Vannathikulam – Postmortem: Chapter Two


After all employees had gone home, I was browsing through some personal files. I felt that it was not fair to go through their personal files while they were not in the office. It was past 5.00 p.m. I kept the files inside the filing cupboard and locked it. I signed the attendance register with the satisfaction that I had successfully spent two days at work.

I saw a jeep coming in to the office premises. Four police officers came towards me. One of them said, “I am Inspector of Police, Padaviya.” I raised my head looked at him with an expression of asking what he wanted.

“A postmortem has to be done on an elephant at Padaviya”. He explained the reason for calling me at my office.

I got a thundering shock. I felt as if I had exhausted all my saliva. I had seen elephants at Kandy Perahera and Dehiwala Zoo. Generally, I did not have a good opinion about police officers. I was unable to respond to him.

Having noticed that I was hesitating, the Inspector said, “You have to come and attend to the postmortem. We have arrested two persons who have shot the elephant,” in an authoritative voice.

“We have recovered the two tusks,” one police officer continued.
I had no other alternative.

“O.K. How do we get there?”

“Get into our Jeep”

I was seated between the driver and the Inspector in the front seat. The jeep was speeding and the Inspector started talking to me.

“Doctor! Are you from Jaffna?” asked the Inspector.
“When did you come to Medawachchiya?”
“Yesterday. It is all right. When was the elephant shot?” I tried to divert the topic.

“Exactly one month ago.”
My mind was in a confused state. How can I question the Inspector about the performing of postmortem after one month of killing the elephant? I had no other alternative but to keep quiet as the Inspector was determined to obtain postmortem report from me.
“Doctor! How about the problems in Jaffna?“ he raised the topic again in another way. I knew that he was trying to fathom me.

“I was in Jaffna only for two days. I spent the rest of time in Kandy.”
The Inspector’s face showed signs of disappointment. I understood that he did not appreciate my hesitant reply.
We were passing an agricultural area between Medawachchiya and Padaviya. Large trees were seen on either side of the road. It was an open green field but cottages with straw-thatched roofs were intermittently visible. There were no fenced boundaries between the cottages. For me it was a new sight as I was used to houses with tiled roofs and coconut- thatched fences. The Jeep stopped at a location having few shops.
The Inspector got down saying, “Let us have tea.”

With much courtesy, the boutique owner served tea. When he showed similar courtesy towards me, I felt as if a centipede was creeping up on me. He took two packets of Bristol cigarettes, gave one to the Inspector and the other to the rest of the police officers.

“Sir! Do you smoke?” he asked me.

I said no and gave him a ten- rupee note. He refused to take my money.
I looked at the Inspector. The Inspector said, ”We know the owner of the boutique.”

“People familiar to Police officers are actually poor fellows,” I thought.
The Jeep started its journey again and proceeded for about half-an-hour along an area with bushes on either side.

“Now we have got to walk up the rest of the distance.”

The Inspector got down. It was past 6.00 p.m. but the sun was bright. We started walking. Two villagers also joined us. After about 15 minutes, we came close to a tank. He pointed at the right bank of the tank and said, “This is where the elephant is.”
I was terribly puzzled when I saw a heap of bones, about six feet height. The grease had melted and spread over the bones like a growth of moss. There was no smell. There were no flesh or intestines remaining but only some skin and bones.

“Inspector! How can I perform postmortem on this?”- I expressed my inability to fulfill his request.

“We can’t file a case without your report,” he said.
I realized that his intention was to get a report from me. I went closer to the heap of bones. All bones except the cranium were available at the heap.
“The head of the elephant is missing,” I said. The Inspector got thoroughly perturbed. I was happy that I was able to palm the problem back over to the Inspector.
The Inspector ordered the three constables to go into the jungle and search for the head of the elephant. He instructed the villagers Silva and Appuhamy to search the tank. After about 10 minutes, the head of the elephant was found in the tank bed. When I looked sharply at the cranial bone, I saw a small hole near the ear. When Silva axed the head a lead bullet was found inside.
The Inspector and I were overjoyed. I could write a postmortem report as I had obtained the basic proof that the elephant had been killed. Inspector was happy that he was able to file a case. When they brought me back to the quarters it was 8.00 o’clock in the evening.


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