Monday, June 25, 2012


When I think about our country, there are several things that come to my mind. Be it our culture, heritage, food or history – we are unique and special in every way. But the one thing that stands out in my mind is our intellect! Creativity, knowledge and genius always abound in our land. Be it for the mathematical zero, our engineering genes, insane GMAT scores or a slightly overkill IT wizardry, our nerdiness is quite renowned across the globe. But then there comes the bewildering paradox. History doesn’t do justice to our intellectual legacy. Neither do we!

Ask a child to name a few scientists and (s)he will go Einstein, Newton, Edison and so on. Ask elder intellectuals and the list might find some additions like Darwin, Tesla, Madam Curie, Da Vinci and say a few more. Trust me, if someone manages to mention J.C. Bose, Ramanujam, C.V.Raman or Homi Bhabha then I would be over the moon. Rewind your memory to the science textbooks of your 10th or 12th standard and you will see my point. Did we read about Har Gobind Khorana’s Nobel Prize for cracking the genetic code? May be! May be not! Have you heard of “Boson” named after the legendary S.N.Bose? Probably not! How much mention was there about Vikram Sarabhai? Sure we find a snippet here and a citation there. But nothing beyond that!

My point is two fold. One: we don’t celebrate our scientists enough. Two: We don’t make them enough any more either! And for sure lack of potential or caliber is not the reason for the latter. We live in a land extraordinaire. Here we can find an entire spectrum of people ranging from extraordinarily brilliant, capable and sincere all the way down to extraordinarily numb, dumb and corrupt. This is one kind of diversity our country can live without. And in this vast jungle of herbs and weeds interspersed by beautiful trees and carnivorous pitchers, even the noblest of intentions and most cerebral of ideas can disappear without a trace caught in the quicksand of something we have always been famous for: “Officialdom”!

While there are several obstacles to science in our country including our current higher education system and the social perception of professional education (I intend to write about the lack of societal respect for science, arts and humanities later), the single most dominant force that has straggled science for ages is the ubiquitous and obnoxiously recalcitrant Indian bureaucracy and red tape. We all know about this perennial curse that continues to demoralize our spirits in many ways and in many fields but the maladies suffered by science at the hands of this demon are so prosaic and debilitating that the resulting casualties are countless!

Does the name Dr.Subhas Mukherjee (Mukhopadhyay) ring a bell? If it does, you are elite and if it doesn’t; then you are not alone! He is an unsung, forgotten hero who didn’t get anything he deserved and most certainly didn’t deserve anything he got! Dr.Subhas Mukhrjee was the creator of India’s first and world’s second test tube baby, a great mind and the inventor of a modern miracle, a concept that revolutionized the lives of millions of childless couples. This man’s remarkable vision created the first life outside the womb.

There were just 67 days between the births of the first test tube baby (Louise Brown – born 25th July 1978) pioneered by Robert G.Edwards and the second (Durga – 3rd October 1978) brought to life by Dr.Subhas Mukherjee. Both Subhas and Robert were great scientists, doctors and legends who independently gave the world “In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)”. But the similarities end there. Dr.Robert Edwards won the Nobel Prize for his achievement in 2010 while Dr.Subhas hanged himself to death in 1981. His suicide note read: "I can't wait everyday for a heart attack to kill me."

While Dr.Edwards’s efforts were quickly recognized and glorified by his country, an ‘expert committee’ was appointed by the Government of West Bengal under the medical association and he was tried like a convict. His crimes: he did the impossible with bare minimum apparatus; he didn’t get it cleared by pandering to the so-called experts and bureaucrats; he was righteous and not subservient. Hence, for these heinous crimes, he was awarded with social ostracization and bureaucratic reprimand which left a permanent scar in his heart. The committee denounced all his claims and achievements. He was denied leave to write a detailed report of his results and to attend a meeting in Japan to discuss his work. And he was further humiliated with a transfer to Institute of Ophthalmology as professor of electrophysiology. I don’t think a man can bear any more injustice and anguish. And his death has left a permanent scar on our society!

A few years later in 1986, T.C. Anand Kumar created Harsha, India’s first official test tube baby. And miraculously in 1997, he got to see the research documents and hand-written notes of Dr.Subhas. After meticulously scrutinizing and having discussions with Durga’s parents, he became certain that Subhas was indeed the architect of first human test tube baby in India. Dr.Anand Kumar’s commendable and selfless efforts restored his due place in India’s medical history in 2001 (20 long years later) when the Indian Council of Medical Research finally acknowledged his contributions. It takes a great man to give away greatness and glory of such magnitude to someone else. But the greatness of Dr.Anand Kumar further magnifies the apathy and graveness of the situation.  But for him, we wouldn’t even know of Dr.Subhas’s genius! I am borrowing Kamal Hasan’s funny lines from a movie to say something very serious: “A terrific scientist was made to look like a scientific terrorist for 20 years!”

Science has come a long way and certainly there have been improvements as it is slowly chipping away from the clutches of bureaucracy. But rosy days are still far off. Namita, Subhas’s wife, frail and bed-ridden still yearns for the day she will see an Institute named after her husband whose only sign yet is a dust covered plaque and a listing in some governmental file. While his own country has abandoned him, the world continues to discover and honor him in little ways that bring some solace to my aching heart. The international scientist community is slowly accepting Dr Subhas Mukhopadhyay's claim and recognizing India for producing the world's second test-tube baby. And Kanupriya Agarwal (alias Durga) is finally happy that some justice is being restored to her scientific father. This is just one of many instances and it has cost the nation a legend and a legend his life! I just hope I live to see the day when we give these greats their due respect and just let them change the world!

** Dr Mukhopadhyay's story was immortalised in the 1991 film Ek Doctor Ki Maut starring Pankaj Kapur and Shabana Azmi. (Watch it if you are interested)


Other References:

Monday, June 18, 2012


First of all, I would like to thank all my wonderful wonderful friends and readers for having the patience to read through the three parts of my first murder mystery despite the wait. Hope I didn't bore anyone to death and there is no one out there planning to murder me. :)

Thank you so much for the lovely comments and words of encouragement. You all really made my day. I am really humbled. This is really great motivation for me to write more and you will probably see more of Mr.Gem! ;) I would also like to know any critiques you have, loopholes you found or any alternate endings you think might have been more apt! Any comments or suggestions you have are most welcome. You can also email them to me at:

After some hardcore crime-busting action, it is time to lighten up the mood a bit. So it is cartoon time! Oh btw.. before that I have a small fun poll here as to who your favorite cartoon character is!

Well, if you are new to these characters or want to know more about their adventures, I leave you with their funny little trysts that will tickle your funny bones!

RAZ FOR PREZ – An aspiring politician, a wannabe President, a Mr.Panacea for the society!

MR.C’MON MAN – A confused soul; A self proclaimed genius!

CHEEKY CHUCK – Mr.Tongue in Cheek; wisecracks galore!

Vote for your favorite character now! Btw.. you are going to see more of all these geniuses. They are just getting warmed up! ;) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012


*I completely understand how difficult and agonizing it is to be not able to read a murder mystery in one go! So my apologies for the wait! 

“There is, my friend. There is! A very important clue!” Ramanujam took a moment to relish their awestruck faces. “Then stop fooling around and come out with it. What the hell did your brain just uncover? ”, shouted Alex.

 “The bullet! The clue is in the bullet! It was found on the floor, not in Raghavan’s body. There was a scratch on the floor which you had missed. If the killer had shot him from the gate or garden, wouldn’t it have pierced his body and hit the door? But there is no mark on the door to support that. Instead there is a strong scratch mark on the floor!” 

“What are you getting at, Saar?” Martin was all ears.

“He was shot from above. From the terrace!” Ramanujam had a wry smile in his lips.

“Damn... I should have figured that out. How stupid of me!” Alex took out another cigarette.

“Nicotine deficiency may be!” Ramanujam smiled at Martin who was too scared to say anything.

“But that doesn’t make sense. If you are shooting from the terrace, the bullet would have blown his head off. But the bullet hit his back!” Alex still couldn’t get his head around this one.

Ramanujam started pacing. “True. But what if he was bending down?”

“Why would he come to his door step and bend down instead of ringing the door bell?” Martin was equally confused.

Ramanujam was seeing it clearly in his head. “What if he found something on the floor? And if that something was his cell phone? What if it had been placed a few paces ahead of the door step just for Raghavan to bend and pick it up? Right here! See the architecture. That way you get a clear shot from the terrace! The phone must have started ringing at that very moment he came to the door. Karthik told us that Raghavan had forgotten his cell phone at home that day. Do you have his cell phone with you now?”

“Yes, I do Saar. Why?” Martin took out the phone. “Check if there was any call around 10:30.” Ramanujam and Alex were anxiously waiting as Martin fumbled through the call listing. “Oh my God. Yes Saar. A call from an unknown number at 10:24! Let me go run a check on this number.”

Ramanujam stopped him. “Wait. Hold on. I don’t think that would be of much use. What is the duration of the call?” “25 seconds. You are absolutely right Saar! It was all set up perfectly.” Martin’s eyes were staring at Alex who still looked perplexed while Ramanujam was fixing the jigsaw puzzle in his head. “Well... I think I know who the killer is. Time for some drama! Let us call a family meeting to confirm. And then we head to Martin’s house. Martin, I hope you are well stocked.” Martin gave a wry smile. “Of course Saar. Any time!”

The entire family was gathered in the living room. Everyone was anxious and confused as to what was going to transpire. There were nervous glances as Alex started off. “We are very sorry for your loss. We understand how tough it must be for all of you to go through the enquiry at this time. But I am sure it will be as painful for all of you to know that the killer is in this very room at this very moment.”

There was a terrifying silence in the room followed by an outburst. It was Sunita. “How dare you? We all loved him. This is absurd... This is…” Words escaped her as she sulked on the floor. Mr.Sundaram took her in his arms. “Don’t make baseless allegations. Do you understand what you are saying?” He was furious.

“Unfortunately we do Saar!” Alex glanced at Ramanujam hinting him to take the lead.

“Who is it? Who the hell did it?” shouted an irate Chander.

“Calm down Chander. I am getting to that. Well, Jeniffer. Since I hadn’t talked to you before, I have a couple of questions for you?” Ramanujam turned to Jeniffer who looked petrified.

“Tell me something Jeniffer. How did you know Raghavan was killed?”

“I heard Ponniah scream and came down.”

“Really! You were upstairs and must have been in your room. It was raining so heavily. How did you hear him?”

“Well... I was near the stairs and was about to come down anyways!” Sunita was now looking at her suspiciously.

“It was pouring, right! Did you bring an umbrella?” Ramanujam glanced at the wet umbrella as if leading her to it.

“Oh.. Yes yes. I did. I did!” Her nervousness was very evident to everyone now.

“Then why is it that Sunita’s umbrella was wet and not yours?” Ramanujam was in his element now.

“Well.. well.. I.. I.. I was in a hurry.. I…” All eyes were on her now.

“She couldn’t have killed Raghavan. She didn’t do that.” Chander’s scream echoed round the house.

“And how would you be so confident, Mr.Chander?” Alex was circling Chander whose head was clearly spinning.

“Because Jeniffer was with Chander in his room when Raghavan was killed.” Ramanujam’s sensational observation stunned everyone, including Alex. A cadaverous silence ensued!

“You see. If Jeniffer had been in her room and came down in a hurry on hearing the scream, she would not have been prompt enough to switch off the lights in her room. She must have been in Chander’s room since evening I am guessing. But for fear of getting caught, Chander came out first and then when everyone else had gathered, Jeniffer came out so that no one noticed. And she never brought any umbrella!”

“Then who did it? Enough of your suspense! Who is the killer?” Alex was out of control.

“Alex, even by your standards, you should have guessed that now. Mr.Sundaram! Who else?” Ramanujam looked at Mr.Sundaram who stood there motionless and emotionless. Sunita burst out into tears.

“Mr.Sundaram had his plan well laid out. He had secretly taken Raghavan’s phone in the morning while he was too busy to notice. In the evening, Sunita was out, Ponniah was sleeping and Jeniffer and Chander were busy romancing. So it was quite easy for him to quietly place the phone at the door step. He quietly went upstairs and positioned himself in the balcony and waited for Raghavan. Now came the first problem: Rain! In a hurry he came down and picked up Sunita’s umbrella! First mistake right there. Not a big one but big enough for me!

By now, you should know that Raghavan’s pistol was in Mr.Sundaram’s safe custody. Everything else went as planned. Now he cannot keep the murder weapon with him, nor did he have enough time to plan its disposal. So he threw the pistol to the dust bin on the road. His basket ball skills came in handy here. It wouldn't matter if we found it out anyways. Then he quickly came down. The chaos had already begun and Ponniah and Chander were near the body. Mr.Sundaram slipped in and calmly joined them. No one would suspect for coming late as his was the last room. 

But now why kill Raghavan? I guess that is not too difficult to guess either. Mr.Sundaram had lot of faith in Raghavan. So much faith that he had entrusted his empire in his hands considering the best interests of the family and his business! He had thought that this would bring Chander in line too. But instead, Raghavan didn’t turn out to be the saint he pretended to be. I am sure for a man of Mr.Sundaram’s caliber; it wouldn’t have taken too long to figure out the real colors of Raghavan. But it was too late. He was in total control: of his daughter, his family, his business and his wealth. Mr.Sundaram had no other option but to kill Raghavan to regain all that he had lost due to one bad decision. And he was so angry that he wanted to probably kill Raghavan himself. Raghavan was an industrialist plus a womanizer. Mr.Sundaram hoped that we would go fishing for his enemies. But that was not to be!

Well, that sums up the case. Mr.Sundaram! I am really sorry. I completely understand your position but I don’t approve of your solution!” Ramanujam offered his condolences to Sunita and Chander as they accompanied their father who was taken away by Alex’s men.

“Whoa Gem! That was fast. You have made short work of it. Bravo my man!” Alex patted him on the back.

“But Alex. I guess you still have a lot of work ahead of you. There is still no strong evidence for your case to hold in a court. So better get on it!”

“Well, we will look into it. But right now, we have a more important agenda. Don’t we Martin?” Alex was all smiles. “I will get Mr.Sundaram to the police station and join you guys in an hour. Does that work?”

“I don’t know. Offer open only till stocks last!” Ramanujam and Martin burst out into laughter. 

                                                                                                                              - A SHORT STORY BY RAJ.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


** To all of you who had threatened to murder me if I don't post the next part soon! ;) As Promised!

They walked to a tea stall nearby. Alex lit his Gold Flake while Ramanujam ordered a special ginger tea. “Okay Alex. Tell me what is Sunita’s take on this!” “Well. She is crestfallen. She claims that he didn’t have any such enemies who could kill him. I asked around. There were no troubles between them. They were a very happily married couple!”

“Hmm.. Interesting! And what does Mr.Sundaram think of his son-in-law? Alex took a long puff. “I got the exact same account as Sunita. He greatly respected him. Raghavan took care of the business after him. Mr.Sundaram has even transferred Sundaram Textiles to Raghavan’s name as he had given up all hope on Chander!” 

“Oh oh. Recipe for Murder!” Ramanujam raised his eye brows as they saw Martin scurrying towards them. “Martin, my man. What have you got?” The Gold Flake had breathed some energy into Alex.

“Not much Sir. Time of murder: 10:15 – 10:45 PM. Murder weapon: A regular semi automatic! He was shot from the back. Bullet pierced through his heart. Distance: about 15 feet. The killer probably fired from somewhere near the gate or garden probably. And then he disappeared into the darkness.” Martin sounded pleased with his deduction.

“Hmm… Then it should have been an outsider or Sunita may be. Everyone else was inside the house. What do you think Gem?” Ramanujam was still staring at the gate when constable Rangasamy came running in. “Saar… we have found it. We have found the murder weapon. It was in the dustbin outside the house.”

“Good work Rangasamy. Send it for finger-prints. I am sure you will not get anything though.” Alex was scratching his head. “But why would he throw the murder weapon there?” Ramanujam’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Well, if he wanted it to be found! What if he could not keep it? What if it belonged to someone in the family? Let us talk to Chander.”

Chander was sulked in a chair staring at the ceiling. Alex took the lead this time. “I am sorry for your loss Chander. Were you close to him?” “Very close. He was the only one in the family who liked me. He used to give me my pocket money. He was not my brother-in-law. He was like a brother to me.” Chander was in tears.

“Did he give you company to your parties?” Alex pushed. “Raghavan.. no way. He wasn’t exactly a chick magnet. He was too loyal to my sister. So much that I felt it was boring. He wouldn’t even drink grape juice fearing it could be wine. Why would God take away such a good man?”

“Did anyone in the house own a pistol?” Ramanujam’s question took Chander by surprise. But he recovered quickly. “Yes. Raghavan did. But it was lost a month ago. We had filed a complaint but was never found.” “I guess it is, now! Is this the one?” Alex showed him the murder weapon. “That is it. Where did you get it?” Chander looked perplexed.

 “Well... It was the one which killed Raghavan. Tell me something. Did it have a silencer too?” Ramanujam interjected.  “Ohh err yes!” Chander’s voice was shaky. “Now why would he have a silencer?” Alex had a frown on his face. Chander was scrambling. “Well... I used to teach him shooting. We practiced in the woods behind our house, mostly in evenings. So we used a silencer to avoid scaring our neighbors and people in nearby huts.” Alex raised his eye brows but Ramanujam quickly ended the conversation. “Don’t worry. We will soon get to the bottom of this.” Ramanujam and Alex slowly walked away talking to each other in whispers.

“Someone stole his pistol just to kill him. Seems like a well planned cold blooded murder. What next, Gem?” There was something that was troubling Ramanujam. “Hmm.. Where was Raghavan coming from?”

“He was returning from work. His close friend and manager Karthik was with him. Raghavan dropped Karthik at his place and then drove back home.” Martin was looking for some recognition for his research. He got none. “Well, I think we now know who to meet next!” Ramanujam looked at Alex who ordered Martin to get the jeep. “Let us stop at the factory for 10 minutes”, added Ramanujam.

Karthik’s house was a big newly built mansion. Karthik’s wife Radhika ushered them in hesitantly but Karthik was composed in greeting them. “Mr.Karthik. Sorry to bother you at this late hour. I guess you would have probably heard about Raghavan.”  Alex was eagerly watching his reaction while Ramanujam was silently observing Radhika.

Karthik didn’t seem to take the bait. “No Inspector. What happened to him?” “He was killed at his residence about 3 hours ago. We heard that he was with you before going home. So we came here to see if you could help us with more details.” Karthik was terrified. “Oh my God. That is so unfortunate. He was my best friend. Who could have done this? I will not leave that bastard!” Radhika was looking a bit tense.

“Calm down Mr.Karthik. We will nab him very soon. How long have you been close friends with Mr.Raghavan?” Ramanujam’s eyes had found something.

“Wait a minute. Are you suspecting me?” Karthik was stuttering now. “Not yet. Don’t make us do that. Just answer our questions, please!” Alex was getting restless. “Well, I am sorry. We have been very close for about a year now.” Karthik glanced at Radhika who turned away.

“And what type of a man was Mr.Raghavan?” Ramanujam’s eyes were still fixed on Radhika.

“Well, he was a gem of a person. He was a very talented and a great leader. He was a very honest and humble. Everyone in the factory loved him. He was the bonding force in his family. Mr.Sundaram loved him so much that he had made Raghavan in charge of all his property instead of his own son Chander. He was...”

“Mr.Karthik. It would be good it you stop wasting our time and tell us the truth.” Even Alex was stunned at Ramanujam’s sudden outbreak. “What do you mean?” Karthik was gasping for air.

“Do we look as if we are fools? You joined the factory as an ordinary worker 2 years ago. We all know it takes 10 years to get to the position of a manager. But you became not only the manager but also Raghavan’s best friend in 2 years. Even someone who has been the manager for 5 years cannot afford your palatial mansion. Explain that to me, would you?” Ramanujam was on fire.

“He was impressed by my work and my ability and… and…” Clearly Karthik was out of words.

“Your wife?” There was a stunned silence in the room. “Come out with it Karthik”, yelled Ramanujam.

“Raghavan was not always a nice man. Before marrying Sunita he was a vagabond and a womanizer. He had tricked Radhika into loving him and then left her for Sunita. At that time, Radhika was pregnant with his child. I married her immediately to save her from embarrassment. Then I used it as leverage against Raghavan. I had dug up his mysterious past and had found quite a few skulls. Raghavan was a smart man and always took good care of me in every sense of the word as he realized I could be a threat to his new found image. Now why would I kill a hen that lays golden eggs for me?” Karthik had gained his composure and was looking Ramanujam in the eye.

“Okay... tell me something. You were with him until almost an hour before he was killed. Did he receive any odd calls or threats during the day? Anything unusual!” Alex interjected.

“Well, no. In fact, he had forgotten his cell phone at home.” Karthik’s statement sent Ramanujam cart-wheeling.

“What?” screamed Ramanujam. He jumped out of his seat. “Thank you very much, Karthik. Alex, come let’s go!” Alex and Martin followed him, perplexed.

“How the hell did you know about his wife?” Alex was still dumbstruck at that master stroke. “Well, I didn’t. But it was worth a shot, wasn’t it?” Ramanujam winked playfully.

“You were guessing! God... you are wicked!” Alex and Martin burst out into laughter. “Well, let us call it: “Instinct”!” corrected Ramanujam.

“Okay whatever. We are getting nowhere. Karthik seems to have no motive either. Could it be Radhika? I think we will have to look at other suspects now. He is a big shot. He could have so many enemies. Where do we start now? There should be some clue somewhere!” Alex seemed very frustrated.

“There is, my friend. There is!” Ramanujam took a moment to look at their awestruck faces. 

                                                                                                                                       - TO BE CONCLUDED

Sunday, June 3, 2012


(It has always been my dream to write a murder mystery and create my own detective character. So here it is. My first shot at it.)

It was one hell of a night. The clouds were clattering in a relentless thunder, lightning was on the lookout for trees to strike, wind was gushing ferociously and rain was pouring down mercilessly. Ramanujam was battling hard to keep his umbrella from flying into outer space, half cursing his fate that he had to work at this odd hour and half excited about the intriguing prospect of a challenge for his brain that was bored to death due to inactivity. In the mean time, Inspector Alex Pandian had taken stock of the murder in hand at the Sundaram Villa and had surveyed the body and the premises without much success. He was anxiously waiting for Ramanujam, the genius who ironically enjoyed the prospect of a murder!

“Hello Inspector. Seems like it is not going to be Happy Holidays after all!” The inspector’s sleepy eyes lit up as he saw Ramanujam. “Well, I don’t ever remember you having a vacation. They call you Ramanu-gem for a reason.”

“Okay snub. The Case?” Ramanujam was in no mood for any pep talk.

“Murder! Shot dead. Probably an hour ago. No sign of murder weapon. The bullet was found on the ground a few paces away from the body. So was his cell-phone. We’ll know more after the post-mortem and ballistics report. Martin’s on it!” Ramanujam wasn’t impressed. “Who’s the guy and what’s the dope on him?”

“Well, he apparently was a big shot industrialist. I am sure you have heard of Sundaram Textiles.” Alex pointed to the large billboard on the street.

“Yes. My wife takes me there every other week. Who knows this could be some frustrated husband’s doing! So is he Sundaram?” Ramanujam examined the dead body that was being taken out for post mortem.

“Nope, his son-in-law Raghavan. He runs the show now”, retorted Alex, a little stunned by Ramanujam’s ignorance. “Ran!” Ramanujam didn’t miss his opportunity to rub it in.

“Don’t I look irritated enough? Anyways.. Mr.Sundaram is retired now. All he does is to sit in various boards and provide professional advice. That, when he is not writing his autobiography!”

“Hmm... Interesting! Budding entrepreneur murdered at his door-step. Tell me about people in the house!” Ramanujam was assessing the house and the neighborhood.

“Mr.Sundaram has a son and a daughter. His wife is no more. His son Chander is a vagabond who graces various clubs and parties. His daughter Sunita is a renowned social worker. Her husband, Raghavan was a much respected gentleman who managed his father-in-law’s empire very expertly. Well, until someone decided to change the status-quo!”

“Lots of shades in these characters! Or may be lots of shady characters!” Ramanujam chuckled. Alex looked at him curiously. “Are you hinting an inside job?” “Relax Alex. It is dangerous to make assumptions so early. Anyone else in the house?”

“Yeah. There is Ponniah, their servant who has been here forever and then there is Jeniffer. She was apparently a homeless girl who Sunita picked up and brought home. She has been living here for almost 2 years now.”

“Aha! Who saw the body first?” Ramanujam was rolling his eyes.

“Ponniah. He heard Raghavan’s scream and ran to the door. When he opened it, he saw Raghavan on the floor soaked in blood. He died almost immediately.”

“Hmm… he heard the scream but not the gun shot. Silencer perhaps! So he was right at the door but didn’t knock it?” That seemed strange to Ramanujam.

“Someone shot him before he could do that. The killer was hiding somewhere nearby, waiting for him.” Alex’s response wasn’t convincing to Ramanujam. “But why wait here where he could have been easily caught by the inmates. He could have shot him anywhere. The whole area seems pretty deserted! Let us talk to Ponniah.”

Ponniah was crouched on the floor and looked pale with fear. “Ayya. My hands are shivering. Who could have done this dastardly act? Our chinna saar was such a noble heart. The stars are not good for our family these days.” Ramanujam put his arm around his shoulders. “We will catch the culprit Ponniah. Show me around the house, will you?”

“Yes Sir. This here is a small store room near the door. I sleep here in the night. Then you enter into the hall. There you see: the first room is our chinnayya’s: Chander. The bigger room to the right belongs to Sunita and Raghavan. Then you see the kitchen and puja room. The last room is our Sundaram ayya’s study and bedroom. Upstairs we have another room. Jeniffer stays there.”

Ramanujam was surveying the rooms and their arrangement very carefully. “So you saw the body first right? Can you tell me where the others were at the time and the exact order in which they came after they heard your scream?”

“Let me think Sir. The first one to come was Chander as his room was the closest. Sundaram Ayya came next. And finally I saw Jeniffer. Sunita was not in the house at that time. She had gone to her friend’s house.”

Ramanujam scratched his forehead. “Hmm.. No problem with the order. And did you see everyone coming from their rooms?” “I didn’t notice that clearly Saar. But where else could they have come from?” Ramanujam smiled. “Well, we will know in sometime. Tell me about everyone in the family? How were they?” “What to say saar! We were one loving family. Everyone is very close to each other. Our master sometimes had issues with Chander. But he still loved him.”

“Any health problems? Bad habits? Anything worth a mention?”, Alex interrupted to remind his presence. “Everyone in the family took to sports Saar. Our master Sundaram was a state level basket ball player. Sunita is good at badminton. Chander is good at shooting. And Raghavan was a busy bee. So no one had any illnesses. But we are all worried about Chander and his ways. He has gotten into heavy drinking and smoking. And you know: girls too.”

“How about Jeniffer? Does everyone approve of her?” Alex filled in for Ramanujam who was busy screening the family members’ reactions. “Well, initially our Master was against it. But Sunita and Raghavan were very supportive. Now she is almost like another family member Saar.”

“Thank you Ponniah. That was very helpful. Don’t worry. We will nab the culprit soon.” Ramanujam’s words seemed to put Ponniah at ease. He then turned to Alex. “Well my friend.. I am sure you would have done a preliminary inspection. Let me see how good you have gotten! " Alex knew a rapid fire round was coming his way.

“The family members. Any sign of nervousness?”
“Not really.”

“Their mourning?”   
“Seemed genuine.”

“It’s been raining for a while. Was anyone wet?”

“Not even Jeniffer? She stays upstairs right! And how about Sunita?”   

“2 dry in the coat stand. 1 wet. Sunita came back in the car. It fits.”

“Well, whose umbrella was wet?”            
“Hmm.. Sunita's! May be it doesn’t fit exactly!”

“Any back entrances to the house?”        
“One. But is locked. Key is with Ponniah. He hasn’t opened it since morning.”

 “Hmm... Smoke?”      
“Ah.. finally you asked the right question! I was dying for one.” 

                                                                                                               - TO BE CONTINUED

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