Today happens to be another second Saturday, so in accordance with local laws, the Rosebud Public School is closed and devoid of any activity and hence Ahana has to remain at home, alone, not actually, thanks to Kaveri Amma.
“Wake up, my lass; I’ve prepared your favourite poached egg and cheese sandwich but they have turned chill, please get up”, shouted an otherwise un-frantic and diligent Kaveri Amma.
Ahana slowly pulled her head out of the bed and peered at Amma in her usual endearing manner.
“Oh, Amma, today there is no class in school, so we needn’t hurry”, said a freewheeling Ahana.
Again after spending some considerable slothful time in the washroom, she lounged around much to Kaveri Amma’s displeasure and ultimately started to take a sop from her favourite animated dish which Jyoti Aunty gave on her last birthday, the eighth one.
“Where’s mom? Has Dad returned?” queried Ahana with two back to back questions.
“Madam has been out early in the morning and has gone to the nearby slum to spread awareness about mosquito-borne diseases and Sahab hasn’t returned, as his flight got cancelled due to bad weather”, replied a conscientious and prudent Kaveri Amma.
Ahana, the only daughter of Dr. Rajiv Khanna and Mrs. Kiran Khanna, usually spends her time with the white-haired Kaveri Amma when she can salvage time from her otherwise busy schedule where she has to attend school, dance and also painting classes. Her father is a doctor dedicated to his profession and has to remain outdoors to cauterise emergencies at the famous J.B. Hospital and her mother is a social worker who is cogitated and cerebrated with various non-government organisations and is ever-willing to help and support social causes, especially related to children.
It’s already forty minutes pass ten, and Ahana imitating the lazy Saturday morning that too with a drizzle began to mill around here and there, until Kaveri Amma forced her to finish the tasks given to Ahana by her painting teacher since she has painting classes from 3’o clock in the evening. Kaveri Amma sprawled the mat in the balcony and asked Ahana to wind up her home tasks.
“Oh, dearie, wrap up as soon as possible, then we’ll have lunch with palak-paneer and you love it, I suppose,” lured a loving and enduring Kaveri Amma.
Ahana in her usual indolent avatar, while being seated on her mat with her drawing books wide open, she being honest to her usual distracted and distraited traits, began to gaze at the roadside vehicles just plying down her balcony. The din and bustle going all around constantly enchanted Ahana’s attention and she began to observe the traffic proceedings and the signals given by the traffic policeman. As she began to outstare at the vehicles, a closed van stopped near the lamp-post as the signal turned red.
Ahana began to repent that a few days back how she tried hard to draw the picture of a van and wished that if she would have seen it before, it would have been easy for her. But suddenly something else struck her basic cognitive process. Ahana could recognise the small hand coming out of the window. It was the hand of Renu, the little young daughter of her school watchman who usually plays with Ahana and her friends during recess hours and the latter loves the queer tattoo that Renu has on her hands.
Meanwhile Kaveri Amma is occupied in kitchen with a feel of complacence in her mind that little Ahana is doing her tasks attentively but to her utter dismay, Ahana is not at home. Ahana went down from the balcony , clad in a flowery linen night-dress and slippers and rain droplets began to roll down from her forehead to her rosy cheeks, as she shouted, “Stop, stop, Renu, what happened? Where are you going?”
But as the lights turned green the mysterious and grotesque van gathered momentum, accelerated and whirled around the K.B.Road. At first, Ahana perceived that Renu might have been out for some joy-ride but the look of the robust man who peeped out of the window on hearing Ahana’s scream, coerced and compelled her to think that something is happening which should not happen. Ahana began to run after the van but she soon realized that to chase the van on foot is nearly impossible and so she stopped at the Chowk where auto-rickshaws were coming one after another. She got into one and requested the man, “Uncle, would you please follow the blue van? I’ve a friend in it.”
The van was way ahead of them and was out of their visual acuity, but the auto-driver exercised his motoring skills to the highest elevation in order to embolden little Ahana who reminded him of his daughter, left in his native place. When they were moving at a very alacritous pace, Ahana suddenly spotted the van at a filling station, thanks to the refuelling needs of a combustion engine. They waited and then began to dawdle towards the van until they reached a very unknown and unfamiliar location. It was the site of an incomplete three-storeyed building adjacent to which some thatched houses could be seen. As Ahana was about to leave the auto-rickshaw, she realized that she has not even paid the fares, therefore requested, “Uncle, I’ve no money with me right now, but I promise to give you. Do visit 11/B, M.G. Road.”
The auto-driver smilingly replied, “Yes, I’ll surely visit but only for the sake of meeting you again. Keep these coins with you, have toffies if you like.” Ahana took those as she was feeling a bit esurient and waved her hand in order to bid the benevolent man good-bye. Now she was all alone in that lone and uncharted location but she was keeping a close eye on the proceedings near the van. There were three to four men, who were carrying down the children from the van and Ahana could see that Renu was also among those twenty odd children. All the children were in unconscious state and if someone showed little sign of consciousness, they were thrashed heavily by those men. Ahana was feeling heavy-hearted and wistful to see the pitiable condition of the children and was planning to take some measures to rescue them.
While at home, when Kaveri Amma confronted the situation that her Ahana couldn’t be found anywhere in the house, she was out of her wits and began to search for her on the roadside but nor the passers-by and neither the traffic policeman could give her solace and she became almost fainted to think about Ahana’s parents reaction when the news of their daughter’s sudden disappearance comes to their knowledge. The traffic policeman began to contact the nearby police station about Ahana’s whereabouts and on the other hand, Ahana too thought of taking the help of police to free the children from the shackles of those wicked men. Subsequently an otherwise lazy Ahana ran here and there to locate a public telephone booth and after running she could find a coin-operating telephone which was in a dilapidated state and was destined to be doomed very soon. After taking much infliction Ahana could inform the police and whispered in her mind, “Oh, God! Thanks to the auto-driver uncle for the coins and mummy for the emergency numbers she taught in her workshop last summer holidays.”
Ahana hurried back to the uncongenial and unfrequented site and was shocked to apprehend that there were many more children locked up and were subjected to really wretched and pathetic conditions but her hard toil was soon refuted as the police arrived to the scene and encircled the entire site to prohibit the escaping of the criminals. The cops were also searching for the informer who helped them to seize a fierce and savage gang involved in the heinous crime of child-trafficking and extended their gratitude to Ahana when she came out from her undisclosed hiding place, once the men were fettered, only to embrace her friend Renu.
After half-an-hour, around four in the evening, Kaveri Amma could behold that a police jeep arrived at their gate from which her most beloved Ahana got down. She took Ahana in her arms and began to enquire about the reason of the latter’s sudden vanishing and advent to which Ahana reciprocated only with a smile and that too in her usual endearing manner. After some time Ahana’s parents returned home and enquired about her progress in extra-curricular disciplines to which Kaveri Amma nodded in affirmation since she has promised Ahana that she won’t disclose about the little girl’s ‘ mischievous deeds’.
The next morning, that is a Sunday morning, Ahana woke up early as she knew that her daddy would take a note of her studies while having a brunch at the breakfast table. When Ahana joined them at the table, her mummy almost finished her breakfast since she was already running late for her ‘Walkathon’ and left by kissing Ahana on the forehead and promised to return as soon as the event ends. Ahana and her father greeted each other a very good morning and began to relish on Kaveri Amma’s special ‘ aloo paranthas’ and while going through the newspaper he began to read aloud, the heading of one of the reports-‘Minor girl saves 45 minor lives; five men arrested’ and began to eulogise and extol the little girl without knowing that the midget paladin is sitting just next to him but he could hardly read the detailed report, the telephone rang and as anticipated it was an emergency call from the hospital to which he rushed without delay. And as wonted, Ahana going by her harum-scarum temperament and happy-go-lucky attitude, went on to enjoy her delicious repast with a little yoghurt, without even realising the greatness of her great exhumation and mitzvah.