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"The other prisoner in Ramanath's cell was Haripada Rakshit. Haripada was a hardened criminal; he had become used to a convict's life from an early age. People who deal with prisoners are aware of the fact that there is one class of prisoners who create a pouch in their throats. This may sound incredible, but it is true. Many criminals are addicted to drugs and they need money to bribe the jail staff to get drugs from outside for them. But, since they are not allowed to carry money in jail, they have devised this method to hide the money.
"Haripada had also created a pouch in his throat. When Ramanath was lodged in the same cell, the two developed a friendship. Ramanath soon learnt about the pouch in Haripada's throat. One day, the police suddenly arrived at the jail. There was no place to hide the sapphire. Ramanath gave the sapphire to Haripada and requested him to hide it in his throat pouch. Ramanath had shown the sapphire to Haripada earlier and Haripada coveted it. Haripada swallowed the sapphire and it slid into the pouch. It is no surprise then that the police find nothing in the cell.
"The very next day, Haripada was transferred to a different jail; this is mentioned in the jail records. This was convenient for Haripada; he betrayed Ramanath and did not return the sapphire before leaving. Ramanath could say nothing before the jail authorities and he suffered the betrayal in silence. But it is probably from that moment that he began planning for revenge."
During the course of Byomkesh's narration, I glanced at Ramanath and although there was no noticeable change in his expression, I saw that the veins in his neck were throbbing and his eyes had become bloodshot.
Byomkesh continued with his narration. "Ten years passed and Haripada was released from jail six months ago. Immediately upon his release, Haripada approached Singh. He wanted to get acquainted with Singh and return the sapphire to him; not for free, but after claiming the reward money of Rs 2,000. He would have been caught immediately if he had he tried to sell the sapphire elsewhere. Therefore, he did not attempt to do that.
"But from the very beginning, Singh was so kind to him that Haripada felt ashamed of himself. He did bring up the matter of the sapphire with Singh once, but his conscience did not allow him to extract money from Singh in exchange for the sapphire. It is no mean thing that Singh's altruism should cause the heart of even a hardened criminal like Haripada to be filled with gratitude."
"However, Haripada's days were drawing to an end. Ten days ago Ramanath came out of jail. He was not aware of Haripada's whereabouts. It was by chance that he saw Haripada in Singh's house. On seeing Ramanath, Haripada fell ill. There were no other reasons why he should take ill so abruptly.
"The desire for revenge, which Ramanath had been nursing for ten years, intensified beyond endurance at the sight of Haripada. Ramanath easily discovered Haripada's address and the same night..."
Byomkesh had till then been facing the others while speaking, but now he abruptly turned towards Ramanath. Ramanath looked back at him unblinkingly like a snake under a spell. Lowering his voice slightly and pointing his finger accusingly at Ramanath, Byomkesh said, "Ramanath, that night you slit open Haripada's throat and removed the sapphire. Where is it?"
Ramanath could not look away from Byomkesh. He ran his tongue over his dried lips, tried to rise from the chair, and then as if to free himself from Byomkesh's hypnotic spell, cried out in a hoarse voice, "I don't know - I have not killed Haripada - I do not know who is Haripada - the sapphire is not with me."
Byomkesh's finger was still pointed at Ramanath. The rest of us remained seated in silence as if watching a play in which two powerful forces were engaged in a battle unto death, and we were curious to know who would win.
When Byomkesh next spoke his voice had a strange tenor to it. He slightly pressed himself forward towards Ramanath and continued in the same low voice, "Ramanath, you don't realize how cursed that sapphire is; so, you cannot overcome your desire to possess it. Just think this over - till the time you had not stolen the sapphire, no one could capture you. As soon as you stole the sapphire, you went to jail. Then, think of what happened to Haripada. He had kept the sapphire hidden in his throat and no one knows better than you as to what happened to his throat. For your own good, you must return the sapphire. It is not a sapphire; it is the poison of a deadly cobra. If you wear the sapphire on your hands, you will find yourself handcuffed; if you wear it around your neck, the sapphire will turn into a noose."
Ramanath let out a howl and rose from his chair. We had not realized the violent emotions that were tormenting him. He looked around like a madman and, then, tore off a button from his coat and threw it away while exclaiming, "I don't want - I don't want! Take the sapphire and save me!" He flopped down unconscious.
Byomkesh wiped the sweat from his brow. I saw that his hands were shaking uncontrollably; he had won the battle, but it had taken a mental toll. The leather button had rolled to a corner of the room. Byomkesh picked it up and peeling off the leather covering, he said to Singh, "Here is your blood-red-streaked sapphire."
Some useful links for
- 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