- زمان مطالعه 19 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
di@k spent only one night at the club in Madras before flying on to Bangalore. But, soon after going to bed, he was disturbed by two telephone calls.
One was from Ramu. He had heard that the Visvanathans were planning something. He did not know what it was, bur it had to do with di@k’s inquiries. di@k had obviously touched a raw nerve. Ramu advised him to be very careful. ‘These guys are dangerous. They will stop at nothing to save themselves. Be very careful di@k. I will go on looking around and contact you as necessary. You will be at West End or Nagarajan’s?’ di@k told him to try either.
The other call was anonymous. When di@k picked up the phone a muffled voice simply said, ‘You’d better get back to the UK where you belong. Remember your death threat? This time we’re not playing games. Mind your own business - or else…’
He spent an uncomfortable night, tossing and turning in a half-sleep, before the dawn birdsong finally woke him.
The West End was, as always, a welcome oasis in the clouds of traffic pollution of Bangalore. di@k made a call to Devanahalli. The number did not answer. He decided to hire a car anyway and to leave early the next morning.
The driver turned out to be Shaukat, the same man who had driven him on the previous occasion. By half past seven they were again in the thick of the morning traffic, and by nine they were in Devanahalli. Neither di@k nor Shaukat had noticed the black Ambassador with dark windows which had left the West End just after them, and followed them at a safe distance all the way to Devanahalli.
As Shaukat drove the car into the dusty lane, di@k felt butterflies in his stomach. Would Lakshmi be there? What would he say to her? What would her reaction be? Did she have the same feelings for him as he had for her? After all, they had only spoken a few words on the phone. He was basing everything on the glances they had exchanged the last time, on the half-spoken hints on the telephone, on his own feelings. Perhaps he was imagining it all. Why should anyone as beautiful as Lakshmi be in the least interested in a man almost twice her age, with his career in ruins behind him, and from a completely different culture? He cursed himself for building up so many hopes on so little evidence. Yet his hands were trembling as he knocked on the street door.
It was Lakshmi herself who opened the door. She was plainly taken completely by surprise. Her face showed shock, then joy, then worry, almost pain. Then she smiled the most wonderful smile and asked him to come in. He followed her across the courtyard to the living quarters. She was wearing a simple cotton sari of a deep turquoise colour, with a thin border of crimson and gold. She moved with all the grace he remembered.
As she prepared coffee, they talked. It felt as if they had always known each other. Her tense nervousness had left her. She was warm and relaxed. Could this be because her father was not there? di@k wondered.
‘I tried to call you from Bangalore yesterday’ he said, ‘but then I decided to come anyway.’
‘I’m so glad you did, di@k; our phone’s out of order as usual, but my father is away I’m afraid. He has gone to the wedding of a nephew in Anantapur. But he is due back this evening. I hope you can stay to see him. I can make you some lunch later. He should be back by nightfall. He will be very upset if he finds out he has missed you.’
‘Of course I’ll stay but I don’t want to put you to any trouble. I mean-‘
‘It’s no trouble at all. Quite the opposite.’ She paused, as if in doubt about what she was going to say. When she spoke, her voice was darker, more serious, ‘di@k, I’m sorry but I lied to you last time.’
‘What do you mean, “lied”?’
‘I told you I was not lonely here. In fact I’m desperately lonely. It is so isolated here. I have no-one I can talk to - really talk to. There is nowhere to go. Nothing to do except to take care of my father. And he is becoming more and more difficult. You saw for yourself last time. So I would be so happy if you would stay until he comes back. I would like to know you better. Will you stay?’
‘Of course I’ll stay. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, bt… I didn’t come here again just to see your father. I have thought of you often since I left. I came to see you too.’
Lakshmi looked down. He wondered if he had said too much, too soon. But when she looked up, she had a radiant smile of pure joy on her face. She said nothing but poured his coffee for him. Her eyes did not leave his face for a moment as he drank it.
‘I know what,’ said di@k suddenly. ‘Why don’t we go out for the day? I’ve got the car and the driver. There must be somewhere interesting we could go. And it would make a change for you, wouldn’t it?’
‘That’s a lovely idea di@k. But aren’t you tired? I don’t mind preparing lunch…’
‘No. Come on Lakshmi. Let’s enjoy ourselves. Where’s the nearest place we could go?’
‘Well, there’s Nandi Hills, which isn’t far away. It would only take about half an hour or so to get to. It was one of Tipoo’s forts. Then the British made it into a sort of small hill station for holidays in the hot season. There are some nice walks at the top.’
‘Is there anywhere we can get lunch there?’
‘I think there are a couple of small places, if you don’t mind the Indian food.’
‘Great. That’s settled then. I’ll wait while you get ready and then we’ll go.’
Lakshmi returned fifteen minutes later wearing jeans and a shirt. She had tied her hair up in a bun. She looked younger, more athletic.
‘I hope you don’t mind,’ she said, ‘I can’t go climbing about up there in a sari.’
As they drove out of the lane, the black Ambassador slid out from behind a parked lorry and followed them. di@k and Lakshmi were both too absorbed in their conversation to notice it but Shaukat frowned as he looked in the rear mirror. He had seen the car behind them in the morning. It seemed odd that it should be behind them again now. But he said nothing.
di@k wanted to see some statues he had read about in a temple not far from Devanahalli, so they stopped on the way to the hills.
They parked the car in the small dusty lane leading up to the temple entrance. There were the usual small shops selling garlands of jasmine flowers, coconuts and bananas as offerings to the gods, cigarettes and soft drinks, and a variety of cheap-looking copies of the temple statues. Monkeys were fighting over scraps of food in the shade of a big raintree below the temple steps.
From the outside the temple was unimpressive; large granite blocks with very little decoration. But inside it was fantastic. The heavy stone roof was supported by hundreds of pillars, each one carved in the shape of gods, temple dancers, cows, lions, and other, mythical animals. The variety was almost too much, yet somehow it all seemed to fit together. di@k went from pillar to pillar trying to absorb the wealth of detail in each figure.
Lakshmi found him standing absorbed in front of a statue of a temple dancer. The naked figure was caught in mid-movement, gracefully standing on one leg, the other raised to knee-height. One arm was held slightly away from the body, the hand hanging loosely down. The other arm was held at shoulder height, the fingers formed into a graceful ‘mudra’. The breasts were full and naked, the angle of the hips and thighs voluptuously erotic, yet not in the least vulgar. The face shone with a kind of peaceful delight. di@k thought of Lakshmi’s smile earlier.
‘Now, I wonder what you’re thinking?’ Lakshmi said from behind him. He turned with a guilty look on his face, hoping she could not see into his thoughts. ‘What are you blushing for?’
A Brahmin priest appeared and offered to chant prayers for them. He did so, then broke a coconut as an offering. Finally they both took ‘aarti’, touching their fingers to the burning camphor and taking a spoonful of Ganga water in the palms of their hands before drinking it.
As they left the temple, di@k felt that the ceremony they had just performed had tied them still closer together in a way he could not define. They were both silent as they walked back to the car.
As the car turned out on to the main road again, the parked black Ambassador once again followed. Shaukat recognised the car and he speeded up. The other car speeded up too.
The narrow road to the top of Nandi Hills winds up in a series of over thirty tight hairpin bends to a point over 1500 metres above sea-level. The hills are covered by thorn bushes and eucalyptus trees but there is a lot of bare granite rock exposed to the burning dry heat.
As they negotiated each bend, Shaukat had to change down into first gear, and the car shook as it staggered up the next straight slope. With every bend, the view extended until they could see far away across the brown, dusty plateau to other groups of hills in the far distance. Eventually they passed through the narrow gateway into the fort and drove up to the summit.
There were a few groups of noisy schoolchildren being looked after by tired-looking teachers, and two or three families out for the day. Otherwise there was hardly anyone. There were a few restaurants. Lakshmi decided that the least bad would probably be the one run by the State Tourism Authority. It had the advantage of being perched on the edge of the mountain top, overlooking the precipice.
They took their seats at a dirty table next to the window, which gave a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. Soon after they had ordered from the menu, a group of three men came in and sat at a table on the other side of the room. Two of them were very dark-skinned and looked thin and hungry. They were dressed in lunghis and white shirts which had not been washed for a long time. The third one was pale and fat, with a thick black moustache. He was wearing spotlessly clean white trousers and shirt, with the collar turned up, and a pair of black and white shoes. He reminded di@k of a famous Timil film star. He was obviously the leader and ordered beer and snacks for the group. They were soon in deep conversation. di@k did not like the look of them, nor the way they kept glancing over in his and Lakshmis direction. He felt sure they were talking about them.
But soon di@k and Lakshmi were so deeply absorbed in each other that they forgot all about the men at the other table. They talked mainly about themselves. di@k told her about his forced retirement, about the break-up of his marriage, about his present inquiry and his hopes of revenge. A shadow passed across her face when he spoke of revenge - but he did not notice it at the time.
Lakshmi listened silently. Then she began to tell him about her own marriage; the way she had been ‘advertised in the ‘brides’ column of the newspaper, then ‘inspected by the boy’s family; how the dowry had been agreed, and how, finally, she had married Girijan and moved to Udipi to live with his family. The Indian mother-in-law is not always as cruel as so often described but clearly Lakshmi had been unlucky. She was badly treated and made to work harder than a servant. And Girijan had been a weak man; certainly not able to stand up to his forceful mother. Things had been worse because Lakshmi had had no children. She had been made to feel guilty by all those malicious relatives and their questions, ‘Any good news?’, and their meaningful looks when she had had to answer, ‘Not yet’.
‘But di@k, I couldn’t do it all on my own.’
di@k was about to ask the obvious question when he noticed the great wall of black cloud building up on the horizon and the flashes of lightning.
‘The monsoon is due anytime,’ said Lakshmi. ‘I hope it won’t break tonight.’
So di@k’s questions went unanswered and they talked instead about Tipoo Sultan, who had built the fort, and who had ruled a large kingdom in southern India until defeated by the British at Srirangapatnam, just outside Mysore. Tiger Tipoo had been a forceful leader and a man without pity. Just below the restaurant where they now sat was Tipoo’s Drop, a vertical rock face which fell 350 metres to the rocks below. One of Tipoo’s famous punishments was to have his enemies thrown over the edge on to the rocks below.
‘Let’s go and see it before we leave,’ di@k suggested.
‘All right. But let’s hurry; it’s already three o’clock.’
di@k realised with a start that they had been talking for over two hours. As they got up to leave, he noticed that the men at the other table had gone. He felt vaguely relieved.
Outside a hot wind had started to blow. They walked down past a small crumbling temple and a few low buildings, out on to the bare top of the mountain. The granite was flaking in layers, like the scalp of some ancient giant. di@k recalled that these were the most ancient rocks on earth. Almost nothing grew there, only some dry grass clinging to cracks in the rocks. As they moved down the skull of the mountain, he looked back at the ominous silhouette of the temple on the brow of the slope.
Eventually they reached the place where people said Tipoo had got rid of his enemies. There was a crumbling brick wall, overgrown by plants. In the wall there was a gap. di@k moved forward and looked over the edge. There was a vertical drop to the plain below. He pulled himself back nervously. He had an instinctive fear of heights.
Lakshmi excused herself for a few minutes - ‘Nature calls,’ she said - and walked off into some bushes further up the slope. Leaning on the wall di@k looked out over the plain to where lightning now flashed along the horizon and the black clouds looked like mountains behind it. He heard a footstep and turned, assuming it was Lakshmi.
As he turned, two of the men from the restaurant threw themselves at him. Each one grabbed an arm and began to force him backwards towards the gap in the wall. He could feel the rough bricks digging into his back. The leader, the man with the black and white shoes, stood a few yards back shouting to them in Tamil. di@k struggled hard and managed to free one arm and push the first man backwards. Then he swung the second man hanging on to his other arm in a wide circle until his head hit the wall with a dull thud. The leader and the first man both ran at him together. The leader had taken out a knife - but he never had time to use it. Lakshmi came racing down the slope giving out a terrifying scream and, with a classic karate kick to the man’s wrist, sent the knife flying high into the air and over the wall. di@k managed to punch the side of the first man’s head. Both men now turned away and half ran, half staggered down into the trees. di@k looked round for the second man but he was gone. Then there was the sound of a car driving off at speed.
di@k sat down and leaned his back against the wall. He was shaking and his face was white from the shock. Lakshmi knelt by him.
‘di@k? There’s blood on your shirt. Let me look.’
‘It’s OK I think. Just a few scratches on my arms. And my back feels sore. I think I must have bruised it on the wall. Nothing serious. Lakshmi, I think you saved my life just now. But where did you learn to kick like that?’
‘I was in the karate team when I was at university, di@k. I always knew it would come in useful one day. But we must get away from here. They may try to attack us again. Can you walk all right?’
di@k got shakily to his feet and they made their way back to the car park, taking care to stay in the open. Shaukat noticed the blood on di@k’s shirt but he said nothing until they were halfway down the hill.
‘There was one black Ambassador following us always today, sir. It has gone. There were three goondas who drove off fast as hell itself. I hope all is well sir?’
They kept a careful watch all the way back to Devanahalli but there was no sign of the black Ambassador. The goondas had obviously decided they had had enough for one day.
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