The Photo Album

I have written on Supratim Sarkar’s previous 3 books here, here and here. His latest effort – The 7 Stories, (Ananda, 2020) – has not been translated into English yet. It would be unfair if I don’t even attempt the same. There were interesting bits on i) an Irish woman who had arrived to assist Missionaries of Charity and ii) a juvenile who stood inspired by a Falling Down (1993, dir. Joel Schumacher) scene shown on ‘The Word This Week’ (Doordarshan). However, I have chosen the following.

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Early morning, on 11.02.2008, a phone call. “I am speaking from Muragacha. There is a sack, tied with nylon rope, dumped here beside a pond. Blood is oozing out. Many people around.” Out came a male dead body dressed in a half-sleeved pink shirt and black trousers. A red blouse and a triangular handkerchief lay on his chest. One need to be a detective to understand it was a murder, caused elsewhere. Rakesh Gupta, Company Secretary. A visiting card in his empty wallet. The post-mortem report revealed, “death caused due to asphyxia.”

Rakesh lived in a two-bedroom flat with his wife and 8-year old daughter. The wife was pregnant. His mother stayed a short distance away.  On 10.02.2008, Rakesh had left for the Airport to drop off his mother. She was going to Hyderabad to visit her daughter, Deepika. “I have work; will be late in coming back.”  He never returned home.

A record of call details/ a study of the office laptop/ an interpretation of family members, professional and personal life incidents/ certain exchanges with neighbors – friends – local hooligans yielded nothing.

I keep six honest serving men

(They taught me all i knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

– Rudyard Kipling.

The ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ were known. The ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘who’ were unknown still. “If the case is not solved in 96 hours, CID will take over.”

The solution is usually found as suddenly as the crime is committed. Deepika, reflecting emotion, shared a photo album. Rakesh, in a curiosity inciting image, was reading a book in front of a microphone. It was disclosed, he wrote poetry in Hindi!

The poems reflected, after literary investigation, Rakesh was, perhaps, a bisexual. The orderlies at office informed a 25/30-year old man used to come twice every week for three months. Chandan Basu. On 11.02.2008 at 01:30 AM he was near Muragacha!

Once, on a rainy day, Chandan had helped Rakesh fix his car. Rakesh, in return, had asked him to visit for possible assistance. In course of those visits, Chandan confessed he even knew of ‘Homosexual CDs‘. “I gave him CDs 6 times. First 2 times he gave 2K.

Let’s do more! CDs which can be viewed in privacy! A ‘real scene’ also.” Rakesh, after dropping off his mother, came indeed and witnessed the location was ‘dirty’. “Give me the CDs. Will give it back.” “Give us 5 Lakhs in 7 days.” “Say whatever you want to whoever you want. Nobody shall believe petty criminals like you. I know a lot of important people. I will remember this particular place.

End.

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‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ is ordinary wisdom. ‘Anyone can sell the truth’ is legitimate belief. A rainy day began this incident. Sometimes, we are on a collision course and just don’t know about it. An accident or design, not a thing we can do.

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14.02.2008, The Telegraph