Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nutty Ways

Inspector Shokie was not surprised when she was informed of the untimely death at Dubai Mansion; but, she had expected Rajan, the house-owner, to be a suspect rather than the victim. The postmortem revealed that he had died of fatal food-related anaphylaxis (in this case, the victim’s allergy to peanuts) but that and a search of the premises yielded little else to bolster Shokie’s suspicions that peanuts, as nuts or oil or butter, had been surreptitiously introduced in the victim’s diet by a malicious hand. The police released the body to the family. Shokie followed the mourners and hung around the victim’s property while the cremation was being readied. The family and the villagers expressed their displeasure at her intrusion with thinly-veiled opprobrious remarks.
Shokie had earned the resentment of the villagers in two other deaths, or rather, murder cases: a son had drowned his infirm father in the river; and, a daughter and son-in-law had facilitated the hanging of an old woman. The rustic lot had viewed Shokie’s investigations and the incarceration of their peers as unnecessary meddling in their affairs, reeking of an outsider’s insensitivity towards their ways.
Rajan was a good man, Shokie heard the villagers opine unanimously. She had a thick file on the man and understood their sentiments. He had contributed well to the temple, offered free drinks to the needy and donated his old PC to the village school. At thirty, with new-found eligibility based on some job in Dubai, he had married a cousin and fathered four in as many visits in as many years. At forty four, his wife died of a violent peanut allergy and he inherited her substantial personal wealth. He returned from Dubai when he was fifty, then a respectable self-made nouveau riche. He married another cousin and doted on a step-daughter. The second wife died of the same hereditary cause. The step-daughter was a minor and Rajan managed the entire inheritance. The wives died before Shokie’s posting at the village. It was while going through the old files on those deaths that the niggling worry of a third death in Rajan’s residence had started to trouble her.
Shokie stood away from the crowd during the final rites. A few wailed, most managed to look glum, some seemed as if they carried the whole burden; one or two gave directions to half a dozen or so: how to bathe, how to carry the corpse, how to place the dead, how to pay one’s final respects and who should head the queue. The setting up of the funeral pyre in the compound had been outsourced to a private firm. The corpse was carried to the pyre, covered with firewood and coconut husk. A son and a nephew marched around the pyre. The call came then.
From within the pyre, a mobile phone’s ringtone took the crowd by surprise. The ringtone was quite apt, the theme music of the movie ‘One Missed Call’. The crowd gave a mixed reception: some clucked their disapproval; some shook their head in tune or with reluctant smiles. Shokie stepped forward, ordered the pyre to be dismantled and the corpse to be disturbed. The search yielded a smart-phone from within the folds of the shroud.
The incoming call had been from a telemarketing company. What Shokie discovered in a folder of photos confirmed her earlier suspicions.
Shokie asked, ‘Where is the step-daughter?’
The girls and ladies who had stayed away from the pyre as per custom had drifted towards the site by then, beckoned by the call from the nether world. A girl of sixteen stepped forward. She looked nervous but not unduly distressed.
‘Is this your step-father’s phone?’ Shokie asked the girl.
‘Did you put this within the shroud?’
‘Yes,’ the girl admitted.
‘It used to be with him all the time,’ the step-daughter replied.
Shokie nodded. She switched off the smart-phone, handed it over to the men in charge of the pyre. She stood near the pyre while the phone, with the photos of the step-daughter in various states of undress quite clearly taken without her consent, and its owner were consumed by the cleansing fire.


  1. Hello Arjun,

    Guess I am late here... Its a very good story about the abuse and sufferings, especially by those people who put a show to the outside world as noble men... sad that such people still and will always exist in the society and deserve a peanut allergy...

    Funny name for the protagonist.. of course I remember her.. she is reoccurring!!! but wasn't she a consultant then...!!
    I was expecting a subtle twist tough!!

    There were few things I am having doubts with..

    How come every one in the family is allergic to peanuts??? it could be some stuff he purchased from Dubai for the task... have to admit that, it did add to the funny element in the story of the saying 'Vaal yedutthavan vaalal' :)

    Also I was wondering how come the phone reached there... pardon me... but if the body underwent postmortem and there were so many people involved in the cleaning/washing etc of the body.. the minors are never let near it.. could be assumed that she placed it there in middle of some confusion.. but still...

    Thank you...


    1. Ahoy KP,

      Thanks a lot for reading this.

      Ok, I am not going to answer the thorough questions... Hahaha... hey, this is just time-pass writing... I was trying to fit in a murder story in less than 700 words. Next one is 250 words! And I expect readers to do most of the work... :-))))

      As for the phone, she must have told the elder dressing the body that wants to keep the phone in the folds of his mundu... or the sixteen year old must have tried the usual wailing and such to distract people while slipping it in. :-)))))))))) Put yourself in those shoes, how would you have managed to discard the phone along with the body in the pyre? :-)))

      As for the fatal peanut allergy, I think it can be hereditary. Here, that was used to murder.

      Chalo... thx once again

      ps. Shokie's full name is Sherlie Kockier - it contains Sherlock! :-)))

      pps. I couldn't twist myself in 700 words! Hahaha... And yes, you are very late here! :-))))))) Somehow, I have to drag people here...and it took time...:-)))

    2. Hello Arjun,

      Ah so I just get to think more huh??

      Oh yes.. I forgot that he married his cousins so ya hereditary...!!! As of Shokie... I remember reading her in another story about a heroine's suicide...


    3. Thanks a lot, KP...

      Shokie has come only in one more story, I think... I kind of like her. :-)))