This is yet another story from my Hindi short story collections "Virasat". I have chosen to translate it for those who would like to read it in English. As for posting the original story in Hindi I'll do that but after some time. Happy reading.
There was no end to
Mr Ashwini Shrivastava’s trail of predicaments. Being the police commissioner
of the city, it was his responsibility to nab all the criminals in action and
bring them to justice so that the city remained a safe place for its
inhabitants. He was striving hard to live up to the genuine expectations of the
public. Even though he was always on his toes, the newsmongers of the city
sniffing every corner for grabbing sensational gossips had long started raising
doubts on the sincerity of the police, ‘Look, if the police are so very casual
in handling a crime committed before the bungalow of a central minister, then
what’s going to happen to the common citizens?’
In fact, the
episode started with a wisp of smoke curling out of a letterbox in the morning
of that fateful day. And the worthy letterbox was installed in front of the
bungalow of the minister Mr Vindeshwari Yadav. It was only for five small
minutes that the smoke billowed out of the box—or maybe it was for ten minutes
at the maximum—but that was sufficient to bring Ashwini Shrivastava a brand new
sack of problems. When he discovered the thin wisp of smoke from the letterbox,
the Hon’ble Minister was sauntering about in front of his bungalow and planning
to defeat the vicious plans of his political rivals. Suddenly, his attention
was riveted by something unusual in the letter box. ‘What! There’s smoke in a
letterbox!’ the minister was out of his wits. It was sufficient to terrify him.
"God! There could be something sinister about it. The modus operandi of
crime is changing every day. Maybe it’s an act of a terrorist—who can deny
that? Maybe it’s a contrivance of a foreign power to spread terror in the
country.” It hardly mattered who had committed the crime; it was undoubtedly a
kind of warning to the government. So he must uncover the conspiracy, and he must
do that immediately.
The fire tenders
were pressed into service—not one, nor two, but the three of them. The contingent was competent enough to tackle a smouldering
letterbox. Police dogs also arrived within half an hour only. Now, men, animals
and machines were ready to strive their best. Would not they exert themselves,
now that the task was no smaller than extinguishing fire in the letterbox installed
in front of the house of a minister?
Well, it so
happened, there was no need for anybody to do anything, because the fire died
out on its own. The firemen generously sprinkled water not on the letterbox but
on a peepul tree standing nearby. Funnily the sniffer dogs brought by the
police went round and round the letter box. But they did not do anything more
than that as a street dog would have done to the letterbox under the situation.
And finally everyone went away.
appeared the case would be solved without any hassle. But that was not to happen.
Around twelve o’clock noon a barrage of phone calls started coming to the
police commissioner from the minister’s office. The minister desired to know
whether or not the offenders were traced; whether by then any action was
initiated against people responsible or not, whether the case was assigned to the
country's intelligence agency or not; and so on and so forth.
When pressure on the police
started building up, the commissioner Mr Srivastava resolved to go ahead rather
effectively. He called a meeting of his subordinate officers and became very
critical of their attitude of casualness. He even reprimanded all concerned so
that the seriousness of the matter actually sank in. Then he gave an order to
suspend the SHO of the area. Poor SHO! Howsoever did he implore and whatever
explanation did he put forth, there was none to listen to him.
his deputy commissioner Ashwini Shrivastava said, “Mr Amarnath, get ready this
instant. You’re given just one day to inquire. If you can solve it, it’s good
for everyone…and if you fail, well, it’s going to bring calamity on both of us.
You may also be transferred…along with me. Go and do something immediately."
Mr Amarnath Singh took it as a challenge. Why should he dither at all? Had he
not got the experience of solving many such cases, more complicated than this?
During his twenty years of service, he had won police medals on three
occasions. Those medals meant a lot to him. Once he nabbed a ferocious robber even
exposing him to great risk. Now Mr Amarnath Singh would have to do something – befitting
to his reputation, for the sake of his senior, and for the honour of the police
He began his
investigation as a policeman should do. The Department of Posts assured him of full
cooperation. First of all he paid a spot visit to examine the affected letterbox.
And the inspector of post office also reached there around the same time. The
letterbox was opened front of both the officers. It was found that not all the
letters had been charred. More than half
of them were saved, and they were retrieved along with the ashes of those
charred letters. It appeared as though the letters got singed waiting
infinitely for the lovesome touch of dainty palms! Mr Amarnath Singh began to examine
them one by one. Is there any trace of a letter bomb? The minister must be on
the hit list. Not for nothing he was in jitters. But where was wire? And where
was the chemical odour of the explosives? Amarnath Singh took a pinch of ash
and started sniffing even though the sniff dogs had given a clean chit. He
cogitated on another possibility. It was possible that the mischief was the
handiwork of a drug peddler. As he was aware, there was an undercurrent of
competition among those duffers. Maybe, they were using the postal channel to supply
drugs to the addicts, and maybe out of vengeance, one of them had burnt the
letters stuffed with the substance so as to destroy other’s consignment. Amarnath
Singh would not have considered the possibility, had he not spotted a stub of
cigarette among those singed letters. He then sniffed and tasted the ash but
found nothing to buttress his theory. So he decided not to go ahead with the
Would a small piece
of half-burnt cigarette be able to describe the whole incident? Would he be
able to finally satisfy his commissioner…as well as the honourable minister? Why
would a terrorist use such a thing as a cigarette to attack a minister? And, why
would a common criminal target a minister?
A list of rogues was
available in the police station, and Amarnath Singh examined it while he pored
over all their photographs pasted on the gallery. Mottu Yadav was in the list
of pickpockets and the luggage snatchers; Mulia Hansada had undergone two terms
of jail on being convicted for the crime of theft. Mehboob Khan was booked for
looting railway carriage whereas Mangat Singh was made a career in fraud. Information
was also available in the police station about a few other types of crimes and
their perpetrators and Amarnath Singh cogitated on that too. But finally he
failed to pinpoint anybody who was known for the crime of setting fire to a
letterbox. So he began to realize that the case would remain unsolved. Now what
precious little should he do? How would he face Commissioner Mr Ashwini
Once again Amarnath Singh visited the
spot. Standing there he looked around but could not find anything of his
interest. It was already two o'clock in the afternoon. So far he had not taken
his lunch and his stomach had begun rumbling. No sooner did he remember about
his delayed lunch than a man came to his notice at a distance…and it was as fortuitous
as that. The fellow was sitting under a
tree by the side of the road and contentedly eating something from a leaf-plate.
A dog, too, was sitting nearby. While the fellow was taking his grub, he threw
something in front of the dog from time to time.
An idea struck
Amarnath, “Why not take the help of this mad-looking fellow? If it is for the police to
ensure peace for everybody in the society, it has to take the help of every
soul living in the society. And this is quite legitimate. Today, when the need is
so great, even help from a crazy fellow was welcome. The police are for all,
and all are for the police.”
In a trice he went
near the mad-looking fellow. By then he had finished his grub. Reaching into his
pocket the Deputy Commissioner took out a cigarette. And then he proffered the
same to the lunatic. The fellow received it happily and without any loss of
time took a box of matches out of his pocket. Then he lit it to take long satisfying
“So, you’re a smoker,
aren’t you the one? And you always keep a box of matches
with you, don’t you?” with great affection Amarnathji inquired of the fellow.
“Yeah, I’m the
emperor of the world of luxury,” said the lunatic beating his chest.
“Aha, my worthy Emperor!
Why are you sitting here like this? Come on, I'll accompany you to the palace,”
said the Deputy commissioner Mr Amarnath Singh quite unctuously.
“Um..m,” uttered the
fellow. It was only a faint guttural sound on his part. By then he was lost in
his world of silence.
In the police
station, the Emperor was given a nice chair, but he refused to sit on it. Now it
was Amarnath Singh’s turn to convince to the fellow that this was not an
ordinary chair but a royal throne. And he actually succeeded in convincing the
crazy soul. Now the fellow went on to occupy the chair. Quite punctually he was
served tea and snacks, and then a simple dinner, and when it was time to sleep
a nice fluffy blanket. The cops in the police station began to address him as
At night when the
Emperor was directed to go inside the mosquito net, he simply refused to listen
to anyone. So, finding no other way, the Emperor was thrown inside the lock-up.
A determined Mr Amarnath
Singh began preparing the papers with enthusiasm. He made a good use of his
experience so that there was no error in documentation and the Emperor was
smoothly presented before the magistrate the very next day. Whatever
allegations were levelled, they were all quoted from the Indian Post Office Act.
Seriously, there was no such provision under the Act by which someone from the
public could be arrested on suspicion, and then prosecuted. In order to fashion
a case like that, there was need to cite some other sections of the Indian
Penal Code too. Say like conspiracy and stuff. But Mr Amarnath Singh had no time
to be so thorough. He was only interested in quoting certain sections of the
law so as to appear thorough in his job. His only interest at present was to bring
the Emperor to justice…and more than that to report compliance. It was always
there at the back of his mind that the honourable minister Mr Vindheshwari
Yadav and his Commissioner Mr Ashwini Shrivastava were eagerly waiting for his
A long spell of two
months passed just like that. People forgot the Emperor and all his anti-social
deeds. There was none to follow up either the progress of investigation or that
of the proceedings in the court of law for that matter. Moreover, the
honourable Minister Vindeshwar Yadav became totally immersed in his work. Then
one day, the court acquitted the Emperor. Now the Emperor, free and proven
innocent, was given back all his belongings and told to go out of the jail.
When the Emperor
was stepping out of the jail premises, the jailer was present there. He was his
special inmate and a special inmate needed a special send-off! Out of great
curiosity the jailor asked the Emperor, “Mr Emperor, do you always keep an
empty matches with you?”
An agitated Emperor
replied, “I’m the emperor of the world of luxury.”
A N Nanda