The three girls were new to the chawl. Their landlord said that they were sisters, but the older residents turned up their noses.
“That’s what they always say. Then they start having male “guests” over. Like we don’t know what they are up to,” said
“Let’s keep an eye on them. If they start any funny business, we can have them thrown out,” said holier-than-thou Helen Aunty. “It’s for their good only. We don’t want them to spoil their lives Baba,” was her justification, as she went to haggle with the machhiwaali.
In the chawl, keeping an eye on people, was a favourite pastime. Ladies who had been known to pull each other’s hair over a bucket of water, could reunite in a flash, at the sight of an unknown car in the compound. Then, they would gather in the balcony with the best view, and carry out intense observation and analysis. There was no shame in being caught with your ear to someone’s door. You could always say that you heard someone calling for help.
Slowly, though, the girls were accepted. They kept to themselves. No friends or parties. One day, the girls “forgot” to lock the house, and naturally, the helpful aunties of the chawl were forced to open the door to check that all was well.
When the girls got back, the door was as they had left it. Next, they checked all the booby traps that they had set. The hair stuck in the cupboard door was on the floor, showing that the cupboard had been opened. The house had been vetted by experts. The girls had been deemed harmless.
Of course, the “experts” didn’t know about the secret compartment at the back of the cupboard that held all their equipment.
The house next to theirs had been rented out, about two months before the girls moved in. The family consisted of a couple, and their 3 year old child. This average Indian family was of no interest to the nosy aunties. Their child would often play with the youngest of the three sisters, and so, the young mother, Pammi, made three new friends in her new home. She occasionally had relatives staying over at her place.
A few months after the girls moved in, two of Pammi’s brothers came to stay. Now, she had no time for her new friends. Little did she know that her new friends still stayed up to date on what was happening in her life. Sitting in their house, with a wireless listening device, they could hear the softest sneeze and sigh in the neighbouring house.
One day, Pammi got out of her house early in the morning, with a tiffin carrier. The youngest of the three sisters met her in the corridor.
“Hi Didi. Where are you off to, so early?”
“I’m going to my aunt’s house. She’s ill, the poor thing. I’m taking some food for her. I might have to stay with her for a few days.”
“Aren’t you taking Munna with you?”
“No, he’ll just be in the way. You girls keep an eye on him, na. These men get so busy, that they might forget to feed the poor boy,” she laughed.
The girl laughed with her.
“Are you going to the station, Didi? Let’s share an auto.”
At the railway station, they went their separate ways. Or so it seemed.
The youngest sister doubled back behind her friend, at a safe distance. Pammi was waiting for a specific train. When her train was announced, she moved to the head of the crowd. She couldn’t afford to miss it. When she moved, her friend made a phone call.
As Pammi pushed her way into the packed train, the eldest of the three sisters, who had been standing out of sight, boarded the same compartment, from the other end. She did not approach Pammi, just kept an eye on her.
After about twenty minutes, Pammi got up from her seat, to get off at the next station. The oldest sister followed her off the train. On the platform, she bumped into Pammi from behind.
“Oh, sorry…Arre Didi! Fancy meeting you here!”
Pammi was slightly flustered. She started walking faster, as she repeated her story about the sick aunt. Her phone was clenched in her fist.
“Oh!” The oldest sister was patting her pocket.
“I think I left my phone at home. Can you please lend me your phone, Didi? I’m supposed to meet a friend outside this station. I have to tell her that I’ve reached.”
“Arre, no! I mean…there’s very little balance left on my phone.”
“It’s ok Didi. I’ll only give her a missed call.” The oldest sister snatched the phone out of her neighbour’s hand.
Before Pammi knew what was happening, there were a lot of people surrounding her, with two women holding on to her arms.
One of them growled in her ear, “Keep walking, and if you value your life, don’t make a scene, or we will end you right here.” She looked back, as she was swept away. She saw her neighbour handing her phone over to a bespectacled guy.
“You were right, Milli,” he said. “Her cell phone is the remote trigger to the bomb.”
The train was still at the platform, being evacuated, as the bomb squad examined the tiffin box packed with the high intensity Improvised Explosive Device, to make sure that there wasn’t a fail-safe trigger to detonate it, in case the remote trigger failed.
Meanwhile, at the chawl, Yashodabai was banging on Helen Aunty’s door.
“Eh, Helen! Wake up! There are terrorists in the chawl! Calm down, the cops took them away. They will keep Munna safe till some relative picks him up. Make me a cup of tea, while I tell you what those three girls did….”
That evening, dinner at Col. Baldev Singh’s house was a very tense affair. His wife, Kakki, was not speaking to him. The Blackbirds escaped into their rooms after dinner, and Kakki Aunty was banging vessels in the sink.
“How could you put my girls in such danger, Bally? And Milli and Debbie of all the girls.”
“They are trained for this Kakki, and Sweety was there too. You know how she’s always ready for a fight. Together, they were more than a match for those people. You should be proud of them! They foiled a major terror attack on Mumbai!”
“But, why didn’t you arrest those people before they placed the bomb on the train?”
“We needed hard evidence against that woman, Kakki. She was the brains behind the plan. All the conversation that we recorded was good evidence, but, it wouldn’t have been enough to hang her. We had to catch her in the act of placing the bomb. Now, she and her guys will all hang.”
Meanwhile, the Blackbirds were preparing for their next task.
Photo credit: Dr. Ajay Pradhan.
Do check out his awesome photos at WanderLust Adventures
I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge