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“This guy must be richer than I thought. Insanely rich.” Narendran Iyer mused to himself, as he nervously rested his old legs on the comfortable couch in the middle of a huge hall, of the palatial bungalow, sipping quietly on to a hot cup of tea, all of which, belonged to the affluent and insanely powerful Rajan family of South Chennai. The Rajans were a well to do, and an equally notorious family in Chennai. They practically ruled the Real Estate scene of the city and every new deal, every new business proposal executed around the city, had to have their stamp of approval. Police, Politicians, Businessmen, were their puppets and the current Chief Minister of the state was a not so distant relative of the Rajans’. Power was their middle name. And Narendran sat there hoping for an audience with the young one of the family, Sarvesh Rajan, at his swank beach house property on the ECR. Sarvesh had a property for sale, and Narendran was interested in buying.
Narendran Iyer was getting his daughter married next month, and he felt buying a beach front bungalow would be the perfect gift to the new couple. He had made some calls, and someone had promptly put him onto Sarvesh. He had fixed an appointment for Sunday at the Rajan Home. And Narendran Iyer was promptly there, on time.
As Narendran sat there, extracting the last drop of the delicious, expensive hill-side tea, from the soaked tea leaves at the bottom of the cup, he was making mental calculation of the price that Sarvesh would quote. “I hope he realizes that I’m not as rich as him and sells it fairly cheap. What on Earth is he going to do with more money?” he mumbled to himself with a smile. He admired the hall he was sitting in. Marble floors and Italian furniture seemed to be in perfect harmony. A grand stairway, the likes of which he had seen only in the movies, lead to a huge portrait of Mr. Vishwendar Rajan, Sarvesh’s Father, in the centre of the hall. The setting was fit for Royalty. However, the only sore point that Narendran felt, was an old, rusty, open door in a distance which seemed to be leading to the garage. “Hmmm. That doesn’t look right” he strained his neck to get a better look.
“Ahem..” a young voice coughed. “Mama will be down here soon. He is taking his medicines.” announced a young man to Narendran. “I hope you are comfortable Mr. Iyer? Would you care for another cup of tea?” he enquired, looking at the empty cup in Narendran’s hand. “Ah, No… Thank you. I’m fine. Please ask Mr. Sarvesh to take his time.” he said in the politest tone possible, putting the tea cup down on the table. “And you are…?” he hesitantly enquired to the identity of his young host.
“You are new here, aren’t you?” spoke the young boy, not more than 18 year old. His new, juvenile, sprouting moustache was the only counter argument to his eyes, which shone with an intensity much ahead of his age. His casual T-Shirt over his faded jeans could have advertised him as yet any other school/college going youngster, if he hadn’t properly introduced himself “My name is Karthik, Mr. Iyer. Karthik Rajan. I am Sarvesh Rajan’s nephew.” He introduced himself, hinting a dash of pride when he said the last line.
“Of course, of course…” continued Narendran extending his hand for a shake. “The reputation of your family shines in your eyes young man. Glad to meet you. I’m sure you’ll carry on the tradition of…”
“Like I said sir, Mama will be downstairs shortly.” Karthi cut short Narendran’s sweet talk. Narendran nodded and sat back down. His eyes went back to the garage door again. Karthi saw that and he had to chip in. “Mr. Iyer, I think this will be the first time you’d be talking to Sarvesh Mama, isn’t it?”
Narendran nodded in agreement.
“Well in that case Sir, it is my duty to educate you about certain facts and truths that you should keep in mind, before meeting Mama, lest you do not irritate him asking something that you shouldn’t. You do know how much of a hot-headed character he is, don’t you?” continued a solemn faced Karthik.
Narendran nodded and sat in rapt attention.
“Mr. Iyer. I shouldn’t be telling you this. Its a family secret, and not many people know it. But I respect your age sir. And knowing well that you are entering into a business deal with the family, it kind of makes you family as well. Also I see that you just cannot take your eyes off the garage door. There is a rather sinister story attached to it. And that’s the reason why that door has been kept that way. A story which explains Mama’s current condition.” Karthik continued, with Narendran listening to him like an attentive child.
“Sarvesh Mama, had a beautiful wife and a lovely young son. They were his greatest possessions that he guarded fiercely with his life. His life revolved around these two. In short he was the happiest person in the whole wide world. Until that cold, December Morning. That cold fateful December Morning.”
“What happened then young man?” asked a curious Narendran, judging the lump in the throat of the narrator.
“Mama wasn’t at home, as he had to go out on a business meeting. Maami and young Jeeva were at home. Those days, there wasn’t much security at home. We Rajans are peace loving people. We’ve never harmed anyone, and there was no reason for others to hurt us either. But clearly, the family’s success and incredible growth, did not go too well with certain people in the city. A few business rivals got together, and planned to get rid of Mama. Three men their faces covered, armed with sickles and knives, sneaked into the bungalow to bump off the indestructible Sarvesh Rajan. He wasn’t home, but his family was. These innocent looking walls have been witness to a sinister and barbaric act that cannot be put down in words. They killed Maami and the innocent little Jeeva in that very garage. The police later reconstructed the events of that night. They dragged Maami by her hair through these stairs and murdered her in the garage.” he choked. “I can not even imagine the coldness in the heart of a man to look at those innocent eyes of a 5 year old, and then see the light of life fading away from them. They were Barbarians Mr. Iyer. Demons. That innocent looking garage, Sir, has been witness to a gory past.” said a choking Karthik, pointing out to the open door.
“Who would do such a thing to a family?” Narendran shook his head.
“They never found out. There was absolutely no evidence left. The top sleuths of Police landed here, and carried on their investigation for months. They found absolutely nothing. The Rajan family hasn’t taken it lightly either. We still have people trying to sniff out the orchestrators of such a gruesome act. And believe me they will be found. And that day, I hope, Mama will go back to being normal from his present condition. That incident affected Mama’s mental health in a way none of us could imagine. Most people don’t know this sir, but the man you are going to meet today is not in perfect mental health.”
Narendran jumped from his seat.
“Relax Sir. He is not like what you think. He is perfectly normal in every sense. Except that he has not come to terms with the loss of the love of his life, yet. Schizophrenia you see. He keeps looking at that rusty garage door every day and every night, expecting his lovely wife to walk back through the door, with his baby in her hand, smiling at him. We have tried explaining to him, but he gets insanely angry when we try to. His medication has been increased of-late, and that is why he doesn’t make as many public appearances as he used to. My Uncle is ill Sir. I hope you treat him with a respect that an ailing man commands. Please do not ask him anything that might hurt him. Please.” Karthik said with tears in his eyes.
Narendran wiped away his tears and said, “Do not worry young man, God is watching. He’ll bring the evil people who’ve done this to your family, to justice. I know that for sure. And I’m intensely grateful to you, to have shared this grief with me. Do not worry Karthi. The Rajans will see this through.”
Just around that time, a man in his thirties, with unkempt hair and an overgrown stubble, wearing a spotless white dhoti and shirt, descended down the stairs. Karthik wiped his eyes, and addressed him, “Mama. This gentleman is here to see you.”
Narendran clasped his hands, stood up and welcomed Sarvesh Rajan, multi-millionaire, business magnet, Real Estate king and lately the face of the Rajan family. He usually kept a low media profile, but was the most approachable, and the most soft spoken member of the Rajan clan. He had heard stories of his kindness and yet ruthless business acumen of the man. And yet the dark glimpse of the man’s history, made him look at him slightly differently. It was a stark reminder that he was human after all. Beyond the aura of royalty, there existed a man who had lost what he had most cherished. A man who wasn’t well. Then in a minute his eyes turned pensive.
“Hello Mr.Iyer. Sorry to keep you waiting. They say I’m not too well, you see.” Sarvesh extended his hand to Narendran.
“Not at all sir. My pleasure.” Narendran shook his hand.
“Would you like to see the bungalow now? It’s quite close. My secretary will accompany you. We can talk business after you see the property.” Sarvesh offered.
“That would be really great. Sure.”
“But I hope you don’t mind waiting a couple of minutes. I usually ask my wife to fetch the keys. Silly tradition you see. She’s my lucky charm.” Sarvesh chuckled with a dry laugh.
Narendran was shocked. He saw Karthik on the other side, clutching his head in despair. Narendran did not know, if he were to pity at the poor state of the man, or humor him by accepting to stay for a while expecting someone who would never return.
“Err…” He muttered.
“It won’t be long Mr. Iyer.” Sarvesh explained pointing to the garage. “She’s in there. You see. Little Jeeva is in there as well I think. Should be out any moment.” he continued, looking gingerly at the door.
Narendran was devastated to see the plight of this man. Why did God choose good men for such a plight, he wondered. He said a silent prayer for the man. He hoped he would realize his loss soon.
“There they are…” cried Sarvesh.
Narendran felt, it wasn’t right for him to stay there anymore, so he started to rise from his seat, when a faint sound of muffled footsteps came from the open door. He sat up with a fright. He turned towards the garage as fast as his body would let him to. What he saw, shook him out of his wits. To his horror, he saw a lady in a red saree, with a baby in her arms, walking out of the door.
“There, see. There they are.” Sarvesh repeated pointing out and breaking into fits of cough.
Narendran looked at Karthik who reached his Uncle’s shoulders and held him softly with grief in his eyes swelling up with tears. Couldn’t the boy see the figures there. Was he sharing the visions of that sick man sitting across him. Was he making him sick as well. Narendran’s heart started beating faster. He rose from his seat and darted out in a flash, fear writ large on his face, with a surprised Vaidi looking at him. Narendran ran as fast his legs could take him, with Sarvesh yelling “Mr. Iyer…? Sir? Hello…”
“There. That patch of dust on your shirt looked hideous.” said Karthik, who dusted off the shoulders of his Uncle’s shirt.
“What’s wrong with him Karthi?” asked Sarvesh.
“Nothing Maama. Nothing at all.” Karthik continued, as he traced the stumbling figure disappear from the room, from the bungalow, and with the sound of a car engine revving up, he figured, from the locality. The man had gone cuckoo, and Karthik cracked a sly smile. He walked towards the portico, a thousand thoughts riding his head on what Mr. Narendran Iyer would be feeling at this point, when suddenly he was startled by a lady in red saree, with a kid in her hand, reaching out to his shoulder.
“Maami… You scared the living daylights out of me.” shrieked Karthi to a beautiful, smiling lady in her late twenties, with a smiling baby in her arms. His aunt walked in with a bowl of unfinished food, and young Jeeva licking the food off his lips.
“There you are. Where were you guys by the way? And what were you doing in that garage?” Sarvesh had all the enquiries directed at his coy wife.
“You know how Jeeva is, don’t you? He and his fussy eating habits are driving me crazy. Your son will only have his meals in your Toyota Corolla, see. And that is why, our garage has sort of become his dining room. How is your cold? Did you take the pills? And Karthi, who is that poor old man who ran away from the house like he had seen a ghost?” asked Sarvesh’s wife.
“Oh, that’s nothing Maami. Just some poor old guy, who I guess was suffering from some mental ailment. Guess the he had one of its mental breakdowns here. Poor thing.” explained Karthik with a glint in his eyes.
“Oh that’s so sad. God bless him.” said his Aunt, as she continued, “Karthi close that wretched garage door now, we should get that lock fixed soon. And someone get that rusty door changed please. It looks quite frightening”
Karthik was more than happy to oblige.
18 year old Karthik Rajan was a student of English Literature. Apparently, Crime Fiction, just happened to be his forte…
Adapted from a short story told to Yours Truly in his childhood by his dear Father. Thanks Dad. 🙂
This was an excerpt from the Tiger Trails Magazine – The Sunday Roar. Click on the Cover below to enlarge. Click to read the Magazine.