Sunday, April 28, 2024

Nandhu's Saviour (815 words)

Nandhu was scared in that dark and dingy room. A fearful man who forcibly kidnapped him from the crowd in the temple was standing outside the room smoking a beedi and keeping a vigil on him. Nandhu saw through the window he was in a building in a dark grove with lots of trees. He cried and pleaded with the man to let him go to his mom. The man threatened to throw him in the well if he cried or pestered him.

Nandhu was just seven years old. He recollected how happily he had started with his mom to Venugopala swami temple in the evening. His mom had told him there was a special puja that day being Janmashtami. The temple was jampacked with devotees. He remembered that he could not see the deity and his mom had to lift him on her shoulders for him to have a glimpse of the God. More than God Krishna in blue colour with his flute in hand, he liked the white cow behind him with its head lowered and touching Krishna’s leg.

“Amma, I want that cow behind Krishna, I will hold it in my hand and take care of it. It will give milk to our house. Please get me the same” he pleaded with her.

She patted him on his cheeks and replied “It is Lord Krishna’s cow. You should not desire what is God’s. I will get you another cow when you grow a little older. They have horns and will hurt if one is not careful.”

The boy was adamant and cried, “No, I want that cow only. I do not need any other.”

She took him away from the sanctum and waded through the crowd with the boy in hand. He suddenly wrenched himself away and ran inside the crowd toward the sanctum saying, “I will not come without the cow. You go home.”

She got scared and went behind him calling his name. The boy did not respond to her repeated calls and disappeared into the crowd. Countless times of shouting his name and the efforts of others to trace him yielded no result. The crowd was so much that she could not easily move. The boy was lost. She wailed with many devotees sympathising with her.

Nandhu saw from the window of his room, the dreadful man walking towards a big well possibly to quench his thirst. Nandhu quietly pushed the door that luckily opened and slipped away to hide behind a bush a little away. He saw soon the man with two others frantically searching for him. After a search for quite some time in the darkness, they gave up the search.

Nandhu too was afraid of the darkness but dared not come out lest he be caught. He remembered his mom telling him frequently to pray to God whenever he faced difficulty. He thought of Krishna and the cow and prayed to them to take him home though his mind was more on the cow. He started sobbing when nothing happened and slowly drifted to sleep.

 He did not know how long he had slept till he found something licking his face. He woke up with a start and found the white cow, he saw with Krishna at the temple standing by his side. It nudged him to stand up. He held the rope on the cow’s neck that had several bells and slowly walked with it. He was afraid that the jingling bells may alert the terrible man but the cow walked confidently.

Lo, in a matter of a few minutes, he found himself opposite to his house. It was midnight when he knocked on the door. His mother with swollen eyes, who came rushing out fearing some bad news, was greatly surprised to see Nandhu standing as if nothing had happened. When she asked where he went, with whom and how he came home alone in the dark night.

” Amma, don’t you see the cow standing beside me as it did at Krishna’s temple? It brought me here from the dark forest safely from the clutches of a fearsome man. I hope you will permit me to be with us hereafter,” Nandhu replied with joy.

His mom looked behind him and said “What are you prattling about? I do not see any cow behind you. Are you dreaming or what? Do you know who kidnapped you?”  Nandhu turned and looked behind to see no cow and started weeping loudly when he did not see the cow.

 “I promise, Amma, the cow really licked and nudged me when I was asleep in the forest and brought me here from the dark woods safely unafraid of the jingling bells waking the evil man. His mom lifted her hands and folded towards the direction of the temple.

“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation."


Saturday, April 27, 2024

Billa and Ranga on the prowl

It was past 9 pm and the broad road was desolate except for the occasional speeding cars. On one side of the road, there were high-rise buildings housing several big IT companies and on the other side an elevated metro line and railway station. Usually, the place jostled with activity during the daytime with office goers and small vendors. The metro station was also busy with passengers coming in and going out. After 7 pm, a ghostly silence descends on the place and the road becomes empty. The trains are also few and far between and the station has an empty look.

Billa and Ranga were walking on the road after dinner and drink booze from a restaurant and bar a little away. They were the last customers before the restaurant pulled down its shutters for the day. They were on the high and were walking unsteadily on the road near the IT offices talking loudly and singing film songs intermittently.

“Billa, look ahead. We seem to be fortunate today. A young woman is walking alone ahead of us. She must have been delayed at the office. A foolish girl, obviously,” said Ranga.

Billa shrunk his eyes and struggled to focus on the figure walking ahead. He said, “Yeah, a tall woman in jeans and a top. Let us hurry and close the gap before she reaches the main road.”

As they hurried their steps, she increased her pace. These two guys in turn rushed and were almost running to narrow the gap. When they came closer, they saw her turning her head under the street light to see them stalking but strangely slowed down her steps.

 Ranga said, “Billa, what a beautiful woman and a nice catch if only we can lay our hands on her! We seem to be in luck today.”

Billa said, “Ranga, look, she seems to have now slowed down her walk possibly waiting for us to come near her.”

They caught her up soon and Ranga asked, “Why are you walking alone in this deserted at this hour? Aren’t you afraid?

“No, what should I be afraid of? I am accustomed to walking alone on this road and have had no trouble,” she said.

“What a foolish girl you are! Haven’t you heard of people getting frequently mugged and women criminally assaulted here on this stretch? I think you should not have chosen to walk today. We will accompany you, especially in the dark stretch ahead without lights till we reach the main road,” said Billa in what seemed a friendly tone.

“You do not seem to have listened properly. I told you that I had been walking alone a few times till I was alive and continue walking almost daily these days,” she said with a bewitching smile.

“What crap you are telling? Don’t think so you can get away with such a prattle from us today,” said Billa with a lecherous smile, as he stretched his hand to put on her shoulders with Ranga closing to prevent her escape.

“Do you think so? See me now,” she said, as the duo saw before them a skeleton having a big head with hollow eyes, toothless and wide jaws, dangling legs and unduly long hands staring at them.

 They let out a shrill scream in fear and ran helter-skelter down the street in the opposite direction with the figure chasing and howling behind them.


Thursday, April 25, 2024

To Let (921 words)

 Raghavan, a marketing executive was frantically looking for a small apartment in Besant Nagar. He did not like working men's hostels that go under the name of 'mansions'. He never liked the ambience, the noise even at unearthly hours and litter of beer bottles outside each door and the foul smell. Wherever he went on learning about a vacant apartment either from an advertisement or word of mouth or with a To Let board, the owners turned him away saying the accommodation was for a small family. There was a resistance to letting out to singles. It is almost three months since he has been hunting.

In most places he visited, he found the same young lady in her twenties also approaching the owners. Either she had preceded or followed him. The result must have been the same for both as she always came with a long face. He had heard that it was more difficult for single ladies to get accommodation in apartments or working hostels. Many work in faraway IT offices on the outskirts and may be in shifts.

One Sunday afternoon as he came out of an apartment after the usual rejection of being single, he saw the lady climbing up the stairs to the apartment. He smiled at her and wished her good luck. She smiled back and said, “Thanks though I am sure of the outcome.”

He was sipping a coke at the pan shop on the road and he saw her coming out soon with the same long face. He called her “Hey, come here and tell me what happened. What is your name by the way?”

When she came near him, he offered her a coke and said “I know the outcome. I have been trying for quite some months and have lost hope.”

“Me too. I am Sita. But I need a place immediately. I am in a distant relative’s place and they have indicated clearly that I leave their house soonest. Frankly, I don’t know where to go and what to do. I cannot resign from the job and go back to my village”

“Oh, oh. I am sorry but no solution seems to be in sight unless devise some strategy.  I have one weird idea. If you are agreeable, we may succeed soon and our problem will be solved. Why don't we pose as a married couple and live in separate rooms? I promise you no harm will come to you. I am in marketing and will be away on tour for about 15 days a month. Some days I may return late at night. But you will have no cause to worry, I promise. “ He then told her about his job, family and other details.

Sita said” Seems a brilliant idea? I trust you and agree but I will walk out if you are not straight.” and gave all the details about her. They shook hands and exchanged mobile numbers.

Within a week they had occupied a two-bedroom beautiful apartment. She made early morning coffee if she got up earlier. They had cereals bread and fruits for breakfast. On holidays a caterer supplied them with food. The landlady took a liking for her and was non-interfering.  Everything went fine. The proximity and the frequent outings to restaurants and movies brought them together for tender feelings to blossom.

One Sunday as he was coming down the side staircase to get some magazines, he heard a booming voice from inside the landlord's ground floor space” Raghava, how come you are here? I know you are in Chennai. When I met your parents two months back at the village they were talking about you.”

Raghavan was shocked. It was Kodandam uncle of his village, a kind-hearted and guileless man

“Uncle, I am a tenant here. Glad to meet you. How is your health?”

"How come you are a tenant here? Kalyani, my niece, who is here, told me that a young couple is residing on the first floor. Your mom never mentioned about your marriage. Is it a love marriage or what? “he giggled and added “Where is your wife? Let me come up to your place and bless you both now that I am here”

 “Uncle, she has gone to her mother’s place and will return only in the evening,” he replied. Luckily Sita had gone out on some work.

“Oh.oh.I am leaving for Mumbai in a short while. I will visit you both next time. My best wishes to you.” he said

Raghavan went out immediately and did not return till in the evening.

In the night, he recounted  to Sita what had happened and said “I am sure Kodandam uncle would talk to my mother someday and the cat would be out of the bag”

Sita sat silent a bit worried but spoke later with a sparkle in her eyes” Raghavan, you are imaginative and always come up with bright ideas. Think of an idea  even one  out of the box thinking”

Raghavan let out a guffaw and said “I can think of only one and if I tell you, you will beat me”

“Hey, don’t be a meek one. Come out boldly. I am open to any good and attractive idea” she winked

“Eureka, the only option is to legitimize our tenancy agreement with the landlord’s requirements. I am all willing. What about you?”

She extended her hand and said “Accepted. It is a deal”, only to be surprised by the tight hug she got in return from him.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Neeraj’s first day in school (904)


(This old story of mine was published long back  in a school magazine)
TSR Sir as he was known was writing feverishly with chalk on the blackboard some formulae in algebra. He saw a shadow pass across the door. He found the Head Master with a puny boy entering the class.

“TSR”, the HM called him in a friendly tone and said “This is Neeraj, a new student. I have admitted him to your class as I feel he needs your care and attention. I will discuss more with you  during lunchtime.”

The HM had left and the boy was still standing at the door with a bag clutched in his hands waiting for the teacher’s permission to enter the class. He was wearing a much-worn cotton shirt along with shorts that were a shade small for his size. There was a safety pin pinned askew securing the shirt as there were no buttons. He looked emaciated with bony legs, sunken eyes and unspoken sadness writ large on his well-defined and charming face..

The teacher called him by his side. As he came limping with his polio-affected leg, he put his arm around him and asked him softly “What is your name, young boy? I forget Naresh or some such thing. Where are you from?”

“I am Neeraj, Sir, and have come from Alwar” the boy replied in a hardly audible voice.

“Good, Welcome to the class Neeraj.. Is there anyone among the boys wanting to have Neeraj by his side? “asked the teacher. There was a deafening silence for a couple of minutes till Nakul stood up.

Ravi nudged him in his leg and whispered “You fool, He looks skinny and lame.”

Nakul turned around and saw his mates. Raj made an ugly grimace. A few others were not amused by Nakul's gesture. It appeared they didn’t like the new entrant

“.Go and sit by the side of Nakul,” said the teacher.

All eyes were on the little boy as he ambled along towards Nakul. He moved to his left and gave him the aisle seat to enable the boy to sit without having to wade his way through the chairs. Shilpa, a girl of Nakul's age, did not fail to notice the thoughtfulness of her friend. There was a touch of pride in her eyes.

TSR Sir asked after he wrote (a+b-c)2 on the board. Can anyone expand this?

There was a long silence. The teacher asked, “Neeraj, do you know the answer?”

The boy stood up and gave the right answer.” Why were you waiting for me to ask?” asked the teacher.

“Sorry, Sir. I was waiting for others to respond” he replied. There was instant jealousy among the students when the teacher exclaimed” Sabash, well done.”

When the bell rang for lunch, all the boys and girls scampered to the door. Nakul also had run but turned to see behind. He saw Neeraj sitting on the bench alone. A sense of guilt pricked the little boy even as he came to Neeraj. Soon Shilpa joined them.

Nakul asked “Have you brought any lunch? Come on; let us eat outside under the tree.” The three of them sat together and shared what they had. Shilpa said “Neeraj, don’t feel bad. The other boys and girls will soon warm up and become your friends. They are not wicked”

Even as she was saying this Ravi and Raj came to Neeraj and pulled his collar.” Are you trying to show off in the class that you know better than us? Can you have a bout of boxing with me? I can give you a black eye that your mom won’t be able to recognize you” said Raj.

When Ravi pushed the boy who fell, Nakul yelled at them “ You chicken-hearted bullies. Come on, let us have the bout of boxing and let me find out whose mom fails to recognize whom” and lunged forward at Ravi and Raj. Nakul was a big-built boy with strong muscles and the two ran away unwilling to put up a fight. Shilpa helped Neeraj sit up and dusted the sand from his face and arms.

“Thank you both,” said Neeraj even as he smiled. I can sing for you like Sonu Nigam if you wish to hear". The two were thrilled to hear Neeraj sing very much like the famous singer. Soon all the boys and girls surrounded them and were enthralled by the melodious singing. The boy mesmerised his classmates with his beautiful rendering in his wonderful voice that matched the great singer. When he had finished the song, each one of them went up to Neeraj and gave him a warm hug and a word of praise. Ravi and Raj were not far behind when they sheepishly came to say” Sorry, Neeraj, we behaved badly. Please accept us also as your friends.”

Neeraj standing between Nakul and Shilpa smiled at them and said “I am happy to be with you all. True, I cannot run a race or join a bout of boxing but I have many other tricks up my sleeves. I shall entertain you whenever the opportunity presents itself. I am happy to get you all as my friends but I value the friendship of Nakul and Shilpa more as they extended  their friendship to me wholeheartedly when they had seen only my handicap and were not aware of my singing ability.”

The bell rang and the three walked arm in arm towards the class.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The chaos over the missing records (803 words)

It was getting dark and cloudy with a nip in the air. I could see no one around in the park and did not wish to sit there anymore. As I got up from the bench, I saw a dark figure hurrying towards me. I could only see the silhouette signalling frantically with its hand to wait for him. I was a little jittery and wished to move away quickly. But, the figure was faster than me and was by my side asking me to sit down for a few minutes.

It was a tall and big man draped in a black blanket with a scary look. The eyes were big and sharp and the white teeth were pronounced. He looked strange though he smiled at me.” Do not be afraid. No harm will come to you. I need a little help from you as you seem to belong to this place” he said.

I mustered courage to ask “Who are you? You don’t look like a human with your unusually large frame. Tell me first before I decide to help you or not”

“Ok, let me not beat around the bush. Hold your breath! I am a Yama Duta (messenger of God of death) looking for one guy in this small town” he said

“Where does my help come?” I asked

“It is like this. Such a thing has never happened in the annals of Yamaloka. Our boss Chitragupta maintains a record known for its infallibility and accuracy. Strangely and inexplicably, something unheard of, a few pages of the record are found missing. There cannot be vested interests tampering with records as in your world. We are moving heaven and earth to locate and reconstruct. Our master Yamaraj is furious and worried about his reputation.

By chance, we came to know that one Banturi Venkata Raghavalu from this town is due to die today. I have no clue about him except for his name and town. I must take his life today if I value my job. You must tell me where that guy lives here. Luckily his name is uncommonly long and can be easily found out” narrated the worried Yama Duta.

I assured him “Do not worry. I was born and have lived all my life here and know almost all the people here being in the postal department. Give me five minutes to think undisturbed. Ply me with no questions”

“Take even 30 minutes. You are my saviour. But remember I have no clue except his name and town. Make sure you do not make a mistake.”

An evil idea took over my mind. I have been under great financial strain. My landlord who lives a few houses adjacent to mine has been pressing for the rental that I owe for several months. Three days back he made a scene outside my house with neighbours watching and threatened he would throw out my belongings outside if I failed to pay within a fortnight.

My wife had also been complaining that he frequented the house when I was not there casting his lecherous eyes on her and even obliquely suggesting a few times that the problem of arrear rental can be sorted out amicably.

This was a godsend opportunity to solve my problem. I wasted no time. Pretending that I suddenly remembered the victim’s name, I uttered rather loudly “Eureka, I know where your quarry lives. I remember his name very well. Do not worry as your problem is solved.”

The Yama Duta jumped in joy and exclaimed “Where is he? Tell me here and now. I will carry out my assignment and be gone to my place in satisfaction.”

“The man lives close to my house. He is a short and fat fellow. He is middle-aged and answers to the name Banturi Venkata Raghavalu. He is married…”

Even as I was continuing to describe, the fearsome man cut me short saying,” I don’t need all these details. I will rely on your word. Just show me his house. Is there any other man in the house to confuse me?”

I said none even as I pointed out my landlord’s house. He thanked me and disappeared in thin air.

The next morning my wife came running hurriedly as I was lazily rolling on my bed and said “I cannot believe it. It seems our landlord died of a sudden heart attack around 7 P.M. yesterday. The poor lady is wailing in great grief at this tragedy. Get ready. We will go there.”

When I left early for work the next day, my wife asked me why I was leaving earlier than my usual time., I replied with a poker face “I am going to the Newspaper office to insert an advertisement changing my name to Srinivasulu from Banturi Venkata Raghavalu."


Monday, April 8, 2024

The Unexpected Windfall (740 words)

Maddy was watching from his hotel with wonder the large casino with its glittering lights, lighted fountains, the moving marquee and the jostling crowd in and out and he felt he was in a dreamland. He had come to Connecticut on some project work from the Bay Area. He had another fortnight to stay here. He was tired of watching the TV and walked briskly towards the casino. He was in a mood to try his luck with a maximum outlay of a hundred dollars. One good thing about him was that once he decided on an upper limit, he was never tempted to exceed even if Lady Luck were to smile on him.

He got 100 dollars changed into coins from the counter and bought a bottle of coke. He went around the casino looking at the varieties of slot machines, roulette, blackjack and other games of chance, He chose a quiet corner and decided to stick with one machine this time. On earlier occasions, he used to hop from one machine to another, impatient if it did not win for him.

There was none around him as he started trying his luck. After a few attempts, he chose the dollar machine instead of the quarter machine. He kept inserting the coins and pulling the handle to rotate the reels. There were a few wins but were soon eroded by losses. He had exhausted about 80 dollars and wished to stop for a while to get a break. He leaned on the chair and closed his eyes keeping his mind blank.

There was a whiff of perfume, shuffle of shoes and he could hear someone sitting in the adjacent chair opposite another similar machine. When he heard the ring of coins falling into the receptacle, he opened his eyes to see a drop-dead beauty. She was young, not tall, blond with a long skirt. She said hi with a smile and he smiled back.

"You seem to have started on a winning note from the tinkles I heard when I was dozing. Keep it up. Good luck" Maddy said

"Thank you. That was not much. I am Melinda. Let me play before the winning streak vanishes" she said with a giggle.

He watched her putting one dollar after another a few times losing all the time till she finally sighed and said with a guffaw “I am broke. Let me watch you make money. Come on play. I will cheer you"

"Thanks. I am Maddy. Let me try with you as my mascot. Maybe I will rake in a lot of money" he said and started playing. He stopped when he lost ten dollars and said “I am short of luck today despite your presence by my side. I had decided to devote 100 dollars and I have only 10 with me. With that also gone, I would move out"

"Maddy, luck seems to evade you with the machines conspiring against you. I have a deal for you. Do you care to listen?"

"Come on Melinda. I am game. Tell me what"

“Let me play those ten dollars for you. If I win, you will have half of the winnings. I think I will win. What do you say?"

"Agreed. What if you lose?"

"Haha!. A good question. I have nothing to give except me, if you so wish” she said laughingly with a wink.

Taken aback at her audacity, he said "Hmm, play, let us see our luck" 

The young thing started playing. The first dollar itself raked in 25 dollars. Then she started losing all till she was left with two dollars. The penultimate fetched her 100 dollars and in her glee, she hugged him showering him with smooches. Vicky was all smiles. With bated breath, she inserted the last dollar she had and Lo the cash register did not stop ringing and playing music. She had hit a jackpot of 5000 dollars.

"Are you happy?” Melinda asked holding his hands.

"Hmm, Frankly I am not. I sort of wished that you lost" he said with a mischievous grin.

"Hurray, have no fear. Let this spot of luck for us blossom into a long-term friendship. Are you single? I am." she said.

“I am too. I was just kidding about your losing part. Let us be friends. Hurry up, we will celebrate with a great dinner and whatnot” he said as they walked out of the casino hand in hand.


Saturday, April 6, 2024

The naughty intruder (428)

I heard my mobile ping. It was 4 am. My husband had not yet recovered fully from a viral fever that lasted a week. He was asleep. Half asleep I looked at my phone.

“Don’t make noise. I am on the ground floor and have entered your house" read the text.

I saw the number. It was my hubby's mobile.

"How did you get my hubby's mobile? He is sleeping by my side" I texted nervously.

"Did you not see that I am in your house? I borrowed his phone for a short while. Don’t wake him up. He seems unwell and I am fully armed.” said the reply I was numb with fear at the thought he had been to our bedroom.

Another message came "I warn you not to call police. I can harm you people and get away if I hear a police vehicle."

I saw my hubby snoring blissfully. I knew I should handle this manic carefully. I did not mind losing some money if he was after money. I was worried about another thing. I have been reading almost daily cases of assault on women. I did not know the intruder's age or his intentions. I started sweating and did not wish to make the slightest noise lest my hubby awoke. He is an impulsive guy and given to rushing without a plan.

"What do you want?" I texted

"Nothing much. Please come down.I will tell you"

Oh my god, what a cheek. Surely a maniac on the prowl is here. I took a baseball bat and slowly opened the adjacent room where my nine-year-old son was sleeping. He was asleep with his head covered by a bed sheet as he does always. As I shut the door gently another text followed.

"Do not delay. Come down quick"

I replied "Unless you tell me what you need specifically, I cannot come"

"Don't be afraid. There is nothing to fear”

"I told you very clearly to tell me what you need. If you don't tell within two minutes, I will ring up the police come what may "

One minute passed. The second minute was coming to an end. The text came promptly.

"I am hungry. I want Italian-style Macaroni with cheese"

I rushed to my little son's bedroom and pulled the bed sheet to see him holding hubby's mobile and looking for a message from me He is a mischievous boy given to pranks but it was the Macaroni and cheese that gave away as he wanted it in the evening.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

A memorable journey (786words)


An urgent work cropped up at Bangalore and I did not have time to make any reservation. Luckily, I could get a seat In the AC bus that was to leave soon. I was hungry and tired. Grabbing some snacks and a can of coke, I settled in a chair in the lounge. As I was finishing the coke, I heard the announcement “Bus for Bangalore now boarding.”

I hurriedly dumped the bag in the receptacle above and sat in the allotted window seat.. The bus was to depart in the next five minutes and I was happy that my adjacent seat was unoccupied. My happiness was however short-lived when a young lady came and occupied the seat next to me. She was about 25, very charming, in Jeans and a Khurta-like top.

“Are you proceeding to Bangalore?” she asked softly.

I nodded and asked “What about you? Do you live In Bangalore?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile.

After some pleasantries, I came to know that she was working In Bangalore and that she had come to Chennai for some official work. She did not give much detail about her. She was a bit reticent and answered in monosyllables.

I started playing Sudoku on my iPad to while away the time while the video on the bus was showing some Rajni film. She was watching it for a while and then closed her eyes possibly to catch some sleep. After some time, I took my laptop and started working on some reports, I was to send.

“It is boring. Can I use your iPad to play some games, if you are busy with your laptop? “I heard her ask me.

“Why not? By all means, play to your heart's content till the power lasts” I said as I gave her the iPad.

She started playing Hangman, Mahjongg, Sudoku and some other games. I got busy with my work and after an hour put the laptop in the bag when my eyelids became heavy. Having had a busy day, I fell asleep immediately

It was only at Krishnagiri stop that I got up and went to the restroom. She was holding the iPad tightly in her hands and was seen dozing with her eyes closed. Not wanting to disturb her, I went back to sleep in an empty seat on the other side.

It was after the bus had left Hosur that I woke up with a start to find the lady missing from her seat. I panicked and asked the conductor where the lady was. He said she got down at Hosur hurriedly at the last moment as if on second thought. It was a new iPad and I cursed myself for leaving it in her custody and sleeping. I had not got even the name of the company where she worked, let alone her number while I had foolishly parted with the name of my company and my mobile number in the hope we may become friends. A doubt arose If she were working at Bangalore, why should she get down at Hosur? I suspected some foul play.

The conductor and a few passengers commiserated with me at my plight and expressed their doubts whether any complaint with the police would help. The bus was moving at great speed leaving me with no other option than to stay put. It was then my mobile rang. It was the lady who spoke.

“Sorry, Sir. I had two minds about whether to get down at Hosur where my parents live but decided suddenly to break the journey. I work in Bangalore. You were fast asleep when the bus stopped at Hosur. I waited for some time hoping you would wake up in the noise of the bus stand. When you did not, I left the iPad in your laptop bag. Forgive me for this liberty taken. Please open the laptop bag and confirm the iPad is there while I am online. Lucky, I had your number” she said.

I quickly checked to find my iPad safely in the bag and was struck with remorse at my hasty assumption.

“Thank you, Miss….er I was a bit worried when I did not see you. It is a new iPad and I was very much upset. I am extremely sorry for some uncharitable assumptions, "I said.

“Roopa…...Miss...Roopa. So you thought I was a thief?” she replied with a giggle and continued “Let us meet at Bangalore in the coming week. You have now my number and I will be waiting for your call. You owe me an apology.”

It is a different matter that this fortuitous incident developed into a close friendship culminating eventually in our happy marriage.