by Dr. Shripad Dharkar

There was a hoarse cry from the man as he slumped helplessly on a chair. It seemed as if he had lost all his energy.  lnspector Rane was looking at him with unbelieving eyes. Slowly and slowly the man was changing. His beautiful hair was falling about him, balding him. The hair on his nape was graying. His eyes going inside their sockets were getting smaller and smaller. Wrinkles on his forehead, cheeks shrunk. His well-built body receded his clothes hanging loose. He looked like a man more than fifty.

‘Why, you look old like that! What has happened to you all of a sudden!” cried his wife.

lnspector Rane was looking at him astounded, as if he were seeing a horror film. A man attains old age slowly over many years in a dignified way, but getting old all of a sudden – in a matter of minutes – old by twenty years in such an unbelievably short time – a most unlikely happening, but it was before him in all its inelegance – the ravages of time in some miniscule minutes.


The party was arranged on the third floor terrace of Mr. Pawar’s residence — lnspector Rane was rather surprised on being introduced to Dr. Vishwas, his wife and daughter, for the wife looked fiftyish, the daughter about twenty-five but the doctor himself not a day beyond thirty. The old woman had married again after the death of her first husband, thought Rane, a vigorous handsome fellow of thirty.

“Dr. Vishwas, are you a medical practitioner?” asked Rane

“No, no. Nothing trivial like that” answered the doctor, vanity oozing from every word. “l have a doctorate in Physics from M.l.T., from the United States. I have my own laboratory here”.

“Oh, quite great”, exclaimed Rane, impressed.

“And you, what is the great detective doing in this small town. Our host Pawar told me about you’, said the doctor with a sniggering grin.

“Well, Sir, we policemen have to go wherever our friends the criminals are entrenched. We have information that narcotic smugglers are operating in a big way, taking advantage of the seacoast. Moreover there are gang wars. That’s why I have been transferred here” answered Rane in his consummate modest manner’ “These gang wars are reported in the papers. You must have read about the articles”.

“l don’t have time to read these rotten newspapers. I am knee-deep in my own work” Vishwas rubbished Rane.


“Well, Karnik, where do we look for your friends the druggists?” asked Rane humorously to his assistant the next day.

“Sir, in fact they are your friends. You came here specially to meet them” lnspector Karnik bantered back.

“That’s a good one, Karnik” laughed Rane. “But I would like to see Morya, our mole smuggled into their web”.

“Welcome Morya”, said Rane on Morya’s arrival. “Sit down comfortable and tell me the news. Who are purchasing these narcotics and how much. Have you made a list of all these people?”

“Yes, Sir, you will be surprised. There are quite a few; their names and addresses are here.”

“Hmmm”, mused Rane as he glanced over the list. “One gram, two grams and their buyers. Quite a long list”.

“Yes, Sir. But, Sir, I am going to give you a jolt. There is someone buying big. A big buyer and a big man to boot”.

“Yeah, you are talking like a big detective. Karnik, Sherlock Holmes has come to town”, Rane laughed. “Morya, tell me who is this big buyer and a big man to boot’.

“His name is Dr. Vishwas.”


“It is unlikely but if Morya is telling the truth…….. “ Rane mulled over this unlikely scoop, as they meandered near Vishwas’s bungalow. It seemed to be built on quite large proportions. A garden placed decorously in the front gave it an even bigger appearance. It was a ground plus first floor affair. The first floor seemed to be made of two or three bedrooms from the number of windows screened by well-designed curtains. The ground floor had no windows, excepting the kitchen. From the overall appearance the windowless area seemed quite big, but surprise of all, the terrace seemed to be covered with a massive something; a huge treelike structure with its branches like spears pointing in all directions.

“Karnik did you see the treelike structure on top? Seems it is made of crystals, as light is passing through it. Something odd, like its oddball master. Something mystifying and incomprehensible’.

“Yes, you said it Sir”, agreed Karnik

“Karnik,” said Rane, “We have to keep tabs on this fellow. When he is not there we should go see his wife. She seems to be an honest and simple lady.”

“What are we waiting for then? The doctor has gone to Mumbai. The lady is alone in the house.”

“Let’s go then” said Rane.

When they rang the bell, Mrs. Vishwas herself opened the door and was taken aback. It was not usual to see policemen knocking at her door.

“We are sorry to trouble you”‘ said Rane “But robberies are taking place in this locality. We came here to warn you- See that all doors are locked and bolted'”

“Thank you lnspector. It is nice of you to warn me. But, won’t you come in? I shall have tea made for you.”

As they sat in the well-furnished hall, Rane had a close look in the picture on the mantelpiece. It was of the daughter of the house.

“Your daughter looks exactly like Dr. Vishwas. Doesn’t she, Karnik?” exclaimed Rane

“Well, after all he is her father She has taken after him. They say girls take after their fathers and boys after their mothers” answered Mrs Vishwas.

Rane and Karnik had a quick surprised glance at each other, which did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Vishwas. So she continued: “You know, Vishwas and myself were studying together in Ferguson College. We were all the time together and decided to get married. He is actually my age but looks younger.” Then laughing she said  “People are intrigued. They wonder whether I have married a much younger man. Isn’t it funny?”

Rane just smiled “Some people grow slowly”‘ he said’

“Yes. but rather too slowly for my liking.”

“What is he working on?” asked Rane casually.

“God knows! I am just an ordinary woman looking after the house.  But I am glad he has stopped working with those horrid rats. Those days the whole house reeked with their smell.”


“Quite a character, this doctor,” observed Karnik, as they entered their office.

“Hmmm,” mused Rane. “Everything is getting curiouser and curiouser First the treelike structure on the terrace, the; the big windowless area like a godown, third his young appearance, then the experiments with rats. I wonder if he is developing some drug to remain young. Karnik. I think if we introduce a bug in his laboratory, we can hear what is going on.”

“Yes, boss, it’s easy as a Pie.”

After this Karnik entered the laboratory, through the back door and placed the bug in a corner. The bug was like a small ball, the size of a lemon and had the capacity of relaying all the sounds from the lab to sophisticated equipment in Rane’s office.


“Vishwas,” a woman’s voice coming through the bug. “What experiments are you doing? The police had come here on some pretext or other.”

“What!” A man’s voice. “What do they want here? ln this gentleman’s house — the swine’s!”

“They were rather taken aback when I told them you are my age.”-

“Ha,” a voice vain and proud. “They will never know how I manage to remain thirty. Nobody will know the prowess of this greatest scientist in the whole world My research will bring me the Noble prize when I publish even a single page dissertation in “Nature”. But beat it, I have work to do!”

“Yes, I am going. But I always wonder about this big eight foot grandfather clock and this helmet attached to it by wires. Has it something to do with your age?’

“Ha, go away woman; I have lots to do.”


“Karnik,” said Rane in his musing thoughtful voice. “What is this lady speaking about the grandfather clock and the helmet attached to it by wires? Then she asks whether it has something to do with his young age. We have seen that treelike crystalline structure on the terrace and wires going down to the godown. In all probability the wires would be connected to the grandfather clock, which is then attached to the helmet. Let us visualize he wears the helmet and then…………. does something to the clock, ……… and bingo, something happens, ……. but what?”

As he was speaking, he glanced at his wristwatch. It showed first of that month and 12 o’clock at night. But as he was looking at it, the watch jumped by five minutes. It then showed 5 Past 12.

“What is happening? My watch jumped five minutes all of a sudden”

“So has mine,” said Karnik surprised “and all the clocks in this office All showing 5 past 12.”

“Most uncanny! As if someone has stolen 5 minutes from our lives all of a sudden, eh, Karnik?”

“What an idea!” ejaculated Karnik. “Only you can think like this.” And both laughed.


Next day, Rane entered Vishwas’ lab by picking the big lock on the back door.

His first impression was of the odd smell — a mélange of chemicals and narcotics. He browsed everywhere and came to a layer of bags with some powdery stuff. He smelled.

“So Morya was right. The great scientist is really buying narcotics.”

On other tables was lying a surfeit of chemical equipment. But what attracted him the most was the eight foot high grandfather clock. Wires were attached to it, obviously coming from the crystal tree on the top. From the other side of the clock other set of wires were attached to a helmet like object, neatly kept on a small table.

As he was absorbed in all these odd things, a terrible blow fell on his head from behind. He fell unconscious, how long he did not know, but when he came out of his torpor, he found water trickling down his head. He heard a woman’s voice, “

What are you doing Vishwas? You knocked down the poor man and tied him to this chair. .”

“He had no business interfering in someone else’s property; he has paid for this sacrilege from which there is no redemption.” Then turning towards Rane he bantered, “How are you feeling now my dear lnspector Rane? If you wanted to know something about me I would have told you. Then why this breaking in like a thief? Probably you are rather inquisitive about my youthful looks, is it?’

“Well, there is nothing criminal about looking young. You would never be hauled up before a court for this,’ answered Rane in spite of an aching head.

“That’s better! Do you see that big clock? It is not an ordinary clock. It is something made by me after years of patient research. That, and the hat like object. I wear it and put the clock forward by just five minutes. What happens afterwards will make your imagination wobble. Five minutes from the lives of each person staying in this town are drawn through the treelike antenna on the terrace and go into my head and I become younger by a month. So one month spent and one month gained. This I am doing for the last twenty years. That’s why I am thirty years old all the time. you would marvel at this phenomenon!’

“Yes, my imagination wobbles, as you rightly said. But you have stolen lives from innocent people without their consent. I cannot arrest you for this. There is no provision in the law – for this is new and something staggering. But I wonder what you are doing with the narcotics stacked over there?”

“Ho, ho, ho,” laughed the mad scientist. “Thanks, thanks for reminding me. I was forgetting it altogether.”

He opened a cupboard and took out a vial of some chemical and a syringe.

“My dear lnspector, I have told you enough but I don’t want it to go out of this laboratory. This serum, made from what you call the banned drugs will cure you, as it will wipe out your memory completely. You will wander the streets asking everybody your own name, your address, your vocation. You will be like a beggar. Your department will also disown you. You are doomed – a punishment for entering this laboratory.”

He took the chemical in the syringe and proceeded to inject the dreadful serum into Rane’s forearm, but a blow from a stick smashed the syringe from the mad scientist’s hand.

“You bitch,” he roared. ‘You have ruined my precious work. You will pay for this.”

Like a madman, his eyes wild, teeth bared, he caught hold of his wife. “l shall strangle you to death for this.’ with that he started to choke his wife.

Inspector Rane could not witness this inhuman act. He stood up with the chair roped to his back. He swung himself around and hit Vishwas with the chair. Vishwas got madder. He pounced on Rane but Rane again swung hard with all his strength The mad scientist was thrown hard towards his precious clock. The clock tottered wildly and oscillated, about to fall. Vishwas tried his best to keep it upright, but it was too heavy for him and it swayed and fell with a shattering bang. All the cogs, wheels, nuts and bolts got strewn on the floor – the end of a madman’s dreams! The treelike antenna on the terrace flashed and exploded. The dial of the clock was looking at Rane like a dying man. It started whirling round and round, backwards, backwards, backwards. There was a hoarse cry from Vishwas, who slumped on a chair, all energy lost. Rane’s bonds were cut off by Mrs. Vishwas, so he was free by then. He was staring at the man slumped on the chair, slowly slowly, Vishwas was changing. His beautiful hair was falling, balding him. The hair on his nape was grey. His eyes were retreating inside his sockets, getting smaller. Wrinkles on his forehead, cheeks shrunk; his well-built body receded, his clothes hanging loose. He looked like a man more than fifty.

Mrs. Vishwas was crying, “What has happened to you Vishwas? How are you looking so old all of a sudden? Oh, God, what am I supposed to do now?’

After the initial shock was over, Rane could find words.

“Don’t worry Mrs. Vishwas. Admit him in a good nursing home and he will be alright in a few days. Moreover now he will be more suited to you and you can spend the rest of your lives in much more happy days. As for robbing years of life from other people no court will believe this wayward maverick happening, so we can forget it. About the narcotics stacked in his laboratory and the attempt to destroy me, l think Vishwas has paid enough, as you can see for yourself. So, I am not going to press any charges. You can also pardon him for his excesses and nurse him back to health Live with him happily. I bid you goodbye and good luck.”




Author: strangetalesblog

I completed a ripe age of 94 years in 2016. I am a Doctorate in Food Technology and have had a long diverse career of 60 years in the Food industry in India. I turned to writing science fiction and other tales as a second career post retiring. Some of these stories were appreciated well and I was awarded the "First Story" prize in the Science Reporter for 3 years running. I am blogging some of these stories and hope that you would like them. Your feedback is most welcome. Thank you.

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