Day 3, 4 p.m. Chandigarh, Chibber Residence
Stigmata? What on earth is that?
I have seen it once before, a Roman Catholic lady, she was an old woman, an Indian immigrant in U.K. She had crucifixtion marks on her hands and feet. She was uneducated and deeply religious. Quite unlike your sister. They appear in some people. There was a movie some years back on this stuff. Check it out and leave me alone. I have to do some work.
Vipin did not take any offense. Meenal often talked and behaved like this. He went off to his room, and started searching for stigmata on the net.
Wikipedia said :
Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. The term originates from the line at the end of Saint Paul‘s Letter to the Galatians where he says, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus,” stigmata is the plural of the Greek word stigma meaning a mark or brand such as might have been used for identification of an animal or slave. An individual bearing stigmata is referred to as a stigmatic.
He found it far fetched, but apparently there were recorded cases of this. He also found the movie and started downloading it. To kill time he switched on the TV.
The Noida murder was in the headlines still. The old man who had confessed had died without regaining consciousness. The doctors did not believe he could have struck any one with the strength needed to kill. Moreover there was a bloody wooden wicket. The police was tight lipped, and stuck to their “No comments” stance and the media was speculating a lot. The police had first said that Nagpal had confessed to the attack, but it looked like a frame up. The man was mentally unstable, dumb and most probably a drug addict. Then old footage of Nagpal was also shown, along with his polythene bag, a blood stained hammer, and a book. Vipin stopped doing anything and stared at that scene intently. Then he went to his laptop and started searching for details of the Noida murder.
He rang up his brother in law
Hello, Jijaji, kahan ho aap.
Jijaji, yeh Noida wala case dekha TV par?
Yes, what about it.
Jijaji, the mad man was carrying the same book Didi was reading. May be we can find a copy of the same book in Joshi’s house.
What are you trying to say?
I don’t know what I am trying to say Jijaji.
Bete, I will be home soon, then we can talk okay?
Vipin kicked the table in frustration. AC was using the same tone he did when Vipin was a schoolboy. Then on a sudden hunch, he searched for Shirish Desai on the net. There were many references to Desai, the popular fiction writer who wrote historical adventures and romances, set somewhere in Rajasthan desert around the 16th and 17th Century. There were many websites of fans, an entire list of his works, excerpts of his books. Vipin read some of the excerpts. They were interesting, adventures in deserts and oasis, camel trains, trade routes, royalty ….. just the kind of stuff Didi, who loved history would lap up.
Reputed historians commended Desai on the historical authenticity of his research, most of his readership was female. The funny thing was that there was no personal information of Desai ….. no photo, no address, nothing. This was strange. Even people who wrote dry as dust medical thesis had an email address, a telephone number, a home page. This was a popular writer, with millions of fans, and no one knew where he lived and what he looked like.
His cellphone rang.
It was Ramola. He grinned and started chatting to her. He gave her an abridged update
Yeah, Didi was fine and very annoyed both with the attack and also with the fuss Jijaji had created. Meenal was fine …. Yeah he survived being with Meenal ….. he did not know when he would be back, may be in a couple of days …. And then he asked
Babe, have you read Shirish Desai’s books?
Yeah, went through six books one summer vacation. They are tremendously addictive. Then I stopped.
Gave me a headache!
You mean you read too many in one go?
Uncomfortable laugh ….
Yeah, I guess I did. Started dreaming I was a desert belle in those romances. Weird haanh?
Vipin swallowed, forced a laugh and said “Yeah wierd!”
Day 3, 7 p.m. Chandigarh, Chibber Residence
“Vipin, bete kahan ho?”
Vipin, deep in the movie Stigmata pressed the pause button and and came out. Jijaji and Beeji were having tea in the small lobby designed for close friends and relatives. He joined him and waited as the servant poured out the tea.
As soon as the servant left, he blurted out what Meenal had said, his conversation with Ramola and his strange feelings about the author of the book Alpana was reading.
AC quietly heard him out. It was far fetched. The link between the Noida murders and the attack on his wife was tenuous, but he was a man of action. He needed action. He knew his brother in law was not an imaginative fellow. When Vipin told him that the author was extremely secretive, he sprang into action. Picking up the phone, he rang up the SP, asking for the police reports of the Noida murders. He also called a servant to request Dr. Meenal to join them for tea.
Dr. Meenal was reluctant to give a straight reply and said firmly
“Mantriji, I met your wife once for about less than an hour. No psychiatrist will give you a diagnosis in such a short time. All I can say is that she appears to be normal, displays no symptom of anxiety, neurosis or any kind of mental imbalance. The marks on her feet can be allergic reaction or insect bite”
“You told Vipin they were …… kya kehte hain usko?”
“Stigmata’ said Vipin
Meenal replied “That was just a speculative remark. It was not a diagnosis. I request you to let me meet Madam in my professional capacity. Only then will I make a diagnosis”
“But you said” protested Vipin
“That was a reaction”, she said firmly, “not a diagnosis”.
Beeji was listening to all this with great interest. She still remembered the lovely 17 year old child woman her son had fallen in love with at a baraat. Amrit had not yet become a minister, and when they found out that she was an orphan, being brought up by relatives, Beeji had approached her relatives with a proposal. Relieved that the girl was being married so early, her relatives agreed. Alpana had placed just one demand, her brother, about ten years younger, would accompany her. The girl had brought her Amrit good fortune and now Amrit was a State Minister. She was concerned and made her decision.
“Puttar, I want to hold an akhand paath in the house, for Alpana’s welfare”
As you wish Beeji. Just do not get any one to do jhaar-phoonkh. Such things are not good.
Dr. Meenal nodded her head and said, “Prayer is good therapy” and finished her tea and excused herself. Beeji got up and left, murmuring something about organizing the akhand paath.
Faxes were brought in and Amrit started reading them. He flipped through a sheaf of papers and pushed them towards Vipin. They were pertaining to the Noida murders. Both the Joshis and Nagpal were fond of Shirish Desai’s novels.
Jijaji, I would like to know more about this Desai
So would I, beta, so would I, said AC
He called in his secretary and instructed him
Call the publisher of Shirish Desai’s novels and tell them we want to meet Mr. Desai. Treat this as urgent.
The SP rang up and invited himself over for dinner. It was not unusual, and SP Kaushik was a familiar face. Over drinks, Vipin expressed his interest in the Noida case.
Kyun bhai, doctary chodh kar police ka kaam karna hai? Said SP with a laugh.
Nahin sir, Dr. Meenal was wondering if we could meet that pagal man, you know. She is a practicing psychiatrist.
Taken by surprise, Meenal nearly spilled her drink and glared at Vipin. Recovering herself, she smiled and nodded, mumbling something about researching such cases for a medical paper.
The SP was flattered by the attention, smiled and said “Kyun nahin?, magar usko Nimhans le gaye hain. When you go to Delhi, just get the attending doctors to talk to me and it will be arranged.”