It was a cheerful Sunday morning; Chaman had got up early to be at his work. He worked at all sort of times, week-ends, late nights, and early mornings and sometimes, of course during peak hours of office-rush as well. Chaman did not mind the odd hours at all. He found his job most exciting; it required precision, skill and a perfect sense of timing . And the pay off was pretty decent.
Years of practicing his skill and the ensuing successes had given Chaman a quiet sort of confidence in his abilities. But he was careful not to develop a swagger. He knew only too well the importance of being careful in his profession. He worked with a close-knit team, and commanded their complete devotion. Usually they worked seamlessly. A few unsettling thoughts that he had about his team was not about their competence or commitment. But more on their diligence, they appeared to Chaman to be too casual – too complacent on occasions. He had tried talking to them, the importance of timeliness and of following the protocol in successful implementation of a project, but had an uncomfortable feeling that it was beyond the band-width of their collective psyche. Banishing these little corroders from his mind, Chaman lazily watched the sun come out as he drove. He chose to park at the end of the deserted parking lot outside the campus of International Physics Laboratory and waited for his team to take position. On the other side of the road was a stretch of wilderness, he noticed in the rear view mirror few people were going in for their morning walks there. He saw a lady come out of a brand new wagon-r that she had parked some distance away, pressed the electronic lock on her key, checked the car doors and entered the park. Overall, Chaman felt good about life and himself today, he looked forward to a fulfilling Sunday. I must remember to treat the boys tonight, he told himself. He would order chicken leg-pieces and biryani from Raj Dhaba and open few cans of beer at his place. Later they could watch movies on Netflix.
Work wise the preceding weeks had not been good for Anamika. This Sunday, she got up, not in the best of mood. However, determined to chase away the blues, she decided to go for a nature walk inside the city-forest area that she passed-by everyday while commuting to work. Anamika had wanted to see the place for some-time now, having heard from colleagues the remarkable restoration efforts this project involved. This stretch, she had been told, had virtually degenerated into a garbage dump and was now being carefully restored by a committed group of environmentalists. They had de-silted the lake and the vegetation cover that had eroded over the past hundred years had been carefully restored. Anamika had thought of visiting the place several times on past week ends. But almost every weekend of hers in the recent past had been spent in the lab, in vain hope that the extra effort put in would lead her to the desired break-through in her research project. If she was fighting a losing battle, Anamika thought ruefully while negotiating a pair of olive green tights and a white sweat shirt, so be it: she was not going to lose her mind for it. This Sunday she must take a break. It was almost 6 o clock by the time she parked her car near one of the entrances to the park. She realized that this is not the main entrance as it was quite deserted. Two cars were parked at the far end of the parking area. She knew quite a crowd walked in this park in the mornings so was not much bothered about this part of the area looking rather deserted. Once inside, she found the place much more interesting than she expected. The place was so different from the well manicured gardens at other places. The restorers had taken care not to interfere with the natural spread of the forest. The tracks were uneven and it was fun trekking on them. The bloom of Gulmohar was all over Delhi in summers and this place was no exception. It truly was the ‘flame of the forest’. Anamika was amazed at the diversity of bird fauna she found. There were the peacocks, of course, moving in groups, a family of cackling jungle babblers and a bunch of Indian magpie robins, holding an important conference. A brown headed barbet sat still on a low branch, as if deep in meditation. She saw flycatchers diving in the lake. The scenes enchanted her and she kept on clicking pictures, having forgotten how blue she had been while entering. She imagined this is how the route would have looked to a traveller riding to the red fort from one of the sarais near Delhi some one hundred and fifty years ago. After rambling for almost an hour, she found herself at one of the exits. Realizing that this was not the one she had entered through and that retracing the way back to the gate through which she entered would be cumbersome; she decided to come out of this exit. After walking by the roadside for few minutes, she was able to spot her car and started walking towards it. Coming closer, she mechanically pressed her key to unlock the car, but did not hear the familiar beep, followed by the click of the lock opening. She nervously reached the car door and found it unlocked. My God, she chided herself, with her head full of all fuzzy thoughts; she must have again forgotten to lock the car. But wait, she tried to lock the car again it didn’t work. She tried the ignition of the car but it would not come on. She panicked and looked around for someone to ask for help but could not find anybody in the vicinity. Few cars sped away on the road behind without stopping. Her knowledge of the technicalities of automobiles was very basic, to put it mildly. She did not know anything about her car except to drive it. Sitting in the driver’s seat, she wondered what her next move could be or should be. She could call her sister; perhaps her brother-in-law would come around to help or may-be she could call one of her friends. The thought of spoiling other peoples’ Sunday morning snooze was kind of dampening on her spirits. None of the mechanics or even towing services would be available at this hour. May be she should wait till a mechanic could be persuaded to come over, it could mean a wait of several hours. She complained dramatically to an imaginary almighty...... you can’t see me happy, can you? After such a nice start for the day, this car issue is going to suck my whole Sunday. Presently, a car came over and parked just near her. Anamika looked expectantly at the driver of the car to judge if some help could be expected from there. The driver, she saw, was a young man, not unlikely to be the type who would come forward to help, she thought. The driver was also looking at her car intently. After a slight hesitation she called over to the driver, she told him of her predicament and asked if he could help. The stranger readily agreed to. Anamika had got out of the driver’s seat to allow the fellow to inspect the car. He got into the car, tried the ignition, seemed to inspect the dashboard for a few moments and then confidently reached under the seat for the bonnet switch. Hopes raised in Anamika when he said that he had understood the problem. Opening the bonnet of the car, he saw the wire to the battery was unplugged. He quickly re-plugged, the battery came to life and to Anamika’s great exhilaration the vehicle took a start.
Anamika thought she understood, yes, the battery wire must have come off on some bumpy pot-hole, that is why the car won’t start and the lock won’t work either. Anamika thanked the stranger profusely. The fellow seemed to be a tad embarrassed over all the exultation. Anamika started her car; she once again nodded her appreciation and waved to the stranger as she moved on.
Anamika let the car window down and allowed the cool morning breeze to calm her ruffled nerves. Her home was very near in the campus across, but after her ordeal she did not feel like going home. She decided to drive down to her sister’s place for some hot coffee and breakfast. It was odd, she thought, how the wire had come off. The technology of the car had come a long way from the years of the yore, as she thought of the smooth organized interiors of the car. Her car was new; she had purchased it only two months back. She did not seem to remember much of a thing like wires that could come out loose with a bump from the looks she had taken under the bonnet. Neither were the roads in Delhi that full of potholes. Anyway, stranger events have happened.
Anamika had been advised by family and friends that newest of the cars were the surest target of theft. So, ever since she had bought this car, she had been very particular about parking her car only in authorised and guarded car parking. The parking lot today certainly was huge and authorised but may not have been guarded at this hour. She had not seen any parking attendant. Had she been reckless in parking her car where she did? Was it possible that the car could have been stolen from there? Oh, but the alarm triggers as soon as you mess with the car doors. Though, whether she could have heard the alarm go off from the interior of the woods was questionable: most likely she would not. Then it stuck her like an arrow, what would the first thing you would do if you wanted to steal a car? Of course, take off the battery wires to muffle the alarm. Heavens, this could have been an attempt to rob her car. She pulled on the side of the road and started to inspect the contents of the car to see if anything was missing. The car stereo, other gadgets seemed to be in the usual places. Luckily, she had not left any personal stuff in the car. When she got around to the back-side of the car, she was left in no doubt. There was a small hole now, where the lock of the boot of her car had been. So that is how the thieves had got entry into the car, and then disconnected the battery wire. Anamika slumped back into her car, now thanking all the powers that be in the heavens above, for saving her car. Why had the thieves not driven away with the car? Or removed any of the valuables, they could have taken away the battery or the car stereo. May be she had returned before the thieves had time to accomplish their job. She had not seen anyone around her car, but that could be explained, those watching out for her could have seen her walking towards the car and made themselves scarce.
Chaman would know better, that had not exactly been the case. When things started to get out of hand he felt like beating up Pandey. Monu had done his part swiftly in few seconds, as Chaman watched on from the other side of the road; the alarm had scarcely sounded before being put off. He saw Monu drive away in his battered maruti van to Pandey’s garage; he had signalled to Chaman that he had got the dimensions alright. Jha messaged from inside the park that the target was at least 2 kms away. They had all the time in the world. He was concerned when 15 minutes passed and no sign of Monu returning. He called Monu and found that he had been able to wake up Pandey with great difficulty and that he was now on his job. Pandey had been in deep sleep when Monu arrived, he could see from the window, he tried to wake up then went back to sleep again, this had gone on till Monu managed to throw some water on his face through the window. Chaman knew things were probably lost when there was no sign of Monu still after ten more minutes. He called Pandey this time, Pandey answered this time and said he had been unable to find his ‘auzar’ but now he had found it and the key will be ready soon. Chaman drove off to Pandey’s garage, not willing to take any more chances with the moron of a guy. He drove swiftly like wind, totally in control. In a minute on reaching he had the key in his possession and was on his way back to the site. Jha’s warning came when he was 500m away from the site that target was walking towards the car, returning through gate no 4. Though all was lost, Chaman was not one to look out for any opportunities that might still exist. He wildly toyed with the idea of giving the lady a push and driving away but decided against it. That would be too risky; he liked to operate with minimum risk.
Seeing the lady drive away, Chaman sighed. If all had gone well the car would have been dismantled by now in Pandey’s basement garage, the parts on their way to Meerut and all over MP and UP. And their pockets full for quite a few days. But that was not to be. Though he was angry with Pandey, he knew he could not do without Pandey in the team, even-though he was responsible for the failed venture today. There wasn’t another skilled person like Pandey in the whole city. His hands carved like magic. Pandey could locate the fault in any vehicle simply by listening to the sounds it made, he was invaluable. May be Chaman should have driven away with the car when he was inspecting it or he could have knocked the woman unconscious, there was hardly anyone around. Chaman remonstrated himself for getting carried away. He was no ordinary goon. He was from a family of ‘Baagis’ from Bhind. The code of Baagi never allowed any insult to any woman. He strictly followed that in his team. He still blushed as he remembered how the woman thanked him again and again. Complete greenhorn these city women are. Oh well, he thought starting to drive towards his home, let me still treat the boys in the evening, no use mopping is there. The streets of Delhi are choked with brand new cars, no dearth of opportunity here. Tomorrow will be another day.
As she revved up the engine of her car, Anamika thanked the Good Lord that she had arrived back to the car on time. With a grateful heart, she smiled and said to herself that this Sunday morning too, another experiment had failed, but she was extremely glad of it.