The Locked Room Mystery!

The Locked Room Mystery!

The Locked Room Mystery!

She was also a little scared of her grandfather who was tall, had a bristling moustache and walked everywhere with his back erect and his cane tapping the ground thunderously.

‘Your ajja has forbidden anyone to enter that room’ ajji told her every time. ‘No one is allowed to go in.’

This time, Maya had a plan. She had seen where ajja kept the key to the huge padlock that was used to lock the room. She knew that he slept in the afternoons, sitting on his huge reclining wooden chair and she also knew that most of the household took their afternoon naps at the same time.  

One day, well into her visit, she decided to put her plan into action. It wasn’t much of a plan actually.

She waited until everyone had retired for their afternoon nap and walked up to the chair where ajja was sleeping. Quietly she peeked under the chair and she spotted the small tin box where ajja kept his keys. She slowly pulled it out all the time looking at him to see whether he had awakened.  

In minutes, she was outside the room, inserting the key into the rusty padlock, her hands trembling as she wondered what she might encounter inside. What was the big secret? Why didn’t anyone ever go inside? The door opened creakily and Maya expelled her breath, realizing she had been holding it for so long.

A cobweb dangled in front of her in a very horror filmy style and she brushed it away impatiently. The room was dark and musty except for a little light that came in from a window right at the top. Dust motes danced in the meager light and she wondered if there was a light switch anywhere.  

After running her palms across the grimy wall, she found a wooden switch box with a circular plastic switch that was common in her ajji’s house. She pulled down the switch and a yellow bulb came on directly under the ceiling. She quickly scanned the room, and saw that there was a heavy looking tin chest in one corner.

The rest of the room was empty except for some rags on the floor, a few broken chairs and some dirty woven mats.

She knelt before the chest and tried to lift up the lid. It was heavy but she managed to open it. To her disappointment, inside there was nothing very exciting. Just some old mouldy books, bound with deep green cardboard.  

Feeling annoyed and irritated, she picked up one and opened it.  Comics! She checked the other books also quickly. All of them were comics! Maya loved comics although her mother detested them.

She thought that children shouldn’t read comics because they were not good for broadening her mind. Even so, Maya had a stack of comics back at home, a huge collection of her favourites like Tinkle, Chandamama and Spiderman.

Which ones were these, she wondered. She sat down before the chest and opened one.  Phantom. Sounds familiar, she thought.  She flipped open another one. Mandrake the Magician. I’ve never heard of this guy, she thought as she crossed her legs and started reading. 

She didn’t know how long she had been sitting there, absorbed in the wonderful world of the Ghost who Walks and the amazing adventures of Mandrake and his friends.  She jumped at the sound of the cane and looked behind her to hurriedly to see her ajja looking at her grimly.

‘Why did you come here?’ he asked softly. She quickly scrambled up, one of the comic books still in her hand.

‘I...I just wanted to know what was here!’ she stammered. When her ajja didn’t reply, she mustered enough courage to ask him, ‘Why are all these comics here?’

To her surprise, a pained expression flitted across his face. ‘My father’ he said, simply. He moved forward slowly and Maya was glad to realise she wasn’t scared of him as she usually was.  

‘I used to love reading these comics when I was your age’ he continued as he leaned into the chest.

‘Aah…Phantom was my favourite’ he said, picking up one book gingerly and batting it gently to dislodge the dust.  

‘I used to collect these books all the time and come up here to read them. This was my room, you know’ he said looking around.  

Maya let him speak. ‘My father hated these comics. He said that they interfered in my studies and one year when I performed badly in school, he said I couldn’t buy any more or read anymore. He made me promise that I wouldn’t come up here again to read them.’
‘That’s just like Amma!’ Maya said surprised. ‘She too hates comics! Did you do the same to her?’

Ajja shook his head. ‘I didn’t need to. She wasn’t interested in reading at all. But I see that you have inherited my love for comics.’

Maya looked down at the book in her hand and said, ‘Yes. I do read other books as well, but I love comics too. Amma says they’re a waste of time and they don’t do anything to improve your knowledge.’

Ajja shook his head wryly and smiled. ‘She must have got that from my father. And you apparently are like me!’

Maya stared at him in surprise. When Ajja smiled, he didn’t look so scary at all.    ‘It’s been twenty years since my father died. I think some promises can be broken after such a long period, don’t you think?’ he asked with a twinkle in his eye.  

Maya nodded. 

‘Come.’ Ajja said, taking her hand. ‘We’ll get this room cleaned up and you can take these comics home and enjoy them.’

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