Dr. Kandasaami was travelling to Paalayankottai with six boys. Another teacher, Lopamudra, was escorting four girls. All students were in the range of 5 to 10 years of age. It was one of their routine annual features. The number of boys and girls might vary year to year. But their visit to various jails in the state was a routine affair. During the journey itself, he guided them on what they should speak. Very little time would be given for conversation between the parent and the child. Every minute being precious should be spent on telling all positive features and achievements by them in the year- be it academic, crafts, books read, sports, computer skills, newly acquired friends etc. Generally, it was undertaken during the summer vacation, between two academic years. The children meeting their parents was a compulsory part of their education. A parent-teacher’ no, no, parent-kid meeting of a different calibre!
Dr. Kandasaami was running a school exclusively for the children of jail convicts- reason very simple. He saw such children of criminals were a lot, neglected by the society and looked upon as low and inferior beings. The shadow of their parents’ crimes fell heavily on them and their future was doomed once and for all. They were treated worse than any stray animals on roads. They were often criticized by the crimes committed by their parent and treated as if they themselves had committed- killer, thief, pickpocket- were common names. People just believed that it ran in their blood- as though committing crimes was their hereditary job. These forsaken children, having no income, no education and nowhere to go, finally ended up as convicts themselves. Kandasaami wanted to change this strange and unruly order. He believed, if the children were properly groomed, they could certainly become normal beings with good civic habits. So, he along with some noble hearted people and with the help of a jailor friend, started a small school for the betterment of wards of criminals and ensure their future was on right course. That which started with a handful children, was now a home to more than 100 students. Not that the criminals had increased, but awareness had. One or the other relative of the convict would get the child admitted in the school. Kandasaamy discharged his work with great passion. He was respected even in the jails he visited. The children also loved him.
The jail at Paalayankottai was in two parts- men at one place and women at another. Kandasaami took the boys and girls to their fathers in men’s wing. Lopamudra took others to their mothers in women’s cell. Kandasaami had requested for a separate corner in the same hall, for the prisoners- so that they could talk to their children freely. Small children, along with the general public thronging to the convicts in the common area meant chaos and commotion. A separate corner in the same area exclusively for the kids, facilitated the children to have a free conversation. In fact, one policeman lifted a small girl so that she could see and speak to her father behind the bar with proper eye contact. She recited a poem she had learnt in her class. Not only her father, everyone appreciated her. One criminal admiring her ability came forward and said, “I wish my son also comes here like this, to meet me and show his talent.” Kandasaamy asked him about him and his son. ‘Oh! My God!’ Dhanasekharan, the son of Gunasekharan, the convict, was his student only – a recent addition. Since father’s whereabouts were not known, the boy could not be brought this year. Dr. Kandasaamy told him about the boy- his overall performance and his special interest in sports. If he could get a proper sponsor, he was sure to be an athlete of future. Gunasekaran laughed, “father- a thief, runs at top speed on seeing the police and his son is a fast runner! Good joke.” Kandasaamy assured him, joke apart, if properly groomed, Dhanasekharan was bound to be a sport star. What to do! Funds constraint was a major hurdle. It was time to leave. Parting was always painful for both parent as well as children. But it had to be undertaken. Kandasaamy, before leaving, collected all details about Gunasekharan- how, when what crime committed and jail term remaining to be served.
Prisoners in the jail were quite excited about seeing their children, their growth and performances. They were chewing the cud with past and present anecdotes. Gunasekharan also was exhilarated. He wanted to make his son’s dream come true. He wanted to meet him in person and promise that. He was longing to see him. But, he had a long term to serve. Having come recently, even parole was not possible. He was looking for a way out.
Kandasaami on return from Paalayamkottai, was taking other children to their respective parents in jails at other places like, Vellore, Salem, Chennai… In addition, he had other assignments also. Apart from schooling for boys and girls left under his custody, he had to provide for their food clothing shelter, uniform, books, stationery, maids, assistants, teachers and so on. Every item needed huge amount. Kandasaamy’s passion and commitment for service alone could not fulfil all the above monetary requirements. In the absence of a regular donors or other steady source of income, at times, even day to day living was getting difficult. Frequently he went out looking for proper sponsors, donors and philanthropists. He used to visit corporate offices, malls, shops etc. People would rather lend an ear but not part with their earnings. Exceptions were there. Some youngsters came forward to coach children, some would render free services, some offered supplies, others, discounts. Though hardships were plenty, he did not allow his spirits to dry up. He kept his work going on.
He called Dhanasekharan and told him that he met his father at the jail. The boy, simply shrugged and said, “My father is killer. He killed my mother and went to jail. I hate him.” Kandasaamy immediately corrected him. His father was imprisoned for committing robbery, not for killing. His mother died of sickness- which itself was due to poverty, malnutrition, constant worries of making ends meet, etc. She was very fond of Dhanasekharan and wanted to bring up the child as a bright star in all fields. She named the boy as Dhanasekharan, so that money comes pouring in for him. But reality was far from dreams.
In a way, she was to be blamed for sending Gunasekharan to jail. All the time she nagged and nudged him to get money for family. Her earnings as a domestic helper in neighbourhood, was not sufficient to run the family. Tired of her nagging, lazy lousy Gunasekharan, with no proper skill, went to Kuberan for a hand loan. Kuberan was then hatching a plan for a big robbery. He readily took him as assistant and agreed to pay sumptuously. But, in the big robbery, Kuberan escaped with the bounty, while Gunasekharan standing as guard, was captured in the CCTV camera and landed in jail. Any amount of explanation about his ignorance of robbery or the loot, fell on deaf ears. Police strongly believed he robbed and hid the treasure somewhere. Instead, he was telling cock and bull stories.
Actually, Kuberan had earlier told him to stand as guard outside while he would complete his ‘carpentry work’ inside the shop and sumptuous amount would be paid for the ‘watchman’ service. He also said that if taken up during daytime, business would be affected and hence he was asked to complete the job at night. Neither payment for his watchman service, nor a share in the loot- all he got was a long-term imprisonment in jail. Cut short, Gunasekharan was put in jail for the robbery he did not commit. Kandasaamy continued, “I have now asked ‘Spyderweb’ detective agent, Devanand, to look for Kuberan and bring him to books, so that your father can be released.” Dhanasekharan, a tender boy of 10years, though felt pity for his father, was not fully convinced. Humiliations he suffered as a son of a convict and loss of his mother had turned him against his father. His raw wound was still paining. While Kandasaamy was trying his best to bring out Gunasekharan from jail, the latter was making his own efforts to come out. Very soon he got an opportunity.
When Gunasekharan was asked to download the provisions and vegetables from the van, he made use of the rare chance. The van driver did not realize that one gunny bag still remained inside. But the bag certainly did not contain vegetables or pulses. When the driver stopped the van for his convenience, Gunasekharan sneaked from the bag and decamped. He had only three things to be accomplished, before return to jail- meet his son and ask him to continue his athletic skills; next meet robber Kuberan, demand explanation (if necessary by force) for cheating him and lastly, make a request for use of ‘his share’ for meeting son’s sports requirements. The first in the agenda was to meet his son. So, he came straight to the school and asked for Dhanasekharan.
Father was so excited, but the boy stood still and silent. His friend Mani, only kept talking. Gunasekharan kissed the two children and told them to carry on their activities without bothering about monetary matters. He cajoled the two kids and with a contented mind left the school, but not very far.
In a short while, few boys came shouting- ”Hey, Dhana, your father lying in pool of blood, somebody murdered him!” Dhanasekharan ran to the spot screaming ‘Appa Appa’. Already, he was feeling sorry that he did not speak a word with his father, who came all the way, only to see him. When he knew his father was neither a killer, nor a robber, his hatred and anger slowly got reduced. But it was a big jolt now. He was totally aghast, when he learnt that his father was murdered. He saw his father lying dead, with a blood-soaked knife by the side. Instantly, he took the knife, wielding it in the air and addressing the unknown invisible murderer, shouted, “how dare you, I challenge you.” Turning to his father, he screamed amid wails and cries, “You were so nice, I never knew till now. I love you so much, Appa. Come back, please come back for my sake.” By then police arrived and arrested the boy who was still holding the knife. They said, ’boy’s strong hatred and anger towards his father was the motive for murder and knife with his fingerprints on it, were strong evidences.’ Message had gone to Kandasaamy, who had gone for canvassing for donations, came running. While coming, he said to his colleague, “I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered. Yes. I would have retained Gunasekharan with me in some odd conversation till police could come and take charge. After all he had escaped from jail. Once he was in police custody, this murder would not have happened at all. Kuberan only could have done this. He knew that one day or other, Gunasekharan would take revenge on him and demand his share. So, better eliminate him.”
Kandasaamy was terribly upset that Police was bent upon taking Dhanasekharan as the murderer. They flatly refused to listen to Kandasaamy’s explanations. “Whatever you have to say, send your lawyer or let us meet in court”, so saying they took the boy with them. Dhanasekharan, on seeing Kandasaamy cried aloud, “Sir, save me. I am scared. Please don’t leave me. I don’t have mother, now I don’t have father also. They call me murderer- but I have not killed an ant or a fly till date. Sir, you are God to me. Please take care of me.” He cried bitterly. Students and others- everyone felt sorry for the boy, but were helpless and silent. Kandasaamy patted him and assured him that he would certainly do so. “Now you go with them. I will arrange to get you released very soon. Have faith and patience. Remain silent. Don’t talk to anyone, even if they provoke you scornfully. Perseverance pays… There is one strong Mantra. Keep chanting- ‘SATYAMEVA JAYATE’. I will come with the Detective Agent to take you back. Till then keep chanting.”
Police, undisturbed by Dhanasekharan’s tears, dragged him on. Kandasaamy immediately asked Spyderweb Devanand to come to the spot. The body had already gone for post-mortem. The detective on close observation caught hold of two minor objects. He lifted them very carefully and held them safely. He wanted to know if any police dog sniffed the crime-spot. Since the police had already construed it as neat, simple, open-and-shut case, no other formalities were followed. The detective used his influence to get the dog and a few policemen. He requested the post-mortem doctor to look for queer-looking objects like torn cloth, coat buttons, strands of hair in the fists or legs. Such evidences could be very material and useful for the case.
The dog came, went around, sniffed the area and rushed towards railway station. The police and the detective followed. It waded through a crowded platform, creating chaos and confusion all around- people screamed, one falling on the other, their luggages strewn around… One police officer alerted the Central Railway Police Force. He also instructed railway authorities to delay the train about to depart. The dog stopped at a particular compartment. Spyderweb Devanand jumped in and pulled out a bag kept underneath, right behind a heavy trunk box. The man- Kuberan sitting opposite, shouted and questioned on what authority, his belongings were being disturbed. Deavanand said, “Arrest him. He is the killer.” Kuberan, in disguise, tried to escape- but in vain, was hand-cuffed.
There was an announcement on the Public-Address-System expressing regrets for inconvenience caused and simultaneously thanking profusely the general public, railway authorities and CRPF for their strong cooperation. The busy platform resumed its operations after witnessing the real-life crime drama.
Devanand handed over Kuberan’s bag containing blood-stained coat (with a button missing), wig beard, etc… to forensic department of police. He gave them the two objects he picked from the crime spot- the main clue which led the detective to the killer- a few strands of artificial hair and a broken button. He now got it confirmed from post-mortem report that a bunch of hair was stuck in the closed fist of the dead body. Now that things had fallen in respective places, police drilled Kuberan for full details.
Kuberan, after the robbery, fled to Andhra and lived there underground. After about four months, he came back to assess the situation. He came dressed as a Pathan, with wig, turban, beard, coat etc. On discreet enquiry, he learnt Gunasekharan was imprisoned, his wife died and son admitted in a special school. So, he went in search of the boy, where he had a chance meeting of escapade- Gunasekharan. The tussle that followed between the two, ended up in Kuberan’s killing. Even if stabbing was in self-defence, it was a cold blood murder, otherwise why did he carry a knife with him?
Devanand had a paramount duty to convey the good news of Kuberan’s arrest to Kandasaamy, who was the first one to entrust the case to him. The next urgent thing was to get poor little boy Dhanasekharan released. At his tender age, he suffered a lot. Kandasaamy took necessary documents and got the boy released from ‘Rehabilitation Home’. Dhanasekharan came crying and clung to Kandasaamy, who simply lifted him onto his shoulders and consoled him, “See, I told you, be patient, have faith. Ultimately, perseverance pays.”
The tight-lipped boy, lifted his head and hands; looked at the sky above, released his vocal cord and pronounced very loudly- as loudly as he can….
Truly, why not! Finally, Truth only triumphs.