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Dial E for Emergency

by Padmaja

The cleaning woman Kamala cleaned out the basement and peeped into the rainwater sump. It was 3/4ths full. Madam always wanted it dry. Oh, heck, she would do it tomorrow . Today was Sunday and she wanted to leave early to visit her son who lived in Lajpat nagar which was some distance from Gurgaon. Hopefully Madam wouldn’t check.

She quickly finished stacking the pepsi cartons and the empty beer cans and whisky bottles. There had been a party last night and it meant extra work for her. Madam and Sir wouldn’t be up before noon. The kids, a girl aged 12 and a boy aged 3and a half would also sleep late. Even if they got up Kamla would see that they washed up and had breakfast .She had been working in this house for 3 years. She was quite well looked after but…. …she wasn’t happy.

Madam was busy….It was a hectic round of school, friends . homework, parties, outings and socializing. Sir would also be out touring or coming home late. Sometimes there would be fights as to who would help with homework or lay the table. But since Madam was a housewife , for most things she would be responsible. And she was smart. You couldn’t fool her. That’s why Kamala was unhappy. A little bit of leeway was welcome.

Before she had got the job, the big house and car had made her feel that these people were gullible and could be taken for a ride but she realized that Madam was kind but firm. She was also very careful with the money. Expected Kamala to keep an account of every penny she spent on vegetables and grocery.

Madam also got very angry if the children were neglected. No half hearted attempts would do. Kamala couldn’t flick the odd cutlery or pilfer even Rs 10. And that made her unhappy. She also had strict orders to throw away any leftover food of the kids and not eat it. Sigh, but the salary was good so she stuck on. She tidied up the basement and returned upstairs. In her hurry to finish and be off, she did not realize that she had left the basement door open. Or that the 3/4th full rainwater sump’s cover lay on the side. …she had forgotten to replace it after checking the level……..The dark water gleamed in the faint light.

Aryan woke up and blinked his eyes. He saw Mom sleeping soundly. So was Pa. Didi also must be fast asleep in her room. He slid down from the bed. Kamala bai would be in the kitchen. He went to the loo and peed. He saw his ball in a corner. He picked it up and was about to throw it when he stopped. Mom would be angry if he woke her up on a Sunday morning. Even Pa didn’t dare.

He put it down and kicked it quietly. Ahead of him. He followed it as it rolled into the hall. As he reached it he gave it another gentle shove. It rolled off in the direction of the basement stairs. To Aryan’s dismay it went plop plop down the stairs and slid to a wobbly stop in the last step.

Aryan hesitated. The basement was taboo to him. Mom said there was ‘uuaha’ there which translated into baby language meant danger . He had strict warnings never to venture down the stairs. Many a times he had been tempted but other distractions had kept him occupied….He looked longingly at his ball.

He looked up to see if anyone had got up yet. No noises at all. Should he get his milk from Kamalabai or should he take the ball? He could get the ball without entering the basement. After all, the door was always closed.

He went down, reached the last step and bent to pick up the ball and scoot up the stairs. As he touched it, it began rolling again down the basement. The slope made it roll faster and Aryan realized that the door wasn’t shut. Curiously he looked around. Just a lot of Kachra, papers and cartons and old books. All raddi material. Where was the ‘uuaha’ he wondered.

Suddenly happy for no reason Aryan burst into a song. He loved Sharukh khan and his favourite song was ‘gore, gore gore gore’ from Main hun na. He hopped after the ball and as he watched it disappeared. Curiously, Aryan looked down a gaping hole into an abyss. The ball floated tantalisingly in the 3/4th full sump. Aryan bent to grab it……..

Arpita stretched and got up. She realized it was Sunday and no need to rush. No school, thank god for that, not that she disliked school in fact she loved school and friends. It was just that she had some project to do and she needed the holiday. She quickly washed and gulped down fresh juice from Kamala bai . Arranging her materials on the dining table, she sighed. Some peace and quiet.

Before anyone got up she should finish.. Specially she didn’t want to be disturbed by Achu, that scamp of a bro. He would vanish with her colors and drop her pencils and even smudge her drawings. How many times she had to redo her work. And Mom would always scold her and say ‘Appu, he’s a kid ok?’ Kid indeed , devil was more like it , thought Appu. She hated him, he was a pest.

She peeped into her parent’s bedroom and smiled at the sleepyheads. She wondered why her bro wasn’t visible. Must be cuddling up to mom under the covers she thought. Let him sleep for ever, she muttered unkindly.

Her eyes fell on her Pa’s latest mobile . A Sony erricsson. She had gone through its entire features yesterday. It was a cool one. An absolute gizmo freak, at 12, Appu picked it up and lovingly carried it to the dining table. She gazed at it from time to time as she worked. From somewhere far off she could hear Mischief, her Labrador, barking incessantly…… be continued/-

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