Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Confessions of a dangerous mind - II

Kedah, northwestern Malaysia currently has a Muslim majority population. But until the 9th Kedah Maharaja Derbar Raja converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah in the 10th century, the Bujang Valley in Kedah was a prominent Hindu-Buddhist kingdom. The Maharaja aiming to protect his nation from the onslaught of Portuguese and British attacks, converted to Islam so as to forge a friendship with the Sultan of Malay.

As an act of penitence before his conversion, the Maharaja had constructed a secret underground Buddhist temple south west of Pengkalan Bayang Merbok. The temple had a completely plebian façade and was uncovered during the earth-quake in the 14th century. Only a four foot plaster of Paris Buddha in an old dilapidated sanctum was found. It was in the 17th century that archeologists discovered that the plaster of Paris covered a solid gold four foot monolith of Buddha completely adorned with diamonds, rubies and sapphire. The Buddha was then moved to the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum where it is housed till today in the state-of-the-art security.

It was this Buddha that our client, a private collector, wanted and he was willing to pay any price to get it; by hook or by crook.

I spent days planning my course of action. Pierre wanted this assignment to be treated as my coming of age. He would not help me, though at times, I thought that he was cross-checking my arrangements without my knowledge. For days, I would visit the museum, disguised as a tourist and study the Buddha from about ten feet away. That was the nearest we were allowed to go near it and visitors were not allowed to linger around any exhibit for long. I finally planned my day. We would execute our mission on the 17th September in broad daylight in the presence of everybody around.

At 11A.M on the 17th September, an old hunchback tottered his way to the museum. He had difficulty walking and stumbled often. The guard at the entrance of the museum advised him not to visit, but the old man would not hear of it. He mumbled something about coming from very far to visit the museum. About ten minutes later, a six-foot tall American tourist also visited the same museum. He looked like a student who had worked his way all summer for this all-important trip to Malaysia. The old man was stumbling and coughing and the benevolent student offered to assist him to walk. The old man refused, but when he staggered for the third time, the student would not listen anymore. Together, they began to explore the artifacts, with the old man recounting stories about his younger days.

At 11:15 A.M the old man and the young American were standing in front of the statue of Buddha. Suddenly, there was a sound of a blast and smoke filled the room. Someone shouted “Fire” and guards started evacuating. The electric connection in the museum had faltered and the backup would take two minutes to restore. The student was trying to help the old man out, who was having trouble breathing in all that smoke. The guards removed everyone from the room and sent them to another part of the museum and came back for the old man. By then, he was coughing so much that the student requested them to let the old man out for some fresh air. The pair was let out and was never seen again.

It was discovered after two days while cleaning the museum that the statue of Buddha was sparkling unusually. On further investigation, it was found that the statue of Buddha was in plaster of Paris, cleverly covered by golden wrapping sheet. The original Buddha cost 6 million dollars. This fake probably cost 6 dollars.

Two days before this discovery a hunchbacked old man and a young American tourist were seen leaving the museum through an emergency exit. Nobody checked their belongings. As they left the premises, a black sedan drew up and they both got in. Inside, Pierre took off his cloak, stopped being a hunchback and revealed a four foot statue of Buddha between his knees. He looked at the American tourist and grinned, “Happy birthday Mike. You are a man now.”

To be continued.....


Aparna.G said...

its taking a nice turn..

like someone told me, in writing, its the 'form' that matters, not the story... read the kite runner recently, and i think i agree..

Anwesha Chatterjee said...

I agree that the form matters. I have been a victim of reading stories with great plots that were written so badly, that I didn't even want to know how it ended.

So, how is the trip to Mumbai coming? I understand that we belong to the same organization. :-D

Aparna.G said...

we do?????????

Anwesha Chatterjee said...

That's what the reprobate has to say! You better ask him :-)

Aparna.G said...

its interesting that as the days pass, i find that the world seems to be shrinking... if reprobrate said we work in the same company, then, its got to be rite.. :D