Tring, tring, tring… the phone rang. There was a long gap before Sanjay heard Sheela’s voice.
“Sheelu, were you sleeping or what?”
“No, I was in the living room watching a serial. The phone was in bedroom. How come you rang me now? This is not your usual time. What is the matter?”
“Hold your breath. I have a big surprise for you. But I will not tell you now. You have to wait. I will be late and be at home only at 9pm”
“No, no you must tell me right away. What is the big surprise? I cannot wait that long, Sanju dear, please” pleaded Sheelu
“Sorry, Sheelu. You wrack your brain till I come in the late evening. But I promise you it will be an exciting thing.Byebye”
Sanjay disconnected the phone. He did not tell her about the official trip to Singapore next day morning for a week. He had arranged to take her along too. He wished to reach home within an hour to get their things packed. He wished to plunge her totally in surprise.
Within 45 minutes he was in the lift of his fifth floor apartment in his building. He slowly opened the door with his key and walked in softly. She was not in drawing hall. He wanted to hug her from behind before sharing the happy news. He peeped into the kitchen and she was not there. The bed room was closed and locked from inside. He went near the door and whistled softly. There was some silence and then there was a noise of running water from inside. He put his ear on the door and heard nothing. Worried, he looked around and saw a shirt on the sofa and pair of shoes beneath it. He realized something was amiss.
Sanjay came back to the bedroom and tapped the door repeatedly shouting “Sheelu, Sanju here. Why have you locked the door? Who else is there? Any problem? Open it quickly.
He now banged the door furiously like a mad man suspecting something worse.”Could it be Sheelu is unfaithful? Was he foolish in trusting her blindly?” he thought for a moment but dismissed the idea immediately. She is such a loving wife. But what about the tell tale evidence of shirt, shoes and the locked bedroom with no response, he wondered.
He searched the house and brought a cricket bat to break open the door possessed as he was in insane rage. He hit the door hard with the bat.
It was then he heard the click of the front door opening. He turned to see Sheela coming in with several bags of grocery, fruits and vegetables in her hand. She was surprised to see him at this hour and exclaimed “Sanju, how is it you are here now? You told me that you would come late in the evening”
“Never mind that. Tell me first who is in the bedroom? Whoever is there, he is not answering despite my calling your name and banging the door. I see his shirt and shoes at the sofa” he asked irascibly.
She broke into uncontrollable peals of laughter and amidst them she managed to say “Wait, he will come out soon? Did you suspect a secret lover or what? Fie on you then”
Sheela’s aged dad came out asking “Sheelu, where is my hearing aid? I must have left it in my shirt pocket before going for shower.”
Sanjay smiled at Sheela sheepishly in total embarrassment and said sorry. She was not easily mollified and snapped back, “I never knew you had such a filthy mind. I hate you. I have been asking you to get the WC in the other bathroom fixed? It is not flushing since a week. Dad had some unexpected work at the high court. He dropped in to see me and will be leaving presently by evening flight to Bangalore.”
“Let me talk to your dad for a minute. Please go to bedroom. I have something urgent to tell you”
After exchanging pleasantries with his father-in-law, he went to the bedroom and hugged her before telling her about their Singapore trip the early next morning.”I am sorry but this is a small recompense for my foolishness” he said.
Sheela in turn embraced him tightly at the unexpected and happy denouement