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Ravi Ranjan Goswami

Cluster


These novellas are fictional but inspired by some real incidents.


BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
80331 Munich

CLUSTER

BY

RAVI RANJAN GOSWAMI

This book is dedicated to my wife Kesh and daughter Divita

INTRODUCTION

This is a cluster of my four novellas-The Gold Syndicate, the Robbers’ Hill, Missing, and Foiled.

These novellas are fictional. The names, characters, organizations, and incidents portrayed in these are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.

I hope you will enjoy reading these different stories in a single book.

Ravi Ranjan Goswami



The Gold Syndicate

A novella

Translation

TRANSLATED AND ADAPTED BY THE AUTHOR FROM HIS HINDI SHORT NOVEL OF THE SAME TITLE.

CHAPTER 1

Rahul’s train reached Delhi at about 8 AM. He went there for a job interview. To save time and money, he finished his morning ablutions in the washroom of his train compartment and got ready for the interview. The interview was for the position of an officer trainee in a petroleum company. Its office was located in Connaught place. He did well in the interview, but he understood that his chances of selection were few as he was just a graduate. There were many candidates, who were having a postgraduate degree plus an MBA. Above all that, he was not fluent in speaking English as he had studied in the vernacular medium. This proved an Achilles heel of him. He had this impression that to get a good job either you ought to be exceptionally talented or you had to be fluent in English. He passed many written examinations for higher jobs but failed in interviews for this weakness or, at least, he believed so.

After the interview, he came to a nearby bus stand and stood there waiting for a bus to go to R. K. Puram, a place in New Delhi to see one, of his cousins, who lived there.

After visiting his cousin in R. K. Puram in New Delhi, Rahul reached the New Delhi railway station in the evening just a few minutes before the scheduled departure time of the train, in which he was supposed to travel to Jhansi. He went straight to the cloakroom, where he had deposited his briefcase in the morning. He took back his briefcase and rushed to the platform number one. It was being announced, “Attention please, the train number… Traveling from New Delhi to Bhopal via Jhansi is standing at plate form number 1” He rushed to his compartment and as soon as boarded the train, it started.

This time, his reserved berth had been a side upper berth just next to the AC coach’s corridor entry. He anticipated a disturbed journey by the frequent movements of passengers in the corridor and by the frequent opening and closing of the door next to his berth. Whenever he traveled by train on a side berth, particularly in an AC compartment, he always had this feeling that the Railway department should charge a lesser fare for these side berths as they are shorter in length and passengers have a less comfortable journey because of the movements of the people in the gallery.

After some time, a train ticket examiner came wearing a black coat and a tie over a white shirt and pants. He checked his ticket and moved ahead to check other persons’ tickets.

Rahul felt like resting so, he climbed the berth and lay there folding his legs and using his briefcase as a pillow. He was very tired. So soon he fell asleep. A few times his sleep was disturbed by the noise of the entering and leaving of passengers on the stations, where the train stopped.

He wakened up a few minutes earlier the train reached Jhansi, his home. The train reached there about 12 midnight. He got down from the train and came out of the railway station.

Had it been during day time he would have been surrounded by tens of auto and tempo drivers asking me where he had to go and some of them would have been virtually dragging him to their vehicles. At that hour of the night, their number was less comparatively.

He hired an auto from the railway station to Manik Chowk for rupees 50 and reached his home near this main market of the city in about twenty minutes.

He did not want to disturb all members of his family so instead of ringing the doorbell he softly knocked at the door. He knew that mother would be waiting for him. As he had anticipated it was mother only, who opened the door. All others were sleeping. He went straight to the bathroom and washed his face, hands and feet. He also changed his dress and put on pyjamas and Kurta for comfort.

Amma served him food. After having food, he went to bed.



CHAPTER 2

Saleem was six feet tall, well built and of dark complexion. He was a graduate and belonged to a respectable, but poor family. After passing out in Bachelor of Art in sociology, he tried to find some jobs but could not get a stable job. He thought of doing some business but finances were the big constraints.

His father had retired from the post of a senior clerk of the city corporation. His mother was a homemaker. He had a younger sister and a younger brother.

He became well to do after joining Seth Gopichand. So a good deal that he could aid his brother in education. His brother did a diploma course in automobile engineering in a polytechnic institute. After that, Saleem helped in opening a small automobile repair shop in the town. Also, he helped his father on the marriage of his younger sister.

A few years ago, when Saleem was unemployed and in financial difficulties, he happened to meet Jimmy, a friend of his college days. Jimmy told him that he was working in Mumbai and if he wanted he could arrange a job for him also there. Saleem agreed.

Saleem’s family members were not wanting him to go, but he had decided to go to Mumbai with Jimmy.

When Saleem got down from the train at CST Mumbai along with his friend Jimmy, he was awestruck seeing the crowd there. He carried his suitcase in his left hand and with the right hand he grabbed the arm of Jimmy. He felt like a child afraid of getting lost in that crowd. This was his first visit to a big city.

Making the way through the crowd, they came out of the railway station. Jimmy took Saleem to the roadside and stopped at one place. He made a phone call from his mobile phone. In a few seconds, one black Maruti Van pulled along and stopped in front of them. Jimmy went ahead and opened the side sliding door of the van. He made Jimmy sit inside the car first, then he sat inside and closed the door. Their suitcases were not really large. They kept them in the leg space. The driver had kept the car engine running, He applied first gear and smoothly raised the clutch, then went forward. Soon he got down the gear to the 4th and the car was speeding along the route. Saleem noticed that Jimmy had not told the driver anything. He asked Jimmy,”Where are we going?”

Jimmy replied,”My residence.”

Along the way to Jimmy’s house, Saleem kept on watching huge towers, high rise buildings, malls from the racing car with an awe.

Jimmy’s residence was a half an hour drive from CST. Soon they were there standing before a multi-storey building. Jimmy’s flat was on the third floor of this building.

They went inside the building. Jimmy guided Saleem to the lift at the left side of the entrance. They entered the lift together. Jimmy pushed the lift button for the third floor. The lift had no other person beside them. It stopped at the third floor. They came out and went to Jimmy’s flat, which was locked. Jimmy took out a key and unlocked the doors of the flat. This was a two bedroom apartment. They entered the flat. This was daytime, but inside the flat it was almost dark as all the windows were closed and curtains were drawn fully covering them. Jimmy switched on the lights. Saleem looked around the house. He was really impressed. The house was clean, well decorated and well furnished.

Saleem asked where JJimmy’s family was. Jimmy told him that his wife and son had gone to Lucknow. His wife’s parents lived in Lucknow. She, along with their only son, who was five years old, had gone to live with her parents for about a month. So Jimmy could comfortably stay there for that period.

He told Saleem, “You get freshen. I will go out and buy some food for us”. He went out.

Saleem opened his suitcase. He took out a towel and a few clothes from the suitcase and went to the bathroom.

After getting refreshed, he sat on a sofa in the drawing room and started waiting for Jimmy. He did not know what was in store for him.

Then the doorbell rang…

CHAPTER 3

Hearing the door bell’s sound Saleem opened the door. When Jimmy went out, he did not lock the door. The door had an automatic lock system.

Jimmy opened the food packets. He had brought chilly chicken and tandoori roti. They had the food. They were so hungry that they did not bother about plates or even water. After finishing the food from food packets, Jimmy went to the fridge and brought a water bottle. They drank the water from the bottle itself. Between the two men and friends, there were no formalities. Then Jimmy told him to rest for some time and that they would be going out afterward. He signaled Saleem towards a bedroom and set himself down on the sofa itself.

Saleem went to the bedroom and lay on the bed there. Soon Jimmy fell asleep. Soon he was snoring. His snoring was loud and assailing Saleem’s ears. Saleem did not feel sleepy. He was thinking if his decision to come to Mumbai was right. If he was giving his friend undue trouble.

Jimmy woke up after about two hours. He came to Saleem and said, “Saleem, get ready. We have to go.” Both of them got out of the building. The same black Maruti van was waiting for them. As soon as they sat in the car, the driver moved the car. In a few minutes time, it was speeding towards the destination, which he already knew.

Inside the car, Jimmy told Saleem that they were going to meet an important man, who could give him a job.

The car stopped in the portico of Centaur hotel. Durban, a tall fellow with thick mustache twisted upward at the corners and a turban on his head, came forward and opened the doors of the car. He saluted them and courteously guided them to the entrance.

They entered the hotel. Jimmy went to the reception and talked something with a young and beautiful lady in Saree there. He came back and took Saleem to a lift opposite to the reception counter. When a lift came down, its doors were opened and a few persons came out of the lift. Then they entered the lift. Jimmy told the lift operator, “Third floor”. The lift-man pushed a button and lift moved in the upward direction. Saleem felt the pull of gravity on his body in the opposite direction. He felt heavy. Within no time the lift reached the third floor and stopped.

They came out of the lift and found themselves in a long corridor, which had wall to wall red carpet on the floor. Jimmy informed Saleem that they had to go to the room number202. They discovered a table showing the numbers and directions of the rooms on that level. The room number 202 was the second room towards left from the lift. They approached the room. Jimmy told Saleem to wait outside when he would get in the room. Then he rang the doorbell. The door of the room was not locked. Somebody called from inside, “ come in.”

Jimmy slowly opened the door and entered the room, closing the door behind. Saleem remained standing outside the room as told by Jimmy.

After about ten minutes Jimmy opened the door and signaled Saleem to come into the room. Saleem was overwhelmed by the splendor and comfort of the five-star hotel room. He was taken aback on seeing the person sitting there. He was a middle-aged man of medium stature. He had a bulky figure and round face with small eyes. He had gray hair and was clean shaved. Saleem recognized him. He was Seth Gopichand of his city. He wondered that why Jimmy brought him to Mumbai to meet Seth Gopi while he could arrange their meeting in his town itself.

Then there was a surprise for Jimmy. Seth asked him to wait outside the room for some time.

CHAPTER 4

Once again, Rahul was in Delhi. This time, he had applied for the post of an assistant intelligence officer in a private detective agency named Indian Security Agency. They had called for applications by putting out their vacancy in newspapers. There were in all three vacancies. Five hundred people applied for those three posts and sixty candidates were actually called there. This detail he came to know after reaching the venue of his interview.

The venue was the Agency’s office, which was on the top floor of a multi-storey building in Connaught place in Delhi. From outside it looked like any other office.

Security at the gate was not as detached and matter of fact, as he had seen in some other offices. Security was polite and welcoming. Beyond the security, a young and beautiful lady in an office suit at the reception greeted the candidates with a charming smile. A young man received them in the office and directed towards the conference hall, which had entrances at the left corner of the reception hall.

The Conference hall was large enough to hold a hundred individuals. Adequate number of hot seats were held at that place in rows as in a classroom. Adjacent to the conference hall there was a room, where all candidates were interviewed.

The Interview was preceded by a previously undeclared on the spot written test of objective nature, which contained questions on logical thinking, general knowledge, and psychology. The test was of half an hour duration. The interview was an unusually brisk affair. Many candidates were complaining that they were not given even two minutes.

When Rahul’s turn came, he entered the room with the permission of the interview panelists. The Interview panel consisted of three members. They asked him to sit in a chair in front of them. His bio-data was lying on the table before them. Knowing that he belonged to Jhansi they asked him a few questions about Rani Lakshmibai. They asked him a few more questions on the current affairs. Then they thanked him and asked him to go. He thanked them and came out of the room.

He was told that the final result of the test and interview would be declared that evening itself around five. He looked at his wristwatch. It was showing 1’o clock. He felt hunger and decided to get out of that building and have lunch at some local eating house. He did not know the place around so he randomly walked toward the left direction.

Shortly he saw a board of a Delhi vegetarian restaurant. He entered the restaurant and found it fine. It was a small air-conditioned restaurant. It felt a great relief to be in there after walking under the May Sun of Delhi. Waiter received him and guided him to a vacant seat. He sat down there and ordered for Alu-Gobhi, Dal-Makhani, and a few Rotis. It appeared that he was led to that restaurant by providence. There was marked a separated area for families. A few families were sitting there. When, after having his lunch and paying the bill, he got up and moved to the exit, his attention was drawn towards a young couple sitting there.

Shubhang, the younger son of Seth Girdhari was sitting there with a beautiful young girl. They did not see him and he too did not feel like disturbing them. He stealthily moved to the exit and came out. He recognized Shubhang and the young lady appeared to be his girl. He felt happy for them. They reminded him of his college days and his friend Shalini.

Shalini was Rahul’s classmate and neighbor. He didn’t know if he could call these meetings as dating. Several times they had Samosas and teas together in our college canteen. She was a beautiful girl and very good at studies. He liked her very much. They were almost in love, only neither of them said this. He knew that she would not say it first. Eventually, he would have to propose to her and this was quite natural that a boy proposed to a young lady. The girl could also propose, but Shalini was a different girl.

Shalini’s father was a police officer, whose reputation was not good in the society. Rahul’s parents disliked him very much. This fact, he came to know at a later phase.

Rahul was from a middle-class family. His father was a Hindi lecturer in a college. His mother was a housewife and he had three sisters, one older to him and two younger. The elder sister was married. His Father spent a lot on her marriage ceremony. For the other two daughters’ marriages, he was counting on his soon to be ‘retirement’ benefits. He also hoped that Rahul would be employed shortly and would help him financially in marrying off his two sisters. After his graduation, Rahul started appearing for various competitive examinations for jobs.

One day Rahul mentioned it before his mother that he desired to marry a girl like Shalini after getting a good job. She did not express any excitement or happiness about this. Although she told that she did not like Shalini’s father. Rahul did not speak further on this matter.

In due course of time without his declaring, his love for Shalini all his family members came to know of Rahul’s love interest. But none were in support of this proposition. Rahul could never understand the reason behind this.

Once Shalini had mentioned that her father was quite ambitious regarding her marriage. He would like his son in law to be some really high ranking government officer.

All these things compelled him to postpone his proposing to Shalini. Besides, he considered it pointless to think about marriage, when he was unemployed. He decided to focus on his career. He thought that after becoming a high ranking officer, he will approach directly to Shalini’s father and ask for his daughter’s hand as they say in India. He was sure that when he got a nice job nobody would decline his proposal.

Rahul moved to Allahabad and joined coaching classes for civil services. Thus, studying and appearing in various examinations, two years passed. In between he visited his home several times, but could not meet Shalini. They did not have the facility of mobile phones and computer. Later he came to know that she had been sent to her maternal uncle’s house, which was in Kanpur, for further studies.

It was foolish on his part not to strive enough to contact her and convey his feelings and ideas. They were of almost the same age. He took it for granted that she would not marry in next two years. Also, during that period, he would get the desired job and would propose to marry her.

One day, during his visit to his home. He found a marriage card lying in a cupboard. He picked it up curiously and opened. He got shocked, earth swept under his feet, that was Shalini’s marriage card. Two days ago was the date of her marriage. He rushed to her house, but there was nothing left to be done. He did not go to her house. From a distance, he saw the traditional graffiti around the entrance of her house, which is made on the occasion of marriage in that region. He returned broken heart.

He demanded from his family why they did not tell him about Shalini’s marriage. All were silent. His father answered, “there was nothing to inform you. That miserly fellow, Shalini’s father did not invite me with family. I went there alone and gave five hundred rupees in an envelope as a gift to the bride and bridegroom as is the custom of this place.” He further added, “But one thing is sure, the girl is lucky. The boy is handsome and an IPS officer.”

His mental state was different and was nobody’s concern. He went to his room, bolted it from inside and cried out his heart. The next day He came to know that he had passed the written examination of a probation officer of the state bank. He would have to appear for an interview next week. But he was so angry and frustrated that life looked worthless. He did not go for the interview and lost an excellent chance of getting a decent job and after this, he had to remain unemployed for a long period of time. Whenever he remembered her he felt sad and held himself responsible for what had happened.