-by KParthasarathi Thursday, December 06, 2007
Sanjay went to play after returning from school. It was 8pm and he hadn’t yet returned. His worried mom Sumitra asked the boys of the locality. They replied in chorus that Sanjay did not come to play at all. She asked her husband Rajeev to return immediately. There were frantic calls to relatives and his school friends. She drew blank from everywhere. There was no inkling where he would have gone. Like any other day, on return from school he kept his school bag on his desk, washed his hands and had noodles with bournvita.He was normal that day though he did not speak much to his mom or his sister. The dailies were full of stories of kidnapping children for ransom and how in many cases the children were put to death after collecting the money. Some neighbours added to her anxiety by their thoughtless remarks about children being maimed for begging or their kidneys being removed. She panicked and started crying inconsolably. Her husband, a senior manager in a reputed business firm, took stock of the situation and wanted to take up with the police .A couple of neighbours counseled patience and asked him not to rush to police as they felt such a step would bring harm to the child. It was already 9-30pm with the sky dark .It was also drizzling making the gloomy atmosphere somber. The only redeeming feature was the fact of no call as yet from the kidnappers.
Rajeev spoke to his influential friend seeking his advice on how to proceed in the matter. The friend said that it is always advisable to seek the help of police as they are trained to nab the culprits without endangering the life of the victims. He said that no time should be lost and that he would speak to a close relative of his in the police department. After talking to the relative, the friend took Rajeev to him for lodging a complaint. He did not want Rajeev to be seen going to police station. Men were put on the job. Rajeev was asked to keep talking with the kidnappers without disconnecting if there were any call for money. He was advised to keep stalling by requesting the kidnappers to reduce the ransom amount. Meanwhile the police would be monitoring the calls to his number.
Rajeev and Sumitra were awake the whole of night. There was no call. The searches continued and phone calls made again to Sanjay’s friends. The day dragged into night with no progress. Another day went by with no clue about the whereabouts.
Madhav was a caterer supplying lunch and dinner to households whenever they needed due to ill health or visit of guests. He had been supplying in Rajeev’s locality and to Rajeev’s house too on many occasions. When he went to supply the lunch to a customer in a block of flats in another part of the town, he found Sanjay playing alone near the staircase of the ground floor. When he asked him how he was here, the boy hastily ran into the flat without replying.Madhav did not take any special note of this as he was not aware of the boy being missing. The day after he went to supply the food to a house in Rajeev’s locality when the lady of the house was telling him how the young boy had been kidnapped three or four days back without any trace till then.Madhav told the lady that he saw the boy the previous day at such and such a place. Both of them rushed to Rajeev’s house and soon went in a car to the place where he saw Sanjay. Rajeev told them his aged mother was living there and the relations with her were strained for a long time with no contact whatsoever. They saw the boy hiding below his grandmother’s cot. The old lady past eighty who could hardly walk without a crutch told Rajeev that his son came three days back saying it is holidays for him. He did not tell her that he ran away from the house without telling anyone. She was surprised no doubt as no one from his house visited her for years.
Sumitra hugged the boy and was seen crying in joy that he had been found. Sanjay wrenched himself away from his mom and snuggled around his grandma. Rajeev asked Sanjay why he left without informing anyone. The boy replied amidst sobbing” I felt bad for grand ma. She is alone here. She cannot see properly. We have to shout to her for her to hear. She is not allowed to stay in our home. Mom would also not permit me to meet her. I felt sorry for her and wanted to give her company. I know I have caused you worry. But there was no other way.”
When Rajeev turned towards his wife, he found Sumitra falling at the feet of the old lady pleading for her forgiveness and begging her to come with them to their home permanently. When Sanjay saw a trace of smile on the wrinkled old face of his grandma, he let out a shriek of joy.