The Masked Criminal
Mrs Mondal had a bad day in her school. She got a verbal thrashing from the Principal for giving corporal punishment to a student of Class 7. It was mostly her fault do doubt. Two boys had a terrible fight during the tiffin period. The stronger of the two had badly beaten up the other boy and the latter had to be taken to the infirmary. Mrs Mondal was so angry that she gave two tight slaps on each cheek of the offender and made him hold his ears and perform ten sit ups in front of the class. The boy tried to explain the reasons behind his action but she gave him no chance to speak. The poor boy was crying as she left the class.
When the punished boy's mother came to know of the incident she became furious. She wrote an e-mail to the Principal asking for justice.
'My son goes to the school to learn, not get physically tortured by inhuman teachers,' she wrote. 'The teacher Mrs Mondal did not even give him a chance to express himself and listen to whatever he might have to say. If she had, she would have known that the other boy had used extremely vulgar and abusive language about my son and his parents. Unable to withstand such foul terms being used about his parents, my son lost his patience and beat him up. I do not say that my son's actions were correct, but we don't expect such inhuman behaviour from a teacher either. She could have made a guardian call and complained to us. Instead she took the law into her own hands and treated my son in a merciless way. My son said that after facing such public humiliation he felt like committing suicide. Imagine then, the level of mental and physical trauma he had been subjected to. You must know that according to a law passed by the honourable Supreme Court, any form of corporal punishment inflicted upon a child is a punishable offence. We restrained ourselves from making a police complaint against the concerned teacher just to avoid negative publicity against the school.
I request you to deal with this matter seriously and take necessary actions. If my son doesn't get justice from the school, we would be forced to go elsewhere for the same.'
The Principal checked the recordings of the close circuit cameras and verified both the incidents. Then she replied to the boy's mother expressing her regrets for the undesirable incident and promised to look into the matter personally. Then she summoned Mrs Mondal to her chamber.
"Don't you want to teach in this school anymore, Mrs Mondal?" she asked in a stern voice.
"I'm sorry I don't understand you Madam," Mrs Mondal meekly replied.
"Of course you don't," replied the Principal acidly. "Here, read this e-mail. I'm sure this will improve your understanding."
Mrs Mondal's face turned ash-white as she went through the e-mail. The school had repeatedly instructed all the teachers to abstain from giving any form of physical punishment to the students.
"So, Mrs Mondal, may I know why you behaved in such an atrocious manner? I demand an immediate explanation."
Mrs Mondal remained silent as she had no plausible explanation to offer.
"You must call up the mother of that boy tomorrow morning and personally say 'Sorry' to her," ordered the Principal. "Thank your lucky stars that she didn't make a police complaint against you."
Mrs Mondal felt hot blood rushing to her face in mortification.
"Say 'Sorry' to her, Madam?"
"Yes, you will. If you can't, you may submit your resignation. The school will not tolerate any sort of negative publicity to humour teachers like you. You may go now."
Mrs Mondal slowly walked out of the Principal's chamber. Her mind seethed with rage as she thought of the humiliation she would have to face the following morning. She once thought of giving her resignation. But she knew how difficult it was to get a good job nowadays. Her divorce had taught her never to be financially dependent on anyone. She called someone after school hours and had a long chat with him.
She did not know what she should do now. She thought for an entire day before coming to a decision. She knew that the only one person who could rescue her from all her troubles was him! Yet she was in a dilemma. Would it be wise to tell him about the photographs? He might misunderstand her, even become suspicious of her character. But she knew that she could manage him ultimately. She decided to tell him the matter that night.
He returned home early that night. For a change he was sober and in a pleasant mood. She thanked her luck and waited for an opportunity to raise the topic. After having his bath he relaxed on an armchair with a glass of Johnnie Walker in his hand. She seated herself on a nearby sofa and began by chit-chatting with him. After some time she came to the point.
My mobile has been hacked.”
“How do you know?””
“Somebody got hold of my personal photos. And now they're being sent to my personal Whatsapp number. I'm very upset.””
“Some old photos of mine. I deleted them from my mobile.”
I see. I did not know you had such compromising photos in your mobile.”
“You can't call them compromising, she protested. They're just a bit revealing.””
Then what makes you so scared? Every woman wears revealing clothes nowadays.”
“I'm afraid the hacker might have got hold of all the contact numbers too.
His expression changed.
“This is a serious issue, he said slowly. "Do you know the person from whose number these photos are being sent?"
"No. It's an unknown number"
“Have you any idea who the sender might be?”
“Yes, she replied. I have every reason to believe it is her.”
“What makes you think so?”
“I have my reasons. Recently I came to know from one of her doctor friends that she is an expert in computers. I am sure she's the one who hacked my mobile.””
"Maybe she did," he replied quietly. "But first we have to be sure."
"But how do we do that?" she asked, a little scared.
"You leave everything to me. I know how to make people talk."
The hard note in his voice sent a chill up her spine. He could turn vicious if needed.
"What are you planning to do?" .
"Don't bother your silly head over serious matters," he replied with suppressed anger in his voice. "Your suspicions mind and stupid jealousy are the root causes of this problem. If you had controlled your curiosity and not forwarded all my contact numbers to your phone, this situation wouldn't have arisen at all. But it's too late to talk about that now."
"Are you planning to...?" She left her question midway, looking terrified.
"Did I say that, stupid woman?" He sounded furious. "Don't worry, I'll only interrogate her."
"And if she turns out to be the culprit?"
He casually took out a cigarette and reached for his lighter.
"Then we'll have to find out how much she knows."
"What if she knows something?" She felt scared to breathe.
He lit the cigarette and released the smoke through his nostrils.
"In that case we might have to get rid of her."
His casual attitude made her shiver. She regretted the day she started this game.
Mrs Chakladar was bored to death. She did not know how to pass her time after her husband left for his office. Her children were busy with their own lives and had little time for her. There was a cook and two domestic helps who did all the household chores. So she had enough spare time and did not know what to do with it. Throughout the day she was alone in the house and the mobile was her only companion and connectivity with the outer world. She tried calling up her friends but none was free for a prolonged chat. She sent messages to different Whatsapp groups but received lukewarm responses. She spent some time on Facebook but found nothing new or interesting there. She switched on the television but felt bored after some time. All the programmes were repeat telecasts. Disappointed, she took out her old albums and flipped through their pages. The dusty smell of these old albums made her feel nostalgic. She touched the black and white pictures of her childhood days and felt young again. Each album was like a journey to her. She as a crawling baby in the lap of her mother, as the small girl in her first school uniform, as the teenage girl celebrating her birthday with her friends, wearing her mother's sari on her aunt's wedding day, with her college friends on a picnic, as the shy bride on her wedding day, holding her husband's hand during honeymoon, their first child, the first steps of her daughter, birth of her son and their growing up. Along the course of this long journey, the photographs became coloured and her life lost much of it. She felt it was ironic that her life was inversely proportional to these pictures. The memories of the black and white photos were much more colourful than the recent coloured ones. Suddenly she noticed that three of the coloured photos were missing from an album. She frowned and touched the empty spaces gently with her fingers. She tried hard to remember which photos had occupied those spaces and what happened of them. But her memory failed her. With a sigh she closed the albums. Then she thought of going out for a walk but on second thoughts decided against it. The sun outside was scorching hot. She picked up her mobile and dialled a number. No one received. She looked at her phone for a long time and then tried again. She needed some excitement, some adventure to boost up her boring life.