Arun Thapar did not have much of time. He could not make out how quickly he reached to the top of the staircase. He felt quite weak. The breathing had gone out of pace. He was gasping, but did not bother. His feet trod towards his apartment.
It was the joy of going on vacation. During the long years of his career, he had never missed a month of vacation, any of those years. On completion of every eleven months of stressful work, he had always desired for that much-needed break. A break where he could relax, have fun and refurbish his energies. The motive was clear. The time had come closer. He was ready for the adventure.
He felt alert and active.
Arun Thapar rang the doorbell. He knew that once the door opened Seema would grumble long enough to get him mad. She opened the door, twisted her lips and gave a familiar mock. These dramatics are common among women. After all they are known to pick on faults and to blame their husbands. Pressure tactics.
He cleared the sweat on his forehead and moved in. "Where did you disappear?" She did not waste time for the dig. "You guys are
irresponsible." "You are not aware of the problems in my office," Arun tried to work on his dialogues. "It is no easy job to shift the work on to the take-over person. Some assignments are very complicated. There are thousands of problems. One needs
to work out solutions for both expected and unexpected problems. If I am not able to satisfy my boss, he may even cancel my vacation"
"Enough. Enough. No big deal," Seema turned her back and got into the bedroom, but only after saying, "You talk as if the company runs only because of you. You are too boastful." "At least when we are about to go on a lovely vacation, please be peaceful.
Do not show the colour of a red chilli." He followed her. " Let me have a quick shower."
"My God. Are you going to have bath now?" She lost her temper. "Do you have any sense of time? It is already one o'clock. We need to catch a flight at 4 o'clock.
Gattu may be here within next fifteen twenty minutes to take us to the airport."
Gattu was Seema's brother. His real name was Gautam and was very close to them. A helping hand in a place which was away from their home country. He was serving in a courier company.
"Ha..Ha...You mean your Gattu has enough sense of time and will come as promised? What a joke.!" Arun made some unwanted fun. "Let us see how many number times you will page him before he makes an entry."
"You are ungrateful." She had never enjoyed her brother being ridiculed. "Is there anybody from your side in this city? At least Gattu will rush to our help. Moreover you remember him only when you want pass on all your petty jobs."
"Fine. I am sorry. There is no one other than Gattu for us in our life." He rushed towards the bathroom. " By the way where are the kids?"
"All your three daughters are dressed up as if they are going for some fashion show. They must be chatting in the other bedroom." She began combing her hair in front of the mirror.
Arun moved in and closed the bathroom door. When he came out of the bathroom after a lightning shower, Arun felt astonished to see his wife's worried face. He was sure. Something had gone wrong. He was familiar with women's psychology. It is amazing how it works. When the husbands make mistakes, their tongues flash like a sharp sword. But when they become a
part of human errors, they expect sympathy from their husbands.
His eyebrows went up.
"At least you could have reminded me," She thoughtfully opened her speech.
"Tell me what has happened?" He felt mystified.
Seema gave a nervous look. Arun's eyes followed the direction. A box containing gold ornaments was kept on the bed. He understood the complexity of the problem. Arun lost the cool.
"Why do you keep the ornaments here? As far as I remember every time you leave them in bank locker. My goodness." His eyes popped out. "That is why I always know that ladies are not as intelligent as they pretend to be."
His daughters Shweta, Easha and Juhi came running in when they heard their father's high-pitched voice.
"What happened, dad?" Swetha was curious. "You all know what has happened?" Arun rubbed his forehead. "Looks like your
mom has plans to carry all the gold she has for the vacation. She wants to throw new challenges to the robbers of the place where we plan to travel."
"That is what I am also saying. You could have at least reminded me to keep it in the bank locker," Seema made an attempt to make her husband responsible for the lapse.
"That means you are a small child," He became furious. "I have to remind everyone on every small issue."
"Please," Seema folded her hands. "We can not sit and wait like this. Please tell me what to do? Gattu might come any time."
Arun did not speak for a minute. He scratched his head. He had the ability to deal in critical situations.
Where to hide these expensive ornaments? There should be a way. He would not have bothered if it cost less. But this must be in the range of minimum 4-5 lac of Indian rupees.
"Why are you not talking?" Seema could not bear the silence. " Normally you do not have any shortage for ideas."
"We can not go to the bank. We are late."
"I know that."
"We can not leave it in the cupboard either. It would be foolish. Two robbery cases were reported in our building within a gap of last 30 days," Arun did not find any way out. "I suggest better you carry then with you."
"That means you are proposing me to be the sacrificial goat during this vacation!" Seema did not agree. "I may be robbed or also may be killed. By the time one month gets over I may end up as a mental patient, after keeping watch on
"There is a way." Arun whistled.
"What is it?"
"How about giving it to Gattu?" He waited for the response.
"Uncle Gattu?" Easha was extremely surprised.
"No way." Seema discarded the thought. "He is such an absent-minded guy. You think he would take care of this? Chances of Gattu losing this will be much higher than getting robbed if I leave them at home."
"That is true, dad." Juhi gave her vote.
"I have an idea." Shweta used her brain.
"Hurry up." Seema shouted.
"Refrigerator." Swetha was expecting a round of applause. "Let us wrap it in a plastic and then leave it in the freezer. Imagine a robber gets in, he may not go to the fridge. Even if he opens the fridge, chances of taking a frozen packet are
"This girl has some brains," Seema looked more relaxed. " The idea is not bad at all"
"There is no other way" Easha supported the idea.
"Let us stop worrying more on this. It is waste of time. Enough is enough." Juhi was not enjoying the headaches.
"This is all what you ladies know?" Arun's reply was sharp. "Hiding your money, jewellery or the valuables inside the flush tank or in the fridge is the most common thing. This is known not only to the robbers but also to the income tax officers. It is like keeping the food for the hungry dogs."
"If we keep on worrying we will miss our flight." Seema felt the pain in her head.
"By the way where is Gattu?"
"One minute." Arun Thapar picked up the jewellery box.
No one spoke a word. They just followed him to the kitchen. He packed box with the sheet of a daily newspaper. Then further he wrapped the pack with a masking tape. Now he looked for a secret place to conceal the parcel.
Beside the gas cylinder he saw a bag containing red chillies. The thought brought a smile on his face. Just a month back they had bought this bag of red chillies from his home town. It was well dried under the sun for the regular preparation of Indian curry for next few months.
A bag of red chillis!
Arun opened the bagand pushed the jewellery pack deep inside the bag. He left the bag beside the gas cylinder. All expressed a sigh of relief.
"As on date, I have not heard of any robbery connected with chillies." Arun laughed his heart out. " No worries. "Why do we pay unnecessary charges for the bank locker? We can use this trick life long."
Everybody joined with the laughter.
At the same time they heard the doorbell. Gautam came in.
They did not waste time any further. All conveniently forgot the jewellery box hidden inside the bag of red chillies. The spirit of vacation bounced back. They were ready to go to the airport.
The hidden gold box was not mentioned to Gautam.
"At least once in a week drop into our house." Seema profusely reminded her brother. "You may pay the water and electricity bills. Remember to put water to the plants. Later on please do not give any excuses."
Seema continued her list till they reached the airport.
Gautam did not say 'no' to any of the requests. He wished them and waited till the departure. Then he made a brisk move out of the airport.
Time flew off pretty quickly. Gautam suddenly realized that it was twentyfifth day of his sister's vacation. Seema had called to inform that they would be reaching by the coming Thursday.
Gautam felt severe uneasiness.
He had not made any visits to Arun Thapar's flat. Sunday was his weekly off. He got up late, but came straight to his sister's house by noon. He collected the bills and mail from the postal box and opened the apartment.
He could see the thick layer of dust all over the place. The plants had turned brown and dry. When he imagined the possible reaction from Seema, he was more worried. Anyway he watered the plants. He picked up the broom from the
kitchen and cleaned the floor. While cleaning the place something struck to his notice.
Small black and dark insects were moving around. They looked like small bugs. He watched carefully. They were not bed bugs. He was surprised.
He could not make out the origin of the insects. He applied dettol and mopped the floor. By then Gautam was tired. He felt the need of some cold beer. He took a can from the fridge, switched on the TV on and stretched himself on the sofa.
While keeping the beer can on the coffee table, he clearly noticed the movement of similar insects, which he had seen earlier on the floor. He could see them also on the sofa. They were everywhere.
Oh no! Arun Thapar's apartment has been taken over by some aliens! There should be source of supply for these dot-sized black creatures.
Gautam felt irritated. He sipped the beer and started moving around. The search had begun. He did not leave out any corner. Basically he looked for anything rotten.
But there was no stink. When he came to the kitchen he saw a bag, which was kept near the gas cylinder. That must had been weighing about 2 kilos. He opened the bag.
That was the source for the insects. The chillies were infected during the course. Perhaps the process of drying was improperly done. The contents of moisture must have had spoiled the product. It had given way for the small insects.
He pulled a tight knot and packed the plastic bag. He smiled and came back to the sitting room.
The TV was on. While sipping the beer, he continued watching some programmes. He surfed from channel to channel. He switched off the TV and put off the main switch.
He moved slowly out of the apartment and was about to lock the door, remembered the bag of red chillies. He knew that Seema would not forgive him if he left the rotten stuff inside the apartment.
Seema was a very affectionate lady, but given a chance to complain, would grumble to great lengths. Even Arun was no better.
Gautam came back and carried the bag containing the red chillies. He closed the door and checked the lock. He moved down. Gautam threw the bag into the public garbage bin and rushed off.
Thanks & Regards