We were returning back from Faizabad after enjoying a month of vacation at our grandparents' place. We always spent our summers there. It wasn't easy for Papa to get such a long leave, hence he would drop Mummy, myself and my two siblings to their place at the beginning of our vacations. He would stay there for a day or two and then come back to pick us up after a month. As stories of robbery were always doing rounds in our town, he always kept someone at home while he was away, usually a peon. This time the peon was on leave and no one else could be arranged, so he took a chance. It was an eight hour train journey to Faizabad, he decided to not stay and get us back the same day. This way the house would be unattended only for a night.
'Arre aa jati mein in teeno ke saath, ghar khali nahin chodna chahiye tha,' Mummy had been panicking since the time papa broke this news to her on arrival. Papa couldn't have let her travel all by herself. Alone in the train with three children aged from five to nine! Leaving the house unguarded for a night, was a better risk in comparison. She hurried the packing and we left within few hours of Papa's arrival.
'How unlucky we would have had to be to get robbed the only time we left the house unattended. Mummy is grumbling unnecessarily,' I thought.
The rickshaw reached our street and now I could actually hear her heart beating.
'Stop worrying, Mummy. It isn't as if the house has been empty for a week,' I said.
'Chori karne ke liye ek raat hi chahiye, ek week nahin,' Mummy replied angrily to my wisdom and continued worrying. I doubted the possibility but looking at Mummy's condition, I couldn't gather the courage to say it out loud.
We were at the door and Mummy was now trying to open the lock. Her hands were shaking so badly that she couldn't even get the key in. Papa took the keys from her hand and calmly opened the door.
Our books were scattered all over the floor. 'Why would papa leave the house in this state?' I wondered. Looking up, I saw the TV missing from its place, the cassette player too. 'Papa must have kept them in the storeroom for extra safety,' I thought, when I suddenly heard a cry. It was Mummy, I rushed to her aid and tried to calm her.
'TV storeroom mein hoga Mummy, haina Papa?' I looked up to him for reconfirmation. He didn't reply, or even look at me. He was staring continuously at the empty space where the TV had been. It hadn't even been five months since we had got the latest and the best, LG Golden Eye. It was supposed to be least damaging to eyes and since all three of us had spectacles, Mummy had insisted on this one. It wasn't fully paid for yet, I was aware. A sudden realization of the actual situation hit me.
So we DID get really unlucky!
I didn't know what to do. I wanted to comfort them but had no idea about what to say to make them feel better. I was just about to enter into a state of shock when I noticed my sister Lucky, the youngest of us, running towards the bedroom. 'What has gotten into her now?,' I wondered and went after her.
'Mera jewellery? Papa chor mera saara diamond and gold jewellery le gaya,' Lucky was holding a broken puzzle box and crying bitterly. It was her prized possession, which is why its place was in our cupboard's safe locker. The thief had actually broken the box, the puzzle must have been too difficult to solve in a rush. I had a sudden burst of laughter. The lost jewellrey comprised of countless earrings that Papa used to buy her from the station. They were golden in colour and studded with shiny plastic stones. The thief was foolish enough to take them for real, he actually went through all the trouble of breaking the box. I looked for my brother, Charu. I had to share this with him for a good laugh. He was smiling away even before I told him the joke.
'What are you laughing about? Lucky's missing jewellery?,' I asked, maybe he had noticed her too.
'What jewellery? I am excited to go to school and tell my friends about this. Can you believe it? None of my friends' houses have ever been robbed,' he was celebrating a victory that only a seven year could understand.
By now, many of the neighbours had gathered in our house. Papa was busy speaking to the police while Mummy continued sobbing. Many aunties surrounded her so she seemed inaccessible to me, but in the right hands.
'She will be fine with the elders,' I thought and went to Lucky who was howling away.
'Papa will get you new ones,' I said and hugged her tight.