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I have rummaged through the papers on his desk in his absence. Other than a notebook with poems written in it, college lecture notes, and a few letters from home, I could find nothing else. The letters contained requests from his parents and relatives to return home. He had ignored these requests which proved he had some pressing reason for staying back. If that reason had been a legitimate one, he would have disclosed it to me during our conversations by now. However his suspicious behavior was ample proof that the reason was anything but legitimate. This boy was a part of the underworld which kept the ordinary people at unease. He was no common college student; he was masquerading as a harmless college student. I respected him for his artistry.

Finally, I had to physically introduce a woman. Harimati, my colleague in the police department, arrived to assist me. I told Manmoth that it was Harimati whom I loved. While making sure that Manmoth was nearby, I even recited a few poems to Harimati and she, making certain that the youth was within earshot, made it known she had lost her heart to Manmoth. But this did not yield the desired result; Manmoth began observing our activities out of curiosity.

One day, I found torn pieces of a letter strewn in his room. After strenuous efforts, I was able to correctly join together a few pieces and deciphered an incomplete sentence "today evening at 7pm at your lodge in strict confidence". I was unable to find anything more.

I was thrilled. It was like the thrill which a paleontologist experiences upon digging up a fossil. I knew that Harimati would be arriving at our place at 10pm. This boy was really intelligent! He had chosen the day carefully; it is better to plan a crime when there is some event happening in the house - everyone's attention is riveted to the chief event and no one bothers about anything else.

A doubt crept into my mind; I began to suspect that Manmoth was using this newly-developed friendship with me and my pretence of love with Harimati to aid him in attaining his own object. It was a good idea to lead everybody to think he was involved with me and Harimati while pursuing his own dark object secretly.

Just ponder over these facts: A student prefers to stay back in a lodge during the vacations ignoring requests from his relatives to come home. There cannot be an iota of doubt that he had stayed back out of some necessity. I had invaded his privacy by taking up lodging at the same place, and even introduced a female. Yet, he had shown no bitterness; he had not abandoned the lodge; he did not avoid us. However, I have noticed on several occasions when he allowed his alertness to relax, that he actually loathed me and Harimati. This could mean only one thing: he was using his friendship as a veil.

When I met Manmoth that day I offered to treat him to dinner. "Let's have our meals in a restaurant at 7pm today," I told him. He was taken aback but quickly recovered his composure. "No brother, I am in bad shape today with an upset stomach," he said. I had never before seen Manmoth refusing an offer to dine in a hotel.

I wasn't expected to remain in the lodge that evening. But I deliberately engaged Manmoth in a conversation, and did not show any inclination to go out. I noticed that Manmoth was becoming very uneasy in the mind. He agreed to everything I said, and did not enter into any argument. Finally, looking at his watch in desperation, he stood up and said, "Aren't you going to pick up Harimati today?" I feigned surprise, "Oh! I had completely forgotten. Brother, please prepare the meals, I will return with Harimati around 10.30pm." So saying, I left.

I was rather pleased with myself. I was excited beyond words, and this excitement was no less than what Manmoth was experiencing while awaiting the hour of 7pm. I removed myself to a safe distance from the lodge and remaining well hidden, stood on vigil. When the evening grew dark and the street lamps were lit, I saw a palanquin, balanced on the shoulders of bearers, drawing up to the lodge.

I did not dally. Taking slow and easy steps, I climbed the stairs to the first floor. At first I had planned to remain concealed and observe and hear secretly. But I could not put that plan into action because Manmoth was sitting with his face towards the stairs, and a woman was sitting facing him and talking in a soft voice. When I realized that Manmoth had already seen me, I entered the room as if in a hurry and said, "Brother, I had forgotten to take my watch. I have come back for it."

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu