Shalini Sharma was standing in front of the airport gate. She saw her former student Radha Srinivasan coming towards the gate with an unaccustomed look on her face. Shalini had been Radha’s favorite professor, when the former was teaching journalism in a Mumbai college. When Radha saw her, her face glowed with happiness. Shalini had requested Radha’s help regarding something, which the former had not specified. And Radha had decided what better Guru Dakshina (tribute to the teacher), could she give than helping her teacher, when she was in need of it?
“Long time no see, Ma’am.”
“Yes, dear.” Shalini’s face was writ with concern.
“Ma’am, what are you doing with yourself lately? You left Mumbai just after I finished journalism. It was around 2 years back, right?” Then after looking at her face properly in the evening light, her forehead wrinkled and she lowered her voice. “What happened, Ma’am? Anything wrong?”
“Come home, I’ll tell you. This is private and very personal.”
When they reached Shalini’s home in Noida and Radha was comfortable, Shalini told her the problem. “My husband has been arrested for something he has not done.”
“What? I mean, what happened?”
“I had to leave the job I had in your college because my husband got a job here. He is an investigative journalist like you, but much senior to you in the field. I found that something fishy was happening in the college, where I am teaching now. I told him and he started investigating. Then there was a murder in the college, my husband was trapped there and was caught when the police came.”
“Why don’t you start from the beginning?”
“This institute S K Gupta College of Communications had just been established when I joined them as a Professor of Journalism in India. There is a shop opposite the campus. The students, who do not have a cell, use the private mobile available in the shop for personal calls. Now, I’ve seen the shop-keeper taking undue advantage of this fact. You can understand the implications, Radha?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I do. But the students are big enough to understand these things, if they are doing the Bachelor’s degree.”
“That’s what I am shocked about. And I also suspect some drug-peddling by some outsiders from that shop to defame the institute. Since it is outside the premises, the principal says that nothing can be done about it. Then my husband started investigating the case and the next thing that I was told was that he’s been arrested for a murder. I know he wouldn’t even hurt a fly.”
“Ok, did you try to get Uncle out on bail?”
“I tried. But it didn’t work.”
“Gimme a minute, Ma’am,” so saying she called her father, who lived with her mother in Chennai, from her cell. He was a senior lawyer in the High Court there.
“Fine, Dad. That’s cool.” Then she turned to her former professor. “Ma’am, my Dad has suggested a lawyer, we should see. He’s my Dad’s friend and my Dad is calling him up right now. By the time we try to get an appointment, he would have spoken to Mr. Jagirdar.”
They took an appointment with Mr. Jagirdar over the phone and left for the office. The eminent lawyer assured them of good results after everything was told and then they left.
Though it was difficult, due to the seriousness of the crime, to get Mr. Sharma released, but they could get him released on bail.
“Uncle, now tell me what happened?”
“Beta (child), you are too small to go and investigate a murder case. I am not going to tell you anything.”
The police officer of the nearby station also was not so forthcoming with any information.
Then the ladies had a private discussion. It was decided that Shalini would get Radha admission in the first year Bachelor’s degree, being offered by the S K Gupta College of Communications Institute and get her into the hostel so that she could keep an eye on what was going on there. It was not easy to get the admission, since the admission period was over.
According to plan, Shalini got Radha admitted into the institute with false certificates made from the former’s own home computer. It was imperative that Radha would not be suspected of anything. Luckily the CEO was on their side and had said that he would be watching as a spectator. This was only after she had assured him that she wouldn’t publish anything about the murder before the case was solved.
The first day in college went smoothly. The second day, she saw a group of seniors sitting in the large garden surrounding the college building. Though she avoided looking in their direction, she understood that she being a new face was attracting their attention.
One short fellow came in front of her and stopped her. “Meet my friends and then go.”
Silently, she walked towards the group of seniors. The group, consisting of almost equal number of boys and girls, surrounded her within minutes.
“You new here?” asked the most handsome guy in the group. He had attitude written all over his face. He seemed to be the leader of the group.
Radha immediately understood that she was going to be ragged. She was totally amused. She had never been ragged before in her college life! Let’s get it started, she decided. But controlling her facial expressions, she looked at the leader eye-to-eye and replied in the positive.
To be continued…