They could see the legs of a man under an old Morris Minor. Hearing the General’s voice the man slid out, got up and did a salaam. Abbas Bux was a white haired man and stood there wiping his greasy hands on a greasier rag. He listened to their plan and said, “The 1932 model? I know that car. It usually runs quite well and doesn’t need much repair.”
“How long will it take?”
“I can’t say until I see the car and check what parts need replacing. I’ll be at your house tomorrow and then I’ll calculate the expenses too.”
The next afternoon Rajat and Bindi came back from school and went straight to Dadaji’s room, “Did Abbas Bux come?” they asked together. “What did he say?”
Dadaji looked up from his book, “Sit down first. I have some bad news.”
“He can’t repair the car?”
“No, it’s not that. He says he won’t do it. He’s been offered a lot of money to work on another vintage car. He’ll do it only if we pay even more — which we can’t afford to do. So that’s that!”
“Sarin bought him off.” Rajat suddenly remembered the fleeting glimpse of a man at Kashmere Gate.
“How did you guess?” Dadaji looked surprised.
“I saw his driver yesterday. He must have followed us to Bux’s garage.”
“Now what do we do?”
“Go in search of the other mechanic, of course. He’s our last hope.”
The next afternoon the children and the General trudged around Old Delhi looking for the mechanic. They kept checking behind them to see if they were being followed. Luckily the white Honda City or its driver were nowhere in sight. In the old Mori Gate area they finally located the garage of Sadiq mian. The General peered around the cars and yelled, “Arrey bhai, Sadiq mian!”
A man pulled his head out from under an open bonnet. He was a bald, wrinkled man in a kurta and checked lungi and a superb white moustache. He smiled, did a salaam and said, “Ah! General sahib! I was expecting you.”
“You were?” General Dayal looked startled.
“Yes. I know you went to that crook Abbas and he was bought off. So you had to come to old Sadiq after all.”
Sadiq opened a small brass box and offered the General a paan and took one himself. “I know that driver Ghanshyam, he works for some rich man.”
“I would have come to you first,” the General said apologetically, “but I didn’t have your address. I spent all of yesterday ringing up people to find you. It’s been many years Sadiq…”
“What car is it?” Sadiq asked.
“Fiat Ballila 1932.” Rajat said promptly.
“Ah! A Billo! That’s a good car.” Sadiq’s smile widened as he slipped on his chappals. “Let’s go and see it. But I can’t promise anything. May be it can’t be repaired.”
“My Dadaji says it’s in good condition, and he knows the car.” Bindi said quickly.
“We’ll see,” was all Sadiq would say.
Continued next week