The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Emperor


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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.
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The Emperor
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.

Initially it 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.

Thereafter, addressing 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."

Deputy Commissioner 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 department.

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 lead.

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 Shrivastava?

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 puffs.

“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 the Emperor.

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 compliance report.

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.”
Basantpur,  29-07-2007
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By
A N Nanda
Shimla
10-03-2013
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2 Comments:

Anonymous Rajeshwari said...

Sir, The story is full of humour,but narrating a true picture of Police authorities,how innocent persons fall prey to Police atrocities. This is the beauty of the story that it conveys reality in a humourous way! Sir, we will learn so many good things now. Hats off, Sir!



11:31 PM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Welcome back, Rajeshwari. I'm happy you enjoyed the humour in it.

7:33 AM  

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