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DEV PRASAD

T HE C UR S E O F S URYA
RANDOM HOUSE INDIA
Contents

A note on the Author

Prologue

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Epilogue

Acknowledgements

A Note about the Book

Follow Random House

Copyright
A Note on the Author
Dev Prasad is a senior IT professional
currently working in Bangalore. He has
held senior management positions at
various European and American
multinational corporations.
His debut book, Krishna: A Journey
through the Lands and Legends of
Krishna, was longlisted for the 2010
Vodafone Crossword Award. His second
book, Pitch It!, won the second prize at
the prestigious ISTD Book Award in
2014. It was also shortlisted for the Tata
Literature Live! Business Book of the
Year Award in 2014.
Dev is passionate about working for
underprivileged children and loves
cricket, badminton, table tennis and
chess. He can be contacted at
dev.prasad63@gmail.com.
Prologue

Mathura
19 January 2015, 1.30 p.m.

I need to close all the doors and the


main gates before I head home. Why
cant these people leave sooner?
wondered the head priest of the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple as he looked at his
watch impatiently. He needed to be back
at the temple by 4 p.m. after lunch and
his siesta to open it once again for the
evening tourists.
It was 1.30 p.m., well past the closing
hours but the temple complex was still
crowded. Some visitors had just entered
and were at the Keshav Dev Temple.
Some were standing in the middle of the
prison cell, possibly wondering if this
was really the place where their god
was born thousands of years ago.
The Krishna Janmasthan Temple in
Mathura is one of the most famous and
illustrious temples in India. As the name
indicates, this was the place where Lord
Krishna was born more than five
thousand years ago. Located around fifty
metres above the ground, on a small
hillock, this is not a solitary temple but a
vast expanse that houses three temples.
Visitors had to climb a steep ramp at the
entrance to reach the complex. The
famous prison where Krishna was born
has been converted into a temple and it
stands in the centre of the complex. It is
flanked by the ancient Keshav Dev
Temple on the left and the modern Radha
Krishna Temple on the right.
The head priest walked towards the
gigantic brass bell hung at the other end
of the courtyard. He caught the coir rope
tied to the bell and began to tug at it. As
the bell began to boom across the
courtyard, the security guards got up
from their seats and dispersed in
different directions, asking the tourists to
leave. Reluctantly, the tourists made
their way down the ramp, towards the
huge metallic gates at the exit.
The head priest sighed with relief as
he shut the main door. This had become
a daily ritual. None of the tourists left
the complex unless the security guards
chased them out. He walked past the
prison cell on his way towards the
Radha Krishna Temple. The prison cell
was the most sacred and austere-looking
portion of the temple complex. It was
rarely closed because it had neither
jewels nor gold-covered deities. The
head priest quickly made his way to the
Radha Krishna Temple and closed the
main door facing the altar, descended the
ramp and headed for the exit.
A few metres away, Tenzing got up
from his hiding place. He was crouching
below the stone slab in the prison cell.
Since this room did not house any
deities, the temple priests and security
guards rarely checked for any tourists at
closing time. Tenzing dusted himself and
looked around. Everyone had left. He
looked at his watch. 1.45 p.m. He had
approximately two hours to complete his
task.
His mind went back to the events of
the past few days. None of his
colleagues knew that he was an active
member of the banned Tibet Liberation
Front. When his manager asked him if he
was willing to travel to India to cover an
important event at Agra, Tenzing
grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
He was well aware that Agra was just
fifty kilometres from Mathura, the town
that he had been planning to visit. He
could not have got a better opportunity
than this. The timing too had been
perfect. Its location will be revealed to
the whole world tomorrow. If I manage
to find it today and donate it to the
Tibet Liberation Front, we will no
longer have to depend on other
countries to fund our freedom
movement.
Tenzing quickly pushed back these
thoughts and began to concentrate on the
pending work. He had his back to the
stone slab and was facing the huge
grilled door. He guessed that this must
be the door to the secret passageway.
Tenzing removed his huge gum boots and
slid the sole of one of the shoes to reveal
a small compartment. It was equipped
with the tools required to break open
locks. He sat down on the floor and
inspected the lock on the grilled door.
After studying the keyhole for a couple
of minutes, he pulled a key out from the
toolkit.
Thirty minutes into the task, Tenzing
realized that he had grossly
underestimated the effort required. He
had tried a variety of keys with different
combinations but to no avail. He had
even filed portions of a key and altered
its shape to suit the lock. It was of no
use. There was no sound of levers
moving. It appeared as if the lock was
just one huge mass of iron.
Does this lock have any levers at
all? Is there some other mechanism to
open it?
Tenzings mind was clouded with
these thoughts when he suddenly heard a
noise. He shot a glance at his watchit
was only 2.15 p.m.
The head priest usually arrives at 4
p.m. So who can it be?
Tenzing felt a sudden rush of blood.
He sprang to his feet and darted towards
the stone slab fixed on the other side of
the prison cell. Just as he tried to crouch
below the stone slab, he saw a figure
walking towards him slowly.
What are you doing here? the voice
asked. Tenzing noticed a gun in his hand.
Tenzing remained silent. He was not a
professional robber and was certainly
not used to being accosted like this. His
mind was filled with trepidation. Is he
one of the security guards? What
should I reply? Should I run?
The voice repeated the question. This
time it was firmer and louder.
Tenzing replied hesitantly, I was not
aware that the temple closes in the
afternoon. I was in this room when they
locked the door. I am trapped inside.
The prison cell is never locked. Not
even in the afternoons, the voice replied
coldly.
Thats true. How stupid of me!
Tenzing was still thinking about his
response when the voice asked, Are
you hunting for the Shyamantaka?
How does he know? Who is he?
He had been told that the temple
closed daily for a few hours in the
afternoon and there would be absolutely
no one inside. Even the security guards
locked the main gates and left for lunch.
Breaking the lock open and accessing
the passageway would be a cakewalk,
his chief had said.
Something had gone horribly wrong.
As the man approached him, Tenzing
could feel the sweat trickling down his
back. He was unarmed except for a
couple of pliers and screwdrivers. He
looked around in panic for something he
could use to defend himself.
This room is barren; its no use, the
voice remarked, as if reading his mind.
I got trapped here by mistake. Allow
me to leave . . . please, Tenzing
pleaded.
The voice cackled, You came hunting
for the Shyamantaka and you will get it.
Tenzing heard the gentle squeeze of
the trigger and within seconds a bullet
pierced his chest. Clutching himself in
agony, he hit the floor inches away from
the grilled door. Oh God! I have been
shot. I must not die without finishing
my mission.
If Tenzing had known what was going
to happen next, he would have wished he
were dead.
1
Singapore
20 January 2015, 4.30 a.m.

Cmon, catch me if you can! You may


have long legs but I have the speed,
screamed Susan as she climbed the
slopes of the snow-clad Alps. Her friend
Sangeeta followed in hot pursuit.
Susan took a sudden turn to the left
and descended the slope. Sangeeta
realized it too late, heading straight.
Before she knew it, she had collided
with a tree. She could feel herself
hurling down the slope. As she tumbled
down, she heard Susan roaring with
laughter.
The phone rang and Sangeeta woke up
with a start. I have been dreaming.
She and her best friend and colleague
Susan Lee had planned a holiday to
Switzerland. A week in Interlaken and
Lucerne. How does that sound to you?
Susan had asked her a few days back.
Sangeeta had her doubts, Sounds
awesome but not sure if Boss will agree
to both of us going on vacation at the
same time.
Susan had laughed, The old bear will
agree; we have done it in the past. I have
bought tickets for next week. It is the
Chinese New Year and he knows we
wont have much work during that
period. The entire city shuts down.
Susan was right. Having lived in
Singapore for five years, she knew that
the Chinese New Year in Singapore was
equivalent to Diwali in India or
Christmas in Europe. Everyone went on
a vacation. Schools, colleges and offices
would be closed for a week. Even the
President and his ministers often went on
holiday, so there was hardly anything to
report.
This was a week back. The persistent
ringing of the phone brought her back to
the present.
Sangeeta looked at her watch. It was
4.30 a.m. She groaned. It must be Susan,
asking me to finish packing and get
ready to leave for the airport. We still
have seven hours. Trust Miss
Methodical to wake me up so early!

Sangeeta Rao had come to Singapore


exactly five years ago. Armed with a
postgraduation degree in mass
communication and journalism, she had
landed a plum job as the assistant editor
at Channel 7, Singapores biggest and
most prestigious TV network. Her good
looks and poise had soon landed her the
chance to be a reporter at prestigious
events around the world.
During her association with Channel
7, she had grown very close to Susan, an
immigrant from Hong Kong, now settled
in Singapore. Their friendship always
amazed their colleagues because she and
Susan were very different. Sangeeta was
tall and olive-complexioned. Her height
accentuated her slim figure. She had
curly, brown hair that gently kissed her
shoulders. When she walked down the
long corridors of the Channel 7 office,
she could always feel the male eyes
admiring her furtively. In contrast, Susan
was short and plump. Her head was
barely above Sangeetas shoulders. Her
straight black hair was cut short and,
from a distance, she could be mistaken
for a college boy. The difference was
not just in looks but in their personalities
as well. Though Sangeeta was feisty, she
was a disorganized girl and a poor
planner. Most of her decisions, including
critical ones, had been quite impulsive.
She always followed her heart. Susan,
on the other hand, was very methodical
and clinical in her approach. She would
always weigh her options before
arriving at a decision.
Sangeeta was still cursing Susan as
she picked up her mobile phone and
barked, SUSAN! For Gods sakeit is
still 4.30 a.m.! Let me grab some sleep!
You know I dont sleep on planes.
Sangeeta, this is Michael. I need you
in my office. Immediately.
Michael Wong! Her boss! Why was he
calling her at this hour?
Uh . . . Chief, do you know what the
time is? Besides, I am on vacation from
today. Susan and I are flying to
Switzerland in a few hours.
I know, Sangeeta. Something terrible
has happened. Could you just come to
my office right now?
Sangeeta was puzzled and worried.
She knew that Michael Wong was not a
person who woke his employees at 4.30
in the morning unless it was something
serious.
She replied, Sure, I will be there.
As she stood in the shower, Sangeeta
wondered what could have possibly
gone wrong. Michael was aware that she
was on vacation from today. It must be
something very important. She couldnt
wait to find out.
2
Mathura
19 January 2015

The head priest returned to the Krishna


Janmasthan Temple, braced for the huge
crowds that would throng the temple for
the next five hours. Parking his vehicle
close to the huge metallic gates at the
entrance, he stopped at the security
check. Though the security guards knew
him well, it did not stop them from
checking his bags daily. It was a ritual
that the head priest had gotten used to.
As a habit, the head priest would first
open the Keshav Dev Temple and then
walk across the long corridor on the
right towards the prison cell. He would
then proceed to the Radha Krishna
Temple where he would begin
preparations for the prayers.
Today was an important day as he had
to get the temple complex spruced up.
The All Saints World Religions
Conference was being held for the first
time in India and that too in the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple. Although it was one
of the most sacred places in India, it had
received a lot of flak from the press for
its poor maintenance. But not tomorrow.
The priest was determined to change this
image and show the world how clean
and well maintained it could be. If the
foreign dignitaries and the press were
impressed, the positive media coverage
might even bring in more donations from
the Indian diaspora. It was worth the
effort, he thought.
After a quick bow to the idols of
Radha and Krishna in the Keshav Dev
Temple, he hurried towards the prison
cell. As he passed through the corridor,
he noticed a pool of red liquid on the
white granite floor. This was not unusual
because the deities were bathed daily in
the sacred, red-coloured kumkum water.
But as he walked across the long
corridor, he realized that the red liquid
was coming from the prison cell and not
the Keshav Dev Temple. Baffled, he
stopped and looked around.
The prison cell has no deities, so
where did this come from?
Before he could take a step forward,
he heard some movement in the prison
cell. A masked man was tearing down
the hallway in his direction. The priest
tried to dodge him but it was too late. He
crashed straight into him with a huge
thud, and both of them went sprawling
on the wet floor. The masked man was
quicker of the two. Before the priest
could lift himself off the ground, he had
sprung to his feet and dashed down the
corridor. By the time the priest slowly
stood up and turned, the intruder had
vanished.
The priest looked around, stunned.
What was a spotless white kurta and
dhoti a minute back was now a rumpled
mess, drenched in red. Who is this man?
What was he doing in the prison cell?
He decided to investigate.
Quickening his pace, the priest
followed the red trail. As he reached the
end of his trail, he gave a loud gasp. The
motionless body of a man with
Mongoloid features lay in front of him,
blood oozing from his chest. Even as he
gave out a loud shriek, the head priest
noticed a shining red object on the dead
mans chest. It looked like a huge ruby
the size of a tennis ball. What was a ruby
doing on the mans chest?
The prison cell was not lit well
enough for the old priests failing
eyesight. He slowly ambled to the altar
and lit an oil lamp. Carrying the oil lamp
in his left hand, he walked back to the
dead body lying in a pool of blood. He
bent down and picked up the red object
lying on the dead mans chest. His
scream was loud enough to send tremors
across the entire town. It had taken him
less than ten seconds to realize that the
mans chest had been torn apart and that
he was, in fact, holding the dead mans
heart.
3
Singapore
20 January 2015

She slipped on a white shirt and a pair


of jeans, and looked in the mirror.
Though she was around thirty-two, her
soft skin and slender figure hid her age
well. She had been mistaken for a
college student on more than one
occasion. She wondered about what kind
of make-up to wear but finally decided
not to apply any. She did not want to
keep her boss waiting.
Let me meet Michael first. I might
even be able to grab a few more hours
of sleep before I board the flight.
Sangeeta grabbed her bag and rushed
out of the door. Within minutes, she was
out of the brick-coloured Orchard Scotts
Deluxe Apartments, one of the poshest
apartment complexes in the Newton
area. The apartments had all the
amenities one could dream of
temperaturecontrolled swimming pools,
a gymnasium and fitness centre, banks,
ATMs, restaurants, a library,
supermarket, bowling alley, tennis courts
and even a mini golf course!
The complex housed CEOs, vice
presidents and directors of top
multinational companies. Despite the
exorbitant rent, Sangeeta preferred to
stay here for two reasonsit was close
to her office and it was close to the MRT
station. She could reach any part of
Singapore in a few minutes.
The computer-controlled gate at the
entrance was locked. She swiped her
card and punched her password into the
console kept at the security room. Within
a couple of seconds, a window popped
up on the monitor. She placed her hand
on the screen and allowed the console to
scan her fingerprints. By the time
Sangeeta came out of the security room,
the main gate was already open. She
crossed the completely deserted Scotts
Road and headed for the Newton MRT
station.
I am the only fool to be reporting for
work at 5 a.m. And that too when I am
supposed to be on vacation!
As she entered the station, she could
hear the sound of an approaching MRT
train. She looked at the LCD display on
the wall. It was a YishunCity Hall train
arriving on platform number 2. She ran
down the escalator, two steps at a time.
By the time she reached the platform, the
train was waiting with its doors open.
She jumped into the compartment that
was closest to the escalator. Though
most seats were vacant, she didnt
bother sitting since the Orchard MRT
station was just a few minutes away.
Orchard Road is a famous two-
kilometre stretch which is considered to
be the retail and entertainment hub of
Singapore. It is undoubtedly one of the
most popular tourist attractions with
some of the leading shopping malls like
ION Orchard, Wisma Atria,
Takashimaya, Ngee Ann City and The
Paragon located here. The malls are
interspersed with five-star hotels like
Holiday Inn, Grand Hyatt, Hilton,
Shangri-La and Concorde. Apart from
these, Orchard Road also houses many
embassies and consulates and corporate
offices of most multinational companies,
making it the central business district.
As Sangeeta got down from the train,
she heard her phone ring. It was Michael
Wong. Whats taking you so long? He
sounded impatient.
Sorry, Chief. Just arrived at Orchard
MRT. Ill be there in five minutes, she
replied.
Hurry, otherwise you will miss your
flight, he said and hung up.
As Sangeeta ran out of the station,
Michaels words rang in her ears. You
will miss your flight.
Her flight to Switzerland was only in
the afternoon. It did not make any sense
to her. She sighed. Michaels growing
old.
Her office was two blocks away from
the Orchard Road MRT station. Being a
TV journalist and an anchor often meant
staying late in office and Sangeeta was
accustomed to seeing Singapores
busiest road quiet and deserted. Today
was one such instance. The only activity
was the blinking of the traffic lights and
the flashing of neon lights outside the
malls.
The office of Channel 7 stood out
from the rest. It was a majestic white
building that could easily be mistaken
for the Parliament. Huge iron gates
greeted Sangeeta at the entrance. Around
twenty OB vans stood in line. The flags
of various countries decorated the path
that led to the main building. The terrace
of the imposing edifice was the size of a
football field and contained more than
fifty satellite dishes.
Sangeeta swiped her ID at the gate
and peered into the camera that captured
the biometric details of her retina. As the
gates opened, she crossed the lush green
vegetation that led to the office building.
Ignoring the persistent ringing of her
mobile phone, Sangeeta broke into a jog.
The dome-shaped ceiling and exquisitely
etched glass chandeliers gave the
reception area the look of a modern
palace. A small fountain with three stone
lions at the centre of the hall reminded
her of one of the ancient fountains that
adorned the streets of Rome. Visitors
often wondered if they were inside the
office of a TV broadcaster or in an
ancient European museum. Sangeeta
never failed to admire the grand hall
each time she passed it.
But today was different. She could
only think about the unusual phone call
from her boss. She raced across the
lobby and pressed the elevator button
impatiently.
The night-duty receptionist glanced at
her, Good morning, madam. Everyone
seems to be early today. First the
director, and now you.
Sangeeta sighed. Good question.
What the hell am I doing here? I should
be in bed.
She reached the fourth floor and
hurried down the corridor till she
reached the ebony-coloured wooden
door with a gold-painted nameplate that
prominently displayed Director in
black letters.
Sangeeta knocked gently and entered.
The huge fifty-by-forty-feet room had
always intimidated Sangeeta. Big
enough for an entire family to live in. A
gigantic teak table with fifteen chairs
occupied one end of the room. This was
used by Wong to conduct his weekly
executive meetings. The numerous TV
screens on the wall flashed the entire
time. A white screen fixed to the wall
was connected to the LCD projector that
hung from the ceiling.
On the opposite end of the room was
another huge table with a swivel chairs
made of soft brown leather. Michael
Wong was sitting at the desk with his
hands on his head. He was fifty-two but,
today, he somehow looked older.
What happened, Chief? Sangeeta
asked.
Wong looked up and their eyes met.
One look at his face and she knew he
had not slept the whole night.
He began, Tomorrow, the President
will be travelling to India. He will first
visit the Taj Mahal at Agra. There, he
will be meeting his Indian counterpart,
followed by an official dinner. After a
nights rest, they head to New Delhi on
the twenty-second. There is a series of
meetings planned with the Indian prime
minister, defence minister and the
foreign affairs minister. Any questions?
Yes! Why are you telling me all this?
No, Chief. Please continue.
This is the first visit by a Singapore
President to India in over two decades.
As you are aware, India and Singapore
have emerged as global leaders in the
field of information technology, so this
visit is being watched keenly by all the
Western countries. All the top TV
networks will be covering this visit.
He paused and looked at Sangeeta.
She still looked blank.
He continued, We are one of the
leading TV networks in Singapore and
our presence is of prime importance.
Sangeeta lifted her eyebrows, And?
She was feeling sleepy and wanted to go
back home as soon as possible.
Wong took a deep breath, I would
like you to go to India immediately and
cover the trip.
Sangeeta was sure she had heard him
wrong.
What? . . . Me? Why? she blurted.
Wong rose from his chair and walked
towards the window. He could see a few
cars plying on Orchard Road.
You will be the reporter. Vincent
Chan, who is currently in the US, will be
your backup. He will join you tomorrow
in Agra, he said.
Wong always ensured that he had two
anchors at important events. Be prepared
for risks and contingencies, he would
always say.
Sangeeta was beginning to lose her
temper.
Chief! Why me? You are aware that I
am on vacation from today. Susan and I
will be celebrating the Year of the Sheep
on the Swiss Alps.
Wong was still looking out of the
window. Gazing at the sun ascending the
horizon, he replied softly, I know you
had planned a trip to Switzerland. But
the reporter for this event, unfortunately,
wont be able to make it and I need a
quick replacement. It takes a minimum of
two days to get an Indian visa. Since you
have an Indian passport, you are the only
one on the team who can travel
immediately.
Sangeeta was still upset. She glared at
Wong. Who is the reporter? Why cant
he make it to this high-profile event?
Wong turned and faced Sangeeta,
Tenzing was the reporter I had sent to
India. He was found murdered yesterday
afternoon in Mathura.
4
London
20 January 2015

Thousands of miles away, a British


Airways flight was cruising over
Greece. The flight had left London at
6.30 p.m. the previous day and was
scheduled to reach New Delhi at 10 a.m.
Alan Davies was unable to sleep. His
thoughts took him to the conversation he
had had with his boss a few hours ago.
He was alone in the restaurant
finishing his lunch when he received a
call from Margaret Gordon.
Where are you, Alan? Boss wants to
see you immediately in his office.
Davies groaned. You cant even eat in
peace. Damn these mobile phones!
Tell him Ill be there in ten, he
replied.
Davies sank his teeth for one last time
into his tuna sandwich when his mobile
phone beeped. It was a text message
from Margaret: Make it five. Boss says
its urgent.
Staring at the message, he cursed
under his breath. He pushed his plate
away, paid the bill and hurried towards
his office. His office was just around the
corner from the restaurant. He inserted
his ID in a slot in the elevator in his
office. The elevator had no buttons and
each identity card was programmed to a
specific floor to prevent unauthorized
persons from using the elevator.
Soon, he was at Margarets desk.
Any idea what this is all about? he
asked.
Margaret smiled. My lips are
sealed.
Davies clucked his tongue and said
teasingly, Want me to unseal them for
you?
Margaret laughed. She always
enjoyed the lighthearted banter with
Davies. With mock anger, she said, Get
in there! Boss is waiting for you. If he
catches you here, both of us will lose
our jobs.
Davies sighed, I wish! We can go on
a Caribbean cruise. Just you and me.
Before Margaret could respond, he
had opened the door and walked into
David Smiths office.
David Smith was a short, stocky man
with steel-grey eyes, curved nose and
thick eyebrows that covered a major part
of his small round face. He was always
dressed immaculately in well-tailored
suits. He stood up and shook hands with
Davies.
Gesturing him to sit down, Smith
looked enquiringly at him. Drink?
Davies shook his head, Just had
lunch.
Tea, perhaps? You should try some
green tea, good for health.
Without waiting for Davies reply, he
called Margaret on the intercom asking
for two cups of tea.
Davies winced. He had worked with
Smith long enough to realize that all this
was a build-up to something important.
Perhaps an unexpected journey.
He had barely taken a sip of the green
tea when Smith began, Alan, I need you
to travel on an urgent assignment today.
Davies had gotten used to such
demands. During his initial days, he had
found it extremely difficult to travel
without proper planning. But Smith had
said on numerous occasions, In our kind
of job, we cant plan. We receive orders
from above; our job is to simply execute
them. Family and personal life dont
matter to us. All our activities need a
high degree of secrecy and speed, and
there is no space for emotions and
attachments.
Davies had been groomed by Smith
for his role. He never questioned
Smiths decisions. His job was to
execute what Smith asked of him.
Where is it this time? Davis asked.
A country you love. A country you
have visited many times in the past,
Smith smiled.
Davies grimaced. We have been
working together for ten years. I have
never questioned his decisions nor
refused his assignments but he never
fails to drop his sales pitch on me.
Whats this assignment about?
Davies was now getting curious.
Ms Gordon will hand you a folder
that contains your flight tickets to India
and details of your assignment. You will
have sufficient time during your flight to
study and get familiar with your mission.
Your hotel is booked at Agra, fifty
kilometres from Mathura. Though
Mathura is the place of action, staying in
Agra will be less conspicuous. Of
course, as always, speed and secrecy is
the key. We need to find the Shyamantaka
before anyone else does. For your
information, many organizations from
different countries are also after it.
Needless to add, we want to be the first
ones to find it. I hope you understand?
Davies nodded, still absorbing the
details. I have not understood anything,
he wanted to blurt out.
Good. Ah! One last point. You will
be travelling as a professor of Oxford
University. A teacher of ancient history
and classical archaeology, Smith said.
What? A professor of archaeology?
Davies had not intended to question
Smith but the words came out before he
realized.
When you are hunting for the
Shyamantaka, this is the best disguise for
you. Obviously, you cant go around
revealing your true identity, Smith
replied. He got up from his chair,
indicating that the meeting was over.
Right, Boss. Off I go. Davies
marched out of Smiths office.
Margaret was waiting for him with a
dossier in hand. This folder contains the
assignment description and your flight
tickets to New Delhi. A taxi will take
you to Agra. Please let me know if you
need anything else, she said.
Yes, how about coming along with
me? A moonlight walk at the Taj Mahal
perhaps, followed by a candle-lit dinner,
soft music and the works? Davies
asked.
For a moment, Margaret was tempted.
She waved her hand helplessly towards
her desk, I have lots of work to do. May
be next time?
Davies winked, Oh yes, next time!
Davies was jerked back to reality as
the air hostess came to serve him dinner.
Or was it breakfast? Davies always got
confused during long-haul flights that cut
across different time zones. He had
boarded the ten-hour flight in the evening
but he knew that, due to the time
difference, it would be almost noon
when he arrived at New Delhi.
The dinner consisted of minestrone
soup, toasted bread, vegetable lasagne,
baked corn and spinach. This was
followed by trifle pudding and chocolate
souffl. Davies was famished and
quickly devoured the food.
The sumptuous dinner made him
sleepy and lazy. Rubbing his eyes hard,
he stretched himself and looked at the
folder that he had been studying during
his flight.
The Shyamantaka!
Missing for five thousand years, and
sought after not only by India but also by
several other countries! Information that
its location was soon going to be
revealed had fuelled this recent
international interest.
5
Singapore
20 January 2015

Sangeeta was stunned. Tenzing


murdered!
Wong had just finished narrating the
chain of events that had occurred in
Mathura. Tenzings dead body had been
found by the head priest inside the holy
premises of the Krishna Janmasthan
Temple. The killer had mercilessly shot
him in the chest and, before Tenzing
could breathe his last, ruthlessly cut
open his chest, pulling out his heart. He
had placed it on the dead mans chest
before leaving stealthily. The head priest
had initially mistaken it for a huge ruby.
He had a nervous breakdown when he
realized what it was. The gruesome
spectacle had left him screaming and
wailing till the medics arrived and gave
him sedatives. No one seemed to know
the name and location of the hospital
where he was recuperating. It was a
closely guarded secret, to keep the
media men away.
Sangeeta finally spoke, Why would
anyone want to kill Tenzing? He was a
harmless reporter.
Wong nodded his head in agreement.
The Channel 7 office was dominated by
Chinese and Malays. There were also a
few Indians. Tenzing was the only
Tibetan. He was an enigma to everyone
at the officebrilliant and eloquent in
front of the camera but quiet and
reserved otherwise. Sangeeta had
worked on a few assignments with him
but he had rarely spoken to her. It was
strictly business.
Wong said, Had I not been aware of
your European holiday, you would have
been my first choice as the reporter for
this event, not Tenzing. You are my best
and the most competent anchor. He
smiled weakly as he added, Though you
are also the most impulsive.
Sangeeta guessed that Wong was
probably referring to the Mumbai bomb
blasts. On the night of 26 November
2008, Wong decided to watch the news
before going to bed. The scene on the
TV horrified him: hundreds of civilians
already massacred at the Chhatrapati
Shivaji Terminus (CST) and many
guests, fire and smoke coming out of the
famous Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.
Many were being held hostage at the
hotel. The commercial capital of India
was besieged by ten Pakistani terrorists
who had entered the city using an
innocuous-looking motor boat. The
reporters voice sounded very familiar.
Where had he heard it before? As the TV
camera turned from the hotel towards a
crowd of police vans and reporters
gathered near the hotel, he knew why the
voice was familiar. Standing next to the
motor boats anchored near the famous
Gateway of India was Sangeeta! She
was busy narrating the horrific scene that
she was witnessing unfold in front of
her.
A few minutes later he called her.
Sangeeta! You were supposed to be
in Bangalore for your cousins wedding.
What are you doing in Mumbai? he
demanded.
I was in Bangalore, Chief. I came to
know about the terrorist attack in
Mumbai so I took the next flight out and
came here.
Do you realize how risky this is?
People are busy leaving the city and you
dived right into the centre of it!
I noticed that other TV channels like
Star, BBC, CNN were already present
there, covering the event. We are one of
the top TV channels in South Asia. How
could we miss such a major event? I am
a news reporter, Chief. You know better
than I do that our lives are always full of
risks.
Wong knew that Sangeeta was right. A
reporters life was full of professional
hazards, be it natural calamities like
hurricanes, cyclones and floods or man-
made catastrophes like terrorist attacks
and bomb blasts. He remembered his
own trips during his younger days when
he had to travel to war-ravaged
countries like Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and
Libya.
However, things were slightly
different now. Tenzing had been
murdered and the assailant still
unknown. He glanced at his watch. It
was 5.45 a.m.
I think you should leave for the
airport. A taxi has been arranged for
you. You will reach there by 6.15 a.m.
The travel agent will meet you at the
departure lounge at Changi and hand you
your ticket. Your flight leaves at 7.30
a.m., so you will have sufficient time for
the immigration and security checks. You
will reach New Delhi at 1 p.m. IST. A
taxi will be waiting for you at the
airport. You will reach Agra around 5
p.m. Youve been booked at the Taj
View Hotel, one of the best five-star
hotels in Agra.
For the first time since she woke up
that day, Sangeeta felt relieved.
Michael had worked out all the little
details! If there was one thing you
couldnt find fault with him for, it was
his meticulous planning.
Sangeeta suddenly realized she was
not carrying any clothes. Chief, I need
to go home and pack my . . .
No time for that. Go ahead and buy
whatever you need at New Delhi or
Agra. I will have it reimbursed, Wong
said.
Sangeeta was thinking of Susan and
the Alps in Interlaken. She gave it one
last shot, Suppose I tell you that I prefer
my European holiday?
Wong smiled weakly. I know you
wont let me down, Sangeeta.
Sangeeta knew this was true. During
the past five years at Channel 7, Wong
had been a father figure to her. He was
her mentor, guide, teacher and friend.
Someone whom she respected a lot.
I cant let him down. Her eyes were
moist with fond memories as she put her
hand on his shoulder and comforted him.
Dont worry, Chief. I will go to India.
I knew I could count on you,
Sangeeta. You can still have your
European holiday after completing this
assignment. In fact, I will sponsor your
entire trip to Europeall expenses
covered!
Thank you! Sangeeta screamed with
joy and gave Wong a quick hug. Before
he could react, she had raced out of his
office.
6
Mathura
20 January 2015

Amit Yadav, the director general of the


Uttar Pradesh Police, was a worried
man. His state was set to host two
important international events during the
next couple of daysthe international
All Saints World Religions Conference
at the Krishna Janmasthan Temple in
Mathura and the meeting between the
Presidents of Singapore and India at the
Taj Mahal in Agra.
Spiritual leaders from all over the
world were expected to participate in
the first event at Mathura. Swami Brij
Mohans announcement about revealing
the location of the missing Shyamantaka
had generated lot of interest worldwide.
The discovery of the Shyamantaka had
the potential to change the balance of
power between the different countries.
No wonder the event was also being
monitored by political leaders from
across the globe. Several terrorist outfits
and underworld organizations too were
in the fray.
The second eventthe high-profile
meeting at the Taj Mahalhad also
generated a lot of international interest.
It was scheduled for 21 January. The
following day, the Singapore President
was slated to travel to New Delhi and
meet the prime minister of India. The top
leaders of the two Asian superpowers
were to have a series of meetings and
arrive at a roadmap for IndiaSingapore
bilateral cooperation. Both the
international events had generated a lot
of media interest.
Amit Yadav had received strict
instructions regarding the security of the
foreign dignitaries from none other than
the prime minister himself. For a month
now, almost the entire UP Police had
been deployed in these two cities.
Security guards and barricades had been
posted at the entrances of all major
roads in Agra and Mathura. No vehicles
were allowed within five hundred
metres of the entrance gates of Krishna
Janmasthan Temple and the Taj Mahal.
Armed guards frisked each and every
tourist. No cameras, mobile phones,
water bottles, juice cans and bags were
allowed inside the premises. There were
X-ray machines and metal detectors at
the entrance followed by bomb detectors
and sniffer dogs.
Security at the hotels was beefed up.
Indian citizens were asked to produce
their driving licences or any other means
of identification. Foreigners had to show
their passports and immigration papers.
The hotel reception desks had been
asked to verify the details from the
immigration section at the airport where
the foreign tourists had disembarked.
Amit relied heavily on his two key
associates, superintendents of police
SP Nisha Sharma and SP Manoj Singh.
Nisha had been entrusted with the
security arrangements at Mathura while
Manoj was in charge of Agra. During the
past one month, the three of them had
barely slept and were working more than
eighteen hours a day.
Despite all these efforts, Yadav was
feeling nervous. He had a bad feeling
about all this. A few hours earlier, a
Tibetan had been found massacred
mercilessly at the altar of the sacred
Krishna Janmasthan Temple. The identity
badge in his wallet revealed him to be
an employee of a Singapore-based TV
network.
Why was a TV reporter murdered?
Who was the killer?
Looking at the dead body, it was quite
evident that the killer had been armed
with a gun and a sword.
How did he manage to hoodwink the
security guards?
Yadavs thoughts were interrupted by
his mobile phone.
Who could be calling at this hour?
As he took out the mobile from his
pocket, he saw the dreaded three
alphabets flashing on the display screen:
PMOthe prime ministers office!
Over the last month, he had got
accustomed to the numerous calls from
the PMO every day. Invariably, all the
calls focused only on one subject:
security.
Yadav had guessed rightly.
Mr Yadav, we are concerned about
the security arrangements at Mathura and
Agra, the voice said.
Dont worry, sir. Everything is under
control. I am personally supervising the
proceedings at both the venues. I have
deployed my best officers.
How robust and tight is the security?
Even an ant cant enter inside without
my approval.
Except killers with guns and swords.
The voice conveyed anxiety and
sarcasm.
Yadav was shocked.
He already knows. I had given strict
instructions to my team to keep the
Tibetans death confidential.
Sir, how did you? Yadav started.
The voice interrupted, That is none
of your business. A foreign national has
been found murdered at the venue of the
international All Saints World Religions
Conference. And that too, a media man.
If the media comes to know about this, it
will generate lot of negative
international publicity. I dont think the
prime minister would be too happy
about it.
I understand, sir.
Remember, this is the election year.
If everything goes smoothly, we get good
publicity and lots of credit. However, if
there is any mishap, opposition parties
will use it to beat us. They will be
baying for our blood.
Sir, I will double the security at both
the venues. No more killings will
happen. The events will pass off
smoothly. I can give you my personal
assurance. Yadav was sweating now.
The events that were to follow would
soon make his worst fears come true.
7
Singapore
20 January 2015

As Sangeeta exited the elevator, she saw


the receptionist, having completing his
night shift, getting ready to leave.
Madam, the taxi is waiting for you.
You should be reaching Changi airport
within thirty minutes, he informed her.
Sangeeta flashed a smile and thanked
him. Once inside the taxi, her mind went
back to her conversation with Michael
Wong.
Why was a harmless person like
Tenzing killed? Who was the killer?
What could be the motive? Once I
complete my official task, I should
investigate his death.
The speeding taxi had now exited the
deserted Orchard Road and was on
Buyong Road. It took a right turn to
merge into CTE, the Central
Expressway. The sharp turn pulled
Sangeeta out of her thoughts. She gazed
out of the window and saw a huge
hoarding of a travel company that had
advertised a European holiday.
Susan! I havent even informed her
yet.
Sangeeta picked up her mobile phone
and dialled Susans number. She was
feeling extremely guilty about playing
spoilsport.
Susan will be devastated when she
hears the news. She hates last-minute
changes. I hope she understands.
Her call landed in Susans answering
machine.
Easier to convey the bad news to a
machine than to a close friend,
Sangeeta thought, before leaving a brief
message, and disconnected.
The taxi was fast approaching Changi
airport. Sangeeta was beginning to feel
anxious. She had not made any
preparations for her assignment at Agra.
I have just twenty-four hours before
the big event. I will be reporting in
front of the two Presidents and will be
watched by millions of people on TV! I
cant afford any mistakes.
Sangeeta got down from the taxi at the
airport and hurried towards the
departure lounge. She paused and looked
around for the travel agent. Hundreds of
travellers were moving around in the
lounge. Suddenly, she noticed a young
lad, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a
white T-shirt, walking towards her. He
was holding a placard that displayed her
name.
Are you Miss Sangeeta Rao? he
enquired.
Sangeeta was relieved, Yes, and you
must be the travel agent . . .
Thats right. I am James Lee. Mr
Michael Wong has asked me to hand
over these tickets to you. Its a
Singapore Airlines flight to New Delhi,
he replied.
Sangeeta thanked him and walked
towards the check-in counter. Clutching
her passport, boarding pass and ticket,
she soon made her way through the
immigration and security checks.
Fifteen minutes later, she was sitting
inside the double-storeyed 747 Jumbo
Jet. She noticed copies of the Times of
India and the Indian Express kept in
front of her seat. Would Tenzings death
be reported by the media? She flipped
through both the newspapers. There was
nothing much of interest. The headlines
talked about the two major events that
were scheduled to happen soonthe All
Saints World Religions Conference at
Mathura and the presidential visit at
Agra. The rest of the articles were about
corruption, cricket and Bollywood. India
had not changed much.
Sangeeta peered out of the window as
the plane taxied across the still-
illuminated runway and took off. Soon
the airport complex, control towers and
planes parked on the runway appeared
like miniature models. Since Changi
airport was located on the eastern tip of
the island country, the aircraft was soon
flying over the Indian Ocean.
She glanced at her watch. New Delhi
was more than two hours away. Having
woken up at 4.30 a.m., she was feeling
drowsy. She yawned softly and stretched
her hands. Even as the plane swirled and
began its journey westwards towards the
Indian subcontinent, she placed a pillow
beneath her head and decided to grab a
short nap. It would prove to be a very
good decisionlittle did she know that
she would not be sleeping for the next
two days.
8
Agra
20 January 2015

At 1 p.m. sharp, the Singapore Airlines


flight touched the tarmac of New Delhis
Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Sangeeta made her way swiftly through
the aerobridge and reached the
immigration counter. Being an Indian
citizen, she could quickly complete the
immigration formalities without any
hassles. She had no baggage to collect.
Only a couple of minutes after
disembarking from the aircraft, she was
already in the arrival lounge. She
quickly scanned the crowd of placard-
holding men at the entrance and spotted a
tall middle-aged man, dressed in an
immaculate white uniform, displaying
her name.
As she walked towards him, he
lowered his placard and asked, Ms Rao
from Singapore?
Sangeeta nodded.
Good afternoon, madam. I am
Swaroop Singh, your chauffeur from
Easy Cabs travel agency. I will be
driving you to Agra, he said.
Morning. How long does it take to
reach Agra? Sangeeta asked.
It depends on the traffic, madam. It
could take anywhere between four to
five hours, the driver said.
We might not have much traffic at this
time of the day, Sangeeta offered.
The driver nodded.
The drive to Agra was uneventful
except for the frequent checks by the
highway patrol. At every checkpoint, the
car was stopped, the drivers licence
verified and Sangeetas passport
checked. The driver could sense
Sangeeta growing restless.
We are holding major international
events in Agra and Mathura. The central
and state governments are taking no
chances. Security has been increased in
both these cities and the highway that
connects them with New Delhi. Thats
the reason for these frequent security
checks, madam, the driver said
apologetically.
Oh, I guess thats okay. Quite
common in Singapore too, Sangeeta
replied.
Your first visit to Agra, madam? he
asked.
Sangeeta nodded.
I am sure you will love the Taj
Mahal. And the Agra Fort. You should
also keep a day for Fatehpur Sikri.
Though millions of tourists from all
around the world visit Taj Mahal, my
personal favourite is Fatehpur Sikhri. I
find this is better than the Taj, the driver
said with an air of authority.
Sangeeta remained silent. Where do I
have the time to see all these places?
Maybe I should plan another trip with
Susan.
Do you know the President of
Singapore is visiting our country after
two decades? And he is coming to Agra,
my own city, the driver added proudly.
Sangeeta smiled to herself. She did
not tell the driver that this was precisely
the reason for her visit. An hour later, as
the Toyota Qualis was cruising along the
national highway, NH 2, the driver asked
Sangeeta, What kind of food would you
like to have for lunch, madam? Chinese,
Italian, Mexican, Indian?
Sangeeta laughed. I am happy with
Indian food. And no five-star hotels
please. Their food is only for Western
tourists. I want to eat authentic, spicy
food. Lets stop at a roadside dhaba.
The driver smiled.
Soon, they stopped for lunch at Bobby
ka Dhaba, a roadside Punjabi restaurant.
The driver was amused as Sangeeta
devoured a plateful of makki ki roti,
sarso ka saag, steamed rice and dal. She
noticed him watching her.
Eating authentic Punjabi food after a
long time! she grinned sheepishly.
After this brief stopover, they
proceeded eastwards towards Agra. At
5 p.m. sharp, the taxi reached the city
immortalized by the great Mughal king,
Shah Jahan. The driver manoeuvred the
car skilfully through the narrow bylanes
of the dusty city and soon reached the
entrance of the Taj View Hotel.
Taj View Hotel is one of the best five-
star hotels in Agra. A majestic-looking
edifice on Fatehabad Road at Tajganj,
the white-coloured exterior gives the
building the look of a corporate-office
headquarters rather than a hotel. The taxi
driver took his leave and Sangeeta
entered the hotel. To her right she saw a
bookstore and a boutique. On her left
was a concierge desk. Next to it was the
reception counter for the guests to check-
in.
A clean-shaven man, dressed in a
black suit, stood at the counter.
May I help you, maam? he offered.
Yes, please. I am Sangeeta Rao. I
have a booking at your hotel, Sangeeta
replied.
Yes, Ms Rao. May I have your
identity card please? And after a minute
or two, he looked up from his computer
screen and held out a key card. Heres
your passport and key card, maam. I
will have your luggage sent to your
room.
My luggage? I have none! I have
landed here straight from Wongs office.
Sangeeta handed her passport and
smiled, Dont bother about my luggage.
Ill be all right.
The receptionist studied her for a
moment quizzingly.
Sangeeta let out a loud gasp as she
entered her room. It was absolutely
stunning. The huge glass windows were
decorated with latticed screens.
Miniature paintings adorned the walls.
On one side was a gigantic bed with a
silk bedspread and pillows. On the
farther end of the room was a sofa with
colourful tapestries. Hand-woven
carpets caressed the marble floor. As
she flopped on the bed, she could feel
her body slowly sink into the soft
cushion mattress. She gazed at the
ceiling and decided to take a nap before
going out to buy some essentials. She
was finally in Agra and needed to
prepare for the hectic days ahead.
9
Agra
20 January 2015

Sangeeta bought a couple of kurtas and a


pair of jeans and, on a whim, picked up
a silk saree and a formal suit at the
boutique in the hotel. The exorbitant
prices at the five-star hotel made her
feel guilty. I would have paid just 10
per cent if I had shopped at Fashion
Street in Mumbai or Commercial Street
in Bangalore. Wong will hit the roof
when he sees the bills, she mused.
Later, she booked a taxi to the Taj
Mahal. As she boarded the taxi, her
thoughts went back to the presidential
meeting scheduled for the next day.
It would be good if I can understand
the topography of the monument and
the precise location of the meeting. I
should plan and mentally choreograph
the whole event today.
The taxi driver stopped the vehicle at
least a kilometre before the main gate.
No vehicles allowed near the Taj
Mahal, madam. You can either walk
from here or take one of those e-
rickshaws, the driver said.
Why is that? Sangeeta asked.
A few years back, archaeologists
noticed that the great monument was
turning yellow due to pollution. To
protect the white marble, all vehicles
except e-rickshaws, have been banned,
he explained.
Sangeeta took an e-rickshaw to the
main gate of the Taj Mahal.
As she stepped out of the rickshaw,
Sangeeta was amazed to see the high
level of security. More than ten trucks of
the UP Police were parked nearby and
the entire area was swarming with
armed policemen. Cameras and mobile
phones had been banned since they
posed a security risk. The UP Police
couldnt afford an untoward incident
during the Presidents visit. A small
makeshift stall, made of colourful
shamianas tied to wooden posts, had
been set-up near the main gate of the Taj
Mahal. This served as a cloakroom for
tourists to deposit their cameras, mobile
phones and other electronic devices. All
visitors were frisked by armed security
personnel. Next, they had to pass through
metal detectors before entering the main
gate. Police dogs were busy sniffing at
the items being deposited by the tourists.
The Taj Mahal, one of the Seven
Wonders of the World, was built by
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory
of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The marble
mausoleum combined Indian, Persian
and Turkish architectural styles. It is
believed that the construction of this
masterpiece began in 1632 and
thousands of artisans and craftsmen took
more than twenty years to complete it.
Sangeeta stood dazed. She had seen
lots of pictures of the monument but they
had failed to capture the beauty of what
stood before her. Hundreds of tourists
who had come to visit this Mughal
masterpiece were busy posing in front of
the main gates to capture the beautiful
Taj Mahal in the backdrop.
Suddenly, Sangeeta found herself
surrounded by many photographers.
Just hundred rupees, madam, a
photographer said.
Two pictures for one hundred and
fifty rupees, said another.
Three hundred rupees and that will
include a CD, offered the third.
Sangeeta was tempted to get herself
photographed in front of the domed
building. An ideal picture postcard to
send to family and friends back home.
For now she decided to focus on work.
A huge garden stood between the gate
and the Taj Mahal. On a normal day, the
marble water tank at the centre of the
garden reflected the image of the
monument in all its white glory.
Unfortunately, today the beauty of the
reflection was spoilt by the heavy
presence of Indian Army soldiers. It
looked as if the entire Indian Army had
landed on the beautiful mausoleum.
Three red-sandstone walls surrounded
the central marble structure while the
fourth side faced the Yamuna River. The
Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) personnel
were posted near these imposing walls.
Learning from their experience of the
26/11 attacks in Mumbai where the
terrorists had arrived by sea, the ATS
had posted its personnel even on the
banks of the Yamuna.
The tomb is a white-marble structure
placed on a square plinth and an arch-
shaped doorway with a large dome at
the top. The door and the archway were
filled with floral motifs. As she entered
the main chamber that housed the
sarcophagi of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz
Mahal, Sangeeta overheard a guide
educating a group of tourists, These
tombs are just replicas. Their actual
tombs are in a chamber which is situated
at a lower level.
After spending a few minutes inside
the main chamber, she came out of the
gateway and stood admiring the dome. It
was definitely the most outstanding
piece of Taj Mahal. She noticed the main
dome was topped by a finial which
consisted of a moon and a trident,
symbolizing a blend of Islamic and
Hindu architecture.
Sangeeta decided to make notes to
prepare for the next day.
The two Presidents, along with their
entourage, will enter through the main
gate like everyone else. They will have
to cross the garden to reach this marble
structure where they will shake hands
and pose for the media. The actual
meeting, of course, will happen at their
hotel. Cameramen and reporters will
not be allowed on this marble plinth.
We might have to stand near the water
tank in front of the garden. If we are
not allowed near the water tank, the
next option would be to stand near any
of the three red-sandstone walls.
As she studied the topography of the
entire complex, she spotted a few young
couples holding hands and walking near
the monument of love. Her mind took her
back to the frequent arguments she had
with her parents regarding her marriage.
In India, girls marry before they are
twenty-five. You are already past that
age. We will not be able to find a
suitable groom for you, her mother had
reprimanded her on several occasions.
Sangeeta would always laugh, Dont
worry! I will not trouble you with that. I
can hunt for my own groom.
And when would that happen? her
mother would persist.
I have not fallen in love with anyone
yet so I dont know, Sangeeta would
reply.
At this stage of the conversation, her
father would normally intervene, In
India, people first marry and then fall in
love with their spouse. You too get
married soon and you will fall in love
with your husband.
Marry a stranger?! Sangeeta would
exclaim.
Your father and I were strangers
when we married. Our parents met and
they liked each other. They consulted an
astrologer, who found a suitable date for
our marriage, her mother would narrate.
Sangeeta would protest, I cant
dream of spending the rest of my life
with a person I dont even know.
If our marriage has worked, why
cant yours? her father would question.
Dad, I am waiting for the day when I
would meet my Prince Charming,
Sangeeta would answer.
How would you recognize your
Prince Charming? her mother would
ask.
When I find him, my heart will miss a
few beats, my pulse will quicken, my
eyes will turn starry, my legs would
want to run towards him, I would long to
be in his arms . . . Sangeeta would
playfully retort.
When would that day come? her
father would wonder, frustrated by her
arguments.
As Sangeeta stood near the eternal
monument of love, she did not know that
she was about to find out the answer
soon.
10
Agra
20 January 2015

Sangeeta saw a young, white man


walking rapidly towards her. He was
tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and an
athletic build. His black shirt was folded
at the sleeves to show off his tanned
arms while his faded blue jeans and
Adidas shoes gave him the look of a
casual Western tourist.
She stood transfixed, staring at him.
She felt her heart fluttering as he walked
in her direction.
A minute later, her heart sank. He
went past without even shooting a glance
at her. She realized that the man was
walking towards the room that housed
the two tombs. He was followed by a
group of photographers. Sangeeta knew
they would ask the foreigner if he
wanted to be photographed in front of
the Taj. They would quote an exorbitant
amount and the foreigner would refuse.
Within a few minutes, another set of
photographers would arrive at the scene
and begin to bargain with him, each
photographer quoting an amount smaller
than the other. Finally, the foreigner
would choose the cheapest
photographer, without realizing that his
rate would still be ten times the amount
charged for the domestic tourists. This
was a game that most photographers
played at major tourist centres in India
and most Western tourists fell prey to
this.
Sangeeta sighed. One more bites the
dust.
She observed the animated discussion
the foreigner was having with the group
of photographers:
Sir, five thousand rupees for ten
pictures, said one photographer.
I will give you twenty pictures for
eight thousand rupees, said another.
This is daylight robbery. I should
warn the foreigner before it is too late.
Sangeeta began to walk towards the
group.
Suddenly the most unexpected thing
happened.
The foreigner had kept his pouch on
the ground while bargaining with the
photographers. A small boy had crept
behind him and was slowly pulling the
bag towards himself. The foreigner was
too busy to notice.
I guess this is also part of their plan.
Sangeeta swiftly changed her direction.
Instead of walking towards the foreigner,
she swiftly turned towards the boy. He
managed to get hold of the pouch and
began to slowly retrace his steps.
Sangeeta, who was standing right behind
him, caught him by the collar. The boy
was shocked. He knew he could not
scream because it would give his game
away. He scowled at her and tried to
wriggle himself free. Sangeeta swung
her right hand swiftly and hit him hard
on the neck, snatching the pouch from
him. The boy yelled with pain and fell
on the ground with a thud. Hearing the
loud crash, the foreigner and the
photographers turned. They saw the boy
sprawled on the ground and Sangeeta
standing next to him.
The kid, realizing that he was caught,
sprang and ran like a hunted deer in a
forest.
Great job! Thank you so much, the
foreigner said.
The pleasure is mine. I am Sangeeta
Rao, Sangeeta smiled and extended her
hand.
The foreigner shook her hand, Alan
Davies from the UK.
English?
Welsh, but I live in England. That
was a terrific blow you gave!
Sangeeta winked, Karate black belt
tenth degree.
I did not notice the kid standing
behind me. I dont have much cash in the
pouch but it has important items like
credit cards, driving licence and
passport. Thats how I convinced the
security guards to allow me to bring the
pouch inside. Itd be such a pain to lose
them. I dont know how to thank you, Ms
Rao, Davies said.
Sangeeta sighed. How about a cup of
coffee?
Sure. I noticed a coffee shop right
across Taj Mahal, Davies said.
Ten minutes and three rounds of
security checks later, Sangeeta and
Davies were sitting at the Caf Coffee
Day near the entrance to the Taj Mahal.
Sangeeta could see the dome from her
chair.
A waiter dressed in white approached
their table.
Sangeeta looked up and said, One
cappuccino, please.
The waiter nodded and turned his
gaze towards Davies.
I will have black coffee with lots of
milk and sugar, Davies replied.
The waiter looked bewildered. Sir,
you want black coffee or normal
coffee?
Black coffee with lots of milk and
sugar, Davies repeated.
The waiter still looked confused. Sir,
you mean a regular coffee with milk?
Sangeeta noticed that Davies was
trying to control his laughter, Yes,
regular coffee, please.
Sangeeta was watching with a curious
look on her face. She looked inquiringly
at Davies.
Davies laughed, We normally prefer
black coffee in our country but I also
know you Indians love your coffee with
lots of milk and sugar. Having visited
your beautiful country on many
occasions, I have developed a liking for
the Indian coffee. This is a little prank
that I love to play on Indian waiters who
think foreigners drink only black coffee.
It leaves them baffled!
Sangeeta smiled, You seem to know a
lot about India, Mr Davies.
Daviess mind went back a few years.
His grandfather had served in the
British Army and had been posted in
Lahore and New Delhi for many years.
After India became independent,
hundreds of British nationals decided to
stay back in India. His grandfather, an
Indophile, too remained in India. Tired
of the busy metropolis life of New
Delhi, he decided to settle down in the
beautiful and picturesque town of
Udaipur in Rajasthan. Though Davies
grew up in England with his parents, he
visited India during Christmas holidays
every year. He loved the spicy Indian
food, the vibrant colours, the people and
the culture.
During his annual vacation to Udaipur,
he made it a point to visit all the
beautiful palaces that the city had to
offer. His favourite was the City Palace,
built by Maharana Udai Singh and
located close to the banks of Lake
Pichola. As a child, he would
accompany his grandfather who showed
him the interiors of the palace complex
with its balconies and towers. While his
grandfather would be busy explaining
the history behind the delicate mirror-
work, marble-work, murals, silver-work
and coloured glass, he would stand and
admire the paintings of the gorgeous
Indian princesses.
Now, sitting here with Sangeeta, all
those memories came flooding back to
him.
Oh, yes! I love India. Ive travelled
extensively around the globe and India is
my favourite country, Ms Rao.
So what brings you here, Mr
Davies?
Call me Alan. Mr Davies makes me
ten years older.
Sangeeta laughed, Point noted, Alan!
You can call me Sangeeta.
Very well. I teach at the Oxford
University.
Oh, a professor! Maybe I should
address you as Professor Davies.
Davies looked at her in mock anger,
Now you have aged me by twenty
years!
Sangeeta had never laughed so much.
She was enjoying the conversation with
this newly acquainted stranger. What
subjects do you teach?
I teach ancient history and classical
archaeology. I am with the Faculty of
Archaeology, Davies replied.
Ancient history.. I must ask him if he
is the Greek god Apollo.
What brings you to India? she asked
aloud.
Long story. I have come to visit
Mathura. I decided to visit the Taj since
it is nearby.
11
Agra
20 January 2015

Rajat Kathuria adjusted his tie and


looked at himself in the mirror.
He loved to dress impeccably, which
was so essential in his line of work. The
black suit that he wore had become his
uniform. He had been donning this attire
for the past ten years.
Over the years, he had also realized
that his black attire instilled a sense of
fear in his victims. He loved to see the
look of terror in his victims eyes before
he killed them. Angel of Death, Dark
Messenger, Black Terror he was
known by various names. As a contract
killer, he had already killed dozens of
people.
Most of his earlier assignments had
been easy. He would plan his attacks
well. A couple of days before
committing the murder, he would visit
the place to get acclimatized to the
surroundings and ambience. It was all
about preparation, he felt. He normally
attacked the victim when the latter was
alone and least expected it. Carrying a
gun with a silencer, he would stealthily
enter his victims office or residence. In
many cases, it was as simple as pulling
out his gun and pumping a few bullets in
the victims chest before taking off from
the scene of the murder. This was his
modus operandi.
This assignment, however, was
completely different. He had not got an
opportunity to visit the venue where the
assassination was to take place. What
was worse was the fact that the victim
would not be alone. He had been
informed that his victim would be sitting
on a podium and addressing a gathering
of more than a thousand people.
You need to wear a mask because the
event will be telecast to a million homes
across hundreds of countries, the voice
had told him.
Why cant I kill him when he is
alone? he had argued.
We need publicity. Leaders around
the world should know we mean
business. This international event has
invoked interest all over the world. If
the location of the Shyamantaka is
revealed tonight, it will be detrimental
to all of us. It has been lost for thousands
of years and your job is to ensure that it
stays that way.
Rajat nodded. He understood that his
business was to kill people. He was
paid for that. It was not his job to
question the motives.
After the killing, you should hurl a
few bombs at the audience. Remember
that the degree of fear and panic is
directly proportional to the destruction
and the number of deaths. All major
media housesnewspapers and TV
networkshave already arrived from
different parts of the world. They are
always hungry for breaking news. Let us
feed those hungry hyenas with the kind of
stuff they wont forget for a long time!
the voice crackled.
Kathuria was now visibly
uncomfortable. He hated being in the
limelight. He hated killing people in the
open. He hated using bombs. He hated
mass destruction.
This assignment has everything that
I dislike. If I had not been offered ten
million dollars, I would have flatly
refused.
You expect me to walk into an
international conference, pull out my gun
and kill a famous leader in front of
hundreds of armed policemen? How do
you expect me to escape?
Dont worry. The bombs provided to
you are of a different kind. Apart from
the usual destruction, these will also
generate sufficient smoke and teargas to
help you make a getaway.
For the first time in his career,
Kathuria felt uneasy.
Everything seems to be easy. Too
easy. Am I being made a scapegoat?
What if I get arrested before I have an
opportunity to hurl those bombs? I am
not even aware of the mastermind
behind these killingsthe police would
never believe me. But it is too late to
back out. I have no choice now.
He opened the refrigerator and picked
up a bottle of whisky and soda. He
stared at the bottle of soda for a long
time and kept it back in the refrigerator.
I need whisky on the rocks tonight.
He took a long gulp. As the liquid
burned his throat, he blinked his eyes
and looked at himself in the mirror
again.
I feel better already.
Carrying the bottle of whisky, he
walked towards the window. The
worrying factor for him was pertaining
to the murder weapon.
How on earth do I bypass the
security at the main gate and carry the
gun into the Krishna Janmasthan
Temple premises? It is a fortress.
As he stared out of the window and
watched a group of saints near the
Yamuna River, Rajat Kathuria arrived at
the answer.
12
Agra
20 January 2015

Shyamantaka? Whats that? Sangeeta


asked.
Davies was not surprised. Though the
Shyamantaka had strong Indian roots,
many Indians had expressed their
ignorance about it. He always loved to
explain the mystique around the famed
jewel, especially to an Indian.
The Shyamantaka is the largest
precious stone in the world. This Indian
gem has been missing for the past five
thousand years. Tonight, its location will
be revealed, Davies explained.
Missing for the past five thousand
years! What makes you feel that its true
location will be revealed tonight? Who
will be disclosing it? Sangeeta was
now curious.
The international All Saints World
Religions Conference is held once a
yeareach time in a different country.
This year, it is being held in India. The
conference has generated a lot of interest
because one of the speakers, Swami Brij
Mohan, has promised to reveal the
current location of the Shyamantaka.
Why should a precious stone
generate so much interest around the
world?
The Shyamantaka is no ordinary gem.
It has the power to change the dynamics
of world politics.
World politics?
Swami Brij Mohan is a very
knowledgeable person. I think you
should allow him to explain. I plan to
attend the All Saints World Religions
Conference tonight. Why dont you join
me? Davies asked.
Where is it being held? Sangeeta
asked.
Fifty kilometres from herethe
Krishna Janmasthan Temple in Mathura.
Sangeeta was suddenly lost in her
thoughts.
The Krishna Janmasthan Temple in
Mathura. Where my colleague Tenzing
was found murdered! Only fifty
kilometres from here! I could
investigate Tenzings death. But I also
have an important event here tomorrow.
Davies was studying her, trying to
read her thoughts.
You will be safe with me, dont
worry, he laughed.
Oh, no! I am not scared. Its just that I
have conflicting priorities. I have come
to Agra on business. I work as a reporter
with Singapores Channel 7 TV network.
Tomorrow, the Presidents of Singapore
and India will be meeting at the Taj
Mahal. I have been asked to cover the
event so I cant afford to leave Agra.
Dont worry, Sangeeta. Your event is
tomorrow so you have lots of time. It is
6.30 p.m., so if we leave Agra right
now, we can reach Mathura by 7.30 p.m.
The speech will be over in an hour and
we can immediately return to Agra. We
can have dinner together and
Sounds wonderful. Let me inform my
boss about the Mathura trip, Sangeeta
interrupted.
Your boss? What if he refuses?
Alans hand touched Sangeetas.
He wont, Sangeeta winked.
Sangeeta stepped away from the table
and dialled Wongs number. He
answered at the first ring.
Where have you been? I have not
heard from you since you left Singapore
this morning. Hope you had a
comfortable journey? Wong sounded
worried.
Oh, yes! The flight was on time. The
taxi ride was also very comfortable.
Sangeeta replied.
Wong waited. He knew Sangeeta was
not a girl who would call her boss to
inform about her journey.
She must have something on her mind.
Something dangerous or scary.
Chief, Mathura is just an hours drive
from here. I am getting bored so I am
thinking of paying a quick visit to the
Krishna Janmasthan Temple in Mathura
and investigate Tenzings death,
Sangeeta said.
Wong wasnt surprised. He was quick
to respond, No! You are not! I have sent
you to Agra to cover a very important
and prestigious international event. I
want you stationed at Agra. No visits to
Mathura. I have already lost one
employee. I do not want to lose another.
Tenzings calm face came before her
eyes. But someone needs to find the
killer. We need to find out who killed
Tenzing, and the reason for such a
ghastly murder, Sangeeta insisted.
For that, we have the Indian police,
Wong barked, making no effort to
conceal his irritation.
He knew he was being harsh. Hadnt
she done a huge favour by cancelling her
Europe trip? But he could not afford to
lose Sangeeta. He had heard every bit
about the gruesome murder and he did
not want his best employee to be
pursuing a maniac killer.
Right, Chief! Sangeeta replied
cheerfully and hung up.
Davies was watching her.
What did your boss say? Is he okay
with your trip to Mathura? he asked.
He asked me to go ahead. Didnt I
tell you that I had a great boss who
always listened to me? Sangeetas eyes
were gleaming as she spoke.
A trip to Mathura followed by dinner
with Alan. Just the two of us in a cosy
restaurant.
For the first time in many years,
Sangeeta felt like a young teenager and
she was enjoying it. Little did she know
that Alans predictions would soon go
haywire.
13
Agra
20 January 2015

Rajat Kathuria quietly locked his room


and took the lift to the ground floor. He
moved stealthily across the reception
area and came out of the hotel building.
A few taxi drivers rushed towards him
Sir, Taj Mahal?, Sir, Agra
sightseeing? With Fatehpur Sikri?,
Saab, my taxi has AC, very cool, sir.
Kathuria ignored them and walked out
of the premises of Hotel Taj View. He
crossed the road and turned right. Soon
he reached a narrow lane which was
flanked by small shops on either side.
Most of the shops sold artefacts and
mementos related to Agra and its history.
He jostled his way through the vendors
who stood outside their shops, thrusting
their wares into the hands of the passing
tourists. Kathuria was no stranger to this
tourist town. He soon arrived at a shop
that sold mens garments.
Seeing the customer dressed in a
black suit, the manager himself walked
towards him, Sir, are you looking for a
suit? We have an excellent selection of
fabrics.
Kathuria shook his head slowly, I am
looking for saffron robes.
Saffron robes? the manager asked,
staggered.
Thats right. What the saints wear,
Kathuria replied nonchalantly.
Shaking his head vigorously, the
manager climbed the stairs to the
mezzanine floor of the shop. A couple of
minutes later, he returned beaming,
carrying saffron robes in his hand.
Just what you are looking for, sir! he
said.
Kathuria grabbed the saffron robe
from his hand and walked swiftly
towards the billing counter. Ten minutes
later, he was trudging back towards his
hotel room. As he approached the
narrow lane once again, he noticed a
small shop selling walking sticks. He
stepped inside and inspected the sticks
kept near the entrance.
Any specific type you are looking
for, sir? the shopkeeper enquired.
Kathuria turned towards him and
replied calmly, I am looking for a
hollow stick. Maybe metal . . .
Of course, we have it, the
shopkeeper replied. If the shopkeeper
was surprised at this unusual request, he
did not show it. He opened a cupboard
and pulled out various sticks that were
packed inside. A few minutes later, he
held out one, Would this suit you, sir?
Kathuria took the aluminium stick and
examined it. It did not appear to be
hollow. He looked questioningly at the
shopkeeper.
The shopkeeper smiled and grabbed
the walking stick. A couple of twists and
turns later, he managed to dismantle the
walking stick into three pieces. Kathuria
took the three hollow pieces and
inspected them, Just perfect! How
much?
Two thousand rupees, sir, the
shopkeeper replied and waited,
expecting the visitor to start haggling
over the price.
Without uttering a word, Kathuria
paid the bill, put the pieces in a paper
bag and hurriedly left the shop. When he
reached the hotel, he rapidly crossed the
reception area and took the lift to his
floor. He did not want to linger in the
lobby and be noticed by the receptionist
or the housekeeping staff.
Once he entered his room, Kathuria
locked it and hurriedly undressed. He
packed his black suit neatly in his
suitcase. He donned the saffron robes
and reached for his make-up kit. From
the small leather bag, he picked up a
white flowing beard and glued it to his
cheeks. Next, he took out the special
transparent adhesive tape and gently
stuck it on his forehead, neck and below
his eyes. It gave a wrinkled appearance
to his youthful skin. He stood in front of
the large mirror in the bathroom and
examined himself. He completed the
look with a red tilak on his forehead. He
felt confident of passing off as a saint.
He pulled out a gun from the false
bottom of his suitcase. He deftly
unscrewed the nozzle and trigger from
the barrel of the gun and slid a piece of
the dismantled gun into the hollow pipe.
Satisfied that the pieces of the gun were
seated, he joined them back. It once
again became a harmless stick.
Clad in saffron robes and armed with
the walking stick, he left his hotel room.
He was soon out of the hotel building
and walking towards the Yamuna. The
evening sun was sinking slowly across
the western horizon as he reached the
bank of the holy river. He spotted a few
saints standing in a long queue. A barber
was shaving the head of a saint while the
others waited patiently. With great
dexterity, the barber neatly removed the
long locks from the saints head while
retaining just a small tuft of hair at the
back of the head. Kathuria walked to the
end of the queue and awaited his turn.
An hour later, a frail-looking saint
limped his way towards the huge gates
of the Krishna Janmasthan Temple. He
was stopped and frisked by gun-toting
security guards.
With a weak smile, he asked the
security guards, What do you expect to
find on an old saint like me?
The chief security officer shrugged,
Instructions from the commissioner. Can
you pass through the metal detectors,
please?
The metal detectors hooted loudly as
the bald saint passed through them. He
sheepishly pointed to his aluminium
walking stick. One of the security guards
walked towards him to inspect the stick.
The saint tried to hand over the walking
stick to the guard but, in the process,
slipped and fell on the concrete ramp. A
big crowd gathered and a few devotees
rushed to his aid. They held him by the
shoulder and lifted him. One of the
security guards placed a chair in front of
him. Another sympathetic guard picked
up the walking stick from the ground and
handed it to the old man.
The saint accepted the walking stick
gratefully and smiled feebly at him,
Bless you, my son. May God take care
of you when you become old and frail
like me.
The crowd at the entrance of the
temple was swelling. It was growing
restless because the queue had not
progressed for a few minutes. The chief
security officer had already lost interest
in this frail old saint. With a gentle pat
on his back, he directed him to proceed
towards the courtyard of the temple.
14
Mathura
20 January 2015

Sangeeta and Davies hired a taxi to


Mathura. Soon, they were cruising along
the NH 2.
The taxi driver was very talkative and
kept them engaged throughout their
journey.
Is this your first visit? he asked.
Sangeeta replied, Yes. I have read
about Mathura and about its famous
temples but Ive never had an
opportunity to come here. Davies was
left out of the Hindi conversation.
Its all by the will of Lord Krishna,
madam. He is the one who decides who
will come and visit Him here, the driver
replied philosophically.
Sangeeta smiled. Yes, even this visit
was totally unplanned and unexpected.
One night is not sufficient, madam.
You should plan a weeks stay here if
you want to see all the places.
A week? Sangeeta exclaimed.
The driver nodded. When you visit
this part of the state, you should visit the
entire Brij Bhoomi. It covers an area of
2325 square kilometres approximately. It
extends from Banchari in the north to
Agra in the south. The Brij Bhoomi
consists of twelve forests and twenty-
four groves, and all of them are
considered pilgrimage places. Each
place is of historical significance and
associated with various incidents that
took place in Lord Krishnas life.
So Brij Bhoomi consists of many
towns? Sangeeta asked.
The driver once again nodded, Thats
right, madam. Mathura is considered to
be the heart of Brij Bhoomi since it is
in the centre and also happens to be the
birthplace of Lord Krishna. The
important towns to the east of Mathura
are Raval, Baldeo, Gokul and Mahavan,
which are located on the eastern side of
the Yamuna. On the southern side of
Mathura is Madhuvan. To the west are
Radha Kund and Goverdhan. To the
northwest are Barsana and Nandagaon.
Adjacent, and to the north of Mathura, is
the temple town of Vrindavan. Do you
know Vrindavan alone has more than
five thousand temples?
Five thousand temples! Sangeeta
exclaimed.
Now you understand why you should
stay here for a week? the driver
laughed.
The driver kept the duo entertained
with various pastimes of Lord Krishna
that had occurred five thousand years
ago. At 7.30 p.m. sharp, the taxi reached
Mathura. The driver swirled the car off
the highway and turned right. They
crossed the railway gate and reached
Potara Kund. He drove inside the huge
field next to the sacred kund and parked
the car there.
Vehicle entry has been banned near
the temple because of security reasons.
Anyway, its just a ten-minute walk from
here, the driver informed them.
Sangeeta and Davies got out of the
taxi and looked around. They did not
have to ask for directions because the
entire city seemed to be walking
towards the venue of the All Saints
World Religions Conference.
I never knew there were so many
spiritual people, Sangeeta remarked.
Spiritual? Ms Rao, it is the greed for
the Shyamantaka that is attracting
everyone, Davies laughed.
The duo came out of the car park and
followed the crowd walking
southwards. Potara Kund was
completely dry so they had no difficulty
in crossing it. They climbed the stone
steps of the sacred kund and reached the
Krishna Janmasthan Temple Street. The
complete stretch between Potara Kund
and the temple had been barricaded. It
looked as if the entire UP Police had
been deployed here. The yellow-
coloured metal barricades prevented
vehicles from entering the high-security
zone. The narrow road was overflowing
with thousands of tourists. The watchful
eyes of the police were looking for any
suspicious-looking tourist. However, the
setting suncompounded by the evening
mist, the dust and the jostling crowds
made it tough for the gun-toting
policemen. The only way to mitigate the
risk was to periodically frisk the
tourists.
Noticing Sangeeta getting pushed by
the unruly crowd, Davies gently placed
his arm around her back. Sangeeta could
feel a rush of blood. She clasped his
hand tightly as they silently walked
towards the temple.
The Krishna Janmasthan Temple is
one of the most famous landmarks of
Mathura. Ask for directions to any place
in the town and the locals will
invariably guide you with this temple as
the frame of reference. The temple is
situated on one of the busiest roads of
Mathura. Over the years, the width of the
road had decreased as small shops had
encroached on either side of the street.
Every shop seems to be selling the
same stuff artefacts related to Krishna.
Books, CDs, posters, idols, peacock
feathers, holy beads. I wonder how they
do business here, Davies wondered.
But have a look at the crowds
thronging these shops. Every shopkeeper
seems to be making pretty good
business. I guess the international event
has helped them, Sangeeta replied.
A couple of minutes later, they
reached the main gates of the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple. There was a huge
signboard at the entrance requesting
tourists to deposit mobile phones,
cameras and bags at the cloakroom.
The queue at the entrance was more
than four hundred metres long.
Thousands of devotees were waiting to
enter the temple premises. Sangeeta and
Davies had to pass through metal
detectors. The armed security guards
frisked them and asked them to pass
through bomb detectors. Trained police
dogs were also present.
After completing the security
formalities, Sangeeta and Davies
climbed the ramp, which took them to a
huge courtyard. Colourful shamianas
fluttered in the cool evening breeze.
Thousands of metallic chairs had been
neatly arranged at one end of the
courtyard, presumably for the
prestigious event which was to start
soon. Armed policemen had surrounded
the courtyard at all the entry and exit
points.
Is this your first visit here? Davies
inquired.
Sangeeta nodded.
Let me explain the topography of this
place. The most sacred spot is the
prison cell located at the centre. It is
flanked by the Keshav Dev Temple on
the left and the Radha Krishna Temple
on the right. There are lots of gift shops
that sell artefactssimilar to the shops
that we saw below, Davies explained.
I noticed the shops close at 8 p.m. but
the temples are open till 10 p.m., so I
would like to visit the shops first. After
Swami Brij Mohans speech, let us visit
the various temples here and then we can
leave for Agra.
Sounds good. Lets go.
Numerous shops were located in the
open courtyard in front of the Keshav
Dev Temple. As was the case with the
shops outside the premises, here too, the
shops only sold artefacts related to Lord
Krishnaidols, books, CDs, paintings.
Each vendor was asking the duo to step
into his shop and purchase the artefacts.
Isnt it awesome?! Sangeeta
suddenly exclaimed. In front of her was
a stunning three-foot-tall white-marble
idol of Krishna.
Pure Makhrana marble from
Rajasthan, madam, the shopkeeper
informed.
Sangeeta stood admiring the
magnificent idolLord Krishna standing
cross-legged, holding His magical flute.
She saw a sparkle in His eyes and a
smile on His lips.
How much does this cost? she
inquired.
Madam, it costs two lakhs, the
shopkeeper said. Looking at her
reaction, he added, I can give it for one
and a half lakhs for you.
Sangeeta swiftly converted it to
Singapore dollars. Five thousand! Too
expensive!
One lakh rupees. Not a rupee more,
she said.
The shopkeeper shrugged, If I sell it
for so cheap then I will have to close my
business, madam.
Sangeeta was used to this kind of
bargaining.
One lakh she repeated and began to
walk away.
Madam! Please come! One lakh for
you. But dont tell any of your friends
that I gave such a huge discount.
Sangeeta smiled. This is also part of
their game. I am sure he tells this to
everyone.
I would like you to pack it in a sturdy
box. I will be taking it to Singapore.
Dont worry, madam. We ship these
idols daily to England, USA, Singapore,
Malaysia, Australia and South Africa.
Davies looked at his watch and said,
Sangeeta, the programme is about to
start. I know the entire history of the
Shyamantaka, but you dont. Swami Brij
Mohan will be talking about it and I
dont want you to miss his speech. Why
dont you go and grab a couple of seats
in the front row? I will get the idol
packed for you.
Sangeeta nodded gratefully and
walked towards the courtyard where the
event was about to start. She was
thinking of Tenzing. When I visit the
prison cell later, I should look for clues
that could help me trace the killer. I
still dont understand why an innocent
TV reporter from Singapore was
murdered.
Lost in her thoughts, she failed to
notice an old saint with an aluminium
stick limping towards her.
15
Mathura
20 January 2015

The courtyard of the Krishna Janmasthan


Temple was swarming with thousands of
tourists. The chairs arranged below the
shamianas seemed grossly inadequate
for the crowd that had gathered. There
were lots of people standing at the far
end of the courtyard. The policemen
were struggling to control the crowds.
The wooden barricades were already
broken at a few places. A policeman
was fixing some of the broken
barricades with coir ropes. Sangeeta
remembered Daviess wordsMs Rao,
it is the greed for the Shyamantaka that is
attracting everyone.
The podium was a raised platform
measuring twenty feet by fifty feet. At the
centre was a huge table decorated with a
white embroidered tablecloth and a vase
holding jasmine flowers. Behind the
table were eleven identical, exquisitely
carved wooden chairs. The arms of the
chairs were decorated with marigold
flowers. It should be fit for the kings,
the head priest had said while placing an
order for them.
Next to the podium was a special
enclosure for the media. Representatives
from various leading newspapers and
TV networks took their seats. Everyone
wanted to listen to what Swami Brij
Mohan had to say.
Sangeeta looked around and saw
Davies talking animatedly and shaking
hands with the shopkeeper. The idol had
been packed. He lifted the huge package
and walked towards her.
Just as Davies took a seat next to
Sangeeta, the programme started. The
head priest climbed the podium and took
the chair in the centre. He began, Ladies
and gentlemen, a warm welcome to all
of you. It is my privilege to host the tenth
international All Saints World Religions
Conference in India. I consider it my
fortune to be sharing the podium with ten
of the worlds greatest saints from
different religions. We have
representatives from different
communities like Catholics, Protestants,
Jews, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims,
Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsees and
Hindus.
The head priest waited for the crowd
to settle down before he continued, As I
read out their names, I request the ten
dignitaries to climb the podium and
kindly take their seats here.
Amidst loud cheering and clapping
that accompanied the announcement of
the names, the spiritual leaders slowly
climbed on to the podium, waved at the
crowds and took their designated seats.
The head priest announced, We will
start with a traditional welcome to our
dignitaries here.
A young girl, dressed in a colourful
ghagra-choli, climbed the podium. She
applied a red tilak on the forehead of
each dignitary and handed a garland to
them.
As soon as she left, a young boy
dressed in a white kurta-pyjama,
climbed the podium and handed a candle
to each dignitary.
The head priest requested all the
dignitaries to walk to the farther end of
the podium that had a huge, glittering
brass lamp. Each dignitary lit a wick and
stood near the lamp. The head priest too
joined them. He stood in the centre of the
group and smiled at the TV crew
positioned in front of the podium.
The head priest requested the
dignitaries to be seated once again. It
was time for his speech.
India has thousands of temples,
churches, mosques and gurudwaras.
Many of you may be wondering why this
temple was chosen as the venue for the
All Saints World Religions Conference.
For that, you should understand the
sanctity of this place.
The head priest paused and looked at
the audience.
As the name suggests, this is Krishna
Janmasthan birthplace of Lord
Krishna. It is one of the oldest and most
famous temples in this country. On your
left is the Keshav Dev Temple. It has
idols of Radha, Krishna and Balarama.
As you come out of this temple, you will
see a narrow, inconspicuous-looking
entrance leading to a passage that finally
terminates in a small, dimly lit room.
This narrow corridor is the prison
passage leading to the small room that
was a prison cell five thousand years
ago.
For the benefit of our international
audience, I should delve a little bit into
the history and significance of Mathura.
Kansa was a tyrannical king who ruled
Brij Bhoomi five thousand years ago.
Mathura was his capital. He was
responsible for the deaths of thousands
of saints and holy men during his reign.
The only person whom he loved was
Devaki, his cousin. He treated her like
his own sister. He got her married with a
lot of pomp and glory. When the
ceremony ended, it was time for Devaki
to accompany her husband, Vasudev, to
his kingdom. Kansa wanted to spend a
few more hours with her so he agreed to
be her charioteer. When his chariot
reached the outskirts of Mathura, a
heavenly voice told him that though he
loved Devaki, her eighth son would be
responsible for his death. Kansa was
shocked and decided to kill Devaki
immediately.
Vasudev fell at Kansas feet and
begged him not to kill his newly wedded
wife.
Kansa said, How can I allow
Devakis son to kill me? I must finish her
off immediately. Brandishing his
sword, he brought it close to her neck.
Vasudev pleaded, The heavenly
voice said that her eighth son will be
responsible for your death. I promise to
hand over our eighth son to you. Please
dont kill Devaki. She is innocent.
Kansa knew that Vasudev was a
righteous person, a man who kept his
word. He looked at Vasudev and roared,
Very well, Vasudev. I will not kill her.
However, I will imprison both of you.
You should hand over your eighth son to
me as soon as he is born. If you play any
tricks, then I will kill both of you!
Vasudev nodded his head and agreed
to Kansas condition. The evil Kansa
imprisoned Devaki and Vasudev in this
prison. When all the gods and goddesses
asked Lord Vishnu to protect the citizens
of Brij Bhoomi from Kansas tyrannical
rule, he agreed and took birth as Lord
Krishna, the eighth son of Devaki and
Vasudev. Lord Krishna was born in this
prison and that makes this prison cell
one of the holiest places on earth.
The head priest paused and looked at
the audience. Everyone was looking
towards the prison cell with awe and
reverence. Satisfied with the effect that
story had had, he continued with his
speech.
On the right side of the room is an
elevated platform. It has a slab which
marks the exact spot where Lord Krishna
was born. There are various paintings
and pictures adorning the wall above the
platform. This is also known as the
prison cell. The temple was first built
by Lord Krishnas great-grandson,
Vajranabha, and later rebuilt by
Vikramaditya. The original idol was
fifteen-feet tall and made of gold and
precious gems. In the eleventh century,
Mahmud of Ghazni ransacked the temple
and desecrated the idols. It is believed
that this temple was destroyed and
rebuilt seventeen timesthe final
assault was by Aurangzeb in the
seventeenth century.
The head priest once again stopped
and observed the audience. He could
hear faint murmurs in the crowd.
On the right side of this courtyard,
you will notice the biggest temple of this
complex. It is a modern Radha Krishna
Temple. It houses the deities of Radha,
Krishna and a pantheon of Hindu gods
and goddesses. I welcome you once
again to this sacred place. We will now
hear speeches by each of the spiritual
leaders present on the dais. Each
speaker has been allotted half an hour
for their address. We have also planned
a couple of breaks. Our plan is to
complete this by 5 a.m.
Sangeeta looked anxiously at Davies,
Will this go on through the whole
night?
Davies comforted her, We will listen
to Swami Brij Mohans speech and
leave. Hopefully he will be the first
speaker.
Why do they start so late and have it
the whole night? Why cant they host this
event during the day?
Davies smiled, The event is
organized keeping the various
international time zones in mind.
You mean keeping the US time zones
in mind?
Davies laughed, Small perk for being
the most powerful country in the world!
The head priest continued, I am
aware that this time, the event has
attracted a lot of attention, and the
reason is obvious. Swami Brij Mohan is
planning to reveal the location of the
Shyamantaka that was lost five thousand
years ago. I know all of you are eager to
listen to him and without any further
delay I invite him to enlighten the
audience. If I continue my speech any
longer, one of you will pull me down.
He heard peals of laughter among the
audience.
Amit Yadav, the chief of the UP Police
sat in the first row. He was feeling
relaxed.
The event has started on a good,
peaceful note. I am sure it will also end
peacefully. Everything is in order.
Months of hard work seemed to have
paid off. Krishna Janmasthan had always
been under threat from various terrorist
organizations. But the international
conference had posed the biggest
challenge of his career. His worries had
doubled because he had to deploy a
major part of his police force at Agra for
another major event scheduled for the
following day. He considered himself
fortunate to have two highly efficient
SPsNisha Sharma and Manoj Singh
with him. Between them, they had
completely sealed off Mathura and Agra.
Meanwhile, Kathuria moved closer to
the podium. He sat on the vacant chair
next to Sangeeta on the front row. He
opened the top flap of his saffron robe
and peered inside. He could see the
bombs were firmly fastened to his belt.
Everything was in order.
16
Mathura
20 January 2015

Swami Brij Mohan had been waiting for


this moment. He got up from his chair
and walked very slowly, savouring
every moment. The TV cameras swirled
towards him as he sauntered towards the
microphone. He smiled and waved at the
crowds as they clapped and cheered. He
clasped his palms together and bowed at
the audience, even as his eyes continued
to gaze at the TV cameras.
Is he a Swami or a showman?
Sangeeta asked.
Davies laughed, He could very well
win the next US presidential elections!
Good evening, my dear brothers and
sisters, Swami Brij Mohan began.
Hey, isnt that Swami Vivekanandas
copyright? Sangeeta exclaimed,
referring to Swami Vivekanandas
famous speech at Chicago.
The Swamiji continued, I would like
to thank the organizers for inviting me to
this prestigious event. I know that
millions of people from around the
world are eagerly watching this telecast.
Before I reveal the location of the
Shyamantaka, I will narrate the legend
associated with this famed jewel.
Swami Brij Mohan paused and
studied his audience. He could see
everyone craning their necks and
listening intently. Even the armed
policemen seemed to be paying attention
to what he was saying.
He cleared his throat and began, The
Shyamantaka, or the Shyamantaka mani
as it is known in Sanskrit, is the most
famous jewel in Indian history. The story
of the Shyamantaka is narrated in many
holy texts, including Vishnu Puran and
Srimad Bhagavatam. This famed jewel
is known for its magical powers. It is
believed that if the owner of this jewel
offers prayers to it, it would produce
seventy-seven kilograms of gold every
day.
He could hear loud murmurs in the
crowd. Seventy-seven kilograms of gold
every day!
Even the TV cameramen, reporters
and press photographers were gasping.
The journalists were furiously scribbling
every word that he uttered. Swami Brij
Mohan smiled, pleased with the
audiences reaction.
He continued, The Shyamantaka
originally belonged to the Sun God. He
wore it around his arm and it gave him a
glittering appearance. The light
emanating from this jewel was so bright
that people would feel blinded when
they stood in front of the Sun God. There
was a nobleman named Satrajit who
lived in the kingdom of Dwarka. He
performed great penances to the Sun
God. Pleased with Satrajits ardent
devotion, the Sun God appeared and
blessed him. Satrajit bowed his head
and offered prayers at his feet. The Sun
God offered him a boon.
Satrajit replied, Oh Lord! You have
given me lots of happiness, wealth, good
health and peace. What more could I ask
for?
The Sun God insisted that his
devotee ask him for a boon.
Seeing the dazzling, fiery jewel
around the Sun Gods arm, Satrajit
replied, Oh Lord! If you really insist, I
would like to have the glittering jewel
that adorns your arm.
The Sun God immediately removed
the jewel and handed it to Satrajit, but
not before saying, You can have my
jewel but I need to caution you about it.
Satrajit looked surprised. The Sun
God explained, This is no ordinary
gem. It has magical powers. If the person
keeping this jewel offers prayers to it, it
will produce seventy-seven kilograms of
gold. This makes the jewel extremely
precious. There will be thousands of
people who will try to steal it from
you.
Satrajit was stunned as he listened to
the Sun God. The Sun God concluded,
It can result in misunderstandings,
fights, thefts, murders and even wars!
Satrajit bowed his head and said,
Oh Lord! I fully understand its potency.
I will guard it as if it were my own son.
I promise you that it will not fall into the
enemies hands.
The Sun God blessed him and
disappeared.
Swami Brij Mohan paused and looked
around. There was complete silence in
the audience. Everyone was soaking in
the story. He looked at the TV
cameramen. His speech was being
telecast to different parts of the world.
Satrajit returned to Dwarka. The
Shyamantaka jewel had given him the
aura of the Sun God. When he rode
through the streets of Dwarka, people
rushed out of their homes, shouting, The
Sun God has come to visit us!
Lord Krishna invited Satrajit to his
palace and asked him to hand over the
jewel to Ugrasena, their Supreme
Emperor. Lord Krishna explained that
any gift received by a subject belonged
to the emperor but Satrajit was not
convinced and refused to part with the
precious gem. He said that since the Sun
God had gifted it to him, it was his
personal property. He was seething with
anger as he stomped out of Lord
Krishnas palace.
A few days later, Satrajit gifted the
jewel to his beloved brother, Prasena.
One day, Prasena went hunting in the
forest. He was attacked and killed by a
lion. The lion was fascinated by the
glowing jewel around the dead mans
neck. It removed it and fled towards its
den. However, it was attacked on the
way by Jambavan. There was a fierce
fight between the two and finally,
Jambavan managed to kill the lion.
Who is Jambavan? asked a voice
from the audience.
Swami Brij Mohan explained,
Jambavan was the King of Bears. He
was one of the strongest animals in the
forest. He was also a staunch devotee of
Lord Rama and had helped Him during
His battle against the demon king
Ravana. It is believed that Jambavan has
the blessings of all the gods and is
immortal. When Satrajit heard the news
of his brothers death, he immediately
remembered the words of the Sun God
It can result in misunderstandings,
fights, thefts, murders and even wars!
He also remembered Lord Krishnas
desire to possess the Shyamantaka.
Putting two and two together, he thought
Krishna was the one who had killed his
brother and stolen the Shyamantaka!
Within no time, the entire kingdom of
Dwarka was pointing fingers at Lord
Krishna. When the news reached Lord
Krishnas ears, He was hurt. He decided
that the only way to prove His innocence
was to catch the real culprit and recover
the Shyamantaka. He went to the forest
and soon reached the spot where
Prasena had been killed. He noticed
footprints of a lion and followed its
trail. Soon, He came across the dead
body of a lion. Here, He saw the
footprints of a huge bear, which led Him
to a huge cave. When He entered the
cave, He saw a small bear playing with
the priceless jewel. As He went close to
take the Shyamantaka jewel from the
young bears paws, Lord Krishna heard
a huge roar. Jambavan was standing in
front of Him. He was angry that a
stranger had entered his cave and was
trying to steal his prized possession.
Did Jambavan hand over the jewel to
Lord Krishna? a voice asked.
Jambavan and Lord Krishna fought
fiercely for twenty-eight days. Jambavan
was astonished because he was unable
to defeat his opponent. For the first time
in his life, he had met a person who was
stronger than him. While he was growing
weaker with each passing day, the
stranger seemed to be growing stronger.
The only person who is stronger than
me is my Lord Rama. So who is this
stranger? he wondered.
Finally, Jambavan could take it no
longer. He fell at his opponents feet and
asked Him who He was. Lord Krishna
smiled. He introduced Himself as Lord
Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord
Vishnu.
Jambavan was thrilled and wept with
joy, My Lord! I knew you would keep
up your promise. During your
incarnation as Lord Rama, you had
promised that you would visit me again
in the Dwapara yuga. Please show me
your Rama Avatar.
Lord Krishna once again smiled and
turned Himself into Lord Rama.
Jambavan asked, Oh Lord! Please
tell me what brings you here?
Lord Krishna narrated the tale of the
gift of the Shyamantaka by the Sun God,
Satrajits reluctance to hand over the
jewel, Prasenas death and the rumours.
Jambavan handed over the famed jewel
immediately to Lord Krishna and also
requested Him to marry his daughter,
Jambavati.
Lord Krishna returned to Dwarka
along with the Shyamantaka and His
newly wedded wife. He summoned
Satrajit to His court and gave him the
recovered jewel. Satrajit was ashamed
of his conduct. He wanted to atone for
his sins so he offered the jewel and his
daughter, Satyabhama, to Lord Krishna.
Lord Krishna accepted Satyabhama as
His wife but returned the Shyamantaka to
Satrajit. Having been maligned once, He
was no longer interested in the famed
jewel.
So the jewel remained with Satrajit?
a voice from the crowd asked.
Swami Brij Mohan replied, Most of
the holy scriptures narrate the same story
of the Shyamantaka till this point. What
happened to the jewel later? Well, there
are different versions from here
onwards. According to the most
commonly accepted version, Satrajit
gave the Shyamantaka to Lord Krishna
who refused to accept it because it had
given Him a bad name earlier. So it was
with Satrajit till his death. Another
version says that Satrajit too did not
want to keep it, so he handed it over to
Akrura for safekeeping. According to a
third version, Lord Krishna accepted the
precious stone and kept it in His palace
in Dwarka.
So what really happened to the
Shyamantaka? asked another voice in
the audience.
Swami Brij Mohan looked at him. He
was in no hurry to finish his story and
leave the podium.
I have waited for this moment for so
many years! Let me enjoy the limelight.
No one is going to rush me tonight.
Let me tell you about Vajranabha, the
great-grandson of Krishna. Pradyumna
was the son of Krishna and Rukmini.
Pradyumnas son, Aniruddha, married
Usha and they had a son named
Vajranabha. Vajranabha never saw his
great-grandfather; however, he was a big
devotee of Him. During his reign, he
performed numerous archaeological
excavations and found many buried
temples and other sacred sites. He was
instrumental in renovating many sacred
buildings which had fallen into ruin due
to years of neglect. He also discovered
and reinstalled the idols in many ancient
temples of Mathura and Vrindavan. He
was the one who built this famous
temple where all of us are seated today.
Swami Brij Mohan waved his hand
across the temple complex.
What has Vajranabha got to do with
the Shyamantaka legend? an impatient
voice asked.
Swami Brij Mohan did not like to be
hurried. For a moment, his eyes flashed
in anger. Aware that his speech was
being transmitted across more than a
hundred countries, he recovered quickly,
his lips breaking into a smile, A lot. As
I mentioned just now, Vajranabha, during
his numerous archaeological excavations
discovered many lost artefacts, temples,
idols and even treasure. Among them
was the Shyamantaka!
There was a hushed silence in the
audience.
Swami Brij Mohan was enjoying
himself. He continued, Vajranabha
found the Shyamantaka. But he was well
aware of its potency and the risks
involved if it fell into wrong hands. He
knew that many other kings would be
interested in this precious gem so he did
the most sensible thing: he hid the
Shyamantaka gem.
This was a completely new twist to
the legend of the Shyamantaka. If what
Swami Brij Mohan was saying was true,
then it had not been lost for the past five
thousand years. It had been hidden!
Another voice from the audience
asked, Why was it so important to hide
this gem? India was not the only country
that had precious stones and the
Shyamantaka was not the only gem in
this world.
Swami Brij Mohan turned towards the
person who had just spoken. Young
man, the Shyamantaka produces seventy-
seven kilograms of gold every day.
Assuming a rate of three thousand rupees
per gram of gold, this would generate
gold worth 85 billion rupees per year
obviously, many countries and
underworld organizations would be
interested in this.
Sangeeta gasped, 85 billion rupees
per year! She looked at Davies who
nodded his head.
Many nations have been hunting for
the Shyamantaka surreptitiously. They
want to unearth it from its secret location
in India and take it to their country.
There are also many countries that do
not want India to find it because it will
make India very rich. Once he reveals its
location tonight, all this will change,
Davies whispered.
Swami Brij Mohan walked to the
table and helped himself to a glass of
water. He could feel the crowd growing
restless. The media persons too were
eagerly waiting to transmit the location
of the Shyamantaka to millions of
viewers around the world.
My dear brothers and sisters! I now
come to the concluding part of my
speech. Vajranabha hid the Shyamantaka
because he feared that if his descendants
lost a war, the omnipotent gem would
fall into the hands of his enemies. At the
same time, he wanted to record the
current location of the Shyamantaka. His
library contains
Swami Brij Mohan never got the
opportunity to complete his sentence.
Kathuria, who had been sitting next to
Sangeeta all this while, stood up and
rushed towards him. He pulled out his
gun and gently squeezed the trigger.
17
Mathura
20 January 2015

Swami Brij Mohan was horrified. He


had never come face-to-face with death.
A philosophical man, he always
preached that life and death were only
two sides of the same coin and one must
be ready to embrace both with equal
aplomb. However, this was not the time
for philosophy. Death stared at him right
in the face. He closed his eyes in fear
and anticipation of the bullet finding its
mark. In his state of panic, he began to
recite the sacred shlokas that he had
learnt and had been chanting since
childhood. He knew he had just a few
moments left before the bullet snuffed
out his life.
A few seconds passed. Nothing
happened.
Swami Brij Mohan was as shocked as
his assailant. He slowly opened his
eyes. The man in saffron robes was
staring at the barrel of his gun. His face
mask was hindering his vision.
God! The cylinders are jammed! No
wonder the bullets wont come out! I
am going to be captured by the armed
guards. My worst fears have come true.
Kathuria knew that Swami Brij
Mohan was the key to his safety.
If I hold him hostage, the armed
guards will neither fire at me nor dare
to capture me.
As the security guards rushed to nab
him, Kathuria climbed on to the podium
and dashed towards Swami Brij Mohan.
Before the Swamiji realized what was
happening, his attacker caught him by the
neck and pulled him towards him. If
Kathuria had anticipated a frail-looking
saint to be easy meat, he was in for a
rude shock. Swami Brij Mohan,
surprisingly, put up a strong resistance.
Despite wearing long robes that were
not the ideal attire for a combat, he
managed to wildly swing his legs and
kick his assailant in the groin. Kathuria
shrieked loudly and fell down from the
podium, dragging the Swamiji to the
floor with him. The security guards were
now closing in on the intruder.
The Swamiji pulled at his assailants
robes and tried to land a heavy punch on
his stomach. Kathuria lifted himself by a
few inches and the Swamijis punch
landed on his belt instead. In a split
second, there was a huge blast followed
by multiple explosions. The bombs
attached to Kathurias belt had been
detonated.
Swami Brij Mohan screamed loudly,
Krura! The words reverberated
through the entire temple complex. The
blasts had generated enough smoke and
dust to render the podium almost
invisible to the armed security guards
who were standing nearby. People began
to run out of the courtyard. There was
complete chaos and commotion. The
smoke had reduced the visibility to zero,
and none of the devotees could see the
exit. Most of them were running around
in circles causing a stampede in the
courtyard. The injured cried for help but
there was no one willing to risk their life
by staying back to help them. Everyone
feared that there were more bombs
waiting to be detonated. The security
guards were helpless. The tear gas and
smoke aggravated the rescue operations.
Sangeeta was dumbfounded. She had
never witnessed a terrorist attack in her
life. The last thing she had expected in a
place of worship was an assassination
bid and bomb explosions. She groped
her hands in the air, through the blinding
smoke, and suddenly a pair of strong
arms caught them. She screamed and
tried to push the arms away, only to
realize they were Daviess.
Sangeeta, are you all right? Davies
asked.
Sangeeta was relieved. She clasped
his arm and sighed with relief. Hugging
him snugly, she closed her eyes to wipe
out the scene that she had just witnessed.
She could have stayed like that
forever had she not heard a stern voice,
Madam, dont move! You are under
arrest.
Sangeeta opened her eyes and turned
to face a tall young woman in police
uniform.
I am Nisha Sharma, superintendent of
police. We need to question you, she
said, her gun pointing at Sangeeta.
Sangeeta recoiled in horror.
What? Me? Why? she screamed at
Nisha.
Circumstantial evidence points
towards that, Nisha replied smugly.
Rubbish! What kind of evidence are
you talking about? Have you gone
crazy? Sangeeta was now screaming at
the top of her voice. The commotion in
the courtyard, however, rendered her
inaudible.
Well, the terrorist in saffron robes
who attacked Swami Brij Mohan was
sitting next to you. I saw him get up from
the chair next to yours before he
attacked.
That does not prove anything! I am
innocent! I dont keep a track of
strangers who sit next to me. I am a TV
reporter; I work for one of Singapores
biggest TV networks, Sangeeta retorted.
Is that so? In that case, may I see your
identity card? Nisha barked.
Sangeeta put her hands in her pockets
and began to search for her identity
badge. I could have sworn I was
carrying it, she muttered. She shifted her
gaze from her pockets and looked
helplessly at Nisha.
Oh, yeah? A very likely story! And
how do you explain the guns that you are
carrying? Nisha asked.
Guns? What guns? I dont see any
guns here.
Madam, either you are blind or crazy.
Look at the packet on your right. Nisha
was now growing impatient.
Sangeeta turned towards the package
that contained the idol of Lord Krishna.
She was stunned. The package was
open but there was no idol inside. She
stared in horror at the barrels of AK-47
guns sticking out from the bulky package.
18
Mathura
20 January 2015

Sangeeta was dazed.


What happened to the idol that I had
purchased? Who opened the packet and
replaced it with guns?
Sangeeta turned and looked
questioningly at Davies. Wasnt he the
one who had got the idol packed?
Davies seemed unruffled.
Was he involved in this attack?
Her thoughts were interrupted as she
saw Davies grab one of the guns from
the package and fire at the huge glass
chandeliers that hung from the ceiling.
Daviess expertise ensured that the
bullet found its target. There was a
deafening noise as the chandeliers hit the
hard ground one after another. The
courtyard was plunged into darkness.
Before her eyes could get accustomed,
she felt Daviess hand hold her arm
firmly. Run! Let us get out of here
before we are captured, he whispered.
Sangeeta was in a quandary. Should
she stay back and explain her innocence
to Nisha Sharma or should she listen to
Davies?
Even as she was evaluating the pros
and cons of each alternative, Davies
once again pulled at her hand, We need
to leave before the emergency lights are
switched on. This time his voice was
firm and emphatic.
Sangeeta held on to Daviess hand as
they sprinted across the dark courtyard.
Davies had visited the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple earlier so he was
well acquainted with the topography. He
dashed to the left side of the courtyard
and reached the Keshav Dev Temple.
Once he reached the main door, he
turned to his right and bolted across the
corridor.
This takes us to the prison cell and
will lead us to the Radha Krishna
Temple. On our right is the ramp that
will take us to the exit, he said.
Wont there be security guards near
the exit gate? Sangeeta asked.
The ramp has metal railings on either
side. However, at one place, the railing
has been removed. This is done to
facilitate the transportation of food items
into the temple. We can jump from that
spot. It wont be a bad falljust ten
feet.
Sangeeta groaned.
Shooting at chandeliers. Evading the
police. Jumping from broken railings. I
already feel like a criminal.
Are you sure you want to flee like
this? Wont it be better if we surrender
ourselves to the police? We are, after
all, innocent. We can explain
everything, she said.
Whod believe your story? You had
the first taste of it with the woman SP.
Trust me, we are doing the right thing,
he replied.
I hate the fact that we are being
accused of a crime we did not commit,
Sangeeta protested.
Thats the power of the Shyamantaka,
Ms Rao. Lord Krishna Himself was
wrongly accused and we are just mere
mortals compared to Him, Davies
replied philosophically.
Sangeeta nodded her head and tried to
keep pace with him.
Three hours ago, I had not even met
him. Now I have entrusted my life and
my future to him.
Suddenly they felt a cool breeze
blowing across their faces.
I think we are close to the prison
cell. The air draft is caused by a door on
the other side of the room, Davies
explained.
No sooner had Davies spoken than
there was another huge explosion, this
time from the prison cell.
The man in saffron robes had died in
the courtyard but there seem to be more
terrorists. It looks like his accomplice is
now hurling bombs, Davies whispered.
Sangeeta moaned. The temple seemed
to be swarming with terrorists and
police.
And we are trying to avoid both.
Let us wait here for a couple of
minutes instead of entering the prison
cell. If this bomb is anything like the
ones that detonated in the courtyard, then
the prison cell will be filled with smoke
and tear gas. We should wait till the air
clears up a bit, Davies suggested.
The sound of footsteps followed by
gunfire made them turn back.
Accompanied by a few armed police
officers, SP Nisha was dashing down the
corridor.
Too dangerous to stay here. Let us
move on, Sangeeta said as she sprinted
into the prison cell. Davies hurriedly
followed her.
The bomb blast had converted the
sacred room into a dust chamber. Davies
began to cough incessantly. Sangeeta
was struggling to keep her eyes open.
The tear gas had transformed her eyes
into puddles of tears. The bomb
explosion inside the prison cell had
destroyed the electric supply and the
thick smoke had resulted in zero
visibility. It was like being caught in a
sand storm in the middle of a dark
desert. Both of them swung their hands
wildly, hoping to find the door to the exit
ramp.
Davies put his hand inside his shirt
and pulled out a cigarette lighter. He
switched it on and watched its flame
curve to the right.
The air draft is from the left so the
door must be located in that direction.
Lets run, he said.
The explosion had weakened one of
the ceiling slabs, and it fell with a heavy
thud followed by a billow of smoke that
sent Davies into another bout of coughs.
With all the noise, they did not hear
Nisha issuing instructions to the guards
at the temples exit gate on her walkie-
talkie, Two terrorists are currently
holed up inside the prison cell. Visibility
is very poor so I do not know if they are
holding any hostages. We cannot take the
risk of firing at them. However, we
heard them looking for the door so they
should be approaching the exit ramp
very soon.
Madam, if they try to escape . . . the
guard started.
Shoot them if required. It will save
us a long judicial process, Nisha
replied brusquely.
19
Mathura
20 January 2015

Sangeeta and Davies turned to the left. A


few steps led them to a broken door.
The bomb blast must have caused
this. Lets cross quickly and reach the
exit, Davies said, holding out his hand.
Sangeeta grabbed it as they dashed down
the corridor.
After about a hundred metres, Davies
suddenly stopped.
Something seems to be wrong, he
said thoughtfully. Sangeeta looked at him
inquiringly.
By now, we should have gone past
the Radha Krishna Temple and reached
the exit gate of the temple complex. I see
neither of them, Davies explained.
Lets walk on for a while, Sangeeta
suggested.
A few minutes later, they found that
the corridor split into two paths.
This is strange. I have come to this
temple earlier but never saw an
intersection like this in the corridor.
Something is definitely wrong, Davies
sounded worried.
Maybe there is an exit route you
didnt know about. Let us take the path
on the right. That seems to be in the
direction of the exit, Sangeeta
suggested.
They ran till they saw a bright light at
the end of the corridor.
Wait! I hear some voices. We need to
be careful, Davies warned.
The corridor opened into a huge
courtyard, bathed in green light. Many
men were strolling about. Loudspeakers
were blaring devotional songs.
Phew! We finally made it! Davies
sounded relieved.
I am not so sure, Alan, Sangeeta said
slowly.
Davies turned and looked at her.
Observe carefully, she whispered.
Davies looked around again, this time
more watchfully. Realization slowly
dawned upon him. We have reached the
courtyard of a mosque and not the
temple exit! But how could this
happen? I know the layout of the place
so well.
We have taken the wrong door, he
sighed.
Wrong door?
The prison cell has two doors. One
of them is the normal exit that takes us to
the Radha Krishna Temple and the exit
gates of the temple complex. Thats the
one we should have taken. The other
door has been locked for the past few
centuries. The bomb blast must have
broken that door, and thats the one we
must have used.
A door kept locked for the past few
centuries! Why?
Long story. The Mughal kings had
repeatedly invaded and destroyed the
Krishna Janmasthan Temple. One of
them even built a mosque next to the
prison cell. During the Mughal rule, the
corridor connecting the prison cell and
the mosque was kept open. Later on, the
Hindus protested and decided to seal the
door. They did not want any movement
between the temple and the mosque. The
Muslims were only too glad to accept
this proposal. Since then, this door has
been locked. Normally, the prison cell
has just one open exit door so I did not
bother to check, Davies explained.
But today, the bomb threw open the
sealed door and we have passed through
it, Sangeeta added bitterly.
Davies nodded and continued, Why
dont we just cross this courtyard and
make our way to the exit? Honestly, this
route appears to be safer because there
are no policemen here.
No, we cant. Did you notice the
attire of all the devotees here? Sangeeta
asked.
Davies looked around. All of the men
were dressed in white kurtas, pyjamas
and embroidered caps.
Your clothes look completely out of
place, and I am probably the only
woman here. We will be spotted even
before we reach the other end of the
courtyard, Sangeeta explained.
All of this happened because of my
blunder. I am terribly sorry about this,
Davies said.
Sangeeta held his hand. Dont worry,
Alan. Its not really your fault. It was
just our bad luck that the second door of
the prison cell opened. Blame the poor
visibility inside the room. Lets retrace
our steps and head back to the prison
cell.
Sangeeta and Davies turned and
slowly made their way back. Ten
minutes later, they reached the broken
door.
Wait! I can hear voices. Sangeeta
whispered.
She and Davies listened. This time,
they heard Nisha loud and clear. They
left the prison cell long back. They
should have reached the exit gate by
now. Can you check once again? Send a
few armed guards to the Radha Krishna
Temple, the fugitives might be hiding
there. I want them alive but if they try to
escape, shoot them.
20
Mathura
20 January 2015

Sangeeta grimaced. Fugitives! Michael


Wong should hear this!
It brought her back to reality and to
the real purpose of her Agra visit. She
was worried.
How am I going to reach Agra? I
need to cover the presidential meeting
tomorrow. And here I am, a fugitive! An
outlaw on the run!
We cant use this route. Nishas
guards are all over the place. All the exit
routes are blocked! Davies exclaimed.
Sangeeta tried to think of other escape
routes.
Listen! When we passed through this
corridor earlier, we came across an
intersection. We took the path on the
right and that led us to the mosque.
Suppose we take the path on the left?
Where does that lead to?
Davies shrugged. No idea. I dont
know if it leads to some place or if it is
just a dead end.
But that seems to be our only option
now.
If its a dead end then we are stuck.
Nishas men would soon be in that
corridorarmed with guns. We would
be sitting ducks.
Sangeeta realized he was right. But
there seemed to be no better option.
I know its a gamble, but we dont
have a choice. Lets run, she said.
After a brief sprint, they reached the
fork in the corridor again. This time,
they took the path on the left. It was quite
narrow and dusty compared to the one
on the right that they had taken earlier.
Cobwebs covered most of the ceiling.
Sangeeta shrieked when she saw rats
scampering in the dingy corridor. Davies
gently covered her mouth with his hand.
As they went on, the floor gradually
became rocky and uneven.
The terrain seems to have changed. I
think we are in a hilly area, Sangeeta
observed.
Suddenly, the path sloped down
steeply.
Probably a dungeon in a hilly area,
Davies suggested.
Dungeon?
There is only one part of Mathura
that has such steep roads. It is the place
where Kansa Kila is situated.
Kansa Kila? Palace of Kansa?
Thats right. Former emperor of
Mathura, Davies replied.
Sangeeta knew a bit of the history of
Mathura. However, she hadnt known
that Kansas palace still existed there.
The tunnel spiralled downwards. The
rocky path made their descent difficult.
After they had walked for about twenty
minutes, they could feel a sudden drop in
temperature. The walls of the tunnel
were damp at many places and droplets
of water hung from the ceiling. There
was a sudden change in humidity, too.
This could mean only one thing. They
had reached a dungeon or a cellar.
Davies stopped abruptly. Facing him
was a huge teak door. It was around ten
feet tall and had been locked with
wooden bars placed horizontally across
the door.
We need to somehow break open this
door and go to the other side, he said.
Stand aside, please said Sangeeta.
Before Davies could reply, she had
already walked back a few steps.
Davies watched in amazement as she
sprinted across the corridor and dashed
towards the door. Her long legs were
airborne before they landed on the
wooden door with great force. The
wooden bars crashed to the ground with
a deafening noise that echoed along the
tunnel.
That was simply amazing, Davies
complimented.
Karate, remember? Sangeeta smiled
and bowed playfully.
As Sangeeta and Davies stepped past
the door, they entered what initially
looked like a small cell, but was in fact
a huge hall filled with dozens of wooden
bookshelves, filled with what, on
inspection, turned out to be manuscripts
written on vegetable parchment. There
were huge wooden tables and chairs in
the centre of the room.
The tables and chairs were covered
with a good few inches of dust. The hall
was definitely home to all kinds of
insectsspiders, moths, ants,
cockroaches. Clearly, the place hadnt
been cleaned in ages.
What kind of a place is this?
Sangeeta wondered.
Library. This appears to be the
library of King Kansa. We are in the
basement of his palace, Davies said.
The library of an ancient palace!
More than five thousand years old! I
must be dreaming, Sangeeta gasped.
No, you are not, a voice said.
Sangeeta jumped. That didnt sound
like Davies. Who was it? She and
Davies turned around and saw an old
man standing in the doorway. In his right
hand he held a blood-stained axe.
21
Mathura
20 January 2015

SP Nisha Sharma was growing


desperate. She had taken strict measures
to convert Mathura into a fortress.
Unfortunately, it was not as impregnable
as she had imagined. A Tibetan had been
brutally murdered the previous day.
Since then, security had been doubled.
Her efforts had seemed to have paid off
as there were no untoward incidents in
the morning and afternoon. Just when it
appeared as if the conference would
pass off peacefully, there was the killing
of a high-profile Swamiji, followed by
bomb blasts in one of the most famous
temples of the country. And when she
was about to arrest Sangeeta, the
terrorists accomplice, a foreigner had
helped her escape.
Nisha knew that the only way out for
them was to pass through the prison cell.
She was on the right track but fate
intervened again. A second bomb blast
occurred, this time inside the prison cell.
The smoke and tear gas had prevented
her from making a timely entry.
However, her trained police mind had
not lost hope. The temple complex has
only one exit gate; the pair would have
to make a dash for it.
She had immediately alerted the
guards at the exit gate. She was
confident that it would be just a matter of
minutes before they reported the arrest
of the two terrorists. Unfortunately, that
had not happened. Desperate to catch the
duo, she had ordered the guards to
search the entire Radha Krishna Temple.
Once again, they drew a blank.
Nisha was completely baffled.
How could they disappear into thin
air? They arent in the prison cell. They
arent in the temple either. And they
have not reached the exit gate. This
could mean only one thing. They are
still within the temple premises.
Nisha suddenly realized that she had
not updated her chief, Amit Yadav, about
the recent happenings. She pulled out her
mobile phone and dialled Yadavs
number, but he did not answer.
Why isnt he responding? Maybe he
already knows. He might be in an
emergency meeting. The PMO might be
giving him a piece of his mind about
the terrorist attack.
She cut the call and slid the phone
back into her pocket.
The smoke and tear gas had cleared
inside the prison cell. With the ambience
having significantly improved, Nisha
told her men to search the cell
meticulously.
They cant just vanish into thin air
like this! Look for any hidden trapdoors,
exits and tunnels. They have neither
reached the exit gate nor have they
retraced their steps so they must be
hidden somewhere here.
With the bomb having cut off the
power supply in the temple premises, the
room was still in darkness. Nisha looked
around. The altar had four huge brass
lamps. Next to them was a box of
matchsticks and cotton wicks. These
were used daily by the priests to light up
the altar. Nisha lit the four lamps and
handed them to her men. This should do
it. Light the lamps.
A few minutes later, one of her men
gave out a loud cry.
Look! A broken door! They must
have gone this way.
Nisha rushed towards him. His lamp
was bright enough to reveal a long
corridor on the other side of the door.
Lets go! she commanded.
A little while later, the group of
policemen reached the intersection.
Nisha stared at the two corridors. Which
one would they have taken? Not much
to decide between the two.
We will take the path on the right.
Thats in the direction of the exit.
They ran down the corridor.
Soon, they reached the end of the
pathway. Green lights greeted them as
they came out of the corridor. Nisha
immediately recognized the edifice
which stood in front of her. We are in
the neighbouring building. It is the
mosque.
Madam, do you think they would
have taken this route? one of her men
asked.
During her stint at the police
department, one of the things that Nisha
had learnt was to put herself in the
criminals shoes and think like him.
Whenever she was in a quandary, she
would ask herself, What would the
criminal do in such a situation?
Watching the bright green lights
flooding the open courtyard and
observing the men walking around in
spotless kurtas, pyjamas and white caps,
Nisha had the answer. They would not
risk being spotted here. Lets try the
other corridor.
22
Mathura
20 January 2015

Sangeeta and Davies were shocked to


see an armed intruder at the doorway.
A stranger with a blood-stained axe!
The intruders sunken eyes and puffed
cheeks made him appear older than his
sixty years. His blue eyes, fair skin and
chestnut-coloured hair indicated that he
wasnt a local. He was wearing a blue
suit so he was obviously not a
policeman. Was he one of the
terrorists? The one who had hurled the
bombs inside the prison cell?
Guessing their thoughts, the old man
laughed, I am neither a policeman nor a
terrorist. I am the curator of the
Smithsonian Museum in Washington,
DC.
Davies did not believe him. He
continued to stare at the axe.
Once again, the old man read his
thoughts. He laughed, Dont worry
about this. I am not going to kill you.
He threw the axe on the ground.
Davies sighed with relief. For a
moment, all his hopes of escape had
evaporated. The last thing he wanted
was to get butchered by a crazy old man
wielding a sharp axe.
He walked towards the old man and
extended his hand, I am Alan Davies, I
teach at the Oxford University.
The old man shook his hands and
replied, Professor, eh? I am Anton
Blanchard.
He looked towards Sangeeta.
Sangeeta joined the two men and
introduced herself.
I am French but I have been staying
in the US for the past forty years. The
Indian government has requested my
help to find the Shyamantaka gem,
Blanchard said.
What about the bloody axe? Davies
inquired.
I was attacked by a terrorist in the
prison cell. I had to use this to defend
myself. What are you doing here?
Blanchard asked.
Sangeeta and Davies glanced at each
other hesitantly.
Finally, Sangeeta replied, We are
tourists and met at the Taj Mahal. Since
we had a few hours to spare, we
decided to come here and attend the All
Saints World Religions Conference. We
were particularly interested in Swami
Brij Mohans speech. Unfortunately, he
was assassinated by a terrorist. The
police found guns in my package and
they assumed that I was a terrorist! With
Alans help I managed to escape from
there. Unfortunately, we lost our way in
the prison cell and instead of reaching
the exit gate of the temple, we landed
here.
So right now both of you are
fugitives in the eyes of the police?
Blanchard asked.
Sangeeta winced. Fugitives! This is
not the first time someone has used that
word to describe me.
Blanchard looked around the room
and asked, Where are we? It looks like
an ancient library.
It is a library. We are in the basement
of Kansa Kila, Davies replied.
Kansa Kila?
Palace of Kansa. It was destroyed
and rebuilt on numerous occasions. For
many years, it has been in a state of
neglecthardly any visitors. The palace
has a huge library in its basement. The
main route from the palace to the library
was destroyed many centuries ago; no
one can access the library. Even the few
tourists who come to the palace are not
aware of its existence.
Does this mean that the three of us
have unearthed an ancient library that
has been hidden for centuries?
Blanchard exclaimed.
Yes! Most of these parchments and
manucripts are thousands of years old. I
assume they will be mostly written in
Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in
the world, Davies explained.
Awesome! We can begin our hunt
right away! Blanchard exclaimed.
Hunt? Sangeeta and Davies said in
unison.
The hunt for the Shyamantaka! What
else? Blanchard grinned.
Here? Do you expect to find the
famed gem in these ruins? Sangeeta
pointed at the room.
Blanchard replied flatly, Of course
not, Ms Rao! However, I expect to find
some important clues here that will lead
us to the Shyamantaka. But the hunt is
going to be very tough, risky and
dangerous. If the legends are to be
believed, then the jewel generates gold
worth billions of dollars every year.
Different countries are looking for it.
The one that finds it will become one of
the most powerful countries in the
world. Dont forget the various terrorist
organizations. They are also in the race
and you have already had a taste of them
this evening.
Sangeeta shuddered. Had Tenzings
death got something to do with the
Shyamantaka? Should she tell Davies
and Blanchard about it? Her thoughts
were interrupted by the faint sound of
voices and footsteps coming from the
corridor.
23
Mathura
20 January 2015

The trio looked at one another. Voices


and footsteps could mean only one thing
the police!
Sangeeta was the first to speak. We
need to hide. Quick!
Davies and Blanchard looked around.
There were numerous bookracks in the
huge hall.
It is futile to hide behind these racks.
Wed be discovered in less than ten
minutes, Blanchard said.
Davies nodded his head in agreement.
Sangeetas sharp journalistic mind was
quickly processing all the information.
I have an idea. Not a great one, but
worth a try, Sangeeta offered.
She turned to Davies, Listen, Alan.
The police has seen only the two of us.
They have not seen Anton. Here is my
plan.
The two men listened to Sangeeta as
she quickly explained her strategy.
Finally, Davies said, Worth trying.
Let us hide behind the last rack and
allow Anton to do the rest.
Blanchard nodded, I am confident I
can handle this.
He smiled and patted Sangeeta
tenderly on her shoulder.
The old man and his gentle
mannerisms reminded her of her father.
How she wished she was at home right
now with her dad.
As the footsteps grew louder,
Sangeeta and Davies quickly sprinted
across the gigantic room and the
numerous bookshelves and crouched
behind the last rack. Sangeeta was
praying Blanchard would pull it off.
Blanchard was already in the centre
of the room. He hurriedly removed his
blue coat and tie and threw them on the
dusty floor. Next, he pulled out his neatly
tucked shirt and ruffled his hair to make
it look as dishevelled as possible.
Satisfied, he lay on the floor and waited.
Within a few seconds, SP Nisha and
her men rushed inside. Blanchards eyes
were half open. The gun in Nishas hand
sent a chill up his spine. He knew he
was in a very dangerous situation but he
had to protect Sangeeta and Davies. He
could not afford to lose them at this
stage.
Nisha looked around and noticed the
old man lying on the floor. His coat and
tie were scattered on the floor. These
articles and the mans unkempt hair
indicated a struggle. She gave a deep
sigh. I am on the right track. I am sure
the two terrorists have battered the
poor old man.
She looked at her men and waved her
hand towards Blanchard. Two
policemen walked to him and slowly
pulled him up. They placed him gently
on a wooden chair.
Blanchard briefly narrated the story
that he had prepared.
I had come to this temple as a tourist.
After the bomb blast, I panicked and
began to run blindly in the courtyard. It
was dark, I couldnt see where I was
going and accidentally ended up here. It
was my bad luck that within a few
minutes after my arrival, two terrorists
landed here. Blanchard paused and
looked mournfully at Nisha.
She nodded, Yes, we know about
them. An Indian girl and a European
man.
Blanchard continued ruefully, The
duo threatened to kill me if I didnt hand
over my cash. They took my cash, a gold
chain and a diamond ring that I had. He
began to cough gently.
She gently patted the old mans back
and said, The police will catch them
soon, dont worry.
Blanchard sighed with relief. He
hadnt expected it to be this easy.
He watched Nisha switch on her
walkie-talkie and fire instructions in
Hindi. She turned towards Blanchard
and said, I have asked a team of doctors
to come here and assist you.
Unfortunately, right now, they are
occupied assisting the tourists who were
seriously injured in the blasts so it may
take a while before they reach.
Blanchard once again sighed with
relief. Let the doctors take their own
time.
I can understand, madam. First
priority should be for the grievously
injured. I am fine. I can manage. He
smiled weakly.
Nisha suddenly looked around and
asked, Any idea where they went?
Oh yes! I heard them discussing that
they should leave this place before the
police arrives. They were planning to
take the corridor that leads to the prison
cell. They should be near the exit gate by
now, Blanchard replied as he looked at
his watch.
No way! They wont escape. All
exits of the temple complex are sealed.
Anyway, let me caution the guards there.
Nisha once again shot instructions on her
walkie-talkie.
Nisha looked around the room. There
seemed to be no one here. My men and I
will go back to the temple. You can wait
here for the doctors. Is that fine with
you?
Blanchard nodded his head
immediately. Sure. I can manage by
myself. I suggest you pursue the
terrorists and catch them. Dont forget to
put an extra bullet in their heads for me.
He smiled weakly.
Dont worry, sir! We will catch them
soon. Nisha waved at her men to follow
her.
24
Mathura
20 January 2015

Watching the police leave, Sangeeta and


Davies heaved a sigh of relief. They
came out of their hiding place and
walked towards Blanchard.
That was an excellent piece of
acting! Davies exclaimed.
Thank Sangeeta. She was my
scriptwriter, Blanchard chuckled.
Sangeeta smiled at the two men.
Having got rid of the police, she was
feeling much better.
She looked at Blanchard, I agree
with Alan. That was an amazing piece of
acting.
Blanchard grinned.
Sangeeta knew that they were not safe
yet. We dont have much time. We
should begin our search, she remarked.
There are thousands of books lying
here. It will take ages to go through each
one of them, Blanchard moaned.
Sangeeta replied, This is a library. I
am sure the books must be arranged in
some logical mannereither by author
names or book titles.
The trio moved across the different
racks arranged in the huge hall. Every
row had a small wooden plaque that had
a symbol painted in black.
What are these strange inscriptions?
Blanchard wondered.
Letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. The
racks must be organized alphabetically,
Sangeeta explained.
I presume you can read Sanskrit?
Blanchard inquired.
I learnt it in school. Sangeeta
nodded. She walked around some
shelves and returned to the two men.
Just as I guessed. All the rows are
organized alphabetically. The letters on
the plaque represent the authors names.
Good! We should go to the V rack,
Davies said.
Sangeeta and Blanchard looked at him
questioningly.
Davies explained, Swami Brij
Mohan had explained that the current
location of the Shyamantaka was known
only to the late King Vajranabha. Before
he died, the king had mentioned the
details in his book. We need to find that
book.
Right. In Sanskrit, V would be
written as Va so we must hunt for that.
Follow me. Sangeeta walked briskly
across the room, leading the two men.
It took Sangeeta less than a minute to
locate the right shelf. She quickly
browsed the titles. Thankfully, there was
only one book written by Vajranabha.
She pulled out the book from the rack.
Having been untouched for centuries in
the dungeon, it was covered in a thick
layer of dust. As she wiped the cover,
she could slowly see the title emerge
Shyamantaka!
She stood breathless. Davies and
Blanchard were watching her
movements. Seeing a sudden change in
her expression, they realized she had hit
a jackpot. The duo followed her as she
kept the book on a table and began to
flip through the pages.
Careful, Sangeeta. The parchment is
very old and delicate, warned
Blanchard.
Sangeeta quickly perused the contents
of the book. It described the origin of the
Shyamantaka gem, Krishnas desire to
keep it, Satrajits refusal, Prasenas
death, Jambavans hunt, the fight
between Krishna and Jambavan,
Satrajits wish to hand over the gem to
Krishna and the latters refusal to accept
it.
She was disappointed.
There was no mention of the current
location of the gem!
She shut the book firmly and turned
towards Davies and Blanchard.
Gentlemen, I am sorry to disappoint
you. This book does not contain the
location of the Shyamantaka.
Blanchard shook his head. I am sure
we have overlooked something. You
dont really expect the location to be
stated in the book in an obvious manner,
did you?
Hmm. We are missing something,
Sangeeta said thoughtfully. She turned
around and noticed that Davies had
sauntered to the other end of the room.
He was staring intently at the huge
paintings that hung in front of him.
Anything interesting? Blanchard
asked expectantly and walked towards
him. He was soon joined by Sangeeta.
They found themselves standing in
front of seven huge paintings that were
held by golden frames and fixed to the
wall with metallic rods. There was no
common theme among the paintingsit
was a mix of landscapes and portraits of
gods.
Nothing of interest here, Davies said
disappointedly and began to walk away.
Look, there is an inscription below
this painting! Blanchard exclaimed,
pointing to the painting in front of him.
Mine too has an inscription at the
bottom, Sangeeta said. She stood in
front of the second painting.
Davies realized that they might be on
to something interesting. He retraced his
steps and joined them. Each painting did
have an inscription in Sanskrit.
The first painting depicted Lord
Krishna sitting on an exquisitely carved
golden throne.
Where Dwarkadhish resides,
Sangeeta translated.
She headed for the second painting
that showed Lord Vishnu holding His
famous conch and Sudarshana Chakra.
She bent down to read the inscription,
His hand adorning the conch shows.
As she walked towards the third
painting, she noticed Davies furiously
scribbling her sentences on a white
piece of paper. The third painting was an
unusual oneno gods or goddesses
were depicted. Instead, it presented a
beautiful sunset on a seashore.
From water the land grows,
Sangeeta translated the inscription.
A few minutes later, Sangeeta had
translated four more inscriptions. Davies
stared at the sheet of paper that
contained all the translated sentences.
Looking at Sangeeta and Blanchard,
he recited:
Where Dwarkadhish resides,
His hand adorning the conch shows,
From water the land grows,
Lord Vishnus animal sanctifies,
Beneath the Divine Mother rests,
Holy water of the First One protects,
Below the path to Lanka stands . . .
Blanchard looked at Davies. Seven
paintings with inscriptions. Now what?
he asked.
Davies stared at the verse for a long
time. Then he slowly turned and smiled
at Sangeeta, Ms Rao, you have just
located the Shyamantaka for us.
25
Mathura
20 January 2015

Sangeeta and Blanchard stared at


Davies.
Location of the Shyamantaka? Is it
stated in that gibberish? Blanchard
asked.
Davies shook his head, What you call
gibberish are actually clues that will
lead us to the Shyamantaka.
You mean these are real clues?
Davies shrugged his shoulders. Just a
hunch.
But didnt Swami Brij Mohan remark
that the location of the Shyamantaka was
mentioned in a book? Sangeeta
protested.
No, he didnt. He just referred to this
library and we assumed that he was
indicating a book written by Vajranabha.
He was probably referring to these
inscriptions, Davies said.
Why would Vajranabha leave such
complicated codes? I mean, wouldnt it
have been simpler to just Blanchard
began.
Davies interrupted, Remember,
Vajranabha knew that he alone was
aware of the location of the
Shyamantaka, so he didnt want this little
secret to die with him. At the same time,
he didnt want it to fall into enemys
hands, like Swami Brij Mohan
mentioned.
Vajranabha was a shrewd man. He
realized that the sprawling Indian
kingdom could get disintegrated. And
that different rulers coming from
neighbouring and faraway lands could
attack, conquer and rule India.
And he didnt want those foreign
rulers to learn about the Shyamantaka?
Blanchard said.
Davies nodded. Thats right. He had
two objectives though they might
sound contradictory. He wanted to
reveal the location of the Shyamantaka to
the local people but, at the same time, he
didnt want the foreign rulers to know
about it.
How did he achieve that? Blanchard
was curious.
Davies smiled. Thats the ingenuity
of Vajranabha. Sanskrit is one of the
oldest languages in the world but it was
spoken only in the Indian subcontinent.
He knew that writing the location of the
Shyamantaka in Sanskrit would be the
first step towards keeping it away from
foreigners.
But isnt that a bit nave? Blanchard
questioned. I mean, what does it take a
foreign ruler to get it translated into his
native language? Either through money
or by force.
Davies replied, Thats precisely why
I said first step. Apart from Sanskrit,
he must have also used cryptic religious
codes that a foreigner or a layman might
not understand.
Meaning? Blanchard raised his
eyebrows.
Davies elaborated, If an invader
from a foreign nation had done what you
suggestedtried to get it translated by a
local, I meanhe would have ended up
with a few gibberish sentences because
the sentences would be veiled in cryptic
codes. These codes could be broken
only by a person with a deep knowledge
of the Hindu religion, so merely
translating the Sanskrit sentences would
be of no use.
Like the way we did, Sangeeta
added wryly.
Davies nodded, Thats right. Merely
translating from Sanskrit to English is of
no use. We need to decipher the cryptic
codes to know the location of the
priceless gem.
Do you think you can break these
codes? Blanchard looked at Sangeeta
with hope.
Sangeeta studied the paper that
contained the translation of Vajranabhas
verse. I think I can decipher the first
lineWhere Dwarkadhish resides.
Isnt Dwarkadhish another name for
Krishna? Davies asked.
Sangeeta nodded. Yes. Krishna ruled
the city of Dwarka and Dwarkadhish
means King of Dwarka.
So where does Dwarkadhish reside?
Blanchard was puzzled.
Davies smiled, Vajranabha was a
genius. The sentence has two meanings
but both refer to the same place.
Dwarkadhish is another name for
Krishna so the first sentence translates
as Where Krishna resides. Remember,
Dwarkadhish is also the name of a
famous temple in Dwarka so the first
line also means Where the
Dwarkadhish Temple resides.
Does it mean that the Shyamantaka is
near the Dwarkadhish Temple in the
town of Dwarka? Blanchard asked.
Yes. The first sentence reveals the
town. We need to decipher the remaining
six sentences to know the exact
location, Davies explained.
Blanchard asked, How far is Dwarka
from here? Within an hours drive?
Davies guffawed. India is a very big
country, my friend. This is not France!
We are currently in the northern state of
Uttar Pradesh. I think Dwarka is in the
western part of India.
Sangeeta nodded. Thats right.
Dwarka is in the state of Gujarat and
very far from here.
Blanchards mind was racing.
The only way I can locate the
Shyamantaka is with their assistance.
Davies knows the Hindu religion quite
well, so he can help in breaking the
codes. Sangeeta is an Indian. She
knows Sanskrit, probably a few local
languages and the geography of this
vast country.
He turned his gaze towards Sangeeta,
How do we get to Dwarka from here?
Sangeeta said thoughtfully, I think we
need to travel to New Delhi by road.
That should take around four hours.
There are no flights to Dwarka, and
Rajkot is the nearest airport. New Delhi
to Rajkot would probably be an hour by
air. Rajkot to Dwarka is a four-hour
drive by road.
Blanchard made a quick calculation,
So it would take approximately nine
hours to reach Dwarka. He grimaced.
Sangeeta nodded.
I have a proposal for both of you he
said.
Sangeeta and Davies looked at him in
confusion.
26
Mathura
20 January 2015

Both of you are being chased by the


state police. I can help you escape from
this state. In return, I need your
assistance, Blanchard said.
Assistance? Davies was puzzled.
In locating the Shyamantaka,
Blanchard replied.
Why should we risk our lives? We
know that jewel is being hunted by
various underworld organizations. We
might get killed during this operation,
Sangeeta said.
Blanchard looked at her, If you are
caught by the UP Police, they wont
hesitate to put a bullet into your lovely
head. As you are aware, I am the curator
of the Smithsonian Museum, and the
Indian government has hired my services
to locate the Shyamantaka. If we manage
to find it and hand it over to the Indian
government, the Indian police will
acquit both of you.
Sangeeta knew that Blanchard was
right. Nisha Sharma and her men were
waiting to capture them. They had
absolutely no chance of escaping without
Blanchards help. It was risk or perish
for them!
Sangeeta suddenly gave a loud cry.
Both men jumped and looked at her
sharply.
I just remembered! In less than fifteen
hours from now, I have to cover one of
the most important international events at
Agra. There is no way I can travel
thousands of miles away from here, she
explained.
Blanchard gave a sardonic laugh.
Sangeeta, do you really think Nisha and
her men will allow you to reach Agra?
They are waiting for you at the exit gates
of the temple. They will arrest you the
moment you land there. If you try to
escape
He didnt have to complete his
sentence. Sangeeta was already
shuddering at the thought of being shot
dead at the exit gate.
What if I voluntarily surrender? I can
explain to them that I am a TV anchor
from Singapore and I have come to
she started.
Davies interrupted, No one will
believe your story. Remember, the
police found guns in your possession. If
you reveal your true identity, the police
will discover that you are a colleague of
the Tibetan who was mercilessly
murdered just yesterday in the temple
premises. They will put two and two
together and draw their own inferences.
They might even link the Tibetans
murder with the bomb blasts and suspect
your hand in them.
Sangeeta stared open-mouthed at
Davies. I wonder how he knows about
Tenzing and his murder. She sighed
loudly, I guess I dont have much of a
choice, do I?
No, you dont, Blanchard said
bluntly.
Sangeeta looked at Davies, Five
thousand years ago, Lord Krishna was
falsely accused of a crime that He never
committed. He had to find the
Shyamantaka jewel to prove His
innocence. Today, we are in a similar
situation. The only way to prove our
innocence is to find the famed
Shyamantaka.
Davies nodded, Yes, finding the
Shyamantaka is the only solution. It is
our ticket to freedom.
Blanchard sounded impatient, We
should now plan our escape from this
library. The doctors will be arriving
here any minute!
Nisha and her men are waiting for us
at the prison cell so there is no use trying
to go back there, Sangeeta replied.
Davies suggested, We can go back to
the mosque.
We cant. It is too conspicuous. If we
are noticed then the police will be
instantly alerted and that would be
suicide, Sangeeta said. She quickly
updated Blanchard about their recent
visit to the mosque.
Blanchard nodded his head, I agree
with Ms Rao. The mosque is not the
right route. By now, it will be swarming
with policemen.
The only option is to search the
library and see if there is a pathway that
leads us to Kansas palace. Remember,
this library is in the basement of Kansas
palace, so there must be some sort of a
staircase leading us above, Sangeeta
said.
Davies had already left her and was
busy exploring the library for staircases
and pathways.
There doesnt seem to be any exit
here, he sounded disappointed.
Blanchard noticed Sangeeta lost in her
thoughts. Any ideas, Sangeeta? he
asked.
Sangeeta replied, We should
remember that this palace was built by
Kansa. He was a tyrannical king who
was interested only in plundering and
killing people.
What are you trying to say?
Blanchard asked.
Will a person like Kansa invest in
music, arts and literature? Obviously
not! Sangeeta said.
But this library? Why would he build
it? Blanchard looked confused.
Sangeeta exclaimed, Exactly! Why
would Kansa build a library? He
probably built this basement chamber
with a different intention. It was
probably meant to be used as a safety
room during times of wars, to safeguard
his family members. Subsequently,
Vajranabha converted it into a library. If
it was indeed built as a safety room,
there will not be any noticeable
staircases linking the palace with this
room. There might be some secret
pathways or trapdoors that connect the
two. Just what you would find in a secret
chamber.
Blanchard and Davies seemed
convinced with her logic. The trio began
to explore the vast library for hidden
pathways and exits. A fifteen-minute
search proved futile.
But Davies was not ready to give up.
There must be a secret door or a
passage somewhere.
He noticed Sangeeta looking at the
fireplace keenly.
Is something wrong? he asked her.
She pointed to the fireplace.
Whats unusual about that? It looks
like an ordinary fireplace, Davies said.
Yes, and thats unusual! Sangeeta
exclaimed.
Davies did not understand. He raised
his eyebrows and looked at her.
You are not surprised to see this
because fireplaces are very common in
Europe. However, in Indian conditions,
we dont need them. The temperature in
summer soars to forty-five degrees and,
in winter Sangeeta never managed to
complete her sentence because Davies
was already squealing in delight.
27
Mathura
20 January 2015

Davies stood right below the fireplace.


You are right. This fireplace is a
dummy. I can see metal footholds on the
inner walls of the chimney and it doesnt
open out into the sky. I am sure it leads
us to some place within the palace, he
said breathlessly.
It took them less than five minutes to
climb the chimney and reach the top.
Sangeeta was the first to come out of the
chimney. She dusted her clothes and
looked around. What was once a grand
palatial room was now in ruins. Every
piece of furniture was covered with a
thick layer of dust. There was a
magnificent bed in one end of the room.
She could visualize a lavishly attired
queen sleeping on the grand, old bed
with countless attendants standing by.
Davies and Blanchard soon joined
Sangeeta. Cobwebs made it difficult for
the trio to cross the room.
Careful. There might be scorpions,
bats and snakes out here, Blanchard
cautioned.
Sangeeta shuddered as she looked
around the room. She saw none.
Thankfully, it didnt seem that bad!
Numerous paintings, depicting various
kings and queens of the Vrishni and
Yadava dynasties, hung on the walls. All
of them were painted with water colours
and vegetable oils. Davies stood
admiring the beautiful paintings.
For a moment, he was lost in his
childhood. The palaces of Udaipur that
he had visited as a child flashed before
his eyes.
What are you thinking, Alan?
Sangeeta asked, sensing he was in deep
thought.
Pity we have no time. I would love to
explore this beautiful palace, he said
ruefully.
Sangeeta grimaced. Exploring an
ancient palace that possibly housed
poisonous reptiles was the last thing on
her mind. Straight out of a horror
movie.
The trio came across a huge wooden
door decorated with exquisite carvings.
Davies gently pushed the door and
surprisingly, it was not locked. It opened
into a huge courtyard. Having spent the
last few hours in a musty prison cell, a
dingy corridor and an underground
library, it felt really good to smell fresh
air. The moonlight illuminated the
garden that stood in front of them. What
was once a beautiful garden with
manicured lawns was now a pale
shadow of itself. Tall weeds covered the
entire ground. Thorny shrubs gave the
garden an unkempt look. There was a
gigantic fountain at the centre of the
courtyard. It depicted a beautiful chariot
being drawn by five strong horses. The
fountain was no longer operational, the
gushing water now replaced by a thick
layer of moss. The three of them
stealthily crossed the vast garden and
reached the palace gate. A long, narrow,
winding road lay ahead of them. It was
completely deserted. There were no
signboards to indicate where they were.
Davies switched the GPS Tracker on
his mobile phone and studied the screen.
Just as I thought, we are at Kansa Kila.
Sangeeta looked at her watch. 11 p.m..
She had landed in India only ten hours
earlier, but it seemed like ten days. She
had checked in at the Taj View Hotel just
six hours back.
She looked at Alan, I had taken a
room at the Taj View Hotel in Agra. I
need to go there and check out before we
leave for Dwarka.
Taj View? Thats where I also
checked in. I will join you, Davies said.
The trio walked down the narrow
road and soon reached the Yamuna
River. They noticed wide steps near the
banks of the river.
I wonder where we are, Blanchard
said.
We are on the banks of the Yamuna.
This part of the river is known as a
ghat, the place where the devotees
bathe. They climb down these steps and
stand in the shallow waters of the sacred
Yamuna River to bathe, Sangeeta
explained.
Does this place have a specific
name? Davies asked.
Sangeeta looked around. She saw a
huge signboard that mentioned the name
of the place and the associated legend.
She translated for their benefitThis
is the sacred Vishram Ghat. It is
believed that Lord Krishna, after slaying
King Kansa, felt tired and wanted to
relax for a few hours. He came to this
part of Mathura and rested. Hence it is
known as Vishram Ghat.
She added, Vishram, in many
Indian languages, means rest.
So this place is as old as Lord
Krishna! Davies exclaimed.
Sangeeta replied, Older, in fact.
There is one more legend associated
with this place. It is believed that
thousands of years ago, an evil demon,
Hiranyaksha, captured Mother Earth and
hid it. No one had a clue about Earths
whereabouts. The gods and goddesses
prayed to Lord Vishnu and sought His
help. Lord Vishnu took His third
incarnation, as Varaha, the Boar, and
came to their rescue. Using His divine
vision, Lord Varaha hunted the entire
galaxy and found Earth hidden in the
cosmic ocean. Hiranyaksha was
guarding his prized catch. Lord Varaha
attacked him and, in the fierce battle that
ensued, Lord Varaha killed Hiranyaksha.
Lord Varaha felt tired after the long
battle and rested at this place. Thats
another story explaining how this place
got the name Vishram Ghat.
If this place is associated with the
third incarnation of Lord Vishnu, it must
be more than ten thousand years old!
Davies exclaimed.
Can we move on? This is no time for
history lessons, Blanchard sounded
impatient.
Sensing the old mans annoyance,
Sangeeta and Davies hurriedly left the
signboard and joined him. A brisk walk
along the steps of the various ghats took
the trio to the national highway.
This is NH 2, and it is considered
one of the most important highways in
India because it connects the nations
capital, New Delhi, with one of the most
famous tourist cities of the country,
Agra. After we check out of our hotel in
Agra, we need to come back to this
highway to travel to New Delhi,
Sangeeta explained.
Blanchard was glad he had asked
Sangeeta to accompany him to Dwarka.
She seemed to know the topography of
the place quite well.
It wont be long before the police
tighten security or even cordon off Agra
due to the bomb blasts. We must leave
the Taj View before that, he said.
I suggest we hitch-hike a ride to
Agra, Sangeeta said.
Hitch-hike? How? Blanchard was
astonished at her suggestion.
Sangeeta laughed. Trucks! What else!
Thats the fastest and the safest mode of
transport under the present
circumstances.
Trucks? It was Daviess turn to be
surprised.
Sangeeta explained, The entire city
of Mathura would be swarming with
policemen. By now, Nisha Sharma
would have broadcast our descriptions
to all wireless taxis and buses. Even
railway stations and bus stands in UP
would be alerted. It would be suicidal to
take any public transport to Agra. Trucks
would be relatively safe.
Unlike the deserted road near Kansa
Kila, the national highway was
swarming with vehicles, mainly trucks
and public buses. Sangeeta avoided the
approaching buses but waved her hands
wildly at the trucks.
A few minutes later, the trio was
sitting in a truck heading towards Agra.
The truck driver had been kind enough to
take them for a small fee. Sangeeta and
Davies sat in front along with the driver.
Blanchard rested himself on top of the
cargo at the back of the truck.
Davies was squeezed between
Sangeeta and the driver in the cramped
truck. Though Sangeeta had been running
through musty corridors, dirty chimneys,
dusty rooms and long weeds, Davies
could still smell the fragrance of her
perfume. She squeezed his hand gently
as he rested it on her lap. Despite the
recent troubles, she could feel herself
drawn towards him. As she held his
hand, she felt comforted that Alan was
going to be there during this crisis.
God! What would I have done
without him!
Davies caught Sangeeta looking at him
intently. Reading her thoughts and
noticing her blush, he smiled, That
makes it two of us!
A few miles away, Nisha was
speaking to the Star News TV channel
office.
Two terrorists have escaped from our
clutches. Since your channel is viewed
across the entire country, I would like
their descriptions to be broadcast
immediately . . .
28
Agra
20 January 2015

Hunter was dreaming of the vacation he


had planned for the following weekend.
Two days in the Bahamas amidst the
sun-kissed beaches, bikini-clad girls and
wine. He was rudely awakened by the
loud ring of his mobile. He glanced at
the time. It was close to midnight.
There was only one person who
would dare call him at midnight.
He picked up his mobile. Private
number was flashing on the display.
Hunter? I have some bad news. Rajat
Kathuria has been killed, the voice said.
Hunter felt as if someone had slapped
him hard. He forgot the beaches of
Bahamas and quickly came to his senses.
Rajat Kathuria dead!
Killed? How? Who? His voice
sounded incoherent.
Bomb blast, the voice said flatly.
Within a few minutes, he was given a
complete update on the recent
happenings at the Krishna Janmasthan
Temple in Mathura. He couldnt believe
that Kathuria was dead. He was one of
the best contract-killers he had come
across.
Its so hard to believe that he is
dead, he said.
Its in the past now. We need to plan
the next steps with caution, the voice
sounded impersonal and cold.
There was a long silence. Hunter
coughed gently to indicate that he was
still on the call.
There has been a change in our
strategy, the voice said.
Change in strategy? Hunter repeated.
Initially, our plan was to stop Swami
Brij Mohan from revealing the location
of the Shyamantaka. Unfortunately, there
are three people who have shown a lot
of interest in it. One is an Indian lady,
Sangeeta Rao from Singapore. The
second is Alan Davies, a Welsh
professor from England. The third is an
American, Anton Blanchard, the voice
continued.
Do you want me to eliminate them?
Hunter asked.
Not right now. I am sure they will
discover the Shyamantaka. Once they
find it, we will take it from them, the
voice explained.
Hunter sighed. The voice had made it
sound so simplelike snatching a candy
from a small child.
A few miles away, a truck pulled up
in front of the Taj View Hotel. The trio
alighted and paid the driver.
Both of you should quickly check out
from your rooms. I will wait for you in
the hotel lobby, Blanchard said.
Sangeeta and Davies walked towards
the receptionist.
Sangeeta said, We would like to
vacate our rooms right now. By the time
we pack our belongings, can you please
keep our bills ready?
The receptionist was puzzled,
Madam, your room is booked for two
days. You just arrived today
Yes, I know. There has been a change
of plans. We need to leave immediately,
Sangeeta interrupted.
The receptionist winced.
These rich people are crazy. Fickle-
minded fools. They have booked for two
days but want to leave now. Anyway,
thats none of my business.
He began to pound the keys on his
keyboard.
By the way, we need some help from
you. Can you please book two tickets to
Bangalore? Sangeeta asked the
receptionist.
Bangalore? Davies was surprised.
My home town is Bangalore and I
know the city very well. My friend owns
a farm house in a remote location near
Bangalore. We can cool our heels there
for a few days, Sangeeta explained.
But I thought we would be travelling
to Davies began to protest.
With a wave of her hand, she
declared, No, we are not. Change of
plans. Right now, a secluded farm house
near Bangalore would be our best bet.
Davies realized Sangeeta did not want
him to speak in front of the receptionist.
He remained silent.
The receptionist was staring at his
monitor.
There is a flight that leaves Agra at
12.30 a.m. and reaches Bangalore at 3
a.m. Would that work for you? he asked.
Sangeeta nodded. Two tickets,
please. Sangeeta Rao and Alan Davies.
We also need a taxi to go to the airport.
Davies turned towards Sangeeta. She
had already started to walk towards the
elevator. The receptionist dialled the
travel desk and arranged for two tickets
to Bangalore. He kept the phone on the
cradle and turned his gaze towards the
television.
The TV reporter was standing in front
of the open courtyard of the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple at Mathura. The
bomb blast had left a trail of destruction
everywhere. The exquisitely decorated
podium, which was the centre stage of
the international event just a few hours
back, was totally transformed. The table
and chairs were completely charred;
among them were what appeared to be
mangled bodies. Loose cables and wires
lay on the ground in a dishevelled
manner. The heat from the explosion had
melted the cables. Crushed marigold
flowers, pieces of broken furniture and
detached limbs were strewn across the
courtyard.
The disturbing scene had everything
that a news channel could ask for.
The reporter was tired. She had been
standing in front of the camera for the
past few hours. Her voice had become
hoarse with constant updates to hungry
viewers across the country. For the
hundredth time, she was describing the
All Saints World Religions Conference
and how it was interrupted by the bomb
and the chaos that followed.
The receptionist at the Taj View Hotel
gaped in horror as the reporter ended her
speech with the descriptions and a
black-and-white sketch of Sangeeta Rao
and Alan Davies.
29
Agra
20 January 2015

The receptionist could not believe what


he had just seen on the television. The
footages of the bomb blast clearly
showed the faces of Sangeeta Rao and
Alan Davies. The reporter had just
referred to them as terrorists.
Fugitives on the run! And I have
been harbouring them in my hotel! I
should inform the police immediately.
If you have any information regarding
these two terrorists, please contact SP
Nisha Sharma immediately at the
following telephone numbers . . . the TV
anchor was saying.
The receptionist quickly scribbled the
telephone numbers on his writing pad.
Unfortunately, before he could dial,
Sangeeta and Davies were back with
their bags.
He cursed under his breath.
What lousy timing! They had to come
now!
The receptionist handed over the
tickets to Sangeeta. I have added the
ticket charges to your room bills, he
said.
Great. Has our taxi arrived?
Sangeeta asked as she handed over her
credit card.
Yes, madam. It is waiting for you at
the porch, the receptionist said. He
swiped the credit card and handed it
back to Sangeeta. He repeated this for
Davies.
How is the weather in Bangalore? I
hope it is better than here, Sangeeta
remarked.
The receptionist gave her a long stare.
She has just killed hundreds of
people in a bomb blast and she wants
to enjoy the weather.
Yes, the climate in Bangalore is
definitely better than what it is here right
now, he replied bitterly.
He sighed as he watched Sangeeta and
Davies turn around and walk briskly
towards the hotel lobby.
I cant believe they are terrorists.
They make such a lovely couple.
They met Blanchard at the lobby and
the trio boarded the taxi parked at the
porch. Ten minutes later, they reached
the Agra airport. Blanchard was
confused as he stared at the airport
terminal building, Why are we here? I
thought we were heading to New Delhi
by road.
Davies and Sangeeta had not
exchanged words during the taxi ride.
Davies was still upset with Sangeeta for
her unexpected change in plans. Neither
of them had bothered to update
Blanchard. Davies waited for Sangeeta
to reply.
Change of plans. Alan and I will go
to the check-in counter. You wait for us
at the Caf Coffee Day near the
entrance, she said nonchalantly, pointing
to the coffee shop nearby.
I dont understand this! Where are
you going? Why should I wait here?
When do we go to New Delhi? I am
completely lost! Blanchard was now
losing his cool. It was his decision that
they accompany him to Dwarka but it
looked as if Sangeeta was running the
show.
Sangeeta and Alan had already
reached the check-in counter. Sangeeta
handed their tickets and collected the
boarding passes.
What time does the flight reach
Bangalore? Sangeeta enquired.
The girl at the counter studied her
monitor, The flight leaves at 12.30 a.m.
It is scheduled to land in Bangalore at 3
a.m.
Sangeeta thanked the girl and walked
swiftly towards Caf Coffee Day.
Davies was finding it difficult to keep
pace with her.
I thought we have to board the
aircraft. Why are we going to Caf
Coffee Day? he asked, puzzled.
We have plenty of time. Nothing
beats a cup of hot cappuccino at
midnight, Sangeeta replied.
If both of us head to Bangalore, what
happens to Blanchard? he asked.
Sangeeta did not reply. She was busy
looking around the restaurant.
Ah! There he is! Lets join him, she
exclaimed.
They joined Blanchard who was
already sipping a cup of steaming black
coffee, eyebrows tense. Seeing them join
him, a waiter walked to their table.
Cappuccino for me, Sangeeta said.
The waiter looked at Davies, Black
coffee for you, sir?
Yes, black coffee with plenty of milk
and sugar, please, Davies replied with a
straight face.
Sangeeta knew Davies was trying to
control his laughter. The recent
happenings had not killed his sense of
humour. She saw the bewildered look on
the waiters face and giggled.
Excuse me, sir! Could you repeat,
please? the waiter asked.
Sure. One black coffee with plenty of
milk and sugar, Davies repeated.
Sangeeta could no longer control
herself. She was clutching her stomach
and roaring with laughter.
Get him a regular coffee, she told the
waiter. With a puzzled, sheepish look on
his face, the waiter nodded his head and
slowly walked away.
You nasty beast! How dare you make
fun of us Indians! she said in mock
anger. She quickly explained Daviess
joke to a bewildered Blanchard.
Arent I glad to see you two
forgetting the recent problems and
talking playfully like this, Blanchard
remarked.
We managed to get rid of the police
at Kansa Kila. We are now miles away
from them. At least for now. Sangeeta
laughed.
Fifty kilometres away, Nisha Sharma
was speaking to the receptionist of the
Taj View Hotel. He had just given her a
complete update on Sangeeta and
Davies.
30
Agra
20 January 2015

Are you sure they are travelling to


Bangalore? Nisha asked the receptionist
for the third time.
The receptionist tried his best to
remain calm. He did not want to lose his
reward from the police.
Madam, I was the one who booked
their tickets. I overheard the lady
informing the European gentleman that
Bangalore was the right place for them.
She even enquired about the weather in
Bangalore, he replied.
When does their Bangalore flight
depart? Nisha asked.
At 12.30 a.m. You dont have much
time, he said.
She looked at her watch and hurriedly
dialled the UP Police Headquarters.
Connect me to the check-in counter at
the Agra airport.
A moment later, a voice replied,
Sorry, madam. There is a network
breakdown. None of the telephone lines
in the Agra airport are operational right
now.
Nisha cursed her luck.
Damn! The only option for me is to
rush to the airport and stop them from
boarding the flight.
She instructed her driver to head
towards the Agra airport.
Nisha realized that she had not
updated UP Police Chief Amit Yadav
regarding the recent events. She dialled
Yadavs mobile and waited.
No answer.
A minute later, she received a text
message from his mobile: Nisha, I cant
speak to you at the moment. Very busy
with the recent happenings. Please
communicate only via text messages.
She quickly typed her message:
Terrorist couple traced. Heading
towards Bangalore. Situation under
control.
Within a minute she received a reply:
Good job, Nisha! They must not get
killed in a police encounter. Make sure
to catch them alive.
Nisha stared at the message for a long
time before putting her mobile phone
into her pocket.
The police jeep soon reached the
departure terminal of the Agra airport.
Nisha jumped out of the vehicle and
dashed towards the terminal building.
There was a long queue of passengers
waiting to get into the departure lounge.
Nisha broke the queue and tried to get
inside the lounge. A security guard tried
to stop her at the entrance.
Police! she growled, waving her
badge, as she ran into the building. She
looked at her watch. She didnt have
much time. She rushed to the check-in
counter.
I am looking for Sangeeta Rao and
Alan Davies, she showed a picture of
the couple on her mobile phone.
The girl at the check-in counter
immediately recognized the couple.
They checked-in for the Bangalore
flight.
I need to stop them from boarding
that flight! Nisha exclaimed.
The girl looked at Nisha. They would
have crossed security check and might
be at the departure gate. Gate number 3.
Nisha thanked the girl and sprinted
across the huge hall.
Last call for passengers going to
Bangalore the announcement boomed on
the loudspeakers installed across the
departure lounge. Nisha had reached the
security check area. She jostled through
the long queue of passengers and passed
through the X-ray screening area. She
flashed her identity badge impatiently at
one of the security officers who tried to
stop her and rushed towards gate number
3. The aerobridge had just detached
itself from the aircraft and was folding
inwards. As she ran blindly towards the
aerobridge, she was stopped by the
security guards.
Too late, madam. The aircraft is
already taxiing on the tarmac, a security
guard said.
She watched in dismay as the aircraft
sped on the runway and swiftly ascended
into the dark sky above. Within seconds,
the aircraft was hidden behind the dense
clouds.
Nisha clenched her fists. She was
running out of options. She had failed to
capture Sangeeta and Davies in Mathura.
She had failed to stop them in Agra. The
only choice now was to capture them at
the Bangalore airport. She dialled the
UP Police Headquarters.
Get me Airport Police at Bangalore,
she barked.
Moments later, she heard a voice,
This is SP Rahul Shenoy, Bangalore
Airport Police.
Nisha quickly explained the recent
events at Mathura and Agra.
I want you to arrest Sangeeta Rao
and Alan Davies as soon as they reach
the Bangalore airport. Have your team
ready at the arrival lounge. I want them
captured alive, she instructed.
SP Shenoy took a deep breath.
We have a problem, he remarked.
Nisha sighed. I have enough
problems already. One more does not
matter.
Whats that? she asked.
We dont have an arrest warrant, he
said hesitantly.
Arrest warrant? God! Whats wrong
with you? These two are terrorists and
just a few hours ago, they were involved
in bomb blasts that killed hundreds of
people, Nisha growled.
That happened in UP. This is
Karnataka, SP Shenoy protested.
Nisha was running out of time and
patience.
Look, Mr Shenoy! Either you
promise to arrest them on their arrival or
I will have to report the matter to my
state chief minister. He, in turn, will
speak to your state chief minister and
When does the flight land in
Bangalore, you said? Shenoy
interrupted.
He was in no mood to get trapped in
interstate politics.
At 3 a.m. And remember, I dont
want any shooting and killings. My boss
wants them to be captured alive.
How do I recognize them?
Every TV channel is showing
pictures of them. I will email you a
couple of pictures. Can you proceed to
the airport right now?
Shenoy did not like this one bit. He
was woken up in the middle of the night
by an unknown lady who was giving him
unrealistic ordersasking him to arrest
a couple whom he had never seen, that
too, without an arrest warrant.
He saw his wife sleeping next to him.
He smirked. I guess I am destined to
take orders from women.
Reluctantly he agreed and got out of
his bed.
31
Bangalore
21 January 2015

SP Rahul Shenoy called his men and


asked them to reach his residence within
the next ten minutes. Instructions from
the top, he had told them. Soon, they
were seated in his jeep and heading
towards the airport. Bangalore
International Airport, commonly known
as BIAL, is located at Devanahalli,
approximately twenty-five kilometres
from the central business district. The
long drive, the cold dawn breeze and the
gentle hum of the jeeps engine was
making him drowsy. He yawned and
stretched himself, then looked at his
men. Their condition was no different.
They must be cursing me, he thought
bitterly.
The jeep soon exited the Hebbal
flyover and headed towards
Devanahalli. The deserted and broad
multi-lane roads allowed Shenoy to
reach the arrival lounge well before the
aircraft had touched the tarmac of
Bangalore International Airport. He had
instructed his men to dress in
plainclothes. No police uniforms. We
should remain inconspicuous. And
remember, we need to capture them
alive, so no firing, he had told them.
Seeing the deserted lounge, Shenoy
heaved a sigh of relief. He directed his
men to cover all key spots in the lounge.
He didnt want to leave any escape
routes for the fugitives. He stationed his
men at the entrance, near the toilets,
adjacent to the luggage conveyor belts
and exit. For a casual observer, they
appeared to be ordinary passengers.
Shenoy walked to the gigantic glass
door and peered outside. He could see
the entire runway of the Bangalore
airport. Many flights were getting ready
for take-off. Suddenly the dark sky was
illuminated by a 747 Jumbo Jet which
was moving steadily towards the airport.
He alerted his men to take their
designated positions. Soon, the aircraft
taxied on the runway and halted near the
aerobridge.
Shenoy watched the passengers cross
the aerobridge and make their way into
the arrival lounge. Within minutes, the
entire lounge was bustling with
passengers. There was still no sign of
Sangeeta and Davies. He was about to
call Nisha when his eyes fell on the
display on top of the conveyor belt:
MumbaiBangalore. Shenoy relaxed.
This was a different flight! Sangeeta
and Davies are scheduled to arrive
from Agra. He watched the passengers
walk to the conveyor belt and collect
their bags before heading towards the
exit. Seeing the look of disappointment
on the faces of his men, he sent a text
message to them: This flight is from
Mumbai. Our targets are expected soon
in the Agra flight. Be alert.
Shenoy looked at his watch. The
hands on the dial were approaching
three. The Agra flight should be landing
soon. I have my men at all strategic
points. There is no way these two can
escape. It should be easy to identify the
couple, one is an Indian and the other a
European.
He was worried that the passengers
from the Mumbai flight were still in the
arrival lounge, collecting their luggage.
Makes it difficult to capture these
two fugitives in the midst of all these
passengers. And Nisha wants Sangeeta
and Davies alive. It would have been
simpler to put bullets in their heads.
He quickly asked the passengers to
evacuate the arrival lounge. Only the
airport staff was allowed to remain in
the huge hall. One of the passengers
began to protest but the SP waved his
identity badge at him. Emergency! You
need to evacuate this lounge within the
next couple of minutes! he thundered.
Shenoy motioned towards the gun
sticking out from his pocket and the
passenger realized he was not joking. He
and the other passengers hurriedly left
the lounge.
Shenoy once again moved towards the
huge glass door, his eyes glued to the
runway. His eyes lit up as he spotted an
aircraft flying towards the airport. He
watched the aircraft circle the airport
twice. Awaiting clearance from the
control tower, he thought. The long wait
was making him restless. He heard his
mobile ring. It was SP Nisha Sharma.
Have they arrived? Have you
captured them? Are they in your
custody? she asked excitedly.
Shenoy groaned, Not yet. A flight
from Mumbai just landed. I can see
another aircraft hovering over the
airport. That should be the flight from
Agra.
Good luck! Call me as soon as you
have the fish in your net, Nisha said.
Shenoy gave a loud grunt and hung up.
The aircraft had just landed. The
aerobridge on the first floor was being
aligned to the door of the aircraft. The
lounge where Shenoy stood was just
below the aerobridge exit. He glanced at
the display atop the conveyor belt. It
flashed the flight number and the
originating city of the aircraft. Agra!
He could feel his pulse quicken. They
should be coming down any moment.
He spoke to his team on the walkie-
talkie. Flight landed from Agra. Take
position.
A few minutes later, a stream of
passengers exited the aircraft. Walking
across the aerobridge, they took the
escalator to the ground floor. Pushing
open the glass door, they walked
towards the luggage conveyor belt. For
the hundredth time, Shenoy studied the
pictures of Sangeeta and Davies that
Nisha Sharma had mailed. He did not
want to arrest a wrong couple. I have
enough troubles already.
He put his hand inside his pocket. The
cold nozzle of his gun gave him a feeling
of comfort.
Though Nisha Sharma has given strict
instructions to capture them alive, having
a gun always made him feel confident.
SP Shenoy watched the passengers
collect their luggage and head towards
the exit. He looked at his watch. It had
been fifteen minutes since the aircraft
had landed but there was no sign of
Sangeeta and Davies. He looked
towards the aerobridge exit. The stream
of passengers had now reduced to a
trickle. A few aged people slowly made
their way out of the aerobridge and
headed towards the escalator. He
glanced across the lounge. It was still
teeming with passengers but none of
them resembled the couple.
There is no other exit route. Every
passenger who exits the aerobridge has
to mandatorily take the elevator and
come to the arrival lounge first. There
are no toilets on the first floor near the
aerobridge. The only place where they
could possibly be hiding is the toilet on
the ground floor.
He picked up his walkie-talkie again
and instructed his men to check the
toilets on the ground floor. Within
minutes, he received calls from them.
The search had been futile. As Shenoy
watched the last of the passengers pick
up their bags and leave the lounge, he
could feel his stomach churning and his
head spinning.
No signs of Sangeeta Rao and Alan
Davies!
He dialled Nisha Sharma. She
answered at the first ring. Please tell
me you have them in custody, she said
immediately.
He replied thoughtfully, Nisha, are
you sure they boarded the aircraft at
Agra?
32
AgraNew Delhi Highway
21 January 2015

The truck was cruising on the AgraNew


Delhi highway. Sangeeta was seated next
to the driver. Blanchard and Davies
were in the trailer which was attached to
the rear of the truck.
Sangeeta closed her eyes and
recollected the narrow escape they had
from the police. While chatting with the
receptionist at Taj View Hotel, she had
noticed him intently watching the TV
broadcast. She guessed that the
receptionist might have watched the
horrific bomb blasts and also seen their
pictures. Realizing that one phone call
from the receptionist to Nisha would
seal their fate, Sangeeta had to think
quickly.
The purchase of flight tickets from the
hotel receptionist had been a red herring.
However, Sangeeta knew that if she and
Davies did not board the Bangalore
flight, it would be noticed by the airline
authorities. She was also aware that the
passenger database would get locked
half an hour before the flight departure
and only get updated just before the
aircrafts arrival at the destination.
Exiting Caf Coffee Day, she had taken
Davies and Blanchard to the ticketing
office located near the entrance of the
airport. There were long queues
mainly passengers who had to make trip
on short notice and hoped for last
minute cancellations. Revealing her
plans quickly to Davies and Blanchard,
Sangeeta sold their tickets exactly
twenty-five minutes before the aircrafts
departure from the Agra airport.
Thats done with. Now we should go
to New Delhi and board a flight to
Rajkot, Sangeeta said.
Why dont we take a flight from Agra
instead? Davies suggested.
Two reasons. First, it is too
dangerous to board an aircraft from this
airport. The place will soon be
swarming with Nishas men.
And the second?
There are no flights from Agra to
Rajkot.
Blanchard asked, How do we go to
New Delhi?
Sangeeta winked, By the safest and
cheapest means of transport in India!
Fifteen minutes later, the trio had
managed to stop a truck which was
heading towards New Delhi. After a lot
of bargaining by Sangeeta, the driver had
agreed to take them for five hundred
rupees. There was only one seat next to
the driver and Sangeeta was quick
enough to grab it. Davies and Blanchard
climbed inside the trailer at the back.
The trailer contained huge crates and
barrels of milk. Uttar Pradesh state was
one of the major sources of milk and
dairy products. Every day, thousands of
litres of milk were transported from
various parts of the state to the dairies in
New Delhi.
Blanchard was feeling very
uncomfortable. Sitting on crates for four
hours was not his idea of travel. Davies
had travelled through the most difficult
terrains in Africa and South America.
Travelling in a rugged fashion was not
unusual for him. He watched Blanchard
wriggling on the milk crates and
laughed.
What was the joke? Blanchard asked
irritably.
Davies replied, We are on the trail of
Krishnas jewel so it is quite
appropriate that we are surrounded by
His favourite drink. He was alluding to
the fact that milk was the favourite drink
of Krishna.
Blanchard hastily changed the topic.
It was some good and quick thinking by
Sangeeta to purchase tickets to
Bangalore and fool the police.
Davies nodded. Yes, it was. But
remember, we have gained only a couple
of hours. The police will realize that
they have been fooled the moment the
aircraft touches Bangalore.
He yawned and looked at his watch. I
am feeling sleepy. Lets take turns. When
one of us sleeps, the other keeps watch.
Blanchard scowled. You go ahead
and sleep as much as you want. I cant
sleep in this hellhole.
Davies laughed. He saw an old
tarpaulin lying beside him. He pulled it
over his body.
Good night, Alan, he said aloud to
himself cheerfully.
Blanchard shuddered and looked out.
The truck driver had been driving for
more than two hours. The dark highway,
the gentle breeze and the continuous
droning of his engines were making him
sleepy. Sangeeta noticed the drowsy
look in his eyes.
Bhaiya, would you like to stop for a
cup of tea? she asked.
The driver nodded. Yes, madam. I
will stop at the next dhaba.
Soon Sangeeta saw a huge neon sign
which read Punjab da dhaba.
Look, theres one right here. Stop!
she exclaimed.
The driver noticed the dhaba when the
truck was hardly ten feet from it. He
swiftly applied the brakes and brought
the truck to a grinding halt. The abrupt
jerk threw Sangeeta forward towards the
windshield. She narrowly missed hitting
her head on it.
In the rear of the truck, the sudden
deceleration of the vehicle threw
Daviess bag off from the top of the
crate. The bag fell open and its contents
were strewn on the floor. Davies was
fast asleep. Blanchard got up from his
crate and started picking up the scattered
contents. As he was putting them into the
bag, an identity badge caught his eye. He
was dumbfounded as he read the
inscription on it. He couldnt believe his
eyes. He switched on the bulb in the
trailer and once again studied Daviess
badge.
He gave a deep sigh, Professor of
archaeology, my foot! If Alan Davies is
a teacher at the Oxford University, then I
am Harrison Ford.
33
Agra
21 January 2015

Nishas head was whirling. She couldnt


believe what she had just heard. Her
mobile phone fell on her lap with a soft
thud. In the darkness, she groped for a
chair. She needed to sit calmly and
digest the information that SP Shenoy
had just conveyed to her.
Hello? Hello? Ms Nisha Sharma, are
you there? It was SP Shenoy. He was
still online.
Nisha picked up the phone and
replied, Mr Shenoy, the receptionist of
Taj View Hotel himself booked the
tickets for Sangeeta and Davies.
So?
He said he had booked tickets to
Bangalore.
So?
The girl at the check-in counter at the
Agra airport remembers having given
them the boarding passes for the
Bangalore flight.
So?
Nisha was now getting irritated and
tired at Shenoys monosyllables.
Doesnt all this mean anything to
you? she retorted.
Madam, in our business, we ask
questions and make inferences. Listening
to you, I can assume they were smart
enough to pre-empt your moves. They
bought two tickets to Bangalore but
someone else travelled instead of them.
Your fugitives are very shrewd. And that
makes them more dangerous.
Nisha took a deep breath. She
realized that Shenoy was right.
Going by the evidence, Sangeeta and
Davies had purchased tickets to
Bangalore and had gone to the Agra
airport but no one had actually seen them
board the aircraft.
She disconnected the call and slowly
turned her gaze towards the dark sky. It
has been a night of disasters.
Boss is not going to like this but I
better update him.
She dialled Amit Yadavs number. He
didnt pick up her call. She suddenly
remembered his instructionsSend me
a text message if you want to
communicate with me.
She typed her messageSorry,
Chief. Badly goofed up! The two
terrorists have given us the slip. They
havent boarded any aircraft so they
could be anywhere in Uttar Pradesh.
Within minutes, her mobile phone
flashed with an incoming text message. It
was from Amit YadavDont worry,
Nisha. I know you wont fail me. Make
sure you catch them alive.
Nisha was relieved to read the first
part of the text message. It was the
second part that worried herfor the
second time this night, Amit Yadav had
insisted that the culprits be captured
alive. In the past he had always
preferred to kill terrorists. Set up a
police encounter and finish them off.
Dont leave any trace of them. Our
judicial process takes ages to convict a
terrorist even if all the evidence points
towards him. And when he finally gets
convicted, the government hesitates to
hang him. There are so many convicted
terrorists languishing in our jails, he
would say.
So why is he insisting that these two
terrorists be brought alive?
Puzzled, she put back the mobile
phone in her pocket and looked
thoughtfully at the zipping traffic on the
highway.
Hundred miles away, the truck
carrying Sangeeta, Davies and
Blanchard was approaching New Delhi.
Davies opened his eyes and looked
around. It took him a couple of minutes
to realize where he was. He noticed
Blanchard still sitting on the crates, his
eyes wide open.
Davies yawned loudly and stretched
his arms. Feels good! Had a refreshing
nap. Was dreaming of waterskiing on the
beaches of Australia . . .
Blanchard looked at him
disbelievingly. Tell me you are joking.
No one can sleep in a place like this!
Davies laughed, You dont know the
kind of places I visit. This could be
heaven!
Blanchard realized this was the right
time to question Davies.
He asked, So Alan, do you travel
often?
Davies replied, Oh yes! I do and, in
most cases, my travels are pretty rough.
Surprising! Blanchard exclaimed.
Davies raised his eyebrows.
I meant that I am surprised to note
that your travels are rough. I imagined
Oxford professors would travel in style
and comfort, said Blanchard.
Well, the university doesnt pay
much. Moreover, most of my travels are
personal, not business. I cant afford to
travel in luxury.
Are you really a professor at Oxford,
Mr Davies? Blanchard asked.
Davies was taken aback. He stared at
him, What do you mean by that?
I meant exactly that. Are you really a
professor teaching archaeology and
ancient civilizations?
What makes you doubt that?
Blanchard put his hand into his pocket
and pulled out Daviess identity badge.
I am sure this is yours. It certainly does
not say Oxford University anywhere.
In the dim light inside the trailer,
Davies watched in horror as Blanchard
waved his identity badge. It took him a
few minutes to recover his composure.
I am glad Sangeeta is not here. Only
Blanchard knows my identity.
Davies was not aware that Blanchard
was secretly recording the conversation
in his miniature tape recorder, safely
tucked away in his shirt pocket.
34
AgraNew Delhi Highway
21 January 2015

Sangeeta was worried.


She knew that Nisha Sharma would
have broadcast their pictures via all
major TV channels. By now, they would
have probably become the most
recognized faces in the country. New
Delhis IGI Airport had the reputation of
having the best and the most stringent
security in the country. Being part of the
capital city and given its physical
proximity to Pakistan and Kashmir, the
airport authorities had always been wary
of terrorist attacks. Entering the White
House tonight would have been easier
than passing the security check at the
New Delhi airport. She got down from
the truck and knocked at the trailer door.
Davies and Blanchard got down.
Whats the matter, Sangeeta? I
thought we would stop at the Delhi
airport. Why have we halted here?
Davies asked. Sangeeta expressed her
concerns about being arrested at the IGI
Airport.
Blanchard excused himself and
walked away from them. Five minutes
later, he was back.
Everything is organized. No
worries, he smiled.
Sangeeta and Davies looked at him.
Being a senior member of
Smithsonian Museum and working with
the Government of India on an
assignment has its own advantages, he
grinned. I have organized a private
aircraft that will fly us to Rajkot. We
need not board any commercial flights.
We still need to pass through the
various security measures at IGI Airport.
Our pictures would have been plastered
all over the airport by now, Sangeeta
cautioned.
We will not be boarding at IGI
Airport. This chartered flight takes off
from Safdarjung Airport, Blanchard
said.
Safdarjung Airport was built in 1929
during the British Raj. In the 1940s and
50s, it was one of the biggest and busiest
airports in the country. Unfortunately, the
advent of Jumbo Jets created problems
because the airport did not have the
infrastructure to handle such big
aircrafts. A new airport was built, and
slowly, Safdarjung Airport faded into
oblivion.
Sangeeta was well aware of
Safdarjung Airports history. She knew
that it was no longer bustling with
people. Blanchards words sounded like
music to her ears.
No irritating crowds. No suspicious
policemen. No troublesome media men.
She sighed with relief. Blanchard
seemed to have thought of everything.
Like a protective father taking care of
his young daughter.
She touched Blanchards arm. He
smiled at her and patted her shoulder.
The trio once again boarded the truck.
Safdarjung Airport, Sangeeta
instructed the truck driver.
The driver was surprised. He knew
that this airport was closed to the public.
No flights took off from or landed there.
Not my business to question them.
He hit the accelerator and headed
towards Delhi.
About half an hour later, the truck
stopped in front of Safdarjung Airport.
The entire airport was dark and
deserted. Sangeeta paid the driver and
began to walk towards the entrance of
the arrival lounge. Davies and
Blanchard followed her.
Suddenly they heard a voice, Mr
Blanchard?
Blanchard replied, Yes, thats me.
Who is it?
He could not see anyone in the dark.
Slowly, a silhouette of a tall man
appeared in front of him.
I have been instructed to fly you to
Rajkot, Mr Blanchard. This way,
please, the voice said.
The trio followed the pilot who was
walking directly towards the runway. A
ten-seater plane was parked at the
entrance of the deserted runway. Apart
from a couple of airport support staff,
there seemed to be no one else near the
airstrip. The pilot climbed into the
cockpit and switched on the ignition. It
brought the engine and the twin
propellers to life. Sangeeta saw Davies
whispering to Blanchard who nodded
his head as he continued to walk
towards the aircraft. A minute later, she
saw Davies turn back and rush towards
the main building.
Where is Alan going? she asked.
Restroom, Ms Rao. He should be
back soon, Blanchard said.
Sangeeta boarded the aircraft and took
a seat in the front row. Blanchard
planted himself beside her.
Sangeeta, may I ask you a personal
question? Blanchard asked.
Umm . . . okay, she smiled.
How long have you known Davies?
he asked.
Sangeeta suddenly realized that she
had completely lost track of time. She
looked at her watch4 a.m. I cant
believe I landed in Agra just eleven
hours ago. So much has happened since
my arrival.
Around ten hours, Anton, she
replied.
Just ten hours? he probed and grew
silent. He shifted his gaze towards the
entrance of the aircraft.
Is something wrong, Anton? You
seem to be holding back something.
Blanchard drew a deep breath.
This young lady needs to know the
facts about Alan Davies.
Where does Alan Davies work? he
asked.
He told me that he is a professor at
Oxford. He teaches ancient history and
archaeology, I think, she replied.
He turned his gaze towards her, And
you believe that? She shrugged her
shoulders, Well, there is no reason to
doubt him. But why do you ask?
Well, you will be shocked to know
that he is not a professor.
What? Youre kidding!
Sangeeta, please believe me. He has
lied to you all along.
How do you know? I dont believe
this. He seems to be so bright, warm and
intelligent. Why would he lie?
Blanchard sighed, Are you in love
with him, Sangeeta?
She was shocked to hear this question.
How did he know?
Of course not, she replied quickly
and turned towards the window.
Blanchard sighed again.
These young men and women dont
even know how to hide their feelings.
He rested his hand gently on her
shoulder and replied, Sangeeta, you
may think that it is none of my business
but it is my duty to warn you. Your life is
in danger.
35
New Delhi
21 January 2015

The shrill ringing of the telephone woke


up the home minister. He glanced at the
clock mounted on top of his bed4 a.m.
After a series of meetings and phone
calls with the UP Police and the CBI that
went well past midnight, he had gone to
sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
He cursed under his breath as he picked
up the mouthpiece. Calls to his private
number could only be from one place
the prime ministers office.
Whats the latest update? the voice
asked.
Sir, I had a series of meetings. I met
the UP Police Commissioner. I also
spoke to the ACPs and DCPs. An hour
back, I met the chief of the CBI and, in
the morning, I plan to the minister
began.
Dont give me your daily agenda. I
am not interested, the voice was curt
and impatient.
The minister was taken aback by the
cold response.
He once again began, Sir, I was
explaining whom
For the second time, the voice
interrupted, I dont care whom you meet
and whom you talk to. I want to see
results. It has been eight hours since the
bomb blasts and the assassination, but
there have been no arrests so far. Your
men dont even know where the
terrorists are holed up.
Yes sir, I understand. I am doing my
best. We are now taking assistance from
the CBI and the ATS.
Remember, this is the election year. I
cant afford any negative publicity.
The home minster remained silent. He
knew that when such calamities occur, it
is the home ministers head that gets
chopped first.
How is the situation in Agra? We
have the presidential visit in a few hours
from now.
All entry points to Agra have been
barricaded. We have entry restrictions at
the airport, railway station and bus
stands. All tourists are being checked at
all important points in the city.
And the Taj Mahal?
We have banned entry of mobile
phones, cameras and all electronic
devices. Tourists are being frisked by
security personnel. We have also
installed bomb detectors.
What about hotels?
No visitor has been allowed without
proper identification papers. We are
insisting on passports, driving licences
and
Good. I would like to see better
progress regarding the Mathura
episode.
Yes, sir. I will call you as soon as I
have some update.
No, I will call you every hour. I need
to see some progress, the voice said and
disconnected the call.
The home minister was sweating. He
badly needed a drink. Replacing the
mouthpiece on the cradle, he got up from
the bed and walked towards the kitchen.
The minister was not the only person
losing sleep. A few miles away,
Sangeeta was sitting in the plane,
completely befuddled. She could not
understand what Blanchard meant
Your life is in danger!
Blanchard gazed at her intently.
He repeated, Alan Davies is not a
professor. He has lied to us about his
profession.
Sangeeta was still dazed. I dont
believe you, she said.
Blanchard shrugged his shoulders. I
know it is tough to believe this. But there
are enough indications to believe that he
is a crook. He is after the Shyamantaka.
Indications like what? Sangeeta
demanded.
Blanchard explained, Your package
contained AK47 guns, right? You got
caught with it, didnt you?
Sangeeta remained silent.
Blanchard continued, Do you
remember the expertise with which he
fired at the chandelier in the courtyard
and brought it down? Can an Oxford
professor shoot with such precision?
Sangeeta still remained silent. How
does Blanchard know all this? Was he
present there?
Finally, the topography of the
Krishna Janmasthan Temple. How does
he know it so well? Because he has
come here often in the past. Everything
has been pre-planned with clinical
precision, Blanchard stopped and
waited for her reaction.
Why would he replace the idol with
guns? And if his intention was to get me
implicated with the terrorist attack, then
why did he bring down the chandelier
and save me from the police? It doesnt
add up.
Sangeeta! You are so nave! He
exchanged the idol with the guns so that
the police finds incriminating evidence
against you. Davies is a smart cookie.
He wanted to win your confidence so he
helped you escape from the police.
But I still dont understand. Why
would he save me? Sangeeta was still
puzzled.
Blanchard replied, Its simple, really.
Davies may have very good knowledge
about Hinduism and ancient India but he
knows that he cant manage on his own.
If he has to hunt for the gem, he would
definitely need help from someone who
knows the language, the culture and the
country. And who better than you?
Moreover, for a crook like him, a
beautiful young lady like you gives the
perfect cover from the police. Now do
you understand?
Sangeeta was still not convinced.
Though Blanchard was logical,
somehow the idea of Davies being a
crook did not seem right.
You are making assumptions and
allegations. A very nice story, no doubt.
But no concrete evidence, she said.
Blanchard related the discovery of
Daviess identity badge in the trailer. He
dramatically pulled out the miniature
tape recorder from his pocket and kept it
on the handrest between them. Sangeeta
looked at the object and raised her
eyebrows.
As the miniature tape rolled inside the
tape recorder, Sangeetas face began to
gradually fill with fury and dismay. Fury
because she had been taken for a ride by
Davies and dismay because she had not
expected this from a person who had
been so warm and friendly.
Her face turned red with rage as she
finished listening to the conversation
between Blanchard and Davies that had
happened in the trailer. The last part of
the conversation had been the most
shocking.
Blanchard had asked Davies, Why
did you lie about your profession to
Sangeeta?
Davies had replied, Well, you know
my real profession now. Its the least
romantic, isnt it?
He laughed and continued, Somehow,
professor at Oxford University sounds
much more appealing and glamorous to a
bright young lady like Sangeeta, eh?
Dont you feel guilty about
misleading a nice girl like her?
I intended to disclose my real
profession to both of you, once I had
found the Shyamantaka jewel.
Sangeeta sat horrified. She could feel
herself sinking into her seat. Though a
tall girl, this news made her look small
and vulnerable. The past few hours had
been the toughest period of her life.
First, the bomb blast. Next, being
accused of terrorism, followed by the
narrow escape from the clutches of the
UP Police. Throughout the eventful night,
Alan Davies had stood behind her, as
solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. And now
the rock had collapsed.
36
Agra
21 January 2015

Nisha recalled the title of her favourite


James Hadley Chase book, Vulture Is a
Patient Bird.
Thats exactly what I need right now.
Loads of patience! I have alerted all
the airports in Uttar Pradesh, New
Delhi, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab and
Haryana since they may try to board
from any of these airports. The
description of the two fugitives has
been repeatedly telecast on all news
channels. Now I need to just wait and
hope for the best.
Nisha always prided herself as being
able to put herself in the culprits shoes
and think like them. Unfortunately, she
had failed to do so during the episode at
Agra. How could I have been so nave
and stupid? I should have realized that
Sangeeta and Davies would not fly to
Bangalore. This is the last time they
have taken me for a ride. No more.
She poured herself a cup of steaming
tea. She was going to need lots of this
today. Her phone rang for the hundredth
time. Ever since the description of
Sangeeta and Davies had been
broadcast, she had received countless
calls. Eager callers who felt they had
seen the two outlaws. Everyone was
eyeing the reward of one million rupees
that Nisha had announced. Unfortunately,
none of them had any accurate
information.
Confident that it was yet another fake
call, Nisha reluctantly picked up her
mobile phone. However, just a minute
into the conversation she was proved
wrong. The caller was the truck driver
who had transported Sangeeta, Davies
and Blanchard from Agra to New Delhi.
Three people? Are you sure there
were three people? Nisha was
surprised.
Yes, madam. The lady was an Indian.
The two men were foreigners. One was
in his early thirties and the other seemed
to be quite oldprobably around
seventy.
Nisha heard his descriptions of
Sangeeta and Davies. They matched
perfectly.
Thank you so much! I will get them
arrested right now. I will seal the entire
IGI Airport if required, she gasped
excitedly.
Madam, I dropped them at
Safdarjung, not IGI Airport.
What? Safdarjung Airport has been
closed since the past . . .
I know that. I informed them that
Safdarjung is no longer operational but
the old man insisted that I drop them
there.
Safdarjung Airport!
Nisha cursed under her breath.
Safdarjung Airport could mean only one
thingthe trio would be hiring a private
plane. Her enemies were very smart.
Arresting criminals at the IGI Airport
was a childs play, given its modern
security systems. The entire airport was
flooded with policemen, CCTV
cameras, monitors, alarms, metal
detectors, bomb detectors and police
dogs.
Unfortunately, this was not the case
with Safdarjung Airport. The place was
unused except for an occasional flight
that ferried government officials and
ministers to nearby cities. The security
system was obsolete and unused. There
were hardly any policemen around. The
only security guards were those
stationed near the hangars.
She placed a call to the UP Police
control room and asked to be connected
to Safdarjung Airport. A few moments
later, she heard a sleepy voice.
Have three people asked for a
private flight this morning? Nisha
barked.
Yes, madam. An Indian lady and two
foreigners. The young lady was wearing
. . .
Nisha was in no mood to listen to a
description of Sangeetas clothes.
She interrupted, They need to be
stopped immediately. Dont allow them
to board any flights. Get the Airport
Police. Get the Home Guards. Get the
Commandos. Get the Anti-Terrorist
Squad. Have them arrested and locked
upI am heading towards Safdarjung
Airport right now.
Too late, madam. Their flight took off
a few minutes back.
Nisha groaned. For the fourth time
tonight, she had narrowly missed them.
Any idea where they are heading to?
she asked.
Madam, they have taken clearances
from the Ahmedabad, Vadodara,
Mumbai and Pune airports so they could
be heading to any of these cities. But
they are definitely heading towards
western India, either Gujarat or
Maharashtra.
Knowing them, I am sure they will
not land in any of these airports. They
are shrewd enough to have guessed that
they are being watched and trailed. I am
certain that just before they reach their
actual destination, they will ask for
clearance from the airport, Nisha
sounded bitter.
I will inform you when I have more
information, the controller of Safdarjung
Airport promised.
Nisha realized it was time to give one
more update to her chief, Amit Yadav.
She sent a text message regarding the
trios departure from New Delhis
Safdarjung Airport.
She looked hard at the reply that she
received. Great job, Nisha. They are
hunting for the Shyamantaka, which is of
great importance to all of us. Dont stop
their exploration but keep them under
your surveillance. We will catch them
alive once they find the jewel.
Nisha gave a deep sigh. She now
understood her chiefs desire to catch
the culprits alive. Having listened to
Swami Brij Mohans speech at the
international All Saints World Religions
Conference, she was aware of the
magical powers and potency of the
Shyamantaka.
Her thoughts were broken by the shrill
sound of her phone. It was the controller
at Safdarjung Airport. He sounded
excited. Madam, you were right. The
private aircraft has now asked for
landing clearance at the Rajkot airport.
Rajkot airport.
Nishas first reaction was to ask the
Rajkot Police to arrest them on their
arrival.
She also remembered her chiefs
wordsAllow the culprits to continue
with their treasure hunt but keep them
under surveillance. Easier said than
done. If I call the airport police then it
will give us away. Discretion is the key
here. What do I do?
She knew one person who could help
her. She picked up her mobile and
dialled.
37
Rajkot
21 January 2015

The aircraft touched the runway of the


Rajkot airport precisely at 5.30 a.m. The
pilot brought the aircraft to a halt a few
metres away from the aerobridge. He
came out of his cockpit and opened the
front door of the plane. Chartered
flights are not allowed to use the
aerobridge. You will have to walk to the
arrival lounge from here, he explained.
Sangeeta did not mind the long walk
across the runway. The first rays of the
sun were still not strong enough to
penetrate the mist that had engulfed the
entire runway. The visibility had barely
been enough to make a safe landing. She
could feel the cool morning breeze
gently caressing her face and arms as she
headed towards the lounge. Only twelve
hours had passed since she had landed in
Agra but the lack of food and sleep and
the constant running around had left her
physically and mentally exhausted. The
fresh, cool breeze blowing across the
airport made her feel better. She could
feel her weary legs slowly regaining
some of the lost strength. She was ready
to face the next challenge that lay ahead
of her.
As the trio reached the arrival lounge
of the airport, Blanchard asked, How
do we travel to Dwarka from here?
Davies looked at Sangeeta. She
replied, There are no flights to Dwarka.
Trains, taxis and buses are the only
means to reach Dwarka. Trains and
buses are dangerous because we will get
recognized. That does not leave us with
much choice.
Before either of the men could reply,
they heard a loud voice greet them
cheerfully, Namaskar! Welcome to
Rajkot.
In front of them stood a short middle-
aged man. His portly belly made him
appear shorter than he actually was. He
smiled at them, hands folded. The trio
wondered who he was.
Need a taxi? I can take you
sightseeing in Rajkot, he continued to
smile.
Oh, a taxi driver? Sangeeta sounded
relieved.
Yes, madam. I am Mayank Patel. I
can take you for local sightseeing. Very
cheap. Two thousand rupees for
everyone but only thousand for you, he
said.
Sangeeta said, We are not interested
in local sightseeing. We want to travel to

The smiling taxi driver butted in,


Yes, madam, I think you want to travel
around Saurashtra? I will take you to
Junagadhyou know Gir forest? Asiatic
lions? I will take you to Somnathyou
know the famous Jyotirlinga of Lord
Shiva
It was Sangeetas turn to interrupt.
We want to go to Dwarka. How much
will you charge us?
Ah, Dwarkadish? I take you there.
For everyone I charge fifteen rupees per
kilometre, but for you I charge only ten
rupees per kilometre.
Sangeeta looked at Blanchard who
nodded his head. She agreed to the
drivers rate and looked around for his
taxi.
You stay here. I will go and get it.
Saying this, Mayank Patel vanished.
Minutes later, he was back, this time
seated in his Ford Ikon. He got down
from the car and opened the boot.
Madam, may I keep your bag inside?
he smiled at Sangeeta. She gave it to him
instantly. She had been keeping it on her
lap ever since she left Agra.
She opened the front door and took
her seat. She did not notice the driver
slip a small black object into her bag as
he put it in the boot. A minute later, the
driver returned to his seat. He looked
behind and saw that the two men had
already made themselves comfortable in
the back seat.
Beaming, he asked the trio, All set?
Shall we leave?
Sangeeta liked the friendly taxi driver.
She smiled back, Yes. Lets proceed.
We need to reach Dwarka as soon as
possible.
Do you plan to check into a hotel,
madam? I know a good hotel very close
to the temple, the driver looked
enquiringly at Sangeeta.
No. We want to head straight to
Dwarkadhish Temple. Do you know
where it is?
Of course! Who doesnt know the
most famous temple of Dwarka?
A few minutes later, the driver
suddenly turned to Sangeeta, Do you
mind if I make a phone call? I need to
inform my boss that I am making a trip to
Dwarka. She likes to be updated about
my daily trips.
Sure. Go ahead.
The taxi driver pulled out his mobile
phone from the glove compartment and
dialled a number. A female voice came
on the line.
Good morning, madam. I am making
a trip to Dwarka. There are three
passengers with meone Indian lady
and two men. We will reach Dwarka
around 9.30 a.m.
Good job. Make sure you dont lose
track of them, the lady replied.
Yes, madam. I have already taken
care of that, he replied cheerfully and
disconnected the call.
At the other end, Nisha kept the
mobile phone in her pocket and smiled.
For the first time in the past twenty-four
hours, she looked cheerful.
Earlier, she had made a phone call to
her friend Mayank Patel, who was a
police officer in Rajkot. She had
narrated the events that had occurred
since last evening. She ended her
conversation by updating him about the
fugitives flight from New Delhi to
Rajkot. The police officer had offered to
arrest them at the Rajkot airport.
No! Dont arrest them. They are on a
treasure hunt. What they find will be of
great importance to the Indian
government so they should not be
stopped. However, we must arrest them
as soon as they find the Shyamantaka.
For this, we need to keep track of their
whereabouts, Nisha had explained.
Mayank Patel thought for a moment
and replied, Dont worry, Nisha. I will
disguise myself as a taxi driver and take
them to their destination. I will place a
GPS tracker in one of their bags so that
we can track their location even after
they disembark from my car.
Now the trio was seated in a taxi
which was driven by her friend SP
Mayank Patel and heading towards
Dwarka, clueless about the GPS tracker
that was firmly settled inside Sangeetas
bag in the boot.
38
Dwarka
21 January 2015

Dwarka is a small town in Jamnagar


district of Gujarat. Lord Krishnas rule
of ninety-six years had turned this
nondescript town into one of the most
important tourist places in India.
Dwarka is one of the four Char Dhams,
the other three being Badrinath, Puri and
Rameshwaram. It is also one of the
seven Saptapuris, with Varanasi,
Haridwar, Ujjain, Ayodhya, Mathura and
Kanchipuram. Dwarka has the unique
distinction of being the only Indian town
which is both part of the Char Dhams
and the Saptapuris. Millions of tourists
flock to Dwarka every year during
Krishna Janmashtami (Lord Krishnas
birth anniversary).
There are many who wonder why
Krishna chose Dwarka when He shifted
His capital from Mathura. Mathura is
located in the northern part of India, in
the present state of Uttar Pradesh while
Dwarka is on the western tip of India.
Both are separated by hundreds of
kilometres.
It is believed that Krishnas ancestors
were from a place known as Kusasthali.
Many generations and battles later, they
abandoned Kusasthali and migrated to
Mathura. It was Krishnas desire to go
back to His ancestral kingdom of
Kusasthali. His city of Dwarka was built
on the site of the ancient kingdom of
Kusasthali.
Krishna lived in Dwarka for ninety-
six years. He resided in a palace built by
the presiding deity of all architects and
craftsmen, Vishwakarma, This palace,
believed to have been built overnight,
was also home to Goddess Rukmini; His
other wives were Satyabhama,
Jambavati and the 16,000 queens He had
rescued from the clutches of the tyrant
king Narakasura.
It is believed that Dwarka was the
most beautiful city on earth and the
palaces that Vishwakarma built were the
most gorgeous palaces in the world.
At 9.30 a.m. sharp, the taxi reached
the main entrance of the Dwarkadhish
Temple.
Mayank Patel explained, It is
believed that Lord Krishnas palace
stood right here five thousand years ago.
His great-grandson Vajranabha built this
temple over Krishnas original
residence.
Vajranabha!
The name brought smiles on the faces
of Blanchard and Davies as they looked
at each other. They were on a mission to
decipher his codes and unearth the
location of now the most famous gem in
the country.
Mayank Patel and his passengers
disembarked from the car.
Pointing towards the majestic-looking
temple complex, he said, There are two
entrances to this templeMoksha Dwar
and Swarga Dwar. Most tourists enter
through the Swarga Dwar and exit
through the Moksha Dwar.
Sangeeta saw the puzzled look on the
faces of Davies and Blanchard.
She translated, Swarga Dwar means
Door to Heaven and Moksha Dwar
means Door to Liberation.
Davies replied thoughtfully, Well, it
makes sense. When we die, our soul first
enters Heaven and if we have led a good
life, the soul gets liberated from its
physical body. So we should enter
Swarga Dwar first and then come out of
Moksha Dwar.
If Davies had made this remark a few
hours earlier, Sangeeta would have
appreciated it and patted him for his
knowledge. But the recent discovery had
made her extremely angry. Though
Davies had tried his best to engage her
in conversation during the car journey to
Dwarka, Sangeeta had carefully avoided
him. Feigning sleepiness, she had kept
her eyes and mouth shut for most part of
the journey.
The taxi driver nodded at Daviess
remark.
He said, Sir, you are a foreigner but
you seem to have very good knowledge
of Hindu culture. I am sure you will
enjoy your visit to Dwarka. There are
plenty of tourist places to see here.
Collecting his taxi fare, he drove
away, leaving the trio in the temple
complex.
Sangeeta pointed to a cloakroom to
the left of Swarga Dwar, You might be
aware that we are not allowed to wear
shoes inside the temples. We need to
leave them at the cloakroom.
Barefoot, the trio passed through the
bomb detector panels at the Swarga
Dwar and reached the main courtyard.
They noticed that the Dwarkadhish
Temple was not just a single temple but
a huge complex consisting of many
temples on either side of an open
courtyard. On the right, they passed
through temples of Sri Satyanarayana,
Kusheshwar Mahadev, Goddess Ambaji,
Lord Purushottama and Lord Brahma. On
their left, they noticed temples of Kolwa
Bhagat, Kashi Vishwanath, Gayatri
Devi, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.
As they reached the end of the
courtyard, they saw a towering complex.
This was the main temple commonly
known as Jagat Mandir. Built with
sandstone and granite, this five-storeyed
building stood at a height of
approximately one hundred and sixty
feet. Sixty pillars supported the temple
which had a conical spire. Most of the
tourists were standing in front of this
temple. As the altar doors opened, the
devotees folded their hands and bowed
in reverence. Loud shouts of
Ranchodrai ki Jai could be heard
everywhere as the brass bells tolled.
Sangeeta explained, Ranchodrai ki
Jai means Victory to Ranchodrai. It is
believed that the evil king Jarasandha
attacked Mathura seventeen times and
Lord Krishna defeated him on each
occasion. Unfortunately, thousands of
soldiers had got killed during these
battles. When Jarasandha attacked
Mathura for the eighteenth time, Lord
Krishna left the battlefield in Mathura
and came to Dwarka and set up His
kingdom here. He wanted to avoid a war
against Jarasandha because it would
have killed thousands of soldiers from
both sides and also hundreds of innocent
residents of Mathura. Hence Lord
Krishna is known as Ranchodrai
one who has left the battlefield.
Jarasandha too left Mathura and chased
Lord Krishna in hot pursuit but suddenly
lost his way. Thus the residents of
Mathura were protected.
The priest had lit the brass lamp and
was performing the prayers in front of
the idol of Lord Krishna. The black idol
was approximately a metre long and
showed Lord Krishna as a four-armed
god, like Lord Vishnu. In His arms, He
held the Sudarshana Chakra, a conch, a
mace and a lotus. The figure was
beautifully adorned with rose petals and
jasmine flowers.
Sangeeta pointed at the raised left
hand of the deity.
Lord Krishna is holding a mountain
in the small finger of His left hand, she
explained.
Yes, the famous Goverdhan
mountain! Davies exclaimed.
Sangeeta remained silent. Davies had
noticed the sudden change in Sangeetas
behaviour ever since they had boarded
the aircraft at New Delhi.
Women! I can never understand
them.
The priest had now finished
performing the rituals in front of the
deity. He came out with a brass plate
containing flowers and a camphor lamp.
The devotees prostrated in front of him
and dropped coins into the brass plate.
The view of the altar is now clear.
Time for us to decode Vajranabhas
clues, Sangeeta said.
Davies read out the clues:
Where Dwarkadhish resides,
His hand adorning the conch shows,
From water the land grows,
Lord Vishnus animal sanctifies,
Beneath the Divine Mother rests,
Holy water of the First One protects,
Below the path to Lanka stands . . .
Blanchard said, We have already
decoded the first line. The second line
is, His hand adorning the conch
shows. Wonder what that is?
Sangeeta stared at the deity and said
thoughtfully, You can see Lord Krishna
holding the Sudarshana Chakrathe
discus wheel in His right hand and a
conch in His left hand.
Does it mean the next clue is held
inside the conch? Blanchard asked.
Davies shook his head. I dont think
so. His hand adorning the conch refers
to His left hand. We should look at the
direction of the left hand. Maybe that
points to the next clue.
Sangeeta was already walking in that
direction. She left Jagat Mandir through
the side door on her right and climbed
down the stairs. She passed through the
temples of Sage Durvasa, Sharada
Peetha, Lord Balarama and Sri
Madhavaraiji.
As she turned to her right, she gave
out a loud shriek, Come! Look what I
have found!
39
Dwarka
21 January 2015

Davies and Blanchard ran towards


Sangeeta.
Look at that! she pointed excitedly.
Davies looked in the direction of her
finger. He noticed a huge gate, similar to
the one that they had encountered a few
minutes back.
This must be the Moksha Dwar
Door to Liberation. It is the exit gate of
the temple, he said.
Yes! And I think we need to pass
through it to find our next clue, she said.
The trio rapidly walked out of stately
gates of the Moksha Dwar. They found
themselves near a flight of old steps.
Soon, they reached another flight of
steps which led to a river. These steps
were quite long and stretched for more
than a kilometre. Hundreds of men and
women were bathing in the river while
some of them were washing clothes near
the steps. There were also a few who
were performing their morning prayers
near the steps.
After speaking to a priest who was
passing by, Sangeeta turned towards
Blanchard, This is the sacred Gomti
River. Most of the devotees bathe in this
river and then visit the temple. The long
stretch that we see is known as Gomti
Ghat.
I think it is time to decipher our next
clue, Blanchard said. He sounded
impatient.
Davies said, From water the land
grows. Thats the next sentence.
I wonder what that means, Sangeeta
said thoughtfully. She stared at the long
stretch of steps of Gomti Ghat.
How can land grow from water?
Makes no sense to me, Blanchard said.
Unless . . . Davies started to speak
but stopped himself.
Unless what? Blanchard asked.
Unless it is used to describe the
reclaimed land. Are you aware that, in
many cities, land is reclaimed from the
sea? This is normally done when the city
expands rapidly and the only option left
is to reclaim land from the sea, Davies
explained.
Like Backbay Reclamation in
Mumbai! Sangeeta exclaimed.
Yes. Land was reclaimed from the
Arabian Sea near Marine Drive. The
area is now known as Cuffe Parade,
Davies explained.
You seem to know a lot about India,
Alan, Blanchard remarked.
Davies shrugged his shoulders. In my
kind of business, I travel a lot, he said.
Sangeeta and Blanchard exchanged
looks.
Davies spoke again. It could also
refer to an island.
Island? Blanchard repeated.
Davies nodded. As we all know, an
island is surrounded by water on all
sides. When you look at a tiny island,
doesnt it look as if the land has
sprouted from water?
You mean land grown from water
refers to an island? Blanchard asked.
Davies nodded his head. He was
intently looking at the river. I think I can
see land on the other side of the river. I
wonder whats over there.
Blanchard looked at Sangeeta.
Let me ask the local people, she said
and hurriedly walked towards a group of
boys who were playing in the water.
A minute later, Sangeeta returned
excitedly. Guess what! That piece of
land across the river is known as
Panchananda Teerth and it is indeed an
island. Surrounded by the Gomti River.
Then thats the place we need to go.
How do we reach there? Blanchard
asked.
Sangeeta once again vanished and
returned a few minutes later. Her face
glowed enthusiastically.
I have negotiated with a boatman. He
is ready to take us there for fifty rupees.
It will be a ten-minute boat ride.
Sounds great! Lets go! Blanchard
roared and followed Sangeeta as she
walked towards the boat.
Davies walked a few metres behind
them. He was still wondering about
Sangeetas change in behaviour.
I should talk to her once this
treasure hunt is over.
Two hundred kilometres away, the
aircraft landed at the Rajkot airport. SP
Nisha Sharma was the first passenger to
disembark from the plane and walk
rapidly towards the arrival lounge.
40
A Remote Island off the Dwarka
Coast
21 January 2015

Gomti Ghat and Panchananda Teerth


were only separated by a narrow strip of
river. The boatman helped the trio to get
off the wobbling boat and step on to the
island. From where they stood, they
could see only long stretches of white
sand everywhere.
Lets continue with Vajranabhas
cryptogram. What is the next sentence?
Blanchard enquired.
The fourth sentence is really tough
Lord Vishnus animal sanctifies. I
have absolutely no idea what it could
be, Davies replied.
The sun was now shining brightly
above them. Blanchard was feeling tired
and looked around for a place to rest. He
was not accustomed to the hot climate of
Indian cities. Sangeeta understood.
Hope we find a place where we
could rest for a bit, she said.
Blanchard nodded gratefully.
Davies pointed to a white building
some five hundred metres away. Lets
go there. It could be a rest house or a
hotel, he said hopefully.
They trudged in the scorching sun and
reached the building that turned out to be
a temple.
Do you think it has something to do
with the next clue? Blanchard asked.
Lets go in and find out. I still do not
understand what the line even means,
Davies said.
Sangeeta had already left her shoes in
the open courtyard and rushed inside the
temple.
A few minutes later, she shrieked
loudly, We are on the right track!
Davies and Blanchard hurriedly
followed her.
Look! she pointed at the idols in the
altar.
Davies asked, The figures of Lord
Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, am I
right?
Yes. And they are mounted on
Garuda! Sangeeta gasped.
Garuda? Blanchard looked puzzled.
Garuda is the bird-vehicle of Lord
Vishnu, right? Davies looked at
Sangeeta.
She nodded breathlessly. Thats right.
So the fourth sentenceLord Vishnus
animal sanctifies refers to Garudas
statue here.
Davies and Blanchard walked
towards the altar to get a better view.
They saw black graven images of Lord
Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi sitting atop
an eagle. The gods were decorated with
jasmine flowers. A bright red sari
adorned Goddess Lakshmi while Lord
Vishnu was draped in a yellow dhoti. A
priest was offering prayers in front of
the idols.
Great job, Sangeeta! We seem to be
on the right track. Now for the next clue,
Blanchard beamed.
The fifth sentence isBeneath the
Divine Mother rests, Davies said.
Blanchard looked helplessly at
Sangeeta.
She said, We should talk to the priest.
He might know something.
They waited for the priest to finish his
rituals. After a few minutes, he walked
towards them. He was carrying a brass
plate which contained a lamp and
flowers. The priests eyes glowed as he
watched Sangeeta place a hundred-rupee
note on the brass plate.
Swamiji, we need some information
from you, she smiled.
The priest quickly slipped the money
into his dhoti and said, Go ahead, my
child. What is it that you seek?
We want to know who the Divine
Mother is.
Divine Mother? Ha! There are lots of
Divine Mothers, he smiled.
Davies and Blanchard looked at him
with a puzzled look on their faces.
The priest noticed the look on their
faces and laughed.
He asked them, Are you Christians?
Both of them nodded. They were
wondering what it had to do with Divine
Mothers.
The priest explained, In Christianity,
you worship only one God and that
happens to be a male. Monotheism
right? Hinduism is different. We have
thousands of gods and goddesses.
Hinduism, as in Paganism, gives a high
degree of importance to the female form
of divinity. We consider the goddesses to
be as powerful and potent as the gods.
Wisdom, wealth and power are
represented by the three goddesses
Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati or
Shakti.
I still do not understand what all this
has to do with Divine Mother,
Blanchard remarked.
In Hinduism, all these goddesses are
known as Divine Mothers. It is believed
that they represent the origin of life.
Even some of our gods have originated
from them.
So what would the phrase Beneath
the Divine Mother mean? Blanchard
asked impatiently.
Beneath the Divine Mother, the
priest repeated. He pondered for a
couple of minutes and slowly replied,
That must be the earth.
Earth? Blanchard was baffled.
The priest smiled again. You should
know that we are worshippers of nature,
just like the Pagans. We pray to the sun,
the moon, and all the planets including
the earth. We consider the earth as a
goddessa Divine Mother.
So Beneath the Divine Mother
could mean Below the earth? Davies
exclaimed.
The priest nodded.
Sangeeta seemed to be lost in her
thoughts. Blanchard looked at her
enquiringly.
She sighed, I think we should be
searching for a well or a dungeon. Those
would be below the earth.
Turning towards the priest, she asked,
Are there are any wells or dungeons
nearby?
The priest asked them to follow him.
He crossed the courtyard barefoot and
went into the backyard of the temple.
The trio had to scamper for their shoes
because the blazing sun made it
agonizing to walk barefoot on the
blistering sand.
The priest sneered. City dwellers are
such weaklings.
As they reached the end of the temple
backyard, the priest lifted his right hand
and pointed southwards. The trio
followed his fingers and noticed a small
structure embedded to the ground.
What is that? the trio shouted in
unison.
That, my friends, is the entrance to
the well, the priest replied.
Beneath the Divine Mother rests!
Sangeeta recollected the fifth sentence of
Vajranabhas clue.
Great. Lets rush. We have reached
our final frontier! Blanchard shouted
eagerly and began to run towards the
well.
Wait! Davies exclaimed. Blanchard
turned back and noticed that Davies had
not moved from his place.
Now what? Blanchard was clearly
annoyed. He did not understand the
reason for Daviess hesitation.
Look to your right, Davies shouted.
Blanchard turned and gave a gasp of
dismay. There were four more wells
located nearby. He understood Daviess
dilemmaWhich was the right well?
41
The Island
21 January 2015

Davies turned towards Sangeeta. There


are five wells here. How do we know
which is the right one?
Sangeeta was intently staring at the
wells. Is there any significance to these
five wells? she asked the priest.
During Lord Krishnas reign in
Dwarka, the five Pandava brothers
visited this holy place and stayed here
for a few days. To commemorate their
visit, the villagers dug five wells, each
dedicated to a Pandava. The first well is
for Yudhishtira, the second for Bheema,
the third for Arjuna, the fourth for
Nakula and the fifth for Sahadeva. These
wells contain sweet water despite being
so close to the sea.
Which is the well that we need?
Davies asked.
Sangeeta pointed her slender fingers
towards the entrance of the first well,
This is the one we want, she smiled.
How do you know? Blanchard
asked.
The answer is in the sixth clue
Holy water of the first one
protects.
Blanchard looked at her.
Sangeeta explained. The priest said
that each well is dedicated to a Pandava.
The first one here refers to the eldest
Pandava prince, Yudhishtira, so his well
is the right one.
Awesome, Sangeeta! You cracked
another one! Davies exclaimed.
You have an analytical and
investigative mind like most journalists,
complimented Blanchard.
Sangeeta smiled. I think we should
descend into the well. I am pretty sure
the Shyamantaka is hidden there.
Wait! Not so fast! We need to be
cautious, Blanchard warned.
Sangeeta and Davies turned towards
him.
Let me explain. We have been
followed by the UP Police. Im not sure
if we have done a good job of covering
up our tracks. I wont be surprised if
Nisha lands here soon, Blanchard said.
You are right. What do you suggest?
Davies asked.
Blanchard replied, Two of us should
go down the well while the third one
stays here and keeps a lookout.
Sounds good! Sangeeta and I could
go down and hunt for the Shyamantaka
while you remain here, Davies replied.
No! Blanchard is quite old. He will
not be able to hold the fort if Nisha lands
here with a few of her men. I suggest that
you stay here while Blanchard and I go
down, Sangeeta replied.
I am not going down this well with
that crook Davies. I am sure he will
finish me off as soon as we find the
jewel.
I agree with Sangeeta. I will go down
with her while you stay back, Blanchard
added.
Davies shrugged his shoulders. Two
against one. Not much he could do about
it.
Sangeeta is definitely avoiding me.
How do we go down? The well has
no steps, Blanchard said.
Sangeeta replied, There are lots of
temples in India where old wells are
still used by priests and their families.
This priest might be using the water from
this well for washing the deities. I wont
be surprised if his wife uses the water
from the same well for cooking.
Are you sure? Blanchard was
doubtful. Having spent most part of his
life in the US, he could not imagine
anyone walking all the way to an old
well to fetch water for cooking.
Sangeeta smiled. Remember what he
told us? This water is sweet and not
salinedespite being so close to the
sea. It means that he has tasted it and
they probably use it for cooking and
other purposes.
But how does he take the water out of
the well? Blanchard was still confused.
Sangeeta explained. A rope is tied to
a pulley at the top of the well. A bucket
is fixed to the other end of the rope.
Slowly, the rope is let down into the
well, till the bucket touches the surface
of the water. A jerk to the rope makes the
bucket tilt and water gushes inside. Once
the bucket gets filled with water, the
rope is pulled and the bucket is brought
back to the top. Simple!
Blanchard felt it was the most
complicated way to fetch a pail of water
but kept his opinion to himself.
I will go back to the temple and ask
for a rope, Sangeeta said.
The two men watched Sangeeta sprint
across the white sand and disappear into
the temple.
Nice girl, Davies said.
And you lied to her about your
profession, Blanchard said angrily.
Davies shrugged his shoulders. I had
no choice. Anyway, once we find the
Shyamantaka, I will come clean.
42
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

The home ministers mobile rang. He


did not even have to look at the callers
name flashing on the mobile screen. He
picked up the mobile and said, We
narrowly missed them at the Agra
airport, sir.
I know that, you fool, the voice
replied coldly.
He knows everything, then why does
he call me every hour and take an
update? Aloud, he said, We have been
trying our best, sir. Half of the UP Police
is working on this.
All TV channels are broadcasting
news, panel discussions and
programmes related to the bomb blasts.
The opposition parties are having a field
day. They are demanding my
resignation.
Sir, all major airports and railway
stations have been alerted. No visitors
are allowed at these places and security
has been beefed up.
And leaving the Taj Mahal
unguarded? I hope you remember that we
are hosting the Singapore President, the
voice was sarcastic.
Dont worry, sir. Taj Mahal is more
impregnable than any fortress. We have
three levels of security. The UP Police is
posted at all entry and exit points. The
garden and front portion of the monument
is guarded by the Indian Army. ATS
personnel are deployed in the rear
portion of the Taj.
What about the Yamuna which flows
at the back of the Taj? Remember what
happened at Mumbai during 26/11?
Of course, sir. We have taken
adequate precautions. One entire
truckload of Army jawans is guarding
the banks of the Yamuna.
What about the visitors?
Today, the Taj Mahal is closed for all
visitors except those connected with the
presidential visit. The only people
allowed are the UP Police, the Indian
Army and ATS.
Hundreds of miles away, Davies and
Blanchard were sitting on the white sand
dunes of Panchananda Teerth, waiting
for Sangeeta. A few minutes later, she
returned.
I convinced the priest to give this to
us, she said, holding an old rope in her
hands.
Looks very old and weak. Will it
hold my weight? Davies sounded
doubtful.
You are not going down the rope so
you need not worry. It should not be a
problem for us, Sangeeta retorted.
Davies fell silent.
Hurry! We dont have much time,
Blanchard said impatiently.
Sangeeta walked towards the well.
She deftly passed the rope through the
metallic pulley at the top and tied two
knots. She tugged the rope to make sure
the knot was strong enough to hold her
weight.
I am impressed, Blanchard said,
with a big grin on his face.
Sangeeta smiled back. I am used to
this. During my childhood, I used to visit
my grandparents in a small village near
Bangalore. They had an old well in their
backyard and I would fetch water from
it. My grandmother would use it for
cooking.
Davies was listening to their
conversation.
She speaks so sweetly with
Blanchard but she is so sarcastic with
me.
He grimaced and walked a few steps
away from them.
Sangeeta threw the open end of the
rope into the well. She once again
heaved the rope towards her to ensure
that it held firmly at the top.
Alan, I trust you will stay and guard
the well. Sangeeta and I will go down
and explore. The Shyamantaka must be
well hidden somewhere inside this
well, Blanchard said.
Davies shrugged and asked them to
proceed. He and Blanchard watched
Sangeeta skilfully slide down the rope.
He heard Sangeeta shout, I have
reached the bottom of the well. There
doesnt seem to be any signs of a
treasure chest here.
Blanchard looked at Davies
enquiringly.
Davies thought for a moment and said,
I am sure there wont be any ancient
treasure chests floating around. It would
have been discovered long back by the
priest or his ancestors.
So what do I do here? Quick! I cant
hold much longer. The coir is hurting my
hands, Sangeeta shouted. Davies could
hear her muffled voice echo from the
deep well.
Can you come up a couple of feet and
see if the wall has an opening? I am sure
there must be an ancient dungeon or a
tunnel inside this well which would lead
you to the treasure. Vajranabha was a
very intelligent king. He would not have
hidden a priceless jewel in a
conspicuous and obvious place.
Sangeeta heaved her body upwards
and managed to climb up a couple of
metres.
Blanchard was peering inside the
well. Do you see any opening? There
must be a hole or an opening that might
lead you to a cave or a dungeon.
Sangeeta began to swing wildly. No!
There are no openings anywhere, she
sounded tired and disappointed.
Maybe a trapdoor? It is quite likely
that there may be an old wooden or
metal door that opens into a dungeon.
Watch out for a trapdoor, Blanchard
was running out of ideas.
Sangeeta was feeling exhausted. She
began to press the wall with her long
legs. This way, she could rest her body
without having to hold the rope tightly.
She studied her palms. The coarse coir
had cut deep into her soft hands. She
swung wildly and once again observed
the walls carefully. This time she
noticed it.
There is an old metal door. Quite
small in size, she said excitedly.
Does it have a knob? Blanchard
shouted.
No. Its a trapdoor with no knobs.
Hardly three feet in height and two feet
in width, Sangeeta replied.
Try pushing it open with your legs,
Blanchard suggested.
Sangeeta was already swinging
towards the opposite side of the wall.
She used all her strength to propel her
long legs on to the trapdoor. It broke and
revealed a dark dungeon inside.
43
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

Davies and Blanchard heard the loud


crash of the trapdoor smashing into
pieces. The broken door had left a
gaping hole inside the wall. They
noticed Sangeeta swing her legs one
more time as she made her body
horizontal to the surface of the water.
She pushed herself inside the hole and
entered the dungeon. The rope was left
dangling inside the well. Blanchard
caught hold of the free end of the rope
and began to lower himself into the well.
Within a few minutes, Blanchard
reached the broken trapdoor. He slowly
swung himself and rested his right leg at
the entrance of the dungeon. He was
hesitant to shift his left leg inside and
release the rope.
Sangeeta saw his reluctance. Swing
your legs towards the hole and you will
land inside the dungeon, she said.
I might lose my foothold and fall into
the well. If the water is deep, I will
drown. If it is shallow then I will break
my bones, Blanchard replied.
You are a baby, Anton, Sangeeta
giggled. She extended her right hand
towards him.
Blanchard gazed down once again.
Taking a deep breath, he lifted his left
leg and pushed his body upwards.
Sangeeta swiftly caught his arm and
pulled him inside. Blanchard released
the rope and landed inside the dungeon
with a heavy thud. He fell on top of
Sangeeta and her body mitigated his fall.
She quickly stood up and brushed the
dust off her clothes. Blanchard slowly
got up and smiled at Sangeeta, Thanks!
That wasnt too bad.
Lets resume our exploration. The
famed jewel must be here, Sangeeta
said as she began to walk towards the
other side of the dungeon.
Can you read out the next clue?
Blanchard asked.
It says Below the path to Lanka
stands, Sangeeta read out.
Lanka? Would that be Sri Lanka?
Blanchard asked.
Yes. Sri Lanka used to be known as
Lanka during the days of Lord Rama.
But isnt it very far from here?
Yes, it is. We are in Dwarka, which
is in the western tip of India. Lanka is to
the south of India and around two
thousand kilometres from here.
Two thousand kilometres! Are we on
the right track?
Sangeeta had no answer. She was
starting to feel doubtful.
We are missing something. I am sure
Vajranabha does not expect us to travel
to Sri Lanka. During those days when
there were no planes, he would have
struggled to go to Sri Lanka to hide the
Shyamantaka. He must have hidden it
in or around Dwarka.
Both of them walked down the dusty
tunnel in silence. It looked as if no one
had set foot in the tunnel for many
centuries. Giant spiders were crawling
on the walls or along cobwebs.
Blanchard noticed a few pieces of sticks
lying on the floor. He picked up two
sticks and handed one of them to
Sangeeta. Here, use this to clear the
cobwebs as you walk, he said.
For the next ten minutes, Sangeeta and
Blanchard continued to walk in the
narrow tunnel, clearing the cobwebs
with their sticks.
After walking some distance, they
suddenly heard a gurgling sound. Water!
They looked at each other.
Does this pond join the Indian Ocean
and lead us to Sri Lanka? Blanchard
joked, pointing his finger towards the
pond nearby.
Sangeeta laughed. We are on the right
track, Mr Blanchard. You can inform
your folks at the Smithsonian Museum
that you are about to unravel the biggest
mystery in five thousand years!
Blanchard looked around. He did not
see any treasure chests. Was Sangeeta
going insane? Maybe the stress was
taking its toll on her.
Sangeeta saw the baffled look on
Blanchards face. She pointed towards a
small structure made of rope and
wooden planks. See that? What does
that look like? she said excitedly.
Blanchard studied the rope. It was
knotted in a strange fashion to the
wooden planks.
I am not sure what it is. Looks like a
rope bridge, he said thoughtfully.
Yes! Thats what it is! Such bridges
are very common in India, Sangeeta
beamed.
I still do not understand what this has
to do with the Shyamantaka.
Sangeeta drew a deep breath. The
last line of our clue is Below the path
to Lanka stands. The Ramayana, one of
the greatest Indian epics, mentions how
Lord Rama crossed the Indian Ocean to
reach Sri Lanka where He killed the
demon King Ravana and rescued His
beloved wife, Sita.
How did He do that? Blanchard was
curious. He was still wondering what
this had got to do with their hunt for the
jewel.
Lord Rama built a bridge to Lanka.
Dont you see the link? Our last clue is
Below the path to Lanka stands. The
phrase path to Lanka refers to a
bridge. We have discovered an ancient
bridge here so we should look below it!
Sangeeta explained enthusiastically as
she jumped into the shallow pond. The
water hardly reached her knees.
Come, Anton. We need to hunt for a
treasure chest, she sounded as excited
as a school girl hunting for her
Christmas presents.
Blanchard looked around for
poisonous snakes and other deadly sea
creatures. Sangeeta saw the worried
look on his face. She laughed, Are you
expecting sharks here? Anton, dont be
such a baby! This is a small pond, not
the Indian Ocean. The water is not
deep.
Blanchard stepped into the pond.
Sangeeta was right. The water was too
shallow for even a child to drown in.
Lets keep kicking the water as we
walk around. Our legs might hit
something interesting, Sangeeta
suggested.
It was hardly five minutes before
Blanchards foot struck something hard.
He gave a loud yelp. Lying on the floor
of the pond was a black metal chest.
Sangeeta bent down and lifted the
chest. She placed it on the bridge and
climbed next to it. Blanchard joined her.
The chest is locked. Do you have
something to break it open with? he
asked.
The lock is five thousand years old.
We shouldnt have a problem breaking
the lock; it must be quite brittle.
With a heavy blow, Sangeeta shattered
the lock into pieces.
She slowly opened the lid of the iron
chest. Inside it was the most dazzling
gem she had ever seen. She let out a loud
gasp as she touched the huge blue-
coloured sapphire that shone in front of
her. It was bigger than a dinosaurs egg.
Blanchard too could not control
himself. He gently picked up the
priceless jewel from the chest with both
his hands and rubbed it against his
cheeks.
He repeatedly kissed the gem and
screamed wildly, The Shyamantaka!
The most priceless jewel in the world!
The gem with magical powers! The
jewel that produces gold worth billions
of dollars every year! I have it in
my hands!
44
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

Sangeeta was amused to see Anton


Blanchard behave like a small child who
had just discovered a lost toy. Blanchard
placed the sparkling jewel in her
extended hand.
His eyes were twinkling. We finally
made it! The Smithsonian Museum and
the Indian government will be very
happy.
Sangeeta grinned, Anton, I am so
happy for you. Your trip to India has
been successful.
All thanks to you, Sangeeta. You have
an investigative mind and it helped us
decipher the clues. I would never have
discovered it without your help,
Blanchard smiled gratefully.
Sangeeta smiled back.
Blanchard added thoughtfully, Our
mission is not yet complete.
Sangeeta raised her eyebrows.
Alan. He is waiting for us at the top.
We need a plan to outwit him,
Blanchard replied.
Sangeetas heart sank. The joy of
discovery of the priceless gem had made
her forget Alan Davies. She was still
upset with him.
Who is Alan Davies and what is his
actual profession? Sangeeta asked.
Blanchard could see the anger in her
eyes.
He asked, Have you heard of the
World Art Organization?
Sangeeta shook her head.
Blanchard explained, It is an
underworld organization which has its
headquarters somewhere in Europe and
operations in all major countries around
the world. Though they refer to
themselves by this fancy name, they are
nothing but a bunch of art thieves and
smugglers. In the name of promoting art
and culture, they are involved in the
thefts of famous paintings, ancient
artefacts, gems and jewels. They have
more than a hundred offices around the
world with an extremely well-managed
professional set-up.
More than a hundred offices around
the world! Sangeeta exclaimed.
Blanchard nodded, They have offices
in Europe, America, Asia and even
Africa. They have committed some of
the most daring thefts of the century.
Many rival gangs have been wiped out
by this powerful and ruthless
organization.
What about the various governments
across the world? Why arent they doing
anything about this?
Thats because no one has been able
to prove their involvement in these
crimes.
How come?
Many reasons. First, their operators
and agents are very smart. They seldom
leave any incriminating evidence behind.
Secondly, many top government officials
and bureaucrats have been involved in
this organization either directly or
indirectly. With their blessing, it is very
hard to point fingers at this
establishment.
What Blanchard said made perfect
sense to Sangeeta. How do you accuse
an organization that has the top world
leaders as its members?
Blanchard interrupted her thoughts.
Listen. I have a plan to outfox Alan.
Im all ears! Sangeeta smiled
wickedly.
I will meet Alan and inform him that
we have found an old and heavy iron
chest, which is stuck in the soil. I will
seek his help to lift it from the ground
and break open the lock. When he comes
down, we will catch him by surprise and
overpower him. We can tie him up and
leave him here while we escape with the
Shyamantaka.
Sounds good! All the best!
Sangeetas eyes were gleaming.
Blanchard waved at her and made his
way towards the entrance of the tunnel.
He couldnt believe his luck. It had taken
him exactly twelve hours to discover the
priceless gem that had been hidden for
thousands of years. The only obstacle
now was Davies.
As Blanchard reached the opening at
the entrance of the dungeon, he looked
up. The rope was still hanging there.
Good!
He stretched his hands and grasped
the rope. He pulled it to confirm that it
was still clamped tightly to the metallic
pulley. Slowly, he made his way to the
top. Davies was waiting for him.
Blanchard released his right hand from
the rope and extended it towards Davies.
Davies bent down and clasping his hand
tightly, pulled the old man towards the
surface. Soon, Blanchard was on the
ground. He stood up quickly and brushed
the dust off his clothes.
He smiled at Davies, Thanks! How is
the situation here? Any visitors?
Davies shook his head, Not a soul.
Great! We were worried that the
police might land here. Hey! I need your
help, Blanchard said. Davies could
sense an urgency in the old mans voice.
We discovered an ancient iron chest.
It is very heavy and half buried in the
slush. Both of us are unable to pull it out.
The chest also has a huge padlock,
which we are unable to open, Blanchard
stopped and looked helplessly at
Davies.
So you want the Superman from
Wales to fly down, pull out the chest
from the mud and break it open? Davies
said, flexing his muscles.
Blanchard laughed, Yes, Mr
Superman! Down you go!
And you? asked Davies.
I will follow you, Blanchard
replied.
Alan Davies had a strong and athletic
physique. He clutched the rope and slid
his supple body into the well. Within a
couple of minutes, he reached the
entrance of the dungeon. He swung his
legs and with one huge heave, dived
right into the hole and landed on the
dusty floor of the dungeon. It took a few
minutes for his eyes to get accustomed to
the darkness. Davies noticed a narrow
tunnel ahead of him. As he walked
through the dark corridor, he noticed that
the cobwebs had been recently cleared
and lying on the muddy floor. He walked
carefully to ensure that he didnt stamp
on the crawling spiders that were trying
to weave back new homes. As he
walked across the dusty passage, he
heard the bubbling sound of water. Soon
he reached the pond and the rope bridge.
Sangeeta stood ten feet away from
him, her hands behind her back. An iron
chest was lying open next to her. A quick
glance at her and the unlocked chest was
enough to tell him that he had been
tricked by Blanchard.
Instinctively, he pulled out a gun from
his pocket. Before he could take aim,
Sangeeta swiftly removed her hand from
behind and, with great speed, threw a
rock at him. The rock hit the gun before
Davies could squeeze the trigger. He
gave a loud cry as he watched the gun fly
from his hand and fall into the pond.
45
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

Sangeeta was relieved to see Daviess


gun drop into the pond.
I badly need Anton here. I cant
handle Alan alone.
She looked around but there was no
sign of Blanchard.
Where is Anton? What have you done
to him? she demanded.
Davies growled, I want to know
what is going on here! Anton informed
me that you needed my help to remove a
chest and assist in unlocking it but I
notice that it has already been opened.
Where is the Shyamantaka?
It was Sangeetas turn to evade the
question. I know you have killed the old
man. You have now come to kill me and
escape with the Shyamantaka.
Why would I kill Anton? And if I
was a thief, I would have escaped with
the gem. Why would I bother to come
down here? he barked.
Sangeeta repeated her question.
Where is Anton? What did you do to
him?
Davies was losing his cool.
He roared, I was at the entrance of
the well, guarding both of you from the
police. Anton comes up and asks for my
help. I come here and notice that the iron
chest has already been opened. Anton
was supposed to follow me but I dont
see him around. So I would like to know
whats happening!
Sangeeta remained silent. She was
thinking of Anton.
He had promised to come down with
Alan. The plan was to tie up Alan and
leave this island. Where the hell is
Anton? Has Davies tied him up? Or has
he killed him?
Davies repeated, Can you tell me
whats happening?
Sangeeta replied curtly, I should be
asking you the same question! Anton was
supposed to bring you down here. Where
is he? Have you killed him?
Why did Anton come up? Davies
asked.
I thought he explained that to you. We
needed your help to open the chest.
How come the chest is already open?
If Anton really needed my assistance,
then who opened it?
Sangeeta remained silent.
Davies continued, I know that the
chest was opened by you both. Anton
came up and asked me to come down
because you had planned to kill me.
Unfortunately, the plan backfired
because Anton himself is missing.
Sangeeta replied angrily, It is not
true! We never planned to kill you.
Davies heaved a deep sigh, This
conversation is taking us nowhere. Lets
find Anton.
Sangeeta nodded. She suddenly felt
lonely and vulnerable without the
soothing presence of the elderly Anton.
Davies walked towards the entrance
of the tunnel. Sangeeta silently followed
him. As they passed through the narrow
dusty tunnel, Davies remarked, I dont
see Anton anywhere. I wonder if he
really came down the well. I hope he is
all right.
Sangeeta looked at Davies.
What a fine actor he is! He must
have attacked the poor old man and
butchered him to death.
As they reached the entrance, Davies
looked at Sangeeta, Do you want to go
up first or should I?
Sangeeta thought for a moment.
If I go ahead of him, he may push me
down the well and I will drown. If I
allow him to go first, he may chop off
the rope as soon as he reaches the top
and I will be stranded here forever.
Davies repeated his question. He was
getting impatient.
Please go ahead. I will follow you,
she replied.
Better to be stranded alive than be
drowned.
As Davies reached the entrance, he
stuck his head out and peered upwards.
He shrieked loudly. There was no sign
of Anton. Worse still, there was no rope!
Their only means of escape was gone.
46
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

Sangeeta was unable to fathom the


reason for Daviess scream.
We are doomed, Davies yelled. He
saw the look of bewilderment on
Sangeetas face. She was still inside the
tunnel and was not aware of the missing
rope.
Theres no rope! How do we get out
of here? he asked.
The ropes missing? How? Who
removed it? she asked.
Davies shrugged his shoulders, I
wish I knew, Sangeeta.
What about Anton?
No sign of him. It could mean one of
the two possibilities, Davies said
thoughtfully.
Has he been captured by the police?
Sangeeta enquired.
Either that or Davies started.
Before he could complete his
sentence, Sangeetas mobile rang. She
gave a loud cry as she saw the name
flashing on her LCD displayVincent
Chan!
For the past few hours, she had
completely forgotten the purpose of her
visit to India. Seeing Vincent Chans
name reminded her of her boss Michael
Wong and the presidential visit to India.
Gosh! I was sent to Agra to cover an
important international event. And here I
am, inside an abandoned dungeon in an
old well in Dwarkathousands of
kilometres from where I should be! If
Michael Wong sees me now, he will kill
me!
Her thoughts were interrupted by the
continuous ringing of her phone. She
finally answered the call.
Vincent Chan sounded anxious.
Where are you, Sangeeta? I landed a
few hours back in Agra and checked into
the Taj View Hotel. Michael had
informed me that you are also staying at
the same hotel. I wanted to meet you but
the receptionist informed me that you
checked out last night. Whats
happening, Sangeeta? Are you all right?
Sangeeta remained silent. She did not
know how much information she should
reveal to Vincent. Though they had
worked together on a number of
projects, she had never really been a
friend. But now she needed his help.
Sangeeta? Are you there? Are you
okay? Vincent repeated.
Sangeeta finally spoke. Vincent,
listen. I am in trouble. Deep trouble. I
will narrate everything once I am back in
Singapore.
If I am able to leave this place alive!
But where are you, Sangeeta? Can I
meet you? Vincent sounded genuinely
worried.
I am two hundred feet below the
ground. Buried inside a dungeon on a
remote island.
Sangeeta replied, No, Vincent. I am
afraid that wont be possible. I am badly
stuck here. Literally.
Vincent replied, I have been trying to
reach you on your mobile ever since I
landed in Agra. I kept getting the same
messagenot reachable. His voice
was more anxious than angry.
Mobile phones dont catch signals
properly when you are inside a well,
two hundred feet below the ground.
Sangeeta sighed, I need your help
urgently.
Tell me, Sangeeta. Anything for you.
Sangeeta felt humbled. During all
these years she had ignored him during
her work. And here he was, willing to
do anything for her.
Has Michael briefed you about the
presidential visit at Agra today?
Yes, he spoke to me at length. He has
also mailed me the complete itinerary of
our Presidents visit to India.
Typical Michael. I dont have to
explain anything to Vincent.
Sangeeta was relieved. She wanted to
keep the conversation as brief as
possible so that she could tackle Davies.
We were supposed to do this event
together. I am afraid I will not be able to
make it. Can you manage the event
alone? The videographers and the
photographers will be there. You just
need to handle the reporting part of it,
Sangeeta explained.
Of course. I can manage alone. Dont
worry, Sangeeta. You take good care of
yourself, okay?
Thanks a million, Vincent! I cant
explain how relieved I am, she replied
gratefully.
But there is only one problem.
What is it?
Our boss will be watching the
telecast. He will notice your absence
immediately.
I had not thought of that! Anyway, I
have no choice. I will explain everything
to him when I meet him. I am sure he
will understand.
Dont worry, Sangeeta. I will go to
the Taj Mahal right away. Please call me
if you need any help. I am just a phone
call away.
Sangeeta once again thanked Vincent
Chan profusely and disconnected the
call. She noticed Davies looking
enquiringly at her.
That was my colleague, Vincent
Chan. We were supposed to cover the
event together today at Agra, she
explained.
Agra seems like another world right
now, Davies remarked.
Sangeeta understood what he meant.
Trapped inside a deserted well on a
distant island, everything seemed so far
away.
Wonder what happened to Anton,
she said.
Where is the gem? Davies asked.
Anton took it with him. Why?
Davies sighed. There are two
possibilities. Either Anton has been
captured by Nisha and her men. Or
Or what?
Or he has fled.
Fled? What does that mean?
Sangeeta was puzzled.
Davies stared deep into her eyes.
Sangeeta, it means that Anton has
tricked us. He has taken the priceless
jewel and bolted. Thanks to him, we are
marooned on this remote island.
Hundreds of miles away, the home
minister sat in his office awaiting the
hourly call from the PMO. The last call
had been a disaster and he did not expect
this to be any better.
He grabbed the mouthpiece after the
first ring.
Sir, we have traced the fugitives.
They landed at the Rajkot airport and SP
Nisha is pursuing them, the home
minister completed the sentence and
waited.
A few seconds later, the voice spoke,
SP Nisha is pursuing them. That doesnt
mean anything to me. Have you been
watching the TV news lately?
No, sir.
The Opposition is demanding your
resignation too. As the home minister of
this country, you should know your
responsibility and accountability.
The home minister could feel sweat
beads forming on his face. He knew that
the prime minister would not hesitate to
sack him to save his government.
We should be arresting them very
soon, sir, he feebly replied.
The voice replied, I want them
arrested. And soon. Make it happen.
The minister replied, Yes, sir. Got it.
We will catch them soon.
The caller had already hung up.
47
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

Sangeeta looked dazed. She could not


believe what Davies had just said. The
thought of Anton vanishing with the
priceless jewel had never occurred to
her. It seemed ridiculous.
Why would he do that? He has been
asked by the Smithsonian Museum and
the Indian government to find the
Shyamantaka. He took our help to find it.
Why would he leave us in this dungeon
and vanish?
Davies shrugged his shoulders. He
had no answers.
I think we should focus on getting out
of this place.
Sangeeta looked at him fixedly.
Why does he want me to forget
Anton? Has he killed him? If Anton is
dead then where is his body?
Davies was quick to read her
thoughts.
For Gods sake! I have not killed
him! Dont look at me like that. If I had
killed Anton, wouldnt I have escaped
with the gem? Why would I come
down?
To kill me?
Assuming I had come down to kill
you, why would I remove the rope? Am I
so foolish to chop off the rope and get
myself stranded? Davies was now
beginning to lose his patience.
Sangeeta remained silent. What
Davies said made sense. If his intention
was to kill her, he would ensure a safe
passage for himself. The missing rope
was a big mystery. If Davies had not
removed the rope then who had removed
it? Where was Anton?
Sangeeta, we need to talk, Davies
said.
Sangeeta turned away from Davies.
She knew what was coming.
Davies continued, I have noticed a
sudden change in your behaviour. I first
met you at the Taj Mahal and, in no time,
we became very close, as if we had
known each other for years. But your
attitude towards me has changed
drastically since we left Delhi.
Sangeeta continued to remain silent.
Davies pleaded, Please answer me,
Sangeeta. Whats happened to you? Why
the sudden change?
Sangeeta turned and faced Alan, Yes,
you are right. I have changed. Ever since
I learnt about your true profession!
My true profession? What do you
mean?
Dont act so innocent, Alan. I know
you are not a professor at the Oxford
University.
What makes you say that?
Alan, I have heard everything that
transpired between you and Anton while
travelling from Agra to New Delhi. I
have heard your confession.
Davies sighed. He knew he had no
choice but to admit to the truth now.
Yes, Sangeeta. I lied to you and I am
extremely sorry about it.
Sorry? Is that all? You are a liar. A
cheat. We girls fall for the intellectual
kind, isnt that what you said? Sangeeta
glared at him.
I am extremely sorry, Sangeeta. I
didnt mean to lie to you. Its just the
circumstances that forced me to say such
things.
Why? Confessing that you are a
member of the World Art Organization
wasnt romantic enough to get you a
girlfriend? Sangeetas eyes were
burning with anger.
World Art Organization? What do
you know about that?
Nothing. Except that they steal
ancient artefacts and that you are a
member.
What? Who has been feeding you
with such nonsense? Davies was
shocked.
Sangeeta once again turned silent.
Come on, Sangeeta. I need to know
this. Who told you this? Davies
demanded.
Why? You want to shoot the
messenger, I suppose.
Davies had a helpless look on his
face.
Sangeeta, please understand. This is
a very serious accusation. I know
everything about the World Art
Organization and their nefarious
activities.
Obviously! After all, you are a
member.
Davies placed his hand on Sangeetas
shoulder. She pulled herself away.
Sangeeta, do you realize that Anton
has lied to you?
Lied? Alan, I have myself heard you
confessing that you are not a professor at
the Oxford University. Now are you
going to tell me that the recording was
fake and the voice was not yours?
I lied to you about being a professor.
Yes, I agree to that. And I am ashamed of
it and extremely sorry about it.
However, I am not a member of the
World Art Organization. Did you hear
me say that to Anton?
Sangeeta tried to recall the
conversation that Anton had played to
her. Alan had never mentioned the World
Art Organization.
She slowly shook her head.
So why are you accusing me of being
an art thief? What made you think I
belong to an underworld organization?
It was Anton, Sangeeta sighed.
Anton?
Yes. He played the entire recorded
conversation that he had with you in the
truck and
Davies interrupted, Anton is a smart
man. While talking to you, he added his
own inferences and conclusions about
my real profession.
Why would he do that?
He wanted to create a rift between us
and he succeeded.
But why? Why would he do that?
Thats exactly what I intend to find
out. Why did he lie to you and, more
importantly, where is he right now?
48
The Island
21 Janaury 2015

I think right now, we should just think of


escaping from this place. I feel
suffocated in this dungeon, Sangeeta
said.
Davies said, There is no way we can
use the route that we took to reach here.
The rope is missing and the wall of the
well has nothing that we can grasp and
climb.
I wish there was a way to contact the
priest of the temple. He can get another
rope and rescue us.
Yes, but there is no way to
communicate to him.
What do you suggest?
We should explore the farther end of
the dungeon.
Theres no use doing that. The tunnel
ends in a pond.
I wonder where that leads to. Lets
find out. Davies turned and began to
walk towards the pond.
Sangeeta followed him reluctantly.
She knew that Davies was right. There
was no way they could climb out of the
well without a rope. Their hopes rested
on an escape route from the pond. Within
a few minutes they reached the rope
bridge. They stood gazing silently at the
pond.
Sangeeta finally spoke. I have found
our escape route.
Davies turned to her. He could see a
sparkle in her eyes.
Look at that! she said animatedly.
Davies followed the path of her fingers
pointing at the pond.
Davies saw nothing but dried
marigold flowers floating in the water.
He looked questioningly at Sangeeta.
Dont you see them? Sangeeta asked
excitedly.
I just see some dried flowers floating
in the water. I dont know how you plan
to escape using them.
Davies waited for Sangeeta to
explain.
She asked, In India, where do you
normally find marigold flowers?
Davies was quick to respond,
Temples, of course.
Right! The hawkers sell them at the
entrance of the temples. The devotees
buy them and hand them over to the
priest who places the flowers on the
deities. After the prayers, the priest
returns the flowers to the devotees. Once
the flowers become old and dry, the
devotees drop them into a river or a
lake, Sangeeta explained.
But there are no temples here,
Davies sounded confused.
Exactly! So, how did these flowers
land here? Sangeeta asked eagerly.
Suddenly, Davies understood what
she was trying to explain. The old
flowers had been placed by the devotees
in the river near a temple. The current of
the river had drifted the flowers into this
pond. This could mean only one thing
this pond was connected to a river,
probably the Gomti River!
We should swim across this pond. It
might take us back to civilization. We
could end up near one of the temples of
Dwarka, Sangeeta suggested.
Lets try it. We dont have any other
option, Davies admitted.
Both of them stepped into the shallow
pond.
Its just knee-deep. We should be
able to walk across, Davies said.
Sangeeta shook her head. It will get
deeper once it joins the Gomti River.
She was right. After they had walked
a few metres, they could feel the water
rising gradually. Soon, they were waist-
deep in water. The water continued to
rise. A few minutes later, they could
barely keep their heads above the water.
Both Sangeeta and Davies could swim
and had no problem with the depth of the
Gomti River. However, the huge
boulders in the river posed a hazard.
Sangeetas legs hit the sharp edges of a
boulder that lay hidden at the bottom of
the river. She yelled loudly as blood
gushed out of her leg.
Davies stopped and turned back. He
pulled out a handkerchief from his
pocket and tied it to her ankle. That
should stop the bleeding, he said with a
satisfied look on his face.
Sangeeta stared at him. She was
confused.
Who is the real Alan? The one who
killed Anton or the one who gets
bothered if I get hurt?
Davies noticed her staring intently at
him.
Penny for your thoughts, he said.
Sangeeta laughed.
Davies felt relieved to see her return
to her old self.
After the brief halt, they resumed
swimming across the Gomti River.
Davies was the first to notice the long
steps on the bank of the river.
I think we are heading towards
Gomti Ghat, he informed Sangeeta.
Curious onlookers were watching
them swim towards Gomti Ghat. Though
thousands of devotees daily took a holy
dip in the sacred river, hardly anyone
ventured out into the river for a swim.
Within a few minutes, they reached the
banks of the Gomti River. They climbed
the long steps of Gomti Ghat and found
themselves in front of the Moksha Dwar
of the Dwarkadhish Temple.

Ten kilometres away, a white taxi was


cruising on the DwarkaSomnath
highway. The view was picturesque.
One side of the road was adorned with
greenery in the form of tall trees and
thick vegetation. The other side was
facing the Arabian Sea where huge
waves were constantly roaring and
heading towards the road. The taxi
driver had driven hundreds of times on
this highway but every time he would
watch the waves with great fascination
like a small child on his first visit to
the sea shore. The waves were
increasing in size as they moved towards
the banks. Just when it looked as if the
waves would flood the road, they would
suddenly shrink and subside.
The taxi driver turned and looked at
his passenger. Sir, look to your right.
You can see the beautiful Arabian Sea.
Watch the gorgeous waves and listen to
their mighty growl. See how they
transform the water into spray and foam.
You wont get to see a better sightnot
even in Goa.
The passenger grunted. His mind was
too preoccupied to watch the gigantic
waves of the Arabian Sea. He pulled his
mobile out of his pocket and dialled the
helipad at Dwarka.
Hello, this is Anton Blanchard.
Connect me to the air controller please,
he said.
49
Dwarka
21 January 2015

The air controller at Dwarkas helipad


enjoyed only three activities in his daily
routinebreakfast, lunch and dinner. He
made sure his wife packed him an
elaborate breakfast and lunch every day.
He would lock himself in his room and
spread out the dishes on the enormous
conference table. No one was allowed
inside his room during his breakfast and
lunch breaks.
He had just unpacked the lunch boxes
that his wife had sent. It contained all his
favourite dishesmethi na thepla,
handvo, bataka shaak and patra. He
beamed at the sight of the hot mouth-
watering jalebis.
He was about to take his first bite of
the soft handvo when his phone rang. He
scowled as he picked up the mouthpiece
from the cradle. He hated being
disturbed while eating. I have instructed
the telephone operator a hundred times
not to transfer calls to me during my
lunch break. Fool!
Whos this? he barked.
Sir, hope I am not disturbing you?
the telephone operator asked anxiously.
The air controller growled, You have
already disturbed me. What is it about?
Sir, there is a gentleman who wants
to speak to you urgently. His name is
Anton Blanchard. Its regarding his
helicopter booking. I told him you do not
like being disturbed during lunch but
The air controller became alert.
Anton Blanchard! I have to speak to
him. My only chance to become a
millionaire.
He interrupted, Connect him
immediately.
A couple of clicks later, he heard a
voice, Good afternoon. This is Anton
Blanchard speaking. I would like to
know if my helicopter to Rajkot is ready
for departure, Blanchard said.
Good afternoon, Mr Blanchard. I am
the air controller. Everything is
organized. A helicopter is waiting for
you at the helipad. Once you reach
Rajkot, a taxi will take you to the
airport. The taxi driver has your flight
tickets to Mumbai. Business class.
Sounds perfect! Thank you,
Blanchard sounded relieved. He had
been worried that he would not be able
to get a helicopter to Rajkot and a flight
ticket to Mumbai at such a short notice.
My pleasure, Mr Blanchard. If you
need any further assistance, please call
me at this number.
The air controller disconnected the
call and picked up the juicy handvo lying
in his plate.
He had taken just one more bite when
his mobile phone buzzed. With a loud
groan, he picked it up. It was a text
message from Amit Yadav, chief of the
UP Police. Has the helicopter been
organized for Anton Blanchard?
He responded, The pilot and
helicopter are waiting at the helipad.
Anton Blanchard is on his way.
Before he could take his next bite, his
mobile had a reply from Amit Yadav.
Good! I want no glitches. Your money
will be delivered to you once the
operation is successful.
The air controller was thrilled.
One million dollars! For such an
easy task!
He pushed his plate away. It was time
to focus on the most important task of his
life.
He stood up from his chair and
walked towards the huge glass
windows. From the tenth floor, he could
get an unobstructed view of the helipad.
He noticed the taxi carrying Anton
Blanchard enter the premises of the
helipad. It stopped some hundred metres
away from the helicopter. Blanchard got
down from the taxi and paid the driver.
The driver thanked Blanchard for the
generous tip and sped away.
Blanchard noticed the pilot get down
from the helicopter and wave at him. It
was an indication for him to proceed
towards the helicopter. Soon, Blanchard
was seated inside the helicopter. As he
wore his helmet and seat belt, the pilot
closed the doors. Within a minute, the
engine sprang to life and the helicopter
was airborne.
Blanchard observed the helipad
below. As the helicopter rapidly gained
height, the maintenance technicians who
stood on the ground appeared to
diminish in size. The control tower
looked like a small speck of dust.
Blanchard was beginning to feel weary
and struggling to keep his eyes open. He
had been on the move for the past fifteen
hours. Though exhausted and drowsy, he
felt elated with the recent turn of events.
He had managed to organize a helicopter
to Rajkot. Soon, he would be boarding a
flight to Mumbai and then proceeding to
the US. He touched the pocket of his coat
and felt the enormous bulgethe
Shyamantaka was safely tucked away in
his coat pocket. Life was good.
He was rudely awakened by a cold
metal object pressed against his
forehead. He opened his eyes and
recoiled in horror. The pilot was holding
a gun in his left hand, the nozzle rubbing
against his forehead.
What the hell is . . . ? Blanchard
started.
The gem. Give me the gem, the pilot
growled.
Blanchard suddenly felt dizzy. The
whole world was suddenly turning
topsy-turvy. Just a few moments back, he
was on top of the world. Now he felt as
if someone had punched him hard on his
stomach.
Gem? What gem? he asked.
You know what I am talking about. If
you dont hand over the Shyamantaka to
me within the next five seconds, I will
blow your brain to bits, the pilot
barked.
Blanchard began to think fast. He
realized it was no use lying to the pilot.
He seemed to be sure of what he was
saying. I should strike a deal. I should
bribe him.
He looked at the pilot. How about a
deal? I will give you ten thousand rupees
and you allow me to go.
The pilot guffawed loudly. You have
a great sense of humour, Mr Blanchard.
Ten thousand rupees! Do you know how
much I will get for killing you? One
million dollars! Plus a fake passport and
a new identity to start a fresh life in the
Bahamas.
Blanchard knew he was running out of
time.
I will give you one million rupees.
Leave me alone, he said.
The pilot laughed once again, Mr
Blanchard, it looks like you didnt hear
me properly. I will get one million
dollars if I kill you. Thats around sixty
million rupees. And you offer me a
measly amount of one million rupees!
And if I hand you the Shyamantaka
jewel, what is the guarantee that you
wont kill me?
The pilot shrugged, Thats a risk you
take. I promise not to put a hole in your
head but you have got to believe me.
Blanchard knew he had absolutely no
chance of keeping the priceless jewel
with him. Maybe if I hand it over to
him, he might spare my life.
He put his hand in his pocket and
reluctantly pulled out the dazzling
sapphire.
The pilot gave a low whistle. Thats
huge! I had heard a lot about it on
television recently but I never imagined
it to be so massive.
He grabbed the Shyamantaka from
Blanchards hand and swiftly slipped it
into his pocket.
He looked at Blanchard and
whispered, You have been most
cooperative, Mr Blanchard. I will keep
my promise.
Saying this, he threw the gun at the
back of the helicopter.
He grinned at an astonished
Blanchard, I had no use for that weapon
anyway. It didnt contain any bullets.
Before Blanchard could reply, the
pilot had opened the helicopter door and
quickly leapt out. Blanchards mind went
blank. He was horrified as he found
himself all alone in an unmanned
helicopter. The pilot began to descend
swiftly towards the ground. He watched
the helicopter take a steep dive and
smash on the ground with a massive
crash. As his parachute opened, a few
metres away, the helicopter burst into
flames and turned into one huge ball of
fire.
50
Dwarka
21 January 2015

Sangeeta and Davies stood silently in


front of the Dwarkadhish Temple. They
were hungry, exhausted and sleepy. After
the swim, they were also feeling sticky
and wet. Nevertheless, they felt happy at
having made their escape from the well.
Had they not tried this escape route, they
most likely would not have survived.
What a day it has been! Twenty-four
hours back, I was still in the flight from
Singapore to India, Sangeeta finally
spoke.
Davies agreed. Its been a long day
for me too. I came from England just
yesterday morning and, since then, I have
been on the run.
What next? Sangeeta asked.
I dont know. Our treasure hunt has
ended. I will return to England and focus
on my work. Theres nothing for me
here, Davies replied. Sangeeta noticed
bitterness in his voice.
I also want to return to Singapore but
Nisha and her men will be all over the
place, she remarked.
Davies nodded, Yes, I guess our
pictures would have been circulated to
all the television channels, airports and
railway stations. I think the safest thing
for me is to approach the UK embassy
and take their help.
Provided you are able to reach
there.
Yes, of course. Thats going to be a
great challenge. I am a foreigner so its
easy for the police to identify me. I guess
you are luckier than me. You can easily
mingle with the local crowd and no one
will notice you.
But I have no embassy where I can
take asylum.
What about the Singapore embassy?
Davies asked.
Sangeeta shook her head, I have
retained my Indian citizenship.
Davies said thoughtfully, There must
be some way to reach out to your
government.
Sangeeta was silent. She was thinking
of Blanchard and the Shyamantaka. Was
he alive? Did he have the gem with
him? Was he in trouble?
A penny for your thoughts, Davies
told her.
I was thinking of Blanchard. I hope
he is not in some kind of trouble.
He has a priceless gem with him. He
can sell his way through, Davies
remarked.
A pity you never got a chance to see
it.
Oh yes, I missed it! How was it? Just
as described by Swami Brij Mohan?
It was an awesome piece. Dazzling!
The brightness and lustre could blind
you. I have seen many huge gemstones
before but never a blue-coloured
gemstone as big as this one, Sangeeta
recollected.
What? Can you repeat what you
said? asked Davies.
Oh, I just said I had never seen a
blue-coloured gemstone as big as this
one, Sangeeta said.
Davies looked stunned. He began to
shake his head slowly.
Sangeeta did not understand Daviess
shocked look.
Blue-coloured gemstone? Are you
sure? Was that the colour? Davies cried.
Sangeeta did not understand why
Davies looked so excited. Of course, it
was blue.
Daviess eyes lit up. He drew a deep
breath. Sangeeta, how much do you
know about Indian history and
gemstones?
Sangeeta shook her head. I know a
little bit about the Navagrahas, the nine
planets, but I cant claim to be an
expert.
Let me explain. Each Navagraha is
associated with a gem. Surya, the Sun
God, is associated with the ruby.
What has all this got to do with
Blanchard?
Dont you remember what Swami
Brij Mohan said? The Sun God had
gifted his precious gem to Satrajit.
Sangeeta nodded, Thats right.
The Sun God is associated with the
ruby. So what he gave Satrajit as the
Shyamantaka was a ruby, Davies
explained.
Are you sure? In Sanskrit, Shyam
means dark blue or black. The word
is often used to describe Lord Krishna,
Sangeeeta was still not convinced.
Sangeeta, you are not the first one to
get confused. Yes, I know what Shyam
means. However, the original
pronunciation of this priceless gem is
Syamantaka and not Shyamantaka.
Unfortunately, for the last few centuries,
people have started pronouncing it as
Shyamantaka. In reality, it is a ruby.
Sangeeta was dazed. I can swear that
what we found was not a ruby. What
does that mean?
Davies guffawed, My dear Sangeeta,
it just means that our dear friend Anton
Blanchard has fled with a fake
gemstone!
51
Dwarka
21 January 2015

Sangeeta was astounded.


Am I hearing it right? Blanchard has
fled with a fake gemstone!
She couldnt find any flaw with
Daviess logic but . . .
Davies was enjoying the baffled look
on Sangeetas face.
He laughed, Our friend is miles away
by now. And clutching on to a fake
gemstone! Now the question is, if
Blanchard eloped with a fake gem, then
where is the real Shyamantaka?
I would love to find that out, Davies.
I think the Shyamantaka is still well
hidden. We need to find it.
How do we do that? I thought we had
done a pretty good job cracking the clues
that Vajranabha left.
Sangeeta closed her eyes. After a
couple of minutes, she replied
thoughtfully, Vajranabha has been very
smart. I feel his clues have double
meanings.
Double meanings?
We thought we did a very good job of
deciphering his codes, right? It was
meant to be that way, Davies!
I am lost!
When Vajranabha created those
cryptograms in the form of a poem, he
had double meanings for each sentence.
We have decoded just one set of clues.
The decoding was fine but it led us to
the wrong location and the wrong
gemstone.
Why would Vajranabha do that,
Sangeeta?
Sangeeta replied, I think Vajranabha
created two sets of clues to protect the
Shyamantaka gem.
How would that help?
He knew that, after his death,
thousands of people will try to crack his
codes. He created two solutions for each
codeone set of solutions was easy to
crack but it pointed to the wrong
location. He also created another set of
solutions which was tougher to crack but
led to the right location.
Davies could feel the fog lifting in his
mind. So Vajranabha assumed that the
wannabe treasure hunters would end up
finding the easier set of answers? And
that would lead to the discovery of a
fake gem?
Sangeeta nodded. The discerning one
who had a very good knowledge of
Hindu scriptures would be able to
decode the tougher set of answers that
would eventually lead to the real gem. It
also means that Vajranabha himself went
inside the well and buried the fake gem
in the dungeon.
Which was waiting to be found by
someone who probably didnt deserve
the real one! Davies winked.
Sangeetas sharp eyes didnt miss the
wicked smile on Daviess face. She
knew that he was referring to Blanchard.
Sangeetas thoughts were interrupted
by the arrival of a middle-aged man,
Namaskar, madam! Are you looking for
a guide?
Without even bothering to look at him,
Sangeeta shook her head. She had read
enough about the guides at these tourist
places. I am not a tourist, she replied.
The man didnt believe her. I am a
government-approved guide, he said,
proudly flashing his identity card and
trying to catch her attention.
Sangeeta continued to ignore him. The
guide turned his attention towards
Davies. Foreign tourists, especially
Western ones were more open to hiring
guides. Sir, I am a government-
approved guide. I have lived my whole
life here and I know all the tourist
places. He looked at Davies hopefully.
Seeing no response, he added, I can
also speak good English.
No, thank you, my friend. I have
already visited the Dwarkadhish
Temple, Gomti Ghat and Panchananda
Teerth. We are now heading back home.
The guide exclaimed, Dwarkadhish
Temple? You mean this one? He pointed
at the majestic edifice which stood in
front of them.
Davies nodded.
The guide laughed. Sir, dont you
want to see the main one?
Davies looked at him intently. The
main one? You mean there is one more
Dwarkadhish Temple here?
Sangeeta interrupted their
conversation, Alan, dont believe him.
He is one of those fake guides who are
out to fleece innocent Western tourists.
The guide glared at Sangeeta and
continued talking to Davies. Sir, may I
ask you a simple question?
Shoot! Davies was getting impatient
with the man. He had heard enough about
guides who stalked tourists at important
tourist towns.
Sir, between your home and your
office, which do you consider more
important?
Home, obviously, Davies replied
without a moments hesitation.
Thank you, sir. That is exactly what I
wanted to hear. The same is true for
Lord Krishna too, isnt it?
Davies lifted his eyebrows. He was
suddenly interested.
The guide replied, Lord Krishnas
court in Dwarka was converted into a
Dwarkadhish Temple. It stands right
here. He pointed at the temple in front
of them.
He continued, Lord Krishna had His
residence in another place. That has also
been converted into a Dwarkadhish
Temple. Dont you think thats the more
important one?
Sangeeta complained, Alan, I think
he is trying to market some unknown
temple as the main Dwarkadhish
Temple. Watch out!
Davies asked the guide, Where is this
important Dwarkadhish Temple?
Bet Dwarka, sir. It takes one hour to
reach there.
One hour, Davies repeated slowly.
I can take you there, sir, the guide
offered.
Alan, are you planning to visit that
temple now? This entire area will soon
be swarming with policemen. If we
dont leave soon, we can continue the
conversation in jail. Dont you realize
this man is taking you for a
ride?Sangeeta murmured
She did not hide her irritation. These
Western tourists are so gullible.
Davies smiled, Sangeeta, can you
please read the first sentence of
Vajranabhas codes?
Sangeeta opened the sheet of paper
and recited, Where Dwarkadhish
resides.
Davies explained, Didnt you
mention just a few minutes back that
some of the sentences have double
meanings? Perhaps Vajranabha was not
referring to Dwarkadhish the temple. He
was probably referring to the location
where Dwarkadhish the God Himself
resided. And remember, Lord Krishnas
residence was not located at this temple.
It was at Bet Dwarka.
Ten miles away, the air controller at
the Dwarka helipad watched the
helicopter crash and turn into a ball of
fire. He observed the pilot land safely
and slowly remove his parachute.
The air controller sent a text message
to Amit Yadav: Mission accomplished.
Blanchard dead. Made it look like a
helicopter crash.
Within a minute, the air controller
received a reply: Great job! What about
the Shyamantaka?
The air controller was standing at the
window. He saw the pilot walking
towards his building. He was flashing
the dazzling sapphire at him and waving
triumphantly.
The air controller replied to Yadav:
The Shyamantaka is safe. Will be
delivered to you within a couple of
hours.
52
Dwarka
21 January 2015

Shall I take you to Bet Dwarka, sir? the


guide asked Davies.
Davies looked at Sangeeta. She had a
resigned look on her face.
He asked the guide, How do we go
there?
A taxi ride will take around forty-
five minutes. I am quite familiar with
Bet Dwarka and will be your guide. You
can call me Mohanbhai.
Davies was fascinated by
Mohanbhais knowledge of Dwarka. He
knows the routes and topography of
these towns. He will be useful during
our hunt for the Shyamantaka.
How much will you charge? Davies
asked.
I charge five hundred rupees for the
entire day. Since it is already 1 p.m., pay
me four hundred.
Less than five pounds! Davies agreed
immediately.
Thirty minutes later, the taxi carrying
the trio arrived at Okha town, a small
port famous for its harbour and fishing
industry. The taxi cruised along the
highway, close to the coast. Sangeeta
and Davies watched the local fishermen
sailing in motorized boats equipped with
huge fishing nets.
Mohanbhai explained, Thats the
local fishing industry. You wont see too
many big trawlers here. A few years
back, the fishermen still used manual
boats. These days, you will mostly find
motorized boats.
The taxi stopped in front of the
harbour. Mohanbhai asked Sangeeta and
Davies to get down.
Arent we supposed to go to Bet
Dwarka? I saw a few signboards that
said this place is Okha, Sangeeta said.
Mohanbhai nodded. Yes, we are at
Okha, madam. We need to take a ferry
from here. Bet Dwarka is ten minutes by
ferry.
Ferry? Sangeeta looked surprised.
Yes, madam. We need to cross the
sea by ferry. In our local language, bet
means island. Bet Dwarka is an island
in the Arabian Sea.
An island in the Arabian Sea!
Sangeeta and Davies exchanged
glances, remembering the third line of
Vajranabhas clueFrom water the
land grows.
Davies exclaimed, The island that
Vajranabha had referred to in his
cryptogram . . . is Bet Dwarka!
Sangeeta smiled, Thats right. We
wrongly assumed it was Panchananda
Teerth.
Thats because we were at the wrong
Dwarkadhish Temple, Davies sighed.
Sangeeta grinned once more. Didnt I
say Vajranabha was a master in crafting
clues?
The three of them walked to the pier
where all the boats were anchored. They
bargained and hired a four-seater motor
boat. Bet Dwarka was so close that they
could see its shore from Okha. The
driver skilfully manoeuvred the motor
boat, evading the rocks beneath the still
waters near the pier. Minutes later, the
motor boat reached the shoreline of Bet
Dwarka and the driver brought it close
to a huge rock. He opened a small box
that lay in front of him and pulled out a
rope. He tied one end of the rope to the
boat and the other end to the rock.
That should serve as an anchor, he
grinned.
Sangeeta, Davies and Mohanbhai got
down from the boat and walked on the
long bed of rocks that served as a bridge
between the motor boat and the land.
The sharp, uneven rocks made their walk
very uncomfortable and painful.
Sangeeta was glad when her feet finally
touched the soft sands of Bet Dwarkas
beach.
Follow me, Mohanbhai instructed as
he disappeared into a narrow lane on the
left. Sangeeta and Davies struggled to
keep pace with him. The narrow lane
was lined with small shops on either
side of the road.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, they saw a
huge, regal building standing in front of
them. Dwarkadhish Temple, the official
residence of Lord Krishna! Mohanbhai
announced proudly.
Just as with the Dwarkadhish Temple
at Dwarka, this temple had strict security
norms; no mobile phones or cameras and
the visitors had to pass through bomb
detectors. The security had been
tightened immediately after the bomb
blasts at Mathura the previous day.
Sangeeta and Davies followed
Mohanbhai into the temple premises.
Mohanbhai began to explain the
architecture and history of the temple.
Sangeeta, however, was deeply
engrossed in her own thoughts. She read
the first three lines again:
Where Dwarkadhish resides,
His hand adorning the conch shows,
From water the land grows.
Sangeeta was thoughtful.
The first and the third lines are very
clear. They refer to the Dwarkadhish
Temple on Bet Dwarka Island. What
does the second line mean? Seeing the
deity might help us decipher this.
She asked Mohanbhai to take them to
the main deity of the Dwarkadhish
Temple. The deity here was very similar
to the one at Dwarkadhish Temple in
Dwarka. It was a black idol of Lord
Krishna, holding a conch in His left hand
and the Sudarshana Chakra in His right
hand. He also held the Goverdhan
Mountain with the little finger of His left
hand.
Do you think this conch points to
another sacred place? Sangeeta asked
Davies as they stood in front of the altar.
Davies shook his head. Thats what
we thought at Dwarka and ended up
going to Panchananda Teerth. I think the
conch in the cryptogram refers to
something else. We should ask the priest
if there are any other temples on this
island.
Sangeeta nodded and hurried inside
the altar. Davies watched her as she
chatted animatedly with the priest. A few
minutes later, she burst into the
courtyard. Davies saw a twinkle in her
eyes. She had found something
interesting.
There is one more important temple
on this island. It is known as the
Shankodhara Teerth Temple, Sangeeta
said excitedly.
How is that linked to Vajranabhas
clues? Davies asked.
Guess what the Sanskrit word
Shank means? It means conch!

Meanwhile, Nisha Sharma was on her


way to Dwarka. She had arrived in
Rajkot at 10 a.m. and had promptly
called her friend, Mayank Patel.
I have placed a GPS tracker in
Sangeeta Raos bag. You should be
getting the signal from it on your
receiver, Patel informed her.
Nisha looked at her GPS receiver. It
indicated Sangeetas location as
Panchananda Teerth.
What kind of a place is Panchananda
Teerth? she enquired.
Thats an island in the Gomti River. I
wonder what she is doing there, Patel
remarked.
I need a taxi urgently. Do you think
you can organize one?
I had disguised myself as a taxi
driver and driven your friends from
Rajkot to Dwarka, Patel laughed.
Nisha chuckled, Oh yes! Thanks for
that! Your service has been invaluable to
me.
I will organize a car for you right
away. You should reach Dwarka within
four hours.
Patel promptly arranged a vehicle.
She periodically monitored Sangeetas
movements with the help of her GPS
receiver. Around 1.30 p.m., she noticed
Sangeetas coordinates suddenly
changing rapidly. She must be travelling
in a taxi or a bus.
The GPS tracker showed Sangeeta
moving northwest. Okha! Thats where
she is going!
Nisha called Patel, My tracker shows
Sangeetas location as Okha. Any idea
why she would be going there?
Patel replied, Okha is a small town,
famous for the local fishing industry. A
nondescript town really. Not a place that
would excite Sangeeta. Unless . . .
Unless what?
Unless she is travelling to Bet
Dwarka. Okha is the place where you
take the ferry.
Hang on. Theres some activity on
the tracker, Nisha paused.
After a minute, Nisha exclaimed, Can
you believe this! The GPS receiver
shows Sangeeta travelling further north-
west; shes in the Arabian Sea.
My guess was right. She is heading
towards Bet Dwarka. Thats an island
near Okha.
I think I will be reaching Dwarka
around 2 p.m. How do I go to Bet
Dwarka from there?
I suggest that you change your route a
bit. Instead of going to Dwarka, you
should head straight towards Okha.
How do I go from Okha to Bet
Dwarka? Nisha enquired.
Give me a call once you reach Okha.
We will decide the next steps based on
Sangeetas location then.
53
Bet Dwarka
21 January 2015

Davies recollected the second line: His


hand adorning the conch shows.
The conch, known as shank in
Sanskrit, referred to the Shankodhara
Teerth Temple indeed.
He looked at Mohanbhai, Do you
know the location of the Shankodhara
Teerth Temple?
Mohanbhai nodded enthusiastically. I
will take you there. We need to travel in
a phatphati.
Whats that? Davies asked.
Mohanbhai chuckled, Sir, I dont
know how to describe it. I will take you
to the phatphati stand and you can see it
for yourself. Lets leave the temple
premises.
They left the temple and turned to the
lane on the left. Soon, they arrived at
what Mohanbhai had described as the
phatphati stand. More than twenty
phatphatis were waiting for passengers.
Davies was astounded to see the
phatphatis. They looked like a cross
between a bullock cart and a
motorcycle. The front part of this hybrid
consisted of a motorcycle engine and a
handle. The rear part resembled a
bullock carta broad seat resting on
two huge wooden wheels. Davies had
travelled across the globe extensively
but he had never seen anything like this.
No wonder Mohanbhai was unable to
describe them! Funny-looking vehicles.
Sangeeta spoke to one of the drivers
and negotiated the cost of the ride. The
driver asked them to sit on the broad
seat, which was adorned with colourful
mats. The ride to the Shankodhara Teerth
Temple was extremely bumpy because
the phatphati had to cut across wheat
fields and pass through uneven terrain.
I feel as if each bone in my body is
shaking, Davies remarked.
Sangeeta laughed, Count your bones.
Some of them might have fallen on the
way!
The group was greatly relieved to
reach the Shankodhara Teerth Temple.
Huge iron gates greeted them as they
disembarked from the noisy conveyance.
Sangeeta noticed that the gates were
locked from inside. She turned around
and noticed a small house to the right of
the gate. Hearing the sounds of them
arriving, a short, bare-chested man in a
white dhoti came out of the house.
Temple is closed from 1 p.m. tll 4
p.m., he declared. Seeing his attire and
a sacred thread across his chest,
Sangeeta guessed that he must be the
priest of the temple.
With a look of disappointment and
disbelief, Sangeeta exclaimed, Oh, is
it? We were told it is open throughout
the day. I brought a tourist from Europe
who is interested in the Hindu religion.
He is an author of a spiritual travelogue.
He has come to India to study and write
about the various temples. She pointed
towards Davies.
The priest remained silent. He was
not keen to allow them inside. Rules are
rules.
Sangeeta noticed the reluctance on the
priests face.
She said, If you allow us to visit it,
this author will devote an entire page to
your temple.
The priest was now in a dilemma.
According to the rules, I cant open the
temple in the afternoon but if this
foreigner gives sufficient publicity to
the temple in his book then . . .
She added, He will take pictures of
you standing in front of the deities.
Millions of readers across the globe
will see your pictures.
Sangeeta could sense the priests mind
swinging like a wild pendulum. She had
stayed long enough in India to know
what it takes to change a persons mind.
She finally played her trump card, He
will also donate five thousand rupees for
the upkeep of the temple.
The priest gasped. Pictures by a
renowned foreign author in an
international travel book! Five thousand
rupees!
Arent rules meant to be broken?
He hurriedly went inside and returned
with a big bunch of keys. Davies was
impressed with Sangeetas negotiating
skills and gave her an appreciative
glance.
Sangeeta grinned, He may have the
keys to the temple but I have the key to
his heart!
The priest asked them to follow him
as he opened the gates and walked into
the open courtyard. Soon they arrived at
an ancient beige-coloured building made
of sandstone.
Shankodhara Teerth Temple, the
priest announced as he stepped inside.
Sangeeta and Davies stepped inside
with great anticipation. The altar had a
black figurine of Lord Vishnu. The priest
stood in front of the deity as Davies took
his photographs.
Move to the left. A little bit towards
the deity. Thats right. Now put your
right hand near the deity, Davies kept
instructing the priest as he focused on the
screen of his digital camera.
The priest was thrilled. My face will
be inside an international travelogue. I
will become a celebrity.
He quickly draped his shawl around
his body and smiled at the camera.
The priest briefly explained the
legend of the sacred place, Once, a
demon named Shankasura defeated the
gods and stole the Vedas, the holy
scriptures. The demon hid the Vedas so
well that none of the gods had any clue
about its whereabouts. Defeated, they
approached Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu
came down to earth in pursuit of the
demon Shankasura. Lord Vishnu, through
His divine vision, realized that the
demon was hiding at the bottom of the
Arabian Sea, along with the Vedas. A
fierce battle ensued between the two.
Finally, Lord Vishnu killed the demon
and rescued the Vedas. As a victory sign,
He blew the conch-shaped bone of the
dead demons ear. The conch is,
therefore, known as shank, named
after the demon Shankasura.
Interesting story, isnt it? Sangeeta
exclaimed.
Yes, but I wonder what it has got to
do with the Shyamantaka? Davies
wondered.
Vajranabhas cryptograms! Let me
read them, Sangeeta pulled out the sheet
of paper. Lord Vishnus animal
sanctifies is the next line.
Davies looked around the room. It
was quite small and bare, with just an
idol kept on an insignificant-looking
altar. There was nothing in the temple
that suggested the presence of trapdoors,
dungeons, secret entrances and tunnels.
Lets ask this priest, he suggested.
Sangeeta turned towards the priest,
Are there any animals in this temple?
Davies guffawed. What animals do
you expect in a temple?
Sangeeta looked embarrassed.
Dont laugh, sir. She is right, the
priest said solemnly.
Sangeeta and Davies exchanged
glances. What was the priest talking
about?
Follow me, the priest said as he
stepped out of the temple. He crossed
the open courtyard and soon arrived at
another building also made of sandstone,
but much smaller in size.
I rarely bring people to this temple
because we do not perform pujas here.
However, since you talked about
animals, I think you should see this, the
priest said as he opened the lock of the
smaller temple.
They noticed that this temple was
much smaller and darker. The temple
doors had not been opened in a very
long time. The air inside smelt musty and
stale. Sangeeta coughed as she walked
inside the dark room.
The priest lit a lamp. No electricity
here. This is the Matsya Avatar Temple.
It is dedicated to Lord Vishnus
incarnation as Matsya. He had taken this
incarnation to kill the demon
Shankasura.
He held the lamp in front of the altar
and said, Look at the wall. Lord
Vishnus Matsya avatar!
Sangeeta and Davies turned towards
the dimly lit altar. They noticed a
gigantic blue fish painted on the wall.
Seeing the mural on the wall,
Sangeeta screamed with ecstasy,
Vajranabhas fourth lineLord
Vishnus animal sanctifies!

A few miles away, Nisha was in a car


heading towards Okha. Her thoughts
were interrupted by the sound of her
phone ringing. It displayed a telephone
number that she could not recognize.
This is the home ministers office.
The minister would like to speak to you,
a voice said.
Nisha gasped loudly. She had never
spoken to anyone so senior in her
professional career. For the next ten
minutes, she was busy giving an update
about the recent happenings to the home
minister.
The prime minister has been
personally tracking this case. He has
been calling every hour and taking
updates from me. He is very upset that
we have made no arrests so far. I need to
show quick results otherwise I will lose
my job. All opposition parties are
gunning for me. I want the fugitives
captured alive, the minister said and cut
the call.
Everyone wants them captured alive,
Nisha thought bitterly.
54
Bet Dwarka
21 January 2015

Davies gazed intently at the colourful


mural. Since the room was opened very
rarely and there were no electric bulbs
to discolour the mural, the painting had
retained its original colour and sheen.
He realized that Sangeeta was right. The
big blue fish that depicted Lord Vishnus
Matsya avatar was linked to
Vajranabhas codes. He asked her to
read the next lines.
Beneath the Divine Mother rests,
Holy water of the First One protects,
she read out.
Davies looked at the priest. Is there
any well or dungeon here? Something
below the ground level?
The priest nodded his head. We have
a flight of steps that takes you around
fifty feet below the ground.
Where does that lead to? Davies
asked.
Rukmini Kund. Its a small pond
named after Goddess Rukmini.
Lets go. Thats the place we are
looking for, Sangeeta said.
The priest moved towards the stone
steps on the right. Sangeeta, Davies and
Mohanbhai slowly followed him. The
uneven steps, covered with moss and
weeds, were slippery and made walking
very difficult.
Since this temple does not have a
regular altar and an idol, we do not
perform any prayers here. No one comes
here. We dont have any funds to
maintain this temple, the priest said
apologetically.
They descended the steps and reached
a flat, muddy area. The priest turned to
his right and stopped. In front of him was
a small pond.
Rukmini Kund, he declared.
Davies stood gazing at the pond. He
suddenly turned towards Sangeeta, Are
we at the right place? Its just a normal
pond. Nothing else. He sounded
disappointed.
Sangeeta chuckled, Alan! What did
you expect to see here? The
Shyamantaka floating on the water?
Davies replied. No, but I thought
there might be trapdoors leading us to . .
.
Leading us to what? Dungeons full of
snakes? Bat-infested tunnels? Mr Alan
Davies, you watch too many Indiana
Jones movies, Sangeeta giggled.
What else would you expect when
you are on a treasure hunt? he laughed.
I am sure we are at the right place.
Beneath the Divine Mother rests refers
to the steps that took us below the
ground, below Mother Earth or the
Divine Mother, Sangeeta clarified.
And what about the next sentence
Holy water of the First One
protects? Davies asked.
Thats Rukmini Kund. The water in
the ponds found near temples is always
considered holy. It is known as
Teertha and devotees even drink it,
Sangeeta explained.
What does First One mean? Whom
does that refer to?
Sangeetas eyes twinkled. Oh, I
thought you knew that! Thats an easy
one! Lord Krishna had many wives and
Goddess Rukmini, after whom this pond
has been named, was His first wife.
Holy Water of the First One means
Holy Water of Rukmini Kund. I guess
the word protects refers to this pond
protecting the Shyamantaka.
Which means, the Shyamantaka must
be somewhere here, Davies said
thoughtfully.
Let me read the last line of
Vajranabhas clues, Sangeeta said. She
took the sheet of paper out of her bag
and read aloud, Below the path to
Lanka stands.
Last time, we wrongly assumed it to
be a rope bridge, Davies sighed.
Mohanbhai joined their conversation.
Sir, the bridge to Lanka was not made
of rope.
Davies asked, What was the material
used for constructing the bridge?
Sir, are you aware of the Ramayana?
The story of Lord Rama? It describes the
construction of the massive bridge
between India and Lanka.
Wasnt it built by Lord Ramas
monkey army? Sangeeta asked.
Mohanbhai nodded. Yes, madam.
They built it with stones.
Stones? How is that possible? Wont
the stones sink in the ocean? Davies
asked. Mohanbhai noticed disbelief
written all over Daviess face.
Not when the stones are blessed by
Lord Rama! Mohanbhai beamed with
pride.
I still cant believe it! Are you telling
me that the stones that Lord Ramas
monkey army used were floating in
water?
Yes, sir! They used floating stones.
Do you mean there were magical
stones available on the shores of the
Indian Ocean? Daviess asked, half
curious, half sarcastic.
Mohanbhai shook his head. No sir.
They were ordinary stones that we find
at any sea shore. The monkeys would
take the stone to Lord Rama who would
write His name on it. The moment He
wrote His name on it, the stone acquired
magical properties. When the monkeys
hurled the stones in the ocean, they
would remain afloat.
Sangeeta looked at Davies, You dont
seem to buy his story.
Davies replied, Its so hard to
believe what he says. Ill believe it only
if I see one.
The priest nodded his head, Thats
right. When the monkeys threw the
stones into the ocean, they floated on
water. As they kept throwing the stones
into the water, the chain of floating
stones formed a long bridge between
India and Lanka.
Are you telling me that Lord Rama
and His monkey army walked on a
bridge made of floating stones and
reached Lanka?
The priest and Mohanbhai nodded in
unison.
Davies sighed. I will believe this
story only if I see one such stone.
The priest laughed and asked them to
follow him. They soon found themselves
standing in front of a mud wall. There
were lots of black stones neatly stacked
against the wall.
They look like ordinary stones. Do
these have the same magical powers?
Davies asked doubtfully.
The priest picked up a stone and
threw it into the pond. Sangeeta and
Davies watched with great astonishment
as the stone hit the surface but continued
to float on the waters of the Rukmini
Kund.
55
Bet Dwarka
21 January 2015

Do you believe my story now?


Mohanbhai asked Davies.
Davies walked to the stack of black
stones and picked up one of them.
The words Sri Ram has been
engraved on this stone, he remarked.
Sangeeta picked another stone and
noticed the same inscription.
These are the same stones that were
used by the monkey army of Lord Rama.
All of them are inscribed with Lord
Ramas name, the priest commented.
I feel that these stones are somehow
connected to the last line of the clue
Below, the path to Lanka stands.
But I dont know how, Davies said.
Below, the path to Lanka stands,
Sangeeta repeated thoughtfully.
After a few minutes she spoke, These
floating stones were used to construct
the bridge to Lanka. So they served as
the path to Lanka. I wonder what
below the path means.
Davies gave out a loud yell. Everyone
turned towards him.
Look! There are Sanskrit inscriptions
on the bottom of this stone. Below the
path to Lanka probably means below
the floating stone, he said excitedly.
Sangeeta took the stone from his hand
and translated the engraved word into
English, The word is prostrated.
Wonder what that signifies.
The priest picked up the stone that he
had thrown in water. He translated the
inscription, Divine.
The two words dont make any sense
to me. Wonder what Vajranabha is trying
to tell us, Davies said.
Sangeeta was intently staring at the
pile of stones kept near the wall. Davies
followed her gaze.
Are you thinking what I am thinking?
she asked breathlessly.
Davies shook his head.
Sangeeta replied, I think each
floating stone has a Sanskrit word
inscribed at the bottom. We have found
two of themprostrated and divine.
There are many other stones stacked
near the wall. All of them have the
words Sri Ram engraved on the top
side. If we reverse them, we might find
the Sanskrit inscriptions written by
Vajranabha.
Within a couple of minutes,
Mohanbhai, Sangeeta and Davies kept
all the stones in a sequential manner
bottom side up.
Sangeeta inspected all the stones and
read out, Prostrated Divine Goddess
Lakshmi daily who form near the
submerged Father He saw of the palace
in front.
What? Davies cried out.
Sangeeta doesnt make any sense.
Sounds completely gibberish!
Sangeeta repeated the sentence.
Davies groaned, If we have to
decode this, we might as well bid
goodbye to the Shyamantaka.
This time, Sangeeta too was baffled.
She asked the priest if he could
understand. The priest read it and slowly
shook his head.
Suddenly, Davies laughed. We are so
stupid! We have kept the stones in a
random sequence expecting to find the
answer. Obviously, Vajranabha would
have kept them in a different sequence.
You mean we need to shuffle the
sequence of the stones to get the same
combination as Vajranabha?
Of course, yes, my dear Sherlock!
Davies chuckled.
What is the right sequence? Sangeeta
mused.
Davies pondered, The last sentence
is Below the path to Lanka stands. We
know that the path to Lanka refers to a
bridge and, in this case, it refers to these
floating stones. We still have one word
to decipher stands.
We have kept the stones horizontally
on the floor. Lets keep them vertical and
see what happens.
Davies agreed that it was a good idea
and helped Sangeeta place the stones in
an upright position.
Nothing happened. Sangeeta laughed,
seeing the look of disappointment on
Daviess face.
What did you expect? Trapdoors
opening up? Walls splitting into two?
she smiled.
Ignoring her joke, Davies continued to
intently study the stones.
He finally said, I can see some
strange inscriptions on the top surface of
these stones.
Sangeeta walked close to the stones
and exclaimed, Yes, Alan. These are
numbers in Sanskrit.
Numbers? Davies was astonished.
Sangeeta nodded, 25, 16, 1, 9, 49, 4,
36, 64, 100 . . .
Davies looked at Sangeeta, Wonder
what they signify.
Page numbers of a sacred book?
Verse numbers? she asked.
Or telephone numbers? Davies
replied with a smile on his lips.
Sangeeta guffawed, Telephones?
Five thousand years back?
Davies wrote the numbers on a piece
of paper and studied them carefully for a
long time.
All of them are perfect squares, he
finally remarked.
Perfect squares?
He nodded. Yes. A perfect square is
a number whose square root is a whole
integer and not a fraction or a decimal. If
you notice, the numbers that you read out
25, 16, 1, 9, 49, 4 and so onall of
them are perfect squares. Their square
roots are 5, 4, 1, 3, 7 and 2.
A random set of numbers. What
would that mean? We dont even know
what the right sequence is.
Suddenly, Sangeeta had a brainwave.
It is an arithmetic progression. So the
right sequence would be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8 and so on. And, in this case, it
would be the square of those numbers.
You mean the sequence would be 1,
4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100 and so
on? Davies asked.
Sangeeta nodded excitedly. Thats
correct. Let us rearrange all the stones in
the sequence of 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 38, 49,
64, 81, 100 and so on.
She studied the number on each stone
and rearranged them.
Davies said, We have the right
sequence. Now we need to lay them
horizontal and read those words once
again.
Sangeeta followed his instructions
and read out the words:
Father of Goddess Lakshmi,
Near the submerged palace,
He who saw the Divine Form,
Prostrated in front daily.
56
Bet Dwarka
21 January 2015

Davies groaned, Oh no! Just when we


thought we had cracked the last line of
Vajranabhas codes, we are led to
another set of codes.
Sangeeta smiled, This one is much
shorter. Just four lines.
Just four lines? It might take us a
whole lifetime to crack them! Davies
exclaimed.
We cracked the last set of codes in
less than twelve hours, Sangeeta
reminded him.
Lets start with the first line. Who is
the father of Goddess Lakshmi? Davies
looked at Sangeeta.
She replied, Goddess Lakshmi is the
Goddess of Wealth. I have no clue who
her father is!
Lets consult our priest, Davies said
and walked towards the priest.
Father of Goddess Lakshmi? Thats
Sagar Devatha, the priest replied.
Sagar Devatha? Davies repeated.
Thats the Sea God, the priest
smiled.
What? Davies was shocked. He was
quite familiar with the Hindu religion
and the practice of worshipping different
animals like snakes, cows and monkeys.
However, the sea as the father of a
goddess was beyond his understanding.
The priest saw the look of disbelief
on Daviess face and laughed. I know it
is difficult for you to believe this. You
worship only Jesus Christ. Hinduism is
different. We worship numerous gods
and goddesses. Like the Pagans, we too
are nature worshippershence we have
the Sun God, the Moon God, the Fire
God and the Wind God. We also
worship our lakes, rivers and trees.
Amazing, Davies uttered, still
shaking his head.
Are you aware of the ten incarnations
of Lord Vishnu? the priest asked
Davies.
Davies nodded his head.
The priest continued, The gods and
the demons were aware of the hidden
treasures inside the seas. They decided
to work in a collaborative mode and
unearth the hidden wealth. They needed
a long pole, a rope and a firm base to
churn the sea. Mount Meru served as the
pole. Vasuki, the divine serpent,
volunteered to be the rope. Lord Vishnu
took His second incarnation as that of a
giant tortoise, popularly known as
Kurma Avatar. He served as a firm base
upon whom Mount Meru was fixed. This
way, He helped the gods and the demons
to churn the sea. When they started to
churn the sea, poisonous gases emanated
from the sea. The toxic fumes began to
choke everyone. They prayed to Lord
Shiva for help. Lord Shiva began to
consume the poison in order to protect
the world. Goddess Parvati got worried.
She was afraid that the poison might kill
her husband so she pleaded with Him to
stop swallowing the poison. The poison
had already reached Lord Shivas throat.
He kept the poison in His throat and did
not swallow it. Due to the poison, His
throat turned blue. Hence Lord Shiva is
also known as Lord Neelkanth. Neel
means blue and Kanth means
throat.
Whats all this got to do with
Goddess Lakshmi? Davies was growing
impatient.
The priest smiled, Once Lord Shiva
had inhaled all the poison, the gods and
demons sighed with relief. They
continued the churning of the sea. A few
minutes later, the Sea God came to the
surface. Standing beside him was the
beautiful Goddess Lakshmi. She later
married Lord Vishnu. Since Goddess
Lakshmi came out of the sea, we
consider the sea to be her father.
Davies, with a shake of his head,
looked towards Sangeeta.
In this case, the sea refers to the
Arabian Sea, she said.
The Arabian Sea! It covers thousands
of square kilometres. Searching for a
lost jewel is like searching for a needle
in a haystack, Davies sounded
disappointed.
Remember, Bet Dwarka is an island
in the Arabian Sea. So the Shyamantaka
must be somewhere close to this place,
Sangeeta comforted him.
I think the next few lines of the
cryptogram should help us to narrow
down our search, Davies said.
Near the submerged palacethats
the next line wonder what that means,
Sangeeta pondered.
Looks like Dwarka is filled with
palaces! First the official palace turned
into the Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka
and then the residential palace turned
into the Dwarkadhish Temple in Bet
Dwarka. Now there seems to be one
more palace, and that too, a submerged
one! Davies exclaimed.
Sangeeta glanced at Mohanbhai, Is
there any submerged palace in the
vicinity?
Mohanbhai nodded his head, After
Lord Krishna left Dwarka and went back
to His heavenly abode, Vaikunta, evil
forces struck. The Arabian Sea was hit
by a massive tsunami whose gigantic
waves were more than a hundred feet
tall. They engulfed the buildings of
Dwarka, including Lord Krishnas
magnificent palaces. Trees were
uprooted, vegetation was completely
destroyed and most of the residents
drowned. It is believed that five
thousand years ago, both Dwarka and
Bet Dwarka were connected and they
were a part of Lord Krishnas kingdom.
However, the tsunami waves submerged
parts of the kingdom and the waters of
the sea separated the land into twothe
mainland portion is still known as
Dwarka and the separated land, which
became an island, is now known as Bet
Dwarka.
You mean a major portion of Lord
Krishnas erstwhile kingdom is buried
under the sea? Sangeeta gasped.
The holy scriptures had mentioned
this but, for many centuries, sceptics
refused to believe it because there was
no scientific evidence. However, the late
Dr S.R. Raos findings changed all that.
His scientific discoveries lent credence
to the holy scriptures.
Dr S.R. Rao? Wasnt he the famous
marine archaeologist who explored
Dwarka?
Yes, thats right. The Archaeological
Society of India conducted many
explorations and confirmed the existence
of this holy city. The marine archaeology
unit of the National Institute of
Oceanography also conducted
underwater studies in 1983 in the coastal
waters of Dwarka under the guidance
and supervision of Dr S.R. Rao. He
anchored his ship around thirty
kilometres off the Dwarka coast. Fully
armed with a team of archaeologists and
divers, he spent many years exploring
the Arabian Sea.
What did he discover?
Between 1983 and 1990, the
township of Dwarka was discovered
and found to be extending to more than
half a kilometre from the shore. At Bet
Dwarka, the team found a wall, 560-
metres long, visible on the shore itself.
His findings were astoundinghe had
found enough archaeological evidence
like pottery items, seals, coins and other
household items that indicated that
Krishnas Dwarka was indeed
submerged under the sea. Most of these
artefacts are now displayed at the
Krishna Museum in Kurukshetra. They
also unearthed an identity seal, which
was an important clue confirming the
existence of Lord Krishnas city because
the Mahabharata mentions that Lord
Krishna wanted every citizen to carry
some sort of an identity, a seal. The
layout of Dwarka city, as described in
the holy books, matched with the
findings of the lost city discovered by Dr
Rao.
Sangeeta exclaimed, Dwarka was
one of the richest kingdoms in India. A
lot of wealth might be buried under the
seagems, precious stones and jewels.
Didnt the Indian government explore it
for any hidden treasures?
Mohanbhai smirked. Madam, I
assume you must have stayed in India
long enough to know how things work.
Any such finding would be ridden in
controversy. Few political parties
supported Dr S.R. Raos findings and
wanted a full-fledged exploration team
to investigate. Unfortunately, a few other
political partiesthose who pride
themselves as rationalistsdidnt
allow the search. They said its a waste
of national resources!
Waste of national resources? They
had the nerve to say that? Sangeeta was
shocked.
Mohanbhai shrugged. You know how
it is. Any topic related to religion takes
political overtones.
Sangeeta nodded. Davies was keenly
listening to Mohanbhai and Sangeeta.
He took Sangeeta aside, If what
Mohanbhai says is true, it can mean only
one thing.
Sangeeta raised her eyebrows.
Daviess eyes were twinkling as he
said, The jewel is still safely buried in
the Arabian Sea. Awaiting our arrival!
57
Bet DwarkaOkha
21 January 2015

Davies watched the priest and


Mohanbhai talking spiritedly a few feet
away. He asked Sangeeta, How do we
get rid of Mohanbhai? We cant have
him accompany us.
Lets go back to Okha and inform
Mohanbhai that we have a change of
plans. He can return to Dwarka while
we hire a motor boat and explore the
sea.
Davies agreed that it was the best
option. They bid goodbye to the priest.
Davies gave him a generous tip to ensure
secrecy of their visit.
The priest was delighted, Thank you
very much and please remember to send
me your book once it is published.
The trio once again boarded their
phatphati, which took them to the wharf
at Bet Dwarka. Their motor boat swiftly
took them back to Okha. Sangeeta and
Davies paid Mohanbhai for his services.
Davies was once again generous with
his tip.
Mohanbhai wished them good luck
and walked towards the local bus stand
to catch a bus to Dwarka.
Lets go back to the wharf. This time,
we need to hire a better vessel which
has sophisticated navigational equipment
and scuba-diving gear, Davies said.
As they walked near the jetty, they
noticed different kinds of boats
everything from paddle boats to motor
boats and yachts. Most of them were
returning from a day cruise to Bet
Dwarka. The boatmen were anchoring
their boats and heading home. Their day
started early most of them would get
here at the break of dawn and fish for a
couple of hours. Around 8 a.m., as the
tourists arrived, they would start their
trips to Bet Dwarka. On a busy day, most
of them would make around ten trips to
the island.
Sangeeta and Davies received curious
stares from the boatmen. It was not
common to see tourists looking for boats
at this hour of the day. Since the tourists
preferred to reach Dwarka before dark,
there would be a drop in their number
after 3 p.m. The fact that an Indian lady
was accompanied by a Western tourist
added to their inquisitiveness.
Motor boat, madam? One-way or
two-way trip to Bet Dwarka? a boatman
shouted.
Half-rate for you, madam, shouted
another.
Sangeeta looked at Davies. I just
realized we do not know the exact
location of the submerged city.
Davies pulled out his mobile from his
pocket. Sangeeta watched him furiously
type a few words.
I am trying to get the information
from the Internet. I am sure Dr Raos
research papers would have had the
coordinates, he explained.
A few minutes later, Davies
exclaimed, I have finally found an
article that gives the latitude and
longitude coordinates.
In the meantime, another boatman
arrived. Madam, where do you want to
go? My yacht is equipped for longer
trips. None of the other boats can take
you very far.
Sangeeta showed him the coordinates
on Daviess mobile phone. Can you
take us there?
The boatman said, Thats a long ride
from here, madam. I will charge two
thousand rupees per hour.
He noticed Sangeeta looking at other
boats that had been anchored nearby.
You can check with other boatmen,
madam. I am the cheapest. Besides, none
of them have navigational equipment.
They drive by their instincts. You are
safer with me, the boatman said.
Davies nodded at Sangeeta. Since we
are going into the deep sea, we need a
yacht that is equipped with sophisticated
navigational equipment. Tell him we
also need scuba-diving gear with oxygen
cylinders.
That would cost an additional
thousand rupees, the boatman quickly
replied.
Davies once again nodded. We
would like to inspect your boat and
scuba-diving gear before we agree to
your deal.
The boatman asked them to follow
him as he walked towards his yacht. It
was around two hundred metres from
where they stood.
Sangeeta and Davies entered the small
cabin located at the front portion of the
yacht. It had all the essential
navigational aidsthe steering wheel
fitted with a mariners compass,
transceivers and communication
devices. Next, they followed the
boatman into the engine room. They
inspected the scuba-diving gear and
oxygen cylinders.
Not the best but sufficient for our
needs, Davies remarked.
Sangeeta and Davies took their seats
as the boatman turned on the engine and
headed into the deep sea.

Meanwhile, a car whizzed past the


narrow lanes of Okha town and reached
the harbour.
Nisha Sharma got down from her car
and called Mayank Patel, I have
reached the Okha harbour. I am keeping
an eye on Sangeetas movements using
my GPS tracker. She has returned from
Bet Dwarka but has once again gone into
the sea.
Patel asked, Can you give me her
coordinates?
Nisha read out from the tracker. Patel
thought for a moment.
It doesnt make sense to me. They are
neither heading towards Bet Dwarka
nor towards Dwarka. Looks like they
are going deep into the sea. Wonder
why.
He told Nisha, The best option is to
chase them in a helicopter. I will put you
in touch with the air controller at the
Dwarka helipad. He can organize a
helicopter for you at Okha and you can
board from there.
Nisha agreed that this was the best
method to pursue Sangeeta and Davies.
She called the air controller and
introduced herself.
What can I do for you, SP? the air
controller asked.
I am at Okha right now. I need a
helicopter urgently, she said.
Without a moments delay, he replied,
Please proceed towards the helipad.
You will have a helicopter within thirty
minutes.
Nisha was thrilled, Thanks a lot.
Thats great.
She disconnected the call and
instructed her driver to proceed towards
the helipad.
The air controller sent a text message
to Amit Yadavs mobile: SP Nisha
Sharma landed in Okha. She needs a
helicopter.
Within a minute, he received a reply:
Go ahead and send Nisha a helicopter.
Have her killed in the sea. Feed her
body to the sharksnot even a morsel
should be found on the shores.
The air controller stared at the text
message for a long time and, with a
wicked grin on his face, forwarded the
message to the pilot.
58
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Davies was intently looking at his


mobile phone. He shouted, Have you
made a note of the coordinates?
The boatman shouted back, Yes, sir.
We should be reaching soon.
Sangeeta and Davies quickly wore the
scuba suits and swim fins. Davies
helped Sangeeta fix the oxygen cylinder
on her back.
He grinned as he checked the
functioning of their oxygen cylinders.
Better check now instead of getting
surrounded by sharks and discovering
that our equipment is not functional.
If there are sharks out there, the
oxygen cylinders wont be of much use.
We might need special guns and bullets,
Sangeeta sounded worried.
Sir! We have reached your
coordinates, the boatman yelled.
Sangeeta and Davies connected the air
regulators to the cylinder and the face
masks. Hearing the boatmans call, they
wore their face masks and plunged into
the sea.
Sangeeta had performed scuba diving
only twice both times at Lakshadweep
Islands. Both the dives had been purely
for fun and she was accompanied by a
trained professional scuba-diving
instructor. However, this was different.
There was no lifeguard or trained
instructor with her, just a fake professor
who claimed to teach archaeology at a
British university. She also felt burdened
with the task of finding the famed jewel.
This trip was supposed to be strictly
business, not for pleasure.
Sangeeta had watched Davies deftly
handle the scuba gear. She had noticed
him take a deep plunge into the sea and
skilfully manoeuvre himself.
He appears to be an expert scuba
diver. Not bad for a university
professor.
Sangeeta had difficulty in descending
into the deeper levels of the sea. Davies
held her hand and guided her. He taught
her to move using the buoyancy
principle. As she descended, her ears
began to hurt and she felt a strong force
pounding hard on her chest.
Davies had already warned her about
this. The pressure increases as you go
deep into the sea. It will cause pain in
the ears, eyes and sinus. You will feel as
if someone is banging your chest with an
iron hammer.
Though Sangeeta had tried to be
mentally prepared for this, she did not
expect it to be this bad. She began to feel
dizzy due to the change in pressure.
Davies realized that it would be better to
go back to the yacht and give her a few
more tips. He took her hand and swam
towards the surface.
Soon, Sangeeta and Davies were
sitting on the deck of the yacht. Davies
removed his face mask and explained the
method to use the air regulators that
were connected to the cylinder.
During the earlier days of scuba
diving, divers just wore a face mask
connected directly to the oxygen
cylinders. However, most of the divers
encountered symptoms similar to what
you experienced just now. The scuba-
diving gear designers later modified the
cylinders and fitted it with an air
regulator. It connects the cylinder to the
face mask so you can control the amount
of air you inhale.
Davies walked to Sangeeta and
showed her the technique to regulate the
flow of air into the mask. Sangeeta felt
more confident as she dived into the
water for the second time. Davies
helped her a bit as they descended
towards the sea bed.
Daviess training helped Sangeeta to
maintain the right level of buoyancy and
pressure. She was more comfortable and
assured now. Davies pointed to the
colourful sea animals and plants that
they encountered. Watching the sea
anemones, starfish and various kinds of
fishes, Sangeeta almost forgot the
difficulties of deep-sea diving.
Soon, they found themselves in front
of a huge building made of sandstone.
Though the structure lay in ruins, they
could guess that thousands of years ago,
it would have been a magnificent
complex. Huge iron gates formed the
entrance. The relentless pounding of
strong water currents for over a
thousands of years had made the metal
rusty and weak. One gentle push by
Davies and the gates fell open. As he
swam inside, Sangeeta quickly followed
him. She did not want to be left alone in
this intimidating and unknown water
world. Watery grave is more
appropriate, she thought and shuddered.
Davies held Sangeetas hand and
carefully manoeuvred through the thick
sea weeds that had grown all around.
They passed through an open courtyard
and soon arrived in front of massive
wooden doors. Davies had to give a
powerful heave to open the doors and
swim inside. As the doors budged open,
he found himself plunging downwards,
pulling Sangeeta with him. Sangeeta
quickly clutched a broken wall to arrest
their fall.
Davies regained control and
continued his journey inside the
submerged building. Soon, they arrived
inside a spacious hall that had enormous
chairs on either side. Having been
submerged for thousands of years, the
chairs were dilapidated and damaged.
At the centre of the hall was a gigantic
throne. The throne too was in shambles
and the silk cloth adorning it was
tattered due to the constant battering of
the sea water.
It took less than a minute for Sangeeta
and Davies to realize that they were
inside the court of the submerged palace
of Lord Krishna.
59
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Davies signalled to Sangeeta that they


needed to go back to the surface.
Holding Sangeetas hand, he pushed
himself upwards and, in a few minutes,
they reached the surface.
Davies removed his face mask and
asked Sangeeta, Can you recall the
second set of Vajranabhas cryptogram?
This is a massive palace and unless we
decode the rest of the lines, we will be
searching forever.
Sangeeta recited,
Father of Goddess Lakshmi,
Near the submerged palace,
He who saw the Divine Form,
Prostrated in front daily.
Davies listened carefully. He felt
something was wrong.
Sangeeta spoke eagerly, We have
discovered the palace but how do we
know the location of the jewel?
Vajranabha has so far proved to be a
very smart person. I am sure he would
not have kept it in an obvious place.
Davies sighed, Sangeeta. The jewel
is not in this palace. We are wasting our
time hunting inside the palace.
Sangeeta cried, Not in the palace?
What do you mean? We have come all
the way from Dwarka, travelled by taxi,
motor boat, phatphatis and yacht. Now
you say that the jewel is not here?
Davies sighed deeply, Sangeeta. You
misunderstood me. I did not say that the
jewel is not here. I said that the jewel is
not inside the palace.
Meaning?
Please repeat the second line.
Near the submerged palace,
Sangeeta said.
It says near and not inside. It means
that the jewel is not inside this palace
but hidden somewhere close to it,
Davies explained.
The third line might give us a hint. It
says, He who saw the Divine Form.
Wasnt it Arjuna?
Thats right. Before the battle of
Kurukshetra commenced, Lord Krishna
showed His Divine Form to Arjuna. It is
known as Viraat Swaroop in Sanskrit.
I think we should once again dive
into the submerged palace and explore
for artefacts related to Arjuna.
Worth exploring. Lets go, Sangeeta
agreed.
Davies opened his bag and removed
two small black electronic devices.
Sangeeta looked questioningly at him.
These devices work on radio
frequency and will help us communicate
with each other even when we are
wearing scuba masks and are under the
sea. We need not come to the surface
each time we want to speak to each
other. Both the devices communicate
using encrypted signals so no one can
tap into our conversation, Davies
explained as he handed over one device
to Sangeeta. He held on to the other
piece.
Sangeeta and Davies wore their face
masks and dived into the sea yet again.
They decided to explore the buildings
that were near the palace. Most of them
were in ruins. The doors were damaged,
walls had crumbled, ceilings were
broken and seaweeds had grown
everywhere.
Sangeeta noticed that most of the
buildings displayed names at the
entrance.
She read out, Balarama, Pradyumna,
Aniruddha, Satyaki, Akrura . . .
Wonder what it indicates? Davies
asked.
These are the palaces that belonged
to different members of Lord Krishnas
family. Relatives, noblemen and close
associates. It is an ancient custom to
write the name of the owner at the
entrance of the house, Sangeeta
explained.
Look out for Arjunas house, Davies
exclaimed.
Sangeeta looked hesitant.
Arjuna never resided in Dwarka. He
stayed in Hastinapura and Indraprastha.
Both were thousands of miles from here.
I doubt if we will find his residence
here, she explained.
Davies shrugged. Arjuna used to visit
Dwarka frequently. Lord Krishna might
have gifted him a house where he would
have stayed during his visits to this city.
This jewel might be hidden there.
Sangeeta shook her head. I doubt it
but lets try.
She and Davies went past all the
houses near Lord Krishnas palace.
Fifteen minutes later, they were tired and
frustrated. All the houses bore the
owners names at the entrance and none
of them belonged to Arjuna.
Lets go back to the surface. Time to
do more research, Davies suggested.
Sangeeta was relieved because she
was feeling exhausted. The discomfort
of breathing through the scuba apparatus
and the high pressure of the water were
taking a toll on her.
Soon, they made their way back to
their yacht.
Sangeeta said, I think we are on the
wrong track. The sentence He who saw
the Divine Formit might not be
Arjuna.
Davies disputed, No, Sangeeta. I am
quite positive Arjuna is the correct one.
Wasnt he the one who saw the Divine
Form of Lord Krishna before the
commencement of the Kurukshetra war?
Sangeeta replied, Yes, Arjuna saw
the Divine Form. But was he the only
one?
What do you mean?
It is quite likely that there were a few
others who might have seen the Divine
Form of Lord Krishna.
I agree. There might be others but
how do we find out?
I would like to watch the recording
of Swami Brij Mohans speech. It might
give us some fresh clues, Sangeeta
suggested.
Using his mobile phone, Davies
connected to the Internet. There were
hundreds of videos of Swamijis
speeches on YouTube.
Look for last nights speech.
Preferably the one that has the complete
recording, till his assassination,
Sangeeta advised.
Davies soon found and played the
video. He could not gather any
additional information about the
Shyamantaka.
Lets study the video once again
especially the final part where the
terrorist kills the Swamiji, Sangeeta
suggested.
She and Davies were glued to the
mobile phone as the YouTube video
played the recorded speech. Towards the
end, they noticed the swami tug the
terrorists robes and try to punch the
latter on his stomach. Unfortunately for
the swami, his punch landed on the
terrorists belt. The bombs attached to
the belt detonated and multiple
explosions rocked the venue of the
international conference.
Swami Brij Mohan screamed loudly,
Krura!, which reverberated through the
entire temple complex.
Why did the swami scream Krura?
asked Davies.
In many Indian languages, krura
means cruel. Swami Brij Mohan was
probably referring to the terrorist as
krura, Sangeeta explained.
Davies looked fixedly at Sangeeta,
Are you sure there is no other
meaning?
Sangeeta shook her head.
If you recollect, the swami was
assassinated just before he could
mention the location of the Shyamantaka
jewel. I was just wondering . . . Davies
voice trailed off.
Wondering what? Sangeeta asked.
60
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Davies replied, I was just wondering if


Swamiji was trying to give a clue to the
audience. When he was assaulted, the
swami knew his end was near. He did
not have sufficient time to narrate the
details of the Shyamantakas location.
His best bet was to give a clue
consisting of just one word.
You mean krura is that word?
Sounds far-fetched, she sighed and
closed her eyes.
Davies stared intently at Sangeeta. He
was hoping shed have better ideas.
Suddenly, her eyes opened. Davies
noticed a sparkle in her eyes that had
been missing for the past few hours.
Looks like Sherlock Holmes has had
a brainwave! he smiled.
She shook her head, Not really. Just a
vague idea. I will do some research on
the Internet. I am a registered member of
an online library. I can post a query on
this subject and look for answers.
She quickly logged in to the online
library and posted her query using the
key words krura and Divine Form.
Within a couple of minutes, the system
accessed hundreds of scriptures. It
indexed through thousands of databases
and came up with twenty successful hits.
Any luck? Davies looked at her
excitedly.
She shook her head, It has displayed
many hits but none of them seem to be
the right ones.
Davies moved closer to Sangeeta and
peered into her phone. All the twenty
hits were related to Akrura, chief of
Yadavas and uncle of Lord Krishna.
Twenty hits and all related to Akrura!
I wonder why his name gets associated
with Divine Form, Sangeeta
pondered.
I guess there is some error, Davies
could not hide his disappointment.
I doubt if thered be such a major
error in the indexing and search
algorithm. Lets read the legend
mentioned in one of these links,
Sangeeta suggested.
All the links revealed the same story:
The evil king Kansa wanted to invite
Krishna and Balarama to Mathura and
kill them. He was well aware that his
nephews did not trust him and would
never accept his invite. He also knew
that they respected Akrura so he decided
that sending the old man to invite them
would be the best option. Akrura went to
Nanda Rais residence at Nandagaon.
He informed Nanda Rai and Yashoda
that Devaki and Vasudev were the
biological parents of Krishna and
Balarama. He also told them that Kansa
had invited their foster children to
witness the wrestling matches in
Mathura. Though Nanda Rai and
Yashoda refused to believe his story and
were reluctant to send their children to
Mathura, Krishna and Balarama insisted
on accompanying Akrura.
During the journey, Akrura noticed
that Balarama asked many questions
regarding the distance that they needed
to cover, the kind of reception they might
receive at Mathura, the speed of the
chariot, the breed of the horses. These
were questions that were worthy of a
prince. However, Krishna was talking
about how much He missed His parents,
Radha and the Gopismore like a lover
than a warrior.
Listening to Krishnas conversation,
Akrura kept wondering if this boy was
really the Supreme Lord who had killed
numerous demons. Was He the same
person who was destined to kill Kansa
and free the people of Mathura from his
tyranny?
Even as Akrura had serious
misgivings about Krishna being an
omnipotent god and an incarnation of
Lord Vishnu, Krishna, through His
divine vision, knew what was going on
in the formers mind. He kept smiling at
Akrura, assuring him not to worry about
the future.
Just before reaching Mathura, they
came across the Yamuna River. The hot
sun had taken its toll on Akrura. Feeling
exhausted, the old man decided to
refresh himself with a bath in the river.
Krishna and Balarama chose to sit in the
chariot. Akrura took a dip in the river.
As he lifted his head, he saw an
astonishing sight before his eyes. The
small river had transformed into a huge
ocean. Lord Vishnu was reclining on a
huge serpent, Lord Seshanag. He noticed
that Lord Vishnus face was that of young
Krishna while Lord Seshanags face was
that of Lord Balarama!
Sensing that something was wrong,
Akrura came out of the river and, in his
dripping wet clothes, rushed to his
chariot. He noticed Krishna and
Balarama still seated in his chariot,
smiling at him. He thought he had
imagined the whole thing and once again
went back to the river. As he took his
second dip in the water and lifted his
head, he saw the same scene again. The
small river had once again transformed
into a huge ocean. Lord Vishnu was
reclining on the same serpent, Lord
Seshanag. They still had the faces of the
boys. He ran out of the river and went
back to his chariot. He was shocked to
notice his nephews still seated in his
chariot. He was convinced that he was
hallucinating.
However, when this strange scene
repeated after his third dip into the holy
river, he realized that this was some kind
of a divine intervention. He prayed to
Lord Vishnu and asked him to remove
the mask from his mind. Lord Vishnu
smiled and showed Akrura all His
IncarnationsMatsya, Kurma, Varaha,
Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama
and, finally, Krishna. Akrura stood
stunned. The divine light emanating from
each incarnation and the power
displayed by them dazzled him. He
realized that his nephews sitting in his
chariot were no ordinary children but the
divine incarnations of Lord Vishnu and
Lord Seshanag. For the third time, he
rushed to his chariot.
Krishna innocently asked Akrura the
reason for his repeated rushing out of the
river in this manner. Akrura began to
weep. He fell at Krishnas feet and
exclaimed, Oh Lord! You know
everything. Why do you ask me such
innocent questions? You know what was
going on in my mind throughout our
journey from Nandagaon to Mathura.
You knew the doubts that I had about you
and this was your way removing them.
You are the protector of the whole
Universe, and I was stupid not to realize
it. Please forgive me!
Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama
once again smiled at Akrura and blessed
him.
Wow! That was an awesome story!
Akrura saw Lord Krishnas Divine Form
much before Arjuna did, Davies
exclaimed.
I never knew this. I wonder if this is
authentic, Sangeeta said.
Davies said emphatically, Sangeeta,
it says that this is from the tenth canto of
Srimad Bhagavatam so it cant get more
authentic than this.
Sangeeta knew Davies was right.
Srimad Bhagavatam was one of the
most authentic sources of Hinduism. She
closed her eyes and began to analyse all
the information that they hadSwamiji
shouting krura, Akrura seeing the
Divine Form and Vajranabhas clues.
A minute later, she let out a loud
scream.
Davies turned towards her, wondering
if she had hurt herself.
She spoke excitedly, Remember the
swami screaming just before his death?
We had wrongly assumed that he shouted
krura. I think he probably shouted
Akrura. It was indeed a clue for us!
You mean there is a connection
between Akrura and the Shyamantaka?
Davies asked.
Sangeeta nodded. Lets replay the
video.
They watched the final part of Swami
Brij Mohans speech, this time in ultra-
slow motion. This time, Sangeeta and
Davies could clearly hear the swami
scream Akrura.
Both of them stared at each other for a
long time.
Finally, Sangeeta smiled, Alan, we
have cracked it! The swami wasnt
saying krura to indicate any cruel
person. He shouted Akrura and it was
a clue that the famed jewel was in
Akruras possession. This is also
confirmed by what we read in Srimad
Bhagavatam. Akrura was fortunate
enough to see Lord Krishnas Divine
Form.
Everything fits perfectly.
Davies nodded, Can you read out the
clues once more?
Sangeeta said, Near the submerged
palace, He who saw the Divine Form. It
refers to Akruras home and it must be
located near the submerged palace of
Lord Krishna.
We need to dive once more, Davies
suggested. Hopefully, it will be the last
time, he quickly added. He knew that
Sangeeta was not enthusiastic about the
underwater exploration.
They wore their face masks and once
again plunged into the sea. They quickly
swam past the submerged palace and
arrived at a house that displayed
Akruras name. Both Sangeeta and
Davies knew they were just a few
metres away from the Shyamantaka.
Excitedly, they went inside and swam
from one room to another.
Ten minutes and twenty rooms later,
they were crestfallen. Each room was
bare except for weeds and sea animals.
Most of the walls and floors were
covered with thick moss. Seaweeds
grew in the uneven crevices. There were
no treasure chests, boxes or cupboards.
Disappointment was written all over
Daviess face.
Hopefully, the final line of the clue
should reveal the location, she said. Her
voice was more in hope and anticipation
than in conviction.

While the excitement was building up


hundred feet below the sea, the situation
above the ground was no different.
Nisha was sitting in a twin-seat
helicopter. A few minutes earlier, the
taxi had dropped her at the Okha
helipad. As promised, the helicopter
was arranged by the air controller, and a
pilot was waiting for her.
The helicopter was soon airborne
and, since Okha was a small town, it
was soon over the Arabian Sea.
Nisha was happy with the days
proceedings. Despite multiple modes of
transportaircraft from New Delhi, taxi
from Rajkot and helicopter from Okha
her hectic travel plans had gone as per
schedule. She stretched her legs in front
of her and rested her arms behind her
head. She was on the verge of falling
asleep when she heard the pilot speaking
to her.
Can you please give me the
coordinates of your destination? he was
saying.
She studied the blinking dot on her
GPS tracker and gave Sangeetas
coordinates to the pilot. He noticed the
contented and sleepy look on her face.
Soon she will be put to a permanent
rest. Let her sleep as long as she wants.
With a devilish smile on his lips, he
veered the helicopter farther into the sea.
61
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Prostrated in front daily, Sangeeta read


out the last line of Vajranabhas second
set of clues.
Wonder what that means? Davies
said slowly.
In India, we normally bow and
prostrate in front of idols as a mark of
respect, Sangeeta explained.
That would be in temples, right?
Sangeeta nodded.
There are no temples in the vicinity,
Daviess voice revealed disappointment.
Not necessarily temples. It could
also be in a prayer room of a house.
Lets hunt for the prayer room.
Sangeeta and Davies once again
swam across all the rooms in the palatial
building. Soon, they noticed a small
door which led them into a prayer room.
Sangeeta gasped at the spectacular sight
in front of her. At the centre of the sacred
room were magnificent gold figurines of
Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama. Their
crowns were adorned with diamonds,
rubies and emeralds. Both were seated
on a miniature golden chariot drawn by
four white horses. Their right hands
were raised, palms open and vertical, as
if blessing a devotee. Despite being
submerged in the sea for thousands of
years, the deities and the chariot were
still dazzling. The saline water had not
tarnished the glittering metal and the
precious stones.
Phew! At last! The prayer room!
Davies sighed with relief.
Finding the statues is just half the
work. We need to find the Shyamantaka,
Sangeeta was quick to remind him.
Davies groaned, I hope we dont end
up with another set of clues here!
Sangeeta was staring at the idols on
the chariot. There was no sign of the
Shyamantaka. Neither were there any
containers or chests where it could be
hidden.
Vajranabha wont make it so simple
for us. Hes sure to have left more
puzzles for us to crack, Davies said, as
if reading her mind.
Sangeeta continued to gaze intently at
the idols. Somethings unusual. I wish I
knew what!
Davies interrupted her thoughts, The
prayer room appears quite bare. Apart
from the idols, there is nothing here that
would suggest the presence of a hidden
jewel.
Her lips eventually broke into a smile.
I know what is!
Lord Balarama and the chariot! she
exclaimed loudly.
Davies looked at her. He was unable
to understand the excited look on her
face.
Dont you find anything unusual? she
asked.
Davies shook his head.
Well, let me explain. In most prayer
rooms, Lord Krishnas statue is kept
along with that of Radha or Rukmini.
Except in a few temples that are
dedicated to these two gods, we rarely
find idols of Lord Balarama kept along
with that of Lord Krishna, she said.
Davies waited for her to continue.
The presence of a miniature chariot
in a prayer room is also very unusual.
You might occasionally find it in the
courtyard of a temple but never inside a
prayer room.
What do you infer from that,
Sangeeta?
Perhaps these are not the original
idols.
Meaning?
When Akrura resided in this house,
this prayer room probably had normal
idols. Later, Vajranabha might have
replaced the originals with these.
Why would he do that?
Maybe Vajranabha installed these
idols and the chariot to serve as a clue
for the hidden jewel.
Davies exclaimed, You mean these
deities and the chariot are themselves
the clues?
Exactly! Sangeeta said excitedly.
I wonder what Vajranabha is trying to
convey.
Do you recollect the legend of
Akrura? Lord Krishna and Lord
Balarama were seated on a similar
chariot when Akrura went for his bath.
Yes, but what has that incident got to
do with this?
The posture of Lord Krishna and
Lord Balarama is very similar here. And
dont forget that chariot.
You mean that incident is being
depicted here?
Yes!
But that still does not tell us the
location of the Shyamantaka.
Not so fast, Alan! Remember,
Vajranabha was a very intelligent person
and he has left challenging clues. I am
sure there is still a hidden piece in the
jigsaw puzzle.
I dont seem to find any more clues
here.
Do you remember what Akrura did
when he saw the divine forms of Lord
Krishna and Lord Balarama? He rushed
out of the river and prostrated at their
feet. Isnt it similar to the last line of
Vajranabhas clue? Prostrated in front
daily.
You mean there is a link between the
legend of Akrura, the position of the
deities here and the last line of
Vajranabhas puzzle?
Sangeeta nodded her head. Akrura
had prostrated in front of Lord Krishna
and Lord Balarama and touched their
feet. Lets try doing the same here.
Davies touched the feet of the idols.
Nothing happened. He turned towards
Sangeeta with a disappointed look on his
face.
Sangeeta smiled, You are very
impatient, Alan. You touched the feet of
the idols just once!
Davies lifted his eyebrows.
Sangeeta continued, Akrura touched
their feet thrice. Remember, he dipped
his head under the water thrice and on
each occasion, he saw the Divine Forms
and he came out rushing from the river
and touched their feet each time.
Davies went close to the deities and
once again touched their feet repeatedly.
As he touched the feet for the third time,
there was a loud noise beneath the
chariot. The golden chariot slowly
rotated by ninety degrees and revealed a
small trapdoor.
Sangeeta was the first to notice it. She
yelled with joy and pointed it to Davies.
He swiftly opened the lid of the trapdoor
and found himself staring into a dark
murky chamber.
62
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Nisha woke up with a start. She looked


at her watch and realized she had dozed
off for fifteen minutes. The helicopter
was approaching a yacht which was
drifting in the middle of the sea.
Madam, we are getting close to your
coordinates. Where do you plan to get
off? the pilot asked.
Nisha stared at her tracker. She
watched the blinking dot on the screen. It
was not pointing to the yacht. Something
was unusual. Sangeeta was not on the
yacht as she had imagined.
If Sangeeta and her companions are
not aboard this yacht, where are they?
The blinking dot indicated that
Sangeeta was more than a hundred feet
away from the yacht. Nisha was baffled.
Is it possible that Sangeeta has
anchored this boat and gone diving into
the sea?
The pilot interrupted her thoughts,
Madam, we are right above a yacht. Is
this the one that you are looking for?
Nisha said, Keep hovering here till I
decide my next steps.
The pilot glanced once at Nisha.
I wonder what this pretty lady is up
to. What brings her here? Anyway, it is
none of my business.
Nisha continued to study the display
on the tracker. The blinking dot had
grown faint and she knew the reason.
The GPS signal has gone weak
because Sangeeta must be hundreds of
feet below the surface of the sea. They
must be hunting for the jewel.
She picked up her mobile phone to
consult Amit Yadav. The blank display
on her mobile phone meant it was out of
the cellular network.
Nisha cursed and looked at the pilot,
May I borrow your mobile, please? I
need to send an urgent message and my
mobile isnt able to access the network.
Hope yours works.
The pilot picked up his mobile phone
and threw it on her lap. This is the last
message you will ever send. He turned
to keep an eye on the yacht.
Nisha deftly pushed the buttons on the
pilots mobile and navigated into the
SMS menu. Accidentally, she pressed
Read instead of Create.
She recoiled in horror as the last text
message received by the pilot unfolded
before her eyes: Go ahead and send
Nisha a helicopter. Have her killed in
the sea. Feed her body to the sharks
not even a morsel should be found on the
shores.

In the meanwhile, below the surface of


the sea, Davies had lowered himself into
the secret chamber. He switched on the
flashlight connected to his scuba gear. A
narrow tunnel stood in front of him.
Slowly, he stroked his way across the
tunnel. Though Davies was an expert
swimmer, the seaweeds hampered his
movement.
Sangeeta had decided to stay back in
the prayer room. She had had enough of
dungeons and chambers, especially
submerged ones. She thought about
returning to Singapore and taking a
weeks rest. She had had an overdose of
bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, police
chases and underwater expeditions. Her
thoughts were interrupted by muffled
sounds at the trapdoor. It was Davies,
asking her to pull him up from the
chamber. Sangeeta was surprised to see
him return empty-handed.
Sangeeta, I need your help. I found
myself in another chamber which
resembles a bank vault. There are
hundreds of lockers fixed to the wall.
Each locker has a word inscribed in
Sanskrit. Can you translate them for me?
Davies asked.
Sangeeta reluctantly followed Davies.
She had an aversion to claustrophobic
chambers. She slowly lowered herself
and entered the first chamber. With
Daviess help, she swam across the
narrow tunnel. A few minutes later, she
found herself in the chamber that Davies
had just described.
She began to read out the Sanskrit
inscriptions, Surya, Chandra, Buddh,
Guru, Shukra, Shani . . .
Davies interrupted, Arent those the
names of the various heavenly bodies?
Sangeeta nodded.
Wonder which one is ours, Davies
pondered.
The Shyamantaka was gifted to
Satrajit by the Sun God. He is known as
Surya in Sanskrit, she replied.
Davies swiftly swam towards the
locker that Sangeeta had indicated.
Instead of opening it, he continued to
stand and stare at it.
Well, hurry! Open the locker! I dont
want to stay here for ever, Sangeeta
yelled impatiently.
Davies turned towards her with a
dejected look. We have a small
problem. The locker has no keys, no
knobs, absolutely nothing! How the hell
do I open it?
63
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Nisha could not believe her eyes. She


scrolled and read the text message on the
pilots phone once again. It had been
sent by the air controller of Dwarka.
Why does he want to eliminate me?
She glanced at the pilot.
Who is he? What is the nexus
between him and the air controller?
She had no answers.
She realized she was running out of
time. It was only a matter of minutes
before the pilot tried to eliminate her.
Would he attempt to shoot me? Or push
me down?
She soon had the answer. The pilot
looked at her, I was told that I need to
drop you on a yacht. Isnt that the one
below? I have brought a rope ladder for
you.
Nisha peered down and took a deep
breath.
He is going to kill me when I am
getting down the ladder. While I am
focusing on my descent, he will either
shoot me or he will cut the rope and
drown me. Feed me to the sharks!
She turned her gaze once again
towards the pilot. He was intently
looking at the helicopters controls. His
face was expressionless. Looking at
him, I couldnt have imagined that he is
plotting to kill me.
Finally, she spoke, I want to board
the yacht but I do not want to make my
entry too obvious. I prefer to descend
into the sea a few metres away and then
swim to the yacht.
Shall I fly the helicopter about
hundred metres away from the yacht?
You can use my rope ladder to get
down, he suggested.
She nodded.
The pilot swerved the helicopter
away from the yacht. A few minutes
later, he manipulated the control of the
rotor blades to make the helicopter
stationary.
Bending backwards, he picked up a
brown package lying on the floor and
handed it to Nisha, This contains a rope
ladder.
He pushed a button on the control
panel that opened the cabin door near
her seat.
Nisha pulled out the folded ladder
from the package. With the pilots help,
she tied one end of the ladder to the
bottom of door and flung the other end
into the air. The rope ladder swayed
downwards. She tugged the rope firmly
to ensure that it was tightly secured.
She looked at the pilot, Thanks for
your help. I will get off here.
As she stood up and moved towards
the cabin door, the pilot smiled, Take
care, madam. The sea might contain
sharks.
Nisha did not want to show she was
nervous. Something that she had learnt
during her professional training. A weak
face is half the battle lost, her instructor
always told her.
She looked into the pilots eyes and
forced a smile on her lips, Dont worry.
I have handled tougher situations.
As she made her way towards the
rope ladder, she saw the pilots hand
move swiftly towards his coat pocket.
The bulge indicated the presence of a
gun.

Hundreds of feet below, Davies was


still silently grappling with the locker. It
was completely devoid of handles and
he had not yet found a way to open it.
Sangeeta finally broke the silence, I
am pretty sure there must be a method to
open it.
Just like we opened the trapdoor?
Davies suggested.
Probably. Lets explore this chamber
for further clues.
Both of them swam towards the
opposite ends of the chamber. They
could feel the ceiling move further away,
making the chamber look more spacious.
Suddenly, the chamber opened into a
large gallery with a circular dome.
Sangeeta and Davies looked around. The
room was completely bare. No
cupboards, lockers or any kind of
storage devices.
Suddenly Sangeeta let out a small
scream. Davies followed the path of her
hand and found himself staring at the
most unusual mural on the ceiling dome.
Our answer lies there! Sangeeta
shrieked excitedly.
Davies looked puzzled. That mural?
Does it give us the location of the
Shyamantaka?
We already know the location of the
Shyamantaka. What we dont know is
how to open the locker. And this mural
tells us that.
It does? Davies asked. He still
looked doubtful.
Sangeeta nodded her head. Guess
whats depicted on the mural?
It shows a man driving a chariot. He
looks like a king or a nobleman.
Count the number of horses. That
should reveal the identity of the rider.
Seven. Who rode a chariot with
seven horses? Wait a minute, wasnt it
Surya, the Sun God?
Sangeeta smiled, Good one, Alan. He
is indeed the Sun God. Remember
Swami Brij Mohans story? The Sun
God used to wear the Shyamantaka on
his arm as a bracelet.
The mural on the ceiling shows the
Sun God wearing a bracelet on His arm,
Davies said thoughtfully.
According to the legend, when the
bracelet was removed from his arm, the
jewel was unlocked, Sangeeta said
excitedly.
You mean, if we do the same to the
Sun Gods arm on the mural Davies
started.
The locker that stores the
Shyamantaka will get unlocked
automatically, Sangeeta completed his
sentence.
Davies instructed Sangeeta, I will go
to the mural and remove the bracelet
from the arm. In the meantime, you swim
to the adjacent chamber and watch the
locker.
Sangeeta agreed. She swam back to
the room full of lockers and stationed
herself in front of the locker that had
Surya inscribed on it.
Having watched Sangeeta disappear,
Davies pushed his fins with all his might
and moved upwards towards the circular
dome. As he reached the mural, he
couldnt help admiring the radiance on
the face of the Sun God. Slowly, he
lowered himself and held the Sun Gods
arm. It took him just a couple of minutes
to understand the locking mechanism of
the bracelet. As he unfastened the
bracelet from the mural, he heard
Sangeetas loud cry from the adjacent
chamber.
64
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

The pilot heaved a sigh of relief as he


watched Nisha disappear. Slowly, he put
his hand in his pocket and pulled out his
revolver. He had been waiting for this
moment. He was aware of Nishas
credentials; she was one of the top
police officers in the country. Her tales
of nabbing and killing criminals were
legendary. He knew that it would be
impossible to tackle her inside the
cramped helicopter cabin. His only
chance of killing her was when she was
most vulnerablewhile she was
precariously hanging on the rope ladder
and descending slowly. She was going to
be easy meat.
Finally, his moment of glory had
arrived. He would become a celebrity in
the underworld for killing one of the
most famous police officers in the
country. He smacked his lips in
anticipation of the exciting task that lay
ahead of him. Should he spray a dozen
bullets on her body and kill her
instantly? Should he just fire one bullet
on her leg, injure her and watch her
plummet into the sea and drown? Should
he cut off the rope ladder and watch her
fall into the hungry jaws of the sharks?
He chuckled to himself. The slower
the death, the better it would be to
watch.
He slowly bent down from the cabin
door and gazed below. The sight below
froze him on his tracks. The rope ladder
was loosely dangling in the air.
There was no sign of SP Nisha
Sharma.
Thousands of miles away, his fellow
pilot was in a much more relaxed mood.
He had just finished counting the
currency notes a stranger had handed to
him. One million dollars.
He had a successful day at the office.
First, he had managed to take possession
of the priceless jewel from Anton
Blanchard. Next, he had killed
Blanchard in a staged helicopter crash at
the Dwarka helipad. The helipad
officials assumed that it was a genuine
case of an engine failure. There were no
awkward questions. The media was still
busy with the bomb blast that had
occurred the previous night at the
Krishna Janmasthan Temple in Mathura.
The doctors had also closed the case in
a hurry.
After taking possession of the
precious stone, he had flown to Agra and
successfully delivered it to a stranger
who had met him at his hotel lobby.
In return, the stranger handed him a
bag, One million dollars. Check it.
The pilot looked at the stranger, I
thought we were supposed to get two
million?
The stranger replied, The first
million is for killing Blanchard and
giving us the Shyamantaka gem. You will
get the second million after your
colleague successfully kills Nisha
Sharma.
The pilot nodded and stood up. He
shook hands with the stranger and
walked out of the hotel lobby. He asked
the taxi driver to take him to the airport.
He was eager to return to Dwarka.
Its a pity that I need to share this
booty with the air controller and the
other pilot. I wonder if Nisha Sharma
has been killed yet. We will get the
other million dollars only after she is
murdered.
Deep within the Arabian Sea, Davies
had just heard a loud scream from the
adjacent chamber. He knew it was
Sangeetas. He took a deep dive and
flapped his fins to descend towards the
floor. In less than a minute, he reached
the locker room where Sangeeta stood
transfixed.
What happened? Thank God you are
safe! I was worried when I heard your
scream, he said.
Look! Isnt it awesome? Sangeeta
yelled, pointing towards the locker.
Davies followed her gaze. He saw
hundreds of lockers fixed to the wall.
One of them had just opened. Inside the
locker was one of the biggest and most
dazzling rubies he had ever seen in his
life.
God! Its huge! He had never seen
something as stunning as this.
Davies quickly swam towards the
locker.
Wait! Sangeeta screamed.
Davies raised his eyebrows.
Wait! Dont touch it! she yelled.
Davies was puzzled.
Dont you remember the legacy of the
Shyamantaka? she said.
Davies still looked bewildered. He
waited for Sangeeta to explain her
sudden outburst.
The Shyamantaka has always brought
bad luck to anyone who tried to possess
it. First, Satrajits brother, Prasena, was
killed in the forest. Next, the lion which
killed Prasena and took possession of
Shyamantaka was killed by the bear.
Lord Krishna was aware of the evil luck
that the jewel delivered to its owner so
He refused to keep it. He returned it to
Satrajit who was later killed by
Satadhvana. Lord Krishna was once
again offered the gem after Satrajits
death but He refused to accept it and
gave it to Akrura, Sangeeta elaborated.
Davies was smiling as Sangeeta
described the ill luck theory link. As
soon as she finished, he began to guffaw,
Do you really believe in this bad luck
theory? How nave can you get? I
always knew Indians were a
superstitious lot but I thought your stay in
Singapore would have changed youbut
no, I was wrong! You are as
superstitious as the rest of your folks.
Hearing Daviess laughter, Sangeeta
was angry and hurt.
I am trying to protect him from bad
luck but he is poking fun at me. How
dare he say such things?!
Davies asked, What exactly do you
think we should do?
Sangeeta angrily replied, Nothing!
Nothing?
Yes! Nothing! Lets just leave the
Shyamantaka in this locker and go back
to our yacht. Most of the previous
owners of the Shyamantaka were
brutally killed. What is the assurance
that we too wont meet with a similar
fate?
Davies could not believe his ears.
Ms Sangeeta Rao, are you telling me
that we leave the most precious jewel on
earth in this locker and head back to our
respective countries? After such a
struggle?
Sangeeta replied dryly, Well, we will
at least reach our country safely.
Davies once again laughed. Oh God!
We travelled thousands of miles across
the country. We journeyed in planes,
trucks, motor boats, taxis and yachts. We
nearly got killed on more than three
occasions. After all this, do you want to
just throw it away?
Sangeeta looked helplessly at Davies
as he moved towards the locker.
Davies saw the worried look on
Sangeetas face and snorted, Dont
worry! We will take the Shyamantaka
and head back to our yacht. Within an
hour, we will be safely in Dwarka, We
will be worth millions. There is no such
thing as a bad omen.
Davies didnt realize that the next
hour would prove him wrong on all
counts.
65
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Nisha relied a lot on her instincts. This


time, her instincts told her that the pilot
would try to kill her the moment she
began to climb down the rope ladder.
Clutching the rope tightly with both her
hands, she swung her body wildly
towards the undercarriage of the
helicopter. Her legs caught hold of the
steel bar below the helicopter cabin. She
slowly released her grip on the rope
ladder. Her body, held by the steel bar,
began to dangle upside down from the
helicopter, just like a gymnast
performing on the horizontal bars at the
Olympics.
She used all the strength she could
muster to swing her arms towards the
opposite end of the undercarriage. Her
tall frame allowed her to reach the steel
bar which was located below the pilots
seat. Her body was now horizontal to the
sea surface. The cool sea breeze touched
her frame. Though she was shivering,
she knew that she could not afford to
move. Gradually, she pulled out her
revolver from the leather holster
attached to her belt and aimed it towards
the helicopter cabin door. She waited
patiently.
The pilot was horrified to see the
empty rope ladder dangling in the air. He
quickly put the helicopter on autopilot
and returned to the cabin door. Resting
his knees on the helicopter seat, he bent
down and peered below.
Where was Nisha? She could not
have descended so fast into the sea.
Had she slipped from the rope ladder
and fallen into the sea?
With his right hand tightly clasping the
revolver, he bent his body further down
and inspected the undercarriage. In a
flash, Nisha fired at the face that peeped
out of the helicopter door. Her aim was
perfect and the bullet found its mark. The
pilot screamed loudly as blood gushed
out of his forehead. The sharks below
had got a whiff of the warm blood that
dripped into the sea. The intense pain
weakened his grip on the cabin door.
Nisha watched him lose his balance and
whirl downwards. As his body hit the
sea below, the hungry sharks pounced on
him and shred his limbs into pieces.
Within a few seconds, the feast was over
and there was no sign of his body. The
only indication of the gory death was the
pool of blood clearly visible on the
surface of the water.
Nisha quickly released her legs from
the steel bar and swung towards the rope
ladder. With her legs firmly placed on
the ladder, she freed her hands and
grabbed the cabin door. Using all her
strength, she pushed herself into the
cabin. Swiftly, she occupied the pilots
seat and looked at the familiar controls.
She thanked her stint at the commando
training centre where she had learnt to
fly helicopters and small planes.
She noticed the pilots phone lying
near the control panel. She picked it up
and typed a text message for the air
controller: Operation successful. Nisha
killed and thrown into the sea.
She chuckled at the air controllers
quick reply: Great job! Await the
booty.
She disengaged the helicopter from
autopilot mode and swerved it
northwards.
A couple of miles below, Davies
gently placed his hand inside the locker
and removed the Shyamantaka. Seeing
the worried look on Sangeetas face, he
mockingly looked around, as if a
calamity was about to strike him.
Davies removed a handkerchief from
his pocket and placed the priceless gem
in it. He carefully folded the cloth and
put it back into his pocket.
He smiled at Sangeeta, Lets head
back to our yacht. We still have some
unfinished business.
I say we go to Bet Dwarka, Sangeeta
suggested.
I thought we had to go by yacht to
Okha and then take a taxi to Dwarka,
Davies replied.
Dwarka is too dangerous so its
better that we avoid going there. SP
Nisha would have tracked our
movements by now and figured that we
are in Dwarka. I wont be surprised if
her men are waiting for us at the Okha
pier. Bet Dwarka is quite secluded. It is
an island and quite inaccessible after
dark. We can take a phatphati in Bet
Dwarka and go to the Shankodhara
Teerth Temple. We can convince the
priest to allow us to stay there for a day
or two, Sangeeta said.
Davies nodded, Sounds good. We
could even ask the priest to allow us to
stay inside the Matsya Avatar Temple.
Remember, no tourist visits that part of
the temple and its always kept locked. It
would be the safest place on earth right
now. Lets go back to our yacht.
The duo swam across the two
chambers and made their way back to
the prayer room. They passed through
various rooms and finally emerged out
of Akruras submerged home.
As they swam out of the main gate,
Davies gazed at Akruras palace and
remarked, Just an hour back, when we
discovered this building, our pockets
were bare. Now we are returning with
the priciest and the most renowned
jewel in the world.
Sangeeta sighed, Alan, we have not
yet reached our destination. You should
learn to trust a womans instincts. They
are never wrong.
Oh, you are a born pessimist, Davies
laughed.
He guided her ascent towards the
surface. Sangeeta decided not to talk
about bad omens with Davies. They
silently made their way back to the
yacht.
The boatman was a worried man. He
had just received a red alert from the
Dwarka lighthouse. A depression was
building up in the Arabian Sea near
Maldives. The sudden change in
pressure was causing gigantic vortexes
in the sea. The meteorological
department had predicted a storm or a
cyclone but no one knew when it would
hit the Indian coast.
The boatman loaded the GPS software
and quickly checked the distance
between Maldives and Dwarka: it was
1835 kilometres. Though the speed of
the waves depended mainly on the
pressure gradient, wind direction and
local weather conditions, he decided to
make a few calculations.
Assuming wind speeds of four
hundred kilometres per hour, the waves
from Maldives would reach only after
four hours. We would have safely
reached the harbour at Bet Dwarka.
Nothing to worry.
The boatman sighed with relief and
walked towards the refrigerator to help
himself to a can of coke.
What he was unaware of was the fact
that within hundred metres from where
he stood, an armed intruder was
swimming swiftly towards his yacht.
66
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Sangeeta and Davies swam to the


surface and entered the yacht from the
rear portion of the deck. They could see
the boatman inside the front cabin. He
was patiently waiting for their return.
Lets head to Bet Dwarka, Sangeeta
shouted. She noticed the boatman nod his
head and switch on the engine. He
removed the anchor as the yacht
swerved eastwards.
Davies returned from the restroom
with a couple of towels. The duo quickly
removed their scuba gear and dried
themselves. Davies had always relished
the numerous underwater expeditions
that he had carried out in the past and he
had thoroughly enjoyed this one too.
However, Sangeeta had been longing to
get back to the yacht. The tedious
underwater exploration had drained her.
She longed to put up her feet on the long-
arm chairs and relax till they reached
Bet Dwarka.
As Sangeeta settled down on a chair,
she noticed a troubled look on Daviess
face.
I sense somethings wrong, he said.
Sangeeta was still upset with him. I
am not surprised. I had warned you, she
replied flatly.
Davies groaned. Oh, it is not what
you are thinking! Maybe I am worrying
too much.
Whats bothering you? she asked.
Davies hesitated, I dont know.
Watching the suns position, I just get
this feeling that we are heading in the
wrong direction.
Wrong direction?
I heard you instruct the boatman to
head towards Bet Dwarka. However,
instead of heading south-west towards
Bet Dwarka, he is moving in the south-
east direction.
That must be towards Dwarka. I
wonder why he is doing that. Has he
misunderstood my instructions?
Lets go and check.
Both of them hurriedly crossed the
deck and rushed into the front cabin. The
boatman was standing at the steering
wheel, his face glued to the control
panel in front of him.
Where are you going? Arent you
supposed to head towards Bet Dwarka?
Davies demanded.
The boatman wheeled around. He
looked at Davies and slowly shifted his
gaze to his left.
Sangeeta and Davies turned towards
his gaze. They had the biggest shock of
their life. SP Nisha Sharma was standing
at the corner of the cabin, her revolver
pointing at the boatman. Davies felt as if
someone had punched him hard on the
stomach. Sangeeta thought she was about
to faint.
Welcome aboard! Nisha grinned.
She enjoyed seeing her enemies squirm.
You! How did you get in here?
Sangeeta tried to yell but her voice was
low and feeble.
I am the one who asks questions
here! Nisha barked.
Sangeeta took a step towards Nisha.
The police officer bellowed, One
more step and you are a dead woman.
Hands up, both of you!
Sangeeta stopped dead on her tracks.
She knew the police officer meant
business. She looked feebly at Davies.
He had already raised his hands and
looked equally helpless.
Where is Anton Blanchard? Nisha
demanded.
Anton Blanchard!
In the excitement of the underwater
expedition and discovering the
Shyamantaka, Sangeeta had completely
forgotten about him. She and Davies
looked at each other and remained silent.
Nisha repeated her question, this time
louder.
Sangeeta finally spoke, We thought
you had him.
What do you mean? Hasnt he been
with you since the time you escaped
from Agra? Nisha was clearly losing
her patience.
Yes, he was with us till Dwarka. He
suddenly vanished and we assumed that
he was caught by the police.
Nisha groaned. This was not
something she wanted to hear.
Sangeeta watched Nishas
expressions change from that of
anticipation to disappointment.
Was Nisha really disappointed or
was she faking it? Had Nisha already
caught Blanchard in Dwarka?
Why are you so desperate to catch
him? Sangeeta asked.
I told you that only I ask questions
here! What do you know about him?
Nisha demanded.
Sangeeta shrugged her shoulders.
Nothing much. We just know that he
works as the curator of the Smithsonian
Museum in Washington
What? Nisha cried out. She looked
at Sangeeta disbelievingly.
Sangeeta repeated, He introduced
himself as the curator of the Smithsonian
Museum. Why? Anything wrong with
that?
Nisha once again sighed. Nothing
wrong in being a curator but . . .
Without completing her sentence, she
picked up her mobile phone and
searched for Smithsonian Museums
telephone number on the Internet.
She dialled the switchboard number
of the famous museum and flung her
mobile towards Sangeeta. Tell the
receptionist that you want to speak to the
museums curator, Mr Anton Blanchard.
It is morning right now in the US, so they
should be open.
Sangeeta heard the receptionists
crisp voice, Good morning!
Smithsonian Museum. May I help you?
May I speak to Mr Anton Blanchard,
please? Sangeeta spoke feebly. Her
mind was whirling.
Could you repeat the name, please?
the receptionist asked.
Mr Anton Blanchard.
I am sorry, maam. There is no one
by that name here.
He is the curator at the museum.
Sangeetas jaw dropped and looked at
Nisha in horror as the receptionist said,
I am sorry, maam. I think you have got
the name wrong. There is no Anton
Blanchard here.
67
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Nisha had placed the call on the


loudspeaker for everyone to hear.
Sangeeta noticed that she was the only
person in the cabin who appeared
stunned. Nisha and Davies appeared
calm and composed, as if they had just
heard the National Anthem on the mobile
phone.
She first turned towards Nisha, What
does this mean? Is Anton Blanchard a
fake? Did you know it?
Nisha nodded her head. Of course.
Why do you think I dialled the museum?
I wanted you to know the truth.
So who is Anton Blanchard?
He is an art smuggler who works for
an organization called the World Art
Organization.
World Art Organization? But isnt
that where Davies works? Sangeeta was
baffled.
Nisha pointed at Davies and laughed
scornfully, Him? Of course not! Dont
be silly! Davies is not connected with
the World Art Organization. Blanchard
is one of the kingpins there. Though the
organization claims to promote art, in
reality, they indulge in art theft and
smuggling. It is one of the biggest
underworld organizations.
Oh, havent I heard that before!
Sangeeta exclaimed.
She recollected the recorded
conversation that Blanchard had played
to her.
Sangeeta was baffled.
If Alan Davies is not an art smuggler,
then who is he? More importantly, does
Nisha Sharma know his true identity?
Before Sangeeta could speak, Nisha
remarked, What a wasted trip, as she
gloomily put her gun back into the
holster. Sangeeta was astonished to hear
Nishas statement and the sudden change
in her behaviour towards them.
Nisha has travelled thousands of
kilometres in our pursuit and now that
she has found us, isnt she going to take
us into police custody?
Arent you going to arrest us?
Sangeeta enquired.
Nisha guffawed, Arrest you on what
charges? For wasting my time?
Sangeeta spoke her thoughts aloud,
You have been chasing us in hot pursuit
for the past twenty hours. I remember
you repeatedly referring to us as
fugitives of law. So why the sudden
change of heart?
Nisha replied, Initially, I thought you
were part of a terrorist gang that was
responsible for the bomb blasts. Thats
when I tried to arrest you in the
courtyard of the Krishna Janmasthan
Temple. For the next couple of hours, I
was chasing you both. However, I soon
realized that you were innocent. Once I
knew your names, I did some quick
reference checks and discovered your
true professions.
Then why the chase from Mathura to
Agra to New Delhi to Dwarka?
Nisha took a deep breath, My hunt
for both of you took me to an ancient
library. I noticed an old man lying on the
floor. He appeared to be injured and I
promised to send the doctors to assist
him. Before the doctors could reach the
library, the old man had fled. No injured
man could have left that room without
assistance. That was when I realized that
something was amiss. I sent his
description and fingerprints to my
headquarters. Since he was a foreigner,
we decided to take the help of Interpol.
With their help, we soon discovered that
they matched Anton Blanchards. We
already knew of his track record theft,
robbery, smuggling and murder. He was
wanted by more than twenty countries. I
also discovered that he had joined your
expedition. The description given by the
truck driver who transported you from
Agra to New Delhi matched that of
Anton Blanchards. I suddenly realized
we could catch a big fish in our net.
Though our hunt was initially focused on
catching the terrorists who had bombed
the temple, we knew it would be a
double bonanza if we could also capture
the international underworld don Anton
Blanchard. I was chasing Blanchard all
this time. I knew that you both could lead
me to him. I also turned the entire media
focus on to the two of you so Blanchard
would develop a false sense of security.
And in the process, you made both of
us the most known faces on TV,
Sangeeta said sarcastically. She did not
like being used as a pawn in the game.
Nisha shrugged. You had to endure
that for a good cause.
How did you keep track of our
movements and locate us here?
Sangeeta was curious.
Very easy. Remember the taxi driver
who met you at the Rajkot airport and
brought you to Dwarka? He was a police
officer in disguise. His name is Mayank
Patel and hes a good friend of mine. He
had placed a GPS tracker in your bag.
The moment you boarded the taxi at
Rajkot, I was able to track your
movements. So where exactly is Anton
Blanchard right now?
Sangeeta and Davies took turns in
narrating their journey from Agra to
Dwarka, including Blanchards
disappearance from the well at
Panchananda Teerth. Nisha listened
intently, nodding her head from time to
time.
Finally she said, I hope you have
realized that Blanchard was never in any
sort of danger when he left the well. He
fled with the most precious gem in the
world.
Sangeetas eyes twinkled as she
laughed, He thinks he has the precious
gem but we know its not so!
It was Nishas turn to look baffled.
Sangeeta explained about the real
location of the Shyamantaka. She
narrated how Blanchard had fled with a
fake gem while the real one lay
submerged in the Arabian Sea. Nisha
gaped as Sangeeta and Davies described
their trip to Bet Dwarka, discovering a
second set of Vajranabhas clues at the
Matsya Avatar Temple and their
subsequent visit to the submerged
palaces of Lord Krishna and Akrura.
Scuba diving! Submerged palaces! I
should have been there, Nisha
exclaimed.
As Sangeeta concluded, Davies put
his hand in his pocket and pulled out the
handkerchief. Nisha screamed in
amazement as she saw him holding the
glittering gem in his hand. She had never
seen anything as beautiful and gorgeous
as this. Before she could take it from
Davies, there was a loud cry from the
other end of the room.
Sangeeta, Davies and Nisha wheeled.
It was the boatman.
I have some terrible news for all of
us, he stood in front of them, shell-
shocked.
What? the trio shouted in unison.
68
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

I had received a red alert from the


Dwarka lighthouse a few minutes back.
They had warned me of a storm or a
cyclone in the sea. Now they have
received more accurate reports. It is
neither, the boatman hesitated as he
looked at the trio.
So what is it? Davies asked.
A tsunami!
A tsunami? In the Arabian Sea?
Sangeeta screamed.
The boatman nodded his head.
Sangeeta could not believe her ears.
Tsunami! In India?
How much time do we have? How
far are we from getting hit by the
tsunami? she enquired.
The boatmans hands were trembling
as he spoke, According to earlier
reports, the cyclonic winds would have
taken more than three hours to reach
here. But now we know it is a tsunami
and its waves move much faster. They
are travelling swiftly from Maldives
towards the Gujarat coast and might hit
us any moment.
There was stunned silence in the
room.
Davies was the first to speak. How
far are we from Bet Dwarka? he asked.
I guess we are fifteen minutes away.
Hurry! Lets try to reach the harbour
before the tsunami engulfs it.
The boatman turned towards his
controls and exclaimed, Wait! I just
received the latest update from the
lighthouse. The waves would be hitting
the Dwarka and Bet Dwarka coast
within ten minutes.
Still, its worth a try. We might be
able to make it in time.
The boatman shook his head
disappointedly, I doubt it. By the time
we reach the pier, the waves would have
already pounded it.
Lets go into the deep sea, Sangeeta
suggested.
Davies turned towards her. He
couldnt believe his ears. Is she crazy?
Thats suicide!
Sangeeta repeated, Let us go deeper
into the sea. That might help us.
Davies was dazed, Do you know
what you are saying, Sangeeta? Going
into the deep sea would be our funeral
right now.
The boatmans face had brightened.
He said excitedly, I agree with the lady
here. I think its an excellent suggestion.
Explain that, young man! Davies
exclaimed.
Sangeeta looked at the boatman, You
go ahead and turn the yacht away from
the coast while I explain this to our
friend here. I think you should call the
helipad at Dwarka and ask them to send
us a rescue helicopter immediately. Give
them our coordinates.
The boatman nodded his head and
turned his attention towards the control
panel.
Davies looked at Sangeeta.
She better have a good explanation
for taking us into a watery grave!
Sangeeta saw that Davies and Nisha
were waiting for her explanation, like
school children observing their teacher
on their first day at school.
Sangeeta cleared her throat, Let me
first briefly describe what a tsunami is
and then explain my logic for shifting
away from the coast.
It better be a convincing one, Nisha
grunted.
Sangeeta nodded. A tsunami is
typically caused when there is a
displacement of a large amount of water
in a sea or an ocean. The sea floor
abruptly deforms and vertically
displaces the overlying water.
Something like an earthquake in the
sea, am I right? Nisha asked.
Sangeeta nodded again. Yes,
something like that. An earthquake
occurs due to a deformation of the
earths crust. A tsunami occurs when
there is an earthquake, landslide or
volcanic eruption in a sea or an ocean.
In case of a cyclone or a storm, we
get the alert much in advance. How
come a bigger calamity like a tsunami
escaped the meteorological stations at
Maldives and India? Why didnt the red
alert from the Dwarka lighthouse come
earlier? Nisha was puzzled.
Sangeeta smiled, Thats an excellent
question. Tsunamis have very long
wavelengths but small amplitudes. The
wave lengths could often be hundreds of
kilometres long but the amplitude could
be as small as ten inches. Because of the
small wave height, the tsunami waves
generally go unnoticed in the deep sea
by sailors.
Nisha pondered, A slight swell
caused by the tsunami might be very hard
to detect by those meteorological
stations that are not equipped with
sophisticated equipment.
Sangeeta nodded, Thats right. When
the tsunami is formed in the middle of an
ocean or a sea, it is initially unnoticed
by the sailors. However, as the tsunami
approaches the sea shore, everything
changes. This is due to wave shoaling.
Isnt wave shoaling about the change
in wave pattern when it reaches the
shore? Davies asked.
Yes. When the tsunami waves are in
the deep sea, their amplitude is low.
When the waves approach a coast, the
water becomes shallow and due to this,
the waves get compressed and the speed
is reduced. The speed, which was
hundreds of miles per hour, reduces to
less than fifty miles per hour. The
wavelength reduces from hundreds of
kilometres to less than twenty
kilometres. Unfortunately, all these cause
the wave height to increase from one
foot to more than hundred feet, Sangeeta
explained.
Why does this happen?
You need to understand fluid
dynamics. When the waves reach the
shallow area near the coast, the velocity
and water depth decrease. This has to be
compensated by an increase in energy
density to maintain a constant energy
flux. This results in a sudden increase in
wave height. So a tsunami wave of very
small amplitude can turn into a hundred-
foot-tall wall of water by the time it
reaches the sea shore. Thats why it is
safer to be in the sea rather than at the
harbour or on the coast when a tsunami
strikes.
The boatman joined the group. His
face was white with fear. I have
received the latest update. The tsunami
will be hitting the Bet Dwarka coast
within the next couple of minutes.
69
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Once more, the room was filled with


silence. They noticed the boatmans eyes
filled with terror.
Evacuation efforts are on already at
the harbour and the surrounding areas.
The good news is that we will soon have
a rescue helicopter here. I have already
notified the helipad at Dwarka. It should
be here any moment, the boatman said.
There was a sigh of relief in the room.
The discussion shifted back to tsunamis.
Davies asked, Doesnt the word
tsunami mean harbour wave in
Japanese?
Sangeeta nodded, When the Japanese
fishermen went fishing, they wouldnt
notice the tsunami waves because of
their low wavelength in the deep sea.
However, when they came back to the
shore, they would find their villages
devastated by the huge waves. Since the
harbour and nearby areas were affected,
the Japanese called it tsunami, which
means harbour wave.
Cant the government build some
kind of barricades or walls near the sea
coast? Nisha asked.
Japan built many tsunami walls that
rose to fifteen feet. However, there have
been certain tsunamis where the waves
reached as high as hundred feet. For
example, the Okushiri Hokkaido tsunami
that struck Okushiri Island in 1993
created waves which were thirty metres
tall. The waves washed right over the
wall and destroyed the surrounding
areas. The wall succeeded in slowing
down the tsunami but could not prevent
the destruction.
You seem to know a lot about
tsunamis, Sangeeta, Nisha said
appreciatively.
I have seen the worst tsunami of the
century when I was at Phuket, Thailand,
in 2004. The same year, I spent a few
months in Sri Lanka helping in the
tsunami rehabilitation programmes
there.
The conversation was interrupted by
the sudden drone of a helicopter.
Sangeeta rushed out of the front cabin
and looked skywards. A rescue
helicopter was flying in the direction of
their yacht.
Rescue had arrived!
As the helicopter came closer, she
noticed the emblem of the Indian Coast
Guard on the helicopter. The Indian
Coast Guard was part of the ministry of
defence, Government of India. Its
mission was to protect Indias maritime
interests and enforce maritime law with
jurisdiction over both territorial and
international waters.
Sangeeta called the others. The
boatman wasnt keen on leaving the
cabin.
I cant abandon my baby like this, he
said, pointing to his yacht.
Sangeeta yelled, In the midst of this
tsunami, there is no way you can reach
Dwarka or Bet Dwarka using this yacht.
It will be smashed into pieces in no
time.
The boatman was still reluctant to
leave. Sangeeta grew impatient.
Listen! she screamed. I had hoped
to reach the deep sea by now, but we
have not. Our yacht is not far off from
the coast so this is not really a safe zone.
Do you want to be buried in the sea
along with your yacht? This is no time
for sentiments and emotions. The
tsunami waves are travelling at a speed
of several hundreds of miles per hour.
Within no time, they will reach here. The
waves are already growing bigger. Does
your yacht stand a chance against a wall
of water? No way! You will drown.
Your yacht will either be shattered to
bits or it will be washed over and
buried in the sea.
The boatman looked as if he was
about to cry.
Sangeeta put her hand on his shoulder
in an effort to calm him. I am sorry, I
didnt mean to sound so harsh and rude. I
was only trying to keep your interests in
mind. Believe me, you are not safe here.
Please board the helicopter with us.
Trust me, she said in earnest.
Though the boatman was reluctant to
admit it, he knew Sangeeta was right.
Being in this business for the past few
decades, he knew enough about
cyclones, hurricanes, storms and
tsunamis. Having gone to Pondicherry on
a business visit, he had witnessed the
2004 tsunami that had struck the Indian
Ocean, killing countless numbers of
people. Reluctantly, the boatman
followed Sangeeta into the open deck.
Davies and Nisha were frantically
waving at the helicopter. In the
meanwhile, the turbulence in the sea had
increased. Huge whirlpools and
waterspouts had formed everywhere.
Sangeeta pointed at the treacherous
waves that were dangerously heading
towards the coast. The reduction in
velocity was offset by a tenfold increase
in amplitude.
Davies gave a huge sigh of relief, I
am glad I am not near the coast at this
moment. Those waves seem to be as tall
as a ten-storeyed building.
We should thank Sangeeta for saving
our lives. If we had proceeded towards
the shore, our yacht would have been in
pieces by now, Nisha said.
Sangeeta had a concerned look on her
face.
We are not out of danger. Look to
your right, she pointed at the whirlpools
that had formed nearby. The waves were
swirling swiftly and appeared to be
growing in size.
The boatman gasped, If they grow
any bigger in size and come closer, our
yacht will be underwater.
The drone of the helicopter was
defeaning. It was stationary and
positioned right above the upper deck of
the yacht. The pilot called the boatman
on his mobile to confirm his request for
help.
The boatman acknowledged, We are
four of us. Throw us a rope ladder and
make it fast, please. The sea is growing
worse by the minute.
The pilot pressed the red lever on his
control panel. A rope ladder lowered
itself from the undercarriage of the
helicopter and fell swiftly towards the
yacht. Nisha was the first to get hold of
the rope ladder, which was dangling
from the helicopter. Nisha followed
Sangeeta and the boatman. Having been
trained at the commando training centre,
she could adroitly climb the swaying
rope ladder.
Davies was the last to leave the deck.
Even as he lifted his hands to grab the
rope ladder, a gigantic wave rose from
the turbulent sea and crashed against the
deck, causing the front part of the yacht
to sink low. This lifted the rear portion
of the yacht high into the air. The yacht
resembled a see-saw in a childrens
parkone end lowered towards the
surface and the other end stood raised in
the air. Davies, who was standing on the
rear end of the deck slid downwards,
towards the front cabin. He tried to
arrest his fall, but in vain.
Daviess body rolled down the deck
and finally slumped against the front
cabin door. His handkerchief fell from
his pocket and the Shyamantaka popped
out and rolled on to the deck. Davies
watched in horror as a mammoth tsunami
wave rose from the sea and crashed into
the yacht, carrying the priceless dazzling
gem with it.
The most precious gem in the world
was now lost forever.
70
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Sitting in the helicopter, Sangeeta had


seen the gruesome spectacle below. She
had watched the yacht tilt by ninety
degrees as the tsunami waves exploded
on to the deck. The Shyamantaka, the
biggest and the most sought-after jewel
in the world, had peeped out of Daviess
pocket and, in a flash, had been engulfed
by the monstrous waves.
Davies? Where is he?
The last she had seen of Davies was
when he slid across the length of the
deck and hit against the front cabin door.
Sangeeta screamed in horror, Alan!
Are you all right?
Her cries were drowned by the loud
drone of the helicopter blades. There
was no reply from Davies.
She screamed once more, Alan, can
you see us? Are you there?
She was greeted with the droning and
the sound of waves. She looked at the
others sitting in the helicopter. None of
them spoke.
Where is Alan? Whats happened to
him? she shouted.
Nisha finally spoke. I am sorry,
Sangeeta, but I think he is dead, she
replied sorrowfully.
Impossible! I know Alan. He is a
fighter. He wont give up so easily,
Sangeeta said. Her voice had an
inexplicable mix of hope and grief.
The boatman had joined the
conversation. Madam, the officer is
right. I have seen many disasters in this
sea. It is impossible to survive such a
catastrophe.
I dont believe it. Alan is an expert
swimmer. He will survive, Sangeeta
said defiantly.
The boatman sighed, All of us saw
what happened. The waves have hit him
with such a force that if he doesnt die of
drowning, he will die of broken bones.
Can you lower the rope once again?
We should go back closer to the yacht
and look, Sangeeta asked the pilot.
The waves are rising to dangerous
levels, madam. It is risky to go back to
the yacht, the pilot warned.
I dont care. We should go back,
Sangeeta yelled.
The boatman agreed with the pilot.
Not worth risking your life, madam.
The tsunami waves are growing bigger
and more turbulent. If we go back to the
yacht, we will be washed away.
Anyway, I dont think Davies would
have survived, so it might be a wasted
effort, he said.
Sangeeta glared at the boatman and
turned her gaze towards Nisha. I dont
care what the pilot and the boatman says.
I am going back to the yacht to hunt for
Davies. Do you want to join me? she
asked.
Nisha opened her mouth to say
something but thought better of it and
simply nodded. Years of police training
had made her fearless and she knew how
to handle such calamities with poise.
The pilot gave a helpless look at her and
turned his attention towards the boatman.
I am staying right here. I have a
family to take care of, the boatman said
stubbornly.
The pilot turned to the two ladies, I
have kept the helicopter stationary over
the yacht. However, I cant keep it like
this for long. Dense clouds are moving
in this direction. My control tower has
announced that we will be hit by a storm
soon and has asked me to return to the
base as soon as possible. The helicopter
is in danger.
Sangeeta pleaded, Give us just ten
minutes.
The pilot once again lowered the rope
ladder towards the yacht. Nisha expertly
slid down the rope ladder and landed on
the yacht. Sangeeta was feeling
exhausted after numerous trips of scuba
diving and boat rides. She struggled as
she descended the rope ladder. Nisha
held her hand and caught hold of her as
she fell on the deck.
The yacht continued to sway due to
heavy turbulence in the sea. The two
women struggled to maintain their
balance as they strode towards the front
cabin. It began to drizzle and the heavy
rain drops made it difficult for them to
keep their eyes open.
Sangeeta anxiously looked around the
deck. Davies was nowhere to be seen.
She saw a look of defeat on Nishas
face.
No, I dont believe Alan is dead,
Sangeeta said, as if reading Nishas
mind.
For your sake, I hope so too, Nisha
replied gloomily.
During her tenure as a police officer,
Nisha had seen it allterrorist attacks,
bombings, murders, thefts, floods,
cyclones. Looking at the havoc that the
waves were causing, she knew that
Davies had very little chance of
surviving. She could no longer watch the
desperate look on Sangeetas face and
turned her gaze towards the turbulent
sea.
Suddenly, Nisha heard a loud scream.
She turned and looked around the deck.
It was Sangeetas voice but she was
nowhere to be seen. Hearing the scream
for the second time, Nisha followed the
sound and sprinted towards the engine
room. Sangeeta was standing near the
door. A wet, crumpled and seemingly
lifeless body lay in front of her. Even
without seeing the face, Nisha knew it
was Davies.
71
Arabian Sea
21 January 2015

Sangeeta bent down and checked his


pulse.
He is still alive, her voice was
filled with relief and delight.
Nisha gently pressed her hand against
Daviess chest. Water spewed out from
his mouth as he coughed. With a worried
look, Nisha stared at Sangeeta, He has
swallowed a lot of water.
I am surprised; I thought he was an
expert swimmer, Sangeeta replied.
I think the tsunami waves knocked
him unconscious. In his comatose state,
he must have gulped almost a gallon of
water, Nisha said as she began to pound
his chest.
Each time Nisha banged her hand on
his chest, Davies coughed and spouted
water from his mouth. Once he stopped
coughing, Sangeeta held his head in her
hands and placed her mouth on his. As
she performed CPR on Davies, his
breathing improved. The sea water had
emptied from his lungs. Sangeeta was
still looking worried.
Nisha smiled, Dont worry. He will
soon be all right. It isnt every day that
he gets a chance to be rescued by two
beautiful women!
Though Sangeeta was exhausted from
the ordeal, she couldnt help laughing at
Nishas remark. The next task for the
two women was to get the unconscious
man into the helicopter. Sangeeta held
Davies by his chest while Nisha lifted
his legs. They gently half lifted and half
dragged him to the centre of the deck. He
was lying right below the rope ladder
when he slowly opened his eyes.
Sangeeta screamed with joy, Oh
Alan! I cant tell you how relieved I am!
Are you feeling all right?
Yes, he said feebly. It isnt every
day that I get rescued by two of the
worlds most beautiful women! and
winked.
Sangeeta punched his shoulder
playfully and smiled, Now how about
carrying the two pretty women back to
the helicopter?
Davies groaned mockingly and closed
his eyes.
Ten minutes later, Sangeeta, Davies
and Nisha were firmly seated in the
helicopter. They had just managed to
climb the rope ladder when a series of
gigantic waves arrived and pounded the
yacht repeatedly. The vessel held on
gamely for a few minutes but finally
succumbed to the beating. They watched
in horror as the yacht collapsed loudly
and shattered into hundreds of pieces.
They gave a huge sigh of relief. Had they
delayed their ascent by a minute, they
would have been buried deep
underwater. The boatman was in tears.
He had treated the yacht like his own
baby for over ten years. Watching his
yacht being smashed into bits broke his
heart.
Sangeeta, who was seated beside him,
tried to console him. I know how you
feel. Im sure we can speak to the
government officials at Dwarka and
ensure you are adequately compensated.
Though I know it will not be the same . .
.
The pilot changed direction and
swerved farther into the sea. Davies was
surprised. Where are we heading?
Mumbai, sir. The tsunami waves
have seriously damaged the Dwarka
coast. Water levels are dangerously high
there. I have been instructed to take you
to Mumbai where youd be safer, the
pilot replied.
When do we reach Mumbai?
The pilot looked at his watch. 8 p.m.,
I guess, and added, If we dont face
any turbulence in the air.
Nisha looked disappointed. She had
hoped to go to Dwarka. She had some
unfinished business with the air
controller there. Have her killed in the
sea. Feed her body to the sharks . . .
Why did the air controller want her
killed? Who was funding him? Who was
behind this operation?
I should inform Amit Yadav about
this and, with his permission, I should
go back to Dwarka.
Sangeeta and Davies were thankful
that they were going to Mumbai. The city
had an international airport, which meant
they could directly fly back to their
respective countries. After a frantic
twenty-four hours, both of them
preferred to grab some sleep aboard a
single long-haul flight than change flights
in the middle of the night.
Suddenly, Nisha turned towards them
and asked, What are your plans? Where
do you plan to go from Mumbai?
Sangeeta was the first to speak.
My entire trip has been a mess. I
work as a reporter for Channel 7 TV
Network in Singapore. I had come to
India to cover the visit of our President.
I have done everything other than what I
was supposed to! she said dejectedly.
Nisha nodded her head in sympathy
and looked at Davies.
I will go back to England, he said.
His reply was short and didnt convey
much information.
I suppose your students are eagerly
awaiting your return to the university.
They must be missing your archaeology
classes, Sangeetas voice was still
bitter.
I am sorry about that, Sangeeta. I was
not in a position to reveal my true
identity, Davies sounded mournful.
Sangeeta bent towards Davies and
stared into his eyes. May I know who
you really are, Mr Alan Davies?
Nisha pulled out a sheet of paper with
the logo of the Central Bureau of
Investigation on it.
She turned towards Sangeeta, I
received this dossier from the CBI. Let
me read it out for you. Full name Alan
Melvyn Davies. Born in Shrewsbury,
England, to Welsh parents. He studied
ancient history and has a doctorate in the
field of archaeology. His father taught at
a university and that influenced him to
join a similar profession. Joined Oxford
University as a professor and taught in
the department of ancient history and
classical archaeology. After five years at
the university, he quit and took a plum
job as a cryptographer. Starting as a
junior cryptographer, within a span of
five years, he quickly rose to become the
chief of the cryptography department. He
has also served in the army for two
years during the initial stage of his
professional career.
Sangeeta was stunned, Chief of the
cryptography department? Where? She
looked at Nisha and Davies.
Nisha gave a surprised look, Oh!
Didnt I mention that earlier? He works
for the International Criminal Police
Organization, popularly known as
Interpol.
72
Mumbai
21 January 2015

Sangeetas head was reeling. Interpol!


She turned sheepishly towards Davies
and caught him grinning. She had
suspected him to be a smuggler working
for an underworld organization but he
had turned out to be a senior member of
one of the top police organizations of the
world.
Before she could speak, the pilot
announced their arrival at Mumbai. She
looked out of the window. Night had
already descended on the city. The city
lights looked like twinkling stars from
the helicopter. The tall skyscrapers
reminded her of her apartment in
Singapore. Oh, how I wish I was in my
own cosy bedroom, those soft
mattresses, fluffy pillows . . .
The helipad is close to the domestic
terminal of the Chhatrapati Shivaji
airport. Would you be boarding domestic
or international flights? the pilot asked.
Nisha had planned to get down from
the helicopter and speak to Amit Yadav.
I would love to go to Dwarka and
strangle the air controller but I should
speak to my boss first.
Domestic, she replied.
International. Singapore Airlines to
Singapore, Sangeeta replied.
I will take the first flight to London,
Davies was the last to speak.
We will reach the helipad soon, the
pilot said. He looked at Nisha, You can
walk across to the domestic terminal and
catch any flight from there.
He turned towards Sangeeta and
Davies. You can reach the international
terminal by boarding one of the inter-
terminal buses at the domestic terminal.
The pilot brought the helicopter to a
halt and opened the cabin doors.
Sangeeta, Davies and Nisha thanked the
pilot as they disembarked from the
helicopter. The boatman stayed back
with the pilot who had promised to take
him to the office of the Indian Coast
Guard. He knew that only the Indian
Coast Guard could help him go back to
his tsunami-ravaged town. Sangeeta,
Davies and Nisha silently walked across
the tarmac and headed towards the
Chhatrapati Shivaji airports domestic
terminal. After being in the midst of
demonic tsunami waves in a raging sea,
everything seemed to be very serene and
peaceful here. Soon, they reached the
entrance of the arrival lounge.
Nisha stopped and looked at them,
This is where I get off. I suppose both
of you will board an inter-terminal bus
to go to the international terminal?
Sangeeta and Davies nodded. Nisha
shook hands with them. She was fighting
tears as she remarked, Exactly twenty-
four hours back, the bombs had
detonated at the Krishna Janmasthan
Temple. I was chasing you, thinking you
were part of a terrorist outfit. Now, just
a day later, I feel sad to be parting with
two of the most wonderful people in the
world.
Sangeeta kissed Nisha on her cheeks
and smiled weakly, The feeling is
mutual, Nisha. Yesterday we were
running away from you and your men,
but today I dont feel like leaving you. I
am so glad we met.
Davies hugged Nisha, Thanks for
saving my life. I owe it to both of you.
Nisha smiled and pointed towards
Sangeeta, You should thank her. She
was the one who insisted that we return
to the yacht and hunt for you.
Davies suggested, How about a cup
of steaming coffee and a plate of spicy
samosas before we bid goodbye to each
other? I am famished. I dont remember
my last meal!
Before Sangeeta or Nisha could reply,
he added, I see a Caf Coffee Day right
here.
Sangeeta and Nisha looked at each
other and laughed in unison, Men!
They ambled their way to Caf Coffee
Day which was teeming with transit
passengers. As they jostled their way
inside, they were met by an apologetic
steward, A tsunami has hit the western
coast of India so lots of passengers are
either cancelling their trips or travelling
to different destinations. There is chaos
everywhere and the entire airport is in a
mess.
Davies looked around. He wanted to
be for away from the maddening crowd
but Nisha insisted that they sit close to a
TV. She wanted the latest update on the
bomb blasts and the tsunami.
Nisha located a huge LCD TV that
hung on the wall at the opposite end of
the restaurant. Davies and Sangeeta sat
below the TV while Nisha took a seat in
front of them.
A steward arrived at their table to
take their orders. Nisha ordered samosas
for all of them and a cup of cappuccino
for herself.
Same for me, Sangeeta said and
mischievously glanced at Davies. She
knew what was coming.
The steward turned towards Davies
and enquired, Black coffee for you, I
presume?
Davies cleared his throat and looked
at him, I will have black coffee with
lots of milk and sugar.
Beg your pardon, sir? the steward
exclaimed.
Davies repeated innocently, Black
coffee with lots of milk and lots of
sugar.
Sangeeta giggled loudly and told the
bewildered steward, Get him a normal
cup of coffee. Hes crazy! She smacked
Daviess shoulder in mock anger.
Nisha watched them with a puzzled
look. After the steward left, Sangeeta
explained the gag that Davies loved to
play on Indian waiters.
Nisha chuckled and turned her gaze
once again towards the news on TV. A
couple of minutes later, she yelled with
joy.
Breaking news! Guess what? Anton
Blanchard is dead! she exclaimed.
Sangeeta and Davies jumped from
their seats and ran to where Nisha sat.
She pointed at the TV, They are
showing the video footage of a
helicopter crash that occurred a few
hours back. It seems Anton Blanchard
boarded a helicopter at the Dwarka
helipad but within moments after takeoff,
it crashed. The crash occurred at the
helipad itself. Blanchard died on the
spot but the pilot survived.
Davies raised his eyebrows, Was it a
pilot error or did the helicopter develop
a technical snag?
Nisha sighed, The alacrity with
which everyone has blamed the
helicopter and closed this issue hastily
can mean only one thing.
What?
He has been murdered, Nisha
replied.
Murdered? By whom?
I wish I knew. Perhaps by the same
person who tried to kill me, she said.
Tried to kill you? Sangeeta was
shocked.
Nisha nodded, The air controller at
the Dwarka helipad wanted me dead. I
am sure he is responsible for
Blanchards death.
She narrated how he had instructed
her pilot to kill her and how she had
managed to escape unharmed.
Davies replied thoughtfully, The air
controller must be a part of a big
international gang. I wonder who the
kingpin is.
Nisha explained, Anton Blanchard
was part of the infamous World Art
Organization. Many other international
underworld gangs badly wanted the
Shyamantaka so they monitored
Blanchards moves. When he arrived at
the Dwarka helipad with the precious
stone, his rivals were also misled. Like
Blanchard, they too believed that the
gemstone he possessed was the real
Shyamantaka. With the help of the air
controller and the pilot, they killed
Blanchard and took possession of the
priceless jewel.
Since the pilot escaped unscathed in
the helicopter crash, it means that he
might be involved, Davies remarked.
Sangeeta nodded, The pilot and the
air controller must be working for
Blanchards rival gang.
Nisha let out another loud cry.
Look! There is more breaking news!
she screamed pointing towards the TV.
Davies raised his eyebrows and
waited for her to translate.
Nisha watched for a few minutes
before she spoke, Amit Yadav is dead!
My boss and chief of the UP Police.
How did he die? Sangeeta asked.
Now thats the most unusual thing. He
died during the bomb blasts at the
Krishna Janmasthan Temple. His body
was discovered just now in a sewage
pipe on the Agra New Delhi highway,
Nisha said. She looked confused.
Many people died during the bomb
blasts last night, so whats unusual about
that? Davies could not understand the
look of bewilderment on Nishas face.
Nisha stared at Davies, Dying in a
bomb blast is not unusual, Alan. Though
the dead body was discovered just now,
the post-mortem indicates that he died
last night, when the bombs exploded at
the temple courtyard. What is unusual is
that I have been receiving text messages
from him for the past twenty-four hours!
73
Mumbai
21 January 2015

Sangeeta and Davies were stunned. They


looked at each other and turned towards
Nisha.
A dead man sending text messages?
Impossible!
Nisha continued, I will call my
colleague, Manoj Singh. He has been
working very closely with me for the
two international events. He is in
Mathura and will have more details
about Amit Yadavs death.
She dialled Manoj Singhs mobile and
waited. One, two, three . . . ten rings; he
did not pick up her call. Nisha cursed
under her breath and stood up.
Okay, I have to leave right now, she
announced.
Hey! Your coffee? Sangeeta said.
No, thanks. I need to rush now. Let
me make a few phone calls to the
headquarters and find out whats
happening, Nisha said.
She hurriedly shook hands with the
duo and rushed out of the restaurant.
What do you make out of it?
Sangeeta asked Davies.
Davies shrugged. Obviously, Amit
Yadav has been murdered and his
assassin has stolen his mobile. The
murderer has been impersonating as the
chief of the UP Police and sending text
messages from the latters mobile. The
fact that his body was found in a far-
flung sewage pipe on the AgraNew
Delhi highway means the killer wanted it
to remain hidden for a while. He might
have hoped that the missing body would
get decomposed beyond recognition
before it is discovered. It might come as
a rude shock to him that the body has
been discovered so soon by the police.
I wish the police had not revealed it.
Now the killer will be on guard. He will
realize that he cant continue to
impersonate the police chief any longer,
Sangeeta said.
I hope Nisha is not in any sort of
peril. The impersonator is a very
dangerous person. He might even be
responsible for the deaths of Tenzing,
Alan Blanchard and Amit Yadav.
Tenzing! Sangeeta gave out a shrill
cry. She had completely forgotten about
him.
So many deaths in the past twenty-
four hours and we neither know who the
killer is nor his next move, Sangeeta
lamented.

Far away, the killer looked out of the


window as the plane touched the
runway. He watched the passengers
impatiently remove their bags from the
overhead storage area and jostle
towards the exit. He continued to sit
patiently in his seat. There was sufficient
time for his next flight. He gently placed
his hand on his coat pocket and felt the
bulge. It was comforting to have the blue
stone safely tucked inside.
As he waited for the passengers to
clear up and head towards the
aerobridge, his mind went back to the
previous night.
He was present at the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple when the bombs had
exploded. All the devotees had rushed
towards the narrow pathway that led to
the main exit. The smoke and dust had
drastically reduced the visibility,
causing a heavy stampede. He realized
that the best way to escape the
pandemonium was to move in the
opposite direction. As he reached the
backside of the Keshav Dev Temple, he
noticed a steep ramp which led to a
small gate. The devotees rarely used this
small entrance. The open area between
the ramp and the Keshav Dev Temple
was used by policemen to park their
jeeps. Crouching in the darkness, he
stealthily moved towards the ramp.
Suddenly, he heard a voice. That could
mean only one thing. Police!
He slowly raised himself and looked
around. Standing just ten feet away in
front of one of the jeeps was a tall man
dressed in the police uniform. The killer
instantly recognized him. It was Amit
Yadav, chief of the UP Police. He heard
Amit speaking but did not see anyone
near him. As he moved closer, he
realized that the police chief was talking
on his mobile, I want the entire area to
be cordoned off. Seal all entry and exit
points. Ask SP Nisha to pursue the
terrorists while I take care of the crowds
here.
The killer noticed a stone pillar to the
right of the police jeep where Amit
stood. The police chief was too busy to
notice him crouch and sprint towards the
pillar. Hiding behind the huge pillar, he
fitted a silencer to his gun. He was
relieved. The police chief was still
talking on his mobile, his back towards
him. He realized that the best way to
cause disarray in the police force was to
strike right at the top. Taking aim at the
police chiefs head, he gently squeezed
the trigger. The bullet smashing the
police chiefs head coincided with the
bomb explosion in the prison cell.
The deafening sound of the bomb
explosion and the incessant noise of the
stampede drowned the soft rustle caused
by the silencer-fitted gun and the scream
from Amit Yadav. In the darkness, no
one noticed the police chiefs brain
blow into bits as his large frame
collapsed on the ground. His mobile
phone dropped from his hand and rolled
towards the pillar. The killer quickly
picked it up and slid it into his pocket.
He realized that the police would soon
be swarming all over the temple
premises and questioning everyone. The
dead police chief was his ticket to
escape from this place. He lifted the
dead body and placed it in the jeep. He
searched the officers pockets and soon
found the keys of the jeep. Within a
minute, he was sitting at the wheel and
driving the police jeep towards the back
exit.
As he reached the exit of the temple,
the security guards stopped his vehicle.
He barked, UP Police! Hurry! Open the
gates! I have an injured policeman here
who needs to be rushed to the hospital.
The security guards noticed a man in
police uniform sprawled on the back of
the police jeep. They hurriedly opened
the gates and allowed the jeep to pass.
The next task was to get rid of the
body at an isolated spot. There was
complete chaos on most of the streets of
Mathura. The sound and the news of the
bomb blasts had spread like wildfire.
Shopkeepers and vendors were hastily
pulling down the shutters of their shops
and heading towards their homes in
panic. Many curious youngsters were
making their way towards the Krishna
Janmasthan Temple. They wanted first-
hand information of what was
happening there. The killer realized that
the only option was to drive out of the
city and reach the AgraNew Delhi
highway. He had to find a secluded
place to dump the body. Unfortunately,
even on the highway, lots of people
thronged the tea shops and dhabas on
either side of the road. The killer was
getting restless. He knew that he was
racing against time.
A few minutes later, he suddenly
noticed a rusty old sewage pipe that
passed through an isolated farm. He
stopped his jeep and looked around. He
gave a huge sigh of relief. The place
looked deserted.
Ideal place to dump the dead body.
The thick vegetation of mustard plants
will hide it for many days. By the time
it is discovered and identified, I will be
thousands of miles away.
He hurriedly removed the body from
the jeep and placed it on his shoulders.
The police chief was a heavy man and
the killer struggled to carry him on his
shoulders. He dumped the body on the
ground and dragged it towards the
gigantic sewage pipe. After placing it
there, he uprooted a few mustard plants
and placed them over the dead body to
conceal it.
He smiled to himself as he walked
back to his jeep.
The UP Police chiefs mobile phone
had proved to be very useful. To avoid
suspicion from his team members, he
had sent them text messages expressing
his inability to speak to them. He had
assured them that he would respond to
them via text messages. His police
officers had bit the bait.
As the crowd inside the aircraft
thinned down, his mind returned to the
present. He realized that he was still
carrying Amit Yadavs mobile with him.
It had served him well during the past
twenty-four hours but he knew the risks
of keeping it with him. He was safe as
long as the police chiefs dead body
remained hidden but the moment the
police unearthed Amit Yadavs body, the
stolen mobile phone would prove to be a
liability. Not aware that Amit Yadavs
body had already been discovered, he
decided to get rid of the mobile before
boarding the flight to Hong Kong.
He stood up and walked towards the
aerobridge. He was suddenly feeling
happy and relaxed. He had been paid
five million dollars for killing Tenzing
and Anton Blanchard. He would be paid
an additional ten million dollars once he
had delivered the Shyamantaka in Hong
Kong.
Fifteen million dollars, a fake
passport and a new life in a different
country. Lifes good!
He smiled as he made his way into the
transit lounge.
Meanwhile, Nisha was feeling
restless. She realized the need to act
fast. Amit Yadavs impersonator had to
be stopped before it was too late. She
dialled her headquarters and asked to be
connected to the police control room.
She and asked them to trace the current
location of Amits phone. It took less
than a minute for the operator to give her
the informationit was in Mumbai.
Nisha shrieked. Mumbai!
The imposter is in this city?
She quickly asked the operator to give
the precise location. Nisha froze as the
operator said, Chhatrapati Shivaji
airport, transit lounge.
She stood with her jaw wide open.
The imposter is right here under my
nose. In the same building. Probably
just a few feet away from me.
74
Mumbai
21 January 2015

Sangeeta sipped her cappuccino and


looked at Davies, I am still confused.
Davies lifted his eyebrows.
Sangeeta grinned sheepishly, The
confusion regarding you and Blanchard.
I assumed that you were a member of
World Art Organization and Blanchard
was a curator at the Smithsonian. The
reality has been quite different. How
could I make such a blunder?
Partly because Blanchard cunningly
played only a part of the recorded
conversation and partly because you did
not allow me to explain, Davies smiled.
Blanchard told me that you were not
a professor. He also played a recording
where you confessed that.
Exactly! You heard me say that I
didnt work at the university but did you
hear me confess that I worked for World
Art Organization?
Sangeeta shook her head thoughtfully.
Blanchard accidently saw my identity
badge. He realized that I worked for the
cryptography department at Interpol. He
recorded our conversation but was
shrewd enough to play only bits of it to
you. Blanchard told you that I worked
for an underworld organization. You
assumed that he had got this confession
out of me. Sadly, thats the way our brain
works, Sangeeta. We listen to partial
information and draw our own
conclusions.
I was such a gullible fool.
Blanchards frail and fatherly figure
deceived me. I feel so stupid and silly,
Sangeeta said embarrassedly.
Davies shrugged his shoulders, It
happens to the best of us. Dont be so
hard on yourself. You are a very
intelligent girl with a sharp mind. You
have been absolutely brilliant while
cracking the cryptic codes during our
treasure hunt.
Why did you lie about your
profession when we first met? she
demanded.
Well, Interpol is one of the most
important police organizations in the
world. We deal with lots of terrorists,
guerrillas, kidnappers, gangsters,
underworld dons, smugglersyou name
it. We also have access to lots of
sensitive information about various
individuals, organizations and even
countries. Hence, our lives are always
under threat. Each day when we get up,
we dont know if we will live to see the
sunset. We have no choice but to conceal
our real identity. Oxford University
professor was just a camouflage.
I am so sorry, Alan, Sangeeta placed
her hand on his wrist.
Davies gently squeezed her hand and
smiled wryly, I am not upset with you,
Sangeeta. I feel miserable that we lost
the Shyamantaka.
Well, I do not. Didnt I tell you that it
always brings bad luck to its owner?
You didnt believe me but see what
happened to you. You almost got killed,
she said.
And the tsunami?
That too. Remember, five thousand
years back, Dwarka was submerged in a
tsunami. Today, the tsunami has once
again hit the same region. The
Shyamantaka was never meant to be with
us. It lay hidden in the submerged palace
for over five thousand years. Within an
hour of its discovery, it has gone back to
its resting place beneath the sea. All of
us are safe and thats what matters,
Sangeeta sounded philosophical.
Gone back to its resting place in the
Arabian Seabut with a difference! The
earlier location of the Shyamantaka
could be unearthed by deciphering
Vajranabhas cryptograms. This time, the
priceless gem is lost forever, Davies
moaned.
Fifty metres away, Nisha stood
transfixed. She could not believe the
information that she had just received
from the control room.
The killer was in the transit lounge of
Chhatrapati Shivaji airport. Just a few
metres away!
The transit lounge was swarming with
hundreds of passengers. Most of them
were resting their weary legs on the easy
chairs at the centre of the lounge. Having
arrived from long tiring flights, they
were relaxing before boarding their next
flight. A few passengers were eating at
the restaurant at the far end of the transit
lounge.
Nisha entered the lounge and threw
her gaze around. Looking at the crowd,
she felt helpless.
One of them is the imposter. The
killer. Who could it be? Is it a man or a
woman? How does the person look?
Young or old? Indian or foreigner?
Black or white?
Suddenly, Nisha had an idea. It was
fraught with risk and danger but worth a
try. She picked up her mobile phone and
dialled Amit Yadavs mobile number.
I hope the imposter has still retained
the stolen mobile.
As her mobile was registering the
call, she looked around the lounge.
Suddenly she noticed the silhouette of a
tall man walking towards the restroom.
Hearing his mobile ring, he instinctively
put his hand in his pocket and drew it
out.
In a flash, Nisha removed her gun and
fired at him. As the bullet pierced the
back of his leg, he gave out a sharp cry
and slumped on the floor. She rushed
towards the collapsed body. The man
had fallen on his stomach and blood
oozed out from his leg. She held his
shoulder and turned him around.
As Nisha recognized the familiar face
of the dying man, she let out a loud
shriek.
It was her colleagueSP Manoj
Singh.
75
Mumbai
21 January 2015

Manoj! Nisha screamed.


Her mind was dazed. She had shot her
colleague and good friend, Manoj Singh.
Oh God! Did I shoot an innocent
man? Have I mistaken Manoj Singh for
the imposter?
Nisha had known the risk of firing at a
person based on his response to her call.
If a person received a call from a
different source just when she dialled,
she might end up shooting the wrong
person. Though the possibility was one
in a million, it seemed to have happened.
Nisha and Manoj were part of Amit
Yadavs team and, over the years, their
professional activities had brought them
close. They had handled many
assignments togetherincluding the
latest task of overseeing the security
arrangements for the two international
events. Unable to bear the sight of her
good friend wriggling on the floor, she
put her hands on her face and began to
sob inconsolably.
Her tears were interrupted by Manoj
Singhs words, Please forgive me,
Nisha.
Nisha slowly lifted her head and
glanced at Manoj, I should be asking for
forgiveness.
I am very sorry, Nisha. I deserve to
die, he howled.
Its my fault and stupidity. I will get
the ambulance. I wont allow you to die,
Nisha sobbed.
She tried to get up but Manoj pulled
her hand. Airport security would round
them up any minute now. No, Nisha.
Please allow me to die. Once you listen
to my story, you will hate me for the rest
of your life. I do not deserve to live. I
betrayed you. I betrayed Amit Yadav. I
have betrayed my beloved country.
Seeing the baffled look on Nishas
face, Manoj continued, I know you will
find this hard to believe. I was an honest
police officer like you, till last year.
Unfortunately, my entire life changed last
August.
Last August? Nisha asked.
Manoj nodded, Yes. You might
remember that last August, I was asked
to go to New Delhi to help the local
police with the Independence Day
celebrations.
Nisha remembered it only too well.
She had felt pangs of jealousy when
Amit Yadav had informed his team about
SP Manojs selection for overseeing the
security arrangements at the prestigious
Independence Day celebrations in Delhi.
Though she had never confronted Amit
Yadav about this, he was aware that she
was upset about it. Luckily, his selection
had not created a rift in their friendship.
Looking at the injured Manoj, she
slowly nodded her head, Yes, of course
I remember your trip.
Manoj noticed that she was still bitter.
He replied feebly, I wish I had never
gone.
Nisha waited for him to continue.
During my visit to New Delhi, one
evening, I was invited for a party hosted
by the Border Security Force. I
remember that day so well. Most of the
invitees were defence personnel and
police officers. I met many of my old
schoolmates there. During dinner, I was
introduced to a few Chinese men. During
that meeting, I assumed that they were
employees of the Chinese government.
One of them noted my mobile number
and promised to call me the next day.
The next evening, he called me and
asked me to join him for dinner. I was
hesitant since I was busy with the
preparations for the Independence Day
celebrations. However, he prevailed
upon me. A quick dinner, he promised.
During the course of the dinner, he
gradually revealed his true identity. He
and his friends were part of a big
underworld organization, the Xinjiang
Liberation Front. They had been
outlawed by the Chinese government
because of their agenda and their
methods.
Outlawed by the Chinese
government?
Manoj was struggling to breathe. He
knew he had to confess everything
before he died.
He continued, This Chinese terrorist
organization is active politically but they
employ all the wrong methods.
Terrorism, bomb blasts, kidnapping,
murdersthe list is endless. They also
have an agenda of liberating certain
parts of China from the current Chinese
rule. What makes them very dangerous is
the fact that they have been funding lots
of other terrorist organizations, within
China and in other countries.
What did he want from you?
He wanted me to carry out a few
tasks for his organization. Though I was
promised huge sums of money, I was
hesitant. I was an honest police officer
but after a few meetings with him, things
slowly began to change. I had seen
poverty right through my childhood. My
father was also an honest policeman but
struggled to make both ends meet. He
toiled for more than eighteen hours a
day. My mother rented a small shop and
sold vegetables but even that was not
enough. We were a big family of seven
and there was never sufficient money to
take care of even our basic needs. Each
time the Chinese spoke of huge sums of
money, I would think of my childhood
and poverty. I did not want my children
to suffer a similar fate.
What was the deal you had with
them?
I was promised fifteen million
dollars.
Fifteen million dollars! Nisha
exclaimed.
Manoj nodded, In return, I had to
ensure the deaths of Tenzing and
Blanchard and also find the Shyamantaka
for them.
Why Tenzing and Blanchard?
You know the relationship between
the Chinese and the Tibetans. Tenzing
was an active member of the banned
Tibet Liberation Front and a highly
promising one.
The Xinjiang Liberation Front has
been trying to liberate different parts of
China and that includes Tibet.
Unfortunately, the Tibet Liberation Front
is also focusing on Tibet. So Tenzing had
to die. Anton Blanchard was killed
because of professional rivalry. He
worked for another underworld
organization. You should remember that
a major part of funding of the Xinjiang
Liberation Front was coming from
illegal activities like smuggling, thefts,
and so on. Unfortunately, Blanchards
World Art Organization was a major
force in that sphere and hence a thorn in
the flesh for other terrorist organizations
such as the Xinjiang Liberation Front. So
I was asked to get rid of Blanchard.
Manoj was now gasping for breath.
He knew he had only a couple of minutes
to live. He quickly told Nisha about the
killing of Amit Yadav and how he
misled her and other police officers by
using the dead police chiefs mobile
phone.
Nisha could feel her guilt slowly
evaporate. A few minutes ago, she was
feeling miserable for having shot her
friend. Not any more. The man lying in
front of her was a terrorist, a man who
had betrayed his own country for a few
million dollars.
Manoj slowly lifted his hands and
held Nishas arm.
I am sorry for everything, Nisha.
Please forgive me if you can, he said.
Before Nisha could reply, she felt his
hands go limp. She raised her head
sharply to look at his face. His eyes
were blank and lifeless. She closed his
eyes gently and stood up. Seeing
Manojs lifeless body, Nisha was once
again filled with mixed emotions.
Though she felt relieved for
assassinating a dishonest police officer,
she could not help sympathizing with a
dead friend.
Hearing the noise of gunfire, a big
crowd had assembled in the transit
lounge. Standing in front of Nisha were
Sangeeta and Davies.
Epilogue

Mumbai
21 January 2015, 9.30 p.m.

Sangeeta was sitting at gate number 27


of the international terminal at the
Chhatrapati Shivaji airport. She
recollected the events of the past one
hour.
Following the sound of gunshots, she
and Davies had run out of Caf Coffee
Day and arrived at the transit lounge.
They consoled a sobbing Nisha who had
found it hard to believe that she had been
betrayed by her colleague, Manoj Singh.
Another round of coffee and a few
minutes later, they once again bid
farewell to a tearful Nisha and took an
interterminal coach to the international
terminal. Sangeeta went to the Singapore
Airlines counter and purchased her
tickets.
The lady at the counter stared at her,
You dont have much time. The flight
leaves at 10 p.m. Please proceed for
check-in, immigration and the security
check immediately.
Sangeeta turned towards Davies and
smiled, What about you, Alan? Oh,
how I wish youd accompany me to
Singapore!
I will fly back home and then take a
holiday. I need a nice break after all
these events, Davies replied.
Holidaying alone? Sangeeta asked.
Davies laughed, Of course not. I
cant leave her alone. I am taking her
along with me.
Sangeeta felt pangs of jealousy.
Taking her along! Her! Who is that?
His girlfriend? His wife? She must be
really pretty.
Trying to maintain a poker face, she
asked, Her? Your wife, I presume?
Davies laughed heartily, Hell, no! I
am single. I plan to take Ginger, my pet
cat, with me.
Pet cat! Is he crazy? He wants to
take his pet cat instead of me?
Sangeeta sighed.
He looked at his watch and changed
the subject, It is getting late for you,
Sangeeta. I think you should rush.
Sangeeta tried to conceal her
disappointment. Earlier, while sipping
coffee, both of them had exchanged their
email addresses and phone numbers. She
had hoped that Davies would accompany
her or ask her to join him. He had done
neither.
She looked into Daviess eyes, Alan,
hope we can keep in touch?
Davies noticed Sangeeta fighting her
tears. He smiled, I promise I will. Take
care.
Sangeeta made the first move. She
stood on her toes and put her arms
around him. Their lips met and for a long
time, they stood in close embrace. She
wished for time to stand still. Slowly,
Davies withdrew. Stepping back, he
sighed, Sangeeta, you will miss your
flight.
Crestfallen, she picked up her bag and
slowly made her way towards the check-
in counter. She turned back and looked
in the direction of Davies. He was gone.
The loud announcement on the public
address system at gate number 27
interrupted her thoughts. It was a
boarding call for passengers flying
business class. Sangeeta stood up and
slowly walked towards the aerobridge.
The air hostess greeted her at the
entrance of the aircraft. Sangeeta gave
her a weak smile and proceeded to her
seat.
The small aircraft had only seven
seats in each row: three seats in the
middle and two on either side. Being
acrophobic, Sangeeta always preferred
an aisle seat. Her mind was too
preoccupied to look at her neighbour
seated near the window. Seeing his face
hidden behind an inflight travel
magazine, Sangeeta felt relieved. She
was feeling pangs of separation from
Alan Davies. The last thing she wanted
to do was to chat with a loquacious
stranger during the flight.
Sangeeta had been single all her life.
Her parents were never comfortable
with her liberal views on marriage.
Sangeeta had scoffed at them as she left
India and took a plum job in Singapore. I
am a free bird, dont clip my wings, she
would often tease them.
She enjoyed her annual vacation in
India where her parents pampered her
during her short stay. She loved
holidaying in other countries with Susan
and other friends. Being a media
professional meant hectic schedules that
included late nights at the office. All
these kept her extremely busy. She had
never felt the absence of a man in her
life till now. However, Alans arrival
had changed all that. His gorgeous looks,
sense of humour and intellect had swept
her off the ground. She had known him
for hardly more than twenty-four hours
but those had been the most wonderful
moments of her life.
Several men had proposed to
Sangeeta but she was never interested in
them. They were either rich and spoilt
brats who felt money could buy
everything, or they were the computer
geeks whose world began and ended
with the cutting-edge technology that
they dealt with. Rarely had she come
across a man as bright and interesting as
Alan Davies. For the first time in her
life, she felt so deeply for a man.
Moments after the flight was airborne,
the cabin crew began to serve
refreshments. Sangeeta noticed a pretty
air hostess standing in front of her.
With a pleasant smile on her face, she
asked, Coffee or tea, madam?
Coffee please and make it strong,
Sangeeta replied. Her heavy mind
needed a strong dose of caffeine.
The air hostess poured her a coffee
and turned her gaze towards her
neighbour, What about you, sir? Coffee
or tea?
The man sitting next to Sangeeta
lowered the magazine.
Smiling at the air hostess he said, I
will have black coffee with lots of milk
and sugar!
Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my family for


giving me the space and time to write
this book. Without their care and
sacrifice, it would have been
impossible. While other families would
rush to shopping malls and movies
during the weekends, mine was content
to watch me pounding the keyboard at
home.
I would like to thank the team at
Penguin Random House India for their
fantastic support.
A special thanks to Milee Ashwarya
for her faith and confidence in my
manuscript. I would like to thank her and
Cibani Premkumar for their excellent
editing.
I would also like to thank Caroline
Newbury, Rahul Dixit, Aman Arora and
Neha Punj for their support in the
publicity, marketing and sales of this
book.
A Note about the Book

During the winter of 2005, I performed


my first Brij Parikrama, which took me
to Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Mahavan,
Baldeo, Madhuvan, Goverdhan,
Radhakund, Barsana and Nandagaon
all holy places associated with Lord
Krishna in Uttar Pradesh, popularly
known as Brij Bhoomi.
These places and the associated
legends of Lord Krishna fascinated me
the forests where Lord Krishna and
Lord Balarama used to play with their
cowherd friends, the houses they
stealthily entered and stole butter and
curd from, the lakes beside which Lord
Krishna spent His time in the company
of Radha, the sacred hill that Lord
Krishna lifted with His tiny finger, the
Yamuna River where He battled the
poisonous serpent Kaliya, the blessed
playground where Lord Krishna
performed Ras Lila with the Gopis. The
list was endless.
One of the biggest challenges that I
faced during my trip was the lack of
tourist information about these places. I
decided that if the existing travelogues
and tourism websites dont give
sufficient information, so be it; I will
write my own travelogue!
During the autumn of 2006, I decided
not to restrict the book to just Brij
Bhoomi in UP but to expand it to cover
Lord Krishna and His life. This decision
took me to Dwarka, Porbandar, Prabhas
Patan and Somnath in Gujarat and
Kurukshetra in Haryana.
My effort bore fruit and the book
Krishna: A Journey through the Lands
and Legends of Krishna was published
in 2010.
During my visits to these places, many
questions remained unanswered.
Did the hidden corridor from the
prison cell in the Krishna Janmasthan
Temple lead to the mosque and Kansa
Kila?
What did Kansa Kila look like before
it was repeatedly ransacked by the
Mughal kings?
What happened to Dwarka? Did a city
exist hundreds of miles underwater?
Why were the five wells built on the
remote island of Panchananda Teerth
near the Gomti River?
Did Lord Krishna reside in Bet
Dwarka at the current location of the
Dwarkadhish Temple?
Was the present Shankodhara Teerth
Temple in existence since Lord Vishnus
Matsya Avatar?
And finally, the billion-dollar
question: where was the Shyamantaka?
Was it buried under the Arabian Sea
near Dwarka? Was it in Mathura? Was it
stolen by the subsequent Mughal kings
and taken to Afghanistan or Iran?
Was the Shyamantaka the same
Kohinoor diamond taken by the British
from India and currently kept in a
museum in the UK?
These thoughts continued to haunt me
not only during my journey to these holy
places but even after my first book was
published. It was then that I decided to
write a fiction, trying to knit together all
these mysterious places and unanswered
thoughts. This is how The Curse of
Surya was born.
THE BEGINNING

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EBURY PRESS
Random House Publishers India Private
Limited, 7th Floor, Infinity Tower C, DLF
Cyber City, Gurgaon 122 002, Haryana, India
Random House Group Limited, 20 Vauxhall
Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA, United
Kingdom
Published by Random House India in 2015
www.randomhouse.co.in
Copyright Dev Prasad 2015
Cover photograph Getty Images
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are either the product of
the authors imagination or are used fictitiously
and any resemblance to any actual person,
living or dead, events or locales is entirely
coincidental.
This book is sold subject to the condition that
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be
lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated
without the publishers prior consent in any
form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar
condition including this condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
ISBN: 978-8-184-00622-3
This digital edition published in 2015.
e-ISBN: 978-8-184-00704-6

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