Here’s the opener:
The Demons of November
The rooftop of our tenements affords us a direct view to Bansilal’s farmhouse just opposite. The ugly purple curtains framing his picture windows are drawn apart in that artistic style as if he’s hosting a play in his living room. Soni trains the binoculars at the window – the bania is entertaining guests. His maid must have served them exactly two biscuits and a cup of tea. He wouldn’t part with any more than that from his pantry.
Soni demands to know – is he really chatting with friends, or executing one of his “transactions”?
We each take a turn with the binoculars, but none of us can spot cash changing hands. It might be a personal visit, but with Bansilal one never knows.
The new government had marched in one day armed with bulldozers and razed the slums, leaving us homeless. They promised us new tenements, but no timeline. Shakti Uncle witnessed our plight, and eased his conscience by handing us the keys to his flat before he headed for the Gulf for a company posting. Then the water turned bad and Pinki fell ill with amoebic dysentery, and we had to hustle to buy her medicines. A week to the day of her recovery, Jivan Uncle tumbled down the stairs and fractured his leg in a freak accident.
The tenements came much later.
We light up a cigarette and pass it around. This is taking more time than we’d planned for.
The guests leave. Minutes pass, then the maid opens the door. A man enters and slumps down on the divan facing Bansilal. His bald pate shines under the chandelier lights in the bania’s house. He runs a hand over his head.
Jivan Uncle stubs out the cigarette and touches my shoulder. “That’s our cue, Amar. Let’s go.”
Security guards fall in two categories – the ones you can pull aside and slip a little more cash than they’re used to, and the other burly kind who’re gunning for a fight. The latter can knock down most opponents with a glare of their bloodshot eyes and a punch with a well-rounded fist. Bansilal’s guards hold steadfastly loyal to him – I don’t understand why – but it means Soni and I need to use our hands and knees. It doesn’t faze us. We dispatch them easily.
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