If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error– John Kenneth Galbraith

 

Arthur Jail was different from anything Josh had ever imagined. Not that Josh had ever had reason to imagine what the inside of a jail looked like. But a steady stream of novels, movies and TV serials had put some images of what a jail should look like in his mind. For one, he was expecting a green lawn and some prisoners tending it in prison issued overalls. More importantly, he had this notion of a spick and span place kept scrubbed clean by using the free labor of the inmates. Josh mulled over his notions as he sat dazed in the back of Inspector Goels jeep as it raced through the city with its blaring siren and red lights on.

In actual fact, Arthur Road Jail turned out to be almost the exact opposite of everything he expected. Perhaps it was because of Mumbai – a city where everything everywhere was invariably underwhelming. The gates were remarkably puny and unimpressive almost to the point where they ought to be called doors instead of gates. They were protected by a solitary impressively-mustached guard who had a machine gun slung over his shoulder like a kid’s schoolbag. The moustache was probably scarier than the machine gun. Josh had been expecting a big metal clangy gate to swivel open with a loud screech. A gate like he had seen in every Amitabh movie when the hero is released after his undeserved jail term or the villain is released to unleash a climactic round of devilry before he is destroyed by Amitabh’s whirling fists and swinging roundhouse kicks. But these gates did not clang or screech as they opened. And as Josh entered, he saw that there was no garden either. A small dumpy building stood there. It was coated in the usual cracked black colored soot that most Mumbai buildings were coated in. A small board above the building proclaimed it to be the Mumbai Madhyavarti Karagrah in large Marathi letters and Mumbai Central Prison is smaller English letters. Clearly, the movement for indigenization of names had swept through this place too and Arthur Road Jail was a name that only lived on in people’s memories.

Inspector Goel entered the building with a smug expression on his face. Behind him, the four constables took turns pulling their trophy prisoner behind them. The trophy prisoner himself would have walked the entire way easily if it were not for each of the constables. In a bid to pull rank, each of them indulged in a tug of war and was trying to pull Josh closer to himself. This primal tug of war meant that Josh was jostled, bumped and pushed the entire way from the jeep to the building. And having reached the building now, Josh was glad the walk was over. Surely, now someone would give him a chance to identify himself and sort out whatever confusion had caused him to be arrested. No one had given him a chance to speak from the moment he had seen the pistols in his face and spilt his tea all over his new shirt. The Miranda rights from every American detective TV series had clearly not made their way to the Indian police force yet.

“So, Mr. Lohia what kind of name is this? Josh? What is your full and real name?” started Inspector Goel in chaste Marathi with a few additional interjections thrown in for good measure. “Sorry Sir, I don’t speak Marathi. English? Hindi?” queried Josh. Surprisingly, the inspector knew his name. Which meant that it was definitely not a case of mistaken identity then? This was not good. It meant that this would now take a long time to sort out. ”English, eh? So you’re a gentleman eh?” Josh highly doubted that he was going to receive any gentlemanly treatment after this disclosure. English speaking criminals were rare enough. Criminals who spoke fluent English would be so rare that he was sure he was going to get the full dose of gentlemanly treatment now. This was not looking good. In fact, at this point, this whole thing was looking very bad indeed.

“Look, Inspector Goel, can I just make a phone call, please? It’s my right isn’t it?”

“Your right! You’re going to tell me your rights? Wait, I will tell you your rights in a minute. I am just waiting for Circle Inspector Dalwinder to join me. Ah there he is! Welcome Circle Inspector Dalwinder. This is the famous Josh Lohia – the man everyone wants to meet. He had some questions about his rights. I told him you will tell him about his rights in a minute.” The diminutive Goel was positively beaming by now. He seemed several inches taller than the 5ft 6 inches that his Police ID Card listed him at. He was definitely happy with himself.

Circle Inspector Dalwinder was unhappy, scowling and definitely not 5 feet 6 inches. He was so big and round that his subordinates called him “Circle D” behind his back. He had made a career out of cross-examining criminals and he certainly looked cross today. Scarily, the hammer in his hand looked a whole lot unhappier than him. Josh shuddered at the realization that he had indeed figured things out correctly. This whole thing was looking very bad indeed.

“So you are Josh Lohia?” bellowed Dalwinder

“Yes Sir. There has been some misunderstanding. I used to be a banker…”

“Oye! Shut Up! Don’t tell me who you are. I will tell you what you are. You are a killer murderer. You have killed 2 people last night and you have the guts to be telling me who you are going to be? ” Clearly Circle Inspector Dalwinder was too excited to be worried about his grammar.

“Look sir…”
“Oye you look. Look this hammer. Look this going up and coming down…..” And with that he raised the hammer above like a judge bringing his court to order and struck Josh on the knee with a mighty whack. And then he did it again on the other knee. Josh was wearing jeans and they were clearly not built to withstand this despite their highly advertised rough-and-toughness. Neither were his knees built to withstand a bulbous policeman attacking them with a hammer. Josh screamed loudly in pain and the policeman slapped him immediately.

“Did you stop last night when your taxi driver and ex-colleague screamed for mercy? Did you stop when the trader you met at Soul Fry screamed for his life while you burnt him alive? Did you stop when your ex-boss was gasping for air as you strangled him with a pillow in his sleep…“. Circle Inspector Dalwinder shouted as he raised his hammer once again. Josh passed out.

Yet again a criminal had passed out even before Circle Inspector Dalwinder had got started. He hated how criminals nowadays had such low thresholds of pain resistance. This one had just set a new low record. 1 minute and forty five seconds was all that this one had lasted. Circle D was feeling quite deflated.

Josh could not believe this was happening to him. This was the kind of stuff that he had not even imagined in his worst nightmares. This was truly bizarre stuff. He had clearly lost all sensation and hence could no longer feel any pain in his legs. His left knee looked like it was completely destroyed. Blood had made the entire jeans turn black and gooey and there was no clear distinction between flesh and cloth where his patella was. And this Inspector looked like he was waiting for his eyes to refocus so he could hit him again. The very thought made Josh pass out. Again.

When he finally came to his senses, Josh could feel his knees. It felt like a dozen icy daggers were being inserted into his knees simultaneously. The pain was intolerable. Surprisingly, however, the knees were nicely bandaged and looked almost nice. White and clean except for the tell-tale bloodstain in the middle of the bandages. What was truly nice was that the inspector had seemed to have disappeared. In his place, there was a truly nice looking lady in a clean police uniform who stood by his side along with Inspector Goel. Inspector Goel seemed eager to make sure that his prize trophy was alive and well. The lady just seemed to be one of those people who have niceness written all over them. Her eyes were warm and twinkling and her smile was genuine.

“How are you feeling?“ she asked quietly. He almost could not believe his ears. He had expected further questioning about the murders that everyone knew he had committed.

“Not good at all and very confused. Can someone tell me what is going on please? And where is that monster?” He looked around furtively to see if the hammer wielding maniac was around.

“He’s been taken off this case as of now. I’m in charge currently. And Inspector Goel here will be assisting me since he is the arresting officer. But I’m in charge” she said, looking firmly at Inspector Goel who was looking at his shoes. Inspector Goel did not seem to be in any doubt about who was in charge of this case.

“I don’t understand…”

“Mr. Josh Lohia. Can we have a discussion on where you have been last night? You are currently being accused of no less than 5 murders over the last year. You are especially wanted for the death of 2 people last night. I am your only hope. Tell me about yourself?” Josh immediately knew that this “Tell me about yourself” question was far more important today than it had ever been in any of the job interviews that he had aced before.

Back to Chapter 1: Storm in a Teacup

Go to Chapter 3: Past Present Continuous Tense

Don’t you simply hate Circle Inspector Dalwinder. You could show your support for Josh by directly buying the book – enough with the samples. Click here to buy the full book today itself.

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