To read Chapter 10 of this story, please click here
Shekhar blinked. He stared at the idol for a while and said, ‘I-I-don’t know how it got there.’
‘Come on Mr. Dutta. You have got to be better than that. We have a bag that you claim to be yours, which we found in your crew’s van. It has the very same idol we have been searching for. We know most of the answers. Just tell us, how did you steal it?’
‘I did not steal it.’ Shekhar was sweating now.
Tara recovered from the initial shock and said,
‘What is wrong with you people? I came here to cover a festival. You got my daughter involved in it, the idol went missing, now you blame my husband, What is it that you all want?’
Sudheeran spoke this time, ‘Madam please listen. We have nothing to do with your family. Amma Mahamaya brought you here on the pretext of your job so that your daughter will carry the idol. Your husband was against the decision from the very beginning. We caught him red-handed. How could you blame us?’
Tara knew he was right.
The police officer continued, ‘Ok. Tell us this. Roohi was well protected in the temple guest house. How did you manage to get hold of her and sneak out to steal this idol?’
This time Shekhar Dutta flew into a rage, ‘Roohi! Roohi! ROOHI! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO PULL MY DAUGHTER INTO EVERYTHING? HAVEN’T YOU SEEN LITTLE GIRLS? MY DAUGHTER DIDN’T DO ANYTHING! AND HOW DO YOU THINK SHE WILL GET THE KEYS TO THE SECRET CHAMBERS? EXPLAIN TO ME!’
The officer smirked, ‘You seem to know well about the secret chambers and the keys Mr. Dutta. Tell us. What else do you know? Or shall we call the child?’
‘Officer, she doesn’t know anything. Believe me!’
‘Shekhar you know that finally the truth will be proved. Why don’t you tell us what happened to spare us and yourself a lot of trouble?’
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Sudheeran opened the door. A constable brought a in dark skinned man with mustache.
‘Sir, he is the van driver.’
The officer asked, ‘What is your name?’
‘Do you know them?’ He pointed at Tara and Shekhar.
‘Yes. I took them to Vajrakshipuram from the airport. Since then, I have been their driver.’
‘Did you see this man yesterday night?’
‘He had come into the van. He said he wanted to take something. He also had a cover in his hand. He came into the van, did something and left.’
‘What time was it?’
‘Must have been past 12am Sir. I settled to sleep by 12. That was when he woke me up.’
‘Alright you may go now.’ The driver left immediately.
The officer looked at Shekhar, ‘I hope you have a good explanation as to what was in that cover and what you did in the van.’
Shekhar looked down wordlessly.
‘Please don’t make us use our next medicine on you Mr. Dutta. Our methods are very dangerous.’ So was the officer’s voice.
Shekhar sighed, ‘I did it.’
Tara said, ‘Shekhar! You don’t have to admit it just because-‘
‘No Tara! I did it. They are right. I wanted to stop the procession by hook or crook. The only choice was to steal the idol.’
Tara slumped onto a chair next to her.
‘Tell us what happened Mr. Dutta.’
And he sang.
*The previous day*
After the temple authorities announced that Roohi was the chosen one,Shekhar was furious. He fought with Tara and walked away. He walked for a long time. Finally tired, he sat beside the road and started crying. The mad man was lying on the road side. He asked Shekhar what happened. When Shekhar told him, he began talking philosophy. Shekhar got all the more furious and kept walking.
Suddenly, the madman appeared before Shekhar from nowhere. Shekhar was scared at first.
‘You were sleeping when I left. How did you get here before me?’
‘Hahaha! There are not one, but many paths. It depends on the path you choose.’
Shekhar began walking slowly.
‘You fear that whatever happened 14 years back would repeat again.’ The madman announced.
Shekhar turned back and looked at him, ‘How did you know that?’
‘Wrong question O lekhakaveera!’ (O brave writer!)
How did you know that I write?
‘Again, wrong question!’
‘Alright, what do I do?’
‘Now you are talking. You want to save your daughter from a bad fate that you believe, awaits her. But neither the villagers, nor the temple authorities will let you go.’
‘Then make sure that she doesn’t do what the village want her to do.’
Shekhar thought for a while, ‘They want her to carry the idol.’
‘I shouldn’t make them do that? Are you asking me to-?’
Shekhar looked at the madman wide eyed. He was smiling.
‘I-I-No-I can’t do that.’
‘Hahaha then just wait to find out what awaits your daughter. My message is conveyed.’ He began to walk away singing like before.
‘Devi was gone
Devi was gone
But Devi is back
‘Excuse me! Excuse me! ‘
Shekhar called him. The madman stopped midway.
‘Changed your mind O Lekhakaveera!?’
He remembered what he had written in his novel a couple of weeks back. It sent a wave of shock in his body.
‘Yes! I need to save my daughter. But- But I don’t know anything about the temple or the idol.’
‘Don’t worry! Amma Mahamaaya has sent me to help you.’
Saying so, he took Shekhar into the temple through a short cut. They entered the temple through the side of the pond. Shekhar kept looking behind is shoulders out of fear. The madman walked brusquely into one of the temple’s huge chambers. He used a set of keys and opened a door towards the left side in the chambers. There was a flight of stairs upwards. They climbed it. They went into a huge hall with wooden flooring. At the far right end of the hall, the madman began searching for something on the floor. He found a loop embedded to the ground. He tugged at it with his finger nails. The tiny hoop came loose with an end stuck on the floor. He tugged at it, revealing a cellar with a flight of steps going down. He asked Shekhar to wait. He went down and after sometime, came up with the idol.
‘I’ll take you safely out of here. Hiding the idol is your job.’ He had said.
Shekhar’s throat had gone sore after the narration. ‘I took the idol and hid it in the van. I decided I would return it as soon as the procession’s holy hour was over. ‘
‘How did the madman get the keys? The idol’s keys are with me and the high priest alone’ said Sudheeran Varma.
‘I don’t know. What I’m saying is true. This is all I know.’ Said Shekhar.
‘Mr. Dutta! The facts aren’t still clear. The idol cannot be taken out of the temple without the child’s help.’
Shekhar was pleading to them now, ‘Please leave my child out of this. I have confessed. Why do you want her in this?’
‘Because Dutta, those are the rules of the idol. Only a-‘
There was a commotion outside.
‘Why do you have to pull me? You just have to call me. I shall come.’
Few men were sent to bring the madman. The madman was talking to the men who brought him. He sounded calm and happy as always. He walked inside looking accusingly at the men behind him.
The officer said, ‘Mr. Dutta gave us an account of what happened yesterday. Now tell us how did you take the child out of the temple guest house?’
‘What is wrong with u men? I told u he & I together took it out.’ Dutta said utterly irritated.
‘Dutta, stay out of this. We know what we are talking.’ The officer was irritated too.
He looked at the madman, ‘Now answer us.’
‘Finding answers is your job O! great ones! I just did the job given to me by Amma. If I do all your work, what is the meaning of your existence!?’ the mad man was amused by his own question.
‘Stealing Amma’s idol & talking rubbish!?’
‘Ha ha ha ha! Amma’s idol? Haha! Hey moodha! Look at that stone closely!’
The priest flew into a rage
‘HOW DARE YOU CALL AMMA’S IDOL A STO-‘
Sudheeran interjected wide-eyed, ‘Stop it! Look at the nose ring!’
They all looked closely.
‘It’s- It’s not diamond.’ Said Sudheeran.
‘The nose ring is fake?’ asked the officer.
‘Hahahaha! These viduans have acquired a lot of Vidya in their childhood. But it has clogged their mind and made their senses blunt. Hey Anweshanaveera! The eyes are fake too.’
They looked at the idol transfixed when the madman said, ‘So is the entire idol!’
To Read chapter 12 of this story, click HERE