He stopped twice before knocking the door. The reason for his hesitation laid in the past five years. The five years of failure and revilement. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and pushed the door.
“May I come in, sir?”
“Yes Madhav, come in.”
“Sir, I have information about a drug deal. We can ruin it and catch the culprits if we respond soon. Give me a team, sir.”
“A team? To you? Kanpur has been clawed in the hands of drug lords from years as if toxic air was not enough. The purpose of Anti-narcotics Department was to stop them from blooming, but we have drastically failed. Huh, I am not out of my mind. You are rusted knife now, which was once sharp and the one I relied upon.”
“Sir, give me this chance and once and for all I will prove my worth. I give you my words.”
“I give you a chance, but you won’t get a team from me. Ask your colleagues; see if they still have trust in you. And I am not one of them so I am sending a team officially too.”
“Ok Sir, this time, I will win it back.”
“I too hope so. I want my knife back.”
He left the room and punched in the air, his victory seemed preordained to him. There was one more thing he was sure of; he knew that no one would accompany him. So he didn’t bother to ask. He simply walked out of the office and drove his car towards Green Park. His hands were steering the car and his thoughts his mind. Was he virtuous? Will he be successful in regaining what he lost long ago?
The tires screeched a hundred meters away from the decided point; he had to raid a shop of a tailor, who was supposed to be the mediator of the deal. The shop was half a kilometer away from pavilion side entrance of Green park stadium. Permat was an area of markets and a land of devotion, the God of ghosts sit there, Baba Anandeshwar. Men could be seen calling weed as his Prasad, and thus felt free to use it and no one in India could argue religion. Not even if it is detrimental.
He reached there before the team could and decided to raid the shop and take on the criminal. The shutter was half closed. He pulled it up as he loaded his pistol and entered and closed the shutter again. The tailor was sleeping on the floor.
“Get up, put your hands up, now!”
The tailor got up, aghast, as a candle flickered in the strong wind. His heart came to his mouth.
“Who are you?” he shouted and sprinted towards the shutter to escape his probable death which he saw through the barrel pointed at him. But Madhav was strong, strong enough to hold three men as frail as that tailor. Within a blink of his eye, he was on the ground breathing the dust and Madhav sat on him and handcuffed him.
“Where are the drugs? Tell me and I will think of sparing your life.”
“What in the hell are you talking about, leave me, I don’t have anything.”
His nose hit the ground as Madhav fired a punch on his head.
“Leave me, I don’t know,” he blurted out as he fainted.
Madhav came out dragging him and shoved him in his car and waited for the team. As the team came at the spot, Madhav got out of the car and stopped them.
“No need to go on.”
“What are you doing here Madhav, and who the hell are you to tell us what we should do and what not? You are a liability on yourself. Now get out of our way and don’t be a reason of another failure”.
Madhav clenched his fists and bit his teeth, but gulped his anger as Baba Anandeshwar had gulped the poison once, he thought.
“I have arrested the man with the ‘package’, he is in the car with it.”
There was a silence of two minutes; condolences went to the arrogance of his colleagues. They ran towards the car, opened the gate and yes it was all true. There laid a man with a brown bag beside him. All the effs and blinds were shattered into pieces and crushed beneath their own feet, which sounded bitter to them.
Madhav called his officer to inform him about his success.
“Hello sir, I have caught the man with the ‘package’ he is in our custody.”
“Great job Madhav, I finally got my lion back.”
This flick gave Madhav what he had lost in last few years. The lion could now walk with pride again, with a shield of a successful hunt to protect his pride and honor. This single-handed combat won by Madhav was more than sufficient to shut every wide mouth, to break every pointed finger towards him. But what was its cost? Was he worth it? Or he had to break certain ground to mend what was broken? But Madhav was unperturbed, for the time being at least.
18 months later.
The hour long traffic jam was not a pink diamond for Kanpurites, especially on narrow roads of Gumti crossing, where vehicles occupy streets as a flock of sheep graze a ground. But this one was a lot different from all the others. A long rail of honking vehicles and shouting drivers was formed because three police cars and an ambulance parked in front of a house had stopped the passage. Unlike the street, the house rendered some eerie silence- a past-storm silence.
Two neighbors stood at a distance from the house and mused on the chaos.
“What happened?” asked the man in lungi.
“I don’t know, probably someone died or something else tragic,” replied the man who had just emptied his mouth full of paan on the rear wheel of a car.
Three men appeared from the front gate of the house. Two were holding a stretcher and the third one rested on it, motionless covered with white cloth. A woman came crying after it, holding a hand of a small boy, who was also crying, not because his father had died, but because his mother was crying.
“Madhav! What happened to him?” said the man in lungi.
“How can you be so sure that there is Madhav beneath that shroud?” the paan-spitting man inquired.
“There are only three members in this house and only one man in the house and that woman crying over there is his wife.”
Both hurried towards the place of tragedy. One policeman came in their way and stopped them.
“Wait, where do you think you are going?”
“To see Madhav, if he is ok,” answered the man in lungi.
“I am sorry to tell you that Sir is no more.”
“But how did this happened?”
“He hanged himself. We have found a suicide note too.”
“And what does it says?”
“That I cannot tell, now go and let us do our work.”
Both stepped back, watching the lady who was sitting beside the corpse, shivering like the last leaf on a tree, like a helpless single wheel of a broken cart. She always had been a great support to Madhav.
Madhav’s boss arrived. He stepped out of the car, almost sprinted towards the corpse, lifted the shroud and watched the face of his favorite officer. His favorite knife was broken, his lion had fallen. He started talking to the policemen present there. One of them handed over him the letter which concealed all the secrets.
“Has anyone read this?”
“No sir, how could we when you told us on the phone not to.”
He drew himself aside, opened the letter with shivering hands and thousand questions in his mind. What was so worst that took him? What stronger than years of humiliation that forced him to strangle himself to death?
He started reading.
“Not a day has passed when I haven’t felt the remorse of murdering someone; when I haven’t found myself guilty. Nothing in this world is more burdensome than killing someone, I believe. To restore my pride I was so blind that I reached to the extent of doing anything. I was unsuccessful for years before that day came. Unsuccessful, not because I couldn’t get a lead on any case, but because the money bewitched me. Drug lords were rich people, and when I used to go back home and saw my rental house of one room and my beautiful wife burning her hands on the stove, my heart parched. It pushed me towards corruption. I started taking bribes. I followed the lead, caught the criminals and then they happily fed me. Days passed, but slowly everyone started realizing what I was doing. They never said it on my face; still I realized everyone’s awareness of my crime, my treason. And then what I did led to this day, what I feel like erasing from my past and his too. That innocent tailor was nothing but an easy prey for a hungry lion; a lion hungry for his honor. He might have never seen that bag full of drugs which I planted in his entire shop. That poor fellow was proved guilty, tortured and then he strangled himself to death, with his shoe laces. I still wonder how it would feel like hanging with a rope around one's neck and repenting all those sins which have been eating you up. Yes, I murdered that poor man and I will bring justice to him. My family has nothing to do with all those sins I committed, they all were unaware of my deeds. Only I am responsible for my fate, please don’t bother anyone else. Sins will be washed, justice will be served.”
He was stunned, all his questions were answered, and he kept that paper quietly in his pocket. He went near the broken lady of the man.
“Sometimes a man of honor can be dangerous, but a man with compassion can never be at fault forever. Your husband was a great courageous man. He has inspired me for life,” he said.
She had all the rights to know the truth about his husband’s death but he decided not to tell her. He went back in his car.
“Driver, take me to Ganga barrage. I have a life to dispose off,” he said, feeling the letter still in his pocket.