Book Extract Fiction

The Heart of Donna Rai: Police

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Reading Time: 19 minutes

Here’s the third and final part of the three-part book extract from the forthcoming novel, The Heart of Donna Rai by Sumita, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths. 

We had barely finished our breakfast when the knocker on the door set in the high courtyard wall went rat-a-tat-tat fiercely. Everyone jumped. The knock somehow broadcast the visitors seeking entry were hostile.

We sat on mats, the remnants of our breakfast in front of us, like vulnerable idiots, and the police were already at the door arrests on their mind. They were going to have a field day with us. Jo and Niru Kaka had slept through the night. I doubt Niru Kaka had been filled in yet. Jo got three succinct sentences from me: “Hari Kaka and Debu Kaka are home. They are in trouble—involving guns. The police might come.” I hurried her from bathroom to breakfast, still blinking in bewilderment.

Every adult’s face was strained. I had chosen to sit close to Hari Kaka. He heard my breath hitch and looked into my frightened eyes. He smiled ruefully, ruffled my short hair. I numbly watched him fold away his mat, put his used bowl in the washing area under the hand pump, before calmly walking down the corridor to disappear up the steps leading to the first floor.

Shobha Pishi, one of the people from the village who helped in the house, made her way through the goats to open the door. Almost a dozen policemen marched in cramping the bleating animals. Some of them carried rifles on their shoulders; others had batons hanging from their waist. The leader had a pair of guns in buttoned holsters attached to his belt.

The number of weapons–unfamiliar, deadly, lovingly shined–registered, then the ensemble’s dress code… Being horribly afraid and wanting to laugh at the same time isn’t pleasant. I scowled.

Each constable’s pride was a half-sleeved shirt and baggy shorts that ended at the knees, all held in with a broad leather belt. Thick, knee-high socks, and boots that had probably been polished once but were now generously mired planted them to the ground. Below the waist, each policeman was splotched with mud from the recent rains. I’ve often wondered why khaki was such a popular colour with the powers that had the right to choose such important matters. Perhaps they thought the colour wore dirt better?

The two leading the contingent could have been twins. They had imposing stomachs, plump jowly faces, luxuriant moustaches, and eyes proclaiming their own importance. Two stars riding on epaulets, above red and blue ribbons, marked the leader. Apparently, only he had the right to full-length trousers. His uniform, well ironed, would have looked smart if not for the unfortunate mud. His junior’s uniform showed his superiority over the constables by the three downward pointing red chevrons on his sleeves. Unfortunately, the length of his shorts matched the others in displaying hairy knees.

Most of the constables, despite the rifle and truncheons, looked in dire need of food and sympathy. They had scrawny bodies, skinny faces, and scraggly fuzz covering their upper lip (really couldn’t call them moustaches). Their eyes held the same look I have seen in my friend Puki’s dogs—an expectant expression, of habitually waiting to jump to orders.

A couple differed. They were older; their wide belts cinched in straining shirts and loose shorts, high over ample girths. Their moustaches were waxed and twirled, their eyes solemn. One gently slapped his baton on the opposite palm, while the other stood absolutely still, hand resting firmly on his rifle. Both looked equally threatening despite the exhibition of chubby knees.

One of the goats, pushed so inconsiderately against the wall, rebelled, turned its bottom towards its offender and let go of a few pellets. The unfortunate recipient was, as luck would have it, the obvious leader of the troupe (lower limbs fully clothed). Shifting away and stamping his feet with disgust, he thundered, “Who’s the head of this household?”

Thakurda rose from his easy chair and stepped up to tower over the enemy. The policeman had to crane his head up to look at Thakurda standing on the raised veranda. He stepped back bristling, almost trampling his aide. With a quick about turn, he yelled, “Constable Ramu, Constable Gopal, guard the exit! The rest of you surround the house!”

Gopal and Ramu turned out to be the older, extra-healthy constables. While they took their positions, Head Honcho turned back to Thakurda with a black frown. “I am Sub-Inspector Basak and this is Head Constable Borua,” gesturing to his twin. “Are you Headmaster Rai?”

“I am Satyendeb Rai, Headmaster of the Gramin Patshala in Pukur Bagan, the owner of this house and about six bighas of surrounding land. This is my family,” stated Thakurda adjusting his spectacles.

“Headmaster Satyendeb Rai, we have a warrant to arrest your son Debu, for possession of illegal arms, and for being a member of a terrorist group—the Naxals. We demand you hand him over to us, or face charges of abetting a dangerous criminal,” announced Head Constable Borua in a stentorian voice after a nod from Sub-Inspector Basak. He, meanwhile, roved his gaze over us, gauging our reactions.

“I am a highly respected member of this community, and you come in here with such insane accusations! What evidence do you have that you dare to burst into my house in this rude manner, expecting me to obey your wishes? Speak up man!” thundered back Thakurda, building up to full steam.

We were all startled. I looked at him with awe.

“We have evidence,” said the Sub-Inspector, squaring his shoulders aggressively. “A number of witnesses saw pipe guns fall out of your son’s trunk. They are poor villagers from in and around Aagachagram, a backward community. They did not dare confront him, but they saw him all right. They were able to describe him. The farmer—on whose cart he travelled—said the fellow was your son, that his name was Debu.”

Straightening to maximum possible height, head tilted back to glower forbiddingly at Thakurda, he pronounced with gravity, “You are an honourable, educated person. You know better than to harbour a fugitive from justice. Your house is surrounded. He cannot escape. I demand you hand him over to us!”

“All my sons are named Debu.”

“What the hell does that mean? Nobody names all their children the same” sputtered the Sub-Inspector.

“I can easily explain. They are here… Let me introduce them to you,” Thakurda invited readily. “I have five sons and one daughter. I can show birth certificates and school, college certificates if required.”

Gesticulating towards Jethu (he had been seated at the edge of the veranda, near the round pillar demarcating veranda from the corridor and had stood up hastily at the advent of the small army), “My eldest son Satyadeb Rai; his wife Shompa is clearing away our breakfast. The strapping young boy is their son Deeptanshu, and their little fellow is called Khokon. My son is Station Master at Gobordanga railway station. He and his family live with me.”

He gestured to my parents—standing where the corridor adjoined the veranda. “My second son—Chaturdeb Rai and his wife Uma. These two pretty angels, Chondona and Jyotsna are theirs.”

Quite surprised to be described as a pretty angel, I shared a look with Jo. She grinned back, familiar with my thought process. While Jo fit the bill (she takes after Ma in beauty and was neatly dressed as always), I hardly looked like an angel wearing Dada’s old clothes, which I preferred while at the farm. I’m not fond of dresses. They tear far too easily and are liable to show knickers at the smallest excuse. If I want to show knickers or even moon, I’ll do it when I wish, certainly not inadvertently. My customary scowl in place, I looked… as un-angelic as possible.

Thakurda continued, “Chaturdeb studied civil engineering at IIT, Kharagpur, and works for a construction company in Madras. They visit most summers when the children have their holidays.”

Next, he turned to Debu Kaka, who sat bent forward, eating his breakfast as though it were his last meal. “That young man is my fourth son Achyutdeb Rai. Don’t mind his manners; he is always hungry. He is studying to be a doctor at Calcutta Medical College and lives in a hostel. He gets time to neither rest nor eats in college. He makes up for it while at home. He always visits when Chaturdeb and his family are present.”

Totally at ease, he turned to Niru Kaka, who stood with his bowl in one hand and mat in the other, looking thoroughly puzzled. “The befuddled young man is my youngest, Niranjandeb Rai. He is preparing for his MSc, first-year exam. He too lives in a hostel in Calcutta, studies in Vidyasagar College… Calcutta University. Hopefully, he’ll pass this year,” Thakurda grumbled under his breath.

“My daughter Sucheta Debi—helping in the kitchen. She was married, but when her epilepsy fits got worse, her husband’s family sent her back to us. Now she lives with me… And this tiny woman here is the wonderful mother of my children—Shrimati Shibakaari Rai. So, you see, all my sons are named Deb, and have been called Debu at some point in their life…” he ended calmly.

The Sub-Inspector had followed the introductions with interest until Thakurda jumped from the second son to the fourth son. He seemed to be impatiently waiting to inquire about the missing third son. He looked piercingly at Debu Kaka and Niru Kaka, barely glanced at Pishi and burst out with, “What about your third son? Where is he?”

Thakurda looked sad. “My third son is Aadideb, a ne’er do well. He comes and goes when he likes. He hates studies, and I being a school principal, cannot stand to see one of my sons ruin his life. I keep nagging him to study in vain; he does as he pleases. When he is in need he comes home, and when my lectures get too much for him, he leaves.”

What? Wow, I didn’t know Thakurda could lie so fluently. I regarded him with new respect. Thakurda had produced six sons and two daughters. One daughter hadn’t survived past infancy. The son named Aadideb had been born third, but he too died of smallpox or some such disease, in his teens. Thakurda had hidden a living son under the name of a dead son. Would he be able to get away with it?

“Where is this third son now?” asked Sub-Inspector Basak.

“He was here the last two days. I am not sure when he left. These days I try to ignore what he does. My blood pressure shoots up when I try to deal with him.” Thakurda took off his glasses and polished them carefully with a kerchief.

The Sub-Inspector looked flummoxed. The incident at Aagachagram had occurred the night before last. Rage crept up his face in a purple tide and he burst out, “I don’t believe this, I don’t believe this! Line them up this instant. Borua, get the witnesses; they’ll identify our fugitive. Ramu, Gopal, call two others and spread out, search this damned place—every cupboard, nook, and cranny! The villagers mentioned five sons; I want the missing third son found!”

“You there, girl,” he called, addressing Shobha Pishi. “Who are you?”

“I live in the village with my parents, huzoor. I come here to help in the house every day,” she explained.

“You’ll know all the inmates,” the Sub-Inspector beamed with pleasure. “How many sons does your master have?”

“Five, huzoor.”

“What are their names?”

“Names I don’t know huzoor; how can I call them by their names? I address them as BordaMezdaShezda…” She looked apologetic.

The Sub-Inspector looked like he wanted to pull out his hair. “Where are those witnesses,” he yelled to his doppelgänger Head Constable.

One of the constables had the bright idea to shoo out the goats. They would come back on their own in the evening. The cows demanded attention. There was a hiatus while Thakuma sent Shobha Pishi with a couple of pails to milk them leaving the police free to continue their interrogation.

The three witnesses—sheepish looking villagers—were brought forward and asked to identify the person they had seen a couple of days back. The four brothers present, stood in line awaiting denouement.

It soon became clear that this wasn’t going to be a simple job for the witnesses. They disregarded Jethu immediately as too tall; moreover, he wore spectacles and their fugitive hadn’t. They openly deliberated about Baba being the ruffian with the wicked guns.

“His age is about right. The other two are too young,” pronounced Number One.

“Yes, he is in the late thirties I would guess. Look at his powerful shoulders and that moustache, exactly like a villain. He could handle guns I am sure,” said Number Two.

“What rubbish are you talking? My passenger was definitely taller than me, and he hardly had any moustache. He was thin, not muscular at all! Did you even see my passenger at all?”

Must be the oxen cart owner. Surely, he would identify Kaka in an instant…

“I saw the guns. I saw the fellow bundling them with his clothes into his trunk. He wore a kurta over his trousers. He looked muscular to me. How can you say he was thin? His kurta was definitely tight at the shoulders; I noticed how it stretched across his back when he bent down. My eyes are sharp. Most of us were carrying hurricane lanterns; it was almost as bright as day. And it was still early for me. I hadn’t had my full quota yet I remember perfectly. As for his height, maybe he was wearing those modern shoes with heels. Like the villain in that cinema that came to a couple of weeks back? Remember? You were there too,” Number One prodded Number Two.

“I remember. Those white shoes with the black tip and heels, so villainous! What an excellent cinema! But… our man was wearing sandals… His kurta was tight at the shoulders… I think it must be this fellow. I saw only his back… and the guns he was picking up. I thought he was taller, but age-wise, it should be this man; the other two are barely out of their teens. Think what you are saying Madan Lal,” said Number Two.

Apparently, Madan Lal was the cart owner, and two out of the three witnesses believed my father should be in jail. Ma looked worried. I hid my grin, my fears were forgotten for the moment. They couldn’t possibly arrest Baba; he had far too many alibis. He is too… smart, to take the rap for something he did not do. He may be forgetful in practical life, but I have no doubt Baba is clever.

“No, no, you are completely wrong. I spent the whole evening with him, and we talked throughout our journey. He was very soft-spoken and polite. I told him all about my family: my two useless sons who refuse to go to school or help me in the farm, my new baby girl who will require a dowry, my sick old mother who refuses to die, and my ailing cow — she refuses to give milk… He was a good listener and very helpful. He helped me unload the sacks of rice at Ramprasad’s shop and promised to help unload the pumpkins too. But he disappeared after the wheel came off… He was like the son I’ve never had,” said Madan Lal.

“You must be mistaken. You are talking about a criminal with guns,” reminded Sub-Inspector Basak. “If he was able to lift sacks of rice, he must be strong like Gowrinath and Bhawani remember.” He looked at Baba sternly. Then searchingly at Debu Kaka and Niru Kaka, taking in their clean white pajamas and sleeveless vest through which collarbones and ribs underscored vulnerable youth. They looked the picture of naïve innocence.

Though Jethu is as tall as Thakurda, he has taken after his mother in looks and complexion and is quite dark. A fair amount of resemblance exists between all the other brothers, though they vary in height and complexion. Hari Kaka is almost as tall as Jethu and the darkest. Baba’s skin is lighter, but he is the shortest. With only a couple of years between them, the two youngest are quite similar to look at—Niru Kaka a shade taller than Debu Kaka. They are both fair to the skin, same slight weight, generally clean-shaven, and the same hairstyle—bouffant on the top and short at the sides. This is the popular fashion and Baba’s barber too preferred it. Jethu and Hari Kaka prefer shorter hair, combed to the side. Jethu’s is oiled and stays firmly in place. Hari Kaka’s tends to flop gently over his right temple. Jethu looks ordinary. Hari Kaka doesn’t.

Baba doesn’t have an opinion on such matters. He used to take me to his hair saloon when I was younger. He’d sit there reading a newspaper and when he was called to the chair, he’d still be lost in his paper while the barber did his job. I’d clamber on to my high chair, my gaze glued to him. The person clipping my hair would force my chin forward and I’d continue my surveillance via the mirror. Not a word did he utter until the end. Then he’d spare a look for me with a, “Done? Fine, how much?” to the person in whose tastes and skills Baba reposed such careless faith.

I had pondered a scenario: the barber, finding himself inundated with customers one day, decides to speed things up by getting rid of his most absent-minded customer. All he needed to do was inform Baba that his cut was done. I’m absolutely sure Baba will pay and move on without a look in the mirror. Later, when he did realise that he still needed a cut, he’d puzzle about having gone to the saloon, then probably conclude that his hair had grown too fast or that he had intended to go but had forgotten.

Not quite as bouffant as Elvis, they remind me of Dev Anand, the Hindi movie actor. I’ve always thought my father was the best looking, but as I compared them standing next to each other, I understood the two witnesses’ bias. If I were to cast a villain and had to choose between the three of them, I’d probably choose Baba too. Niru Kaka, neatly shorn of any facial hair, and Debu Kaka, even worse, with patchy growth, just didn’t make the cut.

The witnesses were confused. In the bright glare of daylight, they could differentiate the ages and features clearly, but their memory was prejudiced by their opinions. From the frustration on the Twins’ faces, I knew they realised it too.

“Can you please think back and remember exactly what you saw?” asked Sub-Inspector Basak.

“I am sure he’s the man I saw that night,” said Number One, pointing at Baba.

“No, I don’t think it is any of them,” stated Number Two.

“I want to hear them speak,” said the third—Madan Lal.

Just our luck Kaka chose to jump into the cart of a sharp farmer.

“Yes, yes, speak up,” commanded the Sub-Inspector.

“Two days back, on the 1st of June, my family and I arrived at Gobordanga railway station, around half past three in the afternoon. A number of people saw us, and if you need verification, I am sure I can find the tonga driver who drove us home. I couldn’t possibly have been in Jongolgaon the same night,” Baba stated the facts categorically.

“I came here by the overnight bus from Kolkata. It arrives at 4 am at the Pukur Bagan bus stand. The conductor may not recall. He is usually asleep when the bus stops for the one or two passengers who disembark here,” fibbed Debu Kaka in a high-pitched voice with a decidedly local twang.

Oh, Lord! Kaka, acting’s not for you. That sounded completely fake. Apprehension filled me again.

“Can anybody vouch for you? Perhaps you know the people who got off the bus with you,” asked the Sub-Inspector. He didn’t appear to have noticed anything wrong. Perhaps Kaka’s performance hadn’t been so bad.

“N… no, I was sleepy; wanted to get home and sleep. I didn’t notice anybody else,” replied Debu Kaka.

“Hmm,” said the Sub-Inspector, ominously adding, “Don’t worry, we can check it up.” He turned to Niru Kaka.

“I’ve been at home for the past week. Not only my family but the villagers too have seen me. I was nowhere near Jongolgaon,” said Niru Kaka, his voice perfectly normal, still under the impression this intrusion by the police was a mistake. I hoped Madan Lal would not note the similarity in speech between his passenger and Niru Kaka. However, his alibi would hold. Only Debu Kaka was without an alibi.

Madan Lal was staring at Debu Kaka. Really, that accent… Obviously, he had decided Niru Kaka wasn’t his passenger. Come to think of it, Niru Kaka’s speech was faster than Debu Kaka’s—more impatient, even though both spoke with the same educated tones and the timber was similar…

For a moment, a half-smile bloomed and recognition shone in Madan Lal’s eyes. Fear shadowed Debu Kaka’s eyes. My heart galloped.

Thakurda harrumphed, drawing everyone’s attention. “This is silly. Achyutdeb too has alibis. He wasn’t in Aagachagram, and he can prove it. The last few days, he was in Bonaache visiting his fiancée’s place before he came here this morning, and they will vouch for him,” proclaimed Thakurda, ignoring the astonished faces turning towards him.

“Right,” said the farmer, his face blank. He had made up his mind. He turned to the policemen who had been studying our expressions, “See, it can’t be any of these men. Maybe, my passenger is the missing third brother. These three have alibis. It couldn’t have been them.”

Debu Kaka must have made an extremely good impression on Madan Lal. I relaxed.

“I still think it is the second son,” said Number One.

“No, impossible! He was with his family and people saw them here. He couldn’t have been in Aagachagram at the same time. None of these men could be the rogue with the guns. You should find the third son, huzoor,” said Number Two.

Number One and Number Two, as names, are very apropos. What idiots!

Sub-Inspector Basak looked apoplectic. He had very likely noticed our involuntary surprise at Thakurda’s announcement, probably guessed we were lying. He just needed to prove it. His minions had returned empty-handed after searching the house. Although big and spacious, it was sparsely furnished with a few four-poster beds and wardrobes; the search had been concluded quickly. Hari Kaka had managed to leave unseen. The witnesses had proved worthless. What would the Sub-Inspector do now?

“Sit down everybody. We are going to talk and anybody caught lying will feel the hardness of my truncheon.” Sub-Inspector Basak looked mad.

Our trial wasn’t over yet. We settled down on the bare, red-oxide stained cement floor in silence. Jo found Ma’s lap. Dada and I flanked Debu Kaka. Niru Kaka, on whom the truth was slowly dawning, sat nearby. Thakurda’s easy chair was the only piece of furniture, and he reposed himself regally.

“So you are getting married.” It was a statement thrown at Debu Kaka. “Yes.” He maintained his fake voice.

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-four.”

“Whom are you marrying?”

“A girl from Bonaache.”

“I get that. I mean, who is she? Whose daughter are you marrying?”

Debu Kaka hesitated, sneaked a look at Thakurda—an imperceptible nod. “She is the daughter of Dr. Lokesh Borune Chatterjee of Bonaache,” he replied.

I saw Jethu and Jethima’s eyes round. Jethu looked at the ceiling searching for spider webs. Jethi adjusted her ghomta until most of her face was hidden. Khokon sat in her lap and peeked under his mother’s ghomta, giggling at the oft-played game. Baba nodded in complete agreement. Ma traced her fingers through Jo’s hair, her eyes lowered, and face serene. Pishi shelled peas undisturbed. Thakuma rolled her prayer beads; if her fingers faltered, Sub-Inspector Basak wasn’t quick enough to notice.

“Chatterjee… very good. So a Brahmin family has agreed to give you their daughter.”

Debu Kaka startled, glanced involuntarily at Thakurda, and then settled back, stuck with his story.

The implications hadn’t crossed my mind. I knew Debu Kaka had mentioned the name of the only family he knew in Bonaache—his close friend, Mukesh Borune Chatterjee’s father. Everything else was being fabricated on the spot. Was there even a daughter in that house?

“Yes, the proposal came from them. We had been hesitating because of the caste difference. We wanted them to be sure of their mind, but they have been insistent. The girl is as beautiful as she is talented. All has been settled,” Baba added for good measure.

I looked at him thunderstruck. He was capable of rising to the occasion after all.

Shobha Pishi came back with two pails full of milk. Seeing her, the Sub-Inspector insisted she too joins the family on the veranda. Searching for the weakest link, his eyes came to rest unerringly on helpful Pishi.

“How long have you been working here?”

“More than four-five years, huzoor. When I was a child, I used to accompany my mother. She helps with the washing and cleaning. Then later I also started to help. She’ll come today too, later…”

“Have you met all of Masterji’s five sons?”

“Oh yes. They keep coming and going. Mezda,” she pointed to Baba, “visits in the summer. And when he comes, all others also come here at the same time. Like yesterday, there were only three brothers, but I wasn’t at all surprised to see all five of them this morning,” she ended volubly.

Complete silence… broken by a deep sigh from the Head Constable Borua.

“Five brothers? Are you sure there were five?” asked Sub-Inspector Basak gently.

“Really Shobha, you must have counted Deep. Aadideb left sometime yesterday,” inserted Thakurda repressively.

“No, no, I saw all five brothers with mine own eyes. Borda,” she continued, pointing at Jethu, “sat near the pillar, his legs hanging down as usual. His knees hurt you know, so he prefers to sit there… Mezda sat there with Baby,” she indicated Baba and Jo. “Shezda sat next to Donna, and Nauda and Chotda sat there, near the kitchen door.”

“Nauda, I understand, is our groom to be, the fourth brother, Achyutdeb Rai, and Chotda is the youngest, this lad here, Niranjandeb Rai. Now, who’s Donna, and who is Shezda, the third brother?” the Sub-Inspector asked quietly.

Shobha Pishi nodded her head eagerly through the Sub-Inspector’s speech. “She is Donna, her calling name,” she said pointing to me. “Shezda was here during breakfast, but I don’t see him now. I didn’t see him leave either. He must be upstairs.”

“There’s nobody upstairs,” said the Sub-Inspector.

“He was here; see his bowl is under the hand pump waiting to be washed,” she insisted.

“Just like a man to leave his dirty bowl lying around for somebody else to clean. Serves him right if it leaps up to bite his backside,” mumbled my pishi.

Ouch! My sense of humour often aligns with Pishi’s. However, her words lash everybody except her parents, while I’m not interested in sharpening my tongue on anyone apart from my parents.

But Pishi… in this situation?

“Yes? Did you say something?” Sub-Inspector Basak asked Pishi.

“Why should only men leave dirty bowls behind? And women always have to be loving and kind?” was her reply.

 “Uh?” asked the Sub-Inspector, thoroughly confused.

“Even we need to dine. That bowl is mine,” she said briefly.

“She likes to speak in couplets,” explained Thakurda with a proud smile.

The Sub-Inspector turned to me as if Pishi was too mad to comprehend. “So Donna, tell me, who was sitting next to you at breakfast?”

I frowned ferociously, making full use of my ugly brows. “I don’t remember, Dada was around, probably,” I growled.

I could see him take a mental step back. ‘Attitude problem,’ shouted bold letters in a bubble above his head. Perhaps I could convince him I was mad too. Then he might leave me alone for good.

“Yes, I was going to scare her with my little friend here,” said Dada, pulling out a grass snake from his pocket.

Ma screamed while Jethi reprimanded. Loud laughter came from Pishi and remonstrations from Thakuma, “Go throw it outside immediately!”

Jo jumped up eagerly crying “Show me, show me…” She took the snake and swung it towards Ma, who screamed satisfyingly loud. “But, Ma, see how pretty it is,” she reasoned, valiantly doing her best to cause a distraction.

Unlike Ma, who had been brought up in the city and was easily scared by little critters, the policemen were sons of the soil and could not be hassled by a little green snake.

“Right child, put it away. I see you’re training your grandchildren well, Masterji. What an excellent role model you are proving to be,” said Sub-Inspector Basak. The respectful appellation of ‘Masterji’ dripped with sarcasm.

An uncomfortable silence spread over us. The snake back in Dada’s pocket, Jo sat down looking ashamed. I winked at her, and her shoulders relaxed.

“Please, speak politely to my father. He has done more for this community than you or any of the leaders have done since Independence. Think twice before you insinuate anything. As for the children, I saw Deep pick up that little snake near the hand pump. He curled it into his palm, placed it in his pocket, and sat next to Donna. I guessed what he was up to, but it was a harmless practical joke. He certainly did not pick it up with the intentions of scaring you; you hadn’t even arrived then,” said Niru Kaka, shoulders stiff.

Sub-Inspector Basak snorted—a most unpleasant sound, bringing to mind, a snot stuck up the nose.

“Say what you will, but a son of this house was seen carrying illegal guns. There are three witnesses who are ready to testify. The question is where’s your missing brother, our fugitive? The other suspects’ alibis will clear them; you may be sure we will check up every detail,” said Sub-Inspector Basak. “According to the maid, the third son was here this morning and must have somehow escaped when we entered the house. Come on Borua, tell the constables to spread out and comb the neighbourhood thoroughly. He couldn’t have gone far. If required, we can call for more men, and even hounds.”

(Book Extract concluded)

©Sumita Dutta ‘Shoam’ 

Illustration by the author and photos from Internet

#Fiction #Story #SundayStoryteller #TheHeartOfDonnaRai #DifferentTruths


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