The Scattered Rainbowby Vinta Nanda November 19 2020, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 25 mins, 15 secs
Darshan Mondkar has been a social and political commentator since 2010, writes Vinta Nanda in this piece compiled by her.
He has managed to rope in an audience with his command over current issues and his ability to portray them in a realistic, yet simplistic manner; from the harrowing by-lanes of rural India to the brightly lit super highways of the metros, “The Scattered Rainbow”, his latest book, takes the reader on a topsy-turvy ride on a roller coaster of human emotions.
This collection of short stories, based on realistic life events will keep the reader riveted through the tales of love, passion, envy, affection, revenge and outright grief. Whether it is the success of Madam Chairman who has taken her worries head on or the youthful life of Mia, who has run from all the strife she has faced - the stories cajole the reader at every point of time.
The Butcher’s daughter and the Non-Partisan judge keep you enthralled with their twists and turns. While The Dark Room and The Matchbox will wring your heart dry, Laila and The Pearly Laugh will leave a smile on your face. The characters of Durga and Valiathan try to show you the different ways of human reactions to not so mundane situations.
The stories range from light to cheerful to heavy shades of darkness, presenting life in a kaleidoscopic, keeping the reader engaged with twists to surprise at the end.
A self-made man, Darshan Mondkar lives in Mumbai with his wife and two sons balancing his time in pursuit of his writing and entrepreneurship at the same time. An engineer by qualification, his foray into writing has received several adulations from his regular readers. A master narrator, Darshan Mondkar has the ability to create fictional characters come to dance alive in reader's minds leaving an unforgettable imprint, which will remain forever.
He weaves stories, which evoke a myriad of human emotions to a height, be it the curious, the humorous, the poignant, the innocent or even the macabre with effortless ease. His simple yet compelling style has attracted people from all walks of life to wait for more from his popular characters and their everyday tales; tales which turn the political or social into personal.
This clamor for more has inspired him to create a space on a social digital platform bringing from the liberal intelligentsia to the rustic people of the world to freely discuss current political and pressing social affairs. His articles have been published in various websites of leading digital news magazines such as The Citizen, Nationalviews, TheNewsMinute, Huffintonpost, TheQuint, NationalHerald among others.
I’m privileged to know him and after reading a few stories from the current collection, I am compelled to reproduce one story from this riveting bundle for readers of The Daily Eye. There’s no question that after reading The Scattered Rainbow, OTT and streaming platforms will be chasing Darshan to buy the rights for it, because each piece is a screenplay in itself; i.e. if someone hasn’t bought them already.
But before I take you to his work, I must share the very short conversation that I had with Darshan after reading his stories.
There is a deep empathy and understanding in your work for women - where does it come from?
I have always rooted for the underprivileged and have spent time in understanding their plight. Women (in India, if not all across the world) form a large 50% size of the population, which has been traditionally most underprivileged and oppressed. Empathy for those who are at a disadvantage does not need to come from anywhere, it is within us, we just need to find it and bring it forward.
The characters in your story are diverse - what made you write these short stories set in so many different places that belong to so many different people who inhabit them?
These stories have been written over a period of many years. Every incident, every tragedy, every social injustice that happens gave birth to one of these stories. My passion has always been observing people and understanding their differences that make them so similar and yet so unique. I have tried to portray that in these stories.
So here below is one of my favorites for you to read, titled Sense of Justice:
The shrill ringing of the phone broke the eerie silence of the night in a house, which was used to reticence even during the peak hours of the day.
He jumped up in the bed staring at the dust-covered phone as if his home had been invaded by a foreign presence. Grumbling at the phone he looked at the watch kept on the bed-stand, its green dial staring back at him.
3:30 AM. Still a good 2 hours to go for his usual waking up time.
He looked at the phone again, wondering who was calling him in these ungodly hours of the night.
It was not as if he was not used to getting late night calls. In his 22 years of service as a Policeman, he had often had late night calls. But over the past many years the phone calls had trickled down and finally stopped similar to his chances of promotion.
He slowly got up from the bed and walked to the washroom, splashing some water on his face, still ignoring the incessant ringing of the phone. He wiped his face clean meticulously with a fresh white hand towel and looked at his face while tweaking his moustache almost out of habit, straightening it out on the edges.
Like his moustaches Nallamutthu Balamurugan Valiathan had spent most of his being a principled and upright cop. In a country, where being a Policeman automatically meant being corrupt, Valiathan had made a mark as an incorruptible Police Officer, whose only aim in life seemed to be putting criminals behind bars.
Even as a child he had a truthful no-nonsense air around him, which kept the other, mischievous kids his age away from him. If the kids were up to some childish prank or other, Valiathan was the first one to report it. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why he trudged through his entire life with almost no friends. People feared him, sought his help and support when they got in trouble, but they knew they could never be friends with him.
Valiathan had only one friend…. His sense of justice…
When Valiathan joined the Police Force in Delhi, no one was surprised. Though they expected him to “fall in line with the system” at some point of time, there were no eyebrows raised when Valiathan, in his first career case, put the son of a Member of Parliament behind the bars for drunk driving and hooliganism, refusing to let him out even when the calls of influence started coming.
His regular head on collisions with people in the top echelons of the Delhi power corridors ensured that he kept getting transferred from area to area, from case to case, from station to station, till he was finally settled in the Crime Branch Division looking into tricky homicide cases.
His superiors made sure that he never got any high profile cases, which might involve people with clout, but at the same time made good use of his intellectual faculties to solve crimes which seemed unsolvable to even the best investigators.
While Valiathan never got promoted beyond a Senior Police Inspector in 22 years, he managed to solve more murder cases than any other Cop, perhaps in the history of Delhi Police. If there was any case which seemed like it was going nowhere, Valiathan was assigned to it, and it would be solved in a matter of moments.
It was almost as if he had an instinct for sniffing out the criminals. All he had to do was the look at the crime scene and he could almost visualize the entire act-taking place in the front of his eyes.
Once, in a rare moment of boastfulness, Valiathan had said to his assistant constable, “My problem has never been finding out who the killer is. It’s always about finding the evidence strong enough to convict him”.
And that was quite true. In his time as a Crime Branch Officer, he had led his team to 52 arrests with a 98% conviction rate, something which was unheard of in any part of the country.
One couldn’t be too sure what motivated Valiathan to go after the criminals with such a vengeance, but his disdain for criminals was quite well known.
Once while interrogating a known criminal, the guy being held, had mocked Valiathan. When asked, where he was on the date of the murder, the suspect had looked boldly at Valiathan said he was “out banging your wife”.
Valiathan, a youngish station in-charge at that time, had flown into a wild rage and almost broke the nose of the suspect. It took three constables to hold back Valiathan and make sure he did not maul the suspect beyond recognition and one constable to calm him down by pointing out that he did not have a wife since he had never married.
Over the years, Valiathan had mellowed down, his temper had disappeared but his rancor for criminals remained intact. He started channeling his anger towards nailing the criminals by using legal means instead of breaking their noses during interrogation.
The suspects used to tremble before him though he seldom raised his voice, he could smell their crime from a distance and could make out if they were lying, a quality that he had possessed even as a child.
Infact, perhaps the only time this quality of his had failed him was when as a child he had stood behind the curtain watching his father denying the accusations of having an extra marital affair, which his mother was throwing at him. Valiathan had watched his father calmly shake his head even as his mother kept building up on the accusations. The young Valiathan was convinced that his mother’s suspicions were unfounded and only fueled by the next-door neighbors who had nothing better to do.
It was only after a year, when his father suddenly disappeared along with all the money in the bank account, which made him realize how wrong he was in his estimation. It was also then that he vowed to spend his entire life taking care of his broken down mother and never get into the complications of marriage. He had also vowed that someday he would find his father to teach him a lesson for his womanizing and moral turpitude, which had led to the complete destruction of his mother’s life.
Valiathan had dedicated his life to taking care of his mother, which he still did even at her feeble age of 92. His mother spent most of her time on the single cot laid out in the veranda of their home and Valiathan spent most of his free time sitting beside her, holding her hand, looking at her, as her eyes stared into the blank nothingness at a distance.
As a man close to his retirement now, Valiathan had kept all the promises, well almost all of them. He had never managed to find his father and pay him back for what he had done.
Valiathan walked out of the bathroom, carefully closing the door behind him, even as the phone continued to ring non-stop. He slowly picked up the phone and pressed it to his ear.
“Nallamutthu Balamurugan Valiathan speaking”, he said, in his crisp tone.
“Hold on for a moment, Sir, CP Sir would like to speak to you”, came the slightly scared voice from the other end.
Valiathan frowned. If the Commissioner of Police wanted to talk to him in the wee hours of the morning, it was not going to be something good. Infact, just the idea of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, being awake at this time in the night without being at some high flying party was a huge surprise.
The Commissioner or CP as everyone referred to him as, was a man who had risen through ranks hobnobbing with the power brokers of Delhi. “Give a Favor, Take a Favor”, was a motto the CP had followed to secure his position as the top cop of the state or perhaps the country.
This had obviously not put the CP in good books of Valiathan, but the feeling was mutual. The CP did not like Valiathan much either.
This was what made Valiathan wonder, why the CP was calling him all of a sudden. One would have expected that after Valiathan had made his intentions to retire known to everyone, a collective sigh was heaved by all his superiors and everyone would have let him go out in peace. After all, if they had suffered him for 22 years, what was another 2 months?
“Valiathan, listen up”, came the curt voice of the CP, “something has come up”
“Yes Sir”, said Valiathan, with just the right amount of respect in his voice, which he hoped would mask the irritation he felt at being woken up in the middle of the night.
“You need to get ready immediately and go to Vasant Kunj. You have to go to the house of Shri Gajraj Pashupati. You know where he lives right?” asked the CP, knowing the answer already.
Everyone knew where Gajraj Pashupati lived. He was one of the most prominent politicians who had strolled down the halls of the Parliament. A 4 time Member of Parliament, Gajraj Pashupati lived in one of the largest bungalows in Vasant Kunj, which was heavily guarded by both, Government and his own security. Over the years, Gajraj Pashupati had built his wealth and power by using every trick in the book and was as well feared as he was well known in Delhi.
At the age of 54, Gajraj Pashupati lived in his mansion with his wife. Since both his sons had gone abroad for higher education, it almost appeared as if there were more servants in his house than family.
If the hushed voices, in the influential late night parties of Delhi, were to be believed, Gajraj also had a mistress on the side, who he had put up in a farmhouse a few kilometers away from his house. Apparently Gajraj spent more time at the farmhouse than at his own home, something, which his wife seemed to be oblivious of, since she was not someone who would accept it lying down meekly.
Gajraj Pashupati was everything that repelled Valiathan. Ofcourse, he knew where Pashupati lived.
“Yes Sir, I know where Shri Pashupati lives”, said Valiathan trying to not spit out the ‘Shri’ vehemently.
“Good. So go to his house immediately, without wasting any more time. One of the personal assistants from the Chief Minister’s office is already there. Meet him and then report to me”, said the CP
This took Valiathan with a bit of a surprise - someone from the Chief Minister’s office? Now this had to be something serious.
“May I enquire what this is about, Sir?” asked Valiathan, his curiosity piqued.
“Gajraj Pashupati is dead”, said the CP in a matter of fact manner, forgetting to add the Shri, in his excitement.
“Dead, Sir?” said Valiathan, trying to control his voice and keeping the tone even.
“Yes, apparently his wife found his dead body lying in the study room of his house on the first floor. He was lying beside the bookcase with blood flowing through his head. She called up the Chief Minister, who called me up and asked me to discreetly investigate this matter and close it as quickly as possible. She said it looked like an accident. He had supposedly stumbled and hit his head on the marble mantel and died due to the wound”, replied the CP.
“So why me, Sir? You know I am about to retire. Couldn’t someone else handle it - especially if it is an accident? You know, I don’t handle accidents”, retorted Valiathan, knowing there was more to this than what the CP was telling him.
“Because I don’t think this was an accident. I think it was a murder. A few days back Pashupati’s wife came to know about his mistress and they were having regular fights because of that. I have a feeling that they had another confrontation, which led to the wife killing him. Yes, I am pretty sure it was a murder and I want you, Nallamutthu Valiathan to nail her for murder and put her behind bars”, said the CP with a deep bitterness in his voice.
The CP had spoken almost as if he wished it to be a murder. His anger at Pashupati’s wife was well known to everyone. Rumor had it that a few years back when he was still an Assistant Commissioner of Police, in a party at Gajraj Pashupati’s house, he had gotten a bit too drunk and misbehaved with the lady of the house herself. She on the other hand, in her perfect senses, had slapped the man so hard that the entire party had come to a standstill to look at where the sound had come from.
The lady had then gone one step further and dragged the man, by his sleeve, straight out of the house.
The only reason he had not lost his job immediately was because he was busy suppressing a major land misappropriation for Gajraj Pashupati. But he did have to go and profusely apologize for his behavior to the lady, the next day, who listened to his apology with a look of disgust on her face and walked off without a word when he was finished.
Though all was forgiven over the years to come, the CP never forgot the incident and he always remembered the stinging slap, late in the nights when he was busy brooding over a bottle of scotch all by himself.
“Sir, you do realize that I will be doing a fair investigation and be submitting a correct report. So if it was a murder, I would call it a murder and if it was an accident, I would call it an accident”, said Valiathan in a firm voice.
“Yes, Yes, I understand that”, replied the CP, “now get going there and do your fair investigation”
It did not take much time for Valiathan to get ready. His clothes were already kept ready on the side of the bed, as always, neatly pressed from the night before. He buckled up his belt and holster securing the gun inside it, which he always kept unloaded.
He walked out of the house, stopping at the door to look at his mother sleeping peacefully on the cot in the veranda, her eyes open, looking at a distance in a blank stare.
Stooping down he kissed his mother on her forehead. This was something he did everyday while leaving the house. A gentle kiss on his mother’s forehead. It was an assurance to her that he was there for her, that he would be back in the evening to take care of her and that he still remembered the promises he had made to himself and that he was going out of the house only to fulfill those promises.
He never kissed her when he returned home, a sign that one of the promises still remained unfulfilled.
Valiathan glanced back at his mother and her blank stare, as he got in his police issue jeep and drove off towards Vasant Kunj.
When Valiathan walked into the study room of Pashupati Mansion at Vasant Kunj, it took him a moment to look around, take in everything and get the whole picture.
Only three people occupied the room, as Valiathan strode in. Valiathan nodded at the young man standing by the closed glass window looking outside with all the pretensions and airs of being someone from the Chief Minister’s office. The second occupant of the room was a lady sitting on the edge of a comfortable leather chair with tears running down her cheeks as she kept clasping and unclasping her hands. The third occupant of the room was dead.
The lifeless body of Gajraj Pashupati lay on the fully carpeted floor of the study, a huge dark stain near his head, the rug having soaked up most of the blood giving it almost a black color.
The wall behind, where the body lay, had a rather large marble mantelshelf which protruded around half a feet outwards. A small area on the rounded edge of the mantelshelf had an obvious blood mark on it, apparently where Gajraj had hit his head before he fell to the ground.
Ignoring the two other occupants of the room, Valiathan made his way to the dead body lying on the floor. He squatted down near the body carefully reviewing the way the body had fallen on the floor. He kept looking back at the mantel shelf where the bloodstain was, trying to put together a picture of how the death might have happened.
The young man at the window had now turned to look at Valiathan and was about to say something when Valiathan held up his hand firmly in his direction, shushing him even before he had said a word.
Valiathan took out a pen from his pocket and slowly raised the head of the dead politician’s body, peering between the rug and the head to look at the deep gash at the bottom of the skull. He continued to stare at the wound on the head and the mantelshelf before he nodded and stood up.
Valiathan slowly walked to the white marble mantelshelf admiring the lines of trophies and collectibles placed precariously on it. A golf trophy, a tennis trophy, an Eiffel tower, a statue of liberty, it was almost as if the Pashupati family had travelled to every part of the world and had won accolades in all those places too.
Valiathan ran his finger around the mantelshelf, looked at it and then took a crisp white handkerchief from his pocket and cleaned the dust off his finger.
In an area like Vasant Kunj, Delhi, dust was a major problem, keeping the windows open for a few hours and one would have to spend the entire day cleaning up the house.
But of course, rich people had maids to clean their houses for them. Valiathan smirked at the thought inwardly as he toyed absentmindedly at the statue of liberty in his hand, which had picked up next. He looked at the statue with a bemused expression, almost wondering how it had magically jumped into his hand as he placed it back gingerly on the mantelshelf in its rightful position, just above the blood stained corner.
The young man who had now moved from besides the window and slowly edged his way closer to Valiathan, and cleared his throat.
“I am from the Chief Minister’s office”, said the young man.
“I know”, came the curt response from Valiathan.
“I am expected to give a report to the CM as soon as possible. So if you can give us an idea of what I have to tell him…” trailed off the young man even as Valiathan gave him a nod, moving away from him towards the lady sitting on the leather chair.
The lady looked up at Valiathan, her cheeks stained with tears, as he stooped down to squat in the front of her.
“I am sorry for your loss”, said Valiathan watching her clasp and unclasp her hands in grief.
She nodded as a fresh batch of tears oozed down her cheeks.
“But I have to ask you a few quick questions. As you know your husband was a very important man and we have instructions right from the top to close the case in the most discrete and quick manner”, Valiathan continued ignoring her tears.
The wife stifled a sob, not bothering to wipe her tears as she nodded slightly.
“Your husband … what time did you find him here”, asked Valiathan
“At around 2:30 am. Our bedroom is right below the study and I heard a loud thud. I came up to check here and saw him lying on the floor as he is right now”, she said hesitantly.
“Could someone else have heard the noise”, pursued Valiathan, not wanting to sound in a hurry.
“No. We had the house pretty much to ourselves since the time our kids have left the country. The security guards are usually outside the house”, she replied.
“What about the maids?” enquired Valiathan
“They don’t come before 5:30 in the morning”, she replied in the same hesitant voice.
Valiathan smiled at the lady, nodding his head towards her in a sign of comfort, as he rose to his feet, beckoning the young man towards the door.
“So, what do you think? What do I report back to the Chief Minister?” asked the young man.
Valiathan smiled as he took his phone out of his pocket and dialed the Commissioner’s private number.
The call was answered almost immediately.
“Yes. Valiathan, tell me… It was a murder right?” exclaimed the almost excited CP, who seemed quite surprised at what the answer would be.
“It was an accident, Sir. The man lost his balance and hit his head on the mantelshelf. The wife was sleeping, heard the thud and found his dead body. There are no contradictory reports available to disprove the wife’s word. The blood mark on the mantelshelf denotes the exact place where Gajraj Pashupati hit his head. The wound on the back of his head is deep enough to have caused an instantaneous death. So, I would safely conclude that it was an accident. Nothing more to it”, reported Valiathan in his usual calm voice, even as the wife and the young man stared at him taking in his every word.
“Are you sure? Valiathan are you 100% sure?” came the crackling voice of the CP over the phone.
“Dead Sure, Sir. I will submit my official report by the evening”, said Valiathan as he disconnected the phone.
Valiathan paused to take one last look at the dead body of Gajraj Pashupati, as the young man took off to file his own report to the Chief Minister.
Valiathan turned towards the wife and smiled at her.
“One last question, if you don’t mind Ma’am?” he asked with a crooked smile on his face.
“Yes, please ask”, said the wife in a rather demure tone.
“How often does your maid clean the study?” he asked
“Daily… why do you ask?” retorted the wife, her voice having a sudden tremble in it.
“If you don’t mind, please ask her to do a better job with it. It appears as if she likes the Statue of Liberty more than all the other collectibles”, he said waving his hand towards the mantelpiece.
“I…I don’t think I understand you”, said the wife, her eyes opening slightly wider than usual.
“The Statue of Liberty didn’t have a single speck of dirt on it even though all other collectibles had a small layer building up on it”, smiled Valiathan as he started walking out of the room, leaving behind the lady as the sole living occupant of that room with a surprised look on her face.
Valiathan dutifully reported to the office and sat at his desk, the rest of the day, where he wrote a rather elaborate report on the accidental death of Shri Gajraj Pashupati. He then submitted the report to the CP’s office and spent his time reading the various news articles reporting the death based on his report for the rest of the day. His name was never mentioned in any of the news shows.
Towards late morning he watched various gossip news reports which accused Gajraj Pashupati as a womanizer who had numerous affairs outside his marriage with an occasional cut scene of his wife weeping profusely at his funeral gathering.
In the late afternoon he watched a heated debate on whether the death was an accident or a murder, with the news reporter going on to give a minute by minute visual depiction of how “it might have happened” in either case scenarios.
By evening, the news reporters were already outside Gajraj Pashupati’s farmhouse trying to interview his mistress, with the security guards outside trying to valiantly protect her identity, as Valiathan packed up his desk and drove back home.
He got out of his police issue jeep and walked over to the veranda, starting to go inside the house, when he stopped and walked back to where his mother lay, her eyes still open, staring into a far off distance.
Nallamutthu Balamurugan Valiathan bent down and gently kissed his mother on her forehead, something that he had never done before, almost as if, in some way, by some weird logic, he had fulfilled his promise to her.
Supported by: Suhail Mathur and The Book Bakers
Publishers: Locksley Hall Publishing
Those who haven’t picked up the paperback copy can grab the Kindle version from here:
Those from outside India can access the Kindle version here: