Beyond Printed Lines
Beyond Printed Lines
Rahul was studying first year in college when during the vacation post his semester examination, he decided to visit Kolkata.
He had relatives there, but the main intent was not just meeting them. That, of course was going to happen but he wanted to visit the world's largest second hand book market in the world, the College Street.
He had to purchase some books recommended by the professors. After he reached Kolkata, he took rest that day and next day he decided to go book shopping.
He had not been to College Street before and the sheer volume of books on both sides of the road stunned him. Not only were there proper book stalls on both sides of the road, but even on the footpaths, there were hawkers selling books. Rahul kept glancing at the books on sale. He was particularly intrigued by the collection in the second hand book stores. He could see some rare and valuable books in relatively good condition selling for huge discounts, sometimes as much as 50% less than the market price, sometimes even more. He had some amount of experience with bargaining and it was not long before he found his backpack had started to weigh quite a bit because of the books he had started buying. He even bought books he had not listed, some novels as well.
He checked his wallet. Just enough left to pay for the bus fare back to his relative's place. But he was more than happy with what he had been able to grab, not only books he had listed but also books he always had in his mind, but never got a chance to grab either due to non availability in local book stores or due to the high price. He had already hopped on to the bus and smiled to himself as he thought about all these. While most of his purchases were old books, the condition was very good, he did confirm this by turning the pages while purchasing.
Later that evening, he sat relaxing and turned the pages of the books one by one. He was happy that none of the books showed too much wear and tear, although second hand.
But one of the books in particular caught his attention. The book was a best seller novel by an American author, one of those he had on his list long time back.
The first page had a handwritten note.
"To Suchitra, with love.
You know my best wishes are always with you.
Dated: 6th Feb' 1982"
The way the note was written was interesting. Clearly Mr Unknown did not want his identity to be revealed, but is it possible that Suchitra knew who he was? Rahul kept thinking.
While turning the pages in the book, he also found a boarding pass, issued in the name of Suchitra Mukherjee. Dated: 25th May 1985. Pan India Flight 183.
Rahul thought the flight number seemed familiar, had he heard about it before? If so how? He quickly looked up in Google and found that there was indeed a flight 183 operated by Pan India, but a more interesting fact was that the flight had been involved in an air crash in 1985 on that very date.
The route of the ill-fated flight was Ontario-London-Calcutta. The crash happened en-route Ontario to London. So, Ms. Suchitra planned to board the flight and got her boarding pass, but she did not board it. Rahul was sure she did not board it because, if she had boarded, this original boarding pass would be there with her and would have been destroyed along with her. May be she wanted to keep it as a souvenir of the luck she had with missing her flight for whatever reason. He kept turning the pages of the novel to see if there was something else as well hidden in the book.
But he could not find anything else. He kept wondering if Ms Mukherjee was alive and well today. It's been so many decades.
Rahul quickly opened his social media accounts and started doing a name search. Suchitra Mukherjee was not an uncommon name and there were many profiles with that name. He filtered by location and found there were 7 locations that users said they hailed from. The ones of interest were -
1. Ontario, Canada - 1 user
2. Kolkata, India - 3 users
3. Hyderabad, India - 1 user
All the profiles had photographs on them, except one from Kolkata and the one from Ontario.
After a quick scan, Rahul dismissed the profiles with photographs, as the age of the Suchitra he was searching for, was not in range of the account holders.
The book was sold in College Street, Kolkata. It is likely that the owner or at least her relatives still stayed there.
The two profiles that did not have profile photographs also kept information private, so there was no way to match.
The other question that kept Rahul intrigued was who was Mr Unknown. Was he known to Suchitra? Did he have something to do with her not boarding the flight at the last moment? Wow! The more he thought, the more it appeared that this whole situation almost 40 years back was no less than a thriller.
He could do a public post with the digital image of the boarding pass, but that would attract the wrong kind of attention. He wanted to keep it discreet.
But then something struck him. Someone who keeps her book in immaculate condition and treasures a boarding pass. She literally brought it from Canada to India. She would have thoroughly scanned her books before selling. Is it possible that she is either sick or dead and someone else did a bulk sale of all her possessions? Yes, it is possible.
He started doing some searches with the name in online obituary records in Kolkata and there was a match. In the year 2017 a lady named Suchitra Mukherjee died and was cremated in Nimtala burning ghaat. The date of cremation was 26th August, 2017. The age was mentioned to be 57 years old. In 1985, this lady would have been 25 years old, he thought. But still he was not sure if both of them were the same person.
He looked at the boarding pass again. There was no age or birthday mentioned there, which is how it is even today, Rahul thought.
Then he had an idea. Many relatives post obituaries prominently in newspapers after their death. Since the year when this lady died in 2017, it is possible to look at the online archives of all major dailies to check if something was posted after her death.
With that in mind, he started sipping on yet another cup of coffee and started browsing through the online archives. He put the date filter as one month after the death. It took him several days and hours of searching before he found a tribute for one Suchitra Mukherjee.
"I could save you once,
I could not save you twice.
You left me all alone,
Fending for myself after you're gone!
I wish we could know each other better,
But life never gave me a chance!
I pray you be happy,
Wherever you are,
Now and forever!
- With love from
There was no mention of who posted it or how was he/she related to the deceased. But Rahul could see a clear link between the owner of the book and the person who died in 2017. The link was established by none other than someone who knew Suchitra very well, kept a watch for her no matter where she was and whom Suchitra trusted as well, but never could extend the relationship to something more fruitful.
But how did this person know in advance that the aircraft was likely to crash? This was not clear to Rahul.
Was he part of the plan and lived under an assumed identity?
Rahul looked at the wall clock. It was 4 am already! Wow he had lost count of days and hours in this.
He decided that it was enough investigation for whatever little information he had at his disposal. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Months passed, till one afternoon over the weekend when he was having his meal, he suddenly became conscious of an interesting news being displayed on the international TV news. Someone by the name of Ravi Singh had shot himself dead in Ontario, Canada. He was 67 years old and stayed alone. He had left a note claiming responsibility for the unsolved Pan India Flight 183 crash case.
Disclaimer: The story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is coincidental and unintentional on the author's part.