Editor: Read Chapter XXV here.


Opesh’s wife was not pleased to see Ravi and she knew that Opesh would be even less pleased when he came home that night. Ravi was totally dishevelled and Holambe asked for some food to be served to him. His sister-in-law unhappily placed a plate of poha in front of Ravi, who gobbled it up. The small black and white television showed pictures of the bodies lying on the road in Kalina and the burnt cars. Ravi refused to look at the screen but was forced to hear the newsreader’s excited voice go on and on about the Kalina ambush.

‘Come, let’s go outside for a smoke.’ Holambe could see that whatever Ravi had to say couldn’t be spoken in front of his sister-in-law.

Outside the chawl, as Holambe puffed away on cheap bidis, Ravi narrated his tale. After a while, Holambe stopped smoking.

‘I can’t believe Comrade Avinash did all that!’ he exclaimed. ‘So, you were the men behind those blasts!’

Ravi was silent. ‘Well, he is dead and I don’t know what to do. I wished I had escaped earlier. He might be alive if I had done that.’

‘Where’s Swapna?’

‘I think she’s okay. So is Tarun. Most probably she will marry Tarun.’

‘Forget Swapna. You need to find out more about this Tarun. Where did he get his money from? What’s his motivation?’

‘His family money. He wants to make India a Marxist country,’ Ravi spoke with hesitation.

‘You idiot. You actually believed all that?’ Holambe was incredulous.

‘What else should I believe?’

‘Listen, you get some rest. Don’t go back to your chawl yet. Stay here for a while. You have your phone, don’t you?’

‘No, they took it away.’

‘What do you mean? You called me, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, but they took it back and when I called you, they listened in.’

‘Were you in jail?’ Holambe could not shake off the incredulousness.

‘No, it was for discipline. To make sure, we did not leak out anything.’

Holambe was silent for a bit. Then he slowly took a puff from his bidi and said, ‘Let me speak to a few friends in Gadchiroli and see what they have to say about this.’


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