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  • Writer's picturesrikant-sharma

Adventures of Rahul (1) - The Lost Note

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

“Rahul…. Rahul…” the name was reverberating in his sub-conscious mind, only in this case every second reverberation was a notch higher than the previous one. Fight between sub-conscious and conscious was brewing stronger with every passing moment. With an earth-shattering knock, Rahul came to his senses, surrendering to his mother’s relentless effort to wake him up. Rubbing his eyes gently and with an expression of confused irritation, Rahul managed to sit at the extreme corner of his bed resting his back against the wall. Still under trance of his dream, caressing his thick curly hair with his left hand, Rahul’s other hand unconsciously moved to check pocket of the shorts he was wearing, and his heart skips a beat. He jumps forward and slides off the edge of bed to stand on his feet on floor and tries to recheck his right pocket, sincerely hoping that his fingers would have missed some sensation first time around. Now wide awake, looks on his face represented those of a scared soldier isolated in middle of a battlefield, desperately hoping for a divine intervention to save him. With this hope he checks the only other pocket on those shorts, to realise his worst nightmare has come true. A look back on the bed was good enough to be sure that it was not on bed too. It was then when it doomed on him, that he no longer has his valued possession, which took months of planning and efforts to acquire… A Ten Rupee Note.

#

It was still all fresh in his mind, how he earned his first coin of a quarter Rupee. A lanky kid with curly hair who is about to celebrate his 10th birthday in around three months was playing game of gully cricket with his friends. The ground of this match was terrace of the society where he lived along with his parents. This rectangular ground has been the default play area for him and his friends since last few years. The boundary walls of this terrace were of the height which required Rahul to stand up on his toes, every time he wanted to look at world beyond those walls. The grey shorts which he had worn that day, was visibly smudgy with dirt and stains all over it, reflecting his undeterred dedication for the sport he was playing. Wearing just a pale white vest, his whitish complexion was under full display with droplets of sweats dripping over his eyebrows. The game was nearing exciting end, having set a low target of forty runs in around six overs, his team was about to successfully defend it. With just one over to go he was fully immersed and akin to fable tale of famous archer Arjuna, in Mahabharata, Rahul’s focus was only on the cricket ball and nothing else. And the moment he saw players of opponents trying to steal a single run, he ran with all his might to stop it. As he was nearing the ball, he bent forward still running ahead with the fierce momentum he had gathered in last few steps and took out his right arm to collect the ball. He could hear everyone shouting his name, raising expectations he had with himself. In this moment of exuberance, which would have given him his proud moment, he slipped and rammed his head on to the wall right in front of him.

Sound of thud was loud enough for everyone to stop the game and run towards him. Adults, including his father, who were on the terrace enjoying the cool evening breeze, came rushing to lend a hand. Being the only son, even a small scar on Rahul was a lot more painful to his father than to himself, hence holding Rahul’s swollen forehead in his arms, Rahul’s father was on verge of a nervous breakdown. Rahul slowly came into senses with acute pain raging in his forehead, and he bravely looked into eyes of his father and innocently spoke “I slipped, else I would have surely got him out”. It was this bravery that got him quarter of a rupee from his father as a token of appreciation, and this coin changed his routine for days to come…

#

It took just few seconds for Rahul to relive this entire event while his panic-stricken face showed no sign of relaxation. Unlike his usual waking up norms, which involved sitting at same place with closed eyes for as long as possible, Rahul was fully active and have already scanned entire room for any sign of hope to find this lost note. Like any other single bedroom apartment of the society, their room too had a typical middle-class aura all across. Out of four walls, two were connected with the bed, with one of them carrying large window panes covered with iron grill, as the only source of natural light. Other two walls had old rugged wooden wardrobes, with multiple sections and doors, stretching through the length and height of the wall, leaving space exactly for a door to fit in. State of door handles on these wardrobes exhibited age of the furniture, emphasizing that entire set will only find buyers in antique furniture markets. Hence, given the free area available, it took just one look by his keen pair of eyes, to give up on hope of finding it there. Unaware of the turmoil which his little kid was going through, Rahul’s mother shouted again in shrill voice


“Get up, and bring the groceries which you couldn’t bring in the noon”

Usually any direction from his mother to perform household chores, during evening hours, would have brought a big frown on his little face. However, this time around, it felt like a ray of hope as he remembered that right before going for his afternoon siesta he went out to collect some grocery for his mother and could have dropped this note in the entire process. For a moment he forgot that grocery store he went was just adjacent to his society’s main entrance. He was just thinking of the stairs which he took to run down seven floors and came back with equally enthusiastic run. At this point of time for him, each step he took was a possible event where he could have dropped that note. Hurriedly he got up from the corner of his bed and rushed out of his apartment to examine the path he took earlier. He wasn’t thinking about list of items which his mother asked him to bring along, else he would have cared to first collect money from her to do the necessary shopping. As soon as he moved out of his apartment, his pace slowed dramatically and every step he took required an approval from his subconscious mind saying ‘that note is surely not here, so please take another step forward’.

It was just four hours ago when he went down the same route to collect groceries, which his mother had asked him to bring. So much had changed in those four hours, in his earlier endeavour to the grocery store he went jumping down the stairs. His feet touched just initial few alternate steps and rest were taken care by enthusiastic jump, thanks to the support his right arm got from staircase railings. In contrast, this time around he was measuring each step he took, pausing to take a full one-eighty-degree swing with his neck to check every corner of those staircase. Every failed attempt to trace the note, brought a sense of dejection in his heart and innocent curse for himself on not choosing to use the elevator and rather racing against it. This was Rahul’s regular routine, which he had perfected over a period of time and such was the perfection that he knew what his exact victory margin will be every single time. On seven out of ten occasions, he would choose to call the elevator on seventh floor and let it go vacant only to race down against it despite the fact that he only had a proud smirk to gain out of it. Yet this was no normal day and every step required extra vigilance enroute to the shop. It took him over fifteen minutes to reach the store, which he could have covered in less than five and result was nothing but disappointment.

#

With heavy heart Rahul came back to his apartment, still lost in thought where he could have dropped that note. As soon as he reached seventh floor, he could see his mother standing next to apartment’s main door speaking to their neighbours. He assumed it to be one of his mother’s regular evening get-together, which despite of its monotonous routine was something she always looked forward to. With intention of not to attract her attention, he decided to slip by unnoticed to sit and ponder some more over today’s fateful event. He moved slowly, though he tried to act normal the usual zing in his feet were missing. Trying desperately not to catch notice of his mother, he removed his slippers and quietly moved straight in his room and sat on the nearest corner of the bed. Lost in oblivion he went back to memory lanes, when after the painful accident during the game of gully cricket, he was lying down on the same very bed with his mother sitting next to him, caressing his swollen forehead. Bravery which he showed during the play had now made way to sense of acute pain, which was too strong for his little brain to handle. Such was the dilemma that he couldn’t decide if he wants his mother to continue sitting next to him, or he should hope for her to move out so that he can finally let tears roll through his watery eyes. It was his father who came in the room and gave him another reason to overcome this excruciating pain. He took out a coin and kept it on Rahul’s forehead and said


“That’s for the repair work which our society will have to incur to repair the wall which you banged…. Bravo my strong boy”.

Entire room filled with laughter and then his mother tapped on his head again and told “Always be this brave and nice baby, and you will have enough money in your pocket by your birthday”.


Hearing his mother speak, all that stuck to his mind were two words Money and Birthday, which instantly made him start planning for the cake he would have on his Birthday. Traditionally his birthday celebrations have been a case of more wishes in pending list as compared to those being fulfilled. In all of his last few celebrations, which he has memories of, cakes put on table were prepared by conjoining small rectangular fruit cakes with some or the other syrup spread evenly across the same. Hence desire to have a cake just like those which he had cherished during birthday celebration of his other friends was on top of his list. That very moment he started painting a picture of cake which he would want to have for his birthday, crafting every minute detail. A round cake with chocolate spread all over it, edges covered with white whipped cream ribbon and congratulatory message written on the top of the cake. With smile on his mind, he asked his mother inquisitively

“How much a cake of this size cost” making a gesture with gap between his hands signifying size of the cake he had in his mind.


“Around 25 to 30 Rupees… do you want to have piece of cake baby” replied his mother still caressing his head


“No… not now … with all the money I save from now on, I want to buy a cake for my birthday” he replied with enthusiasm and innocent smile on his face, “I think a smaller size cake would be better for three of us”. And with this he reduced the gap between his two arms, indicating smaller size of cake and the fact that he understood how much money he would be able to save in days to come.

Rahul’s evolution from being a fun-loving young boy, for whom hopping was the only way one should walk on ground, to a sensible kid always looking forward to helping his parents was a quick one. With cake in his mind, Rahul started trying hard to impress his parents, in hope to get some monetary appreciation in return. The little kid had understood rules of probability far earlier than anyone else. With financial rewards not accruing on all his excursions, he soon realized that his only chance to have required amount of saving is to be at best of his behaviour throughout the day. From massaging his father’s shoulder on return from office, to helping his mother in daily household chores became a new norm. He never missed an opportunity to serve a glass of water to his parents and was always first to go downstairs to help his mother get groceries. While on any other day, he would have brought grocery and earned quarter of a rupee in return for his exuberance. However, today was the fateful day when instead of adding on to this savings he ended up loosing all of it and that too when his birthday was just a week away.

Lost in deep thoughts, he failed to notice when his mother cut short her evening conversation and came inside looking for him. His mother was quick to notice the abnormal normalcy in his steps when he moved into the apartment. It was that time of the day when it would require her to yell at top of her voice to just locate on which floor her little son was creating ruckus along with his friends. And here he was sitting on edge of his bed, with left leg folded under him, trying to stretch his right feet down in an attempt to touch the floor. While to others this may be sign of an inquisitive kid, his mother knew that this is as idle and disinterested as he can be. She didn’t even have to look at his watery eyes to come up with conclusion that something is bothering him a lot. She stood silently at the entrance, taking support of the door frame, observing uneasy calmness which Rahul was projecting right now. She knew that her son is not someone who would open up that easily and this made her task even more challenging. Usual financial constraint of a middle-class family had made him far more responsible as compared to his age and she was well aware of it. Few minutes of patience and inability to come up with probable reasons for this unnatural behaviour, she gently asked

“Rahul, why aren’t you playing out with friends today?”


“I want to sit at home”, was the only response which he could meekly come up with, evoking further inquisitiveness in his mother


“Is something wrong with you my son?... do you want to share it with your mamma?”

This was all which she had to say, and tears started rolling through his eyes. The boy who had perseverance that of a teenager, started crying inconsolably with his head still down and chin crushed against his chest. It jolted his mother, who rushed in to take him in her arms and shower the warmth of her love. She had completely covered her ten-year-old son in her embrace, this provided Rahul with an emotional outlet through which he could let all his pain drain out. It was no longer about this lost note, but for all that he had gone through over last few months and the dreams he had built during the same period. His silent tears have now transformed to hysterical cry and additional moments of warmth from his mother pushed him to further widen this gate of emotional drain. It took few minutes of uninterrupted freedom to release emotion and his mother’s comforting pat on head for him to come back to senses. His mother was still looking at him, the vest which he was wearing was now soaking wet after absorbing rain of tears witnessed in last few minutes, and said

“Tell me what the matter is... nothing on this earth deserves the way you are crying.” These consoling words from his mother pacified him and after mustering energy he replied


“You know I have been collecting money for my birthday celebration”


“Yes, I know my son, you have been doing it for quite some time”


“I am not able to find it now, I think…… I think I lost it” he replied with anxiety and tears visibly trying to again find a gateway through his eyes “I had them before I went to get grocery for you, and then I don’t know where but I lost it”

His mother took few moments to understand the situation, patted his head and smiled with grace looking straight into his eyes. Her smile had a unique sense of virtue at this moment and that gave Rahul a feeling that everything is not lost. All of a sudden, he was feeling as if nothing has gone wrong. While few minutes back he was struggling to find some positive in his life yet looking at his mother right now he couldn’t find a single reason to worry about. With every passing moment, he could sense absolute positivity emanating from the warmth of his mother’s embrace. He was still absorbing this increasing comfort and his mother asked

“How much money you had with you”


“It was a ten rupee note, with which I wanted to buy a cake for my birthday”


Hearing this she looked around, stretched her arms to reach-out a drawer in the wardrobe. With her son still on his lap, she wasn’t able to move from her position or stand-up and it took few moments of blind folded exploration in the drawer before she pulled out her small money bag.

“I think you handed over that note to me when you brought grocery earlier along with other change” She replied with a smile, while pulling out a note from her money bag and handing over to him “I was wondering how you got those grocery that cheap”

Had they been living out in a farm far away from city limits, Rahul was sure a colourful rainbow would be visible at this point of time. Gloomy and tensed environment which was there for last half an hour had vanished and a wave of excitement and optimism had replaced it. Frown on his face has now been taken over by a long smile failing to hide his teeth. Tears were still rolling out of his eyes, yet this time it was cheerful laughter which made it pleasure to watch. He had no clue how on earth was it possible for him to hand over the note to his mother. His innocent mind was not ready to investigate any such occurrence and was just happy to have this note and in turn the birthday cake, which he had been planning since last few months. With a big smile on his face, he stood on the floor, kicked his left leg which had gone numb for being in folded position for such a long time and hugged his mother and ran to play out with usual agility. His mother was still sitting there watching her son disappear of the apartment open door. Within moments smile on her face quickly faded away and stern look took over. As now she was busy sketching mental map of how she will have to reduce ten-rupee from budget available at her disposal for rest of the month.

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