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Aim and Shoot
by Ramendra Kumar

“All arrangements have been made, I’ll have to just aim and shoot.”

Pochha froze in mid-air. The bristles on the nape of his neck stood up like alert sentries.

“Yes….Yes. The job will be done to perfection. Tomorrow at eleven I’ll be in Patel Seth’’s chamber in Patel Plaza. Everything has been planned to the last detail. Don’t you worry it won’t take very long to shoot Patel Seth. I’ll give you a tinkle as soon as the job is done.”

Pochha’s heart seemed to be gyrating like those dancers performing item numbers in bollywood films.

Pochha was an eleven year old orphan who worked in Supreme Restaurant – an Irani hotel run by Hasan Ali. The Irani Hotel was both his work spot as well as home. From morning seven to night eleven he worked and after that, when the restaurant was shut, he slept inside.

His job was cleaning the tables and that is how he had got his name Pochha. He didn’t know what his real name was or whether he even had any. He was quite happy at being called Pochha.

He had been cleaning the table in one of the cubicles when he heard a man with a thick, gruff voice talking on his mobile in the adjoining cubicle and declaring how he was planning to shoot Patel Seth. Pochha knew Patel Seth. He owned three cinema halls and one shopping mall called Patel Plaza.

As Pochha continued listening with bated breath he heard the owner of the gruff voice getting up and striding out.

Pochha quickly came out of the cubicle and looked around. His quarry was a brute of a man. Tall, muscular and broad-shouldered. He had shoulder length hair and was clad in jeans and a skin tight T-shirt. He was smoking a cigarette and humming a tune as he took long strides towards the entrance. Pochha almost had to run to keep pace with him. As Pochha watched, he got into a bright red Maruti 800 and zoomed away.

Pochha mentally noted the number of the car and stood at the entrance, his mind a virtual beehive of questions.

~*~

Pochha had only one passion in life – Hindi films. He had requested Hasan long back and had been granted the privilege of leaving the hotel at 8.30 on Friday nights. Every Friday a new movie would be released in one of the theatres close to Supreme Restaurant. Pochha would reserve a ticket for himself a few days in advance. On Friday night he would put on his best dress, go in style and sitting in the best class, watch the latest drama unfold on the screen. The next day he would enact the most riveting scenes of the movie during lean period. His audience would be the waiters, the cook and odd job boys of the hotel. Pochha was a terrific mimic and would have his audience in splits as he did a perfect imitation of the bollywood stars.

His favorite actor was Shahrukh Khan and Pochha fancied that he looked quite a bit like his idol-especially the way the superstar smiled. Pochha had spent days cultivating the smile and also the star’s dialogue delivery. And whenever anyone told him he looked and acted like Shahrukh Khan, Pochha’s day was made.

However, at that moment, as he walked back to the cubicle, Shahrukh Khan was far from his mind. It was eight p.m. and he had no time to lose. Even though there were a good fourteen hours before the assassin could act, the sooner the police was informed the better chance they would have of nabbing him. He would have to get in touch with Inspector Faiyaz as soon as possible.

Faiyaz was in-charge of the Gandhi Chowk Police Station. He would often come to Supreme Restaurant for a cup of tea. Poccha was very much fascinated by Faiyaz - his uniform and especially his revolver. He would always hang around during Faiyaz’s visits and had gradually got friendly with the inspector.

Pochha went to his best friend Ghutna and told him, “Ghutna yaar I have some urgent work. If Hasan bhai looks for me, tell him I have gone to the toilet.”

“What happened? Why are you acting so mysterious?”

“I’ll tell you after I come back. All I can say is, it is a matter of life and death,” he said in hushed tones looking meaningfully at Ghutna.

Pochha quietly slipped out and ran to the police station.

Luckily Pochha caught the inspector as he was about to leave.

“What happened, Pochha? You look very excited.”

Pochha described in detail the ‘would-be assassin’s’ mobile conversation and his appearance. Faiyaz heard everything carefully and then got up.

“Come on let’s go. If we rush we’ll be able to catch Patel Seth in his office in Patel Plaza.

Faiyaz started his mobike and fifteen minutes later they were sitting opposite Patel Seth. Pochha was conscious of his torn T-shirt and dirty shorts.

Patel Seth was a very short man – hardly five feet three inches with a round face and small eyes. He was bald except for a fringe on either side of his head. He had a huge paunch and was around fifty years old.

“So, Inspector tell me what brings you here and who is this young fellow?”

“This guy’s name is Pochha and he works in Supreme Restaurant – an Irani hotel which is close to my Police Station. Today Pochha heard something, which I feel you should hear straight from him.”

For the second time in the space of half an hour Pochha recounted the entire incident, imitating the ‘would-be assassin’s tone’, his walk and his entire demeanor to perfection.

After he had finished, Pochha and Faiyaz waited for his reaction.

Patel Seth looked at the Inspector and Pochha and then all of a sudden burst out laughing.

Faiyaz and Pochha looked at each other in amazement. And seeing their expressions Patel Seth laughed louder – his paunch shaking like an animated rotund jelly fish, his small eyes growing smaller and tears rolling down his cheeks.

“What’s the matter?” Faiyaz asked, his voice sharp.

“I….I … am sorry. B…but I couldn’t help myself. The fellow Pochha has heard explaining his plans to shoot me is Shekhar Sinha, a freelance photographer. I am planning a publicity brochure on Patel Plaza for the Puja season. It will have my photograph as well as a few snaps of the Plaza.”

Faiyaz and Pochha exchanged a look of astonishment and then slowly Faiyaz too started laughing.

Pochha had turned red in the face with embarrassment. He wanted to just run and keep running.

“I…I am sorry….I thought…”

“There is nothing to be sorry,” Patel Seth said, very gently. “In the kind of world we live in such things happen all the time. In fact you should be appreciated for your promptness and your sense of duty.”

“Sethji is right. You have an overactive imagination but your heart is in the right place.”

“And son, I have one proposal for you. We are starting an exclusive section for toys from next month. One entire floor of the Plaza will be reserved for toys. I’ll employ a few sales girls and sales boys. I also want you to work there.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you are really good at acting. The way you played out the little scene truly impressed me. Your job will be to talk to the kids, dress in different costumes, act out little roles and make them have fun. The rest will be taken care of by the sales team. What do you say?”

Pochha nodded and his smile, this time, was his very own – soft and dimpled.     

9-Mar-2008
 
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