Thursday, July 13, 2006

Happens

In the middle of all the sadness and anger, a story that might seem pointless.

Arindam is an officer in the C***, a para-military force, presently posted in Aizawl. Last year he married Tuhin Babu’s daughter. This tangentially concerns me, because Tuhin Babu was my secretary when I was in P District and I hold him in high regard. A fine, earnest, good man of the old school. He asked to be transferred out of the DM’s office after I left, now he puts in his 9 to 5 and gets home comparatively early. When I went to P in May, he took me home and his bright-eyed wife served me a superb lunch in a spick-and-span room thick with the scent of incense sticks. Afterwards, we walked in his tiny walled garden and he plucked fragrant limes for me to carry home to Calcutta.

Monday afternoon I got a call from Tuhin Babu. Upset, barely holding back tears. He was in Aizawl. His daughter and son-in-law had quarrelled over some trivial issue the previous Monday night. On Tuesday, Arindam came home in the afternoon to find his wife sulking in bed and no lunch. He went back to work. Driving home in the evening, he asked his chauffeur to drop him off at the airport. And vanished.

From Tuhin Babu and his daughter Indira, over a phone line that faded and crackled, I pieced together a picture of an unusual man. Sensitive, moody but considerate. A man who couldn’t get through the work-day without talking to his wife, yet struck her when his patience ran out. Who, after he drew money to buy an air ticket to Calcutta, remembered to leave three thousand rupees under his wife’s clothes in the cupboard before he walked out.

For three days, Tuhin Babu and I phoned everywhere. Bank. Home. Friends. Police. Colleagues.

My friend who heads the detective department in Calcutta said such disappearing acts can usually be traced to any of four causes – depression, another woman, debt or some scheme with friends. We asked around. By all accounts, he had not been in touch with his childhood sweetheart for many years. He was not in debt. He was not close to any of his colleagues. A reclusive but soft-spoken and gentle man. Depression? It might fit, but this scenario made him less predictable.

Arindam does not have a cell phone, which might have made things easier. The bank inquiries paid off. His ATM card had been used for withdrawals at Calcutta Airport. Then, two days later, on Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Bombay. Why Bombay? Nobody had an answer. Arindam’s commanding officer cajoled the local police to send a team to Bombay or at least to mail his picture and description there. I called up favours with colleagues out there. Then 11th July happened and we realised that the Bombay police have their hands too full to devote much time to this case. Besides, what if he was on one of those trains? Hopes fell. Until the bank manager called and said there had been another withdrawal from the same ATM in Bombay, on 12th July. But we were no closer to finding him.

Today, Tuhin Babu called me from Calcutta Airport on his way back to P. He wept. I felt awful. He said his daughter didn’t want to come into the city because she would have to talk to people. They went straight to the station.

Ten minutes ago, Tuhin Babu called from a phone booth at the station. I cold practically see his beaming face over the phone. “Sir, Arindam has been found. My daughter saw him at the station, about to board a train for the North-East. I bought her a ticket, they’re together now, on a train home to Aizawl.”

Fairy-tale ending. Nice.

So far.


**** ****


16 comments:

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

:) hope it works out. you had me going there for a minute when you said he was in Bombay.

Tabula Rasa said...

STRANGE.

Zero said...

J.A.P.,
Nicely recollected sir, with no frills and pseudo-analysis (or any analysis for that matter).

Bishu said...

The Bombay angle was the tense moment of the gripping story. But was relieved when the ending headed towards Aizwal for a happy one.Hope the couple lives happily ever after with lil bits of khunsuti and occasional visits to Durtlang Hills

Kele Panchu said...

This reminds me of a Bengali movie (by Tapan Sinha/Mrinal Sen?) where the main character left home for 24 hours. In this case the time was much longer and involved B-Blast. I can realize what his relatives have been through!

Rimi said...

I...you...perhaps...no, okay, let them give the marriage another shot. By all means.

I don't know. To use the most cliched phrases, perhaps he needs help? Being posted in Aizwal...how unsettling can work be?

This is just so strange.

DD said...

very strange, but at least he's back.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

Hes back, but I do second rimi..its very strange isnt it?

He probably does need help, and what if he disappears again?

hmmm...

b v n said...

hi...here for first time.neat one,liked the flow.nicely done.

Prerona said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Prerona said...

i find it v scary - this kind of guy. not even sure what 'kind' it is. which makes it even more scary. i think its u i was having this conversation with one - early morning before i went running in edinburgh - anyway, it was abt the good boys & bad boys & i said i like the good boys even tho they might be boring - i think this fear is linked to that :)

btw, sent ur blogs link to my uncle - to read the prev post - and he loved it!

panu said...

well... the realities behind every fairy tale....

Tabula Rasa said...

japda,
i'll be in cal on august 3 and 4. if you're up for a quick one at the 19th hole, please email and let me know.

Jay said...

Riveting story... so do they know the why he disappeared in the first place?

It sounds more like he's been 'recaptured' rather than 'found'!

Sundancer said...

Newbie online! Nice story there, I second the 'recaptured' thought!

eve's lungs said...

Thank God its a happy ending till he decides to do it or something else again ...I wonder how long the girl will put up with such tension