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Where’s my mother?


By Savitri Narayanan

Anuj was glad to have a window seat. As the plane rose higher, the buildings grew smaller. The trees and mountains disappeared and the clouds spread like a carpet.
‘We are up in the sky,’ thought Anuj, ‘soon we can see the sun and the moon and the stars!’
It was Anuj’s first journey by airplane. It was his dream to fly – like Hanuman or like the fairies! And the chance to fly came rather suddenly.
“Arun said some airline has a discount offer,” Papaji said one evening, “50% discount for a week!”
Papaji and Mummyji talked about places they could fly to and things they could do in those places.
“Let’s go to Delhi, we can see Qutub Minar!” Anuj said, “and Chandni Chowk and Jamuna Bridge…”
“That’s enough!” said Mummyji, “You’re still young; many years left to fly; get to bed now!”
‘…and India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan and Red Fort,’ he thought as he pulled the blanket over his head.
In the dream, Anuj boarded a flight to Delhi. Soon he was up in the air.
“Mummyji, can we see the rainbow too?” he turned to his mother.
But she was not there!
“Mummyjee…, Mummyjee…,” Anuj called out louder.
There was no reply. Anuj opened his eyes and looked around. There was no one else in the bed!
“Mummyjee, where are you?”
There was no reply from the kitchen too. Where was she?
Anuj got out of bed and walked to the kitchen. Mummyji wasn’t there. The gas was switched off. There was his glass of milk on the kitchen table, but where was Mummyji!
“Mummyji…,” he called out as he went to the other bedroom and then to the living room. There was no sign of his mother. The front door was open.
Where did she go!
“Mummyjee…,” his voice broke as he ran out and banged the neighbour’s front door, “Where’s my mother?”
Suneeti was on the phone with her leisurely cup of tea when little Anuj barged in. Sunday mornings were for phone calls, to catch up with family and friends. Maji and Meena bua in Haridwar waited with lots of family news to share, so did Saroja and Guddi, her classmates in school.
“Don’t worry, bête, come in! Mummyji won’t go far without you; she’ll be back!”
Anuj refused to come in. “Mummyji!” he said, his voice choking and tears flowing.
“Your mother must be hiding somewhere to tease you; let’s find her! We’ll search everywhere – under the bed and behind the cupboards!”
Anuj did not cheer up. His fingers grew tight around Suneeti’s palm.
“What happened? Where did she go?” asked the neighbours who met them in the corridor.
Some were heading out with shopping bags and some with cricket bats.
“If you see Anuj’s mother, ask her to come home, OK?” Suneeti told them.
As they entered Anuj’s living room, there was a phone ringing.
“Mummyji…,” said Anuj pointing at his mother’s phone lying on the table.
“That’s not your mother; it’s some stranger,” she pacified Anuj, “we’ll call Mummyji from my phone; I have her number!”
Kavita’s phone rang again. ‘Where could she go leaving behind her phone?’ thought Suneeti, a sense of alarm rising within.
They used to meet off and on – at the lift, in the foyer, in the supermarket, near the vegetable vendor.
“We’re going home for a while, grandmother is not keeping well,” Kavita had said a week ago. And she had come back. Where did she go again, that too leaving behind Anuj!
Suneeti tried to lighten the air.
“Kavita, where are you hiding? Anuj is here looking for you, within seconds we’ll find you!” Suneeti walked from room to room pretending to look for her neighbour. ‘What an irony it would be if she actually walks out of the washroom!’ thought Suneeti.
As the news spread, quite a few neighbours had assembled outside the front door.
“Last evening we met in the supermarket!”
“We were at the salon yesterday morning; she didn’t mention any travel plans!”
“Why did she leave behind her phone?”
“Let’s check with the main gate!”
“I have a friend who is her colleague!”
All stood around, looked at each other, talked in low tones – where was Anuj’s mother?
To everyone’s relief, Kavita walked in. She was carrying a gunny bag which she put aside and asked in alarm, “What happened? What’s the matter? Why are you all here?”
A gleeful Anuj ran forward and hugged his mother who turned to her neighbours, “Anuj was still asleep and I was in the kitchen when Reshma called. She said they had raw mangoes from their farm. All these days I’d been looking for raw mangoes to make pickles but couldn’t get good quality ones so far. So I went down toReshma’s and got these mangoes, that’s it and what a drama here!”
Everyone burst out talking at the same time and merry laughter filled the room.
“Those who want raw mangoes to pickle, Reshma has got more!” said Kavita.