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In midst of the hustle and bustle of thousands of people coming and going towards the metro depot, I tried to locate her. As per the conversation I had with her she said that she would be dressed in black net dress with a red stole. I rechecked the time on my watch and it was the fifth time I had done that since I arrived at the metro station two hours ago. As more and more people swept by I decided to find a quiet place to sit quietly for sometime . I strolled towards the exit gate and sat on the stairs .
Now let me briefly introduce myself. I am Sanvi though it sounds a strange name for a girl like me. The meaning of my name is Goddess Lakshmi however I am from a poor family. My family resides in a remote village in uttar Pradesh and I have a younger brother and two elder sisters . My father is a farmer and works hard to make both ends meet. I wanted to study and go to school but hardly had the funds to support myself. However maybe I was lucky at one point of time an NGO came to our village and supported us for our education. I completed my twelvth class last year and came to Delhi in search of a job.
However it was not an easy task to get a job easily, each day was a struggle in the city. One day an article caught my attention “ Young girls required for a qualified job. Salary is negotiable in case you are selected “ I saw a phone number mentioned and called at this number. A lady answered she was high pitched but answered politely. She said that I need to accomplish a task and if I am able to meet the target then I will be paid a handsome salary. However only thing is I am not supposed to ask her any questions about the task. At that point of time I was jobless and agreed. She selected a weird destination for the meeting – the metro station. As I reflected I realised it could be anything starting from kidnapping murder or any illegal activity.
I woke up from my thoughts as someone tapped by back. It was a woman in black net dress with a red stole. She was a middle aged woman but had class and taste. Strong Italian perfume shrouded her as she asked ‘ are you sanvi ‘ before I could reply she seized my hand and led me through the exit gate. A black car with a chauffer was awaiting – she almost dragged me inside the car. The car started to its unknown destination.
The car travelled through unknown roads , huge buildings crowded streets and I dozed off at times. I was hungry and thirsty at the same time and smiled at her when she handed me a bottle of water. However she looked cold and remote a matter of fact businessman sort of attitude .At last the car scretched to a halt near an ancient building. The door opened and an old man servant opened the gate of the car. The lady went inside the house accompanied by me. At one time it was a splendid house but with time it had lost its glamour.
I sat on the sofa and she sat opposite me. She gazed at me from head to toe as if studying if I could accomplish the task. A strange thought passed my mind if she was dragging me to prostitution – I shivered at the thought. Finally she spoke ,” I know you need a job desperately hope you know housekeeping and cooking. You need to work at a homestay in himachalPradesh . The owner of the homestay is a man named Niraj .He is the manger as well – he has some helpers. Two to three families come to stay there every season. You will receive a salary of 12,000 along with food and accommodation. However the reason why I hired you is very different .There is a specific family that comes to spend their vacation every season from Delhi. Mr Mirza and his family – his family consists of his wife who is a lady of class and dignity. Mr Mirza is an attorney and well versed in the field of law. The reason why I am sending you there is to keep an eye on Mr Mirza what he does where he goes and with whom he spends his time. I will provide you a smart phone and you can capture photographs which you think is important . You will be paid extra for this – let me tell you in case you feel that I have not warned you- the man is dangerous “ The last sentence rang into my ears yet I agreed. I wished I had quit then and gone back home but the salary was too much for me to resist .
Things went so fast I hardly understood when my bags were packed and loaded on a car. The driver sat next to me and the trip started .The hustle and bustle of the city life gradually subsided to hills and valleys . The driver was strictly professional – he did not spoke a single word in the entire trip as if he was instructed to do so. I dozed off as the car headed on towards Solan a district in Himachal.
The driver tapped on the glass window next morning and informed me that I had reached my destination. It was a beautiful hotel with a beautiful hillside view. Home stay was written in bold letters near the entrance of the hotel. I took my luggage and headed towards the reception. A very young lad of around 20 years approached me with a smile and introduced himself as Niraj the owner of the hotel. I was expecting an aged person however smiled back and acknowledged the greeting. He guided me towards the guest room and told me to freshen up and then come for breakfast. I locked the door the room was lovely it was a huge room for a girl like me – I opened the curtains and the beautiful hills and valleys greeted me. It was indeed a beautiful place and nothing bad could happen in such a place – gods grace is there.
After freshening up I came down for breakfast, Mr Niraj was already waiting for me at the breakfast table. He discussed with me my job – I need to attend to the guests show them their room, attend to their basic needs and make their stay comfortable. I would be open to make any changes on the arrangement. I was happy with the job and secretly thought that if the woman in black had not assigned me the task to keep a track on Mr.Mirza things would have been more interesting. I smiled back at Mr Niraj and assured him that I would try my best to meet his expectations and do justice to the job. Mr Niraj said that I can take rest today and resume my duties from tomorrow. He also handed me a phone and said that I could use it as long and I continue my job here. I thanked him and went back to the guest room.
In the afternoon I strolled around the home stay. There was a single family in the hotel- Mr and Mrs Kumar with their five year old daughterRia. They were a pleasant couple and greeted me as they meet me in the garden. Beside me there was the garderner Mohan, the cook megha and the waiter Bulbul. The season was approaching and snowfall will start within a month and already there was booking for the two other rooms. I opened the register and saw Mr Mirza had booked one of the rooms. The other room was booked by a lady named Sa. As evening faded and the sun sat beside the hills , I turned to go back to my room. I saw someone peeping at me through the curtain. As I came near the entrance mrNiraj meet me. His smile was friendly as usual. “ lets have a cup of coffee if you are not in a hurry” I accompanied him to the wodden chair below the umbrella . It was a beautiful to look at the view from there. Mr Niraj informed me that his father had set up a chain of hotels in Himachal Pradesh and he takes care of the other hotels. Niraj had been given the responsibility to take care of this hotel since January and he is trying his best to do his job well. I replied,” do not worry you are doing a wonderful job….things are very organized and I am sure the guests would love to spend few quiet evenings here. He asked about my life in delhi and I gave him a few details excluding the mentioning about the lady in Black. Before he could ask further questions I excused myself and went back to my room .
The next morning I awoke as my phone rang for the first time. It was the woman in black and she informed me Mr.Mirza would arrive the next morning. I replied that I would get on with the work that she had assigned me. The next morning Mr Mirza arrived with his beautiful blonde wife . As they entered the reception I welcomed them and lead them to their assigned room. Mr Mirza looked a middle aged handsome man of forty. His wife was dressed elegantly and looked much younger to him . I returned to the reception and saw a very beautiful woman at the reception waiting with a black coloured huge suitcase. I realised that she is the woman who had booked the adjoining room. Her I greeted her with a warm smile. Then I lead her to her room, I noticed her suitcase was exceptionally large if she had come for a short duration I wondered how much clothing she carried, though it was none of my business.
After I left her, I went near Mr Mirza s room . They were speaking in loud voices as if aurguing with each other . Mrs મિર્ઝા said ,” At least when you come for a vacation refrain from taking to the slut who seems the sole interest of your existence. “ MrMirza tried to assure that it was a business call. I tiptoed to the reception. So I guess it was a third party situation and there was the other woman involved. Mrs Mirza looked sophisticated and I wondered why Mr Mirza would go for the other woman. I kept an eye on them they pretended to be a very happy couple but they were not.
The next morning I woke up with the phone ringing . It was the woman in black. I told her whatever I knew and she told me to keep a close eye on Mr.Mirza if he went out. I did accordingly. I started the day being at the reception as usual. I saw shyna the beautiful lady who arrived that day before Mr mirza arrived. She smiled as she walked past the reception. Then arrived Mr Mirza after sometime dressed in an elegant suit . He winked at me and passed by. After sometime I followed. Shyana walked through a narrow trail passed the hills – the road lead to a small lake. Mr Mirza followed. I walked behind a short distance. Is this the woman Mr Mirza was secretly dating,
Both finally stopped near the lake. I stood behind a tree and watched. She took out a packet from her purse and handed it over to Mr Mirza. He took it quickly and hid it in his coat pocket. Without saying another word, he walked away towards the hotel. I followed Mr Mirza to his room just to check the contents of the packet. I knocked his room after few minutes and informed him that I had come to clean the room. Mrs Mirza was nowhere to be seen. When I saw a suitable moment I opened the packet. There was a powdery substance inside it probably drugs and it was written in a small piece of paper “ 10th of this month lets get it done . near the lake at 5pm. “
I went back to y room and wondered what I should do. I had to call the woman in black without further delay. I called her and informed her about the envelope and the plan that will be executed on10th of this month. The lady in black told me that she will be there in Shimla by 10th and together we will go to the place . I was much relieved .
The next few days I followed Mr Mirza but he did not speak to Shyana and pretended as if he did not know her. Finally the woman in Black arrived on 9th as promised. In the evening she called me to her room. I saw Mr Niraj also sitting there. They greeted me as I entered. The woman in Black finally revealed the truth. She was a detective working on the strange case of Mr.Mirza. Mrs Mirza had hired her as she felt her life was not safe as she had a huge property and if she died Mr Mirza would inherit the entire property. Things now got crystal clear so the woman in Black hired me to keep a tab on Mr Mirza.
The next evening MrNiraj, a police officer me and the woman in Black hid ourselves near the lake around 5 pm. After sometime we say Mr and Mrs mirza walking towards the lake. As they almost reached the lake Mr Mirza suddenly took out a gun. Before he could do anything we came out of our hiding places The policeman arrested Mr Mirza while we took Mrs Mirza safely to the hotel. Shyana had already checked out and probably she planned to meet Mr Mirza on the way. The policeman nabbed her and both she and Mr Mirza were taken to the policestation. It also came out that they supplied drugs and ran a business in delhi.
The woman in Black paid me handsomely and congratualated me that I had helped her in solving the case. Then she asked me if I would prefer to continue working here or work on a new case with her in Delhi. I thought for sometime and told her that I would prefer to work wier and help her solving the cases in days to come. So I finally got a reputed job and home . I bade goodbye to Mr Niraj and could see the gleam of sadness in his eyes as I left for Delhi in the car. I viewed the setting sun as the Home stay moved further and further away from my sight as the car moved away.
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Anita Bhattacharjee Books
by Anita Bhattacharjee
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