Episode 25 (Scroll down the Literature section to read earlier episodes of this serialised novel)
Thana arrived early at his Rural Empowerment office as Thivya had arranged several appointments for him that day.
An anxious looking man in his 50s, neatly dressed in a long sleeve white shirt tucked into a neatly pressed pair of linen trousers complete with immaculately shined black leather shoes, was seated on a sofa in the reception lounge.
The man’s wavy, slightly greying brylcreem plastered black hair was combed back with a left side parting, the bulging top partitioned apparently by pressing it using the back of a comb, creating two humps.
Thivya had been quietly noting the queer mannerisms and fidgety behaviour of the man who had introduced himself as Emmanuel Raj @ Puli Raj.
He had called the office shortly before the General Elections asking to see Thana about getting a government job for a Form Five school leaver from a poor family.
Thivya had given him an appointment then which he subsequently called to cancel, a couple of days before the date.
The man, a senior teacher at a Tamil school in the Mereka city outskirts was at the office that day for another reason.
Thana had immediately recognised the fidgety visitor as he strode into the lobby.
Just before the election his party’s disciplinary board had convened an emergency meeting to remove Raj from the post of Kampung Bayan MVP branch secretary, in his Parliamentary constituency.
Social media lynched Raj for apparently coercing an oil palm estate worker to send her 17-year-old daughter out alone on an overnight trip to Mereka city with him, to visit Thana’s office over a job.
The teenager had put up a Facebook posting over her fears of following Raj to Kuala Lumpur, writing that her classmates in Standard Six had once told her Raj sir was a `bad’ man to girls.
The posting had gone viral and within the week disciplinary action was taken against Raj by the district education office although he claimed innocence.
He was immediately transferred out of the school where he served since completing teacher training, 30 years ago.
The tall and slim Raj whose worry worn face appeared very much older than his 51 years of age, walked with a slight limp into Thana’s room, head bent downwards.
Thana did not look up pretending to pore over some sheets of paper on his desk but as Raj took the seat in front of his desk, he casually spoke to him without looking up.
What brings you here saar? I didn’t see you at all during the election. What happened to you?
The watery eyed visitor sank back into the cushion of his chair trying to compose himself before replying to Thana.
You know what happened boss. I couldn’t even show my face in public. I was shunned by our party members and fellow teachers who gossipped behind my back.
Actually all these stories about me are untrue. I only wanted to help the student. The parents couldn’t come so I offered to bring her here.
I don’t know why the ungrateful girl blemished my name like this.
Thana interjected after motioning with his uplifted hand to stop Raj from lamenting further.
Enough saar, I saw the girl. She is extremely good looking. I would do the same in your position. You did a mistake, got caught and was punished.
Now what can I do for you saar? Just ask.
Thana’s blunt retort shook the teacher’s resolve to maintain plea of innocence and he lowered his head in shame.
I truly regret my mistake YB. Can you get me a transfer out of the state. It’s not so much for me. My family is having a hard time coping. I feel bad they have to suffer the shame for what I have done. Please help me YB.
Another help boss. Can you talk to the girl’s parents. Maybe get them to quell the matter.
Thana looked into Raj’s eyes which were reddened with bottled up emotion and he felt a tinge of pity thinking: petty criminal, got caught in the planning stages …., what a mess he is.
Okay saar. I will do what I can. Leave your contact number with my PA and she will call you soon.
Raj deliberated awhile wondering if there was more and then seeing Thana going back to fiddling with his papers stood up and saying a quick,` Thank You Boss’ left.
Shortly afterwards Thivya knocked on Thana’s door to let in another visitor.
Datuk Dineswaran, a former MP who had been dropped from the MVP candidate list and fellow gang leader from the Kulong Port walked in.
The short, stout man in his early 40s sported close cropped hair and as he opened his mouth to speak, two rows of uneven nicotine stained teeth gave his face seen together with the puffed cheek and sagging double chin, the appearance of a frog.
On seeing Dineswaran, Thana got out of his chair and stepped forward with open arms and adopting a recognisable stoop, to embrace him.
All the events and characters portrayed in this serialised novel are fictional and any parallel with real life persons is purely coincidental.