Will She Be Able To Crack The Code?
Will She Be Able To Crack The Code?7 mins 163 7 mins 163
The photograph created a bug in Charu's mind. She was thrilled and she decided to embark on the journey, to crack the code and follow the map. The Polaroid photo with the map had aroused the sleeping detective in her. As a first step, Charu decided to follow the directions of the map and she started her journey. There were some parts of the map that mentioned certain landmarks. Charu thought this would be a good enough start.
She took off and followed the map. There were some codes she had to decrypt to decipher the landmarks and Charu was so excited to crack them. Excitedly, she went off to the first landmark on the map but she hit a wall when she realized that there was nothing existing there.
She came across some houses and a road in the area but they mentioned a strange stone landmark. Charu couldn't place any stone landmark there.
Disappointed, Charu realized that she would require help from someone who lived there. The place had changed considerably from the time she had left for the US. The said map she had discovered was much much older, so obviously, things were different now.
Charu now wondered as to who to seek support from. She then remembered her childhood friend Gopi, whom she thought she could confide in and reach out to. Though many years had passed since her last communication with him, Charu decided to send him a message. She was skeptical to visit him at his house since he was part of a large joint family. Once she dropped in, it would be like a festival of sorts with people swarming over and asking her very uncomfortable personal questions.
Charu felt certain that Gopi would help her, all for old times sake. She texted him. After her preliminary greetings, Charu asked him to urgently meet her in Shanghai in a couple of hours. Gopi, though surprised initially to hear from Charu, was super excited to catch up with Charu, all for old time's sake. Gopi read the message that brought a smile to his face and responded in the affirmative. “Shanghai” was the code name they shared since childhood to meet near the famous Chinese Fishing Nets. These fishing nets were erected in the 15th century by visitors to the Malabar Coast in Fort Kochi.
Charu reached the said place on time and was surprised to see Gopi was already waiting there. They exchanged their preliminary greetings.
Gopi, "Hey Charu! What was the urgency all about?"
Charu then got to the business. She explained, "Oh, I don't know if it's urgent or not. But, yes, I'm intrigued by a map I found that leads to an ancient villa. I'm trying to locate it in the city. I needed help on the same and who else will come to my mind, other than you."
Gopi was equally intrigued and said, "Of course, I'll help you."
Charu then shared the Polaroid photo she had found in the book.
Gopi looked at the photo and the map in detail. He knew most of Fort Kochi well as his father was in the goods delivery business and used to deliver them to grocery shops around the city. Gopi used to accompany him often in his small truck and was quite aware of many places around the city.
Charu explained about her wild goose chase earlier in the day and that she couldn't locate the stone landmark mentioned on the map.
Gopi said, "I know a person who may know about the landmark. He is a Paradesi (foreigner) Jew who has now moved to Jew Town close to the Synagogue and Mattancherry Palace."
"I think we should first make a visit to him and find out what he might know about the place. Come, let's go right away to meet him."
This got Charu excited and she readily agreed.
She sat on Gopi’s Vespa Scooter and they were off to Jew Town. They went past the antique market which was adorned with Stars, Shalom, and other Jewish symbols. They reached Cohen's place. Though Cohen was in his 80s, he recognized Gopi and welcomed both of them inside.
Once she was introduced to Cohen, Charu shared the map she had with her with Cohen and explained to him about her attempt to locate the villa.
Cohen looked and peered into the map through his spectacles and his magnifying glass. As he was studied the map carefully, Cohen's frail eyes' lit up as and when he recognized the landmarks.
Cohen then asked Gopi to get him a pen and paper from his desk. He drew and explained to Charu and Gopi where to find the landmarks. He told me how they have changed over time and how to recognize the modern-day landmarks now. Cohen also guided them on the route to be taken.
Cohen however was confused with the third landmark on the map. He suggested they consult George Varghese, a friend of his.
Charu was excited as 3 of the 6 landmarks on the map were solved and Mr.Varghese could have the answers to the next ones.
Cohen kindly shared George’s contact with them and Gopi set up a time to meet him. George agreed to help them upon learning that the reference was from his close friend Cohen. He asked them to come and meet him at the Bolgatty Palace at Bolgatty Island the next day.
Charu had never been to Bolgatty Palace and had always wanted to visit it. Her father used to regularly visit the palace to deliver carpets but never took her along despite her multiple requests.
Charu and Gopi returned home for the day. Charu was unable to sleep. She was filled with excitement about what this mystery would lead to. She was also looking forward to visiting Bolgatty. It all seemed like a treasure hunt expedition for her.
The next day, Charu and Gopi set out to Bolgatty, one of the oldest palaces built by the Dutch outside of Holland. A residence to many British Governors in the past, it was now a heritage resort.
As they reached the grand palace, they were greeted at the door by Francis. He kindly took them to George who was waiting for them.
After listening to Charu and Gopis's story, George went through the map. After a lot of pensive thought, he took a pencil and circled around the landmarks. He told both of them about what they would find in the 4th and 5th landmarks.
But, unfortunately, the 5th one was a dead end as the road was closed at this point. What the 6th landmark could be was unknown and he had no clue about that.
Gopi and Charu looked at each other. “Now what?”
They could proceed using the modern-day landmarks up to clue five.
George meanwhile once again looked at the picture of the villa.
He said, “ Though we know the clues up to 5, I’m not sure they would lead to any villa. I don’t think there is any villa in the direction mentioned.”
“However don’t be disheartened and just follow the lead. It will take you to Calvathy Road area where the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the largest art exhibition in India is held. You can find some great pieces of street art in the buildings around there.”
“I suggest you meet Ibrahim who runs an artist workshop in that area. He might be able to help you.”
It was already late evening. Charu and Gopi thanked George for his kind help decided to head back home.
The next day Charu was up and all ready to go, but Gopi had some other business to settle and hence could not accompany her. Charu took courage and decided to explore herself.
She traveled as per the landmarks on the map. The new modern landmarks given by Cohen and George helped her navigate easily. She soon reached the dead end. Now her next target was to reach out to Ibrahim. She walked past the bylanes looking out for the art-filled street as mentioned by George.
Soon, after taking a left and a right and straight ahead was a curved path, Charu reached the place. It was one amazing place filled with street art.
Now, she enquired around Ibrahim and was surprised that Ibrahim was very well known there.
Charu was guided to Ibrahim’s studio. She reached his studio and found a courtyard full of budding artists attending Ibrahim’s class. She waited for the class to end and then walked up to him.
Charu introduced herself and gave the reference of George. Ibrahim wasn’t amused and asked her, “But why should I help you?” Charu tried to explain to him her situation and after multiple exchanges, he said that he wasn’t aware of any such villa. But he had heard stories of such a house where a woman had lived.
After profusely thanking Ibrahim for his kind help, Charu decided to go back home and share the same with Gopi.
The talk with Ibrahim thus confirmed the existence of a villa though Charu was yet to figure out how to reach it.