Ok. So following is what i wrote for a mystery story writing contest in office. Please do let me know what you think of this because i didnt like it much when i read it the second and third time around. anyway. here it is!! :)
brickbats welcome!! :P
December 12th 2007
He sat on the cold stone slab inside his cell, his head bent down, breathing heavily even as he felt a warm sticky liquid, his blood, trickle down the base of his neck and drip on his jail clothes. He winced as he thought of how the brutal jail barber had inhumanly shaved off all his hair with a few quick strokes of a rusted blade. But not a cry had escaped from his mouth as he had sat through the ordeal.
A grating sound came as an aluminum dish was crudely pushed into his cell and the warden said “khana kha le. Khuda jaane phir kab tujhe khana naseeb ho –Eat your food, lord knows when you will see food again”. He picked up the dish which consisted of rice in a yellow color liquid and sighed as he saw the little boll worms in the rice. They didn’t clean the rice even for the prisoners on the death row he thought as he pushed away the plate disgustedly. But then again food was the last thing on the mind of a prisoner on the death row.
Its funny how they say your entire life flashes before u just moments before you are about to die. He now closed his eyes and saw Tasneem, his beautiful Tasneem standing in front of him, smiling a shy smile and wearing the gorgeous pink salwar he loved so much, her head bent, looking just the way she had looked the first day when he had gone to meet her. For him it was love at first sight. It was a standing joke between them and Tasneem would say that it was the pink salwar he had fallen in love with at first sight and he would be quick to assure her that it was Tasneem in the pink salwar that he had fallen for – hook line and sinker. Tasneem. Charming, beautiful, intelligent, playful, a perfect mother, wife and daughter in law. She was too good to be true. The smell of jasmine in her hair, the faint smell of her favorite rose perfume from her clothes, her twinkling eyes, her laughter, the comfort of her arms. He would never feel them again. He would never see her again.
16 year old Sohrab. An adolescent now. He remembered how his neighbor qazi Aslam had held the baby in his hands and said “Inshallah khoobsoorti aur dimaag pe yeh baccha Tasneem aur sirf Tasneem par hi jaaye - God willing, I hope the baby is blessed with the looks of Tasneem and the brains of Tasneem” and laughed. He was glad Aslam’s prophecy had come true. Sohrab with his handsome face and pleasing demeanor was the kind of son any father would love to have. Playing chess with him and losing miserably, going on drives with him, laughing defenselessly when Tasneem and Sohrab ganged up against him. He would never experience all that again.
His parents. So much they had done for him. So much he had to learn from them. His mother’s chicken tikka, his father’s stories, their beautiful house by the river. Never again.
His closest friend. Major Enthu. Called so because of his infectious enthusiasm. Tall, Smart and extremely intelligent. At the age of 24 he had been a major in the army. He could liven up the coldest of days and the bleakest of atmospheres on the war front with his jokes and enthusiasm. They were best buddies despite the difference in age and ranks. Extremely fun loving and a never ending reservoir of jokes and anecdotes.
Operation Vijay during the Kargil war. Being shot in the right leg and being incapacitated right on the enemy lines. Enthu again. It was Enthu who had come back for him when everyone else had retreated to the safety of the trench. It was Enthu who had carried him over his shoulders for almost 8 kms to the safety of the Indian camp braving enemy shelling and firing and the extremely hostile weather of Kargil. It was Enthu who hadn’t given up on him though he had lost his senses because of immense blood loss and though Enthu himself had suffered minor injuries. It was Enthu who had arranged for him to be admitted in the army hospital in Srinagar. Enthu who had given him a new lease of life. Enthu who had enabled him the luxury of another 8 years with Tasneem and Sohrab.
He always wondered if he would ever be able to repay Enthu. Not any more.
He would never feel Enthu’s slap on his back, never hear another enthralling anecdote from him. Never again would he hear his comrades laugh saying “Major Enthu, maaaajor enthu”. Never again.
“Chalo chalo. Waqt aa gaya hai – Time is up” the heartless voice of the warden broke his reverie.
He got up, rudely pushing away the warden’s grip on his limp shoulders, staring right ahead at the empty wall, refusing to look into the gloating eyes of the warden.
“Vikram Rathod ji” read the warden sarcastically from the tag dangling from his arm and smirked. “Koi aakhri khwaish aapki? – Any last wishes?”
As a last act of defiance he spit on the floor.
The warden hit him hard across the shins and he bore it unflinchingly.
“Chalo Chalo” the warden spat out and pushed him roughly towards the exit of the jail to the open ground where the gallows were waiting for him.
He refused to look at anyone, he refused to look at the triumphant faces of the Pakistani army general and prime minister, refused to be intimidated by them, refused to be overcome by emotions. He had eyes only for the gallows which in some time would envelop him and release him to heaven. It seemed like the only friend he had now, in this foreign land.
There would be no 21 gun salute, no Indian flag draped royally over him, no medals for his bravery, no rewards for his wife and son, but it didn’t bother him.
He stood on the trap door, dispassionately facing the gallows and not uttering a sound as the black hood descended over his head and the noose was tightened over his head. It was ironic. All through life man is afraid of death, the inevitable, but in the last few minutes before facing death a deep calm descends over him which overpowers any feeling of fear.
The trap door opened, the noose tightened around his neck and the body of the condemned man twitched for a few seconds before periodically swinging like a pendulum from the gallows.
October 15th 2008
Detective Farzana was at a loss. 10 years as the best detective of the Pakistan ISI and this was the first time such a case had presented itself before her. “Either this case only seems uncomplicated or age is finally getting to me” she thought as she got up to have her nth cup of coffee from the vending machine and sat down to read the case history for the 100th time.
She had been appointed to investigate the death of Top Indian Spy and Best intelligence officer Major Vikram Rathod who had been hanged until death about an year back without a word to the Indian government. Though this fact irked Farzana she became mechanical because she knew how scrupulous the Pakistani bureaucracy was and she got down into the details of the case even as she reached the fag end of her coffee, the bitter part which she liked and which helped her think.
There was something not right about the case was all that had been told to her. The man, Vikram Rathod the top Indian spy and a prize catch for Pakistan had however turned out to be a damp squib because he had refused to reveal any information despite being subject to acute torture. Farzana winced for she knew the kind of torture techniques which were used by the Pakistani police. And finally out of frustration and just to spite the Indian government he had been hanged to death in front of all the leaders of PPP. Though these facts had been hidden from the India, they had told the Indian government that Vikram Rathod had been accidentally blown to bits when he had ventured unwittingly on Pakistani soil and had sent back his belongings as a sign of maintaining good will between the two countries.
The Indian Government had been surprisingly silent about the whole thing and the intelligence seemed stronger than ever and there didn’t seem to be any chink in india’s armor. Though India’s resilience and the inefficiency of its politicos was well known, their hardiness was too good to be true and it rankled the Pakistani government and intelligence and with the ISI reports that Vikram was still alive and working undercover they had issued a probe into the issue and assigned it to Farzana, easily their best.
But Farzana was at her wits end. It seemed like she was groping blindfolded in the dark. She had no evidence, she had no leads, hell she didn’t even have a case. All she had was the Pakistani government’s and intelligence’s intuition that there might be something wrong in the death of Vikram Rathod about an year back. Sigh!!
“Salaam alekum Farzana jaan. Working so late? Want some tea? Not this vending machine one. Like horse piss it is I always say. People say that you haven’t lived if you haven’t drunk Rahim’s tea” said Rahim the night watchman who had come to check on her.
“ha ha. Walekum-as-Salam Rahim chacha. Thanks a lot. I could do with some. This case is eating my head”
“And what case is that?” asked Rahim chacha as he returned with a cup of tea
“Nothing. You wont understand.” smiled Farzana as he sipped the “special tea”
“Ah!! You are underestimating my intelligence Farzana jaan. Bol ke to dekho – try me”
“Ah!! well” began Farzana condescendingly. “Can u please tell me what is so strange about Vikram Rathod’s death Rahim chacha?” she smiled as she pored over the case history again
“Vikram Rathod??” whispered Rahim chacha
Farzana looked up and saw that all the color had drained from his face.
“Are you ok Rahim chacha? Here have some tea” she urged him. “Did u know him?”
“Did I know him? Of course I did. Or at least I knew the man who pretended to be Vikram Rathod”
“What??? What are u saying??”
“I will tell you one thing Farzana jaan and may Allah strike me and my family with lightning if I lie but that man who was hanged an year back was not Vikram Rathod. I don’t think he was even Hindu.”
“B.But how do u know?”
“He recited verses from the Kuran everyday, he would do namaz silently when he thought no one was watching. He had the faint almost unnoticeable scar on his forehead which every staunch Musalmaan who does namaz regularly has and he never responded to the name Vikram Rathod when woken up in the middle of his sleep.”
“But ho-how do u know all this”
“I was the warden who was with him night and day. I got a chance to observe him closely and deal with him. It was recently that I quit that job to take up this less demanding one”
“But if u knew he wasn’t Vikram Rathod why didn’t u tell the higher authorities? Why didn’t u tell them when u saw him doing namaaz?”
“We have a law among us Musalmans Farzana jaan” said Rahim. “A man while he does his namaz and recites the Kuran is the son of god. And no son of God can be wrong. And there was something about that fellow. I don’t know what. He wasn’t a criminal. After 20 years as a jail warden I can tell the difference between a criminal and a good man. A criminal’s guilt settles around his shoulders, giving him a tense, wary and shifty look.” Said Rahim chacha
“But this man!! This man had this calm and quiet face. He had no fear, no guilt. Just blank, deep staring eyes which never looked at anyone, never spoke to anyone and just waited for an absolution to come. To be honest I was scared of him. If I had told on him Allah would never have forgiven me. I will leave you to do your work Farzana jaan but be rest assured that Vikram Rathod never stepped on Pakistani soil and we hanged a Musalmaan last year. Khudahaafiz”
Farzana’s head was spinning. If she were to believe Rahim chacha, the case was getting thicker and thicker. Who was the man who had been hung a year back? And where was Vikram Rathod if not dead?
She quickly logged on to the internet to read more about Vikram Rathod. “The late Vikram Rathod”, it said “was a sterling army officer and a gem of a man”. The website was full of praise for him and she quickly scanned the page till her eyes fell on a title named Awards. “Vikram Rathod was awarded the President medal for bravery for having saved the life of a fellow soldier Abdul Mohammed in the Kargil war in 2001. Abdul Mohammed was declared missing and later dead around the same time when news of Vikram’s death reached the Indian government and his body was never found”
Farzana quickly checked the date when the website had been updated and the date was around 6 months back. Which meant an year back Abdul Mohammed had been declared missing. She ran a search on Abdul Mohammed to find out that Vikram Rathod and he had been very close friends and he had been declared missing around the same time when news of Vikram Rathod’s death had reached the Indian government. And in a little family photo of Abdul’s she saw his face and her heart skipped a beat and she looked up from the computer to her confidential case file – given exclusively to her, which had a photo of the man who had been hung an year back.
They were the same.
The overwhelming truth dawned on her and the weight of the fantastic deception crushed her and she slumped into her chair and sat numb as she let the facts sink in.
Two months later Farzana closed the case on the basis of insufficient and lack of incriminating evidence and quit her enviable position at the Pakistani intelligence
December 12th 2008
Vikram Rathod, popularly known as Enthu among his friends, lifted his hand up to salute the brave martyr Abdul Mohammed as a 21 gun salute for him rang through the air. It had been an year since Abdul had died in an unknown land at the hands of ruthless extremists. An year since Vikram had been wounded very close to the LOC while escaping with extremely sensitive information from Pakistani soldiers. An year since Abdul had taken him to safety and told him he would tackle the Pakistanis. If Vikram knew the way Abdul was going to “tackle” the Pakistanis he would never have allowed it. Maybe that’s why Abdul never revealed the plan he had in his mind. Never breathed a word because he knew Vikram would never have allowed it.
Abdul knew that it as only a matter of time before the Pakistani soldiers caught up with the wounded Vikram, took him into their custody, tortured him and got the information which Vikram had guarded more securely than his life. Keeping Vikram alive and the information secure was vital for the success of their operation and realizing this Abdul had quickly stripped Vikram and worn his clothes. In his unconscious state Vikram hadn’t felt anything. Abdul had told Lieutenant Srivastav of his plan and asked him to take Vikram to safety and despite protests from Srivastav had gone ahead and ventured into Pakistani territory, deliberately gotten caught by the soldiers who had captured him, discovered his identity as Vikram Rathod, the top Indian spy, tortured him and killed him thinking he was Vikram.
It was the ultimate deception or the ultimate sacrifice depending on which side of the border you were on.
Vikram wiped a lone tear and felt the hair on his neck rising as he thought of Abdul and saw Tasneem bhabhi and Sohrab collect the compensation, Abdul’s medals and the posthumous Param Vir Chakra awarded to him for exceptional bravery and exemplary camaraderie as a sterling officer of the Indian army, from the President.
As he watched them the words of Srivastav about Abdul kept ringing in his ears.
“Not for a moment did he think or even reconsider his decision sir. He just jumped at the opportunity to repay you. He said if you had been there you would have done the same thing for him. I can say only one thing sir” Srivastav had paused as he swallowed the constriction in his throat. “I wish I had a friend like that”
P.S: Concept "inspired" (Read: stolen shamelessly) from one of my favorite Archer novels and written by me to suit an indian audience!! :P:P.
P.P.S: Mystery for the readers!! :P. Find out which Archer novel i lifted this concept from!! ;)