Sunday 15 August 2021

Ready for the Big Stage


By Ranjit Kulkarni

iced cafe mocha

 In his mind, he always believed that he could have been anything – a doctor, an engineer, a businessman, a stockbroker, or an artist. But he chose to be a detective. But success had eluded him, and he blamed the small town he lived in for it. “You deserve better,” he told the man in the mirror every morning when he woke up.

Therefore, when detective Badshah got a call from a diamond trader in the big city of Mumbai to solve the case of his stolen uncut diamonds, the small-town detective felt that his reputation and career had finally reached the tipping point. How else could one explain this unsolicited case dropping into his lap like this? He liked the new development. He liked the successful feeling he got in his excited heart from the new development even more.

He felt he had had enough of solving cow thefts and petty drunken brawls. How much more of one's life can someone as talented as him spend on fixing vandalism and minor shoplifting in his small hometown? But this case was something worth his time and talent.

A diamond thief in Mumbai must be a thief deserving respect in the community of thieves. Tracking him down would be something worth the time and talent of a detective of the pedigree of Badshah, he told the man in the mirror again. It would propel him into the higher orbit that he deserved. He gave a contented smile to the man in the mirror and set out.

He had never gone out of his small hometown for longer than a few days. This was going to be his first major trip outside. Travel was something he always wanted to do, and he felt it was apt that it was to the big city of Mumbai for work. He saw the flight ticket that the client had sent him. He flaunted it to everyone in his hometown. Everyone thought that detective Badshah, after toiling for years on local cases of low importance, had finally arrived on to the big stage. He prepared to leave for Mumbai.

It was a late evening flight. It was almost midnight by the time Badshah landed at Mumbai Airport. He wondered why his client sent him a ticket for a flight so late. Couldn't he have booked a flight at some other convenient time? Badshah thought of asking the client, but he didn't ask him. Beggars can't be choosers, he reminded himself. There was no need to get carried away. This is his first case on the big stage, and he shouldn't act over-smart, he felt. Thankfully, dinner was paid for in the flight and so when detective Badshah landed in Mumbai close to midnight, he didn't have to worry about dinner. Life in his hometown revolved around food and meals and he was glad that his client in Mumbai cared about it.

The client had booked a suite for him at a hotel already. He had said it should be easy to find it. But detective Badshah decided that he had done enough work for the day. Why bother so much about finding the hotel yourself? After all, this was a case of stolen diamonds. The fees should be good, he felt. He had not spoken about it with the client yet. But from the client's conversation, it looked like fees shouldn't be a big issue.

All he had to do now was to take a cab and pay the cabbie who shall drive him to his hotel. He can afford such small luxuries now, he told himself. After all, people on the big stage value their time and spend on the right things. He should learn to do it too.

Detective Badshah walked out of the airport and hailed a cab.

"Golden Orchid hotel," he told the cabbie.

The cabbie gave him a head-to-toe look. Detective Badshah had a purple bag. He wore sunglasses even at this hour. He had a cap with a big capital B on it, which the cabbie noted. Badshah also wore a gold chain in his neck that fell over his shirt. It was a good luck charm from his mother that protected him from all evil.

"500 rupees," the cabbie said.

Badshah sat in the cab. The cabbie waited for him to hand over his bag to be put in the trunk like his normal airport customers. But detective Badshah didn't notice that. He made himself comfortable with the big purple bag next to him on the back seat. The cabbie came back to his driver’s seat. He had a smirk on his face when he started to drive.

"First time in Mumbai, Sir?" he asked.

Badshah gave him a glare from above his sunglasses and, after a pause, replied, "No, I come here every month on work."

"Stay at Golden Orchid every time Sir?" he asked.

"Yes, most of the time. I love their suite," detective Badshah replied and turned his gaze outside the window. "The city of Mumbai never sleeps, eh?" he remarked after a while.

"Yes, Sir," the driver said and focused on his driving.

Detective Badshah enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city for the next twenty minutes.

"Sir, your hotel," the driver said.

"Oh it's here. That was quick. No traffic at night, eh?" detective Badshah remarked, and handed over a crisp five hundred rupee note to the cab driver.

"Yes Sir," the cabbie said and left.

The suite was the best hotel room that Badshah had seen. Not only had he never seen something so luxurious, but it was something that was even beyond his imagination. He jumped and danced on the bed, and switched on the air conditioner, and opened the minibar, and checked the food menu. In short, he had a whale of a time before going to sleep. He had indeed arrived on the big stage, he told himself looking at the suite.

In the morning, he had a wholesome breakfast that the diamond trader had booked along with the room. Then he clicked photographs of the hotel and his room on his phone and sent them to everyone at home. Then, he dug out the numbers of everyone he knew in his hometown and sent the photographs to them.

For the next thirty minutes, he called all of them to check if they had seen them. He told them how this case was the break he was waiting for and how it was going to leapfrog him into the big league. He had never been happier.

At nine thirty, when he was back in his room after breakfast, he got a call from his diamond trader client.

"I hope you had a good flight," the client said.

"Yes sir. It was a bit late, but you know, working at night is not uncommon in my profession," detective Badshah replied.

"Wonderful. Any problems finding the hotel?" the client enquired.

"Not at all. I am here to find the diamond thief. A hotel shouldn't cause problems, isn't it?" detective Badshah said with a swagger.

"Yes of course," the client smiled. "Shall we meet at 10.30 at the lobby?" he asked.

"Lobby? I am sorry?" detective Badshah enquired.

"The Lobby? It's on the ground level. Or let's meet at the coffee shop on mezzanine. 10.30 sharp," the client said.

"Alright.. oh .. ok," detective Badshah replied, wondering where is this mezzanine and why he has to meet at a coffee shop.

He quickly got ready. The room had become stuffy, so he decided to open the windows. He couldn't find any windows. So he went close to the curtains and found one behind them. He realised that the windows were closed and couldn't be opened. He pushed the curtains away to let some natural light come into his room. If not fresh air like his hometown, he felt the urge for some natural sunlight. He stood in front of the window.

Just as he turned back from the window, he noticed a structure with a board that said "Mumbai Airport Terminal 1" right in front of the hotel. He wondered whether it was the same airport that he came to last night. He thought it was. A frown of suspicion made its presence felt on his forehead.

He went to the coffee shop at 10.40. But no one turned up at the coffee shop till way past noon. He tried calling but couldn't reach the client. When he enquired with the coffee shop, they said someone had left him a message. He opened the paper chit that had the message. It said, in bold letters, "DON’T NEED A DETECTIVE WHOM A CABBIE CAN FOOL. GO BACK."

Detective Badshah bit his lips and made sure no one around him had seen either the message or his face after reading it. He quietly checked out of the hotel after paying all the bills. He glared at the airport as he stepped out but went to the railway station and took the first train back. The next day he told everyone in his hometown about his travel adventures and how he had cracked the case of the lost diamonds in the big city of Mumbai in less than a day, and how he was, finally, ready for the big stage.

About the author

anjit Kulkarni's work has appeared in Literary Yard, Indian Periodical, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Potato Soup Journal, Setu Journal, Ariel Chart, Active Muse and Kathmandu Tribune. More details about his work can be accessed at 

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