Diary of Nishchint Srikumar

RogerBW
(Roger disclaims: we're a bunch of middle-aged white mostly-English men playing in a culture that isn't ours. We're trying to get things right, but we will inevitably get details wrong and may be insulting. That's not our intention.)

Translator's Note

The translation of this diary, recovered from the effects of Mrs Srikumar, has been a lengthy process. Even once the encipherment had been cracked, the plain text was in a mixture of languages and even alphabets, with allusions to Hindu literature unexpected from a woman largely without formal education. This thorough, one might say excessive, effort to keep the contents of the document confidential may perhaps have been justified by the nature of her wartime work, and only now can the details be revealed.
The translator is grateful to Dr von Lambsdorf of the British Magical Society for assistance in esoteric matters.
“Hari”, addressed in several passages, is believed to be Mrs Srikumar's late husband Harinder (1902-1930).
Other members of the Logistics Section were:
”The Indians will only be united under the threat of danger. Nobody can simply bring together a country that has 265 kinds of God.”
– Nishchint

1939

(20 November 2021)
Dear Hari,
Such times! My small business has come to the attention of the Delhi Intelligence Bureau, in a small team recruited by William Davies-Wright to tackle special matters of Intelligence.
Ernst Schäfer is leading an SS expedition to Tibet, seeking early Aryan civilisation (the Aryan civilisation all around them presumably not being wite enough). He is primarily a zoologist, but after his last expedition was promoted rapidly from SS-Private. His five-man expedition has been travelling in the region for most of a year; they seemed happy after they'd spent time in the Yarlung Valley, but have vanished on the way back to Gangtok.
Our task is to find and arrest them, and clearly to find a way to hang on to them until they can be interned after the expected outbreak of war.
There are several plausible routes the expedition might have taken, but one is clearly the best. We travel by train, then drive a police charabanc on to Gangtok.

19 August

We meet Sir Basil Gould, the Political Officer, and a pilot who is prepared to lend his Tiger Moth for reconnaissance; he takes up Miss McDavis to look at the likely routes; she spies two caravans, one of which definitely has some blonde-haired members – at least a week's travel away from where the useful road starts.
We consider how we may find an excuse to arrest them; if I join the caravan before it returns to civilisation, I should be able to learn more and cause suitable trouble.

22 August

I join the caravan, and impress them with cooking (my mother's recipes continue to do well). It seems that the geophysicist Wienert has “gone crazy” after an argument one night, and is restrained in a litter.
I keep an ear out. There are clearly topics that the other Germans don't raise with Schäfer, and are concerned about what happens when they get back to society.
Wienert isn't spontaneously complaining, but I get some opportunity to speak with him, under the guise of his teaching me German. After some days he asks for help escaping, and of course I agree – he doesn't think he's mad, the way they say. So when we get back to Chungthang he starts acting mad, and I arrange that some gunfire comes from the caravan…
(They have five Lugers, three Gew98s and two scoped small-calibre rifles. All quite reasonable for the expedition.)
Arrests are made. It seems that the expedition found an old shrine up a side valley of the Yarlung, treated it as neglected, and brought a heavy item back from it. This proves to be an idol, carved from a single piece of iron or similar metal (though un-rusted), something like a thousand years old by McDavis' evaluation of the costume. There are no inscriptions.
Wienert requests asylum… and turns out to have tried to get into esoteric contact with the statue, and eventually it spoke to him. It explained the illusions of the world, and suddenly Nazism didn't seem such a good idea any more…
“Not my incarnation, not my Buddha.”
– Vijay

2 September

Back in Delhi. The scientific material will be examined by people who can understand it. A telegraph message arrives from Lhasa asking whether the Germans stole the statue known as “The Iron Man”, with an accurate description…
Several of the team want to talk with this statue themselves. The clergy don't come up with much until we find someone who speaks Tibetan Buddhism, and he manages to listen effectively.

3 September

Lord Linlithgow declares India to be at war without consulting the Parliament…

12 September

(11 December 2021)
Bill Wright asks us to lend ourselves to the Constabulary in Kolkata; it was the site of the German Embassy, until it was closed down at the outbreak of war. More to the point, there's a pre-German underground newspaper, which the local police have been failing to shut down: someone goes to talk to them, then comes back saying this is not a problem.
“We ought to find out about this before we set fire to it.”
– Hannah
The situation in Bengal is complex. Mostly-Hindu West Bengal and Mostly-Muslim East Bengal were split thirty-odd years ago, then reunited. This has given strength to the Muslim League of India, now largely disassociated from the Congress, which wants both independence and a separate Muslim country; the Hindu Mahasabha opposes both the Muslims and independence…

13 September

In Kolkata, we meet Sub-Inspector Ashok. His account matches what we have been told; we also speak with Constable Ramprakesh, who has no memory of events inside the building, or of ordering his men away.
I have a look inside the back goods area; the visible posters, newspapers, and so on seem to be legitimate. So why the magical defences, if the place could withstand a casual search?
Vijay and Parminder place an order for posters; this seems to go smoothly, though Parminder detects traces of earlier magic use in the office.
Iqbal doesn't manage to follow the boss home, but we get his address. Ardeshir randomly follows the secretary, who goes to a café and waits until a specific man turns up; they go on to a cinema, then he walks her home.

14 September

We consider sending in the constable who was mind-altered before to see if something new happens to him. He points out that his visit was in the evening. (The written report confirms this.) There has been some minor change among the food vendors, but the local constable doesn't think it significant.
In the evening, the constable goes in first, with Iqbal nearby, and Parminder planning to follow a few minutes later. There's a very slow answer to the constable's knock at the door; he's whammied again, though Parminder isn't when he turns up hoping to collect the posters early.
We obtain a search warrant, and I go in ahead. Thngs go smoothly; the real surprise is one Mohindra Gahlot, a Hindu priest who claims not to be able to read Bengali and therefore to have nothing to do with all this subversion that he's shocked to discover.
He is clearly a well-known person in Kolkata, and I ensure that he has nothing to complain of during his brief arrest and interview. (But he will definitely bear further observation.)
There has been reasonable blinding in the matter of payment for the printing and so on, though the account is associated with the German Embassy. Other outgoings there have been in cash.

30 September

(22 January 2022)
The Defence of India Act effectively declares martial law.
Mr Wright wishes to talk about planning. Particularly if and wen we operate outside India, we'll need some kind of cover.

17 October

The political agent for several tribes on the Northwest Frontier reports having seen an angel, and his guards confirm it. But the angel took the money he was going to hand over to the tribes…

19 October

We travel to the RAF station at Karachi, and meet Wing Commander Henderson, then continue by Valentia to Dera Ismail Khan, a small airfield attached to a large town. Squadron Leader Subroto Mukerjee, commander of No. 1 Indian Air Force, introduces us to William Stannard, the Political Agent, who's been flown south from Bannu by the RAF. He's clearly convinced in the matter of angels; his Naik, Kamal Ali, seems a bit more grounded.
Kamal Ali is used to being shot at; it's just a thing that happens around these parts. They set off with the strongbox from Bannu; payments aren't due until the end of the year, but snow happens. On 5 October, on the way to Miran Shah, he spoke with a normal-looking tribesman by the side of the road; he had a very strong presence, clearly good and right. Kamal Ali's memory of the exact words is fuzzy. After he spoke with Stannard, they unlocked the strongbox and he took the money in bags, then walked away more or less to the south. And then it seemed pointless to continue, so they turned back, and ultimately arrived here, where they've been under arrest.
The man spoke in Pashto, and sounded like a local. He didn't carry a rifle (unlike almost any Pashtun man), and left on foot. And apparently there's “the Faqir of Ipi”, Mirzali Khan, based in the village of Gurwek, some forty miles further on; he has declared an independent Pashtunistan, which most people are ignoring.
Stannard confirms this story, though he clearly took a harder hit from whatever the effect was. He confirms that he was addressed in Pashto. He's a recent convert to Islam, for personal rather than professional reasons, though it's helped professionally; his family is in England. He has no recollection of why this seemed like such a good idea, simply that it was.
Prayers with Iqbal at sunset leave Stannard realising that things clearly have gone somewhat awry, though we assert that we're keeping an open mind. Vijay talks with the local police Havildar, the superintendent having gone home for the night, with the aim of finding out about any recent robberies or con-men. There was one large robbery in the summer, Baluchis from the hills, and all were caught. The Faqir doesn't engage in raiding, though he has many men, and there are rumours he's been speaking with the German government via Afghanistan.

20 October

The Harts take off early to see what can be seen with the aid of dawn shadows; they bring back more detail, and Stannard and Ali agree on the spot where the angel appeared. We consider how we might get in touch with local tribal leaders, whose noses may be put out of joint by all this.
We travel with Stannard and Naik Ali in the Valentia to Bannu. There are rumours going round about the angel, but nothing specific about the faqir. Vijay contacts the local Sikh community, one extended family of grain and produce merchants.

21 October

The site of the robbery, to the west of the town of Bannu, doesn't reveal much: it's a flat area with some trees, decent visibility. Some tracks seem promising, and we follow them down the river towards the village of Nurah.
When we meet some interested locals, Vijay greets them and they settle on Urdu as a working language. Rashid is also interested in the angel, and turns out to be a cousin of the headman. After some delay, we are fed, and Vijay puts the case (with help from Stannard and Ali as witnesses) that the “angel” was something more merely human.
After more delay, two boys are found who may have seen him: with a pack, but no rifle. Most distinctive was the colour of his robe, a dull yellow. He left going west on a road that turns south.
With more consultation, the sheikh's wife recalls a trader some years ago who sold fabric that faded to that colour. Daud Ahmed, that was the man! He buys in Bannu and circles through these villages and to the north, as far as Spin Wam. He's usually seen here in late spring or early summer. This doesn't seem entirely promising.
Later, Vijay colludes with the sheikh; he thinks that the faqir is a genuinely pure Moslem, rather than a political animal. He wouldn't connive at his followers pretending to be angels, even by proxy, though only if he knew about it. On the other hand, the way the robber went was into rough country; if he'd been working for the faqir he might have hidden, but then would have had to travel.
And clearly he had intelligence about the shipment of money. But why isn't it showing up anywhere? Whether this is as we suspect to fund an insurrection, or for simple thievery, someone should be spending it.

22 October

(19 February 2022)
Vijay rides through the night to Jani Khel, and finds that the target did indeed pass through here – looking like a poor Pashtun tribesman. He bought a good-quality rifle and food for three or four days' travel, as well as new shoes to replace a very worn pair, using money that looks like part of the robbery. (This was on 8 October, a few days after the robbery.) He left to the east; this road eventually turns north towards Bannu.

23 October

The rest of us follow Vijay, then leave Jani Khel with him looking for tracks. There's some sign that he broke his journey in a small settlement, but didn't do anything remarkable.

24 October

Iqbal feels inspired.
Lo, for the pretender seeks anonymity; and will seek it at his home. Look at the road which the money would have taken.
We set off towards Bannu, and seem still to be on track.

25 October

Bannu's large enough that strangers are not automatically remembered. We manage to confirm that he bought a new robe here; the trail's fairly cold, though.

26 October

We carry on along the original convoy route again, going further than the site of the robbery and camping beside the river.

27 October

After more travel we arrive at Ipi, where the lookouts make no great effort to make themselves covert. They make a good show of cooperation, and mention a Rashid Hamza, a poor man who lives in the next village, Mir Ali; they saw him there last week, looking rather more prosperous and confident. One person is willing to show us where…
Ardeshir and I go round to the back of the house, and are thus not caught out when our target's influence swamps the others. So we both shoot him in the back, which helps matters. As the authorities get involved, Hannah patches him up, and with a bit of persuasion he reveals the location of his stash.

29 October

After a pause for healing, we get Rashid (and his mother, who will be gaoler and interpreter) back to Bannu

2 November

(19 March 2021)
and after several days' delay fly to Delhi. Parminder and I remain on guard over Rashid in hospital, while the others report in. (Rashid's mother turns out to be literate as well as well-informed; her father was a preacher.) They will be put on staff, and given a place to live and money for expenses; she'll be the interface between Rashid and anyone who might have the power actually to let him out.
Meanwhile we start planning to return the Iron Man to Tibet. The Empire is also planning to establish a flying-field at Lhasa – not for the Iron Man, but for other transport – and we can help with that. We work on learning basic Tibetan language, and mountain survival.

30 November

By the end of the month we have permission to survey, though not to overfly. Our RAF liaison, Peter Hope, seems to think he ought to be in charge; we take steps to disabuse him of this misconception. We're also getting an RAF survey party under Sergeant Howard Smith, and Imperial Service signallers to hold down a radio link; their commander, Havildar Dalgun Singh, has met Vijay before. And of course the Buddhist mystics.

1 December

We change trains at Kolkata and proceed north, as Hannah tries to avoid Hope's society and instead work on her hangover. We make multiple trips from Darjeeling to Gangtok, and Vijay and Hannah go ahead to warn Gould. We proceed to add missing equipment, and plot a route from Gangtok to Lhasa, using river valleys for ease of navigation and so as not to push altitude limits. The Imperial Service signallers stay in Gangtok.

13 December

We set out along the route; it's quite hard going, as well as thin air.

18 December

Hope breaks his collarbone falling off his horse, we move him by litter.

24 December

We take a break at a road junction (and village by courtesy) at Redan'gang, to give Hope a chance to recover a bit (and rest a little ourselves). Later; we pass along the shores of Lake Yamdrok.

1940

15 January

We reach the outskirts of Lhasa, find a place to stay, make contact with the British representative here and explain our mission. We are clearly treading on eggshells here.
The Iron Man is to be returned to the Potala Palace. (Many steps.) We hand it over to the monks on guard, and follow them in; the Man is undamaged, and we recount something of why it was stolen and what happened to one of the thieves. We spend the time until supper looking at the art collection.
(16 April 2021)
Dinner with the Rinpoche includes Richardson, the senior British representative, and Tsarong Dzasa, a former army commander who's clearly something to do with whatever they use as an intelligence service here.
The Rinpoche, who seems quite young, asks why it is we who are returning the Iron Man; we explain that we happened to be in a position to stop the theft, and that it seemed a good idea not to expose too many people to it. “It is not dangerous, except in the matter of ideas”, he says. Well. Yes. Vijay admires the mountains, and we speak lightly of our police work and of the future air route.
We spend the night in a small lodging, not the official one for foreign guests.

16 January

Richardson returns and consults with Hope and Smith. We then go out with Smith to consider sites for flying-fields, and find a few spots along the river which look as though they should be both workable and available for rent. (But it's pretty weak pastureland, so any given spot won't take a lot of aircraft movements.)

17 January

With a couple of possible sites, the further one less good because of its slope, we return to the inn. The Drepung Rinpoche summons us to speak with him in the morning.

18 January

We walk, inevitably, up to the Drepung monastery. There are more monks around here than at the palace. Rinpoche Taring here is willing to support the field, but only as long as it is shut down after Gould (and we) have left after the enthronement of the new Dalai Lama. We say something about our own experience with the Iron Man and the German party.

21 January

Hannah and I get talking and drinking with a Chinese trader at the inn; the others make other arrangements.
Hope, it turns out, prefers the further, more sloping, airfield.

22 January

Hope wants to inspect the airfield sites himself, and reckons he's now sufficiently recovered to ride. We go along to provide translation and try to prevent him from hurting himself or others.

23 January

“I think he's run out of gin.” — Sergeant Smith
“Bastard, he was keeping it to himself!” — Hannah
We have the other two major monasteries to visit today. Our wait at the first, Sera, is rather longer, than before and it's clear that Rinpoche Chensal is thoroughly opposed to any further British involvement – beyond the point of reason, perhaps. Vijay gets a strong feeling of constant competition here, in a way we haven't felt in the other institutions in Lhasa, and tries to dig more into the Rinpoche's objection.
The conversation breaks into groups, and Iqbal and I speak with one of the assistants. One possible wedge: while there is opposition to British involvement, there might be rather less to that of an Indian government. There is clear and rational opposition to expanding British, and indeed Chinese, influence; but if the airport were to be placed formally under Tibetan control, something more might be possible…
At Ganden, Rinpoche Surkhan does not object to change, but does wish to study it carefully and at length – and these are the only people so far to ask us detailed questions about the operation of aircraft. They'll go on to study scriptures and consider
1
Redundant Array of Inexpensive Monks?
.
While we wait, Vijay goes to the ink-workshop behind the scriptorium, and contemplates the making of ink.
Back at the inn, we report carefully and settle for in food and relaxation.
(21 January 2022)
There's a note from Mr Richardson; he's like to speak with us around noon tomorrow.
Later there's another note, from a General Wu Zhongxin, who would also like to speak with us, at two.

24 January

We spend the morning walking around the town, and visit the Jokhang Temple; one of the monks invites us in. (There appears to be some overlap with the gods of Hinduism.)
The monk is very interested in our mission, particularly the possibilities of moving medicine that doesn't travel well by the overland route, particularly anæsthetics and vaccines. His approach, perhaps naïvely, is that the temple tries to stay clear of politics and serve the people of Lhasa.
Richardson arrives to speak with all of us: the six of us from the DBI, Hope, and Sergeant Smith. The idea of patronage seems acceptable. Hope has changed his mind about airfield sites. Smith will stay here to be in charge of the airfield construction and operation, under Richardson's supervision. There will be some need for budget for language tutors, though Vijay's local co-religionists may be able to help.
The General shows up a little early, and he and Richardson know each other; he's an official representative for the Republic of China. This places him in a slightly tricky position, since China of course does not support Tibetan independence, but an airport would be a good thing for everyone.
He mentions Chao Kung (or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Trebitsch-Lincoln), an abbot of European origins who claims to be the Dalai Lama. We agree that we are definitely not working with him. More seriously, there are problems for the Chinese Empire: betrayal by the Germans, who switched alliances in 1935 to Japan, and the Japanese are now using mustard gas on the Chinese…
A messenger arrives; we'll be returning to the Potala Palace next day at 2.30. Formal dress.

25 January

This turns out, particularly for Ardeshir and Vijay, to be somewhat extreme, to the extent that we rather outshine our superiors. But agreement has been reached. Sergeant Smith will be Lord Warden of the airfield. The next step will be a proving flight, but not for at least a couple of days.

26 January

Ardeshir and I examine the local markets and collect some fabrics and dyes. Hannah speaks with some of the local medics about anæsthetics. Ardeshir buys some esoteric books.
The first proving flight will be on Monday, and the field will need to be cleared (both of snow and of irregularities). Vijay arranges that a gurdwara will be built on the airfield, giving his co-religionists an early start.

29 January

With the field ready, we wait for the arrival of the aircraft. The weather is reasonably clear, and the Valentia lands after a few passes. There's an incident on takeoff, however, and repairs need to be made.

30 January

The mechanics get their job done, and the plane gets away the next day.

20 February

Sir Basil arrives on the third flight, with gifts for the enthronement, and matters proceed

22 February

The new Dalai Lama, four years old at this point, goes to Hannah and asks about his future; she apparently sees several things, and says “complicated, and we should speak later”. Parminder finds some magic in among the ritualism.
The iron man is brought in, and suddenly the Dalai Lama moves like a much older man. Vaiśravana is invoked, and he proceeds into the formal audience chamber, where he takes the throne. He looks at all of those present, then says “it is done” and gets down again.
As we talk afterwards, Parminder tries to analyse the magic he detected. Something to do with memory; certainly he seems to be acting more mature than one might expect.
The Chinese General Wu speaks with Rinpoche Surkhan. (Notes for the report.) Wu is avoiding the Dalai Lama, and seems worried by him in some way. And while the Tibetans are covering it up well, some of them seem a little surprised at just how things are happening.
When the Dalai Lama speaks with Hannah, she explains her visions: of te Dalai Lama suffering misfortune, or ruling the land, or of things turning in strange ways.

23 February

We start to make arrangements for Sir Basil, and ourselves, to fly out.
(18 March 2023)
There will be a Signals station providing communications at the airfield. It looks as though there won't be enough money to keep the gurdwara going, though, at least for the moment, and Vijay works with Sergeant Smith to see what funding can be generated, particularly in terms of trade that would generate commercial flights.

24 February

Some possibilities present themselves, particularly medical supplies. Hannah and I talk with Richardson about the options; he can't give an immediate response. Ardeshir considers some books that might be valuable to collectors in India. The question of commercial flights is still open for now.

27 February

We fly and take trains back to Delhi.

1 March

We report in. It cannot be rationally denied that magic seems to be returning. And Davies-Wright, while he sees both a duty to the people and a duty to the Empire, wants to keep things together at least for the duration of the war. Which means keeping the Indian National Congress sweet…
Vijay is promoted to full Inspector, and my status is more or less regularised.
It looks as though our next step is to travel to Mumbai and talk with Tata Airlines

4 March

We get to Bombay, and Ardeshir sets up an “accidental“ meeting with a Tata family member (and manager) at the theatre
A group of Buddhist mystics is following Hannah about. Apparently they believe she can foresee the future.
P D Tata-Shidu is present with wife and daughter, and Ardeshir gives him the pitch for commercial flights to Lhasa. He's cautiously interested, and wants more details, particularly technical ones.
All goes well, including the backstage tour, until there's some chanting audible as we leave. “Kali, Kali, Kali”? We get Tata to safety and move closer to investigate.
Vijay advances, the rest of us following more carefully, and we get sight of the affair. It's mostly young men, some young women, some older men, all looking inward at a leader who's keeping the chant in time. They clearly have a grievance.
Parminder reckons there's something magical going on, a unification of spirit to a single purpose. Ardeshir asks a bystander; a preacher turned up this afternoon, and has been gathering the crowd, but it's not clear what his further objective may be.
So Vijay asks, in a booming voice, “what seems to be the problem?”. It's an anti-British demonstration, but Vijay argues on both theological and mundane levels, and ends up taking everyone to the gurdwara (while we rush ahead to get in more food).
(6 May 2023)
We return to the hotel after midnight. (The preacher himself managed to vanish during the confusion.)

5 March

In the morning, a couple of officers of the Bombay Police turn up to talk with Vijay. They can't officially support his actions, but… The name the preacher was using was Sameer Sharma, not one they've met before.
Ardeshir and Iqbal go out to sound out the mood of the town. Sharma seems to have done a decent job of picking people who were ready to be sparked into a riot, and then sounding very convincing on the theme that now was the time for action.
They do find themselves being followed, by someone who isn't terribly good at not being noticed – though once they leave the docks he departs, possibly because he wouldn't blend in as well.
Hannah is looking for a place of refreshment, and ends up in what appears to be a gay bar. Vijay, Ardeshir and I are all mentioned in the rumours about the end of the riot; the rest of the team haven't been noticed.
About 6pm, we get a note from P D, with an invitation to come along the next morning to talk further.

6 March

Iqbal, Vijay, Ardeshir, and I change to dark clothes and prepare to look around the docks for signs of prep work for whatever magic Sharma was doing. (Hannah, having ended her evening a little early after the mystics found her in the bar, remains at the hotel in case of communication emergencies.)
The night is a foggy one and we blend into it. Parminder gets into the building; the two occupants, in the public hall we want to look at, are asleep. Parminder confirms that they're there. I stay outside on watch. Iqbal moves in to search in more detail, but nobody gets much. Iqbal suggests we move to where the near-riot started. There's clearly a best route from one to the other, but when we get there there's a Mumbai policeman taking an interest in us. We have a quick search, but soon return to the hotel.

7 March

Hannah is unwell, but we all go to the meeting with PD. JRD is interested, but there are certain potential problems. Fuel would have to be shipped by train to Sikkim.
A DC-3 could do it, but any aircraft up to the job is at risk of getting taken up by the military, possibly without compensation. The Lhasa service is important, but protecting the aircraft will depend on the internal politics of the British administration. Establishing a route into China doesn't offer much benefit. On the other hand, Vijay could afford to buy the aircraft and arrange a favourable lease…
That seems possible, and they'll get back to us. Vijay takes steps to get some diplomatic leverage with Davies-Wright, to invest in Tata Group stock, and to set up the purchase of the aircraft.

8 March

The formalities get arranged, and we return to looking for Sharma. We go to the cotton district, and soon enough hear chanting in the distance. Vijay alerts the nearest Gurdwara, and we get closer. Sharma immediately sends some of his bullies to attack Vijay. He defends himself with a staff apparently hidden in his turban; Hannah manifests a rapid-firing firearm, which has a discouraging effect; I berate them, then slip out of sight and go after Sharma, as does Ardeshir. The crowd seems to get the idea that Sharma is a British agent (we don't see who it is who shouts this, but she was shouting in Gujarati), which isn't quite what we wanted, but we'll work with it. He tries to run away, but Vijay offers a reward and he's quickly caught…
The police go off with prisoners and some of our group; Ardeshir, Hannah and I hang about to look for signs of magic and talk with the crowd. It seems that Sharma turned up the previous evening to start rousing the local leaders, and get them to bring their own followers to today's incident.
The aircraft will be bought – but with 9-cylinder Wright engines, as that's what's available.

9 March

(15 July 2023)
Vijay ends up watching Sharma all night. Iqbal and Parminder write reports and get some sleep.
At the interrogation, Sharma is reasonably willing to talk. He is a local man with political ambitions, and regards this arrest as a necessary prerequisite to greater things. He claims to have talked with “Forward Bloc”, a left-wing nationalist party based largely in Bengal and formed last year by Subhas Chandra Bose after splitting from Congress, but not to be a member. Vijah tries to get across the virtues of peaceful protest, and in spite of the context this seems as though it may be getting through.
Sharma will be bound over to keep the peace.
We spent an evening at the theatre.

10 March

Before returning to Delhi Ardeshir drops in on Sharma, takes him and his brother out for tea and pastries, and chats about his speech-writing and performance style. (His brother works in a shipping agency; Sameer himself is a casual dockworker who hasn't got far in the union.)
We return to Delhi, and resume our office business.

7 April

Hannah receives an unwontedly clear vision. She sees an unusually clear conversation between three people we don't recognise (a European trying to wear local garb without getting it right, an Indian man, and a south Indian woman), and all or most of us, though she can't determine what's being discussed.
In the office, Hannah tries to find the people in the DIB's books of persons of interest; she doesn't have much joy, but soon the people themselves arrive. They ask for Hannah by name
They are Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa, Archibald Gabbet-Fairfax, and Rajni Lath, from the Theosophical Society in Chennai; and they have some Tibetan pages they have been unable to translate, and they want our help. (Also their seer had visions of us.) “Has the book of Dzyan been opened?” They do indeed seem to have acquired one of the pages we extracted, and are interested in helping the war effort… It seems there's some connection with Nicholas Roerich, and they want us to go together to visit him…
We arrange to set up an “advisory council” so that they can argue with each other and talk to us rather than to outsiders. Gabbet-Fairfax is a seer with some genuine capability, and Lath is at least alert to possibilities.

8 April

We take multiple trains to the Punjab.

13 April

We arrive at Naggar in the Kullu Valley, and take a carriage to the estate to meet Nicholas and his family. Gabbet-Fairfax realises that this is the meeting he forecast. Roerich's mystical awakening came in 1913 in Paris, as set and costume designer for The Rite of Spring
His vision is to unite all of central Asia in the search for the Maitreya, and this will lead to a struggle which will either eliminate or perfect Russian communism. Jiddu Krishnamurti was not the Maitreya, but that doesn't mean there won't be one…

14 April

We rise before dawn to point our various mystical senses at Roerich's painting (of sunrise over the mountains) as it happens. There is magic trying to happen, but it's unreliable. The true painting comes and goes, it seems, but some of them produce an affect of actually being present to observe the original scene.
Parminder and Vijay notice that Kurak Kalpak, a linguist of Indian languages, seems to be taking a particular interest in us – and notes. Parminder gets chatting wth him; he's from Bihar, university-educated in Delhi.
I follow him into town while Parminder and Iqbal search his room. He doesn't visit the post office, but visits shops consistent with his stated reasons for the trip. I also drop off a note from Vijay to the local magistrate asking the his post be held for examination. The searchers find some sort of official ID card, in Chinese. They copy it, and when I get back I confirm that it's from the secret police operated by the Republic of China.
Parminder determines that Helena is a magical beacon, probably quite easy to detect (by those who know what they're looking for) at long ranges. Nobody else in the household has any detectable magical talents.
Vijay goes into town to refine the instructions to the magistrate (Kalpak's post is to be copied rather than held), but our general feeling is that we shouldn't cause attention-attracting trouble.

21 April

We return to Delhi, after a few days en route to see various family.

2 May

(16 September 2023)
We are off to Assam with a Dr Chakravarti of the Archaeological Survey; a recently-uncovered sealed funerary(?) jar is apparently growling.

3 May

We set off, first to Kolkata, and see what Chakravarti can tell us. The person in charge is Boothman, working for the Survey, and generally reliable.

8 May

We leave the train and cross the Lohit river for Sadiya, then go to the excavation after lunch. The excavation seems to be in reasonably good order. The relevant jar looks much like the others, though rather smaller, and Parminder confirms that it's magical though he can't learn more.
The soil is dryish but not unusually so. The monsoon is a few weeks off, and work will have to stop then.
The team considers this in the light of their various skills. These jars, with a characteristic manufacturing style (kiln-fired, it's believed) and groove pattern, are generally assumed to be part of a now-forgotten funerary custom; it's vanishingly rare to find them sealed.
Sealing materials are variable. This one has a teak plug with a perished latext seal.
We can all hear the growling, though some of the workers can't. I also detect a very faint vibration. Iqbal is reminded of the graves in Medina of the Prophet's family. Hannah unearths a fragment of a bronze trowel, with some ornamental engravings in the form of a tiger's claw.
With another jar disinterred, Ardeshir tries it for resonance; it does ring all right, though not particularly well. He has some idea about the field being set up as a musical instrument, but this doesn't seem to hold together.
A large part of the msising chip from a non-growling jar turns up, about four feet away.
Vijay manages to make meditative contact with something that seems to be some kind of tiger-related spirit. Communication is primitive, but it seems to be starved or stuck in the jar. He suggests that we leave it in place for now.
Vijay and Iqbal carefully lift the jar onto a stretcher; it makes a bit of a rustling noise as they do. Even so, we''ll leave it here overnight and guard it.

9 May

When Boothman and the diggers return in the morning, Hannah's Buddhists come with them.
Today's plan is to move the jar a few yards from its put and then take a look at the surroundings. This prodices a medallion with similar iconography to the trowel, and Sanskrit (a motto or invocation placing the writer in the power of the tiger) that looks rather younger than the thousand years or so ago that matches the estimated burial date. Boothman hypothesises, though with some knowledge behind it, that the plug is younger than the jar.
When Iqbal prays, he receives an inspiration: “Who knows the difference between a blessed beast and an angel?”
Hannah tries meditation and makes something like contact. She gets an impression of annoyance and boredom, and a desire to be released.
Some of us go down to the village and see what we can learn. Not much, at first; nobody knows about tiger cults, and even tigers are relatively rare. This does lead us to an old woman who may know a bit more; certainly she remembers tiger-cults. Some fifty years ago she was working at a tea plantation nearby where the owner collected Indian antiquities, and some of his items matched the style on the bronze we've found.

10 May

Parminder is now quite sure that he's dealing with a bound spirit, indeed bound to something specific inside the jar.
We go to the plantation, but it was sold some years ago, and the previous owner moved to Bengal or some such. One of the old domestic staff is still nearby, and we go to talk to him; the former owner seems to have been more of a collector than an antiquarian.
Back at the dig, one Minner Kadak of the Assam Tribune has heard that there's an interesting dig in the area. Iqbal does his best to mislay him, but this doesn't have much effect.
We prepare to open the jar. Looks as though the plug is stuck. When it does come out: there's a beast musk, and spicing, and decay. Inside is the upper forehead of a tiger skin (all bones removed). There's something in there that might be the focus, a polished spherical tiger eye gem about five inches across, and nothing else. (And the skin turns out to be missing belly and throat.)

11 May

More journalists have arrived, including one from the Kolkata Press Agency. Ardeshir talks to them, but hat one manages to sneak away.
Clearly there's more work to be done, and we plan to impound these objects and take them back to Delhi – the jar needs to be crated up.
On the way back to town, it seems The Times of India has turned up… but Vijay sorts out private access to the rail network, some diversions and false trails, and we manage to lose them.

13 May

Back in Delhi. The British government has been replaced by that well-known friend of India Winston Churchill…

14 June

(4 November 2023)
Wright has a call for help from a Superintendent Wincanton in Simba. Since 8 June, he's been seeing what look remarkably like Thuggee cult murders. We take trains to Kalka and up into the mountains.

15 June

Superintendent Wincanton is a little taken aback by us, and seems unlikely to be of much help, but he has had the sense to call for help.
A junior civil servant (food standards, weights and measures) and his landlord were both strangled on the evening of the 8th. Weapon uncertain, plausibly a scarf. It looks as though the attacker came in through the civil servant's window, then tried to escape through the house, during which he met the landlord. The landlord's wife escaped and described the attacker. On the 9th, the police caught Chander Jaffrey from Calcutta, whose only regret was that he'd been caught so soon. Then on the 10th he claimed to have no recollection of these events, and talked quite differently. It's not clear how he got to Simla.
He's known in Calcutta, an Indian nationalist of the Bengali type.
On the 12th, a policeman was strangled. The culprit was caught immediately, but received a serious head injury while resisting arrest. He is 17, and has no political background that we're aware of. He did use a scarf with coins sewn into the corners.
On the morning of the 14th two constables were found strangled in police barracks. There's no apparent connection between them beyond that they're police.
We talk with Chander Jaffrey, who is convincingly confused. As far as he's concerned, he was at home in Calcutta, and then he was under arrest here.
Among his possessions are an item he claims not to recognise, a sketch map showing the house he broke into. The writing is close to his, but not identical. There's nothing obviously relevant in the immediate area, and when the police found him he was in a bar (not in the map's scope).
There's no sign of magic in the first barracks room. Slightly unexpectedly, there appear to be two sets of prints from the cleaner: he came in, stood by the head of the bunk for a bit, went out, came back in. We start to think that it may have been the cleaner, having another “memory lapse”.
In the second room, there's significant sign of fire magic, though nothing is obvoiusly burned. The tracks are less clear, but it looks as though roughly the same thing may have happened.
We arrest the cleaner, and inform his wife so that he can get representation. Among his things there's a ⅜” rope which might be broadly consistent with the murder weapon.
We walk him through his day, and there is indeed some missing time.
We retire to our lodgings for the night, sleeping by shifts, but nobody attacks us.

16 June

Back to the barracks, and we try to put together a timeline of sightings of the sweeper—and we have one solid sighting of him near the second room before the discovery.
Looking around the boarding houses near the railway station, I find the boarding house where Jaffrey stayed—and there was a couple with him, with what sounds like a similar Calcutta accent. They arrived on 6 June and stayed for one night; I sketch the couple based on descriptions. At the railway station, someone recognises the woman as someone who left a few days ago (back down towards Kalka), plausibly on the 9th, 10th or 11th; when we check boarding houses again with the pictures, the couple arrived on the 7th and left on the morning of the 9th.
Checking boarding houses closer to the bar where Jaffrey was picked up brings no results.
At the morgue, the evidence mostly supports what we already know—though the barracks stranglings are more consistent with the rope we've found.
The cleaner doesn't recognise any of the other three.
We make copies of the pictures and send them to Calcutta.

17 June

Iqbal seeks inspiration, which is unclear at first… until we learn that a civil servant made an attempt to kill the Member for Home Affairs—an unsuccessful attempt, using the attacker's own tie with a five-rupee piece tucked in the end. The attacker seems to have been acting normally, though he didn't have any sort of extended conversation with anyone who knew him. Both the intended victim and the attacker, after an enthusiastic defence of the Member by other bureaucrats, are in hospital.
The attacker's chair seems a little off to Parminder's magic sense, but he can't pin it down.
There's no sign of anything obviously wrong in Satish Chet's, the attacker's, office; some items are slightly out of place. Nothing's been initialled of his morning's work, which usually would have been done. The typist confirms all this; it's a little unusual that the actual secretary, rather than she, would be asked to take a normal message, (We hypothesise that a possessor might not have access to Chet's memory of the private bell code.)
(At this point I slide away to keep a close watch on Sir Reginald's hospital room. After all, if a nurse suddenly turns murderous, there's not much to be done about it.)
There's confirmation, not to anyone's surprise, that Chet has recently been possessed.
(13 January 2024)
In an attempt to lure in the enemy, Arashir talks with a local journalist to get a puff-piece on Vijay, in particular his actions against the Thuggee in the Punjab. Vijay also talks with the doctors looking at the injured second possessee.

18 June

The local police contact us to say that another attempt was made, at military headquarters. Colonel Agnew was the target, military assistant to the C in C; and the attacker was the tea lady. Both of them are in hospital. The last thing she remembers is walking to work, like the other two we've spoken with.
We consider routes, and start looking around the streets closest to the offices to see if anyone's standing our (or any street vendors saw anything).
Rishapal Ram, an infandtry jemadar, asks to talk to the investigators. On the 15th, he had a funny turn while walking through the town, and having heard about this new attack he thought it worth mentioning. He felt suddenly faint and confused, and heard a female voice speaking to him in a language he didn't know but could understand, calling on him to strike against the oppressors. He resisted, and the voice faded away. When I try a few translations, he thinks Bengali sounds closest.
The spot where he was attacked is about as close to his destination as the last memories of the others are to theirs. Parminder doesn't find any magical trace, but does spot a decent lookout spot nearby—which would overlook the tea lady's route too, in about the right spot.
A passer-by mentions Mr Panik, a vendor of sweets who always seems to be mixed up in something faintly dubious. He hasn't been around today, and doesn't seem to be well-liked.
Ardeshir goes to his workshop cum shop. There's something off—not enough cooking sugar—but nothing specific to point to. He buys a tray for his “colleagues”; sampling it, I spot the undercooking, and while it's not actively toxic, it's an avenue for potential infection as well as lowering the quality.
Hannah tries to analyse the sweets in more detail and doesn't get anywhere.

19 June

We canvass the street vendors and morning people to see if anyone saw any interactions with the tea lady—they didn't. Indeed, one person may have seen the possession event itself, and nobody else was close by.
Pr Panik isn't about first hing, but word comes that jhe's gone out sweet-selling/
This is all feeling like a foreign project made to look like an Indian one.
Parminder goes to watch Panik, who's selling in a different spot. He seems, not exactly to be possessed, but to have a rider.
We talk with Panik's wife (no magic, but possibly some deception) and others about the couple from Calcutta. Nobody admits to having seen them.
One of Panik's evening customers appears to be Chinese or Japanese—and he exchanges a “special” bag of sweets for something more than coins. We pick up Panik and find a note reading “proceed when ready”; his customer has gone into the Japanese consulate.
Searching Panik's house reveals a cache of money, and another note naming a target.
We get confirmation of the Japanese man, Goro Watoga, the resident caretaker at the consulate (senior all-round resident).
We interrogate Panik. He is being paid by “Mr Tusda” from the consulate to identify useful people and point them out to the voice in his head (which started just after the couple arrived).
Hannah gets some recordings from the consulate, in which it appears that soeone feels it's time to leave for Japan (and take “her” with him).

20 June

However it's Shunso Santo, with a vague job title, who's leaving; and he's been to Kolkata recently. We don't have any way of containing the spirit, so we ensure he's watched as he leaves. Parminder confirms that he seems to be carrying the same sort of spirit.
As for Panik there should be enough evidence to convict him on espionage charges.

23 June

The Indian troops in France have been successfully evacuated to England.