The year 2019
Above was the azure sky and under the green grass, he sat on the bench. It was a sunny winter morning. He took out the laptop from the bag. He searched the Rajarani temple in Google.
Actually he was sitting on Rajarani temple complex itself. The temple stood majestically in front of him. His pet, Snowy, the white sheep, was at his feet. He stroked it ,“Snowy, go near the temple and graze.” The animal obeyed and went there.
He wanted to keep a dog as pet after he got his job. But his parents disliked keeping a dog inside the house. “Bring rabbit, bird or anything, but not a dog, Somu.”, said his mother.She was anxious it may enter her puja room and defile it’s sanctity.
The following day he had gone to the pet shop in the city and found that cute snow white, furry sheep. Both the parents were happy with it. His mother has named him Snowy as it was snow white.
Mother is no more, but his father, his five year old son and his wife Reema, all love Snowy.
Shambhunath babu waved to him from the road.
“Somnath, how is your father doing?”He was a friend of his father.
“He is fine uncle.”Somenath saw uncle’s regular companion Harish babu with him.
“Is he Badrinath’s son?”, asked Harish.
“Yes.Like father like son. Father is famous for writing on temples of Odisha. He has written many books. Now the son is also interested in temple matters and is occupied whole time in temple related issues.
He is only thirty-five, and has achieved his prominence in tracking the theft of gods, goddesses and artefacts of Odisha. He knows well, Odisha has the most ancient idols and images among all states. They are found everywhere, in small shrines, little temples and in huge sacred complexes. Even they are strewn over aerhiological sites. Its the reason the state has become a major hub for illegal idol exports.”
“Do you know anything about the sheep? He always is seen with him” asked his companions with a lighthearted tone.
“Haha, it is his loved pet. May be it is helping the spy. Who knows?”
He quickened his steps. His wife may be waiting for the milk packet that he gets during his morning walk.
March 2020,the Pandemic
First time in the history of India, lock down was declared for the corona pandemic. Market , offices, educational institutions were all closed to prevent the spread of the dreadful infection.
A news came in the electronic media, that a theft has been done in the State museum. A twelfth century stone idol of Lord Vishnu had been stolen. Taking opportunity of the lock-down a major theft had ocurred. It was a headache for the government and the State museum officials. The government had already been blamed In previous cases of heritage robberies. And this came as another scandal for the ruling party.
Somenath became alert. His father knew well, his son will be in constant calls.
Reema was a bit worried. In the time of lock down, her husband will be troubled much for that theft case. She said, “Mr Spy, you and Snowy will be damn busy. Now the entire responsibility of the house will fall on me. To manage your naughty son and the responsibility of your octogenarian father, I am getting nervous. Hope and pray, they don’t fall ill. I am damn scared of this Covid.”
“I know Reema your anxiety. Take care of father and the little one. Take care of you too. Nothing will happen. You all stay inside the house. Avoid going outside, specially bapa. Continue all of you with the inhalation and always take warm water.”
At that time Somenath’s phone rang. It was the director of the museum who had called.
He went to the office of the enforcement wing with Snowy. Before leaving he checked Snowy’s neck where he had fixed the strange ring.
While Somenath was doing his post-graduation in Delhi, he went to Ukraine in a student exchange programme. One day he along with other students, had been to the most romantic place, the Tunnel of Love. While walking inside the tunnel and enjoying the beautiful green Arc, he saw a shining thing. He took it out. Lo and behold it was a ring! But not exactly which is worn in a finger. It was big in size. He wondered what could it be ! He didn’t tell anybody about it. He put it inside his pocket .
He returned to Delhi after a week. He tried his best to unfold the mystery of the strange ring. It took a lot of time and energy to mange confidentially to know what it was. Finally, it was found to be a spy camera.
When he got involved in getting secret information of the temple thefts, the strange ring was of great benefit to him. He used it through his beloved Snowy. He fitted it in the deep fur near Snowy’s neck. Nobody except his wife knew about it. It was a secret. When anybody got curious about Snowy accompanying him, his answer was, “He is my lucky charm. I prove successful when he is with me.”
Somenath’s mission commenced with issuing search warrants to the museum staffs through the search wing.
Sniffer dogs were used for the examination of the state museum. Snowy was engaged to investigate the area where the idol was placed.Somenath surveyed the spy camera’s photos on his laptop in the museum’s office room .
The house of every staff was searched. A cleaning staff’s house was locked. His neighbour said that the man had gone to his village. His name was Raghu Reddy and he was from Andhra Pradesh.
That evening Somenath read the files of the previous thefts which had Andhra Pradesh connection. Guntur was the place where the absconding fellow should be found. The enforcement wing had full faith in the information of the spy. In previous cases his directions were correct. So a team of ten experts was sent to Amaravati, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. The covid protocol was strictly followed during the investigation.
Somenath’s continuous guidance helped them a lot. With the help of the local police, the team found out that culprit.
There was a bungalow in the suburbs of Guntur town.. It was taken on rent by a person from Scotland. Every winter he came and stayed there. Raghu Reddy worked for him. After he transported the Vishnu idol to Visakhapatnam, he had come to that house to hide himself.
At home front, the hue and cry of the robbery was less. In a way Corona was a blessing in disguise. Had that been in a normal time, the media would have made it a major issue, thereby hampering the process of investigation.
“Do you have to go to Guntur Somu?”, asked the concerned father.
“I don’t think they will ask me to. I have told them everything would be managed by me from here. I have no heart to leave you and Reema with a child in this time of pandemic.”
“ I am very happy the culprits have been caught in a short time”, said his father while having his morning tea.
“But it will be a long process to wind up everything Somu. The idol has to be recovered. They are now interrogating Raghu and the foreigner. Many things will come out of it. Its time taking, ”said his father.
The lockdown imposed in March was relaxed, yet life was not normal. With face masks and social distancing, people started a new life. Work was done from home and meetings were done on webinar. Newspaper houses started printing the daily papers.
.The theft of the Vishnu idol came to limelight as people read it in print. Everyone came to know about it. A commotion was generated on the issue.The uproar forced the investigation to take quick action.
There at Guntur, the absconding Raghu and the Scottish fellow were taken into custody. By that time, another team was set to trace the idol . They found out that it had already reached the port of Vishakhapatnam. They got hold of the packed idol there.
Raghu Reddy worked for the Scottish archaeological looter. The man from Scotland had become a billionaire by selling the Indian artefacts in the antique market.It came to light how he had fixed many disloyal men in India to steal stone idols from temples. Raghu Reddy was one among them.
Looting has been linked to the economic and political stability of the possessing country. At the crisis created by corona, it was easy to accomplish the illegal practice of theft. The miscreants always wait for these opportunities.
People demanded the culprits should be brought to Odisha for the trial. The process of bringing them from one state to another consumed a lot of time . The unfortunate thing was that both of them were tested covid positive on their arrival at Bhubaneswar. They were hospitalized. The pandemic was at it’s peak at that time. So it was declared by government that trials would start when the conditions im proves. The man from Scotland was serious. So he was shifted to the ICU. Most of the persons in the investing team also fell sick.
Somenath had enough time to work at home, but he was worried for his father who got cold cough and fever. The doctor declared him covid positive. He was treated at home , staying in isolation. The most a grieved for his staying away from the family ,were his grandson and Snowy.
The trial of the Vishnu idol theft case unveiled many startling things related with heritage thefts. Some lax in enforcing laws have given chance to steal valuable art pieces from our country. The spate of idol thefts in Odisha in recent days is an indicator of organised crime in the state. Items are feared to have been shipped to dealers and auction houses worldwide. The judge lamented that there is an absolute lack of awareness and gross apathy regarding the intrinsic value of these idols that represent the rich cultural heritage of the state. Somenath was highly appreciated for solving the theft in a restrained manner by his careful observation.
The theft was done by Raghu Reddy, which was carefully planned by the foreigner. Both of them were sentenced seven years of imprisonment.
All is well that ends well. It was solved reasonably well. It was satisfactory for all.
Somenath and Reema ware delighted as the news flashed on tv that the state government is going to felicitate Somenath for the great job he has done. The 86 year old father felt proud. ”Your mother missed it”, he whispered.
On 26 January 2022,on the Republic day he was rewarded by the Governor at the Raj bhavan. Reema had worn the green silk saree. It was her husband’s 1st gift after their marriage 7 years ago.
Place-Tunnel of love Ukraine
Thing-a strange ring
PS: it is a fictional story. Name and place are imaginary.