For three days she took it for spilled red ink
Or nail-polish. Then a scab of flies
Peeled to hint at the wounds shut
Behind that door. Her head buzzed
As she called the police. Such a sweet boy,
She later gasped to Mrs Guha, a little dense
But smiling and so-sweet, to think he bottled up
In himself the rage of 26 stabs, twen-tee-six,
You never can tell with these people, no, not ever.
To which Mrs Guha sadly shook her gold earrings.
The officer who turned up with two policemen
Also shook his head when told of the old couple
Who had lived in that flat with one serving boy
And presents from guilt-stricken sons in the US.
Having broken the door and located the crime,
He came out holding a large hanky to his nose,
Spat and asked, Nepali boy, no? Bihari chokkra ?
Some clues are so obvious they don’t have to be pinned:
The incision of murder is always the outsider’s choice,
Someone on the edge of life, driven by ghostly scalpels.
Sometime in the morphia of night when the roads of Delhi
Were white swathes of loneliness and smog, sometime
Three or more nights ago when the occasional truck’s
Back lights faded to wavering bandages of yellow,
Sometime in a gauzed silence broken by yapping
Street dogs, so-sweet Shyam had crept to the locked
Front door and let his accomplices in. Steel rods
Had been used, and knives; the old man clubbed in bed,
His wife surgically stabbed later. A cousin was asked
By the officer to make an inventory of missing items.
Which was long: two TV sets, radio, Banarasi saris
All the inherited silver, jewellery, cash, in fact
Of value except the laptop, which had been left behind
In panic or ignorance of its value. Bihari chokkras,
Scoffed the officer, what do they know of computers,
Or alphabets for that matter. It turned out that this
The chokkra in question had been filmed, holding
Loaded trays in parties, and his address noted.
Justice was clinical, sweet Shyam nabbed in his village
With fifty rupees on him and a sari for his mother.
(First appeared in Where Parallel Lines Meet, Penguin, Delhi, 2000.)