‘Immigration? Aren’t they Indians?’

The Non-Tantrik Department was crawling with all kinds of pashus and mayans, who might have arrived here at night and now waited for their stamped pieces of paper to get into the city. Rakshasas, yakshas, dasyus, looked at me with lazy eyes, unseeing and disinterested, waiting for their name to be called. I stepped over a half-eaten dog lying next to a chandaali, who slept with her hand cuffed to the wall, and walked on. Madhu followed, gasping at something every now and then.

‘What are these creatures?’

Madhu asked me, as we walked along the corridor with damp and filthy walls, a layer of grease splattered on them. The corridor stank of piss and shit and was littered with enough cups, broken plastic bottles, pieces of clothes, bones and stale food to almost hide the tiles of the floor.

‘Immigrants from outside the city, waiting for a passport from the immigration o office,’ I replied.

‘Immigration? Aren’t they Indians?’

‘Hah,” I said. “The Indian government doesn’t recognize them. The tantriks who do, want them to get immigration stamps if they come in highly concentrated human spaces like cities. Which is where the immigration office comes in. Without the papers and a human identity, the supernaturals can be arrested and put into the Tantrik Authority’s rotten prisons.’

The Immigration Department was a sham created for the sole purpose of bringing all sups under the control of tantriks. Before CAT had been created, cities were free spaces where any sup could move to. As long as they didn’t reveal themselves to the humans. But now, with the recent creation of the association, things had been getting organized.

Are you illegal?

For the supernatural community, that meant carrying their identity papers at all times in the city, without which it meant imprisonment or slavery camps outside the city. The move had increased illegal immigrants who had no documents and had to pay corrupt tantriks to give them fake papers and human identities.

We headed to the Pashu Department at the far end of the corridor, past a shiny new door with a brand new nameplate outside that read ‘Tvasta Tantrik’ with the triangular sign of the Kaulas on either side.

The room was plush. Wall-to-wall carpets with frescoes on the walls, each with a different scene of tantrik heroes of myth, killing or battling demons and winning a war against mayans or capturing and saving pashus.

Tall tales of tantrik superiority.

In the middle of it, behind a wide sandalwood desk, sat a man with a long ponytail and shaved head. His ponytail was rolled up with rudraksh beads. He wore spectacles on his wide, pear- shaped face and bore a small scar on his right cheek. The strong smell of sandalwood suffused the room, making it suffocatingly sweet and claustrophobic.

‘Come, come, please sit down,’ he said, indicating two chairs opposite him with his hand. ‘How can I help?’ he asked, and made a steeple of his fingertips, putting his chin on it. He smiled, a cold but polite one. I introduced myself and Madhu.

‘We’re here to officially report a nishada’s death. It happened late this afternoon. She was found in a hotel suite.’

‘Jolly good, jolly good. How did she die?’

He picked up a gold- tipped pen and a writing pad of sorts. Scribble scribble, he went.

Excerpted from The Matsya Curse, an Anantya Tantrist Mystery. Check out Anantya Tantrist’s (mis)adventures in Cult of Chaos, The Matsya Curse or The Rakta Queen. Out now.