Open 2022 Vasant Stories - Shevlin Sebastian


A day in the life
By Shevlin Sebastian


A man was sitting behind the steering wheel of a Kia Seltos car. The car had stopped at a traffic signal at Byculla in Mumbai. On the seat next to him, there was a gleaming revolver placed under a Marathi newspaper. On the floor, beneath the dashboard, there was a brown leather bag.

The man had a thick double chin. Two bulbous eyes jutted out. Rohit Gaikwad was wearing a white safari suit. His socks were white, and so were his shoes. He had a gold bracelet on his left hand. He also wore a Rolex watch. When the signal changed, Rohit pressed the accelerator. He was on his way to Andheri, 21 kms away, to collect money from a builder by the name of Sunil Jhangpuria.

Sunil spent all his time on work sites. Right next to the building was his small makeshift office. It was almost like a tin shed. But Sunil had managed to instal an air conditioner. So, it was cool even though it was the hot and sweaty month of May. When Rohit entered the office, Sunil was all smiles and ordered two cups of tea. The peon walked out to get it.

They talked about the government, the state of the economy, Bollywood celebrities, the price of vegetables, and the real estate business. The tea arrived; they sipped the liquid in silence. After the peon took the cups away, Rohit looked at Sunil and said, “Is the stuff ready?”

Rohit nodded. He swivelled in his chair, stood up, and walked to a safe in the wall and opened it by using numbers for the combination lock. He took out several thick bundles.

By this time, Rohit had opened his brown leather bag. Sunil placed the bundles inside.

“How many petis?” said Rohit.

“One hundred,” said Sunil, as he placed the bundles inside the bag. Each peti contained Rs 1 lakh. That meant Rs 1 crore.

“What about the rest?” said Rohit.

Rs 3 crore was the amount to be given.

“Two days later,” said Sunil.

Since Sunil always kept his word, Rohit did not protest. Rohit knew Sunil did not want any problems from the underworld. He knew it was better to be safe than sorry. After he paid the money, the work would go ahead with no disturbances from the workers or the office staff. The goods will arrive at the site on time. Nobody will be there to block the road. The police will also stay away.

After Sunil had transferred the money, Rohit zipped the bag with a snapping sound.

He told Sunil, “Call us if you face any problems. We are here to protect you.”

Sunil was tempted to give a sarcastic remark that it is they who are the problem, but he bit his tongue. Instead, Sunil nodded.

Rohit strode towards the car. He could hear a cement mixer in the distance. Sunil also heard workers shouting at each other across floors. It was a 20-story building. Work was going on at full tilt. This was Sunil’s 15th project. He made a decent profit. He knew it would have been much more if he hadn’t had to pay the underworld. In different areas, different groups dominated. He paid the gang that ruled that area. They respected him because he kept his word and did not bargain too much.

Rohit turned the ignition key and pressed on the accelerator. For the past 25 years, he had been an enforcer of the Don of Mahim Chawl Prashant Bhosle.
They had grown up in the same slum in Byculla and had been buddies for years.

Prashant drifted into crime by being a pickpocket and drug courier. Rohit followed in his footsteps. Rohit built up a reputation of being honest and loyal to Prashant. And although he carried his revolver everywhere, he rarely used it. He didn’t have to. The sight of it was enough. He dealt with corporates and professionals because he could speak English. He dressed well. He was a presentable face of the underworld. He spoke politely most of the time.

But Prashant had told him not to dress so showily. The Rolex watch and the gold bracelet. “It is always better to be low key,” said Prashant. “People get jealous. They want to bring you down.”

But since Prashant spoke in a soft voice, Rohit knew the don did not mind his sartorial style. Rohit ensured the money came in steadily. Prashant paid Rohit generously. So, the latter was happy.

He had an arranged marriage with a Marathi girl, Deepa. She had studied up to Class 12. He had no problems with her. She never said no when he wanted to have sex. She would only demur when she had her periods. They had two children, a girl named Suchitra and a boy, Sriram. Their children were studying in good English schools. Rohit could afford to buy them laptops and other accessories.

Thanks to the clout of the Bhosle gang, he slept with whores whenever he was in the mood. He was not sure if his wife suspected. Anyway, there was little she could do about it.

The car came to a stop at a traffic stop. Rohit was thinking about his plans for the day. He would give the money to Prashant and get it counted. Thereafter, he would venture out to Worli. He wanted to meet a builder there and put some pressure. Prashant felt the builder was evading him and not paying the money that was asked of him. He was wondering whether he should stop at his mistress’s house in Bandra and have a session. Sex every day was a must for him.

From the corner of his eye, Rohit saw a movement near the car. When he turned to look through the window, three shots rang out, one after the other. One caught him smack in the middle of his forehead, between his eyes. They aimed the other at his heart. The third hits his neck. Blood spurted out, staining his white shirt. His mouth opened in a soundless scream. He extended his left arm sideways, to get the revolver which was beneath the newspaper. Soon, his head fell onto the steering wheel; the horn blew non-stop. Rohit lay still and lifeless.

Outside, there were shouts and screams. Women put their fingers in their ears. Many men broke into a run. Vehicles stopped as drivers froze in fear. The assassins, two of them, on a motorbike, did not flee immediately. Both were wearing black cloth masks, which covered their heads, with slits for the eyes. One of them opened the door on the other side and grabbed the bag which contained the money. All this happened within seconds. Within a minute, there was a stillness in the air.

The police constable, who was supervising the traffic, arrived and peeped in. With one look, he knew Rohit was dead. With his wireless, he requested an ambulance from headquarters. Within 15 minutes, the vehicle arrived. They pulled Rohit out of the car. The car horn stopped. The sound had grated on the nerves of the pedestrians, street residents, drivers and the local shop owners.


Traffic began to move. The ambulance set off at high speed with a blaring siren. A cop in Prashant’s pay informed him of the hit. Immediately, he came to two conclusions. Either Sunil planned this or somebody from his inner group had passed on the information. But the point to find out was: to whom was the info given? And why? Was it for information only in exchange for cash? Or was there a vendetta behind this? He twirled the edges of his moustache with his finger, as he wondered who among his inner group could betray him.

He called his closest associate, Manish, a childhood friend. “Speak to Sunil. Ask him what happened. The money is lost. Does he have any leads? Find out whether he had organised the hit? Get the information from him in any way you want.”

Manish understood he could use violence if necessary.

So, Manish went to meet Sunil. But the business owner was not in his office. The office staff did not know where he was. Manish called Prashant, who called a contact in the cyber cell and gave the number. Within half an hour, the officer called and said the number was not active. Prashant realised it could be Sunil, though it was most unlikely he was behind the hit.

Which meant there was somebody else behind Sunil. Could it be the leader of another gang? But right now, the waters looked muddy. There was no clarity about the situation. In one fell swoop, he had lost Rs 3 crore. Rohit had not informed Prashant of the lowered amount.

Prashant told Manish to go to the hospital and confirm Rohit had died. After that, he should inform Rohit’s wife.

“Okay,” said Manish.

Prashant could hear rumbling sounds in his stomach. This was always the warning signal from his body. That something was not right. He called a meeting of his top team members. They sat around the dining table. The servant served cups of tea along with chips.

“Okay guys, I need to find answers,” he said. “Who ordered this hit? And why? Who took the money? How did they know Rohit was planning to collect the money? Where is Sunil? Why has he fled?

The members kept quiet. They were not sure what had happened. Everything happened so quickly. As they were thinking of the various possibilities, they took hesitant sips from their cups.

There was a commotion at the gate. Lots of yelling. When Danish, a sharpshooter, looked from the window, he turned and said, “It’s a police raid.”

But it was too late. There was nowhere to go. The police came up the stairs, armed with warrants, and arrested all the members, including Prashant. They were all taken to the Arthur Road prison in a police van.

At the hospital reception, a woman employee told Manish, “Rohit Gaikwad, dead on arrival. He is in the mortuary.”

So, Manish made his way to the first-floor house in Byculla, where Rohit lived with his wife and children. The children were in school. He knocked on the door.
Deepa opened it. She was wearing a plain white cotton saree. It surprised Manish at how slim she was, despite being the mother of two children. He wondered how she would be in bed. He felt he had a chance now that Rohit had died.

She looked at him and immediately said, “Has something happened to Rohit?”

He nodded.

She led him inside.

It was a middle-class drawing room. A sofa was placed against one wall. Two armchairs on the other side. A small glass table in the middle. The Lokmat newspaper was on it. Against another wall, there was an aquarium. It had small lights. Red and black fish swirled about in an endless loop in transparent water.

“What is it?” she said, leaning forward and looking at Manish.

Manish came straight to the point.

“Two men shot Rohit dead at a traffic stop,” he said.

Deepa fell back on the sofa, as she cupped her open mouth with her fingers.

“What happened?” she said.

“We don’t know who they are,” said Manish. “We are investigating. We will find out and take revenge. Prashant said he will come and meet you next week. You don’t have to worry about the financial aspect. We will look after everything. The body is in the mortuary. Enlist the help of your family members to conduct the cremation. If you need any help, please call me.”

Tears rolled down her face.

Deepa knew that to face life without her husband beside her would be tough, especially when they had two school-going children. She cried for a while. She stood up and dabbed her eyes with the end of her saree. Deepa stared out of the window. Manish also stood up and gave his number. Deepa entered it into her mobile.
As soon as Manish left, Deepa’s tears dried up.


She smashed a fist into a palm. ‘Thank God, the oaf is dead,’ she thought. ‘I am free now. Instead of being a slave, I can pursue my dreams. He slept with so many women. Never took a bath before having sex with me. Every day he smelled different. I was always worried about contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Yes, my children will be devastated, but they will get over it. Now I will enrol in college, get a degree and get a job.”

She realised how afraid she had been of Rohit. He always carried a hint of violence about him. Rohit couldn’t let go of the fear of being attacked. He always had a wariness about him, even when he was in the house.

Deepa realised that, for Rohit, she resembled only an orifice. All he desired was to enter her. She was too afraid to protest or say she was not in the mood.
Deepa entered the bedroom and opened the steel almirah. The significant thing at the moment was whether Rohit had any money in the bank. She knew Prashant would help them on the financial front.

She looked for the bank passbooks in the safe. She came across two: State Bank of India and Bank of Maharashtra. Both accounts had deposits of Rs 10 lakh each. She searched for Fixed Deposits and shares. She remembered Rohit had kept a file on the top shelf. This was where he usually kept his revolver. She brought down the files. He stored them inside a red cloth covering. As she unwrapped the cloth, she quickly glanced at the mobile to check the time. The children would arrive in half an hour.

She checked the files. Yes, there was an FD file. There were seven certificates in all. The total was about Rs 5 lakhs. So, fine, things would not be so difficult for the first couple of years at least. The flat and the car belonged to Rohit. She would sell the car. They could travel by Uber, auto or train.Deepa put the files back, shut the almirah and informed her sister and mother about the death. Her father had passed away a few years ago. They promised to arrive within half an hour. Thereafter, they would all go to the hospital.

After Manish stepped out of Rohit’s house, he got a call. It was a member of the rival gang asking whether the police had arrested Prashant. This was the first time he heard about it. He said he would call back and called Prashant’s landline number. Ashok, the servant, answered and confirmed the arrest of the entire gang.
Manish stepped into a roadside hotel and ordered a tea. Manish had two options. He could try to meet Prashant at Arthur Road prison or go underground. He reflected for a few minutes as he sipped his tea. He shook his head, paid the bill, and walked out.

Manish switched off his mobile and threw the SIM card away. He headed to a house in Andheri and let himself in with a key. The two killers were sitting on the edge of the bed, watching TV.

“Okay,” said Manish. “Show me the bag.”

When he opened and counted the money, he realised with a shock that it was only Rs 1 crore. ‘Shit,’ he thought. ‘It was supposed to be Rs 3 crore.’

“Is this the money or have you guys hidden away something?” he said, pointing a revolver with a silencer at them.

The boys fell at his feet.

One of them said, “Sir, we did not even open the bag. Please believe us.”

From the tone, and from his years of experience, he knew they were telling the truth. For some unfathomable reason, Sunil had given less than he had promised.
“Okay,” he said, “Get up.”

He gave them Rs 20 lakh each and told them, “Go to Uttar Pradesh or Nepal. If you don’t want to get caught, stay underground for one or two years. You have a reasonable chance to escape, since the cops have not seen your faces. Change your clothes and head out.”

They nodded, changed, put the cash in suitcases and left.

Yes, Prashant was right about his suspicions. It was Manish who had squealed to the police. Using a wiretap, he recorded talks with Prashant and the other gangsters. He photocopied the account books and send it by WhatsApp to an investigative officer. They had enough evidence to send Prashant to jail for several years.

He did it because he was tired of the life of crime. There was not a moment’s rest. Manish feared divine retribution after his death. Since he had not married, he had nothing to fear. The gang had damaged the lives of so many people. They had killed too many people in intra-gang warfare. He always felt fearful whenever he walked the streets. Anybody could make a fatal attack on him. He knew Prashant would not allow him to leave. So, he decided to sink everybody by becoming a mole for the police and make good his escape.

At 8.30 p.m. Manish got into an unreserved compartment of the Kolkata-bound Jnaneshwari Express. He had a suitcase which contained Rs 60 lakh, his revolver, and some clothes. In Kolkata, he had arranged for plastic surgery to be done on his nose. He wanted his snub nose to be straightened. The cleft in his chin would be closed. He would shave off his hair and wear a wig.

After that, he would make a fake Aadhar card, ration card and passport. In Kolkata, he would open several accounts and deposit the money over one-and-a-half months, so that it aroused no suspicion.

Thereafter, he planned to join the Sevashram Ashram in Bolpur, 160 kms from Kolkata. He would become a monk, clean himself of all his sins, and stay hidden for at least a decade.

After that, he would decide on the next course of his life.


Shevlin Sebastian from India is a journalist for over three decades. He has worked in major publications in Calcutta, Mumbai and Cochin, has published over 4500 articles on subjects like history, spirituality, literature and sports. His blog, ‘Shevlin’s World’, has received more than 2 million hits. He has also published four novels for children and a book on spirituality. His non-fiction book will be published by HarperCollins early next year. Shevlin's short stories have been published in Singapore, Rome, Toronto, Calcutta, Guwahati, Pune, and Mumbai.


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occassionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.