August 11, 1993 Keshavpur
Aarti woke up at 4 am with heavy eyes and as she went to kitchen to prepare some food for Meera and Mayur for their train journey, she was already making plans to go to bed early that night or may be catch a nap in the afternoon. Long after Meera went to her room last night, Aarti kept thinking about Shah uncle and what could have happened in Krsna Nagar. She was hoping to get some more information from Anindya. But she wanted to give him some time to settle down from the long travel and get hold of the situation. At 5 am, she heard Mayur moving around in their room. She kept his tea on the table and went to Meera’s room to wake her up. Mayur came behind Aarti to Meera’s room and they both wished Meera on her 17th birthday. Aarti again checked with her husband and daughter if they still wanted to go ahead with their travel plan to Krsna Nagar and they both said ‘of course’ in unison with a ‘Why Not??’ stare.
By 6 am, Meera and Mayur were ready with their luggage waiting for their driver to take out the car. ‘Will you be alright?’ Mayur looked at Aarti and asked. Aarti smiled and told him not to worry. Although, she was occupied with the thoughts of covering this news, she was not sure what was bothering her more – sudden demise of a big business man or her Shah uncle being no more. ‘Don’t worry mom, as soon as we will reach Krsna Nagar, we will give you a call and will give you live coverage of the situation’, Meera chirped in to comfort her mother’s nerves. They all laughed and after Aarti prayed for their safe journey, Meera and her father left for the railway station.
Coming back into the house, Aarti felt the pang of loneliness and suddenly got hit by the seriousness of the situation at Krsna Nagar. She was no more making plans to catch up on her sleep and was also not interested to go back in the kitchen and prepare breakfast for herself. It was still 6.30 am and she wanted to leave for her office by 8. Usually, Aarti used to work on her articles from home but her senior editor-in-chief, Prakash Soni had called her yesterday and had requested her to come to the publishing house. He knew Aarti’s connection with Krsna Nagar and wanted to know how much light Aarti could throw in to this case.
Aarti went to her room and sat on her table and started reading the report again. There was nothing unusual in the preliminary report that could have piqued her investigative mind.
“The First Report on Mr. Shailon Sharma
Date – August 10, 1993
Place – Krsna Nagar, Rajgarh
A very prominent ancestral business man, Mr. Shailon Sharma found dead in the jungles of Krsna Nagar. The cause to death seems to be heart attack; however, the body has been sent to Rajgarh Medical Institute for post mortem. He was 68 years old and was very popular in Krsna Nagar for having large and enviably unique collection of antique pieces. He used to live alone in his mansion at Krsna Nagar with his fleet of servants. His son, Anindya Sharma lives in Mashkaangir, Mahavirpur and is on his way to Krsna Nagar.
At 6.30 pm on August 10, 1993, Mr. Shailon Sharma is said to have left his house to meet his friend, Kavita Grewal. As per the statement given by Ms. Kavita Grewal, Mr. Shailon Sharma left her house at around 7.30 pm to go to the nearby market to check on the furniture he had ordered. From there he was supposed to go back to his home.
The owner of the furniture shop confirmed that Mr. Shailon Sharma did come to their shop and enquired when the furniture would be delivered. The shop owner saw Mr. Sharma retreating the path he had come from, which led to his house. The same path could have led him to the jungles of Krsna Nagar. None of the people he met that day could come up with any reasoning as to why Mr. Sharma chose to enter the jungle at dusk.”
A doorbell startled Aarti and she closed the report and went to open the door. The driver had returned from the railway station. Aarti told him to come back in an hour to pick her up for the office. Once back in her room, she started packing up her papers while her mind was refusing to come out of Krsna Nagar. She had spent her entire childhood in this small town and her memories are filled with the time she had spent with her mother, Kavita, Shah uncle, and her friend, Anindya.
Always surrounded by art in her house, Aarti grew up to be a person closer to nature and being a daughter of a single mother, being courageous and bold came to her naturally. Not that Aarti did not try her hands in painting but she was always drawn towards writing – about her house, her mother, her friends, and her town, Krsna Nagar. It was the magic and mystery of Shah uncle’s house, which gave her lots of ideas to write about. She was 8 years old when she first realized how mysterious that house was. She was playing hide and seek with Anindya in latter’s house and while looking for a place to hide, she found herself in a room full of objects lying everywhere carelessly. Just to make the game challenging for Anin, she hid inside an almirah. At first, she was too excited to have found a perfect place to hide but then she realized the stillness around her. The dark and dusty shelves of the almirah started suffocating her and she slowly opened the doors of the almirah. She felt something tugging to her skirt and as she got out with a jerk, a large noise shook the room. One box had fallen out from the shelve where she was hiding. It was too much to frighten her and she rushed towards the door. Right at that moment, Anin entered the room and caught her. With Anin in the room, Arti felt relieved and looked back at the box that had fallen. It was a small box with tightly closed lid. As Aarti stretched out her hand to lift the box, Anin came beside her. ‘Oh, so this was the sound and I thought you have fallen off,’ Anindya started laughing. Aarti took the box in her hands and opened it. Expecting some gems or stones in the box, she was surprised to see one carved pencil inside it. ‘A pencil?? Why would uncle keep a pencil inside this room locked in a box?”
Anindya took the box from her and held the pencil in his hands. He was used to seeing many unusual things around his house but the pencil seemed very ordinary to him. “Let’s see how it writes” Anindya said and Aarti nodded. They both came out of the room and went to Anindya’s room. Aarti pulled out a notebook from one of Anindya’s study drawer and as it comes naturally to anyone, Aarti wrote her name on the paper. But there was nothing spectacular about the lead color and texture of that pencil and both the kids disappointed by their discovery left the pencil and paper at Anindya’s desk and went out to play. By afternoon, they both were tired and hungry. As soon as they heard Mahanto kaka calling out to them for lunch, they rushed towards the dining room. Shailon Shah was already at the table waiting for the kids. Smiling, he asked the kids about their day. Aarti started telling Shah uncle about their games and as she told about the pencil box, she saw the colors of Shah uncle face change.
Mr. Shah ran towards Anindya’s room and kids completely perplexed by his action, followed him. As soon as they reached Anindya’s room, they were surprised to see that the pencil was gone. Aarti searched the entire desk and Anindya looked around the room, but they could not find the pencil. The paper on which Aarti had written her name had turned a shade darker and her name was glowing as a fluorescent light. The kids got transfixed to the paper, their mouth open and breath sucked in.
Part 6 ….Coming soon….