3 min

The crisp currency notes felt heavenly between his fingers as he caressed them lovingly, envisioning the comfortable future that lay ahead of him. And the smell….no one had ever told him what currency smelt like. It had an aroma of success, happiness and security. As Kisan looked at all the bundles on his bed in the modest Shahdara shanty, he couldn’t help notice the stark contrast. They didn’t seem to belong there. That would change soon… this money would ensure that. If he wasn’t in a rush, he would have paused to savour them but he had to hurry.

All the stash had to be packed in to the biggest suitcase he could find in the market. He’d been careful to pick a dull colour though he’d liked the red shiny one but that would risk attracting attention. He threw in the essentials which hardly took any space along with the money. Once packed, he looked around giving one last disdainful look to his humble abode. He wouldn’t need anything of it in the life that was so tantalisingly close now. He ensured, nothing that could reveal his identity, would be left behind. He wiped away the fingerprints, just as he’d read in so many detective stories that he’d devoured in the name of research. ‘If anyone came looking for him, they’d never know he was there’, he thought to himself.

In his excitement he allowed himself the luxury of an Uber ride that he booked for himself to whisk him away from the drudgery that he had so far lived in. As the driver put the suitcase in the taxi’s boot, Kisan couldn’t help feeling complacent thinking about the leap he had managed to pull off, well almost managed to, he cautioned himself, in his two years in the country’s capital.

As he sunk into the plush seat and watch the shanties disappear in a distance, he reflected how a random office boy’s job office had turned out the way it did. But didn’t his mother always say, ‘when opportunity knocks, invite it for dinner’. And he’d laid out a fine chappan bhog thaal* for it!

Every working day, since 2014, he would hop on the DTC bus from Shahdara to Connaught Place where his lawyer-activist employer had a small cubby hole of an office. The changing landscape from Jamna paar** suburbs to Lutyens’s Delhi would initially leave him pensive but gradually gave way to agitation that he would feel at the disparity.

His boss came to trust him over time and relied on him heavily especially because he was a graduate and had a quick-thinking mind. Once instructed, Kisan would find a way to get things done. Among his many errands, was the frequent trips to the government offices, with Right to Information (RTI) applications that his employer would keep firing all the time. He was amazed at how those applications would magically open doors of the grubby government offices. It didn’t take him long to figure out that the RTI Act could be evoked to procure property details also.

That is when his little plan was hatched. He started scouting property that seemed to be uninhabited for quite a while. Finally, after six months of hard work, he zeroed in on a plot at a very promising location just near the Nizamuddin station. The property records were sourced and it was in the name of one Nikhil Malhotra who had been living in New York since the past fifteen years. Surreptitious enquiries revealed that no one had ever come to inspect the land ever since Nikhil’s father died five years ago. A property dealer acted as the caretaker but he too hadn’t been spotted in the longest time. This emboldened Kisan and he had a good feeling in his bones about it. Trusting his intuition, he got down to the job of forging the property papers and looking for prospective buyers. There was no dearth of buyers, he discovered, who had enough black money to offer as bayana*** once the deal came through. Patiently he screened the potential buyers pretending as Anil Malhotra, Nikhil’s cousin and his power of attorney. Three months later, he had a buyer ready and they shook hands on transfer of the bayana a week after Diwali, and the final deal the next morning.

Things had gone as per plan, rather easier than expected and now with the bounty in the suitcase, he was at the Anand Vihar terminal waiting for the Jan Sadharan Express which would see him in Lucknow by next morning. He couldn’t help smiling at the ironical name of the train- ‘The Common Man Express’. A jeep ride and four more hours would see home. He’ll give some money to his parents and brother so they could reclaim their land. Whether or not to stay, he’d take a call later though his mother’s food was something that was hard to resist. He was distracted just by the thought of it. Crossing Nepal border would not be very tough, he reckoned and that was his eventual plan. If anything went wrong or felt suspicious at any point, he’d just head straight for the border bypassing the stopover. By the time document verification would come through and his perfect little scam would be busted and the police invited in the circus, he would be long gone.

Settled in the train with the suitcase secured in his line of vision, he fished out his phone to discard the SIM. 100+ WhatsApp messages made him curious. The phone slipped and fell from his hand as he read one. Dumbfounded he blankly stared at the suitcase as the train chugged away from the station. The lit screen on the phone read, ‘government readies to declare demonetization of all ?500 and ?1000 banknotes’ as he hoped that the tongue twister of a word wasn’t what he thought it was.

chappan bhog thaal*- a fancy lavish meal

Jamna paar**- Trans Yamuna

Bayana***– token amount


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Dr. Shivani Salil
She's a doctor professionally and writes for the love of words. She has just moved to Hong Kong from Mumbai and seeks solace in writing. Her other interests are books and movies.
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