Chapter 1

Written by: SameerNagarajan

The Delhi summer hung still and heavy. I sighed in relief as I entered the airconditioned library and stood still for a minute, my pupils adjusting to the subdued indoor lighting as I scanned the room for a familiar face. 

 

The message that beeped into my phone an hour back simply said, “see you at 2 pm at the Central Library”. It could have been wrongly addressed to me, as it did not use a first name, but I was game for adventure. Life had become predictable: marriage, job, children, car .. was that all there was to it? I could see decades looming ahead, all with the same routine and the prospect left me cynical and indifferent. Priya had also been saying for a while that I was spending less time at home and communicating with her less. Our lovemaking was becoming more formal and less intense. It wasn’t as if I was having an affair. No such luck. It’s just plain ennui. 

 

No recognizable face in the room. No old friend pranking me, no collegemate paying me a surprise visit after several years, no lover from the years gone by. I prepared to leave. 

 

“And Mr Sharma, how are you?” remarked the librarian genially. 

 

I stared at her. Not the usual person. This lady was dark, with twinkling eyes, neatly made hair, a dash of lipstick, smart casual dress. And how did she know my name?

 

As if reading my thoughts, she smiled and put her finger to her lips, signalling silence. Even as I continued to stare at her wonderingly, she walked towards one of the anterooms and indicated that I follow her. I did so, and the moment I was in, she briskly shut the door behind us. Her demeanor changed immediately and she looked all businesslike as she started, “you took long enough to come. I asked you to come at 2 pm and it’s nearly 2.15pm now”. 

 

“Delhi, you know”, I said, warily, “traffic. And how do you …”

 

“Traffic?” she arched her eyebrows, “I thought you walked. Barely 700 metres from here isn’t it, your office?” I fumbled for an answer, as I realized she knew where Bottlecans & Co, my accounting firm, was located. I needn’t have bothered, since she didn’t wait for a reply. “Enough of that anyway. Ronnie will be here around 5 pm, and will want definite answers. I’ve had enough of waiting. Do you know where the money is, or don’t you?”

 

I paused for a moment, wondering if this was a nightmare and what might wake me up. Even as I pondered, the lady went on, “the consignment was delivered three days back, at the usual place. The payment, not received as yet. Ronnie’s hopping mad. I’ve been able to hold him off somehow. Sure you haven’t hidden the 3 million somewhere?”

 

“No,” I nodded weakly, “and who is Ronnie?”

 

It was her turn to lose the power of speech even as I went on, “yes, I am Ashish Sharma, and I work for …”.

 

“Not Sanjay Sharma?” she muttered. 

 

“No, though I do work for ..”

 

“Colaface and Co?”

 

“No, absolutely not”, I said, with finality, “just a  simple case of mistaken identity, and I will go on now”. 

 

“Oh no, you don’t,” as she pulled out a photograph from the folds of her dress and waved it in front of my eyes. I could see it was me, with someone I did not want to recognize. “You mean I have been talking to the wrong guy all this time? Nice try.” 

 

Comments

Loved the chapter Sameer. Is it really a case of mistaken identity or a deliberate attempt to mislead? Short and crisp dialogues really work here because they add to the tension and mystery. Delhi is a very interesting set-up because it is very relatable. Great job as usual.
You continue the irony really well and the insight into the character through his thoughts of life having become predictable is perfect. The twist at the end is excellent.As Hemali says, the short sentences add to the tension. Excellent.
The second paragraph Sameer! It is good. Really good!