STEP BY STEP GUIDE
(All episodes appear in serial manner below)
“Kem Chho, Motakaka?” (How are you, Grand Uncle?) -Jignesh, my overbearing nephew appeared at the window, as I was running my fingers over the keys of the harmonium gathering dust in the Covid -19 times.
“Oh, Jignesh beta, come in. The door is never locked for obedient boys like you.
“Got a mask, Bachcha, put it on please” my paternal instincts took over
Carefully, putting on his mask, he removed his shoes outside, entered the room and valiantly tried to touch my feet, almost falling over the ageing harmonium.
A strong smell of deo overpowered my senses as he managed to touch my feet. His hair understandably had grown longer and the freshly oiled moustache was visible on his unshaven face.
“No, no, Jignesh, don’t embarrass me.”
“Motakaka, I don’t see Kaki. Where is she?” the tone of Jignesh was laced with sublime mystery today. His formal visits to his Uncle were infrequent.
“Oh, she has gone for her second dose of Vaccination today”, I put an end to his formal search for his Kaki and motioned him to take his seat in the vacant chair across.
Instead, he sat down on the floor, carefully tucking his long kurta around his lap, “But what about your second shot? You are not looking after your health, Motakaka”, the concerned nephew dropped a perfectly normal question. May his tribe increase!
“Relax, Jigu, I had my second dose of vaccine last week. It was her turn, today” ,
I ignored the confused expression on his face to avoid any corollaries like” You should have gone along with her, poor Kaki’
With no Kaki around, he quietly walked up to the kitchen and helped himself to a glass of water.
“So, Kaka, I am here for a favour from you”, Jignesh as good as threw a grenade at me, fueling my curiosity about the purpose of his sudden visit. Jignesh was no doubt my favourite nephew –in fact he was the only one but that alone did not qualify him to receive favours from me.
I went through the motions of putting the cover back on the re-commissioned harmonium, “You, … want a favour … from me?”
“Exactly”, but please do not put the harmonium back in the box, please”, he implored.
Displaying an unheard, unseen sense of humility, he came around behind me and pressed my shoulders lovingly to get me to re-open the instrument and play.
‘But…”, I looked at him incredulously
“I must learn to play the harmonium from you”, this time it sounded like a napalm bomb falling all over my body in millions of pieces.
“What? You, the Aurang…..?”
“it is like this, Motakaka”, I just finished an online crash course on business Start-up”, Jignesh straightened his tall frame and sat up, “Yes, that is true. I have a plan” The last loaded sentence reminded me of Martin Luther King proclaiming “I have a dream”.
Amused at this Eureka moment of my beloved nephew I got up from my crossed leg Yoga like posture, and patted his back, “That is so wonderful, Jignesh. Your Dad will be over the moon”
Jignesh’s voice suddenly acquired the tone of a seasoned old wise man, “In these pandemic times, you know, everyone in the neighbourhood is looking to learn something new – “Online”. So, I applied my newly acquired business ideas and said, ‘why not me?”
Our near and dear ones look more lovable when they utter such noble words.
“So, you want to learn Harmonium from me, right? But you can always come personally and learn. I can’t teach it Online-phonline to you or anyone else”, finally my nephew has seen something of value in my pursuits of music, I allowed a sense of pride seeping in.
“Don’t laugh it off, Kaka. It is much deeper than that. Of course, I will come personally but what comes next will floor you”
“Jignesh, the suspense is killing me. Shall we have some tea first? I will be in a much better position to understand and appreciate your ‘deep’ business idea” that floors an ageing grand uncle
Jigu smiled, “The tea can wait till Kaki returns – hope she has no side effects. But let me reveal to you the grand plan”.
By now it was impossible to rein in Jignesh; it was so exasperating, really wished his Kaki returned soon.
He launched his business plan,
“Here goes, I know you are not only a great musician but even a great teacher. Right? There is a zinger of opportunity in cashing on the craze to learn harmonium online….” Jignesh started in the right earnest but I had to cut him off, lest he should involve me financially in his crazy endeavour. There was no way I would ever give online lessons to a bunch of students, not even free.
Jignesh shook his head vigorously, “I know what you are thinking. It is not like that, Kaka….. You -stressing the word ‘you’- don’t have to teach Online”
“Then who will?”, the whole discussion was going nowhere other than the ‘whodunnit’ flashing in my mind.
His adrenaline was on an overdrive, he got up and started pacing the small room,
“Aha! I will take a crash course in harmonium from you just for two weeks. I am sure you can teach me the basics of music in the first week and then seven major ragas in the second week. Then you are free.
Dhen te ren!!!….then I will start teaching Harmonium Online”
“But, you? Don’t even know the elementary, basics of music, leave aside the skills to master harmonium!”, I really thought a cup of tea would sober him down and I could talk him out of this crazy idea.
The much-awaited return of Kaki signaled a wave of anticipation. She trudged in and, and disappeared in the kitchen, giving a pale smile to Jigensh. Sure hope she is all right.
“But I have full confidence in your ability to train me in two weeks, Kaka….. You know Kaka, you are always the same, worrying so much about any new project endlessly that you never get started. Come on, make hay while it shines, make use of your ability in these pandemic times.”
Kaki watching us discussing some esoteric subject from the kitchen made a sign of a cup and saucer to ask if we would care for tea. I responded positively to her with a thumbs up sign.
“But crazy boy, you can’t. It is not that easy. Musicians spend their entire life-time learning music and then mastering an instrument to play one raga takes a hell of a lot of labour and patience”, my attempts to dissuade him were not making any dent into his shell of misplaced enthusiasm.
“I know, Kaka, but this is different. One doesn’t have to be a master of anything to teach Online. Idle people getting bored in the pandemic times will latch on to anything Online so that their days are filled up. Besides, the pride of moving with time in joining any Online course will shine through in their late evening discussions with their relatives and friends. What they actually learn in one hour is not important. But to be able to proudly declare that they are spending a few thousand rupees a week to learn something Online will give their status a boost.” Jignesh spoke all this in one breath. This was no less path-breaking then Martin Luther King’s speech.
Like an angel, Kaki slowly made her way towards us with two cups of tea in a tray and handed the tray to me, “What do you want to eat for lunch? I am so tired. It is Monday, so can you order some South Indian items from ‘Swiggy’? Jignesh too loves South Indian? don’t you Jigu”. Kaki at least watched the latest advertisements for sure.
I had no heart to upset Kaki but stalling the catastrophe in the making with the Online plan was my primary objective.
Jignesh, the obedient nephew, and his kaka downed the tea in a jiffy. Would better sense prevail now?
My voice had now become more mature to reflect my age, “Look Beta, I would be too happy to give it a try; teaching my beloved nephew. It does look like a wave of abiding passion in music has gripped you. But you don’t even have a harmonium at home, you need to practice like crazy for that kind of result. Besides, how are you going to get YOUR students. How much are you going to charge…..?”
“Good, now you are coming around, Kaka. I have learned enough about the business of Online Course of ‘Online Start-up’, the smile on his face was radiant now, “I have already thought about all that”
Shiv Shiv, I was falling in the trap of underestimating my own nephew.
“How?” – my simple question, trying hard to curb my instincts to launch into a long narrative.
Jignesh inched a bit closer to me, pushing up his mask that had slipped below his nose, to disclose the details, “You are not practicing on your Harmonium these days anyway. So I will stay here for two weeks – ‘Guru Shishya Parampara’ – wow! I will reimburse your fees and the cost of meals that Kaki will cook, from the future revenue generated out of the Online course. One just needs to apply his mind, you know, Motakaka”
In one paragraph he utterly laid before me, my failed attempts to cash in on my musical prowess all my life. Probably, I could never think like a businessman. Alas, my nephew should have been born much ahead of me, I guess.
“And you will need a harmonium at YOUR home to teach students Online; you need to start getting students who are willing to shell out that kind of money to learn from a novice like you”, my nervousness was now rising alarmingly.
Jignesh shot a pitiful look at me that said, ‘very hard to teach business to old men’,
“I have taken care of that, Kaka. The first student to register will be you and Kaki. You can pay me discounted fees- no problem. We will start the classes from this very house. Big businesses start from the garages, remember? Legions of enthusiastic learners will fall over each other once they come to know that a well-known musician like you is learning from me. I have created a spreadsheet that explains how the business will take off with minimum or no investment. I have no problems sending that spreadsheet to you. After just one lesson that you and Kaki would be privileged to take from me, right here, I reckon I will get at least 20 enquires out of which 15 will register right away. From the advance that they pay I will buy a new harmonium, repay whatever you and kaki have paid me as advance and presto… the Online classes will be on. Just imagine the excitement, the frenzy that it will create in my neighbourhood, your neighbourhood and slowly in the entire town.”
It was a stunningly simple business plan. The day won’t be far when Jignesh, my own nephew will be invited to be a guest professor or a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School.
For the present, the Harvard Business School was my humble abode and the privileged students were Kaki and me.
Unwittingly, not just me but Kaki too would get involved in this start-up!
Let us see how the events will unfold….
— —- —- —-
My neighbour Mohan Das, watching the grand business plan of Jignesh taking shape, unobtrusively from outside our window, tiptoed into my room the moment Jignesh left. Seeing him without his hearing aid, he was sure to raise the decibels in my apartment to alarming levels.
“Oho, so good to see your nephew visit you. Great sanskar. My son doesn’t visit me, even on my birthday anymore. He just forwards a birthday message that has a label “forwarded many times”, Mohan Das, took his glasses off and stared at my face. I owed him an explanation for Jigu’s visit. He was keen to share my agony or to partake what he thought to be a pleasure.
Realizing the futility of explaining to him in a raised voice I just made a hand gesture of ‘all well’. But, like Mahatma Gandhi, his namesake, this Mohan Das was made of sterner stuff. He sat down on the chair and waited for a proper answer.
In walked his wife, Sutopa – his life companion, and handed him an old-fashioned, ill-fitting hearing aid. His hearing back on track, albeit partially, he leaned forward,
“Now then?”- the relentless query on his face nearly impaled me.
It was impossible to put him off. I was left with no choice but to yell to endeavor to explain to him about what transpired between my nephew and me.
“Good business sense”, as he carefully shoved the dentures into his mouth, from the little box that his wife had brought. Was he planning to have his meals here with me? Kaki showed signs of nervousness.
“Look, your room is too small to accommodate many students. Why don’t you have your classes at my house- much bigger you know? No, no, don’t worry I won’t charge you any rent. Good time-pass you know?”
“Arey, but this is not a normal class, Mohan jee. It is Online….Online” the high decibel response betrayed my exasperation. I really hoped Jignesh would find some way to make money out of such abysmal lack of awareness about Online courses.
Thankfully, seeing Kaki making the dining table ready for our lunch his wife led him back to their big apartment.
Post lunch, I was getting ready for my afternoon siesta when someone rang the bell. That someone was Mohan Das’ maid.
Before I could ask anything, she blurted out,” Tamaro phone – Dada ne gher” (Someone on the line for you at Dada’s place)
“What on earth?” I checked my mobile phone – it was dead. In the business discussion with Jignesh the battery had run down completely. “must be something very important”
Mohan Das was up from his siesta and, with his hearing aid firmly in place, ready to eavesdrop on my imminent tele conversation on his old landline phone. His faithful wife was at hand to fill in where his hearing aid might play truant.
“Kaka?”, Jigu’s loud voice on the phone almost threatened to tear up the hearing aid of Mohan Das. He readjusted his hearing-aid for better reception should the caller lower his voice. Sutopa made a gesture to take it easy.
“Your mobile phone seems unreachable. But some fantastic news!”
“Oh, what is it, my genius?”, I yawned involuntarily.
“Before you came on the line, I happened to talk to Dada“, but that can hardly be called fantastic, my son” my pun on ‘hardly’ went unnoticed.
“Oho, you don’t understand. Dada has offered to let us use his house for our online launch”
“But it is going to be Online, why do you need a bigger place?”
“Look, Motakaka. It is purely a marketing gimmick. The online students will see an official looking studio – much better than your – I mean our- living room that looks like a ransacked little room in disarray.”
“I get it. But you will have to compensate Dada handsomely for the use of his spacious living room,” I cupped my hands and added, “he is an avaricious old man, you know”
Mohan Das’ ears pricked up on hearing his name. Hopefully he didn’t hear the last phrase.
“That is what I call fantastic! He is not going to charge anything – mark my words- nothing at all!”
“You mean he is not going to charge you? – I mean us, at all?”
Mohan Das nodded in affirmation. If he wanted, he could hear me from a mile. May he live long.
“Hard of hearing – I mean hard to believe”,
“Kaka, that is what I keep reminding you. Here I was, unable to contact you and I had to share some news with you and luckily Dadajee came on line and everything is now set. See? Recognize the opportunities that came your way and grab them.”
Mohan Das gave a dazzling smile as Sutopa got up to make some tea.
“So, when do you want to start our Online course?”
“As soon as you make the initial down payment towards fees -yours and Kaki’s”
I was at my wit’s end.
“Don’t forget to keep your mobile phone charged, Kaka – 24 x 7. Once people see you taking lessons from me, a lot of them would like to confirm with you that it was you, who had indeed joined my Online course”
Sutopa, came back with tea. “Ajee sunte ho? Aap koi achchha muhurt kyo nahi nikalte, shubh shuruaat ke liye?”, her knowledge of English was commendable – she could make out everything that transpired between Jigu and me.
“Get me my panchang. I will do it right away after tea. Rajesh saahab please have your tea.”
The tea was sugarless, she had forgotten I was non-diabetic. Anyway, I followed Kaki back to my humble ransacked living room, wondering about the mystery of Mohan Das’ generosity.
“Listen, I do not want to learn from you”, Kaki replaced Mohan Das in the exercise to irritate me
“You don’t have to learn. No one is going to quiz you. You can just sit with us and listen. Besides, Jigu is going to be teaching, not me”
My siesta time was over today. Jigu’s excitement had swept it aside.
—– —– ——
Mohan Das Mahapatra, my esteemed, respectable neighbour had unwittingly added to my misery to no end. Just couldn’t fathom what he would stand to gain from this Online business.
The realization that I, despite being a tolerably good musician, couldn’t make it in life would continue to haunt me as long as I lived. To my sceptical mind the model that Jignesh had proposed would collapse prematurely leaving me and the gregarious Kaki deep into further financial mess. I felt like pulling my hair out on seeing Kaki and Sutopa in deep conversation about the new dawn that was to brighten up the lives of the first floor of the unpretentious apartment building aptly named ‘ Usha’ followed by the ubiquitous ‘Co-operative Housing Society Limited’, abbreviated simply as CHSL.
Hell broke loose the next day. Girija Devi, wife of Kamalashankar Dwivedi from the second floor, alighted from the slippery steps and greeted Kaki in chaste Lucknowi jabaan, “Bahut badhaai! Ab to munh meetha karvaa hi deejiye, Bhai saahab ka naya business jo start ho raha hai!”
So it was all over the town, at least at Usha CHSL! Any hopes for a still birth of the Online Business went for a toss. How on earth did the other residents of the society come to know about this utterly rubbish idea? Blame it on the fertile mind of Jignesh.
Wait! Jignesh said he would start the business as soon as I paid the joining fees. That, I thought, was a great hope! Simple! I would throw up my hands and never pay.
The incorrigible Jignesh sent me an email with an spreadsheet attachment that was ready to list all the residents of the Usha CHSL who would be interested in registering for the Online learning extravaganza. If I didn’t pay, these mortals called Girija Devi et al would certainly pay. The henpecked Kamala Shankar would follow suit. The hopes for a still birth of the Online business were snuffed out with a cruel sweep of the email.
Two full days had passed off peacefully without Jignesh ever calling me to enquire how the registering process had been going. What was he up to now? Mohan Das went overboard and got his huge main living room repainted. The gregarious Kaki proved to be a good neighbour by sending Gujarati Thali, making sure that Sutopa and Mohan Das gave full attention to the quality of painting instead of wasting their time in cooking. Mangesh Godbole, a mediocre, hyped up painter living on the third floor hastily got a sign board ready, announcing the start-up and fixed it at the entrance of the Usha CHSL.
On the third morning, Jignesh called.
“Kem Chho Kaka? All well? I have been busy contacting lakhs of friends in my data base. So how many people from your apartment building have registered for the course? The way your neighbours have been calling me up it looks like Mohan Dada’s room may even prove to be too small, what do you say?”
I was speechless!
“Kaka, are you there? Hope you have got your harmonium serviced. I don’t want the harmonium to conk out at the wrong time and belch out impure notes”, thus warned the CEO of the Online business.
“All is well that end well”, I uttered the words of wisdom distilled over million years, secretly and hoping in vain that the mania that had gripped Jignesh would end prematurely.
Jignesh didn’t hear the prophetic words and brought up another critical issue.
“Kaka, we must be clear about complying with all the provisions of GST. Surely don’t want to get into trouble later.”, I heard some rustling noise of papers being sorted at the other end
“Kaka, are you on the line?”
“Yes, beta, I am very much Online, I mean on line”, the word “online” was now getting on my nerves.
“Ok’, he cleared his throat, “so about the GST compliance I have asked an expert to opine. Don’t worry, he is not going charge a fortune for that, it will just be peanuts at Rs 25,000 one-time fee. He will do all the donkey work.”
“But….”, I gasped for words as Kaki ran towards me, seeing me go limp.
“Kaka, kaka, what happened? Are you all right?”, the loving nephew did care for his ageing uncle, after all
“No Jigu beta, he is all right. He is just downing his regular pill for diabetes. Carry one, carry on”,
On whose side was Kaki? It appeared that everything was loaded against me and everyone around me was egging me on towards a disaster called ‘Online Start-up”
“Oho, Kaki, do take care of him, please. Our Online business will hit a ‘no go’ if he is not around, Oh I am sorry, I meant if he is not fit enough”, Jigu was already planning on my attaining ‘Moksha’
I was staring down at the long barrel of my entire life. Hari Hari, why me? At this age?
The newspaper announced gradual relaxation in the city. Indians being Indians had started pouring out, maskless, in open, more and more. This held out a great hope for a premature death of Online business across the city. Jignesh, my never-say-die nephew might revamp his strategy by luring music lovers to attend live classes but I figured sane people would rather spend their precious time going out to hill stations than honing their skills in music.
A song came to my mind, ‘Waqt ne kiyaa kyaa haseen sitam”, making me slip back into nostalgic times, savouring the good time of playing such songs only to myself while Kaki fixed some mouth-watering dishes for me, humming along. For the present, however, Jignesh’s grandiose project loomed large like ancient debt.
Mohan Das slowly made his way to my room, reading the front page of the English Daily. “Bhai saab, ye to garbad ho gaya! What will happen to the Online classes now?”
“Relax,Mohan jee, let Jignesh worry about that”
“Well, I am worried about the expensive paint job”
“Jignesh will find a way if the Online doesn’t take off as planned. In any case, your living room will brighten up”
“Well, Jignesh had promised to reimburse the cost of painting from the income. But don’t tell him that I told you, Ok? He is a such a nice boy”
So that was the deal! Jignesh to me appeared larger than life. Covid-19 or no Covid, the Online start-up had to happen now.
Great despair sometimes ushers in great comedy. I recalled a great 1966 Peter Seller’s movie called “After the Fox” in which an Italian criminal mastermind, impersonating a film director, plans to grab the loot on a beach where a bogus movie is being filmed. …a witty rebuke to the excesses of international cinema, and a lush, accomplished comedy that provokes genuine mirth…
Recalling that movie, I froze! What if Jignesh is planning something sinister in the garb of Online Music class. A poor old struggling musician would never know what lay behind the façade of an excitable entrepreneur. Good Lord!
Now what? Like the bizarre comic end of the movie, what if I end up paying the price for Jignesh’s misadventure laced with some zany money making plan, finally ending up in jail? Mohan Das would conveniently slip out by sage words like, “I knew something was fishy from the word go”
Kaki, with nothing else to do other than counting days for my release from prison, would make more rounds of the temple, imploring her Gods to have mercy.
———– ————- ————– ————- —————
My anxieties knew no bounds as the news trickled in about the husband of a celebrity actress having been arrested in some case of inappropriate online contents. Being tech unsavvy would often be safely considered as blessings from the Almighty but Kaki, out of all excitable habitants of the Usha CHSL, used her proximity to push me in the corner and niggled me to launch into hard research to unearth the truth behind the Online business of Jignesh. I guess she still loved me despite the utter failure in my life as a musician and I reciprocated her love in abundance for simply putting up with me.
One fine morning, after an early lunch, I set out on a mission to snoop on Jignesh, mindful of the pain of casting aspersions on a blood relative. The lockdown had only been partially lifted for a few hours making my adventure very demanding and time-bound. Kaki spent an inordinate amount of time in disguising me as a small businessman complete with a Gandhi Cap, and a Dhoti, making me practice the typical gait of a commission agent of the cloth market one sees around Moolji Jetha market. With all that paraphernalia I managed to dodge nosy neighbours who would have cornered me with, “Uncle, why are you venturing out? Not safe, Naah, go back. Tell me what is so urgent, I will do it for you”.
Jignesh had moved into the city about six months ago from Bardoli, the town in Gujarat whose claim to fame was the Satyagrah successfully conducted under the leadership of Sardar Patel.
I only had some vague idea of the place where Jignesh said he lived.
“Kuthe jaayaaycha, uncle?’,(Uncle, whereto?) asked the rickshaw driver, with overgrown hair, moustache and beard and the mandatory mask covering whatever part of the face that mattered. To me all living human beings were carriers of the dreaded Corona virus. “When in doubt, just assume that the guy you meet carries the corona virus”, the nerdy son of Professor Tatke, living on the third floor had coached me.
‘Borivali east, baba. Jara laukar, usheer hotoy malaa’ (Please hurry up, I am late already)
“Ae uncle, sabko jaldi hai naah! Fikra kaayko?” (Hey Uncle, everyone here is in a hurry, not to worry) he lapsed into his native Bihari – Marathi mix bambaiyaa Hindi and took off like a missile. I held on to the handle bars lest I should get ejected like a sub missile shooting out of the mother missile.
At the destination I settled the fare, reminding myself of the futility of arguments with the driver, especially in a scary situation like corona lurking around.
My mobile stirred up in the pocket of my pale blue jacket. Hope it was not Jignesh.
It was Kaki, “Pahonchi gaya?” (Have you reached?) – what an immaculate tracking!
“Haa pan hamanaa phone mooki de; pacchi vaat karish”,(Yes, but please put it down, I can’t talk now). I disconnected, leaving the poor soul at the other end in more anxiety. But I didn’t care. The mission was more important than engaging in inane discussion about my safety.
‘Second Floor, Marble Arch’ – the address scribbled on a piece of paper screamed. The name of the structure was ‘Marble Arch’ all right but I did not see any arch – marble or otherwise. It was a dilapidated two storeyed building that apparently had no residents. A loongi (a loose piece of cloth wrapped around the waist below) was fluttering on a drying line across the common balcony on the second floor.
Jignesh lives here? In this God-forsaken structure? There was no soul in sight. As I ventured in the narrow passage that led to the stairway I was startled by a stray dog suddenly escaping out of nowhere from Marble Arch.
Easy Kaka ,easy. The closer I got to my ultimate destination my palpitations could probably heard across the street. I was glad I came all the way to check on the shady business of Jignesh. More outlandish doubts crept in my mind whether the guy who claimed was my nephew was my real nephew. If I could disguise myself as a cloth commission agent he could as well. Well, let me see.
The shrillness of the phone ring sounded scary in the lonely passage of the stair case but I stopped at the landing on the first floor and pressed the phone to my ear, “Bol, have shun chhe? Ghadi ghadi phon naa karish, kahyun ne tane?” (Ok, what is the problem? I told you not to call me again and again)”
“Arey, saambhalo…”(Hey listen) the voice trailed off , “hello, hello, hello…”
“Oh God, what the heck?”, I muttered as another Dog swept past me nearly unwrapping my loosely worn Dhoti.
I pressed the phone more, “Arey, apano Jignesh to ahi aavi gayo chhe” (Hey listen, our Jignesh is right here), she said.
“Oho”, my mind was racing to give the right instructions to Kaki, “ Just say that I had some minor throat irritation so went out to buy some medicines”
I had to abort my mission. Carefully readjusting the dhoti I alighted the stairs with remarkable ease, got into the same rikshaw as there was no other soul in the vicinity to board it. It took much longer to reach home Usha CHSL.
The grave atmosphere there defied my imagination. Something was terribly wrong. The proud residents of Usha CHSL just stood there, staring at me, What had happened? Kaki threw a gloomy glance at me from the common passage of the first floor. Mohan Das adjusted his glasses to get a clear view from his window, his dutiful wife standing behind his thin frame.
Vilas, the young son of Mangesh Godbole, the painter, scurried up to me, “Kaka, Police aale aani baba laa gheun gele.”,( Uncle, the police -they took my dad) pointing in the general direction that the police van must have gone.
“What?”, my voice cracked
“Aani Jignesh bhau laa pan…” (And took Jignesh as well).
I was dumbstruck.
My worst fears finally proved true. The stupid Jignesh must have done something illegal. But why Mangesh?
No one knew for sure. They just came, looking for Jignesh and Mangesh, and pushed them into the police van and sped off. Kaki looked at me as if I was next to be hauled up. The drama in the English movie “After the Fox “ seemed too real for our situation. .
I made a dash to the Andheri East Police station along with a reporter resident of the society, as Kaki prayed for my well-being and safe return home.
Nervy thoughts flooded my mind as I made my way to the dreaded destination. How could Jignesh be so scheming? What exactly had he done? The movie “After the Fox” was a work of light fiction replete with unforgettable performance by Peter Sellers but here it was so hard to imagine my own Jignesh in the role of Peter Sellers. And why was the poor Mangesh hauled up? For simply putting up a board announcing the innocuous Online course? Ridiculous!
Would I be the next to be put up behind bars for supporting the infamous business ? But how could the police find anything illegal in the scheme? Sometimes the law enforcement authorities go on an overdrive. If they catch one person they look for a pattern and end up hauling up each and every one remotely connected. Mistaken identity? My mind was bursting with unimaginable possibilities. My reporter neighbour was busy all the time on his mobile phone, getting directions from his boss to follow up on hundreds of leads to potential stories, unrelated to this juicy story.
The sight of the Andheri East police station was no less dramatic than the sight of blue earth slowly rising in the dark sky as viewed by the astronauts from space, except that the drama to unfold was scary.
A baton wielding junior officer manning the door pointed his baton at us, asking us for the purpose of our visit simply by his facial expression.
“My son was brought here an hour ago, saab’
“Jignesh Mehta, saab”
“Father’s name ?”
“I didn’t ask for my name”
“No that is the name of his father”
“Are you Mohan?”
“I am Rajesh, his Uncle”
“And who is this character with you?”
“Oh, he is just my neighbour”
“Pujari?”, the officer looked at Ashok suspiciously
“No connection with that Pujari, Saab”
“Arey Shirke…” he yelled at someone inside and verified that Jignesh indeed as present in flesh and blood.
We were let in the hallowed police station.
Shirke took over where that junior officer had left off. Same questions , same answers.
A wiry thin assistant officer, apparently in temporary charge of the police station, was on the chair, surrounded by hangers on and anxious relatives of people hauled up. He had no expression on his face – in a Saintly stoic pose that had no potential to threaten any one- looked up and resumed his business at hand.
“Jai Hind, Saab”, I put up my best show on earth to impress him as soon as he signalled us to his cluttered desk.
As I settled in the plastic chair opposite, I saw, from the corner of my eyes, some human creature waving at me. I turned my head to find Jignesh standing behind the bars in the temporary lock-up. My God! I shuddered at the thought of my own turn to be there with him.
“Name?” —— the same rigmarole!
He went about noting all the information nonchalantly, unmindful of a cacophony of noise, orders, expletives around.
“Saab, Jignesh is innocent”, I ventured meekly
“Under what charges have you hauled him up?” Ashok, the reporter dared to ask Yashvant Talpade- that was the name on his badge.
“Look here Shaane (Over-smaart), do you have any idea what Jignesh has done?”
“Don’t be so ignorant. It seems to me you too are involved in this sex racket”, Talpade snared me.
Sex racket and me? Here it comes.
“There must be some mistake inspector saab. We all come from highly respectable family.”
“That is what that… , what’s is name.., Kundra also claimed, so funny – respectable family and all!”
“Kundra?” I looked at Ashok. He came closer and whispered, “Kundra – that guy who has been booked under some pornography case yesterday”
Then it occurred to me that Jigensh was deep into something that I never had any inkling about.
As I sat there, petrified at the thought of getting involved in some sex racket, I saw some criminals, handcuffed and ruthlessly dumped into the lock up right in front of my eyes.
“But…. You can’t arrest someone like that, you need proof. Ashok got a bit more aggressive.
Instead of getting bullied by the question from my reporter friend he got up like a soldier, put on his cap and saluted ….not to me but to someone entering the police station.
I turned my head to see a hefty top cop of the station making his way to the chair that rightfully belonged to him.
Yashvant, making way for his boss, produced a photograph and placed it on the table so that his boss could see it.
“Kaay chaalalay?” (So what is going on?)
“Tya kundra case chaa saathidar distoy maalaa” (He looks like an accomplice in the Kundra case)
“Hmm”, Senior inspector Damle exhaled and looked at us.
The over enthusiastic Talpade, turned the photo towards me, “ha photo bagha. Kaay kaay karto tumhchyaa putanya” (Look at this photo closely, see for yourself what your nephew has been doing)
The photo, apparently snapped by someone, showed the big board, placed at the entrance of Usha CHSL, announcing the commencement of ….”PORNLINE classes by Jignesh Mehta!
Inspector Damle kept peering at me amusingly.
“But sir, …”
“I know it is shocking”, Damle smiled
“But it was ONLINE classes not PORNLINE classes.”
Some miscreant had painted additional P in front of the O of ONLINE and skilfully sandwiched an R between O and N where Mangesh had artistically left a gap. So presently it read “PORNLINE classes by ….”
Someone had not only altered the main line but also taken a photo and alerted the police that in turn promptly linked it to the most recent sex racket, courtesy Kundra.
Inspector Damle’s face had the look of epiphany, “Arey Mehta saab, is that you? I remember having taken some preliminary lessons in Harmonium from you, right?”
My eyes welling up at the relief from the ordeal, “Ho Ho, meech Mehta sir” (Yes, of course, I am the same Mehta)
“But I couldn’t recognise you in this odd kurta- dhoti- Gandhi cap outfit”
“Jaau dyaa na Damle ataa” (Let it be Damle now), I dismissed his query with a wave of my hand.
Actions followed at lightning speed and soon all four of us were on our way home, in a taxi for a change.
“No more ONLINE classes now, Kaka. You extricated me from hell”, Jignesh fell at my feet for real this time as Kaki flashed her toothless smile.
Mangesh pulled the board down. No one had any idea who the miscreant was.
Inspector Damle returned to me for advance lessons in Harmonium.
The address that Jignesh had scribbled on the piece of paper? “Let it be Kaka, I have decided to move-in with you now, to hone my skills on basic harmonium, along with Damle; I can look after you as well” declared my caring Nephew.
The residents of Usha CHSL lived happily ever after – everything off line! My neighbour Mohan Das invested in a brand new hearing aid to facilitate his eavesdropping on our live off-line music classes – absolutely free of charge from this generous Kaka.