Amateur deceit, the old land and no spin.
So the sun’s up outside my window like the liberation army flag in the morning. I have been getting restless lately. Had been taking it easy for a few days, now the horses are out, the Dahlias in full bloom. I want to talk about the past, which is really all that we have along with the future, which I am not going to bet on much, especially after that thing, yeah. Present? That is just fleeting, isn’t it? This moment is gone already, as your pupils traverse this line from the last.
I find myself shuffling on that road on Bhubaneswar. What a city that was. The melting horizon as the sun set, the warmth coming off the ground, the sound of the engines, the prospect of spectacular food, and spectacular adventure. That’s all in the past, of course. I don’t know when I will make it out there again.
I was having a hard time keeping the shiny green cover out of my mind. Shane Warne’s career in pictures was a rare collectible, and the prices on shady shoppers online were stratospheric. I got my hands on it in a book fair in Bhubaneswar around 2006, and didn’t put it down till someone took it, not to return. Leg spin is, of course, one of the finer things in Cricket, which itself is one of the finer things in life, which makes leg spin the double-barrelled rush fountain of the daily drab that is gallon milk cartons, law firm hoardings, reading off obnoxious screens, white shirts, and waiting 15 seconds on ends to cross the tarmac. Warne was someone I could, and I would skip lunch to watch him bowl. And his illustrated career was something I treasured, like a blanket deep in November.
One of my friends in college, who had it, lived at the far end of the city, not far from our college in fact. I had hated that city almost all my life, and I had hated that road, where I knew no one, and the college bus trips to the college every single day of my life. It was this one major road that went on from the center of the city for about 7 miles to one end, and it was packed as often as the public health awareness speakers blared. Though at this point, I didn’t feel anything but nostalgia, I was aware as a fox not to look for things I shouldn’t. I’ll probably get to it at some other point, or I might have already. And although I hated it back then, a lot of it because I was living there alone, (and men are by themselves in society), I absolutely loved the winters. It was a tropical, humid, paradise in itself, with flavours and spices in food to make your head scratch out of delight. And the Winters there were probably the best Winters of my life outside home. In the morning the streets would be relatively empty, and you would feel the wind on your cheeks as you rode, with Bougainvillea, the Petunias, the Phloxes, and the Cineraria on the side. As the sun would slowly keep rising through the morning, those flowers on the sidewalk would make me feel there were still blueberries in cupcakes. When I finally did the last two roundabouts and was drenched in nostalgia like a fresh tres leches, despite my best efforts, and I couldn’t help but think over things and the associated memories with that road in nine ways every minute.
My friend was just readying up for a trip himself, town called Cuttack, a twin town of Bhubaneswar of course, for a family function. He handed me the book, and I decided to go the function after he invited me. Who wouldn’t? after they have spent years away from their own family. And old friends. And that darned mutton on weekends, with the perfectly cooked rice and all sorts of carefully constructed assortments. Jesus Christ of the curry powder Gods, I could sniff it out up from soap. We passed these coastal low lying houses and the intermittent swampland, with water tunnels, the talking clouds and the inherent, lingering sense of sadness. It really does something to you, doesn’t it, the view of the horizon, the green of the land, and the flowing water in the rivers and the tunnels. The deep distant roads of Odisha have had all the answers. Ashoka lost here two thousand years ago and he ended up a changed man, and spread Buddhism all over. The people of Odisha barely change. They didn’t change then. They didn’t change much after the British took over after the 2nd Anglo Maratha war either. They didn’t have to, with a bunch of princely states under which the kings continued to rule reporting and paying taxes to the British, although not without British supervision of course. And they haven’t changed much now. Rarely do we entertain the thought of letting go or bending even the most rivial of our cultural/ritualistic/religious practices. I don’t agree or disagree with any of those things, I don’t really have to. And it’s like no matter where I go, I am always there somewhere, or thereabout at worst, looking up at that sky in awe.
We reached at his old house time. All people dressed up in gorgeous, garish native prints. I even stopped thinking about the food for a while, I wanted to spend all the time in the world looking at the traditional garbs worn. The sarees and the kurtas, printed with chequers, stripes, dots, flowers, ashoka’s chakra and all the craft in the world. The Kataki and the Sambalpuri. The Ikat and the Bandha.Everything seemed perfect, in sense, with folk songs in the background and sips of cola. Until it didn’t. I was just about to shake the hand of one his uncles who worked an intersting investment job in one of the Government departments, when his daughter with big eyes and gremlin sticky hair came running towards us. They couldn’t find an expensive piece of jewellery, apparently, a necklace, thought to be stolen. A soon as the news broke everybody started making exasperating noises, some prepared to leave. The older women of the household started almost as if they were guilty of the theft. Me and my friend went in to take a look. It had gone missing from the safe locker inside the safe locker. Someone had seen it barely 4 days ago. By the time we finished our meals one police had come and gone. I decided to stick around Cuttack for a couple of more days at my ancestral place. I met my friend the day after in the morning. There was no evidence of wrongdoing, or malintent, the way the piece went missing. Probably it was someone from the family, who else could it be. The police could not be bothered enough.
They questioned all the people in the extented family, on and off, and that didn’t even rock the boat. I got my hands on a folded paper on the guest list, and marked out some who had left in the past week. I sat down with my pal to mark out any things of interest, and narrowed down the list initially to 3 people. One of the maternal uncles, he had lost a bunch of money in gambling, but he had a stable job, so I let that possibility go for now. Another one of the cousins was going through a divorce, so I didn’t figure he would have much use for the necklace, if he indeed was in a state of mind to take it anyways. There was one remaining family friend, a husband of a very friend of the mother, who had left a week back, a day after the celebrations began, leaving his wife back. Somebody had seen the necklace four days ago, and there was no way he could be involved. And that’s what interested me. Celebrations typically involve days families going out of the house for rituals, leaving a lot of yawning space. Someone did see it four days ago, like I have said like seven times till now, but people see things that are not there all the time anyway. Great deals, ghosts, transcdental love, et cetera. We scanned through the photos a bit of the rituals at the temple, and it seemed like he made a entry after a couple of hours it started. After a bit of an innocuous exchange with his wife and son, we realized he had his email logged into his wife’s phone. So we could see everywhere he went in the past week, believe it or not, and we could see one restaurant in particular. A bit of a tipping off to a couple of waiters here and there, and they said he had been spending a lot of time with the restaurant owner, discussing who knows what. India, is of course, a half lawless land, sometimes for good reason, and all my friend had to do was scruff up the owner with some friends of his, who confessed to taking house keys out of his dad’s pocket and putting them pack quietly when he came a few days back with the family friend. That was basically the end of it, not long after which the thief confessed to having putting a knock off before he left town. As for the disappearance of the knock off, he blackmailed a cook with his criminal reacord who was in for the event. Pity he couldn’t trust anyone with stealing it in the first place. Pity I am still writing this and not knocking on doors I guess I should be knocking on. But then when has pity changed anything, other than sound bytes.