Raju was the only child of Rani and Krishnan. He was born seven years after their marriage after intense prayers at all famous temples. Krishnan had a small business in hardware and paints. They showered all their affection and pampered the boy meeting every wish of his. He was put in school with all fanfare. The boy was playful and had no interest in studies. He played truant frequently without the knowledge of his parents. He was at the bottom of his class and the report card indicated that he was absent many days.
Raju had not shown the card to his parents till the teacher sent word through another boy. Krishnan had set much store by the boy and was furious when he saw the progress report. More than the poor marks in single digits, he was worried about the boy’s truancy. He was afraid he may fall into bad company and develop undesirable habits.
He hit the boy with a cane repeatedly till his wife screamed to stop it. He told her firmly before leaving for the shop not to give the boy any food for the night or allow him to go to play. Rani tried to pacify the boy and applied fomentation on the injury. The boy shouted at her and locked the door.
Around dinner time, when she went to knock the door, she found it open with no trace of the boy. She searched hither and thither in vain and alerted her husband. Despite all efforts the boy could not be traced. Police also drew a blank. Days passed by with the mother always crying and the father regretting his rash behaviour..The boy had just disappeared. Months and years flew by. Krishnan lost his interest in his business. They commenced again their pilgrimage to all temples to get back their boy.
They were travelling in a three tier compartment to Mathura and Brindavan in the North. The train had halted at Nagpur station.Rani was vacantly looking outside the window at the station that was heavily crowded with hawkers shouting to sell their wares. Chaiwallahs and orange sellers kept coming and asking her. She always nursed the fond hope that one day she can see Raju. But luck was not on her side. The train started moving slowly.
She started crying and Krishnan patted her telling her that others are watching her. When she went towards toilet she saw a little away a boy of Raju’s age with his face bent polishing a shoe He had long hair that almost covered his face and was in tattered dress. As her attention was on the boy, she did not notice the server from the pantry car bringing tomato soup. He collided against her and she fell down on the boy.
The boy was stunned but recovered soon and lent a helping hand to lift Rani. The moment she saw the boy, she let out a shriek and wailed ”Raju,Raju,my dear boy, What is this? I am seeing you in such a pathetic state”
Krishnan on hearing the commotion ran towards her. He saw the boy and asked him his name. He replied in Hindi”Tiwari”
He knew he was not Raju as his son had a big mole on his chin.Rani was holding the boy and crying “Raju, please come home. I miss you so much. We swear upon god that we will never scold or beat you. My darling, please call me amma.”
The boy gave her a surprised look. Krishnan told her that he is not their Raju and led her towards their seats. The moment she sat, she saw all the co-passengers looking at her with sympathy and some wiping their misty eyes. It was then she suddenly broke into a hysterical laughter and Krishnan knew he had a new problem on hand to pray for.