McKenzie Discovers9 mins 180 9 mins 180
“There’s enough for everybody!” said Ranjith.
“Don’t get greedy”, said Ambili.
“It’s all mine”, said Danny.
“What about us?” asked Chinnathambi.
“We helped to dig out the box from the depths of the earth,” added Selvan- “We too, should get a share.”
The five of them were standing around the open wooden chest, at the northern quadrant of the estate belonging to Danny, but leased out to Ranjith. Mathias, the JCB driver stood at a distance, watching them, puffing away his beedi, with a malevolent glare.
Danny moved forward to pull out a few coins from the open chest, but Ranjith was having none of it. He said, “No one will touch a coin from this box until we have decided how the treasure is going to be split.”
Danny shook his head- furious, he turned red, spittle flying out of his mouth, “Split – why should I split anything taken out of my grounds-belonging to my grandfather-Major Douglas McKenzie with you or anybody else? You are the leaser of the land, above, not, of what is buried underneath.”
Ranjith bristled, “Ooh… who said that? If my tea plants have to be nourished and grow- they need the water and nutrients from the soil- that is under the ground, isn’t it? So what’s buried here is mine too. In fact, I don’t think it belongs to you, how can you prove it? I may go and inform the Tehsildar, it seems to me these are coins from olden times, maybe the government is interested in it. I am sure the Archaeological society will definitely want to see this!”, said Ranjith.
Danny looked from the wooden chest to Ranjith’s face to see whether he was pulling his leg, “Are you joking? If the government gets its hands on the coins, we will not even get one of it. Ok ok. Lets split it among us. But I will decide who gets what and how much!” said Danny, to ensure he remained the decision-maker and in-charge of the treasure, much before Ranjith got any ownership dreams.
Danny remonstrated in a loud tone, said “Let’s move it to a covered location where others cannot see it. This must be the famed treasure that my grandfather, Douglas McKenzie got from Tipu Sultan. It was for training his soldiers in 1783, along with the French Army-on the ways of the British Army. He was Tipu’s main adviser, he risked his life for it.”
“But wasn’t your grandfather a Major in the British Army?” asked Ranjith.
“ Grandpa Douglas was from Scotland. He had taken early retirement from the security forces of the East India Company due to an eye injury that he had sustained while protecting the Company stores in Travancore. On resettling on these hills, he had taken over this land and started planting coffee for supplying the East India Company. As a retired soldier, he knew the ways of the Company, but as a true mercenary and businessman- he supplied the goods or the services to whoever needed them and took his compensation in gold or land. He should have sided with the British and fought against Tipu; but Tipu did not want the British to take over Mysore and Malabar so he paid my Scottish grandfather, who secretly resented the English to train his soldiers, in connivance with the French, to fight the British.”
The chain of thoughts running in loops in Danny’s mind was completely different from what he was telling the others!
“My father -Connan had told me this story many times, I never believed him. Since Father had never used the coins to buy anything nice or new, I thought they did not exist. The land and the coffee plantation would have yielded enough revenue to Father to not really need the treasure. But here, they are here,--- they were all these years buried underneath, if only I had tried to plant tea long ago, I would have found this box earlier and I would have to share it with these country buffaloes.”
Moving closer to Danny, Ranjith spoke in a hushed tone, “Let me keep it in my house, it will be safe, I will guard it with my life.”
“No no. It should be in my bungalow I will not allow you to take it out of the estate. I will guard it myself. I even have a rifle of my grandfather to prevent any looter from absconding with the wealth”, Danny whispered back.
“But we cannot be sure that you will not spirit away half of it, even tonight? asked Ranjith loudly.
“Well, you have to just believe me!” exclaimed Danny.
“Believe you -I don’t trust you to even water the plants in the garden. Trust you with gold haha !” said Ranjith.
The rest of the listeners were nodding at each other, they knew that the two main players would soon start quarreling, anybody as poor as them, would, at the prospect of gaining great wealth.
Chinnathambi -who was older than all the others standing there-moved ahead and said, “Saheb-Ranjith Annan- if you two quarrel, the people around will soon hear of it, they will gather here and see the treasure- let’s first move it to Saheb’s bungalow and then decide how to split it. Or maybe we can stow it away in the coffee drying shed, there is a sturdy door where the dried beans are kept till it is time to take it to the market.”
Selvan added- “Yes Ranjith Annan and Saheb, please don’t risk the loss of the entire treasure by fighting over it. Let’s move it to the coffee shed now.”.
“I need to ensure that the treasure remains intact and safe- till we decide to split it, "said Danny. He continued, “I need my man – I shall call Samuel to guard it. We can give him a small share, he is loyal to me.”
Ranjith brooded, Ranjith was Samuel’s old friend too. So he agreed to include Samuel in the group. After scraping away all the mud, the three of them- Ranjith, Chinnathambi, and Selvan tried to lift the box, but it was too heavy. So they sent Selvan and Chinnathambi to the coffee shed to get some jute sacks.
Selvan, on running to the shed, found there were a couple of laborers drying the last of the year’s harvest of the coffee beans on the platform, in front of the shed. He told them to go home as Saheb had declared a holiday, on account of his daughter’s birthday and Ranjith’s son’s birthday too.
Chinnathambi stood outside the shed and lit up his beedi-and stood guard to ensure the laborers had left the shed’s vicinity.
Selvan went into the shed, in the outer room in a corner -there were new jute sacks for parceling the coffee beans. He picked up six of the best sacks that were lying inside. He took a few extra sacks- he remembered to get some jute cords too.
Rolling up the bundle of sacks-Selvan started running back to the northern end of the estate-Chinnathambi was older and slower. He huffed and puffed his way back to the pit.
Meanwhile, Ranjith, Ambili, and Danny were discussing how to minimize spreading the wealth around so that they got bigger shares. They decided that the two workers would get only ten thousand rupees each. Mathias too would have to be given a decent amount to ensure his silence.
The two workers got down into the pit, nimbly.
Ranjith directed them on how to start filling the sacks. The box had bundles of thick cotton cloth- the bundles on the top had gone threadbare in the moisture and humidity, the bags had shredded and frayed, leaving holes and exposing the contents- coins of gold and silver and copper. Picking the biggest one up, Ranjith said, “This seems to be a Mohur from the times of Tipu Sultan. Maybe you are correct- regarding the story of your grandfather training Tipu’s soldiers for war with the British- He must have got it from the Sultan himself. Well, it's heavy too must be weighing at least ten grams.”
So the six of them, including Mathias who had been waiting silently, joined the rest of them in filling the sacks. Before sunset, six sacks were filled with a mixture of gold, silver, and copper coins. Then the main strategists decided that Danny would go to the shed and decide where to place the sacks while Ranjith would stand near the pit and send two persons with each sack as the distance between the pit and the coffee drying shed was half a kilometer at least. Each one was worried that the other might disappear with a sack.
Danny marched ahead and entered the shed, it was getting dark. He wanted to be back home for the party and not be subjected to a barrage of questions by Penny before he had his story ready.
Danny went into the shed it was a huge room, 12 feet by 10 feet made of brick and stones with a tiled roof. The area in front of the shed was a huge raised platform, 20 feet by 25 feet, meant for drying coffee beans. The estate yielded large quantities of beans every year and the beans had to be dried and kept safely till it was time to send it all to the wholesale traders. The room had an inner wooden partition where Danny kept the beans for his personal use, friends, or relatives. It was in this wooden room that he planned to secure the treasure. The wooden door had a huge padlock too. The key was in a chain attached to his pocket.
Danny, lit up a cigarette, standing in the outer room, waiting for the sacks to be brought in by the laborers. Mentally he began calculating- the price of gold was Rupees 500- Rs 550 per 10 grams, he thought there might be at least 300 gold mohurs, the others, being silver and copper, were not as expensive as gold. He estimated there would be at least 300 mohurs in all. But the silver was another story altogether. A kilogram of silver cost only 550 Rupees and copper was dirt cheap-he thought it is better to sell it to the antique dealers or even the coin collectors or numismatists. Those guys would really give him a fortune for the antique coins. He lit up his cigarette wondering what was delaying the workers with the sacks of coins.
He thought, “ It was a huge fortune that has been uncovered, I may be able to get at least 4 crores of rupees for this. My main concern is is that the news of this discovery should not reach the ears of the outsiders.”