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Popularity 2Viewed 1856 times 2017-11-5 08:25 |Personal category:StoryTeller|System category:Life

Ram walked home, shoulders slouched, his head and shoulders wet from the rain, his leather office bag obviously heavy at his side. He had had an unusually early start to this Friday workday. He seemed tired,quiet and subdued, but was watchful of his surroundings on the local train home. That bag carried an unusual load this day. He had gone to the bank and withdrawn a large amount of money. All but a couple of hundred rupees of it was already spoken for - advance deposit to buy a small flat through an agent, overdue rent with arrears, utility bills, school and excursion fees, the 'credit account' his wife maintained with their street corner grocery store and the cart-pushing vegetable vendor who did the rounds of his street, medicines and doctors fees - many had provided him with 'credit' since they had known him for years and trusted him. Most transactions with such accommodating people were in cash usually and so he carried a fair amount this day to clear up all his dues up to date. He had just got his salary and yearly bonus. He had also withdrawn a sizeable amount from his life-savings for the house deposit.

He always made sure he paid everyone he owed every penny in the time he promised. He was a hardworking man who was honest and well-liked by almost everyone. He struggled financially like everyone else, of late, but had never gone off the rails - taking to drinking or drugs or developed a bad anti-social attitude like many others in similar circumstances.

The special couple of hundred rupees in his bag too were 'spoken for' in a sense - he had decided to buy a special treat for his kids. He stopped at the confectioners on his way home and bought three of the delicious but expensive chocolate cupcakes - one each for his two children and one to share between himself and his wife. He was feeling good and started smiling and humming a tune softly to himself.

As soon as he walked into the house, he set down his bag to pick up his not quite-two-year-old-daughter who clambered up him and patted his wet hair. She laughed after smothering him with hugs and kisses. She was happy to see him and also looked expectantly at his office bag. His wife stood watching with a smile. His eight year old son was not seen. He must be playing with his friends and would be back a little later, as it was often the case - reckoned Ram.

Ram often got his kids a little treat on his way home on Fridays and there was an act they performed - him looking into the bag and acting as if he accidentally found something. He would make an elaborate expression of surprise himself and wonder what it was. The kids would stand quivering in excitement and urge him to open it. Sometimes he let one or the other of his kids open it. Today, he brought out the delicately wrapped cupcakes after setting down his daughter and giving his patient wife a hug and sitting down. The little girl was dancing with excitement and the sight and smell of the cupcakes brought out such an expression of joy in her that her parents looked at each other and derived much satisfaction. It was a happiness that needed to be experienced and cannot be put into words accurately.

"One for you, Kittu, one for Anna (Older Brother) and one for Amma (Mother) and Appa (Father)," Ram said as he handed her one. The swiftness with which Kittu demolished it and the relish on her face, as she was breathless for a moment having swallowed a large piece was the icing-on-the-cake for her parents, even before they had tasted their cupcake. Ram's wife took care of the remaining cupcakes and went inside. Ram took off his shoes, put them away, took his office bag into his bedroom, changed into more casual attire and came to the dining area next to the living room for this evening snack and coffee. His wife sat next to him with a cup of tea and they exchanged notes of the work day.

Ram was tired and sank into the sofa in front of the TV as he watched the evening news and his daughter came up to him and chatted about her day and opinion on the TV news. He was happy and blissful. Dinner was being prepared and they would have it after a couple of hours, when his son had returned from play and washed up. If he had a lot of homework to do, Ram would check up on him and help occasionally. He got to spend that time with his son, while his daughter would be falling asleep about then.

"Ram, can you go and pay the corner-store before he shuts down for the day? He is going away tomorrow to his village. He can use the money then he says," Ram's wife called out from the kitchen.

Ram went into the bedroom and got out a small bundle of cash from the wrapped package in his office bag and put it into his wallet which he put into a small cloth shopping bag. He often found that it was safer from pickpockets in a crowd who were disappointed on a couple of occasions when they picked his pocket as he held on to his wallet in his grimy looking cloth shopping bag, among the groceries.

As he passed the living room, he saw Kittu beckoning to him and saying something with a cute intent expression about what she was seeing on the TV. Ram could not resist and sat down to hear her. He then got into it himself. Soon he and Kittu were mimicking the TV anchor and making funny comments. Ram's wife saw them from a distance and laughed. She was very happy. She went on to make dinner.

After a while, Ram heard his wife from the kitchen again.

"Ram, when you go to the corner-store, get a couple of coconuts!"

"OK, I will in a little while. Before, dinner I promise!" Ram shouted over the sound of the TV and Kittu. They played and Ram started to feel pleasantly drowsy. As he watched Kittu gestured and spoke and danced addressing the people on the TV, knowing that Ram was watching her. She was showing off. Ram slowly dozed off...

Kittu had an accident and after looking to Ram and seeing him asleep, she called out to her mother who came, took a look around, smiled to herself, picked up Kittu and got her to the bathroom to clean her up.

"Appa! Appa! Amma says wake up! Its almost time for dinner!" Ram's son shook him gently to wake him up.

Ram woke up with a start on the sofa. He had 'napped' for almost two hours. It was starting to get dark outside. He got up groggily and saw the smiling face of his son.

"I liked the cupcake Appa!" and gave Ram a hug as he smiled.

Ram looked at the clock and realised it was soon to be dinner time and he had not gone to the corner store. His wife was watching from the dining area, smiling understandingly. She had let him sleep for a while but wanted him to be up in time to go and pay the corner-store.

"Sorry, Ma, Sarita, I dozed off. I will quickly go to the store and be back for dinner," said Ram as he felt the cloth grocery bad with his wallet next to him.

"Ram, if you want we can have dinner soon and then you go out. Come back quickly and go to sleep. You seem tired," she replied.

"I feel better and rested now. Its too close to dinner time and I don't want to delay it for you and the kids. I might stop by a Karthik's place for a chat on my way back from the corner-store. Let's eat now," Ram replied.

They all had dinner together and soon Kittu was nearing her bedtime.

"Raghu, do you have homework to do?" Ram asked his son.

"Yes, 'pa. Amma will help me today," replied Raghu.

"I will stop by Karthik's place. Good night Kittu and Raghu, you might be asleep when I get back," said Ram, winking meaningfully at his wife as he gave the kids a hug. She smiled and winked back. She would be ready..

So, Ram set out. It was getting close to dusk now. Ram walked briskly, past the houses and a small park where his children often played. It was deserted and there were very few people on the road. It was typically dinner time in most houses. It was also the time the stray dogs in the area gathered for their nightly group meetings and wanderings as a pack. They ruled the streets at night. The tiny park was one of their headquarters of sorts at night. He saw a couple of them watching him warily.

In the evening breeze, Ram saw some fluttering pieces of paper and some dust swirling around. One caught his eye as it stuck to his leg. He picked it up and saw it was a currency note. Suddenly, he saw other pieces of paper rolling around and some stuck against little rocks and plants on the roadside. He went to pick up another and saw that it was a currency note. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. He gathered a handful of them and instinctively looked in the direction the wind was blowing from. He followed it and came upon more currency notes. His mind was in a daze and spin. Soon, he came up on a broken roll of notes and as he scanned the area intently in the fading daylight, he saw a few bundles of notes apparently professionally tied up as he had seen in his bank earlier in the day. They lay in a heap next to a bush. It was a lot of money, if it was real.

 Ram quickly dropped everything he found into his cloth bag. He looked around and it appeared no one else had noticed the money. He could not find anyone around who might have dropped this accidentally that his normal instincts would have told him to go and give it to. Only the dogs were watching him. Everytime, he bent down to pick up a piece of paper the dogs instinctively ran for cover, thinking he was picking up a stone to throw at them. This was a long, long tradition built into the DNA of the human-stray dog interaction protocol in India from thousands of years. In the day time, a person may feed a stray dog out of the kindness of spirit, but at night the rules change between man and beast.

Once he found the heap of bundles. Ram was suddenly scared. He was not sure if he was wandering into something serious and sinister. He quickly walked out of the park and tried to ignore some more fluttering pieces of paper he could spot. He could not resist picking up a few that were directly in his way.

As he bent down to pick one more up, he heard a scooter pass by suddenly.

'Ramji! Did you drop something? How are you?"  Ram heard his neighbour's voice and he was gone by the time Ram stood up straight.

"This is enough, Ram! Just get going and go and pay the corner-store. Get back home and figure out what to do next!" he told himself.

A sudden feeling of being played by fate hit Ram. He debated what he could do with his lucky find. He could not imagine a way to return the money to its rightful owners. It seemed unlikely it was honestly earned or kept properly to have ended up the way it had. There seemed to be no one even looking for it now. They were either ignorant of their loss (seemed unlikely anyone would not keep track of such an amount carefully)  or had decided against coming to get it back (they were perhaps afraid of being seen out in public) or worse.  Possibly, they were in deep trouble and that applied to those who had brought the money to this place as well. A gut instinct told him it might have something to do with illegal activities and unsavoury characters. He did not want to expose himself and his family to more danger. He knew he had not collected all the money and no one might trust him fully even if he came forward with this amount. A shiver ran down Ram's spine and he shuddered to think of how it would affect his peaceful family life.

Ram took out the wallet from his bag he was carrying to pay the store and put that in his pocket for easy access. He put all his lucky gatherings in the grocery bag and rolled it up as if it was already full.

Ram reckoned that he had picked up enough to pay about half the bills he owed, for which he had brought home money that day. He was also principled. He did not want to take, live off or splurge with someone else's money. In fact, he had never ever splurged in his life. Ram had seen others splurge, be generous or show-off and he had always watched calmly feeling - "It is not for me!"

He had grown up and lived so far with very little money to spare. In the early years it was quite deficient but now he had barely enough but usually sufficient to meet his needs. He had always lived within his means and held back from impulsive, expensive purchases or displays of generosity with money. When he wanted to give something extra for someone, it was usually through service, time and effort to give them something they could use.

Ram approached the corner-store (it was at the corner of two main intersecting roads). It was well lit against the general backdrop of poorly lit roads and outsides of houses in the area. He saw a couple of beggars huddled to one side of the road on the footpath where they had their makeshift shelter.  Ever wary, they watched him as he approached and greeted him traditionally 'Ram Ram".
He too replied the in the same manner. It struck him as funny that without knowing it, they had addressed him by his name. It seemed like a divine sign.

On an impulse, as Ram went by, he dropped a couple of currency notes from his bag into their surprised hands. They were surprised by his sudden move close to them and even more surprised at what he had given them. Ram had already walked a dozen steps before he heard their loud blessings behind him. They decided in their street-smart wisdom not to question or look too closely at who their benefactor was. Ram had a little thrill at being able to give something to some stranger who could use help.

Ram went into the store. The store owner greeted him. He was happy to see Ram, who was always prompt and paid his dues. He had other customers who were 'friends' and put him in an awkward spot. They would show up and pay part of the dues and let them carry on for another month citing some sob-story. He had to simply listen, negotiate and strike a fine balance between firm business sense and good friendly sympathy. He liked customers like Ram who were no fuss at all. He summoned Ram to the head of the queue ahead of those he knew who were there to haggle and moan. He signaled his son to collect Ram's payment and enter it in his record book. The ones that were there to pay fully were directed to the store-owner's son for quick service. Those that could not pay the full amount had to line up and discuss it with the owner himself in a separate queue. While the discussion and pleading seemed public and humiliating, it was a (not so) subtle tactic to motivate people to pay up fully in time or pay a price.

Ram first paid the store-owner's son to settle his accounts up-to-date and then suddenly remembered to pick up coconuts for home. There were a few people in line behind him - a couple of them were known to Ram too. One of them, Sampath, had a parent suddenly fall seriously ill and unexpected expenses came along. He was there to plead for more time. Ram greeted him and inquired about his ill parent. That man seemed a bit ashamed for Ram to see him in this situation.

Ram went over and they spoke softly. Ram figured that the amount owed by that man could not be much more than what Ram himself had paid. He decided to do something and tried to come up with a way to do it without appearing patronising or putting that man in a spot. Ram gently called him over to one side as he picked up a couple of coconuts at the isolated end of an aisle. He grabbed a handful of currency from his find and held it rolled up in his fist behind his back.

"How is your mother doing? I heard she was seriously ill. I have been meaning to come over and visit. She has been wonderful to us ever since we were young. I remember her fondly, the dishes and treats she made for us. I have always wanted to do something for her. Please, do let me. It will be an honour and privilege. I will not have you refuse me," Ram pleaded and thrust a small bundle of notes into his hands and pressed it firmly shut. Ram looked him in the eye and held his resisting hand.

Sampath was moved to tears. He had known Ram since they were young teenagers. He was surprised and dazed at Ram's gesture. He started to protest and blabber, but Ram said to him, firmly '"Go now! I will visit your home tomorrow" and pushed him away. That man looked up briefly to the heavens and mouthed a 'Thankyou' to God, went towards the store-owner's son. Ram felt a sudden high and a rush of feeling of having some power to change people's situation. It was an unfamiliar, strange feeling.

Ram quickly paid for the coconuts with his 'own money' to a shop assistant, picked up a couple of extra empty brown paper bags that were used to give loose or measured quantities of groceries at the store and walked out. He wandered slowly, taking his time towards his friend Kathik's house. A strange and different feeling came over Ram as he pondered what he had done. He had never splurged in his life. He had never been in a position to give away money generously without it affecting his welfare. Now he felt like fate had given a chance to experience just that. He had not used his 'lucky money' on himself so far and felt good about having given it to two persons he felt were deserving and in need. He had a strong resistance to the thought of using it on himself or his own family. Before he realised it, he found himself at the doorstep of his friend Karthik's house - a small two bedroom flat with a kitchen and living area, much like Ram's own home.

Karthik was a few years older than Ram and a long time friend since his childhood. He had, since recently, needed a walking stick to get around. He had some untreatable problem with his legs and balance. He worked as an accountant - now mostly from home. He was always a cheerful person. His wife and grown-up children were all infected with his spirit of smiling through life - through all ups and downs. It seemed they were always confronted with some major challenge or the other, even more than most that Ram knew, but they had a characteristic stoic and happy nature. It made Ram always feel happy to know them and also often feel more fortunate by comparison. Ram and Karthik often had long chats and talks, sometime late into the night on both personal and neutral topic from sports to philosophy. They could talk about anything with each other. Their wives and family always knew and understood. Karthik's youngest son was in the last year of high school and working hard to get into a professional course at university. He had a daughter, his oldest child who was in her late twenties, still single, a sweet affectionate girl who was developmentally challenged in some psychological way. He had another son who was away in another city, just starting his first job as an accountant.

Karthik stood for a moment, taking in the sights, sounds and  the smell of freshly made food being served as they were having dinner. Since  before the days the telephone became common and affordable, Karthik and Ram were traditional friends who never needed to call ahead or even knock on the door. They could just wander in any time into each other's house. They were both thoughtful, considerate and it worked out well between them.

"Hey Kathikeya!" shouted Ram and entered the house as he found the front door shut but not locked. It was typical those days when people locked their doors only for the night before going to bed. Ram shut the door behind him.

"Hey Ram!" yelled back Karthik.

"Come in Ram-Anna, come join us for dinner," Karthik's wife called out.

"I already ate dinner," Ram said, setting down his bag next to his footwear which he took off near the door. He then walked into the dining area where the family sat at the dining table. It was unusual in those days - they had got a dining table since Karthik's problem with his legs had gotten worse and he could not easily squat down and get up.

"Come on, at least taste a little bit. Give us company. Rekha made egg-plant roast today," Karthik's wife insisted and motioned her youngest son to move over with his plate to make space for Ram.

"Only a little bit, just to taste," Ram relented - he knew it was futile to resist.

Karthik's wife quickly got up, washed the hand she was eating with at the sink near by, wiped her hands clean, grabbed a rag, quickly swiped clean the area the son had vacated, set a new plate, pushed a spare chair up to it.

Ram washed his hands at the sink and sat down next to Karthik and looked around. All cheerful faces, smiling and happy to see him.

"How are things? What are you up to, Chinna?" Ram addressed the youngest son.

"Fine, Uncle! I am preparing hard for my exams," he said trying to finish chewing his bite before talking.

"And what about you, Rekha?" Ram looked towards Karthik's girl who sat across the table.

"All fine. I made the roast curry today!"
The girl smiled proudly, nodded and smiled. Everyone resumed their eating.

Ram ate slowly and complimented Rekha on the excellent taste of the egg-plant roast. Conversation flowed and Ram caught up on the happenings in Karthik's family' life. He noted that Kathik was scheduling a trip for some medical tests and some professional therapy a couple of months ahead. Obviously, Karthik could not afford to pay for it right away and was saving up. It was never said explicitly, but Ram could figure these things out. It was that way between the two. Both never complained about their finances to each other or expected anything. If they felt it was possible for them to help they did so quietly on their own initiative.
Ram was in some ways relieved to hear about Karthik's situation. He felt a bit guilty about that feeling too - it meant his friend be in some misery or difficulty so that he could help out.

Dinner was soon over. Karthik's family waited after Ram and Karthik had stood up and washed up at the sink, so that there was no crowding or rush or line at the sink. As the two men wandered over to the living room to sit down, the daughter and son of Karthik tried to beat each other to the sink and got an admonition from the mother for behaving like wild beasts in front of the house guest.

"I'll make coffee," Karthik's wife called out.

"Karthik, I have come to give you something. Please do not refuse it. I know if you were in my situation, you would have done the same for me," said Ram seeing they were both alone for a while.

"What are you talking about?" Karthik asked.

Ram went to his bag near the front door, pulled out a sizeable bundle, put it one of the brown paper bags he had picked up at the store. He did not count or have any idea how much it was. He did not want to know. He folded the paper bag close, walked over to Karthik and handed it to him.

"What is this?" Karthik asked without opening it.

"Look, I want you to arrange that therapy earlier, as soon as you can. I am in a position to do this for you now. Don't ask what or why. Just take it and go to the therapy," said Ram.

Karthik had opened the bag and took a peak inside. His eyes opened wide. He quickly recovered his composure.

"What? Have you won the lottery? or found a treasure? or did your rich uncle pass away and left you a bit of money?" he asked in a joking tone.

"Well, consider it something like that," said Ram, starting to feel a little uncomfortable and not wanting to answer in detail then. He was hoping Karthik would stop further probing, considering the many years of implicit trust between them. It worked. Karthik just looked a bit surprised, for a moment his eyes glistened with a little moisture.

"Thanks da, Ram," he said with his voice quavering just a little. He blinked hard and in a couple of seconds he was back to his old calm self. He set the bag aside under a side table nearby.

They spoke a little about the news and coffee arrived with some seasonal sweets served by Karthik's kids. Ram and Karthik drank and ate up.

"Its getting late. I should be going back. I shall see you again later. Tell me how things go. Rekha, the egg-plant roast was delicious. You should make it again someday at my place," Ram said.

Karthik waved goodbye sitting. His wife and the kids came to see  Ram off at the door and finally lock up after Ram was out of sight. It was considered rude to shut the door while the guest was still within sight.

It was now quite dark outside and bed-time for most. As he made his way back home, his bag was now considerably lighter and Ram was thankful. There was not much of the found money left in the bag, just about a handful. Ram was feeling on top of the world and quite relieved. It seemed a moral problem had come up and sorted itself out. He just felt his generous, magnanimous feeling was the gift that he was supposed to receive from fate. He decided that he would take the remaining money and donate it to some charity after telling his wife.

Ram reached his house and saw that all the lights were out, except for the dim light from his bedroom light faint glow of the night light in the children's room and a crack showing through the curtains in bedroom. His wife was awake and probably reading a book or watching TV with the sound muted. If his son were awake he would be doing his homework or watching a program in the living room with the light on. Both his children were apparently asleep. His spirits picked up and a spring came into his step.

As expected, the front door was not locked but only shut. Ram turned the handle and opened it silently. He locked it up for the night. Ram took off his footwear, put away the coconuts in the kitchen and walked into his bedroom carrying his bag. He saw his wife lying on her bed. She looked beautiful and enticing with her hair all undone and flowing over her shoulders. She looked at Ram as if she had been waiting for him longingly.

"You're late. Everything OK?" she asked, smiling invitingly.

"Yes, all OK, nothing wrong, but something interesting and unusual happened," Ram said smiling mysteriously.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I went to the shop and Karthik's. All fine there, but on the way to the shops I found something," he said as he dug out a handful of cash and threw it on the bed.

Sarita was shocked!

"Where did you get this? Did you find this?" Sarita asked.

Ram emptied out the rest of the cash from the bag.

"Yes, I found this on the road and park on the way to the shop," Ram replied.

"How much is it?" Sarita asked.

"I don't know. I did not count it yet. I actually found more. I gave a lot of it away," Ram replied.

"What?? Tell me what exactly happened and who did you give away money that does not belong to us?"

"I'll tell you everything, Ma. I don't know who this belongs to. I found it in and near the park where the kids play. I think it may be something illegal or very unusual. I gave a lot of it away to Sampath and Karthik. I saw Sampath at the corner-store. You know his mother was seriously ill and he found it difficult to pay off his account dues at the store. I gave him some. Then I visited Karthik. He had put off going to therapy for a few months because he was saving up for it. I gave him enough too, I think. I did not really count out the amounts. They never asked me for anything. Since it was found money and I could find no way to find out the real owner of this, I decided to give it away for some good. I feel reporting it to the police and authorities will lead to more trouble and complication. I am also worried that the 'owner' of this may also be a dangerous person. I did not find all the money, some of it had blown away across the street. I suspect many will find it tomorrow in the daylight and there will be some commotion. I thought it best we keep out of it," Ram said.

He described in detail all that happened and that he had noted. His wife was in agreement that they should not keep any of it for themselves. She was willing to go and donate the rest to charity after 'a couple of weeks', after all the local noise and interest that was sure to come up tomorrow had died down.

"OK, put this away and come to bed," she said, smiling and with a wink.

"OK I will put keep it alongside the other money I brought from the bank today!" Ram replied laughing.

They both gathered the money neatly and counted it. It was about fifty thousand rupees. Ram put a couple of rubber bands around it to form a tight bundle.

"Where did you put away my office bag?" Ram asked looking beside the bed.

"You left it here on the floor open. You really should not. I put it away in the clothes closet," she said.

Ram went over to the closet and saw his office bag on the floor at the back. He picked it up. It felt strangely light. He put it on the bed, opened the flap and looked inside. He shook his head.
He went back to the closet and checked around. He ducked down on the floor and looked under the bed. He seemed puzzled.

"Sarita, did you put away the brown packets I had in this bag? There were bundles of money I withdrew from the bank today," he asked wondering if she had just taken them out and put them away. She was usually very careful and put things away safely.

"No! I did not put away anything. I just shut the flap of your bag and put it away out of the way. I did not know you had money in that. I thought you had put that away safely yourself, she replied. For a moment Ram wondered if Sarita was playing a trick on him.

"Are you sure, you did not see any brown paper wrapped packets lying around? There were two of them. About this big," Ram showed with his hands. He now had a worried expression. Sarita realized he was not joking. She got out of the bed, and they both frantically searched the bedroom floor and closet. Nothing was found.

Suddenly Ram sank down on the floor with a stunned expression. He was in a mental daze his head spinning. Sarita started to worry. He looked at her. Sarita, of course knew he was withdrawing and bringing home the money that day. They had talked it over together. It occurred to him that she was the only other person in the house or anywhere his neighbourhood who knew of his plans and the exact amount.  He looked at her strangely and intently for a moment. Never in his life, ever had he had any reason to doubt her integrity. He did not see anything different. Sarita too looked at him oddly. He did not want to say or do anything to wreck the trust they had in each other, if she were innocent.  In their life together, he had valued that more than anything.

"Did anyone come into the bedroom today after I came from the office? When I was gone?" Ram could not control the strangeness in his voice.

"Only the kids play around the house all day. I did not see or hear anyone else. I was in the kitchen and bathroom until I came to put Kittu to sleep here. I saw your bag then and put it away," Sarita replied realizing something terrible had happened.

They usually put Kittu on their bed, told her a story or sang a lullaby to get her to sleep and then would carry her to her own bed in the adjacent room that she shared with her brother now.

"Could someone have walked in unnoticed or unobserved, come and picked up the money?" Ram wondered.

"I suppose someone could have come without me seeing or hearing them. The front door is open most of the time. The kids keep running in and out. Any of the neighbours could have walked in. I cannot imagine anyone going to our bedroom though unless they knew something valuable was there. But how did they know to take only the money and leave the bag? Or was it just a coincidence?" Sarita spoke out what was in Ram's mind. He was glad he did not say it out loud, particularly the way his voice had sounded. He might have hurt Sarita's feelings terribly.

Sarita thought for a moment and said firmly,"I know this sounds strange. But just to make sure we get as much clarity on this before we know what to do. We don't want to accuse the wrong people around here. The kids must have just gone to sleep. I will wake them up and ask. Kittu and Raghu are usually all over the house. They could have seen someone in the house even if I was away in in the kitchen or bathroom or had stepped out for a while into the yard."

"Come with me Ram. I will wake up Raghu and you get Kittu and bring her here," Sarita got up with a determined look on her face. The two went into the dimly lit bedroom next to theirs. The two children were both sleeping and breathing softly.

It was with a heavy heart Ram picked up little Kittu. Sarita gently nudged and woke up Raghu. Both were groggy and rubbing their eyes sleepily. Ram and Sarita felt awful doing this to them, but decided it had to be done.

"Raghu, Kittu, Very, very sorry to disturb you like this, my darlings. Something important has come up and so we need to ask you. Did you see anyone come into our house today, after Appa come home?"

"No. I did not see anyone. I was playing outside," Raghu replied.

Kittu started to cry from being disturbed from sleep. She did not even appear like she understood the question. Sarita rocked her gently and she quietened down.

"What happened?" Raghu asked, curious.

"Well, it looks like someone stole something from our house, took some money from Appa's office bag," Sarita explained.

"We wanted to ask you two if you or Kittu saw anyone come and take anything from this Appa's office bag?" Ram asked gently pointing to it.

Even as Raghu shook his head to indicate a negative, Kittu suddenly smiled and said,"Cupcake" and made slurping sounds looking at office bag.

"Yummy cupcake?" she said brightening up.

"Of course, dear. Appa gave it to you." Ram said helplessly but with a smile. He felt awful, waking up and interrogating his sleeping children. He resolved to get it over as quickly as possible and put them back to bed.

Sarita suddenly had a strange expression on her face.

"Kittu-ma! Did you like the cupcake? Do you want more?" she asked.

"Yes, yummy cupcake," said Kittu, more awake now. She kept looking at the office bag. She came up to it once more and looked inside the bag.

"No cupcake" she said sounding disappointed.

"Why are we talking about cupcakes now. We don't have any more. Let's put them back to bed. i feel terrible about this,' Ram said.

"Just a moment now, Ram," said Sarita.

"Kittu, did you look for cupcake? Did you want more?" she continued, turning towards Kittu.

Instinctively Kittu nodded and looked at the office bag again.

"Ram, remember, you brought out the cupcake from our office bag and so she is always looking towards it in the hope for finding more," said Sarita.

"So, what?" Ram asked getting up.

"Just wait," she motioned him to sit down and then turned towards Kittu.

In her sweet, calm voice and loving tone, she asked Kittu,"Did Kittu look for cupcake in Appa's bag?"

Kittu shook her head affirmatively. She went again looked. Put here hand inside and pulled out a file and then shook her head disappointed.

"No cupcake" she said plaintively.

"You know, Amma, Kittu was saying the same thing this evening too when I was returning home. She was saying "No cupcake" and waving something this evening when I came back from play," Raghu spoke up.

"What was she waving?" asked Sarita.

"Something brown. I think she dropped it in the mud outside," said Raghu.

"The money bundles were wrapped in brown paper!" exclaimed Ram instinctively.

Suddenly, a flash of understanding came upon both Ram and Sarita. They realised Kittu had gone searching for more cupcakes in Ram's office bag when he had fallen asleep on the couch and when Sarita was in the kitchen making dinner and doing the chores.

"Kittu, did you pick up something from Appa's bag?" asked Ram trying to contain the excitement and urgency in his tone.

Kittu froze. She was not sure she had done something naughty and would be reprimanded. She covered her face.

Sarita, once again, gave her a gently hug. Ram too gave her a cuddle and asked gently again.

"It is OK, Kannu  (Dear Darling), did you not find cupcake in Appa's bag? Did you find something else?"

Kittu nodded a 'Yes' softly, covering up her face.

"Where did you put something you took from the bag?" asked Sarita in a calm, everyday voice and tone.

Kittu was suspicious. She was quite, but shut her eyes firmly. Something was up.

"Did you take it outside?" asked Sarita, gently leading her.

Kittu nodded a 'Yes' again.

"Did you put it outside?" asked Ram gently.

Kittu suddenly said,"Shammi!"

"What about Shammi? Did Shammi take it from you?" asked Sarita getting quite excited. Shammi was the neighour's little boy that Kittu sometime played with. He was slightly older and often aggressive. He would grab her toys or throw things to act like big and strong sometimes. Mostly, he was good with her and acted like an older brother.

Kittu nodded again.

"I think I saw Shammi kicking something on the ground after I saw Kittu with the brown packet," Raghu said.

"What exactly did you see?" asked Ram and Sarita together.

"Nothing much. I saw Shammi and Kittu near the road. Shammi was kicking something near the rubbish bin next to the gutter. I ran inside quickly. Kittu came back in a little while. I did not know it was important," said Raghu.

"OK. Let us get the children back to sleep. We will think it over and see how this must have happened," said Ram.

"I'll get the children back to sleep. Ram, you go out and look near the rubbish bin. Don't look too long. Come back soon. We'll deal with whatever comes, together," Sarita said. Ram felt so thankful to have her in his life. He was tearing up. He quickly got up and left after hugging his wife and kids tightly for a few seconds.

Ram went out quietly, picking up a flashlight. As he approached the rubbish bin not far from his doorstep, he heard many growls and barks as a pack of stray dogs scattered at his approach. They all usually went hunting for scraps of food that people threw out. It was a bit of a mess at the public dumpster nearby. As Ram looked around carefully he looked across the dimly light road and all around him. He could not see any trace of his money or package wrapping.

The stray dog pack now surrounded him and were closing in on him aggresively. He bent down and pretended to pick up a stone to hurl at them. They all backed away instinctively. He quickly decided to run back home and pick up his son's old cricket bat. He came out with it held up in sight and waving it aggressively. The dogs scattered out of range. He searched as best as he could near the dumpster and did not find anything.

Ram walked slowly towards the park, slowly scanning the breadth of the road with light from his flashlight. He suddenly saw an auto-rickshaw drive by him and the driver shouted out to him jokingly, seeing the cricket bat in his hand."Are you playing night cricket, Sir?"
"Are you searching for something? Did you lose the ball?"

"I just dropped something on my way. You go ahead. I will find it," he replied.

The auto-rickshaw drove off, its headlight weakly illuminating a cone in front of it.

As Ram approached the park, he found a few more currency notes scattered by the wind. He picked them up and put them in his pocket. He reckoned that the notes must have come apart further up the road, up from where the wind blew. As he approached the edge of the park, Ram tried to remember the exact spot where he had found the bundles. The park was full of stray dogs in their nightly gathering. They were shocked to see a man approaching with a cricket bat swinging aggresively. They scattered and started to circle him. Ram went about looking and once in a while, he would stand upright, swing the cricket bat at the closest dog. He struck one and it ran away squealing. One bit the bat, but got a tooth knocked out. The dogs now showed more respect and kept their distance. After a few minutes, Ram found a trace of the brown wrapping of his money from the bank and a couple of bundles. He could not find any more after some search. He was getting tired and faint. He decided, that between what he had found and given away, he had accounted for most of his original amount. He knew some had blown away and that he might probably find a bundle or two in better daylight, if he came by early in the morning. He was a mess now, from moving around in the park which too was full of garbage in the bushes. He decided to return home. It was with at least a better understanding of what happened with his money.

He reached his home and went straight to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes and had a bath and headed to his bedroom. Sarita heard him come in and was with Raghu, who was still only going back to sleep. She came back to their bedroom in a little while.

The two of them lay next each other. Ram's mind was now racing. It seemed to him that any human who might have picked it up would not have dropped it the way it was found. Then it struck him in a flash with a bit of deductive reasoning.

The whole picture was starting to fall in place - it was Ram's own money that had somehow gotten out to the park. It seemed no one old enough to  fully know what money meant had gotten their hands on it. Kittu had gone looking for cupcakes after Ram had taken out the money to pay the corner-store. She had taken out the brown package perhaps to try and open it to find cupcakes. She was disappointed. Shammi had grabbed the packet from Kittu, kicked it around and left it.

"It must have been one of the stray dogs that had found the package and carried it off to the park,  The smell of cupcakes on the package must have attracted them. Once in the park, tearing apart the package must not have yielded much and some of the bundles would have fallen out. I found a couple more of the bundles. I will go there early morning to see if I can find something more." Ram said softly.

"Its OK Ram. Now try and get some rest. We will have to deal with whatever we have to. It is going to be a busy next few days."

He squeezed her hand and she squeezed back.

"By the way, Ram. I am proud of you and what you did with the money. Don't feel guilty or bad. You did not know," said Sarita.

"I love you Sarita!" said Ram simply. They slowly drifted off to sleep in each other's arms, in the early hours of the morning, just too tired.

It seemed that they had barely gone to sleep when they were all woken up by a commotion outside. It was still early morning. Sarita and Ram looked out their bedroom window to see a lot of people on the road all scanning the road and the roadside. People carried sticks and there were fights. There were many auto-rickshaws, police were starting to arrive.

"Some have found some of the money," said Ram quietly.

"No point going to the park now," Sarita said.

The children too got up with the noise and sounds. They wandered into the bedroom.

"I'll make coffee and breakfast. Ram, you rest and take care of the kids," Sarita said. Ram nodded and realized what had happened was not a dream.

Copyright (c) KIyer 2017

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(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




Shake hands


Friends who just made a statement (2 Person)

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Comment Comment (4 comments)

Reply Report KIyer 2017-11-6 14:59
OK folks,
Here is the first part of a new story I am writing titled "Found and Lost".

I would like you to read this and give your suggestions and ideas on what you think the plot line for the second part should be. While I too have an idea for that, I want to see what you all think. I might incorporate or use your ideas and suggestions in deciding how the story should continue. If there are many good ideas, I will post multiple different endings. :-)

Reply Report xiao_wo 2017-11-8 10:37
I will spend a long long long.....long time reading your story,hahahah
Reply Report KIyer 2017-11-8 15:16
xiao_wo: I will spend a long long long.....long time reading your story,hahahah
Thanks for the flowers and I hope you enjoy reading. Do give me your thoughts on what you would like to see happen in Part 2. Don't feel too bad or disappointed if it does not go the way you want though. I have many ideas to choose from - including my own.
Reply Report snowipine 2017-11-26 09:50
police are involved in, so the rest money found by the folks naturally would be the talking points in the follow up story, I guess.

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