As soon as I entered my room I noticed that Natraj was missing. Always on my table. Comforting. Available to me just for the asking. Now missing.
It created a void, an uncertainty, an undefinable insecurity that was palpable. Not that it was one of those things that have great financial value. Many might not even give it a second look. But, for me it was an essential feature of my room. Something that defined it.
In a panic, I searched high and low. Well, not exactly panic. Just dramatizing it. But if you observed how frenzied the search was, you would think that it was panic. But you couldn't because you were not in the room.
When I did not find it, I wondered if the cleaning lady, who came to clean the room when I was not room (if “I was not home" is OK why not "I was not room", eh?) took it. Asking her would be a problem. We hardly ever met. The only proof that she existed was that my room was clean. Even if I left it unclean in the morning.
Apart from that, what if she had no hand in it? Or it was never in her hand? I ask and she gets offended and stops coming to clean my room? No, that won't do.
Then what? What next?
I wondered if I should e-mail Sherlock and ask him. Not that I had his e-mail id. But what if I asked BBC? Would they give me? What if he refused to take the case? Would Byomkesh Bakshi be interested? He is already so old and Door Darshan was not showing any more stories of him. Had he retired? Or even dead, without letting anyone know? What about Feluda? He must be older. Why would he travel all the way from Kolkota to solve a case for me. Aren't there any good private detectives/investigators around? There was that Insepctor Ajit or somebody. Not heard of him in ages. There is a rumour that the stories of Inspector Ajit were actually stories of Sherlock Holmes which were Kannadised by Soorappa and inspector Ajit never existed.
I pushed all these thoughts aside as I had to write a report on a stolen sculpture from a temple and here I was, missing a Natraj. Well, when I say write I don't mean actually write with pen on paper. Typing on my archaic desktop, as I am typing this now. Well, that is funny because when you actually read it, I will no longer be typing this. That could happen in the days of telex and Morse code. Then of course, it would not be typing but tapping for Morse code and typing for telex. The remorseless march of time and technology (wait for no man) have made them all obsolete. But, I digress.
Coming back to the Natraj, presence of the Natraj on the table was comforting. His role began in the other preoccupation of mine. Writing is occupation and the other is preoccupation. I had no mood to write the aforesaid report. But there was the deadline. Why do they call it a deadline? Because my editor would make me wish I were dead when I missed a deadline? Anyway . . .
Reluctantly I sit down, boot my archaic machine and wait for it to come to life, however pathetic a life that is.
As I waited, patiently impatient (if you so prefer reverse the order of the last two words, keeping the ly where it was) I sipped my coffee. Coffee in name only. Brown, hot and a liquid. Mostly. Because some of it was getting into the vapour phase. It was happening when I brought it in. Now, where did that coffee suddenly come from you wonder? Without antecedent, as my lawyer friend (Never mind if that is an oxymoron or he is just a plain moron) would pompously say. I had bought it at the Darshini right below my room. The coffee dispenser, the man, not a machine, acting as if I asked to borrow a silver cup when I asked for the coffee in a paper cup. Well, the existence of the coffee and the reason for it to be in my hand and my right to drink it having been established, I sipped my coffee and kept it on the table. In the process spilled a little of it. I pulled the foot rug (an old towel now playing second innings) by the bed with my foot, (appropriately?) and tried to wipe the spot of coffee on the floor and its swinging corner hit something below the horizontal bar of wood connecting the two nearly vertical legs of the table and …
my dear Natraj rolled out from underneath.
Its body a bright read with black stripes, tail a shiny black separated from the main body with a white band, with the graphite tip just a little worse off from its fall from the table for me to indulge in my preoccupation - drawing.