The Girl In Room 105[CHAPTER 19]


Chapter 19

‘Where did you get this powder again?’ Rana said.

‘Some kids in class. Do you know what it is?’

I had brought a spoonful of the white powder we found in Zara’s safe in a matchbox. Rana, Saurabh and I had come to Moonshine, a nightclub on the second floor of a building in Hauz Khas Village. At ten in the night, the huge bar had only fifteen customers. Things pick up at midnight, the manager had assured Rana when the latter lamented the lack of girls in the establishment.

‘This is cocaine. Stop acting innocent. Are you using this?’ Rana said.

‘No, sir. Cocaine, like drugs?’ I said.

‘Yes. And these rich Hauz Khas kids pay seven thousand rupees a gram for it.’

‘What?’ I said.

‘Boys, I like you. But when it comes to drugs, I can’t go easy. Tell me where the hell did you get this from?’

‘I told you. Some student in class.’

‘Someone preparing for IIT had cocaine? Nonsense.’

‘This is south Delhi. Not everyone who comes to our coaching centre is serious about studies,’ Saurabh said.

‘Anyway, we will expel him from the coaching class,’ I said.

Inspector Rana nodded, though he still looked unconvinced.

‘You want a drink, sir?’ Saurabh said as the bartender came by.

‘Yeah. Rum and coke, large. For all of us. And, bloody, why aren’t there any women here yet? Their dads didn’t allow them tonight or what?’ Rana said.

The bartender didn’t answer. He prepared the three drinks and brought them to us.

‘You haven’t updated me on the case. That Kashmiri girl you are obsessed with,’ Rana said, taking a big gulp.

‘Busy with work. Haven’t had the time to pursue it,’ I said.

‘Lost interest, eh? See how hard it is to investigate?’

‘I agree,’ I said.

‘You met her father? The honour-killing angle? I’m pretty sure he did it.

These mullahs can do anything.’

‘We met him once,’ I said.


‘He has an alibi. He was at home preparing for Zara’s party the next day.’

‘Is that so?’ Rana said thoughtfully. He finished his drink, kept his glass down and let out a long, disgusting ‘aahh’.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘so we are at a dead end.’

My heart beat fast. I had lied to a police officer. I wondered what would happen if Rana found out that we had concealed evidence. I ordered another drink for the inspector to distract him from noticing my nervousness.

‘Are you sure you didn’t get this powder from Lone? How did he get so rich? That mullah could be a drug-dealer,’ Rana said.

I froze.

‘I’ll lock him up for the rest of his life. If not for murder, then for drugs.

You just tell me,’ Rana said, pointing a finger at me.

‘No, sir,’ Saurabh said, shaking his head. ‘We don’t know. Actually, I told Keshav to stop working on the case.’

‘Why? Scared?’

‘Yeah,’ Saurabh said, biting his lower lip. ‘And we have to focus on our careers.’

‘Good. No point screwing around,’ Rana said. His phone beeped. ‘I have to go. Something urgent came up.’

‘Another crime, sir?’ Saurabh said.

‘No. It is my mother-in-law’s birthday. I promised I would be home for dinner. I forgot. I didn’t even buy her a gift. Bloody mother and daughter are going to nag me and chew my head all night.’

The flushing sound made it impossible to talk for a few seconds.

‘That’s seven lakhs gone down the toilet, literally. We could have sold it,’ Saurabh said.

‘Things are bad career-wise, but we haven’t reached the drug-dealer stage yet,’ I said, washing my hands.

‘Isn’t the IIT dream a drug, too?’

‘It is. But it is legal. Organic chemistry books at home are fine. But if anyone found hundred grams of cocaine in our house, we go in for ten years.’

We came out of the toilet.

‘What next?’ Saurabh said.

‘Like I said. I will go to Srinagar. I won’t take any risks, but will try to find out whatever I can.’

‘And what do I do?’

‘Stay here. Like I said, no unnecessary risks. You can help me analyse the case from here.’

‘How can I let you go there alone?’

‘I will be fine. We will be in constant touch on phone.’

We sat on the sofa and switched on the TV. The film Toy Story was playing and we began watching. In one scene, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, two toys who are best friends, have a fight. But both miss each other immensely. The song You’ve Got a Friend in Me played in the background.

You’ve got a friend in me

There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you

We stick together and see it through

Cause you’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got a friend in me.

Eventually, the two animated best friends make up and give each other teary bear hugs.

Saurabh wiped his eyes and turned to me.

‘I am coming,’ Saurabh said.

‘What? But—’ I said.

‘No more ifs and buts. I am coming to Kashmir. I’ll do all the bookings, too.’

‘But Golu—’

‘They say Kashmir is heaven on earth, right? Currently I am in Chandan Classes, hell on earth. Almost anything would be better. It’s done, I am coming.’

‘Saurabh, seriously—’

‘Shh. Decided.’

I looked at Saurabh. His fat, round face made him look like a Pixar teddy bear.

‘I love you,’ I said.

‘If someone murdered me, will you also solve my case like this?’

‘I would tell the murderer to kill me instead,’ I said.

Saurabh blushed. I laughed.

‘You say these stupid senti lines and I agree to do stupid things like this trip to Kashmir,’ Saurabh said.

‘Leave? What’s that?’ Chandan Arora said. He spat out an over-chewed slurry of paan masala and saliva into a special-purpose dustbin. We sat opposite him, across the desk in his office. His eyes oscillated between Saurabh and me in quick succession.

‘Holiday, sir,’ I said. ‘Saurabh and I want to go on a holiday together.’

He looked at us as if we had asked him to will us his entire property.

‘Why do you need a holiday?’ Chandan said. ‘And both of you together?

What will happen to your classes?’

‘It will be like an offsite for us. To figure out what we can do to build enrolment,’ Saurabh said. ‘And we spoke to other faculty members for substitution.’

‘This is peak time,’ Chandan shouted, loud enough for Sexy Sheela to look up, starry-eyed, from her keyboard.

‘We will ensure there is no disruption, sir,’ I said.

‘I don’t care. What about new students? What are your numbers?’

‘Numbers?’ I said.

‘The students you brought in. Your referrals, Mr Maheshwari?’

‘So far? Since you told me in that meeting?’ Saurabh said.

Chandan nodded.

‘I would say zero, more or less,’ Saurabh said.

‘Zero? See. And you want a holiday?’

‘We will come back and meet our targets, sir,’ I said.

‘Where are you planning to go?’



‘Yes, sir.’

‘Why? You want to die?’

‘No, sir,’ I said. ‘It’s a full state. Millions of people live there.’

‘All terrorists.’

‘That’s incorrect, sir,’ I said.

‘But why Srinagar? What are you? Some honeymooning couple?’

Saurabh and I kept quiet, unable to come up with a response. He took our silence as tacit acceptance.

‘Really? Are both of you, what do they say, Section 377?’

‘Sir, no,’ I said, as Saurabh gaped. He had no idea what Section 377 was.

‘So, why are you going to Srinagar? Where are you staying there?’

‘Shelter Houseboats, sir,’ Saurabh said.

‘You are staying in a houseboat? Seriously? This is a honeymoon, isn’t it?’

Sexy Sheela became alert at the mention of the word ‘honeymoon’, even though she pretended to print invoices. Perhaps she dreamt of the day Chandan would leave his wife and take her to a place far away, where nobody taught anybody to prepare for JEE.

I hadn’t known about our accommodation arrangements. I turned to Saurabh.

‘Why are we staying in a houseboat?’

‘It is cheap. Good reviews. Well located, safe. I booked it.’

‘We are going to be sharing a room in a boat?’ I said.

‘You told me somewhere central,’ Saurabh said. ‘This is right in the city, on Jhelum River.’

Chandan Arora laughed.

‘This is what happens, Sheela madam, when boys can’t get girls.’ He winked at her. Yes, the lady-killer had spoken. His invoice-maker-plus-lover smiled coyly.

‘Sir, we are not a gay couple.’

‘It’s okay even if you are. There are yoga exercises to cure you.’

‘Cure?’ I said, wondering what exactly those exercises could be.

‘Sir, we are not gay,’ Saurabh said.

‘Even though there is nothing wrong in being gay,’ I said.

‘You don’t need to hide your secrets from me.’

‘Chandan sir, we want to go on leave for two weeks. What we do there is none of your concern,’ I said.

Chandan looked somewhat upset by my defiance. He opened a file and pretended to work.

‘You can’t go. Peak season. I need all hands on deck,’ he said, without looking up at either of us.

‘Sir, we haven’t taken any leave in two years,’ Saurabh said.

‘Neither have I. Chandan comes to Chandan. Every day,’ Chandan said, speaking about himself in third person twice in the same sentence.

‘That’s good, sir, but we are going for two weeks. And you won’t have a problem with it,’ I said.

Chandan looked at me, surprised. I signalled for him to come closer. He leaned forward.

‘Unless you want us to ask Mrs Chandan Arora,’ I whispered.

‘What?’ he said, his mouth distorted.

‘We know. Sheela ma’am and you. You guys don’t even need a houseboat. Your office is enough,’ I said.

His face turned from dark brown to apple red to dark purple in a matter of seconds.

‘I … I…’ Chandan was at a loss for words.

‘So our leave begins Monday. Okay with you, sir?’ I said.

‘Yeah,’ he said, mouth still not working properly. ‘Sheela, please add their vacation days in the system.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ Saurabh said. We stood up to leave.

‘Dry fruits are famous in Kashmir. You must try them,’ Chandan said as we left his office.





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