By Neel Anil Panicker

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

Cochin SP City Isaac John lifted his police cap, adjusted the rim of his glasses and looked around the fifty metre square garden that abutted the ‘Estate of the Family of William Frederick D’ Costa’. He couldn’t but nod his head in approval.

All around him was a splash of rainbow colours__white, yellow, orange, red, purple, lilac…even a brightish green.

Watching his childhood friend watch his garden, Detective Willie felt a surge of pride rush through his lungs.

“Here, come over, look at this.”

As John bent down, Will pointed his finger towards a lovely red colour dahlia like flower.

“This is the Zinnia Zahara Double Cherry. A summer plant, barely 40 cm in height. It takes minimum space but gives  maximum joy. It also wards off all pests by attracting the birds and the bees. Keeps your place sanitised…a huge hit among gardeners and a sight to behold.”

Detective Willie turned around.

“You’ve quite often seen me bicycle around town and plant them on roundabouts and traffic islands, haven’t you? These summer flowers take the least space but give the most delight, brightening up one’s days. It’s got 20 other sisters such as Double Fire, Bonfire Mix, Raspberry Lemon Mix, Pinwheel…”

“Phew! That’s quite a mouthful. You seem to be a walking talking encyclopaedia on gardening, Willie boy.”

Ignoring the remark, Will continued, “Do you know how the name Zinnia came about, John? Well, let me tell you. It’s in honour of the famous 18the century German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn.

‘How do you know such nitty gritty details? You must be bent over tomes of books all the night, Will? A lot of burning the midnight oil, I must say”’

“Passion, my friend, passion! You need to have passion. Passion is what makes life. Passion is what wakes you up in the morning, what takes you forward, keeps you alive and breathes life into the Earth. Without passion we are all just zombies, the walking dead.”

‘And passion is what helps solve cases, especially seemingly unsolvable ones, the ones the police and the entire paraphernalia of investigating agencies are just not able to solve”.

“Oh yes! Solving cases is a lot like gardening. Much like a good gardener who chooses the right mix of seeds and plants them in various parts as per the topography you need to first study the mental, emotional and psychological landscape of each case; then line up your list of suspects, the ones that you believe can flower the garden. And once you have them all, you search for the right mix of seeds read clues that each of them reveal, and once you have that, then it is a lot of what you call plain old digging around. I look for clues; the more the merrier. It’s painstaking work, this gathering of clues. But if you persist and keep digging around you will find some loose earth. And that’s where you plant a packet of mixed seeds, sow them, and see what comes up. Quite a few of them bloom, brightening up my day and then there are quite a lot that are like dead weed. Nothing much can be done about them. You just cut them away and throw them aside and carry on. Like I said, keep digging. The earth will spring forth the answers you are looking for.”

“And all this involves standing atop tree tops in the dead of night and peering through long range telescopic lens at darkened curtains and rolled down car windows and…”

“And running the risk of being bitten by deadly mosquitoes and being chased down dark alleys by a pack of blood thirsty dogs, right Will”

“Oh, yeah, that’s par for the course. Occasional occupational hazards that come with the territory. And now, if you please, I demand my pound of flesh”

As the two men got up and retreated into the inner ante room to play their promised three set game of chess, a cool air blew in from the ocean carrying with it the fragrance of distant lands.


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