by Nirupama Akella
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Lata Naidu came out of the gymnasium shaking her semi dry head vigorously. Her first swimming lesson had gone off disastrously with the swimming instructor screaming herself hoarse and she vainly trying to kick and consequently spilling water on the instructor! And now to make matters worse the water had gone inside her ears. She tilted her head to one side and thumped her head hard praying for the “pop” sound! But much to her consternation, there was no reassuring pop sound. Dismally she began to trudge down the path towards the hostel. She still had to prepare for her presentation tomorrow on Indian First Five Year Plan -- nobody would think that today was the first of the new session, she thought ambling along amongst the throng of chattering girls who now filled the path. Then she spotted a familiar short figure in dark trousers in front of her -- Jyotsana! She caught up with her and nudged her.
Jyotsana immediately turned and smiled, “Hello! How was swimming?”
“Terrible! How was Karate?”
“OK! Look, Police…”
Lata turned sideways and saw in the direction in which Jyotsana was staring excitedly, “I wonder what they are doing here…”
Lata saw a slim trim youngish looking man in complete police Khaki outfit get off a two wheel green colored scooter with another older man in Khaki shorts and shirt- probably one was the constable, most likely the younger authoritative man with his chowkidaar.
“What are they doing here?” Jyotsana was staring at them wide eyed. They seemed to be the only ones who had noticed their arrival at the back door and were standing in the middle of the path.
“Maybe the disappearance is more serious than we thought…” said Lata continuing to thump the side of her head.
“Oh….the disappearance of that cleaning lady…” Jyotsana’s brow cleared, “Of course it has to be serious…she has disappeared!”
“Freshie….don’t try to act smart!”
“OK, and….need I remind you I am smart…and so…” but before she could complete her statement, Lata sighed loudly, “Oh yeah…you don’t need to act smart…just make sure you don’t say this in front of the third year seniors! Talk about acting then….you will wish you were dumb! Come on…..I have a presentation to prepare for!”
“You wouldn’t want to know,’ Jyotsana’s face fell.
“‘OK, India’s first five year plan! There I’ve told you!” Lata said. Then she grimaced, “I am going to have an earache tonight.”
“Even I have some math sums to do! And you should use hot oil in your ear to avoid earache,” Jyotsana ended.
Lata stared at the younger girl, “Pour hot oil in my delicate ear? Are you crazy? You are worse than my aunt.” Then as an after thought she added smiling, “aunty would like you…”
“It is a home remedy…” Jyotsana defended.
“Thank you but I feel my ears will comply and ‘pop’. And now lets go back. What are you waiting for freshie? Magic flying carpet? Lets go!” Lata sharply nudged the younger girl.
Jyotsana again held her tongue. Both girls began weaving their way to the hostel building.
“I told you to give me proper directions, Bahadur!” Junior Constable Pathak complained mournfully, getting off the scooter. They had stopped at the back entrance much to his discomfiture.
“I was right in my directions, Saab…” Bahadur was adamant. He was thinking, “Drat this idiot! After all he had been living in this town for donkey’s years, what did this green pipsqueak of a constable know about Dehradun, having come here the previous month?”
He continued in his expressionless sotto voice, “You said to tell you the simplest route to the college….I told you the short cut…”
“But we have come to the back entrance!” said Constable Pathak.
“We can always turn back, Sahib! Just go down to the main road….another half hour if we go by the highway and then climb the hill…but we will come to the entrance….that is what you want…”
Junior Constable Kishen Pathak looked in distaste at the gray- haired police chowkidaar. He always had the feeling that Bahadur resented him and loved to humiliate him in public. A slim man with a trim military moustache and haircut, Kishen Pathak prided himself on appearance! His uniform always had to be spick and span, his manner courteous and pleasant though Bahadur strongly felt it was superior as if Kishen Pathak was a much higher being than others!
“Its OK, Bahadur…but next time do understand that whatever short cut we have to go to the entrance!”
Bahadur wished he had his truncheon with him to spank this twerp on his bottom, but aloud he said respectfully, “We still have to get next month’s petrol coupon, Saab…”
Junior Constable Pathak scowled and said, “OK, whom do we meet here?”
“The lady in charge of the cleaning staff, Saab…” he consulted his notes, “A Ms. Sue Danely who is the Matron….”
“Good thing we interviewed the family, the neighbors first……good thinking Bahadur!”
“And I don’t need you to tell me that,” Bahadur thought angrily, this constable was getting to big for his boots!”
They went in passing the droves of talking girls.
“I don’t see any Matron, Bahadur!” remarked Constable Pathak walking along stolidly.
“Why don’t you try to search, you clod?” Bahadur was seeing red.
He had spent the entire morning and afternoon with this pea brain talking to people concerned about the mysterious disappearance of Shanta Ganshyam. But aloud he said respectfully, “Maybe if we go to the office, we will find her!”
“Good idea! I was thinking the same thing…”
“You actually think!” Bahadur voiced spitefully inside his head.
They walked on coming to the main building and the front lawn. Junior Constable Pathak commented loftily, “This,” he said gesturing towards the gates in a sweeping fashion, “My man, is the front entrance…I asked directions to come here!”
Bahadur held his tongue -- one more year – he thought, then he would take voluntary retirement and escape! But till then he would have to patiently bear it all and wonder at the Good Lord’s sense of humor! They went up the stairs and stopped in front of the office. A young, rather attractive looking girl in a pink salwar was busily typing away. Constable Pathak majestically cleared his throat, “Yes?”
“We have an appointment to see Ms. Sue Danely….we are the police -- Constable Pathak and Chowkidaar Bahadur!” he added in his superior fashion.
“Please have a seat..!” saying the girl disappeared in to the inner hall while they stood in stiff military stance.
“Why doesn’t he sit”-- Bahadur thought -- his own legs were aching!
And then thankfully, the girl reappeared with another older stout lady in a brown sari. To be continued.... Back to previous page of Chapter 7
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