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It's not funny!

posted Aug 8, 2014, 12:12 AM by Madhuri Sen

Megha could hear the slight sound of the key rattling in the door even as she half awoke the sound. She sleepily unlocked her phone to check the time. It was 3 AM. In the back of her mind, she wondered if she may have double locked it from the inside which she’d mistakenly done a couple of times from sheer habit. But then Shirish would ring the doorbell. With no sound of the doorbell forthcoming, she fell back to sleep expecting in to crawl into the duvet with her after he’d washed and had his dinner. His dinner as usual when he was expected late was waiting in the microwave arranged neatly on a plate to be heated and eaten.

She awoke with a start in a while. Shirish wasn’t there yet. She also needed to go to the washroom. With a mild sleepy frown on her face, she dragged herself out of bed and moving in slow steps towards the kitchen first to check if Shirish was still pottering around over dinner.  There was no sign of him there. She stood around for a while, wondering if she may have imagined the sound of the key at the door; when she heard slight scraping sounds in the guest bedroom. What was he doing in the other room at this hour – they hardly ever stepped into it.

She walked up to the door that lay slightly ajar walking smack into a strange man who looked equally astonished for a second. Quickly recovering, he pulled out a knife pointed at her. She noticed that his hand was slightly quavering. In what he may have imagined to be his most menacing voice, he stuttered out a staccato in perfect English, “Ma’am, please do not scream. I will leave right away. I’ve got as much as I needed and am on my way out.” The look of silent terror on her face had frozen with her mouth hanging slightly open. She nodded silently wondering if he hadn’t thought of the eventuality that she may scream the moment she had shut the door behind him; wondering if he would stab her anyway because she may be able to identify him and was only biding his time.

She stared intently into his face trying to read his next move. Her expression changed suddenly and she screwed up her eyes in recognition with a slow finger lifting towards as it does in readiness to ask a question. “You wouldn’t be Sripad, would you?” It was his turn to have his eyes light up in recognition, “Akshita?” She started off with a, “What a pl….” and stopped short wondering at the total weirdness of the situation. What was her next question supposed to be? Was it: Where have you been all these years? Or: what the hell are you doing being a cheap house robber, and a terrible one at that? Or would it be: It’s wonderful meeting you after so long? …..just exactly what was the conversation supposed to be?.....

“So you would be wondering what made me turn into a common robber?  Actually it’s quite as silly story if you have the patience to hear it.” She nodded flashing a quick glance at the knife still pointed at her. He followed her glance and quickly pulled the knife away. “Could we sit down?” he asked. She led him to the living room. “Well you see, it’s like this…… I got into this debate with a friend saying that there is nothing that’s free. His point being that everyone has to learn a livelihood and work hard for it whether it’s in a manner that the law allows or not. My point was that the returns were greater with lesser effort when being something like a robber or pickpocket or whatever; living off another rightfully earned wealth…..can’t exactly say how it got to that point – but we got to the place when I said even I could rob a house….and we were passing through this neighbourhood. My friend pointed up to this house and said that they look pretty well off, could you rob them in a week?  And I took up the dare on the condition that I’d only pick-up something that would prove that I’d gotten into the house. If you see, I picked up only your file of electric bills.”

Akshita burst out laughing. “But that’s so horribly silly. You never quite grew out of being the prankster did you? ….but remained as dumb!”

“Well if I may keep your file, I can come over and return it in a day or two. Would that be ok?” he said with a sheepish expression. “I don’t want to lose that bet.” She grinned and nodded her acceptance.

They exchanged numbers and she saw him to the door. “You better walk down the stairs. Shirish should be back any minute and I won’t know what to tell him if he sees you getting out of here.”

Just as she lay back in bed with a grin on her face, she heard the key at the door again in less than a minute. Unusual as it was, Shirish walked in straight into the bedroom and turned on the lights. “So who exactly was that?” Akshita blanched. “Who?”…she stammered.  “Who else?....the guy you just saw to the door? How long has this been going on?”

“It’s not what it looks like!” she said. His eyes screwed up even more menacingly, “And would you like to tell me what this looks like?”

“Well you see, he is someone who lived in my parent’s neighborhood when I was a kid, and….”

“….and you picked up the romance where you left it off,” he completed the sentence for her.

“No. He’d come to rob our place. I can explain. Actually not exactly rob……”

“Rob me of my peace and my woman would be more accurate. What do you mean he was here to rob our place? What kind of desperate story is that? Exactly HOW dumb do you think I am?...at least don’t insult me with a stupid story.”

Akshita fell silent.

Her phone message tone went off loudly with its two double beeps. Shirish snatched the phone away and opened the message. It was from Sripad. It said, “I’ll come over on the day after in the morning. I can’t stop thinking about how amazing the day was today.”

Shirish smashed the phone to the floor and stormed off to the door. Akshita heard the sound of the door slamming behind him reverberate across the house - through the deafening buzzing in her head.

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