Sherlock Holmes [turning up at police headquarters in Bombay]: Could I see Inspector Lestrade please? I’d like to tell him how to solve the case of the Missing Maharajah.
Pandu Havildar: Lestrade sahib has stepped out. It’s the first day of the month, so he’s out collecting hafta.
Holmes: Ah! Will he be late?
Pandu: Well, it’s a large beat, so it’ll take time. Lestradeji hates it when it’s his turn for collection. Just the other day, he had this wonderful scheme of outsourcing hafta collection. All we have to do, he said, is get hold of some bhais like the Chhota Rajan gang and ask them to do the rounds, perhaps on payment of a small commission. What a brain our sahib has got.
Holmes: I assume he will be back after collecting the er… hafta?
Pandu: No, he said he would drop into one of the dance bars in which he holds a stake. Getting hafta is a tiring business, you need a break.
Holmes: Dance bars take up a lot of time.
Pandu: You know such a lot, sir. Lestrade-ji does chat up the bar girls a bit, heh heh. And then he’ll have to make up his mind whether to molest them or outrage their modesty. It’s not easy being an inspector. There are so many decisions you have to make.
Holmes: I deduce from those screams that someone is being tortured in your lock-up.
Pandu: Oh, they’re the usual suspects. You’re a friend of Lestradeji’s, so you’ll know what a dab hand he is at torture. Why, just the other day he beat up a guy so badly, the chap kicked the bucket. Lestrade managed to pass it off as a case of suicide. That guy is my guru.
Holmes: Pardon me, but from your cheery disposition am I right in inferring that you are about to get a promotion?
Pandu: Wah wah, sirji, you are a super sleuth. It’s all due to Lestradeji. It was he who told us that we badly needed to kill some terrorists so that we would get promotions. So we waited and watched till we spotted these timid-looking guys from out of town. We took them to the edge of the woods and shot them, then planted some evidence and claimed it was an encounter. Lestradeji said they were conspiring to kill a minister. We’re heroes now, you know.
Holmes: If Lestrade doesn’t come soon, the crook in the case of the Missing Maharajah will flee the country.
Pandu: But he’ll be late, sir. After the bar dancers he has to meet his cronies at a nearby police station. The next postings are being auctioned off and Lestrade sahib is going to bid for the police station near the market. I believe the pickings are rich there, on account of all those lorries. After that he has to meet the minister to lobby for posting his superior officer to the boondocks. That guy is making life difficult for us — he’s a disgustingly honest rascal. And he also has to look for some real terrorists whom we let escape. We work very hard, you know.
Holmes: All right, I’ll see him late at night then.
Pandu: But he isn’t free tonight. He’s going to dance at a bash thrown by Professor Moriarty-bhai.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal