[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
[P.S. This is independent of the choice provided in Chapter Q, haven’t checked it out yet. Do it now.]
Gokul Das’s home was an unremarkable old 2 story house somewhere in the ancient busy street of Varanasi. The front facing wall of the house was about 8 feet high, covered in cracking yellow pain, molasses and some vines. The solitary barely blue painted 2 panel door right in center of the wall opened into a small patio. The patio itself was quite large, almost 12×12 feet, on one side (to the right of the door) was most of the house, on the opposite side was the bathroom and the cleaning area. The side opposite the door was closed off with another 8 foot high wall which it shared with another house. In fact Gokul Das’s home was surrounded by houses on all 3 sides except for the small street that led to it.
The main house was also painted in light shades of yellow and blue, though the wear and tear was evident here too. There were 3 separate rooms on the ground floor, on the far left were the stairs for the floor above. One of the rooms on the ground floor had been converted into a small office by Gokul Das. This is where Agasthya sat, waiting for Gokul Das as he finished his morning Pooja. Agasthya had arrived early morning to Varanasi. He had already booked an appointment with Gokul, stating that he had some important business. He didn’t want to cause any unwanted panic and maybe raise a flag for the murderer to notice.
Just by looking at Gokul’s house, this place felt more secure to Agasthya than the posh mansion and the luxury apartment in Delhi and Bangalore. Here anything untoward, and people will immediately spot it, everyone knew everyone so strangers stood out. A far cry from the posh mansion and the luxury apartment which Agasthya had witnessed in Delhi and Bangalore respectively. He remembered the last time he was in Varanasi, tracking down a drug trail that followed the religious trek from Varanasi to Haridwar and then right into China. He had more difficulty following ruffians through the throngs of sadhu here than he had tracking down sleeper agents in Delhi.
Gokul entered into the room, ringing a hand chime and spreading the smell of an incense stick around the room. He circled the room, mumbling and ringing the hand chime, finally stopping in front of an idol of Lord Krishna. He set the chime and incense stick down, prayed to the god one last time and turned his attention to Agasthya.
“My secretary tells me. You had important business with me.”, Gokul beamed back at Agasthya, as he sat down on his seat, laid back and joined the tip of his fingers in anticipation.
“Yes, Mr. Das. I do. The NIA have reasons to believe that your life is in danger. We need to move you to secure location. Right now.”
Gokul’s smile widened, “Mr. Agasthya. I work for the underprivileged. I stand up for the minority and I fight for the malnutrition. I get death threats everyday. In fact my secretary is strictly instructed to hold off death threat news to me. I find it a hazard of the occupation.”
“While I find your attitude commendable Mr. Das. I cannot stress enough how serious this situation is. While I do think this is because of the great work that you do. It’s not because of jealousy.”, Agasthya hated it when someone didn’t take him seriously. His next words came out with a bit of disdain, “We believe this is the work of a serial killer. We already have had 3 deaths, and as I said we have enough evidence to believe you are his next target.”
Gokul’s eyes hardened a bit, and his brows furrowed for a moment, He thought about it for a second and then spoke, “So what’s the plan then Agasthya. How much more protection do I need”
“You are to drop everything right now, and I will personally escort you to a secure location in Delhi. This murderer, is an exquisite planner. He studies the routine and the schedule of his victims very closely, and plans his kills accordingly. We need to break that chain, disrupt his plans, and make him come to us.”, Agasthya almost spoke as if he was thinking aloud, not so much a reply to Gokul, as a strategy for himself.
“Who put you up to this? How much are you offered so that you can keep me away from my rally today.”
Gokul might have expected an angry response, a rebuke, but Agasthya just smiled back. “Who put me up to this? the NIA. How much am I offered? About 60k per month give or take. And I am not here to keep you away from your rally, instead I am here to keep you away from a hospital.”, Agasthya spoke those lines with a cold steel resolve. One look and Gokul knew he meant business. “Mr. Gokul, you will come with me willfully, or I can and will arrest you. I am not the local police. I can keep you in custody for days before a judge can even ask me why.”
For a moment there was a stare down, but finally Gokul gave way, “Ok, have it your way. But before we go, can I hold a small press conference?”
“No. This is a covert operation Mr. Das. No one can know.”
“hmmm, when do we leave?”
“Right now. Except for your mobile. I don’t recommend that you carry anthing.”
“I don’t carry a mobile, I have outsourced that to my assistant.”, Gokul smiled, and this time Agasthya smiled back.”We will take my car, if you don’t mind, I know a shortcut through the BHU, it will save us time, and the guard recognizes the Jeep.”
Agasthya nodded. He had hired a taxi from the airport directly to Gokul’s place, bypassing the CBI route altogether. Gokul’s car was his only option, if he didn’t want to alert the local police. It took another half an hour before Gokul was ready to leave.
The two of them walked out of the house, as Gokul led him into an open space nearby, used by the residents of that street as a parking space and as a make shift cricket ground.
Gokul owned a Jeep Thar. A robustly built covertible, with banners of Gokul’s NGO ‘Children Without Light’ on the front and on the back. The 2 of them took their seats and were away in instant. After about an hour of meandering through the crowded streets of Varanasi, Gokul pulled into the private streets of Varanashi BHU. Gokul mentioned that he had been a student here, and his father a lecturer, which explained his affinity for the city and its people.
“You know Agasthya, I could have gone anywhere and done anything. I was the topper in my class.”, Gokul made small talk, and Agasthya nodded, as the car shifted into the second gear for the first time.”And yet when you live in Varanasi, the truth of life is just before your eyes. A trip to the Ganga banks and you would see everything that is beautiful about our culture. Multiple trips and you would start to see that is ugly.”
The car was picking up speed now, as the JEEP made its away along the ideallitic roads.”That’s when I decided to use my intellect to help them. Especially the children. Show them, teach them that all are born equal. Provide them opportunities that will put them on par with other more privileged children.”, Gokul paused for a bit as he cut a long banked cut. Agasthya on the other hand was enjoying the cool wind blowing across the campus, he could feel himself drifting.
“We don’t ask for reservation mind you. We don’t ask for seats in colleges and offices.What we ask for is very basic. Good schools, good teachers, and a goog environment that all we ask. So that these children on the banks of Ganga could compete with the ones on the banks of Thames.”, Gokul cut another corner, this time a little more sharply. The sudden jerk woke Agasthya up.
He noticed that the speed was on the higher side, especially when you were sitting on car without doors and a roof.
“Mind Slowing down Gokul?”, Agasthya spoke out calmly.
“Agasthya…”, Gokul sounded a little worried.
He could see Gokul pressing down on the brakes, and yet he could feel the car cruising along unperturbed. Agasthya cursed himself under his breath. He thought he was ahead, he had become complacent and now he was going to pay.
“Agasthya”, the panic in Gokul’s voice was evident now. “Its not stopping, the brakes have failed.”