Tenali Raman Turns To Sleuthing (A Story For Children)

Part 1

It was another day in the royal court of Krishna Deva Raya.

And a ‘knotty’ case had come up.

It was between a much-harried diminutive woman and a confident statuesque looking dame towering over the former by a foot and a half at least.

A gist of what the court heard:

The woman’s complaint: When her husband was alive and his business thriving, a couple of years ago, he had bought from the defendant this house in the middle of a sparsely inhabited neighborhood  quite away from the town for them to spend some days in peace removed from the daily hustle and bustle.  Which they did though not as often as they wished, after carrying out some adaptations and changes for their convenience.  

After her husband’s untimely demise, she sold off her house in the town where they lived to settle her husband’s business debts and had gone off on a pilgrimage to the north importantly to immerse his ashes in the river Ganga at Gaya followed by visits to various holy places like Badrinath, Hardwar, Rishikesh…And when she returned some nine months later – no motorized rapid transport in those days – she found this house occupied by the defendant claiming it to be hers. She was turned back at the gate itself, rendering her homeless.   

The defendant asserted that indeed was the fact and the woman was needlessly harassing her. She had always stayed in the house, it was always hers.

Those were the days when registration of property transactions was not rigorously followed. So no records could be adduced by either party to support its claim.

As things stood, it meant some detailed field investigation. The officers of the court looked at each other until one of them spoke up:

‘Your Highness, this is just the kind of matter our Raman is best suited for its resolution. My suggestion is… (mumbling inaudibly) It’s time he goes out under the sun and sweats a bit.’

Raya looked at Raman.

Usually a practitioner of his ready wit, Raman had no choice but to accept the investigative assignment.

Part 2

Next day, a none-too-eager Raman rode to the distant part of the town where the house stood.

There were a few small houses in the vicinity, none close by, where he made discreet inquiries. There seemed hardly any interaction with the big house and its occupants. Though, they confirmed seeing the dame on occasions going in or coming out.  Strike one for the diminutive woman.

He then decided to enter the disputed house to see things for himself, accompanied by the plaintiff. The dame had no objection to their visit.

On the inside the house was a compact single stored structure, everything looking like new. As the dame showed them around, the plaintiff followed like she was in a daze – there was not one piece in the house she could positively identify as hers. Even on the outside no flowering plants she claimed to have planted were to be found. Strike two for the plaintiff.

The tour of the house concluded, the host seated them and went in to bring some buttermilk for them.

Shortly afterwards Raman thanked the host for her cooperation and got up to leave, when the woman suddenly got up, coming to life: ‘Sir, there’s a niche we had not seen. It’s mine…I would like to…if you don’t mind.’ Were her eyes tearing up?

The host obligingly took them to the part of the house where the niche was. Yes, they had missed it on their earlier tour. It was a low-ceilinged ‘secret tunnel’ running behind and parallel to the wall on the far side of the kitchen for a third of its length with an opening for air and light – just big enough for a person and a half to pass. Its no-door entrance placed at the near-corner was cleverly concealed by a piece of ornamental tapestry – easily missed in a first glance unless one went looking for it. Set apart for a good reason, it was a place for a woman to dress and to keep her knick-knacks.

Now it was mostly empty but for a few discarded clothes in a small pile at the deep end. The plaintiff went in first, chin up, coming out dejected after a while unable to find anything in there she could recognize. Strike three for the plaintiff.

Ouch! Raman went in next and received a painful knock on his head from the low ceiling. Bowing down a little, he diligently took in the contents of the narrow ‘tunnel’.  On his way out, suddenly before him he caught the sight of a woman’s red garment flowing from waist down to silver anklets adorning a pair of legs. Startled for a moment, he realized he was seeing on a mirror on the wall before him, the host standing in the kitchen. A gentleman he was, Raman blushed and quickly looked away.

It was a pensive Raman returning to the kitchen, proceeding to look again at things in the house.  

Announcing his task was finished and instructing both the women to appear before the royal court on the following day, he thanked and took leave of the host, dropped the homeless woman at a dharamshala and went home.  

Part 3

At about noon on the flowing day, the matter came up before the royal court in the presence of both the plaintiff and the defendant.

Raya set the ball rolling:

‘Rama, have you been able to ascertain the truth and come to a conclusion?’

‘Your Highness, I’ve.’

‘Then let’s hear of it.’

Appraising the court of the happenings and findings of the day before,

‘In conclusion, the plaintiff herself would agree with me, there was nothing evident to show she ever occupied the house.’

For a brief moment the plaintiff received from the court glances filled with sympathy and derision in an equal split.

Raman continued: ‘On occasions, the neighbors had seen the defendant go in and come out of the house, never the plaintiff. There were no articles inside the house recognized by the plaintiff as hers. In face of these facts, if we still have to believe the plaintiff, the defendant must have completely refurnished the fixtures and furniture in the house leaving nothing behind as a link to the plaintiff…’

‘Which I believe the defendant had done…’

There was a furore in the court.

‘That’s not right,’ screamed the defendant.

 The court was called to order for Raman to continue.

‘There were two lapses she had committed…one was a careless omission and another…she didn’t think of its significance.’

Raman went on to explain how she had somehow overlooked fitting or replacing the one piece that proved to be her undoing – the mirror in the ‘tunnel’ was left in its original low mounting to suit the diminutive plaintiff. He recalled how it showed only a waist-down image of the host standing behind him which had triggered his thinking. Everywhere else the fittings and fixtures and shelves in the kitchen were shifted up and placed at a height suited for the statuesque defendant. 

Yes, there was something else too, Raman recalled…the low ceiling of the ‘tunnel’ brought home by the painful knock on his head. Its import had not occurred to the defendant and hence on occupation did not trouble herself altering it in any manner – the ‘tunnel’ was a space added after purchase by the plaintiff’s late husband for his diminutive wife’s exclusive use!

‘If we hold the defendant in custody and interrogate her more thoroughly, I’m sure, she would…’

Tenali Raman took a bow and sat down, his stature in the court further enhanced. Moments later the court broke into a resounding cheer, his detractors reluctantly joining in.

End

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Life In Mumbai

Source: Usha Narayanan

Don’t I know it! Could well have been me.

(9.50 mins) in Marathi with subtitles in English

Sums it up quite well, doesn’t it?

By the way, you noticed, it wasn’t just him?

End

Paroksh (Not Manifest) – A Short Film

This short film (12.2 mins) in Tulu with subtitles in English is based on a true incident that took place in the family of one Govinda, in Vandse village in Kundapura taluk of Udupi district, Karnataka.

What would you do if one fine day you start hearing piercing shrills of a baby around you at weird hours?

When search operations, temple offerings, and even occult rituals fail to resolve this impossible mystery, this epic thriller of a short film will leave you in splits.

Interestingly, three years ago, a similar story based on the same incident, treated a little differently, appeared in this blog here.

End

Source: From an article by Lakshmi Priya

Stories In Stone!

An artist playing percussion (look at his face, eyes and cap)!

A Fibonacci spiral?

An elephant on rampage!

A celestial minstrel (wears a crown):

Like many other figures, anklet on only one leg!

Can’t make out what is the unusual piece around his cheeks and chin – does not appear to be a beard.

A female minstrel:

A vaanaram (monkey), tail up (an aggressive posture?), bending at knees, carrying aloft a heavy boulder? Or it is Hanuman with his tail on fire all set to torch Lanka? (the tail gets thicker with wads of combustible cloth towards the tip?)

Is this the maya maan, the magical deer, coveted by Sita?

On some, even a paunch can look good!

A picture of devotion:

Florals good for contemporary apparel design!

Mythical yaali?
Mythical yaali

Krishna and gopi’s on the left. Adjacent is a kama-sutra panel. Surely these panels are bunched together for a good reason – wonder why!

End

The Right Kind of House

When did you read last a O. Henry kind of short story?

Going one better, here’s the one that I stumbled upon, a sheer delight if you’re into the genre.

Chancing upon a post by Sujatha Desikan a reference therein (provided by the renowned Tamizh writer Sujatha) set me up on a search.

So here it is for your reading pleasure, a story by Henry Slezar:

***

The automobile that stopped in front of Aaron Hacker’s real-estate office had a New York license plate. Aaron didn’t need to see the license plate to know that its owner was new to the elm-shaded town of Ivy Corners. The car was a red convertible. There was nothing else like it in town.

The man got out of the car and headed straight for the door.

“It seems to be a customer,” said Mr. Hacker to the young lady at the other desk “Let’s look busy.”

It was a customer, all right. The man had a folded newspaper in his right hand. He was a bit on the heavy side and wore a light gray suit. He was about fifty with dark, curly hair. The skin of his face was flushed and hot, but his narrow eyes were frosty clear.

He came through the doorway and nodded at Aaron. “Are you Mr. Hacker?”

“Yes sir,” Aaron smiled. “What can I do for you?”

The man waved the newspaper. “I saw the name of your agency in the real-estate section of the newspaper.”

“Yep, I take an ad every week. Lots of city people are interested in a town like ours, Mr …“

“Waterbury,” the man said. He pulled a white handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his face. “Hot today.”

“Unusually hot,” Aaron answered. “Doesn’t often get so hot in our town. We’re near the lake, you know. Well, won’t you sit down, Mr. Waterbury?”

“Thank you.” The man took a chair, and sighed. “I’ve been driving around. Thought I’d look the town over before I came here. Very nice little place.”

“Yes, we like it,” said Aaron.

“Now I really don’t have much time, Mr. Hacker. Suppose we get right down to business.”

“Suits me, Mr. Waterbury. Well, then, was there any place in particular you were interested in?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. I saw a house at the edge of town, across the way from an old deserted building.”

“Was it an old yellow house with pillars?” asked Aaron.

“Yes. That’s the place. I thought I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign, but I wasn’t sure. Do you have that house listed?”

Aaron chuckled softly. “Yep, we got it listed all right.” He flipped through a looseleaf book, and pointed to a typewritten sheet. “But you won’t be interested for long.”

 “Why not?” Aaron turned the book around.

“Read it for yourself.”

AUTHENTIC COLONIAL: Eight rooms two baths, large porches, trees and shrubbery. Near shopping and schools. $75,000.

“Still interested?’

The man stirred uncomfortably. “Why not? Something wrong with it?”

“Well.” Aaron scratched his temple. “If you really like this town, Mr. Waterbury…I mean if you really want to settle here, I have any number of places that’d suit you better.”

“Now just a minute!” The man looked indignant. “I’m asking you about this colonial house. You want to sell it or not?”

“Do I?” Aaron chuckled. “Mister, I’ve had that property on my hands for five years. There’s no house I’d rather collect a commission on. Only my luck ain’t that good.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you won’t buy. That’s what I mean. I keep the listing on my books just for the sake of old Sadie Grimes. Otherwise, I wouldn’t waste the space. Believe me.”

“I don’t get you.”

“Then let me explain. Mrs. Grimes put her place up for sale five years ago, when her son died. She gave me the job of selling it. I didn’t want the job – no sir! I told her that to her face. I mean the old place ain’t even worth $10,000!”

“The man swallowed. “Ten? And she wants $75,000?”

“That’s right. It’s a real old house. I mean old. Some of the beams will be going in the next couple of years. Basement’s full of water half the time. Upper floors lean to the right about nine inches. And the grounds are a mess.”

“Then why does she ask so much?”

Aaron shrugged. “Don’t ask me. Sentiment, maybe. The house has been in her family since the Revolution. Something like that.”

The man looked at the floor. “That’s too bad,” he said. “Too bad!” He looked up at Aaron and smiled sheepishly. “ I kinda like the place. It was – I don’t know how to explain it – the right kind of house.”

“I know what you mean. It’s a friendly, old place. A good buy at $10,000. But $75,000?” He laughed. “I think I know Sadie’s reasoning, though. You see, she doesn’t have much money. Her son was supporting her, doing well in the city. Then he dies, and she knew that it was sensible to sell. But she couldn’t bring herself to part with the old place. So she set a price tag so high that nobody would buy it. That eased her conscience.” Mr. Hacker shook his head sadly. It’s a strange world, ain’t it?”

“Yes,” Waterbury said thoughtfully. Then he stood up. “Tell you what, Mr. Hacker. Suppose I drive out to see Mrs. Grimes. Suppose I talk to her about it, get her to change her price.”

“You’re fooling yourself, Mr. Waterbury. I’ve been trying for five years.”

“Who knows? Maybe if somebody else tried…“

Aaron Hacker shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows, is right. It’s a strange world, Mr. Waterbury. If you’re willing to go to the trouble, I’ll be only too happy to lend a hand.”

“Good. Then I’ll leave now…”

“Fine! You just let me ring Sadie Grimes. I’ll tell her you’re on your way.”

“Waterbury drove slowly through the quiet streets. The trees that lined the avenues cast peaceful shadows on the hood of the car.

He reached the home of Sadie Grimes without once passing another moving vehicle. He parked his car beside the rotted picket fence that faced the house.

The lawn was a jungle of weeds and crabgrass, and the columns that rose from the front porch were covered with flaking paint.

There was a hand knocker on the door. He banged it twice. The woman who came to the door was short and plump. Her hair was white and her face was lined. She wore a heavy wool sweater, despite the heat.

“You must be Mr. Waterbury,” she said. “Aaron Hacker said you were coming.”

“Yes,” the man smiled. How do you do, Mrs. Grimes?” “It’s awfully hot out here.” He chuckled.

“Hm. Well, come in then. I’ve put some lemonade in the ice-box. Only don’t expect me to bargain with you, Mr. Waterbury. I’m not that kind of person.

“Of course not.” The man said, and followed her inside.

They entered a square parlor with heavy furniture. The only color in the room was in the faded hues of the worn rug in the center of the floor. The old woman headed straight for a rocker, and sat motionless, her wrinkled hands folded sternly.

“Well?” she said. “If you have anything to say, Mr. Waterbury, I suggest you say it.”

The man cleared his throat. “Mrs. Grimes, I’ve just spoken with your real-estate agent…“

“I know all that,” she snapped. “Aaron’s a fool. All the more for letting you come here with the notion of changing my mind. I’m too old for changing my mind, Mr. Waterbury.”

“Er…well, I don’t know if that was my intention, Mrs. Grimes. I thought we’d just talk a little.”

She leaned back and the rocker squeaked. “Talk’s free. Say what you like.”

“Yes.” He mopped his face again, and shoved the handkerchief back into his pocket. “Well, let me put it this way, Mrs. Grimes. I’m a business man – a bachelor – never married, I live alone. I’ve worked for a long time, and I’ve made a fair amount of money. Now, I’m ready to retire – to somewhere quiet. I like Ivy Corners. I passed through here some years ago on my way to – Albany. I thought one day I might like to settle here. ”

“So?”

“So, when I drove through your town today, and saw this house, it just seemed – right for me.”

“I like it too, Mr. Waterbury. That’s why I’m asking a fair price for it.” Waterbury blinked.

“Fair price? You’ll have to admit, Mrs. Grimes, these days a house like this shouldn’t cost more than…“

“That’s enough!” the woman cried. “I told you, Mr. Waterbury, I don’t want to sit here all day and argue with you. If you won’t pay my price, then we can forget all about it.”

“But, Mrs. Grimes…“

“Good day, Mr. Waterbury!” She stood up, indicating that he should leave.

But he didn’t. “Wait a minute, Mrs. Grimes,” he said. Just a moment. I know it’s crazy, but…all right. I’ll pay what you want.”

She looked at him for a long moment. “Are you sure, Mr. Waterbury?”

“Positive! I’ve enough money. If that’s the only way you’ll have it, that’s the way it’ll be.”

“She smiled. “I think that lemonade’ll be cold enough. I’ll bring you some – and then I’ll tell you something about this house.”

He was mopping his brow when she returned with the tray. He gulped at the frosty yellow beverage greedily.

“This house,” she said, easing back into her rocker, “Has been in my family since 1802. It was built fifteen years before that. Every member of the family, except my son, Michael, was born in the bedroom upstairs. I know it’s not the most solid house in Ivy Corners. After Michael was born, there was a flood in the basement, and we never seemed to get it dry since. I love the old place, though, you understand.”

“Of course,” Waterbury said.

“Michael’s father died when Michael was nine. There were hard times then. I did some needlework, and my own father had left me some money which supports me today. Not in very grand style, but I manage. Michael missed his father, perhaps even more than I. He grew up to be, well, wild is the only word that comes to mind.”

The man nodded with understanding.

“When he graduated from high school, Michael left Ivy Corners and went to the city. He went there against my wishes, make no mistake. But he was like so many young men, full of ambition, wild ambition. I didn’t know what he did in the city. But he must have been successful – he sent me money regularly. However, I didn’t see him for nine years.”

“Ah,” the man sighed, sadly.

“Yes, it wasn’t easy for me. But it was even worse when Michael came home. Because, when he did, he was in trouble.”

“Oh?”

“I didn’t know how bad the trouble was. He showed up in the middle of the night, looking thinner and older than I could have believed possible. He had no luggage with him, only a small black suitcase. When I tried to take it from him, he almost struck me. Struck me – his own mother!”

“I put him to bed myself, as if he was a little boy again. I could hear him crying out during the night.”

“The next day, he told me to leave the house. Just for a few hours. He wanted to do something, he said. He didn’t explain what. But when I returned that evening, I noticed that the little black suitcase was gone.”

The man’s eyes widened over the lemonade glass. “What did it mean?” he asked.

“I didn’t know then. But I found out soon – too terrible soon. That night, a man came to our house. I don’t even know how he got in. I first knew when I heard the voices in Michael’s room. I went to the door, and tried to listen, tried to find out what sort of trouble my boy was in. But I heard only shouts and threats, and then…”

She paused and her shoulders sagged. “And a shot,” she continued, “a gunshot. When I went into the room, I found the bedroom window open, and the stranger gone. And Michael – he was on the floor. He was dead!”

The chair creaked. “That was five years ago,” she said. “Five long years. It was a while before I realized what had happened. The police told me the story. Michael and this other man had been involved in a crime, a serious crime. They had stolen many, many thousands of dollars.”

“Michael had taken that money, and run off with it. He wanted to keep it all for himself. He hid it somewhere in this house – to this very day I don’t know where. The other man had come looking for my son, looking to collect his share. When he found the money gone, he…he killed my boy.”

She looked up. “That’s when I put this house up for sale – at $75,000. I knew that, someday, my son’s killer would return to look for the money. Someday, he would want this house at any price. All I had to do was wait until I found a man willing to pay much too much for an old lady’s house.”

She rocked gently in the chair.

Waterbury put down the empty glass and licked his lips. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open, and his head was growing very, very dizzy.

“Ugh!” he said. “This lemonade is bitter.

***

About the author:

Henry Slesar (b. Brooklyn NY 12 June 1927, d. NYC 2 April 2002) was the son of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. After art training, he began his career writing ad copy and design at the young age of 17. He served in the Army Air Force during WWII.

He sold his first story in 1955. After that, he never looked back on a writing career that spanned decades. Although he is noted by genre fans for writing many science-fiction and fantasy stories, including both stories and scripts for Alfred Hitchcock’s magazine and TV show, he is most renowned for his hundreds of scripts that he wrote for daytime soaps.

To say that Mr. Slesar was prolific is a gross understatement. TV GUIDE once said of him that he was, “the writer with the largest audience in America”.

Notwithstanding his mainstream achievements, his genre literary fiction can easily stand beside the works of other great short story writers of the period, including Charles Beaumont, Ray Russell, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and countless others.

Like…O. Henry, his specialty was irony and twist endings.

“The Right Kind of House” was featured in the February 1957 issue of Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine. It was later reprinted in the March 1963 issue of Reader’s Digest. In 1958, it was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Sources: https://monstermagazineworld.blogspot.com/2017/09/henry-slesars-bitter-lemonade.html, https://wendylovesjesus.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/the-right-kind-of-short-story/

End

Two Women In Their Graves And The Cat That Did Not Wait To Cross

This short piece is in response to flash/drabble photo-challenge posed here by Morgan Bailey.

He locked up the doors. One can’t be too cautious in these matters.  The call he had received in the morning…

He hurriedly took the car out of the garage – he was already running late.

Just in case…the gun was loaded and in its place, he had checked.

It all happened quite unexpectedly just when he exited the driveway slowly, easing onto the street…the darned cat did make it safely to the other side by a whisker not coming under the wheels or hit splat.

His old lady would have ordered him to get going – auguries and omens were not for her. Steadying himself he drove on – he could ill-afford to miss the meeting from start.

Half way up the street he saw a parked car with all glasses rolled up. Now his usual alert self, he sped past the car with one hand on the gun. Nothing happened. Must be his jangled nerves playing up?

In this time, as the black piece of fur scurried away for the nearest bush, ‘sh#t,’ the hooded man cursed his luck, and abruptly dropped to the floorboard inside the parked car. To heck with…his mom was not once wrong over these ‘messages’. Was it simply not the day to pick or it was something more portentous?  Needed figuring out.

End

Now You Know Why They Tell You…

to see god in everything around you in all the life around you as in your boss, wife, children, Amazon, United, government…and in non-life too like the pothole on the road…?

They all have choices of their own:-(

buddha-53255_1280

By David Berger

This guy comes back to his apartment late one night, and there’s a golden statue of a god he doesn’t recognize in his living room.

“What the hell?” he says.

“Hell is a state of mind,” the statue says.

“What are you doing in my apartment?” he asks.

“You want me to be elsewhere?” the statue asks.

“I have a choice?”

“You always have a choice,”

“Can I choose you to be elsewhere?”

“Sure.”

“Okay. I choose you to be elsewhere.”

The statue stays where it is.

“What happened?” he asks.

The statue shrugs its shoulders. “We all have choices.”

         
David Berger is a self-described “old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with my wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. I’m a father and grandfather. I’ve been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL…

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