Chapter 1: The hunt begins
Chapter 1: The hunt begins6 mins 309 6 mins 309
Charu spent a few more minutes looking at the photo, turning it upside down looking for any more clues. “Help me” came the call from her grandmother, hearing which she ran with the photo in her hand. “Ajji” as she used to fondly call her “It’s me Charu, what help do you need?” “Call the nurse, let her help me”, said Ajji. The nurse came by herself after hearing all the noises and started helping Ajji. “So, did you find a nice guy in USA?” asked Ajji. “Well actually….” Charu paused to create a dramatic effect. “I was hoping you could help me”. “Oh come on now, I cannot walk. Till yesterday I barely knew what I said or did, isn’t it Nancy?” Nancy was the nurse. “Your arrival has lifted my spirits, but I cannot search boys for you. I tried so many alliances for your dad, after your mom passed away, none materialized.” “Ajji not that story again. I don’t want to marry now. I need your help with this photo.” Charu showed the Polaroid photo to Ajji. Get me my glasses else I cannot see anything, said Ajji pointing at her bookshelf. Nancy jumped and got the glasses and helped Ajji with the glasses. “I have seen this photo before. This is Dubeys house on the other side of Fort Kochi.” There was a hint of fear in Ajjis eyes. “Where did you get this photo?” Charu then explained the morning walk and the books she had purchased. “I feel like resting again, leave the photo here when you leave.” Ajji gave a tired look to Charu and closed her eyes, hoping Charu stops her pursuit of the villa.
Charu came back to her room and requested for another cup of coffee as she started looking at the photo on her phone. She now had two more clues to work on, the house was on the other side of Fort Kochi and belonged to Dubey's. Who are these people, how do I find out about this house, whom can I ask? She wondered. Seeing that Ajji was resting and nothing else planned for the day, she decided to go in search for the villa. “Nancy, would you know anything about this?” hear Charu's voice and her name, Nancy came out Ajjis room. Nancy saw the photo on Charus phone and said that she can ask some of her friends or relatives. Nancy then called some folks to enquire about the Dubey's on the other side of Fort Kochi, many calls later she announced to Charu “I found four houses where people with Dubeys as their last names have lived, but two of those are new homes.” Charu now had her work cut out, go to these two houses and quench her curiosity. Before going out, paused for a minute and thought to herself “Why am I doing this? I have nothing else to do and I do not want to go and meet Appa, atleast not today.”
Charu left home after instructing Nancy not to reveal her plans to Ajji. At the first house, Charu introduced herself to the owners and explained the purpose of her visit. The house did not resemble the photo, but she wanted to meet the residents, perhaps they might know something about the villa. The first Dubey family were friendly and discussed about Charu’s US stay and study, they asked about her marriage plans as well. Charu thought to herself “Ajji are you here? Did you ask them to check on this?” Charu travelled to the second Dubey house, the house also did not resemble the photo and the residents did not entertain Charus questioning and asked her to leave. Dejected at the dead end her treasure hunt had met, Charu then decided to check the third Dubey house, it was newly constructed and atleast 30 minutes’ drive from the second house. Charu got stuck in traffic jam and eventually reached the third Dubey house after an hour. There was no one in the third Dubey house, Charu inquired the neighbors but they had no idea about the photo in Charu’s phone. It was getting dark, Charu had two choices head back home to or try for the fourth Dubey house. Having come this far, Charu decided to visit the fourth house. Although the house was new, the inhabitants were senior citizens. “Could this be the Dubeys?” wondered Charu. She greeted the residents showed them the photo in her phone. “Yes, indeed this was our old villa and we rebuilt it 15 years ago. Where did you get this?” asked Mr. Dubey. Charu then explained about the book where she found the photo. The couple were speechless for a few seconds and then finally asked the question “Are you Sheryl Varghese’s daughter?”. Charu replied in the affirmative. “How is your dad Mani? Does he still sell carpets?” inquired the Mrs Dubey. Charu did not know how to answer these questions. She was not ready, after all she had not met her father as yet. While Charu was trying to gather her wits, her phone rang, the call was from Nancy, not ready to talk as yet, Charu rejected the call. Another call came to Charu, this time from a number she did not recognize. Charu decided to take the call and it was Ajji on the line and she asked “Where are you Charu? Why are you not in the house?” Charu was still in a state of flux, unsure of how she, her mother was related to the Dubey house and the residents. So many questions swirling in her mind and then Ajji asks about her whereabout. “Ajji I am outside and will be back in some time, driving bye” Charu used this common urban trick to end an unpleasant conversation. Mrs Dubey came out from their kitchen with a hot cup of coffee for Mr. Dubey and Charu. Keeping all pretensions aside Charu remarked “Thanks Aunty, I really needed this.”
Charu continued her questioning “The photo has few more details which are unclear to me, would you have any idea? What’s hotel AB*** and what is this code MV02FK09?” The old couple looked at each other, one can guess that they were talking to each other, the kind of discussion through the eyes which only people who have know each other for long time can have. Mr Dubey asked Charu “So you have not talked to your father about this? What about your Ajji? What did she say?” Charu felt a little awkward when the couple questioned about her reluctance to talk to her appa. But she had her own set of reasons why she had not talked to appa yet, she need not justify them to anyone, least of all to a couple whom she met few minutes ago. Mr Dubey continued “Its best if we all meet in Hotel Abhimanyu, tomorrow perhaps?” Charu realised what AB*** meant but replied in the negative “Ajji is bed ridden, her ill-health is the reason I came back. So, we need to meet in our home. I will speak to appa and invite you over. Would that be ok with you?” Saying this Charu got up to leave for home, satisfied that she moved forward in her treasure hunt but unsure if she had uncorked a genie. The old couple nodded, looking at the photo of their late son behind Charu.