A short story – lessons learnt! – Vanita S Khanna

It was a bright sunny day. Four cousins were playing hide and seek. The eldest was about fourteen years of age and youngest seven years. They suddenly realized that the youngest of them was hiding for too long. In their search, they started calling out for him. He did not respond. Every moment seemed like eons. They were petrified. They had ventured out of their home to their aunts’ place to play! They now broke up for a comprehensive search of the playground. Behind the playful rocks, the play-pen area, the club house, the old-peoples’ corner,…just about everywhere.

Suddenly they saw some of his clothes lying around. They were numbed! It could not be! They rushed to the swimming pool but saw no trace of him. Now they were really terrified. They ran back home like marathoners, huffing and puffing, breathless and dived to ring the doorbell, all shaken up of the unknown which lay ahead of them. At home, the aunt was awaiting them, all furious. Why were they so late? She beckoned her outpour of earthly concerns, piercing their tiny hearts into further turmoil. They were expecting her to question about the fourth missing cousin. But no question about him made them all dumbfounded.

They took turns to express their own anxiousness. They huffed and they puffed and expressed their status (of the missing cousin) to their aunt. The aunt went more bizarre in her looks!. “Well,” she said, “how innovative you kids can be to escape the wrath for your wrong doings! The kid is in the bath tub, bathing!” The children were definitely not amused. They all rushed to the bathroom and banged on the door. The little kid opened the door to find his three twitchy cousins staring down at him. He was so confused and perplexed. He did not know why they were so livid. They asked him why he did not inform them? He said, it did not occur to him. The three were aghast at his unfussy response. They held themselves seething with an emotion which was now calming down! They exchanged looks that clearly said, “We will teach him a lesson about responsibility!”

They all three conspired a plan. Next day, they went to a supermarket with him. In the supermarket, whilst he was busy browsing, they all hid and left him. They were watching him and waiting with abated breath. Any moment he was likely to discover that his cousins were missing and he would panic. They wanted him to feel the chilled silence of someone disappearing. Let him know the pain of a sudden loss without any information. Of course, for a while only! He was their blood …!

They waited, playing tic-tic one, tic-tic two and continued to wait. It seemed forever. They saw him looking around aimlessly. He did not seem to notice that his three cousins were not around. They were getting restless and edgy. This was going all wrong! By now he should be frightened, looking for them, worked up, all lonely and fearful! They tried to get some of his facial expressions which indicated no panic or curiosity of where his cousins could be. They were now fidgety and were animatedly discussing on the next course of action when he disappeared from their vision. Oh no! Not again!! They did not want another round of applause from their aunt on late coming!

And then they thought … What if they had lost him for real? This was a supermarket, with lots of unknown people around. Horrible thoughts of “kidnapping” crossed their minds. They went into a renewed frenzy. While they were sorting out their jumbled emotions, someone tapped on the eldest’s shoulder! They turned around. And lo and behold, their fourth cousin was right there in front of them, “breathing down their necks”. He looked at

them curiously, asking them why they were huddled up together like this. What were they looking at! What “fun” was he missing?!

The three of them saw red. They would have gone berserk, but he was looking genuinely curious. Blink, blink he went. They asked him, how he located them. He said, “well they were visible in the mirror he was facing while browsing and he was wondering for sometime what they were upto and now since he could not contain his nosiness, he accosted them. The three of them burst out laughing loud. They could not help finding the humour in it all and they all went into histrionics of unadulterated laughter.

Soon they were so much into each other that they forgot about “teaching lessons” and just moved on laughing together. Happy foursome! Don’t some kids know how not to get into trouble, yet be happy!

The writer is into creative writing along with blogging on some latest happenings. [Courtesy: ToI]