Lakeview apartment. An elderly citizen out for a morning walk at 5 am stumbled upon the body lying in the courtyard. He reported it to the security guards. After inspecting the scene, they contacted the police…

Brutal murder shocks Vattupuram
October 10, 2013. The brutal murder at Lakeview apartment has shocked the city. A senior police officer, who wishes to remain unnamed, has revealed that the identity of the woman remains unknown. He divulged the following details. The victim’s face is disfigured beyond recognition. The body hit the courtyard head-first. The courtyard is shared by apartment blocks D and E. The victim was thrown from a balcony overlooking the same courtyard. The body has multiple stab wounds, burn marks and other bestial injuries. The victim was tortured for many hours before death. The woman was alive but unconscious when thrown from the balcony. The post-mortem has been delayed due to some unspecified technical problems at the mortuary…

Murder of widow, homemaker and mother of two
October 10, 2013. A reliable source has revealed that the woman was a widow, homemaker and mother of two. The Lakeview residents’ association has collected clothes and money for the orphans. The president of the association announced this in front of the District Court. He also said that they would fight for justice. The association has been fighting an eviction order from the government. The Lakeview apartment complex stands on land reclaimed without proper environmental clearance after draining and filling the once-scenic Vattupuram Lake…

Chaos and ruckus at police station
October 11, 2013. Several organizations representing mothers, orphans, victims of sexual assault, unknown women, senior citizens and minorities employed in security agencies gathered at the police station to protest against the shoddy and tightlipped murder investigation. Superintendent of Police A. Kumar met the protesters to pacify them. He further enraged the gathering by stating that senior citizens and security guards had left the murder scene ‘well-trampled’. It was later learned that SMS’s and messages trending in social media had simultaneously reported that police were bringing in the murderers. The SP left the scene quickly after ordering his officers to show minor or little restraint. The highly-provoked peaceful gathering was lathi-charged viciously when they confronted police personnel bringing in a group of anti-social elements…

Police press conference reveals little
October 11, 2013. At a press conference, the police admitted that they are clueless about the identity of the murdered woman named Mritya by social media. The Senior SP B. Kumar who has taken over the investigation is following various lines of enquiry...

Security in apartments found lacking
October 12, 2013. The director of the Center for Social Studies, in an exclusive interview to this newspaper, revealed that her institute had presented a detailed study to the government six months before the gruesome murder of Mritya about the inadequate security arrangements in local communities, especially apartment complexes. Based on a survey conducted at various parts of the city, this study has found that there is only one security guard for every 2500 residents, and that the majority of these guards are above 50 years of age, sick or alcoholic, and unarmed. On the night of Mritya’s murder, there were only three security guards in the entire Lakeview apartment complex. Two have admitted to the police that they had ‘slept since it was a quiet night’. The third security guard has been absconding since the night of the murder…

CM promises full investigation
October 13, 2013. Under pressure from the media and various citizens’ groups, the Chief Minister appointed a Special Investigation Team to look into the Mritya murder case. The team will be headed by SP A. Kumar who used to be in charge of the investigation. Several students’ organizations and trade unions claiming that the CM seemed ‘insincere’ staged a protest march and clashed with police. The CM then set up a Committee chaired by the Chief Secretary and consisting of three retired judges to review the progress of the case. They will recommend if and when the case should be handed over to the CBI…

Breakthrough in Mritya murder case
October 14, 2013. The SIT has reported a major breakthrough in the Mritya murder case that has shocked Vattupuram. Sources in the police reveal that four youth are being questioned at an undisclosed location. The investigating officers seem to be guarding the identities of the suspects…

Breaking news: politicians’ sons are suspects in murder case
October 15, 2013. The SIT is questioning four youth who are sons of politicians and prominent businessmen in connection with the Mritya murder case. This newspaper was the first in suspecting that the suspects had high connections…

Politicians and businessmen involved in murder case
October 15, 2013. The four suspects in the Mritya murder case are sons of a Minister, a MLA of the main Opposition party, a liquor baron and a ‘blade’ financier…

Liquor, unruly parties and all-night orgies
October 15, 2013. The main suspect in the Mritya murder case is the son of a Minister. A resident, on condition of anonymity, has revealed that the Minister owns an apartment in D-block of the Lakeview apartments. The minister’s son and his friends frequently party there, at times even thrice a week. Complaints lodged with the residents’ association fell on deaf ears. The resident recalls with horror an incident that occurred just two weeks before the night Mritya was killed. Couple of residents had got together to protest about the all-night liquor parties and orgies. The minister’s son and his friends had roughed up the residents that night and later on more than one occasion threatened more severe action…

CM and Opposition accused of shielding culprits
October 16, 2013. The city witnessed several protest marches by various organizations. There were skirmishes between the protesters and groups associated with the main political parties. The police chose to remain as mere spectators, or when engaged, seemed to support political groups in suppressing public protests. The People for Mritya Group accused the Chief Minister and main political parties of shielding the culprits…

SIT arrests infamous four
October 17, 2013. In a surprising development late last night, the police arrested the four youth suspected of brutally murdering Mritya. They were released immediately when their lawyer presented an anticipatory bail order. They continued to party with their parents at the residence of the liquor baron…

Victim a loose character, says lawyer
October 17, 2013. The lawyer representing the four youth arrested in the Mritya murder case told media personnel that the post-mortem results had shown that the victim was a ‘loose character’…

Public protests against vilification of victim
October 17, 2013. There were sporadic incidents of violence in the city. Public outraged by the blackening of the victim’s character surrounded the residence of the defense lawyer in the Mritya murder case. The protestors attacked his car and threw black paint at the lawyer’s car. The lawyer was admitted to a nearby clinic, complaining of chest pain. He claims that he was ‘misquoted’ and that he had described the victim as a ‘lost character’. When asked how the post-mortem revealed that, the lawyer refused to comment…

Minister comes clean on murder case
October 17, 2013. The Minister, whose son is an accused in the Mritya murder case, in an exclusive interview with this newspaper’s editor admits that his son is ‘young and little wild like I am (sic)’ and that ‘his friends not he like to party’.  The Minister also divulged that ‘the kids play music late night’, ‘sex suggesting music neighbors misunderstand as aaru jee (sic)’. The Minister claims ‘my son little boy like a virgin like I am (sic)’…

Right takes on left and center
October 18, 2013. The official magazine of the right-wing political party accused the main left-leaning and center-balancing political parties of joining forces in hoodwinking the public and murdering innocent women. The article claims that the two leading fronts had left a ‘moral vacuum’ after decades of misrule. Following the publication of this article, several offices of the right-wing party were attacked by unknown assailants. The office of a magazine with a similar name was also attacked…

Hartal in city
October 19, 2013. The state today observed a peaceful hartal from dawn till disk. Several transport buses and buildings were destroyed. Tourists were spared but office-goers were chased home. Political parties of the right, left and center had called the hartal for various reasons. The Chief Minister announced that the State Exchequer had lost ‘hundreds of crores of rupees’. He has requested the Center for special status for the state and requested the PM to release relief fund to compensate daily-wage workers affected by frequent hartals…

Two migrant workers held for questioning
October 20, 2013. In a surprising but expected move, the police today took two migrant workers into custody in connection with the Mritya murder case…

Sporadic violence in various parts of the city
October 21, 2013. Following the arrest of two migrant workers, the city witnessed several incidents of mild violence. A mother chased her drunkard husband through the streets. She was followed by a group of migrant workers who was chased by locals. The police followed the various groups and tried to maintain law and order…

Fall guys for the fallen
October 22, 2013. The State Human Rights Commission, relying on the editorial and investigation of this newspaper, today castigated the Government for not doing enough for the migrant workers in the State apart from blaming them for all crimes. They expressed strong displeasure about the State machinery heaping only abuse and no praise on the tired heads of the hardworking lot. The Commissioner suggested that the government should follow the example of Texas in utilizing illegal migrants for low-end manual labor and freeing locals for intellectual pursuits. When this newspaper contacted the Home Minister for a response, he refused to comment apart from asking, ‘Who is Texas to teach us?’…

Accused commits suicide
October 23, 2013. A migrant worker was found dead in a pond near an abandoned quarry. The police are treating it as suicide. This migrant worker was recently questioned by the police in connection with the Mritya murder case and later released following an enquiry by the Human Rights Commission…

Brutal assault or swimming accident
October 23, 2013. Police claim that the post-mortem revealed that the migrant worker had died due to drowning in the pond. Locals familiar with the quarry say that only the dead can drown in the few feet of water in the pond. One of the locals who discovered the body revealed that the body had ‘terrible wounds below’...

Actor and director’s wife on CCTV near murder scene
October 24, 2013. In a surprising turn of events, a video that has gone viral on the internet shows a popular actor and an aspiring film-director’s wife in close embrace near the Mritya murder scene on the night of the murder. Police are trying to trace the source of the video. They admit that it was from CCTV footage in the Lakeview apartment complex. When probed why the police had not investigated the same CCTV footage, they refused to comment. Meanwhile, the popular actor told the media at his residence that he was in Dubai on that date. The film-director or his wife did not answer our many phone-calls or e-mails…

Friendly visit or swapping party
October 24, 2013. In a late-night chat show, the popular actor involved in the Mritya murder case changed his earlier statement. He said that he had been in Dubai and came to the city for the housewarming ceremony at the director’s house. His new statement did not throw any light on why he was kissing the director’s wife late at night when the housewarming ceremony was in the morning. The actor also said that he would be suing a British tabloid for suggesting that he had come for a wife-swapping party rather than a housewarming ceremony…

Upper-class prostitution racket busted
October 25, 2013. The police conducted surprise raids at various clubs and hotels in the city. In a hastily called press conference late last night, the police claimed that they had busted an upper-class prostitution racket. They refused to link this with the recent developments in the Mritya murder case…

Man claims to be husband of murdered woman
October 27, 2013. A man claiming to be the husband of Mritya today reported at the office of the Commissioner of Police. Two orphans in a city poor home were taken to the office of the Commissioner of Police. The man who claims to be Mritya’s husband also claims to be the father of these two kids. Various social groups extended their support to the bereaved lot…

Man and kids leave police red-faced
October 28, 2013. The man and kids who claimed to be Mritya’s kin disappeared from the Commissioner’s office with the numerous gifts in cash and kind, including the Commissioner’s wallet. It was later revealed that the three who left the police red-faced is part of an inter-state conning gang…

Cover-ups, bungled investigation and delayed justice
October 29, 2013. The city witnessed various protests by political and social organizations protesting against the mishandling of the Mritya murder case by the police. The leader of the Opposition told a large gathering that the Chief Minister and the Home Minister should accept moral responsibility for the failure to solve the case and resign immediately…

Media lauded for service to society
October 30, 2013. The Chief Minister heaped praise on the media for reporting the Mritya murder case accurately. Awards were distributed at a grand ceremony. This newspaper received three out of the five awards. There was a brief skirmish at the award ceremony between media personnel. A disgruntled group of journalists shouted slogans that the government was trying to bribe the media into silence…

Police admit, we are clueless
October 30, 2013. At a press conference, the Commissioner admitted that the police are clueless about the Mritya murder case. He also stated that he is going on a brief pilgrimage to pray for new leads…

Honest policeman removed from case
October 31, 2013. The lead investigator of the SIT has been removed from the Mritya case. There have been rumors about this sacrifice ever since this honest policeman arrested the son of a Minister in connection with the murder case…

Witnesses allege harassment
November 2, 2013. In an exclusive interview to this newspaper, witnesses in the Mritya case report that they have been harassed by the police and various groups with vested interests to change their statements against various suspects…

Headless police makes bottomless case
November 2, 2013. The police refused to comment on the alleged harassment of witnesses in the Mritya murder case. Our repeated attempts to discover the new head of the investigation team met with no response…

Police claim major breakthrough in Mritya case
November 14, 2013. The police finally had to depend on a rag-picker to find what they claim to be crucial evidence in cracking a case that was nearly buried and forgotten. They are not divulging any details…

Garbage a mixed blessing, minister lauded
November 15, 2013. The Chief Minister announced a reward to the rag-picker who found the latest piece of evidence about which the police remains tightlipped. A well-placed source in the police divulged that the evidence was discovered in the garbage heap that had been piling up around the Lakeview Apartments. Our investigative journalists discovered that the incinerator within the apartment complex has not been functioning well for the last six months and that the housing society has been frequently dumping most of their waste in the open area around the apartment complex. At a public function in the city felicitating the Urban Development Minister for not doing anything about a garbage treatment plant for more than two years, the Minister said that ‘garbage is a mixed blessing’ and urged the people of the city to understand…

Police reveal bloodied underwear
November 16, 2013. At a press conference, the reinstated head of SIT revealed that they had recovered underwear believed to be that of Mritya with the help of a rag-picker. He also said that the police are confident about getting more information from this piece of evidence even though it has been under a mound of garbage for more than a month. He explained to the gathering of press personnel that the evidence was found in a plastic disposal bag and the killers had made the mistake of discarding torn bills and envelopes with their name in the same bag. The editor of this newspaper asked the head of SIT if those items could be connected. The editor pointed out that citizens of the city usually try to camouflage their own garbage and dump their junk along with another’s in a neighbor’s or stranger’s garbage bag. The policeman refused to reply to the question and asked the media not to hinder their investigations with useless speculation…

Errata in ‘Police reveal bloodied underwear’
November 17, 2013. The Editorial board and management of this newspaper would like to point out to its kind and loyal readers that the editor did not raise any question to the head of SIT which the latter could not reply. Yesterday’s issue erroneously mentioned otherwise…

Water shortage contaminates crucial evidence at forensic lab
November 18, 2013. In a setback to the investigation of the Mritya murder case, the crucial evidence was further contaminated in the forensic lab due to an acute water shortage that has crippled the city since yesterday as a result of multiple pipe-bursts. Several students’ groups affiliated to the main opposition political parties staged a dharna in front of the forensic lab and demanded a thorough investigation. They also attacked the Director’s car and punctured all tires. The State Forensic and Mortuary Workers union has called an indefinite strike to protest. Common people eager to bury or cremate their dead without prolonged decay submitted a petition to the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister’s office released a press notice stating that the committee of retired judges chaired by the Chief Secretary reviewing the progress of the Mritya case will also investigate whether the multiple pipe-bursts and contamination of evidence at the forensic lab is an act of sabotage…

Arrest imminent, police confident
November 21, 2013. Despite the recent setbacks, the police expressed their confidence in bringing the Mritya murder case to its rightful conclusion and that an arrest is imminent. The head of SIT refused to reveal further details other than to smugly say that they are ‘tying up loose ends’…

Childless couple taken into custody
November 22, 2013. In a late-night development, the police arrested a childless couple at the city railway station. The police confirmed to our journalist who witnessed the police operation that they are residents of Lakeview Apartments and that the couple were trying to escape from the city following last night’s announcement of an imminent arrest. In an exclusive video coverage of the operation, the couple appears to be in shock. They protest their innocence and claim to be on their way to Madurai to pray for a child…

City shocked
November 23, 2013. The city has been shocked by the recent developments in the Mritya murder case. There were sporadic incidents of violence and outrage. Several religious and social organizations have opened up counseling centers to help citizens come to terms with the crime. An apolitical middle-class housewife summed up the shock succinctly, ‘It is someone like us.’

City claims Number 1 serial couple
November 24, 2013.  Just a day after the shock, the city has shown amazing resilience, grit and determination to embrace its new-found horrific status. The police have been examining the couple’s apartment in Block E of Lakeview Apartments. The head of SIT told the press that they have discovered a diary with detailed description of various locations in the city. The police have linked these locations with a series of unsolved murders that occurred in the city in the last few years. There was a minor altercation when the editor of this newspaper asked the policeman whether any set of locations in the city could not be linked to unsolved murders…

Television shows and magazines line up in jail
November 25, 2013.  The media and the public have been gathering in large numbers around jails and police stations rumored to be the place of incarceration of the serial killers. Traffic police personnel have been relocated to these centers leaving the rest of the city in a state of chaos. Jail authorities have suspended their sale of prison-made chapathi and chilly chicken to concentrate on the security at the various jails. This has inconvenienced and irked their many customers at Government hospitals and offices…

Mother of all reality shows
November 25, 2013.  A TV channel has started a show that claims to be the mother of all reality shows. They have gathered friends and relatives of the serial-killer couple and locked them in a house with a large number of people from various strata of society. The producer of the show has announced a huge reward to the participants if a murder or serious injury does not occur…

Couple refuses to take lie-detector test
November 26, 2013.  In an unsurprising development, the couple refused to take the polygraph and narco-analysis tests. The couple claims that their religious faith does not allow such man-made measures to decide their innocence or guilt…

Tourists throng for scenic murder walking tour
November 30, 2013.  The tourist season in the city has started with a bang with foreigners and visitors from all over the country wanting to revisit the various murder sites of the city. The Minister of Tourism today announced deluxe and ultra-deluxe walking-tours include a scenic journey, sumptuous meals and juicy recreation of gruesome murders…

Sexual depravity
December 3, 2013.  The Literature Festival opened in the city today. Leading writers, poets and thinkers lamented about the sexual depravity amongst the middle-classes and stressed that their future work should focus on such issues. At one of the functions, a prize-winning writer was accused of sexually assaulting a young waiter. Various protest groups are waiting to know the sexual identity of the writer and the waiter to launch appropriate protests and denials…

Court orders polygraph
December 5, 2013.  A trial court today ordered the couple to take the polygraph test…

Insinuations of cover-up denounced
December 7, 2013.  The Editor of this paper has been removed from the post with immediate effect. In a recent editorial, he had reduced the horrific Mritya murder case to a major cover-up and on various occasions, raised unnecessary doubts about the conclusions of the SIT team investigating the murder. The Code of Ethics of this paper does not allow such subjective presentation of sensitive and polarizing issues…

Couple have alibi
December 10, 2013.  The defense lawyer appearing for the accused couple today told the media that his clients are scapegoats and that they have an alibi to prove that they could not have committed the murder of Mritya. When contacted, the head of the SIT retorted that ‘only murderers have alibi’. He later retracted that statement claiming that he could be misunderstood…

Couple passes test, police fail
December 12, 2013.  The police submitted the confidential report of the polygraph and narco-analysis tests to the court. The media were informed of the contents of the report almost simultaneously through SMS’s from an undisclosed mobile phone. Police are investigating the source of the leak. The clearly sore informant has earned the sobriquet Sore Throat. The report gives a clean chit to the serial killer couple. They passed all the tests without reasonable doubt. A Cabinet minister and a prominent politician of the Opposition noted together that ‘the police should have tried harder with the lies and tests’…

Couple released, security for judge
December 14, 2013.  The alleged serial killers were released from custody at an unnamed location today. The judge noted that the prosecution had not presented the case in a convincing manner. The judge had harsh words for the police pointing out the contamination of key evidence and lack of application with their inability to place even one fingerprint of the victim at the residence of the alleged killers or even the fingerprints of the killers on their own diary. The court premises witnessed sporadic incidents of violence. Several members of the Bar association and notorious criminals present at the location joined hands in stoning the judge’s chambers. The Home Minister has ordered the police to give only adequate security to the judge who failed to understand the feelings of the masses...

Truth prevailed, lawyer lies
December 15, 2013.  The defense lawyer who represented the alleged serial killers was chased by a mob when he needlessly provoked them with his words ‘truth prevailed’…

Mob attacks couple, police mute spectators
December 17, 2013.  In a surprising turn of events, the media were informed of the location of the alleged serial killers by the informant known as Sore Throat. The couple was brutally attacked by a large mob enraged by faithful news reports. The media once again proved that they and only they can give the masses the justice they desire. Battalions of police and Central security forces were rushed to the location but they refused to act against their own till the couple seemed soundly thrashed…

Chief Minister says that he is with the people
December 18, 2013.  The Chief Minister at a special session of the Assembly voiced the collective conscience of the society. He along with the leader of the Opposition released a joint statement stating that ‘they are with the people’ and if required, ‘they are ready to stand up against the judiciary which fails to understand the needs of the times’…

Husband in coma, wife puts full stop
December 21, 2013.  The alleged serial killers involved in the Mritya murder case remain in a critical condition. The husband continues to be in coma while the wife regained consciousness briefly. She confessed to the police about the couple’s many murders. The police told the media that she had begged for forgiveness and closure…

Woman succumbs to injuries, husband rises from the grave to reject wife’s words
December 25, 2013.  Christmas this year witnessed another surprising turn of events in the Mritya murder case. Today, one of the alleged killers succumbed to her injuries. While the wife passed to hell, the husband rose from coma with renewed vigor. The police claim that he rejected his wife’s confession belligerently and still claimed to be innocent…

Serial killer dies, hospital and police claim it is natural
December 26, 2013.  In a fitting twist to the Mritya murder case, the surviving serial killer died in hospital. The attending doctors claim that he had shown remarkable vital signs just an hour earlier when he claimed to be innocent. The hospital authorities and the police later confirmed to the media that the man had died of a perfectly natural cardiac arrest…

Public healthcare or public slaughterhouse
December 28, 2013.  A journalist who was removed from the Editorial post of this paper today invited trouble by posting a personal blog in which he asks if the government is running public healthcare or a public slaughterhouse. A prominent intellectual in the city questioned the wisdom of the journalist and implored the government to arrest the journalist for sedition or at least for being a public nuisance…

Mritya cremated, ministers and MLAs clash
December 30, 2013.  The body of the woman known as Mritya was today released to be cremated with full State honors. Ministers and MLAs clashed amiably at the crematorium for prime positions during photo-sessions…

Who is Mritya?
December 31, 2013.  Today, a foreign tabloid carried an article on the Mritya murder case. It is written by the journalist who is in hiding since he wrote a recent inflammatory blog. Though there is nothing new in the article, the journalist raises three questions which should trouble us as we welcome the New Year. One, who was Mritya? Two, was the real killer caught? Three, why did Sore Throat facilitate the extermination of the couple accused of the crime?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tough Season

The New Year season is usually great for business but this year, it has been tough. Trouble is not from outside, demand has hit an all-time record, but from within.
My main partner has gone dry. Before, all it took was a whiff of country liquor for him to gather his cronies and put in a hard day’s work. This year, he has taken a resolution. As if that was not enough, his long-suffering wife has changed her opinion of him and decided to love him a little. Only a person who has ‘found’ God can be worse than an alcoholic turned teetotaler with a woman to love. I have asked him to go on leave. His sermons are that insufferable.
Another partner, the loan-sardine, has decided to be debt-free. A week is over and he has not finished his salary. In the good days, it rarely lasted a day and he lived on loans, taking one to feed another. And, he and his ilk worked hard for free, or rather, paying off the interest I charged them.
Then, there is my man to handle the women’s group. He is into his fourth marriage and sixth extra-marital affair. I have stopped wondering how he manages this, without losing a buck in alimony or gifts; in fact, well-fed, well-taken care of and even well-funded by his harem. Whenever I wanted a large gathering of women, he never disappointed me. But, this New Year, he says that ‘even a womanizer has to have ethics’. He is acting real stuffy about using his women connections.
As if these resolutions were not enough, my youth-wing partner hammered the final nail into my coffin. I want to study and work, he says. Come on, man, can’t you see that this is your time, I advice like a father with a prodigal son. Guys and gals with half of your wit are becoming leaders, even ministers, I tell him. That does not budge him, hardly. I want to study and work, he repeats, so do my friends. If I had a hammer in hand, I would have socked him.
Till a few years back, I was in the business of creating USP’s for groups. But then, that went out of fashion. When all are crying ‘corruption’, how creative can I be?
I turned away from creativity and moved into mass-production, that is, event management. I managed small meetings at first. Nouveau-riche who wanted a group of cultured suave set of relatives at their weddings came to me. Religious groups with dwindling flock asked me to fill the rows at prayer meetings, to give the faithful company. Then, the big fish came to me. And, my partners brought their crowd.
It is not a new idea. It used to be easy till the eighties and even nineties. If those times lasted, I could have managed with just the daily wage of Rs 250 or so, plus a plate of chicken biriyani, and a bonus once in a while of a movie or a bottle of liquor or easy loan. But now, with cameras everywhere, I have to invest in disguises and training. My alcoholic-turned-evangelist partner used to be great. In the mornings, he used to lead a rough set of revolutionaries, still bleary-eyed, stinking of liquor and puke, snarling to beat a raging hangover. By afternoon, freshly-bathed, shaved, he and his kind turned into common middle-class much-aggrieved protestors or abusive sanctimonious moral bull-dogs. By evening, with the first mugs and chasers downed, he and his army filled the ranks of soft, fattened good-for-nothings out to have a good time. In a single day, he used to be interviewed by the same news reporters at three or four rallies, and not even once did he get the ideology wrong at the wrong place at the wrong time.
 I am hoping that this is a temporary glitch. After all, for how long can people stick to idiotic resolutions? I will just have to wait for my partners to turn the old leaf, and the new order shall change yielding place to old. After all, there’s plenty of money to be made in the next few months.