Thursday, March 3, 2016

Encounter Killings

The novel, Black Hole, continues.

The story so far in brief:  Kailash Public School in Delhi is donated to Devlok Ashram by Sitaram Rana.  The Ashram was founded by Kailash Baba. Aaron Matthews from London was the most beloved disciple. Amarjeet and Mahendra contributed to the material welfare of the ashram.  Jane Abercrombie, a Jewish refugee from Hitler's Germany, is disillusioned with Amarjeet who taught her the Non-Being of Kamasutra and gave her a son, Nitin, in the process. Mahendra discovers that he has a son back there in Kurukshetra and gets a new purpose for his existence. Rachel, Aaron's wife visits him in Delhi having obtained a free journey in the company of the Mountbattens who came to liberate India and the Great Britain from each other.  Rachel returns to England realising that she has lost Aaron to Indian spirituality.  Mohandas Gandhi's assassination eclipses the murder of Aaron by Amarjeet and Mahendra who have their own ambitions to which Aaron was a perceived hindrance.

Ishan Salman Panicker joined Kailash Public School as an English teacher the day a communal riot broke out in Gujarat in 2002. Ten years later, when Sitaram Rana, Mahendra's son, hands over the school to the newly founded Kailash Educational and Environmental Trust, Ishan's spirituality is stirred.  He begins to write a gospel.  Ishan's gospel has its roots in Shillong where he was born of hybrid parentage: a Keralite Hindu father and a Khasi Catholic mother, the latter of whom had a Bangladeshi Muslim father.  Shankara Panicker, Ishan's father, was one of the victims of Indira Gandhi's Emergency.  So Father Joseph Kunnel became the boy's guardian. The priest and the boy had little in common.  Eventually Ishan left Shillong along with his wife, Jenny, and got a job at Kailash whose Vice Principal questions how Ishan would make the school a choice of millions. A student knocks down a tooth of a teacher's son in a fight but the case is settled out of court because the teacher, Mr Mishra, has connections with political bigwigs.  Kailash teaches Ishan that excellence is not always a virtue.  

Read on:

Two staff members were retiring and one was leaving the school to take up a job abroad.  Pradeep Kumar Tandon convinced the Managing Committee that the spouses of existing staff should be absorbed if they were qualified so that there would be greater stability of staff in the school.  Stability was not a serious problem at Kailash because hardly anyone left the school once they joined.

“Kailash is a black hole,” Abhilash Sisodia told Ishan once.  “It won’t let you go once you are inside.”

Hemant Hooda had better information. 

Of late, Hemant had become a close associate of the Vice Principal.  One of the many satellites that revolved around that one star.  Both the stars in the school were competing to add satellites to themselves.
“It is better to join Tandon than Chaturvedi,” Hemant explained to Ishan.  “Chaturvedi is too chatur and too egoistic.”  Hemant and Ishan were on an evening walk outside the campus, a habit that they had cultivated recently.

“Chatur?”  Ishan did not understand the word.

“Cunning.  That’s what it means.  Tandon is also chatur.  But not egoistic.  He helps those who support him.”

“And decimate those who stand in his way?”

“Not unless the person is a serious threat to his ambitions.  You have to do that if you are an administrator.  Staying on top means preventing others from rising above you, isn’t it?”

“That’s why the head that wears the crown has to lie uneasy,” Ishan mumbled.

“Of course.  That was true much before the Bard said it.  From the time man began to worship power.  Plato was mistaken in demanding philosopher-kings.  Philosophers cannot be kings.  What do you think: will Manmohan make an efficient Prime Minister?”

Dr Manmohan Singh was appointed to the highest post in the country a few weeks back though he had not won any election.  He had made a name for himself through the economic reforms he had suggested.
“Why shouldn’t he?” asked Ishan.

“Politics is for the warrior, Panicker saab, not for the philosopher.  See how Narendra Modi swept the polls in his state.  And I predict that Modiji will one day be the Prime Minister.”

Ishan fell silent.  Narendra Modi had some mysterious association with his destiny, thought Ishan, and it made him quiver.  On the day Ishan joined Kailash, the most terrible communal riot in the country’s history after Independence had broken out in Modi’s state. 
“You have an opportunity knocking at your door,” said Hemant interrupting Ishan’s recollection.

Ishan stopped walking and looked into the eyes of his colleague who had also stopped and stared back.

“Your wife has a chance to get a job in Kailash.”  Hemant said as they resumed their walk.

It turned out that Mr Tandon was willing to appoint Jenny to one of the posts falling vacant provided Ishan was ready to approach Tandon in the right way.

Jenny had not tried to find a job after coming to Delhi because she was in the family way.  Now their son was almost two years old.  They could appoint a maid to look after him and Jenny could start working in “the best residential school in the capital of India.”

Hemant told Ishan to approach Tandon with a humble request.  “Keep your ego out,” he advised.

Ishan was stunned.  “Do I have such a conspicuous ego?”

“What prevents you otherwise from mingling with people easily?  You walk about as if everyone else is beneath you.  You know, even Mr Tandon does not have such a big ego.”

Ishan could not get Hemant to speak more about his alleged ego though it was clear that this new friend of his knew some very personal details about him. 

Hemant had had a detailed discussion with Tandon about Ishan.

“The man is a fraud.”  That’s what Tandon had said. 

Tandon went on to explain that Ishan was appointed in the school because of a request made by one Father Xavier to Mr Sitaram Rana who ordered Mr Chaturvedi to take in Ishan.  “A vacancy was created for him, you know,” said Tandon.  “The existing English teacher was lured to join another school by offering her the vice principal’s post.  This Father Xavier is a kind of godfather to Ishan, it seems.”

Mr Tandon had got to know part of the arrangements from Mr Chaturvedi himself.  Later on, he got in touch with Father Xavier himself under the pretext of seeking his help for his daughter’s admission to one of the Christian medical colleges somewhere.  Father Xavier told Mr Tandon that Ishan was a hollow man, an alcoholic, a potential drug addict, a colossal ego, a personification of all the seven deadly sins...

“Seven deadly sins!” Hemant exclaimed when Tandon was explaining it to him.

“They are the Christian version of our kama-krodha-moha-etc.”

“Oh, I see.”  Hemant started visualising Ishan in a different light in his mind.  “Interesting.”

“You will find him particularly interesting with your knowledge of psychology.”

Tandon asked Hemant to strike a close friendship with Ishan in order to find out the mysteries lying deep within his allegedly diabolic personality.   “People like him can be extremely dangerous especially if they are introverts,” said Mr Tandon.

“I will make it my mission to unravel the mystery beneath the introversion.  That will be a pleasure,” Hemant replied.  "But, sir, why are you interested in employing his wife?"

"To save her from him."  Mr Tandon refused to explain that. 

Hemant and Ishan turned back in their walk.  Ishan had agreed to approach Mr Tandon with a humble request on behalf of his wife.

Seeing a crowd gather in front of a shop, they stopped.  The TV was showing the news.  It was about a Muslim girl named Ishrat Jahan and three others who were killed near Ahmedabad in Gujarat.  Encounter killing, the news reporter called it with a sensational emphasis on the phrase which was repeated many times.  Ishrat and her associates were members of an Islamic terrorist outfit called Lashkar-e-Taiba, said the reporter.  They had gone from Mumbai to Gujarat in order to kill Mr Narendra Modi.  They wanted to avenge the communal riots of two years ago which killed many Muslims and rendered many more homeless.
“Laash-kar,” said Hemant.  “That’s what these terrorists do.  Make laashes, corpses.”

The four corpses that the TV screen displayed lying in a row on a road haunted Ishan as they walked in silence towards the school.  Youth was still bubbling on their faces, thought Ishan.  Why did they turn killers?  Ishan asked himself.  Is the desire for vengeance more powerful than the desire to love and be loved?  Or was it ambition of some sort?  Or were they the threat to somebody else’s ambition? 

The corpses continued to haunt Ishan’s thoughts late into the night.  They haunted his dreams that night.  Ishrat.  The name echoed in Ishan’s nightmare.  The young and beautiful face of Ishrat metamorphosed into a monster in that nightmare.  And the monster roared like a demon hungry for something.  Something not of this world.


Chapter 1: The Original Sin

Chapter 2: A Gospel

2.2 Dkhar
     2.4 Cry from Calvary
     2.5 The Lost Sheep
     2.8 The Y Chromosome
     Chapter 3: Heart of Darkness
     3.1 Heart of Darkness
     3.4 Longings

Chapter 4: Choice of Millions
4.2 Slogans


  1. Ishrat's face haunts me too...Will we ever find the truth.....?

    1. Truth is the biggest casualty in India today.


Yet another pipedream

Prime Minister Modi’s demand from his ministers that they should not wallow in luxury , instead should focus on delivery and imple...