At seven, Bipin Babu’s servant came and announced that Seth Girdhariprasad had come. A rich businessman — and a VIP — this Girdhariprasad. And he had come by appointment. But Bipin Babu was feeling so low that he had to tell his servant that it was not possible for him to leave his bed. To hell with VIPs.
At 7.30, the servant came again. Bipin Babu had just dozed off and was in the middle of an unpleasant dream when the servant’s knock woke him up. Who was it this time? “Chuni Babu, sir. Says it’s very urgent.”
Bipin Babu knew what the urgency was. Chunilal was a childhood friend of his. He had fallen on bad times recently, and had been pestering Bipin Babu for a job. Bipin Babu had kept fobbing him off, but Chuni kept coming back. What a persistent bore.
Bipin Babu sent word that not only was it not possible for him to see Chuni now, but not in several weeks as well.
But as soon as the servant stepped out of the room, it struck Bipin Babu that Chuni might remember something about the ’58 trip. There was no harm in asking him.
He sped downstairs. Chuni had got up to leave. Seeing Bipin Babu, he turned around with a flicker of hope in his eyes.
Bipin Babu didn’t beat about the bush.
“Listen, Chuni — I want to ask you something. You have a good memory, and you’ve been seeing me off and on for a long time. Just throw your mind back and tell me — did I go to Ranchi in ’58?”
Chuni said, “Fifty-eight? It must have been ’58. Or was it ’59?”
“You’re sure that I did go to Ranchi?”
Chuni’s look of amazement was not unmixed with worry.
“D’you mean you have doubts about having gone at all?”
“Did I go? Do you remember clearly?”
Chuni was standing; he now sat down on the sofa, fixed Bipin Babu with a long, hard stare and said, “Bipin, have you taken to drugs or something? As far as I know, you had a clean record where such things were concerned.
I know that old friendships don’t mean much to you, but at least you had a good memory. You can’t really mean that you’ve forgotten about the Ranchi trip?”
Bipin Babu had to turn away from Chuni’s incredulous stare.
“D’you remember what my last job was?” asked Chunilal.
“Of course. You worked in a travel agency.”
“You remember that and you don’t remember that it was I who fixed up your booking for Ranchi? I went to the station to see you off; one of the fans in your compartment was not working — I got an electrician to fix it. Have you forgotten everything? Whatever is the matter with you? You don’t look too well, you know.”
Bipin Babu sighed and shook his head.
“I’ve been working too hard,” he said at last. “That must be the reason. Must see about consulting a specialist.”
Doubtless it was Bipin Babu’s condition which made Chunilal leave without mentioning anything about a job.
Paresh Chanda was a young physician with a pair of bright eyes and a sharp nose. He became thoughtful when he heard about Bipin Babu’s symptoms. “Look, Dr Chanda,” said Bipin Babu desperately, “you must cure me of this horrible illness. I can’t tell you how it’s affecting my work. There are so many kinds of drugs these days; isn’t there something specific for such a complaint? I can have it sent from abroad if it’s not to be had here. But I must be rid of these symptoms.”
Dr Chanda shook his head.
To be continued
Extracted from Bad Moon Rising – The Puffin Book of Mystery Stories;