Sundhar Shetty sighed. Rain that was just a drizzle had turned in to a torrent, which was a nuisance. He ran a teashop besides the historical Mangala Devi Temple. For him, rain was always mixed blessings. Though sudden rains halted the city, it improved his sales by bringing many stranded bikers. Nevertheless, rains for past few days belonged to such a kind that kept people locked in their homes and decline his sales.
“Shettre?” called a harassed bus conductor who was soaking from head to toe, “A steaming lemon tea please.”
“Oh! Dhamanna, Namaste” greeted Sundhar serving him the tea.
“What is it with this cursed rain?” Dhamu burst out bitterly sipping on his tea “I wish that break in the rainfall earlier continued.”
Rain continued to hammer on the roof threatening to tear it down. The city of Mangalore had seen much worse. Despite the continuous rain for the past few days, being very close to the sea it was still warm. Raindrops that struck the already wet road, formed network of small streams, grew wider with water from rooftops and got poured in to channels that were laid under walkways, by few openings not crammed with bits and pieces.
Channels were an integrated part of the temple. Earlier, they carried fresh water to the temple from the river Netravathi few kilometers away and drained wastes from temple in to the sea. As the system evolved, they were relieved from the burden of carrying fresh water.
There was not much traffic. Apart from regular buses, only few vehicles plied on the road, most of which were to the temple, for it was time for the noon Maha-Arati (prayer with lit lantern). A Siren pierced through the fracas of rain, growing louder every second. Another siren joined it, growing at an equal rate.
The first one was from a police vehicle, Maruti Suzuki Gypsy. Sundhar saw it passing, its headlights barely visible through the barrier of raindrops that hit the ground like bullets. It took a sharp turn by the temple and went down the road that joined the path behind an ancient toilet. An ambulance followed it. Few seconds passed. Sundhar couldn’t hear sirens anymore. Rain had become more intense so he was not sure whether they were turned off or faded away as vehicles sped away.
Cold wind tore at the tarpaulin sheet that shielded the windows at the tea stall stretching it away. It was either gradually building to blow away the bleeding clouds or escalating to hurricane strength.
“What’s the smell?” conductor sniveled after draining the tea, who then appeared much better, “I reckon it’s the toilet again. Where is that Choma? Have you by any chance ever found him cleaning the toilet?”
“Have you ever found him sober?” Both laughed.
Two more police cruisers (no sirens) followed its predecessor’s path. Wind blew in a different direction. Electric lamp on the wall flickered. Tarpaulin sheet got pushed to its original position.
“We should demolish this old toilet and build a new one in its place” coaxed the tea seller handing Dhamu his change, “may be an air conditioned like one of many in Bengaluru.” Conductor rolled his eyes.
Sundhar’s milk stock was running low. His son should be there by any moment. He had left the shop to get refill few minutes back when it started to drizzle. Heavy rain would have slowed him down, Sundhar thought.
There went the siren again piercing through the rain. It was the ambulance returning to its origin. Police cruiser, one of earlier two, stopped in front of the teashop.
There was this uneasiness for Sundhar, which he had felt before when his wife was being operated. A police stepped out of the front passenger side of the cruiser opening an umbrella. At the same time, bells at the temple started ringing. Noon Maha-Arati had begun.
Three hundred sixty kilometers away, sun was at its highest elevation shining brightly in the sky. Four words on a plasma screen had reciprocated the protocol. Few calls were made. It was time for the GHOST to act.
To be continued…