Team: Maximus Dramaticus


We write to thrill!

We write to thrill!

On that dark and cold late December night, Cyrus sat on the tilted pushcart and stared ahead. The street dogs were not howling. There wasn’t even the expected rustle that a gentle breeze inundates a silent night with. His mind was as silent and as numb as the night seemed to be. This was when he looked through the wayward curl that had popped in front of his left eye and saw her through his powered wayfarer glasses.

She walked on the littered footpath of Chuna Mandi near Imperial Cinema in her Gucci heels with the attitude of Gauhar Khan on the ramp! Cyrus stroked his prickly goatee and let his stern tense look melt into a smile as he got up, waved and silently waited for Tara to come nearer. Tara had left her cab on the main road and had decided to walk the final 200 yards… she too needed to smoothen out the howling waves of irritation she was brimming with because she had flown from Mumbai to Delhi just to meet Cyrus who wouldn’t tell her anything on the phone. He had just whimpered all the while until she finally told him that she would come.

A pensive Cyrus as he waits for Tara on a cold and silent December night...

A pensive Cyrus as he waits for Tara on a cold and silent December night…

‘Yes,’ hissed Tara Dutta as she came and stood less than three feet from him, ‘Why did you want me here alone at 2 in the morning? Do you suddenly have inside information on some scam in the law Faculty? You know I had to cancel my early morning flight to Lucknow to interview that bungling parliamentarian there who wanted to tell me his real definition of Love Jihad.’ It was only after a pause that Tara added, ‘I have flown from Mumbai to meet you. This had better be really important, Cyrus.’

Cyrus Daruwala nodded and then with a short-pitched cry began weeping uncontrollably. As Tara looked up, she saw through his tears, a face paler than she could recall it ever being… and it made him look too ghostly for her comfort. She said, ‘Come, let’s go in.’

‘No,’ said Cyrus and involuntarily trembled. His voice had a strange mix of disgust and fear. Tara looked around and was relieved to see that this part of central Delhi was in deep slumber. Her alert sixth sense knew that there was something really serious. ‘What could have reduced this gentle giant to such a state?’ she thought and then said aloud, ‘Sit down on that cart and tell me what it is that is troubling you.’

Silence. Cyrus wasn’t thinking anything but didn’t know what to say or how to say. He just looked straight and let his tongue wet his dry lips every few seconds. They were standing in front of a three storeyed house that her husband Shekhar had inherited from a distant uncle who had no children. They wanted to sell off this house… and had even been contacted by a few people who wanted to open a guest House here. ‘This area is simply best for a hotel, madam,’ said one of them, ‘lots of tourists come. From outside the country also. Hippies, you know. We will give you a good price.’ But then they had all seemed to be either too sly or simply too uncouth that they had not taken any decision. And it was during this period of indecision that Cyrus, their neighbour had told them that he had got admission in the Law Faculty in Delhi University and would be going there.

‘Where will you stay?’

‘In some PG,’ said Cyrus.

Shekhar told him that they had a house in Chuna Mandi that wasn’t too far from the university and that he could stay there. Their house would be occupied and safe and he would not have to waste time searching for the right landlord. He was glad then.

But then how was he to know that a lot can happen between July and December? This was a cold and silent December night. Tara looked at Cyrus and said, ‘I’m freezing and I’m tired. Let’s go in and have some tea at least.’

Cyrus looked at her from behind a screen of fearful reluctance and whispered, ‘She’ll be there on the bed. Dead.’

Tara looked at him and then turned to look towards the house and then turned back to look at him. But then she wasn’t one of those journalists who just give looks of shock and surprise. She pursed her lips into a thin straight line and simply asked in a low and controlled tone, ‘You’ve killed someone?’

‘No. I haven’t killed,’ said Cyrus who was now calmer than he was a few minutes back. Maybe this was the sort of effect Tara always had on people… she was the sort of journalists who made even the most inscrutable and reticent ones open up and pour out their secrets. Cyrus was just a student.

‘What do you mean you haven’t killed. Didn’t you just say that she is in your bedroom and dead? Dead since when?’

‘Monday nights are always like this.’

‘Monday nights? You’re talking in riddles, Cyrus,’ said Tara and then added, ‘Okay, you wait here. Let me go in and see this dead body myself.’ Tara walked towards the house, opened the front gate and then slowly climbed the creaky stairs to the first floor balcony. This house was constructed in the old fashioned way where the stairs went up in two flights and opened on the balcony that faced the road. Tara stood on the balcony and looked down to see Cryus sitting on the pushcart again with his hands folded across his ears and head and he seemed to be sobbing.

Tara looked to her right and saw the thirty feet long balcony that had three doors opening out. She knew there were three more rooms behind them and a large open space between these two sets of rooms. Beyond the balcony in front of her was the balcony of the next house… and then the next. ‘This part of Delhi is like one big family where you can travel hopping balconies or do some terrace jumping,’ she thought as she walked to the first door. She opened it and could see the small red light of an inverter on the extreme right. She intuitively groped for the switch-board first to her left and not finding anything there she searched on her right… and flicked on the light. Tara already knew that the other two rooms were locked as they were filled with the belongings of her husband’s uncle. The rooms on the rear of the house also had just one room open. The room on the front had a table and a chair. She saw a laptop and a few books strewn all over. The year planner on the wall where the table was kept, was the one that came free with a leading weekly magazine. There was nothing else in the room that was alarming. She then opened the door to the open space and went in, half expecting the entire area to be a tsunami of some undefined stench but no, there was tell-tale smell anywhere. ‘Not yet,’ said a little voice inside her brain.

The light from the room she was in was enough to let her look towards her left where the kitchen was and to her right where the bathroom and an Indian style toilet were. She walked on and to the door of the only other room that was open. Tara carefully pushed the door with the large navy blue clutch that she was holding and doing this she even held her breath. She didn’t want to be overpowered by that sudden nauseating feeling that one might have on seeing a dead body.

As she was poised to enter with her left foot in the air she heard a voice.


She stopped and turned to see Cyrus standing just outside his study. The silence of those few seconds was the sort when even heartbeats noisily announce their existence and the pulse creates tremors in the entire body. It was as if some tectonic shift was happening and it was obvious that the entire geography of the landscape would change forever. Yes, silence is always a change-maker. Everywhere. But then silence ushers in changes only by influencing action. Tara beckoned Cyrus to come to her. No words were exchanged as they entered the room together and switched on the lights.

The room had one bed a bit to the left of where they stood but it wasn’t really pushed to any of the walls and yet not in the centre. But the important thing is that there was no body anywhere. No blood. No stench. Only silence. There were no posters of nude models on the walls… no, not even scantily clad females perched on a Ducati. No Lamborghinis either. This was where a serious minded law student came to lie down for a few hours and this is what the room looked like.

But the important thing is that there was no dead body there.

‘Where is the dead body?’ Tara asked Cyrus and then followed his gaze. He was staring at a neatly folded piece of paper kept on the pillow. Tara stepped forward and picked up the folded piece of paper.

‘Are you imagining things, Cyrus?’

‘No. I’m not,’ said Cyrus and then just crumpled down on the floor as if he had no energy left in him. ‘Intrigue is what drains us all,’ thought Tara and then got busy reviving Cyrus. They later decided that it was much better to sleep and discuss the intrigue of this Monday night on a morning that would be a different weekday. The next day that dawned was a morose grey day with the clouds making even the sprightly bright back-packers in the lanes and by-lanes of Pahar Ganj who came from all corners of the world also seem a trifle subdued.

This was the morning when Cyrus explained to Tara that it was eight Mondays back that he first saw a dead bitch on his bed. ‘There was blood all over my bed-sheet,’ said Cyrus, ‘and the head was chopped off. I was horrified and stunned. I spent the entire night sitting out on the pavement and when I came in next morning it was gone. There was no body. No blood. No stains. No stench. But just one piece of folded paper with two words written on it.’

Tara sat in silence and waited for Cyrus to continue.

‘This happened every week. I am disoriented now. I’m even convinced that criminal law isn’t what I’ll be opting for. I am just not able to see what is happening. I don’t think I can even be a good lawyer. I am not able to control my emotions and I am not able to solve problems.’ Tara got up and smiled, ‘Relax, Cyrus. You’re too disturbed… and anyone in your position would have been so. But why didn’t you just tell us what is happening here?’

‘I don’t know. At first I thought this was some sort of a sick joke played by the ruffians and the ganja-smokers and opium-eaters of Pahar Ganj here… and then I didn’t have the courage to tell you. I thought it will end. But I am now mortally afraid of Mondays.’ They then took out all the eight pieces of papers that Cyrus had kept carefully with him and arranged them in a straight line in the sequence they appeared. It was Tara who rearranged the pieces into two lines and this is what they read:

Not once | nor twice | nine times | we’ll kill
A bitch | always | but ninth | will fill

Tara looked at the words and read then a few times and then said, ‘You know Cyrus, each of these pieces of papers has only two syllables. So eight syllables in each line. Will the ninth be just two syllables? Or will the ninth piece of paper have one complete line of eight syllables? Will they rhyme?’ Tara looked up and looked at Cyrus. Cyrus just said, ‘I don’t even understand what you are saying.’

Tara picked up the pieces of paper one by one and turned them around as if she wanted a solution to appear magically. And something did appear. Tara had a keen observation and she was the one who noticed that each piece of paper had a neatly typed sentence on the reverse and this was repeated on every piece. Well, nothing was actually hand-written on any of the pieces of paper. But this common sentence intrigued her greatly. She looked at it with converging intensity and muttered slowly, ‘Her paintbrush is a razor, dear.’

Cyrus looked at her as she repeated, ‘Her paintbrush is a razor, dear.’ Then he looked at the two liner that the eight pieces were making:

Not once | nor twice | nine times | we’ll kill
A bitch | always | but ninth | will fill 

Cyrus wished he knew just that much of poetry and rhymes and all things that were made up of syllables and then he could have even imagined what that final sentence was to be… and maybe, just maybe prevent something horrible from happening. He looked imploringly at Tara and said, ‘What would you write if you were writing this?’

‘That’s not so difficult,’ said Tara, and after thinking for a few moments she wrote:

You with a dread that’ll make you still! 

The three lines now sounded like such an interesting bit of poetry with eight syllables in each line:

Not once | nor twice | nine times | we’ll kill
A bitch | always | but ninth | will fill
You with a dread that’ll make you still! 

‘Poetry,’ said Cyrus in a low but firm voice, ‘can’t be treacherous, I’m sure.’



Read the next part of the story here


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Arvind Passey
11 September 2014