I am participating in collabrative novel writing activity as a part of Blog Adda’s Celebrate Blogging Initiative. You can read the previous chapters by following this Facebook page.
He decided that his first stop would be at the obvious. He had to get a first person account of what happened fourteen years back. The only person who could answer that was the priest.
With the little Malayalam he knew, he managed to find the priest’s house with much difficulty. It was a typical ancient kerala illam house. There was no one to take care of the priest who had fallen ill. A teenage boy was sitting at the doorstep reading a magazine. When Cyrus approached the house, the boy had a quizzical look on his face.
“I want to meet the priest” Cyrus informed the boy.
“No Malayalam?” the teenage boy questioned Cyrus in his broken English.
“Erm… I don’t know.”
“Then can’t see. Namboothiri– health bad. No talk properly. Talk only Malayalam. What you do? You go, bring Malayalam and English man” he said.
“You can translate whatever he says for me” Cyrus said slowly while acting it out.
“But my English…”
“It’s alright. I can understand you.”
The boy hesitated.
“I will pay you”, he showed his wallet.
“Ok” said the boy with a big smile on his face.
They entered the room where the priest was on his bed. He appeared to be bedridden for a while now. The room stank of human excreta. The boy appeared to be used to this scent and did not react. Cyrus however, covered his nose with his kerchief.
“Maid come everyday to clean house” the teenage boy said, while he woke the priest. There was very little life in his eyes. He had not shaved for many days. He was paralyzed and only one side of his body was functional. He tried to sit up, but Cyrus said that it would not be necessary.
“Some writer has come to see you” the teenage boy announced to the old man.
The boy looked at Cyrus, ‘You book writing?’
Cyrus touched the partially grown beard on his chin and gave a little smile to himself. The beard and the glasses had made the teenage boy assume that he was a writer.
The priest motioned with his hand to ask questions. Cyrus really didn’t know whether he could trust his interpreter. But the boy seemed to be innocent and sincere.
“I want to know about the incident that happened 14 years ago” Cyrus said. When his interpreter translated it to the priest, the priest’s eyes become sadder. Cyrus could say that he was bored of such questions. But still, he wanted to know the answers.
The old man started to describe what had happened that day. It was like a long sentence, without many emotions to it. But the expression of the boy changed now and then. Cyrus could not wait for him to begin translating. Suddenly, the old man stopped talking and motioned to the boy to get him some water. The boy brought the water to the priest.
“Well?!” Cyrus asked. This is what he learned.
“He is tired of telling everyone the same story over and over again. He could clearly remember what had happened 14 years ago. The procession had begun and they reached the pond for the holy dip. He and the child Anamika went down the pond’s step together. She went for a dip and our old man was about to give her the idol. That is when he slipped and fell down. He became unconscious. When he woke up, he was told that he was half paralysed and that the girl was dead.”
Cyrus looked at the old man. He was lying to his side. A tear drop sliding down to his pillow.
“What happened to that child?”
“He don’t know. Only this he remember. He always cry after telling this story.”
“Did anyone else come for this story?”
The boy told him that a lot of people used to visit the old man. People from all sorts of backgrounds. People who thought that the old man could open the doors of some underground chamber which held gold. All he did was, tell them this story.”
“Oh!” Cyrus exclaimed, partially disappointed.
Cyrus paid the boy and turned to leave the old man’s house. Something struck him and he came back to the boy. The boy was about to resume reading his magazine when he saw Cyrus approaching him again.
“You said, he was tired of telling the same story over and over again. How do you know that? Did he say that?”
“I always here. So I know. My house there.”, he pointed at a little hut in the next compound.
“Listen carefully now. You need to think a bit before answering. Whenever he recounts the story, does he use the same sentences without changing the order?”
The boy was confused. His eyebrows twitched meaning that he was thinking. After thinking for a while, he said, “Yes! Always say it same way and order. Like sad song”
Cyrus pressed a fifty rupee note in the boy’s hand and left.
If the old man was the tape recorder, whose song is he singing?
The investigative team comprised of a chosen team of policemen, Sudheeran, the priest, Tara & her crew including Jennifer. They were all seated in a hall, inside the police station.
Tara asked Roohi to watch her favorite television show in the police station’s television. She kept checking on Roohi every hour.
They began by questioning the madman again. Their first doubt was, if the madman could get the keys to the chamber so easily, anyone else could have.
He said, ‘Memana Namboothiri’s keys had fallen next to his bed while he was asleep. I took them, and kept them back after use. What is so difficult about that?’
On questioning the priest, he said, “Yes, when I woke up, the keys had fallen down. It has been 14 years since I have been working here. Never before something like this happened. I always keep the keys on my chain. I never removed the chain. I have no idea how it fell off from my neck.”
The madman laughed, “It was Amma’s play. Why don’t you accept that? She had given me the directions.”
They didn’t progress any further by questioning the madman. Hence, they asked him to leave. They decided to test the fake idol.
“We asked a few of our trusted Goldsmiths whether they could test the idol. We said, we just wanted to know about the idol’s constituents and value to get an idea about the temple’s worth. But people in Kerala know too well about the Goddess’ powers. They fear her wrath. No one was willing to test it.’ Said the officer.
“But, we can’t take the idol out of the town. It will lead to unwanted commotion here.” Sudheeran said.
“So?”, interjected Jennifer.
“So we will have to wait for someone willing to come and test the authenticity of the idol”
“But Mr. Varma, people here are scared about the powers of the deity. There are more unpleasant situations for non-believers and those who chose to play games with this deity. Even if we bring someone from outside, the villagers will only scare him away.”
“So what do we do?”
“We need to find someone who will trust us and whom we can trust. The person should also be willing to test the idol without fear. When he realizes that the idol is fake, the news shouldn’t reach the public.”, said Tara
“Are you sure that the idol is fake? It looks like genuine gold to me.’, said Jennifer.
Sudheeran looked thoughtful, “I felt the same. Only the diamonds looked fake. But the madman, he is a tough material. He is very knowledgeable. He can’t be wrong.”
He continued, “So now, we need to search for a dependable Goldsmith or someone who has deep knowledge about metals. I’ll contact my friends outside Kerala and enquire if they know anyone. Meanwhile, our Mumbai friends can do a bit of searching too. But make sure that you do it discreetly!”
The team decided to disperse for the day. During such circumstances when no one could be trusted, all they could do was have faith in the Goddess’ powers.
You can read the next chapter here