Both stared at each other in consternation. “Oh, my God, I wonder if…” Sunita hastily bit her tongue, “But why would he hide it from me!” Sunita wondered agitated; but primarily she was insulted. She thought she shared a good rapport with her son and he would feel comfortable enough to share such information with her? Surely he wasn’t hiding things from her?!
Maya took the situation in her stride, “Relax ma’am we will sort it out soon; OK, here’s what we’ll do, we will follow him from office. We’ll take my brother’s car and follow him from the parking lot. Quick there isn’t much time,” Maya hustled Sunita out of the house, barely giving her time to grab the house keys leave aside voice objections.
After a brief stopover at Maya’s place, pretty soon they were outside Sharath’s office. Maya then thought it prudent to confirm if Sharath was still at office but doing so was a bit tricky as it could end up giving the game away. Sunita, having recovered her composure, proposed that they call up the reception and ask to speak to him using a fictitious name. If he was there they would transfer the call, and they would hang up. If was out, well, they would deal with that later.
Maya was properly appreciative of this plan and wasted no time in executing it. The plan went off without a hitch, and Maya, soon informed Sunita. “Affirmative, target in place”.
Sunita quailed at her choice of words and suddenly had second thoughts about continuing on the mission and said as much to Maya, but to no avail.
“What nonsense, Ma’am, we can’t back out now, we’ve got to know the truth,” Maya banged her hand on the steering wheel to drive home her point. Sunita, protested weakly, “But Sheru…Sharath will be very angry once he gets to know we’ve been spying on him”.
“We will be even angrier”, Maya declared robustly, “after all he lied to us first”.
Forced to concede this point, Sunita sat uneasily and waited with great trepidation, the final act.
After about an hour or so of this torture, Sharath sauntered out of his office building and went to his car.
There was an immediate change in the occupants of the other car and they instantly switched to the high alert mode, at least Maya did, Sunita’s palpitations increased and she felt faint, but Maya’s stern profile prevented her from deserting the scene.
Maya expertly followed Sharath, keeping him in sight, but making sure she was never directly behind him.
“Where is he going?” muttered Sunita fretfully, “I hope he is not doing drugs. Another girl would be better than that.”
After a short drive, Sharath pulled up and parked in an apartment complex. “Quick follow him to see which floor he is going to,” hissed Maya.
Feeling like a side kick in a C grade detective TV serial, Sunita slunk out of the car and tried to obey orders. As she couldn’t very well follow him into the lift she decided to note the floor he got off on (as seen in one of her favorite detective serial). Unfortunately, the lift stopped on the 5th, 7th and the 9th floor. Maya will blast me, she thought crestfallen that her “idea” was not so brilliant after all.
Maya came charging soon after and inquired rather breathlessly, “Which floor did he go to?”
Defensively, Sunita attempted to justify the failure of her brilliant idea. To her vast relief, Maya didn’t waste time in recriminations, but was rather appreciative of her efforts and said “Let’s investigate floors 5, 7 and 9. We’ll see how to tackle the problem as and when we face it.”
Each floor had 3 apartments, on the 5th floor, one door was locked, and that left two to be tackled. Maya took charge, “Ma’am, you take this door, I’ll take this one”. Before Sunita could protest, Maya was off on her mission.
Sunita edged hesitantly towards her designated door, wondering wildly, what on earth am I going to say. Second thoughts jammed her mind, what was she doing here going about in a clandestine manner, snooping on her own son? Sharath would be furious with her and when he got to know, he would never forgive her. Her heart sank. She had gone along with Maya’s impetuous plan without stopping to think of the consequences. Maya was young and so could afford to behave in such a manner, but what about her? Oh, I can’t do this and turned to say so to Maya, but a fierce glare from Maya effectively stopped her on her tracks.
A door opened, and Maya immediately schooled her face into a pleasant mask and queried casually, “I am sorry to bother you, but could you please help me, I am looking for Sharath Singh, I have forgotten the flat number.”
There was no explosion or shouts of outrage as the occupant politely declined any knowledge of Sharath’s whereabouts. Encouraged, Sunita dutifully followed the same routine and thankfully met with no success.
Slowly and shakily, Sunita followed Maya to the 7th floor. Here the scene was different. One flat door was open and they both could hear and recognize Sharath’s voice. He sounded breathless and excited.
For the first time, Maya was truly shaken. “He is having an affair,” she moaned, reiterating Sunita’s apprehensions. Before Sunita could react, they heard another voice, this time a man’s.
“He’s gay!” Maya snapped and barged into the apartment without bothering to knock; she stopped short and Sunita banged into her.
There were two male occupants in the room, Sharath and Himal, a school friend of his. On hearing the commotion, both of them turned and froze; Sharath looked particularly guilty and embarrassed; he quickly chucked the contraption on the sofa and tried to cover up, “Ma, Maya, you here, anything wrong”?
Dumbly both shook their heads in shock and collapsed in each others arms, unable to hold back, the hours of stress finally taking their toll. Tears streamed down their cheeks, they gulped and gasped to control their laughter.
The boys were playing computer games.
Anya was biting her nails staring at Sunita as she listened to her narrate the action packed sequence of events – the climax was of course too much for her, she burst into hysterical laughter as did Sunita. Both held on to each other and laughed till tears came into their eyes, “Oh Mamma…maam, what did Sherry say?”
Sunita’s heart warmed over as she registered the slip but let it pass, “Oh it was a close call!” she shook her head, “Actually my fault I should have guessed what he was up to for he was really crazy about computer games – he had I think just one or two friends that too those with whom he played computer games,” she laughed, “I was quite sick of his obsession with these games and this was the only topic we argued over, and I would say, grow up Sheru aren’t you too old to be playing computer games? He came up to me a few days later and solemnly informed me, “Ma,” Sunita imitated his deep baritone, “the average age of the gamer is 35 years,” Sunita shook her head, “Yeh Sheru bhi na! Anyway, that day, Maya saved the day – Maya’s hilarious account of our activities and in particular the image of his rather dry schoolteacher mom playing a live detective was too much for his sense of humor and he found it too funny to be angry!”
“And what happened to Maya?” Anya was more concerned about her.
“Oh Maya is such a sweet girl but a bit dominating and they drifted apart I guess,” she smiled, “She got married a couple of years later and now has two lovely children, she still comes over once whenever she is on town.”
Anya was relieved and yet a bit apprehensive, ‘were they also going to drift apart?’ her heart sank a bit; she shook off the feeling and said brightly, “I am so excited Maam,” Sunita looked at her enquiringly as they sat down to a casual dinner in the kitchen, “You know my Mamu, Arnav Singh Raizada, is being felicitated at a gala function to be held next week for his achievements and more importantly for bagging the best businessman of the year for a ten years in a row!”
Sunita was suitably impressed, “Wow! You must be very proud of him! Please convey my best wishes and congratulations to him as well.”
Anya looked at her thoughtfully, “Maam! I have a great idea, why don’t you and Sherry come for the event? I will give you the passes,” she jumped up in excitement, floored by the brilliance of her shatir dimaag.
Sunita shook her head as she chewed her food; she smiled regretfully, “Oh no dear, we won’t be able to come, but perhaps Sherry can squeeze it in, you can ask him, but I certainly can’t,” she was quite firm in her refusal.
“Oh! But why?” Anya was disappointed.
“Oh didn’t I tell you? I was quite sure I had, perhaps I didn’t because the official permission hadn’t yet come through, it just came in this morning, anyway,” she shook off her ramblings, “The thing is, next weekend I am going to attend a workshop for teachers in the States; and then I will be going to my brother’s place and stay over for two weeks,” she smiled at Anya, “So as you can see I will be very busy this coming week, wrapping up school work, packing, shopping, hardly any time left as you can see.”
“Oh I will miss you!” Anya said spontaneously looking visibly upset, “I have become so used to dropping in any time,” she sighed unhappily, “Everybody is so busy, Mamma has no time, Aisha will soon be married and become busy in her new life, Sherry is always gallivanting around the country and now aap bhi,” she was almost in tears.
“Awww come on sweetie, don’t exaggerate,” Sunita was touched, “aren’t your exams getting over in a couple of days, then you will be going off home for your long overdue holidays right?” Anya nodded excitedly, “Yes, I will be going home after almost six months, just imagine, six months!”
“Yes yes, you have really been studying hard and deserve a nice long break before you take up your job, have you decided which one to take, the Hyderabad or the Bangalore one?”
Anya sighed, “I haven’t quite decided, Sherry wants me to take up the Bangalore one as he knows some people but,” she hesitated.
Sunita nodded her head knowingly, “But you prefer Hyderabad because Sherry wants you to choose Bangalore right?”
Anya laughed sheepishly and shrugged, “Yeah well, he is so…so arrogant and high-handed it really sets my teeth on edge and I feel like refusing him just for the sake of defying him,” quite forgetting she was talking about Sherry to his mum, “But I know Bangalore is probably better, ahh well I will decided when the time comes, at least let me not give in so easily to Sherry,” she laughed mischievously as she began clearing the table.
Sunita smiled and shook her head, “Both of you are like Tom and Jerry, although I don’t know who is who?!”
They both laughed.
Sunita coughed, “Waise it might interest you to know that Sheru is considering setting up a base at Bangalore as well,” she looked at Anya blandly, “Perhaps now it will be easier to make your decision?”
Anya stared at Sunita with an alert expression and then blushed, she turned away but with a smile, at least Sunita seemed to approve of her.
Soon it was time for the award function and the entire picture perfect Raizada parivaar (including the Mumbai gang – Mamaji put his foot down for once and insisted) landed up for the grand function, which was no less than any Bollywood event.
Since it was a formal party, children under 18 years of age were not allowed and had to be content to watch the event on TV.
Frankly, the boys weren’t too unhappy and hadn’t put up a fuss about being left behind – in fact they were quite relieved – imagine having to wear ‘clothes’ (err formal clothes) and be on their best behavior – no siree they were better off at home, all the boys together after such a long time too. But of course Angelika was maha put out over her exclusion from the gala event – all her favorite things, clothes, jewelry, pretty women dancing and twirling on the dance floor. And the most important, her daddy getting such an important award and she wasn’t there! This was something inconceivable and she was inconsolable, “Sab bhaiyyas will tease me,” she sobbed and pleaded piteously, “Oh Dadddy I do so want to see you getting the award, pleaasssse Daddy.”
Click here for Chapter 315