Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vine: Chapter 6: The old man

[Previously: Year 2001, Rohit Verma and Neha Gupta (Raj Gupta’s wife) meets a fatal accident on Pune - Mumbai highway. The same day Rohit’s wife Sohini Bose commits suicide in their mumbai residence. Raghav Bose Verma (son of Rohit and Sohini) is left to the care of Sohini’s brother Pradip Bose and his wife Piyana Bose. Present day: Raghav who was settled in US with his maternal uncle, decides to come to India for selling his parental home. Getting a sudden call from Raj Gupta claiming he knows the truth about his parent’s death, Raghav meets him in Pune. Raj Gupta and Rohit’s old friend Sriram Iyer, tells Raghav conflicting stories. Raghav is unable to make up his mind. Sriram’s daughter Tanya decides to accompany Raghav in quest to find answers]
As Raghav sat opposite to Dr Madhukar Bhonsle, sipping a cup of tea and hearing about how his mother was a brilliant scientist and one of the best he had ever tutored. Tanya sat next to him. Her generous dose of sarcastic humor and love for coffee helped him find a center in this turmoil of emotions. Having her alongside gave him some sense of relief and sanity. He had booked himself on a return flight for the day after. His uncle heard all about the Raj episode from Sriram and was adamant that he doesn't spend a day more in India.
“You know Raghav, you look a lot like her. She was my best student ever and the day she passed away was one of the saddest days of my life. I knew your father as well. Rohit was a nice man. It is so unfortunate when so many cruel things happen at the same time. It makes you wonder if it is just fate or is it someone pulling some strings from behind the curtains.”
Tanya was first to catch on to old man’s hint, and quickly asked him - “do you think someone was pulling strings? what do you mean, really?”
Dr Bhonsle looked at them one by one, and was carefully measuring every word he said next. In the last 10 years he had been ridiculed in his family and in his office for his outrageous conspiracy theories. While he had learnt his lesson about not sharing them as vocally or in public, he never wavered away from his belief or the lack of it. He was trying to assess which category these two kids will fall into.
“Do you know how many scientists in BARC have lost their lives in accidents or have committed suicide in last 15 years ?”
Both stared at him blankly, and shook their heads to express their ignorance on the subject.
“10 in total. 5 of which were in my department. Either my department is a particularly accident prone department or something is wrong here. Your mother was the first to go.”
“What were you working on?”, asked Raghav.
“Do you remember your basic undergraduate physics class? Uranium is used for generation of nuclear electricity, however it is available in limited quantity and not even found across the globe. Electricity or power has long been the backbone of scientific and economic progress. Whoever has access to the cheapest power, has the potential to become the biggest power in the globe and naturally during cold war, both US and Russia had been relentless in harnessing nuclear energy. However the competition has always remained in Russia’s favour as they have one of the richest Uranium reserves. India on the other hand have had access to one of the biggest Thorium reserve. Now while this is a seemingly useless sibling of the radioactive brotherhood, our research for over two decades have been around how to harness Thorium to generate electricity. We have been working closely with some of the research teams in US and our progress in this field was very encouraging to say the least. Your mother was in fact part of a joint research team of US and India to work on this very project. And then one fine day, just a month before your family was supposed to move to US, she commits suicide. Now I have known her for sometime. She could be many things, but she wasn't a weak person and she loved you a lot. There was nothing which could make her take her own life. She was not a person who backs out of a fight. She wasn't a coward.”
“So what are you saying?”, Raghav asked.
“I am saying that your mother was killed by KGB or ISI or some such forces.”
Raghav’s first reaction was that the old man had lost it. He was clearly in his late 60s and might be beginning to imagine things. But surprisingly Tanya seemed fairly interested.
“What about the remaining four from your team?”, she asked.
“Good question. Two died in a road accident, one was electrocuted while doing repair work at home, and one person fell down stairs and died. All of them were critical to the research that we were doing. As soon as we neared some breakthrough, one of the key personnel associated would die”
“Why haven't the police investigated this?”, Tanya asked
“For one, they all looked like accidents. Two, they were scientists and not some silly celebrities. Three, all of this has happened because of internal leaks. I am sure they would have found ways to pocket the police as well.”
It was like a page out of a fiction novel. Raghav found himself laughing at what the old man was saying. “Raj is confident that my father cheated on my mother and that is why she took her life. Tanya’s father is confident that my father was a good man. Now you are saying that my mother was killed by agents of secret service or worse by her own government. You know what, I officially don't know what to believe. Thank you for your time doctor, but I don't know what to believe anymore.” Raghav got up and left the apartment, before Madhukar could say anything. Tanya got up to follow him as well.
“Sorry Dr Madhukar. He has been through a lot in the last couple of days.”
“That's alright. I don't blame him. At least he heard me out. This was the first time that I spoke about this to anyone. Ask him to look for signs. There would be signs of some random incident which happened along with these accidents. Something which doesn't add up. Most people just ignore it. We are so ready to put our heads in the sand and pretend there is no sandstorm brewing over our heads. We are so willing to take an easy answer that we give up on truth for convenience. Hope he has better sense than that.”

To be continued…

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