Poorvi put off the TV. It was so boring without Mom. If she was there both of them will exchange all their stories about what happened in their respective offices, etc. But Mom has gone out of the station to attend some function and staying alone was so boring for her.
She came to the balcony and from the 15th floor started looking around the road. She was too shocked to see a Bel-Puri shop, right on the platform in front of their building. As usual, a good crowd had gathered around. Poorvi‘s building was a residential area and the neat footpaths in the front were a no-hawker zone! How did this fellow manage to come here? Not only this man has managed, and if he is allowed unchecked, tomorrow twenty other shops will mushroom here. Poorvi decided to take handle this.
She came down and as she crossed the security she asked that man. “Did you see this Bel Puri shop there? Why are you not stopping him?” The Security answered, “Mam how can I stop him? He is not occupying our premises. We don’t have any control over the footpath.” She threw an irritated look at him and walked out and crossing the road came near the shop.
A good crowd stood around the movable cart and she could not reach the owner. She physically elbowed men and reached the front. The Bhelpuri-walla looked at her and smiling broadly said, “Welcome, Madam, what shall I serve you, Bhelpuri or Panipuri…….” He went on talking like a recorded machine. Before she could answer he started attending to other customers. Poorvi fumed and her anger increased every second as he ignored her.
She noticed that he was only taking the order and collecting money. But the actual job of mixing and serving was done by two other persons. Poorvi was a bit surprised that this man could hire two helpers, which was a bit unusual.
As she looked at him she noticed he was tall, built like an athlete. He had a pair of very expressive eyes and when he talked his teeth sparkled on his dark skin. He was a bit too dark, not seen around here.
She raised her voice and said, “You Belpuriwalla, I am talking to you” He turned and looking at her said, “Yes Madam?” She burst out, “Are you not aware that this is a non-hawker zone and purely residential? Why did you put up a stall here?”
He looked surprised and looking all-around said, “Madam, but there is no signboard about hawking?” She was taken aback for one second as what he said was true. But in a moment she collected her pride and said, “So what? For years there are no hawkers here. Do you see any other single hawker here? Pack your stall and leave just now. Otherwise, I will call the police and they will haul away all your shop”
Now he looked a bit genuinely concerned and said in a pleading voice, “Please Madam. Don’t call the police. I will go into a lot of loss. Just give half an hour time. Then I will pack and go away.” She looked at the crowd waiting to eat. She said,” Ok. Just half an hour. More than that I will call the police” She walked back having won a point.
Going back home she became busy with some call and at ten- thirty she remembered the Bhelpuri shop. When she came out saw that he was packing only at that time. Cursing him under her breath she walked inside.
The next day coming from the office she noticed that the footpath was all clean no shop there. She was happy. Late in the evening, she had to buy a cake for sending over to her friend’s house for a party. This cake shop was very famous for its quality and generally, she use to buy it for all her friends when they need. As she selected the cake a voice from the back side startled her. Turning she found the same Bhelpuri man standing there but, now in the uniform of the cake shop. Smiling politely he asked, “Madam shall I pack your cake safely inside a box so that it is not damaged while travelling?”
She could not find any word to talk as he took the cake and moving to a corner of the shop started packing with an efficient hand. As he was a bit away, she asked the owner, “I had not seen this man here. Is he a new appointment?” The owner said, “No Madam, you would have missed seeing him. As these workers work in shifts. Maybe he was not there when you came last time. He is working for years here”
As he handed the packet with extreme politeness he asked, “Could I help you with anything else Madam?” As she looked at him anger flaring in her eyes, she felt he was suppressing a wicked smile and before she could react he turned and went away.
Next week on a Sunday she went out for dinner with her friend Swetha. Once they decided on the menu Swetha called the man standing near the counter for ordering. He reached them very fast and said, “Yes Madam, can I take down your orders please?”
This voice startled Poorvi and she turned and looked at the server. Yes! it was him. Now he stood dressed in a Black coat and red tie, the uniform of the hotel. As her friend finished the order, he turned to her and politely asked, “Yes Madam, nothing special for you?” She wish she could get up and slap him. That much anger fumed in her. He looked at her with a suppressed mischievous smile and asked,” “Madam, is the AC not cooling properly? I will check it immediately Madam” and then walked away.
Swetha noticed Poorvi’s mood change and asked, “What happened Poorvi? You look upset a bit?” Poorvi shook her head and said, “Oh Nothing. I will just come back in a minute” She got up and walked to the counter where the manager was sitting.
Swetha thought that she had gone to complain against the AC. The manager stood up and said, “Yes Mam! May I help you” Poorvi looked around and saw the Bhelpuri server collecting plates from the side table. Looking in his direction she said, “Is that server a new appointee here, the one who is collecting the cutleries there” The manager looked at him and said, “Oh No Madam! He is serving here for years. What is wrong madam? Did he behave impolitely or something?” Poorvi ‘s head was spinning. She managed to say, “No nothing, just asked” and came back to her chair. She could notice clearly that the server was purposely fussing around their table unnecessarily more than needed. But she just avoided seeing his face lest she would see that smudged smile of him.
Poorvi was still alone at home as her mother had not returned. She was seriously thinking about this man who appeared in every place she went. It cannot be coincidence that he was appearing at all the shop. She was working as a journalist and has done many string operations. Some of the big heads had rolled, because of her. So it is possible that this man is not just a stalker, but a mole of some such man, either to know about her activity or to do something more in future—may be even an attack on her or kidnap. Her breathing became strained.
Poorvi was not an ordinary girl to get frightened. When she took this job, she knew very well the dangers, which encircled this job. She decided to lodge a police complaint, to be on the safer side. Luckily Swetha had clicked some snaps on her cell phone, and in one of that this man was just behind Poorvi. She typed a neat complaint and attached this photo along with it.
Next day she left office a bit early, and straight away went to the Police station. She demanded that she will see only the SA and entered her cabin. As she gave her identity card, SA politely asked her to sit. She poured out the story fast and handed over the complaint letter.
SA had a look at that and said, “Madam, I am sorry, I can’t accept this application as your complaint is flimsy. This man did not stalk behind you at any point of time, while you were walking or when travelling. He was present there in these shops already, when you entered. It can be just a coincidence or you could have made a mistake in identifying this man”
Poorvi stood up in anger, her face turning red she nearly hissed, “Inspector, I am a senior journalist engaged in serious jobs. I cannot make a mistake. Are you going to accept this application or shall I directly go …….”
Before she completed voice from behind talked, “Or I shall go to the Commissioner’s office and complaint about you.” She whirled back and nearly collapsed as she saw the same man now in police uniform.
She burst out, “So today you dared to dress in this uniform also…I…” The SA standing cut her speech and said, “Madam, please! He our ASP Manav Kare Sab. Please don’t talk insulting to him”
Manav now sat in a chair and said smiling, “SA please accept her application. Why have a fight with a journalist?”
Poorvi threw an angry look at him, and snatched her application from SA and walked out. She wondered if he is an ACP, then why? A brain wave clicked in her mind. He may also be doing the same like her –a string operation” to track someone.
As she continued to wait, no auto-rickshaw was seen. It was getting dark.” Hello Poorvi Madam” The voice well known to her came from back.
He was standing there smiling. “Madam all auto-rickshaws had gone on a flash strike. You won’t get one. If you don’t mind I can drop you” As he went to his Motor bike she stood wondering. The distance was too much to walk.
The SA Standing at the door said, “Madam it is true. There is flash strike. You won’t get any vehicle. Please accept Sir’s offer”
He as waiting with the bike’s motor running. Swallowing her pride she walked to his bike. He turned to her and said, “The garment factory man in the 16th floor of your building, is a drug peddler. So we tailed him in different disguise, wherever we heard, that he was going, and thus collected evidences. Yesterday night we had arrested him with evidences. Is your doubt cleared now?” Poorvi looked away to hide her face reddening. Then she climbed on his bike
After dropping her at her gate, he turned his bike. He stopped and said, “Madam if the strike continues tomorrow also, this Bhelpuri walla will be there, to help you to reach your office” He left laughing, leaving Poorvi fuming. As she turned to move inside she saw a card half pushed inside her handbag. She pulled it out and looked. It was the visiting card of Manav with his cell number.