Part 1 - https://theverandahclub.com/article/boys-of-def-col-a-verandah-club-exclusive-series-487
Part 2 - https://theverandahclub.com/article/boys-of-def-col-part-2-520Plot Gets Thicker
Plot Gets Thicker
Thank God it was Friday! The last hour in class was physical activity, which meant the boys could either play the sport they chose or do compulsory march past and drill if any national day was in close proximity. The 5 sections of 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D, 9E all flocked to the ground at the stroke of the bell. The boys met near the tamarind tree that stood as a lone masthead in the middle of a sprawling lush ground that was probably compared to the Asiad Village soccer ground built for the Asiad games way back in the 80s.
“What's the plan?” asked an anxious Aarav as he was more concerned about the IIT sessions that were to commence the next day. “Let me tell you, we should first go to the aerobics room to discuss this and not here,” hushed Karthik in an excited manner, indicating he was up with some ideas. “Aren’t you guys joining us? We are commencing the march past practice, its already October end and Flag Day is round the corner” a very familiar voice irritated the boys who were going for their respective board meeting. “It must be some first bencher calling out,” shrugged Manav as they moved ignoring the beckon from the ground.
“How do you think the car got inside the qila, crossing 30 steps and in to the second room which had its door shut, there is a connection between the men and the car inside” Karthik said and “even I think so that Dilip Da was right, it’s the same car that probably went missing” Aadhi added. “So” asked Aarav, “point being, we will have to find out more” Hari chipped in, “better we go back to the colony and rope in Dilip Da, see what he has got to say” Vinay said as they pushed aside the aerobics ball and got up from the wooden flooring that was gleaming of Burmese teak.
They cycled quickly to the stand; Dilip Da was speaking to an old gentleman of that locality and signalled the boys to remain in the stand. He nodded in acknowledgement to the gentleman with a revered bow and moved to the boys in the stand. “I was enquiring Sunil Chacha regarding the theft that took place in New Friends Colony a few days back and several thousands of rupees were burgled from the IKIKI bank ATM the day before yesterday, his nephew works in the bank branch” Dilip Da said to the boys and wondering if they knew about the incident. “I read in yesterday’s times about it, but these keep happening every now and then” Hari said. “No, this one is very different. The modus operandi of the robbery is totally filmi, like Dhoom,” Dilip Da said as he did a jig of a dance number in that film.
Miscreants had drilled a hole into the room adjoining the ATM, where cash usually gets stacked for the teller machine. They came in from the gutter that runs below, which had long dried up soon after the British left India. Only rats had to be braved to live in the underground gutter network. With an estimated plastic waste of 1000 kilograms a day from a 1.5 crore population and a broken down sewage cleaning system it only ensured that all the waste got directly routed to Yamuna via open drainage and the underground gutter just got forgotten with layers of tar laid for the roads.
This underground gutter which the British used was nothing but the escape route that the plundering Mughals held in secret. It spanned 300 kilometers and connected Delhi and Agra, along with Fatehpur Sikri. Lal Qila to Fateh Pur Sikri was the broadest route with by lanes for the subjects to join in from various villages of Delhi, including Chandni Chowk to Sare Kala Khan. Old Delhi was disconnected villages which were divided by dense woods and gardens. Beneath this lay the secret tunnel that the Mughals used to escape in the wake of a war that threatened defeat or after a grand loot.
But the mystery which remained was how come the miscreants broke open into the gutter or had access to it, leave alone robbing the ATM by drilling through it. This had left the authorities with some questions dangling in midair.
“Aaj ka paper hain” asked Aadhi, “New Friends Colony is hardly half a kilometre from here, police have cordoned off the area and it's protected, why not go and see ourselves” suggested Dilip Da. The boys were thrilled like never before set out with their cycles along with Dilip Da, leaving their bags in the shed.
“Not here, move that side, can’t you see the board” shouted a cop on seeing the cycles whizzing past the barricades. Turning swiftly, the boys moved to a very familiar joint opposite the bank. The air was dense with cocoa aroma that seemed to have heated to 95 degrees, dripping hot. The aroma hit a sweet spot in the brains of the boys who exclaimed “aah hot chocolate fudge Sundae” and it was Firulas. Looking totally distracted by the aroma, the boys ordered 2 HCF Sundays, as their finances were limited. Dilip Da was keen to ask for an extra spoon, till now he had only seen the place from outside. For him, the neon sign board was more familiar than what the aroma meant to the boys.
Rajit read the tag on the shirt; it was their friendly waiter, who always gave a bigger scoop to the boys. He brought the 2 tall glasses of HCF. Rajit lived in the joper bhatti (one time slum) adjoining Defence colony & New Friends colony. He used to play soccer with the boys along with other kids in the locality when they moved in ten years ago. He later went to Noida to work in an office and then surfaced in the Firulas counter one day. Old familiarity meant the boys got maximum bang for their buck.
Aarav pushed one glass of HCF towards Dilip Da who with his extra spoon was gleaming at the chocolate syrup that discoloured the vanilla scoops; the boys didn’t mind this sweet gesture of Aarav that brought a tear to the brim in Dilip Da’s eyes. They coaxed him to have it himself, while the boys shared one amongst them. Aadhi called out to Rajit and enquired about the robbery. “My shift gets over in half-an-hour-wait,” said Rajit. The boys waited patiently as they licked on their spoons till their tongues went dry.
“Shall we move out and talk?” asked Rajit, who had changed into his casual attire. They decided to take him to the shed. “Ab bata” Dilip da announced as they arrived at their meeting point. “Day before last night I was at the shop till 11, till it closed and there was no trace of this incident happening opposite, it was only in the next day we came to know when we came to the shop at 10.30 AM that we realised there were cops all around. I never knew there was a gutter below till the fire department got down at 12 noon yesterday and then TV reporters announced the presence of a tunnel that was 300 years old. This seems mysterious and weird. Archaic looking men whom the news channels call them historians have probably made out this story to drag it and cash in on the incident.” Rajit finished as he sounded, running out of more masala on the story. “Ab jaana hain, ghar mein akeli hogi,” Rajit said as he left the shed.
“Aur bi kuch kabar hoga” said Dilip Da, and the boys agreed, “TV dekte aur baat karke dekte isse locality mein” said Aarav. “Sunil Chacha ne kya bola” enquired Aadhi, “yehi to bola” replied Dilip Da. “let’s meet his nephew yaar, he is the right guy” said Vinay. “We had to discuss what to do tomorrow morning and we are talking about a robbery that is of least importance to what we set out to” reminded Karthik in a strong tone.
“Yehi to baat hain, I am seeing we are enjoying ice cream Sundae, chatting with Rajit, planning to meet Sunil Chacha’s nephew when we have an important plan to do for tomorrow” said Aarav. “Chalo lets go home freshen up and meet at 7.30 here” Aadhi declared as the boys took their bags and advanced to their homes.
To be continued…
A Grandson, Husband and Father of Two, S Jaganathan, is one of the Director's of The Verandah Club. He is an avid traveller, interested in trendspotting and a firm believer in the philosophy - Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah.
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