Detective Damle's Dilemma

A sample from the story 'Detective Damle's Dilemma', set in the near future, about a detective who loves to solve cases that challenge his intellect:

Dattatreya Deep Damle or Datta, as almost everyone called him, relaxed in his recliner with his eyes closed. The recliner’s cushions adapted to his body contours snugly and he sank into it with a satisfied sigh.

Datta was in the recreation room of his house. It was a small room with space for four recliners and half a wall filled with equipment which could provide different feeds to the occupants of each recliner. He was the lone occupant at this time as his son was at school and his wife was attending a lunch party. He thought that lunch parties was all she seemed to attend most of the time, as did almost all the other residents of New Thane. Datta was watching a classic Hindi film from the 2020s, a period he was particularly fond of. It was just a 3D film with octophonic sound – totally outdated technology for the year 2094 – but it played reasonably well on his senses. And he loved the old songs. In fact, Datta loved all things old. He was an amateur collector of antiques and had a few gems like a push button mobile phone and a touchscreen tablet in his collection. He was also thinking of buying an old flat screen television but had to still convince his wife.

An incoming call request temporarily interrupted the movie feed to his brain. Datta impulsed a query as to who was calling and got a reply that it was his old boss, Moses Charikar. He answered the call instead of impulsing back a busy status as Moses was someone who did not call often. “Hello Moses, what made you think of me after all these months?”

Moses replied in his characteristically loud voice, without even a customary greeting. “Do you think I have time to waste on calling you to discuss the weather? We have a job to do Datta. Come over and see me at home now. I know you aren’t doing anything anyway, probably just lounging around. Might as well share a cup of masala chai like the old days instead of all this virtual meeting s***, which I can’t handle.”

Datta gave up the movie and instructed the console to stop transmitting. He was old enough to remember the days when there were external communications devices. Things had changed forever with the invention of a bio-chemical flue that was injected into the foetus in the 32nd week; it latched onto the spinal cord near the medulla oblongata and grew along with the baby. These flue devices, called Won-Tag, by the company that had patented them, had an unique worldwide code and were an all-in-one identifier-cum- sensory input-output mechanism for every imaginable transaction under the sun, and then some. Telephone calls were just one of the simplest things Won-Tags were used for.

Won-Tags had been in use for a few years when Datta had been born 40 odd years ago. But people like Moses, who were older, had to be retrofitted with the device, and many never got used to them. As Datta had heard through several anecdotes in childhood, people had taken some time to learn to control their impulses, resulting in some politically incorrect responses when calling their bosses and wives, causing upsets all around. But the Won-Tag-based communication protocol was now second nature to most citizens; using it to place calls was just a thought away, not even requiring voice activation. Datta was one of those rare people who knew about the even older method of pressing buttons on a handset to call someone, but had always wondered when he was scanning archives in his spare time, how the phrase ‘dial a number’ had come about.

At the time Datta had been born, baby names had moved full circle from the ultramodern back to names of Hindu gods, after more than a century. So his parents had named him Dattatreya after an avatar of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The fondness for alliteration seemed to run in his family, for his father had been named Deep, and his aunt Dina. It had also led to his younger brother being named Devendra – King of the Gods.

Names of gods, goddesses, rivers and sages were strewn left and right by overzealous parents, resulting in a whole generation bearing tongue twisting names such as Vishwamitra, Tungabhadra, Aryabhatta and the like, which were invariably shortened, like Datta’s had been. He himself never had trouble pronouncing his own name when he began to speak at seven months of age, being a precociously intelligent child. But nature compensates in different ways and Datta was bone lazy, which offset his potential to a large extent. Surprisingly, he was a stickler for detail, so if he did do something, he did it well or not at all.

Datta, like his mentor and former boss Moses, was something of a misfit in the world they lived in. Moses Charikar was of Bene-Israeli Jewish descent; his forefathers, it was said, had landed perhaps two millennia ago near Alibaug, in north Konkan. He was a short, rotund man with curly black hair, twinkling brown eyes, a sharp mind and tongue to match. He loved his food immensely, even back in the days when such a trait was not the norm. Moses was a man of the old school of thought, who believed in digging deep and diligently into any case, irrespective of its political implications. It was only his outstanding work and public image that had prevented him from being fired, though many of his superiors had fervently wished to do so. He had mellowed a little after retirement, and took things more lightly now.

Datta’s forefathers hailed from a village near the town of Rajapur, a few hundred kilometres further south. Datta was tall, a shade above six feet, with a supple body, aquiline features, piercing grey eyes and a brilliant and incisive mind. He weighed in at a relatively low (compared to the national average) 95 kilograms. Great things had been expected of him because of his intelligence but he had never bothered to work very hard and put it to use. His needs were few, primary among them being the need to keep his brain occupied. Police work had satisfied that need though the pay had been meagre compared to his peers in other professions.