South Delhi Murder

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.)

Tabish Khair is an award-winning poet, journalist, critic, educator and novelist. His works include Where Parallel Lines Meet, Babu Fictions: Alienation in Indian English Novels, The Bus Stopped, Filming: A Love Story, The Glum Peacock, Man of Glass, The Thing About Thugs and The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness. He has co-edited Other Routes: 1500 Years of African and Asian Travel Writing.

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