Ambu Mami and the injured poacher.

Pankaja had dropped in for a visit and a kaapi. Ambujam had long blocked out her steady stream of chatter while thinking with pleasure of the nice TV set that had arrived that day along with a personal thank you note from the film star, Manokanth. She was reflecting that he wasn’t too bad at all when something Pankaja had just said caught her attention.

Pleased with the sudden attention, Pankaja continued.

“It’s true, Ambu mami. The district collector himself is coming. The murder of the forest officer and two elephants in the reserve forest has left the Valparai police stunned. No one knew there were poachers in the area before this.”

“Are you sure there were poachers?”

“Apparently the tusks of the elephants were missing. All the villages in the vicinity have been put on alert. I heard the news on the radio. Any one giving any information on the poachers will be rewarded Rs. 5000. Imagine, Ambu mami, if you were to find them. There are so many things you could buy with the money.”

Pankaja dreamy tone vanished when her eyes fell on the new TV.

“Of course, a person like you who receives expensive gifts from film stars don’t need such enormous money.”

Ambujam voice suddenly became brisk.

“Pankaja, I have to go to grind wheat flour. As you know, doctor has asked me to eat less rice and more chappatis. Do you want to stay and watch the TV, you were just describing?”

“No, Ambu mami. I have some house work too. I will talk to you tomorrow.”

Glad to have finally gotten rid of her chatter-box of a neighbour, Ambujam went to the village miller.

Returning with her cloth bag full of flour, Ambujam met with the village headman on the way.

“Ambu mami, I have some news for you. The forest officer…”

“was killed. Yes, I know. Pankaja was just telling me. Any luck in identifying the killer so far?”

“No, mami. None. The Valparai police are also confused from what I heard. The only evidence found near the body was a flute and a peacock feather. No one knows what to make of it. But the police is sure the killer is someone living in our or the nearby villages. No one else would know the forest officer’s routine and there have been no strangers in the area.”

“Ah, I hope the police can find the culprit soon.”

“I thought you might want to know all the details, Ambu mami. I fully expect you to solve the case before the police.”

“No, no. I don’t like getting involved in these events of murder and gore. I am sure the police will find the culprit soon.”


Days passed and the culprit was still at large. Rumour had it that a large antelope had been killed. The poacher was at it again.

Ambu mami was surprised that day by the arrival of the police sub inspector from Valparai. Without wasting time, he came straight to the point.

“Ambu mami, you must know the events of the past few days. We have been able to confirm that the poacher is someone from your village.”

“How do you know that?”

“The poacher was injured by a tiger. He left tracks and they lead straight to your village. Do you know of anyone who has been injured recently?”

“No, no one I am aware of has gotten injured. But why are you coming and asking me these questions?”

“We have heard of your intelligence and how you have been able to solve a few small puzzles in the past. Since we don’t have an police outpost in your village, we wanted to find out the culprit without alerting him to the fact that we have been able to track him. If you find anything, call the police station from the post office telephone. Don’t speak of this matter to anyone else.”

“Of course.”


Ambujam was walking up to the headman’s house when the door opened and he came out. The limp in his left leg was all the more pronounced than it would be on another man as the headman was known for his brisk walk and no-nonsense speech. In his hand was a broken flute.

Ambujam stopped mid-step, stunned.

The headman noticed her and hailed her.

“Come to see me, Ambu mami? Anything I can do to help?”

“No, nothing really. What happened to your flute and your leg? ”

“I was playing my flute in the orchard when I slipped and fell. That’s how I broke both the leg and the flute.”

“Ok, I have to go now. I was just doing my usual evening walk.”

Ambujam quickly breezed passed the headman who looked at her abrupt departure in puzzlement.

It was two days later that a furious Valparai SI visited her house.

“Ambu mami, you withheld information from the police. That’s a serious crime!”

“What did I do?”

“You know perfectly well what you did. Your village headman was the only injured person in all the surrounding villages! You should have notified me immediately. Now, he has left town, no doubt to go into hiding. You have abused the trust the police placed in you. I should have left a constable to watch this village.”

“Relax inspector. The headman is not the culprit. I am sure.”

“How? How can you be sure? In any case, your responsibility was to just inform us, not make judgments of your own.”

“But you gave me this task because you trusted in my judgement, did you not? I don’t belong to the police department, I am free to act on my judgement!”

The SI glared at her but finding her return his hostile look, he left the house muttering.


It was Pankaja who again brought the news to Ambujam three days later.

“Ambu mami, Ambu mami. Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“The police have arrested the poacher. It was Ramani from Pannur village! But it seems they suspected our headman before that. His poor wife was in tears just three days ago when the police visited his house.”

Their tete was broken up with the arrival of the headman. Pankaja made a discreet exit.

The headman came straight to the point.

“Ambu mami, it seems I owe my freedom to you. The Valparai police SI arrested me 2 days ago thinking that I was the poacher (and a killer) but the inspector refused to accept his conclusion when he heard that you had disagreed with him and thought me innocent! They found the actual culprit and arrested him yesterday. How can I ever thank you?”

“Don’t worry. All is well now. Go and see your poor wife who is off her head in worry.”

As the headman left the house, Ambujam called out.

“You can now come out, Pankaja. He has gone.”

A shame faced Pankaja came in.

“Sorry, this seemed like too juicy a tit bit to miss. But tell me, Ambu mami, how did you know he was not the culprit?”

“Anyone who gets as thrashed as he is by his wife can never commit any crimes, don’t you agree, Pankaja?”


  1. Ouch! The head man is not so much the head of his house it seems. This is a good beginning Lavanya. I like the setup and the steady cast of regular characters, each with a unique persona. Please ensure that each has their own unique voice as well. This might just be the beginning of something special. Good luck.


  2. I just love the way you weave your stories. It is so simple yet elegant way of story telling.
    Ambu mami surely rocks and for obvious reasons the head man of village is not the head of the house!! πŸ™‚


  3. Hey, I read this series for the first time, thanks to the reading list! Loved the way you write. Did you also paint it yourself? Just curious. Will read more of Ambu Mami πŸ™‚ Keep writing such wonderful pieces.


  4. Lavanya, needless to say that I am a big fan of Ambu Mami. Infact I wait for her stories. I seriously feel that you should come out with an e-book on these stories. Ambu Mami deserves to reach far and wide.


  5. Ambu mami, the village Sherlock Holmes! At one point I was also doubting the headman. Could never imagine what you mentioned in the last line. Hahaha. Loved the story. Waiting for the next one.


  6. I like her reasoning:) Good to read another of Ambu Mami’s stories. Continue to rock it, girl!

    Namratha from #firstgreenstep


  7. Ambu Mami or Miss Marple?She rocks as always!! awesome plot, suspense. I am hooked to this series since beginning.
    #MothersGurukulreads #Myfriendalexa


  8. Wow writer of 2 novels..really inspiring and I have to say you do magic with your the whole site and this story too. it is simply amazing. enjoyed reading it. looking forward to read more from you


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