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The crimson shade of khakhi

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It has been a sunny day and heat seems to have taken all the energy out of Mumbaians.
The sun appears far west at its exit point of the city leading the city empty for the upcoming
darkness. It is the routine summer pattern of a urban city like Mumbai which is among the worst
cities of the world hit by global warming. Some estimates says Mumbai will sank nearly half in
next seven to eight decades, as ice melts at million miles away at poles. But it was million miles
away, so who cares, it may be seven or eight or nine decades, and that too it is an “estimate”, that
is the reason that the busy civilians do not ever bother that.
It is turning dark; weather may soon be reasonably bearable thought constable Deepak,
securing the gates at the police station. He is in his early thirties, cold, sordid & slow, that might
be the reason why heis not promoted though serving for nine and a half year in police force.
At this time, he is not bothered about the promotion, only thought he has in mind is to get home
soon, spending the evening caring for his five month pregnant wife.
Deepak glanced at his wrist watch, he has got as a gift or rather as a bribe from a nearby
shop, under his jurisdiction, which sold out Espirit, Rolex, Breguet and other world-class
brands at merely a price, none can ever imagine to buy a second-hand, or should it be second-
legged Nike socks- of course, they were fake ones, and the shop-owner rightly knew how to
keep legal mouths shut. It is 6:45 pm. Deepak is waiting for his last duty of the day to perform,
salute the DIG who leaves the office routinely by 6:15. He wonders as to what took so late for
the DIG to appear. He will only get the answer to this in next day newspaper.
At 7:13 pm, DIG Vijay Shastri appears out of his office into the main corridor of the
building, heading towards the exit gate, guarded by Deepak. The junior salutes the „young but
powerful‟ senior officer, but it seems the DIG is out somewhere mentally, and barely looks at
him, just an incomplete salute in return, that too have been a act of body reflex.
Deepak is bit surprised, things seems out of daily routine, that includes DIG having a small
chat with his favorite guy, ask about his pregnant wife, and he is rarely out of usual police
uniform. Though surprised, all he cares is to get home soon.
DIG Shastri, a young person for his post he held, barely appears a person of thirties
though he is thirty-nine years old, dressed in formal attire- a VanHusen white shirt with sleeves
folded till elbow, cream bottom, belt on waist holding a case carrying a 9-mm pistol. He is a
handsome, chocolaty yet with a sturdy physique, a result of hard exercise early in the morning.
A person that can be really said to have travelled a journey “from rages to riches”. Batch
number 156565, he held, has created several records at the Police Training School, true

dedication that crowned him to top, at quite young age, in a country where “men with powers”
are usually “men with white hairs”.
Normally driving a police jeep with a police constable to assist, today he had informed
his assistant not to accompany him, and it is hisprivate Chevrolet mini car that he drove instead,
with simple number plate and not mentioning POLICE anywhere, that usually a police personnel
never do, as in India- if u have power; you show it off.
He accelerates down the lane, on to the main road towards themarine-drives, in the
hazy light of dusk.
It has been more than half an hour; he is driving through the clunky traffic of Mumbai.
In Mumbai, a car rider on an average spends three and a half week annually stuck in traffic, he
had read in yesterdays “Mumbai Mirror”, and he cannot disagree to that fact but he thought it
was an under-estimate, should have been three and a half months in fact.
Driving at average speed of thirty-five mph, he was less involved in driving, at that is
working up in his mind is yesterday’s meeting at the Chief Minister’s place.
On Friday morning he had got a message from CM’s PA invitinghim to CM’s house
the same afternoon to talk something “private”. He knew it was like an order rather than an
invitation, the only thing he disliked about his job, bowing for the illiterate politicians though
been one of the most intellectual person of India. Rightly he was, as clearing Public Service
Exam is considered toughest exam in India, the one Shastri had topped.
He’d reached the CM’s house by 5o’clock the same afternoon, sitting in the meeting
room of house, observed the place of the most powerful man of the state. Room seemed less to
be a place of meeting, and rather more a campaign place, CM’s political party posters lined all
over, few pictures of freedom fighters of Indian independence struggle. It was an attempt to
influence the people sitting in the place, make them believe that he was patriotic and fan of those
strugglers, mainly Father of the nation: Mahatma Gandhi. True- he was a fan of him but it was
the Gandhi appearing on the Indian currency.
The few long minutes of waiting ended when the CM’s PA arrivedin the room,with a pale
colored file-folder in hand with black rimmed glasses on his wrinkled face, he was simple
appearing man, in khakhi attire, hair all white, few spurts of black remnants-a powerful man
indeed.
Extending his hand, gave a warm greeting “Good afternoon, officer.” Took a sit nearby

and continued “would you like to havesomething?”
Officer knew it was only a formality and so replied him as heexpected, “No, thank you”,
avoiding the word “sir”.
“Let us come directly to work, officer” started CM’s PA as if beingat some business deal,
“You would be aware that our current police commissioner is getting retired next month… ”
When Shastri nodded in agreement, he continued “DIG, to tell youhonestly, he had been
very faithful and helpful in time of need to CM sir, during CM’s last term and even after
reelected this time. We have two options to replace him, and I am glad to inform you are one of
thosechoices. CM sir, really wishes that you should fill the place.”. Shastri knew it wasn’t so,
but continued listening him.
“And we do hope you will be of same help to us in the future.
Actually as a matter of fact we need some favour, a small help and the next day he retires,
you will be surely appointed for the post of new Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and also the
youngest one till date. Shastri waited anxiously for the spokesman to declare the “test” he needs
to pass for the promotion.
PA heightened the deal, “It is a deal of lifetime, officer”.
Shastri knew he was true, at least this time but all he wanted was what I would have to
do…Alike the PA read his mind, he answered him:
“You would be aware that we had given away the land in west Thane to a urban
development firm and it was, in fact, belonging to the local slum residents. But the deal is in
millions which can‟t be let gone. A local resident of that region has started a kind of revolution
against our party and we need to get him out of our way, once and for all, before he start
getting support of media and opposition.” PA opened the file he held.
Shastri became cleared of what favor he was supposed to do, a millionthought running in
mind- some „for‟ and some „against‟.
Then he put his query to PA “You have many people working under you, I mean,
party volunteers, the why only me for this …” as if he didn’t want to utter the remaining
words describing the work.
Forehead of PA wrinkled more, as he frowned.

“It is because of the high sensitivity of the matter and we can’t trust anyone else than a
person working officially under us. So, we do have your “Yes?”
Shastri knew he had got less time to decide and the answer “NO” was gaining gravity in
his mind but PA exclaimed, “So you are not in? Ifyou don’t, someone else will.”
Yes, he was right this time, if he don’t; there are several others inIndia to do that task,
why not to utilize this chance, thought Shastri. He immediately agreed “Yes, I will. Give me
the details”.
A smile stretched across his face “Good! Here it is.” He handed over the envelop from
the file. Shastri knew he need not discuss the matter anymore, stood up, shakes hand and started
walking towards exit.
“And see that it doesn’t look like a murder. Anyways now-a-days crimes like murder
aiming robbery are increasing in Mumbai city, isn’t it officer?” Shastri made an exit nodding his
pale face and forehead sweating away all water out of his body, the adrenaline rush.
He had studied the content of envelop and found a 9mm pistol withsome photographs of
an old man wearing Khakhi and a jute bag in hand, some notes about his daily routine and one
note:
TARGET TIME: 8:30,Saturday. Old Municipal Library.
Shastri knew that the library gets closed by 6:00 PM on Saturdays and the target, also
working as a part time librarian would be the last one to leave and his schedule showed up
8:30PM the time he leaves the library, to head to local newspaper office by 9:00 and then home
by 9:45PM. Shastri was revising his plan in mind when suddenly a red light blinked ahead
of him, he brakes at the signal. He was sweating again though he had his AC on, the same
adrenaline rush.
A small knock on his side glass, he glanced in direction of voice, a small boy- in rags,
hairs in weird pattern, thin malnourished, in shorts and dust stained shirt, torn at places, begging
with clenched fist. That was one of the hundred of beggars, doing their “job” at the various traffic
signals in Mumbai. He avoids eye contact with that pitiful face, looking away in other direction.
After a second, he has a courage to look that face, and at second stroke on window he
looked into his eyes. His mind recognized that pitiful condition, something he has seen too
closely in his past, himself standing in rags as a seven year orphan at the Bandra railway station,

stealing traveler’s luggage to survive. His hands searches for his pocketand takes out his wallet,
he didn’t had anything less than a bills of hundreds and fives, at last finds a 20 rupee bill, takes it
out , presses thewindow slider button , hands over the bill to him.
“Do study and work hard because it never goes in vain.” These are spoken by his heart
not his mind. Signal lightens green and Shastri heads towards his destination.
It’s been nearly an hour; Shastri has been driving through smoky lanes of Mumbai. All
along his route he has been glancing his rolex, not at all willing to be late as he was instructed “It
should not be missed. We don’t know when the enemy strikes with all his strength will.”
He’d not missed, as it was only 8:16 when he reaches the street adjacent to the “Old
Municipal Library”. He did not want to get noticed, so he parked his car at two blocks
distance from the library, in a darker area of street.
The library is an old building about a century old, with introduction of internet & its wide
spread use it has also become “functionally” old. He takes his position behind a tree, in the
garden of the library, it was a nice small lawn filled garden with few feet wide and lined by
bricks, in inclined design, separating it from the lawn.
He takes out his 9mm pistol and from his left pocket pulled out the silencer, fixes it over
the muzzle and starts screwing it, till it was set.
Few minutes had passed since he was in his position, he heard a door open, and his sharp
sight sighted an old man in khakhi clothes, other features too resembling the target. The old guy
closed the door of the library behind with his shaky hands, making metallic sound of the bunch
of keys.
The figure approaches in the direction of Shastri, towards the hazy lights coming up
from the nearby street light, he aims up to his target, ready to shoot as soon as he confirms his
body at a proper distance to execute. What if he misses? That is not going to be the question that
the sharpest shooter of police academy will ever get in mind.
Silence is cracked for a while by the small bland voice of the silenced gun, the old men
falls on the ground lifeless, along with morals of this officer are going to be lifeless forever-
shooting an innocent down to death. He approaches the numb body.
Guilt, proud Shastri started to walk away, but stops, whispered himself “a robbery?” He
walks to the body to find anything expensive he can take to change the appearance of the aim of
the murder, but he didn’t : just a watch of 1980’s type, no brand name on it- of course not

expensive at all. Only he can find is a steel locked on his neck, tied in a black thread, a picture of
Jesus Christ. Shastri took it, read the other face of locket which read:
FOR Justice Equality & Goodness –R

“R” stood for his wife, may be, a Christian too… “Rosaline”, “Rose”, or what. Shastri continued
to search; in the right pocket got a letter, something written on a dark- tinted type-writing paper.
Curiosity made Shastri read the letter addressed to the editor of a local newspaper, dated the next
day:
“CM will have to answer us, For justice ”
The land in the west Thane belongs to the low economy people living in this area for
ages: their families, festivals& culture abounded at the same place for long. Yet our
elected CM have handed over this land to a private urban development firm, without
thinking about the future of these people that would become homeless, without their
consent, declaring it property of state.
So, I ask CM sir, if it is a state property than why does any private firm, insidiously got
its ownership? No compensation even for this

people, although you take away their homes, their lives? And why that too the land is
now owned by the CM’s father-in-law’s firm?
We demand answers to all these questions. If you can satisfy the people with your
„formed‟ answers, then only be our CM, else hand over your resignation. Though the
government is “for the people, to the people”, it is also “by the people”. And you tell in
your media-appearances that you believe in justice-equality, let us see what justice you
can dispatch.
For the people who read this news, I just don’t want you to support me, just support the
national integrity and fidelity. Today it is someone else’s land, tomorrow it may be
yours. I know we have to work hard but remember “Work Hard because it never goes in
vain….”
Reading these last words he is taken aback, he murmurs himself “It can’t be. No it is not
possible”, as if he has gone into a Post-Traumatic Shock Syndrome: hands shaking, lips
fluttering, forehead sweating, fixed gaze, mouth dry. Starts searching something, a clue to prove
himself wrong against his own speculations: searched his left pocket, took out his wallet, took
out the expired license, named:

George D’Silva

The strongest officer breaks down, kneels to the ground, not having strength enough to
bear own weight. Went through the items in wallet, found a photo album sized few inches,
unfolds, opens it, it is a newspaper cutting of a photograph displaying proud DIG Vijay Shastri,
now who is the most embarrassed creature on globe. He keeps turning each page, each of his
achievements is photographed- newspaper cutting or poster insert. Last page of album held a
folded letter:

Please send this to:
DIG VIJAY SHSTRI (It is my last wish)

By now DIG had no strength to open the letter but somehow he manages to open:

“TO MY HEROIC GOD”

I don’t know at the time writing this letter whether you would ever get it or not, yet I always
wanted you to know that I was always buy your sidein your war against injustice.
You know I had to leave your life when you were in 10 th standard as my love was itself becoming
a thorn in the achievements of yours, my son and I didn’t wanted to weaken you by my feelings
and my bonding. But I always have been in contact with your principle at convent, Father
Thomas. And I didn’t miss even a single football match of yours, I didn’tcome to your sight and I
am sorry for that hide & seek but it was for youmy son. I knew you will make me proud one day.
You did.
My son keep your war against devil & darkness, light always wins. “Work hard because it never
goes in vain.”
Love you, my son. May God bless you.

Tears rolled out of his eyes, the alphabet blurred by the washing away of ink at spots by
the tear drops. He has just killed the man who made him what he is today; who never made him
realized that he was an orphan.
If he hadn’t saved him on the Bandra station, when the mob was beating him to death, as
he got caught red-handed lifting someone’s purse or if he hadn’t made him study, he would have
been dead by now or would have grown up in filthy slums living a worthless life. Now he knew
from where all the money he got from principle father Thomas “GIFT, Keep it son!” came from.
He killed his own maker, his own almighty!
It is now unbearable for him to sustain the pain, the guilt that haunts him. Put down the
wallet, lifts up the letter to the editor, to finish it. He knows if it had been in tomorrow’s
newspaper, the CM will surely have to resign by force of the surge of revolution that will spread
throughout Mumbai against him, the letter is “the enemy strikes with all his strength will” what

PA referred and a undefendable strike. He continued reading:
We need to fight together. Don’t blame the “system” to be wrong, it’s just a bit corrupted,
we need to fix it. I ensure you there are really few good men at least who are honest,
reliable, will fight against the injustice till their last breath.
Shastri knows who he refers to and how wrong he is this time.
Together we can and we will make a difference. Its time to awaken my countrymen.
Things are so clear to us, Would you still be “blindfolded”?
“Blindfolds aside, I will still have my eyes closed!” he murmured.
Before he can complete the last words the letter falls off his shivering hands. He takes
out his gun and points it to target as he does while aiming a shoot, but only difference this
time is the muzzle end faces his own forehead. Again a dull sound and then silence filled the
atmosphere till the next morning.

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