EPISODE I – THE WARNING
Subhi was drowning inside the muddy water and everything was becoming darker and darker. Trying to hold her breath, she kept on fighting for survival. She tried to pull her hands, to cover her mouth. But they were tied behind firmly with a thick rope. The muddy water had started going inside and she felt that burning lava was going down her throat. She understood it was her end.
But suddenly a gush of water from somewhere pushed her in the opposite direction. Her head hit the soft muddy wall of the river bank. Luckily the water flow pushed her further inside and she found herself in an air pocket at least thirty feet below the banks of the river where her parents were waiting. She cursed herself, what a fool she had been. After all she was just a twelve years old girl with a thin and frail body. She should have told them everything long ago.
The air in the pocket seemed to be fresh and she was able to calm down quickly. She prided herself in this aspect. Whatever the situation, Subhi was always able to soothe her nerves. Panic was not a word in her dictionary. As her breathing came back to normal, she understood that she just had a narrow escape. The fresh air in the pocket indicated that the place was well ventilated. There must be an opening somewhere through which she could traverse her way back to the outer world. She decided to take up the venture but before that she had to free herself. She looked around. The place was very dark and nothing was visible. Placing her feet firmly on the ground, she stood up. Slowly stepping backwards she walked until she touched the wall. Surprisingly here it was rocky and the rocks were pointed and sharpened like spears. She thanked God, if she would have hit this wall then it would have been impossible for her to think anything ever again.
Subhi started rubbing the rope on one of the rocks. Within minutes she was able to free herself. She bent down and tied the rope to a protruding rock near the ground. That would have told her if she reached back to the same position. Placing her right hand on the wall she started walking along it. Slowly she felt that the place was like a round room and the walls were curved. After walking for few minutes, she reached a place where gurgling sound of the flowing water was very audible. She felt an opening there. As she moved inside she understood that this was the place from where she had come in. A thought came into her mind.
Was it possible to go up the river way? Through the muddy water. She discarded the idea. Though she knew swimming but she was not sure whether she would be able to hold her breath for thirty feet or may be forty feet of water upwards. Coming down was a different matter. Whether she would be second time lucky, she was not sure of.
She pushed her hand outside the opening to touch the water. The sheer force dashed her hand to the other side. Subhi kept on walking along the wall, touching the lowest rock with her leg, to feel the rope which she had tied earlier. Suddenly she felt a gush of air on her face. She started moving her hands on the rocky wall to locate the opening. The pointed edges kept on bruising and cutting her soft fingers. Unexpectedly her hands touched a smooth and slippery part of the wall. Feeling with her fingers, she could make out the area as a perfect circle. The air was coming through the small holes in the circle. She touched the holes and counted. They were twenty one. The biggest hole was at the centre and twenty around it. She aligned her eyes to one of the holes. A small ray of light was coming from very far in a tunnel.
Subhi was dumbstruck. She understood. The place she was in was far from being natural. It was manmade. She understood everything. It was the highest level of civil engineering. The soft muddy underwater bank, where she had hit her head was designed for the purpose. The high pressure of water which had thrown her inside was pure fluid dynamics. The sheer force prevented it from coming inside the small gap and filling the air pocket. The sharp edged rocky wall was supposed to take care of the unwanted intruders. The excellent ventilation system to keep the place fresh was par excellence. It was brilliant. But who was responsible for getting this construction done? From where did he get the excellent team? Who was rich enough to undertake and finance this kind of construction? How was he able to wrap everything in such veils of secrecy? Everything was beyond Subhi’s comprehension.
She understood that the circular place on the wall was a window. She started applying as much force as she could gather. The window did not budge. Feeling tired she tried to take the support of the wall. She inserted her fingers in the holes and clung to it. She heard a loud clinking sound and the circular plate fell on the opposite side.
Subhi suddenly woke up and opened her eyes. It was all dark around. She was startled. Her throat was scorching. Searching for the water bottle with her right hand she tried to look at the wall clock. The glowing hands screamed 2:10 AM. Her mother had told her umpteen times to keep the night bulb on. She repented her decision of switching it off. She could not sleep with even a ray of light in the room. It had become her habit to close her eyes and pretend to be in sleep till her mother finally came to check her in the bed. The moment she used to hear her pulling the door from outside, the fan speed was put to maximum and the air conditioner temperature was brought to the minimum. Finally switching off the night bulb, she used to rush and get inside the quilt and cover herself completely. Now she was all alone with her thoughts. Subhi waited for this time. She loved thinking. This was her life. Life full of poems, stories and endless tales.
Finally she got the bottle. Drinking in a gulp or two, she tried to think what was happening. This peculiar dream had baffled her numerous times in the past year. Every time it was the same. In the beginning she just saw herself drowning. Then with every next dream, the sequence used to get extended. It was like a dream in episodes. Subhi was bemused. Why was she seeing the same dream again and again? Was it related to her previous birth? Being a rational girl, she tried to push the idea of previous birth aside. She knew that dreams are related to the complex subconscious mind. Then was it a premonition? Her subconscious mind was trying to warn her about something going to happen in future. She decided to talk about it to her cousin Anie.
EPISODE 2- THE RELEVATION
A week had passed since Subhi had seen that disturbing dream. First two or three nights had been passed sleeplessly tossing on the bed from one side to another. Her mind always shifted back to the same dream. The ray of light in the dark tunnel was haunting her day and night. Her talk to Anie had made the whole issue even more intriguing.
Subhi thought about Anie. She had expected that Anie would give some conclusive reasoning behind the dream. But Anie kept on discussing about the upcoming cricket series. Ultimately after much persuasion Anie spoke her mind on the issue.
“Subhi, all these dreams are nonsense. I hardly care about them. But as you are insisting so much, I will give you a suggestion. You should try to remember when you started seeing these dreams. Concentrate and remember, did anything out of the way happened which started these series of dreams in your sleep”.
“Anie, I don’t remember anything specific. You know very well that I have spent most of my life in London. Only last year, my father decided to come back and settle here in his home country. And I am very sure that the river which I had seen in my dreams was not Thames. It was some river in this country. Which one, I don’t know”.
“Subhi, then I have only one thing to say. You are bewitched. Tell aunt to get some holy water from the temple and sprinkle it on you. May be, the spirits will leave you and look out for a more comfortable abode. Ha-Ha”.
Anie had ended the conversation on a lighter note. Subhi had also laughed out loud. But Anie’s words were reverberating in her mind. Did anything extra ordinary happened with her? And then she suddenly remembered.
After reaching India, she had requested her parents to take her to the historical Red Fort in Delhi. She knew that it was a UNESCO world heritage site. Being an Indian, the rich culture, cuisine and the diversity of her country had always fascinated her. She loved Indian history. In her opinion no other country had such varied history of five thousand years.
Without much persuasion, her parents had willingly taken her to the fort on a Sunday. The visit was like a picnic and she had enjoyed a lot. And here it had happened. Some renovation work was going on near the massive wall on the backside of the fort. Some labourers were digging a pit and Subhi being curious had peeped in and slipped into it. The pit was not at all deep and without any problems she was pulled out. But she had hurt her head and blood had started trickling from her forehead.
Number of onlookers had gathered around and the labourers had become tensed. She sensed they feared some kind of retaliation from her parents. But it was Subhi’s mistake and she tried to calm everybody around. As she was trying to comfort her mother, she saw him for the first time.
One of the labourers, was looking ferociously at her. His face was filled with the pox marks. His sunken eyes terrified Subhi. She noticed that he was the only person who was seemingly irritated and did not show even slightest of concern for the small child. The look on his face scared Subhi. She immediately clung to her father and requested him to take her back to her home.
Subhi thought about that man. There was something uncanny which had not let Subhi forget him. He simply did not fit in there. As if he was a wrong piece in a jigsaw puzzle. This was the only remarkable thing which had happened after she had come to her new home in India. But the dream and the incident were too less to come to any conclusive decision. Ultimately Subhi decided to follow Anie’s suggestion. “Forget everything till the next dream”. And then it happened again. About a week later, Subhi saw the dream again. This time it was bit more extended.
She remembered inserting her fingers in the holes of the circular plate in the wall of the air pocket. The plate had fallen down on the opposite side with a loud clinking noise. The opening was big enough for Subhi to pass. Without any hesitation, Subhi crossed to the other side. She found herself in a long tunnel. A sparkling ray of light was coming from the other end. Fresh breeze made her feel more comfortable. She started walking briskly ahead.
Slowly her enthusiasm started waning. The tunnel was endless. Surprisingly the source of the light seemed to move ahead with her every step. Instead of reaching closer to it, she felt that the distance between them was not diminishing. The more she walked, the source of light seemed to be further away.
After about an hour, Subhi was dead tired. She just wanted to sit down and take some rest. But it was unaffordable. She thought about her parents. By this time her mother would have surely panicked and raised the hell on her head. Her father also would have started worrying about her. Moreover she had heard about the deadly Indian snakes, the infamous Cobra and the ferocious Karait. She had walked thumping her legs on the ground. She knew that snakes had very developed sensory skin and could feel vibrations on the ground. Unless feeling challenged, they simply had the nature of moving away. But she would not get this luxury, if she sat down at a place.
She decided to keep moving in the direction of the light. After about another fifteen minutes, Subhi dashed with something solid. She could not understand anything. The light still seemed to be further ahead, but an invisible wall was obstructing her path. She tried to touch and feel in the darkness. Her fingers felt something icy and solid in front of her. The light was on the other side. Was it a glass door? She tried to comprehend.
Failing to locate any kind of opening or a knob to open the door, she decided to turn back and locate the source and the direction of the breeze. Touching the walls of the tunnel, she started tracing her way back. The smooth walls surprised her more. They felt like well constructed circular concrete walls. After walking about a hundred paces, she felt a gush of wind on her head. The opening was on the ceiling of the tunnel. It was completely invisible in the utter darkness. The air was coming from the top.
The clock struck 5:00 A.M. Subhi woke up with a startle. She felt she was in a daze. Feeling extremely tired she tried to open her eyes wide. Failing, she fell down on her pillow and went to sleep again.
She saw herself standing on top of a minar. The minar was one of the set of four, around a red stoned monument. The sheer magnanimity of the monument mesmerised her. The red colour of the monument bedazzled her eyes.
“Subhi wake up. Its 7:00 A.M. You are already late for the school”. Subhi heard her mother’s voice from the kitchen. Rubbing her eyes, she got down from the bed and came out in the dining hall. Her father was reading the newspaper. She went and hugged him tightly. And then she saw the headlines. MULTI MILLIONAIRE KILLED IN A TRAGIC ROAD ACCIDENT ON NEW DELHI – AGRA HIGHWAY. Two pictures accompanied the news. One was of a crushed car on the highway and another of the millionaire. How Subhi could forget that face. The face with the pox marks and deeply set sunken eyes.
To be contd….
EPISODE 3- THE RESEARCH
Subhi could not control herself. She snatched the newspaper and started reading it. Luckily her father, Mr. Satyasri did not take it as an offence. He simply got up and headed to the bathroom. Subhi started reading.
MULTI MILLIONAIRE KILLED IN A TRAGIC ROAD ACCIDENT ON NEW DELHI – AGRA HIGHWAY-
New Delhi- A private taxi was hit by a lorry late yesterday night. Two people lost their lives in the incident. As per an eye witness, the taxi was heading towards Agra at about 1:00 A.M. Suddenly a lorry coming from the opposite direction entered into the same lane and hit it directly at a high speed.
The lorry driver was successful in escaping from the scene of the accident. The passenger in the car was killed on the spot and the driver suffered grievous injuries. The witness called for an ambulance, but the taxi driver succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital.
Later on, the identity of the passenger was established by the identity card in his pocket. He was famous Mr. Anish Dadlani, a diamond merchant and lone owner of the company Dadlani Daimonds.
With Mr. Dadlani’s untimely death, the future of his number of projects now hangs in uncertainty. With no apparent legal heir to his billion dollar assets, the fate of Dadlani Diamonds is surely to come in trouble.
The police personnel investigating the crime were baffled as the lorry was left abandoned about three miles away from the scene of the accident. The license number plates had been removed and the engine number was neatly filed away. The lorry is loaded with granite slabs. No official statement has been given by the police till the news went to the press. (Local Correspondent)
It was difficult for Subhi to comprehend, what she had just read in the newspaper. If Mr. Dadlani was indeed such a rich diamond merchant, then what was he doing digging potholes in the Red Fort. She understood that she needed more information to satisfy her curiosity. A scary premonition inked itself. All this was somehow related to her dreams.
Whole day passed in a blur. She could not concentrate in any of her classes in the school. The last part of the news, made her feel uneasy. It was not an accident, but a deliberate murder. A pre-planned, preconceived and a well executed murder. Number of realisations pointed in that direction. The loaded lorry had hit directly on the passenger side killing Mr. Dadlani instantly. Further it was left on the road side about three miles away from the scene of the accident and the driver went missing. All clues for the identification of the lorry owner had been removed. The licence plates were missing and the engine number was filed and erased. Subhi understood that the granite slabs were loaded in the lorry to make it excessively heavy so that the impact becomes fatal for Mr. Dadlani.
After returning from the school, Shubhi threw her bag on the dining table and took her mother’s mobile phone. Google was a good place to start her investigation. Surprisingly even google did not know much about Mr. Anish Dadlani. Number of pages were displayed related to his business, but his personal life was still shrouded in mystery. Few years back he was a simple goldsmith and then suddenly he took over the complete diamond business of Gujarat. Findings revealed that his company Dadlani Diamonds had become the biggest diamond trading company in the country within three months of its listing in the stock exchange. It seemed that he had an endless supply of world’s finest diamonds in the backyard of his house.
On the personal front, he was a bachelor. He lived alone in his twelve room mansion. He was an orphan raised up in an orphanage. At the age of sixteen he started working as an assistant in one of the gold pawn shops in Surat. Later after his initial training in polishing diamonds, he started his own workshop. Facing severe losses, he shut down his shop and left Surat for about two years.
When he returned back he was a changed man. Within a fortnight, he purchased the biggest diamond shop in the state. And then his rise was simply meteoric. Three years ago he had started investing in hotel business. Two of his seven star hotels were coming up in Delhi and Agra.
The mobile screen showed a part of google map pointing his upcoming hotel in Delhi. Subhi clicked on the map to make it larger. She was not prepared for what she saw. The hotel location marked was just behind the Red Fort. It was very near to the place where Subhi had fallen down, during her visit to the fort. Subhi searched for more information about the hotel. Some online news clippings revealed that the land on which hotel was being built was earlier an overcrowded market. The complete area was bought by Mr Dadlani and all the shops were demolished to clear the ground. The construction was started with great fanfare but then slowly the pace of construction had slowed down. As if Mr Dadlani had lost all his interest in the idea. And then he started building a new hotel in Agra.
Subhi searched the location in the Google map. To her amazement, here also the hotel location was very near to the Agra Red Fort on the banks of river Yamuna. The modus operandi had been the same. A complete area was bought and evacuated for the construction of the hotel. Clearly Mr. Dadlani was a resourceful man.
Subhi thought about his loss of interest in the Delhi hotel project. She understood that the hotel construction was just eyewash. Mr. Dadlani was looking for something else. But what was it. The answer to this question would solve number of mysteries. She knew that the answer was somewhere hidden in his two years of mysterious absence from the diamond market of Surat. She needed to know where was Mr. Dadlani during that period and from where did he accumulate his enormous wealth. She had to investigate further. The answers were in Surat, Gujarat.
She decided to talk to her father about all these revelations. But that could be done only when he returns from his office in the evening. It was their daily routine to sit and chat for an hour just before the dinner. This was the time when her father sat and answered her endless volley of questions patiently. It was referred as the “Question Hour”, in the family. Subhi had to wait till that time.
Unluckily the day had not gone well with Mr.Satyasri and he arrived late in the evening. The question hour time had already been encroached upon and they all sat for supper directly. Subhi decided to postpone her questions till the next day. She knew that her mother would not take such things lightly and she would have to hear another round of her long scolding.
Suddenly her eyes got fixed on the muted television screen. A reporter was standing in front of a crushed car and speaking something. She rushed and increased the volume.
“….. till now nobody has come ahead and claimed the granite slabs loaded in the lorry. The consignment may be one of the lot being sent from Delhi to Agra for the construction of Mr.Dadlani’s hotel.
So was Mr.Dadlani killed by the lorry which was carrying his own consignment of granite? And if yes, then why the lorry was turned and being driven in the opposite direction? There are number of unanswered questions, which certainly shroud the incident into a sensational and mysterious affair.Being a high profile case, the charges have been handed over to the C.B.I. for further investigation.
On the other side, many claimants have come up to stake their proprietary rights on the immense wealth of Mr. Dadlani. It is going to be another tough job for the C.B.I. to settle the dispute as it is a well known fact that Mr. Dadlani was an orphan and he did not have any known blood related kin.
This is reporter Akash Jaiswal with camera man Satish Joshi reporting for Daily News.”
The second last line echoed in Subhi’s mind. Mr. Dadlani was an orphan. She got a clue. She understood what had to be done next. This was an Eureka moment.
To be contd….
EPISODE 4- THE LETTER
Due to excessive pollution in the city, the next day was declared as a holiday in her school. Subhi sat down with the mobile after her breakfast. Her father had already gone to the office and mother was busy with the daily house hold chores. She knew it was a safe time and she could easily spend it on her research. Mr. Dadlani was an orphan but he had necessary education. This clearly indicated that he must have been raised in one of the orphanages around Surat.
Subhi searched for the orphanages in the area. The mobile screen showed only two such institutions. Both were run by private trust’s and were in dismal state due to lack of funding. Subhi decided to try her luck. She noted down the addresses.
Next two days were carefully spent in phrasing the letter, and secretly taking the printouts using her father’s printer. She read it one last time before sealing.
Sub: Information related to your reference in Mr. Anish Dadlani’s will.
This is to inform you that Late Mr. Anish Dadlani has bequeathed an amount of rupees ten lakhs (Rs 10,00000/-) for your organisation. It is assumed that his gesture is an act of displaying gratitude towards the institution, in which he had spent his early years.
The money will be transferred to your account, only after certain legal formalities are completed. The legal procedures may take forty to forty five working days for execution. You are requested to send in your bank details on the address given below, so that the amount can be transferred electronically without any hassles.
Further as per his will, he wanted his life to be chronicled in form of a book. We as the executors of his will, will certainly like to have as much information as possible, about his early life.
We will be thankful, if you detail out his early years in form of a document, focusing on your contribution in his growth as a businessman of extreme acumen and also his relations with fellow occupants in the orphanage.
We are looking forward to your active involvement, in fulfilling the last desires of Mr. Dadlani.
(For Lawyers Shah & Associates)
Subhi sealed two copies of the letter, in two different envelopes and kept it her bag. Thankfully some postage stamps were in the house and she did not have to worry about them. Next day, these letters will be put in the post box, in front of her society gate.
Subhi thought about her idea once again. It was actually a wild goose chase and she needed the lady luck beside her. She was scared that the whole thing may end with a damp squib. It was highly possible that her approach was completely out of track. But if Mr. Dadlani was indeed raised in one of these orphanages then the institution will leave no stones unturned in giving the required information. She was careful enough to provide a random house number with the society address at the end of the letter. All she had to do was to check the news paper stand in front of the society office every day. All undelivered letters were generally left in the news paper stand for the flat owners to pick them up.
Nothing happened for the next ten days. It had become a daily ritual for Subhi to check the news paper stand. Finally, on the eleventh day she saw two letters addressed to Lawyers Shah & Associates. What luck! Both the orphanages had replied to her letter and the letters had reached the same day.
One envelop was thin and another was quite heavy. She picked the letters and kept them in her side bag. Nobody around seemed to notice her act.
Within minutes, she was back in her room and with a pounding heart, she opened the thinner envelop. It was a dampener. It had few lines from the caretaker of one of the orphanages, stating that there might be some mistake, as Mr. Dadlani was never a resident of that orphanage.
She opened the next one. “Eureka”. She whispered to herself. The very first line had confirmed her suspicion to be true. She started reading the letter.
Shah & Associates,
Sub: Details of the bank account and report on Mr. Anish Dadlani’s early life in our orphanage.
It is a matter of great pride for us that late Mr. Anish Dadlani had spent his early years in our orphanage. Our institution provides the best possible upbringing and education to the underprivileged children of our society. We are highly grateful for his kind gesture and sincerely pray to the almighty to rest his soul in peace.
We are providing you our bank details in annexure I and some information about him in annexure II. We hope that it is proves to be fruitful in documenting his life as a truly inspiring book.
Subhi eagerly opened the annexure II. It was three and half pages of neatly typed and formatted text. Three group photographs were stapled at the corner. After giving a cursory glance to the photographs, she started reading the content.
After about forty five minutes, she felt she knew enough to move ahead in her investigation. She was satisfied that her labour had not gone in vain. At least she had got a solid lead. She decided to summarise everything neatly on a piece of a paper in points. She started writing.
· Mr, Dadlani was brought to the orphanage by a temple priest, as a new born baby. Somebody had left him on the stairs of the temple in the night.
· He was christened as Anish by the orphanage caretaker. Later on he took fancy to the title Dadlani and attached it in his name at the time of taking his school examinations.
· As a child, he was quite solemn and simple. And even at the time of leaving the institution, he was a man of few words.
· Though he was not unfriendly but still he stayed away from the normal group activities of his fellow mates.
· As a part of skill development, he learnt cutting and polishing diamonds under one of the benefactors of the orphanage. The benefactor was a rich trader of diamonds in the city of Surat.
· At the age of sixteen, he started working as an assistant in one of the gold pawn shops in Surat, to support his expenses in the orphanage,
· He stayed in the premises till he reached the age of eighteen. After that he was forced to leave as per the regulations of the trust running the institution.
· During his stay of eighteen years, he had befriended only a single child who was about three years elder to him.
· His friend was a boy named Jai Prakash Reddy. He was basically of telugu origin. His father was a goldsmith from Golconda region of Andhra Pradesh.
· Jai Prakash’s parents were coming to Surat for some work related to their business. But as fate would have it, they both lost their lives in a tragic train accident.
· Jai prakash was spared by destiny and was brought to the orphanage by the police. He was supposed to stay there till any of his real relatives could be located. At that time he was about four years old and could not speak very well. His name was the only audible information which they could get from him.
· It was only after another four years that Jai Prakash started speaking the local language and conveyed the name of his village to the caretaker. The name of the village was Pulichinthala.
· The police was informed, but by that time they had lost their interest. Nothing was done for reuniting a small human life with his family. (May be lack of communication during that era had been the major reason behind the setback.)
· As children Anish and Jai Prakash bonded very well. They both shared the same dream of reuniting Jai Prakash with other members of his family.
· Jai Prakash left the orphanage at the age of eighteen, with a solemn promise to his dear friend. He promised that the moment he gets reunited with his family, he would call Anish to his place and then they would stay together forever.
· Anish kept on waiting for any news from his friend for the next three years. But sadly Jai Prakash never contacted him again.
Feeling tired, Subhi put the pen down and picked up one of the photographs. Face of Mr. Anish Dadlani was circled with red ink. She saw his smiling face among a group of teenagers striking poses for a group photograph. And then she noticed his right arm resting on the shoulder of a dark skinned boy. She understood that the boy was Jai Prakash Reddy.
She started wondering as what would have prevented Jai Prakash from contacting his best friend again. She did not get any answers, but now she knew where had Mr. Anish Dadlani vanished for two years after his initial business had failed. His new found riches were somehow linked with his past.
Episode 5 in the last week of April, 2018
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EPISODE 5 – UNINVITED GUESTS
A complete week had passed and Subhi could not comprehend her next course of action. The letter from the orphanage had proved to be a mine of information. It had given Subhi tremendous energy and enthusiasm to act on her theories. But she felt helpless. She realised that being a twelve year old girl was her biggest demerit. Her father Mr Satyashree had already lost his patience listening to her theories about Mr Dadlani’s murder. Like everybody else he had forgotten about the tragic accident. Even police had closed the case, thinking it to be a mere hit and run case. Thankfully, she had not disclosed about the letters to her parents. Ultimately she decided to let the matter take its own course.
As fate would have it, she did not have to wait for long. It knocked right on her doorsteps that evening. Subhi had completed her homework, and was busy in watching a mythological show on the television. The crispy sound of the doorbell shifted her attention. Thinking her father to have returned from his office, she jumped and opened the door. Two unknown faces dampened her spirit and she was taken aback.
“Hello, young lady. We have come here especially to meet you. May we come in?” The young debonair man spoke, stretching his hand for a friendly handshake. The beautiful girl beside him gave her a reassuring smile.
Subhi had heard her mother’s scolding umpteen times for opening the door without looking through the peephole. She immediately regretted her action. She did not understand how to react. Thankfully, she saw her father climbing the stairs, just behind them.
Mr Satyashree intervened at the correct time.
“How may I help you?” He asked. The young man turned towards him and extended his hand.
“Mr Satyashree, I suppose. I am Jaipal Reddy. I am a lecturer by profession. I teach archaeology in Anna University. And this beautiful lady beside me is my wife Sonia. She is a language expert and deals with foreign languages in the university curriculum. She is a specialist in mid-eastern languages like Persian and Arabic. We have travelled for about a thousand kilometres to meet your daughter Subhi. We are basically residents of Golcunda region in Andhra Pradesh. I hope you don’t mind allowing us to invite ourselves in and have a candid chat with your intelligent daughter.”
Mr Satyashree, after contemplating for some time, invited them in. Confidently Mrs Sonia took the lead and sat down on the sofa and invited Subhi to sit beside her. Hesitantly Subhi did as bided. Jaipal Reddy and Satyashree sat down on individual chairs.
After some informal talk, Jaipal Reddy started speaking.
“Mr Satyashree, we have come here to gather some information about my missing father, Mr Jai Prakash Reddy. He is missing from last twenty five years.”
Mr Satyashree’s face got filled with bewilderment. Subhi’s eyes brightened up hearing Jai Prakash Reddy’s name.
“I am very sorry to listen about your missing father, but I don’t understand what my daughter has to do with it. She is still twelve and as you said your father went missing about twenty five years ago.”
“Let me make you understand. I know you might be tired after a long day’s work but this is very important to me. I promise I won’t take more than fifteen minutes of your time. Let me start from the very beginning. I think some parts of the story might be already known to your charming daughter.
My grandparents died in a rail accident in Gujrat about forty five years ago. My father had accompanied them in that fateful journey but luckily he escaped unhurt. At that time he was about four or five years of age. He was raised in an orphanage near Surat in Gujrat. After completing his tenure in the orphanage, at the age of eighteen years, he returned to Golcunda in search of his blood relatives.
After continuously searching for two months, he finally reached Pulichinthala, a small village on the banks of river Krishna near Kollur in Andhra Pradesh. He was delighted to meet his villagers there and they also welcomed him heartily. But sadly none of his relatives were still residing in the village. Actually many of them had left the area during an epidemic break of cholera. His old ancestral house was in shambles. He did not have any place to live there.
My maternal grandfather was a mine labourer and he developed a strong liking for my father. He gave him accommodation along with his daughter in marriage. My father started working along with him in the nearby mines. Apart from my birth and death of my maternal grandfather nothing noteworthy happened in the next two years.
Though my father was a laborious man, but still our economic condition was very pathetic. He could barely manage to make the ends meet. And then suddenly one day, my father Jai Prakash Reddy returned home as an ecstatic man. He told my mother that their days of poverty were gone for ever. They would never face any dearth of money again in their lives.
And then slowly and steadily our family started becoming richer. Once in every two or three months, my father used to go somewhere in the middle of the night and return after two to three days with wads of currency in his pockets. My mother asked him numerous times about his new found wealth. But father always used to overlook her request and simply neglect her question. He simply said it was better that she didn’t know anything about it. He started leading a secretive life. On the front he opened a small jewellery shop in the village itself, but he never liked to entertain any customer there.
Everything was going on well and then one day one of his old friend’s from his orphanage days arrived at our doorstep. My father became very happy and welcomed him with an open heart. After a week of his stay, one night he took his friend along with him on his nightly errand. But this time, he never returned. Neither his friend came back with any information.
We kept on waiting for him for another five years. Our financial condition deteriorated and ultimately we were left with nothing. Thankfully, one of my mother’s distant relative came to our rescue and took us in his shelter in the town. My mother though illiterate, started doing odd jobs and provided me the best possible education. Finally after completing my education I was able to get a decent job and take care of my family.”
“But, why are you telling me all this? How is Subhi connected?” Clearly Mr Satyashree was losing his patience.
“Please let me continue sir.
Six months ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She expressed her desire to visit the village again. I took my ailing mother to Pulichinthala. We were surprised to see the changed scenario in the village. A large expanse of the land was under the control of Dadlani Diamonds. Barring a small part, most of the area was surrounded by boundaries. The high walls of the boundaries encompassed more than two thousand acres of barren land, shrubs, hillocks and abandoned mines.
Little bit of enquiry revealed, that the land was acquired about fifteen years ago and in the beginning, truckloads of rocks were brought there and thrown in the quarries. The work was done in a very secretive manner. None of the local people were hired for the job. This activity continued for six months and Dadlani, himself monitored the work.
And then suddenly, everything stopped. The whole place was abandoned. Apart from two security guards, everybody left the place.
In the beginning the villagers stormed the place to know what had happened there. But nothing got revealed. Slowly the curiosity died and now nobody cares about it. In between, Dadlani visited the place about three or four times in his private helicopter. He was always accompanied by his personal security guards. But his purpose remained hidden. He used to arrive in the dead of night and borrow his guard’s motorbike and then venture somewhere in the vast acres of his virgin land. It was impossible to trail him, without him becoming aware. So naturally, even his guards never tried.
After staying in the village for two days, I returned with my mother to the city of my job. But few days back, my mother saw Dadlani’s picture in one of the newspapers along with the news of his accident. Even with her feeble eyes, she recognised him instantly.
Mr Dadlani was my father’s friend, with whom he had gone on that deadly night, never to come back.
Now Mr Satyasree, with Dadlani’s death all the hopes of my father coming back has also died. My mother who spent her entire life looking at the door, expecting her husband to return at any moment has one last wish. And that wish is, to at least know what had happened to her husband. Is he still alive, or is he dead.
I knew, now it would not be easy to unravel the truth. But I had to try to fulfil her last wish. I decided to start my investigation from his orphanage days. Luckily my mother knew the name of the orphanage in Surat. My father had told her about it. A week ago, I visited the place. There I was told about my father’s early years. His platonic relation with Mr Dadlani was also described to me in detail. There only, I came to know about Mr Dadlani’s will, in which he has bequeathed ten lakh rupees to the orphanage. They also told me about a request from his lawyers asking for information about Dadlani’s early years so that it can be penned as a book.
With nothing else coming in my mind, I decided to meet the lawyers thinking that his will may reveal something which turns out to be some crucial information related to my father. I also wanted to know whether Mr Dadlani had shared any information about his Pulichinthala tour and property with anyone or not.
I took the address of the lawyers and came to Delhi. The address given in the letter to the orphanage was of your society. I reached here to meet them. Surprisingly, I came to know that there was no such office in the society.
I knew that the orphanage had sent a letter with compiled information on this address. After knowing the procedure, I understood that the letter must have been left undelivered in the newspaper rack in front of the society office.
After lots of persuasion, requests and giving a written undertaking, the society secretary and the security officer showed me the CCTV footage where Subhi was seen, taking the envelops and keeping them in her bag.
We are coming straight from the society office to your place.”
Everybody turned towards Subhi. Tons of ice fell on her head.
( To be contd…)
EPISODE 6 – PERISCOPE
The next two days had been nightmarish for Subhi. She had never experienced her mother’s uncontrolled fury earlier. She was still thinking about, what would have happened if her father had not intervened in between.
It was very obvious, that even Mr Satyashree had become very upset after listening about the letters, which she had written to the orphanages. And as an icing on the cake Jaipal Reddy requested her parents to allow Subhi to accompany him to Pulichinthala. He believed that there was something in Pulichinthala, which only Subhi could unravel.
Subhi also believed this. The whole secret lied in Pulichinthala. But what her role would be in the unknotting of the mystery was in itself a big mystery for her. She was unable to connect herself with Dadlani or any of the events. But somehow she knew that there was a connection. But as every cloud has a silver lining, here also Subhi felt relieved that some of her hunches had proved themselves to be true. Now it was clear that Dadlani had indeed gone missing for two years in search of his friend. (Episode 4) His new found riches were really linked with Jai Prakash Reddy.
It seemed that Jai Prakash Reddy had found some eternal source of riches and he had shared the secret information with his best childhood friend. Something had happened in that night and most probably Dadlani betrayed his best friend and escaped with the secret. Subhi was sure that Jai Prakash Reddy had paid a heavy price for his misplaced trust, may be with his life.
In front of Jaipal Reddy and his wife, Subhi had lied that she was just driven by curiosity. Her interest in the case was nothing more than a passing interest of an inquisitive mind. She purposely did not disclose about her recurring dreams.
Regarding Jaipal Reddy’s unusual request, it was a clear ‘NO’ from her parents. They found it very unimaginable and impractical. Even Sonia, Jaipal Reddy’s wife agreed to the fact. Ultimately Jaipal left the place in a very sombre mood.
Subhi believed that her dreams were related to all these happenings. But she was unable to decipher the connection. The red stoned monument still used to flash in front of her eyes. (Episode 2- Last paragraph) She had inkling that she had seen the structure somewhere. She googled “red stoned monument”. Google displayed number of images. But none of them were even near to the monument she had seen in her dreams. Number of hours spent on the internet did not yield any results. She could not find any red stoned monument as she had seen in her dream. Ultimately she called another of her elder cousins Abhijai and requested him to draw few pictures for her. Abhijay was a good artist and could visualise and draw sceneries. Subhi decided to get the painting of the red stoned monument made. She wanted to compare it with the known monuments in India. She described the building which she had seen in her dream as vividly as she could. Abhijay promised to send those pictures as soon as his exams got over. This was the only thing which she could do further. She decided to leave the matter and concentrate on her studies again.
On the third day, her mother informed her that the school bus was going to come about half an hour earlier than usual. It seemed that the bus driver had called up on the house phone. There was a political rally on the usual way to the school, so he had planned to take a detour and reach the school using a longer route.
Subhi reached the bus stop at 6:15 A.M. The road was still deserted. She saw few senior citizens walking briskly in the opposite park. She was surprised that none of her other school mates had reached till then. As per the instruction, the bus was scheduled to reach by 6:30 A.M. The usual time was 7:00 A.M. With nothing else to do, she started trying to correlate her dreams with Mr. Dadlani’s untimely death.
Her reverie was broken by a screeching sound of tyres. An old Maruti van had just halted in front of her. Before she could realise anything, two masked men jumped from the opened door and pulled her inside. She tried to shout, but by that time one of them had successfully placed his burly hand over her mouth and she could not utter any audible word. Within few minutes she started feeling suffocated and lost her consciousness.
When she woke up, she found herself in a dark room. The windows were covered with black curtains but she could make out rays of bright light of the sun seeping in through the cracks. The honking sound of the traffic somewhere below was very audible and she estimated that she was held captive in a flat very near to a busy road.
As Subhi tried to adjust her eyes in the darkness, she noticed a silhouette just few feet in front of her. Feeling alarmed, she tried to shout. But her voice got choked within her gullet. She realised that she was gagged and tightly bound to a chair. Her mind started racing. She knew that she had to keep her senses in control and should not panic under any circumstances.
“Why should anybody kidnap me? Is it for ransom, or is it somehow linked to Dadlani’s case. But there is no reason for anybody to link me with Dadlani’s murder.” She thought.
She understood that the phone call of the bus driver was a fake call and she was manipulated by the kidnappers to reach the bus stop earlier. Naturally they wanted her to be alone at that time. Generally the roads are deserted in the early hours and she could be picked up without any public interference.
She saw the silhouette slowly rising up and coming towards her. It stopped just a foot in front of her and picked up something from the table kept at the side. Suddenly an intense beam of light bedazzled Subhi’s eyes. She turned her head towards the side to avoid the intense light. For the first time she noticed two more hooded men in the room. They were sitting comfortably on the ground.
“You can make it very tough or very easy. What do you want?” The hooded man with the torch in his hand said.
Subhi shook her head affirmatively. The man in the front took out the gag from Subhi’s mouth.
“Please don’t shout and try to make things difficult for us. Your smartness may cost you, your life.”
“Yes.” Subhi said meekly trying to gasp in as much air as she could.
“You just need to answer few questions. Answer them politely and we promise we would leave you before the dismissal time of your school and none will be wiser. For your information, till now even your parents are not aware that you have been kidnapped.” The man said.
Subhi was trying to match the voice of the abductor with any of her acquaintances. She knew that even if she recognises the voice then also she had to show ignorance. The kidnappers never leave their victim alive, if they come to know that they have been recognised.
She quickly tried to match the hoarse voice with everybody she knew. But this voice was different and she was sure that she had never heard the voice earlier in her life. A passing thought came in her mind. Was Jaipal Reddy responsible for this heinous act? But her doubt was immediately cleared.
“How do you know this man? Why had he visited your house that day?” Her abductor asked, showing Jaipal Reddy’s photograph to her.
Without any hesitation, Subhi recounted her meeting with Jaipal Reddy. She understood that there was no point in hiding Jaipal’s visit from them. They already knew certain things. She felt happy that the man on the other side seemed to believe her.
“Why he wants to take you to Pulichinthala? What do you know about Dadlani’s death?” He fired the two questions together.
“I really don’t know why Mr Jaipal Reddy wanted me to accompany him to Pulichinthala. Regarding Mr Dadlani’s death, I just got curious as I had met him earlier.” Subhi said.
“Do you understand, what is drawn on this paper?” The man said thrusting a torn parchment in front of her face.
Subhi saw numerous pairs of parallel lines crossing each other. At number of places these lines were bent at right angles. Smaller slanted lines were placed at the corners where the parallel lines had changed directions. These smaller slanted lines were thicker and lightly shaded. She noticed that at one place a small circle was made with number of smaller circles in it and a representation of a small sun was also placed at the opposite side of the parchment. Something was written in Arabic or Persian below the diagram.
Subhi shook her head negatively. She did not understand anything there. The hooded man turned back giving a sigh. Subhi’s eyes were now filled with tears. The intense beam had started a searing pain in her head. She closed her eyes to lessen the burning sensation in them. And then suddenly everything became clear. She remembered her dream. She understood that the parallel lines were representing the tunnels. The circle with smaller circles in it represented the window through which she had entered the tunnel, below the river bank. The slanted lines placed at the corners were in fact mirrors strategically placed to create effect of a periscope. No wonder, she could see the light but could not move further as the path was blocked by a big mirror which was reflecting the light coming from a different direction. The whole place was so dark that she could not see her own reflection and judge correctly. Indeed the whole place was a honeycomb of tunnels designed with a complicated sequence of periscopes. The small sun drawn in the parchment must be representing the source of light.
“Our whole effort has gone in vain. Why Dadlani was so much attached to this paper is still not clear. On top of all these, this irritant girl has wasted our energy and time immensely. Now what shall we do with her?” He asked his friends.
“Kill her.” One said nonchalantly.
( To be contd….)