Editor’s Choice: Short Story with Moral Lesson – Neighbour’s Secret
Some people in the colony especially the elderly people were watching them surreptitiously through their windows and some others had opened their doors and stood at the doorway, watching, on the pretext of trying to get some fresh air.
Kailesh was busy going here and there answering all kinds of queries about the three people who were getting into a car.
Kailesh was the one who was an all-in-all assistant to all the residents of that colony. He went to pay their electricity bills, delivered milk sachets at their doorsteps, bought vegetables for them lent a hand in rolling out rotis and ran all kinds of errands they could think of. On Sundays he worked overtime.
So it was not a surprise that he knew considerable details in the family matters of everyone there.
It was a Sunday morning and so everyone got up late, took the phone and indulged in a bit of idle talk or came out to watch the traffic lazily; and this Sunday started with a promise – a promise of some new interesting gossip.
It was Sumit and his family who saw Prakash bringing two large suitcases and placing them in the boot of his car. Sumit’s wife Sarala joined him now in the balcony, watching. Prakash got into the driver’s seat and waited. His father walked out with his customary tripod and then his mother. They got into the car. The noise of the car door brought out some of the others. Prakash’s wife did not come out. Where were the three going out?
Here’s where they relied on the mastery of Kailesh.
Kailesh had just then come from the market; he pulled the cycle’s stand with his leg, simultaneously got down and climbed the fourth floor in a jiffy, with the expertise and ease of a trapeze artist. He found the inmates of the house for which he had brought milk sachets, watching something on the ground, from their balcony.
“Kailesh! Where are they going?” asked Sarala.
“Mmm… not sure. In fact I don’t know,” Kailesh said, and Sarala and Sumit looked at him incredulously.
“Really! I thought you would have known. Yesterday you had been there to take a huge number of their clothes to the drycleaners, hadn’t you?” Questioned Sarala.
Kailesh cleared his throat and said,”Yes, I don’t know if Prakash saab’s phone call has something to do with this. While I was collecting and counting the clothes, he asked someone for the address of a home – a home for the aged, you see.”
“We see,” said Sumit and Sarala together, and both of them had urgent calls to make. Now the people who were busy watching TV or movies also came out to see what was happening.
“Prakash saab’s father, when I was leaving, was muttering that Punitha was making a too much of a fuss for nothing,” added Kailesh.
It took ten minutes before the car had started moving as the old couple could not get into it fast and needed Prakash’s help. By now Parbathi, the house help, who worked in most of the homes there, had arrived and she could supply them a few missing pieces in the puzzle, and together they gave shape to the picture.
Prakash’s wife Punitha’s parents were arriving that evening – this was the information given by Parbathi. So it was obvious that Prakash was taking them to the most probable place, as Prakash was their only son, a home for the aged.
“Only a few weeks back Punitha advised us all to care for the elders of our household well,” observed Sarala.
Rita remarked,”Punitha has always been reserved and secretive. I knew something would happen like this.”
Kailesh joined in,”Punitha didi is the only daughter for her parents. So where will her parents go?”
Kumar retorted,”That does not mean Prakash has to send his parents to a home!”
“Kailesh, do you remember the name of the place Prakash was mentioning?” Sumit asked.
Kailesh wrinkled his brows, trying to remember. “Something like anda – dhal..”
“Anda – dhal? Is there something like that?” Everyone wondered.
All on a sudden it struck to someone in the group – someone who had been on the look out for a home, to deposit his own parents.
“Amanda Dale! That’s it. But it is well out of the city limits!” He exclaimed.
They all grew tired, the whole day discussing it, and the elderly of their households, listening to them.
Evening came and a taxi pulled up in front of Prakash’s house. A middle aged couple alighted and Punitha opened the door with a beaming face, took them in, and then bolted the door from inside.
They all waited for a while outside and then walked in with a sigh. Almost at once they heard another car. They could guess whose it was. They were right. Prakash was getting down and,- why? His parents were also getting down slowly. Punitha’s parents walked out to greet them. Then they all went inside the house, laughing, to the great disappointment of the neighbourhood. Some shook their heads in disapproval. What kind of neighbours were these? Not disclosing anything to anybody – so secretive!
Yet, very soon, Punitha and Prakash went to everyone’s place and told them that it was Prakash’s father’s eightieth birthday, and that they had been to the home for the aged to distribute clothes and sweets but Punitha could not go with them as her parents were to arrive.
Now they told them all not to cook dinner as they would send packed dinner to every house in the colony, to celebrate Pitaji’s birthday!