Thursday, June 10, 2021

The heist

That was the last local. There were very few passengers in the train. Ravi had a hour’s journey to make. He chose a corner of the compartment to snatch some sleep. At the next station someone had boarded the train and came straight to the corner Ravi had chosen. There were four or five scattered passengers towards the other end.

“Lucky I could get into this train. I am told this is the last one”, he said

Ravi just nodded as he did not like this interruption to his sleep. But the fat man had other ideas and possibly wished to chat during the entire journey.

“Do you take this last train daily? Are you working somewhere?” he asked.

“Yes, I work in an IT company and usually take the earlier train. I was held up today”

“Good. I know IT companies pay very well for the hard work you people put in and work only five days. You must be married and living with your family”

Ravi did not respond and looked out at the passing lights and cars.

“I am sorry if I had asked you personal questions. I cannot resist asking as I have one qualified younger sister to be married.”

“It is okay. I am single and living alone.”

“Where do you live? I am in Egmore”

“I am also in Egmore” Ravi said with a smile


“I live in the first floor of the house adjacent to Hotel Simha.It is close to railway station”

“Won’t you be disturbing your land lord going at this late hour?”

“No, there is separate staircase and entrance on the side. He may not even know when I come or go.”

“Being alone how do you spend time?”

I have my desktop, laptop, iPad, a small TV, DVD and musical instruments like guitar. I I enjoy myself with these” said Ravi

“It is surprising we haven’t met so far. Any way please excuse me, I have an urgent call to make. Nice to meet you” said the fat guy and went to a vacant seat two empty rows behind

Ravi closed his eyes relieved that he had been let off by the bore so soon.

A short while later the fat guy dialed some number and talked almost in a whisper. Ravi thought he was considerate to him thinking he was asleep.

“Pandi, listen carefully. I am travelling in train and cannot talk loudly. One guy is beside me sleeping. I mentioned to you about that house in Ekattuthangal.I went to that area to inspect as there was some complaint about signal being weak. I assumed it was that house” and stopped talking turning to Ravi’s side. Finding Ravi sleeping he continued in very low voice”There was none in that house as no one answered the bell. I went to the rear side to see whether anyone was there. Finding none and curiosity overtaking me, I gently pushed the rear door. To my great surprise it opened and the house bore no semblance of occupation.”

Ravi pretending to be asleep strained his ears to listen as the telephonic talk became intriguing.

“I am telling the truth, Pandi.It is no reel (imaginary falsehood).I gingerly walked in inspecting each room. They must be rich with all floors carpeted, top class furniture, curios etc.I was careful not to touch anything. Are you listening, Pandi? Here comes the important part. I swear you will not believe what I am going to tell you”

 Ravi could not contain his curiosity and strained every nerve to catch the conversation.

The fat man continued on the phone.”I went inside one large bedroom. There were three Godrej Almirahs.I suddenly panicked. What if someone comes and catches me in the house, I wondered. I would be branded a thief and handed over to police. Then I thought having come this far why not see a little more. I tried to open one almirah.It did not open. Then I tried the other. That too did not budge. When I tried the third, lo, it opened. In my inquisitiveness, I opened the locker door and to my utter amazement it was also unlocked.

Believe me, there were wads and wads of currency notes may be running into several lakhs or crores in higher denomination. Must be ill gotten money stashed away, I presumed. I just took two wads as I had an apprehension it could be counterfeit as otherwise who would leave it unsecured. I closed the doors and left them as it was wiping the handles of any finger print. Without telling the source, I had two notes from each of the bundles checked by my bank friend. He said they were genuine.”

He turned to Ravi’s side and found him to his comfort snoring softly. “Pandi, listen carefully. Tomorrow sharp at 7am we will be there. As you come from the main road it is the third Street to right. There is a post box opposite the cream colored house. There are vacant plots on both sides. The fence is green shrubbery. Bring a sturdy bag with you. We should not be greedy and take a small portion each time.Good, so you will be there at 7 am sharp tomorrow.”

He saw Ravi in slumber and nudged him when the train reached Egmore station. Both got down and went their separate ways.

Ravi set the alarum at 5am and left in his motorbike by 530 next morning to Ekattuthangal to steal a march over the fat guy and his accomplice. The directions were so clear, he thought, if the job were done smoothly, he would be rich. He was there by 6 am but could find no house with vacant plots on either side or one with a green fence or a post box in the road. Could it be 2nd street or 4th street? He roamed hither and thither till he finally gave up his hunt.

When Ravi returned home disappointed and climbed the stairs tiredly, he found to his shock the door ajar and every little thing in his place taken away.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

A happy denouement

It was a Saturday morning. Anand had promised during breakfast his children Rahul and Shreya that he would take them to the beach the next day evening. The two kids jumped in great glee.

The girl asked,” Appa, would you permit us to take a pony ride. My friend Vanita said it is very safe.”

Not to be left behind, Rahul said rather peremptorily,” Appa, I will stand in the water. You can stand by my side if you wish but should not hold my hand.”

Anand laughed and mockingly said, “Your wishes are my commands.”

At the office he had just spoken to his good friend and colleague Sanjana about the Sunday programme with his kids.

“Why don’t you too join us? It would be fun,” he requested her.

“Why not? I would love to play with them. Give me a ring when you start. I would be there at the beach,” she replied enthusiastically.

“I think it would be better if you come home for lunch. I would ask mami to cook for you too. The children would enjoy your company,” he suggested. She readily agreed.

The phone rang. It was Rahul reminding about the beach visit.

” Rahul, I haven’t forgotten. I have already asked Sanjana aunty to join us and she had agreed. Inform Shreya, she will be happy”.

Anand had lost his wife three years ago to a brain tumour. It was tough period managing the children and grieving the void left behind by his wife. The solitude despite the children was too much for him. Though he tried his best to keep the children happy always, yet he could sense the melancholy in their eyes. He had employed full time an elderly mami to cook for them and take care of the children during his absence. She was treated with respect as another member of the family

Mami had made oblique suggestions several times that the children need a mother’s love more than him for companionship. He had not thought of another woman in his wife’s place till he met Sanjana of the same office in a seminar. They were paired for panel discussions providing them opportunities to spend the entire two days together. Anand was no longer the same sullen person. Sanjana was a whiff of fresh air that he longed for in his life. She was also a single. They contrived reasons to meet each other daily on some pretext or the other. Both were soon deeply in love with each other. The kids also liked Sanjana and her easy ways in getting along with them. She invariably brought things to eat and knickknacks. She took particular interest in winning the confidence and heart of the young girl. She used to drop in frequently and helped mami in small ways. Mami knew and was happy what was brewing between Anand and Sanjana and prayed for a happy denouement.

It was Sunday evening and the four of them were walking happily on the sandy beach.

“Rahul and Shreya, take your shoes off and give them to me. It is easy to walk or run without the shoes. Shreya, you also run along with him. Do not go near the water till we come. You two can have pony rides later as the place is crowded.” said Anand.

Shreya lingered and pleaded “Aunty, won’t you please come with me. I am afraid of the waves. Will a Tsunami come? My friend told me it swallowed even people walking on the road.”

Sanjana told her “Do not be afraid. The waves will not come near you as you will be far away from the water. No more Tsunami. Go with Rahul. I will come behind with your dad. We will not be far behind you.”

As the girl ran behind the boy, Anand held Sanjana’s hand and walked slowly side by side rubbing shoulders.

Anand broke the silence and said, “I have not broached the subject of our marriage in the house. But mami I feel knows and in fact has been obliquely persuading me to get married. She knows we are in love and she likes you. Both of us are in deep love with each other though I am not sure whether the children have an inkling that you would soon take their mom’s place. I do not envisage any problem from Rahul and hopefully Shreya would welcome you.”

“Anand, I wish that we tie the knot soon. I cannot be away from you any longer and want to be with you all the time. Please hurry” pleaded Sanjana

“Sure, it is vacation for them I will talk to them soon at an appropriate time but will tell mami. Do not worry” said Anand

They then spent time standing with children on the water as the waves washed their legs. Shreya snuggled by Sanjana’s side and found comfort and security in her hands.

Two days later as he was working on his laptop in the night both the kids snuggled up to him and said “Daddy, we have a request. We wish to celebrate Mother’s day this Sunday at 6pm. We have pooled our allowances and we intend to buy a cake from the Italian bakery. We want to have it cut before our mom’s photo. Please invite Sanjana aunty also for this occasion. make sure she attends.”

Anand was totally surprised and wanted to play along with his children by readily agreeing to their request. It was Sunday and the large box containing the cake and tied with ribbon was kept on the circular glass dining table. Opposite on the wall was their mom’s photo. Sanjana had also come as promised.

Rahul and Shreya in chorus said, “We will blind fold aunty and dad. They will open the cake box and only then the blindfold would be removed.”

Both Sanjana and Anand were intrigued but joined the fun by getting their eyes covered by a red cloth. When they opened their eyes amidst the clapping of the kids, they were thrilled to read the icing text on the cake.

Dear Sanjana mom,

Happy Mother’s day,

Rahul and Shreya

Sanjana wiped the tears flowing from eyes even as Shreya pulled her close to Anand and placed her hand on Anand’s.

Rahul urged her to cut the cake and feed papa first.

Mami was standing by kitchen door wiping her tears of joy

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Smita's U-turn

Smita exploded in anger. “I cannot agree to your hustling me into a marriage. You know that I have been wanting to study further and become a professional. I am just a post graduate in English literature and would like to do a course in journalism in a reputed institution. I will not marry for two more years. That is final." 

“Smita, you are 24 already. The match that has come is very good. The people are from decent background. The boy is highly qualified and in a senior executive position in a MNC with a bright future. They are also wealthy and a small family. Please do not be adamant. As parents do you think we would do anything against your interests,” said her mom softly. Her dad nodded in agreement.

“I don’t care whether I am 24 or more. People marry even in early thirties. I just need two more years and Heavens are not going to fall by my not marrying immediately. The guy is also not the last eligible bachelor. They are dime a dozen. Amma, please do not make me disobey you both. Allow me to do what pleases me,” said Smita

“Smita, listen to me. You don’t have to marry if you don’t wish to. We have given our word to them who are well known to your dad. They will be coming to see you tomorrow. I am told the boy is very handsome. If you do not like, we will not proceed further, I promise. We will give some excuse like horoscope not matching or some such. Please help us to honour our word” said her mom softly.

“OK, I agree. Do not ever dream that I would fall for this guy and succumb to your plans. I would just meet him as I do so many outside. Dad, I hope I have made myself clear” replied Smita

Though Smita agreed, she suspected it as a clever ploy by her parents. She decided to take the bull by the horns. She would meet the fellow Shyam at his office and let him know her disinterest in marriage and request him to help her by rejecting her hand. 

It was 4pm when she tapped on the door his cabin in the office. He was surrounded by many discussing some official matter.

When he saw her at the door, he stood up not knowing who she was and said, “Is there any scheduled meeting with me, Miss…You could have informed me about your arrival and the purpose through the reception. I would have come personally to receive you. Anyway, it is fine.” When he looked at others apologetically, they took the cue and left the cabin immediately.

” Kindly take your seat, miss….  I do not think I have met you before. I am Shyam and look after the marketing.” he said.

“Smita is my name. I am sorry for intruding unannounced in the midst of your work. I had to meet you very urgently with an unusual request”

“Smita is a sweet name.  If it is a matter of importance and urgency, I suggest we go down to the cafeteria at the ground floor. Here we would be disturbed by innumerable phone calls and visitors barging in. I can spare you 30 minutes,” said Shyam as he got up. She could not say anything but nod her head.

Once seated in the corner of a rather empty cafeteria, Shyam with an infectious smile asked her “Your face is somewhat familiar. What will you like to have? Can I order some pakoras and coffee? Do you have any preference?”

Smita was taken aback at the easy candour and camaraderie in his manner. He looked very handsome, much more than what she had visualized and he was well built with strong arms. His curly hair and a small mole on his cheek only enhanced his charm. But she steeled herself not to be taken in by these attractions and decided to express herself clearly.

Smita started muttering haltingly, “I have come to ask of you a personal favour. It is like this. I understand….”

He stopped her midway saying “Ssshh, we will talk about it later. Let us know each other first. I am a M.Tech from IIT and Vice President, marketing, here. Tell me something about you before we become friends,” and laughed rather loudly to her embarrassment.

“I am a PG in English literature and wish to acquire a diploma in journalism from a reputed institute. I wish to be a writer. I write poems and short stories in my blog that has a large following. I am glad you wish to be my friend. But the purpose of my meeting you is entirely different and rather urgent,” she said softly

Shyam took an instant liking for her, struck by her beauty, tall and lissome figure and her hazel eyes. He wished to prolong the conversation and strike a friendship with her.

“Your purpose can wait, Smita. I will surely listen to it in a while. First things first. Have the pakoras quickly as the coffee is getting cold and keep telling me your other interests. Incidentally I whole heartedly welcome your plan to study further. Knowledge is power,” he said in a supporting way.

Enthused by his appreciation of her plan, she continued, “I am fond of fiction and a voracious reader, fond of light music and movies though selectively. I also have a travel itch wanting to see new places and love cooking. I am politically alert and keep abreast of happenings in the country and abroad. This summarizes my profile in brief. You may like to tell about you and the things you like.”

 “Yes, as I told you, it is a wise decision to do a PG diploma in journalism. You must do it. Why haven’t you joined already.? What is holding you? My interests are very similar to you except that time does not permit me to indulge in reading fiction that is so dear to me. I have a huge collection of books in my library. I too like travelling though not alone,” he guffawed with a mischievous twinkle. Smita lowered her eyes though she did not miss the subtle point he was making.

Putting on  a serious face, he asked, "What is it you wanted to tell me ever since you set your eyes on me?” 

“It is like this. My parents want me to get married immediately. I am against it for fear that the man who marries me may not allow me later to pursue my studies for one reason or the other. We have been fighting over this at our home,” said Smita.

“Which fool will stop a talented wife not to continue her studies? I for one would go all the way supporting my would-be-wife in her literary and academic pursuits. I will take pride in her work. Ask your parents to ascertain this beforehand from the guy and you can achieve two things in one stroke. Is this the only objection to your not willing to marry or do you have anyone else in mind?” asked Shyam.

“Chee, Chee! There is nothing else except my further studies “said Smita emphatically.

Shyam asked her with a faint smirk,” Now tell me what is the help you wanted from me on some important personal matter and why you chose an unknown stranger like me?”

“Oh, it is nothing. The matter is since resolved . Please do not press and I will explain later,” replied Smita with a coy smile.

“You came all the way to barge into my room unannounced when I was in an important meeting, spent long time in cafeteria munching pakoras and taking one hour of my time in the process only to tell me at the end that you have nothing to tell me and that your matter is since resolved. Come out clean, Smita. Don’t feel shy” said Shyam with a grin.

“Sorry Shyam. I came with a definite purpose in mind. After my meeting you and the pleasant discussions with you and knowing your attitude, I have second thoughts on the wisdom of my earlier purpose. It is very nice to meet you. I am greatly impressed by your kind courtesy.  Let us hope we would meet again. Sorry to have imposed on your time. But it helped me resolve my tricky issue to my utter satisfaction. Thanks a lot for your patience.” Smita said as she stood up extending her hand.

“You are an enigma, Smita. I am glad we met and hope to meet you soon, may be tomorrow itself, who knows? "he said shaking her hands continuously to her joy. He was happy to play along with her by not revealing about the letter from his dad with her photo and the appointment at her house the next day.