Natasha Sharma: Traitors of Chocolate or Empires

Natasha Sharma, the author of the History-Mystery series on her criminal investigation past.

Personal histories are often fraught with mysteries – solved and unsolved. Growing up, chocolates meant Cadbury dairy milk, Amul Crunch and Crackle. Your favourite relative was the one who got you imported chocolates, the gooey blocks worth their weight in gold. They were treasured treats, meant to be eaten slowly, piece by piece as one nibbled around the edges of each chunky triangle of a Toblerone (it was almost always a Toblerone).

The fat triangular yellow box held pride of place in the fridge. I admired it each day, opened the little lid pressed out on one side and peeked in at the shiny foil covering the chocolate. I’ll have another piece tomorrow, not today, I would think, pleased with my frugality. The next day, with a drooling mouth, I went to the fridge to retrieve my piece. I lifted the box that felt … rather light. A quick peek into the box showed the foil folded neatly, all in place. A quickening heartbeat as I poked my fingers in to pull out the chocolate. Panic when the foil came out, triangular and neat, all empty.

This was obviously the work of a clever criminal, thought I, my head buzzing with how the Famous Five would have caught the perpetrator of this most horrific crime.

Suspects … spying … clues … motive … method.

The scene of the crime was our fridge. Access was there to all. The method had been horrifically underhanded and there was a fear of discovery for the chocolate had been sneaked away slowly, leaving the appearance of normalcy.

Could it be either parent? My mother was on a diet. My father was quite beyond sneaking around and eating. He would have just gobbled the thing up if he so wanted, his alarming increase in girth, testament to throwing caution to the wind.

The four dogs wandering around may possibly have something to do with it. Except that they weren’t quite super dogs even if one could crack a peanut shell, roll the peanut on the ground, remove the thin brown covering from each nut before eating the peanut, just so. Besides, instincts would have told them that chocolate is really dangerous for them.

I ran through the unlikely suspects and trained my suspicion-ridden eye on the only likely candidate for the crime – my younger brother. Motive: A limitless desire to annoy me. Profile: Greedy chocolate addict. Fiendishly clever. In a rather wicked phase. Clues: Possible chocolate smudge marks on his book and a smug grin that screamed, ‘Ha! I got to them!’ Access: Unlimited. Confession (as I rattled him around): ‘Yyy…eee…ssss. Hee hee. Yooouu wweerrree taaaking tooo loongg to eaaat ittt. I thhhought you ddiiddiin’t waannnt any.’
With more such episodes as The Case of the Missing Chocolate and a heavy diet of investigators with all the Enid Blyton reading, as I now pen down a History Mystery, be it India’s history or my personal one, the elements of a mystery and plot progression are firmly in my head.

When I began Akbar and the Tricky Traitor, I was certain it needed five investigators. Then came the twist. You see mine were superbly clever fellows capable of throwing anyone off their scent. In an amazing display of cunning and clever thinking, they named their group the Super Six. The investigators in Ashoka and the Muddled Messages were born out of facts in the Arthashastra. Mauryan kings had women as their personal bodyguards. It was recommended ten guards escort them when they move in public spaces. Voila! The Tremendous Ten, screaming Haayaaa Hooyaaa Heeyaaa!

Now as the third of the History Mysteries is knock-knocking away in my head, I better get back to super sleuth Only One, before he gives up on me.


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