Karan was fired up. Jeremy was too. Both had their reasons to end it, once and for all. Both were romanticising with life afterwards…. Jeremy a grand plan thought out, Karan a lonesome existence seeking. Both were so done with the whole thing, so done playing games, that they must be the most ruthless men on Earth. And that wasn’t going to be any good for Mrs. Virmani…
The old ‘lady’ was sitting in her home, dicing frail beans for dinner. To the police-officers still posted outside her house, going through their last day of mindless time-passing and gazing, she seemed not one bit interesting. They had tried to talk to her, only to receive monosyllabic answers, that implied only too well that she was pre-occupied. So the three men left her to her veggies and chores, not even offering to help anymore, resigning to cards. (In a span of two guard days, three hundred rupees had changed hands.)
Alert as the guards may be, they could never have seen into the shrewd eyes. They, of course, didn’t expect that old a lady to be conspiring a master plan, to tackle a sharp-shooter and two equally sharp boys. But that was exactly what she was doing…. formulating a plan… what with Ankur being dead now…. her son… gone….. and she couldn’t-
Old Mrs. Virmani’s thoughts were disturbed by the siren of a police jeep. An angry police jeep, it was obvious. Police jeeps in India are only either angry or missing. And the tires that screeched to a halt outside her house were clearly a sign of the former. Heavy thudding and car-door-shutting followed, through which Mrs. Virmani prepared herself.
A very very hassled officer, Officer Rajiv Yadav, opened the door hastily, in those rare moments he forgot society manners. His face spoke of complete shock. He was sweating profusely, he was worked up so.
“Mrs- Mrs Virmani. Please, do sit down. I need to speak to you about something urgently… ” With one wave of his hand, a constable pulled up a chair for his Officer and the woman and stood back. The two unlucky ones who still had to stand at the door peeped in, baffled by their head’s strange demeanor.
“Mrs Virmani, I am so sorry to be bringing you this news. But it’s essential it be me… since I’m in-charge of the case…. but first you need to know…”
He looked up at the passive face of Mrs. Virmani, only to be comforted to go on.
“Ma’am, your son, is dead.” No reaction. “We found him -his body- under ITO Bridge a few days ag- Ma’am are you okay?” Officer Yadav was troubled by the lack of response, he couldn’t have her going out on her, with all the questions he had for her. No, she musn’t. A constable brought her water. She silently accepted.
“Ma’am, I’m so sorry for your loss. I understand what you must be going through-” A well rehearsed line, of course he didn’t understand one bit.
” -but there are some serious complications that we need to sort out. We need your help with them, do you understand Mrs Virmani…?”
She nodded. She was still silent. Please, don’t let her go in shock! Prayed Officer Yadav. “Okay, we’ll-”
But he was interrupted. “I knew it.” For the first time in the ordeal, the woman was speaking. Officer Yadav let her go on, he wanted her to be really present.
“I knew he was dead…” Officer Yadav was attentive. What was this now?
“…I knew it when he didn’t call. My boy…. he wouldn’t leave his mama deserted… I knew something was wrong! MY BOY! No! No….” And Mrs. Virmani started crying. Officer Yadav was stunned by the abrupt change in her. This would mean a complete change of procedure. Stable the lady first. the questions would have to wait. Yet, he felt things more in control now.
“Now, Mrs. Virmani, I understand what you must be going through, I do…. To lose one’s child… Never easy…. No, no, it seems so unfair.” He had moved next to her, he was holding onto her, as she continued to wail.
“Now, now… Mrs. Virmani, you need to rest. It comes as a shock I know… Not fair, so fantastic it seems….. No, you must rest…”
Holding onto the young man’s arm, Mrs. Virmani ambled towards her room. Officer Yadav sat her on her bed, wondering whether he should wait for her to lie down or not, but the woman just kept crying, cupping her face in her wrinkled hands. She wouldn’t look up, so Yadav left her alone.
As he shut the door behind him, the questions shot back in. All those riddles! How could it be?! Had he not asked that constable to check into her son’s profile that day… such a meaningless thing it had seemed…How in the world did this lady’s son end up that way….. And she didn’t even know…. It was all so strange. The answers would come, the could help him, but he would have to wait….
Behind the shut door, Mrs. Virmani raised her tear-filled eyes, and looking out of the corner of one, smiled.
Another thing Officer Yadav missed was the crumpled newspaper in the bin, with Delhi Police’s ad, calling for Ankur’s identification, on the opened page.