Monday, September 09, 2013

Chasing the ghosts in broad daylight..

This post is in response to BlogAdda's WOW(Write Over Weekend) prompt: Write a post including the word "Salaam" and "Namaste", though I was a bit late and probably not eligible for entering :-)

The cacophony in the street was unbearable. There were swarms of people everywhere. This was the only section of the city he hadn't been to since he moved in 15 years ago. The places were unfamiliar and thickly packed with people, thronging the various roadside vendors. He was sweating profusely, and it wasn't from the unfamiliarity, the crowd or even the sweltering heat of summer.

In the last 15 years he had grown fond of this bustling city and believed that even though the city might throw new things his way once in a while, there would be none that could take his breath away. He knew his city and commented sharply on journos who hollered away on their columns. Some people get their daily dash of ecstasy by making up stories of horror and spoiling other's morning, that was his take.

But his mind kept wandering off to the incidents of the past few hours. The phone call, the adrenaline rush of dashing down the 10 storey building through the lunch time crowd, and the ensuing dragging cab ride through the thick traffic. God, he was getting tensed. Not that he believed what he heard from the source on the other side of the receiver, but he had to see for himself and prove that it probably was another paranoid informer jumping the gun with his own delusions. These days, people seem to be having delusions every other day. "Sinful ways, that is causing these maladies of the head to even good folks." - he found himself repeating his father's favourite lines.

Charan worked for the government alright, but with no particular title that he could claim. He held VIP privileges and protocol placed him at a comfortable position in the hierarchy and gave him authority over the city police force and local government bodies. He enjoyed his duties and went about 'making sure' nothing spoiled his clear view of the city, both from his 10th storey office near the Central and from the various dailies he scanned every morning. He thought of himself as the protector of the city, often jokingly referring to himself as Batman or Superman without an affinity to the dark or a misplaced sense of dressing.

But that day, he was sweating profusely and fighting through a mad crowd that was trying to grab anything and everything that was for sale, thanks to the festivities that were set to commence in a day. If the tip-off he received was even remotely true, a lot of heads will roll and as he couldn't trust any one else with this matter, he himself came all the way out here.He glanced at his brand new Rolex watch and scowled, noticing that he would probably be too late if he didn't push through soon enough.

He didn't have much sense of where he should be headed, but from a brief glance at the outdated map in his office, he know there was a large junkyard at the other end of the market and he knew that would be the place. As he made his way through the crowd, he sensed many eyes watching him. Though he doesn't wear a uniform, he consciously makes efforts to hide his police persona whenever he heads out into public areas such as this. That day was different and he wondered if he had any tell-tale signs on him. But even if there were any, he didn't have much time or choice.

He felt the crowd lessening and he had more space to move around and he headed straight to the tea shop ahead to catch a breath and survey the junkyard, now in sight. The owner was an aging Muslim man who greeted him in, recognizing him as a stranger and probably as someone from the Government. "Asalaam alaykum" - he muttered . Charan returned a curt "Wa alaykumu salam" and gestured for a cup of tea and pulled out his handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his face.  As he stood there taking a sip and surveying the junkyard area, a boy limped his way to him with extended arms. "Namaste saab, aap ko dekhke lagta hain kaam pe aayo ho. Is bechare pe thoda raham kijiye, aur aapka kaam ho jayega(Greetings sir, you look like a person here on business. Please show some mercy on this poor boy and your job would get done)". Charan was thrown out of his thoughts by that. He was suddenly nervous seeing the boy return a toothless grin. He quickly paid for the tea and walked towards the junkyard gates with one arm on the holster hidden inside his jacket. Something stunk somewhere...

The arrival of Dhinakar Jagadish, the local favourite to win the elections was probably just coincidence. He never travels without an army of supporters who shout slogans and play loud songs and announcements praising their godfather. The entire market turned into a larger ocean of people as his motorcade blocked the main roads and the loudspeakers started bellowing. There were several voluptous dancers piling out of the tempos. The celebrations were expected to go late into night and none of the newspapers the next day would even mention it.

Later that day the same limping boy sat by his mother as she cooked some meals from whatever they collected that day. He stared at her face smeared with dust crusted into mud by her tears and sweat. It hurt him to watch her suffer every day at the hands of the many men who ran the market. Asif chacha who ran the tea shop always told him that the junkyard was a lucky charm and it had changed the lives of many in the slums. That encouraged him to hang out around it all day long. He wondered about the stout man who visited Asif chacha's shop in the afternoon. Probably someone from the Police. "They always come like that"- he remembered the advices from Asif chacha. "But times are going to change for us too", he muttered to himself. His eyes gleamed in the light from the chulha as he eyed his prize collection of the day, a brand new Rolex watch with just a minor scratch and a dash of red on it.  Asif chacha was right. But the bounty was the revolver he managed to hide in the junkyard.

He shivered when he thought of it... but was soon drifting into sleep dreaming of a new life that would begin the next day..

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