January 6, 2013
Visiting our grandchildren, Samriddhi 12, and Samarth 4 at Bhopal where they are comfortably ensconced with our daughter and son-in-law, is one of the greatest joys of life for my wife and me in the twilight of our lives.
Such is the joy and attraction of meeting our grandchildren that once we book the ticket for Bhopal, time appears to stand still till the day of departure. That might as well speak why grandparents are often cautioned against spoiling the grandchildren by showering excessive love and liberty. I, for one, really wonder how life for senior citizens would be, if it were not for the tender presence of the grandchildren around them. It really adds to the joy of the grandparents. No wonder then, Chacha Nehru was so very enamoured with the tender hearts that he has now made this bond eternal.
On an average we make two trips each year and well before we proceed there, my wife would go about making meticulous plans with the zeal of a teen-aged girl when even the domestic help at times is roped in to give her a helping hand on this score. And not to be outdone, I too would ensure that I contribute my bit of effort lest something should go wrong in her zest to make this trip as perfect as any we had earlier.
With all this activity the enthusiasm at home would reach the feverish pitch as the time for departure for Bhopal comes closer and the whole atmosphere in the house would turn quite Christmassy.
As usual, this time also, my wife went about making preparations with utmost zeal when we planned to visit Bhopal during the last month of October.
Tickets were booked three months in advance and the moment they were in hand the happy tidings were flashed to our elder grandchild and I could now begin to watch the joy in the eyes of my wife of the happy times in waiting during her telephonic conversations with the elder grandchild, while my grandson would be nothing but a bundle of joy oozing out his exuberance at the other end round the receiver over this happy tiding. I really wish one could visualise the way my wife would beckon him to the receiver and end up chiding him with some very endearing names and tender reprimands for not giving in to her grandmotherly ‘commands’.
I would often intervene in this subtle friction between the duo with a bit of advice to my wife saying “leave the little fellow alone, let him play with his toys and guns of Power Ranger that you presented him ” and my wife would make up for her disappointment by brushing me aside.
It is difficult to express the ordeal in which we both go through these three months after the purchase of the ticket to Bhopal and as the day arrives we are well fortified with our bag and baggage to jump into the train.
We gratefully enter into our compartment and then I would spread my bedding on the upper berth and forget my wife and the world and begin snoring up until the train lets out a screech the next morning to announce the arrival of Bhopal Station.
We would excitedly alight and then the grandmother and the granddaughter would kiss each other on platform No.5 followed by the grandson and likewise I too would follow suit. Then I leave the grandmother and the little ones to be themselves to bask in each other’s company while I would have a bit of a tete-a-tete with my son-in-law until we reach the destination eagerly looking forward to tasting the delicious breakfast being prepared by our daughter. Her uncanny skill at cooking delicious meals is another attraction to that place.
Once we enter the house with the grandchildren till we leave the place after about a fortnight or so, there will be hectic activity. There will be shopping, visiting the malls, and eateries, often twice or even thrice a day we would leave the house and do a bit of shopping, eating ice cream, junk food with the grandchildren and ensure that all of us are in our best of spirits.
We would even scour through the ‘Bittan’ Fish Market in search of our favourite sea fish. I remember once, a neighbour asking me if there was any wedding in the family! I wonder how this assumption came about when everyone around in the family was married and the only ones left were my grandchildren who have years to reach that stage!
However, this time around, things did not begin the way we were used to. In the month of October as we were proceeding towards Bhopal by train, a thief apparently with an accomplice tried to shatter our joy of a beautiful holiday. To my usually unsuspecting mind, the man in charge of distributing the bedding looked quite a cunning fellow. His eyes were bloodshot and his face had all the makings of a downright rogue and what’s worse, he was all over us and I wonder why he should ask us if we were getting down at Jhansi or at Bhopal. I turned a bit suspicious.
However, I put him out of my mind, spread my bedding and went to sleep. The train had left Lucknow just on time at 10.50 in the night and it was chugging gleefully towards Bhopal letting out its usual cry on and off that drove me still deeper into my slumber.
While I was enjoying my sleep with the train augmenting it by its musical rhythm I subconsciously heard someone pulling the screen of our compartment. However, I brushed aside the intrusion with the thought that the T.C. might be on his nightly errands. Soon, I was virtually awakened from my sleep as I heard someone pulling aside the screen with some force and again I did not give heed to the noise that was to cause a lot of inconvenience later on.
Time moved on, and I was still into my sleep and then it happened. Suddenly, around 2 a.m. my wife jolted me out of my slumber crying “Jimmy get up, my hand bag is missing”. I did not give much attention to what she was complaining, thinking that it must be one of those usual complaints. However when she began to raise the volume of her alarm at this unearthly hour, I thought that something must really be amiss. I woke up and then it transpired that she had really lost her handbag that contained in all about Rs.20,000/-, a mobile, her spectacles, driving licence, medicines and other knick-knacks. Little did I know then, that the culprit was none other than the one who had the audacity to pull and push that screen at night.
I was quite furious over this thief that sneaked into our compartment. In no time the T.C. appeared on the scene and he ensured that we file an FIR at Bhopal and I wondered about the wisdom of doing such a thing as it would only entail quite a few rounds of the police station with nothing worthwhile ever emerging out of it. FIR we did file in the company of the T.C. and I carry a stale copy of it with me till date. Till now not even a telephone call from the police station has been received to enquire if anything has come out of the FIR.
I was however determined that nothing should come between our wonderful holiday and this thief’s attempt to spoil our time at Bhopal. I always carry my ATM card with little or no money on me. So I fully reimbursed my wife of what she had lost and added a little more to see a smile on her face. Of course losing the hard earned money in so short a time did cause a lot of heart burn to me.
Anyway from thereon our holiday resumed just as fair, if not fairer. I no longer believe in the saying “set a thief to catch a thief” as presently thieves come in different ways and hues and it is a tall task indeed when it comes to recovering the stolen goods.
There are political thieves, educational thieves, business thieves, land thieves, construction thieves, thieves in government departments: in the municipality, in the water department, in the electricity department, the heartless RTOs, and so on and so forth, just like a cancer that has spread beyond redemption. Ask any daily commuter in Mumbai suburban train and you will get a better picture of the vagaries of thefts that prevail in the trains.
The only way to safeguard our hard earned money is to carry as little money as possible and carry a handbag with only the essentials; carrying jewellery in the hand bag is a definite no. There is always an ATM that would take care of one’s needs. We have lost 20K but certainly my wife and I have become wiser to forestall any similar eventuality.
This loss might not make me poorer, though it is my hard earned money, and many lose money likewise but I am sure at least a few will benefit from my experience, for it is bound to make one wiser. Thieves have come up with ingenious ways to outwit the common man, so it is a must that one remains always alert particularly while on travel. As for the thief, I do not think it will be long before he is caught and end up languishing in the prison.
Jimmy Noronha - Archives:
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