Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ramesh And The Scoop!

Every good journalist loves a scoop – a dramatic story that only his paper publishes. Ramesh was the new editor of the school magazine. Where was the scoop that could make his first issue exciting?

It all began when Ramesh was appointed the editor of our school magazine. Ramesh is a thin, spectacled boy, my age, my class, and considered the brainiest guy in the school. He is also the most notorious.

One day, at lunch-break, an excited-looking Ramesh bore down on me.

“Listen!” he exclaimed, “I’ve got an idea!” His spectacles glinted dangerously – a glint I had come to recognize, and fear. It always meant that Ramesh had thought of some crazy idea or plan.

I tried to take evasive action. “I’m busy,” I said.

Ramesh ignored the interruption. “I’m going to feature an expose in the first issue of our magazine.”

I was conscious of a feeling, such as comes to all of us at times, of not being equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation. “A-a what?”

“I’m going to uncover a deep-rooted conspiracy and feature it in the magazine! It’ll be a sensation! It’ll be the biggest scoop of the century!” As you may have noticed, Ramesh, when excited, tends to let his imagination run away with him.

“Er…where do I come in?” I asked nervously.

“You? Why, you’re going to write it!”

“I am?” A happy thought struck me. “But I don’t know of any conspiracy, deep-rooted or otherwise.”

I had spoken too soon. “But I do,” said Ramesh impressively. “And it’s right here, in this school!” Although Ramesh looks more like a scientist, with his tousled hair and spectacles, he is more inclined to criminology. A voracious reader of detective fiction, he has a habit of building up criminal plots where none exist.

I was quick to point this out to him. “You have a habit of building up criminal plots where none exist,” I said accusingly.

Ramesh again ignored the interruption. “I always felt that the new head-gardener was a suspicious character,” he continued. “Now I’ve heard that he’s started staying in the school compound, claiming that his village is too far from the school. But I know better. I think he is planning to loot the Headmaster’s office of all our cups and trophies. And I’ll tell you why I think so.”

Ramesh lowered his voice to a conspirational whisper. “This morning, near the tool-shed, I actually heard the head-gardener tell someone I couldn’t see that he would get the job done by tomorrow.” Ramesh smiled triumphantly and added rather unnecessarily: “So there!” His eyes took on a dreamy expression. “If only we can photograph him in the act!” Here, Ramesh was obviously referring to his new camera-cum-flash-gun presented to him by a generous uncle.

“You’re crazy!” I said. “That ‘job’ which the head-gardener was talking about could be anything! Besides, what do you propose to do?”

“My plan is that we keep a watch on the headmaster’s office tonight,” said Ramesh, and added impressively, “the head-gardener may strike tonight!”

“You’re off your rocker!” I exclaimed. “Don’t count me in on this mad venture.”

Ramesh looked hurt. “Well then,” he said, disappointed, “I’ll have to go alone.”

Alone? My conscience bit me. Ramesh was my friend, after all. Maybe I could stop him from doing anything foolish. “I’ll come,” I said.

Ramesh’s face lit up. “Thanks,” was all he said. But I knew he meant much more, knowing how I hated doing anything dangerous.

Night Hunt

That night found Ramesh and me climbing stealthily over the school wall and then creeping equally stealthily across the school grounds. Clutching his photographic equipment in one hand and a torch in the other, Ramesh led the way to the Headmaster’s study. Feeling slightly foolish, I followed.

The headmaster’s office lay in darkness. Nothing seemed to be happening there.

Ramesh’s forehead creased into a frown. “Perhaps the head-gardener will strike later in the night,” he suggested.

“And do you intend us to hang around here all night, waiting for him?” I asked, as politely as I could.

“Well…no,” answered Ramesh thoughtfully, and then brightened. “Let’s check on what he’s doing,” he said - and without waiting for my reply, he turned and strode off purposefully towards the head-gardener’s quarters.

Muttering darkly to myself, I followed.

The head-gardener’s modest quarters looked dark and deserted in the night. Ramesh and I crept quietly up to the doorway – and for the first time that night I felt a cold hand clutch at my heart. Could Ramesh perhaps be right?

Before I knew what was happening, Ramesh had placed a hand on the doorknob and turned it. The door slid slowly and silently open. With my heart in my mouth, I gazed into the small room, slightly illuminated by the moonlight.

The head-gardener lay on a bed in the opposite corner of the room, gently snoring to himself.

Ramesh quietly shut the door and avoided my eyes.

“You and your deep-rooted conspiracy!” I hissed at him.

Ramesh tried to cool me down on our way back to the wall. “Maybe he’ll try tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe –,” suddenly Ramesh stopped in his tracks and grunted like a stuffed pig. It was as if he had been sauntering down a street and had walked into a lamp-post. “Hey!” he exclaimed, grabbing hold of my arm. “I think I saw a light in the Headmaster’s study window!”

“Oh no! Not again,” I protested. “If you really expect me to believe –,” and then I, too, stopped in my tracks. Even at this distance a faint light could be seen in the Headmaster’s study!

Who could it be?

Ramesh immediately took command. Motioning me to be silent, he led the way quietly to the main school building. I followed him only because I was scared to be left alone. By now I was feeling like a nervous saboteur with a time bomb in his suitcase who’s suddenly discovered his wristwatch had stopped. Ramesh halted only when he had reached the now open window and huddled beneath it. For the first time that night Ramesh was beginning to show signs of strain. “You look first,” he suggested.

I was firm. “No, you first.”

He sighed. “O.K. let’s look together.”

We slowly raised our heads, until our eyes were level with the window sill, and peered into the room.

My eyes boggled.

In the light of a powerful torch placed on the Headmaster’s desk, a tall, dark, man was carefully packing our school’s hard-won cups and trophies into a large sack!

We quietly ducked under the window again. I shivered.

“Shouldn’t we call the police?” I whispered.

“It’ll be too late,” Ramesh whispered back. “Let me, at least, take a photograph of him – then, even if he escapes, the police can easily identify him.”

Before I could say anything, Ramesh, holding his camera in front of him, raised his head again. I quickly followed suit – and banged my head loudly against the window sill, making (or so it seemed to me) a noise loud enough to awake the dead. The pain in my head did not prevent me from seeing the thief (what else could he be?) suddenly whirl around, clutching a knife in his hand.

For a moment, the world stopped. I felt like I was staring at a man-eating tiger from a distance of less than six feet.

Flash of Fear

They say that when you receive a great shock, a part of you dies. Well, a part of me most certainly died that night as I stared at the knife on the thief’s hand. Then, as my heart slowly started beating again, things started happening.

All the while as I had been standing like a zombie, Ramesh had been holding the camera in front of his face – he, too, seemingly frozen with shock. Now with admirable presence of mind he pressed the shutter. The effect was startling.

The brilliant glare of the flashlight in that dark room felt almost like a physical blow, and, as the flash gun was directed at the thief, he got the full brunt of it. The thief reeled back as if he had been slapped; the knife fell from his hand.

“At him!” screamed Ramesh.

Ramesh and I jumped over the window sill and launched ourselves at the thief. Ramesh made a grab for his hands while I dived for his legs. Fortunately for us, as the thief fell to the ground under the weight of our combined attack, he hit his head against the desk and blacked out! The struggle was over.

Front Page Story

Leaving me to watch over the now unconscious thief, Ramesh ran off to wake up the head-gardener. That worthy person responded quickly to the strange situation. Having tightly bound the thief, he summoned the police and the highly bewildered Headmaster. Ramesh and I were, of course, in the limelight – Ramesh managing to neatly evade all uncomfortable questions as to what we were doing in that particular place at that particular time. I, suffering from delayed shock, could only offer a few grunts by way of explanation.

We were, of course, school heroes for quite some time after that but the real triumph for Ramesh was when the first issue of the school magazine under his editorship came out. Prominently displayed on the front page was the dramatic photograph taken by Ramesh on that fateful night, showing the startled thief with the sack of loot in one hand and the knife in the other, standing in the middle of the Headmaster’s study. Nobody could accuse Ramesh of not taking his job seriously!