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|| What Is The Secret ||

???????????????????????????????It being the thirty-fifth anniversary, we had planned to celebrate it from its eve. Therefore, the previous evening we went out early, had tea with buttered-toast at the club, and then went to Domino’s to forage for some pizza. On second thought, we decided to eat Chinese. We walked down to Frank’s and ordered vegetable chow mein, sliced pork with vegetables, and chicken with button mushroom. Sure of dinner, we shopped for a few things. Finally, we picked up the food from Frank’s, and returned home around ten, laden with umpteen carry-bags.

Taking the stuff out from the carry-bags, we could not find one containing a packet of savoury and a bottle of clove-oil. I had been carrying the heavier bags, and my wife, several lighter ones, the missing one being among them. Possibly, she had left it behind at the fruit shop, where we had laid anchor last, figuratively, she having rested her bags on the crates of fruit. We decided to visit the shop next morning and reclaim the bag.

Before going to bed, I proposed that next morning we go to the park to take pictures, and she agreed. The park has been in bloom with bright spring flowers. The last few mornings during our walk, I had wished aloud that I had taken my camera. Finally, my wife, who does not like my Brownian motion when I am taking pictures, had relented and agreed that some morning we may drive to the park solely for taking pictures.

I woke up to realize that we would be back from the park with couple of hours still to go before the fruit shop opened – unless we returned home and went out again. That did not seem a good way to spend a special day. Why not then go for a long drive, have breakfast out, and reach the fruit shop as it opened? I remembered we had not gone for a long drive for quite some time. Could we drive to Sini (and take picture on the way of the rolling countryside blazing with the orange flame of Palash trees in bloom)? I asked my wife. She said she would love it.

Sini at 37 kilometers is about an hour’s drive from home. Apart from a mostly deserted railway junction established in 1926, the railway has a workshop and a training institute there. I have a string in my heart for that place, having spent a few fun-filled childhood vacations there with two aunties on my mother’s side, whose husbands worked there, one in the workshop and the other at the institute. I have taken my wife – and my daughter, when she used to be with us – to Sini by car several times, and they too have felt fondness for the quiet railway colony. No more the idyllic place of my childhood, it still evokes deep nostalgia in me. Couple of years back, just after my daughter got married, we had gone there foursome, and feasted on the empty platform of the railway station, gorging on delectable fare taken from home.

Today, when we managed to leave at 7:45, the sun was high up in the sky. The light was already too bright and flat for photography. Nonetheless, I stopped at a few places and took some pictures. Reaching Sini around nine, we did the usual excursion of the empty station and I snapped some passing or stationary trains. Then, we crossed over to the other side of the tracks, which is the original habitat of the locals, most of whom are tribal. A narrow lane winds between closed packed kiosks selling quaint colourful stuff that suit the local taste. This being Sunday, there were tribal folks selling fresh vegetable. We bought some. We crossed back to the railway colony, and strolled leisurely down its small roads under towering octogenarian trees. At 10:40 we started back for home.

Soon after we had left home, our daughter had briefly called to wish us. She and her husband were going out for dinner, and would call us back after returning. Forgetting that she had already called, on the way back, I started wondering why she had not called. Had she forgotten, and her husband too?

Just then my mobile rang. My wife took the call. In between talking to the caller, she told me that some courier had come with a delivery and was waiting for us. If we missed him, we would have to collect from the courier’s office. Would that be OK? I parked the car on the road side and spoke to the caller. I explained that we were on our way home, but it would still take an hour. So, could he send back the delivery man? The caller said another visit was not possible. I would have to collect the stuff from their office. Exasperated, I asked him, “If you do not make a second visit, then why did you not call us before making delivery?” He said, “Sir, we are not allowed to call when the delivery is a surprise. Our delivery man reached your house and called me to say you were not there. I can ask him to wait till you arrive.” Not sure of how long it would take us, I told him to ask the delivery man to leave the package with the security at the gate of our housing colony. He said he would do that.

I did not have the number of the security. Getting it from the maintenance office of the estate took a while. Finally, when I got to the security, the guard said he had already taken the delivery. “What is it?” I asked. “Seems to be some flowers, Sir.” he replied.

I could guess what must have happened, and why our daughter had not informed us. We reached home an hour later. At the colony gate, we picked up the gift from the guard. It was a bouquet, gift wrapped in clear cellophane and tied with frilly ribbon.

At home, we unpacked the flowers and detached the card stuck to it. Inside the card was printed in curious block capitals:
“… TO MAA AND BAAPI. IF YOU HAVE FIGURED OUT THE SECRET, LET US KNOW …”

‘What secret?’ Puzzled, my wife and I looked at each other. We were to know soon.

An while later, we got a call from our daughter. She wanted to know if we had got the roses, and how they were. My wife, burning with curiosity, asked, “Yes, they are nice. But, what is this ‘secret’ that you have mentioned in the card? We could not figure it out.” My daughter had a hearty laugh, and asked, “What? You have not yet figured that out …” Wife said, “No. We don’t know what ‘secret’ you two are talking of! Give us some hint at least.”

My daughter recovered from her mirth and said, “Maa, Sri and I meant to say, if you have figured out the secret of your thirty-five years of happily married life then please let us know.”


© mikupa / 08 March 2015

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