Punyakoti came to Dr.Nagi Reddy’s Hospital. He went to Reception and enquired about Mangal Murthy’s room. The lady there in stead of directing him to the room, said in exclamation,
“Oh! That brief case patient! He is now at Room no 103. Go straight and the staircase is on your left side.” Punyakoti gave a blank stare at the lady and wondered why she called him ‘brief case patient’. Without asking any further questions he then proceeded towards the staircase. In the room, he found Mangal Murthy to be very weak and his son Cheenu was present there as care-giver. He got the updates from him.
Three days ago, Mangal Murthy complained of severe chest pain and was admitted into the hospital immediately. After preliminary tests, Angioplasty was done on him. Now he was under observation. Simultaneously, he was under rest and recuperation. The three blocks which were the main cause of severe chest pain were blasted by balloon therapy. He was on his road to recovery. Having learnt about his friend’s health condition and finding his response to treatment, Punyakoti expressed his satisfaction and thanked his friend’s stars.
After formal inquiries about family details, Punyakoti asked Cheenu, why his father was referred to as ‘brief case patient’. Cheenu said, “Oh! It is a long story. Let us sit outside and talk. That’s better.”
“Uncle, three days ago, we sent Ramu to the bank to get cash. Because the amount was quite big, Ramu went with briefcase. When he was about to come, I told him that father developed chest pain and was being taken to hospital. So, better come direct to hospital with the cash intact.”
“Okay, dear, why you wanted so much cash?”
“You know appa is the owner of marriage function hall. Next week there is a marriage at the function hall. The hall needs to be decorated. Floral arrangements, decorative ribbons, serial bulbs, neon lights, name board displaying bride and groom, arrangement of chairs and tables, getting things for the stage setting, and much more… like as per modern trend, special counters at the dining area for each item on menu card …. See. There are so many small and minute items to be given personal attention. And for everything, I need to keep the purse open. Credit card or net transfer nor digital money will work. All technicians and labourers need to be paid instantaneously in cash … hard cash. That is why Ramu was sent to draw cash from the bank. Ramu went that side and this side, appa complained of chest pain. Initially it was not so harsh. We took it lightly and asked him to take rest. But suddenly the intensity increased and he groaned and writhed in severe pain. Immediately he was admitted here. Ramu was asked to pay cash at the counter. I was kept busy with the doctor and his team when they were taking various tests and procedures.
Ramu gave the very briefcase to the counter clerk and asked him to take the required amount. Briefcase contained notes in all denominations and Ramu thought that it was not wise to open the suit case publicly and keep counting the money in full view of all public. The counter clerk took the briefcase and while trying to open, he held it in such a way that some sections of notes fell down. He immediately shut the briefcase and picked up the fallen notes. He tried to put things in order. Just then, a neighbour, in the name of helping the clerk, tried to stack all notes inside the briefcase, and within a fraction of a second, he fled from the scene. The clerk screamed, ‘help, help. Thief, thief.’ A few ran towards the thief. Ramu had a shock of life. He was afraid and was terribly shaken. He did not know what to do. Two and half lakhs is not a joke. If he were to make good the loss, he certainly can never do it. He just cannot. In order to save himself, he told the clerk, you please attend to my master and I shall chase the fellow and get back the money. He ran towards the gate at lightning speed.
Ramu could not overpower the thief. But he saw the guy throwing the briefcase to another person, may be his colleague in the conspiracy of ‘hand and glove’ game. Ramu called the police and lodged a complaint of theft. Hospital also had lodged a similar complaint. They asked him to come in person. Ramu went there and gave all details of briefcase, of cash in it, the two thieves, their get-ups et cetera. Police asked him to identify them from the group photo of pickpockets displayed on the notice board. Yes. Ramu could identify ‘Gopu and Deepu’ as culprits. Police sent back Ramu. They said, it was their job now. According to them, an easy-done-deal.
Ramu came to me and told everything. Though he was not shivering in despair, he was worried that he would be made scapegoat. Uncle, I was myself much worried. Loss of two and half lakhs of rupees was surely a big loss. More than that my present worry was …. From where can I bring another two and half lakhs? What will happen to appa if he comes to know about it? That rude shock may kill him. How am I going to manage expenses of marriage hall decorations? Will appa’s treatment require this much or will it be for more? Flood of thoughts banged me from left and right. Amidst all these confusions and tensions, a small ray of hope seemed to appear. The hospital in charge called me and told that the Police was confident of both catching the two thieves and retrieving the stolen cash from them. Hence, I need not bother about appa’s treatment nor about making payment right now. A moment of light solace. “
“That’s all right Cheenu. Could the Police get the two crooks immediately?”
No, Uncle. I told you it is a long story. Lot more of things happened, before the final end came.
Police alerted the beat constable and the traffic police man in nearby areas to catch hold of any suspicious persons going about, with briefcase in hand. Meantime, Gopu having taken the briefcase from Deepu, ran for a while. In order to avoid suspicious looks on him, he entered into a public convenience. Uncle, you can never imagine how funny things keep happening in sequences. Gopu was not comfortable in relieving himself with the briefcase tucked between his legs. The minute he relaxed his grip on the briefcase, one crooked fellow sprang on him and took it and made way. Gopu was in a very difficult situation. Taking pity on him, another person who finished his job, came to his rescue. He jumped towards the door and tried to close it. Then he rained blows on the fellow. Lying low and still holding the briefcase, he grinded his teeth and growled, “You don’t know Daamu. Anybody rubbing me on wrong sides, is doomed.” The other man too lost his temper. He too snarled. “Are you challenging me? I am Somu? Thank your stars. If you were in my area, you will be torn to pieces. Luckily, you are spared. Leave that briefcase here and run away.” By then Gopu also joined the duo. Seeing two men ready to attack, Daamu threw the briefcase to a far of distance and fled the scene.
Gopu thanked Somu and went ahead to fetch the box. But Somu grinned wryly and uttered, “Is it for this, I did all that? Those stunts, you think, I did it for you? Come on. Leave this to me and disappear from here. Or else, I will shout and call others for help. I will simply tell them that you forcefully grabbed my briefcase. You saw now, what Daamu got from me, the same you will get from others.” By then a few men entered. Gopu on his own assumed them to be his men. Better sense prevailed on him. He ran away in self-defence. Uncle, you see now, the fate of that briefcase! It has already changed hands from six to seven people, all good and bad, from the bank cashier to Somu so far. Just like in the film Mackenna’s Gold, the ‘hit and run’ rat race is still there. It did not stop with Somu.
Somu came out victoriously from the public convenience, only to bump into a policeman. Somu thought the policeman would arrest him. So, he sped across the road and ran away. But the cop had come there for his convenience. Somu taking long strides, and was almost jogging, a shady fellow of similar character, followed him. Somu, without turning back, could sense that he was being followed. Who knows? He could be Daamu or even Gopu himself. Best way to sneak from these scrupulous crooks, Somu thought it was wise to go zigzag and into small alleys that too surreptitiously. His follower also had to do the same tricks. While Somu escaped a cop’s suspicious eyes, his follower was not. The cop screwed him up to spill the beans. The shady fellow pointed out that the actual culprit to be caught was Somu and not this idiotic Paramu. The cop still holding the guy went chasing for Somu.
Meantime, Somu got into a shop and requested the shopkeeper to keep the box till he came back from the nearby urinal. Considering the urgency and genuineness, he agreed. Somu got free from bothersome fetters and walked freely. Both cop and Paramu still looking for Somu, kept going. They went ahead of the shop, where the briefcase was kept atop a table. Paramu, his intuition urged him to retreat. He noticed the briefcase inside the shop. Both cop and Paramu went inside and enquired. Rahul, the shopkeeper said that the owner of the briefcase had gone to attend to nature’s call was expected any minute. Though he said it, Rahul realized that a lot more than reasonable time had elapsed and there was no trace of that person. No wonder his friends teased him and called him as ‘Rahu’, meaning thereby his presence was a ‘bad time’ for others.
Paramu told the cop, “See I told you! He must be a terrorist. That was why he sneaking and avoiding me. You unnecessarily suspected me and allowed the real culprit to run away.” Rahul, hearing all this and sensing the danger, took the briefcase and ran at the speed of winds, (to say head over heels will be underestimating). Anytime it may burst. The so called ‘Rahu’ was running, not caring for speeding vehicles, nor the signals and not even bothering about pedestrians or the crowd. He went to the gymkhana grounds and placed the briefcase there. He moved away panting for breath. People saw him running madly and a few followed him. One Mr Ketu, asked him, “What is the problem?’” Rahu explained how a terrorist planted an attended bomb in his shop. Ketu observed that Rahu came running for quite a while and even now nothing happened. How it did not explode? So very cautiously he moved towards the briefcase. First thing he did was to find any ticktock sound or vibration. There was none. ‘Oh! What a relief.’ He said to himself. He looked around. Rahu left long back to his shop. He cannot leave it open and run away like this!
With briefcase he moved to a corner of the gymkhana and tried to open and see what it contained. Instead of fully opening the case, he lifted the upper lid slightly. Oh! What a sight! Never in his life had he seen so much. All wads and wads! Notes and notes! The first thought that struck him was how the owner must be feeling for the loss. Maybe he would have collapsed. In all righteousness it should be returned to the owner. But who is owner? Certainly not Rahu. He was the one who mistook it as bomb. Ketu felt his civic sense which told him ‘to go police station and hand over the briefcase’ must be honoured. The loser must have already lodged a complaint. And in this manner, it will easily reach its destination. Once decided, he moved on. Carrying the briefcase was a big botheration. So, he bought a suitcase, wherein this was placed.
Uncle, the chain of events has some more twists. With suitcase in hand, he headed to the station. Enroute, he had a doubt. Police instead of helping him, suppose implicated him on false charges? If they tell me .... you have hidden a larger share of the bounty elsewhere and showing us a small amount, eh? Police men are known for their corruption. So, Ketu changed his mind and headed towards station, this time railway station. His grandmother’s younger sister staying in Coimbatore was in need of assistance. On further thoughts, he changed his mind. That old lady is a strict disciplinarian and does not accept anything from anybody without questioning ‘where-what-how-when’ etc. Seeing this big bounty, she will strike him with broomsticks and drive him out. Again, he changed his mind. This time, he thought he would drop the cash in some temples, or give it away to any orphanage. He dismissed the temple ides. Because he knew that many temples are run by politicians and govt officials. So, he knew where his money will end up. The best option was charity.
Now he was clear. He headed straight to an Old age Home. Ketu felt happy that he was up-to something humane and benevolent. For a second, a thought flashed on him. If they ask for the source of this big money what should I say? He cannot say Rahu gave me. They will kick me out saying both Rahu-Ketu coming straight from hell? Do you want to sit on our heads? Get lost.
Ketu decided unless he prepared some proper sensible replies for possible questions, he should not venture to do anything. Yes. A bulb flashed in his head. He got another idea. Donate to PM Fund or CM fund or best give it to Defence. Thinking is Okay. How to do? Whom to approach? That was his problem. In all these thought process, he felt miserably hungry. He went to a nearby petty shop to get some biscuits or banana.
Stopping at this point, Cheenu thought uncle Punyakoti lost interest in this long drawn-struggle of money changing hands. He asked, “Uncle, you know what happened further?”
“Tell me Cheenu, in one word whether you got the money or not.”
“Yes. I did. But not without two more people in the deal.”
“Two more? How why?”
“See, Ketu was sipping his tea and enjoying his biscuits. A stray dog from nowhere came and stood by his side, wagging its tail. Ketu did not like dogs. He kicked it. It screeched and came back to him. Ketu could have kept quiet. See his bad luck. He took a stone and threw it on the poor animal. Already hungry, now angry, what will it do? It bit him. Ketu got wild. This time, he kicked it hard. Dog became ferocious. It resulted in some more bites. Ketu was screaming in fear and pain. It should not be Rabies.
People gathered there felt, sorry for Ketu. All were giving some random advices. Ketu was groaning in pain. Finally, one Mr. Babu, took him with his suitcase to the nearby hospital. Do you know where they came to? Same Dr, Nagi Reddy Hospital. Yes. This hospital only. First, they refused. Because. It was a dog-bite case. Babu pleaded that at least some first aid be given. Ketu told the hospital staff that he had a lot of money which he wanted to donate. Now he was prepared to give it to the hospital. Entire bulk of currency notes kept in his briefcase. The minute Babu took out the briefcase from the suitcase, the counter clerk screamed in excitement. ’This very briefcase! The same briefcase! Hearing all these undecipherable sounds, Ramu and I came running there. Because we distinctly heard the word ‘Briefcase’.
Ramu sat down immediately and started counting. Full two and half lakhs intact. See this is called luck. Uncle, do I need to tell you more on this? All is well that ends well is it not?
Police came and Ketu and Babu narrated all that they knew. Ramu also filled up the gap in between. Starting from Deepu Gopu, the briefcase had its full round, falling into eight different hands Babu being the last one. I call this as Eighth Wonder. Uncle wanted to count… “Cheenu, please repeat.”
Cheenu happily did it. “First one was Deepu, then Gopu, next Daamu, Somu followed him, Paramu, Rahu Ketu and finally Babu. So many people handled the money and it came back to me. Not a rupee more or not a rupee less. That is why I said it was EIGHTH WONDER.
Uncle wanted to say that by adding four more handlers like bank cashier, Ramu, hospital counter clerk and Cheenu yourself, … all told, you people become how can I say ‘Dirty Dozen’. So, let me call you LUCKY DOZEN.
Uncle did not say anything. He simply nodded. “Yes. It is indeed eighth wonder.”