Authors note: This is the sixth chapter of week 2 in the "Game of Blogs" for the team "Bards of the Blogosphere." #CelebrateBlogging To read the previous chapter, click here.



     “Okay. You now have my undivided attention.” Minister Kurien Nambiar said as he leaned forward and locked eyes with Cyrus. It was an hour after the minister's speech and the crowds were still in the main hall listening to other dignitaries.
“According to my secretary Chandy, you requested to meet me for quite a few days and refused to take no for an answer. When he pencilled you in for an hour after lunch today at the hall, you refused. You demanded a private audience with me, claiming that it was a matter of national importance. Again, you were refused and once more, you persisted. And yet here you are, seated beside me in the convention centre’s private VIP chamber, doors closed and the guards sent away.”


      Cyrus started to speak but then stopped as the minister raised a hand. The silence was deafening as the two sat still, staring at each other inside the confines of the regal décor of the room.  
      “I was not finished, boy. You are here because you said you had evidence which I needed to see. You told Chandy that there were things being hidden from me by my party members regarding the topic we are all here for.”

      The minister once more paused as he stared at a decorative brass cube sitting upon the mahogany table. Without warning, he picked it up and tossed it underhand to the lawyer. Cyrus flinched but caught it with one hand almost reflexively. He looked at the minister who gestured at him to look at the cube. Cyrus stared at the depiction upon the heavy object. Engraved upon it was the familiar figure of the Lady of Justice, the Greek Goddess Themis.
       “She remains forever blindfolded, Mr Cyrus, so that all are equal in her eyes. But I cannot afford such luxuries in trust. I cannot remain blindfolded to the truth. Chandy felt you were genuine and I trust him more than I trust you. That is why you are seated across this desk from me. You have five minutes to convince me that Chandy made the right decision.”

      Cyrus cleared his throat. He felt a bit light-headed but knew he could not afford to let his fears get the better of him. Placing the cube down, he opened his file and stared down at the first page and began.

     “Sir, as you know, human trafficking is a significant problem here in India. In fact, the most recent studies suggest that up to…”
     “20 to 65 million Indians are direct victims of human trafficking.” The minister said, his eyes focused on the table.
    Cyrus looked up from the file, flustered. Seeing no response from the minister, he took a deep breath and started again.
    “Yes. Of this, nearly 1.2 million…”
    “…Indian children have been trafficked worldwide for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation including video clips, photographs and other such media.” The minister’s face remained impassive as he finished the sentence once more. When Cyrus did not respond, the minister finally looked up at him.

     “Did you come all the way here to give me a lecture on human trafficking? You think I, a minister who has been called here to discuss my stand on this topic at a national convention, do not have the latest statistics at my fingertips? Let me guess what comes next in this verbal slide show of yours.”
He started to count off points on his fingers as he talked.
      “50,000 – the number of women and children are trafficked across state borders every year in India for the purpose of labour, begging, organ trade and sexual exploitation. 44,000 – the number of children being trapped every year. 11,000 – the number out of those 44,000 who will never be found again.”  He shook his head and made a face.
     “I am disappointed in you, Mr Cyrus. You maybe passionate on the topic but if this is all you have, you lied to my man. Please tell me there is more.”

     Cyrus found his hand trembling as he closed the file. He placed it upon the table and reached into his bag once more. Retrieving a yellow manila folder, he opened it up to reveal a bunch of xeroxed pages. The stamp of a ministerial seal lay upon some of the first page at the top. He placed on the table and glanced at the minister.

     “Earlier this year, in May, over six hundred children were rescued in two separate incidents at the Palakkad railway station. They included children not just from Kerala but even from faraway states. Some had been abducted and others sold by their parents and relatives for a pittance. As you know, investigations revealed the role of various traders using orphanages as a front. That is where it ends for the public with the usual official stance of ‘investigative agencies are looking into this’ by the government.”
Finally, the minister reached out and picked up the file on the table. He stared at the first page, reading its contents meticulously even as he gestured for Cyrus to continue.

      “We, at Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya, took the initiative and carried on digging up what we could about the implicated orphanages. At first, it seemed futile. They were seemed like random initiatives across various cities, started by many NGOs and philanthropists.  It could well have been a case of one bad guy working within these orphanages, without the heads of the orphanages knowing.”
     “But then there is this.” The minister said, nodding. His eyes were fixed upon the pages in front of him.

     “Yes, sir. We realized we were focusing on the wrong thing. We were staring at the orphanages so much, we had forgotten the ties that bind them all.”
     The minister placed the file down on the table. They both stared at the seal on the top. It was a government seal.

     “Mr Cyrus, you are suggesting that our government is directly involved in human trafficking?”
     “No sir. Sad as it sounds, I wish it were that easy. Sir, the seal is of the government but the ministry vouching for the guarantees for bank donations of seven out of the twelve institutional heads caught in the racket is the same was the same, sir. It was yours.”

      The minister stared at Cyrus for a moment.  Once more, he gestured with his hand and Cyrus responded, picking up the brass cube and tossing it to the minister. Just as Cyrus had done earlier, he too caught it in one hand and subconsciously started rotating it in his palm as he spoke.
      “And you came to me with evidence against me?”

     Cyrus shook his head. “Sir, we know you are not involved. We have been watching you for decades now as you fight this scourge. We may not approve of your party’s methods but we believe in you. Sir, there is no easy way to say it. There is someone within your trusted party workers who is aiding and abetting the traffickers. They have incorporated themselves into your privy league. Even as you use your power to save lives, there is an evil that lies hidden beneath and uses the very power your post carries to further his own.”
    “Who do you suspect?”

    Cyrus started to point towards the sign upon the first page but the minister cut him off, annoyed. “No. I saw that already and I am telling you, Chandy will not do this. He has been with me since the days of the Rajiv Gandhi administration. No, someone has forged his name. I know it.”
    “Sir…”
    “Look. I understand what you want to say. I know it looks bad for him but you cannot expect me to lose faith in him based on these xeroxes, which I can only assume have been obtained illegally.”
    As he stood up, the minister noted Cyrus’s face fall. He stared at the yellow file on the table for a moment before nodding.

   “But I will not ignore this either. I need to discuss this with someone and I will get back to you before the day ends. This will not be a police investigation… this will be a purging from within the party itself, Mr Cyrus. So rest assured, there will be answers and soon. I still hold clout here and there will be results. You will have a name by the end of the day and you will realise it is not Chandy. I leave tomorrow morning via Coimbatore. Are you willing to meet me at the state guest house in the evening?”
“I would love to.”
Cyrus stood up and shook hands with the minister. As he turned to leave, the minister called out.
“Bring all the other members of your team along for tonight.”
“Sir, they are still in Delhi. Only I made the journey here.”
“Good. Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir.”
“See you tonight, Mr Cyrus. God speed.”
“God speed, sir.” Cyrus replied as he shut the door behind him and walked down the hallway that connected the VIP chamber towards the mezzanine leading back to the convention area on the ground floor. Unable to control himself any longer, he pumped a fist in the air in joy. This was it. This was their moment. Kurien himself was looking into it right now. All the hard work of the last three months had finally paid off. Chandy, or whoever it ended up eventually being, would not be able to get out of this… not with the minister's clout within the party.

“The game’s afoot, Watson.” he said to himself, mimicking detective Holmes. He was still immersed in his own inner monologue when the horrifying scream of Kurien rang through the hallway. Turning around, he raced back down the path he had been, his heart beating wildly. Ironically, the first thing he noticed as he entered through the now ajar door was an eerily familiar face peering through the translucent fluttering curtains before disappearing.

The lifeless frame of the minister registered in his mind a few moments later, of course.

                                                                    
                                                                                *****

You can read the next chapter of our tale HERE.
The team Bards of the Blogosphere comprises of DivyakshiPriyanka RoyPriyanka Victor,ArpitaDattaNupurSulekhaMaria and Roshan
To see the journey so far categorized by chapters, click here.
  


5 Comments

Great work, Doc. I have changed the name of Cyrus' NGO to the one you have called it.
It wasn't my idea... three posts above :) But I liked the concept behind the name...
babylotus said…
Great work doc and good luck !! Btw I had tried placing an order for the book "Myriad Tales" but amazon.in cancelled my order !!! Now when I tried the link again, the webpage is not getting displayed !! :(
Thank you so much..
Regarding the book launch, could you try this link instead:
http://greenrockstore.com/product/myriad-tales/
babylotus said…
Thank you for the lead...placed the order and cant wait to read it ! Btw loved the ending .. very profound and thoughtful.. all the best wishes for the contest doc !! :)