“Nonsense… Everyone knew that he was the bloody one, who attacked our parliament. And he is being hanged to death after 12 long years. Why our authorities take so much time to convict someone for such a horrendous crime?” Karan kept the newspaper aside, after reading the news article on a terrorist hanged to death and sipped his tea at the tea stall outside the school campus.
Karan Mehra, a biology teacher for the 11th and 12th grade, in one of the finest ICSE board schools of the city, showed his disgust after reading the sentence of capital punishment being carried out for the terrorist. He had been convicted for the attack on the parliament of the country.
“It’s all bloody politics. Elections are just a year ahead and so everyone is pulling all the strings they can to gain the faith of citizens.” Abhimanyu replied after gulping down his morning tea.
Abhimanyu Singh, a sports head and an Ex-Army man who had taken voluntary retirement from the Indian army. Abhimanyu was one of the few staff members whom the principal relied upon and trusted the most.
“Ya… I don’t understand why to arrest the terrorist when being caught in action. Just shoot those bloody scumbags.” Karan too finished his tea and lit the smoke for himself.
“Back in the army, at the border, we never arrested terrorists when we caught them. We just took those swine to the cordoned area, made them recite all the info and plans alike a parrot and shot them after they had nothing of eminence left to tell. Hell, we never even took them to the base.” Abhimanyu spoke reminiscing his past life as Major in the army.
“Sir, how many terrorists have you gunned down in your career?” Karan was always fascinated by the life of a soldier in the line of duty. He once wanted to be in the Air Force but that was against his Dad’s will. Thus, he had to give up his dream.
“Frankly, after serving the country for more than 20 years, I have lost the count. Though there are a few which can never be forgotten.” Abhimanyu smiled as his face displayed a sense of pride in serving his country and protecting it from foreign threats. The bell rang and the classes began.
“Time to get back to the current life.” Abhimanyu winked and got up dusting his ass. Karan too stabbed his cigarette butt and quickly popped a couple of mouth fresheners and applied hand sanitizer to avoid the foul smell of smoke from his fingers.
They walked into the campus and the security personnel immediately got up from his chair and saluted Abhimanyu and Karan as they stepped in. Abhimanyu and Karan were in charge of the disciplinary committee of the school. Abhimanyu being an Ex-Army, was appointed as a head of security too.
Both had their own reputation on the campus. Abhimanyu was famous for strict military-grade discipline. Karan was an offbeat teacher and most respected by the students, for his teaching style and his fearless attitude i.e. ‘I don’t give damn about what you think of me.’ The mere presence of the duo on the campus was enough for students to keep them from crossing any limits. Lest they found themselves in those teachers’ crosshairs.
The school was located on the outskirts of the city, in a small unpopulated village. Mesmerizing scenic beauty stretched around the school with open arms, open grounds exactly in front of the school. On the right side of the school building were lush green farms with tall grass stretched till the horizon. On the left of the school was a college run by the same trust. The football ground and basketball court behind the building were shared by both the institutions. The ride to the campus in the early morning was always soothing.
Days turned to weeks and weeks turned into months and that year’s school life was heading closer to the event of the year i.e. The Annual Day.
One fine morning, Karan was waiting outside the school campus in his car, letting the school buses get into the compound. The road was not very wide. The parents too came to drop their kids, which created a chaotic traffic scene.
Waiting for the traffic to get clear, Karan saw two people standing at the fence of the ground opposite to the school and watching or rather observing the school building. They seemed suspicious and were definitely not parents. Their attire and dressing style clearly gave them away as it did not blend with the crowd which is always seen at school gates. Moreover, neither of them seemed to be the villagers of the self-same village.
Abhimanyu was busy at the main gate of the school, escorting the school buses into the school premises and preventing private transport vehicles from entering inside. Karan saw Abhimanyu and honked to get his attention. Abhimanyu came to Karan as he rolled down the window.
“Sir, can you see those two guys? I don’t think they are parents or villagers.” Karan pointed in the direction and Abhimanyu turned his head to check.
“Ya, who are they?” Abhimanyu who had been busy till now in clearing the traffic glared at the odd couple.
“Park your car inside and then we will go and have the nicest chat with them.” Saying so, Abhimanyu blew his whistle to make way for Karan’s car to get inside the campus.
Before Karan and Abhimanyu could walk out and confront those two strangers, they fled the scene on a beat-up bike at full speed. They might have got the hint that the school staff is coming to talk to them. They may not have answers to any of those questions. These all made it even more suspicious for Abhimanyu and Karan.
Before Karan could speak anything, his cell buzzed. It was a parent who was late to drop his kid to school and had called to take permission to allow his kid to enter.
“Where have you reached?” Karan asked, still looking in the direction the two guys had fled in.
“Sir, we are on the straight road, hardly five mins to reach.” The parent on the other end replied.
“Did you see anyone rushing at high speed on a beat-up, old bike?” Karan asked to confirm the direction.
“Ya, in fact, they stopped just a few meters away from our car. One guy got down and got into an old Maruti car and took left to the highway. The other one on the bike kept driving straight.” The parent replied still not able to understand what it was all about.
“Okay.” Karan clicked off and told Abhimanyu what he had come to know. The campus gate was now closed. Abhimanyu instructed security fella to allow that parent who had just called.
“Let’s have tea.” Abhimanyu started walking to the tea stall and Karan followed him. The guy running tea stall served them tea and cigarette for Karan.
“Did you see those two guys who drove at high speed, a few mins back?” Karan asked, lighting his smoke, to the tea stall guy.
“Ya, they were here yesterday evening too. I was leaving for home after closing down the stall. They were talking in some language that I couldn’t understand.” The tea stall fella was also surprised by it.
“Any problem sir?” The tea stall guy asked. Karan didn’t answer and stared at Abhimanyu who was thinking something, still looking in the direction, the duo had scrammed in.
“What’s on your mind?” Abhimanyu asked sensing the discomfort on Karan’s face.
“I don’t know. But they were talking in some other language that makes me think that…” Karan left his words hanging.
“Don’t talk like an army guy. I don’t see them as a terrorist or something nearly potent to that.” Abhimanyu smiled as he could read what was on Karan’s mind. Watching Karan not buying his words, Abhimanyu continued.
“I have seen those lowlife scamps for most of my life. It won’t take more than a minute for me to pick out those bastards from a crowd. However, these two guys were nowhere near to it.” Abhimanyu patted Karan’s back and finished his tea.
“Moreover, there are a lot of people out in this world who have only dirt in their doings. They may be the perpetrators of the child trafficking cart. We can’t let this go ignored.” Karan stabbed his smoke and gulped down his tea in one go.
“Okay Mr. Sherlock, I’ll talk about it today itself with the P.S.I of the police station in our vicinity and will inform them. He is a close friend of mine. I’ll make sure that they do strict patrolling of our school for a few days.” Abhimanyu paid for the tea and they walked back to the campus.
Karan went to the bio class on the top floor, adjacent to the bio lab. He never preferred to sit in the gent’s staff room. He had his chamber inside the bio lab. The wall adjacent to it was bio class.
Karan started his lecture with the discussion on Genetics. He explained the theory of classical genetics and gave a puzzle based on genes to the students to solve. He always had something interesting to do in his classes and always kept the students engaged in more of activity-based learning. While students were engrossed in solving the puzzle. Karan kept staring out of the window, at the open green farms, stretched miles across.
“Everything is open. Anyone can come from any side.” He murmured to himself. The thought of anyone can come inside the school from the back and right inside the building after sun bids goodbye, made chills run down his spine. Anxiety and the thought about the safety of the kids gripped the blood surging through his nerves.
During the recess break, Karan walked into the Abhimanyu’s office. Abhimanyu was sitting at his table and going through the bus registers he maintained. Before Karan could say anything, Abhimanyu spoke.
“I have already talked to my friend who is a P.S.I. And they are already patrolling the area now.” He smiled at Karan as again, he could read what was on Karan’s mind.
“Let’s hope, nothing shitty turn out.” Karan sighed and leaned back in the chair, resting his head behind.
“Don’t worry, things are under control.” Abhimanyu leaned forward resting his arms on the glass covering the wooden desk and continued.
“My kids too study in this school, Karan. Like you, I am also concerned for not only my kids, but every single human on this campus.” Karan face showed a smile of assurance. After all, a father will never let anything happen to his kids.
Assured with words, Karan walked out of Abhimanyu’s office. Rest of his day passed with students but at the back of his mind, the thought of what he saw in the morning never left.
On the same evening, Karan was sitting at the cafe and sipping his coffee. His mind was still not at ease though he saw patrolling police officers, while he was leaving the campus. Abhimanyu had even instructed the security guards to keep their eyes open and drivers of the buses were also asked to keep taking rounds during school hours.
A thought to talk with Jairaj came to Karan’s mind. Jairaj Sinh Rathod was an old colleague and now a cop in I.B. (Intelligence Bureau). He immediately dialled Jairaj’s number but the call couldn’t get connected. Karan tried to call him a few more times but Jairaj was certainly not in the coverage.
“Must be busy with some task.” Karan said to himself and dropped a text to Jairaj. For the next two days, Karan kept his eyes and ears open when on the campus. Two days later, Abhimanyu called Karan during his free class to his office.
“I have news for you.” Abhimanyu spoke with his classic smile as Karan grabbed the chair and sat across him.
“Your concern was proved right.” Karan’s forehead creased in worry.
“But nothing to worry now. I.B has tracked down four terrorists hiding in the city and has nailed them. The news is not made public for obvious reasons but things are fine now.” Abhimanyu then narrated the details. Karan’s eyes widened on hearing whatever just Abhimanyu said.
“But how come you know all this?” Karan could not buy the story that a Sub-Inspector could have so many details.
“I have contacts boy. I had a life before school.” Abhimanyu winked at him and continued.
“I think, I should buy you a smoke. Your eyes were pretty good at spotting what others couldn’t.” Abhimanyu got up and they both walked outside the campus to the tea stall.
“Now, I’ll be able to focus more on the work and Annual Day’s preparations.” Karan took a long drag of his cigarette and released a streak of smoke.
“Ya, even I feel more relaxed now. Couldn’t share the worries regarding this issue with anyone, except you.” Abhimanyu took a loud slurp of his tea.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Written by: Hemang
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha