In last two episodes you read about the strange crime in Agwanpur and Feluda involving to solve the case. Read on as the mystery deepens in Episode #3.
We reached hotel in next twenty minutes and checked at the reception that Feluda hasn’t returned yet.
I had a lot to tell and wasn’t even half good as Feluda in keeping things buried until the last moment. He could hold worse and tempting information to himself and never give a hint that he knew.
Nevertheless, I was not Feluda so I told, actually muttered under the breath, to myself the whole thing once and felt a little relieved.
Lalmohan Babu has been insistently irritant about feeling that his waist has reduced more than two inches in last few hours without food so we decided to take lunch meanwhile.
“I could fit on your trousers now, Tapesh!”, he said rolling his eyes. I chose to ignore him and kept glancing at entrance from my table expecting Feluda to enter at any moment while he helped himself to fish-curry and rice with stuffed paranthas and buttermilk.
A peculiar thing happened that same time. A man’s shouting drew my attention. He was swearing curses for the waiter and other hotel people. As it turned out, he was served fish-curry, that I had ordered, instead of his order of veg-pulao, and he was a vegetarian.
The waiter pretty much was at fault and hence he kept standing there – buried half in ground and head hung low.
The man, while had his angry face on, looked tensed too. He wore white dhoti and khadi kurta. I normally would have forgotten about this incident but Feluda always emphasizes on observing things clearly and rationally.
“It is one’s power of observation that makes a great detective”, he keeps reminding me.
What I observed clearly was that this man had a few bruises behind his left ear, fresh and dressed, like the one gets by falling into bushes.
He seemed financially well-off for he wore an expensive watch and arrogance was certainly his second nature for he didn’t listen to the manager’s apology as well, let alone the staff, while he rushed out of the dining hall’s bashing the door against wall. I noticed a slight limp in his left leg as he walked out.
We went to our rooms after the lunch and Lalmohan Babu decided to stretch legs in his; but I was too agitated to even sit so after few minutes I decided to go out and find local bus stand.
I usually like to walk for this way I get to see more and know more but there was no time for it now; I needed to find Feluda quickly so I took a man-pulled rickshaw.
The roads of the Sultanpur are not the best in the district and fact that there were hotels, railway station and bus-depot and stand, and district court – all at the corners of each other was certainly contributing to the huge rush everywhere. The rickshaw puller however knew his roads and swung like a butterfly, cutting through the thick crowd and limbs parked all over the road amidst vehicles those were constantly blowing horns and the men shouting all around for various reasons.
He cut into an alley beside the messy-looking bus depot and a pungent smell of urinal hit my senses. I couldn’t help a frown and held my breath for few seconds.
I asked him to take me to the local library for I knew that is where Feluda would have started investigation although he said he was going to bus stand. I have learnt to understand the hidden meanings, and reasons behind, when Feluda said he was going somewhere.
The librarian was a paan-chewing man in his late forties. One can be hard to crack if one decides to. He was undermining whatever I explaining to him. The farthest his expression went was from ignorance to sarcasm as he learnt I was Bengali. I took it as a victory for I got him into it, now I could trick out information.
I found out about another bangali who had been in library few hours ago looking for the old newspapers and local magazines. I knew it was Feluda. I asked him if he was asking about the way to some place. It turned out he asked about the ghat and alternate roads to Agwanpur.
I knew there was nothing more to find out from him so I took a rickshaw to ghat and checked about the local commuting options. I went back to hotel after two hours and I found Feluda was not in yet. Tired of waiting I fell asleep.
I woke up at 7 to the sound of something breaking in the room. I jumped up to see Feluda sitting on one of the chairs and leaning on the table busy in pouring some liquid slowly into a small pot. It was the lid of this bottle containing the liquid that was break-opened and made that sound.
Not hiding my annoyance anymore I demanded to be told where he was. He didn’t flinch a muscle rather signalled me to keep quiet and sit down. I know this phase of him – ‘I-have-found-something-to-ponder-upon’ phase.
After few minutes I saw the pot fuming. Thick white fumes rising from it slowly float in the air and going out of the window. Feluda took out his famous blue notebook and started to scribe in Greek script.
Feluda broke the silence after few minutes.
“You must be dying to know where I was, what I found out and what does this pot contain. I’ll tell you, first tell me what did you and Jatayu learn?”, he said without lifting his eyes from his notebook.
I couldn’t have asked for more. I filled him in with the days activities and the twisting irritation in my belly was gone.
Lalmohan babu aka Lalmohan Ganguli aka Jatayu, barged in at the same time complaining about the hard bed mattress and the taste of water.
“I have heard that you have got skinner Jatayu babu.”, Feluda teased him.
“You are just in time to know that Felu babu! We could have waited for centuries for you, you know?”, Lalmohan Babu backfired making a funny face and we burst into laughter.
We were having dinner at 9 in the dining hall at the ground floor of the hotel. When Feluda announced that we needed to shift to the hotel Radhemohan Shukla have booked for us early in next morning.
“Mr. Shukla will be there to pick us at 10, we must have made ourselves familiar with the hotel and staff before he comes for the reasons best known to us all.”, he said while he kept eating.
He is fond of good food and always jumps in to try new things.
Next morning 6 O’clock we checked-out of our hotel and checked-in in the hotel Mr. Shukla has booked for us. Hotel manager’s name was Krishna Kant Tiwari who happened to be a jolly man in his mid thirties. He knew his ways with people, he sent breakfast to our rooms. We finished it promptly and were reading morning newspaper when reception called asking if they could send Mr. Radhemohan Shukla to our room, clock struck 10 at that same time. He was on time.
Radhemohan was a grim-faced man in his late fifties who kept moustaches, had salt and pepper hairs, skinny but tall, his wheat-ish skin was sun-burnt and hands suggested that he worked in fields. He spoke in melodious voice which reminded me of his first phone call.
“I believe you must be Mr. Pradosh Mitter.”, he said to Feluda.
“Yes, I am.”
“Thank you for coming Mr. Mitter. I guess arrangements are fine here, aren’t they?”
“Yes they are optimum.”
“Very well. Then we should talk about my case. I am sure you have done some research of your own before coming here, let me tell you everything that I have.”
Feluda asked him to sit, took a chair himself and lit a cigarette.
“As incredible as this case is, not less horrifying the situations have been for my village due to it. People don’t buy our produce, bamboos are getting old and soon they would grow rigid and less flexible and would remain of no value. This all started three months ago when suddenly people started talking about seeing a sadhu in the pond of our village. This sadhu was reported to being seen during early hours of the morning and eventually people started visiting him. It all was fine until people started reporting incidents of theft. There has been repeatedly many such incidents of multiple thefts from the same houses. It looked as if they were targeted due to some rivalry but these are good people and not once I have known or heard of them getting into a bad act of any kind.
Later someone claimed that it was sadhu who tricked people to give details about their houses and he robbed them of their money. Not everyone believes the same and that is the fact some of them still go to see him. Not a single individual has any idea how it happened or any evidence against sadhu except people alleging that it all started since the sadhu has showed up.
News has spread everywhere that a mysterious sadhu is looting people in Agwanpur and the village is cursed by either Goddess Kali or by the last priest of kali temple. Police is doing their investigation but I am not happy with their progress that is I asked you to come and nab the culprit. Our village’s reputation is at stake and people are in trouble; we are in dire need of your help Mr. Mitter.”, Mr. Shukla narrated everything and then took out a envelope and put it on the table.
“Here is your 50% advance Mr. Mitter and I know it I non-refundable.”
Mr. Shukla left, after inviting us to his house at 5 in the evening.
His house was built on the eastern side of the village. It had a courtyard, a byre, a well, and small orchard of Mangoes. There were plants of Rose, Marigold, Lily, Dahlia, Lemon and Tulsi too. He was having tea in veranda when we arrived. He rose from his incliner as he saw us and folded his hands to greet. We were offered a cot to sit and lemon-rose sherbet to drink. This was a new experience and Lalmohan Babu, of all, seemed to enjoy the novelty of it the most for he started humming a tune of Rabindra sangeet. I had to stop him.
Radhemohan had two sons Pramod and Nishant, Pramod was elder of them.
Nishant studied in college and Pramod as it he told us worked in a factory that manufactured desk phones. He was married and had a child Nirmal. 6 year old Nirmal and his mother lived with Radhemohan for Pramod had to work overtime and he could not pay adequate attention to his wife and towards development of the child.
To be continued in Episode 4
Pictures & Words ©SanjeevKumarPandey