“Hang around if you want to play,” Ahsanullah went on. “Let Dumlaloo come.”
But Dumlaloo never kept to a schedule: always on the prowl, beating up someone, picking someone’s pocket, flashing a knife and mugging someone else, he had no sense of time. And he wouldn’t touch the carom board if they weren’t playing for money. But Hanif’s limbs would quake if money was involved, the striker would either slide helplessly into a pocket or perform a hop, step and jump and clear the board to land in the street.
“Hardly any chance of Dumlaloo coming,” Salauddin said knowingly.
As he spoke he was trying to score with the red counter. As it slid into the pocket he loudly smacked three fingers of his right hand and exclaimed, “Shoved the fucker right in!”
“Dumlaloo isn’t coming? Why?” Ahsanullah asked a little roughly.
Salauddin composed his limbs again, “Good heavens, don’t you know? The Police went to his house two or three times today. Haven’t you heard?”
“Who are the Police looking for – Dumlaloo?” Detecting a ripple of excitement in Hanif’s voice, Salauddin teased him in acerbic nasal tones: “O my dear boy, my precious little one, have you joined Dumlaloo’s gang? Is your training going on?”
But it wasn’t all that easy to get into Dumlaloo’s gang. Or to get his attention, for that matter.Hanif had been hanging around him for days. Leave aside paying attention, he didn’t even take a good look at Hanif. Only a few days ago, just the other day in fact, he gave Hanif a chance to accompany him – for the first time. Hanif was walking past KalachandMiah’s laundry on his way home with bakarkhani bread for his father when Dumlaloo spotted him and said, “Take the bread home and then come here.”
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