The Girl In Room 105[CHAPTER 10]


Chapter 10

‘What do you think? Delhi Police isn’t so bad, eh?’ Rana winked at us, keeping his teacup back on the table. By now he felt a bit more like a person than just a police officer. I had begun to think of him as ‘Rana’ rather than

  ‘Inspector Rana’. Saurabh and I were in his office; we had come for our daily check-in.

  ‘Amazing, sir, to find the murderer in two days,’ Saurabh said, buttering him up for no particular reason.

I had not touched my tea. ‘Have your tea.’ Rana turned to me.

‘Sir, are you sure it is the watchman?’ I said.

Rana raised an eyebrow. He turned to Saurabh and laughed.

  ‘Motive. CCTV evidence. He’s from Telangana. Sent those goons to hurt Zara’s fiancé. It is an open-and-shut case.’

‘Is it?’ I said.

  Saurabh kicked my foot, urging me to shut up. He wanted the daily check-ins to stop, so he was going to agree with whatever Rana said.

However, I had to ask. ‘Why would Laxman hurt Raghu?’

  ‘Because Raghu had confronted Laxman too. It is he who encouraged Zara to file a complaint.’

‘You spoke to Raghu?’ I said.

‘You think we are idiots? Of course we will speak to the fiancé.’

‘Oh, okay,’ I said. ‘I am sorry.’

  ‘He came to the police station, confirmed Zara’s fight with the watchman,’ the inspector said, irritated. ‘Anyway, you guys, get out.’

‘Sir?’ Saurabh said, as he stood up.

‘Yeah?’ Rana said.

‘Do we have to still come every day? You have the killer now.’

  ‘Hmmm…’ Rana leaned back in his seat. ‘You are right. But I still need to know your friend is there if I need him.’

  ‘Of course, I am here, sir. I live five kilometres away. I teach at Chandan Classes every day,’ I said.

 ‘Okay. Only Keshav needs to meet me. Once a week. Or when I call you. Saurabh, you don’t have to come anymore. Happy?’

   Saurabh’s face lit up with joy, like a prisoner released after three decades in jail.

‘I am available anytime, sir. I just have one request,’ I said.

‘What?’ Rana said.

‘Can I speak to the watchman once? Only if you are okay with it?’

  ‘What?’ Saurabh gave me a dirty look. We were literally getting a get-out-of-jail pass. Why did I have to finger anyone?

Rana laughed, came over to me and slapped my back.

‘What the hell is wrong with you? Who are you? Detective? Jasoos?’

Rana said.

‘I am just a tuition teacher, sir. If you let me talk to him just once, sir…’

The inspector sighed and went back to his seat.

‘Come tomorrow late night. Can’t have anyone see this.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ I said.

‘Whatever you do, don’t botch up my case,’ he said, draining his cup.

   I had never been inside a police lockup before. The Hauz Khas station has four of them, these little rooms to keep prisoners in before they move to proper jails or obtain bail. A constable opened Laxman’s cell for me and stood outside.

It felt strange inside the lockup. What if someone locked the cell with me in it?

  Laxman squatted on the floor. I saw fear in his eyes as I approached him. His body trembled and face turned to the side as if expecting a blow, a default whenever anyone met him in the police station, I guess.

  I wore jeans and a blue-and-white check shirt. I neither looked like a new prisoner, nor a cop. I stood in front of him, as he eyed me with fear. The constable outside watched us for a minute, but soon lost interest. He opened his phone to watch a pirated version of Tiger Zinda Hai.

‘I am Keshav,’ I said. He looked surprised. ‘You saw me that day.’

I knelt down on the floor to his level.

‘I am Zara’s friend,’ I said. ‘I mean, I was.’

  His face blanched. I knew Zara. I would definitely hit him now, he was probably thinking. He lifted up his folded hands.

  ‘Sahib, I didn’t do anything. I promise I did not kill Zara madam.’ His voice broke and he began to wail. The constable tapped the iron bars with his bamboo stick.

‘Keep quiet,’ the constable said, eyes on Katrina Kaif as she sang on his phone.

‘Control yourself, Laxman,’ I said soothingly. ‘I have come to help you.’

Laxman looked at me with distrust.

‘You need to tell me what happened,’ I said.

  ‘I don’t know, sahib. I sit at the main hostel entrance. I can’t keep track of what is happening in each room. I swear on my children I didn’t do anything.’

I put a finger to my lips, pointing to the constable.

‘Zara madam had slapped me. But it was my mistake only.’

‘You were making a video of a student?’

‘Yes, yes. Big mistake.’ He shook his head violently.

‘You had a fight with Zara?’

  ‘I got angry, I threatened her. But what can I do in reality? I am a poor watchman. I won’t just go kill her.’

‘Then who did?’ I said.

‘I don’t know, sahib.’

‘Why were you not at your post?’

His eyes fell from mine. ‘I went to the bathroom.’

‘For forty minutes?’

He kept looking down.

‘You better answer, Laxman. If you don’t, you are here for life.’

I lifted his chin with my hand.

‘Reddy, if you hurt my Zara, before they punish you, I will kill you.’

‘I didn’t, sahib. I didn’t kill Zara madam.’

‘From 2:02 to 2:41, where were you?’

He gestured for me to come closer and whispered something in my ear.

‘What?’ I pulled back from him.

‘Yes, sahib. That’s the reason.’


‘On my smartphone, sahib.’

‘Where is the phone?’ I said.

  ‘At home. Gave it to my wife when she came to visit. Sahib, I didn’t do anything, sahib. Killer coming from window…’


  ‘The killer coming from window, sahib. Because window was open when you went in.’


  ‘If I had to kill, why would I need to go from window? I can walk up to the room. Pretend there is parcel delivery.’

  ‘Yes, you can enter through the door. But you could still kill her, bolt the door from the inside, and exit from the window, so nobody suspects you,’

I said.

He fell at my feet.

‘I didn’t, sahib, I swear on my little daughter.’

  We walked through the lanes of Shahpur Jat and reached the main road. We had just collected Laxman’s phone from his house.

‘Sorry, what do I have to do with this phone?’ Saurabh said.

‘You said you won the hackathon at NIT. Is it true?’

‘Of course. Bhai, I’ve even hacked Tinder to give me a premium account without paying for it.’

‘Great. I need you to hack Laxman’s phone.’

   I hailed an auto rickshaw. The driver first grumbled at how short the ride to Malviya Nagar was. Saurabh gave him a lecture on how app-based taxis would soon decimate auto rickshaws if drivers kept up this attitude. Shocked by the unwanted sermon, the auto driver agreed.

‘Hack this phone? Why?’ Saurabh said when we had sat down in the auto rickshaw.

‘Laxman told me he sneaked into the guest toilet at Himadri that night when he left his post. Because it gets Wi-Fi.’

‘Why did he need Wi-Fi in the toilet?’

‘One guess,’ I said. ‘You went to engineering college, right?’

‘Oh, of course,’ Saurabh said.

‘I need you to check if he’s lying.’

‘To see if he actually went to porn sites at that precise time?’

‘Yes, and from that location. Can you?’

  ‘Easy. This is hardly a hack. I just need the browser history files on the phone. It will have all the time stamps and sites visited. And if we can go to Himadri and connect to their Wi-Fi network, I can double-check if this phone’s IP address is actually connected to—’ Saurabh was saying when I interrupted him.

‘Dude, if I knew all this, I would be a real engineer and have a real job.

Talk in simple terms please.’

Saurabh looked at me, surprised.

‘Take me to Himadri. Get me on their Wi-Fi network,’ he said.

‘Excuse me,’ I said. ‘I really need to call a cab, and my phone is out of data.

Can I have the Wi-Fi password here?’

   I stood in the Himadri hostel garden carrying six fat books of physics, chemistry and maths in my arms. I wore thick glasses and had not shaved for three days. I also wore an ill-fitting shirt, old rubber sandals and polyester pants. In other words, I resembled a typical IIT research scholar.

  Saurabh stood across the road, in front of the hostel, within Wi-Fi range. The girl had just arrived at the hostel in her Activa and had parked it next to me. She looked me up and down when I asked for the Wi-Fi password.

‘Student?’ she said.

‘Yes. PhD. Vindhyachal hostel.’

‘Himadri2018G,’ she said. ‘H and G capital letters.’

‘Thank you,’ I said. As I walked away from her, I typed a WhatsApp message to Saurabh.

‘Got it. Himadri2018G.

He replied after a minute.

‘Connected. Now downloading IP history and DNS sites.’

‘Talk in English,’ I replied.

‘Nothing. Downloaded everything I need. Let’s go home. I am hungry.

You better cook tonight,’ Saurabh messaged back.

‘,’ Saurabh said. ‘ Hot desi bhabhi has fun with stud devar.

That’s from 2:10 to 2:14.’

  ‘What?’ I said. We sat at our dining table eating French fries, the only dish I could whip up at short notice for ever-hungry Lord Saurabh. Saurabh had his laptop open, with Laxman’s phone tethered to it.

‘That’s what his phone’s browser history says. You want me to go through your phone?’ Saurabh said.

‘Very funny. What’s next?’ I said.

‘ Neighbour does big-busted eager Mallu aunty. Shall we have a look at eager aunty too?’

‘Wait, so he was actually watching porn?’

‘Sure he was. Look at this: Sardar honeymoon couple leaked video.

Wait, how can they be sure it is an actual honeymoon video?’

Laxman had not lied. He was literally jerking off when away from his seat.

‘ Jaipur college-girl shows…’ Saurabh was still listing the sites out.

  ‘Bhai, one thing is for sure, he only likes desi porn. He skipped international videos. Kind of patriotic, no?’

‘Shut up. When does his party end?’

‘Around 2:29 a.m.,’ Saurabh said.

‘Enough time for him to walk back and reach his post at 2:40.’

‘And wash up before, I hope,’ Saurabh said.

‘Stop it. Open the IP address logs on the Himadri network.’

‘We can. But don’t you want to watch Hot Tamil couple enjoy in Indiantrain? I am curious. Maybe IRCTC can sponsor this one.’

‘Golu, this is not a joke. This is about someone’s life.’

‘Okay, fine,’ he said. He switched from the browser history to the IP

addresses file.

  ‘These are the IP addresses, or unique identifiers of all devices that logged into the Himadri Wi-Fi network,’ Saurabh said. He scanned the excel file for a few seconds.

‘Yes, Laxman’s phone was connected to the network. Confirmed,’

Saurabh said.

‘Show me,’ I said.

He showed me a table with IP addresses on his laptop screen.

‘This is real proof. Laxman is innocent,’ I said.

‘Yes, sick as it is, he didn’t kill anyone at that time.’

‘Thank you, Golu,’ I said and ruffled his hair. ‘I will take this to Rana.’

‘Welcome, bhai. But can I ask one thing?’


‘Why are you getting involved in this? We are free now. Why bother?

Let the police do their job.’

‘But, see, they botched up. Laxman didn’t do it.’

‘Let Laxman fight it out. Or let the police eventually figure it out. Zara is gone, bhai. Let her go from your mind too.’

‘I know, I should. If only I could,’ I said with a sigh. Saurabh saw my distraught face. He gently placed an arm around my shoulder.

‘I guess, somehow, I still want to stay connected to her,’ I said. ‘I want to find out who did it. Who took Zara away from me just when she wanted to come back?’

‘I will print this out. We can take this to Rana tomorrow.’


  ‘It’s okay, bhai. Just don’t sport that Devdas look, please. Nobody is allowed to make that sad face while eating French fries.’

  ‘Hmmm…’ went Rana, tapping the bridge of his nose with an index finger and inspecting the printouts we gave him.

  ‘Browser history, huh?’ he said. He scrunched his eyes to read the metrics on the page.

Saurabh stood up and moved over to the inspector’s side.

‘See, sir, these are the IP addresses. And on this next page are the time stamps and sites visited on Laxman’s phone.’

Rana scratched his three-day-old salt-and-pepper stubble.

He grunted. ‘Sit down, sit down.’

  Saurabh went back to his seat. The inspector placed the sheets down on the table. I expected him to scream out ‘superb’ or ‘good job’ or something like that. Instead, he cracked his fingers one at a time.

  ‘This means Laxman is innocent, sir,’ I said, wondering if Rana had not understood what this meant. ‘He was in the bathroom, masturbating and watching porn.’

‘So who killed Zara then?’ Rana said.

That’s your job to find out, I wanted to say. Instead, I shrugged.

‘If Laxman didn’t do it, then won’t the suspicion be back on you?’ Rana said.

‘What?’ I said.

The inspector smirked and tilted his head. He slid the sheets back towards me.

‘Take this back. You never gave this to me,’ he said.

‘What do you mean?’ I said.

‘You like coffee?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Let me treat you to expensive coffee,’ Rana said and stood up.

‘Give me good coffee. But not too bitter,’ Rana told the barista at Starbucks in Hauz Khas Village.

‘A latte, sir?’ the barista said, somewhat unnerved by Rana’s uniform.

‘Plain hot milk,’ I said. Saurabh ordered two chocolate muffins.

  The inspector took out his wallet. The cashier at the café looked aghast at the preposterous idea of a policeman paying and quickly declined. The inspector smiled and put his wallet back in his pocket.

We collected our beverages and took a seat near the window.

  ‘So this is where young people, what do they say, hang out?’ Rana said, adding three sugar sachets to his coffee. ‘Two hundred rupees for coffee.

Daylight robbery.’

I wondered if not paying at an establishment counted as daylight robbery too.

‘I agree, sir,’ Saurabh said, servile as per norm.

‘Anyway, I brought both of you here because I wanted to have a frank

talk. I hope I can trust you.’ Rana gave us a level look.

‘Of course, sir,’ I said.

‘Where do you work, Keshav?’

‘I told you, Chandan Classes.’

‘How much do you get? In hand.’

I looked at him, surprised. Saurabh politely looked in the other direction.

‘Around 45,000 rupees a month,’ I said.

‘See, even you make more than I do. I get, after all deductions, 42,000 rupees a month.’

  I guess he hadn’t counted the unlimited free Starbucks lattes in his package. I wondered what to say in response. Like, did he not know the pay scales before he took up this job? I chose to keep silent.

‘I have fifteen years of experience,’ Rana continued. ‘You started what?

Four-five years ago? Is it fair?’

  I shook my head, feeling guilty. I felt personally responsible for the central government’s compensation policies. I wanted to tell him I had to listen to a gutkha-chewing, obnoxious boss all day. I would happily trade places with Rana. Take a little pay-cut and get the power to slap people around and demand free coffee? I am up for it.

  Saurabh showed us his pinkie finger and excused himself to use the toilet. Rana continued.

  ‘I worked hard my entire tenure. Excellent annual reports. Yet, my promotion is stuck for the last five years. They won’t make me assistant commissioner of police.’

I nodded, sipping my milk. What did this have to do with Laxman’s browser history?

  ‘Meanwhile, some idiot from some IIT will mug up and clear the IPS exam. They will make him my boss and give him a rank above me.’

  I wondered if I was the idiot from IIT he was referring to. Actually, no. I was the IITian who couldn’t clear the IPS exam, which made me an even bigger idiot.

‘It’s not a fair system. Colonial hangover,’ I said.


‘From the British time. They made the civil services.’

  ‘Yeah, stupid goras. I am one of the rare, honest inspectors in the force, and they treat me like this.’

  I guess free beverages didn’t count as being dishonest, compared to the  opportunities a corrupt inspector in Delhi Police could get. The coffee was just a tiny perk.

  I wondered how to make Rana feel better. I guess when someone feels their life sucks, it’s always good to tell them how your life sucks even more.

  ‘I am from IIT, sir. I never managed a job from campus. One of those rare IITians who graduated without an offer.’


  ‘Poor grades. Messed up the few interviews I had. Had a breakup. Was disturbed in that phase of life.’

‘Ah. That is why Chandan Classes?’

  I nodded. I didn’t tell him it was also because I wanted to remain in Delhi, as close to the IIT campus as possible. Zara still resided there, and staying nearby was the only way I could ever get a chance for a reunion.

The inspector smirked.

‘You like your job?’ he said.

‘Hate it,’ I said.


‘On some days I feel I would prefer to be in jail than show up for work.’

The inspector laughed.

  ‘Guess we are in the same boat then,’ he said, feeling more bonded to me than ever, because of our stagnant careers. Saurabh had by now returned from the washroom. He picked up a newspaper and opened the jobs and classifieds page. The inspector’s phone rang. He took the call.

  ‘Yes, Sharma sir,’ Rana said and stood up, as if Sharma sir could see him. ‘Ji, Sharma sir. Of course, sir, no sir, we have the watchman and a solid case. Yes, sir, we will file the chargesheet soon, sir. No sir, you don’t have to call again, sir. Okay, sir.’

  When he ended the call, I said, ‘You will release Laxman, right? He is a creep, but he didn’t murder Zara.’

  ‘Ah, see, now that’s why I wanted to talk to you here. You never know who may hear us at the police station.’

‘What?’ I said.

Saurabh looked up from his newspaper to listen as well.

‘This high-profile, media-covered case is my best shot at a promotion.

  There is a provision for out-of-turn promotion. My seniors may recommend me because of this case.’

‘That’s good, sir,’ I said.

‘Yeah. But only if I solve the case. Which, in their eyes, I have.’

‘With Laxman as the killer?’

‘Yes, even the media stories have died down,’ he said. He picked up the main section of the newspaper and opened the city pages.

‘See, nothing today. My seniors, the media and public at large believe that Laxman did it. Case closed in their heads.’

‘Except for the fact that he didn’t,’ I said, my voice a bit too firm for Rana’s comfort.

‘Is he your brother?’ Rana said, his voice loud.

‘No, sir,’ I said, ‘but he’s innocent.’

‘So I release him? And the media starts another drama?’


   ‘Yeah. Police caught an innocent man because he was from a poorer class. Police still can’t catch killer. Delhi Police is useless. More and more nonsense. And who will be held responsible for this botch-up? Inspector Rana. You think anyone will promote me then?’

  I wanted to tell him that an innocent man could not spend his life in jail to enable his promotion. Of course, I didn’t.

‘Sir, won’t Laxman have to be proven guilty in court?’


‘So eventually this will come out. He will confess what he was up to.

His lawyers might get the same data.’

The inspector laughed. He took a tissue and wiped his latte moustache.

Saurabh glared at me. He didn’t want any more confrontations with the police.

‘What is so funny?’ I said to the inspector.

‘This is not a movie. It’s real life. What kind of lawyer do you think Laxman will get?’

‘Doesn’t the government give poor people one?’

  ‘Exactly. And how much will they care about a watchman? Laxman will be lucky if his lawyer shows up at a hearing.’

‘But still. He didn’t do it. And there’s proof. It will come out eventually.’

‘Fine. Maybe it will. In three years. By then Inspector Rana will be ACP

Rana. Away from this police chowki nonsense. Laxman can be out then.’

‘Sir, but…’

‘All this detective nonsense you are doing has to stop. I saved you. Now stop making my life difficult.’

  Saved me? The fact that I didn’t kill anyone might have also played a role in ensuring my freedom, I wanted to snap back at him.

  ‘Sir, I don’t want to disturb your life. I just want to find out who is the killer. And for that, we need a proper investigation. Not lock up an innocent man and close the case.’

  The inspector looked at Saurabh and me in quick succession, then shrugged and finished his cooled latte.

‘What if the media gets this evidence about the watchman’s innocence?’

I said.

The inspector kept his cup down.

‘Are you threatening me?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘But what I am saying could happen.’

‘You bastards. A week ago both of you were begging me to let you go.

  And you are ordering me around now? Telling me I don’t know how to do an investigation.’

‘No, sir,’ I said. ‘I am just saying let’s find out who did it. I will help you.’

‘How will you help me? You are a tutor at Chandan Classes,’ Rana said.

Saurabh pressed my arm, telling me to not respond.

‘Sir, can I say something?’ Saurabh said.

‘What do you want to say now?’ the inspector said, his voice annoyed.

‘He is teaching me investigation? Does your idiot friend know what we have to face? That dean of student affairs insulted me the day before.’

‘Who?’ Saurabh said.

  ‘That Prof. Saxena. Chutiya said I have no business roaming around campus. He tells this to me, the police. Wants me to get all the permissions.

  Threatens to call the HRD ministry. Bloody, you want me to investigate? Tell that stupid dean to not insult me.’

‘You met Prof. Saxena?’ I said.

‘Yes. If the college doesn’t care, screw this case.’

‘Prof. Saxena was also Zara’s PhD guide,’ I said.

‘So, why is he stopping us? Giving some bullshit policy like no media or

police on campus,’ he said.

‘I don’t know, sir,’ I said.

‘Listen, tutor,’ Rana said, looking at me sharply. ‘You think I didn’t know the watchman didn’t do it?’

‘You know?’ I said, shocked.

‘I have investigated criminals for fifteen years. I can tell from their eyes.

He’s a tharki, but no murderer. Your data only proved my hunch right.’

I was nonplussed. ‘So why did you arrest him?’

‘Because I don’t have the killer! And everyone wants closure. TV

anchors, people, social media, activists and my seniors.’

Inspector Rana stood up jerkily.

  ‘Listen, I may have free coffee, which is overpriced anyway. I also want my promotion because I deserve it. But I am not an evil man. I will still try to find out who did it. But until then Laxman stays in.’

‘Understood, sir,’ Saurabh said, scared by the inspector’s towering presence.

‘Get me the killer. I promise I will release Laxman that day. Even if it means I have to change my stance.’

‘Sir.’ I, too, stood up. ‘What can we do to help?’

‘Ideally, stay away,’ Rana said.

‘We can, sir,’ Saurabh said, nudging me with his elbow. He was also standing now.

‘Anything, sir?’ I said.

‘Help me navigate IIT. Is there a way you can access the campus?’

‘Yes. I am an alumnus,’ I said.

Saurabh turned to me.

‘Bhai, inspector sir is telling us to stay away.’

‘He is an aashiq,’ Rana laughed. ‘How will he stay away?’




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